Page:Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.djvu/18

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[BK. XIV. CH. II
AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS.

and so came upon the crews unexpectedly, and, their natural ferocity being inflamed by covetousness, they spared not even those who offered no resistance, but slew them all, and carried off a splendid booty with no more trouble than if it had been valueless.

3. This conduct did not last long, for when the deaths of the crews thus plundered and slaughtered became known, no one afterwards brought a vessel to the stations on that coast; but, avoiding them as they would have avoided the deadly precipices of Sciron,[1] they sailed on, without halting, to the shores of Cyprus, which lie opposite to the rocks of Isauria.

4. Therefore as time went on, and no foreign vessels went there any more, they quitted the sea coast, and betook themselves to Lycaonia, a country which lies on the borders of Isauria. And there, occupying the roads with thick barricades, they sought a living by plundering the inhabitants of the district, as well as travellers. These outrages aroused the soldiers who were dispersed among the many municipal towns and forts which lie on the borders. And they, endeavouring to the utmost of their strength to repel these banditti, who were spreading every day more widely, sometimes in solid bodies, at others in small straggling parties, were overcome by their vast numbers.

5. Since the Isaurians, having been born and brought up amid the entangled defiles of lofty mountains, could bound over them as over plain and easy paths, and attacked all who came in their way with missiles from a distance, terrifying them at the same time with savage yells.

6. And very often our infantry were compelled in pursuit of them to climb lofty crags, and, when their feet slipped, to catch hold of the shrubs and briars to raise themselves to the summits; without ever being able to deploy into battle array, by reason of the narrow and difficult nature of the ground, nor even to stand firm; while their enemy running round in every direction hurled down upon them fragments of rock from above till they retired down the declivities with great danger.

  1. Sciron was a pirate slain by Theseus, v. Ov. Metam. vii. 44, and the Epistle of Ariadne to Theseus. "Cum fuerit Sciron lectus, torvusque Procrustea."