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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Persian Wars


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

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!


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(Vol. I) Procopius
Persian Wars

Book I (continued)

 p195  21 1 Hermogenes, as soon as the battle on the Euphrates had taken place, came before Cabades to negotiate with him, but he accomplished nothing regarding the peace on account of which he had come, since he found him still swelling with rage against the Romans; for this reason he returned unsuccessful. 2 And Belisarius came to Byzantium at the summons of the emperor, having been removed from the office which he held, in order that he might march against the Vandals; 3 but Sittas, as had been decreed by the Emperor Justinian, went to the east in order to guard that portion of the empire. 4 And the Persians once more invaded Mesopotamia with a great army under command of Chanaranges and Aspebedes and Mermeroes. 5 Since no one dared to engage with them, they made camp and began the siege of Martyropolis, where Bouzes and Bessas had been stationed in command of the garrison. 6 This city lies in the land called Sophanene, two hundred and forty stades distant from the city of Amida toward the north; it is just on the River Nymphius which  p197 divides the land of the Romans and the Persians. 7 So the Persians began to assail the fortifications, and, while the besieged at first withstood them manfully, it did not seem likely that they would hold out long. 8 For the circuit-wall was quite easily assailable in most parts, and could be captured very easily by a Persian siege, and besides they did not have a sufficient supply of provisions, nor indeed had they engines of war nor anything else that was of any value for defending themselves. 9 Meanwhile Sittas and the Roman army came to a place called Attachas, one hundred stades distant from Martyropolis, but they did not dare to advance further, but established their camp and remained there. 10 Hermogenes also was with them, coming again as ambassador from Byzantium. At this point the following event took place.

11 It has been customary from ancient times both among the Romans and the Persians to maintain spies at public expense; these men are accustomed to go secretly among the enemy, in order that they may investigate accurately what is going on, and may then return and report to the rulers. 12 Many of these men, as is natural, exert themselves to act in a spirit of loyalty to their nation, while some also betray their secrets to the enemy. 13 At that time a certain spy who had been sent from the Persians to the Romans came into the presence of the Emperor Justinian and revealed many things which were taking place among the barbarians, and, in particular, that the nation of the Massagetae, in order to injure the Romans, were on the very point of going out into the land of Persia, and that from there they were prepared to march into the territory of the  p199 Romans, and unite with the Persian army. 14 When the emperor heard this, having already a proof of the man's truthfulness to him, he presented him with a handsome sum of money and persuaded him to go to the Persian army which was besieging the Martyropolitans, and announce to the barbarians there that these Massagetae had been won over with money by the Roman emperor, and were about to come against them that very moment. 15 The spy carried out these instructions, and coming to the army of the barbarians he announced to Chanaranges and the others that an army of Huns hostile to them would at no distant time come to the Romans. 16 And when they heard this, they were seized with terror, and were at a loss how to deal with the situation.

17 At this juncture it came about that Cabades became seriously ill, and he called to him one of the Persians who were in closest intimacy with him, Mebodes by name, and conversed with him concerning Chosroes and the kingdom, and said he feared the Persians would make a serious attempt to disregard some of the things which had been decided upon by him. 18 But Mebodes asked him to leave the declaration of his purpose in writing, and bade him be confident that the Persians would never dare to disregard it. 19 So Cabades set it down plainly that Chosroes should become king over the Persians. The document was written by Mebodes himself, and Cabades immediately passed from among men. 20 And when everything had been performed as prescribed by law in the burial of the king, then Caoses,  p201 confident by reason of the law, tried to lay claim to the office, but Mebodes stood in his way, asserting that no one ought to assume the royal power by his own initiative but by vote of the Persian notables. 21 So Caoses committed the decision in the matter to the magistrates, supposing that there would be no opposition to him from there. 22 But when all the Persian notables had been gathered together for this purpose and were in session, Mebodes read the document and stated the purpose of Cabades regarding Chosroes, and all, calling to mind the virtue of Cabades, straightway declared Chosroes King of the Persians.

