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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Persian Wars

of
Procopius

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1914

The text is in the public domain.

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I.10‑14

(Vol. I) Procopius
Persian Wars

Book I (beginning)

 p3  1 1 Procopius of Caesarea has written the history of the wars which Justinian Emperor of the Romans, waged against the barbarians of the East and of the West, relating separately the events of each one, to the end that the long course of time may not overwhelm deeds of singular importance through lack of a record, and thus abandon them to oblivion and utterly obliterate them. The memory of these events he deemed would be a great thing and most helpful to men of the present time, and to future generations as well, in case time should ever again place men under a similar stress. 2 For men who purpose to enter upon a war or are preparing themselves for any kind of struggle may derive some benefit from a narrative of a similar situation in history, inasmuch as this discloses the final result attained by men of an earlier day in a struggle of the same sort, and foreshadows, at least for those who are most prudent in planning, what outcome present events will probably have. 3 Furthermore he had assurance that  p5 he was especially competent to write the history of these events, if for no other reason, because it fell to his lot, when appointed adviser to the general Belisarius, to be an eye‑witness of practically all the events to be described. 4 It was his conviction that while cleverness is appropriate to rhetoric, and inventiveness to poetry, truth alone is appropriate to history. 5 In accordance with this principle he has not concealed the failures of even his most intimate acquaintances, but has written down with complete accuracy everything which befell those concerned, whether it happened to be done well or ill by them.

6 It will be evident that no more important or mightier deeds are to be found in history than those which have been enacted in these wars, — provided one wishes to base his judgment on the truth. 7 For in them more remarkable feats have been performed than in any other war with which we are acquainted; unless, indeed, any reader of this narrative should give the place of honour to antiquity, and consider contemporary achievements unworthy to be counted remarkable. 8 There are those, for example, who call the soldiers of the present day "bowmen," while to those of the most ancient times they wish to attribute such lofty terms as "hand-to‑hand fighters", "shield‑men," and other names of that sort; and they think that the valour of those times has by no means survived to the present, — an opinion which is at once careless and wholly remote from actual experience of these matters. 9 For the thought has never occurred to them that, as regards the Homeric bowmen who had the misfortune to be ridiculed by this term1 derived from their art, they were neither carried by  p7 horse nor protected by spear or shield.2 In fact there was no protection at all for their bodies; they entered battle on foot, and were compelled to conceal themselves, either singling out the shield of some comrade,3 or seeking safety behind a tombstone on a mound,4 10 from which position they could neither save themselves in case of rout, nor fall upon a flying foe. Least of all could they participate in a decisive struggle in the open, but they always seemed to be stealing something which belonged to the men who were engaged in the struggle. 11 And apart from this they were so indifferent in their practice of archery that they drew the bowstring only to the breast,5 so that the missile sent forth was naturally impotent and harmless to those whom it hit.6 Such, it is evident, was the archery of the past. 12 But the bowmen of the present time go into battle wearing corselets and fitted out with greaves which extend up to the knee. From the right side hang their arrows, from the other the sword. 13 And there are some who have a spear also attached to them and, at the shoulders, a sort of small shield without a grip, such as to cover the region of the face and neck. 14 They are expert horsemen, and are able without difficulty to direct their bows to either side while riding at full speed, and to shoot an opponent whether in pursuit or in flight. 15 They draw the bowstring along by the forehead about opposite the right ear, thereby charging the arrow with such an impetus as to kill whoever stands in the way, shield and corselet alike  p9 having no power to check its force. 16 Still there are those who take into consideration none of these things, who reverence and worship the ancient times, and give no credit to modern improvements. But no consideration will prevent the conclusion that most great and notable deeds have been performed in these wars. 17 And the history of them will begin at some distance back, telling of the fortunes in war of the Romans and the Medes, their reverses and their successes.

2 1 When the Roman Emperor Arcadius was at the point of death in Byzantium, having a male child, Theodosius, who was still unweaned, he felt grave fears not only for him but for the government as well, not knowing how he should provide wisely for both. 2 For he perceived that, if he provided a partner in government for Theodosius, he would in fact be destroying his own son by bringing forward against him a foe clothed in the regal power; 3 while if he set him alone over the empire, many would try to mount the throne, taking advantage, as they might be expected to do, of the helplessness of the child. These men would rise against the government, and, after destroying Theodosius, would make themselves tyrants without difficulty, since the boy had no kinsman in Byzantium to be his guardian. 4 For Arcadius had no hope that the boy's uncle, Honorius, would succour him, inasmuch as the situation in Italy was already troublesome. 5 And he was equally disturbed by the attitude of the Medes, fearing lest  p11 these barbarians should trample down the youthful emperor and do the Romans irreparable harm. 6 When Arcadius was confronted with this difficult situation, though he had not shown himself sagacious in other matters, he devised a plan which was destined to preserve without trouble both his child and his throne, either as a result of conversation with certain of the learned men, such as are usually found in numbers among the advisers of a sovereign, or from some divine inspiration which came to him. 7 For in drawing up the writings of his will, he designated the child as his successor to the throne, but appointed as guardian over him Isdigerdes, the Persian King, enjoining upon him earnestly in his will to preserve the empire for Theodosius by all his power and foresight. 8 So Arcadius died, having thus arranged his private affairs as well as those of the empire. But Isdigerdes, the Persian King, when he saw this writing which was duly delivered to him, being even before a sovereign whose nobility of character had won for him the greatest renown, did then display a virtue at once amazing and remarkable. 9 For, loyally observing the behests of Arcadius, he adopted and continued without interruption a policy of profound peace with the Romans, and thus preserved the empire for Theodosius. 10 Indeed, he straightway dispatched a letter to the Roman senate, not declining the office of guardian of the Emperor Theodosius, and threatening war against any who should attempt to enter into a conspiracy against him.

