Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/136

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130 VICTORY OF ARMINIUS OVER


pursued by Augustus was pacific; he certainly recommended such a policy to his successors (incertum metu an per invidiam; Tac, Ann., i., 11), but he himself, until Arminius broke his spirit, had followed a very different course. Besides his Spanish wars, his generals, in a series of generally aggressive campaigns, had extended the Roman frontier from the Alps to the Danube, and had reduced into subjection the large and important countries that now form the territories of all Austria south of that river, and of East Switzerland, Lower Wirtemberg, Bavaria, the Valtelline, and the Tyrol. While the progress of the Roman arms thus pressed the Germans from the south, still more formidable inroads had been made by the imperial legions on the west. Roman armies, moving from the province of Gaul, established a chain of fortresses along the right as well as the left bank of the Rhine, and, in a series of victorious campaigns, advanced their eagles as far as the Elbe, which now seemed added to the list of vassal rivers, to the Nile, the Rhine, the Rhone, the Danube, the Tagus, the Seine, and many more, that acknowledged the supremacy of the Tiber. Roman fleets also, sailing from the harbors of Gaul along the German coasts and up the estuaries, co-operated with the land-forces of the empire, and seemed to display, even more decisively than her armies, her overwhelming superiority over the rude Germanic tribes. Throughout the territory thus invaded, the Romans had, with their usual military skill, established fortified posts; and a powerful army of occupation was kept on foot, ready to move instantly on any spot where any popular outbreak might be attempted.

Vast, however, and admirably organized as the fabric of Roman power appeared on the frontiers and in the provinces, there was rottenness at the core. In Rome's unceasing hostilities with foreign foes, and still more in her long series of desolating civil wars, the free middle classes of Italy had almost wholly disappeared. Above the position which they had occupied, an oligarchy of wealth had reared itself; beneath that position, a degraded mass of poverty and misery was fermenting. Slaves, the chance sweepings of every conquered country, shoals of Africans, Sardinians, Asiatics, Illyrians, and others, made up the bulk of the population of the Italian peninsula. The foulest profligacy of manners was general in all ranks. In universal weariness of revolution and civil war, and in consciousness of being too de-