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I.24‑29

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Gothic Wars

of
Procopius

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1919

The text is in the public domain.

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II.8‑15

(Vol. III) Procopius
Gothic Wars

Book II (continued)

 p359  8 1 Such was the course of these events. But the envy of fortune was already swelling against the Romans, when she saw their affairs progressing successfully and well, and wishing to mingle some evil with this good, she inspired a quarrel, on a trifling pretext, between Belisarius and Constantinus; and how this grew and to what end it came I shall now go on to relate. 2 There was a certain Presidius, a Roman living at Ravenna, and a man of no mean station. This Presidius had given offence to the Goths at the time when Vittigis was about to march against Rome, and so he set out with some few of his domestics ostensibly on a hunting expedition, and went into exile; he had communicated his plan to no one and took none of his property with him, except indeed that he himself carried two daggers, the scabbards of which happened to be adorned with much gold and  p361 precious stones. And when he came to Spolitium, he lodged in a certain temple outside the fortifications. 3 And when Constantinus, who happened to be still tarrying there,1 heard of this, he sent one of his guards, Maxentiolus, and took away from him both the daggers for no good reason. 4 The man was deeply offended by what had taken place, and set out for Rome with all speed and came to Belisarius, and Constantinus also arrived there not long afterward; for the Gothic army was already reported to be not far away. 5 Now as long as the affairs of the Romans were critical and in confusion, Presidius remained silent; but when he saw that the Romans were gaining the upper hand and that the envoys of the Goths had been sent to the emperor, as has been told by me above, he frequently approached Belisarius reporting the injustice and demanding that he assist him in obtaining his rights. 6 And Belisarius reproached Constantinus many times himself, and many times through others, urging him to clear himself of the guilt of an unjust deed and of a dishonouring report. 7 But Constantinus — for it must needs be that evil befall him — always lightly evaded the charge and taunted the wronged man. 8 But on one occasion Presidius met Belisarius riding on horseback in the forum, and he laid hold of the horse's bridle, and crying out with a loud voice asked whether the laws of the emperor said that, whenever anyone fleeing from the barbarians comes to them as a suppliant, they should rob him by violence of whatever he may chance to have in his hands. 9 And though many men gathered about and commanded him with threats  p363 to let go his hold of the bridle, he did not let go until at last Belisarius promised to give him the daggers. 10 On the following day, therefore, Belisarius called Constantinus and many of the commanders to an apartment in the palace, and after going over what had happened on the previous day urged him even at that late time to restore the daggers. 11 But Constantinus refused to do so; nay, he would more gladly throw them into the waters of the Tiber than give them to Presidius. 12 And Belisarius, being by now mastered by anger, enquired whether Constantinus did not think that he was subject to his orders. And he agreed to obey him in all other things, for this was the emperor's will; this command, however, which at the present time he was laying upon him, he would never obey. 13 Belisarius then commanded his guards to enter, whereupon Constantinus said: "In order, plainly, to have them kill me." "By no means," said Belisarius, "but to have them compel your bodyguard Maxentiolus, who forcibly carried away the daggers for you, to restore to the man what he took from him by violence." 14 But Constantinus, thinking that he was to die that very instant, wished to do some great deed before he should suffer anything himself. 15 He accordingly drew the dagger which hung by his thigh and suddenly thrust it at the belly of Belisarius. And he in consternation stepped back, and by throwing his arms around Bessas, who was standing near, succeeded in escaping the blow. 16 Then Constantinus, still boiling with anger, made after him; but Ildiger and Valerian, seeing what was  p365 being done, laid hold of his hands, one of the right and the other of the left, and dragged him back. 17 And at this point the guards entered whom Belisarius had summoned a moment before, snatched the dagger of Constantinus from his hand with great violence, and seized him amid a great uproar. At the moment they did him no harm, out of respect, I suppose, to the officers present, but led him away to another room at the command of Belisarius, and at a somewhat later time put him to death. 18 This was the only unholy deed done by Belisarius, and it was in no way worthy of the character of the man; for he always shewed great gentleness in his treatment of all others. But it had to be, as I have said, that evil should befall Constantinus.

9 1 And the Goths not long after this wished to strike a blow at the fortifications of Rome. And first they sent some men by night into one of the aqueducts, from which they themselves had taken out the water at the beginning of this war.2 2 And with lamps and torches in their hands they explored the entrance into the city by this way. Now it happened that not far from the small Pincian Gate an arch of this aqueduct3 had a sort of crevice in it, 3 and one of the guards saw the light through this and told his companions; but they said that he had seen a wolf passing by his post. 4 For at that point it so happened that the structure of the aqueduct did not rise high above the ground, and they thought that the guard had imagined the wolf's eyes to be fire. 5 So  p367 those barbarians who explored the aqueduct, upon reaching the middle of the city, where there was an upward passage built in olden times leading to the palace itself, came upon some masonry there which allowed them neither to advance beyond that point nor to use the ascent at all. 6 This masonry had been put in by Belisarius as an act of precaution at the beginning of this siege, as has been set forth by me in the preceding narrative.4 7 So they decided first to remove one small stone from the wall and then to go back immediately, and when they returned to Vittigis, they displayed the stone and reported the whole situation. 8 And while he was considering his scheme with the best of the Goths, the Romans who were on guard at the Pincian Gate recalled among themselves on the following day the suspicion of the wolf. 9 But when the story was passed around and came to Belisarius, the general did not treat the matter carelessly, but immediately sent some of the notable men in the army, together with the guardsman Diogenes, down into the aqueduct and bade them investigate everything with all speed. 10 And they found all along the aqueduct the lamps of the enemy and the ashes which had dropped from their torches, and after observing the masonry where the stone had been taken out by the Goths, they reported to Belisarius. 11 For this reason he personally kept the aqueduct under close guard; and the Goths, perceiving it, desisted from this attempt.

