Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Julian the Apostate, Letter to the Athenians (1913) Works, vol. 2, pp.245-291


Of the manifestoes addressed by Julian to Rome, Sparta, Corinth, and Athens, defending his acceptance of the title of Emperor and his open rupture with Constantius, the last alone survives. It was written in Illyricum in 361, when Julian was on the march against Constantius, and is the chief authority for the events that led to his elevation to the Imperial rank. Julian writes to the Athenians of the fourth Christian century as though they still possessed the influence and standards of their forefathers. He was well known at Athens, where he had studied before his elevation to the Caesarship and he was anxious to clear himself in the eyes of the citizens. For the first time he ventures to speak the truth about Constantius and to describe the latter's ruthless treatment of his family. His account of the revolution at Paris is supplemented by Ammianus 20, Zosimus 3. 9, and the Epitaph on Julian by Libanius.


[Translated by Wilmer Cave Wright]

Many were the achievements of your forefathers of which you are still justly proud, even as they were of old; many were the trophies for victories raised by them, now for all Greece in common, now separately for Athens herself, in those days when she contended single-handed against all the rest of Greece as well as against the barbarian: but there was no achievement and no display of courage on your part so prodigious that other cities cannot in their turn rival it. For they too wrought some such deeds in alliance with you, and some on their own account. And that I may not by recalling these and then balancing them be thought either to pay more honour to one state than to another in the matters in which they are your rivals, or to praise less than they deserve those who proved inferior, in order to gain an advantage, after the manner of rhetoricians, I desire to bring forward on your behalf only this fact to which I can discover nothing that can be set against it on the part of the other Greek states, and which has been assigned to you by ancient tradition. When the Lacedaemonians were in power you took that power away from them not by violence but by your reputation for justice; and |245 it was your laws that nurtured Aristides the Just. Moreover, brilliant as were these proofs of your virtue, you confirmed them by still more brilliant actions. For to be reputed just might perhaps happen to any individual even though it were not true; and perhaps it would not be surprising that among many worthless citizens there should be found one virtuous man. For even among the Medes is not a certain Deioces 1 celebrated, and Abaris 2 too among the Hyperboreans, and Anacharsis 3 among the Scythians? And in their case the surprising thing was that, born as they were among nations who knew nothing of justice, they nevertheless prized justice, two of them sincerely, though the third only pretended to do so out of self-interest. But it would be hard to find a whole people and city enamoured of just deeds and just words except your own. And I wish to remind you of one out of very many such deeds done in your city. After the Persian war Themistocles 4 was planning to introduce a resolution to set fire secretly to the naval arsenals of the Greeks, and then did not dare to propose it to the assembly; but he agreed to confide the secret to any one man whom the people should elect by vote; and the people chose Aristides to represent them. But he when he heard the scheme did not reveal what he had been told, but reported to the people that there could be nothing more profitable or more dishonest than that advice. |247 Whereupon the city at once voted against it and rejected it, very nobly, by Zeus, and as it behoved men to do who are nurtured under the eyes of the most wise goddess.5

Then if this was your conduct of old, and from that day to this there is kept alive some small spark as it were of the virtue of your ancestors, it is natural that you should pay attention not to the magnitude merely of any performance, nor whether a man has travelled over the earth with incredible speed and unwearied energy as though he had flown through the air; but that you should rather consider whether one has accomplished this feat by just means, and then if he seems to act with justice, you will perhaps all praise him both in public and private; but if he have slighted justice he will naturally be scorned by you. For there is nothing so closely akin to wisdom as justice. Therefore those who slight her you will justly expel as showing impiety towards the goddess who dwells among you. For this reason I wish to report my conduct to you, though indeed you know it well, in order that if there is anything you do not know—and it is likely that some things you do not, and those in fact which it is most important for all men to be aware of—it may become known to you and through you to the rest of the Greeks. Therefore let no one think that I am trifling and wasting words if I try to give some account of things that have happened as it were before the eyes of all men, not only long ago but also just lately. For I wish none to be ignorant of anything that concerns me, and naturally everyone cannot know |249 every circumstance. First I will begin with my ancestors.

