424 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
jected his campaign centrally across Northern Mesopotamia. In different parts of the
country he had been obliged to establish garrisons of occupation. Each remove reduced the
number of his effective forces. Added to this was a certain want of knowledge of the
enemy's country, which confused the Proconsul in determining his line of advance. It was
finally determined that the route of the expedition should be through Upper Mesopotamia.
This country had already been entered by the army in the preceding summer, but had been
given up for the winter. This course would bring the expedition into supporting distance
of Armenia, and it was expected that the Romans would receive from that country a large
accession of force.
Meanwhile Orodes had organized his army and thrown it forward to confront the enemy. His
forces were under the immediate command of the Surena or Generalissimo, who in this
instance- though his name has not been preserved -appears to have been a military captain
of the greatest ability and courage. For many years he had been one of the principal stays
of the Empire. Through his agency, indeed, Orodes had been confirmed on the throne. He had
already recovered several important places, including the rebellious city of Seleucia. The
army now sent out to meet the Romans under his command was composed entirely of cavalry.
It had perhaps been foreseen that it was by this branch of the service that victory might
be expected rather than from the Parthian infantry. The latter was no match for the Roman
legionaries, whose valor had spread a wholesome fear throughout the civilized world.
The winter quarters of the Roman army had been on the Upper Euphrates. Here lay the
province of Osrhoene, whose prince, Abgarus, though in alliance with the Romans, was
secretly in sympathy and communication with the Parthians. He was intrusted by Crassus
with a command of light-horse, and was assigned to the duty of scouring the country in
advance of the army, and of determining the route across Mesopotamia. It has been asserted
by Plutarch and others that this treacherous guide purposely led Crassus and his forces
into a desert region, where water could not be found, and where every advantage would be
on the side of the Parthians in battle. Perhaps the inhospitable character of the region
was exaggerated. But at any rate the advance now lay through an. open country little
obstructed by rivers or hills, and well fitted for the operations of the Parthian cavalry.
Of the character of the latter and its method of giving battle, sufficient has already
been said in a former chapter.
At the same time of the advance of Crassus the Parthian army was brought to the front, and
the two forces rapidly approached with every element of determination and passion on both
sides. At length the conflict was precipitated on the river Belike about midway between
Carrhaeand Ichnae. It was the 6th of May, in the year B.C. 54. The Parthian army, under
the command of the Surena, was carefully stationed in half-concealment behind some woods
and low hills in the neighborhood.. The cavalrymen had been ordered to cover their arms
with their garments or to keep them behind the horses, so that the blaze of weaponry might
not flash upon the Romans in its appalling splendor until the moment of battle.
Crassus came on from the west. His army of about forty thousand men was composed mostly of
Roman legions or heavy infantry. To this was attached a body of cavalry which the
Proconsul had brought with him out of Gaul, where it had been organized by Julius Caesar.
All of a sudden the Parthian drums sounded the battle-note. Then the cavalry flashed into
line, and the charge began. The Parthian lines came on at full gallop, but stopped short
of the legions by the space of a bow-shot. Then began such a tempest of arrows as the
invincible legionaries had never before been obliged to face. No armor could resist the
stroke of these fiery missiles. The air was darkened by the discharge. The Romans could
not come at their enemy. When they advanced the Parthians receded to a distance, firing
backwards with the same facility as when they halted and faced the enemy.
Such battle had never before been known in the Mesopotamian plains. The Romans