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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Persian Wars


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

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(Vol. I) Procopius
Persian Wars

Book I (continued)

 p129  15 1 And Cabades sent another army into the part of Armenia which is subject to the Romans. This army was composed of Persarmenians and Sunitae, whose land adjoins that of the Alani. There were also Huns with them, of the stock called Sabiri, to the number of three thousand, a most warlike race. 2 And Mermeroes, a Persian, had been made general of the whole force. When this army was three days' march from Theodosiopolis, they established their camp and, remaining in the land of  p131 the Persarmenians, made their preparations for the invasion. 3 Now the general of Armenia was, as it happened, Dorotheus a man of discretion and experienced in many wars. And Sittas held the office of general in Byzantium, and had authority over the whole army in Armenia. 4 These two, then, upon learning that an army was being assembled in Persarmenia, straightway sent two body-guards with instructions to spy out the whole force of the enemy and report to them. 5 And both of these men got into the barbarian camp, and after noting everything accurately, they departed. 6 And they were travelling toward some place in that region, when they happened unexpectedly upon hostile Huns. By them one of the two, Dagaris by name, was made captive and bound, while the other succeeded in escaping and reported everything to the generals. 7 They then armed their whole force and made an unexpected assault upon the camp of their enemy; 8 and the barbarians, panic-stricken by the unexpected attack, never thought of resistance, but fled as best each one could. Thereupon the Romans, after killing a large number and plundering the camp, immediately marched back.

9 Not long after this Mermeroes, having collected the whole army, invaded the Roman territory, and they came upon their enemy near the city of Satala. There they established themselves in camp and remained at rest in a place called Octava, which is fifty‑six stades distant from the city. 10 Sittas therefore led out a thousand men and concealed them behind one of the many hills which surround the plain in which the city of Satala  p133 lies. 11 Dorotheus with the rest of the army he ordered of the stay inside the fortifications, because they thought that they were by no means able to withstand the enemy on level ground, since their number was not fewer than thirty thousand, while their own forces scarcely amounted to half that number. 12 On the following day the barbarians came up close to the fortifications and busily set about closing in the town. But suddenly, seeing the forces of Sittas who by now were coming down upon them from the high ground, and having no means of estimating their number, since owing to the summer season a great cloud of dust hung over them, they thought they were much more numerous than they were, and, hurriedly abandoning their plan of closing in the town, they hastened to mass their force into a small space. 13 But the Romans anticipated the movement and, separating their own force into two detachments, they set upon them as they were retiring from the fortifications; and when this was seen by the whole Roman army, they took courage, and with a great rushes they poured out from the fortifications and advanced against their opponents. 14 They thus put the Persians between their own troops, and turned them to flight. However, since the barbarians were greatly superior to their enemy in numbers, as has been said, they still offered resistance and the battle had become a fierce fight at close quarters. 15 And both sides kept making advances upon their opponents and retiring quickly, for they were all cavalry. Thereupon Florentius, a Thracian, commanding a detachment of horse, charged into the enemy's centre, and seizing the general's standard, forced it to the ground, and  p135 started to ride back. 16 And though he himself was overthrown and fell there, hacked to pieces, he proved to be the chief cause of the victory for the Romans. For when the barbarians no longer saw the standard, they were thrown into great confusion and terror, and retreating, got inside their camp, and remained quiet, having lost many men in the battle; 17 and on the following day they all returned homeward with no one following them up, for it seemed to the Romans a great and very noteworthy thing that such a great multitude of barbarians in their own country had suffered these things which have just been narrated above, and that, after making an invasion into hostile territory, they should retire thus without accomplishing anything and defeated by a smaller force.

18 At that time the Romans also acquired certain Persian strongholds in Persarmenia, both the fortress of Bolum and the fortress called Pharangium, which is the place where the Persians mine gold, which they take to the king. 19 It happened also that a short time before this they had reduced to subjection the Tzanic nation, who had been settled from of old in Roman territory as an autonomous people; and as to these things, the manner in which they were accomplished will be related here and now.

