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Procopius on Auximus and Fiesole 18/04/2011

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[6.23] Now Belisarius wished first to capture Auximus and Fiesole and after that to march against Vittigis and Ravenna, with no one of the enemy any longer able to oppose his advance or to harass his rear. He accordingly sent Cyprian and Justinus with their men and some of the Isaurians to Fiesole, together with five hundred foot-soldiers from the detachment commanded by Demetrius; and they made camp about the fortress and commenced a siege of the barbarian garrison. And Martinus and John with their troops and another army, commanded by John whom they called the Glutton, he sent to the country along the Po River. These officers he commanded to take care that Uraias with his forces should not advance from Milan against his own army; and if they were not able to repel the enemy’s attack, they were secretly to follow behind them and assail their rear. So they took possession of Dorthon, an unwalled city which lay on the river, and having established their camp remained there, while Belisarius himself went to the city of Auximus with eleven thousand men.… In that city Vittigis had assembled all the most notable troops among the Goths and had established them there as a garrison, conjecturing that the Romans, unless they should first capture this city, would never dare to march against Ravenna. Now when the Roman army arrived at Auximus, Belisarius commanded them all to encamp in a circle about the base of the hill. So they took their places by companies, and were setting up their huts at different points in the line; and the Goths, observing that the enemy were rather far apart from one another, and were not able easily to bring assistance to each other, since they were in a great plain, suddenly advanced upon them in the late afternoon, on the side to the east of the city, where Belisarius happened to be still engaged in making camp with his spearmen and guards. And the Romans took up their arms and began to defend themselves against their assailants as well as the circumstances permitted, and by their valour they forced them back with the greatest ease and routed them; and in following up their flight they reached the middle of the hill. There the barbarian’s turned upon them, and, confident in the strength of their position, made a stand against their pursuers; and since they were shooting from above, they slew many of them, until night coming on put a stop to the fighting. Thus the two armies separated and bivouacked that night.

Now it happened that on the day before this encounter some of the Goths had been sent out to the country close by at early dawn in order to gather provisions. These foraging parties, having learned nothing of the presence of the enemy, returned at night, and suddenly spying the fires of the Romans, they became greatly amazed and frightened. And many of them, who plucked up courage to take the risk and escaped detection by their enemy, entered Auximus. But as many as were overcome by terror and hid themselves for the time in any convenient clumps of trees with the intention of proceeding to Ravenna, all these not long afterward fell into hostile hands and were destroyed. And Belisarius, seeing that Auximus was exceedingly strong and securely placed, and that it was altogether impossible for him to make an attack upon the fortifications, was of the opinion that he could never take the place by storm, but he hoped by a close siege to reduce the enemy to want by cutting off their food supplies and thus to bring them into his power by the passage of time.

Now not far from the fortifications there was a place where the ground was covered with an abundant growth of grass, and this gave rise every day to an encounter between the Romans and the Goths. For every time the Romans saw their opponents cutting this grass for the sake of their horses, they would ascend the hill with a great rush, and, upon reaching the enemy, they would engage with them, and by making a display of valorous deeds, try to prevent them altogether from carrying off the grass; and they always slew many of the Goths in this place. Then the Goths, finding themselves no match for their enemy in valour devised the following plan. They removed the wheels along with the axles from their wagons and held them in readiness; then when they had commenced to cut the grass, as soon as they saw that the Romans, as they ascended, were at the middle of the hill, they released the wheels to rush down upon them from above. But by some chance it so happened that these wheels went all the way to the level ground without touching a single man. And since they had failed in this attempt, the barbarians on that occasion took to flight and got inside the fortifications, but after that they adopted the following plan. After filling the ravines which are close to the fortifications with ambuscades of the men of note among them, a few soldiers would show themselves near the grass to the enemy, and when the fighting had come to close quarters, those in concealment would leap out from their ambuscades, and, being greatly superior to their opponents in number, and striking terror into them because they had not previously seen their assailants, they used to kill great numbers of them and always turned the rest to flight. And although those of the Romans who had kept their position in the camps did see the enemy rising from the ambuscades, and tried, with much shouting, to call their companions back, still they failed utterly to do so, since those fighting could not in the least hear their call, because, in the first place, they were separated from them by a great expanse of hillside, and, in the second place, the barbarians purposely always made a din to drown the voices by beating their weapons together.

