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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Wars


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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(Vol. V) Procopius

Book VIII (continued)

 p207  15 1 In Byzantium, meanwhile, Chosroes' envoy Isdigousnas, in conferring with the Emperor Justinian regarding the peace, wasted a vast amount of time.  p209 2 And it was only after long-continued debates that they finally reached an agreement that for five years the truce should be observed in the realms of both sovereigns, while envoys passed back and forth from each country to the other, fearlessly carrying on negotiations for peace during this period until they should settle the points of disagreement regarding both Lazica and the Saracens. 3 It was further agreed that the Persians receive from the Romans for this five-year truce twenty centenaria​1 of gold, and for eighteen months which had elapsed between the expiration of the former truce and the time when they had commenced negotiations with each other in the present case, six centenaria more. 4 For the Persians declared that only on this understanding had they permitted negotiations for the treaty to proceed. 5 Isdigousnas further demanded that he should receive these twenty centenaria on the spot, but the emperor wished to give four each year, his purpose, of course, being that he might have surety that Chosroes would not violate the agreement. 6 Later, however, the Romans gave the Persians outright the entire amount of gold agreed upon, in order not to appear to be paying them tribute each year. 7 For it is the disgraceful name, and not the fact, which men are wont as a general thing to be ashamed of.

8 Now there was a certain man among the Persians named Bersabus, a person of especial note and a very close friend of King Chosroes. 9 Valerian had once happened upon this man in a battle in Armenia, and he took him prisoner and immediately sent him  p211 to the emperor at Byzantium. 10 And a long time passed while he was being kept under guard there. Now Chosroes was willing to advance a great amount of money for him, in order that he might see Bersabus returned to the land of Persia. 11 But on the present occasion the Emperor Justinian released the man at the request of Isdigousnas; for this ambassador promised the emperor to persuade Chosroes to remove the Persian army from Lazica. 12 Thus this armistice was arranged by the Romans and Persians in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of the Emperor Justinian. 13 Now the majority of the Romans were thoroughly displeased with this treaty; but whether the reproach they made was in some measure justified or as unreasonable as the complaints of subjects commonly are, I am unable to say.

14 These objectors kept saying that this peace had been made while Lazica was most firmly in the power of the Persians, whose purpose was that for five years no one might molest them, but that during this time they might be able without fear or hardship to occupy all the fairest parts of the land of Colchis; 15 and the Romans thereafter would be utterly unable to dislodge them from there in all time, but thenceforth Byzantium itself would be easily accessible to the Persians from that point. Such was the general view, and the people were consequently vexed and irritated and utterly pessimistic. 16 They were also moved by the fact that the very thing which the Persians had been striving for from ancient times, but which had seemed impossible of achievement either by war or by any other  p213 means, — that is to say, having the Romans subject to the payment of tribute to them — this had been most firmly achieved at the present juncture in the name of an armistice. 17 For Chosroes, by imposing upon the Romans an annual tribute of four centenaria, the very thing he had clearly been bent upon having from the first, has up to the present time in a space of eleven years and six months speciously gathered in forty‑six centenaria on the pretext of the armistice, giving to the tribute the name of treaty, although in the meantime he has, as stated, been carrying on a campaign of violence and war in Lazica. 18 From this plight the Romans had not the least hope of rescuing themselves in the future, but they perceived that they had in no hidden sense become tributary to the Persians. 19 Thus were these things done.

But Isdigousnas, in possession of money such as no envoy ever carried, and having become, I suppose, the wealthiest of all the Persians, departed on the homeward way, for the Emperor Justinian had honoured him in a signal manner and presented him with huge sums of money before his dismissal. 20 And this man, unlike all other ambassadors, did not have the experience of being under guard in any sense, but both he himself and all who followed him — and they were an exceedingly numerous company — enjoyed complete freedom for a long period of time in meeting and associating with whom they wished, walking about in every part of the city, buying and selling whatever they  p215 pleased, and carrying on all manner of transactions and devoting themselves with complete unconcern to the business connected therewith, just as they would in a city of their own, with not a Roman following or accompanying them at all or deigning to watch them, as is customary.

