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III.36‑40

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Wars

of
Procopius

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1928

The text is in the public domain.

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VIII.8‑14

(Vol. V) Procopius
Wars

Book IV (beginning)

 p57  1 1 The narrative which I have written up to this point has been composed, as far as possible, on the principle of separating the material into parts which relate severally to the countries in which the different wars took place, and have appeared in every corner of the Roman empire. But from this point onward I shall no longer follow this principle of arrangement. 2 For after my writings had appeared before the public, I was no longer able to add to each the events which happened afterwards, but all the later developments in these wars, in the war against Persia as well, now that I have published the previous parts, will be written down in full in this present narrative, and this the record which I shall make of these events will of necessity be composite.

3 Now all that took place up to the fourth year of the five-year truce which was made between the Romans and the Persians has already been recounted by me in the previous books.​1 But in the succeeding year a Persian army in vast numbers invaded the land of Colchis. 4 In command of this army was a Persian, Chorianes by name, a man of wide experience,  p59 in many wars, and a large number of barbarians of the tribe of the Alani followed him as allies. 5 When this army had come to a part of Lazica, which is called Mocheresis, they made camp in a suitable position and remained there. 6 Now there is a river in that place, the Hippis, not a large or navigable stream, but actually passable for both horsemen and foot-soldiers, and it was on the right of this that they made their entrenchment, not along the bank, but at a considerable distance from it.

7 At this point in my narrative it has seemed to me not impossible to pause a moment, in order that the geography of Lazica may be clear to those who read this history and twenty they may know what races of men inhabit that region, so that they may not be compelled to discuss matters which are obscure to them, like men fighting shadows; I shall therefore give an account of the distribution of the peoples who live about the Euxine Sea, as it is called, not that I am ignorant that these things have been written down by some of the men of earlier times also, but because I believe that not all their statements are accurate. 8 Some of these writers, for example, have stated​2 that the territory of the Trapezuntines is adjoined either by the Sani, who at the present day are called Tzani, or by the Colchians, calling another people Lazi, who are actually addressed by this name at the present day. And yet neither of these statements is true. 9 For, in the first place, the Tzani live at a very great distance from the coast as neighbours of the Armenians in the interior, and many mountains stand between  p61 which are thoroughly impassable and altogether precipitous, and there is an extensive area always devoid of human habitation, cañons from which it is impossible to climb out, forested heights, and impassable chasms — all these prevent the Tzani from being on the sea. 10 In the second place, it is impossible that the Lazi should not be the Colchians, because they inhabit the banks of the Phasis River; and the Colchians have merely changed their name at the present time to Lazi, just as nations of men and many other things do. 11 But apart from this, a long period of time has elapsed since these accounts were witness, and has brought about constant changes along with the march of events, with the result that many of the conditions which formerly obtained have been replaced by new conditions, because of the migration of nations and successive changes of rulers and of names. 12 These things it has seemed to me very necessary to investigate, not relating the mythological tales about them nor other antiquated material, nor even telling in what part of the Euxine Sea the poets say Prometheus was bound 13 (for I consider that history is very widely separated from mythology), but stating accurately and in order both the names of each of those places and the facts that apply to them at the present day.

2 1 The Pontus, then, begins from Byzantium and Calchedon and ends at the land of Colchians.  p63 2 And as one sails into it, the land on the right is inhabited by the Bithynians, and next after them by the Honoriatae and the Paphlagonians, who have, besides other towns, the coast cities of Heraclea and Amastris;​3 beyond them are the people called Pontici as far as the city of Trapezus​4 and its boundaries. In that region are a number of towns on the coast, among which are Sinope and Amisus,​5 and close to Amisus is the town called Themiscyra​6 and the river Thermodon,​7 where they say the army of the Amazons originated. But concerning the Amazons I shall write a little later. 3 From here the territory of the Trapezuntines extends to the village of Susurmena and the place called Rhizaeum,​8 which is two days' journey distant from Trapezus as one goes toward Lazica along the coast. 4 But now that I have mentioned Trapezus, I must not omit the very strange thing which takes place there; for the honey which is produced in all the places around Trapezus is bitter,​9 this being the only place where it is at variance with its established reputation.​10 5 On the right of these places rise all the mountains of Tzanica, and beyond them are the Armenians, who are subject to the Romans.

6 Now from these mountains of Tzanica the Boas River​11 descends, a stream which, after passing into innumerable jungles and traversing a mountainous region, flows along by the land of Lazica and  p65 empties into the Euxine Sea, as it is called, but no longer keeping the name of Boas. 7 For when it gets near the sea it loses this name and thereafter bears another, which it acquires from the character which it now displays. 8 This name which the natives apply to it for the rest of its course is Acampsis, and they so name it, obviously, because it is impossible to force a way through it​12 after it has entered the sea, since it discharges its stream with such force and swiftness, causing a great disturbance of the water before it, that it goes out for a very great distance into the sea and makes it impossible to coast along at that point. And those who are navigating in that part of the Pontus, whether sailing toward Lazica or even putting out from there, are not able to hold a straight course in their voyage; 9 for they are quite unable to push through the river's current, but they must needs put out to a very great distance into the sea there, going somewhere near the middle of the Pontus, and only in this way can they escape the force of the river's discharge. So much, then, may be said regarding the Boas River.

10 Beyond Rhizaeum there is found a territory occupied by independent peoples, who live between the Romans and the Lazi. And there is a certain village there named Athenae,​13 not as some suppose, because colonists from Athens settled there, but because a certain woman named Athenaea in early times ruled over the land, and the tomb of this  p67 woman is there even to my day. 11 By Athenae are Archabis and Apsarus,​14 an action city which is about three days' journey from Rhizaeum. 12 This was called Apsyrtus in ancient times, having come to be named after the man on account of his catastrophe. For in that place the natives say that Apsyrtus was removed from the world by the plot of Medea and Jason, and that from this circumstance the place received its name; for he died on that spot and the place was named after him. 13 But an extremely long time has elapsed since these events, while countless generations of men have flourished, and the mere passage of time has thus availed to efface from memory the succession of incidents from which this name arose and to transform the name of the place to the form in which it appears at the present. 14 There is also a tomb of this Apsyrtus to the east of the city. This was a populous city in ancient times, and a great expanse of wall surrounded it, while it was adorned with a theatre and hippodrome and all the rest of those things by which the size of a city is commonly indicated. But at the present nothing of these is left except the foundations of the buildings.

15 It is now clear that one might with good reason wonder at those who assert that the Colchians are adjacent to the Trapezuntines. For on this hypothesis it would appear that after Jason in company with Medea had captured the fleece, he actually did not flee toward Hellas and his own land, but backward to the Phasis River and the barbarians in the most remote interior. 16 Now they say that in the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan detachments of  p69 Roman soldiers were stationed there and as far as the Lazi and Saginae. 17 But at the present time people live there who are neither subjects of the Romans nor of the king of the Lazi, except indeed that the bishops of the Lazi appoint their priests, seeing they are Christians. 18 And wishing, as they do, to live in peace and friendship with both peoples, they have made a permanent agreement to provide an escort for those who from time to time travel from the one country to the other; and it appears that they have been doing this even down to my time. 19 For they escort the messengers despatched from the one king to the other, sailing in boats of their own. However, they have become in no way tributary down to the present time. 20 On the right of these places very abrupt mountains tower overhead and a barren land extends to an indefinite distance. And beyond this the so‑called Persarmenians dwell, as well as the Armenians who are subject of the Romans, extending as far as the confines of Iberia.15

21 From the city of Apsarus to Petra and the boundary of Lazica, where the Euxine Sea reaches its limit, is a journey of one day. Now as this sea comes to an end here, its coast takes the form of a crescent. 22 And the distance across this crescent amounts to about five hundred and fifty stades,​16 while the entire country behind it is Lazica and is known under this name. 23 Behind them in the interior are Scymnia and Suania; these nations happen to be subjects of the Lazi. Indeed, although these peoples do have  p71 magistrates of their own blood, still, whenever any of the magistrates reaches the end of his life, it is always customary for another one to be appointed in his place balcony the king of the Lazi. 24 At the side of this land and bordering upon Iberia proper for the most part dwell the Meschi, who have been from ancient times subjects of the Iberians, having their dwellings of the mountains. 25 But the mountains of the Meschi are not rough nor unproductive of crops, but they abound in all good things, since the Meschi, for their part, are skilful farmers and there are actually vineyards in their country. 26 However, this land is hemmed in by mountains which are very lofty and covered you forests so that they are exceedingly difficult to pass through. And these mountains extend as far as the Caucasus, while behind them toward the east is Iberia, extending as far as Persarmenia.

27 Now through the mountains which rise here the Phasis River emerges, having its source in the Caucasus and its mouth at the middle of the crescent of the Pontus. 28 Because of this some consider that it forms the boundary between the two continents; for the land on the left as one goes down this stream is Asia, but that on the right is named Europe. 29 Now it so happens that all the habitations of the Lazi are on the European side, while on the opposite side there is neither fortress nor stronghold nor any village of consequence held by the Lazi, except indeed the city of Petra which the Romans built there in earlier times. 30 It was somewhere in this part of Lazica, as the inhabitants say, that the famous fleece was placed for safe keeping, that fleece on account of which, as the  p73 poets tell the tale, the Argo was fashioned. But in saying this they are, in my opinion, not telling the truth at all. 31 For I think that Jason would not have eluded Aeetes and got away from there with the fleece in company with Medea, unless both the palace and the other dwellings of the Colchians had been separated by the Phasis River from the place in which that fleece was lying; indeed the poets who have recorded the story imply that this was the case. 32 So the Phasis, flowing as I have said, empties into the Euxine Sea approximately at the very point where it comes to an end. Now at the one end of the crescent, that, namely, which is in Asia, was the city of Petra, while on the opposite coast which forms a part of erupt the territory is held by the Apsilii; 33 these Apsilii are subjects of the Lazi and have been Christians from ancient times, just as all the other nations which I have mentioned up to this point in my narrative.

