War with Scyths part 3


II When evening had fallen (it was a Saturday) he returned with his captives (to Choerobacchi) and spent the next day quietly there. At daybreak on Monday he left the fort and divided his men into two parties, in front he placed the men carrying the standards of the Scythians, and behind them the Scythian captives each led by a countryman; the heads which had been cut off he had stuck on spears and carried aloft by yet other countrymen, and in this order he bade them journey. At a moderate distance behind these he followed with his soldiers and the usual Roman standards. Now Palaeologus, who was ardent in military enterprises, had started from Byzantium at dawn on Sexagesima Sunday before the others.

As he was aware of the Scythians’ rapidity in movement, he was not free from anxiety on his journey, so picked out a few of his accompanying retainers and ordered them to run some distance ahead and inspect the plains, valley and roads, all round, and in case any Scythians were to be seen, to return quickly and report to him. In this order then they travelled; when the scouts saw in the plain called Dimylia the men dressed in Scythian clothing, and the Scythian standards, they ran back and reported that the Scythians were close at hand. Whereupon he immediately stood to arms. On the heels of the first messenger came a second who affirmed that, at a good distance behind those who looked like Scythians, the Roman standards and soldiers advancing at a double could be seen.

All members of the Roman army

These newsbringers guessed a part of the truth indeed, but were also partly wrong. For the army marching in the rear was certainly Roman both in appearance and in reality and the Emperor was in command of it ; but the one in front equipped in Scythian fashion were all members of the Roman army, but dressed in Scythian garments. In the first place, the men dressed up in the way they were by the Emperor’s command, managed as apparent Scythians utterly to deceive the real Scythians, as I have already described ; and in the second place, the Emperor made use of this Scythian get-up to cheat and trick our own men, in order that whoever met these our own soldiers first should be horror-struck, and think they had fallen into the hands of Scythians.

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