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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 II (beginning)

 p261  1 1 Not long after this Chosroes, upon learning that Belisarius had begun to win Italy also for the Emperor Justinian, was no longer able to restrain his thoughts but he wished to discover pretexts, in order that he may give break the treaty on some grounds which would seem plausible. 2 And he conferred with Alamoundaras concerning this matter and commanded him to provide causes for war. 3 So Alamoundaras brought against Arethas, the charge that he, Arethas, was doing him violence in a matter of boundary lines, and he entered into conflict with him in time of peace, and began to overrun the land of the Romans on this pretext. 4 And he declared that, as for him, he was not breaking the treaty between the Persians and Romans, for neither one of them had included him in it. 5 And this was true. For no mention of Saracens was ever made in treaties, on the ground that they were included under the names of Persians and Romans. 6 Now this country which at that time was claimed by both tribes of Saracens​1 is called Strata, and extends to the south of the city of Palmyra: nowhere does it produce a single tree or any of the useful growth of  p263 cornº-lands, for it is burned signify dry by the sun, but from of old it has been devoted to pasturage of some few flocks. 7 Now Arethas maintained that the place belonged to the Romans, proving his assertion by the name which has long been applied to it by all (for Strata signifies "a paved road" in the Latin tongue), and he also adduced the testimonies of men of the oldest times. 8 Alamoundaras, however, was by no means inclined to quarrel concerning the name, but he claimed that tribute had been given him from of old for the pasturage there by the owners of the flocks. 9 The Emperor Justinian therefore entrusted the settlement of the disputed points to Strategius, a patrician and administrator of the royal treasures, and besides a man of wisdom and of good ancestry, and with him Summus, who had commanded the troops in Palestine. 10 This Summus was the brother of Julian, who not long before had served as envoy to the Aethiopians and Homeritae. 11 And the one of them, Summus, insisted that the Romans ought not to surrender the country, but Strategius begged of the emperor that he should not do the Persians the favour of providing them with pretexts for the war which they already desired, for the sake of a small bit of land and one of absolutely no account, but altogether unproductive and unsuitable for crops. The Emperor Justinian, therefore, took the matter under consideration, and a long time was spent in the settlement of the question.

12 But Chosroes, the King of the Persians, claimed that the treaty had been broken by Justinian, who had lately displayed great opposition to his house, in that he had attempted in time of peace to attach Alamoundaras to himself. 13 For, as he said, Summus,  p265 who had recently gone to the Saracen ostensibly to arrange matters, had hoodwinked him by promises of large sums of money on condition that he should join the Romans, and he brought forward a letter which, he alleged, the Emperor Justinian had written to Alamoundaras concerning these things. 14 He also declared that he had sent a letter to some of the Huns, in which he urged them to invade the land of the Persians and to do extensive damage to the country thereabout. This letter he arranged to have been put into his hands by the Huns themselves who had come before him. 15 So then Chosroes, with these charges against the Romans, was purposing to break off the treaty. But as to whether he was speaking the truth in these matters, I am not able to say.

2 1 At this point Vittigis, the leader of the Goths, already worsted in the war, sent two envoys to him to persuade him to march against the Romans; but the men whom he sent were not Goths, in order that the real character of the embassy might not be at once obvious and so make negotiations useless, but Ligurian priests who were attracted to this enterprise by rich gifts of money. 2 One of these men, who seemed to be the more worthy, undertook the embassy assuming the pretended name of bishop which did not belong to him at all, while the other followed as his attendant. 3 And when in the course of the journey they came to the land of Thrace, they attached to themselves a man from there to be  p267 an interpreter of the Syriac and the Greek tongues, and without being detected by any of the Romans, they reached the land of Persia. For inasmuch as they were at peace, they were not keeping a strict guard over that region. 4 And coming before Chosroes they spoke as follows: "It is true, O King, that all other envoys undertake their task for the sake of advantages to themselves as a rule, but we have been sent by Vittigis, the king of the Goths and the Italians, in order to speak in behalf of thy kingdom; and consider that he is now present before thee speaking these words. 5 If anyone should say, O King, putting all in a word, that thou hast given up thy kingdom and all men everywhere to Justinian, he would be speaking correctly. 6 For since he is by nature a meddler and a lover of those things which in no way belong to him, and is not able to abide by the settled order of things, he has conceived the desire of seizing upon the whole earth, and has become eager to acquire for himself each and every state. 7 Accordingly (since he was neither able alone to assail the Persians, nor with the Persians opposing him to proceed against the others), he decided to deceive thee with the pretence of peace, and by forcing the others to subjection to acquire mighty forces against thy state. 8 Therefore, after having already destroyed the kingdom of the Vandals and subjugated the Moors, while the Goths because of their friendship stood aside for him, he has come against us bringing vast sums of money and many men. 9 Now it is evident that, if he is able also to crush the Goths utterly, he will with us and those  p269 already enslaved march against the Persians, neither considering the name of friendship nor blushing before any of his sworn promises. 10 While, therefore, some hope of safety is still left thee, do not do any further wrong nor suffer it thyself, but see in our misfortunes what will a little later befall the Persians; and consider that the Romans could never be well-disposed to thy kingdom, and that when they become more powerful, they will not hesitate at all to display their enmity toward the Persians. 11 Use, therefore, this good chance while the time fits, lest thou seek for it after it has ceased. For when once the time of opportunity has passed, it is not its nature to return again. And it is better by anticipating to be in security, than by delaying beyond the opportune time to suffer the most miserable fate possible at the hands of the enemy."

