Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman History. London: Bohn (1862) Book 31. pp. 575-623.
XI. Sebastian surprises the Goths at Beraea as they are returning home loaded with plunder, and defeats them with great slaughter; a few saved themselves by flight. Gratian hastens to his uncle Valens, to carry him aid against the Goths.
[Translated by C.D.YONGE]
§ 1. In the mean time the swift wheel of Fortune, which continually alternates adversity with prosperity, was giving Bellona the Furies for her allies, and arming her for war; and now transferred our disasters to the East, as many presages and portents foreshowed by undoubted signs.
2. For after many true prophecies uttered by diviners and augurs, dogs were seen to recoil from howling wolves, and the birds of night constantly uttered querulous and mournful cries; and lurid sunrises made the mornings dark. Also, at Antioch, among the tumults and squabbles of the populace, it had come to be a custom for any one who fancied himself ill treated to cry out in a licentious manner, "May Valens be burnt alive!" And the voices of the criers were constantly heard ordering wood to be carried to warm the baths of Valens, which had been built under the superintendence of the emperor himself.
3. All which circumstances all but pointed out in express words that the end of the emperor's life was at |577 hand. Besides all these things, the ghost of the king of Armenia, and the miserable shades of those who had lately been put to death in the affair of Theodorus, agitated numbers of people with terrible alarms, appearing to them in their sleep, and shrieking out verses of horrible import.
4. . . . and its death indicated an extensive and general calamity arising from public losses and deaths. Last of all, when the ancient walls of Chalcedon were thrown down in order to build a bath at Constantinople, and the stones were torn asunder, on one squared stone which was hidden in the very centre of the walls these Greek verses were found engraved, which gave a full revelation of what was to happen:—
"But when young wives and damsels blithe, in dances that delight,
Shall glide along the city streets, with garlands gaily bright;
And when these walls, with sad regrets, shall fall to raise a bath,
Then shall the Huns in multitude break forth with might and wrath.
By force of arms the barrier-stream of Ister they shall cross,
O'er Scythic ground and Moesian lands spreading dismay and loss:
They shall Pannonian horsemen brave, and Gallic soldiers slay,
And nought but loss of life and breath their course shall ever stay."
§ 1. The following circumstances were the original cause of all the destruction and various calamities which the fury of Mars roused up, throwing everything into confusion by his usual ruinous violence: the people called Huns, slightly mentioned in the ancient records, live beyond the Sea of Azov, on the border of the Frozen Ocean, and are a race savage beyond all parallel.
2. At the very moment of their birth the cheeks of their infant children are deeply marked by an iron, in order |578 that the usual vigour of their hair, instead of growing at the proper season, may be withered by the wrinkled scars; and accordingly they grow up without beards, and consequently without any beauty, like eunuchs, though they all have closely-knit and strong limbs, and plump necks; they are of great size, and bow-legged, so that you might fancy them two-legged beasts, or the stout figures which are hewn out in a rude manner with an axe on the posts at the end of bridges.
3. They are certainly in the shape of men, however uncouth, but are so hardy that they neither require fire nor well-flavoured food, but live on the roots of such herbs as they get in the fields, or on the half-raw flesh of any animal, which they merely warm rapidly by placing it between their own thighs and the backs of their horses.
4. They never shelter themselves under roofed houses, but avoid them as people ordinarily avoid sepulchres as things not fitted for common use. Nor is there even to be found among them a cabin thatched with reed; but they wander about, roaming over the mountains and the woods, and accustom themselves to bear frost and hunger and thirst from their very cradles. And even when abroad they never enter a house unless under the compulsion of some extreme necessity; nor, indeed, do they think people under roofs as safe as others.
5. They wear linen clothes, or else garments made of the skins of field-mice: nor do they wear a different dress out of doors from that which they wear at home; but after a tunic is once put round their necks, however it becomes worn, it is never taken off or changed till, from long decay, it becomes actually so ragged as to fall to pieces.
6. They cover their heads with round caps, and their shaggy legs with the skins of kids; their shoes are not made on any lasts, but are so unshapely as to hinder them from walking with a free gait. And for this reason they are not well suited to infantry battles, but are nearly always on horseback, their horses being ill-shaped, but hardy; and sometimes they even sit upon them like women if they want to do anything more conveniently. There is not a person in the whole nation who cannot remain on his horse day and night. On horseback they buy and |579 sell, they take their meat and drink, and there they recline on the narrow neck of their steed, and yield to sleep so deep as to indulge in every variety of dream.
7. And when any deliberation is to take place on any weighty matter, they all hold their common council on horseback. They are not under the authority of a king, but are contented with the irregular government of their nobles, and under their lead they force their way through all obstacles.
8. Sometimes when provoked, they fight; and when they go into battle, they form in a solid body, and utter all kinds of terrific yells. They are very quick in their operations, of exceeding speed, and fond of surprising their enemies. With a view to this, they suddenly disperse, then reunite, and again, after having inflicted vast loss upon the enemy, scatter themselves over the whole plain in irregular formations: always avoiding a fort or an entrenchment.
9. And in one respect you may pronounce them the most formidable of all warriors, for when at a distance they use missiles of various kinds tipped with sharpened bones instead of the usual points of javelins, and these bones are admirably fastened into the shaft of the javelin or arrow; but when they are at close quarters they fight with the sword, without any regard for their own safety; and often while their antagonists are warding off their blows they entangle them with twisted cords, so that, their hands being fettered, they lose all power of either riding or walking.
10. None of them plough, or even touch a plough-handle: for they have no settled abode, but are homeless and lawless, perpetually wandering with their waggons, which they make their homes; in fact they seem to be people always in flight. Their wives live in these waggons, and there weave their miserable garments; and here too they sleep with their husbands, and bring up their children till they reach the age of puberty; nor, if asked, can any one of them tell you where he was born, as he was conceived in one place, born in another at a great distance, and brought up in another still more remote.
11. In truces they are treacherous and inconstant, being liable to change their minds at every breeze of every fresh |580 hope which presents itself, giving themselves up wholly to the impulse and inclination of the moment; and, like brute beasts, they are utterly ignorant of the distinction between right and wrong. They express themselves with great ambiguity and obscurity; have no respect for any religion or superstition whatever; are immoderately covetous of gold; and are so fickle and irascible, that they very often on the same day that they quarrel with their companions without any provocation, again become reconciled to them without any mediator.
12. This active and indomitable race, being excited by an unrestrainable desire of plundering the possessions of others, went on ravaging and. slaughtering all the nations in their neighbourhood till they reached the Alani, who were formerly called the Massagetae; and from what country these Alani come, or what territories they inhabit (since my subject has led me thus far), it is expedient now to explain: after showing the confusion existing in the accounts of the geographers, who . . . . at last have found out . . . . of truth.
13. The Danube, which is greatly increased by other rivers falling into it, passes through the territory of the Sauromatae, which extends as far as the river Don, the boundary between Asia and Europe. On the other side of this river the Alani inhabit the enormous deserts of Scythia, deriving their own name from the mountains around; and they, like the Persians, having gradually subdued all the bordering nations by repeated victories, have united them to themselves, and comprehended them under their own name. Of these other tribes the Neuri inhabit the inland districts, being near the highest mountain chains, which are both precipitous and covered with the everlasting frost of the north. Next to them are the Budini and the Geloni, a race of exceeding ferocity, who flay the enemies they have slain in battle, and make of their skins clothes for themselves and trappings for their horses. Next to the Geloni are the Agathyrsi, who dye both their bodies and their hair of a blue colour, the lower classes using spots few in number and small—the nobles broad spots, close and thick, and of a deeper hue.
15. Next to these are the Melanchlamae and the Anthropophagi, who roam about upon different tracts of land and |581 live on human flesh. And these men are so avoided on account of their horrid food, that all the tribes which were their neighbours have removed to a distance from them. And in this way the whole of that region to the north-east, till you come to the Chinese, is uninhabited.
16. On the other side the Alani again extend to the east, near the territories of the Amazons, and are scattered among many populous and wealthy nations, stretching to the parts of Asia which, as I am told, extend up to the Ganges, a river which passes through the country of the Indians, and falls into the Southern Ocean.
17. Then the Alani, being thus divided among the two quarters of the globe (the various tribes which make up the whole nation it is not worth while to enumerate), although widely separated, wander, like the Nomades, over enormous districts. But in the progress of time all these tribes came to be united under one generic appellation, and are called Alani . . . . . . . .
18. They have no cottages, and never use the plough, but live solely on meat and plenty of milk, mounted on their waggons, which they cover with a curved awning made of the bark of trees, and then drive them through their boundless deserts. And when they come to any pasture-land, they pitch their waggons in a circle, and live like a herd of beasts, eating up all the forage—carrying, as it were, their cities with them in their waggons. In them the husbands sleep with their wives—in them their children are born and brought up; these waggons, in short, are their perpetual habitation, and wherever they fix them, that place they look upon as their home.
19. They drive before them their flocks and herds to their pasturage; and, above all other cattle, they are especially careful of their horses. The fields in that country are always green, and are interspersed with patches of fruit trees, so that, wherever they go, there is no dearth either of food for themselves or fodder for their cattle. And this is caused by the moisture of the soil, and the number of the rivers which flow through these districts.
20. All their old people, and especially all the weaker sex, keep close to the waggons, and occupy themselves in the lighter employments. But the young men, who from their earliest childhood are trained to the use of horses, |582 think it beneath them to walk. They are also all trained by careful discipline of various sorts to become skilful warriors. And this is the reason why the Persians, who are originally of Scythian extraction, are very skilful in war.
21. Nearly all the Alani are men of great stature and beauty; their hair is somewhat yellow, their eyes are terribly fierce; the lightness of their armour renders them rapid in their movements; and they are in every respect equal to the Huns, only more civilized in their food and their manner of life. They plunder and hunt as far as the Sea of Azov and the Cimmerian Bosphorus, ravaging also Armenia and Media.
