The History, 16.2

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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2Therefore while passing a toilsome winter in the city aforesaid, he learnt, among the numerous reports which were flying about, that the ancient city of Autun, the walls of which, though of vast extent, were in a state of great decay from age, was now besieged by the barbarians, who had suddenly appeared before it in great force; and while the garrison remained panic-stricken and inactive, the town was defended by a body of veterans who were behaving with great courage and vigilance; as it often happens that extreme despair repulses dangers which appear destructive of all hope or safety.

2Therefore, without relaxing his anxiety about other matters, and putting aside all the adulation of the courtiers with which they sought to divert his mind towards voluptuousness and luxury, he hastened his preparations, and when everything was ready he set out, and on the 24th of June arrived at Autun; behaving like a veteran general conspicuous alike for skill and prowess, and prepared to fall upon the barbarians, who were straggling in every direction over the country, the moment fortune afforded him an opportunity.

3Therefore having deliberated on his plans, and consulted those who were acquainted with the country as to what would be the safest line of march for him to adopt, after having received much information in favour of different routes, some recommending Arbois, others insisting on it that the best way was by Saulieu and Cure.

4But as some persons affirmed that Silvanus, in command of a body of infantry, had, a short time before, made his way with 8,000 men by a road shorter than either, but dangerous as lying through many dark woods and defiles suitable for ambuscades, Julian became exceedingly eager to imitate the audacity of this brave man.

5And to prevent any delay, taking with him only his cuirassiers and archers, who would not have been sufficient to defend his person had he been attacked, he took the same route as Silvanus; and so came to Auxerre.

6And there, having, according to his custom, devoted a short time to rest, for the purpose of refreshing his men, he proceeded onwards towards Troyes; and strengthened his flanks that he might with the greater effect watch the barbarians, who attacked him in numerous bodies, which he avoided as well as he could, thinking them more numerous than they really were. Presently, however, having occupied some favourable ground, he descended upon one body of them, and routed it, and took some prisoners whom their own fears delivered to him; and then he allowed the rest, who now devoted all their energies to flying with what speed they could, to escape unattacked, as his men could not pursue them by reason of the weight of their armour.

7This occurrence gave him more hope of being able to resist any attack which they might make, and marching forwards with this confidence, after many dangers he reached Troyes so unexpectedly, that when he arrived at the gates, the inhabitants for some time hesitated to give him entrance into the city, so great was their fear of the straggling multitudes of the barbarians.

8After a little delay, devoted to again refreshing his weary troops, thinking that there was no time to waste, he proceeded to the city of Rheims, where he had ordered his whole army, carrying . . . to assemble, and there to await his presence. The army at Rheims was under the command of Marcellus, the successor of Ursicinus; and Ursicinus himself was ordered to remain there till the termination of the expedition.

9Again Julian took counsel, and after many opinions of different purport had been delivered, it was determined to attack the host of the Allemanni in the neighbourhood of Dieuse; and to that quarter the army now marched in dense order, and with more than usual alacrity.

10And because the weather, being damp and misty, prevented even what was near from being seen, the enemy, availing themselves of their knowledge of the country, came by an oblique road upon the Cæsar’s rear, and attacked two legions while they were piling their arms; and they would almost have destroyed them if the uproar which suddenly arose had not brought the auxiliary troops of the allies to their support.

11From this time forth Julian, thinking it impossible to find any roads or any rivers free from ambuscades, proceeded with consummate prudence and caution; qualities which above all others in great generals usually bring safety and success to armies.

12Hearing therefore that Strasburg, Brumat, Saverne, Spiers, Worms, and Mayence, were all in the hands of the barbarians, who were established in their suburbs, for the barbarians shunned fixing themselves in the towns themselves, looking upon them like graves surrounded with nets, he first of all entered Brumat, and just as he reached that place he was encountered by a body of Germans prepared for battle.

13Having arranged his own army in the form of a crescent, the engagement began, and the enemy were speedily surrounded and utterly defeated. Some were taken prisoners, others were slain in the heat of the battle, the rest sought safety by rapid flight.

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