Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman History. London: Bohn (1862) Book 20. pp. 211-242.
[Translated by C.D.YONGE]
§ 1. These were the events which took place in Illyricum and in the East. But the next year, that of Constantius's tenth and Julian's third consulship, the affairs of Britain became troubled, in consequence of the incursions of the savage nations of Picts and Scots, who breaking the peace to which they had agreed, were plundering the districts on their borders, and keeping in constant alarm the provinces exhausted by former disasters, Caesar, who was wintering at Paris, having his mind divided by various cares, feared to go to the aid of his subjects across the channel (as we have related Constans to have done), lest he should leave the Gauls without a governor, while the Allemanni were still full of fierce and warlike inclinations.
2. Therefore, to tranquillize these districts by reason or by force, it was decided to send Lupicinus, who was at that time commander of the forces; a man of talent in war, and especially skilful in all that related to camps, but very haughty, and smelling, as one may say, of the tragic buskin, while parts of his conduct made it a question which predominated—his avarice or his cruelty.
3. Accordingly, an auxiliary force of light-armed troops, Heruli and Batavi, with two legions from Moesia, were in the very depth of winter put under the command of this general, with which he marched to Boulogne, and having procured some vessels and embarked his soldiers on them, he sailed with a fair wind, and reached Richborough on the opposite coast, from which place he proceeded to London, that he might there deliberate on the aspect of affairs, and take immediate measures for his campaign. |213
§ 1. In the mean time, after the fall of Amida, and after Ursicinus had returned as commander of the infantry to the emperor's camp (for we have already mentioned that he had been appointed to succeed Barbatio), he was at once attacked by slanderers, who at first tried to whisper his character away, but presently openly brought forward false charges against him.
2. And the emperor, listening to them, since he commonly formed his opinions on vain conjecture, and was always ready to yield his judgment to crafty persons, appointed Arbetio and Florentius, the chief steward, as judges to inquire how it was that the town was destroyed. They rejected the plain and easily proved causes of the disaster, fearing that Eusebius, at that time high chamberlain, would be offended if they admitted proofs which showed undeniably that what had happened was owing to the obstinate inactivity of Sabinianus; and so distorting the truth, they examined only some points of no consequence, and having no bearing on the transaction.
3. Ursicinus felt the iniquity of this proceeding; and said, "Although the emperor despises me, still the importance of this affair is such that it cannot be judged of and punished by any decision lower than that of the emperor. Nevertheless, let him know what I venture to prophesy, that while he is concerning himself about this disaster at Amida, of which he has received a faithful account; and while he gives himself up to the influence of the eunuchs, he will not in the ensuing spring, even if he himself should come with the entire strength of his army, be able to prevent the dismemberment of Mesopotamia." This speech having been related to the emperor with many additions, and a malignant interpretation, Constantius became enraged beyond measure; and without allowing |214 the affair to be discussed, or those things to he explained to him of which he was ignorant, he believed all the calumnies against Ursicinus, and deposing him from his office, ordered him into retirement; promoting Agilo, by a vast leap, to take his place, he having been before only a tribune of a native troop of Scutarii.
§ 1. At the same time one day the sky in the east was perceived to be covered with a thick darkness, and from daybreak to noon the stars were visible throughout; and, as an addition to these terrors, while the light of heaven was thus withdrawn, and the world almost buried in clouds, men, from the length of the eclipse, began to believe that the sun had wholly disappeared. Presently, however, it was seen again like a new moon, then like a half-moon, and at last it was restored entire.
2. A thing which on other occasions did not happen so visibly except when after several unequal revolutions, the moon returns to exactly the same point at fixed intervals; that is to say, when the moon is found in the same sign of the zodiac, exactly opposite to the rays of the sun, and stops there a few minutes, which in geometry are called parts of parts.
3. And although the changes and motions of both sun and moon, as the inquiries into intelligible causes have remarked, perpetually return to the same conjunction at the end of each lunar month, still the sun is not always eclipsed on these occasions, but only when the moon, as by a kind of balance, is in the exact centre between the sun and our sight.
4. In short, the sun is eclipsed, and his brilliancy removed from our sight, when he and the moon, which of all the constellations of heaven is the lowest, proceeding with equal pace in their orbits, are placed in conjunction in spite of the height which separates them (as Ptolemy learnedly explains it), and afterwards return to the dimensions which are called ascending or descending points of the ecliptic conjunctions: or, as the Greeks call them, defective conjunctions. And if these great lights find themselves in the neighbourhood of these points or knots, the eclipse is small. |215
5. But if they are exactly in the knots which form the points of intersection between the ascending and descending path of the moon, then the sky will be covered with denser darkness, and the whole atmosphere becomes so thick that we cannot see what is close to us.
6. Again, the sun is conceived to appear double when a cloud is raised higher than usual, which from its proximity to the eternal fires, shines in such a manner that it forms the brightness of a second orb as from a purer mirror.
7. Now let us come to the moon. The moon sustains a clear and visible eclipse when, being at the full, and exactly opposite to the sun, she is distant from his orb one hundred and eighty degrees, that is, is in the seventh sign; and although this happens at every full moon, still there is not always one eclipse.
8. But since she is always nearest to the earth as it revolves, and the most distant from the rest of the other stars, and sometimes exposes itself to the light which strikes it, and sometimes also is partially obscured by the intervention of the shade of night, which comes over it in the form of a cone; and then she is involved in thick darkness, when the sun, being surrounded by the centre of the lowest sphere, cannot illuminate her with his rays, because the mass of the earth is in the way; for opinions agree that the moon has no light of her own.
9. And when she returns to the same sign of the zodiac which the sun occupies, she is obscured (as has been said), her brightness being wholly dimmed, and this is called a conjunction of the moon.
10. Again the moon is said to be new when she has the sun above her with a slight variation from the perpendicular, and then she appears very thin to mankind, even when leaving the sun she reaches the second sign. Then, when she has advanced further, and shines brilliantly with a sort of horned figure, she is said to be crescent shaped; but when she begins to be a long way distant from the sun, and reaches the fourth sign, she gets a greater light, the sun's rays being turned upon her, and then she is of the shape of a semicircle.