That on the father's side I am descended from the same stock as Constantius on his father's side is well known. Our fathers were brothers, sons of the same father. And close kinsmen as we were, how this most humane Emperor treated us! Six of my cousins and his, and my father who was his own uncle and also another uncle of both of us on the father's side, and my eldest brother, he put to death without a trial; and as for me and my other brother,6 he intended to put us to death but finally inflicted exile upon us; and from that exile he released me, but him he stripped of the title of Caesar just before he murdered him. But why should I "recount," as though from some tragedy, "all these unspeakable horrors?" 7 For he has repented, I am told, and is stung by remorse; and he thinks that his unhappy state of childlessness is due to those deeds, and his ill success in the Persian war he also ascribes to that cause. This at least was the gossip of the court at the time and of those who were about the person of my brother Gallus of blessed memory, who is now for the first time so styled. For after putting him to death in defiance of the laws he neither suffered him to share the tombs of his ancestors nor granted him a pious memory.

As I said, they kept telling us and tried to convince us that Constantius had acted thus, partly because he was deceived, and partly because he yielded to the violence and tumult of an |251 undisciplined and mutinous army. This was the strain they kept up to soothe us when we had been imprisoned in a certain farm 8 in Cappadocia; and they allowed no one to come near us after they had summoned him from exile in Tralles and had dragged me from the schools, though I was still a mere boy. How shall I describe the six years we spent there? For we lived as though on the estate of a stranger, and were watched as though we were in some Persian garrison, since no stranger came to see us and not one of our old friends was allowed to visit us; so that we lived shut off from every liberal study and from all free intercourse, in a glittering servitude, and sharing the exercises of our own slaves as though they were comrades. For no companion of our own age ever came near us or was allowed to do so.

From that place barely and by the help of the gods I was set free, and for a happier fate; but my brother was imprisoned at court and his fate was ill-starred above all men who have ever yet lived. And indeed whatever cruelty or harshness was revealed in his disposition was increased by his having been brought up among those mountains. It is therefore I think only just that the Emperor should bear the blame for this also, he who against our will allotted to us that sort of bringing-up. As for me, the gods by means of philosophy caused me to remain untouched by it and unharmed; but on my brother no one bestowed this boon. For when he had come straight from the country to the court, the moment that Constantius had invested him with |253 the purple robe he at once began to be jealous of him, nor did he cease from that feeling until, not content with stripping him of the purple, he had destroyed him. Yet surely he deserved to live, even if he seemed unfit to govern. But someone may say that it was necessary to deprive him of life also. I admit it, only on condition that he had first been allowed to speak in his own defence as criminals are. For surely it is not the case that the law forbids one who has imprisoned bandits to put them to death, but says that it is right to destroy without a trial those who have been stripped of the honours that they possessed and have become mere individuals instead of rulers. For what if my brother had been able to expose those who were responsible for his errors? For there had been handed to him the letters of certain persons, and, by Heracles, what accusations against himself they contained! And in his resentment at these he gave way in most unkingly fashion to uncontrolled anger, but he had done nothing to deserve being deprived of life itself. What! Is not this a universal law among all Greeks and barbarians alike, that one should defend oneself against those who take the initiative in doing one a wrong? I admit that he did perhaps defend himself with too great cruelty; but on the whole not more cruelly than might have been expected. For we have heard it said before 9 that an enemy may be expected to harm one in a fit of anger. But it was to gratify a eunuch,10 his chamberlain who was also his chief cook, that Constantius gave over to his most inveterate enemies his own cousin, |255 the Caesar, his sister's husband, the father of his niece, the man whose own sister he had himself married in earlier days,11 and to whom he owed so many obligations connected with the gods of the family. As for me he reluctantly let me go, after dragging me hither and thither for seven whole months and keeping me under guard; so that had not some one of the gods desired that I should escape, and made the beautiful and virtuous Eusebia kindly disposed to me, I could not then have escaped from his hands myself. And yet I call the gods to witness that my brother had pursued his course of action without my having a sight of him even in a dream. For I was not with him, nor did I visit him or travel to his neighbourhood; and I used to write to him very seldom and on unimportant matters. Thinking therefore that I had escaped from that place, I set out for the house that had been my mother's. For of my father's estate nothing belonged to me, and I had acquired out of the great wealth that had naturally belonged to my father not the smallest clod of earth, not a slave, not a house. For the admirable Constantius had inherited in my place the whole of my father's property, and to me, as I was saying, he granted not the least trifle of it; moreover, though he gave my brother a few things that had been his father's, he robbed him of the whole of his mother's estate.

