Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 21.1.7-14

Romulus and Remus consult the auguries

The Brothers, Disputing Over the Founding of Rome, Consult the Augurs

Digression on divination.

And being that, with a princeps educated and studious in all areas of knowledge, malevolent men impute as twisted the arts of foreknowing the future, let us briefly turn our attention upon how this may also add to a wise man, this kind of learning, scarcely trivial.

The spirit of all elements, inasmuch as they are of perennial form, thrives always and everywhere in the stirring of portending, by those things which we aspire to by various teachings, it imparts upon us the gifts of divining : and the essential powers, placated by diverse ceremony, just as if from eternal veins of springs, supply in abundance prophetic words to mortality, over which the divine will of Themis is said to preside, whom theologians of old set alongside Jove, the life-force of quickening, in his bed and throne, she so named by that which Greek discourse calls τεθειμένα (“set in place”), because she fashions to foreknow the decrees fixed by destined law in the future.

Auguries and auspices are not gathered by the will of fowl, unknowing of the future—not even some fool would say that—but god directs the flight of birds, so that singing beaks or wings flying past, by turbulent motion or gentle, might foreshow the future. For the kindness of the divine will, whether because men are merited or because he is touched by their affection, loves also to reveal by these arts what looms.

Likewise, those applied to prophesying innards of cattle, accustomed to be resolved in innumerable forms, they know what happens. The inventor of this teaching, a certain man—Tages by name, so it is told, in regions of Etruria, seemed to emerge suddenly form the earth

Things to come are further revealed on occasion when the hearts of men roil, but divine things are spoken. For the Sun (so the natural philosophers say), mind of the world, scattering our minds from himself like sparks, when he violently ignited them, restored them privy to the future. From this the Sibylls frequently say they blaze with the great burning power of flame. Aside from these, noises of voices signify many things, and happenstance signs, yea even thunder and lightning, and likewise the flashes from the furrough of stars.

Even the reckonings of dreams would be reliable and undoubted, except the reckoners are sometimes deceived in their conjectures. These (as Aristotle confirms) are fixed at the time, and stable, when with the living sleeping deeply, the pupils of the eyes, turned neither this way nor that, discern most rightly.

An since the common folly often grumbles such things in their ignorant muttering, “If there were some knowledge of foreseeing, why is this man ignorant that he will fall in war, or that one that he will suffer this or that?” let suffice to be said that even the grammarian has sometimes spoken barbarously, and the musician has played off-key, and the doctor was ignorant of remedies; but grammar and music and medicine do not therefore subside. From this, brilliantly, Tullius (among others) also said, “Signs are shown by the gods of future affairs. In these, if anyone should go astray, it is not the nature of the gods but the conjecture of mankind that sins.”

N.B. Tullius is better known today as Cicero. His full name was Marcus Tullius Cicero.

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Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 16.10.1 to 16.10.17

Constantius visits Rome

While these things were arranged in the east and in Gaul, in accord with the standard of the times, Constantius—as if the temple of Janus were closed, and all enemies prostrated—longed eagerly to see Rome, after the destruction of Magnentus, to hold a triumph in all but name, on account of Roman blood. For neither did he by himself overcome any tribe stirring up wars, nor did he have knowledge of any vanquished by the bravery of his own generals, nor again did he add anything to the empire, nor ever was he seen to be first or among the first during highest need, but so that he might display a parade too long extended, and flags stiffened with gold, and the beauty of his retinue to a populace living quite peacefully, neither expecting nor ever wishing to see this or anything like it : unknowing, perhaps, that some former emperors had been content with their lictors, at least in peace, whereas in truth, the ardor for battle had been able to endure nothing sluggishly, one—with the rabid blow of winds gasping—entrusted himself to the small craft of a fisherman, another personally scouted enemy camps by himself, with lowly soldiers, and finally, various others are famous for their magnificent deeds, so that they might entrust their own glories to the celebrated memory of posterity.

As, therefore, however much was wasted in preparation … in the second prefecture of Orfitis, once Oriculos was passed, [Constantius,] exalted by great honours, and his retinue—although the crowds feared it—were led, drawn up in battle formation, the eyes of all intent upon him in unwavering gaze. And when he came near the city, contemplating the officials of the senate and the reverend effigies of patrician stock with serene countenance, thinking—not like Cineas, that envoy of Pyrrhus, that he approached a multitude of kings gathered as one, but rather the sanctuary of the entire world. Thus, when he turned himself to the peasantry, he was stunned by how quickly every race of men, anywhere it was, crowded together at Rome. And as if he intended to frighten the Euphrates with a show of arms, or the Rhine, with insignia going before him on both sides, he himself sat on a golden chariot, shining with the brilliance of various stones, by the sparkling of which, a certain alternating light seemed to be mixed. And after a multiplicity of others proceeded before him, dragons were set around him, woven with purple fabrics, fastened to the very tips, golden and bejeweled, of spears, fluttering at their empty mouths, and thus hissing as if in agitated rage, and the whirls of their tails abandoned to the wind. And a twin rank of armed men was marching hence from there, with shield and crest, gleaming in the shining light, adorned in gleaming loricae, and mailed knights interspersed, whom they call clibanari, masked and protected in the coverings of their breastplates and girded with iron limbs, as if polished by the hand of Praxiteles, you would think them statues, not men. Thin rings of plates joined to the curves of the body enveloped them, divided over every limb, so that wherever need might move the joint, the vestment corresponded continuously by fitted juncture.

And thus called Augustus by favourable voices, he did not shiver in the thundering break of mountains and shores, displaying himself so very immobile, as he seemed in his own provinces. For although his height was quite humble, he bent going through the high gates, and as if with his neck fortified, keeping the survey of his eyes straight, neither to the right did he turn his face nor the left, as if the likeness of a man, neither swaying when the wheel shook him, nor spitting, nor wiping his nose, nor rubbing his mouth, nor ever was he seen stirring his hand. These, although he strived, these and certain other things were nevertheless, in his more private life, not slight signs of patience, or so it is given to be believed, granted to him alone. Because, indeed, through the entire period of his imperium, he neither accepted anyone seated with him in a vehicle, nor adopted personal ally in the robe of state, as hallowed emperors had done, and elevated by many similar things in lofty arrogance, as if he observed laws most impartial, I pass over these things mindful that I related them when they occurred.

Having thus entered Rome, hearth of the imperium and every virtue, when he came to the Rostra, the forum—most well-known for its former might, he was stupefied, and through the entire breadth which his eyes conferred to him, he was held fast by the density of wonders, he addressed the nobility in the curia, and the populace from the tribunal platform, and welcomed to the palatium with manifold acclaim, he was delighted by the desired joy, and often, when he was announcing the equestrian games, he was entertained by the wit of the peasantry, neither arrogant nor unfaithful to their nourished liberty, and he himself took care in the obligatory manner. For not as at other cities did he suffer the contests to be finished by their own volition, but—as was customary, he surrendered it to chance occurrence. Finally, between the seven peaks of the mounts, placed throughout the slopes and the level ground of the city, lighting the divisions of the city on all sides, and the suburbs, whatever he saw first, he expected it to stand out among all others : the sanctuaries of Jove Tarpeius, so much were divine distinguished from the terrestrial; the baths constructed in the style of the provinces; the heavy mass of the ampitheatre, strengthened by the join of Tiburtine stone, to the highest summit of which human sight uneasily mounted; the Pantheon, like a splendid rounded district, vaulted to lofty height; and the vortices of conch-shells raised by climbable platform, bearing the counterfeits of former emperors, and the Temple of the City, and the Forum of Peace, and the Theatre of Pompey, and the Odeum, and the Stadium, and others among these befitting of the city eternal.

But when he came to the Forum of Trajan, a structure unique beneath the entire heaven, or so I think, a wonder even by the assent of divinities, he stood thunderstruck, bearing his mind round manufacture by the like of giants, neither utterable by report, nor again achieved by mortals. And so, with all hope driven out of attempting such as this in any way, only the horse of Trajan, placed in the middle of the atrium, which conveyed the princeps himself, this he said he wished and would be able to copy. To this, regal Hormisdas, standing nearby, whose departure from Persia we earlier presented, responded with native cunning, “First, my emperor,” he said, “order that such a stable be built, if you have the power, that the horse which you are disposed to erect may enter as lavishly as this, which we look upon.” And he, asked what he thought of Rome, said that it was so pleasing to him, because he had learned that even here, men were mortal. Accordingly, after much was viewed with quaking stupor, the emperor lamented over fame, so impotent and malignant, because ever exaggerating everything more greatly, with respect to disclosing that which was of Rome, it was obsolete; and deliberating long upon what he might do, he established to add to the ornament of the city, such that he might raise up an obelisk in proximity to the Circus, the origin and form of which, I will reveal in its appropriate place.

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Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 31.12-13 and 31.16.9

During those same days, Valens, irritated for twin reason—because he learned that the Lentienses were overcome, and because Sebastianus thereafter, writing of the deeds, exaggerated by what he said—he broke camp from Melantiades, hastening so that, by some distinguished deed, he be the equal of the growing son of his brother, whose virtues galled him;1 and he was leading multiple troops neither to be disdained nor sluggish, indeed, a he had also joined great many veterans to them, among whom some were especially honorable and Trajanus was again girded,2 who was a little earlier the master of arms. And since it was known by anxious exploration that the enemies intended to close the route with strong guards, through which the provision of necessities was carried, he was suitably placed by this endeavor for keeping fast the advantage of the narrows, which were near, with infantry archers and a band of cavalry quickly sent. On almost the third day, when the barbarians arrived at an easy pace, and—fearing a disruption—though out of the way paths, separated from the city by fifteen thousand paces, they sought a post at Nice, when by some unknown error, though his skirmishers confirmed it, that the whole part of the multitude which they saw were ten thousand in number, and the emperor, overthrown by a certain heated arrogance, hurried to rush upon the same. Thus, proceeding with the troop in squared formation, he came near the suburb of Hadrianopolis, where, with the rampart strengthened by a palisade and a ditch, impatiently awaiting Gratian, he received Richomeres, the comes of the domestic troops, sent ahead by that same emperor3 with letters indicating that he himself was also soon to come. The plea of these, in form, was that he should stand at ready for a short time, for a comrade in the dangers, and not thoughtlessly entrust himself alone to steep perils, and with various powers invited to counsel, he deliberated upon what was to be done. And with Sebastianus as the author, some urged him to battle on the spot, whereas the master of cavalry, Victor by name, a Sarmatian, careful and cautious, and with many thinking in the same way, proposed that he await the ally of the emperor, so that when the increase of the Galatian army was received, the inflamed barbarian tumult might be easily crushed. The deadly purpose of the princeps, however, won out, and the flattering opinion of certain royals, who persuaded him—so that Gratian would not become partner of the accomplished victory, all but won (or so they thought)—to make haste in the quickest way.

