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The Story of the Romans by  H. A. Guerber


 

 

VARUS AVENGED

TIBERIUS had been summoned to Rome several years before the emperor's death, for Augustus little suspected what a bad man his stepson really was. He even adopted Tiberius as his own son and successor, and gave him the titles of Cæsar and emperor. These were given to him, however, only upon condition that he would, in his turn, adopt his nephew Germanicus.

This young man was as good and true as Tiberius was bad and deceitful. As he was very brave indeed, he was given the command of the Roman legions stationed on the Rhine; and here he soon won the affections of all of his soldiers.

Tiberius had a bad motive for nearly everything that [204] he did; and he had sent his nephew to the Rhine because of the hatred that he felt towards the young man. He hoped that in this dangerous position Germanicus would soon die like Varus; for the Germans, encouraged by their one victory, were constantly trying to win more.

On one occasion, while Germanicus was absent for a short time, the Roman legions revolted. The young general, fearing for the safety of his wife, Agrippina, and his children, sent them all away. Now it seems that those rude men had taken a great fancy to his youngest child, who was only three years old. The boy, too, was fond of the soldiers, and wore little boots like theirs; and on account of these he was known by the name of Caligula.

To have their little favorite back among them once more, the revolted soldiers humbly came and begged Germanicus to forgive them. He did so freely, but took advantage of their new resolutions of good conduct to lead them against the Germans. After a few victories, the Roman army came to the very spot where Varus and his legions had so treacherously been slain; and here Germanicus paused with his men.

The bones of the dead Romans were piously collected and buried under a great mound, upon which Germanicus laid the first sod. Then, while his soldiers were thirsting to avenge their countrymen's death, he led them on further and further, until they met and defeated Arminius.

In the mean while, Tiberius had begun his reign. He pretended at first that he did not want the imperial crown; but he secretly bribed the senators to get down on their knees before him and implore him to accept it.

[206] The new emperor, unlike most Romans, took no delight in chariot races, pantomimes, or shows of any kind. These amusements, however, were constantly taking place, and the people thronged into the circuses to see the fun. Very often the benches were overcrowded; and on one occasion a theater at Fidenæ gave way under the great weight, and twenty thousand persons were killed.

Tiberius was jealous of the victories won by Germanicus, and of the affection which his soldiers had for him; so the young commander was summoned home soon after his victory over Arminius. Germanicus returned as a victorious general, and the senate awarded him a magnificent triumph, in which Thusnelda, the wife of Arminius, preceded his car with her children.


[Illustration]

Triumph of Germanicus.

In memory of this triumph, a coin was struck in Rome, bearing on one side the name and picture of Germanicus, and on the other his return from Germany with the broken ensigns of Varus. The inscription around it was, in Latin, "The return of good luck." This coin, like many others thus struck for special occasions, is very rare and precious, and can be seen only in the best collections.


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