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Aquileia, favouring the cause of Constantius Augustus, is besieged, but after learning of his death surrenders to Julian.

When Julian learned of this, being still at Naessus, and fearing no trouble from behind him, he recalled reading and hearing that this city had indeed oftentimes been besieged, but yet had never been razed nor had ever surrendered. Therefore [p. 143] he hastened with the greater earnestness to win it to his side either by craft or by sundry kinds of flattery before any greater mischief should arise. [2] Hence he ordered Jovinus, a commander of the horse, who was coming over the Alps and had entered Noricum, to return with speed, in order to quench in any way he could the fire that had broken out. Also, that nothing might be wanting, he gave orders that all soldiers who followed the court or the standards 1 should be detained as they passed through that same town, 2 in order to give help according to their powers.

[3] These arrangements made, he himself, learning not long afterwards of the death of Constantius, hastily traversed Thrace and entered Constantinople. And being often advised that the said siege would be long rather than formidable, he assigned Immo with his other officers to that task and then ordered Jovinus to go and attend to other matters of greater urgency.

[4] And so when Aquileia was surrounded with a double line of shields, 3 it was thought best in the unanimous opinion of the generals to try, partly by threats and partly by fair words, to induce the defenders to surrender; but when after much debate to and fro their obstinacy became immensely greater, the conference ended without result. [5] And since now nothing was looked for except battle, both sides refreshed themselves with food and sleep; at daybreak the sound of the trumpets roused them to slay one another, and raising a shout they rushed [p. 145] to battle with more boldness than discretion. [6] Then the besiegers, pushing before them mantlets and closely-woven hurdles, advanced slowly and cautiously, and with a great number of iron tools tried to undermine the walls. Many carried scaling- ladders made to match the height of the walls, but when they could all but touch the ramparts, some were crushed by stones that were hurled down upon them, others were pierced with whizzing darts; and as the survivors gave way, they carried with them all the rest, whom fear of a like fate turned from their purpose of fighting. [7] This first encounter raised the courage of the besieged, who felt confident of still greater success, and made light of what remained to do; with settled and resolute minds they placed artillery in suitable places and with unwearied labour kept guard and attended to other measures of safety. [8] On the other side the assailants, though anxious and fearful of danger, yet from shame of seeming spiritless and slack, seeing that assault by open force effected little, turned to the devices of the besiegers' art. And since a suitable place could nowhere be found for moving up rams, for bringing engines to bear, or for digging mines, the fact 4 that the river Natesio flows by the city only a short distance off suggested a device as worthy of admiration as those of old. [9] With eager speed they built wooden towers higher than the enemy's ramparts and placed each upon [p. 147] three ships strongly fastened together. On these stood armed men, who, with forces gathered from near at hand strove with combined and equal courage to dislodge the defenders; and below, light-armed skirmishers issued forth from the lower rooms of the towers and threw out little bridges, which they had made beforehand, and hastened to cross on them. Thus they worked in unison, in order that while those stationed above on both sides assailed each other in turn with missiles and stones, those who had crossed by the bridges might without interference tear down a part of the wall and open an approach into the heart of the city. 5 [10] But the result of this well-laid plan was unsuccessful. 6 For when the towers were already drawing near, fire-darts steeped in pitch were hurled at them and they were assailed as well with reeds, faggots, and all kinds of kindling material. When by the rapidly spreading fire and the weight of the men who stood precariously upon them the towers toppled and fell into the river, some of the soldiers were killed on their very tops, pierced by missiles from the distant engines. [11] Meanwhile the foot-soldiers, left alone after the death of their companions on the ships, were crushed by huge stones, except a few whom speed of foot through the encumbered passageways saved from death. Finally, after the conflict had lasted until evening, the usual signal for retreat was given; whereupon both sides withdrew and spent what remained of the day with different feelings. [12] For the laments of the besiegers, as they grieved for the death of their comrades, encouraged the defenders to hope that [p. 149] they were now getting the upper hand, although they, too, had a few losses to mourn. Yet, in spite of this, no time was lost, and after a whole night, during which enough food and rest to recover their strength was allowed, the battle was renewed at daybreak at the sound of the trumpet. [13] Then some with their shields raised over their heads, to be less hampered in fighting, others carrying ladders on their shoulders as before, rushed forward in fiery haste, exposing their breasts to wounds from many kinds of weapons. Still others tried to break the iron bars of the gates, but were assailed in their turn with fire or slain by great stones hurled from the walls. Some, who boldly tried to cross the moat, taken unawares by the sudden onslaughts of those that secretly rushed forth through the postern gates, either fell, if overbold, or withdrew wounded. For the return to the walls was safe 7 and a rampart before the walls covered with turf protected from all danger those who lay in wait. 8 [14] But although the besieged, who had no help other than that of the walls, excelled in endurance and the arts of war, yet our soldiers, selected from the better companies, unable to bear the long delay, went about all the suburbs, diligently seeking for places where they could force an entrance into the city by main strength or by their artillery. [15] But when this proved impossible, prevented by the greatness of the difficulties, they began to conduct the siege with less energy, and the garrison troops, leaving behind only the sentinels and pickets, ransacked the neighbouring fields, got [p. 151] an abundance of all suitable things, and gave their comrades a large share of their plunder; and in consequence, by drinking immoderately and stuffing themselves with rich food, they lost their vigour.

[16] When Julian, who was still wintering in Constantinople, heard from the report of Immo and his colleagues what had happened, he devised a shrewd remedy for the troubles; he at once sent Agilo, commander of the infantry, who was well known at that time, to Aquileia, hoping that the sight of so distinguished a man, and the announcement through him of Constantius' death, might put an end to the blockade.

[17] Meanwhile, that the siege of Aquileia might not be interrupted, it was decided, since all the rest of their toil had come to nothing, to force a surrender of the vigorous defenders by thirst. And when the aqueducts had been cut off, but in spite of that they resisted with still greater confidence, with a mighty effort the river was turned from its course; but that also was done in vain. For when the means of drinking more greedily were diminished, men whom their own rashness had beleaguered lived frugally, and contented themselves with water from wells.

[18] While these events were taking place with the results already told, Agilo (as he was ordered) came to them, and covered by a close array of shields drew near confidently; but after giving a detailed and true account of the death of Constantius and the establishment of Julian's rule, he was overwhelmed with endless abuse as a liar. And no one believed his account of what had happened until he [p. 153] was admitted alone within the walls under a pledge of safe conduct and repeated what he had said, adding a solemn oath that it was true. [19] When this was heard, the gates were opened, and after their long torment all poured forth and gladly met the peace-making general. Trying to excuse themselves, they presented Nigrinus as the author of the whole outrage, along with a few others, asking that by the execution of these men the crime of treason and the woes of their city might be expiated. [20] Finally, a few days later, after the affair had been more thoroughly investigated before Mamertinus, the praetorian prefect, then sitting in judgement, Nigrinus as the chief instigator of the war was burned alive. But after him Romulus and Sabostius, senators of Aquileia, being convicted of having sown the seeds of discord without regard to its dangerous consequences, died by the executioner's sword. All the rest, whom compulsion, rather than inclination, had driven to this mad strife, escaped unpunished. For so the emperor, naturally mild and merciful, had decided on grounds of justice.

[21] Now these things happened later. But Julian was still at Naessus, beset by deep cares, since he feared many dangers from two quarters. For he stood in dread lest the soldiers besieged at Aquileia should by a sudden onset block the passes of the Julian Alps, and he should thus lose the provinces and the support which he daily expected from them. [22] Also he greatly feared the forces of the Orient, hearing that the soldiers dispersed over Thrace had been quickly concentrated to meet sudden [p. 155] violence and were approaching the frontiers of Succi under the lead of the count Martianus. But in spite of this he himself also, acting with an energy commensurate with the pressing mass of dangers, assembled the Illyrian army, reared in the toil of Mars and ready in times of strife to join with a warlike commander. [23] Nor did he at so critical a time disregard the interests of private persons, but he gave ear to their suits and disputes, especially those of the senators of the free towns, whom he was much inclined to favour, and unjustly invested many of them with high public office. [24] There 9 it was that he found Symmachus 10 and Maximus, two distinguished senators, who had been sent by the nobles as envoys to Constantius. On their return he received them with honour, and passing over the better man, 11 in place of Tertullus made Maximus prefect of the eternal city, to please Rufinus Vulcatius, 12 whose nephew he knew him to be. Under this man's administration, however, there were supplies in abun- dance, and the complaints of the populace, which were often wont to arise, ceased altogether. [25] Then, to bring about a feeling of security in the crisis and to encourage those who were submissive, he promoted Mamertinus, the pretorian prefect in Illyricum, to the consulship, as well as Nevitta; and that too although he had lately beyond measure blamed Constantine as the first to raise the rank of base foreigners. 13

1 That is, household troops or legions serving in the field.

2 Namely, Naessus.

3 Cf. xix. 2, 2.

4 The clause may perhaps refer to what precedes, or possibly it may be taken ἀπὸ κοινοῦ with what precedes and what follows. The river hampered the use of the artillery and at the same time suggested the plan adopted.

5 The exact meaning is uncertain; see crit. note.

6 The exact meaning is uncertain; see crit. note.

7 For those who rushed out through the postern gates.

8 Waiting for the time for rushing out.

9 At Naessus.

10 Father of the Symmachus from whom we have eleven books of letters, a pillar of the pagan religion. The son was later prefect of the city of Rome; cf. xxvii. 3, 3.

11 Symmachus.

12 Cf. xxvii. 7, 2.

13 See xxi. 10, 8.

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CRATES
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), TURRIS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), AQUILEIA
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