previous next

Valentinian Augustus fortifies the entire Gallic bank of the Rhine with fortresses, castles, and towers. The Alamanni kill some Romans who were building a fortification on the far side of the Rhine. Maratocuprenian freebooters, by order of Valens Augustus, were destroyed in Syria with their children and their village.

But Valentinian, meditating important and 1 useful plans, fortified the entire Rhine from the beginnings of Raetia as far as the strait of the Ocean 2 with great earthworks, erecting lofty fortresses and castles, and towers at frequent intervals, in suitable and convenient places as far as the whole length of Gaul extends; in some places also works were constructed even on the farther bank of the river, 3 which flows by the lands of the savages. [2] Finally, when he considered that a lofty and secure fortification (which he himself had built from its very foundations) since a river called the Nicer 4 flowed at its foot could gradually be undermined by the immense force of the waters, he even thought of turning the course of the stream in a different direction; and after he had hunted up men skilled in hydraulic work, the difficult task was begun with a great force of soldiers. [3] For during many days beams of oak were bound together 5 and placed in the bed of the river; but although they were fastened again and again by great piles driven close to them on both sides, they were forced from their place by the rising waters, and finally were swept away by the force of the current and lost. [4] Yet finally the day was won by the efficient superviion of the emperor [p. 125] and the labour of his obedient soldiers, who as they worked were often sunk chin-deep in the water; and at last, though not without danger to some of the men, the defensive works, relieved of the pressure of the snarling river, are now strong.

[5] Being joyful and exultant because of these and similar successes, the emperor then, considering the time of year and the state of the season, as became a dutiful prince devoted himself to those matters which would be helpful to the commonwealth. And thinking it most suitable for accomplishing what he had in mind, he planned hastily to build a fortification on the farther side of the Rhine on Mount Pirus, 6 which is in the country of the savages. And in order that speed might make the accomplishment of the work secure, through Syagrius, at that time a secretary, afterwards prefect and consul, 7 he ordered the general Arator to try to speed that work, while deep quiet reigned everywhere. [6] The general at once crossed the river with the secretary, as was ordered, and, with the soldiers under his command, had begun to dig the foundations, when Hermogenes was appointed as his successor. At the same moment 8 some chiefs of the Alamanni arrived, fathers of the hostages whom we were holding in accordance with the treaty as important pledges of the continued permanence of peace. [7] They on bended knees begged that the Romans, whose fortune consistent trustworthiness had raised to skies, should not, regardless of their security, be led astray by a perverse [p. 127] error, and, treading their promises under foot, enter upon an unworthy undertaking. [8] But, since they said these and similar things to no purpose, as they were not listened to, and perceived that they would receive no peaceful nor mild reply, they withdrew, weeping at the fate of their sons. Scarcely had they left the place, when a band of barbarians who were awaiting the reply to be made (as they were given to understand) at that time to their chiefs, dashing forth from the hollow defile of a neighbouring hill, attacked our soldiers, who were half-nude and still carrying earth, 9 and quickly drawing their swords were cutting them down; and with them also both leaders were slain. [9] Not a single man survived to tell what had happened, except Syagrius. He, after all the others had been slain, returned to the court, but by sentence of the angry emperor he was cashiered and went to his home, being considered by a cruel judgment to have deserved this because he alone had escaped.

[10] Meanwhile throughout Gaul there spread, to the ruin of many, a savage frenzy for brigandage, which kept watch of the frequented roads and fell indiscriminately upon everything profitable that fell in its way. Finally, in addition to many others who fell victim to such ambuscades, Constantianus, 10 chief of the imperial stables, a relative by marriage of Valentinian and own brother to Cerealis and Justina, 11 was surprised by an unexpected attack and presently slain.

[p. 129] [11] But at a distance from there, as if the furies were stirring up similar troubles, the Maratocupreni, a fierce race of brigands, were ranging about on every side; they dwelt in a village of the same name situated near Apamia in Syria, were exceedingly numerous, skilled in crafty wiles, and dreaded because they roamed about quietly under the guise of honourable traders and soldiers, and fell upon rich houses, estates, and towns. [12] No one could guard against their unexpected coming, since they did not assail previously chosen places, but various quarters and those that were far removed, breaking out wherever the wind took them—the same reason that makes the Saxons feared before all other enemies for their sudden raids. 12 But although these confederate bands destroyed the property of many, and, driven by the gadfly of the madness which they had conceived, caused lamentable slaughter, being no less greedy for blood than for booty, yet for fear that by giving a minute account of their deeds I may somewhat delay the direct course of my project, it will suffice to tell of this one destructive and welldevised stroke of theirs. [13] A united 13 body of these godless men, disguised as the retinue of a state treasurer, and one of them as that official himself, in the darkness of evening, preceded by the mournful cry of a herald, entered a city and beset with swords the fine house of a distinguished citizen, as if he had been proscribed and condemned to death. They seized all his valuable furniture, and since the [p. 131] servants were struck with sudden fear, and in their bewilderment did not defend their master, they killed many of them, and before the return of daylight departed at quick step. [14] But when, after being enriched by the booty of many men, they abandoned the sweet pleasure of robbery, which was interrupted by a movement of the emperor's forces, they were crushed, and perished to the last man. Even their children, who were still small, in order that they might not grow up to follow the example of their fathers, were destroyed in the same fate; and the houses which they had built in showy fashion at the sorrowful expense of others were torn down. These things, then, happened in the connection in which they have been told. 14

1 369 A.D.

2 The Belgic Channel, a part of the North Sea at the mouth of the Rhine.

3 The Rhine.

4 The Neckar.

5 In the form of a chest or coffer-dam.

6 Cf. xxvii. 10, 9, note.

7 In 381.

8 Cf. temporis brevi puncto, xxvii. 2, 1.

9 As they worked on the fortification on Mount Pirus (see § 5, above).

10 Perhaps the one mentioned in xxiii. 3, 9.

11 Wife of Valentinian, previously married to Magnentius; cf. xxx. 10, 4.

12 Cf. xxx. 7, 8.

13 For this meaning of quaesitus in unum, cf. xv. 7, 7; xxvi. 7, 9, note.

14 I.e., in 369.

Creative Commons License
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.

load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1940)
load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1939)
load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1935)
load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1935)
hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (5):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: