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Tacitus

This webpage reproduces part of the
Historia Augusta

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1932

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!


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Firmus et al.

(Vol. III) Historia Augusta

p335 The Life of Probus

1 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] It is true — as Sallustius Crispus and the historians Marcus Cato and Gellius1 have put into their writings as a sort of maxim — that all the virtues of all men are as great as they have been made to appear by the genius of those who related their deeds. 2 Hence it was that Alexander the Great of Macedonia, as he stood at the tomb of Achilles, said with a mighty groan, "Happy are you, young man, in that you found such a herald of your virtues,"2 making allusion to Homer, who made Achilles outstanding in the pursuit of virtue in proportion as he himself was outstanding in genius.

3 "But to what does all this apply," you may perhaps p337be inquiring, my dear Celsinus.3 It means that Probus,4 an emperor whose rule restored to perfect safety the east, the west, the south, and the north, indeed all parts of the world, is now, by reason of a lack of writers, almost unknown to us. 4 Perished — shame be upon us! — has the story of a man so great and such as is not to be found either in the Punic Wars or in the Gallic terror, not in the commotions of Pontus or the wiles of the Spaniard. 5 But I will not permit myself — I who at first sought out Aurelian alone, relating the story of his life to the best of my powers, and have since written of Tacitus and Florian also — to fail to rise to the deeds of Probus, purposing, should the length of my life suffice, to tell of all who remain as far as Maximian and Diocletian. 6 No fluency or elegance of style can I promise, but only the record of their deeds, which I will not suffer to die.

2 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam I have used, moreover — not to deceive in any respect your friendly interest which I hold most dear — chiefly the books from the Ulpian Library5 (in my time in the Baths of Diocletian) and likewise from the House of Tiberius,6 and I have used also the registers of the clerks of the Porphyry Portico7 and the transactions of the senate8 and of the people; 2 and since in collecting the deeds of so great a man I have received most aid from the journal of Turdulus Gallicanus,9 a most honourable and upright man, I ought not to leave unmentioned the kindness of this aged friend.

p339 3 Who, pray, would know of Gnaeus Pompey, resplendent in the three triumphs that he won by his war against the pirates, his war against Sertorius, and his war against Mithradates, and exalted by the grandeur of his many achievements, had not Marcus Tullius and Titus Livius brought him into their works? 4 And as for Publius Scipio Africanus, or rather all the Scipios, whether called Lucius10 or Nasica,11 would they not lie hidden in darkness, had not historians, both famous and obscure, arisen to grace their deeds? 5 It would, indeed, be too long to enumerate all the cases which might be brought up by way of example of this sort of thing, even if I were silent. 6 I do but wish to call to witness that I have also written on a theme which anyone, if he so desire, may narrate more worthily in loftier utterance. 7 As for me, indeed, it has been my purpose, in relating the lives and times of the emperors, to imitate, not a Sallust, or a Livy, or a Tacitus, or a Trogus,12 or any other of the most eloquent writers, but rather Marius Maximus,13 Suetonius Tranquillus, Fabius Marcellinus,14 Gargilius Martialis,15 Julius Capitolinus, Aelius Lampridius, and the others who have handed down to memory these and other such details not so much with eloquence as with truthfulness. 8 For I am now an investigator — I cannot deny it — incited thereto by you, who, though you know much already, are desirous of learning much more besides. 9 And now, lest I speak at too great length concerning all that has to do with p341my plan, I will hasten on to an emperor great and illustrious, the like of whom our history has never known.

3 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam Probus was a native of Pannonia, of the city of Sirmium,16 his mother was of nobler birth than his father, his private fortune was modest, and his kindred unimportant. Both as commoner and as emperor he stood forth illustrious, famed for his virtues. 2 His father, so some have said in their writings, was a man named Maximus, who, after commanding in the ranks17 with honour and winning a tribuneship, died in Egypt, leaving a wife, a son, and a daughter. 3 Many aver that Probus was a relative of Claudius,18 that most excellent and venerated prince, but this, because it has been stated by only one of the Greek writers, we shall leave undiscussed. 4 This one thing I will say, however, which I remember reading in the journal, namely, that Probus was buried by a sister named Claudia.19 5 As a youth Probus became so famed for his bodily strength that by approval of Valerian he received a tribuneship almost before hisº beard was grown. 6 There is still in existence a letter written by Valerian to Gallienus, in which he praises Probus, then still a youth, and holds him up for all to imitate. 7 From this it is clear that no man has ever in his maturity attained to the sum of the virtues except one who, trained in the nobler nursery of the virtues, had as a boy given some sign of distinction.

4Legamen ad paginam Latinam Valerian's letter:

"From Valerian the father to Gallienus the son, an Augustus to an Augustus. Following out the opinion which I have always held concerning Probus from his early youth, as well as that held by all good men, p343who say that he is a man worthy of his name, I have appointed him to a tribuneship, assigning six cohorts of Saracens and entrusting to him, besides, the Gallic irregulars along with that company of Persians which Artabassis20 the Syrian delivered over to us. 2 Now I beg of you, my dearest son, to hold this young man, whom I wish all the lads to imitate, in the high honour that his virtues and his services call for in view of what is owed him by reason of the brilliance of his mind."

3 Another letter about him, written to the prefect of the guard with an order for rations:

"From Valerian Augustus to Mulvius Gallicanus,21 prefect of the guard. You may perhaps wonder why it is that contrary to the ruling of the Deified Hadrian22 I have appointed as tribune a beardless youth. You will not, however, wonder much if you consider Probus; 4 he is a young man of probity indeed.23 For never, when I consider him myself, does aught suggest itself to me but his name, which, were it not his name already, he might well receive as a surname. 5 Therefore, since his fortune is but a modest one, that his rank may be enhanced by an additional remuneration, you will order him to be supplied with two red tunics, two Gallic cloaks provided with clasps, two under-tunics with bands of embroidery,24 a silver platter, polished to reflect the light, to weigh ten pounds, one hundred aurei of Antoninus,25 one thousand silver pieces of Aurelian, and ten thousand copper coins of Philip; 6 likewise for his daily rations, . . . pounds of beef, six pounds of pork, ten pounds of goat's meat, one fowl every second day, one pint of oil every second day, ten pints of old wine every day, and a sufficient quantity of bacon, biscuit, cheap wine, salt, greens, p345and firewood. 7 You will order, furthermore, that quarters be assigned to him as they are to the tribunes of the legions."

