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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Gothic Wars


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

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(Vol. IV) Procopius
Gothic Wars

Book II (continued)

 p3  16 1 Belisarius and Narses came together with their two armies near the city of Firmum,​1 which lies on the shore of the Ionian Gulf, and is one day's journey distant from the city of Auximus. 2 In that place they began to hold conferences with all the commanders of the army, considering at what particular point it would be most to their advantage to make the first attack upon the enemy. 3 For if, on the one hand, they should proceed against the forces besieging Ariminum, they suspected that the Goths in Auximus would in all probability, taking them in the rear, inflict irreparable harm both upon them and upon the Romans who lived in that region; but, on the other hand, they were anxious concerning the besieged, dreading lest by reason of their lack of provisions they should suffer some great misfortune. 4 Now the majority were hostile toward John, and made their speeches accordingly; and the charge they brought against him was that he had been  p5 moved by unreasoning daring and a desire to gain great sums of money to place himself in his present dangerous position, and that he would not allow the operations of the war to be carried out in due order nor in the manner prescribed by Belisarius. 5 But Narses, who loved John above all other men, beginning to be fearful lest Belisarius should give way to the words of the officers and treat the situation at Ariminum as of secondary importance, spoke as follows:

6 "Fellow officers, you are not debating a question of the customary sort, nor are you holding this council regarding a situation about which one would naturally be in doubt, but in circumstances where it is possible even for those who have had no experience of war to make their choice offhand and in so doing to choose the better course. 7 For if it seems to be true that each of these two alternatives offers to those who fail an equal degree of danger and evenly balanced possibilities of mischief, it is altogether worth while to deliberate and to go most thoroughly into the arguments, and only then to make our decision regarding the situation before us. 8 But if we should wish to put off the assault upon Auximus to some other time, the penalty we shall suffer will involve in no way any vital interest of ours; for what difference could arise during the interval? But if we fail at Ariminum, we shall in all probability, if it is not too bitter a thing to say, shatter the strength of the Romans. 9 Now if John treated your commands with insolence, most excellent Belisarius, the atonement you have already exacted from him is surely ample, since it is now in your power either to save him in his reverse or to abandon  p7 him to the enemy. 10 But see that you do not exact from the emperor and from us the penalty for mistakes committed by John through ignorance. For if the Goths capture Ariminum at the present juncture, it will be their good fortune to have made captive a capable Roman general, as well as a whole army and a city subject to the emperor. 11 And the calamity will not stop with this, but it will also have such weight as to determine the fortune of the war in every field. For you should reason thus regarding the enemy, that they are still, even at the present time, far superior to us in the number of their soldiers, and they have lost their courage only because of the many reverses they have suffered. And this is natural; for the adversity of fortune has taken away all their confidence. 12 If, therefore, they meet with success at the present time, they will at no distant date recover their spirit and thereafter they will carry on this war with a boldness, not merely equal to ours, but actually much greater. 13 For it is a way with those who are freeing themselves from a difficult situation always to have a better heart than those who have not yet met with disaster." Thus spoke Narses.

14 At this time a soldier who had escaped from Ariminum by slipping through the guard of the barbarians came into the camp and shewed Belisarius a letter which John had written to him, conveying the following message: 15 "Know that for a long time all our provisions have been exhausted, that we are no longer able either to hold out against the populace or to ward off our assailants, and that within seven days we shall unwillingly surrender both ourselves  p9 and this city to the enemy; 16 for beyond this time we are absolutely unable to overcome the necessity which is upon us, and this necessity, I think, will be a sufficient apology in our behalf, if we do anything which is unseemly." 17 Thus, then, did John write. But Belisarius, on his part, was sorely perplexed and plunged into the greatest uncertainty. For while he was fearful concerning the besieged, he suspected, at the same time, that the enemy in Auximus would overrun the whole country round about and plunder it with never a fear, and also that they would ambush his own army from behind at every opportunity, and especially whenever he joined battle with his opponents, and would thus in all probability do the Romans great and irreparable harm. Finally, however, he did as follows. 18 He left Aratius with a thousand men there, instructing them to make a camp by the sea, at a distance of two hundred stades from Auximus. 19 These troops he commanded neither to move away from that position nor to fight a decisive action with the enemy, except in so far as to drive them off from the camp, if they should ever make an attack upon it. 20 For he hoped by this course to make it certain that the barbarians, seeing Romans encamped close by, would remain quietly in Auximus and never follow his own army to do it harm. 21 And he despatched by sea a very considerable army commanded by Herodian, Uliaris and Narses the brother of Aratius. 22 But Ildiger was appointed commander-in- chief of the expedition, and he was instructed by Belisarius to sail straight for Ariminum, taking care not to attempt putting in to shore near the city  p11 while the land army was still far behind; for they would be proceeding by a road not far from the coast. 23 And he ordered another army under command of Martinus to march along the coast, keeping near these ships, and instructing them that, when they came close to the enemy, they should burn a greater number of camp-fires than usual and not in proportion to the actual numbers of the army, and thus lead their opponents to believe their numbers to be much greater than they actually were. 24 He himself, meanwhile, went by another road far removed from the shore with Narses and the rest of the army, passing through the city of Urvisalia,​2 which in earlier times Alaric destroyed so completely​3 that nothing whatever has been left of its former grandeur, except a small remnant of a single gate and of the floor of the adjoining edifice.

