Such were the transactions which took place in the Eastern Church. In the meantime, however, Julian, the Cæsar, attacked and conquered the barbarians who dwelt on the banks of the Rhine; many he killed, and others he took prisoners. As the victory added greatly to his fame, and as his moderation and gentleness had endeared him to the troops, they proclaimed him Augustus. Far from making an excuse to Constantius for this act, he exchanged the officers who had been elected by Constantius, and industriously circulated letters wherein Constantius had solicited the barbarians to enter the Roman territories, and aid him against Magnentius. He then suddenly changed his religion, and although he had previously confessed Christianity, he declared himself high-priest, frequented the pagan temples, offered sacrifices, and invited his subjects to adopt that form of worship.
As an invasion of Roman territory by the Persians was expected, and as Constantius had on this account repaired to Syria, Julian conceived that he might without battle render himself master of Illyricum; he therefore set out on his journey to this province, under pretense that he intended to present an apology to Constantius for having, without his sanction, received the symbols of imperial power. It is said, that when he arrived on the borders of Illyria, the vines appeared full of green grapes, although the time of the vintage was past, and the Pleiades had set; and that there fell upon his followers a dashing of the dew from the atmosphere, of which each drop was stamped with the sign of the cross. He and many of those with him regarded the grapes appearing out of season as a favorable omen; while the dew had made that figure by chance on the garments upon which it happened to fall.
Others thought that of the two symbols, the one of the green grapes signified that the emperor would die prematurely, and his reign would be very short; while the second sign, that of the crosses formed by the drops of dew, indicated that the Christian religion is from heaven, and that all persons ought to receive the sign of the cross. I am, for my own part, convinced that those who regarded these two phenomena as unfavorable omens for Julian, were not mistaken; and the progress of time proved the accuracy of their opinion.
When Constantius heard that Julian was marching against him at the head of an army, he abandoned his intended expedition against the Persians, and departed for Constantinople; but he died on the journey, when he had arrived as far as Mopsucrenæ, which lies near the Taurus, between Cilicia and Cappadocia.
He died in the forty-fifth year of his age, after reigning thirteen years conjointly with his father Constantine, and twenty-five years after the death of that emperor.
A little while after the decease of Constantius, Julian, who had already made himself master of Thrace, entered Constantinople and was proclaimed emperor. Pagans assert that diviners and demons had predicted the death of Constantius, and the change in affairs, before his departure for Galatia, and had advised him to undertake the expedition. This might have been regarded as a true prediction, had not the life of Julian been terminated so shortly afterwards, and when he had only tasted the imperial power as in a dream. But it appears to me absurd to believe that, after he had heard the death of Constantius predicted, and had been warned that it would be his own fate to fall in battle by the hands of the Persians, he should have leaped into manifest death, -- offering him no other fame in the world than that of lack of counsel, and poor generalship, -- and who, had he lived, would probably have suffered the greater part of the Roman territories to fall under the Persian yoke. This observation, however, is only inserted lest I should be blamed for omitting it. I leave every one to form his own opinion.