And while the necessities were being prepared for decisive battle, a presbyter of the Christian rite, as they call themselves—an envoy sent from Fritigern—with other lessers came to the camp of the princeps, and kindly received, he offered a writ from that same leader openly petitioning that, for him and his own, whom—exiled from their paternal hearths—the rapid sallies of savage tribes had driven out, Thrace alone be yielded for dwelling in, with all its cattle and fruits, promising, once this was obtained, eternal peace. Besides that, this same Christian, as knowing of and faithful to secrets, brought another, secret letter of that same king, who—far too skilled in cunning and in various means of deceiving—led Valens to believe, as if he were soon to be a friend and ally, that it was not possible for him to soothe the savagery of his public in any way, nor to draw them to agreements that would be profitable to the Roman state, unless forthwith he were to demonstrate to the same that an armed force was nigh, and once fear of the name of the emperor was spread, he would call them back from pernicious ardor for fighting. And these envoys departed, frustrated, held as untrustworthy.

But when dawn of day arose, which the number from the annal shows was the fifth before the Ides of August, by hasty signals they set out, with the baggage and luggage trains near the walls of Hadrianopolis, stationed with the suitable protection of the legions. For the storehouses and the rest of the marks of the imperial fortune,4 with the prefect and the aids in council, were enclosed by the circuit of the walls. And so, once the broken lengths of the roads were traversed, when the hot day was proceeding to noon, on the eighth hour, the chariots of the enemy were seen, which—arrayed in the form of a turned roundness, were confirmed by the report of spies. And so, as is custom, while the barbarian peasantry ululated a wild and sorrowful sound, the Roman generals composed a battle-line, and with the first flank of cavalry positioned ahead, to the right, the greater part of the infantry laid in wait. The left flank of the cavalry, however, with many scattered by the journey to that place, assembled with utmost difficulty, rushed with hurried pace. And while the same flank spread out, with nothing to that point causing confusion, by arms ringing with a horrifying clash, and by the threatening strike of shields, the barbarians were terrified, since a part of their forces, busy far off with Alatheus and Safrax and summoned, had not yet arrived, wretchedly [they sent] envoys for pleading a peace. The emperor despised the cheapness of these men, and so that they could be put to firm covenant, demanded suitable chieftains be sent, but these were purposefully delayed, so that their cavalry might return to them during deceitful armistice, whom they hoped would soon be near, and that the soldier, heated in the summer boil, with dry throats would whither, while the breadth of the plains blazed with fires, which the enemy burned, with fire-starters and dry fuel set to them, so that this very thing would be so. To this evil, another was added with deadly consequence, that grave famine crucified men and beasts.

Meanwhile, Fritigern—skilful interpreter of the future, and fearing two-edged Mars, even while on his own initiative he sent a single herald with a flag of truce from the peasantry, seeking certain noble and picked men to be sent to him the next day as hostages, he himself fearless, intending to bring minimi litare and necessities.5 Once the proposal of the feared general was lauded and approved, the tribune Equitius, who had the care and confidence of the palace, being related to Valens, was speedily assigned to go, with the assent of the whole, in place of a pledge. When this man resisted, because he had once been captured by the enemy and had escaped from Dibaltus, and he feared their irrational motives, Richomeres came forward of his own free will, and he gladly promised to go, and he thought that this was a fine deed, and meet for a brave man. And now, he proceeded with the signs of worthiness and of natal … When he reached inimically for the rampart of the Sagittarii and the Scutarii, whom a certain Bacarius Hiberus ruled at that time, and Cassio, marching so eagerly in burning assault—and already joined to their enemies, that they rush forth untimely, that by sluggish retreat, they defiled commencement of war. And by this impediment of inopportune attempt, the alacrity of Richomeres was broken, never permitted to go, and the cavalry of the Goths with Alatheus and Safrax, returned with a mixed band of Halani, like lightning struck near a high mountain, whomever by quick sally they were able meet in close combat, they put in disarray with rapid slaughter.

And since arms were shaken from every side, and spears, and Bellona blew sorrowful signals for Roman disasters, raging more monstrously than customary, our men resisted, rushing, with many crying out among them, and the battle—increasing in the custom of fire—frightened the spirits of the soldiers, some pierced by the spun blows of javelins and arrows. And then, the battle lines collided in the manner of beaked ships, and shoving them in turn, they were brought forth by repelling motion, in the appearance of waves. And because the left flank reached right up to the wagons themselves, intending to proceed past, if any brought assistance, it was deserted by the remaining cavalry, with the hostile multitude pressing, and like the fall of a great rampart, it was pushed down and cast out. The infantry stood unprotected, with groups so packed that scarcely anyone was able to thrust his blade or draw back his hand. Due to the blocking sands, no longer was heaven able to lie exposed for seeing, echoing with horrified cries. For this reason, spears from all sides, brandishing death, fell firm and injurious, because they could neither be foreseen nor guarded against. But there the barbarians, poured out in endless troops, pounded beasts and men, nor was it possible, with ranks crammed, for space to be made anywhere to retreat, and the densely packed crowd removed opportunity to get out, and our men, with extreme scorn for falling, meeting them with swords drawn, cut them down, and with reciprocal blows of axes, helmets and breastplates were shattered. And the barbarian may be seen, lofty with ferocity, cheeks drawn together in a hiss, knee cut through, or right arm sliced by iron, or side pierced, and even at the very borders of death, threateningly bearing round his savage eyes, to the mutual ruin of battling men; bodies prostrate on the earth, fields were filled with the slain, and groans of the dying, from the deep wounds of those run through, these were heard with enormous fear. In this tumult of confused affair, so very great, the infantry exhausted by labor and perils, then finally neither their strength nor their minds were equal to their intent, and with so many spears shattered from constant battering, content with unsheathed swords, they dove into the crowded turmoil of the enemy, unmindful of their own well-being, seeing all around that refuge of escaping was deprived from all. And because the earth, covered with streams of blood, overturned slippery steps, they tried in every way to expend their life not unavenged, opposed with such great strength of spirit to those pressing upon them that some even perished on our own spears. And finally, the black visage of blood confounding everything, and wherever the eyes should turn a heaped mound of the slain, lifeless bodies were trod underfoot without parsimony. And the sun, elevated high, Leo traversed, crossing to the dwelling of celestial Virgo, the Romans, weakened more by fast and worn out from thirst, burned also with the oppressing burdens of their arms. At last, with the weight of the barbarians bent upon them, the battle-line of our men fell back, for they had solace in the hindmost of evils, in disorderly fashion, to where each was able, they turned on their feet.

And while everyone, scattered, went along unknown paths, the emperor, enveloped in fearful dread, and climbing little by little over piles of corpses, fled to the Lancearii and the Mattiarii; who, while the hostile multitude was born, stood their ground, unshaken by pierced bodies. And when he was seen, Trajanus called out that all hope was lost, unless the princeps, deserted by his shield-bearers, were covered by extraordinary aid. And when this was heard, a comes named Victor, speedily making haste to assemble a body-guard for the emperor—the Batavi, located in reserve, not far off, but when he was able to find no one, he departed, marching back. In the same way, Richomeres removed himself from danger, and Saturninus.

And so, the barbarians, with fury alight in their eyes, followed our men, already sluggish from the heated flow of their veins; some of whom fell to unknown strikers, a few overwhelmed by the weight alone of those driving them, and others were cut down by the strike of their own men; for neither, often resisting, was anything yielded, nor did any have mercy upon them yielding. In addition, many, falling half-dead, barricaded the routes, not bearing the torments of their wounds, and with these, the prostrate mounds of horses filled the fields with cadavers. The night, shining with no lunar splendor, ransomed these never reparable harms, which came at great cost to Roman affairs.

And in the first fog of shadows, the emperor, among common soldiers, so it is given to believe—for neither has anyone affirmed that they saw nor were near—, wounded he fell to pernicious arrow, and soon, his spirit consumed, he passed away, and he was not ever thereafter found. For since a few of the enemy, for the sake of despoiling the dead, were long busied at that place, none of those put to flight, nor of those nearby dared approach that place. By similar misfortune, we have heard that Caesar Decius, contending bitterly with barbarians, thrown down by a fall from his horse, which—maddened—he had not power to restrain, and cast away in a bog, was not able to come out or to be found. Others say that Valens had not immediately breathed his last, but with a few bodyguards and eunuchs, he was carried back to a rustic cottage, ingeniously defended on the second story, while he was cared for by unskilled hands, surrounded by hostile men ignorant of who he was, he was delivered from the shame of captivity. For when they tried to break through the barred doors, those who followed were assaulted with arrows from a balcony of the house, and so that the opportunity for laying waste not be lost through unavoidable delays, once bundles of straw and wood were heaped up, and a flame set to it, they roasted the building with the men. From one of the bodyguards, who fell through a window and was captured by the barbarians, the fact was related, and it afflicted them with grief, cheated of great glory, because they did not capture the leader of the Roman state alive. He himself, a young man, returned from hiding to our lands, related that these things had fallen out in this way. By similar misfortune, once the Hispanii recovered, we disclose that the other Scipio, in the burned tower to which he had taken refuge, was consumed by enemy fire. Nevertheless, this was resolved, that neither Scipio nor Valens obtained sepulchres, which is an honor of the highest extreme.

