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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.

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(Vol. I) Procopius
Persian Wars

Book II (continued)

 p381  14 1 Now Chosroes built a city in Assyria in a place one day's journey distant from the city of Ctesiphon, and he named it the Antioch of Chosroes and settled there all the captives from Antioch, constructing for them a bath and a hippodrome and providing that they should have free enjoyment of their other luxuries besides. 2 For he brought with him charioteers and musicians  p383 both from Antioch and from the other Roman cities. 3 Besides this he always provisioned these citizens of Antioch at public expense more carefully than in the fashion of captives, and he required that they be called king's subjects, so as to be subordinate to no one of the magistrates, but to the king alone. 4 And if any one else too who was a Roman in slavery ran away and succeeded in escaping to the Antioch of Chosroes, and if he was called a kinsman by any one of those who lived there, it was no longer possible for the owner of this captive to take him away, not even if he who had enslaved the man happened to be a person of especial note among the Persians.

5 Thus, then, the portent which had come to the citizens of Antioch in the reign of Anastasius reached this final fulfilment for them. For at that time a violent wind suddenly fell upon the suburb of Daphne, and some of the cypresses which were there of extraordinary height were overturned from the extremities of their roots and fell to the earth — trees which the law forbade absolutely to be cut down. 6 Accordingly, a little later, when Justinus was ruling over the Romans, the place was visited by an exceedingly violent earthquake, which shook down the whole city and straightway brought to the ground the most and the finest of the buildings, and it is said that at that time three hundred thousand of the population of Antioch perished. 7 And finally in this capture the whole city, as has been said, was destroyed. Such, then, was the calamity which befell the men of Antioch.

8 And Belisarius came to Byzantium from Italy, summoned by the emperor; and after he had spent  p385 the winter in Byzantium, the emperor sent him as general against Chosroes and the Persians at the opening of spring, together with the officers who had come with him from Italy, one of whom, Valerianus, he commanded to lead the troops in Armenia. 9 For Martinus had been sent immediately to the East, and for this reason Chosroes found him at Daras, as has been stated above. 10 And among the Goths, Vittigis remained in Byzantium, but all the rest marched with Belisarius against Chosroes. 11 At that time one of the envoys of Vittigis, he who was assuming the name of bishop, died in the land of Persia, and the other one remained there.​a 12 And the man who followed them as interpreter withdrew to the land of the Romans, and John, who was commanding the troops in Mesopotamia, arrested him near the boundaries of Constantina, and bringing him into the city confined him in a prison; there the man in answer to his enquiries related everything which had been done. 13 Such, then, was the course of these events. And Belisarius and his followers went in haste, since he was eager to anticipate Chosroes' making any second invasion into the land of the Romans.

15 1 But in the meantime Chosroes was leading his army against Colchis, where the Lazi were calling him in for the following reason. 2 The Lazi at first dwelt in the land of Colchis as subjects of the Romans, but not to the extent of paying them  p387 tribute or obeying their commands in any respect, except that, whenever their king died, the Roman emperor would send emblems of the office to him who was about to succeed to the throne. 3 And he, together with his subjects, guarded strictly the boundaries of the land in order that hostile Huns might not proceed from the Caucasus mountains, which adjoin their territory, through Lazica and invade the land of the Romans. 4 And they kept guard without receiving money or troops from the Romans and without ever joining the Roman armies, but they were also engaged in commerce by sea with the Romans who live on the Black Sea. 5 For they themselves have neither salt nor grain nor any other good thing, but by furnishing skins and hides and slaves they secured the supplies which they needed. 6 But when the events came to pass in which Gourgenes, the king of the Iberians, was concerned, as has been told in the preceding narrative,​1 Roman soldiers began to be quartered among the Lazi; and these barbarians were annoyed by the soldiers, and most of all by Peter, the general, a man who was prone to treat insolently those who came into contact with him. 7 This Peter was a native of Arzanene, which is beyond the River Nymphius, a district subject to the Persians from of old, but while still a child he had been captured and enslaved by the Emperor Justinus at the time when Justinus, after the taking of Amida, was invading the land of the Persians with Celer's army.​2 And since his owner showed him great kindness, he attended the school of a grammatist. 8 And at first he became secretary to Justinus, but when, after the death of Anastasius, Justinus took over the  p389 Roman empire, Peter was made a general, and he degenerated into a slave of avarice, if anyone ever did, and showed himself very fatuous in his treatment of all.

