The History, 22.4

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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4After this Julian directed his whole favour and affection to people of every description about the palace; not acting in this like a philosopher anxious for the discovery of truth.

2For he might have been praised if he had retained a few who were moderate in their disposition, and of proved honesty and respectability. We must, indeed, confess that the greater part of them had nourished as it were such a seed-bed of all vices, which they spread abroad so as to infect the whole republic with evil desires, and did even more injury by their example than by the impunity which they granted to crimes.

3Some of them had been fed on the spoils of temples, had smelt out gain on every occasion, and having raised themselves from the lowest poverty to vast riches, had set no bounds to their bribery, their plunder, or their extravagance, being at all times accustomed to seize what belonged to others.

4From which habit the beginnings of licentious life sprang up, with perjuries, contempt of public opinion, and an insane arrogance, sacrificing good faith to infamous gains.

5Among which vices, debauchery and unrestrained gluttony grew to a head, and costly banquets superseded triumphs for victories. The common use of silken robes prevailed, the textile arts were encouraged, and above all was the anxious care about the kitchen. Vast spaces were sought out for ostentatious houses, so vast that if the consul Cincinnatus had possessed as much land, he would have lost the glory of poverty after his dictatorship.

6To these shameful vices was added the loss of military discipline; the soldier practised songs instead of his battle-cry, and a stone would no longer serve him for a bed, as formerly, but he wanted feathers and yielding mattresses, and goblets heavier than his sword, for he was now ashamed to drink out of earthenware; and he required marble houses, though it is recorded in ancient histories that a Spartan soldier was severely punished for venturing to appear under a roof at all during a campaign.

7But now the soldier was fierce and rapacious towards his own countrymen, but towards the enemy he was inactive and timid, by courting different parties, and in times of peace he had acquired riches, and was now a judge of gold and precious stones, in a manner wholly contrary to the recollection of very recent times.

8For it is well known that when, in the time of the Cæsar Maximian, the camp of the king of Persia was plundered; a common soldier, after finding a Persian bag full of pearls, threw the gems away in ignorance of their value, and went away contented with the mere beauty of his bit of dressed leather.

9In those days it also happened that a barber who had been sent for to cut the emperor’s hair, came handsomely dressed; and when Julian saw him, he was amazed, and said, “I did not send for a superintendent, but for a barber.” And when he was asked what he made by his business, he answered that he every day made enough to keep twenty persons, and as many horses, and also a large annual income, besides many sources of accidental gain.

10And Julian, angry at this, expelled all the men of this trade, and the cooks, and all who made similar profits, as of no use to him, telling them, however, to go where they pleased.

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