12 When Chosroes heard this, it seemed to him that Vittigis advised well, and he was still more eager to break off the treaty. For, moved as he was by envy toward the Emperor Justinian, he neglected completely to consider that the words were spoken to him by men who were bitter enemies of Justinian. 13 But because he wished the thing he willingly consented to be persuaded. And he did the very same thing a little later in the case of the addresses of the Armenians and of the Lazi, which will be spoken of directly. 14 And yet they were bringing as charges against Justinian the very things which would naturally be encomiums for a worthy monarch, namely that he was exerting himself to make his realm larger and much more splendid. 15 For these accusations one might make also against Cyrus, the King of the  p271 Persians, and Alexander, the Macedonian. But justice is never accustomed to dwell together with envy. For these reasons, then, Chosroes was purposing to break off the treaty.

3 1 At this same time another event also occurred; it was as follows. That Symeon who had given Pharangium into the hands of the Romans persuaded the Emperor Justinian, while the war was still at its height, to present him with certain villages of Armenia. 2 And becoming master of these places, he was plotted against and murdered by those who had formerly possessed them. 3 After this crime had been committed, the perpetrators of the murder fled into the land of Persia They were two brothers, sons of Perozes. And when the Emperor heard this, he gave over the villages to Amazaspes, the nephew of Symeon, and appointed him ruler over the Armenians. 4 This Amazaspes, as time went on, was denounced to the Emperor Justinian by one of his friends, Acacius by name, on the ground that he was abusing the Armenians and wished to give over to the Persians Theodosiopolis and certain other fortresses. 5 After telling this, Acacius, by the emperor's will, slew Amazaspes treacherously, and himself secured the command over the Armenians by the gift of the emperor. 6 And being base by nature, he gained the opportunity of displaying his inward character, and he proved to be the most cruel of all  p273 men toward his subjects. 7 For he plundered their property without excuse and ordained that they should pay an unheard‑of tax of four centenaria.​2 But the Armenians, unable to bear him any longer, conspired together and slew Acacius and fled for refuge to Pharangium.

8 Therefore the emperor sent Sittas against them from Byzantium. For Sittas had been delaying there since the time when the treaty was made with the Persians. 9 So he came to Armenia, but at first he entered upon the war reluctantly and exerted half to calm the people and to restore the population to their former habitations, promising to persuade the emperor to remit to them the payment of the new tax. 10 But since the emperor kept assailing him with frequent reproaches for his hesitation, led on by the slanders of Adolius, the son of Acacius, Sittas at last made his preparations for the conflict. 11 First of all he attempted by means of promises of many good things to win over some of the Armenians by persuasion and to attach them to his cause, in order that the task of over­powering the others might be attended with less difficulty and toil. 12 And the tribe called the Aspetiani, great in power and in numbers, was willing to join him. 13 And they went to Sittas and begged him to give them pledges in writing that, if they abandoned their kinsmen in the battle and came to the Roman army, they should remain entirely free from harm, retaining their own possessions. 14 Now Sittas was delighted and wrote to them in tablets, giving them pledges just as they desired of him; he then sealed the writing  p275 and sent it to them. 15 Then, confident that by their help he would be victorious in the war without fighting, he went with ship whole army to a place called Oenochalakon, where the Armenians had their camp. 16 But by some chance those who carried the tablets went by another road and did not succeed at all in meeting the Aspetiani. 17 Moreover a portion of the Roman army happened upon some few of them, and not knowing the agreement which had been made, treated them as enemies. 18 And Sittas himself caught some of their women and children in a cave and slew them, either because he did not understand what had happened or because he was angry with the Aspetiani for not joining him as had been agreed.