9 And later the Emperor Justinian sent different officers to Lazica, and among them John, whom they called Tzibus, a man of obscure and ignoble descent, but who had climbed to the office of general by virtue of no other thing than that he was the most accomplished villain in the world and most successful in discovering unlawful sources of revenue. This man unsettled and threw into confusion all the relations of the Romans and the Lazi. 10 He also persuaded the Emperor Justinian to build a city on the sea in Lazica, Petra by name; and there he sat as in a citadel and plundered the property of the Lazi. 11 For the salt, and all other cargoes which were considered necessary for the Lazi, it was no longer possible for the merchants to bring into the land of Colchis, nor could they purchase them elsewhere by sending for them, but he set up in Petra the so‑called "monopoly" and himself became a retail dealer and overseer of all the handling of these things, buying everything and selling it to the Colchians, not at the customary rates, but as dearly as possible. 12 At the same time, even apart from this, the barbarians were annoyed by the Roman army quartered upon them, a thing which had not been customary previously. Accordingly, since they were no longer able to endure these things, they decided to attach themselves to the Persians and Chosroes, and immediately they  p391 sent to them envoys who were to arrange this without the knowledge of the Romans. 13 These men had been instructed that they should take pledges from Chosroes that he would never give up the Lazi against their will to the Romans, and that with this understanding they should bring him with the Persian army into the land.

14 Accordingly the envoys went to the Persians, and coming secretly before Chosroes they said: "If any people in all time have revolted from their own friends in any manner whatsoever and attached themselves wrongfully to men utterly unknown to them, and after that by the kindness of fortune have been brought back once more with greatest rejoicing to those who were formerly their own, consider, O Most mighty King, that such as these are the Lazi. 15 For the Colchians in ancient times, as allies of the Persians, rendered them many good services and were themselves treated in like manner; and of these things there are many records in books, some of which we have, while others are preserved in thy palace up to the present time. 16 But at a later time it came about that our ancestors, whether neglected by you or for some other reason (for we are unable to ascertain anything certain about this matter), became allies of the Romans. 17 And now we and the king of Lazica give to the Persians both ourselves and our land to treat in any way you may desire. 18 And we beg of you to think thus concerning us: if, on the one hand, we have suffered nothing outrageous at the hands of the Romans, but have been prompted by foolish motives in coming to you, reject this prayer of ours straightway, considering  p393 that with you likewise the Colchians will never be trustworthy (for when a friendship has been dissolved, a second friendship formed with others becomes, owing to its character, a matter of reproach); 19 but if we have been in name friends of the Romans, but in fact their loyal slaves, and have suffered impious treatment at the hands of those who have tyrannized over us, receive us, your former allies, and acquire as slaves those whom you used to treat as friends, and show your hatred of a cruel tyranny which has risen thus on our borders, by acting worthily of that justice which it has always been the tradition of the Persians to defend. 20 For the man who himself does no wrong is not just, unless he is also accustomed to rescue those who are wronged by others when he has it in his power. 21 But it is worth while to tell a few of the things which the accursed Romans have dared to do against us. In the first place they have left our king only the form of royal power, while they themselves have appropriated the actual authority, and he sits a king in the position of a servant, fearing the general who issues the orders; 22 and they have put upon us a multitude of soldiery, not in order to guard the land against those who harass us (for not one of our neighbours except, indeed, the Romans has disturbed us), but in order that they may confine us as in a prison and make themselves masters of our possessions. 23 And purposing to make more speedy the robbery of what we have, behold, O King, what sort of a design they have formed; 24 the supplies which are in excess among them they compel the Lazi to buy against their will, while those things which are most useful  p395 to them among the products of Lazica these fellows demand to buy, as they put it, from us, the price being determined in both cases by the judgment of the stronger party. 25 And thus they are robbing us of all our gold as well as of the necessities of life, using the fair name of trade, but in fact oppressing us as thoroughly as they possibly can. And there has been set over us as ruler a huckster who has made our destitution a kind of business by virtue of the authority of his office. 26 The cause of our revolt, therefore, being of this sort, has justice on its side; but the advantage which you yourselves will gain if you receive the request of the Lazi we shall forthwith tell. 27 To the realm of Persia you will add a most ancient kingdom, and as a result of this you will have the power of your sway extended, and it will come about that you will have a part in the sea of the Romans through our land, and after thou hast built ships in this sea, O King, it will be possible for thee with no trouble to set foot in the palace of Byzantium. For there is no obstacle between. 28 And one might add that the plundering of the land of the Romans every year by the barbarians along the boundary will be under our control. 29 For surely you also are acquainted with the fact that up till now the land of the Lazi has been a bulwark against the Caucasus mountains. 30 So with justice leading the way, and advantage added thereto, we consider that not to receive our words with favour would be wholly contrary to good judgment." So spoke the envoys.

