Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman History. London: Bohn (1862) Book 26. pp. 405-434.
I. Valentinian, the tribune of the second school of the Scutarii, by the unanimous consent of both the civil and military officers, is elected emperor at Nicaea, in his absence—A dissertation on leap-year.
V. The two emperors divide the counts and the army between them, and soon afterwards enter on their first consulship, the one at Milan, the other at Constantinople — The Allemanni lay waste Gaul — Procopius attempts a revolt in the East.
VII. Procopius, without bloodshed, reduces Thrace to acknowledge his authority; and by promises prevails on the cavalry and infantry, who were marching through that country, to take the oath of fidelity to him; he also by a speech wins over the Jovian and Victorian legions, which were sent against him by Valens.
[Translated by C.D.YONGE]
§ 1. Having narrated with exceeding care the series of transactions in my own immediate recollection, it is necessary now to quit the track of notorious events, in order to avoid the dangers often found in connection with truth; and also to avoid exposing ourselves to unreasonable critics of our work, who would make an outcry as if they had been personally injured, if anything should be passed over which the emperor has said at dinner, if any cause should be overlooked for which the common soldiers |406 were assembled round their standards, or if there were not inserted a mention of every insignificant fort, however little such things ought to have room in a varied description of different districts. Or if the name of every one who filled the office of urban praetor be not given, and many other things quite impertinent to the proper idea of a history, which duly touches on prominent occurrences, and does not stoop to investigate petty details or secret motives, which any one who wishes to know may as well hope to be able to count those little indivisible bodies flying through space, which we call atoms.
2. Some of the ancients, fearing this kind of criticism, though they composed accounts of various actions in a beautiful style, forbore to publish them, as Cicero, a witness of authority, mentions in a letter to Cornelius Nepos. However, let us, despising the ignorance of people in general, proceed with the remainder of our narrative.
3. The course of events being terminated so mournfully, by the death of two emperors at such brief intervals, the army, having paid the last honours to the dead body which was sent to Constantinople to be interred among the other emperors, advanced towards Nicaea, which is the metropolis of Bithynia, where the chief civil and military authorities applied themselves to an anxious consideration of the state of affairs, and as some of them were full of vain hopes, they sought for a ruler of dignity and proved wisdom.
4. In reports, and the concealed whispers of a few persons, the name of Equitius was ventilated, who was at that time tribune of the first class of the Scutarii; but he was disapproved by the most influential leaders as being rough and boorish; and their inclinations rather tended towards Januarius, a kinsman of Julian, who was the chief commissary of the camp in Illyricum.
5. However, he also was rejected because he was at a distance; and, as a man well qualified and at hand, Valentinian was elected by the unanimous consent of all men, and the manifest favour of the Deity. He was the tribune of the second class of the Scutarii, and had been left at Ancyra, it having been arranged that he should follow afterwards. And, because no one denied that this was for the advantage of the republic, messengers were sent |407 to beg him to come with all speed; and for ten days the empire was without a ruler, which the soothsayer Marcus, by an inspection of entrails at Rome, announced to be the case at that moment in Asia.
6. But in the meanwhile, to prevent any attempt to overturn what had been thus settled, or any movement on the part of the fickle soldiers to set aside the election in favour of some one on the spot, Equitius and Leo, who was acting as commissary under Dagalaiphus the commander of the cavalry, and who afterwards incurred great odium as master of the offices, strove with great prudence and vigilance to establish, to the best of their power, what had been the decision of the whole army, they being also natives of Pannonia, and partisans of the emperor elect.
7. When Valentinian arrived in answer to the summons he had received, either in obedience to omens which guided him in the prosecution of the affair, as was generally thought, or to repeated warnings conveyed in dreams, he would not come into public or be seen by any one for two days, because he wished to avoid the bissextile day of February which came at that time, and which he knew to have been often an unfortunate day for the Roman empire: of this day I will here give a plain explanation.
8. The ancients who were skilled in the motions of the world and the stars, among whom the most eminent are Meton, Euctemon, Hipparchus, and Archimedes, define it as the period of the revolving year when the sun, in accordance with the laws which regulate the heavens, having gone through the zodiac, in three hundred and sixty-five days and nights, returns to the same point: as, for instance, when, after having moved on from the second degree of the Ram, it returns again to it after having completed its circuit.
9. But the exact period of a year extends over the number of days above mentioned and six hours more. And so the correct commencement of the next year will not begin till after midday and ends in the evening. The third year begins at the first watch, and lasts till the sixth hour of the night. The fourth begins at daybreak.
10. Now as the beginning of each year varies, one commencing at the sixth hour of the day, another at the same |408 hour of the night, to prevent the calculation from throwing all science into confusion by its perplexing diversity, and the months of autumn from sometimes being found to come in the spring, it has been settled that those six hours which in a period of four years amount to twenty-four shall be put together so as to make one day and night.
11. And after much consideration it has been so arranged with the concurrence of many learned men, that thus the revolutions of the year may come to one regular end, removed from all vagueness and uncertainty, so that the theory of the heavens may not be clouded by any error, and that the months may retain their appointed position.
12. Before their dominions had reached any wide extent, the Romans were for a long time ignorant of this fact, and having been for many years involved in obscure difficulties, they were in deeper darkness and error than ever, when they gave the priests the power of intercalating, which they, in profligate subservience to the interests of the farmers of the revenue, or people engaged in lawsuits, effected by making additions or subtractions at their own pleasure.
13. And from this mode of proceeding many other expedients were adopted, all of which were fallacious, and which I think it superfluous now to enumerate. But when they were given up, Octavianus Augustus, in imitation of the Greeks, corrected these disorderly arrangements and put an end to these fluctuations, after great deliberation fixing the duration of the year at twelve months and six hours, during which the sun with its perpetual movement runs through the whole twelve signs, and concludes the period of a whole year.
14. This rule of the bissextile year, Rome, which is destined to endure to the end of time, established with the aid of the heavenly Deity. Now let us return to our history.
§ 1. When this day, so little fit in the opinion of many for beginning any great affair, had passed, at the approach of evening, by the advice of the prefect Sallust, an order was issued by general consent, and with the penalty of death attached to any neglect of it, that no one of higher |409 authority, or suspected of aiming at any objects of ambition, should appear in public the next morning.
