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Book XXII

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Roman History

of
Ammianus Marcellinus

published in Vol. II
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1940

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 XXIV

(Vol. II) Ammianus Marcellinus
Roman Antiquities

p311 Book XXIII

1 1 Julianus Augustus vainly tries to restore the temple at Jerusalem, which had been destroyed long before.

1 These were the events of that year, to pass over minor details. But Julian, who had already been consul three times, assumed the chief magistracy for the fourth time, taking as his colleague in the office Sallustius, prefect of Gaul.1 And for a private citizen to be associated with the reigning emperor seemed an innovation which no one recalled to have been made since Diocletian and Aristobulus.2 2 And although he weighed every possible variety of events with anxious thought, and pushed on with burning zeal at many preparations for his campaign, yet turning his activity to every part, and eager to extend the memory of his reign by great works, he planned at vast cost to restore the once splendid temple at Jerusalem, which after many mortal combats during the siege by Vespasian and later by Titus, had barely been stormed. He had entrusted the speedy performance of this work to Alypius of Antioch, who had once been vice-prefect of Britain. 3 But, though this Alypius pushed the work on with vigour, aided by the governor of the province, terrifying balls of flame kept bursting forth near the foundations of the temple, and made the place inaccessible to the workmen, some of whom were burned to death; and since in this way the element persistently repelled them, the enterprise halted.

p313 4 At that time envoys were sent to him from the eternal city, men illustrious by birth and approved by the services of a commendable life, on whom the emperor conferred various honours. Apronianus he appointed prefect of Rome, and Octavianus3 proconsular governor of Africa; to Venustus he entrusted the vice-governorship of Spain, Rufinus Aradius he raised to the rank of Count of the Orient in room of his uncle Julian, who had recently died. 5 When these matters had been arranged as planned, he was alarmed by an omen which, as the result showed, was most trustworthy. For when Felix, head of the public treasury, had suddenly died of a haemorrhage, and Count Julian had followed him to the grave, the people as they looked at the public inscriptions, uttered the names as Felix, Julianus and Augustus.4 6 Another unlucky thing had happened before this; for just on the Kalends of January, as the emperor was mounting the steps of the temple of the Genius,5 one of the college of priests who was older than the rest suddenly, without being pushed, fell and died of the unlooked-for accident. The bystanders — whether through ignorance or desire to flatter is uncertain — said that this surely pointed to Sallustius, the elder of the two consuls; but (as was evident) it showed that death was approaching, not the man of greater age, but the higher in rank. 7 Besides these, other lesser signs also indicated from time to time what came to pass. For amid the very beginning of the p315preparations for the Parthian campaign word came that Constantinople had been shaken by an earthquake, which those skilled in such matters said was not a favourable omen for a ruler who was planning to invade another's country. And so they tried to dissuade Julian from the untimely enterprise, declaring that these and similar signs ought to be disregarded only in the case of attack by an enemy, when the one fixed rule is, to defend the State by every possible means and with unremitting effort. Just at that time it was reported to him by letter, that at Rome the Sibylline books had been consulted about this war, as he had ordered, and had given the definite reply that the emperor must not that year leave his frontiers.

2 1 Julian, after ordering Arsaces, king of Armenia, to get ready for a Persian war, crosses the Euphrates with his army and with Scythian auxiliaries.

1 Meanwhile, however, embassies from many nations which promised aid were cordially received and sent back; for the emperor with laudable confidence replied, that it was by no means fitting for the Roman State to defend itself by means of foreign aid, since its duty was rather by its power to protect its friends and allies, if necessity forced them to apply for help. 2 Arsaces only, the king of Armenia,6 did he order to muster a strong army and await his orders, since he would shortly learn to what place he was to march and what he ought to push forward. Thereupon, as soon as regard for p317prudence offered the opportunity, he hastened to invade the enemy's country, outstripping the report of his coming; and spring had barely arrived, when he ordered all to cross the Euphrates, sending marching orders7 to every division of his army. 3 As soon as this was known, all hastened from their winter quarters, and having crossed as their written orders directed, they dispersed to their several posts and awaited the coming of the emperor. He himself, when on the point of leaving Antioch, appointed as governor of Syria a certain Alexander of Heliopolis, who was hot-tempered and cruel; and he said that the man did not deserve the post, but was the kind of judge proper for the avaricious and rebellious people of Antioch. 4 And when a crowd of all conditions of men escorted him as he was leaving the city, wishing him a successful march and a glorious return, and begging that in the future he might be more placable and mild, since the anger which their attacks and insults had aroused was not yet assuaged, he replied harshly, saying that they would never see him again. 5 For he said that he had arranged when the campaign was finished to return by a shorter route to Tarsus in Cilicia for the purpose of wintering, and that he had written to Memorius, the governor of that city, to prepare everything that was necessary for his use. And this not long afterwards came to pass; for his body was brought back there, and he was buried in a suburb of the city with simple rites, as he himself had directed.8

6 And when the season was now sunny, he set out on the fifth of March, and came by the usual route to Hierapolis.9 There, as he was entering the p319gates of the great city, a colonnade on his left suddenly collapsed and crushed with a great weight of timbers and tiles fifty soldiers who were encamped under it, besides wounding many more. 7 Then, uniting all his forces, he marched to Mesopotamia so rapidly that, since no report of his coming had preceded him (for he had carefully guarded against that), he came upon the Assyrians unawares. Finally, having crossed the Euphrates on a bridge of boats, he arrived with his army and his Scythian auxiliaries at Batnae,10 a town of Osdroëne, where he met with a sad portent. 8 For when a great throng of ostlers, in order to get fodder as usual, had taken their place near a very high stack of chaff (such as are commonly constructed in that country), since many at once laid hold on what they wanted, the heap was broken and gave way, and fifty men at once met death by being buried under the huge mass that fell upon them.

3 1 As Julianus Augustus marches through Mesopotamia, the princes of the Saracen nations of their own accord offer him a golden crown and auxiliary troops. A Roman fleet of 1100 ships arrives and bridges the Euphrates.

1 Departing from there in sorrow, by a forced march he came to Carrae, an ancient town, notorious for the disaster of the Crassi and the Roman army.11 From there two different royal highways lead to Persia: the one on the left through Adiabene and over the Tigris; the other, on the right, through p321Assyria and across the Euphrates. 2 Having delayed there several days for necessary preparations, and to offer sacrifices according to the native rites to the Moon, which is religiously venerated in that region, before the altar, with no witness present, Julian is said secretly to have handed his purple mantle to his relative Procopius, and to have ordered him boldly to assume the rule, if he learned that the emperor had died among the Parthians. 3 Here, as Julian slept, his mind was disturbed by dreams, which made him think that some sorrow would come to him. Therefore, both he himself and the interpreters of dreams, considering the present conditions, declared that the following day, which was the nineteenth of March, ought to be carefully watched. But, as was afterwards learned, it was on that same night that the temple of the Palatine Apollo, under the prefecture of Apronianus, was burned in the eternal city; and if it had not been for the employment of every possible help, the Cumaean books12 also would have been destroyed by the raging flames.

4 After these matters were thus arranged, just as Julian was busy with the army and in getting supplies of every kind, it was reported to him by scouts who arrived in breathless haste, that some bands of the enemy's horsemen had suddenly broken through a part of the neighbouring frontier and carried off booty. 5 Startled by this cruel disaster, Julian (as he had previously planned) instantly put 30,000 picked men under the command of the p323aforesaid Procopius, and joined to him with equal powers Sebastianus, formerly a military commander in Egypt, and now a count, with orders to keep for the present on this side of the Tigris and to watch carefully everywhere and see that nothing unexpected should happen on the unprotected side, such as he had heard often occurred. And he gave the order that (if it could be done to greater advantage) they should join King Arsaces, march with him through Corduene13 and Moxoëne,14 lay waste in passing by Chiliocomum, a fruitful region of Media,15 and other places, and meet him while he was still in Assyria, so as to aid him in cases of necessity.