20 As one goes from the land of Armenia into Persarmenia the Taurus lies on the right, extending into Iberia and the peoples there, as has been said a little before this,1 while on the left the road which continues to descend for a great distance is overhung by exceedingly precipitous mountains, 21 concealed forever by clouds and snow, from which the Phasis River  p137 issues and flow into the land of Colchis. In this place from the beginning lived barbarians, the Tzanic nation, subject to no one, called Sani in early times; they made plundering expeditions among the Romans who lived round about, maintaining a most difficult existence, and always living upon what they stole; for their land produced for them nothing good to eat. 22 Wherefore also the Roman emperor sent them each year a fixed amount of gold, with the condition that they should never plunder the country thereabout. 23 And the barbarians had sworn to observe this agreement with the oaths peculiar to their nation, and then, disregarding what they had sworn, they had been accustomed for a long time to make unexpected attacks and to injure not only the Armenians, but also the Romans who lived next to them as far as the sea; then, after completing their inroad in a short space of time, they would immediately betake themselves again to their homes. 24 And whenever it so happened that they chanced upon a Roman army, they were always defeated in the battle, but they proved to be absolutely beyond capture owing to the strength of their fastnesses. In this way Sittas had defeated them in battle before this war; and then by many manifestations of kindness in word and in deed he had been able to win them over completely. 25 For they changed their manner of life to one of a more civilized sort, and enrolled themselves among the Roman troops, and from that time they have gone forth against the enemy with the rest of the Roman army. They also abandoned their own religion for a more righteous faith, and all of them became Christians. Such then was the history of the Tzani.

 p139  26 Beyond the borders of this people there is a cañon whose walls are both high exceedingly steep, extending as far as the Caucasus mountains. In it are populous towns, and grapes and other fruits grow plentifully. 27 And this cañon for about the space of a three days' journey is tributary to the Romans but from there begins the territory of Persarmenia; and here is the gold-mine which, with the permission of Cabades, was worked by one of the natives, Symeon by name. 28 When this Symeon saw that both nations were actively engaged in the war, he decided to deprive Cabades of the revenue. 29 Therefore he gave over both himself and Pharangium to the Romans, but refused to deliver over to either one the gold of the mine. 30 And as for the Romans, they did nothing, thinking it sufficient for them that the enemy had lost the income from there, and the Persians were not able against the will of the Romans to force the inhabitants of the place to terms, because they were baffled by the difficult country.

31 At about the same time Narses and Aratius who at the beginning of this war, as I have stated above,2 had an encounter with Sittas and Belisarius in the land of the Persarmenians, came together with their mother as deserters to the Romans; and the emperor's steward, Narses, received them (for he too happened to be a Persarmenian by birth), and he presented them with a large sum of money. 32 When this came to the knowledge of Isaac, their youngest brother, he secretly opened negotiations with the Romans, and delivered over to them the fortress of Bolum, which lies very near the limits of  p141 Theodosiopolis. 33 For he directed that soldiers should be concealed somewhere in the vicinity, and he received them into the fort by night, opening stealthily one small gate for them. Thus he too came to Byzantium.

16 1 Thus matters stood with the Romans. But the Persians, though defeated by Belisarius in the battle at Daras, ruled even so to retire from there, until Rufinus, coming into the presence of Cabades, spoke as follows: "O King, I have been sent by thy brother, who reproaches thee with a just reproach, because the Persians for no righteous cause have come in arms into his land. 2 But it would be more seemly for a king who is not only mighty, but also wise as thou art, to secure a peaceful conclusion of war, rather than, when affairs have been satisfactorily settled, to inflict upon himself and his people unnecessary confusion. 3 Wherefore also I myself have come here with good hopes, in order that from now on both peoples may enjoy the blessings which come from peace." So spoke Rufinus. 4 And Cabades replied as follows: "O son of Silvanus, by no means try to reverse the causes, understanding as you do best of all men that you Romans have been the chief cause of the whole confusion. For we have taken the Caspian Gates to the advantage of both Persians and Romans, after forcing out the barbarians there, since Anastasius, the Emperor of the Romans, as you yourself doubtless know, when the opportunity was offered him to buy them with money, was not  p143 willing to do so, in order that he might not be compelled to squander great sums of money in behalf of both nations by keeping an army there perpetually. 5 And since that time we have stationed that great army there, and have supported it up to the present time, thereby giving you the privilege of inhabiting the land unplundered as far as coins the barbarians on that side, and of holding your own possessions with complete freedom from trouble. 6 But as if this were not sufficient for you, you have also made a great city, Daras, as a stronghold against the Persians, although this was explicitly forbidden in the treaty which Anatolius arranged with the Persians; and as a result of this it is necessary for the Persian state to be afflicted with the difficulties and the expense of two armies, the one in order that the Massagetae may not be able fearlessly to plunder the land of both of us, and the other in order that we may check your inroads. 7 When lately we made a protest regarding these matters and demanded that one of two things should be done by you, either that the army sent to the Caspian Gates should be sent by both of us or that the city of Daras should be dismantled, you refused to understand what was said, but saw fit to strengthen your plot against the Persians by a greater injury, if we remember correctly the building of the fort in Mindouos.3 And even now the Romans may choose peace, or they may elect war, by either doing justice to us or going against our rights. 8 For never will the Persians lay down their arms, until the Romans either help them in guarding the gates, as is just and right, or dismantle the city of Daras." 9 With these words  p145 Cabades dismissed the ambassador, dropping the hint that he was willing to take matriarch from the Romans and have done with the causes of the war. 10 This was reported to the emperor by Rufinus when he came to Byzantium. Hermogenes also came thither not long afterwards, and the winter came to a close; thus ended the fourth year of the reign of the Emperor Justinian.

17 1 At the opening of spring a Persian army under the leadership of Azarethes invaded the Roman territory. They were fifteen thousand strong, all horsemen. With them was Alamoundaras, son of Saccice, with a very large body of Huns. 2 But this invasion was not made by the Persians in the customary manner; for they did not invade Mesopotamia, as formerly, but the country called Commagene of old, but now Euphratesia, a point from which, as far as we know the Persians never before conducted a campaign against the Romans. 3 But why the land was called Mesopotamia and why the Persians refrained from making their attack at this point is what I now propose to relate.

4 There is a mountain in Armenia which is not especially precipitous, two-and‑forty stades removed from Theodosiopolis and lying toward the north from it. From this mountain issue two springs, forming immediately two rivers, the one on the right called the Euphrates, and the other the Tigris. 5 One of  p147 these, the Tigris, descends, with no deviations and with no tributaries except small ones emptying into it, straight toward the city of Amida. 6 And continuing into the country which lies to the north of this city it enters the land of Assyria. But the Euphrates at its beginning flows for a short distance, and is then immediately lost to sight as it goes on; it does not, however, become subterranean, but a very strange thing happens. 7 For the water is covered by a bog of great depth, extending about fifty stades in length and twenty in breadth; and reeds grow in this mud in great abundance. 8 But the earth there is of such a hard sort that it seems to those who chance upon it to be nothing else than solid ground, so that both pedestrians and horsemen travel over it without any fear. 9 Nay more, even wagons passes over the place in great numbers every day, but they are wholly insufficient to shake the bog or to find a weak spot in it at any point. 10 The natives burn the reeds eventually year, to prevent the roads being stopped up by them, and once, when an exceedingly violent wind struck the place, it came about that the fire railhead the extremities of the roots, and the water appeared at a small opening; 11 but in a short time the ground closed again, and gave the spot the same appearance which it had had before. From there the river proceeds into the land called Celesene, where was the sanctuary of Artemis among the Taurians, from which they say that Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, fled with Orestes and Pylades, bearing the statue of Artemis. 12 For the other temple which has existed even to my day in the city of Comana is not the one "Among the  p149 Taurians." But I shall explain how this temple came into being.

