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Circling round the eastern extremity of the Euxine Sea, the navigation from Pityus
is about three hundred
The course of the Goths
carried them in sight of the country of Colchis
, so famous by the expedition of the
; and they even attempted, though without success, to pillage a rich temple at the mouth of the River Phasis
Trebizond, celebrated in the retreat of the ten thousand as an ancient colony of Greeks
derived its wealth and
from the magnificence of the emperor Hadrian
, who had constructed an artificial port on a coast left destitute by
nature of secure harbors. 109
The city was large and populous; a double enclosure of walls seemed to defy the fury of
, and the usual garrison
had been strengthened by a reinforcement of ten thousand men. But there are not any
advantages capable of supplying the absence of discipline
. The numerous garrison of Trebizond, dissolved
in riot and luxury, disdained to guard their impregnable fortifications. The Goths
soon discovered the supine negligence
the besieged, erected a lofty pile of fascines, ascended the walls in the silence of the night, and entered the defenseless
city sword in hand. A general massacre
of the people ensued, whilst the affrighted soldiers escaped through the opposite
gates of the town. The most holy temples, and the most splendid edifices, were involved in a common destruction
booty that fell into the hands of the Goths was immense
: the wealth of the adjacent countries had been deposited in
Trebizond, as in a secure place of refuge
. The number of captives was incredible, as the victorious barbarians
without opposition through the extensive province of Pontus. 110
The rich spoils of Trebizond filled a great fleet of
ships that had been found in the port. The robust youth of the sea-coast were chained to the oar; and the Goths
with the success of their first naval expedition, returned in triumph to their new establishment in the kingdom
Footnote 107: Arrian (in Periplo Maris Euxine, p. 130) calls the distance 2610 stadia.
Footnote 108: Xenophon, Anabasis, l. iv. p. 348, edit. Hutchinson. Note: Fallmerayer (Geschichte des Kaiserthums
von Trapezunt, p. 6, &c) assigns a very ancient date to the first (Pelasgic) foundation of Trapezun (Trebizond) - M.
Footnote 109: Arrian, p. 129. The general observation is Tournefort's.
Footnote 110: See an epistle of Gregory Thaumaturgus, bishop of Neo- Caeoarea, quoted by Mascou, v. 37.
Footnote 111: Zosimus, l. i. p. 32, 33.
The second expedition of the Goths
was undertaken with greater powers of men and ships; but they steered a different
course, and, disdaining the exhausted provinces of Pontus
, followed the western coast of the Euxine, passed before the
wide mouths of the Borysthenes, the Niester
, and the Danube
, and increasing their fleet by the capture of a great number
of fishing barks, they approached the narrow outlet through which the Euxine Sea pours its waters into the
Mediterranean, and divides the continents of Europe and Asia. The garrison
of Chalcedon was encamped near the
temple of Jupiter
Urius, on a promontory
that commanded the entrance of the Strait; and so inconsiderable were the
dreaded invasions of the barbarians
that this body of troops surpassed in number the Gothic
army. But it was in numbers
alone that they surpassed it. They deserted with precipitation their advantageous post, and abandoned the town of
, most plentifully stored with arms and money, to the discretion of the conquerors. Whilst they hesitated
whether they should prefer the sea or land Europe or Asia, for the scene of their hostilities, a perfidious fugitive pointed
out Nicomedia, * once the capital of the kings of Bithynia, as a rich and easy conquest.
He guided the march which
was only sixty miles from the camp of Chalcedon
directed the resistless attack, and partook of the booty; for the
had learned sufficient policy to reward the traito
whom they detested. Nice
had sometimes rivalled, or imitated, the splendor of Nicomedia
, were involved in the same calamity, which, in a few
weeks, raged without control through the whole province of Bithynia
. Three hundred years of peace, enjoyed by the soft
inhabitants of Asia, had abolished the exercise of arms, and removed the apprehension of danger. The ancient walls were
suffered to molder away, and all the revenue of the most opulent cities was reserved for the construction of baths,
temples, and theatres. 113
Footnote *: It has preserved its name, joined to the preposition of place in that of Nikmid.
