The History, 17.3

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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3It was now expected that a number of tribes would unite in greater force, and therefore the prudent Julian, bearing in mind the uncertainties of war, became very anxious and full of care. And as he thought that the truce lately made, though not free from trouble, and not of long duration, still gave him opportunity to remedy some things which were faulty, he began to remodel the arrangements about tribute.

2And when Florentius, the prefect of the prætorium, having taken an estimate of everything, affirmed that whatever deficiency there might be in the produce of a capitation tax he should be able to make good from what he could levy by force, Julian, deprecating this practice, determined to lose his own life rather than permit it.

3For he knew that the wounds inflicted by such extortions, or, as I should rather call them, confiscations, are incurable, and have often reduced provinces to extreme destitution. Indeed, such conduct, as will be related hereafter, utterly lost us Illyricum.

4And when, owing to this resolution of his, the prætorian prefect exclaimed that it could not be endured that he, to whom the emperor had intrusted the chief authority in this matter, should be thus distrusted, Julian attempted to appease him, showing by exact and accurate calculations that the capitation tax was not only enough, but more than enough to provide all the necessary supplies.

5And when some time afterwards an edict for a supplementary tax was nevertheless presented to him by Florentius, he refused to sign or even to read it; and threw it on the ground; and when warned by letters from the emperor (written on receiving the prefect’s report) not to act in so embarrassing a manner, lest he should seem to be diminishing the authority of Florentius, Julian wrote in answer, that it was a matter to be thankful for, if a province that had been devastated in every direction could still pay its regular taxes, without demanding from it any extraordinary contributions, which indeed no punishments could extort from men in a state of destitution: and then, and from that time forward, owing to the firmness of one man, no one ever attempted to extort anything illegal in Gaul beyond the regular taxes.

6The Cæsar had also in another affair set an example wholly unprecedented, entreating the prefect to intrust to him the government of the second Belgic province, which was oppressed by manifold evils; on the especial and single condition that no officer, either belonging to the prefect or to the garrison, should force any one to pay anything. And the whole people whom he thus took under his care, comforted and relieved by this mildness, paid all the taxes due from them before the appointed day, without any demand being made upon them.

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