In this manifold disaster of illustrious men, the death of Trajanus stood out, and of Sebastianus, with whom thirty five tribunes without office met their end, and leaders of numerous men, and Valerian and Equitius, one of whom had care of the stables, the other of the palace. Among these, Potentius fell, the tribune of the Promotorum, in the youthful flower of his life, and for this good he was esteemed, for the merits of his father Ursicinus, a certain master of arms, and commendable for his own. And scarcely a third part of the army stood … in the annals, except for the fight at Cannae, such great things done are read with respect to slaughter,6 albeit at various times, the Romans—with Fortune blowing contrary—deceived by stratagems, yielded for a time to the iniquities of wars, and they lamented the many contests with a celebrated dirge of the Greeks.

These things, as a former soldier and a Greek, beginning from the principate of Caesar Nerva up to the death of Valens, I have set forth, to the measure of my power, a work professing truth, never knowingly, so I judge, have I dared by silence to corrupt it, or by mendacity. May stronger men write the rest in their prime, flourishing with learning. Those approaching it, if it pleases, I advise them to forge their tongues in the ancestral style.

1. His nephew is Gratian, the emperor of the western empire. Gratian is marching to meet Valens, and on the way has come upon the Lentienses and defeated them in battle, winning personal glory for himself.

2. That is to say, he was recalled into service from retirement.

3. Surely there are more graceful ways to construct this information. “That same emperor” being Gratian.

4. That is to say, the imperial insignia. In 2006, the imperial insignia of emperor Maxentius were found in a basement in Rome, the first such discovery of its kind. They were stored there for safe-keeping while he fought Constantine I.

5. There are problems with the manuscript here, so I’ve left some of the Latin untranslated.

6. There is a lacuna in the manuscript. Almost surely the text is intended to read that a slaughter so great is found nowhere in the annals.

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Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 31.4-6


And so, with the general Alavivus, they occupied the banks of the Danube, and by messages sent to Valens, they demanded with abject entreaty that they be received, and promising both that they would live peacefully, and that, if the matter pressed, they would give auxiliary. While these things were done in the neighbouring lands, terrible reports poured out that the northern tribes were turning to new misfortunes, and greater than accustomed; through every place which extends out from the Marcomanni Quadi to the Pontus, that a barbarian multitude of displaced nations, driven from their abodes by a sudden force, wandered around the Hister river [the Danube], spreading abroad with their families. This news was received by us with contempt during the very first reports for this reason, because in these regions, wars are not accustomed to be heard of by those living afar except as finished or put to rest. But, when the belief in the happenings was growing, and to this the arrival of foreign envoys added strength, who petitioned with prayer and earnest entreaty that exiled peasants be taken in on this side of the river, the matter was more of joy than of fear, with skilled sycophants exalting in the great fortune of the princeps, which—drawing so many recruits from the furthest lands—offered to him, not expecting  it, that by gathering his own and foreign strength as one he might have an unconquered army, and instead of military reinforcement, which was paid annually throughout the provinces, he could add a great heap up of gold to his treasury. And with this hope, various men were sent who would convey the savage peasants with vehicles. And carefully, the work was done, lest he who would overturn the Roman weal be left behind, or who was weakened by lethal illness. In the same way, with permission from the emperor for the opportunity of crossing the Danube, and to colonize parts of Thrace, when they reached it, they were ferried over, day and night, placed in crowds on ships, and rafts, and hollowed out cavities of trees, and through the river—by far the most difficult of all—and at that time frequently increased by heavy rains, due to the excessive congestion, anyone struggling against the beats of the waters, and many who tried to swim, were swallowed up.

Thus by a confused effort of solicitations, destruction was led to the Roman world. This was soundly neither uncertain nor hidden, that the unpropitious ministers to conveying over the barbarian peasantry, often trying to comprehend their number by calculation, were put to rest, frustrated,

“He who wishes to know this,”

as the most eminent seers recall,

“the same would wish, of the Libyan plain,
to learn how many grains of sand are blown by the zephyr.”

This the ancient accounts would recover, however, telling of the Median battlefront against Greece. This, while they relate the bridges of the Hellespont and, by a certain artificial separation, seeking a sea beneath the lowest foot of mount Athos, and the armies reckoned into troops at Doriscus, with all posterity in agreement that fables have been told. For afterward, innumerable multitudes of tribes, poured around through the provinces, and spreading out in the wide spaces of fields, filled every region and whole mountain chains, and the confidence of the ancient was strengthened by fresh example. And Fritigern was received first, with Alavivus, for whom the emperor established that foodstuffs and fields for ploughing be allotted.

At this time, with the bolts of our border unlocked, and pouring out barbarian hordes of armed men, like the embers of Aetna, when the troublesome points of necessities demanded that certain governors of military business, those most renowned for the fame of the things that were done, just as if some left-hand divinity were choosing, sought as one, they governed over military officers, these stained men, among whom Lupinicus and Maximus were superior, the one a comes throughout Thracia, the other a destructive general, both rivals in temerity. The avidity of these men, lying in wait, was the substance of all misfortunes. For this is said (so that we may omit others wherein the aforementioned men, or certainly others—with the same permitting it—for profligate reasons, transgressed against innocent foreigners going together to that place), this which not even were they judges of their own trial is any mercy able to acquit it, a thing sorrowful and unheard of. When the barbarians, once they were led across, were plagued by a scarcity of food, the most hated generals shamefully considered a commerce, and from all around, as many dogs as their insatiable desire was able to gather, they gave in exchange for each formal sale to slavery, and among these some of the best men were led.

During those days, meanwhile, even Viderichus, the king of the Greuthungi, with Alatheus and Safracis, by whose will he was ruled, and likewise Farnobius, drawing near to the edges of the Hister, so that he might be received with similar civility, beseeched the emperor with swiftly sent envoys. Once these were repudiated, as it seemed to be of service to the common weal, and anxious for what to undertake, Athanaricus departed, terribly frightened of the same, mindful that only a short while ago, when a concord was being established, he had disdained Valens, declaring himself obliged by religious rite lest he tread upon Roman ground at any time, and for this reason, he had compelled the princeps to confirm the peace amidst the river. Fearing that animosity hardening until now, he turned away to Caucalanda, a place inaccessible by the height of its forests and mountains, with all of his men, since the Sarmatians were driven out from there.


But in truth, the Thervingi, long before permitted to cross over, were even then wandering near the banks, constrained by two-fold impediment, that due to the pernicious dissembling of their leaders, they were not aided suitably for food, and they were held back on purpose, for wicked commercial enterprises of trafficking. Once this was known, they muttered that their support was turned to a treachery of looming evils, and Lupicinus, lest they soon desert him, more swiftly drove them to depart with the soldiers he led.

The Greuthungi, finding this moment opportune, when, with the soldiers occupied elsewhere, they saw that the boats normally travelling to the near side and the far, prohibiting their crossing, were at rest, they crossed over in rafts badly put together, and they placed their camp as far as possible from Fritigern.

But with an inborn skill for foreseeing, defending against disasters yet to come, so that he might both be obedient to imperial orders and be joined to strong kings, going sluggishly, slowly to Marcianopolis, he went by meandering routes. There another thing occurred, more cruel, which lit fearful torches that would burn in communal destruction. When Alavivus and Fritigern were gathered at a banquet, Lupicinis held the barbarian peasantry far off from the walls of the town by soldiery set against them, although they pleaded with constant entreaties to enter due to a united need for food, that they were submissive and of one mind to our sovereignty, when greater strife arose between the inhabitants and the shut out, it came all the way to a need for fighting. The barbarians, violently enraged, when they deemed the necessities to be taken with force, they despoiled a large murdered band of soldiers. The same Lupicinus, informed by a hidden messenger that these things had occurred, while at an extravagant table, lying a long time in noisy entertainments, was weakened by wine and sleep, and conjecturing the outcome of what was to be, he killed all the attendants who stood before the palace, waiting for the generals, for reason of honor and protection. And that crowd that besieged the walls, when this was sorrowfully heard, for the manumission of their detained kings, so it was believed, growing little by little, threatened many and cruel things. And as Fritigern was of readied counsel, fearing lest he be held by the blockade for exchange, with the rest, proclaimed that it be fought with heavy losses, unless he himself was permitted to leave with his allies, to mollify the mass, which believed their generals killed under the pretext of civility, and blazed in tumult. Once this was accomplished, going out with applause and expressions of joy, horses mounted, they flew, with the intent to stir diverse incitements of war. This report, the malignant wet-nurse of rumours, when it spread, the whole nation of the Thervingi was inflamed with a zeal for fighting, and among the many things to be feared and leading the way of the greatest dangers, standards taken up according to custom, and the trumpets heard, singing sorrowfully, the predatory squadrons soon rushed together for pillaging and burning rural estates, and mixing whatever could be found into widespread destruction.

Against these, Lupicinus, once soldiers were assembled with confused haste, by chance more than by plan, proceeding, he stood at the ninth mile-stone from the city, readied for decisive action. And the barbarians, when this was observed, heedless, they broke through the masses of our men, and by dashing bodies set against shields, they pierced those they met with spears, and with bloody fury urging them, and tribunes and a great part of armed men perished, their insignia snatched away, except the ill-starred general, who was intent upon this alone, that when others joined in conflict, he took himself away in flight, and sought the city by swift path, after this, the enemy, dressed in Roman arms, with none to stop them, went along in various ways.

And since the work has come to these parts after a multiplicity, those who will read this, if they should ever be, I beseech that no one inquire of us exactly the deeds or the number of the killed, which can be obtained by no method. For it is sufficient to set out the highest points of affairs, with the truth concealed by no falsehood, since for the unfolding recollection of matters, faithful integrity is ever owed. Those ignorant of ancient matters deny that the public weal was ever covered by such a great darkness of evils, but transfixed by the stupor of recent evils, they are deceived. For if they reflect upon the more senior ages or the recent of what has passed, they will show a tumult of affairs of such kind and such great sorrow often occurred. The Teutons with the Cimbri suddenly inundated Italy from regions hidden by the ocean, but after immense destruction was inflicted upon the Roman weal, they were overcome in the final battles by our most magnificent generals; what our power can do with the summoned wisdom of Mars, eradicated at the root, they learned by direst crisis. Likewise, when Marcus governed the imperium, the madness of dissonant tribes, breathing as one, after the immense demolition of war, after the tribulations of captured and plundered cities, and the punishments taken for the ruin of our ruler, scant regions of our lands remained intact. But soon, after ruinous losses, the weal was restored in full by this grace, that not yet by a life of negligent effeminacy was our sober old age undone, nor by profligate feasts, nor did it gape in shameful acquisitions, but by a unanimous ardor, the highest and the lowest coming together amongst themselves for glorious death on behalf of the common weal, just as if they made haste for a tranquil and placid harbor.

With the Bosporus and the shores of the Propontis broken through by two thousand ships, troops of Scythian tribes crossed over, indeed, they brought forth cruel slaughter to land and sea, but with the greater part of their men lost, they turned away. The Decii emperors, father and son, fell in the fighting with barbarians. The cities of Pamphylia were occupied, many islands laid waste, all Macedonia aflame, long the multitude besieged Thessalonica and in the same way, Cyzica. Anchialos was captured and at the same time, Nicopolis, which the emperor Trajan founded as proof of his victory against the Dacians. After many and savage disasters were introduced and received, Philippopolis was cut down with one hundred thousand men, unless the annals invent it, their throats cut within the walls. Foreign enemies wandered freely through Epirus, and Thessaly, and all Greece, but after Claudius took up the imperium, a glorious general, and when the same was taken before his time by an honorable death, they were driven back by Aurelian, a cruel man and the severest avenger of harms, and for long generations, stilled, they were silent, except afterwards that robber bands occasionally attacked their neighbours, to their own ruin. But now, we shall follow that from which I have turned away.


When this web of events was spread around by frequent announcements, Sueridus and Colias, nobles of the Goths, received long before with their people, and assigned to govern the winter quarters at Hadrianopolis, considering their own health ranked first before all, with idle spirits, they beheld all that occurred. But when letters of the emperor were suddenly brought through, in which they were ordered to cross over to the Hellespont, they demanded provisions for the road, and to be allotted a delay of two days for themselves, without arrogance. The magister of the city, bearing this dishonorably—for he was enraged by these same men, because his own interests in the suburb had been laid waste—all the lowest peasantry, with the armorers, of whom there was there a plentiful multitude, brought forth, he armed them for the ruin of these men, and with the trumpets ordered to sound the signal if they did not depart more swiftly, as was decreed, he threatened extreme peril to all. Impelled by this evil instead of hope, the Gothi were dispirited, and frightened by an assault of citizens more by excitement than by contemplation, they stood immobile, and afflicted at the last by curse and by outcries, and assailed by the occasional throwing of missiles, they broke into avowed rebellion, and after a great many were killed, whom the assault, so wanton, ensnared, and the remainder were turned back and pierced by a variety of spears, once they were armed with Roman attire from despoiled cadavers, to Fritigern, seen very nearby, they joined themselves as compliant allies, and the closed city, they pressed with besieged hardships. Positioned long in this difficulty, they rushed indiscriminately in every direction, and the conspicuous daring of anyone perished, unsated, and many were lost to arrows and the whirling stones from slings. At that time, Fritigern, considering that the men struggled in vain, with so much destruction, ignorant of besieging, with a sufficient band left behind there, advised them to leave the affair incomplete, reminding them that they had peace with the walls, and persuading them that they might rise against regions rich for despoiling and fertile, without any threat, even now without guardians. The counsel of the king praised, whom they knew would be a powerful ally of their ideas, dispersed through the whole flank of Thrace, they proceeded with caution, with captives and surrendered men showing them villages eminently rich, where it was said an abundance of foodstuffs were to be found, and with this greatly aiding them in addition to the genuine loyalty of the elevated man, that a multitude from the same tribe flowed to them every day, only a little earlier sold as slaves by merchants, with a great many added whom, almost killed by starvation in the first crossing, bartered for scant wine or for the cheapest morsels of bread. To these came not a few skilled in following veins of gold, not being sufficient to be able to bear the serious burdens of taxes, and they were received with the willing agreement of the whole, likewise, they were of great service for showing places unknown to the foreigners, hidden storehouses of fruits, and hiding places for men, and more remote shelters. Nor, with those same men leading the way, was anything left intact except the inaccessible or the out of the way. For without distinction of age or sex, the whole burned with slaughters and with an immensity of fires, and after the very small were dragged from the very suckling of the breast, and killed, the mothers and the widowed were raped—the husbands killed before the eyes of their spouses—and boys both the young and grown were dragged through the cadavers of their parents. And finally, many elderly, crying that they had lived long enough, after they lost their possessions, with their beautiful women, with their hands twisted behind their backs, they were led as exiles from the lamented embers of their familial homes.

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Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 26.10.15-19 ; 31.1-2

Halani Migrations

A map of Halani migrations.


While that usurper thus far survived, whose multiple acts we have shown, and his death, on the twelfth day before the kalends of August, when Valentinianus was consul for the first time, with his brother, great fears of trembling suddenly went about through the whole circuit of the world, of a kind that the ancients published neither in fiction nor in truth-telling. For not long after the  rising of the light, with a leading cluster of dazzling, thundering flashes, the quaked stability of the entire earthly weight was shaken, and the sea withdrew, driven back with unfurled waves, such that, with the abyss bared of its depths, multiformed figures of swimming things were seen, clinging to the mud, and there the wastes of valleys and mountains, so it is given to be believed, looked up at the rays of the sun, which the prime mover had hidden beneath the gulf. With many ships, therefore, as if joined to the dry earth, and with a great many men wandering about freely through the scant remains of waves, such that they gathered fishes and similar things with their hands, the roar of the sea—as if grieving its repulse—rose up against the change, and through the roiling pools, beaten violently against islands and widespread spaces of the mainland, it razed innumerable buildings in the cities and wherever they were found; just as if, with the raging strife of the elements, the face of the world, overwhelmed, displayed the appearance of marvels. For, the magnitude of the relapsed waters when it was least expected killed many thousands of people and submerged them, and with the excited whirls of the rushing back billows, certain ships, when the swelling of damp substance subsided, were seen destroyed, and on the shipwrecks, lifeless bodies lay about to and fro. Other huge ships, thrust out by the rabid winds sat upon the summits of roofs, as happened at Alexandria; and to the second boundary stone, quite a distance from the shore, others were brandished, as we ourselves, while passing near the town of Mothone, saw a laconian ship, yawning open with long decay.


Meanwhile, the winged wheel of Fortune, ever turning from good fortune to adversity, arms Bellona, with the Furies adopted as allies, and bore across to the east sorrowful events, which the clear promise of forebodings and portents warned would come. For, after many things which seers and augurs truthfully foretold, the dogs leapt back from the echoing wolves, and the night birds dolefully rang a certain plaintive cry, and the gloomy risings of the sun dimmed the morning splendors of the day, and at Antioch, through brawls and vulgar tumults, this came to be accustomed, that anyone who thought himself oppressed by violence, cried out insolently, “Let Valens be burned alive!” And the voices of heralds were heard continuously, ordering that wood be heaped up for the kindling of the Valentian bath, built by the effort of the princeps himself. These things thereupon showed him, manner of speaking all but explicit, that the end of his life threatened. Concerning these, a ghostly simulacrum of the king of Armenia, and the pitiable shadows of those killed a little earlier in the affair of Theodorus, by keening certain fearful songs of lamentation, stirred up many with their awful terrors. A heifer, with its throat slit, was seen lying lifeless, whose death indicated the ample and widespread tribulations of public funerals. And then when the ancient walls of Calchedon were torn down so that at Constantinople a bath might be built, when a row of rocks was unloosed, in a squared stone, which hid amidst the structure, these Greek verses were found to be cut, unfolding the future in full:

But when dewy maidens through town in dance
cheerfully should whirl through the garlanded roads
and lamented walls become the defense of a bath,
then indeed countless tribes of men, spread over the earth,
driving through passage of the beautiful-flowing Danube with spear-point,
will destroy the Scythian land, and the Mysian earth,
and crossing over Paionia, with maddened hope,
shall work battle and the end of life.


More fully, however, the sowing of destruction and the origin of diverse calamities, which furious Mars assembled, by mixing the whole with unaccustomed conflagration, I disclose this cause: The tribe of the Huns, known little in older remembrances, dwelling on the icy ocean beyond the Maeotian swamps, exceed all manner of ferocity. There, seeing that from the very first moments of being born, the cheeks of the infants are deeply furrowed with iron, such that the timely vigor of their hair is blunted by wrinkled scars, beardless they grow old, without any loveliness, like eunuchs, all of them with firm, compact limbs and fat necks, unnaturally deformed and crooked, such that you might think then bipedal beasts, or as a kind of post fashioned for putting railings on bridges, artlessly hewn.

Nevertheless, in the shape of men, however unpleasant, thus in their living they are rough: they want neither fire nor savory food, but by the roots of wild grasses and by the half-raw meat of any beast they are fed, which, placed between their thighs or under the backs of their horses, they make warm by brief foment. Never roofed by any edifice, but these they shun like tombs separated from common use. For, not among them is it possible for any hut peaked with reed to be found, but roaming, they travel through mountains and snowy forests, and they are accustomed from the cradle to endure famine and drought. When abroad, except when dire necessity drives them, they do not approach roofed houses; for they do not consider themselves safe beneath roofs. They are covered by garments of linen or sewn from the pelts of woodland animals, nor do they have some clothing for the household, and other for public, but once neck is inserted into tunic of washed out colour, no earlier is it laid aside or changed than, fallen apart by long decay, it goes to pieces in rags. They cover their heads with curved conical caps, protecting their hairy legs with kid-leather hides, and their shoes, fitted to no mould, prohibit marching with unrestrained step. For these reasons, they are scarcely adapted to fights on foot, but are practically affixed to their horses, hardy creatures, certainly, but deformed, and sometimes sitting upon them in the womanly fashion, they carry out their accustomed duties. From their horses, each in that tribe, all day and all night, buys and sells, and takes food and drink, and leaning upon the narrow neck of the beast in deep sleep, even then as he yields to the fickleness of dreams. And when deliberation is resolved concerning serious matters, in this state everyone counsels in common. They are led, however, by no regal severity, but content by the hurried leadership of their first rank, they overcome whatever comes upon them.

And provoked, they sometimes fight, entering battles in a wedge, diverse voices singing a piercing song. And as they are lightly armed and sudden for fleetness, thus, by stealthy advance, they intentionally spread themselves thin, scattered, and in a disorderly line. Although they run about with widespread slaughter, on account of their exceeding rapidity, they are seen neither rushing a rampart nor ramming down enemy camps. And for this you might say that they are the cruelest warriors of all, that from afar with hurled spears, sharpened stones, instead of the point of arrows,  joined with marvellous skill, and divided …, they join hand-to-hand battle with iron without regard for themselves, and their enemies, while they guard against the injury of their blades, they bind with them with twisted cloth, so that with the arms of their opponents ensnared, they might deprive them of the faculty for riding or walking.

No one among them ploughs, nor touches the handle of a plough at any time. For they all wander, without fixed abode, or hearth or law, or steadfast custom, ever like fugitives with their wagons, in which they dwell; where their spouses weave hideous vestments, and they join to their wives and they spawn, and they suckle the boys right up to puberty. And no one among them, when questioned, is able to answer whence he comes, conceived elsewhere and born far off, and raised further still.

Since they are inconstant, they are untrustworthy during armistice, far too easily moved by coming upon every breath of new hope, handing over the whole to the swiftest of passions. In the custom of unthinking animals, which might be honorable or dishonorable, inwardly ignorant, ambiguous and cryptic, hindered at no time by reverence of any religious rite or superstition, burning with boundless desire for gold, and thus changeable and easily angered, such that several times on the same day, they often withdraw from alliances with no provocation, and likewise they are propitious, although no one mollifies them.

This tribe of men, unencumbered and ungoverned, burning with a monstrous avidity for pillaging foreign tribes, were rioting for the rapine and slaughter of their neighbours, and came all the way to the Halani, the ancient Massagetae, and where these were from, or the lands in which they dwelled—seeing that the matter had fallen hither—it is now befitting to show, due to the demonstrated geographic obscurity, which has lengthy and many games … and various, at length discovered internal … of truth … the Hister, overflowing with foreign waters, flowing with great size, passes by Sauromatae, reaching all the way to the rush of Tanais, which separates Asia from Europe.

Once this is crossed, the Halani inhabit the lonely wilds of Scythia, stretched to immensity, named from the appellation of the mountains, the nations bordering them, worn away little by little by the frequency of their victories, they took as kindred of their own name, like the Persians do. Among these, the Nerui dwell in the inland regions, neighbors to lofty peaks, which, wrenched and numbed by the cold, the north winds bind together. After these are the Vidini and the Geloni, extremely wild, who, with skins taken from murdered enemies, make clothes for themselves and coverings for their warlike horses. The Agathyrsi border the Geloni, their bodies just as their hair, checkered with a dark blue colour, the lowly, indeed, with small and few, the nobles, however, marked widely and densely painted. After these, the Melanchlaenae and the Anthropophagi (lit. “Maneaters”), I have heard that they wander through different places, feeding on human bodies, places forsaken due to these wicked victuals, all those bordering them have sought distant regions of the lands. And thus every region exposed to the north east, even should we come as far as Seras, remains uninhabitable. At another part, near the abode of the Amazons, the Halani are inclined toward the east, spread through populous and ample tribes, turning toward Asiatic lands, which I have heard are stretched all the way to the Ganges, the river cutting through the lands of the Indi, and filling the southern sea.

These Halani, divided into two regions, across both sides of the world, whose various tribes it is not now necessary to enumerate, although divided by large territories, wander through immense regions like the Nomades, yet in the march of time, they assent to a single name, and in brief, all are dubbed Halani, on account of their customs and their savage manner of living, and the same equipment. For they have neither any huts, nor concerns to busy themselves with the plough, but they feed on meat and an abundance of milk, dwelling in wagons, which in curved coverings of bark, they convey through lonely wildernesses that extend without limit. And when they reach a grassy place, with their carts placed in a circular formation, they are fed in a feral manner, and once the food is consumed, they go as if cities were placed in their chariots, and the males join with their wives atop them, and children are born and raised in them, and they are continuous habitats for them, and wherever they may go, they consider this their hearth. And they pasture cattle, driving them before themselves, with flocks, and to the highest degree, the care of the horse-drove is of great concern for them. There fields ever grow grass, at places sown with fruit-trees, and on that account, going wherever they please, they want neither food nor fodder, because it comes to pass that the soil is moist and the paths frequented by rivers passing by. Every age and sex unfit for war, therefore, abides around the vehicles themselves, busied with peaceful tasks. The youth, even, growing strong in the practice of riding from earliest boyhood, think it base to go by foot, and all are skilled warriors by training of multiple kinds. Whence even the Persians, who originate from Scythia, are very well practiced in fighting.

Indeed, almost all the Halani are tall, and handsome, usually with golden hair, frightful by the tempered savagery of their eyes, and fast by lightness of arms, you would think them like the Huns in every way, but more moderate in sustenance and culture, running about for robbing and for hunting all the way to the Maeotian swamps, and the Cimmerian Bosporus, and in the same way, Armenia and Media. And just as leisure is pleasant to calm and peaceful men, thus trials and wars benefit them. He is there judged blessed who casts away his life in battle, for those who grow old and depart from the world by fortuitous death, they censure with bitter invective as degenerate and cowardly, nor is there anything that they cast more loftily than the man killed where they please, and for glorious spoils, rent from the killed, they hang the pelts removed from the heads, as ornaments for their warlike mounts. And neither is temple or shrine visited among them, nor is any hut roofed with straw anywhere able to be seen, but a naked sword, in barbarous custom, is fixed to the earth, and this, like the Mars of the territories they go round, they worship reverently as their patron. They foretell things to be in a wondrous manner. For gathering together the straightest wicker sticks, and measuring these with certain secret incantations at a pre-appointed time, they will have known clearly what is portended. Slavery, they are ignorant of what it might be, all begotten by noble seed, and even now, they choose as their judges men observed for a long time in the practice of making war. But let us return to the remainder of our composed purpose.

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Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 22.10-13


Wintering there, in accordance with his liking, he submitted in the meantime to no desires or attractions in which all Syria abounds, but through the appearance of repose, intent upon cases judicial, no less than the arduous and bellicose, he was distracted by multifarious cares, deliberating with desirable mildness, in which ways he might assign to each his own with just sentences, both the excessive restrained by moderate supplications, and the innocent defended with fortunes intact. And sometimes in deciding something, he was untimely, interrogating at the wrong time what anyone of those quarreling revered, yet no decree on a dispute of his was found dissonant with the truth, nor was it ever able to be proved that on account of religious observance or anything else he deviated from the upright path of equality. For this judgment is desirous and upright, where through various examinations of the affairs, it is just and unjust; so that he would not stray from this, he kept watch, as if for broken crags of rock. Nevertheless, this therefore was able to be achieved because, acknowledging the inconstancy of his own quite excitable inborn nature, he entrusted to his prefects and his inner circle that boldly, when his impulses strived in other directions than was seemly, they should bridle him by opportune warning; and he showed himself thereafter, with grief for transgressions and joy for correction.

Whenever defendants of the cases celebrated him with the high applause as privy to perfect reason, greatly moved, it is reported that he said, “I would rejoice plainly, and display it, if I were praised by these men, whom I observed also able to cast blame, if my deed or word were lesser.” It is sufficient, however, in place of many things which he did with clemency in investigating disputes, to propose this one which neither shrinks from what is stated, nor is absurd. A certain woman was brought in for judgement, and when she saw, contrary to her expectation, from a number of those cast out, that her Palatine adversary was girdled, she lodged a complaint on this insolence, raising a tumult, and the emperor said, “Proceed, woman, if somehow you think yourself harmed; for this man is girdled thus, so that he may go unimpeded through mire. It is able to inflict very little harm to your parties.”

And it was esteemed by these and other such things, as he himself continually said, that ancient Justice herself, whom—so offended by the vices of men, Aratus took away to heaven, has in his reign returned to earth, but that he did certain things with his own arbitrations not of the laws, and erring from time to time, he clouded over his multiple paths of glorious achievements. For, after many, he also amended certain rights for the better, clearly showing in circumscribed digressions what they ordered to be done or what they forbade. This, however, was unmerciful, to be abolished to eternal silence, that he kept those teachers from teaching rhetoric and grammar who cultivated the Christian rites.


At the same time, that clerk, Gaudentius, who was sent in opposition to Africa by Constantius, as I earlier wrote, yea even Julianus, an ex-deputy, too much a patron of the same factions, were brought back in fetters to perish by penalty of death. At that time also Artemius, ex-general of Egypt, with the Alexandrians urging it, was sentenced to capital punishment for a mass of atrocious crimes. After which the son of Marcellus, the ex master of the cavalry and infantry, for laying hand on the imperium, was killed by public execution. Yea even Romanus and Vincentius, tribunes of the first and second battalions of the Scutariori, convicted of setting in motion certain acts higher than their own station, were sent into exile.

Whensoever scant time intervened, when the passing away of Artemius became known to the Alexandrians, whom they feared lest he return with power, for this was threatened, to wound many just as he had been wronged, they turned their anger against Georgius, the bishop by whom they had so often been assaulted, as I would say it, with viper bites. He was born in a fuller’s shop, so it is reported, in Epiphania, a town of Cilicia, and he grew up to the injury of many; contrary to his own profit and that of the common affair, he was ordained the bishop of Alexandria, in the city which, by its own agitation and where causes are not at hand, is stirred to frequent uprisings and turbulence, as the confidence of the oracles also states. For the minds of men inflamed by this news, even Georgius himself came near to incentive, accusing many men thereafter, in the presence of Constantius’s open ears, that they were disobedient to his imperium and forgetting his own profession, which advocated nothing except justice and leniency, he degenerated to the deadly enterprises of informants. And among the rest, it is even said that he malignantly taught Constantius this, that in the aforementioned city the edifices all together crowded upon its foundation, constructed at public expense by the its founder, Alexander the Great, by right, ought to be in service the profit of the treasury. To these evils, he added even this, whence only a little while afterward, he was led headlong to destruction. He returned from the court of the princeps, when he was crossing through a splendid temple of the Genius, crowded with a multitude, as was customary, with his eyes turning to the dwelling, he asked, “How long will this sepulchre stand?” and when he was heard, many were struck, as if by lightning, and those who feared lest he even attempt to cast this down, as many as were able, they rose to his ruin by clandestine plots. Behold, then, when the joyous news was brought back, indicating the decease of Artemius, all the plebeians, elated by unexpected delight, threatening with shaking voices, sought Georgius, and captured, beating him in diverse ways, trampling and crushing him underfoot, to his spread asunder …  with the feet.

And with him, Dracontius, appointed to the mint, and a certain Didorus as a comes, were executed at the same time with ropes laid on their legs; the one because he overturned the altar recently placed in the mint, which he governed, the other because, while he presided over the building of a church, he had insolently shorn the locks of boys, thinking that even this pertained to the worship of the gods. The monstrous multitude, not content with this, bore the cadavers of the killed, torn apart and placed on camels, to the shore, and once these were burned by a fire set under them, they cast the ashes into the sea, fearing, so they claimed, lest collected together for the last time, dwellings be constructed for them, as for relics—those who were compelled to deviate from religious practice, were sentenced to suffer torturous punishments, to the point of a glorious death, they proceeded with undefiled faith, and they are now called martyrs. And the men, lamenting, led to unmerciful punishment, could have been defended with the aid of Christians, were it not that everyone burned indiscriminately in hatred of Georgius. Once this was known, the emperor, riled against the heinous act of avenging, and already intending to seek the highest penalties for these trespasses, was softened by his more lenient advisors, and an edict was sent, the perpetrated crime was cursed with harsh words, threatening extreme measures, if there were afterward any assault, which justice and the laws prohibited.


Meanwhile, preparing an expedition against Persia, which a short time ago he had seized upon with lofty strength of spirit, vehemently riled for the vengeance of past deeds, knowing and hearing that the most violent tribes for almost sixty years had branded upon the east the cruelest monuments of  murder and pillage, with our own armies often put to slaughter. He burned, however, with a two-fold desire for making war, first, because he was impatient of leisure and he was dreaming of clarions and battles, and second, because in the youthful bloom of his life, cast before the arms of frenzied tribes, the entreaties of kings and royals still growing warm, who are believed more easily able to be conquered than to extend their hands as suppliants, he yearned to insert among the ornaments of his illustrious glories the cognomen of Parthicus.

Perceiving these done in haste with the greatest labours, his detractors, idle and malignant, were murmuring that the exchange of one body to stir up so many inopportune turmoils was unworthy and pernicious, placing all their effort in delaying him from readiness. And they said repeatedly to those at hand, whom they deemed able to report back to the emperor things heard, that he, if he did not act more sedately in the immoderate prosperity of his fortunate affairs, like fruit luxuriating in too much abundance, he would fall forthwith by his own goods. And agitating these often and for a long time, they barked in vain around the man, unmoved by hidden wrongs, like Pygmies or Thiodamas, the wild man Lindius did Hercules. Nevertheless, this man as he was of greater spirit than the rest, deliberating upon the magnitude of his campaign no less attentively, diligently performed the strenuous work with suitable preparations.

For all that, by very much blood of sacrifices, he poured out too frequently over altars—sometimes one hundred bulls for sacrificing, innumerable herds of mottled cattle, and spotless birds sought over land and sea, so much that almost every day the soldiers boorishly fed themselves to the point of stretching the flesh with feasting, and they were corrupted by the desire for drink;  and placed on the shoulders of passers-by, through the streets from the public houses, where they indulged in feasts more to be punished than allowed, they would be carried back to their quarters, the Petulantes above all and the Celtae, whose audacity, at that time, had grown beyond measure. The rites of religious ceremonies, nevertheless, were immoderately increased, with the height of the expenses before this extraordinary and serious; and anyone, since it was permitted without hindrance, who professed knowledge of prophesying, equally the unlearned and the learned, without limit or prescribed order, was permitted to inquire answers of the oracles, and sometimes entrail-readings unfolded the things to come, and faith in divining-birds, and auguries and omens, if it were ever possible to procure, was studiously sought in various ways. And while things proceeded thus, in the custom of peace, Julian, with curiousity for many things, entered into a new manner of counsel, intending to lay open the prophesying veins of the fountain of Castalius, which it is said Caesar Hadrian had sealed with a massive heap of rocks, fearing lest—since he himself learned from the foretelling waters that the Republic would be seized—other such things should also be taught: … a declaration was set that the bodies buried around be transferred from there by the same ritual which the Athenians purified the island of Delos.


At the same time, on the eleventh day of the month of November, the most spacious sanctuary of Apollinean Daphnae, which that choleric and irascible king, Antiochus Epiphanes, constructed, and the statue equalling the size of the imitation to Olympian Jovis itself, by the power of flames come without warning, was burned down. Since this what consumed suddenly in such a cruel fall, anger conveyed the emperor right to this point, that he ordered inquiries to be started more cruel than the customary, and the greater church of Antioch to be closed. For he suspected that Christians had done this, goaded by envy, because unwillingly they saw the aforementioned temple encircled with an embracing peristyle. It was reported, however (although by very insubstantial rumour), from this cause the temple was burned, that the philosopher Asclepiades, whom I memorialized in the acts of Magnentus, when for the sake of seeing Julian he came from abroad to this suburb, the heavy, silver figurine of the heavenly goddess which he was accustomed to carry wherever he went, this he placed before the feet of the lofty statue, and after candles were lit, according to custom, he departed, from which once the middle of the night had passed, when no one could be present nor give aid, sparks flitting about adhered to the most ancient materials, and a fires were started from the parched nourishment, able to alight upon everything, however notable for its height, it burned all. In the same year, with the winter star drawing nigh, a fear for the lack of water approached, such that even certain streams became empty, as well as fountains before now abundant with copious pulses of water, but they were afterward restored in the whole. And the fourth … December, when the day inclined to evening, the ruins of Nicomedia collapsed in an earthquake, and in the same way, a portion, and not a small one, of Niceae.

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Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 25.3

When we departed from there, the Persians, since–frequently cast down–they feared pitched battles of infantry, thus with one ambush arranged after another, they secretly followed after, travelling on both sides to reconnoitre our companies from lofty mountains, so that the soldiery, constantly suspecting this every day would neither erect a rampart, nor secure a palisade. And as long as our flanks were firmly protected, and the army–by the allowance of the terrain–in squared formations, but it began in loose trains; that the backs were attacked from behind by stealthy advance against the arms of the assembled men, this was reported to the princeps, even then unarmed, proceeding first of all for looking out. Roused by that misfortune, forgetful of his cuirass, creeping with shield amidst the tumult, he hastened to bring aid to the rear, but he was called back by another fear, it was announced that the bands from where he had departed also endured the same. While this, without any regard for his own safety, he hurried to restore, from another side, a mass of Parthian cataphracts assailed the middle centuries, quickly poured over the wing inclined to the left, our men unwillingly enduring the shrill cry and smell of the elephants, the matter was decided with pikes and a multiplicity of missiles. Here, with the princeps flying to and fro between principle perils of battles, our soldiers sprang forth, well-prepared, and the flanks of the beasts and backs of the turned-back Persians were struck down. Since Julian was unmindful of taking precautions, showing openly, by shouting with hands raised, that he had scattered those restless men, and rousing the anger of those who followed, and he audaciously rushed out into the fight, his imperial guards, whom terror scattered,  were calling out, that he turn away from the mass of fleeing men, as from the ruinous fall of a column badly built, and unknown from where, an equestrian spear, coming unseen, grazed the skin of his arm, transfixed his ribs, and was stuck in the deepest fibre of his liver. This, when he tried to pull it away with his right hand, he felt the sinews of his fingers cut through by the sharpened iron of both sides, and fallen from his mount, and carried back to the camp by the swift gathering of those nearby, he was assisted with the ministries of medicine.

And there soon soothed of his pain for a short time, he ceased to fear, fighting against his demise with great spirit, he demanded arms and horse, so that by returning to battle he might restore the confidence of his men, and he seemed to be vehemently obliged with anxiety for the well-being of another, unconcerned for his own, with the same vigor, albeit in unlike circumstance, with which that renowned general, Epaminondas, lethally wounded at Mantinea and brought back from the from the front line, inquired with anxious concern for his shield. This, when he saw it nearby, perished more happily by the violence of his wound, and he who leaves his life undaunted, fears to cast away his shield. And when his strength was too little to suffice by will, he was vexed by the outflowing of his blood, he remained immobile, thus was his hope of living thereafter removed, since by inquiring he disclosed that the place where he would die was called Phrygia. For this, he had heard, was pre-written by an oracle, that he would meet his end.

