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Silvanus the Frank, commander of the infantry in Gaul, is hailed as Augustus at Cologne, but is treacherously slain on the twenty-eighth day of his reign.
Now there arises in this afflicted state of affairs a storm of new calamities, with no less mischief to the provinces; and it would have destroyed everything at once, had not Fortune, arbitress of human chances, brought to an end with speedy issue a most formidable uprising.  Since through long neglect Gaul was enduring bitter massacres, pillage, and the ravages of fire, as the savages plundered at will and no one helped, Silvanus, an infantry commander thought capable of redressing these outrages, came there at the emperor's order; and Arbetio urged by whatever means he could that this should be hastened, in order that the burden of a perilous undertaking might be imposed upon an absent rival, whose survival even to this time he looked upon as an affliction.  A certain Dynamius, superintendent of the emperor's pack-animals, 1 had asked Silvanus for letters of recommendation to his friends, in order to make himself very conspicuous, as if he were one [p. 135] of his intimates. On obtaining this request, for Silvanus, suspecting nothing, had innocently granted it, he kept the letters, intending to work some mischief at the proper time.  So when the abovementioned commander was traversing Gaul in the service of the government and driving forth the savages, who had now lost their confidence and courage, this same Dynamius, being restless in action, like the crafty man he was and practised in deceit, devised a wicked plot. He had as abettors and fellow conspirators, as uncertain rumours declared, Lampadius, 2 the praetorian prefect, and Eusebius, former keeper of the privy purse, 3 who had been nicknamed Mattyocopus, 4 and Aedesius, late master of the rolls, 5 all of whom the said prefect had arranged to have called to the consulship as his nearest friends. With a sponge he effaced the lines of writing, leaving only the signature intact, and wrote above it another text far different from the original, indicating that Silvanus in obscure terms was asking and urging his assistants within the palace or without official position, including both Tuscus Albinus and many more, to help him, aiming as he was at a loftier position and soon to mount to the imperial throne.  This packet of letters, thus forged at his pleasure to assail the life of an innocent man, the prefect received from Dynamius, and coming into the emperor's [p. 137] private room at an opportune time and finding him alone, secretly handed it to him, accustomed as he was eagerly to investigate these and similar charges. Thereby the prefect hoped that he would be rewarded by the emperor, as a most watchful and careful guardian of his safety. And when these letters, patched together with cunning craft, were read to the consistory, 6 orders were given that those tribunes whose names were mentioned in the letters should be imprisoned, and that the private individuals should be brought to the capital from the provinces.  But Malarichus, commander of the gentiles, 7 was at once struck with the unfairness of the procedure, and summoning his colleagues, vigorously protested, exclaiming that men devoted to the empire ought not to be made victims of cliques and wiles. And he asked that he himself—leaving as hostages his relatives and having Mallobaudes, tribune of the heavy-armed guard, as surety for his return—might be commissioned to go quickly and fetch Silvanus, who was not entering upon any such attempt as those most bitter plotters had trumped up. Or as an alternative, he asked that he might make a like promise and that Mallobaudes be allowed to hurry there and perform what he himself had promised to do.  For he declared that he knew beyond question that, if any outsider should be sent, Silvanus, being by nature apprehensive, even when there was nothing alarming, would be likely to upset the peace.  But although his advice was expedient and necessary, yet he was talking vainly to the winds. For by Arbetio's advice Apodemius, an inveterate [p. 139] and bitter enemy of every patriot, was sent with a letter to recall Silvanus. He, caring little for what might happen, on arriving in Gaul, departed from the instructions given him on his setting out and remained there without either interviewing Silvanus or citing him to come to court by delivering the letter; and associating with himself the fiscal agent of the province, as if the said infantry commander were proscribed and now to be executed, he abused his dependents and slaves with the arrogance of an enemy.  In the meantime, however, while Silvanus' presence was awaited and Apodemius was disturbing the peace, Dynamius, in order to maintain the credibility of his wicked inventions with a stronger argument, had made up a letter tallying with the one which he had presented to the emperor through the prefect, and sent it to the tribune of the Cremona armory, in the name of Silvanus and Malarichus; in this letter the tribune, as one privy to their secret designs, was admonished to prepare everything with speed.  