Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman History. London: Bohn (1862) Book 22. pp. 276-316.
[Translated by C.D.YONGE]
§ 1. While the variable events of fortune were bringing to pass these events in different parts of the world, Julian, amid the many plans which he was revolving while in Illyricum, was continually consulting the entrails of victims and watching the flight of birds in his eagerness to know the result of what was about to happen.
2. Aprunculus Gallus, an orator and a man of skill as a soothsayer, who was afterwards promoted to be governor of Narbonne, announced these results to him, being taught beforehand by the inspection of a liver, as he affirmed, which he had seen covered with a double skin. And while Julian was fearing that he was inventing stories to correspond with his desires, and was on that account out of humour, he himself beheld a far more favourable omen, which clearly predicted the death of Constantius. For at the same moment that that prince died in Cilicia, the soldier who, as he was going to mount his horse, had supported him with his right hand, fell down, on which Julian at once exclaimed, in the hearing of many persons, that he who had raised him to the summit had fallen.
3. But he did not change his plans, but remained within the border of Dacia, still being harassed with many fears. Nor did he think it prudent to trust to conjectures, which might perhaps turn out contrary to his expectations.
§ 1. But while he was thus in suspense, the ambassadors, Theolaiphus and Aligildus, who had been despatched to |278 him to announce the death of Constantius, suddenly arrived, adding that that prince with his last words had named him as his successor in his dignity.
2. As soon as he learnt this, being delighted at his deliverance from the turmoils of war and its consequent disorders, and fully relying on the prophecies he had received, having besides often experienced the advantages of celerity of action, he issued orders to march to Thrace. Therefore speedily advancing his standards, he passed over the high ground occupied by the Succi, and marched towards the ancient city of Eumolpias, now called Philippopolis, all his army following him with alacrity.
3. For they now saw that the imperial power which they were on their way to seize, in the face of imminent danger, was in a measure beyond their hopes put into their hands by the course of nature. And as report is wont marvellously to exaggerate events, a rumour got abroad that Julian, formidable both by sea and land, had entered Heraclea, called also Perinthus, borne over its unresisting walls on the chariot of Triptolemus, which from its rapid movements the ancients, who loved fables, had stated to be drawn by flying serpents and dragons.
4. When he arrived at Constantinople, people of every age and sex poured forth to meet him, as though he were some one dropped from heaven. On the eleventh of December he was received with respectful duty by the senate, and by the unanimous applause of the citizens, and was escorted into the city by vast troops of soldiers and civilians, marshalled like an army, while all eyes were turned on him, not only with the gaze of curiosity, but with great admiration.
5. For it seemed to them like a dream, that a youth in the flower of his age, of slight body, but renowned for great exploits, after many victories over barbarian kings and nations, having passed from city to city with unparalleled speed, should now, by an accession of wealth and power as rapid as the spread of fire, have become the unresisted master of the world; and the will of God itself having given him the empire, should thus have obtained it without any injury to the state. |279
§ 1. His first step was to give to Secundus Sallustius, whom he promoted to be prefect of the praetorium, being well assured of his loyalty, a commission to conduct some important investigations, joining with him as colleagues Mamertinus, Arbetio, Agilo, and Nevitta, and also Jovinus, whom he had recently promoted to the command of the cavalry in Illyricum.
2. They all went to Chalcedon, and in the presence of the chiefs and tribunes, the Jovian and Herculian legions, they tried several causes with too much rigour, though there were some in which it was undeniable that the accused were really guilty.
3. They banished Palladius, the master of the ceremonies, to Britain, though there was but a suspicion that he had prejudiced Constantius against Gallus, while he was master of the ceremonies under that prince as Caesar.
4. They banished Taurus, who had been prefect of the praetorium, to Vercelli, who, to all persons capable of distinguishing between right and wrong, will appear very excusable in respect to the act for which he was condemned. For his offence was only that, fearing a violent disturbance which had arisen, he fled to the protection of his prince. And the treatment inflicted on him could not be read without great horror, when the preamble of the public accusation began thus:—"In the consulship of Taurus and Florentius, Taurus being brought before the criers—"
5. Pentadius also was destined for a similar sentence; the charge against him being that, having been sent on a mission by Constantius, he had made notes of the replies given by Gallus when he was examined on several subjects before he was put to death. But as he defended himself with justice, he was at last discharged.
6. With similar iniquity, Florentius, at that time master of the ceremonies, the son of Nigrinianus, was banished to Boae, an island on the coast of Dalmatia. The other Florentius, who had been prefect of the praetorium, and was then consul, being alarmed at the sudden change in the aspect of affairs, in order to save himself from danger, |280 hid himself and his wife for some time, and never returned during Julian's life; still he was, though absent, condemned to death.
7. In the same way, Evagrius, the comptroller of the private demesnes of the emperor, and Saturninus, late superintendent of the palace, and Cyrinus, late secretary, were all banished. But Justice herself seems to have mourned over the death of Ursulus, the treasurer, and to accuse Julian of ingratitude to him. For when, as Caesar, he was sent to the west, with the intent that he was to be kept in great poverty, and without any power of making presents to any of his soldiers, in order to make them less inclined to favour any enterprise which he might conceive, this same Ursulus gave him letters to the superintendent of the Gallic treasury, desiring him to give the Caesar whatever he might require.
8. After his death, Julian, feeling that he was exposed to general reproach and execration, thinking that an unpardonable crime could be excused, affirmed that the man had been put to death without his being aware of it, pretending that he had been massacred by the fury of the soldiers, who recollected what he had said (as we mentioned before) when he saw the destruction of Amida.
9. And therefore it seemed to be through fear, or else from a want of understanding what was proper, that he appointed Arbetio, a man always vacillating and arrogant, to preside over these investigations, with others of the chief officers of the legions present for the look of the thing, when he knew that he had been one of the chief enemies to his safety, as was natural in one who had borne a distinguished share in the successes of the civil war.
10. And though these transactions which I have mentioned vexed those who wished him well, those which came afterwards were carried out with a proper vigour and severity.
11. It was only a deserved destiny which befel Apodemius, who had been the chief steward, and whose cruel machinations with respect to the deaths of Silvanus and Gallus we have already mentioned, and Paulus, the secretary, surnamed "The Chain," men who are never spoken of without general horror, and who were now sentenced to be burnt alive. |281
12. They also sentenced to death Eusebius, the chief chamberlain of Constantius, a man equally full of ambition and cruelty, who from the lowest rank had been raised so high as even almost to lord it over the emperor, and who had thus become wholly intolerable; and whom Nemesis, who beholds all human affairs, having often, as the saying is, plucked him by the ear, and warned to conduct himself with more moderation, now, in spite of his struggles, hurled headlong from his high position.
§ 1. After this Julian directed his whole favour and affection to people of every description about the palace; not acting in this like a philosopher anxious for the discovery of truth.
2. For he might have been praised if he had retained a few who were moderate in their disposition, and of proved honesty and respectability. We must, indeed, confess that the greater part of them had nourished as it were such a seed-bed of all vices, which they spread abroad so as to infect the whole republic with evil desires, and did even more injury by their example than by the impunity which they granted to crimes.
3. Some of them had been fed on the spoils of temples, had smelt out gain on every occasion, and having raised themselves from the lowest poverty to vast riches, had set no bounds to their bribery, their plunder, or their extravagance, being at all times accustomed to seize what belonged to others.
4. From which habit the beginnings of licentious life sprang up, with perjuries, contempt of public opinion, and an insane arrogance, sacrificing good faith to infamous gains.
5. Among which vices, debauchery and unrestrained gluttony grew to a head, and costly banquets superseded, triumphs for victories. The common use of silken robes prevailed, the textile arts were encouraged, and above all was the anxious care about the kitchen. Vast spaces were sought out for ostentatious houses, so vast that if the consul Cincinnatus had possessed as much land, he would have lost the glory of poverty after his dictatorship. |282
6. To these shameful vices was added the loss of military discipline; the soldier practised songs instead of his battle-cry, and a stone would no longer serve him for a bed, as formerly, but he wanted feathers and yielding mattresses, and goblets heavier than his sword, for he was now ashamed to drink out of earthenware; and he required marble houses, though it is recorded in ancient histories that a Spartan soldier was severely punished for venturing to appear under a roof at all during a campaign.
7. But now the soldier was fierce and rapacious towards his own countrymen, but towards the enemy he was inactive and timid, by courting different parties, and in times of peace he had acquired riches, and was now a judge of gold and precious stones, in a manner wholly contrary to the recollection of very recent times.
8. For it is well known that when, in the time of the Caesar Maximian, the camp of the king of Persia was plundered; a common soldier, after finding a Persian bag full of pearls, threw the gems away in ignorance of their value, and went away contented with the mere beauty of his bit of dressed leather.
9. In those days it also happened that a barber who had been sent for to cut the emperor's hair, came handsomely dressed; and when Julian saw him, he was amazed, and said, "I did not send for a superintendent, but for a barber." And when he was asked what he made by his business, he answered that he every day made enough to keep twenty persons, and as many horses, and also a large annual income, besides many sources of accidental gain.
10. And Julian, angry at this, expelled all the men of this trade, and the cooks, and all who made similar profits, as of no use to him, telling them, however, to go where they pleased.
§ 1. And although from his earliest childhood he was inclined to the worship of the gods, and gradually, as he grew up, became more attached to it, yet he was influenced by many apprehensions which made him act in things relating to that subject as secretly as he could. |283
2. But when his fears were terminated, and he found himself at liberty to do what he pleased, he then showed his secret inclinations, and by plain and positive decrees ordered the temples to be opened, and victims to be brought to the altars for the worship of the gods.
3. And in order to give more effect to his intentions, he ordered the priests of the different Christian sects, with the adherents of each sect, to be admitted into the palace, and in a constitutional spirit expressed his wish that their dissensions being appeased, each without any hindrance might fearlessly follow the religion he preferred.
4. He did this the more resolutely because, as long licence increased their dissensions, he thought he should never have to fear the unanimity of the common people, having found by experience that no wild beasts are so hostile to men as Christian sects in general are to one another. And he often used to say, "Listen to me, to whom the Allemanni and Franks have listened;" imitating in this an expression of the ancient emperor Marcus Aurelius. But he omitted to notice that there was a great difference between himself and his predecessor.
5. For when Marcus was passing through Palestine, on his road to Egypt, he is said, when wearied by the dirt and rebellious spirit of the Jews, to have often exclaimed with sorrow, "O Marcomanni, O Quadi, O Sarmatians, I have at last found others worse than you!"
§ 1. About the same time many Egyptians, excited by various rumours, arrived at Constantinople; a race given to controversy, and extremely addicted to habits of litigation, covetous, and apt to ask payment of debts due to them over and over again; and also, by way of escaping from making the payments due to them, to accuse the rich of embezzlement, and the tax gatherers of extortion.
2. These men, collecting into one body, came screeching like so many jackdaws, claiming in a rude manner the attention of the emperor himself, and of the prefects of the praetorium, and demanding the restoration of the contributions which they had been compelled to furnish, justly or unjustly, for the last seventy years. |284
3. And as they hindered the transaction of any other business, Julian issued an edict in which he ordered them all to go to Chalcedon, promising that he himself also would soon come there, and settle all their business.
4. And when they had gone, an order was given to all the captains of ships which go to and fro, that none of them should venture to take an Egyptian for a passenger. And as this command was carefully observed, their obstinacy in bringing false accusations came to an end, and they all, being disappointed in their object, returned home.
5. After which, as if at the dictation of justice herself, a law was published forbidding any one to exact from any officer the restitution of things which that officer had legally received.
§ 1. At the beginning of the new year, when the consular records had received the names of Mamertinus and Nevitta, the prince humbled himself by walking in their train with other men of high rank; an act which some praised, while others blame it as full of affectation, and mean.
2. Afterwards, when Mamertinus was celebrating the Circensian games, Julian, following an ancient fashion, manumitted some slaves, who were introduced by the consul's officer; but afterwards, being informed that on that day the supreme jurisdiction belonged to another, he fined himself ten pounds of gold as an offender.
3. At the same time he was a continual attendant in the court of justice, settling many actions which were brought in all kinds of cases. One day while he was sitting as judge, the arrival of a certain philosopher from Asia named Maximus, was announced, on which he leapt down from the judgment seat in an unseemly manner, and forgetting himself so far as to run at full speed from the hall, he kissed him, and received him with great reverence, and led him into the palace, appearing by this unseasonable ostentation a seeker of empty glory, and forgetful of those admirable words of Cicero, which describe people like him.
4. "Those very philosophers inscribe their names on the identical books which they write about the contempt of |285 glory, in order that they may be named and extolled in that very thing in which they proclaim their contempt for mention and for praise."
5. Not long afterwards, two of the secretaries who had been banished came to him, boldly promising to point out the hiding-place of Florentius if he would restore them to their rank in the army: but he abused them, and called them informers; adding that it did not become an emperor to be led by underhand information to bring back a man who had concealed himself out of fear of death, and who perhaps would not long be left in his retreat unpardoned.
6. On all these occasions Praetextatus was present, a senator of a noble disposition and of old-fashioned, dignity; who at that time had come to Constantinople on his own private affairs, and whom Julian by his own choice selected as governor of Achaia with the rank of proconsul.
7. Still, while thus diligent in correcting civil evils, Julian did not omit the affairs of the army: continually appointing over the soldiers officers of long-tried worth; repairing the exterior defences of all the cities throughout Thrace, and taking great care that the soldiers on the banks of the Danube, who were exposed to the attacks of the barbarians, and who, as he heard were doing their duty with vigilance and courage, should never be in want of arms, clothes, pay, or provisions.
8. And while superintending these matters he allowed nothing to be done carelessly: and when those about him advised him to attack the Gauls as neighbours who were always deceitful and perfidious, he said he wished for more formidable foes; for that the Gallic merchants were enough for them, who sold them at all times without any distinction of rank.
9. While he gave his attention to these and similar matters, his fame was spreading among foreign nations for courage, temperance, skill in war, and eminent endowments of every kind of virtue, so that he gradually became renowned throughout the whole world.
10. And as the fear of his approach pervaded both neighbouring and distant countries, embassies hastened to him with unusual speed from all quarters at one time; the |286 people beyond the Tigris and the Armenians sued for peace. At another the Indian tribes vied with each other, sending nobles loaded with gifts even from the Maldive Islands and Ceylon; from the south the Moors offered themselves as subjects of the Roman empire; from the north, and also from those hot climates through which the Phasis passes on its way to the sea, and from the people of the Bosphorus, and from other unknown tribes came ambassadors entreating that on the payment of annual duties they might be allowed to live in peace within their native countries.
§ 1. The time is now appropriate, in my opinion, since in treating of this mighty prince we are come to speak of these districts, to explain perspicuously what we have learnt by our own eyesight or by reading, about the frontiers of Thrace and the situation of the Black Sea.
2. The lofty mountains of Athos in Macedonia, once made passable for ships by the Persians, and the Euboean rocky promontory of Caphareus, where Nauplius the father of Palamedes wrecked the Grecian fleet, though far distant from one another, separate the Aegean from the Thessalian Sea, which, extending as it proceeds, on the right, where it is widest, is full of the Sporades and Cyclades islands, which latter are so called because they lie round Delos, an island celebrated as the birthplace of the gods; on the left it washes Imbros, Tenedos, Lemnos, and Thasos; and when agitated by any gale it beats violently on Lesbos.
3. From thence, with a receding current, it flows past the temple of Apollo Sminthius, and Troas, and Troy, renowned for the adventures of heroes; and on the west it forms the Gulf of Melas, near the head of which is seen Abdera, the abode of Protagoras and Democritus; and the blood-stained seat of the Thracian Diomede; and the valleys through which the Maritza flows on its way to its waves; and Maronea, and Aenus, founded under sad auspices and soon deserted by Aeneas, when under the guidance of the gods he hastened onwards to ancient Italy.
4. After this it narrows gradually, and, as if by a kind of natural wish to mingle with its waters, it rushes |287 towards the Black Sea; and taking a portion of it forms a figure like the Greek Φ. Then separating the Hellespont from Mount Rhodope, it passes by Cynossema, where Hecuba is supposed to be buried, and Caela, and Sestos, and Callipolis, and passing by the tombs of Ajax and Achilles, it touches Dardanus and Abydos (where Xerxes, throwing a bridge across, passed over the waters on foot), and Lampsacus, given to Themistocles by the king of Persia; and Parion, founded by Parius the son of Jason.
