The reason for this was that they feared Chosroes. They expected little consideration from him and they believed that he would throw them back into prison. So they made off, with all the speed they could muster, and they covered a great distance before the Assyrians noticed they had gone. (These operations took place in Assyria.) Chosroes, whose army had now reassembled, immediately issued an order that all soldiers of the Assyrian army who met these Romans were to join in pursuing them.

A great multitude did in fact fall upon them from the rear, but they soon discovered how inferior they were to the Roman soldier, for the runaways suddenly wheeled about and defeated their pursuers. Indeed, the enemy suffered such losses that they retreated fewer in number than the Romans, although they had vastly outnumbered them when the engagement started.

Opportunity to revive his struggle for power

12. Here, Sclerus decided, was the opportunity to revive his struggle for power. The whole Empire, he thought, was ripe for the plucking, for Phocas had already gone away to Anatolia and all the emperor’s forces were scattered. Having arrived at the Roman frontier, however, he learnt that Phocas had designs on the throne himself, and since he was in no position to take on both the emperor and his rival, he indulged in a fresh outburst of insolence at the expense of the former, while he presented himself to the latter in the guise of vassal.

Phocas’s hegemony was recognized and Sclerus agreed to serve under him. Thereupon their forces were divided in two and the rebel army was greatly strengthened. Full of confidence in their soldiers and military dispositions, they came down as far as the Propontis and strongpoints on the seashore, made their entrenchments secure and all but tried to leap over the sea itself.

13. The emperor Basil was well aware of disloyalty among the Romans, but not long before this a picked band of Scythians had come to help him from the Taurus, and a fine body of men they were.**11 He had these men trained in a separate corps, combined with them another mercenary force, divided by companies, and sent them out to fight the rebels. They came upon the insurgents unexpectedly, when they were off their guard seated at table and drinking, and after they had destroyed not a few of them, scattered the rest in all directions.**12 The remnants of the enemy actually banded together and opposed Phocas himself, with considerable enthusiasm.

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