The History, 26.2

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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2When this day, so little fit in the opinion of many for beginning any great affair, had passed, at the approach of evening, by the advice of the prefect Sallust, an order was issued by general consent, and with the penalty of death attached to any neglect of it, that no one of higher authority, or suspected of aiming at any objects of ambition, should appear in public the next morning.

2And when, while the numbers who allowed their own empty wishes to torment them were weary of the slowness of time, the night ended at last, and daylight appeared, the soldiers were all assembled in one body, and Valentinian advanced into the open space, and mounting a tribunal of some height which had been erected on purpose, he was declared ruler of the empire as a man of due wisdom by this assembly, bearing the likeness of a comitia, with the unanimous acclamations of all present.

3Presently he was clothed with the imperial robe, and crowned, and saluted as Augustus with all the delight which the pleasure of this novelty could engender; and then he began to harangue the multitude in a premeditated speech. But as he put forth his arm to speak more freely, a great murmur arose, the centuries and maniples beginning to raise an uproar, and the whole mass of the cohorts presently urging that a second emperor should be at once elected.

4And though some people fancied that this cry was raised by a few corrupt men in order to gain the favour of those who had been passed over, it appeared that that was a mistake, for the cry that was raised did not resemble a purchased clamour, but rather the unanimous voice of the whole multitude all animated with the same wish, because recent examples had taught them to fear the instability of this high fortune. Presently the murmurs of the furious and uproarious army appeared likely to give rise to a complete tumult, and men began to fear that the audacity of the soldiers might break out into some atrocious act.

5And as Valentinian feared this above everything, he raised his hand firmly with the vigour of an emperor full of confidence, and venturing to rebuke some as obstinate and seditious, he delivered the speech he had intended without interruption.

6“I exult, O ye gallant defenders of our provinces, and boast and always shall boast that your valour has conferred on me, who neither expected nor desired such an honour, the government of the Roman empire, as the fittest man to discharge its duties. That which was in your hands before an emperor was elected, you have completed beneficially and gloriously, by raising to this summit of honour a man whom you know by experience to have lived from his earliest youth to his present age with honour and integrity. Now then I entreat you to listen with quietness to a few plain observations which I think will be for the public advantage.

7“So numerous are the matters for the consideration of an emperor, that I neither deny nor even doubt that it is a desirable thing that he should have a colleague of equal power to deal with every contingency. And I myself, as a man, do also fear the great accumulation of cares which must be mine, and the various changes of events. But still we must use every exertion to insure concord, by which even the smallest affairs give strength. And that is easily secured if, your patience concurring with your equity, you willingly grant me what belongs to me in this matter. For Fortune, the ally of all good counsels, will I trust aid me, while to the very utmost of my ability and power, I diligently search for a wise and temperate partner. For as wise men lay it down, not only in the case of empire where the dangers are frequent and vast, but also in matters of private and everyday life, a man ought rather to take a stranger into his friendship after he has had opportunities of judging him to be wise, than to ascertain his wisdom after he has made him his friend.

8“This, in hopes of a happier fortune, I promise. Do you, retaining your steadiness of conduct and loyalty, recruit the vigour of your minds and bodies while rest in your winter quarters allows you to do so. And you shall soon receive what is your due on my nomination as emperor.”

9Having finished this speech, to which his unexpected authority gave weight, the emperor by it brought all over to his opinion. And even those who a few minutes before with loud voices demanded something different, now, following his advice, surrounded him with the eagles and standards, and, forming a splendid and formidable escort of all classes and ranks of the army, conducted him to the palace.

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