The History, 27.12

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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12The King of Persia, the aged Sapor, who from the very commencement of his reign had been addicted to the love of plunder, after the death of the Emperor Julian, and the disgraceful treaty of peace subsequently made, for a short time seemed with his people to be friendly to us; but presently he trampled under foot the agreement which he had made with Jovian, and poured a body of troops into Armenia to annex that country to his own dominions, as if the whole of the former arrangements had been abolished.

2At first he contented himself with various tricks, intrigues, and deceits, inflicting some trifling injuries on the nation which unanimously resisted him, tampering with some of the nobles and satraps, and making sudden inroads into the districts belonging to others.

3Afterwards by a system of artful cajolery fortified by perjury, he got their king Arsaces into his hands, having invited him to a banquet, when he ordered him to be seized and conducted to a secret chamber behind, where his eyes were put out, and he was loaded with silver chains, which in that country is looked upon as a solace under punishment for men of rank, trifling though it be; then he removed him from his country to a fortress called Agabana, where he applied to him the torture, and finally put him to death.

4After this, in order that his perfidy might leave nothing unpolluted, having expelled Sauromaces, whom the authority of the Romans had made governor of Hiberia, he conferred the government of that district on a man of the name of Aspacuras, even giving him a diadem, to mark the insult offered to the decision of our emperors.

5And after these infamous actions he committed the charge of Armenia to an eunuch named Cylaces, and to Artabannes, a couple of deserters whom he had received some time before (one of them having been prefect of that nation, and the other commander in-chief); and he enjoined them to use every exertion to destroy the town of Artogerassa, a place defended by strong walls and a sufficient garrison, in which were the treasures, and the wife and son of Arsaces.

6These generals commenced the siege as they were ordered. And as it is a fortress placed on a very rugged mountain height, it was inaccessible at that time, while the ground was covered with snow and frost: and so Cylaces being an eunuch, and, as such, suited to feminine manœuvres, taking Artabannes with him, approached the walls; after having received a promise of safety, and he and his companion had been admitted into the city, he sought by a mixture of advice and threats to persuade the garrison and the queen to pacify the wrath of the implacable Sapor by a speedy surrender.

7And after many arguments had been urged on both sides, the woman bewailing the sad fortune of her husband, these men, who had been most active in wishing to compel her to surrender, pitying her distress, changed their views; and conceiving a hope of higher preferment, they in secret conferences arranged that at an appointed hour of the night the gates should be suddenly thrown open, and a strong detachment should sally forth and fall upon the ramparts of the enemy’s camp, surprising it with sudden slaughter; the traitors promising that, to prevent any knowledge of what was going on, they would come forward to meet them.

8Having ratified this agreement with an oath, they quitted the town, and led the besiegers to acquiesce in inaction by representing that the besieged had required two days to deliberate on what course they ought to pursue. Then in the middle of the night, when they were all soundly asleep in fancied security, the gates of the city were thrown open, and a strong body of young men poured forth with great speed, creeping on with noiseless steps and drawn swords, till they entered the camp of the unsuspecting enemy, where they slew numbers of sleeping men, without meeting with any resistance.

9This unexpected treachery of his officers, and the loss thus inflicted on the Persians, caused a terrible quarrel between us and Sapor; and another cause for his anger was added, as the Emperor Valens received Para, the son of Arsaces, who at his mother’s instigation had quitted the fortress with a small escort, and had desired him to stay at Neo-Cæsarea, a most celebrated city on the Black Sea, where he was treated with great liberality and high respect. Cylaces and Artabannes, being allured by this humanity of Valens, sent envoys to him to ask for assistance, and to request that Para might be given them for their king.

10However, for the moment assistance was refused them; but Para was conducted by the general Terentius back to Armenia, where he was to rule that nation without any of the insignia of royalty; which was a very wise regulation, in order that we might not be accused of breaking our treaty of peace.

11When this arrangement became known, Sapor was enraged beyond all bounds, and collecting a vast army, entered Armenia and ravaged it with the most ferocious devastation. Para was terrified at his approach, as were also Cylaces and Artabannes, and, as they saw no other resource, fled into the recesses of the lofty mountains which separate our frontiers from Lazica; where they hid in the depths of the woods and among the defiles of the hills for five months, eluding the various attempts of the king to discover them.

12And Sapor, when he saw that he was losing his labour in the middle of winter, burnt all the fruit trees, and all the fortified castles and camps, of which he had become master by force or treachery, and also burnt Artogerassa, which had long been blockaded by his whole army, and after many battles was taken through the exhaustion of the garrison; and he carried off from thence the wife of Arsaces and all his treasures.

13For these reasons, Arinthæus was sent into these districts with the rank of count, to aid the Armenians if the Persians should attempt to harass them by a second campaign.

14At the same time, Sapor, with extraordinary cunning, being either humble or arrogant as best suited him, under pretence of an intended alliance, sent secret messengers to Para to reproach him as neglectful of his own dignity, since, with the appearance of royal majesty, he was really the slave of Cylaces and Artabannes. On which Para, with great precipitation, cajoled them with caresses till he got them in his power, and slew them, sending their heads to Sapor in proof of his obedience.

15When the death of these men became generally known, it caused such dismay that Armenia would have been ruined without striking a blow in its own defence, if the Persians had not been so alarmed at the approach of Arinthæus that they forbore to invade it again, contenting themselves with sending ambassadors to the emperor, demanding of him not to defend that nation, according to the agreement made between them and Jovian.

16Their ambassadors were rejected, and Sauromaces, who, as we have said before, had been expelled from the kingdom of Hiberia, was sent back with twelve legions under the command of Terentius; and when he reached the river Cyrus, Aspacuras entreated him that they might both reign as partners, being cousins; alleging that he could not withdraw nor cross over to the side of the Romans, because his son Ultra was as a hostage in the hands of the Persians.

17The emperor learning this, in order by wisdom and prudence to put an end to the difficulties arising out of this affair, acquiesced in the division of Hiberia, allowing the Cyrus to be the boundary of the two divisions: Sauromaces to have the portion next to the Armenians and Lazians, and Aspacuras the districts which border on Albania and Persia.

18Sapor, indignant at this, exclaimed that he was unworthily treated, because we had assisted Armenia contrary to our treaty, and because the embassy had failed which he had sent to procure redress, and because the kingdom of Hiberia was divided without his consent or privity; and so, shutting as it were, the gates of friendship, he sought assistance among the neighbouring nations, and prepared his own army in order, with the return of fine weather, to overturn all the arrangements which the Romans had made with a view to their own interests.

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