Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/143

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THE ROMAN LEGIONS UNDER VARUS. 137


and crowded round the wagons to secure the most valuable portions of their property: each was busy- about his own affairs, and purposely slow in hearing the word of command from his officers. Arminius now gave the signal for a general attack. The fierce shouts of the Germans pealed through the gloom of the forests, and in thronging multitudes they assailed the flanks of the invaders, pouring in clouds of darts on the encumbered legionaries, as they struggled up the glens or floundered in the morasses, and watching every opportunity of charging through the intervals of the disjointed column, and so cutting off the communication between its several brigades. Arminius, with a chosen band of personal retainers round him, cheered on his countrymen by voice and example. He and his men aimed their weapons particularly at the horses of the Roman cavalry. The wounded animals, slipping about in the mire and their own blood, threw their riders and plunged among the ranks of the legions, disordering all round them. Varus now ordered the troops to be countermarched, in the hope of reaching the nearest Roman garrison on the Lippe.* But retreat now was as impracticable as advance; and the falling back of the Romans only augmented the courage of their assailants, and caused fiercer and more frequent charges on the flanks of the disheartened array. The Roman officer who commanded the cavalry, Nunonius Vala, rode off with his squadrons in the vain hope of escaping by thus abandoning his comrades. Unable to keep together, or force their way across the woods and swamps, the horsemen were overpowered in detail, and slaughtered to the last man. The Roman infantry still held together and resisted, but more through the instinct of discipline and bravery than from any hope of success or escape. Varus, after

  • The circumstances of the early part of the battle which Arminias

fought with Caecina six years afterward evidently resembled those of his battle with Varus, and the result was very near being the same: I have therefore adopted part of the description which Tacitus gives ("Annal.,' lib. i., c. 65) of the last-mentioned engagement: "Neque tamen Arminius, quamquam libero incursu, statim prorupit: sed ut haesere coeno fossisque impedimenta, turbati circum milites; incertus signorum ordo; utque tali in tempore sibi quisque properus, et lentae adversum imperia aures, irrumpere Germanos jubet, clamitans 'En varus, et eodem iterum fato victae legiones!' Simul haec, et cum delectis scindit agmen, equisque maxime vulnera ingerit; illi sanguine Suo et lubrico paludum lapsantes, excussis rectoribus, disjicere obvios, proterere jacentes."