The Northern Way

JORDANE'S
THE ORIGIN AND DEEDS OF THE GOTHS

XV


(83) As already said, they crossed the Danube and dwelt a little while in Moesia and Thrace. From the remnant of these came Maximinus, the Emperor succeeding Alexander the son of Mama. For Symmachus relates it thus in the fifth book of his history, saying that upon the death of Caesar Alexander, Maximinus was made Emperor by the army; a man born in Thrace of most humble parentage, his father being a Goth named Micca, and his mother a woman of the Alani called Ababa. He reigned three years and lost alike his empire and his life while making war on the Christians. (84) Now after his first years spent in rustic life, he had come from his flocks to military service in the reign of the Emperor Severus and at the time when he was celebrating his son's birthday. It happened that the Emperor was giving military games. When Maximinus saw this, although he was a semi-barbarian youth, he besought the Emperor in his native tongue to give him permission to wrestle with the trained soldiers for the prizes offered. (85) Severus marvelling much at his great size--for his stature, it is said, was more than eight feet,--bade him contend in wrestling with the camp followers, in order that no injury might befall his soldiers at the hands of this wild fellow. Thereupon Maximinus threw sixteen attendants with so great ease that he conquered them one by one without taking any rest by pausing between the bouts. So then, when he had won the prizes, it was ordered that he should be sent into the army and should take his first campaign with the cavalry. On the third day after this, when the Emperor went out to the field, he saw him coursing about in barbarian fashion and bade a tribune restrain him and teach him Roman discipline. But when he understood it was the Emperor who was speaking about him, he came forward and began to run ahead of him as he rode. (86) Then the Emperor spurred on his horse to a slow trot and wheeled in many a circle hither and thither with various turns, until he was weary. And then he said to him "Are you willing to wrestle now after your running, my little Thracian?" "As much as you like, O Emperor," he answered. So Severus leaped from his horse and ordered the freshest soldiers to wrestle with him. But he threw to the ground seven very powerful youths, even as before, taking no breathing space between the bouts. So he alone was given prizes of silver and a golden necklace by Caesar. Then he was bidden to serve in the body guard of the Emperor. (87) After this he was an officer under Antoninus Caracalla, often increasing his fame by his deeds, and rose to many military grades and finally to the centurionship as the reward of his active service. Yet afterwards, when Macrinus became Emperor, he refused military service for almost three years, and though he held the office of tribune, he never came into the presence of Macrinus, thinking his rule shameful because he had won it by committing a crime. (88) Then he returned to Eliogabalus, believing him to be the son of Antoninus, and entered upon his tribuneship. After his reign, he fought with marvellous success against the Parthians, under Alexander the son of Mama. When he was slain in an uprising of the soldiers at Mogontiacum, Maximinus himself was made Emperor by a vote of the army, without a decree of the senate. But he marred all his good deeds by persecuting the Christians in accordance with an evil vow and, being slain by Pupienus at Aquileia, left the kingdom to Philip. These matters we have borrowed from the history of Symmachus for this our little book, in order to show that the race of which we speak attained to the very highest station in the Roman Empire. But our subject requires us to return in due order to the point whence we digressed.



XVI


(89) Now the Gothic race gained great fame in the region where they were then dwelling, that is in the Scythian land on the shore of Pontus, holding undisputed sway over great stretches of country, many arms of the sea and many river courses. By their strong right arm the Vandals were often laid low, the Marcomanni held their footing by paying tribute and the princes of the Quadi were reduced to slavery. Now when the aforesaid Philip--who, with his son Philip, was the only Christian emperor before Constantine--ruled over the Romans, in the second year of his reign Rome completed its one thousandth year. He withheld from the Goths the tribute due them; whereupon they were naturally enraged and instead of friends became his foes. For though they dwelt apart under their own kings, yet they had been allied to the Roman state and received annual gifts. (90) And what more? Ostrogotha and his men soon crossed the Danube and ravaged Moesia and Thrace. Philip sent the senator Decius against him. And since he could do nothing against the Getae, he released his own soldiers from military service and sent them back to private life, as though it had been by their neglect that the Goths had crossed the Danube. When, as he supposed, he had thus taken vengeance on his soldiers, he returned to Philip. But when the soldiers found themselves expelled from the army after so many hardships, in their anger they had recourse to the protection of Ostrogotha, king of the Goths. (91) He received them, was aroused by their words and presently led out three hundred thousand armed men, having as allies for this war some of the Taifali and Astringi and also three thousand of the Carpi, a race of men very ready to make war and frequently hostile to the Romans. But in later times when Diocletian and Maximian were Emperors, the Caesar Galerius Maximianus conquered them and made them tributary to the Roman Empire. Besides these tribes, Ostrogotha had Goths and Peucini from the island of Peuce, which lies in the mouths of the Danube where they empty into the Sea of Pontus. He placed in command Argaithus and Guntheric, the noblest leaders of his race. (92) They speedily crossed the Danube, devastated Moesia a second time and approached Marcianople, the famed metropolis of that land. Yet after a long siege they departed, upon receiving money from the inhabitants.
(93) Now since we have mentioned Marcianople, we may briefly relate a few matters in connection with its founding. They say that the Emperor Trajan built this city for the following reason. While his sister's daughter Marcia was bathing in the stream called Potamus--a river of great clearness and purity that rises in the midst of the city--she wished to draw some water from it and by chance dropped into its depths the golden pitcher she was carrying. Yet though very heavy from its weight of metal, it emerged from the waves a long time afterwards. It surely is not a usual thing for an empty vessel to sink; much less that, when once swallowed up, it should be cast up by the waves and float again. Trajan marvelled at hearing this and believed there was some divinity in the stream. So he built a city and called it Marcianople after the name of his sister.

 

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