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Julianus Augustus promises the soldiers a hundred denarii each, as a reward for their good services, and when they express contempt for so small a gift, he recalls them to their senses in a temperate address.

The day after these events the serious news came to the emperor, while he was quietly at table, that the Persian leader called the Surena 1 had unexpectedly attacked three squadrons of our scouting cavalry, had killed a very few of them, including one of their tribunes, and carried off a standard. [2] At once roused to furious anger, Julian hurried forth with an armed force,—his safest course lay in his very speed-and routed the marauders in shameful confusion; he cashiered the two surviving tribunes as inefficient and cowardly, and following the ancient laws, discharged and put to death ten 2 of the soldiers who had fled from the field.

[3] Then, after the city was burned (as has been told), Julian mounted a tribunal erected for the purpose and thanked the assembled army, urging them all to act in the same way in the future, and promised each man a hundred pieces of silver. 3 But when he perceived that the smallness of the promised sum [p. 425] excited a mutinous uproar, he was roused to deep indignation and spoke as follows:

[4] “Behold the Persians,” said he, “abounding in wealth of every kind. The riches of this people can enrich you, if we show ourselves brave men of united purpose. But from endless resources (believe me, pray) the Roman empire has sunk to extremest want through those men who (to enrich themselves) have taught princes to buy peace from the barbarians with gold. 4 [5] The treasury has been pillaged, cities depopulated, provinces laid waste. I have neither wealth nor family connections (although I am of noble birth), only a heart that knows no fear; and an emperor who finds his sole happiness in the training of his mind will feel no shame in admitting an honourable poverty. For the Fabricii too, though poor in worldly goods, conducted serious wars and were rich in glory. [6] All this you may possess in abundance, if you fearlessly follow God's lead and your general's, who will be careful (so far as human foresight can provide), and if you act with moderation; but if you oppose me and repeat the shameful scenes of former revolts, go to it now! [7] I alone, as becomes a commander, having reached the end of a career of great deeds, will die standing on my feet, indifferent to a life which one little fever may take from me; or at any rate I will abdicate, since I have not lived such a life that I cannot some time be a private citizen. And I may say with pride and joy that we [p. 427] have with us thoroughly tried generals, perfect in their knowledge of every kind of warfare.”

[8] By this address of an emperor self-contained amid prosperity and adversity the soldiers were quieted for the time, and, gaining confidence through the anticipation of better days, they promised to be obedient and compliant. With unanimous applause they lauded his leadership and high spirit to the skies; and when such utterances are sincere and come from the heart, it is usually shown by a slight clashing of shields. [9] After this they retired to their tents and (so far as the circumstances allowed) refreshed themselves with food and sleep. It gave courage to the army besides that Julian constantly took oath, not by those dear to him, but by the great deeds that he planned, saying: “As I hope to send the Persians under the yoke”; “As I hope to restore the shattered Roman world.” Just as Trajan is said sometimes to have emphasized a statement by the oaths: “As I hope to see Dacia reduced to the form of a province”; “As I hope to cross the Hister and the Euphrates on bridges”; and many other oaths of the same kind.

[10] Next, after a march of fourteen miles, we came to a place where the fields are made fertile by an abundance of water; but the Persians, having learned in advance that we should take that route, had broken the dykes and allowed the water to flow everywhere without restraint. [11] Therefore, as the ground was covered far and wide with standing pools, the emperor gave the soldiers another day of rest, and went on himself; and after overcoming many dangers, he made such bridges [p. 429] as he could from bladders, 5 as well as boats from the trunks of palm trees, and so got his army across, though not without difficulty.

[12] In these regions there are many fields, planted with vineyards and various kinds of fruits. Here too palm trees are wont to grow, extending over a wide expanse as far as Mesene 6 and the great sea, 7 in mighty groves. And wherever anyone goes, one constantly sees palm branches with and without fruit, 8 and from their yield an abundance of honey and wine is made. 9 The palms themselves are said to couple, and the sexes may easily be distinguished. 10 [13] It is also said that the female trees conceive when smeared with the seeds of the male, and they assert that the trees take pleasure in mutual love, and that this is evident from the fact that they lean towards each other, and cannot be parted even by gales of wind. And if the female tree is not smeared in the usual way with the seed of the male, it suffers abortion and loses its fruit before it is ripe. And if it is not known with what male any female tree is in love, her trunk is smeared with her own perfume, 11 and the other tree by a law of nature is attracted by the sweet odour. 12 It is from these signs that the belief in a kind of copulation is created.

[p. 431] [14] Abundantly supplied with food of that kind, our army passed by several islands, and where formerly there was dread of scarcity there was now serious danger of over-eating. Finally, they were assailed by a hidden attack of the enemy's archers, but not unavenged; and came to a place where the main body of the Euphrates is divided into many small streams.

1 See xxiv. 2, 4.

2 If the reference is to decimation, Ammianus does not express himself clearly.

3 I.e. denarii.

4 This had been done since Domitian's time by all the emperors of his sort.

5 For this work there was a special corps, the utricularii; see Index II., vol. i.

6 Apamia, cf. xxiii. 6, 43.

7 The Caspian.

8 See Gellius, ii. 26, 10; iii. 9, 9, palmae termes ex arbore cum fructu “spadix” dicitur. Ammianus alone uses the form spadicum (n.).

9 Cf. Hdt. i. 193.

10 Cf. Pliny, N.H. xiii. 34 f. Herodotus, i. 193, thinks that an insect carries the seed from the male to the female tree.

11 That is, the blossoms of the female tree.

12 The tree to which the female tree is attracted is drawn to her by the perfume of her blossoms. The perfume was carried by insects; cf. Hdt. i. 193.

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    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), BABYLO´NIA
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