5. Then curving round in a semicircle and separating the opposite lands more widely in the round gulf of the sea of Marmora, it washes on the east Cyzicus, and Dindyma, the holy seat of the mighty mother Cybele, and Apamia, and Cius, and Astacus afterwards called Nicomedia from the King Nicomedes.
6. On the west it beats against the Chersonese, Aegospotami where Anaxagoras predicted that stones would fall from heaven, and Lysimachia, and the city which Hercules founded and consecrated to the memory of his comrade Perinthus. And in order to preserve the full and complete figure of the letter Φ, in the very centre of the circular gulf lies the oblong island of Proconnesus, and also Besbicus.
7. Beyond the upper end of this island the sea again becomes very narrow where it separates Bithynia from Europe, passing by Chalcedon and Chrysopolis, and some other places of no importance.
8. Its left shore is looked down upon by Port Athyras and Selymbria, and Constantinople, formerly called Byzantium, a colony of the Athenians, and Cape Ceras, having at its extremity a lofty tower to serve as a lighthouse to ships—from which cape also a very cold wind which often arises from that point is called Ceratas.
9. The sea thus broken, and terminated by mingling with the seas at each end, and now becoming very calm, spreads out into wider waters, as far as the eye can reach both in length and breadth. Its entire circuit, if one should measure it as one would measure an island, sailing along its shores, is 23,000 furlongs according to Eratosthenes, Hecataeus, and Ptolemy, and other accurate investigators of subjects of this kind, resembling, by the consent |288 of all geographers, a Scythian bow, held at both ends by its string.
10. When the sun rises from the eastern ocean, it is shut in by the marshes of the Sea of Azov. On the west it is bounded by the Roman provinces. On the north lie many tribes differing in language and manners; its southern side describes a gentle curve.
11. Over this extended space are dispersed many Greek cities, which have for the most part been founded by the people of Miletus, an Athenian colony, long since established in Asia among the other Ionians by Nileus, the son of the famous Codrus, who is said to have devoted himself to his country in the Doric war.
12. The thin extremities of the bow at each end are commanded by the two Bospori, the Thracian and Cimmerian, placed opposite to one another; and they are called Bospori because through them the daughter of Inachus, who was changed (as the poets relate) into a cow, passed into the Ionian sea.
13. The right curve of the Thracian Bosphorus is covered by a side of Bithynia, formerly called Mygdonia, of which province Thynia and Mariandena are districts; as also is Bebrycia, the inhabitants of which were delivered from the cruelty of Amycus by the valour of Pollux; and also the remote spot in which the soothsayer Phineus was terrified by the threatening flight of the Harpies.
14. The shores are curved into several long bays, into which fall the rivers Sangarius, and Phyllis, and Bizes, and Rebas; and opposite to them at the lower end are the Symplegades, two rocks which rise into abrupt peaks, and which in former times were accustomed to dash against one another with a fearful crash, and then rebounding with a sharp spring, to recoil once more against the object already struck. Even a bird could by no speed of its wings pass between these rocks as they pass and meet again without being crushed to death.
15. These rocks, when the Argo, the first of all ships, hastening to Colchis to carry off the golden fleece, had passed unhurt by them, stood immovable for the future, the power of the whirlwind which used to agitate |289 them being broken; and are now so firmly united that no one who saw them now would believe that they had ever been separated; if all the poems of the ancients did not agree on the point.
16. After this portion of Bithynia, the next provinces are Pontus and Paphlagonia, in which are the noble cities of Heraclea, and Sinope, and Polemonium, and Amisus, and Tios, and Amastris, all originally founded by the energy of the Greeks; and Cerasus, from which Lucullus brought the cherry, and two lofty islands which contain the famous cities of Trapezus and Pityus.
17. Beyond these places is the Acherusian cave, which the natives call μυχοπόντιον; and the harbour of Acone, and several rivers, the Acheron, the Arcadius, the Iris, the Tibris, and near to that the Parthenius, all of which proceed with a rapid stream into the sea. Close to them is the Thermodon, which rises in Mount Armonius, and flows through the forest of Themiscyra, to which necessity formerly compelled the Amazons to migrate.
18. The Amazons, as may be here explained, after having ravaged their neighbours by bloody inroads, and overpowered them by repeated defeats, began to entertain greater projects; and perceiving their own strength to be superior to their neighbours', and being continually covetous of their possessions, they forced their way through many nations, and attacked the Athenians. But they were routed in a fierce battle, and their flanks being uncovered by cavalry, they all perished.
19. When their destruction became known, the rest, who had been left at home as unwarlike, were reduced to the last extremities; and fearing the attacks of their neighbours, who would now retaliate on them, they removed to the more quiet district of the Thermodon. And after a long time, their posterity again becoming numerous, returned in great force to their native regions, and became in later ages formidable to the people of many nations.
20. Not far from hence is the gentle hill Carambis, on the north, opposite to which, at a distance of 2,500 furlongs, is the Criu-Metopon, a promontory of Taurica. From this spot the whole of the sea-coast, beginning at the river Halys, is like the chord of an arc fastened at both ends. |290
21. On the frontiers of this district are the Dahae, the fiercest of all warriors; and the Chalybes, the first people who dug up iron, and wrought it to the use of man. Next to them lies a large plain occupied by the Byzares, the Saqires, the Tibareni, the Mosynaeci, the Macrones and the Philyres, tribes with which we have no intercourse.
22. And at a small distance from them are some monuments of heroes, where Sthonelus, Idmon, and Tiphys are buried, the first being that one of Hercules's comrades who was mortally wounded in the war with the Amazons; the second the soothsayer of the Argonauts; the third the skilful pilot of the crew.
23. After passing by the aforesaid districts, we come to the cave Aulon, and the river of Callichorus, which derives its name from the fact that when Bacchus, having subdued the nations of India in a three years' war, came into those countries, he chose the green and shady banks of this river for the re-establishment of his ancient orgies and dances; and some think that such festivals as these were those called Trieterica.
24. Next to these frontiers come the famous cantons of the Camaritae, and the Phasis, which with its roaring streams reaches the Colchi, a race descended from the Egyptians; among whom, besides other cities, is one called Phasis from the name of the river; and Dioscurias, still famous, which is said to have been founded by the Spartans Amphitus and Cercius, the charioteers of Castor and Pollux; from whom the nation of Heniochi derives its origin.
25. At a little distance from these are the Achaei, who after some earlier Trojan war, and not that which began about Helen, as some authors have affirmed, were driven into Pontus by foul winds, and, as all around was hostile, so that they could nowhere find a settled abode, they always stationed themselves on the tops of snowy mountains; and, under the pressure of an unfavourable climate they contracted a habit of living on plunder in contempt |291 of all danger; and thus became the most ferocious of all nations. Of the Cercetae, who lie next to them, nothing is known worth speaking of.
26. Behind them lie the inhabitants of the Cimmerian Bosphorus, living in cities founded by the Milesiani, the chief of which is Panticapaeum, which is on the Bog, a river of great size, both from its natural waters and the streams which fall into it.
27. Then for a great distance the Amazons stretch as far as the Caspian sea; occupying the banks of the Don, which rises in Mount Caucasus, and proceeds in a winding course, separating Asia from Europe, and falls into the swampy sea of Azov.
28. Near to this is the Rha, on the banks of which grows a vegetable of the same name, which is useful as a remedy for many diseases.
29. Beyond the Don, taking the plain in its width, lie the Sauromatae, whose land is watered by the never-failing rivers Marsecus, Rhombites, Theophanes, and Totordanes. And there is at a vast distance another nation also known as Sauromate), touching the shore at the point where the river Corax falls into the sea.
30. Near to this is the sea of Azov, of great extent, from the abundant sources of which a great body of water pours through the straits of Patares, near the Black Sea; on the right are the islands Phanagorus and Hermonassa, which have been settled by the industry of the Greeks.
31. Round the furthest extremity of this gulf dwell many tribes differing from one another in language and habits; the Jaxamatae, the Maeotae, the Jazyges, the Roxolani, the Alani, the Melanchlaenae, the Geloni, and the Agathyrsi, whose land abounds in adamant.
32. And there are others beyond, who are the most remote people of the whole world. On the left side of this gulf lies the Crimea, full of Greek colonies; the people of which are quiet and steady: they practise agriculture, and live on the produce of the land.
