The History, 20.6

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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6While these transactions were proceeding in Gaul, to the great anxiety of many, the fierce king of Persia (the advice of Antoninus being now seconded by the arrival of Craugasius), burning with eagerness to obtain Mesopotamia, while Constantius with his army was at a distance, crossed the Tigris in due form with a vast army, and laid siege to Singara with a thoroughly equipped force, sufficient for the siege of a town which, in the opinion of the chief commanders of those regions, was abundantly fortified and supplied.

2The garrison, as soon as they saw the enemy, while still at a distance, at once closed their gates, and with great spirit thronged to the towers and battlements, collecting on them stones and warlike engines. And then, having made all their preparations, they stood prepared to repel the advancing host if they should venture to approach the walls.

3Therefore the king, when he arrived and found that, though they would admit some of his nobles near enough to confer with them, he could not, by any conciliatory language, bend the garrison to his wishes, he gave one entire day to rest, and then, at daybreak, on a signal made by the raising of a scarlet flag, the whole city was surrounded by men carrying ladders, while others began to raise engines; all being protected by fences and penthouses while seeking a way to assail the foundation of the walls.

4Against these attempts the citizens, standing on the lofty battlements, drove back with stones and every kind of missile the assailants who were seeking with great ferocity to find an entrance.

5For many days the struggle continued without any decided result, many being wounded and killed on both sides. At last, the struggle growing fiercer, one day on the approach of evening a very heavy battering-ram was brought forward among other engines, which battered a round tower with repeated blows, at a point where we mentioned that the city had been laid open in a former siege.

6The citizens at once repaired to this point, and a violent conflict arose in this small space; torches and firebrands were brought from all quarters to consume this formidable engine, while arrows and bullets were showered down without cessation on the assailants. But the keenness of the ram prevailed over every means of defence, digging through the mortar of the recently cemented stones, which was still moist and unsettled.

7And while the contest was thus proceeding with fire and sword, the tower fell, and a path was opened into the city, the place being stripped of its defenders, whom the magnitude of the danger had scattered. The Persian bands raised a wild shout, and without hindrance filled every quarter of the city. A very few of the inhabitants were slain, and all the rest, by command of Sapor, were taken alive and transported to the most distant regions of Persia.

8There had been assigned for the protection of this city two legions, the first Flavian and the first Parthian, and a great body of native troops, as well as a division of auxiliary cavalry which had been shut up in it through the suddenness of the attack made upon it. All of these, as I have said, were taken prisoners, without receiving any assistance from our armies.

9For the greater part of our army was in tents taking care of Nisibis, which was at a considerable distance. But even if it had not been so, no one even in ancient times could easily bring aid to Singara when in danger, since the whole country around laboured under a scarcity of water. And although a former generation had placed this fort very advisedly, to check sudden movements of hostility, yet it was a great burden to the state, having been several times taken, and always involving the loss of its garrison.

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