31 And Chosroes, delighted by their words, promised  p397 to protect the Lazi, and enquired of the envoys whether it was possible for him to enter the land of Colchis with a large army. 32 For he said that previously he had heard many persons report that the land was exceedingly hard to traverse even for an unimpeded traveller, being extremely rugged and covered very extensively by thick forests of wide-spreading trees. 33 But the envoys stoutly maintained to him that the way through the country would be easy for the whole Persian army, if they cut the trees and threw them into the places which were made difficult by precipices. 34 And they promised that they themselves would be guides of the route, and would take the lead in this work for the Persians. 35 Encouraged by this suggestion, Chosroes gathered a great army and made his preparations for the inroad, not disclosing the plan to the Persians except those alone to whom he was accustomed to communicate his secrets, and commanding the envoys to tell no one what was being done; and he pretended that he was setting out into Iberia, in order to settle matters there; for a Hunnic tribe, he kept saying in explanation, had assailed the Persian domain at that point.

16 1 At this time Belisarius had arrived in Mesopotamia and was gathering his army from every quarter, and he also kept sending men into the land of Persia to act as spies. 2 And wishing himself to encounter the  p399 enemy there, if they should again make an incursion into the land of the Romans, he was organizing on the spot and equipping the soldiers, who were for the most part without either arms or armour, and in terror of the name of the Persians. 3 Now the spies returned and declared that for the present there would be no invasion of the enemy; for Chosroes was occupied elsewhere with a war against the Huns. 4 And Belisarius, upon learning this, wished to invade the land of the enemy immediately with his whole army. 5 Arethas also come to him with a large force of Saracens, and besides the emperor wrote a letter instructing him to invade the enemy's country with all speed. 6 He therefore called together all the officers in Daras and spoke as follows: "I know that all of you, my fellow officers, are experienced in many wars, and I have brought you together at the present time, not in order to stir up your minds against the enemy by addressing to you any reminder or exhortation (for I think that you need no speech that prompts to daring), but in order that we may deliberate together among ourselves, and choose rather the course which may seem fairest and best for the cause of the emperor. 7 For war is wont to succeed by reason of careful planning more than by anything else. Now it is necessary that those who gather for deliberation should make their minds entirely free from modesty and from fear. 8 For fear, by paralyzing those who have fallen into it, does not allow the reason to choose the nobler part, and modesty obscures what has been seen to be the better course and leads investigation the  p401 opposite way. 9 If, therefore, it seems to you that any purpose has been formed either by our mighty emperor or by me concerning the present situation, let no thought of this enter your minds. 10 For, as for him, he is altogether ignorant of what is being done, and is therefore unable to adapt his moves to opportune moments; 11 there is therefore no fear but that in going contrary to him we shall do that which will be of advantage to his cause. 12 And as for me, since I am human, and have come here from the West after a long interval, it is impossible that some of the necessary things should not escape me. 13 So it behoves you, without any too modest regard for my opinion, to say outright whatever is going to be of advantage for ourselves and for the emperor. 14 Now in the beginning, fellow officers, we came here in order to prevent the enemy from making any invasion into our land, but at the present time, since things have gone better for us than we had hoped, it is possible for us to make his land the subject of our deliberation. 15 And now that you have been gathered together for this purpose, it is fair, I think, that you should tell without any concealment what seems to each one best and most advantageous." Thus spoke Belisarius.

