Hiberi locorum potentes Caspia via Sarmatam in Armenios raptim effundunt. At qui Parthis adventabant, facile arcebantur, cum alios incessus hostis clausisset, unum reliquum mare inter et extremos Albanorum montis aestas impediret, quia flatibus etesiarum implentur vada: hibernus auster revolvit fluctus pulsoque introrsus freto brevia litorum nudantur.
XXXIV. Interim Oroden sociorum inopem auctus auxilio Pharasmanes vocare ad pugnam et detrectantem incessere, adequitare castris, infensare pabula; ac saepe in modum obsidii stationibus cingebat, donec Parthi contumeliarum insolentes circumsisterent regem, poscerent proelium. Atque illis sola in equite vis: Pharasmanes et pedite valebat. Nam Hiberi Albanique saltuosos locos incolentes duritiae patientiaeque magis insuevere; feruntque se Thessalis ortos, qua tempestate Iaso post avectam Medeam genitosque ex ea liberos inanem mox regiam Aeetae vacuosque Colchos repetivit. Multaque de nomine eius et oraclum Phrixi celebrant; nec quisquam ariete sacrificaverit, credito vexisse Phrixum, sive id animal seu navis insigne fuit.
the important positions, hastily poured their own Sarmatians into Armenia by the Caspian Way:1 those advancing to the support of the Parthians were held back without difficulty; for other passes had been closed by the enemy, and the one remaining,2 between the sea and the extremity of the Albanian mountains, was impracticable in summer, as the shallows are flooded by the Etesian gales. In winter the waves are rolled back by southerly winds, and the recoil of the water inward leaves the beach uncovered.
XXXIV. Meanwhile Orodes was devoid of allies; and Pharasmanes, strong in his reinforcements, began to challenge him to engage and to harass him as he drew off, to ride up to his encampments and to ravage the foraging grounds. Frequently he encircled him with outposts almost in the manner of a formal siege; till the Parthians, unaccustomed to these insolences, surrounded the king and demanded battle. Their one strength lay in the cavalry: Pharasmanes was formidable also in infantry, for life in a highland district has trained the Iberians and Albanians to superior hardiness and endurance. They claim to have originated from Thessaly, at the time when Jason, after the departure of Medea with the children she had borne him, retraced his steps, a little later, to the empty palace of Aeëtes and the kingless realm of Colchis. His name survives in many of their institutions, which include an oracle of Phrixus; and, as the belief is held that Phrixus was carried by a ram (whether the word denotes the animal or the figurehead of a ship),3a it is inadmissible to offer one in sacrifice.
- 1The misnamed ‘Caspian Gate’—the famous Pass of Dariel in the Terek valley, traversed to-day by the military road between Tiflis and Vladikavkaz (Ordzhonikidze). It was of sinister importance (metuendaque portae Limina Caspiacae, Stat. Silv. IV. 4) as the highroad for Sarmatian and, later, Hunnish inroads into the plains of Parthia and the eastern provinces of the empire: cf. Procop. B.P. I. 10; B.G. IV. 3.—The Caspiae Portae proper lay far eastward, north of Teheran.
- 2Between Derbend and Baku, on the west shore of the Caspian.
- 3Σ Ap. Rh. I. 256, ἔνιοι δέ ϕασιν αὐτὸν ἐπì κριοπρῴρου σκάφους πλεῦσαι. This convenient hypothesis was freely applied by the rationalists to resolve such cases of conscience as Europa’s bull, Ganymede’s eagle—though here the standard of a legion was an alternative—and the like.