6 After these arrangements had been made, he himself feigned a march across the Tigris, an expedition for which he had also ordered supplies to be carefully prepared, but then turned to the right and, after passing a quiet night, called next morning for the mount which he usually rode. And when the horse, called Babylonianus, was brought to him, it was laid low by a missile from the artillery, and as it rolled on the ground in unbearable pain, it scattered about its ornaments, which were adorned with gold and precious stones. Delighted by this omen, Julian cried out amid expressions of joy from the bystanders, that Babylon had fallen to the ground, stripped of all its adornments. 7 Then, delaying for a time, in order to confirm the omen by favourable signs from victims, he came to the fortified camp of Davana at the source of the river Belias, a tributary of the Euphrates. Here we rested and took food, and on the following day arrived at Callinicum, a strong fortress, and most welcome because of its p325rich trade. There, on the twenty-seventh of March, the day on which at Rome the annual procession in honour of the Mother of the Gods takes place, and the carriage in which her image is carried is washed, as it is said, in the waters of the Almo, he celebrated the usual rites in the ancient fashion and spent the night in peaceful sleep, happy and full of confidence. 8 The next day he marched on from there along the brow of the river-banks, since the waters were rising from streams flowing in on all sides, and kept on with his armed force until he came to an outpost, where he encamped. There the princes of the Saracen nations as suppliants on bended knees presented him with a golden crown and did obeisance to him as lord of the world and of its peoples; and they were gladly received, since they were adapted for guerilla warfare. 9 And while he was giving him audience his fleet arrived, equal to that of the mighty king Xerxes, under the command of the tribune Constantianus and Count Lucillianus; and the broad Euphrates was almost too narrow for it, consisting as it did of a thousand cargo-carriers of varied construction, and bringing an abundance of supplies, weapons, and also siege-engines; there were besides fifty warships and an equal number which were needed for making bridges.

4 1 A description of mural artillery: the ballista, the scorpion or wild ass, the ram, the helepolis, and fire-darts.

1 What I have just said suggests that I should, as briefly as my modest ability permits, give a p327concise description of engines of this kind, for the benefit of those who are unacquainted with them; and I shall first explain the form of the ballista.16

[image ALT: A woodcut of a tall sun contraption consisting of a supporting frame and a central piece: a grooved semi-tube pointed about seventy degrees upward, with a device in the center of it attached by coiled rope and amrs to the left and right. It is a ballista, an ancient Roman siege weapon, described in the text of this webpage.]
Ballista.

2 Between two posts a long, strong iron bar is fastened, and projects like a great ruler; from its smooth, rounded surface, which in the middle is highly polished, a squared staff extends to a considerable distance, hollowed out along its length with a narrow groove, and bound there with a great number of twisted cords. To this two wooden rollers are very firmly attached, and near one of them stands the gunner who aims the shot. He carefully places in the groove of the projecting iron bar a wooden arrow, tipped with a great iron point. When this is done, strong young men on both sides quickly turn the rollers and the cords. 3 When its point has reached the outermost ropes, the arrow, driven by the power within, flies from the ballista out of sight,17 sometimes emitting sparks because of the excessive heat. And if often happens that before the weapon is seen, the pain of a mortal wound makes itself felt.

4 The scorpion, which is now-a‑days called the wild ass, has the following form. Two posts of oak or holm-oak are hewn out and slightly bent, so that they seem to stand forth like humps. These are fastened together like a sawing-machine and bored through on both sides with fairly large holes. Between them, through the holes, strong ropes are bound, holding the machine together, so that it may not fly apart. 5 From the middle of these ropes a wooden arm rises obliquely, pointed upward like the p329pole of a chariot,18 and is twined around with cords in such a way that it can be raised higher or depressed. To the top of this arm, iron hooks are fastened, from which hangs a sling of hemp or iron. In front of the arm is placed a great cushion of hair-cloth stuffed with fine chaff, bound on with strong cords, and placed on a heap of turf or a pile of sundried bricks; for a heavy machine of this kind, if placed upon a stone wall, shatters everything beneath it by its violent concussion, rather than by its weight. 6 Then, when there is a battle, a round stone is placed in the sling and four young men on each side turn back the bar with which the ropes are connected and bend the pole almost flat. Then finally the gunner, standing above, strikes out the pole-bolt, which holds the fastenings of the whole work, with a strong hammer, thereupon the pole is set free, and flying forward with a swift stroke, and meeting the soft hair-cloth, hurls the stone, which will crush whatever it hits. 7 And the machine is called tormentum as all the released tension is caused by twisting (torquetur); and scorpion, because it has an upraised sting; modern times have given it the new name onager, because when wild asses are pursued by hunters, by kicking they hurl back stones to a distance, either crushing the breasts of their pursuers, or breaking the bones of their skulls and shattering them.

[image ALT: A woodcut of a flat ox-like contraption with a lever in the center, the end of which is a sort of spoon and holds a rock. It is a scorpion or onager, an ancient Roman siege weapon, described in the text of this webpage.]
Scorpion or Onager.

8 Now we shall come to the ram. A tall fir or mountain ash is selected, to the end of which is fastened a long, hard iron; this has the appearance of a projecting ram's head, and it is this shape which p331his given the machine its name. This is suspended between ironbound beams running across on both sides, so that it hangs from a third beam like the pan of a balance. Then a number of men, as great as the length of the pole permits, draw it back and then shove it forward again with powerful blows, just as a ram charges and retreats, to break everything in its way. As this is renewed with the force of a repeated stroke of lightning,19 buildings are cracked and shattered as the structure of their walls is destroyed. 9 If this kind of engine is worked with full vigour, the strongest cities, after their walls have been stripped of defenders, are laid open, and the siege is thus brought to an end.

[image ALT: A woodcut of a small wooden shed with a pitched roof, out of one end of which a pole sticks out with a ram's head carved on it. It is an 'aries' or ram, an ancient Roman siege weapon described in the text of this webpage.]
Ram in Testudo, or tortoise-shed.

10 In place of these devices of rams, which, because they are now so frequent, are in less esteem, a machine is made, well known to the historians, which we Greeks call helepolis.20 It was through the constant employment of this engine that Demetrius, the son of King Antigonus, after taking Rhodes and other cities gained the name of Poliorcetes.21 11 It is built in the following manner: a huge mantlet22 is constructed of strong planks of great length fastened together with iron nails, and covered with ox-hides and hurdles of green twigs; and over these is spread mud, in order to protect it from fire and falling missiles. 12 On its front side are set very sharp,23 three-pronged spear points, of p333the form which our painters and sculptors give to thunderbolts, made heavy with iron weights, so that whatever it attacks it shatters with the projecting points. 13 This powerful mass is guided by numerous soldiers within by means of wheels and ropes, and by their united efforts is brought up to the weaker part of the walls; and unless the strength of the defenders above is too great, it shatters the walls and opens great breaches.

[image ALT: A woodcut of a small part of a battle scene, with on the left and on the right, a squad of soldiers in short skirts, four abreast, with their shields placed closely together over their heads. These are two examples of the testudo, an ancient Roman military formation discussed in the text of this webpage.]

Testudo.

Testudo was applied to a military formation, and also to movable sheds of varying forms and sizes. [Thayer's Note: see also the article Testudo in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.]

14 But fire-darts (a kind of missile) are made in this form: the shaft is of reed, and between this and the point is a covering of bands of iron; it looks like a woman's distaff for making linen threads. It is skilfully hollowed out on the lower side with many openings, and in the cavity fire and some inflammable matter are placed. 15 And if it is shot slowly from a somewhat loose bow (for it is extinguished by too swift a flight) and has stuck anywhere, it burns persistently, and water poured upon it rouses the fire to still greater heat; and there is no way of extinguishing it except by sprinkling it with dust. So much for mural engines, of which I have described only a few. Now let us return to the course of our narrative.

5 1 Julianus Augustus with his whole army crosses the river Abora at Cercusium on a bridge of boats. He addresses his troops.

1 After having received the auxiliaries of the Saracens, which they offered him with great willingness, the emperor marched at quick step to Cercusium, a very safe and skilfully built fortress, p335whose walls are washed by the Abora and Euphrates rivers, which form a kind of island, and entered it at the beginning of the month of April. 2 This place, which was formerly small and exposed to danger, Diocletian, alarmed by a recent experience,24 encircled with walls and lofty towers, at the time when he was arranging the inner lines of defence on the very frontiers of the barbarians, in order to prevent the Persians from overrunning Syria, as had happened a few years before with great damage to the provinces. 3 For once upon a time at Antioch, amid deep silence,25 an actor of mimes, who with his wife had been presented in stage-plays, was presenting some scenes from everyday life. And while all the people were amazed at the charm of the performance, the wife suddenly cried: "Is it a dream, or are the Persians here?" Whereupon all the people turned their heads about and then fled in all directions, to avoid the arrows that were showered upon them from the citadel. Thus the city was set on fire, and many people who were carelessly wandering about, as in time of peace, were butchered; neighbouring places were burned and devastated, and the enemy, laden with plunder, returned home without the loss of a single man. Mareaces, who had inconsiderately brought the Persians there to the destruction of his own people, was burned alive. This took place in the time of Gallienus.26

4 But while Julian was lingering at Cercusium, to the end that his army with all its followers might cross the Abora on a bridge of boats, he received a sorrowful letter from Sallustius, prefect of Gaul, p337begging that the campaign against the Parthians might be put off, and that Julian should not thus prematurely, without having yet prayed for the protection of the gods, expose himself to inevitable destruction. 5 But the emperor, disregarding his cautious counsellor, pushed confidently on, since no human power or virtue has ever been great enough to turn aside what the decrees of fate had ordained. Immediately upon crossing the bridge he ordered it to be destroyed, so that no soldier in his own army might entertain hope of a return. 6 Here also, with like fatality, an unfavourable omen appeared: the outstretched corpse of a certain attendant slain by the hand of an executioner, whom the resident prefect27 Salutius had condemned to death because, after promising to supply additional provisions within a designated time, he had been prevented by an accident from keeping his word. But on the day after the wretched man had been executed another fleet arrived, as he had promised, bringing an abundance of supplies.

7 Setting out from there we came to a place called Zaitha, which means "Olive tree." Here we saw, conspicuous from afar, the tomb of the Emperor Gordianus,28 of whose deeds from early childhood, his successful campaigns, and his treacherous murder we have spoken at the appropriate time.29 8 When Julian had there, in accordance with his native piety, made offerings to the deified emperor, and was on his way to Dura (a deserted town), he saw a troop of soldiers in the distance and halted. And while he was in doubt what they were bringing, they presented him with a lion of huge size, which p339had attacked their line and had been slain by a shower of arrows. Elated by this omen, as if he now had surer hopes of a successful outcome, the emperor pushed on with proud confidence, but since the breeze of fortune is uncertain, the result turned out otherwise; for the death of a king was foretold, but of which king was uncertain. 9 And, in fact, we read of other ambiguous oracles, the meaning of which only the final results determined: as, for example, the truth of the Delphic prediction which declared that Croesus, after crossing the river Halys, would overthrow a mighty kingdom;30 and another which in veiled language designated the sea as the place for the Athenians to fight against the Medes;31 and a later one than these, which was in fact true, but none the less ambiguous:

Aeacus' son, I say, the Roman people can conquer.32

10 However, the Etruscan soothsayers, who accompanied the other adepts in interpreting prodigies, since they were not believed when they often tried to prevent this campaign, now brought out their books on war, and showed that this sign was adverse and prohibitory to a prince invading another's territory, even though he was in the right. 11 But they were spurned by the opposition of the philosophers, whose authority was then highly valued, but who were sometimes in error and very persistent in matters with which they had little acquaintance. They, indeed, advanced as a specious argument for establishing belief in their knowledge, p341that when the former Caesar Maximianus was already on the point of engaging with Narseus, king of the Persians, in the same way a lion and a huge boar that had been killed were brought to him, and that he came back safely after conquering the enemy. And there was no idea at all that such a portent threatened destruction to the invader of another's territory, although Narseus had first seized Armenia, which was subject to Roman jurisdiction. 12 Likewise, on the following day, which was the seventh of April, as the sun was already sloping towards its setting, starting with a little cloud thick darkness suddenly filled the air and daylight was removed; and after much menacing thunder and lightning a soldier named Jovian, with two horses which he was bringing back after watering them at the river, was struck dead by a bolt from the sky. 13 Upon seeing this, Julian again called in the interpreters of omens, and on being questioned they declared emphatically that this sign also forbade the expedition, pointing out that the thunderbolt was of the advisory kind;33 for so those are called which either recommend or dissuade any act. And so much the more was it necessary to guard against this one, because it killed a soldier of lofty name34 as well as war-horses, and because places which were struck in that manner — so the books on lightning35 declare — must neither be looked upon nor trodden. 14 The philosophers, on the other hand, maintained that the brilliance of the sacred fire which suddenly appeared signified nothing at all, but was merely the course of a stronger mass of air sent downward from the aether by some force; or if did give any sign, it foretold p343an increase in renown for the emperor, as he was beginning a glorious enterprise, since it is well known that flames by their very nature mount on high without opposition.

15 So when the bridge had been broken down (as was said before) and all had crossed, the emperor thought that the most urgent of all his duties was to address his soldiers, who were advancing confidently through trust in themselves and their leader. Therefore, when the signal had been given with the trumpets, and all the centuries, cohorts and maniples had come together, he took his place upon a mound of earth, surrounded by a ring of high officials, and with calm countenance and favoured with the unanimous devotion of all, spoke as follows:

16 "Seeing the great vigour and eagerness that animate you, my valiant soldiers, I have resolved to address you, in order to explain in full detail that this is not the first time — as some evil-minded men mutter — that the Romans have invaded the Persian kingdom. For not to mention Lucullus and Pompey, who, passing through the Albani and the Massagetae, whom we now call the Alani,36º broke into this nation also and came to the Caspian Sea, we know that Ventidius,37 the lieutenant-general of Antony, inflicted innumerable sanguinary defeats in this region. 17 But to leave ancient times, I will disclose what recent history has transmitted to us. Trajan, Verus, and Severus returned from here victorious and adorned with trophies,38 and the p345younger Gordianus,39 whose monument we just looked upon with reverence, would have come back with equal glory, after vanquishing the Persian king and putting him to flight at Resaina,40 had he not been struck down by an impious wound inflicted by the faction of Philippus, the praetorian prefect, and a few wicked accomplices, in the very place where he now lies buried. But his shade did not long wander unavenged, for as if their deeds were weighed in the scales of Justice, all who had conspired against him perished by agonising deaths.41 18 Those emperors, indeed, their own desire, inclined as they were to lofty enterprise, drove to undertake noteworthy exploits, but we are urged on to our present purpose by the pitiful fate of recently captured cities, by the unavenged shades of armies destroyed, by the great disasters that have been suffered, and by the loss of many a camp. For everybody's desires are one with ours to make good the past and give strength to our country by making this side of her domain safe, and thus leave to future generations material for singing our praises. 19 Everywhere shall I, with the help of the eternal deity, be by your side, as emperor, as leader, and as fellow horseman,42 and (as I think) under favourable auspices. But if fickle fortune should overthrow me in any battle, I shall be content with having sacrificed myself for the Roman world, after the p347example of the Curtii43 and Mucii44 of old and the noble family of the Decii.45 We must wipe out a most mischievous nation, on whose sword-blades the blood of our kinsmen is not yet dry. 20 Out forefathers spent many ages in eradicating whatever caused them trouble. Carthage was conquered in a long and difficult war, but our distinguished leader46 feared that she might survive the victory. Scipio utterly destroyed Numantia,47 after undergoing many vicissitudes in its siege. Rome laid Fidenae48 low, in order that no rivals of her power might grow up, and for that same reason crushed Falerii and Veii;49 and even trustworthy ancient histories would have difficulty in convincing us that those cities were ever powerful.50 21 This I have set forth from my knowledge of ancient records; it remains for each of you, putting aside the desire for plunder, which has often tempted the Roman soldier, to keep with the army on its march, and when battle must be joined, to follow each his own standard, remembering that if anyone falls behind, he will be left hamstrung.51 For I fear nothing, save the craft and treachery of the over-cunning enemy. 22 Finally, I promise one and all that when, after this, affairs p349shall be brought to a successful conclusion, waiving all prior rights of princes, who by reason of their full powers think that whatever they have said or resolved is just, I will give to anyone who demands it an account of what has been rightly or wrongly undertaken. 23 Therefore rouse, I pray you, at once rouse your courage, both in the anticipation of great success, since you will undergo whatever difficulty arises on equal terms with me, and with the conviction that victory must always attend the just cause."

24 After the speech had been brought to this most welcome conclusion, the warriors, exulting in the fame of their leader, and still more greatly fired with the hope of success, lifted their shields on high and cried that nothing would be dangerous or difficult under a leader who imposed more toil upon himself than on the common soldiers. 25 In particular, the Gallic troops showed this feeling by joyful shouts, remembering how often under his command, and as he ran about from company to company, they had seen some nations overcome and others reduced to entreaties.

6 1 A description of the eighteen greater provinces of the Persian kingdom, with the strength of each and the customs of their inhabitants.

1 Affairs have reached a point where I am led in a rapid digression to explain the topography of the Persian kingdom, carefully compiled from the descriptions of the nations, in only a few of which the truth has been told, and that barely. My p351account, however, will be a little fuller, which will be to the advantage of complete knowledge. For anyone who aims at extreme brevity in telling of the unknown tries to discover what he ought to leave out rather than what he may explain more clearly.

2 This kingdom, which was once small and for reasons which we have often given was called before by various names, after the fates had taken off Alexander the Great at Babylon, took its name from the Parthian Arsaces,52 a man of low birth; he had been a brigand chief during his younger days, but since his ideals gradually changed for the better, by a series of brilliant exploits he rose to greater heights. 3 After many glorious and valiant deeds, and after he had conquered Seleucus Nicator,53 successor of the said Alexander, on whom his many victories had conferred that surname,54 and had driven out the Macedonian garrisons, he passed his life in quiet peace, and was a mild ruler and judge of his subjects. 4 Finally, after all the neighbouring lands had been brought under his rule, by force, by regard for justice, or by fear, and he had filled Persia with cities, with fortified camps, and with strongholds, and to all the neighbouring peoples, which she had previously feared, he had made her a constant cause of dread, he died a peaceful death in middle life. And nobles and commons rivalling each other in agreement, he was placed among the stars according to the sacred custom of their country; and (as they believe) he was the first of all to be so honoured. 5 Hence to this very day the over-boastful kings of that race suffer themselves to be called brothers of the Sun and Moon, and just as for our emperors the p353title of Augustus is beloved and coveted, so to the Parthian kings, who were formerly low and obscure, there fell the very greatest increase in distinction, won by the happy auspices of Arsaces. 6 Hence they venerate and worship Arsaces as a god, and their regard for him has been carried so far, that even down to the memory of our time only a man who is of the stock of Arsaces (if there is one anywhere) is preferred to all in mounting the throne. Even in any civil strife, which constantly arises among them, everyone avoids as sacrilege the lifting of his hand against an Arsacid, whether he is bearing arms or is a private citizen.

7 It is well known that this nation, after vanquishing many peoples by its power, extended its domain as far as the Propontis and Thrace,55 but through the arrogance of its haughty leaders, who lawlessly extended their raids to a great distance, it was weakened by severe losses: first through Cyrus, who crossed the Bosporus with an army of incredible size, but was completely annihilated by the Scythian queen Tomyris, the fierce avenger of her sons.56 8 Later, when Darius, and after him Xerxes, changed the use of the elements57 and attacked Greece, almost all their forces were destroyed by land and sea, and they themselves barely found a safe return; not to mention the wars of Alexander and the passing by his will and testament of the whole nation to the jurisdiction of a single successor.58

p355 9 After this was done and a long time had passed, during which the Roman commonwealth was governed by consuls and later brought under the sway of the Caesars, these nations carried on wars with us from time to time, and sometimes the contest was equal, at other times they were conquered, and occasionally they came off victorious.

10 I shall now describe the lie of the land so far as my purpose allows — briefly and succinctly. These regions extend to a wide area in length and breadth,59 and run all along the Persian Gulf, which has many islands and peoples all round. The entrance to this sea (they say) is so narrow that from Harmoz, the promontory of Carmania, the other headland opposite it, which the natives call Maces, may be seen without difficulty. 11 After one has passed through this narrow strait, a wide expanse of sea opens, which is favourable to navigation as far as the city of Teredon,60 where after many losses the Euphrates mingles with the deep.61 The entire gulf is bounded by a shore of 20,000 stadia, which is rounded as if turned on a lathe. All along the coast is a throng of cities and villages, and many ships sail to and fro. 12 After passing the strait which has been mentioned, one comes to the bay of Carmania facing the east. Then, a long distance to the south, the bay of Canthicus opens, and not far off is another, called Chalites, facing the setting sun. Next, after one has skirted many islands, p357few of which are well known, those bays unite with the Indian ocean, which is first of all to receive the glowing sun when it rises, and is itself also exceedingly warm. 13 And as the pens of geographers have drawn it, the whole circuit just described has this form. In the northern direction, to the Caspian Gates62 it borders on the Cadusii, on many tribes of the Scythians, and on the Arimaspae, wild, one-eyed men. On the west it touches Armenia, Niphates,63 the Asiatic Albani, the Red Sea,64 and the Scenitic Arabs, whom men of later times called the Saracens.65 Under the southern heaven it looks down on Mesopotamia.65 Opposite the eastern front it extends to the Ganges river, which cuts through India and empties into the southern ocean.

14 Now there are in all Persia these greater provinces, ruled by vitaxae, or commanders of cavalry, by kings, and by satraps — for to enumerate the great number of smaller districts would be difficult and superfluous — namely, Assyria, Susiana, Media, Persis, Parthia, Greater Carmania, Hyrcania, Margiana, the Bactriani, the Sogdiani, the Sacae, Scythia at the foot of Imaus,66 and beyond the same mountain, Serica, Aria, the Paropanisadae, Drangiana, Arachosia, and Gedrosia.

15 Nearest to us of all the provinces is Assyria, famous for its large population, its size, and the abundance and great variety of its products. This province once spread over great and prosperous peoples and districts,67 then it was combined under a single name, and to‑day the whole region is called p359Assyria. There, besides a great abundance of berries and common fruits, bitumen is found near the lake called Sosingites, in whose bed the Tigris is swallowed up, and then, after flowing under ground, and traversing a long distance,68 appears again. 16 Here naphtha also is produced, a glutinous substance which looks like pitch. This too is similar to bitumen, and even a little bird, if it lights upon it, is prevented from flying, sinks, and disappears utterly. And when fluid of this kind catches fire, the mind of man will find no means of putting it out, except dust.69

17 In these regions there is also to be seen a cleft in the earth,70 from which rises a deadly exhalation, which with its foul odour destroys every living creature that comes near it. If this pestilential stuff, rising from a kind of deep well, should spread out widely from its spring before rising on high, it would by its fetid odour have made the surrounding country a desert. 18 A similar opening was formerly to be seen (as some say) at Hierapolis in Phrygia. And from this also a noxious vapour with a penetrating stench came forth and was destructive to whatever came near it, excepting only eunuchs; and the reason for this may be left to natural philosophers to determine.71 19 Also at the temple of Jupiter Asbamaeus in Cappadocia, where that famous philosopher Apollonius72 is said to have been p361born near the town of Tyana, a spring may be seen, flowing from a pool, which now is filled with an abundance of water, and again sucks itself back, and so never swells beyond its banks.73

20 Within this area is Adiabena, called Assyria in ancient times, but by long custom changed to this name because, lying between the navigable rivers Ona and Tigris it could never be approached by a ford; for we Greeks for transire say διαβαίνειν. At least, this is the opinion of the ancients. 21 But I myself say that there are two perpetually flowing rivers to be found in these lands, the Diabas and Adiabas,74 which I myself have crossed,75 and over which there are bridges of boats; and therefore it is to be assumed that Adiabena was named from them, as from great rivers Egypt76 was named, according to Homer, as well as India, and the Euphratensis, before my time called Commagena; likewise from the Hiberus,77 Hiberia (now Hispania), and the province of Baetica from the noble river Baetis.78

22 In this Adiabena is the city of Ninus,79 which once possessed the rule over Persia, perpetuating the name of Ninus, once a most powerful king and the husband of Semiramis; also Ecbatana,80 Arbela, and Gaugamela,81 where Alexander, after various other battles, overthrew Darius in a hot contest.

p363 23 But in all Assyria there are many cities, among which Apamia, formerly called Mesene,82 and Teredon, Apollonia and Vologessia, and many similar ones are conspicuous. But these three are especially magnificent and widely known: Babylon,83 whose walls Semiramis built with bitumen84 (for the ancient king Belus built the citadel), and Ctesiphon, which Vardanes85 founded long ago; and later king Pacorus86 strengthened it with additional inhabitants and with walls, gave it a Greek name, and made it the crowning ornament of Persia. And finally there is Seleucia, the splendid work of Seleucus Nicator. 24 When this city was stormed by the generals of Verus Caesar (as I have related before),87 the statue of Apollo Comaeus was torn from its place and taken to Rome, where the priests of the gods set it up in the temple of the Palatine Apollo. And it is said that, after this same statue had been carried off and the city burned, the soldiers in ransacking the temple found a narrow crevice; this they widened in the hope of finding something valuable; but from a kind of shrine, closed by the occult arts of the Chaldaeans, the germ of that pestilence burst forth, which after generating the virulence of incurable diseases, in the time of the same Verus and of Marcus Antoninus polluted everything with contagion and death, from the frontiers of Persia all the way to the Rhine and to Gaul.88

p365 25 Near these is the land of the Chaldaeans, the foster-mother of the old-time philosophy — as they themselves say — where the true art of divination first made its appearance. Now the most important rivers that flow through those lands, besides the others that I have mentioned, are the Marses, the Royal River,89 and the Euphrates, greatest of all. The last-named divides into three branches, all of which are navigable, forms several islands, and often thoroughly waters the fields through the diligence of the farmers,90 and prepares them for the ploughshare and for tree-culture.

26 Neighbours to these lands are the Susiani, who have few cities. Conspicuous among them, however, is Susa, often the residence of the kings,91 and Arsiana, Sele, and Aracha. The others are small and little known. On the other hand, many rivers flow through this region; most notable among them are the Oroates, Harax, and Mosaeus, which along the narrow sandy tract that separates the Caspian from the Red Sea overflow into a great number of pools.

27 On the left Media extends, bordering on the Hyrcanian92 Sea. Of this province we read that before the reign of the elder Cyrus and the growth in Persia's power, it was the queen of all Asia, after it had overcome Assyria,93 whose many provinces, changed in name to Agropatena, it possessed by the right of conquest. 28 It is a warlike nation, and most of all to be feared next to the Parthians, by whom alone it is surpassed, and its territory has the form of a rectangle. The inhabitants of these lands p367as a whole dwell in a most spacious country, overhung by very lofty mountains, which they call Zagrus, Orontes, and Iasonius.94 29 Those who dwell on the western side of the lofty mountain Coronus95 abound in fields of grain and vineyards,96 enjoy the fertility of a productive soil, and are rich in rivers and clear springs. 30 Their green meadows produce a noble breed of horses, on which their chiefs (as the writers of old say, and as I myself have seen) when entering battle are wont to ride full of courage. These horses they call Nesaean.97 31 Therefore Media abounds in rich cities, in villages built up like towns, and in a great number of inhabitants; it is (to speak briefly) the richest residence of the kings.

32 In these parts are the fertile lands of the Magi, about whose sects and pursuits — since we have chanced on this point — it will be in place to give a few words of explanation. According to Plato,98 the most eminent author of lofty ideas, magic, under the mystic name of hagistia,99 is the purest worship of the gods. To the science of this, derived from the secret lore of the Chaldaeans, in ages long past the Bactrian Zoroaster100 made many contributions, and after him the wise king Hystaspes,101 the father of Darius.

p369 33 When Zoroaster had boldly made his way into the unknown regions of Upper India, he reached a wooded wilderness, whose calm silence the lofty intellects of the Brahmins control. From their teaching he learned as much as he could grasp of the laws regulating the movements of the earth and the stars, and of the pure sacrificial rites. Of what he had learned he communicated something to the understanding of the Magi, which they, along with the art of divining the future, hand on from generation to generation to later times. 34 From that time on for many ages down to the present a large class of men of one and the same descent have devoted themselves to the service of the gods.102 The Magi also say (for it is right to believe them) that they guard on ever-burning braziers a fire sent down from heaven in their country, and that a small portion of it, as a good omen, used to be carried before the Asiatic kings. 35 The number of Magi of this origin in old times was very small, and the Persian potentates made regular use of their services in the worship of their gods. And it was sin to approach an altar, or touch a sacrificial victim, before one of the Magi, with a set form of prayer, poured the preliminary libations. But they gradually increased in number and became a strong clan, with a name of their own; they possessed country residences, which were protected by no great walls,103 and they were allowed to live in accordance with their own laws, and through respect for religion were held in high esteem. 36 From this seed of the Magi, as the ancient records relate, seven men after the death of Cambyses mounted the Persian p371throne, but (we are told), they were overthrown by the party of Darius, who made himself king by the neighing of a horse.104

37 In this neighbourhood the Medic oil is made. If a missile is smeared with this oil and shot somewhat slowly from a loosened bow (for it is extinguished by a swift flight), wherever it lands it burns persistently; and if one tries to put it out with water, he makes it burn the more fiercely, and it can be quelled in no other way than by throwing dust upon it.105 38 Now, the oil is made in this way. Those who are skilled in such matters take oil of general use, mix it with a certain herb, and let it stand for a long time and thicken, until it gets magic power from the material. Another kind, like a thicker sort of oil, is native to Persia, and (as I have said)106 is called in that language naphtha.

39 In these lands are many scattered cities; greater than all the rest are Zombis, Patigran and Gazaca.107 Conspicuous for their wealth and their mighty walls are Heraclia, Arsacia, Europos,108 Cyropolis and Ecbatana,109 all situated at the foot of p373Mount Iasonius in the land of the Syrmedi.110 40 Many streams flow through this country, of which the greatest are the Choaspes, Gyndes,111 Amarus, Charinda, Cambyses, and Cyrus. To this last, a great and beautiful river, the elder Cyrus, that lovable king, when he was hastening on his way to seize the realms of the Scythians, gave that name in place of its older one, because it is valiant, as he himself also was said to be, and forcing its way with the exercise of great power, as he did, flows into the Caspian Sea.

41 Beyond these tracts, but extending farther to the south, next to the seacoast lies Old Persia, rich in small fruits,112 date-palms, and an abundance of excellent water. For many rivers flow through it into the above-mentioned gulf, the greatest of which are the Batradites,113 Rogomanius, Brisoana, and Bagrada. 42 But the inland cities are the greater — and uncertain for what reason they built nothing conspicuous along the seacoast — notable among which are Persepolis,114 Ardea, Habroatis, and Tragonice. But only three islands are to be seen there: Tabiana, Fara, and Alexandria.

43 Near these to the north are the Parthians, dwelling in lands abounding in snow and frost. Their land is cut by theº Choatres river, more copious than the rest, and the following cities are more important than the others: Oenunia, Moesia, p375Charax, Apamia,115 Artacana and Hecatompylos,116 from which place one reckons along the Caspian Sea to the Caspian Gates 1040 stadia. 44 There the inhabitants of all the districts are savage and warlike, and take such pleasure in war and conflict, that one who loses his life in battle is regarded as happy beyond all others. For those who depart from this life by a natural death they assail with insults, as degenerate and cowardly.

45 On the south-eastern border of these are the "Happy" Arabs,117 so‑called because they are rich in the fruits of the field, as well as in cattle, dates, and many varieties of perfumes. A great part of their lands border to the right on the Red Sea, and on the left form the boundary of the Persian Sea, and the people know how to avail themselves of all the advantages of both elements. 46 On that coast there are both many anchorages and numerous safe harbours, trading cities in an uninterrupted line, uncommonly splendid and richly adorned residences of their kings, natural hot springs of remarkable curative powers, a conspicuous abundance of brooks and rivers, and a very salubrious climate; so that to men of good judgement they evidently lack nothing for supreme happiness. 47 And while they have an abundance of towns, inland and on the coast, as well as fruitful plains and valleys, yet the choicest cities are Geapolis and Nascos, p377Baraba, and also Nagara, Maephe, Taphra, and Dioscuris.118 Moreover, in both seas, and near to the shore, there are many islands, which it is not worth while to enumerate. The most prominent among them is Turgana,119 on which there is said to be a great temple of Serapis.

48 Beyond the frontier of this people Greater Carmania rises with lofty peaks, extending as far as the Indian Sea, supplied with products of the soil and fruit trees, but far inferior in fame and in extent to the lands of the Arabs; however, the country is no less rich in rivers, and equally blest with a fertile soil. 49 The rivers better known than the rest are the Sagareus, Saganis, and Hydriacus. There are also cities which, though few in number, are very rich in all that contributes to the maintenance and enjoyment of life. Conspicuous among them are Carmana, mother city of them all, Portospana, Alexandria, and Hermupolis.

50 Proceeding inland, one meets with the Hyrcanians, whose coast the sea of the same name washes.120 Among them, since the leanness of their soil kills the seeds, less attention is given to agriculture, but they live upon game, of which there is a monstrous great variety and abundance. There are also many thousand tigers, and numerous other wild beasts, and by what kind of devices they are usually taken I recall that I gave an account long ago.121 51 But for all that, they are not unacquainted with the plough-tail, but some districts, where the soil is richer, are covered over with sown fields. Groves of trees, p379too, are not lacking in places suited for planting them, and many people support themselves by commerce on the sea.122 52 Here are two rivers well known by name, the Oxus and the Maxera, over which tigers, driven by hunger, sometimes swim and unexpectedly cause great losses to the neighbouring places. They also have some strong cities, among lesser towns; two are on the sea, Socanda and Saramanna, and others inland, Asmurna, Sale, and, better known than these, Hyrcana.

53 Over against this people to the north the Abii are said to dwell, a most kindly race, accustomed to trample on all mortal things, on whom, as Homer sings as part of his tale, Jupiter looks with favour from the mountains of Ida.123

54 Next after the Hyrcanians the Margiani have found homes, a people all but wholly surrounded by lofty hills, and thus separated from the sea. And although the greater part of their soil, from dearth of water, is a desert, they nevertheless have some towns; but Iasonion, Antiochia,124 and Nigaea125 are better known than the others.

55 The lands next to these the Bactriani possess, a nation formerly warlike and very powerful, and always at odds with the Persians, until they reduced all the peoples about them to submission and incorporated them under their own name. In ancient times they were ruled by kings who were p381formidable even to Arsaces.126 56 Many parts of this land, like Margiana, are widely separated from the coast, but rich in vegetation and the herds which graze on their plains and mountains are thick-set, with strong limbs, as appears from the camels brought from there by Mithridates and seen for the first time by the Romans at the siege of Cyzicus.127 57 Several peoples are subject to these same Bactrians, notably the Tochari, and like Italy the country is watered by many rivers. Of these, the Artamis and Zariaspes first unite as well as the Ochus and Orgomanes, and when joined they increase the mighty flow of the Oxus with their combined128 waters. 58 There are also cities here which are laved by other rivers, but they recognize these as their betters: namely, Chatracharta, Alicodra, Astatia, Menapila, and Bactra itself, from which the kingdom and the nation have derived their name.

59 Next the Sogdiani dwell at the foot of the mountains which they call the Sogdii, through whose territories two rivers flow which are navigable by ships, the Araxates129 and the Dymas. These streams rush headlong over mountains and valleys into a level plain and form a lake, Oxia by name, which is both long and broad. Here among other towns Alexandria, Cyreschata,130 and the metropolis, Drepsa, are famous.

p383 60 Next to these are the Sacae, a tribe of savages, inhabiting a rough country rich only for cattle, and hence without cities. It is overhung by the mountains Ascanimia and Comedus, along the base of which and through a village, which they call Lithinos Pyrgos,131 a very long road extends, which is the route taken by the traders who journey from time to time to the land of the Seres.

61 Along the slopes and at the foot of the mountains which they call Imavi and Apurii, various Scythian tribes dwell within the Persian territories, bordering on the Asiatic Sarmatians and reaching to the outermost side of the Halani. These, as if living in a nook of the world, and brought up in solitude, are widely scattered, and are accustomed to common and poor food. 62 And various other tribes dwell in these parts, which at present I think it superfluous to enumerate, since I am hastening on to another topic. It is necessary only to know, that among these nations, which because of the extreme roughness of their land are almost inaccessible, there are some mild and kindly folk, such as the Iaxartae and the Galactophagi,132 whom the bard Homer mentions in this verse:133

"Of the Galactophagi and Abii, righteous men."

63 Now, among the many rivers of this land, which nature either joins with larger streams or by their own flow carries on to the sea, the Rhymmus, Iaxartes and Daicus are celebrated. But there are only three cities which the region is known to have, namely, Aspabota, Chauriana, and Saga.

p385 64 Beyond these lands of both Scythias,134 towards the east, the summits of lofty walls135 form a circle and enclose the Seres,136 remarkable for the richness and extent of their country. On the west they are bounded by the Scythians, and on the north and the east they extend to a snowclad waste; on the south they reach India and the Ganges. There are mountains there, called Anniba, Nazavicium, Asmira, Emodon, and Opurocorra. 65 Through this land, consisting of a plain of wide extent,137 surrounded on all sides by precipitous cliffs, two rivers of famous name, the Oechartis and the Bautis,138 flow in a somewhat slow course. The nature of the various tracts is unlike, being now open and flat and now descending in gentle slopes; and therefore the land overflows in grain, flocks and orchards. 66 On this very fruitful soil dwell various peoples, of which the Anthropophagi, Anibi, Sizyges and Chardi lie towards the north and the snows. Towards the rising sun are the Rabannae, Asmira, and the Essedones, the most famed of all; close to them, on the west, are the Athagorae, and the Aspacarae. In the south are the Baetae, dwelling on the slopes of high mountains. They are famed for cities which, though not numerous, are large and prosperous; the greatest of these, Asmira, Essedon, Asparata, p387and Sera, are beautiful and well known. 67 The Seres themselves live a peaceful life, for ever unacquainted with arms and warfare; and since to gentle and quiet folk ease is pleasurable, they are troublesome to none of their neighbours. Their climate is agreeable and healthful, the sky is clear, the winds gentle and very pleasant. There is an abundance of well-lighted woods, the trees of which produce a substance which they work with frequent sprinkling, like a kind of fleece; then from the wool-like material, mixed with water, they draw out very fine threads, spin the yarn, and make sericum,139 formerly for the use of the nobility, but nowadays available even to the lowest without any distinction. 68 The Seres themselves are frugal beyond all others, live a quiet life, and avoid intercourse with the rest of mortals. And when strangers, in order to buy threads or anything else, cross the river, their wares are laid out and with no exchange of words their value is estimated by the eye alone;140 and they are so abstemious, that they hand over their own products without themselves getting any foreign ware in return.

69 Beyond the Seres live the Ariani, exposed to the blasts of the north wind; through their lands flows a river called the Arias, large enough to carry ships, which forms a great lake called by the same name. Moreover, this same Aria has many cities, among which the following are renowned: Vitaxa Sarmatina, Sotira, Nisibis, and Alexandria, from which the voyage to the Caspian Sea is reckoned as fifteen hundred stadia.

p389 70 Neighbours to these places are the Paropanisadae,141 facing the Indi on the east, and the Caucasus on the west; they themselves also dwell on the slopes of the mountains and through their country (besides some smaller rivers) flows the Gordomaris, rising in Bactria. And they also have some cities, of which the better-known are Agazaca, Naulibus, and Ortospana, from which the distance along the bank of the river to the frontiers of Media next to the Caspian Gates is 2200 stadia.

71 Joining the aforesaid are the Drangiani, connected with them by hills. Their land is washed by the river Arabius, so‑called from the place of its rise.142 Among other towns they are proud of two, Prophthasia and Ariaspe, because of their wealth and fame.

72 Then, opposite to these, we see Arachosia, on the right facing the Indi. From a much smaller river,143 flowing out from the mighty Indus, from which the whole region takes its name, Arachosia receives an abundance of water; this river forms a lake, called Arachotoscrene.144 Here also among insignificant cities, are Alexandria,145 Arbaca, and Choaspa.

73 Now far within Persia lies Gedrosia, on the right reaching the frontiers of the Indi; it is made fertile by the Artabius, in addition to smaller streams. Here the Arbitani mountains come to an p391end, and from their bases flow other rivers, which mingle with the Indus, losing their names through the size of the greater stream. But here, too, there are famous cities, in addition to islands; but Ratira and Gynaecon limen146 are more highly esteemed than the rest.

74 But we would not give a detailed account of the seacoast at the extremities of Persia, and wander too far from our subject. So it will be enough to say that the sea extending from the Caspian mountains along the northern side to the above-mentioned strait is 9000 stadia;147 but the southern frontier, from the mouths of the river Nile to where Carmania begins, is reckoned at 14,000 stadia.

75 Among these many men of differing tongues there are varieties of persons, as well as of places. But, to describe their bodily characteristics and their customs in general, they are almost all slender, somewhat dark, or of a leaden pallor, with eyes grim as goats', eyebrows joined and curved in the form of a half-circle, not uncomely beards, and long, shaggy hair. All of them without exception, even at banquets and on festal days, appear girt with swords; an old Greek custom which, according to the trustworthy testimony of Thucydides,148 the Athenians were the first to abandon. 76 Most of them are extravagantly given to venery, and are hardly contented with a multitude of concubines;149 they are p393far from immoral relations with boys.150 Each man according to his means contracts many or few marriages, whence their affection, divided as it is among various objects, grows cold.151 They avoid as they would the plague splendid and luxurious banquets, and especially, excessive drinking.152 77 Except for the kings' tables, they have no fixed hours for meal-times, but every man's belly is, as it were, his sundial;153 when this gives the call, they eat whatever is at hand, and no one, after he is satisfied, loads himself with superfluous food.154 78 They are immensely moderate and cautious, so much so that they sometimes march through an enemy's gardens and vineyards without coveting or touching anything, through fear of poison or magic arts. 79 Besides this, one seldom sees a Persian stop to pass water or step aside in response to a call of nature;155 so scrupulously do they avoid these and other unseemly actions. 80 On the other hand, they are so free and easy, and stroll about with such a loose and unsteady gait, that one might think them effeminate; but, in fact, they are most gallant warriors, though rather crafty than courageous, and to be feared only at long range. They are given to empty words, and talk madly and extravagantly. They are boastful, harsh and offensive, threatening in adversity and prosperity alike, crafty, haughty, cruel, claiming the power of life and death over slaves and commons. They flay men alive, either bit by bit or all at once, and no servant who waits upon them, or stands at table, is allowed to open his mouth, either to speak or to spit; to such a degree, p395after the skins are spread,156 are the mouths of all fettered. 81 They stand in special fear of the laws, among which those dealing with ingrates and deserters are particularly severe; and some laws are detestable, namely, those which provide that because of the guilt of a single person all his relatives are put to death.157 82 For the office of judge, upright men of proved experience are chosen, who have little need of advice from others; therefore they ridicule our custom, which at times places eloquent men, highly skilled in public law, behind the backs of judges without learning.158 But that one judge was forced to take his seat on the skin of another who had been condemned to death for injustice159 is either a fiction of antiquity, or, if once customary, has long since been given up. 83 Through military training and discipline, through constant exercise in warfare and military manoeuvres, which we have often described, they cause dread even to great armies; they rely especially on the valour of their cavalry, in which all the nobles and men of rank undergo hard service; for the infantry are armed like the murmillones,160 and they obey orders like so many horse-boys. The whole throng of them always follows in the rear, as if doomed to perpetual slavery, without ever being supported by pay or gifts. And this nation, so bold and so well trained for the dust of Mars, would have brought many other peoples under the yoke in addition to those whom they fully subdued, were they not p397constantly plagued by domestic and foreign wars. 84 Most of them are so covered with clothes gleaming with many shimmering colours, that although they leave their robes open in front and on the sides, and let them flutter in the wind, yet from their head to their shoes no part of the body is seen uncovered. To the use of golden armlets and neck-chains, gems, and especially pearls, of which they possess a great number, they first became accustomed after their victory over Lydia and Croesus.161

85 It remains for me to speak briefly about the origin of this gem.162 Among the Indians and the Persians pearls are found in strong, white sea-shells, being conceived at a definite time of the year by mixture with dew. For at that time they desire, as it were, a kind of copulation, and by often opening and shutting quickly they take in moisture by sprinkling with moonlight. Thereby becoming pregnant, they each bear two or three small pearls, or else uniones,163 so called because the shell-fish, when opened, sometimes yield only one pearl, but in that case they are of greater size. 86 And it is a proof that they are of ethereal origin, rather than that they are conceived and fed from nourishment derived from the sea, that when drops of morning dew fall upon these gems, they make them brilliant and round, but the dew of evening, on the contrary, makes them irregular, red, and sometimes spotted; and they become large or small under varying conditions, according to the quality of what they have taken in. Very often the p399shell-fish close through fear of thunderstorms, and either produce imperfect stones or none at all; or at any rate, it melts away as the result of abortion. 87 Their taking is difficult and dangerous, and their price is high, for the reason that they avoid shores that are usually frequented, to escape the snares of the pearlfishers, as some believe, and hide amid solitary rocks and the lairs of sea-hounds.164 88 That this kind of gem is found and gathered in the lonely bays of the Britannic Sea,165 although of less value than these, is well known to us.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 In 363.

2 In 285.

3 Cf. XXIX.3.4.

4 A grim jest of the people of Antioch. The official inscriptions read: Dominus Noster Claudius Iulianus Pius Felix Augustus. The people omitted some words and read: "Felix, Iulianus, Augustus," implying that Augustus (i.e. Julian) would follow Felix and Count Julianus to the grave.

5 That is, the Genius of the Roman people; cf. XXII.11.8 for another at Alexandria.

6 Cf. XXI.6.8.

7 See XXI.5.13, note.

8 Cf. XXV.9.12.

9 Cf. XXI.13.8.

10 Cf. XIV.3.3.

11 Marcus Crassus, the triumvir, and his son Publius in 53 B.C.; cf. Florus, I.46.11, etc.

12 These Sibylline books had been kept in the pedestal of the statue of Apollo, in accordance with the desire of Augustus, who built the temple. See Suet. Aug. XXXI.1 (L. C. L., I.170).

13 Cf. XVIII.6.20; modern Turkestan.

14 In Armenia.

15 It was really in Assyria.

16 See illustrations between pp328 and 329. These give a general idea of the scorpion and the ram, although they do not contain all the features of Ammianus' description.

Thayer's Note: In this Web transcription, I've broken up the four woodcuts, to insert them in what seemed to me the most appropriate points in the text:

Ballista Scorpio (onager) Aries Testudo (translated by Rolfe as "mantlet")

17 Its action is like that of a huge crossbow. The arrow is drawn back by a cord fastened to the ropes on the rollers. When the catch is released, these ropes drive out the arrow.

18 I.e. when the horses are not harnessed to it.

19 The ancients believed that a stroke of lightning returned to the sky, doing damage as it came and as it went. Cf. Lucan, I.156.

Thayer's Note: According to current science and slow-motion photography, the ancients were right.

20 City-taker. The descriptions of Diod. XX.48 and 91, and Athen. V p206D, are of a more powerful machine, including lofty towers.

21 Besieger of cities.

22 Or tortoise-shed.

23 Cf. falces praeacutae, Caes., B. G. III.14.5, and Class. Journal, VI (1910), pp133 f.

24 Detailed in § 3.

25 Or perhaps, "in a time of profound peace."

26 260‑268; according to others, it was in the time of his father Valerian.

27 See XIV.1.10, note.

28 Zosimus, III.14, locates the tomb at Dura; see below, sec. 8.

29 In one of the lost books.

30 This oracle is often quoted; see Hdt. I.53, where the envoys announced to Croesus: ἣν στραεύηται ἐπὶ Πέρσας, μεγάλην ἀρχήν μιν καταλύσειν: Cic., Div. II.56.115, Croesus Halyn penetrans magnam pervertet opum vim.

31 The oracle bade the Greeks defend themselves with wooden walls. In general, see Cic., Div. II.25.56.

32 Cf. Ennius, Ann. 174, Remains of Old Latin, L. C. L.I.

33 On this kind of thunderbolt see Seneca, Nat. Quaest. II.39.1 ff.

34 Since Jovianus is connected with Jupiter.

35 These prescribed the rites and taboos connected with thunderbolts. The expression libri fulgurales seems to occur only here and in Cic., Div. I.33.72, where we have haruspicini et fulgurales et rituales libri.

36 The Massagetae and the Alani are distinguished by Claudian, in Ruf. I.310 ff. (I.48, L. C. L.).

37 See Plut., Ant. 33.4; 34.1; Val. Max. VI.9.9.

38 Tropaeati seems to be a word coined by Ammianus.

39 Emperor from 238‑244; see Index I, vol. I, s.v. Gordiani. In 242 he made a campaign against the Persians, at first with success; but his troops, incited by Philippus, mutinied and put him to death.

40 A town of Osdroëne.

41 Cf. Capit., Gordian. 33, and Suet. Jul. 89, of the assassins of Julius Caesar.

42 antesignanus et conturmalis seems to imply playing the part now of a leader of the infantry and now of the cavalry.

43 Cf. Livy, VII.6.1 ff.

44 Cf. Livy, II.12.

45 See XVI.10.3.

46 Scipio Aemilianus; cf. Seneca, Dial. XI.14.5, quid referam Aemilianum Scipionem . . . vir in hoc natus, ne urbi Romanae aut Scipio deesset aut Carthago superesset.

47 Cf. Florus, I.24.18. The siege lasted, with interruptions, for thirteen years.

48 Cf. Livy, IV.17 ff.

49 Cf. Livy, V.25‑27.

50 Cf. Flor. I.6.11, laborat annalium fides, ut Veios fuisse credamus, "Our trust in our annals has a difficult task to make us believe that Veii ever existed." Florus, L. C. L., p41.

51 In this way the Persians disabled prisoners for whom they had no use; cf. XIX.6.2; XXXI.7.13; so also the Romans, XVII.13.10; XXV.3.5.

52 I.e. were called Parthians; see Justinus, XLI.4.6 f.

53 It was not Seleucus Nicator, but Seleucus II, Callinicus, the fourth king after Nikator, who was conquered by Arsaces; see Justinus, XLI.4.9.

54 Nicator (cf. XIV.8.5) means "the victorious."

55 Cf. XXV.4.23.

56 Cf. Hdt. I.214; Just. I.8.9 ff.

57 Of water, when he bridged the Hellespont; of land, when he cut a canal through the Athos promontory.

58 There is no mention of this will in Curtius, Arrian, or Diodorus Siculus.

59 For its extent under Cyrus, see Xen., Cyrop. VIII.7.7; cf. I.1.4: under Darius Hystaspes, Hdt. III.88.

60 In Babylonia.

61 It unites with the Tigris before flowing into the sea. The "losses" are diminution of its waters, and in the speed of their flow, because of alluvial deposits.

62 A pass in Mt. Taurus, between Parthia and Media.

63 A mountain of Armenia.

64 The Red Sea (Persian Gulf) is south (or south-west) of the Persian empire; cf. Pliny, N. H. VI.112, a meridie, and Mesopotamia is west.

65 Cf. XIV.4, XXII.15.2.

66 The Himalayas.

67 It included Assyria, Babylonia, and Mesopotamia.

68 Justin. XLII.3.9, says it flows under ground for 25,000 stadia.

69 Cf. XXIII.4.15.

70 Cf. Lucr. VI.756 ff.

71 Cf. Dio, LXVIII.27.3; Pliny, N. H. II.208.

72 This self-styled philosopher, of Tyana in Cappadocia, was famous for his belief in his magic or supernatural powers. He lived in the first century A.D. His Life, by Philostratus, has come down to us; see Philostratus, L. C. L., I, Introd.

73 See Philost. vita Apoll. I.6 (L. C. L.I.15).

74 Valesius thinks they are the same rivers which are more commonly called Zabas and Anzabas, and that dia became za; but see Index.

75 During the flight after Julian's death.

76 Homer calls the Nile Aegyptus; cf. XXII.15.3.

77 Ebro.

78 Guadalquivir.

79 Also called Nineve; cf. XXVIII.7.1.

80 Likewise a city of Media.

81 Gaugamela was a small village near Arbela; it was there that the battle was fought, although it is more commonly called the battle of Arbela.

82 Pliny, N. H. VI.132, separates Apamia from Mesene; cf. XXVI.3.12; on Teredon, cf. Pliny, VI.145.

83 Diod. Sic. (II.9.9) says that in his time Babylon had been almost wholly destroyed and Pausanias, VIII.33.3, that only the walls and the temple of Belus were standing.

84 Cf. Curtius, V.1.16 and 25.

85 Unknown.

86 Pacorus seems to have been the son of king Orodes, defeated by Ventidius.

87 In a lost book; cf. Capitolinus, Verus, 8.3.

88 Cf. Capitol., Marcus Ant. 13.3‑6.

89 It is really a canal; cf. XXIV.6.1, where its native name Naarmalcha is given.

90 I.e. by irrigation.

91 The kings spent the winter in Susa or Babylon (sometimes in Bactra); the summers in Ecbatana; cf. Strabo, XI.13.1; XV.3.2.

92 Part of the Caspian.

93 Under Arbaces in the reign of Sardanapalus, 876 B.C.

94 All these are branches of Mt. Taurus.

95 In Parthia.

96 Polyb. V.44.1.

97 Cf. Herodotus, VII.40; Strabo, XI.13.7; 14.9. Others say that they were used only for the kings' chariots.

98 Ax. 371D; Isoc. II.28, 227A.

99 ἁγιστεία, "ritual," "holy rites."

100 For Zarathustra, the founder of the Perso-Indian native religion, which prevailed from 559 B.C. to A.D. 636. The Greek and Roman writers assign his birth to various places, into which his religion was introduced; it was probably Bactria, or western Iran. His date is also uncertain; Aristotle put it 6000 years before the death of Plato (Pliny, N. H. XXX.3), others 1000 B.C.

101 Hystaspes was not king. Others regard a much earlier Hystaspes as the teacher of magic.

102 Their priesthood was hereditary, handed on from father to son.

103 I.e. without walls.

104 The "seven men" were those who conspired against the usurper Smerdis in 512 B.C., one of whom was Darius. They agreed that the one whose horse neighed first should be king. By a trick of his groom Oebares, Darius was chosen and reigned until 485 B.C. None of the other six mounted the throne. See Hdt. III.70 ff.

105 Cf. 4.15, above, where Ammianus uses similar language of the malleoli; and 6.16.

106 6.16, above.

107 Called Gaza by Strabo and Pliny, the capital of Atropatene.

Thayer's Note: The passage (XI.13.3) has been emended in the edition online.

108 According to Strabo, XI.13.6, Arsacia and Europos were the same city, also called Khaga or Khagae.

109 Cf. Hdt. I.98; to‑day Hamadan.

110 The part of Media which lies before Persia.

111 This river is in Syria, not in Media.

112 Fruits and leguminous vegetables.

113 Unknown; apparently the Arosis in Susiana.

114 With striking ruins; the other cities are unknown. Ammianus omits Pasargada, the second city after Persepolis, unless Ardea is a corruption of this.

115 Founded by the Greeks.

116 The capital and residence of Arsaces, so-named from the number of roads that come thither from all quarters.

117 Arabia did not belong to Persia, and is not mentioned above among the provinces. Arabia Felix (Yemen) is contrasted with Arabia Deserta and Arabia Petraea, in the northern part of the peninsula.

118 This is the island of Socotra well away from the Arabian coast.

119 Modern Ormuz.

120 A part of the Caspian.

121 In a lost book. Cf. Mela, III.5.43; Pliny, N. H. VIII.66; Ambros., Hexam. VI.4.

122 Traders came from Parthia by way of the Caspian Gates.

123 Cf. Iliad, XIII.6, quoted in § 62.

124 Founded by Antiochus, son of Seleucus.

125 Modern Herat.

126 Justin, XLI.4.5, says that the Bactrian kingdom was founded shortly before the Parthian by Diodotus. In XLI.4.7, he calls it a realm of a thousand cities. After many battles it was finally brought under the Parthian yoke.

127 Sallust, Hist. III.42, Maur.; but cf. Plut. Lucull. 11.4, Σαλλουστίου δὲ θαυμάζω τότε πρῶτον ὦφθαι Ῥωμαίοις καμήλους λέγοντος.

128 Cf. XV.5.25.

129 Probably for Iaxartes; Curtius, VII.6.19‑21.

130 By others called Cyropolis, destroyed by Alexander the Great; cf. Arrian, Anab. VI.2.2 f.

131 The Stone Tower.

132 Milk-eaters.

133 Iliad, XIII.6.

134 European and Asiatic.

135 Doubtless including the famous Chinese Wall.

136 The Chinese.

137 For situ, "structure," "form," cf. Horace, Odes, III.30.2, regalique situ pyramidum altius. As this meaning seems not to occur elsewhere, this may be a reminiscence; cf. bene nummatum, XIV.6.12, note.

138 The Selenga and the Hoang Ho.

139 Silk.

140 Cf. Hdt. IV.196.

141 Or, Paropamisadae, named from Mt. Paropamisus (Hindu Kush confused with Caucasus). Their country formed the route from Persia to India.

142 In the country of the Arabi or Arabites, a people of Indian origin.

143 The Arachotos, which is also the name of their capital city.

144 Ἀράχωτος κρήνη.

145 Cf. Pliny, N. H. VI.92.

146 Γυναικῶν λιμήν, "the Women's Port"; the origin of the name is unknown.

147 See Strabo, XI.7 ff., who, however, does not give the distance.

148 I.6.1‑3.

149 Cf. Hdt. I.135.

150 So also Curt. X.1.26, but according to Hdt. (l.c.), they acquired this vice from the Greeks.

151 Cf. Sallust, Jug. 80.6‑7, on the Numidians.

152 Xenophon and Athenaeus do not agree with this.

153 Cf. the parasite in the comedy Boeotia; Gell. III.3.6.

154 Cf. Hdt. I.133.

155 Cf. Hdt. I.133; Xenophon, Cyrop. VIII.8.11.

156 Over the couches at the table, at the beginning of a meal; these skins were handsomely adorned and highly prized. For the Parthian leather, see XXII.4.8, note.

157 For example, when a king is assassinated.

158 To prompt them.

Thayer's Note: for details, see the article Assessor of Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

159 See Hdt. V.25; Val. Max. VI.3, ext. 3; Diod. Sic. XV.10.

160 A kind of gladiator, see XVI.12.49, note. They were armed in the Gallic manner with a small oblong buckler, but without greaves or arm-guard.

161 546 B.C.

162 I.e. pearls.

163 Uniones is applied to large pearls, of which only one is found in a single shell. Pliny, N. H. IX.112, says that they are called uniones because one never finds two pearls of such similarity that they cannot be told from each other. Solinus, 53.27, end says it is because one never finds two of them together. But Aelian, Hist. Anim. X.13, says that in one shell sometimes one such pearl is found, sometimes two, sometimes as many as twenty. Cf. Shakespeare, Hamlet, V.II.253, "And in the cup a union shall he throw."

164 I.e. sharks.

165 Cf. Tac., Agr. 12; Pliny, N. H. IX.116; Solin. 56, 3, 28.

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