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Corbulo was actually preparing to encamp on hostile soil when the despatch reached him. Surprised, as he was, and many as were the thoughts which crowded on him, thoughts of peril from the emperor, of scorn from the barbarians, of ridicule from the allies, he said nothing but this, "Happy the Roman generals of old," and gave the signal for retreat. To keep his soldiers free from sloth, he dug a canal of twenty-three miles in length between the Rhine and the Meuse, as a means of avoiding the uncertain perils of the ocean. The emperor, though he had forbidden war, yet granted him triumphal distinctions. Soon afterwards Curtius Rufus obtained the same honour. He had opened mines in the territory of the Mattiaci for working certain veins of silver. The produce was small and soon exhausted. The toil meanwhile of the legions was only to a loss, while they dug channels for water and constructed below the surface works which are difficult enough in the open air. Worn out by the labour, and knowing that similar hardships were endured in several provinces, the soldiers wrote a secret despatch in the name of the armies, begging the emperor to give in advance triumphal distinctions to any one to whom he was about to entrust his forces.