August 13, 2020

War with Scyths part 15

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 matter because of John’s father, at another fearing lest report spoke true and that, as John was still a stripling, and at an age when he knew impulses are uncontrolled, he might start a rebellion and become the source of intolerable grief both to his father and uncle.

Finally, he concluded that he must in some way contrive to frustrate his design. For he was exceedingly attached to the young man. He accordingly summoned the man who was then Aeteriarch [*=(or “Heteriarch” = the captain of the foreign guild) Argyrus Caratzas, who, though a Scythian, combined great prudence with a love of virtue and truth, and handed him two letters.

The descent of the barbarians

The one addressed to John was conceived in the following terms: “Our Majesty being informed of the descent of the barbarians against us through the mountain passes, has travelled hither from the city of Constantine to secure the frontiers of the Roman Empire. Hence we naturally desire your presence that we may give you instructions with regard to the realm over which you rule. (I am also somewhat suspicious of Bolcanus, for he may be hatching some treacherous scheme against us.)

Further, we wish you to give us a report on the state of Dalmatia and also to certify whether Bolcanus has observed the terms of the truce (for most unsatisfactory rumours about him are brought to us daily). We shall be better able to resist his machinations after we have received reliable information from you; then we intend to send you to Illyria after giving you the necessary directions in order that by attacking the enemy on both sides we may, with God’s help, gain the victory.” This was the tenor of his letter to John.

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