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The Alexiad: Book VI

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Norman West : Death of Robert Guiscard : The Turks


I NOW Bryennius was holding Castoria, as told above, so the Emperor who was eager to drive him out and regain possession of the town, called up his whole army again and after fully equipping them with weapons necessary for a siege and also those for engagements in the open he took the road leading to the fort. The situation of the town was as follows: there is a lake called Castoria, into which a promontory runs, which widens out towards the end and terminates in rocky hills. On this neck of land towers and connecting walls were built in the shape of a camp, hence the town's name of Castoria. On arrival the Emperor thought it would be wisest in the first place to made an assault upon the towers and walls with his battering-machines. But as it was impossible to get the soldiers near the walls except from a definite base, he first made a palisaded camp, next built wooden towers and bound them together with iron bands and then from these, as if from a fort, he commenced the battles against the Franks. The siege-engines and catapults he drew up outside the town and then by day and night he fought and broke down part of the walls. However, the besieged resisted most determinedly (they did not surrender even when a breach had been made in the wall) so the Emperor, seeing that he could not achieve his object in that way, conceived a plan which was both daring and clever. It was to put some stout-hearted men into boats and make war from both sides simultaneously, that is, from the land and from the lake. As there were no boats he had some light skiffs loaded on wagons and introduced to the lake by means of the narrow causeway. He had noticed that the Latins who mounted the hills at one side, ascended quickly, whereas those who descended at another point spent a longer time over the descent ; so he put George Palaeologus in the boat with some plucky soldiers and told him to row to the foot [139]of the hills and when he saw the predetermined signals then to mount to the ridge at the back of the enemy and enter the town by the uninhabited and easier road. Afterwards directly he saw that the Emperor had commenced battle with the Latins on the land-side, he himself was to come as quickly as possible, for the Latins would not be able to carry on the fight equally well on two sides, and as soon as it slackened a bit on one side, they would then more easily be defeated on that same side. George Palmologus therefore anchored off the shores below the hill we have mentioned and stood there ready armed ; he posted a look-out above to watch for the signal to be given by the Emperor and told him directly he saw it, to pass on the same to him. As early as daybreak the Emperor's soldiers raised their war cry and hastened to engage the Latins in battle on the land-side. The lookout seeing the prearranged signal, signified it to Palaeologus by another signal, whereupon he and his men immediately rushed up the ridge and joined in the fight. When Bryennius saw the besiegers outside and Palaeologus raging against them inside he did not surrender even then, but called upon the Counts to be bolder in their resistance. But they behaved very shamelessly to him and said, "You see how calamity is piled upon calamity I Each one of us for the future must secure his own safety, some of us by joining the Emperor and others by returning to their own country." Straightway they translated their words into action; they petitioned the Emperor to have one standard posted near the shrine of Saint George (for a church dedicated to this martyr had been built there) and a second by the road to Valona. "Thus," said they, "those of us who wish to serve your Majesty, can gather at the turn of the road leading to the church of the martyr, whilst those who desire to return to their own country can assemble near the other on the road to Valona." And with these words they immediately deserted to the Emperor. But Bryennius, being a brave man, absolutely refused to go over to the Emperor, but took an oath never to take up arms against him again, on condition that the Emperor gave him safe conduct to the frontiers of the Roman Empire and there set him free to go to his country. The Emperor at once granted him his request and himself took the road for Byzantium crowned with victory.

II Here I must interrupt the thread of the story a while to relate how the Emperor suppressed the Paulicians. He could not bear the thought of entering the capital without [140] having first subdued these rebels, but as though presiding over a second victory after a first, he caused the mass of the Manichaeans to complete the cycle of his achievements. For it was not even right to allow those descendants of the Paulicians to be a blemish, as it were, on the brilliant trophy of his western victories. He did not wish to effect this by warfare, as in the clash of battle many lives on either side would be sacrificed, further he knew from of old that these men were very spirited and breathed defiance against their enemies. For this reason he was eager only to punish the ringleaders, and to incorporate the rest in the body of his army. Hence he proceeded against them adroitly. He knew those men's love of danger and irrepressible courage in battle and therefore feared that, if they became desperate, they would commit some terrible outrage; and for the moment they were living quietly in their own country and so far had abstained from raids and other forms of devastation; therefore on his way back to Byzantium he asked them by letter to come and meet him and made them many promises. But the Manichaeans had heard of his victory over the Franks and naturally suspected that those letters were misleading them by fair promises; nevertheless, though reluctant, they set out to meet him. Alexius halted close to Mosynopolis, pretending that he was waiting for other reasons, but in reality he was only awaiting their arrival. When they came he pretended that he wished to review them and write down each individual's name. So he presided with a grim face and commanded the chiefs of the Manichaeans not to ride past promiscuously but in parties of ten, promising a general review shortly, and then when their names had been inscribed, to enter the gates in that order. The men whose duty it was to take them captive were all ready and after taking away their horses and weapons, locked up the chiefs in the prisons assigned them. Those who came after were in complete ignorance of these doings and therefore entered the town little knowing the fate awaiting them. In this manner then he captured them, and their property he confiscated and distributed among the brave soldiers who had shared in the battles and dangers that had befallen him. The official who undertook this distribution went to Philippopolis and drove even the women from their homes and incarcerated them in the citadel. Within a short time the Emperor took pity on the imprisoned Manichaeans, and those who desired Christian baptism were not refused even this boon. So [141] having overreached them by every kind of device he discovered the authors of this terrible madness, and these he banished and imprisoned in islands. The rest he released and gave them permission to go whithersoever they wished. And they, preferring their mother country to any other, hastened back to it to put their affairs into what order they could.

III Alexius then returned to the Queen of Cities. The mutterings against him in the highways and byways (about his appropriation of Church-treasures) did not escape his notice, and the hearing of them wounded his soul because the number of backbiters railing against him had increased greatly although he had not committed any serious offence. For in a time of dire need and world-upheaval and because of the emptiness of the royal treasury he had recourse to that measure and regarded it as a loan, and most assuredly not as robbery, nor was it the plot of a tyrannical master as his slanderers asserted. Further, he intended after the successful termination of the wars he had on hand, to restore to the churches the ornaments he had taken. So on his return to the Queen-City he could not endure being made the subject of discussion by those who wished to disparage his methods. On this account he summoned the church to a very large conference in the palace of Blachernae before which he would first present himself as defendant, and as such make his defence. The whole senate was present with the military and all the clergy wondering what this immense gathering was for. The fact was that it was nothing but an enquiry into the rumours which were being bruited about against the Emperor. The priors of the monasteries were present and before them were set up their books (these are generally called 'brevia') in which lists were written of the treasures in each church. In appearance the Emperor, seated on his royal throne, was the judge, but in reality he was about to be examined. First the gifts bequeathed to the holy houses in former times by various donors were read out and then the things that had been taken away later or even by the reigning Emperor. And when it appeared that nothing else had been taken away except the gold and silver ornaments which lay on the tomb of the Queen Zo6 and a few other vessels of no great use for the sacred services, the Emperor openly proclaimed himself as the culprit, and as judge anybody who liked. And after a little while changing the tone of his speech, he continued, "I found the Empire surrounded on all [142] sides by barbarians and absolutely deficient in resources for opposing these enemies who were pressing hard upon her; you know in how many dangers I was involved and only narrowly escaped being slain by a barbarian's sword. And verily the foes who attacked us from either side were many times more numerous than we. You axe not ignorant of the incursions of the Persians nor of the raids of the Scythians, and you have not forgotten the spears from Lombardy that were whetted against us. But the money had disappeared together with the arms, and the circle of our rule had been contracted to an indivisible centre. How the whole army has grown, been thoroughly trained, collected from all parts and welded into one, you know; and that all these things require much money, you all know, and also that what I took was spent usefully after the example of the famous Pericles and for the preservation of our honour. But, if to the censorious among you we appear to have offended against the canons, that is not surprising. For we read that the prophet among kings, David, when reduced to the same need, ate the holy bread with his soldiers, and this, though it was not lawful for a layman to touch the food reserved for the priests. And besides this we learn from the sacred canons that on several occasions holy things were allowed to be sold for the ransom of prisoners of war. If then, when our country was enslaved, when the cities, and even Constantinople itself, were in danger of being captured-if then under this frightful compulsion I laid hands on just a few things which did not at all partake of the dignity of sacred things and used them for our liberation, then, I aver, I have given my detractors no just cause of accusation." With these words he changed his manner of speech, proclaimed himself guilty and himself condemned himself. Then he ordered the guardians of the 'brevia' to unroll them again with the object of making a clear statement of what had been taken. And he immediately awarded a fairly large sum of gold to the Chapter of the Church of the Antiphonetes to be paid yearly by the trustees of the public fund; and this payment has remained unchanged to this day; for the tomb of the Empress aforementioned was there. And to the church in Chalcoprateia, he allotted an annual sum of gold from the royal treasury sufficient to pay the regular choristers of that church dedicated to the Virgin.