12 But later on the barbarians went so far as to plan an open attack against the fortifications. So they waited for the time of lunch, and bringing up ladders  p369 and fire, when their enemy were least expecting them, made an assault upon the small Pincian Gate, emboldened by the hope of capturing the city by a sudden attack, since not many soldiers had been left there. 13 But it happened that Ildiger and his men were keeping guard at that time; for all were assigned by turns to guard-duty. 14 So when he saw the enemy advancing in disorder, he went out against them before they were yet drawn up in line of battle and while they were advancing in great disarray, and routing those who were opposite him without any trouble he slew many. 15 And a great outcry and commotion arose throughout the city, as was to be expected, and the Romans gathered as quickly as possible to all parts of the fortifications; whereupon the barbarians after a short time retired to their camp baffled.

16 But Vittigis resorted again to a plot against the wall. Now there was a certain part of it that was especially vulnerable, where the bank of the Tiber is, because at this place the Romans of old, confident in the protection afforded by the stream, had built the wall carelessly, making it low and altogether without towers; Vittigis therefore hoped to capture the city rather easily from that quarter. For indeed there was not even any garrison there of any consequence, as it happened. 17 He therefore bribed with money two Romans who lived near the church of Peter the Apostle to pass along by the guards there at about nightfall carrying a skin full of wine, and in some way or other, by making a show of friendship, to give it to them, and then to sit drinking with them well on into the night; and they were to throw  p371 into the cup of each guard a sleep-producing drug which Vittigis had given them. 18 And he stealthily got ready some skiffs, which he kept at the other bank; as soon as the guards should be overcome by sleep, some of the barbarians, acting in concert, were to cross the river in these, taking ladders with them, and make the assault on the wall. 19 And he made ready the entire army with the intention of capturing the whole city by storm. 20 After these arrangements were all complete, one of the two men who had been prepared by Vittigis for this service (for it was not fated that Rome should be captured by this army of the Goths) came of his own accord to Belisarius and revealed everything, and told who the other man was. 21 So this man under torture brought to light all that he was about to do and displayed the drug which Vittigis had given him. 22 And Belisarius first mutilated his nose and ears and then sent him riding on an ass into the enemy's camp. 23 And when the barbarians saw him, they realised that God would not allow their purposes to have free course, and that therefore the city could never be captured by them.

10 1 But while these things were happening, Belisarius wrote to John and commanded him to begin operations. And he with his two thousand horsemen began to go about the land of Picenum and  p373 to plunder everything before him, treating the women and children of the enemy as slaves. 2 And when Ulitheus, the uncle of Vittigis, confronted him with an army of Goths, he defeated them in battle and killed Ulitheus himself and almost the whole army of the enemy. 3 For this reason no one dared any longer to engage with him. But when he came to the city of Auximus,5 though he learned that it contained a Gothic garrison of inconsiderable size, yet in other respects he observed that the place was strong and impossible to capture. 4 And for this reason he was quite unwilling to lay siege to it, but departing from there as quickly as he could, he moved forward. 5 And he did this same thing at the city of Urbinus,6 but at Ariminum,7 which is one day's journey distant from Ravenna, he marched into the city at the invitation of the Romans. 6 Now all the barbarians who were keeping guard there were very suspicious of the Roman inhabitants, and as soon as they learned that this army was approaching, they withdrew and ran until they reached Ravenna. 7 And thus John secured Ariminum; but he had meanwhile left in his rear a garrison of the enemy both at Auximus and at Urbinus, not because he had forgotten the commands of Belisarius, nor because he was carried away by unreasoning boldness, since he had wisdom as well as energy, but because he reasoned — correctly, as it turned out — that if the Goths learned that the Roman army was close to Ravenna, they would instantly break up the siege of Rome because of their fears regarding this place. 8 And in fact his reasoning proved to be true. For as  p375 soon as Vittigis and the army of the Goths heard that Ariminum was held by him, they were plunged into great fear regarding Ravenna, and abandoning all other considerations, they straightway made their withdrawal, as will be told by me directly. 9 And John won great fame from this deed, though he was renowned even before. 10 For he was a daring and efficient man in the highest degree, unflinching before danger, and in his daily life shewing at all times a certain austerity and ability to endure hardship unsurpassed by any barbarian or common soldier. Such a man was John. 11 And Matasuntha, the wife of Vittigis, who was exceedingly hostile to her husband because he had taken her to wife by violence in the beginning,8 upon learning that John had come to Ariminum was absolutely overcome by joy, and sending a messenger to him opened secret negotiations with him concerning marriage and the betrayal of the city.