17 1 In that place it was my fortune to see the following sight. When the army of John came into Picenum, the people of that region, as was natural, were thrown into great confusion. 2 And among the women, some took hurriedly to flight, wherever each one found it possible, while others were captured and led away in a disorderly manner by those who chanced upon them. 3 Now a certain woman of this city had, as it happened, just given birth to a child, and had abandoned the infant, leaving it in its swaddling clothes lying upon the ground; and whether she sought safety in flight or was captured by someone or other, she did not succeed in getting back again to  p13 that place; for assuredly it fell out that she disappeared from the world or at least from Italy. 4 So the infant, being thus abandoned, began to cry. But a lone she-goat, seeing it, felt pity and came near, and gave the infant her udder (for she too, as it happened, had recently brought forth young) and guarded it carefully, lest a dog or wild beast should injure it. 5 And since the confusion was long continued, it came about that the infant partook of this food for a very long time. 6 But later, when it became known to the people of Picenum that the emperor's army had come there to injure the Goths, but that the Romans would suffer no harm from it, they all returned immediately to their homes. 7 And when such of the women as were Romans by birth came to Urvisalia with the men, and saw the infant still alive in its swaddling clothes, they were utterly unable to comprehend what had happened and considered it very wonderful that the infant was living. 8 And each of them who chanced to be at that time able to do so offered her breast. But neither would the infant now have anything to do with human milk, nor was the goat at all willing to let it go, but as it kept bleating unceasingly about the infant, it seemed to those present to be feeling the greatest resentment that the women came near it and disturbed it as they did, and, to put all in a word, she insisted upon claiming the babe as her own. 9 Consequently the women no longer disturbed the infant, and the goat continued to nourish it free from fear and to guard it with every care. Wherefore the inhabitants of the place appropriately called this infant Aegisthus.​4 10 And when I happened  p15 to be sojourning in that place, by way of making a display of the strange sight they took me near the infant and purposely hurt it so that it might cry out. 11 And the infant, annoyed by those hurting it, began to cry; whereupon the goat, which was standing about a stone's throw away from it, hearing the cry, came running and bleating loudly to its side, and took her stand over it, so that no one might be able to hurt it again. Such then is the story of this Aegisthus.

