The Revolt of the Comneni part 21

He therefore found out which soldiers were on duty in the various towers. He learnt that in one place the “Immortals” were on guard (this is the most select regiment of the Roman army) and in another the Varangians from Thule [*By some interpreted as the British Isles, by others as part of Scandinavia, particularly Thyland in Jutland.] (by these I mean the axe-bearing barbarians) and in yet another the Nemitzi [*Germans] (these too are a barbaric tribe who have been subjects of the Roman Empire from of old); and he thereupon advised Alexius not to make an offer to the Varangians or the Immortals. For the latter, being indigenous, naturally cherished a great affection for the Emperor and would sooner lose their lives than be persuaded to adopt any treachery against him.

The Varangians, too, who carried their axes on their shoulders, regarded their loyalty to the Emperors and their protection of the imperial persons as a pledge and ancestral tradition, handed down from father to son, which they keep inviolate and will certainly not listen to even the slightest word about treachery. But if Alexius approached the Nemitzi he would perhaps not be far from the mark, but be lucky enough to gain entrance into the city through the tower where they kept watch.

Questions and answers

Alexius listened to these words of the Caesar as if they came from an oracle and at once acted upon them. He sent one of his men to sound the leader of the Nemitzi carefully from the foot of the wall; the leader looked down from above and after a brisk interchange of questions and answers, he soon agreed to betray the city. So the soldier returned bringing the message and as soon as Alexius and his companions heard this unexpected news, they were delighted and very eagerly prepared to mount their horses.

X At the same time the ambassadors from Melissenus were insistently demanding the Golden Bull which had been promised them, and Manganes was summoned to bring it. He said that he had indeed written the letter, but protested that the implements necessary for the royal signatures and sealing had been lost, pen and all! For he was a dissembler and clever at easily forecasting the future, at picking out what was advantageous from the past, and also accurately diagnosing the present and skilfully arranging matters to his own liking while he covered his doings as long as he wished.

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