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Omens of the death of Valens Augustus and of the impending defeat by the Goths.

Meanwhile Fortune's rapid wheel, which is always interchanging adversity and prosperity, armed Bellona in the company of her attendant Furies, and transferred to the Orient melancholy events, the coming of which was foreshadowed by the clear testimony of omens and portents. [2] For after many true predictions of seers and augurs, dogs leaped back when wolves howled, night birds [p. 379] rang out a kind of doleful lament, the sun rose in gloom and dimmed the clear morning light; at Antioch, in quarrels and riots of the common people, it became usual that whoever thought that he was suffering wrong shouted without restraint: “Let Valens be burned alive!” and the words of public criers were continually heard, directing the people to gather firewood, to set fire to the baths of Valens, in the building of which the emperor himself had taken such interest. [3] All this almost in plain speech showed that this kind of death 1 threatened him. Furthermore, the ghostly form of the king of Armenia and the piteous shades of those who shortly before had been executed in connection with the fall of Theodorus, 2 shrieking horrible songs at night, in the form of dirges, tormented many with dire terrors. [4] A heifer was found lying lifeless with its windpipe cut, and its death was an indication of great and widespread sorrow from funerals of the people. Finally, when the old walls of Chalcedon were torn down, 3 in order that a bath 4 might be built at Constantinople, and the rows of stones were taken apart, there was found on a squared block hidden in the midst of the structure of the wall an inscription containing the following Greek verses, clearly revealing what was to happen:

[p. 381] [5]

When gaily through the city's festal streets
Shall whirl soft maidens in a happy dance,
When mournfully a wall shall guard a bath,
Then countless hordes of men spread far and wide
With warlike arms shall cross clear Istrus' stream
To ravage Scythia's fields and Mysia's land.
But mad with hope when they Pannonia raid,
There battle and life's end their course shall check.

1 I.e., death by fire.

2 See xxix. 1, 8 ff.

3 Because of the conduct of the inhabitants at the time of the uprising of Procopius; cf. Socr., Eccl. Hist. iv. 8, and xxvi. 8, 2.

4 Constantinianae thermae, Socrates, iv. 8.

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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)
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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CHALCE´DON
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), HUNNI
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