Short URL for this page:
https://bit.ly/ProcopiusBP1De


[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Click here for the text in ancient Greek.]
Ἑλληνική

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous section]
I.15‑18

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.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
I.21‑23

(Vol. I) Procopius
Persian Wars

Book I (continued)

 p179  19 1 At that time the idea occurred to the Emperor Justinian to ally with himself the Aethiopians and the Homeritae, in order to injure the Persians. I shall now first explain what part of the earth these nations occupy, and then I shall point out in what manner the emperor hoped that they would be of help to the Romans. 2 The boundaries of Palestine extend toward the east to the sea which is called the Red Sea. 3 Now this sea, beginning at India, comes to an end at this point in the Roman domain. And there is a city called Aelas on its shore, where the sea comes to an end, as I have said, and becomes a very narrow gulf. And as one sails into the sea from there, the Egyptian mountains lie on the right, extending toward the south; on the other side a country deserted by men extends northward to an indefinite distance; and the land on both sides is visible as one sails in as far as the island called Iotabe, not less than one thousand stades distant from the city of Aelas. 4 On this island Hebrews had lived from of old in autonomy, but in the reign of this Justinian they have become subject to the Romans. 5 From there on there comes a great open sea. And those who sail into this part of it no longer see the land on the right, but they always anchor along the left coast when night comes on. 6 For it is impossible to navigate in the darkness on this sea since it is everywhere full of shoals. 7 But there are harbours there and great numbers of them, not made by the hand of man, but by the natural contour of the land, and for this reason it is not  p181 difficult for mariners to find anchorage wherever they happen to be.

8 This coast​1 immediately beyond the boundaries of Palestine is held by Saracens, who have been settled from of old in the Palm Groves. 9 These groves are in the interior, extending over a great tract of land, and there absolutely nothing else grows except palm trees. 10 The Emperor Justinian had received these palm groves as a present from Abochorabus, the ruler of the Saracens there, and he was appointed by the emperor captain over the Saracens in Palestine. 11 And he guarded the land from plunder constantly, for both to the barbarians over whom he ruled and no less to the enemy, Abochorabus always seemed a man to be feared and an exceptionally energetic fellow. 12 Formally, therefore, the emperor holds the Palm Groves, but for him really to possess himself of any of the country there is utterly impossible. 13 For a land completely destitute of human habitation and extremely dry lies between, extending to the distance of a ten days' journey; moreover the Palm Groves themselves are by no means worth anything, and Abochorabus only gave the form of a gift, and the emperor accepted it with full knowledge of the fact. So much then for the Palm Groves. 14 Adjoining this people there are other Saracens in possession of the coast, who are called Maddeni and who are subjects of the Homeritae. 15 These Homeritae dwell in the land on the farther side of them on the shore of the sea. And beyond them many other nations are said to be settled as far as the man‑eating Saracens. 16 Beyond these are the nations of India. But regarding these matters let each one speak as he may wish.

 p183  17 About opposite the Homeritae on the opposite mainland dwell the Aethiopians who are called Auxomitae, because their king resides in the city of Auxomis. 18 And the expanse of sea which lies between is crossed in a voyage of five days and nights, when a moderately favouring wind blows. 19 For here they are accustomed to navigate by night also, since there are no shoals at all in these parts; this portion of the sea has been called the Red Sea by some. For the sea which one traverses beyond this point as far as the shore and the city of Aelas has received the name of the Arabian Gulf, 20 inasmuch as the country which extends from here to the limits of the city of Gaza used to be called in olden times Arabia, since the king of the Arabs had his palace in early times in the city of Petrae. 21 Now the harbour of the Homeritae from which they are accustomed to put to sea for the voyage to Aethiopia is called Bulicas; 22 and at the end of the sail across the sea they always put in at the harbour of the Adulitae. But the city of Adulis is removed from the harbour a distance of twenty stades (for it lacks only so much of being on the sea), while from the city of Auxomis it is a journey of twelve days.

23 All the boats which are found in India and on this sea are not made in the same manner as are other ships. For neither are they smeared with pitch, nor with any other substance, nor indeed are the planks fastened together by iron nails going through and through, but they are bound together with a kind of cording. 24 The reason is not as most persons suppose, that there are certain rocks there which draw the iron to themselves (for witness the fact that when the Roman vessels sail from Aelas into this sea, although  p185 they are filled with much iron, no such thing has ever happened to them), but rather because the Indians and the Aethiopians possess neither iron nor any other thing suitable for such purposes. 25 Further, they are not even able to buy any of these things from the Romans since this is explicitly forbidden to all by law; 26 for death is the punishment for one who is caught. Such then is the description of the so‑called Red Sea​2 and of the land which lies on either side of it.

27 From the city of Auxomis to the Aegyptian boundaries of the Roman domain, where the city called Elephantine is situated, is a journey of thirty days for an unencumbered traveller. 28 Within that space many nations are settled, and among them the Blemyes and the Nobatae, who are very large nations. But the Blemyes dwell in the central portion of the country, while the Nobatae possess the territory about the River Nile. Formerly this was not the limit of the Roman empire, but it lay beyond there as far as one would advance in a seven days' journey; 29 but the Roman Emperor Diocletian came there, and observed that the tribute from these places was of the smallest possible account, since the land is at that point extremely narrow (for rocks rise to an exceedingly great height at no great distance from the Nile and spread over the rest of the country), while a very large body of soldiers had been stationed there from of old, the maintenance of which was an excessive burden upon the public; and at the same time the Nobatae who formerly dwelt about the city of Oasis used to plunder the whole region; so he persuaded these barbarians to move from their  p187 own habitations, and to settle along the River Nile, promising to bestow upon them great cities and land both extensive and incomparably better than that which they had previously occupied. 30 For in this way he thought that they would no longer harass the country about Oasis at least, and that they would possess themselves of the land given them, as being their own, and would probably beat off the Blemyes and the other barbarians. 31 And since this pleased the Nobatae, they made the migration immediately, just as Diocletian directed them, and took possession of all the Roman cities and the land on both sides of the river beyond the city of Elephantine. 32 Then it was that this emperor decreed that to them and to the Blemyes a fixed sum of gold should be given every year with the stipulation that they should no longer plunder the land of the Romans. 33 And they receive this gold even up to my time, but none the less they overrun the country there. Thus it seems that with all barbarians there is no means of compelling them to keep faith with the Romans except through the fear of soldiers to hold them in check. 34 And yet this emperor went so far as to select a certain island in the River Nile close to the city of Elephantine and there construct a very strong fortress in which he established certain temples and altars for the Romans and these barbarians in common, and he settled priests of both nations in this fortress, thinking that the friendship between them would be secure by reason of their sharing the things sacred to them. 35 And for this reason he named the place Philae. Now both these nations, the Blemyes and the Nobatae, believe in all  p189 the gods in which the Greeks believe, and they also reverence Isis and Osiris, and not least of all Priapus. 36 But the Blemyes are accustomed also to sacrifice human beings to the sun. These sanctuaries in Philae were kept by these barbarians even up to my time, but the Emperor Justinian decided to tear them down. 37 Accordingly Narses, a Persarmenian by birth, whom I have mentioned before as having deserted to the Romans,​3 being commander of the troops there, tore down the sanctuaries at the emperor's order, and put the priests under guard and sent the statues to Byzantium. But I shall return to the previous narrative.

20 1 At about the time of this war Hellestheaeus, the king of the Aethiopians, who was a Christian and a most devoted adherent of this faith, discovered that a number of the Homeritae on the opposite mainland were oppressing the Christians there outrageously; many of these rascals were Jews, and many of them held in reverence the old faith which men of the present day call Hellenic. He therefore collected a fleet of ships and an army and came against them, and he conquered them in battle and slew both the king and many of the Homeritae. He then set up in his stead a Christian king, a Homerite by birth, by name Esimiphaeus, and, after ordaining that he should pay a tribute to the Aethiopians every year, he returned to his home. 2 In this Aethiopian army many slaves and all who were readily disposed to crime were quite unwilling  p191 to follow the king back, but were left behind and remained there because of their desire for the land of the Homeritae; for it is an extremely goodly land.

3 These fellows at a time not long after this, in company with certain others, rose against the king Esimiphaeus and put him in confinement in one of the fortresses there, and established another king over the Homeritae, Abramus by name. 4 Now this Abramus was a Christian, but a slave of a Roman citizen who was engaged in the business of shipping in the city of Adulis in Aethiopia. 5 When Hellestheaeus learned this, he was eager to punish Abramus together with those who had revolted with him for their injustice to Esimiphaeus, and he sent against them an army of three thousand men with one of his relatives as commander. 6 This army, once there, was no longer willing to return home, but they wished to remain where they were in a goodly land, and so without the knowledge of their commander they opened negotiations with Abramus; then when they came to an engagement with their opponents, just as the fighting began, they killed their commander and joined the ranks of the enemy, and so remained there. 7 But Hellestheaeus was greatly moved with anger and sent still another army against them; this force engaged with Abramus and his men, and, after suffering a severe defeat in the battle, straightway returned home. Thereafter the king of the Aethiopians became afraid, and sent no further expeditions against Abramus. 8 After the death of Hellestheaeus, Abramus agreed to pay tribute to the king of the Aethiopians who succeeded him, and in this way he strengthened his rule. But this happened at a later time.

 p193  9 At that time, when Hellestheaeus was reigning over the Aethiopians, and Esimiphaeus over the Homeritae, the Emperor Justinian sent an ambassador, Julianus, demanding that both nations on account of their community of religion should make common cause with the Romans in the war against the Persians; for he purposed that the Aethiopians, by purchasing silk from India and selling it among the Romans, might themselves gain much money, while causing the Romans to profit in only one way, namely, that they be no longer compelled to pay over their money to their enemy. (This is the silk of which they are accustomed to make the garments which of old the Greeks called Medic, but which at the present time they name "seric").​4 As for the Homeritae, it was desired that they should establish Caïsus, the fugitive, as captain over the Maddeni, and with a great army of their own people and of the Maddene Saracens make an invasion into the land of the Persians. 10 This Caïsus was by birth of the captain's rank and an exceptionally able warrior, but he had killed one of the relatives of Esimiphaeus and was a fugitive in a land which is utterly destitute of human habitation. 11 So each king, promising to put this demand into effect, dismissed the ambassador, but neither one of them did the things agreed upon by them. 12 For it was impossible for the Aethiopians to buy silk from the Indians, for the Persian merchants always locate themselves at the very harbours where the Indian ships first put in, (since they inhabit the adjoining country), and are accustomed to buy the whole cargoes; and its seemed to the Homeritae a difficult thing to cross a country which was a desert and which extended so far that a  p195 long time was required for the journey across it, and then to go against a people much more warlike than themselves. 13 Later on Abramus too, when at length he had established his power most securely, promised the Emperor Justinian many times to invade the land of Persia, but only once began the journey and then straightway turned back. Such then were the relations which the Romans had with the Aethiopians and the Homeritae.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The coast described here is that of Arabia.

2 Rather the "Arabian Gulf."

3 Cf.  ch. xv.31.

4 In Latin serica, as coming from the Chinese (Seres).


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 14 Sep 20