However, when the Emperor had occupied Scopia, Bolcanus sent envoys with overtures of peace, and absolved himself from all blame for the evil happenings, but laid it all on the Roman satraps by saying, “They are never willing to remain within their own frontiers, but have made frequent inroads which have entailed a great deal of loss on Serbia. I myself will never do anything of the kind again, but will return to my country, send hostages from among my own kinsmen to your Majesty, and not overstep my boundaries again.” To this the Emperor agreed, and leaving behind him men appointed to rebuild the ruined towns and receive the hostages, packed up for his return to the capital.
Emperor summoned John
However, Bolcanus when asked for the hostages did not produce them but put the matter off from day to day, and before a full year had passed, he had again marched out to ravage the Roman territory. And, although he received several letters from the Emperor reminding him of the treaty and the promises he had previously made him, he refused even then to fulfil them. Consequently the Emperor summoned John, the son of his brother, the Sebastocrator, and sent him forth against Bolcanus with a large force. Now John, being ignorant of war and lusting for battle, like all young men, started, and after crossing the river of Lipenium pitched his palisades by the foothills of the Zygum, directly opposite Sphentzanium. His movements were not unnoticed by Bolcanus, who again sent to sue for peace, and promised that he would both give the hostages and also keep absolute peace with the Romans from that time forth.
These, however, were only empty promises, in secret he was getting ready to attack John. When Bolcanus actually took the road against John, a monk ran ahead and revealed his design to John and assured him that Bolcanus was already close by. But John dismissed him in anger, calling him a liar and deceiver; however facts quickly proved the truth of his words. For Bolcanus fell upon him in the night, killing many of his soldiers in their tents, and others, fleeing as best they could, were caught in the eddies of the downward rushing river and drowned.
Those of more stable character meanwhile posted themselves round John’s tent, and with great difficulty saved it by courageous fighting on the spot. In this way the greater part of the Roman army perished. Bolcanus collected his own men and retired and took up his position on the Zygum at Sphentzanium. John’s men were so few when compared with their foes that they could not possibly fight them, and therefore counselled him to recross the river. They did this and reached Lipenium, about twelve stades further on.
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