11 When Theodosius had grown to manhood and was in the prime of life, and Isdigerdes had been taken from the world by disease, Vararanes, the Persian King, invaded the Roman domains with a mighty  p13 army; however, he did no damage, but returned to his home without accomplishing anything. This came about in the following way. 12 Anatolius, General of the East, had, as it happened, been sent by the Emperor Theodosius as ambassador to the Persians, alone and unaccompanied; as he approached the Median army, solitary as he was, he leapt down from his horse, and advanced on foot toward Vararanes. 13 And when Vararanes saw him, he enquired from those who were near who this man could be who was coming forward. And they replied that he was the general of the Romans. 14 Thereupon the king was so dumbfounded by this excessive mark of respect that he himself wheeled his horse about and rode away, and the whole Persian host followed him. 15 When he had reached his own territory, he received the envoy with great cordiality, and granted the treaty of peace on the terms which Anatolius desired of him; one condition, however, he added, that neither party should construct any new fortification in his own territory in the neighbourhood of the boundary line between the two countries. When this treaty had been executed, both sovereigns then continued to administer the affairs of their respective countries as seemed best to them.

3 1 At a later time the Persian King Perozes became involved in a war concerning boundaries with the nation of the Ephthalitae Huns, who are called White Huns, gathered an imposing army, and marched against them. 2 The Ephthalitae are of the stock of the Huns in fact as well as in name; however they  p15 do not mingle with any of the Huns known to us, for they occupy a land neither adjoining nor even very near to them; but their territory lies immediately to the north of Persia; indeed their city, called Gorgo, is located over against the Persian frontier, and is consequently the centre of frequent contests concerning boundary lines between the two peoples. 3 For they are not nomads like the other Hunnic peoples, but for a long period have been established in a goodly land. 4 As a result of this they have never made any incursion into the Roman territory except in company with the Median army. They are the only ones among the Huns who have white bodies and countenances which are not ugly. 5 It is also true that their manner of living is unlike that of their kinsmen, nor do they live a savage life as they do; but they are ruled by one king, and since they possess a lawful constitution, they observe right and justice in their dealings with one another and with their neighbours, in no degree less than the Romans and the Persians. 6 Moreover, the wealthy citizens are in the habit of attaching to themselves friends to the number of twenty or more, as the case may be, and these become permanently their banquet-companions, and have a share in all their property, enjoying some kind of a common right in this matter. 7 Then, when the man who has gathered such a company together comes to die, it is the custom that all these men be borne alive into the tomb with him.

8 Perozes, marching against these Ephthalitae, was accompanied by an embassy, Eusebius by name, who, as it happened, had been sent to his court by the Emperor Zeno. Now the Ephthalitae made it  p17 appear to their enemy that they had turned to flight because they were wholly terrified by their attack, and they retired with all speed to a place which was shut in on every side by precipitous mountains, and abundantly screened by a close forest of wide-spreading trees. 9 Now as one advanced between the mountains to a great distance, a broad way appeared in the valley, extending apparently to an indefinite distance, but at the end it had no outlet at all, but terminated in the very midst of the circle of mountains. 10 So Perozes, with no thought at all of treachery, and forgetting that he was marching in a hostile country, continued the pursuit without the least caution. 11 A small body of the Huns were in flight before him, while the greater part of their force, by concealing themselves in the rough country, got in the rear of the hostile army; but as yet they desired not to be seen by them, in order that they might advance well into the trap and get as far as possible in among the mountains, and thus be no longer able to turn back. 12 When the Medes began to realize all this (for they now began to have a glimmering of their peril), though they refrained from speaking of the situation themselves through fear of Perozes, yet they earnestly entreat Eusebius to urge upon the king, who was completely ignorant of his own plight, that he should take counsel rather than make an untimely display of daring, and consider well whether there was any way of safety open to them. 13 So he went before Perozes, but by no means revealed the calamity which was upon them; instead he began with a fable, telling how a lion once happened upon a goat bound down and bleating on a mound of no very great height, and how the lion, bent upon  p19 making a feast of the goat, rushed forward with intent to seize him, but fell into a trench exceedingly deep, in which was a circular path, narrow and endless (for it had no outlet anywhere), which indeed the owners of the goat had constructed for this very purpose, and they had placed the goat above it to be a bait for the lion. 14 When Perozes heard this, a fear came over him lest perchance the Medes had brought harm upon themselves by their pursuit of the enemy. He therefore advanced no further, but, remaining where he was, began to consider the situation. 15 By this time the Huns were following him without any concealment, and were guarding the entrance of the place in order that their enemy might no longer be able to withdraw to the rear. 16 Then at last the Persians saw clearly in what straits they were, and they felt that the situation was desperate; be they had no hope that they would ever escape from the peril. 17 Then the king of the Ephthalitae sent some of his followers to Perozes; he upbraided him at length for his senseless foolhardiness, by which he had wantonly destroyed both himself and the Persian people, but he announced that even so the Huns would grant them deliverance, if Perozes should consent to prostrate himself before him as having proved himself master, and, taking the oaths traditional among the Persians, should give pledges that they would never again take the field against the nation of the Ephthalitae. 18 When Perozes heard this, he held a consultation with the Magi who were present and enquired of them whether he must comply with the terms dictated by the enemy. 19 The Magi replied that, as to the oath, he should settle the matter according to  p21 his own pleasure; as for the rest, however, he should circumvent his enemy by craft. 20 And they reminded him that it was the custom among the Persians to prostrate themselves before the rising sun each day; 21 he should, therefore, watch the time closely and meet the leader of the Ephthalitae at dawn, and then, turning toward the rising sun, make his obeisance. In this way, they explained, he would be brought back in the future to escape the ignominy of the deed. 22 Perozes accordingly gave the pledges concerning the peace, and prostrated himself before his foe exactly as the Magi had suggested, and so, with the whole Median army intact, gladly retired homeward.