16 And Peter and Bouzes urged him to lead the army without any hesitation against the enemy's country. And their opinion was followed immediately by the whole council. 17 Rhecithancus, however, and Theoctistus, the commanders of the troops in Lebanon, said that, while they too had the same wish as the others concerning the invasion, they feared that if  p403 they abandoned the country of Phoenicia and Syria, Alamoundaras would plunder it at his leisure, and that the emperor would be angry with them because they had not guarded and kept unplundered the territory under their command, and for this reason they were quite unwilling to join the rest of the army in the invasion. 18 But Belisarius said that the opinion of these two men was not in the least degree true; for it was the season of the vernal equinox, and at this season the Saracens always dedicated about two months to their god, and during this time never undertook any inroad into the land of others. 19 Agreeing, therefore, to release both of them with their followers within sixty days, he commanded them to follow with the rest of the army. So Belisarius was making his preparation for the invasion with great zeal.

17 1 But Chosroes and the Median army, after crossing Iberia, reached the territory of Lazica under the leader­ship of the envoys; there with no one to withstand them they began to cut down the trees which grow thickly over that very mountainous region, rising to a great height, and spreading out their branches remarkably, so that they made the country absolutely impassable for the army; and these they threw into the rough places, and thus rendered the road altogether easy. 2 And when they arrived in the centre of Colchis (the place where the tales of the poets say that the adventure of Medea and Jason took place), Goubazes, the king of the Lazi, came  p405 and did obeisance to Chosroes, the son of Cabades, as Lord, putting himself together with his palace and all Lazica into his hand.

3 Now there is a coast city named Petra in Colchis, on the sea which is called the Euxine, which in former times had been a place of no importance, but which the Emperor Justinian had rendered strong and otherwise conspicuous by means of the circuit-wall and other buildings which he erected.​b 4 When Chosroes ascertained that Roman army was in that place with John, he sent an army and a general, Aniabedes, against them in order to capture the place at the first onset. 5 But John, upon learning of their approach, gave orders that no one should go outside the fortifications nor allow himself to be seen from the parapet by the enemy, and he armed the whole army and stationed them in the vicinity of the gates, commanding them to keep silence and not allow the least sound of any kind to escape from them. 6 So the Persians came close to the fortifications, and since nothing of the enemy was either seen or heard by them they thought that the Romans had abandoned the city and left it destitute of men. 7 For this reason they closed in still more around the fortifications, so as to set up ladders immediately, since no one was defending the wall. 8 And neither seeing nor hearing anything of the enemy, they sent to Chosroes and explained the situation. 9 And he sent the greater part of the army, commanding them to make an attempt upon the fortifications from all sides, and he directed one of the officers to make use of the engine known as a ram around the gate, while he himself, seated on  p407 the hill which lies very close to the city, became a spectator of the operations. 10 And straightway the Romans opened the gates all of a sudden, and unexpectedly fell upon and slew great numbers of the enemy, and especially those stationed about the ram; the rest with difficulty made their escape together with the general and were saved. 11 And Chosroes, filled with rage, impaled Aniabedes, since he had been outgeneralled by John, a tradesman and an altogether unwarlike man. 12 But some say, that not Aniabedes, but the officer commanding the men who were working the ram was impaled. 13 And he himself broke camp with the whole army, and coming close to the fortifications of Petra, made camp and began a siege. 14 On the following day he went completely around the fortifications, and since he suspected that they could not support a very strong attack, he decided to storm the wall. And bringing up the whole army there, he opened the action, commanding all to shoot with their bows against the parapet. 15 The Romans, meanwhile, in defending themselves, made use of their engines of war and all their bows. At first, then, the Persians did the Romans little harm, although they were shooting their arrows thick and fast, while at the same time they suffered severely at the hands of the Romans, since they were being shot at from an elevation. 16 But later on (since it was fated that Petra be captured by Chosroes), John by some chance was shot in the neck and died, and as a result of this the other Romans ceased to care for anything. 17 Then indeed the barbarians withdrew to their camp; for it was already growing dark; but on the following day they planned to assail the fortifications by an excavation, as follows.

