Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)
In the late autumn of 354 I learned of the sudden death of Constantia. I wrote Gallus a letter of condolence which was not answered. He was already having his difficulties at Antioch, where Constantius had earlier sent him a messenger who rudely ordered him to return to Milan. Gallus, quite rightly, refused to go. He knew what his fate would be. Instead he sent Constantia to the Emperor, hoping that she might make peace between them. But when she died of a fever in Bithynia, he knew that he must either obey Constantius or begin a civil war. Tricked by the eunuchs who assured him that he would be safe in Milan, Gallus set out for the West. On the way he sent me a message, ordering me to meet him at Constantinople. I obeyed.
It is fascinating to observe how a man with Julian’s objectivity and passion for truth can so blandly protect his brother’s memory. Not one word about the murders of Montius and Domitian, nor any mention of the treason trials. I suspect Julian is more interested in constructing his case against Constantius than he is in telling what actually happened… a human failing.
I met Gallus at the back of the imperial box in the Hippodrome. The box is actually a two-storey pavilion connected by a long corridor to the Sacred Palace. On the first floor there are rooms for musicians and minor functionaries; the second floor contains a suite of rooms used by the imperial family.
The horse races were going on when I arrived. Through the curtains which covered the door to the box, I could hear the crowd cheering its favourite drivers. Suddenly Gallus flung aside the curtain.
„Stay there,“ he said. He let the curtain fall. He was pale. His hands shook. His voice was low, his manner furtive. „Now listen to me. I know what people are saying: that I shall never return from Milan alive. But don’t believe them. I am still Caesar.“ He gestured at the curtain. „You should have heard the way the crowd cheered me just now. They are with me. Also, I have an army waiting in Serbia, Theban troops who are loyal. Everything has been carefully planned. When they join me, I shall be ready to deal with Constantius.“ But his face revealed the uncertainty his words tried to dispel.
„You will go into rebellion?“
„I hope not. I hope for a truce. But who can tell? Now I wanted to see you to tell you that if anything should happen to me, go into a monastery. Take holy orders if you have to. That’s the only way you will be safe. Then…“ He looked suddenly quite lost. „Avenge me.“
„But I am sure that the Emperor…“ I started to gabble, but I was interrupted by a stout red-faced man who saluted me cheerfully. „Most noble Julian, I am Count Lucillianus, attached to the Caesar as his…“
„Jailer!“ Gallus grinned like a wolf.
„The Caesar enjoys making fun of me.“ He turned to Gallus. „The crowd is waiting for you to give the victor’s crown to Thorax. He just won the chariot race.“
Gallus turned abruptly and drew aside the curtain. For an instant he stood silhouetted against dazzling blue sky. The mob behind him sounded like a storm at sea.
„Isn’t the most noble Julian joining us“ asked Lucillianus, aware that I had instinctively stepped back from the harsh light and sudden sound.
„No!“ said Gallus. „He is to be a priest.“ Then he let the curtain fall behind him; and that was that.
* * *
The rest of the story is well known. Gallus and his „jailers“ took the overland route through Illyria. All troops were moved from the garrisons along the route, and Gallus could call on no one to support him. At Hadrianopolis, the Theban legions were indeed waiting, but Gallus was nor allowed to see them. He was now a prisoner in all but name. Then in Austria, he was arrested by the infamous Count Barbatio, who had been until recently the commander of his own guard.
Gallus was imprisoned at Histria; here his trial was held. The Grand Chamberlain Eusebius presided. Gallus was indicted for all the crimes which had taken place in Syria during the four years of his reign. Most of the charges against him were absurd and the trial itself was a farce, but Constantius enjoyed the show of legality almost as much as he disliked the idea of justice. Gallus’s only defence was to blame his wife for everything. This was unworthy of him; but then there was nothing that he could say or do which would save him. Also, by accusing Constantius’s sister of a thousand crimes (she was guilty of many more), Gallus was able to strike one last blow at his implacable enemy. Furious at the form the defence took, Constantius ordered Gallus executed.
My brother’s head was cut off early in the evening of 9 December 354. His arms were bound behind him as though he were a common criminal. He made no last statement. Or if he did, it has been suppressed. He was twenty-eight when he died. They say that in his last days he suffered terribly from bad dreams. Of the men of the imperial family, only Constantius and I were left.