The History, 20.5

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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5When the news of these events reached the troops, whom we have spoken of as having already marched under the command of Sintula, they returned with him quietly to Paris. And an order having been issued that the next morning they should all assemble in the open space in front of the camp, Julian advanced among them, and ascended a tribunal more splendid than usual, surrounded with the eagles, standards, and banners, and guarded by a strong band of armed soldiers.

2And after a moment’s quiet, while he looked down from his height on the countenances of those before him, and saw them all full of joy and alacrity, he kindled their loyalty with a few simple words, as with a trumpet.

3“The difficulty of my situation, O brave and faithful champions of myself and of the republic, who have often with me exposed your lives for the welfare of the provinces, requires that, since you have now by your resolute decision raised me, your Cæsar, to the highest of all dignities, I should briefly set before you the state of affairs, in order that safe and prudent remedies for their new condition may be devised.

4“While little more than a youth, as you well know, I was for form’s sake invested with the purple, and by the decision of the emperor was intrusted to your protection. Since that time I have never forgotten my resolution of a virtuous life: I have been seen with you as the partner of all your labours, when, in consequence of the diminution of the confidence felt in us by the barbarians, terrible disasters fell upon the empire, our cities being stormed, and countless thousands of men being slain, and even the little that was left to us being in a very tottering condition. I think it superfluous to recapitulate how often, in the depth of winter, beneath a frozen sky, at a season when there is usually a cessation from war both by land and sea, we have defeated with heavy loss the Allemanni, previously unconquered.

5“One circumstance may neither be passed over nor suppressed. On that glorious day which we saw at Strasburg, which brought perpetual liberty to Gaul, we together, I throwing myself among the thickly falling darts, and you being invincible by your vigour and experience, repelled the enemy who poured upon us like a torrent; slaying them as we did with the sword, or driving them to be drowned in the river, with very little loss of our own men, whose funerals we celebrated with glorious panegyrics rather than with mourning.

6“It is my belief that after such mighty achievements posterity will not be silent respecting your services to the republic, in every country, if you now, in case of any danger or misfortune, vigorously support with your valour and resolution me whom you have raised to the lofty dignity of emperor.

7“But to maintain things in their due order, so as to preserve to brave men their well-merited rewards and prevent underhand ambition from forestalling your honours, I make this rule in the honourable presence of your counsel. That no civil or military officer shall be promoted from any other consideration than that of his own merits; and he shall be disgraced who solicits promotion for any one on any other ground.”

8The lower class of soldiers, who had long been deprived of rank or reward, were encouraged by this speech to entertain better hopes, and now rising up with a great noise, and beating their shields with their spears, they with unanimous shouts showed their approbation of his language and purpose.

9And that no opportunity, however brief, might be afforded to disturb so wise an arrangement, the Petulantes and Celtic legion immediately besought him, on behalf of their commissaries, to give them the government of any provinces he pleased, and when he refused them, they retired without being either offended or out of humour.

10But the very night before the day on which he was thus proclaimed emperor, Julian had mentioned to his most intimate friends that during his slumbers some one had appeared to him in a dream, in the form and habit of the genius of the empire, who uttered these words in a tone of reproach: “For some time, Julian, have I been secretly watching the door of thy palace, wishing to increase thy dignity, and I have often retired as one rejected; but if I am not now admitted, when the opinion of the many is unanimous, I shall retire discouraged and sorrowful. But lay this up in the depth of thy heart, that I will dwell with thee no longer.”

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