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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