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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.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. V) Procopius

Book VIII (continued)

 p353  29 1 Such were the events of the march of the Roman army. Now Totila, having already learned what had taken place in Venetia, at first remained quiet in the vicinity of Rome awaiting Teias and his army. 2 But when they had come and only two thousand horsemen were still missing, Totila, without awaiting these, started on the march with all the rest of the army in order to encounter the enemy in a suitable place. 3 But he learned on this march both what had befallen Usdrilas and also that his enemy had passed by Ariminum, whereupon he crossed the whole of Tuscany, and upon reaching the mountains called the Apennines established his camp there and remained close to a village which the inhabitants call Taginae.1 4 And the Roman army led by Narses also made camp on the Apennines not long afterward and remained in that position, about one hundred stades distant from the camp of their opponents, in a place which is level but surrounded by many hills close by, the very place where once, they say, Camillus as general of the Romans defeated in battle and destroyed the host of the Gauls.2 5 And the place even to my day bears witness to this deed in its name and preserves the memory of the disaster which befell the Gauls, being called Busta Gallorum.3 For the Latins call the remains of the funeral pyre "Busta." 6 And there are great numbers of mounded tombs of their bodies in this place.

 p355  Now Narses immediately sent from there some of his associates, bidding them exhort Totila to lay aside warfare and at last make plans for peace, for he must realize that as ruler of only a small number of men recently banded together by no law, he would not be able to contend for very long with the whole Roman empire. 7 But he told them this also, that, if they saw that Totila was determined to fight, they should immediately urge him to appoint a definite day for the battle. 8 These envoys accordingly came before Totila and carried out their instructions. And he in a spirit of bravado began to boast that by all means they must fight, but the envoys rejoined quickly, "Very well, good Sir, appoint some definite time for the engagement." Whereupon he immediately said, "At the end of eight days let us match our strength." 9 So the envoys returned to Narses and reported their agreement, whereupon he, suspecting that Totila was planning treachery, made preparations to fight on the following day. 10 And in fact he was right in his judgment of the purpose of the enemy. For on the succeeding day Totila was at hand self-announced with his whole army. And immediately the two armies took up positions opposite one another, not more than two bowshots apart.

11 Now there was a small hill there which both were eager to occupy, thinking that it was favourably situated for their purposes, both in order to shoot at their opponents from a high point of vantage, and also because the ground being hilly thereabout, as I have previously stated, it was impossible for anyone to encircle the Roman camp on that side  p357 and get behind it except by following a single path which happened to skirt the hill. 12 Consequently both of them were bound to consider it of particular importance; the Goths, in order that they might surround their enemy during the engagement and so place them between two forces, and the Romans, in order that they might not have this thing happen to them. 13 But Narses had anticipated the Goths by choosing fifty infantrymen from a cohort and sending them late at night to occupy and hold the hill. 14 And they, finding none of the enemy in the way, went there and remained quiet. 15 Now there is a certain water-course in front of the hill, running along the path which I have just mentioned and opposite the spot where the Goths had made their camp, and it was at this point that the fifty took up their position, standing shoulder to shoulder and arrayed in the form of a phalanx as well as the limited space permitted.

16 After day came, Totila saw what had happened and was eager to dislodge them. So he immediately sent a troop of horsemen against them with orders to drive them out from there as quickly as possible. 17 The horsemen accordingly charged upon them with great hubbub and shouting, intending to capture them at the first cry, but the Romans drew up together into a small space and, making a barrier with their shields and thrusting forward their spears, held their ground. 18 Then the Goths came on, charging in haste and thus getting themselves into disorder, while the fifty, pushing with their shields and thrusting very rapidly with their spears, which were nowhere allowed to interfere one with the other, defended themselves most vigorously against  p359 their assailants; and they purposely made a din with their shields, terrifying the horses, on the one hand, by this means, and the men, on the other, with the points of their spears. 19 And the horses became excited, because they were greatly troubled both by the rough ground and by the din of the shields, and also because they could not get through anywhere, while the men at the same time were gradually worn out, fighting as they were with men packed so closely together and not giving an inch of ground, and trying to manage horses that did not in the least obey their urging. 20 So they were repulsed in the first attack and rode back. And a second time they made the attempt and retired with the same experience. Then, after faring thus many times, they no longer continued the attack, but Totila substituted another troop for this work. 21 And when they fared as their predecessors had, still others undertook the task. So after Totila had in this way sent in many troops and had accomplished nothing with all of them, he finally gave up.

