History of the Wars, Books I and II (of 8) - The Persian War
by Procopius
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[542 A.D.] During these times there was a pestilence, by which the whole human race came near to being annihilated. Now in the case of all other scourges sent from Heaven some explanation of a cause might be given by daring men, such as the many theories propounded by those who are clever in these matters; for they love to conjure up causes which are absolutely incomprehensible to man, and to fabricate outlandish theories of natural philosophy, knowing well that they are saying nothing sound, but considering it sufficient for them, if they completely deceive by their argument some of those whom they meet and persuade them to their view. But for this calamity it is quite impossible either to express in words or to conceive in thought any explanation, except indeed to refer it to God. For it did not come in a part of the world nor upon certain men, nor did it confine itself to any season of the year, so that from such circumstances it might be possible to find subtle explanations of a cause, but it embraced the entire world, and blighted the lives of all men, though differing from one another in the most marked degree, respecting neither sex nor age. For much as men differ with regard to places in which they live, or in the law of their daily life, or in natural bent, or in active pursuits, or in whatever else man differs from man, in the case of this disease alone the difference availed naught. And it attacked some in the summer season, others in the winter, and still others at the other times of the year. Now let each one express his own judgment concerning the matter, both sophist and astrologer, but as for me, I shall proceed to tell where this disease originated and the manner in which it destroyed men.

It started from the Aegyptians who dwell in Pelusium. Then it divided and moved in one direction towards Alexandria and the rest of Aegypt, and in the other direction it came to Palestine on the borders of Aegypt; and from there it spread over the whole world, always moving forward and travelling at times favourable to it. For it seemed to move by fixed arrangement, and to tarry for a specified time in each country, casting its blight slightingly upon none, but spreading in either direction right out to the ends of the world, as if fearing lest some corner of the earth might escape it. For it left neither island nor cave nor mountain ridge which had human inhabitants; and if it had passed by any land, either not affecting the men there or touching them in indifferent fashion, still at a later time it came back; then those who dwelt round about this land, whom formerly it had afflicted most sorely, it did not touch at all, but it did not remove from the place in question until it had given up its just and proper tale of dead, so as to correspond exactly to the number destroyed at the earlier time among those who dwelt round about. And this disease always took its start from the coast, and from there went up to the interior. And in the second year it reached Byzantium in the middle of spring, where it happened that I was staying at that time. And it came as follows. Apparitions of supernatural beings in human guise of every description were seen by many persons, and those who encountered them thought that they were struck by the man they had met in this or that part of the body, as it happened, and immediately upon seeing this apparition they were seized also by the disease. Now at first those who met these creatures tried to turn them aside by uttering the holiest of names and exorcising them in other ways as well as each one could, but they accomplished absolutely nothing, for even in the sanctuaries where the most of them fled for refuge they were dying constantly. But later on they were unwilling even to give heed to their friends when they called to them, and they shut themselves up in their rooms and pretended that they did not hear, although their doors were being beaten down, fearing, obviously, that he who was calling was one of those demons. But in the case of some the pestilence did not come on in this way, but they saw a vision in a dream and seemed to suffer the very same thing at the hands of the creature who stood over them, or else to hear a voice foretelling to them that they were written down in the number of those who were to die. But with the majority it came about that they were seized by the disease without becoming aware of what was coming either through a waking vision or a dream. And they were taken in the following manner. They had a sudden fever, some when just roused from sleep, others while walking about, and others while otherwise engaged, without any regard to what they were doing. And the body shewed no change from its previous colour, nor was it hot as might be expected when attacked by a fever, nor indeed did any inflammation set in, but the fever was of such a languid sort from its commencement and up till evening that neither to the sick themselves nor to a physician who touched them would it afford any suspicion of danger. It was natural, therefore, that not one of those who had contracted the disease expected to die from it. But on the same day in some cases, in others on the following day, and in the rest not many days later, a bubonic swelling developed; and this took place not only in the particular part of the body which is called "boubon,"[16] that is, below the abdomen, but also inside the armpit, and in some cases also beside the ears, and at different points on the thighs.

Up to this point, then, everything went in about the same way with all who had taken the disease. But from then on very marked differences developed; and I am unable to say whether the cause of this diversity of symptoms was to be found in the difference in bodies, or in the fact that it followed the wish of Him who brought the disease into the world. For there ensued with some a deep coma, with others a violent delirium, and in either case they suffered the characteristic symptoms of the disease. For those who were under the spell of the coma forgot all those who were familiar to them and seemed to be sleeping constantly. And if anyone cared for them, they would eat without waking, but some also were neglected, and these would die directly through lack of sustenance. But those who were seized with delirium suffered from insomnia and were victims of a distorted imagination; for they suspected that men were coming upon them to destroy them, and they would become excited and rush off in flight, crying out at the top of their voices. And those who were attending them were in a state of constant exhaustion and had a most difficult time of it throughout. For this reason everybody pitied them no less than the sufferers, not because they were threatened by the pestilence in going near it (for neither physicians nor other persons were found to contract this malady through contact with the sick or with the dead, for many who were constantly engaged either in burying or in attending those in no way connected with them held out in the performance of this service beyond all expectation, while with many others the disease came on without warning and they died straightway); but they pitied them because of the great hardships which they were undergoing. For when the patients fell from their beds and lay rolling upon the floor, they, kept patting them back in place, and when they were struggling to rush headlong out of their houses, they would force them back by shoving and pulling against them. And when water chanced to be near, they wished to fall into it, not so much because of a desire for drink (for the most of them rushed into the sea), but the cause was to be found chiefly in the diseased state of their minds. They had also great difficulty in the matter of eating, for they could not easily take food. And many perished through lack of any man to care for them, for they were either overcome by hunger, or threw themselves down from a height. And in those cases where neither coma nor delirium came on, the bubonic swelling became mortified and the sufferer, no longer able to endure the pain, died. And one would suppose that in all cases the same thing would have been true, but since they were not at all in their senses, some were quite unable to feel the pain; for owing to the troubled condition of their minds they lost all sense of feeling.

Now some of the physicians who were at a loss because the symptoms were not understood, supposing that the disease centred in the bubonic swellings, decided to investigate the bodies of the dead. And upon opening some of the swellings, they found a strange sort of carbuncle that had grown inside them.

Death came in some cases immediately, in others after many days; and with some the body broke out with black pustules about as large as a lentil and these did not survive even one day, but all succumbed immediately. With many also a vomiting of blood ensued without visible cause and straightway brought death. Moreover I am able to declare this, that the most illustrious physicians predicted that many would die, who unexpectedly escaped entirely from suffering shortly afterwards, and that they declared that many would be saved, who were destined to be carried off almost immediately. So it was that in this disease there was no cause which came within the province of human reasoning; for in all cases the issue tended to be something unaccountable. For example, while some were helped by bathing, others were harmed in no less degree. And of those who received no care many died, but others, contrary to reason, were saved. And again, methods of treatment shewed different results with different patients. Indeed the whole matter may be stated thus, that no device was discovered by man to save himself, so that either by taking precautions he should not suffer, or that when the malady had assailed him he should get the better of it; but suffering came without warning and recovery was due to no external cause.

And in the case of women who were pregnant death could be certainly foreseen if they were taken with the disease. For some died through miscarriage, but others perished immediately at the time of birth with the infants they bore. However, they say that three women in confinement survived though their children perished, and that one woman died at the very time of child-birth but that the child was born and survived.

Now in those cases where the swelling rose to an unusual size and a discharge of pus had set in, it came about that they escaped from the disease and survived, for clearly the acute condition of the carbuncle had found relief in this direction, and this proved to be in general an indication of returning health; but in cases where the swelling preserved its former appearance there ensued those troubles which I have just mentioned. And with some of them it came about that the thigh was withered, in which case, though the swelling was there, it did not develop the least suppuration. With others who survived the tongue did not remain unaffected, and they lived on either lisping or speaking incoherently and with difficulty.


Now the disease in Byzantium ran a course of four months, and its greatest virulence lasted about three. And at first the deaths were a little more than the normal, then the mortality rose still higher, and afterwards the tale of dead reached five thousand each day, and again it even came to ten thousand and still more than that. Now in the beginning each man attended to the burial of the dead of his own house, and these they threw even into the tombs of others, either escaping detection or using violence; but afterwards confusion and disorder everywhere became complete. For slaves remained destitute of masters, and men who in former times were very prosperous were deprived of the service of their domestics who were either sick or dead, and many houses became completely destitute of human inhabitants. For this reason it came about that some of the notable men of the city because of the universal destitution remained unburied for many days.

