The History, 21.14

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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14While the fortune of Constantius was now wavering and tottering in this tumult of adverse circumstances, it showed plainly by signs which almost spoke that a very critical moment of his life was at hand. For he was terrified by nocturnal visions, and before he was thoroughly asleep he had seen the shade of his father bringing him a beautiful child; and when he received it and placed it in his bosom, it struck a globe which he had in his right hand to a distance. Now this indicated a change of circumstances, although those who interpreted it gave favourable answers when consulted.

2After this he confessed to his most intimate friends that, as if he were wholly forsaken, he had ceased to see a secret vision which sometimes he had fancied appeared to him in mournful guise; and he believed that the genius who had been appointed to watch over his safety had abandoned him, as one who was soon to leave the world.

3For the opinion of theologians is, that all men when they are born (without prejudice to the power of destiny) are connected with a superior power of this kind, who, as it were, guides their actions; but who is seen by very few, and only by those who are endued with great and various virtues.

4This may be collected both from oracles and from eminent writers. Among whom is the comic poet Menander, in whose works these two verses are found:—

“A spirit is assigned to every man
When born to guide him in the path of life.”

5It may also be gathered from the immortal poetry of Homer, that they were not really the gods of heaven who conversed with his heroes, or stood by them and aided them in their combats; but the familiar genii who belonged to them; to whom also, as their principal support, Pythagoras owes his eminence, and Socrates and Numa Pompilius and the elder Scipio. And, as some fancy, Marius, and Octavianus the first, who took the name of Augustus. And Hermes Trismegistus, and Apollonius of Tyana, and Plotinus, who ventured upon some very mystical discussions of this point; and endeavoured to show by profound reasoning what is the original cause why these genii, being thus connected with the souls of mortals, protect them as if they had been nursed in their own bosoms, as far as they are permitted; and, if they find them pure, preserving the body untainted by any connection with vice, and free from all taint of sin, instruct them in loftier mysteries.

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