Severinus of Noricum (c. 410 – 8 January 482) lived, as his name already suggests, at Noricum, a Roman province covering parts of modern Austria and Slovenia, which had the Danube as northern boundary. He was originally not from Noricum, but came there in order to preach. He also established what we would now call refugee camps for the population which had to flee because of the constant fighting at that area, as Huns and later Germanic tribes crossed the Danube. He soon got influence and respect and founded various congregations. After his death a Vita Sancti Severini was written by Eugippius. It is however far from sure whether Eugippius had known Severinus personally. Though this vita is mainly concerned with the miracles of Severinus, it provides also information about the situation at the Danube during that time. In the following passage it is revealed to Severinus that bodies of slaughtered Roman soldiers are floating in a river. He orders some bystanders to hurry to the river in order to collect the bodies for a proper burial.
Eugippius, Vita Sancti Severini, caput XX
XX. Quomodo ei militum fuerit interfectio revelata, propter quorum corpora sepelienda suos ignorantes direxit ad fluvium.
Per idem tempus, quo Romanum constabat imperium, multorum milites oppidorum pro custodia limitis publicis stipendiis alebantur. Qua consuetudine desinente simul militares turmae sunt deletae cum limite, Batavino utcumque numero perdurante. Ex quo perrexerant quidam ad Italiam extremum stipendium commilitonibus allaturi, quos in itinere peremptos a barbaris nullus agnoverat. Quadam ergo die, dum in sua cellula sanctus legeret Severinus, subito clauso codice cum magno coepit lacrimare suspirio. Astantes iubet ad fluvium properanter excurrere, quem in illa hora humano firmabat cruore respergi, statimque nuntiatum est corpora praefatorum militum fluminis impetu ad terram fuisse delata.
interfectio –onis (f.): slaughter
sepelio sepelivi sepultum: to burry
consto: to exist (Eugippius wrote at a time when Rome had fallen to the Goths.)
pro custodia limitis: for defence of the limes (The Danube alone was not enough for a defence as in wintertime the frozen Danube was easily crossed by invading tribes.)
publicis stipendiis alebantur: were paid with public money (When this ceased – see the next line – soldiers had no reason to stay there. It must be kept in mind that the Roman army at that time mainly depended on mercenaries, often themselves Germanics.)
Qua consuetudine desinente: when this custom ceased (The Roman economy had virtually collapsed!)
turma: troop (of 30 horsemen), squadron
deleta: not destroyed, but disintegrate, cease to exist
Batavino numero: the Batavian squadron (numerus is a Late Latin word for squadron. As the name indicates, this squadron consisted of Germanic military. As these troops were assigned to a certain place to defend, it also denotes the place at the limes.)
perduro: endure, hold on
pergo perrexi perrectum: to pursue with energy, be on their way
extremum stipendium commilitonibus allaturi: to fetch the latest salary for their fellow soldiers (Probably they had not been paid for months.)
perimo peremi peremptum: to destroy, kill
cellula: cell for a monk
suspirium: deep breath
quem in illa hora humano firmabat cruore respergi: which (river) he declared at that moment to be besprinkled with human blood
praefatus: mentioned before