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Of Ammianus Marcellinus, the writer of the following History, we know very little more than what can be collected from that portion of it which remains to us. From that source we learn that he was a native of Antioch, and a soldier; being one of the prefectores domestici —the body-guard of the emperor, into which none but men of noble birth were admitted. He was on the staff of Ursicinus, whom he attended in several of his expeditions; and he bore a share in the campaigns which Julian made against the Persians. After that time he never mentions himself, and we are ignorant when he quitted the service and retired to Rome, in which city he composed his History. We know not when he was born, or when he died, except that from one or two incidental passages in his work it is plain that he lived nearly to the end of the fourth century: and it is even uncertain whether he was a Christian or a Pagan; though the general belief is, that he adhered to the religion of the ancient Romans, without, however, permitting it to lead him even to speak disrespectfully of Christians or Christianity...
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Copyright © 2016 by Ammianus Marcellinus
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I. THE CRUELTY OF THE Cæsar Gallus.—II. The incursions of the Isaurians.—III. The unsuccessful plans of the Persians.—IV. The invasion of the Saracens, and the manners of that people.—V. The punishment of the adherents of Magnentius.—VI. The vices of the senate and people of Rome.—VII. The ferocity and inhumanity of the Cæsar Gallus.—VIII. A description of the provinces of the East.—IX. About the Cæsar Constantius Gallus.—X. The Emperor Constantius grants the Allemanni peace at their request.—XI. The Cæsar Constantius Gallus is sent for by the Emperor Constantius, and beheaded.
§ 1. After the events of an expedition full of almost insuperable difficulties, while the spirits of all parties in the state, broken by the variety of their dangers and toils, were still enfeebled; while the clang of trumpets was ringing in men’s ears, and the troops were still distributed in their winter quarters, the storms of angry fortune surrounded the commonwealth with fresh dangers through the manifold and terrible atrocities of Cæsar Gallus: who, when just entering into the prime of life, having been raised with unexpected honour from the lowest depth of misery to the highest rank, exceeded all the legitimate bounds of the power conferred on him, and with preposterous violence threw everything into confusion. For by his near relationship to the royal family, and his connection with the name of Constantine, he was so inflated with pride, that if he had had more power, he would, as it seemed, have ventured to attack even the author of his prosperity.
2. His wife added fuel to his natural ferocity; she was a woman immoderately proud of her sisterly relationship to Augustus, and had been formerly given in marriage by the elder Constantine to King Hannibalianus, his brother’s son. She was an incarnate fury: never weary of inflaming his savage temper, thirsting for human blood as insatiably as her husband. The pair, in process of time, becoming more skilful in the infliction of suffering, employed a gang of underhand and crafty talebearers, accustomed in their wickedness to make random additions to their discoveries, which consisted in general of such falsehoods as they themselves delighted in; and these men loaded the innocent with calumnies, charging them with aiming at kingly power, or with practising infamous acts of magic.
3. And among his less remarkable atrocities, when his power had gone beyond the bounds of moderate crimes, was conspicuous the horrible and sudden death of a certain noble citizen of Alexandria, named Clematius. His mother-in-law, having conceived a passion for him, could not prevail on him to gratify it; and in consequence, as was reported, she, having obtained an introduction by a secret door into the palace, won over the queen by the present of a costly necklace, and procured a fatal warrant to be sent to Honoratus, at that time count-governor of the East, in compliance with which Clematius was put to death, a man wholly innocent of any kind of wickedness, without being permitted to say a word in his defence.
4. After this iniquitous transaction, which struck others also with fear lest they should meet with similar treatment, as if cruelty had now obtained a licence, many were condemned on mere vague suspicion; of whom some were put to death, others were punished by the confiscation of their property, and driven forth as exiles from their homes, so that having nothing left but their tears and complaints, they were reduced to live on the contributions of their friends; and many opulent and famous houses were shut up, the old constitutional and just authority being changed into a government at the will of a bloodthirsty tyrant.
5. Nor amid these manifold atrocities was any testimony of an accuser, not even of a suborned one, sought for, in order to give at least an appearance of these crimes being committed according to law and statute, as very commonly even the most cruel princes have done: but whatever suited the implacable temper of Cæsar was instantly accomplished in haste, as if its accordance with human and divine law had been well considered.
6. After these deeds a fresh device was adopted, and a body of obscure men, such as, by reason of the meanness of their condition, were little likely to excite suspicion, were sent through all the districts of Antioch, to collect reports, and to bring news of whatever they might hear. They, travelling about, and concealing their object, joined clandestinely in the conversational circles of honourable men, and also in disguise obtained entrance into the houses of the rich. When they returned they were secretly admitted by back doors into the palace, and then reported all that they had been able to hear or to collect; taking care with an unanimous kind of conspiracy to invent many things, and to exaggerate for the worse all they really knew; at the same time suppressing any praises of Cæsar which had come to their ears, although these were wrung from many, against their consciences, by the dread of impending evils.
7. And it had happened sometimes that, if in his secret chamber, when no domestic servant was by, the master of the house had whispered anything into his wife’s ear, the very next day, as if those renowned seers of old, Amphiaraus or Marcius, had been at hand to report it, the emperor was informed of what had been said; so that even the walls of a man’s secret chamber, the only witnesses to his language, were viewed with apprehension.
8. And Cæsar’s fixed resolution to inquire into these and other similar occurrences was increased by the queen, who constantly stimulated his desire, and was driving on the fortunes of her husband to headlong destruction, while she ought rather, by giving him useful advice, to have led him back into the paths of truth and mercy, by feminine gentleness, as, in recounting the acts of the Gordiani, we have related to have been done by the wife of that truculent emperor Maximinus.
9. At last, by an unsurpassed and most pernicious baseness, Gallus ventured on adopting a course of fearful wickedness, which indeed Gallienus, to his own exceeding infamy, is said formerly to have tried at Rome; and, taking with him a few followers secretly armed, he used to rove in the evening through the streets and among the shops, making inquiries in the Greek language, in which he was well skilled, what were the feelings of individuals towards Cæsar. And he used to do this boldly in the city, where the brillancy of the lamps at night often equalled the light of day. At last, being often recognized, and considering that if he went out in this way he should be known, he took care never to go out except openly in broad daylight, to transact whatever business which he thought of serious importance. And these things caused bitter though secret lamentation, and discontent to many.
10. But at that time Thalassius was the present prefect of the palace, a man of an arrogant temper; and he, perceiving that the hasty fury of Gallus gradually increased to the danger of many of the citizens, did not mollify it by either delay or wise counsels, as men in high office have very often pacified the anger of their princes; but by untimely opposition and reproof, did often excite him the more to frenzy; often also informing Augustus of his actions, and that too with exaggeration, and taking care, I know not with what intention, that what he did should not be unknown to the emperor. And at this Cæsar soon became more vehemently exasperated, and, as if raising more on high than ever the standard of his contumacy, without any regard to the safety of others or of himself, he bore himself onwards like a rapid torrent, with an impetuosity which would listen to no reason, to sweep away all the obstacles which opposed his will.
§ 1. Nor indeed was the East the only quarter which this plague affected with its various disasters. For the Isaurians also, a people who were accustomed to frequent alternations of peace, and of turbulence which threw everything into confusion with sudden outbreaks—impunity having fostered their growing audacity and encouraged it to evil—broke out in a formidable war. Being especially excited, as they gave out by this indignity, that some of their allies, having been taken prisoners, were in an unprecedented manner exposed to wild beasts, and in the games of the amphitheatre, at Iconium, a town of Pisidia.
2. And as Cicero says, that “even wild beasts, when reminded by hunger, generally return to that place where they have been fed before.” So they all, descending like a whirlwind from their high and pathless mountains, came into the districts bordering on the sea: in which hiding themselves in roads full of lurking-places, and in defiles, when the long nights were approaching, the moon being at that time new, and so not yet giving her full light, they lay wait for the sailors; and when they perceived that they were wrapped in sleep, they, crawling on their hands and feet along the cables which held the anchors, and raising themselves up by them, swung themselves into the boats, and so came upon the crews unexpectedly, and, their natural ferocity being inflamed by covetousness, they spared not even those who offered no resistance, but slew them all, and carried off a splendid booty with no more trouble than if it had been valueless.
3. This conduct did not last long, for when the deaths of the crews thus plundered and slaughtered became known, no one afterwards brought a vessel to the stations on that coast; but, avoiding them as they would have avoided the deadly precipices of Sciron, they sailed on, without halting, to the shores of Cyprus, which lie opposite to the rocks of Isauria.
4. Therefore as time went on, and no foreign vessels went there any more, they quitted the sea-coast, and betook themselves to Lycaonia, a country which lies on the borders of Isauria. And there, occupying the roads with thick barricades, they sought a living by plundering the inhabitants of the district, as well as travellers. These outrages aroused the soldiers who were dispersed among the many municipal towns and forts which lie on the borders. And they, endeavouring to the utmost of their strength to repel these banditti, who were spreading every day more widely, sometimes in solid bodies, at others in small straggling parties, were overcome by their vast numbers.
5. Since the Isaurians, having been born and brought up amid the entangled defiles of lofty mountains, could bound over them as over plain and easy paths, and attacked all who came in their way with missiles from a distance, terrifying them at the same time with savage yells.
6. And very often our infantry were compelled in pursuit of them to climb lofty crags, and, when their feet slipped, to catch hold of the shrubs and briars to raise themselves to the summits; without ever being able to deploy into battle array, by reason of the narrow and difficult nature of the ground, nor even to stand firm; while their enemy running round in every direction hurled down upon them fragments of rock from above till they retired down the declivities with great danger. Or else, sometimes, in the last necessity fighting bravely, they were overwhelmed with fragments of immense bulk and weight.
7. On this account they subsequently were forced to observe more caution, and whenever the plunderers began to retire to the high ground, our soldiers yielded to the unfavourable character of the country and retired. But whenever they could be met with in the plain, which often happened, then charging them without giving them time to combine their strength, or even to brandish the javelins of which they always carried two or three, they slaughtered them like defenceless sheep.
8. So that these banditti, conceiving a fear of Lycaonia, which is for the most part a champaign country, since they had learnt by repeated proofs that they were unequal to our troops in a pitched battle, betook themselves by unfrequented tracks to Pamphylia. This district had long been free from the evils of war, but nevertheless had been fortified in all quarters by strong forts and garrisons, from the dread entertained by the people of rapine and slaughter, since soldiers were scattered over all the neighbouring districts.
9. Therefore hastening with all speed, in order by their exceeding celerity of movement to anticipate all rumour of their motions, trusting to their strength and activity of body, they travelled by winding roads until they reached the high ground on the tops of the mountains, the steepness of which delayed their march more than they had expected. And when at last, having surmounted all the difficulties of the mountains, they came to the precipitous banks of the Melas, a deep river and one full of dangerous currents, which winds round the district, protecting the inhabitants like a wall, the night which had overtaken them increased their fears, so that they halted for a while awaiting the daylight. For they expected to be able to cross without hindrance, and then, in consequence of the suddenness of their inroad, to be able to ravage all the country around; but they had incurred great toil to no purpose.