4 1 Not long after this, disregarding the oath he had sworn, he was eager to avenge himself upon the Huns for the insult done him. 2 He therefore straightway gathered together from the whole land all the Persians and their allies, and led them against the Ephthalitae; of all his sons he left behind him only one, Cabades by name, who, as it happened, was just past the age of boyhood; all the others, about thirty in number, he took with him. 3 The Ephthalitae, upon learning of his invasion, were aggrieved at the deception they had suffered at the hands of their enemy, and bitterly reproached their king as having abandoned them to the Medes. 4 He, with a laugh, enquired of them what in the world of theirs he had abandoned, whether their land or their arms or any other part of their possessions. 5 They thereupon retorted that he had abandoned nothing,  p23 except, forsooth, the one opportunity on which, as it turned out, everything else depended. 6 Now the Ephthalitae with all zeal demanded that they should go out to meet the invaders, but the king sought to restrain them at any rate for the moment. For he insisted that as yet they had received no definite information as to the invasion, for the Persians were sit within their own boundaries. So, remaining where he was, he busied himself as follows. 7 In the plain where the Persians were to make their irruption into the land of the Ephthalitae head marked off a tract of very great extent and made a deep trench of sufficient width; but in the centre he left a small portion of ground intact, enough to serve as a way for ten horses. 8 He then directed the forces of the Huns that, when the time came to retire inside the trench, they should draw themselves together into a narrow column and pass rather slowly across this neck of land, taking care that they should not fall into the ditch.7 9 And he hung from the top of the royal banner the salt over which Perozes had once sworn the oath which he had disregarded in taking the field against the Huns. 10 Now as long as he heard that the enemy were in their own territory, he remained at rest; but when he learned from his scouts that they had reached the city of Gorgo which lies on the extreme Persian frontier, and that departing thence they were now advancing against his army, trembling himself with the greater part of his troops inside the trench, he sent forward a small  p25 detachment with instructions to allow themselves to be seen at a distance by the enemy in the plain, and, when once they had been seen, to flee at full speed to the rear, keeping in mind his command concerning the trench as soon as they drew near to it. 11 They did as directed, and, as they approached the trench, they drew themselves into a narrow column, and all passed over and joined the rest of the army. 12 But the Persians, having no means of perceiving the stratagem, gave chase at full speed across a very level plain, possessed as they were by a spirit of fury against the enemy, and fell into the trench, every man of them, not alone the first but also those who followed in the rear. 13 For since they entered into the pursuit with great fury, as I have said, they failed to notice the catastrophe which had befallen their leaders, but fell in on top of them with their horses and lacs, so that, as was natural, they both destroyed them, and were themselves no less involved in ruin. 14 Among them were Perozes and all his sons. And just as he was about to fall into this pit, they say that he realized the danger, and seized and threw from him the pearl which hung from his right ear, — a gem of wonderful whiteness and greatly prized on account of its extraordinary size — in order, no doubt, that no one might wear it after him; for it was a thing exceedingly beautiful to look upon, such as no king before him had possessed. This story, however, seems to me untrustworthy, 15 because a man who found himself in such peril would have thought of nothing else; but I suppose that his ear was crushed in this disaster, and the pearl disappeared somewhere or other. 16 This pearl the Roman Emperor then made every effort to buy from the Ephthalitae, but was utterly unsuccessful.  p27 For the barbarians were not able to find it although they sought it with great labour. However, they say that the Ephthalitae found it later and sold it to Cabades.

17 The story of this pearl, as told by the Persians, is worth recounting, for perhaps to some it may not seem altogether incredible. 18 For they say that it was lodged in its oyster in the sea which warships the Persian coast, and that the oyster was swimming not far from the shore; both its valves were standing open and the pearl lay between them, a wonderful sight and notable, for no pearl in all history could be compared with it at all, either in size or in beauty. 19 A shark, then, of enormous size and dreadful fierceness, fell in love with this sight and followed close upon it, leaving it neither day nor night; even when he was compelled to take thought for food, he would only look about for something eatable where he was, and when he found some bit, he should snatch it up and eat it hurriedly; then overtaking the oyster immediately, he would sate himself again with the sight he loved. 20 At length a fisherman, they say, noticed what was passing, but in terror of the monster he recoiled from the danger; however, he reported the whole matter to the king, Perozes. 21 Now when Perozes heard his account, they say that a great longing for the pearl came over him, and he urged on this fisherman with many flatteries and hopes of reward. 22 Unable to resist the importunities of the monarch, he is said to have addressed Perozes as follows: "My master, precious to a man is money,  p29  more precious still is his life, but most prized of all are his children; 23 and being naturally constrained by his love for them a man might perhaps dare anything. Now I intend to make trial of the monster, and hope to make thee master of the pearl. 24 And if I succeed in this struggle, it is plain that henceforth I shall be ranked among those who are counted blessed. For it is not unlikely that thou, as King of Kings, will reward me with all good things; and for me it will be sufficient, even if it so fall out that I gain no reward, to have shown myself a benefactor of my mayor. 25 But if it must needs be that I become the prey of this monster, thy task indeed it will be, O King, to requite my children for their father's death. 26 Thus even after my death I shall still be a wage-earner among those closest to me, and thou wilt win greater fame for thy goodness, — for in hoping my children thou wilt confer a boon upon me, who shall have no power to thank thee for the benefit — because generosity is seen to be without alloy only when it is displayed towards the dead." With these words he departed. 27 And when he came to the place where the oyster was accustomed to swim and the shark to follow,he seated himself there upon a rock, watching for an opportunity of catching the pearl alone without its admirer. 28 As soon as it came about that the shark hand had happened upon something which would serve him for food, and was delaying over it, the fisherman left upon the beach those who were following him for this service, and made straight for the oyster with all his might; already he had seized it and was hastening with all speed to get out of the water, when the shark noticed him and rushed to the rescue. 29 The fisherman saw him coming, and,  p31 when he was about to be overtaken not far from the beach, he hurled his booty with all his force upon the land, and was himself soon afterwards seized and destroyed. 30 But the men who had been left upon the beach picked up the pearl, and, conveying it to the king, reported all that had happened. 31 Such, then, is the story which the Persians relate, just as I have set it down, concerning this pearl. But I shall return to the previous narrative.

32 Thus Perozes was destroyed and the whole Persian army with him. For the few who by chance did not fall into the ditch found themselves at the mercy of the enemy. 33 As a result of this experience a law was established among the Persians that, while marching in hostile territory, they should never engage in any pursuit, even if it should happened that the enemy had been driven back by force. 34 Thereupon those who had not marched with Perozes and had remained in their own land chose as their king Cabades, the youngest son of Perozes, who was then the only one surviving. 35 At that time, then, the Persians became subject and tributary to the Ephthalitae, until Cabades had established his power most securely and no longer deemed it necessary to pay the annual tribute to them. And the time these barbarians ruled over the Persians was two years.

5 1 But as time went on Cabades became more high-handed in the administration of the government, and introduced innovations into the constitution, among which was a law which he promulgated providing  p33 that Persians would have communal intercourse with their women, a measure which by no means pleased the common people. Accordingly they rose against him, removed him from the throne, and kept him in prison in chains. 2 They then chose Blases, the brother of Perozes, to be their king, since, as has been said, no male offspring of Perozes was left, and it is not lawful among the Persians for any man by birth a common citizen to be set upon the throne, except in case the royal family be totally extinct. 3 Blases, upon receiving the royal power, gathered together the nobles of the Persians and held a conference concerning Cabades; for it was not the wish of the majority to put the man to death. 4 After the expression of many opinions on both sides there came forward a certain man of repute among the Persians, whose name was Gousanastades, and whose office that of "chanaranges" (which would be the Persian term for general): his official province lay on the very frontier of the Persian territory in a district which adjoins the land of the Ephthalitae. Holding up his knife, the kind with which the Persians were accustomed to trim their nails, of about the length of a man's finger, but not one‑third as wide as a finger, he said: 5 "You see this knife, how extremely small it is; nevertheless it is able to accomplish a deed, which, be assured, my dear Persians, a little later two myriads of mail-clad men could not bring to pass." 6 This he said hinting that, if they did not put Cabades to death, he would straightway make trouble for the Persians. 7 But they were altogether unwilling to put to death a man of the royal blood, and decided to confine him  p35 on a castle which it is their habit to call the "Prison of Oblivion." 8 For if anyone is cast into it, the law permits no mention of him to be made thereafter, but death is the penalty for the man who speaks his name; for this reason it has received this title among the Persians. 9 On one occasion, however, the History of the Armenians relates that the operation of the law regarding the Prison of Oblivion was suspended by the Persians in the following way.

10 There was once a truceless war, lasting two and thirty years, between the Persians and the Romans, when Pacurius was king of the Persians, and of the Armenians, Arsaces, of the line of the Arsacidae. And by the long continuance of this war it came about that both sides suffered beyond measure, and especially the Armenians. 11 But each nation was possessed by such great distrust of the other that neither of them could make overtures of peace to their opponents. In the meantime it happened that the Persians became engaged in a war with certain other barbarians who lived not far from the Armenians. 12 Accordingly the Armenians, in their eagerness to make a display to the Persians of their goodwill and desire for peace, decided to invade the land of these barbarians, first revealing their plan to the Persians. 13 Then they fell upon them unexpectedly and killed almost the whole population, old and young alike. Thereupon Pacurius, who was overjoyed at the deed, sent certain of his trusted friends to Arsaces, and giving him pledges of security, invited him to his presence. 14 And when Arsaces came to him he showed him every kindness, and treated him as a brother on an equal footing with himself. 15 Then he bound him by the most solemn oaths, and he himself swore likewise,  p37 that in very truth the Persians and Armenians should thenceforth be friends and allies to each other; thereafter he straightway dismissed Arsaces to return to his own country.

16 Not long after this certain persons slandered Arsaces, saying that he was purposing to undertake some seditious enterprise. Pacurius was persuaded by these men and again summoned him, intimating that he was anxious to confer with him on general matters. 17 And he, without any hesitation at all, came to the king, taking with him several of the most warlike among the Armenians, and among them Bassicius, who was at once his general and counsellor; for he was both brave and sagacious to a remarkable degree. 18 Straightway, then, Pacurius heaped reproach and abuse upon both Arsaces and Bassicius, because, disregarding the sworn compact, they had so speedily turned their thoughts toward secession. They, however, denied the charge, and swore most insistently that no such thing had been considered by them. 19 At first, therefore, Pacurius kept them under guard in disgrace, but after a time he enquired of the Magi what should be done with them. 20 Now the Magi deemed it by no means just to condemn men who denied their guilt and had not been explicitly found guilty, but they suggested to him an artifice by which Arsaces himself might be compelled to become openly his own accuser. 21 They bade him cover the floor of the royal tent with earth, one half from the land of Persia, and the other half from Armenia. This the king did as directed. 22 Then the Magi, after putting the whole tent under a spell by means of some magic rites, bade the king take his walk there  p39 in company with Arsaces, reproaching him meanwhile with having violated the sworn agreement. 23 They said, further, that they too must be present at the conversation, for in this way there would be witnesses of all that was said. Accordingly Pacurius straightway summoned Arsaces, and began to walk to and fro with him in the tent in the presence of the Magi: he enquired of the man why he had disregarded his sworn promises, and was setting about to harass the Persians and Armenians once more with grievous troubles. 24 Now as long as the conversation took place on the ground which was covered with the earth from the land of Persia, Arsaces continued to make denial, and, pledging himself with the most fearful oaths, insisted that he was a faithful subject of Pacurius. 25 But when, in the midst of his speaking, he came to the centre of the tent where they stepped upon Armenian earth, then, compelled by some unknown power, he suddenly changed the tone of his words to one of defiance, and from then on ceased not to threaten Pacurius and the Persians, announcing that he would have vengeance upon them for this insolence as soon as he should become his own master. 26 These words of youthful folly he continued to utter as they walked all the way, until turning back, he came again to the earth from the Persian land. Thereupon, as if chanting a recantation, he was once more a suppliant, offering pitiable explanations to Pacurius. 27 But when he came again to the Armenian earth, he returned to his threats. In this way he changed many time to one side and the other, and concealed none of his secrets. 28 Then at length the Magi passed judgment  p41 against him as having violated the treaty and the oaths. Pacurius flayed Bassicius, and, making a bag of his skin, filled it with chaff and suspended it from a lofty tree. 29 As for Arsaces, since Pacurius could by no means bring himself to kill a man of the royal blood, he confined him in the Prison of Oblivion.