21 At this time an event occurred which has never happened before, as far at least as we know. For though the season of the year was late autumn, there was a very remarkable period of drought and hot weather as in the middle of summer, so that a great quantity of roses actually came out, as if it were spring, differing in no way at all from ordinary roses. 22 And practically all the trees brought forth new fruit again, while the clusters likewise appeared on the vines, although the vintage had already been gathered not many days before. 23 From these things those that are clever in such matters drew sundry conclusions, saying that some great and unexpected thing would take place, some that it would be good and others the opposite. 24 But I for my part think that this was the result of a sort of coincidence, the usual south winds having prevailed for a very long period, and great heat having consequently come upon the land beyond what is customary and not in keeping with the season. 25 But if it really does, as they say, indicate that some unexpected event will happen, we shall know most certainly from the future outcome.

 p217  16 1 While these negotiations were taking place in Byzantium between the Romans and Persians regarding the treaty, meantime the following took place in Lazica. 2 Gubazes, the king of the Lazi, was well disposed toward the Romans, for he perceived that Chosroes, as I have stated in the previous narrative,​2 was plotting his death. 3 But the most of the other Lazi, being subjected to outrageous treatment at the hands of the Roman soldiers, and being particularly angry with the commanders of the army, began to favour the Medes as a general thing, and not because they preferred the cause of the Persians, but because they wished to be rid of the Roman rule and preferred those difficulties which were not for the moment present. 4 Now there was a man of no mean station among the Lazi, Theophobius by name, who conferred very secretly with Mermeroes and promised to put the fortress of Uthimereos into his hands. 5 And he filled the man with great hopes and urged him to accomplish this, declaring that as a result of this deed he would not only be a very close friend of King Chosroes, but would also be inscribed by the Persians as a benefactor for all time, and consequently would become great in renown and in wealth and power. Theophobius was elated by these promises and kept working still more eagerly for the accomplishment of his purpose.

6 Now there was at that time no free movement of the Romans and Lazi, but, while the Persians were going about everywhere in that country with  p219 complete liberty, some of the Romans and Lazi were hiding by the Phasis River, while others had seized Archaeopolis or some other one of the strongholds there and were concealing themselves therein. Meanwhile Gubazes himself, the king of the Lazi, was remaining quietly at the summit of the mountains. 7 Consequently Theophobius was able with no difficulty to make good his promise to Mermeroes. For he went inside the fortress and stated to the Lazi and Romans who were keeping guard there that the whole Roman army had perished, that the cause of King Gubazes and of all the Lazi about him had been utterly lost, and that all Colchis was held by the Persians, and there was not one single hope for the Romans or Gubazes ever to win back the rule of the land. 8 For formerly, he pointed out, Mermeroes had accomplished this alone, bringing with him more than seventy thousand fighting men of the Persians and vast numbers of barbarian Sabiri; but now, he said, King Chosroes himself had actually come there with an unnumbered host and suddenly joined forces with them, and henceforth not even the whole land of the Colchians would suffice for this army. 9 With these high-flown words Theophobius reduced the guards there to a state of terror and helplessness. 10 And they besought him with entreaties in the name of their ancestral god to use all his power to turn the present situation to their advantage. 11 He then promised them that he would bring from Chosroes pledges for their safety, on condition that they surrender the fortress to the Persians.

 p221  The men were delighted with these terms and he immediately departed from the place, and coming again before Mermeroes explained everything. 12 Then Mermeroes selected the most notable men of the Persians and sent them with him to Uthimereos, for the purpose of arranging pledges both for the money and for the lives of the guards of the place and so taking possession of that fortress. 13 Thus did the Persians gain the fortress of Uthimereos and thereby secured the mastery of Lazica most firmly. 14 But not only did the Persians bring this land of Lazica under their sway, but also Scymnia and Suania, and in this way the whole territory from Mocheresis as far as Iberia became inaccessible to the Romans and the king of the Lazi. 15 And neither the Romans nor the Lazi were able to ward off the enemy, for they did not even dare to descend from the mountains or their strongholds, nor to make any advances against the enemy.

