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184. Varus was enticed into the broken and difficult country of the Teutoberger Wald, at a season when heavy rains had increased the marshiness of the ground. Barricades of fallen trees blocked his way, and, in a narrow valley, a hail-storm of javelins burst upon his legions from the hosts of Arminius. On the next day the battle was renewed, and the Romans were literally destroyed, for all the captives were sacrificed upon the altars of the old German divinities. The garrisons throughout the country were put to the sword, and within a few weeks not a Roman foot remained on German soil.
The news of the disaster struck Rome with terror. The superstitious believed that supernatural portents had accompanied the event. The temple of Mars was struck by a thunderbolt, comets blazed in the sky, and spears of fire darted from the northward into the prætorian camp. A statue of Victory, which had stood on the Italian frontier looking toward Germany, turned of its own accord and faced toward Rome. Augustus, in his grief, heightened by the weakness of old age, used for months to beat his head against the wall, exclaiming, "Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!"
By the revolt of Arminius, Germany was once and forever freed. Roman armies were led thither by Germanicus and the younger Drusus, but they gained no permanent advantages; and by the will of Augustus and the policy of his successors, the Rhine continued to be regarded as the frontier until, five centuries later, the tide of conquest turned in the other direction, and the Teutonic races divided the Roman Empire into the kingdoms of modern Europe.
185. The reign of Augustus was a refreshing contrast to the century of revolution which had preceded it, for the security and prosperity that were felt throughout the empire. Commerce revived, agriculture was greatly improved, and the imperial city was adorned with temples, porticos, and other new and magnificent buildings. Augustus could truly boast that he
found Rome of brick and left it of marble." A more lasting glory surrounds his name from the literary brilliancy of his court. Livy, the historian, and Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Tibullus, with other poets, enjoyed hist patronage and celebrated his achievements; and in allusion to this, the brightest period of every nation's literature is commonly called its "Augustan Age.” Augustus had no son, and his choice of an heir fell upon Tiberius, the son of his wife, Livia, by a former marriage. By the same arrangement, Germanicus, the son of Drusus, was adopted by Tiberius, and married to Agrippi'na, granddaughter of Augustus.
186. In the 77th year of his age, Augustus closed his long and wonderfully prosperous reign of forty-five years, A. D. 14. The Senate and people submitted to his appointed successor. The army would more willingly have proclaimed its idolized general Germanicus, but the younger prince
absolutely refused to sanction the act. Tiberius, so far from prizing his fidelity, never forgave his popularity; and the court soon understood that the surest way to gain the favor of the emperor was to ill-treat his adopted son.
The policy of Tiberius was that of many another cowardly and suspicious tyrant. Conscious of his own unworthiness, either by birth or genius, of the high place he filled, he saw a rival in every possessor of great talent or even exalted virtue. He was afraid to call to his assistance the great patricians or the princes of the Julian house, and he regarded his own relations with unmingled jealousy. As he found it impossible, however, to administer alone all the world-embracing affairs of such an empire, he raised to the post of prætorian præfect a Volsinian knight, Seja'nus, whom he fancied too mean to be dangerous, but who became, in fact, the master of the whole dominion.
187. Germanicus, meanwhile, conducted three campaigns, A. D. 14–17; and, after several disasters, gained some important victories over Arminius, between the Rhine and the Elbe. He was recalled A. D. 17, to receive the honor of a triumph, and was met, twenty miles from Rome, by an enthusiastic multitude which had poured forth to welcome him. He was, indeed, dangerously dear both to his legions and to the common people; and though he believed that in one year more he could complete the conquest of Germany, he was now transferred to another army and to the eastern wars. In his new command he settled the affairs of Armenia, and organized Cappadocia as a province; but he died A. D. 19, near Antioch in Syria, believing himself poisoned by Piso, a subordinate, who had been sent by the emperor with express orders to thwart and injure his chief.
188. Drusus, the son of Tiberius, was poisoned by order of Sejanus, who had the boldness to request permission of the emperor to marry the widow of his victim. This was refused; but Tiberius, still blinded to the marvelous ambition of the wretch who ruled him, consented to retire to Capreæ, and leave Rome in the hands of Sejanus. His time was now given up to swinish excesses, while his worthless lieutenant maintained for five years a riot of misrule. His wicked schemes did not spare the best or noblest of the imperial family; but, at length, he perceived his master's suspicion directed toward him, and prepared to anticipate the blow by assassinating Tiberius himself. His plot was discovered, and he was suddenly seized and executed, A. D. 31.
The fall of this unworthy favorite took from Tiberius the only man whom he had ever trusted, and henceforth all were equally the objects of his fierce and cruel jealousy. Agrippina, the noble wife, as well as Nero, Drusus, and Livil'la, the unworthy sons and daughter of Germanicus, were put to death by his orders. Unlike Augustus, who scrupu
lously kept within the forms of law, he usurped the right to condemn without trial all who were obnoxious to him; and he extended the definition of treason to words and even thoughts. From his island retreat in the beautiful Bay of Naples, he issued destruction to men, women, and even innocent children who had the misfortune to be of sufficiently noble birth to attract his attention. It was a relief to the world when he died from illness, A. D. 37, at the age of seventy-eight.
189. Tiberius had appointed no successor, but Senate, soldiers, and people united in the choice of Caius Cæsar, the only surviving son of Germanicus and Agrippina. In his childhood he had been the pet of the legions in Germany, and from the little military boots (caliga) which he wore to please them, he acquired the nickname Caligula. This childish appellation is the name by which he is commonly known in history. Caligula was now twenty-six years of age, and was considered to be of a mild and generous disposition. The first months of his reign justified the impression. He released the prisoners and recalled the exiles. of Tiberius, and he restored power to the regular magistrates and the popular assemblies. But his weak head was turned by the possession of absolute power, and of the enormous wealth hoarded by Tiberius. In unbounded self-indulgence, he extinguished the last spark of reason, and exerted his tremendous power only for mischief, and in the most wild and reckless manner. Choosing to be considered as a god, he built a temple to himself, under the name of Jupiter Latiaris; and so servile was Rome now become, that her noblest citizens purchased the honor of officiating as priests to this worthless divinity.
The worst abuse of absolute power was shown in contempt for human life. When the supply of criminals for the public games was exhausted, the emperor ordered spectators, taken at random from the crowd, to be thrown to the beasts; and lest they should curse him in their last agonies, their tongues were first cut out. But this mad career of despotism worked its own destruction; for, in the fourth year of his reign, and the thirtieth of his age, Caius Cæsar was murdered by two of his guards.
190. The Roman world being thus suddenly without a master, the prætorians took upon themselves to decide its fate. Finding Claudius, the uncle of Caligula, a weak and timid old man, hiding himself in the palace, they saluted him as emperor, and hurried him away to their camp, where he received the oaths of allegiance. Considered from childhood as lacking in intellect, Claudius had been treated by his relatives with a contempt, and by his servants with a harshness and cruelty, which only increased the natural irresoluteness of his character. Yet, though feeble, he was a good and honest man, and the evil wrought in his reign was the work of others. His infamous wife, Messali'na, grati