The History, 29.5

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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5After this . . . it seems best to relate these matters in one connected narrative, lest the introduction of other affairs wholly unconnected with them, and which took place at a distance, should lead to confusion, and prevent the reader from acquiring a correct knowledge of these numerous and intricate affairs.

2Nubel, who had been the most powerful chieftain among the Mauritanian nations, died, and left several sons, some legitimate, others born of concubines, of whom Zamma, a great favourite of the Count Romanus, was slain by his brother Firmus; and this deed gave rise to civil discords, and wars. For the count being exceedingly eager to avenge his death, made formidable preparations for the destruction of his treacherous enemy. And as continual reports declared, most exceeding pains were taken in the palace, that the despatches of Romanus, which contained many most unfavourable statements respecting Firmus, should be received and read by the prince; while many circumstances strengthened their credibility. And, on the other hand, that those documents which Firmus frequently, for the sake of his own safety, endeavoured to lay before the emperor by the agency of his friends, should be kept from his sight as long as possible, Remigius, a friend and relation of Romanus, and who was at that time master of the offices, availed himself of other more important affairs which claimed the emperor’s attention to declare that Firmus’s papers were all unimportant and superfluous, only to be read at a perfectly favourable opportunity.

3But when Firmus perceived that these intrigues were going on to keep his defence out of sight, trembling for fear of the worst if all his excuses should be passed over, and he himself be condemned as disaffected and mischievous, and so be put to death, he revolted from the emperor’s authority, and aided . . . in devastation.

4Therefore, to prevent an implacable enemy from gaining strength by such an increase of force, Theodosius, the commander of the cavalry, was sent with a small body of the emperor’s guards to crush him at once. Theodosius was an officer whose virtues and successes were at that time conspicuous above those of all other men: he resembled those ancient heroes, Domitius Corbulo, and Lusius; the first of whom was distinguished by a great number of gallant achievements in the time of Nero, and the latter of equal reputation under Trajan.

5Theodosius marched from Arles with favourable auspices, and having crossed the sea with the fleet under his command so rapidly that no report of his approach could arrive before himself, he reached the coast of Mauritania Sitifensis; that portion of the coast being called, by the natives, Igilgitanum. There, by accident, he met Romanus, and addressing him kindly, sent him to arrange the stations of the sentries and the outposts, without reproaching him for any of the matters for which he was liable to blame.

6And when he had gone to the other province, Mauritania Cæsariensis, he sent Gildo, the brother of Firmus and Maximus, to assist Vincentius, who, as the deputy of Romanus, was the partner of his disloyal schemes and thefts.

7Accordingly, as soon as his soldiers arrived, who had been delayed by the length of the sea voyage, he hastened to Sitifis; and gave orders to the body-guards to keep Romanus and his attendants under surveillance. He himself remained in the city, full of embarrassment and anxiety, working many plans in his mind, while devising by what means or contrivances he could conduct his soldiers who were accustomed to a cold climate through a country parched up with heat; or how he could catch an enemy always on the alert and appearing when least expected, and who relied more on surprises and ambuscades than a pitched battle.

8When news of these facts reached Firmus, first through vague reports, and subsequently by precise information, he, terrified at the approach of a general of tried valour, sent envoys and letters to him, confessing all he had done, and imploring pardon; asserting that it was not of his own accord that he had been driven on to an action which he knew to be criminal, but that he had been goaded on by unjust treatment of a flagitious character, as he undertook to show.

9When his letters had been read, and when peace was promised him, and hostages received from him, Theodosius proceeded to the Pancharian station to review the legions to which the protection of Africa was intrusted, and who had been ordered to assemble to meet him at that place. There he encouraged the hopes of them all by confident yet prudent language; and then returned to Sitifis, having reinforced his troops with some native soldiers; and, not being inclined to admit of any delay, he hastened to regain his camp.

10Among many other admirable qualities which he displayed, his popularity was immensely increased by an order which he issued, forbidding the army to demand supplies from the inhabitants of the province; and asserting, with a captivating confidence, that the harvests and granaries of the enemy were the magazines of the valour of our soldiers.

11Having arranged these matters in a way which caused great joy to the landowners, he advanced to Tubusuptum, a town near Mons Ferratus, where he rejected a second embassy of Firmus, because it had not brought with it the hostages, as had been provided before. From this place, having made as careful an examination of everything as the time and place permitted, he proceeded by rapid marches to the Tyndenses and Massisenses; tribes equipped with light arms, under the command of Mascizel and Dius, brothers of Firmus.

