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Title: History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — Volume 1
Author: Gibbon, Edward, 1737-1794
Language: English
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Edward Gibbon, Esq.

With notes by the Rev. H. H. Milman

Volume 1

1782 (Written), 1845 (Revised)



Preface By The Editor

Preface Of The Author

Preface To The First Volume

Chapter I: The Extent Of The Empire In The Age Of The Antoninies.—Part
I.   Part II.   Part III.

Introduction—The Extent And Military Force Of The Empire In The Age Of
The Antonines.

Chapter II: The Internal Prosperity In The Age Of The Antonines.—Part I.
Part II.   Part III.   Part IV.

Of The Union And Internal Prosperity Of The Roman Empire, In The Age Of
The Antonines.

Chapter III: The Constitution In The Age Of The Antonines.—Part I.
Part II.

Of The Constitution Of The Roman Empire, In The Age Of The Antonines.

Chapter IV: The Cruelty, Follies And Murder Of Commodus.—Part I.   Part

The Cruelty, Follies, And Murder Of Commodus. Election Of Pertinax—His
Attempts To Reform The State—His Assassination By The Prætorian Guards.

Chapter V: Sale Of The Empire To Didius Julianus.—Part I.   Part II.

Public Sale Of The Empire To Didius Julianus By The Prætorian
Guards—Clodius Albinus In Britain, Pescennius Niger In Syria, And
Septimius Severus In Pannonia, Declare Against The Murderers Of
Pertinax—Civil Wars And Victory Of Severus Over His Three
Rivals—Relaxation Of Discipline—New Maxims Of Government.

Chapter VI: Death Of Severus, Tyranny Of Caracalla, Usurpation Of
Marcinus.—Part I.   Part II.   Part III.   Part IV.

The Death Of Severus.—Tyranny Of Caracalla.—Usurpation Of
Macrinus.—Follies Of Elagabalus.—Virtues Of Alexander
Severus.—Licentiousness Of The Army.—General State Of The Roman

Chapter VII: Tyranny Of Maximin, Rebellion, Civil Wars, Death Of
Maximin.—Part I.   Part II.   Part III.

The Elevation And Tyranny Of Maximin.—Rebellion In Africa And Italy,
Under The Authority Of The Senate.—Civil Wars And Seditions.—Violent
Deaths Of Maximin And His Son, Of Maximus And Balbinus, And Of The Three
Gordians.—Usurpation And Secular Games Of Philip.

Chapter VIII: State Of Persion And Restoration Of The Monarchy.—Part I.
Part II.

Of The State Of Persia After The Restoration Of The Monarchy By

Chapter IX: State Of Germany Until The Barbarians.—Part I.   Part II.
Part III.

The State Of Germany Till The Invasion Of The Barbarians In The Time Of
The Emperor Decius.

Chapter X: Emperors Decius, Gallus, Æmilianus, Valerian And
Gallienus.—Part I.   Part II.   Part III.   Part IV.

The Emperors Decius, Gallus, Æmilianus, Valerian, And Gallienus.—The
General Irruption Of The Barbari Ans.—The Thirty Tyrants.

Chapter XI: Reign Of Claudius, Defeat Of The Goths.—Part I.  Part II.
Part III.

Reign Of Claudius.—Defeat Of The Goths.—Victories, Triumph, And Death Of

Chapter XII: Reigns Of Tacitus, Probus, Carus And His Sons.—Part I.
Part II.   Part III.

Conduct Of The Army And Senate After The Death Of Aurelian.— Reigns Of
Tacitus, Probus, Carus, And His Sons.

Chapter XIII: Reign Of Diocletian And This Three Associates.—Part I.
Part II.   Part III.   Part IV.

The Reign Of Diocletian And His Three Associates, Maximian, Galerius,
And Constantius.—General Reestablishment Of Order And Tranquillity.—The
Persian War, Victory, And Triumph.— The New Form Of
Administration.—Abdication And Retirement Of Diocletian And Maximian.

Chapter XIV: Six Emperors At The Same Time, Reunion Of The Empire.—Part
I.   Part II.   Part III.   Part IV.

Troubles After The Abdication Of Diocletian.—Death Of
Constantius.—Elevation Of Constantine And Maxen Tius. ­ Six Emperors At
The Same Time.—Death Of Maximian And Galerius. —Victories Of Constantine
Over Maxentius And Licinus.— Reunion Of The Empire Under The Authority
Of Constantine.

Chapter XV: Progress Of The Christian Religion.—Part I.   Part II.
Part III.   Part IV.   Part V.   Part VI.   Part VII.   Part VIII.
Part IX.

The Progress Of The Christian Religion, And The Sentiments, Manners,
Numbers, And Condition Of The Primitive Christians.


Preface By The Editor.

The great work of Gibbon is indispensable to the student of history. The
literature of Europe offers no substitute for "The Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire." It has obtained undisputed possession, as rightful
occupant, of the vast period which it comprehends. However some
subjects, which it embraces, may have undergone more complete
investigation, on the general view of the whole period, this history
is the sole undisputed authority to which all defer, and from which
few appeal to the original writers, or to more modern compilers. The
inherent interest of the subject, the inexhaustible labor employed upon
it; the immense condensation of matter; the luminous arrangement; the
general accuracy; the style, which, however monotonous from its uniform
stateliness, and sometimes wearisome from its elaborate art., is
throughout vigorous, animated, often picturesque always commands
attention, always conveys its meaning with emphatic energy, describes
with singular breadth and fidelity, and generalizes with unrivalled
felicity of expression; all these high qualifications have secured, and
seem likely to secure, its permanent place in historic literature.

This vast design of Gibbon, the magnificent whole into which he has cast
the decay and ruin of the ancient civilization, the formation and birth
of the new order of things, will of itself, independent of the laborious
execution of his immense plan, render "The Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire" an unapproachable subject to the future historian:* in the
eloquent language of his recent French editor, M. Guizot:--

"The gradual decline of the most extraordinary dominion which has
ever invaded and oppressed the world; the fall of that immense empire,
erected on the ruins of so many kingdoms, republics, and states both
barbarous and civilized; and forming in its turn, by its dismemberment,
a multitude of states, republics, and kingdoms; the annihilation of the
religion of Greece and Rome; the birth and the progress of the two new
religions which have shared the most beautiful regions of the earth; the
decrepitude of the ancient world, the spectacle of its expiring glory
and degenerate manners; the infancy of the modern world, the picture of
its first progress, of the new direction given to the mind and character
of man--such a subject must necessarily fix the attention and excite
the interest of men, who cannot behold with indifference those memorable
epochs, during which, in the fine language of Corneille--

'Un grand destin commence, un grand destin s'achève.'"

This extent and harmony of design is unquestionably that which
distinguishes the work of Gibbon from all other great historical
compositions. He has first bridged the abyss between ancient and modern
times, and connected together the two great worlds of history. The great
advantage which the classical historians possess over those of modern
times is in unity of plan, of course greatly facilitated by the narrower
sphere to which their researches were confined. Except Herodotus, the
great historians of Greece--we exclude the more modern compilers, like
Diodorus Siculus--limited themselves to a single period, or at least
to the contracted sphere of Grecian affairs. As far as the Barbarians
trespassed within the Grecian boundary, or were necessarily mingled
up with Grecian politics, they were admitted into the pale of Grecian
history; but to Thucydides and to Xenophon, excepting in the Persian
inroad of the latter, Greece was the world. Natural unity confined
their narrative almost to chronological order, the episodes were of rare
occurrence and extremely brief. To the Roman historians the course
was equally clear and defined. Rome was their centre of unity; and the
uniformity with which the circle of the Roman dominion spread around,
the regularity with which their civil polity expanded, forced, as it
were, upon the Roman historian that plan which Polybius announces as
the subject of his history, the means and the manner by which the whole
world became subject to the Roman sway. How different the complicated
politics of the European kingdoms! Every national history, to be
complete, must, in a certain sense, be the history of Europe; there is
no knowing to how remote a quarter it may be necessary to trace our
most domestic events; from a country, how apparently disconnected, may
originate the impulse which gives its direction to the whole course of

In imitation of his classical models, Gibbon places Rome as the cardinal
point from which his inquiries diverge, and to which they bear constant
reference; yet how immeasurable the space over which those inquiries
range; how complicated, how confused, how apparently inextricable the
causes which tend to the decline of the Roman empire! how countless the
nations which swarm forth, in mingling and indistinct hordes, constantly
changing the geographical limits--incessantly confounding the natural
boundaries! At first sight, the whole period, the whole state of the
world, seems to offer no more secure footing to an historical adventurer
than the chaos of Milton--to be in a state of irreclaimable disorder,
best described in the language of the poet:--

     "A dark Illimitable ocean, without bound,
     Without dimension, where length, breadth, and height,
     And time, and place, are lost: where eldest Night
     And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold
     Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise
     Of endless wars, and by confusion stand."

We feel that the unity and harmony of narrative, which shall comprehend
this period of social disorganization, must be ascribed entirely to the
skill and luminous disposition of the historian. It is in this sublime
Gothic architecture of his work, in which the boundless range, the
infinite variety, the, at first sight, incongruous gorgeousness of
the separate parts, nevertheless are all subordinate to one main and
predominant idea, that Gibbon is unrivalled. We cannot but admire the
manner in which he masses his materials, and arranges his facts in
successive groups, not according to chronological order, but to their
moral or political connection; the distinctness with which he marks his
periods of gradually increasing decay; and the skill with which, though
advancing on separate parallels of history, he shows the common tendency
of the slower or more rapid religious or civil innovations. However
these principles of composition may demand more than ordinary attention
on the part of the reader, they can alone impress upon the memory the
real course, and the relative importance of the events. Whoever would
justly appreciate the superiority of Gibbon's lucid arrangement, should
attempt to make his way through the regular but wearisome annals of
Tillemont, or even the less ponderous volumes of Le Beau. Both these
writers adhere, almost entirely, to chronological order; the consequence
is, that we are twenty times called upon to break off, and resume the
thread of six or eight wars in different parts of the empire; to suspend
the operations of a military expedition for a court intrigue; to hurry
away from a siege to a council; and the same page places us in the
middle of a campaign against the barbarians, and in the depths of the
Monophysite controversy. In Gibbon it is not always easy to bear in mind
the exact dates but the course of events is ever clear and distinct;
like a skilful general, though his troops advance from the most
remote and opposite quarters, they are constantly bearing down and
concentrating themselves on one point--that which is still occupied
by the name, and by the waning power of Rome. Whether he traces the
progress of hostile religions, or leads from the shores of the
Baltic, or the verge of the Chinese empire, the successive hosts of
barbarians--though one wave has hardly burst and discharged itself,
before another swells up and approaches--all is made to flow in the same
direction, and the impression which each makes upon the tottering fabric
of the Roman greatness, connects their distant movements, and measures
the relative importance assigned to them in the panoramic history. The
more peaceful and didactic episodes on the development of the Roman law,
or even on the details of ecclesiastical history, interpose themselves
as resting-places or divisions between the periods of barbaric invasion.
In short, though distracted first by the two capitals, and afterwards
by the formal partition of the empire, the extraordinary felicity of
arrangement maintains an order and a regular progression. As our horizon
expands to reveal to us the gathering tempests which are forming
far beyond the boundaries of the civilized world--as we follow their
successive approach to the trembling frontier--the compressed and
receding line is still distinctly visible; though gradually dismembered
and the broken fragments assuming the form of regular states and
kingdoms, the real relation of those kingdoms to the empire is
maintained and defined; and even when the Roman dominion has shrunk
into little more than the province of Thrace--when the name of Rome,
confined, in Italy, to the walls of the city--yet it is still the
memory, the shade of the Roman greatness, which extends over the wide
sphere into which the historian expands his later narrative; the
whole blends into the unity, and is manifestly essential to the double
catastrophe of his tragic drama.

But the amplitude, the magnificence, or the harmony of design, are,
though imposing, yet unworthy claims on our admiration, unless the
details are filled up with correctness and accuracy. No writer has been
more severely tried on this point than Gibbon. He has undergone the
triple scrutiny of theological zeal quickened by just resentment, of
literary emulation, and of that mean and invidious vanity which delights
in detecting errors in writers of established fame. On the result of
the trial, we may be permitted to summon competent witnesses before we
deliver our own judgment.

M. Guizot, in his preface, after stating that in France and Germany, as
well as in England, in the most enlightened countries of Europe, Gibbon
is constantly cited as an authority, thus proceeds:--

"I have had occasion, during my labors, to consult the writings of
philosophers, who have treated on the finances of the Roman empire; of
scholars, who have investigated the chronology; of theologians, who have
searched the depths of ecclesiastical history; of writers on law, who
have studied with care the Roman jurisprudence; of Orientalists, who
have occupied themselves with the Arabians and the Koran; of modern
historians, who have entered upon extensive researches touching the
crusades and their influence; each of these writers has remarked and
pointed out, in the 'History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire,' some negligences, some false or imperfect views some omissions,
which it is impossible not to suppose voluntary; they have rectified
some facts combated with advantage some assertions; but in general
they have taken the researches and the ideas of Gibbon, as points of
departure, or as proofs of the researches or of the new opinions which
they have advanced."

M. Guizot goes on to state his own impressions on reading Gibbon's
history, and no authority will have greater weight with those to whom
the extent and accuracy of his historical researches are known:--

"After a first rapid perusal, which allowed me to feel nothing but
the interest of a narrative, always animated, and, notwithstanding its
extent and the variety of objects which it makes to pass before the
view, always perspicuous, I entered upon a minute examination of the
details of which it was composed; and the opinion which I then formed
was, I confess, singularly severe. I discovered, in certain chapters,
errors which appeared to me sufficiently important and numerous to
make me believe that they had been written with extreme negligence; in
others, I was struck with a certain tinge of partiality and prejudice,
which imparted to the exposition of the facts that want of truth
and justice, which the English express by their happy term
misrepresentation. Some imperfect (tronquées) quotations; some passages,
omitted unintentionally or designedly cast a suspicion on the honesty
(bonne foi) of the author; and his violation of the first law of
history--increased to my eye by the prolonged attention with which I
occupied myself with every phrase, every note, every reflection--caused
me to form upon the whole work, a judgment far too rigorous. After
having finished my labors, I allowed some time to elapse before I
reviewed the whole. A second attentive and regular perusal of the entire
work, of the notes of the author, and of those which I had thought it
right to subjoin, showed me how much I had exaggerated the importance of
the reproaches which Gibbon really deserved; I was struck with the same
errors, the same partiality on certain subjects; but I had been far from
doing adequate justice to the immensity of his researches, the
variety of his knowledge, and above all, to that truly philosophical
discrimination (justesse d'esprit) which judges the past as it would
judge the present; which does not permit itself to be blinded by the
clouds which time gathers around the dead, and which prevent us from
seeing that, under the toga, as under the modern dress, in the senate
as in our councils, men were what they still are, and that events took
place eighteen centuries ago, as they take place in our days. I then
felt that his book, in spite of its faults, will always be a noble
work--and that we may correct his errors and combat his prejudices,
without ceasing to admit that few men have combined, if we are not to
say in so high a degree, at least in a manner so complete, and so well
regulated, the necessary qualifications for a writer of history."

The present editor has followed the track of Gibbon through many parts
of his work; he has read his authorities with constant reference to
his pages, and must pronounce his deliberate judgment, in terms of
the highest admiration as to his general accuracy. Many of his seeming
errors are almost inevitable from the close condensation of his matter.
From the immense range of his history, it was sometimes necessary to
compress into a single sentence, a whole vague and diffuse page of a
Byzantine chronicler. Perhaps something of importance may have thus
escaped, and his expressions may not quite contain the whole substance
of the passage from which they are taken. His limits, at times, compel
him to sketch; where that is the case, it is not fair to expect the
full details of the finished picture. At times he can only deal with
important results; and in his account of a war, it sometimes
requires great attention to discover that the events which seem to
be comprehended in a single campaign, occupy several years. But this
admirable skill in selecting and giving prominence to the points which
are of real weight and importance--this distribution of light and
shade--though perhaps it may occasionally betray him into vague and
imperfect statements, is one of the highest excellencies of Gibbon's
historic manner. It is the more striking, when we pass from the works of
his chief authorities, where, after laboring through long, minute, and
wearisome descriptions of the accessary and subordinate circumstances, a
single unmarked and undistinguished sentence, which we may overlook
from the inattention of fatigue, contains the great moral and political

Gibbon's method of arrangement, though on the whole most favorable
to the clear comprehension of the events, leads likewise to apparent
inaccuracy. That which we expect to find in one part is reserved for
another. The estimate which we are to form, depends on the accurate
balance of statements in remote parts of the work; and we have sometimes
to correct and modify opinions, formed from one chapter by those of
another. Yet, on the other hand, it is astonishing how rarely we detect
contradiction; the mind of the author has already harmonized the whole
result to truth and probability; the general impression is almost
invariably the same. The quotations of Gibbon have likewise been called
in question;--I have, in general, been more inclined to admire their
exactitude, than to complain of their indistinctness, or incompleteness.
Where they are imperfect, it is commonly from the study of brevity, and
rather from the desire of compressing the substance of his notes into
pointed and emphatic sentences, than from dishonesty, or uncandid
suppression of truth.

These observations apply more particularly to the accuracy and fidelity
of the historian as to his facts; his inferences, of course, are more
liable to exception. It is almost impossible to trace the line between
unfairness and unfaithfulness; between intentional misrepresentation
and undesigned false coloring. The relative magnitude and importance of
events must, in some respect, depend upon the mind before which they are
presented; the estimate of character, on the habits and feelings of the
reader. Christians, like M. Guizot and ourselves, will see some things,
and some persons, in a different light from the historian of the Decline
and Fall. We may deplore the bias of his mind; we may ourselves be on
our guard against the danger of being misled, and be anxious to warn
less wary readers against the same perils; but we must not confound
this secret and unconscious departure from truth, with the deliberate
violation of that veracity which is the only title of an historian
to our confidence. Gibbon, it may be fearlessly asserted, is rarely
chargeable even with the suppression of any material fact, which bears
upon individual character; he may, with apparently invidious hostility,
enhance the errors and crimes, and disparage the virtues of certain
persons; yet, in general, he leaves us the materials for forming a
fairer judgment; and if he is not exempt from his own prejudices,
perhaps we might write passions, yet it must be candidly acknowledged,
that his philosophical bigotry is not more unjust than the theological
partialities of those ecclesiastical writers who were before in
undisputed possession of this province of history.

We are thus naturally led to that great misrepresentation which
pervades his history--his false estimate of the nature and influence of

But on this subject some preliminary caution is necessary, lest that
should be expected from a new edition, which it is impossible that it
should completely accomplish. We must first be prepared with the only
sound preservative against the false impression likely to be produced
by the perusal of Gibbon; and we must see clearly the real cause of that
false impression. The former of these cautions will be briefly suggested
in its proper place, but it may be as well to state it, here, somewhat
more at length. The art of Gibbon, or at least the unfair impression
produced by his two memorable chapters, consists in his confounding
together, in one indistinguishable mass, the origin and apostolic
propagation of the new religion, with its later progress. No argument
for the divine authority of Christianity has been urged with greater
force, or traced with higher eloquence, than that deduced from its
primary development, explicable on no other hypothesis than a heavenly
origin, and from its rapid extension through great part of the Roman
empire. But this argument--one, when confined within reasonable limits,
of unanswerable force--becomes more feeble and disputable in proportion
as it recedes from the birthplace, as it were, of the religion. The
further Christianity advanced, the more causes purely human were
enlisted in its favor; nor can it be doubted that those developed with
such artful exclusiveness by Gibbon did concur most essentially to its
establishment. It is in the Christian dispensation, as in the material
world. In both it is as the great First Cause, that the Deity is most
undeniably manifest. When once launched in regular motion upon the bosom
of space, and endowed with all their properties and relations of weight
and mutual attraction, the heavenly bodies appear to pursue their
courses according to secondary laws, which account for all their sublime
regularity. So Christianity proclaims its Divine Author chiefly in its
first origin and development. When it had once received its impulse
from above--when it had once been infused into the minds of its
first teachers--when it had gained full possession of the reason and
affections of the favored few--it might be--and to the Protestant, the
rational Christian, it is impossible to define when it really was--left
to make its way by its native force, under the ordinary secret agencies
of all-ruling Providence. The main question, the divine origin of the
religion, was dexterously eluded, or speciously conceded by Gibbon;
his plan enabled him to commence his account, in most parts, below the
apostolic times; and it was only by the strength of the dark coloring
with which he brought out the failings and the follies of the succeeding
ages, that a shadow of doubt and suspicion was thrown back upon the
primitive period of Christianity.

"The theologian," says Gibbon, "may indulge the pleasing task of
describing religion as she descended from heaven, arrayed in her native
purity; a more melancholy duty is imposed upon the historian:--he
must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she
contracted in a long residence upon earth among a weak and degenerate
race of beings." Divest this passage of the latent sarcasm betrayed by
the subsequent tone of the whole disquisition, and it might commence a
Christian history written in the most Christian spirit of candor. But as
the historian, by seeming to respect, yet by dexterously confounding the
limits of the sacred land, contrived to insinuate that it was an Utopia
which had no existence but in the imagination of the theologian--as he
suggested rather than affirmed that the days of Christian purity were a
kind of poetic golden age;--so the theologian, by venturing too far into
the domain of the historian, has been perpetually obliged to contest
points on which he had little chance of victory--to deny facts
established on unshaken evidence--and thence, to retire, if not with the
shame of defeat, yet with but doubtful and imperfect success.

Paley, with his intuitive sagacity, saw through the difficulty of
answering Gibbon by the ordinary arts of controversy; his emphatic
sentence, "Who can refute a sneer?" contains as much truth as point. But
full and pregnant as this phrase is, it is not quite the whole truth;
it is the tone in which the progress of Christianity is traced, in
comparison with the rest of the splendid and prodigally ornamented work,
which is the radical defect in the "Decline and Fall." Christianity
alone receives no embellishment from the magic of Gibbon's language; his
imagination is dead to its moral dignity; it is kept down by a general
zone of jealous disparagement, or neutralized by a painfully elaborate
exposition of its darker and degenerate periods. There are occasions,
indeed, when its pure and exalted humanity, when its manifestly
beneficial influence, can compel even him, as it were, to fairness, and
kindle his unguarded eloquence to its usual fervor; but, in general,
he soon relapses into a frigid apathy; affects an ostentatiously severe
impartiality; notes all the faults of Christians in every age with
bitter and almost malignant sarcasm; reluctantly, and with exception and
reservation, admits their claim to admiration. This inextricable bias
appears even to influence his manner of composition. While all the other
assailants of the Roman empire, whether warlike or religious, the Goth,
the Hun, the Arab, the Tartar, Alaric and Attila, Mahomet, and Zengis,
and Tamerlane, are each introduced upon the scene almost with dramatic
animation--their progress related in a full, complete, and unbroken
narrative--the triumph of Christianity alone takes the form of a cold
and critical disquisition. The successes of barbarous energy and brute
force call forth all the consummate skill of composition; while the
moral triumphs of Christian benevolence--the tranquil heroism of
endurance, the blameless purity, the contempt of guilty fame and of
honors destructive to the human race, which, had they assumed the proud
name of philosophy, would have been blazoned in his brightest words,
because they own religion as their principle--sink into narrow
asceticism. The glories of Christianity, in short, touch on no chord in
the heart of the writer; his imagination remains unkindled; his words,
though they maintain their stately and measured march, have become cool,
argumentative, and inanimate. Who would obscure one hue of that gorgeous
coloring in which Gibbon has invested the dying forms of Paganism, or
darken one paragraph in his splendid view of the rise and progress of
Mahometanism? But who would not have wished that the same equal justice
had been done to Christianity; that its real character and deeply
penetrating influence had been traced with the same philosophical
sagacity, and represented with more sober, as would become its quiet
course, and perhaps less picturesque, but still with lively and
attractive, descriptiveness? He might have thrown aside, with the same
scorn, the mass of ecclesiastical fiction which envelops the early
history of the church, stripped off the legendary romance, and brought
out the facts in their primitive nakedness and simplicity--if he had but
allowed those facts the benefit of the glowing eloquence which he
denied to them alone. He might have annihilated the whole fabric
of post-apostolic miracles, if he had left uninjured by sarcastic
insinuation those of the New Testament; he might have cashiered, with
Dodwell, the whole host of martyrs, which owe their existence to the
prodigal invention of later days, had he but bestowed fair room,
and dwelt with his ordinary energy on the sufferings of the genuine
witnesses to the truth of Christianity, the Polycarps, or the martyrs of

And indeed, if, after all, the view of the early progress of
Christianity be melancholy and humiliating we must beware lest we charge
the whole of this on the infidelity of the historian. It is idle, it
is disingenuous, to deny or to dissemble the early depravations of
Christianity, its gradual but rapid departure from its primitive
simplicity and purity, still more, from its spirit of universal love.
It may be no unsalutary lesson to the Christian world, that this silent,
this unavoidable, perhaps, yet fatal change shall have been drawn by an
impartial, or even an hostile hand. The Christianity of every age may
take warning, lest by its own narrow views, its want of wisdom, and its
want of charity, it give the same advantage to the future unfriendly
historian, and disparage the cause of true religion.

The design of the present edition is partly corrective, partly
supplementary: corrective, by notes, which point out (it is hoped, in
a perfectly candid and dispassionate spirit with no desire but to
establish the truth) such inaccuracies or misstatements as may have been
detected, particularly with regard to Christianity; and which thus, with
the previous caution, may counteract to a considerable extent the
unfair and unfavorable impression created against rational religion:
supplementary, by adding such additional information as the editor's
reading may have been able to furnish, from original documents or books,
not accessible at the time when Gibbon wrote.

The work originated in the editor's habit of noting on the margin of his
copy of Gibbon references to such authors as had discovered errors, or
thrown new light on the subjects treated by Gibbon. These had grown
to some extent, and seemed to him likely to be of use to others. The
annotations of M. Guizot also appeared to him worthy of being better
known to the English public than they were likely to be, as appended to
the French translation.

The chief works from which the editor has derived his materials are,
I. The French translation, with notes by M. Guizot; 2d edition, Paris,
1828. The editor has translated almost all the notes of M. Guizot. Where
he has not altogether agreed with him, his respect for the learning
and judgment of that writer has, in general, induced him to retain the
statement from which he has ventured to differ, with the grounds on
which he formed his own opinion. In the notes on Christianity, he has
retained all those of M. Guizot, with his own, from the conviction,
that on such a subject, to many, the authority of a French statesman,
a Protestant, and a rational and sincere Christian, would appear more
independent and unbiassed, and therefore be more commanding, than that
of an English clergyman.

The editor has not scrupled to transfer the notes of M. Guizot to the
present work. The well-known zeal for knowledge, displayed in all
the writings of that distinguished historian, has led to the natural
inference, that he would not be displeased at the attempt to make them
of use to the English readers of Gibbon. The notes of M. Guizot are
signed with the letter G.

II. The German translation, with the notes of Wenck. Unfortunately this
learned translator died, after having completed only the first volume;
the rest of the work was executed by a very inferior hand.

The notes of Wenck are extremely valuable; many of them have been
adopted by M. Guizot; they are distinguished by the letter W.*

III. The new edition of Le Beau's "Histoire du Bas Empire, with notes by
M. St. Martin, and M. Brosset." That distinguished Armenian scholar, M.
St. Martin (now, unhappily, deceased) had added much information from
Oriental writers, particularly from those of Armenia, as well as from
more general sources. Many of his observations have been found as
applicable to the work of Gibbon as to that of Le Beau.

IV. The editor has consulted the various answers made to Gibbon on the
first appearance of his work; he must confess, with little profit.
They were, in general, hastily compiled by inferior and now forgotten
writers, with the exception of Bishop Watson, whose able apology is
rather a general argument, than an examination of misstatements. The
name of Milner stands higher with a certain class of readers, but will
not carry much weight with the severe investigator of history.

V. Some few classical works and fragments have come to light, since
the appearance of Gibbon's History, and have been noticed in their
respective places; and much use has been made, in the latter volumes
particularly, of the increase to our stores of Oriental literature. The
editor cannot, indeed, pretend to have followed his author, in these
gleanings, over the whole vast field of his inquiries; he may have
overlooked or may not have been able to command some works, which might
have thrown still further light on these subjects; but he trusts that
what he has adduced will be of use to the student of historic truth.

The editor would further observe, that with regard to some other
objectionable passages, which do not involve misstatement or inaccuracy,
he has intentionally abstained from directing particular attention
towards them by any special protest.

The editor's notes are marked M.

A considerable part of the quotations (some of which in the later
editions had fallen into great confusion) have been verified, and have
been corrected by the latest and best editions of the authors.

June, 1845.

In this new edition, the text and the notes have been carefully revised,
the latter by the editor.

Some additional notes have been subjoined, distinguished by the
signature M. 1845.

Preface Of The Author.

It is not my intention to detain the reader by expatiating on the
variety or the importance of the subject, which I have undertaken to
treat; since the merit of the choice would serve to render the weakness
of the execution still more apparent, and still less excusable. But as
I have presumed to lay before the public a first volume only of the
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, it will, perhaps,
be expected that I should explain, in a few words, the nature and limits
of my general plan.

The memorable series of revolutions, which in the course of about
thirteen centuries gradually undermined, and at length destroyed, the
solid fabric of human greatness, may, with some propriety, be divided
into the three following periods:

I. The first of these periods may be traced from the age of Trajan
and the Antonines, when the Roman monarchy, having attained its full
strength and maturity, began to verge towards its decline; and will
extend to the subversion of the Western Empire, by the barbarians of
Germany and Scythia, the rude ancestors of the most polished nations of
modern Europe. This extraordinary revolution, which subjected Rome to
the power of a Gothic conqueror, was completed about the beginning of
the sixth century.

II. The second period of the Decline and Fall of Rome may be supposed
to commence with the reign of Justinian, who, by his laws, as well as by
his victories, restored a transient splendor to the Eastern Empire. It
will comprehend the invasion of Italy by the Lombards; the conquest
of the Asiatic and African provinces by the Arabs, who embraced the
religion of Mahomet; the revolt of the Roman people against the feeble
princes of Constantinople; and the elevation of Charlemagne, who, in the
year eight hundred, established the second, or German Empire of the West

III. The last and longest of these periods includes about six centuries
and a half; from the revival of the Western Empire, till the taking of
Constantinople by the Turks, and the extinction of a degenerate race of
princes, who continued to assume the titles of Cæsar and Augustus, after
their dominions were contracted to the limits of a single city; in which
the language, as well as manners, of the ancient Romans, had been long
since forgotten. The writer who should undertake to relate the events
of this period, would find himself obliged to enter into the general
history of the Crusades, as far as they contributed to the ruin of the
Greek Empire; and he would scarcely be able to restrain his curiosity
from making some inquiry into the state of the city of Rome, during the
darkness and confusion of the middle ages.

As I have ventured, perhaps too hastily, to commit to the press a work
which in every sense of the word, deserves the epithet of imperfect. I
consider myself as contracting an engagement to finish, most probably in
a second volume, the first of these memorable periods; and to deliver
to the Public the complete History of the Decline and Fall of Rome, from
the age of the Antonines to the subversion of the Western Empire. With
regard to the subsequent periods, though I may entertain some hopes, I
dare not presume to give any assurances. The execution of the extensive
plan which I have described, would connect the ancient and modern
history of the world; but it would require many years of health, of
leisure, and of perseverance.

Bentinck Street, February 1, 1776.

P. S. The entire History, which is now published, of the Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West, abundantly discharges my
engagements with the Public. Perhaps their favorable opinion may
encourage me to prosecute a work, which, however laborious it may seem,
is the most agreeable occupation of my leisure hours.

Bentinck Street, March 1, 1781.

An Author easily persuades himself that the public opinion is still
favorable to his labors; and I have now embraced the serious resolution
of proceeding to the last period of my original design, and of the
Roman Empire, the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, in the year
one thousand four hundred and fifty-three. The most patient Reader, who
computes that three ponderous volumes have been already employed on the
events of four centuries, may, perhaps, be alarmed at the long prospect
of nine hundred years. But it is not my intention to expatiate with the
same minuteness on the whole series of the Byzantine history. At our
entrance into this period, the reign of Justinian, and the conquests of
the Mahometans, will deserve and detain our attention, and the last age
of Constantinople (the Crusades and the Turks) is connected with the
revolutions of Modern Europe. From the seventh to the eleventh century,
the obscure interval will be supplied by a concise narrative of such
facts as may still appear either interesting or important.

Bentinck Street, March 1, 1782.

Preface To The First Volume.

Diligence and accuracy are the only merits which an historical writer
may ascribe to himself; if any merit, indeed, can be assumed from the
performance of an indispensable duty. I may therefore be allowed to say,
that I have carefully examined all the original materials that could
illustrate the subject which I had undertaken to treat. Should I
ever complete the extensive design which has been sketched out in the
Preface, I might perhaps conclude it with a critical account of the
authors consulted during the progress of the whole work; and however
such an attempt might incur the censure of ostentation, I am persuaded
that it would be susceptible of entertainment, as well as information.

At present I shall content myself with a single observation. The
biographers, who, under the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine,
composed, or rather compiled, the lives of the Emperors, from Hadrian
to the sons of Carus, are usually mentioned under the names of Ælius
Spartianus, Julius Capitolinus, Ælius Lampridius, Vulcatius Gallicanus,
Trebellius Pollio and Flavius Vopiscus. But there is so much perplexity
in the titles of the MSS., and so many disputes have arisen among the
critics (see Fabricius, Biblioth. Latin. l. iii. c. 6) concerning their
number, their names, and their respective property, that for the most
part I have quoted them without distinction, under the general and
well-known title of the Augustan History.

Preface To The Fourth Volume Of The Original Quarto Edition.

I now discharge my promise, and complete my design, of writing the
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, both in the West
and the East. The whole period extends from the age of Trajan and the
Antonines, to the taking of Constantinople by Mahomet the Second; and
includes a review of the Crusades, and the state of Rome during the
middle ages. Since the publication of the first volume, twelve years
have elapsed; twelve years, according to my wish, "of health, of
leisure, and of perseverance." I may now congratulate my deliverance
from a long and laborious service, and my satisfaction will be pure and
perfect, if the public favor should be extended to the conclusion of my

It was my first intention to have collected, under one view, the
numerous authors, of every age and language, from whom I have derived
the materials of this history; and I am still convinced that the
apparent ostentation would be more than compensated by real use. If I
have renounced this idea, if I have declined an undertaking which had
obtained the approbation of a master-artist, * my excuse may be found
in the extreme difficulty of assigning a proper measure to such a
catalogue. A naked list of names and editions would not be satisfactory
either to myself or my readers: the characters of the principal Authors
of the Roman and Byzantine History have been occasionally connected
with the events which they describe; a more copious and critical inquiry
might indeed deserve, but it would demand, an elaborate volume, which
might swell by degrees into a general library of historical writers.
For the present, I shall content myself with renewing my serious
protestation, that I have always endeavored to draw from the
fountain-head; that my curiosity, as well as a sense of duty, has always
urged me to study the originals; and that, if they have sometimes eluded
my search, I have carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose
faith a passage or a fact were reduced to depend.

I shall soon revisit the banks of the Lake of Lausanne, a country which
I have known and loved from my early youth. Under a mild government,
amidst a beauteous landscape, in a life of leisure and independence,
and among a people of easy and elegant manners, I have enjoyed, and may
again hope to enjoy, the varied pleasures of retirement and society.
But I shall ever glory in the name and character of an Englishman: I am
proud of my birth in a free and enlightened country; and the approbation
of that country is the best and most honorable reward of my labors. Were
I ambitious of any other Patron than the Public, I would inscribe
this work to a Statesman, who, in a long, a stormy, and at length an
unfortunate administration, had many political opponents, almost
without a personal enemy; who has retained, in his fall from power,
many faithful and disinterested friends; and who, under the pressure of
severe infirmity, enjoys the lively vigor of his mind, and the felicity
of his incomparable temper. Lord North will permit me to express the
feelings of friendship in the language of truth: but even truth and
friendship should be silent, if he still dispensed the favors of the

In a remote solitude, vanity may still whisper in my ear, that my
readers, perhaps, may inquire whether, in the conclusion of the present
work, I am now taking an everlasting farewell. They shall hear all that
I know myself, and all that I could reveal to the most intimate friend.
The motives of action or silence are now equally balanced; nor can I
pronounce, in my most secret thoughts, on which side the scale will
preponderate. I cannot dissemble that six quartos must have tried,
and may have exhausted, the indulgence of the Public; that, in the
repetition of similar attempts, a successful Author has much more to
lose than he can hope to gain; that I am now descending into the vale
of years; and that the most respectable of my countrymen, the men whom
I aspire to imitate, have resigned the pen of history about the same
period of their lives. Yet I consider that the annals of ancient and
modern times may afford many rich and interesting subjects; that I am
still possessed of health and leisure; that by the practice of writing,
some skill and facility must be acquired; and that, in the ardent
pursuit of truth and knowledge, I am not conscious of decay. To an
active mind, indolence is more painful than labor; and the first months
of my liberty will be occupied and amused in the excursions of curiosity
and taste. By such temptations, I have been sometimes seduced from the
rigid duty even of a pleasing and voluntary task: but my time will now
be my own; and in the use or abuse of independence, I shall no longer
fear my own reproaches or those of my friends. I am fairly entitled to a
year of jubilee: next summer and the following winter will rapidly pass
away; and experience only can determine whether I shall still prefer the
freedom and variety of study to the design and composition of a regular
work, which animates, while it confines, the daily application of the
Author. Caprice and accident may influence my choice; but the dexterity
of self-love will contrive to applaud either active industry or
philosophic repose.

Downing Street, May 1, 1788.

P. S. I shall embrace this opportunity of introducing two verbal
remarks, which have not conveniently offered themselves to my notice.
1. As often as I use the definitions of beyond the Alps, the Rhine,
the Danube, &c., I generally suppose myself at Rome, and afterwards at
Constantinople; without observing whether this relative geography may
agree with the local, but variable, situation of the reader, or the
historian. 2. In proper names of foreign, and especially of Oriental
origin, it should be always our aim to express, in our English version,
a faithful copy of the original. But this rule, which is founded on
a just regard to uniformity and truth, must often be relaxed; and the
exceptions will be limited or enlarged by the custom of the language and
the taste of the interpreter. Our alphabets may be often defective; a
harsh sound, an uncouth spelling, might offend the ear or the eye of our
countrymen; and some words, notoriously corrupt, are fixed, and, as
it were, naturalized in the vulgar tongue. The prophet Mohammed can
no longer be stripped of the famous, though improper, appellation of
Mahomet: the well-known cities of Aleppo, Damascus, and Cairo, would
almost be lost in the strange descriptions of Haleb, Demashk, and Al
Cahira: the titles and offices of the Ottoman empire are fashioned by
the practice of three hundred years; and we are pleased to blend the
three Chinese monosyllables, Con-fû-tzee, in the respectable name of
Confucius, or even to adopt the Portuguese corruption of Mandarin. But
I would vary the use of Zoroaster and Zerdusht, as I drew my information
from Greece or Persia: since our connection with India, the genuine
Timour is restored to the throne of Tamerlane: our most correct writers
have retrenched the Al, the superfluous article, from the Koran; and we
escape an ambiguous termination, by adopting Moslem instead of Musulman,
in the plural number. In these, and in a thousand examples, the shades
of distinction are often minute; and I can feel, where I cannot explain,
the motives of my choice.

Chapter I: The Extent Of The Empire In The Age Of The Antoninies.--Part I.

     Introduction--The Extent And Military Force Of The Empire In
     The Age Of The Antonines.

In the second century of the Christian Æra, the empire of Rome
comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilized
portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were
guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valor. The gentle but powerful
influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the
provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages
of wealth and luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved
with decent reverence: the Roman senate appeared to possess the
sovereign authority, and devolved on the emperors all the executive
powers of government. During a happy period of more than fourscore
years, the public administration was conducted by the virtue and
abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. It is the
design of this, and of the two succeeding chapters, to describe the
prosperous condition of their empire; and after wards, from the death
of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its
decline and fall; a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is
still felt by the nations of the earth.

The principal conquests of the Romans were achieved under the republic;
and the emperors, for the most part, were satisfied with preserving
those dominions which had been acquired by the policy of the senate,
the active emulations of the consuls, and the martial enthusiasm of the
people. The seven first centuries were filled with a rapid succession of
triumphs; but it was reserved for Augustus to relinquish the ambitious
design of subduing the whole earth, and to introduce a spirit of
moderation into the public councils. Inclined to peace by his temper
and situation, it was easy for him to discover that Rome, in her present
exalted situation, had much less to hope than to fear from the chance
of arms; and that, in the prosecution of remote wars, the undertaking
became every day more difficult, the event more doubtful, and the
possession more precarious, and less beneficial. The experience of
Augustus added weight to these salutary reflections, and effectually
convinced him that, by the prudent vigor of his counsels, it would be
easy to secure every concession which the safety or the dignity of Rome
might require from the most formidable barbarians. Instead of exposing
his person and his legions to the arrows of the Parthians, he obtained,
by an honorable treaty, the restitution of the standards and prisoners
which had been taken in the defeat of Crassus.

His generals, in the early part of his reign, attempted the reduction
of Ethiopia and Arabia Felix. They marched near a thousand miles to
the south of the tropic; but the heat of the climate soon repelled the
invaders, and protected the un-warlike natives of those sequestered
regions. The northern countries of Europe scarcely deserved the expense
and labor of conquest. The forests and morasses of Germany were filled
with a hardy race of barbarians, who despised life when it was separated
from freedom; and though, on the first attack, they seemed to yield to
the weight of the Roman power, they soon, by a signal act of despair,
regained their independence, and reminded Augustus of the vicissitude of
fortune. On the death of that emperor, his testament was publicly read
in the senate. He bequeathed, as a valuable legacy to his successors,
the advice of confining the empire within those limits which nature
seemed to have placed as its permanent bulwarks and boundaries: on
the west, the Atlantic Ocean; the Rhine and Danube on the north; the
Euphrates on the east; and towards the south, the sandy deserts of
Arabia and Africa.

Happily for the repose of mankind, the moderate system recommended
by the wisdom of Augustus, was adopted by the fears and vices of his
immediate successors. Engaged in the pursuit of pleasure, or in the
exercise of tyranny, the first Cæsars seldom showed themselves to the
armies, or to the provinces; nor were they disposed to suffer, that
those triumphs which their indolence neglected, should be usurped by the
conduct and valor of their lieutenants. The military fame of a subject
was considered as an insolent invasion of the Imperial prerogative;
and it became the duty, as well as interest, of every Roman general, to
guard the frontiers intrusted to his care, without aspiring to conquests
which might have proved no less fatal to himself than to the vanquished

The only accession which the Roman empire received, during the first
century of the Christian Æra, was the province of Britain. In this
single instance, the successors of Cæsar and Augustus were persuaded to
follow the example of the former, rather than the precept of the latter.
The proximity of its situation to the coast of Gaul seemed to invite
their arms; the pleasing though doubtful intelligence of a pearl
fishery, attracted their avarice; and as Britain was viewed in the light
of a distinct and insulated world, the conquest scarcely formed any
exception to the general system of continental measures. After a war of
about forty years, undertaken by the most stupid, maintained by the most
dissolute, and terminated by the most timid of all the emperors, the
far greater part of the island submitted to the Roman yoke. The various
tribes of Britain possessed valor without conduct, and the love of
freedom without the spirit of union. They took up arms with savage
fierceness; they laid them down, or turned them against each other, with
wild inconsistency; and while they fought singly, they were successively
subdued. Neither the fortitude of Caractacus, nor the despair of
Boadicea, nor the fanaticism of the Druids, could avert the slavery of
their country, or resist the steady progress of the Imperial generals,
who maintained the national glory, when the throne was disgraced by the
weakest, or the most vicious of mankind. At the very time when Domitian,
confined to his palace, felt the terrors which he inspired, his legions,
under the command of the virtuous Agricola, defeated the collected force
of the Caledonians, at the foot of the Grampian Hills; and his fleets,
venturing to explore an unknown and dangerous navigation, displayed the
Roman arms round every part of the island. The conquest of Britain was
considered as already achieved; and it was the design of Agricola to
complete and insure his success, by the easy reduction of Ireland, for
which, in his opinion, one legion and a few auxiliaries were sufficient.
The western isle might be improved into a valuable possession, and
the Britons would wear their chains with the less reluctance, if the
prospect and example of freedom were on every side removed from before
their eyes.

But the superior merit of Agricola soon occasioned his removal from the
government of Britain; and forever disappointed this rational, though
extensive scheme of conquest. Before his departure, the prudent general
had provided for security as well as for dominion. He had observed,
that the island is almost divided into two unequal parts by the opposite
gulfs, or, as they are now called, the Friths of Scotland. Across the
narrow interval of about forty miles, he had drawn a line of military
stations, which was afterwards fortified, in the reign of Antoninus
Pius, by a turf rampart, erected on foundations of stone. This wall of
Antoninus, at a small distance beyond the modern cities of Edinburgh
and Glasgow, was fixed as the limit of the Roman province. The native
Caledonians preserved, in the northern extremity of the island, their
wild independence, for which they were not less indebted to their
poverty than to their valor. Their incursions were frequently repelled
and chastised; but their country was never subdued. The masters of the
fairest and most wealthy climates of the globe turned with contempt from
gloomy hills, assailed by the winter tempest, from lakes concealed in a
blue mist, and from cold and lonely heaths, over which the deer of the
forest were chased by a troop of naked barbarians.

Such was the state of the Roman frontiers, and such the maxims of
Imperial policy, from the death of Augustus to the accession of Trajan.
That virtuous and active prince had received the education of a soldier,
and possessed the talents of a general. The peaceful system of his
predecessors was interrupted by scenes of war and conquest; and the
legions, after a long interval, beheld a military emperor at their head.
The first exploits of Trajan were against the Dacians, the most warlike
of men, who dwelt beyond the Danube, and who, during the reign of
Domitian, had insulted, with impunity, the Majesty of Rome. To the
strength and fierceness of barbarians they added a contempt for
life, which was derived from a warm persuasion of the immortality and
transmigration of the soul. Decebalus, the Dacian king, approved himself
a rival not unworthy of Trajan; nor did he despair of his own and the
public fortune, till, by the confession of his enemies, he had exhausted
every resource both of valor and policy. This memorable war, with a very
short suspension of hostilities, lasted five years; and as the emperor
could exert, without control, the whole force of the state, it was
terminated by an absolute submission of the barbarians. The new province
of Dacia, which formed a second exception to the precept of Augustus,
was about thirteen hundred miles in circumference. Its natural
boundaries were the Niester, the Teyss or Tibiscus, the Lower Danube,
and the Euxine Sea. The vestiges of a military road may still be traced
from the banks of the Danube to the neighborhood of Bender, a place
famous in modern history, and the actual frontier of the Turkish and
Russian empires.

Trajan was ambitious of fame; and as long as mankind shall continue
to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their
benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the
most exalted characters. The praises of Alexander, transmitted by a
succession of poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation in
the mind of Trajan. Like him, the Roman emperor undertook an expedition
against the nations of the East; but he lamented with a sigh, that his
advanced age scarcely left him any hopes of equalling the renown of the
son of Philip. Yet the success of Trajan, however transient, was rapid
and specious. The degenerate Parthians, broken by intestine discord,
fled before his arms. He descended the River Tigris in triumph, from the
mountains of Armenia to the Persian Gulf. He enjoyed the honor of being
the first, as he was the last, of the Roman generals, who ever navigated
that remote sea. His fleets ravaged the coast of Arabia; and Trajan
vainly flattered himself that he was approaching towards the confines of
India. Every day the astonished senate received the intelligence of new
names and new nations, that acknowledged his sway. They were informed
that the kings of Bosphorus, Colchos, Iberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and
even the Parthian monarch himself, had accepted their diadems from the
hands of the emperor; that the independent tribes of the Median
and Carduchian hills had implored his protection; and that the rich
countries of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, were reduced into the
state of provinces. But the death of Trajan soon clouded the splendid
prospect; and it was justly to be dreaded, that so many distant
nations would throw off the unaccustomed yoke, when they were no longer
restrained by the powerful hand which had imposed it.

Chapter I: The Extent Of The Empire In The Age Of The Antoninies.--Part

It was an ancient tradition, that when the Capitol was founded by one of
the Roman kings, the god Terminus (who presided over boundaries, and
was represented, according to the fashion of that age, by a large stone)
alone, among all the inferior deities, refused to yield his place to
Jupiter himself. A favorable inference was drawn from his obstinacy,
which was interpreted by the augurs as a sure presage that the
boundaries of the Roman power would never recede. During many ages, the
prediction, as it is usual, contributed to its own accomplishment. But
though Terminus had resisted the Majesty of Jupiter, he submitted to
the authority of the emperor Hadrian. The resignation of all the eastern
conquests of Trajan was the first measure of his reign. He restored to
the Parthians the election of an independent sovereign; withdrew the
Roman garrisons from the provinces of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria;
and, in compliance with the precept of Augustus, once more established
the Euphrates as the frontier of the empire. Censure, which arraigns the
public actions and the private motives of princes, has ascribed to envy,
a conduct which might be attributed to the prudence and moderation of
Hadrian. The various character of that emperor, capable, by turns, of
the meanest and the most generous sentiments, may afford some color
to the suspicion. It was, however, scarcely in his power to place the
superiority of his predecessor in a more conspicuous light, than by thus
confessing himself unequal to the task of defending the conquests of

The martial and ambitious of spirit Trajan formed a very singular
contrast with the moderation of his successor. The restless activity of
Hadrian was not less remarkable when compared with the gentle repose of
Antoninus Pius. The life of the former was almost a perpetual journey;
and as he possessed the various talents of the soldier, the statesman,
and the scholar, he gratified his curiosity in the discharge of his
duty. Careless of the difference of seasons and of climates, he marched
on foot, and bare-headed, over the snows of Caledonia, and the sultry
plains of the Upper Egypt; nor was there a province of the empire which,
in the course of his reign, was not honored with the presence of the
monarch. But the tranquil life of Antoninus Pius was spent in the bosom
of Italy, and, during the twenty-three years that he directed the public
administration, the longest journeys of that amiable prince extended no
farther than from his palace in Rome to the retirement of his Lanuvian

Notwithstanding this difference in their personal conduct, the general
system of Augustus was equally adopted and uniformly pursued by Hadrian
and by the two Antonines. They persisted in the design of maintaining
the dignity of the empire, without attempting to enlarge its limits. By
every honorable expedient they invited the friendship of the barbarians;
and endeavored to convince mankind that the Roman power, raised above
the temptation of conquest, was actuated only by the love of order
and justice. During a long period of forty-three years, their virtuous
labors were crowned with success; and if we except a few slight
hostilities, that served to exercise the legions of the frontier,
the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius offer the fair prospect of
universal peace. The Roman name was revered among the most remote
nations of the earth. The fiercest barbarians frequently submitted their
differences to the arbitration of the emperor; and we are informed by a
contemporary historian that he had seen ambassadors who were refused
the honor which they came to solicit of being admitted into the rank of

The terror of the Roman arms added weight and dignity to the moderation
of the emperors. They preserved peace by a constant preparation for war;
and while justice regulated their conduct, they announced to the nations
on their confines, that they were as little disposed to endure, as to
offer an injury. The military strength, which it had been sufficient
for Hadrian and the elder Antoninus to display, was exerted against the
Parthians and the Germans by the emperor Marcus. The hostilities of the
barbarians provoked the resentment of that philosophic monarch, and, in
the prosecution of a just defence, Marcus and his generals obtained many
signal victories, both on the Euphrates and on the Danube. The military
establishment of the Roman empire, which thus assured either its
tranquillity or success, will now become the proper and important object
of our attention.

In the purer ages of the commonwealth, the use of arms was reserved for
those ranks of citizens who had a country to love, a property to defend,
and some share in enacting those laws, which it was their interest as
well as duty to maintain. But in proportion as the public freedom was
lost in extent of conquest, war was gradually improved into an art, and
degraded into a trade. The legions themselves, even at the time when
they were recruited in the most distant provinces, were supposed to
consist of Roman citizens. That distinction was generally considered,
either as a legal qualification or as a proper recompense for the
soldier; but a more serious regard was paid to the essential merit of
age, strength, and military stature. In all levies, a just preference
was given to the climates of the North over those of the South: the race
of men born to the exercise of arms was sought for in the country rather
than in cities; and it was very reasonably presumed, that the hardy
occupations of smiths, carpenters, and huntsmen, would supply more
vigor and resolution than the sedentary trades which are employed in the
service of luxury. After every qualification of property had been laid
aside, the armies of the Roman emperors were still commanded, for the
most part, by officers of liberal birth and education; but the common
soldiers, like the mercenary troops of modern Europe, were drawn from
the meanest, and very frequently from the most profligate, of mankind.

That public virtue, which among the ancients was denominated patriotism,
is derived from a strong sense of our own interest in the preservation
and prosperity of the free government of which we are members. Such
a sentiment, which had rendered the legions of the republic almost
invincible, could make but a very feeble impression on the mercenary
servants of a despotic prince; and it became necessary to supply
that defect by other motives, of a different, but not less forcible
nature--honor and religion. The peasant, or mechanic, imbibed the useful
prejudice that he was advanced to the more dignified profession of arms,
in which his rank and reputation would depend on his own valor; and
that, although the prowess of a private soldier must often escape
the notice of fame, his own behavior might sometimes confer glory or
disgrace on the company, the legion, or even the army, to whose honors
he was associated. On his first entrance into the service, an oath was
administered to him with every circumstance of solemnity. He promised
never to desert his standard, to submit his own will to the commands of
his leaders, and to sacrifice his life for the safety of the emperor and
the empire. The attachment of the Roman troops to their standards was
inspired by the united influence of religion and of honor. The golden
eagle, which glittered in the front of the legion, was the object of
their fondest devotion; nor was it esteemed less impious than it was
ignominious, to abandon that sacred ensign in the hour of danger.
These motives, which derived their strength from the imagination, were
enforced by fears and hopes of a more substantial kind. Regular pay,
occasional donatives, and a stated recompense, after the appointed time
of service, alleviated the hardships of the military life, whilst,
on the other hand, it was impossible for cowardice or disobedience
to escape the severest punishment. The centurions were authorized to
chastise with blows, the generals had a right to punish with death;
and it was an inflexible maxim of Roman discipline, that a good soldier
should dread his officers far more than the enemy. From such laudable
arts did the valor of the Imperial troops receive a degree of firmness
and docility unattainable by the impetuous and irregular passions of

And yet so sensible were the Romans of the imperfection of valor without
skill and practice, that, in their language, the name of an army was
borrowed from the word which signified exercise. Military exercises were
the important and unremitted object of their discipline. The recruits
and young soldiers were constantly trained, both in the morning and in
the evening, nor was age or knowledge allowed to excuse the veterans
from the daily repetition of what they had completely learnt. Large
sheds were erected in the winter-quarters of the troops, that their
useful labors might not receive any interruption from the most
tempestuous weather; and it was carefully observed, that the arms
destined to this imitation of war, should be of double the weight which
was required in real action. It is not the purpose of this work to
enter into any minute description of the Roman exercises. We shall only
remark, that they comprehended whatever could add strength to the
body, activity to the limbs, or grace to the motions. The soldiers were
diligently instructed to march, to run, to leap, to swim, to carry
heavy burdens, to handle every species of arms that was used either
for offence or for defence, either in distant engagement or in a closer
onset; to form a variety of evolutions; and to move to the sound of
flutes in the Pyrrhic or martial dance. In the midst of peace, the
Roman troops familiarized themselves with the practice of war; and it is
prettily remarked by an ancient historian who had fought against them,
that the effusion of blood was the only circumstance which distinguished
a field of battle from a field of exercise. ^39 It was the policy of the
ablest generals, and even of the emperors themselves, to encourage these
military studies by their presence and example; and we are informed
that Hadrian, as well as Trajan, frequently condescended to instruct the
unexperienced soldiers, to reward the diligent, and sometimes to dispute
with them the prize of superior strength or dexterity. Under the reigns
of those princes, the science of tactics was cultivated with
success; and as long as the empire retained any vigor, their military
instructions were respected as the most perfect model of Roman

Nine centuries of war had gradually introduced into the service many
alterations and improvements. The legions, as they are described by
Polybius, in the time of the Punic wars, differed very materially from
those which achieved the victories of Cæsar, or defended the monarchy of
Hadrian and the Antonines. The constitution of the Imperial legion may
be described in a few words. The heavy-armed infantry, which composed
its principal strength, was divided into ten cohorts, and fifty-five
companies, under the orders of a correspondent number of tribunes and
centurions. The first cohort, which always claimed the post of honor
and the custody of the eagle, was formed of eleven hundred and five
soldiers, the most approved for valor and fidelity. The remaining nine
cohorts consisted each of five hundred and fifty-five; and the whole
body of legionary infantry amounted to six thousand one hundred men.
Their arms were uniform, and admirably adapted to the nature of their
service: an open helmet, with a lofty crest; a breastplate, or coat of
mail; greaves on their legs, and an ample buckler on their left arm. The
buckler was of an oblong and concave figure, four feet in length, and
two and a half in breadth, framed of a light wood, covered with a bull's
hide, and strongly guarded with plates of brass. Besides a lighter
spear, the legionary soldier grasped in his right hand the formidable
pilum, a ponderous javelin, whose utmost length was about six feet, and
which was terminated by a massy triangular point of steel of eighteen
inches. This instrument was indeed much inferior to our modern
fire-arms; since it was exhausted by a single discharge, at the distance
of only ten or twelve paces. Yet when it was launched by a firm and
skilful hand, there was not any cavalry that durst venture within its
reach, nor any shield or corselet that could sustain the impetuosity
of its weight. As soon as the Roman had darted his pilum, he drew his
sword, and rushed forwards to close with the enemy. His sword was a
short well-tempered Spanish blade, that carried a double edge, and was
alike suited to the purpose of striking or of pushing; but the soldier
was always instructed to prefer the latter use of his weapon, as his own
body remained less exposed, whilst he inflicted a more dangerous wound
on his adversary. The legion was usually drawn up eight deep; and the
regular distance of three feet was left between the files as well as
ranks. A body of troops, habituated to preserve this open order, in
a long front and a rapid charge, found themselves prepared to execute
every disposition which the circumstances of war, or the skill of their
leader, might suggest. The soldier possessed a free space for his
arms and motions, and sufficient intervals were allowed, through which
seasonable reenforcements might be introduced to the relief of the
exhausted combatants. The tactics of the Greeks and Macedonians were
formed on very different principles. The strength of the phalanx
depended on sixteen ranks of long pikes, wedged together in the closest
array. But it was soon discovered by reflection, as well as by the
event, that the strength of the phalanx was unable to contend with the
activity of the legion.

The cavalry, without which the force of the legion would have remained
imperfect, was divided into ten troops or squadrons; the first, as the
companion of the first cohort, consisted of a hundred and thirty-two
men; whilst each of the other nine amounted only to sixty-six. The
entire establishment formed a regiment, if we may use the modern
expression, of seven hundred and twenty-six horse, naturally connected
with its respective legion, but occasionally separated to act in the
line, and to compose a part of the wings of the army. The cavalry of the
emperors was no longer composed, like that of the ancient republic, of
the noblest youths of Rome and Italy, who, by performing their military
service on horseback, prepared themselves for the offices of senator and
consul; and solicited, by deeds of valor, the future suffrages of their
countrymen. Since the alteration of manners and government, the most
wealthy of the equestrian order were engaged in the administration of
justice, and of the revenue; and whenever they embraced the profession
of arms, they were immediately intrusted with a troop of horse, or a
cohort of foot. Trajan and Hadrian formed their cavalry from the same
provinces, and the same class of their subjects, which recruited the
ranks of the legion. The horses were bred, for the most part, in Spain
or Cappadocia. The Roman troopers despised the complete armor with which
the cavalry of the East was encumbered. Their more useful arms consisted
in a helmet, an oblong shield, light boots, and a coat of mail. A
javelin, and a long broad sword, were their principal weapons of
offence. The use of lances and of iron maces they seem to have borrowed
from the barbarians.

