War with Scyths

War with the Scyths (1091) : Victory at Levunium (29 April 1091) : Plots against the Emperor

I the Emperor was now informed that the Scythians had detached a division and sent it against Choerobacchi, and that their approach was imminent. As he was a man swift to act and ever proved himself ready in sudden crises-in spite of not having had a week’s rest yet in his palace nor even taken a bath, nor shaken off the dust of battle – he at once assembled the troops appointed as garrison of the city and all the recruits there were, about 500 in number, and after seeing to their equipment all through the night, he marched out at dawn.

War with Scyths – On this occasion he made his expedition against the Scythians known, and to all his connections by blood or marriage and to the men of superior fortune who had enrolled themselves in the army (it was then Friday in Septuagesima week) he sent the following orders by his messengers: ” I for my part am leaving because I have heard of the Scythians’ rapid movement on Choerobacchi; you others, however, must march and join us during Quinquagesima week. As I do not wish to appear severe and inconsiderate, I grant you the days from this Septuagesima Friday to the Monday in Quinquagesima week as a short breathing-space.” Thereupon the Emperor marched straight to Choerobacchi, and on entrance closed the gates, and took charge of the keys himself.

Then he stationed all those of his servants who were loyal on the battlements of the wall with strict injunctions not to lie down, but to keep a tireless watch all round the walls to prevent anybody’s coming up there, stooping down and leaning over to communicate with the Scythians. At sunrise the Scythians, as expected, occupied and took up their stand on the ridge adjacent to the wall of Choerobacchi. About six thousand of them were afterwards set apart and dispersed for foraging and went as far as Decatum itself which is only some ten stades distant from the Queen of Cities ; it is from this fact, I imagine, that it got its name.

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They handed him the Emperor’s letter in which the Emperor stated that he hoped to marry the boy to one of my sisters, and after a long talk with him, they persuaded him to send his son back. On his return the Emperor only ratified the marriage-contract by the usual legal formalities and gave him into the charge of one of the Empress’ attendants, the eunuch Michael, and as the lad lived in the palace he bestowed a great deal of care on him, tried to amend his manners and had him thoroughly trained in all military exercises.

But like most young men, he did not relish having to obey, and was vexed at not being treated, as he thought, with sufficient respect. In addition to this he disliked his tutor and began to consider how he could escape to his own father, when he ought rather to have been grateful for all the attention bestowed on him. He did not stop at merely meditating flight, but tried to put it into execution.

Consequently he revealed his secret

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The one was to hold him as a sort of hostage, and the second was to win Gabras’ affection; with the idea that if the latter had been meditating any evil deed, he would now abstain. He intended to marry Gregory to one of my sisters; and for this reason kept postponing the boy’s departure. But Gabras came up to the capital again, and as he had no inkling of the Emperor’s intentions, he was planning to take his son back with him secretly.

In the meantime he kept silent about his plans, although the Emperor did hint at and indirectly signify to him what he had in mind. But Gabras perhaps did not understand or owing to the late rupture of the other engagement he did not care; however it was, he asked the Emperor that his son should be allowed to return with him, and this demand the Emperor refused. Then Gabras pretended to be quite willing to let him stay and to leave all plans for the boy to the Emperor.

The point of departure from Byzantium

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The Emperor then summoned his own brother, I mean the Sebastocrator Isaac, and his son John, and after a long conversation with them, concluded by saying to the Sebastocrator, “You go back in peace to the capital to give our mother all the news. As for him,” he said, pointing to John, “I am sending him back again to Dyrrachium, as you see, to give his careful attention to the administration of his province.” In this manner they parted, and the next day the one took the road to Byzantium and the other was sent to Dyrrachium.

Theodore Gabras was living in Constantinople

IX Up to this time the imperial throne was by no means safe. When Theodore Gabras was living in Constantinople, the Emperor who had remarked his violent and energetic nature, wished to remove him from the city and therefore appointed him Duke of Trapezus,[*=Trebizond]. a town he had some time ago recaptured from the Turks. This man had come originally from Chaldaea and the

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The Sebastocrator took leave of the Emperor and went to the tent assigned to him. And almost immediately the letter-carrier he had sent to John came running in saying he had returned and John was on the way. By this news the Sebastocrator was relieved of his suspicions and regained his former confidence, but was filled with anger against the persons who had been the first to denounce his son. Thus disturbed in mind he went to the Emperor and the latter looked at him and at once guessed the reason of his disturbance, yet asked him how he felt. And his brother answered, “Badly, and that because of you.”

