The History, 30.9

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

« Amm. 30.8 | Amm. 30.9 | Amm. 30.10 | About This Work »

9It is natural for us, after discussing these topics, if we would act fairly, now to come to his virtuous and laudable actions; since if he had tempered his vices fairly with them he would have been a second Trajan or Marcus Aurelius. Towards the people of the provinces he was very considerate, lightening the burden of their tributes throughout the empire. He also exerted himself in a very beneficial manner in building towns and strengthening the frontiers. He was a strict observer of military discipline, erring only in this respect, that while he punished even slight misconduct on the part of the common soldiers, he allowed the crimes of the officers of rank and of the generals to proceed to greater and greater lengths, and shut his ears against every complaint that was uttered against them. And this partiality of his was the cause of the murmurs in Britain, and the disasters in Africa, and the devastation of Illyricum.

2He was, both at home and abroad, a strict observer of modesty and chastity, keeping his conscience wholly free from all taint of impurity or obscenity, and in consequence he bridled the wantonness of the imperial court as with a strong rein; and he was the more easily able to do this because he had never shown any indulgence to his own relations, whom he either kept in obscurity, or (if he promoted them at all) raised to a very moderate rank, with the exception of his brother, whom, in deference to the necessities of the times, he made his partner in the imperial dignity.

3He was very scrupulous in giving high rank to any one; nor, as long as he was emperor, did any one of the moneyed interest become ruler of a province, nor was any government sold, unless it was at the beginning of his reign, when wicked actions were sometimes committed in the hope that the new prince would be too much occupied to punish them.

4In waging war, and in defending himself from attacks, he was prudent and very skilful, like a veteran of great experience in military affairs. He was a very wise admirer of all that was good, and dissuader from all that was bad; and a very accurate observer of all the details of military service. He wrote with elegance, and described everything with great neatness and skill in composition. He was an inventor of new arms. He had an excellent memory, and a fluent, easy style of speaking, which at times bordered closely upon eloquence. He was a lover of elegant simplicity, and was fond, not so much of profuse banquets, as of entertainments directed by good taste.

5Lastly, he was especially remarkable during his reign for his moderation in this particular, that he kept a middle course between the different sects of religion; and never troubled any one, nor issued any orders in favour of one kind of worship or another; nor did he promulgate any threatening edicts to bow down the necks of his subjects to the form of worship to which he himself was inclined; but he left these parties just as he found them, without making any alterations.

6His body was muscular and strong: the brightness of his hair—the brilliancy of his complexion, with his blue eyes, which always looked askance with a stern aspect—the beauty of his figure—his lofty stature, and the admirable harmony of all his features—filled up the dignity and beauty of an appearance which bespoke a monarch.

« Amm. 30.8 | Amm. 30.9 | Amm. 30.10 | About This Work »

Version menu

Table of contents