While he waited in Ravenna an insulting challenge reached him from the barbarian Usdrilas who held Rimini. “After your boasted preparations, which have kept all Italy in a ferment, and after striking terror into our hearts by knitting your brows and looking more awful than mortal men, you have crept into Ravenna and are skulking there afraid of the very name of the Goths. Come out with all that mongrel host of barbarians to whom you want to deliver Italy and let us behold you, for the eyes of the Goths hunger for the sight of you." And Narses laughed at the insolence of the barbarian, and presently he set forward with the army he had made, upon the great road through Classis for Rimini, till he came to the bridge over the Marecchia, there which Augustus had built and which was held by the enemy. There in the fight which followed—little more than a skirmish—the barbarian Usdrilas came by his end, and Narses ignoring Rimini marched on, his great object before him, Totila and his army, which he meant, before all things else, to seek out and to destroy. So he went down the Flaminian Way to Fano and there presently left it for a by-way upon the left, rejoining the great highway some miles beyond the fortress of Petra Pertusa, which he disregarded as he had done that of Rimini. He marched on till he came to the very crest of the Apennines, over which he passed and camped upon the west under the great heights, at a place then called Ad Ensem and to-day Scheggia.
[Footnote 1: Hodgkin’s free translation of Procopius, op. cit. iv. 28.]
[Illustration: Sketch Map NARSES’ MARCH FROM RAVENNA To Meet TOTILA]
Meanwhile Totila had come to meet him from Rome, and had managed to reach Tadinum, the modern Gualdo Tadino, when he found Narses, unexpectedly, for he must have thought the way over the mountains securely barred by the fortress of Petra Pertusa, upon the great road before him.
Narses sent an embassy to Totila to offer, “not peace, but pardon;” this the barbarian refused. Asked when he would fight Totila answered, “In eight days from this day.” But Narses, knowing what manner of man his enemy was, made all ready for the morrow, and at once occupied the great hill upon his left which overlooked both camps. In this he was right, for no sooner had he seized this advantage than Totila attempted to do the same, but without any success.
Then on the morrow Totila, having meanwhile been reinforced with two thousand men, rode forth before the two armies and “exhibited in a narrow space the strength and agility of a warrior. His armour was enchased with gold; his purple banner floated with the wind; he cast his lance into the air; caught himself backwards; recovered his seat and managed a fiery steed in all the paces and evolutions of the equestrian school." No doubt Narses the eunuch smiled. The barbarians were all the same, and they remain unaltered. Totila’s theatrical antics are but the prototype to those amazing cavalry charges, excellently stage-managed, that may be seen almost any autumn during the German manoeuvres, a new Totila at their head.