IV At the same time a plot against the Emperor was discovered, organized by the leaders of the senate and the chief officers in the army, and it was divulged to the Emperor. [143] The accusers were confronted with the instigators of the plot and denounced them. Thus their conspiracy was revealed and the legal penalty awaiting them for this offence was heavy, but the Emperor did not wish to impose this punishment upon them, but decreed confiscation of their goods and exile against the ringleaders and to this extent only did he take vengeance for this plot. Now I must return to the point in my history where I broke off.

When Alexius was raised to the rank of Domestic by Nicephorus, Botaniates, he took a certain Travlos, a Manichaean into his staff of intimate servants and after he had honoured him with Christian baptism, he married him to one of the Empress' maidservants. Now this man had four sisters and when he heard of their being driven from their homes with all the other women and imprisoned, and deprived of all their belongings, he was indignant and could not bear it, but began to consider how he could free himself from the Emperor's power. His wife got to know this and seeing her husband ready to run away she revealed the matter to the man entrusted with the supervision of the Manichaeans. This fact did not escape Travlos and so one evening he sent for all those whom he had made participators of his secret to come to him. All his kinsmen rallied round him and they took possession of Beliatoba ; this is a little town situated on the top of the hill which overlooks the valley below Beliatoba. Finding this deserted, they looked upon it as their own property and fixed their dwellings there, then they made daily sallies from it, sometimes even as far as their own town, Philippopolis, and returned laden with much booty. But Travlos, not satisfied with this, made a treaty with the Scythians who dwelt by the Danube, and won over the chieftains round Glabinitza and Dristra and the neighbouring districts, and at the same time betrothed himself to the daughter of one of the leading Scythians ; this he did because he desired with all his might to vex the Emperor by an inroad of the Scythians. The Emperor received daily news of his doings and with an eye to the future, he did his best to reconcile him by letters and promises as he suspected the evil that would be wrought by him Nay, he even issued and sent him a Golden Bull guaranteeing him security and perfect freedom. However, 'a crab never learns to run straight' ; so Travlos remained the same man as before, continuing to seek the friendship of the Scythians, to send for more from their own countries, and to lay waste all the surrounding regions.


V When the Emperor had settled this matter of the Manichaeans as a secondary business, he secured their allegiance by a treaty

Bohemund, meanwhile (for we must return to him now), was still lingering in Valona; when he received the news concerning Bryermius and the other Counts, and heard that some had preferred to serve the Emperor, and the others had dispersed in different directions, he sought his mother country, crossed to Lombardy and found his father at Salernum, as already said, and by inveighing bitterly against the Emperor, aroused his father's ire against him. When Robert saw him with disastrous tidings plainly written on his face, and realized that the great hopes be had placed in him had fallen ' wrong side up like a shell,' he stood dazed for some time, as if struck by lightning. After enquiring about everything and finding that all had happened contrary to his expectations, he was overcome by dejection. Yet even at this crisis he did not meditate anything ignoble or unworthy of his personal bravery and daring; but was rather stirred up all the more to fight, and anxieties and cares, heavier than the former ones, oppressed him. For the man was a firm upholder of his own designs and conceptions and would never willingly give up anything he had once planned-in a word ' he was undaunted and thought he ought to be able to accomplish everything at the first attempt. So he soon composed himself and on recovering from his deep despondency he sent messengers in every direction to announce that he was crossing again to Illyria to fight against the Emperor, and summoned all his friends. In a short time a multitude of soldiers assembled from all parts, both horse- and foot-, all splendidly equipped and eager for action. Homer would have described this multitude 'as being like tribes of swarming bees.' And they flocked together from distant towns just as much as from nearer ones. Thus Robert made great preparations in order to avenge his son's defeat, and finally sent for his other sons, Roger and another called Gidus.[*=Guido] (The Emperor Alexius wanted to make this son secede from his father, and had sent to him secretly with an offer of marriage and promises of high preferment and an extravagant sum of money; Gidus had lent a willing ear, but so far had kept the matter to himself.) To these two sons Robert entrusted all the cavalry and dispatched them with orders to take Valona speedily; they crossed and did this at once. [145] Then they left a small number of soldiers as garrison in Valona, marched on with the rest, reached Buthrotum and took this too at the first assault. Robert on his side took his entire fleet, and sailed along the coast opposite Buthrotum, and reached Brindisi with the intention of crossing to Illyria. But when he found out that the strait was narrower at Hydrunturn he crossed from that port to Valona. Then with his whole fleet he coasted along from Valona to Buthrotum and was reunited with his sons. As Corfu, which he had conquered before, had revolted again, he left his sons in Buthrotum and sailed for Corfu himself with his whole fleet. So much for Robert - the Emperor when he received the tidings, did not lose heart at all but began preparations for renewing the war against Robert and urged the Venetians by letter to furnish a large fleet, promising them they should have their expenses paid many times over. He himself equipped biremes and triremes and all manner of piratical vessels and sent them out against Robert with hoplites on board skilled in naval warfare. When Robert heard of the arrival of the fleets he, as was his nature, wanted to force on an engagement, so loosed cable and entered the port of Cassope with his whole fleet. The Venetians had anchored in the harbour of Pasaxi and stayed there a little and on hearing of Robert's arrival, they too quickly made for the port of Cassope. A fierce engagement ensued and a fight at close quarters in which Robert was defeated. But fond of war as he was, and ever lusting for a fight, he would not give in after defeat, but got ready for a second battle and that a more serious one. This the admirals of both the fleets learnt and, emboldened by their recent success, attacked him again on the third day and gained a brilliant victory over him, and after it sailed back to the harbour of Pasari. Then, as so often happens in such cases, they were either overelated by their previously gained victories or they thought they had driven the vanquished to despair, and consequently relaxed as if they had completed their task, and held Robert in contempt. For they detached all the quick-sailing ships and sent them to Venice to carry the news of Robert's complete defeat. Whenen Robert heard of this from a certain Venetian, Peter Contarinus by name, who had lately deserted to him, he fell into deep despondency and found life scarcely tolerable. He soon, however, thought better of it and recovering his spirits again attacked the Venetians. These were panic-stricken by his unexpected arrival; they at once [147] bound together their larger vessels with ropes in the neighbourhood of the harbour of Corfu, and having thus constructed what is called an 'open sea harbour ' they drove the smaller vessels into it; then armed and awaited his coming. When he came, the battle began, and it was a terrible one and fiercer than the two former for the men fought more madly than before. So the battle waxed fiery; and neither side would yield, but on the contrary fought face to face. The Venetians had previously consumed all their provisions and consequently the boats were empty but for the soldiers; so the boats, owing to their lightness, floated about as if upheld by the surface of the water, which did not come up even to the second stripe; the soldiers rushed in a mass to the side of the ships facing the foe, and so were drowned; they numbered about thirteen thousand. The other ships were taken, crews and all. After this signal victory Robert in a fit of harshness treated many of the prisoners most cruelly, for he had the eyes of some gouged out, the noses of others cut off, and some he deprived of their hands and feet, or both. About the rest he sent word to their fellow-countrymen that whoever wanted to ransom a friend for a price might come without fear. At the same time he asked whether they wished for peace; and this is the answer they sent: "Know, Duke Robert, that even if we were to see our women and children slaughtered by you, we should not renounce our allegiance to the Emperor Alexius, and certainly we shall never cease succouring him and fighting bravely for him." After a short lapse of time the Venetians equipped some 'dromones' and triremes and various other small, quick-sailing craft and advanced against Robert with a stronger force. And when they found him stationed at Buthrotum they joined battle with him and gained a great victory over him, killing many and drowning more; and they very nearly captured his legitimate son, Gidus, and his wife. Then they sent word to the Emperor of the brilliant victory they had gained over Robert. He paid their services by liberal gifts and preferments, and honoured the Doge of Venice with the title of ' Protosebastos ' with the salary attached, and on the Patriarch he bestowed the title 'Hypertimius ' with its corresponding salary. Moreover he decreed that a large sum of gold should be apportioned yearly to all the churches in Venice from the royal treasury, and to the church named after the evangelist and apostle Mark he made all the shopkeepers in Constantinople, who were natives of Amalfi, pay [147] tribute. He also gave the Venetians all the wharfs running from the old Hebraic anchorage to that called Bigla and all the anchorages between these two, as well as much real property, not only in the capital and in the town of Dyrrachium, but wherever they asked for it. But greatest gift of all, he ordered that their merchandise should not be taxed in any of the countries under Roman sway, so that they could trade freely where they liked, and not pay even an obol, neither for customs nor for any other tax required by the Treasury, but should be exempt from all Roman authority.