16 Mermeroes, as the winter season came on, built a wooden wall at Cotais and established there a guard of warlike Persians no less than three thousand strong, and he also left a sufficient force of men in Uthimereos. 17 And he also built up the other fortress of the Lazi which they call Sarapanis, situated at the very limit of the territory of Lazica, and remained there. 18 But later, upon learning that the Romans and Lazi were gathering and making camp at the mouth of the Phasis River, he moved against them with his whole army. 19 When Gubazes and the commanders of the Roman army learned this, refusing  p223 to withstand the enemy's attack they dispersed and saved themselves as each found it possible. 20 As for Gubazes, he ran up to the summit of the mountains and there proceeded to pass the winter along with his children and his wife and those particularly intimate with him, putting up with the rigours of winter because of the hopelessness of his present evil situation, but confident of the future because of his hope in Byzantium, and in this way finding consolation for the fortune then present, as men are wont to do, looking for a better day. 21 And the rest of the Lazi likewise, ashamed to be outdone by King Gubazes, were passing the winter as well as he among the crags, fearing indeed no difficulty from the enemy there, for these mountains are at all times impracticable and wholly inaccessible for an attacking force, and particularly during the winter, but forced to endure mortal suffering through hunger, cold, and the other hardships.

22 Meanwhile Mermeroes at his leisure built many houses in the villages throughout Mocheresis and established stores of supplies everywhere among these places; then by sending some of the deserters to the heights of the mountains and offering pledges he succeeded in winning over many; these were naturally in want of provisions, and he supplied them in generous measure and cared for them as his own; indeed he carried on the whole administration with an air of complete security, as having become lord of the land. 23 And he wrote the following letter to Gubazes: "Two things there are which harmonize the lives of men, power and wisdom. For some, who, by reason of their power, are superior to their  p225 neighbours, both live themselves according to their own desires and never fail to lead where they wish those less powerful than themselves, while others, though enslaved to the stronger through their weakness, can still remedy their impotence by discretion, and by courting the powerful with flattery are still able to live with their own possessions, enjoying by means of their conciliatory attitude everything of which they are deprived by their weakness. 24 And this does not hold only for some of the nations of men, while it is otherwise in other nations, but one might say that this is implanted in human experience universally in every part of the inhabited world like any other natural characteristic. 25 Do you, accordingly, my dear Gubazes, if you think you are going to overcome the Persians in the war, neither hesitate nor let anything stand in your way. 26 For you will find us in any part of Lazica you may choose ready to meet your attack and prepared in battle-array to fight for this land with all our might; so that in waging a decisive struggle you will have the opportunity to display your valour against us.27  If, however, even you yourself realize it is that you are unable to array yourself against the might of the Persians, then do you, good Sir, take the second alternative and 'know thyself,' and bow down before your master Chosroes as king and victor and lord. 28 And beg that he be merciful to you in spite of your acts, in order that you may be able henceforth to escape the evils which harass you. 29 For I personally promise that King Chosroes will be merciful to you and will give  p227 pledges, furnishing you as hostages sons of the notable rulers in Persia, that you will have your safety and your kingdom and everything else in security for all time. 30 But if neither of these things meets your wish, do you at least go off to some other land and thus grant to the Lazi, who have been reduced to wretchedness through your folly, recovery at length and respite from the difficulties which press upon them, and do not wish to inflict upon them this lingering destruction, being carried on by a deceptive hope, by which I mean assistance from the Romans. 31 For they will never be able to defend you, just as they have not been able up to the present day." Thus wrote Mermeroes. 32 But even so he did not persuade Gubazes, who remained among the summits of the mountains, awaiting the assistance to come from the Romans and, by reason of his hostility to Chosroes, absolutely unwilling to incline to despair of the Romans. 33 For men as a general thing adapt their decisions to the dictates of their desire, and while, on the one hand, they incline toward the argument which pleases them and espouse all its consequences, not investigating to see whether it may be false, they, on the other hand, are outraged by the one which annoys them and they distrust it, never searching out to see whether it may not be true.

17 1 ​3 At about this time certain monks, coming from India and learning that the Emperor Justinian  p229 entertained the desire that the Romans should no longer purchase their silk from the Persians, came before the emperor and promised so to settle the silk question that the Romans would no longer purchase this article from their enemies, the Persians, nor indeed from any other nation; 2 for they had, they said, spent a long time in the country situated north of the numerous nations of India — a country called Serinda — and there they had learned accurately by what means it was possible for silk to be produced in the land of the Romans. 3 Whereupon the emperor made very diligent enquiries and asked them many questions to see whether their statements were true, and the monks explained to him that certain worms are the manufacturers of silk, nature being their teacher and compelling them to work continually. 4 And while it was impossible to convey the worms thither​4 alive, it was still practicable and altogether easy to convey their offspring. Now the offspring of these worms, they said, consisted of innumerable eggs from each one. 5 And men bury these eggs, long after the time when they are produced, in dung, and, after thus heating them for a sufficient time, they bring forth the living creatures. 6 After they had thus spoken, the emperor promised to reward them with large gifts and urged them to confirm their account in action. 7 They then once more went to Serinda and brought back the eggs to Byzantium, and in the manner described caused them to be transformed into worms, which they fed on the leaves of the mulberry; and thus  p231 they made possible from that time forth the production of silk in the land of the Romans.​5 8 At that time then matters stood thus between the Romans and the Persians, both as touching the war and in regard to silk.

9 After the winter season Isdigousnas arrived at the court of Chosroes with the money and announced the terms agreed upon by them. And Chosroes, upon receiving the money, confirmed the armistice without any hesitation, but he was utterly unwilling to relinquish Lazica. 10 In fact he actually used this money to purchase the alliance of a vast horde of the Sabiri Huns, and he sent them immediately with some Persians to Mermeroes, whom he directed to pursue his task with all the power at his disposal; and he sent him, furthermore, a large number of elephants.

11 Mermeroes, accordingly, accompanied by the whole army of Persians and Huns, departed from Mocheresis and moved against the strongholds of the Lazi, taking the elephants with him. 12 The Romans, however, offered no resistance whatever, but under the leadership of Martinus they made themselves as secure as possible in a naturally strong position near the mouth of the Phasis River and there remained quiet. 13 And Gubazes, the king of the Lazi, was also with them. But this Medic army, because of a certain chance which befell it, did no harm to anyone either of the Romans or of the Lazi. 14 For in the first place Mermeroes, learning that the sister of Gubazes was in a certain fortress, led his army against this with the intention of capturing it  p233 at all hazards. 15 But because the guards of that place offered a most valiant resistance and also because the naturally strong position gave them material assistance, the barbarians were repulsed from the town without accomplishing their purpose and withdrew; whereupon they hastily directed their course against the Abasgi. 16 But the Romans keeping guard in Tzibile seized the pass, which was very narrow and precipitous, as I have stated previously,​6 and quite impossible to force, and thus they blocked their way. 17 Consequently Mermeroes, having no means of dislodging his opponents by force, led his army back and straightway moved on Archaeopolis with the purpose of besieging it. But, upon making trial of the circuit-wall, he met with no success and consequently turned back again. 18 But the Romans followed up the retreating enemy and in a dangerous pass began to slay many of them, among those who fell being, as it chanced, the commander of the Sabiri. 19 And a fierce battle taking place over the corpse, the Persians finally, at dusk, forced back their opponents and routed them, after which they retired to Cotaïs and Mocheresis. Such then were the fortunes of the Romans and the Persians.

20 In Libya, on the other hand, affairs had taken an altogether favourable turn for the Romans. For it so fell out that John, whom the Emperor Justinian had appointed General there, met with a number of incredible pieces of good fortune, 21 since after securing the alliance of one of the Moorish rulers, Cutzinas by name, he first defeated the others in battle, and not long afterwards reduced to subjection  p235 Antalas and Iaudas, who held the sovereignty over the Moors of Byzacium and Numidia, and they joined his train in the position of slaves. 22 And as a result of this the Romans had for the time no enemy in Libya at any rate. But by reason of the previous wars and insurrections the land remained for the most part destitute of human habitation.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 See Book, note.

2 Book II.xxix.2.

3 Cf.  Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. XL.

4 To Byzantium.

5 Silk has been manufactured in Asia Minor, notably at Broussa (Prusa), up to the present day.

6 Chap. x.1, above.

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