10. For when the sun rose they were prevented from crossing by the size of the river, which though narrow was very deep. And while they were searching for some fishing-boats, or preparing to commit themselves to the stream on rafts hastily put together, the legions which at that time were wintering about Side, came down upon them with great speed and impetuosity; and having pitched their standards close to the bank with a view to an immediate battle, they packed their shields together before them in a most skilful manner, and without any difficulty slew some of the banditti, who either trusted to their swimming, or who tried to cross the river unperceived in barks made of the trunks of trees hollowed out.
11. And the Isaurians having tried many devices to obtain success in a regular battle, and having failed in everything, being repulsed in great consternation, and with great vigour on the part of the legions, and being uncertain which way to go, came near the town of Laranda. And there, after they had refreshed themselves with food and rest, and recovered from their fears, they attacked several wealthy towns; but being presently scared by the support given to the citizens by some squadrons of horse which happened to be at hand, and which they would not venture to resist in the extensive plains, they retreated, and retracing their steps summoned all the flower of their youth which had been left at home to join them.
12. And as they were oppressed with severe famine, they made for a place called Palea, standing on the sea-shore, and fortified with a strong wall; where even to this day supplies are usually kept in store, to be distributed to the armies which defend the frontier of Isauria.
13. Therefore they encamped around this fortress for three days and three nights, and as the steepness of the ground on which it stood prevented any attempt to storm it without the most deadly peril, and as it was impossible to effect anything by mines, and no other manœuvres such as are employed in sieges availed anything, they retired much dejected, being compelled by the necessities of their situation to undertake some enterprise, even if it should be greater than their strength was equal to.
14. Then giving way to greater fury than ever, being inflamed both by despair and hunger, and their strength increased by their unrestrainable ardour, they directed their efforts to destroy the city of Seleucia, the metropolis of the province, which was defended by Count Castucius, whose legions were inured to every kind of military service.
15. The commanders of the garrison being forewarned of their approach by their own trusty scouts, having, according to custom, given, out the watchword to the troops, led forth all their forces in a rapid sally, and having with great activity passed the bridge over the river Calicadnus, the mighty waters of which wash the turrets of the walls, they drew out their men as if prepared for battle. But as yet no man left the ranks, and the army was not allowed to engage; for the band of the Isaurians was dreaded, inasmuch as they were desperate with rage, and superior in number, and likely to rush upon the arms of the legions without any regard to their lives. Therefore as soon as the army was beheld at a distance, and the music of the trumpeters was heard, the banditti halted and stood still for a while, brandishing their threatening swords, and after a time they marched on slowly. And when the steady Roman soldiery began to deploy, preparing to encounter them, beating their shields with their spears (a custom which rouses the fury of the combatants, and strikes terror into their enemies), they filled the front ranks of the Isaurians with consternation. But as the troops were pressing forward eagerly to the combat their generals recalled them, thinking it inopportune to enter upon a contest of doubtful issue, when their walls were not far distant, under protection of which the safety of the whole army could be placed on a solid foundation.
16. Therefore the soldiers were brought back inside the walls in accordance with this resolution, and all the approaches and gates were strongly barred; and the men were placed on the battlements and bulwarks, having vast stones and weapons of all kinds piled close at hand, so that if any one forced his way inside he might be overwhelmed with a multitude of missiles and stones.
17. But those who were shut up in the walls were at the same time greatly afflicted, because the Isaurians having taken some vessels which were conveying grain down the river, were well provided with abundance of food, while they themselves, having almost consumed the usual stores of food, were in a state of alarm dreading the fatal agonies of approaching famine. When the news of this distress got abroad, and when repeated messages to this effect had moved Gallus Cæsar, because the master of the horse was kept away longer than usual at that season, Nebridius the count of the East was ordered to collect a military force from all quarters, and hastened forward with exceeding zeal to deliver the city, so wealthy and important, from such a peril. And when this was known the banditti retired, without having performed any memorable exploit, and dispersing, according to their wont, they sought the trackless recesses of the lofty mountains.
§ 1. While affairs were in this state in Isauria, and while the king of Persia was involved in wars upon his frontier, repulsing from his borders a set of ferocious tribes which, being full of fickleness, were continually either attacking him in a hostile manner, or, as often happens, aiding him when he turned his arms against us, a certain noble, by name Nohodares, having been appointed to invade Mesopotamia, whenever occasion might serve, was anxiously exploring our territories with a view to some sudden incursion, if he could anywhere find an opportunity.
2. And because since every part of Mesopotamia is accustomed to be disturbed continually, the lands were protected by frequent barriers, and military stations in the rural districts, Nohodares, having directed his march to the left, had occupied the most remote parts of the Osdroene, having devised a novel plan of operations which had never hitherto been tried. And if he had succeeded he would have laid waste the whole country like a thunderbolt.
3. Now the plan which he had conceived was of this kind. There is a town in Anthemusia called Batne, built by the ancient Macedonians, a short distance from the river Euphrates, thickly peopled by wealthy merchants. To this city, about the beginning of the month of September, a great multitude of all ranks throng to a fair, in order to buy the wares which the Indians and Chinese send thither, and many other articles which are usually brought to this fair by land and sea.
4. The leader before named, preparing to invade this district on the days set apart for this solemnity, marching through the deserts and along the grassy banks of the river Abora, was betrayed by information given by some of his own men, who being alarmed at the discovery of certain crimes which they had committed, deserted to the Roman garrisons, and accordingly he retired again without having accomplished anything; and after that remained quiet without undertaking any further enterprise.
§ 1. At this time also the Saracens, a race whom it is never desirable to have either for friends or enemies, ranging up and down the country, if ever they found anything, plundered it in a moment, like rapacious hawks who, if from on high they behold any prey, carry it off with rapid swoop, or, if they fail in their attempt, do not tarry.
2. And although, in recounting the career of the Prince Marcus, and once or twice subsequently, I remember having discussed the manners of this people, nevertheless I will now briefly enumerate a few more particulars concerning them.