23 Thus then Chosroes secured the power. But at Martyropolis, Sittas and Hermogenes were in fear concerning the city, since they were utterly unable to defend it in its peril, and they sent certain men to the enemy, who came before the generals and spoke as follows: 24 "It has escaped your own notice that you are becoming wrongfully an obstacle to the king of the Persians and to the blessings of peace and to each state. For ambassadors sent from the emperor are even now present in order that they may go to the king of the Persians and there settle the differences and establish a treaty with him; but do you as quickly as possible remove from the land of the Romans and permit the ambassadors to act in the manner which will be of advantage to both peoples. 25 For we are ready also to give as hostages men of repute concerning these very things, to prove that they will be actually accomplished at no distant date." Such were the words of the ambassadors of the Romans. 26 It happened also that a messenger came to them from the palace, who brought them word that  p203 Cabades had died and that Chosroes, son of Cabades, had become king over the Persians, and that in this way the situation had become unsettled. 27 And as a result of this the generals heard the words of the Romans gladly, since they feared also the attack of the Huns. The Romans therefore straightway gave as hostages Martinus and one of the body-guards of Sittas, Senecius by name; so the Persians broke up the siege and made their departure promptly. 28 And the Huns not long afterward invaded the land of the Romans, but since they did not find the Persian army there, they made their raid a short one, and then all departed homeward.

22 1 Straightway Rufinus and Alexander and Thomas came to act as ambassadors with Hermogenes, and they all came before the Persian king at the River Tigris. 2 And when Chosroes saw them, he released the hostages. Then the ambassadors coaxed Chosroes, and spoke many beguiling words most unbecoming to Roman ambassadors. 3 By this treatment Chosroes became tractable, and agreed to establish a peace with them that should be without end for the price of one hundred and ten "centenaria," on condition that the commander of troops in Mesopotamia should be no longer at Daras, but should spend all his time in Constantina, as was customary in former times; but the fortresses in  p205 Lazica he refused to give back, although he himself demanded that he should receive back from the Romans both Pharangium and the fortress of Bolum. 4 (Now the "centenarium" weighs one hundred pounds, for which reason it is so called; for the Romans call one hundred "centum").​a 5 He demanded that this gold be given him, in order that the Romans might not be compelled either to tear down the city of Daras or to share the garrison at the Caspian Gates with the Persians.​1 6 However the ambassadors, while approving the rest, said that they were not able to concede the fortresses, unless they should first make enquiry of the emperor concerning them. 7 It was decided, accordingly, that Rufinus should be sent concerning them to Byzantium, and that the others should wait until he should return. And it was arranged with Rufinus that seventy days' time be allowed until he should arrive. 8 When Rufinus reached Byzantium and reported to the emperor what Chosroes' decision was concerning the peace, the emperor commanded that the peace be concluded by them on these terms.

9 In the meantime, however, a report which was not true reached Persia saying that the Emperor Justinian had become enraged and put Rufinus to death. Chosroes indeed was much perturbed by this, and, already filled with anger, he advanced against the Romans with his whole army. But Rufinus met him on the way as he was returning not far from the city of Nisibis. 10 Therefore they proceeded to this city themselves, and, since they were about to establish the peace, the ambassadors began to convey the money thither. 11 But the Emperor Justinian was already repenting that he had given up the strongholds  p207 of Lazica, and he wrote a letter to the ambassadors expressly commanding them by no means to hand them over to the Persians. 12 For this reason Chosroes no longer saw fit to make the treaty; and then it came to the mind of Rufinus that he had counselled more speedily than safely in bringing the money into the land of Persia. 13 Straightway, therefore, he threw himself on the earth, and lying prone he entreated Chosroes to send the money back with them and not march immediately against the Romans, but to put off the war to some other time. 14 And Chosroes bade him rise from the ground, promising that he would grant all these things. So the ambassadors with the money came to Daras and the Persian army marched back.

