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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