The History, 16.1

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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1While the chain of destiny was bringing these events to pass in the Roman world, Julian, being at Vienne, was taken by the emperor, then in his own eighth consulship, as a partner in that dignity; and, under the promptings of his own innate energy, dreamt of nothing but the crash of battles and the slaughter of the barbarians; preparing without delay to re-establish the province, and to reunite the fragments that had been broken from it, if only fortune should be favourable to him.

2And because the great achievements which by his valour and good fortune Julian performed in the Gauls, surpass many of the most gallant exploits of the ancients, I will relate them in order as they occurred, employing all the resources of my talents, moderate as they are, in the hope that they may suffice for the narrative.

3But what I am about to relate, though not emblazoned by craftily devised falsehood, and being simply a plain statement of facts, supported by evident proofs, will have all the effect of a studied panegyric.

4For it would seem that some principle of a more than commonly virtuous life guided this young prince from his very cradle to his last breath. Increasing rapidly in every desirable quality, he soon became so conspicuous both at home and abroad, that in respect to his prudence he was looked upon as a second Titus: in his glorious deeds of war he was accounted equal to Trajan; in mercy he was the prototype of Antoninus; and in the pursuit and discovery of true and perfect wisdom, he resembled Marcus Aurelius, in imitation of whom he formed all his actions and character.

5And since, as we are taught by Cicero, that the loftiness of great virtues delights us, as does that of high trees, while we are not equally interested in the roots and trunks; so, also, the first beginnings of his admirable disposition were kept concealed by many circumstances which threw a cloud over them; though in fact they ought to be preferred to many of his most marvellous actions of later life, in that he, who in his early youth had been brought up like Erectheus in the retirement sacred to Minerva, nevertheless when he was drawn forth from the quiet shades of the academy (and not from any military tent) into the labours of war, subdued Germany, tranquillized the districts of the frozen Rhine, routed the barbarian kings breathing nothing but bloodshed and slaughter, and forced them to submission.

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