3. Among these tribes, whose primary origin is derived from the cataracts of the Nile and the borders of the Blemmyæ, all the men are warriors of equal rank; half naked, clad in coloured cloaks down to the waist, overrunning different countries, with the aid of swift and active horses and speedy camels, alike in times of peace and war. Nor does any member of their tribes ever take plough in hand or cultivate a tree, or seek food by the tillage of the land; but they are perpetually wandering over various and extensive districts, having no home, no fixed abode or laws; nor can they endure to remain long in the same climate, no one district or country pleasing them for a continuance.
4. Their life is one continued wandering; their wives are hired, on special covenant, for a fixed time; and that there may be some appearance of marriage in the business, the intended wife, under the name of a dowry, offers a spear and a tent to her husband, with a right to quit him after a fixed day, if she should choose to do so. And it is inconceivable with what eagerness the individuals of both sexes give themselves up to matrimonial pleasures.
5. But as long as they live they wander about with such extensive and perpetual migrations, that the woman is married in one place, brings forth her children in another, and rears them at a distance from either place, no opportunity of remaining quiet being ever granted to her.
6. They all live on venison, and are further supported on a great abundance of milk, and on many kinds of herbs, and on whatever birds they can catch by fowling. And we have seen a great many of them wholly ignorant of the use of either corn or wine.
7. So much for this most mischievous nation. Now let us return to the subject we originally proposed to ourselves.
§ 1. While these events were taking place in the East, Constantius was passing the winter at Arles; and after an exhibition of games in the theatre and in the circus, which were displayed with most sumptuous magnificence, on the tenth of October, the day which completed the thirtieth year of his reign, he began to give the reins more freely to his insolence, believing every information which was laid before him as proved, however doubtful or false it might be; and among other acts of cruelty, he put Gerontius, a count of the party of Magnentius, to the torture, and then condemned him to banishment.
2. And as the body of a sick man is apt to be agitated by even trifling grievances, so his narrow and sensitive mind, thinking every sound that stirred something either done or planned to the injury of his safety, made his victory mournful by the slaughter of innocent men.
3. For if any one of his military officers, or of those who had ever received marks of honour, or if any one of high rank was accused, on the barest rumour, of having favoured the faction of his enemy, he was loaded with chains and dragged about like a beast. And whether any enemy of the accused man pressed him or not, as if the mere fact that his name had been mentioned was sufficient, every one who was informed against or in any way called in question, was condemned either to death, or to confiscation of his property, or to confinement in a desert island.
4. For his ferocity was excited to a still further degree when any mention was made of treason or sedition; and the bloodthirsty insinuations of those around him, exaggerating everything that happened, and pretending great concern at any danger which might threaten the life of the emperor, on whose safety, as on a thread, they hypocritically exclaimed the whole world depended, added daily to his suspicions and watchful anger.
5. And therefore it is reported he gave orders that no one who was at any time sentenced to punishment for these or similar offences should be readmitted to his presence for the purpose of offering the usual testimonies to his character, a thing which the most implacable princes have been wont to permit. And thus deadly cruelty, which in all other men at times grows cool, in him only became more violent as he advanced in years, because the court of flatterers which attended on him added continual fuel to his stern obstinacy.
6. Of this court a most conspicuous member was Paulus, the secretary, a native of Spain, a man keeping his objects hidden beneath a smooth countenance, and acute beyond all men in smelling out secret ways to bring others into danger. He, having been sent into Britain to arrest some military officers who had dared to favour the conspiracy of Magnentius, as they could not resist, licentiously exceeded his commands, and like a flood poured with sudden violence upon the fortunes of a great number of people, making his path through manifold slaughter and destruction, loading the bodies of free-born men with chains, and crushing some with fetters, while patching up all kinds of accusations far removed from the truth. And to this man is owing one especial atrocity which has branded the time of Constantius with indelible infamy.
7. Martinus, who at that time governed these provinces as deputy, being greatly concerned for the sufferings inflicted on innocent men, and making frequent entreaties that those who were free from all guilt might be spared, when he found that he could not prevail, threatened to withdraw from the province, in the hope that this malevolent inquisitor, Paulus, might be afraid of his doing so, and so give over exposing to open danger men who had combined only in a wish for tranquillity.
8. Paulus, thinking that this conduct of Martinus was a hindrance to his own zeal, being, as he was, a formidable artist in involving matters, from which people gave him the nickname of “the Chain,” attacked the deputy himself while still engaged in defending the people whom he was set to govern, and involved him in the dangers which surrounded every one else, threatening that he would carry him, with his tribunes and many other persons, as a prisoner to the emperor’s court. Martinus, alarmed at this threat, and seeing the imminent danger in which his life was, drew his sword and attacked Paulus. But because from want of strength in his hand he was unable to give him a mortal wound, he then plunged his drawn sword into his own side. And by this unseemly kind of death that most just man departed from life, merely for having dared to interpose some delay to the miserable calamities of many citizens.
9. And when these wicked deeds had been perpetrated, Paulus, covered with blood, returned to the emperor’s camp, bringing with him a crowd of prisoners almost covered with chains, in the lowest condition of squalor and misery; on whose arrival the racks were prepared, and the executioner began to prepare his hooks and other engines of torture. Of these prisoners, many of them had their property confiscated, others were sentenced to banishment, some were given over to the sword of the executioner. Nor is it easy to cite the acquittal of a single person in the time of Constantius, where the slightest whisper of accusation had been brought against him.
