Editor’s note: ‘Paul was imperturbable. His eyes shone in the lamplight; his hook nose made him resemble some great bird of prey’ wrote Gore Vidal below referring to Paul, of Constantius’ secret service.
Although Julian is only a novel, the author knew that the Roman courts after Constantine were plagued with Semites (as the secret service after Lenin was plagued with Jews): something that most white nationalists are still unwilling to acknowledge.
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My first act as Caesar was to send for Oribasius, who was at Athens. He had arrived there only a week after my recall. I also wrote Maximus and Priscus, inviting them to join me. Meanwhile, I continued military practice. I also learned as much as possible about the administration of Gaul.
During this time I saw none of the imperial family, including my soon-to-be wife. Yet the day of the wedding had been set and the inevitable documents were brought to me to be studied. I was given a meticulous ground plan of the chapel and my position from moment to moment during the ceremony was precisely traced.
I had but one friend at court, Eutherius, the Armenian eunuch who had taught me at Constantinople. Every evening we would study various documents and memoranda. It was his task, he said, to make an administrator of me.
The night before my wedding, Eutherius came to me with the news that I was to leave for Gaul the first week in December.
“To what city?”
“Vienne. You’ll be there for the winter. Then in the spring you will take the field.” He looked at me closely. “Does it seem strange to you to be a general?”
“Strange!” I exploded. “Insane!”
He raised his hand in some alarm, indicating the shadows where guards stood and informers listened, always hopeful of catching me at treason.
I lowered my voice. “Of course it is strange. I’ve never seen a battle. I’ve never commanded a single soldier, much less an army. But…”
“But l’m not afraid.” I did not say what I really felt: that I looked forward to military adventures.
“I am relieved.” Eutherius smiled. “Because I have just been appointed grand chamberlain at the court of the Caesar Julian. I go with you to Gaul.”
This was marvellous news. I embraced him warmly, babbling happily until he was forced to say, “Roman gravity, Caesar. Please. You are far too Asiatic.”
I laughed. “It can’t be helped, I am Asiatic…”
Suddenly, Eutherius was on his feet. With a speed which I would not have thought possible for one of his age, he darted into the shadowed archway just opposite us. A moment later he reappeared with a dark, richly dressed man.
“Caesar,” said Eutherius with grim ceremony, “allow me to present Paul, of the secret service. He has come to pay your greatness homage.”
I was hardly startled. I had been under surveillance all my life. The presence of the government’s chief secret agent merely reminded me that the higher I rose the more important it was for Constantius to have me watched.
“We are always pleased to receive the Emperor’s agents,” I said politely.
Paul was imperturbable. His eyes shone in the lamplight; his hook nose made him resemble some great bird of prey. He bowed. He spoke with a slight Spanish accent. “I was on my way to the east wing. To report to Rufinus, the praetorian prefect.”
“This is not the usual way to the east wing,” said Eutherius amiably.
“What can I say?” Paul spread his hands, bird’s talons ready to seize.
“You can say good night, Paul, and report to the praetorian prefect that you heard nothing useful,” I said.
Paul bowed. “I report only what I hear, Caesar.” He was carefully insolent.
“Stay longer,” I said, “and you will hear the beginning of your death.”
That shook him, though my boldness was perfect bluff. I had no power. One word from him and I could be brought down. Yet I knew that if I was to be Caesar I would have to assert myself or earn the fatal contempt of eunuchs and spies. Paul withdrew.
I turned to Eutherius. “Was I too Asiatic?” I teased him, though my heart pounded.
He shook his head. “Perhaps that is the wisest way to handle him. Anyway, you are safe for the moment.”
“But he is constructing one of his chains.”
“Perhaps he will trap himself.”
I nodded. Paul had been a prime mover in the plot which had destroyed my brother. That night in the palace at Milan I began my own plot.