11. As she goes on still further, and reaches the fifth sign, she assumes a convex shape, a sort of hump appearing from each side. And when she is exactly opposite the |216 sun, she shines with a full light, having arrived at the seventh sign; and even while she is there, having advanced but a very little further, she begins to diminish, which we call waning; and as she gets older, she resumes the same shapes that she had while increasing. But it is established by unanimous consent that she is never seen to be eclipsed except in the middle of her course.
12. But when we said that the sun moves sometimes in the ether, sometimes in the lower world, it must be understood that the starry bodies, considered in relation to the universe, neither set nor rise; but only appear to do so to our sight on earth, which is suspended by the motion of some interior spirit, and compared with the immensity of things is but a little point, which causes the stars in their eternal order to appear sometimes fixed in heaven, and at others, from the imperfection of human vision, moving from their places. Let us now return to our original subject.
§ 1. Even while he was hastening to lead succours to the East, which, as the concurrent testimony of both spies and deserters assured him, was on the point of being invaded by the Persians, Constantius was greatly disturbed by the virtues of Julian, which were now becoming renowned among all nations, so highly did fame extol his great labours, achievements, and victories, in having conquered several kingdoms of the Allemanni, and recovered several towns in Gaul which had been plundered and destroyed by the barbarians, and having compelled the barbarians themselves to become subjects and tributaries of the empire.
2. Influenced by these considerations, and fearing lest Julian's influence should become greater, at the instigation, as it is said, of the prefect Florentius, he sent Decentius, the tribune and secretary, to bring away at once the auxiliary troops of the Heruli and Batavi, and the Celtae, and the legion called Petulantes, and three hundred picked men from the other forces; enjoining him to make all speed on the plea that their presence was required with the |217 army which it was intended to march at the beginning of spring against the Parthians.
3. Also, Lupicinus was directed to come as commander of these auxiliary troops with the three hundred picked men, and to lose no time, as it was not known that he had crossed over to Britain; and Sintula, at that time the superintendent of Julian's stables, was ordered to select the best men of the Scutarii and Gentiles, and to bring them also to join the emperor.
4. Julian made no remonstrance, but obeyed these orders, yielding in all respects to the will of the emperor. But on one point he could not conceal his feelings nor keep silence: but entreated that those men might be spared from this hardship who had left their homes on the other side of the Rhine, and had joined his army on condition of never being moved into any country beyond the Alps, urging that if this were known, it might be feared that other volunteers of the barbarian nations, who had often enlisted in our service on similar conditions, would be prevented from doing so in future. But he argued in vain.
5. For the tribune, disregarding his complaints, carried out the commands of the emperor, and having chosen out a band suited for forced marches, of pre-eminent vigour and activity, set out with them full of hope of promotion.
6. And as Julian, being in doubt what to do about the rest of the troops whom he was ordered to send, and revolving all kinds of plans in his mind, considered that the matter ought to be managed with great care, as there was on one side the fierceness of the barbarians, and on the other the authority of the orders he had received (his perplexity being further increased by the absence of the commander of the cavalry), he urged the prefect, who had gone some time before to Vienne under the pretence of procuring corn, but in reality to escape from military troubles, to return to him.
7. For the prefect bore in mind the substance of a report which he was suspected to have sent some time before, and which recommended the withdrawing from the defence of Gaul those troops so renowned for their valour, and already objects of dread to the barbarians. |218
8. The prefect, as soon as he had received Julian's letters, informing him of what had happened, and entreating him to come speedily to him to aid the republic with his counsels, positively refused, being alarmed because the letters expressly declared that in any crisis of danger the prefect ought never to be absent from the general. And it was added that if he declined to give his aid, Julian himself would, of his own accord, renounce the emblems of authority, thinking it better to die, if so it was fated, than to have the ruin of the provinces attributed to him. But the obstinacy of the prefect prevailed, and he resolutely refused to comply with the wishes thus reasonably expressed and enforced.
9. But during the delay which arose from the absence of Lupicinus and of any military movement on the part of the alarmed prefect, Julian, deprived of all assistance in the way of advice, and being greatly perplexed, thought it best to hasten the departure of all his troops from the stations in which they were passing the winter, and to let them begin their march.
10. When this was known, some one privily threw down a bitter libel near the standard of the Petulantes legion, which, among other things, contained these words,—"We are being driven to the farthest parts of the earth like condemned criminals, and our relations will become slaves to the Allemanni after we have delivered them from that first captivity by desperate battles."
11. When this writing was taken to headquarters and read, Julian, considering the reasonableness of the complaint, ordered that their families should go to the East with them, and allowed them the use of the public wagons for the purpose of moving them. And as it was for some time doubted which road they should take, he decided, at the suggestion of the secretary Decentius, that they should go by Paris, where he himself still was, not having moved.
12. And so it was done. And when they arrived in the suburbs, the prince, according to his custom, met them, praising those whom he recognized, and reminding individuals of their gallant deeds, he congratulated them with courteous words, encouraging them to go cheerfully to join the emperor, as they would reap the most worthy rewards |219 of their exertions where power was the greatest and most extensive.
13. And to do them the more honour, as they were going to a great distance, he invited their chiefs to a supper, when he hade them ask whatever they desired. And they, having been treated with such liberality, departed, anxious and sorrowful on two accounts, because cruel fortune was separating them at once from so kind a ruler and from their native land. And with this sorrowful feeling they retired to their camp.
14. But when night came on they broke out into open discontent, and their minds being excited, as his own griefs pressed upon each individual, they had recourse to force, and took up arms, and with a great outcry thronged to the palace, and surrounding it so as to prevent any one from escaping, they saluted Julian as emperor with loud vociferations, insisting vehemently on his coming forth to them; and though they were compelled to wait till daylight, still, as they would not depart, at last he did come forth. And when he appeared, they saluted him emperor with redoubled and unanimous cheers.
15. But he steadily resisted them individually and collectively, at one time showing himself indignant, at another holding out his hands and entreating and beseeching them not to sully their numerous victories with anything unbecoming, and not to let unseasonable rashness and precipitation awaken materials for discord. At last he appeased them, and having addressed them mildly, he added—
16. "I beseech you let your anger depart for a while: without any dissension or attempt at revolution what you wish will easily be obtained. Since you are so strongly bound by love of your country, and fear strange lands to which you are unaccustomed, return now to your homes, certain that you shall not cross the Alps, since you dislike it. And I will explain the matter to the full satisfaction of the emperor, who is a man of great wisdom, and will listen to reason."