3 1 Above and beyond this country are the mountains of the Caucasus. This mountain range which composes the Caucasus rises to such a great height that its summits are in fact never touched either by rain or by snow; for they are indeed above all clouds. But the middle slopes are continually filled with snow down to the very base. 2 And from this it may be inferred that the foothills are extremely high, being in no way inferior to the  p75 principal ridges of other mountains. 3 Now the spurs of the Caucasus range extend in one direction to the north and west and continue into Illyricum and Thrace,​17 while in the other direction they extend toward the east and reach as far as those very passes which provide entrance for the Hunnic nations inhabiting that region into both Persian and Roman territory. 4 One of these passes is called Tzur, while the other has been named the Caspian Gates​18 from ancient times. But this country which extends from the Caucasus range as far as the Caspian Gates is held by the Alani, an autonomous nation, who are for the most part allied with Persians and march against the Romans and their other enemies. So much then may be said regarding the Caucasus.

5 The Huns who are called Sabiri dwell in that region, as well as certain other Hunnic tribes. And they say that the Amazons really originated there and afterwards established their camp near Themiscyra on the Thermodon River, as I have stated above, at the place where the city of Amisus is at the present time. 6 But to‑day nowhere in the vicinity of the Caucasus range is any memory of the Amazons preserved or any name connected with them, although much has been written about them both by Strabo​19 and by some others. 7 But it seems to me that those have spoken the truth about the Amazons at any rate better than any others, who  p77 have stated that there never was a race of women endowed with the qualities of men and that human nature did not depart from its established norm in the mountains of the Caucasus alone; but the fact was that barbarians from these regions together with their own women made an invasion of Asia with a great army, established a camp at the river Thermodon, and left their women there; then, while they themselves were overrunning the greater part of the land of Asia, they were encountered by the inhabitants of the land and utterly destroyed, and not a man of them returned to the women's encampment; and thereafter these within, through fear of the people dwelling round about and constrained by the failure of their supplies, put on manly value, not at all of their own free will, and, taking up the equipment of arms and armour left by the men in the camp and arming themselves in excellent fashion with this, they made a display of manly value, being driven to do so by sheer necessity, until they were all destroyed. 8 That this is about what happened and that the Amazons did make an expedition with their husbands, I too believe, basing my judgment on what has actually taken place in my time. 9 For customs which are handed down to remote descendants give a picture of the character of former generations. 10 I mean this, that on many occasions when Huns have made raids into the Roman domain and have engaged in battle with those who encountered them, some, of  p79 course, have fallen there, and after the departure of the barbarians the Romans, in searching the bodies of the fallen have actually found women among them. 11 No other army of women, however, has made its appearance in any locality of Asia or Europe. On the other hand, we have no tradition that the mountains of Caucasus were ever devoid of men. Concerning the Amazons then let this suffice.

12 Beyond the Apsilii and the other end​20 of the crescent the Abasgi dwell along the coast, and their country extends as far as the mountains of the Caucasus. Now the Abasgi have been from ancient times subjects of the Lazi, but they have always had two rulers of their own blood. 13 One of these resided in the western part of their country, the other in the eastern part. 14 And these barbarians even down to my time have worshipped groves and forests; for with a sort of barbarian simplicity they supposed the trees were gods. 15 But they have suffered most cruelly at the hands of their rulers owing to the excessive avarice displayed by them. For both their kings used to take such boys of this nation as they noted having comely features and fine bodies, and dragging them away from their parents without the least hesitation they would make them eunuchs and then sell them at high prices to any persons in the Roman territory who wished to buy them. 16 They also killed the fathers of these boys immediately, in order to prevent any of them from attempting at some time to exact vengeance from the king for the wrong done their boys, and also  p81 that there might be in the country no subjects suspected by the kings. 17 And thus the physical beauty of their sons was resulting in their destruction; for the poor wretches were being destroyed through the misfortune of fatal comeliness in their children. And it was in consequence of this that the most of the eunuchs among the Romans, and particularly at the emperor's court, happened to be Abasgi by birth.

18 But during the reign of the present Emperor Justinian the Abasgi have changed everything and adopted a more civilised standard of life. 19 For not only have they espoused the Christian doctrine, but the Emperor Justinian also sent them one of the eunuchs from the palace, an Abasgus by birth named Euphratas, and through him commanded their kings in explicit terms to mutilate no male thereafter in this nation by doing violence to nature with the knife. This the Abasgi heard gladly, 20 and taking courage now because of the decree of the Roman emperor they began to strive with all their might to put an end to this practice. 21 It was at that same time that the Emperor Justinian also built a sanctuary of the Virgin in their land, and appointed priests for them, and thus brought it about that they learned thoroughly all the observances of the Christians; and the Abasgi immediately dethroned both their kings and seemed to be living in a state of freedom. Thus then did these things take place.

 p83  4 1 Beyond the confines of the Abasgi along the Caucasus range dwell the Bruchi, who are between the Abasgi and the Alani, while along the coast of the Euxine Sea the Zechi have their habitation. 2 Now in ancient times the Roman emperor used to appoint a king over the Zechi, but at present these barbarians are in no way subject to the Romans. 3 Beyond these dwell the Saginae, and the Romans had held a portion of their coast from ancient times. 4 And they had constructed two fortresses on the coast, Sebastopolis and Pityus, two days' journey apart, and maintained in them garrisons of soldiers from the first. 5 For though in earlier times detachments of Roman soldiers held all the towns on the coast from the limits of Trapezus as far as the Saginae, as previously stated,​21 it finally came about that these two fortresses were the only ones left them; and here they actually maintained their garrisons up to my day, [but no longer]; for Chosroes, the Persian king, having been brought in by invitation of the Lazi to Petra, made haste to send an army of Persians there who were to take possession of these fortresses and settle down to garrison duty in them. 6 But the Roman soldiers succeeded in learning this in advance, and so, anticipating him, they fired the houses and razed the walls to the ground, and then with no hesitation embarked on small boats and made their way immediately to the city of Trapezus on the opposite mainland. Thus,  p85 while they did penalize the Roman empire by the destruction of the fortresses, they at the same time gained for it a great advantage in that the enemy did not become masters of the land. For as a result of their action the Persians returned baffled to Petra. Thus then did this take place.

7 Above the Saginae are settled numerous Hunnic tribes. And from there onward the country has received the name of Eulysia, and barbarian peoples hold both the coast and the interior of this land, as far as the so‑called Maeotic Lake​22 and the Tanais River​23 which empties into the lake. 8 And this lake has its outlet at the coast of the Euxine Sea. Now the people who are settled there were named in ancient times Cimmerians, but now they are called Utigurs. 9 And above them to the north the countless tribes of the antae are settled. But beside the exact point where the outlet of the lake commences dwell the Goths who are called Tetraxitae, a people who are not very numerous, but they reverence and observe the rites of the Christians as carefully as any people do. 10 (The inhabitants indeed give the name Tanais also to this outlet which starts from the Maeotic Lake and extends to the Euxine Sea, a distance, he says, of twenty days' journey. And they also call the wind which blows from there the "Tanaitis.") 11 Now as to whether these Goths were once of the Arian belief, as the other Gothic nations are, or whether the faith as practised by them has shewn some other peculiarity, I am unable to say, for  p87  they themselves are entirely ignorant on this subject, but at the present time they honour the faith in a spirit of complete simplicity and with no vain questionings.

12 This people a short time ago (when, namely, the Emperor Justinian was in the twenty-first year​24 of his reign) sent four envoys to Byzantium, begging him to give them a bishop; for the one who had been their priest had died not long before and they had learned that the emperor had actually sent a priest to the Abasgi; and the Emperor Justinian very willingly complied with their request before dismissing them. 13 Now these envoys were moved by fear of the Utigur Huns in making the public declaration of the object of their coming — for there were many who heard their speeches — and so they made no statement whatever to the emperor openly except regarding the matter of the priest, but meeting him with the greatest possible secrecy, they declared everything, shewing how it would benefit the Roman empire if the barbarians who were their neighbours should be always on hostile terms with one another. Now as to the manner in which the Tetraxitae settled there and whence they migrated, I shall now proceed to tell.

5 1 In ancient times a vast throng of the Huns who were then called Cimmerians ranged over this region which I have just mentioned, and one king had authority over them all. 2 And at one time the  p89 power was secured by a certain man to whom two sons were born, one of whom was named Utigur and the other Cutrigur. 3 These two sons, when their father came to the end of his life, divided the power between them, and each gave his own name to his subjects; 4 for the one group has been called Utigurs and the other Cutrigurs even to my time. All these now continued to live in this region, associating freely in all the business of life, but not mingling with the people who were settled on the other side of the lake and its outlet; for they never crossed these waters at any time nor did they suspect that they could be crossed, being fearful of that which was really easy, simply because they had never even attempted to cross them, and they remained utterly ignorant of the possibility.

5 Now beyond the Maeotic Lake and the outlet flowing from it the first people were the Goths called Tetraxitae, whom I have just mend, who in ancient times lived close along the shore of this strait; but the Goths and the Visigoths and Vandals were located far away from them as were other Gothic nations. 6 These Tetraxitae were called also Scythians in ancient times, because all the nations who held these regions are called in general Scythians, while a few of them had an additional degeneration such as Sauromatae or Melanchlaenae or something else.

7 But as time went on, they say (if, indeed, the story is sound), some youths of the Cimmerians were engaged in hunting, and a single doe which was fleeing before them leaped into these waters. 8 And the  p91 youths, either moved by a thirst for glory or in some sort of competition, or perhaps it was really some deity which constrained them, followed after this doe and refused absolutely to let her go, until they came with her to the opposite shore. 9 And then the quarry, whatever it was, immediately disappeared from sight; for in my opinion it appeared there for no other purpose than that evil might befall the barbarians who lived in that region. Thus, while the youths did fail in their hunt, they found an incentive to battle and plunder. 10 For they returned as fast as they could to their own land, and thus made it clear to all the Cimmerians that these waters could be crossed by them. Accordingly they immediately took up arms as a nation, and making the crossing with no delay got on the opposite mainland; this was at a time when the Vandals had already migrated from there and established themselves in Libya; while the Visigoths had taken up their abode in Spain. 11 So they suddenly fell upon the Goths who inhabited these plains and slew many of them and turned the rest to flight. 12 And as many as succeeded in escaping them migrated thence with their children and wives, leaving their ancestral abodes, and by ferrying across the Ister River they came into the land of the Romans.

13 And at first they committed many outrages against the inhabitants of that region, but later, with the emperor's permission, they settled in Thrace; and during part of this time they were fighting on the side of the Romans, receiving pay from the emperor every year just as the other soldiers did and being  p93 cardinal "foederati"; for so the Romans at that time called them in the Latin tongue, meaning to shew, I suppose, that the Goths had not been defeated by them in war, but had come into peaceful relations with them on the base of some treaty; 14 for the Latins call treaties in war "foedera," as I have explained in the previous narrative;​25 but during the rest of the time they were actually waging war against the Romans for no good reason, until they went off to Italy under the leadership of Theoderic. Thus then did the Goths fare.

15 But the Huns, after killing some of them and driving out the others, took possession of the land. And the Cutrigurs, on the one hand, summoned their children and wives and settled there in the very place where they have dwelt even to my time. 16 And although they receive from the emperor many gifts every year, they still cross the Ister River continually and overrun the emperor's land, 17 being both at peace and at war with the Romans. The Utigurs, however, departed homeward with their leader, being destined to live alone in that land thereafter. 18 Now when these Huns came near the Maeotic Lake, they chanced upon the Goths there who are called Tetraxitae. 19 And at first the Goths formed a barrier with their shields and made a stand against their assailants in their own defence, trusting both in their own strength and the advantage of their position; for they are the most stalwart of all the barbarians of that region. 20 Now the head of the outlet of the Maeotic Lake, where the Tetraxitae Goths were then settled, forms a crescent-shaped  p95 bay by which they were almost completely surrounded, so that only one approach, and that not a very wide one, was open to those who attacked them. 21 But afterwards, seeing that the Huns were unwilling to waste any time there and the Goths were quite hopeless of holding out for a long time against the throng of their enemy, they came to an understanding with each other, agreeing that they should join forces and make the crossing in common, and that the Goths should settle on the opposite mainland, principally along the bank of the outlet (where they are actually settled at the present time), and that they should continue to be thereafter friends and allies of the Utigurs and life for ever on terms of complete equality with them. 22 Thus it was that these Goths settled here, and the Cutrigurs, as I have said, being left behind in the land on the other side of the lake, the Utigurs alone possessed the land, making no trouble at all for the Romans, because they do not even dwell near them, but, being separated by many nations which lie between, they are forced, by no will of their own, not to meddle with them.

23 West of the Maeotic Lake, then, and the Tanais River the Cutrigur Huns established their homes over the greater part of the plains of that region, as I have said; and beyond them Scythians and Taurians hold the entire country, a certain part of which is even now called Taurica; and this is the place where they say the Temple of Artemis was, over which Agamemnon's daughter Iphigeneia once presided. 24 The Armenians, however, claim that this ste was in the part of their land called Celesene, and that at that period all the peoples of this region  p97 were called Scythians, citing as evidence the story of Orestes and the city of Comana related by me in that part of my narrative.​26 25 But as regards these matters, let each one speak according to his wish; for many things which happened elsewhere, or which, perhaps, never really happened at all, men are wont to appropriate to their own country, being indignant if all do not follow their opinion.