When the tribune had read this, hesitating for a long time and puzzling as to what in the world it meant (for he did not remember that the men whose letter he had received had ever talked with him about any confidential business), he sent the identical letter back to Malarichus by the carrier who had brought it, and with him a soldier, begging Malarichus to explain openly what he wanted, and not so enigmatically. For he declared that, being a somewhat rude and plain man, he had not understood what had been obscurely intimated.  Malarichus, on unexpectedly receiving this, being even then troubled and [p. 141] sad, and grievously lamenting his own lot and that of his fellow-countryman Silvanus, called together the Franks, who at that time were numerous and influential in the palace, and now spoke more boldly, raising an outcry over the disclosure of the plot and the unveiling of the deceit by which their lives were avowedly aimed at.  And on learning this, the emperor decided that the matter should be investigated searchingly through the medium of his council and all his officers. And when the judges had taken their seats, Florentius, son of Nigrinianus, at the time deputy master of the offices, 8 on scrutinizing the script with greater care, and finding a kind of shadow, as it were, of the former letters, 9 perceived what had been done, namely, that the earlier text had been tampered with and other matter added quite different from what Silvanus had dictated, in accordance with the intention of this patched-up forgery.  Accordingly, when this cloud of deceit had broken away, the emperor, learning of the events from a faithful report, deprived the prefect of his powers, and gave orders that he should be put under examination; but he was acquitted through an energetic conspiracy of many persons. Eusebius, however, former count of the privy purse, 10 on being put upon the rack, admitted that this had been set on foot with his cognizance. [p. 143]  Aedesius, who maintained with stout denial that he had known nothing of what was done, got off scot-free. And so at the close of the business all those were acquitted whom the incriminating report had forced to be produced for trial; in fact Dynamius, as if given distinction by his illustrious conduct, was bidden to govern Etruria and Umbria with the rank of corrector. 11  Meanwhile Silvanus, stationed at Cologne and learning from his friends' constant messages what Apodemius was undertaking to the ruin of his fortunes, knowing the pliant mind of the fickle emperor, and fearing lest he should be condemned to death absent and unheard, was put in a most difficult position and thought of entrusting himself to the good faith of the savages.  But he was prevented by Laniogaisus, at that time a tribune, whom I have earlier stated to have been the sole witness of Constans' death, while he was serving as a subaltern. 12 He assured Silvanus that the Franks, whose fellow-countryman he was, would kill him or on receipt of a bribe betray him. So Silvanus, seeing no safety under present conditions, was driven to extreme measures, and having gradually spoken more boldly with the chief officers, he aroused them by the greatness of the reward he promised; then as a temporary expedient he tore the purple decorations from the standards of [p. 145] the cohorts and the companies, and so mounted to the imperial dignity.  And while this was going on in Gaul, as the day was already drawing to its close, an unexpected messenger reached Milan, openly declaring that Silvanus, aiming higher than the command of the infantry, had won over his army and risen to imperial eminence.  Constantius, struck down by the weight of this unexpected mischance as by a thunderbolt of Fate, called a council at about midnight, and all the chief officials hastened to the palace. And when no one's mind or tongue was equal to showing what ought to be done, mention in subdued tones was made of Ursicinus, as a man conspicuous for his sagacity in the art of war, and one who had been without reason provoked by serious injustice. And when he had been summoned by the master of ceremonies 13 (which is the more honourable way) and had entered the council chamber, he was offered the purple to kiss much more graciously than ever before. Now it was the emperor Diocletian who was the first to introduce this foreign and royal form of adoration, whereas we have read that always before our emperors were saluted like the higher officials. 14  So the man who shortly before with malicious slander was called the maelstrom of the East and a seeker after acquisition of imperial power through his sons, then became a most politic leader and mighty fellow-soldier of Constantine's, and the only person to [p. 147] extinguish the fire; but he was really being attacked under motives honourable, to be sure, but yet insidious. For great care was being taken that Silvanus should be destroyed as a very brave rebel; or, if that should fail, that Ursicinus, already deeply gangrened, should be utterly annihilated, in order that a rock 15 so greatly to be dreaded should not be left.  Accordingly, when arrangements were being made for hastening his departure, and the general undertook the refutation of the charges brought against him, the emperor, forestalling him by a mild address, forbade it, declaring that it was not the time for taking up the defence of a disputed case, when the urgency of pressing affairs which should be mitigated before it grew worse, demanded that parties should mutually be restored to their old-time harmony.  Accordingly, after a many-sided debate, this point was chiefly discussed, namely, by what device Silvanus might be led to think that the emperor even then had no knowledge of his action. And they invented a plausible means of strengthening his confidence, advising him in a complimentary letter to receive Ursicinus as his successor and return with his dignities unimpaired.  After this had been thus settled, Ursicinus was ordered to set forth at once, accompanied (as he had requested) by some tribunes and ten of the body-guard, to assist the exigencies of the state. Among these I myself was one, with my colleague Verinianus; all the rest were relatives [p. 149] and friends.  And when he left, each of us attended him for a long distance in fear only for our own safety. But although we were, like gladiators, 16 cast before ravening wild beasts, yet reflecting that melancholy events after all have this good sequel, that they give way to good fortune, we admired that saying of Tully's, delivered even from the inmost depths of truth itself, which runs as follows: “And although it is most desirable that our fortune always remain wholly favourable, yet that evenness of life does not give so great a sense of satisfaction as when, after wretchedness and disaster, fortune is recalled to a better estate.” 17  Accordingly, we hastened by forced marches, since the commander-in-chief of the army, in his zeal, wished to appear in the suspected districts before any report of the usurpation had made its way into Italy. But for all our running haste, Rumour had flown before us by some aerial path and revealed our coming; and on arriving at Cologne we found everything above our reach.  For since a great crowd assembled from all sides gave a firm foundation to the enterprise so timidly begun, and large forces had been mustered, it seemed, in view of the state of affairs, more fitting that our general 18 should complaisantly favour the upstart 19 emperor's purpose and desire to be strengthened in the growth of his power by deceptive omens; to the end that by means of manifold devices of flattery his feeling [p. 151] of security might be made more complete, and he might be caught off his guard against anything hostile.  But the issue of this project seemed difficult; for special care had to be observed that the onsets should take advantage of the right moment, neither anticipating it nor falling short of it. Since if they should break out prematurely, we were all sure to suffer death under a single sentence.  However, our general, being kindly received and forcing himself-since our very commission bent our necks-formally to reverence the high-aiming wearer of the purple, was welcomed as a distinguished and intimate friend. In freedom of access and honourable place at the royal table he was so preferred to others that he came to be confidentially consulted about the most important affairs.  Silvanus took it ill that while unworthy men were raised to the consulship and to high positions, he and Ursicinus alone, after having toiled through such heavy and repeated tasks for the government, had been so scorned that he himself had been cruelly harassed in an unworthy controversy through the examination of friends of his, and summoned to trial for treason, while Ursicinus, haled back from the East, was delivered over to the hatred of his enemies; and these continual complaints he made both covertly and openly.  We however were alarmed, in spite of these and similar speeches, at the uproarious complaints of the soldiers on every hand, pleading their destitution and eager to burst through the passes of the Cottian Alps 20 with all speed.  Amid this perplexing distress of spirit we kept casting about in secret investigation for some plan [p. 153] likely to have results; and in the end, after often changing our minds through fear, we resolved to search with the greatest pains for discreet representatives, to bind our communication with solemn oaths, and try to win over the Bracchiati and Cornuti, troops wavering in their allegiance and ready to be swayed by any influence for an ample bribe.  Accordingly, the matter was arranged through some common soldiers as go-betweens, men who through their very inconspicuousness were suited to accomplish it; and just as sunrise was reddening the sky, a sudden group of armed men, fired by the expectation of rewards, burst forth; and as usually happens in critical moments, made bolder by slaying the sentinels, they forced their way into the palace, dragged Silvanus from a chapel where he had in breathless fear taken refuge, while on his way to the celebration of a Christian service, and butchered him with repeated sword-thrusts.  So fell by this manner of death a general of no slight merits, who through fear due to the slanders in which he was ensnared during his absence by a clique of his enemies, in order to save his life had resorted to the uttermost measures of defence.  For although he held Constantius under obligation through gratitude for that timely act of coming over to his side with his soldiers before the battle of Mursa, 21 yet he feared him as variable and uncertain, although he could point also to the valiant deeds of his father Bonitus, a Frank it is true, but one who in the civil war often fought vigorously on the side of Constantine against the soldiers of Licinius.  Now it had happened that before [p. 155] anything of the kind was set on foot in Gaul, the people at Rome in the Great Circus (whether excited by some story or by some presentiment is uncertain) cried out with a loud voice: “Silvanus is vanquished.” 22  Accordingly, when Silvanus had been slain at Cologne, as has been related, the emperor learned of it with inconceivable joy, and swollen with vanity and pride, ascribed this also to the prosperous course of his own good fortune, in accordance with the way in which he always hated brave and energetic men, as Domitian did in times gone by, yet tried to overcome them by every possible scheme of opposition.  And so far was he from praising conscientious service, that he actually wrote that Ursicinus had embezzled funds from the Gallic treasury, which no one had touched. And he had ordered the matter to be closely examined, questioning Remigius, who at that time was already auditor of the general's office of infantry supplies, and whose fate it was, long afterwards, in the days of Valentinian, to take his life with the halter because of the affair of the embassy from Tripoli. 23  After this turn of affairs, Constantius, as one that now touched the skies with his head and would control all human chances, was puffed up by the grandiloquence of his flatterers, whose number he himself increased by scorning and rejecting those who were not adepts in that line; as we read of Croesus, 24 that he drove Solon headlong out of his kingdom for the reason that he did not know how to flatter; and of Dionysius, that he threatened the poet Philoxenus 25 with death, because when the tyrant was reading aloud [p. 157] his own silly and unrythmical verses, and every one else applauded, the poet alone listened unmoved.  But this fault is a pernicious nurse of vices. For praise ought to be acceptable in high places only when opportunity is also sometimes given for reproach of things ill done.
1 He had charge during campaigns and journeys of the transportation of the emperor's baggage; other actuarii are mentioned in xx. 5, 9 (see note), and actuarii a rationibus scrutandis in xxv. 10, 7. Actuarius is an adjective, sc. scriba.
2 See Dessau, Inscr. 4154, note 3.
3 See Introd., pp. xli. f.
5 The magister memoriae was a subordinate of the magister officiorum, and head of the scrinium memoriae (first established by Caracalla) consisting of 62 clerks and 12 adiutores. They sent out the acta prepared by the scrinia epistularum et libellorum, and kept on record answers to petitions.
6 The emperor's council, or secret cabinet; see Introd., pp. xxix. f.
7 The foreign contingent of the household troops; see note 3, p. 56.
8 The magister officiorum was a very important official, to whom many of the former functions of the praetorian prefect had been transferred (or shared with the prefect). Along with his many duties was complete charge of the discipline of the palace. See Introd., pp. xxxvii. f.
9 For the meaning of apices, see Amer. Jour. of Philol., xlviii. (1927), pp. 1 ff. The word is wrongly translated by Holland, “prickes or accents over the letters,” and by Yonge, “some vestiges of the tops of former words”; rightly by Tross, “einige Spuren der früheren Buchstaben.”
10 See Introd., pp. xli. f.
11 Correctores in the fourth century were governors of smaller provinces, ranking between the highest (consulares) and the lowest (praesides). Originally a corrector governed the whole of Italy. The title gradually died out, being replaced by consulares or praesides. See Index II.
12 See Index II, s.v. candidatus.
13 The magister admissionum was a subordinate of the magister officiorum; imperial audiences were obtained through the latter, and the actual entrance into the audience chamber was under the direction of the former.
14 For this meaning of iudices, see Index of Officials, s.v.
15 Cf. Florus, iv. 9, 1; cum scopulus et nodus et mora publicae securitatis superesset Antonius, “a rock in his path” (L.C.L., p. 316).
16 The bestiarii were matched against wild beasts.
17 This passage does not occur in Cicero's extant works. A similar one appears in Ad Quir. post Reditum, i. 2.
19 Novelli is contemptuous; cf. xxvi. 6, 15.
20 In order to march to Italy against Constantius himself.
21 Against Magnentius; see note 2, p. 3.
22 Cf. Gellius, xv. 18, for a similar prophecy.
23 Cf. xxviii. 6, 7 and xxx. 2, 9.
24 Cf. Herodotus, i. 33.
25 Cf. Diod. Sic. xv. 6, and see Index.
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