17. Nevertheless, after his speech was ended, the cries were repeated with as much vigour and unanimity as ever; and so vehement was the uproar and zeal, which did not even spare reproaches and threats, that Julian was compelled to consent. And being lifted up on the shield of an |220 infantry soldier, and raised up in sight of all, he was saluted as Augustus with one universal acclamation, and was ordered to produce a diadem. And when he said that he had never had one, his wife's coronet or necklace was demanded.
18. And when he protested that it was not fitting for him at his first accession to be adorned with female ornaments, the frontlet of a horse was sought for, so that being crowned therewith, he might have some badge, however obscure, of supreme power. But when he insisted that that also would be unbecoming, a man named Maurus, afterwards a count, the same who was defeated in the defile or the Succi, but who was then only one of the front-rank men of the Petulantes, tore a chain off his own neck, which he wore in his quality of standard-bearer, and placed it boldly on Julian's head, who, being thus brought under extreme compulsion, and seeing that he could not escape the most imminent danger to his life if he persisted in his resistance, consented to their wishes, and promised a largesse of five pieces of gold and a pound of silver to every man.
19. After this Julian felt more anxiety than ever; and keenly alive to the future consequences, neither wore his diadem or appeared in public, nor would he even transact the serious business which pressed upon his attention, but sought retirement, being full of consternation at the strangeness of the recent events. This continued till one of the decurions of the palace (which is an office of dignity) came in great haste to the standards of the Petulantes and of the Celtic legion, and in a violent manner exclaimed that it was a monstrous thing that he who had the day before been by their will declared emperor should have been privily assassinated,
20. When this was heard, the soldiers, as readily excited by what they did not know as by what they did, began to brandish their javelins, and draw their swords, and (as is usual at times of sudden tumult) to flock from every quarter in haste and disorder to the palace. The sentinels were alarmed at the uproar, as were the tribunes and the captain of the guard, and suspecting some treachery from the fickle soldiery, they fled, fearing sudden death to themselves. |221
21. When all before them seemed tranquil, the soldiers stood quietly awhile; and on being asked what was the cause of their sudden and precipitate movement, they at first hesitated, and then avowing their alarm for the safety of the emperor, declared they would not retire till they had been admitted into the council-chamber, and had seen him safe in his imperial robes.
§ 1. When the news of these events reached the troops, whom we have spoken of as having already marched under the command of Sintula, they returned with him quietly to Paris. And an order having been issued that the next morning they should all assemble in the open space in front of the camp, Julian advanced among them, and ascended a tribunal more splendid than usual, surrounded with the eagles, standards, and banners, and guarded by a strong band of armed soldiers.
2. And after a moment's quiet, while he looked down from his height on the countenances of those before him, and saw them all full of joy and alacrity, he kindled their loyalty with a few simple words, as with a trumpet.
3. "The difficulty of my situation, O brave and faithful champions of myself and of the republic, who have often with me exposed your lives for the welfare of the provinces, requires that, since you have now by your resolute decision raised me, your Caesar, to the highest of all dignities, I should briefly set before you the state of affairs, in order that safe and prudent remedies for their new condition may be devised.
4. "While little more than a youth, as you well know, I was for form's sake invested with the purple, and by the decision of the emperor was intrusted to your protection. Since that time I have never forgotten my resolution of a virtuous life: I have been seen with you as the partner of all your labours, when, in consequence of the diminution of the confidence felt in us by the barbarians, terrible disasters fell upon the empire, our cities being stormed, and countless thousands of men being slain, and even the little that was left to us being in a very tottering condition. I think it superfluous to recapitulate how often, in the depth |222 of winter, beneath a frozen sky, at a season when there is usually a cessation from war both by land and sea, we have defeated with heavy loss the Allemanni, previously unconquered.
5. "One circumstance may neither be passed over nor suppressed. On that glorious day which we saw at Strasburg, which brought perpetual liberty to Gaul, we together, I throwing myself among the thickly falling darts, and you being invincible by your vigour and experience, repelled the enemy who poured upon us like a torrent; slaying them as we did with the sword, or driving them to be drowned in the river, with very little loss of our own men, whose funerals we celebrated with glorious panegyrics rather than with mourning.
6. "It is my belief that after such mighty achievements posterity will not be silent respecting your services to the republic, in every country, if you now, in case of any danger or misfortune, vigorously support with your valour and resolution me whom you have raised to the lofty dignity of emperor.
7. "But to maintain things in their due order, so as to preserve to brave men their well-merited rewards and prevent underhand ambition from forestalling your honours, I make this rule in the honourable presence of your counsel, That no civil or military officer shall be promoted from any other consideration than that of his own merits; and he shall be disgraced who solicits promotion for any one on any other ground."
8. The lower class of soldiers, who had long been deprived of rank or reward, were encouraged by this speech to entertain better hopes, and now rising up with a great noise, and beating their shields with their spears, they with unanimous shouts showed their approbation of his language and purpose.
9. And that no opportunity, however brief, might be afforded to disturb so wise an arrangement, the Petulantes and Celtic legion immediately besought him, on behalf of their commissaries, to give them the government of any provinces he pleased, and when he refused them, they retired without being either offended or out of humour.
10. But the very night before the day on which he was |223 thus proclaimed emperor, Julian had mentioned to his most intimate friends that during his slumbers some one had appeared to him in a dream, in the form and habit of the genius of the empire, who uttered these words in a tone of reproach: "For some time, Julian, have I been secretly watching the door of thy palace, wishing to increase thy dignity, and I have often retired as one rejected; but if I am not now admitted, when the opinion of the many is unanimous, I shall retire discouraged and sorrowful. But lay this up in the depth of thy heart, that I will dwell with thee no longer."
§ 1. While these transactions were proceeding in Gaul, to the great anxiety of many, the fierce king of Persia (the advice of Antoninus being now seconded by the arrival of Craugasius), burning with eagerness to obtain Mesopotamia, while Constantius with his army was at a distance, crossed the Tigris in due form with a vast army, and laid siege to Singara with a thoroughly equipped force, sufficient for the siege of a town which, in the opinion of the chief commanders of those regions, was abundantly fortified and supplied.
2. The garrison, as soon as they saw the enemy, while still at a distance, at once closed their gates, and with great spirit thronged to the towers and battlements, collecting on them stones and warlike engines. And then, having made all their preparations, they stood prepared to repel the advancing host if they should venture to approach the walls.