§ 1. At this time Orfitus was the governor of the Eternal City, with the rank of prefect; and he behaved with a degree of insolence beyond the proper limits of the dignity thus conferred upon him. A man of prudence indeed, and well skilled in all the forensic business of the city, but less accomplished in general literature and in the fine arts than was becoming in a nobleman. Under his administration some very formidable seditions broke out in consequence of the scarcity of wine, as the people, being exceedingly eager for an abundant use of that article, were easily excited to frequent and violent disorders.
2. And since I think it likely that foreigners who may read this account (if, indeed, any such should meet with it) are likely to wonder how it is that, when my history has reached the point of narrating what was done at Rome, nothing is spoken of but seditions, and shops, and cheapness, and other similarly inconsiderable matters, I will briefly touch upon the causes of this, never intentionally departing from the strict truth.
3. At the time when Rome first rose into mundane brilliancy—that Rome which was fated to last as long as mankind shall endure, and to be increased with a sublime progress and growth—virtue and fortune, though commonly at variance, agreed upon a treaty of eternal peace, as far as she was concerned. For if either of them had been wanting to her, she would never have reached her perfect and complete supremacy.
4. Her people, from its very earliest infancy to the latest moment of its youth, a period which extends over about three hundred years, carried on a variety of wars with the natives around its walls. Then, when it arrived at its full-grown manhood, after many and various labours in war, it crossed the Alps and the sea, till, as youth and man, it had carried the triumphs of victory into every country in the world.
5. And now that it is declining into old age, and often owes its victories to its mere name, it has come to a more tranquil time of life. Therefore the venerable city, after having bowed down the haughty necks of fierce nations, and given laws to the world, to be the foundations and eternal anchors of liberty, like a thrifty parent, prudent and rich, intrusted to the Cæsars, as to its own children, the right of governing their ancestral inheritance.
6. And although the tribes are indolent, and the countries peaceful, and although there are no contests for votes, but the tranquillity of the age of Numa has returned, nevertheless, in every quarter of the world Rome is still looked up to as the mistress and the queen of the earth, and the name of the Roman people is respected and venerated.
7. But this magnificent splendour of the assemblies and councils of the Roman people is defaced by the inconsiderate levity of a few, who never recollect where they have been born, but who fall away into error and licentiousness, as if a perfect impunity were granted to vice. For as the lyric poet Simonides teaches us, the man who would live happily in accordance with perfect reason, ought above all things to have a glorious country.
8. Of these men, some thinking that they can be handed down to immortality by means of statues, are eagerly desirous of them, as if they would obtain a higher reward from brazen figures unendowed with sense than from a consciousness of upright and honourable actions; and they even are anxious to have them plated over with gold, a thing which is reported to have been first done in the instance of Acilius Glabrio, who by his wisdom and valour had subdued King Antiochus. But how really noble a thing it is to despise all these inconsiderable and trifling things, and to bend one’s attention to the long and toilsome steps of true glory, as the poet of Ascrea has sung, and Cato the Censor has shown by his example. For when he was asked how it was that while many other nobles had statues he had none, replied: “I had rather that good men should marvel how it was that I did not earn one, than (what would be a much heavier misfortune) inquire how it was that I had obtained one.”
9. Others place the height of glory in having a coach higher than usual, or splendid apparel; and so toil and sweat under a vast burden of cloaks, which are fastened to their necks by many clasps, and blow about from the excessive fineness of the material; showing a desire, by the continual wriggling of their bodies, and especially by the waving of the left hand, to make their long fringes and tunics, embroidered in multiform figures of animals with threads of various colours, more conspicuous.
10. Others, with not any one asking them, put on a feigned severity of countenance, and extol their patrimonial estates in a boundless degree, exaggerating the yearly produce of their fruitful fields, which they boast of possessing in numbers from east to west, being forsooth ignorant that their ancestors, by whom the greatness of Rome was so widely extended, were not eminent for riches; but through a course of dreadful wars overpowered by their valour all who were opposed to them, though differing but little from the common soldiers either in riches, or in their mode of life, or in the costliness of their garments.
11. This is how it happened that Valerius Publicola was buried by the contributions of his friends, and that the destitute wife of Regulus was, with her children, supported by the aid of the friends of her husband, and that the daughter of Scipio had a dowry provided for her out of the public treasury, the other nobles being ashamed to see the beauty of this full-grown maiden, while her moneyless father was so long absent on the service of his country.
12. But now if you, as an honourable stranger, should enter the house of any one well off, and on that account full of pride, for the purpose of saluting him, at first, indeed, you will be hospitably received, as though your presence had been desired; and after having had many questions put to you, and having been forced to tell a number of lies, you will wonder, since the man had never seen you before, that one of high rank should pay such attention to you who are but an unimportant individual; so that by reason of this as a principal source of happiness, you begin to repent of not having come to Rome ten years ago.
13. And when relying on this affability you do the same thing the next day, you will stand waiting as one utterly unknown and unexpected, while he who yesterday encouraged you to repeat your visit, counts upon his fingers who you can be, marvelling, for a long time, whence you come, and what you want. But when at length you are recognized and admitted to his acquaintance, if you should devote yourself to the attention of saluting him for three years consecutively, and after this intermit your visits for an equal length of time, then if you return to repeat a similar course, you will never be questioned about your absence any more than if you had been dead, and you will waste your whole life in submitting to court the humours of this blockhead.
14. But when those long and unwholesome banquets, which are indulged in at certain intervals, begin to be prepared, or the distribution of the usual dole-baskets takes place, then it is discussed with anxious deliberation whether when those to whom a return is due are to be entertained, it is proper to invite also a stranger; and if, after the matter has been thoroughly sifted, it is determined that it may be done, that person is preferred who waits all night before the houses of charioteers, or who professes a skill in dice, or pretends to be acquainted with some peculiar secrets.
15. For such entertainers avoid all learned and sober men as unprofitable and useless; with this addition, that the nomenclators also, who are accustomed to make a market of these invitations and of similar favours, selling them for bribes, do for gain thrust in mean and obscure men at these dinners.
16. The whirlpools of banquets, and the various allurements of luxury, I omit, that I may not be too prolix, and with the object of passing on to this fact, that some people, hastening on without fear of danger, drive their horses, as if they were post-horses, with a regular licence, as the saying is, through the wide streets of the city, over the roads paved with flint, dragging behind them large bodies of slaves like bands of robbers; not leaving at home even Sannio, as the comic poet says.
17. And many matrons, imitating these men, gallop over every quarter of the city with their heads covered, and in close carriages. And as skilful conductors of battles place in the van their densest and strongest battalions, then their light-armed troops, behind them the darters, and in the extreme rear troops of reserve, ready to join in the attack if necessity should arise; so, according to the careful arrangements of the stewards of these city households, who are conspicuous by wands fastened to their right hands, as if a regular watchword had been issued from the camp, first of all, near the front of the carriage march all the slaves concerned in spinning and working; next to them come the blackened crew employed in the kitchen; then the whole body of slaves promiscuously mixed up with a gang of idle plebeians from the neighbourhood; last of all, the multitude of eunuchs, beginning with the old men and ending with the boys, pale and unsightly from the distorted deformity of their features; so that whichever way any one goes, seeing troops of mutilated men, he will detest the memory of Semiramis, that ancient queen who was the first person to castrate male youths of tender age; doing as it were a violence to nature, and forcing it back from its appointed course, which at the very first beginning and birth of the child, by a kind of secret law revealing the primitive fountains of seed, points out the way of propagating posterity.
18. And as this is the case, those few houses which were formerly celebrated for the serious cultivation of becoming studies, are now filled with the ridiculous amusements of torpid indolence, re-echoing with the sound of vocal music and the tinkle of flutes and lyres. Lastly, instead of a philosopher, you find a singer; instead of an orator, some teacher of ridiculous arts is summoned; and the libraries closed for ever, like so many graves; organs to be played by water-power are made; and lyres of so vast a size, that they look like waggons; and flutes, and ponderous machines suited for the exhibitions of actors.
19. Last of all, they have arrived at such a depth of unworthiness, that when, no very long time ago, on account of an apprehended scarcity of food, the foreigners were driven in haste from the city; those who practised liberal accomplishments, the number of whom was exceedingly small, were expelled without a moment’s breathing-time; yet the followers of actresses, and all who at that time pretended to be of such a class, were allowed to remain; and three thousand dancing-girls had not even a question put to them, but stayed unmolested with the members of their choruses, and a corresponding number of dancing masters.
20. And wherever you turn your eyes, you may see a multitude of women with their hair curled, who, as far as their age goes, might, if they had married, been by this time the mothers of three children, sweeping the pavements with their feet till they are weary, whirling round in rapid gyrations, while representing innumerable groups and figures which the theatrical plays contain.
21. It is a truth beyond all question, that, when at one time Rome was the abode of all the virtues, many of the nobles, like the Lotophagi, celebrated in Homer, who detained men by the deliciousness of their fruit, allured foreigners of free birth by manifold attentions of courtesy and kindness.
22. But now, in their empty arrogance, some persons look upon everything as worthless which is born outside of the walls of the city, except only the childless and the unmarried. Nor can it be conceived with what a variety of obsequious observance men without children are courted at Rome.
23. And since among them, as is natural in a city so great as to be the metropolis of the world, diseases attain to such an insurmountable degree of violence, that all the skill of the physician is ineffectual even to mitigate them; a certain assistance and means of safety has been devised, in the rule that no one should go to see a friend in such a condition, and to a few precautionary measures a further remedy of sufficient potency has been added, that men should not readmit into their houses servants who have been sent to inquire how a man’s friends who may have been seized with an illness of this kind are, until they have cleansed and purified their persons in the bath. So that a taint is feared, even when it has only been seen with the eyes of another.
24. But nevertheless, when these rules are observed thus stringently, some persons, if they be invited to a wedding, though the vigour of their limbs be much diminished, yet, when gold is offered in the hollow palm of the right hand, will go actively as far as Spoletum. These are the customs of the nobles.
25. But of the lower and most indigent class of the populace some spend the whole night in the wine shops. Some lie concealed in the shady arcades of the theatres; which Catulus was in his ædileship the first person to raise, in imitation of the lascivious manners of Campania, or else they play at dice so eagerly as to quarrel over them; snuffing up their nostrils and making unseemly noises by drawing back their breath into their noses; or (and this is their favourite pursuit of all others) from sunrise to evening they stay gaping through sunshine or rain, examining in the most careful manner the most sterling good or bad qualities of the charioteers and horses.
26. And it is very wonderful to see an innumerable multitude of people with great eagerness of mind intent upon the event of the contests in the chariot race. These pursuits, and others of like character, prevent anything worth mentioning or important from being done at Rome. Therefore we must return to our original subject.
§ 1. His licentiousness having now become more unbounded, the Cæsar began to be burdensome to all virtuous men; and discarding all moderation, he harassed every part of the East, sparing neither those who had received public honours, nor the chief citizens of the different cities; nor the common people.
2. At last by one single sentence he ordered all the principal persons at Antioch to be put to death; being exasperated because when he recommended that a low price should be established in the market at an unseasonable time, when the city was threatened with a scarcity, they answered him with objections, urged with more force than he approved; and they would all have been put to death to a man, if Honoratus, who was at that time count of the East, had not resisted him with pertinacious constancy.
3. This circumstance was also a proof, and that no doubtful or concealed one, of the cruelty of his nature, that he took delight in cruel sports, and in the circus he would rejoice as if he had made some great gain, to see six or seven gladiators killing one another in combats which have often been forbidden.