2. And when, while the numbers who allowed their own empty wishes to torment them were weary of the slowness of time, the night ended at last, and daylight appeared, the soldiers were all assembled in one body, and Valentinian advanced into the open space, and mounting a tribunal of some height which had been erected on purpose, he was declared ruler of the empire as a man of due wisdom by this assembly, bearing the likeness of a comitia, with the unanimous acclamations of all present.
3. Presently he was clothed with the imperial robe, and crowned, and saluted as Augustus with all the delight which the pleasure of this novelty could engender; and then he began to harangue the multitude in a premeditated speech. But as he put forth his arm to speak more freely, a great murmur arose, the centuries and maniples beginning to raise an uproar, and the whole mass of the cohorts presently urging that a second emperor should be at once elected.
4. And though some people fancied that this cry was raised by a few corrupt men in order to gain the favour of those who had been passed over, it appeared that that was a mistake, for the cry that was raised did not resemble a purchased clamour, but rather the unanimous voice of the whole multitude all animated with the same wish, because recent examples had taught them to fear the instability of this high fortune. Presently the murmurs of the furious and uproarious army appeared likely to give rise to a complete tumult, and men began to fear that the audacity of the soldiers might break out into some atrocious act.
5. And as Valentinian feared this above everything, he raised his hand firmly with the vigour of an emperor full of confidence, and venturing to rebuke some as obstinate and seditious, he delivered the speech he had intended without interruption.
6. "I exult, O ye gallant defenders of our provinces, and boast and always shall boast that your valour has conferred on me, who neither expected nor desired such an honour, the government of the Roman empire, as the fittest |410 man to discharge its duties. That which was in your hands before an emperor was elected, you have completed beneficially and gloriously, by raising to this summit of honour a man whom you know by experience to have lived from his earliest youth to his present age with honour and integrity. Now then I entreat you to listen with quietness to a few plain observations which I think will be for the public advantage.
7. "So numerous are the matters for the consideration of an emperor, that I neither deny nor even doubt that it is a desirable thing that he should have a colleague of equal power to deal with every contingency. And I myself, as a man, do also fear the great accumulation of cares which must be mine, and the various changes of events. But still we must use every exertion to insure concord, by which even the smallest affairs give strength. And that is easily secured if, your patience concurring with your equity, you willingly grant me what belongs to me in this matter. For Fortune, the ally of all good counsels, will I trust aid me, while to the very utmost of my ability and power, I diligently search for a wise and temperate partner. For as wise men lay it down, not only in the case of empire where the dangers are frequent and vast, but also in matters of private and everyday life, a man ought rather to take a stranger into his friendship after he has had opportunities of judging him to be wise, than to ascertain his wisdom after he has made him his friend.
8. "This, in hopes of a happier fortune, I promise. Do you, retaining your steadiness of conduct and loyalty, recruit the vigour of your minds and bodies while rest in your winter quarters allows you to do so. And you shall soon receive what is your due on my nomination as emperor."
9. Having finished this speech, to which his unexpected authority gave weight, the emperor by it brought all over to his opinion. And even those who a few minutes before with loud voices demanded something different, now, following his advice, surrounded him with the eagles and standards, and, forming a splendid and formidable escort of all classes and ranks of the army, conducted him to the palace. |411
§ 1. While the decisions of Fate were rapidly bringing these events to pass in the East, Apronianus, the governor of Rome, an upright and severe judge, among the grave cases by which that prefecture is continually oppressed, was labouring with most particular solicitude to suppress the magicians, who were now getting scarce, and who, having been taken prisoners, had been, after being put to the question, manifestly convicted by the evidence of their accomplices of having injured some persons. These he put to death, hoping thus, by the punishment of a few, to drive the rest, if any were still concealed, out of the city through fear of similar treatment.
2. And he is said to have acted thus energetically because having been promoted by Julian while he was still in Syria, he had lost one eye on his journey to take possession of his office, and he suspected that this was owing to his having been the object of some nefarious practices; therefore with just but unusual indignation he exerted great industry in searching out these and similar crimes. This made him appear cruel to some persons, because the populace were continually pouring in crowds into the amphitheatre while he was conducting the examination of some of the greatest criminals.
3. At last, after many punishments of this kind had been inflicted, he condemned to death the charioteer Hilarinus, who was convicted on his own confession of having intrusted his son, who was but a very young boy, to a sorcerer to be taught some secret mysteries forbidden by the laws, in order that he might avail himself of unlawful assistance without the privity of any one. But, as the executioner held him but loosely he suddenly escaped and fled to a Christian altar, and had to be dragged from it, when he was immediately beheaded.
4. But soon ample precautions were taken against the recurrence of this and similar offences, and there were none or very few who ventured afterwards to insult the rigour of the public law by practising these iniquities. But at a later period long impunity nourished atrocious crimes; and licentiousness increased to such a pitch that a certain |412 senator followed the example of Hilarinus, and was convicted of having almost articled by a regular contract one of his slaves to a teacher of the black art, to be instructed in his impious mysteries, though he escaped punishment by an enormous bribe, as common report went.
5. And, as it was said, having thus procured an acquittal, though he ought to have been ashamed even to have such an accusation, he took no pains to efface the stain, but as if, among a lot of infamous persons, he were the only one absolutely innocent, he used to ride on a handsomely caparisoned horse through the streets, and is still always attended by a troop of slaves, as if by a new and curious fashion he were desirous to attract particular observation, just as Duilius in ancient times after his glorious naval victory became so arrogant as to cause a flute-player to precede him with soft airs when he returned to his house after any dinner-party.
6. Under this same Apronianus all necessaries were so abundant in Rome that not the slightest murmur because of any scarcity of supplies was ever heard, which is very common at Rome.
§ 1. But in Bithynia, Valentinian, as we have already mentioned, having been declared emperor, having fixed the next day but one for beginning his march, assembled his chief officers, and, as if the course which he preferred was to follow their advice, inquired whom they recommended him to take for his colleague; and when no one made him any answer, Dagalaiphus, who at that time was commander of the cavalry, boldly answered "If, O excellent emperor, you love your own kindred, you have a brother; if you love the republic, then seek the fittest man to invest."
2. Valentinian was offended with this speech, but kept silence, and dissembled his displeasure and his intentions. And having made a rapid journey he reached Nicomedia on the first of March, where he appointed his brother Valens master of the horse with the rank of tribune.