And when Belisarius was in perplexity because of this situation, Procopius, who wrote this history, came before him and said: ‘The men, General, who blew the trumpets in the Roman army in ancient times knew two different strains, one of which seemed unmistakably to urge the soldiers on and impel them to battle, while the other used to call the men who were fighting back to the camp, whenever this seemed to the general to be for the best. And by such means the generals could always give the appropriate commands to the soldiers, and they on their part were able to execute the commands thus communicated to them. For during actual combat the human voice is in no way adapted to give any clear instructions, since it obviously has to contend with the clash of arms on every side, and fear paralyzes the senses of those fighting. But since at the present time such skill has become obsolete through ignorance and it is impossible to express both commands by one trumpet, do you adopt the following course hereafter. With the cavalry trumpets urge on the soldiers to continue fighting with the enemy, but with those of the infantry call the men back to the retreat. For it is impossible for them to fail to recognize the sound of either one, for in the one case the sound comes forth from leather and very thin wood, and in the other from rather thick brass.’ So spoke Procopius.

And Belisarius was pleased by the suggestion, and calling together the whole army he spoke as follows: ‘I consider that enthusiasm is beneficial and thoroughly praiseworthy, but only so long as it continues to be of a moderate sort and consequently brings no harm upon those under its spell. For every good thing, when in excess, is wont to change for the worse. Do you, therefore, from this time forth, not allow your enthusiasm for battle to cause you to fail of success; for to flee from one who is inflicting loss upon you is, as you surely know, no disgrace. But he who without looking about him goes into trouble which is before his eyes and, should it so happen, escapes from it, still stands convicted of folly. But the man truly noble is he who plays the part of a brave man in dangers that cannot be avoided. Now the barbarians, since they are unable to fight a decisive battle with us in the open, are trying to destroy us by laying snares. But for us it is more blameworthy to face the danger than to escape from their ambush. For nothing is more shameful than to fall in with the plans of the enemy. It will rest with me, accordingly, to see to it that you do not come unawares upon the ambuscades of the enemy. And it will be your duty, as soon as I give the signal, to retire with all speed. And this signal, soldiers, will be given by the trumpet of the infantry.’

So spoke Belisarius. And the soldiers, seeing the enemy near the grass, made a charge against them and killed a few of their number in the first onset. And one of the Moors saw among these fallen Goths one in particular whose person was adorned with gold, and laying hold of the hair of his head, he began to drag the corpse after him in order to strip it. But some Goth hurled a javelin at him, and with such a lucky aim that the weapon passed through both his legs, piercing the muscles which are behind the shins, with the result that his two legs were pinned together by means of the javelin. But nevertheless the Moor kept holding the hair of the corpse and dragging it along. At this point the barbarians roused their men from ambush, and Belisarius, seeing from the camp what was being done, commanded the foot-soldiers to whom this duty was assigned to sound the trumpets quickly. And the Romans, hearing it, began immediately to withdraw gradually, taking up and carrying the Moor, javelin and all. And the Goths dared follow them no further, but returned unsuccessful.

[6.24] As time went on and the barbarians saw that their supply of food was coming to be exceedingly scant, they purposed to report their situation to Vittigis. And since no one of them dared set out on this mission (for they thought that they would never elude their besiegers), they devised the following plan. They first put in readiness the men whom they were intending to send to Vittigis, and then waited for a moonless night; when this came they put a letter into their hands, when it was well on in the night, and thereupon all raised a mighty shout at many parts of the circuit-wall. One would have supposed that they had been thrown into confusion owing to a violent attack of the enemy and an unexpected capture of the city. And the Romans, utterly unable to understand what was taking place, by the will of Belisarius remained quietly in the camps, suspecting that some stratagem would be carried out from the city and that an army from Ravenna bringing assistance to the enemy had come against them. And moved as they were by these fears, they thought it better for them to remain quietly in a secure position and thus save themselves than to go on a moonless night into a danger which could, in a way, be foreseen. By such means, there- fore, the barbarians concealed their plan from the enemy and despatched the men on the way to Ravenna. And they, without being seen by a single one of the enemy, came before Vittigis on the third day and displayed the letter.

And the writing was as follows: ‘When you appointed us, O King, for the garrison of Auximus, you said that you had placed in our keeping the keys of Ravenna itself and of your kingdom. And for this very reason you enjoined upon us to be on guard with every fibre of our being, that we should not by any act of ours betray the power of the Goths to the enemy, and you declared that, if we craved your assistance, you would be at hand with the whole army even before any messenger could announce your coming. Now as for us, we have, up to the present time, though fighting both with famine and with Belisarius, proved ourselves faithful guardians of your kingdom, but you have seen fit to aid us in no way whatsoever. You must consider, therefore, whether the Romans may not one day capture Auximus and take up the keys which you yourself are disregarding as they lie here, and thereby be excluded in future from none of your possessions.’ Such was the purport of the letter.

When it was brought to Vittigis and he saw it, he did at the moment send the men away with the promise that he would bring assistance to Auximus with the whole army of the Goths; but later, after long consideration, he continued to remain inactive. For, on the one hand, he suspected that the troops of John would follow up his rear and thus make him exposed to attack on two sides, and, on the other, he thought that Belisarius had with him a numerous force of able fighting men, consequently he fell into a sort of helpless fear. But chief among the many causes of his concern was the famine, which disturbed him greatly, since he had no source from which to provide supplies for his army. For the Romans, on the one hand, being as they were masters of the sea and holding the fortress in Ancon, brought all their supplies from Sicily and Calabria and stored them in that place, and, at the proper time, easily got them from there. The Goths, on the otlier hand, if they marched into the land of Picenum, would have no means of securing provisions; this he fully realized, and so he found himself completely at a loss. So the men who had lately been sent to Vittigis from Auximus brought back his promise to the city without being detected by their enemy, and thus fortified the barbarians there with empty hopes. And Belisarius, upon hearing this from the deserters, ordered that a still stricter guard should be kept in order that no such thing might happen again. Such was the course of these events.

Meanwhile the troops of Cyprian and Justinus who were besieging Fiesole were quite unable to make an assault upon the fortifications or even to get very close to them; for this fortress was difficult of access on every side. But the barbarians made frequent sallies against them, wishing rather to reach a decision by battle with the Romans than to be hard pressed by lack of provisions; and the engagements at first, indeed, proved indecisive, but after a time the Romans, now having the advantage, shut the enemy up within their wall and continued to guard them securely, so that no one could leave the city. The barbarians, seeing that their provisions were failing, and finding themselves helpless in their present situation, sent to Vittigis without the knowledge of their enemy, begging him to bring them assistance with all speed, on the ground that they would not hold out very much longer. And Vittigis commanded Uraias to go to Ticinum with the army then in Liguria; for, after that, he declared, he too would come to the aid of the besieged himself with the whole Gothic army. And Uraias, acting accordingly, set in motion the whole army he had with him and went to Ticinum. And crossing the river Po, they came to the vicinity of the Roman camp. There they too made camp and established themselves over against their enemy, at a distance of about sixty stades from them. And neither side began an attack. For the Romans, on the one hand, deemed it sufficient if they should block the way for their enemy, so that they could not advance upon the besieging army, and the barbarians, on the other, were reluctant to fight a decisive battle with their enemy in that place, reasoning that, if they should fail in this engagement, they would ruin the whole cause of the Goths. For, in that case, they would no longer be able to unite with the troops of Vittigis and with him to give assistance to the besieged. So both sides, reasoning thus, continued to remain quiet.

[6.26] …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, 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,[1] 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 the soldier 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 he 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.

But when Belisarius saw that the barbarians continued none the less to hold out in their suffering. he was minded to carry out his plot against their water-supply, thinking that in this way he would accomplish the capture of his enemy with greater ease and facility. Now there was a spring on a steep slope to the north of Auximus, about a stone’s throw distant from the circuit-wall, which discharged its water in a very small stream into a cistern which had been there from of old; and when the cistern became full from this small inflow, it was a matter of no difficulty for the inhabitants of Auximus to draw the water. This situation suggested to Belisarius that, if the water should not be collected there, the barbarians would never be able to fill their jars from the spring’s flow, because they would be exposed to the missiles of their enemy for a long time. Wishing, therefore, to destroy the cistern, he devised the following plan. He armed his whole force and drew it up in a circle about the circuit-wall as if for battle, giving his opponents the impression that he was about to make an attack upon their defences from all sides without the least delay. The Goths, consequently, fearing the attack, remained quietly at the battlements, with the intention of warding off their enemy from that position. But Belisarius meanwhile chose out five Isaurians who were skilled in masonry and conducted them to the cistern with mattocks and other implements suitable for cutting stone, concealing them as they went under a great number of shields; then he commanded them to put forth all their strength to break up and tear down the walls of the cistern as quickly as possible. As for the barbarians, as long as they suspected that these men were coming against the wall, they remained quiet, in order that they might come as close as possible and thus form an easy mark for their missiles, never once thinking what their real object was. But when they saw that the Isaurians had got inside the cistern, they began to hurl stones and discharge all kinds of missiles at them. Then indeed all the other Romans retired on the run, but the five Isaurians alone, who had now reached safety, began their work; for a sort of vault had been built over the cistern by the men of old in order to shade the water. So when they had got under this vault, they paid not the least heed to the enemy, although they were discharging missiles with great frequency.