3. Therefore the king, when he arrived and found that, though they would admit some of his nobles near enough to confer with them, he could not, by any conciliatory language, bend the garrison to his wishes, he gave one entire day to rest, and then, at daybreak, on a signal made by the raising of a scarlet flag, the whole city was surrounded by men carrying ladders, while others began to raise engines; all being protected by fences and penthouses while seeking a way to assail the foundation of the walls.
4. Against these attempts the citizens, standing on the lofty battlements, drove back with stones and every kind |224 of missile the assailants who were seeking with great ferocity to find an entrance.
5. For many days the struggle continued without any decided result, many being wounded and killed on both sides. At last, the struggle growing fiercer, one day on the approach of evening a very heavy battering-ram was brought forward among other engines, which battered a round tower with repeated blows, at a point where we mentioned that the city had been laid open in a former siege.
6. The citizens at once repaired to this point, and a violent conflict arose in this small space; torches and firebrands wore brought from all quarters to consume this formidable engine, while arrows and bullets were showered down without cessation on the assailants. But the keenness of the ram prevailed over every means of defence, digging through the mortar of the recently cemented stones, which was still moist and unsettled.
7. And while the contest was thus proceeding with fire and sword, the tower fell, and a path was opened into the city, the place being stripped of its defenders, whom the magnitude of the danger had scattered. The Persian bands raised a wild shout, and without hindrance filled every quarter of the city. A very few of the inhabitants were slain, and all the rest, by command of Sapor, wore taken alive and transported to the most distant regions of Persia.
8. There had been assigned for the protection of this city two legions, the first Flavian and the first Parthian, and a great body of native troops, as well as a division of auxiliary cavalry which had been shut up in it through the suddenness of the attack made upon it. All of these, as I have said, were taken prisoners, without receiving any assistance from our armies.
9. For the greater part of our army was in tents taking care of Nisibis, which was at a considerable distance. But even if it had not been so, no one even in ancient times could easily bring aid to Singara when in danger, since the whole country around laboured under a scarcity of water. And although a former generation had placed this fort very advisedly, to check sudden movements of hostility, yet it was a great burden to the state, having been several times taken, and always involving the loss of its garrison. |225
§ 1. After Singara had fallen, Sapor prudently avoided Nisibis, recollecting the losses which he had several times sustained before it, and turned to the right by a circuitous path, hoping either to subdue by force or to win by bribes the garrison of Bezabde, which its founders also called Phoenice, and to make himself master of that town, which is an exceedingly strong fortress, placed on a hill of moderate height, and close to the banks of the Tigris, having a double wall, as many places have which from their situation are thought to be especially exposed. For its defence three legions had been assigned; the second Flavian, the second Armenian, and the second Parthian, with a large body of archers of the Zabdiceni, a tribe subject to us, in whose territory this town was situated.
2. At the beginning of the siege, the king, with an escort of glittering cuirassiers, himself taller than any of them, rode entirely round the camp, coming up boldly to the very edge of the fosse, where he was at once a mark for the unerring bullets of the balistae, and arrows; but he was so completely covered with thick scale armour that he retired unhurt.
3. Then laying aside his anger, he sent some heralds with all due solemnity, courteously inviting the besieged to consult the safety of their lives, and seeing the desperateness of their situation, to put an end to the siege by a timely surrender; to open their gates and come forth, presenting themselves as suppliants before the conqueror of nations.
4. When these messengers approached the walls, the garrison spared them because they had with them some men of noble birth, who had been made prisoners at Singara, and were well known to the citizens; and out of pity to them no one shot an arrow, though they would give no reply to the proposal of peace.
5. Then a truce being made for a day and night, before dawn on the second day the entire force of the Persians attacked the palisade with ferocious threats and cries, coming up boldly to the walls, where a fierce contest ensued, the citizens resisting with great vigour. |226
6. So that many of the Parthians were wounded, because some of them carrying ladders, and others wicker screens, advanced as it were blindfold, and were not spared by our men. For the clouds of arrows flew thickly, piercing the enemy packed in close order. At last, after sunset the two sides separated, having suffered about equal loss: and the next day before dawn the combat was renewed with greater vehemence than before, the trumpets cheering the men on both sides, and again a terrible slaughter of each took place, both armies struggling with the most determined obstinacy.
7. But on the following day both armies by common consent rested from their terrible exertions, the defenders of the walls and the Persians being equally dismayed. When a Christian priest made sign by gestures that he desired to go forth, and having received a promise that he should be allowed to return in safety, he advanced to the king's tent.
8. When he was permitted to speak, he, with gentle language, urged the Persians to depart to their own country, affirming that after the losses each side had sustained they had reason perhaps to fear even greater disasters in future. But these and other similar arguments were uttered to no purpose. The fierce madness of the king robbing them of their effect, as Sapor swore positively that he would never retire till he had destroyed our camp.
9. Nevertheless a groundless suspicion was whispered against the bishop, wholly false in my opinion, though supported by the assertions of many, that he had secretly informed Sapor what part of the wall to attack, as being internally slight and weak. Though the suspicion derived some corroboration from the fact that afterwards the engines of the enemy were carefully and with great exultation directed against the places which were weakest, or most decayed, as if these who worked them were acquainted with what parts were most easily penetrable.
10. And although the narrowness of the causeway made the approach to the walls hard, and though the battering-rams when equipped were brought forward with great difficulty, from fear of the stones and arrows hurled upon |227 the assailants by the besieged, still neither the balistae nor the scorpions rested a moment, the first shooting javelins, and the latter hurling showers of stones, and baskets on fire, smeared with pitch and tar; and as these were perpetually rolled down, the engines halted as if rooted to the ground, and fiery darts and firebrands well-aimed set them on fire.
11. Still while this was going on, and numbers were falling on both sides, the besiegers were the more eager to destroy a town, strong both by its natural situation and its powerful defences, before the arrival of winter, thinking it impossible to appease the fury of their king if they should fail. Therefore neither abundant bloodshed nor the sight of numbers of their comrades pierced with deadly wounds could deter the rest from similar audacity.
12. But for a long time, fighting with absolute desperation, they exposed themselves to imminent danger; while those who worked the battering-rams were prevented from advancing by the vast weight of millstones, and all kinds of fiery missiles hurled against them.