12 So these two kept sending messengers to each other without the knowledge of the rest and arranging these matters. But when the Goths learned what had happened at Ariminum, and when at the same time all their provisions had failed them, and the three months' time had already expired, they began to make their withdrawal, although they had not as yet received any information as far as the envoys were concerned. 13 Now it was about the spring equinox, and one year had been spent in the siege and nine days in addition, when the Goths, having burned all their camps, set out at daybreak. 14 And the Romans, seeing their opponents in flight, were at a loss how to deal with the situation. For it  p377 so happened that the majority of the horsemen were not present at that time, since they had been sent to various places, as has been stated by me above,9 and they did not think that by themselves they were a match for so great a multitude of the enemy. However, Belisarius armed all the infantry and cavalry. 15 And when he saw that more than half of the enemy had crossed the bridge, he led the army out through the small Pincian Gate, and the hand-to‑hand battle which ensued proved to be equal to any that had preceded it. 16 At the beginning the barbarians withstood their enemy vigorously, and many on both sides fell in the first encounter; but afterwards the Goths turned to flight and brought upon themselves a great and overwhelming calamity; 17 for each man for himself was rushing to cross the bridge first. As a result of this they became very much crowded and suffered most cruelly, for they were being killed both by each other and by the enemy. 18 Many, too, fell off the bridge on either side into the Tiber, sank with all their arms, and perished. Finally, after losing in this way the most of their number, the remainder joined those who had crossed before. 19 And Longinus the Isaurian and Mundilas, the guards of Belisarius, made themselves conspicuous for their valour in this battle. But while Mundilas, after engaging with four barbarians in turn and killing them all, was himself saved, 20 Longinus, having proved himself the chief cause of the rout of the enemy, fell where he fought, leaving the Roman army great regret for his loss.

 p379  11 1 Now Vittigis with the remainder of his army marched toward Ravenna; and he strengthened the fortified places with a great number of guards, leaving in Clusium,10 the city of Tuscany, one thousand men and Gibimer as commander, and in Urviventus11 an equal number, over whom he set Albilas, a Goth, as commander. And he left Uligisalus in Tudera12 with four hundred men. 2 And in the land of Picenum he left in the fortress of Petraa four hundred men who had lived there previously, and in Auximus, which is the largest of all the cities of that country, he left four thousand Goths selected for their valour and a very energetic commander, Visandus by name, and two thousand men with Moras in the city of Urbinus. 3 There are also two other fortresses, Caesena and Monteferetra,13 in each of which he established a garrison of not less than five hundred men. Then he himself with the rest of the army moved straight for Ariminum with the purpose of laying siege to it.

4 But it happened that Belisarius, as soon as the Goths had broken up the siege of Rome, had sent Ildiger and Martinus with a thousand horsemen, in order that by travelling more quickly by another road they might arrive at Ariminum first, and he directed them promptly to remove John from the city and all those with him, and to put in their place fully enough men to guard the city, taking them  p381 from the fortress which is on the Ionian Gulf, Ancon by name, two days' journey distant from Ariminum. 5 For he had already taken possession of it not long before, having sent Conon with no small force of Isaurians and Thracians. 6 It was his hope that if unsupported infantry under commanders of no great note should hold Ariminum, the Gothic forces would never undertake its siege, but would regard it with contempt and so go at once to Ravenna, and that if they should decide to besiege Ariminum, the provisions there would suffice for the infantry for a somewhat longer time; 7 and he thought also that two thousand horsemen,14 attacking from outside with the rest of the army, would in all probability do the enemy great harm and drive them more easily to abandon the siege. 8 It was with this purpose that Belisarius gave such orders to Martinus and Ildiger and their men. And they, by travelling over the Flaminian Way, arrived long before the barbarians. 9 For since the Goths were moving in a great throng, they proceeded in a more leisurely manner, and they were compelled to make certain long detours, both because of the lack of provisions, and because they preferred not to pass close to the fortresses on the Flaminian Way, Narnia and Spolitium and Perusia,b since these were in the hands of the enemy, as has been stated above.15

10 When the Roman army arrived at Petra, they made an attack upon the fortress there, regarding it as an incident of their expedition. Now this fortress was not devised by man, but it was made by the nature of  p383 the place; for the road passes through an extremely mountainous country at that place. 11 On the right of this road a river descends which no man can ford because of the swiftness of the current, and on the left not far away rises a sheer rock which reaches to such a height that men who might chance to be standing on its summit, as seen by those below, resemble in size the smallest birds. 12 And in olden times there was no passage through as one went forward. For the end of the rock reaches to the very stream of the river, affording no room for those who travel that way to pass by. 13 So the men of ancient times constructed a tunnel at that point, and made there a gate for the place.16 14 And they also closed up the greatest part of the other17 entrance, leaving only enough space for a small gate there also, and thus rendered the place a natural fortress, which they call by the fitting name of Petra. 15 So the men of Martinus and Ildiger first made an attack upon one of the two gates,18 and shot many missiles, but they accomplished nothing, although the barbarians there made no defence at all; but afterwards they forced their way up the cliff behind the fortress and hurled stones from there upon the heads of the Goths. 16 And they, hurriedly and in great confusion, entered their houses and remained quiet. And then the Romans, unable to hit any of the enemy with the stones they threw, devised the following plan. 17 They broke off large pieces from the cliff and, many of them pushing together, hurled them down, aiming at the houses. 18 And wherever these in their fall did no more than just graze the building,  p385 they yet gave the whole fortress a considerable shock and reduced the barbarians to great fear. 19 Consequently the Goths stretched out their hands to those who were still about the gate and surrendered themselves and the fort, with the condition that they themselves should remain free from harm, being slaves of the emperor and subject to Belisarius. 20 And Ildiger and Martinus removed the most of them and led them away, putting them on a basis of complete equality with themselves, but some few they left there, together with their wives and children. And they also left something of a garrison of Romans. 21 Thence they proceeded to Ancon, and taking with them many of the infantry in that place on the third day reached Ariminum, and announced the will of Belisarius. 22 But John was not only unwilling himself to follow them, but also proposed to retain Damianus with the four hundred.19 So they left there the infantry and retired thence with all speed, taking the spearmen and guards of Belisarius.

