The king, it is said, was bathing, when he was informed of the enemy's approach; on hearing which, he started up from his seat, and rushed out in a fright, crying out, that he was conquered without a battle;
and afterwards, in a state of great perturbation, amidst plans and orders dictated by fear, he recalled two most intimate friends from his garrisons, and sent one to Pella, where his treasure was lodged, and the other to Parthus, and opened all the passes to the invasion of the enemy.
He himself, having suddenly removed from Dium all the gilded statues, that they might not fall a prey to the enemy, ordered all the inhabitants to remove to Pydna; and thus made the conduct of the consul, in venturing into a situation out of which he could not retreat without the enemy's permission, although it might have been deemed rash and inconsiderate, to wear the appearance of judicious boldness.
For there were only two passes through which the Romans could remove from their present situation; one through Tempe into Thessaly, the other by Dium into Macedonia; and both these were occupied by parties of the king's troops.
So that if an intrepid commander had, only for ten days, maintained his ground, without yielding to the first appearance of an approaching terror, the Romans could neither have retreated by Tempe into Thessaly, nor have had any road open for the conveyance of provisions to their position.
For Tempe is a pass of such a nature, that even supposing no obstruction was given by an enemy, it is difficult to get through it;
being so narrow for the distance of five miles, that there is barely room for a loaded horse to pass:
the precipices, also, on both sides, are so abrupt, that it is scarcely possible to look down from them, without a dizziness alike of the eyes and the mind; while the roaring and depth of the river Peneus, flowing through the middle of the glen, increases the terrific effect.
This defile, in its nature so dangerous, was guarded by parties of the king's troops, stationed in four different places: one near Gonnus, at the first entrance; another in an impregnable fortress at Condylos; a third near Lapathus, in a place called Charax; and the fourth on the road itself about midway, where the valley is narrowest, and might have been easily defended even by half a score men.
All possibility either of retreating, or of receiving provisions through Tempe, being cut off, the Romans, in order to return, must have crossed [p. 2064]
over the same mountains from which they came down;
but even though they might have been able to effect this by passing unobserved, they never could have accomplished it openly, and while the enemy kept possession of the heights;
and besides, the difficulties which they had already experienced would have precluded every hope of the kind.
In this rash enterprise they would have no other plan left than to force their way into Macedonia, through the midst of the enemy posted at Dium; and if the gods had not deprived the king of his understanding, this would have been extremely difficult.
For the space between the foot of Mount Olympus and the sea is not much more than a mile in breadth;
one half of which is taken up by the mouth of the river Baphirus, which forms a large morass, and, of the remaining plain, a great share is occupied by the town and the temple of Jupiter: the rest, being a very small space, might have been shut up with a trench and rampart of no great length; or, so great was the plenty of stones and timber on the spot, that a wall might have been drawn across, and towers erected.
But the king's judgment was so entirely blinded by the sudden fright, that he reflected not upon any one of these circumstances;
on the contrary, he evacuated all his strong posts, and leaving them open to the enemy, fled back to Pydna.