The History, 14.11

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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11At Milan, having discarded the weight of other cares, the emperor took into his consideration that most difficult gordian knot, how by a mighty effort to uproot the Cæsar. And while he was deliberating on this matter with his friends in secret conference by night, and considering what force, and what contrivances might be employed for the purpose, before Gallus in his audacity should more resolutely set himself to plunging affairs into confusion, it seemed best that Gallus should be invited by civil letters, under pretence of some public affairs of an urgent nature requiring his advice, so that, being deprived of all support, he might be put to death without any hindrance.

2But as several knots of light-minded flatterers opposed this opinion, among whom was Arbetio, a man of keen wit and always inclined to treachery, and Eusebius, a man always disposed to mischief, at that time the principal chamberlain, they suggested that if the Cæsar were to quit those countries it would be dangerous to leave Ursicinus in the East, with no one to check his designs, if he should cherish ambitious notions.

3And these counsels were supported by the rest of the royal eunuchs, whose avarice and covetousness at that period had risen to excess. These men, while performing their private duties about the court, by secret whispers supplied food for false accusations; and by raising bitter suspicions of Ursicinus, ruined a most gallant man, creating by underhand means a belief that his grown-up sons began to aim at supreme power; intimating that they were youths in the flower of their age and of admirable personal beauty, skilful in the use of every kind of weapon, well trained in all athletic and military exercises, and favourably known for prudence and wisdom. They insinuated also that Gallus himself, being by nature fierce and unmanageable, had been excited to acts of additional cruelty and ferocity by persons placed about him for that purpose, to the end that, when he had brought upon himself universal detestation, the ensigns of power might be transferred to the children of the master of the horse.

4When these and similar suspicions were poured into the ears of Constantius, which were always open to reports of this kind, the emperor, revolving different plans in his mind, at last chose the following as the most advisable course. He commanded Ursicinus in a most complimentary manner to come to him, on the pretence that the urgent state of certain affairs required to be arranged by the aid of his counsel and concurrence, and that he had need of such additional support in order to crush the power of the Parthian tribes, who were threatening war.

5And that he who was thus invited might not suspect anything unfriendly, the Count Prosper was sent to act as his deputy till he returned. Accordingly, when Ursicinus had received the letters, and had obtained a sufficient supply of carriages, and means of travelling, we hastened to Milan with all speed.

6The next thing was to contrive to summon the Cæsar, and to induce him to make the like haste. And to remove all suspicion in his mind, Constantius used many hypocritical endearments to persuade his own sister, Gallus’s wife, whom he pretended he had long been wishing to see, to accompany him. And although she hesitated from fear of her brother’s habitual cruelty, yet, from a hope that, as he was her brother, she might be able to pacify him, she set out; but when she reached Bithynia, at the station named Cæni Gallici, she was seized with a sudden fever and died. And after her death, her husband, considering that he had lost his greatest security and the chief support on which he relied, hesitated, taking anxious thought what he should do.

7For amid the multiplicity of embarrassing affairs which distracted his attention, this point especially filled his mind with apprehension, that Constantius, determining everything according to his own sole judgment, was not a man to admit of any excuse, or to pardon any error; but being, as he was, more inclined to severity towards his kinsmen than towards others, would be sure to put him to death if he could get him into his power.

8Being therefore in this critical situation, and feeling that he had to expect the worst unless he took vigilant care, he embraced the idea of seizing on the supreme power if he could find any opportunity: but for two reasons he distrusted the good faith of his most intimate councillors; both because they dreaded him as at once cruel and fickle, and also because amid civil dissensions they looked with awe upon the loftier fortune of Constantius.

9While perplexed with these vast and weighty anxieties he received continual letters from the emperor, advising and entreating him to come to him; and giving him hints that the republic neither could nor ought to be divided; but that every one was bound to the utmost of his power to bring aid to it when it was tottering; alluding in this to the devastations of the Gauls.

10And to this suggestion he added an example of no great antiquity, that in the time of Diocletian and his colleague, the Cæsars obeyed them as their officers, not remaining stationary, but hastening to execute their orders in every direction. And that even Galerius went in his purple robe on foot for nearly a mile before the chariot of Augustus when he was offended with him.

11After many other messengers had been despatched to him, Scudilo the tribune of the Scutarii arrived, a very cunning master of persuasion under the cloak of a rude, blunt disposition. He, by mixing flattering language with his serious conversation, induced him to proceed, when no one else could do so, continually assuring him, with a hypocritical countenance, that his cousin was extremely desirous to see him; that, like a clement and merciful prince, he would pardon whatever errors had been committed through thoughtlessness; that he would make him a partner in his own royal rank, and take him for his associate in those toils which the northern provinces, long in a disturbed state, imposed upon him.

12And as when the Fates lay their hand upon a man his senses are wont to be blunted and dimmed, so Gallus, being led on by these alluring persuasions to the expectation of a better fortune, quitted Antioch under the guidance of an unfriendly star, and hurried, as the old proverb has it, out of the smoke into the flame; and having arrived at Constantinople as if in great prosperity and security, at the celebration of the equestrian games, he with his own hand placed the crown on the head of the charioteer Corax, when he obtained the victory.

13When Constantius heard this he became exasperated beyond all bounds of moderation; and lest by any chance Gallus, feeling uncertain of the future, should attempt to consult his safety by flight, all the garrisons stationed in the towns which lay in his road were carefully removed.

14And at the same time Taurus, who was sent as quæstor into Armenia, passed by without visiting or seeing him. Some persons, however, by the command of the emperor, arrived under the pretence of one duty or another, in order to take care that he should not be able to move, or make any secret attempt of any kind. Among whom was Leontius, afterwards prefect of the city, who was sent as quæstor; and Lucillianus, as count of the domestic guards, and a tribune of the Scutarii named Bainobaudes.

15Therefore after a long journey through the level country, when he had reached Hadrianopolis, a city in the district of Mount Hæmus, which had been formerly called Uscudama, where he stayed twelve days to recover from his fatigue, he found that the Theban legions, who were in winter quarters in the neighbouring towns of those parts, had sent some of their comrades to exhort him by trustworthy and sure promises to remain there relying upon them, since they were posted in great force among the neighbouring stations; but those about him watched him with such diligent care that he could get no opportunity of seeing them, or of hearing their message.

16Then, as letter after letter from the emperor urged him to quit that city, he took ten public carriages, as he was desired to do, and leaving behind him all his retinue, except a few of his chamberlains and domestic officers, whom he had brought with him, he was in this poor manner compelled to hasten his journey, his guards forcing him to use all speed; while he from time to time, with many regrets, bewailed the rashness which had placed him in a mean and despised condition at the mercy of men of the lowest class.

17And amid all these circumstances, in moments when exhausted nature sought repose in sleep, his senses were kept in a state of agitation by dreadful spectres making unseemly noises about him; and crowds of those whom he had slain, led on by Domitianus and Montius, seemed to seize and torture him with all the torments of the Furies.

18For the mind, when freed by sleep from its connection with the body, is nevertheless active, and being full of the thoughts and anxieties of mortal pursuits, engenders mighty visions which we call phantoms.

19Therefore his melancholy fate, by which it was destined he should be deprived of empire and life, leading the way, he proceeded on his journey by continual relays of horses, till he arrived at Petobio, a town in Noricum. Here all disguise was thrown off, and the Count Barbatio suddenly made his appearance, with Apodemius, the secretary for the provinces, and an escort of soldiers whom the emperor had picked out as men bound to him by especial favours, feeling sure that they could not be turned from their obedience either by bribes or pity.

20And now the affair was conducted to its conclusion without further disguise or deceit, and the whole portion of the palace which is outside the walls was surrounded by armed men. Barbatio, entering the palace before daybreak, stripped the Cæsar of his royal robes, and clothed him with a tunic and an ordinary soldier’s garment, assuring him with many protestations, as if by the especial command of the emperor, that he should be exposed to no further suffering; and then said to him, “Stand up at once.” And having suddenly placed him in a private carriage, he conducted him into Istria, near to the town of Pola, where it is reported that Crispus, the son of Constantine, was formerly put to death.

21And while he was there kept in strict confinement, being already terrified with apprehensions of his approaching destruction, Eusebius, at that time the high chamberlain, arrived in haste, and with him Pentadius the secretary, and Mallobaudes the tribune of the guard, who had the emperor’s orders to compel him to explain, case by case, on what accounts he had ordered each of the individuals whom he had executed at Antioch to be put to death.

22He being struck with a paleness like that of Adrastus at these questions, was only able to reply that he had put most of them to death at the instigation of his wife Constantina; being forsooth ignorant that when the mother of Alexander the Great urged him to put to death some one who was innocent, and in the hope of prevailing with him, repeated to him over and over again that she had borne him nine months in her womb, and was his mother, that emperor made her this prudent answer, “My excellent mother, ask for some other reward; for the life of a man cannot be put in the balance with any kind of service.”