The safety and honor of the empire was principally intrusted to the
legions, but the policy of Rome condescended to adopt every useful
instrument of war. Considerable levies were regularly made among the
provincials, who had not yet deserved the honorable distinction of
Romans. Many dependent princes and communities, dispersed round the
frontiers, were permitted, for a while, to hold their freedom and
security by the tenure of military service. Even select troops of
hostile barbarians were frequently compelled or persuaded to consume
their dangerous valor in remote climates, and for the benefit of the
state. All these were included under the general name of auxiliaries;
and howsoever they might vary according to the difference of times and
circumstances, their numbers were seldom much inferior to those of the
legions themselves. Among the auxiliaries, the bravest and most faithful
bands were placed under the command of præfects and centurions, and
severely trained in the arts of Roman discipline; but the far greater
part retained those arms, to which the nature of their country, or their
early habits of life, more peculiarly adapted them. By this institution,
each legion, to whom a certain proportion of auxiliaries was allotted,
contained within itself every species of lighter troops, and of
missile weapons; and was capable of encountering every nation, with the
advantages of its respective arms and discipline. Nor was the legion
destitute of what, in modern language, would be styled a train of
artillery. It consisted in ten military engines of the largest, and
fifty-five of a smaller size; but all of which, either in an oblique
or horizontal manner, discharged stones and darts with irresistible

Chapter I: The Extent Of The Empire In The Age Of The Antoninies.--Part

The camp of a Roman legion presented the appearance of a fortified city.
As soon as the space was marked out, the pioneers carefully levelled the
ground, and removed every impediment that might interrupt its perfect
regularity. Its form was an exact quadrangle; and we may calculate, that
a square of about seven hundred yards was sufficient for the encampment
of twenty thousand Romans; though a similar number of our own troops
would expose to the enemy a front of more than treble that extent. In
the midst of the camp, the prætorium, or general's quarters, rose above
the others; the cavalry, the infantry, and the auxiliaries occupied
their respective stations; the streets were broad and perfectly
straight, and a vacant space of two hundred feet was left on all sides
between the tents and the rampart. The rampart itself was usually twelve
feet high, armed with a line of strong and intricate palisades, and
defended by a ditch of twelve feet in depth as well as in breadth.
This important labor was performed by the hands of the legionaries
themselves; to whom the use of the spade and the pickaxe was no less
familiar than that of the sword or pilum. Active valor may often be the
present of nature; but such patient diligence can be the fruit only of
habit and discipline.

Whenever the trumpet gave the signal of departure, the camp was almost
instantly broke up, and the troops fell into their ranks without
delay or confusion. Besides their arms, which the legendaries scarcely
considered as an encumbrance, they were laden with their kitchen
furniture, the instruments of fortification, and the provision of many
days. Under this weight, which would oppress the delicacy of a modern
soldier, they were trained by a regular step to advance, in about six
hours, near twenty miles. On the appearance of an enemy, they threw
aside their baggage, and by easy and rapid evolutions converted the
column of march into an order of battle. The slingers and archers
skirmished in the front; the auxiliaries formed the first line, and
were seconded or sustained by the strength of the legions; the cavalry
covered the flanks, and the military engines were placed in the rear.

Such were the arts of war, by which the Roman emperors defended their
extensive conquests, and preserved a military spirit, at a time when
every other virtue was oppressed by luxury and despotism. If, in the
consideration of their armies, we pass from their discipline to their
numbers, we shall not find it easy to define them with any tolerable
accuracy. We may compute, however, that the legion, which was itself a
body of six thousand eight hundred and thirty-one Romans, might, with
its attendant auxiliaries, amount to about twelve thousand five hundred
men. The peace establishment of Hadrian and his successors was composed
of no less than thirty of these formidable brigades; and most probably
formed a standing force of three hundred and seventy-five thousand men.
Instead of being confined within the walls of fortified cities, which
the Romans considered as the refuge of weakness or pusillanimity, the
legions were encamped on the banks of the great rivers, and along the
frontiers of the barbarians. As their stations, for the most
part, remained fixed and permanent, we may venture to describe the
distribution of the troops. Three legions were sufficient for Britain.
The principal strength lay upon the Rhine and Danube, and consisted of
sixteen legions, in the following proportions: two in the Lower, and
three in the Upper Germany; one in Rhætia, one in Noricum, four in
Pannonia, three in Mæsia, and two in Dacia. The defence of the Euphrates
was intrusted to eight legions, six of whom were planted in Syria, and
the other two in Cappadocia. With regard to Egypt, Africa, and Spain, as
they were far removed from any important scene of war, a single legion
maintained the domestic tranquillity of each of those great provinces.
Even Italy was not left destitute of a military force. Above twenty
thousand chosen soldiers, distinguished by the titles of City Cohorts
and Prætorian Guards, watched over the safety of the monarch and the
capital. As the authors of almost every revolution that distracted the
empire, the Prætorians will, very soon, and very loudly, demand our
attention; but, in their arms and institutions, we cannot find any
circumstance which discriminated them from the legions, unless it were a
more splendid appearance, and a less rigid discipline.

The navy maintained by the emperors might seem inadequate to their
greatness; but it was fully sufficient for every useful purpose of
government. The ambition of the Romans was confined to the land; nor was
that warlike people ever actuated by the enterprising spirit which had
prompted the navigators of Tyre, of Carthage, and even of Marseilles, to
enlarge the bounds of the world, and to explore the most remote coasts
of the ocean. To the Romans the ocean remained an object of terror
rather than of curiosity; the whole extent of the Mediterranean, after
the destruction of Carthage, and the extirpation of the pirates, was
included within their provinces. The policy of the emperors was directed
only to preserve the peaceful dominion of that sea, and to protect
the commerce of their subjects. With these moderate views, Augustus
stationed two permanent fleets in the most convenient ports of Italy,
the one at Ravenna, on the Adriatic, the other at Misenum, in the Bay of
Naples. Experience seems at length to have convinced the ancients, that
as soon as their galleys exceeded two, or at the most three ranks of
oars, they were suited rather for vain pomp than for real service.
Augustus himself, in the victory of Actium, had seen the superiority of
his own light frigates (they were called Liburnians) over the lofty but
unwieldy castles of his rival. Of these Liburnians he composed the two
fleets of Ravenna and Misenum, destined to command, the one the eastern,
the other the western division of the Mediterranean; and to each of the
squadrons he attached a body of several thousand marines. Besides these
two ports, which may be considered as the principal seats of the Roman
navy, a very considerable force was stationed at Frejus, on the coast of
Provence, and the Euxine was guarded by forty ships, and three
thousand soldiers. To all these we add the fleet which preserved the
communication between Gaul and Britain, and a great number of vessels
constantly maintained on the Rhine and Danube, to harass the country,
or to intercept the passage of the barbarians. If we review this general
state of the Imperial forces; of the cavalry as well as infantry; of
the legions, the auxiliaries, the guards, and the navy; the most liberal
computation will not allow us to fix the entire establishment by sea
and by land at more than four hundred and fifty thousand men: a military
power, which, however formidable it may seem, was equalled by a monarch
of the last century, whose kingdom was confined within a single province
of the Roman empire.

We have attempted to explain the spirit which moderated, and the
strength which supported, the power of Hadrian and the Antonines.
We shall now endeavor, with clearness and precision, to describe the
provinces once united under their sway, but, at present, divided into so
many independent and hostile states.

Spain, the western extremity of the empire, of Europe, and of the
ancient world, has, in every age, invariably preserved the same natural
limits; the Pyrenæan Mountains, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic
Ocean. That great peninsula, at present so unequally divided between two
sovereigns, was distributed by Augustus into three provinces, Lusitania,
Bætica, and Tarraconensis. The kingdom of Portugal now fills the place
of the warlike country of the Lusitanians; and the loss sustained by
the former on the side of the East, is compensated by an accession
of territory towards the North. The confines of Grenada and Andalusia
correspond with those of ancient Bætica. The remainder of Spain,
Gallicia, and the Asturias, Biscay, and Navarre, Leon, and the two
Castiles, Murcia, Valencia, Catalonia, and Arragon, all contributed to
form the third and most considerable of the Roman governments, which,
from the name of its capital, was styled the province of Tarragona. Of
the native barbarians, the Celtiberians were the most powerful, as the
Cantabrians and Asturians proved the most obstinate. Confident in the
strength of their mountains, they were the last who submitted to the
arms of Rome, and the first who threw off the yoke of the Arabs.

Ancient Gaul, as it contained the whole country between the Pyrenees,
the Alps, the Rhine, and the Ocean, was of greater extent than modern
France. To the dominions of that powerful monarchy, with its recent
acquisitions of Alsace and Lorraine, we must add the duchy of Savoy,
the cantons of Switzerland, the four electorates of the Rhine, and the
territories of Liege, Luxemburgh, Hainault, Flanders, and Brabant.
When Augustus gave laws to the conquests of his father, he introduced a
division of Gaul, equally adapted to the progress of the legions, to the
course of the rivers, and to the principal national distinctions, which
had comprehended above a hundred independent states. The sea-coast of
the Mediterranean, Languedoc, Provence, and Dauphine, received their
provincial appellation from the colony of Narbonne. The government
of Aquitaine was extended from the Pyrenees to the Loire. The country
between the Loire and the Seine was styled the Celtic Gaul, and soon
borrowed a new denomination from the celebrated colony of Lugdunum, or
Lyons. The Belgic lay beyond the Seine, and in more ancient times had
been bounded only by the Rhine; but a little before the age of Cæsar,
the Germans, abusing their superiority of valor, had occupied a
considerable portion of the Belgic territory. The Roman conquerors very
eagerly embraced so flattering a circumstance, and the Gallic frontier
of the Rhine, from Basil to Leyden, received the pompous names of the
Upper and the Lower Germany. Such, under the reign of the Antonines,
were the six provinces of Gaul; the Narbonnese, Aquitaine, the Celtic,
or Lyonnese, the Belgic, and the two Germanies.

We have already had occasion to mention the conquest of Britain, and to
fix the boundary of the Roman Province in this island. It comprehended
all England, Wales, and the Lowlands of Scotland, as far as the Friths
of Dumbarton and Edinburgh. Before Britain lost her freedom, the country
was irregularly divided between thirty tribes of barbarians, of whom
the most considerable were the Belgæ in the West, the Brigantes in the
North, the Silures in South Wales, and the Iceni in Norfolk and Suffolk.
As far as we can either trace or credit the resemblance of manners and
language, Spain, Gaul, and Britain were peopled by the same hardy race
of savages. Before they yielded to the Roman arms, they often disputed
the field, and often renewed the contest. After their submission,
they constituted the western division of the European provinces, which
extended from the columns of Hercules to the wall of Antoninus, and from
the mouth of the Tagus to the sources of the Rhine and Danube.

Before the Roman conquest, the country which is now called Lombardy, was
not considered as a part of Italy. It had been occupied by a powerful
colony of Gauls, who, settling themselves along the banks of the Po,
from Piedmont to Romagna, carried their arms and diffused their name
from the Alps to the Apennine. The Ligurians dwelt on the rocky coast
which now forms the republic of Genoa. Venice was yet unborn; but the
territories of that state, which lie to the east of the Adige, were
inhabited by the Venetians. The middle part of the peninsula, that now
composes the duchy of Tuscany and the ecclesiastical state, was the
ancient seat of the Etruscans and Umbrians; to the former of whom Italy
was indebted for the first rudiments of civilized life. The Tyber rolled
at the foot of the seven hills of Rome, and the country of the Sabines,
the Latins, and the Volsci, from that river to the frontiers of Naples,
was the theatre of her infant victories. On that celebrated ground the
first consuls deserved triumphs, their successors adorned villas, and
their posterity have erected convents. Capua and Campania possessed the
immediate territory of Naples; the rest of the kingdom was inhabited
by many warlike nations, the Marsi, the Samnites, the Apulians, and
the Lucanians; and the sea-coasts had been covered by the flourishing
colonies of the Greeks. We may remark, that when Augustus divided Italy
into eleven regions, the little province of Istria was annexed to that
seat of Roman sovereignty.

The European provinces of Rome were protected by the course of the Rhine
and the Danube. The latter of those mighty streams, which rises at the
distance of only thirty miles from the former, flows above thirteen
hundred miles, for the most part to the south-east, collects the tribute
of sixty navigable rivers, and is, at length, through six mouths,
received into the Euxine, which appears scarcely equal to such an
accession of waters. The provinces of the Danube soon acquired the
general appellation of Illyricum, or the Illyrian frontier, and were
esteemed the most warlike of the empire; but they deserve to be more
particularly considered under the names of Rhætia, Noricum, Pannonia,
Dalmatia, Dacia, Mæsia, Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece.

The province of Rhætia, which soon extinguished the name of the
Vindelicians, extended from the summit of the Alps to the banks of
the Danube; from its source, as far as its conflux with the Inn. The
greatest part of the flat country is subject to the elector of Bavaria;
the city of Augsburg is protected by the constitution of the German
empire; the Grisons are safe in their mountains, and the country of
Tirol is ranked among the numerous provinces of the house of Austria.

The wide extent of territory which is included between the Inn, the
Danube, and the Save,--Austria, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, the Lower
Hungary, and Sclavonia,--was known to the ancients under the names of
Noricum and Pannonia. In their original state of independence, their
fierce inhabitants were intimately connected. Under the Roman government
they were frequently united, and they still remain the patrimony of a
single family. They now contain the residence of a German prince, who
styles himself Emperor of the Romans, and form the centre, as well as
strength, of the Austrian power. It may not be improper to observe, that
if we except Bohemia, Moravia, the northern skirts of Austria, and
a part of Hungary between the Teyss and the Danube, all the other
dominions of the House of Austria were comprised within the limits of
the Roman Empire.

Dalmatia, to which the name of Illyricum more properly belonged, was a
long, but narrow tract, between the Save and the Adriatic. The best
part of the sea-coast, which still retains its ancient appellation, is
a province of the Venetian state, and the seat of the little republic
of Ragusa. The inland parts have assumed the Sclavonian names of Croatia
and Bosnia; the former obeys an Austrian governor, the latter a Turkish
pacha; but the whole country is still infested by tribes of barbarians,
whose savage independence irregularly marks the doubtful limit of the
Christian and Mahometan power.

After the Danube had received the waters of the Teyss and the Save,
it acquired, at least among the Greeks, the name of Ister. It formerly
divided Mæsia and Dacia, the latter of which, as we have already seen,
was a conquest of Trajan, and the only province beyond the river. If we
inquire into the present state of those countries, we shall find that,
on the left hand of the Danube, Temeswar and Transylvania have been
annexed, after many revolutions, to the crown of Hungary; whilst the
principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia acknowledge the supremacy of
the Ottoman Porte. On the right hand of the Danube, Mæsia, which, during
the middle ages, was broken into the barbarian kingdoms of Servia and
Bulgaria, is again united in Turkish slavery.

The appellation of Roumelia, which is still bestowed by the Turks on
the extensive countries of Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece, preserves the
memory of their ancient state under the Roman empire. In the time of the
Antonines, the martial regions of Thrace, from the mountains of Hæmus
and Rhodope, to the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, had assumed the form
of a province. Notwithstanding the change of masters and of religion,
the new city of Rome, founded by Constantine on the banks of the
Bosphorus, has ever since remained the capital of a great monarchy. The
kingdom of Macedonia, which, under the reign of Alexander, gave laws to
Asia, derived more solid advantages from the policy of the two Philips;
and with its dependencies of Epirus and Thessaly, extended from the
Ægean to the Ionian Sea. When we reflect on the fame of Thebes and
Argos, of Sparta and Athens, we can scarcely persuade ourselves, that so
many immortal republics of ancient Greece were lost in a single province
of the Roman empire, which, from the superior influence of the Achæan
league, was usually denominated the province of Achaia.

Such was the state of Europe under the Roman emperors. The provinces
of Asia, without excepting the transient conquests of Trajan, are all
comprehended within the limits of the Turkish power. But, instead of
following the arbitrary divisions of despotism and ignorance, it will
be safer for us, as well as more agreeable, to observe the indelible
characters of nature. The name of Asia Minor is attributed with some
propriety to the peninsula, which, confined betwixt the Euxine and the
Mediterranean, advances from the Euphrates towards Europe. The most
extensive and flourishing district, westward of Mount Taurus and the
River Halys, was dignified by the Romans with the exclusive title
of Asia. The jurisdiction of that province extended over the ancient
monarchies of Troy, Lydia, and Phrygia, the maritime countries of the
Pamphylians, Lycians, and Carians, and the Grecian colonies of Ionia,
which equalled in arts, though not in arms, the glory of their parent.
The kingdoms of Bithynia and Pontus possessed the northern side of the
peninsula from Constantinople to Trebizond. On the opposite side, the
province of Cilicia was terminated by the mountains of Syria: the inland
country, separated from the Roman Asia by the River Halys, and from
Armenia by the Euphrates, had once formed the independent kingdom of
Cappadocia. In this place we may observe, that the northern shores of
the Euxine, beyond Trebizond in Asia, and beyond the Danube in Europe,
acknowledged the sovereignty of the emperors, and received at their
hands either tributary princes or Roman garrisons. Budzak, Crim Tartary,
Circassia, and Mingrelia, are the modern appellations of those savage

Under the successors of Alexander, Syria was the seat of the Seleucidæ,
who reigned over Upper Asia, till the successful revolt of the Parthians
confined their dominions between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean.
When Syria became subject to the Romans, it formed the eastern frontier
of their empire: nor did that province, in its utmost latitude, know any
other bounds than the mountains of Cappadocia to the north, and towards
the south, the confines of Egypt, and the Red Sea. Phoenicia and
Palestine were sometimes annexed to, and sometimes separated from, the
jurisdiction of Syria. The former of these was a narrow and rocky
coast; the latter was a territory scarcely superior to Wales, either in
fertility or extent. * Yet Phoenicia and Palestine will forever live in
the memory of mankind; since America, as well as Europe, has received
letters from the one, and religion from the other. A sandy desert, alike
destitute of wood and water, skirts along the doubtful confine of Syria,
from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. The wandering life of the Arabs was
inseparably connected with their independence; and wherever, on some
spots less barren than the rest, they ventured to for many settled
habitations, they soon became subjects to the Roman empire.

The geographers of antiquity have frequently hesitated to what portion
of the globe they should ascribe Egypt. By its situation that celebrated
kingdom is included within the immense peninsula of Africa; but it is
accessible only on the side of Asia, whose revolutions, in almost every
period of history, Egypt has humbly obeyed. A Roman præfect was seated
on the splendid throne of the Ptolemies; and the iron sceptre of the
Mamelukes is now in the hands of a Turkish pacha. The Nile flows down
the country, above five hundred miles from the tropic of Cancer to the
Mediterranean, and marks on either side of the extent of fertility by
the measure of its inundations. Cyrene, situate towards the west, and
along the sea-coast, was first a Greek colony, afterwards a province of
Egypt, and is now lost in the desert of Barca. *

From Cyrene to the ocean, the coast of Africa extends above fifteen
hundred miles; yet so closely is it pressed between the Mediterranean
and the Sahara, or sandy desert, that its breadth seldom exceeds
fourscore or a hundred miles. The eastern division was considered by
the Romans as the more peculiar and proper province of Africa. Till the
arrival of the Phnician colonies, that fertile country was inhabited
by the Libyans, the most savage of mankind. Under the immediate
jurisdiction of Carthage, it became the centre of commerce and empire;
but the republic of Carthage is now degenerated into the feeble and
disorderly states of Tripoli and Tunis. The military government of
Algiers oppresses the wide extent of Numidia, as it was once united
under Massinissa and Jugurtha; but in the time of Augustus, the limits
of Numidia were contracted; and, at least, two thirds of the country
acquiesced in the name of Mauritania, with the epithet of Cæsariensis.
The genuine Mauritania, or country of the Moors, which, from the ancient
city of Tingi, or Tangier, was distinguished by the appellation of
Tingitana, is represented by the modern kingdom of Fez. Salle, on
the Ocean, so infamous at present for its piratical depredations, was
noticed by the Romans, as the extreme object of their power, and almost
of their geography. A city of their foundation may still be discovered
near Mequinez, the residence of the barbarian whom we condescend to
style the Emperor of Morocco; but it does not appear, that his
more southern dominions, Morocco itself, and Segelmessa, were ever
comprehended within the Roman province. The western parts of Africa are
intersected by the branches of Mount Atlas, a name so idly celebrated
by the fancy of poets; but which is now diffused over the immense ocean
that rolls between the ancient and the new continent.

Having now finished the circuit of the Roman empire, we may observe,
that Africa is divided from Spain by a narrow strait of about twelve
miles, through which the Atlantic flows into the Mediterranean. The
columns of Hercules, so famous among the ancients, were two mountains
which seemed to have been torn asunder by some convulsion of the
elements; and at the foot of the European mountain, the fortress of
Gibraltar is now seated. The whole extent of the Mediterranean Sea, its
coasts and its islands, were comprised within the Roman dominion. Of the
larger islands, the two Baleares, which derive their name of Majorca and
Minorca from their respective size, are subject at present, the former
to Spain, the latter to Great Britain. * It is easier to deplore the
fate, than to describe the actual condition, of Corsica. Two Italian
sovereigns assume a regal title from Sardinia and Sicily. Crete, or
Candia, with Cyprus, and most of the smaller islands of Greece and Asia,
have been subdued by the Turkish arms, whilst the little rock of
Malta defies their power, and has emerged, under the government of its
military Order, into fame and opulence.

This long enumeration of provinces, whose broken fragments have formed
so many powerful kingdoms, might almost induce us to forgive the vanity
or ignorance of the ancients. Dazzled with the extensive sway, the
irresistible strength, and the real or affected moderation of the
emperors, they permitted themselves to despise, and sometimes to
forget, the outlying countries which had been left in the enjoyment of
a barbarous independence; and they gradually usurped the license of
confounding the Roman monarchy with the globe of the earth. But the
temper, as well as knowledge, of a modern historian, require a more
sober and accurate language. He may impress a juster image of the
greatness of Rome, by observing that the empire was above two thousand
miles in breadth, from the wall of Antoninus and the northern limits
of Dacia, to Mount Atlas and the tropic of Cancer; that it extended
in length more than three thousand miles from the Western Ocean to the
Euphrates; that it was situated in the finest part of the Temperate
Zone, between the twenty-fourth and fifty-sixth degrees of northern
latitude; and that it was supposed to contain above sixteen hundred
thousand square miles, for the most part of fertile and well-cultivated

Chapter II: The Internal Prosperity In The Age Of The Antonines.--Part

Of The Union And Internal Prosperity Of The Roman Empire, In The Age Of
The Antonines.

It is not alone by the rapidity, or extent of conquest, that we should
estimate the greatness of Rome. The sovereign of the Russian deserts
commands a larger portion of the globe. In the seventh summer after his
passage of the Hellespont, Alexander erected the Macedonian trophies on
the banks of the Hyphasis. Within less than a century, the irresistible
Zingis, and the Mogul princes of his race, spread their cruel
devastations and transient empire from the Sea of China, to the confines
of Egypt and Germany. But the firm edifice of Roman power was raised and
preserved by the wisdom of ages. The obedient provinces of Trajan and
the Antonines were united by laws, and adorned by arts. They might
occasionally suffer from the partial abuse of delegated authority; but
the general principle of government was wise, simple, and beneficent.
They enjoyed the religion of their ancestors, whilst in civil honors and
advantages they were exalted, by just degrees, to an equality with their

I. The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned
religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened,
and by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The
various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were
all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher,
as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus
toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious

The superstition of the people was not imbittered by any mixture of
theological rancor; nor was it confined by the chains of any speculative
system. The devout polytheist, though fondly attached to his national
rites, admitted with implicit faith the different religions of the
earth. Fear, gratitude, and curiosity, a dream or an omen, a singular
disorder, or a distant journey, perpetually disposed him to multiply the
articles of his belief, and to enlarge the list of his protectors. The
thin texture of the Pagan mythology was interwoven with various but not
discordant materials. As soon as it was allowed that sages and heroes,
who had lived or who had died for the benefit of their country,
were exalted to a state of power and immortality, it was universally
confessed, that they deserved, if not the adoration, at least the
reverence, of all mankind. The deities of a thousand groves and a
thousand streams possessed, in peace, their local and respective
influence; nor could the Romans who deprecated the wrath of the Tiber,
deride the Egyptian who presented his offering to the beneficent genius
of the Nile. The visible powers of nature, the planets, and the elements
were the same throughout the universe. The invisible governors of the
moral world were inevitably cast in a similar mould of fiction
and allegory. Every virtue, and even vice, acquired its divine
representative; every art and profession its patron, whose attributes,
in the most distant ages and countries, were uniformly derived from
the character of their peculiar votaries. A republic of gods of such
opposite tempers and interests required, in every system, the moderating
hand of a supreme magistrate, who, by the progress of knowledge and
flattery, was gradually invested with the sublime perfections of an
Eternal Parent, and an Omnipotent Monarch. Such was the mild spirit of
antiquity, that the nations were less attentive to the difference, than
to the resemblance, of their religious worship. The Greek, the Roman,
and the Barbarian, as they met before their respective altars, easily
persuaded themselves, that under various names, and with various
ceremonies, they adored the same deities. The elegant mythology of Homer
gave a beautiful, and almost a regular form, to the polytheism of the
ancient world.

The philosophers of Greece deduced their morals from the nature of man,
rather than from that of God. They meditated, however, on the Divine
Nature, as a very curious and important speculation; and in the
profound inquiry, they displayed the strength and weakness of the human
understanding. Of the four most celebrated schools, the Stoics and the
Platonists endeavored to reconcile the jaring interests of reason and
piety. They have left us the most sublime proofs of the existence and
perfections of the first cause; but, as it was impossible for them to
conceive the creation of matter, the workman in the Stoic philosophy was
not sufficiently distinguished from the work; whilst, on the contrary,
the spiritual God of Plato and his disciples resembled an idea, rather
than a substance. The opinions of the Academics and Epicureans were of a
less religious cast; but whilst the modest science of the former induced
them to doubt, the positive ignorance of the latter urged them to deny,
the providence of a Supreme Ruler. The spirit of inquiry, prompted by
emulation, and supported by freedom, had divided the public teachers of
philosophy into a variety of contending sects; but the ingenious
youth, who, from every part, resorted to Athens, and the other seats of
learning in the Roman empire, were alike instructed in every school to
reject and to despise the religion of the multitude. How, indeed, was
it possible that a philosopher should accept, as divine truths, the idle
tales of the poets, and the incoherent traditions of antiquity; or
that he should adore, as gods, those imperfect beings whom he must have
despised, as men? Against such unworthy adversaries, Cicero condescended
to employ the arms of reason and eloquence; but the satire of Lucian
was a much more adequate, as well as more efficacious, weapon. We may be
well assured, that a writer, conversant with the world, would never have
ventured to expose the gods of his country to public ridicule, had they
not already been the objects of secret contempt among the polished and
enlightened orders of society.

Notwithstanding the fashionable irreligion which prevailed in the age of
the Antonines, both the interest of the priests and the credulity of the
people were sufficiently respected. In their writings and conversation,
the philosophers of antiquity asserted the independent dignity of
reason; but they resigned their actions to the commands of law and of
custom. Viewing, with a smile of pity and indulgence, the various
errors of the vulgar, they diligently practised the ceremonies of their
fathers, devoutly frequented the temples of the gods; and sometimes
condescending to act a part on the theatre of superstition, they
concealed the sentiments of an atheist under the sacerdotal robes.
Reasoners of such a temper were scarcely inclined to wrangle about their
respective modes of faith, or of worship. It was indifferent to them
what shape the folly of the multitude might choose to assume; and
they approached with the same inward contempt, and the same external
reverence, the altars of the Libyan, the Olympian, or the Capitoline

It is not easy to conceive from what motives a spirit of persecution
could introduce itself into the Roman councils. The magistrates could
not be actuated by a blind, though honest bigotry, since the magistrates
were themselves philosophers; and the schools of Athens had given laws
to the senate. They could not be impelled by ambition or avarice, as the
temporal and ecclesiastical powers were united in the same hands. The
pontiffs were chosen among the most illustrious of the senators; and
the office of Supreme Pontiff was constantly exercised by the emperors
themselves. They knew and valued the advantages of religion, as it is
connected with civil government. They encouraged the public festivals
which humanize the manners of the people. They managed the arts of
divination as a convenient instrument of policy; and they respected, as
the firmest bond of society, the useful persuasion, that, either in this
or in a future life, the crime of perjury is most assuredly punished by
the avenging gods. But whilst they acknowledged the general advantages
of religion, they were convinced that the various modes of worship
contributed alike to the same salutary purposes; and that, in every
country, the form of superstition, which had received the sanction of
time and experience, was the best adapted to the climate, and to its
inhabitants. Avarice and taste very frequently despoiled the vanquished
nations of the elegant statues of their gods, and the rich ornaments of
their temples; but, in the exercise of the religion which they derived
from their ancestors, they uniformly experienced the indulgence, and
even protection, of the Roman conquerors. The province of Gaul seems,
and indeed only seems, an exception to this universal toleration.
Under the specious pretext of abolishing human sacrifices, the emperors
Tiberius and Claudius suppressed the dangerous power of the Druids:
but the priests themselves, their gods and their altars, subsisted in
peaceful obscurity till the final destruction of Paganism.

Rome, the capital of a great monarchy, was incessantly filled with
subjects and strangers from every part of the world, who all introduced
and enjoyed the favorite superstitions of their native country. Every
city in the empire was justified in maintaining the purity of its
ancient ceremonies; and the Roman senate, using the common privilege,
sometimes interposed, to check this inundation of foreign rites. * The
Egyptian superstition, of all the most contemptible and abject, was
frequently prohibited: the temples of Serapis and Isis demolished,
and their worshippers banished from Rome and Italy. But the zeal of
fanaticism prevailed over the cold and feeble efforts of policy. The
exiles returned, the proselytes multiplied, the temples were restored
with increasing splendor, and Isis and Serapis at length assumed their
place among the Roman Deities. Nor was this indulgence a departure from
the old maxims of government. In the purest ages of the commonwealth,
Cybele and Æsculapius had been invited by solemn embassies; and it was
customary to tempt the protectors of besieged cities, by the promise of
more distinguished honors than they possessed in their native country.
Rome gradually became the common temple of her subjects; and the freedom
of the city was bestowed on all the gods of mankind.

II. The narrow policy of preserving, without any foreign mixture,
the pure blood of the ancient citizens, had checked the fortune, and
hastened the ruin, of Athens and Sparta. The aspiring genius of Rome
sacrificed vanity to ambition, and deemed it more prudent, as well as
honorable, to adopt virtue and merit for her own wheresoever they were
found, among slaves or strangers, enemies or barbarians. During the most
flourishing æra of the Athenian commonwealth, the number of citizens
gradually decreased from about thirty to twenty-one thousand. If, on the
contrary, we study the growth of the Roman republic, we may discover,
that, notwithstanding the incessant demands of wars and colonies, the
citizens, who, in the first census of Servius Tullius, amounted to
no more than eighty-three thousand, were multiplied, before the
commencement of the social war, to the number of four hundred and
sixty-three thousand men, able to bear arms in the service of their
country. When the allies of Rome claimed an equal share of honors
and privileges, the senate indeed preferred the chance of arms to an
ignominious concession. The Samnites and the Lucanians paid the severe
penalty of their rashness; but the rest of the Italian states, as they
successively returned to their duty, were admitted into the bosom of the
republic, and soon contributed to the ruin of public freedom. Under
a democratical government, the citizens exercise the powers of
sovereignty; and those powers will be first abused, and afterwards lost,
if they are committed to an unwieldy multitude. But when the popular
assemblies had been suppressed by the administration of the emperors,
the conquerors were distinguished from the vanquished nations, only
as the first and most honorable order of subjects; and their increase,
however rapid, was no longer exposed to the same dangers. Yet the wisest
princes, who adopted the maxims of Augustus, guarded with the strictest
care the dignity of the Roman name, and diffused the freedom of the city
with a prudent liberality.

Chapter II: The Internal Prosperity In The Age Of The Antonines.--Part

Till the privileges of Romans had been progressively extended to all
the inhabitants of the empire, an important distinction was preserved
between Italy and the provinces. The former was esteemed the centre of
public unity, and the firm basis of the constitution. Italy claimed the
birth, or at least the residence, of the emperors and the senate. The
estates of the Italians were exempt from taxes, their persons from
the arbitrary jurisdiction of governors. Their municipal corporations,
formed after the perfect model of the capital, * were intrusted, under
the immediate eye of the supreme power, with the execution of the laws.
From the foot of the Alps to the extremity of Calabria, all the natives
of Italy were born citizens of Rome. Their partial distinctions were
obliterated, and they insensibly coalesced into one great nation, united
by language, manners, and civil institutions, and equal to the weight of
a powerful empire. The republic gloried in her generous policy, and was
frequently rewarded by the merit and services of her adopted sons. Had
she always confined the distinction of Romans to the ancient families
within the walls of the city, that immortal name would have been
deprived of some of its noblest ornaments. Virgil was a native of
Mantua; Horace was inclined to doubt whether he should call himself
an Apulian or a Lucanian; it was in Padua that an historian was found
worthy to record the majestic series of Roman victories. The patriot
family of the Catos emerged from Tusculum; and the little town of
Arpinum claimed the double honor of producing Marius and Cicero, the
former of whom deserved, after Romulus and Camillus, to be styled the
Third Founder of Rome; and the latter, after saving his country from the
designs of Catiline, enabled her to contend with Athens for the palm of

The provinces of the empire (as they have been described in the
preceding chapter) were destitute of any public force, or constitutional
freedom. In Etruria, in Greece, and in Gaul, it was the first care
of the senate to dissolve those dangerous confederacies, which taught
mankind that, as the Roman arms prevailed by division, they might be
resisted by union. Those princes, whom the ostentation of gratitude
or generosity permitted for a while to hold a precarious sceptre, were
dismissed from their thrones, as soon as they had per formed their
appointed task of fashioning to the yoke the vanquished nations.
The free states and cities which had embraced the cause of Rome
were rewarded with a nominal alliance, and insensibly sunk into real
servitude. The public authority was every where exercised by the
ministers of the senate and of the emperors, and that authority
was absolute, and without control. But the same salutary maxims of
government, which had secured the peace and obedience of Italy were
extended to the most distant conquests. A nation of Romans was gradually
formed in the provinces, by the double expedient of introducing
colonies, and of admitting the most faithful and deserving of the
provincials to the freedom of Rome.

"Wheresoever the Roman conquers, he inhabits," is a very just
observation of Seneca, confirmed by history and experience. The natives
of Italy, allured by pleasure or by interest, hastened to enjoy the
advantages of victory; and we may remark, that, about forty years after
the reduction of Asia, eighty thousand Romans were massacred in one day,
by the cruel orders of Mithridates. These voluntary exiles were engaged,
for the most part, in the occupations of commerce, agriculture, and the
farm of the revenue. But after the legions were rendered permanent by
the emperors, the provinces were peopled by a race of soldiers; and the
veterans, whether they received the reward of their service in land or
in money, usually settled with their families in the country, where
they had honorably spent their youth. Throughout the empire, but more
particularly in the western parts, the most fertile districts, and
the most convenient situations, were reserved for the establishment
of colonies; some of which were of a civil, and others of a military
nature. In their manners and internal policy, the colonies formed
a perfect representation of their great parent; and they were soon
endeared to the natives by the ties of friendship and alliance, they
effectually diffused a reverence for the Roman name, and a desire,
which was seldom disappointed, of sharing, in due time, its honors
and advantages. The municipal cities insensibly equalled the rank and
splendor of the colonies; and in the reign of Hadrian, it was disputed
which was the preferable condition, of those societies which had issued
from, or those which had been received into, the bosom of Rome. The
right of Latium, as it was called, * conferred on the cities to which
it had been granted, a more partial favor. The magistrates only, at the
expiration of their office, assumed the quality of Roman citizens; but
as those offices were annual, in a few years they circulated round the
principal families. Those of the provincials who were permitted to bear
arms in the legions; those who exercised any civil employment; all, in
a word, who performed any public service, or displayed any personal
talents, were rewarded with a present, whose value was continually
diminished by the increasing liberality of the emperors. Yet even, in
the age of the Antonines, when the freedom of the city had been bestowed
on the greater number of their subjects, it was still accompanied with
very solid advantages. The bulk of the people acquired, with that title,
the benefit of the Roman laws, particularly in the interesting articles
of marriage, testaments, and inheritances; and the road of fortune was
open to those whose pretensions were seconded by favor or merit.
The grandsons of the Gauls, who had besieged Julius Cæsar in Alcsia,
commanded legions, governed provinces, and were admitted into the senate
of Rome. Their ambition, instead of disturbing the tranquillity of the
state, was intimately connected with its safety and greatness.

So sensible were the Romans of the influence of language over national
manners, that it was their most serious care to extend, with the
progress of their arms, the use of the Latin tongue. The ancient
dialects of Italy, the Sabine, the Etruscan, and the Venetian, sunk into
oblivion; but in the provinces, the east was less docile than the west
to the voice of its victorious preceptors. This obvious difference
marked the two portions of the empire with a distinction of colors,
which, though it was in some degree concealed during the meridian
splendor of prosperity, became gradually more visible, as the shades
of night descended upon the Roman world. The western countries
were civilized by the same hands which subdued them. As soon as the
barbarians were reconciled to obedience, their minds were open to any
new impressions of knowledge and politeness. The language of Virgil
and Cicero, though with some inevitable mixture of corruption, was so
universally adopted in Africa, Spain, Gaul Britain, and Pannonia, that
the faint traces of the Punic or Celtic idioms were preserved only in
the mountains, or among the peasants. Education and study insensibly
inspired the natives of those countries with the sentiments of Romans;
and Italy gave fashions, as well as laws, to her Latin provincials. They
solicited with more ardor, and obtained with more facility, the freedom
and honors of the state; supported the national dignity in letters and
in arms; and at length, in the person of Trajan, produced an emperor
whom the Scipios would not have disowned for their countryman. The
situation of the Greeks was very different from that of the barbarians.
The former had been long since civilized and corrupted. They had too
much taste to relinquish their language, and too much vanity to adopt
any foreign institutions. Still preserving the prejudices, after they
had lost the virtues, of their ancestors, they affected to despise the
unpolished manners of the Roman conquerors, whilst they were compelled
to respect their superior wisdom and power. Nor was the influence of the
Grecian language and sentiments confined to the narrow limits of that
once celebrated country. Their empire, by the progress of colonies and
conquest, had been diffused from the Adriatic to the Euphrates and the
Nile. Asia was covered with Greek cities, and the long reign of the
Macedonian kings had introduced a silent revolution into Syria and
Egypt. In their pompous courts, those princes united the elegance of
Athens with the luxury of the East, and the example of the court was
imitated, at an humble distance, by the higher ranks of their subjects.
Such was the general division of the Roman empire into the Latin and
Greek languages. To these we may add a third distinction for the body of
the natives in Syria, and especially in Egypt, the use of their ancient
dialects, by secluding them from the commerce of mankind, checked the
improvements of those barbarians. The slothful effeminacy of the former
exposed them to the contempt, the sullen ferociousness of the latter
excited the aversion, of the conquerors. Those nations had submitted to
the Roman power, but they seldom desired or deserved the freedom of the
city: and it was remarked, that more than two hundred and thirty years
elapsed after the ruin of the Ptolemies, before an Egyptian was admitted
into the senate of Rome.

It is a just though trite observation, that victorious Rome was herself
subdued by the arts of Greece. Those immortal writers who still command
the admiration of modern Europe, soon became the favorite object of
study and imitation in Italy and the western provinces. But the elegant
amusements of the Romans were not suffered to interfere with their sound
maxims of policy. Whilst they acknowledged the charms of the Greek, they
asserted the dignity of the Latin tongue, and the exclusive use of the
latter was inflexibly maintained in the administration of civil as well
as military government. The two languages exercised at the same time
their separate jurisdiction throughout the empire: the former, as the
natural idiom of science; the latter, as the legal dialect of public
transactions. Those who united letters with business were equally
conversant with both; and it was almost impossible, in any province, to
find a Roman subject, of a liberal education, who was at once a stranger
to the Greek and to the Latin language.

It was by such institutions that the nations of the empire insensibly
melted away into the Roman name and people. But there still remained, in
the centre of every province and of every family, an unhappy condition
of men who endured the weight, without sharing the benefits, of society.
In the free states of antiquity, the domestic slaves were exposed to the
wanton rigor of despotism. The perfect settlement of the Roman empire
was preceded by ages of violence and rapine. The slaves consisted, for
the most part, of barbarian captives, * taken in thousands by the chance
of war, purchased at a vile price, accustomed to a life of independence,
and impatient to break and to revenge their fetters. Against such
internal enemies, whose desperate insurrections had more than once
reduced the republic to the brink of destruction, the most severe
regulations, and the most cruel treatment, seemed almost justified by
the great law of self-preservation. But when the principal nations of
Europe, Asia, and Africa were united under the laws of one sovereign,
the source of foreign supplies flowed with much less abundance, and
the Romans were reduced to the milder but more tedious method of
propagation. * In their numerous families, and particularly in their
country estates, they encouraged the marriage of their slaves. The
sentiments of nature, the habits of education, and the possession of a
dependent species of property, contributed to alleviate the hardships of
servitude. The existence of a slave became an object of greater value,
and though his happiness still depended on the temper and circumstances
of the master, the humanity of the latter, instead of being restrained
by fear, was encouraged by the sense of his own interest. The progress
of manners was accelerated by the virtue or policy of the emperors; and
by the edicts of Hadrian and the Antonines, the protection of the laws
was extended to the most abject part of mankind. The jurisdiction of
life and death over the slaves, a power long exercised and often abused,
was taken out of private hands, and reserved to the magistrates alone.
The subterraneous prisons were abolished; and, upon a just complaint
of intolerable treatment, the injured slave obtained either his
deliverance, or a less cruel master.

Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition, was not denied to the
Roman slave; and if he had any opportunity of rendering himself either
useful or agreeable, he might very naturally expect that the diligence
and fidelity of a few years would be rewarded with the inestimable gift
of freedom. The benevolence of the master was so frequently prompted
by the meaner suggestions of vanity and avarice, that the laws found
it more necessary to restrain than to encourage a profuse and
undistinguishing liberality, which might degenerate into a very
dangerous abuse. It was a maxim of ancient jurisprudence, that a
slave had not any country of his own; he acquired with his liberty an
admission into the political society of which his patron was a member.
The consequences of this maxim would have prostituted the privileges
of the Roman city to a mean and promiscuous multitude. Some seasonable
exceptions were therefore provided; and the honorable distinction
was confined to such slaves only as, for just causes, and with the
approbation of the magistrate, should receive a solemn and legal
manumission. Even these chosen freedmen obtained no more than the
private rights of citizens, and were rigorously excluded from civil or
military honors. Whatever might be the merit or fortune of their sons,
they likewise were esteemed unworthy of a seat in the senate; nor were
the traces of a servile origin allowed to be completely obliterated till
the third or fourth generation. Without destroying the distinction of
ranks, a distant prospect of freedom and honors was presented, even
to those whom pride and prejudice almost disdained to number among the
human species.

It was once proposed to discriminate the slaves by a peculiar habit; but
it was justly apprehended that there might be some danger in acquainting
them with their own numbers. Without interpreting, in their utmost
strictness, the liberal appellations of legions and myriads, we may
venture to pronounce, that the proportion of slaves, who were valued
as property, was more considerable than that of servants, who can be
computed only as an expense. The youths of a promising genius were
instructed in the arts and sciences, and their price was ascertained by
the degree of their skill and talents. Almost every profession, either
liberal or mechanical, might be found in the household of an opulent
senator. The ministers of pomp and sensuality were multiplied beyond
the conception of modern luxury. It was more for the interest of the
merchant or manufacturer to purchase, than to hire his workmen; and in
the country, slaves were employed as the cheapest and most laborious
instruments of agriculture. To confirm the general observation, and to
display the multitude of slaves, we might allege a variety of particular
instances. It was discovered, on a very melancholy occasion, that four
hundred slaves were maintained in a single palace of Rome. The same
number of four hundred belonged to an estate which an African widow, of
a very private condition, resigned to her son, whilst she reserved for
herself a much larger share of her property. A freedman, under the name
of Augustus, though his fortune had suffered great losses in the civil
wars, left behind him three thousand six hundred yoke of oxen, two
hundred and fifty thousand head of smaller cattle, and what was almost
included in the description of cattle, four thousand one hundred and
sixteen slaves.

The number of subjects who acknowledged the laws of Rome, of citizens,
of provincials, and of slaves, cannot now be fixed with such a degree
of accuracy, as the importance of the object would deserve. We are
informed, that when the Emperor Claudius exercised the office of censor,
he took an account of six millions nine hundred and forty-five thousand
Roman citizens, who, with the proportion of women and children, must
have amounted to about twenty millions of souls. The multitude of
subjects of an inferior rank was uncertain and fluctuating. But, after
weighing with attention every circumstance which could influence the
balance, it seems probable that there existed, in the time of Claudius,
about twice as many provincials as there were citizens, of either sex,
and of every age; and that the slaves were at least equal in number
to the free inhabitants of the Roman world. * The total amount of
this imperfect calculation would rise to about one hundred and twenty
millions of persons; a degree of population which possibly exceeds that
of modern Europe, and forms the most numerous society that has ever been
united under the same system of government.

Chapter II: The Internal Prosperity In The Age Of The Antonines.--Part

Domestic peace and union were the natural consequences of the moderate
and comprehensive policy embraced by the Romans. If we turn our eyes
towards the monarchies of Asia, we shall behold despotism in the centre,
and weakness in the extremities; the collection of the revenue, or the
administration of justice, enforced by the presence of an army; hostile
barbarians established in the heart of the country, hereditary satraps
usurping the dominion of the provinces, and subjects inclined to
rebellion, though incapable of freedom. But the obedience of the Roman
world was uniform, voluntary, and permanent. The vanquished nations,
blended into one great people, resigned the hope, nay, even the wish, of
resuming their independence, and scarcely considered their own existence
as distinct from the existence of Rome. The established authority of the
emperors pervaded without an effort the wide extent of their dominions,
and was exercised with the same facility on the banks of the Thames,
or of the Nile, as on those of the Tyber. The legions were destined to
serve against the public enemy, and the civil magistrate seldom required
the aid of a military force. In this state of general security, the
leisure, as well as opulence, both of the prince and people, were
devoted to improve and to adorn the Roman empire.

Among the innumerable monuments of architecture constructed by the
Romans, how many have escaped the notice of history, how few have
resisted the ravages of time and barbarism! And yet, even the majestic
ruins that are still scattered over Italy and the provinces, would be
sufficient to prove that those countries were once the seat of a polite
and powerful empire. Their greatness alone, or their beauty, might
deserve our attention: but they are rendered more interesting, by two
important circumstances, which connect the agreeable history of the arts
with the more useful history of human manners. Many of those works were
erected at private expense, and almost all were intended for public

It is natural to suppose that the greatest number, as well as the most
considerable of the Roman edifices, were raised by the emperors, who
possessed so unbounded a command both of men and money. Augustus was
accustomed to boast that he had found his capital of brick, and that he
had left it of marble. The strict economy of Vespasian was the source of
his magnificence. The works of Trajan bear the stamp of his genius.
The public monuments with which Hadrian adorned every province of the
empire, were executed not only by his orders, but under his immediate
inspection. He was himself an artist; and he loved the arts, as they
conduced to the glory of the monarch. They were encouraged by the
Antonines, as they contributed to the happiness of the people. But if
the emperors were the first, they were not the only architects of their
dominions. Their example was universally imitated by their principal
subjects, who were not afraid of declaring to the world that they had
spirit to conceive, and wealth to accomplish, the noblest undertakings.
Scarcely had the proud structure of the Coliseum been dedicated at Rome,
before the edifices, of a smaller scale indeed, but of the same design
and materials, were erected for the use, and at the expense, of the
cities of Capua and Verona. The inscription of the stupendous bridge of
Alcantara attests that it was thrown over the Tagus by the contribution
of a few Lusitanian communities. When Pliny was intrusted with the
government of Bithynia and Pontus, provinces by no means the richest
or most considerable of the empire, he found the cities within his
jurisdiction striving with each other in every useful and ornamental
work, that might deserve the curiosity of strangers, or the gratitude
of their citizens. It was the duty of the proconsul to supply their
deficiencies, to direct their taste, and sometimes to moderate their
emulation. The opulent senators of Rome and the provinces esteemed it an
honor, and almost an obligation, to adorn the splendor of their age and
country; and the influence of fashion very frequently supplied the want
of taste or generosity. Among a crowd of these private benefactors, we
may select Herodes Atticus, an Athenian citizen, who lived in the age
of the Antonines. Whatever might be the motive of his conduct, his
magnificence would have been worthy of the greatest kings.

[See Theatre Of Marcellus: Augustus built in Rome the theatre of

The family of Herod, at least after it had been favored by fortune, was
lineally descended from Cimon and Miltiades, Theseus and Cecrops, Æacus
and Jupiter. But the posterity of so many gods and heroes was fallen
into the most abject state. His grandfather had suffered by the hands
of justice, and Julius Atticus, his father, must have ended his life in
poverty and contempt, had he not discovered an immense treasure buried
under an old house, the last remains of his patrimony. According to the
rigor of the law, the emperor might have asserted his claim, and the
prudent Atticus prevented, by a frank confession, the officiousness of
informers. But the equitable Nerva, who then filled the throne, refused
to accept any part of it, and commanded him to use, without scruple,
the present of fortune. The cautious Athenian still insisted, that the
treasure was too considerable for a subject, and that he knew not how
to use it. Abuse it then, replied the monarch, with a good-natured
peevishness; for it is your own. Many will be of opinion, that Atticus
literally obeyed the emperor's last instructions; since he expended
the greatest part of his fortune, which was much increased by an
advantageous marriage, in the service of the public. He had obtained for
his son Herod the prefecture of the free cities of Asia; and the young
magistrate, observing that the town of Troas was indifferently supplied
with water, obtained from the munificence of Hadrian three hundred
myriads of drachms, (about a hundred thousand pounds,) for the
construction of a new aqueduct. But in the execution of the work, the
charge amounted to more than double the estimate, and the officers of
the revenue began to murmur, till the generous Atticus silenced their
complaints, by requesting that he might be permitted to take upon
himself the whole additional expense.

The ablest preceptors of Greece and Asia had been invited by liberal
rewards to direct the education of young Herod. Their pupil soon became
a celebrated orator, according to the useless rhetoric of that age,
which, confining itself to the schools, disdained to visit either the
Forum or the Senate. He was honored with the consulship at Rome: but
the greatest part of his life was spent in a philosophic retirement at
Athens, and his adjacent villas; perpetually surrounded by sophists, who
acknowledged, without reluctance, the superiority of a rich and generous
rival. The monuments of his genius have perished; some considerable
ruins still preserve the fame of his taste and munificence: modern
travellers have measured the remains of the stadium which he constructed
at Athens. It was six hundred feet in length, built entirely of white
marble, capable of admitting the whole body of the people, and finished
in four years, whilst Herod was president of the Athenian games. To
the memory of his wife Regilla he dedicated a theatre, scarcely to be
paralleled in the empire: no wood except cedar, very curiously carved,
was employed in any part of the building. The Odeum, * designed by
Pericles for musical performances, and the rehearsal of new tragedies,
had been a trophy of the victory of the arts over barbaric greatness; as
the timbers employed in the construction consisted chiefly of the masts
of the Persian vessels. Notwithstanding the repairs bestowed on that
ancient edifice by a king of Cappadocia, it was again fallen to
decay. Herod restored its ancient beauty and magnificence. Nor was the
liberality of that illustrious citizen confined to the walls of Athens.
The most splendid ornaments bestowed on the temple of Neptune in
the Isthmus, a theatre at Corinth, a stadium at Delphi, a bath at
Thermopylæ, and an aqueduct at Canusium in Italy, were insufficient to
exhaust his treasures. The people of Epirus, Thessaly, Euboea, Boeotia,
and Peloponnesus, experienced his favors; and many inscriptions of the
cities of Greece and Asia gratefully style Herodes Atticus their patron
and benefactor.

In the commonwealths of Athens and Rome, the modest simplicity of
private houses announced the equal condition of freedom; whilst the
sovereignty of the people was represented in the majestic edifices
designed to the public use; nor was this republican spirit totally
extinguished by the introduction of wealth and monarchy. It was in works
of national honor and benefit, that the most virtuous of the emperors
affected to display their magnificence. The golden palace of Nero
excited a just indignation, but the vast extent of ground which had been
usurped by his selfish luxury was more nobly filled under the succeeding
reigns by the Coliseum, the baths of Titus, the Claudian portico, and
the temples dedicated to the goddess of Peace, and to the genius of
Rome. These monuments of architecture, the property of the Roman people,
were adorned with the most beautiful productions of Grecian painting and
sculpture; and in the temple of Peace, a very curious library was open
to the curiosity of the learned. * At a small distance from thence was
situated the Forum of Trajan. It was surrounded by a lofty portico,
in the form of a quadrangle, into which four triumphal arches opened
a noble and spacious entrance: in the centre arose a column of marble,
whose height, of one hundred and ten feet, denoted the elevation of the
hill that had been cut away. This column, which still subsists in
its ancient beauty, exhibited an exact representation of the Dacian
victories of its founder. The veteran soldier contemplated the story
of his own campaigns, and by an easy illusion of national vanity, the
peaceful citizen associated himself to the honors of the triumph. All
the other quarters of the capital, and all the provinces of the empire,
were embellished by the same liberal spirit of public magnificence, and
were filled with amphi theatres, theatres, temples, porticoes, triumphal
arches, baths and aqueducts, all variously conducive to the health, the
devotion, and the pleasures of the meanest citizen. The last mentioned
of those edifices deserve our peculiar attention. The boldness of the
enterprise, the solidity of the execution, and the uses to which they
were subservient, rank the aqueducts among the noblest monuments of
Roman genius and power. The aqueducts of the capital claim a just
preeminence; but the curious traveller, who, without the light of
history, should examine those of Spoleto, of Metz, or of Segovia, would
very naturally conclude that those provincial towns had formerly been
the residence of some potent monarch. The solitudes of Asia and Africa
were once covered with flourishing cities, whose populousness, and
even whose existence, was derived from such artificial supplies of a
perennial stream of fresh water.

We have computed the inhabitants, and contemplated the public works,
of the Roman empire. The observation of the number and greatness of its
cities will serve to confirm the former, and to multiply the latter. It
may not be unpleasing to collect a few scattered instances relative
to that subject without forgetting, however, that from the vanity of
nations and the poverty of language, the vague appellation of city has
been indifferently bestowed on Rome and upon Laurentum.

I. Ancient Italy is said to have contained eleven hundred and
ninety-seven cities; and for whatsoever æra of antiquity the expression
might be intended, there is not any reason to believe the country less
populous in the age of the Antonines, than in that of Romulus. The petty
states of Latium were contained within the metropolis of the empire, by
whose superior influence they had been attracted. * Those parts of Italy
which have so long languished under the lazy tyranny of priests and
viceroys, had been afflicted only by the more tolerable calamities of
war; and the first symptoms of decay which they experienced, were
amply compensated by the rapid improvements of the Cisalpine Gaul. The
splendor of Verona may be traced in its remains: yet Verona was less
celebrated than Aquileia or Padua, Milan or Ravenna. II. The spirit
of improvement had passed the Alps, and been felt even in the woods
of Britain, which were gradually cleared away to open a free space for
convenient and elegant habitations. York was the seat of government;
London was already enriched by commerce; and Bath was celebrated for the
salutary effects of its medicinal waters. Gaul could boast of her twelve
hundred cities; and though, in the northern parts, many of them, without
excepting Paris itself, were little more than the rude and imperfect
townships of a rising people, the southern provinces imitated the wealth
and elegance of Italy. Many were the cities of Gaul, Marseilles, Arles,
Nismes, Narbonne, Thoulouse, Bourdeaux, Autun, Vienna, Lyons, Langres,
and Treves, whose ancient condition might sustain an equal, and perhaps
advantageous comparison with their present state. With regard to Spain,
that country flourished as a province, and has declined as a kingdom.
Exhausted by the abuse of her strength, by America, and by superstition,
her pride might possibly be confounded, if we required such a list of
three hundred and sixty cities, as Pliny has exhibited under the reign
of Vespasian. III. Three hundred African cities had once acknowledged
the authority of Carthage, nor is it likely that their numbers
diminished under the administration of the emperors: Carthage itself
rose with new splendor from its ashes; and that capital, as well as
Capua and Corinth, soon recovered all the advantages which can be
separated from independent sovereignty. IV. The provinces of the East
present the contrast of Roman magnificence with Turkish barbarism. The
ruins of antiquity scattered over uncultivated fields, and ascribed,
by ignorance to the power of magic, scarcely afford a shelter to the
oppressed peasant or wandering Arab. Under the reign of the Cæsars, the
proper Asia alone contained five hundred populous cities, enriched with
all the gifts of nature, and adorned with all the refinements of art.
Eleven cities of Asia had once disputed the honor of dedicating a temple
of Tiberius, and their respective merits were examined by the senate.
Four of them were immediately rejected as unequal to the burden; and
among these was Laodicea, whose splendor is still displayed in its
ruins. Laodicea collected a very considerable revenue from its flocks
of sheep, celebrated for the fineness of their wool, and had received,
a little before the contest, a legacy of above four hundred thousand
pounds by the testament of a generous citizen. If such was the poverty
of Laodicea, what must have been the wealth of those cities, whose claim
appeared preferable, and particularly of Pergamus, of Smyrna, and of
Ephesus, who so long disputed with each other the titular primacy of
Asia? The capitals of Syria and Egypt held a still superior rank in the
empire; Antioch and Alexandria looked down with disdain on a crowd of
dependent cities, and yielded, with reluctance, to the majesty of Rome

Chapter II: The Internal Prosperity In The Age Of The Antonines.--Part

All these cities were connected with each other, and with the capital,
by the public highways, which, issuing from the Forum of Rome, traversed
Italy, pervaded the provinces, and were terminated only by the frontiers
of the empire. If we carefully trace the distance from the wall of
Antoninus to Rome, and from thence to Jerusalem, it will be found that
the great chain of communication, from the north-west to the south-east
point of the empire, was drawn out to the length if four thousand
and eighty Roman miles. The public roads were accurately divided by
mile-stones, and ran in a direct line from one city to another, with
very little respect for the obstacles either of nature or private
property. Mountains were perforated, and bold arches thrown over the
broadest and most rapid streams. The middle part of the road was raised
into a terrace which commanded the adjacent country, consisted of
several strata of sand, gravel, and cement, and was paved with large
stones, or, in some places near the capital, with granite. Such was
the solid construction of the Roman highways, whose firmness has not
entirely yielded to the effort of fifteen centuries. They united
the subjects of the most distant provinces by an easy and familiar
intercourse; out their primary object had been to facilitate the marches
of the legions; nor was any country considered as completely subdued,
till it had been rendered, in all its parts, pervious to the arms and
authority of the conqueror. The advantage of receiving the earliest
intelligence, and of conveying their orders with celerity, induced the
emperors to establish, throughout their extensive dominions, the regular
institution of posts. Houses were every where erected at the distance
only of five or six miles; each of them was constantly provided with
forty horses, and by the help of these relays, it was easy to travel
a hundred miles in a day along the Roman roads. * The use of posts
was allowed to those who claimed it by an Imperial mandate; but though
originally intended for the public service, it was sometimes indulged
to the business or conveniency of private citizens. Nor was the
communication of the Roman empire less free and open by sea than it was
by land. The provinces surrounded and enclosed the Mediterranean: and
Italy, in the shape of an immense promontory, advanced into the midst of
that great lake. The coasts of Italy are, in general, destitute of safe
harbors; but human industry had corrected the deficiencies of nature;
and the artificial port of Ostia, in particular, situate at the mouth of
the Tyber, and formed by the emperor Claudius, was a useful monument of
Roman greatness. From this port, which was only sixteen miles from the
capital, a favorable breeze frequently carried vessels in seven days to
the columns of Hercules, and in nine or ten, to Alexandria in Egypt.

[See Remains Of Claudian Aquaduct]

Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive
empire, the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences
to mankind; and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the
vices, diffused likewise the improvements, of social life. In the more
remote ages of antiquity, the world was unequally divided. The East was
in the immemorial possession of arts and luxury; whilst the West
was inhabited by rude and warlike barbarians, who either disdained
agriculture, or to whom it was totally unknown. Under the protection of
an established government, the productions of happier climates, and the
industry of more civilized nations, were gradually introduced into the
western countries of Europe; and the natives were encouraged, by an open
and profitable commerce, to multiply the former, as well as to improve
the latter. It would be almost impossible to enumerate all the articles,
either of the animal or the vegetable reign, which were successively
imported into Europe from Asia and Egypt: but it will not be unworthy
of the dignity, and much less of the utility, of an historical work,
slightly to touch on a few of the principal heads. 1. Almost all the
flowers, the herbs, and the fruits, that grow in our European gardens,
are of foreign extraction, which, in many cases, is betrayed even by
their names: the apple was a native of Italy, and when the Romans had
tasted the richer flavor of the apricot, the peach, the pomegranate, the
citron, and the orange, they contented themselves with applying to all
these new fruits the common denomination of apple, discriminating them
from each other by the additional epithet of their country. 2. In the
time of Homer, the vine grew wild in the island of Sicily, and most
probably in the adjacent continent; but it was not improved by the
skill, nor did it afford a liquor grateful to the taste, of the savage
inhabitants. A thousand years afterwards, Italy could boast, that of the
fourscore most generous and celebrated wines, more than two thirds
were produced from her soil. The blessing was soon communicated to the
Narbonnese province of Gaul; but so intense was the cold to the north of
the Cevennes, that, in the time of Strabo, it was thought impossible to
ripen the grapes in those parts of Gaul. This difficulty, however, was
gradually vanquished; and there is some reason to believe, that the
vineyards of Burgundy are as old as the age of the Antonines. 3. The
olive, in the western world, followed the progress of peace, of which
it was considered as the symbol. Two centuries after the foundation of
Rome, both Italy and Africa were strangers to that useful plant: it was
naturalized in those countries; and at length carried into the heart
of Spain and Gaul. The timid errors of the ancients, that it required a
certain degree of heat, and could only flourish in the neighborhood of
the sea, were insensibly exploded by industry and experience. 4. The
cultivation of flax was transported from Egypt to Gaul, and enriched the
whole country, however it might impoverish the particular lands on which
it was sown. 5. The use of artificial grasses became familiar to the
farmers both of Italy and the provinces, particularly the Lucerne, which
derived its name and origin from Media. The assured supply of wholesome
and plentiful food for the cattle during winter, multiplied the number
of the docks and herds, which in their turn contributed to the fertility
of the soil. To all these improvements may be added an assiduous
attention to mines and fisheries, which, by employing a multitude of
laborious hands, serve to increase the pleasures of the rich and the
subsistence of the poor. The elegant treatise of Columella describes the
advanced state of the Spanish husbandry under the reign of Tiberius; and
it may be observed, that those famines, which so frequently afflicted
the infant republic, were seldom or never experienced by the extensive
empire of Rome. The accidental scarcity, in any single province, was
immediately relieved by the plenty of its more fortunate neighbors.

