Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume III/Theodoret/Ecclesiastical History/Book III/Chapter 20
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Chapter XX.—Of the death of the Emperor Julian in Persia.
Julian’s folly was yet more clearly manifested by his death. He crossed the river that separates the Roman Empire from the Persian, brought over his army, and then forthwith burnt his boats, so making his men fight not in willing but in forced obedience. The best generals are wont to fill their troops with enthusiasm, and, if they see them growing discouraged, to cheer them and raise their hopes; but Julian by burning the bridge of retreat cut off all good hope. A further proof of his incompetence was his failure to fulfil the duty of foraging in all directions and providing his troops with supplies. Julian had neither ordered supplies to be brought from Rome, nor did he make any bountiful provision by ravaging the enemy’s country. He left the inhabited world behind him, and persisted in marching through the wilderness. His soldiers had not enough to eat and drink; they were without guides; they were marching astray in a desert land. Thus they saw the folly of their most wise emperor. In the midst of their murmuring and grumbling they suddenly found him who had struggled in mad rage against his Maker wounded to death. Ares who raises the war-din had never come to help him as he promised; Loxias had given lying divination; he who glads him in the thunderbolts had hurled no bolt on the man who dealt the fatal blow; the boasting of his threats was dashed to the ground. The name of the man who dealt that righteous stroke no one knows to this day. Some say that he was wounded by an invisible being, others by one of the Nomads who were called Ishmaelites; others by a trooper who could not endure the pains of famine in the wilderness. But whether it were man or angel who plied the steel, without doubt the doer of the deed was the minister of the will of God. It is related that when Julian had received the wound, he filled his hand with blood, flung it into the air and cried, “Thou hast won, O Galilean.” Thus he gave utterance at once to a confession of the victory and to a blasphemy. So infatuated was he.
- There seems to be an allusion to Cæsar’s passage of the Rubicon in 49 b.c.
- His fleet, with the exception of a few vessels, was burned at Abuzatha, where he halted five days (Zos 3. 26).
- The exclamation was differently reported. Sozomen vi. 2. says that some thought he lifted his hand to chide the sun for failing to help him. It has been observed that the sound of νενίκηκας Γαλιλαῖε and ἠπάτηκας ἥλιε would not be so dissimilar in Greek as in English. Ammianus Marcellinus (xxv. 3. 9.) says that he lost all hope of recovery when he heard that the place where he lay was called Phrygia, for in Phrygia he had been told that he would die. So it befell with Cambyses at Ecbatana (Her. iii. 64), Alexander King of Epirus at the Acheron (Livy viii. 24) and Henry IV in the Jerusalem Chamber, when he asked “Doth any name particular belong unto this lodging where I first did swoon?” and on hearing that the chamber was called Jerusalem, remembered the old prediction that in Jerusalem he must die, and died.