The World's Famous Orations/Volume 2/To His Mutinous Troops (Germanicus)

Reported by Tacitus.

4102183The World's Famous Orations (Volume 2: Rome) — To His Mutinous TroopsGermanicus Julius Caesar




(14 A.D.)

Born in 15 B.C., died in 19 A.D.; son of Drusus and nephew of Tiberius; conducted three campaigns in Germany; died at Antioch, where he commanded the Eastern provinces; believed to have been poisoned at the instance of Tiberius.

To me, nor wife, nor son, are dearer than my father[2] and the commonwealth. But as for my father, he will be protected by his own majesty; and the Roman empire by her other armies. As for my wife and children, whom for your glory I could freely sacrifice, I now remove them from your rage, that whatever dire purpose you may have conceived toward them, my blood alone may flow to satiate your fury; and that the murder of the great-grandson of Augustus, the murder of the daughter-in-law of Tiberius, may not augment your guilt. For, during these last days, what has been unattempted by you? What unviolated? To this audience what name shall I give? Can I call you "soldiers?"—you who have beset with arms the son of your emperor, eonfined him in your trenches? "Citizens" can I call you?—you who have treated with such scorn the authority of the senate? The obligations observed by enemies—the sacred persons and privileges of ambassadors—the laws of nations—you have violated. The deified Julius quelled a sedition in his army by a single word—by calling those who renounced their allegiance "Quirites." The deified Augustus terrified the legion that fought Actium into submission by his countenance and look. If the armies in Syria and Spain contemn the authority of us, who, tho not yet equal to them, are descended from them, we should think their behavior strange and base.

Do you, the first and the twentieth legions, the former enrolled by Tiberius himself, the other Ins constant companions in so many battles, and by him enriched with so many bounties, make this goodly return to your general? And shall I be the bearer of such tidings to him—while he receives none but joyful intelligence from the other provinces—that his own recruits, his own veterans, have not been satiated with exemption from service nor money? Must I tell him that here alone centurions are butchered—tribunes expelled—ambassadors imprisoned—the camp and the rivers polluted with blood—and that I drag out a precarious existence among men implacably set against me?

"Wherefore, on the first day that I addressed you, did you wrest from me that sword which I was on the point of plunging into my breast? Unwise in your friendship! preferably and with greater kindness did he act who proffered me a sword; at all events I should have fallen ere I was privy to so many enormities committed by my army: you would have chosen a general who would leave my death unatoned for, but would avenge that of Varus and the three legions: and oh! may the gods never permit that the Belgians, altho offering their services, shall reap the credit and renown of retrieving the Roman name, and of humbling the German nations. May thy spirit, O sainted Augustus! which is received into heaven—thy image, my father Drusus! and thy memory, with those same soldiers who even now are touched with a sense of duty and a desire of fame—wash out this stain, and turn the rage of citizens among themselves to the destruction of their enemies! And as for you, in whom I behold other countenances and altered minds, if you mean to render to the senate its ambassadors, to your emperor the allegiance due to him, to me, my wife, and so to fly from the touch of guilt, set the disaffected by themselves; this will confirm your resolution to repent, and pledge you to fidelity.

  1. Delivered at his camp on the lower Rhine in 14 A.D. on hearing of the death of Augustus and the accession of Tiberius. Reported by Tacitus. The Revised Oxford translation.
  2. That is, Tiberius, who, by order of Augustus, had adopted Germanicus.