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Book XVII

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Roman History

of
Ammianus Marcellinus

published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1935

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book XIX

(Vol. I) Ammianus Marcellinus
Roman Antiquities

p403 Book XVIII

1 1 Julianus Caesar looks out for the welfare of Gaul, and sees to it that justice be observed everywhere by every one.

1 Such are the events of one and the same year in various parts of the world. But in Gaul, now that affairs were in a better condition and the brothers Eusebius and Hypatius had been honoured with the high title of consul, Julian, famed for his series of successes and in winter quarters at Paris, layº aside for a time the cares of war and with no less regard made many arrangements leading to the well-being of the provinces, diligently providing that no one should be overloaded with a burden of tribute; that the powerful should not grasp the p405property of others, or those hold positions of authority whose private estates were being increased by public disasters; and that no official1 should with impunity swerve from equity. 2 And this last abuse he reformed with slight difficulty, for the reason that he settled controversies himself whenever the importance of the cases or of the persons required, and distinguished inflexibly between right and wrong. 3 And although there are many praiseworthy instances of his conduct in such cases, yet it will suffice to cite one, as a sample of his acts and words. 4 Numerius, shortly before governor of Gallia Narbonensis, was accused of embezzlement, and Julian examined him with unusual judicial strictness before his tribunal publicly, admitting all who wished to attend. And when the accused defended himself by denying the charge, and could not be confuted on any point, Delphidius, a very vigorous speaker, assailing him violently and, exasperated by the lack of proofs, cried: "Can anyone, most mighty Caesar, ever be found guilty, if it be enough to deny the charge?" And Julian was inspired at once to reply to him wisely: "Can anyone be proved innocent, if it be enough to have accused him?" And this was one of many like instances of humanity.

2 1 Julianus Caesar repairs the walls of the fortress on the Rhine which he had recovered. He crosses the Rhine, and after laying waste the hostile part of Alamannia compels five of their kings to sue for peace and return their prisoners.

1 But being on the point of entering upon an urgent campaign, since he considered that some p407districts of the Alamanni were hostile and would venture on outrages unless they also were overthrown after the example of the rest, he was anxious and doubtful with what force and with what speed (as soon as prudence gave an opportunity) he might anticipate the news of his coming and invade their territories unexpected. 2 And after thinking over many varied plans he at last decided to try the one which the outcome proved to be expedient. Without anyone's knowledge he had sent Hariobaudes, an unattached tribune of tried fidelity and courage, ostensibly as an envoy to Hortarius, a king already subdued, with the idea that he could easily go on from there to the frontiers of those against whom war was presently to be made, and find out what they were plotting; for he was thoroughly acquainted with the language of the savages. 3 When the tribune had fearlessly set out to execute these orders, Julian, since the season of the year was favourable, called together his soldiers from all quarters for a campaign, and set forth; and he thought that above all things he ought betimes to attend to this, namely, before the heat of battle to enter the cities long since destroyed and abandoned, regain and fortify them, and even build granaries in place of those that had been burned, in which he could store the grain which was regularly brought over from Britain; and both things were accomplished sooner than anyone expected. 4 For not only did the granaries quickly rise, but a sufficiency of food was stored in them; and the cities were seized, to the number of seven: Castra Herculis,2 Quadriburgium,3 Tricensima4 and Novesium,5 Bonna,6 p409Antennacum7 and Vingo,8 where by a happy stroke of fortune the prefect Florentius also appeared unexpectedly, leading a part of the forces and bringing a store of provisions sufficient to last a long time.

5 After this had been accomplished, one pressing necessity remained, namely, to repair the walls of the recovered cities, since even then no one hindered; and it is evident from clear indications that the savages through fear, and the Romans through love for their commander, at that time served the public welfare. 6 The kings, according to the compact of the preceding year, sent in their wagons an abundance of building material, and the auxiliary soldiers, who always disdain such tasks, induced to diligent compliance by Julian's fair words, willingly carried on their shoulders timbers fifty feet or more in length, and in the work of building rendered the greatest service.

7 While these works were being pushed on with diligence and success, Hariobaudes returned after examining into everything, and reported what he had learned. After his arrival all came at top speed to Mayence; and there, when Florentius and Lupicinus (successor to Severus) strongly insisted that they ought to build a bridge at that place and cross the river,9 Caesar stoutly opposed, declaring that they ought not to set foot in the lands of those who had submitted, for fear that (as often happens) through the rudeness of the soldiers, destroying everything in their way, the treaties might be abruptly broken.

8 However, the Alamanni as a whole, against whom our army was marching, thinking danger to be close at hand, with threats warned king p411Suomarius,º a friend of ours through a previous treaty, to debar the Romans from passing over; for his territories adjoined the opposite bank of the Rhine. And when he declared that he could resist single-handed, the savages united their forces and came to the neighbourhood of Mayence, intending with might and main to prevent our army from crossing the river. 9 Therefore for a twofold reason what Caesar had advised seemed fitting, namely, that they should not ravage the lands of peaceful natives, nor against the opposition of a most warlike people construct the bridge with loss of life to many of our men, but should go10 to the place best suited for building a bridge. 10 This step the enemy observed with the greatest care, slowly marching along the opposite bank; and when from afar they saw our men pitching their tents, they themselves also passed sleepless nights, keeping guard with watchful diligence to prevent an attempt at crossing. 11 Our soldiers, however, on coming to the appointed place rested, protected by a rampart and a trench, and Caesar, after taking counsel with Lupicinus, ordered trusty tribunes to provide with stakes three hundred light-armed troops, who as yet were wholly unaware what was to be done or where they were to go. 12 And having been brought together when night was well advanced, all were embarked whom forty scouting boats11 (as many as were available at the time) would hold, and ordered to go down stream so quietly that they were even to keep their oars lifted for fear that the sound of the waters might arouse the savages; and while the enemy were watching our campfires, the soldiers p413were ordered with nimbleness of mind and body to force the opposite bank.

