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The town of Maiozamalcha is stormed and sacked by the Romans.

In this tract a city which, because of its low walls, had been abandoned by its Jewish inhabitants, was burned by the hands of the angry soldiers. This done, the emperor went on farther, still more hopeful because of the gracious aid of the deity, as he interpreted it. [2] And when he had come to Maiozamalcha, a great city surrounded by strong walls, he pitched his tents and took anxious precautions that the camp might not be disturbed by a sudden onset of the Persian cavalry, whose valour in the open field was enormously feared by all peoples. [3] After making this provision, attended by a few light-armed soldiers and himself also marching on foot, Julian planned to make a careful examination of the position of the city; but he fell into a dangerous ambuscade, from which he escaped only with difficulty and at the risk of his life. [4] For through a secret gate of the town ten armed Persians came out, and after crossing the lower slopes on bended knees made a sudden onslaught on our men. Two with drawn swords [p. 433] attacked the emperor, whose bearing made him conspicuous, but he met their strokes by lifting up his shield. Thus protected, with great and lofty courage he plunged his sword into the side of one assailant, while his followers with many a stroke cut down the other. The rest, of whom some were wounded, fled in all directions. After stripping the two of their arms, Julian returned to the camp with the spoils, bringing back his companions uninjured, and was received by all with great joy. [5] Torquatus 1 once took from a prostrate foe his golden neck-chain; Valerius, 2 afterwards surnamed Corvinus, laid low a bold and bragging Gaul with the aid of a crow, and by these glorious deeds they gained fame with posterity. We do not begrudge the praise; let this fine exploit also be added to the records of the past.

[6] On the following day bridges were built and the army led across, and a camp was measured off in another and more advantageous place and girt by a double palisade, since (as I have said) Julian feared the open plains. Then he began the siege of the town, thinking that it would be dangerous to advance farther, and leave behind him an enemy whom he feared.

[7] While great preparations were being made for the siege, the Surena, who was in command of the enemy, made an attack on the pack-animals, which were grazing in the palm-groves; but he was met by our scouting-cohorts, and after loss of a few of the men, was baffled by our forces and withdrew. [8] The inhabitants of two cities, which were on islands made by the winding river, alarmed [p. 435] and distrustful of their strength, tried to make their way to the walls of Ctesiphon; some of them slipped off through the thick woods, others crossed the neighbouring pools in their boats made from hollowed trees, thinking this their only hope and the best means for making the long journey which confronted them, if they were to reach that distant land. [9] Some of them, who offered resistance, were slain by our troops, who also rushed about everywhere in skiffs and boats and from time to time brought in others as prisoners. For Julian had provided with balanced care, that while the infantry were besieging the town, the cavalry forces, divided into detachments, should give their attention to driving off booty; and through this arrangement the soldiers, without burdening the provincials at all, fed upon the vitals of the enemy.

[10] And now the emperor, having surrounded, with a triple line of shields, 3 the town, which had a double wall about it, assailed it with all his might, in the hope of gaining his end. But necessary as the attack was, so was it very difficult to bring it to a successful issue. For on every side the approaches were surrounded by high and precipitous cliffs and many windings made them doubly perilous and the town inaccessible, especially since the towers, formidable for both their number and their height, rose to the same elevation as the eminence of natural rock which formed the citadel, while the sloping plateau overlooking the river was fortified with strong battlements. [11] Added to this was an equally serious disadvantage, in that the large and carefully chosen force of the besieged could not by [p. 437] any enticements be led to surrender, but resisted as though resolved either to be victorious or to die amid the ashes of their native city. But our soldiers could with difficulty be kept from the attack, mutinously pressing on and demanding a pitched battle even in the open field; and when the trumpet sounded the recall, they continually tormented themselves with spirited attempts to assail the enemy.

[12] However, the judgement of our leaders overcame their extreme violence; the work was divided, and each man undertook with all speed the task assigned him. For here lofty embankments were being raised, there others were filling up the deep ditches; elsewhere long passages were being constructed in the bowels of the earth, and those in charge of the artillery were setting up their hurling engines, soon to break out with deadly roar. [13] Nevitta and Dagalaifus had charge of the mines and mantelets; the opening of the attack, and the protection of the artillery from fire or sallies was undertaken by the emperor in person.

And when all the preparations for destroying the city had been completed with much painful toil, and the soldiers demanded battle, the general named Victor, who had reconnoitred the roads as far as Ctesiphon, returned and reported that he had found no obstacles. [14] Upon this all the soldiers were wild with joy, and aroused to greater confidence awaited under arms the signal for battle.

[15] And now, as the trumpets sounded their martial note, both sides raised a loud shout. The Romans were the first with repeated onslaughts and [p. 439] threatening roars to attack the foe, who were covered with plates of iron as if by a thin layer of feathers, and were full of confidence since the arrows flew back as they struck the folds of the hard iron; but at times the covering of joined shields, with which our men skilfully covered themselves as if by the protection of irregularly shaped arches, because of their continual movements yawned apart. The Persians, on the other hand, obstinately clinging to their walls, tried with every possible effort to avoid and baffle the death-dealing attacks. [16] But when the besiegers, carrying before them hurdles of wicker work, were already threatening the walls, the enemy's slingers and archers, others even rolling down huge stones, with torches and fiery shafts 4 tried to keep them at a distance; then ballistae adapted for wooden arrows were bent and plied with screaming sound, sending forth showers of missiles; and scorpions, hauled to various places by skilled hands, hurled round stones. 5 [17] But after renewed and repeated contests, as the heat increased towards the middle of the day and the sun burnt like fire, both sides, though intent upon the preparation of the siege-works and eager for battle, were forced to retire worn out and drenched with sweat.

[18] With the same fixity of purpose, the contending parties on the following day also carried on the battle persistently with contests of various kinds, and separated on equal terms and with indecisive result. But in the face of every danger, the emperor, in closest company with combatants, urged on the destruction of the city, lest by lingering too long about its walls, he should be forced to abandon his greater [p. 441] projects. [19] But in case of dire necessity nothing is so trifling that it may not at times, even contrary to expectation, tip the balance in some great undertaking. For when, as often, the combatants were on the point of separating and the fighting slackened, a more violent blow from a ram which had shortly before been brought up shattered a tower which was higher than all the rest and strongly built of kiln-dried brick; and in its fall it carried with it amid a tremendous crash the adjacent side of the wall. [20] Thereupon, according to changes of the situation, the vigour of the besiegers and in turn the energy of the besieged was shown by splendid deeds. For nothing seemed too hard for our soldiers, inflamed as they were with wrath and resentment, nothing was formidable or terrible in the eyes of the defenders as they joined issue for their lives. For it was not until the fight had raged for a long time without result and blood had been shed in much slaughter on both sides, that the close of the day brought it to an end and the combatants then yielded to fatigue.

[21] While this was going on in the light of day and before the eyes of all, it was reported to the emperor, who kept a watchful eye on everything, that the legionary soldiers to whom the laying of the mines had been assigned, having completed their underground passages and supported them by beams, had made their way to the bottom of the foundations of the walls, and were ready to sally out when he himself should give the word. [22] Therefore, although the night was far advanced, the trumpets sounded, and at the given signal for [p. 443] entering battle they rushed to arms. And, as had been planned, the fronts of the wall were attacked on two sides in order that while the defenders were rushing here and there to avert the danger, the clink of the iron tools digging at the parts close by might not be heard, and that with no hindrance from within, the band of sappers might suddenly make its appearance. [23] When these matters were arranged as had been determined, and the defenders were fully occupied, the mines were opened and Exsuperius, a soldier of a cohort of the Victores, leaped out; next came Magnus, a tribune and Jovianus, a notary, followed by the whole daring band. They first slew those who were found in the room through which they had come into daylight; then advancing on tiptoe they cut down all the watch, who, according to the custom of the race, were loudly praising in song the justice and good fortune of their king. [24] It was thought that Mars himself (if it is lawful for the majesty of the gods to mingle with mortals) had been with Luscinus, 6 when he stormed the camp of the Lucanians; and this was believed because in the heat of battle an armed warrior of formidable size was seen carrying scaling-ladders, and on the following day, when the army was reviewed, could not be found, although he was sought for with particular care; whereas, if he had been a soldier, from consciousness of a memorable exploit he would have presented himself of his own accord. But although then the doer of that noble deed was wholly unknown, on the present occasion those who had fought valiantly were made conspicuous [p. 445] by gifts of siege-crowns, 7 and according to the ancient custom were commended in the presence of the assembled army.

[25] At last the city, stripped of its defenders, laid open with many breaches and on the point of falling, was entered, and the violence of the enraged soldiers destroyed whatever they found in their way, without distinction of age or sex; others, in fear of imminent death, being threatened on one side by fire, on the other by the sword, shedding their last tears voluntarily hurled themselves headlong from the walls, and with all their limbs shattered endured for a time a life more awful than death, until they were put out of their misery. [26] Nabdates, however, the commandant of the garrison, with eighty followers, was dragged out alive, and when he was brought before the emperor, who was happy and inclined to mercy, orders were given that he be spared unharmed with the others and kept in custody.

Then when the booty was divided according to the estimate of merit and hard service, the emperor, being content with little, took only a dumb boy who was offered to him, who was acquainted with sign- language and explained many things in which he was skilled by most graceful gestures, and was valued at three pieces of gold; 8 and this he considered a reward for the victory that he had won that was both agreeable and deserving of gratitude. [27] But as to the maidens who were taken prisoners (and they were beautiful, as is usual in Persia, where the women excel in that respect) he refused to touch a single one or even to look on her, following the example of [p. 447] Alexander and Africanus, 9 who avoided such conduct, lest those who showed themselves unwearied by hardships should be unnerved by passion.

[28] In the course of these contests a builder on our side, whose name I do not recall, happened to be standing behind a scorpion, when a stone which one of the gunners had fitted insecurely to the sling was hurled backward. The unfortunate man was thrown on his back with his breast crushed, and killed; and his limbs were so torn asunder that not even parts of his whole body could be identified.

[29] The emperor was on the point of leaving the spot, when a trustworthy informant reported that in some dark and hidden pits near the walls of the destroyed city, such as are numerous in those parts, a band of the enemy was treacherously lying in wait, intending to rush out unexpectedly and attack the rear of our army. [30] At once a band of foot soldiers of tried valour was sent to dislodge them, and when they could neither force an entrance through the openings nor lure to battle those hidden within, .they gathered straw and faggots and piled them before the entrances of the caves. The smoke from this, becoming thicker the narrower the space which it penetrated, killed some by suffocation; others scorched by the blast of fires, were forced to come out and met a swift death; and so, when all had fallen victims to steel or flame, our men quickly returned to their standards. Thus a great and [p. 449] populous city, destroyed by Roman strength and valour, was reduced to dust and ruins.

[31] After these glorious deeds we passed over a series of bridges, made necessary by the union of many streams, and came to two fortresses built with special care. Here a son of the Persian king, who had come from Ctesiphon with some magnates and an armed force, tried to prevent Count Victor, who was leading our van, from crossing the river; but on seeing the throng of soldiers that followed, he retreated.

1 T. Manlius Torquatus; see Gellius, ix. 13.

2 M. Valerius Maximus Corvinus; see Gellius, ix. 11.

3 I.e. troops; of. xix. 2, 2.

4 See xxiii. 4, 14.

5 See xxiii. 4, 4-5.

6 C. Fabricius Luscinus relieved the people of Thurii, when they were besieged by the Brutii and the Lucanians under Stenius Statilius, and slew 20,000 of the enemy; cf. Val. Max. i. 8, 6 (who gives the name as Statius Statilius).

7 Mural crowns (coronae murales) would have been more appropriate; the siege-crown was given to the general who relieved a beleagured city; cf. Gellius, v. 6, 8-9 and 16.

8 Text and meaning are uncertain. Perhaps he paid three aurei for the boy, or perhaps that was his estimated value.

9 Cf. Polyb. x. 19, 3 f.; Val. Max. iv. 3, 1; Curt. iii. 12, 21; iv. 10, 24. Cyrus might have been added to the list.

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