The History, 14.7

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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7His licentiousness having now become more unbounded, the Cæsar began to be burdensome to all virtuous men; and discarding all moderation, he harassed every part of the East, sparing neither those who had received public honours, nor the chief citizens of the different cities; nor the common people.

2At last by one single sentence he ordered all the principal persons at Antioch to be put to death; being exasperated because when he recommended that a low price should be established in the market at an unseasonable time, when the city was threatened with a scarcity, they answered him with objections, urged with more force than he approved; and they would all have been put to death to a man, if Honoratus, who was at that time count of the East, had not resisted him with pertinacious constancy.

3This circumstance was also a proof, and that no doubtful or concealed one, of the cruelty of his nature, that he took delight in cruel sports, and in the circus he would rejoice as if he had made some great gain, to see six or seven gladiators killing one another in combats which have often been forbidden.

4In addition to these things a certain worthless woman inflamed his purpose of inflicting misery; for she, having obtained admission to the palace, as she had requested, gave him information that a plot was secretly laid against him by a few soldiers of the lowest rank. And Constantina, in her exultation, thinking that her husband’s safety was now fully secured, rewarded and placed this woman, in a carriage, and in this way sent her out into the public street through the great gate of the palace, in order, by such a temptation, to allure others also to give similar or more important information.

5After these events, Gallus being about to set out for Hierapolis, in order, as far as appearance went, to take part in the expedition, the common people of Antioch entreated him in a suppliant manner to remove their fear of a famine which for many reasons (some of them difficult to explain) it was believed was impending; Gallus, however, did not, as is the custom of princes whose power, by the great extent of country over which it is diffused, is able continually to remedy local distresses, order any distribution of food to be made, or any supplies to be brought from the neighbouring countries; but he pointed out to them a man of consular rank, named Theophilus, the governor of Syria, who happened to be standing by, replying to the repeated appeals of the multitude, who were trembling with apprehensions of the last extremities, that no one could possibly want food if the governor were not willing that they should be in want of it.

6These words increased the audacity of the lower classes, and when the scarcity of provisions became more severe, urged by hunger and frenzy, they set fire to and burnt down the splendid house of a man of the name of Eubulus, a man of great reputation among his fellow-citizens; and they attacked the governor himself with blows and kicks as one especially made over to them by the judgment of the emperor, kicking him till he was half dead, and then tearing him to pieces in a miserable manner. And after his wretched death every one saw in the destruction of this single individual a type of the danger to which he was himself exposed, and, taught by this recent example, feared a similar fate.

7About the same time Serenianus, who had previously been duke of Phœnicia, to whose inactivity it was owing, as we have already related, that Celse in Phœnicia was laid waste, was deservedly and legally accused of treason, and no one saw how he could possibly be acquitted. He was also manifestly proved to have sent an intimate friend with a cap (with which he used to cover his own head) which had been enchanted by forbidden acts to the temple of prophecy, on purpose to ask expressly whether, according to his wish, a firm enjoyment of the whole empire was portended for him.

8And in these days a twofold misfortune occurred: first, that a heavy penalty had fallen upon Theophilus who was innocent; and, secondly, that Serenianus who deserved universal execration, was acquitted without the general feeling being able to offer any effectual remonstrance.

9Constantius then hearing from time to time of these transactions, and having been further informed of some particular occurrences by Thalassius, who however had now died by the ordinary course of nature, wrote courteous letters to the Cæsar, but at the same time gradually withdrew from him his support, pretending to be uneasy, least as the leisure of soldiers is usually a disorderly time, the troops might be conspiring to his injury: and he desired him to content himself with the schools of the Palatine, and with those of the Protectors, with the Scutarii, and Gentiles. And he ordered Domitianus, who had formerly been the Superintendent of the Treasury, but who was now promoted to be a prefect, as soon as he arrived in Syria, to address Gallus in persuasive and respectful language, exhorting him to repair with all speed to Italy, to which province the emperor had repeatedly summoned him.

10And when, with this object, Domitianus had reached Antioch, having travelled express, he passed by the gates of the palace, in contempt of the Cæsar, whom, however, he ought to have visited, and proceeded to the general’s camp with ostentatious pomp, and there pretended to be sick; he neither visited the palace, nor ever appeared in public, but keeping himself private, he devised many things to bring about the destruction of the Cæsar, adding many superfluous circumstances to the relations which he was continually sending to the emperor.

