10 February 2007

The Batavian revolt, part 3

The 3rd, and final part of my essay.

After Sabinus' unsuccessful war, the situation gradually calmed down a little. Some of the tribes began to regret their rashness and wished to return to their original allegiance with Rome. The Remi invited the leaders of the tribes to a conference at Reims to discuss whether they wanted to continue fighting or not. Despite the fact that their emperor Sabinus was – or at least seemed – dead, the Lingones and Treviri chose to continue fighting. They sided with Julius Civilis and the Batavians.

The Batavians were now the most important tribe in the area. They had the support of the Cananefates, the Lingones, the Treviri, the Ubii, the Cugerni, the Nervii and also that of various tribes from the other side of the Rhine.
However, Roman legions were already marching north to deal with the revolt: the Eighth Augusta, the Eleventh Claudia, the Thirteenth Gemina, the Twenty-first Rapax and the Second Adiutrix crossed the Alps, while the Fourteenth Gemina was summoned from Britain. From Spain two legions were summoned as well: the Sixth Victrix and First Adiutrix. A lot of legions, but they didn’t all hurry north to fight against Civilis. They had to pacify parts of Gaul and make sure the Rhine was manned. The commander of the Roman forces was Quintus Petillius Cerialis, Vespasian’s son-in-law.
Tacitus describes that the German and Gallic leaders didn’t exactly do their best to make things difficult for the Romans. Classicus spent his time in idleness, Tutor couldn’t be bothered to man the Rhine and close the passes of the Alps, and Civilis was still hunting for Labeo.

Tutor and his Treviri suffered a defeat near Bingen, after which many of the Treviri threw down their weapons and fled. The First Germanica and the Sixteenth Gallica (the legions that had surrendered to the Gallic empire), still at Trier, heard news of the Roman advance and took the oath to Vespasian. Then they hurriedly left Trier and went instead to the land of the Mediomatrici, further south. This made Tutor furious. He murdered their commanders (who were still imprisoned) and, with the help of one Valentinus, eventually managed to get the Treviri to fight again.

Cerialis reached Mainz with the Twenty-first Rapax, the Thirteenth Gemina and the Second Adiutrix in May 70. Here he found the Fourth Macedonica and Twenty-second Primigenia, the legions that had refused to swear allegiance to the Gallic Empire.

Civilis and Classicus, in the meantime, became aware of the Roman advance and the defeat of the Treviri. They hastily began to assemble their own troops.

Cerialis realised this, and sent messages to the First Germanica and Sixteenth Gallica in the land of the Mediomatrici, telling them to move to Trier at once. He himself gathered the troops that were available at Mainz and hurried to Trier as well. After three days’ marching he reached Riol, which was occupied by Valentinus and a large force of Treviri. They had strengthened their position with trenches and barricades, but this did not help them. The Romans won the battle, captured Valentinus and could continue their march to Trier.
The legionaries wished to plunder the city, since it was the town of Classicus and Tutor, but Cerialis restrained them. Cerialis forgave the First Germanica and the Sixteenth Gallica for their treachery, blaming destiny and the evil cunning of the enemy. Tacitus then writes that he spoke to the Treviri and Lingones, telling them that it would be best for them if they returned to their allegiance with Rome. The Batavians and other Germanic tribes did not care for the Gauls, Classicus and Tutor would make them pay taxes, they’d be better off if the Romans ruled them, and so on. A great speech, especially when you take into account the fact that Cerialis starts by saying, “I am no orator”…

Civilis and Classicus tried a last bit of “evil cunning”. They sent a letter to Cerialis, saying that Vespasian was dead and Rome weakened by civil war. Cerialis could take control of the Gallic provinces, and they themselves would be content with the present boundaries.
Cerialis chose not to respond to this. He ordered his men to build a rampart and a ditch around their camp, on the west bank of the river.
The enemy was advancing, but among them opinions were divided. Civilis wished to wait for reinforcements from across the Rhine, but Tutor thought it best to attack as soon as possible. Classicus sided with Tutor, and they followed his plan. At night, perhaps the night of 7/8 June, the Batavians moved up between the road and the river, the Ubii and Lingones by the road, and the Bructeri and Tencteri attacked from the hills in the west. They fell upon the Romans unexpectedly and managed to penetrate the camp. The Roman cavalry fled, and the bridge was in the hands of the Batavians. The Roman commander Cerialis drove his men back to the bridge and eventually managed to recover it. It was impossible to deploy in the normal line of battle though, since the fighting was going on inside the camp and the tents got into the way, but the Twenty-first Rapax found a more open space and successfully threw the enemy back.

From this point it began to go better with the Romans. Tacitus writes that the Germans were scrambling among themselves for loot instead of killing Romans. Then the auxiliaries, who had scattered at the beginning of the battle, came back, and this gave the Batavians the impression that reinforcements had arrived on the Roman side. The Batavians and their allies lost their nerve and retreated, and so the battle of Trier ended in a Roman victory.

For the Batavians things went from bad to worse. The inhabitants of Köln had killed the German troops stationed in the city, and, because they feared Civilis’ wrath, they now sent a plea for help to Cerialis. In return they offered him Classicus’ daughter and Civilis’ wife and sister (who had been left there as hostages). Civilis indeed tried to crush this rebellion, but after he found that the unit of Frisians and Chauci he wanted to use also had been murdered by the people of Köln, he retreated to Castra Vetera.

Meanwhile the Fourteenth legion Gemina had arrived from Britain. The Tungri and the Nervii capitulated to the legion’s commander Fabius Priscus. From Britain had also come a fleet, but this was partly destroyed by the Cananefates – one of the last successes of Civilis and his men. Cerialis followed Civilis north, his forces strengthened by the arrival of the Second Adiutrix, Sixth Victrix and Fourteenth Gemina legions. The Batavians had built a dam into the Rhine to hold up the river and flood the surrounding lands. They themselves were familiar with rivers and knew were the shallows were, but for the Romans it was a disaster. They were thrown into a state of utter confusion, but miraculously their losses were light, for the Batavians did not go beyond the flooded lands. The next day the battle continued, and this time the Romans had more luck. The Batavians and their allies fled back to the Rhine, but the Romans could not press their advantage; it began to rain, night was already falling, and their fleet was too slow.

Civilis had gotten some Chauci reinforcements, but he realised that he did not have enough men to hold the Batavian capital. So he set fire to it, and retreated with his men to the Island of the Batavians. Then he destroyed the mole that had once been built by Drusus Germanicus. The Rhine, when it flows into the Netherlands, splits into three branches: the Waal in the south, the Rhine in the middle and the IJssel in the north. (Originally the IJssel was not a branch of the Rhine, but Drusus had constructed a canal and a mole to lead water from the Rhine into it) The Rhine, the middle branch, was the biggest of the three. When Civilis destroyed the mole, however, the Waal became the broadest one. Since the Batavians lived on the Island between the Waal and Rhine, their land was now well protected against Roman attacks from the south.

Cerialis had to wait until he had built a navy before he could invade the Batavian homeland. The Second legion Adiutrix started building a bridge across the Rhine, near Nijmegen. The Fourteenth legion Gemina was sent to Mainz, while the Tenth Gemina, which had just arrived from Spain, took its place in Cerialis’ force. Despite the fact that the Romans were now in the majority, the Batavians kept fighting. One day Civilis launched a fourfold surprise attack on the Roman camps. Tutor and Civilis’ sister-son Verax attacked Arenacium (probably Rindern) and Batavodurum/Oppidum Batavorum (Nijmegen), where the Tenth Gemina and Second Adiutrix had their camps. Classicus and Civilis attacked Grinnes (perhaps Rossum) and Vada (perhaps Heerewaarden), where the cohorts and cavalry regiments had their camps. The Tenth Gemina lost a few officers, but all in all the attacks on the legions were not that dangerous. At Grinnes and Vada, however, the Batavians were winning, at least until Cerialis showed up with reinforcements. Then they were driven into the river. Civilis had to leave his horse behind and swim across the Rhine to escape. The Romans had lost many of their best men, and among them was a cavalry commander named Julius Briganticus. This Briganticus was in fact Civilis’ nephew, but he hated his uncle and had remained loyal to Rome throughout the revolt.

