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The Siege of Dura

Author(s): Clark Hopkins


Source: The Classical Journal, Vol. 42, No. 5 (Feb., 1947), pp. 251-259
Published by: The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3292064
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Volume 4t

Number

FEBRUARYI 947

Uniquein theAnnalsof War


A StoryUnearthed
bytheSpade

The

Siege

of

Dura

Clart Hopkins

T@HE
MII)DLEEup1zrates,
hig1z
above beforethe ramparts.Heraldsweredetached
t1zemuddyriver, stand massivegrey fromt1zemainbodyto rideto thegatesandcal1
wallsandponderous
bastions,ruinsof an anS uponthedefenders
to surrender.
Greetedwith
cientfort.Here,astridet1zeroyal1zighway
from jeersand insults,t1zeinvadersplacedt1zecity
AntiochtoSeleucia,
dualcapitalsoft1ze
Seleucid undersiege.T@1ze
issuewasa disasteruniquein
empire,t1zeMacedonianslong ago placeda theannalsof war.
strong1zold
to guardt1zedesertways,andnamed
itforSeleucus'
birt1zplace,
Europos.
TF1ze
Beduin, THEMACEDONIAN
ENGINEERS
WHO,in the
indifferent
to Balkansentiment,
calledit simply thirdcenturyB.C.,weredetailedto buildthe
Ddr 't1zeFort';rebornon the archaeologist'sfortress which was to be DuraEuropos,
spade,in modernrecordsit appearsas Dura selecteda spot where the Syrianplateau
Europos.
breaksoffin a cliffdroppingto the Euphrates,
Commanding
t1zecaravantrails,all butim a site well suitedby naturefor defense.The
pregnable
be1zind
its stoutdefenses,Dura was cliS is brokenat two pointsby deepgullies
a prizeto be foug1ztover.Macedonian,t1zen runningbackintothe desert,the wadisof the
Part1zian,
t1zen
Roman,it wasa keystone
in t1ze fieldreports.The cliS and the gullies,their
arcof Rome'sSyrianfrontierw1zen,
in A.D 2 56, crestscrownedby a crenellatedwall of cut
onemoreenemy,bannersstreaming,
appeared and fittednativestone,formedinvulnerable
defenseson east,northandsouth,as youcan
((ClarkHopkins,a son of EdwardWashburnHopkins, see fromFIGURE
I, which shows the entire
Professorof Sanscritand ComparativePhilologyat perimeter
of thewalledtown.
YaleUniversity,was bornin New Yorkon September
On the west therewas no naturalprotec
I6, I895.
He is a graduateof Yale(A.B., I9I7), Oxford
made
(RhodesScholar,I9ItI9tI;
A.B., I9tI and A.M., tion;on thissidethe wallwastherefore
I926)
muchstronger,thirty feet high and fifteen
andthe Universityof Wisconsin(Ph.D., I924).
Hehastaughtat RiceInstitute,YaleandtheUniversity feet thick,studdedwith towersat closein
of Michigan.He studiedat Athensin I927-I928,
and tervals.Midwayof thiswall,visibleat theex
in I928-I929
was AssistantDirectorof Yale'sexcava
I, wasthePalmyra
Gate,
tionsat DuraSEuropos;
fromI93I to I935 he wasField tremeleft of FIGURE
Directorof the Duraexcavations.
A reserveofficerof its passagebarredby threesets of doorsand
the U. S. Army,he servedin WorldWarI as a znd flanked
on eachsideby a greatdoubletower.
Lieutenant,
Infantry,andin WorldWarII as a Major Herethe caravans
boundeastfromthe desert
in the Sixth ServiceCommand'sTrainingDivision.
metropolis
of
Palmyra
were halted to pay
He is nowProfessorof ClassicalArt andArchaeology
portduesandmakeobeisanceto the tutelary
at the Universityof Michigan.
godsof Dura;this accomplished,
they were
OX