12 1 And not long afterward Vittigis and his whole army arrived at Ariminum, where they established their camp and began the siege. And they immediately constructed a wooden tower higher than the circuit-wall of the city and resting on four wheels, and drew it toward that part of the wall which seemed to them most vulnerable. 2 But in order that they might not have the same experience here which they had before the fortifications of Rome, they did not use oxen to draw the tower, but hid themselves within it and thus  p387 hauled it forward. 3 And there was a stairway of great breadth inside the tower on which the barbarians in great numbers were to make the ascent easily, for they hoped that as soon as they should place the tower against the fortifications, they would have no trouble in stepping thence to the parapet of the wall; for they had made the tower high with this in view. 4 So when they had come close to the fortifications with this engine of war, they remained quiet for the time, since it was already growing dark, and stationing guards about the tower they all went off to pass the night, supposing that they would meet with no obstacle whatever. 5 And indeed there was nothing in their way, not even a trench between them and the wall, except an exceedingly small one.

As for the Romans, they passed the night in great fear, supposing that on the morrow they would perish. 6 But John, neither yielding to despair in face of the danger nor being greatly agitated by fear, devised the following plan. Leaving the others on guard at their posts, he himself took the Isaurians, who carried pickaxes and various other tools of this kind, and went outside the fortifications; it was late in the night and no word had been given beforehand to anyone in the city; and once outside the wall, he commanded his men in silence to dig the trench deeper. 7 So they did as directed, and as they dug they kept putting the earth which they took out of the trench upon the side of it nearer the city-wall, and there it served them as an earthwork. 8 And since they were unobserved for a long time by the enemy, who were sleeping,  p389 they soon made the trench both deep and sufficiently wide, at the place where the fortifications were especially vulnerable and where the barbarians were going to make the assault with their engine of war. 9 But far on in the night the enemy, perceiving what was being done, charged at full speed against those who were digging, and John went inside the fortifications with the Isaurians, since the trench was now in a most satisfactory condition.

10 But at daybreak Vittigis noted what had been accomplished and in his exceeding vexation at the occurrence executed some of the guards; however, he was as eager as before to bring his engine to bear, and so commanded the Goths to throw a great number of faggots as quickly as possible into the trench, and then by drawing the tower over them to bring it into position. 11 This they proceeded to do as Vittigis commanded, with all zeal, although their opponents kept fighting them back from the wall with the utmost vigour. But when the weight of the tower came upon the faggots they naturally yielded and sank down. 12 For this reason the barbarians were quite unable to go forward with the engine, because the ground became still more steep before them, where the Romans had heaped up the earth as I have stated. 13 Fearing, therefore, that when night came on the enemy would sally forth and set fire to the engine, they began to draw it back again. 14 This was precisely what John was eager to prevent with all his power, and so he armed his soldiers, called them all together, and exhorted them as follows:

 p391  15 "My men, who share this danger common to us all, if it would please any man among you to live and see those whom he has left at home, let him realize that the only hope he has of obtaining these things lies in nothing but his own hands. 16 For when Belisarius sent us forth in the beginning, hope and desire for many things made us eager for the task. 17 For we never suspected that we should be besieged in the country along the coast, since the Romans command the sea so completely, nor would one have supposed that the emperor's army would so far neglect us. 18 But apart from these considerations, at that time we were prompted to boldness by an opportunity to display our loyalty to the state and by the glory which we should acquire in the sight of all men as the result of our struggles. 19 But as things now stand, we cannot possibly survive save by courage, and we are obliged to undergo this danger with no other end in view than the saving of our own lives. 20 Therefore, if any of you perchance lay claim to valour, all such have the opportunity to prove themselves brave men, if any men in the world have, and thereby to cover themselves with glory. 21 For they achieve a fair name, not who overpower those weaker than themselves, but who, though inferior in equipment, still win the victory by the greatness of their souls. 22 And as for those in whom the love of life has been more deeply implanted, it will be of advantage to these especially to be bold, for it is true of all men, as a general thing, that when their fortunes stand on the razor's edge, as is now the case with us, they may be saved only by scorning the danger."

23 With these words John led his army out against the enemy, leaving some few men to guard the  p393 battlement. 24 But the enemy withstood them bravely, and the battle became exceedingly fierce. And with great difficulty and late in the day the barbarians succeeded in bringing the tower back to their own camp. 25 However, they lost so great a number of their fighting men that they decided thenceforth to make no further attacks upon the wall, but in despair of succeeding that way, they remained quiet, expecting that their enemy would yield to them under stress of famine. For all their provisions had already failed them completely, since they had not found any place from which they could bring in a sufficient supply.