3. And after that, when he reached Constantinople, revolving many considerations in his mind, and considering that he himself was already overwhelmed with the |413 magnitude of pressing business, he thought that the emergency would admit of no delay; and on the 28th of March he led Valens into the suburbs, where, with the consent of all men (and indeed no one dared to object), he declared him emperor, had him clothed in the imperial robes, and crowned with a diadem, and then brought him back in the same carriage with himself as the legitimate partner of his power, though in fact he was to be more like an obedient servant, as the remainder of my narrative will show.
4. After these matters had been thus settled without any interruption, the two emperors suffered a long time from a violent fever; but when out of danger (as they were more active in the investigation of evils than in removing them) they intrusted the commission to investigate the secret causes of this malady to Ursatius the master of the offices, a fierce Dalmatian, and to Juventius Siscianus the quaestor, their real motive, as was constantly reported, being to bring the memory of Julian and that of his friends into odium, as if their illness had been owing to their secret malpractices. But this insinuation was easily disposed of, since not a word could be addticed to justify any imputation of such treason.
5. At this time the trumpet as it were gave signal for war throughout the whole Roman world; and the barbarian tribes on our frontier were moved to make incursion on those territories which lay nearest to them. The Allemanni laid waste Gaul and Rhaetia at the same time. The Sarmatians and Quadi ravaged Pannonia. The Picts, Scots, Saxons, and Atacotti harassed the Britons with incessant invasions; the Austoriani and other Moorish tribes attacked Africa with more than usual violence. Predatory bands of the Goths plundered Thrace.
6. The king of the Persians poured troops into Armenia, exerting all his power to reduce that people again into subjection to his authority; without any just cause, arguing, that after the death of Julian, with whom he had made a treaty of peace, there was nothing that ought to hinder him from recovering those lands which he could prove to have belonged in former times to his ancestors. |414
§ 1. So after the winter had passed off quietly, the two emperors in perfect harmony, one having been formally elected, and the other having been admitted to share that honour, though chiefly in appearance, having traversed Thrace, arrived at Nissa, where in the suburb which is known as Mediana, and is three miles from the city, they divided the counts between them as if they were going to separate.
2. To the share of Valentinian, by whose will everything was settled, there fell Jovinus, who had lately been promoted by Julian to be the commander of the forces in Gaul, and Dagalaiphus, on whom Jovian had conferred a similar rank; while Victor was appointed to follow Valens to the east: and he also had originally been promoted by the decision of Julian; and to him was given Ariathaeus as a colleague. For Lupicinus, who in like manner had sometime before been appointed by Jovian to command the cavalry, was defending the eastern districts.
3. At the same time Equitius received the command of the army of Illyricum, with the rank not of general but of count; and Serenianus, who sometime before had retired from the service, now, being a citizen of Pannonia, returned to it, and joined Valens as commander of the cohort of his guards. This was the way in which these affairs were settled, and in which the troops were divided.
4. After this, when the two brothers entered Sirmium, they divided their courts also, and Valentinian as the chief took Milan, while Valens retired to Constantinople.
5. Sallust, with the authority of prefect, governed the East, Mamertinus Italy with Africa and Illyricum, and Germanianus the provinces of Gaul.
6. It was in the cities of Milan and Constantinople that the emperors first assumed the consular robes. But the whole year was one of heavy disaster to the Roman state.
7. For the Allemanni burst through the limits of Germany, and the cause of their unusual ferocity was this. They had sent ambassadors to the court, and according to |415 custom they were entitled to regular fixed presents, but received gifts of inferior value; which, in great indignation, they threw away as utterly beneath them. For this they were roughly treated by Ursatius, a man of a passionate and cruel temper, who at that time was master of the offices; and when they returned and related, with considerable exaggeration, how they had been treated, they roused the anger of their savage countrymen as if they had been despised and insulted in their persons.
8. About the same time, or not much later, Procopius attempted a revolution in the east; and both these occurrences were announced to Valentinian on the same day, the 1st of November, as he was on the point of making his entry into Paris.
9. He instantly sent Dagalaiphus to make head against the Allemanni, who, when they had laid waste the land nearest to them, had departed to a distance without bloodshed. But with respect to the measures necessary to crush the attempt of Procopius before it gained any strength, he was greatly perplexed, being made especially anxious by his ignorance whether Valens were alive or dead, that Procopius thus attempted to make himself master of the empire.
10. For Equitius, as soon as he heard the account of the tribune Antonius, who was in command of the army in the interior of Dacia, before he was able to ascertain the real truth of everything, brought the emperor a plain statement of what had taken place.
11. On this Valentinian promoted Equitius to the command of a division, and resolved on retiring to Illyricum to prevent a rebel who was already formidable from overrunning Thrace and then carrying an hostile invasion into Pannonia. For he was greatly terrified by recollecting recent events, considering how, not long before, Julian, despising an emperor who had been invariably successful in every civil war, before he was expected or looked for, passed on from city to city with incredible rapidity.
12. But his eager desire to return was cooled by the advice of those about him, who counselled and implored him not to expose Gaul to the barbarians, who were threatening it; nor to abandon on such a pretence provinces which were in need of great support. And then |416 prayers were seconded by embassies from several important cities which entreated him not in a doubtful and disastrous crisis to leave them wholly undefended, when by his presence he might at once deliver them from the greatest dangers, by the mere terror which his mighty name would strike into the Germans.
13. At last, having given much deliberation to what might be most advisable, he adopted the opinion of the majority, and replied that Procopius was the foe only of himself and his brother, but the Allemanni were the enemies of the whole Roman world; and so he determined in the mean time not to move beyond the frontier of Gaul.
14. And advancing to Rheims, being also anxious that Africa should not be suddenly invaded, he appointed Neotherius, who at that time was only a secretary, but who afterwards became a consul, to go to the protection of that country; and with him Masaucio, an officer of the domestic guard, being induced to add him by the consideration that he was well acquainted with the disturbed parts, since he had been brought up there under his father Cretion, who was formerly Count of Africa; he added further, Gaudentius, a commander of the Scutarii, a man whom he had long known, and on whose fidelity he placed entire confidence.
15. Because therefore these sad disturbances arose on both sides at one and the same time, we will here arrange our account of each separately in suitable order; relating first what took place in the East, and afterwards the war with the barbarians; since the chief events both in the West and the East occurred in the same months; lest, by any other plan, if we skipped over in haste from place to place, we should present only a confused account of everything, and so involve our whole narrative in perplexity and disorder.