And it fell to the lot of the emperor, as was natural, to make provision for the trouble. He therefore detailed soldiers from the palace and distributed money, commanding Theodorus to take charge of this work; this man held the position of announcer of imperial messages, always announcing to the emperor the petitions of his clients, and declaring to them in turn whatever his wish was. In the Latin tongue the Romans designate this office by the term "referendarius." So those who had not as yet fallen into complete destitution in their domestic affairs attended individually to the burial of those connected with them. But Theodorus, by giving out the emperor's money and by making further expenditures from his own purse, kept burying the bodies which were not cared for. And when it came about that all the tombs which had existed previously were filled with the dead, then they dug up all the places about the city one after the other, laid the dead there, each one as he could, and departed; but later on those who were making these trenches, no longer able to keep up with the number of the dying, mounted the towers of the fortifications in Sycae[17], and tearing off the roofs threw the bodies in there in complete disorder; and they piled them up just as each one happened to fall, and filled practically all the towers with corpses, and then covered them again with their roofs. As a result of this an evil stench pervaded the city and distressed the inhabitants still more, and especially whenever the wind blew fresh from that quarter.

At that time all the customary rites of burial were overlooked. For the dead were not carried out escorted by a procession in the customary manner, nor were the usual chants sung over them, but it was sufficient if one carried on his shoulders the body of one of the dead to the parts of the city which bordered on the sea and flung him down; and there the corpses would be thrown upon skiffs in a heap, to be conveyed wherever it might chance. At that time, too, those of the population who had formerly been members of the factions laid aside their mutual enmity and in common they attended to the burial rites of the dead, and they carried with their own hands the bodies of those who were no connections of theirs and buried them. Nay, more, those who in times past used to take delight in devoting themselves to pursuits both shameful and base, shook off the unrighteousness of their daily lives and practised the duties of religion with diligence, not so much because they had learned wisdom at last nor because they had become all of a sudden lovers of virtue, as it were—for when qualities have become fixed in men by nature or by the training of a long period of time, it is impossible for them to lay them aside thus lightly, except, indeed, some divine influence for good has breathed upon them—but then all, so to speak, being thoroughly terrified by the things which were happening, and supposing that they would die immediately, did, as was natural, learn respectability for a season by sheer necessity. Therefore as soon as they were rid of the disease and were saved, and already supposed that they were in security, since the curse had moved on to other peoples, then they turned sharply about and reverted once more to their baseness of heart, and now, more than before, they make a display of the inconsistency of their conduct, altogether surpassing themselves in villainy and in lawlessness of every sort. For one could insist emphatically without falsehood that this disease, whether by chance or by some providence, chose out with exactitude the worst men and let them go free. But these things were displayed to the world in later times.

During that time it seemed no easy thing to see any man in the streets of Byzantium, but all who had the good fortune to be in health were sitting in their houses, either attending the sick or mourning the dead. And if one did succeed in meeting a man going out, he was carrying one of the dead. And work of every description ceased, and all the trades were abandoned by the artisans, and all other work as well, such as each had in hand. Indeed in a city which was simply abounding in all good things starvation almost absolute was running riot. Certainly it seemed a difficult and very notable thing to have a sufficiency of bread or of anything else; so that with some of the sick it appeared that the end of life came about sooner than it should have come by reason of the lack of the necessities of life. And, to put all in a word, it was not possible to see a single man in Byzantium clad in the chlamys[18], and especially when the emperor became ill (for he too had a swelling of the groin), but in a city which held dominion over the whole Roman empire every man was wearing clothes befitting private station and remaining quietly at home. Such was the course of the pestilence in the Roman empire at large as well as in Byzantium. And it fell also upon the land of the Persians and visited all the other barbarians besides.


[545 A.D.] Now it happened that Chosroes had come from Assyria to a place toward the north called Adarbiganon, from which he was planning to make an invasion into the Roman domain through Persarmenia. In that place is the great sanctuary of fire, which the Persians reverence above all other gods. There the fire is guarded unquenched by the Magi, and they perform carefully a great number of sacred rites, and in particular they consult an oracle on those matters which are of the greatest importance. This is the fire which the Romans worshipped under the name of Hestia[19] in ancient times. There someone who had been sent from Byzantium to Chosroes announced that Constantianus and Sergius would come before him directly as envoys to arrange the treaty. Now these two men were both trained speakers and exceedingly clever; Constantianus was an Illyrian by birth, and Sergius was from the city of Edessa in Mesopotamia. And Chosroes remained quiet expecting these men. But in the course of the journey thither Constantianus became ill and much time was consumed; in the meantime it came about that the pestilence fell upon the Persians. For this reason Nabedes, who at that time held the office of general in Persarmenia, sent the priest of the Christians in Dubios by direction of the king to Valerianus, the general in Armenia, in order to reproach the envoys for their tardiness and to urge the Romans with all zeal toward peace. And he came with his brother to Armenia, and, meeting Valerianus, declared that he himself, as a Christian, was favourably disposed toward the Romans, and that the king Chosroes always followed his advice in every matter; so that if the ambassadors would come with him to the land of Persia, there would be nothing to prevent them from arranging the peace as they wished. Thus then spoke the priest; but the brother of the priest met Valerianus secretly and said that Chosroes was in great straits: for his son had risen against him in an attempt to set up a tyranny, and he himself together with the whole Persian army had been taken with the plague; and this was the reason why he wished just now to settle the agreement with the Romans. When Valerianus heard this, he straightway dismissed the bishop, promising that the envoys would come to Chosroes at no distant time, but he himself reported the words which he had heard to the Emperor Justinian. This led the emperor immediately to send word to him and to Martinus and the other commanders to invade the enemy's territory as quickly as possible. For he knew well that no one of the enemy would stand in their way. And he commanded them to gather all in one place and so make their invasion into Persarmenia. When the commanders received these letters, all of them together with their followers began to gather into the land of Armenia.

And already Chosroes had abandoned Adarbiganon a little before through fear of the plague and was off with his whole army into Assyria, where the pestilence had not as yet become epidemic. Valerianus accordingly encamped close by Theodosiopolis with the troops under him; and with him was arrayed Narses, who had with him Armenians and some of the Eruli. And Martinus, the General of the East, together with Ildiger and Theoctistus, reached the fortress of Citharizon, and fixing his camp there, remained on the spot. This fortress is separated from Theodosiopolis by a journey of four days. There too Peter came not long afterwards together with Adolius and some other commanders. Now the troops in this region were commanded by Isaac, the brother of Narses. And Philemouth and Beros with the Eruli who were under them came into the territory of Chorzianene, not far from the camp of Martinus. And Justus, the emperor's nephew, and Peranius and John, the son of Nicetas, together with Domentiolus and John, who was called the Glutton, made camp near the place called Phison, which is close by the boundaries of Martyropolis. Thus then were encamped the Roman commanders with their troops; and the whole army amounted to thirty thousand men. Now all these troops were neither gathered into one place, nor indeed was there any general meeting for conference. But the generals sent to each other some of their followers and began to make enquiries concerning the invasion. Suddenly, however, Peter, without communicating with anyone, and without any careful consideration, invaded the hostile land with his troops. And when on the following day this was found out by Philemouth and Beros, the leaders of the Eruli, they straightway followed. And when this in turn came to the knowledge of Martinus and Valerianus and their men, they quickly joined in the invasion. And all of them a little later united with each other in the enemy's territory, with the exception of Justus and his men, who, as I have said, had encamped far away from the rest of the army, and learned later of their invasion; then, indeed, they also invaded the territory of the enemy as quickly as possible at the point where they were, but failed altogether to unite with the other commanders. As for the others, they proceeded in a body straight for Doubios, neither plundering nor damaging in any other way the land of the Persians.


Now Doubios is a land excellent in every respect, and especially blessed with a healthy climate and abundance of good water; and from Theodosiopolis it is removed a journey of eight days. In that region there are plains suitable for riding, and many very populous villages are situated in very close proximity to one another, and numerous merchants conduct their business in them. For from India and the neighbouring regions of Iberia and from practically all the nations of Persia and some of those under Roman sway they bring in merchandise and carry on their dealings with each other there. And the priest of the Christians is called "Catholicos" in the Greek tongue, because he presides alone over the whole region. Now at a distance of about one hundred and twenty stades from Doubios on the right as one travels from the land of the Romans, there is a mountain difficult of ascent and moreover precipitous, and a village crowded into very narrow space by the rough country about, Anglon by name. Thither Nabedes withdrew with his whole army as soon as he learned of the inroad of the enemy, and, confident in his strength of position, he shut himself in. Now the village lies at the extremity of the mountain, and there is a strong fortress bearing the same name as this village on the steep mountain side. So Nabedes with stones and carts blocked up the entrances into the village and thus made it still more difficult of access. And in front of it he dug a sort of trench and stationed the army there, having filled some old cabins with ambuscades of infantrymen Altogether the Persian army amounted to four thousand men.

