Marieta Minkova Peneva

War with Scyths part 10

Whilst the Emperor was busy with these reflections, a band of hardy and war-loving mountaineers, numbering about 5,000 in all, deserted to the Emperor and offered him their services. Since the moment of battle could now no longer be postponed, the Emperor invoked the aid of God. At sunset he led the intercessory prayers for help to God, and conducted a brilliant torch-light procession, and sang appropriate hymns. Nor did he allow the army to sleep in peace, for he suggested to the more intelligent individuals that they should follow his example whereas he imposed it as an order upon the more clownish.

And thus at that hour you could have seen the sun setting on the horizon, but the whole sky lit up, not as it were with the light of one sun, but as if ever so many more heavenly bodies were contributing their light. For one and all fixed lighted lamps or wax candles, whichever they had, to the tips of their spears. And verily the cries which were sent up by this army must ha

War with Scyths part 9

On the following day the Emperor moved again intending to seize the ford lower down the river locally called Philocalus; but as he met a large body of Scythians he promptly attacked them, and a vigorous engagement ensued. Many were killed on either side during the fight, yet the Emperor gained the victory, and thoroughly worsted the Scythians. After the battle was concluded in this way, and the armies had retired to their respective encampments, the Roman army remained near the spot for the whole of the night.

At sunrise on the morrow they moved on and occupied a place called Lebunium, which is a hill dominating a plain; up this hill the Emperor marched. But as there was not sufficient room on the hill itself for the whole of the army, he had a trench made at its foot and a camp, capable of containing the entire army, and lodged them there. At this moment the deserter Neantzes with a few Scythians approached the Emperor again; when the Emperor saw him he reproached him wit

War with Scyths part 8

However the Scythians and the Coman armies remained where they were for some time, while the Com ans harassed the Scythian army by skirmishing. Before the expiration of three days Alexius summoned Antiochus (he was one of the nobles who surpassed most in energy), and ordered him to build a bridge. The bridge was quickly constructed by binding boats together with very long planks, then he called for the Protostrator Michael Ducas, his brother-in-law, and the Great Domestic Adrian, his brother, and commanded them to stand at the river’s edge, and not allow the infantry and cavalry to cross all together in a confused mass, but first to separate the infantry from the cavalry, and also the baggage waggon and the sumpter mules.

When the infantry had crossed, through fear of the Scythian and Coman troops and their sly attacks, he had trenches drawn with all speed and lodged all the infantry within them; afterwards he ordered the horsemen to cross too, and he stood on the ri

War with Scyths part 7

IV When the troops entrenched at Choereni learnt of the advances of incredibly large Scythian armies, they sent word of this to the Emperor who was still at Aenus. He at once embarked in a coracle and sailing along the coast, entered the river at its mouth and effected a junction with his entire army, As he saw that his own forces were infinitely smaller than the Scythians he fell into great perplexity and fear, for as far as man could see, he had no one to help him. Yet he did not give way or shew weakness but was lost in a welter of reflections. Four days later he saw far off in quite a different direction an army of the Comans approaching, about forty thousand strong.

Amongst a crowd of other captains in the Coman army

Accordingly he reflected that if these made common cause with the Scythians, they would begin a terrible war against him (from which no other result could be expected than utter destruction), so he judged it wise to conciliate them; for it was

War with Scyths part 6

Under these circumstances the Emperor did what he could by letters to collect a mercenary army from all sides. But when the sun had reached the spring solstice and the threatening war from the clouds had ceased, and the wrath of the sea was abated, he decided, as his enemies were pressing him hard on either side, that the best course would be to go down to the coast; there he could easily resist his seafaring enemies, and at the same time conveniently fight against those who approached over land.

He immediately sent off the Caesar Melissenus Nicephorus with orders to occupy Enus with all possible despatch. He had previously signified to him by letters to enlist as many soldiers as possible, but not from the veterans (for those had already been distributed throughout the towns in the West to act as garrisons in the more important strongholds). He was partly to levy recruits from the Bulgarians and from the nomadic tribes (called Vlachs in popular parlance) and for the rest

War with Scyths part 5

III In such manner did God on that occasion grant the ruler an astounding victory. When the Byzantines saw him enter the city, they shouted with joy for they were astonished at the swiftness, the boldness and the cleverness of the undertaking and the immediate victory, they sang paeans, they leapt, and praised God for having given them such a saviour and benefactor. But Melissenus Nicephorus was annoyed at this and took it ill-such is human nature-and said, ” This victory is a fruitless joy to us and a harmless grief to them.” And indeed the Scythians, who were innumerable and dispersed all over the West, continued to ravage all the provinces and none of the disasters that had befallen them checked their unbridled audacity in the slightest.

Now and again they would even seize small towns in the West, nor did they spare the villages in the neighbourhood of the Queen of Cities, for they even advanced to the one called Bathys Rhyax where stands the sanctuary sacre

War with Scyths part 4

This would be a soldier’s joke quite free from danger, yet with a spice of fear in it; for before they were seriously alarmed, they would be reassured by seeing the Emperor behind. In this way the Emperor harmlessly scared those they met. All the men with Palaeologus were overcome with fear at what they saw, but he himself of fax greater experience than they all, and knowing too how fertile in devices Alexius was, immediately understood that this was such a device, and therefore regained confidence himself, and urged the others to do so.

By this time, the whole crowd of his kinsmen and connections was rushing out from the capital, for they were hurrying, as they thought, to overtake the Emperor according to their agreement with him. For, as mentioned above, they agreed to meet him after Sexagesima Sunday in Quinquagesima week. However they did not succeed in leaving the city before the Emperor re-entered it in triumph. When they met him on arrival they would not have

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 Scythia

War with Scyths part 2

Consequently he assembled the soldiers and wishing to test their feelings, said, “We must not let our courage flag by contemplating the number of Scythians, but put our trust in God and go to battle with them, and if only we are all of one mind, I am convinced we shall beat them utterly.” But they all refused absolutely and dissented from his proposal. Then he aroused greater fear in them and awoke them to a sense of danger by saying: ” If the foraging party returns and rejoins those who are here, our peril is clear and manifest. For they will either rush this fort and we shall be massacred, or maybe they will hold us of no account and march up to the walls of the capital and prevent us from re-entering the Queen-City by bivouacking before its gates.

Dash into the midst of the Scythians

Consequently it behoves us to take the risk and not die like cowards. So I shall go out at once and whoever likes can follow me for I will lead the way and das

War with Scyths part 1

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.

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 ha