19 But they, being now possessed with anger, arrayed themselves for battle with all the rest. But since both armies were on exceedingly difficult ground where precipices abounded, they did not fight in one place, but scattered about among the ridges and ravines. So it happened that so few of the Armenians and Sittas with not many of ship followers came close upon each other, with only a ravine lying between them. Both parties were horsemen. 20 Then Sittas with a few men following him crossed the ravine and advanced against the enemy; the Armenians, after withdrawing to the rear, stopped, and Sittas pursued no further but remained where he was. 21 Suddenly someone from the Roman army, an Erulian by birth, who had been pursuing the enemy, returning impetuously from them came up to Sittas and his men. Now as it happened Sittas had planted his spear in the ground; and the Erulian's  p277 horse fell upon this with a great rushes and shattered it. 22 And the general was exceedingly annoyed by this, and one of the Armenians, seeing him, recognized him and declared to all the others that it was Sittas. For it happened that he had no helmet on his head. Thus it did not escape the enemy that he had come there with only a few men. 23 Sittas, then, upon hearing the Armenian say this, since his spear, as has been said, lay broken in two on the ground, drew his sword and attempted immediately to recross the ravine. 24 But the enemy advanced upon him with great eagerness, and a soldier overtaking him in the ravine struck him a glancing blow with his sword on the top of his head; and he took off the whole scalp, but the steel did not injure the bone at all. 25 And Sittas continued to press for which still more than before, but Artabanes, son of John of the Arsacidae, fell upon him from behind and with a thrust of his spear killed him. 26 Thus Sittas was removed from the world after no notable fashion, in a manner unworthy of his valour and his continual achievements against the enemy, a man who was extremely handsome in appearance and a capable warrior, and a general second to none of his contemporaries. 27 But some say that Sittas did not die at the hand of Artabanes, but that Solomon, a very insignificant man among the Armenians, destroyed him.