 p409  18 The city of Petra is on one side inaccessible on account of the sea, and on the other on account of the sheer cliffs which rise there on every hand; indeed it is from this circumstance that the city has received the name it bears. 19 And it has only one approach on the level ground, and that not very broad; for exceedingly high cliffs overhang it on either side. 20 At that point those who formerly built the city provided that portion of the walls should not be open to attack by making long walls which ran along beside either cliff and guarded the approach for a great distance. 21 And they built two towers, one in each of these walls, not following the customary plan, but as follows. 22 They refused to allow the space in the middle of the structure to be empty, but constructed the entire towers from the ground up to a great height of very large stones which fitted together, in order that they might never be shaken down by a ram or any other engine. Such, then, are the fortifications of Petra. 23 But the Persians secretly made a tunnel into the earth and got under one of the two towers, and from there carried out many of the stones and in their place put wood, which a little later they burned. 24 And the flame, rising little by little, weakened the stones, and all of a sudden shook the whole tower violently and straightway brought it down to the ground.​c 25 And the Romans who were on the tower perceived what was being done in sufficient time so that they did not fall with it to the ground, but they fled and got inside the city wall. 26 And now it was possible for the enemy to storm the wall from the level, and thus with no trouble to take the city by force.  p411 27 The Romans, therefore, in terror, opened negotiations with the barbarians, and receiving from Chosroes pledges concerning their lives and their property, they surrendered to him both themselves and the city. Thus Chosroes captured Petra. 28 And finding the treasures of John, which were extremely rich, he took them himself, but besides neither he himself nor anyone else of the Persians touched anything, and the Romans, retaining their own possessions, mingled with the Median army.

18 1 Meantime Belisarius and the Roman army, having learned nothing of what was being done there, were going in excellent order from the city of Daras toward Nisibis. 2 And when they had reached the middle of their journey, Belisarius led the army to the right where there were abundant springs of water and level ground sufficient for all to camp upon. 3 And there he gave orders to make a camp at about forty‑two stades from the city of Nisibis. 4 But all the others marvelled greatly that he did not wish to camp close to the fortifications, and some were quite unwilling to follow him. 5 Belisarius therefore addressed those of the officers who were about him thus: "It was not my wish to disclose to all what I am thinking. For talk carried about through a camp cannot keep secrets, for it advances little by little until it is carried out even to the  p413 enemy. 6 But seeing that the majority of you are allowing yourselves to act in a most disorderly manner, and that each one wishes to be himself supreme commander in the war, I shall now say among you things about which one ought to keep silence, mentioning, however, this first, that when many in an army follow independent judgments it is impossible that anything needful be done. 7 Now I think that Chosroes, in going against other barbarians, has by no means left his own land without sufficient protection, and in particular this city which is of the first rank and is set as a defence to his whole land. 8 In this city I know well that he has stationed soldiers in such number and of such valour as to be sufficient to stand in the way of our assaults. And the proof of this you have near at hand. 9 For he put in command of these men the general Nabedes, who, after Chosroes himself at least, seems to be first among the Persians in glory and in every other sort of honour. 10 This man, I believe, will both make trial of our strength and will permit of our passing by on no other condition than that he be defeated by us in battle. 11 If, therefore, the conflict should be close by the city, the struggle will not be even for us and the Persians. 12 For they, coming out from their stronghold against us, in case of success, should it so happen, will feel unlimited confidence in assailing us, and in case of defeat they will easily escape from our attack. 13 For we shall only be able to pursue them a short distance, and from this no harm will come to the city, which you surely see cannot be captured by storming the wall when soldiers are defending it. 14 But if the enemy engage  p415 with us here and we conquer them, I have great hopes, fellow officers, of capturing the city. 15 For while our antagonists are fleeing a long way, we shall either mingle with them and rush inside the gates with them, as is probable, or we shall anticipate them and compel them to turn and escape to some other place, and thus render Nisibis without its defenders easy of capture for us."

16 When Belisarius had said this, all the others except Peter were convinced, and they made camp and remained with him. He, however, associating with himself John, who commanded the troops in Mesopotamia and had no small part of the army, came up to a position not far removed from the fortifications, about ten stades away, and remained quietly there. 17 But Belisarius marshalled the men who were with him as if for combat, and sent word to Peter and his men also to hold themselves in array for battle, until he himself should give the signal; and he said that he knew well that the barbarians would attack them about midday, remembering, as they surely would, that while they themselves are accustomed to partake of food in the late afternoon, the Romans do so about midday. 18 So Belisarius gave this warning; but Peter and his men disregarded his commands, and about midday, being distressed by the sun (for the place is exceedingly dry and hot), they stacked their arms, and with never a thought of the enemy began to go about in disorderly fashion and eat gourds which grew there. 19 And when this was observed by Nabedes, he led the Persian army running at full speed against them.  p417 20 And the Romans, since they did not fail to observe that the Persians were coming out of the fortifications (for they were seen clearly because moving over a level plain), sent to Belisarius urging him to support them, and they themselves snatched up their arms, and in disorder and confusion confronted their foe. 21 But Belisarius and his men, even before the messenger had reached them, discovered by the dust the attack of the Persians, and went to the rescue on the run. 22 And when the Persians came up, the Romans did not withstand their onset, but were routed without any difficulty, and the Persians, following close upon them, killed fifty men, and seized and kept the standard of Peter. 23 And they would have slain them all in this pursuit, for the Romans had no thought of resistance, if Belisarius and the army with him had not come upon them and prevented it. 24 For as the Goths, first of all, came up them with long spears in close array, the Persians did not await their attack but beat a hasty retreat. 25 And the Romans together with the Goths followed them up and slew a hundred and fifty men. For the pursuit was only of short duration, and the others quickly got inside the fortifications. 26 Then indeed all the Romans withdrew to the camp of Belisarius, and the Persians on the following day set up on a tower instead of a trophy the standard of Peter, and hanging sausages from it they taunted the enemy with laughter; however, they no longer dared to come out against them, but they guarded the city securely.

 p419  19 1 And Belisarius, seeing that Nisibis was exceedingly strong, and having no hope regarding its capture, was eager to go forward, in order that he might do the enemy some damage by a sudden inroad. 2 Accordingly he broke camp and moved forward with the whole army. And after accomplishing a day's journey, they came upon a fortress which the Persians call Sisauranon. 3 There were in that place besides the numerous population eight hundred horsemen, the best of the Persians, who were keeping guard under command of a man of note, Bleschames by name. 4 And the Romans made camp close by the fortress and began a siege, but, upon making an assault upon the fortifications, they were beaten back, losing many men in the fight. 5 For the wall happened to be extremely strong, and the barbarians defended it against their assailants with the greatest vigorous. Belisarius therefore called together all the officers and spoke as follows: 6 "Experience in many wars, fellow officers, has made it possible for us in difficult situations to foresee what will come to pass, and has made us capable of avoiding disaster by choosing the better course. 7 You understand, therefore, how great a mistake it is for an army to proceed into a hostile land, when many strongholds and many fighting men in them have been left in the rear. 8 Now exactly this has happened to us in the present case. For if we continue our advance, some of the enemy from this place as well as from the city of Nisibis will follow us secretly and will, in all probability, handle us  p421 roughly in places which are for them conveniently adapted for an ambuscade or some other sort of attack. 9 And if, by any chance, a second army confronts us and opens battle, it will be necessary for us to array ourselves against both, and we should thus suffer irreparable harm at their hands. And in saying this I do not mention the fact that if we fail in the engagement, should it so happen, we shall after that have absolutely no way of return left to the land of the Romans. 10 Let us not therefore by reason of most ill‑considered haste seem to have been our own despoilers, nor by our eagerness for strife do harm to the cause of the Romans. For stupid daring leads to destruction, but discreet hesitation is well adapted always to save those who adopt such a course. 11 Let us therefore establish ourselves here and endeavour to capture this fortress, and let Arethas with his forces be sent into the country of Assyria. 12 For the Saracens are by nature unable to storm a wall, but the cleverest of all men at plundering. 13 And some of the soldiers who are good fighters will join them in the invasion, so that, if no opposition presents itself to them, they may overwhelm those who fall in their way, and if any hostile force encounters them, they may be saved easily by retiring to us. 14 And after we have captured the fortress, if God wills, then with the whole army let us cross the River Tigris, without having to fear mischief from anyone in our rear, and knowing well how matters stand with the Assyrians."

15 These words of Belisarius seemed to all well spoken, and he straightway put the plan into execution. Accordingly he commanded Arethas with  p423 his troops to advance into Assyria, and with them he sent twelve hundred soldiers, the most of whom were from among his own guard, putting two guardsmen in command of them, Trajan and John who was called the Glutton, both capable warriors. 16 These men he directed to obey Arethas in everything they did, and he commanded Arethas to pillage all that lay before him and then return to the camp and report how matters stood with the Assyrians with regard to military strength. 17 So Arethas and his men crossed the River Tigris and entered Assyria. 18 There they found a goodly land and one which had been free from plunder for a long time, and undefended besides; and moving rapidly they pillaged many of the places there and secured a great amount of rich plunder. 19 And at that time Belisarius captured some of the Persians and learned from them that those who were inside the fortress were altogether out of provisions. 20 For they do not observe the custom which is followed in the cities of Daras and Nisibis, where they put away the annual food-supply in public store-houses, and now that a hostile army had fallen upon them unexpectedly they had not anticipated the event by carrying in any of the necessities of life. 21 And since a great number of persons had taken refuge suddenly in the fortress, they were naturally hard pressed by the want of provisions. 22 When Belisarius learned this, he sent George, a man of the greatest discretion with whom he shared his secrets, to test the men of the place, in the hope that he might be able to arrange some terms of surrender and thus take the place. 23 And George succeeded, after addressing to them many  p425 words of exhortation and of kindly invitation, in persuading them to take pledges for their safety and to deliver themselves and the fortress to the Romans. 24 Thus Belisarius captured Sisauranon, and the inhabitants, all of whom were Christians and of Roman origin, he released unscathed, but the Persians he sent with Bleschames to Byzantium, and razed the fortification wall of the fortress to the ground. 25 And the emperor not long afterwards sent these Persians and Bleschames to Italy to fight against the Goths. Such, then, was the course of events which had to do with the fortress of Sisauranon.

