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the East.* While Chosroes pursued his ambitious designs on the coast of the Euxine, Belisarius, at the head of an army without pay or discipline, encamped beyond the Euphrates, within sis miles of Nisibis. He meditated, by a skilful operation, to draw the Persians from their impregnable citadel, and improving his advantage in the field, either to intercept their retreat, or perhaps to enter the gates with the flying Barbarians. He advanced one day'3 journey on the territories of Persia, reduced the fortress ot Sisaurane, and sent the governor, with eight hundred chosen horsemen, to serve the emperor in his Italian wars. He detached Arethas and his Arabs, supported by twelve hundred Romans, to pass the Tigris, and to ravage the harvests of Assyria, a fruitful province, long exempt from the calamities of war. But the plans of Belisarius were disconcerted by the untractable spirit of Arethas, who neither returned to the camp, nor sent any intelligence of his motions. The Roman general was fixed in anxious expectation to the same spot; the time of action elapsed, the ardent sun of Mesopotamia inflamed with fevers the blood of his European soldiers; and the stationary troops and officers of Syria affected to tremble for the safety of their defenceless cities. Yet this diversion had already succeeded in forcing Chosroes to return with loss and precipitation; and if the skill of Belisarius had been seconded by discipline and valour, his success might have satisfied the sanguine wishes of the public, who required at his hands the conquest of Ctesiphon and the deliverance of the captives of Antioch. At the end of the campaign, he was recalled to Constantinople by an ungrateful court, but the dangers of the ensuing spring restored his confidence and command; and the hero, almost alone, was dispatched, with the speed of post horses, to repel, by his name and presence, the invasion of Syria. He found the Roman generals, among whom was a nephew of Justinian, imprisoned by their fears in the fortifications of Hierapolis. But instead of listening to their timid counsels, Belisarius commanded them to follow him to Europus, where he had
* In the public history of Procopius (Persic. 1. 2, c. 16. 18—21. 24— 28), and with some slight exceptions, we may reasonably shut our ears against the malevolent whisper of the Anecdotes (c. 2, 3, with the notes, as usual, of Alemannus).
resolved to collect his forces, and to execute whatever God should inspire him to achieve against the enemy. His firm attitude on the banks of the Euphrates restrained Chosroes from advancing towards Palestine; and he received with art and dignity the ambassadors, or rather spies, of the Persian monarch. The plain between Hierapolis and the river was covered with the squadrons of cavalry, six thousand hunters, tall and robust, who pursued their game without the apprehension of an enemy. On the opposite bank the ambassadors descried a thousand Armenian horse, who appeared to guard the passage of the Euphrates. The tent of Belisarius was of the coarsest linen, the simple equipage of a warrior who disdained the luxury of the East. Around his tent, the nations who marched under his standard were arranged with skilful confusion. The Thracians and Illyrians were posted in the front, the Heruli and Goths in the centre; the prospect was closed by the Moors and Vandals, and their loose array seemed to multiply their numbers. Their dress was light and active: one soldier carried a whip, another a sword, a third a bow, a fourth perhaps a battle-axe, and the whole picture exhibited the intrepidity of the troops and the vigilance of the general. Chosroes was deluded by the address, and awed by the genius, of the lieutenant of Justinian. Conscious of the merit, and ignorant of the force, of his antagonist, he dreaded a decisive battle in a distant country, from whence not a Persian might return to relate the melancholy tale. The great king hastened to repass the Euphrates; and Belisarius pressed his retreat, by affecting to oppose a measure so salutary to the empire, and which could scarcely have been prevented by an army of a hundred thousand men. Envy might suggest to ignorance and pride, that the public enemy had been suffered to escape: but the African and Gothic triumphs are less glorious than this safe and bloodless victory, in which neither fortune nor the valour of the soldiers can subtract any part of the general's renown. The second removal of Belisarius from the Persian to the Italian war revealed the extent of his personal merit, which had corrected or supplied the want of discipline and courage. Fifteen generals, without concert of skill, led through the mountains of Armenia an army of thirty thousand Eomans, inattentive to their signals, their 476 Description or Colchos. [ch. Xui.
ranks, and their ensigns. Four thousand Persians, intrenched in the camp of Dubis, vanquished, almost without a combat, this disorderly multitude; their useless arms were scattered along the road, and their horses sank under the fatigue of their rapid flight. But the Arabs of the Roman party prevailed over their brethren; the Armenians returned to their allegiance; the cities of Dara and Edessa resisted a sudden assault and a regular siege, and the calamities of war were suspended by those of pestilence. A tacit or formal agreement between the two sovereigns protected the tranquillity of the eastern frontier; and the arms of Chosroes were confined to the Colchian or Lazic war, which has been too minutely described by the historians of the times.*
The extreme length of the Euxine sea,f from Constantinople to the mouth of the Phasis, may be computed as 3 voyage of nine days, and a measure of seven hundred miles. From the Iberian Caucasus, the most lofty and craggy mountains of Asia, that river descends with such oblique vehemence, that, in a short space, it is traversed by one hundred and twenty bridges. Nor does the stream become placid and navigable, till it reaches the town of Sarapana, five days' journey from the Cyrus, which flows from the same hills, but in a contrary direction, to the Caspian lake. The proximity of these rivers has suggested the practice, or at least the idea, of wafting the precious merchandise of India down the Oxus, over the Caspian, up the Cyrus, and
* The Lazic war, the contest of Bome and Persia on the Phasis, is tediously spun through many a page of Procopius (Persic . 1. 2, c. 15. 17. 28—30. Gothic. 1.4, c. 7—16,) and Agathias. (1.2—4, p.55—132.141).