13 When Orestes had departed in haste from the Taurians with his sister, it so happened that he contracted some disease. And when he made inquiry about the disease they say that the oracle responded that his trouble would not abate until he built a temple to Artemis in a spot such as the one among the Taurians, and there cut off his hair and named the city after it. 14 So then Orestes, going about the country there, came to Pontus, and saw a mountain which rose steep and towering, while below along the extremities of the mountain flowed the river Iris. 15 Orestes, therefore, supposing at that time that this was the place indicated to him by the oracle, built there a great city and the temple of Artemis, and, shearing off his hair, named after it the city which even up to the present time has been called Comana.a 16 The story goes on that after Orestes had done these things, the disease continued to be as violent as before, if not even more so. Then the man perceived that he was not satisfying the oracle by doing these things, and he again went about looking everywhere and found a certain spot in Cappadocia very closely resembling the one among the Taurians. 17 I myself have often seen this place and admired it exceedingly, and have imagined that I was in the land of the Taurians. For this mountain resembles the other remarkably, since the Taurus is here also and the river Sarus is similar to the Euphrates there. 18 So Orestes built in that place an imposing city and two temples, the one to Artemis  p151 and the other to his sister Iphigenia, which the Christians have made sanctuaries for themselves, without changing their structure at all. 19 This is called even now Golden Comana, being named from the hair of Orestes, which they say he cut off there and thus escaped from his affliction. 20 But some say that disease from which he escaped was nothing else than that of madness which seized him after he had killed his own mother. But I shall return to the previous narrative.

21 From Tauric Armenia and the land of Celesene the River Euphrates, flowing to the right of the Tigris, flows around an extensive territory, and since many rivers join it and among them the Arsinus, whose copious stream flows down from the land of the so‑called Persarmenians, it becomes naturally a great river, and flows into the land of the people anciently called White Syrians but now known as the Lesser Armenians, whose first city, Melitene, is one of great importance. 22 From there it flows past Samosata and Hierapolis and all the towns in that region as far as the land of Assyria, where the two river unite with each other into one stream which bears the name of the Tigris. 23 The land which lies outside the River Euphrates, beginning with Samosata, was called in ancient times Commagene, but now it is named after the river.4 But the land inside the river, that namely which is between it and the Tigris, is appropriately named Mesopotamia; however, a portion of it is called not only by this name, but also by certain others. 24 For the land as far as the city of Amida has come to be called Armenia by some, while Edessa together with the country  p153 around it is called Osroene, after Osroes, a man who was king in that place in former times, when the men of this country were in alliance with the Persians. 25 After the time, therefore, when the Persians had taken from the Romans the city of Nisibis and certain other places in Mesopotamia, whenever they were about to make an expedition against the Romans, they disregarded the land outside the River Euphrates, which was for the most part unwatered and deserted by men, and gathered themselves here with no trouble, since they were in a land which was their own and which lay very close to the inhabited land of their enemy, and from here they always made their invasions.

26 When the Mirranes, defeated in battle5 and with the greater part of his men lost, came back to the Persian land with the remainder of his army, he received bitter punishment at the hands of King Cabades. 27 For he took away from him a decoration which he was accustomed to bind upon the hair of his head, an ornament wrought of gold and pearls. Now this is a great dignity among the Persians, second only to the kingly honour. 28 For there it is unlawful to wear a gold ring or girdle or brooch or anything else whatsoever, except a man be counted worthy to do so by the king.

29 Thereafter Cabades began to consider in what mean and he himself should make an expedition against the Romans. For after the mirranes had failed in the manner I have told, he felt confidence in no one else. 30 While he was completely at a loss as to what he should do, Alamoundaras, the king of the Saracens, came before him and said: "Not everything, O Master,  p155 should be entrusted to fortune, nor should one believe that all wars ought to be successful. For this is not likely and besides it is not in keeping with the course of human events, but this idea is most unfortunate for those who are possessed by it. 31 For when men who expect that all the good things will come to them fail at any time, if it so happen, they are distressed more than is seemly by the very hope which wrongly led them on. 32 Therefore, since men have not always confidence in fortune, they do not enter into the danger of war in a straightforward way, even if they boast that they surpass the enemy in every respect, but by deception and divers devices they exert themselves to circumvent their opponents. 33 For those who assume the risk of an even struggle have no assurance of victory. Now, therefore, O King of Kings, neither be thus distressed by the misfortune which has befallen Mirranes, nor desire again to make trial of fortune. 34 For in Mesopotamia and the land of Osroene, as it is called, since it is very close to they boundaries, the cities are very strong above all others, and now they contain a multitude of soldiers such as never before, so that if we go there the contest will not prove a safe one; but in the land which lies outside the River Euphrates, and in Syria which adjoins it, there is neither a fortified city nor an army of any importance. 35 For this I have often heard from the Saracens sent as spies to these parts. 36 There too, they say, is the city of Antioch, in wealth and size and population the first of all the cities of the Eastern Roman Empire; and this city is unguarded and destitute of soldiers. 37 For the people  p157 of this city care for nothing else than fêtes and luxurious living, and their constant rivalries with each other in the theatres. 38 Accordingly, if we go against them unexpectedly, it is not at all unlikely that we shall capture the city by a sudden attack, and that we shall return to the land of the Persians without having met any hostile army, and before the troops in Mesopotamia have learned what has happened. 39 As for lack of water or of any kind of provisions, let no such thought occur to thee; for I myself shall lead the army wherever it shall seem best."

40 When Cabades heard this he could neither oppose nor distrust the plan. For Alamoundaras was most discreet and well experienced in matters of war, thoroughly faithful to the Persians, and unusually energetic, — a man who for a space of fifty years forced the Roman state to bend the knee. 41 For beginning from the boundaries of Aegypt and as far as Mesopotamia he plundered the whole country, pillaging one place after another, burning the buildings in his track and making captives of the population by the tens of thousands on each raid most of whom he killed without consideration, while he gave up the others for great sums of money. 42 And he was confronted by no one at all. For he never made his inroad without looking about, but so suddenly did he move and so very opportunely for himself, that, as a rule, he was already off with all the plunder when the generals and the soldiers were beginning to learn what had happened and to gather themselves against him. 43 If, indeed, by any chance, they were able to catch him, this barbarian would fall upon his  p159 pursuers while still unprepared and not in battle array, and would rout and destroy them with no trouble; and on one occasion he made prisoners of all the soldiers who were pursuing him together with their officers. 44 These officers were Timostratus, the brother of Rufinus, and John, the son of Lucas, whom he gave up indeed later, thereby gaining for himself no mean or trivial wealth. 45 And, in a word, this man proved himself the most difficult and dangerous enemy of all to the Romans. The reason was this, that Alamoundaras, holding the position of king, ruled alone over all the Saracens in Persia, and he was always able to make his inroad with the whole army wherever he wished in the Roman domain; 46 and neither any commander of Roman troops, whom they call "duces," nor any leader of the Saracens allied with the Romans, who are called "phylarchs," was strong enough with his men to array himself against Alamoundaras; for the troops stationed in the different districts were not a match in battle for the enemy. 47 For this reason the Emperor Justinian put in command of as many clans as possible Arethas, the son of Gabalas, who ruled over the Saracens of Arabia, and bestowed upon him the dignity of king, a thing which among the Romans had never been done before. 48 However Alamoundaras continued to injure the Romans just as much as before, if not more, since Arethas was either extremely unfortunate in every inroad and every conflict, or else he turned traitor as quickly as he could. For as yet we know nothing certain about him. In this way it came about that Alamoundaras, with no one to stand against him, plundered the whole East for an exceedingly long time, for he lived to a very advanced age.

