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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.
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(Vol. I) Procopius
Persian Wars

Book II (continued)

 p431  20 1 At the opening of spring Chosroes, the son of Cabades, for the third time began an invasion into the land of the Romans with a mighty army, keeping the River Euphrates on the right. 2 And Candidus, the priest of Sergiopolis, upon learning that the Median army had come near there, began to be afraid both for himself and for the city, since he had by no means carried out at the appointed time the agreement which he had made;​1 accordingly he went into the camp of the enemy and entreated Chosroes not to be angry with him because of this. 3 For as for money, he had never had any, and for this reason, he had not even wished in the first place to deliver the inhabitants of Sura, and though he had supplicated the Emperor Justinian many times on their behalf, he had failed to receive any help from him. 4 But Chosroes put him under guard, and, torturing him most cruelly, claimed the right to  p433 exact from him double the amount of money, just as had been agreed. 5 And Candidus entreated him to send men to Sergiopolis to take all the treasures of the sanctuary there. 6 And when Chosroes followed this suggestion, Candidus sent some of his followers with them. 7 So the inhabitants of Sergiopolis, receiving into the city the men sent by Chosroes, gave them many of the treasures, declaring that nothing else was left there. 8 But Chosroes said that these were by no means sufficient for him, and demanded that he should receive others still more than these. 9 Accordingly he sent men, ostensibly to search out with all diligence the wealth of the city, but in reality to take possession of the city. 10 But since it was fated that Sergiopolis should not be taken by the Persians, one of the Saracens, who, though a Christian, was serving under Alamoundaras, Ambrus by name, came by night along the wall of the city, and reporting to them the whole plan, bade them by no means receive the Persians into the city. 11 Thus those who were sent by Chosroes returned to him unsuccessful, and he, boiling with anger, began to make plans to capture the city. 12 He accordingly sent an army of six thousand, commanding them to begin a siege and to make assaults upon the fortifications. 13 And this army came there and commenced active operations, and the citizens of Sergiopolis at first defended themselves vigorously, but later they gave up, and in terror at the danger, they were purposing to give over the city to the enemy. 14 For, as it happened, they had not more than two hundred soldiers. But Ambrus, again coming along by the  p435 fortifications at night, said that within two days the Persians would raise the siege since their water supply had failed them absolutely. 15 For this reason they did not by any means open negotiations with the enemy, and the barbarians, suffering with thirst, removed from there and came to Chosroes. However, Chosroes never released Candidus. 16 For it was necessary, I suppose, that since he had disregarded his sworn agreement, he should be a priest no longer. Such, then, was the course of these events.

17 But when Chosroes arrived at the land of the Commagenae which they call Euphratesia, he had no desire to turn to plundering or to the capture of any stronghold, since he had previously taken everything before him as far as Syria, partly by capture and partly by exacting money, as has been set forth in the preceding narrative. 18 And his purpose was to lead the army straight for Palestine, in order that he might plunder all their treasures and especially those in Jerusalem. For he had it from hearsay that this was an especially goodly land and peopled by wealthy inhabitants. 19 And all the Romans, both officers and soldiers, were far from entertaining any thought of confronting the enemy or of standing in the way of their passage, but manning their strongholds as each one could, they thought it sufficient to preserve them and save themselves.

20 The Emperor Justinian, upon learning of the inroad of the Persians, again sent Belisarius against them. And he came with great speed to Euphratesia since he had no army with him, riding on the government post-horses, which they are accustomed to call "veredi," while Justus, the nephew of the  p437 emperor, together with Bouzes and certain others, was in Hierapolis where he had fled for refuge. 21 And when these men heard that Belisarius was coming and was not far away, they wrote a letter to him which ran as follows: 22 "Once more Chosroes, as you yourself doubtless know, has taken the field against the Romans, bringing a much greater army than formerly, and where he is purposing to go is not yet evident, except indeed that we hear he is very near, and that he has injured no place, but is always moving ahead. 23 But come to us as quickly as possible, if indeed you are able to escape detection by the army of the enemy, in order that you yourself may be safe for the emperor, and that you may join us in guarding Hierapolis." 24 Such was the message of the letter. But Belisarius, not approving the advice given, came to the place called Europum, which is on the River Euphrates. 25 From there he sent about in all directions and began to gather his army, and there he established his camp; and the officers in Hierapolis he answered with the following words: "If, however, Chosroes is proceeding against any other peoples, and not against subjects of the Romans, this plan of yours is well considered and insures the greatest possible degree of safety; 26 for it is great folly for those who have the opportunity of remaining quiet and being rid of trouble to enter into any unnecessary danger; but if, immediately after departing from here, this barbarian is going to fall upon some other territory of the Emperor Justinian, and that an exceptionally good one, but without any guard of soldiers, be assured that to perish  p439 valorously is better in every way than to be saved without a fight. 27 For this would justly be called not salvation but treason. But come as quickly as possible to Europum, where, after collecting the whole army, I hope to deal with the enemy as God permits." 28 And when the officers saw this message, they took courage, and leaving there Justus with some few men in order to guard Hierapolis, all the others with the rest of the army came to Europum.

