PROCOPIUS  ON COLCHIS     (527 – 565 AD)


     Translation: H.B. Dewing
     Maps: Andrew Andersen






III. vi.

These, then, are the things which the emperor Justinian did in Armenia. And it has seemed to me not inappropriate to record at this point in my account what he did for the Tzani, for they are neighbours of the Armenians. From ancient times the Tzani have lived as an independent people, without rulers, following a savage-like manner of life, regarding as gods the trees and birds and sundry creatures besides, and worshipping them, and spending their whole lives among mountains reaching to the sky and covered with forests, and cultivating no land whatever, but robbing and living always on their plunder. For they themselves are not skillled in cultivating the soil, and their country, at least where it is not occupied by the steepest mountains, is hilly. These uplands are not rolling hills, neither do they provide soil such as would produce harvests, if one should cultivate them, but they are excessively rough and extremely hard and altogether unfavourable to any crops. It is not possible either to irrigate the land or to harvest corn; one cannot find meadow-land in that region, indeed even the trees which grow in Tzanica bear no frit and are entirely unproductive, for reasons do not regularly follow one another the sun’s heat quickens it, but the land is held in the grip of an endlesss winter and buried under everlasting snows. For this reason the Tzani in ancient times used to live in independence, but during the reign of the present emperor Justinian they were defeated in battle by the Romans under the general Tzittas, and abandoning the struggle they all straightway yielded to him, preferring the toilless servitude to the dangerous liberty. And they immediately changed their belief to piety, all of them becoming Christians, and they altered their manner of life to a milder way, giving up all brigandage and always marching with the Romans whenever they went against their enemies. And the emperor Justinian, fearing that the Tzani at some time might alter their way of life and change their habits back to the wilder sort, devised the following measures.

Tzanica was a very inaccessible country and altogether impossible for horses, being shut in on all sides by cliffs and for the most part by forests, as I have said. As a result of this it was impossible for the Tzani to mingle with their neighbours, living as they did a life of solitude among themselves in the manner of wild beasts. Accordingly he cut down all the trees by which the routes chanced to be obstructed, and transforming the rough places and making them smooth and passable for horses, he brought it about that they mingled with other peoples in the manner of men in general and concented to have intercourse with their neighbours. After this built a church for them in a place called Skhamalinikhon, and caused them to conduct services and to partake of the sacraments and propitiate god with prayers and perform the other acts of worship, so that they should know that they were human beings. And he built forts in all parts of the land, assigned to them very strong garrisons of Roman soldiers, and gave the Tzani unhampered intercourse wth other peoples. I shall now tell where in Tzanika he built these forts.



It happens that a certain point in that land forms the meeting-place of three roads; for the boundaries of the Persarmenians and the Tzani themselves begin here and extend out from this point. Here he constructed a very strong fortress which had not existed previously, Horonon by name, making it the mainstery of the peace of the region. For the Romans were first able to enter Tzanika from that point. Here too he established a military commander called a duke. And at a place two days journey distant from Horonon, where the territory of the Tzani who are called Okeniton commences -for Tzani are divided into many tribes-, there was a sort of stronghold built by men of former times, Kharton by name, which long before had already become a ruin through neglect. This the emperor Justinian restored, and he caused a large population to live there and to preserve order in the country. And as one goes from there towards the east, there is a precipitous ravine which extends around to the north; here he built a new fortress, Barkhon by name. Beyond this at the food of the mountain are folds where the cattle of the Okeniton Tzani, as they are called, find shelter; and they breed these cattle, not in order to plough the earth for the Tzani are altogether indolent and averse to the tasks of husbandry, as I have said (III. vi. 2), and they neither plough nor perform the other labours of husbandry- but in order to have a constant supply of milk and to eat their flesh. Beyond the foothills of the mountain, where the place called Kena lies in the level country, as one goes approximately westward there is a fort named Sisilisson; this had been built in ancient times, but, with the passage of time, had come to be deserted; so the emperor Justinian restored it and established there a sufficient garrison of Roman soldiers, just as in all the others. And as one goes on from that fort, there is a certain place on the left, towards the north, which the natives call Longini Fossatum, because in earlier times Longinus, a Roman general, an Isaurian by birth, had made an expedition against the Tzani on one occasion and built his camp there. In that place this emperor built a fortress called Bourgousnoes, one day’s journey distant from Sisilisson. This fort of Sisilisson too was rentered very strong by this same emperor, as was stated a little above. From there begins the territory of the Koksilinon Tzani, as they are called; and here he has now made two forts, one called Skhamalinikhon and the other is the one they call Tzanzakon and here he posted another military commander.




III. vii.

These things, then, were done by Emperor Justinian in Tzanica. In the land beyond this which lies along the Euxine Sea there is a city named Trapezus; and since there was a scarcity of water in that city, the Emperor Justinian built an aqueduct which they call the Aqueduct of the martyr Eugenis, and thus he put an and to the scarcity for the inhabitants of this place.