The History, 15.2

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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2And now, after the pitiable death of the Cæsar, the trumpet of judicial dangers sounded the alarm, and Ursicinus was impeached of treason, envy gaining more and more strength every day to attack his safety; envy which is inimical to all powerful men.

2For he was overcome by this difficulty, that, while the ears of the emperor were shut against all defences which were reasonable and easy of proof, they were open to all the secret whispers of calumniators, who pretended that his name was almost disused among all the districts of the East, and that Ursicinus was urged by them both privately and publicly to be their commander, as one who could be formidable to the Persian nation.

3But this magnanimous man stood his ground immovably against whatever might happen, only taking care not to throw himself away in an abject manner, and grieving from his heart that innocence had no safe foundation on which to stand. And the more sad also for this consideration, that before these events took place many of his friends had gone over to other more powerful persons, as in cases of official dignity the lictors go over to the successors of former officers.

4His colleague Arbetio was attacking him by cajoling words of feigned good-will, often publicly speaking of him as a virtuous and brave man; Arbetio being a man of great cunning in laying snares for men of simple life, and one who at that season enjoyed too much power. For as a serpent that has its hole underground and hidden from the sight of man observes the different passers-by, and attacks whom it will with a sudden spring, so this man, having been raised from being a common soldier of the lowest class to the highest military dignities, without having received any injury or any provocation, polluted his conscience from an insatiable desire of doing mischief.

5Therefore, having a few partners in his secrets for accomplices, he had secretly arranged with the emperor when he asked his opinion, that on the next night Ursicinus should be seized and carried away from the sight of the soldiers, and so be put to death uncondemned, just as formerly Domitius Corbulo, that faithful and wise defender of our provinces, is said to have been slain in the miserable period of Nero’s cruelty.

6And after the matter had been thus arranged, while the men destined for the service of seizing Ursicinus were waiting for the appointed time, the emperor’s mind changed to mercy, and so this impious deed was put off for further consideration.

7Then the engine of calumny was directed against Julian, who had lately been brought to court; a prince who afterwards became memorable, but who was now attacked with a two-fold accusation, as the iniquity of his enemies thought requisite. First, that he had gone from the Park of Macellum, which lies in Cappadocia, into Asia, from a desire of acquiring polite learning. Secondly, that he had seen his brother as he passed through Constantinople.

8And when he had explained away the charges thus brought against him, and had proved that he had not done either of these things without being ordered, he would still have perished through the intrigues of the abandoned court of flatterers, if he had not been saved by the favour of the supreme Deity, with the assistance of Queen Eusebia. By her intercession he obtained leave to be conducted to the town of Como, in the neighbourhood of Milan; and after he had remained there a short time he was permitted to go to Greece for the purpose of cultivating his literary tastes, as he was very eager to do.

9Nor were there wanting other incidents arising out of these occurrences, which might be looked upon as events under the direction of Providence, as some of them were rightly punished, while others failed of their design, proving vain and ineffective. But it occasionally happened that rich men, relying on the protection of those in office, and clinging to them as the ivy clings to lofty trees, bought acquittals at immense prices; and that poor men who had little or no means of purchasing safety were condemned out of hand. And therefore truth was overshadowed by falsehood, and sometimes falsehood obtained the authority of truth.

10In these days Gorgonius also was summoned to court, the man who had been the Cæsar’s principal chamberlain.And though it was made plain by his own confession that he had been a partner in his undertakings, and sometimes a chief instigator of them, yet through the conspiracy of the eunuchs justice was overpowered by dexterously arranged falsehoods, and he was acquitted and so escaped the danger.

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