Cassius Dio.

Dio's Rome, Volume 2 An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During the Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus; and Now Presented in E online

. (page 14 of 30)
Online LibraryCassius DioDio's Rome, Volume 2 An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During the Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus; and Now Presented in E → online text (page 14 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Ichnai, a fortress so named, after contending with a few horsemen. He
was wounded and retired to report personally to the king the Romans'
invasion:[-13-] Crassus quickly got possession of the garrisons and
especially the Greek cities, among them one named Nicephorium. Many of
the Macedonians and of the rest that fought for the Parthians were Greek
colonists, oppressed by violence, and not unwillingly transferred their
allegiance to the Romans, who, they strongly hoped, would be favorable
to the Greeks. The inhabitants of Zenodotium, pretending a willingness
to revolt, sent for some of the invaders, but when they were within the
town cut them off and killed them, for which act they were driven from
their homes. Outside of this Crassus for the time being neither
inflicted nor received any serious harm. He certainly would have subdued
the other regions beyond the Tigris, if he had followed up the advantage
from his own attack and the barbarians' panic equally in all respects,
and had he wintered furthermore where he was, keeping a sharp lookout on
their behavior. As it turned out, he captured only what he could seize
by sudden assault and paid no heed to the rest nor to the people
themselves, but wearied by his stay in Mesopotamia and longing for the
indolence of Syria he afforded the Parthians time to prepare themselves
and to injure the soldiers left behind in their country.

[-14-]This was the beginning that the Romans made of war against them.
They dwell beyond the Tigris, possessing for the most part forts and
garrisons, but also a few cities, among them Ctesiphon, in which there
is a palace. Their stock was very likely in existence among the original
barbarians and they had this same name even under the Persian rule. But
at that time they inhabited only a small portion of the country and had
not obtained any transmontane sovereignty. When the Persian kingdom had
been destroyed and that of the Macedonians had reached its prime, and
then the successors of Alexander had quarreled one with another, cutting
off separate portions for their own and setting up individual
monarchies, this land then first attained prominence under a certain
Arsaces from whom their succeeding rulers have received the title of
Arsacidae. By good fortune they acquired all the neighboring territory,
kept control of Mesopotamia by means of satrapies, and finally advanced
to so great glory and power as to fight against the Romans at that
period and to be considered worthy antagonists up to present time.[61]
They are really formidable in warfare and possess the greater
reputation, in spite of never having gained anything from the Romans and
having parted with certain portions of their own domain, because they
have not yet been enslaved, but even now carry wars against us to the
end, whenever they get into conflicts. [-15-] About their race and their
country and the peculiarities of their customs many persons have spoken,
and I have no intention of compiling an account. But it is fair to
mention in what follows their equipment of arms, and the way they handle
a war: the examination of these details properly concerns the present
narrative, since it here needs to introduce them. The Parthians make no
use of a shield, but their forces consist of mounted archers and
pike-bearers, mostly in full armor. Their infantry is small, made up of
the weaker persons; hence it may be said they are all archers. They
practice from boyhood, and the sky and the country co√ґperate with them
for two good ends. The latter, being for the most part level, is
excellent for raising horses and very suitable for riding over with
horses. Therefore even in war the people lead about whole droves so that
they can use some horses at one place and others at another, can ride up
suddenly from a distance and also retire to a distance speedily. The sky
above them, too, which is very dry and contains not the least moisture,
affords them perfect opportunity for archery, except in the winter. For
that reason they make no campaigns in any direction during the winter
season. But the rest of the year they are almost invincible in their own
country and in any that has similar characteristics. By long custom they
can endure the sun, which is very scorching, and they have discovered
many remedies for the scantiness and difficulty of a supply of drink, - a
fact which is a help to them in repelling without difficulty the
invaders of their land. Outside of this district and beyond the
Euphrates they have once or twice exercised some sway by battles and
sudden incursions, but to fight with any nation continuously, without
stopping, is not in their power, when they encounter an entirely
different condition of land and sky and have no supplies of either food
or pay.

[-16-] Such is the Parthian state. Crassus, as has been stated, invaded
Mesopotamia and Orodes sent envoys to him in Syria to censure him for
the invasion and ask the causes of the war; he sent also Surena with an
army to the captured and revolted sections. He himself had in mind to
lead an expedition against Armenia, which had once belonged to Tigranes,
in order that Artabazes, son of Tigranes, the king of the land at that
time, should, through fear for his own domains, send no assistance to
the Romans. Now Crassus said that he would tell him in Seleucia the
causes of the war. (This is a city in Mesopotamia having even at the
present day chiefly a Greek population.) And one of the Parthians,
bringing down upon the palm of his left hand the fingers of the other,
exclaimed: "More quickly will hair grow herein, than you will reach

[B.C. 53 (_a.u._ 701)]

[-17-] And when the winter set in,[62] in which Gnaeus Calvinus and
Valerius Messala became consuls, many portents occurred even in Rome
itself. Owls and wolves were seen, prowling dogs did damage, some sacred
statues exuded sweat and others were destroyed by lightning. The
offices, partly through rivalry but chiefly by reason of birds and
omens, were with difficulty filled at last in the seventh month. Those
signs, however, gave no clear indication as to what the event would be.
For affairs in the City were in turmoil, the Gauls had risen again, and,
though the Romans knew it not as yet, they had broken into war against
the Parthians: but to Crassus signs that were both evident and easy to
interpret appeared as he was crossing the Euphrates opposite Zeugma.[63]
That spot has been so called from the campaign of Alexander, because he
crossed at this point. [-18-] The omens were of the following nature.
There is a small shrine and in it a golden eagle, which is found in all
the legions that are on the register, and it never moves from the
winter-quarters except the whole army goes forth on some errand. One man
carries it on a long shaft, which ends in a sharp spike for the purpose
of setting it firmly in the ground. Now of these so-called eagles one
was unwilling to join him in his passage of the Euphrates at that time,
but stuck fast in the earth as if planted until many took their places
around it and pulled it out by force, so that it accompanied even
involuntarily. But one of the large standards, that resemble sheets,
with purple letters upon them to distinguish the division and its
commander, turned about and fell from the bridge into the river. This
happened in the midst of a violent wind. Then Crassus, who had the rest
of equal length cut down, so as to be shorter and consequently steadier
to carry, only increased the prodigies. In the very passage of the river
so great a mist enshrouded the soldiers that they fell over one another
and could see nothing of the enemy's country until they set foot upon
it: and the sacrifices both for crossing and for landing proved very
unfavorable. Meantime a great wind burst upon them, bolts of lightning
fell, and the bridge, before they had all passed over, was destroyed.
The occurrences were such that any one, even if extremely ignorant and
uninstructed, would interpret them to mean that they would fare badly
and not return. Hence there was great fear and dejection in the army.
[-19-] Crassus, trying to encourage them, said: "Be not alarmed, fellow
soldiers, that the bridge has been destroyed nor think because of this
that any disaster is portended. For I declare to you upon oath that I
have decided to make my return march through Armenia." By this he would
have emboldened them, had he not at the end added in a loud voice the
words: "Be of good cheer: for none of you shall come back _this_ way."
When they heard this, the soldiers deemed that it, no less than the
rest, had been a portent for them, and fell into greater discouragement;
and so it was that they paid no heed to the remainder of his
exhortation, in which he belittled the barbarian and glorified the Roman
State, offered them money and announced prizes for valor.

Still, even so, they followed and no one said a word or committed an act
to oppose him, partly by reason of the law, but further because they
were terrified and could neither plan nor carry out any measures of
safety. In all other respects, too, as if predestined to ruin by some
Divinity, they deteriorated both in mind and body.

[-20-] Nevertheless, the greatest injury was done them by Abgarus of
Osrhoene. He had pledged himself to peace with the Romans in the time of
Pompey, but now chose the side of the barbarians. The same was done by
Alchaudonius the Arabian, who always attached himself to the stronger
party. The latter, however, revolted openly, and hence was not hard to
guard against. Abgarus favored the Parthian cause, but pretended to be
well disposed toward Crassus. He spent money for him unsparingly,
learned all his plans (which he reported to the foe), and further, if
any course was excellent for the Romans he tried to divert him from it,
but if disadvantageous, to urge him to it. At last he was responsible
for the following occurrence. Crassus was intending to advance to
Seleucia by such a route as to reach there safely along the side of the
Euphrates and on its stream, with his army and provisions. Accompanied
by the people of that city, whom he hoped to win over easily, because
they were Greeks, he could cross without difficulty to Ctesiphon.
Abgarus caused him to give up this course, on the ground that it would
take a long time, and persuaded him to assail Surena, because the latter
was near and had only a few men.

[-21-] Then, when he had arranged matters so that the invader should
perish and the other should conquer (for he was continually in the
company of Surena, on the pretext of spying), he led out the Romans,
blinded by folly, to what he said was a victory in their very hands, and
in the midst of the action joined the attack against them.

It happened like this.

[B.C. 52 (_a.u._ 702)]

The Parthians confronted the Romans with most of their army hidden; the
ground was uneven in spots and wooded. Crassus seeing them - not Crassus
the commander, but the younger, who had come to his father from
Gaul, - and despising them (supposing them to be alone), led out his
cavalry and, as they turned purposely to flight, pursued them. In his
eagerness for victory he was separated far from his phalanx, and was
then caught in a trap and cut down. [-22-] When this took place the
roman infantry did not turn back, but valiantly joined battle with the
Parthians to avenge his death. They accomplished nothing worthy of
themselves, however, because of the enemy's numbers and tactics,
especially as they suffered from the plotting of Abgarus. If they
decided to lock shields for the purpose of avoiding the arrows by the
density of their array, the pike-bearers were upon them with a rush,
would strike down some, and at least scatter the others: and if they
stood apart, so as to turn these aside, they would be shot with arrows.

Hereupon many died from fright at the very charge or the pike-bearers,
and many hemmed in by the horsemen perished. Others were upset by the
pikes or were carried off transfixed. The missiles falling thick upon
them from all sides at once struck down many by an opportune blow, put
many out of the battle, and caused annoyance to all. They flew into
their eyes and pierced their hands and all the other parts of the body
and penetrating their armor, forced them to take off their protection
and expose themselves to wounds each minute. Thus, while a man was
guarding against arrows or pulling out one that had stuck fast he
received more wounds, one upon another. Consequently it was not feasible
for them to move, nor feasible to remain at rest. Neither course
afforded them safety, and both were fraught with destruction, the one
because it was out of their power, and the other because they were more
easily wounded. [-23-] This was what they suffered while they were
fighting only against visible enemies. Abgarus did not immediately make
his attempt upon them. When he, too, attacked, the Orshoeni themselves
struck the Romans from behind in exposed places while they were facing
in a different direction, and rendered them easier for the others to
slaughter. For the Romans, altering their formation, so as to be facing
them, put the Parthians behind them. They wheeled around again against
the Parthians, then back again against the Orshoeni, then against the
Parthians once more. Thrown into still greater confusion by this
circumstance, because they were continually changing position this way
and that and were forced to face the body that was wounding them at the
time, many fell upon their own swords or were killed by their comrades.
Finally they were shut up in so narrow a place, with the enemy
continually assaulting them from all sides at once, and compelled to
protect their exposed parts by the shields of those who stood beside
them, that they could no longer move. They could not even get a sure
footing by reason of the number of corpses, but kept falling over them.
The heat and thirst - it was mid-summer and this action took place at
noon - and the dust of which all the barbarians raised as much as
possible by riding around them, told fearfully upon the survivors, and
many succumbed to these influences, even though unwounded. [-24-] And
they would have perished utterly, but for the fact that some of the
pikes of the barbarians were bent and others were broken, while the
bowstrings snapped under the constant shooting, the missiles were all
discharged, every sword blunted, and, chief of all, that the men
themselves grew weary of the slaughter. Under these conditions, then,
when it grew night the assailants being obliged to ride off to a
distance retired. They never encamp near even the weakest bodies,
because they use no intrenchments and if any one comes upon them in the
darkness, they are unable to deploy their cavalry or their archery to
advantage. However, they captured no Roman alive at that time. Seeing
them standing upright in their armor and perceiving that no one threw
away any part of it or fled, they deemed that they still had some
strength, and feared to lay hold of them.

[-25-] So Crassus and the rest, as many as could, set out for Carrae,
kept faithful to them by the Romans that had stayed behind within the
walls. Many of the wounded being unable to walk and lacking vehicles or
even men to carry them (for the survivors were glad of the chance to
drag their own persons away) remained on the spot. Some of them died of
their wounds or by making away with themselves, and others were captured
the next day. Of the captives many perished on the road, as their
physical strength gave out, and many later because they were unable to
obtain proper care immediately. Crassus, in discouragement, believed he
would be unable to hold out safely even in the city any longer, but
planned flight at once. Since it was impossible for him to go out by day
without being detected, he undertook to escape by night, but failed to
secure secrecy, being betrayed by the moon, which was at its full. The
Romans accordingly waited for moonless nights, and then starting out in
darkness and a foreign land that was likewise hostile, they scattered in
tremendous fear. Some were caught when it became day and lost their
lives: others got safely away to Syria in the company of Cassius
Longinus, the quaestor. Others, with Crassus himself, sought the
mountains and prepared to escape through them into Armenia. [-26-]
Surena, learning this, was afraid that if they could reach any
headquarters they might make war on him again, but still was unwilling
to assail them on the higher ground, which was inaccessible to horses.
As they were heavy-armed men, fighting from higher ground, and in a kind
of frenzy, through despair, contending with them was not easy. So he
sent to them, inviting them to submit to a truce, on condition of
abandoning all territory east of the Euphrates. Crassus, nothing
wavering, trusted him. He was in the height of terror and distraught by
his private misfortune and the public calamity as well; and because,
further, he saw that the soldiers shrank from the journey (which they
thought long and rough) and that they feared Orodes, he was unable to
foresee anything that he ought. When he displayed acquiescence in the
matter of the truce, Surena refused to conduct the ceremony through the
agency of others, but in order to cut him off with only a few and seize
him, he said that he wished to hold a conference with the commander
personally. Thereupon they decided to meet each other in the space
between the two armies with an equal number of men from both sides.
Crassus descended to the level ground and Surena sent him a present of a
horse, to make sure of his coming to him more quickly. [-27-] While
Crassus was thus delaying and planning what he should do, the barbarians
took him forcibly and threw him on his horse. Meanwhile the Romans also
laid hold of him, they came to blows, and for a time carried on an equal
struggle; then aid came to the kidnapers, and they prevailed. The
barbarians, who were in the plain and were prepared beforehand, were too
quick for the Romans above to help their men. Crassus fell among the
rest, whether he was slain by one of his own men to prevent his capture
alive, or whether by the enemy because he was wounded anyway. This was
his end. And the Parthians, as some say, poured gold into his mouth in
mockery; for though a man of great wealth he was so eager for money as
to pity those who could not support an enrolled legion from their own
means, regarding them as poor men. Of the soldiers the majority escaped
through the mountains to friendly territory, but a fraction fell into
the hands of the enemy.

[B.C. 52 (_a.u._ 702)]

[-28-] The Parthians at this time did not advance beyond the Euphrates,
but won back the whole country east of it. Later they also (though not
in any numbers) invaded Syria, because the province had neither general
nor soldiers. The fact that there were not many of them enabled Cassius
easily to effect their repulse. When at Carrae the soldiers through
hatred of Crassus granted to Cassius absolute control of themselves, and
the commander himself on account of the greatness of the disaster
voluntarily allowed it, but Cassius would not accept it: now, however,
he took charge of Syria perforce, for the time being and subsequently.
For the barbarians would not keep away from it, but campaigned once more
against them with a larger band and under the nominal leadership of one
Pacorus by name, the son of Orodes, though under the real direction of
Osaces (for the other was still a child). They came as far as Antioch,
subduing the whole country before them. They had hopes of subjugating
also what remained, since the Romans were not at hand with a force fit
to cope with them, and the people were fretting under Roman rule but
ready to turn to the invaders, who were neighbors and acquaintances.

[-29-]As they failed to take Antioch, where Cassius repulsed them
severely and they were unable to institute any siege, they turned to
Antigonea. The neighborhood of the city was overgrown with wood and they
were dismayed, not being able to march into it. They then formed a plan
to cut down the trees and lay bare the whole place so that they might
approach the town with boldness and safety. Finding themselves unable to
do this, because the task was a great one and their time was spent in
vain, while Cassius harassed those scattered about, they retired
apparently with the intention of proceeding against some other position.
Meanwhile Cassius set an ambush on the road along which they were to
depart, and confronting them there with a few men he induced them to
pursue, led them into the trap, and killed Osaces and others. Upon the
latter's death Pacorus abandoned all of Syria and never invaded it

[-30-] He had scarcely retired when Bibulus arrived to govern Syria. His
coming, to be sure, was in contravention of a decree intended to prevent
rivalry for office, so productive of seditions, that no praetor nor
consul, at once or at any time within four years, should go abroad to
hold office. He administered the subject country in peace, and turned
the Parthians against one another. Having won the friendship of
Orondapates, a satrap, who had a grudge against Orodes, he persuaded him
through messengers to set up Pacorus as king, and with him to conduct a
campaign against the other.

[B.C. 51 (_a.u._ 703)]

This war came to an end in the fourth year from the time when it had
begun, and while Marcus Marcellus and Sulpicius Rufus were consuls.

[-31-] In that same period Caesar by battle again gained control of
Gallic affairs, which were in an unsettled state. He accomplished very
much himself and some things through his lieutenants, of which I will
state only the most important.

[B.C. 54 (_a.u._ 700)]

Ambiorix won the confidence of the Treveri, who at this time were still
smarting under the setback of Indutiomarus's death, raised a greater
conspiracy in that quarter, and sent for a mercenary force from the
Celtae. Labienus wishing to join issue with them before this last
contingent should be added to their number invaded the country of the
Treveri in advance. The latter did not defend themselves, as they were
awaiting reinforcements, but put a river between the two armies and
remained quiet. Labienus then gathered his soldiers and addressed them
in words of such a nature as were likely to alarm his own men and
encourage the others: they must, he said, before the Celtae repelled
them, withdraw to Caesar and safety; and he immediately gave the signal
to pack up the baggage. Not much later he began actually to withdraw,
expecting that that would occur which really did. The barbarians heard
of his speech, - they took very good care in such matters and it was for
just that reason that it had been delivered publicly, - and thought he
was really afraid and truly taking to flight. Hence they eagerly crossed
the river and started toward the Romans with spirit, as fast as each one
could. So Labienus received their attack while they were scattered, and
after terrifying the foremost easily routed the rest because of the
action of the men in front. Then as they were fleeing in disorder,
falling over one another and crowding toward the river, he killed many
of them.

[B.C. 53 (_a.u._ 701)]

[-32-] Not a few of them escaped even so, of whom Caesar made no account,
except of Ambiorix: this man by hurrying now one way and now another and
doing much injury caused Caesar trouble in seeking and pursuing him. Not
being able to catch him by any device the Roman commander made an
expedition against the Celtae, alleging that they had wished to help the
Treveri. On this occasion likewise he accomplished nothing, but retired
rapidly through fear of the Suebi: he gained the reputation, however, of
having crossed the Rhine again, and of the bridge he destroyed only the
portions near the barbarians, constructing upon it a guard-house, as if
he might at any time have a desire to cross. Then, in anger at the
successful flight of Ambiorix, he delivered his country, though guilty
of no rebellion, to any one who wished, to be plundered. He gave public
notice of this in advance, that as many as possible might assemble,
wherefore many Gauls and many Sugambri came for the plunder. It did not
suffice the Sugambri, however, to make spoil of Gallic territory, but
they attacked the Romans themselves. They watched until the Romans were
absent getting provender and made an attempt upon their camp; but
meanwhile the other soldiers, perceiving it, came to the rescue and
killed a number of the assailants. Inspired with a fear of Caesar by this

Online LibraryCassius DioDio's Rome, Volume 2 An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During the Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus; and Now Presented in E → online text (page 14 of 30)