22. And as ease is a delightful thing to men of a quiet and placid disposition, so danger and war are a pleasure to the Alani, and among them that man is called happy who has lost his life in battle. For those who grow old, or who go out of the world from accidental sicknesses, they pursue with bitter reproaches as degenerate and cowardly. Nor is there anything of which they boast with more pride than of having killed a man: and the most glorious spoils they esteem the scalps which they have torn from the heads of those whom they have slain, which they put as trappings and ornaments on their war-horses.
23. Nor is there any temple or shrine seen in their country, nor even any cabin thatched with straw, their only idea of religion being to plunge a naked sword into the ground with barbaric ceremonies, and then they worship that with great respect, as Mars, the presiding deity of the regions over which they wander.
24. They presage the future in a most remarkable manner; for they collect a number of straight twigs of osier, then with certain secret incantations they separate them from one another on particular days; and from them they learn clearly what is about to happen.
25. They have no idea of slavery, inasmuch as they themselves are all born of noble families; and those whom even now they appoint to be judges are always men of proved experience and skill in war. But now let us return to the subject which we proposed to ourselves. |583
§ 1. Therefore the Huns, after having traversed the territories of the Alani, and especially of that tribe of them who border on the Gruthungi, and who are called Tanaitae, and having slain many of them and acquired much plunder, they made a treaty of friendship and alliance with those who remained. And when they had united them to themselves, with increased boldness they made a sudden, incursion into the extensive and fertile districts of Ermenrichus, a very warlike prince, and one whom his numerous gallant actions of every kind had rendered formidable to all the neighbouring nations.
2. He was astonished at the violence of this sudden tempest, and although, like a prince whose power was well established he long attempted to hold his ground, he was at last overpowered by a dread of the evils impending over his country, which were exaggerated by common report, till he terminated his fear of great danger by a voluntary death.
3. After his death Vithimiris was made king. He for some time maintained a resistance to the Alani, relying on the aid of other tribes of the Huns, whom by large promises of pay he had won over to his party; but, after having suffered many losses, he was defeated by superior numbers and slain in battle. He left an infant son named Viderichus, of whom Alatheus and Saphrax undertook the guardianship, both generals of great experience and proved courage. And when they, yielding to the difficulties of the crisis, had given up all hope of being able to make an effectual resistance, they retired with caution till they came to the river Dniester, which lies between the Danube and the Dnieper, and flows through a vast extent of country.
4. When Athanaric, the chief magistrate of the Thuringians (against whom, as I have already mentioned, Valens had begun to wage war, to punish him for having sent assistance to Procopius), had become informed of these unexpected occurrences, he prepared to maintain his ground, with a resolution to rise up in strength should he be assailed as the others had been. |584
5. At last he pitched his camp at a distance in a very favourable spot near the banks of the Dniester and the valleys of the Gruthungi, and sent Muderic, who afterwards became Duke of the Arabian frontier, with Lagarimanus and others of the nobles, with orders to advance for twenty miles, to reconnoitre the approach of the enemy; while in the mean time he himself, without delay, marshalled his troops in line of battle.
6. However, things turned out in a manner very contrary to his expectations. For the Huns (being very sagacious in conjectures) suspecting that there must be a considerable multitude further off, contrived to pass beyond those they had seen, and arranged themselves to take their rest where there was nothing at hand to disturb them; and then, when the moon dispelled the darkness of night, they forded the river, which was the best plan that presented itself, and fearing lest the piquets at the outposts might give the alarm to the distant camp, they made all possible speed and advanced with the hope of surprising Athanaric himself.
7. He was stupefied at the suddenness of their onset, and, after losing many of his men, was compelled to flee for refuge to the precipitous mountains in the neighbourhood, where, being wholly bewildered with the strangeness of this occurrence, and the fear of greater evils to come, he began to fortify with lofty walls all the territory between the banks of the river Pruth and the Danube, where it passes through the lands of the Taifali, and he completed this line of fortification with great diligence, thinking that by this step he should secure his own personal safety.
8. While this important work was going on, the Huns kept pressing on his traces with great speed, and they would have overtaken and destroyed him if they had not been forced to abandon the pursuit from being impeded by the great quantity of their booty. In the mean time a report spread extensively through the other nations of the Goths, that a race of men, hitherto unknown, had suddenly descended like a whirlwind from the lofty mountains, as if they had risen from some secret recess of the earth, and were ravaging and destroying everything which came in their way. And then the greater part of the population which, because of their want of necessaries, |585 had deserted Athanaric, resolved to flee and to seek a home remote from all knowledge of the barbarians; and after a long deliberation where to fix their abode, they resolved that a retreat into Thrace was the most suitable for these two reasons: first of all, because it is a district most fertile in grass; and also because, by the great breadth of the Danube, it is wholly separated from the barbarians, who were already exposed to the thunderbolts of foreign warfare. And the whole population of the tribe adopted this resolution unanimously.
§ 1. Accordingly, under the command of their leader Alavivus, they occupied the banks of the Danube; and having sent ambassadors to Valens, they humbly entreated to be received by him as his subjects, promising to live quietly, and to furnish a body of auxiliary troops if any necessity for such a force should arise.
2. While these events were passing in foreign countries, a terrible rumour arose that the tribes of the north were planning new and unprecedented attacks upon us: and that over the whole region which extends from the country of the Marcomanni and Quadi to Pontus, a barbarian host composed of different distant nations, which had suddenly been driven by force from their own country, was now, with all their families, wandering about in different directions on the banks of the river Danube.
3. At first this intelligence was lightly treated by our people, because they were not in the habit of hearing of any wars in those remote districts till they were terminated either by victory or by treaty.
4. But presently, as the belief in these occurrences grew stronger, being confirmed, too, by the arrival of the foreign ambassadors, who, with prayers and earnest entreaties, begged that the people thus driven from their homes and now encamped on the other side of the river, might be kindly received by us, the affair seemed a cause of joy rather than of fear, according to the skilful flatterers who were always extolling and exaggerating the good fortune |586 of the emperor; congratulating him that an embassy had come from the furthest corners of the earth unexpectedly, offering him a large body of recruits; and that, by combining the strength of his own nation with these foreign forces, he would have an army absolutely invincible; observing further that, by the yearly payment for military reinforcements which, came in every year from the provinces, a vast treasure of gold might be accumulated in his coffers.
5. Full of this hope he sent forth several officers to bring this ferocious people and their waggons into our territory. And such great pains were taken to gratify this nation which was destined to overthrow the empire of Rome, that not one was left behind, not even of those who were stricken with mortal disease. Moreover, having obtained permission of the emperor to cross the Danube and to cultivate some districts in Thrace, they crossed the stream day and night, without ceasing, embarking in troops on board ships and rafts, and canoes made of the hollow trunks of trees, in which enterprise, as the Danube is the most difficult of all rivers to navigate, and was at that time swollen with continual rains, a great many were drowned, who, because they were too numerous for the vessels, tried to swim across, and in spite of all their exertions were swept away by the stream.
6. In this way, through the turbulent zeal of violent people, the ruin of the Roman empire was brought on. This, at all events, is neither obscure nor uncertain, that the unhappy officers who were intrusted with the charge of conducting the multitude of the barbarians across the river, though they repeatedly endeavoured to calculate their numbers, at last abandoned the attempt as hopeless: and the man who would wish to ascertain the number might as well (as the most illustrious of poets says) attempt to count the waves in the African sea, or the grains of sand tossed about by the zephyr.
7. Let, however, the ancient annals be accredited which record that the Persian host which was led into Greece, was, while encamped on the shores of the Hellespont, and making a new and artificial sea, numbered in |587 battalions at Doriscus; a computation which has been unanimously regarded by all posterity as fabulous.
8. But after the innumerable multitudes of different nations, diffused over all our provinces, and spreading themselves over the vast expanse of our plains, who filled all the champaign country and all the mountain ranges, are considered, the credibility of the ancient accounts is confirmed by this modern instance. And first of all Fritigernus was received with Alavivus; and the emperor assigned them a temporary provision for their immediate support, and ordered lands to be assigned them to cultivate.
9. At that time the defences of our provinces were much exposed, and the armies of barbarians spread over them like the lava of Mount Etna. The imminence of our danger manifestly called for generals already illustrious for their past achievements in war: but nevertheless, as if some unpropitious deity had made the selection, the men who were sought out for the chief military appointments were of tainted character. The chief among them were Lupicinus and Maximus, the one being Count of Thrace, the other a leader notoriously wicked—and both men of great ignorance and rashness.
10. And their treacherous covetousness was the cause of all our disasters. For (to pass over other matters in which the officers aforesaid, or others with their unblushing connivance, displayed the greatest profligacy in their injurious treatment of the foreigners dwelling in our territory, against whom no crime could be alleged) this one melancholy and unprecedented piece of conduct (which, even if they were to choose their own judges, must appear wholly unpardonable) must be mentioned.
11. When the barbarians who had been conducted across the river were in great distress from want of provisions, those detested generals conceived the idea of a most disgraceful traffic: and having collected hounds from all quarters with the most insatiable rapacity, they exchanged them for an equal number of slaves, among whom were several sons of men of noble birth.
12. About this time also, Vitheric, the king of the Gruthungi, with Alatheus and Saphrax, by whose influence he was mainly guided, and also with Farnobius, approached the bank of the Danube, and sent envoys to the emperor |588 to entreat that he also might he received with the same kindness that Alavivus and Fritigern had experienced.