26 But Arethas, fearing lest he should be despoiled of his booty by the Romans, was now unwilling to return to the camp. 27 So he sent some of his followers ostensibly for the purpose of reconnoitring, but secretly commanding them to return as quickly as possible and announce to the army that a large hostile force was at the crossing of the river. 28 For this reason, then, he advised Trajan and John to return by another route to the land of the Romans. 29 So they did not come again to Belisarius, but keeping the River Euphrates to on the right they finally arrived at the Theodosiopolis which is near the River Aborras. 30 But Belisarius and the Roman army, hearing nothing concerning this force, were disturbed, and they were filled with fear and an intolerable and exaggerated suspicion. 31 And since much time had been consumed by them in this siege, it came about that many of the soldiers were taken there with a troublesome fever; for the portion of Mesopotamia which is subject to the Persians is  p427 extremely dry and hot. 32 And the Romans were not accustomed to this and especially those who came from Thrace; and since they living their daily life in a place where the heat was excessive and in stuffy huts in the summer season, they became so ill that third part of the army were lying half-dead. 33 The whole army, therefore, was eager to depart from there and return as quickly as possible to their own land, and most all the commanders of the troops in Lebanon, Rhecithancus and Theoctistus, who saw that the time which was the sacred season of the Saracens had in fact already passed. 34 They came, indeed, frequently to Belisarius and entreated him to release them immediately, protesting that they had given over to Alamoundaras the country of Lebanon and Syria, and were sitting there for no good reason.

35 Belisarius therefore called together all the officers and opened a discussion. 36 Then John, the son of Nicetas, rose first and spoke as follows: "Most excellent Belisarius, I consider that in all time there has never been a general such as you are either in fortune or in valour. 37 And this reputation has come to prevail not alone among the Romans, but also among all barbarians. 38 This fair name, however, you will preserve most securely, if you should be able to take us back alive to the land of the Romans; for now indeed the hopes which we may have are not bright. For I would have you look thus at the situation of this army. 39 The Saracens and the most efficient soldiers of the army crossed the River Tigris, and one day, I know not how long since, they found themselves in such a plight that they have  p429 not even succeeded in sending a messenger to us, and Rhecithancus and Theoctistus will depart, as you see surely, believing that the army of Alamoundaras is almost at this very moment in the midst of Phoenicia, pillaging the whole country there. 40 And among those who are left the sick are so numerous that those who will care for them and convey them to the land of the Romans are fewer in number than they are by a great deal. 41 Under these circumstances, if it should fall out that any hostile force should come upon us, either while remaining here or while going back, not a man would be able to carry back word to the Romans in Daras of the calamity which had befallen us. 42 For as for going forward, I consider it impossible even to be spoken of. While, therefore, some hope is still left, it will be of advantage both to make plans for the return and to put the plans into action. 43 For when men have come into danger and especially such danger as this, it is downright folly for them to devote their thoughts not to safety, but to opposition to the enemy." 44 So spoke John, and all the others expressed approval, and becoming disorderly, they demanded that retreat be made with all speed. 45 Accordingly Belisarius laid the sick in the carts and let them lead the way, while he led the army behind them. 46 And as soon as they got into the land of the Romans, he learned everything which had been done by Arethas, but he did not succeed in inflicting any punishment upon him, for he never came into his sight again. So ended the invasion of the Romans.

47 And after Chosroes had taken Petra, it was announced to him that Belisarius had invaded the  p431 Persian territory, and the engagement near the city of Nisibis was reported, as also the capture of the fortress of Sisauranon, and all that the army of Arethas had done after crossing the River Tigris. 48 Straightway, then, he established a garrison in Petra, and with the rest of the army and those of the Romans who had been captured he marched away into the land of Persia. 49 Such, then, were the events which took place in the second invasion of Chosroes. And Belisarius went to Byzantium at the summons of the emperor, and passed the winter there.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. Book I.xii.4 ff.

2 Cf. Book I.viii.21‑22.

Thayer's Notes:

a II.2.2.

b Buildings, III.7.7.

c The same principle as was used to bring down the World Trade Towers in September 2001.

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