The History, 22.10

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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10While wintering at Antioch, according to his wish, he yielded to none of the allurements of pleasure in which all Syria abounds; but under pretence of repose, he devoted himself to judicial affairs, which are not less difficult than those of war, and in which he expended exceeding care, showing exquisite willingness to receive information, and carefully balancing how to assign to every one his due. And by his just sentence the wicked were chastised with moderate punishments, and the innocent were maintained in the undiminished possession of their fortunes.

2And although in the discussion of causes he was often unreasonable, asking at unsuitable times to what religion each of the litigants adhered, yet none of his decisions were found inconsistent with equity, nor could he ever be accused, either from considerations of religion or of anything else, of having deviated from the strict path of justice.

3For that is a desirable and right judgment which proceeds from repeated examinations of what is just and unjust. Julian feared anything which might lead him away from such, as a sailor fears dangerous rocks; and he was the better able to attain to correctness, because, knowing the levity of his own impetuous disposition, he used to permit the prefects and his chosen counsellors to check, by timely admonition, his own impulses when they were inclined to stray; and he continually showed that he was vexed if he committed errors, and was desirous of being corrected.

4And when the advocates in some actions were once applauding him greatly as one who had attained to perfect wisdom, he is said to have exclaimed with much emotion, “I was glad and made it my pride to be praised by those whom I knew to be competent to find fault with me, if I had said or done anything wrong.”

5But it will be sufficient out of the many instances of his clemency which he afforded in judging causes to mention this one, which is not irrelevant to our subject or insignificant. A certain woman being brought before the court, saw that her adversary, formerly one of the officers of the palace, but who had been displaced, was now, contrary to her expectation, re-established and girt in his official dress, complained in a violent manner of this circumstance; and the emperor replied, “Proceed, O woman, if you think that you have been injured in any respect; he is girt as you see in order to go more quickly through the mire; your cause will not suffer from it.”

6And these and similar actions led to the belief, as he was constantly saying, that that ancient justice which Aratus states to have fled to heaven in disgust at the vices of mankind, had returned to earth; only that sometimes he acted according to his own will rather than according to law, making mistakes which somewhat darkened the glorious course of his renown.

7After many trials he corrected numerous abuses in the laws, cutting away circuitous proceedings, and making the enactments show more plainly what they commanded or forbade. But his forbidding masters of rhetoric and grammar to instruct Christians was a cruel action, and one deserving to be buried in everlasting silence.

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