Basil II part 4


7. According to the historians, this man Bardas reminded people of his uncle, the emperor Nicephorus, for he was always wrapped in gloom, and watchful, capable of foreseeing all eventualities, of comprehending everything at a glance. Far from being ignorant of warlike manoeuvres, there was no aspect of siege warfare, no trick of ambush nor tactic of pitched battle, in which he was not thoroughly versed.

In the matter of physical prowess, moreover, Bardas was more energetic and virile than Sclerus. In fact, anyone who received a blow at his hand was a dead man straightway, and whole armies trembled even when he shouted from afar. He now divided up his forces, arranging them in battalions, and more than once–indeed, on several occasions–put his opponents to flight, despite their numbers. In truth, Bardas seemed to surpass his enemies, in skill and strategy and vigour, in inverse proportion to his own inferiority in numbers.

8. Each side was confident in face of its foes, and the two leaders, by common consent, decided to engage in single combat.**8 So, riding out to the space that divided the two lines of battle, they spied one another and without more ado came to close quarters. The rebel Sclerus, unable to curb his natural impetuosity, broke the rules of this kind of fighting, and as he approached Phocas struck him with all his might on the head.

The latter thereupon lost interest

The blow gained additional power because it was delivered on the charge. Phocas, dumbfounded at the unexpectedness of this stroke, momentarily lost control of his reins, but collecting his wits again, he returned the blow, on the same part of his adversary’s body. The latter thereupon lost interest in the combat and rode away in flight.

9. Both patriots and rebels were convinced that here was the decisive point in the war. Certainly no event contributed more to the emperor’s victory, for Sclerus was completely embarrassed. He could no longer withstand Phocas in battle. He was too ashamed to beg terms from the emperor.

In these circumstances he adopted a policy which was neither very wise nor very safe, transferring his whole army from Roman territories to Assyria. There he made himself known to the king Chosroes and roused his suspicions, for Chosroes feared the great numbers of his army, and possibly he was nervous, too, in case the Romans planned some sudden attack on himself. The upshot of the matter was that all Sclerus’s men were made prisoners and carried off to gaol.

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