33. From them the Tauri, though at no great distance, are separated by several kingdoms, among which are the Arinchi, a most savage tribe, the Sinchi, and the Napaei, whose cruelty, being aggravated by continual licence, is |292 the reason why the sea is called the Inhospitable, from which by the rule of contrary it gets the name of the Euxine, just as the Greeks call a fool εὐήθης and night εὐθρόνη, and the furies, the Εὐμενίδες.
34. For they propitiated the gods with human victims, sacrificing strangers to Diana, whom they call Oreiloche, and fix the heads of the slain on the walls of their temples, as perpetual monuments of their deeds.
35. In this kingdom of the Tauri lies the uninhabited island of Leuce, which is consecrated to Achilles; and if any ever visit it, as soon as they have examined the traces of antiquity, and the temple and offerings dedicated to the hero, they return the same evening to their ships, as it is said that no one can pass the night there without danger to his life.
36. There is water there, and white birds like kingfishers, the origin of which, and the battles of the Hellespont, we will discuss at a proper time. And there are some cities in this region of which the most eminent are Eupatoria, Dandaca, and Theodosia, and several others which are free from the wickedness of human sacrifices.
37. Up to this we reckon that one of the extremities of the arc extends. We will now follow, as order suggests, the rest of the curve which extends towards the north, along the left side of the Thracian Bosphorus, just reminding the reader that while the bows of all other nations bend along the whole of their material, those of the Scythians and Parthians have a straight rounded line in the centre, from which they curve their spreading horns so as to present the figure of the waning moon.
38. At the very beginning then of this district, where the Rhipaean mountains end, lie the Arimphaei, a just people known for their quiet character, whose land is watered by the rivers Chronius and Bisula; and next to them are the Massagetae, the Alani, and the Sargetae, and several other tribes of little note, of whom we know neither the names nor the customs.
39. Then, a long way off, is the bay Carcinites, and a |293 river of the same name, and a grove of Diana, frequented by many votaries in those countries.
40. After that we come to the Dnieper (Borysthenes), which rises in the mountains of the Neuri; a river very large at its first beginning, and which increases by the influx of many other streams, till it falls into the sea with great violence; on its woody banks is the town of Borysthenes, and Cephalonesus, and some altars consecrated to Alexander the Great and Augustus Caesar.
41. Next, at a great distance, is an island inhabited by the Sindi, a tribe of low-born persons, who upon the overthrow of their lords and masters in Asia, took possession of their wives and properties. Below them is a narrow strip of coast called by the natives the Course of Achilles, having been made memorable in olden time by the exercises of the Thessalian chief, and next to that is the city of Tyros, a colony of the Phoenicians, watered by the river Dniester.
42. But in the middle of the arc which we have described as being of an extended roundness, and which takes an active traveller fifteen days to traverse, are the European Alani, the Costoboci, and the countless tribes of the Scythians, who extend over territories which have no ascertained limit; a small part of whom live on grain. But the rest wander over vast deserts, knowing neither ploughtime nor seedtime; but living in cold and frost, and feeding like great beasts. They place their relations, their homes, and their wretched furniture on waggons covered with bark, and, whenever they choose, they migrate without hindrance, driving off these waggons wherever they like.
43. When one arrives at another point of the circuit where there is a harbour, which bounds the figure of the arc at that extremity, the island Pence is conspicuous, inhabited by the Troglodytae, and Peuci, and other inferior tribes, and we come also to Histros, formerly a city of great power, and to Tomi, Apollonia, Anchialos, Odissos, and many others on the Thracian coast.
44. But the Danube, rising near Basle on the borders of the Tyrol, extending over a wider space, and receiving on his way nearly sixty navigable rivers, pours through the Scythian territory by seven mouths into the Black Sea. |294
45. The first mouth (according to the Greek interpretation of the names) is at the island of Peuce, which we have mentioned; the second is at Naracustoma, the third at Calonstoma, the fourth at Pseudostoma. The Boreonstoma and the Sthenostoma, are much smaller, and the seventh is large and black-looking like a bog.
46. But the whole sea, all around, is full of mists and shoals, and is sweeter than seas in general, because by the evaporation of moisture the air is often thick and dense, and its waters are tempered by the immensity of the rivers which fall into it; and it is full of shifting shallows, because the number of the streams which surround it pour in mud and lumps of soil.
47. And it is well known that fish flock in large shoals to its most remote extremities that they may spawn and rear their young more healthfully, in consequence of the salubrity of the water; while the hollow caverns, which are very numerous there, protect them from voracious monsters. For nothing of the kind is ever seen in this sea, except some small dolphins, and they do no harm.
48. Now the portions of the Black Sea which are exposed to the north wind are so thoroughly frozen that, while the rivers, as it is believed, cannot continue their course beneath the ice, yet neither can the foot of beast or man proceed firmly over the treacherous and shifting ground; a fault which is never found in a pure sea, but only in one of which the waters are mingled with those of rivers. We have digressed more than we had intended, so now let us turn back to what remains to be told.
49. Another circumstance came to raise Julian's present joy, one which indeed had been long expected, but which had been deferred by all manner of delays. For intelligence was brought by Agilo and Jovius, who was afterwards quaestor, that the garrison of Aquileia, weary of the length of the siege, and having heard of the death of Constantius, had opened their gates and come forth, delivering up the authors of the revolt; and that, after they had been burnt alive, as has been related, the rest had obtained pardon for their offences. |295
§ 1. But Julian, elated at his prosperity, began to aspire to greatness beyond what is granted to man: amid continual dangers he had learnt by experience that propitious fortune held out to him, thus peacefully governing the Roman world, a cornucopia as it were of human blessings and all kinds of glory and success: adding this also to his former titles of victory, that while he alone held the reins of empire he was neither disturbed by intestine commotions, nor did any barbarians venture to cross his frontiers; but all nations, eager at all times to find fault with what is past, as mischievous and unjust, were with marvellous unanimity agreed in his praises.
2. Having therefore arranged with profound deliberation all the matters which were required either by the circumstances of the state or by the time, and. having encouraged the soldiers by repeated harangues and by adequate pay to be active in accomplishing all that was to be done, Julian, being in great favour with all men, set out for Antioch, leaving Constantinople, which he had greatly strengthened and enriched; for he had been born there, and loved and protected it as his native city.
3. Then crossing the straits, and passing by Chalcedon and Libyssa, where Hannibal the Carthaginian is buried, he came to Nicomedia; a city of ancient renown, and so adorned at the great expense of former emperors, that from the multitude of its public and private buildings good judges look on it as a quarter, as it were, of the eternal city.
4. When Julian beheld its walls buried in miserable ashes, he showed the anguish of his mind by silent tears, and went slowly on towards the palace; especially lamenting its misfortunes, because the senators who came out to meet him were in poor-looking condition, as well as the people who had formerly been most prosperous; some of them he recognized having been brought up there by the bishop Eusebius, of whom he was a distant relation.
5. Having here made many arrangements for repairing the damage done by an earthquake, he passed through Nicaea to the frontier of Gallograecia, and then turning to |296 the right, he went to Pessinus, to see the ancient temple of Cybele; from which town in the second Punic war, in accordance with the warning of the Sibylline verses, the image of the goddess was removed to Rome by Scipio Nasica.
6. Of its arrival in Italy, with many other matters connected with it, we made mention in recording the acts of the emperor Commodus; but as to what the reason was for the town receiving this name writers differ.
7. For some have declared that the city was so called ἀπὸ τοῦ πεσεῖν, from falling; inventing a tale that the statue fell from heaven; others affirm that Ilus, the son of Tros, king of Dardania, gave the place this name, which Theopompus says it received not from this, but from Midas, formerly a most powerful king of Phrygia.
8. Accordingly, having paid his worship to the goddess, and propitiated her with sacrifices and prayers, he returned to Ancyra; and as he was proceeding on this way from thence he was disturbed by a multitude; some violently demanding the restoration of what had been taken from them, others complaining that they had been unjustly attached to different courts; some, regardless of the risk they ran, tried to enrage him against their adversaries, by charging them with treason.
9. But he, a sterner judge than Cassius or Lycurgus, weighed the charges with justice, and gave each his due; never being swayed from the truth, but very severe to calumniators, whom he hated, because he himself, while still a private individual and of low estate, had often experienced the petulant frenzy of many in a way which placed him in great danger.
10. And though there are many other examples of his patience in such matters, it will suffice to relate one here. A certain man laid an information against his enemy, with whom he had a most bitter quarrel, affirming that he had been guilty of outrage and sedition; and when the emperor concealed his own opinion, he renewed the charge for several days, and when at last he was asked who the man was whom he was accusing, he replied, a rich citizen. "When the emperor heard this he smiled and said, "What proof led you to the discovery of this conduct of his?" He replied, "The man has had made for himself a purple silk robe." |297
11. And on this, being ordered to depart in silence, and though unpunished as a low fellow who was accusing one of his own class of too difficult an enterprise to be believed, he nevertheless insisted on the truth of the accusation, till Julian, being wearied by his pertinacity, said to the treasurer, whom he saw near him, "Bid them give this dangerous chatterer some purple shoes to take to his enemy, who, as he gives me to understood, has made himself a robe of that colour; that so he may know how little a worthless piece of cloth can help a man, without the greatest strength."
12. But as such conduct as this is praiseworthy and deserving the imitation of virtuous rulers, so it was a sad thing and deserving of censure, that in his time it was very hard for any one who was accused by any magistrate to obtain justice, however fortified he might be by privileges, or the number of his campaigns, or by a host of friends. So that many persons being alarmed bought off all such annoyances by secret bribes.
13. Therefore, when after a long journey he had reached Pylae, a place on the frontiers of Cappadocia and Cilicia, he received the ruler of the province, Celsus, already known to him by his Attic studies, with a kiss, and taking him up into his chariot conducted him with him into Tarsus.
14. From hence, desiring to see Antioch, the splendid metropolis of the East, he went thither by the usual stages, and when he came near the city he was received as if he had been a god, with public prayers, so that he marvelled at the voices of the vast multitude, who cried out that he had come to shine like a star on the Eastern regions.
15. It happened that just at that time, the annual period for the celebration of the festival of Adonis, according to the old fashion, came round; the story being, as the poets relate, that Adonis had been loved by Venus, and slain by a boar's tusk, which is an emblem of the fruits of the earth being cut down in their prime. And it appeared a sad thing that when the emperor was now for the first time making his entrance into a splendid city, the abode of princes, wailing lamentations and sounds of mourning should be heard in every direction.
16. And here was seen a proof of his gentle disposition, |298 shown indeed in a trifling, but very remarkable instance. He had long hated a man named Thalassius, an officer in one of the law courts, as having been concerned in plots against his brother Gallus. He prohibited him from paying his salutations to him and presenting himself among the men of rank; which encouraged his enemies against whom he had actions in the courts of law, the next day, when a great crowd was collected in the presence of the emperor, to cry out, "Thalassius, the enemy of your clemency, has violently deprived us of our rights;" and Julian, thinking that this was an opportunity for crushing him, replied, "I acknowledge that I am justly offended with the man whom you mention, and so you ought to keep silence till he has made satisfaction to me who am his principal enemy." And he commanded the prefect who was sitting by him not to hear their business till he himself was recognized by Thalassius, which happened soon afterwards.
§ 1. While wintering at Antioch, according to his wish, he yielded to none of the allurements of pleasure in which all Syria abounds; but under pretence of repose, he devoted himself to judicial affairs, which are not less difficult than those of war, and in which he expended exceeding care, showing exquisite willingness to receive information, and carefully balancing how to assign to every one his due. And by his just sentence the wicked were chastised with moderate punishments, and the innocent were maintained in the undiminished possession of their fortunes.
2. And although in the discussion of causes he was often unreasonable, asking at unsuitable times to what religion each of the litigants adhered, yet none of his decisions were found inconsistent with equity, nor could he ever be accused, either from considerations of religion or of anything else, of having deviated from the strict path of justice.
3. For that is a desirable and right judgment which proceeds from repeated examinations of what is just and unjust. Julian feared anything which might lead him away from such, as a sailor fears dangerous rocks; and he was |299 the better able to attain to correctness, because, knowing the levity of his own impetuous disposition, he used to permit the prefects and his chosen counsellors to check, by timely admonition, his own impulses when they were inclined to stray; and he continually showed that he was vexed if he committed errors, and was desirous of being corrected.
4. And when the advocates in some actions were once applauding him greatly as one who had attained to perfect wisdom, he is said to have exclaimed with much emotion, "I was glad and made it my pride to be praised by those whom I knew to be competent to find fault with me, if I had said or done anything wrong."
5. But it will be sufficient out of the many instances of his clemency which he afforded in judging causes to mention this one, which is not irrelevant to our subject or insignificant. A certain woman being brought before the court, saw that her adversary, formerly one of the officers of the palace, but who had been displaced, was now, contrary to her expectation, re-established and girt in his official dress, complained in a violent manner of this circumstance; and the emperor replied, "Proceed, O woman, if you think that you have been injured in any respect; he is girt as you see in order to go more quickly through the mire; your cause will not suffer from it."
6. And these and similar actions led to the belief, as he was constantly saying, that that ancient justice which Aratus states to have fled to heaven in disgust at the vices of mankind, had returned to earth; only that sometimes he acted according to his own will rather than according to law, making mistakes which somewhat darkened the glorious course of his renown.
7. After many trials he corrected numerous abuses in the laws, cutting away circuitous proceedings, and making the enactments show more plainly what they commanded or forbade. But his forbidding masters of rhetoric and grammar to instruct Christians was a cruel action, and one deserving to be buried in everlasting silence. |300
§ 1. At this time, Gaudentius the secretary, whom I have mentioned above as having been sent by Constantius to oppose Julian in Africa, and a man of the name of Julian, who had been a deputy governor, and who was an intemperate partisan of the late emperor, were brought back as prisoners, and put to death.
2. And at the same time, Artemius, who had been Duke of Egypt, and against whom the citizens of Alexandria brought a great mass of heavy accusations, was also put to death, and the son of Marcellus too, who had been commander both of the infantry and of the cavalry, was publicly executed as one who had aspired to the empire by force of arms. Romanus, too, and Vincentius, the tribunes of the first and second battalion of the Scutarii, being convicted of aiming at things beyond their due, were banished.
3. And after a short time, when the death of Artemius was known, the citizens of Alexandria who had feared his return, lest, as he threatened, he should come back among them with power, and avenge himself on many of them for the offences which he had received, now turned all their anger against George, the bishop, by whom they had, so to say, been often attacked with poisonous bites.
4. George having been born in a fuller's shop, as was reported, in Epiphania, a town of Cilicia, and having caused the ruin of many individuals, was, contrary both to his own interest and to that of the commonwealth, ordained bishop of Alexandria, a city which from its own impulses, and without any special cause, is continually agitated by seditious tumults, as the oracles also show.
5. Men of this irritable disposition were readily incensed by George, who accused numbers to the willing ears of Constantius, as being opposed to his authority; and, forgetting his profession, which ought to give no counsel but what is just and merciful, he adopted all the wicked acts of informers.
6. And among other things he was reported to have maliciously informed Constantius that in that city all the edifices which had been built by Alexander, its founder, |301 at vast public expense, ought properly to be a source of emolument to the treasury.
7. To these wicked suggestions he added this also, which soon afterwards led to his destruction. As he was returning from court, and passing by the superb temple of the Genius, escorted by a large train, as was his custom, he turned his eyes towards the temple, and said, "How long shall this sepulchre stand?" And the multitude, hearing this, was thunderstruck, and fearing that he would seek to destroy this also, laboured to the utmost of their power to effect his ruin by secret plots.
8. When suddenly there came the joyful news that Artemius was dead; on which all the populace, triumphing with unexpected joy, gnashed their teeth, and with horrid outcries set upon George, trampling upon him and kicking him, and tearing him to pieces with every kind of mutilation.
9. With him also, Dracontius, the master of the mint, and a count named Diodorus, were put to death, and dragged with ropes tied to their legs through the street; the one because he had overthrown the altar lately set up in the mint, of which he was governor; the other because while superintending the building of a church, he insolently cut off the curls of the boys, thinking thus to affect the worship of the gods.
10. But the savage populace were not content with this; but having mutilated their bodies, put them on camels and conveyed them to the shore, where they burnt them and threw the ashes into the sea; fearing, as they exclaimed, lest their remains should be collected and a temple raised over them, as the relics of men who, being urged to forsake their religion, had preferred to endure torturing punishments even to a glorious death, and so, by keeping their faith inviolate, earning the appellation of martyrs. In truth the wretched men who underwent such cruel punishment might have been protected by the aid of the Christians, if both parties had not been equally exasperated by hatred of George.
