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Zenobia - or, The Fall of Palmyra
by William Ware
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He then went through with his demonstrations, and departed.

'This is beautiful indeed!' I said, as I surveyed and handled parts of the armor; 'the eye can hardly bear it when the rays of the sun fall upon it. But I wish it was fairly back again in the shop of the armored'

'That would he,' said Fausta, 'only to condemn me to an older and worse one; and if you should wish that away too, it would be only to send me into the ranks defenceless. Surely that you would not do?'

'The gods forbid! I only mean that I would rather these walls, Fausta, should he your defence. You were not made, whatever you may think, to brave the dangers of the desert and the horrors of a war. Do you remember at the amphitheatre you hid your eyes from the cruel sights of the arena? I doubt not your courage; but it is not after your heart.'

'From the useless barbarities of the circus I might indeed turn away my eyes, and yet I think with perfect consistency strike my lance into the heart of a man who came against my country or my Queen, nor even blench. But do not suppose that it is with any light or childish joy that I resolve to follow in the steps of Zenobia to the field of slaughter. I would far rather sit here in the midst of security and peace, making mimic war on my embroidery, or tuning my voice and harp, with Gracchus and you to listen and applaud. But there is that within me that forbids my stay. I am urged from within by a voice which seems as the voice of a god, to do according to my strength, for what may be the last struggle of our country against the encroachments and ambition of Rome. You may deem it little that a woman can do?'

'I confess I am of opinion that many a substitute could do Palmyra a better service than even the arm of Fausta. A woman may do much and bravely, but a man may do more.'

'Therein, Lucius, am I persuaded you err. If it were only that, in the language of Zahdas, I added so many pounds weight of bone and flesh, by adding myself to the Queen's troops, I would stay at home, There are heavier arms than mine, for mine are slight, and sturdier limbs, for mine in spite of the sports of the field are still a woman's. But you know nothing of Palmyra if you know not this, that her victories have been won, not by the arm, but by the presence of Zenobia; to be led to the onset by a woman, and that woman Zenobia—it is this that has infused a spirit and an enthusiasm into our soldiery that has rendered them irresistible. Were it a thousand against ten thousand, not a native Palmyrene would shrink from the trial, with Zenobia at their head. I am not Zenobia, Lucius, but what she can do for an army, I can do for a legion. Mark the sensation, when this morning Zenobia presents herself to the army, and even when Fausta wheels into the ranks, and acknowledge that I have uttered a truth.'

'There must be truth in what you say, for were I in your train I can feel how far I should follow you, and when forsake you. But what you say only fills me with new apprehensions, and renders me the more anxious to detain you. What but certain death awaits you if you are to lead the way?'

'And why should I not die, as well as another? And is it of more consequence that Fausta, the daughter of Gracchus, should die upon a bed of down, and beneath silken canopies, than that the common soldier should, who falls at her side? How could I die hotter than at the head of a legion, whom, as I fell, I saw sweeping on like a tempest to emulate and revenge my death?'

'But Gracchus—has he another Fausta, or another child?'

Her eyes were bent to the ground, and for a few moments she was buried in thought. They were filled with tears as she raised them and said,

'You may well suppose, Lucius, having witnessed, as you have, what the love is which I bear Gracchus, and how his life is bound up in mine, that this has been my heaviest thought. But it has not prevailed with me to change my purpose, and ought not to do so. Could I look into futurity, and know that while I fell upon the plains of Antioch, or on the sands of the desert, he returned to these walls to wear out, childless and in solitude, the remnant of his days, my weakness I believe would yield, and I should prefer my parent to my country. But the future is all dark. And it may as well be, that either we shall both fall, or both return; or that he may fall and I survive. It is unworthy of me, is it not then, to consider too curiously such chances? The only thing certain and of certain advantage is this—I can do my country, as I deem it, a signal service by joining her forces in this hour of peril. To this I cleave, and leave the rest to the disposal of the gods. But come, urge me no more, Lucius; my mind is finally resolved, and it but serves to darken the remaining hours. See, Gracchus and Calpurnius are come—let us to the tables.'

This last meal was eaten in silence, save the few required words of courtesy.

Soon as it was over, Fausta, springing from her seat, disappeared, hastening to her apartments. She returned in a few moments, her dress changed and prepared for her armor.

'Now, Lucius,' she exclaimed, 'your hour of duty has come, which is to fit upon me this queenly apparel. Show your dexterity, and prove that you too have seen the wars, by the grace with which you shall do your service.'

'These pieces differ not greatly,' I said, 'from those which I have worn in Gaul and Germany, and were they to be fastened on my own limbs, or a comrade's, the task were an easy one. I fear lest I may use too rough a hand in binding on this heavy iron.'

'O, never fear—there, that is well. The Queen's armorer has said truly; this is easy as a robe of silk. Now these clasps—are they not well made? will they not catch?'

'The clasps are perfect, Fausta, but my eye is dim. Here—clasp them yourself;' and I turned away.

'Lucius, Lucius, are you a Roman, with eyes so melting? Julia were a better hand-maid. But one thing remains, and that must be done by no other hand than yours—crown me now with this helmet.'

I took it from her and placed it upon her head, saying, as I did it, 'The gods shield you from danger, dear Fausta, and when you have either triumphed or suffered defeat, return you again to this happy roof! Now for my services allow me this reward'—and for the first time since she was a girl I kissed her forehead.

She was now a beautiful vision to behold as ever lighted upon the earth. Her armor revealed with exactness the perfection of her form, and to her uncommon beauty added its own, being of the most brilliant steel, and frequently studded with jewels of dazzling lustre. Her sex was revealed only by her hair, which, parting over her forehead, fell towards either eye, and then was drawn up and buried in her helmet. The ease with which she moved showed how well she had accustomed herself, by frequent exercises, to the cumbrous load she bore. I could hardly believe, as she paced the apartment, issuing her final orders to her slaves and attendants who pressed around, that I was looking upon a woman reared in all the luxury of the East. Much as I had been accustomed to the sight of Zenobia, performing the part of an emperor, I found it difficult to persuade myself, that when I looked upon Fausta, changing so completely her sex, it was any thing more than an illusion.

Gracchus and Calpurnius now joined us, each, like Fausta, arrayed in the armor of the Queen's cavalry.

'Fausta,' said Gracchus hastily, 'the hour is come that we were at the camp; our horses wait us in the court-yard—let us mount. Farewell, Lucius Piso,' continued he, as we moved toward the rear of the palace; 'would you were to make one of our company; but as that cannot be, I bequeath to you my place, my honors, and my house. Be ready to receive us with large hospitality and a philosophical composure, when we return loaded with the laurels of victory and the spoils of your countrymen. It is fortunate, that as we lose you, we have Calpurnius, who seems of the true warrior breed. Never, Lucius, has my eye lighted upon a nobler pair than this. Observe them. The Queen, careful of our Fausta, has given her in special charge to your brother. I thank her. By his greater activity and my more prudent counsel, I trust to bring her again to Palmyra with a fame not less than Zenobia's.

'I can spare the fame,' I replied, 'so I see her once more in Palmyra, herself unharmed and her country at peace.'

'Palmyra would no longer be itself without her,' rejoined the father.

We were now in the court-yard, where we found the horses fully caparisoned, awaiting their riders. Fausta's was her favorite Arab, of a jet black color and of a fierce and fiery temper, hardly to be managed by the Saracen, whose sole office it was to attend upon him; while in the hands of Fausta, though still spirited almost to wildness, he was yet docile and obedient. Soon as she was mounted, although before it had been difficult to hold him, he became quiet and calm.

'See the power of woman,' said Gracchus; 'were Antiochus here, he would look upon this as but another proof that the gods are abandoning Palmyra to the sway of women.'

'It is,' said Fausta, 'simply the power of gentleness. My Saracen operates through fear, and I through love. My hand laid softly upon his neck gains more a thousand fold than the lash laid hardly upon his back.'

Mounting my horse, which Milo stood holding for me, we then sallied out of the court-yard gate toward the camp.

The city itself was all pouring forth upon the plains in its vicinity. The crowds choked the streets as they passed out, so that our progress was slow. Arriving at length, we turned toward the pavilion of the Queen, pitched over against the centre of the army. There we stood, joined by others, awaiting her arrival; for she had not yet left the palace. We had not stood long, before the braying of trumpets and other warlike instruments announced her approach. We turned, and looking toward the gate of the city, through which we had but now passed, saw Zenobia, having on either side Longinus and Zabdas, and preceded and followed by a select troop of horse, advancing at her usual speed toward the pavilion. She was mounted upon her far-famed white Numidian, for power an elephant, for endurance a dromedary, for fleetness a very Nicoean, and who had been her companion in all the battles by which she had gained her renown and her empire.

Calpurnius was beside himself: he had not before seen her when assuming all her state. 'Did eye ever look upon aught so like a celestial apparition? It is a descent from other regions; I can swear 'tis no mortal—still less a woman. Fausta, this puts to shame your eulogies, swollen as I termed them.'

I did not wonder at his amazement, for I myself shared it, though I had seen her so often. The object that approached us truly seemed rather a moving blaze of light than an armed woman, which the eye and the reason declared it to be, with such gorgeous magnificence was she arrayed. The whole art of the armorer had been exhausted in her appointments. The caparison of her steed, sheathed with burnished gold, and thick studded with precious stones of every various hue, reflected an almost intolerable splendor as the rays of a hot morning sun fell upon it. She too herself, being clothed in armor of polished steel, whose own fiery brightness was doubled by the diamonds—that was the only jewel she wore—sown with profusion all over its more prominent parts, could he gazed upon scarcely with more ease than the sun himself, whose beams were given back from it with undiminished glory. In her right hand she held the long slender lance of the cavalry; over her shoulders hung a quiver well loaded with arrows, while at her side depended a heavy Damascus blade. Her head was surmounted by a steel helmet, which left her face wholly uncovered, and showed her forehead, like Fausta's shaded by the dark hair, which, while it was the only circumstance that revealed the woman, added to the effect of a countenance unequalled for a marvellous union of feminine beauty, queenly dignity, and masculine power. Sometimes it has been her usage, upon such occasions, to appear with arms bare and gloved hands; they were now cased, like the rest of the body, in plates of steel.

'Calpurnius,' said Fausta, 'saw you ever in Persia such horsemanship? See now, as she draws nearer, with what grace and power she moves. Blame you the enthusiasm of this people?'

'I more than share it,' he replied; 'it is reward enough for my long captivity, at last to follow such a leader. Many a time, as Zenobia has in years past visited my dreams, and I almost fancied myself in her train, I little thought that the happiness I now experience was to become a reality. But hark! how the shout of welcome goes up from this innumerable host.'

No sooner was the Queen arrived where we stood, and the whole extended lines became aware of her presence, than the air was filled with the clang of trumpets and the enthusiastic cries of the soldiery, who waved aloft their arms and made a thousand expressive signs of most joyful greeting. When this hearty salutation, commencing at the centre, had died away along the wings, stretching one way to the walls of the city, and the other toward the desert, Zenobia rode up nearer the lines, and being there surrounded by the ranks which were in front, and by a crowd of the great officers of the army, spoke to them in accordance with her custom. Stretching out her hand, as if she would ask the attention of the multitude, a deep silence ensued, and in a voice clear and strong, she thus addressed them:

'Men and soldiers of Palmyra! Is this the last time that you are to gather together in this glittering array, and go forth as lords of the whole East? Conquerors in so many wars, are you now about to make an offering of yourselves and your homes to the emperor of Rome? Am I, who have twice led you to the gates of Ctesiphon, now to be your leader to the footstool of Aurelian? Are you thinking of any thing but victory? Is there one in all these ranks who doubts whether the same fate that once befel Probus shall now befal Aurelian? If there be, let him stand forth! Let him go and intrench himself within the walls of Palmyra. We want him not. (The soldiers brandished and clashed their arms.) Victory, soldiers, belongs to those who believe. Believe that you can do so, and we will return with a Roman army captive at our chariot wheels. Who should put trust in themselves, if not the men and soldiers of Palmyra? Whose memory is long enough to reach backward to a defeat? What was the reign of Odenatus but an unbroken triumph? Are you now, for the first time, to fly or fall before an enemy? And who the enemy? Forget it not—Rome! and Aurelian! the greatest empire and the greatest soldier of the world. Never before was so large a prize within your reach. Never before fought you on a stage with the whole world for spectators. Forget not too that defeat will be not only defeat, but ruin! The loss of a battle will be not only so many dead and wounded, but the loss of empire! For Rome resolves upon our subjugation. We must conquer or we must perish, and forever lose our city, our throne, and our name. Are you ready to write yourselves subjects and slaves of Rome!—citizens of a Roman province? and forfeit the proud name of Palmyrene?' (Loud and indignant cries rose from the surrounding ranks.) 'If not, you have only to remember the plains of Egypt and of Persia; and the spirit that burned within your bosoms then will save you now, and bring you back to these walls, your brows bound about with the garlands of victory. Soldiers! strike your tents! and away to the desert!'

Shouts long and loud, mingled with the clash of arms, followed these few words of the Queen. Her own name was heard above all. "Long live the great Zenobia!" ran along the ranks from the centre to the extremes, and from the extremes back again to the centre. It seemed as if, when her name had once been uttered, they could not cease—through the operation of some charm—to repeat it again and again, coupled too with a thousand phrases of loyalty and affection.

The Queen, as she ended, turned toward the Pavilion, where dismounting she entered, and together with her, her counsellors, the great officers of the army and empire, her family, and friends. Here was passed an hour in the interchange of the words and signs of affection between those who were about to depart upon this uncertain enterprise, and those who were to remain. The Queen would fain inspire all with her light, bold, and confident spirit, but it could not prevail to banish the fears and sorrows that filled many hearts. Julia's eyes never moved from her mother's face, or only to rest on Fausta's, whose hand she held clasped in her own. Zenobia often turned towards her with a look, in which the melting tenderness of the mother contended but too successfully with the calm dignity of the Queen, and bore testimony to the strong affection working at the heart. She would then, saying a word or two, turn away again, and mingle with those who made less demand upon her sympathies. Livia was there too, and the flaxen-haired Faustula—Livia, gay even, through excess of life—Faustula sad and almost terrified at the scene, and clinging to Julia as to her haven of safety. The Caesars were also there, insignificant as always, but the youngest, Vabalathus, armed for the war; the others are not to be drawn away from the luxuries and pleasures of the city. Antiochus, sullen and silent, was of the number too, stalking with folded arms apart from the company, or else arm in arm with one of his own color, and seeming to be there rather because he feared to be absent, than because he derived any pleasure from the scene. It was with an effort, and with reluctance, that he came forward from his hiding places, and with supreme awkwardness, yet with an air of haughtiness and pride, paid his court to the Queen.

As he retreated from his audience, the Queen's eye sought me, and approaching me she said, 'Piso, I am not prone to suspicion, and fear is a stranger to my heart: but I am told to distrust Antiochus. I have been warned to observe him. I cannot now do it, for I depart while he remains in Palmyra. It has been thrown out that he has designs of a treasonable nature, and that the Princess Julia is connected with them. He is an object too contemptible to deserve my thought, and I have not been willing so much as to name the circumstance to any of the council. He may prove an amusing and interesting subject for your speculation while we are gone.'

This was said in a partly serious, partly trifling vein. I answered her, saying, 'that I could not but fear lest there might be more foundation for the warnings that had been given her than she was disposed to allow. He was indeed insignificant and contemptible in character, but he was malignant and restless. Many an insect, otherwise every way despicable, is yet armed with a deadly sting. A swarm may conquer even the monarch of the forest. Antiochus, mean as he is, may yet inflict a secret and fatal wound; and he is not alone; there are those who affect him. I believe you have imposed no task which as a Roman I may not innocently perform. Rest assured that if watchfulness of mine may avert the shadow of an evil from your head, it shall not be wanting. I would that you yourself could look more seriously upon this information, but I perceive you to be utterly incredulous.'

'It is so indeed,' she replied. 'It were better for me perhaps were it otherwise. Had I heeded the rumors which reached me of the base Maeonius, Odenatus had now perhaps been alive and at my side. But it is against the grain of my nature. I can neither doubt nor fear.'

Sounds from without now indicated that the camp was broken up, and the army in motion. The moment of separation had come. The Queen hastily approached her daughters, and impressing a mother's kisses upon them turned quickly away, and springing upon her horse was soon lost to sight as she made her way through the ranks, to assume her place at their head. Fausta lingered long in the embraces of Julia, who, to part with her, seemed as if about to lose as much more as she had just lost in Zenobia.

'These our friends being now gone, let us,' said the Princess, 'who remain, ascend together the walls of the city, and from the towers of the gate observe the progress of the army so long as it shall remain in sight.'

Saying this, we returned to the city, and from the highest part of the walls watched the departing glories of the most magnificent military array I had ever beheld. It was long after noon before the last of the train of loaded elephants sank below the horizon. I have seen larger armies upon the Danube, and in Gaul: but never have I seen one that in all its appointments presented so imposing a spectacle. This was partly owing to the greater proportion of cavalry, and to the admixture of the long lines of elephants with their burdens, their towers and litters; but more perhaps to the perfectness with which each individual, be he on horse or foot, be he servant, slave or master, is furnished, respecting both arms, armor, and apparel. Julia beheld it, if with sorrow, with pride also.

'Between an army like this,' she said, 'so appointed, and so led and inflamed, and another like that of Rome coming up under a leader like Aurelian, how sharp and deadly must be the encounter! What a multitude of this and that living host, now glorious in the blaze of arms, and burning with desires of conquest, will fall and perish, pierced by weapons, or crushed by elephants, nor ever hear the shout of victory! A horrid death, winding up a feverish dream. And of that number how likely to be Fausta and Zenobia!'

'Why, sister,' said Faustula, whom I held, and in pointing out to whom the most remarkable objects of the strange scene I had been occupied, 'why does our mother love to go away and kill the Romans? I am sure she would not like to kill you,'—looking up in my face,—'and are not you a Roman? She will not let me hurt even a little fly or ant, but tells me they feel as much to be killed, as if Sapor were to put his great foot on me and tread me into the sand.'

'But the Romans,' said Julia, 'are coming to take away our city from us, and perhaps do us a great deal of harm, and must they not be hindered?'

'But,' replied Faustula, 'would they do it if Zenobia asked them not to do it? Did you ever know any body who could help doing as she asked them? I wish Aurelian could only have come here and heard her speak, and seen her smile, and I know he would not have wanted to hurt her. If I were a Queen, I would never fight.'

'I do not believe you would,' said I; 'you do not seem as if you could hurt any body or any thing.'

'And now is not Zenobia better than I? I think perhaps she is only going to frighten the Romans, and then coming home again.'

'O no—do not think so,' said Livia; 'has not Zenobia fought a great many battles before this? If she did not fight battles, we should have no city to live in.'

'If it is so good to fight battles, why does she prevent me from quarrelling, or even speaking unkindly? I think she ought to teach me to fight. I do not believe that men or women ought to fight any more than children; and I dare say if they first saw and talked with one another before they fought, as I am told to do, they never would do it. I find that if I talk and tell what I think, then I do not want to quarrel.—See! is that Zenobia? How bright she shines! I wish she would come back.'

'Wait a little while, and she will come again,' said Livia, 'and bring Aurelian perhaps with her. Should you not like to see Aurelian?'

'No, I am sure I should not. I do not want to see any one that does not love Zenobia.'

So the little child ran on, often uttering truths, too obviously truths for mankind to be governed by them, yet containing the best philosophy of life. Truth and happiness are both within easy reach. We miss them because they are so near. We look over them, and grasp at distant and more imposing objects, wrapped in the false charms which distance lends.

During the absence of the Queen and Fausta, we have, in agreement with the promise we made, repeated our visit more than once to the retreat of the Christian Hermit; from whom I have drawn almost all that remains to he known, concerning the truths of his religion. Both Julia and Livia have been my companions. Of the conversations at these visits, I shall hope at some future time to furnish you with full accounts.

In the meanwhile, Farewell.



Letter XIII.



These few days having passed in the manner I have described, our impatience has been relieved by news from the West. We learn that Aurelian, having appointed Illyricum as the central point for assembling his forces, has, marching thence through Thrace, and giving battle on the way to the Goths, at length reached Byzantium, whence crossing the Bosphorus, it is his purpose to subdue the Asiatic provinces, and afterwards advance toward Palmyra. The army of the Queen, judging by the last accounts received by her messengers, must now have reached the neighborhood of Antioch, and there already perhaps have encountered the forces of the Emperor.

The citizens begin at length to put on the appearance of those who feel that something of value is at stake. The Portico is forsaken, or frequented only by such as hope to hear news by going there. The streets are become silent and solitary. I myself partake of the general gloom. I am often at the palace and at the house of Longinus. The dwelling, or rather should I not term it the spacious palace of the minister, affords me delightful hours of relaxation and instruction, as I sit and converse with its accomplished lord, or wander among the compartments of his vast library, or feast the senses and imagination upon the choice specimens of sculpture and painting, both ancient and modern, which adorn the walls, the ceilings, the stair-ways, and, indeed, every part of the extensive interior. Here I succeed in forgetting the world and all its useless troubles, and am fairly transported into those regions of the fancy, where the airs are always soft and the skies serene, where want is unknown, and solicitations to vice come not, where men are just and true and kind, and women the goddesses we make them in our dreams, and the whole of existence is a calm summer's day, without storm of the inward or outward world. And when upon these delicious moments the philosopher himself breaks in, the dream is not dissolved, but stands rather converted to an absolute reality, for it then shines with the actual presence of a god. It is with unwillingness that I acknowledge my real state, and consent to return to this living world of anxieties and apprehensions in which I now dwell.

* * * * *

I am just returned from the palace and the Princess Julia. While there seated in conversation with her, Longinus, and Livia, a courier was suddenly announced from Zenobia. He entered, we stamped upon his features, and delivered letters into the hands of Longinus. Alas! Alas! for Palmyra. The intelligence is of disaster and defeat! The countenance of the Greek grew pale as he read. He placed the despatches in silence in the hands of Julia, having finished them, and hastily withdrew.

The sum of the news is this. A battle has been fought before Antioch, and the forces of the Queen completely routed. It appears that upon the approach of Aurelian, the several provinces of Asia Minor, which by negotiation and conquest had by Zenobia been connected with her kingdom, immediately returned to their former allegiance. The cities opened their gates and admitted the armies of the conqueror. Tyana alone of all the Queen's dominions in that quarter opposed the progress of the Emperor, and this strong-hold was soon by treachery delivered into his power. Thence he pressed on without pause to Antioch, where he found the Queen awaiting him. A battle immediately ensued. At first, the Queen's forces obtained decided advantages, and victory seemed ready to declare for her as always before, when the gods decreed otherwise, and the day was lost—but lost, in the indignant language of the Queen, 'not in fair and honorable fight, but through the baseness of a stratagem rather to have been expected from a Carthaginian than the great Aurelian.'

'Our troops,' she writes, 'had driven the enemy from, his ground at every point. Notwithstanding the presence of Aurelian, and the prodigies of valor by which he distinguished himself anew, and animated his soldiers, our cavalry, led by the incomparable Zabdas, bore him and his legions backwards, till apparently discomfited by the violence of the onset, the Roman horse gave way and fled in all directions. The shout of victory arose from our ranks, which now broke, and in the disorder of a flushed and conquering army, scattered in hot pursuit of the flying foe. Now, when too late, we saw the treachery of the enemy. Our horse, heavy-armed as you know, were led on by the retreating Romans into a broken and marshy ground, where their movements were in every way impeded, and thousands were suddenly fixed immovable in the deep morass. At this moment, the enemy, by preconcerted signals, with inconceivable rapidity, being light-armed, formed; and, returning upon our now scattered forces, made horrible slaughter of all who had pushed farthest from the main body of the army. Dismay seized our soldiers, the panic spread, increased by the belief that a fresh army had come up and was entering the field, and our whole duty centered in forming and covering our retreat. This, chiefly through the conduct of Calpurnius Piso, was safely effected; the Romans being kept at bay while we drew together, and then under cover of the approaching night fell back to a new and strong position.

'I attempt not, Longinus, to make that better which is bad. I reveal the whole truth, not softening nor withholding a single feature of it, that your mind may be possessed of the exact state of our affairs, and know how to form its judgments. Make that which I write public, to the extent and in the manner that shall seem best to you.

'After mature deliberation, we have determined to retreat further yet, and take up our position under the walls of Emesa. Here, I trust in the gods, we shall redeem that which we have lost.'

In a letter to Julia the Queen says, 'Fausta has escaped the dangers of the battle; selfishly perhaps dividing her from Piso, she has shared my tent and my fortunes, and has proved herself worthy of every confidence that has been reposed in her. She is my inseparable companion in the tent, in the field, and on the road, by night and by day. Give not way to despondency, dear Julia. Fortune, which has so long smiled upon me, is not now about to forsake me. There is no day so long and bright that clouds do not sail by and cast their little shadows. But the sun is behind them. Our army is still great and in good heart. The soldiers receive me, whenever I appear, with their customary acclamations. Fausta shares this enthusiasm. Wait without anxiety or fear for news from Emesa.'

When we had perused and re-perused the despatches of the Queen, and were brooding in no little despondency over their contents, Longinus re-entering said to me,

'And what, Piso, may I ask, is your judgment of the course which Aurelian will now pursue? I see not that I can offend in asking, or you in answering. I have heretofore inclined to the belief that Rome, having atoned her injured honor by a battle, would then prefer to convert Palmyra into a useful ally, by the proposal of terms which she could accept; terms which would leave her an independent existence as formerly, in friendly alliance with, though in no sense subject to Rome. But neither preceding the battle at Antioch, nor since, does it appear that terms have been so much as proposed or discussed. I can hardly believe that Aurelian, even if victory should continue to sit upon his eagles, would desire to drive the Queen to extremities, and convert this whole people into a united and infuriated enemy. If he be willing to do this, he little understands the best interests of Rome, and proves only this, that though he may be a good soldier, he is a bad sovereign, and really betrays his country while achieving the most brilliant victories.'

'I am obliged to say,' I replied, 'that I have wavered in my judgment. Sometimes, when I have thought of policy, of the past services of Palmyra, and of Persia, I have deemed it hardly possible that Aurelian should have had any other purpose in this expedition than to negotiate with Zenobia, under the advantages of an armed force; that at the most and worst, a single battle would suffice, and the differences which exist be then easily adjusted. But then, when again I have thought of the character of Aurelian, I have doubted these conclusions, and believed that conquest alone will satisfy him; and that he will never turn back till he can call Palmyra a Roman province. From what has now transpired at Antioch, and especially from what has not transpired, I am strengthened in this last opinion. One or the other must fall. I believe it has come to this.'

'One or the other may fall at Emesa,' said Liviay 'but no power can ever force the walls of Palmyra.'

'I am ready to believe with you, Princess,' said Longinus, 'but I trust never to see a Roman army before them. Yet if your last judgment of Aurelian be the true one, Piso, it may happen. We are not a power to pour forth the hordes of Rome or Germany. We have valor, but not numbers.'

'Ought not,' said Julia, 'every provision to be made, even though there be but the remotest possibility of the city sustaining a siege?'

'The most fruitful imagination,' replied Longinus, 'could hardly suggest a single addition to what is already done, to render Palmyra impregnable. And long before the food now within the walls could be exhausted, any army, save one of Arabs of the desert, lying before them, must itself perish. But these things the council and senate will maturely weigh.'

Longinus departed.

At the same moment that he left the apartment, that Indian slave whom I have often seen sitting at the feet of the Queen entered where we were, and addressing a few words to the Princess Julia again retreated. I could not but remark again, what I had remarked before, her graceful beauty, and especially the symmetry of her form and elasticity of her step. There was now also an expression in the countenance which, notwithstanding its dark beauty, I liked not, as I had often before liked it not, when I had seen her in the presence of Zenobia.

'Princess,' said I, 'is the slave who has just departed sincere in her attachment to Zenobia?'

'I cannot doubt it,' she replied; 'at least I have observed nothing to cause me to doubt it. Thinking herself injured and degraded by Zenobia, she may perhaps feel toward her as the captive feels toward the conqueror. But if this be so, the lip breathes it not. To the Queen she is, as far as the eye may judge, fondly attached, and faithful to the trusts reposed in her.'

'But why,' I asked, 'thinks she herself injured and degraded? Is she not what she seems to be, a slave?'

'She is a slave by the chances of fortune and war, not by descent or purchase. She was of the household of Sapor, when his tents, wives, and slaves fell into the hands of Odenatus, and by him, as we learned, had been taken in his wars with an Indian nation. In her own country she was a princess, and were she now there, were queen. Zenobia's pride is gratified by using her for the purposes she does, nor has it availed to intercede in her behalf. Yet has it always seemed as if a strong attachment drew the fair slave to our mother, and sure I am that Zenobia greatly esteems her, and, save in one respect, maintains and holds her rather as an equal than inferior. We all love her. Others beside yourself have questioned her truth, but we have heeded them not. Upon what, may I ask, have you founded a doubt of her sincerity?'

'I can scarcely say,' I rejoined, 'that I have ground to doubt her sincerity. Indeed, I know nothing of her but what you have now rehearsed, except that, a few days since, as I retired from the palace, I observed her near the eastern gate in earnest conversation with Antiochus. Soon as her eye caught me, although at a great distance, she hastily withdrew into the palace, while Antiochus turned toward the neighboring street.'

Julia smiled. 'Ah,' said she, 'our cousin Antiochus, were he to lose all hope of me, would hasten to throw himself at the feet of the beautiful Sindarina. When at the palace, his eyes can hardly be drawn from her face. I have been told he exalts her above her great mistress. Were Antiochus king, I can hardly doubt that Sindarina were queen. His visit to the palace must have been to her alone. Livia, have you received him since the departure of Zenobia?'

Her sister had not seen him. I said no more. But never have I read aright the human countenance, if in her there be not hidden designs of evil. I knew not before this interview her history. This supplies a motive for a treacherous turn, if by it her freedom or her fortune might be achieved. I have mentioned my suspicions to Longinus, but he sees nothing in them.

* * * * *

The intelligence thus received from Antioch has effectually sobered the giddy citizens of Palmyra. They are now of opinion that war really exists, and that they are a party concerned. The merchants, who are the princes of the place, perceiving their traffic to decline or cease, begin to interest themselves in the affairs of the state. So long as wealth flowed in as ever, and the traders from India and Persia saw no obstruction in the state of things to a safe transaction of their various businesses and transportation of their valuable commodities, the merchants left the state to take care of itself, and whatever opinions they held, expressed them only in their own circles, thinking but of accumulation by day, and of ostentatious expenditure by night. I have often heard, that their general voice, had it been raised, would have been hostile to the policy that has prevailed. But it was not raised; and now, when too late, and these mercenary and selfish beings are driven to some action by the loss of their accustomed gains, a large and violent party is forming among them, who loudly condemn the conduct of the Queen and her ministers, and advocate immediate submission to whatever terms Aurelian may impose. This party however, powerful though it maybe through wealth, is weak in numbers. The people are opposed to them, and go enthusiastically with the Queen, and do not scruple to exult in the distresses of the merchants. Their present impotence is but a just retribution upon them for their criminal apathy during the early stages of the difficulty. Then had they taken a part as they ought to have done in the public deliberations, the rupture which has ensued might, it is quite likely, have been prevented. Their voice would have been a loud and strong, one, and would have been heard. They deserve to lose their liberties, who will not spare time from selfish pursuits to guard them. Where a government is popular, even to no greater extent than this, it behooves every individual, if he values the power delegated to him and would retain it, to use it, otherwise it is by degrees and insensibly lost; and once absorbed into the hands of the few, it is not easily, if at all, to be recovered.

Nothing can exceed the activity displayed on all hands in every preparation which the emergency demands. New levies of men are making, and a camp again forming to reinforce the Queen, at Emesa, or in its neighborhood, if she should not be compelled to retire upon Palmyra. In the mean time, we wait with beating hearts for the next arrival of couriers.

* * * * *

After an anxious suspense of several days all my worst apprehensions are realized. Messengers have arrived, announcing the defeat of Zenobia before the walls of Emesa, and with them fugitives from the conquered army are pouring in. Every hour now do we expect the approach of the Queen, with the remnant of her forces. Our intelligence is in the hand of Zenobia herself. She has written thus to her minister.

'Septimia Zenobia to Dionysius Longinus. I am again defeated. Our cavalry were at first victorious, as before at Antioch. The Roman horse were routed. But the infantry of Aurelian, in number greatly superior to ours, falling upon our ranks when deprived of the support of the cavalry, obtained an easy victory; while their horse, rallying and increased by reinforcements from Antioch, drove us in turn at all points, penetrating even to our camp, and completed the disaster of the day. I have now no power with which to cope with Aurelian. It remains but to retreat upon Palmyra, there placing our reliance upon the strength of our walls, and upon our Armenian, Saracen, and Persian allies. I do not despair, although the favor of the gods seems withdrawn. Farewell.'

The city is in the utmost consternation. All power seems paralysed. The citizens stand together in knots at the corners of the streets, like persons struck dumb, and without command of either their bodies or then minds. The first feeling was, and it was freely expressed, 'To contend further is hopeless. The army is destroyed; another cannot now be recruited; and if it could, before it were effected, Aurelian would be at the gates with his countless legions, and the city necessarily surrender. We must now make the best terms we can, and receive passively conditions which we can no longer oppose.'

But soon other sentiments took the place of these, and being urged by those who entertained them, with zeal, they have prevailed.

'Why,' they have urged, 'should we yield before that becomes the only alternative? At present we are secure within the walls of our city, which may well defy all the power of a besieging army. Those most skilled in such matters, and who have visited the places in the world deemed most impregnable, assert that the defences of Palmyra are perfect, and surpassed by none; and that any army, whether a Roman or any others must perish before it would be possible either to force our gates or reduce us by hunger. Besides, what could we expect by submitting to the conqueror, but national extinction? Our city would be pillaged; our principal citizens murdered; perhaps a general slaughter made of the inhabitants, without regard to age or sex. The mercies of Rome have ever been cruel; and Aurelian we know to be famed for the severity of his temper. No commander of modern times has instituted so terrible a discipline in his army, and Rome itself has felt the might of his iron hand; it is always on his sword. What can strangers, foreigners, enemies, and rebels, as he regards us, expect? And are the people of Palmyra ready to abandon their Queen? to whom we owe all this great prosperity, this wide renown, this extended empire? But for Zenobia we were now what we were so many ages, a petty trading village, a community of money-makers, hucksters and barterers, without arts, without science, without fame, destitute of all that adorns and elevates a people. Zenobia has raised us to empire; it is Zenobia who has made us the conquerors of Persia, and the rival of Rome. Shame on those who will desert her! Shame on those who will distrust a genius that has hitherto shone with greater lustre in proportion to the difficulties that have opposed it! Who can doubt that by lending her all our energies and means, she will yet triumph? Shame and death to the enemies of the Queen and the State!'

Sentiments like these are now every where heard, and the courage and enthusiasm of the people are rising again. Those who are for war and resistance are always the popular party. There is an instinctive love of liberty and power, and a horror at the thought of losing them, that come to the aid of the weak, and often cause them to resist, under circumstances absolutely desperate. Palmyra is not weak, but to one who contemplates both parties, and compares their relative strength, it is little short of madness to hope to hold out with ultimate success against the power of Rome. But such is the determination of the great body of the people. And the Queen, when she shall approach with her broken and diminished, and defeated army, will meet the welcome of a conqueror. Never before in the history of the world, was there so true-hearted a devotion of a whole people to the glory, interests, and happiness of One—and never was such devotion so deserved.

The Princess Julia possesses herself like one armed for such adversities, not by nature, but by reflection and philosophy. She was designed for scenes of calmness and peace: but she has made herself equal to times of difficulty, tumult and danger. She shrinks not from the duties which her station now imposes upon her; but seems like one who possesses resolution enough to reign with the vigor and power of Zenobia. Her two brothers, who have remained in the city, Herennianus and Timolaus, leave all affairs of state to her and the council; they preferring the base pleasures of sensuality, in which they wallow day and night in company with Antiochus and his crew. If a deep depression is sometimes seen to rest upon her spirit, it comes rather when she thinks of her mother, than of herself. She experiences already, through her lively sympathies, the grief that will rage in the soul of Zenobia, should fortune deprive her of her crown.

'Zenobia,' she has said to me, 'Zenobia cannot descend from a throne, without suffering such as common souls cannot conceive. A goddess driven from heaven and the company of the gods could not endure more. To possess and to exercise power is to her heaven, to be despoiled of it, Tartarus and death. She was born for a throne, though not on one; and how she graces it, you and the world have seen. She will display fortitude under adversity and defeat, I am sure, and to the common eye, the same soul, vigorous with all its energies, will appear to preside over her. But the prospect or expectation of a fall from her high place will rack with torments such as no mortal can hope to assuage. To witness her grief, without the power to relieve—I cannot bear to think of it!'

In Livia there is more of the mother. She is proud, imperious, and ambitious, in a greater measure even than Zenobia. Young as she is, she believes herself of a different nature from others; she born to rule, others to serve. It is not the idea of her country and its renown that fills and sways her, but of a throne and its attendant glories. So she could reign a Queen, with a Queen's state and homage, it would matter little to her whether it were in Persia or Palmyra. Yet with those who are her equals is she free, and even sportive, light of heart, and overflowing with excess of life. Her eye burns with the bright lustre of a star, and her step is that of the mistress of a world. She is not terrified at the prospect before her, for her confident and buoyant spirit looks down all opposition, and predicts a safe egress from the surrounding peril, and an ascent, through this very calamity itself, to a position more illustrious still.

'Julia,' said she, on one occasion of late, while I sat a listener, 'supposing that the people of Palmyra should set aside our renowned brothers, and again prefer a woman's sway, would not you renounce your elder right in favor of me? I do not think you would care to be a Queen?'

'That is true,' replied Julia, 'I should not care to be a Queen; and yet, I believe I should reign, that you might not. Though I covet not the exercise of power, I believe I should use it more wisely than you would, who do.'

'I am sure,' said Livia, 'I feel within me that very superiority to others, which constitutes the royal character, and would fit me eminently to reign. He cannot be a proper slave who has not the soul of a slave. Neither can he reign well who has not the soul of a monarch. I am suited to a throne, just as others are by the providence of the gods suited to uphold the throne, and be the slaves of it.'

'Were you Queen, Livia, it would be for your own sake; to enjoy the pleasures which as you imagine accompany that state, and exercise over others the powers with which you were clothed, and receive the homage of dependent subjects. Your own magnificence and luxurious state would be your principal thought. Is that being suited to a throne?'

'But,' said Livia, 'I should not be guilty of intentional wrong toward any. So long as my people obeyed my laws and supported my government, there would be no causes of difficulty. But surely, if there were resistance, and any either insulted or opposed my authority, it would be a proper occasion for violent measures. For there must be some to govern as well as others to obey. All cannot rule. Government is founded in necessity. Kings and queens are of nature's making. It would be right then to use utmost severity toward such as ceased to obey, as the slave his master. How could the master obtain the service of the slave, if there were not reposed in him power to punish? Shall the master of millions have less?'

'Dear Livia, your principles are suited only to some Persian despotism. You very soberly imagine, unless you jest, that governments exist for the sake of those who govern—that kings and queens are the objects for which governments are instituted,'

'Truly, it is very much so. Otherwise what would the king or queen of an empire be but a poor official, maintained in a sort of state by the people, and paid by them for the discharge of a certain set of duties which must be performed by some one; but who possesses, in fact, no will nor power of his own; rather the servant of the people than their master?'

'I think,' replied Julia, 'you have given a very just definition of the imperial office. A king, queen, or emperor, is indeed the servant of the people. He exists not for his own pleasure or glory, but for their good. Else he is a tyrant, a despot—not a sovereign.'

'It is then,' said Livia, 'only a tyrant or a despot that I would consent to be. Not in any bad meaning of the terms; for you know, Julia, that I could not be cruel nor unjust. But unless I could reign, as one independent of my people, and irresponsible to them not in name only, but in reality above them; receiving the homage due to the queenly character and office—would not reign at all. To sit upon a throne, a mere painted puppet, shaken by the breath of every conceited or discontented citizen, a butt for every shaft to fly at, a mere hireling, a slave in a queen's robe, the mouthpiece for others to speak by and proclaim their laws, with no will nor power of my own—no, no! It is not such that Zenobia is.'

'She is more than that indeed,' replied Julia; 'she is in some sense a despot; her will is sovereign in the state; she is an absolute prince in fact; but it is through the force of her own character and virtues, not by the consent and expressed allowance of her subjects. Her genius, her goodness, her justice, and her services, have united to confer upon her this dangerous pre-eminence. But who else, with power such as hers, would reign as she has reigned? An absolute will, guided by perfect wisdom and goodness, constitutes I indeed believe the simplest and best form of human government. It is a copy of that of the universe, under the providence of the gods. But an absolute will, moved only or chiefly by the selfish love of regal state and homage, or by a very defective wisdom and goodness, is on the other hand the very worst form of human government. You would make an unequalled queen, Livia, if to act the queen were all; if you were but to sit and receive the worship of the slaves, your subjects. As you sit now, Lean almost believe you Queen of the East! Juno's air was not more imperial, nor the beauty of Venus more enslaving. Piso will not dissent from what I began with, or now end with.'

'I think you have delivered a true doctrine,' I replied; 'but which few who have once tasted of power will admit. Liberty would be in great danger were Livia queen. Her subjects would be too willing to forget their rights, through a voluntary homage to her queenly character and state. Their chains would however be none the less chains, that they were voluntarily assumed. That indeed is the most dangerous slavery which men impose upon themselves, for it does not bear the name of slavery, but some other; yet as it is real, the character of the slave is silently and unconsciously formed, and then unconsciously transmitted.'

'I perceive,' said Livia, 'if what you philosophers urge be true, that I am rather meant by nature for a Persian or a Roman throne than any other. I would be absolute, though it were over but a village. A divided and imperfect power I would not accept, though it were over the world. But the gods grant it long ere any one be called in Palmyra to fill the place of Zenobia!'

'Happy were it for mankind,' said Julia, 'could she live and reign forever.'

Thus do all differences cease and run into harmony at the name of Zenobia.

* * * * *

Every hour do we look for the arrival of the army.

* * * * *

As I sit writing at my open window, overlooking the street and spacious courts of the Temple of Justice, I am conscious of an unusual disturbance—the people at a distance are running in one direction—the clamor approaches—and now I hear the cries of the multitudes, 'The Queen! the Queen!'

I fly to the walls.

* * * * *

I resume my pen. The alarm was a true one. Upon gaining the streets, I found the populace all pouring toward the Gate of the Desert, in which direction, it was affirmed, the Queen was making her approach. Upon reaching it, and ascending one of its lofty towers, I beheld from the verge of the horizon to within a mile of the walls, the whole plain filled with the scattered forces of Zenobia, a cloud of dust resting over the whole, and marking out the extent of ground they covered. As the advanced detachments drew near, how different a spectacle did they present from that bright morning, when glittering in steel, and full of the fire of expected victory, they proudly took their way toward the places from which they now were returning, a conquered, spoiled, and dispirited remnant, covered with the dust of a long march, and wearily dragging their limbs beneath the rays of a burning sun. Yet was there order and military discipline preserved, even under circumstances so depressing, and which usually are an excuse for their total relaxation. It was the silent, dismal march of a funeral train, rather than the hurried flight of a routed and discomfited army. There was the stiff and formal military array, but the life and spirit of an elated and proud soldiery were gone. They moved with method to the sound of clanging instruments, and the long, shrill blast of the trumpet, but they moved as mourners, They seemed as if they came to bury their Queen.

Yet the scene changed to a brighter aspect, as the army drew nearer and nearer to the walls, and the city throwing open her gates, the populace burst forth, and with loud and prolonged shouts, welcomed them home. These shouts sent new life into the hearts of the desponding ranks, and with brightened faces and a changed air they waved their arms and banners, and returned shout for shout. As they passed through the gates to the ample quarters provided within the walls, a thousand phrases of hearty greeting were showered down upon them, from those who lined the walls, the towers, and the way-side, which seemed, from the effects produced in those on whom they fell, a more quickening restorative than could have been any medicine or food that had ministered only to the body.

The impatience of the multitude to behold and receive the Queen was hardly to be restrained from breaking forth in some violent way. They were ready to rush upon the great avenue, bearing aside the troops, that they might the sooner greet her. When, at length, the centre of the army approached, and the armed chariot appeared in which Zenobia sat, the enthusiasm of the people knew no bounds. They broke through all restraint, and with cries that filled the heavens, pressed toward her—the soldiers catching the frenzy and joining them—and quickly detaching the horses from her carriage, themselves drew her into the city just as if she had returned victor with Aurelian in her train. There was no language of devotion and loyalty that did not meet her ear, nor any sign of affection that could be made from any distance, from the plains, the walls, the gates, the higher buildings of the city, the roofs of which were thronged, that did not meet her eye. It was a testimony of love so spontaneous and universal, a demonstration of confidence and unshaken attachment so hearty and sincere, that Zenobia was more than moved by it, she was subdued—and she who, by her people, had never before been seen to weep, bent her head and buried her face in her hands.

With what an agony of expectation, while this scene was passing, did I await the appearance of Fausta, and Gracchus, and Calpurnius—if, indeed, I were destined ever to see them again. I waited long, and with pain, but the gods be praised, not in vain, nor to meet with disappointment only. Not far in the rear of Zenobia, at the head of a squadron of cavalry, rode, as my eye distinctly informed me, those whom I sought. No sooner did they in turn approach the gates, than almost the same welcome that had been lavished upon Zenobia, was repeated for Fausta, Gracchus, and Calpurnius. The names of Calpurnius and Fausta—of Calpurnius, as he who had saved the army at Antioch, of Fausta as the intrepid and fast friend of the Queen, were especially heard from a thousand lips, joined with every title of honor. My voice was not wanting in the loud acclaim. It reached the ears of Fausta, who, starting and looking upward, caught my eye just as she passed beneath the arch of the gateway. I then descended from my tower of observation, and joined the crowds who thronged the close ranks, as they filed along the streets of the city. I pressed upon the steps of my friends, never being able to keep my eyes from the forms of those I loved so well, whom I had so feared to lose, and so rejoiced to behold returned alive and unhurt.

All day the army has continued pouring into the city, and beside the army greater crowds still of the inhabitants of the suburbs, who, knowing that before another day shall end, the Romans may encamp before the walls, are scattering in all directions—multitudes taking refuge in the city, but greater numbers still, mounted upon elephants, camels, dromedaries and horses, flying into the country to the north. The whole region as far as the eye can reach, seems in commotion, as if society were dissolved, and breaking up from its foundations. The noble and the rich, whose means are ample, gather together their valuables, and with their children and friends seek the nearest parts of Mesopotamia, where they will remain in safety till the siege shall be raised. The poor, and such as cannot reach the Euphrates, flock into the city, bringing with them what little of provisions or money they may possess, and are quartered upon the inhabitants, or take up a temporary abode in the open squares, or in the courts and porticos of palaces and temples—the softness and serenity of the climate rendering even so much as the shelter of a tent superfluous. But by this vast influx the population of the city cannot be less than doubled, and I should tremble for the means of subsistence for so large a multitude, did I not know the inexhaustible magazines of grain, laid up by the prudent foresight of the Queen, in anticipation of the possible occurrence of the emergency which has now arrived. A long time—longer than he himself would be able to subsist his army—must Aurelian lie before Palmyra ere he can hope to reduce it by famine. What impression his engines may be able to make upon the walls, remains to be seen. Periander pronounces the city impregnable. My own judgment, formed upon a comparison of it with the cities most famous in the world for the strength of their defences, would agree with his.

Following on in the wake of the squadron to which Fausta was attached, I wished to reach the camp at the same time with herself and Gracchus and my brother, but owing to the press in the streets, arising from the causes just specified, I was soon separated from, and lost sight of it. Desirous however to meet them, I urged my way along with much labor till I reached the quarter of the city assigned to the troops, where I found the tents and the open ground already occupied. I sought in vain for Fausta. While I waited, hoping still to see her, I stood leaning upon a pile of shields, which the soldiers, throwing off their arms, had just made, and watching them as they were, some disencumbering themselves of their armor, others unclasping the harness of their horses, others arranging their weapons into regular forms, and others, having gone through their first tasks, were stretching themselves at rest beneath the shadow of their tents, or of some branching tree. Near me sat a soldier, who, apparently too fatigued to rid himself of his heavy armor, had thrown himself upon the ground, and was just taking off his helmet, and wiping the dust and sweat from his face, while a little boy, observing his wants, ran to a neighboring fountain, and filling a vessel with water, returned and held it to him, saying, 'Drink, soldier this will make you stronger than your armor.'

'You little traitor,' said the soldier,' art not ashamed to bring drink to me, who have helped to betray the city? Beware, or a sharp sword will cut you in two.'

'I thought,' replied the child, nothing daunted, 'that you were a soldier of Palmyra, who had been to fight the Romans. But whoever you may be, I am sure you need the water.'

'But,' rejoined the soldier, swallowing at long draughts as if it had been nectar, the cooling drink, 'do I deserve water, or any of these cowards here, who have been beaten by the Romans, and so broken the heart of our good Queen, and possibly lost her her throne? Answer me that.'

'You have done what you could, I know,' replied the boy, 'because you are a Palmyrene, and who can do more? I carry round the streets of the city in this palm-leaf basket, date cakes, which I sell to those who love them. But does my mother blame me because I do not always come home with an empty basket? I sell what I can. Should I be punished for doing what I cannot?'

'Get you gone, you rogue,' replied the soldier; 'you talk like a Christian boy, and they have a new way of returning good for evil. But here, if you have cakes in your basket, give me one and I will give you a penny all the way from Antioch. See! there is the head of Aurelian on it. Take care he don't eat you up—or at least your cakes. But hark you, little boy, do you see yonder that old man with a bald head, leaning against his shield? go to him with your cakes.'

The boy ran off.

'Friend,' said I, addressing him, 'your march has not lost you your spirits; you can jest yet.'

'Truly I can. If the power to do that were gone, then were all lost. A good jest in a time of misfortune is food and drink. It is strength to the arm, digestion to the stomach, courage to the heart. It is better than wisdom or wine. A prosperous man may afford to be melancholy, but if the miserable are so, they are worse than dead—but it is sure to kill them. Near me I had a comrade whose wit it was alone that kept life in me upon the desert. All the way from Emesa, had it not been for the tears of laughter, those of sorrow and shame would have killed me.'

'But in the words of the little cake urchin, you did what you could. The fates were opposed to you.'

'If all had done as much and as well as some, we would have had the fates in our own keeping. Had it not been for that artifice of the Romans at Antioch, we, had now been rather in Rome than here, and it was a woman—or girl rather, as I am told—the daughter of Gracchus, who first detected the cheat, and strove to save the army, but it was too late.'

'Were you near her?'

'Was I not? Not the great Zabdas himself put more mettle into the troops than did that fiery spirit and her black horse. And beyond a doubt, she would have perished through an insane daring, had not the Queen in time called her from the field, and afterward kept her within her sight and reach. Her companion, a Roman turned Palmyrene as I heard, was like one palsied when she was gone, till when, he had been the very Mars of the field. As it was, he was the true hero of the day. He brought to my mind Odenatus, 'Twas so he looked that day we entered Ctesiphon I could wish, and hope too, that he might share the throne of Zenobia, but that all the world knows what a man-hater she is. But were you not there?'

'No. It could not be. I remained in the city.'

'Ten thousand more of such men as you—and we would not have fallen back upon Emesa, nor left Antioch without the head of Aurelian. But alas for it, the men of Palmyra are men of silk, and love their pleasures too well to be free. I should call them women, but for Zenobia and the daughter of Gracchus.'

'Do not take me for one of them. I am a Roman—and could not fight against my country.'

'A Roman! and what makes you here? Suppose I were to run you through with this spear?'

'Give me another and you are welcome to try.'

'Am I so? Then will I not do it. Give a man his will and he no longer cares for it. Besides, having escaped with hazard from the clutches of one Roman, I will not encounter another. Dost thou know that demon Aurelian? Half who fell, fell by his hand. His sword made no more of a man in steel armor, than mine would of a naked slave. Many a tall Palmyrene did he split to the saddle, falling both ways. The ranks broke and fled wherever he appeared. Death could not keep pace with him. The Roman Piso—of our side—sought him over the field, to try his fortune with him, but the gods protected him, and he found him not: otherwise his body were now food for hyenas. No arm of mortal mould can cope with his, Mine is not despicable: there is not its match in Palmyra: but I would not encounter Aurelian unless I were in love with death.'

'It is as you say, I well know. He is reputed in our army to have killed more with his single arm in battle, than any known in Roman history. Our camp resounds with songs which celebrate his deeds of blood. His slain are counted by thousands, nothing less.'

'The gods blast him, ere he be seen before the walls of Palmyra; our chance were better against double the number of legions under another general. The general makes the soldier. The Roman infantry are so many Aurelians. Yet to-morrow's sun will see him here. I am free to say, I tremble for Palmyra. A war ill begun, will, if auguries are aught, end worse. Last night the sky was full of angry flashes, both white and red. While the army slept over-wrought upon the desert, and the silence of death was around, the watches heard sounds as of the raging of a battle, distinct and clear, dying away in groans as of a host perishing under the sword and battle-axe. These horrid sounds at length settled over the sleeping men, till it seemed as if they proceeded from them. The sentinels—at first struck dumb with terror and amazement—called out to one another to know what it should mean, but they could only confirm to each other what had been heard, and together ask the protection of the gods. But what strikes deeper yet, is what you have heard, that the Queen's far-famed Numidian, just as we came in sight of the walls of the city, stumbled, and where he stumbled, fell and died. What these things forebode, if not disaster and ruin, 'tis hard to say. I need no one to read them to me.'

Saying thus, he rose and began to divest himself of the remainder of his heavy armor, saying, as he did it—'It was this heavy armor that lost us the day at Antioch—lighter, and we could have escaped the meshes. Now let me lie and sleep.'

Returning, hardly had I arrived at the house of Gracchus, when it was announced in loud shouts by the slaves of the palace, that Gracchus himself, Fausta and Calpurnius were approaching. I hastened to the portico overlooking the court-yard, and was there just in season to assist Fausta to dismount. It was a joyful moment I need scarce assure you. Fausta returns wholly unhurt. Gracchus is wounded upon his left, and Calpurnius upon his right arm—but will not long suffer from the injury.

It was an unspeakable joy, once more to hear the cheerful voice of Gracchus resounding in the walls of his own dwelling, and to see Fausta, eased of her unnatural load of iron, again moving in her accustomed sphere in that graceful costume, partly Roman and partly Persian, and which now hides and now betrays the form, so as to reveal its beauty in the most perfect manner. A deep sadness, deeper than ever, sits upon her countenance, whenever her own thoughts occupy her. But surrounded by her friends, her native spirit, too elastic to be subdued, breaks forth, and she seems her former self again.

Our evening meal was sad, but not silent.

Gracchus instructed me, by giving a minute narrative of the march to Antioch—of the two battles—and the retreat. Calpurnius related with equal exactness the part which he took, and the services which Fausta, by her penetrating observation, had been able to render to the army. They united in bestowing the highest encomiums upon Zenobia, who herself planned the battle, and disposed the forces, and with such consummate judgment, that Zabdas himself found nothing to disapprove or alter.

'The day was clearly ours,' said Fausta, 'but for the artifice of Aurelian—allowable, I know, by all the rules of war—by which we were led on blindfold to our ruin. But flushed as we were by the early and complete success of the day, is it to be severely condemned that our brave men followed up their advantages with too much confidence, and broke from that close order, in which till then, they had fought; and by doing so, lost the command of themselves and their own strength? O, the dulness of our spirits, that we did not sooner detect the rank insincerity of that sudden, unexpected retreat of the Roman horse!'

'The gods rather be praised,' said Gracchus, 'that your watchful eye detected so soon, what was too well concerted and acted to be perceived at all, and that as the fruit of it we sit here alive, and Zenobia holds her throne, and so many of our brave soldiers are now locked in sleep beneath their quiet tents.'

'That, I think,' said Calpurnius, 'is rather the sentiment that should possess us. You will hardly believe, Lucius, that it was owing to the military genius of your ancient playmate, that we escaped the certain destruction that had been prepared for us?'

'I can believe any thing good in that quarter, and upon slighter testimony. I have already heard from the lips of a soldier of your legion, that which you have now related. Part of the praise was by him bestowed upon one Piso, a Roman turned Palmyrene as he termed him, who, he reported, fought at the side of the daughter of Gracchus.'

'He could not have said too much of that same Piso,' said Gracchus. 'Palmyra owes him a large debt of gratitude, which I am sure she will not be slow to pay. But let us think rather of the future than of the past, which, however we may have conducted, speaks only of disaster.'

I thank you for your assurances concerning Laco and Coelia. Your conscience will never reproach you for this lenity.



Letter XIV.



The last days of this so lately favored empire draw near—at least such is my judgment. After a brief day of glory, its light will set in a long night of utter darkness and ruin.

Close upon the rear guard of the Queen's forces followed the light troops of Aurelian, and early this morning it was proclaimed that the armies of Rome were in sight, and fast approaching the city. These armies were considered too numerous to hazard another battle, therefore the gates were shut, and we are now beleaguered by a power too mighty to contend with, and which the Arabs, the climate, and want, must be trusted to subdue. The circumjacent plains are filled with the legions of Rome. Exhausted, by the march across the desert, they have but pitched their tents, and now repose.

The Queen displays more than ever her accustomed activity and energy. She examines in person every part of the vast extent of wall, and every engine planted upon them for their defence. By her frequent presence in every part of the city she inspires her soldiers with the same spirit which possesses herself; and for herself, to behold her careering through the streets of the city, reviewing, and often addressing, the different divisions of the army, and issuing her commands, she seems rather like one who is now Queen of the East, and is soon to be of the world, than one whose dominion is already narrowed down to the compass of a single city, and may shortly be deprived even of that. The lofty dignity of her air has assumed a more imposing greatness still. The imperial magnificence of her state is noways diminished, but rather increased, so that by a sort of delusion of the senses, she seems more a Queen than ever. By her native vigor and goodness, and by the addition of a most consummate art, by which she manages as she will a people whom she perfectly comprehends, she is at this moment more deeply intrenched within the affections of her subjects, and more completely the object of their idolatrous homage than ever before. Yet in her secret soul there is a deep depression, and a loss of confidence in her cause, which amounts not yet to a loss of hope, but approaches it. This is seen by those who can observe her in her more quiet hours, when the glare of public action and station is off, and her mind is left to its own workings. But, like those who play at dice, she has staked all—her kingdom, her crown—her life perhaps—upon a single throw, and having wound herself up to the desperate act, all the entreaty or argument of the whole earth could not move her to unclasp the hand that wields the fatal box. She will abide the throw.

There are still those who use both intreaty and argument to persuade her even at this late hour to make the best terms she may with Rome. Otho, though perfectly loyal and true, ceases not to press upon her, both in public and in private, those considerations which may have any weight with her to induce a change of measures. But it has thus far been to no purpose. Others there are who, as the danger increases, become more and more restless, and scruple not to let their voice be heard in loud complaint and discontent, but they are too few in proportion to the whole, to make them objects of apprehension. It will however be strange if, as the siege is prolonged, they do not receive such accessions of strength as to render them dangerous.

The Emperor has commenced his attacks upon the city in a manner that shows him unacquainted with its strength. The battle has raged fiercely all day, with great loss we infer to the Romans, with none we know to the Palmyrenes.

Early on the morning of the second day it was evident that a general assault was to be made. The Roman army completely surrounded the city, at the same signal approached, and under cover of their shields, attempted both to undermine and scale the walls. But their attempts were met with such vigor, and with such advantage of action by the besieged, that although repeated many times during the day, they have resulted in only loss and death to the assailants. It is incredible the variety and ingenuity of the contrivances by which the Queen's forces beat off and rendered ineffectual all the successive movements of the enemy, in their attempts to surmount the walls. Not only from every part of them were showers of arrows discharged from the bows of experienced archers, but from engines also, by which they were driven to a much greater distance, and with great increase of force.

This soon rendered every attack of this nature useless and worse, and their efforts were then concentrated upon the several gates, which simultaneously were attempted to be broken in, fired, or undermined. But here again, as often as these attempts were renewed, were they defeated, and great destruction made of those engaged in them. The troops approached as is usual, covered completely, or buried rather, beneath their shields. They were suffered to form directly under the walls, and actually commence their work of destruction, when suddenly from the towers of the gates, and through channels constructed for the purpose in every part of the masonry, torrents of liquid fire were poured upon the iron roof, beneath which the soldiers worked. This at first they endured. The melted substances ran off from the polished surface of the shields, and the stones which were dashed upon them from engines, after rattling and bounding over their heads, rolled harmless to the ground. But there was in reserve a foe which they could not encounter. When it was found that the fiery streams flowed down the slanting sides of the shell, penetrating scarcely at all through the crevices of the well-joined shields, it was suggested by the ingenious Periander, that there should first be thrown down a quantity of pitch in a half melted state, by which the whole surface of the roof should be completely covered, and which should then, by a fresh discharge of fire, be set in a blaze, the effect of which must be to heat the shields to such a degree, that they could neither be held, nor the heat beneath endured by the miners. This was immediately resorted to at all the gates, and the success was complete. For no sooner was the cold pitch set on fire and constantly fed by fresh quantities from above, than the heat became insupportable to those below, who suddenly letting go their hold, and breaking away from their compacted form, in hope to escape from the stifling heat, the burning substance then poured in upon them, and vast numbers perished miserably upon the spot, or ran burning, and howling with pain, toward the camp. The slaughter made was very great, and terrible to behold.

Nevertheless, the next day the same attempts were renewed, in the hope, we supposed, that the Queen's missiles might be expended, but were defeated again in the same manner and with like success.

These things being so, and Aurelian being apparently convinced that the city cannot be taken by storm, the enemy are now employed in surrounding it with a double ditch and rampart, as defences both against us and our allies, between which the army is to be safely encamped; an immense labor, to which I believe a Roman army is alone equal. While this has been doing, the Palmyrenes have made frequent sallies from the gates, greatly interrupting the progress of the work, and inflicting severe losses. These attacks have usually been made at night, when the soldiers have been wearied by the exhausting toil of the day, and only a small proportion of the whole have been in a condition to ward off the blows.

* * * * *

The Roman works are at length completed. Every lofty palm tree, every cedar, every terebinth, has disappeared from the surrounding plains, to be converted into battering rams, or wrought into immense towers, fire and constantly fed by fresh quantities from above, than the heat became insupportable to those below, who suddenly letting go their hold, and breaking away from their compacted form, in hope to escape from the stifling heat, the burning substance then poured in upon them, and vast numbers perished miserably upon the spot, or ran burning, and howling with pain, toward the camp. The slaughter made was very great, and terrible to behold.

Nevertheless, the next day the same attempts were renewed, in the hope, we supposed, that the Queen's missiles might be expended, but were defeated again in the same manner and with like success.

These things being so, and Aurelian being apparently convinced that the city cannot be taken by storm, the enemy are now employed in surrounding it with a double ditch and rampart, as defences both against us and our allies, between which the army is to be safely encamped; an immense labor, to which I believe a Roman army is alone equal. While this has been doing, the Palmyrenes have made frequent sallies from the gates, greatly interrupting the progress of the work, and inflicting severe losses. These attacks have usually been made at night, when the soldiers have been wearied by the exhausting toil of the day, and only a small proportion of the whole have been in a condition to ward off the blows.

The Roman works are at length completed. Every lofty palm tree, every cedar, every terebinth, has disappeared from the surrounding plains, to be converted into battering rams, or wrought into immense towers, fired, if possible, by means of well-barbed arrows and javelins, to which were attached sacs and balls of inflammable and explosive substances. These fastening themselves upon every part of the tower could not fail to set fire to them while yet at some distance, and in extinguishing which the water and other means provided for that purpose would be nearly or quite exhausted, before they had reached the walls. Then as they came within easier reach, the engines were to belch forth those rivers of oil, fire, and burning pitch, which he was sure no structure, unless of solid iron, could withstand.

These directions were carefully observed, and their success at every point such as Periander had predicted. At the Gate of the Desert the most formidable preparations were made, under the inspection of the Emperor himself, who, at a distance, could plainly be discerned directing the work and encouraging the soldiers. Two towers of enormous size were here constructed, and driven toward the walls. Upon both, as they came within the play of the engines, were showered the fiery javelins and arrows, which it required all the activity of the occupants to ward off, or extinguish where they had succeeded in fastening themselves. One was soon in flames. The other, owing either to its being of a better construction, or to a less vigorous discharge of fire on the part of the defenders of the wall, not only escaped the more distant storm of blazing missiles, but succeeded in quenching the floods of burning pitch and oil, which, as it drew nearer and nearer, were poured upon it in fiery streams. On it moved, propelled by its invisible and protected power, and had now reached the wall; the bridge was in the very act of being thrown and grappled to the ramparts; Aurelian was seen pressing forward the legions, who, as soon as it should be fastened, were to pour up its flights of steps and out upon the walls; when, to the horror of all, not less of the besiegers than of the besieged, its foundations upon one side—being laid over the moat—suddenly gave way, and the towering and enormous mass, with all its living burden, fell thundering to the plain. A shout, as of a delivered and conquering army, went up from the walls, while upon the legions below, such as had not been crushed by the tumbling ruin, and who endeavored to save themselves by flight, a sudden storm of stones, rocks, burning pitch, and missiles of a thousand kinds was directed, that left few to escape to tell the tale of death to their comrades. Aurelian, in his fury, or his desire to aid the fallen, approaching too near the walls, was himself struck by a well-directed shaft, wounded, and borne from the field.

At the other gates, where similar assaults had been made, the same success attended the Palmyrenes. The towers were in each instance set on fire and destroyed.

The city has greatly exulted at the issue of these repeated contests. Every sound and sign of triumph has been made upon the walls. Banners have been waved to and fro, trumpets have been blown, and in bold defiance of their power, parties of horse have sallied out from the gates, and after careering in sight of the enemy, have returned again within the walls. The enemy are evidently dispirited, and already weary of the work they have undertaken.

The Queen and her ministers are confident of success, so far as active resistance of the attacks upon the walls is concerned—and perhaps with reason. For not even the walls of Rome, as they are now re-building, can be of greater strength than these; and never were the defences of a besieged city so complete at all points. But with equal reason are they despondent in the prospect of Aurelian's reducing them by want. If he shall succeed in procuring supplies for his army, and if he shall defeat the allies of the Queen, who are now every day looked for, captivity and ruin are sure. But the Queen and the citizens entertain themselves with the hope, that Aurelian's fiery temper will never endure the slow and almost disgraceful process of starving them into a surrender, and that finding his army constantly diminishing through the effects of such extraordinary exertions in a climate like this, he will at length propose such terms as they without dishonor can accept.

Many days have passed in inactivity on both sides; except that nothing can exceed the strictness with which all approaches to the city are watched, and the possibility of supplies reaching it cut off.

That which has been expected has come to pass. The Emperor has offered terms of surrender to the Queen; but such terms, and so expressed, that their acceptance was not so much as debated. The Queen was in council with her advisers, when it was announced that a herald from the Roman camp was seen approaching the walls. The gates were ordered to be opened, and the messenger admitted. He was conducted to the presence of the Queen, surrounded by her ministers.

'I come,' said he, as he advanced toward Zenobia, 'bearing a letter from the Emperor of Rome to the Queen of Palmyra. Here it is.'

'I receive it gladly,' replied the Queen, 'and hope that it may open a way to an honorable composition of the difficulties which now divide us. Nichomachus, break the seals and read its contents.'

The secretary took the epistle from the hands of the herald, and opening, read that which follows:

'Aurelian, Emperor of Rome and Conqueror of the East, to Zenobia and her companions in arms.

'You ought of your own accord long since to have done, what now by this letter I enjoin and command. And what I now enjoin and command is this, an immediate surrender of the city; but with assurance of life to yourself and your friends; you, O Queen, with your friends, to pass your days where the senate, in its sovereign will, shall please to appoint. The rights of every citizen shall be respected, upon condition that all precious stones, silver, gold, silk, horses and camels be delivered into the hands of the Romans.'

As the secretary finished these words the Queen broke forth,——

'What think you, good friends?'—her mounting color and curled lip showing the storm that raged within—'What think you? Is it a man or a god who has written thus? Can it be a mortal who speaks in such terms to another? By the soul of Odenatus, but I think it must be the God of War himself. Slave, what sayest thou?'

'I am but the chosen bearer,' the herald replied, 'of what I took from the hands of the Emperor. But between him and the god just named there is, as I deem, but small difference.'

'That's well said,' replied the Queen; 'there's something of the old Roman in thee. Friends,' she continued, turning to her counsellors, 'what answer shall we send to this lordly command? What is your advice?'

'Mine is,' said Zabdas, 'that the Queen set her foot upon the accursed scroll, and that yonder wretch that bore it be pitched headlong from the highest tower upon the walls, and let the wind from his rotting carcass bear back our only answer.'

'Nay, nay, brave Zabdas,' said the Queen, the fury of her general having the effect to restore her own self-possession, 'thou wouldst not counsel so. War then doubles its wo and guilt, when cruelty and injustice bear sway. Otho, what sayest thou?'

'Answer it in its own vein! You smile, Queen, as if incredulous. But I repeat—answer it in its own vein! I confess an inward disappointment and an inward change. I hoped much from terms which a wise man might at this point propose, and soil neither his own nor his country's honor. But Aurelian—I now see—is not such a one. He is but the spoiled child of fortune. He has grown too quickly great to grow well. Wisdom has had no time to ripen.'

Others concurring, Zenobia seized a pen and wrote that which I transcribe.

'Zenobia, Queen of the East? to Aurelian Augustus.

'No one before you ever thought to make a letter serve instead of a battle. But let me tell you, whatever is won in war, is won by bravery, not by letters. You ask me to surrender—as if ignorant that Cleopatra chose rather to die, than, surrendering, to live in the enjoyment of every honor. Our Persian allies will not fail me. I look for them every hour. The Saracens are with me—the Armenians are with me. The Syrian robbers have already done you no little damage. What then can you expect, when these allied armies are upon you? You will lay aside I think a little of that presumption with which you now command me to surrender, as if you were already conqueror of the whole world.'

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