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The Goths, after bribing the forces of the Huns and the Halani to join them, make a vain attempt on Constantinople. With what skill Julius, the commanding general beyond the Taurus, relieved the eastern provinces of the Goths.

After this the Goths gave their attention during the whole night-time, which was not long in the summer season, to caring for their wounds, using their native methods of treatment. When day broke again, their minds were led this way and that as to their plans, since they were in doubt whither they should turn; and after a great deal of talk and disagreement they decided to take possession of Perinthus, 1 and afterwards of any neighbouring cities that were brimful of riches, of which they were given such full information by deserters that they knew even the interior of the houses, to say nothing of the cities. Following this decision, which they thought advantageous, they marched on slowly without opposition, devastating the whole district with pillage and fires.

[2] After their timely departure, those who had been besieged in Hadrianopolis, having learned from scouts who had been found trustworthy that the neighbouring places were free from enemies, set out at midnight and avoiding the public highways and devising every effort for increasing their speed, hastened with the valuables which they were carrying still safe, through wooded and pathless places, some to Philippopolis and from there to Serdica, 2 others to [p. 501] Macedonia, in the hope of finding Valens in those regions (for it was wholly unknown to them that he had fallen in the midst of the storms of battle, or at any rate had taken refuge in a hut, where it was thought that he had been burned to death).

[3] But the Goths, joined with the Huns and the Halani, exceedingly warlike and brave peoples, hardened to the difficulties of severe toils, whom the craft of Fritigern had won over to them by the attractions of wonderful prizes, set up their camp near Perinthus; but mindful of their previous disasters they did not indeed venture to approach or attempt the city itself, but reduced to utter ruin the fertile fields which extend far and wide about it, killing or capturing those who dwelt there. [4] From there they hastened in rapid march to Constantinople, greedy for its vast heaps of treasure, marching in square formations for fear of ambuscades, and intending to make many mighty efforts to destroy the famous city. But while they were madly rushing on and almost knocking at the barriers of the gates, the celestial power checked them by the following event. [5] A troop of Saracens (of whose origin and customs I have spoken at length in various places, 3 ) who are more adapted to stealthy raiding expeditions than to pitched battles, 4 and had recently been summoned to the city, desiring to attack the horde of barbarians of which they had suddenly caught sight, rushed forth boldly from the city to attack them. The contest was long and obstinate, and both sides separated on equal terms. [6] But the oriental troop had the advantage from a strange event, never witnessed before. For one of their number, a man [p. 503] with long hair and naked except for a loin-cloth, uttering hoarse and dismal cries, with drawn dagger rushed into the thick of the Gothic army, and after killing a man applied his lips to his throat and sucked the blood that poured out. The barbarians, terrified by this strange and monstrous sight, after that did not show their usual self-confidence when they attempted any action, but advanced with hesitating steps. [7] Then, as they went on, their courage was further broken when they beheld the oblong circuit of the walls, the blocks of houses covering a vast space, the beauties of the city beyond their reach, the vast population inhabiting it, and the strait near by that separates the Pontus from the Aegean; so the Goths destroyed the manufactories of warlike materials which they were preparing, and after suffering greater losses than they had inflicted they then departed and spread everywhere over the northern provinces, which they traversed at will as far as the foot of the Julian, or, as they were formerly called, the Venetic Alps.

[8] At that time 5 the salutary and swift efficiency of Julius, commander-in-chief of the troops beyond the Taurus, was conspicuous. For on learning of the ill-fated events in Thrace, by secret letters to their leaders, who were all Romans (a rare case in these times) he gave orders that the Goths who had been admitted before and were scattered through the various cities and camps, should be enticed to come without suspicion into the suburbs in the hope of receiving the pay that had been promised them, and there, as if on the raising of a banner, should all be slain on one and the same day. This [p. 505] prudent plan was carried out without confusion or delay, and thus the eastern provinces were saved from great dangers.

[9] These events, from the principate of the emperor Nerva to the death of Valens, I, a former soldier and a Greek, have set forth to the measure of my ability, without ever (I believe) consciously venturing to debase through silence or through falsehood a work whose aim was the truth. The rest may be written by abler men, who are in the prime of life and learning. But if they chose to undertake such a task, I advise them to forge 6 their tongues to the loftier style.

[p. 507] The second part, written about 550 in barbarous Latin by another unknown author, under the title Item ex libris Chronicorum inter cetera, covers the period from 474 to 526, and deals mainly with the history of Theodoric. The writer was an opponent of Arianism, and he seems to have based his compilation on the Chronicle of Maximianus, bishop of Ravenna in 546, who died in 556. For this part we have, besides B, cod. Vaticanus Palatinus, Lat. n. 927 (P) of the twelfth century, in which the title appears as De adventu Oduachar regis Cyrorum 7 et Erulorum in Italia, et quomodo Rex Theodericus eum fuerit persecutus. The Excerpts as a whole furnish an introduction and a sequel to the narrative of Ammianus.

1 Cf. xxii. 2, 3.

2 See xxi. 10, 3.

3 Especially xiv. 4, 1 ff.; xxv. 6, 8–10.

4 xxiii. 3, 8.

5 Shortly after the death of Valens, and before the accession of Theodosius; cf. Zos. iv. 26.

6 For procudere, cf. xv. 2, 8 (ingenium); xxx. 4, 13 (ora); Horace, Odes, iv. 15, 19.

7 Apparently for Scyrorum (Scirorum), Exc. § 37.

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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 (3):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ALPES
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ARA´BIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), SE´RDICA
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