Now his whole behaviour to me before he granted me that august title 12—though in fact what he did was to impose on me the most galling and irksome slavery—you have heard, if not every detail, still the |257 greater part. As I was saying, I was on my way to my home and was barely getting away safely, beyond my hopes, when a certain sycophant13 turned up near Sirmium14 and fabricated the rumour against certain persons there that they were planning a revolt. You certainly know by hearsay Africanus 15 and Marinus: nor can you fail to have heard of Felix and what was the fate of those men. And when Constantius was informed of the matter, and Dynamius another sycophant suddenly reported from Gaul that Silvanus 16 was on the point of declaring himself his open enemy, in the utmost alarm and terror he forthwith sent to me, and first he bade me retire for a short time to Greece, then summoned me from there to the court 17 again. He had never seen me before except once in Cappadocia and once in Italy, —an interview which Eusebia had secured by her exertions so that I might feel confidence about my personal safety. And yet I lived for six months in the same city 18 as he did, and he had promised that he would see me again. But that execrable eunuch,19 his trusty chamberlain, unconsciously and involuntarily proved himself my benefactor. For he did not allow me to meet the Emperor often, nor perhaps did the latter desire it; still the eunuch was the chief reason. For what he dreaded was that if we had any intercourse with one another I might be taken into favour, and when my loyalty became evident I might be given some place of trust.

Now from the first moment of my arrival from Greece, Eusebia of blessed memory kept showing me |259 the utmost kindness through the eunuchs of her household. And a little later when the Emperor returned—for the affair of Silvanus had been concluded—at last I was given access to the court, and, in the words of the proverb, Thessalian persuasion 20 was applied to me. For when I firmly declined all intercourse with the palace, some of them, as though they had come together in a barber's shop, cut off my beard and dressed me in a military cloak and transformed me into a highly ridiculous soldier, as they thought at the time. For none of the decorations of those villains suited me. And I walked not like them, staring about me and strutting along, but gazing on the ground as I had been trained to do by the preceptor 21 who brought me up. At the time, then, I inspired their ridicule, but a little later their suspicion, and then their jealousy was inflamed to the utmost.

But this I must not omit to tell here, how I submitted and how I consented to dwell under the same roof with those whom I knew to have ruined my whole family, and who, I suspected, would before long plot against myself also. But what floods of tears I shed and what laments I uttered when I was summoned, stretching out my hands to your Acropolis and imploring Athene to save her suppliant and not to abandon me, many of you who were eyewitnesses can attest, and the goddess herself, above all others, is my witness that I even begged for death at her hands there in Athens rather than |261 my journey to the Emperor. That the goddess accordingly did not betray her suppliant or abandon him she proved by the event. For everywhere she was my guide, and on all sides she set a watch near me, bringing guardian angels from Helios and Selene.

