VIII The Emperor meanwhile was encamped near Diabolis at the foot of the passes, and for one thing he kept in check the men who longed to desert to Bohemund and for another he sent messengers as thick as snow-flakes to the officers keeping the passes and directed them as to the number of soldiers they were to send down to the plain of Dyrrachium. to fight against Bohemund, and the order of battle in which they were to arrange their men for the fight.

Most of them were to make an attack on horseback and then ride back again, and to do this repeatedly and use their bows and arrows; the soldiers carrying spears were to advance at slow march behind them, so that if by chance the archers were forced back too far, these soldiers could receive them and also strike at any Franks that came to blows with them. He furnished them abundantly with arrows and exhorted them not to use them sparingly, but to shoot at the horses rather than at the Franks. For he knew that the Franks were difficult to wound, or rather, practically invulnerable, thanks to their breastplates and coats of mail. Therefore he considered shooting at them useless and quite senseless.

Frankish weapon of defence

For the Frankish weapon of defence is this coat of mail, ring plaited into ring, and the iron fabric is such excellent iron that it repels arrows and keeps the wearer’s skin unhurt. An additional weapon of defence is a shield which is not round, but a long shield, very broad at the top and running out to a point, hollowed out slightly inside, but externally smooth and gleaming with a brilliant boss of molten brass. Consequently any arrow, be it Scythian or Persian, or even discharged by the arms of a giant, would glint off such a shield and hark back to the sender. For this reason, as he was cognizant both of Frankish armour and our archery, the Emperor advised our men to attack the horses chiefly and ‘wing’ them with their arrows so that when the Franks had dismounted, they could easily be captured.

For a Frank on horseback is invincible, and would even make a hole in the walls of Babylon, but directly he gets off his horse, anyone who likes can make sport of him. Knowing the perverse nature of his followers the Emperor did not wish to cross the passes, although, as he often told us in former days, he was dearly longing to engage Bohemund in a general battle. For with regaid to battles he was sharper than any sword, fearless of spirit and absolutely undaunted; however late events which grievously oppressed his soul deterred him from such an attempt.

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