4. In addition to these things a certain worthless woman inflamed his purpose of inflicting misery; for she, having obtained admission to the palace, as she had requested, gave him information that a plot was secretly laid against him by a few soldiers of the lowest rank. And Constantina, in her exultation, thinking that her husband’s safety was now fully secured, rewarded and placed this woman, in a carriage, and in this way sent her out into the public street through the great gate of the palace, in order, by such a temptation, to allure others also to give similar or more important information.
5. After these events, Gallus being about to set out for Hierapolis, in order, as far as appearance went, to take part in the expedition, the common people of Antioch entreated him in a suppliant manner to remove their fear of a famine which for many reasons (some of them difficult to explain) it was believed was impending; Gallus, however, did not, as is the custom of princes whose power, by the great extent of country over which it is diffused, is able continually to remedy local distresses, order any distribution of food to be made, or any supplies to be brought from the neighbouring countries; but he pointed out to them a man of consular rank, named Theophilus, the governor of Syria, who happened to be standing by, replying to the repeated appeals of the multitude, who were trembling with apprehensions of the last extremities, that no one could possibly want food if the governor were not willing that they should be in want of it.
6. These words increased the audacity of the lower classes, and when the scarcity of provisions became more severe, urged by hunger and frenzy, they set fire to and burnt down the splendid house of a man of the name of Eubulus, a man of great reputation among his fellow-citizens; and they attacked the governor himself with blows and kicks as one especially made over to them by the judgment of the emperor, kicking him till he was half dead, and then tearing him to pieces in a miserable manner. And after his wretched death every one saw in the destruction of this single individual a type of the danger to which he was himself exposed, and, taught by this recent example, feared a similar fate.
7. About the same time Serenianus, who had previously been duke of Phœnicia, to whose inactivity it was owing, as we have already related, that Celse in Phœnicia was laid waste, was deservedly and legally accused of treason and no one saw how he could possibly be acquitted. He was also manifestly proved to have sent an intimate friend with a cap (with which he used to cover his own head) which had been enchanted by forbidden acts to the temple of prophecy, on purpose to ask expressly whether, according to his wish, a firm enjoyment of the whole empire was portended for him.
8. And in these days a twofold misfortune occurred: first, that a heavy penalty had fallen upon Theophilus who was innocent; and, secondly, that Serenianus who deserved universal execration, was acquitted without the general feeling being able to offer any effectual remonstrance.
9. Constantius then hearing from time to time of these transactions, and having been further informed of some particular occurrences by Thalassius, who however had now died by the ordinary course of nature, wrote courteous letters to the Cæsar, but at the same time gradually withdrew from him his support, pretending to be uneasy, least as the leisure of soldiers is usually a disorderly time, the troops might be conspiring to his injury: and he desired him to content himself with the schools of the Palatine, and with those of the Protectors, with the Scutarii, and Gentiles. And he ordered Domitianus, who had formerly been the Superintendent of the Treasury, but who was now promoted to be a prefect, as soon as he arrived in Syria, to address Gallus in persuasive and respectful language, exhorting him to repair with all speed to Italy, to which province the emperor had repeatedly summoned him.
10. And when, with this object, Domitianus had reached Antioch, having travelled express, he passed by the gates of the palace, in contempt of the Cæsar, whom, however, he ought to have visited, and proceeded to the general’s camp with ostentatious pomp, and there pretended to be sick; he neither visited the palace, nor ever appeared in public, but keeping himself private, he devised many things to bring about the destruction of the Cæsar, adding many superfluous circumstances to the relations which he was continually sending to the emperor.
11. At last, being expressly invited by the Cæsar, and being admitted into the prince’s council-chamber, without making the slightest preface he began in this inconsiderate and light-minded manner: “Depart,” said he, “as you have been commanded, O Cæsar, and know this, that if you make any delay I shall at once order all the provisions allotted for the support of yourself and your court to be carried away.” And then, having said nothing more than these insolent words, he departed with every appearance of rage; and would never afterwards come into his sight though frequently sent for.
12. The Cæsar being indignant at this, as thinking he had been unworthily and unjustly treated, ordered his faithful protectors to take the prefect into custody; and when this became known, Montius, who at that time was quæstor, a man of deep craft indeed, but still inclined to moderate measures, taking counsel for the common good, sent for the principal members of the Palatine schools and addressed them in pacific words, pointing out that it was neither proper nor expedient that such things should be done; and adding also in a reproving tone of voice, that if such conduct as this were approved of, then, after throwing down the statues of Constantius the prefect would begin to think how he might also with the greater security take his life also.
13. When this was known Gallus, like a serpent attacked with stones or darts, being now reduced to the extremity of despair, and eager to insure his safety by any possible means, ordered all his troops to be collected in arms, and when they stood around him in amazement he gnashed his teeth, and hissing with rage, said,—
14. “You are present here as brave men, come to the aid of me who am in one common danger with you. Montius, with a novel and unprecedented arrogance, accuses us of rebellion and resistance to the majesty of the emperor, by roaring out all these charges against us. Being offended forsooth that, as a matter of precaution, I ordered a contumacious prefect, who pretended not to know what the state of affairs required, to be arrested and kept in custody.”
15. On hearing these words the soldiers immediately, being always on the watch to raise disturbances, first of all attacked Montius, who happened to be living close at hand, an old man of no great bodily strength, and enfeebled by disease; and having bound his legs with coarse ropes, they dragged him straddling, without giving him a moment to take breath, as far as the general’s camp.
16. And with the same violence they also bound Domitianus, dragging him head first down the stairs; and then having fastened the two men together, they dragged them through all the spacious streets of the city at full speed. And, all their limbs and joints being thus dislocated, they trampled on their corpses after they were dead, and mutilated them in the most unseemly manner; and at last, having glutted their rage, they threw them into the river.