26 Such was the course of events here. But as for Belisarius, he sent to the representatives of Milan20 a thousand men, Isaurians and Thracians. 27 The Isaurians were commanded by Ennes, the Thracians by Paulus, while Mundilas was set over them all and commanded in person, having as his guard some few of the guardsmen of Belisarius. And with them was also Fidelius, who had been made praetorian prefect. 28 For since he was a native of Milan, he was regarded as a suitable person to go with this army, having as he did some influence in Liguria. 29 They set sail, accordingly, from the harbour of Rome and put in at Genoa, which is the last city in Tuscany and well situated as a port of call for the voyage to Gaul and to Spain. 30 There they left their ships and travelling by land moved forward, placing the boats of the ships on their waggons, in order that nothing might prevent their crossing the river Po. 31 It was by this means, in any event, that they made the crossing of the river. And when they reached the city of Ticinum,21 after crossing the Po, the Goths came out against them and  p395 engaged them in battle. 32 And they were not only numerous but also excellent troops, since all the barbarians who lived in that region had deposited the most valuable of their possessions in Ticinum, as being a place which had strong defences, and had left there a considerable garrison. 33 So a fierce battle took place, but the Romans were victorious, and routing their opponents, they slew a great number and came within a little of capturing the city in the pursuit. For it was only with difficulty that the barbarians succeeded in shutting the gates, so closely did their enemy press upon their heels. 34 And as the Romans were marching away, Fidelius went into a temple there to pray, and was the last to leave. But by some chance his horse stumbled and he fell. 35 And since he had fallen very near the fortifications, the Goths seeing him came out and killed him without being observed by the enemy. Wherefore, when this was afterwards discovered by Mundilas and the Romans, they were greatly distressed.

36 Then, leaving Ticinum, they arrived at the city of Milan and secured this city with the rest of Liguria without a battle. 37 When Vittigis learned about this, he sent a large army with all speed and Uraïas, his own nephew, as commander. 38 And Theudibert, the leader of the Franks, sent him at his request ten thousand men as allies, not of the Franks themselves, 39 but Burgundians, in order not to appear to be doing injury to the emperor's cause. For it was given out that the Burgundians made the expedition willingly and of their own choice, not as obeying the command of Theudibert. And the Goths, joined by these troops, came to Milan, made camp and began a siege  p397 when the Romans were least expecting them. At any rate the Romans, through this action, found it impossible to bring in any kind of provisions, but they were immediately in distress for want of necessities. 40 Indeed, even the guarding of the walls was not being maintained by the regular soldiers, for it so happened that Mundilas had occupied all the cities near Milan which had defences, namely Bergomum, Comum, and Novaria,22 as well as some other strongholds, and in every place had established a considerable garrison, while he himself with about three hundred men remained in Milan, and with him Ennes and Paulus. 41 Consequently and of necessity the inhabitants of the city were regularly keeping guard in turn. Such was the progress of events in Liguria, and the winter drew to its close, and the third year came to an end in this war, the history of which Procopius has written.

13 1 And Belisarius at about the time of the summer solstice marched against Vittigis and the Gothic army, leaving a few men to act as a garrison in Rome, but taking all the others with him. 2 And he sent some men to Tudera and Clusium, with orders to make fortified camps there, and he was intending to follow them and assist in besieging the barbarians at those places. 3 But when the barbarians learned that the army was approaching, they did not wait to face the danger, but sent envoys to Belisarius, promising to surrender both themselves and the two cities, with the condition that they should remain free from harm. And when he came there, they fulfilled their  p399 promise. 4 And Belisarius removed all the Goths from these towns and sent them to Sicily and Naples, and after establishing a garrison in Clusium and in Tudera, he led his army forward.

5 But meanwhile Vittigis had sent another army, under command of Vacimus, to Auximus, commanding it to join forces with the Goths there, and with them to go against the enemy in Ancon and make an attempt upon that fortress. 6 Now this Ancon is a sort of pointed rock, and indeed it is from this circumstance that it has taken its name; for it is exceedingly like an "elbow." 7 And it is about eighty stades distant from the city of Auximus,c whose port it is. And the defences of the fortress lie upon the pointed rock in a position of security, but all the buildings outside, though they are many, have been from ancient times unprotected by a wall. 8 Now as soon as Conon, who was in command of the garrison of the place, heard that the forces of Vacimus were coming against him and were already not far away, he made an exhibition of thoughtless folly. 9 For thinking it too small a thing to preserve free from harm merely the fortress and its inhabitants together with the soldiers, he left the fortifications entirely destitute of soldiers, and leading them all out to a distance of about five stades, arrayed them in line of battle, without, however, making the phalanx a deep one at all, but thin enough to surround the entire base of the mountain, as if for a hunt. 10 But when these troops saw that the enemy were greatly superior to them in number, they turned their backs and straightway fled to the fortress. 11 And the barbarians, following close upon them, slew on the spot  p401 most of their number — those who did not succeed in getting inside the circuit-wall in time — and then placed ladders against the wall and attempted the ascent. Some also began burning the houses outside the fortress. 12 And the Romans who resided habitually in the fortress, being terror-stricken at what was taking place, at first opened the small gate and received the soldiers as they fled in complete disorder. 13 But when they saw the barbarians close at hand and pressing upon the fugitives, fearing that they would charge in with them, they closed the gates as quickly as they could, and letting down ropes from the battlement, saved a number by drawing them up, and among them Conon himself. 14 But the barbarians scaled the wall by means of their ladders and came within a little of capturing the fortress by storm, and would have succeeded if two men had not made a display of remarkable deeds by valorously pushing off the battlements those who had already got upon the wall; one of these two was a bodyguard of Belisarius, a Thracian named Ulimuth, and the other a bodyguard of Valerian, named Gouboulgoudou, a Massagete by birth. 15 These two men had happened by some chance to come by ship to Ancon a little before; and in this struggle, by warding off with their swords those who were scaling the wall, they saved the fortress contrary to expectation, but they themselves were carried from the battlement half dead, their whole bodies hacked with many wounds.

