The History, 16.11

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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11But Julian, having passed his winter at Sens, amid continual disturbance, in the ninth consulship of the emperor, and his own second, while the threats of the Germans were raging on all sides, being roused by favourable omens, marched with speed to Rheims, with the greater alacrity and joy because Severus was in command of the army there; a man inclined to agree with him, void of arrogance, but of proved propriety of conduct and experience in war, and likely to follow his lawful authority, obeying his general like a well-disciplined soldier.

2In another quarter, Barbatio, who after the death of Silvanus had been promoted to the command of the infantry, came from Italy by the emperor’s orders, to Augst, with 25,000 heavy-armed soldiers.

3For the plan proposed and very anxiously prepared was, that the Allemanni, who were in a state of greater rage than ever, and were extending their incursions more widely, should be caught between our two armies, as if between the arms of a pair of pincers, and so driven into a corner and destroyed.

4But while these well-devised plans were being pressed forward, the barbarians, in joy at some success which they had obtained, and skilful in seizing every opportunity for plunder, passed secretly between the camps of the armies, and attacked Lyons unexpectedly. And having plundered the district around, they would have stormed and burnt the city itself, if they had not found the gates so strongly defended that they were repulsed; so that they only destroyed all they could find outside the city.

5When this disaster was known, Cæsar, with great alacrity, despatched three squadrons of light cavalry, of approved valour, to watch three lines of road, knowing that beyond all question the invaders must quit the district by one of them.

6Nor was he mistaken; for all who came by these roads were slaughtered by our men, and the whole of the booty which they were carrying off was recovered unhurt. Those alone escaped in safety who passed by the camp of Barbatio, who were suffered to escape in that direction because Bainobaudes the tribune, and Valentinian (afterwards emperor), who had been appointed to watch that pass with the squadrons of cavalry under their orders, were forbidden by Cella (the tribune of the Scutarii, who had been sent as colleague to Barbatio) to occupy that road, though they were sure that by that the Germans would return to their own country.

7The cowardly master of the horse, being also an obstinate enemy to the glory of Julian, was not contented with this, but being conscious that he had given orders inconsistent with the interests of Rome (for when he was accused of it Cella confessed what he had done), he made a false report to Constantius, and told him that these same tribunes had, under a pretence of the business of the state, came thither for the purpose of tampering with the soldiers whom he commanded. And owing to this statement they were deprived of their commands, and returned home as private individuals.

8In these days, also, the barbarians, alarmed at the approach of our armies, which had established their stations on the left bank of the Rhine, employed some part of their force in skilfully barricading the roads, naturally difficult of access, and full of hills, by abattis constructed of large trees cut down; others occupied the numerous islands scattered up and down the Rhone, and with horrid howls poured forth constant reproaches against the Romans and the Cæsar; who, being now more than ever resolved to crush some of their armies, demanded from Barbatio seven of those boats which he had collected, for the purpose of constructing a bridge with them, with the intention of crossing the river. But Barbatio, determined that no assistance should be got from him, burnt them all.

9Julian, therefore, having learnt from the report of some spies whom he had lately taken prisoners, that, when the drought of summer arrived, the river was fordable, addressed a speech of encouragement to his light-armed auxiliary troops, and sent them forward with Bainobaudes, the tribune of the Cornuti, to try and perform some gallant exploit, if they could find an opportunity. And they, entering the shallow of the river, and sometimes, when there was occasion for swimming, putting their shields under them like canoes, reached a neighbouring island, and having landed, killed every one they found on it, men and women, without distinction of age, like so many sheep. And having found some empty boats, though they were not very safe, they crossed in them, forcing their way into many places of the same land. When they were weary of slaughter, and loaded with a rich booty, some of which, however, they lost through the violence of the river, they returned back to the camp without losing a man.

10And when this was known, the rest of the Germans, thinking they could no longer trust the garrisons left in the islands, removed their relations, and their magazines, and their barbaric treasures, into the inland parts.

11After this Julian turned his attention to repair the fortress known by the name of Saverne, which had a little time before been destroyed by a violent attack of the enemy, but which, while it stood, manifestly prevented the Germans from forcing their way into the interior of the Gauls, as they had been accustomed to do; and he executed this work with greater rapidity than he expected, and he laid up for the garrison which he intended to post there sufficient magazines for a whole year’s consumption, which his army collected from the crops of the barbarians, not without occasional contests with the owners.

12Nor indeed was he contented with this, but he also collected provisions for himself and his army sufficient for twenty days. For the soldiers delighted in using the food which they had won with their own right hands, being especially indignant because, out of all the supplies which had been recently sent them, they were not able to obtain anything, inasmuch as Barbatio, when they were passing near his camp, had with great insolence seized on a portion of them, and had collected all the rest into a heap and burnt them. Whether he acted thus out of his own vanity and insane folly, or whether others were really the authors of this wickedness, relying on the command of the emperor himself, has never been known.

13However, as far as report went, the story commonly was, that Julian had been elected Cæsar, not for the object of relieving the distresses of the Gauls, but rather of being himself destroyed by the formidable wars in which he was sure to be involved; being at that time, as was supposed, inexperienced in war, and not likely to endure even the sound of arms.

14While the works of the camp were steadily rising, and while a portion of the army was being distributed among the stations in the country districts, Julian occupied himself in other quarters with collecting supplies, operating with great caution, from the fear of ambuscades. And in the mean time, a vast host of the barbarians, outstripping all report of their approach by the celerity of their movements, came down with a sudden attack upon Barbatio, and the army which (as I have already mentioned) he had under his command, separated from the Gallic army of Severus only by a rampart; and having put him to flight, pursued him as far as Augst, and beyond that town too, as far as they could; and, having made booty of the greater part of his baggage and beasts of burden, and having carried off many of the sutlers as prisoners, they returned to their main army.

15And Barbatio, as if he had brought his expectations to a prosperous issue, now distributed his soldiers into winter quarters, and returned to the emperor’s court, to forge new accusations against the Cæsar, according to his custom.

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