13. One battering-ram was higher than the rest, and was covered with bull's hides wetted, and being therefore safer from any accident of fire, or from lighted javelins, it led the way in the attacks on the wall with mighty blows, and with its terrible point it dug into the joints of the stones till it overthrew the tower. The tower fell with a mighty crash, and those in it were thrown down with a sudden jerk, and breaking their limbs, or being buried beneath the ruins, perished by various and unexpected kinds of death; then, a safer entrance having been thus found, the multitude of the enemy poured in with their arms.
14. While the war-cry of the Persians sounded in the trembling ears of the defeated garrison, a fierce battle within the narrower bounds raged within the walls, while bands of our men and of the enemy fought hand to hand, being jammed together, with swords drawn on both sides, and no quarter given.
15. At last the besieged, after making head with mighty exertion against the destruction which long seemed doubtful, were overwhelmed with the weight of the countless host which pressed upon them. And the swords |228 of the furious foe cut down all they could find; children were torn from their mother's bosom, and the mothers were slain, no one regarding what he did. Among these mournful scenes the Persians, devoted to plunder, loaded with every kind of booty, and driving before them a vast multitude of prisoners, returned in triumph to their tents.
16. But the king, elated with insolence and triumph, having long been desirous to obtain possession of Phoenice, as a most important fortress, did not retire till he had repaired in the strongest manner that portion of the walls which had been shaken, and till he had stocked it with ample magazines of provisions, and placed in it a garrison of men noble by birth and eminent for their skill in war. For he feared (what indeed happened) that the Romans, being indignant at the loss of this their grand camp, would exert themselves with all their might to recover it.
17. Then, being full of exultation, and cherishing greater hopes than ever of gaining whatever he desired, after taking a few forts of small importance, he prepared to attack Victa, a very ancient fortress, believed to have been founded by Alexander, the Macedonian, situated on the most distant border of Mesopotamia, and surrounded with winding walls full of projecting angles, and so well furnished at all points as to be almost unassailable.
18. And when he had tried every expedient against it, at one time trying to bribe the garrison with promises, at another to terrify them with threats of torture, and employing all kinds of engines such as are used in sieges, after sustaining more injury than he inflicted, he at last retired from his unsuccessful enterprise.
§ 1. These were the events of this year between the Tigris and the Euphrates. And when frequent intelligence of them had reached Constantius, who was in continual dread of Parthian expeditions, and was passing the winter at Constantinople, he devoted greater care than ever to strengthening his frontiers with every kind of warlike equipment. He collected veterans, and enlisted recruits, and increased the legions with reinforcements of vigorous |229 youths, who had already repeatedly signalized their valour in the battles of the eastern campaigns: and beside these he collected auxiliary forces from among the Scythians by urgent requests and promises of pay, in order to set out from Thrace in the spring, and at once march to the disturbed provinces.
2. During the same time Julian, who was wintering at Paris, alarmed at the prospect of the ultimate issue of the events in that district, became full of anxiety, feeling sure, after deep consideration, that Constantius would never give his consent to what had been done in his case, since he had always disdained him as a person of no importance.
3. Therefore, after much reflection on the somewhat disturbed beginning which the present novel state of affairs showed, he determined to send envoys to him to relate all that had taken place; and he gave them letters setting forth fully what had been done, and what ought to be done next, supporting his recommendations by proofs.
4. Although in reality he believed that the emperor was already informed of all, from the report of Decentius, who had returned to him some time before; and of the chamberlains who had recently gone back from Gaul, after having brought him some formal orders. And although he was not in reality vexed at his promotion, still he avoided all arrogant language in his letters, that he might not appear to have suddenly shaken off his authority. Now the following was the purport of his letters.
5. "I have at all times been of the same mind, and have adhered to my original intentions, not less by my conduct than by my promises, as far as lay in my power, as has been abundantly plain from repeated actions of mine.
6. "And up to this time, since you created me Caesar, and exposed me to the din of war,, contented with the power you conferred on me, as a faithful officer I have sent you continued intelligence of all your affairs proceeding according to your wishes; never speaking of my own dangers; though it can easily be proved, that, while the Germans have been routed in every direction, I have always been the first in all toils and the last to allow myself any rest.
7. "But allow me to say, that if any violent change has |230 taken place, as you think, the soldier who has been passing his life in many terrible wars without reward, has only completed what he has long had under consideration, being indignant and impatient at being only under a chief of the second class, as knowing that from a Caesar no adequate reward for his continued exertions and frequent victories could possibly be procured.
8. "And while angry at the feeling that he could neither expect promotion nor annual pay, he had this sudden aggravation to his discontent, that he, a man used to cold climates, was ordered to march to the most remote districts of the East, to be separated from his wife and children, and to be dragged away in want and nakedness. This made him fiercer than usual; and so the troops one night collected and laid siege to the palace, saluting with loud and incessant outcries Julian as emperor.
9. "I shuddered at their boldness, I confess, and withdrew myself. And retiring while I could, I sought safety in concealment and disguise—and as they would not desist, armed, so to say, with the shield of my own free heart, I came out before them all, thinking that the tumult might be appeased by authority, or by conciliatory language.
10. "They became wonderfully excited, and proceeded to such lengths that, when I endeavoured to overcome their pertinacity with my entreaties, they came close up to me, threatening me with instant death. At last I was overcome, and arguing with myself that if I were murdered by them some one else would willingly accept the dignity of emperor, I consented, hoping thus to pacify their armed violence.
11. "This is the plain account of what has been done; and I entreat you to listen to it with mildness. Do not believe that anything else is the truth; and do not listen to malignant men who deal in mischievous whispers, always eager to seek their own gain by causing ill will between princes. Banish flattery, which is the nurse of vice, and listen to the voice of that most excellent of all virtues, justice. And receive with good faith the equitable condition which I propose, considering in your mind that such things are for the interest of the Roman state, and of us also who are united by affection of blood, and by an equality of superior fortune. |231
12. "And pardon me. These reasonable requests of mine I am not so anxious to see carried out, as to see them approved by you as expedient and proper; and I shall with eagerness follow all your instructions.
13. "What requires to be done I will briefly explain. I will provide you some Spanish draught horses, and some youths to mingle with the Gentiles and Scutarii of the Letian tribe, a race of barbarians on the side of the Rhine; or else of those people which have come over to our side. And I promise till the end of my life to do all I can to assist you, not only with gratitude, but with eagerness.