5 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam The foregoing details are attested by the letters. Now as to what I have been able to gather from the journal: Whereas during the Sarmatian war, while holding the rank of tribune, he had crossed the Danube and performed many brave exploits, he was formally presented in an assembly with four spears without points,26 two rampart-crowns, one civic crown,27 four white banners, two golden arm-bands,28 one golden collar, one sacrificial saucer weighing five pounds. 2 At this same time, indeed, he delivered out of the hands of the Quadi Valerius Flaccinus,29 a young man of noble birth and a kinsman of Valerian's, and it was for this reason that Valerian presented him with the civic crown. 3 The words of Valerian spoken before the assembly were: "Receive these rewards, Probus, from the commonwealth, receive this civic crown from a kinsman." 4 At this time, too, he added the Third Legion to his command, with a testimonial as follows.

5 The letter concerning the Third Legion:

"Your exploits, my dear Probus, are causing me to appear too tardy in assigning you larger forces, and yet I will assign them with haste. 6 So take under your faithful care the Third Legion, the Fortunate,30 which as yet I have not entrusted to any save one well advanced in years; it was entrusted to me, moreover, at an age when he who entrusted it, along with congratulations, beheld my grey hairs. 7 In your case, however, I shall not wait for age, for your virtues are now illustrious and your character is strong. 8 I have given command to supply you with three sets p347of garments, I have ordered you double rations, and I have assigned you a standard-bearer."

6 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam It would be a lengthy task, were I to enumerate all the exploits of so great a man, which he performed as a commoner under Valerian, under Gallienus, under Aurelian, and under Claudius, how many times he scaled a wall, tore down a rampart, slew the enemy in a hand-to‑hand fight, won the gifts of emperors, and by his valour restored the commonwealth to its ancient condition. 2 Gallienus' letter, addressed to the tribunes, shows what manner of man was Probus:

"From Gallienus Augustus to the tribunes of the armies in Illyricum. Even if the destined fate of the Persian war has taken away my father,31 I have still my kinsman Aurelius Probus, through whose efforts I may be free from care. Had he been present, never would that pretender, whose name even should not be mentioned, have dared to usurp the imperial power. 3 Wherefore, it is my wish that all of you should obey the counsels of one who has been approved by the judgement both of my father and of the senate."

4 It may seem perhaps that the judgement of Gallienus, so weak an emperor, is not worth much, but at least it cannot be denied that no one, not even a weakling, entrusts himself to the protection of a man unless he believes that his virtues will profit him. 5 But be it so! Let Gallienus' letter be set aside. What will you say to the judgement of Aurelian? For he handed over to Probus the soldiers of the Tenth Legion, the bravest of his army, with whom he himself had done mighty deeds, giving him the following testimonial:

6 From Aurelian Augustus to Probus, greetings. In p349order that you may know how much I think of you, take the command of my Tenth Legion, which Claudius entrusted to me. For these are soldiers who know as commanders none but those destined to be emperors — an assurance, as it were, of favourable fortune."

7 From this it was seen that Aurelian had in mind, in case anything serious befell him, which he well knew was to be such, was to make Probus emperor.

7 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam Now the judgement of Claudius concerning Probus and that of Tacitus also it would be too long to include; but it is reported that Tacitus said in the senate, when offered the imperial power, that Probus should be chosen as emperor.32 But the senate's decree itself I have not been able to find.

2 Tacitus himself, moreover, sent to Probus his first letter as emperor in the following vein:

3 From Tacitus Augustus to Probus. I, it is true, have been made emperor by the senate in conformity with the wishes of our sagacious army. You, however, must know that it is on your shoulders that the burden of the commonwealth has now been laid more heavily. What sort of man and how great you are we all have learned, and the senate also knows. And so aid us in our need and, as is your custom, look upon the commonwealth as a part of your own household. 4 We have voted to you the command of the entire East, we have granted you five-fold rations, we have doubled your military insignia, we have appointed you consul33 for the coming year as colleague to ourselves; for by reason of your virtues, the palm-embroidered tunic from the Capitolium34 awaits you."

5 Some relate that Probus regarded it as an omen of imperial power that Tacitus should have written, "The palm-embroidered tunic from the Capitolium awaits p351you," but as a matter of fact this expression was always used in writing to every consul.

8 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam The soldiers' love for Probus was always unbounded. Never, indeed, did he permit any of them to commit a wrong. Moreover, he often prevented Aurelian from some act of great cruelty. 2 He visited each maniple and inspected its clothing and boots, and whenever there was plunder he divided it so as to keep naught for himself but weapons and armour. 3 Once, indeed, when a horse was found among the booty taken from the Alani35 or some other nation — for this is uncertain — which, though not handsome or especially large, was reputed, according to the talk of the captives, to be able to run one hundred miles in a day and to continue for eight or ten days, all supposed that Probus would keep such a beast for himself. But first he remarked, "This horse is better suited to a soldier who flees than to one who fights," 4 and then he ordered the men of the put their names into an urn, that the one drawn by lots should receive the horse. 5 Then, since there were in the army four other soldiers named Probus, it so chanced that the name of Probus appeared on the lot that first came forth, though the general's name had not been put into the urn. 6 And when the four soldiers strove with one another, each maintaining that the lot was his, he ordered the urn to be shaken a second time. But a second time, too, the name of Probus came forth; and when it was done for the third and the fourth time, on the fourth time also there leaped forth the name of Probus. 7 Then the entire army set apart that horse for Probus their general, and even those very soldiers whose names had come forth from the urn desired it thus.

p353 9 1   Legamen ad paginam Latinam He also fought with great bravery against the Marmaridae36 in Africa and defeated them too, and from Libya he passed over to Carthage and saved it from rebels. 2 And he fought a single combat in Africa against a certain Aradio37 and overcame him, and because he had seen that he was a valiant and resolute man, he honoured him with a mighty tomb, still standing on a mound of earth two hundred feet high piled up by the soldiers, whom he never allowed to be idle. 3 There are still to be seen in many cities in Egypt public works of his, which he caused to be built by the soldiers. On the Nile, moreover, he did so much that his sole efforts added greatly to the tithes of grain. 4 He constructed bridges and temples, porticos and basilicas, all by the labour of the soldiers, he opened up many river-mouths, and drained many marshes,38 and put in their place grain-fields and farms. 5 He fought also against the Palmyrenes who held Egypt for the party of Odaenathus and Cleopatra,39 fighting at first with success, but later so recklessly that he nearly was captured; later, however, when his forces were strengthened, he brought Egypt40 and the greater part of the Orient under the sway of Aurelian.

10 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam And so, resplendent by reason of these many p355great virtues, when Tacitus had been removed41 by the decree of Fate and Florian was seizing the rule, he was created emperor by all the troops of the East.42 2 Nor is the story of how he got the imperial power an idle or tiresome tale. 3 When the news came to the armies, the soldiers' first thought was how to forestall the armies of Italy, that the senate might not a second time appoint a prince. 4 But when discussion arose among them as to who should be chosen and the tribunes addressed them by maniples on their parade-ground, saying that they must look for a prince who would be brave and revered, modest and gentle and a man of probity,43 and this was repeated, as is wont to be done, throughout many groups, all on all sides, as though by divine command, shouted out, "Probus Augustus, may the gods keep you!" 5 Then they ran together, a tribunal of turf was erected, and Probus was saluted as emperor, being even decked with a purple robe, which they took from a temple-statue; from there he was led to the palace,44 against his will and protesting and saying again and again, "It is not to your own interest, soldiers, with me you will not fare well, for I cannot court your favour."

6 His first letter, addressed to Capito,45 prefect of the guard, was as follows: "I have never desired the imperial power and I have accepted it against my will. I may not refuse an office which is most distasteful to me. 7 I must play the part which the soldiers have assigned me. I beg of you, Capito, as p357you hope to enjoy with me the state in safety,46 to supply the soldiers everywhere with grain and provisions and all necessities. I assure you that in so far as it lies in me, I will have no other prefect if you administer all things well."

8 And so, when it was well known that Probus was emperor, the soldiers killed Florian,47 who had seized the imperial power as though an inheritance, for they knew well that no one could rule more worthily than Probus. 9 Accordingly, without any effort of his, the rule of the whole world was conferred upon him by the voice of both army and senate.

11Legamen ad paginam Latinam Now, since we have mentioned the senate, it should be made known what he himself wrote to the senate and likewise what reply that most noble body wrote back to him:

2 The first message of Probus to the senate:

"Rightly and duly did you act, Conscript Fathers, in the last year that has passed, when your clemency gave to the world a prince,48 and one, indeed, from among yourselves, you who are the princes of the world, as you have ever been in the past and shall continue to be in the days of your descendants. 3 And I would that Florian also had been content to wait for this and had not claimed the imperial power as though an inheritance, or even that your majesty had made him or some other man your prince. 4 But now, since he has seized the imperial power, we have been offered the name of Augustus by the army, while he has even been punished by the wiser soldiers because he usurped it. I beg you, therefore, to judge concerning my merits, for I am ready to do whatsoever your clemency shall command."

p359 5 Likewise the decree of the senate:49

On the third day before the Nones of February,50 in the Temple of Concord,51 Aelius Scorpianus, the consul, said during his speech: "Conscript Fathers, you have listened to the letter of Aurelius Valerius52 Probus; now what is your pleasure concerning it?" 6 Thereupon they shouted out: "Probus Augustus, may the god keep you! Long since worthy, brave and just, a good leader, a good commander, an example in warfare, an example in command. May the gods keep you! 7 Deliverer of the commonwealth, may you be happy in your rule, master in warfare, may you be happy in your rule! May the gods guard you and yours! 8 Even before this the senate chose you. In years inferior to Tacitus, in all else superior. For having accepted the imperial power we give you our thanks. Protect us, protect the commonwealth. Rightly do we entrust to your keeping those whom you formerly saved. 9 You are Francicus, you are Gothicus, you are Sarmaticus, you are Parthicus,53 you are all things. In former years, too, you were ever worthy of command, worthy of triumphs. Happily may you live, happily rule!"

12 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam Thereupon Manlius Statianus,54 whose right it then was to give his opinion first, spoke as follows: "All thanks to the immortal gods, Conscript Fathers, and above the others to Jupiter the Best, for they have given us such an emperor as we always desired. 2 If we consider the matter rightly we need seek no Aurelian, no Alexander, no Antonines, no Trajan, no Claudius. All their qualities are found in this one prince, knowledge of warfare, a merciful spirit, a p361revered life, a pattern for conducting the commonwealth, and the assurance of every virtue. 3 For what part of the world is there which he has not learned to know by conquering it? Witness the Marmaridae, conquered on African soil, witness the Franks, overthrown amid pathless marshes, witness the Germans and the Alamanni, driven far back from the banks of the Rhine. 4 But why need I now speak of Sarmatians, of Goths, of Parthians and Persians, and all the expanse of Pontus? In all places the signs of Probus' valour abound. 5 It were too long to relate how many kings of mighty nations he drove into flight, how many commanders he slew with his own hand, how many arms he captured unaided while still a commoner. 6 What thanks former emperors gave him their letters attest, now placed in the public memorials. Ye Gods, how many times he has been presented with military gifts! What praise he has won from the soldiers! As a youth he received a tribuneship, not long after his youth the command of legions. 7 O Jupiter, Best and Greatest, thou, Juno our Queen, thou, Minerva, patroness of the virtues, thou, Concord of the world and thou, Victory of Rome, do ye all grant this to the senate and the people of Rome, grant this to our soldiers, grant this to our allies and to foreignº nations: may he rule even as he has served! 8 Therefore, Conscript Fathers, in accordance with the harmonious wish of us all I vote him the name of emperor, the name of Caesar, the name of Augustus; and I add thereto the proconsular command, the revered title of Father of his Country, the chief pontificate, the right of three proposals in the senate,55 and the tribunician power." Thereupon they shouted out, "So say we all of us, all of us."

