The History, 19.10

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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10While these events and troubles were proceeding rapidly in the remote districts of the East, the Eternal City was fearing distress from an impending scarcity of corn; and the violence of the common people, infuriated by the expectation of that worst of all evils, was vented upon Tertullus, who at that time was prefect of the city. This was unreasonable, since it did not depend upon him that the provisions were embarked in a stormy season in ships which, through the unusually tempestuous state of the sea, and the violence of contrary winds, were driven into any ports they could make, and were unable to reach the port of Augustus, from the greatness of the dangers which threatened them.

2Nevertheless, Tertullus was continually troubled by the seditious movements of the people, who worked themselves up to great rage, being excited by the imminent danger of a famine; till, having no hope of preserving his own safety, he wisely brought his little boys out to the people, who, though in a state of tumultuous disorder, were often influenced by sudden accidents, and with tears addressed them thus:—

3“Behold your fellow-citizens, who (may the gods avert the omen), unless fortune should take a more favourable turn, will be exposed to the same sufferings as yourselves. If then you think that by destroying them you will be saved from all suffering, they are in your power.” The people, of their own nature inclined to mercy, were propitiated by this sad address, and made no answer, but awaited their impending fate with resignation.

4And soon, by the favour of the deity who has watched over the growth of Rome from its first origin, and who promised that it should last for ever, while Tertullus was at Ostia, sacrificing in the temple of Castor and Pollux, the sea became calm, the wind changed to a gentle south-east breeze, and the ships in full sail entered the port, laden with corn to fill the granaries.

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