While Cerialis’ men were busy building ships, Cerialis himself went to Neuss and Bonn to inspect the new camps that were being built (Civilis and his allies had destroyed the old ones). According to Tacitus Cerialis was being careless. He didn’t worry much about discipline, and couldn’t be bothered to post pickets. As a result, the Batavians were able to tow away some of the Romans’ ships, including the flagship of Cerialis’ new navy. They had hoped to find Cerialis himself on board, but here they were disappointed: Cerialis had not even been at the camp that night. The flagship was given to Veleda, the prophetess who had prophesised the fall of the Fifth Alaudae and Fifteenth Primigenia at Castra Vetera.

Civilis couldn’t resist using his new ships in a naval battle against the Romans, but due to the wind and the current of the river the Batavian and Roman fleet sailed past each other before the battle had really started. Then he decided to take no more risks. He withdrew across the Rhine, leaving the Island to be ravaged by the Romans. Due to rainstorms the river began to flood the low-lying island, and the Roman camps were being washed away. Civilis claimed that he could have destroyed the legions at this point, but he decided against it. Cerialis had sent messages to Veleda and the tribes across the Rhine, urging them to cease their hostilities, since the alliance with Civilis had brought them nothing but trouble. Some of the Batavians also began to feel this way. The war which Civilis had dragged them into had proved fatal, they complained.
Civilis realised that public opinion was turning against him. He asked for a conference with Cerialis. A bridge across the river Nabalia (the IJssel or Vecht, probably) was cut, and this was where the negotiations were held, with Cerialis standing on one side and Civilis on the other side of the river. Civilis began his speech by saying that he had always respected Vespasian, and that it was his letters that drove him to revolt in the first place.

And there the Codex Laurentianus 68.2, the manuscript containing The Histories, breaks off. In other words, we do not know what happened to Julius Civilis. The alliance between the Batavians and the Romans was renewed though. Tthe Batavians were exempt from tax duties, and only had to supply the Romans with soldiers. They did have to destroy their capital and rebuild it further downstream, where it was more difficult to defend.

A note on the movements of the legions:
After Cerialis and their troops begin their march northwards, all the different legions become a little confusing. I’ve done my best to find out which legions were where at what time, but I’m a little confused myself (I need multi-coloured post-it notes…). The Roman legions that were summoned to the German provinces but aren’t mentioned in any of the last battles against Civilis were probably busy elsewhere, guarding the Rhine or making sure the Gallic tribes behaved themselves.

The Fifth Alaudae and Fifteenth Primigenia, the legions which were destroyed at Castra Vetera, were never reconstituted.
The First legion Germanica, which was responsible for murdering Vocula, was disbanded.
The Sixteenth legion Gallica, which had surrendered to the Gallic empire was renamed (it became the Sixteenth Flavia Firma) and sent away to Syria. The same happened to the Fourth Macedonica; it became the Fourth Flavia Felix and was sent to Dalmatia (modern Croatia). Though this legion had defended Mainz against German attacks and fought for Cerialis, Vespasian still regarded it with some suspicion (it had supported Vitellius), and therefore it was punished.
The Twenty-second Primigenia on the other hand, was rewarded. This was Vocula’s own legion. It was moved to Castra Vetera after the revolt (they built a new base there).
The Sixth Victrix remained in the north after the revolt. Its quarters were in Neuss, where the Sixteenth Gallica had been stationed before.
The same goes for the Twenty-first Rapax. This legion had its quarters in Bonn, which had previously been occupied by the First Germanica.
The Tenth Gemina was stationed in Nijmegen, to keep an eye on the Batavians.

I think that's it...

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