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99Chapter VIII.—Of the Oracle found inscribed an a Stone, when the Walls of Chalcedon were demolished by Order of the Emperor Valens.

An order was issued by the emperor that the walls of Chalcedon, a city opposite to Byzantium, should be demolished: for he had sworn to do this, after he should have conquered the usurper, because the Chalcedonians had sided with the usurper, and had used insulting language toward Valens,582582    Ammianus Marcellinus (Rerum Gestarum XXVI. viii. 2 seq.) says, ‘From the walls of Chalcedon they uttered reproaches to him and insultingly reviled him as Sabaiarius. For, sabaia is a poor drink made of wheat or barley in Illyricum (whence Valens came).’ On the Pannonian or Illyrian origin of Valens, see IV. I. It appears also that the Pannonians were accustomed to live on poor diet in general. and shut their gates against him as he passed by their city. In consequence of the imperial decree, therefore, the walls were razed and the stones were conveyed to Constantinople to serve for the formation of the public baths which are called Constantianæ.583583    Sozom. VIII. 21, mentions these baths. Am. Marcellinus (Rerum. Gestarum, XXXI. I. 4) relates that Valens built a bath out of the stones of the walls of Chalcedon. So also Themist. Orat. Decen. ad Valentem, and Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. 25; the latter calls it a ‘subterraneous and aerial river.’ Zonaras and Cedrenus, however, affirm that the structure built was not a bath, but an aqueduct. Cf. Cedrenus, I. 543 (p. 310, B). On one of these stones an oracle was found engraven, which had lain concealed for a long time, in which it was predicted that when the city should be supplied with abundance of water, then should the wall serve for a bath; and that innumerable hordes of barbarous nations having overrun the provinces of the Roman empire, and done a great deal of mischief, should themselves at length be destroyed. We shall here insert this oracle for the gratification of the studious:584584    Cedrenus, I. 543 (p. 310, B).

‘When nymphs their mystic dance with wat’ry feet

Shall tread through proud Byzantium’s stately street;

When rage the city wall shall overthrow,

Whose stones to fence a bathing-place shall go:

Then savage lands shall send forth myriad swarms,

Adorned with golden locks aud burnished arms,

That having Ister’s silver streams o’erpast,

Shall Scythian fields and Mœsia’s meadows waste.

But when with conquest flushed they enter Thrace,

Fate shall assign them there a burial-place.’

Such was the prophecy. And indeed it afterwards happened, that when Valens by building an aqueduct supplied Constantinople with abundance of water, the barbarous nations made various irruptions, as we shall hereafter see. But it happened that some explained the prediction otherwise. For when that aqueduct was completed, Clearchus the prefect of the city built a stately bath, to which the name of ‘the Plentiful Water’585585    Δαψιλὲς ὕδωρ. was given, in that which is now called the Forum of Theodosius: on which account the people celebrated a festival with great rejoicings, whereby there was, say they, an accomplishment of those words of the oracle,

‘their mystic dance with wat’ry feet

Shall tread through proud Byzantium’s stately street.’

But the completion of the prophecy took place afterwards. While the demolition was in progress the Constantinopolitans besought the emperor to suspend the destruction of the walls; and the inhabitants of Nicomedia and Nicæa sending from Bithynia to Constantinople, made the same request. But the emperor being exceedingly exasperated against the Chalcedonians, was with difficulty prevailed upon to listen to these petitions in their favor: but that he might perform his oath, he commanded that the walls should be pulled down, while at the same time the breaches should be repaired by being filled up with other small stones. Whence it is that in the present day one may see in certain parts of the wall very inferior materials laid upon prodigiously large stones, forming those unsightly patches which were made on that occasion. So much will be sufficient on the walls of Chalcedon.


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