The History, 15.7

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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7While the fatal disturbances of the state multiplied these general slaughters, Leontius, who was the governor of Rome itself, gave many proofs of his deserving the character of an admirable judge; being prompt in hearing cases, rigidly just in deciding them, and merciful by nature, although, for the sake of maintaining lawful authority, he appeared to some people to be severe. He was also of a somewhat amorous temperament.

2The first pretext for exciting any sedition against him was a most slight and trumpery one. For when an order had been issued to arrest a charioteer, named Philoromus, the whole populace followed him, as if resolved to defend something of their own, and with terrible violence assailed the prefect, presuming him to be timorous. But he remained unmoved and upright, and sending his officers among the crowd, arrested some and punished them, and then, without any one venturing to oppose him, or even to murmur, condemned them to banishment.

3A few days later the populace again became excited to its customary frenzy, and alleging as a grievance the scarcity of wine, assembled at the well-known place called Septemzodium, where the Emperor Marcus built the Nymphæum, an edifice of great magnificence. To that place the prefect went forthwith, although he was earnestly entreated by all his household and civil officers not to trust himself among an arrogant and threatening multitude, now in a state of fury equal to any of their former commotions; but he, unsusceptible of fear, went right onwards, though many of his attendants deserted him, when they saw him hastening into imminent danger.

4Therefore, sitting in a carriage, with every appearance of confidence, he looked with fierce eyes at the countenance of the tumultuous mobs thronging towards him from all quarters, and agitating themselves like serpents. And after suffering many bitter insults, at last, when he had recognized one man who was conspicuous among all the rest by his vast size and red hair, he asked him whether his name was Petrus Valvomeres, as he had heard it was; and when the man replied in a defiant tone that it was so, Leontius, in spite of the outcries of many around, ordered him to be seized as one who had long since been a notorious ringleader of the disaffected, and having his hands bound behind him, commanded him to be suspended on a rack.

5And when he was seen in the air, in vain imploring the aid of his fellow-tribesmen, the whole mob, which a little while before was so closely packed, dispersed at once over the different quarters of the city, so as to offer no hindrance to the punishment of this seditious leader, who after having been thus tortured—with as little resistance as if he had been in a secret dungeon of the court—was transported to Picenum, where, on a subsequent occasion, having offered violence to a virgin of high rank, he was condemned to death by the judgment of Patruinus, a noble of consular dignity.

6While Leontius governed the city in this manner, Liberius, a priest of the Christian law, was ordered by Constantius to be brought before the council, as one who had resisted the commands of the emperor, and the decrees of many of his own colleagues, in an affair which I will explain briefly.

7Athanasius was at that time bishop of Alexandria; and as he was a man who sought to magnify himself above his profession, and to mix himself up with affairs which did not belong to his province, as continual reports made known, an assembly of many of his sect met together—a synod, as they call it—and deprived him of the right of administering the sacraments, which he previously enjoyed.

8For it was said that he, being very deeply skilled in the arts of prophecy and the interpretation of auguries and omens, had very often predicted coming events. And to these charges were added others very inconsistent with the laws of the religion over which he presided.

9So Liberius, being of the same opinion with those who condemned these practices, was ordered, by the sentence of the emperor, to expel Athanasius from his priestly seat; but this he firmly refused to do, reiterating the assertion that it was the extremity of wickedness to condemn a man who had neither been brought before any court nor been heard in his defence, in this openly resisting the commands of the emperor.

10For that prince, being always unfavourable to Athanasius, although he knew that what he ordered had in fact taken effect, yet was exceedingly desirous that it should be confirmed by that authority which the bishops of the Eternal City enjoy, as being of higher rank. And as he did not succeed in this, Liberius was removed by night; a measure which was not effected without great difficulty, through the fear which his enemies had of the people, among whom he was exceedingly popular.

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