THE RHINE. SPRING OF 55 B. C.
SOME German tribes, the Usipetes and Tenchtheri, had crossed the Rhine not far above its mouth, crowded from their homes by the Suevi, the most powerful of the Teutonic nations. Once in Gaul, they had advanced into the Vosegus country. Cæsar's plan necessitated a check to these barbarians, who had over one hundred thousand warriors. From his winter-quarters near Amiens, he marched to the Meuse in May. In the ensuing negotiations, the enemy acted, Cæsar claims, with duplicity. So, confessedly, did he. And when their ambassadors next came to his camp, he detained them, put his legions in order of battle, marched upon the unsuspecting Germans, surprised and put the entire body -- four hundred and thirty thousand men, women and children -- to the sword. A very few escaped across the Rhine. This is unquestionably the most atrocious act of which any civilized man has ever been guilty. It accomplished its end, but this fact does not palliate its enormity. Cæsar then built his celebrated bridge, and crossed the Rhine, probably new Bonn. The Suevi retired into the forests beyond their domain. After eighteen days he returned and broke down the bridge. The foray had no useful results.
AT the beginning of the next year, B. C. 55, there was an incursion across the Rhine, not far above its mouth, by some German tribes which three years before had been harassed and driven from their lands by the Suevi. They had wandered about in Germany during the three years and finally, as a last resort, had crossed the Rhine and devastated the land of the Menapii with great slaughter. The preceding winter ( B. C. 56-55) had been spent there, and no one knew what their next movements might be.
The Suevi have been already mentioned. They had sent over the troops which Cæsar had defeated two years before under Ariovistus. They were a fierce and warlike people.