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Thread: Question regarding Germanicus

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    Default Question regarding Germanicus

    This is something that has always bothered me.

    According to Tacitus, Germanicus fought several "successful" campaigns against the Cherusci confederation, typically winning battles at the last second due to sheer Roman heroism. Yet his armies would mysteriously suffer horrendous casualties after the important battles had been won. Is there any evidence that proves that either a. Tacitus recounted the events truthfully, or b. that Tacitus plastered over Roman defeats to preserve Germanicus's name?
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  2. #2
    Guest Aemilius Paulus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    Isolated ambushes? Disease? Pyrrhic victories?

    Did Tacitus himself mention the "horrendous" casualties, or did you get the figures from a different source?

    EDIT: I doubt much can be said aside from speculation.
    Last edited by Aemilius Paulus; 12-16-2008 at 02:35.

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    Back door bandit Member Apgad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    I think that all battles are won at the last second. Once you've won, the battle is over, and the rout commences...
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    I agree with AP the Cherusci have proven that they are good at ambushing, especially whith hosts advantage and the forests of Germania.
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    Bruadair a'Bruaisan Member cmacq's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    Quote Originally Posted by Cullhwch View Post
    This is something that has always bothered me.

    According to Tacitus, Germanicus fought several "successful" campaigns against the Cherusci confederation, typically winning battles at the last second due to sheer Roman heroism. Yet his armies would mysteriously suffer horrendous casualties after the important battles had been won. Is there any evidence that proves that either a. Tacitus recounted the events truthfully, or b. that Tacitus plastered over Roman defeats to preserve Germanicus's name?
    Again, what does Tactius say, and where does he say it?



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    Βασιλευς και Αυτοκρατωρ Αρχης Member Centurio Nixalsverdrus's Avatar
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    Default AW: Question regarding Germanicus

    Well, Germanicus the older or Germanicus the younger? I've just read a very interesting book on the Varus battle and the surrounding campaigns.

    From what I know, Germanicus the younger suffered casualties when he had to storm the castrum of a mutinous legion where several thousand were killed. Second, after having campaigned against the Cherusci and won the "great" battles of Idistaviso and at the Angrivarierwall, his fleet was surprised by a storm on the way back home along the Frisian coast, where thousands of legionnaires drowned.

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    Default Re: AW: Question regarding Germanicus

    Yeah, that's what I was talking about (couldn't remember if I had read it in Tacitus or from another source). It just seemed too convenient for Romans to say "Well, we DID kick their asses because we rock, but we lost most of our army due to things beyond our control. Again. Definitely not the Germans though." It makes even more sense when you consider that Tiberius had to recall Germanicus to Rome for his triumph just to pull the hothead off of the frontier.
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    lictor Member Urg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    Germanicus' campaigns in Germany are narrated in books 1 and 2 of Tacitus' Annals, which can be found here:

    There is also a reference or two in the Germania, which is here.

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    Formerly Wigferth Ironwall Senior Member Philippus Flavius Homovallumus's Avatar
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    Default Re: AW: Question regarding Germanicus

    Quote Originally Posted by Cullhwch View Post
    Yeah, that's what I was talking about (couldn't remember if I had read it in Tacitus or from another source). It just seemed too convenient for Romans to say "Well, we DID kick their asses because we rock, but we lost most of our army due to things beyond our control. Again. Definitely not the Germans though." It makes even more sense when you consider that Tiberius had to recall Germanicus to Rome for his triumph just to pull the hothead off of the frontier.
    Perhaps, but Tacitus is notorious for being too honest to pull off his own bias. Even with Nero good stuff comes through after Seneca died, while Seneca and Baurus don't llok like the Republicans Tacitus wants them to be. Without digging out the passages in Latin I can't be sure but I expect it is as Tacitus says, if it were not the defeats would be heroic and it would not be Germanicus' fault. There is really very little evidence that Tacitus falsified facts, or that he was easily taken in by other writers.

    He was a Laywer after all.
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    Ming the Merciless is my idol Senior Member Watchman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    Why do overwhelmingly powerful belligerents keep suffering casualties when trying to chase around weaker foes that aren't keen on a stand-up fight? Eh, the list's been about the same since Year Stick and the Sausage Wars.
    Ambushes.
    Raids.
    Skirmishes.
    Infected wounds.
    Disease.
    Logistics (ie. starving - a decent-sized army eats as much as a small city, and there's a reason Germania was rather lacking in urbanisation...)

