The History, 15.8

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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8These events, then, took place at Rome, as I have already mentioned. But Constantius was agitated by frequent intelligence which assured him that the Gauls were in a lamentable condition, since no adequate resistance could be made to the barbarians who were now carrying their devastations with fire and sword over the whole country. And after deliberating a long time, in great anxiety, what force he could employ to repel these dangers (himself remaining in Italy, as he thought it very dangerous to remove into so remote a country), he at last determined on a wise plan, which was this: to associate with himself in the cares of the empire his cousin Julian, whom he had some time before summoned to court, and who still retained the robe he had worn in the Greek schools.

2And when, oppressed by the heavy weight of impending calamities, he had confessed to his dearest friends that by himself he was unequal to the burden of such weighty and numerous difficulties—a thing which he had never felt before—they, being trained to excessive flattery, tried to fill him with foolish ideas, affirming that there was nothing in the world so difficult but what his pre-eminent virtue and his good fortune, equal to that of the gods, would be able to overcome, as it always hitherto had done. And many of them added further, being stung by their consciousness of guilt, that henceforth he ought to beware of conferring the title of Cæsar on any one, enumerating the deeds which had been done in the time of Gallus.

3They therefore opposed his design resolutely, and it was supported by no one but the queen, who, whether it was that she feared a journey to a distant country, or that, from her own natural wisdom, she saw the best course for the common good, urged him that a relation like Julian ought to be preferred to every one else. Accordingly, after many undecided deliberations and long discussions, his resolution was at last taken decidedly, and having discarded all further vain debate, he resolved on associating Julian with him in the empire.

4He was therefore summoned; and when he had arrived, on a fixed day, the whole of his fellow-comrades who were in the city were ordered to attend, and a tribunal was erected on a lofty scaffolding, surrounded by the eagles and standards. And Augustus, mounting it, and holding Julian by the right hand, made this conciliatory speech:—

5“We stand here before you, most excellent defenders of the republic, to avenge with one unanimous spirit the common dangers of the state. And how I propose to provide for it I will briefly explain to you, as impartial judges.

6“After the death of those rebellious tyrants whom rage and madness prompted to engage in the enterprises which they undertook, the barbarians, as if they meant to sacrifice unto their wicked manes with Roman blood, having violated the peace and invaded the territories of the Gauls, are encouraged by this consideration, that our empire, being spread over very remote countries, causes us to be beset with great difficulties.

7“If, then, your decision and mine are mutual to encounter this evil, already progressing beyond the barriers which were opposed to it, while there is still time to check it, the necks of these haughty nations will learn to humble their pride, and the borders of the empire will remain inviolate. It remains for you to give, by your strength, prosperous effect to the hopes which I entertain.

8“You all know my cousin Julian, whom I here present to you; a youth endeared to us by his modesty as well as by his relationship; a youth of virtue already proved, and of conspicuous industry and energy. Him I have determined to raise to the rank of Cæsar, and hope, if this seems expedient to you, to have my decision confirmed by your consent.”

9He was proceeding to say more, but was prevented by the whole assembly interrupting him with friendly shouts, declaring that his decision was the judgment of the Supreme Deity, and not of any human mind; with such certainty that one might have thought them inspired with the spirit of prophecy.

10The emperor stood without moving till they resumed silence, and then with greater confidence proceeded to explain what he had to say further.

“Because, therefore, your joyful acclamations show that you look favourably on the design I have announced, let this youth, of tranquil strength, whose temperate disposition it will be better to imitate than merely to praise, rise up now to receive the honours prepared for him. His excellent disposition, increased as it has been by all liberal accomplishments, I will say no more of than is seen in the fact that I have chosen him. Therefore, now, with the manifest consent of the Deity, I will clothe him with the imperial robe.”

11This was his speech. And then, having immediately clothed Julian with the purple robe of his ancestors, and having pronounced him Cæsar, to the great joy of the army, he thus addressed him, though Julian himself appeared by his grave countenance to be somewhat melancholy.

12“Most beloved of all my brothers, you thus in early youth have received the splendid honour belonging to your birth, not, I confess, without some addition to my own glory; who thus show myself as just in conferring supreme power on a noble character nearly related to me, as I appear also sublime by virtue of my own power. Come thou, therefore, to be a partner in my labours and dangers, and undertake the defence of the government of the Gauls, devoting thyself with all beneficence to alleviate the calamities of those afflicted countries.

13“And if it should be necessary to engage with the enemy in battle, do thou take thy place steadily among the standard-bearers themselves, as a prudent encourager of daring at the proper opportunity; exciting the warriors by leading them on with caution, supporting any troops which may be thrown into disorder by reserves, gently reproving those who hang back, and being present as a trustworthy witness of the actions of all, whether brave or timid.

14“Think that a serious crisis is upon us, and so show yourself a great man, worthy to command brave men. We ourselves will stand by you in the energetic constancy of affection, or will join you in the labours of war, so that we may govern together the whole world in peace, if only God will grant us, as we pray he may, to govern with equal moderation and piety. You will everywhere represent me, and I also will never desert you in whatever task you may be engaged. To sum up: Go forth; go forth supported by the friendly prayers of men of all ranks, to defend with watchful care the station assigned to you, it may be said, by the republic itself.”

15After the emperor had thus ended his speech, no one held his peace, but all the soldiers, with a tremendous crash, rattled their shields against their knees (which is an abundant indication of applause; while on the other hand to strike the shield with the spear is a testimony of anger and indignation), and it was marvellous with what excessive joy they all, except a very few, showed their approbation of the judgment of Augustus: and they received the Cæsar with well-deserved admiration, brilliant as he was with the splendour of the imperial purple.

16And while they gazed earnestly on his eyes, terrible in their beauty, and his countenance more attractive than ever by reason of his present excitement, they augured from his looks what kind of ruler he was likely to prove, as if they had been searching into those ancient volumes which teach how to judge of a man’s moral disposition by the external signs on his person. And that he might be regarded with the greater reverence, they neither praised him above measure, nor yet below his desert. And so the voices raised in his favour were looked upon as the judgment of censors, not of soldiers.

17After the ceremony was over, Julian was taken up into the imperial chariot and received into the palace, and was heard to whisper to himself this verse of Homer—

“Now purple death hath seized on me,
And powerful strength of destiny.”

These transactions took place on the sixth of November, in the year of the consulship of Arbetio and Lollianus.

18A few days afterwards, Helen, the maiden sister of Constantius, was also given in marriage to the Cæsar. And everything being got ready which the journey required, he started on the first of December with a small retinue; and having been escorted on his way by Augustus himself as far as the spot, marked by two pillars, which lies between Laumellum and Ticinum, he proceeded straight on to the country of the Taurini, where he received disastrous intelligence, which had recently reached the emperor’s court, but still had been intentionally kept back, lest all the preparations made for his journey should be wasted.

19And this intelligence was that Colonia Agrippina, a city of great renown in lower Germany, had been carried by a vigorous siege of the barbarians, who appeared before it in great force, and had utterly destroyed it.

20Julian being greatly distressed at this news, looking on it as a kind of omen of misfortunes to come, was often heard to murmur in querulous tones, “that he had gained nothing except the fate of dying amid greater trouble and employment than before.”

21But when he arrived at Vienne, people of every age and class went forth to meet him on his entrance to the city, with a view to do him honour by their reception of him as one who had been long wished for, and was now granted to their prayers. And when he was seen in the distance the whole population of the city and of the adjacent neighbourhood, going before his chariot, celebrated his praises, saluting him as Emperor, clement and prosperous, greeting with eager joy this royal procession in honour of a lawful prince. And they placed all their hopes of a remedy for the evils which affected the whole province on his arrival, thinking that now, when their affairs were in a most desperate condition, some friendly genius had come to shine upon them.

22And a blind old woman, when in reply to her question “Who was entering the city?” she received for answer “Julian the Cæsar,” cried out that “He would restore the temples of the gods.”

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