D'Anv. Geog. Anc. ii. 28. - G.
Footnote 112: Itiner. Hierosolym. p. 572. Wesseling.
Footnote !: Now Isnik, Bursa, Mondania Ghio or Kemlik D'Anv. ii. 23. - G.
Footnote 113: Zosimus, l. . p. 32, 33.
When the city of Cyzicus
withstood the utmost effort of Mithridates
it was distinguished by wise laws, a naval
power of two hundred galleys, and three arsenals, of arms, of military engines, and of corn. 115
It was still the seat of
wealth and luxury; but of its ancient strength, nothing remained except the situation, in a little island of the Propontis,
connected with the continent of Asia only by two bridges. From the recent sack of Prusa, the Goths
eighteen miles. 116
of the city, which they had devoted to destruction; but the ruin of Cyzicus was delayed by a
fortunate accident. The season was rainy, and the Lake Apolloniates, the reservoir of all the springs of Mount Olympus
rose to an uncommon height. The little river of Rhyndacus
, which issues from the lake, swelled into a broad and rapid
stream, and stopped the progress of the Goths
. Their retreat to the maritime city of Heraclea, where the fleet had
probably been stationed, was attended by a long train of wagons, laden with the spoils of Bithynia, and was marked by
the flames of Nico
, which they wantonly burnt. 117
Some obscure hints are mentioned of a doubtful
combat that secured their retreat. 118
But even a complete victory would have been of little moment, as the approach
of the autumnal equinox
summoned them to hasten their return. To navigate the Euxine before the month of May, or after
that of September
, is esteemed by the modern Turks the most unquestionable instance of rashness
Footnote 114: He besieged the place with 400 galleys, 150,000 foot, and a numerous cavalry. See Plutarch in Lucul.
Appian in Mithridat Cicero pro Lege Manilia, c. 8.
Footnote 115: Strabo, l. xii. p. 573.
Footnote 116: Pocock's Description of the East, l. ii. c. 23, 24.
Footnote 117: Zosimus, l. i. p. 33.
Footnote 118: Syncellus tells an unintelligible story of Prince Odenathus, who defeated the Goths, and who was killed
by Prince Odenathus.
Footnote 119: Voyages de Chardin, tom. i. p. 45. He sailed with the Turks from Constantinople
When we are informed that the third fleet, equipped by the Goths
in the ports of Bosphorus
, consisted of five hundred
sails of ships, 120
our ready imagination instantly computes and multiplies the formidable armament
but, as we are
assured by the judicious Strabo
that the piratical vessels used by the barbarians
and the Lesser Scythia
were not capable of containing more than twenty-five or thirty men we may safely affirm, that fifteen thousand warriors,
at the most, embarked in this great ]expedition]. Impatient of the limits of the Euxine, they steered their destructive course
from the Cimmerian
to the Thracian Bosphorus
. When they had almost gained the middle of the Straits, they were
suddenly driven back to the entrance of them; till a favorable wind, springing up the next day, carried them in a few hours
into the placid sea, or rather lake, of the Propontis. Their landing on the little island of Cyzicus
was attended with the ruin
of that ancient and noble city. From thence issuing again through the narrow passage of the Hellespont
, they pursued
their winding navigation amidst the numerous islands scattered over the Archipelago
, or the Aegean Sea
. The assistance
of captives and deserters must have been very necessary to pilot their vessels, and to direct their various incursions, as
well on the coast of Greece
as on that of Asia. At length the Gothic
fleet anchored in the port of Piraeus
, five miles
distant from Athens, 122
which had attempted to make some preparations for a vigorous defence
, one of
the engineers employed by the emperor's orders to fortify the maritime
cities against the Goths
, had already begun to
repair the ancient walls, fallen to decay since the time of Scylla
. The efforts of his skill were ineffectual
, and the
became masters of the native seat of the muses and the arts. But while the conquerors abandoned themselves
to the license of plunder
, their fleet, that lay with a slender guard in the harbor of Piraeus, was
unexpectedly attacked by the brave Dexippus
, who, flying with the engineer Cleodamus
from the sack of Athens
collected a hasty band of volunteers, peasants as well as soldiers, and in some measure avenged the calamities of his
Footnote 120: Syncellus (p. 382) speaks of this expedition, as undertaken by the Heruli.
Footnote 121: Strabo, l. xi. p. 495.
Footnote 122: Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 7.
Footnote 123: Hist. August. p. 181. Victor, c. 33. Orosius, vii. 42. Zosimus, l. i. p. 35. Zonaras, l. xii. 635. Syncellus,
p. 382. It is not without some attention, that we can explain and conciliate their imperfect hints. We can still discover
some traces of the partiality of Dexippus, in the relation of his own and his countrymen's exploits. According to a new fragment of Dexippus, published by Mai, he 2000 men. He took up a strong position in a
mountainous and woods district, and kept up a harassing warfare. He expresses a hope of being speedily joined by the
Imperial fleet. Dexippus in rov. Byzantinorum Collect a Niebuhr, p. 26, 8 - M.
But this exploit, whatever lustre it might shed on the declining age of Athens, served rather to irritate than to subdue the
undaunted spirit of the northern invaders. A general conflagration blazed out at the same time in every district of Greece
, which had formerly waged such memorable wars against each other, were now
unable to bring an army into the field, or even to defend their ruined fortifications. The rage of war, both by land and by
sea, spread from the eastern point of Sunium to the western coast of Epirus. The Goths
had already advanced within
sight of Italy, when the approach of such imminent danger awakened the indolent Gallienus
from his dream of pleasure.
The emperor appeared in arms; and his presence seems to have checked the ardor
, and to have divided the strength, of
the enemy. Naulobatus,
a chief of the Heruli, accepted an honorable capitulation
, entered with a large body of his
countrymen into the service of Rome, and was invested with the ornaments of the consular dignity
, which had never
before been profaned by the hands of a barbarian. 124
Great numbers of the Goths
, disgusted with the perils and
hardships of a tedious voyage, broke into Maesia, with a design of forcing their way over the Danube
to their settlements
in the Ukraine
. The wild attempt would have proved inevitable destruction
, if the discord of the Roman generals had not
opened to the barbarians
the means of an escape
The small remainder of this destroying host returned on board
their vessels; and measuring back their way through the Hellespont
and the Bosphorus
, ravaged in their passage the
shores of Troy, whose fame, immortalized by Homer
, will probably survive the memory of the Gothic
soon as they found themselves in safety within the basin of the Euxine, they landed at Anchialus in Thrace, near the foot
of Mount Haemus; and, after all their toils, indulged themselves in the use of those pleasant and salutary hot baths. What
remained of the voyage was a short and easy navigation
Such was the various fate of this third and greatest of
their naval enterprises. It may seem difficult to conceive how the original body of fifteen thousand warriors could sustain
the losses and divisions of so bold an adventure
. But as their numbers were gradually wasted by the sword, by
shipwrecks, and by the influence of a warm climate, they were perpetually renewed by troops of banditti and deserters,
who flocked to the standard of plunder
, and by a crowd of fugitive slaves, often of German or Sarmatian extraction, who
eagerly seized the glorious opportunity of freedom
. In these expeditions, the Gothic
nation claimed a
superior share of honor
; but the tribes that fought under the Gothic
banners are sometimes distinguished and
sometimes confounded in the imperfect histories of that age; and as the barbarian
fleets seemed to issue from the mouth
of the Tanais, the vague but familiar appellation
of Scythians was frequently bestowed on the mixed multitude
Footnote 124: Syncellus, p. 382. This body of Heruli was for a long time faithful and famous.
Footnote 125: Claudius, who commanded on the Danube, thought with propriety and acted with spirit. His colleague
was jealous of his fame Hist. August. p. 181.
Footnote 126: Jornandes, c. 20.
Footnote 127: Zosimus and the Greeks (as the author of the Philopatris) give the name of Scythians to those whom
Jornandes, and the Latin writers, constantly represent as Goths.
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To cite original text:
Gibbon, Edward, 1737-1794. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
1st ed. (London : Printed for W. Strahan ; and T. Cadell, 1776-1788.), pp. 266-271.