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Chapter XXI.—The Emperor’s Invasion of Persia, and Death.

The emperor meanwhile invaded the country of the Persians a little before spring, having learnt that the races of Persia were greatly enfeebled and totally spiritless in winter. For from their inability to endure cold, they abstain from military service at that season, and it has become a proverb that ‘a Mede will not then draw his hand from underneath his cloak.’ And well knowing that the Romans were inured to brave all the rigors of the atmosphere he let them loose on the country. After devastating a considerable tract of country, including numerous villages and fortresses, they next assailed the cities; and having invested the great city Ctesiphon, he reduced the king of the Persians to such straits that the latter 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: nor did he think of the adage, ‘To conquer is honorable, but to be more than conqueror gives occasion for envy.’ 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. He even supposed in accordance with the teachings of Pythagoras and Plato on ‘the transmigration of souls,’542542    μετενσωματώσεως , lit. ‘exchange of bodies,’ formed in analogy with μετεμψύχωσις and logically inseparable from that doctrine. that he was possessed of Alexander’s soul, or rather that he himself was Alexander in another body. This ridiculous fancy deluded and caused him to reject the negotiations for peace proposed by the king of the Persians. Wherefore the latter convinced of the uselessness of them 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 simply in his hope of success, he wore no armor. In this defenceless state, a dart cast by some one unknown, pierced through his arm and entered his side, making a wound. In consequence of this wound he died. 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 ardor of his natural temperament rendered him incautious, his learning made him vain, and his affectation of clemency exposed him to contempt. Thus Julian ended his life in Persia,543543    Theodoret, H. E. III. 25, gives the familiar version of the death of Julian, according to which, on perceiving the character of his wound, the dying emperor filled his hand with blood and threw it up into the air, crying, ‘Galilean, thou hast overcome!’ as we have said, in his fourth consulate,544544    363 a.d. 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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