+ The Periplus, or circumnavigation of the Euxine sea, was described in Latin by Sallust, and in Greek by Arrian.—1. The former wort, which no longer exists, has been restored by the singular diligence of M. de Brosses, first president of the parliament of Dijon, (Hist, de la Bepublique Bomaine, tom.ii, 1.8, p. 199—298), who ventures to assume the character of the Boman historian. His description of the Euxine is ingeniously formed of all the fragments of the original, and of all the Greeks and Latins whom Sallust might copy, or by whom he might be copied; and the merit of the execution atones for the whimsical design. 2. The Periplus of Arrian is addressed to the emperor Adrian, (in Geograph. Minor. Hudson, tom, i,) and contains whatever the governor of Pontus had seen, from Trebizond to Dioscurias; whatever he had heard from Dioscurias to the Danube; and whatever he knew from the Danube to Trebizond.
with the current of the Phasis, into the Euxine and Mediterranean seas. As it successively collects the streams of the plain of Colchos, the Phasis moves with diminished speed, though accumulated weight. At the mouth it is sixty fathoms deep and half a league broad, but a small woody island ig interposed in the midst of the channel: the water, so soon as it has deposited an earthy or metallic sediment, floats on the surface of the waves, and is no longer susceptible of corruption. In a course of one hundred miles, forty of which are navigable for large vessels, the Phasis divides the celebrated region of Colchos,* or Mingrelia,t which, on three sides, is fortified by the Iberian and Armenian mountains, and whose maritime coast extends about two hundred miles, from the neighbourhood of Trebizond to Dioscurias and the confines of Circassia. Both the soil and climate are relaxed by excessive moisture: twenty-eight rivers, besides the Phasis and his dependent streams, convey their waters to the sea; and the hollowness of the ground appears to indicate the subterraneous channels between the Euxine and the Caspian. In the fields where wheat or barley is sown, the earth is too soft to sustain the action of the plough; but the gom, a small grain, not unlike the millet or coriander seed, supplies the ordinary food of the people; and the use of bread is confined to the prince and his nobles. Yet the vintage is more plentiful than the harvest; and the bulk of the stems, as well as the quality of the wine, display the unassisted powers of nature. The same powers continually tend to overshadow the face of the country with thick forests; the timber of the hills, and the flax of the plains, contribute to the abundance of naval stores; the wild and tame
* Besides the many occasional hints from the poets, historians, &c. of antiquity, we may consult the geographical descriptions of Colchos, by Strabo (1. 11, p. 760—765,) and Pliny (Hist. Natur. 6. 5. 19, 4c.).
+ I shall quote, and have used, three modern descriptions of Mingrelia and the adjacent countries. 1. Of the Pere Archangeli Lamberti, (Relations de Thevenot, part 1, p. 31—52, with a map,) who has all the knowledge and prejudices of a missionary. 2. Of Chardin: (Voyages en Perse, tom. i, p. 54. 68—168,) his observations are judicious; and his own adventures in the country are still more instructive than his observations. 3. Of Peyssonnel: (Observations sur les Peuples Barbares, p. 49—51. 58. 62. 64, 65. 71, &c., and a more recent treatise, Sur le Commerce de la Mer Noire, tom. ii, p. 1—53,) he had long resided at Caffa, as consul of France; and his erudition is less
animals, the horse, the ox, and the hog, are remarkably prolific, and the name of the pheasant is expressive of his native habitation on the banks of the Phasis. The gold mines to the south of Trebizond, which are still worked with sufficient profit, were a subject of national dispute between Justinian and Chosroes; and it it is not unreasonable to believe, that a vein of precious metal may be equally diffused through the circle of the hills, although these secret treasures are neglected by the laziness, or concealed by the prudence, of the Mingrelians. The waters, impregnated with particles of gold, are carefully strained through sheepskins or fleeces; but this expedient, the ground-work perhaps of a marvellous fable, affords a faint image of the wealth extracted from a virgin earth by the power and industry of ancient kings. Their silver palaces and golden chambers surpass our belief; but the fame of their riches is said to have excited the enterprising avarice of the Argonauts.* Tradition has affirmed, with some
valuable than his experience. * Pliny, Hist. Natur. 1. 33.15.
The gold and silver mines of Colchos attracted the Argonauts. (Strab. 1.1, p. 77.) The sagacious Chardin could find no gold iu mines, rivers, or elsewhere. Yet a Mingrelian lost his hand and foot for shewing some specimens at Constantinople of native gold. [All the ancients agree in assigning to the Colchians an Egyptian origin; but they are represented as descendants of soldiers whom Sesostris left there. Such settlers are not likely to have been, "a learned and polite colony;" nor can any evidence be shown of this, or of the industry and commerce which made their country "the Holland of antiquity." The gold of Colchis is not mentioned either by Herodotus or Diodorus Siculus. Strabo's testimony, as he himself admits, ought not to be trusted, for he confesses that the rivers of the Caspian Iberia, which were said to roll these yellow sands into the grounds of the Suani, might have been mistaken, by his informant, for the auriferous streams of the western or Spanish Iberia. Nor while enumerating the products of Colchis (1. 11, p. 762) does he include among them the treasures, which he elsewhere alleges to have been the prize sought by the Argonauts. Pliny's notice of the subject is too incidental to have any weight . He points this out indeed, as one of the districts from which the Romans might have exacted their tribute in this precious metal. But his statement, borrowed apparently from Strabo, that it had been dug up there in the lands of the Suani, is qualified by a very doubting " dicitur," and accompanied by allusions to signs of wealth, which Gibbon puts aside as fables "surpassing our belief." 'When treating before of Colchis and the "Suanorum gens" (6. i) Pliny made no reference to a mineral product, then scarce, but now likely, through abundance, to be depreciated in worth. The legend of the