12 But Belisarius was advancing through the mountains in this region. For seeing that he was greatly inferior to his opponents in numbers, he did not wish to engage in an open battle with them, since he could see that the barbarians were actually paralyzed by their previous defeats; 13 and he thought that, as soon as they learned that a hostile army was coming upon them from all sides, they would not once think of resistance, but would without the least hesitation turn to flight. And indeed he arrived at a correct opinion regarding the situation, and his suppositions were not at variance with what the future was to bring forth. 14 For when they had reached a point in the mountains where they were about one day's journey distant from Ariminum, they happened upon a small company of Goths who were travelling on some necessary errand. 15 And these Goths, falling in unexpectedly with a hostile army, were quite unable to get away from the road before they were attacked by the missiles of those who marched in the van, and some fell on the spot, while others, after receiving wounds, succeeded in hiding themselves by scrambling up some of the high cliffs close by. 16 From that position they watched the Roman army collecting over all the rough  p17 ground, and they supposed them to be many more than they really were. 17 And seeing the standards of Belisarius there also, they realized that he was leading this army in person. Then night came on and the Romans bivouacked where they were, while the wounded Goths went stealthily to the camp of Vittigis. 18 And reaching it about midday, they displayed their wounds and declared that Belisarius would be upon them almost at once with an army past numbering. 19 Then the Goths began to prepare for battle to the north of the city of Ariminum, for they thought that the enemy would come from that direction, and they were all constantly looking toward the heights of the mountain. 20 But when, as night came upon them, they had laid down their weapons and were resting, they saw many camp-fires to the east of the city, about sixty stades away — these were the fires which the troops of Martinus were burning — and they fell into a state of helpless fear; 21 for they suspected that they would be surrounded by the enemy at daybreak. So for that night they bivouacked in such a state of fear; but on the succeeding day at sunrise they saw a fleet of ships in overwhelming numbers bearing down upon them, and being plunged into speechless terror, they made a rush to flee. 22 And while they were packing up their luggage as quickly as they could, there arose so much confusion and shouting among them that they neither paid heed to the commands given nor did they think of anything else than how each man for himself could get away first from the camp and place himself inside the fortifications of Ravenna. 23 And if the besieged had only had some strength or daring left in them, they could  p19 have killed great numbers of the enemy on the spot by making a sally from the city, and the whole war would have ended there. 24 But, as it was, this was prevented by the great fear which had taken possession of them because of their past experiences, and by the weakness which had come upon many owing to the lack of provisions. So the barbarians, leaving there some of their possessions in the excess of their confusion, began to run as fast as they could go on the road to Ravenna.

18 1 Among the Romans, Ildiger and his men were the first to arrive at the enemy's camp, and they made slaves of such of the Goths as had remained there suffering from sickness of one kind or another, and collected all the valuables which the Goths had left in their flight. 2 And Belisarius with his whole army arrived at midday. And when he saw John and his men pale and dreadfully emaciated, he said to him, hinting at the rashness of his audacious deed, that he owed a debt of gratitude to Ildiger. 3 But John said that he recognized his obligation, not to Ildiger, but to Narses, the emperor's steward, implying, I suppose, that Belisarius had not come to his defence very willingly, but only after being persuaded by Narses. And from that time both these men began to regard each other with great suspicion. 4 It was for this reason that the friends of Narses even tried to prevent him from marching with Belisarius, and they sought to shew him how disgraceful it was for one who shared the secrets of  p21 the emperor not to be commander-in‑chief of the army, but to take orders from a mere general. 5 For they expressed the view that Belisarius would never willingly share with him the command of the army on equal terms, but that, if he wished to take command of the Roman army for himself, he would be followed by the greater part of the soldiers, and much the best ones too, together with their commanders. 6 For the Eruli, they said, and Narses' own spearmen and guards, and the troops commanded by Justinus and John himself, together with the forces of Aratius and the other Narses, amounted to not less than ten thousand men, brave soldiers and especially capable warriors, and they did not wish the subjugation of Italy to be reckoned to the credit of Belisarius alone, but desired that Narses too should carry off his share of the honour. 7 For they supposed that he had left the society of the emperor, not that by facing danger himself he might establish the glory of Belisarius, but presumably in order that by making a display of deeds of wisdom and bravery he might become famous among all men. 8 Furthermore, they said, even Belisarius would thenceforth be unable to accomplish anything without these troops. 9 For the greater part of the forces which he commanded had already been left behind in fortresses and cities which he had himself captured, and they enumerated them all, starting at Sicily and naming them in order as far as Picenum.

10 When Narses heard this, he was exceedingly pleased with the suggestion and could no longer restrain his mind or tolerate the existing arrangement. 11 Often, therefore, when Belisarius thought proper to undertake some new enterprise, he would  p23 resort to different pretexts, now one and now another, and thus block the project he was urging. 12 And Belisarius, perceiving this, called together all the commanders and spoke as follows:

"It seems to me, fellow officers, that I do not have the same opinion regarding this war as you have. 13 For you, I see, are contemptuous of the enemy as being completely vanquished. 14 But my opinion is that by this confidence of yours we shall fall into a danger which can be foreseen, because I know that the barbarians have not been vanquished by us because of any lack of courage on their part or because of inferiority in numbers, but that it is by means of careful planning beforehand that they have been outgeneralled, and consequently have turned to flight from this place. 15 And I fear that you may be deceived in regard to these facts because of your false estimate of the situation, and may thus do irreparable harm both to yourselves and to the cause of the Romans. 16 For those who, accounting themselves victorious, are lifted up by their achievements are more readily destroyed than those who have indeed suffered an unexpected reverse, but thereafter are actuated by fear and abundant respect of their enemy. 17 For while indifference has sometimes ruined men who were in good case, energy coupled with solicitude has often relieved those who had been unfortunate. 18 For, on the one hand, when men allow themselves to drift into an attitude of unconcern, the measure of their strength is wont, as a rule, to be lessened, but, on the other hand, careful study of a situation is naturally calculated to instil vigour. 19 Accordingly, let each one of you remember that Vittigis is in Ravenna with many  p25 tens of thousands of Goths, that Uraias is besieging Milan and has brought the whole of Liguria under his power, that Auximus is already filled with an array both numerous and formidable, and that many other places, as far as Urviventus,​5 which is in the neighbourhood of Rome, are guarded by barbarian garrisons which are a match for us. 20 Consequently the situation is more perilous for us at the present time than it formerly was, seeing that we have come to be, in a way, surrounded by the enemy. 21 And this is not all, for I pass over the report that the Franks also have joined forces with them in Liguria, a thing which cannot fail to be remembered by all Romans with great fear. 22 I state, therefore, as my opinion that a part of the army ought to be sent to Liguria and Milan, but that the rest should instantly proceed against Auximus and the enemy there, in order to accomplish whatever God permits; and afterwards we should also take in hand the other tasks of the war in whatever way seems best and most advantageous." So spoke Belisarius.

23 And Narses replied as follows: "In other respects, General, no one could deny that everything has been spoken by you with truth. 24 But that the emperor's whole army here should be divided between Milan and Auximus alone I consider to be utterly inexpedient. 25 It would not be at all unreasonable for you, on your part, to lead against these places such of the Romans as you yourself might wish, but we, on our part, shall take possession for the emperor of the territory of Aemilia, which the Goths are making the greatest effort to win for themselves, and we shall harass Ravenna in such a way that you will  p27 crush the enemy before you as you wish, while they are excluded from the hope of armies to support them. 26 For if we should elect to join you in carrying on a siege at Auximus, the barbarians, I fear, will come upon us from Ravenna, with the result that we shall become exposed to the enemy on both sides and, being at a distance from our base of supplies, we shall be destroyed on the spot." Such were the words of Narses.

27 But Belisarius feared that, if the Romans should go against many places at once, it would come about that the emperor's cause would be weakened and finally ruined by the confusion resulting therefrom, and so he shewed a letter from the Emperor Justinian which he had written to the commanders of the army, 28 conveying the following message: "We have not sent our steward Narses to Italy in order to command the army; for we wish Belisarius alone to command the whole army in whatever manner seems to him to be best, and it is the duty of all of you to follow him in the interest of our state." Such was the purport of the emperor's letter. 29 But Narses, laying hold of the final words of the letter, declared that Belisarius at the present time was laying plans contrary to the interest of the state; for this reason, he said, it was unnecessary for them to follow him.

19 1 Upon hearing this Belisarius sent Peranius with a numerous army to Urviventus with instructions to besiege it, while he himself led his army against Urbinus,​6 a city of strong defences and guarded by  p29 a sufficient garrison of Goths (it is at a distance from the city of Ariminum of one day's journey for an unencumbered traveller), and as he led forth the army he was followed by Narses and John and all the others. 2 And upon coming near the city, they encamped in two divisions along the foot of the hill; for they had not combined their forces at all, but the troops of Belisarius held the position to the east of the city, and those of Narses that to the west. 3 Now the city of Urbinus is situated upon a hill which is round and exceedingly high. However, the hill is neither precipitous nor altogether impossible to climb, and it is difficult only by reason of being very steep, especially as one comes very close to the city. 4 But it has one approach by level ground on the north. So the Romans were stationed for the siege as has been stated. Now Belisarius was of the opinion that the barbarians would somewhat readily make terms with the Romans for a surrender, believing that they had become terrified by the danger, and so he sent envoys to them, promising that they would receive many benefits, and exhorting them to become subjects of the emperor. 5 These envoys stood near the gates (for the enemy would not receive them into the city), and spoke at length, making a great effort to win them over, but the Goths, confident in the strength of their position and their abundance of provisions, would not listen to their proposals, and bade the Romans depart from the city with all speed. 6 So when Belisarius heard this, he ordered the army to collect thick poles and to make of them a long  p31 colonnade. 7 This device was destined to cover the men hidden inside as they moved it forward close up to the gate at the particular point where the ground was level and carried on their operations against the wall. So the soldiers were engaged in this work.

