The History, 20.4

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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4Even while he was hastening to lead succours to the East, which, as the concurrent testimony of both spies and deserters assured him, was on the point of being invaded by the Persians, Constantius was greatly disturbed by the virtues of Julian, which were now becoming renowned among all nations, so highly did fame extol his great labours, achievements, and victories, in having conquered several kingdoms of the Allemanni, and recovered several towns in Gaul which had been plundered and destroyed by the barbarians, and having compelled the barbarians themselves to become subjects and tributaries of the empire.

2Influenced by these considerations, and fearing lest Julian’s influence should become greater, at the instigation, as it is said, of the prefect Florentius, he sent Decentius, the tribune and secretary, to bring away at once the auxiliary troops of the Heruli and Batavi, and the Celtæ, and the legion called Petulantes, and three hundred picked men from the other forces; enjoining him to make all speed on the plea that their presence was required with the army which it was intended to march at the beginning of spring against the Parthians.

3Also, Lupicinus was directed to come as commander of these auxiliary troops with the three hundred picked men, and to lose no time, as it was not known that he had crossed over to Britain; and Sintula, at that time the superintendent of Julian’s stables, was ordered to select the best men of the Scutarii and Gentiles, and to bring them also to join the emperor.

4Julian made no remonstrance, but obeyed these orders, yielding in all respects to the will of the emperor. But on one point he could not conceal his feelings nor keep silence: but entreated that those men might be spared from this hardship who had left their homes on the other side of the Rhine, and had joined his army on condition of never being moved into any country beyond the Alps, urging that if this were known, it might be feared that other volunteers of the barbarian nations, who had often enlisted in our service on similar conditions, would be prevented from doing so in future. But he argued in vain.

5For the tribune, disregarding his complaints, carried out the commands of the emperor, and having chosen out a band suited for forced marches, of pre-eminent vigour and activity, set out with them full of hope of promotion.

6And as Julian, being in doubt what to do about the rest of the troops whom he was ordered to send, and revolving all kinds of plans in his mind, considered that the matter ought to be managed with great care, as there was on one side the fierceness of the barbarians, and on the other the authority of the orders he had received (his perplexity being further increased by the absence of the commander of the cavalry), he urged the prefect, who had gone some time before to Vienne under the pretence of procuring corn, but in reality to escape from military troubles, to return to him.

7For the prefect bore in mind the substance of a report which he was suspected to have sent some time before, and which recommended the withdrawing from the defence of Gaul those troops so renowned for their valour, and already objects of dread to the barbarians.

8The prefect, as soon as he had received Julian’s letters, informing him of what had happened, and entreating him to come speedily to him to aid the republic with his counsels, positively refused, being alarmed because the letters expressly declared that in any crisis of danger the prefect ought never to be absent from the general. And it was added that if he declined to give his aid, Julian himself would, of his own accord, renounce the emblems of authority, thinking it better to die, if so it was fated, than to have the ruin of the provinces attributed to him. But the obstinacy of the prefect prevailed, and he resolutely refused to comply with the wishes thus reasonably expressed and enforced.

9But during the delay which arose from the absence of Lupicinus and of any military movement on the part of the alarmed prefect, Julian, deprived of all assistance in the way of advice, and being greatly perplexed, thought it best to hasten the departure of all his troops from the stations in which they were passing the winter, and to let them begin their march.

10When this was known, some one privily threw down a bitter libel near the standard of the Petulantes legion, which, among other things, contained these words,—“We are being driven to the farthest parts of the earth like condemned criminals, and our relations will become slaves to the Allemanni after we have delivered them from that first captivity by desperate battles.”

11When this writing was taken to head-quarters and read, Julian, considering the reasonableness of the complaint, ordered that their families should go to the East with them, and allowed them the use of the public wagons for the purpose of moving them. And as it was for some time doubted which road they should take, he decided, at the suggestion of the secretary Decentius, that they should go by Paris, where he himself still was, not having moved.

12And so it was done. And when they arrived in the suburbs, the prince, according to his custom, met them, praising those whom he recognized, and reminding individuals of their gallant deeds, he congratulated them with courteous words, encouraging them to go cheerfully to join the emperor, as they would reap the most worthy rewards of their exertions where power was the greatest and most extensive.

13And to do them the more honour, as they were going to a great distance, he invited their chiefs to a supper, when he bade them ask whatever they desired. And they, having been treated with such liberality, departed, anxious and sorrowful on two accounts, because cruel fortune was separating them at once from so kind a ruler and from their native land. And with this sorrowful feeling they retired to their camp.

14But when night came on they broke out into open discontent, and their minds being excited, as his own griefs pressed upon each individual, they had recourse to force, and took up arms, and with a great outcry thronged to the palace, and surrounding it so as to prevent any one from escaping, they saluted Julian as emperor with loud vociferations, insisting vehemently on his coming forth to them; and though they were compelled to wait till daylight, still, as they would not depart, at last he did come forth. And when he appeared, they saluted him emperor with redoubled and unanimous cheers.

15But he steadily resisted them individually and collectively, at one time showing himself indignant, at another holding out his hands and entreating and beseeching them not to sully their numerous victories with anything unbecoming, and not to let unseasonable rashness and precipitation awaken materials for discord. At last he appeased them, and having addressed them mildly, he added—

16“I beseech you let your anger depart for a while: without any dissension or attempt at revolution what you wish will easily be obtained. Since you are so strongly bound by love of your country, and fear strange lands to which you are unaccustomed, return now to your homes, certain that you shall not cross the Alps, since you dislike it. And I will explain the matter to the full satisfaction of the emperor, who is a man of great wisdom, and will listen to reason.”

17Nevertheless, after his speech was ended, the cries were repeated with as much vigour and unanimity as ever; and so vehement was the uproar and zeal, which did not even spare reproaches and threats, that Julian was compelled to consent. And being lifted up on the shield of an infantry soldier, and raised up in sight of all, he was saluted as Augustus with one universal acclamation, and was ordered to produce a diadem. And when he said that he had never had one, his wife’s coronet or necklace was demanded.

18And when he protested that it was not fitting for him at his first accession to be adorned with female ornaments, the frontlet of a horse was sought for, so that being crowned therewith, he might have some badge, however obscure, of supreme power. But when he insisted that that also would be unbecoming, a man named Maurus, afterwards a count, the same who was defeated in the defile or the Succi, but who was then only one of the front-rank men of the Petulantes, tore a chain off his own neck, which he wore in his quality of standard-bearer, and placed it boldly on Julian’s head, who, being thus brought under extreme compulsion, and seeing that he could not escape the most imminent danger to his life if he persisted in his resistance, consented to their wishes, and promised a largesse of five pieces of gold and a pound of silver to every man.

19After this Julian felt more anxiety than ever; and, keenly alive to the future consequences, neither wore his diadem or appeared in public, nor would he even transact the serious business which pressed upon his attention, but sought retirement, being full of consternation at the strangeness of the recent events. This continued till one of the decurions of the palace (which is an office of dignity) came in great haste to the standards of the Petulantes and of the Celtic legion, and in a violent manner exclaimed that it was a monstrous thing that he who had the day before been by their will declared emperor should have been privily assassinated.

20When this was heard, the soldiers, as readily excited by what they did not know as by what they did, began to brandish their javelins, and draw their swords, and (as is usual at times of sudden tumult) to flock from every quarter in haste and disorder to the palace. The sentinels were alarmed at the uproar, as were the tribunes and the captain of the guard, and suspecting some treachery from the fickle soldiery, they fled, fearing sudden death to themselves.

21When all before them seemed tranquil, the soldiers stood quietly awhile; and on being asked what was the cause of their sudden and precipitate movement, they at first hesitated, and then avowing their alarm for the safety of the emperor, declared they would not retire till they had been admitted into the council-chamber, and had seen him safe in his imperial robes.

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