What happened was somewhat as follows. When I came to Milan I resided in one of the suburbs. Thither Eusebia sent me on several occasions messages of good-will, and urged me to write to her without hesitation about anything that I desired. Accordingly I wrote her a letter, or rather a petition containing vows like these: "May you have children to succeed you; may God grant you this and that, if only you send me home as quickly as possible!" But I suspected that it was not safe to send to the palace letters addressed to the Emperor's wife. Therefore I besought the gods to inform me at night whether I ought to send the letter to the Empress. And they warned me that if I sent it I should meet the most ignominious death. I call all the gods to witness that what I write here is true. For this reason, therefore, I forbore to send the letter. But from that night there kept occurring to me an argument which it is perhaps worth your while also to hear. "Now," I said to myself, "I am planning to oppose the gods, and I have imagined that I can devise wiser schemes for myself than those who know all things. And yet human wisdom, which looks only to the present moment, may be thankful if, with all its efforts, it succeed in avoiding mistakes even for a short space. That is why no man takes thought for things that are to happen thirty years hence, or for things that are already past, for the one |263 is superfluous, the other impossible, but only for what lies near at hand and has already some beginnings and germs. But the wisdom of the gods sees very far, or rather, sees the whole, and therefore it directs aright and brings to pass what is best. For they are the causes of all that now is, and so likewise of all that is to be. Wherefore it is reasonable that they should have knowledge about the present." So far, then, it seemed to me that on this reasoning my second determination was wiser than my first. And viewing the matter in the light of justice, I immediately reflected: "Would you not be provoked if one of your own beasts were to deprive you of its services,22 or were even to run away when you called it, a horse, or sheep, or calf, as the case might be? And will you, who pretended to be a man, and not even a man of the common herd or from the dregs of the people, but one belonging to the superior and reasonable class, deprive the gods of your service, and not trust yourself to them to dispose of you as they please? Beware lest you not only fall into great folly, but also neglect your proper duties towards the gods. Where is your courage, and of what sort is it? A sorry thing it seems. At any rate, you are ready to cringe and flatter from fear of death, and yet it is in your power to lay all that aside and leave it to the gods to work their will, dividing with them the care of yourself, as Socrates, for instance, chose to do: and you might, while doing such things as best you can, commit the whole to their charge; seek to possess nothing, seize nothing, but accept simply what is vouchsafed |265 to you by them." And this course I thought was not only safe but becoming to a reasonable man, since the response of the gods had suggested it. For to rush headlong into unseemly and foreseen danger while trying to avoid future plots seemed to me a topsy-turvy procedure. Accordingly I consented to yield. And immediately I was invested with the title and robe of Caesar.23 The slavery that ensued and the fear for my very life that hung over me every day, Heracles, how great it was, and how terrible! My doors locked, warders to guard them, the hands of my servants searched lest one of them should convey to me the most trifling letter from my friends, strange servants to wait on me! Only with difficulty was I able to bring with me to court four of my own domestics for my personal service, two of them mere boys and two older men, of whom only one knew of my attitude to the gods, and, as far as he was able, secretly joined me in their worship. I had entrusted with the care of my books, since he was the only one with me of many loyal comrades and friends, a certain physician 24 who had been allowed to leave home with me because it was not known that he was my friend. And this state of things caused me such alarm and I was so apprehensive about it, that though many of my friends really wished to visit me, I very reluctantly refused them admittance; for though I was most anxious to see them, I shrank from bringing disaster upon them and myself at the same time. But this is somewhat foreign to my narrative. The following relates to the actual course of events. |267 

Constantius gave me three hundred and sixty soldiers, and in the middle of the winter 25 despatched me into Gaul, which was then in a state of great disorder; and I was sent not as commander of the garrisons there but rather as a subordinate of the generals there stationed. For letters had been sent them and express orders given that they were to watch me as vigilantly as they did the enemy, for fear I should attempt to cause a revolt. And when all this had happened in the manner I have described, about the summer solstice he allowed me to join the army and to carry about with me his dress and image. And indeed he had both said and written that he was not giving the Gauls a king but one who should convey to them his image.

Now when, as you have heard, the first campaign was ended that year and great advantage gained, I returned to winter quarters,26 and there I was exposed to the utmost danger. For I was not even allowed to assemble the troops; this power was entrusted to another, while I was quartered apart with only a few soldiers, and then, since the neighbouring towns begged for my assistance, I assigned to them the greater part of the force that I had, and so I myself was left isolated. This then was the condition of affairs at that time. And when the commander-in-chief27 of the forces fell under the suspicions of Constantius and was deprived by him of his command and superseded, I in my turn was thought to be by no means capable or talented as a general, merely because I had shown myself mild and moderate. For I thought I ought not |269 to fight against my yoke or interfere with the general in command except when in some very dangerous undertaking I saw either that something was being overlooked, or that something was being attempted that ought never to have been attempted at all. But after certain persons had treated me with disrespect on one or two occasions, I decided that for the future I ought to show my own self-respect by keeping silence, and henceforth I contented myself with parading the imperial robe and the image. For I thought that to these at any rate I had been given a right.

