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Constantius Augustus in military attire and like a triumphator arrives in Rome.

While these events were so being arranged in the Orient and in Gaul in accordance with the times, Constantius, as if the temple of Janus had been closed and all his enemies overthrown, was eager to visit Rome and after the death of Magnentius to celebrate, without a title, a triumph over Roman blood. [2] For neither in person did he vanquish any nation that made war upon him, nor learn of any conquered by the valour of his generals; nor did he add anything to his empire; nor at critical moments was he ever seen to be foremost, or among the foremost; but he desired to display an inordinately long procession, banners stiff with gold work, and the splendour of his retinue, to a populace living in perfect peace and neither expecting nor desiring to see this or anything like it. [3] Perhaps he did not know that some of our ancient commanders in time of peace were satisfied with the attendance of their lictors; but when the heat of battle could tolerate no inaction, one, with the mad blast of the winds shrieking, entrusted himself to a fisherman's skiff; 1 another, after the example of the Decii, vowed his life for the commonwealth; 2 a third in his own person together with common soldiers explored the [p. 245] enemy's camp; 3 in short, various among them became famous through splendid deeds, so that they commended their glories to the frequent remembrance of posterity.

[4] So soon, then, as much had been disbursed in regal preparation, and every sort of man had been rewarded according to his services, in the second prefecture of Orfitus he passed through Ocriculi, elated with his great honours and escorted by formidable troops; he was conducted, so to speak, in battle array and everyone's eyes were riveted upon him with fixed gaze. [5] And when he was nearing the city, as he beheld with calm countenance the dutiful attendance of the senate and the august likenesses of the patrician stock, he thought, not like Cineas, the famous envoy of Pyrrhus, that a throng of kings was assembled together, but that the sanctuary of the whole world was present before him. [6] And when he turned from them to the populace, he was amazed to see in what crowds men of every type had flocked from all quarters to Rome. And as if he were planning to overawe the Euphrates with a show of arms, or the Rhine, while the standards preceded him on each side, he himself sat alone upon a golden car in the resplendent blaze of shimmering precious stones, whose mingled glitter seemed to form a sort of shifting light. [7] And behind the manifold others that preceded him he was surrounded by dragons, 4 woven out of purple thread and bound to the golden and jewelled tops of spears, with wide mouths open to the breeze and hence hissing as if roused by anger, and leaving their tails winding in the wind. [8] And there marched on either side [p. 247] twin lines of infantrymen with shields and crests gleaming with glittering rays, clad in shining mail; and scattered among them were the full-armoured cavalry (whom they call clibanarii), 5 all masked, furnished with protecting breastplates and girt with iron belts, so that you might have supposed them statues polished by the hand of Praxiteles, not men. Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs; so that whichever way they had to move their members, their garment fitted, so skilfully were the joinings made. [9] Accordingly, being saluted as Augustus with favouring shouts, while hills and shores thundered out the roar, he never stirred, but showed himself as calm and imperturbable as he was commonly seen in his provinces. [10] For he both stooped when passing through lofty gates (although he was very short), and as if his neck were in a vice, he kept the gaze of his eyes straight ahead, and turned his face neither to right nor to left, but (as if he were a lay figure) neither did he nod when the wheel jolted nor was he ever seen to spit, or to wipe or rub his face or nose, or move his hands about. [11] And although this was affectation on his part, yet these and various other features of his more intimate life were tokens of no slight endurance, granted to him alone, as was given to be understood. [12] Furthermore, that during the entire period of his reign he neither took up anyone to sit beside him in his car, nor admitted any private person to be his colleague in the insignia of the consulship, as other anointed princes did, and many like habits which in his pride of lofty conceit he observed as [p. 249] though they were most just laws, I pass by, remembering that I set them down when they occurred.