p363 13 1   Legamen ad paginam Latinam On receiving this decree of the senate, then, Probus in a second message granted the fathers the right to decide on appeals from the highest judges,56 to appoint the proconsuls, to name the proconsuls' legates, to confer on the governors the rights of a praetor,57 and to sanction by special decree of the senate all the laws that Probus enacted.

2 Immediately thereafter he punished in various ways all the slayers of Aurelian who still survived, but he used therein more mildness and leniency than the army at first and Tacitus later had shown.58 3 Next he punished those also who had formed a plot against Tacitus, but the comrades of Florian he spared, because they seemed to have followed no mere pretender but the brother of their prince. 4 He then received the submission of all the armies of Europe, who had made Florian emperor and then had killed him.59

5 This done, he set out with a huge army for the provinces of Gaul,60 which since the death of Postumus had all been in turmoil, and after the murder of Aurelian had been seized by the Germans.61 6 There, moreover, he fought battles so great and successful that he took back from the barbarians sixty most famous communes of Gaul, besides all the booty, by which the Germans, even apart from the actual wealth, were puffed up with glory. 7 And whereas they were wandering at large on our bank, or rather through all the country of Gaul, Probus, after slaying about four p365hundred thousand62 who had seized upon Roman soil, drove all the rest back beyond the river Neckar and the district of Alba,63 8 getting from them as much barbarian booty as they themselves had seized from the Romans. Opposite the Roman cities, moreover, he built camps on barbarian soil64 and in these he stationed troops. 14Legamen ad paginam Latinam He also provided farms and store-houses, homes and rations of grain for all beyond the Rhine, for those only, that is, whom he placed in the garrisons there. All the while the heads of barbarians were brought in to him daily, now at the price of an aureus apiece, 2 and he never ceased fighting until nine princes of different tribes came before him and prostrated themselves at his feet. 3 From these he demanded, first hostages, which they gave him at once, then grain, and last of all their cows and their sheep. 4 It is said, moreover, that he sharply ordered them not to use swords, since now they might count on protection from Rome in case they must be defended against any foe. 5 It appeared, however, that this could not be accomplished, unless the Roman frontier were advanced and the whole of Germany turned into a province. 6 Nevertheless, with the princes' consent, he punished severely those who did not faithfully give back the booty. 7 He took, besides, sixteen thousand recruits, all of whom he scattered p367through the various provinces,65 incorporating bodies of fifty or sixty in the detachments or among the soldiers along the frontier; for he said that the aid that Romans received from barbarian auxiliaries must be felt but not seen.

15 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam And so, the affairs in Gaul being settled, he sent to the senate the following letter: "I give thanks, Conscript Fathers, to the immortal gods that they have confirmed your judgment of me. 2 For all of Germany, throughout its whole extent, has now been subdued, and nine princes of different tribes have lain suppliant and prostrate at my feet, or, I should say, at yours. Now all the barbarians plough for you, plant for you, and serve against the more distant tribes. 3 Therefore do you, in accord with your custom, decree thanksgivings.a For four hundred thousand of our foes have been slain, sixteen thousand armed men are at our disposal, seventy most famous cities have been rescued from the enemy's possession, and all the Gallic provinces have been made entirely free. 4 The crowns of gold which all the communes of Gaul have bestowed upon me I have dedicated to your clemency, Conscript Fathers. Do you, with your own hands, now consecrate them to Jupiter Best and Greatest and to the other immortal gods and goddesses. 5 All booty has been regained, other booty too has been captured, greater, indeed, than that which was previously taken. 6 The barbarians' oxen now plough the farms of Gaul, the Germans' yoked cattle, now captive, submit their necks to our husbandmen, the flocks of divers tribes are fed for the nourishing of our troops, their herds of horses are now bred for the use of our cavalry, and the grain of the barbarians fills our granaries. Why say more? We have left them solely p369their soil, and all their goods we now possess. 7 It had been our wish, Conscript Fathers, to appoint a new governor for Germany, but this we have postponed for the completer fulfilment of our prayers. This indeed we believe will come to pass when divine providence shall more richly have prospered our armies."

16 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam After this he set out for Illyricum, but before going thither he left Raetia in so peaceful a state that there remained therein not even any suspicion of fear. 2 In Illyricum66 he so crushed the Sarmatians and other tribes that almost without any war at all he got back all they had ravaged. 3 He then directed his march through Thrace, and received in either surrender or friendship all the tribes of the Getae,67 frightened by the repute of his deeds and brought to submission by the power of his ancient fame.

4 This done, he set out for the East,68 and while on his march he captured and killed a most powerful brigand, named Palfuerius, and so set free the whole of Isauria and restored the laws of Rome to the tribes and the cities. 5 By fear or favour he entered the places held by the barbarians living among the Isaurians, and when he had gone through them all he remarked: "It is easier far to keep brigands out of these places than to expel them." 6 And so all those places which were difficult of access he gave to his veterans as their own private holdings, attaching thereto the condition that their children, that is, the males only, should be sent p371to the army69 at the age of eighteen, in order that they never might learn to be brigands.

17 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam Having finally established peace in all parts of Pamphylia and the other provinces adjacent to Isauria, he turned his course to the East. 2 He also subdued the Blemmyae,70 and the captives taken from them he sent back to Rome and thereby created a wondrous impression upon the amazed Roman people. 3 Besides this, he rescued from servitude to the barbarians the cities of Coptos and Ptolemais and restored them to Roman laws. 4 By this he achieved such fame that the Parthians71 sent envoys to him, confessing their fear and suing for peace, but these he received with much arrogance and then sent back to their homes in greater fear than before. 5 The letter, moreover, which he wrote to Narseus,72 rejecting the gifts which the king had sent, is said to have been as follows: "I marvel that you have sent so few of the riches all of which will shortly be ours. For the time being, keep all those things in which you take such pleasure. If ever we wish to have them, we know how we ought to get them." 6 On the receipt of this letter Narseus was greatly frightened, the more so because he had learned that Coptos and Ptolemais had been set free from the Blemmyae, who had previously held them, and that they, who had once been the terror of nations, had been put to the sword.

18 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam Having made peace, then, with the Persians,73 he returned to Thrace, and here he settled one hundred p373thousand Bastarnae74 on Roman soil, all of whom remained loyal. 2 But when he had likewise brought over many from other tribes, that is, Gepedes, Greuthungi75 and Vandals, they all broke faith, and when Probus was busied with wars against the pretenders they roved over well nigh the entire world on foot or in ships and did no little damage to the glory of Rome. 3 He crushed them, however, at divers times and by various victories, and only a few returned to their homes, enjoying glory because they had made their escape from the hands of Probus. Such were Probus' exploits among the barbarians.

4 He also had to cope with revolts of pretenders, and they were serious indeed. For Saturninus,76 who had seized the rule of the East, he overcame only by battles of various kinds and by his well-known valour. But when Saturninus was crushed, such quiet prevailed in the East that, as the common saying is, not even a rebel mouse was heard. 5 Then Proculus77 and Bonosus78 seized the rule at Agrippina in Gaul, and proceeded to claim all of Britain79 and Spain and the provinces, also, of Farther Gaul,80 but these men he defeated with the aid of barbarians.

6 But in order that you may not ask for more information now about either Saturninus, or Proculus, or p375Bonosus, I will put them all in a special book, relating a little concerning them, as seems fitting, or rather, as need demands. 7 One fact, indeed, must be known, namely, that all the Germans, when Proculus asked for their aid, preferred to serve Probus rather than rule with Bonosus and Proculus. 8 Hence he granted permission to all the Gauls and the Spaniards and Britons to cultivate vineyards and make wines,81 and he himself planted chosen vines on Mount Alma82 near Sirmium in Illyricum, after having had the ground dug up by the hands of the soldiers.

19 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam He also gave the Romans their pleasures, and noted ones, too, and he bestowed largesses also. 2 He celebrated a triumph83 over the Germans and the Blemmyae, and caused companies from all nations, each of them containing up to fifty men, to be led before his triumphal procession. He gave in the Circus a most magnificent wild-beast hunt, at which all things were to be the spoils of the people. 3 Now the manner of this spectacle was as follows: great trees, torn up with the roots by the soldiers, were set up on a platform of beams of wide extent, on which earth was then thrown, and in this way the whole Circus, planted to look like a forest, seemed, thanks to this new verdure, to be putting forth leaves. 4 Then through all the entrances were brought in one thousand p377ostriches, one thousand stags and one thousand wild-boars, then deer, ibexes, wild sheep, and other grass-eating beasts, as many as could be reared or captured. The populace was then let in, and each man seized what he wished. 5 Another day he brought out in the Amphitheatre at a single performance one hundred maned lions,84 which woke the thunder with their roaring. 6 All of these were slaughtered as they came out of the doors of their dens, and being killed in this way they afforded no great spectacle. For there was none of that rush on the part of the beasts which takes place when they are let loose from cages. Besides, many, unwilling to charge, were despatched with arrows. 7 Then he brought out one hundred leopards from Libya, then one hundred from Syria, then one hundred lionesses and at the same time three hundred bears; all of which beasts, it is clear, made a spectacle more vast than enjoyable. 8 He presented, besides, three hundred pairs of gladiators, among whom fought many of the Blemmyae, who had been led in his triumph, besides many Germans and Sarmatians also and even some Isaurian brigands.

20 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam These spectacles finished, he made ready the war with Persia,85 but while on the march through Illyricum he was treacherously killed by his soldiers. 2 The causes of his murder were these: first of all, he never permitted a soldier to be idle, for he built many works by means of their labour, saying that a soldier should eat no bread that was not earned. 3 To this he added another remark, hard for them, should it ever come true, but beneficial to the commonwealth, namely, that soon there would be no need of such soldiers. 4 What had he in his mind when he made p379this remark? Had he not put down all barbarian nations under his feet and made the whole universe Roman? 5 "Soon," he said, "we shall have no need of soldiers." What else is this than saying: "Soon there will not be a Roman soldier? Everywhere the commonwealth will reign and will rule all in safety. 6 The entire world will forge no arms and will furnish no rations, the ox will be kept for the plough and the horse be bred for peace, there will be no wars and no captivity, in all places peace will reign, in all places the laws of Rome, and in all places our judges."

21 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam But in my love for a most excellent emperor I am proceeding further than a prosaic style requires. Wherefore, I will add only that which, most of all, hastened on for this great man his destined doom. 2 When he had come to Sirmium, desiring to enrich and enlarge his native place, he set many thousand soldiers together to draining a certain marsh, planning a great canal with outlets flowing into the Save, and thus draining a region for the use of the people of Sirmium. 3 At this the soldiers rebelled, and pursuing him as he fled to an iron-clad tower, which he himself had reared to a very great height to serve as a look-out, they slew him there in the fifth year of his reign.86 4 Afterwards, however, all the soldiers together built him a mighty tomb on a lofty mound, p381with an inscription carved on marble as follows: "Here lies Probus, the Emperor, a man of probity indeed, the conqueror of all barbarian nations, the conqueror, too, of pretenders."

22 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam As for myself, when I compare Probus as a ruler with other emperors, in whatever way almost all Roman leaders have stood out as courageous, as merciful, as wise, or as admirable, I perceive that he was the equal of any, or indeed, if no insane jealousy stands in the way, better than all. 2 For during his five years' rule he waged so many wars through the whole of earth's circle, all of them, too, unaided, that we can only marvel how he faced all the battles. 3 He did many deeds with his own hand and trained most illustrious generals. For from his training came Carus, Diocletian, Constantius, Asclepiodotus,87 Hannibalianus, Leonides, Cecropius, Pisonianus, Herennianus, Gaudiosus, Ursinianus, and all the others whom our fathers admired and from whom many good princes arose. 4 Let him now, who will, compare the twenty years of Trajan or Hadrian, let him compare the years of the Antonines, nearly equal in number. For why should I mention Augustus, the years of whose reign all but exceeded the life of a man? Of the evil princes, moreover, I will keep silent. That most famous remark of Probus itself reveals what he hoped to have brought about, for he said that soon there would be no need of soldiers. 23Legamen ad paginam Latinam He, truly conscious of his powers, stood in fear of neither barbarian nor pretender. 2 What great bliss would then have shone forth, if under his rule there had ceased to be soldiers! No rations would p383now be furnished by any provincial, no pay for the troops taken out of the public largesses, the commonwealth of Rome would keep its treasures forever, no payments would be made by the prince, no tax required of the holder of land; it was in very truth a golden age that he promised. 3 There would be no camps, nowhere should we have to hear the blast of the trumpet, nowhere fashion arms. That throng of fighting-men, which now harries the commonwealth with civil wars, would be at the plough, would be busy with study, or learning the arts, or sailing the seas. Add to this, too, that none would be slain in war. 4 O ye gracious gods, what mighty offence in your eyes has the Roman commonwealth committed, that ye should have taken from it so noble a prince? 5 Now away with those who make ready soldiers for civil strife, who arm the hands of brothers to slay their brothers, who call on sons to wound their fathers, and who deny to Probus the divinity88 which our emperors have wisely deemed should be immortalised by likenesses, honoured by temples, and celebrated by spectacles in the circus!

24 1 Legamen ad paginam Latinam The descendants of Probus,89 moved either by hate or by fear of jealousy, fled from the region of Rome, and established their household gods in Italy near Verona and the Lakes Benacus and Larius90 and in all that district. 2 I cannot indeed leave unmentioned that when a portrait of Probus in the region of Verona was struck by lightning in such a fashion that p385the colour of its bordered toga was altered, the soothsayers responded that future generations of his family would rise to such distinction in the senate that they all would hold the highest posts.91 3 As yet, however, we have seen none, and moreover it would seem that the "future generations" are unlimited in time and not a definite number.

4 The senate mourned greatly at the death of Probus, and likewise the people also. But when they were told that Carus was emperor, a good man,92 to be sure, but far removed from the virtues of Probus, remembering his son Carinus, who had always lived a most evil life, both the senate and the people shuddered. 5 For while each one feared a sterner prince, they dreaded still more a wicked successor.

6 This is all we have learned of Probus, or rather all we have deemed worthy of mention. 7 Now in another book, and that a short one, we will tell of Firmus and Saturninus, Bonosus and Proculus. 8 For it has not seemed suitable to combine a four-span of pretenders with a righteous prince. Then next, if the length of our life suffice, we will proceed to hand down to memory Carus and his sons.


The Editor's Notes:

1 What follows is not a quotation, but a reflection based on Sallust, Catil. 8.4 and Cato's Origines quoted by Aulus Gellius, III.7.19. The actual words of Sallust are cited by Jerome in his Vita Hilarionis, 1, in immediate connection with the anecdote related in § 2, though without the reference to Cato. The coincidence and the exactness of Jerome's quotation from Sallust have suggested the possibility that the biographer has taken (p335)this passage from the Vita Hilarionis (written about 390), and that, accordingly, the Probus was not composed before the end of the fourth century; see B. Schmiedler in Phil. Woch., 1927, p955 f.

2 Related also by Plutarch, Alexander, 15.8;º Arrian, Anab. Alex. I.12.1; Cicero, pro Archia, 24, and referred to by Cicero in Epist. ad FamiliaresV.12.7.

3 Like the other persons to whom Vopiscus' biographies are addressed (Aur. 1.9, and Firm. ii.1), unknown, unless he is the Celsinus of Aur. xliv.3.

4 M. Aurelius Probus Augustus (276‑282). The name Valerius, by which he is called in c. xi.5, is incorrectly given to him, as also to Claudius; see note to Claud. i.1. Probus is the hero of this group of biographies and this vita is little more than a panegyric; see especially c. xxii‑xxiii; cf. Tac. xvi.6; Car. i.2.

5 See Aur. i.7 and note. This is the only authority for its removal to the Baths of Diocletian (on which see note to Tyr. Trig. xxi.7).

6 See Pius x.4 and note. This library is also mentioned in Aulus Gellius, XIII.20.1, and Fronto, Epist. ad M. Caes. iv.5.

7 This portico (called Purpuretica) is mentioned in an inscription as part of the Forum of Trajan (cf. Hadr. vii.6); see CIL VI.7191 = Dessau, Ins. Sel. 8729.

8 See note to Alex. lvi.2.

9 Otherwise unknown.

10 Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiagenus, the brother of Africanus, was nominally in command of the Roman army at the battle of Magnesia, 190 B.C.

11 There were no less than six men named P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica, the most famous of whom were the consul of 191 B.C., who in 204 had been declared by the senate to be the best man in Rome and so qualified to receive the image of the Magna (p339)Mater, and his son, consul in 162 and 155 B.C., conqueror of Dalmatia and a famous orator.

12 See note to Aur. ii.1.

13 See note to Hadr. ii.10.

14 See note to Alex. xlviii.6.

15 See note to Alex. xxxvii.9.

16 Mitrovitz; see note to Aur. iii.1.

17 See note to Av. Cass. i.1.

18 Evidently a fiction, due to a desire on the part of the biographer to connect his hero with Pollio's.

19 Probably fictitious, on account of her name, unless we may suppose that she was a half-sister.

20 Unknown; the form is probably an error for the Armenian name Artavasdes; cf. Val. iii.1.

21 Otherwise unknown.

22 See Hadr. x.6.

23 Cf. Tac. xvi.6.

24 See note to Claud. xvii.6.

25 See Aur. ix.7 and note.

26 See notes to Aur. xiii.3.

27 See note to Marc. xii.8.

28 See note to Claud. xiii.8.

29 Otherwise unknown.

30 See note to Aur. xi.4.

31 See note to Val. i.1.

32 There is no evidence for this, and it is evidently only an attempt to legitimatizeº the imperium of the author's hero.

33 As a matter of fact, Probus was not consul until 277.

34 See Gord. iv.4 and notes.

35 See note to Pius v.5.

36 The inhabitants of Marmarica, the district between Egypt and Cyrenaica; they had been conquered by P. Sulpicius Quirinius about 20 B.C.

37 Unknown.

38 This may have been in connection with Aurelian's policy of using the revenues from Egypt for the benefit of the city of Rome (cf. Aur. xlv.1; xlvii.1‑3), but perhaps this statement is out of the proper order, for a papyrus dated 1 April 278 (Probus' third year as emperor) contains an official command for building dykes and cleaning canals. As this would scarcely (p353)have been necessary if Probus had caused it to be done as here described, it would seem that the work was begun in 278 and was still in operation in 280, when Probus may have been in Egypt (c. xvii.2‑3); see W. L. Westermann in Aegyptus, i. p297 f.

39 i.e., Zenobia. This campaign is described in Claud. xi.1‑2, where the Roman general is called Probatus. There is no reason to suppose that Probus was in Egypt under Claudius.

40 Between March and September, 271; see note to Aur. xxii.3.

41 See Tac. xiii.5 and note.

42 As there are Alexandrian coins of Probus minted before 29 Aug. 276 (J. Vogt, die Alex. Münzen, p218), he was made emperor in the summer of 276. He was probably acclaimed in the East about the same time that Florian was acclaimed in the West; see note to Tac. xiv.2. Zosimus (I.64.1) and Zonaras (XII.29) relate that he was acknowledged in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, while Asia Minor and Europe supported (p355)Florian. Probus' proclamation as emperor by the army of the East seems to be commemorated by coins with the legend Exercitus Pers(icus); see Cohen, VI2 p273, no. 207.

43 See Tac. xvi.6 and note.

44 See note to Sev. xxii.7.

45 Otherwise unknown.

46 Apparently modelled on Cicero, in Catil. iv.11.

47 See Tac. xiv.2 and note.

48 i.e., Tacitus; see Tac. iii‑vi.

49 On such "senatus consulta" and acclamations, see notes to Val. v.3 and 4.

50 This date is also given (incorrectly) as that of the announcement in Rome of Aurelian's death; see Aur. xli.3. In this instance it is also incorrect, since Florian was killed in the summer (probably August) of 276; see note to Tac. xiv.2. There is no record of any consul named Scorpianus in 276.

51 See note to Pert. iv.9.

52 See note to c. i.3.

53 Of all these cognomina only Gothicus was ever borne by Probus; see note to c. xiii.5.

54 Otherwise unknown.

55 See Marc. vi.6 and notes.

56 See note to Tac. xviii.3.

57 This is not clear, for the provincial governors had always had judicial functions.

58 See Aur. xxxvii.2 and Tac. xiii.1. According to Zosimus, I.65, he resorted to the ruse of inviting them to a banquet and had them killed there.

59 See Tac. xiv.2 and note.

60 In 277. In the autumn of 276 he probably completed the war begun by Tacitus and Florian against the Goths in Asia Minor, since in an inscription of 277 he bears the title Gothicus; see CIL XI.1178b.

61 See note to Aur. xxxv.4.

62 Greatly exaggerated, like the number in Claud. vi.4.

63 The Swabian Alb, a plateau south of the Neckar and east of the Black Forest; see Pauly-Wissowa, Realencycl. i.1299. According to the much fuller account in Zosimus, I.67‑68, Probus conducted this campaign (against the Alamanni) in person, while his generals fought against the Franks further north. Zosimus' narrative is embellished with picturesque details such as a miraculous rain, which saved Probus' army from starvation, and the capture of a German chieftain of the Longiones (Lugii) named Semnon. A second campaign, against the Burgundians and Vandals, which Zosimus records, is omitted (p365)by the biographer, unless we are to suppose with Dannhäuser (Untersuch. z. Gesch d. Kaisers Probus, p56 f.) that this battle took place when Probus was in Raetia; see c. xvi.1. In celebration of his success he assumed the title Germanicus Maximus and issued coins with the legend Victoria Germ(anica); see Cohen VI2 p328 f., nos. 754‑776.

64 i.e., on the right bank of the Rhine, which he hoped to make the frontier instead of the old limes (on which see note to Hadr. xii.6).

65 According to Zosimus I.68.3, he settled some of the captured Germans in Britain.

66 Probably in 279. His benefits to this region were commemorated by coins minted at Siscia (mod. Sissek) with the legend Restit(utor) Illyrici; see Cohen VI2 p304 no. 505.

67 In Thrace, on both banks of the lower Danube. Probably those tribes who inhabited the northern bank, despite Aurelian's evacuation of the country in their favour (see Aur. xxxix.7), had crossed over to plunder Roman territory, or perhaps they had been driven over by the Goths dwelling further north.

68 In 280. Zosimus (I.69‑7) tells a romantic story of an Isaurian brigand named Lydius (perhaps the same man as Palfuerius here mentioned), who, after ravaging Pamphylia and Lycia, seized the strongly fortified colony Cremna (in Pisidia) and there resisted the Romans until he was killed by the treachery of one of his men.

69 For a similar policy, see Alex. lviii.4.

70 From Nubia; see note to Aur. xxxiii.4. Undaunted by the defeat administered under Aurelian they had broken forth again and had overrun all Upper Egypt. According to Zosimus I.71.1, they were now defeated by Probus' generals; because of this statement it has been questioned whether Probus himself was in Egypt at all.

71 i.e., the Persians, again whom the present eastern expedition was directed in resumption of the war which had been cut short by the murder of Aurelian; see Aur. xxxv.4‑5.

72 Clearly a fabrication, for Narses was king of the Persians in 293‑302; the king at this time was Bahrâm II.

73 It is probable that he was ready to patch up a peace because of the revolts of the pretenders in the West; see § 5. He evidently regarded it as a temporary measure, for in 282 he set forth on another war; see c. xx.1.

74 North of the mouth of the Danube. Like the Getae, they may have been driven southward by the pressure of the Goths, and now they were admitted to Roman territory.

75 Both Gothic tribes; see Claud. vi.2 and note. Nothing is known of any of these settlers, but Zosimus (I.71.2) tells of a colony of Franks settled by Probus near the mouth of the Danube, who, as soon as the Emperor had left the region, built ships and, after plundering the coasts of Greece, Sicily and northern Africa, sailed off to their home, near the mouth of the Rhine. The biographer may have generalised this incident.

76 See Firm. vii‑xi.

77 See Firm. xii‑xiii.

78 See Firm. xiv‑xv.

79 The revolt in Britain had no connection with the rising either of Proculus or of Bonosus, but was the act of the governor stationed there. It was quelled by Victorinus, who treacherously killed the revolting governor; see Zonaras, XII.29.

80 Literally "trousered," a term derived from bracae ("breeches"), the native costume of the northern barbarians; see note to Alex. xl.11. The name Gallia Bracata was often used to designate the three provinces of Farther Gaul, viz. Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Belgica, and Aquitania, as contrasted with Gallia Togata, i.e., Gallia Narbonensis.

81 This measure is mentioned also by Aur. Victor, Caes. 37.2 and Eutropius, IX.17.2. It does not imply that there had been a general prohibition, but meant the rescinding of an order of Domitian (Suetonius, Dom. vii.2), which attempted to provide, both for the increase in the production of grain and for the protection of Italian vine-growers, that no new vineyards should be cut down. This order seems never to have been enforced in Asia Minor or southern Gaul or Spain, and even in the Danube provinces vines were planted before the time of Probus. An attempt had been made by Aurelian to promote viticulture in Italy (see Aur. xlviii.2), but apparently without much success, and the attempt was now extended to the northern provinces, with the result that the prosperity of Gaul, at least, was revived; (p375)see Rostovtzeff, Soc. and Econ. Hist. of the Rom. Empire, pp189, 545, 621.

82 Probably the Fruska-Gora range, north of Mitrovitz, still rich in vineyards.

83 In 281, according to the coins of his fourth consulship, on which he is represented in a quadriga and crowned by a Victory (Cohen VI2 p300, no. 465) or similarly on a six-horse chariot with the legend Gloria Orbis (ibid., p279, no. 269).

84 315 had been presented by Pompey and 400 by Julius Caesar; see Pliny, Nat. Hist. viii.53.

85 Temporarily abandoned in 280; see c. xviii.1.

86 The same account of his death is given in Aur. Victor, Caes. 37.4 and Eutropius, IX.17.2; on the other hand, Zosimus (I.71.4‑5) and Zonaras (XII.29) relate that after the departure of Probus the armies of Raetia and Noricum forced their commander, Carus, to assume the purple. The troops sent by Probus to quell the uprising joined the revolt, and when the remainder of Probus' force learned of this they killed the Emperor. This (p379)version, simpler and free from the laudatory tendencies of the account given in the vita, seems more credible; an attempt to absolve Carus from the charge of treachery is made in Car. vi.1. Probus' death took place after 29 Aug. 282, since there are Alexandrian coins of his eighth year, which began on that day. As he began to rule in the summer of 276, the five-year reign allotted to him here is evidently too short; the period of six years and four months given by Zosimus is more nearly correct.

87 Iulius Asclepiodotus (see also Aur. xliv.2) and Afranius Hannibalianus were consuls in 292 and prefects of the guard in 296; the former aided Constantius to suppress the revolt of Allectus, and the latter was city-prefect in 297. Herennianus is perhaps Verconnius Herennianus, Diocletian's prefect, (p381)mentioned in Aur. xliv.2. Leonides and those who follow are unknown.

88 He was eventually deified; for he is called Divus Probus in the Panegyric addressed to Constantius, c. 18, and in the list of the emperors'º birthdays (CIL i2 p255).

89 See note to Tyr. Trig. xiv.3. The Acta Sanctorum and the chronicler Nicephorus (i. p773) list, the former Probus' son Dometius, the latter his brother Dometius and two nephews, among the Patriarchs of Constantinople; but the correctness of such statements is very doubtful. The prominence in the fourth century of a family which supplied four consuls, Petronius Probianus (cos. 322), Petronius Probinus (cos. 341), Sex. Petronius Probus (cos. 371), and Anicius Probinus (cos. 395), (p383)suggested to Dessau that the present chapter was written in their honour at the end of that century (see Vol. II Intro., p. ix), but as Dannhäuser (op. cit., p90) has pointed out, this seems to be refuted by the statement in § 3.

90 Lakes Garda and Como.

91 Cf. Tac. xv.1‑2.

92 Cf. Car. iii.8.


Thayer's Note:

a therefore decree thanksgivings — more than a casual phrase: this is a period of formal public worship in all the temples of the city of Rome, involving special preparations and lasting several weeks. For details and sources, see the article Supplicatio in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.


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