At that time Fortune showed her lovely face to Caesar, and Success aided him in destroying the city of Massilia and in raiding Spain. However, something different happened to some of his troops in other countries in the world. For at every airt on the globe in which Pompeian and Caesarian governors and viceroys used to meet, there would be an uprising of the Civil War between them, and they did not separate without a conflict.
Then (Caius) Antonius, a valiant Caesarian viceroy, happened to be along with a force in the territories of the Curectes, where the billows of the Adriatic sea rise against the shores of the longsided island of Salona. M. Octavius, a leader of the fleets and seamen of the Pompeians, came towards him with very many troops, and encamped on the island against him. Strong and impregnable was the place in which Antonius happened to be, so that no one durst attack it. Nothing could destroy it so long as that which loosens everything firm and destroys everything safe did not come thither, to wit, Famine; for such was the narrowness of the place occupied (by the Pompeians) against the (Caesarian) forces that their horses could not get grazing there. And such was the scarcity of food for the soldiers that they were eating the grasses side by side with the horses.
Basilus, one of the Caesarian viceroys, heard of that. He came with his army to succour Antonius, and encamped on the other shore opposite, for the sea-surface prevented them coming
p.203to the same place. When Antonius recognised the standards of the Caesarians and the signals of the friendly armies, he was searching and scrutinizing in his mind how he should leave the place in which he lay, and how his people should proceed without being overheard by his enemies who were besieging him.
Then he made unwonted preparations: lengthy, huge beams and thick spars were arranged side by side, and empty casks at their ends on every point. Those were bound and secured by smooth stiff chains and by dark blue cables of iron, so that they formed one huge raft on the edge of the strand. Amidst it there was a hidden place in readiness for the rowing, so that missiles did not reach the oarsmen; and the oars were not exposed, for they used to strike (only) so much of the sea as came between the two sets of casks. Of those (materials) they made three rafts.
The Pompeians perceived that Antonius and his troops were longing to abandon the island and desirous of joining their people on the other shore. So they marched in serried battalions to protect the harbours while the sea was ebbing. Thereafter came the mists of the day's end. The strong rush of the floodtide began to advance and collide (?) on the sandspits of the shore, and in a very short time made deep water of the path by which the battalions were passing a while before.
Thereat the floodtide went under the rafts aforesaid, so that they were moving and floating on the edge of the island. Lofty towers and turrets of conflict were upon them. The Pompeians beheld that. Forthwith they began to drag down their vessels. Their leader Octavius came to them. Like a hunter holding back his hounds so that the deer should come out on the open, he withheld and delayed his vessels so that the
p.205rafts should move from land, and so that the (escaping) troops might expect not to be overheard. Then the twilight of the beginning of night drew nigh, and the Caesarians quitted the island, and they all went on board the three rafts, and began eagerly and strongly to seek the great sea and to voyage vehemently on the ocean.
The Pompeians marvelled much at the way the rafts went forward. For they espied the huge masses moving, and they saw neither sailing nor rowing upon them. Thus then was Octavius with a concealed apparatus ahead of them in the narrow part of the haven, the way that the Caesarians went, that is, very strong ropes and rough iron chains across the seastrait before them, and the ends of those chains tied and bound to the rocks of the Illyrian seacoast on every side.
The Caesarians came towards the chains. The chains were slackened by the Pompeians so that the first raft and the raft that was next came across them. But then they were drawn tight, and were dragged against the forepart of the last raft, so that it was pulled and violently dragged at once to the craggy rock-edge that was on the brink of the sea.
Thereat the Pompeians loosed their ships from land and cut their cables. They sped from the harbour as swiftly as hounds run at deer. They made one row of them, so that each ship touched another around the raft on the side from the sea. The other host filled the plains and rock-harbours of the strand, and the peaks of the mountains and crags above them.
Vulteius beheld that he was the leader and steersman of the raft that was stopped there. He marvelled at the cheering
p.207and the pouring together which his foes made upon him by sea and by land. Then he perceived that the chains of fresh iron under the sea were holding and detaining him. Thereat he began to ply his sword upon them; howbeit he was unable to cut the chains because of the hard-stiffness of the blue iron and the great height of the seawaves over them.
Then they took to fighting with their foes manfully and mightily. Howbeit the battle was not easy for them, for they knew not to which of the armies they should set their breasts or turn their backs. Nevertheless, they did very valiantly and sent a multitude on to death. Never had an equal number shown greater valour than they displayed, for they had not full five hundred fighting against the many thousands who were on every side of them.