21 1 But Chosroes, upon learning that Belisarius with the whole Roman army had encamped at Europum, decided not to continue his advance, but sent one of the royal secretaries, Abandanes by name, a man who enjoyed a great reputation for discretion, to Belisarius, in order to find out by inspection what sort of a general he might be, but ostensibly to make a protest because the Emperor Justinian had not sent the ambassadors to the Persians at all in order that they might settle the arrangements for the peace as had been agreed. When Belisarius learned this, he did as follows. 2 He himself picked out six hundred men of goodly stature and especially fine physique, and set out to hunt at a considerable distance from the camp. Then he commanded Diogenes, the guardsman, and Adolius, the son of  p441 Acacius, to cross the river with a thousand horsemen and to move about the bank there, always making it appear to the enemy that if they wished to cross the Euphrates and proceed to their own land, they would never permit them to do so. This Adolius was an Armenian by birth, and he always served the emperor while in the palace as privy counsellor (those who enjoy this honour are called by the Romans "silentiarii"), but at that time he was commander of some Armenians. And these men did as directed.

3 Now when Belisarius had ascertained that the envoy was close at hand, he set up a tent of some heavy cloth, of the sort which is commonly called a "pavilion," and seated himself there as one might in a desolate place, seeking thus to indicate that he had come without any equipment. 4 And he arranged the soldiers as follows. On either side of the tent were Thracians and Illyrians, with Goths beyond them, and next to these Eruli, and finally Vandals and Moors. 5 And their line extended for a great distance over the plain. For they did not remain standing always in the same place, but stood apart from one another and kept walking about, looking carelessly and without the least interest upon the envoy of Chosroes. 6 And not one of them had a cloak or any other outer garment to cover the shoulders, but they were sauntering about clad in linen tunics and trousers, and outside these their girdles. 7 And each one had his horse-whip, but for weapons one had a sword,  p443 another an axe, another an uncovered bow. 8 And all gave the impression that they were eager to be off on the hunt with never a thought of anything else. 9 So Abandanes came into the presence of Belisarius and said that the king Chosroes was indignant because the agreement previously made had not been kept, in that the envoys had not been sent to him by Caesar (for thus the Persians call the emperor of the Romans), and as a result of this Chosroes had been compelled to come into the land of the Romans in arms. 10 But Belisarius was not terrified by the thought that such a multitude of barbarians were encamped close by, nor did he experience any confusion because of the words of the man, but with a laughing, care-free countenance he made answer, saying: "This course which Chosroes has followed on the present occasion is not in keeping with the way men usually act. 11 For other men, in case a dispute should arise between themselves and any of their neighbours, first carry on negotiations with them, and whenever they do not receive reasonable satisfaction, then finally go against them in war. 12 But he first comes into the midst of the Romans, and then begins to offer suggestions concerning peace." With such words as these he dismissed the ambassador.

