The History, 31.15

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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15After this disastrous battle, when night had veiled the earth in darkness, those who survived fled, some to the right, some to the left, or wherever fear guided them, each man seeking refuge among his relations, as no one could think of anything but himself, while all fancied the lances of the enemy sticking in their backs. And far off were heard the miserable wailings of those who were left behind—the sobs of the dying, and the agonizing groans of the wounded.

2But when daylight returned, the conquerors, like wild beasts rendered still more savage by the blood they had tasted, and allured by the temptations of groundless hope, marched in a dense column upon Hadrianople, resolved to run any risk in order to take it, having been informed by traitors and deserters that the principal officers of State, the insignia of the imperial authority, and the treasures of Valens had all been placed there for safety, as in an impregnable fortress.

3And to prevent the ardour of the soldiers from being cooled by delay, the whole city was blockaded by the fourth hour; and the siege from that time was carried on with great vigour, the besiegers, from their innate ferocity, pressing in to complete its destruction, while, on the other hand, the garrison was stimulated to great exertions by their natural courage.

4And while the vast number of soldiers and grooms, who were prohibited from entering the city with their beasts, kept close to the walls and to the houses which joined them, and fought gallantly, considering the disadvantages under which they laboured from the lowness of the ground which they occupied, and baffled the rage of their assailants till the ninth hour of the day, on a sudden three hundred of our infantry, of those who were nearest the battlements, formed themselves into a solid body, and deserted to the barbarians, who seized upon them with avidity, and (it is not known on what account) at once slaughtered them all. And from that time forth it was remarked that no one, even in the extremity of despair, adopted any similar conduct.

5Now while all these misfortunes were at their height, suddenly there came a violent thunderstorm, and rain pouring down from the black clouds dispersed the bands of soldiers who were raging around; and they returned to their camp, which was measured out in a circle by their waggons; and being more elated and haughty than ever, they sent threatening letters to our men . . . and an ambassador . . . on condition of safety to him.

6But as the messenger did not dare to enter the city, the letters were at last brought in by a certain Christian; and when they had been read and considered with all proper attention, the rest of the day and the whole of the night was devoted to preparing for defence. For inside the city the gates were blocked up with huge stones; the weak parts of the walls were strengthened, and engines to hurl javelins or stones were fixed on all convenient places, and a sufficient supply of water was also provided; for the day before some of the combatants had been distressed almost to death by thirst.

7On the other hand the Goths, considering the difficulty and uncertainty of all warlike transactions, and becoming anxious at seeing their bravest warriors wounded and slain, and their strength gradually diminished, devised and adopted a crafty counsel, which, however, was revealed to us by Justice herself.

8They seduced some picked soldiers of our army, who had revolted to them the day before, to pretend to escape back to their former comrades, and thus gain admittance within the walls; and after they had effected their entrance, they were secretly to set fire to some part of the city, so that the conflagration might serve as a secret signal, and while the garrison and citizens were occupied in extinguishing it, the walls might be left undefended, and so be easily stormed.

9The traitors did as they were commanded; and when they came near the ditch they stretched out their hands, and with entreaties requested to be admitted into the city as Romans. When they were admitted, however (since no suspicion existed to hinder their admission), and were questioned as to the plans of the enemy, they varied in their tale: and in consequence they were put to the torture, and having formally confessed what they had undertaken to do, they were all beheaded.

10Accordingly, every resource of war having been prepared, the barbarians, at the third watch discarding all fear from past failures, rushed in enormous numbers against the blocked-up entrances of the city, their officers urging them with great obstinacy. But the provincials and imperial guards, with the rest of the garrison, rose with fearless courage to repel them, and their missiles of every kind, even when shot at random among so vast a crowd, could not fall harmless. Our men perceived that the barbarians were using the same weapons which we ourselves had shot at them: and accordingly an order was given that the strings which fastened the iron points to the javelins and arrows should be cut before they were hurled or shot; so that while flying they should preserve their efficacy, but when they pierced a body or fell on the ground they should come asunder.

11While affairs were in this critical state an unexpected accident had a considerable influence on the result. A scorpion, a military engine which in ordinary language is also known as the wild-ass, being stationed opposite the dense array of the enemy, hurled forth a huge stone, which, although it fell harmless on the ground, yet by the mere sight of it terrified them so greatly, that in alarm at the strange spectacle they all fell back and endeavoured to retreat.

12But their officers ordering the trumpets to sound a charge, the battle was renewed; and the Romans, as before, got the advantage, not a single javelin or bullet hurled by a slinger failing of its effect. For the troops of the generals who led the vanguard, and who were inflamed by the desire of possessing themselves of the treasures which Valens had so wickedly acquired, were followed closely by others who were vain of exposing themselves to as much danger as those of greater renown. And some were wounded almost to death: others were struck down, crushed by huge weights, or pierced through their breasts with javelins; some who carried ladders and attempted to scale the walls on different sides were buried under their own burthens, being beaten down by stones which were hurled upon them, and by fragments of pillars and cylinders.

13And yet, horrible as the sight of this bloodshed was, so great was their ardour that no one relaxed in his gallant exertions till the evening, being encouraged by seeing many of the garrison also fall by various wounds. So, without rest or relaxation, both the besiegers and the besieged fought with unwearied courage.

14And now no kind of order was observed by the enemy, but they fought in detached bands and in skirmishes (which is the sign of the extremity of despair); and at last, when evening came on, they all returned to their tents, sorrowfully, each man accusing his neighbour of inconsiderate rashness, because they had not taken the advice of Fritigern, and avoided the labours and dangers of a siege.

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