The History, 18.4

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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4While these investigations were being carried on with great diligence at Sirmium, the fortune of the East sounded the terrible trumpet of danger. For the king of Persia, being strengthened by the aid of the fierce nations whom he had lately subdued, and being above all men ambitious of extending his territories, began to prepare men and arms and supplies, mingling hellish wisdom with his human counsels, and consulting all kinds of soothsayers about futurity. And when he had collected everything, he proposed to invade our territories at the first opening of the spring.

2And when the emperor learnt this, at first by report, but subsequently by certain intelligence, and while all were in suspense from dread of the impending danger, the dependents of the court, hammering on the same anvil day and night (as the saying is), at the prompting of the eunuchs, held up Ursicinus as a Gorgon’s head before the suspicious and timid emperor, continually repeating that, because on the death of Silvanus, in a dearth of better men, he had been sent to defend the eastern districts, he had become ambitious of still greater power.

3And by this base compliance many tried to purchase the favour of Eusebius, at that time the principal chamberlain, with whom (if we are to say the real truth) Constantius had great influence, and who was now a bitter enemy of the safety of the master of the horse, Ursicinus, on two accounts; first, because he was the only person who did not need his assistance, as others did; and secondly, because he would not give up his house at Antioch, which Eusebius greatly coveted.

4So this latter, like a snake abounding in poison, and exciting its offspring as soon as they can crawl to do mischief, stirred up the other chamberlains, that they, while performing their more private duties about the prince’s person, with their thin and boyish voices, might damage the reputation of a brave man by pouring into the too open ears of the emperor accusations of great odium. And they soon did what they were commanded.

5Disgust at this and similar events leads one to praise Domitian, who although, by the unalterable detestation he incurred, has ever stained the memory of his father and his brother, still deserved credit for a most excellent law, by which he forbade with severe threats any one to castrate any boy within the limits of the Roman jurisdiction. For if there were no such edict, who could endure the swarms of such creatures as would exist, when it is so difficult to bear even a few of them?

6However, they proceeded with caution, lest, as Eusebius suggested, if Ursicinus were again sent for, he should take alarm and throw everything into confusion; but it was proposed that on the first casual opportunity he should be put to death.

7While they were waiting for this chance, and full of doubt and anxiety; and while we were tarrying a short time at Samosata, the greatest city of what had formerly been the kingdom of Commagene, we suddenly received frequent and consistent reports of some new commotions, which I will now proceed to relate.

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