The History, 25.6

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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6And while these arrangements were being made, the victims and entrails were inspected on behalf of Jovian, and it was pronounced that he would ruin everything if he remained in the camp, as he proposed, but that if he quitted it he would have the advantage.

2And just as we were beginning our march, the Persians attacked us, preceded by their elephants. Both our horses and men were at first disordered by their roaring and formidable onset; but the Jovian and Herculean legions slew a few of the monsters, and made a gallant resistance to the mounted cuirassiers.

3Then the legions of the Jovii and Victores coming up to aid their comrades, who were in distress, also slew two elephants and a great number of the enemy’s troops. And on our left wing three most gallant men were slain, Julian, Macrobius, and Maximus, all tribunes of the legions which were then the chief of the whole army.

4When they were buried as well as circumstances permitted, as night was drawing on, and as we were pressing forward with all speed towards a fort called Sumere, the dead body of Anatolius was recognized and buried with a hurried funeral. Here also we were rejoined by sixty soldiers and a party of the guards of the palace, whom we have mentioned as having taken refuge in a fort called Vaccatum.

5Then on the following day we pitched our camp in a valley in as favourable a spot as the nature of the ground permitted, surrounding it with a rampart like a wall, with sharp stakes fixed all round like so many swords, with the exception of one wide entrance.

6And when the enemy saw this they attacked us with all kinds of missiles from their thickets, reproaching us also as traitors and murderers of an excellent prince. For they had heard by the vague report of some deserters that Julian had fallen by the weapon of a Roman.

7And presently, while this was going on, a body of cavalry ventured to force their way in by the Prætorian gate, and to advance almost up to the emperor’s tent. But they were vigorously repulsed with the loss of many of their men killed and wounded.

8Quitting this camp, the next night we reached a place called Charcha, where we were safe, because the artificial mounds of the river had been broken to prevent the Saracens from overrunning Armenia, so that no one was able to harass our lines as they had done before.

9Then on the 1st of July we marched thirty furlongs more, and came to a city called Dura, where our baggage-horses were so jaded, that their drivers, being mostly recruits, marched on foot till they were hemmed in by a troop of Saracens; and they would all have been killed if some squadrons of our light cavalry had not gone to their assistance in their distress.

10We were exposed to the hostility of these Saracens because Julian had forbidden that the presents and gratuities, to which they had been accustomed, should be given to them; and when they complained to him, they were only told that a warlike and vigilant emperor had iron, not gold.

11Here, owing to the obstinate hostility of the Persians, we lost four days. For when we advanced they followed us, compelling us to retrace our steps by their incessant attacks. When we halted gradually to fight, they retired, tormenting us by their long delay. And now (for when men are in great fear even falsehoods please them) a report being spread that we were at no great distance from our own frontier, the army raised an impatient shout, and demanded to be at once led across the Tigris.

12But the emperor and his officers opposed this demand, and showed them that the river, now just at the time of the rising of the Dogstar, was much flooded, entreated them not to trust themselves to its dangerous currents, reminding them that most of them could not swim, and adding likewise that the enemy had occupied the banks of the river, swoln as it was at many parts.

13But when the demand was repeated over and over again in the camp, and the soldiers with shouts and great eagerness began to threaten violence, the order was given very unwillingly that the Gauls, mingled with the northern Germans, should lead the way into the river, in order that if they were carried away by the violence of the stream the obstinacy of the rest might be shaken; or on the other hand, if they accomplished the passage in safety the rest might attempt it with more confidence.

14And men were selected suited to such an enterprise, who from their childhood had been accustomed in their native land to cross the greatest rivers. And when the darkness of night presented an opportunity for making the attempt unperceived, as if they had just escaped from a prison, they reached the opposite bank sooner than could have been expected; and having beaten down and slain numbers of the Persians whom, though they had been placed there to guard the passage, their fancied security had lulled into a gentle slumber, they held up their hands, and shook their cloaks so as to give the concerted signal that their bold attempt had succeeded.

15And when the signal was seen, the soldiers became eager to cross, and could only be restrained by the promise of the engineers to make them bridges by means of bladders and the hides of slaughtered animals.

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