Sidebilder
PDF

A.D.359.- unasscs FROM PROCOPIUS. 175

we found in one of their scabbards a scrap of parchment written in cipher, which they had been ordered to convey to us by Procopius, whom I have already spoken of as ambassador to the Persians with the Count Lucillianus; its terms were purposely obscure, lest if the bearers should be taken prisoners, and the sense of the writing understood, materials should be found for fatal mischief.

17. The purport was, “ The ambassadors of the Greeks, having been rejected, and being perhaps to be put to death, the aged king, not contented with the Hellespont, will throw bridges over the Granicus and the Rhyndacus, and invade Asia Minor with a numerous host, being by his own natural disposition irritable and fierce; and being now prompted and inflamed by him who was formerly the successor of the Roman emperor Hadrian,‘ it is all over with the Greeks if they do not take care.”

18. The meaning of this was that the Persian king, having crossed the rivers Anzaba and Tigris, at the prompting of Antoninus was aiming at the sovereignty of the entire East. When it had been interpreted with difliculty, from its great obscurity, a wise plan was decided on.

19. The satrap of Corduena, a province under the authority of the Persians, was a man named J ovinianus, who had grown up to manhood in the Roman territories, and was secretly friendly to us, because he had been detained as a hostage in Syria, and being now allured by the love of liberal studies, he was exceedingly desirous to return among us.

20. To this man I, being sent with a faithful centurion, for the purpose of learning with greater certainty what was being done, reached him by travelling over pathless mountains, and dangerous defiles. And when he saw and recognized me, he received me courteously, and I avowed to him alone the reason of my coming; and having received from him a silent guide, well acquainted with the country, I was sent to some lofty rocks at a distance, from which, if one’s eyes did not fail, one could see even the most minute object fifty miles off.

21. There we remained two whole days; and on the morning of the third day we saw all the circuit of the

‘ Antoninus is meant, as Hadrian was succeeded by Antoninus Pius.

earth, which we call the horizon, filled with countless hosts of men, and the king marching before them glittering with the brilliancy of his robes. And next to him on his left hand marched Grumbates, king of the Chionitaa, a man of middle age, and wrinkled limbs, but of a grand spirit, and already distinguished for many victories. On his right hand was the king of the Albani, of equal rank and spendoul'. After them came various generals, renowned for their rank and power, who were followed by a multitude of all classes, picked from the flower of the neighbouring nations, and trained by long hiudship to endure any toil or danger.

22. How long, 0 mendacious Greece, wilt thou tell us of Doriscus, the Thracian town, and of the army counted there in battalions in a fenced space, when we careful, or to speak more truly, cautious historians, exaggerate nothing, and merely record what is established by evidence neither doubtful nor uncertain!

VII.

§ 1. AFTER the kings had passed by Nineveh, an important city of the province of Adiabena, they offered a sacrifice in the middle of the bridge over the Anzaba, and as the omens were favourable, they advanced with great joy; while we, calculating that the rest of their host could hardly pass over in three days, returned with speed to the satrap, and rested, refreshing ourselves by his hospitable kindness.

2. And returning from thence through a deserted and solitary country, under the pressure of great necessity, and. reaching our army more rapidly than could have been expected, we brought to those who were hesitating the certain intelligence that the kings had crossed over the river by a bridge of boats, and were marching straight towards us.

3. Without delay, therefore, horsemen with horses of picked speed were sent to Cassianus, duke of Mesopotamia, and to Euphronius, at that time the governor of the province, to compel the residents in the country to retire was] WILD BEASTS IN msorommm. 177

1 Doriscus was the town where Xerxes reviewed and counted his army, as is related by Herodotus, vii. 60.

with their families and all their flocks to a safer place ; and to quit at once the town of Carrae, which was defended by very slight walls; and further, to burn all the stand ing crops, that the enemy might get no supplies from the land.

4. And when these orders had been executed, as they were without delay, and when the fire was kindled, the violence of the raging element so completely destroyed all the corn,I which was just beginning to swell and turn yellow, and all the young herbage, that from the Euphrates to the Tigris nothing green was to be seen. And many wild beasts were burnt, and especially lions, who infest these districts terribly, but who are often destroyed or blinded in this manner.

5. They wander in countless droves among the beds of rushes on the banks of the rivers of Mesopotamia, and in the jungles; and lie quiet all the winter, which is very mild in that country. But when the warm weather returns, as these regions are exposed to great heat, they are forced out by the vapours, and by the size of the

ats, with swarms of which every part of that country is filled. And these winged insects attack the eyes, as being both moist and sparkling, sitting on and biting the eyelids; the lions, unable to bear the torture, are either drowned in the rivers, to which they flee for refuge, or else by frequent scratchings tear their eyes out themselves with their claws, and then become mad. And if this did

1 “ Ammianus has marked the chronology of this year by three signs which do not perfectly coincide with each other, or with the series of the history :—1. The corn was ripe when Sapor invaded Mesopotamia, 'cum jura stipula, flavente turgerenti—a circumstance which, in the latitude of Aleppo, would naturally refer us to the month of April or May. 2. The progress of Sapor was checked by the overflowing of the Euphrates, which generally happens in July and August. 3. When Sapor had taken Amida, after a siege of seventy! three days, the autumn was far advanced. 'Autumno pnaecipiti haedorumque improbo sidere exorto.' To reconcile these apparent contradictions, we must allow for some delay in the Persian king, some inaccuracy in the historian, and some disorder in the seasons. '--Gibbon, cap, xix, ; ed. Bohn, vol. ii. 320. “ Clinton, F. R., i. 442, sees no such dime-"My as Gibbon has here supposed ; he makes Sapor to have passed the Tigris in May, reached the Euphrates July 8th, arrived before

Amid‘, July 27th, and stormed the place October 7th."—Editor of

Bolm's 911. N

w

not happen the whole of the East would be overrun with beasts of this kind.

6. While the plains were thus being laid waste by fire, as I have described, toe tribunes, who were sent with a body of protectores, fortified all the western bank of the Euphrates with castles and sharp palisades and every kind of defence, fixing also large engines for hurling missiles on those spots where the more tranquil condition of the river made it likely that the enemy might attempt to cross.

7. While these things were being expeditiously done, Sabinianus, chosen in the hurried moment of general danger as the fittest conductor of an internecine war, was living luxuriously, according to his custom, at the tombs of Edessa,‘ as if he had established peace with the dead, and had nothing to fear: and he took especial pleasure in breaking the silence of the place with the sounding measures of the martial pyathicari, instead of the usual theatrical exhibitions ; a fancy, considering the place, pregnant with omens. Since these and similar gloomy scenes foreshow future commotions, as we learn in the progress of time, all good men ought to avoid them.

8. In the mean time, passing by Nisibis as of no importance, while the conflagration increased through the dryness of the crops, the kings, dreading a scarcity of food, marched through the grassy valleys at the foot of the mountains.

9. When they had arrived at a small place called Bebase (from which place to the town of Constantina, which is one hundred miles distant, the whole country is an arid desert, except where a little water is found in some wells), they hesitated for some time, doubting what to do; and at last resolving to proceed in reliance on the endurance of their men, they learnt from a trusty spy that the Euphrates was swollen by the melting of the snow, and was now extensively inundating the adjacent lands, and so could not possibly be forded.

10. Therefore they turned to see what opportunities chance might afford them, being now out 01f unexpectedly from the hope which they had conceived. And in the

1 That is. in the suburbs of Edcssa, as cemeteries in ancient times were usually outside the walls of cities. .

\

man 'rnr. ARMY Maacnrs rO ssnossrs. 1'79

present emergency a council was held, at which Antoninus was requested to give his advice : and he counselled them to direct their march to the right, so that by a longer circuit they might reach the two strong forts of Barzala and Lau dias, to which he could guide them through a region fertile in everything, and still undestroyed, since the march of the army was expected to be made in a straight line. And the only river on their road was one small and narrow, to be passed near its source, before it was increased by any other streams, and easily fordable.

11. W hen they had heard this, they praised their adviser, and bidding him lead the way, the whole army turned from its previously appointed line, and followed his guidance. .

VII I.

§ 1. WHEN our generals received intelligence of this from their spies, we settled to march in haste to Samosata, in order to cross the river at that point, and destroying the bridges at Zeugma and Capersana, to check the invasion of the enemy if we could find a favourable chance for attacking them.

2. But. we met with a sad disaster, worthy to be buried in profound silence. For two squadrons 'of cavalry, of about seven hundred men, who had just been sent from lllyricum to Mesopotamia as a reinforcement, and who were guarding the passes, becoming enervated and timid, and fearing a surprise by night, withdrew from the public causeways in the evening, a time above all others when they most required watching.

3. And when it was remarked that they were all sunk in wine and sleep, about twenty thousand Persians, under the command of 'l‘amsapor and l\'ohodares, passed without any one perceiving them, and fully armed as they were, concealed themselves behind the high ground in the neighbourhood of Amide.

4. Presently, when (as has been said) we started before daybreak on our march to Samosata, our advanced guard, on reaching a high spot which commanded a more distant view, was suddenly alarmed by the glitter of shining arms; and cried out in a hurried manner that the enemy

« ForrigeFortsett »