22 Thus the fifty won great renown for valour, but two of them distinguished themselves particularly in this action, Paulus and Ansilas, who had leaped out from the phalanx and made a display of valour surpassing all others. 23 For they drew their swords and laid them on the ground, and then stretched their bows and kept shooting with a most telling aim at the enemy. 24 And they destroyed many men and many horses as well, as long as their quivers still held arrows. At length, when their missiles had now entirely failed them, seizing their swords and holding their shields before them, all by themselves they warded off the assailants. 25 And whenever any  p361 of their opponents on horseback came at them with their spears, they immediately broke off the heads of the spears with a blow of their swords. 26 But after they had in this manner checked the onrushes of the enemy many times, it came about that the sword of one of them (this was Paulus) was bent double by the frequent cutting of the wooden shafts and so was utterly useless. 27 This then he immediately threw on the ground, and seizing the spears with both hands he would wrench them from his assailants. And by wrenching four spears from the enemy in this way in the sight of all he made himself the chief cause of their abandoning their attempt. 28 Wherefore, in consequence of the exploit, Narses made him a personal guard of his own from that time on.

30 1 Such was the progress of these events. Both armies now prepared for action. And Narses gathered his army in a small space and exhorted them as follows. "When an army is entering the combat with its strength evenly matched with that of the enemy, a long speech of exhortation and encouragement would perhaps be necessary of the sort which would inspire the men with ardour, in order that being superior to the enemy its respect they might find the issue of the combat wholly what they wish. But in your case, my men, you who have to fight against an army vastly inferior to you in value, in numbers, and in every sort of equipment besides, I think nothing  p363 further is necessary than that we enter this engagement with God propitious to us. 2 Do you, then, invoke His alliance with unceasing prayer, and so fare forth with great contempt to achieve the overthrow of these robbers, who being originally slaves of the great emperor and then turning fugitives and setting a tyrant over themselves who was a worthless fellow from the common rabble, have been able for a certain season to work havoc in the Roman empire by their thievish actions. 3 And yet one would have supposed that these men would not even have arrayed themselves against us now, if they had considered the probabilities. 4 Yet they are playing a desperate game with an irrational sort of boldness and displaying the rashness of frenzy, and in this spirit they dare to embrace a death which obviously awaits them, not shielding themselves by a reasonable hope, nor even looking forward to see what will fall to their lot through a strange and unexpected turn of events, but being indisputably led on by God to the punishment earned by their administration of the state. For such men as have been condemned to suffer by the powers above move on to their punishment unaided. 5 But aside from this, while you for your part are entering this combat in defence of a lawful government, they are in revolt against the laws and fighting a battle of desperation, not expecting to transmit anything they hold to any successors, but well assured that it will all perish with them and that the hope on which they live is ephemeral. 6 Consequently they deserve thoroughly to be despised. For those who are not organized under law and good government are bereft of all virtue, and the victory, naturally, is  p365 already decided; for victory is not accustomed to range itself against the virtues." 7 Such was the exhortation which Narses made.