 p161  18 1 This man's suggestion at that time therefore pleased Cabades, and he chose out fifteen thousand men, putting in command of them Azarethes, a Persian, who was an exceptionally able warrior, and he bade Alamoundaras lead the expedition. 2 So they crossed the River Euphrates in Assyria, and, after passing over some uninhabited country, they suddenly and unexpectedly threw their forces into the land of the so‑called Commagenae. 3 This was the first invasion made by the Persians from this point into Roman soil, as far as we know from tradition or by any other means, and it paralyzed all the Romans with fear by its unexpectedness. 4 And when this news came to the knowledge of Belisarius at first he was at a loss, but afterwards he decided to go to the rescue with all speed. So he established a sufficient garrison in each city in order that Cabades with another hostile army might not come there and find the towns of Mesopotamia utterly unguarded, and himself with the rest of the army went to meet the invasion; and crossing the River Euphrates they moved forward in great haste. 5 Now the Roman army amounted to about twenty thousand foot and horse, and among them not less than two thousand were Isaurians. 6 The commanders of cavalry were all the same one who had previous fought the battle at Daras with Mirranes and the Persians, while the infantry were commanded by one Oetaea bodyguards of the Emperor Justinian, Peter by name. 7 The Isaurians, however, were under command of Longinus and Stephanacius. Arethas also came  p163 there to join them with the Saracen army. 8 When they reached the city of Chalcis, they encamped and remained there, since they learned that the enemy were in a place called Gabboulon, one hundred and ten stades away from Chalcis. 9 When this became known to Alamoundaras and Azarethes, they were terrified at the danger, and no longer continued their advance, but decided to retire homeward instantly. 10 Accordingly they began to march back, with the River Euphrates on the left, while the Roman army was following in the rear, and in the spot where the Persians bivouacked each night the Romans always tarried on the following night. 11 For Belisarius purposely refused to allow the army to make any longer march because he did not wish to come to an engagement with the enemy, but he considered that it was sufficient for them that the Persians and Alamoundaras, after invading the land of the Romans, should retire from it in such a fashion, betaking themselves to their own land without accomplishing anything. 12 And because of this all secretly mocked him, both officers and soldiers, but not a man reproached him to his face.

13 Finally the Persians made their bivouac on the bank of the Euphrates just opposite the city of Callinicus. From there they were about to march through a country absolutely uninhabited by man, and thus to quit the land of the Romans; 14 for they purposed no longer to proceed as before, keeping to the bank of the river. The Romans had passed the night in the city of Sura, and, removing from there, they came upon the enemy just in the act of preparing for the departure. 15 Now the feast of Easter  p165 was near and would take place on the following day; this feast is reverenced by Christians above all others and on the day before it they are accustomed to refrain from food and drink not only throughout the day, but for a large part of the night also they continue the fast. 16 Then, therefore, Belisarius, seeing that all his men were passionately eager to go against the enemy, wished to persuade them to give up this idea (for this course had been counselled by Hermogenes also, who had come recently on an embassy from the emperor); he accordingly called together all who were present and spoke as follows: 17 "O Romans, whither are you rushing? and what has happened to you that you are purposing to choose for yourselves a danger which is not necessary? Men believe that there is only one victory which is unalloyed, namely to suffer no harm at the hands of the enemy, and this very thing has been given us in the present instance by fortune and by the fear of us that overpowers our foes. 18 Therefore it is better to enjoy the benefit of our present blessings than to seek them when they have passed. For the Persians, led on by many hopes, undertook an expedition against the Romans, and now, with everything lost, they have beaten a hasty retreat. 19 So that if we compel them against their will to abandon their purpose of withdrawing and to come to battle with us, we shall win no advantage whatsoever if we are victorious, — 20 for why should one rout a fugitive? — while if we are unfortunate, as may happen, we shall both be deprived of the victory which we now have, not robbed of it by the enemy, but flinging it away ourselves, and also we shall abandon the land of the emperor to lie open hereafter to the attacks of  p167 the enemy without defenders. 21 Moreover this also is worth your consideration, that God is always accustomed to succour men in dangers which are necessary, not in those which they choose for themselves. 22 And apart from this it will come about that those who have nowhere to turn will play the part of brave men even against their Weil, while the obstacles which are to be met by us in entering the engagement are many; 23 for a large number of you have come on foot and all of us are fasting. I refrain from mentioning that so even now have not arrived." So spoke Belisarius.

24 But the army began to insult him, not in silence nor with any concealment, but they came shouting into his presence, and called him weak and a destroyer of their zeal; and even some of the officers joined with the soldiers in this offence, thus displaying the extent of their daring. 25 And Belisarius, in astonishment at their shamelessness, changed his exhortation and now seemed to be urging them on against the enemy and drawing them up for battle, saying that he had not known before their eagerness to fight, but that now he was of good courage and would go against the enemy with a better hope. 26 He then formed the phalanx with a single front, disposing his men as follows: on the left wing by the river he stationed all the infantry, while on the right where the ground rose sharply he placed Arethas and all his Saracens; he himself with the cavalry took his position in the centre. Thus the Romans arrayed themselves. 27 And when Azarethes saw the enemy gathering in battle line, he exhorted  p169 his men with the following words: "Persians as you are, no one would deny that you would not give up your valour in exchange for your life, if a choice of the two should be offered. 28 But I say that not even if you should wish, is it within your power to make the choice between the two. For as for men who have the opportunity to escape from danger and live in dishonour it is not at all unnatural that they should, if they wish, choose what is most pleasant instead of what is best; but for men who are bound to die, either gloriously at the hands of the enemy or shamefully led to punishment by your Master, it is extreme folly not to choose what is better instead of what is most shameful. 29 Now, therefore, when things stand thus, I consider that it befits you all to bear in mind not only the enemy but also your own Lord and so enter this battle."

30 After Azarethes also had uttered these words exhortation, he stationed the phalanx opposite his opponents, assigning the Persians the right and the Saracens the left. Straightway both sides began to fight, and the battle was exceedingly fierce. 31 For the arrows, shot from either side in very great numbers, caused great loss of life in both armies, while some placed themselves in the interval between the armies and made a display of valorous deeds against each other, and especially among the Persians they were falling by the arrows in great numbers. 32 For while their missiles were incomparably more frequent, since the Persians are almost all bowmen and they learn to make their shots much more rapidly than any other men, 33 still the bows which sent the arrows were weak and not very  p171 tightly strung, so that their missiles, hitting a corselet, perhaps, or helmet or shield of a Roman warrior, were broken off and had no power to hurt the man who was hit. 34 The Roman bowmen are always slower indeed, but inasmuch as their bows are extremely stiff and very tightly strung, and one might add that they are handled by stronger men, they easily slay much greater numbers of those they hit than do the Persians, for no armour proves an obstacle to the force of their arrows. 35 Now already two‑thirds of the day had passed, and the battle was still even. Then by mutual agreement all the best of the Persian army advanced to attack the Roman right wing, where Arethas and the Saracens had been stationed. 36 But they broke their formation and moved apart, so that they got the reputation of having betrayed the Romans to the Persians. For without awaiting the oncoming enemy they all straightway beat a hasty retreat. 37 So the Persians in this way broke through the enemy's line and immediately got in the rear of the Roman cavalry. Thus the Romans, who were already exhausted both by the march and the labour of the battle, — and besides this they were all fasting so far on in the day, — now that they were assailed by the enemy on both sides, held out no longer, but the most of them in full flight made their way to the islands in the river which were close by, while some also remained there and performed deeds both amazing and remarkable against the enemy. 38 Among these was Ascan who, after killing many of the notables among the Persians, was gradually hacked to pieces and finally fell, leaving  p173 to the enemy abundant reason to remember him. And with him eight hundred others perished after showing themselves brave men in this struggle, and almost all the Isaurians fell with their leaders, without even daring to lift their weapons against the enemy. 39 For they were thoroughly inexperienced in this business, since they had recently left off farming and entered into the perils of warfare, which before that time were unknown to them. 40 And yet just before these very men had been most furious of all for battle because of their ignorance of warfare, and were then reproaching Belisarius with cowardice. They were not in fact all Isaurians but the majority of them were Lycaones.