17. But there was a certain man named Luscus, the governor of the city, who, suddenly appearing among the soldiers, had inflamed them, always ready for mischief, to the nefarious actions which they had thus committed; exciting them with repeated cries, like the musician who gives the tune to the mourners at funerals, to finish what they had begun: and for this deed he was, not long after, burnt alive.
18. And because Montius, when just about to expire under the hands of those who were tearing him to pieces, repeatedly named Epigonius and Eusebius, without indicating either their rank or their profession, a great deal of trouble was taken to find out who they were; and, lest the search should have time to cool, they sent for a philosopher named Epigonius, from Lycia, and for Eusebius the orator, surnamed Pittacos, from Emissa; though they were not those whom Montius had meant, but some tribunes, superintendents of the manufactures of arms, who had promised him information if they heard of any revolutionary measures being agitated.
19. About the same time Apollinaris, the son-in-law of Domitianus, who a short time before had been the chief steward of the Cæsar’s palace, being sent to Mesopotamia by his father-in-law, took exceeding pains to inquire among the soldiers whether they had received any secret despatches from the Cæsar, indicating his having meditated any deeper designs than usual. And as soon as he heard of the events which had taken place at Antioch, he passed through the lesser Armenia and took the road to Constantinople; but he was seized on his journey by the Protectors, and brought back to Antioch, and there kept in close confinement.
20. And while these things were taking place there was discovered at Tyre a royal robe, which had been secretly made, though it was quite uncertain who had placed it where it was, or for whose use it had been made. And on that account the governor of the province, who was at that time the father of Apollinaris, and bore the same name, was arrested as an accomplice in his guilt; and great numbers of other persons were collected from different cities, who were all involved in serious accusations.
21. And now, when the trumpets of internal war and slaughter began to sound, the turbulent disposition of the Cæsar, indifferent to any consideration of the truth, began also to break forth, and that not secretly as before. And without making any solemn investigation into the truth of the charges brought against the citizens, and without separating the innocent from the guilty, he discarded all ideas of right or justice, as if they had been expelled from the seat of judgment. And while all lawful defence on trials was silent, the torturer, and plunderer, and the executioner, and every kind of confiscation of property, raged unrestrained throughout the eastern provinces of the empire, which I think it now a favourable moment to enumerate, with the exception of Mesopotamia, which I have already described when I was relating the Parthian wars; and also with the exception of Egypt, which I am forced to postpone to another opportunity.
§ 1. After passing over the summit of Mount Taurus, which towards the east rises up to a vast height, Cilicia spreads itself out for a very great distance—a land rich in all valuable productions. It is bordered on its right by Isauria, which is equally fertile in vines and in many kinds of grain. The Calycadnus, a navigable river, flows through the middle of Isaurus.
2. This province, besides other towns, is particularly adorned by two cities, Seleucia, founded by King Seleucus, and Claudiopolis, which the Emperor Claudius Cæsar established as a colony. For the city of Isauria, which was formerly too powerful, was in ancient times overthrown as an incurable and dangerous rebel, and so completely destroyed that it is not easy to discover any traces of its pristine splendour.
3. The province of Cilicia, which exults in the river Cydnus, is ornamented by Tarsus, a city of great magnificence. This city is said to have been founded by Perseus, the son of Jupiter and Danaë; or else, and more probably, by a certain emigrant who came from Ethiopia, by name Sandan, a man of great wealth and of noble birth. It is also adorned by the city of Anazarbus, which bears the name of its founder; and by Mopsuestia, the abode of the celebrated seer Mopsus, who wandered from his comrades the Argonauts when they were returning after having carried off the Golden Fleece, and strayed to the African coast, where he died a sudden death. His heroic remains, though covered by Punic turf, have ever since that time cured a great variety of diseases, and have generally restored men to sound health.
4. These two provinces being full of banditti were formerly subdued by the proconsul Servilius, in a piratical war, and were passed under the yoke, and made tributary to the empire. These districts being placed, as it were, on a prominent tongue of land, are cut off from the main continent by Mount Amanus.
5. The frontier of the East stretching straight forward for a great distance, reached from the banks of the river Euphrates to those of the Nile, being bounded on the left by the tribes of the Saracens and on the right by the sea.
6. Nicator Seleucus, after he had occupied that district, increased its prosperity to a wonderful degree, when, after the death of Alexander, king of Macedonia, he took possession of the kingdom of Persia by right of succession; being a mighty and victorious king, as his surname indicates. And making free use of his numerous subjects, whom he governed for a long time in tranquillity, he changed groups of rustic habitations into regular cities, important for their great wealth and power, the greater part of which at the present day, although they are called by Greek names which were given them by the choice of their founder, have nevertheless not lost their original appellations which the original settlers of the villages gave them in the Assyrian language.
7. After Osdroene, which, as I have already said, I intend to omit from this description, the first province to be mentioned is Commagena, now called Euphratensis, which has arisen into importance by slow degrees, and is remarkable for the splendid cities of Hierapolis, the ancient Ninus, and Samosata.
8. The next province is Syria, which is spread over a beautiful champaign country. This province is ennobled by Antioch, a city known over the whole world, with which no other can vie in respect of its riches, whether imported or natural: and by Laodicea and Apameia, and also by Seleucia, all cities which have ever been most prosperous from their earliest foundation.
9. After this comes Phœnicia, a province lying under Mount Lebanon, full of beauty and elegance, and decorated with cities of great size and splendour, among which Tyre excels all in the beauty of its situation and in its renown. And next come Sidon and Berytus, and on a par with them Emissa and Damascus, cities founded in remote ages.
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