15 Then indeed the fellow-ambassadors of Rufinus began to regard him with extreme suspicion themselves, and they also denounced him to the emperor, basing their judgment on the fact that Chosroes had been persuaded to concede him everything which he asked of him. 16 However, the emperor showed him no disfavour on account of this. At a time not long after this Rufinus himself and Hermogenes were again sent to the court of Chosroes, and they immediately came to agreement with each other concerning the treaty, subject to the condition that both sides should give back all the places which each nation had wrested from the other in that war, and that there should no longer be any military post in Daras; as for the Iberians, it was agreed that the decision rested with them whether they should remain there in Byzantium or return to their own fatherland. And there were many who remained, and many also who returned to their ancestral  p209 homes. 17 Thus, then, they concluded the so‑called "endless peace," when the Emperor Justinian was already in the sixth year of his reign. 18 And the Romans gave the Persians Pharangium and the fortress of Bolum together with the money, and the Persians gave the Romans the strongholds of Lazica. The Persians also returned Dagaris to the Romans, and received in return for him another man of no mean station. 19 This Dagaris in later times often conquered the Huns in battle when they had invaded the land of the Romans, and drove them out; for he was an exceptionally able warrior. Thus both sides in the manner described made secure the treaty between them.

23 1 Straightway it came about that plots were formed against both rulers by their subjects; and I shall now explain how this happened. Chosroes, the son of Cabades, was a man of an unruly turn of mind and strangely fond of innovations. 2 For this reason he himself was always full of excitement and alarms, and he was an unfailing cause of similar feelings in all others. 3 All, therefore, who were men of action among the Persians, in vexation at his administration, were purposing to establish over themselves another king from the house of Cabades. 4 And since they longed earnestly for the rule of Zames, which was made impossible by the law by reason of the disfigurement of his eye, as has been stated, they found upon consideration that the best course for them was to establish in power his child  p211 Cabades, who bore the same name as his grandfather, while Zames, as guardian of the child, should administer the affairs of the Persians as he wished. 5 So they went to Zames and disclosed their plan, and, urging him on with great enthusiasm, they endeavoured to persuade him to undertake the thing. And since the plan pleased him, they were purposing to assail Chosroes at the fitting moment. But the plan was discovered and came to the knowledge of the king, and thus their proceedings were stopped. For 6 Chosroes slew Zames himself and all his own brothers and those of Zames together with all their male offspring, and also all the Persian notables who had either begun or taken part in any way in the plot against him. Among these was Aspebedes, the brother of Chosroes' mother.

7 Cabades, however, the son of Zames, he was quite unable to kill; for he was still being reared under the chanaranges, Adergoudounbades. But he sent a message to the chanaranges, bidding him himself kill the boy he had reared; for he neither thought it well to show mistrust, nor yet had he power to compel him. 8 The chanaranges, therefore, upon hearing the commands of Chosroes, was exceedingly grieved and, lamenting the misfortune, he communicated to his wife and Cabades' nurse all that the king had commanded. Then the woman, bursting into tears and seizing the knees of her husband, entreated him by no means to kill Cabades. 9 They therefore consulted together, and planned to bring up the child in the most secure concealment, and to send word in haste to Chosroes that Cabades had been put out of the world for him. 10 And they  p213 sent word to the king to this effect, and concealed Cabades in such a way that the affair did not come to the notice of any one, except Varrames, their own child, and one of the servants who seemed to them to be in every way most trustworthy. 11 But when, as time went on, Cabades came of age, the chanaranges began to fear lest what had been done should be brought to light; he therefore gave Cabades money and bade him depart and save himself by flight wherever he could. At that time, then, Chosroes and all the others were in ignorance of the fact that the chanaranges had carried this thing through.