[13] So then he entered Rome, the home of empire and of every virtue, and when he had come to the Rostra, the most renowned forum of ancient dominion, he stood amazed; and on every side on which his eyes rested he was dazzled by the array of marvellous sights. He addressed the nobles in the senate-house and the populace from the tribunal, and being welcomed to the palace with manifold attentions, he enjoyed a longed-for pleasure; and on several occasions, when holding equestrian games, he took delight in the sallies of the commons, who were neither presumptuous nor regardless of their old-time freedom, while he himself also respectfully observed the due mean. [14] For he did not (as in the case of other cities) permit the contests to be terminated at his own discretion, but left them (as the custom is) to various chances. Then, as he surveyed the sections of the city and its suburbs, lying within the summits of the seven hills, along their slopes, or on level ground, he thought that whatever first met his gaze towered above all the rest: the sanctuaries of Tarpeian Jove so far surpassing as things divine excel those of earth; the baths built up to the measure of provinces; the huge bulk of the amphitheatre, strengthened by its framework of Tiburtine stone, 6 to whose top human eyesight barely ascends; the Pantheon like a rounded city-district, 7 vaulted over in lofty [p. 251] beauty; and the exalted heights which rise with platforms to which one may mount, and bear the likenesses of former emperors; 8 the Temple of the City, 9 the Forum of Peace, 10 the Theatre of Pompey, 11 the Oleum, 12 the Stadium, 13 and amongst these the other adornments of the Eternal City. [15] But when he came to the Forum of Trajan, a construction unique under the heavens, as we believe, and admirable even in the unanimous opinion of the gods, he stood fast in amazement, turning his attention to the gigantic complex about him, beggaring description and never again to be imitated by mortal men. Therefore abandoning all hope of attempting anything like it, he said that he would and could copy Trajan's steed alone, which stands in the centre of the vestibule, carrying the emperor himself. [16] To this prince Ormisda, who was standing near him, and whose departure from Persia I have described above, 14 replied with native wit: “First, Sire,” said he, “command a like stable to be built, if you can; let the steed which you propose to create range as widely as this which we see.” When Ormisda was asked directly what he thought of Rome, he said that he took comfort 15 [p. 253] in this fact alone, that he had learned that even there men were mortal. [17] So then, when the emperor had viewed many objects with awe and amazement, he complained of Fame as either incapable or spiteful, because while always exaggerating everything, in describing what there is in Rome, she becomes shabby. And after long deliberation what he should do there, he determined to add to the adornments of the city by erecting in the Circus Maximus an obelisk, the provenance and figure of which I shall describe in the proper place. 16

[18] Meanwhile Constantius' sister Helena, wife of Julian Caesar, had been brought to Rome under pretence of affection, but the reigning queen, Eusebia, was plotting against her; she herself had been childless all her life, and by her wiles she coaxed Helena to drink a rare potion, so that as often as she was with child she should have a miscarriage. [19] For once before, in Gaul, when she had borne a baby boy, she lost it through this machination: a midwife had been bribed with a sum of money, and as soon as the child was born cut the umbilical cord more than was right, and so killed it; such great pains and so much thought were taken that this most valiant man might have no heir.

[20] Now the emperor desired to remain longer in this most majestic abode of all the world, to enjoy freer repose and pleasure; but he was alarmed by constant trustworthy reports, stating that the Suebi were raiding Raetia and the Quadi Valeria, 17 [p. 255] while the Sarmatians, a tribe most accomplished in brigandage, were laying waste Upper Moesia and Lower Pannonia. Excited by this news, on the thirtieth day after entering Rome he left the city on May 29th, and marched rapidly into Illyricum by way of Tridentum. 18 21. From there he sent Severus, a general toughened by long military experience, to succeed Marcellus, and ordered Ursicinus to come to him. The latter received the letter with joy and came to Sirmium 19 with his companions; and after long deliberations about the peace which Musonianus had reported might be established with the Persians, Ursicinus was sent back to the Orient with the powers of commander-in-chief; the elder members of our company were promoted to the command of his soldiers, while we younger men were directed to escort him and be ready to perform whatever he should direct on behalf of the commonwealth.

1 Julius Caesar; see Lucan, v. 533 ff.

2 Claudius II., in the Gothic war.

3 Galerius Maximianus, who in person reconnoitred the Persian camp.

4 The imperial standards.

5 Cuirassiers; the word is derived from κλίβανον, “oven,” and means entirely encased in iron; see Index of Officials, or Index II.

6 Travertine.

7 Regio here refers to one of the regions, or districts, into which the city was divided.

8 The columns of Trajan, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. The platform at the top was reached by a stairway within the column.

9 The double temple of Venus and Roma, built by Hadriian and dedicated in A.D. 135

10 The Forum Pacis, or Vespasiani, was begun by Vespasian in A.D. 71, after the taking of Jerusalem, and dedicated in 75. It lay behind the basilica Aemilia.

11 Built in 55 B.C. in the Campus Martius.

12 A building for musical performances, erected by Domitian, probably near his Stadium.

13 The Stadium of Domitian in the Campus Martius, the shape and size of which is almost exactly preserved by the modern Piazza Navona.

14 In 323 (Zosimus, ii. 27); hence in one of the lost books of Ammianus.

15 Valesius read displicuisse, and was followed by Gibbon. Robert Heron (pseudonym of John Pinkerton) in Letters of Literature (London, 1789), xii., p. 68, discusses this remark at some length, disagreeing with Gibbon. He thinks that “the prince's envy at the pleasures of the inhabitants of Rome could only be moderated by the reflection that their pleasures were transitory.”

16 xvii. 4, 6 ff.

17 A division of Pannonia, named from Valeria, daughter of Diocletian and wife of Galerius; see xix. 11, 4.

18 Trent.

19 See index.

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load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1940)
load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1939)
load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1935)
load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., Litt.D., 1935)
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  • Cross-references to this page (4):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), ABOR´TIO
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PANNO´NIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ROMA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), SUEVI
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