12When the enemy, being quick and active in all their movements, came in sight, after a fierce skirmish by a rapid interchange of missiles, both sides engaged in a furious contest; and amid the groans of the wounded and dying were heard also the wailing and lamentations of barbarian prisoners. When the battle was over, the territory for a great distance was ravaged and wasted by fire.

13Among the havoc thus caused, the destruction of the farm of Petra, which was razed to the ground, and which had been originally built by Salmaces, its owner, a brother of Firmus, in such a manner as to resemble a town, was especially remarkable. The conqueror was elated at this success, and with incredible speed proceeded to occupy the town of Lamforctense, which was situated among the tribes already mentioned; here he caused large stores of provisions to be accumulated, in order that if, in his advance into the inland districts, he should find a scarcity of supplies, he might order them to be brought from this town, which would be at no great distance.

14In the mean time Mascizel, having recruited his forces by auxiliaries which he had procured from the tribes on the borders, ventured on a pitched battle with our army, in which his men were routed, and a great portion of them slain, while he himself was with difficulty saved from death by the speed of his horse.

15Firmus, being weakened by the losses he had sustained in two battles, and in great perplexity, in order to leave no expedient untried, sent some priests of the Christian religion with the hostages, as ambassadors to implore peace. They were received kindly, and having promised supplies of food for our soldiers, as they were commissioned to do, they brought back a propitious answer. And then, sending before him a present, Firmus himself went with confidence to meet the Roman general, mounted on a horse fitted for any emergency. When he came near Theodosius, he was awe-struck at the brilliancy of the standards, and the terrible countenance of the general himself; and leapt from his horse, and with neck bowed down almost to the ground, he, with tears, laid all the blame on his own rashness, and entreated pardon and peace.

16He was received with a kiss, since such treatment of him appeared advantageous to the republic; and being now full of joyful hope, he supplied the army with provisions in abundance; and having left some of his own relations as hostages, he departed in order, as he promised, to restore those prisoners whom he had taken at the first beginning of these disturbances. And two days afterwards, without any delay, he restored the town of Icosium (of the founders of which we have already spoken), also the military standards, the crown belonging to the priest, and all the other things which he had taken, as he had been commanded to do.

17Leaving this place, our general, advancing by long marches, reached Tiposa, where, with great elation, he gave answers to the envoys of the Mazices, who had combined with Firmus, and now in a suppliant tone implored pardon, replying to their entreaties that he would at once march against them as perfidious enemies.

18When he had thus cowed them by the fear of impending danger, and had commanded them to return to their own country, he proceeded onwards to Cæsarea, a city formerly of great wealth and importance, of the origin of which we have given a full account in our description of Africa. When he reached it, and saw that nearly the whole of it had been destroyed by extensive conflagrations, and that the flint stones of the streets were covered with ashes, he ordered the first and second legions to be stationed there for a time, that they might clear away the heaps of cinders and ashes, and keep guard there to prevent a fresh attack of the barbarians from repeating this devastation.

19When accurate intelligence of these events had arrived, the governors of the province and the tribune Vincentius issued forth from the places of concealment in which they had been lying, and came with speed and confidence to the general. He saw and received them with joy, and, while still at Cæsarea, having accurately inquired into every circumstance, he found that Firmus, while assuming the disguise of an ally and a suppliant, was secretly planning how, like a sudden tempest, to overwhelm his army while unprepared for any such danger.

20On this he quitted Cæsarea, and went to the town of Sugabarritanum, which is on the slope of Mount Transcellensis. There he found the cavalry of the fourth cohort of archers, who had revolted to the rebels, and in order to show himself content with lenient punishments, he degraded them all to the lowest class of the service, and ordered them, and a portion of the infantry of the Constantian legion, to come to Tigaviæ with their tribunes, one of whom was the man who, for want of a diadem, had placed a neck-chain on the head of Firmus.

21While these events were proceeding, Gildo and Maximus returned, and brought with them Bellenes, one of the princes of the Mazices, and Fericius, prefect of that nation, both of whom had espoused the faction of the disturber of the public peace, leading them forth in chains.

22When this order had been executed, Theodosius himself came forth from his camp at daybreak, and on seeing those men surrounded by his army, said, “What, my trusty comrades, do you think ought to be done to these nefarious traitors?” And then, in compliance with the acclamations of the whole army, who demanded that their treason should be expiated by their blood, he, according to the ancient fashion, handed over those of them who had served in the Constantian legion to the soldiers to be put to death by them. The officers of the archers he sentenced to lose their hands, and the rest he condemned to death, in imitation of Curio, that most vigorous and severe general, who by this kind of punishment crushed the ferocity of the Dardanians, when it was reviving like the Lernæan hydra.

23But malignant detractors, though they praise the ancient deed, vituperate this one as terrible and inhuman, affirming that the Dardanians were implacable enemies, and therefore justly suffered the punishment inflicted on them; but that those soldiers, who belonged to our own standards, ought to have been corrected with more lenity, for falling into one single error. But we will remind these cavillers, of what perhaps they know already, namely, that this cohort was not only an enemy by its own conduct, but also by the example which it set to others.

24He also commanded Bellenes and Fericius, who have been mentioned above, and whom Gildo brought with him, to be put to death; and likewise Curandius, a tribune of the archers, because he had always been backward in engaging the enemy himself, and had never been willing to encourage his men to fight. And he did this in recollection of the principle laid down by Cicero, that “salutary vigour is better than an empty appearance of clemency.”

25Leaving Sugabarri, he came to a town called Gallonatis, surrounded by a strong wall, and a secure place of refuge for the Moors, which, as such, he destroyed with his battering-rams. And having slain all the inhabitants, and levelled the walls, he advanced along the foot of Mount Ancorarius to the fortress of Tingetanum, where the Mazices were all collected in one solid body. He at once attacked them, and they encountered him with arrows and missiles of all kinds as thick as hail.

26The battle proceeded for some time vigorously on both sides, till at last the Mazices, though a hardy and warlike race, being unable to withstand the fury of our men and the shock of their arms, after sustaining heavy loss, fled in every direction in disgraceful panic; and as they fled they were put to the sword in great numbers, with the exception only of those who, contriving to make their escape, afterwards, by their humble supplications, obtained the pardon which the times permitted to be granted to them.

27Their leader Suggena, who succeeded Romanus, was sent into Mauritania Sitifensis to establish other garrisons necessary to prevent that province from being overrun; and he himself, elated by his recent achievements, marched against the nation of the Musones, who, from a consciousness of the ravages and murders of which they had been guilty, had joined the party of Firmus, hoping that he would soon obtain the chief authority.

28Having advanced some distance, he found, near the town of Addense, that a number of tribes, who, though differing from each other in manners and language, were all animated with one feeling, in fomenting the outbreaks of terrible wars, being urged on and encouraged by the hope of great rewards from a sister of Firmus, named Cyria; who being very rich, and full of feminine resolution, was resolved to make a great effort to help her brother.

29Therefore Theodosius, fearing to become involved in a war to which his forces were unequal, and that if he with his small force (for he had but three thousand five hundred men) should engage with an immense multitude, he should lose his whole army, at first hesitating between the shame of retreating and his wish to fight, gradually fell back a little; but presently was compelled by the overpowering mass of the barbarians to retire altogether.

30The barbarians were exceedingly elated at this event, and pursued him with great obstinacy. . . . Being compelled by necessity to fight, he would have lost all his army and his own life, had not these tumultuous tribes, the moment they saw a troop of the Mazican auxiliaries, with a few Roman soldiers in their front, fancied that a numerous division was advancing to charge them, and in consequence taking to flight, opened to our men a way of escape which was previously shut against them.

31Theodosius now drew off his army in safety; and when he had reached a town called Mazucanum, he found there a number of deserters, some of whom he burnt alive, and others he mutilated after the fashion of the archers whose hands had been cut off. He then proceeded towards Tipata, which he reached in the course of February.

32There he stayed some time deliberating, like that old delayer, Fabius, on the circumstances around him, desiring to subdue the enemy, who was not only warlike, but so active as usually to keep out of bowshot, rather by manœuvres and skill than by hazardous engagements.

33Still he from time to time sent out envoys, skilled in the arts of persuasion, to the surrounding tribes, the Basuræ, the Cautauriani, the Anastomates, the Cafaves, the Davares, and other people in their neighbourhood, trying to bring them over to our alliance, either by presents, threats, or by promises of pardon for past violence . . . seeking by delays and intrigues to crush an enemy who offered so stout a resistance to his attacks, just as Pompey in times past had subdued Mithridates.

34On this account Firmus, avoiding immediate destruction, although he was strengthened by a large body of troops, abandoned the army which he had collected by a lavish expenditure of money, and as the darkness of night afforded a chance of concealment, he fled to the Caprarian mountains, which were at a great distance, and from their precipitous character inaccessible.

35On his clandestine departure, his army also dispersed, being broken up into small detachments without any leader, and thus afforded our men an opportunity of attacking their camp. That was soon plundered, and all who resisted were put to the sword, or else taken prisoners; and then, having devastated the greater portion of the country, our wise general appointed prefects of tried loyalty as governors of the different tribes through which he passed.

36The traitor was thrown into consternation by the unexpected boldness of his pursuit, and with the escort of only a few servants, hoping to secure his safety by the rapidity of his movements, in order to have nothing to impede his flight, threw away all the valuable baggage which he had taken with him. His wife, exhausted with continual toil. . . .

37Theodosius . . . showing mercy to none of them, having refreshed his soldiers by a supply of better food, and gratified them by a distribution of pay, defeated the Capracienses and Abanni, who were the next tribes to them, in some unimportant skirmishes, and then advanced with great speed to the town of . . . and having received certain intelligence that the barbarians had already occupied the hills, and were spread over the precipitous and broken ground to a great height, so that they were quite inaccessible to any but natives who were intimately acquainted with the whole country, he retired, giving the enemy an opportunity by a truce, short as it was, to receive an important reinforcement from the Ethiopians in the neighbourhood.

38Then having assembled all their united forces, they rushed on to battle with threatening shouts, and an utter disregard of their individual safety, compelling him to retreat, full of consternation at the apparently countless numbers of their army. But soon the courage of his men revived, and he returned, bringing with him vast supplies, and with his troops in a dense column, and brandishing their shields with formidable gestures, he again engaged the enemy in close combat.

39The barbarians rattled their arms in a savage manner, and our battalions, with equal rage, pushed on, they also rattling their shields against their knees. Still the general, like a cautious and prudent warrior, aware of the scantiness of his numbers, advanced boldly with his army in battle array, till he came to a point, at which he turned off, though still preserving an undaunted front, towards the city of Contensis, where Firmus had placed the prisoners whom he had taken from us, as in a remote and safe fortress. He recovered them all, and inflicted severe punishment, according to his custom, on the traitors among the prisoners, and also on the guards of Firmus.

40While he was thus successful, through the protection of the Supreme Deity, he received correct intelligence from one of his scouts that Firmus had fled to the tribe of the Isaflenses. He at once entered their territory to require that he should be given up, with his brother Mazuca, and the rest of his relations: and on being refused, he declared war against the nation.

41And after a fierce battle, in which the barbarians displayed extraordinary courage and ferocity, he threw his army into a solid circle; and then the Isaflenses were so completely overpowered by the weight of our battalions pressing on them that numbers were slain; and Firmus himself, gallantly as he behaved, after exposing himself to imminent danger by the rashness of his courage, put spurs to his horse, and fled; his horse being accustomed to make his way with great speed over the most rocky and precipitous paths. But his brother Mazuca was taken prisoner, mortally wounded.

42It was intended to send him to Cæsarea, where he had left behind him many records of his atrocious cruelties; but his wounds reopened, and he died. So his head was cut off, and (his body being left behind) was conveyed to that city, where it was received with great joy by all who saw it.

43After this our noble general inflicted most severe punishment, as justice required, on the whole nation of the Isaflenses, which had resisted till it was thus subdued in war. And he burnt alive one of the most influential of the citizens, named Evasius, and his son Florus, and several others, who were convicted on undeniable evidence of having aided the great disturber of tranquillity by their secret counsels.

44From thence Theodosius proceeded into the interior, and with great resolution attacked the tribe of the Jubileni, to which he heard that Nubel, the father of Firmus, belonged; but presently he halted, being checked by the height of the mountains, and their winding defiles. And though he had once attacked the enemy, and opened himself a further road by slaying a great number of them, still, fearing the high precipices as places pre-eminently adapted for ambuscades, he withdrew, and led back his army in safety to a fortress called Audiense, where the Jesalenses, a warlike tribe, came over to him, voluntarily promising to furnish him with reinforcements and provisions.

45Our noble general, exulting in this and similarly glorious achievements, now made the greatest efforts to overtake the original disturber of tranquillity himself, and therefore having halted for some time near a fortress named Medianum, he planned various schemes through which he hoped to procure that Firmus should be given up to him.

46And while he was directing anxious thoughts and deep sagacity to this object, he heard that he had again gone back to the Isaflenses; on which, as before, without any delay, he marched against them with all possible speed. Their king, whose name was Igmazen, a man of great reputation in that country, and celebrated also for his riches, advanced with boldness to meet him, and addressed him thus, “To what country do you belong, and with what object have you come hither? Answer me.” Theodosius, with firm mind and stern looks, replied, “I am a lieutenant of Valentinian, the master of the whole world, sent hither to destroy a murderous robber; and unless you at once surrender him, as the invincible emperor has commanded, you also, and the nation of which you are king, will be entirely destroyed.” Igmazen, on receiving this answer, heaped a number of insulting epithets on our general, and then retired full of rage and indignation.

47And the next morning at daybreak the two armies, breathing terrible threats against each other, advanced to engage in battle: nearly twenty thousand barbarians constituted the front of their army, with very large reserves posted behind, out of sight, with the intention that they should steal forward gradually, and hem in our battalions with their vast and unexpected numbers. These were also supported by a great number of auxiliaries of the Jesalenian tribes, whom we have mentioned as having promised reinforcements and supplies to ourselves.

48On the other side, the Roman army, though scanty in numbers, nevertheless being full of natural courage, and elated by their past victories, formed into dense columns, and joining their shields firmly together, in the fashion of a testudo, planted their feet firmly in steady resistance; and from sunrise to the close of day the battle was protracted. A little before evening Firmus was seen mounted on a tall horse, expanding his scarlet cloak in order to attract the notice of his soldiers, whom he was exciting with a loud voice at once to deliver up Theodosius, calling him a ferocious and cruel man—an inventor of merciless punishments—as the only means of delivering themselves from the miseries which he was causing them.

49This unexpected address only provoked some of our men to fight with more vigour than ever, but there were others whom it seduced to desert our ranks. Therefore when the stillness of night arrived, and the country became enveloped in thick darkness, Theodosius returned to the fortress of Duodiense, and, recognizing those soldiers who had been persuaded by fear and Firmus’s speech to quit the fight, he put them all to death by different modes of execution; of some he cut off the right hands, others he burnt alive.

50And conducting himself with ceaseless care and vigilance, he routed a division of the barbarians who, though afraid to show themselves by day, ventured, after the moon had set, to make an attempt upon his camp: some of those who advanced further than their comrades he took prisoners. Departing from this place, he made a forced march through by-roads to attack the Jesalensians, who had shown themselves disloyal and unfaithful. He could not obtain any supplies from their country, but he ravaged it, and reduced it to complete desolation. Then he passed through the towns of Mauritania and Cæsarensis, and returned to Sitifis, where he put to the torture Castor and Martinianus, who had been the accomplices of Romanus in his rapine and other crimes, and afterwards burnt them.

51After this the war with the Isaflenses was renewed; and in the first conflict, after the barbarians had been routed with heavy loss, their king Igmazen, who had hitherto been accustomed to be victorious, agitated by fears of the present calamity, and thinking that all his alliances would be destroyed, and that he should have no hope left in life if he continued to resist, with all the cunning and secrecy that he could, fled by himself from the battle; and reaching Theodosius, besought him in a suppliant manner to desire Masilla, the chief magistrate of the Mazices, to come to him.

52When that noble had been sent to him as he requested, he employed him as his agent to advise the general, as a man by nature constant and resolute in his plans, that the way to accomplish his purpose would be to press his countrymen with great vigour, and, by incessant fighting, strike terror into them; as, though they were keen partisans of Firmus, they were nevertheless wearied out by repeated disasters.

53Theodosius adopted this advice, and, by battle after battle, so completely broke the spirits of the Isaflenses, that they fell away like sheep, and Firmus again secretly escaped, and hiding himself for a long time in out-of-the-way places and retreats, till at last, while deliberating on a further flight, he was seized by Igmazen, and put in confinement.

54And since he had learnt from Masilla the plans which had been agitated in secret, he at last came to reflect that in so extreme a necessity there was but one remedy remaining, and he determined to trample under foot the love of life by a voluntary death; and having designedly filled himself with wine till he became stupefied, when, in the silence of the night, his keepers were sunk in profound slumber, he, fully awake from dread of the misfortune impending over him, left his bed with noiseless steps, and crawling on his hands and feet, conveyed himself to a distance, and then, having found a rope which chance provided for the end of his life, he fastened it to a nail which was fixed in the wall, and hanging himself, escaped the protracted sufferings of torture.

55Igmazen was vexed at this, lamenting that he was thus robbed of his glory, because it had not been granted to him to conduct this rebel alive to the Roman camp; and so, having received a pledge of the state for his own safety, through the intervention of Masilla, he placed the body of the dead man on a camel, and when he arrived at the camp of the Roman army, which was pitched near the fortress of Subicarense, he transferred it to a pack-horse, and offered it to Theodosius, who received it with exultation.

56And Theodosius having assembled a crowd of soldiers and citizens, and having asked them whether they recognized the face of the corpse, learnt by their answers that there was no question at all that it was the man; after this he stayed there a short time, and then returned to Sitifis in great triumph, where he was received with joyful acclamations of the people of every age and rank.

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