The History, 16.7

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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7About the same time, Constantius having learnt, from common report, that Marcellus had omitted to carry assistance to the Cæsar when he was besieged at Sens, cashiered him, and ordered him to retire to his own house. And he, as if he had received a great injury, began to plot against Julian, relying upon the disposition of the emperor to open his ears to every accusation.

2Therefore, when he departed, Eutherius, the chief chamberlain, was immediately sent after him, that he might convict him before the emperor if he propagated any falsehoods. But Marcellus, unaware of this, as soon as he arrived at Milan, began talking loudly, and seeking to create alarm, like a vain chatterer half mad as he was. And when he was admitted into the council-chamber, he began to accuse Julian of being insolent, and of preparing for himself stronger wings in order to soar to a greater height. For this was his expression, agitating his body violently as he uttered it.

3While he was thus uttering his imaginary charges with great freedom, Eutherius being, at his own request, introduced into the presence, and being commanded to say what he wished, speaking with great respect and moderation showed the emperor that the truth was being overlaid with falsehood. For that, while the commander of the heavy-armed troops had, as it was believed, held back on purpose, the Cæsar having been long besieged at Sens, had by his vigilance and energy repelled the barbarians. And he pledged his own life that the Cæsar would, as long as he lived, be faithful to the author of his greatness.

4The opportunity reminds me here to mention a few facts concerning this same Eutherius, which perhaps will hardly be believed; because if Numa Pompilius or Socrates were to say anything good of a eunuch, and were to confirm what they said by an oath, they would be accused of having departed from the truth. But roses grow up among thorns, and among wild beasts some are of gentle disposition. And therefore I will briefly mention a few of his most important acts which are well ascertained.

5He was born in Armenia, of a respectable family, and having while a very little child been taken prisoner by the enemies on the border, he was castrated and sold to some Roman merchants, and by them conducted to the palace of Constantine, where, while growing up to manhood, he began to display good principles and good talents, becoming accomplished in literature to a degree quite sufficient for his fortune, displaying extraordinary acuteness in discovering matters of a doubtful and difficult complexion; being remarkable also for a marvellous memory, always eager to do good, and full of wise and honest counsel. A man, in short, who, if the Emperor Constantius had listened to his advice, which, whether he gave it in youth or manhood, was always honourable and upright, would have been prevented from committing any errors, or at least any that were not pardonable.

6When he became high chamberlain he sometimes also found fault even with Julian, who, as being tainted with Asiatic manners, was apt to be capricious. Finally, when he quitted office for private life, and again when he was recalled to court, he was always sober and consistent, cultivating those excellent virtues of good faith and constancy to such a degree that he never betrayed any secret, except for the purpose of securing another’s safety; nor was he ever accused of covetous or grasping conduct, as the other courtiers were.

7From which it arose that, when at a late period he retired to Rome, and fixed there the abode of his old age, bearing with him the company of a good conscience, he was loved and respected by men of all ranks, though men of that class generally, after having amassed riches by iniquity, love to seek secret places of retirement, just as owls or moths, and avoid the sight of the multitude whom they have injured.

8Though I have often ransacked the accounts of antiquity, I do not find any ancient eunuch to whom I can compare him. There were indeed among the ancients some, though very few, faithful and economical, but still they were stained by some vice or other; and among the chief faults which they had either by nature or habit, they were apt to be either rapacious or else boorish, and on that account contemptible; or else ill-natured and mischievous; or fawning too much on the powerful; or too elated with power, and therefore arrogant. But of any one so universally accomplished and prudent, I confess I have neither ever read nor heard, relying for the truth of this judgment on the general testimony of the age.

9But if any careful reader of ancient histories should oppose to us Menophilus, the eunuch of King Mithridates, I would warn him to recollect that nothing is really known of him except this single fact, that he behaved gloriously in a moment of extreme danger.

10When the king above mentioned, having been defeated by the Romans under the command of Pompey, and fleeing to his kingdom of Colchis, left a grown-up daughter, named Drypetina, who at the time was dangerously ill, in the castle of Synhorium, under the care of this Menophilus, he completely cured the maiden by a variety of remedies, and preserved her in safety for her father; and when the fortress in which they were enclosed began to be besieged by Manlius Priscus, the lieutenant of the general, and when he became aware that the garrison were proposing to surrender, he, fearing that, to the dishonour of her father, this noble damsel might be made a prisoner and be ravished, slew her, and then fell upon his sword himself. Now I will return to the point from which I digressed.

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