Agriculture is the foundation of manufactures; since the productions of
nature are the materials of art. Under the Roman empire, the labor of
an industrious and ingenious people was variously, but incessantly,
employed in the service of the rich. In their dress, their table, their
houses, and their furniture, the favorites of fortune united every
refinement of conveniency, of elegance, and of splendor, whatever could
soothe their pride or gratify their sensuality. Such refinements, under
the odious name of luxury, have been severely arraigned by the moralists
of every age; and it might perhaps be more conducive to the virtue, as
well as happiness, of mankind, if all possessed the necessaries, and
none the superfluities, of life. But in the present imperfect condition
of society, luxury, though it may proceed from vice or folly, seems to
be the only means that can correct the unequal distribution of property.
The diligent mechanic, and the skilful artist, who have obtained no
share in the division of the earth, receive a voluntary tax from the
possessors of land; and the latter are prompted, by a sense of
interest, to improve those estates, with whose produce they may purchase
additional pleasures. This operation, the particular effects of which
are felt in every society, acted with much more diffusive energy in
the Roman world. The provinces would soon have been exhausted of their
wealth, if the manufactures and commerce of luxury had not insensibly
restored to the industrious subjects the sums which were exacted from
them by the arms and authority of Rome. As long as the circulation was
confined within the bounds of the empire, it impressed the political
machine with a new degree of activity, and its consequences, sometimes
beneficial, could never become pernicious.

But it is no easy task to confine luxury within the limits of an empire.
The most remote countries of the ancient world were ransacked to supply
the pomp and delicacy of Rome. The forests of Scythia afforded some
valuable furs. Amber was brought over land from the shores of the Baltic
to the Danube; and the barbarians were astonished at the price which
they received in exchange for so useless a commodity. There was a
considerable demand for Babylonian carpets, and other manufactures of
the East; but the most important and unpopular branch of foreign trade
was carried on with Arabia and India. Every year, about the time of the
summer solstice, a fleet of a hundred and twenty vessels sailed
from Myos-hormos, a port of Egypt, on the Red Sea. By the periodical
assistance of the monsoons, they traversed the ocean in about forty
days. The coast of Malabar, or the island of Ceylon, was the usual term
of their navigation, and it was in those markets that the merchants from
the more remote countries of Asia expected their arrival. The return of
the fleet of Egypt was fixed to the months of December or January; and
as soon as their rich cargo had been transported on the backs of camels,
from the Red Sea to the Nile, and had descended that river as far
as Alexandria, it was poured, without delay, into the capital of the
empire. The objects of oriental traffic were splendid and trifling;
silk, a pound of which was esteemed not inferior in value to a pound
of gold; precious stones, among which the pearl claimed the first rank
after the diamond; and a variety of aromatics, that were consumed in
religious worship and the pomp of funerals. The labor and risk of the
voyage was rewarded with almost incredible profit; but the profit was
made upon Roman subjects, and a few individuals were enriched at the
expense of the public. As the natives of Arabia and India were contented
with the productions and manufactures of their own country, silver, on
the side of the Romans, was the principal, if not the only * instrument
of commerce. It was a complaint worthy of the gravity of the senate,
that, in the purchase of female ornaments, the wealth of the state was
irrecoverably given away to foreign and hostile nations. The annual loss
is computed, by a writer of an inquisitive but censorious temper, at
upwards of eight hundred thousand pounds sterling. Such was the style of
discontent, brooding over the dark prospect of approaching poverty. And
yet, if we compare the proportion between gold and silver, as it stood
in the time of Pliny, and as it was fixed in the reign of Constantine,
we shall discover within that period a very considerable increase. There
is not the least reason to suppose that gold was become more scarce; it
is therefore evident that silver was grown more common; that whatever
might be the amount of the Indian and Arabian exports, they were far
from exhausting the wealth of the Roman world; and that the produce of
the mines abundantly supplied the demands of commerce.

Notwithstanding the propensity of mankind to exalt the past, and to
depreciate the present, the tranquil and prosperous state of the empire
was warmly felt, and honestly confessed, by the provincials as well
as Romans. "They acknowledged that the true principles of social life,
laws, agriculture, and science, which had been first invented by the
wisdom of Athens, were now firmly established by the power of Rome,
under whose auspicious influence the fiercest barbarians were united
by an equal government and common language. They affirm, that with the
improvement of arts, the human species were visibly multiplied. They
celebrate the increasing splendor of the cities, the beautiful face of
the country, cultivated and adorned like an immense garden; and the long
festival of peace which was enjoyed by so many nations, forgetful of
the ancient animosities, and delivered from the apprehension of future
danger." Whatever suspicions may be suggested by the air of rhetoric and
declamation, which seems to prevail in these passages, the substance of
them is perfectly agreeable to historic truth.

It was scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should discover
in the public felicity the latent causes of decay and corruption. This
long peace, and the uniform government of the Romans, introduced a slow
and secret poison into the vitals of the empire. The minds of men
were gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius was
extinguished, and even the military spirit evaporated. The natives
of Europe were brave and robust. Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Illyricum
supplied the legions with excellent soldiers, and constituted the real
strength of the monarchy. Their personal valor remained, but they no
longer possessed that public courage which is nourished by the love of
independence, the sense of national honor, the presence of danger, and
the habit of command. They received laws and governors from the will of
their sovereign, and trusted for their defence to a mercenary army.
The posterity of their boldest leaders was contented with the rank of
citizens and subjects. The most aspiring spirits resorted to the court
or standard of the emperors; and the deserted provinces, deprived
of political strength or union, insensibly sunk into the languid
indifference of private life.

The love of letters, almost inseparable from peace and refinement, was
fashionable among the subjects of Hadrian and the Antonines, who were
themselves men of learning and curiosity. It was diffused over the whole
extent of their empire; the most northern tribes of Britons had acquired
a taste for rhetoric; Homer as well as Virgil were transcribed and
studied on the banks of the Rhine and Danube; and the most liberal
rewards sought out the faintest glimmerings of literary merit. The
sciences of physic and astronomy were successfully cultivated by the
Greeks; the observations of Ptolemy and the writings of Galen are
studied by those who have improved their discoveries and corrected their
errors; but if we except the inimitable Lucian, this age of indolence
passed away without having produced a single writer of original genius,
or who excelled in the arts of elegant composition. ^! The authority of
Plato and Aristotle, of Zeno and Epicurus, still reigned in the schools;
and their systems, transmitted with blind deference from one generation
of disciples to another, precluded every generous attempt to exercise
the powers, or enlarge the limits, of the human mind. The beauties
of the poets and orators, instead of kindling a fire like their own,
inspired only cold and servile mitations: or if any ventured to deviate
from those models, they deviated at the same time from good sense
and propriety. On the revival of letters, the youthful vigor of the
imagination, after a long repose, national emulation, a new religion,
new languages, and a new world, called forth the genius of Europe.
But the provincials of Rome, trained by a uniform artificial foreign
education, were engaged in a very unequal competition with those bold
ancients, who, by expressing their genuine feelings in their native
tongue, had already occupied every place of honor. The name of Poet was
almost forgotten; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud of
critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning,
and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste.

The sublime Longinus, who, in somewhat a later period, and in the court
of a Syrian queen, preserved the spirit of ancient Athens, observes
and laments this degeneracy of his contemporaries, which debased their
sentiments, enervated their courage, and depressed their talents. "In
the same manner," says he, "as some children always remain pygmies,
whose infant limbs have been too closely confined, thus our tender
minds, fettered by the prejudices and habits of a just servitude,
are unable to expand themselves, or to attain that well-proportioned
greatness which we admire in the ancients; who, living under a popular
government, wrote with the same freedom as they acted." This diminutive
stature of mankind, if we pursue the metaphor, was daily sinking below
the old standard, and the Roman world was indeed peopled by a race of
pygmies; when the fierce giants of the north broke in, and mended the
puny breed. They restored a manly spirit of freedom; and after the
revolution of ten centuries, freedom became the happy parent of taste
and science.

Chapter III: The Constitution In The Age Of The Antonines.--Part I.

     Of The Constitution Of The Roman Empire, In The Age Of The

The obvious definition of a monarchy seems to be that of a state, in
which a single person, by whatsoever name he may be distinguished, is
intrusted with the execution of the laws, the management of the revenue,
and the command of the army. But, unless public liberty is protected
by intrepid and vigilant guardians, the authority of so formidable a
magistrate will soon degenerate into despotism. The influence of the
clergy, in an age of superstition, might be usefully employed to assert
the rights of mankind; but so intimate is the connection between the
throne and the altar, that the banner of the church has very seldom
been seen on the side of the people. * A martial nobility and stubborn
commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and collected into
constitutional assemblies, form the only balance capable of preserving a
free constitution against enterprises of an aspiring prince.

Every barrier of the Roman constitution had been levelled by the vast
ambition of the dictator; every fence had been extirpated by the cruel
hand of the triumvir. After the victory of Actium, the fate of the Roman
world depended on the will of Octavianus, surnamed Cæsar, by his uncle's
adoption, and afterwards Augustus, by the flattery of the senate. The
conqueror was at the head of forty-four veteran legions, conscious of
their own strength, and of the weakness of the constitution, habituated,
during twenty years' civil war, to every act of blood and violence, and
passionately devoted to the house of Cæsar, from whence alone they had
received, and expected the most lavish rewards. The provinces, long
oppressed by the ministers of the republic, sighed for the government of
a single person, who would be the master, not the accomplice, of those
petty tyrants. The people of Rome, viewing, with a secret pleasure, the
humiliation of the aristocracy, demanded only bread and public shows;
and were supplied with both by the liberal hand of Augustus. The rich
and polite Italians, who had almost universally embraced the philosophy
of Epicurus, enjoyed the present blessings of ease and tranquillity, and
suffered not the pleasing dream to be interrupted by the memory of their
old tumultuous freedom. With its power, the senate had lost its dignity;
many of the most noble families were extinct. The republicans of spirit
and ability had perished in the field of battle, or in the proscription
. The door of the assembly had been designedly left open, for a mixed
multitude of more than a thousand persons, who reflected disgrace upon
their rank, instead of deriving honor from it.

The reformation of the senate was one of the first steps in which
Augustus laid aside the tyrant, and professed himself the father of
his country. He was elected censor; and, in concert with his faithful
Agrippa, he examined the list of the senators, expelled a few members, *
whose vices or whose obstinacy required a public example, persuaded near
two hundred to prevent the shame of an expulsion by a voluntary retreat,
raised the qualification of a senator to about ten thousand pounds,
created a sufficient number of patrician families, and accepted for
himself the honorable title of Prince of the Senate, which had always
been bestowed, by the censors, on the citizen the most eminent for
his honors and services. But whilst he thus restored the dignity, he
destroyed the independence, of the senate. The principles of a free
constitution are irrecoverably lost, when the legislative power is
nominated by the executive.

Before an assembly thus modelled and prepared, Augustus pronounced
a studied oration, which displayed his patriotism, and disguised his
ambition. "He lamented, yet excused, his past conduct. Filial piety had
required at his hands the revenge of his father's murder; the humanity
of his own nature had sometimes given way to the stern laws of
necessity, and to a forced connection with two unworthy colleagues:
as long as Antony lived, the republic forbade him to abandon her to
a degenerate Roman, and a barbarian queen. He was now at liberty to
satisfy his duty and his inclination. He solemnly restored the senate
and people to all their ancient rights; and wished only to mingle with
the crowd of his fellow-citizens, and to share the blessings which he
had obtained for his country."

It would require the pen of Tacitus (if Tacitus had assisted at this
assembly) to describe the various emotions of the senate, those that
were suppressed, and those that were affected. It was dangerous to
trust the sincerity of Augustus; to seem to distrust it was still more
dangerous. The respective advantages of monarchy and a republic have
often divided speculative inquirers; the present greatness of the Roman
state, the corruption of manners, and the license of the soldiers,
supplied new arguments to the advocates of monarchy; and these general
views of government were again warped by the hopes and fears of each
individual. Amidst this confusion of sentiments, the answer of
the senate was unanimous and decisive. They refused to accept the
resignation of Augustus; they conjured him not to desert the republic,
which he had saved. After a decent resistance, the crafty tyrant
submitted to the orders of the senate; and consented to receive the
government of the provinces, and the general command of the Roman
armies, under the well-known names of Proconsul and Imperator. But he
would receive them only for ten years. Even before the expiration
of that period, he hope that the wounds of civil discord would be
completely healed, and that the republic, restored to its pristine
health and vigor, would no longer require the dangerous interposition
of so extraordinary a magistrate. The memory of this comedy, repeated
several times during the life of Augustus, was preserved to the last
ages of the empire, by the peculiar pomp with which the perpetual
monarchs of Rome always solemnized the tenth years of their reign.

Without any violation of the principles of the constitution, the general
of the Roman armies might receive and exercise an authority almost
despotic over the soldiers, the enemies, and the subjects of the
republic. With regard to the soldiers, the jealousy of freedom had, even
from the earliest ages of Rome, given way to the hopes of conquest,
and a just sense of military discipline. The dictator, or consul, had
a right to command the service of the Roman youth; and to punish an
obstinate or cowardly disobedience by the most severe and ignominious
penalties, by striking the offender out of the list of citizens, by
confiscating his property, and by selling his person into slavery. The
most sacred rights of freedom, confirmed by the Porcian and Sempronian
laws, were suspended by the military engagement. In his camp the general
exercise an absolute power of life and death; his jurisdiction was
not confined by any forms of trial, or rules of proceeding, and the
execution of the sentence was immediate and without appeal. The
choice of the enemies of Rome was regularly decided by the legislative
authority. The most important resolutions of peace and war were
seriously debated in the senate, and solemnly ratified by the people.
But when the arms of the legions were carried to a great distance
from Italy, the general assumed the liberty of directing them against
whatever people, and in whatever manner, they judged most advantageous
for the public service. It was from the success, not from the justice,
of their enterprises, that they expected the honors of a triumph. In the
use of victory, especially after they were no longer controlled by
the commissioners of the senate, they exercised the most unbounded
despotism. When Pompey commanded in the East, he rewarded his soldiers
and allies, dethroned princes, divided kingdoms, founded colonies, and
distributed the treasures of Mithridates. On his return to Rome, he
obtained, by a single act of the senate and people, the universal
ratification of all his proceedings. Such was the power over the
soldiers, and over the enemies of Rome, which was either granted to, or
assumed by, the generals of the republic. They were, at the same time,
the governors, or rather monarchs, of the conquered provinces, united
the civil with the military character, administered justice as well as
the finances, and exercised both the executive and legislative power of
the state.

From what has already been observed in the first chapter of this work,
some notion may be formed of the armies and provinces thus intrusted
to the ruling hand of Augustus. But as it was impossible that he could
personally command the regions of so many distant frontiers, he was
indulged by the senate, as Pompey had already been, in the permission
of devolving the execution of his great office on a sufficient number of
lieutenants. In rank and authority these officers seemed not inferior to
the ancient proconsuls; but their station was dependent and precarious.
They received and held their commissions at the will of a superior,
to whose auspicious influence the merit of their action was legally
attributed. They were the representatives of the emperor. The emperor
alone was the general of the republic, and his jurisdiction, civil as
well as military, extended over all the conquests of Rome. It was some
satisfaction, however, to the senate, that he always delegated his power
to the members of their body. The imperial lieutenants were of consular
or prætorian dignity; the legions were commanded by senators, and the
præfecture of Egypt was the only important trust committed to a Roman

Within six days after Augustus had been compelled to accept so very
liberal a grant, he resolved to gratify the pride of the senate by
an easy sacrifice. He represented to them, that they had enlarged
his powers, even beyond that degree which might be required by the
melancholy condition of the times. They had not permitted him to refuse
the laborious command of the armies and the frontiers; but he must
insist on being allowed to restore the more peaceful and secure
provinces to the mild administration of the civil magistrate. In the
division of the provinces, Augustus provided for his own power and for
the dignity of the republic. The proconsuls of the senate, particularly
those of Asia, Greece, and Africa, enjoyed a more honorable character
than the lieutenants of the emperor, who commanded in Gaul or Syria.
The former were attended by lictors, the latter by soldiers. * A law
was passed, that wherever the emperor was present, his extraordinary
commission should supersede the ordinary jurisdiction of the governor;
a custom was introduced, that the new conquests belonged to the imperial
portion; and it was soon discovered that the authority of the Prince,
the favorite epithet of Augustus, was the same in every part of the

In return for this imaginary concession, Augustus obtained an important
privilege, which rendered him master of Rome and Italy. By a dangerous
exception to the ancient maxims, he was authorized to preserve his
military command, supported by a numerous body of guards, even in time
of peace, and in the heart of the capital. His command, indeed, was
confined to those citizens who were engaged in the service by the
military oath; but such was the propensity of the Romans to servitude,
that the oath was voluntarily taken by the magistrates, the senators,
and the equestrian order, till the homage of flattery was insensibly
converted into an annual and solemn protestation of fidelity.

Although Augustus considered a military force as the firmest foundation,
he wisely rejected it, as a very odious instrument of government. It was
more agreeable to his temper, as well as to his policy, to reign under
the venerable names of ancient magistracy, and artfully to collect, in
his own person, all the scattered rays of civil jurisdiction. With this
view, he permitted the senate to confer upon him, for his life, the
powers of the consular and tribunitian offices, which were, in the same
manner, continued to all his successors. The consuls had succeeded
to the kings of Rome, and represented the dignity of the state. They
superintended the ceremonies of religion, levied and commanded the
legions, gave audience to foreign ambassadors, and presided in the
assemblies both of the senate and people. The general control of the
finances was intrusted to their care; and though they seldom had leisure
to administer justice in person, they were considered as the supreme
guardians of law, equity, and the public peace. Such was their ordinary
jurisdiction; but whenever the senate empowered the first magistrate
to consult the safety of the commonwealth, he was raised by that decree
above the laws, and exercised, in the defence of liberty, a temporary
despotism. The character of the tribunes was, in every respect,
different from that of the consuls. The appearance of the former was
modest and humble; but their persons were sacred and inviolable. Their
force was suited rather for opposition than for action. They were
instituted to defend the oppressed, to pardon offences, to arraign the
enemies of the people, and, when they judged it necessary, to stop, by
a single word, the whole machine of government. As long as the republic
subsisted, the dangerous influence, which either the consul or the
tribune might derive from their respective jurisdiction, was diminished
by several important restrictions. Their authority expired with the year
in which they were elected; the former office was divided between two,
the latter among ten persons; and, as both in their private and
public interest they were averse to each other, their mutual conflicts
contributed, for the most part, to strengthen rather than to destroy
the balance of the constitution. * But when the consular and tribunitian
powers were united, when they were vested for life in a single person,
when the general of the army was, at the same time, the minister of the
senate and the representative of the Roman people, it was impossible
to resist the exercise, nor was it easy to define the limits, of his
imperial prerogative.

To these accumulated honors, the policy of Augustus soon added the
splendid as well as important dignities of supreme pontiff, and of
censor. By the former he acquired the management of the religion, and
by the latter a legal inspection over the manners and fortunes, of the
Roman people. If so many distinct and independent powers did not exactly
unite with each other, the complaisance of the senate was prepared to
supply every deficiency by the most ample and extraordinary concessions.
The emperors, as the first ministers of the republic, were exempted
from the obligation and penalty of many inconvenient laws: they were
authorized to convoke the senate, to make several motions in the same
day, to recommend candidates for the honors of the state, to enlarge
the bounds of the city, to employ the revenue at their discretion, to
declare peace and war, to ratify treaties; and by a most comprehensive
clause, they were empowered to execute whatsoever they should judge
advantageous to the empire, and agreeable to the majesty of things
private or public, human of divine.

When all the various powers of executive government were committed to
the Imperial magistrate, the ordinary magistrates of the commonwealth
languished in obscurity, without vigor, and almost without business. The
names and forms of the ancient administration were preserved by Augustus
with the most anxious care. The usual number of consuls, prætors,
and tribunes, were annually invested with their respective ensigns
of office, and continued to discharge some of their least important
functions. Those honors still attracted the vain ambition of the Romans;
and the emperors themselves, though invested for life with the powers of
the consul ship, frequently aspired to the title of that annual dignity,
which they condescended to share with the most illustrious of their
fellow-citizens. In the election of these magistrates, the people,
during the reign of Augustus, were permitted to expose all the
inconveniences of a wild democracy. That artful prince, instead of
discovering the least symptom of impatience, humbly solicited their
suffrages for himself or his friends, and scrupulously practised all the
duties of an ordinary candidate. But we may venture to ascribe to
his councils the first measure of the succeeding reign, by which the
elections were transferred to the senate. The assemblies of the people
were forever abolished, and the emperors were delivered from a dangerous
multitude, who, without restoring liberty, might have disturbed, and
perhaps endangered, the established government.

By declaring themselves the protectors of the people, Marius and Cæsar
had subverted the constitution of their country. But as soon as the
senate had been humbled and disarmed, such an assembly, consisting of
five or six hundred persons, was found a much more tractable and
useful instrument of dominion. It was on the dignity of the senate that
Augustus and his successors founded their new empire; and they affected,
on every occasion, to adopt the language and principles of Patricians.
In the administration of their own powers, they frequently consulted
the great national council, and seemed to refer to its decision the
most important concerns of peace and war. Rome, Italy, and the internal
provinces, were subject to the immediate jurisdiction of the senate.
With regard to civil objects, it was the supreme court of appeal; with
regard to criminal matters, a tribunal, constituted for the trial of
all offences that were committed by men in any public station, or that
affected the peace and majesty of the Roman people. The exercise of the
judicial power became the most frequent and serious occupation of the
senate; and the important causes that were pleaded before them afforded
a last refuge to the spirit of ancient eloquence. As a council of
state, and as a court of justice, the senate possessed very considerable
prerogatives; but in its legislative capacity, in which it was supposed
virtually to represent the people, the rights of sovereignty were
acknowledged to reside in that assembly. Every power was derived from
their authority, every law was ratified by their sanction. Their regular
meetings were held on three stated days in every month, the Calends, the
Nones, and the Ides. The debates were conducted with decent freedom;
and the emperors themselves, who gloried in the name of senators, sat,
voted, and divided with their equals.

To resume, in a few words, the system of the Imperial government; as
it was instituted by Augustus, and maintained by those princes who
understood their own interest and that of the people, it may be defined
an absolute monarchy disguised by the forms of a commonwealth. The
masters of the Roman world surrounded their throne with darkness,
concealed their irresistible strength, and humbly professed themselves
the accountable ministers of the senate, whose supreme decrees they
dictated and obeyed.

The face of the court corresponded with the forms of the administration.
The emperors, if we except those tyrants whose capricious folly violated
every law of nature and decency, disdained that pomp and ceremony which
might offend their countrymen, but could add nothing to their real
power. In all the offices of life, they affected to confound themselves
with their subjects, and maintained with them an equal intercourse of
visits and entertainments. Their habit, their palace, their table, were
suited only to the rank of an opulent senator. Their family, however
numerous or splendid, was composed entirely of their domestic slaves and
freedmen. Augustus or Trajan would have blushed at employing the meanest
of the Romans in those menial offices, which, in the household and
bedchamber of a limited monarch, are so eagerly solicited by the
proudest nobles of Britain.

The deification of the emperors is the only instance in which they
departed from their accustomed prudence and modesty. The Asiatic Greeks
were the first inventors, the successors of Alexander the first
objects, of this servile and impious mode of adulation. * It was easily
transferred from the kings to the governors of Asia; and the Roman
magistrates very frequently were adored as provincial deities, with the
pomp of altars and temples, of festivals and sacrifices. It was natural
that the emperors should not refuse what the proconsuls had accepted;
and the divine honors which both the one and the other received from the
provinces, attested rather the despotism than the servitude of Rome.
But the conquerors soon imitated the vanquished nations in the arts
of flattery; and the imperious spirit of the first Cæsar too easily
consented to assume, during his lifetime, a place among the tutelar
deities of Rome. The milder temper of his successor declined so
dangerous an ambition, which was never afterwards revived, except by the
madness of Caligula and Domitian. Augustus permitted indeed some of the
provincial cities to erect temples to his honor, on condition that they
should associate the worship of Rome with that of the sovereign; he
tolerated private superstition, of which he might be the object; but he
contented himself with being revered by the senate and the people in his
human character, and wisely left to his successor the care of his public
deification. A regular custom was introduced, that on the decease of
every emperor who had neither lived nor died like a tyrant, the senate
by a solemn decree should place him in the number of the gods: and the
ceremonies of his apotheosis were blended with those of his funeral.
This legal, and, as it should seem, injudicious profanation, so
abhorrent to our stricter principles, was received with a very faint
murmur, by the easy nature of Polytheism; but it was received as an
institution, not of religion, but of policy. We should disgrace the
virtues of the Antonines by comparing them with the vices of Hercules or
Jupiter. Even the characters of Cæsar or Augustus were far superior to
those of the popular deities. But it was the misfortune of the former
to live in an enlightened age, and their actions were too faithfully
recorded to admit of such a mixture of fable and mystery, as the
devotion of the vulgar requires. As soon as their divinity was
established by law, it sunk into oblivion, without contributing either
to their own fame, or to the dignity of succeeding princes.

In the consideration of the Imperial government, we have frequently
mentioned the artful founder, under his well-known title of Augustus,
which was not, however, conferred upon him till the edifice was almost
completed. The obscure name of Octavianus he derived from a mean family,
in the little town of Aricia. It was stained with the blood of the
proscription; and he was desirous, had it been possible, to erase all
memory of his former life. The illustrious surname of Cæsar he had
assumed, as the adopted son of the dictator: but he had too much good
sense, either to hope to be confounded, or to wish to be compared with
that extraordinary man. It was proposed in the senate to dignify their
minister with a new appellation; and after a serious discussion, that of
Augustus was chosen, among several others, as being the most expressive
of the character of peace and sanctity, which he uniformly affected.
Augustus was therefore a personal, Cæsar a family distinction. The
former should naturally have expired with the prince on whom it was
bestowed; and however the latter was diffused by adoption and female
alliance, Nero was the last prince who could allege any hereditary claim
to the honors of the Julian line. But, at the time of his death, the
practice of a century had inseparably connected those appellations with
the Imperial dignity, and they have been preserved by a long succession
of emperors, Romans, Greeks, Franks, and Germans, from the fall of
the republic to the present time. A distinction was, however, soon
introduced. The sacred title of Augustus was always reserved for the
monarch, whilst the name of Cæsar was more freely communicated to his
relations; and, from the reign of Hadrian, at least, was appropriated
to the second person in the state, who was considered as the presumptive
heir of the empire. *

Chapter III: The Constitution In The Age Of The Antonines.--Part II.

The tender respect of Augustus for a free constitution which he had
destroyed, can only be explained by an attentive consideration of the
character of that subtle tyrant. A cool head, an unfeeling heart, and a
cowardly disposition, prompted him at the age of nineteen to assume the
mask of hypocrisy, which he never afterwards laid aside. With the same
hand, and probably with the same temper, he signed the proscription of
Cicero, and the pardon of Cinna. His virtues, and even his vices, were
artificial; and according to the various dictates of his interest, he
was at first the enemy, and at last the father, of the Roman world. When
he framed the artful system of the Imperial authority, his moderation
was inspired by his fears. He wished to deceive the people by an image
of civil liberty, and the armies by an image of civil government.

I. The death of Cæsar was ever before his eyes. He had lavished wealth
and honors on his adherents; but the most favored friends of his uncle
were in the number of the conspirators. The fidelity of the legions
might defend his authority against open rebellion; but their vigilance
could not secure his person from the dagger of a determined republican;
and the Romans, who revered the memory of Brutus, would applaud the
imitation of his virtue. Cæsar had provoked his fate, as much as by
the ostentation of his power, as by his power itself. The consul or the
tribune might have reigned in peace. The title of king had armed the
Romans against his life. Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed
by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and
people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured
that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom. A feeble senate and
enervated people cheerfully acquiesced in the pleasing illusion, as
long as it was supported by the virtue, or even by the prudence, of
the successors of Augustus. It was a motive of self-preservation, not a
principle of liberty, that animated the conspirators against Caligula,
Nero, and Domitian. They attacked the person of the tyrant, without
aiming their blow at the authority of the emperor.

There appears, indeed, one memorable occasion, in which the senate,
after seventy years of patience, made an ineffectual attempt to
re-assume its long-forgotten rights. When the throne was vacant by the
murder of Caligula, the consuls convoked that assembly in the Capitol,
condemned the memory of the Cæsars, gave the watchword liberty to
the few cohorts who faintly adhered to their standard, and during
eight-and-forty hours acted as the independent chiefs of a free
commonwealth. But while they deliberated, the prætorian guards had
resolved. The stupid Claudius, brother of Germanicus, was already in
their camp, invested with the Imperial purple, and prepared to support
his election by arms. The dream of liberty was at an end; and the
senate awoke to all the horrors of inevitable servitude. Deserted by
the people, and threatened by a military force, that feeble assembly
was compelled to ratify the choice of the prætorians, and to embrace the
benefit of an amnesty, which Claudius had the prudence to offer, and the
generosity to observe.

[See The Capitol: When the throne was vacant by the murder of Caligula,
the consuls convoked that assembly in the Capitol.]

II. The insolence of the armies inspired Augustus with fears of a still
more alarming nature. The despair of the citizens could only attempt,
what the power of the soldiers was, at any time, able to execute. How
precarious was his own authority over men whom he had taught to violate
every social duty! He had heard their seditious clamors; he dreaded
their calmer moments of reflection. One revolution had been purchased by
immense rewards; but a second revolution might double those rewards. The
troops professed the fondest attachment to the house of Cæsar; but the
attachments of the multitude are capricious and inconstant. Augustus
summoned to his aid whatever remained in those fierce minds of Roman
prejudices; enforced the rigor of discipline by the sanction of law;
and, interposing the majesty of the senate between the emperor and the
army, boldly claimed their allegiance, as the first magistrate of the

During a long period of two hundred and twenty years from the
establishment of this artful system to the death of Commodus, the
dangers inherent to a military government were, in a great measure,
suspended. The soldiers were seldom roused to that fatal sense of their
own strength, and of the weakness of the civil authority, which was,
before and afterwards, productive of such dreadful calamities. Caligula
and Domitian were assassinated in their palace by their own domestics:
* the convulsions which agitated Rome on the death of the former, were
confined to the walls of the city. But Nero involved the whole empire in
his ruin. In the space of eighteen months, four princes perished by
the sword; and the Roman world was shaken by the fury of the contending
armies. Excepting only this short, though violent eruption of military
license, the two centuries from Augustus to Commodus passed away
unstained with civil blood, and undisturbed by revolutions. The emperor
was elected by the authority of the senate, and the consent of the
soldiers. The legions respected their oath of fidelity; and it requires
a minute inspection of the Roman annals to discover three inconsiderable
rebellions, which were all suppressed in a few months, and without even
the hazard of a battle.

In elective monarchies, the vacancy of the throne is a moment big with
danger and mischief. The Roman emperors, desirous to spare the legions
that interval of suspense, and the temptation of an irregular choice,
invested their designed successor with so large a share of present
power, as should enable him, after their decease, to assume the
remainder, without suffering the empire to perceive the change of
masters. Thus Augustus, after all his fairer prospects had been snatched
from him by untimely deaths, rested his last hopes on Tiberius, obtained
for his adopted son the censorial and tribunitian powers, and dictated a
law, by which the future prince was invested with an authority equal to
his own, over the provinces and the armies. Thus Vespasian subdued
the generous mind of his eldest son. Titus was adored by the eastern
legions, which, under his command, had recently achieved the conquest
of Judæa. His power was dreaded, and, as his virtues were clouded by the
intemperance of youth, his designs were suspected. Instead of listening
to such unworthy suspicions, the prudent monarch associated Titus to the
full powers of the Imperial dignity; and the grateful son ever approved
himself the humble and faithful minister of so indulgent a father.

The good sense of Vespasian engaged him indeed to embrace every measure
that might confirm his recent and precarious elevation. The military
oath, and the fidelity of the troops, had been consecrated, by the
habits of a hundred years, to the name and family of the Cæsars; and
although that family had been continued only by the fictitious rite of
adoption, the Romans still revered, in the person of Nero, the grandson
of Germanicus, and the lineal successor of Augustus. It was not without
reluctance and remorse, that the prætorian guards had been persuaded to
abandon the cause of the tyrant. The rapid downfall of Galba, Otho, and
Vitellus, taught the armies to consider the emperors as the creatures of
their will, and the instruments of their license. The birth of Vespasian
was mean: his grandfather had been a private soldier, his father a petty
officer of the revenue; his own merit had raised him, in an advanced
age, to the empire; but his merit was rather useful than shining, and
his virtues were disgraced by a strict and even sordid parsimony. Such
a prince consulted his true interest by the association of a son, whose
more splendid and amiable character might turn the public attention from
the obscure origin, to the future glories, of the Flavian house. Under
the mild administration of Titus, the Roman world enjoyed a transient
felicity, and his beloved memory served to protect, above fifteen years,
the vices of his brother Domitian.

Nerva had scarcely accepted the purple from the assassins of Domitian,
before he discovered that his feeble age was unable to stem the torrent
of public disorders, which had multiplied under the long tyranny of his
predecessor. His mild disposition was respected by the good; but the
degenerate Romans required a more vigorous character, whose justice
should strike terror into the guilty. Though he had several relations,
he fixed his choice on a stranger. He adopted Trajan, then about forty
years of age, and who commanded a powerful army in the Lower Germany;
and immediately, by a decree of the senate, declared him his colleague
and successor in the empire. It is sincerely to be lamented, that
whilst we are fatigued with the disgustful relation of Nero's crimes
and follies, we are reduced to collect the actions of Trajan from the
glimmerings of an abridgment, or the doubtful light of a panegyric.
There remains, however, one panegyric far removed beyond the suspicion
of flattery. Above two hundred and fifty years after the death of
Trajan, the senate, in pouring out the customary acclamations on the
accession of a new emperor, wished that he might surpass the felicity of
Augustus, and the virtue of Trajan.

We may readily believe, that the father of his country hesitated whether
he ought to intrust the various and doubtful character of his kinsman
Hadrian with sovereign power. In his last moments the arts of the
empress Plotina either fixed the irresolution of Trajan, or boldly
supposed a fictitious adoption; the truth of which could not be
safely disputed, and Hadrian was peaceably acknowledged as his lawful
successor. Under his reign, as has been already mentioned, the empire
flourished in peace and prosperity. He encouraged the arts, reformed
the laws, asserted military discipline, and visited all his provinces
in person. His vast and active genius was equally suited to the most
enlarged views, and the minute details of civil policy. But the ruling
passions of his soul were curiosity and vanity. As they prevailed, and
as they were attracted by different objects, Hadrian was, by turns,
an excellent prince, a ridiculous sophist, and a jealous tyrant.
The general tenor of his conduct deserved praise for its equity and
moderation. Yet in the first days of his reign, he put to death four
consular senators, his personal enemies, and men who had been judged
worthy of empire; and the tediousness of a painful illness rendered
him, at last, peevish and cruel. The senate doubted whether they should
pronounce him a god or a tyrant; and the honors decreed to his memory
were granted to the prayers of the pious Antoninus.

The caprice of Hadrian influenced his choice of a successor. After
revolving in his mind several men of distinguished merit, whom he
esteemed and hated, he adopted Ælius Verus a gay and voluptuous
nobleman, recommended by uncommon beauty to the lover of Antinous. But
whilst Hadrian was delighting himself with his own applause, and the
acclamations of the soldiers, whose consent had been secured by an
immense donative, the new Cæsar was ravished from his embraces by an
untimely death. He left only one son. Hadrian commended the boy to
the gratitude of the Antonines. He was adopted by Pius; and, on the
accession of Marcus, was invested with an equal share of sovereign
power. Among the many vices of this younger Verus, he possessed
one virtue; a dutiful reverence for his wiser colleague, to whom he
willingly abandoned the ruder cares of empire. The philosophic emperor
dissembled his follies, lamented his early death, and cast a decent veil
over his memory.

As soon as Hadrian's passion was either gratified or disappointed, he
resolved to deserve the thanks of posterity, by placing the most exalted
merit on the Roman throne. His discerning eye easily discovered a
senator about fifty years of age, blameless in all the offices of life;
and a youth of about seventeen, whose riper years opened a fair prospect
of every virtue: the elder of these was declared the son and successor
of Hadrian, on condition, however, that he himself should immediately
adopt the younger. The two Antonines (for it is of them that we are
now peaking,) governed the Roman world forty-two years, with the same
invariable spirit of wisdom and virtue. Although Pius had two sons, he
preferred the welfare of Rome to the interest of his family, gave his
daughter Faustina, in marriage to young Marcus, obtained from the senate
the tribunitian and proconsular powers, and, with a noble disdain,
or rather ignorance of jealousy, associated him to all the labors of
government. Marcus, on the other hand, revered the character of his
benefactor, loved him as a parent, obeyed him as his sovereign, and,
after he was no more, regulated his own administration by the example
and maxims of his predecessor. Their united reigns are possibly the only
period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole
object of government.

Titus Antoninus Pius has been justly denominated a second Numa. The
same love of religion, justice, and peace, was the distinguishing
characteristic of both princes. But the situation of the latter opened
a much larger field for the exercise of those virtues. Numa could
only prevent a few neighboring villages from plundering each other's
harvests. Antoninus diffused order and tranquillity over the greatest
part of the earth. His reign is marked by the rare advantage of
furnishing very few materials for history; which is, indeed, little more
than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.
In private life, he was an amiable, as well as a good man. The native
simplicity of his virtue was a stranger to vanity or affectation.
He enjoyed with moderation the conveniences of his fortune, and the
innocent pleasures of society; and the benevolence of his soul displayed
itself in a cheerful serenity of temper.

The virtue of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was of severer and more
laborious kind. It was the well-earned harvest of many a learned
conference, of many a patient lecture, and many a midnight lucubration.
At the age of twelve years he embraced the rigid system of the Stoics,
which taught him to submit his body to his mind, his passions to his
reason; to consider virtue as the only good, vice as the only evil, all
things external as things indifferent. His meditations, composed in the
tumult of the camp, are still extant; and he even condescended to
give lessons of philosophy, in a more public manner than was perhaps
consistent with the modesty of sage, or the dignity of an emperor. But
his life was the noblest commentary on the precepts of Zeno. He was
severe to himself, indulgent to the imperfections of others, just
and beneficent to all mankind. He regretted that Avidius Cassius, who
excited a rebellion in Syria, had disappointed him, by a voluntary
death, * of the pleasure of converting an enemy into a friend;; and he
justified the sincerity of that sentiment, by moderating the zeal of
the senate against the adherents of the traitor. War he detested, as the
disgrace and calamity of human nature; but when the necessity of a just
defence called upon him to take up arms, he readily exposed his person
to eight winter campaigns, on the frozen banks of the Danube, the
severity of which was at last fatal to the weakness of his constitution.
His memory was revered by a grateful posterity, and above a century
after his death, many persons preserved the image of Marcus Antoninus
among those of their household gods.

If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world,
during which the condition of the human race was most happy and
prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from
the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of
the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of
virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle
hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority
commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration
were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines,
who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering
themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes
deserved the honor of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their
days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom.

The labors of these monarchs were overpaid by the immense reward that
inseparably waited on their success; by the honest pride of virtue, and
by the exquisite delight of beholding the general happiness of which
they were the authors. A just but melancholy reflection imbittered,
however, the noblest of human enjoyments. They must often have
recollected the instability of a happiness which depended on the
character of single man. The fatal moment was perhaps approaching,
when some licentious youth, or some jealous tyrant, would abuse, to the
destruction, that absolute power, which they had exerted for the benefit
of their people. The ideal restraints of the senate and the laws might
serve to display the virtues, but could never correct the vices, of the
emperor. The military force was a blind and irresistible instrument
of oppression; and the corruption of Roman manners would always supply
flatterers eager to applaud, and ministers prepared to serve, the fear
or the avarice, the lust or the cruelty, of their master.

These gloomy apprehensions had been already justified by the experience
of the Romans. The annals of the emperors exhibit a strong and various
picture of human nature, which we should vainly seek among the mixed and
doubtful characters of modern history. In the conduct of those monarchs
we may trace the utmost lines of vice and virtue; the most exalted
perfection, and the meanest degeneracy of our own species. The golden
age of Trajan and the Antonines had been preceded by an age of iron. It
is almost superfluous to enumerate the unworthy successors of Augustus.
Their unparalleled vices, and the splendid theatre on which they were
acted, have saved them from oblivion. The dark, unrelenting Tiberius,
the furious Caligula, the feeble Claudius, the profligate and cruel
Nero, the beastly Vitellius, and the timid, inhuman Domitian, are
condemned to everlasting infamy. During fourscore years (excepting
only the short and doubtful respite of Vespasian's reign) Rome groaned
beneath an unremitting tyranny, which exterminated the ancient families
of the republic, and was fatal to almost every virtue and every talent
that arose in that unhappy period.

Under the reign of these monsters, the slavery of the Romans was
accompanied with two peculiar circumstances, the one occasioned by their
former liberty, the other by their extensive conquests, which rendered
their condition more completely wretched than that of the victims of
tyranny in any other age or country. From these causes were derived, 1.
The exquisite sensibility of the sufferers; and, 2. The impossibility of
escaping from the hand of the oppressor.

I. When Persia was governed by the descendants of Sefi, a race of
princes whose wanton cruelty often stained their divan, their table, and
their bed, with the blood of their favorites, there is a saying recorded
of a young nobleman, that he never departed from the sultan's presence,
without satisfying himself whether his head was still on his shoulders.
The experience of every day might almost justify the scepticism of
Rustan. Yet the fatal sword, suspended above him by a single
thread, seems not to have disturbed the slumbers, or interrupted the
tranquillity, of the Persian. The monarch's frown, he well knew, could
level him with the dust; but the stroke of lightning or apoplexy might
be equally fatal; and it was the part of a wise man to forget the
inevitable calamities of human life in the enjoyment of the fleeting
hour. He was dignified with the appellation of the king's slave; had,
perhaps, been purchased from obscure parents, in a country which he
had never known; and was trained up from his infancy in the severe
discipline of the seraglio. His name, his wealth, his honors, were
the gift of a master, who might, without injustice, resume what he had
bestowed. Rustan's knowledge, if he possessed any, could only serve to
confirm his habits by prejudices. His language afforded not words for
any form of government, except absolute monarchy. The history of the
East informed him, that such had ever been the condition of mankind. The
Koran, and the interpreters of that divine book, inculcated to him,
that the sultan was the descendant of the prophet, and the vicegerent of
heaven; that patience was the first virtue of a Mussulman, and unlimited
obedience the great duty of a subject.

The minds of the Romans were very differently prepared for slavery.
Oppressed beneath the weight of their own corruption and of military
violence, they for a long while preserved the sentiments, or at least
the ideas, of their free-born ancestors. The education of Helvidius and
Thrasea, of Tacitus and Pliny, was the same as that of Cato and Cicero.
From Grecian philosophy, they had imbibed the justest and most liberal
notions of the dignity of human nature, and the origin of civil society.
The history of their own country had taught them to revere a free, a
virtuous, and a victorious commonwealth; to abhor the successful crimes
of Cæsar and Augustus; and inwardly to despise those tyrants whom they
adored with the most abject flattery. As magistrates and senators they
were admitted into the great council, which had once dictated laws
to the earth, whose authority was so often prostituted to the vilest
purposes of tyranny. Tiberius, and those emperors who adopted his
maxims, attempted to disguise their murders by the formalities of
justice, and perhaps enjoyed a secret pleasure in rendering the senate
their accomplice as well as their victim. By this assembly, the last of
the Romans were condemned for imaginary crimes and real virtues. Their
infamous accusers assumed the language of independent patriots, who
arraigned a dangerous citizen before the tribunal of his country; and
the public service was rewarded by riches and honors. The servile judges
professed to assert the majesty of the commonwealth, violated in the
person of its first magistrate, whose clemency they most applauded when
they trembled the most at his inexorable and impending cruelty. The
tyrant beheld their baseness with just contempt, and encountered their
secret sentiments of detestation with sincere and avowed hatred for the
whole body of the senate.

II. The division of Europe into a number of independent states,
connected, however, with each other by the general resemblance of
religion, language, and manners, is productive of the most beneficial
consequences to the liberty of mankind. A modern tyrant, who should find
no resistance either in his own breast, or in his people, would soon
experience a gentle restrain form the example of his equals, the dread
of present censure, the advice of his allies, and the apprehension of
his enemies. The object of his displeasure, escaping from the narrow
limits of his dominions, would easily obtain, in a happier climate,
a secure refuge, a new fortune adequate to his merit, the freedom of
complaint, and perhaps the means of revenge. But the empire of the
Romans filled the world, and when the empire fell into the hands of
a single person, the world became a safe and dreary prison for his
enemies. The slave of Imperial despotism, whether he was condemned to
drags his gilded chain in Rome and the senate, or to were out a life of
exile on the barren rock of Seriphus, or the frozen bank of the Danube,
expected his fate in silent despair. To resist was fatal, and it was
impossible to fly. On every side he was encompassed with a vast extent
of sea and land, which he could never hope to traverse without being
discovered, seized, and restored to his irritated master. Beyond the
frontiers, his anxious view could discover nothing, except the ocean,
inhospitable deserts, hostile tribes of barbarians, of fierce manners
and unknown language, or dependent kings, who would gladly purchase
the emperor's protection by the sacrifice of an obnoxious fugitive.
"Wherever you are," said Cicero to the exiled Marcellus, "remember that
you are equally within the power of the conqueror."

Chapter IV: The Cruelty, Follies And Murder Of Commodus.--Part I.

     The Cruelty, Follies, And Murder Of Commodus. Election Of
     Pertinax--His Attempts To Reform The State--His Assassination
     By The Prætorian Guards.

The mildness of Marcus, which the rigid discipline of the Stoics was
unable to eradicate, formed, at the same time, the most amiable, and the
only defective part of his character. His excellent understanding was
often deceived by the unsuspecting goodness of his heart. Artful men,
who study the passions of princes, and conceal their own, approached his
person in the disguise of philosophic sanctity, and acquired riches and
honors by affecting to despise them. His excessive indulgence to his
brother, * his wife, and his son, exceeded the bounds of private virtue,
and became a public injury, by the example and consequences of their

Faustina, the daughter of Pius and the wife of Marcus, has been as much
celebrated for her gallantries as for her beauty. The grave simplicity
of the philosopher was ill calculated to engage her wanton levity, or to
fix that unbounded passion for variety, which often discovered personal
merit in the meanest of mankind. The Cupid of the ancients was, in
general, a very sensual deity; and the amours of an empress, as they
exact on her side the plainest advances, are seldom susceptible of much
sentimental delicacy. Marcus was the only man in the empire who seemed
ignorant or insensible of the irregularities of Faustina; which,
according to the prejudices of every age, reflected some disgrace on the
injured husband. He promoted several of her lovers to posts of honor
and profit, and during a connection of thirty years, invariably gave her
proofs of the most tender confidence, and of a respect which ended not
with her life. In his Meditations, he thanks the gods, who had bestowed
on him a wife so faithful, so gentle, and of such a wonderful simplicity
of manners. The obsequious senate, at his earnest request, declared her
a goddess. She was represented in her temples, with the attributes of
Juno, Venus, and Ceres; and it was decreed, that, on the day of their
nuptials, the youth of either sex should pay their vows before the altar
of their chaste patroness.

The monstrous vices of the son have cast a shade on the purity of the
father's virtues. It has been objected to Marcus, that he sacrificed the
happiness of millions to a fond partiality for a worthless boy; and that
he chose a successor in his own family, rather than in the republic.
Nothing however, was neglected by the anxious father, and by the men of
virtue and learning whom he summoned to his assistance, to expand the
narrow mind of young Commodus, to correct his growing vices, and to
render him worthy of the throne for which he was designed. But the
power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy
dispositions where it is almost superfluous. The distasteful lesson of
a grave philosopher was, in a moment, obliterated by the whisper of
a profligate favorite; and Marcus himself blasted the fruits of this
labored education, by admitting his son, at the age of fourteen or
fifteen, to a full participation of the Imperial power. He lived
but four years afterwards: but he lived long enough to repent a rash
measure, which raised the impetuous youth above the restraint of reason
and authority.

Most of the crimes which disturb the internal peace of society, are
produced by the restraints which the necessary but unequal laws of
property have imposed on the appetites of mankind, by confining to a
few the possession of those objects that are coveted by many. Of all our
passions and appetites, the love of power is of the most imperious and
unsociable nature, since the pride of one man requires the submission of
the multitude. In the tumult of civil discord, the laws of society lose
their force, and their place is seldom supplied by those of humanity.
The ardor of contention, the pride of victory, the despair of success,
the memory of past injuries, and the fear of future dangers, all
contribute to inflame the mind, and to silence the voice of pity. From
such motives almost every page of history has been stained with civil
blood; but these motives will not account for the unprovoked cruelties
of Commodus, who had nothing to wish and every thing to enjoy. The
beloved son of Marcus succeeded to his father, amidst the acclamations
of the senate and armies; and when he ascended the throne, the happy
youth saw round him neither competitor to remove, nor enemies to punish.
In this calm, elevated station, it was surely natural that he should
prefer the love of mankind to their detestation, the mild glories of his
five predecessors to the ignominious fate of Nero and Domitian.

Yet Commodus was not, as he has been represented, a tiger born with an
insatiate thirst of human blood, and capable, from his infancy, of the
most inhuman actions. Nature had formed him of a weak rather than a
wicked disposition. His simplicity and timidity rendered him the slave
of his attendants, who gradually corrupted his mind. His cruelty, which
at first obeyed the dictates of others, degenerated into habit, and at
length became the ruling passion of his soul.

Upon the death of his father, Commodus found himself embarrassed with
the command of a great army, and the conduct of a difficult war against
the Quadi and Marcomanni. The servile and profligate youths whom Marcus
had banished, soon regained their station and influence about the new
emperor. They exaggerated the hardships and dangers of a campaign in the
wild countries beyond the Danube; and they assured the indolent prince
that the terror of his name, and the arms of his lieutenants, would be
sufficient to complete the conquest of the dismayed barbarians, or to
impose such conditions as were more advantageous than any conquest. By
a dexterous application to his sensual appetites, they compared the
tranquillity, the splendor, the refined pleasures of Rome, with the
tumult of a Pannonian camp, which afforded neither leisure nor materials
for luxury. Commodus listened to the pleasing advice; but whilst
he hesitated between his own inclination and the awe which he still
retained for his father's counsellors, the summer insensibly elapsed,
and his triumphal entry into the capital was deferred till the autumn.
His graceful person, popular address, and imagined virtues, attracted
the public favor; the honorable peace which he had recently granted to
the barbarians, diffused a universal joy; his impatience to revisit Rome
was fondly ascribed to the love of his country; and his dissolute course
of amusements was faintly condemned in a prince of nineteen years of

During the three first years of his reign, the forms, and even the
spirit, of the old administration, were maintained by those faithful
counsellors, to whom Marcus had recommended his son, and for whose
wisdom and integrity Commodus still entertained a reluctant esteem. The
young prince and his profligate favorites revelled in all the license of
sovereign power; but his hands were yet unstained with blood; and he
had even displayed a generosity of sentiment, which might perhaps have
ripened into solid virtue. A fatal incident decided his fluctuating

One evening, as the emperor was returning to the palace, through a dark
and narrow portico in the amphitheatre, an assassin, who waited his
passage, rushed upon him with a drawn sword, loudly exclaiming, "The
senate sends you this." The menace prevented the deed; the assassin
was seized by the guards, and immediately revealed the authors of the
conspiracy. It had been formed, not in the state, but within the walls
of the palace. Lucilla, the emperor's sister, and widow of Lucius Verus,
impatient of the second rank, and jealous of the reigning empress, had
armed the murderer against her brother's life. She had not ventured to
communicate the black design to her second husband, Claudius Pompeiarus,
a senator of distinguished merit and unshaken loyalty; but among the
crowd of her lovers (for she imitated the manners of Faustina) she found
men of desperate fortunes and wild ambition, who were prepared to serve
her more violent, as well as her tender passions. The conspirators
experienced the rigor of justice, and the abandoned princess was
punished, first with exile, and afterwards with death.

But the words of the assassin sunk deep into the mind of Commodus, and
left an indelible impression of fear and hatred against the whole body
of the senate. * Those whom he had dreaded as importunate ministers,
he now suspected as secret enemies. The Delators, a race of men
discouraged, and almost extinguished, under the former reigns, again
became formidable, as soon as they discovered that the emperor was
desirous of finding disaffection and treason in the senate. That
assembly, whom Marcus had ever considered as the great council of
the nation, was composed of the most distinguished of the Romans; and
distinction of every kind soon became criminal. The possession of wealth
stimulated the diligence of the informers; rigid virtue implied a tacit
censure of the irregularities of Commodus; important services implied a
dangerous superiority of merit; and the friendship of the father always
insured the aversion of the son. Suspicion was equivalent to proof;
trial to condemnation. The execution of a considerable senator was
attended with the death of all who might lament or revenge his fate; and
when Commodus had once tasted human blood, he became incapable of pity
or remorse.

Of these innocent victims of tyranny, none died more lamented than the
two brothers of the Quintilian family, Maximus and Condianus; whose
fraternal love has saved their names from oblivion, and endeared their
memory to posterity. Their studies and their occupations, their pursuits
and their pleasures, were still the same. In the enjoyment of a great
estate, they never admitted the idea of a separate interest: some
fragments are now extant of a treatise which they composed in common;
and in every action of life it was observed that their two bodies were
animated by one soul. The Antonines, who valued their virtues, and
delighted in their union, raised them, in the same year, to the
consulship; and Marcus afterwards intrusted to their joint care the
civil administration of Greece, and a great military command, in which
they obtained a signal victory over the Germans. The kind cruelty of
Commodus united them in death.

The tyrant's rage, after having shed the noblest blood of the senate,
at length recoiled on the principal instrument of his cruelty. Whilst
Commodus was immersed in blood and luxury, he devolved the detail of the
public business on Perennis, a servile and ambitious minister, who had
obtained his post by the murder of his predecessor, but who possessed a
considerable share of vigor and ability. By acts of extortion, and
the forfeited estates of the nobles sacrificed to his avarice, he had
accumulated an immense treasure. The Prætorian guards were under his
immediate command; and his son, who already discovered a military
genius, was at the head of the Illyrian legions. Perennis aspired to the
empire; or what, in the eyes of Commodus, amounted to the same crime, he
was capable of aspiring to it, had he not been prevented, surprised, and
put to death. The fall of a minister is a very trifling incident in the
general history of the empire; but it was hastened by an extraordinary
circumstance, which proved how much the nerves of discipline were
already relaxed. The legions of Britain, discontented with the
administration of Perennis, formed a deputation of fifteen hundred
select men, with instructions to march to Rome, and lay their complaints
before the emperor. These military petitioners, by their own determined
behaviour, by inflaming the divisions of the guards, by exaggerating
the strength of the British army, and by alarming the fears of Commodus,
exacted and obtained the minister's death, as the only redress of their
grievances. This presumption of a distant army, and their discovery
of the weakness of government, was a sure presage of the most dreadful

The negligence of the public administration was betrayed, soon
afterwards, by a new disorder, which arose from the smallest beginnings.
A spirit of desertion began to prevail among the troops: and the
deserters, instead of seeking their safety in flight or concealment,
infested the highways. Maternus, a private soldier, of a daring boldness
above his station, collected these bands of robbers into a little army,
set open the prisons, invited the slaves to assert their freedom, and
plundered with impunity the rich and defenceless cities of Gaul and
Spain. The governors of the provinces, who had long been the spectators,
and perhaps the partners, of his depredations, were, at length, roused
from their supine indolence by the threatening commands of the emperor.
Maternus found that he was encompassed, and foresaw that he must be
overpowered. A great effort of despair was his last resource. He ordered
his followers to disperse, to pass the Alps in small parties and various
disguises, and to assemble at Rome, during the licentious tumult of the
festival of Cybele. To murder Commodus, and to ascend the vacant
throne, was the ambition of no vulgar robber. His measures were so ably
concerted that his concealed troops already filled the streets of
Rome. The envy of an accomplice discovered and ruined this singular
enterprise, in a moment when it was ripe for execution.

Suspicious princes often promote the last of mankind, from a vain
persuasion, that those who have no dependence, except on their favor,
will have no attachment, except to the person of their benefactor.
Cleander, the successor of Perennis, was a Phrygian by birth; of
a nation over whose stubborn, but servile temper, blows only could
prevail. He had been sent from his native country to Rome, in the
capacity of a slave. As a slave he entered the Imperial palace, rendered
himself useful to his master's passions, and rapidly ascended to the
most exalted station which a subject could enjoy. His influence over
the mind of Commodus was much greater than that of his predecessor; for
Cleander was devoid of any ability or virtue which could inspire the
emperor with envy or distrust. Avarice was the reigning passion of his
soul, and the great principle of his administration. The rank of Consul,
of Patrician, of Senator, was exposed to public sale; and it would have
been considered as disaffection, if any one had refused to purchase
these empty and disgraceful honors with the greatest part of his
fortune. In the lucrative provincial employments, the minister shared
with the governor the spoils of the people. The execution of the laws
was penal and arbitrary. A wealthy criminal might obtain, not only the
reversal of the sentence by which he was justly condemned, but might
likewise inflict whatever punishment he pleased on the accuser, the
witnesses, and the judge.

By these means, Cleander, in the space of three years, had accumulated
more wealth than had ever yet been possessed by any freedman. Commodus
was perfectly satisfied with the magnificent presents which the artful
courtier laid at his feet in the most seasonable moments. To divert
the public envy, Cleander, under the emperor's name, erected baths,
porticos, and places of exercise, for the use of the people. He
flattered himself that the Romans, dazzled and amused by this apparent
liberality, would be less affected by the bloody scenes which were daily
exhibited; that they would forget the death of Byrrhus, a senator to
whose superior merit the late emperor had granted one of his daughters;
and that they would forgive the execution of Arrius Antoninus, the last
representative of the name and virtues of the Antonines. The former,
with more integrity than prudence, had attempted to disclose, to his
brother-in-law, the true character of Cleander. An equitable sentence
pronounced by the latter, when proconsul of Asia, against a worthless
creature of the favorite, proved fatal to him. After the fall of
Perennis, the terrors of Commodus had, for a short time, assumed the
appearance of a return to virtue. He repealed the most odious of his
acts; loaded his memory with the public execration, and ascribed to
the pernicious counsels of that wicked minister all the errors of his
inexperienced youth. But his repentance lasted only thirty days; and,
under Cleander's tyranny, the administration of Perennis was often

Chapter IV: The Cruelty, Follies And Murder Of Commodus.--Part II.

Pestilence and famine contributed to fill up the measure of the
calamities of Rome. The first could be only imputed to the just
indignation of the gods; but a monopoly of corn, supported by the riches
and power of the minister, was considered as the immediate cause of
the second. The popular discontent, after it had long circulated in
whispers, broke out in the assembled circus. The people quitted their
favorite amusements for the more delicious pleasure of revenge,
rushed in crowds towards a palace in the suburbs, one of the emperor's
retirements, and demanded, with angry clamors, the head of the public
enemy. Cleander, who commanded the Prætorian guards, ordered a body
of cavalry to sally forth, and disperse the seditious multitude. The
multitude fled with precipitation towards the city; several were slain,
and many more were trampled to death; but when the cavalry entered the
streets, their pursuit was checked by a shower of stones and darts from
the roofs and windows of the houses. The foot guards, who had been long
jealous of the prerogatives and insolence of the Prætorian cavalry,
embraced the party of the people. The tumult became a regular
engagement, and threatened a general massacre. The Prætorians, at
length, gave way, oppressed with numbers; and the tide of popular fury
returned with redoubled violence against the gates of the palace, where
Commodus lay, dissolved in luxury, and alone unconscious of the civil
war. It was death to approach his person with the unwelcome news. He
would have perished in this supine security, had not two women, his
eldest sister Fadilla, and Marcia, the most favored of his concubines,
ventured to break into his presence. Bathed in tears, and with
dishevelled hair, they threw themselves at his feet; and with all the
pressing eloquence of fear, discovered to the affrighted emperor the
crimes of the minister, the rage of the people, and the impending
ruin, which, in a few minutes, would burst over his palace and person.
Commodus started from his dream of pleasure, and commanded that the head
of Cleander should be thrown out to the people. The desired spectacle
instantly appeased the tumult; and the son of Marcus might even yet have
regained the affection and confidence of his subjects.

But every sentiment of virtue and humanity was extinct in the mind of
Commodus. Whilst he thus abandoned the reins of empire to these unworthy
favorites, he valued nothing in sovereign power, except the unbounded
license of indulging his sensual appetites. His hours were spent in a
seraglio of three hundred beautiful women, and as many boys, of every
rank, and of every province; and, wherever the arts of seduction proved
ineffectual, the brutal lover had recourse to violence. The ancient
historians have expatiated on these abandoned scenes of prostitution,
which scorned every restraint of nature or modesty; but it would not be
easy to translate their too faithful descriptions into the decency of
modern language. The intervals of lust were filled up with the basest
amusements. The influence of a polite age, and the labor of an attentive
education, had never been able to infuse into his rude and brutish
mind the least tincture of learning; and he was the first of the Roman
emperors totally devoid of taste for the pleasures of the understanding.
Nero himself excelled, or affected to excel, in the elegant arts
of music and poetry: nor should we despise his pursuits, had he not
converted the pleasing relaxation of a leisure hour into the serious
business and ambition of his life. But Commodus, from his earliest
infancy, discovered an aversion to whatever was rational or liberal, and
a fond attachment to the amusements of the populace; the sports of the
circus and amphitheatre, the combats of gladiators, and the hunting
of wild beasts. The masters in every branch of learning, whom Marcus
provided for his son, were heard with inattention and disgust; whilst
the Moors and Parthians, who taught him to dart the javelin and to shoot
with the bow, found a disciple who delighted in his application, and
soon equalled the most skilful of his instructors in the steadiness of
the eye and the dexterity of the hand.

The servile crowd, whose fortune depended on their master's vices,
applauded these ignoble pursuits. The perfidious voice of flattery
reminded him, that by exploits of the same nature, by the defeat of
the Nemæan lion, and the slaughter of the wild boar of Erymanthus, the
Grecian Hercules had acquired a place among the gods, and an immortal
memory among men. They only forgot to observe, that, in the first
ages of society, when the fiercer animals often dispute with man the
possession of an unsettled country, a successful war against those
savages is one of the most innocent and beneficial labors of heroism. In
the civilized state of the Roman empire, the wild beasts had long since
retired from the face of man, and the neighborhood of populous cities.
To surprise them in their solitary haunts, and to transport them to
Rome, that they might be slain in pomp by the hand of an emperor, was
an enterprise equally ridiculous for the prince and oppressive for the
people. Ignorant of these distinctions, Commodus eagerly embraced the
glorious resemblance, and styled himself (as we still read on his medals
) the Roman Hercules. * The club and the lion's hide were placed by the
side of the throne, amongst the ensigns of sovereignty; and statues were
erected, in which Commodus was represented in the character, and with
the attributes, of the god, whose valor and dexterity he endeavored to
emulate in the daily course of his ferocious amusements.

Elated with these praises, which gradually extinguished the innate sense
of shame, Commodus resolved to exhibit before the eyes of the Roman
people those exercises, which till then he had decently confined within
the walls of his palace, and to the presence of a few favorites. On the
appointed day, the various motives of flattery, fear, and curiosity,
attracted to the amphitheatre an innumerable multitude of spectators;
and some degree of applause was deservedly bestowed on the uncommon
skill of the Imperial performer. Whether he aimed at the head or heart
of the animal, the wound was alike certain and mortal. With arrows whose
point was shaped into the form of crescent, Commodus often intercepted
the rapid career, and cut asunder the long, bony neck of the ostrich. A
panther was let loose; and the archer waited till he had leaped upon
a trembling malefactor. In the same instant the shaft flew, the beast
dropped dead, and the man remained unhurt. The dens of the amphitheatre
disgorged at once a hundred lions: a hundred darts from the unerring
hand of Commodus laid them dead as they run raging round the Arena.
Neither the huge bulk of the elephant, nor the scaly hide of the
rhinoceros, could defend them from his stroke. Æthiopia and India
yielded their most extraordinary productions; and several animals
were slain in the amphitheatre, which had been seen only in the
representations of art, or perhaps of fancy. In all these exhibitions,
the securest precautions were used to protect the person of the Roman
Hercules from the desperate spring of any savage, who might possibly
disregard the dignity of the emperor and the sanctity of the god. ^

But the meanest of the populace were affected with shame and indignation
when they beheld their sovereign enter the lists as a gladiator, and
glory in a profession which the laws and manners of the Romans had
branded with the justest note of infamy. He chose the habit and arms
of the Secutor, whose combat with the Retiarius formed one of the most
lively scenes in the bloody sports of the amphitheatre. The Secutor was
armed with a helmet, sword, and buckler; his naked antagonist had only
a large net and a trident; with the one he endeavored to entangle, with
the other to despatch his enemy. If he missed the first throw, he was
obliged to fly from the pursuit of the Secutor, till he had prepared
his net for a second cast. The emperor fought in this character seven
hundred and thirty-five several times. These glorious achievements were
carefully recorded in the public acts of the empire; and that he might
omit no circumstance of infamy, he received from the common fund
of gladiators a stipend so exorbitant that it became a new and most
ignominious tax upon the Roman people. It may be easily supposed, that
in these engagements the master of the world was always successful; in
the amphitheatre, his victories were not often sanguinary; but when he
exercised his skill in the school of gladiators, or his own palace, his
wretched antagonists were frequently honored with a mortal wound from
the hand of Commodus, and obliged to seal their flattery with their
blood. He now disdained the appellation of Hercules. The name of Paulus,
a celebrated Secutor, was the only one which delighted his ear. It
was inscribed on his colossal statues, and repeated in the redoubled
acclamations of the mournful and applauding senate. Claudius Pompeianus,
the virtuous husband of Lucilla, was the only senator who asserted the
honor of his rank. As a father, he permitted his sons to consult their
safety by attending the amphitheatre. As a Roman, he declared, that his
own life was in the emperor's hands, but that he would never behold the
son of Marcus prostituting his person and dignity. Notwithstanding his
manly resolution Pompeianus escaped the resentment of the tyrant, and,
with his honor, had the good fortune to preserve his life.

Commodus had now attained the summit of vice and infamy. Amidst the
acclamations of a flattering court, he was unable to disguise from
himself, that he had deserved the contempt and hatred of every man of
sense and virtue in his empire. His ferocious spirit was irritated by
the consciousness of that hatred, by the envy of every kind of merit, by
the just apprehension of danger, and by the habit of slaughter, which he
contracted in his daily amusements. History has preserved a long list of
consular senators sacrificed to his wanton suspicion, which sought out,
with peculiar anxiety, those unfortunate persons connected, however
remotely, with the family of the Antonines, without sparing even the
ministers of his crimes or pleasures. His cruelty proved at last fatal
to himself. He had shed with impunity the noblest blood of Rome: he
perished as soon as he was dreaded by his own domestics. Marcia, his
favorite concubine, Eclectus, his chamberlain, and Lætus, his Prætorian
præfect, alarmed by the fate of their companions and predecessors,
resolved to prevent the destruction which every hour hung over their
heads, either from the mad caprice of the tyrant, * or the sudden
indignation of the people. Marcia seized the occasion of presenting a
draught of wine to her lover, after he had fatigued himself with hunting
some wild beasts. Commodus retired to sleep; but whilst he was
laboring with the effects of poison and drunkenness, a robust youth, by
profession a wrestler, entered his chamber, and strangled him without
resistance. The body was secretly conveyed out of the palace, before the
least suspicion was entertained in the city, or even in the court, of
the emperor's death. Such was the fate of the son of Marcus, and so
easy was it to destroy a hated tyrant, who, by the artificial powers of
government, had oppressed, during thirteen years, so many millions of
subjects, each of whom was equal to their master in personal strength
and personal abilities.

The measures of he conspirators were conducted with the deliberate
coolness and celerity which the greatness of the occasion required.
They resolved instantly to fill the vacant throne with an emperor whose
character would justify and maintain the action that had been committed.
They fixed on Pertinax, præfect of the city, an ancient senator of
consular rank, whose conspicuous merit had broke through the obscurity
of his birth, and raised him to the first honors of the state. He had
successively governed most of the provinces of the empire; and in all
his great employments, military as well as civil, he had uniformly
distinguished himself by the firmness, the prudence, and the integrity
of his conduct. He now remained almost alone of the friends and
ministers of Marcus; and when, at a late hour of the night, he was
awakened with the news, that the chamberlain and the præfect were at his
door, he received them with intrepid resignation, and desired they would
execute their master's orders. Instead of death, they offered him the
throne of the Roman world. During some moments he distrusted their
intentions and assurances. Convinced at length of the death of Commodus,
he accepted the purple with a sincere reluctance, the natural effect of
his knowledge both of the duties and of the dangers of the supreme rank.

Lætus conducted without delay his new emperor to the camp of the
Prætorians, diffusing at the same time through the city a seasonable
report that Commodus died suddenly of an apoplexy; and that the virtuous
Pertinax had already succeeded to the throne. The guards were rather
surprised than pleased with the suspicious death of a prince, whose
indulgence and liberality they alone had experienced; but the emergency
of the occasion, the authority of their præfect, the reputation of
Pertinax, and the clamors of the people, obliged them to stifle their
secret discontents, to accept the donative promised by the new emperor,
to swear allegiance to him, and with joyful acclamations and laurels
in their hands to conduct him to the senate house, that the military
consent might be ratified by the civil authority.

This important night was now far spent; with the dawn of day, and the
commencement of the new year, the senators expected a summons to attend
an ignominious ceremony. * In spite of all remonstrances, even of those
of his creatures who yet preserved any regard for prudence or decency,
Commodus had resolved to pass the night in the gladiators' school, and
from thence to take possession of the consulship, in the habit and with
the attendance of that infamous crew. On a sudden, before the break of
day, the senate was called together in the temple of Concord, to meet
the guards, and to ratify the election of a new emperor. For a few
minutes they sat in silent suspense, doubtful of their unexpected
deliverance, and suspicious of the cruel artifices of Commodus: but when
at length they were assured that the tyrant was no more, they resigned
themselves to all the transports of joy and indignation. Pertinax, who
modestly represented the meanness of his extraction, and pointed out
several noble senators more deserving than himself of the empire, was
constrained by their dutiful violence to ascend the throne, and received
all the titles of Imperial power, confirmed by the most sincere vows of
fidelity. The memory of Commodus was branded with eternal infamy. The
names of tyrant, of gladiator, of public enemy resounded in every corner
of the house. They decreed in tumultuous votes, that his honors should
be reversed, his titles erased from the public monuments, his statues
thrown down, his body dragged with a hook into the stripping room of
the gladiators, to satiate the public fury; and they expressed some
indignation against those officious servants who had already presumed
to screen his remains from the justice of the senate. But Pertinax could
not refuse those last rites to the memory of Marcus, and the tears of
his first protector Claudius Pompeianus, who lamented the cruel fate of
his brother-in-law, and lamented still more that he had deserved it.

These effusions of impotent rage against a dead emperor, whom the senate
had flattered when alive with the most abject servility, betrayed a just
but ungenerous spirit of revenge. The legality of these decrees was,
however, supported by the principles of the Imperial constitution. To
censure, to depose, or to punish with death, the first magistrate of
the republic, who had abused his delegated trust, was the ancient and
undoubted prerogative of the Roman senate; but the feeble assembly was
obliged to content itself with inflicting on a fallen tyrant that public
justice, from which, during his life and reign, he had been shielded by
the strong arm of military despotism. *

Pertinax found a nobler way of condemning his predecessor's memory; by
the contrast of his own virtues with the vices of Commodus. On the day
of his accession, he resigned over to his wife and son his whole private
fortune; that they might have no pretence to solicit favors at the
expense of the state. He refused to flatter the vanity of the former
with the title of Augusta; or to corrupt the inexperienced youth of
the latter by the rank of Cæsar. Accurately distinguishing between the
duties of a parent and those of a sovereign, he educated his son with a
severe simplicity, which, while it gave him no assured prospect of the
throne, might in time have rendered him worthy of it. In public, the
behavior of Pertinax was grave and affable. He lived with the virtuous
part of the senate, (and, in a private station, he had been acquainted
with the true character of each individual,) without either pride or
jealousy; considered them as friends and companions, with whom he had
shared the danger of the tyranny, and with whom he wished to enjoy
the security of the present time. He very frequently invited them to
familiar entertainments, the frugality of which was ridiculed by those
who remembered and regretted the luxurious prodigality of Commodus.

To heal, as far as I was possible, the wounds inflicted by the hand
of tyranny, was the pleasing, but melancholy, task of Pertinax. The
innocent victims, who yet survived, were recalled from exile, released
from prison, and restored to the full possession of their honors and
fortunes. The unburied bodies of murdered senators (for the cruelty of
Commodus endeavored to extend itself beyond death) were deposited in
the sepulchres of their ancestors; their memory was justified and every
consolation was bestowed on their ruined and afflicted families. Among
these consolations, one of the most grateful was the punishment of the
Delators; the common enemies of their master, of virtue, and of their
country. Yet even in the inquisition of these legal assassins, Pertinax
proceeded with a steady temper, which gave every thing to justice, and
nothing to popular prejudice and resentment.

The finances of the state demanded the most vigilant care of the
emperor. Though every measure of injustice and extortion had been
adopted, which could collect the property of the subject into the
coffers of the prince, the rapaciousness of Commodus had been so very
inadequate to his extravagance, that, upon his death, no more than eight
thousand pounds were found in the exhausted treasury, to defray the
current expenses of government, and to discharge the pressing demand of
a liberal donative, which the new emperor had been obliged to promise to
the Prætorian guards. Yet under these distressed circumstances, Pertinax
had the generous firmness to remit all the oppressive taxes invented
by Commodus, and to cancel all the unjust claims of the treasury;
declaring, in a decree of the senate, "that he was better satisfied to
administer a poor republic with innocence, than to acquire riches by the
ways of tyranny and dishonor. "Economy and industry he considered as
the pure and genuine sources of wealth; and from them he soon derived a
copious supply for the public necessities. The expense of the household
was immediately reduced to one half. All the instruments of luxury
Pertinax exposed to public auction, gold and silver plate, chariots of
a singular construction, a superfluous wardrobe of silk and embroidery,
and a great number of beautiful slaves of both sexes; excepting only,
with attentive humanity, those who were born in a state of freedom, and
had been ravished from the arms of their weeping parents. At the same
time that he obliged the worthless favorites of the tyrant to resign a
part of their ill-gotten wealth, he satisfied the just creditors of the
state, and unexpectedly discharged the long arrears of honest services.
He removed the oppressive restrictions which had been laid upon
commerce, and granted all the uncultivated lands in Italy and the
provinces to those who would improve them; with an exemption from
tribute during the term of ten years.

Such a uniform conduct had already secured to Pertinax the noblest
reward of a sovereign, the love and esteem of his people. Those who
remembered the virtues of Marcus were happy to contemplate in their new
emperor the features of that bright original; and flattered themselves,
that they should long enjoy the benign influence of his administration.
A hasty zeal to reform the corrupted state, accompanied with less
prudence than might have been expected from the years and experience
of Pertinax, proved fatal to himself and to his country. His honest
indiscretion united against him the servile crowd, who found their
private benefit in the public disorders, and who preferred the favor of
a tyrant to the inexorable equality of the laws.

Amidst the general joy, the sullen and angry countenance of the
Prætorian guards betrayed their inward dissatisfaction. They had
reluctantly submitted to Pertinax; they dreaded the strictness of
the ancient discipline, which he was preparing to restore; and they
regretted the license of the former reign. Their discontents were
secretly fomented by Lætus, their præfect, who found, when it was too
late, that his new emperor would reward a servant, but would not be
ruled by a favorite. On the third day of his reign, the soldiers seized
on a noble senator, with a design to carry him to the camp, and to
invest him with the Imperial purple. Instead of being dazzled by the
dangerous honor, the affrighted victim escaped from their violence, and
took refuge at the feet of Pertinax. A short time afterwards, Sosius
Falco, one of the consuls of the year, a rash youth, but of an ancient
and opulent family, listened to the voice of ambition; and a conspiracy
was formed during a short absence of Pertinax, which was crushed by his
sudden return to Rome, and his resolute behavior. Falco was on the point
of being justly condemned to death as a public enemy had he not been
saved by the earnest and sincere entreaties of the injured emperor, who
conjured the senate, that the purity of his reign might not be stained
by the blood even of a guilty senator.

These disappointments served only to irritate the rage of the Prætorian
guards. On the twenty-eighth of March, eighty-six days only after the
death of Commodus, a general sedition broke out in the camp, which the
officers wanted either power or inclination to suppress. Two or three
hundred of the most desperate soldiers marched at noonday, with arms in
their hands and fury in their looks, towards the Imperial palace.
The gates were thrown open by their companions upon guard, and by the
domestics of the old court, who had already formed a secret conspiracy
against the life of the too virtuous emperor. On the news of their
approach, Pertinax, disdaining either flight or concealment, advanced to
meet his assassins; and recalled to their minds his own innocence,
and the sanctity of their recent oath. For a few moments they stood
in silent suspense, ashamed of their atrocious design, and awed by
the venerable aspect and majestic firmness of their sovereign, till at
length, the despair of pardon reviving their fury, a barbarian of the
country of Tongress levelled the first blow against Pertinax, who was
instantly despatched with a multitude of wounds. His head, separated
from his body, and placed on a lance, was carried in triumph to the
Prætorian camp, in the sight of a mournful and indignant people, who
lamented the unworthy fate of that excellent prince, and the transient
blessings of a reign, the memory of which could serve only to aggravate
their approaching misfortunes.

Chapter V: Sale Of The Empire To Didius Julianus.--Part I.

     Public Sale Of The Empire To Didius Julianus By The
     Prætorian Guards--Clodius Albinus In Britain, Pescennius
     Niger In Syria, And Septimius Severus In Pannonia, Declare
     Against The Murderers Of Pertinax--Civil Wars And Victory Of
     Severus Over His Three Rivals--Relaxation Of Discipline--New
     Maxims Of Government.

The power of the sword is more sensibly felt in an extensive monarchy,
than in a small community. It has been calculated by the ablest
politicians, that no state, without being soon exhausted, can maintain
above the hundredth part of its members in arms and idleness. But
although this relative proportion may be uniform, the influence of the
army over the rest of the society will vary according to the degree of
its positive strength. The advantages of military science and discipline
cannot be exerted, unless a proper number of soldiers are united into
one body, and actuated by one soul. With a handful of men, such a union
would be ineffectual; with an unwieldy host, it would be impracticable;
and the powers of the machine would be alike destroyed by the extreme
minuteness or the excessive weight of its springs. To illustrate this
observation, we need only reflect, that there is no superiority of
natural strength, artificial weapons, or acquired skill, which could
enable one man to keep in constant subjection one hundred of his
fellow-creatures: the tyrant of a single town, or a small district,
would soon discover that a hundred armed followers were a weak defence
against ten thousand peasants or citizens; but a hundred thousand
well-disciplined soldiers will command, with despotic sway, ten millions
of subjects; and a body of ten or fifteen thousand guards will strike
terror into the most numerous populace that ever crowded the streets of
an immense capital.

The Prætorian bands, whose licentious fury was the first symptom and
cause of the decline of the Roman empire, scarcely amounted to the
last-mentioned number They derived their institution from Augustus. That
crafty tyrant, sensible that laws might color, but that arms alone could
maintain, his usurped dominion, had gradually formed this powerful
body of guards, in constant readiness to protect his person, to awe
the senate, and either to prevent or to crush the first motions of
rebellion. He distinguished these favored troops by a double pay and
superior privileges; but, as their formidable aspect would at once
have alarmed and irritated the Roman people, three cohorts only were
stationed in the capital, whilst the remainder was dispersed in the
adjacent towns of Italy. But after fifty years of peace and servitude,
Tiberius ventured on a decisive measure, which forever rivetted the
fetters of his country. Under the fair pretences of relieving Italy from
the heavy burden of military quarters, and of introducing a stricter
discipline among the guards, he assembled them at Rome, in a permanent
camp, which was fortified with skilful care, and placed on a commanding

Such formidable servants are always necessary, but often fatal to the
throne of despotism. By thus introducing the Prætorian guards as it were
into the palace and the senate, the emperors taught them to perceive
their own strength, and the weakness of the civil government; to view
the vices of their masters with familiar contempt, and to lay aside that
reverential awe, which distance only, and mystery, can preserve towards
an imaginary power. In the luxurious idleness of an opulent city, their
pride was nourished by the sense of their irresistible weight; nor was
it possible to conceal from them, that the person of the sovereign, the
authority of the senate, the public treasure, and the seat of empire,
were all in their hands. To divert the Prætorian bands from these
dangerous reflections, the firmest and best established princes were
obliged to mix blandishments with commands, rewards with punishments,
to flatter their pride, indulge their pleasures, connive at their
irregularities, and to purchase their precarious faith by a liberal
donative; which, since the elevation of Claudius, was enacted as a legal
claim, on the accession of every new emperor.

The advocate of the guards endeavored to justify by arguments the power
which they asserted by arms; and to maintain that, according to the
purest principles of the constitution, their consent was essentially
necessary in the appointment of an emperor. The election of consuls, of
generals, and of magistrates, however it had been recently usurped by
the senate, was the ancient and undoubted right of the Roman people.
But where was the Roman people to be found? Not surely amongst the mixed
multitude of slaves and strangers that filled the streets of Rome; a
servile populace, as devoid of spirit as destitute of property. The
defenders of the state, selected from the flower of the Italian youth,
and trained in the exercise of arms and virtue, were the genuine
representatives of the people, and the best entitled to elect the
military chief of the republic. These assertions, however defective in
reason, became unanswerable when the fierce Prætorians increased their
weight, by throwing, like the barbarian conqueror of Rome, their swords
into the scale.

The Prætorians had violated the sanctity of the throne by the atrocious
murder of Pertinax; they dishonored the majesty of it by their
subsequent conduct. The camp was without a leader, for even the præfect
Lætus, who had excited the tempest, prudently declined the public
indignation. Amidst the wild disorder, Sulpicianus, the emperor's
father-in-law, and governor of the city, who had been sent to the camp
on the first alarm of mutiny, was endeavoring to calm the fury of
the multitude, when he was silenced by the clamorous return of the
murderers, bearing on a lance the head of Pertinax. Though history has
accustomed us to observe every principle and every passion yielding to
the imperious dictates of ambition, it is scarcely credible that, in
these moments of horror, Sulpicianus should have aspired to ascend
a throne polluted with the recent blood of so near a relation and so
excellent a prince. He had already begun to use the only effectual
argument, and to treat for the Imperial dignity; but the more prudent of
the Prætorians, apprehensive that, in this private contract, they should
not obtain a just price for so valuable a commodity, ran out upon the
ramparts; and, with a loud voice, proclaimed that the Roman world was to
be disposed of to the best bidder by public auction.

This infamous offer, the most insolent excess of military license,
diffused a universal grief, shame, and indignation throughout the city.
It reached at length the ears of Didius Julianus, a wealthy senator,
who, regardless of the public calamities, was indulging himself in the
luxury of the table. His wife and his daughter, his freedmen and
his parasites, easily convinced him that he deserved the throne, and
earnestly conjured him to embrace so fortunate an opportunity. The vain
old man hastened to the Prætorian camp, where Sulpicianus was still in
treaty with the guards, and began to bid against him from the foot
of the rampart. The unworthy negotiation was transacted by faithful
emissaries, who passed alternately from one candidate to the other, and
acquainted each of them with the offers of his rival. Sulpicianus had
already promised a donative of five thousand drachms (above one hundred
and sixty pounds) to each soldier; when Julian, eager for the prize,
rose at once to the sum of six thousand two hundred and fifty drachms,
or upwards of two hundred pounds sterling. The gates of the camp were
instantly thrown open to the purchaser; he was declared emperor, and
received an oath of allegiance from the soldiers, who retained humanity
enough to stipulate that he should pardon and forget the competition of
Sulpicianus. *

It was now incumbent on the Prætorians to fulfil the conditions of the
sale. They placed their new sovereign, whom they served and despised,
in the centre of their ranks, surrounded him on every side with their
shields, and conducted him in close order of battle through the deserted
streets of the city. The senate was commanded to assemble; and those who
had been the distinguished friends of Pertinax, or the personal enemies
of Julian, found it necessary to affect a more than common share of
satisfaction at this happy revolution. After Julian had filled the
senate house with armed soldiers, he expatiated on the freedom of
his election, his own eminent virtues, and his full assurance of the
affections of the senate. The obsequious assembly congratulated their
own and the public felicity; engaged their allegiance, and conferred
on him all the several branches of the Imperial power. From the
senate Julian was conducted, by the same military procession, to take
possession of the palace. The first objects that struck his eyes, were
the abandoned trunk of Pertinax, and the frugal entertainment prepared
for his supper. The one he viewed with indifference, the other with
contempt. A magnificent feast was prepared by his order, and he amused
himself, till a very late hour, with dice, and the performances of
Pylades, a celebrated dancer. Yet it was observed, that after the
crowd of flatterers dispersed, and left him to darkness, solitude,
and terrible reflection, he passed a sleepless night; revolving most
probably in his mind his own rash folly, the fate of his virtuous
predecessor, and the doubtful and dangerous tenure of an empire which
had not been acquired by merit, but purchased by money.

He had reason to tremble. On the throne of the world he found himself
without a friend, and even without an adherent. The guards themselves
were ashamed of the prince whom their avarice had persuaded them to
accept; nor was there a citizen who did not consider his elevation
with horror, as the last insult on the Roman name. The nobility, whose
conspicuous station, and ample possessions, exacted the strictest
caution, dissembled their sentiments, and met the affected civility of
the emperor with smiles of complacency and professions of duty. But the
people, secure in their numbers and obscurity, gave a free vent to their
passions. The streets and public places of Rome resounded with clamors
and imprecations. The enraged multitude affronted the person of Julian,
rejected his liberality, and, conscious of the impotence of their own
resentment, they called aloud on the legions of the frontiers to assert
the violated majesty of the Roman empire.

The public discontent was soon diffused from the centre to the frontiers
of the empire. The armies of Britain, of Syria, and of Illyricum,
lamented the death of Pertinax, in whose company, or under whose
command, they had so often fought and conquered. They received with
surprise, with indignation, and perhaps with envy, the extraordinary
intelligence, that the Prætorians had disposed of the empire by public
auction; and they sternly refused to ratify the ignominious bargain.
Their immediate and unanimous revolt was fatal to Julian, but it was
fatal at the same time to the public peace, as the generals of the
respective armies, Clodius Albinus, Pescennius Niger, and Septimius
Severus, were still more anxious to succeed than to revenge the murdered
Pertinax. Their forces were exactly balanced. Each of them was at the
head of three legions, with a numerous train of auxiliaries; and however
different in their characters, they were all soldiers of experience and

Clodius Albinus, governor of Britain, surpassed both his competitors in
the nobility of his extraction, which he derived from some of the most
illustrious names of the old republic. But the branch from which he
claimed his descent was sunk into mean circumstances, and transplanted
into a remote province. It is difficult to form a just idea of his true
character. Under the philosophic cloak of austerity, he stands accused
of concealing most of the vices which degrade human nature. But his
accusers are those venal writers who adored the fortune of Severus,
and trampled on the ashes of an unsuccessful rival. Virtue, or the
appearances of virtue, recommended Albinus to the confidence and good
opinion of Marcus; and his preserving with the son the same interest
which he had acquired with the father, is a proof at least that he was
possessed of a very flexible disposition. The favor of a tyrant does
not always suppose a want of merit in the object of it; he may, without
intending it, reward a man of worth and ability, or he may find such a
man useful to his own service. It does not appear that Albinus served
the son of Marcus, either as the minister of his cruelties, or even as
the associate of his pleasures. He was employed in a distant honorable
command, when he received a confidential letter from the emperor,
acquainting him of the treasonable designs of some discontented
generals, and authorizing him to declare himself the guardian and
successor of the throne, by assuming the title and ensigns of Cæsar.
The governor of Britain wisely declined the dangerous honor, which would
have marked him for the jealousy, or involved him in the approaching
ruin, of Commodus. He courted power by nobler, or, at least, by more
specious arts. On a premature report of the death of the emperor,
he assembled his troops; and, in an eloquent discourse, deplored the
inevitable mischiefs of despotism, described the happiness and glory
which their ancestors had enjoyed under the consular government, and
declared his firm resolution to reinstate the senate and people in
their legal authority. This popular harangue was answered by the loud
acclamations of the British legions, and received at Rome with a secret
murmur of applause. Safe in the possession of his little world, and in
the command of an army less distinguished indeed for discipline than for
numbers and valor, Albinus braved the menaces of Commodus, maintained
towards Pertinax a stately ambiguous reserve, and instantly declared
against the usurpation of Julian. The convulsions of the capital
added new weight to his sentiments, or rather to his professions of
patriotism. A regard to decency induced him to decline the lofty titles
of Augustus and Emperor; and he imitated perhaps the example of Galba,
who, on a similar occasion, had styled himself the Lieutenant of the
senate and people.

Personal merit alone had raised Pescennius Niger, from an obscure birth
and station, to the government of Syria; a lucrative and important
command, which in times of civil confusion gave him a near prospect of
the throne. Yet his parts seem to have been better suited to the second
than to the first rank; he was an unequal rival, though he might have
approved himself an excellent lieutenant, to Severus, who afterwards
displayed the greatness of his mind by adopting several useful
institutions from a vanquished enemy. In his government Niger acquired
the esteem of the soldiers and the love of the provincials. His rigid
discipline foritfied the valor and confirmed the obedience of the
former, whilst the voluptuous Syrians were less delighted with the mild
firmness of his administration, than with the affability of his manners,
and the apparent pleasure with which he attended their frequent and
pompous festivals. As soon as the intelligence of the atrocious murder
of Pertinax had reached Antioch, the wishes of Asia invited Niger to
assume the Imperial purple and revenge his death. The legions of the
eastern frontier embraced his cause; the opulent but unarmed provinces,
from the frontiers of Æthiopia to the Hadriatic, cheerfully submitted
to his power; and the kings beyond the Tigris and the Euphrates
congratulated his election, and offered him their homage and services.
The mind of Niger was not capable of receiving this sudden tide of
fortune: he flattered himself that his accession would be undisturbed by
competition and unstained by civil blood; and whilst he enjoyed the vain
pomp of triumph, he neglected to secure the means of victory. Instead of
entering into an effectual negotiation with the powerful armies of
the West, whose resolution might decide, or at least must balance, the
mighty contest; instead of advancing without delay towards Rome and
Italy, where his presence was impatiently expected, Niger trifled
away in the luxury of Antioch those irretrievable moments which were
diligently improved by the decisive activity of Severus.

The country of Pannonia and Dalmatia, which occupied the space between
the Danube and the Hadriatic, was one of the last and most difficult
conquests of the Romans. In the defence of national freedom, two hundred
thousand of these barbarians had once appeared in the field, alarmed
the declining age of Augustus, and exercised the vigilant prudence
of Tiberius at the head of the collected force of the empire. The
Pannonians yielded at length to the arms and institutions of Rome. Their
recent subjection, however, the neighborhood, and even the mixture, of
the unconquered tribes, and perhaps the climate, adapted, as it has
been observed, to the production of great bodies and slow minds, all
contributed to preserve some remains of their original ferocity, and
under the tame and uniform countenance of Roman provincials, the hardy
features of the natives were still to be discerned. Their warlike youth
afforded an inexhaustible supply of recruits to the legions stationed on
the banks of the Danube, and which, from a perpetual warfare against the
Germans and Sarmazans, were deservedly esteemed the best troops in the

The Pannonian army was at this time commanded by Septimius Severus,
a native of Africa, who, in the gradual ascent of private honors, had
concealed his daring ambition, which was never diverted from its steady
course by the allurements of pleasure, the apprehension of danger, or
the feelings of humanity. On the first news of the murder of Pertinax,
he assembled his troops, painted in the most lively colors the crime,
the insolence, and the weakness of the Prætorian guards, and animated
the legions to arms and to revenge. He concluded (and the peroration
was thought extremely eloquent) with promising every soldier about four
hundred pounds; an honorable donative, double in value to the infamous
bribe with which Julian had purchased the empire. The acclamations
of the army immediately saluted Severus with the names of Augustus,
Pertinax, and Emperor; and he thus attained the lofty station to which
he was invited, by conscious merit and a long train of dreams and omens,
the fruitful offsprings either of his superstition or policy.

The new candidate for empire saw and improved the peculiar advantage of
his situation. His province extended to the Julian Alps, which gave an
easy access into Italy; and he remembered the saying of Augustus, That a
Pannonian army might in ten days appear in sight of Rome. By a celerity
proportioned to the greatness of the occasion, he might reasonably hope
to revenge Pertinax, punish Julian, and receive the homage of the senate
and people, as their lawful emperor, before his competitors, separated
from Italy by an immense tract of sea and land, were apprised of his
success, or even of his election. During the whole expedition, he
scarcely allowed himself any moments for sleep or food; marching on
foot, and in complete armor, at the head of his columns, he insinuated
himself into the confidence and affection of his troops, pressed their
diligence, revived their spirits, animated their hopes, and was well
satisfied to share the hardships of the meanest soldier, whilst he kept
in view the infinite superiority of his reward.

The wretched Julian had expected, and thought himself prepared, to
dispute the empire with the governor of Syria; but in the invincible and
rapid approach of the Pannonian legions, he saw his inevitable ruin. The
hasty arrival of every messenger increased his just apprehensions. He
was successively informed, that Severus had passed the Alps; that the
Italian cities, unwilling or unable to oppose his progress, had received
him with the warmest professions of joy and duty; that the important
place of Ravenna had surrendered without resistance, and that the
Hadriatic fleet was in the hands of the conqueror. The enemy was now
within two hundred and fifty miles of Rome; and every moment diminished
the narrow span of life and empire allotted to Julian.

He attempted, however, to prevent, or at least to protract, his ruin.
He implored the venal faith of the Prætorians, filled the city with
unavailing preparations for war, drew lines round the suburbs, and
even strengthened the fortifications of the palace; as if those last
intrenchments could be defended, without hope of relief, against a
victorious invader. Fear and shame prevented the guards from deserting
his standard; but they trembled at the name of the Pannonian legions,
commanded by an experienced general, and accustomed to vanquish
the barbarians on the frozen Danube. They quitted, with a sigh, the
pleasures of the baths and theatres, to put on arms, whose use they had
almost forgotten, and beneath the weight of which they were oppressed.
The unpractised elephants, whose uncouth appearance, it was hoped, would
strike terror into the army of the north, threw their unskilful riders;
and the awkward evolutions of the marines, drawn from the fleet of
Misenum, were an object of ridicule to the populace; whilst the senate
enjoyed, with secret pleasure, the distress and weakness of the usurper.

Every motion of Julian betrayed his trembling perplexity. He insisted
that Severus should be declared a public enemy by the senate. He
entreated that the Pannonian general might be associated to the empire.
He sent public ambassadors of consular rank to negotiate with his rival;
he despatched private assassins to take away his life. He designed that
the Vestal virgins, and all the colleges of priests, in their sacerdotal
habits, and bearing before them the sacred pledges of the Roman
religion, should advance in solemn procession to meet the Pannonian
legions; and, at the same time, he vainly tried to interrogate, or to
appease, the fates, by magic ceremonies and unlawful sacrifices.

Chapter V: Sale Of The Empire To Didius Julianus.--Part II.

Severus, who dreaded neither his arms nor his enchantments, guarded
himself from the only danger of secret conspiracy, by the faithful
attendance of six hundred chosen men, who never quitted his person or
their cuirasses, either by night or by day, during the whole march.
Advancing with a steady and rapid course, he passed, without difficulty,
the defiles of the Apennine, received into his party the troops and
ambassadors sent to retard his progress, and made a short halt at
Interamnia, about seventy miles from Rome. His victory was already
secure, but the despair of the Prætorians might have rendered it bloody;
and Severus had the laudable ambition of ascending the throne without
drawing the sword. His emissaries, dispersed in the capital, assured the
guards, that provided they would abandon their worthless prince, and the
perpetrators of the murder of Pertinax, to the justice of the conqueror,
he would no longer consider that melancholy event as the act of the
whole body. The faithless Prætorians, whose resistance was supported
only by sullen obstinacy, gladly complied with the easy conditions,
seized the greatest part of the assassins, and signified to the senate,
that they no longer defended the cause of Julian. That assembly,
convoked by the consul, unanimously acknowledged Severus as lawful
emperor, decreed divine honors to Pertinax, and pronounced a sentence
of deposition and death against his unfortunate successor. Julian was
conducted into a private apartment of the baths of the palace, and
beheaded as a common criminal, after having purchased, with an immense
treasure, an anxious and precarious reign of only sixty-six days. The
almost incredible expedition of Severus, who, in so short a space of
time, conducted a numerous army from the banks of the Danube to those
of the Tyber, proves at once the plenty of provisions produced by
agriculture and commerce, the goodness of the roads, the discipline of
the legions, and the indolent, subdued temper of the provinces.

The first cares of Severus were bestowed on two measures the one
dictated by policy, the other by decency; the revenge, and the honors,
due to the memory of Pertinax. Before the new emperor entered Rome, he
issued his commands to the Prætorian guards, directing them to wait his
arrival on a large plain near the city, without arms, but in the habits
of ceremony, in which they were accustomed to attend their sovereign. He
was obeyed by those haughty troops, whose contrition was the effect of
their just terrors. A chosen part of the Illyrian army encompassed them
with levelled spears. Incapable of flight or resistance, they expected
their fate in silent consternation. Severus mounted the tribunal,
sternly reproached them with perfidy and cowardice, dismissed them with
ignominy from the trust which they had betrayed, despoiled them of their
splendid ornaments, and banished them, on pain of death, to the distance
of a hundred miles from the capital. During the transaction, another
detachment had been sent to seize their arms, occupy their camp, and
prevent the hasty consequences of their despair.

The funeral and consecration of Pertinax was next solemnized with
every circumstance of sad magnificence. The senate, with a melancholy
pleasure, performed the last rites to that excellent prince, whom
they had loved, and still regretted. The concern of his successor was
probably less sincere; he esteemed the virtues of Pertinax, but those
virtues would forever have confined his ambition to a private station.
Severus pronounced his funeral oration with studied eloquence, inward
satisfaction, and well-acted sorrow; and by this pious regard to his
memory, convinced the credulous multitude, that he alone was worthy to
supply his place. Sensible, however, that arms, not ceremonies, must
assert his claim to the empire, he left Rome at the end of thirty
days, and without suffering himself to be elated by this easy victory,
prepared to encounter his more formidable rivals.

The uncommon abilities and fortune of Severus have induced an elegant
historian to compare him with the first and greatest of the Cæsars. The
parallel is, at least, imperfect. Where shall we find, in the character
of Severus, the commanding superiority of soul, the generous clemency,
and the various genius, which could reconcile and unite the love of
pleasure, the thirst of knowledge, and the fire of ambition? In one
instance only, they may be compared, with some degree of propriety, in
the celerity of their motions, and their civil victories. In less than
four years, Severus subdued the riches of the East, and the valor of
the West. He vanquished two competitors of reputation and ability, and
defeated numerous armies, provided with weapons and discipline equal to
his own. In that age, the art of fortification, and the principles
of tactics, were well understood by all the Roman generals; and the
constant superiority of Severus was that of an artist, who uses the same
instruments with more skill and industry than his rivals. I shall not,
however, enter into a minute narrative of these military operations; but
as the two civil wars against Niger and against Albinus were almost the
same in their conduct, event, and consequences, I shall collect into one
point of view the most striking circumstances, tending to develop the
character of the conqueror and the state of the empire.

Falsehood and insincerity, unsuitable as they seem to the dignity of
public transactions, offend us with a less degrading idea of meanness,
than when they are found in the intercourse of private life. In the
latter, they discover a want of courage; in the other, only a defect of
power: and, as it is impossible for the most able statesmen to subdue
millions of followers and enemies by their own personal strength, the
world, under the name of policy, seems to have granted them a very
liberal indulgence of craft and dissimulation. Yet the arts of Severus
cannot be justified by the most ample privileges of state reason. He
promised only to betray, he flattered only to ruin; and however he
might occasionally bind himself by oaths and treaties, his conscience,
obsequious to his interest, always released him from the inconvenient

If his two competitors, reconciled by their common danger, had advanced
upon him without delay, perhaps Severus would have sunk under their
united effort. Had they even attacked him, at the same time, with
separate views and separate armies, the contest might have been long and
doubtful. But they fell, singly and successively, an easy prey to the
arts as well as arms of their subtle enemy, lulled into security by the
moderation of his professions, and overwhelmed by the rapidity of his
action. He first marched against Niger, whose reputation and power he
the most dreaded: but he declined any hostile declarations, suppressed
the name of his antagonist, and only signified to the senate and people
his intention of regulating the eastern provinces. In private, he
spoke of Niger, his old friend and intended successor, with the most
affectionate regard, and highly applauded his generous design of
revenging the murder of Pertinax. To punish the vile usurper of the
throne, was the duty of every Roman general. To persevere in arms, and
to resist a lawful emperor, acknowledged by the senate, would alone
render him criminal. The sons of Niger had fallen into his hands among
the children of the provincial governors, detained at Rome as pledges
for the loyalty of their parents. As long as the power of Niger inspired
terror, or even respect, they were educated with the most tender care,
with the children of Severus himself; but they were soon involved in
their father's ruin, and removed first by exile, and afterwards by
death, from the eye of public compassion.

Whilst Severus was engaged in his eastern war, he had reason to
apprehend that the governor of Britain might pass the sea and the
Alps, occupy the vacant seat of empire, and oppose his return with
the authority of the senate and the forces of the West. The ambiguous
conduct of Albinus, in not assuming the Imperial title, left room for
negotiation. Forgetting, at once, his professions of patriotism, and the
jealousy of sovereign power, he accepted the precarious rank of Cæsar,
as a reward for his fatal neutrality. Till the first contest was
decided, Severus treated the man, whom he had doomed to destruction,
with every mark of esteem and regard. Even in the letter, in which he
announced his victory over Niger, he styles Albinus the brother of his
soul and empire, sends him the affectionate salutations of his wife
Julia, and his young family, and entreats him to preserve the armies and
the republic faithful to their common interest. The messengers charged
with this letter were instructed to accost the Cæsar with respect, to
desire a private audience, and to plunge their daggers into his heart.
The conspiracy was discovered, and the too credulous Albinus, at length,
passed over to the continent, and prepared for an unequal contest with
his rival, who rushed upon him at the head of a veteran and victorious

The military labors of Severus seem inadequate to the importance of his
conquests. Two engagements, * the one near the Hellespont, the other
in the narrow defiles of Cilicia, decided the fate of his Syrian
competitor; and the troops of Europe asserted their usual ascendant over
the effeminate natives of Asia. The battle of Lyons, where one hundred
and fifty thousand Romans were engaged, was equally fatal to Albinus.
The valor of the British army maintained, indeed, a sharp and doubtful
contest, with the hardy discipline of the Illyrian legions. The fame and
person of Severus appeared, during a few moments, irrecoverably lost,
till that warlike prince rallied his fainting troops, and led them on to
a decisive victory. The war was finished by that memorable day.

The civil wars of modern Europe have been distinguished, not only by
the fierce animosity, but likewise by the obstinate perseverance, of
the contending factions. They have generally been justified by some
principle, or, at least, colored by some pretext, of religion, freedom,
or loyalty. The leaders were nobles of independent property and
hereditary influence. The troops fought like men interested in the
decision of the quarrel; and as military spirit and party zeal were
strongly diffused throughout the whole community, a vanquished chief was
immediately supplied with new adherents, eager to shed their blood in
the same cause. But the Romans, after the fall of the republic,
combated only for the choice of masters. Under the standard of a popular
candidate for empire, a few enlisted from affection, some from fear,
many from interest, none from principle. The legions, uninflamed by
party zeal, were allured into civil war by liberal donatives, and
still more liberal promises. A defeat, by disabling the chief from the
performance of his engagements, dissolved the mercenary allegiance of
his followers, and left them to consult their own safety by a timely
desertion of an unsuccessful cause. It was of little moment to the
provinces, under whose name they were oppressed or governed; they were
driven by the impulsion of the present power, and as soon as that power
yielded to a superior force, they hastened to implore the clemency of
the conqueror, who, as he had an immense debt to discharge, was obliged
to sacrifice the most guilty countries to the avarice of his soldiers.
In the vast extent of the Roman empire, there were few fortified cities
capable of protecting a routed army; nor was there any person, or
family, or order of men, whose natural interest, unsupported by the
powers of government, was capable of restoring the cause of a sinking

Yet, in the contest between Niger and Severus, a single city deserves an
honorable exception. As Byzantium was one of the greatest passages from
Europe into Asia, it had been provided with a strong garrison, and
a fleet of five hundred vessels was anchored in the harbor. The
impetuosity of Severus disappointed this prudent scheme of defence; he
left to his generals the siege of Byzantium, forced the less guarded
passage of the Hellespont, and, impatient of a meaner enemy, pressed
forward to encounter his rival. Byzantium, attacked by a numerous and
increasing army, and afterwards by the whole naval power of the empire,
sustained a siege of three years, and remained faithful to the name and
memory of Niger. The citizens and soldiers (we know not from what cause)
were animated with equal fury; several of the principal officers
of Niger, who despaired of, or who disdained, a pardon, had thrown
themselves into this last refuge: the fortifications were esteemed
impregnable, and, in the defence of the place, a celebrated engineer
displayed all the mechanic powers known to the ancients. Byzantium, at
length, surrendered to famine. The magistrates and soldiers were put
to the sword, the walls demolished, the privileges suppressed, and the
destined capital of the East subsisted only as an open village, subject
to the insulting jurisdiction of Perinthus. The historian Dion, who had
admired the flourishing, and lamented the desolate, state of Byzantium,
accused the revenge of Severus, for depriving the Roman people of the
strongest bulwark against the barbarians of Pontus and Asia The truth of
this observation was but too well justified in the succeeding age, when
the Gothic fleets covered the Euxine, and passed through the undefined
Bosphorus into the centre of the Mediterranean.

Both Niger and Albinus were discovered and put to death in their flight
from the field of battle. Their fate excited neither surprise nor
compassion. They had staked their lives against the chance of empire,
and suffered what they would have inflicted; nor did Severus claim
the arrogant superiority of suffering his rivals to live in a private
station. But his unforgiving temper, stimulated by avarice, indulged a
spirit of revenge, where there was no room for apprehension. The
most considerable of the provincials, who, without any dislike to the
fortunate candidate, had obeyed the governor under whose authority they
were accidentally placed, were punished by death, exile, and especially
by the confiscation of their estates. Many cities of the East were
stripped of their ancient honors, and obliged to pay, into the treasury
of Severus, four times the amount of the sums contributed by them for
the service of Niger.

Till the final decision of the war, the cruelty of Severus was, in some
measure, restrained by the uncertainty of the event, and his pretended
reverence for the senate. The head of Albinus, accompanied with a
menacing letter, announced to the Romans that he was resolved to spare
none of the adherents of his unfortunate competitors. He was irritated
by the just suspicion that he had never possessed the affections of the
senate, and he concealed his old malevolence under the recent discovery
of some treasonable correspondences. Thirty-five senators, however,
accused of having favored the party of Albinus, he freely pardoned, and,
by his subsequent behavior, endeavored to convince them, that he had
forgotten, as well as forgiven, their supposed offences. But, at the
same time, he condemned forty-one other senators, whose names history
has recorded; their wives, children, and clients attended them in death,
* and the noblest provincials of Spain and Gaul were involved in the
same ruin. Such rigid justice--for so he termed it--was, in the opinion
of Severus, the only conduct capable of insuring peace to the people or
stability to the prince; and he condescended slightly to lament, that to
be mild, it was necessary that he should first be cruel.

The true interest of an absolute monarch generally coincides with that
of his people. Their numbers, their wealth, their order, and their
security, are the best and only foundations of his real greatness; and
were he totally devoid of virtue, prudence might supply its place, and
would dictate the same rule of conduct. Severus considered the Roman
empire as his property, and had no sooner secured the possession, than
he bestowed his care on the cultivation and improvement of so valuable
an acquisition. Salutary laws, executed with inflexible firmness, soon
corrected most of the abuses with which, since the death of Marcus,
every part of the government had been infected. In the administration of
justice, the judgments of the emperor were characterized by attention,
discernment, and impartiality; and whenever he deviated from the strict
line of equity, it was generally in favor of the poor and oppressed;
not so much indeed from any sense of humanity, as from the natural
propensity of a despot to humble the pride of greatness, and to sink
all his subjects to the same common level of absolute dependence.
His expensive taste for building, magnificent shows, and above all
a constant and liberal distribution of corn and provisions, were the
surest means of captivating the affection of the Roman people. The
misfortunes of civil discord were obliterated. The clam of peace and
prosperity was once more experienced in the provinces; and many cities,
restored by the munificence of Severus, assumed the title of his
colonies, and attested by public monuments their gratitude and felicity.
The fame of the Roman arms was revived by that warlike and successful
emperor, and he boasted, with a just pride, that, having received the
empire oppressed with foreign and domestic wars, he left it established
in profound, universal, and honorable peace.

Although the wounds of civil war appeared completely healed, its mortal
poison still lurked in the vitals of the constitution. Severus possessed
a considerable share of vigor and ability; but the daring soul of the
first Cæsar, or the deep policy of Augustus, were scarcely equal to the
task of curbing the insolence of the victorious legions. By gratitude,
by misguided policy, by seeming necessity, Severus was reduced to relax
the nerves of discipline. The vanity of his soldiers was flattered
with the honor of wearing gold rings their ease was indulged in the
permission of living with their wives in the idleness of quarters. He
increased their pay beyond the example of former times, and taught them
to expect, and soon to claim, extraordinary donatives on every public
occasion of danger or festivity. Elated by success, enervated by luxury,
and raised above the level of subjects by their dangerous privileges,
they soon became incapable of military fatigue, oppressive to the
country, and impatient of a just subordination. Their officers asserted
the superiority of rank by a more profuse and elegant luxury. There is
still extant a letter of Severus, lamenting the licentious stage of
the army, * and exhorting one of his generals to begin the necessary
reformation from the tribunes themselves; since, as he justly observes,
the officer who has forfeited the esteem, will never command the
obedience, of his soldiers. Had the emperor pursued the train of
reflection, he would have discovered, that the primary cause of this
general corruption might be ascribed, not indeed to the example, but to
the pernicious indulgence, however, of the commander-in-chief.

The Prætorians, who murdered their emperor and sold the empire, had
received the just punishment of their treason; but the necessary, though
dangerous, institution of guards was soon restored on a new model by
Severus, and increased to four times the ancient number. Formerly
these troops had been recruited in Italy; and as the adjacent provinces
gradually imbibed the softer manners of Rome, the levies were extended
to Macedonia, Noricum, and Spain. In the room of these elegant troops,
better adapted to the pomp of courts than to the uses of war, it was
established by Severus, that from all the legions of the frontiers, the
soldiers most distinguished for strength, valor, and fidelity, should be
occasionally draughted; and promoted, as an honor and reward, into
the more eligible service of the guards. By this new institution, the
Italian youth were diverted from the exercise of arms, and the capital
was terrified by the strange aspect and manners of a multitude of
barbarians. But Severus flattered himself, that the legions would
consider these chosen Prætorians as the representatives of the whole
military order; and that the present aid of fifty thousand men, superior
in arms and appointments to any force that could be brought into the
field against them, would forever crush the hopes of rebellion, and
secure the empire to himself and his posterity.

The command of these favored and formidable troops soon became the
first office of the empire. As the government degenerated into military
despotism, the Prætorian Præfect, who in his origin had been a simple
captain of the guards, * was placed not only at the head of the army,
but of the finances, and even of the law. In every department of
administration, he represented the person, and exercised the authority,
of the emperor. The first præfect who enjoyed and abused this immense
power was Plautianus, the favorite minister of Severus. His reign lasted
above then years, till the marriage of his daughter with the eldest son
of the emperor, which seemed to assure his fortune, proved the occasion
of his ruin. The animosities of the palace, by irritating the
ambition and alarming the fears of Plautianus, threatened to produce
a revolution, and obliged the emperor, who still loved him, to consent
with reluctance to his death. After the fall of Plautianus, an eminent
lawyer, the celebrated Papinian, was appointed to execute the motley
office of Prætorian Præfect.

Till the reign of Severus, the virtue and even the good sense of the
emperors had been distinguished by their zeal or affected reverence for
the senate, and by a tender regard to the nice frame of civil policy
instituted by Augustus. But the youth of Severus had been trained in the
implicit obedience of camps, and his riper years spent in the despotism
of military command. His haughty and inflexible spirit could' not
discover, or would not acknowledge, the advantage of preserving an
intermediate power, however imaginary, between the emperor and the army.
He disdained to profess himself the servant of an assembly that detested
his person and trembled at his frown; he issued his commands, where his
requests would have proved as effectual; assumed the conduct and style
of a sovereign and a conqueror, and exercised, without disguise, the
whole legislative, as well as the executive power.

The victory over the senate was easy and inglorious. Every eye and every
passion were directed to the supreme magistrate, who possessed the arms
and treasure of the state; whilst the senate, neither elected by the
people, nor guarded by military force, nor animated by public spirit,
rested its declining authority on the frail and crumbling basis of
ancient opinion. The fine theory of a republic insensibly vanished, and
made way for the more natural and substantial feelings of monarchy. As
the freedom and honors of Rome were successively communicated to the
provinces, in which the old government had been either unknown, or
was remembered with abhorrence, the tradition of republican maxims was
gradually obliterated. The Greek historians of the age of the Antonines
observe, with a malicious pleasure, that although the sovereign of Rome,
in compliance with an obsolete prejudice, abstained from the name of
king, he possessed the full measure of regal power. In the reign of
Severus, the senate was filled with polished and eloquent slaves from
the eastern provinces, who justified personal flattery by speculative
principles of servitude. These new advocates of prerogative were heard
with pleasure by the court, and with patience by the people, when
they inculcated the duty of passive obedience, and descanted on the
inevitable mischiefs of freedom. The lawyers and historians concurred
in teaching, that the Imperial authority was held, not by the delegated
commission, but by the irrevocable resignation of the senate; that the
emperor was freed from the restraint of civil laws, could command by his
arbitrary will the lives and fortunes of his subjects, and might dispose
of the empire as of his private patrimony. The most eminent of the civil
lawyers, and particularly Papinian, Paulus, and Ulpian, flourished under
the house of Severus; and the Roman jurisprudence, having closely united
itself with the system of monarchy, was supposed to have attained its
full majority and perfection.

The contemporaries of Severus in the enjoyment of the peace and glory
of his reign, forgave the cruelties by which it had been introduced.
Posterity, who experienced the fatal effects of his maxims and example,
justly considered him as the principal author of the decline of the
Roman empire.

Chapter VI: Death Of Severus, Tyranny Of Caracalla, Usurpation
Of Marcinus.--Part I.

     The Death Of Severus.--Tyranny Of Caracalla.--Usurpation Of
     Macrinus.--Follies Of Elagabalus.--Virtues Of Alexander
     Severus.--Licentiousness Of The Army.--General State Of The
     Roman Finances.

The ascent to greatness, however steep and dangerous, may entertain an
active spirit with the consciousness and exercise of its own powers: but
the possession of a throne could never yet afford a lasting satisfaction
to an ambitious mind. This melancholy truth was felt and acknowledged by
Severus. Fortune and merit had, from an humble station, elevated him
to the first place among mankind. "He had been all things," as he said
himself, "and all was of little value" Distracted with the care, not
of acquiring, but of preserving an empire, oppressed with age and
infirmities, careless of fame, and satiated with power, all his
prospects of life were closed. The desire of perpetuating the greatness
of his family was the only remaining wish of his ambition and paternal

Like most of the Africans, Severus was passionately addicted to the vain
studies of magic and divination, deeply versed in the interpretation of
dreams and omens, and perfectly acquainted with the science of judicial
astrology; which, in almost every age except the present, has maintained
its dominion over the mind of man. He had lost his first wife, while he
was governor of the Lionnese Gaul. In the choice of a second, he sought
only to connect himself with some favorite of fortune; and as soon as
he had discovered that the young lady of Emesa in Syria had a royal
nativity, he solicited and obtained her hand. Julia Domna (for that was
her name) deserved all that the stars could promise her. She possessed,
even in advanced age, the attractions of beauty, and united to a
lively imagination a firmness of mind, and strength of judgment,
seldom bestowed on her sex. Her amiable qualities never made any deep
impression on the dark and jealous temper of her husband; but in her
son's reign, she administered the principal affairs of the empire, with
a prudence that supported his authority, and with a moderation that
sometimes corrected his wild extravagancies. Julia applied herself to
letters and philosophy, with some success, and with the most splendid
reputation. She was the patroness of every art, and the friend of every
man of genius. The grateful flattery of the learned has celebrated her
virtues; but, if we may credit the scandal of ancient history, chastity
was very far from being the most conspicuous virtue of the empress

Two sons, Caracalla and Geta, were the fruit of this marriage, and the
destined heirs of the empire. The fond hopes of the father, and of the
Roman world, were soon disappointed by these vain youths, who displayed
the indolent security of hereditary princes; and a presumption that
fortune would supply the place of merit and application. Without any
emulation of virtue or talents, they discovered, almost from their
infancy, a fixed and implacable antipathy for each other.

Their aversion, confirmed by years, and fomented by the arts of their
interested favorites, broke out in childish, and gradually in more
serious competitions; and, at length, divided the theatre, the circus,
and the court, into two factions, actuated by the hopes and fears of
their respective leaders. The prudent emperor endeavored, by every
expedient of advice and authority, to allay this growing animosity. The
unhappy discord of his sons clouded all his prospects, and threatened
to overturn a throne raised with so much labor, cemented with so much
blood, and guarded with every defence of arms and treasure. With an
impartial hand he maintained between them an exact balance of favor,
conferred on both the rank of Augustus, with the revered name of
Antoninus; and for the first time the Roman world beheld three emperors.
Yet even this equal conduct served only to inflame the contest, whilst
the fierce Caracalla asserted the right of primogeniture, and the milder
Geta courted the affections of the people and the soldiers. In the
anguish of a disappointed father, Severus foretold that the weaker of
his sons would fall a sacrifice to the stronger; who, in his turn, would
be ruined by his own vices.

In these circumstances the intelligence of a war in Britain, and of an
invasion of the province by the barbarians of the North, was received
with pleasure by Severus. Though the vigilance of his lieutenants might
have been sufficient to repel the distant enemy, he resolved to embrace
the honorable pretext of withdrawing his sons from the luxury of Rome,
which enervated their minds and irritated their passions; and of inuring
their youth to the toils of war and government. Notwithstanding his
advanced age, (for he was above threescore,) and his gout, which obliged
him to be carried in a litter, he transported himself in person into
that remote island, attended by his two sons, his whole court, and
a formidable army. He immediately passed the walls of Hadrian and
Antoninus, and entered the enemy's country, with a design of completing
the long attempted conquest of Britain. He penetrated to the northern
extremity of the island, without meeting an enemy. But the concealed
ambuscades of the Caledonians, who hung unseen on the rear and flanks of
his army, the coldness of the climate and the severity of a winter march
across the hills and morasses of Scotland, are reported to have cost the
Romans above fifty thousand men. The Caledonians at length yielded to
the powerful and obstinate attack, sued for peace, and surrendered a
part of their arms, and a large tract of territory. But their apparent
submission lasted no longer than the present terror. As soon as the
Roman legions had retired, they resumed their hostile independence.
Their restless spirit provoked Severus to send a new army into
Caledonia, with the most bloody orders, not to subdue, but to extirpate
the natives. They were saved by the death of their haughty enemy.

This Caledonian war, neither marked by decisive events, nor attended
with any important consequences, would ill deserve our attention; but it
is supposed, not without a considerable degree of probability, that the
invasion of Severus is connected with the most shining period of the
British history or fable. Fingal, whose fame, with that of his heroes
and bards, has been revived in our language by a recent publication, is
said to have commanded the Caledonians in that memorable juncture, to
have eluded the power of Severus, and to have obtained a signal victory
on the banks of the Carun, in which the son of the King of the World,
Caracul, fled from his arms along the fields of his pride. Something of
a doubtful mist still hangs over these Highland traditions; nor can
it be entirely dispelled by the most ingenious researches of modern
criticism; but if we could, with safety, indulge the pleasing
supposition, that Fingal lived, and that Ossian sung, the striking
contrast of the situation and manners of the contending nations might
amuse a philosophic mind. The parallel would be little to the advantage
of the more civilized people, if we compared the unrelenting revenge
of Severus with the generous clemency of Fingal; the timid and brutal
cruelty of Caracalla with the bravery, the tenderness, the elegant
genius of Ossian; the mercenary chiefs, who, from motives of fear
or interest, served under the imperial standard, with the free-born
warriors who started to arms at the voice of the king of Morven; if, in
a word, we contemplated the untutored Caledonians, glowing with the warm
virtues of nature, and the degenerate Romans, polluted with the mean
vices of wealth and slavery.

