Page:Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.djvu/206

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194
[BK. XIX. CH. VI
AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS.

and women, enfeebled by age, who, fainting from different causes, broke down under the length of the journey, gave up all desire of life, and were hamstrung and left behind.

3. The Gallic soldiers beholding these wretched crowds, demanded by a natural but unseasonable impulse to be led against the forces of the enemy, threatening their tribunes and principal centurions with death if they refused them leave.

4. And as wild beasts kept in cages, being rendered more savage by the smell of blood, dash themselves against their movable bars in the hope of escaping, so these men smote the gates, which we have already spoken of as being blockaded, with their swords; being very anxious not to be involved in the destruction of the city till they had done some gallant exploit; or, if they ultimately escaped from their dangers, not to be spoken of as having done nothing worth speaking of, or worthy of their Gallic courage. Although when they had sallied out before, as they had often done, and had inflicted some loss on the raisers of the mounds, they had always experienced equal loss themselves.

5. We, at a loss what to do, and not knowing what resistance to oppose to these furious men, at length, having with some difficulty won their consent thereto, decided, since the evil could be endured no longer, to allow them to attack the Persian advanced guard, which was not much beyond bow-shot; and then, if they could force their line, they might push their advance further. For it was plain that if they succeeded in this, they would cause a great slaughter of the enemy.

6. And while the preparations for this sally were being made, the walls were still gallantly defended with unmitigated labour and watching, and planting engines for shooting stones and darts in every direction. But two high mounds had been raised by the Persian infantry, and the blockade of the city was still pressed forward by gradual operations; against which our men, exerting themselves still more vigorously, raised also immense structures, topping the highest works of the enemy; and sufficiently strong to support the immense weight of their defenders.

7. In the mean time the Gallic troops, impatient of delay, armed