Page:Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.djvu/207

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A.D. 359.]

armed with their axes and swords, went forth from the open postern gate, taking advantage of a dark and moonless night. And imploring the Deity to be propitious, and repressing even their breath when they got near the enemy, they advanced with quick step and in close order, slew some of the watch at the outposts, and the outer sentinels of the camp (who were asleep, fearing no such event), and entertained secret hopes of penetrating even to the king's tent if fortune assisted them.

8. But some noise, though slight, was made by them in their march, and the groans of the slain aroused many from sleep; and while each separately raised the cry "to arms," our soldiers halted and stood firm, not venturing to move any further forward. For it would not have been prudent, now that those whom they sought to surprise were awakened, to hasten into open danger, while the bands of Persians were now heard to be flocking to battle from all quarters.

9. Nevertheless the Gallic troops, with undiminished strength and boldness, continued to hew down their foes with their swords, though some of their own men were also slain, pierced by the arrows which were flying from all quarters; and they still stood firm, when they saw the whole danger collected into one point, and the bands of the enemy coming on with speed; yet no one turned his back: and they withdrew, retiring slowly as if in time to music, and gradually fell behind the pales of the camp, being unable to sustain the weight of the battalions pressing close upon them, and being deafened by the clang of the Persian trumpets.

10. And while many trumpets in turn poured out their clang from the city, the gates were opened to receive our men, if they should be able to reach them: and the engines for missiles creaked, though no javelins were shot from them, in order that the captains of the advanced guard of the Persians, ignorant of the slaughter of their comrades, might be terrified by the noise into falling back, and so allowing our gallant troops to be admitted in safety.

11. And owing to this manœuvre, the Gauls about daybreak entered the gate although with diminished numbers; many of them severely and others slightly wounded. They lost four hundred men this night, when if they had