After that, Constantius, thinking that there would be some improvement, but not that so great a transformation would take place in the affairs of Gaul, handed over to me in the beginning of spring 28 the command of all the forces. And when the grain was ripe I took the field; for a great number of Germans had settled themselves with impunity near the towns they had sacked in Gaul. Now the number of the towns whose walls had been dismantled was about forty-five, without counting citadels and smaller forts. And the barbarians then controlled on our side of the Rhine the whole country that extends from its sources to the Ocean. Moreover those who were settled nearest to us were as much as three hundred stades from the banks of the Rhine, and a district three times as wide as that had been left a desert by their raids; so that the Gauls could not even pasture their cattle there. Then too there were certain cities deserted by their inhabitants, near which the barbarians were not yet encamped. This then was the condition of Gaul when I took |271 it over. I recovered the city of Agrippina 29 on the Rhine which had been taken about ten months earlier, and also the neighbouring fort of Argentoratum,30 near the foot-hills of the Vosges mountains, and there I engaged the enemy not ingloriously. It may be that the fame of that battle has reached even your ears. There though the gods gave into my hands as prisoner of war the king 31 of the enemy, I did not begrudge Constantius the glory of that success. And yet though I was not allowed to triumph for it, I had it in my power to slay my enemy, and moreover I could have led him through the whole of Gaul and exhibited him to the cities, and thus have luxuriated as it were in the misfortunes of Chnodomar. I thought it my duty to do none of these things, but sent him at once to Constantius who was returning from the country of the Quadi and the Sarmatians. So it came about that, though I had done all the fighting and he had only travelled in those parts and held friendly intercourse with the tribes who dwell on the borders of the Danube, it was not I but he who triumphed.

Then followed the second and third years of that campaign, and by that time all the barbarians had been driven out of Gaul, most of the towns had been recovered, and a whole fleet of many ships had arrived from Britain. I had collected a fleet of six hundred ships, four hundred of which I had had built in less than ten months, and I brought them all into the Rhine, no slight achievement, on account of the neighbouring barbarians who kept attacking me. At least it seemed so impossible to Florentius that he had promised to pay the barbarians a fee of two |273 thousand pounds weight of silver in return for a passage. Constantius when he learned this—for Florentius had informed him about the proposed payment—wrote to me to carry out the agreement, unless I thought it absolutely disgraceful. But how could it fail to be disgraceful when it seemed so even to Constantius, who was only too much in the habit of trying to conciliate the barbarians? However, no payment was made to them. Instead I marched against them, and since the gods protected me and were present to aid, I received the submission of part of the Salian tribe, and drove out the Chamavi and took many cattle and women and children. And I so terrified them all, and made them tremble at my approach that I immediately received hostages from them and secured a safe passage for my food supplies.

It would take too long to enumerate everything and to write down every detail of the task that I accomplished within four years. But to sum it all up: Three times, while I was still Caesar, I crossed the Rhine; twenty thousand persons who were held as captives on the further side of the Rhine I demanded and received back; in two battles and one siege I took captive ten thousand prisoners, and those not of unserviceable age but men in the prime of life; I sent to Constantius four levies of excellent infantry, three more of infantry not so good, and two very distinguished squadrons of cavalry. I have now with the help of the gods recovered all the towns, and by that time I had already recovered almost forty. I call Zeus and all the gods who protect cities and our race, to bear witness as to my behaviour towards |275 Constantius and my loyalty to him, and that I behaved to him as I would have chosen that my own son should behave to me.32 I have paid him more honour than any Caesar has paid to any Emperor in the past. Indeed, to this very day he has no accusation to bring against me on that score, though I have been entirely frank in my dealings with him, but he invents absurd pretexts for his resentment. He says, "You have detained Lupicinus and three other men." And supposing I had even put them to death after they had openly plotted against me, he ought for the sake of keeping peace to have renounced his resentment at their fate. But I did those men not the least injury, and I detained them because they are by nature quarrelsome and mischief-makers. And though I am spending large sums of the public money on them, I have robbed them of none of their property. Observe how Constantius really lays down the law that I ought to proceed to extremities with such men! For by his anger on behalf of men who are not related to him at all, does he not rebuke and ridicule me for my folly in having served so faithfully the murderer of my father, my brothers, my cousins; the executioner as it were of his and my whole family and kindred? Consider too with what deference I have continued to treat him even since I became Emperor, as is shown in my letters.

And how I behaved to him before that you shall now learn. Since I was well aware that whenever mistakes were made I alone should incur the disgrace and danger, though most of the work was carried on by others, I first of all implored him, if |277 he had made up his mind to that course and was altogether determined to proclaim me Caesar, to give me good and able men to assist me He however at first gave me the vilest wretches. And when one, the most worthless of them, had very gladly accepted and no one of the others consented, he gave me with a bad grace an officer who was indeed excellent, Sallust, who on account of his virtue has at once fallen under his suspicion. And since I was not satisfied with such an arrangement and saw how his manner to them varied, for I observed that he trusted one of them too much and paid no attention at all to the other, I clasped his right hand and his knees and said: "I have no acquaintance with any of these men nor have had in the past. But I know them by report, and since you bid me I regard them as my comrades and friends and pay them as much respect as I would to old acquaintances. Nevertheless it is not just that my affair's should be entrusted to them or that their fortunes should be hazarded with mine. What then is my petition? Give me some sort of written rules as to what I must avoid and what you entrust to me to perform. For it is clear that you will approve of him who obeys you and punish him who is disobedient, though indeed I am very sure that no one will disobey you."

Now I need not mention the innovations that Pentadius at once tried to introduce. But I kept opposing him in everything and for that reason he became my enemy. Then Constantius chose another and a second and a third and fashioned them for his purpose, I mean Paul and Gaudentius, those notorious sycophants; he hired them to attack me and |279 then took measures to remove Sallust, because he was my friend, and to appoint Lucilianus immediately, as his successor. And a little later Florentius also became my enemy on account of his avarice which I used to oppose. These men persuaded Constantius, who was perhaps already somewhat irritated by jealousy of my successes, to remove me altogether from command of the troops. And he wrote letters full of insults directed against me and threatening ruin to the Gauls. For he gave orders for the withdrawal from Gaul of, I might almost say, the whole of the most efficient troops without exception, and assigned this commission to Lupicinus and Gintonius, while to me he wrote that I must oppose them in nothing.

And now in what terms shall I describe to you the work of the gods? It was my intention, as they will bear me witness, to divest myself of all imperial splendour and state and remain in peace, taking no part whatever in affairs. But I waited for Florentius and Lupicinus to arrive; for the former was at Vienne, the latter in Britain. Meanwhile there was great excitement among the civilians and the troops, and someone wrote an anonymous letter to the town near where I was,33 addressed to the Petulantes and the Celts—those were the names of the legions—full of invectives against Constantius and of lamentations about his betrayal of the Gauls. Moreover the author of the letter lamented bitterly the disgrace inflicted on myself. This letter when it arrived provoked all those who were most definitely on the side of Constantius to urge me in the strongest terms to send away the troops at once, before similar letters |281 could be scattered broadcast among the rest of the legions. And indeed there was no one there belonging to the party supposed to be friendly to me, but only Nebridius, Pentadius, and Decentius, the latter of whom had been despatched for this very purpose by Constantius. And when I replied that we ought to wait still longer for Lupicinus and Florentius, no one listened to me, but they all declared that we ought to do the very opposite, unless I wished to add this further proof and evidence for the suspicions that were already entertained about me. And they added this argument: "If you send away the troops now it will be regarded as your measure, but when the others come Constantius will give them not you the credit and you will be held to blame." And so they persuaded or rather compelled me to write to him. For he alone may be said to be persuaded who has the power to refuse, but those who can use force have no need to persuade as well; then again where force is used there is no persuasion, but a man is the victim of necessity. Thereupon we discussed by which road, since there were two, the troops had better march. I preferred that they should take one of these, but they immediately compelled them to take the other, for fear that the other route if chosen should give rise to mutiny among the troops and cause some disturbance, and that then, when they had once begun to mutiny, they might throw all into confusion. Indeed such apprehension on their part seemed not altogether without grounds.