In view of this the Goths could no longer endure to remain inside the fortifications, but opening the small gate on that side, they all rushed out against the Isaurians with great fury and tumult. And the Romans, urged on by Belisarius, made a counter-charge with great enthusiasm. So a fierce battle took place in which for a long time they engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle, and there was great slaughter on both sides. But the men were falling more thickly among the Romans. For since the barbarians were defending themselves from a higher position, a few men could overpower many, and gaining superiority in the hand-to-hand struggle, they were killing more men than those who were killed among themselves. However, the Romans were determined not to give in, feeling shame before Belisarius, who was present and urging them on with shouts. While this battle was in progress, it also happened that a missile came flying with a shrill whiz toward the belly of the general, having been directed there by one of the enemy either by some chance or with deliberate intent. And this missile was not seen at all by Belisarius. At any rate, he failed either to guard against it or to step aside to avoid it. But a certain spearman named Unigastus, who was standing beside him, saw it when it was not far from the belly of Belisarius, and by putting forth his right hand saved the general unexpectedly; but he himself, owing to the wound inflicted by the arrow, withdrew immediately, suffering severe pain. And after that, since the sinews had been severed, he was never able to use his hand again.

And the battle, which had begun early in the morning, continued up to midday. And seven men of the Armenians from the command of Narses and Aratius made a display of valorous deeds, running about the unfavourable ground, which was exceedingly steep, just as if on the level, and killing those of the enemy who from time to time made a stand against them, until they forced back the barbarians in that part of the line and routed them. Then the other Romans, seeing the enemy now giving way, began to pursue them and the rout became decisive, and the barbarians went back inside the fortifications. Now the Romans thought that the cistern had been destroyed and that the Isaurians had accomplished their whole task, but in fact they had been altogether unable to remove so much as one pebble from the masonry; for the artisans of old, who cared most of all for excellence in their work had built this masonry in such a way as to yield neither to time nor to the attempts of men to destroy it. At any rate the Isaurians had accomplished nothing when upon seeing that the Romans had won the position, they left the cistern and withdrew to the camp. Consequently Belisarius commanded the soldiers to throw into the water the dead bodies of animals and such herbs as nature has caused to be especially deadly for man, and also to put in a kind of stone, very thoroughly burned, which in olden times they were accustomed to call titanos, but which at the present time they call asbestos and thus to quench it in the water. And the soldiers did accordingly, but the barbarians made use of a well inside the fortifications which had an exceedingly scant supply of water, and thus they supplied themselves during this time, but with a smaller quantity than they needed. Thereafter Belisarius no longer exerted himself either to capture the place by storm or to carry out any plot with regard to the water or anything else, hoping that by famine alone he would overcome the enemy. And because of this purpose he exercised the greatest care in guarding the lines. The Goths, meanwhile, still expecting the army from Ravenna and being in great want of provisions, remained quiet.

By this time the Goths who were besieged in Fiesole were beginning to be exceedingly hard pressed by famine, and, being unable to endure the suffering, and despairing also of the hope from Ravenna, they decided to yield to their opponents. They accordingly opened negotiations with Cyprian and Justinus, and, upon receiving pledges for their lives, they surrendered both themselves and the fortress. Then Cyprian and his colleagues, taking them along with the Roman army, and after establishing a sufficient garrison at Fiesole came to Auximus. And Belisarius, from that time, was constantly displaying their leaders to the barbarians in Auximus and bidding them cling no longer to their insane purpose, but abandon their hope from Ravenna; for they, like the others, would never receive the least assistance, but after being utterly worn out by hard- ship they would none the less come to the same fate as had the garrison in Fiesole.

And they, after long deliberation among themselves, seeing that they could no longer hold out against the famine, were ready to receive his proposals and expressed a desire to surrender the city, on condition that they themselves suffer no harm and proceed with their belongings to Ravenna. As a result of this, Belisarius was altogether uncertain what to do in the situation before him, because, on the one hand, he thought it inexpedient that a body of the enemy of such marked excellence and so numerous besides should join forces with their comrades in Ravenna, and, on the other hand, he was quite unwilling to let slip the moment of opportunity, but wished to move against Ravenna and Vittigis while the situation was still unsettled. For the Franks were causing him great concern, since he fully expected that they would come to the assistance of the Goths almost immediately. And though he was eager to anticipate their arrival, he was unable to break up the siege with Auximus still uncaptured. The soldiers, furthermore, would not allow him to concede their property to the barbarians, displaying many wounds which they had received at their hands before the city and recounting all the struggles which had fallen to their lot during this siege; and they declared that the rewards for these sufferings were surely the spoils of the vanquished. But finally, since the Romans were compelled by the pressing need of the moment, and the Goths were overcome by the famine, they came to an agreement with each other, stipulating that the Romans should divide among themselves one half of their wealth, while the Goths should keep the rest and be subjects of the emperor. Both sides accordingly gave pledges to secure this agreement, the commanders of the Romans that the agreement should be binding, and the Goths that they would conceal nothing whatever of their wealth. Thus, then, they divided the whole of it between them, and the Romans, on their part, took possession of Auximus, while the barbarians mingled with the emperor’s army.

[7, 5,] Not long after this Totila sent an army against Justinus in Florentia, putting in command of the force the most warlike of the Goths, Vledas, Roderic, and Uliaris. And when they came to Florentia, they established themselves in camp about the wall and entered upon a siege. Thereupon Justinus, in great agitation because, as it happened, he had brought no provisions at all into the city, sent to Ravenna to the commanders of the Roman army, begging them to come to his assistance with all speed. And the messenger slipped unobserved through the enemy’s lines by night, and upon reaching Ravenna reported the situation which confronted the garrison. As a result of this intelligence a considerable Roman army immediately started on the way to Florentia, under command of Bessas, Cyprian and John the nephew of Vitalian. When the Goths learned of this army through their scouts, they broke up the siege and withdrew to a place called Mucellis,[2] one day’s journey distant from Florentia. And when the Roman army had joined forces with Justinus, the commanders left there a few of his men to guard the city, but took the rest along with them and proceeded against the enemy.

And as they proceeded on their way it was decided that the most advantageous plan was for one of the commanders to choose out the most famous fighters in the whole army and with them go in advance of the others, and make a sudden and unexpected attack upon the enemy, while the rest of the army should proceed without quickening its pace and come upon the scene later. So they cast lots with this plan in view and awaited the decision of fortune in the matter. Now the lot fell out for John, but the commanders were no longer willing to carry out the agreement. Thus it was that John was compelled with his own troops alone to go in advance of the others and make an attack upon the enemy. But the barbarians, learning that their opponents were advancing upon them and being greatly terrified, decided to abandon the plain where they had established their camp, and in confusion ran to the top of a high hill which rises near by. And when the force of John arrived there, they too ran up against the enemy and opened the attack. But since the barbarians defended themselves vigorously, a violent struggle took place and many men on both sides, while making a remarkable display of heroism, were beginning to fall.

Now though John had led a charge with loud shouting and tumult against the enemy opposite him, it so happened that one of his bodyguards was hit by a javelin thrown by one of the enemy and fell, as a result of this the Romans, now repulsed, began to retire to the rear. By this time the remainder of the Roman army also had reached the plain, where they formed a phalanx and stood waiting. And if they had stood fast to give support to John’s troops, which were now in full flight, they could have advanced all together upon the enemy, and not only would they have defeated them in the battle, but they would have been able also to capture practically the whole force. But by some chance it so fell out that an untrue report was circulated through the Roman army to the effect that John had perished at the hand of one of his own bodyguards during the action then in progress. And when the report came to the commanders, they were no longer willing to hold their position, but they one and all began to retire in a disgraceful sort of retreat. For neither did they keep their troops in order, nor did they move off in any kind of groups, but each man for himself, just as he could, rushed off in headlong flight.

And many indeed perished in this flight, and as for the rest, all such as were saved continued their flight for many days although they were not pursued at all. And some time afterwards they entered such strongholds as each one happened upon, and the report they carried to those they chanced to meet was only this, that John was dead. And consequently they were no longer in contact with each other, nor had they any purpose of uniting thereafter against the enemy, but each remained inside the circuit-wall of his own fort and began to prepare for a siege, fearing that the barbarians would come against him. Totila, meanwhile, was showing great kindness to his prisoners, and thereby succeeded in winning their allegiance, and henceforth the most of them voluntarily served under him against the Romans. And the winter drew to its close, and the seventh year ended in this war, the history of which Procopius has written. 542 AD.


[1] The Franks had invaded Italy from the north complicating the situation.

[2] Mugello – the countryside to the north of Florence.

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