Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/139

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THE ROMAN LEGIONS UNDER VARUS. 133


eral of an army sets the example of outrages of this description, he is soon faithfully imitated by his officers, and surpassed by his still more brutal soldiery. The Romans now habitually indulged in those violations of the sanctity of the domestic shrine, and those insults upon honor and modesty, by which far less gallant spirits than those of our Teutonic ancestors have often been maddened into insurrection.

Arminius found among the other German chiefs many who sympathized with him in his indignation at their country's abasement, and many whom private wrongs had stung yet more deeply. There was little difficulty in collecting bold leaders for an attack on the oppressors, and little fear of the population not rising readily at those leaders' call. But to declare open war against Rome, and to encounter Varus's army in a pitched battle, would have been merely rushing upon certain destruction. Varus had three legions under him, a force which, after allowing for detachments, can not be estimated at less than fourteen thousand Roman infantry. He had also eight or nine hundred Roman cavalry, and at least an equal number of horse and foot sent from the allied states, or raised among those provincials who had not received the Roman franchise.

It was not merely the number, but the quality of this force that made them formidable; and, however contemptible Varus might be as a general, Arminius well knew how admirably the Roman armies were organized and officered, and how perfectly the legionaries understood every maneuver and every duty which the varying emergencies of a stricken field might require. Stratagem was, therefore, indispensable; and it was necessary to blind Varus to their schemes until a favorable opportunity should arrive for striking a decisive blow.

For this purpose, the German confederates frequented the head-

Then leave the poor plebeian his single tie to life— The sweet, sweet love of daughter, of sister, and of wife, The gentle speech, the balm for all that his vex'd soul endures, The kiss in which he half forgets even such a yoke as yours. Still let the maiden's beauty swell the father's breast with pride; Still let the bridegroom's arms enfold an unpolluted bride. Spare us the inexpiable wrong, the unutterable shame. That turns the coward's heart to steel, the sluggard's blood to flame; Lest when our latest hope is fled ye taste of our despair, And learn by proof, in some wild hour, how much the wretcehed dare."