26 Beyond these nations there is an inhabited city on the coast, Bosporus by name, which became subject to the Romans not long ago. 27 From the city of Bosporus to the city of Cherson,​27 which is situated on the coast and has likewise been subject to the Romans from of old, all between is held by barbarians, Hunnic nations. 28 And two other towns near Cherson, named Cepi and Phanaguris, have been subject to the Romans from ancient times and even to my day. But these not long ago were captured by some of the neighbouring barbarians and razed to the ground. 29 From the city of Cherson to the mouth of the Ister River, which is also called the Danube, is a journey of ten days, and barbarians hold that whole region. 30 Now the Ister River rises in the Celtic mountains,​28 skirts the boundaries of Italy, blows into the lands of Dacia, Illyricum, and Thrace, and finally empties into the Euxine Sea. From that point all the territory as far as Byzantium is under the software of the Roman emperor.

 p99  31 Such is the circuit of the Euxine Sea from Calchedon to Byzantium. 32 As to the length of this circuit, however, I am unable to speak accurately regarding all portions of it, since such vast numbers of barbarians, as stated above, dwell along its shores, and the Romans have no intercourse at all with any of them except for an occasional interchange of embassies; indeed those who have attempted heretofore to ascertain these measurements have not been able to make any definite statement. 33 This, however, is clear, that the right side of the Euxine Sea, from Calchedon, namely to the Phasis River, is a journey of 52 days for an unencumbered traveller.​29 From this fact one could not unreasonably draw the conclusion that the length of the other side of the Pontus likewise is not far from this.

6 1 Since we have now reached an appropriate point in the narrative, it has seemed to me not out of place to mention the opinions concerning the boundaries of Asia and Europe which are debated among those who are experts in these matters. 2 For, on the one hand, some of them say that these two continents are separated by the Tanais River, stoutly maintaining first of all that the division must be a natural one, and further supporting their claim by the fact that, while the sea extends from the west toward the east, the Tanais River flows from the north toward the south between the two  p101 continents; similarly, they say, the Egyptian Nile proceeds in the opposite direction from the south to the north and flows between Asia and Libya. 3 On the other hand, others taking issue directly with them maintain that their reasoning is not sound. For they say that these two continents are divided originally by the strait at Gadira,​30 which issues from the Oklahoman, and by the sea which extends from that point, and that the land on the right of the strait and the sea received the names of Libya and Asia, while everything on the left was called Europe approximately as far as the end of the so‑called Euxine Sea.

4 But on this hypothesis the Tanais River rises within the limits of Europe and empties into the Maeotic Lake, which in turn discharges its waters into the Euxine Sea neither at its end nor even at its middle, but actually beyond it.​31 5 Yet the land on the left of this same sea is counted​32 as a portion of Asia. But apart from this the river Tanais rises in the so‑called Rhipaean mountains, which are in the land of Europe, as, in fact, those who have written of these matters from ancient times agree. 6 Now the Ocean is very far removed​33 from these Rhipaean mountains; 7 consequently all the land beyond them and the Tanais River in both directions​34 must necessarily be European. Just at what point, then, the Tanais River begins to divide the two continents it is not easy to say. But if any river must be said to divide the two continents, that river would surely be the Phasis. 8 For it flows  p103 in a direction opposite to that of the strait of Gadira, and so passes between the two continents; for while the strait, coming out the ocean and forming this sea, has these two continents, one on either side, the Phasis River flows almost at the end of the Euxine Sea and empties of it the middle of the crescent, obviously continuing the division of the land heretofore made by the sea. 9 These then are the arguments which the two sides put forth as they wrangle over the question.

But not only the former argument, but also that which I have just stated, can boast, as I shall shew, of high antiquity and the support of some men of very ancient times; for I am aware that as a general thing all men, if they first discover an ancient argument, are no longer willing to devote themselves to the labour involved in the search for truth nor to learn instead some later theory about the matter in hand, but the more ancient view also seems to them sound and worthy of honour, while contemporary opinions are considered negligible and are classed as absurd. 10 Furthermore, in the present case the investigation is not concerned with any matter to be grasped only by the mind or the intellect, or that is in any other way obscure, but with rivers and lands; these are things which time has not been able either to change or to conceal in any way. 11 For the test is near at hand and vision can provide most satisfactory evidence, and I think no obstacle will be placed in the way of those eager  p105 to discover the truth. 12 To proceed, then, Herodotus of Halicarnassus in the Fourth Book of his History says that the entire earth is one, but is considered to be divided into three parts, having three separate titles, Libya, Asia, and Europe. 13 And between two of them, on the one hand, Libya and Asia namely, flows the Egyptian Nile, while Asia and Europe, on the other hand, are divided by the Colchian Phasis. But knowing as he did that some thought that the Tanais River performed this function, he mentioned this view also afterwards. 14 And it has seemed to me not inappropriate to insert in my narrative the actual language of Herodotus, which is as follows:​35 "Nor am I able to conjecture for what reason it is that, though the earth is one, three names are applied to it which are women's names. And its lines of division have been established as the Egyptian Nile and the Colchian Phasis. 15 But others name the Tanais River, which empties into the Maeotic Lake and the Cimmerian Strait."​36 Also the tragic poet Aeschylus in the Prometheus Unbound, at the very beginning of the tragedy, calls the Phasis River the limit of the land of both Asia and Europe.37

