The History, 26.7

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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7So the dealers in cheap luxuries, and those who were about the palace, or who had ceased to serve, and all who, having been in the ranks of the army, had retired to a more tranquil life, now embarked in this unusual and doubtful enterprise, some against their will, and others willingly. Some, however, thinking anything better than the present state of affairs, escaped secretly from the city, and hastened with all speed to the emperor’s camp.

2They were all outstripped by the amazing celerity of Sophronius, at that time a secretary, afterwards prefect of Constantinople, who reached Valens as he was just about to set out from Cæsarea in Cappadocia, in order, now that the hot weather of Cilicia was over, to go to Antioch; and having related to him all that had taken place, brought him, though wholly amazed and bewildered at so doubtful and perplexing a crisis, back into Galatia to encounter the danger before it had risen to a head.

3While Valens was pushing forward with all speed, Procopius was using all his energy day and night, producing different persons who with cunning boldness pretended that they had arrived, some from the east, some from Gaul, and who reported that Valentinian was dead, and that everything was easy for the new and favoured emperor.

4And because enterprises suddenly and wantonly attempted are often strengthened by promptness of action, and in order to neglect nothing, Nebridius, who had been recently promoted through the influence of Petronius to be prefect of the prætorium in the place of Sallust, and Cæsarius, the prefect of Constantinople, were at once thrown into prison; and Phronemius was intrusted with the government of the city, with the customary powers; and Euphrasius was made master of the offices, both being Gauls, and men of known accomplishments and good character. The government of the camp was intrusted to Gomoarius and Agilo, who were recalled to military service with that object—a very ill-judged appointment, as was seen by the result.

5Now because Count Julius, who was commanding the forces in Thrace, was feared as likely to employ the troops at the nearest stations to crush the rebels if he received information of what was being done, a vigorous measure was adopted; and he was summoned to Constantinople by letter, which Nebridius, while still in prison, was compelled to write, as if he had been appointed by Valens to conduct some serious measures in connection with the movements of the barbarians; and as soon as he arrived he was seized and kept in close custody. By this cunning artifice the warlike tribes of Thrace were brought over without bloodshed, and proved a great assistance to this disorderly enterprise.

6After this success, Araxius, by a court intrigue, was made prefect of the prætorium, as if at the recommendation of Agilo, his son-in-law. Many others were admitted to various posts in the palace, and to the government of provinces; some against their will, others voluntarily, and even giving bribes for their promotion.

7And, as often happens in times of intestine commotion, some men, from the very dregs of the populace, rose to a high position, led by desperate boldness and insane expectations; while, on the contrary, others of noble birth fell from the highest elevation down to exile and death.

8When by these and similar acts the party of Procopius seemed firmly established, the next thing was to assemble a sufficient military force; and that was easily managed, though sometimes, in times of public disorder, a failure here has hindered great enterprises, and even some which had a lawful origin.

9The divisions of cavalry and infantry which were passing through Thrace were easily gained over, and being kindly and liberally treated, were collected into one body, and at once presented the appearance of an army; and being excited by magnificent promises, they swore with solemn oaths fidelity to Procopius, promising to defend him with unswerving loyalty.

10For a most seasonable opportunity of gaining them over was found; because he carried in his arms the little daughter of Constantius, whose memory was still held in reverence, himself also claiming relationship with Julian. He also availed himself of another seasonable incident, namely, that it was while Faustina, the mother of the child, was present that he had received the insignia of the imperial rites.

11He employed also another expedient (though it required great promptitude); he chose some persons, as stupid as they were rash, whom he sent to Illyricum, relying on no support except their own impudence; but also well furnished with pieces of gold stamped with the head of the new emperor, and with other means suited to win over the multitude. But these men were arrested by Equitius, who was the commander of the forces in that country, and were put to death by various methods.

12And then, fearing similar attempts by Procopius, he blocked up the three narrowest entrances into the northern province; one through Dacia, along the course of the different rivers; another, and that the most frequented, through the Succi; and the third through Macedonia, which is known as the Acontisma. And in consequence of these precautions the usurper was deprived of all hope of becoming master of Illyricum, and lost one great resource for carrying on the war.

13In the mean time Valens, overwhelmed with the strange nature of this intelligence, and being already on his return through Gallo-Græcia, after he had heard what had happened at Constantinople, advanced with great diffidence and alarm; and as his sudden fears deprived him of his usual prudence, he fell into such despondency that he thought of laying aside his imperial robes as too heavy a burden; and in truth he would have done so if those about him had not hindered him from adopting so dishonourable a resolution. So, being encouraged by the opinions of braver men, he ordered two legions, known as the Jovian and the Victorian, to advance in front to storm the rebel camp.

14And when they approached, Procopius, who had returned from Nicæa, to which city he had lately gone with the legion of Divitenses and a promiscuous body of deserters, which he had collected in a few days, hastened to Mygdus on the Sangarius.

15And when the legions, being now prepared for battle, assembled there, and while both sides were exchanging missiles as if wishing to provoke an attack, Procopius advanced by himself into the middle, and under the guidance of favourable fortune, he remarked in the opposite ranks a man named Vitalianus (it is uncertain whether he had known him before), and having given him his hand and embraced him, he said, while both armies were equally astonished.

16“And is this the end of the ancient fidelity of the Roman armies, and of the oaths taken under the strictest obligations of religion! Have you decided, O gallant men, to use your swords in defence of strangers, and that a degenerate Pannonian should undermine and upset everything, and so enjoy a sovereign power which he never even ventured to picture to himself in his prayers, while we lament over your ill-fortune and our own. Follow rather the race of your own noble princes which is now in arms, not with the view of seizing what does not belong to it, but with the hope of recovering its ancestral possessions and hereditary dignities.”

17All were propitiated by this conciliatory speech, and those who had come with the intention of fighting now readily lowered their standards and eagles, and of their own accord came over to him; instead of uttering their fearful yells, they unanimously saluted Procopius emperor, and escorted him to his camp, calling Jupiter to witness, after their military fashion, that Procopius should prove invincible.

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