The History, 28.6

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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6Let us now migrate, as it were, to another quarter of the world, and proceed to relate the distresses of Tripoli, a province of Africa; distresses which, in my opinion, even Justice herself must have lamented, and which burst out rapidly like flames. I will now give an account both of them and of their causes.

2The Asturians are barbarians lying on the frontier of this province, a people always in readiness for rapid invasions, accustomed to live on plunder and bloodshed; and who, after having been quiet for a while, now relapsed into their natural state of disquiet, alleging the following as the serious cause for their movements.

3One of their countrymen, by name Stachao, while freely traversing our territories, as in time of peace, did some things forbidden by the laws; the most flagrant of his illegal acts being that he endeavoured, by every kind of deceit and intrigue, to betray the province, as was shown by the most undeniable evidence, for which crime he was burnt to death.

4To avenge his death, the Asturians, claiming him as their clansman, and affirming that he had been unjustly condemned, burst forth from their own territory like so many mad wild beasts during the reign of Jovian, but fearing to approach close to Leptis, which was a city with a numerous population, and fortified by strong walls, they occupied the district around it, which is very fertile, for three days: and having slain the agricultural population on it, whom terror at their sudden inroad had deprived of all spirit, or had driven to take refuge in caves, and burnt a great quantity of furniture which could not be carried off, they returned home, loaded with vast plunder, taking with them as prisoner a man named Silva, the principal noble of Leptis, whom they found with his family at his country house.

5The people of Leptis being terrified at this sudden disaster, not wishing to incur the further calamities with which the arrogance of the barbarians threatened them, implored the protection of Count Romanus, who had recently been promoted to the government of Africa. But when he came at the head of an army, and received their request to come to their immediate assistance in their distress, he declared that he would not move a step further unless abundant magazines and four thousand camels were provided for his troops.

6At this answer the wretched citizens were stupefied, and declared to him, that after the devastations and conflagrations to which they had been exposed, it was impossible for them to make such exertions, even for the reparation of the cruel disasters which they had suffered; and, after waiting forty days there with vain pretences and excuses, the count retired without attempting any enterprise.

7The people of Tripoli, disappointed in their hopes, and dreading the worst extremities, at their next council day, appointed Severus and Flaccianus ambassadors to carry to Valentinian some golden images of victory in honour of his accession to the empire, and to state fully and boldly to him the miserable distress of the province.

8When this step became known, Romanus sent a swift horseman as a messenger to the master of the offices, Remigius, his own kinsman and his partner in plunder, bidding him take care, that by the emperor’s decision, the investigation into this matter should be committed to the deputy and himself.

9The ambassadors arrived at the court, and having obtained access to the emperor, they, in a set speech, laid all their distresses before him, and presented him with a decree of their council in which the whole affair was fully set forth. When the emperor had read it, he neither trusted the report of the master of the offices, framed to defend the misconduct of the count, nor, on the other hand, did he place confidence in these men who made a contrary report; but promised a full investigation into the affair, which however was deferred in the manner in which high authorities are wont to let such matters give place to their more pleasant occupations and amusements.

10While waiting in suspense and protracted anxiety for some relief from the emperor’s camp, the citizens of Tripoli were again attacked by troops of the same barbarians, now elated with additional confidence by their past successes. They ravaged the whole territory of Leptis and also that of Œa, spreading total ruin and desolation everywhere, and, at last, retired loaded with an enormous quantity of spoil, and having slain many of our officers, the most distinguished of whom were Rusticianus, one of the priests, and the ædile, Nicasius.

11This invasion was prevented from being repelled by the fact, that at the entreaty of the ambassadors, the conduct of the military affairs, which had at first been intrusted to Ruricius, the president, had been subsequently transferred to Count Romanus.

12So now a new messenger was sent to Gaul with an account of this fresh disaster; and his intelligence roused the emperor to great anger. So Palladius, his secretary, who had also the rank of tribune, was sent at once to liquidate the pay due to the soldiers, who were dispersed over Africa, and to examine into all that had taken place in Tripoli, he being an officer whose report could be trusted.

13But while all these delays took place from the continual deliberations held on the case, and while the people of Tripoli were still waiting for the answer, the Asturians, now still more insolent after their double success, like birds of prey whose ferocity has been sharpened by the taste of blood, flew once more to attack them; and having slain every one who did not flee from the danger, they carried off all the spoil which they had previously left behind, cutting down all the trees and vines.

14Then a certain citizen named Mychon, a man of high station and great influence, was taken prisoner in the district outside of the city; but before they could bind him he gave them the slip, and because an attack of gout rendered him unable to effect his escape, he threw himself down a dry well, from which he was drawn up by the barbarians with his ribs broken, and was conducted near to the gates of the city, where he was ransomed by the affection of his wife, and was drawn up to the battlements of the wall by a rope; but two days afterwards he died.

15These events encouraged the pertinacity of the invaders, so that they advanced and attacked the very walls of Leptis, which resounded with the mournful wailings of the women, who were terrified in an extraordinary manner and quite bewildered, because they had never before been blockaded by an enemy. And after the city had been besieged for eight days continuously, during which many of the besiegers were wounded, while they made no progress, they retired much discouraged to their own country.

16In consequence of these events, the citizens, being still doubtful of their safety, and desirous of trying every possible resource, before the ambassadors who had been first sent had returned, sent Jovinus and Pancratius to lay before the emperor a faithful account of the sufferings which they had endured, and which they themselves had seen: these envoys found the former ambassadors, Severus and Flaccianus, at Carthage; and on asking them what they had done, they learnt that they had been referred for a hearing to the deputy and the count. And immediately after this Severus was attacked by a dangerous illness and died; but notwithstanding what they had heard, the new ambassadors proceeded on their journey to the court.

17After this, when Palladius arrived in Africa, the count, who knew on what account he had come, and who had been warned before to take measures for his own safety, sent orders to the principal officers of the army by certain persons who were in his secrets, to pay over to him, as being a person of great influence, and being the person most nearly connected with the principal nobles of the palace, the chief part of the money for the soldiers’ pay which he had brought over, and they obeyed him.

18So he, having been thus suddenly enriched, reached Leptis; and that he might arrive at a knowledge of the truth, he took with him to the districts that had been laid waste, Erecthius and Aristomenes, two citizens of great eloquence and reputation, who freely unfolded to him the distress which their fellow-citizens and the inhabitants of the adjacent districts had suffered. They showed him everything openly; and so he returned after seeing the lamentable desolation of the province: and reproaching Romanus for his inactivity, he threatened to report to the emperor an accurate statement of everything which he had seen.

19He, inflamed with anger and indignation, retorted that he also should soon make a report, that the man who had been sent as an incorruptible secretary had converted to his own uses all the money which had been sent out as a donation to the soldiers.

20The consequence was that Palladius, being hampered by the consciousness of his flagitious conduct, proceeded from henceforth in harmony with Romanus, and when he returned to court, he deceived Valentinian with atrocious falsehoods, affirming that the citizens of Tripoli complained without reason. Therefore he was sent back to Africa a second time with Jovinus, the last of all the ambassadors (for Pancratius had died at Treves), in order that he, in conjunction with the deputy, might inquire into everything connected with the second embassy. And besides this, the emperor ordered the tongues of Erecthius and Aristomenes to be cut out, because this same Palladius had intimated that they made some malignant and disloyal statements.

21The secretary, following the deputy, as had been arranged, came to Tripoli. When his arrival was known, Romanus sent one of his servants thither with all speed, and Cæcilius, his assessor, who was a native of the province; and by their agency (whether they employed bribery or deceit is doubtful) all the citizens were won over to accuse Jovinus, vigorously asserting that he had never issued any of the commands which he had reported to the emperor; carrying their iniquity to such a pitch, that Jovinus himself was compelled by them to confess, to his own great danger, that he had made a false report to the emperor.

22When these events were learnt from Palladius on his return, Valentinian, being always inclined to severe measures, commanded the execution of Jovinus as the author of such a report, and of Cælestinus, Concordius, and Lucius, as privy to it, and partners in it. He also commanded Ruricius, the president, to be put to death for falsehood; the charge against him being aggravated by the circumstance that his report contained some violent and intemperate expressions.

23Ruricius was executed at Sitifis; the rest were condemned at Utica by the sentence of the deputy Crescens. But before the death of the ambassadors, Flaccianus, while being examined by the deputy and the count, and while resolutely defending his own safety, was assailed with abuse, and then attacked with loud outcries and violence by the angry soldiers, and was nearly killed; the charge which they made against him being that the cause which had prevented the people of Tripoli from being defended was, that they had refused to furnish necessaries for the use of any expedition.

24On this account he was thrown into prison, till the emperor could be consulted on his case, and should decide what ought to be done; but his gaolers were tampered with, as was believed, and he escaped from prison and fled to Rome, where he concealed himself for some time, till his death.

25In consequence of this memorable catastrophe, Tripoli, which had been often harassed by external and domestic calamities, brought forward no further accusations against those who had left it undefended, knowing that the eternal eye of justice was awake, as well as the avenging furies of the ambassadors and the president. And a long time afterwards the following event took place:—Palladius, having been dismissed from the military service, and stript of all that nourished his pride, retired into private life.

26And when Theodosius, that magnificent commander of armies, came into Africa to put down Firmus, who was entertaining some pernicious designs, and, as he was ordered, began to examine the moveable effects of Romanus, he found among his papers a letter of a certain person named Meterius, containing this passage: “Meterius, to his lord and patron, Romanus;” and at the end of the letter many expressions unconnected with its general subject. “Palladius, who has been cashiered, salutes you. He who says he was cashiered for no other reason than that in the case of the people of Tripoli he made a false report to the sacred ears.”

27When this letter was sent to the court and read, Meterius was arrested by order of Valentinian, and confessed that the letter was his writing. Therefore Palladius also was ordered to appear, and reflecting on all the crimes he had committed, while at a halting place on the road, he watched an opportunity afforded him by the absence of his guards, as soon as it got dark (for, as it was a festival of the Christian religion, they passed the whole night in the church), and hanged himself.

28The news of this propitious event—the death of the principal cause of their sad troubles—being known, Erecthius and Aristomenes, who when they first heard that their tongues were ordered to be cut out for sedition, had escaped, now issued from their hiding-places. And when the emperor Gratian was informed of the wicked deceit that had been practised (for by this time Valentinian was dead), their fears vanished, and they were sent to have their cause heard before Hesperus the proconsul and Flavian the deputy, men whose justice was supported by the righteous authority of the emperor, and who, after putting Cæcilius to the torture, learnt from his clear confession that he himself had persuaded the citizens to bring false accusations against the ambassadors. These actions were followed by a report which gave the fullest possible account of all that had taken place, to which no answer was given.

29And that the whole story might want nothing of tragic interest, the following occurrence also took place after the curtain had fallen. Romanus went to court, taking with him Cæcilius, with the intent to accuse the judges as having been unduly biassed in favour of the province; and being received graciously by Merobaudes, he demanded that some more necessary witnesses should be summoned. And when they had come to Milan, and had shown by proofs which seemed correct, though these were false, that they had been falsely accused, they were acquitted, and returned home. Valentinian was still alive, when after these events which we have related, Remigius also retired from public life, and afterwards hanged himself, as we shall relate in the proper place.

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