The History, 21.7

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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7Constantius was perplexed at the danger of the crisis before him, and doubted what to do, being for some time in deep anxiety whether to march against Julian, who was still at a distance, or to drive back the Persians, who were already threatening to cross the Euphrates. And while he was hesitating, and often taking counsel with his generals, he at last decided that he would first finish, or at all events take the edge off, the war which was nearest, so as to leave nothing formidable behind him, and then penetrate through Illyricum and Italy, thinking to catch Julian at the very outset of his enterprise, as he might catch a deer with hounds. For so he used to boast, to appease the fears of those about him.

2But that his purpose might not appear to cool, and that he might not seem to have neglected any side of the war, he spread formidable rumours of his approach in every direction. And fearing that Africa, which on all occasions seemed to invite usurpers, might be invaded during his absence, as if he had already quitted the eastern frontier, he sent by sea to that country his secretary Gaudentius, whom we have already mentioned as a spy upon the actions of Julian in Gaul.

3He had two reasons for thinking that this man would be able with prompt obedience to do all that he desired, both because he feared the other side, which he had offended, and also because he was anxious to take this opportunity to gain the favour of Constantius, whom he expected beyond a doubt to see victorious. Indeed no one at that time had any other opinion.

4When Gaudentius arrived in Africa, recollecting the emperor’s orders, he sent letters to Count Cretio, and to the other officers, to instruct them what his object was; and having collected a formidable force from all quarters, and having brought over a light division of skirmishers from the two Mauritanias, he watched the coasts opposite to Italy and Gaul with great strictness.

5Nor was Constantius deceived in the wisdom of this measure. For as long as Gaudentius lived none of the adverse party ever reached that country, although a vast multitude in arms was watching the Sicilian coast between Cape Boeo and Cape Passaro, and ready to cross in a moment if they could find an opportunity.

6Having made these arrangements as well as the case admitted, in such a way as he thought most for his advantage and having settled other things also of smaller importance, Constantius was warned by messengers and letters from his generals that the Persian army, in one solid body, and led by its haughty king, was now marching close to the banks of the Tigris, though it was as yet uncertain at what point they meant to cross the frontier.

7And he, feeling the importance of this intelligence, in order, by being near them, to anticipate their intended enterprises, quitted his winter quarters in haste, having called in the infantry and cavalry on which he could rely from all quarters, crossed the Euphrates by a bridge of boats at Capessana, and marched towards Edessa, which was well provisioned and strongly fortified, intending to wait there a short time till he could receive from spies or deserters certain information of the enemy’s motions.

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