Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

end, and was continued to the death of Valens, A.d. 378, a period of 282 years. And there is probably no work as to the intrinsic value of which there is so little difference of opinion. Gibbon bears repeated testimony to his accuracy, fidelity, and impartiality, and quotes him extensively. In losing his aid after A.d. 378, he says, "It is not without sincere regret that I must now take leave of an accurate and faithful guide, who has composed the history of his own times without indulging the prejudices and passions which usually affect the mind of a contemporary." Professor Ramsay (in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography) says, "We are indebted to him for a knowledge of many important facts not elsewhere recorded, and for much valuable insight into the modes of thought and the general tone of public feeling prevalent in his day. Nearly all the statements admitted appear to be founded upon his own observations, or upon the information derived from trustworthy eye-witnesses. A considerable number of dissertations and digressions are introduced, many of them highly interesting and valuable. Such are his notices of the institutions and manners t>f the Saracens (xiv. 4), of the Scythians and Sarmatians (xvii. 12), of the Huns and Alani (xxxi. 2), of the Egyptians and their country (xxii. 6, 14-16), and his geographical discussions upon Gaul (xv. 9), the Pontus (xxii. 8), and Thrace (xxvii. 4). Less legitimate and less judicious are his geological speculations upon earthquakes (xvii. 7), his astronomical inquiries into eclipses (xx. 3), comets (xxv. 10), and the regulation of the calendar (xxvi. 1); his medical researches into the origin of epidemics (xix. 4); his zoological theory on the destruction of lions by mosquitos (xviii. 7), and his horticultural essay on the impregnation of palms (xxiv. 3). In addition to industry in research and honesty of purpose, he was gifted with a large measure of strong common sense, which enabled him in many points to rise superior to the prejudices of his day, and with a clear-sighted independence

PREFACE. vii

of spirit which prevented him from being dazzled or overawed by the brilliancy and the terrors which enveloped the imperial throne. But although sufficiently acute in detecting and exposing the follies of others, and especially in ridiculing the absurdities of popular superstition, Ammianus did not entirely escape the contagion. The general and deep-seated belief in magic spells, omens, prodigies, and oracles, which appears to have gained additional strength upon the first introduction of Christianity, evidently exercised no small influence over his mind. The old legends and doctrines of the pagan creed, and the subtle mysticism which philosophers pretended to discover lurking below, when mixed up with the pure and simple but startling tenets of the new faith, formed a confused mass which few intellects could reduce to order and harmony."

The vices of our author's style, and his ambitious affectation of ornament, are condemned by most critics; but some of the points which strike a modern reader as defects evidently arise from the alteration which the Latin language had already undergone since the days of Livy. His great value, however, consists in the facts he has made known to us, and is quite independent of the style or language in which he has conveyed that knowledge, of which without him we should have been nearly destitute.

The present translation has been made from Wagner and Erfardt's edition, published at Leipzig in 1808, and their division of chapters into short paragraphs has been followed.

Feb. 1802.

THE HISTORY OF AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS.

THE FIKST THIRTEEN BOOKS AKE LOST.

BOOK XIV.

ARGUMENT.

L The cruelty of the Caesar Gallus.—II. The incursions of the Isnunans.—III. The unsuccessful plans of the Persians.—IV. The invasion of the Saracens, und the manners of that people.— V. Tiic punishment of the adherents of Magneutius.—VI. The vices of the senate and people of Rome.—VII. The ferocity and inhumanity of the Caesar Callus.—VHI. A description of the provinces of the East.—IX. About the Caesar Constantius Gallus.— X. The Emperor Constantius grants the Allemanni peace at their request.—XI. The Catsar Constantius Callus is sent for by tho Emperor Constantius, and beheaded.

I. A.d. 353. § 1. After the events of an expedition full of almost insuperable difficulties, while the spirits of all parties in the state, broken by the variety of their dangers and toils, were still enfeebled; while the clang of trumpets was ringing in men's ears, and the troops were still distributed in their winter quarters, the storms of angry fortune surrounded the commonwealth with fresh dangers through the manifold and terrible atrocities of Caesar Gallus:' who, when just entering into the prime of life, having been raised with

1 Gallus and his brother Julian wero the nephews of the great Conrtsntine, sons of his brother Julius. AVhen Constantius, who succeeded Constantino on the throne, murdered his uncles and most of his cousins, he spared these two, probably on account of their tender age.

unexpected honour from the lowest depth of misery to the highest rank, exceeded all the legitimate hounds of the power conferred on him, and with preposterous violence threw everything into confusion. For by his near relationship to the royal family, and his connection with the name of Constantino, he was so inflated with pride, that if ho had had more power, he would, as it seemed, have ventured to attack even the author of his prosperity.

2. His wife added fuel to his natural ferocity; she was a woman immoderately proud of her sisterly relationship (o Augustus, and had been formerly given in marriage by the elder Constantino to King Hannibalianus,1 his brother's son. She was an incarnate fury: never weary of inflaming his savage temper, thirsting for human blood as insatiably as her husband. The pair, in process of time, becoming more skilful in the infliction of suffering, employed a gang of underhand and crafty talebearers, accustomed in their wickedness to make random additions to their discoveries, which consisted in general of such falsehoods as they themselves delighted in; and these men loaded the innocent with calumnies, charging them with aiming at kingly power, or with practising infamous acts of magic.

3. And among his less remarkable atrocities, when his power had gone beyond the bounds of moderate crimes, was conspicuous the horrible and sudden death of a certain noble citizen of Alexandria, named Clematius. His mother-in-law, having conceived a passion for him, could not prevail on him to gratify it; and in consequence, as

1 Hannibalianus was another nephew of Constantino. That emperor raised his own three Bous. Constantino, Constantius, and Constans, to the dignity of Caesar; and of his two favourite nephews, Dalmacius and Hannibalianus, he raised the first, by the title of Ca sar, to an equality with his cousins; "in favour of the hitter he invented the new and singular appellation of Fortitissimus, to which lie annexed the flattering distinction of a robe of purple and gold. But of the whole series of Roman princes in any age of the empire Hannibalianus alone was distinguished by the title of Itiug, a name, which the subjects of Tiberius would have detested as the profane and cruel insult of capricious tyranny."—Gibbon, exviii. The editor of Bohn's edition adds in a note: "The title given to Hannibalianus did not apply to him as a Roman prince, but as king of a territory assigned to him in Asia. This territory consisted of I'ontus, Cappndocia, and the leasei Armenia, the city of Csesarea being chosen for his residence."—Gibbon, Bohn's edition, vol. ii. pp. 256, 257.

« ForrigeFortsett »