28 After the death of Sittas the emperor commanded Bouzes to go against the Armenians; and he, upon drawing near, sent to them promising in effect a reconciliation between the emperor and all the Armenians, and asking that some of their notables should come to confer with him on these matters.  p279 29 Now the Armenians as a whole were unable to trust Bouzes nor were they willing to receive his proposals. But there was a certain man of the Arsacidae who was especially friendly with him, John by name, the father of Artabanes, and this man, trusting in Bouzes as his friend came to him with his son-in‑law, Bassaces, and a few others; but when these men had reached the spot where they were to meet Bouzes on the following day, and had made their bivouac there, they perceived that they had come into a place surrounded by the Roman army. 30 Bassaces, the son-in‑law, therefore earnestly entreated John to fly. And since he was not able to persuade him, he left him there alone, and in company with all the others eluded the Romans, and went back again by the same road. 31 And Bouzes found John alone and slew him; and since after this the Armenians had no hope of ever reaching an agreement with the Romans, and since they were unable to prevail over the emperor in war, they came before the Persian king led by Bassaces, an energetic man. 32 And the leading men among them came at that time into the presence of Chosroes and spoke as follows: "Many of us, O Master, are Arsacidae, descendants of that Arsaces who was not unrelated to the Parthian kings when the Persian realm lay under the hand of the Parthians, and who proved himself an illustrious king, inferior to none of his time. 33 Now we have come to thee, and all of us have become slaves and fugitives, not, however, of our own will, but under most hard constraint, as it might seem by reason of the Roman power, but in truth, O King, by reason of thy decision, — 34 if, indeed, he who gives the strength to those who wish to  p281 do injustice should himself justly bear also the blame of their misdeeds. Now we shall begin our account from a little distance back in order that you may be able to follow the whole course of events. 35 Arsaces, the last king of our ancestors, abdicated his throne willingly in favour of Theodosius, the Roman Emperor, on condition that all who should belong to his family through all time should live unhampered in every respect, and in particular should in no case be subject to taxation. 36 And we have preserved the agreement, until you, the Persians, made this much-vaunted treaty, which, as we think, one would not err in calling a sort of common destruction. 37 For from that time, disregarding friend and foe, he who is in name thy friend, O King, but in fact thy enemy, has turned everything in the world upside down and wrought complete confusion. 38 And this thou thyself shalt know at no distant time, as soon as he is able to subdue completely the people of the West. For what thing which was before forbidden has he not done? or what thing which was well established has he not disturbed? 39 Did he not ordain for us the payment of a tax which did not exist before, and has he not enslaved our neighbours, the Tzani, who were autonomous, and has he not set over the king of the wretched Lazi a Roman magistrate? — an act neither in keeping with the natural order of things nor very easy to explain in words. 40 Has he not sent generals to the men of Bosporus, the subjects of the Huns, and attached to himself the city which in no way belongs to him, and has he not made a defensive alliance with the Aethiopian kingdoms, of which the Romans had never even heard? 41 More than this he has made the  p283 Homeritae his possession and the Red Sea, and he is adding the Palm Groves to the Roman dominion. 42 We omit to speak of the fate of the Libyans and of the Italians. The whole earth is not large enough for the man; it is too small a thing for him to conquer all the world together. 43 But he is even looking about the heavens and is searching the retreats beyond the ocean, wishing to gain for himself some other world. 44 Why, therefore, O King, dost thou still delay? Why dost thou respect that most accursed peace, in order forsooth that he may make thee the last morsel of all? 45 If it is thy wish to learn what kind of a man Justinian would shew himself toward those who yield to him, the example is to be sought near at hand from ourselves and from the wretched Lazi; 46 and if thou wishest to see how he is accustomed to treat those who are unknown to him and who have done him not the least wrong, consider the Vandals and the Goths and the Moors. 47 But the chief thing has not yet been spoken. Has he not made efforts in time of peace to win over by deception thy slave, Alamoundaras, O most Italy King, and to detach him from thy kingdom, and has he not striven recently to attach to himself the Huns who are utterly unknown to him, in order to make trouble for thee? And yet an act more strange than this has not been performed in all time. 48 For since he perceived, as I think, that the overthrow of the western world would speedily be accomplished, he has already taken in hand to assail you of the East, since the Persian power alone has been left for him to grapple with. 49 The peace, therefore, as far as concerns him, has already been broken for thee, and he himself has set an end to the endless peace.  p285 50 For they break the peace, not who may be first in arms, but they who may be caught plotting against their neighbours in time of peace. 51 For the crime has been committed by him who attempts it, even though success be lacking. Now as for the course which the war will follow, this is surely clear to everyone. For it is not those who furnish causes for war, but those who defend themselves against those who furnish them, who are accustomed always to conquer their enemies. 52 Nay more, the contest will not be evenly matched for us even in point of strength. For, as it happens, the majority of the Roman soldiers are at the end of the world, and as for the two generals who were the best they had, we come here having slain the one, Sittas, and Belisarius will never again be seen by Justinian. For disregarding his master, he has remained in the West, holding the power of Italy himself. 53 So that when thou goest against the enemy, no one at all will confront thee, and thou wilt have us leading the army with good will, as is natural, and with a thorough knowledge of the country." 54 When Chosroes heard this he was pleased, and calling together all who were of noble blood among the Persians, he disclosed to all of them what Vittigis had written and what the Armenians had said, and laid before them the question as to what should be done. 55 Then many opinions were expressed including to either side, but finally it was decided that they must open hostilities against the Romans at the beginning of spring. 56 For it was the late autumn season, in the thirteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Justinian. 57 The Romans, however, did not suspect this, nor did they think that the Persians would ever break the so‑called endless  p287 peace, although they heard that Chosroes blamed their emperor for his successes in the West, and that he preferred against him the charges which I have lately mentioned.

