Chapter XXI.—Death of Constantius, who leaves his Son Constantine Emperor. 3095
Immediately, therefore, on his escape from the plots which had been thus insidiously laid for him, he made his way with all haste to his father, and arrived at length at the very time that he was lying at the point of death. 3096 As soon as Constantius saw his son thus unexpectedly in his presence, he leaped from his couch, embraced him tenderly, and, declaring that the only anxiety which had troubled him in the prospect of death, namely, that caused by the absence of his son, was now removed, he rendered thanks to God, saying that he now thought death better than the longest life, 3097 and at once completed the arrangement of his private affairs. Then, taking a final leave of the circle of sons and daughters by whom he was surrounded, in his own palace, and on the imperial couch, he bequeathed the empire, according to the law of nature, 3098 to his eldest son, and breathed his last.
Βασιλεύς. The writer of the chapter headings uses this word here and Augustus in the following chapter, but it does not seem to mean technically “Cæsar,” and so the rendering emperor is retained.488:3096
This seems to imply that Constantine reached him only after he was sick in bed, i.e. at York in Britain; but other accounts make it probable that he joined him at Boulogne before he sailed on this last expedition to Britain. Compare Prolegomena.488:3097
Literally, “than immortality [on earth].”488:3098
It will hardly be agreed that imperial succession is a law of nature anyway. Rather, “the succession [where it exists] is established by the express will or the tacit consent of the nation,” and the “pretended proprietary right…is a chimera” (Vattell, Law of Nations, Phila., 1867, p. 24, 25). That primogeniture is a natural law has been often urged, but it seems to be simply the law of first come first served. The English custom of primogeniture is said to have risen from the fact that in feudal times the eldest son was the one who, at the time of the fathers death, was of an age to meet the duties of feudal tenure (compare Kent, Commentaries, Boston, 1867, v. 4, p. 420, 421). This is precisely the fact respecting Constantine. His several brothers were all too young to be thought of.