This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Constantius Augustus compels the Limigantes, former slaves of the Sarmatians, after inflicting great bloodshed upon them, to leave their abodes; then he addresses his soldiers.
When these events had been brought to a successful issue, as has been told, the public welfare required that the standards quickly be transported to the Limigantes, former slaves of the Sarmatians, 1 for it was most shameful that they had with impunity committed many infamous outrages. For as if forgetting the past, when the free Sarmatians rebelled, those others also found the opportunity most favourable and broke over the Roman frontier, for this outrage alone making common cause with their masters and enemies.  Nevertheless, it was determined after driving out their former masters; according to others, the Limigantes were a tribe of the Sarmatians. [p. 383] after deliberation that this act also should be punished less severely than the heinousness of their crimes demanded, and vengeance was confined to transferring them to remote places, where they would lose the opportunity of molesting our territories; yet the consciousness of their long series of misdeeds warned them to fear danger.  Accordingly, suspecting that the weight of war would be directed against them, they got ready wiles and arms and entreaties. But at the first sight of our army, as if smitten by a stroke of lightning and anticipating the utmost, after having pleaded for life they promised a yearly tribute, a levy of their able youth, and slavery; but they were ready, as they showed by gestures and expression, to refuse if they should be ordered to move elsewhere, trusting to the protection of the situation in which they had established themselves in security, after driving out their masters.  For the Parthiscus 2 rushing into those lands with winding course, mingles with the Hister. 3 But while it flows alone and unconfined, it slowly traverses a long expanse of broad plain; near its mouth, however, it compresses this into a narrow tract, thus protecting those who dwell there from a Roman attack by the channel of the Danube, and making them safe from the inroads of other savages by the opposition of its own stream; for the greater part of the country is of a marshy nature, and since it is flooded when the rivers rise, is full of pools and overgrown with willows, and therefore impassable except for those well acquainted with the region. Besides this the larger river, enclosing the winding circuit of an island, which almost reaches the mouth [p. 385] of the Parthiscus, separates it from connection with the land.  So, at the emperor's request, they came with their native arrogance to their bank of the river, not, as the event proved, intending to do what they were bidden, but in order not to appear to have feared the presence of the soldiers; and there they stood defiantly, thus giving the impression that they had come there to reject any orders that might be given.  But the emperor, suspecting that this might happen, had secretly divided his army into several bands, and with swift speed enclosed them, while they were delaying, within the lines of his own soldiers; then standing with a few followers on a loftier mound, protected by the defence of his guards, in mild terms he admonished them not to be unruly.  But they, wavering in uncertainty of mind, were distracted different ways, and with mingled craft and fury they thought both of entreaties and of battle; and preparing to sally out on our men where we lay near to them, they purposely threw forward their shields a long way, so that by advancing step by step to recover them they might without any show of treachery gain ground by stealth.  When the day was now declining to evening and the waning light warned them to do away with delay, the soldiers lifted up their standards and rushed upon them in a fiery attack. Thereupon the foe massed themselves together, and, huddled in close order, directed all their attack against the emperor himself, who, as was said, stood on higher ground, charging upon him with fierce looks and savage cries.  The furious madness of this onset [p. 387] so angered our army that it could not brook it, and as the savages hotly menaced the emperor (as was said), they took the form of a wedge (an order which the soldier's naive parlance calls “the pig's head,”） 4 and scattered them with a hot charge; then on the right our infantry slaughtered the bands of their infantry, while on the left our cavalry poured into the nimble squadrons of their cavalry.  The praetorian cohort, which stood before Augustus and was carefully guarding him, fell upon the breasts of the resisting foe, and then upon their backs as they took flight. And the savages with invincible stubbornness showed as they fell, by their awful shrieking, that they did not so much resent death as the triumph of our soldiers; and besides the dead many lay about hamstrung and thus deprived of the means of flight, others had their right hands cut off, some were untouched by any steel but crushed by the weight of those who rushed over them; but all bore their anguish in deep silence.  And amid their varied torments not a single man asked for pardon or threw down his weapon, or even prayed for a speedy death, but they tightly grasped their weapons, although defeated, and thought it less shameful to be overcome by an enemy's strength than by the judgement of their own conscience, 5 while sometimes they were heard to mutter that what befell them was due to fortune, not to their deserts. Thus in the course of half an hour the decision of this battle was reached, and so many savages met a sudden death that the victory alone showed that there had been a fight. [p. 389]  Hardly yet had the hordes of the enemy been laid low, when the kinsfolk of the slain, dragged from their humble cots, were led forth in droves without regard to age or sex, and abandoning the haughtiness of their former life, were reduced to the abjectness of servile submission; and only a brief space of time had elapsed, when heaps of slain and throngs of captives were to be seen.  