11. When this event reached the emperor's ears, he roused himself to avenge the impious deed; but when about to inflict the extremity of punishment on the guilty, he was appeased by the intercession of those about him, |302 and contented himself with issuing an edict in which he condemned the crime which had been committed in stern language, and threatening all with the severest vengeance if anything should be attempted for the future contrary to the principles of justice and law.
§ 1. In the mean time, while preparing the expedition against the Persians, which he had long been meditating with all the vigour of his mind, he resolved firmly to avenge their past victories; hearing from others, and knowing by his own experience, that for nearly sixty years that most ferocious people had stamped upon the East bloody records of massacre and ravage, many of our armies having often been entirely destroyed by them.
2. And he was inflamed with a desire for the war on two grounds: first, because he was weary of peace, and dreaming always of trumpets and battles; and secondly, because, having been in his youth exposed to the attacks of savage nations, the wishes of whose kings and princes were already turning against us, and whom, as was believed, it would be easier to conquer than to reduce to the condition of suppliants, he was eager to add to his other glories the surname of Parthicus.
3. But when his inactive and malicious detractors saw that these preparations were being pressed forward with great speed and energy, they cried out that it was an unworthy and shameful thing for such unseasonable troubles to be caused by the change of a single prince, and laboured with all their zeal to postpone the campaign; and they were in the habit of saying, in the presence of those whom they thought likely to report their words to the emperor, that, unless he conducted himself with moderation during his excess of prosperity, he, like an over-luxuriant crop, would soon be destroyed by his own fertility.
4. And they were continually propagating sayings of this kind, barking in vain at the inflexible prince with secret attacks, as the Pygmies or the clown Thiodamas of Lindus assailed Hercules.
5. But he, as more magnanimous, allowed no delay to take place, nor any diminution in the magnitude of his |303 expedition, but devoted the most energetic care to prepare everything suitable for such an enterprise.
6. He offered repeated victims on the altars of the gods; sometimes sacrificing one hundred bulls, and countless flocks of animals of all kinds, and white birds, which he sought for everywhere by land and sea; so that every day individual soldiers who had stuffed themselves like boors with too much meat, or who were senseless from the eagerness with which they had drunk, were placed on the shoulders of passers-by, and carried to their homes through the streets from the public temples where they had indulged in feasts which deserved punishment rather than indulgence. Especially the Petulantes and the Celtic legion, whose audacity at this time had increased to a marvellous degree.
7. And rites and ceremonies were marvellously multiplied with a vastness of expense hitherto unprecedented; and, as it was now allowed without hindrance, every one professed himself skilful in divination, and all, whether illiterate or learned, without any limit or any prescribed order, were permitted to consult the oracles, and to inspect the entrails of victims; and omens from the voice of birds, and every kind of sign of the future, was sought for with an ostentatious variety of proceeding.
8. And while this was going on, as if it were a time of profound peace, Julian, being curious in all such branches of learning, entered on a new path of divination. He proposed to reopen the prophetic springs of the fountain of Castalia, which Hadrian was said to have blocked up with a huge mass of stones, fearing lest, as he himself had attained the sovereignty through obedience to the predictions of these waters, others might learn a similar lesson; and Julian immediately ordered the bodies which had been buried around it to be removed with the same ceremonies as those with which the Athenians had purified the island of Delos.
§ 1. About the same time, on the 22nd of October, the splendid temple of Apollo, at Daphne, which that furious and cruel king Antiochus Epiphanes had built with the |304 statue of the god, equal in size to that of Olympian Jupiter, was suddenly burnt down.
2. This terrible accident inflamed the emperor with such anger, that he instantly ordered investigations of unprecedented severity to be instituted, and the chief church of Antioch to be shut up. For he suspected that the Christians had done it out of envy, not being able to bear the sight of the magnificent colonnade which surrounded the temple.
3. But it was reported, though the rumour was most vague, that the temple had been burnt by means of Asclepiades the philosopher, of whom we have made mention while relating the actions of Magnentius. He is said to have come to the suburb in which the temple stood to pay a visit to Julian, and being accustomed to carry with him wherever he went a small silver statue of the Heavenly Venus, he placed it at the feet of the image of Apollo, and then, according to his custom, having lighted wax tapers in front of it, he went away. At midnight, when no one was there to give any assistance, some sparks flying about stuck to the aged timbers; and from that dry fuel a fire was kindled which burnt everything it could reach, however separated from it by the height of the building.
4. The same year also, just as winter was approaching, there was a fearful scarcity of water, so that some rivers were dried up, and fountains too, which had hitherto abounded with copious springs. But afterwards they all were fully restored.
5. And on the second of December, as evening was coming on, all that remained of Nicomedia was destroyed by an earthquake, and no small portion of Nicaea.
§ 1. These events caused great concern to the emperor; but still he did not neglect other affairs of urgency, till the time of entering on his intended campaign should arrive. But in the midst of his important and serious concerns, it appeared superfluous that, without any plausible reason, and out of a mere thirst for popularity, he took measures for producing cheapness; a thing which often proves contrary to expectation and produces scarcity and famine. |305
2. And when the magistrates of Antioch plainly proved to him that his orders could not be executed, he would not depart from his purpose, being as obstinate as his brother Gallus, but not bloodthirsty. On which account, becoming furious against them, as slanderous and obstinate, he composed a volume of invectives which he called "The Antiochean," or "Misopogon," enumerating in a bitter spirit all the vices of the city, and adding others beyond the truth; and when on this he found that many witticisms were uttered at his expense, he felt compelled to conceal his feelings for a time; but was full of internal rage.
3. For he was ridiculed as a Cercops; again, as a dwarf spreading out his narrow shoulders, wearing a beard like that of a goat, and taking huge strides, as if he had been the brother of Otus and Ephialtes, whose height Horace speaks of as enormous. At another time he was "the victim-killer," instead of the worshipper, in allusion to the numbers of his victims; and this piece of ridicule was seasonable and deserved, as once out of ostentation he was fond of carrying the sacred vessels before the priests, attended by a train of girls. And although these and similar jests made him very indignant, he nevertheless kept silence, and concealed his emotions, and continued to celebrate the solemn festivals.
4. At last, on the day appointed for the holiday, he ascended Mount Casius, a mountain covered with trees, very lofty, and of a round form; from which at the second crowing of the cock we can see the sun rise. And while he was sacrificing to Jupiter, on a sudden he perceived some one lying on the ground, who, with the voice of a suppliant, implored pardon and his life; and when Julian asked him who he was, he replied, that he was Theodotus, formerly the chief magistrate of Hierapolis, who, when Constantius quitted that city, had escorted him with other men of rank on his way; basely flattering him as sure to be victorious; and he had entreated him with feigned tears and lamentations to send them the head of Julian as |306 that of an ungrateful rebel, in the same way as he recollected the head of Magnentius had been exhibited.
5. When Julian heard this, he said, "I have heard of this before, from the relation of several persons. But go thou home in security, being relieved of all fear by the mercy of the emperor, who, like a wise man, has resolved to diminish the number of his enemies, and is eager to increase that of his friends."
6. When he departed, having fully accomplished the sacrifices, letters were brought to him from the governor of Egypt, who informed him that after a long time he had succeeded in finding a bull Apis, which he had been seeking with great labour, a circumstance which, in the opinion of the inhabitants of those regions, indicates prosperity, abundant crops, and several other kinds of good fortune.
7. On this subject it seems desirable to say a few words. Among the animals which have been consecrated by the reverence of the ancients, Mnevis and Apis are the most eminent. Mnevis, concerning whom there is nothing remarkable related, is consecrated to the sun, Apis to the moon. But the bull Apis is distinguished by several natural marks; and especially by a crescent-shaped figure, like that of a new moon, on his right side. After living his appointed time, he is drowned in the sacred fountain (for he is not allowed to live beyond the time fixed by the sacred authority of their mystical books: nor is a cow brought to him more than once a year, who also must be distinguished with particular marks); then another is sought amid great public mourning; and if one can be found distinguished by all the required marks, he is led to Memphis, a city of great renown, and especially celebrated for the patronage of the god Aesculapius.