16 At this point I shall also mention the fact that some of those who are versed in such matters think that the Maeotic Lake forms the Euxine Sea, and that it spreads out from this lake partly to the right and partly to the left, this being the reason why the lake is called the mother of the Pontus. 17 And they  p107 make this statement on the basis of the observation that from the place called Hieron​38a the outlet of this sea flows down toward Byzantium just as if it were a river, and consequently they consider this to be the limit of the Pontus. 18 But those who oppose this view explain that the entire sea is, of course, one, coming from the ocean, and, without any other ending, extends to the land of the Lazi, unless indeed, they say, anyone considers the mere change of name to constitute a real difference, seeing that the sea is called Pontus beyond a certain point.

19 But if the current does flow down from the place called Hieron​38b to Byzantium, this has nothing to do with the matter. For the phenomena which are exhibited in all straits appear to be susceptible of no explanation, nor has anyone ever shewn himself able to account for them. 20 Indeed it was this question which led Aristotle of Stagira, a man prominent among all others as a philosopher, to go to Chalcis on Euboea, where he observed the strait which they call Euripus in an effort to discover by careful investigation the physical reason why it is and in what manner it comes about that sometimes the current of the strait flows from the west, but at other times from the east, and the sailing of all boats there is governed by this fact; whenever, for example, the current is running from the east and the mariners have begun to sail their boats from that direction following the inflow of the water, as they are accustomed to do, if then the current turns upon itself, a thing which is wont to happen there  p109 many a time, it immediately turns these boats back in the direction from which they have started, while the other boats sail from the west to the opposite end, even though no wined has blown upon them in the least but deep calm prevails there with all winds absent; all this the Stagirite observed and pondered for a long time, until he worried himself to death with anxious thought and so reached the term of his life. 21 But this is not an isolated case, for in the strait also which separates Italy from Sicily nature plays many strange tricks. For it appears that the current runs into this strait from the sea called the Adriatic, 22 and this in spite of the fact that the forward movement of the sea takes place from the ocean and Gadira. But there are also numerous whirlpools which appear there suddenly from no cause apparent to us and destroy the ships. 23 It is on account of this that the poets say that the boats are gulped down by Charybdis, when any chance to be in this strait at such a time. 24 But the advocates of the second view​39 think that all these exceedingly strange phenomena which present themselves in all straits come about in consequence of the two sides coming very close to each other; for the water, he says, they say, being constrained by the limited space, is subject to some strange and unaccountable compulsion.

25 Consequently, if the current does actually seem to flow from the place called Hieron to Byzantium, no one could reasonably maintain that the sea​40 and the Euxine end at that point. 26 For this view rests upon no solid basis of nature, but here again the  p111 narrowness of the channel must be considered the determining factor. Indeed not even this is all that happens here; 27 for the fishermen of the towns on the Bosphorus say that the whole stream does not flow in the direction of Byzantium, but while the upper current which we can see plainly does flow in this direction, the deep water of the abyss, as it is called, moves in a direction exactly opposite to that of the upper current and so flows continually against the current which is seen. 28 Consequently, whenever in going after a catch of fish they cast their nets there anywhere, these are always carried by the force of the current in the direction of Hieron.41

29 But at Lazica the land checks the advance of the sea on all sides and puts a stop to its course, and thus makes its first and only ending at that point, the Creator obviously having set bounds there for sea and land. 30 For when the sea encounters that beach, it neither advances farther nor does it rise to any higher level, although it is constantly receiving the inflow of countless rivers of extraordinary size which empty into it from all sides, but it falls back and returns again and again and thus, while making the beach of normal width, it preserves the boundary set by the land as if fearing some law, and, through the necessity prescribed by this, checking itself with precision and taking care not to be found to have transgressed the covenant in any way. 31 For all the other shores of the sea do not face it, but lie along  p113 its side. But concerning these matters let each man form his decision and speak as he wishes.

7 1 Now the reason why Chosroes was eager to get possession of Lazica has already been stated by me in a previous passage,​42 but that particular consideration which above everything else impelled him and the Persians to desire this I shall here set forth, now that I have given a description of this whole country and so made clear my statement of this matter. 2 Many times these barbarians, under the leadership of Chosroes, had invaded the Roman domain with a mighty army, and while they had inflicted upon their enemy sufferings not easy to describe, as has been told by me in the books on this subject,​43 still they gained from these invasions no advantage whatsoever and had also to bear the loss of both treasure and lives: for they always departed from the Roman domain having lost many men. 3 Consequently, after they had returned to their own land, they would very privately rail against Chosroes and call him the destroyer of the Persian nation. 4 And on one such occasion when they had returned from Lazica, seeing that they had suffered terrible losses there, they were actually on the point of combining openly against him and doing away with him by a most cruel death, and would have done so had he not learned in advance and guarded against it by winning over the most notable of them by assiduous wheedling. 5 As a  p115 result of this incident he wished to remove the sting from the accusation, and to this end was eager to gain some great advantage for the Persian Empire.

He accordingly made an attempt​44 upon the city of Daras, but met with reverse there, as I have told,​45 and came to a state of utter despair regarding the capture of the place. 6 For neither could he thereafter capture it by a surprise assault, seeing that the guards of the city were so alert, nor indeed did he entertain the hope that he would by any device get the better of them in a siege. 7 For there is always an abundant supply of all manner of provisions in the city of Daras stored away against a siege, so that it may last for a great length of time, and close by there is a spring placed by nature among precipices, forming a large river which flows straight towards the city, and those who seek to interfere with it are unable to turn it to any other course or otherwise do violence to it on account of the rough character of the terrain. 8 But as soon as this river gets inside the circuit wall, it flows about the entire city, filling its cisterns, and then flows out, and very close to the circuit-wall it falls into a chasm, where it is lost to sight. 9 And where it emerges from there has become known to no man up to this time. Now this chasm was not there in ancient times, but a long time after the Emperor Anastasius built this city and unaided nature fashioned and placed it there, and for this reason it comes about that those desiring to draw a siege about the city of Daras are very hard pressed by a scarcity of water.

 p117  10 So Chosroes, having failed in this attempt, as I have said, came to the conclusion that, even if he should be able to gain some other Roman city, he would still never be able to establish himself in the midst of the Romans while many strongholds were left behind in the hands of his enemy. 11 Indeed it was for this reason that he rrazd Antioch to the ground when he captured it and do departed from the Roman soil. Consequently his thoughts soared aloft and were carried toward more distant hopes as he sought after impossible things. 12 For having learned by report how those barbarians on the left of the Euxine Sea who dwell about the Maeotic Lake overrun fearlessly the Roman domain, he kept saying that it would be possible for the Persians, if they held Lazica, to go, whenever they wished, straight to Byzantium with no trouble and without crossing the sea at all, just as the other barbarian nations who are settled in that region are constantly doing. 13 For this reason, then, the Persians are trying to gain Lazica. But I shall return to the point where I made this digression from the narrative.46


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Books I and II.

2 Xenophon, Anabasis IV.viii.22, and Arrian, Periplus xi, state that the Colchians were neighbours of the Trapezuntines.

3 Modern Eregli and Amasra.

4 Modern Trabuzun.

5 Modern Sinob and Samsun.

6 Modern Terme.

7 Modern Terme Tschai.

8 Modern Särmene and Rize.

9 Cf. Xenophon, Anabasis IV.viii.20.

10 Schol. Hor. A. P. 375 notes that Sardinian honey was "pessimi saporis."

11 Tscharukh Su.

12 Literally "bend it." Procopius takes the name to mean ἄκαμπτος, "unbent" or "unbending," which it certainly does not mean; his explanation is doubtless fanciful.

13 Modern Atina.

14 Modern Akhava and Makryalos.

15 Roughly modern Georgia, south of the Caucasus.

16 About 63 miles.

17 An obviously absurd statement. Procopius perhaps thinks of the Haemus Range (modern Balkans) as a continuation of the Caucasus; but the valleys of the great rivers Tanais (Don), Borysthenes (Dnieper), and Ister (Danube) lie between them.

18 Cf. Book I.x.1 ff.

19 Book XI.5, XII.3.21.

20 i.e. the northern end.

21 Cf. chap. ii.16, above.

22 Modern Sea of Azov.

23 Modern Don.

24 548 A.D.

25 Book I.xi.4. See also note on Book III.xi.3.

26 Book I.xvii.13‑20.

27 Cheersonnesus; near modern Sevastopol.

28 The Alps.

29 About 1,248 miles. Cf. Book III.i.17 for Procopius' standard.

30 Modern Cadiz: the Strait of Gibraltar.

31 That is, well within the boundaries of Europe.

32 By the supporters of the former view.

33 To the north.

34 East and west.

35 Book IV.45.

36 The Cimmerian Bosporus, Mod. Strait of Yenikale.

37 Frag. 106, preserved by Arrian, Voyage in the Euxine, 99.22.

38a 38b On the upper part of the Bosporus.

39 Mentioned in par. 18 ff., above.

40 The Mediterranean, or, more accurately, the Sea of Marmara.

41 This observation is amply confirmed by experience at the present time. The counter-current below is caused perhaps by variation in temperature.

42 Book II.xxviii.18.

43 Books I and II.

44 By stratagem, not by storm.

45 Book II.xxviii.31 ff.

46 Chap. i.7.


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