13. But when, as seemed best for the interests of the state, these ambassadors had been rejected, and were in great anxiety as to what they should do, Athanaric, fearing similar treatment, departed; recollecting that long ago, when he was discussing a treaty of alliance with Valens, he had treated that emperor with contempt, in affirming that he was bound by a religious obligation never to set his foot on the Roman territory; and that by this excuse he had compelled the emperor to conclude a peace in the middle of the war. And he, fearing that the grudge which Valens bore him for this conduct was still lasting, withdrew with all his forces to Caucalandes, a place which, from the height of its mountains and the thickness of its woods, is completely inaccessible; and from which he had lately driven out the Sarmatians.
§ 1. But the Thuringians, though they had some time since received permission to cross the river, were still wandering up and down the banks, being hindered by a twofold obstacle; first, that in consequence of the mischievous dissimulation of the said generals they were not supplied with the necessary provisions; and also because they were designedly detained that they might the more easily be plundered under the wicked semblance of traffic.
2. And when they ascertained these facts, they began to grumble, and proposed to resist the evils which they apprehended from the treachery of these men by open force; and Lupicinus, who feared that they would resist, brought up his troops close to them, in order to compel them to be gone with all possible rapidity.
3. The Gruthungi seized this as a favourable opportunity, and seeing that the Roman soldiers were occupied in another quarter, and that the vessels which used to go up and down, to prevent them from crossing, were now stationary, crossed the river on roughly-made rafts, and pitched their camp at a great distance from Fritigern.
4. But he, by his innate foresight, provided against |589 everything that could happen, and marching on slowly as well in obedience to the commands he had received as to allow time for other powerful kings to join him, came by slow marches to Marcianopolis, arriving later than he was expected. And here another atrocious occurrence took place, which kindled the torches of the Furies for general calamity.
5. Alavivus and Fritigern were invited to a banquet; while Lupicinus drew up his soldiers against the chief host of the barbarians, and so kept them at a distance from the walls of the town; though they with humble perseverance implored admission in order so to procure necessary provisions, professing themselves loyal and obedient subjects. At last a serious strife arose between the citizens and the strangers who were thus refused admittance, which gradually led to a regular battle. And the barbarians, being excited to an unusual pitch of ferocity when they saw their relations treated as enemies, began to plunder the soldiers whom they had slain.
6. But when Lupicinus, of whom we have already spoken, learnt by secret intelligence that this was taking place, while he was engaged in an extravagant entertainment, surrounded by buffoons, and almost overcome by wine and sleep, he, fearing the issue, put to death all the guards who, partly as a compliment and partly as a guard to the chiefs, were on duty before the general's tent.
7. The people who were still around the walls heard of this with great indignation, and rising up by degrees into a resolution to avenge their kings, who, as they fancied, were being detained as prisoners, broke out with furious threats. And Fritigern, being a man of great readiness of resource, and fearing that perhaps he might be detained with the rest as a hostage, exclaimed that there would be a terrible and destructive conflict if he were not allowed to go forth with his companions in order to pacify the multitude, who he said had broken out in this tumult from believing that their leaders had been trepanned and murdered under show of courtesy. Having obtained permission, they all went forth, and were received with cheers and great delight; they then mounted their horses and fled, in order to kindle wars in many quarters.
8. When Fame, ever the malignant nurse of bad news, |590 bruited this abroad, the whole nation of the Thuringians became suddenly inflamed with a desire for war; and among many preparations which seemed to betoken danger, the standards of war were raised according to custom, and the trumpets poured forth sounds of evil omen; while the predatory bands collected in troops, plundering and burning villages, and throwing everything that came in their way into alarm by their fearful devastations.
9. Against these hosts, Lupicinus, having collected his forces with the greatest possible rapidity, advanced with more rashness than prudence, and halted in battle array nine miles from the city. The barbarians, perceiving this, charged our battalions before we expected them, and dashing upon the shields with which they covered their bodies, they cut down all who fell in their way with their swords and spears; and urged on by their bloodthirsty fury, they continued the slaughter, till they had taken our standards, and the tribunes and the greater part of the soldiers had fallen, with the exception of the unhappy general, who could find nothing to do but, while all the rest were fighting, to betake himself to flight, and return full gallop to the city. And then the enemies, clothing themselves in the arms of the Romans whom they had slain, pushed on their devastating march without hindrance.
10. And since, after recounting various other exploits, we have now come to this portion of our subject, we call upon our readers (if we shall ever have any) not to expect a minute detail of everything that took place, or of the number of the slain, which indeed it would be utterly impossible to give. It will be sufficient to abstain from concealing any part of the truth by a lie, and to give the general outline of what took place: since a faithful honesty of narration is always proper if one would hand events down to the recollection of posterity.
11. Those who are ignorant of antiquity declare that the republic was never so overwhelmed with the darkness of adverse fortune; but they are deceived in consequence of the stupor into which they are thrown by these calamities, which are still fresh in their memory. For if the events of former ages, or even of those immediately |591 preceding our own times are considered, it will be plain that such melancholy events have often happened, of which I will bring to mind several instances:
12. The Teutones and the Cimbri came suddenly from the remote shores of the ocean, and overran Italy; but, after having inflicted enormous disasters on the Roman republic, they were at last overcome by our illustrious generals, and being wholly vanquished, learnt by their ultimate destruction what martial valour, combined with skill, can effect.
13. Again, in the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the insane fury of a number of different nations combined together, after fearful wars . . . . . . . . would have left but a small part of them.
14. But, soon after these calamitous losses, the state was re-established in all its former strength and prosperity; because the soberness of our ancestry had not yet become infected with the luxury and softness of a more effeminate way of life, and had not learnt to indulge in splendid banquets, or the criminal acquisition of riches. But both the highest classes and the lowest living in harmony, and imbued with one unanimous spirit, eagerly embraced a glorious death in the cause of the republic as a tranquil and quiet haven.
15. The great multitudes of the Scythian nations, having burst through the Bosphorus, and made their way to the shores of the Sea of Azov with 2000 ships, inflicted fearful losses on us by land and sea; but also lost a great portion of their own men, and so at last returned to their own country.
16. Those great generals, the Decii, father and son, fell fighting against the barbarians. The cities of Pamphylia were besieged, many islands were laid waste; Macedon was ravaged with fire and sword. An enormous host for a long time blockaded Thessalonica and Cyzicus. Arabia also was taken; and so at the same time was Nicopolis, which had been built by the Emperor Trajan as a monument of his victory over the Dacians.
17. After many fearful losses had been both sustained and inflicted Philippopolis was destroyed, and, unless our annals speak falsely, 100,000 men were slaughtered within its walls. Foreign enemies roved unrestrained over |592 Epirus, and Thessaly, and the whole of Greece; but after that glorious general Claudius had been taken as a colleague in the empire (though again lost to us by an honourable death), the enemy was routed by Aurelian, an untiring leader, and a severe avenger of injuries; and after that they remained quiet for a long time without attempting anything, except that some bands of robbers now and then ranged the districts in their own neighbourhood, always, however, to their own injury. And now I will return to the main history from which I have digressed.
§ 1. When this series of occurrences had been made generally known by frequent messengers, Sueridus and Colias, two nobles of the Goths, who had some time before been friendly received with their people, and had been sent to Hadrianople to pass the winter in that city, thinking their own safety the most important of all objects, looked on all the events which were taking place with great indifference.
2. But, on a sudden, letters having arrived from the emperor, in which they were ordered to cross over to the province of the Hellespont, they asked, in a very modest manner, to be provided with money to defray the expenses of their march, as well as provisions, and to be allowed a respite of two days. But the chief magistrate of the city was indignant at this request, being also out of humour with them on account of some injury which had been done to property of his own in the suburbs, and collected a great mob of the lowest of the people, with a body of armourers, of whom there is a great number in that place, and led them forth armed to hasten the departure of the Goths. And ordering the trumpeters to sound an alarm, he menaced them with destruction unless they at once departed with all speed, as they had been ordered.
3. The Goths, bewildered by this unexpected calamity, and alarmed at this outbreak of the citizens, which looked more as if caused by a sudden impulse than by any deliberate purpose, stood without moving. And being assailed |593 beyond all endurance by reproaches and manifestations of ill will, and also by occasional missiles, they at last broke out into open revolt; having slain several of those who had at first attacked them with too much petulance, and having put the rest to flight, and wounded many with all kinds of weapons, they stripped their corpses and armed themselves with the spoils in the Roman fashion; and then, seeing Fritigern near them, they united themselves to him as obedient allies, and blockaded the city. They remained some time, maintaining this difficult position and making promiscuous attacks, during which they lost some of their number by their own audacity, without being able to avenge them; while many were slain by arrows and large stones hurled from slings.
4. Then Fritigern, perceiving that his men, who were unaccustomed to sieges, were struggling in vain, and sustaining heavy losses, advised his army to leave a force sufficient to maintain the blockade, and to depart with the rest, acknowledging their failure, and saying that "He did not war with stone walls." Advising them also to lay waste all the fertile regions around without any distinction, and to plunder those places which were not defended by any garrisons.
5. His counsel was approved, as his troops knew that he was always a very able commander in bringing their plans to success; and then they dispersed over the whole district of Thrace, advancing cautiously; while those who came of their own accord to surrender, or those whom they had taken prisoners, pointed out to them the richest towns, and especially those where it was said that supplies of provisions could be found. And in addition to their natural confidence they were greatly encouraged by this circumstance, that a multitude of that nation came in daily to join them who had formerly been sold as slaves by the merchants, with many others whom, when at their first passage of the river they were suffering from severe want, they had bartered for a little bad wine or morsels of bread.
6. To these were added no inconsiderable number of men skilled in tracing out veins of gold, but who were unable to endure the heavy burden of their taxes; and who, having been received with the cheerful consent of |594 all, they were of great use to them while traversing strange districts—showing them the secret stores of grain, the retreats of men, and other hiding-places of divers kinds.
7. Nor while these men led them on as their guides did anything remain untouched by them, except what was inaccessible or wholly out of the way; for without any distinction of age or sex they went forward destroying everything in one vast slaughter and conflagration: tearing infants even from their mother's breast and slaying them; ravishing their mothers; slaughtering women's husbands before the eyes of those whom they thus made widows; while boys of tender and of adult age were dragged over the corpses of their parents.
8. Lastly, numbers of old men, crying out that they had lived long enough, having lost all their wealth, together with beautiful women, had their hands bound behind their back, and were driven into banishment, bewailing the ashes of their native homes.
§ 1. This news from Thrace was received with great sorrow, and caused the Emperor Valens much anxiety. He instantly sent Victor, the commander of the cavalry, into Persia, to make such arrangements in Armenia as were required by the impending danger. While he himself prepared at once to quit Antioch and go to Constantinople, sending before him Profuturus and Trajan, both officers of rank and ambition, but of no great skill in war.
2. When they arrived at the place where it seemed most expedient to combat this hostile multitude in detail and by ambuscades and surprises, they very injudiciously adopted the ill-considered plan of opposing the legions which had arrived from Armenia to barbarians who were still raging like madmen. Though the legions had repeatedly proved equal to the dangers of a pitched battle and regular warfare, they were not suited to encounter an innumerable host which occupied all the chains of the lofty hills, and also all the plains. |595
3. Our men had never yet experienced what can be effected by indomitable rage united with despair, and so having driven back the enemy beyond the abrupt precipices of the Balkan, they seized upon the rugged defiles in order to hem in the barbarians on ground from which they would be unable to find any exit, and where it seemed they might be overcome by famine. They themselves intended to await the arrival of Frigeridus, the duke, who was hastening towards them with the auxiliaries from Pannonia and other countries, and whom, at the request of Valens, Gratian had commanded to march to the camp to aid those who were menaced with total destruction.
4. After him, Richomeres, at that time count of the domestics, who also, by the command of Gratian, had moved forwards from Gaul, hastened towards Thrace, bringing with him some cohorts, which were cohorts in name, though the greater portion of them had already deserted (if we would believe some people) by the persuasion of Merobaudes, fearing lest Gaul, now divested of all the troops, would be ravaged without check after the barbarians had forced the passage of the Rhine.
5. But Frigeridus was prevented from moving by the gout, or at all events (as some of his malicious detractors represented it), he pleaded sickness as an excuse for not being present in the struggles which were expected, and so Richomeres, being unanimously called to the chief command, with Profuturus and Trajan for his colleagues, advanced towards the town of Salices—at no great distance from which was a countless host of barbarians, arranged in a circle, with a great multitude of waggons for a rampart around them, behind which, as if protected by a spacious wall, they enjoyed ease and an abundance of booty.
6. Filled with hopes of success, the Roman generals— resolved on some gallant enterprise should fortune afford them an opportunity—were carefully watching the movements of the Goths; having formed the design—if they moved their camp in any other direction, which they were very much in the habit of doing—to fall upon their rear, making no doubt that they should slay many of them, and recover a great portion of their spoil. |596
7. When the barbarians learnt this, probably through 1he information of some deserter, from whom they obtained a knowledge of our operations, they remained for some time in the same place; but at last, being influenced by fear of the opposing army, and of the reinforcements which might be expected to throng to them, they assembled, by a preconcerted signal, the predatory bands dispersed in different districts, and which, the moment they received the orders of their leaders, returned like firebrands, with the swiftness of birds, to their "encampment of chariots" (as they call it), and thus gave their countrymen confidence to attempt greater enterprises.
8. After this there was no cessation of hostilities between the two parties except what was afforded by a few short truces; for after those men had returned to the camp whom necessity had forced to quit it, the whole body which was crowded within the circuit of the encampment, being full of fierce discontent, excitement, and a most ferocious spirit, and now reduced to the greatest extremities, were eager for bloodshed: nor did their chiefs, who were present with them, resist their desire; and as the resolution to give battle was taken when the sun was sinking, and when the approach of night invited the sullen and discontented troops to rest, they took some food quietly, but remained all night sleepless.
9. On the other hand the Romans, knowing what was going on, kept themselves also awake, fearing the enemy and their insane leaders as so many furious wild beasts: nevertheless, with fearless minds they awaited the result, which, though they acknowledged it to be doubtful in respect of their inferiority in number, they still trusted would be propitious because of the superior justice of their cause.
10. Therefore the next day, as soon as it was light, the signal for taking arms having been given by the trumpets on both sides, the barbarians, after having, in accordance with their usual custom, taken an oath to remain faithful to their standards, attempted to gain the higher ground, in order that from it they might descend down the steep like wheels, overwhelming their enemy by the vigour of their attack. When this was seen, our soldiers all flocked to their proper regiments, and then stood firm, neither turning |597 aside nor in any instance even leaving their ranks to rush forward.
11. Therefore when the armies on both sides, advancing more cautiously, at last halted and stood immovable, the warriors, with mutual sternness, surveying each other with fierce looks. The Romans in every part of their line sang warlike songs, with a voice rising from a lower to a higher key, which they call barritus, and so encouraged themselves to gallant exertions. But the barbarians, with dissonant clamour, shouted out the praises of their ancestors, and amid their various discordant cries, tried occasional light skirmishes.
12. And now each army began to assail the other with javelins and other similar missiles; and then with threatening shouts rushed on to close combat, and packing their shields together like a testudo, they came foot to foot with their foes. The barbarians, active, and easily rallied, hurled huge bludgeons, burnt at one end, against our men, and vigorously thrust their swords against the opposing breasts of the Romans, till they broke our left wing; but as it recoiled, it fell back on a strong body of reserve which was vigorously brought up on their flank, and supported them just as they were on the very point of destruction.
13. Therefore, while the battle raged with vast slaughter, each individual soldier rushing fiercely on the dense ranks of the enemy, the arrows and javelins flew like hail; the blows of swords were equally rapid; while the cavalry, too, pressed on, cutting down all who fled with terrible and mighty wounds on their backs; as also on both sides did the infantry, slaughtering and hamstringing those who had fallen down, and through fear were unable to fly.
14. And when the whole place was filled with corpses, some also lay among them still half alive, vainly cherishing a hope of life, some of them having been pierced with bullets hurled from slings, others with arrows barbed with iron. Some again had their heads cloven in half with blows of swords, so that one side of their heads hung down on each shoulder in a most horrible manner.
15. Meanwhile, stubborn as the conflict was, neither party was wearied, but they still fought on with equal |598 valour and equal fortune, nor did any one relax in his sternness as long as his courage could give him strength for exertion. But at last the day yielded to the evening, and put an end to the deadly contest: the barbarians all withdrew, in no order, each taking his own path, and our men returned sorrowfully to their tents.
16. Then having paid the honours of burial to some among the dead, as well as the time and place permitted, the rest of the corpses were left as a banquet to the ill-omened birds, which at that time were accustomed to feed on carcases—as is even now shown by the places which are still white with bones. It is quite certain that the Romans, who were comparatively few, and contending with vastly superior numbers, suffered serious losses, while at the same time the barbarians did not escape without much lamentable slaughter.
§ 1. Upon the melancholy termination of this battle, our men sought a retreat in the neighbouring city of Marcianopolis. The Goths, of their own accord, fell back behind the ramparts formed by their waggons, and for seven days they never once ventured to come forth or show themselves. So our soldiers, seizing the opportunity, raised a barrier, and shut in some other vast multitudes of the barbarians among the denies of the Balkan, in hope, forsooth, that this destructive host being thus hemmed in between the Danube and the desert, and having no road by which to escape, must perish by famine, since everything which could serve to sustain life had been conveyed into the fortified cities, and these cities were safe from any attempt of the barbarians to besiege them, since they were wholly ignorant of the use of warlike engines.
2. After this Richomeres returned to Gaul, to convey reinforcements to that country, where a fresh war of greater importance than ever, was anticipated. These events took place in the fourth consulship of Gratian, and the first of Merobaudes, towards the autumn of the year.
3. In the mean time Valens, having heard of the miserable result of these wars and devastions, gave Saturninus the |599 command of the cavalry, and sent him to carry aid to Trajan and Profuturus.
4. At that time, throughout the whole countries of Scythia and Moesia, everything which could be eaten had been consumed; and so, urged equally by their natural ferocity and by hunger, the barbarians made desperate efforts to force their way out of the position in which they were enclosed but though they made frequent attempts, they were constantly overwhelmed by the vigour of our men, who made an effectual resistance by the aid of the rugged ground which they occupied; and at last, being reduced to the extremity of distress, they allured some of the Huns and Alani to their alliance by the hope of extensive plunder.
5. When this was known, Saturninus (for by this time he had arrived and was busy in arranging the outposts and military stations in the country) gradually collected his men, and was preparing to retreat, in pursuance of a sufficiently well-devised plan, lest the multitude of barbarians by some sudden movement (like a river which had burst its barriers by the violence of a flood) should easily overthrow his whole force, which had now been for some time watching the place from which danger was suspected.
6. The moment that, by the seasonable retreat of our men, the passage of these defiles was opened, the barbarians, in no regular order, but wherever each individual could find a passage, rushed forth without hindrance to spread confusion among us; and raging with a desire for devastation and plunder, spread themselves with impunity over the whole region of Thrace, from the districts watered by the Danube, to Mount Rhodope and the strait which separates the Aegean from the Black Sea, spreading ravage, slaughter, bloodshed, and conflagration, and throwing everything into the foulest disorder by all sorts of acts of violence committed even on the freeborn.
7. Then one might see, with grief, actions equally horrible to behold and to speak of: women panic-stricken, beaten with cracking scourges; some even in pregnancy, whose very offspring, before they were born, had to endure countless horrors: here were seen children twining round their mothers; there one might hear the lamentations of noble youths and maidens all seized and doomed to captivity. |600
8. Again, grown-up virgins and chaste matrons were dragged along with countenances disfigured by bitter weeping, wishing to avoid the violation of their modesty by any death however agonizing. Here some wealthy nobleman was dragged along like a wild beast, complaining of fortune as merciless and blind, who in a brief moment had stripped him of his riches, of his beloved relations, and his home; had made him see his house reduced to ashes, and had reduced him to expect either to be torn limb from limb himself, or else to be exposed to scourging and torture, as the slave of a ferocious conqueror.