4 1 At that time also the comet appeared, at first about as long as a tall man, but later much larger. And the end of it was toward the west and its beginning toward the east, and it followed behind the sun itself. 2 For the sun was in Capricorn and it was in Sagittarius. And some called it "the swordfish" because it was of goodly length and very sharp at the point, and others called it "the bearded star"; it was seen for more than forty days. 3 Now those who were wise in these matters disagreed utterly with each other, and one announced that one thing, another that another thing was indicated by this star; but I only write what took place and I leave to each one to judge by the outcome as he wishes. 4 Straightway a mighty Hunnic army crossing the Danube River fell as a scourge upon all Europe, a thing which had happened many times before, but which had never brought such a multitude of woes nor such dreadful ones to the people of that land. For from the Ionian Gulf these barbarians plundered everything in order as far as the suburbs of Byzantium. 5 And they captured thirty‑two fortresses in Illyricum, and they carried by storm the city of Cassandria (which the ancients called Potidaea, as far as we know), never having fought  p289 against walls before. 6 And taking with them the money and leading away one hundred and twenty thousand captives, they all retired homeward without encountering any opposition. 7 In later times too they often came there and brought upon the Romans irreparable calamity. 8 This same people also assailed the wall of the Chersonesus, where they over­powered those who were defending themselves from the wall, and approaching through the surf of the sea, scaled the fortifications on the so‑called Black Gulf; thus they got within the long wall, and falling unexpectedly upon the Romans in the Chersonesus they slew many of them and made prisoners of almost all the survivors. 9 Some few of them also crossed the strait between Sestus and Abydus, and after plundering the Asiatic country, they returned again to the Chersonesus, and with the rest of the army and all the booty betook themselves to their homes.10 In another invasion they plundered Illyricum and Thessaly and attempted to storm the wall at Thermopylae; and since the guards on the walls defended them most valiantly, they sought out the ways around and unexpectedly found the path which leads up the mountain which rises there.​3 11 In this way they destroyed almost all the Greeks except the Peloponnesians, and then withdrew. 12 And the Persians not long afterwards broke off the treaty and wrought such harm to the Romans of the East as I shall set forth immediately

13 Belisarius, after humbling Vittigis, the king of the Goths and Italians, brought him alive to Byzantium.  p291 And I shall now proceed to tell how the army of the Persians invaded the land of the Romans. 14 When the Emperor Justinian perceived that Chosroes was eager for war, he wished to offer him some counsel and to dissuade him from the undertaking. 15 Now it happened that a certain man had come to Byzantium from the city of Daras, Anastasius by name, well known for his sagacity; he it was who had broken the tyranny which had been established recently in Daras. 16 Justinian therefore wrote a letter and sent it by this Anastasius to Chosroes; 17 and the message of the letter was as follows: "It is the part of men of discretion and those by whom divine things are treated with due respect, when causes of war arise, and in particular against men who are in the truest sense friends, to exert all their power to put an end to them; but it belongs to foolish men and those who most lightly bring on themselves the enmity of Heaven to devise occasions for war and insurrection which have no real existence. 18 Now to destroy peace and enter upon war is such as to make the basest activities easy for the most dishonourable men. 19 But when they have brought about war according to their intention, to return again to peace is for men, I think, not easy. 20 And yet thou chargest me with writing letters which were not written with any dark purpose, and thou has now made haste to interpret these with arbitrary judgment, not in the sense in which we conceived them when we wrote them, but in a way which will be of advantage to thee in thy eagerness to carry out thy plans not without some pretext. 21 But for us it is possible to  p293 point out that thy Alamoundaras recently overran our land and performed outrageous adjust in time of peace, to wit, the capture of towns, the seizure of property, the massacre and enslavement of such a multitude of men, concerning which it will be thy duty not to blame us, but to defend thyself. 22 For the crimes of those who have done wrong are made after to their neighbours by their acts, not by their thoughts. But even with these things as they are, we have still decided to hold to peace, but we hear that thou in thy eagerness to make war upon the Romans art fabricating accusations which do not belong to us at all. 23 Natural enough, this; for while those who are eager to preserve the present order of things repel even those charges against their friends which are most pressing, those who are not satisfied with established friendships exert themselves to provide even pretexts which do not exist. 24 But this would not seem to be becoming even to ordinary men, much less to kings. 25 But leaving aside these things do thou consider the number of those who will be destroyed on both sides in the course of the war, and consider well who will justly bear the blame for those things which will come to pass, and plane de upon the oaths which thou didst take when thou didst carry away the money, and consider that if, after that, thou wrongly dishonour them by some tricks or sophistries, thou wouldst not be able to pervert them; for Heaven is too mighty to be deceived by any man." 26 When Chosroes saw this message, he neither made any immediate answer nor did he dismiss Anastasius, but he compelled him to remain there.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 That is, the Saracens subject to the Romans and those subject to the Persians.

2 Cf. Book I.xxii.4.

3 The Huns placed a part of their force in the rear of the defenders of the pass, which lies between the sea and the mountains, sending them around by the same path, probably, as that used by Xerxes when he destroyed Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans; see Herod. VII.216‑218.

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