The Northern Way

JORDANE'S
THE ORIGIN AND DEEDS OF THE GOTHS

In this most famous war of the bravest tribes, one hundred and sixty five thousand are said to have been slain on both sides, leaving out of account fifteen thousand of the Gepidae and Franks, who met each other the night before the general engagement and fell by wounds mutually received, the Franks fighting for the Romans and the Gepidae for the Huns.
      (218) Now when Attila learned of the retreat of the Goths, he thought it a ruse of the enemy,--for so men are wont to believe when the unexpected happens--and remained for some time in his camp. But when a long silence followed the absence of the foe, the spirit of the mighty king was aroused to the thought of victory and the anticipation of pleasure, and his mind turned to the old oracles of his destiny.
      Thorismud, however, after the death of his father on the Catalaunian Plains where he had fought, advanced in royal state and entered Tolosa. Here although the throng of his brothers and brave companions were still rejoicing over the victory he yet began to rule so mildly that no one strove with him for the succession to the kingdom.

XLII


(219 But Attila took occasion from the withdrawal of the Visigoths, observing what he had often desired--that his enemies were divided. At length feeling secure, he moved forward his array to attack the Romans. As his first move he besieged the city of Aquileia, the metropolis of Venetia, which is situated on a point or tongue of land by the Adriatic Sea. On the eastern side its walls are washed by the river Natissa, flowing from Mount Piccis. (220) The siege was long and fierce, but of no avail, since the bravest soldiers of the Romans withstood him from within. At last his army was discontented and eager to withdraw. Attila chanced to be walking around the walls, considering whether to break camp or delay longer, and noticed that the white birds, namely, the storks, who build their nests in the gables of houses, were bearing their young from the city and, contrary to their custom, were carrying them out into the country. (221) Being a shrewd observer of events, he understood this and said to his soldiers: "You see the birds foresee the future. They are leaving the city sure to perish and are forsaking strongholds doomed to fall by reason of imminent peril. Do not think this a meaningless or uncertain sign; fear, arising from the things they foresee, has changed their custom." Why say more? He inflamed the hearts of his soldiers to attack Aquileia again. Constructing battering rams and bringing to bear all manner of engines of war, they quickly forced their way into the city, laid it waste, divided the spoil and so cruelly devastated it as scarcely to leave a trace to be seen. (222) Then growing bolder and still thirsting for Roman blood, the Huns raged madly through the remaining cities of the Veneti. They also laid waste Mediolanum, the metropolis of Liguria, once an imperial city, and gave over Ticinum to a like fate. Then they destroyed the neighboring country in their frenzy and demolished almost the whole of Italy.
      Attila's mind had been bent on going to Rome. But his followers, as the historian Priscus relates, took him away, not out of regard for the city to which they were hostile, but because they remembered the case of Alaric, the former king of the Visigoths. They distrusted the good fortune of their own king, inasmuch as Alaric did not live long after the sack of Rome, but straightway departed this life. (223) Therefore while Attila's spirit was wavering in doubt between going and not going, and he still lingered to ponder the matter, an embassy came to him from Rome to seek peace. Pope Leo himself came to meet him in the Ambuleian district of the Veneti at the well-travelled ford of the river Mincius. Then Attila quickly put aside his usual fury, turned back on the way he had advanced from beyond the Danube and departed with the promise of peace. But above all he declared and avowed with threats that he would bring worse things upon Italy, unless they sent him Honoria, the sister of the Emperor Valentinian and daughter of Augusta Placidia, with her due share of the royal wealth. (224) For it was said that Honoria, although bound to chastity for the honor of the imperial court and kept in constraint by command of her brother, had secretly despatched a eunuch to summon Attila that she might have his protection against her brother's power;--a shameful thing, indeed, to get license for her passion at the cost of the public weal.



XLIII


(225) So Attila returned to his own country, seeming to regret the peace and to be vexed at the cessation of war. For he sent ambassadors to Marcian, Emperor of the East, threatening to devastate the provinces, because that which had been promised him by Theodosius, a former emperor, was in no wise performed, and saying that he would show himself more cruel to his foes than ever. But as he was shrewd and crafty, he threatened in one direction and moved his army in another; for in the midst of these preparations he turned his face toward the Visigoths who had yet to feel his vengeance. (226) But here he had not the same success as against the Romans. Hastening back by a different way than before, he decided to reduce to his sway that part of the Alani which was settled across the river Loire, in order that by attacking them, and thus changing the aspect of the war, he might become a more terrible menace to the Visigoths. Accordingly he started from the provinces of Dacia and Pannonia, where the Huns were then dwelling with various subject peoples, and moved his array against the Alani. (227) But Thorismud, king of the Visigoths, with like quickness of thought perceived Attila's trick. By forced marches he came to the Alani before him, and was well prepared to check the advance of Attila when he came after him. They joined battle in almost the same way as before at the Catalaunian Plains, and Thorismud dashed his hopes of victory, for he routed him and drove him from the land without a triumph, compelling him to flee to his own country. Thus while Attila, the famous leader and lord of many victories, sought to blot out the fame of his destroyer and in this way to annul what he had suffered at the hands of the Visigoths, he met a second defeat and retreated ingloriously. (228) Now after the bands of the Huns had been repulsed by the Alani, without any hurt to his own men, Thorismud departed for Tolosa. There he established a settled peace for his people and in the third year of his reign fell sick. While letting blood from a vein, he was betrayed to his death by Ascalc, a client, who told his foes that his weapons were out of reach. Yet grasping a foot-stool in the one hand he had free, he became the avenger of his own blood by slaying several of those that were lying in wait for him.



XLIV


(229) After his death, his brother Theodorid succeeded to the kingdom of the Visigoths and soon found that Riciarius his kinsman, the king of the Suavi, was hostile to him. For Riciarius, presuming on his relationship to Theodorid, believed that he might seize almost the whole of Spain, thinking the disturbed beginning of Theodorid's reign made the time opportune for his trick. (230) The Suavi formerly occupied as their country Galicia and Lusitania, which extend on the right side of Spain along the shore of Ocean. To the east is Austrogonia, to the west, on a promontory, is the sacred Monument of the Roman general Scipio, to the north Ocean, and to the south Lusitania and the Tagus river, which mingles golden grains in its sands and thus carries wealth in its worthless mud. So then Riciarius, king of the Suavi, set forth and strove to seize the whole of Spain. (231) Theodorid, his kinsman, a man of moderation, sent ambassadors to him and told him quietly that he must not only withdraw from the territories that were not his own, but furthermore that he should not presume to make such an attempt, as he was becoming hated for his ambition. But with arrogant spirit he replied: "If you murmur here and find fault with my coming, I shall come to Tolosa where you dwell. Resist me there, if you can." When he heard this, Theodorid was angry and, making a compact with all the other tribes, moved his array against the Suavi. He had as his close allies Gundiuch and Hilperic, kings of the Burgundians. (232) They came to battle near the river Ulbius, which flows between Asturica and Hiberia, and in the engagement Theodorid with the Visigoths, who fought for the right, came off victorious, overthrowing the entire tribe of the Suavi and almost exterminating them. Their king Riciarius fled from the dread foe and embarked upon a ship. But he was beaten back by another foe, the adverse wind of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and so fell into the hands of the Visigoths. Thus though he changed from sea to land, the wretched man did not avert his death.
(233) When Theodorid had become the victor, he spared the conquered and did not suffer the rage of conflict to continue, but placed over the Suavi whom he had conquered one of his own retainers, named Agrivulf. But Agrivulf soon treacherously changed his mind, through the persuasion of the Suavi, and failed to fulfil his duty. For he was quite puffed up with tyrannical pride, believing he had obtained the province as a reward for the valor by which he and his lord had recently subjugated it. Now he was a man born of the stock of the Varni, far below the nobility of Gothic blood, and so was neither zealous for liberty nor faithful toward his patron. (234) As soon as Theodorid heard of this, he gathered a force to cast him out from the kingdom he had usurped. They came quickly and conquered him in the first battle, inflicting a punishment befitting his deeds. For he was captured, taken from his friends and beheaded. Thus at last he was made aware of the wrath of the master he thought might be despised because he was kind. Now when the Suavi beheld the death of their leader, they sent priests of their country to Theodorid as suppliants. He received them with the reverence due their office and not only granted the Suavi exemption from punishment, but was moved by compassion and allowed them to choose a ruler of their own race for themselves. The Suavi did so, taking Rimismund as their prince. When this was done and peace was everywhere assured, Theodorid died in the thirteenth year of his reign.

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