VI As for Robert (for my tale must return to the point where it digressed and be kept within the bounds of historical narration) he did not rest even after this defeat. But as he had already sent one ship with his son to Cephalenia as he wished to take possession of the town on it, he brought his remaining ships, with the whole army, to anchor near Boditza and himself sailed for Cephalenia in a galley with one bank of oars. And before he could join his son and the rest of his forces, whilst he was lingering near Ather (which is a promontory of Cephalenia) he was seized with a violent fever. As he could not bear the burning of the fever, he asked for cold water. His men dispersed in various directions to seek water when a native said to them, "You see the island there, Ithaca. On that a large town was built long ago called Jerusalem, and now it has fallen into ruins from age; in that town there was a spring whose water was always fit for drinking and very cold." Robert was overcome with fear on hearing this for by connecting Ather and the town of Jerusalem he understood that his death was imminent. For many years before some soothsayers had prophesied to him the kind of thing flatterers are wont to tell princes, As far as Ather you shall bring all countries under your sway, but from there you shall depart for Jerusalem and pay your debt to nature." Whether the fever killed him or whether he died of pleurisy, I have no means of saying for certain. At all events he died in six days. His wife Gaïta reached him just in time to see him die and his son weeping over him. News of this calamity was, then sent to the son whom Robert in his lifetime had already designated heir to his dukedom. On hearing the sad tidings he was overcome at first by uncontrollable grief, but soon summoning reason to his aid and collecting himself, he sent for all his followers and, whilst weeping inconsolably for his father, he told them what had happened, and then [148] made them take the oath of allegiance to himself. Next he crossed with them all to Apulia. During the crossing he was caught in such a severe storm, although it was summer, that some of the ships were wrecked, and others dashed on the shore and beaten to pieces. The ship carrying the corpse was also half wrecked and the crew only just managed to save the coffin, and convey it safely to Venusia. Robert was buried in the old monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity, where his brothers had been buried before him. Robert died in the twenty-fifth year of his reign as duke and at the age of seventy. The Emperor, on hearing of Robert's sudden death, was greatly relieved by having such a burden lifted from his shoulders; and very quickly turned his attention to the Normans who were still in possession of Dyrrachium. He aimed at sowing dissension amongst them by letters and other devices, as he thought that would be the easiest means of regaining the city. He also persuaded the Venetians who happened to be in the capital to advise the Venetians, Amalfians and other foreigners who were in Epidamnus to submit to his will and surrender Dyrrachium to him. And he himself did not cease making promises and offering bribes with a view to their surrendering Dyrrachium. to him. The Latins allowed themselves to be persuaded (for their whole race is very fond of money and quite accustomed to selling even their dearest possessions for an obol) and with high hopes in their hearts they formed a conspiracy and first of all slew the man who had originally suggested betraying the fort to Robert, and next his fellow-conspirators; and then they went to the Emperor, and handed over the fort to him and in return received immunity of every kind from him.

VII A certain mathematician named Seth who boasted much of his knowledge of astrology had forecast Robert's fate by an oracle, after his crossing to Illyria, written this forecast on a paper, sealed it and entrusted it to some of the Duke's intimates, bidding them keep it till a certain time. After Robert's death they opened it by the astrologer's order and the prophecy was as follows: "A great enemy from the west shall fall suddenly after having stirred up great confusion."This caused everybody to marvel at the man's knowledge; and in truth he had delved very deeply into this branch of science, and if I may be allowed to make a short break in the course of my history, the following are the facts about astrological prophecies. The discovery is fairly recent, and the science of it was not known to the ancients. For [149] this method of divination did not exist in the time of Eudoxus, the greatest of all astronomers, neither did Plato have any knowledge of it, and even the astrologer, Manetho, had not brought it to perfection. Now these (astrologers) observe the hour of the birth of the persons about whom they intend to prophesy, and fix the cardinal points and carefully note the disposition of all the stars, in short they do everything that the inventor of this science bequeathed to posterity and which those who trouble about such trifles understand. We, also, at one time dabbled a little in this science, not in order to cast horoscopes (God forbid!), but by gaining a more accurate idea of this vain study to be able to pass judgment upon its devotees. I do not mention this for the sake of boasting, but to prove that during my father's reign many of the sciences made great progress, as he honoured both philosophers and philosophy itself, but towards this teaching of astrology he showed some hostility, I believe because it tended to make people of a guileless nature reject their faith in God and gape at the stars. This was the cause of the Emperor's waging war against the teaching of astrology. Yet in spite of this there was no dearth of astrologers at that time, for the Seth I have mentioned flourished then, and there was also a famous Egyptian, Alexandreus, who was a strong exponent of the mysteries of astrology. He was consulted by many and used to give most accurate forecasts in many cases, not even using the astrolabe, but made his prophecies by a certain casting of dice. There was nothing magical about that either, it was an art practised by the Alexandrians (or by Alexandreus). When the Emperor saw how the young people flocked to him and regarded the man as a species of prophet, he himself consulted him twice and each time Alexandreus gave very correct answers. But the Emperor was afraid that harm might come to many from it and that all would be led away to the vain pursuit of astrology, so he banished him from the capital, assigned Raedestus as his dwelling-place and showed great consideration for him, and his means of living were amply supplied from the imperial treasury. Nay more, the great dialectician, Eleutherius, also an Egyptian by birth, cultivated this art too and carried it to such perfection that he yielded the palm to no one. Later again, a man called Catanances from Athens came to the capital, anxious to carry off the first prize among astrologers and when questioned by some about the date of the Emperor's death, he foretold it as he thought, but was proved wrong in his [150] prognostication. It happened, however, that the lion which was kept in the palace died that day, after four days' fever, so the vulgar considered that the prophecy of Catanances had been accomplished. After some considerable time he again foretold the date of the Emperor's death and was mistaken; yet the Emperor's mother, the Empress Anna, died on the very day Catanances had foretold. Because Catanances had made repeated mistakes in his predictions about him, the Emperor did not like to banish him as he was self-convicted, and also it might seem that he banished him in anger. But now let us return to the point in our history where we abandoned it, otherwise we shall be thought to be stargazers, obscuring the main theme of our history with the names of astrologers.

