Monthly Archives: February 2016

The More Things Change

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In the spirit of reconciliation and in an attempt at finding common ground we decided to review some of the ethnographic descriptions of the “Germans” in Julius Caesar’s Galllic Wars and in Tactius’ Germania (and also in his Annals) and compare these with sources we have on the “Slavs”.  We arrange these topically.

Only one conclusion may be drawn, of course, the Germanic cultural impact on the Slavs has been just incredible.

German Looks


Germans wear Adidas

“Hence a family likeness pervades the whole, though their numbers are so great: eyes stern and blue; ruddy hair; large bodies, powerful in sudden exertions…”


Slavic Looks


Slavs wear Nike

“For they are all exceptionally tall and stalwart men, while their bodies and hair are neither very fair or blonde, nor indeed do they incline entirely to the dark type, but they are all slightly ruddy in color.”


Germanic Kryptonite


This beetish German is fleeing the Sun’s Chariot – his eyes have already burned out black

“[Their bodies are] impatient of toil and labor, least of all capable of sustaining thirst and heat. Cold and hunger they are accustomed by their climate and soil to endure.”


Slavic Kryptonite


A Slav desperately trying to shield his face from the scorching rays of Svarog the Slavic Sun God

“The cold even when it is intense, is healthful to them, but the heat destroys them.  They are unable to travel to the country of the Lombards because of the heat, for the hear there is fierce and they perish.”

[Ibrahim Ibn Yaqub]

Germanic Density of Settlement

“It is well known that none of the German nations inhabit cities; or even admit of contiguous settlements. They dwell scattered and separate, as a spring, a meadow, or a grove may chance to invite them.”

another version of same:

“It is well known that the nations of Germany have not cities, and that they do not even tolerate closely contiguous dwellings.  They live scattered and apart, just as a sling, a meadow, or a wood has attracted them.”


Sporadic Germanic dwellings dot the dreary landscape

“Their villages are laid out, not like ours in rows of adjoining buildings; but every one surrounds his house with a vacant space, either by way of security against fire, or through ignorance of the art of building…”

another version of same:

“Their village they do not arrange in our fashion, with the buildings connected and joined together but every person surrounds his dwelling with an open space, either as a precaution against the disasters of fire, or because they do not know how to build.”


Slavic Density of Settlement

“They live in pitiful hovels which they set up far apart from one another”


Slavic hovels appear among the plains only sporadically

“… for they were both called Spori [i.e., spores or “germlings”] in olden times, because, I suppose, living apart one man from another, they inhabit their country in a sporadic fashion.”


Germanic Lodgings


Germanic peasants go underground for the winter

“…They also dig subterraneous caves, and cover them over with a great quantity of dung. These they use as winter-retreats, and granaries; for they preserve a moderate temperature”


Slavic Lodgings


Slavic peasants made their way under already in the fall

“The extreme cold which afflicts the country is so harsh that the inhabitants are forced to construct underground dwellings, roofed with wood like a church and completely covered with earth.”

[Ibn Rusta]

Germanic Wanderings


Typical Germanic Wanderers

“nor are they [Suevi] permitted to remain more than one year in one place for the purpose of residence.”

[Julius Caesar]

Slavic Rovings


Typical Slavic rover

“as a general thing, every man is constantly changing his place of above.”


Germanic Funerals 


Intense Germanic funeral pyre

“Their funerals are without parade.  The only circumstance to which they attend, is to burn the bodies of eminent persons with some particular kinds of wood. Neither vestments nor perfumes are heaped upon the pile:  the arms of the deceased, and sometimes his horse,  are given to the flames. The tomb is a mound of turf.”

another version of same:

“In their funerals there is no pomp they simply observe the custom of burning the bodies of illustrious men with certain kinds of wood.  They do not heap garments or spices on the funeral pile.  The arms of the dead man and in some cases his horse are consigned to fire.”


Slavic Funerals


Calm, slow-moving Slavic funeral pyre

“They burn their dead.  When a woman dies, they cut her hands and face with a knife.  The day after the funeral of a man, after he has been burned, they collect the ashes and put them in an urn, which is buried on a hill.”

[Ibn Rusta]

Germanic Hospitality


All strangers are welcome in Germany (even complete strangers)

“No people are more addicted to social entertainments, or more liberal in the exercise of hospitality.  To refuse any person whatever admittance under their roof, is accounted flagitious.  Every one according to his ability feasts his guest: when his provisions are exhausted, he who was late the host, is now the guide and companion to another hospitable board. They enter the next house uninvited, and are received with equal cordiality. No one makes a distinction with respect to the rights of hospitality, between a stranger and an acquaintance. The departing guest is presented with whatever he may ask for; and with the same freedom a boon is desired in return.”


Slavic Hospitality

Vice President Joe Biden dips a piece of bread in salt as part of a welcoming ceremony upon the Vice President's arrival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, July 20, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann

Every traveler receives a loaf of bread and three Slavic women

“They are kind and hospitable to travelers in their country and conduct them safely from one place to another, wherever they wish.”

“If the stranger should suffer some harm because of his host’s negligence, the one who first commended him will wage war against that host, regarding vengeance for the stranger as a religious duty.”

[Maurice’s Strategikon]

Germanic Sword Dances


Germanic women wanted to partake too

“They have only one kind of public spectacle, which is exhibited in every company. Young men, who make it their diversion, dance naked amidst drawn swords and presented spears.”


Slavic Sword Dances


In the taste of dancing well known to Slavic men

“I recall that in youth I read in a certain chronicle that there were in Poland Gods and from those days to our times such rites come that, young women [in his time] dance with swords, as if in offering to the pagan Gods, and not to [the] God, as well as [dances of] young men with swords and sticks, which they then hit about…”

[Lucas of Great Koźmin]

Germanic Auguries

“No people are more addicted to divination by omens and lots. The latter is performed in the following simple manner. They cut a twig from a fruit-tree, and divide it into small pieces, which, distinguished by certain marks, are thrown promiscuously upon a white garment. Then, the priest of the canton, if the occasion be public; if private, the master of the family; after an invocation of the gods, with his eyes lifted up to heaven, thrice takes out each piece, and, as they come up, interprets their signification according to the marks fixed upon them. If the result prove unfavorable, there is no more consultation on the same affair that day; if propitious, a confirmation by omens is still required…”


Odin’s priests conducted strange auguries

“… it is peculiar [i.e., unique] to them to derive admonitions and presages from horses also.  Certain of these animals, milk-white, and untouched by earthly labor, are pastured at the public expense in the sacred woods and groves.”


Slavic Auguries

“After these magics/readings they cover the auguries with green grass/turf and after sticking into the ground in the form of a cross two spear tips/shafts, they walk through them a horse while making penitent gestures – a horse that they consider to be of the most importance and that they revere as something that is holy.  Throwing the auguries which they already used in divination, they take up again the augury through this as if holy animal.  If both of the auguries produce the same sign, then these tribes follow that answer in their deeds, and if not then they stop with sadness whatever undertaking.”


“[Svantovit] also had his own holy white horse and it was seen as sacrilege to rip a hair from his mane or tail, and no one other than the priest was permitted to feed him or ride him…”


Svantovit’s priests’ auguries were odder still

“They also read warnings from the horse’s behaviour in the following way: when war was intended with one country or another, it was the custom of the temple attendants to stick six spears into the ground in pairs of two where the shafts of each such pair would cross and where the spear pairs would be equidistant.  When the troop was to march out, the priest gave a solemn prayer and thereafter he led the horse in a harness from the [temple] foyer and led so that he had to jump in front of [or through] the spears.  Should the horse lift the right leg ahead of the left, they took that to mean that the war will be successful.  But should he have raised only one time [i.e., once out of the three] the left leg as the first, they gave up on their expedition and would not even raise anchors until such time that they saw him [the horse] jumping three times through the spears in such a manner that they took to be a good omen [i.e., right leg ahead of the left].”

“Also when they were to set out in other matters, they took the augury from the first encountered animal.  If the augury was favorable, they rode further happy, if it were not they then quickly went back home.  It was also not unknown to them to throw lots, they threw, namely, on their lap three pieces of wood as lots, they were white on one side and black on the other and white meant luck and black meant misfortune.  Even the women did not avoid such practices.  When they sat at a fire sometimes they drew random lines in the ash and counted them together.  If the number was even they believed that that portended good fortune, when it was odd, though, they took that as a bad sign.”

[Saxo Grammaticus]

“This emperor [Henry III] possessed many and great virtues; and nearly surpassed in military skill all his predecessors: so much so, that he subdued the Vindelici and the Leutici, and the other nations bordering on the Suevi, who alone, even to the present day, lust after pagan superstitions: for the Saracens and Turks worship God the Creator, looking upon Mahomet not as God, but as his prophet. But the Vindelici worship fortune.”

[William of Malmesbury]

Germanic Religion

Some of the Suevi also perform sacred rites to Isidi.


[the temple too of Taefanae, as they called it, the special resort of all those tribes, was leveled to the ground.]

[Tacitus’ Annals]

Slavic Religion

“[u]nfortunately during those three days of the Pentacost that ought to be spent on introspection, there come the old women and the girls not to church, not to prayers, but to dance, not to call God, but the devil, specifically ysaya lado ylely ya ya.”

[Sermones per circulum anni Cunradi]

“Diana which in their tongue was called Dzewana

[Jan Dlugosz]

Germanic Gerries

“[F]or that the people who first crossed the Rhine, and expelled the Gauls, and are now called Tungri, were then named Germans; which appellation of a particular tribe, not of a whole people, gradually prevailed.”


Slavic Gerries

“On the very day of his arrival flags were placed around the town, which was engaged in celebrating a festival in honour of an idol called Gerovit… a golden shield fastened to the wall which had been dedicated to Gerovit their god of war, and which they considered it unlawful to touch.”


Germanic Warfighting

“The Galls toss [stuff materibus], and the Suavi/Suevi lances.”

[L. Cornelius Sisenna]


Slavic Warfighting

“They are armed with short javelins, two to each man. Some also have nice-looking but unwieldy shields.”


Germanic Suevia

“I must now proceed to speak of the Suevians, who are not, like the Cattans and Tencterians, comprehended in a single people; but divided into several nations all bearing distinct names, though in general they are entitled Suevians, and occupy the larger share of Germany.”


“The lands of Europe in the East are first, Alania; in the middle, Dacia (there we also find Gothia); and finally, Germania, the main part of which is held by the Suevi. In all there are fifty-four tribes. Now I shall describe the lands between Mare Nostrum and the Danube, a river which separates these lands from the territories of the barbarians.”


Slavic Sclavania 

“Sclavania is a very large province of Germany inhabited by the Winuli who at one time were called Vandals.  It is said to be ten times larger than our Saxony, especially if you count as part of Slavia Bohemia and the expanses across the Oder, the Poles, because they differ neither in appearance nor in language.”

[Adam of Bremen]

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February 28, 2016

Other Jessas

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We have discussed some of the “Jassa” rivers in the “West”.  Some but, of course,  not all.  Take for example, the river Jeetzel (or Jetze in the higher parts) which is yet another “ash” river firmly in Germany (the source is around Rappin northeast of Wolfsburg).  It is a (western) tributary of the Elbe.  According to the current description in Wikipedia the name may be derived from the ash trees (in which case it’s Slavic) or maybe from the Germanic geza as in “boiling” water (is it very hot?):

“Der Flussname ist möglicherweise slawischen Ursprungs und würde sich in diesem Fall vom alt-slawischen jasenu (poln. jesion) herleiten, was so viel wie Eschenbach bedeutet. Dies könnte daher rühren, dass die Flussränder von Eschen und Erlen-Eschen-Wäldern gesäumt waren. Eine alternative Erklärung ist die Ableitung aus dem germanischen geza (gären, wallen, in die Höhe gehen).”


Jeetzel at Wendland from the Wendland tourist website

Apparently, in 1660 its name was Jetza (as per the Tractatus describing the then Reich):

1660 tractatsou

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February 25, 2016

Slavs in the Chronicle of John Malalas

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The Chronicle of John Malalas contains very little information about Slavs. In fact, the chronicle is primarily known for the glosses in one of its manuscripts referring to Svarog. Nevertheless, there is also a mention of Slavs in it in connection with the events of 559 AD.


129.  “In the month of March of the 7th indiction the Huns and the Slavs made an attack on Thrace.  They killed many in battle and took some captives, including the magister militum Sergius, the son of Bacchus, and Edermas, major domo of Kalopodios, making them prisoners.  They found parts of the wall of Constantinople had collapsed and, entering there, they raided as far as Saint Stratonikos.  Everyone fled with their possessions into the city.  On being informed of this, the emperor conscripted many and sent them to the Long Wall.  They engaged the enemy there and many Romans, especially scholarii, were killed.  Then the emperor ordered that the silver kibouria and silver altar tables that were outside the city be removed while the scholae, the protectores, the numeri and the whole senate guarded all the gates of the Theodosian wall.  When the emperor saw that the barbarians were staying put, he ordered the patrician Belisarios to march out against them with some other members of the senate.  Belisarios took every horse, including those of the emperor, of the hippodrome, of religious establishments and from every ordinary man who had a horse.  He armed his troops and led them out to the village of Chiton.  He made an entrenched camp and began to capture some of the enemy and kill them.  Next he ordered trees to be cut and dragged behind the army.  The wind blew up a cloud of dust, which drifted over the barbarians.  They, thinking that an enormous force was there, fled and went to the district of Saint Stratonikos at Dekaton.  When they learned from scouts that a great garrison force was at the walls of Constantinople, they went to the region of Tzouroulon, Arkadioupolis and Saint Alexander of Zoupara and remained encamped there until holy Easter.  After the feast of Easter, the emperor went out to Selymbria and everyone from the city went with him to rebuild the Long Wall where the barbarians had entered.  The emperor remained there until August.  Then the emperor ordered double-prowed ships to be built to go to the Danube and oppose the barbarians as they crossed and make war on them.  When the barbarians discovered this, they asked through an envoy to be allowed to cross the Danube safely.  The emperor sent Justin, his nephew, the curopalates, to conduct them.”

The translation is from the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies (Elizabeth Jeffreys, Michael Jeffreys, Roger Scott and others).  Here is a nice review of the same by Michael Whitby (who translated, among other things, the Theophylact Simocatta chronicle):


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February 25, 2016

Jordanes’ Romana

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Jordanes mentions the Antes and the Slavs not only in his Getica but also in the Romana.  Although the mention is brief – indeed at the very end of the work, it is worth of notice so we add it here using Momsen’s edition:


388 These are the misfortunes of the Roman Empire aside from the daily inroads of the Bulgars, Antes and Slavs.  If anyone wishes to know them, let him go through the annals and the history of the consuls without disdain, and he will find a modern-day empire worthy of a tragedy.  And he will know whence it arose, how it grew or in what way it subjected all lands to itself and how again it lost them through ignorant rulers.  It is something we, to the extent of our ability, have treated so that, through reading, the serious reader may gain a broader knowledge of these things.

Hi sunt casus Romanae rei publicae preter instantia cottidiana Bulgarum, Antium et Sclavinorum. Que si quis scire cupit, annales consulumque seriem revolvat sine fastidio repperietque dignam nostri temporis rem publicam tragydiae. Scietque unde orta, quomodo aucta, qualiterve sibi cunctas terras subdiderit et quomodo iterum eas ab ignaris rectoribus amiserit. Quod et nos pro capta ingenii breviter tetigimus, quatenus diligens lector latius ista legendo cognoscat.

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February 24, 2016

All the Slavs of Procopius

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We have previously discussed Procopius at various junctures.  For example, here or here or here.  Nevertheless, we have never had a full description of the mentions of the Slavs and Antae in the works of Procopius.  So here it goes.  We include complete passages for context.  Given the length of these passages, we are creating a separate Byzantine source section that makes them easily accessible.  Maps of the Gothic War operations in Italy are shown here:


and here:


These selections are based on the H.B. Dewing edition and include portion from:

  • History of the Wars
  • Secret History (or Anecdota or Secret History of the Court of Justinian)
  • Buildings (of Justinian)


Procopius, History of Wars Book 5, 27

“This exploit, then, was accomplished by the Goths on the third day after they were repulsed in the assault on the wall.  But twenty days after the city and harbour of Portus were captured, Martinus and Valerian arrived, bringing with them sixteen hundred horsemen, the most of whom were Huns and Sclaveni and Antae, who are settled above the Ister River not far from its banks.  And Belisarius was pleased by their coining and thought that thenceforth his army ought to carry the war against the enemy.  On the following day, accordingly, he commanded one of his own bodyguards, Trajan by name, an impetuous and active fighter, to take two hundred horsemen of the guards and go straight towards the enemy, and as soon as they came near the camps to go up on a high hill (which he pointed out to him) and remain quietly there.  And if the enemy should come against them, he was not to allow the battle to come to close quarters, nor to touch sword or spear in any case, but to use bows only, and as soon as he should find that his quiver had no more arrows in it, he was to flee as hard as he could with no thought of shame and retire to the fortifications on the run.  Having given these instructions, he held in readiness both the engines for shooting arrows and the men skilled in their use. Then Trajan with the two hundred men went out from the Salarian Gate against the camp of the enemy.  And they, being filled with amazement at the suddenness of the thing, rushed out from the camps, each man equipping himself as well as he could.  But the men under Trajan galloped to the top of the hill which Belisarius had shewn them, and from there began to ward off the barbarians with missiles.  And since their shafts fell among a dense throng, they were for the most part successful in hitting a man or a horse.  But when all their missiles had at last failed them, they rode off to the rear with all speed, and the Goths kept pressing upon them in pursuit.  But when they came near the fortifications, the operators of the engines began to shoot arrows from them, and the barbarians became terrified and abandoned the pursuit.  And it is said that not less than one thousand Goths perished in this action.  A few days later Belisarius sent Mundilas, another of his own bodyguard, and Diogenes, both exceptionally capable warriors, with three hundred guardsmen, commanding them to do the same thing as the others had done before.  And they acted according to his instructions.  Then, when the enemy confronted them, the result of the encounter was that no fewer than in the former action, perhaps even more, perished in the same way.  And sending even a third time the guardsman Oilas with three hundred horsemen, with instructions to handle the enemy in the same way, he accomplished the same result.  So in making these three sallies, in the manner told by me, Belisarius destroyed about four thousand of his antagonists.  But Vittigis, failing to take into account the difference between the two armies in point of equipment of arms and of practice in warlike deeds, thought that he too would most easily inflict grave losses upon the enemy, if only he should make his attack upon them with a small force.  He therefore sent five hundred horsemen, commanding them to go close to the fortifications, and to make a demonstration against the whole army of the enemy of the very same tactics as had time and again been used against them, to their sorrow, by small bands of the foe.  And so, when they came to a high place not far from the city, but just beyond the range of missiles, they took their stand there.  But Belisarius selected a thousand men, putting Bessas in command, and ordered them to engage with the enemy. And this force, by forming a circle around the enemy and always shooting at them from behind, killed a large number, and by pressing hard upon the rest compelled them to descend into the plain.  There a hand-to-hand battle took place between forces not evenly matched in strength, and most of the Goths were destroyed, though some few with difficulty made their escape and returned to their own camp.  And Vittigis reviled these men, insisting that cowardice had been the cause of their defeat, and undertaking to find another set of men to retrieve the loss after no long time, he remained quiet for the present; but three days later he selected men from all the camps, five hundred in number, and bade them make a display of valorous deeds against the enemy.  Now as soon as Belisarius saw that these men had come rather near, he sent out against them fifteen hundred men under the commanders Martinus and Valerian.  And a cavalry battle taking place immediately, the Romans, being greatly superior to the enemy in numbers, routed them without any trouble and destroyed practically all of them.  And to the enemy it seemed in every way a dreadful thing and a proof that fortune stood against them, if, when they were many and the enemy who came against them were few, they were defeated, and when, on the other hand, they in turn went in small numbers against their enemy, they were likewise destroyed.  Belisarius, however, received a public vote of praise from the Romans for his wisdom, at which they not unnaturally marvelled greatly, but in private his friends asked him on what he had based his judgment on that day when he had escaped from the enemy after being so completely defeated, and why he had been confident that he would overcome them decisively in the war.  And he said that in engaging with them at the first with only a few men he had noticed just what the difference was between the two armies, so that if he should fight his battles with them with a force which was in strength proportionate to theirs, the multitudes of the enemy could inflict no injury upon the Romans by reason of the smallness of their numbers.  And the difference was this, that practically all the Romans and their allies, the Huns, are good mounted bowmen, but not a man among the Goths has had practice in this branch, for their horsemen are accustomed to use only spears and swords, while their bowmen enter battle on foot and under cover of the heavy-armed men.  So the horsemen, unless the engagement is at close quarters, have no means of defending themselves against opponents who use the bow, and therefore can easily be reached by the arrows and destroyed; and as for the footsoldiers, they can never be strong enough to make sallies against men on horseback.  It was for these reasons, Belisarius declared, that the barbarians had been defeated by the Romans in these last engagements.  And the Goths, remembering the unexpected outcome of their own experiences, desisted thereafter from assaulting the fortifications of Rome in small numbers and also from pursuing the enemy when harassed by them, except only so far as to drive them back from their own camps.”

Procopius, History of Wars Book 6, 15

[circa 512 AD]

“When the Eruli, being defeated by the Lombards in the above-mentioned battle, migrated from their ancestral homes, some of them, as has been told by me above,* made their home in the country of Illyricum, but the rest were averse to crossing the Ister River, but settled at the very extremity of the world; at any rate, these men, led by many of the royal blood, traversed all the nations of the Sclaveni one after the other, and after next crossing a large tract of barren country, they came to the Varni [or Varini], as they are called.  After these they passed by the nations of the Dani, without suffering violence at the hands of the barbarians there.  Coming thence to the ocean, they took to the sea, and putting in at Thule, remained there on the island.”

* No, he did not.

Procopius, History of Wars Book 6, 26

[539 AD]

“Thus did Theudibert, after marching into Italy, take his departure. And the troops of Martinus and John returned in spite of the changed situation, in order that the enemy might not make any attack upon the Romans engaged in the siege.  Now the Goths in Auximus [Osimo], who had learned nothing concerning the coming of the Franks, had begun to despair of their hope from Ravenna which was so long deferred, and were purposing once more to address an appeal to Vittigis; but seeing that they were unable to elude the guards of the enemy, they were filled with grief.  But later on their attention was drawn to one of the Romans — he was of the race of the Besi and named Burcentius, and had been assigned to the command of Narses, the Armenian — for they noted that he was keeping guard alone at midday, that no one should come out from the city to take the grass; and they went nearer and hailed him, and giving pledges that they would do him no harm, they urged him to come to meet them, promising that he would receive from them a large sum of money.  And when they had come together, the barbarians besought the man to carry a certain letter to Ravenna, naming a fixed sum of gold to be paid to him immediately, and promising to give more when he should return bringing them a letter from Vittigis.  And the soldier, won over by the money, agreed to perform this service, and he carried out his promise.  For he received a sealed letter and carried it with all speed to Ravenna; and coming before Vittigis he delivered it to him.  Now the message conveyed was as follows: ‘The situation in which we now find ourselves will be clearly revealed to you when you inquire who the bringer of this letter is.  For not a Goth can find a way to get outside the fortifications. And as for food, the most available supply we have is the grass which grows by the wall, and even this at the present time we cannot so much as touch, except by losing many men in the struggle for it. And it becomes both thee and the Goths in Ravenna to consider what the end of all this will be for us.'”

“When Vittigis had read this, he replied as follows: ‘Let no one think that we have ceased our efforts, dearest of all men, nor that we have come to be guilty of such a degree of baseness as to abandon utterly the cause of the Goths through sheer indifference.  For, on my part, it was only recently that the preparations for departure had been made with all possible thoroughness, and Uraias with his whole army had come under summons from Milan.  But the inroad of the Franks, coming upon us unexpectedly as it did, has made havoc of all our preparations, a result for which I, at least, could not justly bear the blame.  For things which are beyond human power confer even upon those who fail the boon of being free from blame, since fortune draws upon herself whatever charge springs from what has befallen.  Now, however, since we hear that Theudibert has got out of our way, we shall at no distant time, if God wills, come to you with the whole Gothic army.  And it is needful for you to bear whatever falls to your lot manfully and as befits the necessity which is upon you, calling to mind, first, your own valour, on account of which I chose you out from the whole army and established you in Auximus, and respecting also the reputation which you hold among all the Goths, and which prompted them to put you forward as a bulwark for Ravenna and for their own safety.’  After writing this letter and rewarding the man with a large sum of money, Vittigis sent him away.  And when he reached Auximus, he rejoined his comrades, giving as his excuse that some sickness or other had fallen upon him, and that for this reason he had been passing the time in a certain sanctuary not far away; and so he was appointed once more to guard-duty, to the very watch to which he had been accustomed, and unbeknown to all the Romans he gave the letter to the enemy; and when this was read to the people, it gave them all additional encouragement, although they were hard pressed by the famine.  Wherefore they were quite unwilling to yield to Belisarius, although he offered many enticements.  But when no army had been reported as having left Ravenna, and they were already in extreme distress because of the lack of provisions, they once more sent Burcentius with a message stating only this, that after five days they would no longer be able to fight with the famine.  And he returned to them a second time with a letter from Vittigis tantalizing them with similar hopes.”

“Now the Romans were distressed no less than the Goths, because they had been carrying on such a long siege in a deserted land, and they were completely baffled at seeing the barbarians refusing to give in to them although involved in so much suffering.  In view of this situation Belisarius was eager to capture alive one of the men of note among the enemy, in order that he might learn what the reason might be why the barbarians were holding out in their desperate situation.  And Valerian promised readily to perform such a service for him.  For there were some men in his command, he said, from the nation of the Sclaveni, who are accustomed to conceal themselves behind a small rock or any bush which may happen to be near and pounce upon an enemy.  In fact, they are constantly practising this in their native haunts along the river Ister, both on the Romans and on the barbarians as well.  Belisarius was pleased by this suggestion and bade him see that the thing was done with all speed.  So Valerian chose out one of the Sclaveni who was well suited as to size of body and especially active, and commanded him to bring a man of the enemy, assuring him that he would receive a generous reward from Belisarius.  And he added that he could do this easily in the place where the grass was, because for a long time past the Goths had been feeding upon this grass, since their provisions were exhausted.  So this barbarian at early dawn went close to the fortifications, and hiding himself in a bush and drawing his body into small compass, he remained in concealment near the grass.  And at daybreak a Goth came there and began hastily to gather the blades of grass, suspecting no harm from the bush, but looking about frequently toward the enemy’s camp, lest anyone should attack him from there.  Then the barbarian, falling unexpectedly upon the Goth from behind, made him captive, holding him tightly about the waist with both hands, and thus carried him to the camp and handed him over to Valerian.  And when he questioned the prisoner, asking what basis of confidence and what assurance the Goths could possibly have that they were absolutely unwilling to yield to the Romans, but were voluntarily enduring the most dreadful suffering, the Goth told Valerian the whole truth concerning Burcentius, and when he was brought before him he proved his guilt.  As for Burcentius, when he perceived that he had been already found out, he concealed nothing of what he had done.  Wherefore Belisarius handed him over to his comrades to do with him as they wished, and they not long afterwards burned him alive, the enemy looking on as they did so.  Thus did Burcentius profit by his love for money.”

Procopius, History of Wars Book 7, 13

[after 531 AD]

“…Belisarius then appointed Justinus to command the garrison of Ravenna, and himself, with only a few men, journeyed thence through Dalmatia and the neighbouring lands to Epidamnus, where he remained quiet expecting an army from Byzantium. And writing a letter to the emperor, he reported the present situation.  The emperor, therefore, not long afterward, sent him John the nephew of Vitalian and Isaac the Armenian, brother of Aratius and Narses, together with an army of barbarian and Roman soldiers.  These troops reached Epidamnus and joined Belisarius there.”

“The emperor also sent Narses the eunuch to the rulers of the Eruli, in order to persuade the most of them to march to Italy.  And many of the Eruli followed him, commanded by Philemuth and certain others, and they came with him into the land of Thrace.  For the intention was that, after passing the winter there, they should be despatched to Belisarius at the opening of spring.  And they were accompanied also by John whom they called the Glutton.  And it so fell out that during this journey they unexpectedly rendered a great service to the Romans.  For a great throng of the barbarians, Sclaveni, had, as it happened, recently crossed the river Ister, plundered the adjoining country and enslaved a very great number of Romans.  Now the Eruli suddenly came upon these barbarians and joined battle with them, and, although far outnumbered, they unexpectedly defeated them, and some they slew, and the captives they released one and all to go to their homes.  At that time also Narses found a certain man who was pretending to the name of Chilbudius, a man of note who had once been a general of the Romans, and he easily succeeded in unmasking the plot. Here I shall give the facts of this story.”

Procopius, History of Wars Book 7, 14

[after 531 AD]

“There was a certain Chilbudius of the household of the Emperor Justinian, who was exceedingly efficient in war, and, at the same time, so far superior to the lure of money that instead of a great property in his own right he had no possessions at all.  This Chilbudius was appointed by the emperor, in the fourth year of his reign, to be General of Thrace, [AD 531] and was assigned to guard the river Ister, being ordered to keep watch so that the barbarians of that region could no longer cross the river, since the Huns and Antae and Sclaveni had already made the crossing many times and done irreparable harm to the Romans.  And Chilbudius became such an object of terror to the barbarians that for the space of three years, during which time he remained there holding this office, not only did no one succeed in crossing the Ister against the Romans, but the Romans actually crossed over to the opposite side many times with Chilbudius and killed and enslaved the barbarians there.  But three years later, when Chilbudius crossed the river, as was his custom, with a small force, the Sclaveni came against him with their entire strength; and a fierce battle taking place, many of the Romans fell and among them the general Chilbudius.  Thereafter the river became free for the barbarians to cross at all times just as they wished, and the possessions of the Romans were rendered easily accessible; and the entire Roman empire found itself utterly incapable of matching the valour of one single man in the performance of this task.”

“But later on the Antae and Sclaveni became hostile to one another and engaged in a battle, in which it so fell out that the Antae were defeated by their opponents.  Now in this battle one of the Sclaveni took captive a certain young man of the enemy named Chilbudius, who was just wearing his first beard, and took him off to his home.  This Chilbudius, as time went on, became devoted to his master to an extraordinary degree and proved himself a vigorous warrior in dealing with the enemy.  Indeed he exposed himself to danger many times to save his master, distinguishing himself by his deeds of valour, through which he succeeded in winning great renown.  At about this time the Antae descended upon the land of Thrace and plundered and enslaved many of the Roman inhabitants; and they led these captives with them as they returned to their native abode.”

“Now chance brought one of these captives into the hands of a kind and gentle master.  This man was a great rascal and one capable of circumventing and deceiving those who fell in his way.  And since he was unable by any device to effect his return to the land of the Romans, much as he wished it, he conceived the following plan.  Coming before his master, he praised him for his kindness and declared that God on account of this would bestow upon him blessings in abundance, and that he for his part would shew himself by no means ungrateful to a most kindly master; but, if only he was willing to give ear to the excellent suggestion which he had to offer, he would shortly put him in possession of a great sum of money.  For there was, he said, among the nation of the Sclaveni one Chilbudius, the former general of the Romans, in the condition of a slave, while all the barbarians were ignorant as to who in the world he was.  If, therefore, he was willing to pay out the price set upon Chilbudius and convey the man to the land of the Romans, it was not unlikely that he would acquire for himself from the emperor not only a fair reputation but also an enormous amount of money.  By these words the Roman speedily persuaded his master, and he went with him into the midst of the Sclaveni; for these barbarians were already on peaceful terms and were mingling with one another without fear.  Consequently they were able, by paying out a large sum of money to the master of Chilbudius, to purchase the man, and they departed with him immediately.  And when they had come into their own country, the purchaser enquired of the man whether he was Chilbudius himself, the general of the Romans.  And he did not hesitate to state truly all the facts in order, saying that he too was by birth of the Antae, and that while fighting with his compatriots against the Sclaveni, who were then at war with them, he had been captured by one of the enemy, but now, upon arriving in his native country, he too according to the law would be free from that time forth.”

“Thereupon the man who had paid out gold for him became speechless with vexation, seeing that he had failed of a hope of no moderate sort.  But the Roman, wishing to reassure the man and to controvert the truth, so that no difficulty might arise to prevent his return to his home, still insisted that this man actually was that Chilbudius, but that he was afraid, clearly because he was in the midst of the barbarians, and so was quite unwilling to reveal the whole truth; if, however, he should get into the land of the Romans, he would not only not conceal the truth, but in all probability would actually take pride in that very name. Now at first these things were done without the knowledge of the other barbarians.”

