The History, 20.8

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

« Amm. 20.7 | Amm. 20.8 | Amm. 20.9 | About This Work »

8These were the events of this year between the Tigris and the Euphrates. And when frequent intelligence of them had reached Constantius, who was in continual dread of Parthian expeditions, and was passing the winter at Constantinople, he devoted greater care than ever to strengthening his frontiers with every kind of warlike equipment. He collected veterans, and enlisted recruits, and increased the legions with reinforcements of vigorous youths, who had already repeatedly signalized their valour in the battles of the eastern campaigns: and beside these he collected auxiliary forces from among the Scythians by urgent requests and promises of pay, in order to set out from Thrace in the spring, and at once march to the disturbed provinces.

2During the same time Julian, who was wintering at Paris, alarmed at the prospect of the ultimate issue of the events in that district, became full of anxiety, feeling sure, after deep consideration, that Constantius would never give his consent to what had been done in his case, since he had always disdained him as a person of no importance.

3Therefore, after much reflection on the somewhat disturbed beginning which the present novel state of affairs showed, he determined to send envoys to him to relate all that had taken place; and he gave them letters setting forth fully what had been done, and what ought to be done next, supporting his recommendations by proofs.

4Although in reality he believed that the emperor was already informed of all, from the report of Decentius, who had returned to him some time before; and of the chamberlains who had recently gone back from Gaul, after having brought him some formal orders. And although he was not in reality vexed at his promotion, still he avoided all arrogant language in his letters, that he might not appear to have suddenly shaken off his authority. Now the following was the purport of his letters.

5“I have at all times been of the same mind, and have adhered to my original intentions, not less by my conduct than by my promises, as far as lay in my power, as has been abundantly plain from repeated actions of mine.

6“And up to this time, since you created me Cæsar, and exposed me to the din of war, contented with the power you conferred on me, as a faithful officer I have sent you continued intelligence of all your affairs proceeding according to your wishes; never speaking of my own dangers; though it can easily be proved, that, while the Germans have been routed in every direction, I have always been the first in all toils and the last to allow myself any rest.

7“But allow me to say, that if any violent change has taken place, as you think, the soldier who has been passing his life in many terrible wars without reward, has only completed what he has long had under consideration, being indignant and impatient at being only under a chief of the second class, as knowing that from a Cæsar no adequate reward for his continued exertions and frequent victories could possibly be procured.

8“And while angry at the feeling that he could neither expect promotion nor annual pay, he had this sudden aggravation to his discontent, that he, a man used to cold climates, was ordered to march to the most remote districts of the East, to be separated from his wife and children, and to be dragged away in want and nakedness. This made him fiercer than usual; and so the troops one night collected and laid siege to the palace, saluting with loud and incessant outcries Julian as emperor.

9“I shuddered at their boldness, I confess, and withdrew myself. And retiring while I could, I sought safety in concealment and disguise—and as they would not desist, armed, so to say, with the shield of my own free heart, I came out before them all, thinking that the tumult might be appeased by authority, or by conciliatory language.

10“They became wonderfully excited, and proceeded to such lengths that, when I endeavoured to overcome their pertinacity with my entreaties, they came close up to me, threatening me with instant death. At last I was overcome, and arguing with myself that if I were murdered by them some one else would willingly accept the dignity of emperor, I consented, hoping thus to pacify their armed violence.

11“This is the plain account of what has been done; and I entreat you to listen to it with mildness. Do not believe that anything else is the truth; and do not listen to malignant men who deal in mischievous whispers, always eager to seek their own gain by causing ill will between princes. Banish flattery, which is the nurse of vice, and listen to the voice of that most excellent of all virtues, justice. And receive with good faith the equitable condition which I propose, considering in your mind that such things are for the interest of the Roman state, and of us also who are united by affection of blood, and by an equality of superior fortune.

12“And pardon me. These reasonable requests of mine I am not so anxious to see carried out, as to see them approved by you as expedient and proper; and I shall with eagerness follow all your instructions.

13“What requires to be done I will briefly explain. I will provide you some Spanish draught horses, and some youths to mingle with the Gentiles and Scutarii of the Letian tribe, a race of barbarians on the side of the Rhine; or else of those people which have come over to our side. And I promise till the end of my life to do all I can to assist you, not only with gratitude, but with eagerness.

14“Your clemency will appoint us prefects for our prætorium of known equity and virtue: the appointment of the ordinary judges, and the promotion of the military officers it is fair should be left to me; as also the selection of my guard. For it would be unreasonable, when it is possible to be guarded against, that those persons should be placed about an emperor of whose manners and inclinations he is ignorant.

15“These things I can further assure you of positively. The Gauls will neither of their own accord, nor by any amount of compulsion, be brought to send recruits to foreign and distant countries, since they have been long harassed by protracted annoyances and heavy disasters, lest the youth of the nation should be destroyed, and the whole people, while recollecting their past sufferings, should abandon themselves to despair for the future.

16“Nor is it fit to seek from hence assistance against the Parthians, when even now the attempts of the barbarians against this land are not brought to an end, and while, if you will suffer me to tell the truth, these provinces are still exposed to continual dangers on being deprived of all foreign or adequate assistance.

17“In speaking thus, I do think I have written to you in a manner suited to the interests of the state, both in my demands and my entreaties. For I well know, not to speak in a lofty tone, though such might not misbecome an emperor, what wretched states of affairs, even when utterly desperate and given up, have been before now retrieved and re-established by the agreement of princes, each yielding reciprocally to one another. While it is also plain from the example of our ancestors, that rulers who acknowledge and act upon such principles do somehow ever find the means of living prosperously and happily, and leave behind them to the latest posterity an enviable fame.”

18To these letters he added others of a more secret purport, to be given privily to Constantius, in which he blamed and reproached him; though their exact tenor was not fit to be known, nor if known, fit to be divulged to the public.

19For the office of delivering these letters, men of great dignity were chosen; namely, Pentadius, the master of the ceremonies, and Eutherius, at that time the principal chamberlain; who were charged, after they had delivered the letters, to relate what they had seen, without suppressing anything; and to take their own measures boldly on all future emergencies which might arise.

20In the mean time the flight of Florentius, the prefect, aggravated the envy with which these circumstances were regarded. For he, as if he foresaw the commotion likely to arise, as might be gathered from general conversation, from the act of sending for the troops, had departed for Vienne (being also desirous to get out of the way of Julian, whom he had often slandered), pretending to be compelled to this journey for the sake of providing supplies for the army.

21Afterwards, when he had heard of Julian’s being raised to the dignity of emperor, being greatly alarmed, and giving up almost all hope of saving his life, he availed himself of his distance from Julian to escape from the evils which he suspected; and leaving behind him all his family, he proceeded by slow journeys to Constantius; and to prove his own innocence he brought forward many charges of rebellion against Julian.

22And after his departure, Julian, adopting wise measures, and wishing it to be known that, even if he had him in his power, he would have spared him, allowed his relations to take with them all their property, and even granted them the use of the public conveyances to retire with safety to the East.

« Amm. 20.7 | Amm. 20.8 | Amm. 20.9 | About This Work »

Version menu

Table of contents