The History, 22.12

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

« Amm. 22.11 | Amm. 22.12 | Amm. 22.13 | About This Work »

12In the mean time, while preparing the expedition against the Persians, which he had long been meditating with all the vigour of his mind, he resolved firmly to avenge their past victories; hearing from others, and knowing by his own experience, that for nearly sixty years that most ferocious people had stamped upon the East bloody records of massacre and ravage, many of our armies having often been entirely destroyed by them.

2And he was inflamed with a desire for the war on two grounds: first, because he was weary of peace, and dreaming always of trumpets and battles; and secondly, because, having been in his youth exposed to the attacks of savage nations, the wishes of whose kings and princes were already turning against us, and whom, as was believed, it would be easier to conquer than to reduce to the condition of suppliants, he was eager to add to his other glories the surname of Parthieus.

3But when his inactive and malicious detractors saw that these preparations were being pressed forward with great speed and energy, they cried out that it was an unworthy and shameful thing for such unseasonable troubles to be caused by the change of a single prince, and laboured with all their zeal to postpone the campaign; and they were in the habit of saying, in the presence of those whom they thought likely to report their words to the emperor, that, unless he conducted himself with moderation during his excess of prosperity, he, like an over-luxuriant crop, would soon be destroyed by his own fertility.

4And they were continually propagating sayings of this kind, barking in vain at the inflexible prince with secret attacks, as the Pygmies or the clown Thiodamas of Lindus assailed Hercules.

5But he, as more magnanimous, allowed no delay to take place, nor any diminution in the magnitude of his expedition, but devoted the most energetic care to prepare everything suitable for such an enterprise.

6He offered repeated victims on the altars of the gods; sometimes sacrificing one hundred bulls, and countless flocks of animals of all kinds, and white birds, which he sought for everywhere by land, and sea; so that every day individual soldiers who had stuffed themselves like boors with too much meat, or who were senseless from the eagerness with which they had drunk, were placed on the shoulders of passers-by, and carried to their homes through the streets from the public temples where they had indulged in feasts which deserved punishment rather than indulgence. Especially the Petulantes and the Celtic legion, whose audacity at this time had increased to a marvellous degree.

7And rites and ceremonies were marvellously multiplied with a vastness of expense hitherto unprecedented; and, as it was now allowed without hindrance, every one professed himself skilful in divination, and all, whether illiterate or learned, without any limit or any prescribed order, were permitted to consult the oracles, and to inspect the entrails of victims; and omens from the voice of birds, and every kind of sign of the future, was sought for with an ostentatious variety of proceeding.

8And while this was going on, as if it were a time of profound peace, Julian, being curious in all such branches of learning, entered on a new path of divination. He proposed to reopen the prophetic springs of the fountain of Castalia, which Hadrian was said to have blocked up with a huge mass of stones, fearing lest, as he himself had attained the sovereignty through obedience to the predictions of these waters, others might learn a similar lesson; and Julian immediately ordered the bodies which had been buried around it to be removed with the same ceremonies as those with which the Athenians had purified the island of Delos.

« Amm. 22.11 | Amm. 22.12 | Amm. 22.13 | About This Work »

Version menu

Table of contents