The legions arrived, and I, as was customary, went to meet them and exhorted them to continue their march. For one day they halted, and till that time |283 I knew nothing whatever of what they had determined; I call to witness Zeus, Helios, Ares, Athene, and all the other gods that no such suspicion even entered my mind until that very evening. It was already late, when about sunset the news was brought to me, and suddenly the palace was surrounded and they all began to shout aloud, while I was still considering what I ought to do and feeling by no means confident. My wife was still alive and it happened, that in order to rest alone, I had gone to the upper room near hers. Then from there through an opening in the wall I prayed to Zeus. And when the shouting grew still louder and all was in a tumult in the palace I entreated the god to give me a sign; and thereupon he showed me a sign 34 and bade me yield and not oppose myself to the will of the army. Nevertheless even after these tokens had been vouchsafed to me I did not yield without reluctance, but resisted as long as I could, and would not accept either the salutation 35 or the diadem. But since I could not singlehanded control so many, and moreover the gods, who willed that this should happen, spurred on the soldiers and gradually softened my resolution, somewhere about the third hour some soldier or other gave me the collar and I put it on my head and returned to the palace, as the gods know groaning in my heart. And yet surely it was my duty to feel confidence and to trust in the god after he had shown me the sign; but I was terribly ashamed and ready to |285 sink into the earth at the thought of not seeming to obey Constantius faithfully to the last.

Now since there was the greatest consternation in the palace, the friends of Constantius thought they would seize the occasion to contrive a plot against me without delay, and they distributed money to the soldiers, expecting one of two things, either that they would cause dissension between me and the troops, or no doubt that the latter would attack me openly. But when a certain officer belonging to those who commanded my wife's escort perceived that this was being secretly contrived, he first reported it to me and then, when he saw that I paid no attention to him, he became frantic, and like one possessed he began to cry aloud before the people in the market-place, "Fellow soldiers, strangers, and citizens, do not abandon the Emperor!'' Then the soldiers were inspired by a frenzy of rage and they all rushed to the palace under arms. And when they found me alive, in their delight, like men who meet friends whom they had not hoped to see again, they pressed round me on this side and on that, and embraced me and carried me on their shoulders. And it was a sight worth seeing, for they were like men seized with a divine frenzy. Then after they had surrounded me on all sides they demanded that I give up to them for punishment the friends of Constantius. What fierce opposition I had to fight down in my desire to save those persons is known to all the gods.

But further, how did I behave to Constantius after this? Even to this day I have not yet used in my letters to him the title which was bestowed on me |287 by the gods, but I have always signed myself Caesar, and I have persuaded the soldiers to demand nothing more if only he would allow us to dwell peaceably in Gaul and would ratify what has been already done. All the legions with me sent letters to him praying that there might be harmony between us. But instead of this he let loose against us the barbarians, and among them proclaimed me his foe and paid them bribes so that the people of the Gauls might be laid waste; moreover he wrote to the forces in Italy and bade them be on their guard against any who should come from Gaul; and on the frontiers of Gaul in the cities near by he ordered to be got ready three million bushels of wheat which had been ground at Brigantia,36 and the same amount near the Cottian Alps, with the intention of marching to oppose me. These are not mere words but deeds that speak plain. In fact the letters that he wrote I obtained from the barbarians who brought them to me; and I seized the provisions that had been made ready, and the letters of Taurus. Besides, even now in his letters he addresses me as "Caesar" and declares that he will never make terms with me: but he sent one Epictetus, a bishop of Gaul,37 to offer a guarantee for my personal safety; and throughout his letters he keeps repeating that he will not take my life, but about my honour he says not a word. As for his oaths, for my part I think they should, as the proverb says, be written in ashes,38 so little do they inspire belief. But my honour I will not give |289 up, partly out of regard for what is seemly and fitting, but also to secure the safety of my friends. And I have not yet described the cruelty that he is practising over the whole earth.

These then were the events that persuaded me; this was the conduct I thought just. And first I imparted it to the gods who see and hear all things. Then when I had offered sacrifices for my departure, the omens were favourable on that very day on which I was about to announce to the troops that they were to march to this place; and since it was not only on behalf of my own safety but far more for the sake of the general welfare and the freedom of all men and in particular of the people of Gaul,—for twice already he had betrayed them to the enemy and had not even spared the tombs of their ancestors, he who is so anxious to conciliate strangers!—then, I say, I thought that I ought to add to my forces certain very powerful tribes and to obtain supplies of money, which I had a perfect right to coin, both gold and silver. Moreover if even now he would welcome a reconciliation with me I would keep to what I at present possess; but if he should decide to go to war and will in no wise relent from his earlier purpose, then I ought to do and to suffer whatever is the will of the gods; seeing that it would be more disgraceful to show myself his inferior through failure of courage or lack of intelligence than in mere numbers. For if he now defeats me by force of numbers that will not be his doing, but will be due to the larger army that he has at his command. If on the other hand he had surprised me loitering in Gaul and clinging to bare life and, while I tried to avoid the danger, had attacked me on all sides, in |291 the rear and on the flanks by means of the barbarians, and in front by his own legions, I should I believe have had to face complete ruin, and moreover the disgrace of such conduct is greater than any punishment—at least in the sight of the wise.39

These then are the views, men of Athens, which I have communicated to my fellow soldiers and which I am now writing to the whole body of the citizens throughout all Greece. May the gods who decide all things vouchsafe me to the end the assistance which they have promised, and may they grant to Athens all possible favours at my hands! May she always have such Emperors as will honour her and love her above and beyond all other cities! |293 

1. The first King of Media; reigned 709-656 b.c.

2. A priest of Apollo whose story and date are uncertain.

3.  A Scythian prince who visited Athens at the end of the sixth century b. c.; cf, Cicero, Tuseulan Disputations 5. 32; Lucian, Anacharsis.

4.  The story is told in Plutarch, Themistocles.

5. Athene.

6. Gallus.

7. Euripides, Orestes 14.

8.  The castle of Macellum.

9. Of. Demosthenes, Against Meidias 41.

10. Eusebius; cf. Ammianus Marcellinus 14. 11; 22. 3.

11.  The sister of Gallus was the first wife of Constantius. 

12.  The title of Caesar.

13. Gaudentius. 

14.  A town in Illyricum.

15.  For the account of this alleged conspiracy cf. Ammianus Marcellinus 15. 3. 

16.  Cf. Oration 1. 48 c; 2. 98 c, d.

17.  At Milan.

18.  Milan. 

19.  Eusebius.

20.  Cf. Oration 1. 32 a. The origin of the proverb is obscure; cf. Cicero, Letter to Atticus 9. 13. 

21. Mardonius.

22.  An echo of Plato, Phaedo 62 c; cf. Fragment of a Letter 297 a.

23. Cf. Ammianus Marcellinus 15. 8.

24. Oreibasius; cf. Letter 17.

25.  355 A.D. 

26.  At Vienne. 

27.  Marcellus.

28.  357 A.D.

29. Cologne. 

30.  Strasburg. 

31. Chnodomar.

32.  Cf. Isocrates, To Demonicus 14

33.  Julian was at Paris.

34. Odyssey 3. 173.

35. i.e. the. title of Augustus.

36. Bregentz, on Lake Constance.

37. Epictetus was bishop of Centumcellae (Civita Vecchia).

38. cf. "Write in dust" or " write in water."

39.  Demosthenes, Olynthiac 1. 27.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2010. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts