The History, 31.1

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

« Amm. 30.10 | Amm. 31.1 | Amm. 31.2 | About This Work »

1In the mean time the swift wheel of Fortune, which continually alternates adversity with prosperity, was giving Bellona the Furies for her allies, and arming her for war; and now transferred our disasters to the East, as many presages and portents foreshowed by undoubted signs.

2For after many true prophecies uttered by diviners and augurs, dogs were seen to recoil from howling wolves, and the birds of night constantly uttered querulous and mournful cries; and lurid sunrises made the mornings dark. Also, at Antioch, among the tumults and squabbles of the populace, it had come to be a custom for any one who fancied himself ill treated to cry out in a licentious manner, “May Valens be burnt alive!” And the voices of the criers were constantly heard ordering wood to be carried to warm the baths of Valens, which had been built under the supertendence of the emperor himself.

3All which circumstances all but pointed out in express words that the end of the emperor’s life was at hand. Besides all these things, the ghost of the king of Armenia, and the miserable shades of those who had lately been put to death in the affair of Theodorus, agitated numbers of people with terrible alarms, appearing to them in their sleep, and shrieking out verses of horrible import.

4. . . and its death indicated an extensive and general calamity arising from public losses and deaths. Last of all, when the ancient walls of Chalcedon were thrown down in order to build a bath at Constantinople, and the stones were torn asunder, on one squared stone which was hidden in the very centre of the walls these Greek verses were found engraved, which gave a full revelation of what was to happen:—

“Ἀλλ’ ὅποταν νύμφαι δροσερῇ κατὰ ἄστυ χορείῃ
Τεπόμεναι στρέψωνται εΰστεέφας κατ’ ἀγυιὰς
Καὶ τεῖχος λούτροιο πολύστονον ἔσσεται ἄλκαὶ
Δὴ τότε μύρια φῦλα πολυσπερέων ἀνθρώπων
Ἴστρου καλλιρόοιο πόρον περάοντα σὺν αἰχμῇ
Καὶ Σκυθικὴν ὀλέσει χώῃην καὶ Μυσίδα γαῖαν
Παιονίης δ’ ἐπιβάντα σὺν σὺν ἐλπίσι μαινομένῃσιν
Αὐτὁου καὶ βιότο ο τέλος καὶ δῆρις εφεξει.”

“But when young wives and damsels blithe, in dances that delight,
Shall glide along the city streets, with garlands gaily bright;
And when these walls, with sad regrets, shall fall to raise a bath,
Then shall the Huns in multitude break forth with might and wrath.
By force of arms the barrier-stream of Ister they shall cross,
O’er Scythic ground and Mœsian lands spreading dismay and loss:
They shall Pannonian horsemen brave, and Gallic soldiers slay,
And nought but loss of life and breath their course shall ever stay.”

« Amm. 30.10 | Amm. 31.1 | Amm. 31.2 | About This Work »

Version menu

Table of contents