The History, 31.16

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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16After the battle, the soldiers devoted the whole night (which, as it was summer, was not long) to tending the wounded with all the remedies known to their nations, and when daylight returned they began to discuss various plans, doubting what to do. And after many plans had been proposed and objected to, they at last decided to occupy Perinthus, and then, every place where they could hear that any treasures were stored up, the deserters and fugitives having given them all the information they required, so that they learnt what was in every house, to say nothing of what was in every city. Adopting this resolution unanimously, which they thought the best, they advanced by slow marches, ravaging and burning everything as they passed.

2But those who had been besieged in Hadrianople, after the barbarians had departed, as soon as scouts of approved fidelity had reported that the whole place was free from enemies, issued forth at midnight, and avoiding the public causeways, took out-of-way roads through the woods, and withdrew, some to Philippopolis, and from thence to Serdica, others to Macedonia; with all the wealth which they had saved undiminished, and pressing on with the greatest exertion and celerity, as if they were likely to find Valens in those regions, since they were wholly ignorant that he had perished in battle, or else certainly (as is rather believed) burnt to death in the cottage.

3Meanwhile the Goths, combining with the Huns and Alani, both brave and warlike tribes, and inured to toil and hardship, whom Fritigern had with great ability won over to his side by the temptation of great rewards—fixed their camp near Perinthus; but recollecting their previous losses, they did not venture to come close to the city, or make any attempt to take it; they, however, devastated and entirely stripped the fertile territory surrounding it, slaying or making prisoners of the inhabitants.

4From hence they marched with speed to Constantinople in battle array, from fear of ambuscades; being eager to make themselves masters of its ample riches, and resolved to try every means to take that illustrious city. But while giving way to extravagant pride, and beating almost against the barriers of the gates, they were repulsed in this instance by the Deity.

5A body of Saracens (a nation of whose origin and manners we have already given a full account in several places), being more suited for sallies and skirmishes than for pitched battles, had been lately introduced into the city; and, as soon as they saw the barbarian host, they sallied out boldly from the city to attack it. There was a stubborn fight for some time; and at last both armies parted on equal terms.

6But a strange and unprecedented incident gave the final advantage to the eastern warriors; for one of them with long hair, naked—with the exception of a covering round his waist—shouting a hoarse and melancholy cry, drew his dagger and plunged into the middle of the Gothic host, and after he had slain an enemy, put his lips to his throat, and sucked his blood. The barbarians were terrified at this marvellous prodigy, and from that time forth, when they proceeded on any enterprise, displayed none of their former and usual ferocity, but advanced with hesitating steps.

7As time went on their ardour damped, and they began to take into consideration the vast circuit of the walls (which was the greater on account of the large space occupied by mansions with gardens within it), the inaccessible beauties of the city, and the immensity of its population; also the vicinity of the strait which divides the Black Sea from the Ægean. Then after destroying the works which they had constructed, having sustained greater losses than they had inflicted, they raised the siege, and roamed at random over the northern provinces, which they traversed without restraint as far as the Julian Alps, which the ancients used to call the Venetian Alps.

8At this time the energy and promptitude of Julius, the commander of the forces on the other side of Mount Taurus, was particularly distinguished; for when he learnt what had happened in Thrace, he sent secret letters to all the governors of the different cities and forts, who were all Romans (which at this time is not very common), requesting them, on one and the same day, as at a concerted signal, to put to death all the Goths who had previously been admitted into the places under their charge; first luring them into the suburbs, in expectation of receiving the pay which had been promised to them. This wise plan was carried out without any disturbance or any delay; and thus the Eastern provinces were delivered from great dangers.

9Thus have I, a Greek by birth, and formerly a soldier, related all the events from the accession of Nerva to the death of Valens, to the best of my abilities; professing above all things to tell the truth, which, as I believe, I have never knowingly perverted, either by silence or by falsehood. Let better men in the flower of their age, and of eminent accomplishments, relate the subsequent events. But if it should please them to undertake the task, I warn them to sharpen their tongues to a loftier style.

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