§ 1. Procopius was born and bred in Cilicia, of a noble family, and occupied an advantageous position from his youth, as being a relation of Julian who afterwards became emperor. He was very strict in his way of life and morals, reserved and silent; but both as secretary, and afterwards as |417 tribune distinguishing himself by his services in war, and rising gradually to the highest rank. After the death of Constantius, in the changes that ensued, he, being a kinsman of the emperor, began to entertain higher aims, especially after he was admitted to the order of counts; and it became evident that if ever he were sufficiently powerful, he would be a disturber of the public peace.
2. When Julian invaded Persia he left him in Mesopotamia, in command of a strong division of troops, giving him Sebastian for his colleague with equal power; and he was enjoined (as an uncertain rumour whispered, for no certain authority for the statement could be produced) to be guided by the course of events, and if he should find the republic in a languid state, and in need of further aid, to cause himself without delay to be saluted as emperor.
3. Procopius executed his commission in a courteous and prudent manner; and soon afterwards heard of the mortal wound and death of Julian, and of the elevation of Jovian to the supreme authority; while at the same time an ungrounded report had got abroad that Julian with his last breath had declared that it was his will that the helm of the state should be intrusted to Procopius. He therefore, fearing that in consequence of this report he might be put to death uncondemned, withdrew from public observation; being especially alarmed after the execution of Jovian, the principal secretary, who, as he heard, had been cruelly put to death with torture, because after the death of Julian he had been named by a few soldiers as one worthy to succeed to the sovereignty, and on that account was suspected of meditating a revolution.
4. And because he was aware that he was sought for with great care, he withdrew into a most remote and secret district, seeking to avoid giving offence to any one. Then, finding that his hiding-place was still sought out by Jovian with increased diligence, he grew weary of living like a wild beast (since he was not only driven from high rank to a low station, but was often in distress even for food, and deprived of all human society); so at last, under the pressure of extreme necessity, he returned by secret roads into the district of Chalcedon.
5. Where, since that appeared a safer retreat, he concealed himself in the house of a trusty friend, a man of |418 the name of Strategius, who from being an officer about the palace had risen to be a senator; crossing over at times to Constantinople whenever he could do so without being perceived; as was subsequently learnt from the evidence of this same Strategius after repeated investigations had been made into the conduct of all who were accomplices in his enterprise.
6. Accordingly, like a skilful scout, since hardship and want had so altered his countenance that no one knew him, he collected the reports that were flying about, spread by many who, as the present is always grievous, accused Valens of being inflamed with a passion for seizing what belonged to others.
7. An additional stimulus to his ferocity was the emperor's father-in-law, Petronius, who, from the command of the Martensian cohort, had been suddenly promoted to be a patrician. He was a man deformed both in mind and appearance, and cruelly eager to plunder every person without distinction; torturing all, guilty and innocent, and then binding them with fourfold bonds; exacting debts due as far back as the time of the emperor Aurelian, and grieving if any one escaped without loss.
8. And his natural cruelty was inflamed by this additional incentive, that as he was enriched by the sufferings of others, he was inexorable, cruel, hard hearted, and unfeeling, incapable either of doing justice or of listening to reason. He was more hated than even Cleander, who, as we read, while prefect in the time of Commodus, oppressed people of all ranks with his foolish arrogance; and mere tyrannical than Plautian, who was prefect under Severus, and who with more than mortal pride would have thrown everything into confusion, if he had not been murdered out of revenge.
9. The cruelties which in the time of Valens, who acted under the influence of Petronius, closed many houses both of poor men and nobles, and the fear of still worse impending, sank deep into the hearts of both the provincials and soldiers, who groaned under the same burdens; and though the prayers breathed were silent and secret, yet some change of the existing state of things by the interposition of the supreme Deity was unanimously prayed for.
10. This state of affairs came home to the knowledge of |419 Procopius, and he, thinking that if Fate were at all propitious, he might easily rise to the highest power, lay in wait like a wild beast which prepares to make its spring the moment it sees anything to seize.
11. And while he was eagerly maturing his plans, the following chance gave him an opportunity which proved most seasonable. After the winter was past, Valens hastened into Syria; and when he had reached the borders of Bithynia he learnt from the accounts of the generals that the nation of the Goths, who up to that time had never come into collision with us, and who were therefore very fierce and untractable, were all with one consent preparing for an invasion of our Thracian frontier. When he heard this, in order to proceed on his own journey without hindrance, he ordered a sufficient force of cavalry and infantry to be sent into the districts in which the inroads of these barbarians were apprehended.
12. Therefore, as the emperor was now at a distance, Procopius, being wearied by his protracted sufferings, and thinking even a cruel death preferable to a longer endurance of them, precipitately plunged into danger; and not fearing the last extremities, but being wrought up almost to madness, he undertook a most audacious enterprise. His desire was to win over the legions known as the Divitenses and the younger Tungricani, who were under orders to march through Thrace for the coming campaign, and, according to custom, would stop two days at Constantinople on their way; and for this object he intended to employ some of them whom he knew, thinking it safer to rely on the fidelity of a few, and dangerous and difficult to harangue the whole body.
13. Those whom he selected as emissaries, being secured by the hope of great rewards, promised with a solemn oath to do everything he desired; and undertook also for the goodwill of their comrades, among whom they had great influence from their long and distinguished service.
14. As was settled between them, when day broke, Procopius, agitated by all kinds of thoughts and plans, repaired to the Baths of Anastasia, so called from the sister of Constantine, where he knew these legions were stationed; and being assured by his emissaries that in an assembly which had been held during the preceding night |420 all the men had declared their adherence to his party, he received from them a promise of safety, and was gladly admitted to their assembly; where, however, though treated with all honour by the throng of mercenary soldiers, he found himself detained almost as a hostage; for they, like the praetorians who after the death of Pertinax had accepted Julian as their emperor because he bid highest, now undertook the cause of Procopius in the hope of great gain to themselves from the unlucky reign he was planning.
15. Procopius therefore stood among them, looking pale and ghost-like; and as a proper royal robe could not be found, he wore a tunic spangled with gold, like that of an officer of the palace, and the lower part of his dress like that of a boy at school; and purple shoes; he also bore a spear, and carried a small piece of purple cloth in his right hand, so that one might fancy that some theatrical figure or dramatic personification had suddenly come upon the stage.
16. Being thus ridiculously put forward as if in mockery of all honours, he addressed the authors of his elevation with servile flattery, promising them vast riches and high rank as the first-fruits of his promotion; and then he advanced into the streets, escorted by a multitude of armed men; and with raised standards he prepared to proceed, surrounded by a horrid din of shields clashing with a mournful clang, as the soldiers, fearing lest they might be injured by stones or tiles from the housetops, joined them together above their heads in close order.
17. As he thus advanced boldly the people showed him neither aversion nor favour; but he was encouraged by the love of sudden novelty, which is implanted in the minds of most of the common people, and was further excited by the knowledge that all men unanimously detested Petronius, who, as I have said before, was accumulating riches by all kinds of violence, reviving actions that had long been buried, and oppressing all ranks with the exaction of forgotten debts.
18. Therefore when Procopius ascended the tribunal, and when, as all seemed thunderstruck and bewildered, even the gloomy silence was terrible, thinking (or, indeed, expecting) that he had only found a shorter way to death, |421 trembling so as to be unable to speak, he stood for some time in silence. Presently when he began, with a broken and languid voice, to say a few words, in which he spoke of his relationship to the imperial family, he was met at first with but a faint murmur of applause from those whom he had bribed; but presently he was hailed by the tumultuous clamours of the populace in general as emperor, and hurried off to the senate-house, where he found none of the nobles, but only a small number of the rabble of the city; and so he went on with speed, but in an ignoble style, to the palace.
19. One might marvel that this ridiculous beginning, so improvidently and rashly engaged in, should have led to melancholy disasters for the republic, if one were ignorant of previous history, and imagined that this was the first time any such thing had happened. But, in truth, it was in a similar manner that Andriscus of Adramyttium, a man of the very lowest class, assuming the name of Philip, added a third calamitous war to the previous Macedonian wars. Again, while the emperor Macrinus was at Antioch, it was then that Antoninus Heliogabalus issued forth from Emessa. Thus also Alexander, and his mother Mamaea, were put to death by the unexpected enterprise of Maximinus. And in Africa the elder Gordian was raised to the imperial authority, till, being overwhelmed with agony at the dangers which threatened him, he put an end to his life by hanging himself.
§ 1. So the dealers in cheap luxuries, and those who were about the palace, or who had ceased to serve, and all who, having been in the ranks of the army, had retired to a more tranquil life, now embarked in this unusual and doubtful enterprise, some against their will, and others willingly. Some, however, thinking anything better than the present state of affairs, escaped secretly from the city, and hastened with all speed to the emperor's camp.
2. They were all outstripped by the amazing celerity of Sophronius, at that time a secretary, afterwards prefect of Constantinople, who reached Valens as he was just about to set out from Caesarea in Cappadocia, in order, |422 now that the hot weather of Cilicia was over, to go to Antioch; and having related to him all that had taken place, brought him, though wholly amazed and bewildered at so doubtful and perplexing a crisis, back into Galatia to encounter the danger before it had risen to a head.
3. While Valens was pushing forward with all speed, Procopius was using all his energy day and night, producing different persons who with cunning boldness pretended that they had arrived, some from the east, some from Gaul, and who reported that Valentinian was dead, and that everything was easy for the new and favoured emperor.
4. And because enterprises suddenly and wantonly attempted are often strengthened by promptness of action, and in order to neglect nothing, Nebridius, who had been recently promoted through the influence of Petronius to be prefect of the praetorium in the place of Sallust, and Caesarius, the prefect of Constantinople, were at once thrown into prison; and Phronemius was intrusted with the government of the city, with the customary powers; and Euphrasius was made master of the offices, both being Gauls, and men of known accomplishments and good character. The government of the camp was intrusted to Gomoarius and Agilo, who were recalled to military service with that object—a very ill-judged appointment, as was seen by the result.
5. Now because Count Julius, who was commanding the forces in Thrace, was feared as likely to employ the troops at the nearest stations to crush the rebels if he received information of what was being done, a vigorous measure was adopted; and he was summoned to Constantinople by letter, which Nebridius, while still in prison, was compelled to write, as if he had been appointed by Valens to conduct some serious measures in connection with the movements of the barbarians; and as soon as he arrived he was seized and kept in close custody. By this cunning artifice the warlike tribes of Thrace were brought over without bloodshed, and proved a great assistance to this disorderly enterprise.
6. After this success, Araxius, by a court intrigue, was made prefect of the praetorium, as if at the recommendation of Agilo, his son-in-law. Many others were admitted |423 to various posts in the palace, and to the government of provinces; some against their will, others voluntarily, and even giving bribes for their promotion.
7. And, as often happens in times of intestine commotion, some men, from the very dregs of the populace, rose to a high position, led by desperate boldness and insane expectations; while, on the contrary, others of noble birth fell from the highest elevation down to exile and death.
8. When by these and similar acts the party of Procopius seemed firmly established, the next thing was to assemble a sufficient military force; and that was easily managed, though sometimes, in times of public disorder, a failure here has hindered great enterprises, and even some which had a lawful origin.
9. The divisions of cavalry and infantry which were passing through Thrace were easily gained over, and being kindly and liberally treated, were collected into one body, and at once presented the appearance of an army; and being excited by magnificent promises, they swore with solemn oaths fidelity to Procopius, promising to defend him with unswerving loyalty.
10. For a most seasonable opportunity of gaining them over was found; because he carried in his arms the little daughter of Constantius, whose memory was still held in reverence, himself also claiming relationship with Julian. He also availed himself of another seasonable incident, namely, that it was while Faustina, the mother of the child, was present that he had received the insignia of the imperial rites.
11. He employed also another expedient (though it required great promptitude); he chose some persons, as stupid as they were rash, whom he sent to Illyricum, relying on no support except their own impudence; but also well furnished with pieces of gold stamped with the head of the new emperor, and with other means suited to win over the multitude. But these men were arrested by Equitius, who was the commander of the forces in that country, and were put to death by various methods.
12. And then, fearing similar attempts by Procopius, he blocked up the three narrowest entrances into the northern province; one through Dacia, along the course of the |424 different rivers; another, and that the most frequented, through the Succi; and the third through Macedonia, which is known as the Acontisma. And in consequence of these precautions the usurper was deprived of all hope of becoming master of Illyricum, and lost one great resource for carrying on the war.
