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Constantius Augustus compels the Sarmatians, formerly rulers, but now exiles, and the Quadi, who were laying waste Pannonia and Moesia, to give hostages and return their prisoners; and over the exiled Sarmatians, whom he restored to freedom and their ancestral abode, he appointed a king.

As Augustus meanwhile was taking his winter rest at Sirmium, frequent serious reports showed that the Sarmatians and the Quadi, who were in agreement because they were neighbours and had like customs and armour, had united and were raiding the Pannonias 1 and Second Moesia in detached bands. [2] These people, better fitted for brigandage than for open warfare, have very long spears and cuirasses made from smooth and polished pieces of horn, fastened like scales to linen shirts; 2 most of their horses are made serviceable by gelding, in order that they may not at sight of mares become excited and run away, or when in ambush become unruly and betray their riders by loud neighing. [3] And they run over very great distances, pursuing others or themselves turning their backs, [p. 371] being mounted on swift and obedient horses and leading one, or sometimes even two, to the end that an exchange may keep up the strength of their mounts and that their freshness may be renewed by alternate periods of rest.

[4] And so, when the spring equinox was past, the emperor mustered a strong force of soldiers and set out under the guidance of a more propitious fortune; and although the river Ister was in flood since the masses of snow and ice were now melted, having come to the most suitable place, he crossed it on a bridge built over the decks of ships and invaded the savages' lands with intent to lay them waste. They were outwitted by his rapid march, and on seeing already at their throats the troops of a fighting army, which they supposed could not yet be assembled owing to the time of year, they ventured neither to take breath nor make a stand, but to avoid unlooked-for destruction all took to precipitate flight. [5] The greater number, since fear clogged their steps, were cut down; if speed saved any from death, they hid in the obscure mountain gorges and saw their country perishing by the sword; and they might undoubtedly have protected her, had they resisted with the same vigour that had marked their flight. [6] This took place in that part of Sarmatia which faces Second Pannonia, and with equal courage our soldiers, like a tempest, laid waste the enemies possessions round about Valeria, 3 burning and plundering everything before them. [7] Greatly disturbed by the vastness of this disaster, the Sarmatians abandoned their plan of hiding, and forming in three divisions, under pretence of suing for peace [p. 373] they planned to attack our soldiers with little danger, so that they could neither get their weapons ready nor parry the force of wounds, nor turn to flight, which is the last recourse in times of stress. [8] Furthermore the Quadi, who had often been their inseparable companions in raids, came at once to share the perils of the Sarmatians; but their ready boldness did not help them either, rushing as they were upon evident hazards. [9] For after very many of them had been cut down, the part that could save themselves escaped by paths familiar to them, and our army, their strength and courage aroused by this success, formed in closer order and hastened to the domain of the Quadi. They, dreading from their past disaster what impended, planned to sue suppliantly for peace and confidently presented themselves before the emperor, who was somewhat too lenient towards those and similar offences; and on the day named for settling the terms in like fashion, Zizais, a tall young man who was even then a royal prince, drew up the ranks of the Sarmatians in battle array to make their petition. And on seeing the emperor he threw aside his weapons and fell flat on his breast, as if lying lifeless. And since the use of his voice failed him from fear at the very time when he should have made his plea, he excited all the greater compassion; but after several attempts, interrupted by sobbing, he was able to set forth only a little of what he tried to ask. [10] At last, however, he was reassured and bidden to rise, and getting up on his knees and recovering the use of his voice, he begged that indulgence for his offences, and pardon, be granted him. Upon this the throng [p. 375] was admitted to make its entreaties, but mute terror closed their lips, so long as the fate of their superior was uncertain. But when he was told to get up from the ground and gave the long awaited signal for their petition, all threw down their shields and spears, stretched out their hands with prayers, and succeeded in many ways in outdoing their prince in lowly supplication. [11] Their superior had also brought with therest of the Sarmatians Rumo, Zinafer and Fragiledus, who were petty kings, and a number of nobles, to make like requests, which they hoped would be granted. They, though overjoyed that their lives were spared, offered to make up for their hostile acts by burdensome conditions, and would have willingly submitted themselves with their possessions, their children, their wives, and the whole of their territories to the power of the Romans. However, kindness combined with equity prevailed, and when they were told to retain their homes without fear, they returned all their Roman prisoners. They also brought in the hostages that were demanded and promised from that time on to obey orders with the utmost promptness. [12] Encouraged by this instance of mercy, there hastened to the spot with all their subjects the prince Araharius, and Usafer, a prominent noble, who were leaders of the armies of their countrymen; one of them ruled a part of the Transiugitani and the Quadi, the other some of the Sarmatians, peoples closely united by the same frontiers and like savagery. Since the emperor feared their people, lest under pretence of striking a treaty they might suddenly rise to arms, he separated the united divisions and bade those [p. 377] who were interceding for the Sarmatians to withdraw for a time, while the case of Araharius and the Quadi was being considered. [13] When these presented themselves in the manner of criminals, standing with bended bodies, and were unable to clear themselves of serious misdeeds, in fear of calamities of the worst kind they gave the hostages which were demanded, although never before had they been forced to present pledges for a treaty. [14] When they had been justly and fairly disposed of, Usafer was admitted to make supplication, although Araharius stoutly objected and insisted that the terms which he himself had obtained ought to be valid also for the other as his partner, although Usafer was of inferior rank and accustomed to obey his commands. [15] But after a discussion of the question, orders were given that the Sarmatians (as permanent dependents of the Romans) should be freed from the domination of others and should present hostages as bonds for keeping the peace; an offer which they gladly accepted. [16] Moreover, after this there offered themselves a very great number of kings and nations, coming together in companies, and begged that swords be poised at their very throats, 4 as soon as they learned that Araharius had got off scot-free. And they too in the same way gained the peace which they sought, and sooner than was expected they summoned from the innermost parts of the kingdom and brought in as hostages the sons of eminent men, and also our prisoners (as had been stipulated), from whom they parted with as deep sighs as they did from their own countrymen.