8 But some of the intimates of Narses gathered around him and declared that Belisarius was undertaking an endless task and devising impracticable plans. For John, they said, had already made an attempt upon the place,​7 and that too at a time when it was guarded by only a few men, and had perceived that it was altogether impregnable (and this was true), and they said that he ought to recover for the emperor the land of Aemilia. 9 And since he was won over by this suggestion, Narses at night abandoned the siege, although Belisarius begged him earnestly to remain there and assist his own troops in capturing the city of Urbinus. 10 So Narses and his followers went in haste to Ariminum with a portion of the army. And as soon as Moras and his barbarians saw at daybreak that one-half of the enemy had withdrawn, they began to shout taunts and bantering words from the fortifications at those who had remained. 11 Belisarius, however, was purposing to storm the wall with his remaining force. And while he was laying plans for this attack, an altogether wonderful piece of good fortune befell him. 12 There was only one spring in Urbinus, and from it all the inhabitants of the city were drawing water. This spring of its own accord little by little dried up and began to give out. 13 And in three days the water had left it to such an extent that the barbarians drawing from it were drinking  p33 the water along with mud. Consequently they decided to capitulate to the Romans. 14 But Belisarius, who had not received any information of this, was still purposing to make an attempt upon the fortifications. And he armed his entire force and placed it in a circle about the whole hill, and then commanded a few men to move forward the colonnade of poles 15 (for such is the name by which this device is customarily called)​8 where the ground was level. So these men went into it and began to walk and to draw the colonnade with them, hidden from the eyes of the enemy. 16 Thereupon, the barbarians, stretching forth their right hands from the parapet, begged to receive peace. But the Romans, not knowing anything of what had taken place regarding the spring, supposed that it was the combat and the Roman device which they dreaded. Both sides, at any rate, gladly refrained from battle. 17 And the Goths surrendered both themselves and the city to Belisarius with the condition that they should remain free from harm and that they should become subjects of the emperor on terms of complete equality with the Roman army.

18 But Narses, upon hearing of this success, was filled with both astonishment and dejection. 19 And he himself still remained quietly in Ariminum, but he ordered John to lead his whole army against Caesena.​9 So they went, taking ladders with them. 20 And when they came close to the fortress, they delivered an attack and made trial of the fortifications. But since the barbarians defended themselves manfully, many fell in the fight and among them Phanitheus, the leader of the Eruli. 21 So John,  p35 failing to capture the fortress of Caesena at that time, saw fit to make no further attempt upon it, since it seemed to him impregnable, and he marched forward with Justinus and the rest of the army. 22 And by a sudden move he succeeded in taking possession of an ancient city which is named Forocornelius;​10 and since the barbarians constantly retired before him and never came to an engagement, he recovered the whole of Aemilia for the emperor. Such was the course of these events.

20 1 Now Belisarius, since he had captured Urbinus at about the winter solstice, thought it inexpedient to march against Auximus immediately; for he suspected that a long time would be consumed by his troops in besieging it. 2 For it was impossible to take the place by storm because of the strength of its defences, and the barbarian garrison of the city was both numerous and composed of the best troops, as I have previously stated,​11 and since they had plundered a large tract of country, they had brought in for themselves a great store of provisions. 3 But he commanded Aratius with a numerous army to pass the winter in Firmum and to be on his guard that the barbarians in future should not be at liberty to make their raids from Auximus and fearlessly to carry on a campaign of violence in that region; he himself, however, led his army against Urviventus. 4 For Peranius kept urging him to do this, since he had  p37 heard from the deserters that the Goths in that city had a scarcity of provisions, and he hoped that if, in addition to their lack of supplies, they should see Belisarius also present with his whole army, as they would suppose, they would give in the more readily, as indeed actually happened. 5 For Belisarius, immediately upon reaching Urviventus, commanded the whole army to encamp in a place suitably situated, while he himself made a complete circuit of the city, looking carefully to see whether it was perhaps not impossible to capture it by storm. And it seemed to him that there was no possible means of taking the place by any manner of assault. 6 However, he decided that it would not be altogether impossible to capture it by a secret stratagem.