8. And after he has been led into the city by one hundred priests, and conducted into a chamber, he is looked upon as consecrated, and is said to point out by evident means the signs of future events. Some also of those who come to him he repels by unfavourable signs; as it is reported he formally rejected Caesar Germanicus when he offered him food; thus portending what shortly happened. |307
§ 1. Let us then, since the occasion seems to require it, touch briefly on the affairs of Egypt, of which we have already made some mention in our account of the emperors Hadrian and Severus, where we related several things which we had seen.
2. The Egyptian is the most ancient of all nations, except indeed that its superior antiquity is contested by the Scythians: their country is bounded on the south by the greater Syrtes, Cape Eas, and Cape Borion, the Garamantes, and other nations; on the east, by Elephantine, and Meroe, cities of the Ethiopians, the Catadupi, the Red Sea, and the Scenite Arabs, whom we now call Saracens. On the north it joins a vast track of land, where Asia and the Syrian provinces begin; on the west it is bounded by the Sea of Issus, which some call the Parthenian Sea.
3. We will also say a few words concerning that most useful of all rivers, the Nile, which Homer calls the Aegyptus; and after that we will enumerate other things worthy of admiration in these regions.
4. The sources of the Nile, in my opinion, will be as unknown to posterity as they are now. But since poets, who relate fully, and geographers who differ from one another, give various accounts of this hidden matter, I will in a few words set forth such of their opinions as seem to me to border on the truth.
5. Some natural philosophers affirm that in the districts beneath the North Pole, when the severe winters bind up everything, the vast masses of snow congeal; and afterwards, melted by the warmth of the summer, they make the clouds heavy with liquid moisture, which, being driven to the south by the Etesian winds, and dissolved into rain |308 by the heat of the sun, furnish abundant increase to the Nile.
6. Some, again, assert that the inundations of the river at fixed times are caused by the rains in Ethiopia, which fall in great abundance in that country during the hot season; but both these theories seem inconsistent with the truth—for rain never falls in Ethiopia, or at least only at rare intervals.
7. A more common opinion is, that during the continuance of the wind from the north, called the Precursor, and of the Etesian gales, which last forty-five days without interruption, they drive back the stream and check its speed, so that it becomes swollen with its waves thus dammed back; then, when the wind changes, the force of the breeze drives the waters to and fro, and the river growing rapidly greater, its perennial sources driving it forward, it, rises as it advances, and covers everything, spreading over the level plains till it resembles the sea.
8. But King Juba, relying on the text of the Carthaginian books, affirms that the river rises in a mountain situated in Mauritania, which looks on the Atlantic Ocean, and he says, too, that this is proved by the fact that fishes, and herbs, and animals resembling those of the Nile are found in the marshes where the river rises.
9. But the Nile, passing through the districts of Ethiopia, and many different countries which give it their own names, swells its fertilizing stream till it comes to the cataracts. These are abrupt rocks, from which in its precipitous course it falls with such a crash, that the Ati, who used to live in that district, having lost their hearing from the incessant roar, were compelled to migrate to a more quiet region.
10. Then proceeding more gently, and receiving no accession of waters in Egypt, it falls into the sea through seven mouths, each of which is as serviceable as, and resembles, a separate river. And besides the several streams which are derived from its channel, and which fall with others like themselves, there are seven navigable with large waves; named by the ancients the Heracleotic, the Sebennitic, the Bolbitic, the Phatnitic, the Mendesian, the Tanitic, and the Pelusian mouths.
11. This river, rising as I have said, is driven on from |309 the marshes to the cataracts, and forms several islands; some of which are said to be of such extent that the stream is three days in passing them.
12. Among these are two of especial celebrity, Meroe and Delta. The latter derives its name from its triangular form like the Greek letter; but when the sun begins to pass through the sign of Cancer, the river keeps increasing till it passes into Libra; and then, after flowing at a great height for one hundred days, it falls again, and its waters being diminished it exhibits, in a state fit for riding on, fields which just before could only be passed over in boats.
13. If the inundation be too abundant it is mischievous, just as it is unproductive if it be too sparing; for if the flood be excessive, it keeps the ground wet too long, and so delays cultivation; while if it be deficient, it threatens the land with barrenness. No landowner wishes it to rise more than sixteen cubits. If the flood be moderate, then the seed sown in favourable ground sometimes returns seventy fold. The Nile, too, is the only river which does not cause a breeze.
14. Egypt also produces many animals both terrestrial and aquatic, and some which live both on the earth and in the water, and are therefore called amphibious. In the dry districts antelopes and buffaloes are found, and sphinxes, animals of an absurd-looking deformity, and other monsters which it is not worth while to enumerate.
15. Of the terrestrial animals, the crocodile is abundant in every part of the country. This is a most destructive quadruped, accustomed to both elements, having no tongue, and moving only the upper jaw, with teeth like a comb, which obstinately fasten into everything he can reach. He propagates his species by eggs like those of a goose.
16. And as he is armed with claws, if he had only thumbs his enormous strength would suffice to upset large vessels, for he is sometimes ten cubits long. At night he sleeps under water; in the day he feeds in the fields, trusting to the stoutness of his skin, which is so thick that missiles from military engines will scarcely pierce the mail of his back.
17. Savage as these monsters are at all other times, yet as if they had concluded an armistice, they are always quiet laying aside all their ferocity, during the seven days |310 of festival on which the priests at Memphis celebrate the birthday of Apis.
18. Besides those which die accidentally, some are killed by wounds which they receive in thoir bellies from the dorsal fins of some fish resembling dolphins, which this river also produces.
19. Some also are killed by means of a little bird called the trochilus, which, while seeking for some picking of small food, and flying gently about the beast while asleep, tickles its cheeks till it comes to the neighbourhood of its throat. And when the hydrus, which is a kind of ichneumon, perceives this, it penetrates into its mouth, which the bird has caused to open, and descends into its stomach, where it devours its entrails, and then comes forth again.
20. But the crocodile, though a bold beast towards those who flee, is very timid when it finds a brave enemy. It has a most acute sight, and for the four months of winter is said to do without food.
21. The hippopotamus, also, is produced in this country; the most sagacious of all animals destitute of reason. He is like a horse, with cloven hoofs, and a short tail. Of his sagacity it will be sufficient to produce two instances.
22. The animal makes his lair among dense beds of reeds of great height, and while keeping quiet watches vigilantly for every opportunity of sallying out to feed on the crops. And when he has gorged himself, and is ready to return, he walks backwards, and makes many tracks, to prevent any enemies from following the straight road and so finding and easily killing him.
23. Again, when he feels lazy from having his stomach swollen by excessive eating, it rolls its thighs and legs on freshly-cut reeds, in order that the blood, which is discharged through the wounds thus made may relieve his fat. And then he smears his wounded flesh with clay till the wounds get scarred over.
24. This monster was very rare till it was first exhibited to the Roman people in the aedileship of Scaurus, the father of that Scaurus whom Cicero defended, when he charged the Sardinians to cherish the same opinion as the rest of the world of the authority of that noble family. Since that time, at different periods, many specimens have |311 been brought to Rome, and now they are not to be found in Egypt, having been driven, according to the conjecture of the inhabitants, up to the Blemmyae by being incessantly pursued by the people.
25. Among the birds of Egypt, the variety of which is countless, is the ibis, a sacred and amiable bird, also valuable, because by heaping up the eggs of serpents in its nest for food it causes these fatal pests to diminish.
26. They also sometimes encounter flocks of winged snakes, which come laden with poison from the marshes of Arabia. These, before they can quit their own region, they overcome in the air, and then devour them. This bird, we are told, produces its young through its mouth.
27. Egypt also produces innumerable quantities of serpents, destructive beyond all other creatures. Basilisks, amphisbaenas, scytalae, acontiae, dipsades, vipers, and many others. The asp is the largest and most beautiful of all; but that never, of its own accord, quits the Nile.
28. There are also in this country many things exceedingly worthy of observation, of which it is a good time now to mention a few. Everywhere there are temples of great size. There are seven marvellous pyramids, the difficulty of building which, and the length of time consumed in the work, are recorded by Herodotus. They exceed in height anything ever constructed by human labour, being towers of vast width at the bottom and ending in sharp points.
29. And their shape received this name from the geometricians because they rise in a cone like fire (πῦρ). And huge as they are, as they taper off gradually, they throw no shadow, in accordance with a principle of mechanics.