Then the full darknesses of the night fell upon them, and on either side they ceased the conflict. Howbeit the Pompeians did not withdraw from the Caesarians, but kept around them at every point, in serried battalions and in warlike circles, awaiting to divide their weapons and armour, and to utter their triumphant paean on the morrow, in the early morning.
When they ceased the conflict and each of the hosts was silent, Vulteius began to address and hearten his people. And he said: Make ye a firm resolve, O warriors! for short is the time for consultation allowed to you, for save only for tonight ye will have no power over yourselves. Howbeit, the time during which one can make a choice of death should not be
p.209regarded by him as a short life. And to kill himself for sake of honour is not more praiseworthy in one who should expect length of life than in one destined to fall that very hour. Moreover it is an universal proverb: Pleasant is to be made of Necessary. It is necessary for you to meet death tomorrow, though it be not pleasant for you: for ye have no path of flight nor outlet of escape, with your foes on every side around you.
Great, however, is your success if hardiness be shown, the number and excellence of your witnesses, to wit, the chiefs of the Pompeians and the Caesarians, and Antonius with his soldiers on the sea before you, and Basilus with his champions on land, and Octavius with his warriors in the forefront of the island Salona. They will all testify that never have men done, for sake of their word or for love of their lords, such glorious deeds as we have done; for so great is the love we have for our lord that we take it as a misfortune that our wives, our children and our old men do not fall here along with ourselves. A blessing upon them! Let your foes find in you the form of goodly warriors. The demand of your fellow-soldiers behind you requires that ye shall act fearlessly in their presence, so that they may be glad that every company of you meets with distress among them (?).
The Pompeians will try to beguile you, and will offer you quarter and peace. That indeed would be good luck to us, for surely if they offered us peace they would not suppose that fear or lamentation caused what we should do in their presence. Great is your guerdon, if ye do bravely, when Caesar is told that ye are a loss to his forces. I myself, quoth he, O valiant youths, I have ended my life; and though I should find a means of escape from this, it would be displeasing to me, for
p.211the longing for death has filled me. For none knows the happiness of death save those who are near it the gods concealing from others the knowledge (of approaching death), so that the life in which they are may seem to them to be the sweeter.
Therefore, then, the moment you are weary of slaying your foes on the morrow, turn against yourselves, and let each of you inflict death on another, so that your foes may not brag about you, and may not utter over you their paean of triumph.
That speech uplifted the natures of the warriors and the spirits of the nobles, so that desire of their tragic death came to them; and their leaders undertook to act fearlessly and kill themselves for love of their lord, so that their foes should not brag about them afterwards. And though at first they were gloomy, tearful, sad, beholding the stars, and though they were startled and afraid of the end of night and the beginning of day, yet so great was the influence which the leader's exhortation had upon them, that the spirits of the soldiers and the natures of the nobles rose with the truly eager precepts which the gallant warrior declared to them. Wherefore the night seemed long to them, and they were impatient for the early light of the morning, in order to wreak their wrath on their foes.
Not long did they wait, for the radiant season of summer was there, and the nights were very short. Soon afterwards the stars of heaven were hidden, and the sun arose to them, in his round ball of blood and his fiery pavilion, over the face of the earth. So the haven shone at every airt and every end around them. On every side they beheld their foes in their warlike border surrounding them, to wit, the shameful tribes of
p.213the Istrians before them on the borders of the shore and on the rocks of the harbour: the fleet and the Pompeians; and the folks of the Liburnians in their venomous semicircle flanking them by land and by sea.
Then that chosen leader Vulteius arose with his valiant followers. They hastily donned their garbs of battle and conflict. They set their backs, each to another of themselves, but all their faces to their foes on every side.
When the Pompeians saw them, longingly, zealously (preparing) for the conflict, they stilled the fighting for a while, and began to offer them peace and guileful friendship, if perchance their hearts would be humbled or their wrath be abated, and so that through every delay granted them in their lifetime the love of their lives might be the greater.
Sanguinary was the answer from the Caesarians; for neither outcry nor noise was found from them; but they cast on their foes virulent showers of deadly javelins and slingstones and arrows from bows, so that the missiles fell in rains and heavy-pouring floods on the heads and bodies, on the chests and forebreasts of the soldiers; on the bosses of their shields, on the hoods of the hauberks, on the baldrics of the breasts, so that thereby the Pompeians had many vigorous youths severely wounded, and soldiers killed, and fierce warriors mangled, and death-doomed men overthrown, and champions slain.
Great cries were then uttered by the Pompeians; but this did not shake the minds of Caesar's followers from the decision they had taken. Neither fear not flight nor weakness of nature came to them because of the multitude of the oppressions
p.215and the abundance of the foreigners, and the shouting of their foes at every point around them. But they continued in their deadly anger and their phalanx of battle and their compact mass in the midst of their enemies, and each one striking them from east and west, from south and north, on their right hand and on their left.
They sustained that combat manfully. They waited on their foemen fearlessly. They saw no sequel to their lives, for they did not hope to live, and they determined to die, for they put their contest forward for their death. They plied (their weapons) valiantly on their enemies, so that the nearest ships were full of their maimed bodies and their corpses red with gore. The surface of the rough waves of the green sea around them was foam of blood and froth of gore; and four-wheeled chariots would run on the compact hurdle that grew and waxed in the centre of the fleet from the planking of the shattered ships, from the breakage and fragments of the bucklers fit for shieldburghs, from the handles of the strong oars, from the trimmed shafts of the spears and the darts and the edged javelins, so that it was difficult for the ships to move through them and over them.
When the Caesarians beheld those great slaughters, and when it seemed to them enough, they turned a way from their enemies. They ceased the killing of their foes, and each of them attacked another of their fellows in order that their enemies might not brag about them. Then spoke the chieftain, Vulteius, with a great voiceand while delivering the speech he cast his raiment from his breast. O beloved youths, quoth he, draw nigh to me, and let me be killed by one of your good warriors, who is worthy to inflict death upon me, and who cares little for his own life, for it is certain that he will at once die by my hands.
Unquestioningly that man was answered by his people. Not by one man alone was it left to inflict death upon him, but every man who reached him thrust the sword into his body. He began to speak graciously and to commend them all, and he suddenly raised his hand and, with the sharp-edged sword that he grasped, he dealt a felling blow to the man who first wounded him, and severed his head from the nape, so that his head and his trunk came at the same time on the floor of the great raft on which he was. In delivering that stroke a weighty blow fell from himself, so that his soul parted from his body, and thus he died.
When his people beheld that, each of them turns to another, and they perform at once their own share of the warfare and the share concerning the enemy, so that each took to killing and destroying another of them. Never was the like thereof save what is told in stories of the uprising and killing performed by the seed of Cadmus son of Agenor, or the magical men that appeared to Jason son of Aeson in the isle of Colchis, when they grew out of the teeth of the sleepless serpent which was guarding the Golden Fleece.
When the Pompeians saw their enemies behaving thus, mutually smiting themselves, they withheld their hands from them; for they marvelled much at the slaughter wrought by the Caesarians, namely, sparing their foes and killing themselves. That valourous deed was done roughly by them. Mightily did Death ply his powers upon them. No ill-aimed shot was made by them. No one there gave a counter-blow to another. At one time and one moment every man of them was overthrown, and each overthrew and slew another. He killed and was killed. They answered and delivered the blow. Such was their haste to death that they put their naked breasts under the points of the swords.
There the sons fell by their fathers' hands, the fathers by the sons, and one brother by another. They tumbled head against head and side against side on the floor of the raft, so that their outbursts of blood and their foam of gore filled the
p.219sea around them and made thereof one crimson plain. Proud and heroic, joyful and scornful, was the look which those men when dying gave at their enemies, for they did not deign that their enemies should perceive that they deemed life brighter than death.
Ill-fated was that valiant deed of the Caesarians among themselves, for from the place in which were almost five hundred warriors, no fugitive escaped alive, nor one man to tell tidings of them. But they all fell together on the floor of the raft whereon they were. Never before in the world was there a crew of a single vessel that gained more distinction or fame or subsequent praise.
The Pompeians saw them afterwards in their vast heaps of rent and reddened corpses on the floor of the raft. Their spirit and their nature overcame them. Distress and great sadness arose in their hearts at beholding them. This they said, that they deemed it a great wonder and a mighty marvel that there were men in the world to love their lord like that, to wit, to kill themselves out of affection for him. They then towed the raft to land, and they buried the warriors' bodies in the island of Salona at the hollows of the harbours (?).
So far one of the foretales of the Great Battle of Thessaly. The Martyrdom of the Vulteians is the story's name.