2Nor indeed was the East the only quarter which this plague affected with its various disasters. For the Isaurians also, a people who were accustomed to frequent alternations of peace, and of turbulence which threw everything into confusion with sudden outbreaks—impunity having fostered their growing audacity and encouraged it to evil—broke out in a formidable war. Being especially excited, as they gave out by this indignity, that some of their allies, having been taken prisoners, were in an unprecedented manner exposed to wild beasts, and in the games of the amphitheatre, at Iconium, a town of Pisidia.
2And as Cicero says, that “even wild beasts, when reminded by hunger, generally return to that place where they have been fed before.” So they all, descending like a whirlwind from their high and pathless mountains, came into the districts bordering on the sea: in which hiding themselves in roads full of lurking-places, and in defiles, when the long nights were approaching, the moon being at that time new, and so not yet giving her full light, they lay wait for the sailors; and when they perceived that they were wrapped in sleep, they, crawling on their hands and feet along the cables which held the anchors, and raising themselves up by them, swung themselves into the boats, and so came upon the crews unexpectedly, and, their natural ferocity being inflamed by covetousness, they spared not even those who offered no resistance, but slew them all, and carried off a splendid booty with no more trouble than if it had been valueless.
3This conduct did not last long, for when the deaths of the crews thus plundered and slaughtered became known, no one afterwards brought a vessel to the stations on that coast; but, avoiding them as they would have avoided the deadly precipices of Sciron, they sailed on, without halting, to the shores of Cyprus, which lie opposite to the rocks of Isauria.
4Therefore as time went on, and no foreign vessels went there any more, they quitted the sea-coast, and betook themselves to Lycaonia, a country which lies on the borders of Isauria. And there, occupying the roads with thick barricades, they sought a living by plundering the inhabitants of the district, as well as travellers. These outrages aroused the soldiers who were dispersed among the many municipal towns and forts which lie on the borders. And they, endeavouring to the utmost of their strength to repel these banditti, who were spreading every day more widely, sometimes in solid bodies, at others in small straggling parties, were overcome by their vast numbers.
5Since the Isaurians, having been born and brought up amid the entangled defiles of lofty mountains, could bound over them as over plain and easy paths, and attacked all who came in their way with missiles from a distance, terrifying them at the same time with savage yells.
6And very often our infantry were compelled in pursuit of them to climb lofty crags, and, when their feet slipped, to catch hold of the shrubs and briars to raise themselves to the summits; without ever being able to deploy into battle array, by reason of the narrow and difficult nature of the ground, nor even to stand firm; while their enemy running round in every direction hurled down upon them fragments of rock from above till they retired down the declivities with great danger. Or else, sometimes, in the last necessity fighting bravely, they were overwhelmed with fragments of immense bulk and weight.
7On this account they subsequently were forced to observe more caution, and whenever the plunderers began to retire to the high ground, our soldiers yielded to the unfavourable character of the country and retired. But whenever they could be met with in the plain, which often happened, then charging them without giving them time to combine their strength, or even to brandish the javelins of which they always carried two or three, they slaughtered them like defenceless sheep.
8So that these banditti, conceiving a fear of Lycaonia, which is for the most part a champaign country, since they had learnt by repeated proofs that they were unequal to our troops in a pitched battle, betook themselves by unfrequented tracks to Pamphylia. This district had long been free from the evils of war, but nevertheless had been fortified in all quarters by strong forts and garrisons, from the dread entertained by the people of rapine and slaughter, since soldiers were scattered over all the neighbouring districts.
9Therefore hastening with all speed, in order by their exceeding celerity of movement to anticipate all rumour of their motions, trusting to their strength and activity of body, they travelled by winding roads until they reached the high ground on the tops of the mountains, the steepness of which delayed their march more than they had expected. And when at last, having surmounted all the difficulties of the mountains, they came to the precipitous banks of the Melas, a deep river and one full of dangerous currents, which winds round the district, protecting the inhabitants like a wall, the night which had overtaken them increased their fears, so that they halted for a while awaiting the daylight. For they expected to be able to cross without hindrance, and then, in consequence of the suddenness of their inroad, to be able to ravage all the country around; but they had incurred great toil to no purpose.
10For when the sun rose they were prevented from crossing by the size of the river, which though narrow was very deep. And while they were searching for some fishing-boats, or preparing to commit themselves to the stream on rafts hastily put together, the legions which at that time were wintering about Side, came down upon them with great speed and impetuosity; and having pitched their standards close to the bank with a view to an immediate battle, they packed their shields together before them in a most skilful manner, and without any difficulty slew some of the banditti, who either trusted to their swimming, or who tried to cross the river unperceived in barks made of the trunks of trees hollowed out.
11And the Isaurians having tried many devices to obtain success in a regular battle, and having failed in everything, being repulsed in great consternation, and with great vigour on the part of the legions, and being uncertain which way to go, came near the town of Laranda. And there, after they had refreshed themselves with food and rest, and recovered from their fears, they attacked several wealthy towns; but being presently scared by the support given to the citizens by some squadrons of horse which happened to be at hand, and which they would not venture to resist in the extensive plains, they retreated, and retracing their steps summoned all the flower of their youth which had been left at home to join them.
12And as they were oppressed with severe famine, they made for a place called Palea, standing on the sea-shore, and fortified with a strong wall; where even to this day supplies are usually kept in store, to be distributed to the armies which defend the frontier of Isauria.
13Therefore they encamped around this fortress for three days and three nights, and as the steepness of the ground on which it stood prevented any attempt to storm it without the most deadly peril, and as it was impossible to effect anything by mines, and no other manœuvres such as are employed in sieges availed anything, they retired much dejected, being compelled by the necessities of their situation to undertake some enterprise, even if it should be greater than their strength was equal to.
14Then giving way to greater fury than ever, being inflamed both by despair and hunger, and their strength increased by their unrestrainable ardour, they directed their efforts to destroy the city of Seleucia, the metropolis of the province, which was defended by Count Castucius, whose legions were inured to every kind of military service.
15The commanders of the garrison being forewarned of their approach by their own trusty scouts, having, according to custom, given, out the watchword to the troops, led forth all their forces in a rapid sally, and having with great activity passed the bridge over the river Calicadnus, the mighty waters of which wash the turrets of the walls, they drew out their men as if prepared for battle. But as yet no man left the ranks, and the army was not allowed to engage; for the band of the Isaurians was dreaded, inasmuch as they were desperate with rage, and superior in number, and likely to rush upon the arms of the legions without any regard to their lives. Therefore as soon as the army was beheld at a distance, and the music of the trumpeters was heard, the banditti halted and stood still for a while, brandishing their threatening swords, and after a time they marched on slowly. And when the steady Roman soldiery began to deploy, preparing to encounter them, beating their shields with their spears (a custom which rouses the fury of the combatants, and strikes terror into their enemies), they filled the front ranks of the Isaurians with consternation. But as the troops were pressing forward eagerly to the combat their generals recalled them, thinking it inopportune to enter upon a contest of doubtful issue, when their walls were not far distant, under protection of which the safety of the whole army could be placed on a solid foundation.
16Therefore the soldiers were brought back inside the walls in accordance with this resolution, and all the approaches and gates were strongly barred; and the men were placed on the battlements and bulwarks, having vast stones and weapons of all kinds piled close at hand, so that if any one forced his way inside he might be overwhelmed with a multitude of missiles and stones.
17But those who were shut up in the walls were at the same time greatly afflicted, because the Isaurians having taken some vessels which were conveying grain down the river, were well provided with abundance of food, while they themselves, having almost consumed the usual stores of food, were in a state of alarm dreading the fatal agonies of approaching famine. When the news of this distress got abroad, and when repeated messages to this effect had moved Gallus Cæsar, because the master of the horse was kept away longer than usual at that season, Nebridius the count of the East was ordered to collect a military force from all quarters, and hastened forward with exceeding zeal to deliver the city, so wealthy and important, from such a peril. And when this was known the banditti retired, without having performed any memorable exploit, and dispersing, according to their wont, they sought the trackless recesses of the lofty mountains.