11At last, being expressly invited by the Cæsar, and being admitted into the prince’s council-chamber, without making the slightest preface he began in this inconsiderate and light-minded manner: “Depart,” said he, “as you have been commanded, O Cæsar, and know this, that if you make any delay I shall at once order all the provisions allotted for the support of yourself and your court to be carried away.” And then, having said nothing more than these insolent words, he departed with every appearance of rage; and would never afterwards come into his sight though frequently sent for.

12The Cæsar being indignant at this, as thinking he had been unworthily and unjustly treated, ordered his faithful protectors to take the prefect into custody; and when this became known, Montius, who at that time was quæstor, a man of deep craft indeed, but still inclined to moderate measures, taking counsel for the common good, sent for the principal members of the Palatine schools and addressed them in pacific words, pointing out that it was neither proper nor expedient that such things should be done; and adding also in a reproving tone of voice, that if such conduct as this were approved of, then, after throwing down the statues of Constantius the prefect would begin to think how he might also with the greater security take his life also.

13When this was known Gallus, like a serpent attacked with stones or darts, being now reduced to the extremity of despair, and eager to insure his safety by any possible means, ordered all his troops to be collected in arms, and when they stood around him in amazement he gnashed his teeth, and hissing with rage, said,—

14“You are present here as brave men, come to the aid of me who am in one common danger with you. Montius, with a novel and unprecedented arrogance, accuses us of rebellion and resistance to the majesty of the emperor, by roaring out all these charges against us. Being offended forsooth that, as a matter of precaution, I ordered a contumacious prefect, who pretended not to know what the state of affairs required, to be arrested and kept in custody.”

15On hearing these words the soldiers immediately, being always on the watch to raise disturbances, first of all attacked Montius, who happened to be living close at hand, an old man of no great bodily strength, and enfeebled by disease; and having bound his legs with coarse ropes, they dragged him straddling, without giving him a moment to take breath, as far as the general’s camp.

16And with the same violence they also bound Domitianus, dragging him head first down the stairs; and then having fastened the two men together, they dragged them through all the spacious streets of the city at full speed. And, all their limbs and joints being thus dislocated, they trampled on their corpses after they were dead, and mutilated them in the most unseemly manner; and at last, having glutted their rage, they threw them into the river.

17But there was a certain man named Luscus, the governor of the city, who, suddenly appearing among the soldiers, had inflamed them, always ready for mischief, to the nefarious actions which they had thus committed; exciting them with repeated cries, like the musician who gives the tune to the mourners at funerals, to finish what they had begun: and for this deed he was, not long after, burnt alive.

18And because Montius, when just about to expire under the hands of those who were tearing him to pieces, repeatedly named Epigonius and Eusebius, without indicating either their rank or their profession, a great deal of trouble was taken to find out who they were; and, lest the search should have time to cool, they sent for a philosopher named Epigonius, from Lycia, and for Eusebius the orator, surnamed Pittacos, from Emissa; though they were not those whom Montius had meant, but some tribunes, superintendents of the manufactures of arms, who had promised him information if they heard of any revolutionary measures being agitated.

19About the same time Apollinaris, the son-in-law of Domitianus, who a short time before had been the chief steward of the Cæsar’s palace, being sent to Mesopotamia by his father-in-law, took exceeding pains to inquire among the soldiers whether they had received any secret despatches from the Cæsar, indicating his having meditated any deeper designs than usual. And as soon as he heard of the events which had taken place at Antioch, he passed through the lesser Armenia and took the road to Constantinople; but he was seized on his journey by the Protectors, and brought back to Antioch, and there kept in close confinement.

20And while these things were taking place there was discovered at Tyre a royal robe, which had been secretly made, though it was quite uncertain who had placed it where it was, or for whose use it had been made. And on that account the governor of the province, who was at that time the father of Apollinaris, and bore the same name, was arrested as an accomplice in his guilt; and great numbers of other persons were collected from different cities, who were all involved in serious accusations.

21And now, when the trumpets of internal war and slaughter began to sound, the turbulent disposition of the Cæsar, indifferent to any consideration of the truth, began also to break forth, and that not secretly as before. And without making any solemn investigation into the truth of the charges brought against the citizens, and without separating the innocent from the guilty, he discarded all ideas of right or justice, as if they had been expelled from the seat of judgment. And while all lawful defence on trials was silent, the torturer, and plunderer, and the executioner, and every kind of confiscation of property, raged unrestrained throughout the eastern provinces of the empire, which I think it now a favourable moment to enumerate, with the exception of Mesopotamia, which I have already described when I was relating the Parthian wars; and also with the exception of Egypt, which I am forced to postpone to another opportunity.

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