War with the Scyths part 7


The Emperor who was very adventurous and liked to be the first to start a battle, did not take into consideration the arguments of those who protested against fighting, but put George Cutzomites in charge of the Imperial tent and all the baggage and dispatched him to Betrinum; then he enjoined the army not to light a lamp or fire that evening, but to keep the horses ready and watch till sunrise. He himself left his tent at daybreak, divided his forces and set them in order of battle, and then reviewed the army. He chose the centre of the line as his post, where he was surrounded by his relations and connections, such as his brother Adrian who was at that time commanding the Latins, and other valiant gentlemen.

The left wing was held by Nicephorus Caesar Melissenus, his sister’s husband, and the leaders on the right wing were Castamonites and Taticius, whilst the Sauromatians, Uzas and Caratzas, commanded the allies. Then he chose six men as his own bodyguard and ordered them to attend to him and pay not the slightest attention to anyone else, these six were the two sons of Romanus Diogenes, Nicolas Mavrocatacalon who had had a long and varied military career, Johannaces, Nabites, the prefect of the Varangians, and lastly a certain Gules, a family retainer.

Forbade the hoplites to move forward

But the Scythians too had arranged a plan of battle, for the science of warfare and of ordering troops is inbred in them; they set ambuscades and connected their ranks in close-ordered array, and built towers, as it were, of their covered wagons, and advanced against the Emperor in squadrons, and hurled missiles from afar. The Emperor adapted his army to meet these squadrons, and forbade the hoplites to move forward or to break the covering formed by their shields, until the Scythians had come quite close. Then when they judged the intervening space between the two armies to be no more than a bridle’s length, they were to advance against the foe in a body.

Whilst the Emperor was making these preparations the Scythians appeared in the distance travelling with their covered wagons, wives and children. When the battle commenced, it raged from morning till evening and the slaughter on either side was tremendous. And Leo, Diogenes’ son, riding too recklessly against the Scythians, and allowing himself to be drawn closer than was wise to the wagons, received a mortal wound and fell.

And Adrian the Emperor’s brother, who had been entrusted with command over the Latins, seeing that the Scythians’ onset was proving irresistible, gave his horse his head and charged right up to the wagons and after fighting magnificently returned with only seven comrades, all the rest had been either slain or captured by the Scythians. The result of the battle was still hanging in the balance, and both armies were fighting with great spirit, when some Scythian chieftains were seen in the distance coming with thirty-six thousand men; the Romans who could not possibly stand against so many, then turned their backs to the enemy.

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