The History, 15.3

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

« Amm. 15.2 | Amm. 15.3 | Amm. 15.4 | About This Work »

3While these events were taking place at Milan, battalions of soldiers were brought from the East to Aquileia, with a number of members of the court, who, being broken in spirit, while their limbs were enfeebled by the weight of their chains, cursed the protraction of their lives which were surrounded with every variety of misery. For they were accused of having been the ministers of the ferocity of Gallus, and it was believed to be owing to them that Domitian had been torn to pieces, and that Montius and others had been brought to destruction.

2Arboreus, and Eusebius, at that time high chamberlain, both men of insane arrogance, and equally unjust and cruel, were appointed to try these men. And they, without any careful examination, or making any distinction between the innocent and the guilty, condemned some to scourgings, others to torture and exile, some they adjudged to serve in the lowest ranks of the army, and the rest they condemned to death. And when they had thus filled the sepulchres with dead bodies, they returned as if in triumph, and brought an account of their exploits to the emperor, who was notoriously severe and implacable against all offences of the kind.

3After this, throughout the rest of his reign, Constantius, as if resolved to reverse the prescribed arrangement of the Fates, behaved with greater violence than ever, and opened his heart to numbers of designing plotters. And owing to this conduct, many men arose who watched for all kinds of reports, at first attacking, as with the appetite of wild beasts, those in the enjoyment of the highest honours and rank, and afterwards both poor and rich indiscriminately. Not like those Cibyratæ in the time of Verres, fawning on the tribunal of a single lieutenant, but harassing the limbs of the whole republic by means of all the evils that arose anywhere.

4Among these men Paulus and Mercurius were especially conspicuous, the first a Dacian born, the latter a Persian. Mercurius was a notary, and Paulus had been promoted from being a steward of the emperor’s table to a receivership in the provinces. Paulus, as I have already mentioned, had been nicknamed The Chain, because in weaving knots of calumnies he was invincible, scattering around foul poisons and destroying people by various means, as some skilful wrestlers are wont in their contests to catch hold of their antagonists by the heel.

5Mercurius was nicknamed Count of Dreams, because (as a dog fond of biting secretly fawns and wags his tail while full of inward spite) he forced his way into feasts and companies, and if any one in his sleep (when nature roves about with an extraordinary degree of freedom) communicated to a friend that he had seen anything, exaggerated it, colouring it for the most part with envenomed arts, and bore it to the open ears of the emperor. And for such speeches men were attacked with formidable accusations, as if they had committed inexpiable crimes.

6The news of these events having got abroad, men were so cautious of even relating nocturnal dreams, that, in the presence of a stranger, they would scarcely confess they had slept at all. And some accomplished men lamented that they had not been born in the country of Mount Atlas, where it is said that dreams never occur, though what the cause of such a fact is, we must leave to those who are learned in such matters to decide.

7Amid all these terrible investigations and punishments, another disaster took place in Illyricum, which from some empty words involved many in danger. At an entertainment given by Africanus, the governor of the second Pannonia, at Sirmium, some men having drunk rather too much, and thinking there was no witness of their proceedings, spoke freely of the existing imperial government, accusing it as most vexatious to the people. And some of them expressed a hope that a change, such as was wished for by all, might be at hand, affirming that this was portended by omens, while some, with incredible rashness, affirmed that the auguries of their ancestral house promised the same thing.

8Among those present at the banquet was Gaudentius, one of the secretaries, a stupid man, and of a hasty disposition. And he looking upon the matter as serious, reported it to Rufinus, who was at that time the chief commander of the guard of the prætorian prefecture, a man always eager for the most cruel measures, and infamous for every kind of wickedness.

9He immediately, as if borne on wings, flew to the court of the emperor, and so bitterly inflamed him, always easy of access and susceptible of impressions from suspicious circumstances of this kind, that without a moment’s deliberation he ordered Africanus and all who had been partakers of his fatal banquet to be seized. And when this was done, the wicked informer, always fond of whatever is contrary to popular manners, obtained what he most coveted, a continuation of his existing office for two years.

10To arrest these men, Teutomeres, the chief of the Protectores, was sent with his colleague; and he loaded them all with chains, and conducted them, as he had been ordered, to the emperor’s court. But when they arrived at Aquileia, Marinus, who from having been a drillmaster had been promoted to a tribuneship, but who at that time had had no particular duty, being a man who had held dangerous language, and who was in other respects of an intemperate disposition, being left in an inn while things necessary for the journey were being prepared, stabbed himself with a knife which he accidentally found, and his bowels gushed out, so that he died. The rest were conducted to Milan, and subjected to torture; and having been forced by their agony to confess that while at the banquet they had used some petulant expressions, were ordered to be kept in penal confinement, with some hope, though an uncertain one, of eventual release. But Teutomeres and his colleague, being accused of having allowed Marinus to kill himself, were condemned to banishment, though they were afterwards pardoned through the intercession of Arbetio.

« Amm. 15.2 | Amm. 15.3 | Amm. 15.4 | About This Work »

Version menu

Table of contents