13 And when Abandanes came to Chosroes, he advised him to take his departure with all possible speed. 14 For he said he had met a general who in manliness and sagacity surpassed all other men, and soldiers such as he at least had never seen, whose orderly conduct had roused in him the greatest admiration. And he added that the contest was not on an even footing as regards risk for him and for Belisarius, for there was this difference, that if he  p445 conquered, he himself would conquer the slave of Caesar, but if he by any chance were defeated, he would bring great disgrace upon his kingdom and upon the race of the Persians; and again the Romans, if conquered, could easily save themselves in strongholds and in their own land, while if the Persians should meet with any reverse, not even a messenger would escape to the land of the Persians. 15 Chosroes was convinced by this admonition and wished to turn back to his own country, but he found himself in a very perplexing situation. 16 For he supposed that the crossing of the river was being guarded by the enemy, and he was unable to march back by the same road, which was entirely destitute of human habitation, since the supplies which they had at the first when they invaded the land of the Romans had already entirely failed them. 17 At last after long consideration, it seemed to him most advantageous to risk a battle and get to the opposite side, and to make the journey through a land abounding in all good things. 18 Now Belisarius knew well that not even a hundred thousand men would ever be sufficient to check the crossing of Chosroes. For the river at many places along there can be crossed in boats very easily, and even apart from this the Persian army was too strong to be excluded from the crossing by an enemy numerically insignificant. But he had at first commanded the troops of Diogenes and Adolius, together with the thousand horsemen, to move about the bank at that point in order to confuse the barbarian by a feeling of helplessness. 19 But after frightening this same barbarian,  p447 as I have said, Belisarius feared lest there should be some obstacle in the way of his departing from the land of the Romans. 20 For it seemed to him a most significant achievement to have driven away from there the army of Chosroes, without risking any battle against so many myriads of barbarians with soldiers who were very few in number and who were in abject terror of the Median army. For this reason he commanded Diogenes and Adolius to remain quiet.

21 Chosroes, accordingly, constructed a bridge with great celerity and crossed the River Euphrates suddenly with his whole army. 22 For the Persians are able to cross all rivers without the slightest difficulty because when they are on the march they have in readiness hook-shaped irons with which they fasten together long timbers, and with the help of these they improvise a bridge on the spur of the moment wherever they may desire. 23 And as soon as he had reached the land on the opposite side, he sent to Belisarius and said that he, for his part, had bestowed a favour upon the Romans in the withdrawal of the Median army, and that he was expecting the envoys from them, who ought to present themselves to him at no distant time. 24 Then Belisarius also with the whole Roman army crossed the River Euphrates and immediately sent to Chosroes. 25 And when the messengers came into his presence, they commended him highly for his withdrawal and promised that envoys would come to him promptly from the emperor, who would arrange with him that the terms which had previously been agreed upon concerning the peace should be put into effect. 26 And they asked  p449 of him that he treat the Romans as his friends in his journey through their land. This too he agreed to carry out, if they should give him some one of their notable men as a hostage to make this compact binding, in order that they might carry out their agreement. 27 So the envoys returned to Belisarius and reported the words of Chosroes, and he came to Edessa and chose John, the son of Basilius, the most illustrious of all the inhabitants of Edessa in birth and in wealth, and straightway sent him, much against his will, as a hostage to Chosroes. 28 And the Romans were loud in their praises of Belisarius and he seemed to have achieved greater glory in their eyes by this affair than when he brought Gelimer or Vittigis captive to Byzantium. 29 For in reality it was an achievement of great importance and one deserving great praise, that, at a time when all the Romans were panic-stricken with fear and were hiding themselves in their defences, and Chosroes with a mighty army had come into the midst of the Roman domain, a general with only a few men, coming in hot haste from Byzantium just at that moment, should have set his camp over against that of the Persian king, and that Chosroes unexpectedly, either through fear of fortune or of the valour of the man or even because deceived by some tricks, should no longer continue his advance, but should in reality take to flight, though pretending to be seeking peace.

30 But in the meantime Chosroes, disregarding the agreement, took the city of Callinicus which was entirely without defenders. For the Romans, seeing that the wall of this city was altogether unsound  p451 and easy of capture, were tearing down portions of it in turn and restoring them with new construction. 31 Now just at that time they had torn down one section of it and had not yet built in this interval; when, therefore, they learned that the enemy were close at hand, they carried out the most precious of their treasures, and the wealthy inhabitants withdrew to other strongholds, while the rest without soldiers remained where they were. 32 And it happened that great numbers of farmers had gathered there. These Chosroes enslaved and razed everything to the ground. 33 A little later, upon receiving the hostage, John, he retired to his own country. 34 And the Armenians who had submitted to Chosroes received pledges from the Romans and came with Bassaces to Byzantium. Such was the fortune of the Romans in the third invasion of Chosroes. And Belisarius came to Byzantium at the summons of the emperor, in order to be sent again to Italy, since the situation there was already full of difficulties for the Romans.

The Loeb Editor's Note:

1 Cf. chap. v.31.

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Page updated: 14 Sep 20