Now Robert, as rumour insisted and many said, was a most exceptional leader, quick-witted, good-looking, courteous in conversation, ready too in repartee, loud-voiced, easily accessible, very tall in stature, his hair always close-cut, long bearded, always anxious to maintain the ancient customs of his race. He preserved his perfect comeliness of countenance and figure until the end, and of these he was very proud as his appearance was considered worthy of kingship, he showed respect to all his subordinates, more especially to those who were well-disposed towards him. On the other hand he was very thrifty and fond of money, very business-like and greedy of gain, and, in addition to all this, most ambitious; and since he was a slave to these desires, he has incurred the serious censure of mankind. Some people slander the Emperor and say he was faint-hearted and began the war with Robert too soon. For if, as they allege, he had not attacked Robert before the right time, he could have defeated him easily, as Robert was being worried on all sides by the so-called Albanians and by the natives of Dalmatia sent by Bodinus. These remarks came from the backbiters who stood out of shot and hurled envenomed darts from their lips against the fighters. For all acknowledge Robert's bravery, remarkable skill in warfare and steadfast spirit; and he was a man who could not be conquered easily but only with extreme difficulty, and after a defeat he seemed to rise again with renewed vigour.

VIII The Emperor, as related above, returned to the capital in triumph with the Latins from Count Bryennius' army who had deserted to him on the first of December in the seventh Indiction. He found his wife in the pangs of [151] childbirth in the room which had of old been set apart for the Empresses' confinements, our forefathers called it the'purple' room, and from it the name 'Porphyrogeniti' [*=born in the purple] has become current in the world. And at dawn on a Saturday a female child was born to them who was exactly like her father, they said; that child was I. And once upon a time, I heard the Empress, my mother, relate that three days before the Emperor's entry into the palace (for he was returning then from the war with Robert and his other numerous battles and labours) she began to feel pains, so she made the sign of the cross on her womb and said, " Wait a little, child, for your father's coming! " When she said that, the 'Protovestiaire,' her mother, scolded her severely and said angrily, " How do you know whether he will come within a month? and how will you be able to bear the pains so long ? " Thus spake her mother, but the Empress' command took effect, which signified that even in the womb I felt that affection for my parents which was manifested so conspicuously in the future. For afterwards as I grew up and reached years of discretion I became sincerely devoted to my mother and also equally to my father. And many can bear witness to this fact, above all those who know my history. And further testimony to it are the many struggles, anxieties and even dangers which I suffered because of my deep love for them, as I spared neither my honour, money, nor even my life; for devotion to them so fired me that I even risked my life for them several times. But no more of this. Let me return to the events which took place after my birth. All the ceremonies usual at the birth of an Emperor's child were performed most lavishly, that is to say, acclamations and presents and honours given at such a time to the heads of the Senate and the army, so that all were more joyful and exultant than ever before and loud in their praises, especially the Empress' relations who could not contain themselves for joy. And when a certain number of days had passed, my parents honoured me with a crown and royal diadem. Now Constantine, the son of the ex-Emperor, Michael Ducas, of whom I have often spoken, was regent together with the Emperor, my father, and with him signed all deeds of gifts in red ink; and wearing a tiara, accompanied him in all processions, and was acclaimed second in all acclamations; as I too was now to be acclaimed, the leaders of the acclamations shouted out " Constantine and Anna " together at the [152] time for acclamations. And this continued for a good long time, as I have often heard my relations and parents subsequently say. This was perhaps symbolic of what should befall me later, whether it can be called good, or on the contrary, ill fortune. When a second daughter was born to their majesties, bearing a likeness to her parents, and also showing signs of the virtue and wisdom which were to distinguish her later, they much desired to have a son as well, and their prayer was granted. For during the eleventh Indiction a son was born to them. Thereupon my parents were indeed overjoyed and no trace of sadness remained, as their desire had been fulfilled. The whole populace too rejoiced, seeing their masters so happy, and congratulated each other and were delighted. Then you would have seen the palace full of rejoicing and no shadow of sorrow or even care, for all the well-disposed rejoiced from the bottom of their heart, whilst the others feigned delight. A people, as a rule, is ill-affected to its rulers, but by much pretence and flattery win the favour of their superiors. However on this one occasion universal joy could be witnessed, as one and all were really pleased. The child had a swarthy complexion, broad forehead, lean cheeks, a nose neither snub nor aquiline but something between the two, very black eyes which betokened, as far as one can judge from an infant's face, a quick intelligence. As my parents naturally wished to raise this child to the rank of Emperor and leave him the empire of the Romans as his inheritance, they deemed him worthy of being baptised and crowned in the great church of God. This is what happened to us children, 'born in the purple' from the very starting-point of our birth. What befell us later, shall be narrated in due order.