[p. 379] [17] These affairs once set in order, his attention was turned to the Sarmatians, who were deserving rather of pity than of anger; and to them this situation brought an incredible degree of prosperity; so that the opinion of some might well be deemed true, that fortune is either mastered or made by the power of a prince 18. The natives of this realm were once powerful and noble, but a secret conspiracy armed their slaves for rebellion; and since with savages all right is commonly might, they vanquished their masters, being their equals in courage and far superior in number. [19] The defeated, since fear prevented deliberation, fled to the Victohali, 5 who dwelt afar off, thinking that to submit to protectors (considering their evil plight) was preferable to serving slaves. Bewailing this situation, after they had gained pardon and been assured of protection they asked that their freedom be guaranteed; whereupon the emperor, deeply moved by the injustice of their condition, in the presence of the whole army called them together, and addressing them in gracious terms, bade them yield obedience to none save himself and the Roman generals. [20] And to give their restoration to freedom an increase of dignity, he set over them as their king Zizais, 6 a man even then surely suited for the honours of a conspicuous fortune and (as the result showed) loyal; but no one was allowed, after these glorious achievements, to leave the place, until (as had been agreed) the Roman prisoners should come back. [21] After these achievements in the savages' country, the camp [p. 381] was moved to Bregetio, 7 to the end that there also tears or blood might quench what was left of the war of the Quadi, who were astir in those regions. Then their prince Vitrodorus, son of King Viduarius, and Agilimundus, his vassal, along with other nobles and officials 8 governing various nations, seeing the army in the heart of their kingdom and native soil, prostrated themselves before the marching soldiers, and having gained pardon, did what was ordered, giving their children as hostages by way of pledge that they would fulfil the conditions imposed upon them. Then, drawing their swords, which they venerate as gods, they swore that they would remain loyal.

1 That is, First and Second (Lower) Pannonia; the province was divided by Galerius.

2 Pausanias, i. 21, 6, says that the Sarmatians made such armour from horses' hoofs, having no iron, and that in the temple of Aesculapius at Athens, he saw a specimen, in which pieces of horn looked like clefts on a pine-cone.

3 See note 2, p. 253.

4 Lindenbrog and Wagner translate: “that swords should be placed at their throats as a symbol of an oath and what would happen to them if they broke it”; cf. xxi. 5, 10, gladiis cervicibus suis admotis sub exsecrationibus diris iuravereo; here “begging that the swords be withdrawn” would give a doubtful meaning to suspendi.

5 Since Julius Capitolinus, Ant. Phil. xiv. 1, mentions them in connection with the Marcomanni, they probably lived in the region of Bohemia.

6 See p. 373, above.

7 Apparently Flecken Szöny in Hungary, not far from Komorn.

8 For this meaning of iudices see Index of Officials, s.v.

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load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1935)
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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), JA´ZYGES
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PANNO´NIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), QUADI
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