Niketas Ooryphas transfers his fleets (Skylitzes & Kedrenos versions)

In the late 11th and early 12th centuries, respectively, John Scylitzes and George Cedrenus both wrote works titled Synopsis Historiarum. The former’s Synopsis begins with the year 811 AD and continues through 1057 AD, while  Cedrenus’ Synopsis begins with the creation of the world and concludes in the year 1057 AD.

Both provide a version of Niketas Ooryphas and his transport of vessels over the Corinthian Isthmus.  Skylitzes closely follows the Vita Basilii account in Theophanes Continuatus, and Kedrenos repeats Skylitzes word for word (only deleting the bracketed phrase below about ship).  The following translation of Skylitzes and Kedrenos will live here.  I include Theophanes Continuatus’ account on the left so that you can see the amount that John Skylitzes borrows.

Theophanes Continuatus,  Chronographia 

60.  Thus when the cloud had been scattered, opposing winds again blew from Crete.  For when Saet, son of Apochaps, was governing the island and had as his colleague Photius, a warring and zealous man, twenty-seven kombaria (large military vessels) appeared on Crete.  There was added to these an analogous multitude of myoparones andpenteconters, which people are accustomed to call “saktouras” and “galleys”.

Sailing out with these against the Roman empire and plundering all of the Aegean, they often made attacks as far as the Proconnesus in the Hellespont and captured and killed many people.  Niketas the patrician, mentioned before, who was appointed to command the Roman fleet, made an attack on the Cretan navy.  Engaging in a mighty battle with the enemy, he immediately burned 20 Cretan vessels with liquid fire; as for the barbarians onboard, sword, fire, and drowning were differently apportioned.  Those remaining procured safety by flight—as many as escaped the danger from the sea.

61.  But although the Cretans in this manner were beaten and had turned away in their misfortune, they were not content to remain quiet but again lay claim to affairs through the sea.  With that Photius mentioned above as their admiral, they again troubled and plundered the parts far from the royal city, namely, the Peloponnese and the islands below it.  Therefore, the same Niketas Ooryphas was sent with the Roman fleet against this man.

Niketas by good fortune benefitted from favorable sailing winds and reached the Peloponnese within a few days.  Coming to anchor in the harbor of Kenchreai, and learning that the barbarian fleet was ruining the western part of the Peloponnese, Methone, and Patras, as well as the land near Corinth, he devised a plan both brilliant and skillful.  For he did not wish to circumnavigate the Peloponnese, rounding Cape Malea via sea and covering a distance of thousands of miles while losing valuable time.  But in the position he held, at night with many hands and much experience, he immediately undertook the deed of carrying his ships over dry land across the Corinthian Isthmus.

And he suddenly appeared to his enemies not yet aware of the fact about this move, and confounding their calculations with terror, and on account of the fear from the earlier battle as well as the unforeseen route of approach, he did not allow them at all to get themselves together and to remember their strength, but burning some of the the enemy ships and sinking others, and destroying some of the barbarians with the sword and making others drown in the deep, and killing their leader, he forced the rest to be scattered over the island.  Whom netting them later and catching them alive, he subjected them to different punishments.  For some he tore away the skin of the flesh, especially those having denied their Christian baptism, saying that this skin that was separated from them was not their own; of others he most painfully dragged strips of skin from their head to their ankles; lifting others by some beams, then lowering them down and thrusting them from a rope into kettles filled with pitch, he was saying that a uniquely painful and gloomy baptism had being given them.  And so, having railed violently in this way, exacting fitting punishments for their deeds, and in campaigning through the Roman empire he struck no small amount of terror.”

Skylitzes, Synopsis Historiarum, and  Kedrenos, Synopsis historiarum 

Another fleet from Crete was again raised in opposition.  For when Sael, son of Apochaps the admiral was governing Crete, a certain man named Photious, skilled in warfare and energetic was sent by him against the Romans with twenty-seven koumparia [and a multitude of myoparonon and pentekontors], which are usually called galleys.

 

 

Photius, setting out from Crete, plundered the islands and the coasts, and struck as far as Proconessus in the Hellespont, kidnapping and destroying the areas along the way.  Meeting him with the Roman fleet was the patrician Niketas Ooryphas, the droungarios appointed in command of the Roman fleet, near Kardia around the mouth of the Aegean.  Engaging in a mighty battle he immediately burned twenty of the Cretan ships with liquid fire; sword, fire, and water were apportioned to the barbarians in them.  As many as escaped the danger from the ship battle undertook safety by flight.

But although the Cretans in this matter were shattered terribly, they were not content to remain quiet but again attacked by sea.  Equipping pirate ships, they menaced the Peloponnese and the islands below, keeping as their admiral the Photius mentioned above.  Niketas Ooryphas the patrician, commanding the Roman fleet, set out to meet them.

 

Benefitting from a favorable and auspicious wind, he reached the Peloponnese within a few days and brought his ships to port in the harbor of Kenchreai.  Learning then that the ships of the enemies were plundering the western part of the Peloponnese, Methone, Pylos, Patras, and the land near Korinth, he devised a plan brilliant and skillful.  Dizzied by the thought of circumnavigating the Peloponese around Tainaros and Cape Malea, covering a distance of thousands of miles in vain and losing valuable time, he held this course: at night across the Corinthian Isthmus, employing many hands, he immediately carried his ships to the other sea over dry land.  Putting on board his men, he undertook the deed.

 

And in this way, he suddenly made an attack on enemies not aware about this, and confounding with fear in violation of their expectations, and throwing their wits into confusion, he did not allow them to get themselves together and to remember their strength, but straightaway they sought flight.  And so, burning some of the the enemy ships and sinking others, destroying some of the barbarians with the sword and making other drown in the deep, and killing the leader of the ships, he forced the rest to be scattered over the Peloponnese.  And netting them later and catching them alive, he subjected them to different punishments.  Some he separated the skin from their flesh, and all the more more those denying their Christian baptism, saying even that this thing separated from them was not their own; others strips of skin were painfully dragged away from their head to ankles; and lifting others with rope he then let them down into kettles filled with boiling pitch; and subjecting others to all sorts of other forms of bad things.  And accomplishing these things, he put terror into them, and brought it about that they not send out more troublesome things against the the Roman empire.”

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Categories: Byzantine, Sites, Diolkos

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