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Book XXX

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Roman History

Ammianus Marcellinus

published in Vol. III
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1939

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. III) Ammianus Marcellinus
Roman Antiquities

 p377  Book XXXI

1 1 Omens of the death of Valens Augustus and of the impending defeat by the Goths.

1 Meanwhile Fortune's rapid wheel, which is always interchanging adversity and prosperity, armed Bellona in the company of her attendant Furies, and transferred to the Orient melancholy events, the coming of which was foreshadowed by the clear testimony of omens and portents. 2 For after many true predictions of seers and augurs, dogs leaped back when wolves howled, night birds  p379 rang out a kind of doleful lament, the sun rose in gloom and dimmed the clear morning light; at Antioch, in quarrels and riots of the common people, it became usual that whoever thought that he was suffering wrong shouted without restraint: "Let Valens be burned alive!" and the words of public criers were continually heard, directing the people to gather firewood, to set fire to the baths of Valens, in the building of which the emperor himself had taken such interest. 3 All this almost in plain speech showed that this kind of death​1 threatened him. Furthermore, the ghostly form of the king of Armenia and the piteous shades of those who shortly before had been executed in connection with the fall of Theodorus,​2 shrieking horrible songs at night, in the form of dirges, tormented many with dire terrors. 4 A heifer was found lying lifeless with its windpipe cut, and its death was an indication of great and widespread sorrow from funerals of the people. Finally, when the old walls of Chalcedon were torn down,​3 in order that a bath​4 might be built at Constantinople, and the rows of stones were taken apart, there was found on a squared block hidden in the midst of the structure of the wall an inscription containing the following Greek verses, clearly revealing what was to happen:

 p381  5 When gaily through the city's festal streets

Shall whirl soft maidens in a happy dance,

When mournfully a wall shall guard a bath,

Then countless hordes of men spread far and wide

With warlike arms shall cross clear Istrus' stream

To ravage Scythia's fields and Mysia's land.

But mad with hope when they Pannonia raid,

There battle and life's end their course shall check.

2 1 Of the houses and customs of the Huns, the Halani, and other nations of Asiatic Scythia.

1 However, the seed and origin of all the ruin and various disasters that the wrath of Mars aroused, putting in turmoil all places with unwonted fires, we have found to be this. The people of the Huns,​5 but little known from ancient records, dwelling beyond the Maeotic Sea near the ice-bound ocean, exceed every degree of savagery. 2 Since there the cheeks of the children are deeply furrowed with the steel​6 from their very birth, in order that the growth of hair, when it appears at the proper time, may be checked by the wrinkled scars, they grow old without beards and without any beauty, like eunuchs. They all have compact, strong limbs and thick necks, and are so monstrously ugly and misshapen, that one might take them for two-legged beasts or for the stumps, rough-hewn into images, that are used in putting sides to bridges.​7 3 But although they have the form of men, however ugly, they are so hardy in their mode of life that they have no need  p383 of fire nor of savory food, but eat the roots of wild plants and the half-raw flesh of any kind of animal whatever, which they put between their thighs and the backs of their horses, and thus warm it a little. 4 They are never protected by any buildings, but they avoid these like tombs, which are set apart from everyday use. For not even a hut thatched with reed can be found among them. But roaming at large amid the mountains and woods, they learn from the cradle to endure cold, hunger, and thirst. When away from their homes they never enter a house unless compelled by extreme necessity; for they think they are not safe when staying under a roof. 5 They dress in linen cloth or in the skins of field-mice sewn together, and they wear the same clothing indoors and out. But when they have once put their necks into a faded tunic, it is not taken off or changed until by long wear and tear it has been reduced to rags and fallen from them bit by bit. 6 They cover their heads with round caps and protect their hairy legs with goatskins; their shoes are formed upon no lasts, and so prevent their walking with free step. For this reason they are not at all adapted to battles on foot, but they are almost glued to their horses, which are hardy, it is true, but ugly, and sometimes they sit onº them woman-fashion and thus perform their ordinary tasks. From their horses by night or day every one of that nation buys and sells, eats and drinks, and bowed over the narrow neck of the animal relaxes into a sleep so deep as to be accompanied by many dreams. 7 And when deliberation is called for about weighty  p385 matters, they all consult as a common body in that fashion.​8 They are subject to no royal restraint, but they are content with the disorderly government of their important men, and led by them they force their way through every obstacle. 8 They also sometimes fight when provoked, and then they enter the battle drawn up in wedge-shaped masses, while their medley of voices makes a savage noise. And as they are lightly equipped for swift motion, and unexpected in action, they purposely divide suddenly into scattered bands and attack, rushing about in disorder here and there, dealing terrific slaughter; and because of their extraordinary rapidity of movement they are never seen to attack a rampart or pillage an enemy's camp. 9 And on this account you would not hesitate to call them the most terrible of all warriors, because they fight from a distance with missiles having sharp bone, instead of their usual points,​9 joined to the shafts with wonderful skill; then they gallop over the intervening spaces and fight hand to hand with swords, regardless of their own lives; and while the enemy are guarding against wounds from the sabre-thrusts, they throw strips of cloth plaited into nooses over their opponents and so entangle them that they fetter their limbs and take from them the power of riding or walking.​10 10 No one in their country ever plows a field or touches a plow-handle. They are all without fixed abode, without hearth, or law, or settled mode of life, and keep roaming from place to place, like fugitives, accompanied by the wagons in which they live; in wagons their wives weave for them their hideous garments, in wagons they cohabit with their  p387 husbands, bear children, and rear them to the age of puberty. None of their offspring, when asked, can tell you where he comes from, since he was conceived in one place, born far from there, and brought up still farther away. 11 In truces they are faithless and unreliable, strongly inclined to sway to the motion of every breeze of new hope that presents itself, and sacrifi­cing every feeling to the mad impulse of the moment. Like unreasoning beasts, they are utterly ignorant of the difference between right and wrong; they are deceitful and ambiguous in speech, never bound by any reverence for religion or for superstition. They burn with an infinite thirst for gold, and they are so fickle and prone to anger, that they often quarrel with their allies without provocation, more than once on the same day, and make friends with them again without a mediator.

12 This race of untamed men, without encumbrances, aflame with an inhuman desire for plundering others' property, made their violent way amid the rapine and slaughter of the neighbouring peoples as far as the Halani, once known as the Massagetae. And since we have come to this point, it is in place to tell of the origin and dwelling-place of this people also, and to point out the confused opinions of geographers, who after many different attempts to deal with the subject have at last come upon the core of the truth.11

13 The Hister,​12 filled to overflowing by a great number of tributaries, flows past the Sauromatians, and these extend as far as the river Tanaïs,​13 which  p389 separates Asia from Europe. On the other side of this river​14 the Halani, so called from the mountain range of the same name,​15 inhabit the measureless wastes of Scythia; and by repeated victories they gradually wore down the peoples whom they met and like the Persians incorporated them under their own national name. 14 Among these the Nervii​16 inhabit the interior of the country near the lofty, precipitous peaks nipped by the north winds and benumbed with ice and snow. Behind these are the Vidini​17 and the Geloni, exceedingly savage races, who strip the skins from their slain enemies to make clothing for themselves and coverings for their horses in war.​18 On the frontier of the Geloni are the Agathyrsi, who checker their bodies and dye their hair with a blue colour​19 — the common people with a few small marks, but the nobles with more and broader spots of dye.​20 15 Beyond these are the Melanchlaenae​21 and the Anthropophagi, who according to report lead a nomadic life and feed upon human flesh; and because of this abominable food they are left to themselves and all their former neighbours have moved to distant parts of the earth. And so the entire north-eastern​22 tract, until one comes to the Seres,​23 has remained uninhabitable. 16 In another part of the country, near the abodes of the Amazons, the Halani mount to the eastward, divided  p391 into populous and extensive nations; these reach as far as Asia, and, as I have heard, stretch all the way to the river Ganges, which flows through the territories of India and empties into the southern ocean.

17 Thus the Halani (whose various people it is unnecessary now to enumerate) are divided between the two​24 parts of the earth, but although widely separated from each other and roaming over vast tracts, as Nomads do, yet in the course of time they have united under one name, and are, for short, all called Halani because of the similarity in their customs, their savage mode of life, and their weapons. 18 For they have no huts and care nothing for using the plowshare, but they live upon flesh and an abundance of milk, and dwell in wagons, which they cover with rounded canopies of bark and drive over the boundless wastes. And when they come to a place rich in grass, they place their carts in a circle and feed like wild beasts. As soon as the fodder is used up, they place their cities, as we might call them, on the wagons and so convey them: in the wagons the males have intercourse with the women, and in the wagons their babes are born and reared; wagons form their permanent dwellings, and wherever they come, that place they look upon as their natural home. 19 Driving their plow-cattle before them, they pasture them with their flocks, and they give particular attention to breeding horses. In that land the fields are always green, and here and there are places set thick with fruit trees. Hence, wherever  p393 they go, they lack neither food for themselves nor fodder for their cattle, because of the moist soil and the numerous courses of rivers that flow hard by them. 20 Therefore, all those who through age or sex are unfit for war remain close by the wagons and are occupied in light tasks; but the young men grow up in the habit of riding from their earliest boyhood and regard it as contemptible to go on foot; and by various forms of training they are all skilled warriors. From the same causes the Persians​25 also, who are Scythians by origin, are highly expert in fighting.

21 Moreover, almost all the Halani are tall and handsome, their hair inclines to blond, by the ferocity of their glance they inspire dread, subdued though it is. They are light and active in the use of arms. In all respects they are somewhat like the Huns, but in their manner of life and their habits they are less savage. In their plundering and hunting expeditions they roam here and there as far as the Maeotic Sea and the Cimmerian Bosporus, and also to Armenia and Media. 22 Just as quiet and peaceful men find pleasure in rest, so the Halani delight in danger and warfare. There the man is judged happy who has sacrificed his life in battle, while those who grow old and depart from the world by a natural death they assail with bitter reproaches, as degenerate and cowardly; and there is nothing in which they take more pride than in killing any man whatever: as glorious spoils of the slain they tear off their heads, then strip off their skins​26 and hang them upon their war-horses as trappings. 23 No temple or sacred  p395 place is to be seen in their country, not even a hut thatched with straw can be discerned anywhere, but after the manner of barbarians a naked sword is fixed in the ground and they reverently worship it as their god of war, the presiding deity of those lands over which they range.​27 24 They have a remarkable way of divining the future; for they gather very straight twigs of osier and sort them out at an appointed time with certain secret incantations, and thus clearly learn what impends.​28 25 They do not know the meaning of slavery, since all are born of noble blood, and moreover they choose as chiefs​29 those men who are conspicuous for long experience as warriors. But let us return to what remains of our chosen subject.

3 1 The Huns compel the Halani on the Tanaïs to join them, either by force of arms or by treaties; they invade the Goths, and drive them from their homes.

1 The Huns, then, having overrun the territories of those Halani (bordering on the Greuthungi) to whom usage has given the surname Tanaïtes, killed and plundered many of them, and joined the survivors to themselves in a treaty of alliance; then in company with these they made the more boldly a sudden inroad into the extensive and rich cantons of Ermenrichus,30  p397 a most warlike monarch, dreaded by the neighbouring nations because of his many and varied deeds of valour. 2 He was struck with consternation at the violence of this sudden storm; for a long time he did his best to maintain a firm and continued stand, but since rumour gave wide currency to​31 and exaggerated the horror of the impending dangers, he put an end to his fear of these great perils by a voluntary death. 3 After his demise Vithimiris was made king and resisted the Halani for a time, relying on other Huns, whom he had paid to take his side. But after many defeats which he sustained, he was overcome by force of arms and died in battle. In the name of his little son, Viderichus, the management of affairs was undertaken by Alatheus and Saphrax, experienced generals known for their courage; but since the stress of circumstances compelled them to abandon confidence in resistance, they cautiously retreated until they came to the river Danastius,​32 which flows through the wide extent of plain between the Hister and the Borysthenes.​33 4 On learning of these unexpected events, Athanarichus, the chief of the Theruingi (against whom, as has been told before,​34 because of aid which he had sent to Procopius, Valens had recently taken the field) attempted to stand his ground, and if he too should be attacked like the rest, was ready to put forth all his strength. 5 Accordingly, he established his camp near the banks of the Danastius, conveniently at some distance from the stockade of the Greuthungi, and sent Munderichus, afterwards in charge of the frontier throughout Arabia, with Lagarimanus and some other men of high rank, to a distance of twenty miles in advance, to observe  p399 the advance of the enemy, while he himself in the meantime, disturbed by no one, was preparing his army for battle. 6 But the result was far other than he expected. For the Huns, who are shrewd in arriving at conclusions, suspecting that there was some large force farther off, disregarded the troops which they had seen, and who had disposed themselves to rest, as it there was nothing to disturb them; then, when the moon broke into the darkness of night, they chose what seemed to be the best course, crossed the river by a ford, and fearing lest some informer should get ahead of them and frighten off the enemy who were at a distance, they made a swift attack on Athanaricus himself. 7 As he was stunned by their first onset, they forced him to take speedy refuge in the steep mountains, after losing a few of their own men. Athanaricus, troubled​35 by this unexpected attack and still more through fear of what might come, had walls built high, skirting the lands of the Taifali from the banks of the river Gerasus​36 as far as the Danube, thinking that by this hastily but diligently constructed barrier​37 his security and safety would be assured. 8 But while this well-planned work was being pushed on, the Huns swiftly fell upon him, and would have crushed him at once on their arrival had they not been so loaded down with booty that they gave up the attempt.

Yet when the report spread widely among the other Gothic peoples, that a race of men hitherto unknown had now arisen from a hidden nook of the earth, like a tempest of snows from the high mountains, and was seizing or destroying everything in its way, the greater part of the people, who,  p401 worn out by lack of the necessities of life, had deserted Athanaricus, looked for a home removed from all knowledge of the savages; and after long deliberation what abode to choose they thought that Thrace offered them a convenient refuge, for two reasons: both because it has a very fertile soil, and because it is separated by the mighty flood of the Hister from the fields that were already exposed to the thunderbolts of a foreign war;​38 and the rest of the nation as if with one mind agreed to this plan.

4 1 The greater part of the so‑called Theruingian Goths, driven from their lands, are transported to Thrace by the Romans with Valens' consent, after promising obedience and help in war. The Greuthungi also, another division of the Goths, secretly cross the Hister on rafts.

1 Therefore, under the lead of Alavivus, they took possession of the banks of the Danube, and sending envoys to Valens, with humble entreaty begged to be received, promising that they would not only lead a peaceful life but would also furnish auxiliaries, if circumstances required. 2 While this was happening in foreign parts, terrifying rumours spread abroad that the peoples of the north were stirring up new and uncommonly great commotions: that throughout the entire region which extends from the Marcomanni and the Quadi to the Pontus, a savage horde of unknown peoples, driven from their abodes by sudden violence, were roving about the river Hister in scattered  p403 bands with their families. 3 In the very beginning this news was viewed with contempt by our people, because wars in those districts were not ordinarily heard of by those living at a distance until they were ended or at least quieted for a time. 4 But when the belief in what had taken place gained strength, and was confirmed by the coming of the foreign envoys, who begged with prayers and protestations that an exiled race might be received on our side of the river, the affair caused more joy than fear; and experienced flatterers immoderately praised the good fortune of the prince, which unexpectedly brought him so many young recruits from the ends of the earth, that by the union of his own and foreign forces he would have an invincible army; also that instead of the levy of soldiers which was contributed annually by each province, there would accrue to the treasuries​39 a vast amount of gold. 5 In this expectation various officials were sent with vehicles to transport the savage horde, and diligent care was taken that no future destroyer of the Roman state should be left behind, even if he were smitten by a fatal disease. Accordingly, having by the emperor's permission obtained the privilege of crossing the Danube and settling in parts of Thrace, they were ferried over for some nights and days embarked by companies in boats, on rafts, and in hollowed tree-trunks;​40 and because the river is by far the most dangerous of all and was then swollen by frequent rains, some who, because of the great crowd, struggled against the force of the waves and tried to swim were drowned; and they were a good many.

 p405  6 With such stormy eagerness on the part of insistent men was the ruin of the Roman world brought in. This at any rate is neither obscure nor uncertain, that the ill-omened officials who ferried the barbarian hordes often tried to reckon their number, but gave up their vain attempt; as the most distinguished of poets says:

Who wishes to know this would wish to know

How many grains of sand on Libyan plain

By Zephyrus are swept.​41

7 Well then, let the old tales revive of bringing the Medic hordes to Greece; for while they describe the bridging of the Hellespont, the quest of a sea at the foot of Mount Athos by a kind of mechanical severing,​42 and the numbering of the armies by squadrons at Doriscus,​43 later times have unanimously regarded all this as fabulous reading. 8 For after the countless swarms of nations were poured through the provinces, spreading over a great extent of plain and filling all regions and every mountain height, by this new evidence the trustworthiness also of old stories was confirmed. First Fritigern and Alavivus were received, and the emperor gave orders that they should be given food for their present needs and fields to cultivate.

9 During this time, when the barriers of our frontier were unlocked and the realm of savagery  p407 was spreading far and wide columns of armed​44 men like glowing ashes from Aetna, when our difficulties and imminent dangers called for military reformers who were most distinguished for the fame of their exploits: then it was, as if at the choice of some adverse deity, that men were gathered together and given command of armies who bore stained reputations. At their head were two rivals in recklessness: one was Lupicinus, commanding general in Thrace, the other Maximus, a pernicious leader. 10 Their treacherous greed was the source of all our evils. I say nothing of other crimes which these two men, or at least others with their permission, with the worst of motives committed against the foreign new-comers, who were as yet blameless; but one melancholy and unheard-of act shall be mentioned, of which, even if they were their own judges​45 of their own case, they could not be acquitted by any excuse. 11 When the barbarians after their crossing were harassed by lack of food, those most hateful generals devised a disgraceful traffic; they exchanged every dog that their insatiability could gather from far and wide for one slave each, and among these were carried off also sons of the chieftains.

12 During these days also Vithericus,​46 king of the Greuthungi, accompanied by Alatheus and Saphrax, by whose will he was ruled, and also by Farnobius, coming near to the banks of the Danube, hastily sent envoys and besought the emperor that  p409 he might be received with like kindness. 13 When these envoys were rejected, as the interests of the state seemed to demand, and were in doubt what course to take, Athanarichus, fearing a like fate, departed, remembering that he had some time before treated Valens with contempt when they were making a treaty of friendship, declaring that he was prevented by conscientious scruples from ever setting foot on Roman soil; and by this excuse he had forced the emperor to conclude peace in the middle of the river.​47 Fearing that the grudge caused by this still endured, Athanaricus withdrew with all his followers to Caucalanda, a place inaccessible because of high mountains and deep forests, from which he first drove out the Sarmatians.

5 1 The Theruingi, hard pressed by famine and want, and shamefully treated, under the lead of Alavivus and Fritigern revolt from Valens, and rout Lupicinus and his army.

1 But now the Theruingi, who had long since been permitted to cross, were still roaming about near the banks of the river, detained by a twofold obstacle, both because, through the ruinous negligence​48 of the generals, they were not supplied with the necessaries of life, and also because they were prudently held back by an abominable kind of traffic.​49 2 When this became clear to them, they muttered that they were being forced to disloyalty as a remedy for the evils that threatened them, and Lupicinus, fearing that they might soon revolt, sent soldiers and compelled them to move out​50 more quickly.

 p411  3 The Greuthungi took advantage of this favourable opportunity, and when they saw that our soldiers were busy elsewhere, and that the boats that usually went up and down the river and prevented them from crossing were inactive, they passed over the stream in badly made craft and pitched their camp at a long distance from Fritigern.

4 But he with his natural cleverness in foresight protecting himself against anything that might happen, in order to obey the emperor's commands and at the same time join with the powerful Gothic kings, advanced slowly and in leisurely marches arrived late at Marcianopolis. There another, and more atrocious, thing was done, which kindled the frightful torches that were to burn for the destruction of the state. 5 Having invited Alavivus and Fritigern to a dinner-party, Lupicinus posted soldiers against the main body of the barbarians and kept them at a distance from the walls of the town; and when they asked with continual entreaties that they might, as friendly people submissive to our rule, be allowed to enter and obtain what they needed for food, great wrangling arose between the inhabitants and those who were shut out, which finally reached a point where fighting was inevitable. Whereupon the barbarians, becoming wildly excited when they perceived that some of their kindred were being carried off by force, killed and despoiled a great troop of soldiers. 6 When the aforesaid Lupicinus learned by a secret message that this had happened, while he had long been reclining at the prodigal​51 table amid noisy entertainments and was drowsy and half drunk, guessing what the outcome would be, he  p413 put to death all the attendants of the two leaders, who as a guard of honour and to ensure their safety, were waiting for them before the general's quarters. 7 When the people who were besieging the walls heard this news, in their resentment they gradually increased their number to avenge their kings, who, as they thought, had been detained by force; and they uttered many savage threats. And since Fritigern was quickwitted and feared that he might be held with the rest as a hostage, he cried out that they would have to fight with heavy loss of life, unless he himself were allowed to go out with his companions to quiet the people, who, believing that their leaders had been slain under pretence of friendly entertainment, had blazed out into turbulence. And when this request was granted,​52 they all departed. They were received with applause and rejoi­cing, and mounting horses hastened away, to set in motion the various incitements that lead to wars. 8 When report, that spiteful nurse of rumours, spread abroad what had happened, the whole nation of the Theruingi was fired with ardour for battle, and amid many fearful scenes, portentous of extreme dangers, after the standards had been raised according to their custom and the doleful sound of the trumpets had been heard, predatory bands were already rushing about, pillaging and burning the country-houses and making whatever places they could find a confusion of awful devastation.

9 Against them Lupicinus mustered all his soldiers in tumultuous speed, and advancing with more haste than discretion, halted nine miles from the city, ready to join battle. On seeing this the  p415 barbarians rushed recklessly​53 on crowds of our men, dashed their shieldsº upon opponents' bodies,​54 and with lance and sword ran through those who opposed them. And in the press of mad and bloody strife the tribunes and the greater part of the army perished, with the loss of their standards, except for their ill-omened leader, who, intent only upon saving himself by flight while the others were fighting, made for the town in hot haste. After this the enemy put on the Romans' arms and ranged about, devastating sundry places without opposition.

10 And since after many events the narrative has reached this point, I earnestly entreat my readers (if I ever have any) not to demand of me a strictly accurate account of what happened or the exact number of the slain, which there was no way of finding out. For it will be enough to describe simply the main points of events, without concealing the truth through any false statement, since faithful honesty is ever a requisite in giving an historical account. 11 Those who are unacquainted with ancient records say that the state was never before overspread by such a dark cloud of misfortune, but they are deceived by the horror of the recent ills which have overwhelmed them. For if they study earlier times or those which have recently passed, these will show that such dire disturbances have often happened. 1255 The Teutones with the Cimbri, coming from unknown parts  p417 of the ocean, suddenly overflowed Italy, but after inflicting enormous disasters on our country, in the final battles they were overcome by our great generals, and being destroyed root and branch, they learned from the uttermost perils what warlike might combined with prudent discipline can accomplish. 13 Again, when Marcus was ruling the empire, the united madness of different tribes, after endless alarms of war, after the woes of captured and plundered cities, after the destruction of forces shaken by the death of their able leader,​56 would have left only a small part of them unscathed.​57 14 But after calamitous losses the state was presently restored to its former condition, because the temperance of old times was not yet infected by the effeminacy of a more licentious mode of life, and did not crave extravagant feasts or shameful gains; but high and low alike with united ardour and in agreement hastened to a noble death for their country, as if to some quiet and peaceful haven.

15 Swarms of the Scythian peoples with two thousand ships​58 broke through the Bosporus and the shores of the Propontis, and after crossing inflicted bitter losses by land and sea; but they lost the greater part of their number and were obliged to retreat. 16 Emperor Decius and Decius his son  p419 fell in battle with the barbarians.​59 The cities of Pamphylia were beleaguered,​60 very many islands laid waste,​61 all Macedonia was given to the flames; for a long time the horde laid siege to Thessalonica​62 and to Cyzicus as well. Anchialos was taken, and at the same time Nicopolis, which the emperor Trajan founded to commemorate his victory over the Dacians. 17 After many disasters had been suffered and many cruel calamities had been inflicted, Philippopolis was destroyed​63 and a hundred thousand people (unless the histories are false) were butchered within her walls. Foreign foes roamed at will over Epirus, Thessaly and the whole of Greece; but after the illustrious general Claudius became emperor and after he had been snatched from us by a noble death,​64 they were driven out by Aurelian,​65 a vigorous man and a severe avenger of their sins, and remained quiet for long ages, except that afterwards single bands of robbers made raids into the neighbouring regions, but very rarely and to their own destruction. But let me go on with the narrative from which I digressed.

6 1 Why the Gothic chieftains, Sueridus and Colias, who had previously been received with their people, rebelled, and after slaying the inhabitants of Hadrianopolis, joined with Fritigern and turned to plundering Thrace.

1 When this series of events was noised abroad by one message coming after another, Sueridus and Colias, Gothic chieftains, who had long since been received  p421 with their peoples and assigned to keep winter quarters​66 at Hadrianopolis, considering their own welfare the most important thing of all, looked with indifference on all that took place. 2 But when on a sudden a letter came from the emperor, in which they were ordered to cross to Hellespontus,​67 without any arrogance they asked for money for the journey, food, and a postponement of two days. At this the chief magistrate of the city​68 was vexed — for he was incensed at them besides, because of the pillaging of his own property in his suburban villa; so he brought out and armed for their destruction all the lowest of the populace, along with the Armourers, of whom there is a large force there,​69 and ordering the horns to sound the alarm, threatened them all with the utmost punishment, if they did not leave at once, as had been ordered. 3 The Goths, shocked by this unexpected ill-treatment, and alarmed by the attack of the citizens, rather excited than well-considered, remained immovable; but when they were finally driven desperate by curses and abuse, and a few missiles were hurled at them, they broke out into open rebellion. They slew very many citizens, whom their too impudent attack had entrapped, and put to flight the rest, wounding them with various kinds of weapons. Then, plundering the dead bodies and arming themselves in the Roman equipment, they joined forces with Fritigern, whom they saw to be near at hand, as compliant allies, and beleaguered the city, visiting it with all the horrors of a siege. Remaining in this difficult situation for some time, they made scattered and promiscuous attacks; the conspicuous audacity of some perished  p423 unavenged, and many lost their lives from arrows or from stones whirled from slings. 4 Then Fritigern, seeing that his men, being inexperienced in conducting a siege, were carrying on the struggle with such loss of life, left a sufficient force there and persuaded the rest to go away without finishing the task; he reminded them that he kept peace with walls and advised them to attack and devastate the rich and fruitful parts of the country, which were still without protectors and could be pillaged without any danger. 5 They approved the counsel of the king, who they knew would be an active participator in the plan, and advancing cautiously they spread over every quarter of Thrace, while their prisoners or those who surrendered to them pointed out the rich villages, especially those in which it was said that abundant supplies of food were to be found. Besides their native self-confidence, they were encouraged especially by this help, that day by day great numbers of their countrymen flocked to them, including those who had been sold some time before by the traders, as well as many other persons, whom those who were half-dead with hunger when they first crossed into the country had bartered for a drink of bad wine or bits of the poorest of bread. 6 Besides these there were not a few who were expert in following out veins of gold,​70 and who could no longer endure the heavy burden of taxes; these were welcomed with the glad consent of all, and rendered great service to the same, as they wandered through strange places, by pointing out hidden stores of grain, and the secret refuges and hiding-places of the inhabitants. 7 With such guides nothing that was not  p425 inaccessible and out of the way remained untouched. For without distinction of age or sex all places were ablaze with slaughter and great fires, sucklings were torn from the very breasts of their mothers and slain, matrons and widows whose husbands had been killed before their eyes were carried off, boys of tender or adult age were dragged away over the dead bodies of their parents. 8 Finally many aged men, crying that they had lived long enough after losing their possessions and their beautiful women, were led into exile with their arms pinioned behind their backs, and weeping over the glowing ashes of their ancestral homes.

7 1 Profuturus, Trajanus, and Richomeres fight a drawn battle with the Goths.

1 This news, received from Thrace with great sorrow, distracted the emperor Valens with manifold cares. He quickly sent Victor, commander of the cavalry, to Persia, that he might, in view of great impending dangers, arrange about the status of Armenia;​71 he himself, planning to leave Antioch at once and go to Constantinople in the meantime, sent on in advance Profuturus and Trajanus, both generals who had high aspirations, but were unfit for war. 2 When these men had come to places where it was more fitting in small divisions to diminish the enemy's numbers by stealthy and guerilla warfare, they turned to the ruinous and untimely plan of opposing to the barbarians, who were still breathing out madness, the legions brought from Armenia; these had indeed often given a good  p427 account of themselves in warfare, but were no match for the countless horde that had taken possession of the mountain heights as well as the plains. 3 These troops, who had not yet learned the power of unbridled madness combined with desperation, drove the enemy beyond the precipitous crags of Mount Haemus and forced them into the steep defiles, in order that shut up in deserted and solitary places, and finding nowhere an outlet, they might be worn out by long continued hunger; they themselves in the meantime would await the coming of the general Frigeridus, who was on his way with the Pannonian and the transalpine auxiliaries, since Gratian, at Valens' request, had directed him to take the field and bear aid to those who were harassed to the point of utter destruction. 4 After him Richomeres,​72 then commander of the household troops, who had been moved from Gaul, also at the order of Gratian, hastened to Thrace at the head of some so‑called cohorts,​73 of which the greater part had deserted,​74 induced (as some maintained) by Merobaudes, who feared that if Gaul should be deprived of its defences, it would be laid waste at will by raids from across the Rhine. 5 But since Frigeridus was disabled by an attack of gout, or at any rate, as his envious detractors alleged, feigned illness in order to avoid taking part in the hot contests, Richomeres by common consent took command of the whole force, and was joined by Profuturus and Trajanus, who were encamped near  p429 the town of Salices.​75 Not far from there a countless mass of the barbarians had arranged their numerous wagons in the form of a circle, and as if enclosed in a space between city-walls, were enjoying their rich booty at their ease.

6 The Roman leaders, therefore, led by hopes for a more favourable turn of affairs, and intending to dare some glorious deed when chance brought the opportunity, were keenly watching for any movement that the Goths might attempt; making ready of course for this, that in case the enemy moved their camp to any other place, as they very frequently did, they might attack the hindermost in the rear, kill many of them with their spikes, and appropriate a great part of their spoils. 7 When the Goths perceived this, or were informed by the reports of deserters, through whom everything was made known to them, they remained for a long time in the same position. But overwhelmed with fear of the opposing army, and of the additional soldiers that they now expected to flock to it, by means of the message used by their race​76 they summoned the predatory bands scattered over various places near by; these at once, in obedience to the orders of their chiefs, like fire-darts,​77 returned with winged speed to their wagon city (as they themselves call it)​78 and gave their countrymen an incentive to greater deeds of daring. 8 After this there was no rest for either side except for a short armistice. For upon the return of those whom necessity had called forth, the whole multitude,  p431 even then crowded within the ring of their defences, with frightful outcries and roused by their furious mood were all in haste with headlong eagerness to try to extremest dangers; and the chiefs of the nation who were present were in accord with them. But since these things took place when it was nearly sundown, and the coming of night kept them quiet against their wills and in sorrow, they took food at leisure, but remained sleepless. 9 For their part the Romans, on learning this, also spent the night without sleep, because they feared the enemy and their insane leaders as they might fear madly raging beasts; and although the outcome was doubtful, since they were considerably fewer in number, yet because of the greater justice of their cause they looked for success with unterrified minds.

10 Therefore the light of day had hardly appeared, when the trumpets on both sides sounded the call to take up arms, and the barbarians, after taking oath together according to their custom, tried to reach the heights, in order that from there by a swift rush down the slope like so many rollers they might overwhelm all before them. On seeing this, our soldiers hastened each to his own company, where they stood fast without moving about or leaving the ranks and rushing forward. 11 So, when both armies after advancing cautiously remained unmoved, the opposing warriors stared at each other with savage and sidelong glances. The Romans in unison sounded their war-cry, as usual rising from a low to a louder tone, of which the national name is barritus,​79 and thus roused themselves to mighty strength. But the barbarians sounded the glories of their  p433 forefathers with wild shouts, and amid this discordant clamour of different languages skirmishes were first tried. 12 And now, after attacking each other from a distance with javelins and other missiles, they came together menacingly for a hand-to‑hand conflict; the shields were fixed side to side in the form of a tortoise-shed, and they stood foot to foot. The barbarians, who are always alert and nimble, threw at our men huge clubs, hardened in the fire,​80 and ran their swords through the breasts of those who showed most resistance; thus they broke through the left wing. When this gave way, a strong troop of reserves bravely hastened to their aid from near at hand, and rallied them when death already sat upon their necks. 13 Then the battle grew hot and the slaughter was great; all the more active rushed into the thick of the fray and met their death from the arrows that flew like hail, or from the swords. Those who fled were pursued on this side and on that by troops of cavalry, who with mighty strength slashed at their heads and backs; and likewise on both sides by foot soldiers, hamstringing those who were in the toils of fear​81 and had fallen. 14 And while the whole battlefield was covered with corpses, some were lying among them who were mortally wounded, and cherished a vain hope of life; some were smitten with a bullet from a sling or pierced with arrows tipped with iron; the heads of others were split through mid forehead and crown with swords and hung down on both shoulders, a most horrible sight. 15 But not yet wearied by the obstinate struggle, both sides continued to assail each other without a decision, and felt no  p435 diminution at all of their native hardihood, so long as eager courage kept up their strength. But at last day gave way to evening and ended the murderous contests, and withdrawing in disorder wherever each one could, all the survivors returned in sorrow to their tents. 16 Finally, some of the dead, who were men of distinction, were buried in such manner as the present circumstances allowed; the bodies of the rest of the slain were devoured by the foul birds that are wont at such a time to feed upon corpses, as is shown by the plains even now white with bones.​82 However, while it is a fact that the Romans, who, far fewer in number, struggled with that vast multitude, suffered great losses, yet lamentable was the distress with which they afflicted the barbarian horde.

8 1 The Goths, after being beleaguered in the defiles of Mount Haemus and then allowed by the Romans to escape, lay waste Thrace with robbery, murder, rape, and fire, and slay Barzimeres tribune of the body-guard.

1 When these disasters of battle were thus mournfully ended, our men sought retreat in the neighbouring city of Marcianopolis. The Goths, of their own accord, crowded within the winding line of wagons, did not venture to come out or show themselves for seven days, and our soldiers, having thus found an opportunity, shut in the other huge hordes of barbarians within the narrow passes of the Haemus range by building high barriers. They doubtless hoped that the dangerous mass of enemies, crowded together between the Hister and the waste places, and finding  p437 no way out, would perish from lack of food; for all the necessities of life had been taken to the strong cities, none of which the enemy even then attempted to besiege because of their complete ignorance of these and other operations of the kind. 2 After this Richomeres returned to Gaul, in order to bring aid from there because there was expectation of still greater tumult of war. All this took place in the consul­ships of Gratian and Merobaudes, the former for the fourth time, towards the coming of autumn.

3 Meanwhile Valens, on hearing of the sad results of the war and the pillage, sent Saturninus, who was temporarily given command of the cavalry, to render aid to Trajanus and Profuturus. 4 And it chanced at that same time, since everything that could serve as food throughout the lands of Scythia and Moesia had been used up, that the barbarians, driven alike by ferocity and hunger, strove with all their might to break out. And when after many attempts they were overwhelmed by the vigour of our men, who strongly opposed them amid the rugged heights, compelled by dire necessity they gained an alliance with some of the Huns and Halani by holding out the hope of immense booty.

5 As soon as Saturninus heard of this — for he had already arrived and was arranging a line of outposts and field pickets​83 — he gradually gathered his forces together and prepared to retreat; his plan was not a foolish one — namely that suddenly the mass of barbarians, like a river that has burst its barriers and rushes forth with an awful drive of waters, might not with slight difficulty whirl to destruction one and all while keenly watching the points of  p439 danger. 6 But scarcely were the passes open and our men conveniently gone, when the imprisoned barbarians, in disorder, wherever each man found no opposition, pressed on to set all in confusion; and unhindered they spread devastation over all the wide plains of Thrace, beginning at the very regions past which the Hister flows, and filling the whole country, as far as Rhodope​84 and the strait which separates two great seas,​85 with a most foul confusion of robbery, murder, bloodshed, fires, and shameful violation of the bodies of freemen. 7 Then there were to be seen and to lament acts most frightful to see and to describe: women driven along by cracking whips, and stupefied with fear, still heavy with their unborn children, which before coming into the world endured many horrors; little children too​86 clinging to their mothers. Then could be heard the laments of high-born boys and maidens, whose hands were fettered in cruel captivity. 8 Behind these were led last of all grown-up girls and chaste wives, weeping and with downcast faces, longing even by a death of torment to forestall the imminent violation of their modesty. Among these was a freeborn man, not long ago rich and independent, dragged along like some wild beast and railing at thee, Fortune, as merciless and blind, since thou hadst in a brief moment deprived him of his possessions, and of the sweet society of his dear ones; had driven him from his home, which he saw fallen to ashes and ruins, and sacrificed him to a bloody victor, either to be torn from limb to limb or amid blows and tortures to serve as a slave.

 p441  9 The barbarians, however, like savage beasts that had broken their cages, poured raging over the wide extent of Thrace and made for a town called Dibaltum,​87 where they found Barzimeres, tribune of the targeteers, a leader experienced in the dust of warfare, with his own men, the Cornuti,​88 and other companies of infantry, and fell upon him just as he was pitching his camp. 10 He at once, as the exigency of imminent destruction compelled him, ordered the trumpet to sound the attack, and having protected his flanks, charged out at the head of his brave soldiers, who were ready and armed for battle; and by his valiant resistance he would have withdrawn on equal terms, had not the charge of a large force of cavalry surrounded him when he was breathless from fatigue. And so he fell, after having slain not a few of the barbarians, whose losses were concealed by their great numbers.

9 1 Frigeridus, Gratian's general, slays the chieftain Farnobius with many of the Goths and the Taifali; to the rest, their lives and lands about the Po were granted.

1 After accomplishing this as related, the Goths, uncertain what to try next, sought for Frigeridus, with the intention of extirpating him, when they found him, as a powerful obstacle in their way; and after taking better food than usual and sleeping for a short time, they followed his trail like wild beasts; for they had learned that at Gratian's advice he had returned to Thrace, and, having constructed  p443 a fortification near Beroea,​89 was watching the uncertain outcome of events. 2 And they indeed in rapid march hastened to the execution of their design. But he, knowing how both to command his soldiers and to preserve them, either suspected their purpose or had plain information of it from the report of the scouts that he had sent out; so he returned over lofty mountains and through dense forests to Illyricum, much uplifted in spirit by the passing great opportunity which an unhoped-for chance put in his way. 3 For while he was returning and, massed​90 into wedge-formations, slowly advancing, he came upon the Gothic chieftain Farnobius, who was freely ranging about with his predatory bands and leading the Taifali, whom he had lately received as allies. Since our people (if it is proper to say so) through fear of these unknown peoples had dispersed, they crossed the river, intending to pillage the unprotected country. 4 When their bands suddenly came in sight, our careful leader prepared for a hand-to‑hand conflict and opened an attack upon these marauders of both nations, which even then were threatening cruel carnage; he killed a large number and he would have slaughtered them all to the last man, leaving not even anyone to report the disaster, had he not, after the fall of Farnobius, before this a dreaded inciter of turmoil, and many others with him, spared the survivors in response to their earnest entreaties. But though he spared their  p445 lives, he banished them to the neighbourhood of Mutina, Regium, and Parma, towns in Italy, where they were to work in the fields. 5 We have learned that these Taifali were a shameful folk, so sunken in a life of shame and obscenity, that in their country the boys are coupled with the men in a union of unmentionable lust, to consume the flower of their youth in the polluted intercourse of those paramours. We may add that, if any grown person alone catches a boar or kills a huge bear, he is purified thereby from the shame of unchastity.

10 1 The Lentiensian Alamanni are defeated in battle by the generals of Gratianus Augustus, and their king Priarius also is slain; after their surrender they give Gratian recruits and are allowed to return to their homes.

1 This is what, throughout Thrace, the destructive storms of affairs swept together as autumn was verging upon winter. And this madness of the times, as if the Furies were stirring up the whole world, spread widely and made its way also to distant regions. 2 And now the Lentienses, an Alamannic race bordering on Raetia, by treacherous raids broke the treaty which had long since been concluded with them​91 and made an attempt upon our frontier; the ruinous beginning of this disaster was the following occurrence. 3 One of their nation, who was serving among the emperor's armour-bearers, returned to his home because of pressing business, and being a loose talker, when many asked him what was going  p447 on in the palace, he told them that Gratian, summoned by his uncle Valens, would presently march towards the Orient, in order that with doubled forces he might repel the peoples dwelling on the border, who had conspired to destroy the Roman state. 4 The Lentienses greedily seized upon this information, and, looking on these acts from the point of view of neighbours of the frontier, and being swift and hasty in action, they formed themselves into predatory bands, and in the month of February tried to cross the Rhine, which was sufficiently frozen over to be passable. But the Celts, who were encamped near by with the Petulantes,​92 with mighty strength turned them back with great slaughter, yet not without loss to themselves. 5 But although the Germans were forced to retire, being aware that the greater part of the army had gone ahead to Illyricum, where the emperor was soon expected to appear, they were fired with hotter rage; and planning still greater enterprises, they gathered into one place the inhabitants of all the villages, and with forty thousand armed men, or seventy thousand, as some boasted in order to exaggerate the emperor's glory, full of pride and confidence broke into our territory.

6 Gratian learned of this with great alarm, recalled the cohorts which he had sent on into Pannonia, brought together the others, which wise policy had kept in Gaul, and gave the command to Nannienus,93  p449 a leader of valour and discretion; but he joined with him a colleague of equal rank Mallobaudes, commander of the household troops and king of the Franks, a brave man, always ready for fighting. 7 Accordingly, while Nannienus​94 weighed the changeable events of fortune and hence believed that they ought to act deliberately, Mallobaudes, carried away (as usual) by his strong eagerness for battle and impatient of postponement, was tormented with longing to go against the foe. 8 Therefore, when from the opposite side the terrifying battle-cry was heard, the signal was given by the horn-blowers and the battle began at Argentaria;​95 and many were struck down on both sides by wounds from flying arrows and javelins. 9 But in the very heat of the fight, our soldiers, seeing countless numbers of the enemy, and avoiding combat in the open, dispersed as best they could over the narrow pastures​96 planted with trees, and presently stood their ground with greater confidence; and gleaming with like​97 resplendence and brilliance of arms when seen from afar, they struck the barbarians with fear that the emperor was coming. 10 So the enemy turned in flight, sometimes however resisting, that they might not lose their last chance of safety; but they were so thoroughly defeated that from the above mentioned number it was estimated that not more than five thousand escaped under cover of the thick woods, and among other bold and brave men King Priarius also, the inciter of the deadly battles, was killed.

11 Gratian, filled with confidence at this happy success, and being already on his way to the regions of  p451 the east, turned his line of march to the left, secretly crossed the Rhine, and spurred on the more by sanguine hope, determined, if fortune favoured his attempt, utterly to destroy a race faithless and greedy for trouble. 12 When one urgent message after another brought this news to the Lentienses, who were almost annihilated by the disasters to their people and were stunned by the emperor's sudden arrival, they were in doubt what plan to adopt; and since they could find no respite, however short, from fighting, nor from any action or effort, in swift course they made for the hills, which were beset by pathless crags. There, taking their place round about on the sheer rocks, they tried to defend their possessions and their dear wives and children, whom they had brought with them, with all the strength that they possessed. 13 After consideration of the difficult situation, five hundred soldiers who were approved by experience as prudent in battle were selected from each legion, to be opposed to obstacles like those of city walls. Their confident spirit was all the greater because the emperor was seen actively engaged in the foremost ranks, and they strove to scale the mountains, expecting that if they should set foot on the higher places, they would at once and without a struggle carry them off, as if they were booty taken in the chase. But the battle, which began towards midday, was even overtaken by the darkness of night. 14 Both sides indeed suffered severe losses; our men slew many, but not a few of their own number fell, and at the same time the armour of the imperial guard, gleaming with gold  p453 and bright colours, was shattered by the heavy missiles​98 thickly cast upon it.

15 Then, after long conference with the men of highest rank, Gratian thought it dangerous and fruitless to struggle with untimely obstinacy against rugged jutting heights; opinions varied greatly, as was natural in such circumstances, but it was finally decided that, with the soldiers at rest, the barbarians should be shut in on all sides and exhausted by famine, since they were protected by the unevenness of the ground. 16 But when the Germans resisted with the same persistence, and, being acquainted with the country, made for other mountains, higher than those which they had occupied before, the emperor wheeled in that direction with his army, and with the same courage as before sought to find paths leading to the heights. 17 When the Lentienses perceived that he was determined with most earnest persistence to have their lives, they obtained mercy as the result of humble supplications, and surrendered; then giving their strong young manhood (as they were ordered) to be mingled with our recruits, they were allowed to go without punishment to their native lands.

18 Incredibly great energy and conspicuous rapidity were shown by Gratian, while he was hastening in another direction, when through the favour of the eternal deity he won this victory, which was at once seasonable and profitable, since it tamed the western nations. He was a young man of splendidº character, eloquent, self-restrained, war-like, and merciful, and was already on his way to rivalry with the most distinguished emperors while yet a comely down  p455 was creeping over his cheeks, had not his natural inclination for unbecoming conduct, which was given free rein by his intimates, turned him to the frivolous pursuits of the emperor Commodus, although without that prince's thirst for blood. 19 For as that emperor felt superhuman exultation because he so often killed a great number of wild animals with javelins in the presence of the people, and slaughtered with various kinds of weapons in the arena of the amphitheatre a hundred lions that were let in together, without needing to inflict a second wound,​99 just so Gratian also, while he pierced sharptoothed beasts with many an arrow-shot within the enclosures which are called vivaria,​100 neglected as of little moment many serious occurrences; and that too at a time when, even if Marcus Antoninus had been emperor, he could not without like-minded colleagues and most prudent counsel​101 have mitigated the grievous disasters to our country.

20 Gratian, then, after making the arrangements which affairs and policy throughout Gaul demanded according to the trend of the times, and punishing the traitorous targeteer who had revealed to the barbarians that the emperor was hurrying to Illyricum, hastened next to go by long marches past the castle called Felix Arbor​102 and past Lauriacum,​103 to bring aid to the hard-pressed part of the country.

21 At that same time Frigeridus, who was carefully making many useful plans for the general security, and was hastening to fortify the pass of Succi,​104 in order that the roving light-armed bands  p457 of the enemy might not, like torrents swollen by melting snow, roam at large over the northern provinces, was given a successor in the person of a general called Maurus, notoriously venal under a pretence of boldness, and changeable and unreliable in all his conduct. He it was who (as I have told in my narrative of previous events)​105 when Caesar Julian was in doubt about the crown to be put upon his head, with haughty cleverness took off his neck-chain and boldly offered it to him for the purpose, being at the time one of Julian's bodyguard. 22 Thus even in the dizzy whirl of disasters a careful and active leader​106 was removed, whereas he should have been recalled to active service at the demand of such important affairs, even if he had long since retired to a peaceful life.

11 Sebastianus at Beroea surprises and cuts to pieces the Goths laden with booty; a few were saved by flight. Gratianus Augustus hastens to his uncle Valens, to bring him aid against the Goths.

1 It chanced that at that time Valens was at last called forth from Antioch, and after making the long journey arrived at Constantinople, where his stay was for only a very few days,​107 and he was disturbed by a slight outbreak of the populace. He gave the command of the infantry, which Trajanus had formerly held, to Sebastianus, a leader of recognized vigilance, who had shortly before been sent from Italy at his own request.​108 He himself went  p459 to the imperial villa Melanthias​109 and tried to win the favour of the soldiers by pay, supplies, and many fighting words. 2 Having commanded a march from there by written order,​110 he came to the military post called Nice,​111 where he learned from the report of scouts that the barbarians, laden with rich spoils, had returned from the lands at the foot of Rhodope to the neighbourhood of Hadrianopolis; they, on hearing that the emperor was on the march with a large force, were hastening to join their countrymen, who were staying in a permanent garrison near Beroea and Nicopolis. At once, as timeliness of the offered opportunity demanded, Sebastianus had been directed to choose three hundred soldiers from each legion and hasten to the spot, to do, as he promised, something advantageous to the state. 3 He advanced by rapid marches until he was seen near Hadrianopolis, when the gates were strongly barred, and he was not allowed to approach them; for the besieged feared that he came as one who had been captured by the enemy, and won over to their side, and some harm might be caused to the city; such as had happened through the general Acacius, when the troops of Magnentius had captured him by treachery, and brought about the opening of the fastnesses of the Julian Alps. 4 However, when Sebastianus was recognized, although late, and allowed to enter the city, his men were refreshed with such food and rest as  p461 were available; and on the following morning he sallied forth in secret haste. Just as evening was coming on some predatory bands of Goths suddenly came in sight near the river Hebrus, whereupon Sebastianus remained hidden for a time behind mounds and thickets; and when it was dark night he advanced with light step and fell upon them in their sleep, inflicting such a defeat upon them that all the rest perished except a few, whom swiftness of foot saved from death. He brought back countless booty, which was too great to be contained in the city and the broad plain about it. 5 Fritigern was greatly alarmed by this stroke, and feared lest the general, whom he had always heard to be successful,​112 might make an unexpected attack upon his scattered and heedless bands, which were intent only upon pillage, and utterly destroy them; he therefore recalled all his men to the vicinity of the town of Cabyle and quickly left that neighbourhood, in order that his people, by living in the open plains, might not suffer from famine or from secret attacks.

6 While this was going on in Thrace, Gratian, having informed his uncle by letter with what energy he had overthrown the Alamanni, sent on ahead by land all his baggage and packs, and descending the Danube with a band of light-armed troops, came to Bononia​113 and entered Sirmium. Having delayed there for four days, he went on over the same river to the Camp of Mars,​114 although attacked by intermittent fevers. In that region the Halani unexpectedly fell upon him, and he lost a few of his followers.

 p463  12 1 Valens Augustus decides to fight with the Goths before the coming of Gratian.

1 In those same days Valens was troubled for two reasons: first, by the news that the Lentienses had been defeated; secondly, because Sebastianus wrote from time to time exaggerating his exploits. He therefore marched forth from Melanthias, being eager to do some glorious deed to equal his young nephew, whose valiant exploits consumed him with envy.​115 He had under his command a force made up of varying elements, but one neither contemptible, nor unwarlike; for he had joined with them also a large number of veterans, among whom were other officers of high rank and Trajanus, shortly before a commander-in‑chief, whom he had recalled to active service. 2 And since it was learned from careful reconnoitring that the enemy were planning with strong guards to block the roads over which the necessary supplies were being brought, he tried competently to frustrate this attempt by quickly sending an infantry troop of bowmen and a squadron of cavalry, in order to secure the advantages of the narrow passes, which were near by. 3 During the next three days, when the barbarians, advancing at a slow pace and through unfrequented places, since they feared a sally, were fifteen miles distant from the city,​116 and were making for the station of Nice,​117 through some mistake or other the emperor was assured by his skirmishers that all that part of the enemy's horde which they had seen consisted of only ten  p465 thousand men, and carried away by a kind of rash ardour, he determined to attack them at once. 4 Accordingly, advancing in square formation,​118 he came to the vicinity of a suburb of Hadrianopolis,​119 where he made a strong rampart of stakes, surrounded by a moat, and impatiently waited for Gratian; there he received Richomeres, general of the household troops, sent in advance by Gratian with a letter, in which he said that he himself also would soon be there. 5 Since the contents besought him to wait a while for the partner in his dangers, and not rashly to expose himself alone to serious perils, Valens called a council of various of his higher officers and considered what ought to be done. 6 And while some, influenced by Sebastianus, urged him to give battle at once, the man called Victor,​120 a commander of cavalry, a Sarmatian by birth, but foresighted and careful,​121 with the support of many others recommended that his imperial colleague be awaited, so that, strengthened by the addition of the Gallic army, he might the more easily crush the fiery over-confidence of the barbarians. 7 However, the fatal insistence of the emperor prevailed, supported by the flattering opinion of some of his courtiers, who urged him to make all haste in order that Gratian might not have a share in the victory which (as they represented) was already all but won.

8 While the necessary preparations for the decisive battle were going on, a Christian presbyter​122 (to use their own term), who had been sent by Fritigern as an envoy, in company with some humble  p467 folk came to the emperor's camp. He was courteously received and presented a letter from the same chieftain, openly requesting that to him and his people, whom the rapid forays of savage races had made exiles from their native lands, Thrace only should be granted as a habitation, with all its flocks and crops; and they promised lasting peace if this request were granted. 9 Besides this the aforesaid Christian, apparently a confidant and trusted friend of Fritigern, presented also​123 a private letter of the same king, who, all too skilled in craft and in various forms of deception, informed Valens, pretending that he hoped soon to be his friend and ally, that he could not tame the savagery of his people, or entice them to adopt conditions favourable to the Roman state, unless the emperor should from time to time show them near at hand his army ready for battle, and through the fear aroused by the imperial name check their destructive eagerness for war. But as to the envoys, their sincerity was doubted, and they left without accomplishing their purpose.

10 But on the dawn of that day which is numbered in the calendar as the fifth before the Ides of August​124 the army began its march with extreme haste, leaving all its baggage and packs near the walls of Hadrianopolis with a suitable guard of legions; for the treasury, and the insignia of imperial dignity besides,​125 with the prefect​126 and the emperor's council, were kept within the circuit of the walls. 11 So after hastening a long distance over rough ground, while the hot day was advancing towards noon, finally at the eighth hour​127 they saw the wagons  p469 of the enemy, which, as the report of the scouts had declared, were arranged in the form of a perfect​128 circle. And while the barbarian soldiers, according to their custom, uttered savage and dismal howls, the Roman leader so drew up their line of battle that the cavalry on the right wing were first pushed forward, while the greater part of the infantry waited in reserve. 12 But the left wing of the horsemen (which was formed with the greatest difficulty, since very many of them were still scattered along the roads) was hastening to the spot at swift pace. And while that same wing was being extended, still without interruption, the barbarians were terrified by the awful din, the hiss of whirring arrows​129 and the mena­cing clash of shields; and since a part of their forces under Alatheus and Saphrax was far away and, though sent for, had not yet returned, they sent envoys to beg for peace. 13 The emperor scorned these because of their low origin, demanding for the execution of a lasting treaty that suitable chieftains be sent; meanwhile the enemy purposely delayed, in order that during the pretended truce their cavalry might return, who, they hoped, would soon make their appearance; also that our soldiers might be exposed to the fiery summer heat and exhausted by their dry throats,​130 while the broad plains gleamed with fires, which the enemy were feeding with wood and dry fuel, for this same purpose.​131 To that evil was added another deadly one, namely, that men and beasts were tormented by severe hunger.

14 Meanwhile Fritigern, shrewd to foresee the future and fearing the uncertainty of war, on his own initiative sent one of his common soldiers as a  p471 herald, requesting that picked men of noble rank be sent to him at once as hostages and saying that he himself would fearlessly meet the threats of his soldiers and do what was necessary.​132 15 The proposal of the dreaded leader was welcome and approved, and the tribune Aequitius,​133 then marshal of the court and a relative of Valens, with the general consent was chosen to go speedily as a surety. When he objected, on the ground that he had once been captured by enemy but had escaped from Dibaltum, and therefore feared their unreasonable anger, Richomeres voluntarily offered his own services and gladly promised to go, thinking this also to be a fine act and worthy of a brave man. And soon he was on his way [bringing] proofs of his rank and birth. . . .​134 16 As he was on his way to the enemy's rampart, the archers and the targeteers, then under the command of one Bacurius of Hiberia​135 and Cassio, had rushed forward too eagerly in hot attack, and were already engaged with their adversaries; and as their charge had been untimely, so their retreat was cowardly; and thus they gave an unfavourable omen to the beginning of the battle. 17 This unseasonable proceeding not only thwarted the prompt action of Richomeres, who was not allowed to go at all, but also the Gothic cavalry, returning with Alatheus and Saphrax, combined with a band of the Halani, dashed out as a thunderbolt does near high mountains, and threw into  p473 confusion all those whom they could find in the way of their swift onslaught, and quickly slew them.

13 1 All the Goths united, namely, the Theruingi under the command of King Fritigern, and the Greuthungi led by Alatheus and Saphrax, and engaged with the Romans in the open, routed their cavalry, and put to flight the infantry, thus left unprotected and crowded together, with enormous losses; Valens was killed, but his body could not be found.

1 On every side armour and weapons clashed, and Bellona, raging with more than usual madness for the destruction of the Romans, blew her lamentable war-trumpets; our soldiers who were giving way rallied, exchanging many encouraging shouts, but the battle, spreading like flames,​136 filled their hearts with terror, as numbers of them were pierced by strokes of whirling spears and arrows. 2 Then the lines dashed together like beaked ships, pushing each other back and forth in turn, and tossed about by alternate movements, like waves at sea.

And because the left wing, which had made its way as far as the very wagons, and would have gone farther if it had had any support, being deserted by the rest of the cavalry, was hard pressed by the enemy's numbers, it was crushed, and overwhelmed, as if by the downfall of a mighty rampart. The foot-soldiers thus stood unprotected, and their companies were so crowded together that hardly anyone could pull out his sword or draw back his arm. Because of clouds of dust the heavens could  p475 no longer be seen, and echoed with frightful cries. Hence the arrows whirling death from every side always found their mark with fatal effect, since they could not be seen beforehand nor guarded against. 3 But when the barbarians, pouring forth in huge hordes, trampled down horse and man, and in the press of ranks no room for retreat could be gained anywhere, and the increased crowding left no opportunity for escape, our soldiers also, showing extreme contempt of falling in the fight, received their death-blows, yet struck down their assailants; and on both sides the strokes of axes split helmet and breastplate. 4 Here one might see a barbarian filled with lofty courage, his cheeks contracted in a hiss, hamstrung or with right hand severed, or pierced through the side, on the very verge of death threateningly casting about his fierce glance; and by the fall of the combatants on both sides the plains were covered with the bodies of the slain strewn over the ground, while the groans of the dying and of those who had suffered deep wounds caused immense fear when they were heard. 5 In this great tumult and confusion the infantry, exhausted by their efforts and the danger, when in turn strength and mind for planning anything were lacking, their lances for the most part broken by constant clashing, content to fight with drawn swords, plunged into the dense masses of the foe, regardless of their lives, seeing all around that every loophole of escape was lost. 6 The ground covered with streams of blood whirled their slippery foothold from under them, so they could only strain every nerve to sell their lives dearly; and they opposed the onrushing foe with such great resolution that some fell by the weapons of their own comrades.  p477 Finally, when the whole scene was discoloured with the hue of dark blood, and wherever men turned their eyes heaps of slain met them, they trod upon the bodies of the dead without mercy. 7 Now the sun had risen higher, and when it had finished its course through Leo, and was passing into the house of the heavenly Virgo,​a scorched the Romans, who were more and more exhausted by hunger and worn out by thirst, as well as distressed by the heavy burden of their armour. Finally our line was broken by the onrushing weight of the barbarians, and since that was the only resort in their last extremity, they took to their heels in disorder as best they could.

8 While all scattered in flight over unknown paths, the emperor, hedged about by dire terrors, and slowly treading over heaps of corpses, took refuge with the lancers and the mattiarii,​137 who, so long as the vast numbers of the enemy could be sustained, had stood unshaken with bodies firmly planted. On seeing him Trajanus cried that all hope was gone, unless the emperor, abandoned by his body-guard, should at least be protected by his foreign auxiliaries. 9 On hearing this the general called Victor hastened to bring quickly to the emperor's aid the Batavi, who had been posted not far off as a reserve force; but when he could find none of them, he retired and went away. And in the same way Richomeres and Saturninus made their escape from danger.

10 And so the barbarians, their eyes blazing with frenzy, were pursuing our men, in whose veins the blood was chilled with numb horror: some fell without knowing who struck them down, others  p479 were buried beneath the mere weight of their assailants; some were slain by the sword of a comrade; for though they often rallied, there was no ground given, nor did anyone spare those who retreated. 11 Besides all this, the roads were blocked by many who lay mortally wounded, lamenting the torment of their wounds; and with them also mounds of fallen horses filled the plains with corpses. To these ever irreparable losses, so costly to the Roman state, a night without the bright light of the moon put an end.

12 At the first coming of darkness the emperor, amid the common soldiers as was supposed (for no one asserted that he had seen him or been with him), fell mortally wounded by an arrow, and presently breathed his last breath; and he was never afterwards found anywhere.​138 For since a few of the foe were active for long in the neighbourhood for the purpose of robbing the dead, no one of the fugitives or of the natives ventured to approach the spot. 13 The Caesar Decius, we are told, met a similar fate;​139 for when he was fiercely fighting with the barbarians and his horse, whose excitement he could not restrain, stumbled and threw him, he fell into a marsh, from which he could not get out, nor could his body be found. 14 Others say that Valens did not give up the ghost at once, but with his bodyguard​140 and a few eunuchs was taken to a peasant's cottage near by, well fortified in its second storey; and while he was being treated by unskilful hands, he was surrounded by the enemy, who did not know who he was, but was  p481 saved from the shame of captivity. 15 For while the pursuers were trying to break open the bolted doors, they were assailed with arrows from a balcony of the house; and fearing through the inevitable delay to lose the opportunity for pillage, they piled bundles of straw and firewood about the house, set fire to them, and burned it men and all. 16 From it one of the bodyguard leaped through a window, but was taken by the enemy; when he told them what had happened, he filled them with sorrow at being cheated of great glory, in not having taken the ruler of the Roman empire alive. This same young man, having later escaped and returned secretly to our army, gave this account of what had occurred. 17 When Spain had been recovered, with a similar disaster the second of the Scipios,​141 we are told, was burned with a tower in which he had taken refuge and which the enemy had set on fire.​142 This much, at any rate, is certain, that neither Scipio nor Valens had the fortune of burial​143 which is death's final honour.

18 Amid this manifold loss of distinguished men, the deaths of Trajanus and Sebastianus stood out. With them fell thirty-five tribunes, without special assignments, and leaders of bodies of troops,​144 as well as Valerianus and Aequitius, the one having charge of the stables, the other, of the Palace. Among these also Potentius lost his life in the first flower of his youth; he was tribune of the promoti,​145 respected by all good men and honoured both for his own services and those of his father Ursicinus, formerly a commander-in‑chief. Certain  p483 it is that barely a third part of our army escaped. 19 The annals record no such massacre of a battle except the one at Cannae, although the Romans more than once, deceived by trickery due to an adverse breeze of Fortune, yielded for a time to ill-success in their wars, and although the storied dirges of the Greeks have mourned over many a contest.

14 1 The merits and defects of Valens Augustus.

1 Thus then died Valens, at the age of almost fifty and after a reign of a little less than fourteen years.​146 2 Of his merits, as known to many, we shall now speak, and of his defects. He was a firm and faithful friend, severe in punishing ambitious designs, strict in maintaining discipline in the army and in civil life, always watchful and anxious lest anyone should elevate himself on the ground of kinship with him; he was excessively slow towards conferring or taking away official positions,​147 very just in his rule of the provinces, each of which he protected from injury as he would his own house, lightening the burden of tributes with a kind of special care, allowing no increase in taxes, not extortionate in estimating the indebtedness from arrears,​148 a harsh and bitter enemy of thievish officials and of those  p485 detected in peculation. Under no other emperor does the Orient recall meeting better treatment in matters of this kind. 3 Besides all this, he combined liberality with moderation, and although there are many instances of such conduct, yet it will suffice to set forth one. Since there are always at court some men who are greedy for others' possessions, if anyone, as often happens, claimed a lapsed estate​149 or anything else of the kind, he distinguished clearly between justice and injustice, allowing those who intended to protest​150 a chance to state their case; and if he gave it to the petitioner, he often added as sharers in the gifts gained three or four absentees, to the end that restless people might act with more restraint, when they saw that by this device the gain for which they were so greedy was diminished. 4 As to the public buildings which he restored or built from their very beginning in various cities and towns, in order not to be prolix I say nothing, but leaving this matter to the objects themselves to demonstrate it more obviously than I can. Such conduct is worthy, I think, of emulation by all good men; let me now run through his defects.

5 He was immoderately desirous of great wealth, and impatient of toil, rather affecting awesome austerity than possessing it, and somewhat inclined to cruelty; he had rather an uncultivated mind, and was trained neither in the art of war nor in liberal studies; he was ready to gain advantage and profit at the expense of others' suffering, and more intolerable when he attributed offences that were committed to contempt of, or injury to, the imperial dignity; then he vented his rage in bloodshed,  p487 and on the ruin of the rich. 6 It was unendurable also, that although he wished to appear to refer all controversies and judicial investigations to the laws, and entrusted the examination of such affairs to the regular judges as being specially selected men, nevertheless he suffered nothing to be done contrary to his own caprice. He was in other ways unjust, hot tempered, and ready to listen to informers without distinguishing truth from falsity — a shameful fault, which is very greatly to be dreaded even in these our private affairs of every-day occurrence.

7 He was a procrastinator and irresolute. His complexion was dark, the pupil of one of his eyes was dimmed,​151 but in such a way as not to be noticed at a distance; his body was well-knit, his height neither above nor below the average; he was knock-kneed, and somewhat pot-bellied.

8 This will be enough to say about Valens, and it is fully confirmed by the testimony of records contemporary with me. But it is proper not to omit the following story. At the time of the oracle of the tripod, for which, as I have said,​152 Patricius and Hilarius were responsible, he had heard of those three prophetic verses, of which the last is:

When in Mimas' plains the war-god Ares rages.​153

Being uneducated​154 and rude, he disregarded them at first, but as his very great troubles increased he became abjectly timid, and in recalling that prediction used to shudder at the mention of Asia, where, as he heard from the mouths of learned men, Homer and Cicero have written of a mountain called  p489 Mimas, rising above the city of Erythrae.​155 9 Finally, after his death and the departure of the enemy, it is said that near the place where he was thought to have fallen a monument made of a heap of stones was found, to which was fastened a tablet engraved with Greek characters, showing that a distinguished man of old called Mimas was buried there.156

15 1 The victorious Goths lay siege to Hadrianopolis, where Valens had left his treasures and the imperial insignia in charge of the prefect and the members of the council; but after vainly trying every means of taking the city they withdrew unsuccessful.

1 After the murderous battle, when night had already spread darkness over the earth, the survivors departed, some to the right, others to the left, or wherever their fear took them, each seeking his nearest associates, for none could see anything save himself, and everyone imagined that the enemy's sword hung over his own head. Yet there were still heard, though from afar off, the pitiful cries of those who were left behind, the death-rattle of the dying, and the tortured wails of the wounded.

2 But at daybreak the victors, like wild beasts roused to cruel ferocity by the provocative tang of blood, driven by the lure of a vain hope, made for Hadrianopolis in dense throngs, intending to destroy the city even at the cost of the utmost dangers; for they had heard through traitors and deserters that the  p491 most distinguished officials, the insignia of imperial fortune, and the treasures of Valens were hidden there, as within an impregnable fortress. 3 And in order that no delays meanwhile might cool their ardour, at the fourth hour of the day they had encircled the walls​157 and were engaged in a most bitter struggle; for the besiegers with their natural ferocity rushed upon swift death, while on the other hand the defenders were encouraged to vigorous resistance with might and main. 4 And because a great number of soldiers and batmen had been prevented from entering the city with their beasts, they took their place close to the shelter of the walls and in the adjoining buildings, and made a brave fight considering their low position; and the mad rage of their assailants had lasted until the ninth hour of the day, when on a sudden three hundred of our infantry, of those who stood near the very breastworks,​158 formed a wedge and went over to the barbarians. They were eagerly seized by the Goths, and (it is not known why) were immediately butchered; and from that time on, it was noticed that not a man thought of any similar action, even when the outlook was most desperate. 5 Now, while this accumulation of misfortunes was raging, suddenly with peals of thunder rain poured from the black clouds and scattered the hordes roaring around the city; but they returned to the circular rampart formed by their wagons,​159 and carried their measureless arrogance so far as to send an envoy with a threatening letter, ordering our men to surrender the city on receiving a pledge  p493 that their lives would be spared. 6 The messenger did not dare to enter the city, and the letter was delivered by a certain Christian and read: but it was scorned, as was fitting, and the rest of the day and the whole night were spent in preparing defensive works. For the gates were blocked from within with huge rocks, the unsafe parts of the walls were strengthened, artillery was placed in suitable places for hurling missiles or rocks in all directions, and a supply of water that was sufficient was stored nearby; for on the day before some of those who fought were tormented with thirst almost to the point of death.

7 The Goths on the other hand, bearing in mind the dangerous chances of war, and worried from seeing their bravest men stretched dead or wounded, while their strength was being worn away bit by bit, formed a clever plan, which Justice herself revealed. 8 For they enticed some of our subalterns, who had deserted to them the day before, to simulate flight, as if returning to their own side, and to manage to be admitted within the walls, and when let in, secretly to set fire to some part of the city; in order that as if a kind of secret signal had been raised, while the attention of the throng of the besieged was distracted with​160 extinguishing the flames, the city, left undefended, might be broken into. 9 The subalterns when on their way as had been arranged, and when they had come near the moat, with outstretched hands and prayers they begged to be admitted, as being Romans. And they were let in, as there was no suspicion to prevent it; but on being questioned  p495 as to the plans of the enemy they varied in their answers. The result was that after being tortured in a bloody investigation they openly confessed with what purpose they had come, and were beheaded.

10 So, when all the preparations for battle had been made, the barbarians just before the beginning of the third watch, since the fear caused by their former wounds had died out, poured in more numerous masses upon the barred gates of the city, with the great persistency of those who are guarding against disaster.​161 But with the soldiers the provincials and the court attendants rose up with all the greater vigour to overwhelm them, and such were the numbers of the foe that weapons of every kind, even through thrown at random, could not fall without effect. 11 Our men noticed that the barbarians were using the same missiles that had been hurled at them. And so it was ordered that the cords by which the barbs were fastened to the shaft should be partly severed before the arrows were shot from the bows; these during their flight kept their whole strength, and when they were fixed in the bodies of the enemy lost none of their effectiveness, or at any rate, if they found no mark, were at once broken. 12 But an entirely unexpected chance had great influence in the midst of this hot fight. A piece of artillery known as a "scorpion," but called a "wild ass" in the language of the people,​162 placed exactly opposite a great mass of the enemy, hurled a huge stone, and although it dashed to the ground without effect, yet the sight of it caused the enemy such great terror, that in their amazement at the strange spectacle they fled to a distance and tried to leave  p497 the place. 13 But at the order of their chief the horns sounded and the battle was renewed, and in the same way the Romans held the upper hand, since almost no bullet from the thong of a slinger,​163 or any other missile when hurled, missed its mark. For the chiefs, inflamed by a desire to carry off the treasures which Valens had acquired by his ill-gotten gains, took their place in the foremost ranks and were followed by the rest, who made a display of equalling the dangers of their superiors. For some were writhing mortally wounded, either crushed by great masses of stone, or with their breasts pierced with javelins; others who carried scaling-ladders and were preparing to mount the walls from every side were buried under their own burdens, as stones, fragments and whole drums of columns were thrown down upon them. 14 But until late in the day, not a man of the raging throng was turned by the awful sight of carnage from his desire to play a brave part, being excited by the numbers of the defenders who also fell, slain by all kinds of weapons, as they saw from afar with joy. So, without any rest or respite, the battle in defence of the walls and against the walls went on with great determination. 15 And since they no longer fought in any order, but rushed forward in detached groups (a sign of extreme discouragement) as the day was drawing towards evening all the enemy retired disconsolate to their tents, accusing one another of reckless folly because they had not, as Fritigern  p499 had earlier advised, wholly held aloof from the miseries of a siege.

16 1 The Goths, after bribing the forces of the Huns and the Halani to join them, make a vain attempt on Constantinople. With what skill Julius, the commanding general beyond the Taurus, relieved the eastern provinces of the Goths.

1 After this the Goths gave their attention during the whole night-time, which was not long in the summer season, to caring for their wounds, using their native methods of treatment. When day broke again, their minds were led this way and that as to their plans, since they were in doubt whither they should turn; and after a great deal of talk and disagreement they decided to take possession of Perinthus,​164 and afterwards of any neighbouring cities that were brimful of riches, of which they were given such full information by deserters that they knew even the interior of the houses, to say nothing of the cities. Following this decision, which they thought advantageous, they marched on slowly without opposition, devastating the whole district with pillage and fires.

2 After their timely departure, those who had been besieged in Hadrianopolis, having learned from scouts who had been found trustworthy that the neighbouring places were free from enemies, set out at midnight and avoiding the public highways and devising every effort for increasing their speed, hastened with the valuables which they were carrying still safe, through wooded and pathless places, some to Philippopolis and from there to Serdica,​165 others to  p501 Macedonia, in the hope of finding Valens in those regions (for it was wholly unknown to them that he had fallen in the midst of the storms of battle, or at any rate had taken refuge in a hut, where it was thought that he had been burned to death).

3 But the Goths, joined with the Huns and the Halani, exceedingly warlike and brave peoples, hardened to the difficulties of severe toils, whom the craft of Fritigern had won over to them by the attractions of wonderful prizes, set up their camp near Perinthus; but mindful of their previous disasters they did not indeed venture to approach or attempt the city itself, but reduced to utter ruin the fertile fields which extend far and wide about it, killing or capturing those who dwelt there. 4 From there they hastened in rapid march to Constantinople, greedy for its vast heaps of treasure, marching in square formations for fear of ambuscades, and intending to make many mighty efforts to destroy the famous city. But while they were madly rushing on and almost knocking at the barriers of the gates, the celestial power checked them by the following event. 5 A troop of Saracens (of whose origin and customs I have spoken at length in various places),​166 who are more adapted to stealthy raiding expeditions than to pitched battles,​167 and had recently been summoned to the city, desiring to attack the horde of barbarians of which they had suddenly caught sight, rushed forth boldly from the city to attack them. The contest was long and obstinate, and both sides separated on equal terms. 6 But the oriental troop had the advantage from a strange event, never witnessed before. For one of their number, a man  p503 with long hair and naked except for a loin-cloth, uttering hoarse and dismal cries, with drawn dagger rushed into the thick of the Gothic army, and after killing a man applied his lips to his throat and sucked the blood that poured out. The barbarians, terrified by this strange and monstrous sight, after that did not show their usual self-confidence when they attempted any action, but advanced with hesitating steps. 7 Then, as they went on, their courage was further broken when they beheld the oblong circuit of the walls, the blocks of houses covering a vast space, the beauties of the city beyond their reach, the vast population inhabiting it, and the strait near by that separates the Pontus from the Aegean; so the Goths destroyed the manufactories of warlike materials which they were preparing, and after suffering greater losses than they had inflicted they then departed and spread everywhere over the northern provinces, which they traversed at will as far as the foot of the Julian, or, as they were formerly called, the Venetic Alps.

8 At that time​168 the salutary and swift efficiency of Julius, commander-in‑chief of the troops beyond the Taurus, was conspicuous. For on learning of the ill-fated events in Thrace, by secret letters to their leaders, who were all Romans (a rare case in these times) he gave orders that the Goths who had been admitted before and were scattered through the various cities and camps, should be enticed to come without suspicion into the suburbs in the hope of receiving the pay that had been promised them, and there, as if on the raising of a banner, should all be slain on one and the same day. This  p505 prudent plan was carried out without confusion or delay, and thus the eastern provinces were saved from great dangers.

9 These dangers, from the principate of the emperor Nerva to the death of Valens, I, a former soldier and a Greek, have set forth to the measure of my ability, without ever (I believe) consciously venturing to debase through silence or through falsehood a work whose aim was the truth. The rest may be written by abler men, who are in the prime of life and learning. But if they chose to undertake such a task, I advise them to forge​169 their tongues to the loftier style.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 I.e., death by fire.

2 See XXIX.1.8 ff.

3 Because of the conduct of the inhabitants at the time of the uprising of Procopius; cf. Socr., Eccl. Hist. IV.8, and XXVI.8.2.

4 Constantinianae thermae, Socrates, IV.8.

5 Cf. Zos. IV.20; Sozom. VI.37; Agathias, 5.11 ff.

6 Cf. Sidonius, Paneg. ad Avitum, 243 ff.

7 Used for adorning the parapets of bridges. Cf. Jordanes, 24.

8 I.e., on horseback.

9 I.e., of metal (bronze or iron).

10 This device was used also by the Sagartian nomads; see Hdt. VII.85; Val. Flaccus, VI.132 ff.; etc.

11 The passage is fragmentary and the exact meaning is uncertain. Only the general sense can be given.

12 The Danube.

13 The Don.

14 The Hister (Danube).

15 Alanos (Ἄλανος).

16 Cf. XXII.8.40; these are the Neuri of Herodotus (IV.105).

17 The Budini of Herodotus, IV.108‑9.

18 See Mela, II.1.14.

19 This detail is not mentioned by Herodotus (IV.104).

20 Cf. Pliny, N. H. IV.80; Mela, II.1.10.

21 According to Herodotus, IV.107, they get their name from their black clothing.

22 Oriens aestivus, north-east (Pliny, N. H. XVII.105), so called because the sun rises in that quarter in summer. Hibernus oriens for south-east also occurs, and occidens aestivus for north-west (Columella, I.6.2); o. h., Livy, XLIV.46.5. Cf. Gesner, Lex. Rusticum, s.v. aequinoctialis oriens.

23 "Chinese" of Central and E. Asia (see XXIII.6.64). The Seres and the Ganges are not mentioned by Herodotus, nor the Halani except perhaps as Massagetae (I.204).

24 I.e., Europe and Asia, in which Africa was often included.

25 That is, the Parthians; for their Scythian origin, cf. Q. Curtius, VI.2.11, etc.

26 This seems to be the meaning with the punctuation of the text, based on the clausulae. The skins are commonly understood to be those of the head (i.e. scalps), but apparently wrongly; cf. 2.14, above, of the Vidini and Geloni.

27 Since the leader of the dance of the Salian priests of Mars was called praesul, the term is appropriate here. On this custom see Mela, II.1.15; cf. Justinus, XLIII.3, ab origine rerum pro dis immortalibus hastas coluere, Herodotus, IV.62; and XVII.12.21 above (of the Quadi).

28 Ammianus is too brief to be clear. The twigs were marked with certain signs (notae) from which the predictions were made; see Hdt. IV.67; Caesar, B. G. I.50.4‑5; Tac., Germ. 10.

29 Cf. iudex in § 4, below, and Introd., p. xxvi, note 2.

30 Called Ermanarich in Jordanes' Gothic History.

31 For vulgatius, cf. XV.3.6; XVII.4.9.

32 Also called the Tyras, to‑day the Dniester.

33 To‑day the Dnieper.

34 Cf. XXVII.5.6.

35 Cf. cura constrictus, XX.4.19.

36 To‑day the Pruth on the eastern frontier of ancient Dacia.

37 For lorica in this sense, cf. 15.4, below.

38 Or perhaps war-god, since Mars was born in Thrace; see Manilius, IV.691, Threce Martem sortita colonum; cf. Arnobius, Adv. Gentes, IV.25.

39 Cf. XIX.11.7, notes 1 and 2.

40 Cf. XVI.11.9, note; XIV.2.10.

41 Virg. Georg. II.106 ff.; see crit. note 2.

42 I.e., cutting a canal through the isthmus of the peninsula on which the mountain stands.

43 Because they were too numerous to be counted as individuals, an enclosure which would hold 10,000 closely packed men was built; see Hdt. VII.60.

44 Ammianus seems to forget that the Goths were required first to hand over their weapons; but this order was frequently evaded through the negligence of the imperial officials.

45 Cic., Deiot. 2.4, nemo enim fere est, qui sui periculi iudex, non sibi se aequiorem quam reo praebeat.

46 He was a young boy; cf. XXXI.3.3, where the name is given as Viderichus.

47 Cf. XXVII.5.6.

48 For this meaning of dissimulatio, cf. XXVIII.4.5.

49 See 4.11. The meaning is, in order that the Roman generals might carry the practice on longer.

50 That is, into the interior of the country.

51 Cf. Suet., Calig. 37.1, nepotatus sumptibus (nepotinus, codd. PQ).

52 According to Jordanes, Fritigern cut his way through to his men.

53 incauti seems to mean "without regard for their lives"; incautos, "off their guard" (see crit. note) would apparently contradict paratus ad decernendum, in the preceding sentence.

54 The exact meaning is perhaps not clear; it seems to mean that the barbarians dashed the Romans' shields against their bodies, so that they could not use them, and then slew them. Wagner refers it to the shields of the barbarians, which they pressed close to their own bodies, but this does not seem to suit illidendo.

55 §§ 12‑17 are a digression on great disasters which Rome had suffered from invading barbarians.

56 Macrinus Vindex, praetorian prefect of Marcus Aurelius; see Dio, LXXI.3.

57 Text and exact meaning are uncertain; for the events referred to, see Dio, LXXI.3 ff.; Eutrop. VIII.13; Orosius, VII.15.6 ff.

58 Treb. Poll., Claud. 8.2, gives this figure: Zos. I.42, 6000.

59 The chronology is at fault; cf. Aur. Vict., Caes. 29.5.

60 Cf. Treb. Poll., Gallienus, 13.6.

61 Crete, Cyprus, and Rhodes; cf. Treb. Poll., Claud. 12.1; Zos. I.46.

62 Under Valerian and Claudius; see note 1, above.

63 In the time of Decius; Zos. I.24.

64 According to Pseud.-Aur. Vict., Epit. 34.3, he sacrificed himself in battle. Others say that he died a natural death.

65 Cf. Rufius Festus, 8.

66 Cf. hiberna curantem, XIX.11.1.

67 The province; see Index to this volume.

68 I.e., the duumvir.

69 There was a large munitions factory in Hadrianopolis.

70 There were gold-mines in Thrace and Macedonia; cf. Claudian, Panegyr. Theodori, 40 f., quidquid luce procul venae rimata sequaces, abdita pallentis fodit sollertia Bessi (a Thracian people).

Thayer's Note: What Ammian probably means, though, is that these guys were good at finding where people hid their money; the rest of the sentence has nothing to do with mining — a long and arduous operation requiring much planning and equipment — but with the short-term extraction of cash and supplies.

71 I.e., to have an understanding with the King, before withdrawing troops from Armenia.

72 He was later magister militum under Gratian, then magister utriusque militiae under Theodosius, who made him consul in 384. On the military titles, see Introd., Vol. I, p. xxxv.

73 That is, they did not have the full number of men, as is explained by what follows.

74 With deseruerat sc. militiam.

75 A city of the Scythians called Ad Salices, "By the Willows," placed in the Antonine Itinerary between Tomi and Salmuris.

76 Cf. 5.8, above; vexillis de more sublatis, auditisque triste sonantibus classicis . . . concursabant.

77 See XXIII.4.14; XXI.9.6.

78 In Greek, καραγός; for a description see Claudian, In Ruf. II.127 ff.; Vegetius, III.10.

79 Cf. XVI.12.43; derived from the elephant's cry.

80 Cf. Aen. VII.524 ff.

81 I.e., from making their escape.

82 Cf. Virg., Aen. V.864 f., scopulos . . . difficilis quondam multorumque ossibus albos; Tac., Ann. I.61.

83 Cf. XIV.3.2.

84 A mountain range in Thrace in the narrower sense, not including Moesia.

85 The Hellespont.

86 On alios see XXIII.3.9, note 5.

87 See Index.

88 See Index II, Vol. I.

89 A city of Thrace, according to XXVII.4.12; also called Beroia (P.W. III.304), Beroa, Beroae.

90 Congregatosque in cuneos of the MSS. gives a very strange accusative construction, which, however, does not seem to have troubled the editors or commentators. Cf. conferti in globos, 10.4, below.

91 Since the year 354; cf. XV.4.1.

92 Often mentioned with the Celts; for a possible explanation of this designation of a legion made up of foreign troops, see XX.4.2, note 5.

93 Cf. XXVIII.5.1.

94 Cf. XXVIII.5.1, where he is called Nannenus.

95 Also called Argentovaria, a town of the Tribocci; modern Horburg (T.L.L.).

96 On calles see A.J.P. XXXVI pp329 ff.; and cf. Suet., Jul. 19.2, note.

97 To that of the imperial troops.

98 Such as stones and the huge clubs of 7.12, above.

99 See Lamprid., Commodus, 12.12.

100 Parks where wild beasts were kept.

101 Cf. Capitolinus, Ant. Phil. 22.3 ff.

102 In Raetia: modern Arbon.

103 In Noricum Ripense; modern Lorch (Lork).

104 See XXI.10.2 ff., and note 1.

105 Cf. XX.4.18.

106 Frigeridus.

107 Twelve days according to Socrates, Hist. Eccl. IV.38.

108 Zos. IV.22, says that he left Italy through disgust at the growing influence of the eunuchs, and went to Constantinople, where Valens made him a commander-in‑chief.

109 Agathias (V.14, D), and after him Suidas (s.v. Μελαντιάς), call it a village 140 stadia (102, Suidas) from Constantinople.

Thayer's Note: You will see that the Bonn edition in the link gives 140 in the Greek text, but renders it as 150 in its Latin translation. Now the Bonn edition in the CSHB is notorious for its carelessness, but the moral is still good: a translation is one further remove from what the original writer of the text had in mind — don't trust translations.

110 Cf. XXIII.2.2, expeditionalis tessera: XXI.5.13, note.

111 A town in Thrace, Socrates, Hist. Eccl. II.37.95; mansio Nice, It. Burdig. p569 (cf. statione Nice, 12.3, below).

112 For this meaning of impetrabilis, cf. XIV.8.5, and Plautus, Most. 1162, etc.

113 Ptolemy locates this place in Upper Pannonia, the modern Banastar; cf. XXI.9.6.

114 A small town in Dacia Ripensis (in Moesia, according to Sozomenus, IX.5).

115 Eunapius says that Gratian had also, at the wish of his army, taken the younger Valentinian as his colleague, without consulting his uncle Valens; moreover, that Valens was an Arian, while Gratian, according to Ambrose, was a Christian (christianissimus). [Val. in Wagner-Erfurdt.]

116 Constantinople.

117 See 11.2, above, and note.

118 See XXIX.5.39, note on agmine quadrato.

119 Or perhaps "to the vicinity of Hadrianopolis" — with Ammianus' usual tautology. Clark has Hadrianupolis, with V.

120 Although he is often mentioned, it is usually in this way (see e.g. 13.9, below, and 7.1, above).

121 Unlike the Sarmatians generally.

122 Elder.

123 For the translation of alius, see XXIII.3.9, note 5.

124 Aug. 9.

125 Here cetera is used as alius often is; see note 1, above.

126 I.e., the praetorian prefect.

127 At about two in the afternoon.

128 Lit. "turned by a lathe."

129 For sibilantibus armis, cf. XXV.1.18.

130 I.e., by thirst.

131 I.e., to exhaust the Romans by heat and thirst.

132 The meaning of ipse minas . . . necessaria is uncertain, and the text perhaps corrupt. It seems to mean that he would put up with the anger felt by his own soldiers because of his virtual overture of peace.

133 Cf. XXVI.1.4.

134 There is a lacuna here of twenty letters; indicia is obviously the object of some word such as ferens.

135 On the northern frontier of Armenia.

136 Cf. Iliad XI.595; XVII.576 f.

137 See XXI.13.16, note.

138 Libanius Orat. XXIV., II, p515 (Foerster), agrees with this account, but adds that the emperor might have saved himself on horseback, but did not wish to survive the defeat of his army, and died fighting. The other authorities agree with the following account of Ammianus.

139 Cf. Zosimus, IV.24.

140 See Index II, Vol. I.

141 I.e., Cn. Cornelius Scipio Calvus, 212 B.C. Livy, XXV.36.13.

142 Cf. Livy, XXV.36.13; Appian, Bell. Hisp. 3.16 (Rom. Hist. VI.3.16).

143 Cf. Iliad, 456;º Virg., Aen. XI.22; Val. Max. IV.4.2.

144 On numeri, see XIV.7.19; on vacantes, Introd., Vol. I, p. xliv.

145 See XV.4.10, note 3, and Index II, Vol. I.

146 As a matter of fact, he reigned four months more than fourteen years, having been made Augustus by his brother in March of the year 364. He lost his life Aug. 8,º 378. Pseud.-Aur. Vict. Epit. 46, gives 13 years and 5 months; Socrates and Sozomenus give 16 years.

147 Cf. XVIII.6.22; XXIII.5.15; XXVII.6.4.

148 To the crown in payment for supplies; cf. XVI.5.15, tributariae rei reliqua; Spart. Hadr. 6.5; 21.7 and 12.

149 I.e., one which had fallen to the emperor for lack of heirs.

150 That is, the former owners or other interested parties.

151 Very likely by cataract.

152 Cf. XXIX.1.7.

153 Cf. XXIX.1.33.

154 Lit. 'unfinished,' see XXI.10.8.

155 A city of Ionia. For Mimas, see Homer (Odyss. III.172) and Cicero (Ad Att. XVI.13a, 2); opposite the island Chios, and part of Mount Tmolus.

156 Cedrenus (Hist. Comp. p314B) and Zonaras (XIII.16, p. iii, 32A) speak of this, and say that the inscription read: "Here lies Mimas, a Macedonian general." They connect Valens' fears, not with the tripod, but with a dream of the emperor's.

157 Of Hadrianopolis.

158 For lorica in this sense, cf. XXXI.3.7; XXIV.5.2.

159 See XXXI.7.5, 7.

160 For this meaning of circa, cf. occupatam circa messem agrestem, XXIX.6.6.

161 Text and meaning are somewhat uncertain.

162 Cf. XXIII.4.4 and 7.

163 There seems to be no other mention of the use of the amentum by slingers. It usually means a thong by means of which a javelin, or a spear, was given a whirling flight, or it may mean the missile itself (so perhaps here?). See T.L.L. s.v.

164 Cf. XXII.2.3.

165 See XXI.10.3.

166 Especially XIV.4.1 ff.; XXV.6.8‑10.

167 XXIII.3.8.

168 Shortly after the death of Valens, and before the accession of Theodosius; cf. Zos. IV.26.

169 For procudere, cf. XV.2.8 (ingenium); XXX.4.13 (ora); Horace, Odes, IV.15.19.

Thayer's Note:

a The astrological reference makes no sense. Now I'm surely not the first person to notice it, but finding no note from Prof. Rolfe, and no discussion of the passage in the journals accessible thru JSTOR, here's mine:

Taking the passage at face value — Rolfe's translation is not at fault — Solque sublimior, decurso Leone, ad domicilium caelestis Virginis transiens in any other context would be clear: the Sun had run thru Leo and passed into ("the house of") Virgo. As every astrologer knows, this means that the sun is entering the sign of Virgo, which it does once a year, around the 21st of August.

But it's equally clear that this is not, and could not be, what Ammian means. If he is talking about the date of the battle, he has told us that it was on the 9th of August; the Sun's entry into Virgo in the late 4c — the Julian calendar had already slipped three days from its astronomical basis, but no more, — was on the 18th of August. The very slow movement of the Sun from one sign to another has nothing to do with what seems clearly implied in this passage, viz. its faster diurnal motion thru the sky, but that would hardly have stopped Ammian from saying it: in his explanation of eclipses, XX.3, we've seen how weak his grasp was of celestial phenomena! The question, however, is moot, since it just didn't happen on the 9th of August. (Creative objection: though the actual date of the battle is immaterial and what matters is the date that Ammian gives — might there not have been a manuscript problem, with the original text having indicated something like the 18th or 19th of August? But any date that might approximate the day on which the Sun was passing from Leo to Virgo would have been expressed in terms of the Kalends of the following month; in the original Latin of 12.10 there's no way a copyist could have garbled quintum decimum Kalendarum Septembris, or any variety of the phrase, into quintum Iduum Augustas.)

A second possibility is that Ammian might conceivably appear to mean the houses of the day analogous to Leo and Virgo, the 5th and 6th signs of the zodiac: often enough, even decent astrologers used the terms "houses" and "signs" somewhat interchangeably. Alas, the Sun traverses the 6th and 5th houses (in that order) from sunset to a third of the way thru the night; but here whatever else he means, he's talking about the heat of the Sun during the day.

When all else fails, one can usually blame a bad passage on a bad manuscript reading or a glossator; but here the former is quite impossible, and the latter seems unlikely. The feeling I get is that this was a piece of decorative writing gone astray: Ammian had heard that the battle was fought when the Sun was starting to pass from Leo to Virgo, as indeed it was; then coupled this with that orb's unrelated diurnal movement and the heat of noon, and presto! from the pen of a good historian, but still a man who didn't understand astronomy, we got nonsense. (Moral for us today: no matter how good we are, we shouldn't write about what we don't understand, just to impress people.)

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