Then, excited by the heat of battle and the fruits of victory, our soldiers roused themselves to destroy those who had deserted the battle or were lurking in concealment in their huts. And these, when the soldiers had come to the spot thirsting for the blood of the savages, they butchered after tearing to pieces the light straw; 6 and no house, even though built with the stoutest of timbers, saved a single one from the danger of death.  Finally, when everything was in flames and none could longer hide, since every means of saving their lives was cut off, they either fell victims to fire in their obstinacy, or, fleeing the flames and coming out to avoid one torture, fell by the enemy's steel.  Yet some escaped the weapons and the fires, great as they were, and plunged into the depths of the neighbouring river, hoping through skill in swimming to be able to reach the opposite banks; of these the most lost their lives by drowning, others were pierced by darts and perished, in such numbers that the whole course of the immense river foamed with the blood that flowed everywhere in abundance. 7 Thus with the aid of two elements the wrath and valour of the victors annihilated the Sarmatians.  Then it was decided, after this course of events, [p. 391] that every hope and comfort of life should be taken from all, and after their homes had been burned and their families carried off, orders were given that boats should be brought together, for the purpose of hunting down those whom the opposite bank had kept aloof from our army.  And at once, for fear that the ardour of the warriors might cool, light-armed troops were put into skiffs, and taking the course which offered the greatest secrecy, came upon the lurking-places of the Sarmatians; and the enemy were deceived as they suddenly came in sight, seeing their native boats and the manner of rowing of their own country.  But when from the glittering of the weapons afar off they perceived that what they feared was approaching, they took refuge in marshy places; but the soldiers, following them still more mercilessly, slew great numbers of them, and gained a victory in a place where it seemed impossible to keep a firm footing or venture upon any action.  After the Amicenses 8 had been scattered and all but wholly destroyed, the army immediately attacked the Picenses, 9 so named from the adjoining regions, who had been put on their guard by the disasters to their allies, which were known from persistent rumours. To subdue these (for it was hard to pursue them, since they were scattered in divers places, and unfamiliarity with the roads was a hindrance) they resorted to the help of the Taifali 10 and likewise of the free Sarmatians.  And as consideration of the terrain made it desirable to separate the troops of the allies, our soldiers chose the tracts near Moesia, the Taifali undertook those next to their own homes, and the [p. 393] free Sarmatians occupied the lands directly opposite to them.  The Limigantes 11 having now suffered this fate, and terrified by the example of those who had been conquered and suddenly slain, hesitated long with wavering minds whether to die or plead, since for either course they had lessons of no slight weight; finally, however, the urgency of an assembly of the older men prevailed, and the resolve to surrender. Thus to the laurels of various victories there was added also the entreaties of those who had usurped freedom by arms; and such of them as survived bowed their necks with prayers before their former masters, whom they had despised as vanquished and weak, but now saw to be the stronger.  And so, having received a safe-conduct, the greater number of them forsook the defence of the mountains and hastened to the Roman camp, pouring forth over the broad and spacious plains with their parents, their children and wives, and as many of their poor possessions as haste allowed them to snatch up in time.  And those who (as it was supposed) would rather lose their lives than be compelled to change their country, since they believed mad licence to be freedom, now consented to obey orders and take other quiet and safe abodes, where they could neither be harried by wars nor affected by rebellions. And these men, being taken under protection according to their own wish (as was believed) remained quiet for a short time; later, through their inborn savagery they were aroused [p. 395] to an outrage which brought them destruction, as will be shown in the proper place. 12  Through this successful sequel of events adequate protection was provided for Illyricum in a twofold manner; and the emperor having in hand the greatness of this task fulfilled it in both ways. The unfaithful were laid low and trodden under foot, but exiled peoples (although equally unstable) who yet seemed likely to act with somewhat more respect, were at length recalled and settled in their ancestral homes. And as a crowning favour, he set over them, not some low-born king, but one whom they themselves had previously chosen as their ruler, a man eminent for his mental and physical gifts. 13  After such a series of successes Constantius, now raised above any fear, by the unanimous voice of the soldiers was hailed a second time as Sarmaticus, after the name of the conquered people; and now, on the point of departure, he called together all the cohorts, centuries, and maniples, and standing on a tribunal, surrounded by standards, eagles and a throng of many officers of high rank, he addressed the army with these words, being greeted (as usual) with the acclaim of all:  “The recollection of our glorious deeds, more grateful to brave men than any pleasure, moves me to rehearse to you, with due modesty, what abuses we most faithful defenders of the Roman state have corrected by the fortune of victory vouchsafed us by Providence both before our battles and in the very heat of combat. For what is so noble, or so justly worthy to be commended to the memory of posterity, as that the soldier should rejoice in his [p. 397] valiant deeds, and the leader in the sagacity of his plans.  Our enemies in their madness were overrunning all Illyricum, with arrogant folly despising us in our absence, while we were defending Italy and Gaul, and in successive raids were laying waste our farthest frontiers, crossing the rivers now in dug-out canoes 14 and sometimes on foot; they did not trust to engagements nor to arms and strength, but, as is their custom, to lurking brigandage, with the craft and various methods of deceit dreaded also by our forefathers from our very first knowledge of the race. These outrages we, being far away, endured as well as they could be borne, hoping that any more serious losses could be obviated by the efficiency of our generals.  But when, encouraged by impunity, they mounted higher and burst forth in destructive and repeated attacks upon our provinces, after securing the approaches to Raetia and by vigilant guard ensuring the safety of Gaul, leaving no cause of fear behind us, we came into Pannonia, intending, if it should please eternal God, to strengthen whatever was tottering. And sallying forth when all was ready (as you know) and spring was well advanced, we took in hand a mighty burden of tasks: first, to build a close-jointed bridge, without being overwhelmed by a shower of missiles, a work which was easily completed; and when we had seen and set foot upon the enemy's territories, without any loss of our men we laid low the Sarmatians who, with spirits regardless of death attempted to resist us. And when with like impudence the Quadi bore aid to the Sarmatians and rushed upon the ranks of our noble legions, we [p. 399] trod them under foot. The latter, after grievous losses, having learned amid their raids and menacing efforts at resistance what our valour could effect, cast aside the protection of arms and offered hands that had been equipped for battle to be bound behind their backs; and seeing that their only safety lay in entreaties, they prostrated themselves at the feet of a merciful Augustus, whose battles they had often learned to have come to a happy issue.  These barely disposed of, we vanquished the Limigantes as well with equal valour, and after many of them had been slain, avoidance of danger forced the rest to seek the protection of their lairs in the marshes.  When these enterprises were brought to a successful issue, the time for seasonable mildness was at hand. The Limigantes we forced to move to remote places, so that they could make no further attempts to destroy our subjects, and very many of them we spared. And over the free Sarmatians we set Zizais, knowing that he would be devoted and loyal to us, and thinking it better to appoint a king for the savages than to take one from them; and it added to the happiness of the occasion, that a ruler was assigned them whom they had previously chosen and accepted.  Hence a fourfold prize, the fruit of a single campaign, was won by us and by our country: first, by taking vengeance on wicked robbers; then, in that you will have abundant booty taken from the enemy; for valour ought to be content with what it has won by toil and a strong arm.  We ourselves have ample wealth and great store of riches, if our labours and courage have preserved safe and sound [p. 401] the patrimonies of all; for this it is that beseems the mind of a good prince, this accords with prosperous successes.  Lastly, I also display the spoil of an enemy's name, surnamed as I am Sarmaticus for the second time, a title not undeserved (without arrogance be it said), which you have with one accord bestowed upon me.” After this speech was thus ended, the entire assembly with more enthusiasm than common, since the hope of betterment and gains had been increased, broke out into festal cries in praise of the emperor, and in customary fashion calling God to witness that Constantius was invincible, went back to their tents rejoicing. And when the emperor had been escorted to his palace and refreshed by two days' rest, he returned in triumphal pomp to Sirmium, and the companies of soldiers went back to the quarters assigned them.
1 For their revolt, see 12, 18, above. Limigantes seems to be the name that they assumed (Gibbon, ch. xviii.)
2 The modern Theiss.
3 The Danube.
4 Vegetius, iii. 19, says that the soldiers gave the name caput porcinum to the cuneus, a V-shaped formation, with the apex towards the enemy. It was the opposite of the forceps, or forfex (xvi. 11, 3).
5 That is, to be overcome by a superior force rather than yield voluntarily.
6 With which the houses were thatched.
7 Cf. xvi. 12, 57.
8 A Sarmatian people; T.L.L.
9 Put by Ptolemy in Upper Moesia.
10 A tribe of the West Goths; cf. xxxi. 8, 7.
11 See note on 13, 1, above.
12 See xix. 11.
13 That is, Zizais, see 12, 9, above.
14 See xiv. 2, 10, end.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.