7 For the city occupies a lone hill which springs from low-lying ground, being on the top level and smooth, but precipitous at the base. And round this hill there stand rocks of equal height which form, as it were, a circle about it, not immediately at the base of the hill, but about a stone's throw away.​12 8 Upon this hill, then, the men of old built the city, and they neither placed walls around it nor constructed defences of any other kind, since the place seemed to them impregnable by nature. 9 For there is only one approach to the city through the rocks, and if the inhabitants of the city only keep this under guard, they have nothing to fear from hostile attacks at any other point. 10 For apart from the place where nature, as has been stated, constructed the approach to the city, a river​13 which is always large and impassable occupies the space between the hill and the  p39 rocks which I have just mentioned. 11 In view of this situation the Romans of old built a short piece of wall across this approach. And there is a gate in it, which the Goths were guarding at that time. Such is the situation of Urviventus.

12 And Belisarius commenced the siege with his whole army, hoping either to deliver an attack by way of the river or to bring the enemy to submission by famine. 13 The barbarians, on their part, were for a time not utterly destitute of provisions, though their supply was indeed too scanty for their needs, but still they held out beyond all expectation in enduring their suffering, never getting sufficient nourishment to satisfy them, and using each day only enough food so as not to die of starvation. 14 But finally, when all their provisions had been exhausted, they began to eat skins and hides which they had previously soaked in water for a long time; for their commander Albilas, a man of especial note among the Goths, was sustaining them with empty hopes.​14

15 Now as time went on and brought again the summer season, the grain was already ripening uncared for in the cornlands, but in no such quantities as formerly — indeed it was much less. 16 For since it had not been covered in the furrows, either by ploughs or by the hand of man, but lay upon the surface, the earth was able to make only a small portion of it take root. 17 And since after that no one reaped it, when it had become fully ripe it fell again to the ground and nothing grew from it thereafter. And this same thing had happened also in Aemilia; 18 and  p41 because of this situation the inhabitants of that region left their homes and went to Picenum, thinking that, since that country was on the sea, it could not be suffering from absolute lack of food supplies. 19 And the Tuscans, no less than the others, were attacked by famine for the same cause; and as many of them as lived in the mountains were eating loaves made of the acorns of the oak trees, which they ground up just like grain. 20 The natural result of this was that the most of the people fell victim to all manner of diseases, and it was only a few who threw these off and recovered. 21 Indeed it is said that among the Roman farmers in Picenum not less than fifty thousand persons perished by famine, and a great many more north of the Ionian Gulf.​15

22 I shall now tell of the appearance which they came to have and in what manner they died, for I was an eye-witness. 23 All of them first became lean and pale; for the flesh, being ill supplied with nourishment, according to the old saying "laid hold upon itself," and the bile, having now the mastery of their bodies by reason of its excess, lent them almost its own appearance. 24 And as the malady developed, all moisture left them, and the skin became very dry so that it resembled leather more than anything else, giving the appearance of having been fastened upon the bones. And as they changed from a livid to a black colour, they came to resemble torches thoroughly burned. 25 And their faces always wore an expression of amazement, while they always had a dreadful sort of insane stare. And they died, some because of the lack of food, and others too by sating themselves  p43 too much with it. 26 For since all the warmth which nature kindled within them had died away, whenever anyone fed them to satiety, and not little by little, just like infants newly born, the result was that, since they were as yet unable to digest the food, they died much more quickly. 27 Some too, overcome by hunger, fed upon their comrades. And it is said that two women in a certain place in the country above the city of Ariminum ate seventeen men; for these women, as it happened, were the only inhabitants of the place who survived, 28 and consequently it came about that strangers travelling that way lodged in the little house where these women lived; so they would kill these strangers while they slept and eat them. 29 Now the story goes that the eighteenth stranger was roused from sleep, just when these women were about to lay hands upon him, and leaping up and learning from them the whole story, killed both of them. 30 Such, then, is the story which they tell. And the most of the people were so overcome by their hunger that if they happened upon a bit of grass anywhere, they would rush to it with great eagerness, and kneeling down, would try to pull it from the ground. 31 Then, finding themselves unable to do so because all strength had left them, they would fall upon the grass and their outstretched hand and die. 32 And no one ever laid them in the earth, for there was in fact not a man to concern himself about burying them; and yet they remained untouched by any of those numerous birds which have the habit of feeding upon dead bodies, for they offered nothing which the birds craved. 33 For all the flesh, as I have previously stated, had already  p45 been consumed by starvation. Such was the manner in which famine visited the land.