16 At that time it was reported to Belisarius that Narses had come with a great army from Byzantium and was in Picenum. Now this Narses23 was a eunuch  p403 and guardian of the royal treasures, but for the rest keen and more energetic than would be expected of a eunuch. 17 And five thousand soldiers followed him, of whom the several detachments were commanded by different men, among whom were Justinus, the general of Illyricum, and another Narses, who had previously come to the land of the Romans as a deserter from the Armenians who are subject to the Persians; with him had come his brother Aratius,24 who, as it happened, had joined Belisarius a little before this with another army. 18 And about two thousand of the Erulian nation also followed him, commanded by Visandus and Aluith and Phanitheus.

14 1 Now as to who in the world the Eruli are, and how they entered into alliance with the Romans, I shall forthwith explain.25 They used to dwell beyond the Ister26 River from of old, worshipping a great host of gods, whom it seemed to them holy to appease even by human sacrifices. 2 And they observed many customs which were not in accord with those of other men. For they were not permitted to live either when they grew old or when they fell sick, but as soon as one of them was overtaken by old age or by sickness, it became necessary for him to ask his relatives to remove him from the world as quickly as possible. 3 And these relatives would pile up a quantity of wood to a great height and lay the man on top of the wood, and then they would send one of the Eruli, but not a relative of the man, to his side  p405 with a dagger; for it was not lawful for a kinsman to be his slayer. 4 And when the slayer of their relative had returned, they would straightway burn the whole pile of wood, beginning at the edges. 5 And after the fire had ceased, they would immediately collect the bones and bury them in the earth. 6 And when a man of the Eruli died, it was necessary for his wife, if she laid claim to virtue and wished to leave a fair name behind her, to die not long afterward beside the tomb of her husband by hanging herself with a rope. 7 And if she did not do this, the result was that she was in ill repute thereafter and an offence to the relatives of her husband. Such were the customs observed by the Eruli in ancient times.

8 But as time went on they became superior to all the barbarians who dwelt about them both in power and in numbers, and, as was natural, they attacked and vanquished them severally and kept plundering their possessions by force. 9 And finally they made the Lombards, who were Christians, together with several other nations, subject and tributary to themselves, though the barbarians of that region were not accustomed to that sort of thing; but the Eruli were led to take this course by love of money and a lawless spirit. 10 When, however, Anastasius took over the Roman empire, the Eruli, having no longer anyone in the world whom they could assail, laid down their arms and remained quiet, and they observed peace in this way for a space of three years. 11 But the people themselves, being exceedingly vexed, began to abuse their leader Rodolphus without restraint, and going to him constantly they called him cowardly and effeminate, and railed at him  p407 in a most unruly manner, taunting him with certain other names besides. 12 And Rodolphus, being quite unable to bear the insult, marched against the Lombards, who were doing no wrong, without charging against them any fault or alleging any violation of their agreement, but bringing upon them a war which had no real cause. 13 And when the Lombards got word of this, they sent to Rodolphus and made enquiry and demanded that he should state the charge on account of which the Eruli were coming against them in arms, agreeing that if they had deprived the Eruli of any of the tribute, then they would instantly pay it with large interest; and if their grievance was that only a moderate tribute had been imposed upon them, then the Lombards would never be reluctant to make it greater. 14 Such were the offers which the envoys made, but Rodolphus with a threat sent them away and marched forward. And they again sent other envoys to him on the same mission and supplicated him with many entreaties. 15 And when the second envoys had fared in the same way, a third embassy came to him and forbade the Eruli on any account to bring upon them a war without excuse. 16 For if they should come against them with such a purpose, they too, not willingly, but under the direst necessity, would array themselves against their assailants, calling upon God as their witness, the slightest breath of whose favour, turning the scales, would be a match for all the strength of men; and He, in all likelihood, would be moved by the causes of the war and would determine the issue of the fight for both sides accordingly. 17 So they spoke, thinking in this way to terrify their assailants,  p409 but the Eruli, shrinking from nothing whatever, decided to meet the Lombards in battle. 18 And when the two armies came close to one another, it so happened that the sky above the Lombards was obscured by a sort of cloud, black and very thick, but above the Eruli it was exceedingly clear. 19 And judging by this one would have supposed that the Eruli were entering the conflict to their own harm; for there can be no more forbidding portent than this for barbarians as they go into battle. 20 However, the Eruli gave no heed even to this, but in absolute disregard of it they advanced against their enemy with utter contempt, estimating the outcome of war by mere superiority of numbers. 21 But when the battle came to close quarters, many of the Eruli perished and Rodolphus himself also perished, and the rest fled at full speed, forgetting all their courage. 22 And since their enemy followed them up, the most of them fell on the field of battle and only a few succeeded in saving themselves.

23 For this reason the Eruli were no longer able to tarry in their ancestral homes, but departing from there as quickly as possible they kept moving forward, traversing the whole country which is beyond the Ister River, together with their wives and children. 24 But when they reached a land where the Rogi dwelt of old, a people who had joined the Gothic host and gone to Italy, they settled in that place. 25 But since they were pressed by famine, because they were in a barren land, they removed from there not long afterward, and came to a place close to the country of the  p411 Gepaedes.27 26 And at first the Gepaedes permitted them to dwell there and be neighbours to them, since they came as suppliants. 27 But afterwards for no good reason the Gepaedes began to practise unholy deeds upon them. For they violated their women and seized their cattle and other property, and abstained from no wickedness whatever, and finally began an unjust attack upon them. 28 And the Eruli, unable to bear all this any longer, crossed the Ister River and decided to live as neighbours to the Romans in that region; this was during the reign of the Emperor Anastasius, who received them with great friendliness and allowed them to settle where they were. 29 But a short time afterwards these barbarians gave him offence by their lawless treatment of the Romans there, and for this reason he sent an army against them. 30 And the Romans, after defeating them in battle, slew most of their number, and had ample opportunity to destroy them all. 31 But the remainder of them threw themselves upon the mercy of the generals and begged them to spare their lives and to have them as allies and servants of the emperor thereafter. 32 And when Anastasius learned this, he was pleased, and consequently a number of the Eruli were left; however, they neither became allies of the Romans, nor did they do them any good.

33 But when Justinian took over the empire, he bestowed upon them good lands and other possessions, and thus completely succeeded in winning their friendship and persuaded them all to become  p413 Christians. 34 As a result of this they adopted a gentler manner of life and decided to submit themselves wholly to the laws of the Christians, and in keeping with the terms of their alliance they are generally arrayed with the Romans against their enemies. 35 They are still, however, faithless toward them, and since they are given to avarice, they are eager to do violence to their neighbours, feeling no shame at such conduct. 36 And they mate in an unholy manner, especially men with asses, and they are the basest of all men and utterly abandoned rascals.

37 Afterwards, although some few of them remained at peace with the Romans, as will be told by me in the following narrative,28 all the rest revolted for the following reason. 38 The Eruli, displaying their beastly and fanatical character against their own "rex," one Ochus by name, suddenly killed the man for no good reason at all, laying against him no other charge than that they wished to be without a king thereafter. 39 And yet even before this, while their king did have the title, he had practically no advantage over any private citizen whomsoever. 40 But all claimed the right to sit with him and eat with him, and whoever wished insulted him without restraint; 41 for no men in the world are less bound by convention or more unstable than the Eruli. Now when the evil deed had been accomplished, they were immediately repentant. 42 For they said that they were not able to live without a ruler and without a general; so after much deliberation it seemed to them best in every way to summon one of their royal family from the island of Thule. And the reason for this I shall now explain.

 p415  15 1 When the Eruli, being defeated by the Lombards in the above-mentioned battle, migrated from their ancestral homes, some of them, as has been told by me above,29 made their home in the country of Illyricum, but the rest were averse to crossing the Ister River, but settled at the very extremity of the world; 2 at any rate, these men, led by many of the royal blood, traversed all the nations of the Sclaveni one after the other, and after next crossing a large tract of barren country, they came to the Varni,30 as they are called. 3 After these they passed by the nations of the Dani,31 without suffering violence at the hands of the barbarians there. 4 Coming thence to the ocean, they took to the sea, and putting in at Thule,32 remained there on the island.

Now Thule is exceedingly large; for it is more than ten times greater than Britain. 5 And it lies far distant from it toward the north. On this island the land is for the most part barren, but in the inhabited country thirteen very numerous nations are settled; and there are kings over each nation. 6 In that place a very wonderful thing takes  p417 place each year. For the sun at the time of the summer solstice never sets for forty days, but appears constantly during this whole time above the earth. 7 But not less than six months later, at about the time of the winter solstice, the sun is never seen on this island for forty days, but never-ending night envelops it; and as a result of this dejection holds the people there during this whole time, because they are unable by any means to mingle with one another during this interval. 8 And although I was eager to go to this island and become an eye-witness of the things I have told, no opportunity ever presented itself. 9 However, I made enquiry from those who come to us from the island as to how in the world they are able to reckon the length of the days, since the sun never rises nor sets there at the appointed times. And they gave me an account which is true and trustworthy. 10 For they said that the sun during those forty days does not indeed set just as has been stated, but is visible to the people there at one time toward the east, and again toward the west. 11 Whenever, therefore, on its return, it reaches the same place on the horizon where they had previously been accustomed to see it rise, they reckon in this way that one day and night have passed. 12 When, however, the time of the nights arrives, they always take note of the courses of the moon and stars and thus reckon the measure of the days. 13 And when a time amounting to thirty-five  p419 days has passed in this long night, certain men are sent to the summits of the mountains — for this is the custom among them — and when they are able from that point barely to see the sun, they bring back word to the people below that within five days the sun will shine upon them. 14 And the whole population celebrates a festival at the good news, and that too in the darkness. And this is the greatest festival which the natives of Thule have; 15 for, I imagine, these islanders always become terrified, although they see the same thing happen every year, fearing that the sun may at some time fail them entirely.

16 But among the barbarians who are settled in Thule, one nation only, who are called the Scrithiphini, live a kind of life akin to that of the beasts. For they neither wear garments of cloth nor do they walk with shoes on their feet, nor do they drink wine nor derive anything edible from the earth. 17 For they neither till the land themselves, nor do their women work it for them, but the women regularly join the men in hunting, which is their only pursuit. 18 For the forests, which are exceedingly large, produce for them a great abundance of wild beasts and other animals, as do also the mountains which rise there. 19 And they feed exclusively upon the flesh of the wild beasts slain by them, and clothe themselves in their skins, and since they have neither flax nor any implement with which to sew, they fasten these skins together by the sinews of the animals, and in this way manage to cover the whole body. 20 And indeed not even their infants are nursed in the same way as among the rest of mankind. 21 For the children of the Scrithiphini do not feed upon the milk of women nor do they touch their mother's breast, but they are nourished upon  p421 the marrow of the animals killed in the hunt, and upon this alone. 22 Now as soon as a woman gives birth to a child, she throws it into a skin and straightway hangs it to a tree, and after putting marrow into its mouth she immediately sets out with her husband for the customary hunt. For they do everything in common and likewise engage in this pursuit together. So much for the daily life of these barbarians.