The declining health and last illness of Severus inflamed the wild
ambition and black passions of Caracalla's soul. Impatient of any delay
or division of empire, he attempted, more than once, to shorten the
small remainder of his father's days, and endeavored, but without
success, to excite a mutiny among the troops. The old emperor had
often censured the misguided lenity of Marcus, who, by a single act of
justice, might have saved the Romans from the tyranny of his worthless
son. Placed in the same situation, he experienced how easily the rigor
of a judge dissolves away in the tenderness of a parent. He deliberated,
he threatened, but he could not punish; and this last and only instance
of mercy was more fatal to the empire than a long series of cruelty.
The disorder of his mind irritated the pains of his body; he wished
impatiently for death, and hastened the instant of it by his impatience.
He expired at York in the sixty-fifth year of his life, and in the
eighteenth of a glorious and successful reign. In his last moments he
recommended concord to his sons, and his sons to the army. The salutary
advice never reached the heart, or even the understanding, of the
impetuous youths; but the more obedient troops, mindful of their oath of
allegiance, and of the authority of their deceased master, resisted the
solicitations of Caracalla, and proclaimed both brothers emperors of
Rome. The new princes soon left the Caledonians in peace, returned to
the capital, celebrated their father's funeral with divine honors, and
were cheerfully acknowledged as lawful sovereigns, by the senate, the
people, and the provinces. Some preeminence of rank seems to have been
allowed to the elder brother; but they both administered the empire with
equal and independent power.

Such a divided form of government would have proved a source of discord
between the most affectionate brothers. It was impossible that it could
long subsist between two implacable enemies, who neither desired nor
could trust a reconciliation. It was visible that one only could reign,
and that the other must fall; and each of them, judging of his rival's
designs by his own, guarded his life with the most jealous vigilance
from the repeated attacks of poison or the sword. Their rapid journey
through Gaul and Italy, during which they never ate at the same table,
or slept in the same house, displayed to the provinces the odious
spectacle of fraternal discord. On their arrival at Rome, they
immediately divided the vast extent of the imperial palace. No
communication was allowed between their apartments; the doors and
passages were diligently fortified, and guards posted and relieved with
the same strictness as in a besieged place. The emperors met only in
public, in the presence of their afflicted mother; and each surrounded
by a numerous train of armed followers. Even on these occasions of
ceremony, the dissimulation of courts could ill disguise the rancor of
their hearts.

This latent civil war already distracted the whole government, when
a scheme was suggested that seemed of mutual benefit to the hostile
brothers. It was proposed, that since it was impossible to reconcile
their minds, they should separate their interest, and divide the empire
between them. The conditions of the treaty were already drawn with some
accuracy. It was agreed that Caracalla, as the elder brother should
remain in possession of Europe and the western Africa; and that he
should relinquish the sovereignty of Asia and Egypt to Geta, who might
fix his residence at Alexandria or Antioch, cities little inferior to
Rome itself in wealth and greatness; that numerous armies should be
constantly encamped on either side of the Thracian Bosphorus, to guard
the frontiers of the rival monarchies; and that the senators of European
extraction should acknowledge the sovereign of Rome, whilst the natives
of Asia followed the emperor of the East. The tears of the empress Julia
interrupted the negotiation, the first idea of which had filled every
Roman breast with surprise and indignation. The mighty mass of conquest
was so intimately united by the hand of time and policy, that it
required the most forcible violence to rend it asunder. The Romans had
reason to dread, that the disjointed members would soon be reduced by
a civil war under the dominion of one master; but if the separation
was permanent, the division of the provinces must terminate in the
dissolution of an empire whose unity had hitherto remained inviolate.

Had the treaty been carried into execution, the sovereign of Europe
might soon have been the conqueror of Asia; but Caracalla obtained
an easier, though a more guilty, victory. He artfully listened to his
mother's entreaties, and consented to meet his brother in her
apartment, on terms of peace and reconciliation. In the midst of their
conversation, some centurions, who had contrived to conceal themselves,
rushed with drawn swords upon the unfortunate Geta. His distracted
mother strove to protect him in her arms; but, in the unavailing
struggle, she was wounded in the hand, and covered with the blood of her
younger son, while she saw the elder animating and assisting the fury
of the assassins. As soon as the deed was perpetrated, Caracalla, with
hasty steps, and horror in his countenance, ran towards the Prætorian
camp, as his only refuge, and threw himself on the ground before the
statues of the tutelar deities. The soldiers attempted to raise and
comfort him. In broken and disordered words he informed them of his
imminent danger, and fortunate escape; insinuating that he had prevented
the designs of his enemy, and declared his resolution to live and die
with his faithful troops. Geta had been the favorite of the soldiers;
but complaint was useless, revenge was dangerous, and they still
reverenced the son of Severus. Their discontent died away in idle
murmurs, and Caracalla soon convinced them of the justice of his cause,
by distributing in one lavish donative the accumulated treasures of
his father's reign. The real sentiments of the soldiers alone were
of importance to his power or safety. Their declaration in his favor
commanded the dutiful professions of the senate. The obsequious
assembly was always prepared to ratify the decision of fortune; * but
as Caracalla wished to assuage the first emotions of public indignation,
the name of Geta was mentioned with decency, and he received the funeral
honors of a Roman emperor. Posterity, in pity to his misfortune,
has cast a veil over his vices. We consider that young prince as the
innocent victim of his brother's ambition, without recollecting that he
himself wanted power, rather than inclination, to consummate the same
attempts of revenge and murder.

The crime went not unpunished. Neither business, nor pleasure, nor
flattery, could defend Caracalla from the stings of a guilty conscience;
and he confessed, in the anguish of a tortured mind, that his disordered
fancy often beheld the angry forms of his father and his brother rising
into life, to threaten and upbraid him. The consciousness of his crime
should have induced him to convince mankind, by the virtues of his
reign, that the bloody deed had been the involuntary effect of fatal
necessity. But the repentance of Caracalla only prompted him to remove
from the world whatever could remind him of his guilt, or recall the
memory of his murdered brother. On his return from the senate to the
palace, he found his mother in the company of several noble matrons,
weeping over the untimely fate of her younger son. The jealous emperor
threatened them with instant death; the sentence was executed against
Fadilla, the last remaining daughter of the emperor Marcus; * and even
the afflicted Julia was obliged to silence her lamentations, to
suppress her sighs, and to receive the assassin with smiles of joy and
approbation. It was computed that, under the vague appellation of the
friends of Geta, above twenty thousand persons of both sexes suffered
death. His guards and freedmen, the ministers of his serious business,
and the companions of his looser hours, those who by his interest had
been promoted to any commands in the army or provinces, with the long
connected chain of their dependants, were included in the proscription;
which endeavored to reach every one who had maintained the smallest
correspondence with Geta, who lamented his death, or who even mentioned
his name. Helvius Pertinax, son to the prince of that name, lost his
life by an unseasonable witticism. It was a sufficient crime of Thrasea
Priscus to be descended from a family in which the love of liberty
seemed an hereditary quality. The particular causes of calumny and
suspicion were at length exhausted; and when a senator was accused of
being a secret enemy to the government, the emperor was satisfied with
the general proof that he was a man of property and virtue. From this
well-grounded principle he frequently drew the most bloody inferences.

Chapter VI: Death Of Severus, Tyranny Of Caracalla, Usurpation Of
Marcinus.--Part II.

The execution of so many innocent citizens was bewailed by the secret
tears of their friends and families. The death of Papinian, the
Prætorian Præfect, was lamented as a public calamity. During the last
seven years of Severus, he had exercised the most important offices of
the state, and, by his salutary influence, guided the emperor's steps in
the paths of justice and moderation. In full assurance of his virtue and
abilities, Severus, on his death-bed, had conjured him to watch over
the prosperity and union of the Imperial family. The honest labors of
Papinian served only to inflame the hatred which Caracalla had already
conceived against his father's minister. After the murder of Geta, the
Præfect was commanded to exert the powers of his skill and eloquence in
a studied apology for that atrocious deed. The philosophic Seneca had
condescended to compose a similar epistle to the senate, in the name of
the son and assassin of Agrippina. "That it was easier to commit than
to justify a parricide," was the glorious reply of Papinian; who did
not hesitate between the loss of life and that of honor. Such intrepid
virtue, which had escaped pure and unsullied from the intrigues courts,
the habits of business, and the arts of his profession, reflects more
lustre on the memory of Papinian, than all his great employments, his
numerous writings, and the superior reputation as a lawyer, which he has
preserved through every age of the Roman jurisprudence.

It had hitherto been the peculiar felicity of the Romans, and in the
worst of times the consolation, that the virtue of the emperors was
active, and their vice indolent. Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus
visited their extensive dominions in person, and their progress was
marked by acts of wisdom and beneficence. The tyranny of Tiberius, Nero,
and Domitian, who resided almost constantly at Rome, or in the adjacent
was confined to the senatorial and equestrian orders. But Caracalla was
the common enemy of mankind. He left capital (and he never returned to
it) about a year after the murder of Geta. The rest of his reign was
spent in the several provinces of the empire, particularly those of the
East, and province was by turns the scene of his rapine and cruelty.
The senators, compelled by fear to attend his capricious motions, were
obliged to provide daily entertainments at an immense expense, which
he abandoned with contempt to his guards; and to erect, in every city,
magnificent palaces and theatres, which he either disdained to visit,
or ordered immediately thrown down. The most wealthy families ruined
by partial fines and confiscations, and the great body of his subjects
oppressed by ingenious and aggravated taxes. In the midst of peace, and
upon the slightest provocation, he issued his commands, at Alexandria,
in Egypt for a general massacre. From a secure post in the temple of
Serapis, he viewed and directed the slaughter of many thousand citizens,
as well as strangers, without distinguishing the number or the crime
of the sufferers; since as he coolly informed the senate, allthe
Alexandrians, those who perished, and those who had escaped, were alike

The wise instructions of Severus never made any lasting impression on
the mind of his son, who, although not destitute of imagination and
eloquence, was equally devoid of judgment and humanity. One dangerous
maxim, worthy of a tyrant, was remembered and abused by Caracalla.
"To secure the affections of the army, and to esteem the rest of his
subjects as of little moment." But the liberality of the father had been
restrained by prudence, and his indulgence to the troops was tempered by
firmness and authority. The careless profusion of the son was the
policy of one reign, and the inevitable ruin both of the army and of
the empire. The vigor of the soldiers, instead of being confirmed by
the severe discipline of camps, melted away in the luxury of cities.
The excessive increase of their pay and donatives exhausted the state to
enrich the military order, whose modesty in peace, and service in war,
is best secured by an honorable poverty. The demeanor of Caracalla was
haughty and full of pride; but with the troops he forgot even the
proper dignity of his rank, encouraged their insolent familiarity, and,
neglecting the essential duties of a general, affected to imitate the
dress and manners of a common soldier.

It was impossible that such a character, and such conduct as that of
Caracalla, could inspire either love or esteem; but as long as his
vices were beneficial to the armies, he was secure from the danger of
rebellion. A secret conspiracy, provoked by his own jealousy, was
fatal to the tyrant. The Prætorian præfecture was divided between
two ministers. The military department was intrusted to Adventus,
an experienced rather than able soldier; and the civil affairs were
transacted by Opilius Macrinus, who, by his dexterity in business, had
raised himself, with a fair character, to that high office. But his
favor varied with the caprice of the emperor, and his life might depend
on the slightest suspicion, or the most casual circumstance. Malice or
fanaticism had suggested to an African, deeply skilled in the knowledge
of futurity, a very dangerous prediction, that Macrinus and his son were
destined to reign over the empire. The report was soon diffused through
the province; and when the man was sent in chains to Rome, he still
asserted, in the presence of the præfect of the city, the faith of
his prophecy. That magistrate, who had received the most pressing
instructions to inform himself of the successors of Caracalla,
immediately communicated the examination of the African to the Imperial
court, which at that time resided in Syria. But, notwithstanding the
diligence of the public messengers, a friend of Macrinus found means to
apprise him of the approaching danger. The emperor received the letters
from Rome; and as he was then engaged in the conduct of a chariot race,
he delivered them unopened to the Prætorian Præfect, directing him to
despatch the ordinary affairs, and to report the more important business
that might be contained in them. Macrinus read his fate, and resolved to
prevent it. He inflamed the discontents of some inferior officers,
and employed the hand of Martialis, a desperate soldier, who had been
refused the rank of centurion. The devotion of Caracalla prompted him
to make a pilgrimage from Edessa to the celebrated temple of the Moon
at Carrhæ. * He was attended by a body of cavalry: but having stopped on
the road for some necessary occasion, his guards preserved a respectful
distance, and Martialis, approaching his person under a presence of
duty, stabbed him with a dagger. The bold assassin was instantly killed
by a Scythian archer of the Imperial guard. Such was the end of a
monster whose life disgraced human nature, and whose reign accused
the patience of the Romans. The grateful soldiers forgot his vices,
remembered only his partial liberality, and obliged the senate to
prostitute their own dignity and that of religion, by granting him a
place among the gods. Whilst he was upon earth, Alexander the Great was
the only hero whom this god deemed worthy his admiration. He assumed the
name and ensigns of Alexander, formed a Macedonian phalanx of guards,
persecuted the disciples of Aristotle, and displayed, with a puerile
enthusiasm, the only sentiment by which he discovered any regard for
virtue or glory. We can easily conceive, that after the battle of Narva,
and the conquest of Poland, Charles XII. (though he still wanted the
more elegant accomplishments of the son of Philip) might boast of having
rivalled his valor and magnanimity; but in no one action of his life
did Caracalla express the faintest resemblance of the Macedonian hero,
except in the murder of a great number of his own and of his father's

After the extinction of the house of Severus, the Roman world remained
three days without a master. The choice of the army (for the authority
of a distant and feeble senate was little regarded) hung in anxious
suspense, as no candidate presented himself whose distinguished birth
and merit could engage their attachment and unite their suffrages. The
decisive weight of the Prætorian guards elevated the hopes of their
præfects, and these powerful ministers began to assert their legal
claim to fill the vacancy of the Imperial throne. Adventus, however,
the senior præfect, conscious of his age and infirmities, of his small
reputation, and his smaller abilities, resigned the dangerous honor to
the crafty ambition of his colleague Macrinus, whose well-dissembled
grief removed all suspicion of his being accessary to his master's
death. The troops neither loved nor esteemed his character. They cast
their eyes around in search of a competitor, and at last yielded with
reluctance to his promises of unbounded liberality and indulgence. A
short time after his accession, he conferred on his son Diadumenianus,
at the age of only ten years, the Imperial title, and the popular
name of Antoninus. The beautiful figure of the youth, assisted by an
additional donative, for which the ceremony furnished a pretext, might
attract, it was hoped, the favor of the army, and secure the doubtful
throne of Macrinus.

The authority of the new sovereign had been ratified by the cheerful
submission of the senate and provinces. They exulted in their unexpected
deliverance from a hated tyrant, and it seemed of little consequence to
examine into the virtues of the successor of Caracalla. But as soon as
the first transports of joy and surprise had subsided, they began to
scrutinize the merits of Macrinus with a critical severity, and to
arraign the nasty choice of the army. It had hitherto been considered as
a fundamental maxim of the constitution, that the emperor must be always
chosen in the senate, and the sovereign power, no longer exercised by
the whole body, was always delegated to one of its members. But Macrinus
was not a senator. The sudden elevation of the Prætorian præfects
betrayed the meanness of their origin; and the equestrian order was
still in possession of that great office, which commanded with arbitrary
sway the lives and fortunes of the senate. A murmur of indignation was
heard, that a man, whose obscure extraction had never been illustrated
by any signal service, should dare to invest himself with the purple,
instead of bestowing it on some distinguished senator, equal in birth
and dignity to the splendor of the Imperial station. As soon as the
character of Macrinus was surveyed by the sharp eye of discontent,
some vices, and many defects, were easily discovered. The choice of his
ministers was in many instances justly censured, and the dissatisfied
people, with their usual candor, accused at once his indolent tameness
and his excessive severity.

His rash ambition had climbed a height where it was difficult to stand
with firmness, and impossible to fall without instant destruction.
Trained in the arts of courts and the forms of civil business, he
trembled in the presence of the fierce and undisciplined multitude, over
whom he had assumed the command; his military talents were despised, and
his personal courage suspected; a whisper that circulated in the camp,
disclosed the fatal secret of the conspiracy against the late emperor,
aggravated the guilt of murder by the baseness of hypocrisy, and
heightened contempt by detestation. To alienate the soldiers, and to
provoke inevitable ruin, the character of a reformer was only wanting;
and such was the peculiar hardship of his fate, that Macrinus was
compelled to exercise that invidious office. The prodigality of
Caracalla had left behind it a long train of ruin and disorder; and
if that worthless tyrant had been capable of reflecting on the sure
consequences of his own conduct, he would perhaps have enjoyed the
dark prospect of the distress and calamities which he bequeathed to his

In the management of this necessary reformation, Macrinus proceeded with
a cautious prudence, which would have restored health and vigor to the
Roman army in an easy and almost imperceptible manner. To the soldiers
already engaged in the service, he was constrained to leave the
dangerous privileges and extravagant pay given by Caracalla; but the new
recruits were received on the more moderate though liberal establishment
of Severus, and gradually formed to modesty and obedience. One fatal
error destroyed the salutary effects of this judicious plan. The
numerous army, assembled in the East by the late emperor, instead of
being immediately dispersed by Macrinus through the several provinces,
was suffered to remain united in Syria, during the winter that followed
his elevation. In the luxurious idleness of their quarters, the troops
viewed their strength and numbers, communicated their complaints,
and revolved in their minds the advantages of another revolution. The
veterans, instead of being flattered by the advantageous distinction,
were alarmed by the first steps of the emperor, which they considered
as the presage of his future intentions. The recruits, with sullen
reluctance, entered on a service, whose labors were increased while
its rewards were diminished by a covetous and unwarlike sovereign. The
murmurs of the army swelled with impunity into seditious clamors; and
the partial mutinies betrayed a spirit of discontent and disaffection
that waited only for the slightest occasion to break out on every side
into a general rebellion. To minds thus disposed, the occasion soon
presented itself.

The empress Julia had experienced all the vicissitudes of fortune. From
an humble station she had been raised to greatness, only to taste the
superior bitterness of an exalted rank. She was doomed to weep over the
death of one of her sons, and over the life of the other. The cruel fate
of Caracalla, though her good sense must have long taught her to expect
it, awakened the feelings of a mother and of an empress. Notwithstanding
the respectful civility expressed by the usurper towards the widow of
Severus, she descended with a painful struggle into the condition of
a subject, and soon withdrew herself, by a voluntary death, from the
anxious and humiliating dependence. * Julia Mæsa, her sister, was
ordered to leave the court and Antioch. She retired to Emesa with an
immense fortune, the fruit of twenty years' favor accompanied by her two
daughters, Soæmias and Mamæ, each of whom was a widow, and each had an
only son. Bassianus, for that was the name of the son of Soæmias, was
consecrated to the honorable ministry of high priest of the Sun; and
this holy vocation, embraced either from prudence or superstition,
contributed to raise the Syrian youth to the empire of Rome. A numerous
body of troops was stationed at Emesa; and as the severe discipline of
Macrinus had constrained them to pass the winter encamped, they were
eager to revenge the cruelty of such unaccustomed hardships. The
soldiers, who resorted in crowds to the temple of the Sun, beheld
with veneration and delight the elegant dress and figure of the young
pontiff; they recognized, or they thought that they recognized, the
features of Caracalla, whose memory they now adored. The artful Mæsa
saw and cherished their rising partiality, and readily sacrificing her
daughter's reputation to the fortune of her grandson, she insinuated
that Bassianus was the natural son of their murdered sovereign. The
sums distributed by her emissaries with a lavish hand silenced every
objection, and the profusion sufficiently proved the affinity, or at
least the resemblance, of Bassianus with the great original. The young
Antoninus (for he had assumed and polluted that respectable name) was
declared emperor by the troops of Emesa, asserted his hereditary right,
and called aloud on the armies to follow the standard of a young and
liberal prince, who had taken up arms to revenge his father's death and
the oppression of the military order.

Whilst a conspiracy of women and eunuchs was concerted with prudence,
and conducted with rapid vigor, Macrinus, who, by a decisive motion,
might have crushed his infant enemy, floated between the opposite
extremes of terror and security, which alike fixed him inactive at
Antioch. A spirit of rebellion diffused itself through all the camps and
garrisons of Syria, successive detachments murdered their officers, and
joined the party of the rebels; and the tardy restitution of military
pay and privileges was imputed to the acknowledged weakness of Macrinus.
At length he marched out of Antioch, to meet the increasing and zealous
army of the young pretender. His own troops seemed to take the field
with faintness and reluctance; but, in the heat of the battle, the
Prætorian guards, almost by an involuntary impulse, asserted the
superiority of their valor and discipline. The rebel ranks were broken;
when the mother and grandmother of the Syrian prince, who, according to
their eastern custom, had attended the army, threw themselves from
their covered chariots, and, by exciting the compassion of the soldiers,
endeavored to animate their drooping courage. Antoninus himself, who, in
the rest of his life, never acted like a man, in this important crisis
of his fate, approved himself a hero, mounted his horse, and, at the
head of his rallied troops, charged sword in hand among the thickest
of the enemy; whilst the eunuch Gannys, * whose occupations had been
confined to female cares and the soft luxury of Asia, displayed the
talents of an able and experienced general. The battle still raged with
doubtful violence, and Macrinus might have obtained the victory, had
he not betrayed his own cause by a shameful and precipitate flight.
His cowardice served only to protract his life a few days, and to stamp
deserved ignominy on his misfortunes. It is scarcely necessary to add,
that his son Diadumenianus was involved in the same fate. As soon as the
stubborn Prætorians could be convinced that they fought for a prince
who had basely deserted them, they surrendered to the conqueror:
the contending parties of the Roman army, mingling tears of joy and
tenderness, united under the banners of the imagined son of Caracalla,
and the East acknowledged with pleasure the first emperor of Asiatic

The letters of Macrinus had condescended to inform the senate of the
slight disturbance occasioned by an impostor in Syria, and a decree
immediately passed, declaring the rebel and his family public enemies;
with a promise of pardon, however, to such of his deluded adherents as
should merit it by an immediate return to their duty. During the twenty
days that elapsed from the declaration of the victory of Antoninus, (for
in so short an interval was the fate of the Roman world decided,) the
capital and the provinces, more especially those of the East, were
distracted with hopes and fears, agitated with tumult, and stained
with a useless effusion of civil blood, since whosoever of the rivals
prevailed in Syria must reign over the empire. The specious letters in
which the young conqueror announced his victory to the obedient senate
were filled with professions of virtue and moderation; the shining
examples of Marcus and Augustus, he should ever consider as the great
rule of his administration; and he affected to dwell with pride on the
striking resemblance of his own age and fortunes with those of Augustus,
who in the earliest youth had revenged, by a successful war, the murder
of his father. By adopting the style of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, son
of Antoninus and grandson of Severus, he tacitly asserted his hereditary
claim to the empire; but, by assuming the tribunitian and proconsular
powers before they had been conferred on him by a decree of the senate,
he offended the delicacy of Roman prejudice. This new and injudicious
violation of the constitution was probably dictated either by the
ignorance of his Syrian courtiers, or the fierce disdain of his military

As the attention of the new emperor was diverted by the most trifling
amusements, he wasted many months in his luxurious progress from Syria
to Italy, passed at Nicomedia his first winter after his victory, and
deferred till the ensuing summer his triumphal entry into the capital. A
faithful picture, however, which preceded his arrival, and was placed
by his immediate order over the altar of Victory in the senate house,
conveyed to the Romans the just but unworthy resemblance of his person
and manners. He was drawn in his sacerdotal robes of silk and gold,
after the loose flowing fashion of the Medes and Phnicians; his head
was covered with a lofty tiara, his numerous collars and bracelets were
adorned with gems of an inestimable value. His eyebrows were tinged
with black, and his cheeks painted with an artificial red and white.
The grave senators confessed with a sigh, that, after having long
experienced the stern tyranny of their own countrymen, Rome was at
length humbled beneath the effeminate luxury of Oriental despotism.

The Sun was worshipped at Emesa, under the name of Elagabalus, and
under the form of a black conical stone, which, as it was universally
believed, had fallen from heaven on that sacred place. To this
protecting deity, Antoninus, not without some reason, ascribed his
elevation to the throne. The display of superstitious gratitude was the
only serious business of his reign. The triumph of the god of Emesa over
all the religions of the earth, was the great object of his zeal and
vanity; and the appellation of Elagabalus (for he presumed as pontiff
and favorite to adopt that sacred name) was dearer to him than all the
titles of Imperial greatness. In a solemn procession through the streets
of Rome, the way was strewed with gold dust; the black stone, set in
precious gems, was placed on a chariot drawn by six milk-white horses
richly caparisoned. The pious emperor held the reins, and, supported by
his ministers, moved slowly backwards, that he might perpetually enjoy
the felicity of the divine presence. In a magnificent temple raised on
the Palatine Mount, the sacrifices of the god Elagabalus were celebrated
with every circumstance of cost and solemnity. The richest wines, the
most extraordinary victims, and the rarest aromatics, were profusely
consumed on his altar. Around the altar, a chorus of Syrian damsels
performed their lascivious dances to the sound of barbarian music,
whilst the gravest personages of the state and army, clothed in long
Phnician tunics, officiated in the meanest functions, with affected zeal
and secret indignation.

Chapter VI: Death Of Severus, Tyranny Of Caracalla, Usurpation Of
Marcinus.--Part III.

To this temple, as to the common centre of religious worship, the
Imperial fanatic attempted to remove the Ancilia, the Palladium, and
all the sacred pledges of the faith of Numa. A crowd of inferior deities
attended in various stations the majesty of the god of Emesa; but his
court was still imperfect, till a female of distinguished rank was
admitted to his bed. Pallas had been first chosen for his consort;
but as it was dreaded lest her warlike terrors might affright the soft
delicacy of a Syrian deity, the Moon, adorned by the Africans under the
name of Astarte, was deemed a more suitable companion for the Sun. Her
image, with the rich offerings of her temple as a marriage portion, was
transported with solemn pomp from Carthage to Rome, and the day of these
mystic nuptials was a general festival in the capital and throughout the

A rational voluptuary adheres with invariable respect to the temperate
dictates of nature, and improves the gratifications of sense by social
intercourse, endearing connections, and the soft coloring of taste and
the imagination. But Elagabalus, (I speak of the emperor of that name,)
corrupted by his youth, his country, and his fortune, abandoned himself
to the grossest pleasures with ungoverned fury, and soon found disgust
and satiety in the midst of his enjoyments. The inflammatory powers of
art were summoned to his aid: the confused multitude of women, of wines,
and of dishes, and the studied variety of attitude and sauces, served
to revive his languid appetites. New terms and new inventions in these
sciences, the only ones cultivated and patronized by the monarch,
signalized his reign, and transmitted his infamy to succeeding times.
A capricious prodigality supplied the want of taste and elegance; and
whilst Elagabalus lavished away the treasures of his people in the
wildest extravagance, his own voice and that of his flatterers applauded
a spirit of magnificence unknown to the tameness of his predecessors. To
confound the order of seasons and climates, to sport with the passions
and prejudices of his subjects, and to subvert every law of nature and
decency, were in the number of his most delicious amusements. A long
train of concubines, and a rapid succession of wives, among whom was
a vestal virgin, ravished by force from her sacred asylum, were
insufficient to satisfy the impotence of his passions. The master of the
Roman world affected to copy the dress and manners of the female sex,
preferred the distaff to the sceptre, and dishonored the principal
dignities of the empire by distributing them among his numerous lovers;
one of whom was publicly invested with the title and authority of the
emperor's, or, as he more properly styled himself, of the empress's

It may seem probable, the vices and follies of Elagabalus have been
adorned by fancy, and blackened by prejudice. Yet, confining ourselves
to the public scenes displayed before the Roman people, and attested by
grave and contemporary historians, their inexpressible infamy surpasses
that of any other age or country. The license of an eastern monarch
is secluded from the eye of curiosity by the inaccessible walls of
his seraglio. The sentiments of honor and gallantry have introduced
a refinement of pleasure, a regard for decency, and a respect for the
public opinion, into the modern courts of Europe; * but the corrupt and
opulent nobles of Rome gratified every vice that could be collected from
the mighty conflux of nations and manners. Secure of impunity, careless
of censure, they lived without restraint in the patient and humble
society of their slaves and parasites. The emperor, in his turn, viewing
every rank of his subjects with the same contemptuous indifference,
asserted without control his sovereign privilege of lust and luxury.

The most worthless of mankind are not afraid to condemn in others the
same disorders which they allow in themselves; and can readily discover
some nice difference of age, character, or station, to justify the
partial distinction. The licentious soldiers, who had raised to the
throne the dissolute son of Caracalla, blushed at their ignominious
choice, and turned with disgust from that monster, to contemplate with
pleasure the opening virtues of his cousin Alexander, the son of Mamæa.
The crafty Mæsa, sensible that her grandson Elagabalus must inevitably
destroy himself by his own vices, had provided another and surer support
of her family. Embracing a favorable moment of fondness and devotion,
she had persuaded the young emperor to adopt Alexander, and to invest
him with the title of Cæsar, that his own divine occupations might be
no longer interrupted by the care of the earth. In the second rank that
amiable prince soon acquired the affections of the public, and
excited the tyrant's jealousy, who resolved to terminate the dangerous
competition, either by corrupting the manners, or by taking away the
life, of his rival. His arts proved unsuccessful; his vain designs were
constantly discovered by his own loquacious folly, and disappointed
by those virtuous and faithful servants whom the prudence of Mamæa
had placed about the person of her son. In a hasty sally of passion,
Elagabalus resolved to execute by force what he had been unable to
compass by fraud, and by a despotic sentence degraded his cousin from
the rank and honors of Cæsar. The message was received in the senate
with silence, and in the camp with fury. The Prætorian guards swore to
protect Alexander, and to revenge the dishonored majesty of the throne.
The tears and promises of the trembling Elagabalus, who only begged them
to spare his life, and to leave him in the possession of his beloved
Hierocles, diverted their just indignation; and they contented
themselves with empowering their præfects to watch over the safety of
Alexander, and the conduct of the emperor.

It was impossible that such a reconciliation should last, or that even
the mean soul of Elagabalus could hold an empire on such humiliating
terms of dependence. He soon attempted, by a dangerous experiment, to
try the temper of the soldiers. The report of the death of Alexander,
and the natural suspicion that he had been murdered, inflamed their
passions into fury, and the tempest of the camp could only be appeased
by the presence and authority of the popular youth. Provoked at this new
instance of their affection for his cousin, and their contempt for
his person, the emperor ventured to punish some of the leaders of the
mutiny. His unseasonable severity proved instantly fatal to his minions,
his mother, and himself. Elagabalus was massacred by the indignant
Prætorians, his mutilated corpse dragged through the streets of the
city, and thrown into the Tiber. His memory was branded with eternal
infamy by the senate; the justice of whose decree has been ratified by

[See Island In The Tiber: Elagabalus was thrown into the Tiber]?

In the room of Elagabalus, his cousin Alexander was raised to the throne
by the Prætorian guards. His relation to the family of Severus, whose
name he assumed, was the same as that of his predecessor; his virtue
and his danger had already endeared him to the Romans, and the eager
liberality of the senate conferred upon him, in one day, the various
titles and powers of the Imperial dignity. But as Alexander was a
modest and dutiful youth, of only seventeen years of age, the reins of
government were in the hands of two women, of his mother, Mamæa, and of
Mæsa, his grandmother. After the death of the latter, who survived but a
short time the elevation of Alexander, Mamæa remained the sole regent of
her son and of the empire.

In every age and country, the wiser, or at least the stronger, of the
two sexes, has usurped the powers of the state, and confined the other
to the cares and pleasures of domestic life. In hereditary monarchies,
however, and especially in those of modern Europe, the gallant spirit
of chivalry, and the law of succession, have accustomed us to allow
a singular exception; and a woman is often acknowledged the absolute
sovereign of a great kingdom, in which she would be deemed incapable of
exercising the smallest employment, civil or military. But as the Roman
emperors were still considered as the generals and magistrates of the
republic, their wives and mothers, although distinguished by the name
of Augusta were never associated to their personal honors; and a female
reign would have appeared an inexpiable prodigy in the eyes of those
primitive Romans, who married without love, or loved without delicacy
and respect. The haughty Agripina aspired, indeed, to share the honors
of the empire which she had conferred on her son; but her mad ambition,
detested by every citizen who felt for the dignity of Rome, was
disappointed by the artful firmness of Seneca and Burrhus. The good
sense, or the indifference, of succeeding princes, restrained them from
offending the prejudices of their subjects; and it was reserved for the
profligate Elagabalus to discharge the acts of the senate with the name
of his mother Soæmias, who was placed by the side of the consuls,
and subscribed, as a regular member, the decrees of the legislative
assembly. Her more prudent sister, Mamæa, declined the useless and
odious prerogative, and a solemn law was enacted, excluding women
forever from the senate, and devoting to the infernal gods the head of
the wretch by whom this sanction should be violated. The substance, not
the pageantry, of power. was the object of Mamæa's manly ambition. She
maintained an absolute and lasting empire over the mind of her son, and
in his affection the mother could not brook a rival. Alexander, with her
consent, married the daughter of a patrician; but his respect for his
father-in-law, and love for the empress, were inconsistent with the
tenderness of interest of Mamæa. The patrician was executed on the ready
accusation of treason, and the wife of Alexander driven with ignominy
from the palace, and banished into Africa.

Notwithstanding this act of jealous cruelty, as well as some instances
of avarice, with which Mamæa is charged, the general tenor of her
administration was equally for the benefit of her son and of the empire.
With the approbation of the senate, she chose sixteen of the wisest
and most virtuous senators as a perpetual council of state, before
whom every public business of moment was debated and determined. The
celebrated Ulpian, equally distinguished by his knowledge of, and
his respect for, the laws of Rome, was at their head; and the prudent
firmness of this aristocracy restored order and authority to
the government. As soon as they had purged the city from foreign
superstition and luxury, the remains of the capricious tyranny of
Elagabalus, they applied themselves to remove his worthless creatures
from every department of the public administration, and to supply
their places with men of virtue and ability. Learning, and the love of
justice, became the only recommendations for civil offices; valor,
and the love of discipline, the only qualifications for military

But the most important care of Mamæa and her wise counsellors, was to
form the character of the young emperor, on whose personal qualities
the happiness or misery of the Roman world must ultimately depend. The
fortunate soil assisted, and even prevented, the hand of cultivation.
An excellent understanding soon convinced Alexander of the advantages of
virtue, the pleasure of knowledge, and the necessity of labor. A natural
mildness and moderation of temper preserved him from the assaults of
passion, and the allurements of vice. His unalterable regard for his
mother, and his esteem for the wise Ulpian, guarded his unexperienced
youth from the poison of flattery. *

The simple journal of his ordinary occupations exhibits a pleasing
picture of an accomplished emperor, and, with some allowance for the
difference of manners, might well deserve the imitation of modern
princes. Alexander rose early: the first moments of the day were
consecrated to private devotion, and his domestic chapel was filled with
the images of those heroes, who, by improving or reforming human life,
had deserved the grateful reverence of posterity. But as he deemed the
service of mankind the most acceptable worship of the gods, the
greatest part of his morning hours was employed in his council, where he
discussed public affairs, and determined private causes, with a patience
and discretion above his years. The dryness of business was relieved by
the charms of literature; and a portion of time was always set apart for
his favorite studies of poetry, history, and philosophy. The works of
Virgil and Horace, the republics of Plato and Cicero, formed his taste,
enlarged his understanding, and gave him the noblest ideas of man and
government. The exercises of the body succeeded to those of the mind;
and Alexander, who was tall, active, and robust, surpassed most of his
equals in the gymnastic arts. Refreshed by the use of the bath and a
slight dinner, he resumed, with new vigor, the business of the day;
and, till the hour of supper, the principal meal of the Romans, he
was attended by his secretaries, with whom he read and answered the
multitude of letters, memorials, and petitions, that must have been
addressed to the master of the greatest part of the world. His table was
served with the most frugal simplicity, and whenever he was at liberty
to consult his own inclination, the company consisted of a few select
friends, men of learning and virtue, amongst whom Ulpian was constantly
invited. Their conversation was familiar and instructive; and the pauses
were occasionally enlivened by the recital of some pleasing composition,
which supplied the place of the dancers, comedians, and even gladiators,
so frequently summoned to the tables of the rich and luxurious Romans.
The dress of Alexander was plain and modest, his demeanor courteous and
affable: at the proper hours his palace was open to all his subjects,
but the voice of a crier was heard, as in the Eleusinian mysteries,
pronouncing the same salutary admonition: "Let none enter these holy
walls, unless he is conscious of a pure and innocent mind."

Such a uniform tenor of life, which left not a moment for vice or folly,
is a better proof of the wisdom and justice of Alexander's government,
than all the trifling details preserved in the compilation of
Lampridius. Since the accession of Commodus, the Roman world had
experienced, during the term of forty years, the successive and various
vices of four tyrants. From the death of Elagabalus, it enjoyed an
auspicious calm of thirteen years. * The provinces, relieved from the
oppressive taxes invented by Caracalla and his pretended son, flourished
in peace and prosperity, under the administration of magistrates, who
were convinced by experience that to deserve the love of the subjects,
was their best and only method of obtaining the favor of their
sovereign. While some gentle restraints were imposed on the innocent
luxury of the Roman people, the price of provisions and the interest
of money, were reduced by the paternal care of Alexander, whose prudent
liberality, without distressing the industrious, supplied the wants and
amusements of the populace. The dignity, the freedom, the authority of
the senate was restored; and every virtuous senator might approach the
person of the emperor without a fear and without a blush.

The name of Antoninus, ennobled by the virtues of Pius and Marcus, had
been communicated by adoption to the dissolute Verus, and by descent to
the cruel Commodus. It became the honorable appellation of the sons of
Severus, was bestowed on young Diadumenianus, and at length prostituted
to the infamy of the high priest of Emesa. Alexander, though pressed
by the studied, and, perhaps, sincere importunity of the senate, nobly
refused the borrowed lustre of a name; whilst in his whole conduct he
labored to restore the glories and felicity of the age of the genuine

In the civil administration of Alexander, wisdom was enforced by power,
and the people, sensible of the public felicity, repaid their benefactor
with their love and gratitude. There still remained a greater, a more
necessary, but a more difficult enterprise; the reformation of the
military order, whose interest and temper, confirmed by long impunity,
rendered them impatient of the restraints of discipline, and careless
of the blessings of public tranquillity. In the execution of his design,
the emperor affected to display his love, and to conceal his fear of the
army. The most rigid economy in every other branch of the administration
supplied a fund of gold and silver for the ordinary pay and the
extraordinary rewards of the troops. In their marches he relaxed
the severe obligation of carrying seventeen days' provision on their
shoulders. Ample magazines were formed along the public roads, and as
soon as they entered the enemy's country, a numerous train of mules
and camels waited on their haughty laziness. As Alexander despaired of
correcting the luxury of his soldiers, he attempted, at least, to direct
it to objects of martial pomp and ornament, fine horses, splendid armor,
and shields enriched with silver and gold. He shared whatever fatigues
he was obliged to impose, visited, in person, the sick and wounded,
preserved an exact register of their services and his own gratitude, and
expressed on every occasion, the warmest regard for a body of men, whose
welfare, as he affected to declare, was so closely connected with that
of the state. By the most gentle arts he labored to inspire the fierce
multitude with a sense of duty, and to restore at least a faint image of
that discipline to which the Romans owed their empire over so many other
nations, as warlike and more powerful than themselves. But his prudence
was vain, his courage fatal, and the attempt towards a reformation
served only to inflame the ills it was meant to cure.

The Prætorian guards were attached to the youth of Alexander. They loved
him as a tender pupil, whom they had saved from a tyrant's fury, and
placed on the Imperial throne. That amiable prince was sensible of the
obligation; but as his gratitude was restrained within the limits of
reason and justice, they soon were more dissatisfied with the virtues of
Alexander, than they had ever been with the vices of Elagabalus. Their
præfect, the wise Ulpian, was the friend of the laws and of the people;
he was considered as the enemy of the soldiers, and to his pernicious
counsels every scheme of reformation was imputed. Some trifling accident
blew up their discontent into a furious mutiny; and the civil war raged,
during three days, in Rome, whilst the life of that excellent minister
was defended by the grateful people. Terrified, at length, by the sight
of some houses in flames, and by the threats of a general conflagration,
the people yielded with a sigh, and left the virtuous but unfortunate
Ulpian to his fate. He was pursued into the Imperial palace, and
massacred at the feet of his master, who vainly strove to cover him with
the purple, and to obtain his pardon from the inexorable soldiers. *
Such was the deplorable weakness of government, that the emperor was
unable to revenge his murdered friend and his insulted dignity, without
stooping to the arts of patience and dissimulation. Epagathus, the
principal leader of the mutiny, was removed from Rome, by the honorable
employment of præfect of Egypt: from that high rank he was gently
degraded to the government of Crete; and when at length, his popularity
among the guards was effaced by time and absence, Alexander ventured to
inflict the tardy but deserved punishment of his crimes. Under the reign
of a just and virtuous prince, the tyranny of the army threatened with
instant death his most faithful ministers, who were suspected of an
intention to correct their intolerable disorders. The historian Dion
Cassius had commanded the Pannonian legions with the spirit of ancient
discipline. Their brethren of Rome, embracing the common cause of
military license, demanded the head of the reformer. Alexander, however,
instead of yielding to their seditious clamors, showed a just sense
of his merit and services, by appointing him his colleague in the
consulship, and defraying from his own treasury the expense of that vain
dignity: but as was justly apprehended, that if the soldiers beheld him
with the ensigns of his office, they would revenge the insult in
his blood, the nominal first magistrate of the state retired, by the
emperor's advice, from the city, and spent the greatest part of his
consulship at his villas in Campania.

Chapter VI: Death Of Severus, Tyranny Of Caracalla, Usurpation Of
Marcinus.--Part IV.

The lenity of the emperor confirmed the insolence of the troops;
the legions imitated the example of the guards, and defended their
prerogative of licentiousness with the same furious obstinacy. The
administration of Alexander was an unavailing struggle against the
corruption of his age. In llyricum, in Mauritania, in Armenia, in
Mesopotamia, in Germany, fresh mutinies perpetually broke out; his
officers were murdered, his authority was insulted, and his life at last
sacrificed to the fierce discontents of the army. One particular fact
well deserves to be recorded, as it illustrates the manners of the
troops, and exhibits a singular instance of their return to a sense of
duty and obedience. Whilst the emperor lay at Antioch, in his Persian
expedition, the particulars of which we shall hereafter relate, the
punishment of some soldiers, who had been discovered in the baths
of women, excited a sedition in the legion to which they belonged.
Alexander ascended his tribunal, and with a modest firmness represented
to the armed multitude the absolute necessity, as well as his
inflexible resolution, of correcting the vices introduced by his impure
predecessor, and of maintaining the discipline, which could not be
relaxed without the ruin of the Roman name and empire. Their clamors
interrupted his mild expostulation. "Reserve your shout," said the
undaunted emperor, "till you take the field against the Persians, the
Germans, and the Sarmatians. Be silent in the presence of your sovereign
and benefactor, who bestows upon you the corn, the clothing, and the
money of the provinces. Be silent, or I shall no longer style you
solders, but citizens, if those indeed who disclaim the laws of Rome
deserve to be ranked among the meanest of the people." His menaces
inflamed the fury of the legion, and their brandished arms already
threatened his person. "Your courage," resumed the intrepid Alexander,
"would be more nobly displayed in the field of battle; me you may
destroy, you cannot intimidate; and the severe justice of the republic
would punish your crime and revenge my death." The legion still
persisted in clamorous sedition, when the emperor pronounced, with a cud
voice, the decisive sentence, "Citizens! lay down your arms, and depart
in peace to your respective habitations." The tempest was instantly
appeased: the soldiers, filled with grief and shame, silently confessed
the justice of their punishment, and the power of discipline, yielded up
their arms and military ensigns, and retired in confusion, not to their
camp, but to the several inns of the city. Alexander enjoyed, during
thirty days, the edifying spectacle of their repentance; nor did he
restore them to their former rank in the army, till he had punished with
death those tribunes whose connivance had occasioned the mutiny. The
grateful legion served the emperor whilst living, and revenged him when

The resolutions of the multitude generally depend on a moment; and the
caprice of passion might equally determine the seditious legion to
lay down their arms at the emperor's feet, or to plunge them into his
breast. Perhaps, if this singular transaction had been investigated by
the penetration of a philosopher, we should discover the secret causes
which on that occasion authorized the boldness of the prince, and
commanded the obedience of the troops; and perhaps, if it had been
related by a judicious historian, we should find this action, worthy of
Cæsar himself, reduced nearer to the level of probability and the common
standard of the character of Alexander Severus. The abilities of that
amiable prince seem to have been inadequate to the difficulties of his
situation, the firmness of his conduct inferior to the purity of his
intentions. His virtues, as well as the vices of Elagabalus, contracted
a tincture of weakness and effeminacy from the soft climate of Syria,
of which he was a native; though he blushed at his foreign origin, and
listened with a vain complacency to the flattering genealogists, who
derived his race from the ancient stock of Roman nobility. The pride and
avarice of his mother cast a shade on the glories of his reign; an by
exacting from his riper years the same dutiful obedience which she had
justly claimed from his unexperienced youth, Mamæa exposed to public
ridicule both her son's character and her own. The fatigues of the
Persian war irritated the military discontent; the unsuccessful event
* degraded the reputation of the emperor as a general, and even as
a soldier. Every cause prepared, and every circumstance hastened, a
revolution, which distracted the Roman empire with a long series of
intestine calamities.

The dissolute tyranny of Commodus, the civil wars occasioned by his
death, and the new maxims of policy introduced by the house of Severus,
had all contributed to increase the dangerous power of the army, and to
obliterate the faint image of laws and liberty that was still impressed
on the minds of the Romans. The internal change, which undermined the
foundations of the empire, we have endeavored to explain with some
degree of order and perspicuity. The personal characters of the
emperors, their victories, laws, follies, and fortunes, can interest us
no farther than as they are connected with the general history of the
Decline and Fall of the monarchy. Our constant attention to that
great object will not suffer us to overlook a most important edict of
Antoninus Caracalla, which communicated to all the free inhabitants
of the empire the name and privileges of Roman citizens. His unbounded
liberality flowed not, however, from the sentiments of a generous mind;
it was the sordid result of avarice, and will naturally be illustrated
by some observations on the finances of that state, from the victorious
ages of the commonwealth to the reign of Alexander Severus.

The siege of Veii in Tuscany, the first considerable enterprise of the
Romans, was protracted to the tenth year, much less by the strength of
the place than by the unskillfulness of the besiegers. The unaccustomed
hardships of so many winter campaigns, at the distance of near twenty
miles from home, required more than common encouragements; and the
senate wisely prevented the clamors of the people, by the institution of
a regular pay for the soldiers, which was levied by a general tribute,
assessed according to an equitable proportion on the property of the
citizens. During more than two hundred years after the conquest of Veii,
the victories of the republic added less to the wealth than to the power
of Rome. The states of Italy paid their tribute in military service
only, and the vast force, both by sea and land, which was exerted in the
Punic wars, was maintained at the expense of the Romans themselves. That
high-spirited people (such is often the generous enthusiasm of freedom)
cheerfully submitted to the most excessive but voluntary burdens, in
the just confidence that they should speedily enjoy the rich harvest of
their labors. Their expectations were not disappointed. In the course of
a few years, the riches of Syracuse, of Carthage, of Macedonia, and of
Asia, were brought in triumph to Rome. The treasures of Perseus alone
amounted to near two millions sterling, and the Roman people, the
sovereign of so many nations, was forever delivered from the weight of
taxes. The increasing revenue of the provinces was found sufficient
to defray the ordinary establishment of war and government, and the
superfluous mass of gold and silver was deposited in the temple of
Saturn, and reserved for any unforeseen emergency of the state.

History has never, perhaps, suffered a greater or more irreparable
injury than in the loss of the curious register * bequeathed by Augustus
to the senate, in which that experienced prince so accurately balanced
the revenues and expenses of the Roman empire. Deprived of this clear
and comprehensive estimate, we are reduced to collect a few imperfect
hints from such of the ancients as have accidentally turned aside from
the splendid to the more useful parts of history. We are informed that,
by the conquests of Pompey, the tributes of Asia were raised from
fifty to one hundred and thirty-five millions of drachms; or about four
millions and a half sterling. Under the last and most indolent of the
Ptolemies, the revenue of Egypt is said to have amounted to twelve
thousand five hundred talents; a sum equivalent to more than two
millions and a half of our money, but which was afterwards considerably
improved by the more exact economy of the Romans, and the increase of
the trade of Æthiopia and India. Gaul was enriched by rapine, as Egypt
was by commerce, and the tributes of those two great provinces have been
compared as nearly equal to each other in value. The ten thousand Euboic
or Phnician talents, about four millions sterling, which vanquished
Carthage was condemned to pay within the term of fifty years, were a
slight acknowledgment of the superiority of Rome, and cannot bear the
least proportion with the taxes afterwards raised both on the lands and
on the persons of the inhabitants, when the fertile coast of Africa was
reduced into a province.

Spain, by a very singular fatality, was the Peru and Mexico of the old
world. The discovery of the rich western continent by the Phnicians,
and the oppression of the simple natives, who were compelled to labor in
their own mines for the benefit of strangers, form an exact type of the
more recent history of Spanish America. The Phnicians were acquainted
only with the sea-coast of Spain; avarice, as well as ambition, carried
the arms of Rome and Carthage into the heart of the country, and almost
every part of the soil was found pregnant with copper, silver, and gold.
* Mention is made of a mine near Carthagena which yielded every day
twenty-five thousand drachmns of silver, or about three hundred thousand
pounds a year. Twenty thousand pound weight of gold was annually
received from the provinces of Asturia, Gallicia, and Lusitania.

We want both leisure and materials to pursue this curious inquiry
through the many potent states that were annihilated in the Roman
empire. Some notion, however, may be formed of the revenue of the
provinces where considerable wealth had been deposited by nature, or
collected by man, if we observe the severe attention that was directed
to the abodes of solitude and sterility. Augustus once received a
petition from the inhabitants of Gyarus, humbly praying that they might
be relieved from one third of their excessive impositions. Their whole
tax amounted indeed to no more than one hundred and fifty drachms, or
about five pounds: but Gyarus was a little island, or rather a rock, of
the Ægean Sea, destitute of fresh water and every necessary of life, and
inhabited only by a few wretched fishermen.

From the faint glimmerings of such doubtful and scattered lights, we
should be inclined to believe, 1st, That (with every fair allowance for
the differences of times and circumstances) the general income of the
Roman provinces could seldom amount to less than fifteen or twenty
millions of our money; and, 2dly, That so ample a revenue must have been
fully adequate to all the expenses of the moderate government instituted
by Augustus, whose court was the modest family of a private senator,
and whose military establishment was calculated for the defence of
the frontiers, without any aspiring views of conquest, or any serious
apprehension of a foreign invasion.

Notwithstanding the seeming probability of both these conclusions,
the latter of them at least is positively disowned by the language
and conduct of Augustus. It is not easy to determine whether, on this
occasion, he acted as the common father of the Roman world, or as the
oppressor of liberty; whether he wished to relieve the provinces, or
to impoverish the senate and the equestrian order. But no sooner had
he assumed the reins of government, than he frequently intimated
the insufficiency of the tributes, and the necessity of throwing an
equitable proportion of the public burden upon Rome and Italy. In the
prosecution of this unpopular design, he advanced, however, by cautious
and well-weighed steps. The introduction of customs was followed by the
establishment of an excise, and the scheme of taxation was completed
by an artful assessment on the real and personal property of the Roman
citizens, who had been exempted from any kind of contribution above a
century and a half.

I. In a great empire like that of Rome, a natural balance of money must
have gradually established itself. It has been already observed, that as
the wealth of the provinces was attracted to the capital by the strong
hand of conquest and power, so a considerable part of it was restored to
the industrious provinces by the gentle influence of commerce and arts.
In the reign of Augustus and his successors, duties were imposed on
every kind of merchandise, which through a thousand channels flowed to
the great centre of opulence and luxury; and in whatsoever manner the
law was expressed, it was the Roman purchaser, and not the provincial
merchant, who paid the tax. The rate of the customs varied from the
eighth to the fortieth part of the value of the commodity; and we have
a right to suppose that the variation was directed by the unalterable
maxims of policy; that a higher duty was fixed on the articles of
luxury than on those of necessity, and that the productions raised or
manufactured by the labor of the subjects of the empire were treated
with more indulgence than was shown to the pernicious, or at least the
unpopular commerce of Arabia and India. There is still extant a long
but imperfect catalogue of eastern commodities, which about the time
of Alexander Severus were subject to the payment of duties; cinnamon,
myrrh, pepper, ginger, and the whole tribe of aromatics a great variety
of precious stones, among which the diamond was the most remarkable
for its price, and the emerald for its beauty; Parthian and Babylonian
leather, cottons, silks, both raw and manufactured, ebony ivory, and
eunuchs. We may observe that the use and value of those effeminate
slaves gradually rose with the decline of the empire.

II. The excise, introduced by Augustus after the civil wars, was
extremely moderate, but it was general. It seldom exceeded one per
cent.; but it comprehended whatever was sold in the markets or by public
auction, from the most considerable purchases of lands and houses, to
those minute objects which can only derive a value from their infinite
multitude and daily consumption. Such a tax, as it affects the body
of the people, has ever been the occasion of clamor and discontent. An
emperor well acquainted with the wants and resources of the state was
obliged to declare, by a public edict, that the support of the army
depended in a great measure on the produce of the excise. 1

III. When Augustus resolved to establish a permanent military force for
the defence of his government against foreign and domestic enemies, he
instituted a peculiar treasury for the pay of the soldiers, the rewards
of the veterans, and the extra-ordinary expenses of war. The ample
revenue of the excise, though peculiarly appropriated to those uses, was
found inadequate. To supply the deficiency, the emperor suggested a new
tax of five per cent. on all legacies and inheritances. But the nobles
of Rome were more tenacious of property than of freedom. Their indignant
murmurs were received by Augustus with his usual temper. He candidly
referred the whole business to the senate, and exhorted them to provide
for the public service by some other expedient of a less odious nature.
They were divided and perplexed. He insinuated to them, that their
obstinacy would oblige him to propose a general land tax and capitation.
They acquiesced in silence. . The new imposition on legacies and
inheritances was, however, mitigated by some restrictions. It did not
take place unless the object was of a certain value, most probably of
fifty or a hundred pieces of gold; nor could it be exacted from the
nearest of kin on the father's side. When the rights of nature and
poverty were thus secured, it seemed reasonable, that a stranger, or
a distant relation, who acquired an unexpected accession of fortune,
should cheerfully resign a twentieth part of it, for the benefit of the

Such a tax, plentiful as it must prove in every wealthy community, was
most happily suited to the situation of the Romans, who could frame
their arbitrary wills, according to the dictates of reason or
caprice, without any restraint from the modern fetters of entails and
settlements. From various causes, the partiality of paternal affection
often lost its influence over the stern patriots of the commonwealth,
and the dissolute nobles of the empire; and if the father bequeathed to
his son the fourth part of his estate, he removed all ground of legal
complaint. But a rich childish old man was a domestic tyrant, and his
power increased with his years and infirmities. A servile crowd, in
which he frequently reckoned prætors and consuls, courted his smiles,
pampered his avarice, applauded his follies, served his passions,
and waited with impatience for his death. The arts of attendance and
flattery were formed into a most lucrative science; those who professed
it acquired a peculiar appellation; and the whole city, according to
the lively descriptions of satire, was divided between two parties, the
hunters and their game. Yet, while so many unjust and extravagant wills
were every day dictated by cunning and subscribed by folly, a few were
the result of rational esteem and virtuous gratitude. Cicero, who had
so often defended the lives and fortunes of his fellow-citizens, was
rewarded with legacies to the amount of a hundred and seventy thousand
pounds; nor do the friends of the younger Pliny seem to have been
less generous to that amiable orator. Whatever was the motive of the
testator, the treasury claimed, without distinction, the twentieth part
of his estate: and in the course of two or three generations, the whole
property of the subject must have gradually passed through the coffers
of the state.

In the first and golden years of the reign of Nero, that prince, from a
desire of popularity, and perhaps from a blind impulse of benevolence,
conceived a wish of abolishing the oppression of the customs and excise.
The wisest senators applauded his magnanimity: but they diverted him
from the execution of a design which would have dissolved the strength
and resources of the republic. Had it indeed been possible to realize
this dream of fancy, such princes as Trajan and the Antonines would
surely have embraced with ardor the glorious opportunity of conferring
so signal an obligation on mankind. Satisfied, however, with alleviating
the public burden, they attempted not to remove it. The mildness and
precision of their laws ascertained the rule and measure of
taxation, and protected the subject of every rank against arbitrary
interpretations, antiquated claims, and the insolent vexation of the
farmers of the revenue. For it is somewhat singular, that, in every age,
the best and wisest of the Roman governors persevered in this pernicious
method of collecting the principal branches at least of the excise and

The sentiments, and, indeed, the situation, of Caracalla were very
different from those of the Antonines. Inattentive, or rather averse,
to the welfare of his people, he found himself under the necessity of
gratifying the insatiate avarice which he had excited in the army.
Of the several impositions introduced by Augustus, the twentieth on
inheritances and legacies was the most fruitful, as well as the most
comprehensive. As its influence was not confined to Rome or Italy, the
produce continually increased with the gradual extension of the Roman
City. The new citizens, though charged, on equal terms, with the payment
of new taxes, which had not affected them as subjects, derived an ample
compensation from the rank they obtained, the privileges they acquired,
and the fair prospect of honors and fortune that was thrown open to
their ambition. But the favor which implied a distinction was lost
in the prodigality of Caracalla, and the reluctant provincials were
compelled to assume the vain title, and the real obligations, of Roman
citizens. * Nor was the rapacious son of Severus contented with such
a measure of taxation as had appeared sufficient to his moderate
predecessors. Instead of a twentieth, he exacted a tenth of all legacies
and inheritances; and during his reign (for the ancient proportion was
restored after his death) he crushed alike every part of the empire
under the weight of his iron sceptre.

When all the provincials became liable to the peculiar impositions
of Roman citizens, they seemed to acquire a legal exemption from the
tributes which they had paid in their former condition of subjects. Such
were not the maxims of government adopted by Caracalla and his pretended
son. The old as well as the new taxes were, at the same time, levied in
the provinces. It was reserved for the virtue of Alexander to relieve
them in a great measure from this intolerable grievance, by reducing
the tributes to a thirteenth part of the sum exacted at the time of his
accession. It is impossible to conjecture the motive that engaged him
to spare so trifling a remnant of the public evil; but the noxious weed,
which had not been totally eradicated, again sprang up with the most
luxuriant growth, and in the succeeding age darkened the Roman world
with its deadly shade. In the course of this history, we shall be too
often summoned to explain the land tax, the capitation, and the heavy
contributions of corn, wine, oil, and meat, which were exacted from the
provinces for the use of the court, the army, and the capital.

As long as Rome and Italy were respected as the centre of government, a
national spirit was preserved by the ancient, and insensibly imbibed by
the adopted, citizens. The principal commands of the army were filled
by men who had received a liberal education, were well instructed in
the advantages of laws and letters, and who had risen, by equal steps,
through the regular succession of civil and military honors. To their
influence and example we may partly ascribe the modest obedience of the
legions during the two first centuries of the Imperial history.

But when the last enclosure of the Roman constitution was trampled down
by Caracalla, the separation of professions gradually succeeded to
the distinction of ranks. The more polished citizens of the internal
provinces were alone qualified to act as lawyers and magistrates. The
rougher trade of arms was abandoned to the peasants and barbarians of
the frontiers, who knew no country but their camp, no science but that
of war no civil laws, and scarcely those of military discipline. With
bloody hands, savage manners, and desperate resolutions, they sometimes
guarded, but much oftener subverted, the throne of the emperors.

Chapter VII: Tyranny Of Maximin, Rebellion, Civil Wars, Death Of
Maximin.--Part I.

     The Elevation And Tyranny Of Maximin.--Rebellion In Africa
     And Italy, Under The Authority Of The Senate.--Civil Wars
     And Seditions.--Violent Deaths Of Maximin And His Son, Of
     Maximus And Balbinus, And Of The Three Gordians.--Usurpation
     And Secular Games Of Philip.

Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in the world, an
hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule. Is
it possible to relate without an indignant smile, that, on the father's
decease, the property of a nation, like that of a drove of oxen,
descends to his infant son, as yet unknown to mankind and to himself;
and that the bravest warriors and the wisest statesmen, relinquishing
their natural right to empire, approach the royal cradle with bended
knees and protestations of inviolable fidelity? Satire and declamation
may paint these obvious topics in the most dazzling colors, but our more
serious thoughts will respect a useful prejudice, that establishes a
rule of succession, independent of the passions of mankind; and we shall
cheerfully acquiesce in any expedient which deprives the multitude
of the dangerous, and indeed the ideal, power of giving themselves a

In the cool shade of retirement, we may easily devise imaginary forms
of government, in which the sceptre shall be constantly bestowed on the
most worthy, by the free and incorrupt suffrage of the whole community.
Experience overturns these airy fabrics, and teaches us, that in a large
society, the election of a monarch can never devolve to the wisest, or
to the most numerous part of the people. The army is the only order of
men sufficiently united to concur in the same sentiments, and powerful
enough to impose them on the rest of their fellow-citizens; but the
temper of soldiers, habituated at once to violence and to slavery,
renders them very unfit guardians of a legal, or even a civil
constitution. Justice, humanity, or political wisdom, are qualities
they are too little acquainted with in themselves, to appreciate them
in others. Valor will acquire their esteem, and liberality will purchase
their suffrage; but the first of these merits is often lodged in the
most savage breasts; the latter can only exert itself at the expense of
the public; and both may be turned against the possessor of the throne,
by the ambition of a daring rival.

The superior prerogative of birth, when it has obtained the sanction
of time and popular opinion, is the plainest and least invidious of
all distinctions among mankind. The acknowledged right extinguishes the
hopes of faction, and the conscious security disarms the cruelty of
the monarch. To the firm establishment of this idea we owe the peaceful
succession and mild administration of European monarchies. To the
defect of it we must attribute the frequent civil wars, through which an
Asiatic despot is obliged to cut his way to the throne of his fathers.
Yet, even in the East, the sphere of contention is usually limited to
the princes of the reigning house, and as soon as the more fortunate
competitor has removed his brethren by the sword and the bowstring, he
no longer entertains any jealousy of his meaner subjects. But the Roman
empire, after the authority of the senate had sunk into contempt, was
a vast scene of confusion. The royal, and even noble, families of the
provinces had long since been led in triumph before the car of the
haughty republicans. The ancient families of Rome had successively
fallen beneath the tyranny of the Cæsars; and whilst those princes
were shackled by the forms of a commonwealth, and disappointed by the
repeated failure of their posterity, it was impossible that any idea
of hereditary succession should have taken root in the minds of their
subjects. The right to the throne, which none could claim from birth,
every one assumed from merit. The daring hopes of ambition were set
loose from the salutary restraints of law and prejudice; and the meanest
of mankind might, without folly, entertain a hope of being raised by
valor and fortune to a rank in the army, in which a single crime
would enable him to wrest the sceptre of the world from his feeble
and unpopular master. After the murder of Alexander Severus, and the
elevation of Maximin, no emperor could think himself safe upon the
throne, and every barbarian peasant of the frontier might aspire to that
august, but dangerous station.

About thirty-two years before that event, the emperor Severus, returning
from an eastern expedition, halted in Thrace, to celebrate, with
military games, the birthday of his younger son, Geta. The country
flocked in crowds to behold their sovereign, and a young barbarian of
gigantic stature earnestly solicited, in his rude dialect, that he
might be allowed to contend for the prize of wrestling. As the pride of
discipline would have been disgraced in the overthrow of a Roman soldier
by a Thracian peasant, he was matched with the stoutest followers of the
camp, sixteen of whom he successively laid on the ground. His victory
was rewarded by some trifling gifts, and a permission to enlist in the
troops. The next day, the happy barbarian was distinguished above
a crowd of recruits, dancing and exulting after the fashion of his
country. As soon as he perceived that he had attracted the emperor's
notice, he instantly ran up to his horse, and followed him on foot,
without the least appearance of fatigue, in a long and rapid career.
"Thracian," said Severus with astonishment, "art thou disposed to
wrestle after thy race?" "Most willingly, sir," replied the unwearied
youth; and, almost in a breath, overthrew seven of the strongest
soldiers in the army. A gold collar was the prize of his matchless
vigor and activity, and he was immediately appointed to serve in the
horseguards who always attended on the person of the sovereign.

Maximin, for that was his name, though born on the territories of the
empire, descended from a mixed race of barbarians. His father was a
Goth, and his mother of the nation of the Alani. He displayed on every
occasion a valor equal to his strength; and his native fierceness was
soon tempered or disguised by the knowledge of the world. Under the
reign of Severus and his son, he obtained the rank of centurion, with
the favor and esteem of both those princes, the former of whom was an
excellent judge of merit. Gratitude forbade Maximin to serve under
the assassin of Caracalla. Honor taught him to decline the effeminate
insults of Elagabalus. On the accession of Alexander he returned to
court, and was placed by that prince in a station useful to the service,
and honorable to himself. The fourth legion, to which he was appointed
tribune, soon became, under his care, the best disciplined of the whole
army. With the general applause of the soldiers, who bestowed on their
favorite hero the names of Ajax and Hercules, he was successively
promoted to the first military command; and had not he still retained
too much of his savage origin, the emperor might perhaps have given his
own sister in marriage to the son of Maximin.

Instead of securing his fidelity, these favors served only to inflame
the ambition of the Thracian peasant, who deemed his fortune inadequate
to his merit, as long as he was constrained to acknowledge a superior.
Though a stranger to real wisdom, he was not devoid of a selfish
cunning, which showed him that the emperor had lost the affection of the
army, and taught him to improve their discontent to his own advantage.
It is easy for faction and calumny to shed their poison on the
administration of the best of princes, and to accuse even their virtues
by artfully confounding them with those vices to which they bear the
nearest affinity. The troops listened with pleasure to the emissaries of
Maximin. They blushed at their own ignominious patience, which, during
thirteen years, had supported the vexatious discipline imposed by an
effeminate Syrian, the timid slave of his mother and of the senate. It
was time, they cried, to cast away that useless phantom of the civil
power, and to elect for their prince and general a real soldier,
educated in camps, exercised in war, who would assert the glory, and
distribute among his companions the treasures, of the empire. A great
army was at that time assembled on the banks of the Rhine, under the
command of the emperor himself, who, almost immediately after his return
from the Persian war, had been obliged to march against the barbarians
of Germany. The important care of training and reviewing the new levies
was intrusted to Maximin. One day, as he entered the field of exercise,
the troops either from a sudden impulse, or a formed conspiracy, saluted
him emperor, silenced by their loud acclamations his obstinate refusal,
and hastened to consummate their rebellion by the murder of Alexander

The circumstances of his death are variously related. The writers, who
suppose that he died in ignorance of the ingratitude and ambition of
Maximin, affirm, that, after taking a frugal repast in the sight of the
army, he retired to sleep, and that, about the seventh hour of the day,
a part of his own guards broke into the imperial tent, and, with many
wounds, assassinated their virtuous and unsuspecting prince. If we
credit another, and indeed a more probable account, Maximin was invested
with the purple by a numerous detachment, at the distance of several
miles from the head-quarters; and he trusted for success rather to
the secret wishes than to the public declarations of the great army.
Alexander had sufficient time to awaken a faint sense of loyalty among
the troops; but their reluctant professions of fidelity quickly vanished
on the appearance of Maximin, who declared himself the friend and
advocate of the military order, and was unanimously acknowledged emperor
of the Romans by the applauding legions. The son of Mamæa, betrayed
and deserted, withdrew into his tent, desirous at least to conceal his
approaching fate from the insults of the multitude. He was soon followed
by a tribune and some centurions, the ministers of death; but instead
of receiving with manly resolution the inevitable stroke, his unavailing
cries and entreaties disgraced the last moments of his life, and
converted into contempt some portion of the just pity which his
innocence and misfortunes must inspire. His mother, Mamæa, whose pride
and avarice he loudly accused as the cause of his ruin, perished with
her son. The most faithful of his friends were sacrificed to the first
fury of the soldiers. Others were reserved for the more deliberate
cruelty of the usurper; and those who experienced the mildest treatment,
were stripped of their employments, and ignominiously driven from the
court and army.

The former tyrants, Caligula and Nero, Commodus, and Caracalla, were
all dissolute and unexperienced youths, educated in the purple, and
corrupted by the pride of empire, the luxury of Rome, and the perfidious
voice of flattery. The cruelty of Maximin was derived from a different
source, the fear of contempt. Though he depended on the attachment of
the soldiers, who loved him for virtues like their own, he was conscious
that his mean and barbarian origin, his savage appearance, and his total
ignorance of the arts and institutions of civil life, formed a very
unfavorable contrast with the amiable manners of the unhappy Alexander.
He remembered, that, in his humbler fortune, he had often waited before
the door of the haughty nobles of Rome, and had been denied admittance
by the insolence of their slaves. He recollected too the friendship of
a few who had relieved his poverty, and assisted his rising hopes. But
those who had spurned, and those who had protected, the Thracian, were
guilty of the same crime, the knowledge of his original obscurity. For
this crime many were put to death; and by the execution of several
of his benefactors, Maximin published, in characters of blood, the
indelible history of his baseness and ingratitude.

The dark and sanguinary soul of the tyrant was open to every suspicion
against those among his subjects who were the most distinguished by
their birth or merit. Whenever he was alarmed with the sound of treason,
his cruelty was unbounded and unrelenting. A conspiracy against his life
was either discovered or imagined, and Magnus, a consular senator, was
named as the principal author of it. Without a witness, without a trial,
and without an opportunity of defence, Magnus, with four thousand of his
supposed accomplices, was put to death. Italy and the whole empire
were infested with innumerable spies and informers. On the slightest
accusation, the first of the Roman nobles, who had governed provinces,
commanded armies, and been adorned with the consular and triumphal
ornaments, were chained on the public carriages, and hurried away to the
emperor's presence. Confiscation, exile, or simple death, were esteemed
uncommon instances of his lenity. Some of the unfortunate sufferers he
ordered to be sewed up in the hides of slaughtered animals, others to be
exposed to wild beasts, others again to be beaten to death with clubs.
During the three years of his reign, he disdained to visit either Rome
or Italy. His camp, occasionally removed from the banks of the Rhine to
those of the Danube, was the seat of his stern despotism, which trampled
on every principle of law and justice, and was supported by the avowed
power of the sword. No man of noble birth, elegant accomplishments, or
knowledge of civil business, was suffered near his person; and the court
of a Roman emperor revived the idea of those ancient chiefs of slaves
and gladiators, whose savage power had left a deep impression of terror
and detestation.

As long as the cruelty of Maximin was confined to the illustrious
senators, or even to the bold adventurers, who in the court or army
expose themselves to the caprice of fortune, the body of the people
viewed their sufferings with indifference, or perhaps with pleasure.
But the tyrant's avarice, stimulated by the insatiate desires of the
soldiers, at length attacked the public property. Every city of the
empire was possessed of an independent revenue, destined to purchase
corn for the multitude, and to supply the expenses of the games and
entertainments. By a single act of authority, the whole mass of wealth
was at once confiscated for the use of the Imperial treasury. The
temples were stripped of their most valuable offerings of gold and
silver, and the statues of gods, heroes, and emperors, were melted
down and coined into money. These impious orders could not be executed
without tumults and massacres, as in many places the people chose rather
to die in the defence of their altars, than to behold in the midst
of peace their cities exposed to the rapine and cruelty of war.
The soldiers themselves, among whom this sacrilegious plunder was
distributed, received it with a blush; and hardened as they were in
acts of violence, they dreaded the just reproaches of their friends and
relations. Throughout the Roman world a general cry of indignation was
heard, imploring vengeance on the common enemy of human kind; and at
length, by an act of private oppression, a peaceful and unarmed province
was driven into rebellion against him.

The procurator of Africa was a servant worthy of such a master, who
considered the fines and confiscations of the rich as one of the most
fruitful branches of the Imperial revenue. An iniquitous sentence
had been pronounced against some opulent youths of that country, the
execution of which would have stripped them of far the greater part
of their patrimony. In this extremity, a resolution that must either
complete or prevent their ruin, was dictated by despair. A respite of
three days, obtained with difficulty from the rapacious treasurer, was
employed in collecting from their estates a great number of slaves and
peasants blindly devoted to the commands of their lords, and armed with
the rustic weapons of clubs and axes. The leaders of the conspiracy, as
they were admitted to the audience of the procurator, stabbed him with
the daggers concealed under their garments, and, by the assistance
of their tumultuary train, seized on the little town of Thysdrus, and
erected the standard of rebellion against the sovereign of the Roman
empire. They rested their hopes on the hatred of mankind against
Maximin, and they judiciously resolved to oppose to that detested tyrant
an emperor whose mild virtues had already acquired the love and esteem
of the Romans, and whose authority over the province would give weight
and stability to the enterprise. Gordianus, their proconsul, and
the object of their choice, refused, with unfeigned reluctance, the
dangerous honor, and begged with tears, that they would suffer him to
terminate in peace a long and innocent life, without staining his feeble
age with civil blood. Their menaces compelled him to accept the Imperial
purple, his only refuge, indeed, against the jealous cruelty of Maximin;
since, according to the reasoning of tyrants, those who have been
esteemed worthy of the throne deserve death, and those who deliberate
have already rebelled.

The family of Gordianus was one of the most illustrious of the Roman
senate. On the father's side he was descended from the Gracchi; on his
mother's, from the emperor Trajan. A great estate enabled him to support
the dignity of his birth, and in the enjoyment of it, he displayed an
elegant taste and beneficent disposition. The palace in Rome, formerly
inhabited by the great Pompey, had been, during several generations,
in the possession of Gordian's family. It was distinguished by ancient
trophies of naval victories, and decorated with the works of modern
painting. His villa on the road to Præneste was celebrated for baths of
singular beauty and extent, for three stately rooms of a hundred feet in
length, and for a magnificent portico, supported by two hundred columns
of the four most curious and costly sorts of marble. The public shows
exhibited at his expense, and in which the people were entertained with
many hundreds of wild beasts and gladiators, seem to surpass the
fortune of a subject; and whilst the liberality of other magistrates was
confined to a few solemn festivals at Rome, the magnificence of Gordian
was repeated, when he was ædile, every month in the year, and extended,
during his consulship, to the principal cities of Italy. He was twice
elevated to the last-mentioned dignity, by Caracalla and by Alexander;
for he possessed the uncommon talent of acquiring the esteem of virtuous
princes, without alarming the jealousy of tyrants. His long life was
innocently spent in the study of letters and the peaceful honors of
Rome; and, till he was named proconsul of Africa by the voice of the
senate and the approbation of Alexander, he appears prudently to have
declined the command of armies and the government of provinces. * As
long as that emperor lived, Africa was happy under the administration of
his worthy representative: after the barbarous Maximin had usurped
the throne, Gordianus alleviated the miseries which he was unable to
prevent. When he reluctantly accepted the purple, he was above
fourscore years old; a last and valuable remains of the happy age of the
Antonines, whose virtues he revived in his own conduct, and celebrated
in an elegant poem of thirty books. With the venerable proconsul, his
son, who had accompanied him into Africa as his lieutenant, was likewise
declared emperor. His manners were less pure, but his character was
equally amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged
concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested the
variety of his inclinations; and from the productions which he left
behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were
designed for use rather than for ostentation. The Roman people
acknowledged in the features of the younger Gordian the resemblance
of Scipio Africanus, recollected with pleasure that his mother was the
granddaughter of Antoninus Pius, and rested the public hope on those
latent virtues which had hitherto, as they fondly imagined, lain
concealed in the luxurious indolence of private life.

As soon as the Gordians had appeased the first tumult of a popular
election, they removed their court to Carthage. They were received with
the acclamations of the Africans, who honored their virtues, and who,
since the visit of Hadrian, had never beheld the majesty of a Roman
emperor. But these vain acclamations neither strengthened nor confirmed
the title of the Gordians. They were induced by principle, as well as
interest, to solicit the approbation of the senate; and a deputation of
the noblest provincials was sent, without delay, to Rome, to relate and
justify the conduct of their countrymen, who, having long suffered with
patience, were at length resolved to act with vigor. The letters of the
new princes were modest and respectful, excusing the necessity which had
obliged them to accept the Imperial title; but submitting their election
and their fate to the supreme judgment of the senate.

The inclinations of the senate were neither doubtful nor divided. The
birth and noble alliances of the Gordians had intimately connected them
with the most illustrious houses of Rome. Their fortune had created
many dependants in that assembly, their merit had acquired many
friends. Their mild administration opened the flattering prospect of
the restoration, not only of the civil but even of the republican
government. The terror of military violence, which had first obliged the
senate to forget the murder of Alexander, and to ratify the election of
a barbarian peasant, now produced a contrary effect, and provoked them
to assert the injured rights of freedom and humanity. The hatred of
Maximin towards the senate was declared and implacable; the tamest
submission had not appeased his fury, the most cautious innocence would
not remove his suspicions; and even the care of their own safety urged
them to share the fortune of an enterprise, of which (if unsuccessful)
they were sure to be the first victims. These considerations, and
perhaps others of a more private nature, were debated in a previous
conference of the consuls and the magistrates. As soon as their
resolution was decided, they convoked in the temple of Castor the whole
body of the senate, according to an ancient form of secrecy, calculated
to awaken their attention, and to conceal their decrees. "Conscript
fathers," said the consul Syllanus, "the two Gordians, both of consular
dignity, the one your proconsul, the other your lieutenant, have been
declared emperors by the general consent of Africa. Let us return
thanks," he boldly continued, "to the youth of Thysdrus; let us return
thanks to the faithful people of Carthage, our generous deliverers from
a horrid monster--Why do you hear me thus coolly, thus timidly? Why do
you cast those anxious looks on each other? Why hesitate? Maximin is a
public enemy! may his enmity soon expire with him, and may we long enjoy
the prudence and felicity of Gordian the father, the valor and constancy
of Gordian the son!" The noble ardor of the consul revived the languid
spirit of the senate. By a unanimous decree, the election of the
Gordians was ratified, Maximin, his son, and his adherents, were
pronounced enemies of their country, and liberal rewards were offered to
whomsoever had the courage and good fortune to destroy them.

[See Temple Of Castor and Pollux]

During the emperor's absence, a detachment of the Prætorian guards
remained at Rome, to protect, or rather to command, the capital. The
præfect Vitalianus had signalized his fidelity to Maximin, by the
alacrity with which he had obeyed, and even prevented the cruel mandates
of the tyrant. His death alone could rescue the authority of the senate,
and the lives of the senators from a state of danger and suspense.
Before their resolves had transpired, a quæstor and some tribunes were
commissioned to take his devoted life. They executed the order with
equal boldness and success; and, with their bloody daggers in their
hands, ran through the streets, proclaiming to the people and the
soldiers the news of the happy revolution. The enthusiasm of liberty
was seconded by the promise of a large donative, in lands and money;
the statues of Maximin were thrown down; the capital of the empire
acknowledged, with transport, the authority of the two Gordians and the
senate; and the example of Rome was followed by the rest of Italy.

A new spirit had arisen in that assembly, whose long patience had been
insulted by wanton despotism and military license. The senate assumed
the reins of government, and, with a calm intrepidity, prepared to
vindicate by arms the cause of freedom. Among the consular senators
recommended by their merit and services to the favor of the emperor
Alexander, it was easy to select twenty, not unequal to the command of
an army, and the conduct of a war. To these was the defence of Italy
intrusted. Each was appointed to act in his respective department,
authorized to enroll and discipline the Italian youth; and instructed
to fortify the ports and highways, against the impending invasion of
Maximin. A number of deputies, chosen from the most illustrious of the
senatorian and equestrian orders, were despatched at the same time to
the governors of the several provinces, earnestly conjuring them to fly
to the assistance of their country, and to remind the nations of their
ancient ties of friendship with the Roman senate and people. The general
respect with which these deputies were received, and the zeal of Italy
and the provinces in favor of the senate, sufficiently prove that the
subjects of Maximin were reduced to that uncommon distress, in which
the body of the people has more to fear from oppression than from
resistance. The consciousness of that melancholy truth, inspires a
degree of persevering fury, seldom to be found in those civil wars
which are artificially supported for the benefit of a few factious and
designing leaders.

For while the cause of the Gordians was embraced with such diffusive
ardor, the Gordians themselves were no more. The feeble court of
Carthage was alarmed by the rapid approach of Capelianus, governor of
Mauritania, who, with a small band of veterans, and a fierce host of
barbarians, attacked a faithful, but unwarlike province. The younger
Gordian sallied out to meet the enemy at the head of a few guards, and
a numerous undisciplined multitude, educated in the peaceful luxury
of Carthage. His useless valor served only to procure him an honorable
death on the field of battle. His aged father, whose reign had not
exceeded thirty-six days, put an end to his life on the first news of
the defeat. Carthage, destitute of defence, opened her gates to the
conqueror, and Africa was exposed to the rapacious cruelty of a slave,
obliged to satisfy his unrelenting master with a large account of blood
and treasure.

The fate of the Gordians filled Rome with just but unexpected terror.
The senate, convoked in the temple of Concord, affected to transact
the common business of the day; and seemed to decline, with trembling
anxiety, the consideration of their own and the public danger. A silent
consternation prevailed in the assembly, till a senator, of the name and
family of Trajan, awakened his brethren from their fatal lethargy. He
represented to them that the choice of cautious, dilatory measures had
been long since out of their power; that Maximin, implacable by nature,
and exasperated by injuries, was advancing towards Italy, at the head
of the military force of the empire; and that their only remaining
alternative was either to meet him bravely in the field, or tamely to
expect the tortures and ignominious death reserved for unsuccessful
rebellion. "We have lost," continued he, "two excellent princes; but
unless we desert ourselves, the hopes of the republic have not perished
with the Gordians. Many are the senators whose virtues have deserved,
and whose abilities would sustain, the Imperial dignity. Let us elect
two emperors, one of whom may conduct the war against the public enemy,
whilst his colleague remains at Rome to direct the civil administration.
I cheerfully expose myself to the danger and envy of the nomination,
and give my vote in favor of Maximus and Balbinus. Ratify my choice,
conscript fathers, or appoint in their place, others more worthy of the
empire." The general apprehension silenced the whispers of jealousy;
the merit of the candidates was universally acknowledged; and the house
resounded with the sincere acclamations of "Long life and victory to
the emperors Maximus and Balbinus. You are happy in the judgment of the
senate; may the republic be happy under your administration!"

Chapter VII: Tyranny Of Maximin, Rebellion, Civil Wars, Death Of
Maximin.--Part II.

The virtues and the reputation of the new emperors justified the most
sanguine hopes of the Romans. The various nature of their talents seemed
to appropriate to each his peculiar department of peace and war, without
leaving room for jealous emulation. Balbinus was an admired orator, a
poet of distinguished fame, and a wise magistrate, who had exercised
with innocence and applause the civil jurisdiction in almost all the
interior provinces of the empire. His birth was noble, his fortune
affluent, his manners liberal and affable. In him the love of pleasure
was corrected by a sense of dignity, nor had the habits of ease deprived
him of a capacity for business. The mind of Maximus was formed in a
rougher mould. By his valor and abilities he had raised himself from
the meanest origin to the first employments of the state and army. His
victories over the Sarmatians and the Germans, the austerity of his
life, and the rigid impartiality of his justice, while he was a Præfect
of the city, commanded the esteem of a people whose affections were
engaged in favor of the more amiable Balbinus. The two colleagues had
both been consuls, (Balbinus had twice enjoyed that honorable office,)
both had been named among the twenty lieutenants of the senate; and
since the one was sixty and the other seventy-four years old, they had
both attained the full maturity of age and experience.

After the senate had conferred on Maximus and Balbinus an equal portion
of the consular and tribunitian powers, the title of Fathers of their
country, and the joint office of Supreme Pontiff, they ascended to the
Capitol to return thanks to the gods, protectors of Rome. The solemn
rites of sacrifice were disturbed by a sedition of the people. The
licentious multitude neither loved the rigid Maximus, nor did they
sufficiently fear the mild and humane Balbinus. Their increasing numbers
surrounded the temple of Jupiter; with obstinate clamors they asserted
their inherent right of consenting to the election of their sovereign;
and demanded, with an apparent moderation, that, besides the two
emperors, chosen by the senate, a third should be added of the family
of the Gordians, as a just return of gratitude to those princes who had
sacrificed their lives for the republic. At the head of the city-guards,
and the youth of the equestrian order, Maximus and Balbinus attempted to
cut their way through the seditious multitude. The multitude, armed with
sticks and stones, drove them back into the Capitol. It is prudent to
yield when the contest, whatever may be the issue of it, must be fatal
to both parties. A boy, only thirteen years of age, the grandson of the
elder, and nephew * of the younger Gordian, was produced to the people,
invested with the ornaments and title of Cæsar. The tumult was appeased
by this easy condescension; and the two emperors, as soon as they had
been peaceably acknowledged in Rome, prepared to defend Italy against
the common enemy.

Whilst in Rome and Africa, revolutions succeeded each other with such
amazing rapidity, that the mind of Maximin was agitated by the most
furious passions. He is said to have received the news of the rebellion
of the Gordians, and of the decree of the senate against him, not with
the temper of a man, but the rage of a wild beast; which, as it could
not discharge itself on the distant senate, threatened the life of his
son, of his friends, and of all who ventured to approach his person. The
grateful intelligence of the death of the Gordians was quickly followed
by the assurance that the senate, laying aside all hopes of pardon or
accommodation, had substituted in their room two emperors, with whose
merit he could not be unacquainted. Revenge was the only consolation
left to Maximin, and revenge could only be obtained by arms. The
strength of the legions had been assembled by Alexander from all parts
of the empire. Three successful campaigns against the Germans and the
Sarmatians, had raised their fame, confirmed their discipline, and even
increased their numbers, by filling the ranks with the flower of the
barbarian youth. The life of Maximin had been spent in war, and the
candid severity of history cannot refuse him the valor of a soldier,
or even the abilities of an experienced general. It might naturally be
expected, that a prince of such a character, instead of suffering the
rebellion to gain stability by delay, should immediately have marched
from the banks of the Danube to those of the Tyber, and that his
victorious army, instigated by contempt for the senate, and eager to
gather the spoils of Italy, should have burned with impatience to finish
the easy and lucrative conquest. Yet as far as we can trust to the
obscure chronology of that period, it appears that the operations
of some foreign war deferred the Italian expedition till the ensuing
spring. From the prudent conduct of Maximin, we may learn that the
savage features of his character have been exaggerated by the pencil of
party, that his passions, however impetuous, submitted to the force
of reason, and that the barbarian possessed something of the generous
spirit of Sylla, who subdued the enemies of Rome before he suffered
himself to revenge his private injuries.

When the troops of Maximin, advancing in excellent order, arrived at
the foot of the Julian Alps, they were terrified by the silence and
desolation that reigned on the frontiers of Italy. The villages and
open towns had been abandoned on their approach by the inhabitants, the
cattle was driven away, the provisions removed or destroyed, the bridges
broken down, nor was any thing left which could afford either shelter or
subsistence to an invader. Such had been the wise orders of the generals
of the senate: whose design was to protract the war, to ruin the army of
Maximin by the slow operation of famine, and to consume his strength in
the sieges of the principal cities of Italy, which they had plentifully
stored with men and provisions from the deserted country. Aquileia
received and withstood the first shock of the invasion. The streams that
issue from the head of the Hadriatic Gulf, swelled by the melting of the
winter snows, opposed an unexpected obstacle to the arms of Maximin. At
length, on a singular bridge, constructed with art and difficulty, of
large hogsheads, he transported his army to the opposite bank, rooted up
the beautiful vineyards in the neighborhood of Aquileia, demolished the
suburbs, and employed the timber of the buildings in the engines and
towers, with which on every side he attacked the city. The walls, fallen
to decay during the security of a long peace, had been hastily repaired
on this sudden emergency: but the firmest defence of Aquileia consisted
in the constancy of the citizens; all ranks of whom, instead of being
dismayed, were animated by the extreme danger, and their knowledge
of the tyrant's unrelenting temper. Their courage was supported and
directed by Crispinus and Menophilus, two of the twenty lieutenants
of the senate, who, with a small body of regular troops, had thrown
themselves into the besieged place. The army of Maximin was repulsed in
repeated attacks, his machines destroyed by showers of artificial
fire; and the generous enthusiasm of the Aquileians was exalted into a
confidence of success, by the opinion that Belenus, their tutelar deity,
combated in person in the defence of his distressed worshippers.

The emperor Maximus, who had advanced as far as Ravenna, to secure that
important place, and to hasten the military preparations, beheld the
event of the war in the more faithful mirror of reason and policy. He
was too sensible, that a single town could not resist the persevering
efforts of a great army; and he dreaded, lest the enemy, tired with
the obstinate resistance of Aquileia, should on a sudden relinquish the
fruitless siege, and march directly towards Rome. The fate of the empire
and the cause of freedom must then be committed to the chance of a
battle; and what arms could he oppose to the veteran legions of the
Rhine and Danube? Some troops newly levied among the generous but
enervated youth of Italy; and a body of German auxiliaries, on whose
firmness, in the hour of trial, it was dangerous to depend. In the midst
of these just alarms, the stroke of domestic conspiracy punished the
crimes of Maximin, and delivered Rome and the senate from the calamities
that would surely have attended the victory of an enraged barbarian.

The people of Aquileia had scarcely experienced any of the common
miseries of a siege; their magazines were plentifully supplied, and
several fountains within the walls assured them of an inexhaustible
resource of fresh water. The soldiers of Maximin were, on the contrary,
exposed to the inclemency of the season, the contagion of disease, and
the horrors of famine. The open country was ruined, the rivers filled
with the slain, and polluted with blood. A spirit of despair and
disaffection began to diffuse itself among the troops; and as they
were cut off from all intelligence, they easily believed that the whole
empire had embraced the cause of the senate, and that they were left as
devoted victims to perish under the impregnable walls of Aquileia. The
fierce temper of the tyrant was exasperated by disappointments, which
he imputed to the cowardice of his army; and his wanton and ill-timed
cruelty, instead of striking terror, inspired hatred, and a just desire
of revenge. A party of Prætorian guards, who trembled for their wives
and children in the camp of Alba, near Rome, executed the sentence of
the senate. Maximin, abandoned by his guards, was slain in his tent,
with his son, (whom he had associated to the honors of the purple,)
Anulinus the præfect, and the principal ministers of his tyranny.
The sight of their heads, borne on the point of spears, convinced the
citizens of Aquileia that the siege was at an end; the gates of the city
were thrown open, a liberal market was provided for the hungry troops of
Maximin, and the whole army joined in solemn protestations of fidelity
to the senate and the people of Rome, and to their lawful emperors
Maximus and Balbinus. Such was the deserved fate of a brutal savage,
destitute, as he has generally been represented, of every sentiment that
distinguishes a civilized, or even a human being. The body was suited to
the soul. The stature of Maximin exceeded the measure of eight feet, and
circumstances almost incredible are related of his matchless strength
and appetite. Had he lived in a less enlightened age, tradition and
poetry might well have described him as one of those monstrous giants,
whose supernatural power was constantly exerted for the destruction of

It is easier to conceive than to describe the universal joy of the Roman
world on the fall of the tyrant, the news of which is said to have been
carried in four days from Aquileia to Rome. The return of Maximus was a
triumphal procession; his colleague and young Gordian went out to meet
him, and the three princes made their entry into the capital, attended
by the ambassadors of almost all the cities of Italy, saluted with the
splendid offerings of gratitude and superstition, and received with
the unfeigned acclamations of the senate and people, who persuaded
themselves that a golden age would succeed to an age of iron. The
conduct of the two emperors corresponded with these expectations. They
administered justice in person; and the rigor of the one was tempered by
the other's clemency. The oppressive taxes with which Maximin had loaded
the rights of inheritance and succession, were repealed, or at least
moderated. Discipline was revived, and with the advice of the senate
many wise laws were enacted by their imperial ministers, who endeavored
to restore a civil constitution on the ruins of military tyranny.
"What reward may we expect for delivering Rome from a monster?" was
the question asked by Maximus, in a moment of freedom and confidence.
Balbinus answered it without hesitation--"The love of the senate, of
the people, and of all mankind." "Alas!" replied his more penetrating
colleague--"alas! I dread the hatred of the soldiers, and the fatal
effects of their resentment." His apprehensions were but too well
justified by the event.

Whilst Maximus was preparing to defend Italy against the common foe,
Balbinus, who remained at Rome, had been engaged in scenes of blood and
intestine discord. Distrust and jealousy reigned in the senate; and even
in the temples where they assembled, every senator carried either open
or concealed arms. In the midst of their deliberations, two veterans
of the guards, actuated either by curiosity or a sinister motive,
audaciously thrust themselves into the house, and advanced by degrees
beyond the altar of Victory. Gallicanus, a consular, and Mæcenas, a
Prætorian senator, viewed with indignation their insolent intrusion:
drawing their daggers, they laid the spies (for such they deemed them)
dead at the foot of the altar, and then, advancing to the door of the
senate, imprudently exhorted the multitude to massacre the Prætorians,
as the secret adherents of the tyrant. Those who escaped the first fury
of the tumult took refuge in the camp, which they defended with superior
advantage against the reiterated attacks of the people, assisted by the
numerous bands of gladiators, the property of opulent nobles. The civil
war lasted many days, with infinite loss and confusion on both sides.
When the pipes were broken that supplied the camp with water, the
Prætorians were reduced to intolerable distress; but in their turn they
made desperate sallies into the city, set fire to a great number of
houses, and filled the streets with the blood of the inhabitants. The
emperor Balbinus attempted, by ineffectual edicts and precarious truces,
to reconcile the factions at Rome. But their animosity, though smothered
for a while, burnt with redoubled violence. The soldiers, detesting the
senate and the people, despised the weakness of a prince, who wanted
either the spirit or the power to command the obedience of his subjects.

After the tyrant's death, his formidable army had acknowledged, from
necessity rather than from choice, the authority of Maximus, who
transported himself without delay to the camp before Aquileia. As soon
as he had received their oath of fidelity, he addressed them in terms
full of mildness and moderation; lamented, rather than arraigned the
wild disorders of the times, and assured the soldiers, that of all their
past conduct the senate would remember only their generous desertion of
the tyrant, and their voluntary return to their duty. Maximus enforced
his exhortations by a liberal donative, purified the camp by a solemn
sacrifice of expiation, and then dismissed the legions to their several
provinces, impressed, as he hoped, with a lively sense of gratitude
and obedience. But nothing could reconcile the haughty spirit of the
Prætorians. They attended the emperors on the memorable day of their
public entry into Rome; but amidst the general acclamations, the sullen,
dejected countenance of the guards sufficiently declared that they
considered themselves as the object, rather than the partners, of the
triumph. When the whole body was united in their camp, those who had
served under Maximin, and those who had remained at Rome, insensibly
communicated to each other their complaints and apprehensions. The
emperors chosen by the army had perished with ignominy; those elected by
the senate were seated on the throne. The long discord between the
civil and military powers was decided by a war, in which the former had
obtained a complete victory. The soldiers must now learn a new doctrine
of submission to the senate; and whatever clemency was affected by that
politic assembly, they dreaded a slow revenge, colored by the name of
discipline, and justified by fair pretences of the public good. But
their fate was still in their own hands; and if they had courage
to despise the vain terrors of an impotent republic, it was easy to
convince the world, that those who were masters of the arms, were
masters of the authority, of the state.

When the senate elected two princes, it is probable that, besides the
declared reason of providing for the various emergencies of peace and
war, they were actuated by the secret desire of weakening by division
the despotism of the supreme magistrate. Their policy was effectual, but
it proved fatal both to their emperors and to themselves. The jealousy
of power was soon exasperated by the difference of character. Maximus
despised Balbinus as a luxurious noble, and was in his turn disdained by
his colleague as an obscure soldier. Their silent discord was understood
rather than seen; but the mutual consciousness prevented them from
uniting in any vigorous measures of defence against their common enemies
of the Prætorian camp. The whole city was employed in the Capitoline
games, and the emperors were left almost alone in the palace. On a
sudden, they were alarmed by the approach of a troop of desperate
assassins. Ignorant of each other's situation or designs, (for they
already occupied very distant apartments,) afraid to give or to receive
assistance, they wasted the important moments in idle debates and
fruitless recriminations. The arrival of the guards put an end to the
vain strife. They seized on these emperors of the senate, for such they
called them with malicious contempt, stripped them of their garments,
and dragged them in insolent triumph through the streets of Rome, with
the design of inflicting a slow and cruel death on these unfortunate
princes. The fear of a rescue from the faithful Germans of the Imperial
guards, shortened their tortures; and their bodies, mangled with a
thousand wounds, were left exposed to the insults or to the pity of the

In the space of a few months, six princes had been cut off by the sword.
Gordian, who had already received the title of Cæsar, was the only
person that occurred to the soldiers as proper to fill the vacant
throne. They carried him to the camp, and unanimously saluted him
Augustus and Emperor. His name was dear to the senate and people;
his tender age promised a long impunity of military license; and the
submission of Rome and the provinces to the choice of the Prætorian
guards, saved the republic, at the expense indeed of its freedom
and dignity, from the horrors of a new civil war in the heart of the

As the third Gordian was only nineteen years of age at the time of
his death, the history of his life, were it known to us with greater
accuracy than it really is, would contain little more than the account
of his education, and the conduct of the ministers, who by turns abused
or guided the simplicity of his unexperienced youth. Immediately after
his accession, he fell into the hands of his mother's eunuchs, that
pernicious vermin of the East, who, since the days of Elagabalus, had
infested the Roman palace. By the artful conspiracy of these wretches,
an impenetrable veil was drawn between an innocent prince and his
oppressed subjects, the virtuous disposition of Gordian was deceived,
and the honors of the empire sold without his knowledge, though in a
very public manner, to the most worthless of mankind. We are ignorant
by what fortunate accident the emperor escaped from this ignominious
slavery, and devolved his confidence on a minister, whose wise counsels
had no object except the glory of his sovereign and the happiness of the
people. It should seem that love and learning introduced Misitheus
to the favor of Gordian. The young prince married the daughter of his
master of rhetoric, and promoted his father-in-law to the first offices
of the empire. Two admirable letters that passed between them are
still extant. The minister, with the conscious dignity of virtue,
congratulates Gordian that he is delivered from the tyranny of the
eunuchs, and still more that he is sensible of his deliverance. The
emperor acknowledges, with an amiable confusion, the errors of his
past conduct; and laments, with singular propriety, the misfortune of
a monarch, from whom a venal tribe of courtiers perpetually labor to
conceal the truth.

The life of Misitheus had been spent in the profession of letters, not
of arms; yet such was the versatile genius of that great man, that, when
he was appointed Prætorian Præfect, he discharged the military duties of
his place with vigor and ability. The Persians had invaded Mesopotamia,
and threatened Antioch. By the persuasion of his father-in-law, the
young emperor quitted the luxury of Rome, opened, for the last time
recorded in history, the temple of Janus, and marched in person into the
East. On his approach, with a great army, the Persians withdrew their
garrisons from the cities which they had already taken, and retired from
the Euphrates to the Tigris. Gordian enjoyed the pleasure of announcing
to the senate the first success of his arms, which he ascribed, with a
becoming modesty and gratitude, to the wisdom of his father and Præfect.
During the whole expedition, Misitheus watched over the safety and
discipline of the army; whilst he prevented their dangerous murmurs
by maintaining a regular plenty in the camp, and by establishing ample
magazines of vinegar, bacon, straw, barley, and wheat in all the cities
of the frontier. But the prosperity of Gordian expired with Misitheus,
who died of a flux, not with out very strong suspicions of poison.
Philip, his successor in the præfecture, was an Arab by birth, and
consequently, in the earlier part of his life, a robber by profession.
His rise from so obscure a station to the first dignities of the empire,
seems to prove that he was a bold and able leader. But his boldness
prompted him to aspire to the throne, and his abilities were employed to
supplant, not to serve, his indulgent master. The minds of the soldiers
were irritated by an artificial scarcity, created by his contrivance in
the camp; and the distress of the army was attributed to the youth and
incapacity of the prince. It is not in our power to trace the successive
steps of the secret conspiracy and open sedition, which were at length
fatal to Gordian. A sepulchral monument was erected to his memory on
the spot where he was killed, near the conflux of the Euphrates with the
little river Aboras. The fortunate Philip, raised to the empire by the
votes of the soldiers, found a ready obedience from the senate and the

We cannot forbear transcribing the ingenious, though somewhat fanciful
description, which a celebrated writer of our own times has traced
of the military government of the Roman empire. "What in that age was
called the Roman empire, was only an irregular republic, not unlike the
aristocracy of Algiers, where the militia, possessed of the sovereignty,
creates and deposes a magistrate, who is styled a Dey. Perhaps, indeed,
it may be laid down as a general rule, that a military government is, in
some respects, more republican than monarchical. Nor can it be said that
the soldiers only partook of the government by their disobedience and
rebellions. The speeches made to them by the emperors, were they not at
length of the same nature as those formerly pronounced to the people
by the consuls and the tribunes? And although the armies had no regular
place or forms of assembly; though their debates were short, their
action sudden, and their resolves seldom the result of cool reflection,
did they not dispose, with absolute sway, of the public fortune? What
was the emperor, except the minister of a violent government, elected
for the private benefit of the soldiers?

"When the army had elected Philip, who was Prætorian præfect to the
third Gordian, the latter demanded that he might remain sole emperor;
he was unable to obtain it. He requested that the power might be equally
divided between them; the army would not listen to his speech. He
consented to be degraded to the rank of Cæsar; the favor was refused
him. He desired, at least, he might be appointed Prætorian præfect;
his prayer was rejected. Finally, he pleaded for his life. The army, in
these several judgments, exercised the supreme magistracy." According to
the historian, whose doubtful narrative the President De Montesquieu
has adopted, Philip, who, during the whole transaction, had preserved
a sullen silence, was inclined to spare the innocent life of his
benefactor; till, recollecting that his innocence might excite a
dangerous compassion in the Roman world, he commanded, without regard to
his suppliant cries, that he should be seized, stripped, and led away
to instant death. After a moment's pause, the inhuman sentence was

Chapter VII: Tyranny Of Maximin, Rebellion, Civil Wars, Death Of
Maximin.--Part III.

On his return from the East to Rome, Philip, desirous of obliterating
the memory of his crimes, and of captivating the affections of
the people, solemnized the secular games with infinite pomp and
magnificence. Since their institution or revival by Augustus, they had
been celebrated by Claudius, by Domitian, and by Severus, and were now
renewed the fifth time, on the accomplishment of the full period of a
thousand years from the foundation of Rome. Every circumstance of the
secular games was skillfully adapted to inspire the superstitious mind
with deep and solemn reverence. The long interval between them exceeded
the term of human life; and as none of the spectators had already seen
them, none could flatter themselves with the expectation of beholding
them a second time. The mystic sacrifices were performed, during three
nights, on the banks of the Tyber; and the Campus Martius resounded
with music and dances, and was illuminated with innumerable lamps and
torches. Slaves and strangers were excluded from any participation in
these national ceremonies. A chorus of twenty-seven youths, and as many
virgins, of noble families, and whose parents were both alive, implored
the propitious gods in favor of the present, and for the hope of the
rising generation; requesting, in religious hymns, that according to the
faith of their ancient oracles, they would still maintain the virtue,
the felicity, and the empire of the Roman people. The magnificence of
Philip's shows and entertainments dazzled the eyes of the multitude. The
devout were employed in the rites of superstition, whilst the reflecting
few revolved in their anxious minds the past history and the future fate
of the empire.

Since Romulus, with a small band of shepherds and outlaws, fortified
himself on the hills near the Tyber, ten centuries had already elapsed.
During the four first ages, the Romans, in the laborious school of
poverty, had acquired the virtues of war and government: by the vigorous
exertion of those virtues, and by the assistance of fortune, they had
obtained, in the course of the three succeeding centuries, an absolute
empire over many countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The last three
hundred years had been consumed in apparent prosperity and internal
decline. The nation of soldiers, magistrates, and legislators, who
composed the thirty-five tribes of the Roman people, were dissolved into
the common mass of mankind, and confounded with the millions of servile
provincials, who had received the name, without adopting the spirit, of
Romans. A mercenary army, levied among the subjects and barbarians of
the frontier, was the only order of men who preserved and abused their
independence. By their tumultuary election, a Syrian, a Goth, or an
Arab, was exalted to the throne of Rome, and invested with despotic
power over the conquests and over the country of the Scipios.

The limits of the Roman empire still extended from the Western Ocean
to the Tigris, and from Mount Atlas to the Rhine and the Danube. To
the undiscerning eye of the vulgar, Philip appeared a monarch no less
powerful than Hadrian or Augustus had formerly been. The form was still
the same, but the animating health and vigor were fled. The industry of
the people was discouraged and exhausted by a long series of oppression.
The discipline of the legions, which alone, after the extinction
of every other virtue, had propped the greatness of the state, was
corrupted by the ambition, or relaxed by the weakness, of the emperors.
The strength of the frontiers, which had always consisted in arms rather
than in fortifications, was insensibly undermined; and the fairest
provinces were left exposed to the rapaciousness or ambition of the
barbarians, who soon discovered the decline of the Roman empire.

Chapter VIII: State Of Persion And Restoration Of The Monarchy.--Part
I. Of The State Of Persia After The Restoration Of The Monarchy By

Whenever Tacitus indulges himself in those beautiful episodes, in which
he relates some domestic transaction of the Germans or of the Parthians,
his principal object is to relieve the attention of the reader from a
uniform scene of vice and misery. From the reign of Augustus to the time
of Alexander Severus, the enemies of Rome were in her bosom--the tyrants
and the soldiers; and her prosperity had a very distant and feeble
interest in the revolutions that might happen beyond the Rhine and the
Euphrates. But when the military order had levelled, in wild anarchy,
the power of the prince, the laws of the senate, and even the discipline
of the camp, the barbarians of the North and of the East, who had long
hovered on the frontier, boldly attacked the provinces of a declining
monarchy. Their vexatious inroads were changed into formidable
irruptions, and, after a long vicissitude of mutual calamities,
many tribes of the victorious invaders established themselves in the
provinces of the Roman Empire. To obtain a clearer knowledge of
these great events, we shall endeavor to form a previous idea of the
character, forces, and designs of those nations who avenged the cause of
Hannibal and Mithridates.

In the more early ages of the world, whilst the forest that covered
Europe afforded a retreat to a few wandering savages, the inhabitants
of Asia were already collected into populous cities, and reduced under
extensive empires, the seat of the arts, of luxury, and of despotism.
The Assyrians reigned over the East, till the sceptre of Ninus and
Semiramis dropped from the hands of their enervated successors. The
Medes and the Babylonians divided their power, and were themselves
swallowed up in the monarchy of the Persians, whose arms could not be
confined within the narrow limits of Asia. Followed, as it is said, by
two millions of men, Xerxes, the descendant of Cyrus, invaded Greece.
Thirty thousand soldiers, under the command of Alexander, the son of
Philip, who was intrusted by the Greeks with their glory and revenge,
were sufficient to subdue Persia. The princes of the house of Seleucus
usurped and lost the Macedonian command over the East. About the same
time, that, by an ignominious treaty, they resigned to the Romans the
country on this side Mount Tarus, they were driven by the Parthians,
* an obscure horde of Scythian origin, from all the provinces of Upper
Asia. The formidable power of the Parthians, which spread from India
to the frontiers of Syria, was in its turn subverted by Ardshir, or
Artaxerxes; the founder of a new dynasty, which, under the name of
Sassanides, governed Persia till the invasion of the Arabs. This great
revolution, whose fatal influence was soon experienced by the Romans,
happened in the fourth year of Alexander Severus, two hundred and
twenty-six years after the Christian era.

Artaxerxes had served with great reputation in the armies of Artaban,
the last king of the Parthians, and it appears that he was driven into
exile and rebellion by royal ingratitude, the customary reward for
superior merit. His birth was obscure, and the obscurity equally
gave room to the aspersions of his enemies, and the flattery of his
adherents. If we credit the scandal of the former, Artaxerxes sprang
from the illegitimate commerce of a tanner's wife with a common soldier.
The latter represent him as descended from a branch of the ancient
kings of Persian, though time and misfortune had gradually reduced his
ancestors to the humble station of private citizens. As the lineal heir
of the monarchy, he asserted his right to the throne, and challenged the
noble task of delivering the Persians from the oppression under which
they groaned above five centuries since the death of Darius. The
Parthians were defeated in three great battles. * In the last of these
their king Artaban was slain, and the spirit of the nation was forever
broken. The authority of Artaxerxes was solemnly acknowledged in a great
assembly held at Balch in Khorasan. Two younger branches of the royal
house of Arsaces were confounded among the prostrate satraps. A third,
more mindful of ancient grandeur than of present necessity, attempted
to retire, with a numerous train of vessels, towards their kinsman, the
king of Armenia; but this little army of deserters was intercepted,
and cut off, by the vigilance of the conqueror, who boldly assumed the
double diadem, and the title of King of Kings, which had been enjoyed
by his predecessor. But these pompous titles, instead of gratifying the
vanity of the Persian, served only to admonish him of his duty, and to
inflame in his soul and should the ambition of restoring in their full
splendor, the religion and empire of Cyrus.

I. During the long servitude of Persia under the Macedonian and the
Parthian yoke, the nations of Europe and Asia had mutually adopted and
corrupted each other's superstitions. The Arsacides, indeed, practised
the worship of the Magi; but they disgraced and polluted it with a
various mixture of foreign idolatry. * The memory of Zoroaster, the
ancient prophet and philosopher of the Persians, was still revered
in the East; but the obsolete and mysterious language, in which the
Zendavesta was composed, opened a field of dispute to seventy sects,
who variously explained the fundamental doctrines of their religion, and
were all indifferently derided by a crowd of infidels, who rejected the
divine mission and miracles of the prophet. To suppress the idolaters,
reunite the schismatics, and confute the unbelievers, by the infallible
decision of a general council, the pious Artaxerxes summoned the Magi
from all parts of his dominions. These priests, who had so long sighed
in contempt and obscurity obeyed the welcome summons; and, on the
appointed day, appeared, to the number of about eighty thousand. But as
the debates of so tumultuous an assembly could not have been directed by
the authority of reason, or influenced by the art of policy, the Persian
synod was reduced, by successive operations, to forty thousand, to four
thousand, to four hundred, to forty, and at last to seven Magi, the
most respected for their learning and piety. One of these, Erdaviraph,
a young but holy prelate, received from the hands of his brethren three
cups of soporiferous wine. He drank them off, and instantly fell into a
long and profound sleep. As soon as he waked, he related to the king
and to the believing multitude, his journey to heaven, and his
intimate conferences with the Deity. Every doubt was silenced by this
supernatural evidence; and the articles of the faith of Zoroaster were
fixed with equal authority and precision. A short delineation of
that celebrated system will be found useful, not only to display the
character of the Persian nation, but to illustrate many of their most
important transactions, both in peace and war, with the Roman empire.

The great and fundamental article of the system, was the celebrated
doctrine of the two principles; a bold and injudicious attempt of
Eastern philosophy to reconcile the existence of moral and physical evil
with the attributes of a beneficent Creator and Governor of the world.
The first and original Being, in whom, or by whom, the universe exists,
is denominated in the writings of Zoroaster, Time without bounds; but
it must be confessed, that this infinite substance seems rather a
metaphysical, abstraction of the mind, than a real object endowed with
self-consciousness, or possessed of moral perfections. From either the
blind or the intelligent operation of this infinite Time, which bears
but too near an affinity with the chaos of the Greeks, the two secondary
but active principles of the universe, were from all eternity produced,
Ormusd and Ahriman, each of them possessed of the powers of creation,
but each disposed, by his invariable nature, to exercise them with
different designs. * The principle of good is eternally absorbed in
light; the principle of evil eternally buried in darkness. The wise
benevolence of Ormusd formed man capable of virtue, and abundantly
provided his fair habitation with the materials of happiness. By
his vigilant providence, the motion of the planets, the order of the
seasons, and the temperate mixture of the elements, are preserved. But
the malice of Ahriman has long since pierced Ormusd's egg; or, in other
words, has violated the harmony of his works. Since that fatal eruption,
the most minute articles of good and evil are intimately intermingled
and agitated together; the rankest poisons spring up amidst the most
salutary plants; deluges, earthquakes, and conflagrations attest the
conflict of Nature, and the little world of man is perpetually shaken by
vice and misfortune. Whilst the rest of human kind are led away captives
in the chains of their infernal enemy, the faithful Persian alone
reserves his religious adoration for his friend and protector Ormusd,
and fights under his banner of light, in the full confidence that he
shall, in the last day, share the glory of his triumph. At that decisive
period, the enlightened wisdom of goodness will render the power of
Ormusd superior to the furious malice of his rival. Ahriman and his
followers, disarmed and subdued, will sink into their native darkness;
and virtue will maintain the eternal peace and harmony of the universe.

Chapter VIII: State Of Persion And Restoration Of The Monarchy.--Part

The theology of Zoroaster was darkly comprehended by foreigners, and
even by the far greater number of his disciples; but the most careless
observers were struck with the philosophic simplicity of the Persian
worship. "That people," said Herodotus, "rejects the use of temples,
of altars, and of statues, and smiles at the folly of those nations who
imagine that the gods are sprung from, or bear any affinity with, the
human nature. The tops of the highest mountains are the places chosen
for sacrifices. Hymns and prayers are the principal worship; the Supreme
God, who fills the wide circle of heaven, is the object to whom they are
addressed." Yet, at the same time, in the true spirit of a polytheist,
he accuseth them of adoring Earth, Water, Fire, the Winds, and the Sun
and Moon. But the Persians of every age have denied the charge, and
explained the equivocal conduct, which might appear to give a color to
it. The elements, and more particularly Fire, Light, and the Sun, whom
they called Mithra, were the objects of their religious reverence,
because they considered them as the purest symbols, the noblest
productions, and the most powerful agents of the Divine Power and

Every mode of religion, to make a deep and lasting impression on the
human mind, must exercise our obedience, by enjoining practices of
devotion, for which we can assign no reason; and must acquire our
esteem, by inculcating moral duties analogous to the dictates of our
own hearts. The religion of Zoroaster was abundantly provided with the
former and possessed a sufficient portion of the latter. At the age of
puberty, the faithful Persian was invested with a mysterious girdle, the
badge of the divine protection; and from that moment all the actions
of his life, even the most indifferent, or the most necessary, were
sanctified by their peculiar prayers, ejaculations, or genuflections;
the omission of which, under any circumstances, was a grievous sin,
not inferior in guilt to the violation of the moral duties. The moral
duties, however, of justice, mercy, liberality, &c., were in their
turn required of the disciple of Zoroaster, who wished to escape the
persecution of Ahriman, and to live with Ormusd in a blissful eternity,
where the degree of felicity will be exactly proportioned to the degree
of virtue and piety.

But there are some remarkable instances in which Zoroaster lays aside
the prophet, assumes the legislator, and discovers a liberal concern for
private and public happiness, seldom to be found among the grovelling
or visionary schemes of superstition. Fasting and celibacy, the common
means of purchasing the divine favor, he condemns with abhorrence, as
a criminal rejection of the best gifts of Providence. The saint, in the
Magian religion, is obliged to beget children, to plant useful trees, to
destroy noxious animals, to convey water to the dry lands of Persia, and
to work out his salvation by pursuing all the labors of agriculture.
* We may quote from the Zendavesta a wise and benevolent maxim, which
compensates for many an absurdity. "He who sows the ground with care and
diligence acquires a greater stock of religious merit than he could gain
by the repetition of ten thousand prayers." In the spring of every year
a festival was celebrated, destined to represent the primitive equality,
and the present connection, of mankind. The stately kings of Persia,
exchanging their vain pomp for more genuine greatness, freely mingled
with the humblest but most useful of their subjects. On that day the
husbandmen were admitted, without distinction, to the table of the king
and his satraps. The monarch accepted their petitions, inquired into
their grievances, and conversed with them on the most equal terms. "From
your labors," was he accustomed to say, (and to say with truth, if
not with sincerity,) "from your labors we receive our subsistence; you
derive your tranquillity from our vigilance: since, therefore, we are
mutually necessary to each other, let us live together like brothers in
concord and love." Such a festival must indeed have degenerated, in a
wealthy and despotic empire, into a theatrical representation; but it
was at least a comedy well worthy of a royal audience, and which might
sometimes imprint a salutary lesson on the mind of a young prince.

Had Zoroaster, in all his institutions, invariably supported this
exalted character, his name would deserve a place with those of Numa and
Confucius, and his system would be justly entitled to all the applause,
which it has pleased some of our divines, and even some of our
philosophers, to bestow on it. But in that motley composition, dictated
by reason and passion, by enthusiasm and by selfish motives, some useful
and sublime truths were disgraced by a mixture of the most abject and
dangerous superstition. The Magi, or sacerdotal order, were extremely
numerous, since, as we have already seen, fourscore thousand of them
were convened in a general council. Their forces were multiplied by
discipline. A regular hierarchy was diffused through all the provinces
of Persia; and the Archimagus, who resided at Balch, was respected as
the visible head of the church, and the lawful successor of Zoroaster.
The property of the Magi was very considerable. Besides the less
invidious possession of a large tract of the most fertile lands of
Media, they levied a general tax on the fortunes and the industry of the
Persians. "Though your good works," says the interested prophet, "exceed
in number the leaves of the trees, the drops of rain, the stars in the
heaven, or the sands on the sea-shore, they will all be unprofitable to
you, unless they are accepted by the destour, or priest. To obtain the
acceptation of this guide to salvation, you must faithfully pay him
tithes of all you possess, of your goods, of your lands, and of your
money. If the destour be satisfied, your soul will escape hell tortures;
you will secure praise in this world and happiness in the next. For the
destours are the teachers of religion; they know all things, and they
deliver all men." *

These convenient maxims of reverence and implicit were doubtless
imprinted with care on the tender minds of youth; since the Magi were
the masters of education in Persia, and to their hands the children even
of the royal family were intrusted. The Persian priests, who were of a
speculative genius, preserved and investigated the secrets of Oriental
philosophy; and acquired, either by superior knowledge, or superior art,
the reputation of being well versed in some occult sciences, which
have derived their appellation from the Magi. Those of more active
dispositions mixed with the world in courts and cities; and it is
observed, that the administration of Artaxerxes was in a great measure
directed by the counsels of the sacerdotal order, whose dignity, either
from policy or devotion, that prince restored to its ancient splendor.

The first counsel of the Magi was agreeable to the unsociable genius of
their faith, to the practice of ancient kings, and even to the example
of their legislator, who had a victim to a religious war, excited by his
own intolerant zeal. By an edict of Artaxerxes, the exercise of every
worship, except that of Zoroaster, was severely prohibited. The temples
of the Parthians, and the statues of their deified monarchs, were thrown
down with ignominy. The sword of Aristotle (such was the name given by
the Orientals to the polytheism and philosophy of the Greeks) was easily
broken; the flames of persecution soon reached the more stubborn Jews
and Christians; nor did they spare the heretics of their own nation
and religion. The majesty of Ormusd, who was jealous of a rival, was
seconded by the despotism of Artaxerxes, who could not suffer a rebel;
and the schismatics within his vast empire were soon reduced to the
inconsiderable number of eighty thousand. * This spirit of persecution
reflects dishonor on the religion of Zoroaster; but as it was not
productive of any civil commotion, it served to strengthen the new
monarchy, by uniting all the various inhabitants of Persia in the bands
of religious zeal.

II. Artaxerxes, by his valor and conduct, had wrested the sceptre of the
East from the ancient royal family of Parthia. There still remained
the more difficult task of establishing, throughout the vast extent of
Persia, a uniform and vigorous administration. The weak indulgence of
the Arsacides had resigned to their sons and brothers the principal
provinces, and the greatest offices of the kingdom in the nature of
hereditary possessions. The vitax, or eighteen most powerful satraps,
were permitted to assume the regal title; and the vain pride of the
monarch was delighted with a nominal dominion over so many vassal kings.
Even tribes of barbarians in their mountains, and the Greek cities of
Upper Asia, within their walls, scarcely acknowledged, or seldom obeyed.
any superior; and the Parthian empire exhibited, under other names, a
lively image of the feudal system which has since prevailed in Europe.
But the active victor, at the head of a numerous and disciplined army,
visited in person every province of Persia. The defeat of the boldest
rebels, and the reduction of the strongest fortifications, diffused the
terror of his arms, and prepared the way for the peaceful reception
of his authority. An obstinate resistance was fatal to the chiefs; but
their followers were treated with lenity. A cheerful submission was
rewarded with honors and riches, but the prudent Artaxerxes suffering
no person except himself to assume the title of king, abolished every
intermediate power between the throne and the people. His kingdom,
nearly equal in extent to modern Persia, was, on every side, bounded by
the sea, or by great rivers; by the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Araxes,
the Oxus, and the Indus, by the Caspian Sea, and the Gulf of Persia.
That country was computed to contain, in the last century, five hundred
and fifty-four cities, sixty thousand villages, and about forty millions
of souls. If we compare the administration of the house of Sassan with
that of the house of Sefi, the political influence of the Magian with
that of the Mahometan religion, we shall probably infer, that the
kingdom of Artaxerxes contained at least as great a number of cities,
villages, and inhabitants. But it must likewise be confessed, that in
every age the want of harbors on the sea-coast, and the scarcity of
fresh water in the inland provinces, have been very unfavorable to the
commerce and agriculture of the Persians; who, in the calculation of
their numbers, seem to have indulged one of the nearest, though most
common, artifices of national vanity.