21 1 Now when Belisarius heard that Uraias and the barbarians were besieging Milan, he sent Martinus and Uliaris against them with a numerous army. 2 But when this force reached the River Po, which is one day's journey distant from Milan, they established a camp and remained there. And a long time was spent by them at that camp while they were deliberating about the crossing of the river. 3 And when Mundilas heard this, he sent to them one of the Romans, Paulus by name. 4 He accordingly passed through the lines of the enemy without being detected, and reached the bank of the Po. But he happened to find no ferry ready at the moment, and so he removed his clothing and, at great risk, made the crossing by swimming. 5 So when he had betaken himself to the Roman camp and had come into the presence of the commanders, he spoke as follows:

"Martinus and Uliaris, you are not acting justly nor in a manner worthy of your own fame, seeing that in appearance you have come for the saving of the emperor's cause, but in reality to magnify the power of the Goths. 6 For this city of Milan, which far surpasses practically all the other cities of Italy in point of size and population and in every other sort of prosperity, and, apart from these advantages, is an outpost against the Germans and the other barbarians, and has been thrown out to protect the whole Roman empire, so to speak, — this city, I say, has now fallen into great danger together with  p47 Mundilas and the emperor's army, harassed as it is by the enemy, and neglected meanwhile by you. 7 And how much the emperor has been wronged by you in the present case, I refrain from stating. For the urgency of the moment does not allow me to use many words, seeking as I do quick assistance for the city, while some hope is still left. 8 But you, I say, must come to the defence of the people of Milan in their peril with all possible speed. For if at the present crisis you act with any hesitation in coming to us, the result will be for us, on the one hand, to perish after suffering the most cruel fate possible, and for you, on the other, to have betrayed to the enemy the emperor's power. 9 For those who may perchance open their gates to the enemy are not the only ones who are justly called traitors, but with equal, nay even greater, justice this name belongs to those who, though they have the power to defend those dearest to them when they are besieged, still choose the course of hesitation, which involves no danger, instead of engaging in the struggle, and thus probably give to their enemy the victory over them." 10 Thus spoke Paulus, and Martinus and Uliaris sent him back with the promise to follow him right speedily.11 And he once more succeeded in getting through the barbarians unnoticed, entered Milan by night, and having roused the hopes of the soldiers and all the Romans, still more strengthened their purpose to be faithful to the emperor.

12 Nevertheless Martinus and his men continued to be reluctant to move and remained where they were, and much time was consumed by them in hesitating in this way.13 But finally Martinus, wishing to clear himself of the charge, wrote to Belisarius as follows:  p49 "You sent us hither in order to bring support to those endangered in Milan, and we have come in great haste, just as you commanded, as far as the River Po; but the army fears to cross this river, since we hear that a strong force of Goths are in Liguria, and a very great multitude of Burgundians with them; and against such an army we do not consider ourselves able to fight a decisive battle alone. 14 But command John and Justinus, who are in our neighbourhood in the land of Aemilia, to come with all possible speed together with their troops and assist us in meeting this danger. 15 For by going together from here we shall be enabled both to be safe ourselves and also to do some harm to the enemy." 16 Such was the content of Martinus' letter. And Belisarius, upon reading it, commanded John and Justinus to join the forces of Martinus and go with all speed against Milan. But they said that they would do nothing except what Narses commanded them. 17 Wherefore Belisarius wrote also to Narses as follows:

"Consider that the whole army of the emperor is one body, and that, if it does not display one single purpose, just as do the members of a man, but one part wishes to act separately from the others, what will be left to us is to perish utterly without having performed any of our duties. 18 Therefore have done with Aemilia, which neither contains any fortress nor has any decisive importance for the Romans, at least at the present moment. 19 But do you command John and Justinus without the least delay to go with the forces of Martinus straight against the enemy  p51 at Milan, for they are near at hand and sufficiently strong to overpower the barbarians. 20 For it so happens that I myself have here no numerous army which I could possibly send, and even apart from this, I think it inexpedient for soldiers to go from here against Milan. 21 For a great amount of time will be consumed in the journey so that they will fail to reach the city at the proper moment, and they will be quite unable on account of the length of the journey to use their horses against the enemy when they reach them. 22 But if these men​16 go with Martinus and Uliaris against Milan, they will in all probability both overcome the barbarians there and also take possession of Aemilia again without encountering any further resistance." 23 When this letter had been delivered to Narses and read by him, he himself sent orders to John and Justinus to go with the other army to Milan. 24 And John a little later set out for the seacoast, in order to bring boats from there, which were to enable the army to cross the river. But an illness which fell upon him put a stop to the undertaking.

25 But while the forces of Martinus were hesitating about the crossing of the river, and those of John were awaiting the instructions of Narses, a great amount of time was consumed, and the siege meantime continued to be pressed. 26 And the besieged were already suffering extremely from the famine, and under the overwhelming necessity of their wretched situation the most of them had begun to eat dogs and mice and other animals such as had never been eaten by man. 27 So the barbarians sent envoys to Mundilas, bidding him surrender the  p53 city to them, with the condition that he himself and the soldiers should remain free from harm. 28 But Mundilas agreed to do this only on condition that they not only give pledges for the safety of the Roman garrison, but also that they would do no harm to any one of the inhabitants. 29 But since the enemy, though ready to give pledges to Mundilas and the soldiers, were moved by furious passion against the Ligurians and were evidently going to destroy them all, Mundilas called all the soldiers together and spoke as follows:

30 "If it has ever happened that any men before us, though having the opportunity to save their lives with disgrace, have chosen rather to die with fair fame, abandoning their immediate safety for a glorious end of life, such men I should wish you also to be at the present time, and not through fondness for life to pursue it even though it be involved in shame, and that too, contrary to the teaching of Belisarius, by which you have profited for a long time past, so that to be otherwise than noble and exceedingly courageous is for you sacrilege. 31 For when men have once entered life, a single fate is advancing upon all of them — to die at the appointed time; but as to the manner of death men differ, for the most part, one from the other. 32 And there is this difference, that cowards, as one might expect, in every case first bring upon themselves insult and ridicule from their enemies and then, at the exact time previously appointed, fulfil their destiny no whit the less; but it falls to the lot of noble men to suffer this with valour and an abundance of goodly fame. 33 And apart from these considerations, if it had been possible to become slaves of the barbarians,  p55 and at the same time to save the people of the city, that at least might have brought us some forgiveness for saving ourselves so disgracefully. 34 But if, in fact, we are bound to look on while such a great multitude of Romans is being destroyed by the hand of the enemy, this will be more bitter than any form of death of which a man could tell. 35 For we should appear to be doing nothing more or less than helping the barbarians to perpetrate this dreadful deed. While, therefore, we are sufficiently our own masters to adorn necessity with valour, let us make glorious the fortune which has fallen upon us. 36 And I say that we ought all to arm ourselves in the best possible manner, and advance upon the enemy when they are not expecting us. 37 For the result for us will be one of two things: either fortune will have wrought for us in some way a success which transcends our present hope, or we, in achieving a happy end, shall have rid ourselves of our present troubles with the fairest fame."

38 So spoke Mundilas; but not one of the soldiers was willing to undergo the danger, and they surrendered both themselves and the city on the terms which the enemy offered. 39 And the barbarians did indeed inflict no harm upon the soldiers, simply putting them under guard with Mundilas, but the city they razed to the ground, killing all the males of every age to the number of not less than three hundred thousand and reducing the women to slavery and then presenting them to the Burgundians by way of repaying them for their alliance. 40 And when they found Reparatus, the pretorian  p57 prefect, they cut his body into small pieces and threw his flesh to the dogs. 41 But Vergentinus (for he had been, as it happened, inside Milan) made his escape and betook himself with his followers to Dalmatia, passing through the land of the Veneti and the other nations of that region. And from there he went to the emperor bearing the message of this great calamity which had befallen the Romans. 42 In consequence of this success the Goths took by surrender the other cities which happened to have Roman garrisons and again gained control over the whole of Liguria. As for Martinus and Uliaris, they marched back with their army toward Rome.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Modern Fermo.

2 Urbs Salvia, modern Urbisaglia.

3 In the invasion of 452 A.D.

4 From αἴξ, "a goat."

5 Urbs Vetus; modern Orvieto.

6 Modern Urbino.

7 See Book VI.x.5.

8 This stoa of the Greeks was the vinea of the Romans.

9 Modern Cesena.

10 Forum Cornelii; modern Imola.

11 Chap. xi.2.

12 The nearest eminence is a good half-mile away (Hodgkin).

(Thayer's Note: With my own correction in the note there.)

13 The Paglia now flows on only two sides of the hill (Hodgkin).

14 It is implied in section 4 above that the city surrendered, but this is not explicitly stated, and Procopius does not return to the subject later.

15 In Procopius the Ionian Gulf is the Adriatic.

16 John and Justinus.

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