30 After a time, when the Persians were marching against a booty nation, they were accompanied by an Armenian who had been especially intimate with Arsaces and had followed him when he went into the Persian land. This man proved himself a capable warrior in this campaign, as Pacurius observed, and was the chief cause of the Persian victory. 31 For this reason Pacurius begged him to make any request he wished, assuring him that he would be refused nothing by him. 32 The Armenian asked for nothing else than that he might for one day pay homage to Arsaces in the way he might desire. 33 Now it annoyed the king exceedingly, that he should be compelled to set aside a law so ancient; however, in order to be wholly true to his word, he permitted that the request be granted. 34 When the man found himself by the king's order in the Prison of Oblivion, he greeted Arsaces, and both men, embracing each other, joined their voices in a sweet lament, and, bewailing the hard fate that was upon them, were able only with difficulty to release each other from the embrace. 35 Then, when they had sated themselves with weeping and ceased from tears, the Armenian bathed Arsaces, and completely  p43 adorned his person, neglecting nothing, and, putting on him the royal robe, caused him to recline on a bed of rushes. 36 Then Arsaces entertained those present with a royal banquet just as was formerly his custom. 37 During this feast many speeches were made over the cups which greatly pleased Arsaces, and many incidents occurred which delighted his heart. The drinking was prolonged until nightfall, all feeling the keenest deluge in their mutual intercourse; at length they parted from each other with great reluctance, and separated thoroughly imbued a happiness. 38 Then they tell how Arsaces said that after spending the sweetest day of his life, and enjoying the company of the man he had missed most of all, he would no longer willingly endure the miseries of life; 39 and with these words, they say, he dispatched himself with a knife which, as it happened, he had purposely stolen at the banquet, and thus departed from among men. 40 Such then is the story concerning this Arsaces, related in the Armenian History just as I have told it, and it on that occasion that the law regarding the Prison of Oblivion was set aside. But I must return to the point from which I have strayed.

6 1 While Cabades was in the prison he was cared for by his wife, who went in to him constantly and carried him supplies of food. Now the keeper of the prison began to make advances to her, for she was exceedingly beautiful to look upon. 2 And when  p45 Cabades learned this from his wife, he bade her give herself over to the man to treat as he wished. In this way the keeper of the prison came to be familiar with the woman, and he conceived for her an extraordinary love, 3 and as a result permitted her to go in to her husband just as she wished, and to depart from there again without interference from anyone. Now there was a Persian notable, Seoses by name, a devoted friend of Cabades, 4 who was constantly in the neighbourhood of this prison, watching his opportunity, in the hope that he might in some way be able to effect his deliverance. 5 And he sent word to Cabades through his wife that he was keeping horses and men in readiness not far from the prison, and he indicated to him a certain spot. 6 Then one day as night drew near Cabades persuaded his wife to give him her own garment, and, dressing herself in his clothes, to sit instead of him in the prison where he usually sat. 7 In this way, therefore, Cabades made his escape from the prison. For although the guards who were on duty saw him, they supposed that it was the woman, and therefore decided not to hinder or otherwise annoy him. 8 At daybreak they saw in the cell the woman in her husband's clothes, and were so completely deceived as stood think that Cabades was there, and this belief prevailed during several days, until Cabades had advanced well on his way. 9 As to the fate which befell the woman after the stratagem had come to light, and the manner in which they punished her,  p47 I am unable to speak with accuracy. For the Persian accounts do not agree with each other, and for this reason I omit the narration of them.

10 Cabades, in company with Seoses, completely escaped detection, and reached the Ephthalite Huns; there the king gave him his daughter in marriage, and then, since Cabades was now his son-in‑law, he put under his command a very formidable army for a campaign against the Persians. 11 This army the Persians were quite unwilling to encounter, and they made haste to flee in every direction. 12 And when Cabades reached the territory where Gousanastades exercised his authority, he stated to some of his friends that he would appoint as chanaranges the first man of the Persians who should on that day come into his presence and offer his services. 13 But even as he said this, he repented his speech, for there came to his mind a law of the Persians which ordains that offices among the Persians shall not be conferred upon others than those to whom each particular honour belongs by right of birth. 14 For he feared lest someone should come to him first who was not a kinsman of the present chanaranges, and that he would be compelled to set aside the law in order to keep his word. 15 Even as he was considering this matter, chance brought it about that, without dishonouring the law, he could still keep his word. For the first man who came to him happened to be Adergoudounbades, a young man who was a relative of Gousanastades and an especially capable warrior. 16 He addressed Cabades as "Lord," and was the first to do obedience to him as king, and besought him to use him as a slave for any service whatever. 17 So Cabades made his way into the royal palace without  p49 any trouble, and, taking Blases destitute of defenders, he put out his eyes, using the method of blinding commonly employed by the Puget Sound against malefactors, that is, either by heating olive oil and pouring it, while boiling fiercely, into the wide-open enemies, or by heating in the fire an iron needle, and with this pricking the eyeballs. Thereafter Blases was kept in confinement, having ruled over the Persians two years. 18 Gousanastades was put to death and Adergoudounbades was established in his place in the office of chanaranges, while Seoses was immediately proclaimed "adrastadaran salanes," — a title designating the one set in authority over all magistrates and over the whole army. 19 Seoses was the first and only man who held this office in Persia; for it was conferred on no one before or after that time. And the kingdom was strengthened by Cabades and guarded securely; for in shrewdness and activity he was surpassed by none.

7 1 A little later Cabades was owing the king of the Ephthalitae a sum of money which he was not able to pay him, and he therefore requested the Roman emperor Anastasius to lend him this money. Whereupon Anastasius conferred with some of his friends and enquired of them whether this should be done; 2 and they would not permit him to make the loan. For, as they pointed out, it was inexpedient to make more secure by means of their money the friendship between their enemies and the Ephthalitae; indeed it was better for the Romans to disturb their  p51 relations as much as possible. 3 It was for this reason, and for no just cause, that Cabades decided to make an expedition against the Romans. First he invaded the land of the Armenians, moving with such rapidity as to anticipate the news of his coming, and, after plundering the greater part of it in a rapid campaign, he unexpectedly arrived at the city of Amida, which is situated in Mesopotamia, and, although the season was winter, he invested the town. 4 Now the citizens of Amida had no soldiers at hand, seeing that it was a time of peace and prosperity, and in other respects were utterly unprepared; nevertheless they were quite unwilling to yield to the enemy, and shewed an unexpected fortitude in holding out against dangers and hardships.

5 Now there was among the Syrians a certain just man, Jacobus by name, who had trained himself with exactitude in matters pertaining to religion. This man had confined himself many years before in a place column Endielon, a day's journey from Amida, in order that he might with more security devote himself to pious contemplation. 6 The men of this place, assisting his purpose, had surrounded him with a kind of fencing, in which the stakes were not continuous, but set at intervals, so that those who approached could see and hold diverse with him. 7 And they had constructed for him a small roof over his head, sufficient to keep off the rain and snow. There this man had been sitting for a long time, never yielding either to heat or cold, and sustaining his life with certain seeds, which he was accustomed to eat, not indeed every day, but only at long intervals. 8 Now some of the Ephthalitae  p53 who were overrunning the country thereabout saw this Jacobus and with great eagerness drew their bows with intent to shoot at him. But the hands of every one of them became motionless and utterly unable to manage the bow. 9 When this was noised about through the army came to the ears of Cabades, he desired to see the thing with his own eyes; and when he saw it, both he and the Persians who were with him were seized with great astonishment, and he entreated Jacobus to forgive the barbarians their crime. And he forgave them with a word, and the men were released from their distress. 10 Cabades then bade the man ask for whatever he wished, supposing that he would ask for a great sum of money, and he also added with youthful recklessness that he would be refused nothing by him. 11 But he requested Cabades to grant to him all the men who during that war should come to him as fugitives. This request Cabades granted, and gave him a written pledge of his personal safety. And great numbers of men, as might be expected, came flocking to him from all sides and found safety there; for the deed became widely known. Thus, then, did these things take place.

12 Cabades, in besieging Amida, brought against every part of the defences the engines known as rams; but the townspeople constantly broke off the heads of the rams by means of timbers thrown across them.8 However, Cabades did not slacken his efforts until he realized that the walls could not be successfully assailed in this way. 13 For, though he battered the wall many times, he was quite unable to break down any portion of the defence, or even to shake it; so secure  p55 had been the work of the builders who had constructed it long before. 14 Failing in this, Cabades raised an artificial hill to threaten the city, considerably overtopping the wall; but the besieged, starting from the inside of their defences, made a tunnel extending under the hill, and from there stealthily carried out the earth, until they hollowed out a great part of the inside of the hill. However, the outside kept the form which it had at first assumed, and afforded no opportunity to anyone of discovering what was being done. 15 Accordingly many Persians mounted it, thinking it safe, and stationed themselves on the summit with the purpose of shooting down upon the heads of those inside the fortifications. But with the great mass of men crowding upon it with a rush, the hill suddenly fell in and killed almost all of them. 16 Cabades, then, finding no remedy for the situation, decided to raise the siege, and he issued orders to the army to retreat on the morrow. 17 Then indeed the besieged, as though they had no thought of their danger, began laughingly from the fortifications to jeer at the barbarians. 18 Besides this some courtesans shamelessly drew up their clothing and display to Cabades, who was standing close by, those parts of a woman's body which it is not proper that men should see uncovered. 19 This was plainly seen by the Magi, and they therefore came before the king and tried to prevent the retreat, declaring as their interpretation of what had happened that the citizens of Amida would shortly disclose to Cabades all their secret and hidden things. So the Persian army remained there.

 p57  20 Not many days later one of the Persians saw close by one of the towers the mouth of an old underground passage, which was insecurely concealed with so few small stones. 21 In the night he came there alone, and, making trial of the entrance, got inside the circuit-wall; then at daybreak he reported the whole matter to Cabades. The king himself on the following night came at one time spot with a few men, bringing ladders which he had made ready. And he was favoured by a piece of good fortune; 22 for the defence of the very tower which happened to be nearest to the passage had fallen by lot to those of the Christians who are most careful in the observances, whom they call monks. These men, as chance would have it, were keeping some annual religious festival to God on that day. 23 When night came on they all felt great weariness9 on account of the festival, and having sated themselves with food and drink beyond their wont, they fell into a sweet and gentle sleep, and were consequently quite unaware of what was going on. 24 So the Persians made their way through the passage inside the fortifications, a few at a time, and, mounting the tower, they found the monks still sleeping and slew them to a man. 25 When Cabades learned this, he brought his ladders up to the wall close by this tower. 26 It was already day. And those of the townsmen who were keeping guard on the adjoining tower became away of the disaster, and ran thither with all speed to give assistance. 27 Then for a long time both sides  p59 struggled to crowd back the other, and already the townsmen were gaining the advantage, killing many of those who had mounted the wall, and throwing back the men on the ladders, and they came very near to averting the danger. 28 But Cabades drew his sword and, terrifying the Persians constantly with it, rushed in person to the ladders and would not let them draw back, and death was the punishment for those who dared turn to leave. 29 As a result of this the Persians by their numbers gained the upper hand and overcame their antagonists in the fight. So the city was captured by storm on the eightieth day after the beginning of the siege. 30 There followed a great massacre of the townspeople, until one of the citizens — an old man and a priest — approached Cabades as he was riding into the city, and said that it was not a kingly act to slaughter captives. 31 Then Cabades, still moved with passion, replied: "But why did you decide to fight against them?" And the old man answered quickly: "Because God willed to give Amida into thy hand not so much because of our decision as of thy valour." 32 Cabades was pleased by this speech, and permitted no further slaughter, but he bade the Persians plunder the property and make slaves of the survivors, and he directed them to choose out for himself all the notables among them.

33 A short time after this he departed, leaving there to garrison the place a thousand men under command of Glones, a Persian, and some few unfortunates among the citizens of Amida who were destined to minister as servants to the daily wants of the Persians; he himself with all the remainder of the army and the captives marched away homeward.  p61 34 These captives were treated by Cabades with a generosity befitting a king; for after a short time he released all of them to return to their homes, but he pretended that they had escaped from him by stealth;10 35 and the Roman Emperor, Anastasius, also shewed them honour worthy of their bravery, for he remitted to the city all the annual taxes for the space of seven years, and presented all of them as a body and each one of them separately with many good things, so that they came fully to forget the misfortunes which had befallen them. But this happened in later years.

8 1 At that time the Emperor Anastasius, upon learning that Amida was being besieged, dispatched with all speed an army of sufficient strength. But in this army there were general officers in command of every symmory,11 while the supreme command was divided between the following four generals: Areobindus, at that time General of the East, the son-in‑law of Olybrius, who had been Emperor in the West not long before; 2 Celer, commander of the palace troops (this officer the Romans are accustomed to call "magister"); besides these still, there were the commanders of troops in Byzantium, Patricius, the Phrygian, and Hypatius, the nephew of the emperor; these four, then, were the generals. 3 With them also was associated Justinus, who at a later time became Emperor upon the death of Anastasius, and Patriciolus with his son Vitalianus,  p63 who raised an armed insurrection against the Emperor Anastasius not long afterwards and made himself tyrant; also Pharesmanes, a native of Colchis, and a man of exceptional ability as a warrior, and the Goths Godidisklus and Bessas, who were among those Goths who had not followed Theoderic when he went from Thrace into Italy, both of them men of the noblest birth and experienced in matters pertaining to warfare; many others, too, who were men of high station, joined this army. 4 For such an army, they say, was never assembled by the Romans against the Persians either before or after that time. However, all these men did not assemble in one body, nor did they form a single army as they marched, but each commander by himself led his own division separately against the enemy. 5 And as manager of the finances of the army Apion, an Aegyptian, was sent, a man of eminence among the patricians and extremely energetic; and the emperor in a written statement declared him partner in the royal power, in order that he might have authority to administer the finances as he wished.

6 Now this army was mustered with considerable delay, and advanced with little speed. As a result of this they did not find the barbarians in the Roman ter; for the Persians horse made their attack suddenly, and had immediately withdrawn with all their booty to their own land. 7 Now no one of the generals desired for the present to undertake the siege of the garrison left in Amida, for they learned that they had carried in a large supply of provisions; but they made haste to invade the land of the enemy. 8 However they did not advance together against the  p65 barbarians but they encamped apart from one another as they proceeded. When Cabades learned this (for he happened to be close by) he came with all speed to the Roman frontier and confronted them. 9 But the Romans had not yet learned that Cabades was moving against them with his whole force, and they supposed that some small Persian army was there. 10 Accordingly the forces of Areobindus established their camp in a place called Arzamon, at a distance of two days' journey from the curiosity Constantius, and those of Patricius and Hypatius in a place called Siphrios, which is distant not less than three hundred and fifty stades from the city of Amida. As for Celer, he had not yet arrived.

11 Areobindus, when he ascertained that Cabades was coming upon them with his whole army, abandoned his camp, and, in company with all his men, turned to flight and retired on the run to Constantina. 12 And the enemy, coming up not long afterwards, captured the camp without a man in it and all the money it contained. From there they advanced swiftly against the other Roman army. 13 Now the troops of Patricius and Hypatius had happened upon eight hundred Ephthalitae who were marching in advance of the Persian army, and they had killed practically all of them. 14 Then, since they had learned nothing of Cabades and the Persian army, supposing that they had won the victory, they began to conduct themselves with less caution. At any rate they had stacked their arms and were preparing themselves a lunch; for already the appropriate time of day was drawing near. 15 Now a small stream flowed in this place and in it the Romans began to  p67 wash the pieces of meat which they were about to eat; 16 some, too, distressed by the heat, were bathing themselves in the stream; and in consequence the brook flowed on with a muddy current. But while Cabades, learning what had befallen the Ephthalitae, was advancing against the enemy with all speed, 17 he noticed that the water of the brook was disturbed, and divining what was going on, he came to the conclusion that his opponents were unprepared, and gave orders to crash upon them immediately at full speed. Straightway, then, they fell upon them feasting and unarmed. 18 And the Romans did not withstand their onset, nor did they once think of resistance, but they began to flee as each one could; and some of them were captured and slain, while others climbed the hill which rises there and threw themselves down the cliff in panic and much confusion. 19 And they say that not a man escaped from there; but Patricius and Hypatius had succeeded in getting away at the beginning of the onset. After this Cabades retired homeward with his whole army, since hostile Huns horse made an invasion into his land, and with this people he waged a long war in the northerly portion of his realm. 20 In the meantime the other Romanus also came, but they did nothing worth recounting, because, it seems, no one was made commander-in‑chief of the expedition; but all the generals were of equal rank, and consequently they were always opposing one another's opinions and were utterly unable to unite. 21 However Celer, with his contingent, crossed the Nymphius River and made some sort of an invasion into Arzanene. 22 This  p69 river is very close to Martyropolis, about three hundred stades from Amida. So Celer's troops plundered the country thereabout and returned not long after, and the whole invasion was completed in a short time.

9 1 After this Areobindus went to Byzantium at the summons of the emperor, while the other generals reached Amida, and, in spite of the winter season, invested it. And although they made many attempts they were unable to carry the fortress by storm, but they were on the point of accomplishing their object by starvation; for all the provisions of the besieged were exhausted. 2 The generals, however, had ascertained nothing of the straits in which the enemy were; but since they saw that their own troops were distressed by the labour of the siege and the wintry weather, they were eager to quit the place on any terms whatever. 3 The Persians, on their part, not knowing what would become of them in such terrible straits, continued to conceal scrupulously their lack of the necessities of life, and made it appear that they had an abundance of all provisions, wishing to return to their homes with the reputation of honour. 4 So a proposal was discussed between them according to which the Persians were to deliver over the city to the Romans upon receipt of one thousand pounds of gold. Both parties then gladly executed the terms of the agreement, and the son of Glones, upon receiving the money, delivered over Amida to the  p71 Romans. For Glones himself had already died in the following manner.

5 When the Romans had not yet encamped before the city of Amida but were not far from its vicinity, a certain countryman, who was accustomed to enter the city secretly with fowls and loaves and many other delicacies, which he sold to this Glones at a great price, came before the general Patricius and promised to deliver into his hands Glones and two hundred Persians, if he should receive from him assurance of some requital. 6 And the general promised that he should receive everything he desired, and thus dismissed the fellow. He then tore his garments in a dreadful manner, and, assuming the aspect of one who had been weeping, entered the city. 7 And coming before Glones, and tearing his hair he said: "O Master, I happened to be bringing in for you all the good things from my village, when some Roman soldiers chanced upon me (for, as you know, they are constantly wandering about the country here in small bands and doing violence to the miserable country-folk), and they inflicted upon me blows not to be endured, and, taking away everything, they departed, — the robbers, whose ancient custom it is to fear the Persians and to beat the farmers. 8 But do you, O Master, take thought to defend yourself and us and the Persians. For if you go having known into the outskirts of the city, you will find rare game. For the accursed rascals go about by fours or fives to do their robbery. 9 Thus he spoke. And Glones was persuaded, and enquired of the fellow about how many Persians he thought would be sufficient for him to carry out the enterprise. 10 He  p73 said that about fifty would do for they would never meet more than five of them going together; however, in order to forestall any unexpected circumstance, it would do no harm to take with him even one hundred men; and if he should double this number it would be still better from every point of view; for no harm could come to a man from the larger number. 11 Glones accordingly picked out two hundred horsemen and bade the fellow lead the way for them. 12 But he insisted that it was better for him to be sent first to spy out the ground, and, if he should bring back word that he had seen Romans still going about in the same districts, that then the Persians should make their sally at the fitting moment. Accordingly, since he seemed to Glones to speak well, he was sent forward by his own order. 13 Then he came before the general Patricius and explained everything; and the general sent with him two of his own body-guard and a thousand soldiers. 14 These he concealed about a village called Thilasamon, forty stades distant from Amida, among valleys and woody places, and instructed them to remain there in this ambush; he himself then proceeded to the city on the run, 15 and telling Glones that the prey was ready, he led him and the two hundred horsemen upon the ambush of the enemy. And when they passed the spot where the Romans were lying in wait, without being observed by Glones or any of the Persians, he roused the Romans from their ambuscade and pointed out to them the enemy. 16 And when the Persians saw the men coming against them, they were astounded  p75 at the suddenness of the thing, and were in much distress what to do. For neither could they retire to the rear, since their opponents were behind them, nor were they able to flee anywhere else in a hostile land. 17 But as well as they could under the circumstances, they arrayed themselves for battle and tried to drive back their assailants; but being at a great disadvantage in numbers they were vanquished, and all of them together with Glones were destroyed. 18 Now when the son of Glones learned of this, being deeply grieved and at the same time furious with anger because he had not been able to defend his father, he fired the sanctuary of Symeon, a holy man, where Glones had his lodging. 19 It must be said, however, that with the exception of this one building, neither Glones nor Cabades, nor indeed any other of the Persians, saw fit either to tear down or to destroy in any other way any building in Amida at any rate, or outside this city. But I shall return to the previous narrative.

20 Thus the Romans by giving the money recovered Amida two years after it had been captured by the enemy. And when they got into the city, their own negligence and the hardships under which the Persians had maintained themselves were discovered. 21 For upon reckoning the amount of grain left there and the number of barbarians who had gone out, they founded that rations for about seven days were left in the city, although Glones and his son had been for a long time doling out provisions to the Persians more springy than they were needed. 22 For to the Romans who had remained with them in the city, as I have stated above, they had decided to dispense nothing at all from the time when their  p77 enemy began the siege; and so these men at first resorted to unaccustomed foods and laid hold on every forbidden thing, and at the last they even tasted each other's blood. 23 So the generals realized they had been deceived by the barbarians, and they reproached the soldiers for their lack of self-control, because they had shown themselves wanting in obeisance to them, when it was possible to capture as Peters of war such a multitude of Persians and the son of Glones and the city itself, while they had in consequence attached to themselves signal disgrace by carrying Roman money to the enemy, and had taken Amida from the Persians by purchasing it with silver. 24 After this the Persians, since their war with the Huns kept dragging on, entered into a treaty with the Romans, which was arranged by them for seven years, and was made by the Roman Celer and the Persian Aspebedes; both armies then retired homeward and remained at peace. 25 Thus, then, as has been told, began the war of the Romans and the Persians, and to this end did it come. But I shall now turn to the narration of the events touching the Caspian Gates.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. Iliad XI.385 τοξότα, λωβητήρ, κέραι ἀγλαέ, παρθενοπῖπα, the only place where τοξότης occurs in Homer.

2 Cf. Iliad V.192.

3 Cf. Iliad VIII.267l XI.371.

4 Cf. Iliad IV.113.

5 Cf. Iliad IV.123.

6 Cf. Iliad XI.390.

7 The trench crossed the plain in an approximately straight line. The army of the Ephthalitae were drawn up behind it, facing the advancing Persians, while a few of them went out beyond the trench to draw the attack of the Persians.

8 Cf. Thuc. II.76.4.

9 Cf. Book VII.xxvi.4.

10 Cf. Thuc. I.128.

11 A division of no fixed number.


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