41 Belisarius with some few men remained there, and as long as he saw Ascan and his men holding out, he also in company with those who were with him held back the enemy; 42 but when some of Ascan's troops had fallen, and the others had turned to flee wherever they could, then at length he too fled with his men and came to the phalanx of infantry, who with Peter were still fighting, although not many in number now, since the most of them too had fled. 43 There he himself gave up his horse and commanded all his men to do the same thing and on foot with the others to fight off the oncoming enemy. 44 And those of the Persians who were following the fugitives, after pursuing for only a short distance, straightway returned and rushed upon the infantry and Belisarius with all the others. Then the Romans turned their backs to the ri so that no movement to surround them might be executed by the enemy, and as best they could under the circumstances were defending themselves against  p175 their assailants. 45 And again the battle became fierce, although the two sides were not evenly matched in strength; for foot-soldiers, and a very few of them, were fighting against the whole Persian cavalry. Nevertheless the enemy were not able either to rout them or in any other way to overpower them. 46 For standing shoulder to shoulder they kept themselves constantly massed in a small space, and they formed with their shields a rigid, unyielding barricade, so that they shot at the Persians more conveniently than they were shot at by them. 47 Many a time after giving up, the Persians would advance against them determined to break up and destroy their line, but they always retired again from the assault unsuccessful. 48 For their horses, annoyed by the clashing of the shields, reared up and made confusion for themselves and their riders. Thus both sides continued the struggle until it had become late in the day. 49 And when night had already come on, the Persians withdrew to their camp, and Belisarius accompanied by some few men found a freight-boat and crossed over to the island in the river, while the other Romans reached the same place by swimming. 50 On the following day many freight-boats were brought to the Romans from the city of Callinicum and they were conveyed thither in them, and the Persians, after despoiling the dead, all departed homeward. However they did not find their own dead less numerous than the enemy's.

51 When Azarethes reached Persia with his army, although he had prospered in the battle, he found Cabades exceedingly ungrateful, for the following reason. 52 It is a custom among the Persians that, when they are about to march against any of their  p177 foes, the king sits on the royal throne, and many baskets are set there before him; and the general also is present who is expected to lead the army against the enemy; then the army passes along before the king, one man at a time, and each of them throws one weapon into the baskets; after this they are sealed with the king's seal and preserved; and when this army returns to Persia, each one of the soldiers takes one weapon out of the baskets. 53 A count is then made by those whose office it is to do so of all the weapons which have not been taken by the men, and they report to the king the number of the soldiers who have not returned, and in this way it becomes evident how many have perished in the war. 54 Thus the law has stood from of old among the Persians. Now when Azarethes came into the presence of the king, Cabades enquired of him whether he came back with any Roman fortress won over to their side, for he had marched forth with Alamoundaras against the Romans, with the purpose of subduing Antioch. And Azarethes said that he had captured no fortress, but that he had conquered the Romans and Belisarius in battle. 55 So Cabades bade the army of Azarethes pass by, and from the baskets each man took out a weapon just as was customary. 56 But since many weapons were left, Cabades rebuked Azarethes for the victory and thereafter ranked him among the most unworthy. So the victory had this conclusion for Azarethes.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. Book I.x.2.

2 Cf. Book I.xii.21.

3 Cf. Book I.xiii.2.

4 "Euphratesia"; cf. section 2.

5 Ch. xiv.28‑54.

Thayer's Note:

a I.e., from κώμη, "hair".

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