Majesty as against Adrian

For he had not learnt entirely to control his anger when it howled around his heart, and was easily upset sometimes by a mere word. And he added a further remark saying, “I am not so much incensed against your Majesty as against this man ” (pointing to Adrian) “who spreads calumnies.” To these words tha

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The other addressed to the leading men in Dyrrachium, ran as follows : ” As we were informed that Bolcanus was once again meditating treachery against us, we have issued from Byzantium partly to ensure the safety of the valleys, which lie in the debatable land between our country and the Dalmatians, and partly too to sift this matter of Bolcanus and the Dalmatians to the bottom. For this purpose we deemed it wise to summon hither your Duke, Our Majesty’s dearly beloved nephew, and in his place we send the man who will hand you this letter, and whom we have created Duke.

Therefore do ye receive him and yield him obedience in whatsoever he may command.” When he handed these letter to Caratzas he enjoined him to deliver the one to John first. Then if John willingly obeyed the orders in it, be should send him forth in peace, and undertake the government of the district himself until such time as John returned. But if John proved recalcitrant or refused to obe

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The Emperor now heard a rumour of an invasion by the Comans, and learnt from another quarter that Bodinus and his Dalmatians had broken the truce and were contemplating an incursion into our territory; he was divided in mind as to which adversary he should turn his attention first. He decided to proceed against the Dalmatians first, and to anticipate them in occupying, and, as far as practicable, in protecting the valleys lying between their confines and our own. Accordingly he convoked his council and imparted his ideas to them, and as they all approved he left the capital for the purpose of taking charge of affairs in the West.

He soon reached Philippopolis where letters were handed to him from the archbishop of Bulgaria, who wrote about the Duke of Dyrrachium, John, the Sebastocrator’s son, as he felt convinced the latter was hatching rebellion. For a whole day and night the Emperor was sunk in despondency, at one minute wanting to adjourn the investigation of the

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For throughout his lif e he considered it a sin not only to tell a falsehood, but even to appear to have done so, and he frequently would discourse at length to all about falseness. This is sufficient about the fugitives; as for all the other Comans who followed him, he saw to it that they feasted royally for the rest of the day. He judged it wiser not to give these soldiers the reward due to them on that day, but to let them first sleep off the effects of the wine they had drunk, so that when they had regained their clarity of mind, they would appreciate the gift.

On the following day he assembled them all and gave them not only as much as he had promised beforehand, but a great deal more. Now when he wanted to dismiss them to their homes he reflected that they might wander about and turn to plundering on their way and inflict no little harm on the country-towns along the road, so he took hostages from them. They in their turn requested him to give them safe conduct, so h

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And I really do not know what you are thinking about to talk such nonsense.”On the other’s insisting he dismissed him angrily. Then he had a proclamation made to the army that all arms should be taken from the Scythians and deposited in one place, and that the soldiers should carefully guard their prisoners. After issuing these orders, he spent the rest of the night free from anxiety. But during the middle watch of the night, either by Divine guidance, or for some other unknown reason, certain it is that as if by one accord the soldiers killed nearly all of them.

Connections of the Emperor

When the Emperor was told this in the early morning he at once suspected Synesius, and therefore had him called directly. After blaming him severely, he threatened him saying, ” This is your work.” In spite of the other’s protestations that he knew nothing about it, he ordered him to be arrested and kept in chains, saying, ” Thus you will l

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That day a new spectacle was seen, for a whole nation, not of ten thousand men only, but surpassing all number together with their wives and children was completely wiped out. It was the third day of the week, the twenty-ninth of April; hence the Byzantines made a little burlesque song, “just by one day the Scythians missed seeing the month of May.” By the time that the sun was creeping to the West, and practically all the Scythians had fallen to the sword, and I repeat the children and the women too, and many also had been taken alive, the Emperor bade them sound the recall, and returned to his camp.

These doings might well seem a miracle, especially to a mind that reflected bow not so long ago the men who left Byzantium to fight the Scythians brought ropes and straps with which to bind the captive Scythians they meant to lead home, and then the tables were turned and they themselves became the prisoners and captives of the Scythians -this took place when we f

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The Romans in their dread of the countless Scythians and their horrible covered wagons which they used as walls, sent up one cry for mercy to the Lord of All and then, letting their steeds go, dashed at full speed into battle with the Scythians, the Emperor galloping in front of them all. The Roman line was crescent-shaped and at the same instant as if at a signal the whole army of the Comans rushed forward too, so a distinguished chieftain of the Scythians, foreseeing the issue of events, secured his safety in advance, and taking a few men with him went over to the Comans as they spoke the same language.

For although these too were fighting fiercely against the Scythians, yet he felt more confidence in them than in the Romans, and approached them in the hope that they would act as mediators for him with the Emperor. The Emperor noticed his secession and grew alarmed lest more should go over and persuade the Comans to make common cause with the Scythians, and to turn their