Michael IV part 21

The Emperor’s Bulgarian Expedition

43. This thought afflicted the emperor much more than physical suffering, and the harm it produced in him was quite different, for whereas the disease caused his body to swell, the mental agony he endured over this revolt had the opposite effect and wasted him. So he was torn between two evils, which afflicted him in exactly opposite ways.

His first battle, however, — a battle in which he was victorious — was against his own intimate friends, before he ever came to grips with the barbarians, and the first trophy of the war was set up to commemorate his triumph over his own kinsmen and his associates — and himself. Bodily weakness, in his case, was more than compensated by strength of purpose, and in this strength he commited his cause to God. So preparations for the war began.

The move was to take counsel, determine on his objects, and direct his efforts to the attainment of his goal. The enterprise was certainly not taken in hand rashly, or without due precautions. I need not go into details, but the military preparations were adequate. Actually not all the army was mobilized and mere numbers were discounted. The best soldiers were selected and generals with most experience in the field. With them he set out to meet the Scyths,**57 advancing in due order, his army disposed with proper regard for the rules of strategy.

44 Camp was pitched in a suitable spot when the expedition arrived at the enemy borders. A council of war was held, and after it the emperor decided to engage the Bulgars — an extraordinary plan, about which even his commanders who were there with him had contrary opinions. Nor is this surprising, for during the night he was under medical treatment and nearly died.

Yet at daybreak he immediately got up, some power apparently giving him new strength, mounted his horse, sat firm in the saddle, and managed the animal with clever use of his bridle. Then, an object of wonder to all who saw him, he rode to the rear and formed up the various divisions of his army into one coherent force.

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