13 While this was being done with all haste, Hortarius, a king previously allied with us, not intending any disloyalty but being a friend also to his neighbours, invited all the kings, princes, and kinglets to a banquet and detained them until the third watch, prolonging the feasting after the native fashion. And as they were leaving the feast, it chanced that our men unexpectedly attacked them, but in were in no way able to kill or take any of them, aided as they were by the darkness and their horses, which carried them off wherever panic haste drove them; they did, however, slay the lackeys or slaves, who followed their masters on foot, except such as the darkness of the hour saved from danger.

14 When word at last came of the crossing of the Romans, who then, as in former campaigns, expected to find rest from their labours wherever they should succeed in finding the enemy, the panic-strickenº kings and their peoples, who were watching with eager intentness and dreading the building of the bridge, shuddering with fear, took to their heels in all directions; and their unbridled anger now laid aside, they hastened to transport their kindred and their possessions to a greater distance. And at once every difficulty was removed, the bridge was built, and before the anxious nations expected it our soldiers appeared in the land of the savages, and were passing through the realms of Hortarius without doing any damage. 15 But when they reached the territories of kings that were still hostile, they burned and pillaged everything, p415ranging without fear through the midst of the rebel country.

After firing the fragile huts that sheltered them, killing a great number of men, and seeing many falling and others begging for mercy, our soldiers reached the region called Capillacii or Palas12 where boundary stones marked the frontiers of the Alamanni and the Burgundians. There they encamped with the design of capturing Macrianus and Hariobaudus, kings and own brothers, before they took alarm; for they, perceiving the ruin that threatened them, had come with anxious minds to sue for peace. 16 The kings were at once followed also by Vadomarius, whose abode was over against the Rauraci, and since he presented a letter of the emperor Constantius, in which he was strongly commended, he was received kindly (as was fitting), since he had long before been taken by Augustus under the protection of the Roman empire. 17 And Macrianus indeed, when admitted with his brother among the eagles and ensigns, was amazed at the variety and splendour of the arms and the forces, things which he saw then for the first time, and pleaded for his subjects. But Vadomarius, who was familiar with our affairs (since he had lived near the frontier) did indeed admire the equipment of the splendid array, but remembered that he had often seen the like from early youth. 18 Finally, after long deliberation, by the unanimous consent of all, peace was indeed granted to Macrianus and Hariobaudus; but to Vadomarius, who had come to secure his own p417safety, but at the same time as an envoy and intercessor, begging for peace in behalf of the kings Urius, Ursicinus and Vestralpus, no immediate reply could be given, for fear that (since savages are of unstable loyalty) they might take courage after the departure of our army and not abide by a peace secured through others. 19 But when they themselves also, after the burning of their harvests and homes and the capture or death of many men, sent envoys and made supplication as if they too had committed these sins against our people, they won peace on the same terms; and among these conditions it was especially stressed that they should give up all the prisoners whom they had taken in their frequent raids.

3 1 Why Barbatio, commander of the infantry, and his wife were beheaded by order of Constantius.

1 While in Gaul the providence of Heaven was reforming these abuses, in the court of Augustus a tempest of sedition arose, which from small beginnings proceeded to grief and lamentation. In the house of Barbatio, then commander of the infantry forces, bees made a conspicuous swarm; and when he anxiously consulted men skilled in prodigies about this, they replied that it portended great danger,13 obviously inferring this from the belief, that p419when these insects have made their homes and gathered their treasures, they are only driven out by smoke and the wild clashing of cymbals. 2 Barbatio had a wife, Assyria by name, who was talkative and indiscreet. She, when her husband had gone forth on a campaign and was worried by many fears because of what he remembered had been foretold him, overcome by a woman's folly, confided in a maidservant skilled in cryptic writing, whom she had acquired from the estate of Silvanus. Through her Assyria wrote at this untimely moment to her husband, entreating him in tearful accents that when, after Constantius' approaching death, he himself had become emperor, as he hoped, he should not cast her off and prefer marriage with Eusebia, who was then queen and was conspicuous among many women for the beauty of her person. 3 After this letter had been sent with all possible secrecy, the maidservant, who had written it at her mistress' dictation, as soon as all had returned from the campaign took a copy of it and ran off to Arbetio in the quiet of the night; and being eagerly received, she handed over the note. 4 Arbetio, who was of all men most clever in framing an accusation, trusting to this evidence reported the matter to the emperor. The affair was investigated, as usual, without delay or rest, and when Barbatio admitted that he had received the letter, and strong evidence proved that the woman had written it, both were beheaded. 5 When they had been executed, far-reaching inquisitions followed, and many suffered, the most innocent as well as the guilty. Among these also Valentinus, formerly p421captain of the guard and then a tribune, was suspected with many others of being implicated and, although totally ignorant of what had been done, was tortured several times, but survived. And so, as compensation for his wrongs and his peril, he gained the position of a general in Illyricum.

6 Now the aforesaid Barbatio was a somewhat boorish fellow, of arrogant intentions, who was hated by many for the reason that, while he commanded the household troops under Gallus Caesar, he was a perfidious traitor; and after Gallus' death, puffed up with pride in his higher military rank, he made like plots against Julian, when he became Caesar; and to the disgust of all good men he chattered into the open ears of the Augustus many cruel accusations. 7 He surely was unaware of the wise saying of Aristotle of old, who, on sending his disciple and relative Callisthenes to King Alexander, charged him repeatedly to speak as seldom and as pleasantly as possible in the presence of a man who had at the tip of his tongue the power of life and death. 8 And it should not cause surprise that men, whose minds we regard as akin to the gods, sometimes distinguish what is advantageous from what is harmful; for even unreasoning animals are at times wont to protect their lives by deep silence, as appears from this well-known fact. 9 The geese, when leaving the east because of heat and flying westward, no sooner begin to traverse Mount Taurus, which abounds in eagles, than in fear of those mighty birds they close their beaks with little stones, so that even extreme necessity may not call forth a clamour from them; and after they have passed over those same hills in p423speedier flight, they cast out the pebbles and so go on with greater peace of mind.

4 1 Sapor, king of the Persians, prepares to attack the Romans with all his forces.

1 While at Sirmium these matters were being investigated with all diligence, the fortune of the Orient kept sounding the dread trumpets of danger; for the king of Persia, armed with the help of the savage tribes which he had subdued, and burning with superhuman desire of extending his domain, was preparing arms, forces, and supplies, embroiling his plans with infernal powers and consulting all superstitions about the future; and having assembled enough of these, he planned with the first mildness of spring to overrun everything. 2 And when news of this came, at first by rumours and then by trustworthy messengers, and great dread of impending disasters held all in suspense, the forge of the courtiers, hammering day and night at the instigation of the eunuchs on the same anvil (as the saying is), held up Ursicinus to the suspicious and timid emperor as a grim-visaged gorgon, often reiterating these and similar charges: that he, having on the death of Silvanus been sent as if in default of better men, to defend the east, was panting for higher honours. 3 Furthermore, by this foul and excessive flattery very many strove to purchase the favour of Eusebius, then head-chamberlain, upon whom (if the truth must be told) Constantius greatly depended, and who was vigorously attacking the safety of the aforesaid commander of the cavalry p425for a double reason: because he alone of all was not, like the rest, adding to Eusebius' wealth, and would not give up to him his house at Antioch, which the head-chamberlain most importunately demanded. 4 Eusebius then, like a viper swelling with abundant poison and arousing its multitudinous brood to mischief when they were still barely able to crawl, sent out his chamberlains, already well grown, with directions that, amid the duties of their more private attendance, with the soft utterances of voices always childish and persuasive they should with bitter hatred batter the reputation of that brave man in the too receptive ears of the prince. And they promptly did what they were ordered. 5 Through disgust with these and their kind, I take pleasure in praising Domitian of old, for although, unlike his father and his brother, he drenched the memory of his name with indelible detestation, yet he won distinction by a most highly approved law, by which he had under heavy penalties forbidden anyone within the bounds of the Roman jurisdiction to geld a boy;14 for if this had not happened, who could endure the swarms of those whose small number is with difficulty tolerated? 6 However, Eusebius proceeded warily, lest (as he pretended) that same Ursicinus, if again summoned to court, should through fear cause general disturbance, but actually that he might, whenever chance should give the opportunity, be haled off to execution.

7 While they held these plots in abeyance and were distracted by anxious thoughts, and I was staying for a time at Samosata, the famous seat of the p427former kingdom of Commagene, on a sudden repeated and trustworthy rumours were heard of new commotions; and of these the following chapter of my history shall tell.

5 1 Antoninus, of the household troops, goes over with all his household to Sapor, and urges him to the war against the Romans which he had already set on foot of his own accord.

1 There was a certain Antoninus, at first a rich merchant, then an accountant in the service of the governor of Mesopotamia, and finally one of his body-guard, a man of experience and sagacity, who was widely known throughout all that region. This man, being involved in great losses through the greed of certain powerful men, found on contending against them that he was more and more oppressed by unjust means, since those who examined the case were inclined to curry favour with men of higher position. Accordingly, in order not to kick against the pricks, he turned to mildness and flattery and acknowledged the debt, which by collusion had been transferred to the account of the privy purse. And then, planning to venture upon a vast enterprise, he covertly pried into all parts of the entire empire, and being versed in the language of both tongues,15 busied himself with calculations, making record of what troops were serving anywhere or of what strength, or at what time expeditions would be made, inquiring also by tireless questioning whether supplies of arms, provisions, and other things that would be useful in war were at hand in abundance. 2 And p429when he had learned the internal affairs of the entire Orient, since the greater part of the troops and the money for their pay were distributed through Illyricum, where the emperor was distracted with serious affairs, and as the stipulated time would soon be at hand for paying the money which he was compelled by force and threats to admit by written bond that he owed, foreseeing that he must be crushed by all manner of dangers on every side, since the count of the largesses16 through favour to his creditor was pressing him more urgently, he made a great effort to flee to the Persians with his wife, his children, and all his dear ones. 3 And to the end that he might elude the sentinels, he bought at no great price a farm in Iaspis, a place washed by the waters of the Tigris. And since because of this device no one ventured to ask one who was now a land-holder with many attendants his reason for coming to the utmost frontier of the Roman Empire, through friends who were loyal and skilled in swimming he held many secret conferences with Tamsapor, then acting as governor of all the lands across the river, whom he already knew; and when active men had been sent to his aid from the Persian camp, he embarked in fishing boats and ferried over all his beloved household in the dead of night, like Zopyrus, that famous betrayer of Babylon, but with the opposite intention.17

4 After affairs in Mesopotamia had been brought to this pass, the Palace gang, chanting the old refrain with a view to our destruction, at last found an opportunity for injuring the most valiant of men, aided and abetted by the corps of eunuchs, who p431are always cruel and sour, and since they lack other offspring, embrace riches alone as their most dearly beloved daughters. 5 So it was decided that Sabinianus, a cultivated man, it is true, and well-to‑do,18 but unfit for war, inefficient, and because of his obscurity still far removed from obtaining magisterial rank, should be sent to govern the eastern regions; but that Ursicinus should return to court to command the infantry and succeed Barbatio: to the end that by his presence there that eager inciter to revolution (as they persisted in calling him) might be open to the attacks of his bitter and formidable enemies.

6 While this was being done in the camp of Constantius, after the manner of brothels and the stage, and the distributors19 were scattering the price of suddenly purchased power through the homes of the powerful, Antoninus was conducted to the king's winter quarters and received with open arms, being graced with the distinction of the turban, an honour shared by those who sit at the royal table and allowing men of merit among the Persians to speak words of advice and to vote in the assemblies. Thus, not with poles or tow-rope (as the saying is), that is, not by ambiguous or obscure subterfuges, but under full sail he attacked his country, urging on the aforesaid king, as long ago Maharbal chided the slowness of Hannibal, and kept insisting that he could win victories, but not take advantage of them.20 7 For having been brought up in their p433midst, as a man well informed on all matters, finding eager hearers, desirous of having their ears tickled, who did not praise him but like Homer's Phaeacians21 admired him in silence, he would rehearse the history of the past forty years. He showed that after constant successes in war, especially at Hileia and Singara,22 where that furious contest at night took place and our troops were cut to pieces with great carnage, as if some fetial priest were intervening23 to stop the fight, the Persians did not yet reach Edessa nor the bridges of the Euphrates, in spite of being victorious; whereas trusting to their prowess and their splendid successes, they ought so to have extended their kingdom as to rule over all Asia, especially at a time when through the continual commotions of civil wars Rome's stoutest soldiers were shedding their blood on two sides.

8 With these and similar speeches from time to time at banquets, where after the old Greek custom they used to consult about preparations for war and other serious affairs, the deserter kept sober and fired the already eager king, so soon as winter was over, at once to take the field, trusting to his good fortune, and Antoninus himself confidently promised to aid him in many important ways.

p435 6 1 Ursicinus, commander of the army in the Orient, being summoned from there and having already reached Thrace, is sent back to Mesopotamia; on his return he tries to learn through Marcellinus of the coming of Sapor.

1 At about that same time Sabinianus, puffed up by his suddenly acquired power, entered the confines of Cilicia and handed his predecessor the emperor's letter, which directed him to make all haste to the court, to be invested with higher rank; and that too at a crisis when, even if Ursicinus were living in Thule,24 the weight of affairs with good reason demanded that he be sent for,25 well acquainted as he was with the old-time discipline and with the Persian methods of warfare from long experience. 2 The rumour of this action greatly disquieted the provinces, and the senates and peoples of the various cities, while decrees and acclamations came thick and fast, laid hands on him and all but held fast their public defender, recalling that though he had been left to protect them with weak and ease-loving soldiers, he had for ten years suffered no loss; and at the same time they feared for their safety on learning that at a critical time he had been deposed and a most inefficient man had come to take his place. 3 We believe (and in fact there is no doubt of it) that Rumour flies swiftly through the paths of air, since it was through her circulation of the news of these events that the Persians held council as to their course of action. And after long p437debate to and fro it was decided, on the advice of Antoninus, that since Ursicinus was far away and the new commander was lightly regarded, they should give up the dangerous sieges of cities, pass the barrier of the Euphrates, and push on with the design of outstripping by speed the news of their coming and seizing upon the provinces, which in all previous wars (except in the time of Gallienus)26 had been untouched and had grown rich through long-continued peace; and Antoninus promised that with God's favour he would be a most helpful leader in this enterprise. 4 When this plan had been commended and approved by unanimous consent, all turned their attention to such things as must be amassed with speed; and so the preparation of supplies, soldiers, weapons, and other equipment which the coming campaign required, went on all winter long.

5 We27 meanwhile lingered for a time on this side the Taurus, and then in accordance with our orders were hastening to the regions of Italy and had come to the vicinity of the river Hebrus,28 which flows down from the mountains of the Odrysae; there we received the emperor's dispatch, which without offering any excuse ordered us to return to Mesopotamia without any attendants and take charge of a perilous campaign, after all power had been transferred to another. 6 This was devised by the mischievous moulders of the empire with the idea that, if the Persians were baffled and returned to their own country, the glorious deed p439would be attributed to the ability of the new leader; but if Fortune proved unfavourable, Ursicinus would be accused as a traitor to his country. 7 Accordingly, after careful consideration, and long hesitation, we returned, to find Sabinianus a man full of haughtiness, but of insignificant stature and small and narrow mind, barely able to endure the slight noise of a banquet without shameful apprehension, to say nothing of din of battle.

8 Nevertheless, since scouts, and deserters agreeing with them, most persistently declared that the enemy were pushing all their preparations with hot haste, while the manikin29 yawned, we hastily marched to Nisibis,30 to prepare what was useful, lest the Persians, masking their design of a siege, might surprise the city when off its guard. 9 And while within the walls the things that required haste were being pushed vigorously, smoke and gleaming fires constantly shone from the Tigris on past Castra Maurorum31 and Sisara and all the neighbour country as far as the city, in greater number than usual and in a continuous line, clearly showing that the enemy's bands of plunderers had burst forth and crossed the river. 10 Therefore, for fear that the roads might be blocked, we hastened on at full speed, and when we were within two miles, we saw a fine-looking boy, wearing a neck-chain, a child eight years old (as we guessed) and the son of a man of position (as he said), crying in the p441middle of the highway; his mother, while she was fleeing, wild with fear of the pursuing enemy, being hampered and agitated had left him alone. While I, at the command of my general, who was filled with pity, set the boy before me on my horse and took him back to the city, the pillagers, after building a rampart around the entire wall, were ranging more widely. 11 And because the calamities of a siege alarmed me, I set the boy down within a half-open postern gate and with winged speed hastened breathless to our troop; and I was all but taken prisoner. 12 For a tribune called Abdigildus was fleeing with his camp-servant, pursued by a troop of the enemy's cavalry. And while the master made his escape, they caught the slave and asked him (just as I passed by at full gallop) who had been appointed governor. And when they heard that Ursicinus had entered the city a short time before and was now on his way to Mount Izala, they killed their informant and a great number, got together into one body, followed me with tireless speed. 13 When through the fleetness of my mount I had outstripped them and come to Amudis, a weak fortress, I found our men lying about at their ease, while their horses had been turned out to graze. Extending my arm far forward and gathering up my cloak and waving it on high, I showed by the usual sign that the enemy were near, and joining with them I was hurried along at their pace, although my horse was now growing tired. 14 We were alarmed, moreover, by the fact that it was full moon at night and by the level stretch of plain, which (in case any pressing emergency surprised us) could offer no hiding-places, p443since neither trees nor shrubs were to be seen, but nothing except short grass. 15 Therefore we devised the plan of placing a lighted lantern on a single pack-animal, binding it fast, so that it should not fall off, and then turning loose the animal that carried the light and letting him go towards the left without a driver, while we made our way to the mountain heights lying on the right, in order that the Persians, supposing that a tallow torch32 was carried before the general as he went slowly on his way, should take that course rather than any other; and had it not been for this stratagem, we should have been surrounded and captured and come into the power of the enemy.

16 Saved from this danger, we came to a wooded tract planted with vineyards and fruitbearing orchards, called Meiacarire,33 so named from its cold springs. There all the inhabitants had decamped, but we found one soldier hiding in a remote spot. He, on being brought before the general, because of fear gave contradictory answers and so fell under suspicion. But influenced by threats made against him, he told the whole truth, saying that he was born at Paris in Gaul and served in a cavalry troop; but in fear of punishment for a fault that he had once committed he had deserted to the Persians. Then, being found to be of upright character, and to have married and reared children, he was sent as a spy to our territories and often brought back trustworthy news. But now p445he had been sent out by the grandees Tamsapor and Nohodares, who had led the bands of pillagers, and was returning to them, to report what he had learned. After this, having added what he knew about what the enemy were doing, he was put to death.

17 Then with our anxious cares increasing we went from there as quickly as circumstances allowed to Amida,34 a city afterwards notorious for the calamities which it suffered.35 And when our scouts had returned there, we found in the scabbard of a sword a parchment written in cipher, which had been brought to us by order of Procopius, who, as I said before,a had previously been sent as an envoy to the Persians with Count Lucillianus. In this, with intentional obscurity, for fear that, if the bearers were taken and the meaning of the message known, most disastrous consequences would follow, he gave the following message:—

18 "Now that the envoys of the Greeks have been sent far away and perhaps are to be killed, that aged king, not content with Hellespontus, will bridge the Granicus and the Rhyndacus36 and come to invade Asia with many nations. He is naturally passionate and very cruel, and he has as an instigator and abetter the successor of the former Roman emperor Hadrian;37 unless Greece takes heed, it is all over with her and her dirge chanted."

19 This writing meant that the king of the Persians had crossed the rivers Anzaba and Tigris, and, urged on by Antoninus, aspired to the rule of the p447entire Orient. When it had been read, with the greatest difficulty because of its excessive ambiguity, a sagacious plan was formed.

20 There was at that time in Corduene,38 which was subject to the Persian power, a satrap called Jovinianus on Roman soil, a youth who had secret sympathy with us for the reason that, having been detained in Syria as a hostage and allured by the charm of liberal studies, he felt a burning desire to return to our country. 21 To him I was sent with a centurion of tried loyalty, for the purpose of getting better informed of what was going on; and I reached him over pathless mountains and through steep defiles. After he had seen and recognized me, and received me cordially, I confided to him alone the reason for my presence. Thereupon with one silent attendant who knew with the country he sent me to some lofty cliffs a long distance from there, from which, unless one's eyesight was impaired, even the smallest object was visible at a distance of fifty miles. 22 There we stayed for two full days, and at dawn of the third day we saw below us the whole circuit of the lands (which we39 call ὁρίζοντες)40 filled with innumerable troops with the king leading the way, glittering in splendid attire. Close by him on the left went Grumbates, king of the Chionitae,41 a man of moderate strength, it is true, and with shrivelled limbs, but of a certain p449greatness of mind and distinguished by the glory of many victories. On the right was the king of the Albani,42 of equal rank, high in honour. After them came various leaders, prominent in reputation and rank, followed by a multitude of every degree, chosen from the flower of the neighbouring nations and taught to endure hardship by long continued training. 23 How long, storied Greece, will you continue to tell us of Doriscus, the city of Thrace, and of the armies drawn up in troops within enclosures and numbered?43 For I am too cautious, or (to speak more truly) too timid, to exaggerate anything beyond what is proven by trustworthy and sure evidence.

7 1 Sapor with the kings of the Chionitae and the Albani invades Mesopotamia. The Romans set fire to their own fields, drive the peasants into the towns, and fortify our bank of the Euphrates with strongholds and garrisons.

1 After the kings had passed by Nineveh, a great city of Adiabene, and after sacrificing victims in the middle of the bridge over the Anzaba and finding the omens favourable, had crossed full of joy, I judged that all the rest of the throng could hardly enter in three days; so I quickly returned to the satrap and rested, entertained with hospitable attentions. 2 Then I returned, again passing through deserted and solitary places, more quickly p451than could be expected, led as I was by the great consolation of necessity, and cheered the spirits of those who were troubled because they were informed that the kings, without any detour, had crossed on a single bridge of boats. 3 Therefore at once swift horsemen were sent to Cassianus, commander in Mesopotamia, and to Euphronius, then governor of the province, to compel the peasants with their households and all their flocks to move to safer quarters, directing also that the city of Carrhae should quickly be abandoned, since the town was surrounded only by weak fortifications; and in addition that all the plains be set on fire, to prevent the enemy from getting fodder. 4 These orders were executed without delay, and when the fires had been kindled, the mighty violence of that raging element consumed all the grain, which was filled out on the now yellowing stalk, and every kind of growing plant, so utterly that from the very banks of the Tigris all the way to the Euphrates not a green thing was to be seen. At that time many wild beasts were burned up, especially lions, which are excessively savage in those regions and usually perish or are gradually blinded in the following manner. 5 Amid the reed-beds and thickets of the Mesopotamian rivers lions range in countless numbers; and during the moderate winter, which is there very mild, they are always harmless. But when the sun's rays have brought the season of burning heat, in regions parched by drought they are tormented both by the sultry breath of the sun and by crowds of gnats, swarms of which fill all parts of that land. And since these same insects make p453for the eyes, as the moist and shining parts of the body, and settling along the eyelids bite them, those same lions, after suffering long torture, either plunge into the rivers, to which they flee for protection, and are drowned, or after losing their eyes, which they dig out by constantly scratching them with their claws, become frightfully savage. And were it not for this, the entire Orient would be overrun by such beasts.

6 While the plains were burning (as was said), tribunes were sent with the guard and fortified the nearer bank of the Euphrates with towers, sharp stakes, and every kind of defence, planting hurling-engines in suitable places, where the river was not full of eddies.44

7 While these preparations were being hastened, Sabinianus, that splendid choice45 of a leader in a deadly war, when every moment should have been seized to avert the common dangers, amid the tombs of Edessa, as if he had nothing to fear when he had made his peace with the dead, and acting with wantonness of a life free from care, in complete inaction was being entertained by his soldiers with a pyrrhic dance,46 in which music accompanied the gestures of the performers — conduct ominous both in itself and in its occasion, since we learn that these and similar things that are ill-omened in word and deed ought to be avoided by every good man as time goes on as foreboding coming troubles. 8 Meanwhile the kings passed p455by Nisibis as an unimportant halting place, and since fires were spreading because of the variety of dry fuel, to avoid a scarcity of fodder were marching through the grassy valleys at the foot of the mountains. 9 And now they had come to a hamlet called Bebase, from which as far as the town of Constantina,47 which is a hundred miles distant, everything is parched by constant drought except for a little water to be found in wells. There they hesitated for a long time what to do, and finally were planning to cross, being confident of the hardiness of their men, when they learned from a faithful scout that the Euphrates was swollen by the melted snows and overflowing in wide pools, and hence could not be forded anywhere. 10 Therefore, being unexpectedly disappointed in the hope that they had conceived, they turned to embrace whatever the chance of fortune should offer; and on holding a council, with reference to the sudden urgent difficulties of their present situation, Antoninus, on being bidden to say what he thought, began by advising that they should turn their march to the right, in order to make a long detour through regions abounding in all sorts of supplies, and still untouched by the Romans in the belief that the enemy would march straight ahead,48 and that they should go under his guidance to the two garrison camps of Barzalo and Claudias; for there the river was shallow and narrow near its source, and as yet increased by no tributaries, and hence was fordable and easy to cross. 11 When this proposition had been heard and its author p457commended and bidden to lead them by the way that he knew, the whole army changed its intended line of march and followed its guide.

8 1 Seven hundred Illyrian horsemen are surprised and put to flight by the Persians. Ursicinus and Marcellinus escape in different directions.

1 When this was known through trustworthy scouts, we planned to hasten to Samosata, in order to cross the river from there and break down the bridges at Zeugma and Capersana, and so (if fortune should aid us at all) repel the enemy's attacks. 2 But there befell a terrible disgrace, which deserves to be buried in utter silence. For about seven hundred horsemen, belonging to two squadrons who had recently been sent to the aid of Mesopotamia from Illyricum, a spiritless and cowardly lot, were keeping guard in those parts. And dreading a night attack, they withdrew to a distance from the public roads at evening, when all the paths ought to be better guarded. 3 This was observed by the Persians, and about twenty thousand of them, under the command of Tamsapor and Nohodares, passed by the horsemen unobserved, while these were overcome with wine and sleep, and hid themselves with arms behind some high mounds near Amida.

4 And presently, when we were on the point of going to Samosata (as has been said) and were on our way while it was still twilight, from a high point our eyes caught the gleam of shining arms, and an excited cry was raised that the enemy were upon p459us; then the usual signal for summoning to battle was given and we halted in close order, thinking it prudent neither to take flight when our pursuers were already in sight, nor yet (through fear of certain death) to engage with a foe far superior in cavalry and in numbers. 5 Finally, after it became absolutely necessary to resort to arms, while we were hesitating as to what ought to be done, some of our men ran forward rashly and were killed. And as both sides pressed forward, Antoninus, who was ostentatiously leading the troops, was recognised by Ursicinus and rated with chiding language; and after being called traitor and criminal, Antoninus took off the tiara which he wore on his head as a token of high honour, sprang from his horse, and bending his body so that he almost touched the ground with his face, he saluted Ursicinus, calling him patron and lord, clasping his hands together behind his back, which among the Assyrians is a gesture of supplication. 6 Then, "Pardon me," said he, "most illustrious Count, since it is from necessity and not voluntarily that I have descended to this conduct, which I know to be infamous. It was unjust duns, as you know, that drove me mad, whose avarice not even your lofty station, which tried to protect my wretchedness, could check." As he said these words he withdrew from sight, not turning about, but respectfully walking backwards until he disappeared, and presenting his breast.

7 While all this took place in the course of half an hour, our soldiers in the rear, who occupied the higher part of the hill, cry out that another force, p461of heavy-armed cavalry, was to be seen behind the others, and that they were approaching with all possible speed. 8 And, as is usual in times of trouble, we were in doubt whom we should, or could, resist, and pushed onward by the weight of the vast throng, we all scattered here and there, wherever each saw the nearest way of escape; and while every one was trying to save himself from the great danger, we were mingled in scattered groups with the enemy's skirmishers. 9 And so, now scorning any desire for life and fighting manfully, we were driven to the banks of the Tigris, which were high and steep. From these some hurled themselves headlong, but entangled by their weapons stuck fast in the shoals of the river; others were dragged down in the eddying pools and swallowed up; some engaged the enemy and fought with varying success; others, terrified by the dense array of hostile ranks, sought to reach the nearest elevations of Mount Taurus. 10 Among these the commander himself was recognised and surrounded by a horde of warriors, but he was saved by the speed of his horse and got away, in company with Aiadalthes, a tribune, and a single groom.

11 I myself, having taken a direction apart from that of my comrades, was looking around to see what to do, when Verennianus, one of the guard, came up with an arrow in his thigh; and while at the earnest request of my colleague I was trying to pull it out, finding myself surrounded on all sides by the foremost Persians, I moved ahead at breathless speed and aimed for the city, which from the point where we were attacked lay high up and could p463be approached only by a single very narrow ascent and this was made still narrower by mills which had been built on the cliffs for the purpose of making the paths.49 12 Here, mingled with the Persians, who were rushing to the higher ground with the same effort as ourselves, we remained motionless until sunrise of the next day, so crowded together that the bodies of the slain, held upright by the throng, could nowhere find room to fall, and that in front of me a soldier with his head cut in two, and split into equal halves by a powerful sword stroke, was so pressed on all sides that he stood erect like a stump. 13 And although showers of weapons from all kinds of artillery flew from the battlements, nevertheless the nearness of the walls saved us from that danger, and when I at last entered the city by a postern gate I found it crowded, since a throng of both sexes had flocked to it from the neighbouring countryside. For, as it chanced, it was at that very time that the annual fair was held in the suburbs, and there was a throng of country folk in addition to the foreign traders. 14 Meanwhile there was a confusion of varied cries, some bewailing their lost kindred, others wounded to the death, many calling upon loved ones from whom they were separated and could not see because of the press.

9 1 A description of Amida, and the number of the legions and troops of cavalry that were on guard there.

1 This city was once very small, but Constantius, when he was still a Caesar, in order that the neighbours p465might have a secure place of refuge, at the same time that he built another city called Antoninupolis, surrounded Amida with strong walls and towers; and by establishing there an armoury of mural artillery, he made it a terror to the enemy and wished it to be called after his own name. 2 Now, on the south side it is washed by the winding course of the Tigris, which rises near-by; where it faces the blasts of Eurus it looks down on Mesopotamia's plains; where it is exposed to the north wind it is close to the river Nymphaeus and lies under the shadow of the peaks of Taurus, which separate the peoples beyond the Tigris from Armenia; opposite the breath of Zephyrus it borders on Gumathena, a region rich alike in fertility and in tillage, in which is the village called Abarne, famed for its warm baths of healing waters. Moreover, in the very heart of Amida, at the foot of the citadel, a bountiful spring gushes forth, drinkable indeed, but sometimes malodorous from hot vapours. 3 Of this town the regular garrison was formed by the Fifth Legion, Parthica, along with a force of no mean size of natives. But at that time six additional legions, having outstripped the advancing horde of Persians by rapid marches, were drawn up upon its very strong walls. These were the soldiers of Magnentius and Decentius,50 whom, after finishing the campaigns of the civil wars, the emperor had forced, as being untrustworthy and turbulent, to come to the Orient, where none but foreign wars are to be feared; also the soldiers of the Thirtieth,51 and the Tenth, also called Fortenses,52 and the Superventores and Praeventores53 with Aelianus, who was then a count; these p467troops, when still raw recruits, at the urging of the same Aelianus, then one of the guard, had made a sally from Singara (as I have said)54 and slain great numbers of the Persians while they were buried in sleep. 4 There were also in the town the greater part of the comites sagittarii55 (household archers), that is to say, a squadron of horsemen so‑named, in which all the freeborn foreigners serve who are conspicuous above the rest for their prowess in arms and their bodily strength.

10 1 Sapor receives two Roman fortresses in surrender.

1 While the storm of the first attack was thus busied with unlooked-for undertakings, the king with his own people and the nations that he was leading turned his march to the right from the place called Bebase, as Antoninus had recommended, through Horre and Meiacarire and Charcha, as if he would pass by Amida; but when he had come near two fortresses of the Romans, of which one is called Reman and the other Busan, he learned from the information of deserters that the wealth of many people had been brought there and was kept in what were regarded as lofty and safe fortifications; and it was added that there was to be found there with a costly outfit a beautiful woman with her little daughter, the wife of a certain Craugasius of Nisibis, a man distinguished among the officials of his town for family, reputation, and influence. 2 Accordingly the king, with a haste due to his greed for seizing others' property, attacked the fortresses p469with fiery confidence, whereupon the defenders, overcome with sudden panic and dazzled by the variety of arms, surrendered themselves and all those who had taken refuge with the garrison; and when ordered to depart, they at once handed over the keys of the gates. When entrance was given, whatever was stored there was brought out, and the women, paralysed with fear, were dragged forth with the children clinging to their mothers and experiencing grievous woes at the beginning of their tender years. 3 And when the king by inquiring whose wife the lady was had found that her husband was Craugasius, he allowed her, fearing as she did that violence would be offered her, to approach nearer without apprehension; and when she had been reassured and covered as far as her very lips with a black veil, he courteously encouraged her with sure hope of regaining her husband and of keeping her honour unsullied. For hearing that her husband ardently loved her, he thought that at this price he might purchase the betrayal of Nisibis. 4 Yet finding that there were others also who were maidens and consecrated to divine service according to the Christian custom, he ordered that they be kept uninjured and allowed to practise their religion in their wonted manner without any opposition; to be sure he made a pretence of mildness for the time, to the end that all whom he had heretofore terrified by his harshness and cruelty might lay aside their fear and come to him of their own volition, when they learned from recent instances that he now tempered the greatness of his fortune with kindliness and gracious deportment.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 For this meaning of iudex see Index of Officials, s.v.

2 Apparently a fortress on the Rhine.

3 Schenkenschanz.

4 Kellen, also called Colonia Traiani, XVII.1.11.

5 Nuys.

6 Bonn.

7 Andernach.

8 Bingen.

9 See § 9, below.

10 Text and exact meaning are uncertain; see crit. note.

11 See note, p313.

12 A district of the Alamanni on the frontier of the Burgundians.

13 This was not always true. Cf. Pliny, N. H. XI.55 ff.: Tunc (apes) ostenta faciunt privata ac publica, uva dependente in domibus templisque, saepe expiata magnis eventibus. Sedere in ore infantis tum etiam Platonis, suavitatem illam praedulcis eloqui portendentes. Sedere in castris Drusi imperatoris cum prosperrime pugnatum apud Arbalonem est, haud quaquam perpetua haruspicum coniectura, qui dirum id ostentum existimant semper.

14 Suetonius, Dom. vii.

15 See note 2, p198.

16 The chief treasurer; see ok pp. xl f.

17 Zopyrus pretended to desert to Babylon, in order to betray the city to his king, Darius. Antoninus actually deserted, to betray his native country.

18 For bene nummatus, cf. Hor. Epist. I.6.38.

19 The diribitores were originally those who sorted and counted the ballots at elections; in 7 B.C. Agrippa built the diribitorium in the Campus Martius for their use; see Suet., Claud. 18. Diribitores seems to have acquired the meaning of "distributors of bribes"; see Suet., Aug. 40.2, where however the word itself does not occur.

For the original meaning, details are supplied by the article Diribitores in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

20 Livy, XXII.51; Florus, I.22.19.

21 Cf. Odyssey, XIII.1, and Index.

22 In 348, see Gibbon, ch. XVIII.

23 The fetiales had to do with treaties and declaring war. Their persons were sacrosanct and they sometimes intervened to present terms of peace when the opposing armies were drawn up ready for battle.

For full details, see the article Fetiales in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

24 Looked on by the Romans as a land north of Britain, perhaps Norway confused with Iceland, but of which they had no definite conception. It is a proverbial expression for "the ends of the earth."

25 That is, to go to the seat of war against Sapor, instead of to the emperor's court.

26 Rufius Festus, ch. xxiii, says that in the time of Gallienus the Persians invaded Mesopotamia and thought themselves masters of Syria, when Odenatus (decurio in Palmyra and husband of Zenobia) gathered a band of Syrian farmers, defeated the Persians several times, and pressed on as far as Ctesiphon.

27 Ammianus accompanied Ursicinus to the emperor's court.

28 A river of Thrace, the modern Maritza.

29 Sabinianus: see XVIII. 5.5; 7.7; and for his small size, 6.7, above. His inaction is vividly expressed by oscitante.

30 A city of Mesopotamia, in Mygdonia, surrendered to the Persians in the time of Jovian; modern Nisibin.

31 See also XXV.7.9. It lay north of Nisibis and was called by the Arabic geographers by a name meaning pagus mororum, or "the place of mulberries," of which Maurorum seems to be a corruption. Sisara is a neighbouring fortress.

32 Sebalis fax, which seems to occur only here, is the same as sebacea, a torch or candle made of tallow (sebum) instead of wax.

33 According to Valesius, from Syrian maia or maio, "water," and carire, "cold"; the former word appears also in Emmaus.

34 Modern Diarbekir, see Gibbon, II p269, Bury.

35 Ch. ix below, and XIX.1‑8.

36 Two rivers of Mysia, in north-western Asia Minor, the former celebrated for the victory of Alexander the Great over the Persians, the latter for the defeat of Mithradates by Lucullus.

37 Referring of course to the deserter Antoninus.

38 A mountainous region in Armenia, taken by Caesar Maximianus from the Persians in the time of Galerius, but not yet wholly freed from their rule. Later it was separated from the Persian dominion by Jovian: cf. XXV.2.

39 That is, the Greeks.

40 The horizon.

41 Sapor had recently made peace with them; see XVI.9.4.

42 Dwelling in what is now Georgia.

43 Cf. Herodotus, VII.59. Xerxes, in order to reckon the size of his army, assembled ten thousand men and drew a circle around them; then he filled the space again and again with men, until the whole army was thus counted.

44 So that the Persians would be likely to try to cross.

45 Of course, ironical.

46 These were originally war dances in armour, but their scope was extended to pantomime of all kinds; see Suet., Nero, 12.1 and 2.

47 Formerly Antoninupolis, renamed after its restoration by Constantine, see 9.1, below.

48 That is, the Romans had not devastated that part of the country because they thought that the enemy would march straight to the river without making a detour.

49 That is, apparently, for preparing the material of which the paths were made.

50 The soldiers enrolled by Magnentius and called by his name and that of his brother.

51 Also called Ulpia.

52 Called in early inscriptions Fretenses.

53 According to the Notit. Imp. these were light-armed horsemen; the former were used in surprise attacks, the latter as scouts.

54 In one of the lost books.

55 Apparently a division of the household cavalry; see XV.4.10, note 2, and Index II (Index of Officials).


Thayer's Note:

a XVII.14.3.


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