The History, 27.9

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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9These were the events which occurred in Britain. But in another quarter, from the very beginning of Valentinian’s reign, Africa had been overrun by the fury of the barbarians, intent on bloodshed and rapine, which they sought to carry on by audacious incursions. Their licentiousness was encouraged by the indolence and general covetousness of the soldiers, and especially by the conduct of Count Romanus.

2Who, foreseeing what was likely to happen, and being very skilful in transferring to others the odium which he himself deserved, was detested by men in general for the savageness of his temper, and also because it seemed as if his object was to outrun even our enemies in ravaging the provinces. He greatly relied on his relationship to Remigius, at that time master of the offices, who sent all kinds of false and confused statements of the condition of the country, so that the emperor, cautious and wary as he plumed himself on being, was long kept in ignorance of the terrible sufferings of the Africans.

3I will explain with great diligence the complete series of all the transactions which took place in those regions, the death of Ruricius the governor, and of his lieutenants, and all the other mournful events which took place, when the proper opportunity arrives.

4And since we are able here to speak freely, let us openly say what we think, that this emperor was the first of all our princes who raised the arrogance of the soldiers to so great a height, to the great injury of the state, by increasing their rank, dignity, and riches. And (which was a lamentable thing, both on public and private accounts) while he punished the errors of the common soldiers with unrelenting severity, he spared the officers, who, as if complete licence were given to their misconduct, proceeded to all possible lengths of rapacity and cruelty for the acquisition of riches, and acting as if they thought that the fortunes of all persons depended directly on their nod.

5The framers of our ancient laws had sought to repress their pride and power, sometimes even condemning the innocent to death, as is often done in cases when, from the multitude concerned in some atrocity, some innocent men, owing to their ill luck, suffer for the whole. And this has occasionally extended even to the case of private persons.

6But in Isauria the banditti formed into bodies and roamed through the villages, laying waste and plundering the towns and wealthy country houses; and by the magnitude of their ravages they also greatly distressed Pamphylia and Cilicia. And when Musonius, who at that time was the deputy of Asia Minor, having previously been a master of rhetoric at Athens, had heard that they were spreading massacre and rapine in every direction, being filled with grief at the evil of which he had just heard, and perceiving that the soldiers were rusting in luxury and inactivity, he took with him a few light-armed troops, called Diogmitæ, and resolved to attack the first body of plunderers he could find. His way led through a narrow and most difficult defile, and thus he fell into an ambuscade, which he had no chance of escaping, and was slain, with all the men under his command.

7The robber bands became elated at this advantage, and roamed over the whole country with increased boldness, slaying many, till at last our army was aroused, and drove them to take refuge amid the recesses of the rocks and mountains they inhabit. And then, as they were not allowed to rest, and were cut off from all means of obtaining necessary supplies, they at last begged for a truce, as a prelude to peace, being led to this step by the advice of the people of Germanicopolis, whose opinions always had as much weight with them as standard-bearers have with an army. And after giving hostages as they were desired, they remained for a long time quiet, without venturing on any hostilities.

8While these events were taking place, Prætextatus was administering the prefecture of the city in a noble manner, exhibiting numerous instances of integrity and probity, virtues for which he had been eminent from his earliest youth; and thus he obtained what rarely happens to any one, that while he was feared, he did not at the same time lose the affection of his fellow-citizens, which is seldom strongly felt for those whom they fear as judges.

9By his authority, impartiality, and just decisions, a tumult was appeased, which the quarrels of the Christians had excited, and after Ursinus was expelled complete tranquillity was restored, which best corresponded to the wishes of the Roman people; while the glory of their illustrious governor, who performed so many useful actions, continually increased.

10For he also removed all the balconies, which the ancient laws of Rome had forbidden to be constructed, and separated from the sacred temples the walls of private houses which had been improperly joined to them; and established one uniform and proper weight in every quarter, for by no other means could he check the covetousness of those who made their scales after their own pleasure. And in the adjudication of lawsuits he exceeded all men in obtaining that praise which Cicero mentions in his panegyric of Brutus, that while he did nothing with a view to please anybody, everything which he did pleased everybody.

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