The History, 25.9

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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9The next day Bineses, one of the Persians of whom we have spoken as the most distinguished among them, hastening to execute the commission of his king, demanded from Jovian the immediate performance of his promise; and by his permission he entered the city of Nisibis, and raised the standard of his nation on the citadel, announcing to the citizens a miserable emigration from their native place.

2Immediately they were all commanded to expatriate themselves, in vain stretching forth their hands in entreaty not to be compelled to depart, affirming that they by themselves, without drawing on the public resources for either provisions or soldiers, were sufficient to defend their own home in full confidence that Justice would be on their side while fighting for the place of their birth, as they had often found her to be before. Both nobles and common people joined in this supplication; but they spoke in vain as to the winds, the emperor fearing the crime of perjury, as he pretended, though in reality the object of his fear was very different.

3Then a man of the name of Sabinus, eminent among his fellow-citizens both for his fortune and birth, replied with great fluency that Constantius too was at one time defeated by the Persians in the terrible strife of fierce war, that afterwards he fled with a small body of comrades to the unguarded station of Hibita, where he lived on a scanty and uncertain supply of bread which was brought him by an old woman from the country; and yet that to the end of his life he lost no territory; while Jovian, at the very beginning of his reign, was yielding up the wall of his provinces, by the protection of which barrier they had hitherto remained safe from the earliest ages.

4But as he could not prevail on the emperor, who persisted obstinately in alleging the obligation of his oath, presently, when Jovian, who had for some time refused the crown which was offered to him, accepted it under a show of compulsion, an advocate, named Silvanus, exclaimed boldly, “May you, O emperor, be so crowned in the rest of your cities.” But Jovian was offended at his words, and ordered the whole body of citizens to quit the city within three days, in despair as they were at the existing state of affairs.

5Accordingly, men were appointed to compel obedience to this order, with threats of death to every one who delayed his departure; and the whole city was a scene of mourning and lamentation, and in every quarter nothing was heard but one universal wail, matrons tearing their hair when about to be driven from their homes, in which they had been born and brought up, the mother who had lost her children, or the wife her husband, about to be torn from the place rendered sacred by their shades, clinging to their doorposts, embracing their thresholds, and pouring forth floods of tears.

6Every road was crowded, each person straggling away as he could. Many, too, loaded themselves with as much of their property as they thought they could carry, while leaving behind them abundant and costly furniture, for this they could not remove for want of beasts of burden.

7Thou in this place, O fortune of the Roman world, art justly an object of accusation, who, while storms were agitating the republic, didst strike the helm from the hand of a wise sovereign, to intrust it to an inexperienced youth, whom, as he was not previously known for any remarkable actions in his previous life, it is not fair either to blame or praise.

8But it sunk into the heart of all good citizens, that while, out of fear of a rival claimant of his power, and constantly fancying some one in Gaul or in Illyricum might have formed ambitious designs, he was hastening to outstrip the intelligence of his approach, he should have committed, under pretence of reverence for an oath, an act so unworthy of his imperial power as to abandon Nisibis, which ever since the time of Mithridates had been the chief hindrance to the encroachments of the Persians in the East.

9For never before since the foundation of Rome, if one consults all its annals, I believe has any portion of our territories been surrendered by emperor or consul to an enemy. Nor is there an instance of a triumph having been celebrated for the recovery of anything that had been lost, but only for the increase of our dominions.

10On this principle, a triumph was refused to Publius Scipio for the recovery of Spain, to Fulvius for the acquisition of Capua after a long struggle, and to Opimius after many battles with various results, because the people of Fregellæ, who at that time were our implacable enemies, had been compelled to surrender.

11For ancient records teach us that disgraceful treaties, made under the pressure of extreme necessity, even after the parties to them have sworn to their observance in set terms, have nevertheless been soon dissolved by the renewal of war; as in the olden time, after the legions had been made to pass under the yoke at the Caudine Forks, in Samnium; and also when an infamous peace was contemplated by Albinus in Numidia; and when Mancinus, the author of a peace which was concluded in disgraceful haste, was surrendered to the people of Numantia.

12Accordingly, when the citizens had been withdrawn, the city surrendered, and the tribune Constantius had been sent to deliver up to the Persian nobles the fortresses and districts agreed upon, Procopius was sent forward with the remains of Julian, to bury them in the suburbs of Tarsus, according to his directions while alive. He departed, I say, to fulfil this commission, and as soon as the body was buried, he quitted Tarsus, and though sought for with great diligence, he could not be found anywhere, till long afterwards he was suddenly seen at Constantinople invested with the purple.

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