IX The Emperor Alexius had driven away the Turks from the shores of Bithynia and the Bosporus and the Northern provinces and made a truce with Soliman, as I have recounted earlier; then he rode off to Illyria where after many hardships he utterly defeated Robert and his son, Bohemund, and thus delivered the West from an overwhelming catastrophe. On his return from those parts he found that the Turks under Apelchasem [=#Abul-kassim] were not only overrunning the East, but had penetrated as far as the Propontis and the maritime towns there. And this is the right point at which to tell how the Ameer Soliman on leaving Nicaea had left this Apelchasem behind as governor ; how Puzanus was sent into Asia by the sultan of Persia, and defeated and killed by Tutuses [*or Tutush or Toutoush], the brother of the sultan; and how Tutuses himself after the defeat of Puzanus, was strangled by his second cousins. A certain Armenian, Philaretus by name, conspicuous for bravery and sagacity, had been raised to the rank of Domestic by the former Emperor, Romanus Diogenes, and when he saw the latter's downfall and heard further that he had been deprived of his sight, it was more than he could bear, for he loved him with an exceeding love, so plotted rebellion and made himself master of the province of Antioch. But as the Turks daily laid waste the surrounding country so that he had no peace, he meditated desertion to the Turks and circumcision, which they practise. But his son vehemently opposed him and tried to divert him from this mad enterprise, but his better counsels were not accepted. In his grief at his father's refusal he travelled for eight days to reach Nicaea, and there gained access to the Ameer Soliman (who had just attained the rank of Sultan) and roused him to undertake the siege of Antioch and incited him to war against his father. Soliman lent him a ready ear, and when starting for Antioch he left Apelchasem as Governor of Nicaea and also appointed him General-in-Chief over all the other Generals. Then with Philaretus' son in his train he rode for twelve nights (for he reposed in the day) and by the unexpectedness of his arrival took Antioch at first assault. At the same time Charatices secretly pillaged Sinope as he had found out that a large sum of gold and money belonging to the imperial treasury had been stored there. The Grand Sultan [*i.e. Malek Shah] had a brother, Tutuses, who ruled over Jerusalem, the whole of Mesopotamia, and Aleppo and as far as Baghdad, and was hoping to secure Antioch; when he noticed that the Ameer Soliman was on the point of rebelling, and had already won the province of Antioch for himself, he encamped with his whole army midway between Aleppo and Antioch. On the Ameer Soliman's coming out to meet him, a tremendous battle broke out at once, and when it came to hand to hand fighting, Soliman's troops turned their backs and fled in disorder. In spite of all his protestations Soliman could not restrain them from flight, so seeing his imminent danger he turned aside from the battle and when he thought he had reached a safe spot, he placed his shield on the ground, and throwing himself to the ground, sat down on it. However he had not escaped the notice of his fellow [154] tribesmen; and some of the satraps followed him and said his uncle Tutuses had sent for him. He refused to go as he scented danger. But the satraps insisted and being unable to restrain them by force, as he was alone, he drew his sword from its sheath and plunged it deep into his bowels; and thus the wretched man died wretchedly. And the survivors of Ameer Soliman's forces at once joined Tutuses. On hearing of these doings the Sultan feared that Tutuses was growing too powerful, so he sent a Chiauss to the Emperor to ask a Roman princess in marriage for himself and promising, if this were granted, to fetch away the Turks from the maritime towns, to restore him his forts, and to help him wholeheartedly. The Emperor received him, read the Sultan's letter but eluded the question of marriage; and seeing that the Chiauss was a man of understanding he asked him of his origin and parentage. On the latter replying that his mother was an Iberian but his father a Turk, the Emperor took a great deal of pains to persuade him to accept Christian baptism. The Chiauss consented to this and pledged himself to the Emperor not to return home, after he had received holy baptism. Since he had received instructions from the Sultan by letter that, if the Emperor were willing to arrange a marriage for him, he should drive out all the satraps who held the maritime towns by shewing them the Sultan's letter treating of this question, the Emperor suggested to the Chiauss to make use of this letter and after he had expelled them all by shewing them the Sultan's writing, to return to the capital again. The Chiauss with great alacrity went first to Sinope and by shewing Charatices the Sultan's epistle he drove him out of the town without an obol of the Emperor's money in his pocket. This is what happened. As Charatices was going out of Sinope, he desecrated the church dedicated to our Immaculate Lady, the Mother of God, and forthwith he was delivered by the hand of God, as it seemed, to an avenging demon, and fell to the ground foaming at the mouth, and so he went out of the town mad 1 The jurisdiction over Sinope the Chiauss handed to Constantine Dalassenus whom the Emperor had sent down there for that purpose, then he successively visited the other towns, shewed the satraps the Sultan's letter, and thus drove them all out and handed the town over to the Emperor's satraps. This business finished, the Chiauss returned to the Emperor, and after receiving holy baptism and revelling in rich presents he was appointed Duke of Anchialus.


X When the suicide of Ameer Soliman became known throughout the whole of Asia, each satrap who was governor over a town or fortress, took that respective place and made it his own. For at the same time that the Ameer Soliman entrusted the Government of Nicaea to Apelchasem on his departure for Antioch, he also apportioned the seacoast, and Cappadocia, in fact the whole of Asia, to various satraps, for each man to guard his own portion until such time as he, Soliman, should return. Now Apelchasem who was then archsatrap in Nicaea, where the Sultan's palace was, took possession of the town and transferred Cappadocia to his brother, Pulchases, and then lived a carefree life, expecting soon to assume the dignity of 'Sultan,' in fact looked upon it as a certainty. The man was capable and intrepid, and would not be satisfied with what he had, so sent forth foraging parties to lay waste the whole of Bithynia as far as the Propontis. The Emperor then tried his former plan, that is, he dissipated the foragers and forced Apelchasem to sue for terms of peace. But as he found that the latter continued making secret designs against him and postponing the truce, he decided it was necessary to put a strong army in the field against him. So the Emperor sent Taticius (whom I have frequently mentioned) with a respectable force to Niceaa, warning him to use discretion in attacking the enemy if by chance he fell in with any outside the town. Taticius went off and marshalled his army in line of battle close to the walls as no Turks were to be seen then, but they suddenly threw open the gates and a body of about two hundred of them rode down upon him. When the Franks (of whom there were a goodly number) saw them, they dashed straight at them in a tremendous onrush with their long spears in their hands, and after wounding a large number, drove the rest back to the fort. The next day Taticius stood there with his army in the same formation until sunset, and since no Turk shewed himself outside the gates, he marched back to Basileia and pitched his camp at a distance of twelve stades from Nicaea. During the night a countryman came to him and assured him that Prosuch was approaching with fifty thousand men, and had been sent by the newly elected Sultan, Pargiaruch. As others confirmed this report, Taticius, seeing that his forces were insufficient against large numbers, cancelled his former plans and thought it better to preserve his whole army safe and sound rather than lose it altogether by fighting against forces infinitely more numerous and far stronger [156] than his own. Consequently his thoughts turned to the capital, and he settled to return to it via Nicomedia. Now Apelchasem from his watchtower saw him turn off to Constantinople and already on the march, so came out and followed him, intending to attack him if he espied him encamping in some suitable spot. And he overtook him at Prenetus, surprised him and started a violent fight. Taticius quickly drew up his men and allowed the Franks to begin the battle and make the first charge against the enemy. And they, long spears in hand, rode at full gallop and hurled themselves like fire upon the barbarians, cut the phalanxes to pieces and routed them completely. Afterwards Taticius regained the capital by way of Bithynia. Apelchasem, however, could not keep quiet, for he was obsessed with the desire of annexing the Roman Empire, or, if this was impossible, of extending his rule over all the coast-lands and islands as well. In pursuit, then, of these plans he determined first to build some buccaneering vessels, as he had taken Cius (a town on the coast of Bithynia) and when the ships were nearing completion, he thought his plans were maturing well. But he was not unobserved by the Emperor, who quickly fitted out whatever biremes, triremes and other vessels he had at hand, set Manuel Buturnites in command and sent him with injunctions to make haste and burn Apelchasem's half-built ships, no matter in what condition he found them. Moreover, he sent Taticius with a considerable army against him by land. These two left the City, and Apelchasem soon saw Butumites approaching by sea at great speed, and heard that others were bearing down upon him by land; he judged the ground, where he happened to be, unsuitable, as it was rough and narrow, and altogether ill-adapted for his archers, as it would not allow them to act against the Roman cavalry; so he moved his camp in order to place his troops on suitable ground. This place he found, and by some it is called Halycae and by others Cyparission. Butumites, meanwhile, arrived by sea and set fire to Apelchasem's ships more quickly than can be told. On the following day Taticius too came by land and drawing up his troops in a convenient position, did not cease from mom till eve for fifteen whole days, either skirmishing or engaging the troops of Apelchasern in close combat. But as Apelchasem would not yield but maintained a determined resistance, the Latins grew weary and, although the ground was not to their advantage, yet they worried Taticius to [157] allow them, even unaided, to undertake a pitched battle with the Turks. Finally, although against his own judgment, yet as he saw daily reinforcements coming to Apelchasem, he gave way to the Latins. And about sunrise he set his forces in array and joined battle with Apelchasem. In it many of the Turks were killed, but most were taken prisoners, and still more fled without giving a thought to their personal baggage. And Apelchasem himself rode straight to Nicaea and only just escaped. Taticius' soldiers collected a large amount of booty and returned to their own camp. On receiving this news, the Emperor, clever as he was in winning the souls of men and in softening a heart of stone, at once dictated a letter to Apelchasem advising him to abstain from such vain enterprises and not to beat the air but to come over to him and thus exchange a life of labour for the enjoyment of bounteous gifts and honour. Therefore Apelchasem, when he further heard that Prosuch was besieging towns held by various satraps and would soon be at Nicaea with the object of besieging it, made a virtue of necessity, as the saying is, and boldly accepted the Emperor's offer of peace, although he guessed the latter's purpose. When the truce between them had been concluded, the Emperor who was already scheming to obtain another advantage, and could see no other way of gaining his end, invited Apelchasem to the capital to receive gifts of money, enjoy a life of luxury to the full and then return home. Apelchasern accepted and on his arrival in the capital was treated with much kindness. The Turkish rulers of Nicaca still held Nicomedia (which is the metropolis of Bithynia) and as the Emperor wished to expel them from that town, he thought it well to build a second small citadel near the sea, while the terms of peace were being arranged. Consequently he had all the materials necessary for the construction of the fort, as well as the builders, loaded on transports and dispatched them under Eustathius, the 'Drungaire' of the fleet, to whom he had revealed his secret and entrusted the building. He conjured him to treat any Turks who might pass, very kindly, and give them their fill of needful things, at the same time signifying to them that Apelchasem knew of the building of the forts, but he was to ward off all vessels from the shores of Bithynia to prevent Apelchasem's hearing anything. To Apelchasem. the Emperor gave money every day and was profuse in his invitations to him to come to the baths, or horse-races or the chase, and further to view the monuments set up along the [158] highroads. Moreover he gave orders to the charioteers to prepare an equestrian display in his honour in the theatre which Constantine the Great built long ago: and he urged him to go every day and watch the horses being tested, all this was to get time for his builders while Apelchasem wasted his days in the capital. But when the fort was finished and his purpose accomplished, he loaded him with further gifts, honoured him with the rank of "Sebastos" and after again confirming the treaty, sent him home in great state by sea. When the building of the fort was revealed to Apelchasem, although he was wounded deeply by the raising of it, yet he pretended to know nothing and said not a word about it. A similar tale is told of Alcibiades-for he in a similar manner had outwitted the Lacedoemonians when they refused to allow Athens to be rebuilt after it had been destroyed by the Persians. For he told the Athenians to rebuild their city while he went on an embassy to Sparta. There the embassy wasted its time, thus giving the builders an opportunity and after the trick had been successful, the Lacedaemonians learnt of the complete rebuilding of Athens. And the Paeanian [*=Demosthenes] somewhere in his writings also mentions this clever deception. So my father's plan was similar, though more sagacious than that of Alcibiades. Forhefawned upon this barbarian with horse-races and other delights and by delaying him from day to day he managed to complete the fort and when the work was quite finished he dismissed him from the capital.

XI Meanwhile Prosuch had come up with an enormous army, as was expected, and was besieging Nicaea, as the countryman who came by night to Taticius said, and for three months he persevered in the siege. Then when the townsmen and even Apelchasem himself saw that things had come to a distressful pass, and that they would be unable to hold out much longer, they sent a message to the Emperor begging him to come to their aid and saying that they preferred to be called his servants than to yield to Prosuch. He immediately picked out the best of the troops that happened to be on the spot, gave them standards and silver-studded sceptres and sent them away to carry succour. Now he did not send this army to help Apelchasem exactly, but in his own heart he hoped that his help might afterwards turn out to be the ruin of Apelchasem. As two enemies of the Roman power were fighting against each other, it was necessary to help the weaker, [159] not in order that he might grow more powerful, but that he might beat off the other, and then he, the Emperor, would take away the town from the former and make it his own, which at present was outside the orbit of Empire; after that he would gradually take another and yet another and thus enlarge the boundaries of the Roman Empire which had become very restricted; more especially since the sword of the Turks had grown so powerful. For there was a time when the limits of the Roman rule were the two pillars which bound east and west respectively, those on the west being called the ' pillars of Heracles,'those on the east the 'pillars of Dionysus' somewhere near the frontier of India. It is hardly possible to define the Empire's former width. Egypt, Meroë, all the Troglodyte country, and the region adjacent to the torrid zone; and in the other direction far-famed Thule, and the races who dwell in the northern lands and over whose heads the North Pole stands. But in these later times the boundary of the Roman rule was the neighbouring Bosporus on the east and the city of Adrianople on the west. Now, however, the Emperor Alexius by striking with both hands, as it were, at the barbarians who beset him on either side and starting from Byzantium as his centre, enlarged the circle of his rule, for on the west he made the Adriatic sea his frontier, and on the east the Euphrates and Tigris. And he would have restored the Empire to its former prosperity, had not the successive wars and the recurrent dangers and difficulties hindered him in his purpose (for he was involved in great, as well as frequent, dangers). His idea then, as I said at the beginning, in sending an army to Apelchasem, the tyrant of Nicaea, was not to rescue him from danger, but to gain a victory for himself; fortune, however, did not favour him. For the matter fell out thus. The troops that were sent reached a small town called after the lord George ; and the Turks immediately opened their gates to them. Then the soldiers went up to the battlements of the wall above the East gate, piled up the standards and sceptres, shouting at the same time and then continuously chanted their war cries. This noise absolutely terrified the besiegers outside who crept away during the night, thinking that the Emperor himself had come and thereupon the Roman forces returned straightaway to the capital. For they were not a strong enough force to withstand an assault by the Persians who were expected to come up shortly from the depths of the Turkish Empire.

XII The Sultan on his side was awaiting the return of [160] his Chiauss; when he noticed that he delayed his return, and then heard all he had done, how he had expelled Charatices by stratagem from Sinope, had accepted Christian baptism and been sent to the west by the Emperor with the title of Duke of Anchialus, he was vexed and distressed. So he resolved to send Puzanus for a second time with troops against Apelchasem, and also to give him a letter for the Emperor treating of the question of alliance by marriage. The tenor of the letter was as follows: "O Emperor, I have heard of thy doings. I know that no sooner hadst thou taken up the reins of government, than thou wast involved in many wars, and that now when thou hast just quelled the turbulent Latins, the Scythians are preparing war against thee, and that Ameer Apelchasem has broken the treaty, made by thee with Soliman, and is ravaging Asia right up to Damalis. If therefore thou art anxious for Apelchasem to be driven out of those countries and to have Asia and even Antioch itself under thy rule, then send me thy daughter as bride for my eldest son. If thou dost this, there will be no more stumbling-blocks in thy path, but thou wilt easily accomplish everything with me as thy coadjutor, not only in the East, but even in Illyria and all the West by means of the forces I shall send thee, and nobody will be able henceforth to stand before thee." This was the tenor of the Persian Sultan's letter. After Puzanus reached Nicaea and made not only one, but several attempts to take it, which were foiled by Apelchasem's valiant resistance, as he had obtained the help he had begged from the Emperor, he turned his attention to the capture of other towns and forts, so left Nicxa and pitched his tents near the Lampe (which is a river near Lopadium). After his departure Apelchasem loaded as much gold as they could carry on fifteen mules and set off to the Sultan of Persia, taking this gift with him in order not to be dismissed from his governorship. He came upon the Sultan encamped near Spacha, and as the latter did not deign even to see him, he employed mediators. And as these worried the Sultan, he said " As I have once for all bestowed the province on the Ameer Puzanus I have no intention of taking it away from him again. Let the man go and carry his money to Puzanus and say what he likes to him, and whatever Puzanus settles, will satisfy me." Thus after remaining a considerable time there and taking a great deal of trouble all to no purpose, he started, presumably to go to Puzanus and met the two hundred satraps whom the [161] latter had sent after him, for his exit from Nicaea had not passed unnoticed. These took him prisoner, threw a noose woven of bowstrings round his neck and strangled him. Now in my opinion this deed was not due to Puzanus, but to that Sultan who had ordered his men to dispose of Apelchasem by some such means. That is the story of Apelchasem. The Emperor read the Sultan's letter but did not think the offer contained therein worthy of consideration at all. And how could he have done so ? For if the Emperor's little daughter, as the letter demanded, had been betrothed to the barbarian's eldest son, she would assuredly have been unhappy. if she had gone to Persia and become mistress of a kingdom which would have brought her greater wretchedness than the worst poverty. But God forbade it nor did the Emperor ever intend that such a thing should happen, not even if his fortunes had sunk to the lowest ebb. Directly after he first heard the letter he burst into laughter at the barbarian's presumption with the remark that "Some demon put this into his mind." This is what the Emperor thought of the marriage. But as he considered it expedient to keep the Sultan's mind in suspense by feeding him on vain hopes, he sent Curticius and three others as ambassadors to him with letters, in which he pretended to entertain the idea of peace and to agree to his requests, whilst, on his side, he made other demands which would occasion further lapse of time. But before the ambassadors sent from Byzantium had reached Chorosan they heard of the Sultan's murder, and so returned. For Tutuses, the Sultan's brother, had killed the Ameer Soliman and also his own brother-in-law, who had marched against him from Arabia with an army, and as a result became puff ed up with conceit ; consequently when he learnt that the Sultan had already begun negotiations for peace with the Emperor, he contemplated murdering his brother.

So he sent for twelve Chasii, as they are called in Persian, who breathe murder, and sent them off quickly in the guise of ambassadors to the Sultan, having first suggested to them a way of killing his brother. "Go," he said, "and first have it proclaimed that you have certain secrets to reveal to the Sultan, and, when you have been granted an audience, go up close to him as if you wanted to whisper in his ear, and then slay him quickly." Then these ambassadors, or rather assassins, went off in very high spirits to kill the Sultan, just as if they had been invited to a dinner or a festivity. On arrival they found him drunk, and everything was made [162] easy for them, because the guards entrusted with the watch over the Sultan were standing at some distance, so they approached him, and drawing their swords from under their arm, promptly dispatched the wretched man. For the characteristic of these Chasii is to rejoice in bloodshed, and to consider it a treat to be allowed to thrust their swords through a man's entrails. And if, perchance, others were to attack them at that very minute, and mince them up like sausage-meat, they reckon that kind of death an honour, for they inherit and hand on to their children this trade of assassination, as a species of ancestral heritage. Not one of those fellows returned to Tutuses as they would have lost their own lives in expiation for this crime. Puzanus however, on hearing of it, returned to Chorosan with all his forces; and as he was nearing it, Tutuses, the brother of the murdered Sultan, encountered him. At once a close conflict began, as both armies fought bravely and neither would yield the victory to the other, and then Puzanus fell, mortally wounded, after fighting bravely, and causing consternation to his foes; and his men scattered in flight in different directions, each one thinking only of his own safety. Tutuses entered Chorosan as victor and felt as if he had already risen to the rank of 'Sultan,'and yet danger menaced him. For Pargiaruch, the son of the murdered Sultan, Tapares, met him in battle and rejoicing, as the poet says, 'like a lion who has fallen in with mighty prey,' he attacked him with all his might and main, cut up the whole of Tutuses' forces and vigorously pursued the fugitives. And Tutuses himself, who was puffed up with pride like Novatus,[*=a heretic whose pride had been proverbial] perished too. When Apelchasem had gone to Chorosan with his money to see the Sultan, as was related earlier, his brother Pulchases surprised Nicaea and held it. On receipt of this news the Emperor made him offers of extravagant rewards, provided only he would quit the city and hand it over to him. Pulchases indeed was willing, but hesitated, as he had his eye upon Apelchasem; he sent message upon message to the Emperor, keeping him in suspense, but really waiting for his brother's return. In the interval something like this happened. Before his murder by the Chasii he Sultan of Chorosan had managed to secure the great Soliman's two sons, and after his death they ran away from Chorosan and quickly found their way to Nicaca, where the inhabitants gave them an ovation and received them with the greatest joy. And Pulchases willingly handed over Nicaea to them as being their rightful inheritance, and the [163] elder of the two, Clitziasthlan [*=Kilidje Arslan] by name, was elected Sultan. He sent for the wives and children of the men then staying in Nicaeea, and bade them live there, and made this city the dwelling-place, as one might say, of the Sultans. After making this arrangement in Nicaca, he deposed Pulchases from his post, appointed the arch-satrap, Mahomet, chief over the satraps in Nicaea, and leaving him in charge set out for Melitene.

XIII So much about the Sultans. Elchanes, the archsatrap, with the troops under him, seized Apollonias and Cyzicus (both these are on the coast) and then laid waste all the country along the sea. On being informed of this the Emperor assembled a number of the boats he had (for the fleet was not ready yet), put siege-engines in them and brave soldiers, appointed Euphorbenus Alexander, one of the most illustrious for lineage and famous for valour, over the expedition and sent him against Elchanes. On reaching Apollonias he at once besieged it, and after six days and nights, for he did not at all stop the work at night, he made himself master of the outer circuit of the fort, which is now usually called the 'exopolos.' But Elchanes held on stoutly to the citadel as he expected relieving forces. And indeed Alexander found out that a large barbarian army was advancing to the assistance of Elchanes, and seeing that his own men were but a small fraction of this new army, he decided that, as he could not conquer, it would be wiser at least to keep his men unharmed. Since his affairs were in a precarious state and no road of safety remained, he led his men off towards the sea. They embarked in their boats, and intended to sail down the river to the sea. But Elchanes guessing Alexander's intention took possession beforehand of the exit from the lake and the bridge over the river, on which a shrine to the memory of Constantine the Great was built of old by St. Helena, and from this the bridge took, and still takes, its name. At the exit from the lake then and on this bridge he posted some of his bravest men on either side with orders to watch for the passing of the fleet. Thus all our men who were on board these small vessels fell straight into Elchanes' ambush as they passed through the mouth of the lake, and losing their heads at sight of the sudden danger they drove the ships to land and jumped ashore. The Turks overtook them and a serious battle commenced. Many of the leaders were captured and many too fell into the river and were swept away in its eddies. The Emperor could not [164] brook this defeat, so sent out a considerable army under Opus to march overland against them. Opus reached Cyzicus and took that without trouble; then he picked out three hundred adventurous men used to storming cities and dispatched them to Poemanenum. This city, too, they took at first onset and killed some of the inhabitants on the spot and sent the rest as prisoners to Opus, and he, as promptly, sent them to the Emperor. He then left Cyzicus and went on to Apollonias which he beset closely. As Elchanes had no longer adequate forces to contend against him, he surrendered the city of his own free will, and he and all his blood-relations deserted to the Emperor, hence he enjoyed countless privileges, and obtained the greatest of all, namely, holy baptism. Some refused to join Opus, for instance, Scaliarius and he who later was created 'Hyperperilampros' ... (for these belonged to the number of illustrious satraps), but when he heard of the Emperor's benevolence and liberal gifts to Elchanes, they came over to him too, and obtained their heart's desire. For the Emperor was essentially a most religious man, and in his life and speech the high priest of all piety. He was very fond, too, of teaching our doctrines and was a real missionary by choice and in his manner of speech; he wanted to bring into the fold of our church not only the Scythian nomads, but also the whole of Persia, as well as the barbarians who inhabit Libya and Egypt and follow the rites of Mohamed.

XIV Enough has been said about the Turks. I now intend to relate a second attack on the Roman Empire, more terrible and greater than the first, and I again resume the story at the beginning, for one subject has come up after another as wave follows wave.

A certain Scythian tribe, who were daily harried by the Sauromatx, left their homes and travelled down to the Danube. It was, of course, necessary for them to make terms with the dwellers on the shores of the Danube, so by common consent the chieftains met for a conference ; there were Tatus and Chales and Sesthlabus and Satzas (for I must give the names of the highest born of these, although the elegant appearance of my history is spoiled by them), the last named was chief over Dristra, the others over Bitzina and neighbouring towns. After having made a truce with the chiefs the Scythians proceeded fearlessly to cross the Danube, and to ravage the surrounding country and also took afewsmalltowns. And in between when they rested a little, [165] they commenced to plough and sowed millet and wheat. But that fellow, Travlos, the Manichaean, with his followers, and his co-religionists who dwelt in the town on the ridge of Beliotaba, with whom this history has dealt at some length already, heard of these Scythians and so brought to birth the plan they had been hatching so long, for they seized the rough roads and passes, sent for the Scythians to help them and then started to devastate the Roman territory. For these Manichaeans are by nature 'ever greedy of war' and, like dogs, ' ever thirsty of human blood.'

On hearing of this, Alexius sent orders to Pacurianus, the Domestic of the West, to take an army and march against them; for he knew he was the ablest man for training and organizing and marshalling it; with him was to go Branas, another very gallant commander. Pacurianus found that the Scythians had scaled the mountain-pass and planted their palisades this side of Beliotaba, and when he saw their countless host he at once shrank from battle with them, thinking it better to keep his own troops quiet for the present rather than to risk a battle with the Scythians and be defeated and lose many. However, Branas, who was of a very adventurous and daring nature, did not approve of this plan. So the Domestic to avoid the imputation of cowardice for postponing the battle, yielded to Branas' impetuosity, bade his men arm, and after drawing them up in line of battle marched against the Scythians, himself holding the centre of the line. But ' since the Roman army was not equivalent even to a small fraction of the opposing host, they were all panic-stricken at first sight. However they did attack the Scythians, and many were killed in the fight and Branas himself fell, mortally wounded. The Domestic fought desperately and made fierce onsets on the foe, but was dashed against an oak and killed on the spot. And the rest of the army scattered in all directions. On receiving these tidings the Emperor mourned for all the fallen, both individually and collectively. But he was most grieved at the Domestic's death and shed floods of tears, for he loved him exceedingly even before his elevation to the throne. Yet in spite of it all he did not lose heart, but called Taticius and sent him with sufficient money to Adrianople to give the soldiers their pay for the year and to collect troops from all quarters so that he might raise a fresh army large enough for the war. He ordered Hubertopoulos to leave an adequate garrison in Cyzicus and taking the Franks only with him to lose no time [166] in joining Taticius. When Taticius saw the Latins and Hubertopoulos, he took courage and as he had already collected a sufficiently large army, he immediately marched straight against the Scythians. When near Philippopolis he pitched his camp on the edge of the river which flows by Blisnus. But when he beheld the Scythians returning from a raid and bringing back much booty and captives, although the baggage had scarcely been brought into the camp, he selected a division of his army and sent it to attack them, then he armed himself, bade all do the same, drew up his lines and then followed the soldiers he had sent ahead. As he observed that the Scythians with their spoils and captives were rejoining the main Scythian body on the bank of the Eurus (?), he divided his army in two and bidding both divisions raise the war-cry he attacked the barbarians amidst loud shouts and clamour. As the conflict grew fierce, the majority of the Scythians were slain but many saved their lives by running away. Then Taticius gathered up all the booty and returned victorious to Philippopolis. There he quartered his whole army and then meditated from what direction and in what manner he could best attack the barbarians again. As he knew that their forces were innumerable he sent out spies in all directions, so that through them he might be kept informed of the Scythians' movements. The spies returned and reported that a great multitude of the barbarians was near Beliotaba and ravaging the country. Taticius who expected the Scythians to come, and had not sufficient forces to pit against such numbers, was at a loss what to do and in great perplexity. Nevertheless he whetted his sword and put courage into the army for a battle. Soon a spy ran in, announcing the approach of the barbarians and adding that they were already close at hand. Taticius quickly snatched up his arms and getting the whole army ready, crossed the Eurus immediately and disposed his regiments in battalions and having formed his plan of battle waited, his own station being the centre of the line. The barbarians who drew tbemselves up in the Scythian fashion and arrayed themselves for battle, seemed to be eager for a fight and to wish to provoke their opponents to a battle. But really, both the armies were afraid and tried to avoid an engagement ; the Roman army quaked before the overwhelming numbers of the Scythians, while these for their part were alarmed at the sight of all our men in full armour, and the standards, and splendid clothing and the glitter shining over all and gleaming [167] like starlight. Alone amongst them all the adventuresome Latins, so daring in battle, wished to be the first to attack, and they whetted their teeth and their swords at the same time. But Taticius restrained them ; for he was very levelheaded and very clever in forecasting the trend of events. So both the armies stood, each waiting for the other to make a movement, and not a single soldier from either army daring to ride out into the intervening space; when the sun began to set, each of the generals returned to his own encampment. This was done for two days, the generals got ready for battle and drew up their men in battle formation, and, as neither hazarded battle against the other, at dawn of the third day the Scythians retreated. Directly Taticius learnt this he hurried after them; but 'on foot after a Lydian chariot', as they say. For the Scythians passed through Sidera (that is the name of a valley) before him, and as he did not overtake them there, he led back all his forces to Adrianople. There he left the Franks and dismissing the soldiers to their homes, he himself returned to the capital with a portion of the army.

Complete Text | Introduction | Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3 | Book 4 | Book 5 | Book 6 |
Book 7  | Book 8 | Book 9 | Book 10 | Book 11 | Book 12 | Book 13 | Book 14 | Book 15


Anna Comnena (Komnene). The Alexiad. Edited and translated by Elizabeth A. Dawes. London: Routledge, Kegan, Paul, 1928.

Inquiries into the copyright on this text indicate that US copyright was not renewed, nor was any claim filed under the GATT. Barnes and Noble published the text in the US in 1967 with no claim of copyright, and thus under the laws at the time as a public domain work. Correspondence with Routledge (on file) indicated that they had no records whatsoever about the book, including the date of its first sale in the US (putting one copy on sale would constitute "publication" under GATT).


This etext slightly alters the organization and much of the typography of the printed edition.

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