As soon as the ambitious mind of Artaxerxes had triumphed ever the
resistance of his vassals, he began to threaten the neighboring states,
who, during the long slumber of his predecessors, had insulted Persia
with impunity. He obtained some easy victories over the wild Scythians
and the effeminate Indians; but the Romans were an enemy, who, by their
past injuries and present power, deserved the utmost efforts of his
arms. A forty years' tranquillity, the fruit of valor and moderation,
had succeeded the victories of Trajan. During the period that elapsed
from the accession of Marcus to the reign of Alexander, the Roman and
the Parthian empires were twice engaged in war; and although the whole
strength of the Arsacides contended with a part only of the forces of
Rome, the event was most commonly in favor of the latter. Macrinus,
indeed, prompted by his precarious situation and pusillanimous temper,
purchased a peace at the expense of near two millions of our money; but
the generals of Marcus, the emperor Severus, and his son, erected many
trophies in Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria. Among their exploits, the
imperfect relation of which would have unseasonably interrupted the
more important series of domestic revolutions, we shall only mention the
repeated calamities of the two great cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon.

Seleucia, on the western bank of the Tigris, about forty-five miles
to the north of ancient Babylon, was the capital of the Macedonian
conquests in Upper Asia. Many ages after the fall of their empire,
Seleucia retained the genuine characters of a Grecian colony, arts,
military virtue, and the love of freedom. The independent republic was
governed by a senate of three hundred nobles; the people consisted of
six hundred thousand citizens; the walls were strong, and as long as
concord prevailed among the several orders of the state, they viewed
with contempt the power of the Parthian: but the madness of faction was
sometimes provoked to implore the dangerous aid of the common enemy,
who was posted almost at the gates of the colony. The Parthian monarchs,
like the Mogul sovereigns of Hindostan, delighted in the pastoral
life of their Scythian ancestors; and the Imperial camp was frequently
pitched in the plain of Ctesiphon, on the eastern bank of the Tigris,
at the distance of only three miles from Seleucia. The innumerable
attendants on luxury and despotism resorted to the court, and the little
village of Ctesiphon insensibly swelled into a great city. Under the
reign of Marcus, the Roman generals penetrated as far as Ctesiphon
and Seleucia. They were received as friends by the Greek colony; they
attacked as enemies the seat of the Parthian kings; yet both cities
experienced the same treatment. The sack and conflagration of Seleucia,
with the massacre of three hundred thousand of the inhabitants,
tarnished the glory of the Roman triumph. Seleucia, already exhausted by
the neighborhood of a too powerful rival, sunk under the fatal blow; but
Ctesiphon, in about thirty-three years, had sufficiently recovered its
strength to maintain an obstinate siege against the emperor Severus.
The city was, however, taken by assault; the king, who defended it in
person, escaped with precipitation; a hundred thousand captives, and a
rich booty, rewarded the fatigues of the Roman soldiers. Notwithstanding
these misfortunes, Ctesiphon succeeded to Babylon and to Seleucia, as
one of the great capitals of the East. In summer, the monarch of Persia
enjoyed at Ecbatana the cool breezes of the mountains of Media; but the
mildness of the climate engaged him to prefer Ctesiphon for his winter

From these successful inroads the Romans derived no real or lasting
benefit; nor did they attempt to preserve such distant conquests,
separated from the provinces of the empire by a large tract of
intermediate desert. The reduction of the kingdom of Osrhoene was an
acquisition of less splendor indeed, but of a far more solid advantage.
That little state occupied the northern and most fertile part of
Mesopotamia, between the Euphrates and the Tigris. Edessa, its capital,
was situated about twenty miles beyond the former of those rivers;
and the inhabitants, since the time of Alexander, were a mixed race
of Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, and Armenians. The feeble sovereigns of
Osrhoene, placed on the dangerous verge of two contending empires, were
attached from inclination to the Parthian cause; but the superior power
of Rome exacted from them a reluctant homage, which is still attested by
their medals. After the conclusion of the Parthian war under Marcus, it
was judged prudent to secure some substantia, pledges of their doubtful
fidelity. Forts were constructed in several parts of the country, and
a Roman garrison was fixed in the strong town of Nisibis. During the
troubles that followed the death of Commodus, the princes of Osrhoene
attempted to shake off the yoke; but the stern policy of Severus
confirmed their dependence, and the perfidy of Caracalla completed the
easy conquest. Abgarus, the last king of Edessa, was sent in chains to
Rome, his dominions reduced into a province, and his capital dignified
with the rank of colony; and thus the Romans, about ten years before
the fall of the Parthian monarchy, obtained a firm and permanent
establishment beyond the Euphrates.

Prudence as well as glory might have justified a war on the side of
Artaxerxes, had his views been confined to the defence or acquisition
of a useful frontier. but the ambitious Persian openly avowed a far more
extensive design of conquest; and he thought himself able to support his
lofty pretensions by the arms of reason as well as by those of power.
Cyrus, he alleged, had first subdued, and his successors had for a long
time possessed, the whole extent of Asia, as far as the Propontis and
the Ægean Sea; the provinces of Caria and Ionia, under their empire,
had been governed by Persian satraps, and all Egypt, to the confines
of Æthiopia, had acknowledged their sovereignty. Their rights had been
suspended, but not destroyed, by a long usurpation; and as soon as he
received the Persian diadem, which birth and successful valor had placed
upon his head, the first great duty of his station called upon him to
restore the ancient limits and splendor of the monarchy. The Great King,
therefore, (such was the haughty style of his embassies to the emperor
Alexander,) commanded the Romans instantly to depart from all the
provinces of his ancestors, and, yielding to the Persians the empire of
Asia, to content themselves with the undisturbed possession of Europe.
This haughty mandate was delivered by four hundred of the tallest and
most beautiful of the Persians; who, by their fine horses, splendid
arms, and rich apparel, displayed the pride and greatness of their
master. Such an embassy was much less an offer of negotiation than a
declaration of war. Both Alexander Severus and Artaxerxes, collecting
the military force of the Roman and Persian monarchies, resolved in this
important contest to lead their armies in person.

If we credit what should seem the most authentic of all records, an
oration, still extant, and delivered by the emperor himself to the
senate, we must allow that the victory of Alexander Severus was not
inferior to any of those formerly obtained over the Persians by the
son of Philip. The army of the Great King consisted of one hundred and
twenty thousand horse, clothed in complete armor of steel; of seven
hundred elephants, with towers filled with archers on their backs, and
of eighteen hundred chariots armed with scythes. This formidable
host, the like of which is not to be found in eastern history, and has
scarcely been imagined in eastern romance, was discomfited in a great
battle, in which the Roman Alexander proved himself an intrepid soldier
and a skilful general. The Great King fled before his valor; an immense
booty, and the conquest of Mesopotamia, were the immediate fruits of
this signal victory. Such are the circumstances of this ostentatious and
improbable relation, dictated, as it too plainly appears, by the vanity
of the monarch, adorned by the unblushing servility of his flatterers,
and received without contradiction by a distant and obsequious senate.
Far from being inclined to believe that the arms of Alexander obtained
any memorable advantage over the Persians, we are induced to suspect
that all this blaze of imaginary glory was designed to conceal some real

Our suspicious are confirmed by the authority of a contemporary
historian, who mentions the virtues of Alexander with respect, and
his faults with candor. He describes the judicious plan which had been
formed for the conduct of the war. Three Roman armies were destined
to invade Persia at the same time, and by different roads. But the
operations of the campaign, though wisely concerted, were not executed
either with ability or success. The first of these armies, as soon as it
had entered the marshy plains of Babylon, towards the artificial
conflux of the Euphrates and the Tigris, was encompassed by the superior
numbers, and destroyed by the arrows of the enemy. The alliance of
Chosroes, king of Armenia, and the long tract of mountainous country,
in which the Persian cavalry was of little service, opened a secure
entrance into the heart of Media, to the second of the Roman armies.
These brave troops laid waste the adjacent provinces, and by several
successful actions against Artaxerxes, gave a faint color to the
emperor's vanity. But the retreat of this victorious army was imprudent,
or at least unfortunate. In repassing the mountains, great numbers of
soldiers perished by the badness of the roads, and the severity of
the winter season. It had been resolved, that whilst these two great
detachments penetrated into the opposite extremes of the Persian
dominions, the main body, under the command of Alexander himself, should
support their attack, by invading the centre of the kingdom. But the
unexperienced youth, influenced by his mother's counsels, and perhaps by
his own fears, deserted the bravest troops, and the fairest prospect of
victory; and after consuming in Mesopotamia an inactive and inglorious
summer, he led back to Antioch an army diminished by sickness, and
provoked by disappointment. The behavior of Artaxerxes had been very
different. Flying with rapidity from the hills of Media to the marshes
of the Euphrates, he had everywhere opposed the invaders in person; and
in either fortune had united with the ablest conduct the most undaunted
resolution. But in several obstinate engagements against the veteran
legions of Rome, the Persian monarch had lost the flower of his troops.
Even his victories had weakened his power. The favorable opportunities
of the absence of Alexander, and of the confusions that followed that
emperor's death, presented themselves in vain to his ambition. Instead
of expelling the Romans, as he pretended, from the continent of Asia,
he found himself unable to wrest from their hands the little province of

The reign of Artaxerxes, which, from the last defeat of the Parthians,
lasted only fourteen years, forms a memorable æra in the history of the
East, and even in that of Rome. His character seems to have been marked
by those bold and commanding features, that generally distinguish the
princes who conquer, from those who inherit an empire. Till the last
period of the Persian monarchy, his code of laws was respected as the
groundwork of their civil and religious policy. Several of his sayings
are preserved. One of them in particular discovers a deep insight into
the constitution of government. "The authority of the prince," said
Artaxerxes, "must be defended by a military force; that force can only
be maintained by taxes; all taxes must, at last, fall upon agriculture;
and agriculture can never flourish except under the protection of
justice and moderation." Artaxerxes bequeathed his new empire, and his
ambitious designs against the Romans, to Sapor, a son not unworthy of
his great father; but those designs were too extensive for the power
of Persia, and served only to involve both nations in a long series of
destructive wars and reciprocal calamities.

The Persians, long since civilized and corrupted, were very far from
possessing the martial independence, and the intrepid hardiness, both
of mind and body, which have rendered the northern barbarians masters of
the world. The science of war, that constituted the more rational
force of Greece and Rome, as it now does of Europe, never made any
considerable progress in the East. Those disciplined evolutions
which harmonize and animate a confused multitude, were unknown to the
Persians. They were equally unskilled in the arts of constructing,
besieging, or defending regular fortifications. They trusted more to
their numbers than to their courage; more to their courage than to their
discipline. The infantry was a half-armed, spiritless crowd of peasants,
levied in haste by the allurements of plunder, and as easily dispersed
by a victory as by a defeat. The monarch and his nobles transported into
the camp the pride and luxury of the seraglio. Their military operations
were impeded by a useless train of women, eunuchs, horses, and camels;
and in the midst of a successful campaign, the Persian host was often
separated or destroyed by an unexpected famine.

But the nobles of Persia, in the bosom of luxury and despotism,
preserved a strong sense of personal gallantry and national honor. From
the age of seven years they were taught to speak truth, to shoot with
the bow, and to ride; and it was universally confessed, that in the two
last of these arts, they had made a more than common proficiency.
The most distinguished youth were educated under the monarch's eye,
practised their exercises in the gate of his palace, and were severely
trained up to the habits of temperance and obedience, in their long and
laborious parties of hunting. In every province, the satrap maintained
a like school of military virtue. The Persian nobles (so natural is
the idea of feudal tenures) received from the king's bounty lands and
houses, on the condition of their service in war. They were ready on the
first summons to mount on horseback, with a martial and splendid train
of followers, and to join the numerous bodies of guards, who were
carefully selected from among the most robust slaves, and the bravest
adventures of Asia. These armies, both of light and of heavy cavalry,
equally formidable by the impetuosity of their charge and the rapidity
of their motions, threatened, as an impending cloud, the eastern
provinces of the declining empire of Rome.

Chapter IX: State Of Germany Until The Barbarians.--Part I.

     The State Of Germany Till The Invasion Of The Barbarians In
     The Time Of The Emperor Decius.

The government and religion of Persia have deserved some notice, from
their connection with the decline and fall of the Roman empire. We shall
occasionally mention the Scythian or Sarmatian tribes, * which, with
their arms and horses, their flocks and herds, their wives and families,
wandered over the immense plains which spread themselves from the
Caspian Sea to the Vistula, from the confines of Persia to those of
Germany. But the warlike Germans, who first resisted, then invaded, and
at length overturned the Western monarchy of Rome, will occupy a much
more important place in this history, and possess a stronger, and, if
we may use the expression, a more domestic, claim to our attention and
regard. The most civilized nations of modern Europe issued from the
woods of Germany; and in the rude institutions of those barbarians we
may still distinguish the original principles of our present laws and
manners. In their primitive state of simplicity and independence, the
Germans were surveyed by the discerning eye, and delineated by the
masterly pencil, of Tacitus, the first of historians who applied the
science of philosophy to the study of facts. The expressive conciseness
of his descriptions has served to exercise the diligence of innumerable
antiquarians, and to excite the genius and penetration of the
philosophic historians of our own times. The subject, however various
and important, has already been so frequently, so ably, and so
successfully discussed, that it is now grown familiar to the reader,
and difficult to the writer. We shall therefore content ourselves
with observing, and indeed with repeating, some of the most important
circumstances of climate, of manners, and of institutions, which
rendered the wild barbarians of Germany such formidable enemies to the
Roman power.

Ancient Germany, excluding from its independent limits the province
westward of the Rhine, which had submitted to the Roman yoke, extended
itself over a third part of Europe. Almost the whole of modern Germany,
Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Livonia, Prussia, and the greater part
of Poland, were peopled by the various tribes of one great nation, whose
complexion, manners, and language denoted a common origin, and preserved
a striking resemblance. On the west, ancient Germany was divided by
the Rhine from the Gallic, and on the south, by the Danube, from the
Illyrian, provinces of the empire. A ridge of hills, rising from the
Danube, and called the Carpathian Mountains, covered Germany on the
side of Dacia or Hungary. The eastern frontier was faintly marked by the
mutual fears of the Germans and the Sarmatians, and was often confounded
by the mixture of warring and confederating tribes of the two nations.
In the remote darkness of the north, the ancients imperfectly descried
a frozen ocean that lay beyond the Baltic Sea, and beyond the Peninsula,
or islands of Scandinavia.

Some ingenious writers have suspected that Europe was much colder
formerly than it is at present; and the most ancient descriptions of the
climate of Germany tend exceedingly to confirm their theory. The general
complaints of intense frost and eternal winter, are perhaps little to be
regarded, since we have no method of reducing to the accurate standard
of the thermometer, the feelings, or the expressions, of an orator
born in the happier regions of Greece or Asia. But I shall select two
remarkable circumstances of a less equivocal nature. 1. The great
rivers which covered the Roman provinces, the Rhine and the Danube,
were frequently frozen over, and capable of supporting the most enormous
weights. The barbarians, who often chose that severe season for their
inroads, transported, without apprehension or danger, their numerous
armies, their cavalry, and their heavy wagons, over a vast and solid
bridge of ice. Modern ages have not presented an instance of a like
phenomenon. 2. The reindeer, that useful animal, from whom the savage
of the North derives the best comforts of his dreary life, is of a
constitution that supports, and even requires, the most intense cold.
He is found on the rock of Spitzberg, within ten degrees of the Pole; he
seems to delight in the snows of Lapland and Siberia: but at present he
cannot subsist, much less multiply, in any country to the south of the
Baltic. In the time of Cæsar the reindeer, as well as the elk and the
wild bull, was a native of the Hercynian forest, which then overshadowed
a great part of Germany and Poland. The modern improvements sufficiently
explain the causes of the diminution of the cold. These immense woods
have been gradually cleared, which intercepted from the earth the rays
of the sun. The morasses have been drained, and, in proportion as the
soil has been cultivated, the air has become more temperate. Canada, at
this day, is an exact picture of ancient Germany. Although situated in
the same parallel with the finest provinces of France and England,
that country experiences the most rigorous cold. The reindeer are very
numerous, the ground is covered with deep and lasting snow, and the
great river of St. Lawrence is regularly frozen, in a season when the
waters of the Seine and the Thames are usually free from ice.

It is difficult to ascertain, and easy to exaggerate, the influence of
the climate of ancient Germany over the minds and bodies of the natives.
Many writers have supposed, and most have allowed, though, as it should
seem, without any adequate proof, that the rigorous cold of the North
was favorable to long life and generative vigor, that the women were
more fruitful, and the human species more prolific, than in warmer or
more temperate climates. We may assert, with greater confidence, that
the keen air of Germany formed the large and masculine limbs of the
natives, who were, in general, of a more lofty stature than the people
of the South, gave them a kind of strength better adapted to violent
exertions than to patient labor, and inspired them with constitutional
bravery, which is the result of nerves and spirits. The severity of
a winter campaign, that chilled the courage of the Roman troops, was
scarcely felt by these hardy children of the North, who, in their turn,
were unable to resist the summer heats, and dissolved away in languor
and sickness under the beams of an Italian sun.

Chapter IX: State Of Germany Until The Barbarians.--Part II.

There is not any where upon the globe a large tract of country, which we
have discovered destitute of inhabitants, or whose first population can
be fixed with any degree of historical certainty. And yet, as the most
philosophic minds can seldom refrain from investigating the infancy
of great nations, our curiosity consumes itself in toilsome and
disappointed efforts. When Tacitus considered the purity of the German
blood, and the forbidding aspect of the country, he was disposed to
pronounce those barbarians Indigen, or natives of the soil. We may
allow with safety, and perhaps with truth, that ancient Germany was
not originally peopled by any foreign colonies already formed into a
political society; but that the name and nation received their existence
from the gradual union of some wandering savages of the Hercynian woods.
To assert those savages to have been the spontaneous production of
the earth which they inhabited would be a rash inference, condemned by
religion, and unwarranted by reason.

Such rational doubt is but ill suited with the genius of popular vanity.
Among the nations who have adopted the Mosaic history of the world, the
ark of Noah has been of the same use, as was formerly to the Greeks and
Romans the siege of Troy. On a narrow basis of acknowledged truth, an
immense but rude superstructure of fable has been erected; and the wild
Irishman, as well as the wild Tartar, could point out the individual son
of Japhet, from whose loins his ancestors were lineally descended. The
last century abounded with antiquarians of profound learning and easy
faith, who, by the dim light of legends and traditions, of conjectures
and etymologies, conducted the great grandchildren of Noah from the
Tower of Babel to the extremities of the globe. Of these judicious
critics, one of the most entertaining was Oaus Rudbeck, professor in the
university of Upsal. Whatever is celebrated either in history or fable,
this zealous patriot ascribes to his country. From Sweden (which formed
so considerable a part of ancient Germany) the Greeks themselves derived
their alphabetical characters, their astronomy, and their religion. Of
that delightful region (for such it appeared to the eyes of a native)
the Atlantis of Plato, the country of the Hyperboreans, the gardens of
the Hesperides, the Fortunate Islands, and even the Elysian Fields, were
all but faint and imperfect transcripts. A clime so profusely favored by
Nature could not long remain desert after the flood. The learned Rudbeck
allows the family of Noah a few years to multiply from eight to about
twenty thousand persons. He then disperses them into small colonies to
replenish the earth, and to propagate the human species. The German
or Swedish detachment (which marched, if I am not mistaken, under the
command of Askenaz, the son of Gomer, the son of Japhet) distinguished
itself by a more than common diligence in the prosecution of this
great work. The northern hive cast its swarms over the greatest part of
Europe, Africa, and Asia; and (to use the author's metaphor) the blood
circulated from the extremities to the heart.

But all this well-labored system of German antiquities is annihilated
by a single fact, too well attested to admit of any doubt, and of too
decisive a nature to leave room for any reply. The Germans, in the age
of Tacitus, were unacquainted with the use of letters; and the use of
letters is the principal circumstance that distinguishes a civilized
people from a herd of savages incapable of knowledge or reflection.
Without that artificial help, the human memory soon dissipates or
corrupts the ideas intrusted to her charge; and the nobler faculties of
the mind, no longer supplied with models or with materials, gradually
forget their powers; the judgment becomes feeble and lethargic, the
imagination languid or irregular. Fully to apprehend this important
truth, let us attempt, in an improved society, to calculate the immense
distance between the man of learning and the illiterate peasant. The
former, by reading and reflection, multiplies his own experience, and
lives in distant ages and remote countries; whilst the latter, rooted to
a single spot, and confined to a few years of existence, surpasses but
very little his fellow-laborer, the ox, in the exercise of his mental
faculties. The same, and even a greater, difference will be found
between nations than between individuals; and we may safely pronounce,
that without some species of writing, no people has ever preserved the
faithful annals of their history, ever made any considerable progress
in the abstract sciences, or ever possessed, in any tolerable degree of
perfection, the useful and agreeable arts of life.

Of these arts, the ancient Germans were wretchedly destitute. They
passed their lives in a state of ignorance and poverty, which it has
pleased some declaimers to dignify with the appellation of virtuous
simplicity. * Modern Germany is said to contain about two thousand three
hundred walled towns. In a much wider extent of country, the geographer
Ptolemy could discover no more than ninety places which he decorates
with the name of cities; though, according to our ideas, they would but
ill deserve that splendid title. We can only suppose them to have
been rude fortifications, constructed in the centre of the woods, and
designed to secure the women, children, and cattle, whilst the warriors
of the tribe marched out to repel a sudden invasion. But Tacitus
asserts, as a well-known fact, that the Germans, in his time, had no
cities; and that they affected to despise the works of Roman industry,
as places of confinement rather than of security. Their edifices were
not even contiguous, or formed into regular villas; each barbarian fixed
his independent dwelling on the spot to which a plain, a wood, or a
stream of fresh water, had induced him to give the preference. Neither
stone, nor brick, nor tiles, were employed in these slight habitations.
They were indeed no more than low huts, of a circular figure, built of
rough timber, thatched with straw, and pierced at the top to leave a
free passage for the smoke. In the most inclement winter, the hardy
German was satisfied with a scanty garment made of the skin of some
animal. The nations who dwelt towards the North clothed themselves in
furs; and the women manufactured for their own use a coarse kind of
linen. The game of various sorts, with which the forests of Germany were
plentifully stocked, supplied its inhabitants with food and exercise.
Their monstrous herds of cattle, less remarkable indeed for their beauty
than for their utility, formed the principal object of their wealth. A
small quantity of corn was the only produce exacted from the earth; the
use of orchards or artificial meadows was unknown to the Germans; nor
can we expect any improvements in agriculture from a people, whose
prosperity every year experienced a general change by a new division of
the arable lands, and who, in that strange operation, avoided disputes,
by suffering a great part of their territory to lie waste and without

Gold, silver, and iron, were extremely scarce in Germany. Its barbarous
inhabitants wanted both skill and patience to investigate those rich
veins of silver, which have so liberally rewarded the attention of the
princes of Brunswick and Saxony. Sweden, which now supplies Europe with
iron, was equally ignorant of its own riches; and the appearance of the
arms of the Germans furnished a sufficient proof how little iron they
were able to bestow on what they must have deemed the noblest use of
that metal. The various transactions of peace and war had introduced
some Roman coins (chiefly silver) among the borderers of the Rhine and
Danube; but the more distant tribes were absolutely unacquainted with
the use of money, carried on their confined traffic by the exchange of
commodities, and prized their rude earthen vessels as of equal value
with the silver vases, the presents of Rome to their princes and
ambassadors. To a mind capable of reflection, such leading facts convey
more instruction, than a tedious detail of subordinate circumstances.
The value of money has been settled by general consent to express our
wants and our property, as letters were invented to express our ideas;
and both these institutions, by giving a more active energy to the
powers and passions of human nature, have contributed to multiply the
objects they were designed to represent. The use of gold and silver is
in a great measure factitious; but it would be impossible to enumerate
the important and various services which agriculture, and all the arts,
have received from iron, when tempered and fashioned by the operation
of fire, and the dexterous hand of man. Money, in a word, is the most
universal incitement, iron the most powerful instrument, of human
industry; and it is very difficult to conceive by what means a people,
neither actuated by the one, nor seconded by the other, could emerge
from the grossest barbarism.

If we contemplate a savage nation in any part of the globe, a supine
indolence and a carelessness of futurity will be found to constitute
their general character. In a civilized state, every faculty of man
is expanded and exercised; and the great chain of mutual dependence
connects and embraces the several members of society. The most numerous
portion of it is employed in constant and useful labor. The select few,
placed by fortune above that necessity, can, however, fill up their time
by the pursuits of interest or glory, by the improvement of their estate
or of their understanding, by the duties, the pleasures, and even the
follies of social life. The Germans were not possessed of these varied
resources. The care of the house and family, the management of the
land and cattle, were delegated to the old and the infirm, to women and
slaves. The lazy warrior, destitute of every art that might employ his
leisure hours, consumed his days and nights in the animal gratifications
of sleep and food. And yet, by a wonderful diversity of nature,
(according to the remark of a writer who had pierced into its darkest
recesses,) the same barbarians are by turns the most indolent and
the most restless of mankind. They delight in sloth, they detest
tranquility. The languid soul, oppressed with its own weight, anxiously
required some new and powerful sensation; and war and danger were the
only amusements adequate to its fierce temper. The sound that summoned
the German to arms was grateful to his ear. It roused him from his
uncomfortable lethargy, gave him an active pursuit, and, by strong
exercise of the body, and violent emotions of the mind, restored him to
a more lively sense of his existence. In the dull intervals of peace,
these barbarians were immoderately addicted to deep gaming and excessive
drinking; both of which, by different means, the one by inflaming their
passions, the other by extinguishing their reason, alike relieved them
from the pain of thinking. They gloried in passing whole days and nights
at table; and the blood of friends and relations often stained their
numerous and drunken assemblies. Their debts of honor (for in that light
they have transmitted to us those of play) they discharged with the most
romantic fidelity. The desperate gamester, who had staked his person and
liberty on a last throw of the dice, patiently submitted to the decision
of fortune, and suffered himself to be bound, chastised, and sold into
remote slavery, by his weaker but more lucky antagonist.

Strong beer, a liquor extracted with very little art from wheat or
barley, and corrupted (as it is strongly expressed by Tacitus) into
a certain semblance of wine, was sufficient for the gross purposes of
German debauchery. But those who had tasted the rich wines of Italy,
and afterwards of Gaul, sighed for that more delicious species of
intoxication. They attempted not, however, (as has since been executed
with so much success,) to naturalize the vine on the banks of the Rhine
and Danube; nor did they endeavor to procure by industry the materials
of an advantageous commerce. To solicit by labor what might be ravished
by arms, was esteemed unworthy of the German spirit. The intemperate
thirst of strong liquors often urged the barbarians to invade the
provinces on which art or nature had bestowed those much envied
presents. The Tuscan who betrayed his country to the Celtic nations,
attracted them into Italy by the prospect of the rich fruits and
delicious wines, the productions of a happier climate. And in the same
manner the German auxiliaries, invited into France during the civil
wars of the sixteenth century, were allured by the promise of plenteous
quarters in the provinces of Champaigne and Burgundy. Drunkenness, the
most illiberal, but not the most dangerous of our vices, was sometimes
capable, in a less civilized state of mankind, of occasioning a battle,
a war, or a revolution.

The climate of ancient Germany has been modified, and the soil
fertilized, by the labor of ten centuries from the time of Charlemagne.
The same extent of ground which at present maintains, in ease and
plenty, a million of husbandmen and artificers, was unable to supply a
hundred thousand lazy warriors with the simple necessaries of life.
The Germans abandoned their immense forests to the exercise of hunting,
employed in pasturage the most considerable part of their lands,
bestowed on the small remainder a rude and careless cultivation, and
then accused the scantiness and sterility of a country that refused to
maintain the multitude of its inhabitants. When the return of famine
severely admonished them of the importance of the arts, the national
distress was sometimes alleviated by the emigration of a third, perhaps,
or a fourth part of their youth. The possession and the enjoyment of
property are the pledges which bind a civilized people to an improved
country. But the Germans, who carried with them what they most valued,
their arms, their cattle, and their women, cheerfully abandoned the vast
silence of their woods for the unbounded hopes of plunder and conquest.
The innumerable swarms that issued, or seemed to issue, from the great
storehouse of nations, were multiplied by the fears of the vanquished,
and by the credulity of succeeding ages. And from facts thus
exaggerated, an opinion was gradually established, and has been
supported by writers of distinguished reputation, that, in the age of
Cæsar and Tacitus, the inhabitants of the North were far more numerous
than they are in our days. A more serious inquiry into the causes of
population seems to have convinced modern philosophers of the falsehood,
and indeed the impossibility, of the supposition. To the names of
Mariana and of Machiavel, we can oppose the equal names of Robertson and

A warlike nation like the Germans, without either cities, letters, arts,
or money, found some compensation for this savage state in the enjoyment
of liberty. Their poverty secured their freedom, since our desires
and our possessions are the strongest fetters of despotism. "Among the
Suiones (says Tacitus) riches are held in honor. They are therefore
subject to an absolute monarch, who, instead of intrusting his people
with the free use of arms, as is practised in the rest of Germany,
commits them to the safe custody, not of a citizen, or even of a
freedman, but of a slave. The neighbors of the Suiones, the Sitones, are
sunk even below servitude; they obey a woman." In the mention of these
exceptions, the great historian sufficiently acknowledges the general
theory of government. We are only at a loss to conceive by what means
riches and despotism could penetrate into a remote corner of the North,
and extinguish the generous flame that blazed with such fierceness on
the frontier of the Roman provinces, or how the ancestors of those Danes
and Norwegians, so distinguished in latter ages by their unconquered
spirit, could thus tamely resign the great character of German liberty.
Some tribes, however, on the coast of the Baltic, acknowledged the
authority of kings, though without relinquishing the rights of men,
but in the far greater part of Germany, the form of government was a
democracy, tempered, indeed, and controlled, not so much by general
and positive laws, as by the occasional ascendant of birth or valor, of
eloquence or superstition.

Civil governments, in their first institution, are voluntary
associations for mutual defence. To obtain the desired end, it is
absolutely necessary that each individual should conceive himself
obliged to submit his private opinions and actions to the judgment of
the greater number of his associates. The German tribes were contented
with this rude but liberal outline of political society. As soon as a
youth, born of free parents, had attained the age of manhood, he was
introduced into the general council of his countrymen, solemnly invested
with a shield and spear, and adopted as an equal and worthy member of
the military commonwealth. The assembly of the warriors of the tribe
was convened at stated seasons, or on sudden emergencies. The trial of
public offences, the election of magistrates, and the great business
of peace and war, were determined by its independent voice. Sometimes
indeed, these important questions were previously considered and
prepared in a more select council of the principal chieftains. The
magistrates might deliberate and persuade, the people only could resolve
and execute; and the resolutions of the Germans were for the most part
hasty and violent. Barbarians accustomed to place their freedom in
gratifying the present passion, and their courage in overlooking all
future consequences, turned away with indignant contempt from the
remonstrances of justice and policy, and it was the practice to signify
by a hollow murmur their dislike of such timid counsels. But whenever
a more popular orator proposed to vindicate the meanest citizen
from either foreign or domestic injury, whenever he called upon his
fellow-countrymen to assert the national honor, or to pursue some
enterprise full of danger and glory, a loud clashing of shields and
spears expressed the eager applause of the assembly. For the Germans
always met in arms, and it was constantly to be dreaded, lest an
irregular multitude, inflamed with faction and strong liquors, should
use those arms to enforce, as well as to declare, their furious
resolves. We may recollect how often the diets of Poland have been
polluted with blood, and the more numerous party has been compelled to
yield to the more violent and seditious.

A general of the tribe was elected on occasions of danger; and, if
the danger was pressing and extensive, several tribes concurred in the
choice of the same general. The bravest warrior was named to lead his
countrymen into the field, by his example rather than by his commands.
But this power, however limited, was still invidious. It expired with
the war, and in time of peace the German tribes acknowledged not
any supreme chief. Princes were, however, appointed, in the general
assembly, to administer justice, or rather to compose differences, in
their respective districts. In the choice of these magistrates, as much
regard was shown to birth as to merit. To each was assigned, by the
public, a guard, and a council of a hundred persons, and the first of
the princes appears to have enjoyed a preeminence of rank and honor
which sometimes tempted the Romans to compliment him with the regal

The comparative view of the powers of the magistrates, in two remarkable
instances, is alone sufficient to represent the whole system of German
manners. The disposal of the landed property within their district was
absolutely vested in their hands, and they distributed it every year
according to a new division. At the same time they were not authorized
to punish with death, to imprison, or even to strike a private
citizen. A people thus jealous of their persons, and careless of their
possessions, must have been totally destitute of industry and the arts,
but animated with a high sense of honor and independence.

Chapter IX: State Of Germany Until The Barbarians.--Part III.

The Germans respected only those duties which they imposed on
themselves. The most obscure soldier resisted with disdain the authority
of the magistrates. "The noblest youths blushed not to be numbered among
the faithful companions of some renowned chief, to whom they devoted
their arms and service. A noble emulation prevailed among the
companions, to obtain the first place in the esteem of their chief;
amongst the chiefs, to acquire the greatest number of valiant
companions. To be ever surrounded by a band of select youths was the
pride and strength of the chiefs, their ornament in peace, their defence
in war. The glory of such distinguished heroes diffused itself beyond
the narrow limits of their own tribe. Presents and embassies solicited
their friendship, and the fame of their arms often insured victory to
the party which they espoused. In the hour of danger it was shameful for
the chief to be surpassed in valor by his companions; shameful for the
companions not to equal the valor of their chief. To survive his fall
in battle, was indelible infamy. To protect his person, and to adorn his
glory with the trophies of their own exploits, were the most sacred of
their duties. The chiefs combated for victory, the companions for the
chief. The noblest warriors, whenever their native country was sunk into
the laziness of peace, maintained their numerous bands in some distant
scene of action, to exercise their restless spirit, and to acquire
renown by voluntary dangers. Gifts worthy of soldiers--the warlike
steed, the bloody and even victorious lance--were the rewards which the
companions claimed from the liberality of their chief. The rude plenty
of his hospitable board was the only pay that hecould bestow, or they
would accept. War, rapine, and the free-will offerings of his friends,
supplied the materials of this munificence. This institution, however it
might accidentally weaken the several republics, invigorated the general
character of the Germans, and even ripened amongst them all the
virtues of which barbarians are susceptible; the faith and valor, the
hospitality and the courtesy, so conspicuous long afterwards in the ages
of chivalry. The honorable gifts, bestowed by the chief on his brave
companions, have been supposed, by an ingenious writer, to contain the
first rudiments of the fiefs, distributed after the conquest of the
Roman provinces, by the barbarian lords among their vassals, with a
similar duty of homage and military service. These conditions are,
however, very repugnant to the maxims of the ancient Germans, who
delighted in mutual presents; but without either imposing, or accepting,
the weight of obligations.

"In the days of chivalry, or more properly of romance, all the men were
brave, and all the women were chaste;" and notwithstanding the latter of
these virtues is acquired and preserved with much more difficulty than
the former, it is ascribed, almost without exception, to the wives of
the ancient Germans. Polygamy was not in use, except among the princes,
and among them only for the sake of multiplying their alliances.
Divorces were prohibited by manners rather than by laws. Adulteries were
punished as rare and inexpiable crimes; nor was seduction justified by
example and fashion. We may easily discover that Tacitus indulges an
honest pleasure in the contrast of barbarian virtue with the dissolute
conduct of the Roman ladies; yet there are some striking circumstances
that give an air of truth, or at least probability, to the conjugal
faith and chastity of the Germans.

Although the progress of civilization has undoubtedly contributed to
assuage the fiercer passions of human nature, it seems to have been less
favorable to the virtue of chastity, whose most dangerous enemy is the
softness of the mind. The refinements of life corrupt while they polish
the intercourse of the sexes. The gross appetite of love becomes
most dangerous when it is elevated, or rather, indeed, disguised by
sentimental passion. The elegance of dress, of motion, and of
manners, gives a lustre to beauty, and inflames the senses through the
imagination. Luxurious entertainments, midnight dances, and licentious
spectacles, present at once temptation and opportunity to female
frailty. From such dangers the unpolished wives of the barbarians were
secured by poverty, solitude, and the painful cares of a domestic life.
The German huts, open, on every side, to the eye of indiscretion or
jealousy, were a better safeguard of conjugal fidelity, than the walls,
the bolts, and the eunuchs of a Persian haram. To this reason another
may be added, of a more honorable nature. The Germans treated their
women with esteem and confidence, consulted them on every occasion
of importance, and fondly believed, that in their breasts resided a
sanctity and wisdom more than human. Some of the interpreters of fate,
such as Velleda, in the Batavian war, governed, in the name of the
deity, the fiercest nations of Germany. The rest of the sex, without
being adored as goddesses, were respected as the free and equal
companions of soldiers; associated even by the marriage ceremony to a
life of toil, of danger, and of glory. In their great invasions, the
camps of the barbarians were filled with a multitude of women, who
remained firm and undaunted amidst the sound of arms, the various forms
of destruction, and the honorable wounds of their sons and husbands.
Fainting armies of Germans have, more than once, been driven back upon
the enemy, by the generous despair of the women, who dreaded death much
less than servitude. If the day was irrecoverably lost, they well knew
how to deliver themselves and their children, with their own hands, from
an insulting victor. Heroines of such a cast may claim our admiration;
but they were most assuredly neither lovely, nor very susceptible of
love. Whilst they affected to emulate the stern virtues of man, they
must have resigned that attractive softness, in which principally
consist the charm and weakness of woman. Conscious pride taught
the German females to suppress every tender emotion that stood in
competition with honor, and the first honor of the sex has ever been
that of chastity. The sentiments and conduct of these high-spirited
matrons may, at once, be considered as a cause, as an effect, and as a
proof of the general character of the nation. Female courage, however it
may be raised by fanaticism, or confirmed by habit, can be only a faint
and imperfect imitation of the manly valor that distinguishes the age or
country in which it may be found.

The religious system of the Germans (if the wild opinions of savages can
deserve that name) was dictated by their wants, their fears, and their
ignorance. They adored the great visible objects and agents of nature,
the Sun and the Moon, the Fire and the Earth; together with those
imaginary deities, who were supposed to preside over the most important
occupations of human life. They were persuaded, that, by some ridiculous
arts of divination, they could discover the will of the superior beings,
and that human sacrifices were the most precious and acceptable offering
to their altars. Some applause has been hastily bestowed on the sublime
notion, entertained by that people, of the Deity, whom they neither
confined within the walls of the temple, nor represented by any human
figure; but when we recollect, that the Germans were unskilled in
architecture, and totally unacquainted with the art of sculpture, we
shall readily assign the true reason of a scruple, which arose not so
much from a superiority of reason, as from a want of ingenuity. The
only temples in Germany were dark and ancient groves, consecrated by the
reverence of succeeding generations. Their secret gloom, the imagined
residence of an invisible power, by presenting no distinct object
of fear or worship, impressed the mind with a still deeper sense of
religious horror; and the priests, rude and illiterate as they were, had
been taught by experience the use of every artifice that could preserve
and fortify impressions so well suited to their own interest.

The same ignorance, which renders barbarians incapable of conceiving or
embracing the useful restraints of laws, exposes them naked and unarmed
to the blind terrors of superstition. The German priests, improving this
favorable temper of their countrymen, had assumed a jurisdiction even in
temporal concerns, which the magistrate could not venture to exercise;
and the haughty warrior patiently submitted to the lash of correction,
when it was inflicted, not by any human power, but by the immediate
order of the god of war. The defects of civil policy were sometimes
supplied by the interposition of ecclesiastical authority. The latter
was constantly exerted to maintain silence and decency in the popular
assemblies; and was sometimes extended to a more enlarged concern for
the national welfare. A solemn procession was occasionally celebrated in
the present countries of Mecklenburgh and Pomerania. The unknown symbol
of the Earth, covered with a thick veil, was placed on a carriage drawn
by cows; and in this manner the goddess, whose common residence was in
the Isles of Rugen, visited several adjacent tribes of her worshippers.
During her progress the sound of war was hushed, quarrels were
suspended, arms laid aside, and the restless Germans had an opportunity
of tasting the blessings of peace and harmony. The truce of God, so
often and so ineffectually proclaimed by the clergy of the eleventh
century, was an obvious imitation of this ancient custom.

But the influence of religion was far more powerful to inflame, than to
moderate, the fierce passions of the Germans. Interest and fanaticism
often prompted its ministers to sanctify the most daring and the most
unjust enterprises, by the approbation of Heaven, and full assurances
of success. The consecrated standards, long revered in the groves of
superstition, were placed in the front of the battle; and the hostile
army was devoted with dire execrations to the gods of war and of
thunder. In the faith of soldiers (and such were the Germans) cowardice
is the most unpardonable of sins. A brave man was the worthy favorite
of their martial deities; the wretch who had lost his shield was alike
banished from the religious and civil assemblies of his countrymen.
Some tribes of the north seem to have embraced the doctrine of
transmigration, others imagined a gross paradise of immortal
drunkenness. All agreed, that a life spent in arms, and a glorious death
in battle, were the best preparations for a happy futurity, either in
this or in another world.

The immortality so vainly promised by the priests, was, in some degree,
conferred by the bards. That singular order of men has most deservedly
attracted the notice of all who have attempted to investigate the
antiquities of the Celts, the Scandinavians, and the Germans. Their
genius and character, as well as the reverence paid to that important
office, have been sufficiently illustrated. But we cannot so easily
express, or even conceive, the enthusiasm of arms and glory which they
kindled in the breast of their audience. Among a polished people, a
taste for poetry is rather an amusement of the fancy, than a passion
of the soul. And yet, when in calm retirement we peruse the combats
described by Homer or Tasso, we are insensibly seduced by the fiction,
and feel a momentary glow of martial ardor. But how faint, how cold is
the sensation which a peaceful mind can receive from solitary study! It
was in the hour of battle, or in the feast of victory, that the bards
celebrated the glory of the heroes of ancient days, the ancestors of
those warlike chieftains, who listened with transport to their artless
but animated strains. The view of arms and of danger heightened the
effect of the military song; and the passions which it tended to
excite, the desire of fame, and the contempt of death, were the habitual
sentiments of a German mind. *

Such was the situation, and such were the manners of the ancient
Germans. Their climate, their want of learning, of arts, and of laws,
their notions of honor, of gallantry, and of religion, their sense of
freedom, impatience of peace, and thirst of enterprise, all contributed
to form a people of military heroes. And yet we find, that during more
than two hundred and fifty years that elapsed from the defeat of
Varus to the reign of Decius, these formidable barbarians made few
considerable attempts, and not any material impression on the luxurious
and enslaved provinces of the empire. Their progress was checked by
their want of arms and discipline, and their fury was diverted by the
intestine divisions of ancient Germany.

I. It has been observed, with ingenuity, and not without truth, that the
command of iron soon gives a nation the command of gold. But the rude
tribes of Germany, alike destitute of both those valuable metals, were
reduced slowly to acquire, by their unassisted strength, the possession
of the one as well as the other. The face of a German army displayed
their poverty of iron. Swords, and the longer kind of lances, they could
seldom use. Their frame (as they called them in their own language) were
long spears headed with a sharp but narrow iron point, and which, as
occasion required, they either darted from a distance, or pushed in
close onset. With this spear, and with a shield, their cavalry was
contented. A multitude of darts, scattered with incredible force, were
an additional resource of the infantry. Their military dress, when they
wore any, was nothing more than a loose mantle. A variety of colors was
the only ornament of their wooden or osier shields. Few of the chiefs
were distinguished by cuirasses, scarcely any by helmets. Though the
horses of Germany were neither beautiful, swift, nor practised in the
skilful evolutions of the Roman manege, several of the nations obtained
renown by their cavalry; but, in general, the principal strength of the
Germans consisted in their infantry, which was drawn up in several deep
columns, according to the distinction of tribes and families. Impatient
of fatigue and delay, these half-armed warriors rushed to battle with
dissonant shouts and disordered ranks; and sometimes, by the effort of
native valor, prevailed over the constrained and more artificial bravery
of the Roman mercenaries. But as the barbarians poured forth their whole
souls on the first onset, they knew not how to rally or to retire.
A repulse was a sure defeat; and a defeat was most commonly total
destruction. When we recollect the complete armor of the Roman soldiers,
their discipline, exercises, evolutions, fortified camps, and military
engines, it appears a just matter of surprise, how the naked and
unassisted valor of the barbarians could dare to encounter, in the
field, the strength of the legions, and the various troops of the
auxiliaries, which seconded their operations. The contest was too
unequal, till the introduction of luxury had enervated the vigor, and a
spirit of disobedience and sedition had relaxed the discipline, of
the Roman armies. The introduction of barbarian auxiliaries into those
armies, was a measure attended with very obvious dangers, as it might
gradually instruct the Germans in the arts of war and of policy.
Although they were admitted in small numbers and with the strictest
precaution, the example of Civilis was proper to convince the Romans,
that the danger was not imaginary, and that their precautions were not
always sufficient. During the civil wars that followed the death of
Nero, that artful and intrepid Batavian, whom his enemies condescended
to compare with Hannibal and Sertorius, formed a great design of freedom
and ambition. Eight Batavian cohorts renowned in the wars of Britain and
Italy, repaired to his standard. He introduced an army of Germans into
Gaul, prevailed on the powerful cities of Treves and Langres to embrace
his cause, defeated the legions, destroyed their fortified camps, and
employed against the Romans the military knowledge which he had acquired
in their service. When at length, after an obstinate struggle, he
yielded to the power of the empire, Civilis secured himself and his
country by an honorable treaty. The Batavians still continued to occupy
the islands of the Rhine, the allies, not the servants, of the Roman

II. The strength of ancient Germany appears formidable, when we consider
the effects that might have been produced by its united effort. The wide
extent of country might very possibly contain a million of warriors, as
all who were of age to bear arms were of a temper to use them. But
this fierce multitude, incapable of concerting or executing any plan
of national greatness, was agitated by various and often hostile
intentions. Germany was divided into more than forty independent states;
and, even in each state, the union of the several tribes was extremely
loose and precarious. The barbarians were easily provoked; they knew not
how to forgive an injury, much less an insult; their resentments were
bloody and implacable. The casual disputes that so frequently happened
in their tumultuous parties of hunting or drinking, were sufficient
to inflame the minds of whole nations; the private feuds of any
considerable chieftains diffused itself among their followers and
allies. To chastise the insolent, or to plunder the defenceless, were
alike causes of war. The most formidable states of Germany affected
to encompass their territories with a wide frontier of solitude and
devastation. The awful distance preserved by their neighbors attested
the terror of their arms, and in some measure defended them from the
danger of unexpected incursions.

"The Bructeri * (it is Tacitus who now speaks) were totally exterminated
by the neighboring tribes, provoked by their insolence, allured by
the hopes of spoil, and perhaps inspired by the tutelar deities of the
empire. Above sixty thousand barbarians were destroyed; not by the Roman
arms, but in our sight, and for our entertainment. May the nations,
enemies of Rome, ever preserve this enmity to each other! We have now
attained the utmost verge of prosperity, and have nothing left to demand
of fortune, except the discord of the barbarians."--These sentiments,
less worthy of the humanity than of the patriotism of Tacitus, express
the invariable maxims of the policy of his countrymen. They deemed it a
much safer expedient to divide than to combat the barbarians, from whose
defeat they could derive neither honor nor advantage. The money and
negotiations of Rome insinuated themselves into the heart of Germany;
and every art of seduction was used with dignity, to conciliate those
nations whom their proximity to the Rhine or Danube might render the
most useful friends as well as the most troublesome enemies. Chiefs of
renown and power were flattered by the most trifling presents, which
they received either as marks of distinction, or as the instruments of
luxury. In civil dissensions the weaker faction endeavored to strengthen
its interest by entering into secret connections with the governors of
the frontier provinces. Every quarrel among the Germans was fomented
by the intrigues of Rome; and every plan of union and public good was
defeated by the stronger bias of private jealousy and interest.

The general conspiracy which terrified the Romans under the reign of
Marcus Antoninus, comprehended almost all the nations of Germany, and
even Sarmatia, from the mouth of the Rhine to that of the Danube. It
is impossible for us to determine whether this hasty confederation was
formed by necessity, by reason, or by passion; but we may rest assured,
that the barbarians were neither allured by the indolence, nor provoked
by the ambition, of the Roman monarch. This dangerous invasion required
all the firmness and vigilance of Marcus. He fixed generals of ability
in the several stations of attack, and assumed in person the conduct
of the most important province on the Upper Danube. After a long and
doubtful conflict, the spirit of the barbarians was subdued. The Quadi
and the Marcomanni, who had taken the lead in the war, were the most
severely punished in its catastrophe. They were commanded to retire five
miles from their own banks of the Danube, and to deliver up the flower
of the youth, who were immediately sent into Britain, a remote island,
where they might be secure as hostages, and useful as soldiers. On the
frequent rebellions of the Quadi and Marcomanni, the irritated emperor
resolved to reduce their country into the form of a province. His
designs were disappointed by death. This formidable league, however,
the only one that appears in the two first centuries of the Imperial
history, was entirely dissipated, without leaving any traces behind in

In the course of this introductory chapter, we have confined ourselves
to the general outlines of the manners of Germany, without attempting
to describe or to distinguish the various tribes which filled that great
country in the time of Cæsar, of Tacitus, or of Ptolemy. As the ancient,
or as new tribes successively present themselves in the series of this
history, we shall concisely mention their origin, their situation,
and their particular character. Modern nations are fixed and permanent
societies, connected among themselves by laws and government, bound
to their native soil by arts and agriculture. The German tribes were
voluntary and fluctuating associations of soldiers, almost of savages.
The same territory often changed its inhabitants in the tide of conquest
and emigration. The same communities, uniting in a plan of defence or
invasion, bestowed a new title on their new confederacy. The dissolution
of an ancient confederacy restored to the independent tribes their
peculiar but long-forgotten appellation. A victorious state often
communicated its own name to a vanquished people. Sometimes crowds of
volunteers flocked from all parts to the standard of a favorite leader;
his camp became their country, and some circumstance of the enterprise
soon gave a common denomination to the mixed multitude. The distinctions
of the ferocious invaders were perpetually varied by themselves, and
confounded by the astonished subjects of the Roman empire.

Wars, and the administration of public affairs, are the principal
subjects of history; but the number of persons interested in these
busy scenes is very different, according to the different condition of
mankind. In great monarchies, millions of obedient subjects pursue their
useful occupations in peace and obscurity. The attention of the writer,
as well as of the reader, is solely confined to a court, a capital, a
regular army, and the districts which happen to be the occasional scene
of military operations. But a state of freedom and barbarism, the season
of civil commotions, or the situation of petty republics, raises almost
every member of the community into action, and consequently into notice.
The irregular divisions, and the restless motions, of the people of
Germany, dazzle our imagination, and seem to multiply their numbers.
The profuse enumeration of kings, of warriors, of armies and nations,
inclines us to forget that the same objects are continually repeated
under a variety of appellations, and that the most splendid appellations
have been frequently lavished on the most inconsiderable objects.

Chapter X: Emperors Decius, Gallus, Æmilianus, Valerian And
Gallienus.--Part I.

     The Emperors Decius, Gallus, Æmilianus, Valerian, And
     Gallienus.--The General Irruption Of The Barbari Ans.--The
     Thirty Tyrants.

From the great secular games celebrated by Philip, to the death of the
emperor Gallienus, there elapsed twenty years of shame and misfortune.
During that calamitous period, every instant of time was marked, every
province of the Roman world was afflicted, by barbarous invaders, and
military tyrants, and the ruined empire seemed to approach the last and
fatal moment of its dissolution. The confusion of the times, and the
scarcity of authentic memorials, oppose equal difficulties to the
historian, who attempts to preserve a clear and unbroken thread of
narration. Surrounded with imperfect fragments, always concise, often
obscure, and sometimes contradictory, he is reduced to collect, to
compare, and to conjecture: and though he ought never to place his
conjectures in the rank of facts, yet the knowledge of human nature, and
of the sure operation of its fierce and unrestrained passions, might, on
some occasions, supply the want of historical materials.

There is not, for instance, any difficulty in conceiving, that the
successive murders of so many emperors had loosened all the ties of
allegiance between the prince and people; that all the generals of
Philip were disposed to imitate the example of their master; and that
the caprice of armies, long since habituated to frequent and violent
revolutions, might every day raise to the throne the most obscure of
their fellow-soldiers. History can only add, that the rebellion against
the emperor Philip broke out in the summer of the year two hundred and
forty-nine, among the legions of Mæsia; and that a subaltern officer,
named Marinus, was the object of their seditious choice. Philip was
alarmed. He dreaded lest the treason of the Mæsian army should prove
the first spark of a general conflagration. Distracted with the
consciousness of his guilt and of his danger, he communicated the
intelligence to the senate. A gloomy silence prevailed, the effect of
fear, and perhaps of disaffection; till at length Decius, one of the
assembly, assuming a spirit worthy of his noble extraction, ventured to
discover more intrepidity than the emperor seemed to possess. He treated
the whole business with contempt, as a hasty and inconsiderate tumult,
and Philip's rival as a phantom of royalty, who in a very few days would
be destroyed by the same inconstancy that had created him. The speedy
completion of the prophecy inspired Philip with a just esteem for so
able a counsellor; and Decius appeared to him the only person capable
of restoring peace and discipline to an army whose tumultuous spirit did
not immediately subside after the murder of Marinus. Decius, who long
resisted his own nomination, seems to have insinuated the danger of
presenting a leader of merit to the angry and apprehensive minds of
the soldiers; and his prediction was again confirmed by the event. The
legions of Mæsia forced their judge to become their accomplice. They
left him only the alternative of death or the purple. His subsequent
conduct, after that decisive measure, was unavoidable. He conducted, or
followed, his army to the confines of Italy, whither Philip, collecting
all his force to repel the formidable competitor whom he had raised up,
advanced to meet him. The Imperial troops were superior in number;
but the rebels formed an army of veterans, commanded by an able and
experienced leader. Philip was either killed in the battle, or put to
death a few days afterwards at Verona. His son and associate in the
empire was massacred at Rome by the Prætorian guards; and the victorious
Decius, with more favorable circumstances than the ambition of that
age can usually plead, was universally acknowledged by the senate
and provinces. It is reported, that, immediately after his reluctant
acceptance of the title of Augustus, he had assured Philip, by a private
message, of his innocence and loyalty, solemnly protesting, that, on his
arrival on Italy, he would resign the Imperial ornaments, and return to
the condition of an obedient subject. His professions might be sincere;
but in the situation where fortune had placed him, it was scarcely
possible that he could either forgive or be forgiven.

The emperor Decius had employed a few months in the works of peace and
the administration of justice, when he was summoned to the banks of
the Danube by the invasion of the Goths. This is the first considerable
occasion in which history mentions that great people, who afterwards
broke the Roman power, sacked the Capitol, and reigned in Gaul, Spain,
and Italy. So memorable was the part which they acted in the subversion
of the Western empire, that the name of Goths is frequently but
improperly used as a general appellation of rude and warlike barbarism.

In the beginning of the sixth century, and after the conquest of Italy,
the Goths, in possession of present greatness, very naturally indulged
themselves in the prospect of past and of future glory. They wished to
preserve the memory of their ancestors, and to transmit to posterity
their own achievements.

The principal minister of the court of Ravenna, the learned Cassiodorus,
gratified the inclination of the conquerors in a Gothic history, which
consisted of twelve books, now reduced to the imperfect abridgment of
Jornandes. These writers passed with the most artful conciseness over
the misfortunes of the nation, celebrated its successful valor, and
adorned the triumph with many Asiatic trophies, that more properly
belonged to the people of Scythia. On the faith of ancient songs, the
uncertain, but the only memorials of barbarians, they deduced the first
origin of the Goths from the vast island, or peninsula, of Scandinavia.
* That extreme country of the North was not unknown to the conquerors of
Italy: the ties of ancient consanguinity had been strengthened by recent
offices of friendship; and a Scandinavian king had cheerfully abdicated
his savage greatness, that he might pass the remainder of his days in
the peaceful and polished court of Ravenna. Many vestiges, which cannot
be ascribed to the arts of popular vanity, attest the ancient residence
of the Goths in the countries beyond the Rhine. From the time of the
geographer Ptolemy, the southern part of Sweden seems to have continued
in the possession of the less enterprising remnant of the nation, and a
large territory is even at present divided into east and west Gothland.
During the middle ages, (from the ninth to the twelfth century,) whilst
Christianity was advancing with a slow progress into the North, the
Goths and the Swedes composed two distinct and sometimes hostile members
of the same monarchy. The latter of these two names has prevailed
without extinguishing the former. The Swedes, who might well be
satisfied with their own fame in arms, have, in every age, claimed the
kindred glory of the Goths. In a moment of discontent against the court
of Rome, Charles the Twelfth insinuated, that his victorious troops were
not degenerated from their brave ancestors, who had already subdued the
mistress of the world.

Till the end of the eleventh century, a celebrated temple subsisted
at Upsal, the most considerable town of the Swedes and Goths. It was
enriched with the gold which the Scandinavians had acquired in their
piratical adventures, and sanctified by the uncouth representations of
the three principal deities, the god of war, the goddess of generation,
and the god of thunder. In the general festival, that was solemnized
every ninth year, nine animals of every species (without excepting
the human) were sacrificed, and their bleeding bodies suspended in the
sacred grove adjacent to the temple. The only traces that now subsist
of this barbaric superstition are contained in the Edda, * a system of
mythology, compiled in Iceland about the thirteenth century, and studied
by the learned of Denmark and Sweden, as the most valuable remains of
their ancient traditions.

Notwithstanding the mysterious obscurity of the Edda, we can easily
distinguish two persons confounded under the name of Odin; the god of
war, and the great legislator of Scandinavia. The latter, the Mahomet
of the North, instituted a religion adapted to the climate and to the
people. Numerous tribes on either side of the Baltic were subdued by the
invincible valor of Odin, by his persuasive eloquence, and by the fame
which he acquired of a most skilful magician. The faith that he had
propagated, during a long and prosperous life, he confirmed by a
voluntary death. Apprehensive of the ignominious approach of disease
and infirmity, he resolved to expire as became a warrior. In a solemn
assembly of the Swedes and Goths, he wounded himself in nine mortal
places, hastening away (as he asserted with his dying voice) to prepare
the feast of heroes in the palace of the God of war.

The native and proper habitation of Odin is distinguished by the
appellation of As-gard. The happy resemblance of that name with As-burg,
or As-of, words of a similar signification, has given rise to an
historical system of so pleasing a contexture, that we could almost wish
to persuade ourselves of its truth. It is supposed that Odin was the
chief of a tribe of barbarians which dwelt on the banks of the Lake
Mæotis, till the fall of Mithridates and the arms of Pompey menaced the
North with servitude. That Odin, yielding with indignant fury to a power
which he was unable to resist, conducted his tribe from the frontiers of
the Asiatic Sarmatia into Sweden, with the great design of forming, in
that inaccessible retreat of freedom, a religion and a people, which, in
some remote age, might be subservient to his immortal revenge; when
his invincible Goths, armed with martial fanaticism, should issue in
numerous swarms from the neighborhood of the Polar circle, to chastise
the oppressors of mankind.

If so many successive generations of Goths were capable of preserving a
faint tradition of their Scandinavian origin, we must not expect,
from such unlettered barbarians, any distinct account of the time and
circumstances of their emigration. To cross the Baltic was an easy and
natural attempt. The inhabitants of Sweden were masters of a sufficient
number of large vessels, with oars, and the distance is little more than
one hundred miles from Carlscroon to the nearest ports of Pomerania and
Prussia. Here, at length, we land on firm and historic ground. At least
as early as the Christian æra, and as late as the age of the Antonines,
the Goths were established towards the mouth of the Vistula, and in
that fertile province where the commercial cities of Thorn, Elbing,
Koningsberg, and Dantzick, were long afterwards founded. Westward of the
Goths, the numerous tribes of the Vandals were spread along the banks
of the Oder, and the sea-coast of Pomerania and Mecklenburgh. A striking
resemblance of manners, complexion, religion, and language, seemed
to indicate that the Vandals and the Goths were originally one great
people. The latter appear to have been subdivided into Ostrogoths,
Visigoths, and Gepidæ. The distinction among the Vandals was more
strongly marked by the independent names of Heruli, Burgundians,
Lombards, and a variety of other petty states, many of which, in a
future age, expanded themselves into powerful monarchies.

In the age of the Antonines, the Goths were still seated in Prussia.
About the reign of Alexander Severus, the Roman province of Dacia had
already experienced their proximity by frequent and destructive inroads.
In this interval, therefore, of about seventy years, we must place
the second migration of about seventy years, we must place the second
migration of the Goths from the Baltic to the Euxine; but the cause that
produced it lies concealed among the various motives which actuate the
conduct of unsettled barbarians. Either a pestilence or a famine, a
victory or a defeat, an oracle of the gods or the eloquence of a daring
leader, were sufficient to impel the Gothic arms on the milder climates
of the south. Besides the influence of a martial religion, the numbers
and spirit of the Goths were equal to the most dangerous adventures.
The use of round bucklers and short swords rendered them formidable in
a close engagement; the manly obedience which they yielded to hereditary
kings, gave uncommon union and stability to their councils; and
the renowned Amala, the hero of that age, and the tenth ancestor of
Theodoric, king of Italy, enforced, by the ascendant of personal merit,
the prerogative of his birth, which he derived from the Anses, or demi
gods of the Gothic nation.

The fame of a great enterprise excited the bravest warriors from all the
Vandalic states of Germany, many of whom are seen a few years afterwards
combating under the common standard of the Goths. The first motions
of the emigrants carried them to the banks of the Prypec, a river
universally conceived by the ancients to be the southern branch of the
Borysthenes. The windings of that great stream through the plains
of Poland and Russia gave a direction to their line of march, and a
constant supply of fresh water and pasturage to their numerous herds
of cattle. They followed the unknown course of the river, confident in
their valor, and careless of whatever power might oppose their progress.
The Bastarnæ and the Venedi were the first who presented themselves; and
the flower of their youth, either from choice or compulsion, increased
the Gothic army. The Bastarnæ dwelt on the northern side of the
Carpathian Mountains: the immense tract of land that separated the
Bastarnæ from the savages of Finland was possessed, or rather wasted,
by the Venedi; we have some reason to believe that the first of these
nations, which distinguished itself in the Macedonian war, and was
afterwards divided into the formidable tribes of the Peucini, the
Borani, the Carpi, &c., derived its origin from the Germans. * With
better authority, a Sarmatian extraction may be assigned to the Venedi,
who rendered themselves so famous in the middle ages. But the confusion
of blood and manners on that doubtful frontier often perplexed the most
accurate observers. As the Goths advanced near the Euxine Sea, they
encountered a purer race of Sarmatians, the Jazyges, the Alani, and the
Roxolani; and they were probably the first Germans who saw the mouths
of the Borysthenes, and of the Tanais. If we inquire into the
characteristic marks of the people of Germany and of Sarmatia, we shall
discover that those two great portions of human kind were principally
distinguished by fixed huts or movable tents, by a close dress or
flowing garments, by the marriage of one or of several wives, by a
military force, consisting, for the most part, either of infantry or
cavalry; and above all, by the use of the Teutonic, or of the Sclavonian
language; the last of which has been diffused by conquest, from the
confines of Italy to the neighborhood of Japan.

Chapter X: Emperors Decius, Gallus, Æmilianus, Valerian And
Gallienus.--Part II.

The Goths were now in possession of the Ukraine, a country of
considerable extent and uncommon fertility, intersected with navigable
rivers, which, from either side, discharge themselves into the
Borysthenes; and interspersed with large and leafy forests of oaks.
The plenty of game and fish, the innumerable bee-hives deposited in the
hollow of old trees, and in the cavities of rocks, and forming, even in
that rude age, a valuable branch of commerce, the size of the cattle,
the temperature of the air, the aptness of the soil for every species of
gain, and the luxuriancy of the vegetation, all displayed the liberality
of Nature, and tempted the industry of man. But the Goths withstood all
these temptations, and still adhered to a life of idleness, of poverty,
and of rapine.

The Scythian hordes, which, towards the east, bordered on the new
settlements of the Goths, presented nothing to their arms, except the
doubtful chance of an unprofitable victory. But the prospect of the
Roman territories was far more alluring; and the fields of Dacia were
covered with rich harvests, sown by the hands of an industrious, and
exposed to be gathered by those of a warlike, people. It is probable
that the conquests of Trajan, maintained by his successors, less for
any real advantage than for ideal dignity, had contributed to weaken the
empire on that side. The new and unsettled province of Dacia was neither
strong enough to resist, nor rich enough to satiate, the rapaciousness
of the barbarians. As long as the remote banks of the Niester were
considered as the boundary of the Roman power, the fortifications of the
Lower Danube were more carelessly guarded, and the inhabitants of
Mæsia lived in supine security, fondly conceiving themselves at an
inaccessible distance from any barbarian invaders. The irruptions of
the Goths, under the reign of Philip, fatally convinced them of their
mistake. The king, or leader, of that fierce nation, traversed with
contempt the province of Dacia, and passed both the Niester and the
Danube without encountering any opposition capable of retarding his
progress. The relaxed discipline of the Roman troops betrayed the most
important posts, where they were stationed, and the fear of deserved
punishment induced great numbers of them to enlist under the Gothic
standard. The various multitude of barbarians appeared, at length,
under the walls of Marcianopolis, a city built by Trajan in honor of
his sister, and at that time the capital of the second Mæsia. The
inhabitants consented to ransom their lives and property by the payment
of a large sum of money, and the invaders retreated back into their
deserts, animated, rather than satisfied, with the first success of
their arms against an opulent but feeble country. Intelligence was soon
transmitted to the emperor Decius, that Cniva, king of the Goths, had
passed the Danube a second time, with more considerable forces; that his
numerous detachments scattered devastation over the province of Mæsia,
whilst the main body of the army, consisting of seventy thousand Germans
and Sarmatians, a force equal to the most daring achievements, required
the presence of the Roman monarch, and the exertion of his military

Decius found the Goths engaged before Nicopolis, one of the many
monuments of Trajan's victories. On his approach they raised the
siege, but with a design only of marching away to a conquest of greater
importance, the siege of Philippopolis, a city of Thrace, founded by the
father of Alexander, near the foot of Mount Hæmus. Decius followed them
through a difficult country, and by forced marches; but when he imagined
himself at a considerable distance from the rear of the Goths, Cniva
turned with rapid fury on his pursuers. The camp of the Romans was
surprised and pillaged, and, for the first time, their emperor fled
in disorder before a troop of half-armed barbarians. After a long
resistance, Philoppopolis, destitute of succor, was taken by storm. A
hundred thousand persons are reported to have been massacred in the
sack of that great city. Many prisoners of consequence became a valuable
accession to the spoil; and Priscus, a brother of the late emperor
Philip, blushed not to assume the purple, under the protection of the
barbarous enemies of Rome. The time, however, consumed in that tedious
siege, enabled Decius to revive the courage, restore the discipline,
and recruit the numbers of his troops. He intercepted several parties
of Carpi, and other Germans, who were hastening to share the victory of
their countrymen, intrusted the passes of the mountains to officers
of approved valor and fidelity, repaired and strengthened the
fortifications of the Danube, and exerted his utmost vigilance to oppose
either the progress or the retreat of the Goths. Encouraged by the
return of fortune, he anxiously waited for an opportunity to retrieve,
by a great and decisive blow, his own glory, and that of the Roman arms.

At the same time when Decius was struggling with the violence of
the tempest, his mind, calm and deliberate amidst the tumult of war,
investigated the more general causes, that, since the age of the
Antonines, had so impetuously urged the decline of the Roman greatness.
He soon discovered that it was impossible to replace that greatness on a
permanent basis, without restoring public virtue, ancient principles and
manners, and the oppressed majesty of the laws. To execute this noble
but arduous design, he first resolved to revive the obsolete office of
censor; an office which, as long as it had subsisted in its pristine
integrity, had so much contributed to the perpetuity of the state, till
it was usurped and gradually neglected by the Cæsars. Conscious that
the favor of the sovereign may confer power, but that the esteem of the
people can alone bestow authority, he submitted the choice of the censor
to the unbiased voice of the senate. By their unanimous votes, or rather
acclamations, Valerian, who was afterwards emperor, and who then served
with distinction in the army of Decius, was declared the most worthy of
that exalted honor. As soon as the decree of the senate was transmitted
to the emperor, he assembled a great council in his camp, and before the
investiture of the censor elect, he apprised him of the difficulty and
importance of his great office. "Happy Valerian," said the prince to his
distinguished subject, "happy in the general approbation of the senate
and of the Roman republic! Accept the censorship of mankind; and judge
of our manners. You will select those who deserve to continue members
of the senate; you will restore the equestrian order to its ancient
splendor; you will improve the revenue, yet moderate the public burdens.
You will distinguish into regular classes the various and infinite
multitude of citizens, and accurately view the military strength, the
wealth, the virtue, and the resources of Rome. Your decisions shall
obtain the force of laws. The army, the palace, the ministers of
justice, and the great officers of the empire, are all subject to your
tribunal. None are exempted, excepting only the ordinary consuls, the
præfect of the city, the king of the sacrifices, and (as long as she
preserves her chastity inviolate) the eldest of the vestal virgins. Even
these few, who may not dread the severity, will anxiously solicit the
esteem, of the Roman censor."

A magistrate, invested with such extensive powers, would have appeared
not so much the minister, as the colleague of his sovereign. Valerian
justly dreaded an elevation so full of envy and of suspicion.
He modestly argued the alarming greatness of the trust, his own
insufficiency, and the incurable corruption of the times. He artfully
insinuated, that the office of censor was inseparable from the Imperial
dignity, and that the feeble hands of a subject were unequal to the
support of such an immense weight of cares and of power. The approaching
event of war soon put an end to the prosecution of a project so
specious, but so impracticable; and whilst it preserved Valerian from
the danger, saved the emperor Decius from the disappointment, which
would most probably have attended it. A censor may maintain, he can
never restore, the morals of a state. It is impossible for such a
magistrate to exert his authority with benefit, or even with effect,
unless he is supported by a quick sense of honor and virtue in the minds
of the people, by a decent reverence for the public opinion, and by a
train of useful prejudices combating on the side of national manners.
In a period when these principles are annihilated, the censorial
jurisdiction must either sink into empty pageantry, or be converted into
a partial instrument of vexatious oppression. It was easier to vanquish
the Goths than to eradicate the public vices; yet even in the first of
these enterprises, Decius lost his army and his life.

The Goths were now, on every side, surrounded and pursued by the Roman
arms. The flower of their troops had perished in the long siege
of Philippopolis, and the exhausted country could no longer afford
subsistence for the remaining multitude of licentious barbarians.
Reduced to this extremity, the Goths would gladly have purchased, by
the surrender of all their booty and prisoners, the permission of
an undisturbed retreat. But the emperor, confident of victory, and
resolving, by the chastisement of these invaders, to strike a salutary
terror into the nations of the North, refused to listen to any terms of
accommodation. The high-spirited barbarians preferred death to slavery.
An obscure town of Mæsia, called Forum Terebronii, was the scene of the
battle. The Gothic army was drawn up in three lines, and either from
choice or accident, the front of the third line was covered by a morass.
In the beginning of the action, the son of Decius, a youth of the
fairest hopes, and already associated to the honors of the purple, was
slain by an arrow, in the sight of his afflicted father; who, summoning
all his fortitude, admonished the dismayed troops, that the loss of a
single soldier was of little importance to the republic. The conflict
was terrible; it was the combat of despair against grief and rage. The
first line of the Goths at length gave way in disorder; the second,
advancing to sustain it, shared its fate; and the third only remained
entire, prepared to dispute the passage of the morass, which was
imprudently attempted by the presumption of the enemy. "Here the fortune
of the day turned, and all things became adverse to the Romans; the
place deep with ooze, sinking under those who stood, slippery to such as
advanced; their armor heavy, the waters deep; nor could they wield, in
that uneasy situation, their weighty javelins. The barbarians, on the
contrary, were inured to encounter in the bogs, their persons tall,
their spears long, such as could wound at a distance." In this morass
the Roman army, after an ineffectual struggle, was irrecoverably lost;
nor could the body of the emperor ever be found. Such was the fate of
Decius, in the fiftieth year of his age; an accomplished prince, active
in war and affable in peace; who, together with his son, has deserved
to be compared, both in life and death, with the brightest examples of
ancient virtue.

This fatal blow humbled, for a very little time, she insolence of the
legions. They appeared to have patiently expected, and submissively
obeyed, the decree of the senate which regulated the succession to the
throne. From a just regard for the memory of Decius, the Imperial title
was conferred on Hostilianus, his only surviving son; but an equal rank,
with more effectual power, was granted to Gallus, whose experience and
ability seemed equal to the great trust of guardian to the young prince
and the distressed empire. The first care of the new emperor was to
deliver the Illyrian provinces from the intolerable weight of the
victorious Goths. He consented to leave in their hands the rich
fruits of their invasion, an immense booty, and what was still more
disgraceful, a great number of prisoners of the highest merit and
quality. He plentifully supplied their camp with every conveniency that
could assuage their angry spirits or facilitate their so much wished-for
departure; and he even promised to pay them annually a large sum
of gold, on condition they should never afterwards infest the Roman
territories by their incursions.

In the age of the Scipios, the most opulent kings of the earth, who
courted the protection of the victorious commonwealth, were gratified
with such trifling presents as could only derive a value from the hand
that bestowed them; an ivory chair, a coarse garment of purple, an
inconsiderable piece of plate, or a quantity of copper coin. After the
wealth of nations had centred in Rome, the emperors displayed their
greatness, and even their policy, by the regular exercise of a steady
and moderate liberality towards the allies of the state. They relieved
the poverty of the barbarians, honored their merit, and recompensed
their fidelity. These voluntary marks of bounty were understood to flow,
not from the fears, but merely from the generosity or the gratitude of
the Romans; and whilst presents and subsidies were liberally distributed
among friends and suppliants, they were sternly refused to such as
claimed them as a debt. But this stipulation, of an annual payment to
a victorious enemy, appeared without disguise in the light of an
ignominious tribute; the minds of the Romans were not yet accustomed to
accept such unequal laws from a tribe of barbarians; and the prince,
who by a necessary concession had probably saved his country, became the
object of the general contempt and aversion. The death of Hostiliamus,
though it happened in the midst of a raging pestilence, was interpreted
as the personal crime of Gallus; and even the defeat of the later
emperor was ascribed by the voice of suspicion to the perfidious
counsels of his hated successor. The tranquillity which the empire
enjoyed during the first year of his administration, served rather
to inflame than to appease the public discontent; and as soon as the
apprehensions of war were removed, the infamy of the peace was more
deeply and more sensibly felt.

But the Romans were irritated to a still higher degree, when they
discovered that they had not even secured their repose, though at the
expense of their honor. The dangerous secret of the wealth and weakness
of the empire had been revealed to the world. New swarms of barbarians,
encouraged by the success, and not conceiving themselves bound by the
obligation of their brethren, spread devastation though the Illyrian
provinces, and terror as far as the gates of Rome. The defence of the
monarchy, which seemed abandoned by the pusillanimous emperor, was
assumed by Æmilianus, governor of Pannonia and Mæsia; who rallied the
scattered forces, and revived the fainting spirits of the troops. The
barbarians were unexpectedly attacked, routed, chased, and pursued
beyond the Danube. The victorious leader distributed as a donative the
money collected for the tribute, and the acclamations of the soldiers
proclaimed him emperor on the field of battle. Gallus, who, careless
of the general welfare, indulged himself in the pleasures of Italy, was
almost in the same instant informed of the success, of the revolt, and
of the rapid approach of his aspiring lieutenant. He advanced to meet
him as far as the plains of Spoleto. When the armies came in right of
each other, the soldiers of Gallus compared the ignominious conduct of
their sovereign with the glory of his rival. They admired the valor
of Æmilianus; they were attracted by his liberality, for he offered a
considerable increase of pay to all deserters. The murder of Gallus, and
of his son Volusianus, put an end to the civil war; and the senate gave
a legal sanction to the rights of conquest. The letters of Æmilianus to
that assembly displayed a mixture of moderation and vanity. He assured
them, that he should resign to their wisdom the civil administration;
and, contenting himself with the quality of their general, would in a
short time assert the glory of Rome, and deliver the empire from all the
barbarians both of the North and of the East. His pride was flattered
by the applause of the senate; and medals are still extant, representing
him with the name and attributes of Hercules the Victor, and Mars the

If the new monarch possessed the abilities, he wanted the time,
necessary to fulfil these splendid promises. Less than four months
intervened between his victory and his fall. He had vanquished Gallus:
he sunk under the weight of a competitor more formidable than Gallus.
That unfortunate prince had sent Valerian, already distinguished by the
honorable title of censor, to bring the legions of Gaul and Germany to
his aid. Valerian executed that commission with zeal and fidelity; and
as he arrived too late to save his sovereign, he resolved to revenge
him. The troops of Æmilianus, who still lay encamped in the plains of
Spoleto, were awed by the sanctity of his character, but much more
by the superior strength of his army; and as they were now become
as incapable of personal attachment as they had always been of
constitutional principle, they readily imbrued their hands in the blood
of a prince who so lately had been the object of their partial choice.
The guilt was theirs, * but the advantage of it was Valerian's; who
obtained the possession of the throne by the means indeed of a civil
war, but with a degree of innocence singular in that age of revolutions;
since he owed neither gratitude nor allegiance to his predecessor, whom
he dethroned.

Valerian was about sixty years of age when he was invested with the
purple, not by the caprice of the populace, or the clamors of the army,
but by the unanimous voice of the Roman world. In his gradual ascent
through the honors of the state, he had deserved the favor of virtuous
princes, and had declared himself the enemy of tyrants. His noble
birth, his mild but unblemished manners, his learning, prudence, and
experience, were revered by the senate and people; and if mankind
(according to the observation of an ancient writer) had been left at
liberty to choose a master, their choice would most assuredly have
fallen on Valerian. Perhaps the merit of this emperor was inadequate
to his reputation; perhaps his abilities, or at least his spirit, were
affected by the languor and coldness of old age. The consciousness of
his decline engaged him to share the throne with a younger and more
active associate; the emergency of the times demanded a general no
less than a prince; and the experience of the Roman censor might have
directed him where to bestow the Imperial purple, as the reward of
military merit. But instead of making a judicious choice, which would
have confirmed his reign and endeared his memory, Valerian, consulting
only the dictates of affection or vanity, immediately invested with the
supreme honors his son Gallienus, a youth whose effeminate vices had
been hitherto concealed by the obscurity of a private station. The joint
government of the father and the son subsisted about seven, and the sole
administration of Gallien continued about eight, years. But the whole
period was one uninterrupted series of confusion and calamity. As the
Roman empire was at the same time, and on every side, attacked by
the blind fury of foreign invaders, and the wild ambition of domestic
usurpers, we shall consult order and perspicuity, by pursuing, not so
much the doubtful arrangement of dates, as the more natural distribution
of subjects. The most dangerous enemies of Rome, during the reigns of
Valerian and Gallienus, were, 1. The Franks; 2. The Alemanni; 3. The
Goths; and, 4. The Persians. Under these general appellations, we may
comprehend the adventures of less considerable tribes, whose obscure
and uncouth names would only serve to oppress the memory and perplex the
attention of the reader.

I. As the posterity of the Franks compose one of the greatest and most
enlightened nations of Europe, the powers of learning and ingenuity have
been exhausted in the discovery of their unlettered ancestors. To the
tales of credulity have succeeded the systems of fancy. Every passage
has been sifted, every spot has been surveyed, that might possibly
reveal some faint traces of their origin. It has been supposed that
Pannonia, that Gaul, that the northern parts of Germany, gave birth to
that celebrated colony of warriors. At length the most rational
critics, rejecting the fictitious emigrations of ideal conquerors, have
acquiesced in a sentiment whose simplicity persuades us of its
truth. They suppose, that about the year two hundred and forty, a new
confederacy was formed under the name of Franks, by the old inhabitants
of the Lower Rhine and the Weser. * The present circle of Westphalia,
the Landgraviate of Hesse, and the duchies of Brunswick and Luneburg,
were the ancient of the Chauci who, in their inaccessible morasses,
defied the Roman arms; of the Cherusci, proud of the fame of Arminius;
of the Catti, formidable by their firm and intrepid infantry; and of
several other tribes of inferior power and renown. The love of liberty
was the ruling passion of these Germans; the enjoyment of it their best
treasure; the word that expressed that enjoyment, the most pleasing to
their ear. They deserved, they assumed, they maintained the honorable
appellation of Franks, or Freemen; which concealed, though it did not
extinguish, the peculiar names of the several states of the confederacy.
Tacit consent, and mutual advantage, dictated the first laws of the
union; it was gradually cemented by habit and experience. The league of
the Franks may admit of some comparison with the Helvetic body; in which
every canton, retaining its independent sovereignty, consults with its
brethren in the common cause, without acknowledging the authority of any
supreme head, or representative assembly. But the principle of the two
confederacies was extremely different. A peace of two hundred years has
rewarded the wise and honest policy of the Swiss. An inconstant spirit,
the thirst of rapine, and a disregard to the most solemn treaties,
disgraced the character of the Franks.

Chapter X: Emperors Decius, Gallus, Æmilianus, Valerian And
Gallienus.--Part III.

The Romans had long experienced the daring valor of the people of
Lower Germany. The union of their strength threatened Gaul with a more
formidable invasion, and required the presence of Gallienus, the heir
and colleague of Imperial power. Whilst that prince, and his infant son
Salonius, displayed, in the court of Treves, the majesty of the empire
its armies were ably conducted by their general, Posthumus, who, though
he afterwards betrayed the family of Valerian, was ever faithful to the
great interests of the monarchy. The treacherous language of panegyrics
and medals darkly announces a long series of victories. Trophies and
titles attest (if such evidence can attest) the fame of Posthumus, who
is repeatedly styled the Conqueror of the Germans, and the Savior of

But a single fact, the only one indeed of which we have any distinct
knowledge, erases, in a great measure, these monuments of vanity and
adulation. The Rhine, though dignified with the title of Safeguard of
the provinces, was an imperfect barrier against the daring spirit of
enterprise with which the Franks were actuated. Their rapid devastations
stretched from the river to the foot of the Pyrenees; nor were they
stopped by those mountains. Spain, which had never dreaded, was unable
to resist, the inroads of the Germans. During twelve years, the greatest
part of the reign of Gallie nus, that opulent country was the theatre of
unequal and destructive hostilities. Tarragona, the flourishing capital
of a peaceful province, was sacked and almost destroyed; and so late as
the days of Orosius, who wrote in the fifth century, wretched cottages,
scattered amidst the ruins of magnificent cities, still recorded the
rage of the barbarians. When the exhausted country no longer supplied
a variety of plunder, the Franks seized on some vessels in the ports of
Spain, and transported themselves into Mauritania. The distant province
was astonished with the fury of these barbarians, who seemed to fall
from a new world, as their name, manners, and complexion, were equally
unknown on the coast of Africa.

II. In that part of Upper Saxony, beyond the Elbe, which is at present
called the Marquisate of Lusace, there existed, in ancient times, a
sacred wood, the awful seat of the superstition of the Suevi. None were
permitted to enter the holy precincts, without confessing, by their
servile bonds and suppliant posture, the immediate presence of the
sovereign Deity. Patriotism contributed, as well as devotion, to
consecrate the Sonnenwald, or wood of the Semnones. It was universally
believed, that the nation had received its first existence on that
sacred spot. At stated periods, the numerous tribes who gloried in the
Suevic blood, resorted thither by their ambassadors; and the memory
of their common extraction was perpetrated by barbaric rites and
human sacrifices. The wide-extended name of Suevi filled the interior
countries of Germany, from the banks of the Oder to those of the Danube.
They were distinguished from the other Germans by their peculiar mode
of dressing their long hair, which they gathered into a rude knot on the
crown of the head; and they delighted in an ornament that showed their
ranks more lofty and terrible in the eyes of the enemy. Jealous as the
Germans were of military renown, they all confessed the superior valor
of the Suevi; and the tribes of the Usipetes and Tencteri, who, with a
vast army, encountered the dictator Cæsar, declared that they esteemed
it not a disgrace to have fled before a people to whose arms the
immortal gods themselves were unequal.

In the reign of the emperor Caracalla, an innumerable swarm of Suevi
appeared on the banks of the Mein, and in the neighborhood of the Roman
provinces, in quest either of food, of plunder, or of glory. The hasty
army of volunteers gradually coalesced into a great and permanent
nation, and as it was composed from so many different tribes, assumed
the name of Alemanni, * or Allmen; to denote at once their various
lineage and their common bravery. The latter was soon felt by the Romans
in many a hostile inroad. The Alemanni fought chiefly on horseback; but
their cavalry was rendered still more formidable by a mixture of light
infantry, selected from the bravest and most active of the youth, whom
frequent exercise had inured to accompany the horsemen in the longest
march, the most rapid charge, or the most precipitate retreat.

This warlike people of Germans had been astonished by the immense
preparations of Alexander Severus; they were dismayed by the arms of his
successor, a barbarian equal in valor and fierceness to themselves.
But still hovering on the frontiers of the empire, they increased the
general disorder that ensued after the death of Decius. They inflicted
severe wounds on the rich provinces of Gaul; they were the first who
removed the veil that covered the feeble majesty of Italy. A numerous
body of the Alemanni penetrated across the Danube and through the
Rhætian Alps into the plains of Lombardy, advanced as far as Ravenna,
and displayed the victorious banners of barbarians almost in sight of

The insult and the danger rekindled in the senate some sparks of their
ancient virtue. Both the emperors were engaged in far distant wars,
Valerian in the East, and Gallienus on the Rhine. All the hopes and
resources of the Romans were in themselves. In this emergency, the
senators resumed he defence of the republic, drew out the Prætorian
guards, who had been left to garrison the capital, and filled up their
numbers, by enlisting into the public service the stoutest and most
willing of the Plebeians. The Alemanni, astonished with the sudden
appearance of an army more numerous than their own, retired into
Germany, laden with spoil; and their retreat was esteemed as a victory
by the unwarlike Romans.

When Gallienus received the intelligence that his capital was delivered
from the barbarians, he was much less delighted than alarmed with the
courage of the senate, since it might one day prompt them to rescue the
public from domestic tyranny as well as from foreign invasion. His timid
ingratitude was published to his subjects, in an edict which prohibited
the senators from exercising any military employment, and even from
approaching the camps of the legions. But his fears were groundless.
The rich and luxurious nobles, sinking into their natural character,
accepted, as a favor, this disgraceful exemption from military service;
and as long as they were indulged in the enjoyment of their baths, their
theatres, and their villas, they cheerfully resigned the more dangerous
cares of empire to the rough hands of peasants and soldiers.

Another invasion of the Alemanni, of a more formidable aspect, but more
glorious event, is mentioned by a writer of the lower empire. Three
hundred thousand are said to have been vanquished, in a battle near
Milan, by Gallienus in person, at the head of only ten thousand Romans.
We may, however, with great probability, ascribe this incredible
victory either to the credulity of the historian, or to some exaggerated
exploits of one of the emperor's lieutenants. It was by arms of a very
different nature, that Gallienus endeavored to protect Italy from the
fury of the Germans. He espoused Pipa, the daughter of a king of the
Marcomanni, a Suevic tribe, which was often confounded with the
Alemanni in their wars and conquests. To the father, as the price of his
alliance, he granted an ample settlement in Pannonia. The native charms
of unpolished beauty seem to have fixed the daughter in the affections
of the inconstant emperor, and the bands of policy were more firmly
connected by those of love. But the haughty prejudice of Rome still
refused the name of marriage to the profane mixture of a citizen and a
barbarian; and has stigmatized the German princess with the opprobrious
title of concubine of Gallienus.

III. We have already traced the emigration of the Goths from
Scandinavia, or at least from Prussia, to the mouth of the Borysthenes,
and have followed their victorious arms from the Borysthenes to the
Danube. Under the reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, the frontier of the
last-mentioned river was perpetually infested by the inroads of Germans
and Sarmatians; but it was defended by the Romans with more than usual
firmness and success. The provinces that were the seat of war, recruited
the armies of Rome with an inexhaustible supply of hardy soldiers;
and more than one of these Illyrian peasants attained the station, and
displayed the abilities, of a general. Though flying parties of
the barbarians, who incessantly hovered on the banks of the Danube,
penetrated sometimes to the confines of Italy and Macedonia, their
progress was commonly checked, or their return intercepted, by the
Imperial lieutenants. But the great stream of the Gothic hostilities
was diverted into a very different channel. The Goths, in their new
settlement of the Ukraine, soon became masters of the northern coast of
the Euxine: to the south of that inland sea were situated the soft and
wealthy provinces of Asia Minor, which possessed all that could attract,
and nothing that could resist, a barbarian conqueror.

The banks of the Borysthenes are only sixty miles distant from the
narrow entrance of the peninsula of Crim Tartary, known to the ancients
under the name of Chersonesus Taurica. On that inhospitable shore,
Euripides, embellishing with exquisite art the tales of antiquity, has
placed the scene of one of his most affecting tragedies. The bloody
sacrifices of Diana, the arrival of Orestes and Pylades, and the triumph
of virtue and religion over savage fierceness, serve to represent
an historical truth, that the Tauri, the original inhabitants of the
peninsula, were, in some degree, reclaimed from their brutal manners by
a gradual intercourse with the Grecian colonies, which settled along
the maritime coast. The little kingdom of Bosphorus, whose capital was
situated on the Straits, through which the Mæotis communicates itself
to the Euxine, was composed of degenerate Greeks and half-civilized
barbarians. It subsisted, as an independent state, from the time of
the Peloponnesian war, was at last swallowed up by the ambition of
Mithridates, and, with the rest of his dominions, sunk under the weight
of the Roman arms. From the reign of Augustus, the kings of Bosphorus
were the humble, but not useless, allies of the empire. By presents,
by arms, and by a slight fortification drawn across the Isthmus, they
effectually guarded against the roving plunderers of Sarmatia, the
access of a country, which, from its peculiar situation and convenient
harbors, commanded the Euxine Sea and Asia Minor. As long as the sceptre
was possessed by a lineal succession of kings, they acquitted themselves
of their important charge with vigilance and success. Domestic factions,
and the fears, or private interest, of obscure usurpers, who seized on
the vacant throne, admitted the Goths into the heart of Bosphorus. With
the acquisition of a superfluous waste of fertile soil, the conquerors
obtained the command of a naval force, sufficient to transport their
armies to the coast of Asia. This ships used in the navigation of
the Euxine were of a very singular construction. They were slight
flat-bottomed barks framed of timber only, without the least mixture of
iron, and occasionally covered with a shelving roof, on the appearance
of a tempest. In these floating houses, the Goths carelessly trusted
themselves to the mercy of an unknown sea, under the conduct of sailors
pressed into the service, and whose skill and fidelity were equally
suspicious. But the hopes of plunder had banished every idea of danger,
and a natural fearlessness of temper supplied in their minds the
more rational confidence, which is the just result of knowledge and
experience. Warriors of such a daring spirit must have often murmured
against the cowardice of their guides, who required the strongest
assurances of a settled calm before they would venture to embark; and
would scarcely ever be tempted to lose sight of the land. Such, at
least, is the practice of the modern Turks; and they are probably
not inferior, in the art of navigation, to the ancient inhabitants of

The fleet of the Goths, leaving the coast of Circassia on the left hand,
first appeared before Pityus, the utmost limits of the Roman provinces;
a city provided with a convenient port, and fortified with a strong
wall. Here they met with a resistance more obstinate than they had
reason to expect from the feeble garrison of a distant fortress. They
were repulsed; and their disappointment seemed to diminish the terror
of the Gothic name. As long as Successianus, an officer of superior rank
and merit, defended that frontier, all their efforts were ineffectual;
but as soon as he was removed by Valerian to a more honorable but
less important station, they resumed the attack of Pityus; and by
the destruction of that city, obliterated the memory of their former

Circling round the eastern extremity of the Euxine Sea, the navigation
from Pityus to Trebizond is about three hundred miles. The course of the
Goths carried them in sight of the country of Colchis, so famous by the
expedition of the Argonauts; and they even attempted, though without
success, to pillage a rich temple at the mouth of the River Phasis.
Trebizond, celebrated in the retreat of the ten thousand as an ancient
colony of Greeks, derived its wealth and splendor from the magnificence
of the emperor Hadrian, who had constructed an artificial port on a
coast left destitute by nature of secure harbors. The city was large
and populous; a double enclosure of walls seemed to defy the fury of the
Goths, and the usual garrison had been strengthened by a reenforcement
of ten thousand men. But there are not any advantages capable of
supplying the absence of discipline and vigilance. The numerous garrison
of Trebizond, dissolved in riot and luxury, disdained to guard their
impregnable fortifications. The Goths soon discovered the supine
negligence of the besieged, erected a lofty pile of fascines, ascended
the walls in the silence of the night, and entered the defenceless
city sword in hand. A general massacre of the people ensued, whilst the
affrighted soldiers escaped through the opposite gates of the town. The
most holy temples, and the most splendid edifices, were involved in a
common destruction. The booty that fell into the hands of the Goths
was immense: the wealth of the adjacent countries had been deposited in
Trebizond, as in a secure place of refuge. The number of captives was
incredible, as the victorious barbarians ranged without opposition
through the extensive province of Pontus. The rich spoils of Trebizond
filled a great fleet of ships that had been found in the port. The
robust youth of the sea-coast were chained to the oar; and the Goths,
satisfied with the success of their first naval expedition, returned in
triumph to their new establishment in the kingdom of Bosphorus.

The second expedition of the Goths was undertaken with greater powers of
men and ships; but they steered a different course, and, disdaining the
exhausted provinces of Pontus, followed the western coast of the Euxine,
passed before the wide mouths of the Borysthenes, the Niester, and the
Danube, and increasing their fleet by the capture of a great number
of fishing barks, they approached the narrow outlet through which the
Euxine Sea pours its waters into the Mediterranean, and divides the
continents of Europe and Asia. The garrison of Chalcedon was encamped
near the temple of Jupiter Urius, on a promontory that commanded the
entrance of the Strait; and so inconsiderable were the dreaded invasions
of the barbarians that this body of troops surpassed in number the
Gothic army. But it was in numbers alone that they surpassed it. They
deserted with precipitation their advantageous post, and abandoned the
town of Chalcedon, most plentifully stored with arms and money, to the
discretion of the conquerors. Whilst they hesitated whether they
should prefer the sea or land Europe or Asia, for the scene of their
hostilities, a perfidious fugitive pointed out Nicomedia, * once the
capital of the kings of Bithynia, as a rich and easy conquest. He
guided the march which was only sixty miles from the camp of Chalcedon,
directed the resistless attack, and partook of the booty; for the Goths
had learned sufficient policy to reward the traitor whom they detested.
Nice, Prusa, Apamæa, Cius, cities that had sometimes rivalled, or
imitated, the splendor of Nicomedia, were involved in the same calamity,
which, in a few weeks, raged without control through the whole
province of Bithynia. Three hundred years of peace, enjoyed by the soft
inhabitants of Asia, had abolished the exercise of arms, and removed the
apprehension of danger. The ancient walls were suffered to moulder away,
and all the revenue of the most opulent cities was reserved for the
construction of baths, temples, and theatres.

When the city of Cyzicus withstood the utmost effort of Mithridates, it
was distinguished by wise laws, a naval power of two hundred galleys,
and three arsenals, of arms, of military engines, and of corn. It
was still the seat of wealth and luxury; but of its ancient strength,
nothing remained except the situation, in a little island of the
Propontis, connected with the continent of Asia only by two bridges.
From the recent sack of Prusa, the Goths advanced within eighteen miles.
of the city, which they had devoted to destruction; but the ruin of
Cyzicus was delayed by a fortunate accident. The season was rainy,
and the Lake Apolloniates, the reservoir of all the springs of Mount
Olympus, rose to an uncommon height. The little river of Rhyndacus,
which issues from the lake, swelled into a broad and rapid stream, and
stopped the progress of the Goths. Their retreat to the maritime city of
Heraclea, where the fleet had probably been stationed, was attended by a
long train of wagons, laden with the spoils of Bithynia, and was marked
by the flames of Nice and Nicomedia, which they wantonly burnt. Some
obscure hints are mentioned of a doubtful combat that secured their
retreat. But even a complete victory would have been of little moment,
as the approach of the autumnal equinox summoned them to hasten their
return. To navigate the Euxine before the month of May, or after that
of September, is esteemed by the modern Turks the most unquestionable
instance of rashness and folly.

When we are informed that the third fleet, equipped by the Goths in the
ports of Bosphorus, consisted of five hundred sails of ships, our ready
imagination instantly computes and multiplies the formidable armament;
but, as we are assured by the judicious Strabo, that the piratical
vessels used by the barbarians of Pontus and the Lesser Scythia, were
not capable of containing more than twenty-five or thirty men we may
safely affirm, that fifteen thousand warriors, at the most, embarked
in this great expedition. Impatient of the limits of the Euxine, they
steered their destructive course from the Cimmerian to the Thracian
Bosphorus. When they had almost gained the middle of the Straits, they
were suddenly driven back to the entrance of them; till a favorable
wind, springing up the next day, carried them in a few hours into the
placid sea, or rather lake, of the Propontis. Their landing on the
little island of Cyzicus was attended with the ruin of that ancient and
noble city. From thence issuing again through the narrow passage of the
Hellespont, they pursued their winding navigation amidst the numerous
islands scattered over the Archipelago, or the Ægean Sea. The assistance
of captives and deserters must have been very necessary to pilot their
vessels, and to direct their various incursions, as well on the coast
of Greece as on that of Asia. At length the Gothic fleet anchored in the
port of Piræus, five miles distant from Athens, which had attempted to
make some preparations for a vigorous defence. Cleodamus, one of the
engineers employed by the emperor's orders to fortify the maritime
cities against the Goths, had already begun to repair the ancient walls,
fallen to decay since the time of Scylla. The efforts of his skill were
ineffectual, and the barbarians became masters of the native seat of the
muses and the arts. But while the conquerors abandoned themselves to
the license of plunder and intemperance, their fleet, that lay with a
slender guard in the harbor of Piræus, was unexpectedly attacked by the
brave Daxippus, who, flying with the engineer Cleodamus from the sack
of Athens, collected a hasty band of volunteers, peasants as well as
soldiers, and in some measure avenged the calamities of his country.

But this exploit, whatever lustre it might shed on the declining age of
Athens, served rather to irritate than to subdue the undaunted spirit
of the northern invaders. A general conflagration blazed out at the same
time in every district of Greece. Thebes and Argos, Corinth and Sparta,
which had formerly waged such memorable wars against each other, were
now unable to bring an army into the field, or even to defend their
ruined fortifications. The rage of war, both by land and by sea, spread
from the eastern point of Sunium to the western coast of Epirus. The
Goths had already advanced within sight of Italy, when the approach of
such imminent danger awakened the indolent Gallienus from his dream of
pleasure. The emperor appeared in arms; and his presence seems to have
checked the ardor, and to have divided the strength, of the enemy.
Naulobatus, a chief of the Heruli, accepted an honorable capitulation,
entered with a large body of his countrymen into the service of Rome,
and was invested with the ornaments of the consular dignity, which had
never before been profaned by the hands of a barbarian. Great numbers of
the Goths, disgusted with the perils and hardships of a tedious voyage,
broke into Mæsia, with a design of forcing their way over the Danube
to their settlements in the Ukraine. The wild attempt would have proved
inevitable destruction, if the discord of the Roman generals had not
opened to the barbarians the means of an escape. The small remainder of
this destroying host returned on board their vessels; and measuring back
their way through the Hellespont and the Bosphorus, ravaged in their
passage the shores of Troy, whose fame, immortalized by Homer, will
probably survive the memory of the Gothic conquests. As soon as they
found themselves in safety within the basin of the Euxine, they landed
at Anchialus in Thrace, near the foot of Mount Hæmus; and, after all
their toils, indulged themselves in the use of those pleasant and
salutary hot baths. What remained of the voyage was a short and easy
navigation. Such was the various fate of this third and greatest of
their naval enterprises. It may seem difficult to conceive how the
original body of fifteen thousand warriors could sustain the losses and
divisions of so bold an adventure. But as their numbers were gradually
wasted by the sword, by shipwrecks, and by the influence of a warm
climate, they were perpetually renewed by troops of banditti and
deserters, who flocked to the standard of plunder, and by a crowd of
fugitive slaves, often of German or Sarmatian extraction, who eagerly
seized the glorious opportunity of freedom and revenge. In these
expeditions, the Gothic nation claimed a superior share of honor
and danger; but the tribes that fought under the Gothic banners are
sometimes distinguished and sometimes confounded in the imperfect
histories of that age; and as the barbarian fleets seemed to issue from
the mouth of the Tanais, the vague but familiar appellation of Scythians
was frequently bestowed on the mixed multitude.

Chapter X: Emperors Decius, Gallus, Æmilianus, Valerian And
Gallienus.--Part IV.

In the general calamities of mankind, the death of an individual,
however exalted, the ruin of an edifice, however famous, are passed over
with careless inattention. Yet we cannot forget that the temple of
Diana at Ephesus, after having risen with increasing splendor from seven
repeated misfortunes, was finally burnt by the Goths in their third
naval invasion. The arts of Greece, and the wealth of Asia, had
conspired to erect that sacred and magnificent structure. It was
supported by a hundred and twenty-seven marble columns of the Ionic
order. They were the gifts of devout monarchs, and each was sixty feet
high. The altar was adorned with the masterly sculptures of Praxiteles,
who had, perhaps, selected from the favorite legends of the place the
birth of the divine children of Latona, the concealment of Apollo
after the slaughter of the Cyclops, and the clemency of Bacchus to the
vanquished Amazons. Yet the length of the temple of Ephesus was only
four hundred and twenty-five feet, about two thirds of the measure of
the church of St. Peter's at Rome. In the other dimensions, it was still
more inferior to that sublime production of modern architecture. The
spreading arms of a Christian cross require a much greater breadth than
the oblong temples of the Pagans; and the boldest artists of antiquity
would have been startled at the proposal of raising in the air a dome
of the size and proportions of the Pantheon. The temple of Diana was,
however, admired as one of the wonders of the world. Successive empires,
the Persian, the Macedonian, and the Roman, had revered its sanctity and
enriched its splendor. But the rude savages of the Baltic were destitute
of a taste for the elegant arts, and they despised the ideal terrors of
a foreign superstition.

Another circumstance is related of these invasions, which might deserve
our notice, were it not justly to be suspected as the fanciful conceit
of a recent sophist. We are told, that in the sack of Athens the Goths
had collected all the libraries, and were on the point of setting fire
to this funeral pile of Grecian learning, had not one of their chiefs,
of more refined policy than his brethren, dissuaded them from the
design; by the profound observation, that as long as the Greeks were
addicted to the study of books, they would never apply themselves to the
exercise of arms. The sagacious counsellor (should the truth of the fact
be admitted) reasoned like an ignorant barbarian. In the most polite and
powerful nations, genius of every kind has displayed itself about
the same period; and the age of science has generally been the age of
military virtue and success.

IV. The new sovereign of Persia, Artaxerxes and his son Sapor, had
triumphed (as we have already seen) over the house of Arsaces. Of the
many princes of that ancient race. Chosroes, king of Armenia, had alone
preserved both his life and his independence. He defended himself by the
natural strength of his country; by the perpetual resort of fugitives
and malecontents; by the alliance of the Romans, and above all, by his
own courage. Invincible in arms, during a thirty years' war, he was
at length assassinated by the emissaries of Sapor, king of Persia. The
patriotic satraps of Armenia, who asserted the freedom and dignity of
the crown, implored the protection of Rome in favor of Tiridates, the
lawful heir. But the son of Chosroes was an infant, the allies were at
a distance, and the Persian monarch advanced towards the frontier at the
head of an irresistible force. Young Tiridates, the future hope of his
country, was saved by the fidelity of a servant, and Armenia continued
above twenty-seven years a reluctant province of the great monarchy of
Persia. Elated with this easy conquest, and presuming on the distresses
or the degeneracy of the Romans, Sapor obliged the strong garrisons of
Carrhæ and Nisibis * to surrender, and spread devastation and terror on
either side of the Euphrates.

The loss of an important frontier, the ruin of a faithful and natural
ally, and the rapid success of Sapor's ambition, affected Rome with a
deep sense of the insult as well as of the danger. Valerian flattered
himself, that the vigilance of his lieutenants would sufficiently
provide for the safety of the Rhine and of the Danube; but he resolved,
notwithstanding his advanced age, to march in person to the defence
of the Euphrates. During his progress through Asia Minor, the naval
enterprises of the Goths were suspended, and the afflicted province
enjoyed a transient and fallacious calm. He passed the Euphrates,
encountered the Persian monarch near the walls of Edessa, was
vanquished, and taken prisoner by Sapor. The particulars of this great
event are darkly and imperfectly represented; yet, by the glimmering
light which is afforded us, we may discover a long series of imprudence,
of error, and of deserved misfortunes on the side of the Roman emperor.
He reposed an implicit confidence in Macrianus, his Prætorian præfect.
That worthless minister rendered his master formidable only to the
oppressed subjects, and contemptible to the enemies of Rome. By his
weak or wicked counsels, the Imperial army was betrayed into a situation
where valor and military skill were equally unavailing. The vigorous
attempt of the Romans to cut their way through the Persian host was
repulsed with great slaughter; and Sapor, who encompassed the camp with
superior numbers, patiently waited till the increasing rage of famine
and pestilence had insured his victory. The licentious murmurs of the
legions soon accused Valerian as the cause of their calamities; their
seditious clamors demanded an instant capitulation. An immense sum of
gold was offered to purchase the permission of a disgraceful retreat.
But the Persian, conscious of his superiority, refused the money with
disdain; and detaining the deputies, advanced in order of battle to the
foot of the Roman rampart, and insisted on a personal conference with
the emperor. Valerian was reduced to the necessity of intrusting his
life and dignity to the faith of an enemy. The interview ended as it was
natural to expect. The emperor was made a prisoner, and his astonished
troops laid down their arms. In such a moment of triumph, the pride and
policy of Sapor prompted him to fill the vacant throne with a successor
entirely dependent on his pleasure. Cyriades, an obscure fugitive of
Antioch, stained with every vice, was chosen to dishonor the Roman
purple; and the will of the Persian victor could not fail of being
ratified by the acclamations, however reluctant, of the captive army.

The Imperial slave was eager to secure the favor of his master by an act
of treason to his native country. He conducted Sapor over the Euphrates,
and, by the way of Chalcis, to the metropolis of the East. So rapid
were the motions of the Persian cavalry, that, if we may credit a very
judicious historian, the city of Antioch was surprised when the idle
multitude was fondly gazing on the amusements of the theatre. The
splendid buildings of Antioch, private as well as public, were either
pillaged or destroyed; and the numerous inhabitants were put to the
sword, or led away into captivity. The tide of devastation was stopped
for a moment by the resolution of the high priest of Emesa. Arrayed in
his sacerdotal robes, he appeared at the head of a great body of fanatic
peasants, armed only with slings, and defended his god and his property
from the sacrilegious hands of the followers of Zoroaster. But the ruin
of Tarsus, and of many other cities, furnishes a melancholy proof that,
except in this singular instance, the conquest of Syria and Cilicia
scarcely interrupted the progress of the Persian arms. The advantages of
the narrow passes of Mount Taurus were abandoned, in which an invader,
whose principal force consisted in his cavalry, would have been engaged
in a very unequal combat: and Sapor was permitted to form the siege of
Cæsarea, the capital of Cappadocia; a city, though of the second
rank, which was supposed to contain four hundred thousand inhabitants.
Demosthenes commanded in the place, not so much by the commission of the
emperor, as in the voluntary defence of his country. For a long time he
deferred its fate; and when at last Cæsarea was betrayed by the perfidy
of a physician, he cut his way through the Persians, who had been
ordered to exert their utmost diligence to take him alive. This heroic
chief escaped the power of a foe who might either have honored or
punished his obstinate valor; but many thousands of his fellow-citizens
were involved in a general massacre, and Sapor is accused of treating
his prisoners with wanton and unrelenting cruelty. Much should
undoubtedly be allowed for national animosity, much for humbled pride
and impotent revenge; yet, upon the whole, it is certain, that the same
prince, who, in Armenia, had displayed the mild aspect of a legislator,
showed himself to the Romans under the stern features of a conqueror.
He despaired of making any permanent establishment in the empire, and
sought only to leave behind him a wasted desert, whilst he transported
into Persia the people and the treasures of the provinces.

At the time when the East trembled at the name of Sapor, he received
a present not unworthy of the greatest kings; a long train of camels,
laden with the most rare and valuable merchandises. The rich offering
was accompanied with an epistle, respectful, but not servile, from
Odenathus, one of the noblest and most opulent senators of Palmyra. "Who
is this Odenathus," (said the haughty victor, and he commanded that the
present should be cast into the Euphrates,) "that he thus insolently
presumes to write to his lord? If he entertains a hope of mitigating his
punishment, let him fall prostrate before the foot of our throne, with
his hands bound behind his back. Should he hesitate, swift destruction
shall be poured on his head, on his whole race, and on his country." The
desperate extremity to which the Palmyrenian was reduced, called into
action all the latent powers of his soul. He met Sapor; but he met him
in arms. Infusing his own spirit into a little army collected from the
villages of Syria and the tents of the desert, he hovered round the
Persian host, harassed their retreat, carried off part of the treasure,
and, what was dearer than any treasure, several of the women of the
great king; who was at last obliged to repass the Euphrates with some
marks of haste and confusion. By this exploit, Odenathus laid the
foundations of his future fame and fortunes. The majesty of Rome,
oppressed by a Persian, was protected by a Syrian or Arab of Palmyra.

The voice of history, which is often little more than the organ of
hatred or flattery, reproaches Sapor with a proud abuse of the rights
of conquest. We are told that Valerian, in chains, but invested with the
Imperial purple, was exposed to the multitude, a constant spectacle
of fallen greatness; and that whenever the Persian monarch mounted
on horseback, he placed his foot on the neck of a Roman emperor.
Notwithstanding all the remonstrances of his allies, who repeatedly
advised him to remember the vicissitudes of fortune, to dread the
returning power of Rome, and to make his illustrious captive the pledge
of peace, not the object of insult, Sapor still remained inflexible.
When Valerian sunk under the weight of shame and grief, his skin,
stuffed with straw, and formed into the likeness of a human figure, was
preserved for ages in the most celebrated temple of Persia; a more real
monument of triumph, than the fancied trophies of brass and marble so
often erected by Roman vanity. The tale is moral and pathetic, but the
truth of it may very fairly be called in question. The letters still
extant from the princes of the East to Sapor are manifest forgeries;
nor is it natural to suppose that a jealous monarch should, even in the
person of a rival, thus publicly degrade the majesty of kings. Whatever
treatment the unfortunate Valerian might experience in Persia, it is at
least certain that the only emperor of Rome who had ever fallen into the
hands of the enemy, languished away his life in hopeless captivity.

The emperor Gallienus, who had long supported with impatience
the censorial severity of his father and colleague, received the
intelligence of his misfortunes with secret pleasure and avowed
indifference. "I knew that my father was a mortal," said he; "and since
he has acted as it becomes a brave man, I am satisfied." Whilst Rome
lamented the fate of her sovereign, the savage coldness of his son was
extolled by the servile courtiers as the perfect firmness of a hero and
a stoic. It is difficult to paint the light, the various, the inconstant
character of Gallienus, which he displayed without constraint, as
soon as he became sole possessor of the empire. In every art that he
attempted, his lively genius enabled him to succeed; and as his genius
was destitute of judgment, he attempted every art, except the important
ones of war and government. He was a master of several curious, but
useless sciences, a ready orator, an elegant poet, a skilful gardener,
an excellent cook, and most contemptible prince. When the great
emergencies of the state required his presence and attention, he was
engaged in conversation with the philosopher Plotinus, wasting his time
in trifling or licentious pleasures, preparing his initiation to the
Grecian mysteries, or soliciting a place in the Arcopagus of Athens. His
profuse magnificence insulted the general poverty; the solemn ridicule
of his triumphs impressed a deeper sense of the public disgrace. The
repeated intelligence of invasions, defeats, and rebellions, he received
with a careless smile; and singling out, with affected contempt, some
particular production of the lost province, he carelessly asked, whether
Rome must be ruined, unless it was supplied with linen from Egypt, and
arras cloth from Gaul. There were, however, a few short moments in the
life of Gallienus, when, exasperated by some recent injury, he suddenly
appeared the intrepid soldier and the cruel tyrant; till, satiated with
blood, or fatigued by resistance, he insensibly sunk into the natural
mildness and indolence of his character.

At the time when the reins of government were held with so loose a hand,
it is not surprising, that a crowd of usurpers should start up in every
province of the empire against the son of Valerian. It was probably some
ingenious fancy, of comparing the thirty tyrants of Rome with the thirty
tyrants of Athens, that induced the writers of the Augustan History to
select that celebrated number, which has been gradually received into
a popular appellation. But in every light the parallel is idle and
defective. What resemblance can we discover between a council of thirty
persons, the united oppressors of a single city, and an uncertain list
of independent rivals, who rose and fell in irregular succession through
the extent of a vast empire? Nor can the number of thirty be completed,
unless we include in the account the women and children who were honored
with the Imperial title. The reign of Gallienus, distracted as it was,
produced only nineteen pretenders to the throne: Cyriades, Macrianus,
Balista, Odenathus, and Zenobia, in the East; in Gaul, and the western
provinces, Posthumus, Lollianus, Victorinus, and his mother Victoria,
Marius, and Tetricus; in Illyricum and the confines of the Danube,
Ingenuus, Regillianus, and Aureolus; in Pontus, Saturninus; in Isauria,
Trebellianus; Piso in Thessaly; Valens in Achaia; Æmilianus in Egypt;
and Celsus in Africa. * To illustrate the obscure monuments of the life
and death of each individual, would prove a laborious task, alike
barren of instruction and of amusement. We may content ourselves with
investigating some general characters, that most strongly mark the
condition of the times, and the manners of the men, their pretensions,
their motives, their fate, and their destructive consequences of their

It is sufficiently known, that the odious appellation of Tyrant was
often employed by the ancients to express the illegal seizure of
supreme power, without any reference to the abuse of it. Several of the
pretenders, who raised the standard of rebellion against the emperor
Gallienus, were shining models of virtue, and almost all possessed a
considerable share of vigor and ability. Their merit had recommended
them to the favor of Valerian, and gradually promoted them to the most
important commands of the empire. The generals, who assumed the title of
Augustus, were either respected by their troops for their able conduct
and severe discipline, or admired for valor and success in war, or
beloved for frankness and generosity. The field of victory was often
the scene of their election; and even the armorer Marius, the most
contemptible of all the candidates for the purple, was distinguished,
however by intrepid courage, matchless strength, and blunt honesty. His
mean and recent trade cast, indeed, an air of ridicule on his elevation;
* but his birth could not be more obscure than was that of the greater
part of his rivals, who were born of peasants, and enlisted in the army
as private soldiers. In times of confusion, every active genius finds
the place assigned him by nature: in a general state of war, military
merit is the road to glory and to greatness. Of the nineteen tyrants
Tetricus only was a senator; Piso alone was a noble. The blood of
Numa, through twenty-eight successive generations, ran in the veins
of Calphurnius Piso, who, by female alliances, claimed a right of
exhibiting, in his house, the images of Crassus and of the great Pompey.
His ancestors had been repeatedly dignified with all the honors which
the commonwealth could bestow; and of all the ancient families of
Rome, the Calphurnian alone had survived the tyranny of the Cæsars. The
personal qualities of Piso added new lustre to his race. The usurper
Valens, by whose order he was killed, confessed, with deep remorse, that
even an enemy ought to have respected the sanctity of Piso; and although
he died in arms against Gallienus, the senate, with the emperor's
generous permission, decreed the triumphal ornaments to the memory of so
virtuous a rebel.

[See Roman Coins: From The British Museum. Number four depicts Crassus.]

The lieutenants of Valerian were grateful to the father, whom they
esteemed. They disdained to serve the luxurious indolence of his
unworthy son. The throne of the Roman world was unsupported by any
principle of loyalty; and treason against such a prince might easily be
considered as patriotism to the state. Yet if we examine with candor the
conduct of these usurpers, it will appear, that they were much oftener
driven into rebellion by their fears, than urged to it by their
ambition. They dreaded the cruel suspicions of Gallienus; they equally
dreaded the capricious violence of their troops. If the dangerous favor
of the army had imprudently declared them deserving of the purple, they
were marked for sure destruction; and even prudence would counsel them
to secure a short enjoyment of empire, and rather to try the fortune of
war than to expect the hand of an executioner. When the clamor of the
soldiers invested the reluctant victims with the ensigns of sovereign
authority, they sometimes mourned in secret their approaching fate. "You
have lost," said Saturninus, on the day of his elevation, "you have lost
a useful commander, and you have made a very wretched emperor."

The apprehensions of Saturninus were justified by the repeated
experience of revolutions. Of the nineteen tyrants who started up under
the reign of Gallienus, there was not one who enjoyed a life of peace,
or a natural death. As soon as they were invested with the bloody
purple, they inspired their adherents with the same fears and ambition
which had occasioned their own revolt. Encompassed with domestic
conspiracy, military sedition, and civil war, they trembled on the edge
of precipices, in which, after a longer or shorter term of anxiety, they
were inevitably lost. These precarious monarchs received, however, such
honors as the flattery of their respective armies and provinces could
bestow; but their claim, founded on rebellion, could never obtain the
sanction of law or history. Italy, Rome, and the senate, constantly
adhered to the cause of Gallienus, and he alone was considered as
the sovereign of the empire. That prince condescended, indeed, to
acknowledge the victorious arms of Odenathus, who deserved the honorable
distinction, by the respectful conduct which he always maintained
towards the son of Valerian. With the general applause of the Romans,
and the consent of Gallienus, the senate conferred the title of Augustus
on the brave Palmyrenian; and seemed to intrust him with the government
of the East, which he already possessed, in so independent a manner,
that, like a private succession, he bequeathed it to his illustrious
widow, Zenobia.

The rapid and perpetual transitions from the cottage to the throne,
and from the throne to the grave, might have amused an indifferent
philosopher; were it possible for a philosopher to remain indifferent
amidst the general calamities of human kind. The election of these
precarious emperors, their power and their death, were equally
destructive to their subjects and adherents. The price of their fatal
elevation was instantly discharged to the troops by an immense donative,
drawn from the bowels of the exhausted people. However virtuous was
their character, however pure their intentions, they found themselves
reduced to the hard necessity of supporting their usurpation by frequent
acts of rapine and cruelty. When they fell, they involved armies and
provinces in their fall. There is still extant a most savage mandate
from Gallienus to one of his ministers, after the suppression of
Ingenuus, who had assumed the purple in Illyricum. "It is not enough,"
says that soft but inhuman prince, "that you exterminate such as
have appeared in arms; the chance of battle might have served me as
effectually. The male sex of every age must be extirpated; provided
that, in the execution of the children and old men, you can contrive
means to save our reputation. Let every one die who has dropped an
expression, who has entertained a thought against me, against me, the
son of Valerian, the father and brother of so many princes. Remember
that Ingenuus was made emperor: tear, kill, hew in pieces. I write
to you with my own hand, and would inspire you with my own feelings."
Whilst the public forces of the state were dissipated in private
quarrels, the defenceless provinces lay exposed to every invader. The
bravest usurpers were compelled, by the perplexity of their situation,
to conclude ignominious treaties with the common enemy, to purchase with
oppressive tributes the neutrality or services of the Barbarians, and
to introduce hostile and independent nations into the heart of the Roman

Such were the barbarians, and such the tyrants, who, under the reigns
of Valerian and Gallienus, dismembered the provinces, and reduced the
empire to the lowest pitch of disgrace and ruin, from whence it seemed
impossible that it should ever emerge. As far as the barrenness of
materials would permit, we have attempted to trace, with order and
perspicuity, the general events of that calamitous period. There still
remain some particular facts; I. The disorders of Sicily; II. The
tumults of Alexandria; and, III. The rebellion of the Isaurians, which
may serve to reflect a strong light on the horrid picture.

I. Whenever numerous troops of banditti, multiplied by success and
impunity, publicly defy, instead of eluding the justice of their
country, we may safely infer, that the excessive weakness of the
government is felt and abused by the lowest ranks of the community.
The situation of Sicily preserved it from the Barbarians; nor could the
disarmed province have supported a usurper. The sufferings of that once
flourishing and still fertile island were inflicted by baser hands. A
licentious crowd of slaves and peasants reigned for a while over the
plundered country, and renewed the memory of the servile wars of more
ancient times. Devastations, of which the husbandman was either the
victim or the accomplice, must have ruined the agriculture of Sicily;
and as the principal estates were the property of the opulent senators
of Rome, who often enclosed within a farm the territory of an old
republic, it is not improbable, that this private injury might affect
the capital more deeply, than all the conquests of the Goths or the

II. The foundation of Alexandria was a noble design, at once conceived
and executed by the son of Philip. The beautiful and regular form
of that great city, second only to Rome itself, comprehended a
circumference of fifteen miles; it was peopled by three hundred thousand
free inhabitants, besides at least an equal number of slaves. The
lucrative trade of Arabia and India flowed through the port of
Alexandria, to the capital and provinces of the empire. * