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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Buildings


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Book IV (Part 3)

 p279  7 1 Such, then, are the strongholds of Illyricum along the Ister River. But we must now go on to the fortified towns of Thrace, those namely which were built by the Emperor Justinian along the river-bank there. 2 For it has seemed to me not improper, after first describing the coast of that region, then to take up also the record of what he did in the interior. 3 First, then, let us proceed to Mysia,44 the home of men whom the poets call hand-to‑hand fighters,45 for their country borders upon Illyricum. 5 So beyond that place which they call Lucernariaburgou the Emperor Justinian built the fortress Securisca, a new work of his own. Beyond this he  p281 restored the parts of Cyntodemus which had suffered. And still further on he built a city which had not existed previously, and this he named Theodoropolis, after the Empress. 6 Furthermore, he preserved the fortresses called Iatrôn and Tigas by building anew the parts which had suffered, and to the fort of Maxentius he added a tower, which he thought it needed. 7 And he built the fort of Cyntôn which had not existed before. Beyond this is the stronghold Trasmariscas. Just opposite this, on the other bank of the river, Constantine, Emperor of the Romans, once built with no small care a fort, Daphnê by name, thinking it not inexpedient that the river should be guarded on both sides at this point. 8 As time went on, the barbarians destroyed this entirely; but the Emperor Justinian rebuilt it, beginning at the foundations. 9 And beyond Trasmariscas is the stronghold Altenôn and one which they call Candidiana, destroyed long before by the same enemy, which he repaired with all the care that they deserved. 10 And there are three forts, Saltupyrgus, Dorostolus and Sycidaba, one after the other along the bank of the Ister, which the Emperor put in order by carefully repairing such parts of each one as had suffered. 12 He displayed a similar care in the case of Questris, which lies back from the river. And Palmatis, which was cramped for space, he enlarged and made very much broader, though it is not on the bank of the river. 13 Close to this he built also a new fort named Adina, because the barbarian Sclaveni were constantly laying concealed  p283 ambuscades there against travellers,46 thus making the whole district impassable. 14 He likewise built the fortress of Tiliciôn47 and a stronghold which lies to its left.

15 Such was the condition of the fortresses of Mysia48 on the bank of the Ister River, as well as those near it. 16 Next I shall proceed to Scythia; there the first fortress is the one named for St. Cyril, of which the Emperor Justinian rebuilt with care those portions which had suffered with time. 17 Beyond this from ancient times there was a stronghold, Ulmitôn by name, but since the barbarian Sclaveni had been making their ambuscades there for a great length of time and had been tarrying there very long, it had come to be wholly deserted and nothing of it was left except the name. 18 So he built it all up from the foundations and thus freed that region from the menace and the attacks of the Sclaveni. 19 Beyond this is the city of Ibida, whose circuit-wall had suffered in many places; these he renewed without delay and made the city very strong. 20 And beyond it he built a new fortress, a work of his own, which they call Aegissus.49 At the extremity of Scythia lies another fortress, Halmyris by name, a great part of which had become manifestly insecure, and this he saved by rebuilding it. 21 All the other strongholds also within the bounds of Europe are worthy of mention.

8 1 All the building that was done by the Emperor Justinian in Dardania, Epirus, Macedonia and the  p285 other parts of Illyricum,50 also in Greece and along the Ister River has already been described by me. 2 Next let us go to Thrace, laying down as the fairest foundation, as it were, for our narrative the environs of Byzantium, since this city is preëminent in Thrace not only because of its power, but also by reason of its natural site, planted as it is on Europe like a kind of acropolis and finally setting a guard over the sea which divides it from Asia. 3 I have already described in the preceding narrative all the buildings of the city itself, including the work which was done for the shrines, both inside and outside the walls of Constantinople. I shall now proceed from that point.

4 In a suburb of the city there is a fortress which they call Strongylum51 from the form in which it is built. 5 The road which leads from that point to Rhegium52 was for the most part uneven; and if rain chanced to fall it became a bog and was difficult for travellers to get through. 6 But now this Emperor has paved it with blocks of stone each large enough to load a waggon and so has made it altogether practicable and easy. 7 In length, this road extends all the way to Rhegium and its breadth is such that two waggons, going in opposite directions, have no lack of room. 8 The paving-stones are exceptionally coarse, so that you would expect them to be mill-stones; and they are of goodly size. Consequently each one covers much ground and stands very high. 9 They are very  p287 carefully worked so as to form a smooth and even surface, and they give the appearance not simply of being laid together at the joints, or even of being exactly fitted, but they seem actually to have grown together.53 So much, then, for this.

10 There chances to be a kind of lake very close to this place called Rhegium, into which pour streams that flow from the adjacent uplands. 11 This lake extends as far as the sea so that in the very narrow tongue of land between them they have a common shore. 12 Both sea and lake wash against this shore as their waters roll against its opposite sides, and they bellow against each other as they constantly rush straight on towards one another, sharing a common beach. But when they come very close, they check their flow and turn upon themselves, just as if they had fixed their limits there. 13 However, there is a place where the waters mingle, having a sort of strait between them, and it is uncertain to which of them belongs the water of the strait. 14 Neither does the current of the sea always flow into the lake nor does the lake continuously empty into the sea; but when heavy rains have fallen, and when the south wind has been blowing, the water of the channel seems to flow out from the lake, 15 but if the wind comes from the north, the sea seems to be flooding into the lake. At this point, moreover, the sea is shallow for a considerable distance, with the exception of a very small space where the depth is great. 16 Indeed this is so narrow that it is called Myrmex.54 The strait which joins the sea and the  p289 lake, as I have said, was crossed in ancient times by a wooden bridge, with great danger for those passing that way, because they were often destroyed together with the bridge-timbers if they happened to collapse. 17 But now the Emperor Justinian has carried the bridge on a huge arch built of picked stones, and thus he has made the crossing there free from danger.

18 Beyond Rhegium is a certain city named Athyras, whose inhabitants he found suffering from extreme scarcity of water; this difficulty he remedied for them by building a reservoir there, in which by storing at just the right time the unnecessary excess of water, he dispensed it as needed to the inhabitants. He also rebuilt such parts of the circuit-wall as had suffered.

19 Beyond Athyras is a certain place which the inhabitants call Episcopia. 20 The Emperor Justinian, perceiving that this lay exposed to the assaults of the enemy, and that a large expanse of country here was altogether unguarded, since no stronghold at all existed, built a fortress in that place; and he built the towers there, not in the customary manner, but as follows. 21 At regular intervals a structure is built out from the circuit-wall, very narrow at first, but finally spreading out to a great breadth; on this in each case a tower was erected. 22 Thus it is impossible for the enemy to get close to the wall anywhere, because when they get into a precarious position between the towers they are easily shot at from both sides and from above by the guards there and are destroyed. 23 The gates too he did not place in the  p291 customary position between the towers, but at an angle, in the narrow part of the projection which runs out from the wall, where they could not be seen by the enemy but were masked behind the towers. 24 In that place Theodore, a very clever man who held the office of silentiarius,55 was of service to the Emperor. 25 Thus were these fortifications built. And it is proper, proceeding thence to the long walls,56 to explain them briefly.

9 1 The Sea,57 commencing from the Ocean and from Spain, goes on in a single direction, approximately eastward, keeping Europe on its left as far as Thrace, but at that point it divides itself and while one portion goes towards the East, another part of it turns gradually, at an oblique angle,58 and forms the Euxine Sea, as it is called. 2 When it reaches Byzantium, it makes a bend about the eastern portion of the city, as if rounding a turning-post, and bending much more obliquely,59 it runs in the form of a strait,60 turning the front and back portions of Thrace into an isthmus, as one would expect. 3 This does not mean that the sea is divided here into two separate bays,61 as is wont to happen at other isthmuses, but it circles round in a marvellous way, from two sides surrounding Thrace and especially all the suburbs of Byzantium. 4 The people there build and adorn their suburbs, not only to meet the actual needs of life, but they display an insolent and boundless luxury and all the other vices that the power of wealth brings  p293 when it comes to men. 5 And they accumulate much furniture in their houses and make it a point to keep costly objects in them. Thus, when it comes about that any of the enemy overrun the land of the Romans suddenly, the damage caused there is much greater than in other places, and the region is then overwhelmed with irreparable calamities. 6 The Emperor Anastasius had determined to put a stop to this and so built long walls62 at a distance of not less than forty miles from Byzantium, uniting the two shores of the sea on a line where they are separated by about a two-days' journey.63 7 By this means he thought that everything inside was placed in security. But in fact this was the cause of greater calamities. For neither was it possible to make safe a structure of such great length nor could it be guarded rigorously. 8 And whenever the enemy descended on any portion of these long walls, they both overpowered all the guards with no difficulty, and falling unexpectedly upon the other people they inflicted loss not easy to describe.

9 But the Emperor rebuilt those portions of these walls which had suffered, and making the weak parts very strong for the sake of the guards, he added the following devices. 10 He blocked up all the exits from each tower leading to those adjoining it; 11 and he built from the ground up a single ascent inside each individual tower, which the guards there can close in case of emergency and scorn the enemy if  p295 they have penetrated inside the circuit-wall, since each tower by itself was sufficient to ensure safety for its guards. 12 Also inside these walls he diligently made provision for safety, not only doing what has just been mentioned, but also restoring all the parts of the circuit-wall of the city of Selymbria64 which happened to have been damaged. 13 These things then were done by the Emperor Justinian at the long walls.

14 The well-known city of Heraclea65 which is situated on the coast near by, the ancient Perinthus — which in former times men regarded as the first city of Europe, though it now takes a place second to Constantinoplea — suffered cruelly from lack of water in recent times. This was not because the country about it had no water, nor yet because this matter was neglected by the ancient builders of the city (for Europe has an abundance of springs and the men of ancient times were careful to build aqueducts), but because Time, following its custom, had destroyed the city's aqueduct, since it either failed to notice that its masonry had become enfeebled by age, or else was leading the people of Heraclea to their own destruction through their neglect of it;66 and the city was nearly left depopulated for this reason. 15 And Time was having the same effect upon the palace there, a very admirable building. 16 But when the Emperor Justinian saw the city, he in no careless fashion, but rather in a manner befitting an  p297 Emperor, flooded it with crystal-clear drinking-water, and he, far from permitting the city to be deprived of the honour of its palace, rebuilt it throughout.

17 One day's journey distant from Heraclea was a town on the coast named Rhaedestus,67 well situated for the voyage to the Hellespont, with a good harbour well adapted for the business of the sea, so that merchant vessels could put in and unload their cargoes very conveniently and then put out to sea again with no difficulty after loading their freight. But it lay exposed to the barbarians, who sometimes overran that region in unexpected raids, because it was not protected even by makeshift defences nor was it naturally difficult of access. 18 Consequently the place came to be disregarded and neglected by the merchants through fear of the risk. 19 But now the Emperor Justinian has not only provided for the safety of the place but has also saved all those who dwell round about. 20 For he erected at Rhaedestus a city which is not only strongly defended by its wall, but is also of extraordinary size. 21 Hither on occasion all those who dwell near by flee for refuge when the barbarians fall upon them, and they thus save themselves and their property.

10 1 Such were the works carried out by the Emperor Justinian at Rhaedestus. I shall go on to tell what he did in the region of the Chersonese.68 2 The Chersonese extends out from all that portion of Thrace. It projects boldly into the sea and seems to be pressing onward, giving the impression that it is  p299 advancing toward Asia.69 3 It has a single projecting point at the city of Elaeus,70 and this divides the sea into two parts, while the promontory itself is cut off from the rest of the mainland by the water, and curves inward before the advancing sea to form the so‑called Gulf of Melas.71 4 The remainder of it almost forms an island, acquiring a name appropriate to the shape which it assumes, for it is called Chersonese, most likely because it is prevented only by a tiny isthmus from being altogether an island. 5 At this isthmus the men of former times built a cross-wall of a very casual and indifferent sort which could be captured with the help of a ladder, 6 because, I suppose, they thought they were building an earthen wall around a casually placed garden-plot, and so built it of meagre dimensions and rising only slightly from the ground. 7 And facing the sea at either side of the isthmus they constructed wretched little bastions, of the sort which people are wont to call "moles," and with these they closed the gap between the water and the circuit-wall, not with the expectation of repelling attacking forces at this point, but rather in order to invite them to effect an entrance; so contemptible did they make them and so easy to capture for any who should attack. 8 But they thought they had set up a kind of invincible bulwark against the enemy and so decided to regard everything inside this circuit-wall as requiring no further protection, for there actually was neither fort nor any other stronghold on the Chersonese, though it extends to a length of almost three day's journey.72 9 Indeed the enemy,  p301 while overrunning the land of Thrace recently, did actually undertake to force the entrance by the beach, and frightening off the guards there they leaped inside just as if they were playing a game, and they got inside the defences with no trouble.

10 So the Emperor Justinian, with his constant solicitude for the safety of his subjects, did as follows. 11 First of all he demolished completely the old wall, so that not so much as a trace of it was left. 12 And he straightway erected another wall, upon the same ground, very broad and rising to a great height. 13 Above the battlements a set-back73 vaulted structure in the manner of a colonnaded stoa makes a roof to shelter those who defend the circuit-wall. 14 And other breastworks resting upon the vaulted structure double the fighting for those who lay siege to the wall. 15 Furthermore, at either end of the wall, at the very edge of the sea, he made bastions (proboloi) extending far out into the water, which were joined to the wall and rivalled its defences in height. 16 He also cleared the moat outside the wall and dug it out very thoroughly, adding a great deal to its width and to its depth. 17 Furthermore, he stationed detachments of soldiers on these long walls, sufficient to offer resistance to all the barbarians if they should make any attempt upon the Chersonese. 18 And after he had made all this firm provision for its safety, he also  p303 built additional strongholds for the people inside; 19 so that if (God forbid) any mischance should befall the long walls, the inhabitants of the Chersonese would none the less be in safety. 20 For he surrounded the city of Aphrodisias with very strong defences, though it had been unwalled for the most part before that, and he put walls around the city of Ciberis which was lying dismantled, and provided it with inhabitants. 21 He also built there baths and guest-houses and numerous dwellings, and all the other things which make a city notable. 22 Furthermore, he provided Callipolis,74 as it is called, with a very strong wall, a city which had been left unwalled by the men of earlier times because of the faith which was placed in the long walls. 23 There too he built storehouses for grain and for wine amply sufficient for all the wants of the soldiers in Chersonese.

24 There was a certain ancient city opposite Abydus,75 Sestus76 by name, which again had been carelessly planned in earlier times and had no defences. 25 A certain very steep hill towers above it, on which he built an altogether inaccessible fortress, which cannot possibly be taken by any assailant. 26 And it happens that at no great distance from Sestus is situated Elaeus, where a precipitous rock rises from the sea, culminating in a lofty headland which is a natural fortress. 27 So this Emperor built a fort there too, which is hard to get past and altogether impregnable for assailants. 28 Furthermore, he founded the fortress at Thescus on the other side of the long wall, strengthening it by means of an especially strong circuit-wall.  p305 Thus he ensured the safety of the inhabitants of Chersonese from every side.

11 1 Beyond the Chersonese stands the city of Aenus,77 which bears the name of its founder; for he was Aeneas, as they say, son of Anchises. 2 The circuit-wall of this place was easy to capture not only because of its lowness, since it did not rise even to the necessary height, 3 but because it offered an exposed approach on the side toward the sea, whose waters actually touched it in places. 4 But the Emperor Justinian raised it to such a height that it could not even be assailed, much less be captured. 5 And by extending the wall and closing the gaps on every side he rendered Aenus altogether impregnable. 6 Thus the city was made safe; and yet the district remained easy for the barbarians to overrun, since Rhodopê78 from ancient times had been lacking in fortifications. 7 And there was a certain village in the interior, Vellurus by name, which in wealth and population ranked as a city, but because it had no walls at all it constantly lay open to the plundering barbarians, a fate which was shared by the many fields lying about it. 8 Our Emperor made this a city and provided it with a wall and made it worthy of himself. 9 He also took great pains to put in order all such parts of the other cities in Rhodopê as had come to be defective or had suffered with time. 10 Among these were Trajanopolis79 and Maximianopolis,  p307 where he restored the parts of the bastions which had become weak. Thus were these things done.

11 The city of Anastasiopolis in this region was indeed walled even before this, but it lay along the shore and the beach was unprotected. Consequently the boats putting in there often fell suddenly into the hands of the barbarian Huns, who by means of them also harassed the islands lying off the coast there. 12 But the Emperor Justinian walled in the whole sea-front by means of a connecting wall and thus restored safety both for the ships and for the islanders. 13 Furthermore, he raised the aqueduct to an imposing height all the way from the mountains which rise here as far as the city. 14 And there is a certain ancient town in Rhodopê, Toperus80 by name, which is surrounded for the most part by the stream of a river, but had a steep hill rising above it. As a result of this it had been captured by the barbarian Sclaveni not long before. 15 But the Emperor Justinian added a great deal to the height of the wall, so that it now overtops the hill by as much as it previously fell below its crest. 16 And he set a colonnaded portico with a vaulted roof on its wall, and from this the defenders of the city fight in safety against those attacking the wall; and he equipped each one of the towers so as to be a strong fort. 17 He also secured the interval between the circuit-wall and the river by shutting it off with a cross-wall. These things, then, were done by the Emperor Justinian as I have said.

18 And I shall describe all the fortresses which were  p309 made by him through the rest of Thrace and through what is now called Haemimontum.81 19 First of all he built with great pains those parts which were lacking, and those which had suffered, in Philippopolis82 and Beroea,83 and also at Adrianopolis84 and Plotinopolis,85 (for these happened to be very vulnerable), though they lay close to many tribes of barbarians. 20 And in all parts of Thrace he established countless fortresses, by which he has now made entirely free from devastation a land which formerly lay exposed to the inroads of the enemy. These fortresses, so far as I recall them, are as follows:

In Europe:



In Rhodopê, new:













Of Thrace:







 p310  Bereïarusº















The trading-port of the Taurocephali









St. Trajan's





 p311  Of Haemimontum:









St. Theodore's



St. Julian's


















 p312  Marcerota


St. Theodore's






















The remaining Thracian fortresses; also those along the Euxine Sea  p313 and the Ister River, and in the interior, as follows:

In Mysia,90 on the Ister River:













The city Castellum












 p314  Gemellomontes

























 p315  Scedeba


In the interior:



















Pulchra Theodora








The Loeb Editor's Notes:

44 That is, Moesia, which is here confused with Mysia in Asia Minor; cf. Dio Cassius, XLIX.36.

45 Homer, IliadXIII.5.

46 Cf. WarsVI.xxvi.18, 19.

47 Teglicio in Itin. Ant. 223.

48 Moesia.

49 Aegissus (Aegyso in Itin. Ant. 226) is placed by cartographers at the head of the Danube's delta, Halmyris (Salmorudê or Salmoridê in Itin. Ant. 226) near its right mouth.

50 See note 1, p248.

51 "Round."

52 This would be the famous Via Egnatia which ran west to the Adriatic and terminated at a point near modern Valona. On the situation of Rhegium, see E. Mamboury in ByzantionXIII, 1938, pp308‑310.

53 Cf. the description of the Appian Way in WarsV.xiv.6‑11.

54 "Ant."

55 Privy counsellor; cf. Wars II.xxi.2.

56 Of Constantinople.

57 The Mediterranean.

58 North-eastward.

59 That is, turning toward the north-west.

60 The Bosporus.

61 Procopius uses the term "outlets" (or "mouths") for the recesses of the sea which, opposite each other, make an isthmus between them, which is not the case here.

62 Cf. WarsVII.xl.43, and note.

63 Forty miles.

64 Modern Silivri, on the north shore of the Propontis.

65 Modern Eregli, on a peninsula twenty-two miles west of Selymbria. It was founded in 559 B.C.

66 The rendering reproduces the author's personification of Time, illogical as it is.

67 Modern Rodosto, west of Heraclea, on the north shore of the Propontis; its original name was Bisanthê.

68 Modern Gallipoli Peninsula.

69 I.e. in a south-westerly direction, toward the Troad.

70 At the southern tip of the peninsula.

71 Modern Gulf of Saros.

72 Sixty miles.

73 This seems to be the meaning of ἀνειλημμένη.

74 Modern Gallipoli.

75 On the Asiatic shore of the Hellespont.

76 On the Chersonese.

77 Modern Enos, near the mouth of the Hebrus.

78 A district in western Thrace.

79 Near the mouth of the Hebrus River.

80 On the Via Egnatia; once also called Rhousion.

81 A region in northern Thrace, named from Mt. Haemus, now the Balkan range.

82 Modern Philippopoli.

83 Modern Stara Zagora.

84 Modern Adrianople.

85 On the Hebrus River.

86 Bessapara Itin. Ant. 136.3.

87 Itin. Ant. 231.5.

88 Burdipta Itin. Ant. 137.2.

89 Burtudizo Itin. Ant. 230.4.

90 Moesia.

91 Or Odêssus; modern Varna. Odisso Itin. Ant. 228.3.

92 A short distance inland from Odyssus. Cf. Itin. Ant. 224.4.

93 On the lower Danube.

94 Modern Collati, midway between Odyssus and Tomis.

95 Haury conjectures that this is identical with Ἀλτηνῶν ἔρυμα, supra IV.vii.9.

96 Cf. Itin. Ant. 224.4.

97 Tomi, the place of Ovid's banishment.

Thayer's Note:

a An ambiguous and potentially misleading translation. It is not the eminence of the cities that is being considered; a better rendering would be: "Perinthus — which for the ancients was the first city one came to in Europe, although now of course the first is Constantinople —". The latter is right on the Bosporus; the former a few miles further into Europe along the coast.

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