When the princeps was brought back to his tent, it is incredible to say by what and how much ardor the soldiery so fervently flew to vengeance with anger and grief. Banging their spears on their shields, they were resolved, if chance should bear it, even to die. Howevermuch the depth of sand covered their eyes, and the growing heat thwarted the alacrity of their limbs, nevertheless like men discharged by the loss of their general, they threw themselves upon the iron, sparing nothing. The Persians, on the other hand, undaunted, by the thickness of their flying arrows, snatched sight from those opposing, slowly preceding whom, the elephants by the size of their bodies and by the horror of their crests, struck trembling into beasts and men. And thus the clash of arms and the groans of the dying, the snorts of horses, the ring of iron was heard from far off, for so long, with the parties wearied by an abundance of wounds, night broke off the contest, already gloomy.

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Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 25.2

After this, with three days resolved for an armistice, while everyone tended to his own wounds or of those nearby, a fast—already unendurable—tortured us, destitute of supplies; and on that account, since the harvests and foodstuffs had been burned, men came into extreme peril, and the pack-animals, too; from that food which the animals of the tribunes conveyed, and the comites, to even the lowest plebeian of the soldiers, in the very depths of need, a great part was distributed.  And the emperor, for whom there were no delicacies of food, according to the regal custom, but rather he dined more sparingly beneath the tent poles, prepared a mean portion of gruel, loathed even by the common custodian, whatever was demanded for his ministries, he himself discharged, untroubled, for the poor common tents.

He himself was wearied for a short time by rest interrupted and agitated; once, when sleep was thrust away—as was his custom, in emulation of Julius Caesar—writing something beneath pelts in the deep dark of night, he was striving for understanding of some philosopher, he saw dimly, as he confessed to those closest, that image of the public Genius which, when he had been rising to the Augustan peak, he had observed in Gaul, with head and cornucopia veileddeparting with much sadness through the embroidered curtains. And although he paused for a moment, fixed by astonishment, yet superior to all fear, he entrusted his goings to heavenly decrees, and with bed left behind, spread out on the earth, roused in a night already advanced, while he was supplicating to the divine powers with rites for averting evil, he thought a blaze vanished, though it seemed to burn so very brightly, as if falling, ploughing a part of the aether, and he was filled with horror, lest thus the menacing star of Mars should openly appear.

However, the fiery lustre was that which we call diaissonta (Greek: “rushing across”), neither falling anywhere, nor touching the earth. For he who believes bodies are able to fall from heaven, is judged, with good reason, as profane and mad. This condition, however, is made in several ways, of which it is sufficient to show a few. Some think that sparkling lights shining brightly from the aether, and not sufficing to reach widely enough, are extinguished, or at least that, when the flames of their rays are applied to dense clouds, they sparkle brilliantly on contact, or when any light coheres to a cloud. For it indeed traverses, fashioned in the appearance of a star, while it is sustained by the power of its brilliance; emptied by the true extent of space, the body dissolves in the air, passing away to its essence, by the exhaustion of which, it burned too hot.

And thus immediately prior to the firstlings of light, the Etruscan diviners were summoned and consulted, what did the new appearance of a star portend; they responded with great caution that it must be avoided, lest anything be tried at that time, showing that in the book of Tarquitian, in the chapter, On Divine Matters, this is related: that when a brand is seen in the sky, it is not opportune that battle be engaged, or anything similar. But spurning this, among many other things, the soothsayers pleaded with him to put off the departure for at least a few hours, and they would not even achieve this, since the emperor resisted the expertise of all prophesying, but as soon as the day arose, the camp was pushed onward.

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Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 25.1

In general, my translations are filthy literal. I’m not translating Latin idioms into graceful English, partly because I often don’t recognize the idioms when I see them (but not always–I’m well aware that, “the boundaries of the light,” for example, would make more sense rendered as “the crack of dawn” or something similar). And I often cling to Latin ordering of words and phrases, even when it would make more sense to use a more English structure. This entry seems particularly egregious in this respect. In a couple of places below (marked in italics) the construction is especially strained, however, because I genuinely don’t understand how the Latin is working. If you want a clearer translation, there are a couple freely available on the internet.

And indeed that night, shining with no glitter of stars, as is usual for severe and doubtful affairs, we drove out and neither did anyone dare to sit nor turn lamps to quietude, on account of their fear. When, truly, the day first became light, shining on the iron bands of embracing loricae, and the glittering breastplates, seen from afar, showed that the army of the king was at hand. And once this was seen, although the soldier was inflamed, hastening to engage—the river separated them—the emperor briefly held them back, and not far off from the very rampart, during a bitter fight that broke out between our scouts and the Persians, Machameus fell, the leader of one of our armies. His brother, Maurus—afterward a Phoenician general, although he intended to rush out, since he would slaughter the killer of his brother, terrifying anyone in the way, was himself also weakened by a javelin to his upper arm, growing pallid, with death at hand, he had the power to withdraw Machameus from the fight with great strength.

When the factions fatigued, from the magnitude of the heat, scarcely endurable, and the frequent clashes, finally the enemy troops were seriously repulsed, shattered. When we fell back from that place, the Saracens followed at great length and although, due to fear of our infantry, they were compelled to turn back, they soon afterward, once they were more safely joined to the Persian multitude, they attacked, to capture the Roman baggage, but when the emperor was seen, they returned to the auxiliary wings. Proceeding from that place, we reached the villa, named Hucumbra, where after two days, while everything was suitable for use and the grains we sought were in abundance, we departed restored to highest hope, and immediately after this, what the occasion allowed by wagon, the rest was consumed by fire.

The next day, when the army was proceeding well-appeased, the men at the very end, those who, by chance, bore the duties of collecting the train on that day, these men the Persians suddenly accosted, and would have killed in short order except that our nearby cavalry, as soon as this was perceived, having spread out widely though the broad valley, repelled the great mass discriminis vulneratis, who overtook them. In this battle, Adaces fell, a noble satrap, once sent as an ambassador to the princeps Constantius, and kindly received; his killer offered his equipment and clothing to Julian and was remunerated, as was befitting. On the same day, the equestrian band of the Tertiacori was accused by the legions, that, when they themselves had burst through the opposing battle-lines of the enemies, they, dispersing little by little, almost completely diminished the alacrity of the army. From this, the emperor, raised to just indignation, with their standards taken and their spears shattered, all those who were shown to have fled he positioned to make the journey among the baggage and supplies and the captives, their leader, who alone contended bravely, was posted to another troop, whose tribune had been proven to have shamefully deserted the battle. Yet another four were cast down by their oath, too, due to a similar disgrace of a battalion’s tribune; For this, to be sure, the emperor was content with a more lenient management of correction in consideration of the difficulties hanging over them.

And thus they progressed for seventy furlongs, the supplies of every kind diminished, since the green crops and grains burned, from the very flames fruits were grabbed, and foodstuffs, as anyone able to carry something, preserved it. Yet once this place was left behind, when the entire army arrived at a tract of land called Maranga, very near the boundaries of the light, the immense multitude of the Persians appeared, with Marana, a master of equestrian warfare, and the king’s two sons, and a great many aristocrats.

Indeed, all the crowds were furnished with iron, in this way, each limb so covered with thick plates, that the joints came together, stiffening at the connections of the limbs, simulacra of human visage attached to their heads so carefully that, with their bodies bedecked solid, even where a great many missiles fell upon them they could stand fast, which, through minute cavities and placed at the orbs of their eyes, is seen but sparingly and breath is emitted through supremely narrow straits of the nostrils. Part of which stands to fight, immovable, with pikes, such that you would think them fixed by bronze cables, and archers nearby, confident in their art from the very cradle, the band prevails to a high degree, they stretch their flexible bows, drawing apart their forearms, so that the strings touch their right breasts, the sharp points unite with their left hands, and the highest skill of their fingers proven, singing with strikes, the shafts fly forth bearing ruinous wounds.

After this, the dreadful aspect of gleaming elephants, howling savage cries, the trembling minds of men scarcely endure, and by the shrill noise and stench of these and the unaccustomed sight, horses are greatly terrified. Upon these their masters are seated, wielding handled knives tied to their right hands, mindful of the disaster received at Nisibis, and if the animal, going mad, overcomes the power of the man controlling it, lest it turn back on them, so as there to fell them, to throw them down to the clashing mass, the vein which divides the head from the neck, they cut through this with a desperate thrust. For this was discovered at another time by Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, thus quickly in this way to snatch life from the monsters.

When these were seen (and not without great terror), accompanied by bands of armed cohorts, the emperor and his most trustworthy highborn men, as the great and terrible power demanded, at the crescent front-line, and the curved flanks, he readied companies to rush the enemy. And so that the sallies of our archers would not scatter the wedge-formations, with signs quickly executed, he cut off the assault of arrows, and with the sign customarily given for decisive combat, the densely-packed Roman infantry thrust laboriously into the pressed fronts of the enemies, with great precision. And in the roiling mass of battles, the din of shields and men, and the crashing of arms plaintively whistling, abiding nothing yet to be abated, it covered the fields with blood and the carnage of bodies, especially with fallen Persians, for whom often sluggishly, foot bound closely to foot withstood more gravely in conflict, inclined to fight bravely from a distance and if they felt that might of their own declined, when retreating,  their arrows scattered in the manner of rain after them, they reliably deterred enemies from following. So once the Parthians were struck by a weight of great power, the soldiery, long since wearied by the flaming course of the sun, after the signal to retreat was given, fell again to their tents, sustained for daring greater things afterward.

In this battle the carnage of the Persians, so it is said, appeared greater, and our lighter by a great deal. Nevertheless, from among the various fallen in battle, the death of Vetranio stood out, a pugnacious man, who led the legion of the Zianni.