14. "Your clemency will appoint us prefects for our praetorium of known equity and virtue: the appointment of the ordinary judges, and the promotion of the military officers it is fair should be left to me; as also the selection of my guard. For it would be unreasonable, when it is possible to be guarded against, that those persons should be placed about an emperor of whose manners and inclinations he is ignorant.
15. "These things I can further assure you of positively. The Gauls will neither of their own accord, nor by any amount of compulsion, be brought to send recruits to foreign and distant countries, since they have been long harassed by protracted annoyances and heavy disasters, lest the youth of the nation should be destroyed, and the whole people, while recollecting their past sufferings, should abandon themselves to despair for the future.
16. "Nor is it fit to seek from hence assistance against the Parthians, when even now the attempts of the barbarians against this land are not brought to an end, and while, if you will suffer me to tell the truth, these provinces are still exposed to continual dangers on being deprived of all foreign or adequate assistance.
17. "In speaking thus, I do think I have written to you in a manner suited to the interests of the state, both in my demands and my entreaties. For I well know, not to speak in a lofty tone, though such might not misbecome an emperor, what wretched states of affairs, even when utterly desperate and given up, have been before now retrieved and re-established by the agreement of princes, each yielding reciprocally to one another. While it is also |232 plain from the example of our ancestors, that rulers who acknowledge and act upon such principles do somehow ever find the means of living prosperously and happily, and leave behind them to the latest posterity an enviable fame."
18. To these letters he added others of a more secret purport, to be given privily to Constantius, in which he blamed and reproached him; though their exact tenor was not fit to be known, nor if known, fit to be divulged to the public.
19. For the office of delivering these letters, men of great dignity were chosen; namely, Pentadius. the master of the ceremonies, and Eutherius, at that time the principal chamberlain; who were charged, after they had delivered the letters, to relate what they had seen, without suppressing anything; and to take their own measures boldly on all future emergencies which might arise.
20. In the mean time the flight of Florentius, the prefect, aggravated the envy with which these circumstances were regarded. For he, as if he foresaw the commotion likely to arise, as might be gathered from general conversation, from the act of sending for the troops, had departed for Vienne (being also desirous to get out of the way of Julian, whom he had often slandered), pretending to be compelled to this journey for the sake of providing supplies for the army.
21. Afterwards, when he had heard of Julian's being raised to the dignity of emperor, being greatly alarmed, and giving up almost all hope of saving his life, he availed himself of his distance from Julian to escape from the evils which he suspected; and leaving behind him all his family, he proceeded by slow journeys to Constantius; and to prove his own innocence he brought forward many charges of rebellion against Julian.
22. And after his departure, Julian, adopting wise measures, and wishing it to be known that, even if he had him in his power, he would have spared him, allowed his relations to take with them all their property, and even granted them the use of the public conveyances to retire with safety to the East. |233
§1. The envoys whom I have mentioned took equal care to discharge their orders; but while eager to pursue their journey they were unjustly detained by some of the superior magistrates on their road; and having been long and vexatiously delayed in Italy and Illyricum, they at last passed the Bosphorus, and advancing by slow journeys, they found Constantius still staying at Caesarea in Cappadocia, a town formerly known as Mazaca, admirably situated at the foot of Mount Argaeus, and of high reputation.
2. Being admitted to the presence, they received permission to present their letters; but when they were read the emperor became immoderately angry, and looking askance at them so as to make them fear for their lives, he ordered them to be gone without asking them any questions or permitting them to speak.
3. But in spite of his anger he was greatly perplexed to decide whether to move those troops whom he could trust against the Persians, or against Julian; and while he was hesitating, and long balancing between the two plans, he yielded to the useful advice of some of his counsellors, and ordered the army to march to the East.
4. Immediately also he dismissed the envoys, and ordered his quaestor Leonas to go with all speed with letters from him to Julian; in which he asserted that he himself would permit no innovators, and recommended Julian, if he had any regard for his own safety or that of his relations, to lay aside his arrogance, and resume the rank of Caesar.
5. And, in order to alarm him by the magnitude of his preparations, as if he really was possessed of great power, he appointed Nebridius, who was at that time Julian's quaestor, to succeed Florentiusf as prefect of the praetorium, and made Felix the secretary, master of the ceremonies, with several other appointments. Gumoharius, the commander of the heavy infantry, he had already appointed to succeed Lupicinus, before any of these events were known.
6. Accordingly Leonas reached Paris, and was there received as an honourable and discreet man; and the next day, when Julian had proceeded into the plain in front of |234 the camp with a great multitude of soldiers and common people, which he had ordered to assemble on purpose, he mounted a tribune, in order from that high position to be more conspicuous, and desired Leonas to present his letters; and when he had opened the edict which had been sent, and began to read it, as soon as he arrived at the passage that Constantius disapproved of all that had been done, and desired Julian to be content with the power of a Caesar, a terrible shout was raised on all sides,
7. "Julian emperor, as has been decreed by the authority of the province, of the army, and of the republic, which is indeed re-established, but which still dreads the renewed attacks of the barbarians."
8. Leonas heard this, and, after receiving letters from Julian, stating what had occurred, was dismissed in safety: the only one of the emperor's appointments which was allowed to take effect was that of Nebridius, which Julian in his letters had plainly said would be in accordance with his wishes. For he himself had some time before appointed Anatolius to be master of the ceremonies, having been formerly his private secretary: and he had also made such other appointments as seemed useful and safe.
9. And since, while matters were going on in this matter, Lupicinus, as being a proud and arrogant man, was an object of fear, though absent and still in Britain; and since there was a suspicion that if he heard of these occurrences while on the other side of the channel, he might cause disorders in the island, a secretary was sent to Boulogne to take care that no one should be allowed to cross; and as that was contrived, Lupicinus returned without hearing of any of these matters, and so had no opportunity of giving trouble.
§1. But Julian, being gratified at his increase of rank, and at the confidence of the soldiers in him, not to let his good fortune cool, or to give any colour for charging him with inactivity or indolence, after he had sent his envoys to Constantius, marched to the frontier of the province of lower Germany; and having with him all the force |235 which the business in hand demanded, he approached the town of Santon.
2. Then crossing the Rhine, he suddenly entered the district belonging to a Frank tribe, called the Attuarii, men of a turbulent character, who at that very moment were licentiously plundering the districts of Gaul. He attacked them unexpectedly while they were apprehensive of no hostile measures, but were reposing in fancied security, relying on the ruggedness and difficulty of the roads which led into their country, and which no prince within their recollection had ever penetrated. He, however, easily surmounted all difficulties, and having put many to the sword and taken many prisoners, he granted the survivors peace at their request, thinking such a course best for their neighbours.
3. Then with equal celerity he repassed the river, and examining carefully the state of the garrisons on the frontier, and putting them in a proper state, he marched towards Basle; and having recovered the places which the barbarians had taken and still retained in their hands, and having carefully strengthened them, he went to Vienne, passing through Besancon, and there took up his winter quarters.
§ 1. These were the events which took place in Gaul, and while they were thus conducted with prudence and good fortune, Constantius, having summoned Arsaces, king of Armenia, and having received him with great courtesy, advised and exhorted him to continue friendly and faithful to us.
2. For he had heard that the king of Persia had often tried by deceits and threats, and all kinds of stratagems, to induce him to forsake the Roman alliance and join his party.
3. But he, vowing with many oaths that he would rather lose his life than change his opinion, received ample rewards, and returned to his kingdom with the retinue which he brought with him; and never ventured at any subsequent time to break any of his promises, being bound by many |236 ties of gratitude to Constantius. The strongest tie of all being that the emperor had given him for a wife, Olympias, the daughter of Abladius, formerly prefect of the praetorium, who had once been betrothed to his own brother Constans.
4. And when Arsaces had been dismissed, Constantius left Cappadocia, and going by Melitina, a town of the lesser Armenia, and Lacotene, and Samosata, he crossed the Euphrates and arrived at Edessa. Stopping some time in each town, while waiting for divisions of soldiers who were flocking in from all quarters, and for sufficient supplies of provisions. And after the autumnal equinox, he proceeded onwards on his way to Amida.
5. When he approached the walls of that town, and saw everything buried in ashes, he groaned and wept, recollecting what sufferings the wretched city had suffered. And Ursulus, the treasurer, who happened to be present, was moved with indignation, and exclaimed, "Behold the courage with which cities are defended by our soldiers; men for whose pay the whole wealth of the empire is exhausted." This bitter speech the crowd of soldiers afterwards recollected at Chalcedon, when they rose up and destroyed him.
6. Then proceeding onward in close column, he reached Bezabde, and having fixed his camp there, and fortified it with a rampart and a deep fosse, as he took a long ride round the camp, he satisfied himself, by the account which he received from several persons, that those places in the walls which the carelessness of ancient times had allowed to become decayed, had been repaired so as to be stronger than ever.
7. And, not to omit anything which was necessary to do before the heat of the contest was renewed, he sent prudent men to the garrison to offer them two conditions; either to withdraw to their own country, giving up what did not belong to them, without causing bloodshed by resistance, or else to become subjects of the Romans, in which case they should receive rank and rewards. But when they, with native obstinacy, resisted the demands as became men of noble birth, who had been hardened by dangers and labours, everything was prepared for the siege. |237
8. Therefore the soldiers with alacrity, in dense order, and cheered by the sound of trumpets, attacked every side of the town; and the legions, being protected by various kinds of defences, advanced in safety, endeavouring by slow degrees to overthrow the walls; and because all kinds of missiles were poured down upon them, which disjoined the union of their shields, they fell back, the signal for a retreat being given.
9. Then a truce was agreed upon for one day; but the day after, having protected themselves more skilfully, they again raised their war-cry, and tried on every side to scale the walls. And although the garrison, having stretched cloths before them not to be distinguished, lay concealed within the walls; still, as often as necessity required, they boldly put out their arms and hurled down stones and javelins on their assailants below.
10. And while the wicker penthouses were advanced boldly and brought close to the walls, the besieged dropped upon them heavy casks and millstones, and fragments of pillars, by the overpowering weight of which the assailants were crushed, their defences torn to pieces, and wide openings made in them, so that they incurred terrible dangers, and were again forced to retreat.
11. Therefore, on the tenth day from the beginning of the siege, when the confidence of our men began to fill the town with alarm, we determined on bringing up a vast battering-ram, which, after having destroyed Antioch with it sometime before, the Persians had left at Carrhae; and as soon as that appeared, and was begun to be skilfully set up, it cowed the spirits of the besieged, so that they were almost on the point of surrendering, when they again plucked up courage and prepared means for resisting this engine.
12. From this time neither their courage nor their ingenuity failed; for as the ram was old, and it had been taken to pieces for the facility of transporting it, so while it was being put together again, it was attacked with great exertions and vigour by the garrison, and defended with equal valour and firmness by the besiegers; and engines hurling showers of stones, and slings, and missiles of all sorts, slew numbers on each side. Meantime, high mounds rose up with speedy growth; and the siege grew fiercer and sterner |238 daily; many of our men being slain because, fighting as they were under the eye of the emperor, and eager for reward, they took off their helmets in order to be the more easily recognized, and so with bare heads, were an easy mark for the skilful archers of the enemy.
13. The days and nights being alike spent in watching, made each side the more careful; and the Persians, being alarmed at the vast height to which the mounds were now carried, and at the enormous ram, which was accompanied by others of smaller size, made great exertions to bum them, and kept continually shooting firebrands and incendiary missiles at them; but their labour was vain, because the chief part of them was covered with wet skins and cloths, and some parts also had been steeped in alum, so that the fire might fall harmless upon them.
14. But the Romans, driving these rams on with great courage, although they had difficulty in defending themselves, disregarded danger, however imminent, in the hope of making themselves masters of the town.
15. And on the other hand, when the enormous ram was brought against the tower to which it was applied, as if it could at once throw it down, the garrison, by a clever contrivance, entangled its projecting iron head, which in shape was like that of a ram, with long cords on both sides, to prevent its being drawn back and then driven forward with great force, and to hinder it from making any serious impression on the walls by repeated blows; and meanwhile they poured on it burning pitch, and for a longtime these engines were fixed at the point to which they hud been advanced, and exposed to all the stones and javelins which were hurled from the walls.
16. By this time the mounds were raised to a considerable height, and the garrison, thinking that unless they used extraordinary vigilance their destruction must be at hand, resorted to extreme audacity; and making an unexpected sally from the gates, they attacked our front rank, and with all their might hurled firebrands and iron braziers loaded with fire against the rams.
17. But after a fierce but undecided conflict, the bulk of them were driven within the walls, without having succeeded in their attempt; and presently the battlements were attacked from the mounds which the Romans had |239 raised, with arrows and slings and lighted javelins, which flew over the roofs of the towers, but did no harm, means having been prepared to extinguish any flames.
18. And as the ranks on both sides became thinner, and the Persians were now reduced to extremities unless some aid could be found, they prepared with redoubled energy a fresh sally from the camp: accordingly, they made a sudden sally, supported by increased numbers, and among the armed men were many bearing torches, and iron baskets full of fire, and faggots; and all kinds of things best adapted for setting fire to the works of the besiegers were hurled against them.
19. And because the dense clouds of smoke obscured the light, when the trumpet gave the signal for battle, the legions came up with quick step; and as the eagerness of the conflict grew hotter, after they had engaged, suddenly all the engines, except the great ram, caught fire from the flames which were hurled at them; but the ropes which held the chief ram were broken asunder, and that the vigorous efforts of some gallant men saved when it was half burnt.
20. When the darkness of night terminated the combat, only a short time was allowed to the soldiers for rest; but when they had been refreshed by a little food and sleep, they were awakened by their captains, and ordered to remove their works away from the walls of the town, and prepare to fight at closer quarters from the lofty mounds which were untouched by the flames, and now commanded the walls. And to drive the defenders from the walls, on the summit of the mounds they stationed two balistae, in fear of which they thought that none of the enemy would venture even to look out.
21. After having taken these efficacious measures, a triple line of our men, having a more threatening aspect than usual from the nodding cones of their helmets (many of them also bearing ladders), attempted about twilight to scale the walls. Arms clashed and trumpets sounded, and both sides fought with equal boldness and ardour. The Romans, extending their lines more widely, when they saw the Persians hiding from fear of the engines which had been stationed on the mounds, battered the wall with their ram, and with spades, and axes, and levers, and ladders, pressed |240 fiercely on, while missiles from each side flew without ceasing.
22. But the Persians were especially pressed by the various missiles shot from the balistae, which, from the artificial mounds, came down upon them in torrents; and having become desperate, they rushed on, fearless of death, and distributing their force as if at the last extremity, they left some to guard the walls, while the rest, secretly opening a postern gate, rushed forth valiantly with drawn swords, followed by others who carried concealed fire.
23. And while the Romans at one moment were pressing on those who retreated, at another receiving the assault of those who attacked them, those who carried the fire crept round by a circuitous path, and pushed the burning coals in among the interstices of one of the mounds, which was made up of branches of trees, and rushes, and bundles of reeds. This soon caught fire and was utterly destroyed, the soldiers themselves having great difficulty in escaping and saving their engines.
24. But when the approach of evening broke off the conflict, and the two sides separated to snatch a brief repose, the emperor, after due reflection, resolved to change his plans. Although many reasons of great urgency pressed him to force on the destruction of Phoenice, as of a fortress which would prove an impregnable barrier to the inroads of the enemy, yet the lateness of the season was an objection to persevering any longer. He determined, therefore, while he preserved his position, to carry on the siege for the future by slight skirmishes, thinking that the Persians would be forced to surrender from want of provisions, which, however, turned out very different.
25. For while the conflict was proceeding sharply, the heavens became moist, and watery clouds appeared with threatening darkness; and presently the ground got so wet from continual rain, that the whole country was changed into an adhesive mud (for the soil is naturally rich), and every plan was thrown into confusion; meantime, thunder with incessant crashes and ceaseless lightning filled men's minds with fear.
20. To these portents were added continual rainbows. A short explanation will serve to show how these |241 appearances are formed. The vapours of the earth becoming warmer, and the watery particles gathering in clouds, and thence being dispersed in spray, and made brilliant by the fusion of rays, turn upwards towards the fiery orb of the sun, and form a rainbow, which sweeps round with a large curve because it is spread over our world, which physical investigations place on the moiety of a sphere.
27. Its appearance, as far as mortal sight can discern, is, in the first line yellow, in the second tawny, in the third scarlet, in the fourth purple, and in the last a mixture of blue and green.
28. And it is so tempered with this mixed beauty, as mankind believe, because its first portion is discerned in a thin diluted state, of the same colour as the air which surrounds it; the next line is tawny, that is a somewhat richer colour than yellow; the third is scarlet, because it is opposite to the bright rays of the sun, and so pumps up and appropriates, if one may so say, the most subtle portion of its beams; the fourth is purple, because the density of the spray by which the splendour of the sun's rays is quenched shines between, and so it assumes a colour near that of flame; and as that colour is the more diffused, it shades off into blue and green.
29. Others think that the rainbow is caused by the rays of the sun becoming infused into some dense cloud, and pouring into it a liquid light, which, as it can find no exit, falls back upon itself, and shines the more brilliantly because of a kind of attrition; and receives those hues which are most akin to white from the sun above; its green hues from the cloud under which it lies, as often happens in the sea, where the waters which beat upon the shore are white, and those farther from the land, which, as being so, are more free from any admixture, are blue.
30. And since it is an indication of a change in the atmosphere (as we have already said), when in a clear sky sudden masses of clouds appear, or on the other hand, when the sky changed from a gloomy look to a joyful serenity, therefore we often read in the poets that Iris is sent from heaven when a change is required in the condition of any present affairs. There are various other opinions which it would be superfluous now to enumerate, since my narration must hasten back to the point from which it digressed. |242
31. By these and similar events the emperor was kept wavering between hope and fear, as the severity of winter was increasing, and he suspected ambuscades in the country, which was destitute of roads; fearing also, among other things, the discontent of the exasperated soldiers. And it further goaded his unquiet spirit to return balked of his purpose, after, as it were, the door of the rich mansion was opened to him.
32. However, giving up his enterprise as fruitless, he returned into the unwelcome Syria, to winter at Antioch, after having suffered a succession of melancholy disasters. For, as if some unfriendly constellation so governed events, Constantius himself, while warring with the Persians, was always attended by adverse fortune; on which account he hoped at least to gain victories by means of his generals; and this, as we remember, usually happened.
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