The History, 30.6

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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6After this event ambassadors arrived from the Quadi, with humble supplications, entreating peace, and oblivion of the past: and that there might be no obstacle to their obtaining this, they promised to furnish a body of recruits, and some other things which would be of use to the Roman state.

2And after they had been received, and had obtained permission to return with the grant of an armistice which they had solicited (but in truth, our want of supplies and the unfavourable season of the year prevented us from harassing them any longer), they were, by the influence of Equitius, who became security for their good behaviour, admitted into the council-chamber. When introduced they seemed quite overcome by fear, bowing down to the ground; and on being ordered to unfold their message, they urged all the customary pretences and excuses, confirming them by an oath; assuring the council that whatever offence had been committed against any of our people, had not been done by the consent of the nobles of the nation, but only by some foreign banditti who dwelt on the borders of the river; they added further, as a fact quite sufficient to establish the truth of their allegations, that the fortress which had been begun to be built both unjustly and unreasonably, had inflamed the savage temper of those rude men to a great pitch of ferocity.

3By this speech the emperor was excited to most vehement wrath; and as he began to reply to it he grew more indignant, reproaching the whole nation in bitter language, as unmindful of kindness, and ungrateful. But after a time he became pacified, and inclined to a milder view of the case, when suddenly, as if he had been stricken from heaven, his breathing and his voice ceased, and his countenance appeared bloodshot, and in a moment the blood burst forth, and a deadly sweat broke forth over his whole body; and to save him from falling down in the sight of a number of low-born persons, he was led by his servants into one of the private chambers in the interior of the palace.

4When he was placed on his bed, breathing with difficulty, though the vigour of his intellect was not as yet at all diminished, he recognized those who stood around, having been collected by the chamberlains with great promptitude, to prevent any of them being suspected of having murdered him. And as on account of the fever which was racking his bowels it was necessary to open a vein, yet no surgeon could be found, because he had dispersed them all over different districts to cure the soldiers among whom a dangerous pestilence was raging.

5At last, however, one was procured; but though he punctured a vein over and over again, he could not produce a single drop of blood, while all the time his bowels were burning with the intensity of his fever; or (as some fancied) because his limbs were wholly dried up in consequence of some of the passages, which we now call hæmorrhoidal, were closed up and crusted over through the severity of the cold.

6The emperor, from the exceeding violence of his agony, felt that the moment of his death was at hand; and attempted to say something, and to give some orders, as was indicated by a sobbing, which shook his whole frame, a gnashing of the teeth, and a series of violent gestures with his arms, resembling those of boxers with the cæstus: at last he became exhausted, and covered all over with livid spots, and after a severe struggle he expired, in the fifty-fifth year of his age, having reigned twelve years all but a hundred days.

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