While these things were being done in this way, the Romans reached a place one day's journey distant from Anglon, and capturing one of the enemy who was going out as a spy they enquired where in the world Nabedes was then. And he asserted that the man had retired from Anglon with the whole Median army. And when Narses heard this, he was indignant, and he heaped reproaches and abuse upon his fellow-commanders for their hesitation. And others, too, began to do the very same thing, casting insults upon one another; and from then on, giving up all thought of battle and danger, they were eager to plunder the country thereabout. The troops broke camp, accordingly, and without the guidance of generals and without observing any definite formation, they moved forward in complete confusion; for neither had they any countersign among themselves, as is customary in such perilous situations, nor were they arranged in their proper divisions. For the soldiers marched forward, mixed in with the baggage train, as if going to the ready plunder of great wealth. But when they came near to Anglon, they sent out spies who returned to them announcing the array of the enemy. And the generals were thunder-struck by the unexpectedness of it, but they considered it altogether disgraceful and unmanly to turn back with an army of such great size, and so they disposed the army in its three divisions, as well as the circumstances permitted, and advanced straight toward the enemy. Now Peter held the right wing and Valerianus the left, while Martinus and his men arrayed themselves in the centre. And when they came close to their opponents, they halted, preserving their formation, but not without disorder. The cause for this was to be found in the difficulty of the ground, which was very badly broken up, and in the fact that they were entering battle in a formation arranged on the spur of the moment. And up to this time the barbarians, who had gathered themselves into a small space, were remaining quiet, considering the strength of their antagonists, since the order had been given them by Nabedes not under any circumstances to begin the fighting, but if the enemy should assail them, to defend themselves with all their might.

And first Narses with the Eruli and those of the Romans who were under him, engaged with the enemy, and after a hard hand-to-hand struggle, he routed the Persians who were before him. And the barbarians in flight ascended on the run to the fortress, and in so doing they inflicted terrible injury upon one another in the narrow way. And then Narses urged his men forward and pressed still harder upon the enemy, and the rest of the Romans joined in the action. But all of a sudden the men who were in ambush, as has been said[20], came out from the cabins along the narrow alleys, and killed some of the Eruli, falling unexpectedly upon them, and they struck Narses himself a blow on the temple. And his brother Isaac carried him out from among the fighting men, mortally wounded. And he died shortly afterwards, having proved himself a brave man in this engagement. Then, as was to be expected, great confusion fell upon the Roman army, and Nabedes let out the whole Persian force upon his opponents. And the Persians, shooting into great masses of the enemy in the narrow alleys, killed a large number without difficulty, and particularly of the Eruli who had at the first fallen upon the enemy with Narses and were fighting for the most part without protection. For the Eruli have neither helmet nor corselet nor any other protective armour, except a shield and a thick jacket, which they gird about them before they enter a struggle. And indeed the Erulian slaves go into battle without even a shield, and when they prove themselves brave men in war, then their masters permit them to protect themselves in battle with shields. Such is the custom of the Eruli.

And the Romans did not withstand the enemy and all of them fled as fast as they could, never once thinking of resistance and heedless of shame or of any other worthy motive. But the Persians, suspecting that they had not turned thus to a shameless flight, but that they were making use of some ambuscades against them, pursued them as far as the rough ground extended and then turned back, not daring to fight a decisive battle on level ground, a few against many. The Romans, however, and especially all the generals, supposing that the enemy were continuing the pursuit without pause, kept fleeing still faster, wasting not a moment; and they were urging on their horses as they ran with whip and voice, and throwing their corselets and other accoutrements in haste and confusion to the ground. For they had not the courage to array themselves against the Persians if they overtook them, but they placed all hope of safety in their horses' feet, and, in short, the flight became such that scarcely any one of their horses survived, but when they stopped running, they straightway fell down and expired. And this proved a disaster for the Romans so great as to exceed anything that had ever befallen them previously. For great numbers of them perished and still more fell into the hands of the enemy. And their weapons and draught animals which were taken by the enemy amounted to such an imposing number that Persia seemed as a result of this affair to have become richer. And Adolius, while passing through a fortified place during this retreat—it was situated in Persarmenia—was struck on the head by a stone thrown by one of the inhabitants of the town, and died there. As for the forces of Justus and Peranius, they invaded the country about Taraunon, and after gathering some little plunder, immediately returned.


[544 A.D.] And in the following year, Chosroes, the son of Cabades, for the fourth time invaded the land of the Romans, leading his army towards Mesopotamia. Now this invasion was made by this Chosroes not against Justinian, the Emperor of the Romans, nor indeed against any other man, but only against the God whom the Christians reverence. For when in the first invasion he retired, after failing to capture Edessa[21], both he and the Magi, since they had been worsted by the God of the Christians, fell into a great dejection. Wherefore Chosroes, seeking to allay it, uttered a threat in the palace that he would make slaves of all the inhabitants of Edessa and bring them to the land of Persia, and would turn the city into a pasture for sheep. Accordingly when he had approached the city of Edessa with his whole army, he sent some of the Huns who were following him against that portion of the fortifications of the city which is above the hippodrome, with the purpose of doing no further injury than seizing the flocks which the shepherds had stationed there along the wall in great numbers: for they were confident in the strength of the place, since it was exceedingly steep, and supposed that the enemy would never dare to come so very close to the wall. So the barbarians were already laying hold of the sheep, and the shepherds were trying most valiantly to prevent them. And when a great number of Persians had come to the assistance of the Huns, the barbarians succeeded in detaching something of a flock from there, but Roman soldiers and some of the populace made a sally upon the enemy and the battle became a hand-to-hand struggle; meanwhile the flock of its own accord returned again to the shepherds. Now one of the Huns who was fighting before the others was making more trouble for the Romans than all the rest. And some rustic made a good shot and hit him on the right knee with a sling, and he immediately fell headlong from his horse to the ground, which thing heartened the Romans still more. And the battle which had begun early in the morning ended at midday, and both sides withdrew from the engagement thinking that they had the advantage. So the Romans went inside the fortifications, while the barbarians pitched their tents and made camp in a body about seven stades from the city.

Then Chosroes either saw some vision or else the thought occurred to him that if, after making two attempts, he should not be able to capture Edessa, he would thereby cover himself with much disgrace. Accordingly he decided to sell his withdrawal to the citizens of Edessa for a great sum of money. On the following day, therefore, Paulus the interpreter came along by the wall and said that some of the Roman notables should be sent to Chosroes. And they with all speed chose out four of their illustrious men and sent them. When these men reached the Median camp, they were met according to the king's order by Zaberganes, who first terrified them with many threats and then enquired of them which course was the more desirable for them, whether that leading to peace, or that leading to war. And when the envoys agreed that they would choose peace rather than the dangers of war, Zaberganes replied: "Therefore it is necessary for you to purchase this for a great sum of money." And the envoys said that they would give as much as they had provided before, when he came against them after capturing Antioch. And Zaberganes dismissed them with laughter, telling them to deliberate most carefully concerning their safety and then to come again to the Persians. And a little later Chosroes summoned them, and when they came before him, he recounted how many Roman towns he had previously enslaved and in what manner he had accomplished it; then he threatened that the inhabitants of Edessa would receive more direful treatment at the hands of the Persians, unless they should give them all the wealth which they had inside the fortifications; for only on this condition, he said, would the army depart. When the envoys heard this, they agreed that they would purchase peace from Chosroes, if only he would not prescribe impossible conditions for them: but the outcome of a conflict, they said, was plainly seen by no one at all before the struggle. For there was never a war whose outcome might be taken for granted by those who waged it. Thereupon Chosroes in anger commanded the envoys to be gone with all speed.