23When this was known, the emperor, giving way to unchangeable indignation and anger, saw that his only hope of establishing security firmly lay in putting the Cæsar to death. And having sent Serenianus, whom we have already spoken of as having been accused of treason, but acquitted by intrigue, and Pentadius the secretary, and Apodemius the secretary for the provinces, he commanded that they should put him to death. And accordingly his hands were bound like those of some convicted thief, and he was beheaded, and his carcass, which but a little while ago had been the object of dread to cities and provinces, deprived of head and defaced: it was then left on the ground.

24In this the supervision of the supreme Deity manifested itself to be everywhere vigilant. For not only did the cruelties of Gallus bring about his own destruction, but they also who, by their pernicious flattery and instigation, and charges supported by perjury, had led him to the perpetration of many murders, not long afterwards died miserably. Scudilo, being afflicted with a liver complaint which penetrated to his lungs, died vomiting; while Barbatio, who had long busied himself in inventing false accusations against Gallus, was accused by secret information of aiming at some post higher than his command of infantry, and being condemned, though unjustly, was put to death, and so by his melancholy end made atonement to the shade of the Cæsar.

25These, and innumerable other actions of the same kind, Adrastea, who is also called Nemesis, the avenger of wicked and the rewarder of good deeds, is continually bringing to pass: would that she could always do so! She is a kind of sublime agent of the powerful Deity, dwelling, according to common belief, above the human circle; or, as others define her, she is a substantial protection, presiding over the particular destinies of individuals, and feigned by the ancient theologians to be the daughter of Justice, looking down from a certain inscrutable eternity upon all terrestrial and mundane affairs.

26She, as queen of all causes of events, and arbitress and umpire in all affairs of life, regulates the urn which contains the lots of men, and directs the alternations of fortune which we behold in the world, frequently bringing our undertakings to an issue different from what we intended, and involving and changing great numbers of actions. She also, binding the vainly swelling pride of mankind by the indissoluble fetters of necessity, and swaying the inclination of progress and decay according to her will, sometimes bows down and enfeebles the stiff neck of arrogance, and sometimes raises virtuous men from the lowest depth, leading them to a prosperous and happy life. And it is on this account that the fables of antiquity have represented her with wings, that she may be supposed to be present at all events with prompt celerity. And they have also placed a rudder in her hand and given her a wheel under her feet, that mankind may be aware that she governs the universe, running at will through all the elements.

27In this untimely manner did the Cæsar, being himself also already weary of life, die, in the twenty-ninth year of his age, having reigned four years. He was born in the country of the Etrurians, in the district of Veternum, being the son of Constantius, the brother of the Emperor Constantine; his mother was Galla, the sister of Rufinus and Cerealis, men who had been ennobled by the offices of consul and prefect.

28He was a man of splendid stature and great beauty of person and figure, with soft hair of a golden colour, his newly sprouting beard covering his cheeks with a tender down, and in spite of his youth his countenance showed dignity and authority. He differed as much from the temperate habits of his brother Julian, as the sons of Vespasian, Domitian and Titus, differed from each other.

29After he had been taken by the emperor as his colleague, and raised to the highest eminence of power, he experienced the fickle changeableness of fortune which mocks mortality, sometimes raising individuals to the stars, at others sinking them to the lowest depths of hell.

30And though the examples of such vicissitudes are beyond number, nevertheless I will only enumerable a few in a cursory manner. This changeable and fickle fortune made Agathocles, the Sicilian, a king from being a potter, and reduced Dionysius, formerly the terror of all nations, to be the master of a grammar school. This same fortune emboldened Andriscus of Adramyttium, who had been born in a fuller’s shop, to assume the name of Philip, and compelled the legitimate son of Perseus to descend to the trade of a blacksmith to obtain a livelihood. Again, fortune surrendered Mancinus to the people of Numantia, after he had enjoyed the supreme command, exposed Veturius to the cruelty of the Samnites, Claudius to that of the Corsicans, and made Regulus a victim to the ferocity of the Carthaginians. Through the injustice of fortune, Pompey, after he had acquired the surname of the Great by the grandeur of his exploits, was murdered in Ægypt at the pleasure of some eunuchs, while a fellow named Eunus, a slave who had escaped from a house of correction, commanded an army of runaway slaves in Sicily. How many men of the highest birth, through the connivance of this same fortune, submitted to the authority of Viriathus and of Spartacus! How many heads at which nations once trembled have fallen under the deadly hand of the executioner! One man is thrown into prison, another is promoted to unexpected power, a third is hurled down from the highest rank and dignity. But he who would endeavour to enumerate all the various and frequent instances of the caprice of fortune, might as well undertake to number the sands or ascertain the weight of mountains.

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