The History, 31.3

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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3Therefore the Huns, after having traversed the territories of the Alani, and especially of that tribe of them who border on the Gruthungi, and who are called Tanaitæ, and having slain many of them and acquired much plunder, they made a treaty of friendship and alliance with those who remained. And when they had united them to themselves, with increased boldness they made a sudden incursion into the extensive and fertile districts of Ermenrichus, a very warlike prince, and one whom his numerous gallant actions of every kind had rendered formidable to all the neighbouring nations.

2He was astonished at the violence of this sudden tempest, and although, like a prince whose power was well established he long attempted to hold his ground, he was at last overpowered by a dread of the evils impending over his country, which were exaggerated by common report, till he terminated his fear of great danger by a voluntary death.

3After his death Vithimiris was made king. He for some time maintained a resistance to the Alani, relying on the aid of other tribes of the Huns, whom by large promises of pay he had won over to his party; but, after having suffered many losses, he was defeated by superior numbers and slain in battle. He left an infant son named Viderichus, of whom Alatheus and Saphrax undertook the guardianship, both generals of great experience and proved courage. And when they, yielding to the difficulties of the crisis, had given up all hope of being able to make an effectual resistance, they retired with caution till they came to the river Dniester, which lies between the Danube and the Dnieper, and flows through a vast extent of country.

4When Athanaric, the chief magistrate of the Thuringians (against whom, as I have already mentioned, Valens had begun to wage war, to punish him for having sent assistance to Procopius), had become informed of these unexpected occurrences, he prepared to maintain his ground, with a resolution to rise up in strength should he be assailed as the others had been.

5At last he pitched his camp at a distance in a very favourable spot near the banks of the Dniester and the valleys of the Gruthungi, and sent Muderic, who afterwards became Duke of the Arabian frontier, with Lagarimanus and others of the nobles, with orders to advance for twenty miles, to reconnoitre the approach of the enemy; while in the mean time he himself, without delay, marshalled his troops in line of battle.

6However, things turned out in a manner very contrary to his expectations. For the Huns (being very sagacious in conjectures) suspecting that there must be a considerable multitude further off, contrived to pass beyond those they had seen, and arranged themselves to take their rest where there was nothing at hand to disturb them; and then, when the moon dispelled the darkness of night, they forded the river, which was the best plan that presented itself, and fearing lest the piquets at the outposts might give the alarm to the distant camp, they made all possible speed and advanced with the hope of surprising Athanaric himself.

7He was stupefied at the suddenness of their onset, and after losing many of his men, was compelled to flee for refuge to the precipitous mountains in the neighbourhood, where, being wholly bewildered with the strangeness of this occurrence, and the fear of greater evils to come, he began to fortify with lofty walls all the territory between the banks of the river Pruth and the Danube, where it passes through the lands of the Taifali, and he completed this line of fortification with great diligence, thinking that by this step he should secure his own personal safety.

8While this important work was going on, the Huns kept pressing on his traces with great speed, and they would have overtaken and destroyed him if they had not been forced to abandon the pursuit from being impeded by the great quantity of their booty. In the mean time a report spread extensively through the other nations of the Goths, that a race of men, hitherto unknown, had suddenly descended like a whirlwind from the lofty mountains, as if they had risen from some secret recess of the earth, and were ravaging and destroying everything which came in their way. And then the greater part of the population which, because of their want of necessaries had deserted Athanaric, resolved to flee and to seek a home remote from all knowledge of the barbarians; and after a long deliberation where to fix their abode, they resolved that a retreat into Thrace was the most suitable for these two reasons: first of all, because it is a district most fertile in grass; and also because, by the great breadth of the Danube, it is wholly separated from the barbarians, who were already exposed to the thunderbolts of foreign warfare. And the whole population of the tribe adopted this resolution unanimously.

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