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averse from all religious extravagance and as far removed from the exalted temper of the sects as the first Lord Shaftesbury from the Cameronians. In one passage he condemns his master, Julian, for the intemperance of his paganism, in another he applauds Valentinian for his policy of religious toleration-verdicts not to be explained on Epicurean grounds, but as the considered expression of that moderate and reasonable spirit which formed part of the Greek ideal of virtue. It is therefore possible from a study of Ammianus to derive a notion of the best secular moral standard which prevailed among cultivated pagans of the Roman Empire in the later part of the fourth century.
That standard was by no means low.
The conscience of the soldier-historian was revolted by idleness and profligacy, cruelty and intemperance, trickery and injustice. In the main, our virtues and vices were his virtues and vices also. He had sources of moral sustenance which are not ours, but which may not have been inferior in potency to any that modern civilisation brings to bear on a character analogous to his. He was inspired by the great classical authors of Greece and Rome, and especially by Cicero, whose writings formed the Bible of humane wisdom as long as the humanities retained their value in the Western world. He had the strong Roman respect for the reign of law, coupled with a hearty detestation of that capricious Asiatic cruelty which, in his own time, had begun to debase the administration of Justice. Life in the army had given him a code of honour which is certainly not inferior to that which now regulates the conduct of some modern armies professedly Christian. Finally, he was moved by a deep sentiment of devotion to the Empire as a providential system for the governance of the world.
War is the supreme touchstone of ethical principle. Ammianus recounts, without adverse comment, the pitiless massacre of women and children in the barbarous fighting of the frontier wars. When a Roman general, after making a truce with a marauding band of Saxons, contrives for them an ambush so that they perish to a man, he observes that a just judge would condemn the act as perfidious and disgraceful, but that reflexion
would show that it was not improper to destroy a dangerous band of robbers when occasion offered. To assign such sentiments to paganism is to ignore some very recent passages in the history of European morals. A Berlin pastor recently wrote in the 'Vossische Zeitung': 'Do you think it contrary to Christianity for our soldiers to shoot down these vermin, the Belgian and French assassins, men, women and children, and to lay their houses in dust and ashes?' and answered his question in the negative.* Ammianus was ignorant enough to suppose that Christianity exhorted men to eschew all courses save the straight way of justice and clemency; but then he did not pretend to be a Christian. His philosophy of war was that of the German War Book, tempered by an honourable dislike for treachery of all sorts; and, if he thought that extreme danger might justify anything, he is no worse than the great majority of men have always been.
A true estimate of our historian's moral quality can be more certainly reached through a consideration of his attitude upon the great topic of civil justice. War is at best a barbarous thing; and the wars of the fourth century, being conducted by barbarous armies on both sides, were not calculated to foster a code of clemency. If Ammianus, living through an age during which the Empire was fighting for its life, is not always too scrupulous, we may make allowances for any hardness of tone which we detect in him. But the breakdown in the administration of Imperial Justice moves him to righteous passion. His own city of Antioch was the scene of two frightful persecutions, one under the beautiful young tyrant Gallus, and the other under the insanely cruel and suspicious Valens. Innocent men were tortured to death by the score. Delation flourished; the forms of justice were flouted; no one felt secure. The later of these two persecutions touched Animianus very nearly. He was himself witness of many of the terrible scenes which were enacted in the law-court, the prison or the amphitheatre. He heard the creaking of the instruments of torture, the cries of the victims, the hoarse and cruel ejaculations of the executioner. Some of his own * Times,' Lit. Supp., Jan. 20, 1916.
friends were among the innocents who perished. One particular case branded itself upon his memory as, above all others, calling for vengeance. The young philosopher, Simonides, whose grave and stoical reticence had exasperated the savage mind of the Emperor, was burned alive. 'He quitted life as if it were a mad mistress, smiled at the sudden ruin of the passing moments and died without a quiver.' Simonides was executed in private. The mass of innocent conspirators were murdered in the amphitheatre at Antioch amid the loud wails of the spectators. And so far did the campaign of incrimination proceed that in the eastern province people burnt their libraries for fear that the possession of some treatise or other might furnish ground for a criminal charge.
The sombre story of these judicial murders closes with an eloquent apostrophe to the spirit of humane wisdom which shines through the classical literature of Greece and Rome :
'O glorious wisdom, gift of heaven to happy mortals, who hast often refined their corrupt natures, how many evils wouldst thou have corrected in these dark times, had it been vouchsafed to Valens to learn through thee that Empire is nothing else, in the opinion of the wise, but care for the wellbeing of others! If only he had learnt that it was the part of a good governor to restrain his power, to resist insatiate cupidity and implacable passions, and to know that, in the words of Cicero, the recollection of cruelty makes a miserable old age! Therefore it behoves every one who is about to pass sentence upon the life and spirit of man, who is a part of the world and makes up the complement of living things, to deliberate long and carefully and to resist headlong impulses, for the deed once done cannot be recalled.'
The stress levied upon the sanctity of human life as part of the animate universe is very remarkable.
We suspect, though we cannot bring our suspicions to the proof, that the example of his master, Julian, exercised a deep and enduring influence over the character of Ammianus. Julian was just the kind of man to inspire enthusiasm in a young soldier of sound moral instincts and intellectual aspirations. His frame was strong and athletic, his eyes remarkable for beauty and intelligence, his temperament of that sanguine and
impetuous type which specially appeals to young men. When in later life Ammianus comes to compose the fulllength portrait of the 'Apostate,' the first trait which strikes him is the heroic air of the sitter. The Emperor was no ordinary man. He was to be classed with the heroes-vir profecto heroicis connumerandus ingeniis '— having that indifference for the comforts and luxuries of life which, combined with high courage, brilliant energy and moral ardour, strikes the mind with an ineffaceable impression of greatness. The pursuit of philosophy, though it may give lustre to the soul, does not always improve the manners of the student. But it is very clear that Julian was attractive. His retentive memory, his eager excitable interest in the great things of literature and philosophy, his copious and fluent gift of conversation, must have made him a stimulating and perhaps even a fatiguing companion. The philosopher Julian was very unlike the philosopher Kant or the philosopher Frederick the Great. Of that patient, plodding, exploring faculty which goes to the making of metaphysical systems, he was completely innocent. He was, in fact, no more of a philosopher than Napoleon, and no more of a cynic than Carlyle. The principal characteristic of his temperament was a glowing impetuosity. He did everything with a rush and practically nothing on system. He would neglect food or sleep for an interesting book or a metaphysical disquisition, and in disputation would be as careless of his dignity as in battle he was reckless of his life. If we are to judge from his writings, most of them dashed off at white heat, he possessed that rare power of giving complete expression to mind and temperament which is the sure mark of literary genius. Now a man of this rushing quality, without reticence or reserve, makes mistakes and easily exposes himself to ridicule, but he is apt to be attractive, as the secretive, cunning, balancing intellect can never hope to be. What is singular, however, is to find this kind of temperament united to a very high measure of practical competence, for Julian was an excellent soldier, expert in every branch of the military art. Ammianus, who speaks with authority upon such points, commends his command of the principles of siege warfare, his skill in the selection of healthy
spots for camps, his tactical versatility in battle, his signal power over his troops, and the sage principles on which his outposts and defences were managed. And there can be no doubt that these soldierly aptitudes secured an additional measure of respect for qualities which are not commonly met with in the camp.
Among these qualities, Ammianus must have been principally affected by Julian's passionate enthusiasm for the ancient culture. An official patronage of letters is one of the most depressing stocks-in-trade of monarchs; but Julian's attitude towards literature was neither official nor patronising. It is indeed one of the charms of this singular character, that he preserved upon the throne all the disinterested reverence for learning of the genuine student. His court and camp were thronged by philosophers; and he spent the last moments of his life discussing the mysteries of the soul with two learned experts-father-confessors they may perhaps be calledwho had been drawn in his train to the distant waters of the Tigris. Such enthusiasm, coming from so exalted a quarter, can hardly have failed to kindle a flame of emulation among minds susceptible of culture, the more so when we try to conjure up the quality of Julian's talk (and this may be naturally inferred from his writings), with its rich and easy command of literary allusion, its speed and vehemence, and above all its perpetual concern with the loftiest interests of mankind.
On the first contact with a remarkable man we often exaggerate both his positive and relative magnitude. We feel the enchantment of genius. We are excited by the glow of a strong character, and we do not stop to measure or compare. But, if this was so with Ammianus in his original estimate of Julian, it cannot be said that a cool and true perspective is lacking to the deliberate judgment of his later life. The truth is that an important side of Julian's character was alien, if not unsympathetic, to the lay intelligence of Ammianus. Though the Emperor had abandoned Christianity, religion was still the primary interest of his life. He conceived it to be his mission to oppose to Christianity a State religion compounded of the old creeds of the pagan world but animated by a new and more fervent spirit. In this campaign, which was conducted with desperate energy,