13. In the mean time Valens, overwhelmed with the strange nature of this intelligence, and being already on his return through Gallo-Graecia, after he had heard what had happened at Constantinople, advanced with great diffidence and alarm; and as his sudden fears deprived him of his usual prudence, he fell into such despondency that he thought of laying aside his imperial robes as too heavy a burden; and in truth he would have done so if those about him had not hindered him from adopting so dishonourable a resolution. So, being encouraged by the opinions of braver men, he ordered two legions, known as the Jovian and the Victorian, to advance in front to storm the rebel camp.
14. And when they approached, Procopius, who had returned from Nicaea, to which city he had lately gone with the legion of Divitenses and a promiscuous body of deserters, which he had collected in a few days, hastened to Mygdus on the Sangarius.
15. And when the legions, being now prepared for battle, assembled there, and while both sides were exchanging missiles as if wishing to provoke an attack, Procopius advanced by himself into the middle, and under the guidance of favourable fortune, he remarked in the opposite ranks a man named Vitalianus (it is uncertain whether he had known him before), and having given him his hand and embraced him, he said, while both armies were equally astonished.
10. "And is this the end of the ancient fidelity of the Roman armies, and of the oaths taken under the strictest obligations of religion! Have you decided, O gallant men, to use your swords in defence of strangers, and that a degenerate Pannonian should undermine and upset everything, and so enjoy a sovereign power which he never even ventured to picture to himself in his prayers, while we lament over your ill-fortune and our own. Follow rather the race of your own noble princes which is now |425 in arms, not with the view of seizing what does not belong to it, but with the hope of recovering its ancestral possessions and hereditary dignities."
17. All were propitiated by this conciliatory speech, and those who had come with the intention of fighting now readily lowered their standards and eagles, and of their own accord came over to him; instead of uttering their fearful yells, they unanimously saluted Procopius emperor, and escorted him to his camp, calling Jupiter to witness, after their military fashion, that Procopius should prove invincible.
§ 1. Another fortunate circumstance occurred to swell the prosperity of the rebels. A tribune named Rumitalca, who had joined the partisans of Procopius, having been intrusted with the guard of the palace, digested a plan, and after mingling with the soldiers, passed over by sea to the town formerly known as Drepanum, but now as Helenopolis, and thence marched upon Nicaea, and made himself master of it before any one dreamt of such a step.
2. Valens sent Vadomarius, who had formerly been duke and king of the Allemanni, with a body of troops experienced in that kind of work, to besiege Nicaea, and proceeded himself to Nicomedia; and passing on from that city, he pressed the siege of Chalcedon with all his might; but the citizens poured reproaches on him from the walls, calling him Sabaiarius, or beer-drinker. Now Sabai is a drink made of barley or other grain, and is used only by poor people in Illyricum.
3. At last, being worn out by the scarcity of supplies and the exceeding obstinacy of the garrison, he was preparing to raise the siege, when the garrison who were shut up in Nicaea suddenly opened the gates and issued forth, destroying a great portion of the works of the besiegers, and under the command of the faithful Rumitalca hastened on eagerly in the hope of cutting off Valens, who had not yet quitted the suburb of Chalcedon. And they would have succeeded in their attempt if he had not learnt the imminence of his danger from some rumour, and eluded the enemy who were pressing on his track, |426 by departing with all speed by a road lying between the lake Sunon and the winding course of the river Gallus. And through this circumstance Bithynia also fell into the hands of Procopius.
4. When Valens had returned by forced marches from this city to Ancyra, and had learnt that Lupicinus was approaching with no inconsiderable force from the East, he began to entertain better hopes, and sent Arinthaeus as his most approved general to encounter the enemy.
5. And when Arinthaeus reached Dadastana, where we have mentioned that Jovian died, he suddenly saw in his front, Hyperechius, who had previously been only a subaltern, but who now, as a trusty friend, had received from Procopius the command of the auxiliary forces. And thinking it no credit to defeat in battle a man of no renown, relying on his authority and on his lofty personal stature, he shouted out a command to the enemy themselves to take and bind their commander; they obeyed, and so this mere shadow of a general was arrested by the hands of his own men.
6. In the interim, a man of the name of Venustus, who had been an officer of the treasury under Valens, and who had sometime before been sent to Nicomedia, to distribute pay to the soldiers who were scattered over the East, when he heard of this disaster, perceived that the time was unfavourable for the execution of his commission, and repaired in haste to Cyzicus with the money which he had with him.
7. There, as it happened, he met Serenianus, who was at that time the count of the guards, and who had been sent to protect the treasury, and who now, with a garrison collected in a hurry, had undertaken the defence of the city, which was impregnable in its walls, and celebrated also for many ancient monuments, though Procopius, in order, now that he had got possession of Bithynia, to make himself master of the Hellespont, had sent a strong force to besiege it.
8. The siege went on slowly; often numbers of the besiegers were wounded by arrows and bullets, and other missiles; and by the skill of the garrison a barrier of the strongest iron chain was thrown across the mouth of the harbour, fastened strongly to the land on each side, to |427 prevent the ships of the enemy, which were armed with beaks, from forcing their way in.
9. This boom, however, after great exertions on the part of both soldiers and generals, who were all exhausted by the fierce nature of the struggle, a tribune of the name of Aliso, an experienced and skilful warrior, cut through in the following manner:—He fastened together three vessels, and placed upon them a kind of testudo, thus,—on the benches stood a body of armed men, united together by their shields, which joined above their heads; behind them was another row, who stooped, so as to be lower; a third rank bent lower still, so as to form a regular gradation; so that the last row of all, resting on their haunches, gave the whole formation the appearance of an arch. This kind of machine is employed in contests under the walls of towns, in order that while the blows of missiles and stones fall on the slippery descent they may pass off like so much rain.
10. Aliso then, being for a while defended from the shower of missiles, by his own vast strength held a log under this chain, while with a mighty blow of his axe he cut it through, so that being driven asunder, it left the broad entrance open, and thus the city was laid open unprotected to the assault of the enemy. And on this account, when, after the death of the originator of all this confusion, cruel vengeance was taken on the members of his party, the same tribune, from a recollection of his gallant action, was granted his life and allowed to retain his commission, and a long time afterwards fell in Isauria in a conflict with a band of ravagers.
11. When Cyzicus was thus opened to him, Procopius hastened thither, and pardoned all who had opposed him, except Serenianus, whom be put in irons, and sent to Nicaea, to be kept in close confinement.
12. And immediately he appointed the young Hormisdas (the son of the former Prince Hormisdas) proconsul intrusting him in the ancient fashion with the command both in civil and military affairs. He conducted himself, as his natural disposition prompted him, with moderation, but was almost seized by the soldiers whom Valens had sent by the difficult passes of Phrygia; he saved himself, however, by great energy, embarking on board a vessel which he kept in readiness for any emergency, carrying |428 off also his wife, who followed him, and was nearly taken prisoner, had he not protected her under a shower of arrows. She was a lady of high family and great wealth, whose modesty and the glorious destiny reserved for her subsequently saved her husband from great dangers.
13. In consequence of this victory Procopius was elated beyond measure, and not knowing that a man, however happy, if Fortune turns her wheel may become most miserable before evening, he ordered the house of Arbetio, which he had previously spared as that of one of his own partisans, to be rifled, and it was full of furniture of countless value. The reason of his indignation against Arbetio was, that though he had summoned him several times to come to him, he had deferred his audience, pleading old age and sickness.
14. And this presumptuous man might, from the uncertainty in human affairs, have feared some great change; but though without any resistance he could have overrun the provinces of the East with the willing consent of the natives themselves, who, from weariness of the severe rule under which they then were, were eager for any change whatever, he indolently lingered, hoping to gain over time cities of Asia Minor, and to collect some men who were skilful in procuring gold, and who would be of use to him in future battles, which he expected would be both numerous and severe.
15. Thus he was allowing himself to grow blunt, like a rusty sword; just as formerly Pescennius Niger, when repeatedly urged by the Roman people to come to their aid at a time of great extremity, lost a great deal of time in Syria, and at last was defeated by Severus in the Gulf of Issus (which is a town in Cilicia, where Alexander conquered Darius), and was put to death by a common soldier in a suburb of Antioch.
§ 1. These events took place in the depth of winter, in the consulship of Valentinian and Valens. But this high office of consul was transferred to Gratian, who was as yet only a private individual, and to Dagalaiphus. And then, |429 having collected his forces at the approach of spring, Valens, having united Lupicinus's troops, which were a numerous body, to his own, marched with all speed towards Pessinus, which was formerly reckoned a town of Phrygia, but was now considered to belong to Galatia.
2. Having speedily secured it with a garrison, to prevent any unforeseen danger from arising in that district, he proceeded along the foot of Mount Olympus by very difficult passes to Lycia, intending to attack Gomoarius, who was loitering in that province.
3. Many vehemently opposed this project from this consideration, that his enemy, as has been already mentioned, always bore with him on a litter the little daughter of Constantius, with her mother Faustina, both when marching and when preparing for battle, thus exciting the soldiers to fight more resolutely for the imperial family, with which, as he told them, he himself was connected. So formerly, when the Macedonians were on the point of engaging in battle with the Illyrians, they placed their king, who was still an infant, in his cradle behind the line of battle, and the fear lest he should be taken prisoner made them exert themselves the more so as to defeat their enemies.
4. To counteract this crafty manoeuvre the emperor, in the critical state of his affairs, devised a sagacious remedy, and summoned Arbetio, formerly consul, but who was now living in privacy, to join him, in order that the fierce minds of the soldiers might be awed by the presence of a general who had served under Constantine. And it happened as he expected.
5. For when that officer, who was older in years than all around him, and superior in rank, showed his venerable gray hairs to the numbers who were inclined to violate their oaths, and accused Procopius as a public robber, and addressing the soldiers who followed his guilty leadership as his own sons and the partners of his former toils, entreated them rather to follow him as a parent known to them before as a successful leader than obey a profligate spendthrift who ought to be abandoned, and who would soon fall.
6. And when Gomoarius heard this, though he might |430 have escaped from the enemy and returned in safety to the place from whence he came, yet, availing himself of the proximity of the emperor's camp, he passed over under the guise of a prisoner, as if he had been surrounded by the sudden advance of a superior force.
7. Encouraged by this, Valens quickly moved his camp to Phrygia, and engaged the enemy near Nacolia, and the battle was doubtful till Agilo, the leader of Procopius's forces, betrayed his side by a sudden desertion of his ranks; and he was followed by many who, brandishing their javelins and their swords, crossed over to the emperor, bearing their standards and their shields reversed, which is the most manifest sign of defection.
8. When this unexpected event took place, Procopius abandoning all hope of safety, dismounted, and sought a hiding-place on foot in the groves and hills. He was followed by Florentius and the tribune Barchalbas, who having been known ever since the time of Constantine in all the terrible wars which had taken place, was now driven into treason by necessity not by inclination.
9. So when the greater part of the night was passed, as the moon, which had risen in the evening, by continuing her light till dawn increased their fear, Procopius, finding it impossible to escape, and having no resources, as is often the case in moments of extreme danger, began to blame his mournful and disastrous fortune. And being overwhelmed with care, he was on a sudden taken and bound by his own comrades, and at daybreak led to the camp, and brought, silent and downcast, before the emperor. He was immediately beheaded; and his death put an end to the increasing disturbances of civil war. His fate resembled that of Perpenna of old, who, after Sertorius had been slain at a banquet, enjoyed the power for a short time, but was dragged out of the thicket where he was concealed and brought to Pompey, by whose orders he was put to death.
10. Giving way to equal indignation against Florentius and Barchalbas, though they delivered up Procopius, he instantly ordered them also to be slain, without listening to reason. For if they had betrayed their legitimate prince, Justice herself would pronounce them justly slain: but if he whom they betrayed was a rebel and an enemy to the tranquillity of the state, as was alleged, then they ought |431 to have received an ample reward for so memorable an action.
11. Procopius perished at the age of forty years and ten months. He was of a goodly appearance, tall, inclined to stoop, always looking on the ground as he walked, and in his reserved and melancholy manners like Crassus, whom Lucillius and Cicero record never to have smiled but once in his life; and what is very remarkable, as long as he lived he never shed blood.
§ 1. About the same time, his kinsman Marcellus, an officer of the guard, who commanded the garrison of Nicaea, hearing of the treachery of the soldiers and the death of Procopius, attacked Serenianus, who was confined in the palace, unexpectedly at midnight, and put him to death. And his death was the safety of many.
2. For if he, a man of rude manners, bitter temper, and a love of injuring people, had survived Valens's victory, having also great influence with Valens from the similarity of his disposition and the proximity of their birthplaces, he would have studied the secret inclinations of a prince always inclined to cruelty, and would have shed the blood of many innocent persons.
3. Having killed him, Marcellus by a rapid march seized on Chalcedon, and with the aid of a few people, whom the lowness of their condition and despair urged to crime, obtained a shadow of authority which proved fatal to him, being deceived by two circumstances, because he thought that the three thousand Goths who, after their kings had been conciliated, had been sent to aid Procopius, who had prevailed on them to support him by pleading his relationship to Constantine, would at a small cost be easily won over to support him, and also because he was ignorant of what had happened in Illyricum.
4. While these alarming events were taking place, Equitius, having learnt by trustworthy reports from his scouts that the whole stress of the war was now to be found in Asia, passed through the Succi, and made a vigorous attempt to take Philippopolis, the ancient Eumolpias, |432 which was occupied by a garrison of the enemy. It was a city in a most favourable position, and likely to prove an obstacle to his approach if left in his rear, and if he, while conducting reinforcements to Valens (for he was not yet acquainted with what had happened at Nacolia), should be compelled to hasten to the district around Mount Haemus.
5. But when, a few days later, he heard of the foolish usurpation of Marcellus, he sent against him a body of bold and active troops, who seized him as a mischievous slave, and threw him into prison. From which, some days afterwards, he was brought forth, scourged severely with his accomplices, and put to death, having deserved favour by no action of his life except that he had slain Serenianus, a man as cruel as Phalaris, and faithful only in barbarity, which he displayed on the slightest pretext.
6. The war being now at an end by the death of the leader, many were treated with much greater severity than their errors or faults required, especially the defenders of Philippopolis, who would not surrender the city or themselves till they saw the head of Procopius, which was conveyed to Gaul.
7. Some, however, by the influence of intercessors, received mercy, the most eminent of whom was Araxius, who, when the crisis was at its height, had applied for and obtained the office of prefect. He, by the intercession of his son-in-law Agilo, was punished only by banishment to an island, from which he soon afterwards escaped.
8. But Euphrasius and Phronemius were sent to the west to be at the disposal of Valentinian. Euphrasius was acquitted, but Phronemius was transported to the Chersonesus, being punished more severely than the other, though their case was the same, because he had been a favourite with the late emperor Julian, whose memorable virtues the two brothers now on the throne joined in disparaging, though they were neither like nor equal to him.
9. To those severities other grievances of greater importance, and more to be dreaded than any sufferings in battle, were added. For the executioner, and the rack, and bloody modes of torture, now attacked men of every rank, class, or fortune, without distinction. Peace seemed as a pretext for establishing a detestable tribunal, while all men |433 cursed the ill-omened victory that had been gained as worse than the most deadly war.
10. For amid arms and trumpets the equality of every one's chance makes danger seem lighter; and often the might of martial valour obtains what it aims at; or else a sudden death, if it befalls a man, is attended by no feeling of ignominy, but brings an end to life and to suffering at the same time. When, however, laws and statutes are put forth as pretexts for wicked counsels, and judges, affecting the equity of Cato or Cassius, sit on the bench, though in fact everything is done at the discretion of over-arrogant power, on the whim of which every man's life or death depends, the mischief is fatal and incurable.
11. For at this time any one might go to the palace on any pretext, and if he were inflamed with a desire of appropriating the goods of others, though the person he accused might be notoriously innocent, he was received by the emperor as a friend to be trusted and deserving to be enriched at the expense of others.
12. For the emperor was quick to inflict injury, always ready to listen to informers, admitting the most deadly accusations, and exulting unrestrainedly in the diversity of punishments devised; ignorant of the expression of Cicero, which teaches us that those men are unhappy who think themselves privileged to do everything.
13. This implacability, unworthy of a just cause, and disgracing his victory, exposed many innocent men to the torturers, crushing them beneath the rack, or slaying them by the stroke of the fierce executioner. Men who, if nature had permitted, would rather have lost ten lives in battle than be thus tortured while guiltless of all crime, having their estates confiscated, as if guilty of treason, and their bodies mutilated before death, which is the most bitter kind of death.
14. At last, when his ferocity was exhausted by his cruelties, men of the highest rank were still exposed to proscription, banishment, and other punishments which, though severe, appear lighter to some people. And in order to enrich some one else, men of noble birth, and perhaps still more richly endowed with virtues, were stripped of their patrimony and driven into exile, where they were exhausted with misery, perhaps being even reduced to |434 subsist by beggary. Nor was any limit put to the cruelties which were inflicted till both the prince and those about him were satiated with plunder and bloodshed.
15. While the usurper, whose various acts and death we have been relating, was still alive, on the 21st of July, in the first consulship of Valentinian and his brother, fearful dangers suddenly overspread the whole world, such as are related in no ancient fables or histories.
16. For a little before sunrise there was a terrible earthquake, preceded by incessant and furious lightning. The sea was driven backwards, so as to recede from the land, and the very depths were uncovered, so that many marine animals were left sticking in the mud. And the depths of its valleys and the recesses of the hills, which from the very first origin of all things had been lying beneath the boundless waters, now beheld the beams of the sun.
17. Many ships were stranded on the dry shore, while people straggling about the shoal water picked up fishes and things of that kind in their hands. In another quarter the waves, as if raging against the violence with which they had been driven back, rose, and swelling over the boiling shallows, beat upon the islands and the extended coasts of the mainland, levelling cities and houses wherever they encountered them. All the elements were in furious discord, and the whole face of the world seemed turned upside down, revealing the most extraordinary sights.
18. For the vast waves subsided when it was least expected, and thus drowned many thousand men. Even ships were swallowed up in the furious currents of the returning tide, and were seen to sink when the fury of the sea was exhausted; and the bodies of those who perished by shipwreck floated about on their backs or faces.
19. Other vessels of great size were driven on shore by the violence of the wind, and cast upon the house-tops. as happened at Alexandria; and some were even driven two miles inland, of which we ourselves saw one in Laconia, near the town of Mothone, which was lying and rotting where it had been driven.
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.
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