30. There are also subterranean passages, and winding retreats, which, it is said, men skilful, in the ancient mysteries, by means of which they divined the coming of a flood, constructed in different places lest the memory of all their sacred ceremonies should be lost. On the walls, as they cut them out, they have sculptured several kinds |312 of birds and beasts, and countless other figures of animals, which they call hieroglyphics.
31. There is also Syene, where at the time of the summer solstice the rays surrounding upright objects do not allow the shadows to extend beyond the bodies. And if any one fixes a post upright in the ground, or sees a man or a tree standing erect, he will perceive that their shadow is consumed at the extremities of their outlines. This also happens at Meroe, which is the spot in Ethiopia nearest to the equinoctial circle, and where for ninety days the shadows fall in a way just opposite to ours, on account of which the natives of that district are called Antiscii.
32. But as there are many other wonders which would go beyond the plan of our little work, we must leave these to men of lofty genius, and content ourselves with relating a few things about the provinces.
§ 1. In former times Egypt is said to have been divided into three provinces: Egypt proper, the Thebais, and Libya, to which in later times two more have been added, Augustamnica, which has been cut off from Egypt proper, and Pentapolis, which has been detached from Libya.
2. Thebais, among many other cities, can boast especially of Hermopolis, Coptos, and Antinous, which Hadrian built in honour of his friend Antinous. As to Thebes, with its hundred gates, there is no one ignorant of its renown.
3. In Augustamnica, among others, there is the noble city of Pelusium, which is said to have been founded by Peleus, the father of Achilles, who by command of the gods was ordered to purify himself in the lake adjacent to the walls of the city, when, after having slain his brother Phocus, he was driven about by horrid images of the Furies; and Cassium, where the tomb of the great Pompey is, and Ostracine, and Rhinocolura.
4. In Libya Pentapolis is Cyrene, a city of great antiquity, but now deserted, founded by Battus the Spartan, and Ptolemais, and Arsinoe, known also as Teuchira, and Darnis, and Berenice, called also Hesperides. |313
5. And in the dry Libya, besides a few other insignificant towns, there are Paraetonium, Chaerecla, and Neapolis.
6. Egypt proper, which ever since it has been united to the Roman empire has been under the government of a prefect, besides some other towns of smaller importance, is distinguished by Athribis, and Oxyrynchus, and Thmuis, and Memphis.
7. But the greatest of all the cities is Alexandria, ennobled by many circumstances, and especially by the grandeur of its great founder, and the skill of its architect Dinocrates, who, when he was laying the foundation of its extensive and beautiful walls, for want of mortar, which could not be procured at the moment, is said to have marked out its outline with flour; an incident which foreshowed that the city should hereafter abound in supplies of provisions.
8. At Inibis the air is wholesome, the sky pure and undisturbed; and, as the experience of a long series of ages proves, there is scarcely ever a day on which the inhabitants of this city do not see the sun.
9. The shore is shifty and dangerous; and as in former times it exposed sailors to many dangers, Cleopatra erected a lofty tower in the harbour, which was named Pharos, from the spot on which it was built, and which afforded light to vessels by night when coming from the Levant or the Libyan sea along the plain and level coast, without any signs of mountains or towns or eminences to direct them, they were previously often wrecked by striking into the soft and adhesive sand.
10. The same queen, for a well-known and necessary reason, made a causeway seven furlongs in extent, admirable for its size and for the almost incredible rapidity with which it was made. The island of Pharos, where Homer in sublime language relates that Proteus used to amuse himself with his herds of seals, is almost a thousand yards from the shore on which the city stands, and was liable to pay tribute to the Rhodians.
11. And when on one occasion the farmers of this revenue came to make exorbitant demands, she, being a wily woman, on a pretext of it being the season of solemn holidays, led them into the suburbs, and ordered the work to be carried on without ceasing. And so seven furlongs were |314 completed in seven days, being raised with the soil of the adjacent shore. Then the queen, driving over it in her chariot, said that the Rhodians were making a blunder in demanding port dues for what was not an island but part of the mainland.
12. Besides this there are many lofty temples, and especially one to Serapis, which, although no words can adequately describe it, we may yet say, from its splendid halls supported by pillars, and its beautiful statues and other embellishments, is so superbly decorated, that next to the Capitol, of which the ever-venerable Rome boasts, the whole world has nothing worthier of admiration.
13. In it were libraries of inestimable value; and the concurrent testimony of ancient records affirm that 70,000 volumes, which had been collected by the anxious care of the Ptolemies, were burnt in the Alexandrian war when the city was sacked in the time of Caesar the Dictator.
14. Twelve miles from this city is Canopus, which, according to ancient tradition, received its name from the prophet of Menelaus, who was buried there. It is a place exceedingly well supplied with good inns, of a most wholesome climate, with refreshing breezes; so that any one who resides in that district might think himself out of our world while he hears the breezes murmuring through the sunny atmosphere.
15. Alexandria itself was not, like other cities, gradually embellished, but at its very outset it was adorned with spacious roads. But after having been long torn by violent seditions, at last, when Aurelian was emperor, and when the intestine quarrels of its citizens had proceeded to deadly strife, its walls were destroyed, and it lost the largest half of its territory, which was called Bruchion, and had long been the abode of eminent men.
16. There had lived Aristarchus, that illustrious grammarian; and Herodianus, that accurate inquirer into the fine arts; and Saccas Ammonius, the master of Plotinus, and many other writers in various useful branches of literature, among whom Didymus, surnamed Chalcenterus, a man celebrated for his writings on many subjects of science, deserves especial mention; who, in the six books in which he, sometimes incorrectly, attacks Cicero, imitating those malignant farce writers, is justly blamed by |315 the learned as a puppy barking from a distance with puny voice against the mighty roar of the lion.
17. And although, besides those I have mentioned, there were many other men of eminence in ancient times, yet even now there is much learning in the same city; for teachers of various sects flourish, and many kinds of secret knowledge are explained by geometrical science. Nor is music dead among them, nor harmony. And by a few, observations of the motion of the world and of the stars are still cultivated; while of learned arithmeticians the number is considerable; and besides them there are many skilled in divination.
18. Again, of medicine, the aid of which in our present extravagant and luxurious way of life is incessantly required, the study is carried on with daily increasing eagerness; so that while the employment be of itself creditable, it is sufficient as a recommendation for any medical man to be able to say that he was educated at Alexandria. And this is enough to say on this subject.
19. But if any one in the earnestness of his intellect wishes to apply himself to the various branches of divine knowledge, or to the examination of metaphysics, he will find that the whole world owes this kind of learning to Egypt.
20. Here first, far earlier than in any other country, men arrived at the various cradles (if I may so say) of different religions. Here they still carefully preserve the elements of sacred rites as handed down in their secret volumes.
21. It was in learning derived from Egypt that Pythagoras was educated, which taught him to worship the gods in secret, to establish the principle that in whatever he said or ordered his authority was final, to exhibit his golden thigh at Olympia, and to be continually seen in conversation with an eagle.
22. Here it was that Anaxagoras derived the knowledge which enabled him to predict that stones would fall from heaven, and from the feeling of the mud in a well to foretell impending earthquakes. Solon too derived aid from the apophthegms of the priests of Egypt in the enactment of his just and moderate laws, by which he gave great confirmation to the Roman jurisprudence. From this source too Plato, soaring amid sublime ideas, rivalling Jupiter |316 himself in the magnificence of his voice, acquired his glorious wisdom by a visit to Egypt.
23. The inhabitants of Egypt are generally swarthy and dark complexioned, and of a rather melancholy cast of countenance, thin and dry looking, quick in every motion, fond of controversy, and bitter exactors of their rights. Among them a man is ashamed who has not resisted the payment of tribute, and who does not carry about him wheals which he has received before he could be compelled to pay it. Nor have any tortures been found sufficiently powerful to make the hardened robbers of this country disclose their names unless they do so voluntarily.
24. It is well known, as the ancient annals prove, that all Egypt was formerly under kings who were friendly to us. But after Antony and Cleopatra were defeated in the naval battle at Actium, it became a province under the dominion of Octavianus Augustus. We became masters of the dry Libya by the last will of king Apion. Cyrene and the other cities of Libya Pentapolis we owe to the liberality of Ptolemy. After this long digression, I will now return to my original subject.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2007. Corrected from print-out. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
|Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts|