Page:Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.djvu/239

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assailants by the besieged, still neither the balistae nor the scorpions rested a moment, the first shooting javelins, and the latter hurling showers of stones, and baskets on fire, smeared with pitch and tar; and as these were perpetually rolled down, the engines halted as if rooted to the ground, and fiery darts and firebrands well-aimed set them on fire.

11. Still while this was going on, and numbers were falling on both sides, the besiegers were the more eager to destroy a town, strong both by its natural situation and its powerful defences, before the arrival of winter, thinking it impossible to appease the fury of their king if they should fail. Therefore neither abundant bloodshed nor the sight of numbers of their comrades pierced with deadly wounds could deter the rest from similar audacity.

12. But for a long time, fighting with absolute desperation, they exposed themselves to imminent danger; while those who worked the battering-rams were prevented from advancing by the vast weight of millstones, and all kinds of fiery missiles hurled against them.

13. One battering-ram was higher than the rest, and was covered with bull's hides wetted, and being therefore safer from any accident of fire, or from lighted javelins, it led the way in the attacks on the wall with mighty blows, and with its terrible point it dug into the joints of the stones till it overthrew the tower. The tower fell with a mighty crash, and those in it were thrown down with a sudden jerk, and breaking their limbs, or being buried beneath the ruins, perished by various and unexpected kinds of death; then, a safer entrance having been thus found, the multitude of the enemy poured in with their arms.

14. While the war-cry of the Persians sounded in the trembling ears of the defeated garrison, a fierce battle within the narrower bounds raged within the walls, while bands of our men and of the enemy fought hand to hand, being jammed together, with swords drawn on both sides, and no quarter given.

15. At last the besieged, after making head with mighty exertion against the destruction which long seemed doubtful, were overwhelmed with the weight of the countless host which pressed upon them. And the swords of