9. But the barbarians, like beasts who had broken loose from their cages, pouring unrestrainedly over the vast extent of country, marched upon a town called Dibaltum, where they found Barzimeres, a tribune of the Scutarii, with his battalion, and some of the Cornuti legion, and several other bodies of infantry pitching a camp, like a veteran general of great experience as he was.
11. Instantly (as the only means of avoiding immediate destruction) he ordered the trumpet to give the signal for battle; and strengthening his flanks, rushed forward with his little army in perfect order. And he made so gallant a struggle, that the barbarians would have obtained no advantage over him, if a strong body of cavalry had not come round upon him from behind, while his men were panting and weary with their exertions: so at last he fell, but not without having inflicted great slaughter on the barbarians, though the vastness of their numbers made their losses less observed.
§ 1. After this affair had terminated, the Goths, bring uncertain what next to do, went in quest of Frigeridus, with the resolution to destroy him wherever they could find him, as a formidable obstacle to their success; and having rested for a while to refresh themselves with sleep and better food than usual, they then pursued him like so many wild beasts, having learnt that by Gratian's order he had returned into Thrace, and had pitched his camp near Beraea, intending to wait there to see how affairs would turn out. |601
2. They hastened accordingly, that by a rapid march they might carry out their proposed plan; but Frigeridus, who knew as well how to command as to preserve his troops, either suspected their plans, or else obtained accurate information respecting them from the scouts whom he had sent out; and therefore returned over the mountains and through the thick forests into Illyricum; being full of joy at the success which an unexpected chance threw in his way.
3. For as he was retreating, and moving on steadily with his force in a solid column, he came upon Farnobius, one of the chieftains of the Goths, who was roaming about at random with a large predatory band, and a body of the Taifali, with whom he had lately made an alliance, and who (if it is worth mentioning), when our soldiers were all dispersed for fear of the strange nations which were threatening them, had taken advantage of their dispersion to cross the river, in order to plunder the country thus left without defenders.
4. When their troops thus suddenly came in sight, our general with great prudence prepared to bring on a battle at close quarters, and, in spite of their ferocious threats, at once attacked the combined leaders of the two nations; and would have slain them all, not leaving a single one of them to convey news of their disaster, if, after Farnobius, hitherto the much-dreaded cause of all these troubles, had been slain, with a great number of his men, he had not voluntarily spared the rest on their own earnest supplication; and then he distributed those to whom he had thus granted their lives in the districts around the Italian towns of Modena, Reggio, and Parma, which he allotted to them to cultivate.
5. It is said that this nation of the Taifali was so profligate, and so immersed in the foulest obscenities of life, that they indulged in all kinds of unnatural lusts, exhausting the vigour both of youth and manhood in the most polluted defilements of debauchery. But if any adult caught a boar or slew a bear single-handed, he was then exempted from all compulsion of submitting to such ignominious pollution. |602
§ 1. It was when autumn was passing into winter that terrible whirlwinds swept over Thrace; and as if the Furies were throwing everything into confusion, awful storms extended even into distant regions.
2. And now the people of the Allemanni, belonging to the district of Lintz, who border on the Tyrol, having by treacherous incursions violated the treaty which had been made with them some time before, began to make attempts upon our frontier; and this calamity had the following lamentable beginning.
3. One of this nation who was serving among the guards of the emperor, returned home at the call of some private business of his own; and being a very talkative person, when he was continually asked what was doing in the palace, he told them that Valens, his uncle, had sent for Gratian to conduct the campaign in the East, in order that by their combined forces they might drive back the inhabitants of the countries on our eastern frontier, who had all conspired for the overthrow of the Roman state.
4. The people of Lintz greedily swallowed this intelligence, looking on it as if it concerned themselves also as neighbours, being so rapid and active in their movements; and so they assembled, in predatory bands, and when the Rhine was sufficiently frozen over to be passable, in the month of February . . . . . The Celtae, with the Petulantes legion, repulsed them, but not without considerable loss.
5. These Germans, though thus compelled to retreat, being aware that the greater part of our army had been despatched into lllyricum, where the emperor was about to follow to assume the command, became more bold than ever, and conceived the idea of greater enterprises. Having collected the inhabitants of all the adjacent countries into one body, and with 40,000 armed men, or 70,000, as some, who seek to enhance the renown of the emperor, have boasted, they with great arrogance and confidence burst into our territories.
6. Gratian, when he heard of this event, was greatly alarmed, and recalling the cohorts which he had sent on before into Pannonia, and collecting others whom he had |603 prudently retained in Gaul, he committed the affair to the conduct of Nannienus, a leader of great prudence and skill, joining with him as his colleague with equal power, Mellobaudes, the count-commander of the domestics and king of the Franks, a man of great courage and renown in war.
7. Nannienus took into his consideration the variable chances of fortune, and therefore voted for acting slowly and with caution, while Mellobaudes, hurried away by a fierce desire for fighting, according to his usual custom, was eager at once to march against the enemy; and would not brook delay.
8. Presently a horrid shout was raised by the enemy, and the trumpeters on our side also gave the signal for battle, upon which a fierce engagement began near Colmar. On both sides numbers fell beneath the blows of arrows and hurled javelins.
9. But while the battle was raging, the multitude of the enemy appeared so countless, that our soldiers, avoiding a conflict with them on the open field, dispersed as best they could among the different narrow paths overgrown with trees; but they afterwards stood their ground firmly, and by the boldness of their carriage and the dazzling splendour of their arms, when seen from a distance, made the barbarians fear that the emperor himself was at hand.
10. And they suddenly turned their backs, still offering occasional resistance, to leave no chance for safety untried; but at last they were routed with such slaughter that of their whole number not above 9,000, as was reckoned, escaped, and these owed their safety to the thickness of the woods. Among the many bold and gallant men who perished was their king, Priarius, who had been the principal cause of this ruinous war.
11. Gratian was greatly delighted and encouraged by this success; and intending now to proceed to the East, he secretly crossed the Rhine, and turned his march to the left, being full of sanguine hopes, and resolving, if fortune should only favour his enterprise, to destroy the whole of this treacherous and turbulent nation.
12. And as intelligence of this design was conveyed to the people of Lintz by repeated messengers, they, who had already been reduced to great weakness by the almost |604 entire destruction of their forces, and were now greatly alarmed at the expected approach of the emperor, hesitated what to do, and as neither by resistance, nor by anything which they could do or devise, did they perceive any possibility of obtaining ever so brief a respite, they withdrew with speed to their hills, which were almost inaccessible from the steepness of their precipices, and reaching the most inaccessible rocks by a winding path, they conveyed thither their riches and their families, and prepared to defend them with all their might.
13. Having deliberated on this difficulty, our general selected 500 men of proved experience in war out of each legion, to station opposite to the entrances to this wall of rock. And they, being further encouraged by the fact that the emperor himself was continually seen actively employed among the front rank, endeavoured to scale the precipices, not doubting but that if they could once set foot upon the rocks they should instantly catch the barbarians, like so much game, without any conflict; and so an engagement was commenced towards the approach of noon, and lasted even to the darkness of night.
14. Both sides experienced heavy losses. Our men slew numbers, and fell in numbers; and the armour of the emperor's body-guard, glittering with gold and brilliant colours, was crushed beneath the weight of the heavy missiles hurled upon them.
15. Gratian held a long deliberation with his chief officers; and it seemed to them fruitless and mischievous to contend with unreasonable obstinacy against these rugged and overhanging rocks; at last (as is usual in such affairs), after various opinions had been delivered, it was determined, without making any more active efforts, to blockade the barbarians and reduce them by famine; since against all active enterprises the character of the ground which they occupied was a sufficient defence.
16. But the Germans still held out with unflinching obstinacy, and being thoroughly acquainted with the country, retreated to other mountains still more lofty than those which they occupied at first. Thither also the emperor turned with his army, with the same energy as before, seeking for a path which might lead him to the heights. |605
17. And when the barbarians saw him thus with unwearied perseverance intent upon their destruction, they surrendered; and having by humble supplication obtained mercy, they furnished a reinforcement of the flower of their youth to be mingled with our recruits, and were permitted to retire in safety to their native land.
18. It is beyond all belief how much vigour and rapidity of action Gratian, by the favour of the eternal Deity, displayed in gaining this seasonable and beneficial victory, which broke the power of the Western tribes at a time when he was preparing to hasten in another direction. He was indeed a young prince of admirable disposition, eloquent, moderate, warlike, and merciful, rivalling the most admirable of his predecessors, even while the down of youth was still upon his cheeks; the only drawback to his character being that he was sometimes drawn into ridiculous actions, when, in consequence of temptations held out by his minions and favourites, he imitated the vain pursuits of Caesar Commodus; but he was never bloodthirsty.
19. For as that prince, because he had been accustomed to slay numbers of wild beasts with his javelins in the sight of the people, and prided himself beyond measure on the skill with which he slew a hundred lions let loose at the same time in the amphitheatre with different missiles, and without ever having to repeat his shot; so Gratian, in the enclosures called preserves, slew wild beasts with his arrows, neglecting much serious business for this amusement, and this at a time when if Marcus Antoninus had resumed the empire he would have found it hard, without colleagues of equal genius to his own, and without the most serious deliberation of counsel, to remedy the grievous disasters of the republic.
20. Therefore having made all the arrangements which the time would permit for the affairs of Gaul, and having punished the traitor of the Scutarii who had betrayed to the barbarians the intelligence that the emperor was about to depart with all speed for Illyricum, Gratianus quitted the army, and passing through the fortress known as that of Arbor Felix, he proceeded by forced marches to carry his assistance to those who needed it.
21. About this time, while Frigeridus was with great |606 wisdom devising many schemes likely to prove of advantage to the general safety, and was preparing to fortify the defiles of the Succi, to prevent the enemy (who, by the rapidity of their movements and their fondness for sallies, were always threatening the northern provinces like a torrent) from extending their inroads any further, he was superseded by a count named Maurus, a man cruel, ferocious, fickle, and untrustworthy. This man, as we have related in our account of preceding transactions, being one of Julian's body-guard to whom the defence of the palace was expressly committed, while that prince was doubting about accepting the imperial authority, took the chain from his own neck and offered it to him for a diadem.
22. Thus, in the most critical aspect of our difficulties, a cautious and energetic general was removed, when, even if he had previously retired into private life, he ought, from the greatness of the affairs which required his superintendence, to have been brought back again to the camp.
§ 1. About the same time Valens quitted Antioch, and, after a long journey, came to Constantinople, where he stayed a few days, being made anxious by a trifling sedition among the citizens. He intrusted the command of the infantry, which had previously been committed to Trajan, to Sebastian, who at his request had been lately sent to him from Italy, being a general of well-known vigilance; and he himself went to Melanthias, a country palace belonging to the emperors, where he conciliated the soldiers by giving them their pay, furnishing them with provisions, and frequently addressing them in courteous speeches.
2. Having left this place, he proceeded according to the stages he had marked out, and came to a station named Nice, where he learnt from intelligence brought by his scouts, that the barbarians, who had collected a rich booty, were returning loaded with it from the districts about Mount Rhodope, and were now near Hadrianople. They, |607 hearing of the approach of the emperor with a numerous force, were hastening to join their countrymen, who were in strong positions around Beraea and Nicopolis; and immediately (as the ripeness of the opportunity thus thrown in his way required) the emperor ordered Sebastian to hasten on with three hundred picked soldiers of each legion, to do something (as he promised) of signal advantage to the commonweal.
3. Sebastian pushed on by forced marches, and came in sight of the enemy near Hadrianople; but as the gates were barred against him, he was unable to approach nearer, since the garrison feared that he had been taken prisoner by the enemy, and won over by them: so that something to the injury of the city might happen, like what had formerly taken place in the case of Count Actus, who had been cunningly taken prisoner by the soldiers of Magnentius, and who thus caused the opening of the passes of the Julian Alps.
4. At last, though late, they recognized Sebastian, and allowed him to enter the city. He, then, as well as he could, refreshed the troops under his command with food and rest, and next morning secretly issued forth, and towards evening, being partially concealed by the rising ground and some trees, he suddenly caught sight of the predatory bands of the Goths near the river Maritza, where, favoured by the darkness of night, he charged them while in disorder and unprepared, routing them so completely that, with the exception of a few whom swiftness of foot saved from death, the whole body were slain, and he recovered such an enormous quantity of booty, that neither the city, nor the extensive plains around could contain it.
5. Fritigern was greatly alarmed; and fearing lest this general, who as we have often heard succeeded in all his undertakings, should surprise and utterly destroy his different detachments, which were scattered at random over the country, intent only on plunder, he called in all his men near the town of Cabyle, and at once made off, in order to gain the open country, where he would not be liable to be straitened for want of provisions, or harassed by secret ambuscades.
6. While these events were proceeding in Thrace, |608 Gratian having sent letters to inform his uncle of the energy with which he had overcome the Allemanni, and forwarded his baggage by land, himself, with a picked band of his quickest troops, crossed the Danube, reached Bononia, and afterwards Sirmium, where he halted four days. He then descended the river to the Camp of Mars, where he was laid up by an intermittent fever, and, being suddenly assailed by the Alani, lost a few of his followers.
§ 1. At this time Valens was disturbed by a twofold anxiety, having learned that the people of Lintz had been defeated, and also because Sebastian, in the letters which he sent from time to time, exaggerated what had taken place by his pompous language. Therefore he advanced from Melanthias, being eager by some glorious exploit to equal his youthful nephew, by whose virtue he was greatly excited. He was at the head of a numerous force, neither unwarlike nor contemptible, and had united with them many veteran bands, among whom were several officers of high rank, especially Trajan, who a little while before had been commandor of the forces.
2. And as by means of spies and observation it was ascertained that the enemy were intending to blockade the different roads by which the necessary supplies must come, with strong divisions, he sent a sufficient force to prevent this, despatching a body of the archers of the infantry and a squadron of cavalry, with all speed, to occupy the narrow passes in the neighbourhood.
3. Three days afterwards, when the barbarians, who were advancing slowly, because they feared an attack in the unfavourable ground which they were traversing, arrived within fifteen miles from the station of Nice, which was the aim of their march, the emperor, with wanton impetuosity, resolved on attacking them instantly, because those who had been sent forward to reconnoitre (what led to such a mistake is unknown) affirmed that their entire body did not exceed ten thousand men. |609
4. Marching on with his army in battle array, he came near the suburb of Hadrianople, where he pitched his camp, strengthening it with a rampart of palisades, and then impatiently waited for Gratian. While here, Richomeres, Count of the Domestici, arrived, who had been sent on by that emperor with letters announcing his immediate approach.
5. And imploring Valens to wait a little while for him that he might share his danger, and not rashly face the danger before him single handed, he took counsel with his officers as to what was best to be done.
6. Some, following the advice of Sebastian, recommended with urgency that he should at once go forth to battle; while Victor, master-general of the cavalry, a Sarmatian by birth, but a man of slow and cautious temper, recommended him to wait for his imperial colleague, and this advice was supported by several other officers, who suggested that the reinforcement of the Gallic army would be likely to awe the fiery arrogance of the barbarians.
7. However, the fatal obstinacy of the emperor prevailed, fortified by the flattery of some of the princes, who advised him to hasten with all speed, so that Gratian might have no share in a victory which, as they fancied, was already almost gained.
8. And while all necessary preparations were being made for the battle, a presbyter of the Christian religion (as he called himself), having been sent by Fritigern as his ambassador, came, with some colleagues of low rank, to the emperor's camp; and having been received with courtesy, he presented a letter from that chieftain, openly requesting that the emperor would grant to him and to his followers, who were now exiles from their native homes, from which they had been driven by the rapid invasions of savage nations, Thrace, with all its flocks and all its crops, for a habitation. And if Valens would consent to this, Fritigern would agree to a perpetual peace.
9. In addition to this message, the same Christian, as one acquainted with his commander's secrets, and well trusted, produced other secret letters from his chieftain who, being full of craft and every resource of deceit, informed Valens, as one who was hereafter to be his friend |610 and ally, that he had no other means to appease the ferocity of his countrymen, or to induce them to accept conditions advantageous to the Roman state, unless from time to time he showed them an army under arms close at hand, and by frightening them with the name of the emperor, recalled them from their mischievous eagerness for fighting. The ambassadors retired unsuccessful, having been looked on as suspicious characters by the emperor.
10. When the day broke which the annals mark as the fifth of the Ides of August, the Roman standards were advanced with haste, the baggage having been placed close to the walls of Hadrianople, under a sufficient guard of soldiers of the legions; the treasures and the chief insignia of the emperor's rank were within the walls, with the prefect and the principal members of the council.
11. Then, having traversed the broken ground which divided the two armies, as the burning day was progressing towards noon, at last, after marching eight miles, our men came in sight of the waggons of the enemy, which had been stated by the scouts to be all arranged in a circle. According to their custom, the barbarian host raised a fierce and hideous yell, while the Roman generals marshalled their line of battle. The right wing of the cavalry was placed in front; the chief portion of the infantry was kept in reserve.
12. But the left wing of the cavalry, of which a considerable number were still straggling on the road, were advancing with speed, though with great difficulty; and while this wing was deploying, not as yet meeting with any obstacle, the barbarians being alarmed at the terrible clang of their arms and the threatening crash of their shields (since a large portion of their own army was still at a distance, under Alatheus and Saphrax, and, though sent for, had not yet arrived), again sent ambassadors to ask for peace.
13. The emperor was offended at the lowness of their rank, and replied, that if they wished to make a lasting treaty, they must send him nobles of sufficient dignity. They designedly delayed, in order by the fallacious truce which subsisted during the negotiation to give time for their cavalry to return, whom they looked upon as close at hand; and for our soldiers, already suffering from the |611 summer heat, to become parched and exhausted by the conflagration of the vast plain; as the enemy had, with this object, set fire to the crops by means of burning faggots and fuel. To this evil another was added, that both men and cattle were suffering from extreme hunger.
14. In the meantime Fritigern, being skilful in divining the future, and fearing a doubtful struggle, of his own head sent one of his men as a herald, requesting that some nobles and picked men should at once be sent to him as hostages for his safety, when he himself would fearlessly bring us both military aid and supplies.
15. The proposition of this formidable chief was received with praise and approbation, and the tribune Equitius, a relation of Valens, who was at that time high steward of the palace, was appointed, with general consent, to go with all speed to the barbarians as a hostage. But he refused, because he had once been taken prisoner by the enemy, and had escaped from Dibaltum, so that he feared their vengeful anger; upon this Richomeres voluntarily offered himself, and willingly undertook to go, thinking it a bold action, and one becoming a brave man; and so he set out, bearing vouchers of his rank and high birth.
16. And as he was on his way towards the enemy's camp, the accompanying archers and Scutarii, who on that occasion were under the command of Bacurius, a native of Iberia, and of Cassio, yielded, while on their march, to an indiscreet impetuosity, and on approaching the enemy, first attacked them rashly, and then by a cowardly flight disgraced the beginning of the campaign.
17. This ill-timed attack frustrated the willing services of Richomeres, as he was not permitted to proceed; in the mean time the cavalry of the Goths had returned with Alatheus and Saphrax, and with them a battalion of Alani; these descending from the mountains like a thunderbolt, spread confusion and slaughter among all whom in their rapid charge they came across. |612
§ 1. And while arms and missiles of all kinds were meeting in fierce conflict, and Bellona, blowing her mournful trumpet, was raging more fiercely than usual, to inflict disaster on the Romans, our men began to retreat; but presently, roused by the reproaches of their officers, they made a fresh stand, and the battle increased like a conflagration, terrifying our soldiers, numbers of whom were pierced by strokes from the javelins hurled at them, and from arrows.
2. Then the two lines of battle dashed against each other, like the beaks (or rams) of ships, and thrusting with all their might, were tossed to and fro, like the waves of the sea. Our left wing had advanced actually up to the waggons, with the intent to push on still further if they were properly supported; but they were deserted by the rest of the cavalry, and so pressed upon by the superior numbers of the enemy, that they were overwhelmed and beaten down, like the ruin of a vast rampart. Presently our infantry also was left unsupported, while the different companies became so huddled together that a soldier could hardly draw his sword, or withdraw his hand after he had once stretched it out. And by this time such clouds of dust arose that it was scarcely possible to see the sky, which resounded with horrible cries; and in consequence, the darts, which were bearing death on every side, reached their mark, and fell with deadly effect, because no one could see them beforehand so as to guard against them.
3. But when the barbarians, rushing on with their enormous host, beat down our horses and men, and left no spot to which our ranks could fall back to deploy, while they were so closely packed that it was impossible to escape by forcing a way through them, our men at last began to despise death, and again took to their swords and slew all they encountered, while with mutual blows of battle-axes, helmets and breastplates were dashed in pieces.
4. Then, you might see the barbarian towering in his fierceness, hissing or shouting, fall with his legs pierced through, or his right hand cut off, sword and all, or his side transfixed, and still, in the last gasp of life, casting round |613 him defiant glances. The plain was covered with carcases, strewing the mutual ruin of the combatants; while the groans of the dying, or of men fearfully wounded, were intense, and caused great dismay all around.
5. Amidst all this great tumult and confusion our infantry were exhausted by toil and danger, till at last they had neither strength left to fight, nor spirits to plan anything; their spears were broken by the frequent collisions, so that they were forced to content themselves with their drawn swords, which they thrust into the dense battalions of the enemy, disregarding their own safety, and seeing that every possibility of escape was cut off from them.
6. The ground, covered with streams of blood, made their feet slip, so that all that they endeavoured to do was to sell their lives as dearly as possible; and with such vehemence did they resist their enemies who pressed on them, that some were even killed by their own weapons. At last one black pool of blood disfigured everything, and wherever the eye turned, it could see nothing but piled-up heaps of dead, and lifeless corpses trampled on without mercy.
7. The sun being now high in the heavens, having traversed the sign of Leo, and reached the abode of the heavenly Virgo, scorched the Romans, who were emaciated by hunger, worn out with toil, and scarcely able to support even the weight of their armour. At last our columns were entirely beaten back by the overpowering weight of the barbarians, and so they took to disorderly flight, which is the only resource in extremity, each man trying to save himself as well as he could.
8. While they were all flying and scattering themselves over roads with which they were unacquainted, the emperor, bewildered with terrible fear, made his way over heaps of dead, and fled to the battalions of the Lancearii and the Mattiarii, who, till the superior numbers of the enemy became wholly irresistible, stood firm and immovable. As soon as he saw him, Trajan exclaimed that all hope was lost, unless the emperor, thus deserted by his guards, could be protected by the aid of his foreign allies.
9. When this exclamation was heard, a count named Victor hastened to bring up with all speed the Batavians, |614 who were placed in the reserve, and who ought to have been near at hand, to the emperor's assistance; but as none of them could be found, he too retreated, and in a similar manner Richomeres and Saturninus saved themselves from danger.
10. So now, with rage flashing in their eyes, the barbarians pursued our men, who were in a state of torpor, the warmth of their veins having deserted them. Many were slain without knowing who smote them; some were overwhelmed by the mere weight of the crowd which pressed upon them; and some were slain by wounds inflicted by their own comrades. The barbarians spared neither those who yielded nor those who resisted.
11. Besides these, many half slain lay blocking up the roads, unable to endure the torture of their wounds; and heaps of dead horses were piled up and filled the plain with their carcases. At last a dark moonless night put an end to the irremediable disaster which cost the Roman state so dear.
12. Just when it first became dark, the emperor being among a crowd of common soldiers, as it was believed— for no one said either that he had seen him, or been near him—was mortally wounded with an arrow, and, very shortly after, died, though his body was never found. For as some of the enemy loitered for a long time about the field in order to plunder the dead, none of the defeated army or of the inhabitants ventured to go to them.
13. A similar fate befell the Caesar Decius, when fighting vigorously against the barbarians; for he was thrown by his horse falling, which he had been unable to hold, and was plunged into a swamp, out of which he could never emerge, nor could his body be found.
14. Others report that Valens did not die immediately, but that he was borne by a small body of picked soldiers and eunuchs to a cabin in the neighbourhood, which was strongly built, with two stories; and that while these unskilful hands were tending his wounds, the cottage was surrounded by the enemy, though they did not know who was in it; still, however, he was saved from the disgrace of being made a prisoner.
15. For when his pursuers, while vainly attempting to force the barred doors, were assailed with arrows from |615 the roof, they, not to lose by so inconvenient a delay the opportunity of collecting plunder, gathered some faggots and stubble, and setting fire to them, burnt down the building, with those who were in it.
16. But one of the soldiers dropped from the windows, and, being taken prisoner by the barbarians, revealed to them what had taken place, which caused them great concern, because they looked upon themselves as defrauded of great glory in not having taken the ruler of the Roman state alive. This same young man afterwards secretly returned to our people, and gave this account of the affair.
17. When Spain had been recovered after a similar disaster, we are told that one of the Scipios was lost in a fire, the tower in which he had taken refuge having been burnt. At all events it is certain that neither Scipio nor Valens enjoyed that last honour of the dead—a regular funeral.
18. Many illustrious men fell in this disastrous defeat, and among them one of the most remarkable was Trajan, and another was Sebastian; there perished also thirty-five tribunes who had no particular command, many captains of battalions, and Valerianus and Equitius, one of whom was master of the horse and the other high steward. Potentius, too, tribune of the promoted officers, fell in the flower of his age, a man respected by all persons of virtue, and recommended by the merits of his father, Ursicinus, who had formerly been commander of the forces, as well as by his own. Scarcely one-third of the whole army escaped.
19. Nor, except the battle of Cannae, is so destructive a slaughter recorded in our annals; though, even in the times of their prosperity, the Romans have more than once had to deplore the uncertainty of war, and have for a time succumbed to evil Fortune; while the well-known dirges of the Greeks have bewailed many disastrous battles. |616
§ 1. Such was the death of Valens, when he was about fifty years old, and had reigned rather less than fourteen years. We will now describe his virtues, which were known to many, and his vices.
2. He was a faithful and steady friend—a severe chastiser of ambition—a rigid upholder of both military and civil discipline—always careful that no one should assume importance on account of any relationship to himself; slow both in conferring office, and in taking it away; a very just ruler of the provinces, all of which he protected from injury, as if each had been his own house; devoting singular care to the lessening the burdens of the state, and never permitting any increase of taxation. He was very moderate in the exaction of debts due to the state, but a vehement and implacable foe to all thieves, and to every one convicted of peculations; nor in affairs of this kind was the East, by its own confession, ever better treated under any other emperor.
3. Besides all this, he was liberal with due regard to moderation, of which quality there are many examples, one of which it will be sufficient to mention here:—As in palaces there are always some persons covetous of the possessions of others, if any one petitioned for lapsed property, or anything else which it was usual to apply for, he made a proper distinction between just and unjust claims, and when he gave it to the petitioner, while reserving full liberty to any one to raise objections, he often associated the successful candidate with three or four partners, in order that those covetous suitors might conduct themselves with more moderation, when they saw the profits for which they were so eager diminished by this device.
4. Of the edifices, which in the different cities and towns he either repaired or built from their foundations, I will say nothing (to avoid prolixity), allowing those things to speak for themselves. These qualities, in my opinion, deserve the imitation of all good men. Now let us enumerate his vices.
5. He was an immoderate coveter of great wealth; impatient of labour, he affected an extreme severity, and was |617 too much inclined to cruelty; his behaviour was rude and rough; and he was little imbued with skill either in war or in the liberal arts. He willingly sought profit and advantage in the miseries of others, and was more than ever intolerable in straining ordinary offences into sedition or treason; he cruelly encompassed the death or ruin of wealthy nobles.
6. This also was unendurable, that while he wished to have it appear that all actions and suits were decided according to the law, and while the investigation of such affairs was delegated to judges especially selected as the most proper to decide them, he still would not allow any decision to be given which was contrary to his own pleasure. He was also insulting, passionate, and always willing to listen to all informers, without the least distinction as to whether the charges which they advanced were true or false. And this vice is one very much to be dreaded, even in private affairs of every-day occurrence.
7. He was dilatory and sluggish; of a swarthy complexion; had a cast in one eye, a blemish, however, which was not visible at a distance; his limbs were well set; his figure was neither tall nor short; he was knock-kneed, and rather pot-bellied.
8. This is enough to say about Valens: and the recollection of his contemporaries will fully testify that this account is a true one. But we must not omit to mention that when he had learnt that the oracle of the tripod, which we have related to have been moved by Patricius and Hilanus, contained those three prophetic lines, the last of which is,— "Repelling murd'rous war in Mimas' plain;" —he, being void of accomplishments and illiterate, despised them at first; but as his calamities increased, he became filled with abject fear, and, from a recollection of this same prophecy, began to dread the very name of Asia, where he had been informed by learned men that both Homer and Cicero had spoken of the Mountain of Mimas over the town of Erythrae.
9. Lastly,—after his death, and the departure of the enemy, it is said that a monument was found near the spot where he is believed to have died, with a stone fixed into |618 it inscribed with Greek characters, indicating that some ancient noble of the name of Mimas was buried there.
§ 1. After this disastrous battle, when night had veiled the earth in darkness, those who survived fled, some to the right, some to the left, or wherever fear guided them, each man seeking refuge among his relations, as no one could think of anything but himself, while all fancied the lances of the enemy sticking in their backs. And far off were heard the miserable wailings of those who were left behind—the sobs of the dying, and the agonizing groans of the wounded.
2. But when daylight returned, the conquerors, like wild beasts rendered still more savage by the blood they had tasted, and allured by the temptations of groundless hope, marched in a dense column upon Hadrianople, resolved to run any risk in order to take it, having been informed by traitors and deserters that the principal officers of State, the insignia of the imperial authority, and the treasures of Valens had all been placed there for safety, as in an impregnable fortress.
3. And to prevent the ardour of the soldiers from being cooled by delay, the whole city was blockaded by the fourth hour; and the siege from that time was carried on with great vigour, the besiegers, from their innate ferocity, pressing in to complete its destruction, while, on the other hand, the garrison was stimulated to great exertions by their natural courage.
4. And while the vast number of soldiers and grooms, who were prohibited from entering the city with their beasts, kept close to the walls and to the houses which joined them, and fought gallantly, considering the disadvantages under which they laboured from the lowness of the ground which they occupied, and baffled the rage of their assailants till the ninth hour of the day, on a sudden three hundred of our infantry, of those who were nearest the battlements, formed themselves into a solid body, and deserted to the barbarians, who seized upon them with avidity, and (it is not known on what account) at once slaughtered them all. And from that time forth it was |619 remarked that no one, even in the extremity of despair, adopted any similar conduct.
5. Now while all these misfortunes were at their height, suddenly there came a violent thunderstorm, and rain pouring down from the black clouds dispersed the bands of soldiers who were raging around; and they returned to their camp, which was measured out in a circle by their waggons; and being more elated and haughty than ever, they sent threatening letters to our men . . . . . and an ambassador . . . . . on condition of safety to him.
6. But as the messenger did not dare to enter the city, the letters were at last brought in by a certain Christian; and when they had been read and considered with all proper attention, the rest of the day and the whole of the night was devoted to preparing for defence. For inside the city the gates were blocked up with huge stones; the weak parts of the walls were strengthened, and engines to hurl javelins or stones were fixed on all convenient places, and a sufficient supply of water was also provided; for the day before some of the combatants had been distressed almost to death by thirst.
7. On the other hand the Goths, considering the difficulty and uncertainty of all warlike transactions, and becoming anxious at seeing their bravest warriors wounded and slain, and their strength gradually diminished, devised and adopted a crafty counsel, which, however, was revealed to us by Justice herself.
8. They seduced some picked soldiers of our army, who had revolted to them the day before, to pretend to escape back to their former comrades, and thus gain admittance within the walls; and after they had effected their entrance, they were secretly to set fire to some part of the city, so that the conflagration might serve as a secret signal, and while the garrison and citizens were occupied in extinguishing it, the walls might be left undefended, and so be easily stormed.
9. The traitors did as they were commanded; and when they came near the ditch they stretched out their hands, and with entreaties requested to be admitted into the city as Romans. When they were admitted, however (since no suspicion existed to hinder their admission), and were questioned as to the plans of the enemy, they varied in |620 their tale: and in consequence they were put to the torture, and having formally confessed what they had undertaken to do, they were all beheaded.
10. Accordingly, every resource of war having been prepared, the barbarians, at the third watch discarding all fear from past failures, rushed in enormous numbers against the blocked-up entrances of the city, their officers urging them with great obstinacy. But the provincials and imperial guards, with the rest of the garrison, rose with fearless courage to repel them, and their missiles of every kind, even when shot at random among so vast a crowd, could not fall harmless. Our men perceived that the barbarians were using the same weapons which we ourselves had shot at them: and accordingly an order was given that the strings which fastened the iron points to the javelins and arrows should be cut before they were hurled or shot; so that while flying they should preserve their efficacy, but when they pierced a body or fell on the ground they should come asunder.
12. While affairs were in this critical state an unexpected accident had a considerable influence on the result. A scorpion, a military engine which in ordinary language is also known as the wild-ass, being stationed opposite the dense array of the enemy, hurled forth a huge stone, which, although it fell harmless on the ground, yet by the more sight of it terrified them so greatly, that in alarm at the strange spectacle they all fell back and endeavoured to retreat.
13. But their officers ordering the trumpets to sound a charge, the battle was renewed; and the Romans, as before, got the advantage, not a single javelin or bullet hurled by a slinger failing of its effect. For the troops of the generals who led the vanguard, and who were inflamed by the desire of possessing themselves of the treasures which Valens had so wickedly acquired, were followed closely by others who were vain of exposing themselves to as much danger as those of greater renown. And some were wounded almost to death: others were struck down, crushed by huge weights, or pierced through their breasts with javelins; some who carried laddors and attempted to scale the walls on different sides were buried under their own burthens, being beaten down by stones which |621 were hurled upon them, and by fragments of pillars and cylinders.
14. And yet, horrible as the sight of this bloodshed was, so great was their ardour that no one relaxed in his gallant exertions till the evening, being encouraged by seeing many of the garrison also fall by various wounds. So, without rest or relaxation, both the besiegers and the besieged fought with unwearied courage.
15. And now no kind of order was observed by the enemy, but they fought in detached bands and in skirmishes (which is the sign of the extremity of despair); and at last, when evening came on, they all returned to their tents, sorrowfully, each man accusing his neighbour of inconsiderate rashness, because they had not taken the advice of Fritigern, and avoided the labours and dangers of a siege.
§ 1. After the battle, the soldiers devoted the whole night (which, as it was summer, was not long) to tending the wounded with all the remedies known to their nations, and when daylight returned they began to discuss various plans, doubting what to do. And after many plans had been proposed and objected to, they at last decided to occupy Perinthus, and then, every place where they could hear that any treasures were stored up, the deserters and fugitives having given them all the information they required, so that they learnt what was in every house, to say nothing of what was in every city. Adopting this resolution unanimously, which they thought the best, they advanced by slow marches, ravaging and burning everything as they passed.
2. But those who had been besieged in Hadrianople, after the barbarians had departed, as soon as scouts of approved fidelity had reported that the whole place was free from enemies, issued forth at midnight, and avoiding the public causeways, took out-of-way roads through the woods, and withdrew, some to Philippopolis, and from thence to Serdica, others to Macedonia; with all the wealth which they had saved undiminished, and pressing on with the greatest exertion and celerity, as if they were likely to |622 find Valens in those regions, since they were wholly ignorant that he had perished in battle, or else certainly (as is rather believed) burnt to death in the cottage.
3. Meanwhile the Goths, combining with the Huns and Alani, both brave and warlike tribes, and inured to toil and hardship, whom Fritigern had with great ability won over to his side by the temptation of great rewards—fixed their camp near Perinthus; but recollecting their previous losses, they did not venture to come close to the city, or make any attempt to take it; they, however, devastated and entirely stripped the fertile territory surrounding it, slaying or making prisoners of the inhabitants.
4. From hence they marched with speed to Constantinople in battle array, from fear of ambuscades; being eager to make themselves masters of its ample riches, and resolved to try every means to take that illustrious city. But while giving way to extravagant pride, and beating almost against the barriers of the gates, they were repulsed in this instance by the Deity.
5. A body of Saracens (a nation of whose origin and manners we have already given a full account in several places), being more suited for sallies and skirmishes than for pitched battles, had been lately introduced into the city; and, as soon as they saw the barbarian host, they sallied out boldly from the city to attack it. There was a stubborn fight for some time; and at last both armies parted on equal terms.
6. But a strange and unprecedented incident gave the final advantage to the eastern warriors; for one of them with long hair, naked—with the exception of a covering round his waist—shouting a hoarse and melancholy cry, drew his dagger and plunged into the middle of the Gothic host, and after he had slain an enemy, put his lips to his throat, and sucked his blood. The barbarians were terrified at this marvellous prodigy, and from that time forth, when they proceeded on any enterprise, displayed none of their former and usual ferocity, but advanced with hesitating steps.
7. As time went on their ardour damped, and they began to take into consideration the vast circuit of the walls (which was the greater on account of the large space occupied by mansions with gardens within it), the |623 inaccessible beauties of the city, and the immensity of its population; also the vicinity of the strait which divides the Black Sea from the Aegean. Then after destroying the works which they had constructed, having sustained greater losses than they had inflicted, they raised the siege, and roamed at random over the northern provinces, which they traversed without restraint as far as the Julian Alps, which the ancients used to call the Venetian Alps.
8. At this time the energy and promptitude of Julius, the commander of the forces on the other side of Mount Taurus, was particularly distinguished; for when he learnt what had happened in Thrace, he sent secret letters to all the governors of the different cities and forts, who were all Romans (which at this time is not very common), requesting them, on one and the same day, as at a concerted signal, to put to death all the Goths who had previously been admitted into the places under their charge; first luring them into the suburbs, in expectation of receiving the pay which had been promised to them. This wise plan was carried out without any disturbance or any delay; and thus the Eastern provinces were delivered from great dangers.
9. Thus have I, a Greek by birth, and formerly a soldier, related all the events from the accession of Nerva to the death of Valens, to the best of my abilities; professing above all things to tell the truth, which, as I believe, I have never knowingly perverted, either by silence or by falsehood. Let better men in the flower of their age, and of eminent accomplishments, relate the subsequent events. But if it should please them to undertake the task, I warn them to sharpen their tongues to a loftier style.
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