The History, 29.3

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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3These events, and the account of Gaul to which I am now about to proceed, will cause some interruption to the narration of occurrences in the metropolis. Among many terrible circumstances, I find that Maximin was still prefect, who by the wide extent of his power was a cruel prompter to the emperor, who combined the most unrestrained licence with unbounded power. Whoever, therefore, considers what I have related, must also reflect on the other facts which have been passed over, and, like a prudent man, he will pardon me if I do not record everything which the wickedness of certain counsels has occasioned by exaggerating every accusation?

2For while severity, the foe of all right principles, increased, Valentinian, being a man of a naturally ferocious disposition, when Maximin arrived, having no one to give him good advice or to restrain him, proceeded, as if hurried on by a storm of winds and waves, to all kinds of cruel actions; so that when angry, his voice, his countenance, his gait, and his complexion, were continually changing. And of this passionate intemperance there are many undoubted instances, of which it will be sufficient to recount a few.

3A certain grown-up youth, of those called pages, having been appointed to take care of a Spartan hound which had been brought out for hunting, let him loose before the appointed moment, because the animal, in its efforts to escape, leaped upon him and bit him; and for this he was beaten to death and buried the same day.

4The master of a workshop, who had brought the emperor an offering of a breastplate most exquisitely polished, and who was therefore in expectation of a reward, was ordered by him to be put to death because the steel was of less weight than he considered requisite. . . . There was a certain native, of Epirus, a priest of the Christian religion. . . .

5Constantianus, the master of the stables, having ventured to change a few of the horses, to select which he had been despatched to Sardinia, was, by his order, stoned to death. Athanasius, a very popular character, being suspected by him of some levity in the language he held among the common people, was sentenced to be burnt alive if he ever did anything of the kind again; and not long afterwards, being accused of having practised magic, he was actually burnt, no pardon being given even to one whose devices had often afforded the emperor great amusement.

6Africanus was an advocate of great diligence, residing in Rome; he had had the government of one province, and aspired to that of another. But when Theodosius, the commander of the cavalry, supported his petition for such an office, the emperor answered him somewhat rudely, “Away with you, O count, and change the head of the man who wishes to have his province changed.” And by this sentence a man of great eloquence perished, only because, like many others, he wished for higher preferment.

7Claudian and Sallust were officers of the Jovian legion, who had gradually risen to the rank of tribunes; but they were accused by some man of the most despicable baseness of having said something in favour of Procopius when he aimed at the imperial power. And when a diligent investigation into this charge had proved ineffectual, the emperor gave orders to the captains of the cavalry who had been employed in it, to condemn Claudian to banishment, and to pass sentence of death upon Sallust, promising that he would reprieve him as he was being led to execution. The sentence was passed, as he commanded; but Sallust was not reprieved, nor was Claudian recalled from exile till after the death of Valentinian. . . . After they had been exposed to frequent tortures.

8Nevertheless after so many persons had been put to the question, some of whom had even expired under the severity of their tortures, still no traces of the alleged crimes could be discovered. In this affair some of the body-guards, who had been sent to arrest certain persons, were, in a most unusual manner, beaten to death.

9The mind shudders at the idea of recapitulating all that took place, and, indeed, dreads to do so, lest we should appear to make a business of pointing out the vices of an emperor who, in other respects, had many good qualities. But this one circumstance may not be passed over in silence nor suppressed, that he kept two ferocious she-bears who were used to eat men; and they had names, Golden Camel and Innocence, and these beasts he took such care of that he had their dens close to his bedchamber; and appointed over them trusty keepers who were bound to take especial care that the odious fury of these monsters should never be checked. At last he had Innocence set free, after he had seen the burial of many corpses which she had torn to pieces, giving her the range of the forests as a reward for her services.

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