The History, 25.10

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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10These transactions having been thus concluded, after a long march we arrived at Antioch, where for several days in succession many terrible omens were seen, as if the gods were offended, since those who were skilled in the interpretation of prodigies foretold that impending events would be melancholy.

2For the statue of Maximian Cæsar, which was placed in the vestibule of the palace, suddenly lost the brazen globe, formed after the figure of the heavens, which it bore in its hand. Also the beams in the council chamber sounded with an ominous creak; comets were seen in the daytime, respecting the nature of which natural philosophers differ.

3For some think they have received the name because they scatter fire wreathed like hair by a number of stars being collected into one mass; others think that they derive their fire from the dry evaporation of the earth rising gradually to a greater height; some fancy that the sunbeams as they rapidly pass, being prevented by dense clouds from descending lower, by infusing their brilliancy into a dense body show a light which, as it were, seems spotted with stars to the eyes of mortals. Some again have a fixed opinion that this kind of light is visible when some cloud, rising to a greater height than usual, becomes illuminated by its proximity to the eternal fires; or, that at all events there are some stars like the rest, of which the special times of their rising and setting are not understood by man. There are many other suggestions about comets which have been put forth by men skilled in mundane philosophy, but I must pass over them, as my subject calls me in another direction.

4The emperor remained a short time at Antioch, distracted by many important cares, but desirous above all things to proceed. And so, sparing neither man nor beast, he started from that city in the depth of winter, though, as I have stated, many omens warned him from such a course, and made his entrance into Tarsus, a noble city of Cilicia, the origin of which I have already related.

5Being in excessive haste to depart from thence, he ordered decorations for the tomb of Julian, which was placed in the suburb, in the road leading to the defiles of Mount Taurus. Though a sound judgment would have decided that the ashes of such a prince ought not to lie within sight of the Cydnus, however beautiful and clear that river is, but, to perpetuate the glory of his achievements, ought rather to be placed where they might be washed by the Tiber as it passes through the Eternal City and winds round the monuments of the ancient gods.

6Then quitting Tarsus, he reached by forced marches Tyana, a town of Cappadocia, where Procopius the secretary and Memoridus the tribune met him on their return, and related to him all that occurred; beginning, as the order of events required, at the moment when Lucillianus (who had entered Milan with the tribunes Seniauchus and Valentinian, whom he had brought with him, as soon as it was known that Malarichus had refused to accept the post which was offered to him) hastened on with all speed to Rheims.

7There, as if it had been a time of profound tranquillity, he went quite beside the mark, as we say, and while things were still in a very unsettled state, he most unseasonably devoted his attention to scrutinizing the accounts of the commissary, who, being conscious of fraud and guilt, fled to the standards of the soldiers, and pretended that while Julian was still alive some one of the common people had attempted a revolution. By this false report the army became so greatly excited that they put Lucillianus and Seniauchus to death. For Valentinian, who soon afterwards became emperor, had been concealed by his host Primitivus in a safe place, overwhelmed with fear and not knowing which way to flee.

8This disastrous intelligence was accompanied by one piece of favourable news,—that the soldiers who had been sent by Jovian were approaching (men known in the camp as the heads of the classes), who brought word that the Gallic army had cordially embraced the cause of Jovian.

9When this was known, the command of the second class of the Scutarii was given to Valentinian, who had returned with those men; and Vitalianus, who had been a soldier of the Heruli, was placed among the bodyguards, and afterwards, when raised to the rank of count, met with very ill success in Illyricum. And at the same time Arinthæus was despatched into Gaul with letters for Jovinus, with an injunction to maintain his ground and act with resolution and constancy; and he was further charged to make an example of the author of the disturbance which had taken place, and to send the ringleaders of the sedition as prisoners to the court.

10When these matters had been arranged as seemed most expedient, the Gallic soldiers obtained an audience of the emperor at Aspuna, a small town of Galatia, and having been admitted into the council chamber, after the message which they brought had been listened to with approval, they received rewards and were ordered to return to their standards.

11When the emperor had made his entry into Ancyra, everything necessary for his procession having been prepared as well as the time permitted, Jovian entered on the consulship, and took as his colleague his son Varronianus, who was as yet quite a child, and whose cries as he obstinately resisted being borne in the curule chair, according to the ancient fashion, was an omen of what shortly happened.

12Here also the appointed termination of life carried off Jovian with rapidity. For when he had reached Dadastana, a place on the borders of Bithynia and Galatia, he was found dead in the night; and many uncertain reports were spread concerning his death.

13It was said that he had been unable to bear the unwholesome smell of the fresh mortar with which his bedchamber had been plastered. Also that his head had swollen in consequence of a great fire of coals, and that this had been the cause of his death; others said that he had died of a surfeit from over eating. He was in the thirty-third year of his age. And though he and Scipio Æmilianus both died in the same manner, we have not found out that any investigation into the death of either ever took place.

14Jovian was slow in his movements, of a cheerful countenance, with blue eyes; very tall, so much so that it was long before any of the royal robes could be found to fit him. He was anxious to imitate Constantius, often occupying himself with serious business till after midday, and being fond of jesting with his friends in public.

15He was given to the study of the Christian law, sometimes doing it marked honour; he was tolerably learned in it, very well inclined to its professors, and disposed to promote them to be judges, as was seen in some of his appointments. He was fond of eating, addicted to wine and women, though he would perhaps have corrected these propensities from a sense of what was due to the imperial dignity.

16It was said that his father, Varronianus, through the warning of a dream, had long since foreseen what happened, and had foretold it to two of his most faithful friends, with the addition that he himself also should become consul. But though part of his prophecy became true, he could not procure the fulfilment of the rest. For though he heard of his son’s high fortune, he died before he could see him.

17And because the old man had it foretold to him in his sleep that the highest office was destined for his name, his grandson Varronianus, while still an infant, was made consul with his father Jovian, as we have related above.

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