12 At a later time Chosroes was making an invasion into the land of Colchis with a great army, as will be told in the following narrative.​2 13 And he was followed by the son of this same chanaranges, Varrames, who took with him a number of his servants, and among them the one who shared with him the knowledge of what had happened to Cabades; while there Varrames told the king everything regarding Cabades, and he brought forward the servant agreeing with him in every particular. 14 When Chosroes learned this he was forthwith exceedingly angry, and he counted it a dreadful thing that he had suffered such things at the hand of a man who was his slave; and since he had no other means of getting the man under his hand he devised the following plan. 15 When he was about to return homeward from the land of Colchis, he wrote to this chanaranges that he had decided to invade the land of the Romans with his whole army, not, however, by a single inroad into the country, but making two divisions of the Persian army, in order that the  p215 attack might be made upon the enemy on both sides of the River Euphrates. 16 Now one division of the army he himself, as was natural, would lead into the hostile land, while to no one else of his subjects would he grant the privilege of holding equal honour with the king in this matter, except to the chanaranges himself on account of his valour. 17 It was necessary, therefore, that the chanaranges should come speedily to meet him as he returned, in order that he might confer with him and give him all the directions which would be of advantage to the army, and that he should bid his attendants travel behind him on the road. 18 When the chanaranges received this message, he was overjoyed at the honour shown him by the king, and in complete ignorance of his own evil plight, he immediately carried out the instructions. 19 But in the course of this journey, since he was quite unable to sustain the toil of it (for he was a very old man), he relaxed his hold on the reins and fell off his horse, breaking the bone in his leg. It was therefore necessary for him to remain there quietly and be cared for, and the king came to that place and saw him. 20 And Chosroes said to him that with his leg in such a plight it was not possible that he make the expedition with him, but he must go to one of the fortresses in that region and receive treatment there from the physicians. 21 Thus then Chosroes sent the man away on the road to death, and behind him followed the very men who were to destroy him in the fortress, — a man who was in fact as well as in name an invincible general among the Persians, who had marched against twelve nations of barbarians  p217 and subjected them all to King Cabades. 22 After Adergoudounbades had been removed from the world, Varrames, his son, received the office of chanaranges. 23 Not long after this either Cabades himself, the son of Zames, or someone else who was assuming the name of Cabades came to Byzantium; certainly he resembled very closely in appearance Cabades, the king. 24 And the Emperor Justinian, though in doubt concerning him, received him with great friendliness and honoured him as the grandson of Cabades. So then fared the Persians who rose against Chosroes.

25 Later on Chosroes destroyed also Mebodes for the following reason. While the king was arranging a certain important matter, he directed Zaberganes who was present to call Mebodes. Now it happened that Zaberganes was on hostile terms with Mebodes. When he came to him, he found him marshalling the soldiers under his command, and he said that the king summoned him to come as quickly as possible. 26 And Mebodes promised that he would follow directly as soon as he should have arranged the matter in hand; but Zaberganes, moved by his hostility to him, reported to Chosroes that Mebodes did not wish to come at present, claiming to have some business or other. 27 Chosroes, therefore, moved with anger, sent one of his attendants commanding Mebodes to go to the tripod. Now as to what this is I shall explain forthwith. 28 An iron tripod stands always before the palace; and whenever anyone of the Persians learns that the king is angry with him, it is not right for such a man to flee for refuge to a  p219 sanctuary nor to go elsewhere, but he must seat himself by this tripod and await the verdict of the king, while no one at all dares protect him. 29 There Mebodes sat in pitiable plight for many days, until he was seized and put to death at the command of Chosroes. Such was the final outcome of his good deeds to Chosroes.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. chap. xvi.7.

2 Cf. Book II.xvii.

Thayer's Note:

a The Roman pound was about 330 grams, so the centenaria was 33 kg of gold, which in 2020 would be worth $2.2 million. Here the 110 centenaria represent about $240 million; leaving aside any questions as to purchasing power.

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