Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/142

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136 VICTORY OF ARMINIUS OVER


discipline and tactics, formed their camp amid the harassing attacks of the rapidly thronging foes, "with the elaborate toil and systematic skill, the traces of which are impressed permanently on the soil of so many European countries, attesting the presence in the olden time of the imperial eagles.

On the morrow the Romans renewed their march, the veteran officers who served under Varus now probably directing the operations, and hoping to find the Germans drawn up to meet them, in which case they relied on their own superior discipline and tactics for such a victory as should reassure the supremacy of Rome. But Arminius was far too sage a commander to lead on his followers, with their unwieldy broadswords and inefficient defensive armor, against the Roman legionaries, fully armed with helmet, cuirass, greaves, and shield, who were skilled to commence the conflict with a murderous volley of heavy javelins, hurled upon the foe when a few yards-distant, and then, with their short cut-and-thrust swords, to hew their way through all opposition, preserving the utmost steadiness and coolness, and obeying each word of command in the midst of strife and slaughter with the same precision and alertness as if upon parade.* Arminius suffered the Romans to march out from their camp, to form first in line for action, and then in column for marching, without the show of opposition. For some distance Varus was allowed to move on, only harassed by slight skirmishes, but struggling with difficulty through the broken ground, the toil and distress of his men being aggravated by heavy torrents of rain, which burst upon the devoted legions, as if the angry gods of Germany were pouring out the vials of their wrath upon the invaders. After some little time their van approached a ridge of high woody ground, which is one of the off shoots of the great Hercynian forest, and is situate between the modern villages of Driburg and Bielefeld. Arminius had caused barricades of hewn trees to be formed here, so as to add to the natural difficulties of the passage. Fatigue and discouragement now began to betray themselves in the Roman ranks. Their line became less steady; baggage-wagons were abandoned from the impossibility of forcing them along; and, as this happened, many soldiers left their ranks

  • See Gibbon's description (vol. i., chap, i.) of the Roman regions in

the time of Augustus; and see the description in Tacitus, "Ann.," lib. i., of the subsequent battles between Caecina and Arminius.