Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 25.1

In general, my translations are filthy literal. I’m not translating Latin idioms into graceful English, partly because I often don’t recognize the idioms when I see them (but not always–I’m well aware that, “the boundaries of the light,” for example, would make more sense rendered as “the crack of dawn” or something similar). And I often cling to Latin ordering of words and phrases, even when it would make more sense to use a more English structure. This entry seems particularly egregious in this respect. In a couple of places below (marked in italics) the construction is especially strained, however, because I genuinely don’t understand how the Latin is working. If you want a clearer translation, there are a couple freely available on the internet.

And indeed that night, shining with no glitter of stars, as is usual for severe and doubtful affairs, we drove out and neither did anyone dare to sit nor turn lamps to quietude, on account of their fear. When, truly, the day first became light, shining on the iron bands of embracing loricae, and the glittering breastplates, seen from afar, showed that the army of the king was at hand. And once this was seen, although the soldier was inflamed, hastening to engage—the river separated them—the emperor briefly held them back, and not far off from the very rampart, during a bitter fight that broke out between our scouts and the Persians, Machameus fell, the leader of one of our armies. His brother, Maurus—afterward a Phoenician general, although he intended to rush out, since he would slaughter the killer of his brother, terrifying anyone in the way, was himself also weakened by a javelin to his upper arm, growing pallid, with death at hand, he had the power to withdraw Machameus from the fight with great strength.

When the factions fatigued, from the magnitude of the heat, scarcely endurable, and the frequent clashes, finally the enemy troops were seriously repulsed, shattered. When we fell back from that place, the Saracens followed at great length and although, due to fear of our infantry, they were compelled to turn back, they soon afterward, once they were more safely joined to the Persian multitude, they attacked, to capture the Roman baggage, but when the emperor was seen, they returned to the auxiliary wings. Proceeding from that place, we reached the villa, named Hucumbra, where after two days, while everything was suitable for use and the grains we sought were in abundance, we departed restored to highest hope, and immediately after this, what the occasion allowed by wagon, the rest was consumed by fire.

The next day, when the army was proceeding well-appeased, the men at the very end, those who, by chance, bore the duties of collecting the train on that day, these men the Persians suddenly accosted, and would have killed in short order except that our nearby cavalry, as soon as this was perceived, having spread out widely though the broad valley, repelled the great mass discriminis vulneratis, who overtook them. In this battle, Adaces fell, a noble satrap, once sent as an ambassador to the princeps Constantius, and kindly received; his killer offered his equipment and clothing to Julian and was remunerated, as was befitting. On the same day, the equestrian band of the Tertiacori was accused by the legions, that, when they themselves had burst through the opposing battle-lines of the enemies, they, dispersing little by little, almost completely diminished the alacrity of the army. From this, the emperor, raised to just indignation, with their standards taken and their spears shattered, all those who were shown to have fled he positioned to make the journey among the baggage and supplies and the captives, their leader, who alone contended bravely, was posted to another troop, whose tribune had been proven to have shamefully deserted the battle. Yet another four were cast down by their oath, too, due to a similar disgrace of a battalion’s tribune; For this, to be sure, the emperor was content with a more lenient management of correction in consideration of the difficulties hanging over them.

And thus they progressed for seventy furlongs, the supplies of every kind diminished, since the green crops and grains burned, from the very flames fruits were grabbed, and foodstuffs, as anyone able to carry something, preserved it. Yet once this place was left behind, when the entire army arrived at a tract of land called Maranga, very near the boundaries of the light, the immense multitude of the Persians appeared, with Marana, a master of equestrian warfare, and the king’s two sons, and a great many aristocrats.

Indeed, all the crowds were furnished with iron, in this way, each limb so covered with thick plates, that the joints came together, stiffening at the connections of the limbs, simulacra of human visage attached to their heads so carefully that, with their bodies bedecked solid, even where a great many missiles fell upon them they could stand fast, which, through minute cavities and placed at the orbs of their eyes, is seen but sparingly and breath is emitted through supremely narrow straits of the nostrils. Part of which stands to fight, immovable, with pikes, such that you would think them fixed by bronze cables, and archers nearby, confident in their art from the very cradle, the band prevails to a high degree, they stretch their flexible bows, drawing apart their forearms, so that the strings touch their right breasts, the sharp points unite with their left hands, and the highest skill of their fingers proven, singing with strikes, the shafts fly forth bearing ruinous wounds.

After this, the dreadful aspect of gleaming elephants, howling savage cries, the trembling minds of men scarcely endure, and by the shrill noise and stench of these and the unaccustomed sight, horses are greatly terrified. Upon these their masters are seated, wielding handled knives tied to their right hands, mindful of the disaster received at Nisibis, and if the animal, going mad, overcomes the power of the man controlling it, lest it turn back on them, so as there to fell them, to throw them down to the clashing mass, the vein which divides the head from the neck, they cut through this with a desperate thrust. For this was discovered at another time by Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, thus quickly in this way to snatch life from the monsters.

When these were seen (and not without great terror), accompanied by bands of armed cohorts, the emperor and his most trustworthy highborn men, as the great and terrible power demanded, at the crescent front-line, and the curved flanks, he readied companies to rush the enemy. And so that the sallies of our archers would not scatter the wedge-formations, with signs quickly executed, he cut off the assault of arrows, and with the sign customarily given for decisive combat, the densely-packed Roman infantry thrust laboriously into the pressed fronts of the enemies, with great precision. And in the roiling mass of battles, the din of shields and men, and the crashing of arms plaintively whistling, abiding nothing yet to be abated, it covered the fields with blood and the carnage of bodies, especially with fallen Persians, for whom often sluggishly, foot bound closely to foot withstood more gravely in conflict, inclined to fight bravely from a distance and if they felt that might of their own declined, when retreating,  their arrows scattered in the manner of rain after them, they reliably deterred enemies from following. So once the Parthians were struck by a weight of great power, the soldiery, long since wearied by the flaming course of the sun, after the signal to retreat was given, fell again to their tents, sustained for daring greater things afterward.

In this battle the carnage of the Persians, so it is said, appeared greater, and our lighter by a great deal. Nevertheless, from among the various fallen in battle, the death of Vetranio stood out, a pugnacious man, who led the legion of the Zianni.

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