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Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 14.6

Meanwhile, Orfitus ruled the eternal city with the power of prefect, exalting himself immoderately beyond the measure of the office conferred upon him, a man—it is true—of foresight, and exceedingly skilled in forensic affairs, but in the splendor of a liberal education he was furnished less than befits a noble. While he governed, serious mutinies were stirred up by a lack of wine, for which, the mob—eager for greedy use, was agitated to action desperate and frequent.

And, since I suppose that some foreigners, those who may perchance read this (if one comes upon it), could wonder for what reason, when the account turns to showing that which was done at Rome, I narrate nothing except uprisings and taverns and other vulgarities similar to these, briefly I will touch on the reason, nowhere of my own volition intending to digress from the truth.

In the time when, from first auspices, Rome ascended to world-wide brilliance, to live as long as there were men, in order that she be exalted by lofty increase, Virtue and Fortune came together for a pact of eternal peace, although usually disagreeing, if either of them were absent, she would not ultimately reach the highest point. Her people, from earliest cradle right up to the last period of childhood, because they were enclosed all around for almost three hundred years, endured wars around her walls; and then entering her adult age, after multifold tribulations of wars, she traversed the Alps and the sea; raised to her youth and manhood, from every region that the boundless sky encompasses, she carried back laurels and triumphs; and now turning toward senility, and conquering now and then in name alone, she departs to the more tranquil age of her life.

Therefore, the venerable city, after the haughty necks of savage tribes were oppressed, and laws were borne, that fundament of liberty and its eternal tether, just as a frugal parent, both prudent and wealthy, thus to the Caesars as if to her own children she has permitted the right to rule over her estate. And for a time there was license for the tribes to be idle, and the centuries pacified, and there were no contests for suffrage, but the security of the time of Pompilianus had returned, yet through all boundaries and parts of the world, as many as there were, as a mistress and a queen she is received, and everywhere the grey eminence of the senators is revered with authority, and the name of the Roman people is regarded and venerated.

But this magnificent splendor of unions is wounded by the disordered inconstancy of a few, giving no consideration of where they are begotten, but like indulgences that give licence to faults, they are fallen to error and impudence. For as Simonides of the lyre instructs, he who would live blessedly by perfect reason, it is agreed, must before all other things have a glorious nation. Some of these men, estimating that they can commend themselves to the ages with statues, ardently strive for them, as if to attain more reward from formations of bronze lacking feeling than from an awareness of deeds done honorably and righteously, and they take pains that these are gilded in gold, which was conferred first to Acilius Glabrionus, when he overcame the king of Antioch by arms and counsels. How fine it would be, however, spurning things petty and least, to reach for the ascents of true glory, distant and steep, as the seer Ascraeus recalls, Cato Censorius did demonstrate. He was asked, for what reason, among so many men … he had no statue. “I prefer,” he answered, “the good to debate, for what reason did I not merit it, than, which is more serious, to mutter, why did I win it.”

Some men, placing the highest honor in carriages grown more lofty than custom, and in much-sought finery of vestment, sweat beneath the weight of their cloaks, which, inserted into their collars, they fasten around their own throats, fluttering too much for the delicacy of the weave, awaiting with violent agitation and especially the left, so that the lengthy fringes and their tunics glitter conspicuously, fashioned with a diversity of threads in manifold depictions of animals. Others, although no one asks, with their faces in feigned severity, exalt their own estates to immensity, multiplying the annual fruits of their fertile (so they think) plantations, which they proclaim they possess in abundance from rising to setting of the sun, no doubt ignorant that their own ancestors, by whom Roman greatness was thus extended, to shine forth not by her riches, but through terribly savage wars, differing not in their means, nor in their sustenance, nor in the cheapness of their garments from common soldiers, surpassed all opposition by their virtue. For this reason Valerius Publicola himself is interred with small offering, raised by contributions, and by the subsidies of her husband’s friends, the destitute wife of Regulus, with her children, is sustained, and the daughter of Scipio is endowed from the treasury, since the nobility blushed on account of the flower of matured virginity lasting so long, due to the absence of her impoverished father.

But now, if you should, for the first time, enter as an honorable visitor to pay your respects to anyone well moneyed, and puffed up on this account, you will be received as if long wished for, and be asked many questions, and be compelled to speak falsehoods; you will wonder, since you have never before been seen here, at an eminent man so strenuously attending to you, a trifling man, so as to make you sorry, on account of these things, like special favours, that you had not seen Rome a decade earlier. And once you had confidence in this affability, when you do the same the next day, you will be tarried, like an unknown and unexpected visitor, while that man, yesterday’s encourager … for counting, wonders all day who you might be and whence you came. Finally recognized in truth and received in friendship, if you yield to constant attendance, paying your respects for three years without pause, and you are absent the occasion for the same number of days, you will return to endure the same things, and not asked where you were, and, if you do not depart from there unhappy, you will squander your whole life in vain from submitting yourself to a blockhead.

When, however, separated by appropriate intervals, they begin to prepare their tedious and offensive feasts, whether the distribution of the ritual gifts is managed with anxious deliberation, or, with those excepted to whom the vicissitude is owed, it is decided that the foreigner be invited and if, once the council is fully arranged, it is pleasing that it be done, he is summoned who sleeps outside, before the houses of charioteers, or who professes his skill of dice, or who pretends that he knows certain very secret things. For they shun learned and sober men as if they were ill-omened and useless, in addition to which, their secretaries,1 habituated to selling these and other such favours, once a fee is accepted, introduce to the payments and the luncheons certain counterfeit men, ignoble and obscure.

The endless maw of the dinner tables and the various enticements of pleasures, so that I don’t go on too long, I will pass over to change the subject, that some men, rushing through the ample spaces of the city and the overturned stones, without any fear of the risk, they urge their horses like the public ones,2 with marked hooves, dragging a train of servants like a predatory throng at their backs, and not even Sannio, as the comic says, is left at home. Imitating these men, numerous matrons run about, their heads and sedans covered, through all quarters of the city. And like leaders practised in battle, who first place dense crowds in opposition, and strong, and then lightly armed men, spearmen after that, and finally the auxiliary battle-lines, if chance should grant, to provide assistance, thus it is for the overseers of the urban household, carefully and anxiously arranging their own, whom they make prominent by rods fitted to their right hands, like the watchword given to a soldier; near the front of the carriage the whole weaver’s shop marches; to this the blackened ministry of the kitchen is attached, and then the whole servitude in common, with unemployed plebs from the district joined in; long after, a multitude of eunuchs going from from old men to boys, pale and tormented, deformed at the join of their lineaments, so that wherever anyone departs to, when they see a train of mutilated men, he curses the memory of Semiramis, that queen of the ancients, who first of all people castrated males of a tender age, as if applying violence on nature, and twisting the same from her fixed course, which, during the very childhood of a man’s arising, through the originating fonts of seed, by a silent law, as it were, she shows the ways of increasing posterity.

Since this is so, the few houses formerly celebrated for their serious cultivation of studies now toil in mockeries, numbed by laziness, resounding with the sound of voice, the fluttering tinkling of lyres. And finally, instead of a philosopher, a singer is invited, and in place of an orator, a teacher of skill in games, and after the libraries shut up in perpetuity, in the manner of tombs, hydraulic organs are constructed, and huge lyres in the appearance of chariots, and flutes and not insignificant instruments of theatrical gesture.

At last we have come to this state of indignity, such that, not so long ago, when because of a feared poverty of provisions, the foreigners were being driven headlong from the city, and although the very few adherents of the liberal disciplines were expelled without any respite, the attendants of mimes were most certainly kept, whoever impersonated them for the occasion, and three thousand dancing girls remained, with their choruses, not even disturbed, and just as many conductors. And there was liberty, any which way you might turn your eyes, to gaze upon many women, curls in their hair, to whom, had they married, already thrice by their age the pain of children could have come; sweeping the floor with their feet to the very point of tedium, to be thrown in flying gyres, while they portray the innumerable forms which the theatrical tales devise.

This, however, is not doubted, that once, when Rome was the domicile of every virtue, most of the nobility held fast to her free-born visitors, as the Homeric Lotus-eaters did by the sweetness of their berries, they by the multifarious kindnesses of their humanity. Now, rather, the vain blustering of some esteem anyone born beyond the walls of the city as cheap, except for the childless and the unmarried, and it could not be credited with what diversity of obsequities men without children are cultivated at Rome. And since then, among those men, as in the capital of the world, the bitter pains of diseases have gained high dominion, for the allayment of which, every public promise of healing is idle, an auxiliary for giving health has been devised, that one does not even see a friend enduring anything similar, and another sufficiently powerful remedy has been added by a cautious few, such that servants, sent to inquire to what measure they gain strength—those known to be bound by the illness, are not received to the house before they cleanse their body with a bath. Thus even a blemish seen by the eyes of another is feared. But even so, although these things are so very carefully attended to, some men, although the vigour of their limbs is diminished, when they are invited to weddings, where gold is offered to the fortunate cupped hands, they diligently proceed even as far as Spoleto. These are the habits of the nobles.

Of the throng of the lower lot and the poor, in truth, some stay all night in wine taverns, a few lurk beneath the coverings of the theatrical awnings, which, imitating Campaniam lewdness, Catulus hung up during his aedileship; either they contend combatively in dice games, clamouring with foul sound, by breath withdrawn through their roaring nostrils; or, which is the greatest of all endeavors, from the rising of light to evening, rain or shine, they tire themselves seeking in minute detail the strengths and flaws of charioteers and horses. It is a marvel of great measure to see the innumerable plebs, some ardent desire applied to their minds, hanging on the outcome of furious chariot races. They permit these and similar such things to be done at Rome, but nothing earnest or worthy of memory; thus we must return to the text.

1. The Latin word that I’ve translated as “secretaries”, nomenclatores, refers to servants that had the job of keeping a list of all the attendants at a banquet, and keep their masters informed of who they were speaking to.
2. The Roman Emperor kept horses hitched at points throughout the city so for his servants to use on urgent business.

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