Letters of Julian/Letter 57

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1409357Letters — 57. To Arsaces, Satrap of ArmeniaEmily Wilmer Cave WrightJulian

57. To Arsaces, Satrap of Armenia[1][edit]

[363, Antioch, just before Julian's Persian campaign]

Make haste, Arsacius,[2] to meet the enemy's battle line and quicker than I tell[3] you arm your right hand against the madness of the Persians. For my military preparations and my set purpose are for one of two things; either to pay the debt of nature within the Parthian[4] frontier, after I have won the most glorious victories and inflicted on my foes the most terrible reverses, or to defeat them under the leadership of the gods and return to my native land as a conquering hero, after I have set up trophies of the enemy's defeat. Accordingly you must discard all sloth and cheating, and the Emperor Constantine of blessed memory, and the wealth of the nobles which was lavished in vain on you and on barbarians of your character by the most luxurious and extravagant Constantius, and now I warn you, take heed of me, Julian, supreme pontiff, Caesar, Augustus, the servant of the gods and of Ares, the destroyer of the Franks and barbarians,[5] the liberator of the Gauls and of Italy. But if you form some other design, — for I learn that you are a rascal[6] and a coward in war and a boaster, as the present condition of affairs proves; indeed I have heard that you are secretly trying to conceal at your court a certain enemy of the public welfare, — for the present I postpone this matter because of the fortune of war; for my alliance with the gods is enough to secure the destruction of the enemy. But if Destiny should also play some part in the decision, — for the purpose of the gods is her opportunity, — I will endure it fearlessly and like a brave man. Be assured that you will be an easy victim[7] of the power of Persia when your hearth and home, your whole race and the kingdom of Armenia all blaze together. And the city of Nisibis[8] also will share in your misfortune, for this the heavenly gods long since foretold to me.


  1. See Introduction, under Arsaces.
  2. This form is given also by Sozomen 6. 1. who gives the general contents of the letter. The correct form Arsaces occurs in Ammianus.
  3. Cf. To Hermogenes, Letter 13, παρὰ δύναμιν ἐπείχθητι.
  4. The writer seems to confuse the Persians and the Parthians: Julian, however, distinguishes them in Oration 2. 63a, Vol. 1, p. 169, Wright; Ammianus sometimes confuses them.
  5. Cf. Ammianus 22. 5, cf. Julian: saepeque dictitabat "audite me quem Alemanni audierunt et Franci."
  6. Arsaces was almost certainly a Christian; cf. Sozomen 6. 1.
  7. For this phrase cf. Vol. 2. Caesars 326a πάρεργον . . . τῆς ἐμαυτοῦ στρατηγίας.
  8. After Julian's death Nisibis reverted to the Persians; their king Sapor captured and killed Arsaces; Ammianus 27. 12.