The History, 23.3

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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3Leaving this place with a heavy heart, he marched with great speed, and arrived at Carrhæ, an ancient town notorious for the disasters of Crassus and the Roman army. From this town two royal roads branch off, both leading into Persia; that on the left hand through Adiabena and along the Tigris, that on the right through the Assyrians and along the Euphrates.

2There he stayed some days, preparing necessary supplies; and according to the custom of the district he offered sacrifices to the moon, which is religiously worshipped in that region; and it is said that while before the altar, no witness to the action being admitted, he secretly gave his own purple robe to Procopius, and bade him boldly assume the sovereignty if he should hear that he had died among the Parthians.

3Here while asleep his mind was agitated with dreams, and foresaw some sad event about to happen; on which account he and the interpreters of dreams considering the omens which presented themselves, pronounced that the next day, which was the nineteenth of March, ought to be solemnly observed. But, as was ascertained subsequently, that very same night, while Apronianus was prefect of Rome, the temple of the Palatine Apollo was burnt in the Eternal City; and if aid from all quarters had not come to the rescue the violence of the conflagration would have destroyed even the prophetic volumes of the Sibyl.

4After these things had happened in this manner, and while Julian was settling his line of march, and making arrangements for supplies of all kinds, his scouts come panting in, and bring him word that some squadrons of the enemy’s cavalry have suddenly passed the frontier in the neighbourhood of the camp, and have driven off a large booty.

5Indignant at such atrocity and at such an insult, he immediately (as indeed he had previously contemplated) put thirty thousand chosen men under the orders of Procopius, who has been already mentioned, uniting with him in this command Count Sebastian, formerly Duke of Egypt; and he ordered them to act on this side of the Tigris, observing everything vigilantly, so that no danger might arise on any side where it was not expected, for such things had frequently happened. He charged them further, if it could be done, to join King Arsaces; and march with him suddenly through Corduena and Moxoëne, ravaging Chiliocomus, a very fertile district of Media, and other places; and then to rejoin him while still in Assyria, in order to assist him as he might require.

6Having taken these measures, Julian himself, pretending to march by the line of the Tigris, on which road he had purposely commanded magazines of provisions to be prepared, turned towards the right, and after a quiet night, asked in the morning for the horse which he was accustomed to ride: his name was Babylonius. And when he was brought, being suddenly griped and starting at the pain, he fell down, and rolling about scattered the gold and jewels with which his trappings were decked. Julian, in joy at this omen, cried out, amid the applause of those around, that “Babylon had fallen, and was stripped of all her ornaments.”

7Having delayed a little that he might confirm the omen by the sacrifice of some victims, he advanced to Davana, where he had a garrison-fortress, and where the river Belias rises which falls into the Euphrates. Here he refreshed his men with food and sleep, and the next day reached Callinicus, a strong fortress, and also a great commercial mart, where, on the 27th of March (the day on which at Rome the annual festival in honour of Cybele is celebrated, and the car in which her image is borne is, as it is said, washed in the waters of the Almo), he kept the same feast according to the manner of the ancients, and then, retiring to rest, passed a triumphant, and joyful night.

8The next day he proceeded along the bank of the river, which other streams began to augment, marching with an armed escort; and at night he rested in a tent, where some princes of the Saracenic tribes came as suppliants, bringing him a golden crown, and adoring him as the master of the world and of their own nations: he received them graciously, as people well adapted for surprises in war.

9And while addressing them a fleet arrived equal to that of the mighty sovereign Xerxes, under the command of the tribune Constantianus, and Count Lucillianus; they threw a bridge over the broadest part of the Euphrates: the fleet consisted of one thousand transports, of various sorts and sizes, bringing large supplies of provisions, and arms, and engines for sieges, and fifty ships of war, and as many more suitable for the construction of bridges.

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