The History, 27.6

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

« Amm. 27.5 | Amm. 27.6 | Amm. 27.7 | About This Work »

6In the mean time, Valentinian being attacked with a violent sickness and at the point of death, at a secret entertainment of the Gauls who were present in the emperor’s army, Rusticus Julianus, at that time master of the records, was proposed as the future emperor; a man as greedy of human blood as a wild beast, seeming to be smitten with some frenzy, as had been shown while governing Africa as proconsul.

2For in his prefecture of the city, a post which he was filling when he died, fearing a change in the tyranny through the exercise of which he, as if in a dearth of worthy men, had been raised to that dignity, he was compelled to appear more gentle and merciful.

3Against his partisans others with higher aims were exerting themselves in favour of Severus, who at that time was captain of the infantry, as a man very fit for such a dignity, who, although rough and unpopular, seemed yet more tolerable than the other, and worthy of being preferred to him by any means that could be devised.

4But all these plans were formed to no purpose; for in the meantime, the emperor, through the variety of remedies applied, recovered, and would scarcely believe that his life had been saved with difficulty. And he proposed to invest his son Gratian, who was now on the point of arriving at manhood, with the ensigns of the imperial authority.

5And when everything was prepared, and the consent of the soldiers secured, in order that all men might willingly accept the new emperor, immediately upon the arrival of Gratian, Valentinian advancing into the open space, mounted the tribune, and surrounded by a splendid circle of nobles and princes, and holding the boy by his right hand, showed him to them all, and in the following formal harangue recommended their intended sovereign to the army.

6“This imperial robe which I wear is a happy indication of your good will towards me when you adjudged me superior to many illustrious men. Now, with you as the partners of my counsels and the favourers of my wishes, I will proceed to a seasonable work of affection, relying on the protecting promises of God, to whose eternal assistance it is owing that the Roman state stands and ever shall stand unshaken.

7“Listen, I beseech you, O most gallant men, with willing minds to my desire, recollecting that these things which the laws of natural affection sanction, we have in this instance not only wished to accomplish with your perfect cognizance, but we have also desired to have them confirmed by you as what is proper for us and likely to prove beneficial.

8This, my grown-up son Gratian, to whom all of you bear affection as a common pledge, who has long lived among your own children, I am, for the sake of securing the public tranquillity on all sides, about to take as my colleague in the imperial authority, if the propitious will of the ruler of heaven and of your dignity, shall co-operate with a parent’s affection. He has not been trained by a rigid education from his very cradle as we ourselves have; nor has he been equally taught to endure hardships; nor is he as yet, as you see, able to endure the toils of war; but in his disposition he is not unworthy of the glorious reputation of his family, or the mighty deeds of his ancestors, and, I venture to say, he is likely to grow up equal to still greater actions.

9“For as I often think when contemplating, as I am wont to do, his manners and passions though not yet come to maturity, he is so furnished with the liberal sciences, and in all accomplishments and graces, that even now, while only entering on manhood, he will be able to form an accurate judgment of virtuous and vicious actions. He will so conduct himself that virtuous men may see that they are appreciated; he will be eager in the performance of noble actions; he will never desert the military standards and eagles; he will cheerfully bear heat, snow, frost, and thirst; he will, if necessity should arise, never shrink from fighting in defence of his country; he will expose his life to save his comrades from danger, and (and this is the highest and greatest work of piety) he will love the republic as his own paternal and ancestral home.”

10Before he had finished his speech, every soldier hastened to anticipate his comrades as well as his position permitted him, in showing that these words of the emperor met with their cheerful assent. And so, as partakers in his joy, and as convinced of the advantage of his proposal, they declared Gratian emperor, mingling the propitious clashing of their arms with the loud roar of the trumpets.

11When Valentinian saw this, his confidence increased; he adorned his son with a crown and with the robes befitting his now supreme rank, and kissed him; and then thus addressed him, brilliant as he appeared, and giving careful attention to all his words:—

12“You wear now,” said he, “my Gratian, the imperial robe, as we have all desired, which has been conferred on you with favourable auspices by my will and that of our comrades. Therefore now, considering the weight of the affairs which press upon us, gird yourself up as the colleague of your father and your uncle; and accustom yourself to pass fearlessly with the infantry over the Danube and the Rhine, which are made passable by the frost, to keep close to your soldiers, to devote your blood and your very life with all skill and deliberation for the safety of those under your command; to think nothing unworthy of your attention which concerns any portion of the Roman empire.

13“This is enough by way of admonition to you at the present moment, at other times I will not fail to give further advice. Now you who remain, the defenders of the state, I entreat, I beseech you to preserve with a steady affection and loyalty your youthful emperor thus intrusted to your fidelity.”

14These words of the emperor were accepted and ratified with all possible solemnity; Eupraxius, a native of Mauritania Cæsariensis, at that time master of the records, led the way by the exclamation, “The family of Gratian deserves this.” And being at once promoted to be quæstor, he set an example of judicious confidence worthy of being imitated by all wise men; especially as he in no wise departed from the habits of his fearless nature, but was at all times a man of consistency and obedient to the laws, which, as we have remarked, speak to all men with one and the same voice under the most varied circumstances. He at this time was the more steady in adhering to the side of justice which he always espoused, because on one occasion when he had given good advice, the emperor had attacked him with violence and threats.

15After this, the whole assembly broke out into praises of both emperors, the elder and the new one; and especially of the boy, whose brilliant eyes, engaging countenance and person, and apparent sweetness of disposition, recommended him to their favour. And these qualities would have rendered him an emperor worthy to be compared to the most excellent princes of former times, if fate had permitted, and his relations who even then began to overshadow his virtue, before it was firmly rooted, with their own wicked actions.

16But in this affair, Valentinian went beyond the custom which had been established for several generations, in making his brother and his son, not Cæsar, but emperors; acting indeed in this respect with great kindness. Nor had any one yet ever created a colleague with powers equal to his own, except the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who made his adopted brother Verus his colleague in the empire without any inferiority of power.

« Amm. 27.5 | Amm. 27.6 | Amm. 27.7 | About This Work »

Version menu

Table of contents