sum credebatur et illa militiae flagitia primus aspernari. Nec multo post digredientem cum1 Caesare ac provisu periculi hiberna castra repetentem circumsistunt, rogitantes quo pergeret, ad imperatorem an ad patres, ut Illic quoque commodis legionum adversaretur; simul ingruunt, saxa iaciunt. Iamque lapidis ictu cruentus et exitii2 certus, adcursu multitudinis quae cum Druso advenerat protectus est.
XXVIII. Noctem minacem et in scelus erupturam fors lenivit: nam luna claro repente3 caelo visa languescere. Id miles rationis ignarus omen praesentium accepit, suis4 laboribus defectionem sideris adsimulans, prospereque cessura qua5 pergerent, si fulgor et claritudo deae redderetur. Igitur aeris sono, tubarum cornuumque concentu strepere; prout splendidior obscuriorve, laetari aut maerere; et postquam ortae nubes offecere visui creditumque conditam tenebris, ut sunt mobiles ad superstitionem perculsae semel mentes, sibi aeternum laborem portendi,6 sua facinora aversari7 deos lamentantur. Vtendum inclinatione ea Caesar et quae
believe that he was hardening Drusus’ heart and was the foremost opponent of this degradation of the service. Before long they caught him leaving with the prince: he had foreseen the danger and was making for the winter-camp. Surrounding him, they demanded whither he was going? To the emperor?—or to his Conscript Fathers, there also to work against the good of the legions? Simultaneously they closed in and began to stone him. He was bleeding already from a cut with a missile and had made up his mind that the end was come, when he was saved by the advent of Drusus’ numerous escort.
XXVIII. It was a night of menace and foreboded a day of blood, when chance turned peace-maker: for suddenly the moon was seen to be losing light in a clear sky.1 The soldiers, who had no inkling of the reason, took it as an omen of the present state of affairs: the labouring planet was an emblem of their own struggles, and their road would lead them to a happy goal, if her brilliance and purity could be restored to the goddess! Accordingly, the silence was broken by a boom of brazen gongs and the blended notes of trumpet and horn.2 The watchers rejoiced or mourned3 as their deity brightened or faded, until rising clouds curtained off the view and she set, as they believed, in darkness. Then—so pliable to superstition are minds once unbalanced—they began to bewail the eternal hardships thus foreshadowed and their crimes from which the face of heaven was averted. This turn of the scale, the Caesar reflected, must be put to use: wisdom should
- 1September 26, at 3 a.m.
- 2Procul auxilianlia gentes Aera crepant (Stat. Theb. VI. 686). References to this method of aiding the moon in her struggle with witchcraft, sickness, or the jaws of malignant monsters, are common enough: the custom, in fact, is (or has been) world-wide. See, for example, the interesting account in the first volume of Tylor’s Primitive Culture (pp. 330–34), and, for the views of a more sophisticated soldier, Amm. Marc. XX. 3.
- 3“In our own times, a writer on French folklore was surprised during a lunar eclipse to hear sighs and exclamations, ‘Mon Dieu, qu’elle est souffrante.’”—Tylor, l.c.