Page:Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.djvu/23

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A.D. 353.]
11
THE SARACENS.

river Abora, was betrayed by information given by some of his own men, who being alarmed at the discovery of certain crimes which they had committed, deserted to the Roman garrisons, and accordingly he retired again without having accomplished anything; and after that remained quiet without undertaking any further enterprise.

IV.

§1. At this time also the Saracens, a race whom it is never desirable to have either for friends or enemies, ranging up and down the country, if ever they found anything, plundered it in a moment, like rapacious hawks who, if from on high they behold any prey, carry it off with rapid swoop, or, if they fail in their attempt, do not tarry.

2. And although, in recounting the career of the Prince Marcus, and once or twice subsequently, I remember having discussed the manners of this people, nevertheless I will now briefly enumerate a few more particulars concerning them.

3. Among these tribes, whose primary origin is derived from the cataracts of the Nile and the borders of the Blemmyæ, all the men are warriors of equal rank; half naked, clad in coloured cloaks down to the waist, overrunning different countries, with the aid of swift and active horses and speedy camels, alike in times of peace and war. Nor does any member of their tribes ever take plough in hand or cultivate a tree, or seek food by the tillage of the land; but they are perpetually wandering over various and extensive districts, having no home, no fixed abode or laws; nor can they endure to remain long in the same climate, no one district or country pleasing them for a continuance.

4. Their life is one continued wandering; their wives are hired, on special covenant, for a fixed time; and that there may be some appearance of marriage in the business, the intended wife, under the name of a dowry, offers a spear and a tent to her husband, with a right to quit him after a fixed day, if she should choose to do so. And it is inconceivable with what eagerness the individuals of both sexes give themselves up to matrimonial pleasures.