    The usual suspects.
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    Member Member phoenixemperor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    Tacitus is notorious for worshipping Germanicus

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    Formerly Wigferth Ironwall Senior Member Philippus Flavius Homovallumus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    He's also notorious for hating Nero as the original Domitian, whom he held responsible for the death of his beloved Father in Law, it doesn't automatically invalidate his account.
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    Βασιλευς και Αυτοκρατωρ Αρχης Member Centurio Nixalsverdrus's Avatar
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    Default AW: Re: AW: Question regarding Germanicus

    Quote Originally Posted by Cullhwch View Post
    Yeah, that's what I was talking about (couldn't remember if I had read it in Tacitus or from another source). It just seemed too convenient for Romans to say "Well, we DID kick their asses because we rock, but we lost most of our army due to things beyond our control. Again. Definitely not the Germans though." It makes even more sense when you consider that Tiberius had to recall Germanicus to Rome for his triumph just to pull the hothead off of the frontier.
    Yes definitely so. Reasons for the Clade Variana for the Romans were
    • the notoriously bad German weather, which led the legionnaires to slip on the wet ground and render their scuta useless due to falling apart
    • the dense forest and steep canyons where the legions couldn't act as usual
    • the treachery of Arminius, led the Romans into the trap
    • the incompetency of Varus, who should have known that all barbarians are notorious for treachery
    No mentioning that
    • Arminius could have simply been the superior general
    • Varus simply had no reason not to trust Arminius, a man held in high esteem by all of the Roman staff, a veteran of the Pannonian war and trusted leader of the Cherusci Auxilia
    • the legions were using the Hellweg, which provides at least a small road in what was already then an inhabited country used for agriculture, not a wilderness
    • since one of the officers half burned Varus' body, the weather couldn't have been that bad - most likely warm and sunny september days.

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    Member Member zooeyglass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    He's also notorious for hating Nero as the original Domitian, whom he held responsible for the death of his beloved Father in Law, it doesn't automatically invalidate his account.
    Tacitus' Annales need to be read with a cautious and careful eye, as he is a master of adding layers to his account, and picking through his use of hearsay/rumour, his use of facts and archival reports, and his own interpretation is difficult.

    As regards Germanicus in particular, we can read at least a partially contradictory account in the Annales - scholars may argue that Germanicus' role is played up as a foil to Tiberius, to contrast with the latter's "bad behaviour" (as judged by an assumed standard in imperial behaviour - Tacitus can be argued to be putting this forward throughout the Annales - apologies for merely referring to it without detail). On on the other hand, Germanicus' behaviour and success to failure ratio point to something slightly different: he is not the "glorious successor" that one might easily assume/Augustus was (maybe) hoping for.

    So, all in all: CAUTION!

    And another apology: I have not referenced my "scholars" or arguments here, but if I get a minute I will add that in.
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    Formerly Wigferth Ironwall Senior Member Philippus Flavius Homovallumus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    Quote Originally Posted by zooeyglass View Post
    Tacitus' Annales need to be read with a cautious and careful eye, as he is a master of adding layers to his account, and picking through his use of hearsay/rumour, his use of facts and archival reports, and his own interpretation is difficult.

    As regards Germanicus in particular, we can read at least a partially contradictory account in the Annales - scholars may argue that Germanicus' role is played up as a foil to Tiberius, to contrast with the latter's "bad behaviour" (as judged by an assumed standard in imperial behaviour - Tacitus can be argued to be putting this forward throughout the Annales - apologies for merely referring to it without detail). On on the other hand, Germanicus' behaviour and success to failure ratio point to something slightly different: he is not the "glorious successor" that one might easily assume/Augustus was (maybe) hoping for.

    So, all in all: CAUTION!

    And another apology: I have not referenced my "scholars" or arguments here, but if I get a minute I will add that in.
    Granted, that however, was not my point. My actual point was that in terms of facts Tacitus is usually shown to be accurate his bias is applied on top of those facts.
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  16. #16
    Member Member zooeyglass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question regarding Germanicus

    Quote Originally Posted by Philipvs Vallindervs Calicvla View Post
    Granted, that however, was not my point. My actual point was that in terms of facts Tacitus is usually shown to be accurate his bias is applied on top of those facts.
    Bias is not really the right word to use in this instance. Although you could say that he provides a subjective viewpoint.

    In terms of facts we don't have buckets to compare what Tacitus is saying with. A prime example, the Lyons Tablet, shows in a comparison with Tacitus' own rendering of Claudius' speech, that Tacitus freely manipulates his material, cutting bits out, rearranging other bits, and generally chopping and changing as he sees fit.

    He wants at some points to show Germanicus as a successful leader, so he says he's successful. At other times he includes details that make us question that - he requires an active participation in reading. And hence a cautious reading is required, to pick out detail, and then ascertain whether it's fact or fiction, or, as is most often the case, a detail that we cannot at this stage know to be either fact or fiction.
    inde consilivm mihi pavca de Avgvsto et extrema tradere, mox Tiberii principatum et cetera, sine ira et stvdio, qvorvm cavsas procvl habeo.

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