And Totila likewise, seeing his men in abject terror of the Roman army, called them all together and spoke as follows: "Fellow-soldiers, I have brought you together here with the purpose of making a final exhortation. 8 For no other admonition will, I believe, be necessary after this battle, but the result will certainly be that the war will be decided on one day. 9 For so thoroughly have both we and the Emperor Justinian become exhausted and stripped of all power through being subjected to toils and battles and hardships for an exceedingly long time, and so completely have we found ourselves unable to meet the demands of the war, that, if we shall overcome our opponents in this present engagement, they will be utterly unable to come back in the future, while if we meet with any reverse in this battle, no hope will be left the Goths of renewing the fight, but either side will have in defeat a thoroughly sufficient excuse for inaction. 10 For when men once give up the fight against overwhelming obstacles, they no longer have the courage to return to them, but even when they are perhaps strongly impelled to do so by actual need, their hearts rebel, for the memory of their failure makes their spirit quail. 11 Having heard this, my men, play the brave part with all your might, without holding any fighting power in reserve for some other occasion, and put your whole strength into the struggle without trying to save your bodies for another danger. 12 And let there be on your part  p367 no sparing of arms or of horses, for they will never again be useful to you. For fortune, having demolished everything else, has preserved only the ultimate hopes for this day. 13 Tune your hearts, then, to a high courage, and make ready for deeds of noble daring. For when hope hangs by a thread, as it now does with you, the only safe course will be not to lose courage for the briefest moment of time. 14 For after the point of the crisis has passed, zeal becomes for ever worthless, even though it be of an altogether immoderate sort, since the nature of things has no place for valour after the event, for once the need has passed, everything which follows must necessarily be too late. 15 I believe, then, that you should enter the struggle making the best use of every opportunity which presents itself in action, so that you may be enabled also to enjoy the benefits to come from it. And you understand well that in the present situation he who flees thoroughly deserves his own destruction. 16 For men abandon their post, and flee for no other reason than that they may live; but if flight can be seen to involve the death of the fugitive, he who faces the danger will be in much greater safety than the man who flees. 17 But the vast number of the enemy is worthy only to be despised, seeing that they present a collection of men from the greatest possible number of nations. For an alliance which is patched together from many sources gives no firm assurance of either loyalty or power, but being split up in nationality it is naturally divided likewise in purpose. 18 And do not think that Huns and Lombards and Eruli, hired by them with I know not how much money, will ever endanger themselves for them to  p369 the point of death. 19 For life with them is not so cheap as to take second place to silver in their estimation, but I well know that after making an appearance of fighting they will desert with all speed, either because they have received their pay, or as carrying out the orders of their own commanders. 20 For even things that seem most delightful, — to say nothing of what happens in war — if they do not turn out in accordance with men's wishes, but if they are forced or hired or subject to any other compulsion, then such things will come no longer to be accounted pleasant, but by reason of the compulsion appear detestable. Remembering these things let us with all enthusiasm engage with the enemy."

31 1 Thus then spoke Totila. And the armies drew together for battle and arrayed themselves as follows. All the forces in each army took their stand facing the enemy, making the phalanx as deep as possible and the front very long. 2 And the Roman left wing was held by Narses and John near the hill, and with them was the flower of the Roman army; 3 for each of them had, apart from the other soldiers, a great following of spearmen and guards and barbarian Huns, all chosen for their valour; 4 and on the right were arrayed Valerian and John the Glutton along with Dagisthaeus and all the rest  p371 of the Romans. 5 Furthermore, they placed on both wings about eight thousand unmounted bowmen from the regular troops. But at the centre of the phalanx Narses had placed the Lombards and the nation of the Eruli and all the other barbarians, causing them to dismount from their horses and making them infantry, in order that, if it should chance that they turned cowards in the engagement or deserted, they might not be too eager to fly. 6 Now Narses had set the extreme left wing of the Roman front at an angle, placing fifteen hundred cavalry there. 7 And the instructions previously given provided that the five hundred, on the one hand, should rush to the rescue the moment that any of the Romans chanced to be driven back, while the thousand, at the moment when the enemy's infantry began action, were to get behind them immediately and thus place them between two forces. 8 And Totila arrayed his army in the same way opposite his enemy. Then going along his own battle-line he kept encouraging his soldiers with voice and expression and urging them to boldness. 9 Narses likewise did the same thing, holding in the air bracelets and necklaces and golden bridles on poles and displaying certain other incentives to bravery in the coming struggle. 10 For some time, however, neither army began battle, but both remained quiet awaiting the assault of their opponents.

11 But later on one man of the Gothic army named  p373 Coccas, who had a great reputation as an active fighter, rode his horse out and came close to the Roman army and uttered a challenge, if anyone was willing to come forth against him in single combat. 12 Now this Coccas happened to be one of the Roman soldiers who had previously deserted to Totila. 13 And immediately one of the spearmen of Narses stood forth against him, a man of Armenian birth named Anzalas, who was likewise mounted on a horse. 14 Coccas then made the first rush and charged his foe in order to smite him with his spear, aiming the weapon at his belly. 15 But Anzalas, by suddenly turning his horse aside, caused the charge of his enemy to be futile. By this manoeuvre he was placed on his enemy's flank and he now thrust his spear into his left side. 16 And Coccas fell from his horse to the ground and lay there a dead man. Whereupon a tremendous shout arose from the Roman army, but even then neither side began any fighting.

17 But Totila now went alone into the space between the armies, not in order to engage in single combat, but in order to prevent his opponents from using the present opportunity. For he had learned that the two thousand Goths who had been missing were now drawing near, and so he sought to put off the engagement until their arrival by doing as follows. 18 First of all, he was not at all reluctant to make an exhibition to the enemy of what manner of man he was. For the armour in which he was clad was abundantly plated with gold and the ample adornments which hung from his cheek-plates as well as from his helmet were not only of purple  p375 but in other respects befitting a king, marvellous in their abundance. 19 And he himself, sitting upon a very large horse, began to perform the dance under arms skilfully between the armies. For he wheeled his horse round in a circle and then turned him again to the other side and so made him run round and round. 20 And as he rode he hurled his javelin into the air and caught it again as it quivered above him, then passed it rapidly from hand to hand, shifting it with consummate skill, and he gloried in his practice in such matters, falling back on his shoulders, spreading his legs and leaning from side to side, like one who has been instructed with precision in the art of dancing from childhood. 21 By these tactics he wore away the whole early part of the day. And wishing to prolong indefinitely the postponement of the battle, he sent to the Roman army saying that he wished to confer with them. But Narses declared that he must be trifling, seeing that he had been set on fighting at the time when there was opportunity to make proposals, but now, upon reaching the battle-field, he came forward to parley.

32 1 Meanwhile the two thousand Goths arrived; and when Totila learned that they had reached the stockade, seeing that it was time for the morning meal, he himself went off to his own tent and the Goths began to break up their formation and retire. 2 And when Totila reached his quarters, he found the two thousand already present. He then commanded  p377 all to take their meal, and changing his entire equipment he armed himself with all care with the private soldier's equipment and led the army out straightway against his enemy, thinking that he would fall upon them unexpectedly and thus overwhelm them. 3 But even so he did not find the Romans unprepared. for Narses had feared, as actually happened, that the enemy would fall upon them when they were not expecting it, and so he had given orders that not a single man should either sit down to lunch or go off to sleep or even remove his cuirass, nor yet take his bridle off his horse. 4 However, he did not allow them to be altogether without food, but commanded them to eat a small meal in ranks and with their equipment on, meanwhile maintaining a sharp look‑out constantly and expecting the attack of the enemy. 5 However, they were no longer arrayed in the same formation as before, for the Roman wings, in each of which four thousand unmounted horsemen had taken their stand, were moved forward at Narses' command so as to form a crescent. 6 But the Gothic infantry were all placed in a body in the rear of the cavalry, in order that, if the horsemen should be routed, the fugitives might fall back upon them and be saved, and all could then advance immediately together.

Now orders had been given to the entire Gothic army that they should use neither bow nor any other weapon in this battle except their spears. 7 Consequently it came about that Totila was out‑generalled by his own folly; for in entering this battle he was led, by what I do not know, to throw  p379 against his opponents his own army with inadequate equipment and outflanked and in no respect a match for their antagonists. For the Romans, on the one hand, made use of each weapon in the fighting according to the particular need of the moment, shooting with bows or thrusting with spears or wielding swords, or using any other weapon which was convenient and suitable at a given point, some of them mounted on horses and others entering the combat on foot, their numbers proportioned to the needs of the situation, so that at one point they could carry out an encircling movement around the enemy, and at another receive a charge and with their shields stop short the attack. 8 The cavalry of the Goths, on the other hand, leaving their infantry behind, and trusting only to their spears, made their charge with reckless impetuosity; and once in the midst of the fray they suffered for their own folly. 9 For in making their charge against their enemy's centre they had, before they realized it, placed themselves in between the eight thousand infantry, and being raked by their bowshots from either side they gave up immediately, since the bowmen kept gradually turning both the wings of their front so as to form the crescent which I have mentioned above. 10 Consequently the Goths lost many men as well as many horses in this phase of the encounter before they had ever engaged with their opponents, and only after they had experienced very heavy losses did they with difficulty finally reach the ranks of their enemy.

11 At this point I cannot admire any of the Romans or of their barbarian allies more than the others. 12 For they all shewed a common enthusiasm and displayed  p381 the same valour and energy in action, for each of them received the enemy's attack with the utmost vigour and repulsed the assault. 13 And it was now toward evening when each of the two armies suddenly began to move, the Goths in retreat and the Romans in pursuit. 14 For the Goths could no longer hold out against the onslaught of their enemy, but began to give ground before their attacks, and finally turned precipitately, terrified by their great numbers and their perfect order. 15 And they gave not a thought to resistance, being as filled with terror as if some apparitions of the air had fallen upon them or as if Heaven were warring against them. 16 But when shortly they reached their own infantry, their misfortune was doubled and trebled. 17 For they did not come to them in an orderly retreat, as with the purpose of recovering their breath and renewing the fight with their assistance, as is customary; indeed they had no intention either of throwing back their pursuers by a massed attack or of undertaking a counter pursuit or any other military manoeuvre, but they arrived in such disorder that some of the men were actually destroyed by the onrushing cavalry. 18 Consequently the infantry did not open intervals to receive them nor stand fast to rescue them, but they all began to flee precipitately with the cavalry, and in the rout they kept killing each other just as in a battle at night. 19 Meanwhile the Roman army, profiting by their panic, continued to kill without mercy all who fell in their way, while their victims offered no defence nor dared look them in the face, but gave themselves up to their enemy to treat as they  p383 wished; so thoroughly had terror settled upon them and panic possessed them.

20 Six thousand of the Goths perished in this battle, while great numbers put themselves in the hands of their opponents. These the Romans for the moment made prisoners, but a little later they slew them. And not Goths alone were destroyed, but also great numbers of the old Roman soldiers who had earlier detached themselves from the Roman army and deserted, as I have told in the previous narrative,4 to Totila and the Goths. 21 But all the soldiers of the Gothic army who had the fortune neither to perish nor to come under the hand of their enemy were able to hide or to flee, according as each could avail himself of horse or foot or good luck so as to find opportunity for the one or a place for the other.

22 Such was the conclusion of this battle, and complete darkness was already settling down. But Totila was in flight through the night accompanied by not more than five men, one of whom chanced to be Scipuar, pursued by some of the Romans who did not know that he was Totila; among these was Asbadus of the Gepaedes. 23 This man had drawn close to Totila and was charging him with the purpose of thrusting his spear into his back. 24 But a Gothic youth of the household of Totila, who was following his fleeing master, outraged at what was taking place, cried aloud, "What is this, you dog? Are you rushing to smite your own master?" Then Asbadus thrust his spear with all his strength at  p385 Totila, but he himself was wounded in the foot by Scipuar and remained there. 25 And Scipuar was wounded in turn by one of the pursuers and stopped, whereupon those who had been making the pursuit with Asbadus, four in number, gave up the chase in order to save him, and turned back with him. 26 But the escort of Totila, thinking that the enemy were still pursuing them, rode forward without pausing, taking him along with great determination, though mortally wounded and fainting, for necessity compelled them to that headlong flight. 27 So after covering eighty-four stades they came to a place called Caprae.5 Here they rested from travel and endeavoured to treat the wound of Totila, who not long afterwards completed the term of his life. 28 And there his followers buried him in the earth and departed.

Such was the conclusion of the reign and the life of Totila, who had ruled the Goths eleven years. But the end which came to him was not worthy of his past achievements, for everything had gone well with the man before that, and his end was not commensurate with his deeds. 29 But here again Fortune was obviously disporting herself and tearing human affairs to shreds by way of making a display of her own perverse nature and unaccountable will; for she had endowed Totila of her own free will with prosperity for no particular reason for a long time, and then after this fashion smote the man with cowardice and destruction at the present time for no fitting cause. 30 But these things, I believe, have never  p387 been comprehensible to man, nor will they ever become so at any future time. And yet there is always much talk on this matter and opinions are being for ever bandied about according to each man's taste, as he seeks comfort for his ignorance in an explanation which seems reasonable. But I shall return to the previous narrative.

31 The Romans, indeed, did not know that Totila had been thus taken from the world, until a certain woman of the Gothic race told them and pointed out the grave. 32 But when they heard it they did not think the story sound, and so they came to the spot and with no hesitation dug out the grave and brought up from it the corpse of Totila; then, they say, after recognizing him and satisfying their curiosity with this sight, they again buried him in the earth and immediately reported the whole matter to Narses.

33 But some say that Totila's death and this battle happened otherwise than I have told it; and it has seemed to me not improper to record this version. 34 For these say that the retreat of the Gothic army did not take place in any strange and unaccountable manner, but while some of the Romans were shooting from a distance, a missile from a bow suddenly struck Totila, but not by the purpose of the man who had sent it, for Totila was armed in the fashion of a simple soldier and the place in the phalanx where he stood had been chosen at random; for he did not wish to be manifest to his enemy, nor would he, of course, expose himself to attack; but some chance prepared this fate for him and directed the  p389 shaft to the man's body. Then he, having suffered a mortal wound and being tortured with intense pain, withdrew from the phalanx with a few men and moved slowly away. 35 And as far as Caprae he endured the suffering and continued to ride his horse, but there he fainted and after that remained there to care for his wound, and not long afterwards the final day of his life came upon him. 36 Meanwhile the Gothic army, not being in any case a match for their opponents, upon seeing also that their commander had been unexpectedly rendered unfit for battle, became thunderstruck to think that Totila alone among them had been mortally wounded with no design on the part of the enemy, and consequently they became alarmed and discouraged and were plunged into terror which had no bounds and began to retreat in that disgraceful manner. But concerning these matters let each man speak according to his knowledge.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 More properly Tadinum; modern Gualdo Tadino.

2 This statement is quite untrue as it stands.

3 I.e. "Sepulchres of the Gauls." Here again Procopius is far from the truth. The Busta Gallorum of Livy V.xlviii were in the city of Rome.

4 Book VII.xi.7, etc.

5 Modern Caprara?

Thayer's Note: It seems very unlikely to me. Hodgkin, in Italy and Her Invaders, V.640, is willing to go along with Caprara on the tenuous grounds of after all, why not? I obligingly supply the why not: see my note ad loc.

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