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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

JULIAN having learnt that the Persians were greatly enfeebled and totally spiritless in winter, and that from their inability to endure cold, and abstaining from military service at that season, it became a proverb that a Mede will not then draw his hand from underneath his cloak, marched his army into the Persian territories a little before spring; well knowing that the Romans were inured to brave all the rigours of the atmosphere. After devastating a considerable tract of country, including numerous villages and fortresses, they next assailed the cities; and having invested the great city Ctesiphon, the king of the Persians was reduced to such straits that he sent repeated embassies to the emperor, offering to surrender a portion of his dominions, on condition of his quitting the country, and putting an end to the war. But Julian was unaffected by these submissions, and showed no compassion to a suppliant foe: forgetful of the adage, To conquer is honourable, but to be more than conqueror is odious. Giving credit to the divinations of the philosopher Maximus, with whom he was in continual intercourse, he was deluded into the belief that his exploits would not only equal, but exceed those of Alexander of Macedon; so that he spurned with contempt the entreaties of the Persian monarch. Nay, so imposed on was he by the absurd notions of Pythagoras and Plato on the transmigration of souls, that he imagined himself to be possessed of Alexander’s soul, or rather that he himself was Alexander in another body. These ridiculous fancies preventing his listening to any negociations for peace, the king of the Persians was constrained to prepare for conflict, and therefore on the next day after the rejection of his embassy, he drew out in order of battle all the forces he had. The Romans indeed censured their prince, for not avoiding an engagement when he might have done so with advantage: nevertheless they attacked those who opposed them, and again put the enemy to flight. The emperor was present on horseback, and encouraged his soldiers in battle; but confiding in his hope of success, he wore no armour. In this defenceless state, a dart cast by some one unknown, pierced through his arm and entered his side, making a wound that caused his death. Some say that a certain Persian hurled the javelin, and then fled; others assert that one of his own men was the author of the deed, which indeed is the best corroborated and most current report. But Callistus, one of his body-guards, who celebrated this emperor’s deeds in heroic verse, says in narrating the particulars of this war, that the wound of which he died was inflicted by a demon. This is possibly a mere poetical fiction, or perhaps it was really the fact; for vengeful furies have undoubtedly destroyed many persons. Be the case however as it may, this is certain, that the ardour of his natural temperament rendered him incautious, his learning made him vain, and his affectation of clemency exposed him to contempt. Thus Julian’s existence was terminated in Persia, as we have said, in his fourth consulate, which he bore with Sallust his colleague. This event occurred on the 26th of June, in the third year of his reign, and the seventh from his having been created Cæsar by Constantius, he being at that time in the thirty-first year of his age.








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