“But when the report was carried about and reached the entire nation, practically all the Antae assembled to discuss the situation, and they demanded that the matter be made a public one, thinking that great benefit would come to them from the fact that they had now become masters of the Roman general Chilbudius.  For these nations, the Sclaveni and the Antae, are not ruled by one man, but they have lived from of old under a democracy, and consequently everything which involves their welfare, whether for good or ill, is referred to the people.  It is also true that in all other matters, practically speaking, these two barbarian peoples have had from ancient times the same institutions and customs.  For they believe that one god, the maker of the lightning, is alone lord of all things, and they sacrifice to him cattle and all other victims; but as for fate, they neither know it nor do they in any wise [i.e., ways] admit that it has any power among men, but whenever death stands close before them, either stricken with sickness or beginning a war, the make a promise that, if they escape they will straightway make a sacrifice to the god in return for their life; and if they escape, they sacrifice just what they have promised, and consider that their safety has been bought with the same sacrifice.  They reverence, however, both rivers and nymphs and some other spirits, and they sacrifice to all these also, and they make their divinations in connection with these sacrifices.  They live in pitiful hovels which they set up far apart from one another, but, as a general thing, every man is constantly changing his place of above.  When they enter battle, the majority of them go against their enemy on foot carrying little shields and javelins in their hands, but they never wear corselets.  Indeed, some of them do not wear even a shirt or a cloak, but gathering their trews up as far as to their private parts they enter into battle with their opponents.  And both the two peoples [i.e., Antes & Slavs] have also the same language, an utterly barbarous tongue.  Nay further, they do not differ at all from one another in appearance.  For they are all exceptionally tall and stalwart men, while their bodies and hair are neither very fair or blonde, nor indeed do they incline entirely to the dark type, but they are all slightly ruddy in color.  And they live a hard life, giving no heed to bodily comforts, just as the Massagetae do, and like them, they are continually and at all times covered with filth; however, they are in no respect base or evil doers, but they preserve the Hunnic character in all its simplicity.  In fact, the Sclaveni and the Antae actually had a single name in the remote past; for they were both called Spori in olden times, because, I suppose, living apart one man from another, they inhabit their country in a sporadic fashion.  And in consequence of this very fact they hold a great amount of land; for they alone inhabit the greatest part of the northern bank of the Ister.  So much then may be said regarding these peoples.

“So on the present occasion the Antae gathered together, as has been said, and tried to compel this man to agree with them in the assertion that he was Chilbudius, the Roman general himself.  And they threatened, if he denied it, to punish him.  But while this affair was progressing in the manner described, meantime the Emperor Justinian had sent some envoys to these very barbarians, through whom he expressed the desire that they should all settle in an ancient city, Turris by name, situated to the north of the river Ister.  This city had been built by the Roman emperor Trajan in earlier times, but for a long time now it had remained unoccupied, after it had been plundered by the barbarians of that region. It was this city and the lands about it that the Emperor Justinian agreed to give them, asserting that it had belonged to the Romans originally; and he further agreed to give them all the assistance within his power while they were establishing themselves, and to pay them great sums of money, on condition that they should remain at peace with him thereafter and constantly block the way against the Huns, when these wished to overrun the Roman domain.”

“When the barbarians heard this, they expressed approval and promised to carry out all the conditions, provided that he restore Chilbudius to the office of General of the Romans and assign him to assist them in the establishment of their city, stoutly maintaining, what they wished was so, that the man there among them was Chilbudius.  Thereupon the man himself, being lifted up by these hopes, began now to claim and to assert, as well as the others, that he was Chilbudius the Roman general. Indeed he was setting out for Byzantium on this mission when Narses, in the course of his journey, came upon him.  And when he met the man and found him to be playing the part of an imposter, although he spoke in the Latin tongue and had already learned many of the personal peculiarities of Chilbudius and had been very successful in assuming them, he confined him in prison and compelled him to confess the whole truth, and thereafter brought him in his own train to Byzantium.  But I shall return to the point from which I have strayed.”

Procopius, History of Wars Book 7, 29

[548 AD]

“At about this time an army of Sclaveni crossed the river Ister and spread desolation throughout the whole of Illyricum as far as Epidamnus, killing or enslaving all who came in their way, young and old alike, and plundering their property.  And they had already succeeded in capturing numerous strongholds of that region, which were then quite undefended, but which previously had been reputed to be strong places, and they continued to roam about searching out everything at their own pleasure.  And the commanders of the Illyrians kept following them with an army of fifteen thousand men, without, however, having the courage to get close to the enemy…”

Procopius, History of Wars Book 7, 35

[549 AD]

“Such was the situation in Byzantium. Meanwhile one of the Lombards had fled to the Gepaedes for the following reason.  When Vaces was ruler of the Lombards, he had a nephew named Risiulfus, who, according to the law, would be called to the royal power whenever Vaces should die.  So Vaces, seeking to make provision that the kingdom should be conferred upon his own son, brought an unjustified accusation against Risiulfus and penalized the man with banishment.  He then departed from his home with a few friends and fled immediately to the Varni, leaving behind him two children.  But Vaces bribed these barbarians to kill Risiulfus.  As for the children of Risiulfus, one of them died of disease, while the other, Ildiges by name, fled to the Sclaveni.”

“Now not long after this Vaces fell sick and passed from the world, and the rule of the Lombards fell to Valdarus, the son of Vaces.  But since he was very young, Audouin was appointed regent over him and administered the government.  And since he possessed great power as a result of this, he himself seized the rule after no long time, the child having immediately passed from the world by a natural death.  Now when the war arose between the Gepaedes and the Lombards, as already told, Ildiges went straight to the Gepaedes taking with him not only those of the Lombards who had followed him, but also many of the Sclaveni, and the Gepaedes were in hopes of restoring him to the kingdom.  But on account of the treaty which had now been made with the Lombards, Audouin straightway requested the Gepaedes, as friends, to surrender Ildiges; they, however, refused absolutely to give up the man, but they did order him to depart from their country and save himself wherever he wished.  He, then, without delay, took with him his followers and some volunteers of the Gepaedes and came back to the Sclaveni.  And departing from there, he went to join Totila and the Goths, having with him an army of not less than six thousand men.  Upon his arrival in Venetia, he encountered some Romans commanded by Lazarus, and engaging with them he routed the force and killed many.  He did not, however, unite with the Goths, but recrossed the Ister River and withdrew once more to the Sclaveni.”

Procopius, History of Wars Book 7, 38

“At about this time an army of Sclaveni amounting to not more than three thousand crossed the Ister River without encountering any opposition, advanced immediately to the Hebrus River,  which they crossed with no difficulty, and then split into two parts.  Now the one section of them contained eighteen hundred men, while the other comprised the remainder.  And although the two sections were thus separated from each other, the commanders of the Roman arm}’, upon engaging with them, both in Illyricum and in Thrace, were defeated unexpectedly, and some of them were killed on the field of battle, while others saved themselves by a disorderly flight.  Now after all the generals had fared thus at the hands of the two barbarian armies, though they were far inferior to the Roman forces in number, one section of the enemy engaged with Asbadus.  This man was a guard of the Emperor Justinian, since he served among the candidati [bodyguards distinguished by a white tunic], as they are called, and he was also commander of the cavalry cohorts which from ancient times have been stationed at Tzurullum, the fortress in Thrace, a numerous body of the best troops.  These too the Sclaveni routed with no trouble, and they slew the most of them in a most disgraceful flight; they also captured Asbadus and for the moment made him a prisoner, but afterwards they burned him by casting him into a fire, having first flayed strips from the man’s back.  Having accomplished these things, they turned to plunder all the towns, both of Thrace and of Illyricum, in comparative security; and both armies captured many fortresses by siege, though they neither had any previous experience in attacking city walls, nor had they dared to come down to the open plain, since these barbarians had never, in fact, even attempted to overrun the land of the Romans.  Indeed it appears that they have never in all time crossed the Ister River with an army before the occasion which I have mentioned above.”

“Then those who had defeated Asbadus plundered everything in order as far as the sea and captured by storm a city on the coast named Topirus, though it had a garrison of soldiers; this is the first of the coast towns of Thrace and is twelve days’ journey distant from Byzantium.  And they captured it in the following manner.  The most of them concealed themselves in the rough ground which lay before the fortifications, while some few went near the gate which is toward the cast and began to harass the Romans at the battlements.  Then the soldiers keeping guard there, supposing that they were no more than those who were seen, immediately seized their arms and one and all sallied forth against them. Where- upon the barbarians began to withdraw to the rear, making it appear to their assailants that they were moving off in retreat because they were thoroughly frightened by them; and the Romans, being drawn into the pursuit, found themselves at a considerable distance from the fortifications.  Then the men in ambush rose from their hiding places and, placing themselves behind the pursuers, made it no longer possible for them to enter the city.  Furthermore, those who had seemed to be in flight turned about, and thus the Romans now came to be exposed to attack on two sides.  Then the barbarians, after destroying these to the last man, assaulted the fortifications.  But the inhabitants of the city, deprived as they were of the support of the soldiers, found themselves in a very difficult situation, yet even so they warded off the assailants as well as the circumstances permitted.  And at first they resisted successfully by heating oil and pitch till it was very hot and pouring it down on those who were attacking the wall, and the whole population joined in hurling stones upon them and thus came not very far from repelling the danger.  But finally the barbarians overwhelmed them by the multitude of their missiles and forced them to abandon the battlements, whereupon they placed ladders against the fortifications and so captured the city by storm.  Then they slew all the men immediately, to the number of fifteen thousand, took all the valuables as plunder, and reduced the children and women to slavery.  Before this, however, they had spared no age, but both these and the other group, since the time when they fell upon the land of the Romans, had been killing all who fell in their way, young and old alike, so that the whole land inhabited by the Illyrians and Thracians came to be everywhere filled with unburied corpses.”

“Now they killed their victims, not with sword nor spear, nor in any other accustomed manner, but by planting very firmly in the earth stakes which they had made exceedingly sharp, and seating the poor wretches upon these with great violence, driving the point of the stake between the buttocks and forcing it up into the intestines; thus did they see fit to destroy them.  These barbarians also had a way of planting four thick stakes very deep in the ground, and after binding the feet and hands of the captives to these they would then assiduously beat them over the head with clubs, killing them like dogs or snakes or any other animal.  Others again they would imprison in their huts together with their cattle and sheep — those, of course, which they were utterly unable to take with them to their native haunts — and then they would set fire to the huts without mercy.  Thus did the Sclaveni consistently destroy those who fell in their way.  But from this time onward both these and those of the other group, being as it were drunk with the great quantity of blood they had shed, saw fit to make prisoners of some who fell into their hands, and consequently they were taking with them countless thousands of prisoners when they all departed on the homeward way.”

Procopius, History of Wars Book 7, 40

“But while Germanus was collecting and organizing his army in Sardice, the city of Illyricum, and making all the necessary preparations for war with the greatest thoroughness, a throng of Sclaveni such as never before was known arrived on Roman soil, having crossed the Ister River and come to the vicinity of Naissus.  Now some few of these had scattered from their army and, wandering about the country there alone, were captured by certain of the Romans and made prisoners; and the Romans questioned them as to why this particular army of the Sclaveni had crossed the Ister and what they had in mind to accomplish.  And they stoutly declared that they had come with the intention of capturing by siege both Thessalonice itself and the cities around it.  When the emperor heard this, he was greatly agitated and straightway wrote to Germanus directing him to postpone for the moment his expedition to Italy and defend Thessalonice and the other cities, and to repel the invasion of the Sclaveni with all his power.  So Germanus, for his part, was devoting himself to this problem.”

“But the Sclaveni, upon learning definitely from their captives that Germanus was in Sardice, began to be afraid; for Germanus had a great reputation among these particular barbarians for the following reason.  During the reign of Justinian, the uncle of Germanus, the Antae, who dwell close to the Sclaveni, had crossed the Ister River with a great army and invaded the Roman domain.  Now the emperor had not long before this, as it happened, appointed Germanus General of all Thrace.  He accordingly engaged with the hostile army, defeated them decisively in battle, and killed practically all of them; and Germanus, as a result of this achievement, had covered himself with great glory in the estimation of all men, including these same barbarians.  Consequently, on account of their dread of him, as I have said, and also because they supposed that he was conducting a very formidable force, seeing that he was being sent by the emperor against Totila and the Goths, the Sclaveni immediately turned aside from their march on Thessaloanice and no longer dared to descend to the plain, but they crossed over all the mountain ranges of Illyricum and so came into Dalmatia.  Germanus, accordingly, paid no further attention to them and issued orders to the entire army to prepare for marching, intending to commence the journey thence to Italy two days later.”

“But by some chance it so befell that he was taken sick and abruptly reached the term of life.  Thus did Germanus suddenly pass away, a man endowed with the finest qualities and remarkable for his activity; for in war, on the one hand, he was not only a most able general, but was also resourceful and independent in action, while in peace and prosperity, on the other hand, he well understood how to uphold with all firmness both the laws and the institutions of the state.  As a judge he was conspicuously upright, while in private life he made loans of large sums of money to all who requested it, never so much as speaking of taking interest from them.  Both in the palace and in the market-place he was a man of very impressive personality and exceedingly serious demeanour, while in his daily home life he was a pleasant, open-hearted, and charming host.  He would not permit, as far as his strength allowed, any offence in the palace against established laws, nor did he ever share either in the purpose or in the conversations of the conspirators in Byzantium, though many even of those in power went so far in their unnatural conduct.  Such then was the course of these events.”

“The emperor was deeply moved by this misfortune, and commanded John, the nephew of Vitalian and son-in-law of Germanus, in company with Justinian, one of the two sons of Germanus, to lead this army into Italy.  So they set out on the way to Dalmatia, intending to pass the winter in Salones, since it seemed to them impossible at that season to make the circuit of the gulf, as they would be obliged to do in travelling into Italy; for it was impossible for them to ferry across since they had no ships.  Meanwhile Liberius, not having as yet learned anything of the emperor’s change of purpose regarding the fleet he commanded, put in at Syracuse while it was under siege by the enemy.  And he forced his way through the barbarian lines, sailed into the harbour, and so got inside the fortifications with the whole fleet.  Now Artabanes not long after this reached Cephallenia, and finding that Liberius and his army had already put out to sea and departed thence on the way to Sicily, he immediately set out from there and crossed the so-called Adriatic Sea.  But when he came near Calabria, he was assailed by a terrific storm and a head wind of extraordinary violence, and it so fell out that all the ships were scattered so completely that it appeared that the most of them had been driven on the shore of Calabria and fallen into the hands of the enemy.  This, however, was not the case, but they had first been driven apart by the great violence of the wind, then had turned about, heavily buffeted meanwhile by the sea, and had reached the Peloponnesus again.  As for the other ships, some were lost and some were saved, according to where chance carried them.  But one ship, that in which Artabanes himself was sailing, had its mast broken off in this heavy sea, and yet, alter coming to such a degree of danger, was carried by the surge and followed the swell until it came to land at the island of Melita.  Thus did it come about contrary to expectation that Artabanes was saved.”

“Liberius now found himself unable to make sallies against the besiegers or to fight a decisive battle against them, while at the same time their provisions could not possibly suffice for any considerable time, seeing they were a large force, and so he set sail from there with his troops, and, eluding the enemy, withdrew to Panormus.”

“Totila and the Goths, meanwhile, had plundered practically the whole land of Sicily; they had collected as booty a vast number of horses and other animals, and had stripped the island of grain and all its other crops; these, together with all the treasure, which amounted to a great sum indeed, they loaded on their ships, and then suddenly abandoned the island and returned to Italy, being impelled to do so for the following reason.  Not long before this, as it happened, Totila had appointed one of the Romans, Spinus by name, a native of Spolitium, to be his personal adviser.  This man was staying in Catana, which was an unwalled town.  And, by some chance, it came about that he fell into the hands of the enemy there.  Now Totila, being eager to rescue this man, wished tit release to the Romans in his stead a notable’s wife who was his prisoner.  But the Romans would not consent to accept a woman in exchange for a man holding the position of quaestor, as it is called.  The man consequently became fearful that he would be destroyed while in hostile hands, and so promised the Romans that he would persuade Totila to depart immediately from Sicily and cross over to Italy with the whole Gothic army.  So they first bound him over by oaths to carry out this promise and then gave him up to the Goths, receiving the woman in return.  He then went before Totila and asserted that the Goths were not consulting their own interests, now that they had plundered practically the whole of Sicily, in remaining there for a few insignificant fortresses.  For he declared that he had recently heard, while he was among the enemy, that Germanus, the emperor’s nephew, had passed from the world, and that John, his son-in-law, and Justinian, his son, with the whole army collected by Germanus were already in Dalmatia and would move on from there, after completing their preparations in the briefest time, straight for Liguria, in order, obviously, to descend suddenly upon the Goths and make slaves of their women and children and to plunder all their valuables; and it woidd be better for the Goths, he said, to be there to meet them, passing the winter meanwhile in safety in company with their families. ‘For,’ he went on, ‘if we overcome that army, it will be possible for us at the opening of spring to renew our operations against Sicily free from anxiety and with no thought of an enemy in our minds.’  Totila was convinced by this suggestion, and so, leaving guards in four strongholds, he himself, taking with him the entire booty, crossed over with all the rest, of the army to Italy.  Such was the course of these events.”

“Now John and the emperor’s army, upon reaching Dalmatia, decided to pass the winter in Salones, purposing to inarch from there straight for Ravenna alter the winter season.  But the Sclaveni now reappeared, both those who had previously come into the emperor’s land, as I have recounted ahove, and others who had crossed the Ister not long afterwards and joined the first, and they hegan to overrun the Roman domain with complete freedom.  And some indeed entertained the suspicion that Totila had bribed these very barbarians with large gifts of money and so set them upon the Romans there, with the definite purpose of making it impossible for the emperor to manage the war against the Goths well because of his preoccupation with these barbarians.  But as to whether the Sclaveni were conferring a favour upon Totila, or whether they came there without invitation, I am unable to say.  These barbarians did, in any case, divide themselves into three groups and wrought irreparable damage in all Europe, not merely plundering that country by sudden raids, but actually spending the winter as if in their own land and hav ing no fear of the enemy.  Afterwards, however, the Emperor Justinian sent a very considerable army against them, which was led by a number of commanders, including Constantianus, Aratius, Nazares, Justinus the son of Germanus and John who bore the epithet of the Glutton.  But he placed in supreme command over them all Scholasticus, one of the eunuchs of the palace.”

“This army came upon a part of the barbarians near Adrianopolis, which is situated in the interior of Thrace, five days’ journey distant from Byzantium.  And the barbarians were unable to proceed further; for they were taking with them a booty which surpassed all reckoning, consisting of men and animals and valuables of every description.  So they remained there, eager to come to an engagement with the enemy, but without letting this be known to them in any way.  Now the Sclaveni were encamped on the hill which rises there, while the Romans were in the plain not far away.  And since a long time was consumed in thus blocking the enemy, the soldiers began to be resentful and made a great to-do, laying against the generals the charge that while they themselves, as commanders of the Roman army, had all provisions in abundance, they were paying no heed to the soldiers, to whom the want ot absolute necessities was causing hardship and who were unwilling to engage with the enemy.  By these remonstrances the generals were compelled to join battle with the enemy.  And the battle which followed was a fierce one, but the Romans were decisively vanquished. In that battle many of the best soldiers perished, and the generals came within a little of falling into the hands of the enemy, succeeding only with difficulty in making their escape with the remnant of the army and thus saving themselves, each as best he could.  The standard of Constantianus was also captured by the barbarians, who now moved forward heedless of the Roman army.  And they plundered the land of Astica, as it is called, without let or hindrance, a place which had not been ravaged since ancient times, and for this reason it turned out that they found there an enormous booty.  Thus they devastated a wide expanse of country and came as far as the long walls, which are a little more than one day’s journey distant from Byzantium.  But not long afterwards the Roman army, in following up these barbarians, came upon a portion of their force, engaged with them suddenly, and turned them to flight.  And they not only slew many of the enemy, but also rescued a vast number of Roman captives, and they also found and recovered the standard of Constantianus.  But the rest of the barbarians departed on the homeward way with the other booty.”

Procopius, History of Wars Book 8, 4

“…Above the Saginae are settled numerous Hunnic tribes.  And from there onward the country has received the name of Eulysia, and barbarian peoples hold both the coast and the interior of this land, as far as the so-called Maeotic Lake [Sea of Azov] and the Tanais River [Don] which empties into the lake.  And this lake has its outlet at the coast of the Euxine Sea.  Now the people who are settled there were named in ancient times Cimmerians, but now they are called Utigurs.  And above them to the north the countless tribes of the Antae are settled.  But beside the exact point where the outlet of the lake commences dwell the Goths who are called Tetraxitae, a people who are not very numerous, but they reverence and observe the rites of the Christians as carefully as any people do.  (The inhabitants indeed give the name Tanais also to this outlet which starts from the Maeotic Lake and extends to the Euxine Sea, a distance, they say, of twenty days’ journey.  And they also call the wind which blows from there the “Tanaitis.”)  Now as to whether these Goths were once of the Arian belief, as the other Gothic nations are, or whether the faith as practised by them has shewn some other peculiarity, I am unable to say, for they themselves are entirely ignorant on this subject, but at the present time they honour the faith in a spirit of complete simplicity and with no vain questionings.”

Procopius, History of Wars Book 8, 25

[551-552 AD]

“A great throng of Sclaveni now descended upon Illyricum and inflicted sufferings there not easily described.  And the Emperor Justinian sent an army against them commanded by the sons of Germanus with others.  But since this army was far outnumbered by the enemy, it was quite unable to engage with them, but remained always in the rear and cut down the stragglers left by the barbarians.  And they slew many of them but took some few prisoners, whom they sent to the emperor.  But nevertheless these barbarians continued their work of devastation.  And spending as they did a long time in this plundering expedition, they filled all the roads with corpses, and enslaved countless multitudes and pillaged everything without meeting any opposition; then finally they departed on the homeward journey with all their plunder.  Nor could the Romans ambuscade them while crossing the Ister River or harm them in any other way, since the Gepaedes, having engaged their services, took them under their protection and ferried them across, receiving large payment for their labour.  For the payment was at the rate of one gold stater per head.  At this the emperor was grievously vexed, seeing that for the future he had no possible means of checking the barbarians when crossing the Ister River in order to plunder the Roman domain, or when taking their departure from such expeditions with the booty they gained, and he wished for these reasons to enter into some sort of treaty with the nation of the Gepaedes.”

“Meanwhile the Gepaedes and the Lombards were once more moving against each other determined to make war.  But the Gepaedes, fearing the power of the Romans (for they had by no means failed to hear that the Emperor Justinian had made a sworn alliance for offence and defence with the Lombards), were eager to become friends and allies of the Romans.  They accordingly straightway sent envoys to Byzantium inviting the emperor to accept an offensive and defensive alliance with them also.  So he without any hesitation gave them the pledges of alliance.  And at the request of the same envoys twelve members of the senate also furnished them with a sworn statement confirming this treaty.  But not long after this, when the Lombards according to the terms of their alliance requested an army to fight with them against the Gepaedes, the Emperor Justinian sent it, laying the charge against the Gepaedes that after the treaty they had transported certain of the Sclaveni across the Ister River to the detriment of the Romans.”

“Now the leaders of this army were, first, Justinus and Justinian, the sons of Germanus; second, Aratius; third, Suartuas, who had previously been appointed by Justinian ruler over the Eruli (but when those who had come from the island of Thule rose against him, as told by me in the previous narrative, he had returned in flight to the emperor, and immediately became general of the Roman forces in Byzantium); and, lastly, Amalafridas, a Goth, grandson of Amalafrida the sister of Theoderic king of the Goths, and son of Hermenefridus the former ruler of the Thuringians.  This man had been brought by Belisarius to Byzantium with Vittigis, and the emperor had appointed him a Roman commander and betrothed his sister to Auduin the ruler of the Lombards.  But not a man of that army reached the Lombards except this Amalafridas with his command.  For the others, by direction of the emperor, stopped at the city of Ulpiana in Illyricum, since a civil war had arisen among the inhabitants of that place concerning those matters over which the Christians fight among themselves, as will be told by me in the treatise on this subject.”

“So the Lombards in full force and accompanied by Amalafridas came into the lands of the Gepaedes, and when the Gepaedes encountered them a fierce battle ensued in which the Gepaedes were defeated, and they say that a vast number of them perished in this engagement.  Whereupon Auduin, the king of the Lombards, sent some of his followers to Byzantium, first to announce the good news to the Emperor Justinian, since the enemy had been vanquished, and, secondly, to reproach him because the emperor’s army had not been present in accordance with the terms of their alliance, although such a host of Lombards had recently been sent to march with Narses against Totila and the Goths.  Such was the course of these events… In Italy the following took place. The people of Croton and the soldiers who constituted the garrison there, commanded by Palladius, were being very closely besieged by the Goths; and hard pressed as they were by scarcity of provisions, they had many times sent to Sicily without being detected by the enemy, calling to witness the commanders of the Roman army there, especially Artabanes, and saying that, if they did not relieve them at the earliest possible moment, they would, little as they wished it, surrender themselves and the city to the enemy not long thereafter. But no one came from there to assist them.  And the winter drew to a close, and the seventeenth year ended in this war, the history of which Procopius has written.”


Procopius, The Secret History, Book 11

“Accordingly, when Justinian took over the Empire he immediately succeeded in bringing con- fusion upon everything.  For things which previously had been forbidden by law he kept introducing into the constitution, and tearing down all existing Institutions and those made ftimiliar by custom, as if he had put on the imperial garb on the condition that he should change all things also into another garb.  For instance, he would depose the existing officials and appoint new ones in control of the State’s business; and he treated the laws and the divisions of the army in the same way, not yielding to demands of justice nor influenced to this course by any public advantage, but simply that everything might be new and might bear the impress of liis name.  And if there was anything which he was quite unable to transform at the instant, still he would at least put his own name upon it.”

“As for seizing property and murdering men, he never got his fill of them, but after plundering numerous homes of affluent men he kept seeking new ones, straightway pouring out the proceeds of his earlier robbery in making presents to sundiy barbarians or in erecting senseless buildings.  And after he had slain perhaps myriads for no good reason, he straightway embarked on plans for the ruin of many more.  So then, the Romans being at peace with the whole world, and he by reason of his lust for blood not knowing what to do with himself, Justinian kept bringing: all the barbarians into collision with one another, and summoning the leaders of the Huns for no good reason, he handed over to them with amazing prodigality huge donatives, pretending that he was doing this as a pledge of friendship; indeed it was said that he had done this even during the period of Justinus’ reign.  And they, even after having received money, would send some of their fellow leaders together with their followers, bidding them overrun and ravage the Emperor’s land, so that they too might be able to sell peace to the man who for no good reason wished to purchase it.  And these then began straightway to enslave the Roman Empire, and they nevertheless were receiving pay in the meantime from the Emperor; and after these, others promptly took over the business of plundering the hapless Romans, and after the pillage they would receive, as rewards for the attack, the Emperor’s generous gifts.  Thus all the barbarians, one may almost say, omitting no season of the year, made raids in rotation, plundering and harrying absolutely everything wlthout a moment’s pause.  For these barbarians have many groups of leaders and war went the rounds – war that originated in an unreasoning generosity, and could never reach an end, but kept for ever revolving about its own centre. Conse- quently, during this period no settlement, no moun- tain, no cave – nothing, in fact, in the Roman domain – remained unplundered, and many places had the misfortune to be captured more than five times.  Yet all these things and all that was done by Medes, Saracens, [the Sclavonians] and Antae and the other barbarians have been set forth by me in previous Books; but, as I said at the beginning of this present Book, it was necessary for me to state in this place the causes of what happened.”

“And though he paid out to Chosroes huge sums of gold in return for peace, still, acting on his own judgment in a senseless way, he became the chief cause of the breaking of the truce by his intense eagerness to gain the alliance of Alamundarus and the Huns who are allied to the Persians, a matter which I believe to have been mentioned without concealment in the narrative referring to them…”

Procopius, The Secret History, Book 18 

“And that he was no human being, but, as has been suggested [John the Cappadocian, who had been accused of murdering Eusebius, the Bishop of Cyzicus, but the case had not been proved], some manner of demon in human form, one might infer by making an estimate of the magnitude of the ills which he inflicted upon mankind. For it is in the degree by which a man’s deeds are surpassingly great that the power of the doer becomes evident.  Now to state exactly the number of those who were destroyed by him would never be possible, I think, for anyone soever, or for God.  For one might more quickly, I think, count all the grains of sand than the vast number whom this Emperor destroyed. But making an approximate estimate of the extent of territory which has come to be destitute of inhabitants, I should say that a myriad myriads of myriads perished.  For in the first place, Libya, which attains to so large dimensions, has been so thoroughly ruined that for the traveller who makes a long journey it is no easy matter, as well as being a noteworthy fact, to meet a human being.  And yet the Vandals who recently took up arms there numbered eight myriads, and as for their women and children and slaves, who could guess their number?  And as for the Libyans, those who formerly lived in the cities, those who tilled tlie soil, and those who toiled at the labours of the – all of which I had the fortune to witness with my own eyes – how could any man estimate the multitude of them?  And still more numerous than these were the Moors there, all of whom were in the end destroyed together with their wives and offspring.  Many too of the Roman soldiers and of those who had followed them there from Byzantium the earth has covered.  So that if one maintains that five hundred myriads of human beings perished in Libya, he would not by any means, I think, be doing justice to the facts.  And the reason for this was that immediately after the defeat of the Vandals, Justinian not only did not concern himself with strengthening his dominion over the country, and not only did he not make provision that the safeguarding of its wealth should rest securely in the good-will of its inhabitants, but straightway he summoned Belisarius to return home without the least delay, laying against him an utterly unjustified accusation of tyranny, to the end that thereafter, administering Libya with full licence, he might swallow it up and thus make plunder of the whole of it.’

“At any rate he immediately sent out assessors of the land and imposed certain most cruel taxes which had not existed before.  And he laid hold of the estates, whichever were best.  And he excluded the Arians from the sacraments which they observed.  Also he was tardy in the payment of his military forces, and in other ways became a grievance to the soldiers.  From these causes arose the insurrections which resulted in great destruction.  For he never was able to adhere to settled conditions, but lie was naturally inclined to make confusion and turmoil everywhere.”

“And as to Italy, which has not less than three times the area of Libya, it has become everywhere even more destitute of men than Libya. Consequently the estimate of persons likewise destroyed here will be fairly easy.  For the cause of what happened in Italy has already been explained by me in an earlier passage.  Indeed all the errors which he made in Libya were repeated by him here also.  And by adding to the administrative staff the Logothetes, as they are called, he upset and ruined everything immediately.  Now the sway of the Goths extended, before this war, from the land of Gaul as far as the boundaries of Dacia, where the city of Sirmium is situated.  As for Gaul and Venetia, the Germans held the greater part of them at the time when the Roman army came into Italy.  But the Gepaides control Sirmium and the country thereabout, which is all, roughly speaking, completely destitute of human habitation.  For some were destroyed by the war, some by disease and famine, the natural concomitants of war. And lllyricum and Thrace in its entirety, comprising the whole expanse of country from the Ionian Gulf to the outskirts of Byzantium, including Greece and the Thracian Chersonnese, was overrun practically every year by Huns, Sclaveni and Antae, from the time when Justinian took over the Roman Empire, and they wrought frightful havoc among the inhabitants of that region.  For in each invasion more than twenty myriads of Romans, I think, were destroyed or enslaved there, so that a veritable ‘Scythian wilderness’ came to exist everywhere in this land.  Such are the disasters wrought by the wars in Libya and in Europe.  The Saracens meantime were overrunning the Romans of the East, from Egypt to the frontiers of Persia, throughout this whole period wdthout interruption, and they accomplished such thorough-going destruction that this entire region came to be very sparsely populated, and it will never be possible, I think, for any human being to discover by enquiry the numbers of those who perished in this way.  The Persians under Chosroes four times made inroads into the rest of the Roman domain and dismantled the cities, and as for the people whom they found in the captured cities and in each country district, they slew a part and led some away with them, leaving the land bare of inhabitants wherever they chanced to descend.  And ever since the Persian invasion of the land of Colchis, tlie Colchians and the Lazi and the Romans have continued to be steadily destroyed up to the present day.”

“Moreover, neither the Persians on their part nor the Saracens nor the Huns nor the race of the Sclaveni nor any other of the barbarians have had the fortune to retire unscathed from Roman soil.  For in the course of their inroads, and particularly during the sieges and battles, they fell foul of many obstacles and were destroyed equally with their enemies.  For not alone Romans but practically the whole barbarian world as well felt the influence of Justinian’s lust for bloodshed.  For not only was Chosroes himself likewise vicious in character, but he was also provided by Justinian, as has been stated by me in the appropriate place, with all tlie motives for waging war.  For he did not think it worth while to adapt his activities to the opportune occasions, but he kept doing everything out of season, in times of peace and in periods of truce ever devising, with crafty purpose, occasions of war against his neighbours, and in times of war, on the other hand, growing lax for no good reason and carrying on the preparations for military operations too deliberately, all because of his parsimony, and instead of devoting himself to such things, scanning the heavens and developing a curious interest concerning the nature of God, and neither giving over the war, because of his bloodthirsty and abominable character, nor being, on the other hand, able to get the better of his enemy, because he was prevented by his niggardliness from busying himself with the necessary things.  Thus during his reign the whole earth was constantly drenched with human blood shed by both the Romans and practically all the barbarians.”

“This, then, to state the case in a word, is what came to pass during this period of wars throughout the whole Roman Empire.  And when I reckon over the events which took place during the insurrections both in Byzantium and in each several city, I believe that no less slaughter of men came about in this way than in actual warfare.  For since justice and impartial chastisement for wrongdoing scarcely existed at all, but of the two Factions one was actually supported by the Emperor, assuredly the other party did not remain quiet either; on the contrary, because one group was being worsted and the other was full of confidence, they constantly had in view desperation and mad recklessness; and sometimes attacking each other in crowds and sometimes fighting in small groups, or even, if it so happened, setting ambuscades one against one, for two-and-thirty years without a pause they kept wreaking fearful vengeance upon one another, and at the same time they were being put to death by the magistrate, as a rule, who was charged with the control of the populace.  But the punishment for their crimes was, for the most part, levelled against the Greens.  Furthermore, the punishment of the Samaritans and of those called heretics filled the Roman Empire with slaughter. These things, however, are here mentioned by me merely in siunmary, inasmuch as they have been sufficiently recorded by me somewhat earlier.”

“Such, then, were the calamities which fell upon all mankind during the reign of the demon who had become incarnate in Justinian, while he himself, as having become Emperor, provided the causes of them.  And I shall whew [show], further, how many evils he did to men by means of a hidden power and of a demoniacal nature.  For while this man was administering the nation’s affairs, many other calamities chanced to befall, which some insisted came about through the aforementioned presence of this evil demon and through his contriving, while others said that the Deity, detesting his works, turned away from the Roman Empire and gave place to the abominable demons for the bringing of these things to pass in this fashion… Such was the destruction of life which took place, first when Justinian was administering the Roman State as Regent, and later when he held the imperial office.”

Procopius, The Secret History, Book 23

“First of all, though it had been customary from ancient times that each successive Emperor should make, not once, but many times, a donation to all their subjects of the arrears of their debts to the Treasury, in order, on the one hand, to prevent the destitute and those who had no means of paying these arrears from being strangled regularly, and, on the other hand, to avoid providing the tax-gatherers with pretexts in case they should try to blackmail those who, though subject to the tax, owed nothing in arrears, this man, for a period of thirty- two years, has done nothing of the kind for his subjects.  And for this reason it was necessary for the destitute to go away and in no case to return again.  And the blackmailers kept harassing the more respectable farmers by holding over them the threat of an accusation, alleging that they had for a long time been paying their tax at a lower rate than that imposed upon their district.  For the poor wretches had to fear not only the new payment of the tax, but also the possibility that they might be weighed down by the burden of taxes for so great a number of years for which they owed nothing.  In any case, many men actually handed over their property either to the blackmailers or to the Treasury and went their ways.  Furthermore, though the Medes and Saracens had plundered the greater part of the land of Asia, and the Huns and Sclaveni and Antae the whole of Europe, and some of the cities had been levelled to the ground, and others had been stripped of their wealth in very thorough fashion through levied contributions, and though they had enslaved the population wth all their property, making each region destitute of inhabitants by their daily inroads, yet he remitted the tax to no man, with the single exception that captured cities had one year’s exemption only.  And yet if he had seen fit, as did the Emperor Anastasius, to remit to captured cities all their taxes for seven years, I think that even thus he would not have been doing all he should have done in view of the fact that, although Cabades had gone his way without doing the least damage to the buildings, yet Chosroes had not only fired every structure and razed it to the ground, but had also inflicted greater sufferings upon his victims.  And now to these men to whom he remitted this ridiculously small portion of the tribute, as to all the others likewise – men who had often supported the attacks of the Median army, and though Huns and Saracens had continuously ravaged the lands of the East, and though not less terribly the barbarians in Europe were also wreaking such destruction every day and unceasingly – to these men, I say, this Emperor shewed [showed] himself from the first more savage than all the barbarians together.  For through ‘buying on requisition’ and what are called ‘imposts’ and ‘pro-rated assessments,’ the owners of the land were immediately, once the enemy had withdrawn, reduced to ruin.  Now what these terms are and what they mean I shall proceed to explain…”


Procopius On Buildings, Book 4, 1

H. B. Dewing, as printed in Vol. VII of the Loeb Classical Library edition of Procopius, published in 1940

“To cross a great sea in an ill-appointed ship is a miserable task, I think, beset with the greatest dangers. And it is the same thing to recount the buildings of the Emperor Justinian with impotent words.  For through the greatness of his mind this Emperor has accomplished things which surpass description, in buildings no less than in practically all other matters.  And in Europe, being consumed by the desire to make his services fit the magnitude of the need which existed for them, he has carried out works which are not easy to enumerate or simple to describe in writing.  For these works have been executed with due regard for the nearness of the Ister River and for the consequent necessity imposed by the barbarians who threaten the land.  For it has as neighbours nations of Huns and of Goths, and the regions of Taurus and of Scythia rise up again it, as well as the haunts of the Sclaveni and of sundry other tribes — whether they are called by the writers of the most ancient history Hamaxibian or Metanastic Sauromatae, and whatever other wild race of men really either roams about or leads a settled life in that region.  And in his determination to resist these barbarians who were endlessly making war, the Emperor Justinian, who did not take the matter lightly, was obliged to throw innumerable fortresses about the country, to assign to them untold garrisons of troops, and to set up all other possible obstacles to an enemy who attacked without warning and who permitted no intercourse.  Indeed it was the custom of these peoples to rise and make war upon their enemies for no particular cause, and to open hostilities without sending an embassy, and they did not bring their struggles to an end through any treaty or cease operations for any specified period, but they made their attacks without provocation and reached a decision by the sword alone. But still we must proceed owing to the remainder of our story.  For when we have begun a task it will be better to go through to the end in any fashion whatever than to depart leaving it unfinished.  Certainly my action would not be free from blame, if, after our Emperor has performed the work, I for my part, should shrink from telling of what he has done.  But now that we are on the point of enumerating the buildings of this Emperor in Europe, it is proper first to make a few observations regarding this land.”

Procopius On Buildings, Book 4, 7

“Such, then, are the strongholds of Illyricum along the Ister River. But we must now go on to the fortified towns of Thrace, those namely which were built by the Emperor Justinian along the river-bank there.  For it has seemed to me not improper, after first describing the coast of that region, then to take up also the record of what he did in the interior.  First, then, let us proceed to Mysia, the home of men whom the poets call hand-to‑hand fighters, for their country borders upon Illyricum.  So beyond that place which they call Lucernariaburgou the Emperor Justinian built the fortress Securisca, a new work of his own.  Beyond this he restored the parts of Cyntodemus which had suffered. And still further on he built a city which had not existed previously, and this he named Theodoropolis, after the Empress.  Furthermore, he preserved the fortresses called Iatrôn and Tigas by building anew the parts which had suffered, and to the fort of Maxentius he added a tower, which he thought it needed.  And he built the fort of Cyntôn which had not existed before.  Beyond this is the stronghold Trasmariscas.  Just opposite this, on the other bank of the river, Constantine, Emperor of the Romans, once built with no small care a fort, Daphnê by name, thinking it not inexpedient that the river should be guarded on both sides at this point.  As time went on, the barbarians destroyed this entirely; but the Emperor Justinian rebuilt it, beginning at the foundations.  And beyond Trasmariscas is the stronghold Altenôn and one which they call Candidiana, destroyed long before by the same enemy, which he repaired with all the care that they deserved.  And there are three forts, Saltupyrgus, Dorostolus and Sycidaba, one after the other along the bank of the Ister, which the Emperor put in order by carefully repairing such parts of each one as had suffered.  He displayed a similar care in the case of Questris, which lies back from the river.  And Palmatis, which was cramped for space, he enlarged and made very much broader, though it is not on the bank of the river.  Close to this he built also a new fort named Adina, because the barbarian Sclaveni were constantly laying concealed ambuscades there against travelers, thus making the whole district impassable.  He likewise built the fortress of Tiliciôn and a stronghold which lies to its left.”

“Such was the condition of the fortresses of Mysia on the bank of the Ister River, as well as those near it. Next I shall proceed to Scythia; there the first fortress is the one named for St. Cyril, of which the Emperor Justinian rebuilt with care those portions which had suffered with time.  Beyond this from ancient times there was a stronghold, Ulmitôn by name, but since the barbarian Sclaveni had been making their ambuscades there for a great length of time and had been tarrying there very long, it had come to be wholly deserted and nothing of it was left except the name.  So he built it all up from the foundations and thus freed that region from the menace and the attacks of the Sclaveni.  Beyond this is the city of Ibida, whose circuit-wall had suffered in many places; these he renewed without delay and made the city very strong.  And beyond it he built a new fortress, a work of his own, which they call Aegissus.  At the extremity of Scythia lies another fortress, Halmyris by name, a great part of which had become manifestly insecure, and this he saved by rebuilding it.  All the other strongholds also within the bounds of Europe are worthy of mention.”

Procopius On Buildings, Book 4, 11

“Beyond the Chersonese stands the city of Aenus, which bears the name of its founder; for he was Aeneas, as they say, son of Anchises.  The circuit-wall of this place was easy to capture not only because of its lowness, since it did not rise even to the necessary height,  but because it offered an exposed approach on the side toward the sea, whose waters actually touched it in places.  But the Emperor Justinian raised it to such a height that it could not even be assailed, much less be captured.  And by extending the wall and closing the gaps on every side he rendered Aenus altogether impregnable.  Thus the city was made safe; and yet the district remained easy for the barbarians to overrun, since Rhodopê from ancient times had been lacking in fortifications.  And there was a certain village in the interior, Vellurus by name, which in wealth and population ranked as a city, but because it had no walls at all it constantly lay open to the plundering barbarians, a fate which was shared by the many fields lying about it.  Our Emperor made this a city and provided it with a wall and made it worthy of himself.  He also took great pains to put in order all such parts of the other cities in Rhodopê as had come to be defective or had suffered with time.  Among these were Trajanopolis and Maximianopolis, where he restored the parts of the bastions which had become weak. Thus were these things done.”

“The city of Anastasiopolis in this region was indeed walled even before this, but it lay along the shore and the beach was unprotected.  Consequently the boats putting in there often fell suddenly into the hands of the barbarian Huns, who by means of them also harassed the islands lying off the coast there.  But the Emperor Justinian walled in the whole sea-front by means of a connecting wall and thus restored safety both for the ships and for the islanders.  Furthermore, he raised the aqueduct to an imposing height all the way from the mountains which rise here as far as the city.  And there is a certain ancient town in Rhodopê, Toperus by name, which is surrounded for the most part by the stream of a river, but had a steep hill rising above it.  As a result of this it had been captured by the barbarian Sclaveni not long before.  But the Emperor Justinian added a great deal to the height of the wall, so that it now overtops the hill by as much as it previously fell below its crest.  And he set a colonnaded portico with a vaulted roof on its wall, and from this the defenders of the city fight in safety against those attacking the wall; and he equipped each one of the towers so as to be a strong fort.  He also secured the interval between the circuit-wall and the river by shutting it off with a cross-wall. These things, then, were done by the Emperor Justinian as I have said.  And I shall describe all the fortresses which were made by him through the rest of Thrace…”

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February 23, 2016

Agathias’ Histories

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From the Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae – Joseph D.C. Frendo translation.  Agathias (Scholasticus) of Myrina’s (Ἀγαθίας σχολαστικός) (536-582) Histories cover the years 552-559 continuing the work of Procopius.  He covered mostly the years’ military campaigns.  Here are his mentions of the Slavs.


Book III (21)

“…To ensure that these ships on the river should come to no harm the commanders, Dabragezas the Ant and Elinegeir the Hun, acting on the instructions of the generals, manned with troops from their own contingents ten skiffs of a special kind equipped with fore and aft rudders, and travelled up the river as far as possible.  They kept a non-stop watch on the various crossing points, sometimes sailing in the middle of the river and sometimes veering towards one or the other of its banks.  In the course of this operation they experienced one of war’s most pleasant surprises.  Even further up the river than they were, the two thirty-oared Roman vessels, whose capture without their crews by the Persians I have already related, now lay in wait moored to the bank of the river and manned by Persians.  At nightfall their crews all fell asleep.  The current was particularly strong and the cables were stretched by the tilting of the boats,  with th result that the moorings o one of them suddenly snapped.  Cut adrift and virtually without oars to propel it or a rudder to steer it, it was caught in the current, swept away and eventually consigned to Dabragezas and his men, who rejoicing at their good fortune gleefully seized their prey.  The ship which they had abandoned empty had returned to them full.”

Book IV (18)

“Since he had already had some experience of the ascent Illus went in front and led the way.  Immediately after him came Marcellinus’ personal guard Ziper followed by Leontius the son of Dabragezas who was followed in turn by Theodorus the commander of the Tzani, and so on one after the other in one continuous line…”

Book IV (20)

“The whole night had been spent in the commission of these and similar atrocities and the spot and already assumed as aspect of complete devastation when about five hundred heavily-armed Misimians sallied forth from the fortress at the first light of dawn and attacked the Romans.  The latter were caught off guard because the thought they and overcame all resistance.  All were driven headlong into flight by the Misimians and most of them were either killed or wounded.  After a confused and precipitous descent the survivors returned to camp a mass of wounds.  They and been struck the by the enemy’s spears and their legs were badly torn through frequent tumbles against rocks.  And so, since they had no inclination for another climb up that rock, they decided to attack the for at its most vulnerable point and at the same time to fill in the most.  Assembling therefore a number of sheds and penthouses they brought them up and proceeded to attack the wall from a safe position.  They employed siege-englines, bows and arrows and ever other available means of making life difficult for the defenders.  The barbarians were in dire straits but they still put up a stiff resistance.  Some of them brought up a wicker-roof and advanced against the Roman siege-works with the idea of demolishing them. But before they drew near and took cover under it a Slav called Suarunas hurled his spear at the one that was most visible and struck him a mortal blow.  As the man fell the wicker-roof toppled over revealing and leaving unprotected the men inside it.  The Romans had no difficulty in shooting them all down except for one man who managed to get away, had almost made it to the fort and had already reached the small side-gate when he was struck dead by an arrow.  He fell sprawling on the threshold with a small part of his body protruding outside of the fort but most it inside.  When the Misimians saw this I think they interpreted it as a bad omen.  Apart from that they were beginning to break down under the strain of the fighting and were anxious to effect a reconciliation with the Romans, and above all they were influenced by the fact that the relief-force promised by the Persians had not arrived…”

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February 18, 2016

Slavs in the Chronicle of Theophanes (from 602)

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The Byzantine Chronicle of Theophanes was written by… yes, Theophanes the “Confessor” (mostly) who lived, approximately, in the years 758/760 to 817/818.  The chronicle covers the years 284 to 813.  The excerpts we present come from the Harry Turtledove translation and the footnote (*) passages with quotation marks are his as well.  That translation only covers the less derivative portion of the Chronicle starting from 602.  We retain Turtledove’s various spellings of Sklavinians (he did not create a uniform name, following the manuscripts).


Theo liked his icons

Note: All of these entries regarding Slavs refer to periods between September 1 and August 31.  Thus, the reference to year 625/626 is a reference to September 1, 625 to August 31, 626.


“In this year the Persian king Khosroes created a new army, recruiting foreigners, citizens and house slaves, and making a levy from every people.  He gave this levy to the general Sain, along with 50,000 men he took from Sarbaros’ phalanx.  Khosroes named them the “golden spears” and sent them out against the Emperor.”


Khosroes & Heraclius – doing what they do best

“He dispatched Sarbaros and the remainder of his army against Constantinople so that, with the Huns of the west (whom they call Avars), Bulgars, Sklavinians, and Gepids (with all of whom he conspired), he could march on and besiege the city…”


“In this year the Emperor [Constans II the Bearded – assassinated in Sicily]* campaigned against Sklavinia; he took many prisoners and brought many people under his control…”

* Apparently in a bath – see the Chronicle of Theophilus of Edessa.


“…Also, Abd ar-Rahman the son of Khalid attacked Romania*; he wintered there after devastating many towns.  The Sklavinoi went over to him, and 5,000 went down to Syria with him.  They were settled in the village of Seleukobolos near Apamea.”



* By Romania, Theophanes means the Roman (i.e., Byzantine) Empire.


“…When the Bulgars became the masters of the seven tribes of Sklavinoi in the vicinity, they resettled the Sebereis* from the mountain passes before Bergaba to the lands to the east, and the remainder of the seven tribes to the south and west up to the land of the Avars.  Since the Bulgars were pagan at that time, they bore themselves arrogantly and began to assail and take cities and villages under the control of the Roman Empire.  The Emperor had to make peace with them because of this, and agreed to pay them annual tribute.  This was the fault of the Romans’ disgrace over their great defeat.  Folk far and near were amazed to hear that the Emperor, who had subjected everyone to himself, had been beaten by this newly arrived loathsome tribe.  But he believed this had happened to the Christians because of God’s will, and gladly planned to make peace…”

* Note that these are likely a non-Slavic tribe from Asia Minor but could also be Severyans.


“…Anastasios became patriarch for twenty-four years.  After him Constantine was patriarch for twelve years, Niketas for fourteen…”

[For Niketas the Slavic patriarch of Constantinople see below.  “This chronological discussion was inserted into the chronicle some time after Theophanes’ death in 818 [and] can be dated to 840.”]


“… [The Emperor] [Justinian II] broke the peace with the Bulgars, utterly confounding his own father’s appropriate edicts.  He ordered the thematic cavalry to cross to Thrace, as he wanted to take prisoners among the Bulgars and the Sklavinoi.”


“In this year Justinian [II] campaigned against Sklavinia and Bulgaria.  Advancing to Thessalonike, he thrust back as far as possible the Bulgars he encountered.  He conquered large hosts of Slavs (some in battle, but others went over to him) and settled them in the Opsikion,* sending them across by way of Abydos.  While he was withdrawing, the Bulgars stopped him on the roared at the narrow part of a mountain pass; he was barely able to get through, and his army took many casualties…”


* “This them occupied the northwestern quadrant of Anatolia, being west of the theme of the Armeniacs and north of that of the Anatolics.”  Themes were Byzantine administrative divisions.


“…But since the Emperor  [Justinian II] would not tolerate hearing any such thing , being instead eager for battle, they dissolved the written peace treaty and rushed against the Romans.  They hung a copy of the treaty from a spear to go before them in place of a banner.  Muhammad was the general as they joined battle.  At first the Arabs were defeated, but Muhammad suborned the general of the Slavs allied to the Romans.  He sent him a purse loaded with nomismata and, deceiving him with many promises, persuaded him to desert to the Arabs with 20,000 Slavs.  Then justinian massacred the remaining Slavs (and their wives and children) at Leukate, a precipitous place by the sea on the gulf of Nikomedeia.”


Never Forget


“…Muhammad attacked Romania; he had with him the Slavs who had fled, as they had experience of Romania.  He took many prisoners…”


“…[Justinian II (who had been kicked out and came back with Bulgar help)] escaped the heavy sea without harm and entered the Danube River.  He sent Stephen to Tervel the lord of Bulgaria to gain his support for Justinian’s reconquest of the Empire of his forefathers.  He promised to give Tervel many gifts, even his own daughter as wife.  Tervel promised on oath to obey and cooperate with him in every way, and received him with honor.  He raised his entire army, Bulgars and Slavs.*  In the following year, after they had been equipped, they approached the imperial city.”

* “This passage shows that the Turkic Bulgars had not yet been assimilated by the more numerous Slavs over whom they ruled.”


“In this year Muhammad – also known as Abu-l-Abbas – died after ruling for five years.  His brother Abd Allah was in Mecca, the Arab’s place of blasphemy.  He wrote to Abu Mislim in Persia to guard the capital for him, as it had been allotted to him.  Abu Muslim learned that Abd Allah (son of Ali and brother of Salim), the chief general of Syria, had seized the capital for himself and was on his way to conquer Persia.  There Persians opposed And Allah, but the inhabitants of Syria were devoted to him and fought on his side.  Abu Muslim raised his army and engaged Abd Allah near Nisibis, where he defeated him and killed many of his men.  Most of them were Slavs and Antiochenes.*  Only Abd Allah got away, and after a few days he asked for a safe conduct from the other And Allah (Muhammand’s brother), who had come from Persia in great haste from Mecca.  This Abd Allah imprisoned the other in a tumbledown shack.  He ordered foundations dug out from under it, and thus secretly killed him…”


Nisibis at lower right (the other name is just curious)

* Presumably these were the Slavs “who had deserted to the Arabs [in 692/693] and were settled in Syria.”


“In this year Constantine captured the Macedonian Sklavinians and subjected the rest of them…”*

* These are the “small, tribal statelets of the Slavs who settled the Balkans after the collapse of the Avars.”


“…The Bulgars rose up and murdered their rulers, whom they hanged on a rope.  They elevated an evil-minded man named Teletzes, who was thirty years old.  Many Slavs fled and went over to the Emperor [Constantine V], who settled them at Artana.  On June 15 the Emperor went to Thrace.  He also sent a fleet by way of the Black Sea; it had about eight hundred warships, each of which carried about twelve horses.  When Teletzes heard of the movement against him, he made allies of 20,000 men from neighboring tribes, and secured himself by putting them in his strongpoints.”

“The Emperor [Constantine V] advanced to camp at the fortress of Ankhialos.  Teletzes and his host from the tribes appeared on Friday, June 30 of the first indiction.  The two sides joined battle and cut each other u badly, the battle raging from the fifth hour until evening.  Large numbers of Bulgars were killed, others were overcome, and still others went over to the Emperor.  He was exalted by the victory, and held a triumphal procession at the city because of it.  He and his army entered Constantinople under arms; the people acclaimed him as he dragged along the overpowered Bulgars with wooden instruments of torture.  He ordered the people to put them to death outside the Golden Gate.”

“The Bulgars revolted against Teletzes and killed him asd his officers, then elevated Sabinos, the brother-in-law of their old ruler.  He immediately sent a message to the Emperor [Constantine V], seeking to make peace.  But the Bulgars convened a council which firmly opposed him, saying, ‘Thanks to you, the Romans will enslave Bulgaria.’  They rebelled, and Sabinos fled to the fortress of Mesembria sand went over to the Emperor [Constantine V].  The Bulgars raised another ruler for themselves whose name was Paganos.”


“…In the same year Paganos, the lord of Bulgaria, sent a message to the Emperor, asking for an interview with him.  Once he had received a safe conduct, Paganos and his boyars came down to the Emperor.  The Emperor [Constantine V] sat with Sabinos beside him, and reproached the Bulgars’ disorder and their hatred of Sabinos.  They made peace on terms which seems good.”

“But the Emperor [Constantine V] secretly sent men into Bulgaria who seized Sklabounos the ruler of the Sebereis, a man who had worked many evils in Thrace.  Christianos, an apostate from Christianity who headed the Skamaroi, was also captured.  His hands and feet were cut off at the mole of Saint Thomas.  They brought in doctors who cut him open from his groun to his chest in order to ascertain the constituent parts of a man, and then he was burned…”


[The Emperor Constantine first exiled the patriarch Constantine (same name) and then…]

“…By the decision of the Emperor, Niketas, a Slavic eunuch, was illegally chosen patriarch of Constantinople on November 16 of the fifth indiction…”


[then the prior patriarch was brought back to Constantinople and…]

“…The tyrant Constantine [Constantine V, the Emperor] beat him so badly he could not walk.  He ordered him put on a litter and brought in to sit in front of the sanctuary at the great church.  With him was an asekretes who lift dup a document on a sheet of paper, on which were written Constantine’s crimes.  By imperial order all the people of the city assembled there to watch while the sheet was read in their hearing.  After each chapter the asekretes hit Constantine in the face, while the patriarch Niketas sat watching on his throne.  Once this was done, they brought Constantine up onto the pulpit and stood him upright.  Niketas took the sheet of paper and sent down bishops who took away Constantine’s surplice and anathematized him.  They renamed him Skotiopsis [“of darkened vision”] and expelled him from the church backwards [retroactively?]…”

[then, the next day, they made him ride an ass, disfigured him and then beheaded him]

“…In the same year the misnamed patriarch Niketas scraped off the mosaic-work icons of the small consolatory in the patriarchal residence, and took down those in the building’s great consistory, which were painted on wood.  He painted over the faces of the rest of the icons, and did the same thing in the Abramaion.”

[This is in the context of the iconoclastic struggles of the Empire – Constantine V was an iconoclast.  When the iconophiles “finally” won in the 9th century Constantine was disinterred, and his remains were apparently dumped into the sea.]


“…On the following day, the great Sunday of Easter, April 24 of the fourteenth indiction, at daybreak the Emperor and the patriarch went to the hippodrome.  The holy sacrament was brought in while all the people watched; the patriarch [Niketas] performed the prayer while the Emperor crowned his son.”


“Thus the two Emperors went on to the great church with the two Caesars and three nobilissimi.  After the Emperors had gone ahead, the Empress Irene also went; the scholar attended her with the scepters.  She went up through the Bronze Gate’s stairway to the upper gate, although she did not go into the middle of the portico…”

[This is the Slavic patriarch Niketas crowning Constantine VI, as co-Emperor.  The Caesars refers to persons further down the line of succession – a Byzantine innovation]


“…On February 7 (the Sunday of cheese-eating) of the third indiction died the Slavic eunuch Niketas, the patriarch of Constantinople…”


“In this year Irene, because she had made peace with the Arabs, found an opportunity to send a large force under the patrician and logothete of the imperial drone Staurakios against the Sklavinian tribes.  He went to Thessalonike and Greece, subjected them all, and made them tributary to the Empire.  He also entered the Peloponnese, took many prisoners and much booty, and brought it to the Roman Empire.”


“…In March of the seventh indiction Akameros (the ruler of the Sklavinoi of Belzetia), spurred on by the trips of the theme of Hellas, wanted to bring forth the sons of Constantine and choose one of them Emperor.  When the Empress Irene learned this, she sent to the patrician Constantine Serantopekhos his son the spatharios Theophylaktos, who was also her nephew.  She blinded all her opponents and broke up the plot against her.”


“In this year, after his disgusting withdrawal, Nikephoros aimed at humbling the army in every way.  He removed Christians of every theme from their homes, compelling them to sell their property and come to the Sklavinias.  This deed was nothing less than a taking of prisoners, and many blasphemers and evildoers senselessly asked for directions to the Sklavinias.  others mourned around their ancestral graves and blessed the dead.  There were even those who hanged themselves to deliver themlseves tom their dire straits, for seeing destroyed the property which had been acquired by their ancestors’ labor, they could not bear the additional harsh move.  All sorts of hardships befell everyone: the poor in these ways and those mentioned next, while those who had an abundance suffered with them but could not help, as they were attaining worse misfortunes.  These measures were initiated in September and completed around holy Easter…”


“…Krum [Bulgarian khan] cut off Nikephoros’ head and hung it on a pole for a number of days, as a display for the tribes coming to him and for our disgrace.  Then he took it, bared the bone, coated it with silver on the outside and, while boasting over himself, made the Sklavinians‘ leaders drink from it…”

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February 12, 2016

The Universal History of Theophylact Simocatta

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Theophylact Simocatta penned his chronicle (the Universal History) sometime about 630.  The chronicle’s main focus is on the reign of the Emperor Maurice although it goes into the reign of Heraclius as well.  These excerpts come from the Michael and Mary Whitby translation.  It is not the clearest translation one could have hoped for as it retains much of Theophyllact’s curious verbiage although such choice is the translator’s prerogative, of course.  We describe the portions of the chronicle describing Slavs, Antes as well as Slavic leaders.   This is the source for such Slav names as Ardagastus, Musocius and Peiragastus.  (In case it isn’t clear yet, you will note that Theophylact liked the general Priscus but did not like Peter, the Emperor Maurice’s brother (or the Emperor Maurice)).


(As a curiosity, Theophylact’s letters were printed in 1509 in Cracow in an edition by Copernicus which was the only book that Copernicus published himself).

Book 1

[year 584] For the Avars let loose the nation of the Sclavenes, who ravaged ver many areas of the Roman territory, suddenly invaded like lightning as far as the Walls named Long, and wrought great slaughter on their captives.  Wherefore, in fear, the emperor both garrisoned the Long Walls and led out from the city his personal body of soldiers, instantly devising a most distinguished defense, as it were, around the city.”

“Then indeed, then Comentiolus was entrusted with a not insignificant command; he moved into Thrace, drove back the hordes of the Sclavenes, reached the river Erginia, as it is named, suddenly confronted the Sclavenes, boldly attacked, and improvised great destruction for the barbarians.  It was for this reason that he was again appointed general by the emperor and sent out, adorned with Roman titles and bearing the military hour of command called by Romans praesentalis.  Next, when the summer [585] came around, hue collected the Roman forces, moved to Adrianopolis, and encountered Ardagastus, who had in train great hordes of Sclavenes with a most distinguished hail prisoners and splendid booty.  After passing the night, at daybreak he approached the fort of Ansinon and courageously engaged the barbarians.  The enemy backed off, were thrust into flight, and were driven right out of the Astike [Thracian plains], while the Roman success raised a bright day for the prisoners.  The general sang a victory hymn and set up a trophy.”

“At the beginning of autumn [586], the barbarians again dissolved the agreement and openly abased the compact.  I will reveal the cause and not deny it.”

“When spring arrived [of 589] and provided the earth with a gentle, happy aspect, the customary distribution of gold was dispatched to the soldiery by the emperor.  The war between Romans and Persians was flourishing and restive.  As for the Getae, that is to say the hords of Sclavenes, they were fiercely ravavgin the regions of Thrace; the Medes encountered the Roman generals and were squandered in slaughter; the elder Rome withstood the incursions of the Lombards…”

Book 6

“On the following day, three men, Sclavenes by race, who were not wearing any iron or military equipment, were captured by the emperor’s [Heraclius’] bodyguards.  Lyres [or, perhaps, the Slavic gusle] were their baggage, and they were not carrying anything else at all; and so the emperor enquired what was their nation, where was their allotted abode, and the cause of their presence in the Roman [i.e., Byzantine] lands.  They replied that they were Sclavenes by nation and that they lived at the boundary of the western ocean,* the kagan had dispatched ambassadors to their parts to levy a military force ad had lavished many gifts on their nation’s rulers; and so they accepted the gifts but refused him the alliance, asserting that the length of the journey daunted them, while they sent back to the kagan for the purpose of making a defence these same men who had been captured;  they had completed the journey in fifteen months; but the kagan had forgotten the law of ambassadors and had decreed a ban on their return; since they had heard that the Roman nation was much the most famous, as far as can be told, for wealth and clemency, they had exploited the opportunity and retired to Thrace; they carried lyres [or gusle?] since it was not their practice to gird weapons on their bodies, because their country was ignorant of iron and thereby provided them with a peaceful and trouble free life; they made music on lyres because they did no know how to sound forth on trumpets.  For they would quite reasonably say that for those who had no knowledge of warfare, musical pursuits were uncultivated, as it were.  And so, as a result of their words, the emperor marveled at their tribe and judged that those same barbarians who had encountered him were worthy of hospitality; in amazement at the size of their bodies and the nobility of their limbs, he sent these men under escort to Heraclea.”

* The “western ocean” meant the Atlantic – if so, then these Slavs would have been presumably from the neighborhood of Kiel or… perhaps Utrecht (!?).

[588?] The Chagan demanded from the Caesar that the agreement receive a supplement; but, when the emperor did not grant to the barbarian’s words their objective of a hearing, he at once received war in return.  Therefore the Chagan ordered the Sclavenes to construct large numbers of boats so that he could control the crossing of the Ister.  The inhabitants of Singidunum ravaged the Sclavenes‘ labours by sudden attacks, and consigned to flames their nautical enterprises.  It was for this reason that the barbarians besieged Singidunum; the city reached the extremity of disaster and had feeble hopes of salvation.  But on the seventh day the Chagan ordered the barbarians to abandon the siege and to come to him.  When the barbarians became cognizant of this, they left the city carrying off two thousand gold darics, a gold-inlaid table, and clothing.  Threfore the Chagan moved five phrasings, camped at Sirmium, and organized borders of Sclavenes in timber operations, so that he could cross the river Saos [Sava], as it is called, by boat.”

“… [593?] And so, at the beginning of autumn, the general broke camp and came to Byzantium, while the disbanded Romans streamed into Thrace and found subsistence in the villages.  At the start of spring, the general was sent by the emperor to the Ister so that the Sclavene races, by being prevented from crossing the river, might unwillingly provide security for Thrace: for the emperor told Priscus that the barbarians would not remain quite unless the Romans kept a very strict guard on the Ister.  And so Priscus took charge of the cavalry force, while Gentzon was ordered by the emperor to comannd the infantry troops.  Thus, in the middle of spring, the Romans assembled near Heracleia.”

“…Then, after the termination of this speech, although the force was distressed by the address, Priscus granted pardon to boldness and forgiveness to barbarian words.  Therefore, he offered no rebuttal to rashness, but declared that he was undertaking war against the Sclavenes, for the agreement and truce with the Avars had not in fact conclude the Getic [Slav] war as well.  On the twelfth day the general constructed ships and crossed the river [Danube].  On hearing that Ardagastus was sending the Sclavene hordes abroad to obtain booty, he delivered his attack in the middle of the night.  And so Ardagastus, bidding farewell to the visions of dreams and brought round from sleep by the increasing clamor, mounted an unsaddled mare and made his flight.  Now the barbarian fell in with Romans and, dismounting from the mare, engaged in hand-to-hand fighting.  But when he could not withstand the might of opposition, he took to flight across some rough country; so, as a result, Ardagastus had the advantage in moving since he had a physique that was accustomed to this.  Less favorable fortune came upon him, and the barbarian fell over the stump of a huge tree; hence he would have been for his pursuers an earnestly desired prey, if a river had not been his salvation, for he swam across and escaped from danger.  And so the Romans made Sclavene hordes a feast for the sword, and ravaged Ardagastus‘ territory; they put their captives in wooden fetters and sent them to Byzantium.”

“…And so Tatimer began the journey to Byzantium, but on the sixth day he encountered Sclavenes and came into unexpected danger.  For at midday, while he was encamped carelessly and at ease, and the horses were grazing the grass, the barbarians attacked.  Whereupon a cry was raised, the Romans made a stand without their horses, and Tatimer rushed forward with a few men; on his coming close to the barbarians, great disaster befell him for being unable to endure a fight at close quarters, he had trend to flight when he was struck by untimely missiles, and with difficulty escaped the peril.  So, when the Roman infantry had come up and saved Tatimer, thereafter they undertook battle against the Sclavenes.  Then, after a fierce fight, the Romans overcame the Sclavenes, wrought great slaughter, captured fifty barbarians, and returned to their camp having preserved Roman booty from the Sclavenes.  And so Tatimer, his body more or less healed, reached Byzantium and broughtt with him a most distinguished booty; accordingly, the emperor was delighted at these occurrences, and kept vigil at the city’s greets shrine of God; then with the populace he made prayers of supplication, and asked the Divinity to grant more glorious trophies.”

“The commander Priscus ordered men to move ahead on reconnaissance.  On the second day he did not detect enemy in the area; therefore he commanded Alexander to march at dawn into the region beyond the river Helibacia.  And so Alexander crossed the adjacent river and encountered Sclavenes.  But the barbarians, on beholding enemies in sight , made their escape to the nearby marshes and the savage/swampy woodland, while the Romans tried to catch them.  But when they reached the mire, they fell into overwhelming difficulty, and the whole contingent would have perished if Alexander had not quickly extricated the Romans from the swamp.  And so the brigadier Alexander encircled the place and tried to consign the barbarians to fire, but the flame languished and grew feeble because of the damp conditions, and Alexander’s attack was inglorious.”

“Now there was with the barbarians a Gepid, who had once long before been of the Christian religion.  This man deserted to the Romans and also pointed out the means of entry.  And so the Romans gained control of the entrances and overcame the barbarians.  Alexander enquired by interrogation what was the captives’ race; but the barbarians, since they had fallen into mortal desperation, declared that they welcomed tortures, disposing the agonies of the lash about the body as if it were another’s.  But the Gepid described everything and revealed events in detail, saying that the prisoners were subjects of Musocius, who was called rex in the barbarian tongue, that this Musocius was encamped thirty parsangs away [as per Whitbies, approximately 112 miles], that he had sent out the captives to reconnoiter the Roman force, and that he had also heard about the misfortunes which had recently befallen Ardagastus.  He advised there Romans to make a sudden attack and to catch the barbarian by the surprise of their onslaught.  And so Alexander came to Priscus and brought the barbarians, but the commander consigned these to slaughter.  So that barbarian Gepid came before the general, described to Priscus the barbarians’  intentions, and advised Priscus to attack  barbarian; as a pledge of success the Gepid agreed to trick the barbarian.  Then Priscus joyfully accepted the proposal and, lubricating the deserter with splendid gifts and securing him with glorious promises, he sent him to beguile the barbarian.  Therefore the Gepid came to Musocius, and asked to be provided by him with a number of canoes, so that he could ferry across those involved in Ardagastus‘ misfortunes.  And so Musocius, regarding as a go den the plan woven against him by deceit, provided canoes so that the Gepid could save Ardagastus‘ followers.  Then, taking a total of one hundred and fifty skiffs and thirty oarsmen, he came to the other side of the river which the natives call Paspirius [Danube tributary on the north side?].  Priscus, in accordance with the agreement, began his march at dawn.  But the Gepid man eluded the notice of his companions, and in the middle of the night came to the Roman commander; he asked to be given one hundred soldiers, so that he could destroy the barbarian sentries in the jaws of the sword.  Then the general marshaled two underfed men an gave them to the brigadier Alexander.  When the Romans had come near the river Paspirius, the Gepid placed Alexander in hiding.  Accordingly, when night had fallen the barbarians happened to be heavy with sleep and, since they had been drinking, they held fast to their dreams, whereas the Gepid dissimulated so as to destroy the barbarians.  IN the third watch he moved away a short distance, came to the hiding-place, and led Alexander out of the ambush.  And so he directed the Romans to the river Paspirius, exchanged signals, and came to the Babrarians.  Then, since there barbarians were still consorting with sleep, the Gepid gave Alexander the signal by means of Avar songs.  Alexander attacked the barbarians and provided the mortal penalty for sleep.  when  he had gained control of the skiffs, he dispatched messengers to the general to increase the impetus of the attack.  Priscus took three thousand men, divided them between the skiffs, and crossed the river Paspirius.  Next, in the middle of the night, they provided the introduction to their attack.  Now the barbarian was drunk and debilitated by liquor, since on that day there had been a funeral celebration for his departed brother in accordance with their custom.  And so great panic ensued; then the barbarian was taken captive, while the Romans revealed in a night of bloodshed.  As day grew bright, the general put a stop to the slaughter; at the third hour the general ferried across his equipment and forces.  Then the Romans grew over-confident at events and inclined towards high living; subsequently they were sewed up in liquor and, adulterating their success with drunkenness, they disregarded sentry-duty, which Romans are accustomed to call sculca in their ancestral tongue.  And so the vanquished assembled and measured out a return attack for the Romans, and the repayment would have been harsher than the success, if Gentzon had not deployed the infantry forces and been victorious in battle.  At dawn Priscus impaled the officers of the watch, and in addition severely flogged some of the soldiery.”

“The emperor sent Tatimer back to the commander carrying royal missives; the missives required the Romans to pass the winter season where they were.  Then, after Tatimer had arrived and the royal utterances became known the army was kindled by commontion.  Then the Roman troops rejected the emperor’s words and mutinied in an attempt to pass the cold season at home: for they refused to encamp in barbarian territory, since they claimed that the cold weather was insupportable and the hordes of barbarians irresistible.  But the general mitigated the army’s insubordination with regulating persuasion; when the forces became obedient, the Roman commander broke camp in barbarian territory.*”

* The Whitbies note here: “This accords with the recommendations of [Maurice’s in his Strategicon]; the intention was to attack the Slavs when the forests offered less protection for ambushes, the snows would reveal the tracks of fleeing men, and the frozen rivers could be crossed more easily by the Romans.” They also note that similar tactics were used against the Lithuanians citing Christiansen’s “Northern Crusades.”


“… But the emperor dismissed the commander and made his brother [the emperor Maurice’s brother], whose name was Peter, leader of the Roman forces.  Now Priscus had not yet learned of this.  Therefore he took his forces and crossed the river because the troops angrily refused to delay in barbarian territory, since they feared that the barbarians might perhaps attack suddenly and carry off the booty.  But the CHagan was greatly amazed when he heard of the Romans’ departure, and he next dispatched messengers to Prsicus in his eagerness to discover the cause of the retreat.  And so Priscus deceived the Chagan with the most plausible arguments possible.  But after there days it was reported to Pruscus that the Chagan was about to undertake an attack on the Roman forces, and that he had ordered the Sclavene hordes to cross the Ister: for he was in fact indignant and annoyed by the extensive successes of the Roman forces.  Now Targitius and the barbarian elite urged the Chagan to put an end to the war, for they said that his indignation against the Romans was unjustified.  Then Priscus magnanimously dispatched to the Chagan an ambassador, whose name was Theodore, a man clever and shrewd by nature, a doctor by profession and a free man in speech,.  This powerful man came to the Chagan.  And so the barbarian became over-confident at what had befallen him and swaggered exceedingly, declaring that he was master of every nation and that there existed no one, even as far as the sun extended its gaze, who would be able to confront him.  For this reason the ambassador, whose grasp of history was great, humbled the barbarian bombast with precedents.  (It is not inconsequent to tell the history as well.)  For he said, ‘Listen Chagan, to an ancient and very wise tale.  And when the opening had made the barbarian attentive e instruction, the narration of the history received no hindrance.”

[there follows the story of Sesotris the Egyptian ruler]

“And so the Chagan, in amazement at the man’s good sense, reproved his arrogance, checked his boldness, and rearranged matters into a peaceful state.  Accordingly, after being silent for many hours he said to Theodore: ‘I know how to master even a swollen spirit, I know ho to keep even wrath in line, although there is occasion for grievance.  Theodore, I have made peace with PRiscus, but let him too be a just friend to me.  Let not the Chagan remain without due share of the booty.   He has attacked my land and wrought injury on my subjects. [The Whitbies note here: “This is strictly untrue, since the Slavs on the lower Danube were not Avar subjects”]  Let the results of success be shared.’  On these terms he bestowed favours and sent Theodore to Priscus.  And so Theodore reached Prsicus and recounted to him the barbarian’s words, but PRiscus convened an assembly on the next day and recommended the Romans to make the barbarian too a partner int he spoils.  But the Romans for a time did not accommodate themselves to expediency, and rebelled against the general.  But with the aid of many subtle and unexceptionable arguments, the general persuaded the forces to give the barbican some of the booty.  Then the Romans handed over the barbarian captives to the Chagan, and settled the dispute, although they left him without a share of the other spoils.  Then the Chagan was pleased by the return of the barbarians and gave ground at the crossings.*   And so the Romans, after thus voluntarily ceding five thousand barbarians to the Chagan, came to Drizipera; the general reached Byzantium.  Acordingly Maurice reproached Priscus and imputed errors of simplicity to him, since he had foolishly surrendered the booty to the barbarians.”

*  The Whitbies state that Theophylact is unclear here.  “The Romans had already retreated to the south of the river, so that the Chagan could not hav been blocking their retreat at the river crossings until he was persuaded by the return of the captives to give ground.  It is possible tha the Chagan, who had encouraged the Slavs to cross the Danube, now withdrew them from the crossing points.  The sense would be simpler if the CHagan ‘gave pardon for the crossings’, since the return of the prisoners had been intended to soothe his anger, so that he would excuse Roman aggression against the Slavs.  But Theophylact himself was probably unclear about exactly what was happening, and so we have retained the text without emendation.”

Book 7

[594] “And so Priscus was thus demoted while Peter, who was in fact Maurice’s own brother, was proclaimed as commander by the emperor. Then Maurice inscribed royal letters, delivered these to the general, prepared for him to depart from the city, and ordered him to go to the camp. Now, one clause of the royal letters dealt with military pay; the clause proposed that payment would be organized in three parts, by clothing, equipment, and gold coin. Then the general departed from Perinthus and came to Drizipera, and leaving Drizipera he reached Odessus. And so the camp gave the commander a most distinguished welcome on his arrival at Odessus, but on the fourth day the commander attempted to publicize to the troops the royal dispatches. And so the troops contemplated agitation, for they had previously heard the royal command. Then, after the general had hurriedly arranged a united assembly of the forces and had made the congregation listen to the emperor’s utterances, the army shied away and, abandoning the general in disgrace, they pitched camp in uproar four miles away. But Peter, being faced by revolt, concealed the more irksome parts of the royal commands; he also had to hand one of the royal ordinances which would be beneficial to the warring masses, and demanded that this be publicly proclaimed to the Roman troops. And so the Romans assembled and reviled Maurice, but the commander intelligently and persuasively soothed the wrath of the camp and publicized to the men-at-arms the more pleasing of the emperor’s letters. They contained the following generous provisions: that Romans who had acted heroically and encountered some misfortune as a result of courage in danger should thereafter receive a respite, that these demobilized soldiers in the cities should be fed at imperial expense, and that servicemen’s children who had lost their fathers in war should be enrolled for war in place of their parents. Accordingly, when he had put these proposals to the army from a lofty rostrum, he converted them, and persuasively reduced them to submission; hence their folly was also altered, and each reverted to goodwill towards the emperor Maurice. Accordingly the Caesar was praised, being released from their recent slanders: for the masses are unstable and have never adopted a fixed position, but are transformed randomly and fortuitously by incidental pronouncements.”

“And so the general was thus reconciled with the camp regarding their grievances.  On the fourth day, after he had acquainted the emperor with the mutiny of the forces, he set out from Odessus [Varna] and moved towards the regions on his left; on reaching Marcianopolis he ordered one thousand men to advance beyond the camp.  These, therefore, encountered six hundred Sclavenes who were escorting a great haul of Romans, for they had ravaged Zaldapa, Aquis, and Scopi, and were herding back these unfortunates as plunder; a large number of wagons held the possessions they had looted.  When the barbarians observe the Romans approaching, and were then likewise observed, they turned to the slaughter of the captives.  Then the adult males captives from youth upwards were killed.  Since the barbarians could not avoid an encounter, they collected the wagons and placed them round as a barricade, depositing the women and youth in the middle of the defense.  The Romans drew near to the Getae (for thus us the older name for the barbarians), but did not dare to come to grips, since they were afraid of he javelins which the barbarians were sending from the barricade against their horses.  Then their captain, whose name was Alexander, commanded the Romans in the ancestral Roman language [Latin] to dismount from their horses and grasp the enemy danger at close quarter.  Now the Romans dismounted from their horses, approached the barricade, and gave and received in turn discharges of missiles.  Accordingly, while the battle persisted on either side, a certain Roman burst in, went up and climbed on to one of the wagons that formed part of the barricade protecting the barbarians; then, standing on it he struck those nearby with his sword.  Then an indivertible peril came upon the barbarians, for thereafter the Romans broke the barbarians’ barricade.  The barbarians renounced salvation and slaughtered the remaining portion of the captives, but the Romans resolutely attacked and with difficulty, at long last, slaughtered the barbarians by the barricade.  On the second day the victors recounted these occurrences to the general.  On the fifth day the general came to this place; when indeed he had seen the accomplishments of the advance guard, he rewarded the heroes with gifts.”

“On the following day, Peter came to a thick grove in search of hunting; now there was an enormous boar lurking deep in this vale and, as the barking of he dogs grew loin, the beast reaised himself from his lair and made for Peter.  The general wheeled his horse in flight, but crushed his left foot by dashing it against a lofty tree.  Accordingly, Peter was convulsed by unendurable pains and remained in the place, most grievously stricken by his accident.  But the Caesar was angered by the general’s delay, and in astonishment at his military inactivity he addressed written insults to the general.  Then Peter did not tolerate the emperor’s epistolary denigration, and moved camp although he was still sorely oppressed by his affliction; after four changes of camp, he reached there habitations of the Sclavenes.  On the tenth day the emperor Maurice dispatched to his brother a royal letter to remain in Thrace, for Maurice had heard that the Sclavene hordes were directing their thrusts towards Byzantium.  Consequently, the general came to the fort of Pistus [Ruse], and subsequently arrived at Zaldapa [Abrit].  On the second day he reached the city of Iatrus [on the east bank of the Yantra river], and next, after marching past the fort of Latarkium, encamped at Noviae [Svistov].  Then, when the inhabitants heard of the general’s imminent arrival, they came out of the city, provided him with a most distinguished reception and begged Peter to join the celebration for the festival of the martyr Lupus:  for that day was the festal eve feast for the martyr Lupus.  And so the general said that here was unable to spend the day in the place because of the urgency of his march, but the citizens amplified their request with superabundant pleas, and compelled the general to take part in the festival.  And so Peter, after being two days in the city, set out from there and pitched camp at Theodoropolis, at the first hour he reached the place called Curisca.”

[there follows Peter’s stay at Assemus where Peter tried to “enlist” the local garrison which ended up hiding in a church]

“On the third day he established his quarters at the city of Asemus. But when the inhabitants of the city had learned that the general was expected, they came out of the city to meet Peter, and made his arrival at the city splendid. From bygone times a garrison had been organized in this city for the protection of the citizens, since the barbarians swooped down like lightning around this city quite frequently. Accordingly, when the garrison stationed in this city learned that the general was about to arrive, they took up the standards, which Romans call bands, and went out of the city; then, arrayed in armour, they welcomed the general most gloriously. And so Peter, on seeing the magnificence of the city’s soldiers, attempted to remove them from the city and include them amongst his own forces. And so the citizens and the city’s garrison produced a decree of the emperor Justin which granted the city this successive armed protection. On the morrow the commander made objection and hastened to remove from the township those posted for its protection. For this reason the soldiers in the city took refuge in the city’s church. On hearing this, the general ordered the bishop to bring them out of the sanctuary; when the priest angrily refused, the general dispatched the brigadier Gentzon with a body of soldiers to expel by force those who had taken refuge in the church. On hearing this, those. who had fled to the holy seats arrayed themselves in arms and blockaded the church doors from all sides. And so Gentzon, observing the opposition inside the sacred precinct, recognizing the outrageousness of his task, and at the same time respecting the sanctity of the church, departed without success. But the general was infuriated at this, and demoted Gentzon from his command (Gentzon was leader of the infantry force). On the following day he summoned to his own tent one of the emperor’s bodyguards, whom Romans call scribo, and prescribed for him a shameful undertaking: his demand was for the city’s bishop to be dragged in dishonour to the camp. When the citizens had witnessed this, they all assembled together and forcibly thrust out of the city the man dispatched by the general against the priest; after closing the gates in the wall, they hymned the emperor with acclamations and covered the general with insults. Peter was encamped in a fortified enclosure about a mile from the city. But since his enterprise was disgraceful, he left the city and proceeded to march forwards, escorted by great curses from the city.”

[there follows Peter’s encounter with the Bulgars where he tried to have them killed even though they were protected by the Avar-Byzantine peace as members of the Avar federation – note that Theophyllact does not like Peter, he likes Priscus – that may colour these events]

“On the sixth day, he marshalled one thousand men to recon noitre the enemy, and these encountered ten hundred Bulgars. Now the barbarians were marching off guard, since there was peace between the Romans and the Chagan. But the Romans, on the general’s decision, used their javelins against the barbarians. The Bulgars dispatched ambassadors to negotiate an end to the fight and to advise the Romans not to destroy the peace. The officer of the contingent dispatched the ambassadors to the general, who was eight miles from the spot. Peter, therefore, spurned their peaceful words and instructed the advance guard to put the barbarians to death by the sword forthwith. And so the Bulgars formed up for battle as best they could, came to grips, and after joining combat most heroically, compelled the Romans to turn away in flight. After these events, the barbarians also retreated a short distance, oft turning back as one small step replaced another, to blend a touch of the Homeric poem with our account, since they feared that a supplementary force might perhaps join the vanquished and rally for battle again. And so Peter, since his plan had failed, stripped the clothing from the brigadier of the advance guard and scourged him like a slave. Then the barbarians came to the Chagan and disclosed to him the sequence of events; and so the barbarian dispatched ambassadors to Peter, and reproached him for the apparent breach of the truce. But Peter beguiled the ambassadors with plausible arguments, and alleged ignorance of the misdeed; then, with splendid gifts and a forfeit of booty, he converted the barbarian to good humor.”

“On the fourth day he came to the neighboring river, assembled twenty men, and sent them to cross the river and observe the enemies’ movements.  And so these crossed the river and were all captured.  The manner of their capture was this: it is customary that those detailed for reconnaissance always make their way by night but consort with sleep during the light of day.  These men had completed a long journey on the previous day; then at daybreak, being physically exhausted, they turned to rest in a certain nearby copse.  At about the third hour, when they were all asleep with no one keeping watch, the barbarians approached the copse.  Then the Sclavenes dismounted from their horses, and proceeded to refresh themselves and give their horses some respite.  Accordingly, the Romans were detected by accident.  The poor wretches were taken captive and interrogated to reveal what the Romans had planned; and so, despairing of safety, they recounted everything.  But Peiragastus, who was the tribal leader of that barbarian horde, took his forces, encamped at the river crossings, and concealed himself in the woods like an overlooked bunch of grapes on the vine.  But the general, the emperor’s brother, consequently rejected the idea that enemy were present and ordered the army to cross the river.  Then, after one thousand men had traversed the river, the barbarians slaughtered all of them.  When the general realized this, he pressed the troops not to make the crossing piecemeal, lest by crossing the river gradually they should fall victim to the foe.  Then, after the Roman formation had been organized in this way, the barbarians drew up on the river bank.  And so the Romans let fly at the barbarians from the rafts, while the barbarians, unable to endure the mass of discharged missiles, left he banks deserted.  Then their brigadier, whom the story has already declared tone Peiragastus, was killed; for he was struck in the flank by a missile and death took him in hand, since the blow had reached a vital part.  Therefore, after Peiragastus had fallen, the enemy turned to flight.  Then the Romans became masters of the river bank; next , encircling the barbarian hordes, they forced them into flight with great slaughter, but they were unable to press their pursuit very far because of their lack of horse, and they returned to camp.”

“Then on the following day, the army’s guides made a great error, with the result that a water shortage beset the camp and the misfortunes increased. Then the soldiers, intolerant of the dearth of water, assuaged their thirst with wine. On the third day the trouble intensified, and the whole army would have perished if a certain barbarian prisoner had not pointed out to them the Helibacia river, which was four parasangs distant. And so, thus, in the morning the Romans encountered water: then some inclined their knees forwards, as it were, and gulped down the water with their lips, others stooped down and drew up water in their hands, while others decanted the stream in pitchers. On the opposite side of the river there was a leafy vale; barbarians were lurking therein, and greatest outrage came upon the Romans: for with javelins the barbarians struck the men drawing water. Therefore great slaughter ensued from concealment. Then a choice between two alternatives was necessary, either to refuse the water and relinquish life through thirst, or to draw up death too along with the water. But the Romans assembled rafts and traversed the river so that the enemy might be detected. When the soldiers reached the other side, the barbarians suddenly attacked and overcame the Romans; and so the defeated Romans turned in flight. Then, since Peter had been outfought by the barbarians, Priscus became general; and so, after being demoted from command, Peter came to Byzantium.”

“[598] …On the eight day the senate advised the Caesar to dispatch an embassy to the Chagan, and the emperor summoned Harmaton, appointed him ambassador, and dispatched him to the Chagan.  And so Harmaton came to Drizipera… [and negotiated peace]… The Ister was agreed as intermedium between Romans and Avars, but there was provision for crossing the river against Sclavenes; the peace payments were also increased by an additional twenty thousand gold solidi.  On these precise terms the war between Romans and Avars reached a conclusion.”

Book 8

“…the Chagan (for let us return to events in Europe) had crossed the Ister while returning home because of the peace… Comentiolus collected the army, came to the river Ister, and united with Priscus at Singidunum.  On the fourth day, an assembly of the armies was held, and after Priscus had made a speech the peace between the Avars and Romans was severed: for the emperor Maurice had ordered the generals by a royal command to contravene the treaty.”

“Then, since the peace had been publicly broklen, the Romans came to Viminacium, which is island located in the streams of the Ister… [w]hile the Romans were crossing from the island to the mainland, the Chagan learned of the movements of the Roman camp.  And so the barbarian gathered forces and ravaged Roman land… Then, in a battle [battle one] which took place on the river banks, the Romans overcame the opposing forces… [then Priscus arrives]  And so the Romans laid aside their bows and combated the barbarians at close quarters with their spears [battle 2].  The Avars had equipped their disposition in fifteen companies; the Romans had arranged their disposition in a single conjunction, both from fear about the camp and so as to fight in square formation; hence they provided security for the camp.  The battle continued in progress for many hours; but as the sun sank the battle also sank with it, and this turn of the battle was favourable to the Romans: although three hundred Romans were killed, four thousand of the Avars perished.  So when night had come the Romans returned to the camp.”

“On the third day the barbarian organized another battle.  And so Priscus marshaled his army as well as possible, and in the morning moved to the engagement [battle 3]… Then in such a manner the barbarians were outgeneralled and nine thousand of the opposing enemy force were slain.  As the sun sank the victors returned to the rampart.  On the tenth day the general heard that the barbarian had again arrived for an engagement; when day grew light, he [Priscus] equipped the Romans, drew them in good order and moved to battle [battle 4]… In this battle then, fifteen thousand barbarians were annihilated.  And so the Chagan, who survived at great peril, came to the river Tissus [Tisa]; on the thirtieth day the barbarian assembled a force.  When he took the initiative for a fourth [fourth with Priscus – otherwise, fifth] battle and the Roman general had heard of this, Priscus encamped at the river Tissus.  Accordingly, a day for battle between the two forces was determined…”

“Then the Roman army won this even more glorious crown of victory.  Priscus marshaled four thousand men and ordered those to traverse the Tissus and investigate the enemies’ movements.  And so the men dispatched by the general crossed the nearby river.  Accordingly they encountered three Gepid settlements; the barbarians knew nothing of the previous day’s events, had arranged a drinking session, and were celebrating a local feast.  Then they had entrusted their cares to drink and were passing the night in festivity; but in the twilight, as it is called, when remnants of night still remained, the Romans attacked the drunken barbarians and wrought extensive slaughter.  For thirty thousand barbarians were killed.  After securitng a very large body of captives, they recrossed the river and escorted the booty safely to Priscus.  On the twentieth day the barbarian again assembled forces near this particular river, and for this reason Priscus returned to the vicinity of the river Tissus.  Accordingly, there was in this place a very great and most noteworthy engagement.  And so, on this very day, the barbarians were mightily outfought, so to speak, and they drowned in the streams of the river, and a very great portion of the Sclavenes also perished along with them.  After the defeat the barbarians were taken prisoner: three thousand Avars were captured, a total of six thousand two hundred other barbarians, and eight thousand Sclavenes.  And so the prisoners were thus consigned to chains, while the general dispatched to the city of Tomi the barbarians taken as booty.  But, before the emperor came to know anything of these events, the Chagan sent ambassadors to Maurice in an attempt to regain the captives.  Maurice, being shaken by the barbarian’s threats and deceived by his words, ordered Priscus by courier to give up the captured Avars to the Chagan.  And so the barbarians were thus delivered to the Chagan from Tomi.”*

* “For reasons of safety the captive would haven conveyed dow Danube by boat and not sent overlain d Constantinople.  This explains why the captives had reached Tomi on the Black Sea coast, a location that might otherwise appear surprising, since they had been captured in Pannonia.”

“…In the nineteenth year [600] of the reign of the emperor Maurice there was no action between Romans and barbarians.  In his twentieth year [601], the emperor Maurice appointed his own brother Peter as general in Europe.”*

* According to the Whitbies, these dates do not fit in with the earlier narrative.

“…As summer was hasting on [602], word reached the emperor Maurice that the Chagan was cunningly providing a respite for warfare, so that when the Roman troops were wandering at random, he might in a surprise move assault the vicinity of Byzantium.  Therefore he ordered the general to leave Adrianopolis, and commanded him to make the crossing of the Ister.  And so Peter prepared to move camp against the Sclavene horde, and wrote to Bonosus: this man was a distinguished member of the imperial bodyguard, whom the masses are accustomed to call scribe.  At that time this man was under obligation to assist the general Peter.  The purport of the letter was that he should furnish the Roman ferry-boats for the forces, so that they might cross the river.  Peter appointed Godwin as second-in-command of the army.  Then Godwin crossed the river, destroyed hordes of enemies in the jaws of the sword, secured a large body of captives, and acquired great glory.  And so the Romans tried to return to their own territory across the river, but Godwin for a time prevented them from doing this.  But the Chagan, when he had learned of the Roman incursions, dispatched Apsich with soldiers to destroy the nation of the Antes, which was in fact allied to the Romans.  In the course of these very events, large numbers defected from the Avars and hastened to desert to the emperor.  So the Chagan was thrown into confusion at the news; he became greatly terrified, imploring and devising many schemes to win back the force which had defected.”*

* this may have been because the Slavs refused to fight fellow Slavs (i.e., Antes).


“Then when the autumn season was present, the emperor Maurice insist to Peter that the Roman forces should pass the period of winter int he territory of the Sclavenes; but the Romans were troubled by the emperor’s purpose, both because of the booty itself, and because of the exhaustion of horses, and in addition because hordes of barbarians were surging around the land on the opposite bank of the Ister.  When the general confirmed the command, a serious mutiny arose among the soldiers.  And so with missives Maurice instructed Peter that the Romans should do this, whereas the Romans resisted with intensified refusal.  Wherefore they crossed the river on their march; when this had happened, they reached Palastolon with their spirits intoxicated by extreme rage…”

[for Maurice’s “winter” strategy, see the Strategikon]

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February 12, 2016

Other Mountains of Jassa

Published Post author

Incidentally, that there were other Jesza mountains (and not just our Jassarfjöllum) we know, for example, from the following:


The G.K. refers to Görzer Kreis which is the German name for Gorica (Slovene)/Gorizia (Italian). Wee do not know where “Valzano” should be located.  There is a Bolzano or Bozen in Italy and it probably does have a Slavic origin but it is far from Gorica.  In any event, for the curious here are some maps:



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February 10, 2016

Athleta Christi

Published Post author

The tomb of Boleslaw the Great (aka the Brave) was located in the Poznan cathedral.  This much we know from the Greater Poland Chronicle.  The cathedral itself was upgraded in the then popular “Gothic” style by Casimir the Great in the 14th century.  The first (? see below) mention of an inscription on the upgraded tomb dates to 1422 and is found in a document dealing with the feud between the Teutonic Knights and the King of Poland (it is a witness statement on behalf of the Polish King by one George Merkil, a notary of Poznan).  According to the subsequent testimony of Jan Dlugosz (in the “Lives of Bishops of Poland” or Vitae episcoporum Poloniae), it was Casimir who included this inscription regarding the deeds of his predecessor:

[Casimirus] sarcophagos Regum humiles et solo sequatos, petrosa mole super imposita erexit, delitescentesque umbras, ne in perpetuam residerent oblivionem, vindicatas illustravit, et Posnaniensi ecclesiae vasa aurea et argentes dono data reliquit.”  


The first edition of the text – it was previously thought (again see below) – came from 1490 when Stanislaw Streczaka a Benedictine monk from Tyniec mentioned it in his copy of the Gesta Romanorum (the manuscript was in Lviv where it was apparently destroyed in a fire in 1848).


what is believed to be the actual tomb underneath the Poznan Cathedral

In any event the tomb was moved in the second half of the 18th century and in 1790 was destroyed when a portion of the cathedral tower fell off.  Once the tomb was destroyed (metaphor?) and the Polish state partitioned (over the years 1772-1795), suddenly everyone became interested in what that inscription said.

A number of authors were discussing it (Lubienski, Starowolski, Hartknoch, Zalaszowski, Czacki, Sarnicki, Naruszewicz) before Joachim Lelewel really made a study of it.  Here it is:

“In this grave there rests
a chieftain, a noble dove
You were called Chrobry
may you be eternally blessed
Though from a pagan father,
yet your mother was a believer
Drops of holy water caused
that you became God’s servant
When you hair was cut
it was laid in Rome
From then among conflict
you were Christ’s athlete
You won [many] lands
and made many wars
Distinguished chief
praise to you, stout Boleslaw
Thus the kingdom of Slavs
Goths,* and too of Poles
The Emperor did raise higher
so thou need not be a duke
And [in turn] many gifts you
you gave [him]
You gave to him
[for] riches/wealth you had aplenty
And to give you fame
did Otto give you the crown
For your great deeds
may you find salvation. Amen”


Athleta Christi showing the (old) Prussians the (not yet royal) finger

(Hic iacet in tumba
princeps generosa columba
Chabri tu es dictus

sis in evum benedictus
Perfido patre
tu es, sed credula matre
Fonte sacro lotus
servus Domini puta totus
Precidens comam
septeno tempore, Romam
Tu possedisti
velut verus adleta Cristi
Vicisti terras
faciens bellas quoque guerras
Inclite dux
tibi laus, strenue Boleslaus
Regni Sclavorum
Gottorum sue Polonorum
Cesar precellens
a te ducalia pellens
Plurima dona sibi
que placiere tibi
Hinc detulisti
quia divicias habuisti
Ob famamque bonam
tibi contulit Otto coronam
Propter luctamen
slt tlbl saLVs Amen)

And in Lelewel’s version (with a Polish translation) (note that the lines are differently ordered here):


At the time of Lelewel’s writing the oldest copy was thought to be one from 1490.  Interestingly, older versions appeared later – most recently one that was discovered by Wojciech Mischke (an art historian) and that has been dated to the beginning of the 15th century.  How Mischke discovered it should be a subject of independent study.  The language appears in the Codex HM 1036, of the Huntington Library in San Marino (California not Italy) but “appears” is a bit of a tongue in cheek joke.  It barely appears.  Or rather, it was erased and overwritten with a poem praising Pius II (who was Pope between 1458-1464).  We can only assume that someone who tried to read the remains of the writing understood enough of what it said so as to bring in a Polish medievalist like Mischke for a consult (another mystery). You can see it here (folio 206):


What is interesting, however, too was that there is apparently another writing earlier than the Chrobry inscription that is visible underneath.  Here is the back of that page (folio 205) where you can see it peeking through an Epigram of Martial:

 Other pictures of the manuscript can be found here.


* So what about these Goths?  That Goths conquered the Veneti is evident from Getica itself.  A memory of Goths was preserved all over Eastern Europe (much like Vandals in Central Europe).  Numerous examples abound:

  • Gallus Anonymous speaks of the Sarmatians as Getae – probably meaning the Prussians (The Slavic lands… begin with the Sarmatians who are also known as Getae/Goths)
  • Kadlubek speaks of the Prussians as Getae during the events surrounding the Polish pagan rebellion of the 1030s
  • The Greater Poland Chronicle speaks of the Getae as Russians during the same events
  • The Chronicle of the Priest of Dukla discusses the Goths basically as a variant of Slavs
  • Various Frankish Annals (Borna duke of the Guduscani) refer to certain Slavic tribes in the Balkans as Goths
  • Then you have the above inscription, which probably refers to the Prussians, etc

Here is the Bielowski description in Polish:


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February 8, 2016