23 But all the other inhabitants of Thule, practically speaking, do not differ very much from the rest of men, but they reverence in great numbers gods and demons both of the heavens and of the air, of the earth and of the sea, and sundry other demons which are said to be in the waters of springs and rivers. 24 And they incessantly offer up all kinds of sacrifices, and make oblations to the dead, but the noblest of sacrifices, in their eyes, is the first human being whom they have taken captive in war; 25 for they sacrifice him to Ares, whom they regard as the greatest god. And the manner in which they offer up the captive is not by sacrificing him on an altar only, but also by hanging him to a tree, or throwing him among thorns, or killing him by some of the other most cruel forms of death. 26 Thus, then, do the inhabitants of Thule live. And one of their most numerous nations is the Gauti, and it was next to them that the incoming Eruli settled at the time in question.

27 On the present occasion,33 therefore, the Eruli who dwelt among the Romans, after the murder of their king had been perpetrated by them, sent some of  p423 their notables to the island of Thule to search out and bring back whomsoever they were able to find there of the royal blood. 28 And when these men reached the island, they found many there of the royal blood, but they selected the one man who pleased them most and set out with him on the return journey. 29 But this man fell sick and died when he had come to the country of the Dani. These men therefore went a second time to the island and secured another man, Datius by name. And he was followed by his brother Aordus and two hundred youths of the Eruli in Thule. 30 But since much time passed while they were absent on this journey, it occurred to the Eruli in the neighbourhood of Singidunum that they were not consulting their own interests in importing a leader from Thule against the wishes of the Emperor Justinian. 31 They therefore sent envoys to Byzantium, begging the emperor to send them a ruler of his own choice. 32 And he straightway sent them one of the Eruli who had long been sojourning in Byzantium, Suartuas by name. 33 At first the Eruli welcomed him and did obeisance to him and rendered the customary obedience to his commands; but not many days later a messenger arrived with the tidings that the men from the island of Thule were near at hand. 34 And Suartuas commanded them to go out to meet those men, his intention being to destroy them, and the Eruli, approving his purpose, immediately went with him. 35 But when the two forces were one day's journey distant from each other, the king's men all abandoned him at night and went over of their own accord to the newcomers, while he himself took to flight and set out unattended for Byzantium. 36 Thereupon  p425 the emperor earnestly undertook with all his power to restore him to his office, and the Eruli, fearing the power of the Romans, decided to submit themselves to the Gepaedes. This, then, was the cause of the revolt of the Eruli.34


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. Book V.xvi.1 ff.

2 Book V.xix.13.

3 The Aqua Virgo.

4 Book V.xix.18.

5 Modern Osimo.

6 Modern Urbino.

7 Modern Rimini.

8 Cf. Book V.xi.27.

9 Chap. vii.25.

10 Modern Chiusi.

11 Urbs Vetus, modern Orvieto.

Thayer's Note: The Greek dative Οὐρβιβεντῷ would be better rendered as Urbiventus — Greek β was used to transcribe both b and v — or more idiomatically, the commonly seen Urbiventum, in which, as with other Greek renderings of placenames in Italy, the accusative comes over time to be seen as the nominative (see my note on Beneventum).

12 Tuder or Tudertum, modern Todi.

13 Modern Montefeltro.

14 i.e. the force which John had when he had set out on his raid of Picenum (cf. Chap. x. 1) and with which he was now holding Ariminum.

15 Book V.xxix.3.

Thayer's Note: An inexplicable slip. The passage is V.16.3‑4.

16 The tunnel was made by the Emperor Vespasian, 76 A.D.. This gate was at the southern end.

17 i.e. northern.

18 The upper, or southern, gate.

19 Cf. Chap. vii.26.

20 Cf. Chap. vii.35.

21 Modern Pavia.

22 Modern Bergamo, Como, and Novara.

23 He was an Armenian of Persia; see Book I.xv.31.

24 Book I.xv.31.

25 Cf. Book IV.iv.30.

26 Modern Danube.

27 Cf. Book III.ii.2-6, VII.xxiv.10.

28 Book VII.xxxiv.42.

29 This has not been stated before by Procopius.

30 Or Varini, a tribe living on the coast near the mouth of the Rhine.

31 A group of tribes inhabiting the Danish Peninsula.

32 Probably Iceland or the northern portion of the Scandinavian peninsula, which was then regarded as an island and called "Scanza." The name of Thule was familiar from earlier times. It was described by the navigator Pytheas in the age of Alexander the Great, and he claimed to have visited the island. It was variously placed, but always considered the northernmost land in the world — "ultima Thule."

33 Cf. Chap. xiv.42.

34 Chap. xiv.37 introduces this topic.


Thayer's Notes:

a Properly, Petra Pertusa, "the pierced rock": the site in the gorge of Furlo where in order to drive the Via Flaminia thru towards the Adriatic it became necessary to cut a tunnel thru solid rock. The job was done under Vespasian, and the Roman tunnel, a tremendous undertaking for its time, still exists. See Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, V.262 ff.

b The Via Flaminia, that great Roman highway from Rome to Ariminum, splits into two branches not long after it passes thru Narnia; Spoletium is on the eastern branch. Perusia was not on the Flaminia at all, nor anywhere near it. But in fact Procopius does not say it was; this is translator error.

c The straight-line distance from Ancona to Osimo, the ancient Auximum (measured from the Roman amphitheater of Ancona to Osimo's town hall, taken as approximations to the center of each city respectively) is 10.5 Roman miles, making Procopius' stadion here roughly 7.6 to the mile, in line with the equivalence found in other ancient authors.


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