14/08/2020

War with the Normans part 10

For he prepared iron caltrops, and on the eve of the day on which he expected a battle, he had them spread over the intermediate part of the plain, where he guessed the Frankish cavalry would make their fiercest onslaught, thus aiming to break the first irresistible attack of the Latins by piercing the feet of their horses. And he ordered the Roman spearsmen who held the front line, to ride forward at a measured pace in order not to be lamed by the caltrops, and to part to either side and then turn ; the light-armed troops were to send a heavy shower of darts on the Franks from a distance, and the left and right wings were to fall upon them in a vehement charge.

These indeed were my father’s plans but they did not escape Bohemund. For this is what happened: whatever plans my father made against him in the evening, the Frank knew by the morning. So he skilfully modified his plans in accordance with what he had been told, and engaged in battle but did not, as was his custom, begin with a frontal attack, but forestalling the Emperor’s intention, he raised the din of battle on either flank, bidding the front ranks keep still for a time.

Then the battle became a hand-to-hand fight, the soldiers of the Roman army turned their backs to the Latins and had not even the courage to look them in the face again, as they had been thoroughly frightened beforehand by their previous defeat. Thus the Roman lines were thrown into utter confusion, even though the Emperor remained undaunted in hand and heart and offered brave resistance, wounding many and sometimes too being wounded himself.

Incur danger by carrying on a hopeless fight

But when he saw that his whole army had disappeared and he was left with just a few, he decided not to incur danger by carrying on a hopeless fight. For when anyone after heavy travail has no longer the strength to make a stand against his enemies, he would be a fool if he thrust himself into certain danger. Now after the left and right wings of the Roman phalanx had turned to flight, the Emperor was still maintaining the combat against Bohemund’s army, bearing the whole brunt of the battle himself.

But on comprehending his unquestionable danger, he deemed it his duty to save himself, so as to be able to fight once again against his conqueror, and prove himself a very formidable opponent who would not allow Bohemund to reap a complete victory. For such was his character, whether conquered or conquering, fleeing or pursuing, he never was cowed, nor caught in the snares of despair. Moreover, he had very great faith in God and ever had His name on his lips, though always refraining from oaths. Now being tired out as just said, he too turned his back and was pursued by Bohemund and a few Counts.

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