|Do not fly Iberia
Aemilius Chapter 16: An eclips and a vow[168 BC]
Return to index
As soon as Aemilius had rejoined Nasica, he advanced in battle array against the enemy; but when he found how they were drawn up, and the number of their forces, he regarded them with admiration and surprise, and halted, considering within himself. The young commanders, eager to fight, riding along, by his side, pressed him not to delay, and most of all Nasica, flushed with his late success on Olympus. To whom Aemilius answered with a smile: "So would I do, were I of your age; but many victories have taught me the ways in which men are defeated, and forbid me to engage soldiers weary with a long march, against an army drawn up and prepared for battle." Then he gave command that the front of his army, and such as were in sight of the enemy, should form as if ready to engage, and those in the rear should cast up the trenches and fortify the camp; so that the hindmost in succession wheeling off by degrees and withdrawing, their whole order was insensibly broken up, and the army encamped without noise or trouble. When it was night, and, supper being over, all were turning to sleep and rest, on a sudden the moon, which was then at full and high in the heavens, grew dark, and by degrees losing her light, passed through various colors, and at length was totally eclipsed. The Romans, according to their custom, clattering brass pans and lifting up firebrands and torches into the air, invoked the return of her light; the Macedonians behaved far otherwise: terror and amazement seized their whole army, and arumor crept by degrees into their camp that this eclipse portended even that of their king. Aemilius was no novice in these things, nor was ignorant of the nature of the seeming irregularities of eclipses, that in a certain revolution of time, the moon in her course enters the shadow of the earth and is there obscured, till, passing the region of darkness, she is again enlightened by the Sun. Yet being a devout man, a religious observer of sacrifices and the art of divination, as soon as he perceived the moon beginning to regain her former lustre, he offered up to her eleven heifers. At the break of day he sacrificed as many as twenty in succession to Hercules, without any token that his offering was accepted; but at the one and twentieth, the signs promised victory to defenders. He then vowed a hecatomb and solemn sports to Hercules, and commanded his captains to make ready for battle, staying only till the sun should decline and come round to the west, lest, being in their faces in the morning, it should dazzle the eyes of his soldiers. Thus he whiled away the time in his tent, which was open towards the plain where his enemies were encamped.
Event: Battle of Pydna