The History, 25.5

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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5After these events there was no time for lamentation or weeping. For after he had been laid out as well as the circumstances and time permitted, that he might be buried where he himself had formerly proposed, at daybreak the next morning, which was on the 27th of June, while the enemy surrounded us on every side, the generals of the army assembled, and having convened the chief officers of the cavalry and of the legions, deliberated about the election of an emperor.

2There were great and noisy divisions. Arinthæus and Victor, and the rest of those who had been attached to the court of Constantius, sought for a fit man of their own party. On the other hand, Nevitta and Dagalaiphus, and the nobles of the Gauls, sought for a man among their own ranks.

3While the matter was thus in dispute, they all unanimously agreed upon Sallustius. And when he pleaded ill health and old age, one of the soldiers of rank observing his real and fixed reluctance said, “And what would you do if the emperor while absent himself, as has often happened, had intrusted you with the conduct of this war? Would you not have postponed all other considerations and applied yourself to extricating the soldiers at once from the difficulties which press on them? Do so now: and then, if we are allowed to reach Mesopotamia, it will be time enough for the united suffrages of both armies to declare a lawful emperor.”

4Amid these little delays in so important a matter, before opinions were justly weighed, a few made an uproar, as often happens in critical circumstances, and Jovian was elected emperor, being the chief officer of the guards, and a man of fair reputation in respect of his father’s services. For he was the son of Varronianus, a distinguished count, who had not long since retired from military service to lead a private life.

5And immediately he was clothed in the imperial robes, and was suddenly led forth out of the tent and passed at a quick pace through the army as it was preparing to march.

6And as the line extended four miles, those in the van hearing some persons salute Jovian as Augustus, raised the same cry still more loudly, for they were caught by the relationship, so to say, of the name, which differed only by one letter from that of Julian, and so they thought that Julian was recovered and was being led forth with great acclamations as had often been the case. But when the new emperor, who was both taller and less upright, was seen, they suspected what had happened, and gave vent to tears and lamentations.

7And if any lover of justice should find fault with what was done at this extreme crisis as imprudent, he might still more justly blame sailors who, having lost a skilful pilot when both winds and waves are agitated by a storm, commit the helm of their vessel to some one of their comrades.

8This affair having been thus settled by a blind sort of decision of Fortune, the standard-bearer of the Jovian legion, which Varronianus had formerly commanded, having had a quarrel with the new emperor while he was a private individual, because he had been a violent disparager of his father, now fearing danger at his hand, since he had risen to a height exceeding any ordinary fortune, fled to the Persians. And having been allowed to tell what he knew, he informed Sapor, who was at hand, that the prince whom he dreaded was dead, and that Jovian, who had hitherto been only an officer of the guards, a man of neither energy nor courage, had been raised by a mob of camp drudges to a kind of shadow of the imperial authority.

9Sapor hearing this news, which he had always anxiously prayed for, and being elated by this unexpected good fortune, having reinforced the troops who had fought against us with a strong body of the royal cavalry, sent them forward with speed to attack the rear of our army.

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