X=I

asa

CLARKHOPKINS

FIGURE
I. AIR VIEWOPDURAPROM
THESOUTH,
DECEMBER
I932.
(Dura Reportv, Frontispiece)

allowedto passthroughto the bataarandits


variedfascinations.
DurahadbeenSeleucidfromits founding
untilaboutIOO B.C., thena westernoutpost
of theempireof theParthians.
In I65 A.D. the
Romansmadeit a bastionof their eastern
frontier;but whethertheir overlordswere
Greek,Persianor Romancanhavemattered
littleto the mixedbreedDurans,who tended
sheep,farmedtheirsmallplotsalongtheriver,
andtradeddispassionately
withallpassersby.
Fornearlya hundredyearsRome'srightto
rulethe middleEuphrates
was not seriously
challenged,
but a noteof dangerwassounded
in A.D. 227, when the new dynastyof the
Sassanians
overthrewthevacillating
Parthians
andestablished
a strongandenergeticcentral
powerin Persia.To repeltheirraidsin A.D
23I-233
requiredthe personalefforts of
A]exander
Severus;andGordian
III, wounded
in his victoryoverthe Persiansat Resaenain
A.D. 243, died and was buried,we are told,
somewherenearDura.

In spite of frontierdisorders,the com


mercialcapitalsof Syria,Damascus,Nisibis,
Carrhae,Edessa,Palmyraand many more,
had growntremendously
duringthe second
andearlythirdcenturies,andDuraprospered
with them.The Romangovernor,the Dux
Ripae, as an inscriptioncalls him, had a
palacenext the campof his troops,ne-arthe
cliff,andbuilt bathsanda miniatureamphi
theaterfor their comfortand pleasure.By
A.D. 220 there were enoughChristiansin
Dura to build a chapelfor their intimate
worship;andin A.D. 246 Jews built a synaS
goguein the shadowof the westernwall,and
frescoedit with scenesfromthe Old Testa
ment.
They were not to enjoythemlong.Soon
after 246 the Romangarrisonfoundit ex
pedientto reinforcethe mightywalls.Along
theirwhole extent they piledan earthem
bankment,
fiftyfeet wide at the baseandas
highas thewalls,andfacedit with mudbrick
to controlerosion.Buildingsnearthe walls,

THE SIEGEOF DURA

253

privatehouses,the Christianchapelandthe foundationsof this tower.The entranceto


synagogue
wereengulfed,andwith themthe this minehas not yet been found. Perhaps
pagan temples to Aphlad, the Gods of they usedoneof the manychambertombsin
Pa]myra,Attanathkona,and Mithra.Some Dura'scemeteryforthe purpose;in anycase,
newmethodof siegehadshakenthe Romans' the visitorcan see, oppositethe tower and
fortymetersout in the plain,a greatheapof
relianceon wallsof merestone.
In A.D. 2y6 the Sassanian
troopsof Sapor earthand gravelwhich, it seemsreasonable
advancedvictoriouslyalong the Euphrates to suppose,was debrisfromthe mine.
andappeared
beforeDura.Wehavenorecord The mine was driven without serious
of the eventswhichprecededthe formalin hindrance
asfarastheouterwallof thetower.
vestment,but we can picturefor ourselves The garrisonmust have known what was
the flurryof orders,the hurriednotchingof going on; the activity, and the growing
extraarrows,the forgingof new lanceheads, moundof freshsubsoil,couldnot havebeen
thepledgesto thegods,thestrictinstructions dissetnbled;
but at firstthey tookno action,
to the sentries,the checkingof supplies.... as if uncertainwhat action to take. The
PerhapsSaportested the Romans'temper Sassaniansapperscompleted,beneath the
with a frontalattackuponthe greatPalmyra foundationsof the west wall of the tower,
Gate;if so, he was thrownback.Perhapshe a chamber
of considerable
size.Shoringupthe
sentscoutsto scalethecliffsat night,in hopes roofas theywent along,they extendedit be
of findingthe guardsdrowsy;if so, they too neaththenorthwallof thetowerasfaras the
were disappointed.
curtainwall, and then dug a lateralbranch,
Saporcalledforhisengineers.
A littlenorth fifty feet long,underthe curtainwall itself.
FIGURE
2A showsthe situation:Tower I9
of the PalmyraGate,oppositeTower I9 on
theofficialplanof theexcavations
andstarting (J, J), the curtainwall (H), the glacisor em
at some distanceout in the plain, sappers bankmentof dirt and mudbrickinsideand
begana mine,a tunnelaimedat the lowest outsidethe wall and towers, the mineap

A
B
FIGURE
2. TOWER
I9: PLANOPMINESANDCOUNTERMINE.
(DuraReportVI,FigureI4)

aS4

CLARKHOPKINS

proaching
the towerfromthe southwest,the
chamber
underthewestandnorthsidesof the
tower(E,E),andthelonglateralbranchunder
the curtain(D, D). Supposenow that the
Sassanians,
as they proceedwith this work,
haveproppedthe massivefoundations
above
theirheadswith heavytimbers,so that the
outerfaceof the towerandthe adjacentcurS
tain are supportednot on bedrockbut on
woodenshoring;supposefurtherthat when
all is readya pi]eof faggots,strawandpitch
is lighted amongthe timbers,so that the
wholeminebecomesan infernoin whichthe
supportsare consumed.You may properly
expectthat the toweranda long sectionof
the wall will collapse,disconcerting
the de
fendersandmakinga breachin the wall into
whichthe attackersmayrushto overwhelm
3. TOWER
I9: TUNNEL
SUPPORTS
the town. This was clearlythe Sassanians' FIGURE
intention,but somethinghappenedto pre
xnsxtu.
ventits fullaccomplishment.
(Dura ReportVI,PlateI8, 2)
The groupof galleries,whosepurposewas
clearlyto causethe collapseof the walls,con largepiecesof burnedwoodfromthe ceiling,
nectswithanotherintendedto jointhemines fragmentsof faggotsand straw which had
underthe wallswith the interiorof the city. beenusedto startthe firewereeasilyrecog
Near the northeastangleof Tower I9, the nited.At the very end the galleryhasfallen
gallerywas perfectlypreserved,even the in butcontainsno tracesof fire.
piecesof wood supportingthe earthbeing
A very curiousfeaturewas the fact that
stillin place.Thesidesweremadeof two lines the passagenot farfromthe curtainwa]lhad
of roundhardwoodposts,fourto fiveinches beenobstructedwith rubbleandgreatblocks
in diameter
andaboutsixfeetin length,sawed of stone.M. Du Mesnildu Buisson,a Cap
the
straightat the two ends. The distancebe tainin the FrenchArmyanda veteransof
tweenthe linesof postswas aboutfourfeet trenchby trenchdefenseof Francein World
and they were implantedin the earth to War I, excavatedthis systemof minesand
depthsvaryingfrom ten to fifteeninches, publishedthem.He suggeststhat the stones
undoubtedlyin order to offiergreaterre were piledup and fastenedwith plasterby
sistanceto the lateralpressureof the earth. menwhowerefacingthe city,in otherwords
The topsof the postsservedas supportfor by the Persians,andthatthe workwas done
strongplanks.The partof thegallerynearthe afterthe fire.
curtainandthe towerbearsonlyinsignificant In the gallerybeyondthe blockedup tone
tracesof fire and smoke,though the part was madea seriesof findsof greatinterest.
nearerthe city has been burned.However, Goingeastoneencounters
nextto the barrier
4). At
the intensityof the fireand its effiectswere a skeletonlying on its back(FIGURE
noteverywhere
the same.Ina toneextending the momentwhenhe fell the manwasturned
underthe old facadesof the housescloseto towardtheeast,i.e., thecity. As the ske]eton
the wall the posts,carbonized
at the top, are measuresI.8Sm., the soldiermusthavebeen
still in p]ace(FIGURE
3) and, althoughthe we]l over six feet in height.The chest was
coatof mail,in
ceilingplanksappearto have been burned, envelopedin a well preserved
the gallerymadein well packedearth,in the the formof a shirtwhichwasslippedon over
spacebetweenwallandhouses,hasnot been the head.The legs wereburnedbut M. Du
obstructedby fallendebris.In additionto Mesnil believesthat he fell in fight rather

THE SIEGEOF DURA

2ss

than by suffocationor burns.


the bodieswere those of Romansand sup
Not far away in the trenchwas a large portsthis hypothesiswith the Romancoins.
ovoidhelmet,its two piecesjoinedtogether Accordingto hisreconstruction,
theRomans,
by bandsof iron.Fromthe loweredgehung detectingthe construction
of the mine,built
a pieceof mailsimilarto thoseusedonPersian a countermine
fromthe edgeof the embank
helmetsof the middleages.Closeby was a mentwithin the city towardthe towerand
largeswordwhichat the timeof discovery metthe mineof thePersians.
was representedonly by a few fragments
of bad]yoxidizediron and a jade pommel.
Battlein theDark
Scattered
fragments
of ironappearto be parts
AT THE MEETING of the two mines,there
of the mountingand boss of a shield.Two
battlebetweenPersians
bronzefibulaeanda numberof coinsappear was an underground
and
Romans.
The
latter
were overcomeand
alsoto havebelongedto this warrior.
crowded
back
into
the
countermine
followed
Furthereast, closeto the city end of the
by
the
Persians.
At
that
moment
the de
gallery,the bodies of sixteen or eighteen
soldierswerefoundwith the remainsof their fendersof the city, seeingthat the Roman
armorand clothing.In the partnearestthe auxiliarieswere retreatingin disorder,and
wal], the bodieswere calcinedin the fire; fearingthat the Persianswouldemergeinto
towardthe middlethe boneshad remained the city, hastilyblockedup the entranceof
white and in goodconditionso that it was the countermine,shuttingup inside those
possibleto recognizebodiesintertwined.In whowerewoundedorlaggingbehind.At the
whowereundoubted
the part nearestthe city, the skeletonslay sametimethePersians,
ly
too
few
in
number
to
enterthecity, set fire
in contracted
positionsasif themenhadtried
to
the
countermine
and
rapidlywithdrew.
to savethemselves
froma cavein orhadbeen
They
then
blocked
up
the
countermine
by a
crushedin positionsof defense.One appears
wall
of
rubble
and
plaster,
completed
theil
to havebeenseated,his spinalcolumnbeing
underthe tower,successfully
fired
markedly
curved.Anotherlay, thrownback, operations
with his legs spreadwide apartand folded the shoringandstoodby to awaittheco]lapse
underhim as if he had madean attemptto of the tower.
rise. Metal objectsfoundwith the bodies,
thoughbadlycorroded,seemto be partsof
swords,perhapsalsoof a javelin,andbosses
of shields ratherthan helmets.One large
swordwas preservedintactwith its pommel
of rockcrysta].Theironcoatsof mail,though
foundin fragments,were readilyrecogni;
able. Fragmentsof wooden shields were
recovered,and some pierced ornamental
plaques.
The most importantcollateraldiscovery
was thatof the coinsfoundgroupedat three
diffierent
pointsamongthebodies.In onecase,
it couldbeclearlyseetlthatthecoinshadbeen
placedunderthe coat Dfnzailenvelopingone
of the skeletonsand near the thigh bone,
probablyin the belt. The sameseemsto be
true in two other cases. The coins were
Romanand dated up to A.D aS6. M. Du
FIGURE
4. TOWERI9: ARMORED
SKELETON
Mesnil,who as excavatorof the mineis the
personmost cognitantof the evidenceand OF PERSIAN
WARRIOR,
AS FOUNDIN MINE.
bestableto interprettheresults,believesthat
(DuraReportVI,Plate I8, 3)

ts6

CLARKHOPKINS

This accountof Du Mesnil


satisfactorily shouldhaveRomanmoney
explainsthe Romancoins,andthe
as partof tlle loot
blockingof in theirpockets.
the countermine,
but it still leavesa
of thingsiladoubt.It seemshard nutnber However you prefer to interpret the
to believe blockedtunnelsand
thattheRoznans
thebodiesfoundin the1n,
gropingin a countermine
for theSassanian
planswererudelythwartedby
the sappersof the Persiansshould
meetthe theworkof a manwho
galleryof the Persiansso exactlythat
had
mine Svecenturies.When the then beendead
andcountermine
underground
becomea perfectlystraight pQtS
sup
tunnel.Furthermore,
it is hard not to as feetofhad burnedaway,Tower I9 andfifty
the curtainwall saggedandsank.
sociatethefiringof theminebeyondthe
But
withthe firingof the towergallery. block the engineerwho, in that farzof day of
ifthe Persianshadtimeto wallof Finally, Dura'sfounding,had designedthe fortifica
part
minebeforecompletingtheirwork of the tionsof the city, had done his work well.
underthe Thetower, roughly
tower,it seemsstrangethat the
droppedeight feet in
lA;omans
did tothe cavernousgrave
notat least uncoverthe mine
preparedbeneathit,
to collapse,failedto open an
givedecentburialto thosetheyentranceto failed
avenue
knew
within.One wouldexpectthat they were tothe besiegers,farledto betrayDurato her
would
(FIGURE
XB).Today,I700 yearslater
have
reopenedthe entranceas soonas it was enemies
still,
Tower Ig is standing,batteredbut
safe,
to seeif someof the wounded
still
mightnot
defensible,
still menacingthe Syrianplain.
still
survive.
The evidenceis by no meansclear,
but I
am
inclinedto favoranotherinterpretation.
Redeployment
The
fact that the Persianmineturned
into
THE
SASSANIANS
the
withdrewto thinkthings
city,aswellasfollowedthewallsof
tower
over.
and
curtain,may have meantthat, as else
At the southwestcornerof the
where,
they were intendingto introducea
walls, at
the
edgeof the southwadiandvisible
band
of soldierssecretlyinto the
in the
city. If a
left
foreground
of FIGURE
I, standsTowerI4.
band
were introduced,it wouldhave to
be
As
maybe seen frotnthe picture,its
at
themomentof thecollapseof the
tower,
or
side
liesalongthedeepravine,whilethesouth
they
wouldeasilybe overpowered
by the de
facade
is turned toward the desert.west
fenders.
To accomplish
The
this the minewould
ravine
allowedthe Sassanians
have
to be pushedforwardto the very
to approach
the
edge
tower
with less dangerfromhostile
of
theembankment
arrows,
and the chosenbandof
partially
screenedfromobservation.About
soldiers
would necessarilybe stat1onedin
forty
meters
west of this tower,therefore,a
position
beforethefiringof the tower,a firing
new
mine
was
begunfromthe ravinetoward
which
would blockany retreator hope of
the
tower,
through
the soft nativerock.This
reinforcements.
Evenso, smokefromthe fire
mlne
1s a narrow?tw1st1ngtunnel,
might
suffocatethem,or the firemightspread
unsup
ported
by woodandscarcelythe height
and
collapsetheir gallery.To preventthis,
of a
man.
In its progresstowardthe
when
everythingwascomplete,
tower
it
andthetower
crossed
two sepulchralchambers,a part of
ready
to befired,selectedsoldierswere
sealed
the
vastnecropolis
intheend of the mine beyond
whichcoveredthe desert
the tower
outside
the west wallof the city.
with
a wallof rubbleandstone.Signal
of the
In
the gallerywere foundobjectslost
attack
would be the collapseof the tower.
or
abandoned
by the miners;pendants,roughly
Obviously,
the plan did not work. Either
made
limestonelamps,a ring,etc. Othersmall
smoke
seepedthroughthe mineblocli,or the
objects,
suchasa glassvaseof thetypeknown
end
of the minecollapsedand
trappedthe
as
tear
bottles,
doubtlesscamefromthe tombs
forward
party.The Ro1nancoinsare
violated
in the courseof construction.
easy
to explainbut it is not hardto not so
believe
Soskillfully was this narrow
that
soldiers,who hadcarriedtheirraidsso
gallery
directed
thatit endsexactlyunderthe middle
successfully
as to cut Dura off fromhelp,
of
Tower
I4. At this point
the minecomes
.

THE SIEGEOF DURA

2s7

nearerto the surfaceandwidensout in ap gressed,behindwhichthe menwho carried


proaching
the foundations
of the tower.The andpiledthefatalearthcouldmovein relative
wideningallowedthe construction
of a mud safety.
brickwall to helpsupportthe timbersof the
The situationof the defenders
was thence
wooden scaffolding.Here a little gallery forthdesperate,but in the hourof theirapS
branches
offandleadsdirectlyto the ravine, pointmentwith destinythey did not falter.
probablyto furnisha draftfor the fire.To Slowlythe testudomovedforwardand up;
providefor a sufficientcurrentof air and inexorablythe wide sloping mound grew
perhapsin the hope of setting fire to the nearerto the doomedbattlements.The gar
tower, the minersat the momentof with rison,however,raisedthe heightof the wall
drawalseemalso to haveopeneda window by pilingmudbrickon the top of the stone
towardthe interior.ClearlytheseSassanian battlements.
Theyrefusedto surrender.
engineerswereexpertin theirprofession.
In the meantimethe besiegerswere plot
The effectproducedby the firingof the ting still anothermenace.Begunin the open
mine is clearlyshown in the photograph plain but continueddirectly beneath the
(FIGURE
S). The galleryranalongthe west,
northandeastwallsof the tower,andunder
partof the northcurtain.If it ranalsounder
thesouthwall,it didnotat anyratecausethe
wallto slipdownat thatpoint.Fromthe re
mainsof the gallerybeneaththe sunkenwall
was recovereda largequantityof stakesand
of planks,manyof themcontaininglargeiron
nails.Near the east side of the tower some
stakesjuttingtowardthe outsideof the wall
werefoundin place.All werepartlyburned.
It seemsclear,here,thatthisminewassuc
cessfullydugandfired,with greatdamageto
the fortifications
of Dura;but hereagainthe
Sassaniansuccess was short of complete.
Buttressedby the massiveembankments
of
FIGURE
S. TOWER
I4 (SOUTHWEST
TOWER)
earthandmudbrickwithinandwithoutX
the
FROM
THE
EMBANKMENT,
AFTER
EXCAVATION,
towerdid not entirelycol]apse,a tributeto
SETTLING
AND PARTIAL
COLLAPSE
its firstbuilderandto the manwho designed SHOWING
BYPERSIAN
MINE.
its reinforcement.
But this time the Sas CAUSED
(DuraReportVI,Plate It)
sanianshad not dependedwholly uponthe
collapseof the tower.
ramp,they weredigginga thirdmine,aimed
to cometo the surfacewithin the city im
AssaultbyRamp
mediatelybehind the point at which the
STARTING
againfromtheplain,a littlemore rampwas aimed.Herethey couldworkwith
thana hundredfeet west of Tower I4, the almostnofearof detection,withthedefenders
Sassanians
beganto build an earthenramp givingtheirwho]eattentionto the workers
slopingup to the wall. With the defenders on the ramp,andthe noiseandconfusionof
manning
everyinchof the ramparts,
andwell the ramp constructiondrowningout the
suppliedwith fresh arrows,the dangerto faint reverberations
of the men at work
unprotectedlaborersmust have been in below.
tolerab]e.
Wemusttherefore
supposethatthe
This minewas the biggestof all; ten feet
Sassanianengineersprovidedsome kind of wide and almosthigh enoughfor men to
testudo,a huge shield on rollersso that marcherect,it couldeasilypermitthe passage
it couldbe movedforwardas the workpro of infantryrunningfourabreast.It passesjust

CLARKHOPKINS

ts8

of the curtainwall,
beneaththe foundations
When these earthworkswere completed
andthenrisesto thesurfaceof thedesertrock Dura'sfinalday had dawned.It was soon
Here it was sup over.At a signalthe shoringunderTowerI4
within the embankment.
portedby planksand posts,as the massof was fired;the big tunnelwas packedwith
ashes and bits of wood testify. It turns shocktroops,fully armedand eagerfor the
slightlysouth,proceedsthrougha doorof one booty beforethem;other fighterscrowded
of the housesburiedby the embankment, behindtheirshieldat the crestof the ramp,a
turns slightly north again,and ends some few short feet from the walls. Tower I4
distancefromthe bottomof the embankment totteredand beganto crumbleand its de
_

1-

SlS

,,

1l

-;

X T

:g
X

I4 (SOUTHM
6. TOWER
FIGURE
PLANOFPERSIAN
TOWER):
MEST
ANDASSAULT
MINES
RAMP.
(Dura ReportVI,PlateI3)

face. At this point it must have mounted


straightup to the slopingfaceof the embank
ment.A skeletonfoundat the end tells of
eithera fightat the mouthof the mineor an
Assailantsreach
accidentin its construction.
ing the interiorof the city throughthis mine
in therearjustwhere
couldtakethedefenders
the chiefattackof the Persianson the ramp
6).
was concentrated(FIGURE

fendersranfor theirlives;andthe Sassanian


throngrushedover and underthe walls to
overwhelmthe city. Racing throughthe
streetsto be Srstto reacllthe loot, they slew
all who resisted;the rest were reservedfor
slavery.Durawas no smalltown; the sack
mayhavelastedseveraldays.Whenit was
overDurawasno more,andthe desertedsite
wasleft to the vulturesandthe scorpions.

THE SIEGEOF DURA


Unique in the annals of uoar.... Why
shouldthisbesaidof Dura?In thegrimhistory
of armiescountlesscitieshavebeentakenby
siege,theirwomenandchildren
enslaved,
their
grownmenmurdered,
theirchildren
takeninto
slavery.Countlesssappershavedrivencount
lessminesbeneath
thewallsof settlements
that
daredresist,and havediedmiserablyin the
dart,xncaveins or theviciousinfighting
of the
countermines.
ButthesiegeofDurais uniquebecause
there
is no ancientrecordof it, no author,no texton
stoneor bronzeor papyrusto describe
for us
theBattleoftheSaporthewildfuryof thatday

zS9

whentheSassanianhordeswovrmed
acrossthe
wallsandintothestreets.Forthestorywehave
no evidence
exceptthovt
turnedup bythespade
of the archaeologist;
and that is the storywe
lzaveretoldhere.t
* Detailsof theminesaretalen almostverbatim
fromthe formalreportsof M. Du Mesnil du
Buisson,vicezdirector
of the excavations,with
whomI hadthe pleasureof collaborating
in three
campaigns
at Dura.Boththe reportandthe illus
trationsarein largepartcontainedin Excavations
at DuraEuropos,Preliminary
Reportof tlzeSixtlz
Seasonof work
(Yale
University Press, New
Haven,I936), pagesI88-zoSandplatesIt andz8.

Note

PRESUMPTIONREBUKED
THE RISEof the principate
at Rome,it is Cassiusinterruptedwith "If you were a
well known,was attendedby the de sewer(cloaca),you wouldbe the greatestof
cline of forensicoratory, and in an en those,too (maxima)
!" Consternation
on the
vironmentunfriendlyto free speech the part of Cestius'sadmirers,ribaldlaughter
declamation
supplantedgenuinepleadingbe fromthe others.The manwho was aboutto
forethe publicassemblies
or senate.Yet not replyso braxenly
to Cicero,saysthe narrator,
everyonesuccumbedto the allurementsor hadno wordswith whichto silencea heckler,
pretensionsof these rhetoricalexercises;an andmerelyassertedthat he wouldnot con
amusingtale which showshow Cicerowas tinue until Cassiusleft the house.To this
stillveneratedas the masterof eloquenceen demandCassiusrejoinedthat he wouldnot
livens the prefaceto the third bookof the quit the publicbath,wherethe speechwas
elderSeneca'sControversiae.l
CassiusSeverus, beingdelivered,untilhe hadwashed.
a prominent
lawyer,seemedto Senecaan in
Subsequently,he continues,it was his
efectual declaimerin spite of greatnatural pleasureto seeklegalredressfor Cicerofrom
gifts.Pressedfor an explanation,
Cassiusde the declaimer.He hailed Cestius beforea
nouncedthe unrealityof declamationand praetor,and afterabusingand mockingthe
declaredits practitioners
incompetent
at con poor fellow, demandedthat the magistrate
frontingactuallegalsituations.As an exam inscribehim as defendantunder the law
ple, he recountedhis joust with Lucius dealingwith inscriptummaZefiicium;
Cestius
CestiusPius, one of the best knownof the was so distraughtthat he askedto be per
rhetoricians.
mitted to procurelegal counsel.Then Cas
ThequarrelbeganwhenCestiusundertook sius, dragginghim beforea secondpraetor,
to deliver a speech in Milonem,thereby chargedhim on a count of ingratum.As a
settinghimselfup as Cicero'shypothetical thirdaction,forappointment
of a curator,
was
adversary.
Pompously
he beganby proclaim beingsoughtfromthe praetorurbanus,Ces
ing,"If I werea Thracian(i.e.,a gladiator),
I tius'sfriendsentreatedthe mercilesspersecuS
would be Fusius;if a mime,Bathyllus;if a torto desistfromharassing
hisvictimfurther.
horse,Melissio."Not brookingsuchconceit, Cassiusagreed,on conditionthat Cestius

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