On the eighth day of the siege he formed the design of erecting an artificial hill against the circuit wall of the city; accordingly he cut down trees in great numbers from the adjacent districts and, without removing the leaves, laid them together in a square before the wall, at a point which no missile from the city could reach; then he heaped an immense amount of earth right upon the trees and above that threw on a great quantity of stones, not such as are suitable for building, but cut at random, and only calculated to raise the hill as quickly as possible to a great height. And he kept laying on long timbers in the midst of the earth and the stones, and made them serve to bind the structure together, in order that as it became high it should not be weak. But Peter, the Roman general (for he happened to be there with Martinus and Peranius), wishing to check the men who were engaged in this work, sent some of the Huns who were under his command against them. And they, by making a sudden attack, killed a great number; and one of the guardsmen, Argek by name, surpassed all others, for he alone killed twenty-seven. From that time on, however, the barbarians kept a careful guard, and there was no further opportunity for anyone to go out against them. But when the artisans engaged in this work, as they moved forward, came within range of missiles, then the Romans offered a most vigorous resistance from the city wall, using both their slings and their bows against them. Wherefore the barbarians devised the following plan. They provided screens of goat's hair cloth, of the kind which are called Cilician, making them of adequate thickness and height, and attached them to long pieces of wood which they always set before those who were working on the "agesta"[22] (for thus the Romans used to call in the Latin tongue the thing which they were making). Behind this neither ignited arrows nor any other weapon could reach the workmen, but all of them were thrown back by the screens and stopped there. And then the Romans, falling into a great fear, sent the envoys to Chosroes in great trepidation, and with them Stephanus, a physician of marked learning among those of his time at any rate, who also had once cured Cabades, the son of Perozes, when ill, and had been made master of great wealth by him. He, therefore, coming into the presence of Chosroes with the others, spoke as follows: "It has been agreed by all from of old that kindness is the mark of a good king. Therefore, most mighty King, while busying thyself with murders and battles and the enslavement of cities it will perhaps be possible for thee to win the other names, but thou wilt never by any means have the reputation of being 'good.' And yet least of all cities should Edessa suffer any adversity at thy hand. For there was I born, who, without any foreknowledge of what was coming to pass, fostered thee from childhood and counselled thy father to appoint thee his successor in the kingdom, so that to thee I have proved the chief cause of the kingship of Persia, but to my fatherland of her present woes. For men, as a general thing, bring down upon their own heads the most of the misfortunes which are going to befall them. But if any remembrance of such benefaction comes to thy mind, do us no further injury, and grant me this requital, by which, O King, thou wilt escape the reputation of being most cruel." Such were the words of Stephanus. But Chosroes declared that he would not depart from there until the Romans should deliver to him Peter and Peranius, seeing that, being his hereditary slaves, they had dared to array themselves against him. And if it was not their pleasure to do this, the Romans must choose one of two alternatives, either to give the Persians five hundred centenaria of gold, or to receive into the city some of his associates who would search out all the money, both gold and silver, as much as was there, and bring it to him, allowing everything else to remain in the possession of the present owners. Such then were the words which Chosroes hurled forth, being in hopes of capturing Edessa with no trouble. And the ambassadors (since all the conditions which he had announced to them seemed impossible), in despair and great vexation, proceeded to the city. And when they had come inside the city-wall, they reported the message from Chosroes, and the whole city was filled with tumult and lamentation.

Now the artificial hill was rising to a great height and was being pushed forward with much haste. And the Romans, being at a loss what to do, again sent off the envoys to Chosroes. And when they had arrived in the enemy's camp, and said that they had come to make entreaty concerning the same things, they did not even gain a hearing of any kind from the Persians, but they were insulted and driven out from there with a great tumult, and so returned to the city. At first, then, the Romans tried to over-top the wall opposite the hill by means of another structure. But since the Persian work was already rising far above even this, they stopped their building and persuaded Martinus to make the arrangements for a settlement in whatever way he wished. He then came up close to the enemy's camp and began to converse with some of the Persian commanders. But they, completely deceiving Martinus, said that their king was desirous of peace, but that he was utterly unable to persuade the Roman Emperor to have done with his strife with Chosroes and to establish peace with him at last. And they mentioned as evidence of this the fact that Belisarius, who in power and dignity was far superior to Martinus, as even he himself would not deny, had recently persuaded the king of the Persians, when he was in the midst of Roman territory, to withdraw from there into Persia, promising that envoys from Byzantium would come to him at no distant time and establish peace securely, but that he had done none of the things agreed upon, since he had found himself unable to overcome the determination of the Emperor Justinian.


In the meantime the Romans were busying themselves as follows: They made a tunnel from the city underneath the enemy's embankment, commanding the diggers not to leave this work until they should get under the middle of the hill. By this means they were planning to burn the embankment. But as the tunnel advanced to about the middle of the hill, a sound of blows, as it were, came to the ears of those Persians who were standing above. And perceiving what was being done, they too began from above and dug on both sides of the middle, so that they might catch the Romans who were doing the damage there. But the Romans found it out and abandoned this attempt, throwing earth into the place which had been hollowed out, and then began to work on the lower part of the embankment at the end which was next to the wall, and by taking out timbers and stones and earth they made an open space just like a chamber; then they threw in there dry trunks of trees of the kind which burn most easily, and saturated them with oil of cedar and added quantities of sulphur and bitumen. So, then, they were keeping these things in readiness; and meanwhile the Persian commanders in frequent meetings with Martinus were carrying on conversations with him in the same strain as the one I have mentioned, making it appear that they would receive proposals in regard to peace. But when at last their hill had been completed, and had been raised to a great elevation, approaching the circuit-wall of the city and rising far above it in height, then they sent Martinus away, definitely refusing to arrange the treaty, and they intended from then on to devote themselves to active warfare.

Accordingly the Romans straightway set fire to the tree-trunks which had been prepared for this purpose. But when the fire had burned only a certain portion of the embankment, and had not yet been able to penetrate through the whole mass, the wood was already entirely exhausted. But they kept throwing fresh wood into the pit, not slackening their efforts for a moment. And when the fire was already active throughout the whole embankment, some smoke appeared at night rising from every part of the hill, and the Romans, who were not yet willing to let the Persians know what was being done, resorted to the following device: They filled small pots with coals and fire and threw these and also ignited arrows in great numbers to all parts of the embankment. And the Persians who were keeping guard there, began to go about in great haste and extinguish these, and they supposed that the smoke arose from them. But since the trouble increased, the barbarians rushed up to help in great numbers, and the Romans, shooting them from the wall, killed many. And Chosroes too came there about sunrise, followed by the greater part of the army, and, upon mounting the hill, he first perceived what the trouble was. For he disclosed the fact that the cause of the smoke was underneath, not in the missiles which the enemy were hurling, and he ordered the whole army to come to the rescue with all speed. And the Romans, taking courage, began to insult them, while the barbarians were at work, some throwing on earth, and others water, where the smoke appeared, hoping thus to get the better of the trouble; however, they were absolutely unable to accomplish anything. For where the earth was thrown on, the smoke, as was natural, was checked at that place, but not long afterwards it rose from another place, since the fire compelled it to force its way out wherever it could. And where the water fell most plentifully it only succeeded in making the bitumen and the sulphur much more active, and caused them to exert their full force upon the wood near by; and it constantly drove the fire forward, since the water could not penetrate inside the embankment in a quantity at all sufficient to extinguish the flame by its abundance. And in the late afternoon the smoke became so great in volume that it was visible to the inhabitants of Carrhae and to some others who dwelt far beyond them. And since a great number of Persians and of Romans had gone up on top of the embankment, a fight took place and a hand-to-hand struggle to drive each other off, and the Romans were victorious. Then even the flames rose and appeared clearly above the embankment, and the Persians abandoned this undertaking.

On the sixth day after this, at early dawn, they made an assault secretly upon a certain part of the circuit-wall with ladders, at the point which is called the Fort. And since the Romans who were keeping guard there were sleeping a quiet, peaceful sleep, as the night was drawing to its close, they silently set the ladders against the wall and were already ascending. But one of the rustics alone among the Romans happened to be awake, and he with a shout and a great noise began to rouse them all. And a hard struggle ensued in which the Persians were worsted, and they retired to their camp, leaving the ladders where they were; these the Romans drew up at their leisure. But Chosroes about midday sent a large part of the army against the so-called Great Gate in order to storm the wall. And the Romans went out and confronted them, not only soldiers, but even rustics and some of the populace, and they conquered the barbarians in battle decisively and turned them to flight. And while the Persians were still being pursued, Paulus, the interpreter, came from Chosroes, and going into the midst of the Romans, he reported that Rhecinarius had come from Byzantium to arrange the peace; and thus the two armies separated. Now it was already some days since Rhecinarius had arrived at the camp of the barbarians. But the Persians had by no means disclosed this fact to the Romans, plainly awaiting the outcome of the attempts upon the wall which they had planned, in order that, if they should be able to capture it, they might seem in no way to be violating the treaty, while if defeated, as actually happened, they might draw up the treaty at the invitation of the Romans. And when Rhecinarius had gone inside the gates, the Persians demanded that those who were to arrange the peace should come to Chosroes without any delay, but the Romans said that envoys would be sent three days later; for that just at the moment their general, Martinus, was unwell.

And Chosroes, suspecting that the reason was not a sound one, prepared for battle. And at that time he only threw a great mass of bricks upon the embankment; but two days later he came against the fortifications of the city with the whole army to storm the wall. And at every gate he stationed some of the commanders and a part of the army, encircling the whole wall in this way, and he brought up ladders and war-engines against it. And in the rear he placed all the Saracens with some of the Persians, not in order to assault the wall, but in order that, when the city was captured, they might gather in the fugitives and catch them as in a drag-net. Such, then, was the purpose of Chosroes in arranging the army in this way. And the fighting began early in the morning, and at first the Persians had the advantage. For they were in great numbers and fighting against a very small force, since the most of the Romans had not heard what was going on and were utterly unprepared. But as the conflict advanced the city became full of confusion and tumult, and the whole population, even women and little children, were going up on to the wall. Now those who were of military age together with the soldiers were repelling the enemy most vigorously, and many of the rustics made a remarkable shew of valorous deeds against the barbarians. Meanwhile the women and children, and the aged also, were gathering stones for the fighters and assisting them in other ways. Some also filled numerous basins with olive-oil, and after heating them over fire a sufficient time everywhere along the wall, they sprinkled the oil, while boiling fiercely, upon the enemy who were assailing the wall, using a sort of whisk for the purpose, and in this way harassed them still more. The Persians, therefore, soon gave up and began to throw down their arms, and coming before the king, said that they were no longer able to hold out in the struggle. But Chosroes, in a passion of anger, drove them all on with threats and urged them forward against the enemy. And the soldiers with much shouting and tumult brought up the towers and the other engines of war to the wall and set the ladders against it, in order to capture the city with one grand rush. But since the Romans were hurling great numbers of missiles and exerting all their strength to drive them off, the barbarians were turned back by force; and as Chosroes withdrew, the Romans taunted him, inviting him to come and storm the wall. Only Azarethes at the so-called Soinian Gate was still fighting with his men, at the place which they call Tripurgia[23]. And since the Romans at this point were not a match for them, but were giving way before their assaults, already the outer wall, which they call an outwork, had been torn down by the barbarians in many places, and they were pressing most vigorously upon those who were defending themselves from the great circuit-wall; but at last Peranius with a large number of soldiers and some of the citizens went out against them and defeated them in battle and drove them off. And the assault which had begun early in the morning ended in the late afternoon, and both sides remained quiet that night, the Persians fearing for their defences and for themselves, and the Romans gathering stones and taking them to the parapets and putting everything else in complete readiness, so as to fight against the enemy on the morrow when they should attack the wall. Now on the succeeding day not one of the barbarians came against the fortifications; but on the day after that a portion of the army, urged on by Chosroes, made an assault upon the so-called Gate of Barlaus; but the Romans sallied forth and confronted them, and the Persians were decisively beaten in the engagement, and after a short time retired to the camp. And then Paulus, the interpreter of the Persians, came along by the wall and called for Martinus, in order that he might make the arrangements for the truce. Thus Martinus came to conference with the commanders of the Persians, and they concluded an agreement, by which Chosroes received five centenaria from the inhabitants of Edessa, and left them, in writing, the promise not to inflict any further injury upon the Romans; then, after setting fire to all his defences, he returned homeward with his whole army.


At about this time two generals of the Romans died, Justus, the nephew of the emperor, and Peranius, the Iberian, of whom the former succumbed to disease, while Peranius fell from his horse in hunting and suffered a fatal rupture. The emperor therefore appointed others in their places, dispatching Marcellus, his own nephew who was just arriving at the age of manhood, and Constantianus, who a little earlier had been sent as an envoy with Sergius to Chosroes. Then the Emperor Justinian sent Constantianus and Sergius a second time to Chosroes to arrange the truce. And they overtook him in Assyria, at the place where there are two towns, Seleucia and Ctesiphon, built by the Macedonians who after Alexander, the son of Philip, ruled over the Persians and the other nations there. These two towns are separated by the Tigris River only, for they have nothing else between them. There the envoys met Chosroes, and they demanded that he should give back to the Romans the country of Lazica, and establish peace with them on a thoroughly secure basis. But Chosroes said that it was not easy for them to come to terms with each other, unless they should first declare an armistice, and then should continue to go back and forth to each other without so much fear and settle their differences and make a peace which should be on a secure basis for the future. And it was necessary, he said, that in return for this continued armistice the Roman Emperor should give him money and should also send a certain physician, Tribunus by name, in order to spend some specified time with him. For it happened that this physician at a former time had rid him of a severe disease, and as a result of this he was especially beloved and greatly missed by him. When the Emperor Justinian heard this, he immediately sent both Tribunus and the money, amounting to twenty centenaria. [545 A.D.] In this way the treaty was made between the Romans and the Persians for five years, in the nineteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Justinian.

And a little later Arethas and Alamoundaras, the rulers of the Saracens, waged a war against each other by themselves, unaided either by the Romans or the Persians. And Alamoundaras captured one of the sons of Arethas in a sudden raid while he was pasturing horses, and straightway sacrificed him to Aphrodite; and from this it was known that Arethas was not betraying the Romans to the Persians. Later they both came together in battle with their whole armies, and the forces of Arethas were overwhelmingly victorious, and turning their enemy to flight, they killed many of them. And Arethas came within a little of capturing alive two of the sons of Alamoundaras; however, he did not actually succeed. Such, then, was the course of events among the Saracens.

But it became clear that Chosroes, the Persian king, had made the truce with the Romans with treacherous intent, in order that he might find them remiss on account of the peace and inflict upon them some grave injury. For in the third year of the truce he devised the following schemes. There were in Persia two brothers, Phabrizus and Isdigousnas, both holding most important offices there and at the same time reckoned to be the basest of all the Persians, and having a great reputation for their cleverness and evil ways. Accordingly, since Chosroes had formed the purpose of capturing the city of Daras by a sudden stroke, and to move all the Colchians out of Lazica and establish in their place Persian settlers, he selected these two men to assist him in both undertakings. For it seemed to him that it would be a lucky stroke and a really important achievement to win for himself the land of Colchis and to have it in secure possession, reasoning that this would be advantageous to the Persian empire in many ways. In the first place they would have Iberia in security forever afterwards, since the Iberians would not have anyone with whom, if they revolted, they might find safety; for since the most notable men of these barbarians together with their king, Gourgenes, had looked towards revolt, as I have stated in the preceding pages,[24] the Persians from that time on did not permit them to set up a king over themselves, nor were the Iberians single-minded subjects of the Persians, but there was much suspicion and distrust between them. And it was evident that the Iberians were most thoroughly dissatisfied and that they would attempt a revolution shortly if they could only seize upon some favourable opportunity. Furthermore, the Persian empire would be forever free from plunder by the Huns who lived next to Lazica, and he would send them against the Roman domains more easily and readily, whenever he should so desire. For he considered that, as regards the barbarians dwelling in the Caucasus, Lazica was nothing else than a bulwark against them. But most of all he hoped that the subjugation of Lazica would afford this advantage to the Persians, that starting from there they might overrun with no trouble both by land and by sea the countries along the Euxine Sea, as it is called, and thus win over the Cappadocians and the Galatians and Bithynians who adjoin them, and capture Byzantium by a sudden assault with no one opposing them. For these reasons, then, Chosroes was anxious to gain possession of Lazica, but in the Lazi he had not the least confidence. For since the time when the Romans had withdrawn from Lazica, the common people of the country naturally found the Persian rule burdensome. For the Persians are beyond all other men singular in their ways, and they are excessively rigid as regards the routine of daily life. And their laws are difficult of access for all men, and their requirements quite unbearable. But in comparison with the Lazi the difference of their thinking and living shews itself in an altogether exceptional degree, since the Lazi are Christians of the most thorough-going kind, while all the Persian views regarding religion are the exact opposite of theirs. And apart from this, salt is produced nowhere in Lazica, nor indeed does grain grow there nor the vine nor any other good thing. But from the Romans along the coast everything is brought in to them by ship, and even so they do not pay gold to the traders, but hides and slaves and whatever else happens to be found there in great abundance; and when they were excluded from this trade, they were, as was to be expected, in a state of constant vexation. When, therefore, Chosroes perceived this, he was eager to anticipate with certainty any move on their part to revolt against him. And upon considering the matter, it seemed to him to be the most advantageous course to put Goubazes, the king of the Lazi, out of the way as quickly as possible, and to move the Lazi in a body out of the country, and then to colonize this land with Persians and certain other nations.

When Chosroes had matured these plans, he sent Isdigousnas to Byzantium, ostensibly to act as an envoy, and he picked out five hundred of the most valorous of the Persians and sent them with him, directing them to get inside the city of Daras, and to take their lodgings in many different houses, and at night to set these all on fire, and, while all the Romans were occupied with this fire, as was natural, to open the gates immediately, and receive the rest of the Persian army into the city. For word had been sent previously to the commander of the city of Nisibis to conceal a large force of soldiers near by and hold them in readiness. For in this way Chosroes thought that they would destroy all the Romans with no trouble, and seizing the city of Daras, would hold it securely. But someone who knew well what was being arranged, a Roman who had come to the Persians as a deserter a little earlier, told everything to George, who was staying there at the time; now this was the same man whom I mentioned in the preceding pages[25] as having persuaded the Persians who were besieged in the fortress of Sisauranon to surrender themselves to the Romans. George therefore met this ambassador at the boundary line between Roman and Persian soil and said that this thing he was doing was not after the fashion of an embassy, and that never had so numerous a body of Persians stopped for the night in a city of the Romans. For he ought, he said, to have left behind all the rest in the town of Ammodios, and must himself enter the city of Daras with some few men. Now Isdigousnas was indignant and appeared to take it ill, because he had been insulted wrongfully, in spite of the fact that he was dispatched on an embassy to the Roman emperor. But George, paying no heed to him in his fury, saved the city for the Romans. For he received Isdigousnas into the city with only twenty men.

So having failed in this attempt, the barbarian came to Byzantium as if on an embassy, bringing with him his wife and two daughters (for this was his pretext for the crowd which had been gathered about him); but when he came before the emperor, he was unable to say anything great or small about any serious matter, although he wasted no less than ten months in Roman territory. However, he gave the emperor the gifts from Chosroes, as is customary, and a letter, in which Chosroes requested the Emperor Justinian to send word whether he was enjoying the best possible health. Nevertheless the Emperor Justinian received this Isdigousnas with more friendliness and treated him with greater honour than any of the other ambassadors of whom we know. So true was this that, whenever he entertained him, he caused Braducius, who followed him as interpreter, to recline with him on the couch, a thing which had never before happened in all time. For no one ever saw an interpreter become a table-companion of even one of the more humble officials, not to speak of a king. But he both received and dismissed this man in a style more splendid than that which befits an ambassador, although he had undertaken the embassy for no serious business, as I have said. For if anyone should count up the money expended and the gifts which Isdigousnas carried with him when he went away, he will find them amounting to more than ten centenaria of gold. So the plot against the city of Daras ended in this way for Chosroes.


His first move against Lazica was as follows. He sent into the country a great amount of lumber suitable for the construction of ships, explaining to no one what his purpose was in so doing, but ostensibly he was sending it in order to set up engines of war on the fortifications of Petra. Next he chose out three hundred able warriors of the Persians, and sent them there under command of Phabrizus, whom I have lately mentioned, ordering him to make away with Goubazes as secretly as possible; as for the rest, he himself would take care. Now when this lumber had been conveyed to Lazica, it happened that it was struck suddenly by lightning and reduced to ashes. And Phabrizus, upon arriving in Lazica with the three hundred, began to contrive so that he might carry out the orders received by him from Chosroes regarding Goubazes. Now it happened that one of the men of note among the Colchians, Pharsanses by name, had quarrelled with Goubazes and in consequence had become exceedingly hostile to him, and now he did not dare at all to go into the presence of the king. When this was learned by Phabrizus, he summoned Pharsanses and in a conference with him disclosed the whole project, and enquired of the man in what way he ought to go about the execution of the deed. And it seemed best to them after deliberating together that Phabrizus should go into the city of Petra, and should summon Goubazes there, in order to announce to him what the king had decided concerning the interests of the Lazi. But Pharsanses secretly revealed to Goubazes what was being prepared. He, accordingly, did not come to Phabrizus at all, but began openly to plan a revolt. Then Phabrizus commanded the other Persians to attend as carefully as they could to the guarding of Petra, and to make everything as secure as possible against a siege, and he himself with the three hundred returned homeward without having accomplished his purpose. And Goubazes reported to the Emperor Justinian the condition in which they were, and begged him to grant forgiveness for what the Lazi had done in the past, and to come to their defence with all his strength, since they desired to be rid of the Median rule. For if left by themselves the Colchians would not be able to repel the power of the Persians.

[549 A.D.] When the Emperor Justinian heard this, he was overjoyed, and sent seven thousand men under the leadership of Dagisthaeus and a thousand Tzani to the assistance of the Lazi. And when this force reached the land of Colchis, they encamped together with Goubazes and the Lazi about the fortifications of Petra and commenced a siege. But since the Persians who were there made a most stalwart defence from the wall, it came about that much time was spent in the siege; for the Persians had put away an ample store of victuals in the town. And Chosroes, being greatly disturbed by these things, dispatched a great army of horse and foot against the besiegers, putting Mermeroes in command of them. And when Goubazes learned of this, he considered the matter together with Dagisthaeus and acted in the manner which I shall presently set forth.

The river Boas rises close to the territory of the Tzani among the Armenians who dwell around Pharangium. And at first its course inclines to the right for a great distance, and its stream is small and can be forded by anyone with no trouble as far as the place where the territory of the Iberians lies on the right, and the end of the Caucasus lies directly opposite. In that place many nations have their homes, and among them the Alani and Abasgi, who are Christians and friends of the Romans from of old; also the Zechi, and after them the Huns who bear the name Sabeiri. But when this river reaches the point which marks the termination of the Caucasus and of Iberia as well, there other waters also are added to it and it becomes much larger and from there flows on bearing the name of Phasis instead of Boas[26]; and it becomes a navigable stream as far as the so-called Euxine Sea into which it empties; and on either side of it lies Lazica. Now on the right of the stream particularly the whole country for a great distance is populated by the people of Lazica as far as the boundary of Iberia. For all the villages of the Lazi are here beyond the river, and towns have been built there from of old, among which are Archaeopolis, a very strong place, and Sebastopolis, and the fortress of Pitius, and Scanda and Sarapanis over against the boundary of Iberia. Moreover there are two cities of the greatest importance in that region, Rhodopolis and Mocheresis. But on the left of the river, while the country belongs to Lazica as far as one day's journey for an unencumbered traveller, the land is without human habitation. Adjoining this land is the home of the Romans who are called Pontic. Now it was in the territory of Lazica, in the part which was altogether uninhabited, that the Emperor Justinian founded the city of Petra in my own time. This was the place where John, surnamed Tzibus, established the monopoly, as I have told in the previous narrative[27], and gave cause to the Lazi to revolt. And as one leaves the city of Petra going southward, the Roman territory commences immediately, and there are populous towns there, and one which bears the name of Rhizaeum, also Athens and certain others as far as Trapezus. Now when the Lazi brought in Chosroes, they crossed the River Boas and came to Petra keeping the Phasis on the right, because, as they said, they would thus provide against being compelled to spend much time and trouble in ferrying the men across the River Phasis, but in reality they did not wish to display their own homes to the Persians. And yet Lazica is everywhere difficult to traverse both to the right and to the left of the River Phasis. For there are on both sides of the river exceedingly high and jagged mountains, and as a result the passes are narrow and very long. (The Romans call the roads through such passes "clisurae" when they put their own word into a Greek form.[28]) But since at that time Lazica happened to be unguarded, the Persians had reached Petra very easily with the Lazi who were their guides.

But on this occasion Goubazes, upon learning of the advance of the Persians, directed Dagisthaeus to send some men to guard with all their strength the pass which is below the River Phasis, and he bade him not on any account to abandon the siege until they should be able to capture Petra and the Persians in it. He himself meanwhile with the whole Colchian army came to the frontier of Lazica, in order to devote all his strength to guarding the pass there. Now it happened that long before he had persuaded the Alani and Sabeiri to form an alliance with him, and they had agreed for three centenaria not merely to assist the Lazi in guarding the land from plunder, but also to render Iberia so destitute of men that not even the Persians would be able to come in from there in the future. And Goubazes had promised that the emperor would give them this money. So he reported the agreement to the Emperor Justinian and besought him to send this money for the barbarians and afford the Lazi some consolation in their great distress. He also stated that the treasury owed him his salary for ten years, for though he was assigned a post among the privy counsellors in the palace, he had received no payment from it since the time when Chosroes came into the land of Colchis. And the Emperor Justinian intended to fulfil this request, but some business came up to occupy his attention and he did not send the money at the proper time. So Goubazes was thus engaged.

But Dagisthaeus, being a rather young man and by no means competent to carry on a war against Persia, did not handle the situation properly. For while he ought to have sent certainly the greater part of the army to the pass, and perhaps should have assisted in person in this enterprise, he sent only one hundred men, just as if he were managing a matter of secondary importance. He himself, moreover, though besieging Petra with the whole army, accomplished nothing, although the enemy were few. For while they had been at the beginning not less than fifteen hundred, they had been shot at by Romans and Lazi in their fighting at the wall for a long time, and had made a display of valour such as no others known to us have made, so that many were falling constantly and they were reduced to an exceedingly small number. So while the Persians, plunged in despair and at a loss what to do, were remaining quiet, the Romans made a trench along the wall for a short space, and the circuit-wall at this point fell immediately. But it happened that inside this space there was a building which did not stand back at all from the circuit-wall, and this reached to the whole length of the fallen portion; thus, taking the place of the wall for the besieged, it rendered them secure none the less. But this was not sufficient greatly to disturb the Romans. For knowing well that by doing the same thing elsewhere they would capture the city with the greatest ease, they became still more hopeful than before. For this reason Dagisthaeus sent word to the emperor of what had come to pass, and proposed that prizes of victory should be in readiness for him, indicating what rewards the emperor should bestow upon himself and his brother; for he would capture Petra after no great time. So the Romans and the Tzani made a most vigorous assault upon the wall, but the Persians unexpectedly withstood them, although only a very few were left. And since the Romans were accomplishing nothing by assaulting the wall, they again turned to digging. And they went so far in this work that the foundations of the circuit-wall were no longer on solid ground, but stood for the most part over empty space, and, in the nature of things, would fall almost immediately. And if Dagisthaeus had been willing immediately to apply fire to the foundations, I think that the city would have been captured by them straightway; but, as it was, he was awaiting encouragement from the emperor, and so, always hesitating and wasting time, he remained inactive. Such, then, was the course of events in the Roman camp.


But Mermeroes, after passing the Iberian frontier with the whole Median army, was moving forward with the River Phasis on his right. For he was quite unwilling to go through the country of Lazica, lest any obstacle should confront him there. For he was eager to save the city of Petra and the Persians in it, even though a portion of the circuit-wall had fallen down suddenly. For it had been hanging in the air, as I have said; and volunteers from the Roman army to the number of fifty got inside the city, and raised the shout proclaiming the Emperor Justinian triumphant. These men were led by a young man of Armenian birth, John by name, the son of Thomas whom they used to call by the surname Gouzes. This Thomas had built many of the strongholds about Lazica at the direction of the emperor, and he commanded the soldiers there, seeming to the emperor an intelligent person. Now John, when the Persians joined battle with his men, was wounded and straightway withdrew to the camp with his followers, since no one else of the Roman army came to support him. Meanwhile the Persian Mirranes who commanded the garrison in Petra, fearing for the city, directed all the Persians to keep guard with the greatest diligence, and he himself went to Dagisthaeus, and addressed him with fawning speeches and deceptive words, agreeing readily to surrender the city not long afterwards. In this way he succeeded in deceiving him so that the Roman army did not immediately enter the city.

Now when the army of Mermeroes came to the pass, the Roman garrison, numbering one hundred men, confronted them there and offered a stalwart resistance, and they held in check their opponents who were attempting the entrance. But the Persians by no means withdrew, but those who fell were constantly replaced by others, and they kept advancing, trying with all their strength to force their way in. Among the Persians more than a thousand perished, but at last the Romans were worn out with killing, and, being forced back by the throng, they withdrew, and running up to the heights of the mountain there were saved. Dagisthaeus, upon learning this, straightway abandoned the siege without giving any commands to the army, and proceeded to the River Phasis; and all the Romans followed him, leaving their possessions behind in the camp. And when the Persians observed what was being done, they opened their gates and came forth, and approached the tents of the enemy in order to capture the camp. But the Tzani, who had not followed after Dagisthaeus, as it happened, rushed out to defend the camp, and they routed the enemy without difficulty and killed many. So the Persians fled inside their fortifications, and the Tzani, after plundering the Roman camp proceeded straight for Rhizaeum. And from there they came to Athens and betook themselves to their homes through the territory of the Trapezuntines.

And Mermeroes and the Median army came there on the ninth day after the withdrawal of Dagisthaeus; and in the city they found left of the Persian garrison three hundred and fifty men wounded and unfit for fighting, and only one hundred and fifty men unhurt; for all the rest had perished. Now the survivors had in no case thrown the bodies of the fallen outside the fortifications, but though stifled by the evil stench, they held out in a manner beyond belief, in order that they might not afford the enemy any encouragement for the prosecution of the siege, by letting them know that most of their number had perished. And Mermeroes remarked by way of a taunt that the Roman state was worthy of tears and lamentation, because they had come to such a state of weakness that they had been unable by any device to capture one hundred and fifty Persians without a wall. And he was eager to build up the portions of the circuit-wall which had fallen down; but since at the moment he had neither lime nor any of the other necessary materials for the building ready at hand, he devised the following plan. Filling with sand the linen bags in which the Persians had carried their provisions into the land of Colchis, he laid them in the place of the stones, and the bags thus arranged took the place of the wall. And choosing out three thousand of his able fighting men, he left them there, depositing with them victuals for no great length of time, and commanding them to attend to the building of the fortifications; then he himself with all the rest of the army turned back and marched away.

But since, if he went from there by the same road, no means of provisioning his army was available, since he had left everything in Petra which had been brought in by the army from Iberia, he planned to go by another route through the mountains, where he learned that the country was inhabited, in order that by foraging there he might be able to live off the land. In the course of this journey one of the notables among the Lazi, Phoubelis by name, laid an ambush for the Persians while camping for the night, bringing with him Dagisthaeus with two thousand of the Romans; and these men, making a sudden attack, killed some of the Persians who were grazing their horses, and after securing the horses as plunder they shortly withdrew. Thus, then, Mermeroes with the Median army departed from there.

But Goubazes, upon learning what had befallen the Romans both at Petra and at the pass, did not even so become frightened, nor did he give up the guarding of the pass where he was, considering that their hope centred in that place. For he understood that, even if the Persians had been able by forcing back the Romans on the left of the River Phasis to cross over the pass and get into Petra, they could thereby inflict no injury upon the land of the Lazi, since they were utterly unable to cross the Phasis, in particular because no ships were at their disposal. For in depth this river is not inferior to the deepest rivers, and it spreads out to a great width. Moreover it has such a strong current that when it empties into the sea, it goes on as a separate stream for a very great distance, without mingling at all with the sea-water. Indeed, those who navigate in those parts are able to draw up drinking water in the midst of the sea. Moreover, the Lazi have erected fortresses all along the right bank of the river, in order that, even when the enemy are ferried across in boats, they may not be able to disembark on the land.

The Emperor Justinian at this time sent to the nation of the Sabeiri the money which had been agreed upon, and he rewarded Goubazes and the Lazi with additional sums of money. And it happened that long before this time he had sent another considerable army also to Lazica, which had not yet arrived there. The commander of this army was Rhecithancus, from Thrace, a man of discretion and a capable warrior. Such then was the course of these events.

Now when Mermeroes got into the mountains, as I have said, he was anxious to fill Petra with provisions from there. For he did not by any means think that the victuals which they had brought in with them would suffice for the garrison there, amounting to three thousand men. But since the supplies they found along the way barely sufficed for the provisioning of that army, which numbered no less than thirty thousand, and since on this account they were able to send nothing at all of consequence to Petra, upon consideration he found it better for them that the greater part of the army should depart from the land of Colchis, and that some few should remain there, who were to convey to the garrison in Petra the most of the provisions which they might find, while using the rest to maintain themselves comfortably. He therefore selected five thousand men and left them there, appointing as commanders over them Phabrizus and three others. For it seemed to him unnecessary to leave more men there, since there was no enemy at all. And he himself with the rest of the army came into Persarmenia and remained quietly in the country around Doubios.

Now the five thousand, upon coming nearer to the frontier of Lazica, encamped in a body beside the Phasis River, and from there they went about in small bands and plundered the neighbouring country. Now when Goubazes perceived this, he sent word to Dagisthaeus to hasten there to his assistance: for it would be possible for them to do the enemy some great harm. And he did as directed, moving forward with the whole Roman army with the River Phasis on the left, until he came to the place where the Lazi where encamped on the opposite bank of the river. Now it happened that the Phasis could be forded at this point, a fact which neither the Romans nor the Persians suspected in the least because of their lack of familiarity with these regions; but the Lazi knew it well, and they made the crossing suddenly and joined the Roman army. And the Persians chose out a thousand men of repute among them and sent them forth, that no one might advance against the camp to harm it. And two of this force, who had gone out ahead of their fellows to reconnoitre, fell unexpectedly into the hands of the enemy and informed them of the whole situation. The Romans, therefore, and the Lazi fell suddenly upon the thousand men, and not one of them succeeded in escaping, but the most of them were slain, while some also were captured; and through these the men of Goubazes and Dagisthaeus succeeded in learning the numbers of the Median army and the length of the journey to them and the condition in which they then were. They therefore broke camp and marched against them with their whole army, calculating so that they would fall upon them well on in the night; their own force amounted to fourteen thousand men. Now the Persians, having no thought of an enemy in their minds, were enjoying a long sleep; for they supposed that the river was impassable, and that the thousand men, with no one to oppose them, were making a long march somewhere. But the Romans and Lazi at early dawn unexpectedly fell upon them, and they found some still buried in slumber and others just roused from sleep and lying defenceless upon their beds. Not one of them, therefore, thought of resistance, and the majority were caught and killed, while some also were captured by the enemy, among whom happened to be one of the commanders; only a few escaped in the darkness and were saved. And the Romans and Lazi captured the camp and all the standards, and they also secured many weapons and a great deal of money as plunder, besides great numbers of horses and mules. And pursuing them for a very great distance they came well into Iberia. There they happened upon certain others of the Persians also and slew a great number. Thus the Persians departed from Lazica; and the Romans and Lazi found there all the supplies, including great quantities of flour, which the barbarians had brought in from Iberia, in order to transport them to Petra, and they burned them all. And they left a large number of Lazi in the pass, so that it might no longer be possible for the Persians to carry in supplies to Petra, and they returned with all the plunder and the captives. [549 A.D.] And the fourth year of the truce between the Romans and Persians came to an end, being the twenty-third year of the reign of the Emperor Justinian.

And John the Cappadocian one year before this came to Byzantium at the summons of the emperor. For at that time the Empress Theodora had reached the term of her life. However, he was quite unable to recover any of his former dignities, but he continued to hold the priestly honour against his will; and yet the vision had often come to the man that he would arrive at royalty. For the divine power is accustomed to tempt those whose minds are not solidly grounded by nature, by holding before their vision, on great and lofty hopes, that which is counted splendid among men. At any rate the marvel-mongers were always predicting to this John many such imaginary things, and especially that he was bound to be clothed in the garment of Augustus. Now there was a certain priest in Byzantium, Augustus by name, who guarded the treasures of the temple of Sophia. So when John had been shorn and declared worthy of the priestly dignity by force, inasmuch as he had no garment becoming a priest, he had been compelled by those who were in charge of this business to put on the cloak and the tunic of this Augustus who was near by, and in this, I suppose, his prophecy reached its fulfilment.



That is, the Saracens subject to the Romans and those subject to the Persians.


Cf. Book I. xxii. 4.


The Huns placed a part of their force in the rear of the defenders of the pass, which lies between the sea and the mountains, sending them around by the same path, probably, as that used by Xerxes when he destroyed Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans; see Herod. vii. 216-218.


"Secretary of secrets."


Cf. Book I. xxii. 4.


Cf. Book II. i. 13; iii. 47.


Cf. Book I. xxii. 4.


Cf. Book II. xxi. 30-32.


This term was applied to the "Blue Faction" in Byzantium and elsewhere.


Cf. Book I. xxii. 4.


Nine MS. lines are missing at this point.


Cf. Book II. x. 24.


Cf. Book I. xii. 4 ff.


Cf. Book I. viii. 21-22.


Cf. chap. v. 31.


I.e. "groin."


Modern Galata.


The official dress.




Cf. section 9 above.


Cf. Book II. xii. 31-34.


Latin agger, "mound."


"Three Towers."


Cf. Book I. xii. 5 ff.


Book II. xix. 23.


Procopius seems to have confused two separate and distinct rivers.


Cf. Book II. xv. 11.


Latin clausura, "a narrow shut-in road."

* * * * *


Abandanes, secretary of Chosroes, sent to Belisarius, II. xxi. 1 ff.; his report, II. xxi. 13, 14

Abasgi, their location, II. xxix. 15; friends of the Romans, ib.

Abochorabus, ruler of the Saracens of Arabia, presents the Palm Groves to Justinian, I. xix. 10 ff.

Aborrhas River, protects one side of Circesium, II. v. 2; near Theodosiopolis, II. xix. 29

Abramus, becomes king of the Homeritae, I. xx. 3; his servile origin, I. xx. 4; defeats two Aethiopian armies, I. xx. 5-7; pays tribute to the Aethiopians, I. xx. 8; his idle promises to Justinian to invade Persia, I. xx. 13

Abydus, city opposite Sestus on the Hellespont, II. iv. 9

Acacius, father of Adolius, II. xxi. 2; denounces Amazaspes to the emperor, II. iii. 4; slays him treacherously, II. iii. 5; his shameless career as governor of Armenia, II. iii. 6, 7; slain by the Armenians, II. iii. 7

Adarbiganon, Chosroes halts there with his army, II. xxiv. 1; the fire-sanctuary located there, II. xxiv. 2; abandoned by Chosroes, II. xxiv. 12

Adergoudounbades, made "chanaranges" by Chosroes, I. vi. 15, 18; saves Cabades from the hand of Chosroes, I. xxiii. 7 ff.; betrayed by his son, I. xxiii. 13; his death, I. xxiii. 21

Adolius, son of Acacius, an Armenian, urges severe treatment of Armenians, II. iii. 10; commander of Roman cavalry, II. xxi. 2, 18, 20; commands a detachment in an army to invade Persia, II. xxiv. 13; killed by a stone, II. xxv. 35

Adonachus, commander in Chalcis, II. xii. 2

Adrastadaran Salanes, an office in Persia of high authority (lit. "Leader of the Warriors"), I. vi 18, xi. 25; held only by Seoses, I. xi. 38

Adulis, in Aethiopia, the city and harbour, distance from Auxomis, I. xix. 22; home of a certain Roman trader, I. xx. 4

Aegypt, its topography, I. xix. 3; John the Cappadocian an exile there, I. xxv. 43; the pestilence there, II. xxii. 6

Aeimachus, a butcher of Antioch, his encounter with a Persian horseman, II. xi. 8 ff.

Aelas, on the "Red Sea," I. xix. 3, 19, 24

Aethiopians, location of their country, I. xix. 17; the ships used there, I. xix. 23; iron not produced there nor imported from elsewhere, I. xix. 24. 25; sought as allies by Justinian, I. xix. 1, xx. 9 ff., II. iii. 40; unable to buy silk from the Indians, I. xx. 12

Agamemnon, father of Iphigenia, I. xvii. II

Agesta, i.e., "agger," employed by the Persians in besieging Edessa, II. xxvi. 29

Aigan, Massagete chief, in the Roman army at the battle of Daras, I. xiii. 20, xiv. 39, 44

Alamoundaras, son of Saccice, king of the Saracens, marches with the Persian army, I. xvii. 1; his character and services to the Persians, I. xvii. 40 ff.; advises Cabades to invade Roman territory south of the Euphrates River, I. xvii. 30 ff.; retires with Azarethes before Belisarius, I. xviii. 9 ff.; brings charge against Arethas of violating boundary lines, II. i. 3; war with Arethas, II. xxviii. 12-14; sacrifices to Aphrodite the son of Arethas, II. xxviii. 13; sought as an ally by Justinian, II. i. 13, iii. 47; accused by Justinian of violating the treaty, II. iv. 21; a menace to Syria and Phoenicia, II. xvi. 17; also to Lebanon, II. xix. 34

Alani, their location, II. xxix. 15; friends of the Romans, ib.; neighbours of the Sunitae, I. xv. 1; persuaded by Goubazes to ally themselves with him, II. xxix. 29

Albani, a people near the Taurus, I. x. 1

Alexander, son of Philip, fortified the Caspian Gates, I. x. 9; Justinian compared with him, II. ii. 15

Alexander, ambassador to the Persians, I. xxii. 1

Alexandria, visited by the pestilence, II. xxii. 6; citizens of, accused by John the Cappadocian, I. xxv. 44

Amazaspes, nephew of Symeon, made ruler of certain Armenian villages, II. iii. 3; denounced to the emperor, II. iii. 4; treacherously slain, II. iii. 5

Ambazouces, a Hun, offers to sell to Anastasius the control of the Caspian Gates, I. x. 10; his death, I. x. 12

Ambrus, a Saracen Christian, saves Sergiopolis from capture by Chosroes, II. xx. 10, 14

Amida, a city on the border between Armenia and Mesopotamia, I. xvii. 24; distance from Martyropolis, I. xxi. 6; distance from the Nymphius River, I. viii. 22; from Siphrios, I. viii. 10; from Endielon, I. vii. 5; from Thilasamon, I. ix. 14; besieged by Cabades, I. vii. 3, 12 ff.; bravely defended, I. vii. 4, 12 ff.; captured by Cabades, I. vii. 29; besieged by the Romans, I. ix. 1-4; recovered by the Romans by purchase, I. ix. 20, 23; captives of, generously treated by Chosroes, I. vii. 34; citizens relieved of taxes, I. vii. 35

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