The History, 16.8

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

« Amm. 16.7 | Amm. 16.8 | Amm. 16.9 | About This Work »

8After Marcellus had been foiled, as I have mentioned, and had returned to Serdica, which was his native place, many great crimes were perpetrated in the camp of Augustus, under pretence of upholding the majesty of the emperor.

2For if any one had consulted any cunning soothsayer about the squeak of a mouse, or the appearance of a weasel, or any other similar portent, or had used any old woman’s chants to assuage any pain—a practice which the authority of medicine does not always prohibit—such a man was at once informed against, without being able to conceive by whom, and was brought before a court of law, and at once condemned to death.

3About the same time an individual named Dames was accused by his wife of certain trifling acts, of which, whether he was innocent or not is uncertain; but Rufinus was his enemy, who, as we have mentioned, had given information of some matters which had been communicated to him by Gaudentius, the emperor’s secretary, causing Africanus, then governing Pannonia with the rank of a consul, to be put to death, with all his friends. This Rufinus was now, for his devotion to the interests of the emperor, the chief commander of the prætorian guard.

4He, being given to talking in a boastful manner, after having seduced that easily deluded woman (the wife of Dames) into an illicit connection with him, allured her into a perilous fraud, and persuaded her by an accumulation of lies to accuse her innocent husband of treason, and to invent a story that he had stolen a purple garment from the sepulchre of Diocletian, and, by the help of some accomplices, still kept it concealed.

5When this story had been thus devised in a way to cause the destruction of many persons, Rufinus himself, full of hopes of some advantage, hastened to the camp of the emperor, to spread his customary calumnies. And when the transaction had been divulged, Manlius, at that time the commander of the prætorian camp, a man of admirable integrity, received orders to make a strict inquiry into the charge, having united to him, as a colleague in the examination, Ursulus, the chief paymaster, a man likewise of praiseworthy equity and strictness.

6There, after the matter had been rigorously investigated according to the fashion of that period, and when, after many persons had been put to the torture, nothing was found out, and the judges were in doubt and perplexity; at length truth, long suppressed, found a respite, and, under the compulsion of a rigorous examination, the woman confessed that Rufinus was the author of the whole plot, nor did she even conceal the fact of her adultery with him. Reference was immediately made to the law, and as order and justice required, the judges condemned them both to death.

7But as soon as this was known, Constantius became greatly enraged, and lamenting Rufinus as if the champion of his safety had been destroyed, he sent couriers on horseback express, with threatening orders to Ursulus, commanding him to return to court. Ursulus, disregarding the remonstrances of those who advised him to disobey, hastened fearlessly to the presence; and having entered the emperor’s council-chambers, with undaunted heart and voice related the whole transaction; and this confident behaviour of his shut the mouths of the flatterers, and delivered both the prefect and himself from serious danger.

8It was at this time also that an event took place in Aquitania which was more extensively talked about. A certain cunning person being invited to a splendid and sumptuous banquet, which are frequent in that province, having seen a pair of coverlets, with two purple borders of such width, that by the skill of those who waited they seemed to be but one; and beholding the table also covered with a similar cloth, he took up one in each hand, and arranged them so as to resemble the front of a cloak, representing them as having formed the ornament of the imperial robe; and then searching over the whole house in order to find the robe which he affirmed must be hidden there, he thus caused the ruin of a wealthy estate.

9With similar malignity, a certain secretary in Spain, who was likewise invited to a supper, hearing the servants, while bringing in the evening candles, cry “let us conquer,” affixing a malignant interpretation to that common exclamation, in like manner ruined a noble family.

10These and other evils increasing more and more, because Constantius, being a man of a very timorous disposition, was always thinking that blows were being aimed at him, like the celebrated tyrant of Sicily, Dionysius, who, because of this vice of his, taught his daughters to shave him, in order that he might not have to put his face in a stranger’s power; and surrounded the small chamber in which he was accustomed to sleep with a deep ditch, so placed that it could only be entered by a drawbridge; the loose beams and axles of which when he went to bed he removed into his own chamber, replacing them when about to go forth at daybreak.

11Moreover, those who had influence in the court promoted the spread of these evils, with the hope of joining to their own estates the forfeited possessions of those who should be condemned; and thus becoming rich by the ruin of their neighbours.

12For, as clear evidence has shown, if Constantine was the first to excite the appetites of his followers, Constantius was the prince who fattened them on the marrow of the provinces.

13For under him the principal persons of every rank burnt with an insatiable desire of riches, without any regard for justice or right. And among the ordinary judges, Rufinus, the chief prefect of the prætorium, was conspicuous for this avarice. And among the military officers Arbetio, the master of the horse, and Eusebius, the high chamberlain, . . . Ard . . . anus, the quæstor, and in the city, the two Anicii, whose posterity, treading in the steps of their fathers, could not be satisfied even with possessions much larger than they themselves had enjoyed.

« Amm. 16.7 | Amm. 16.8 | Amm. 16.9 | About This Work »

Version menu

Table of contents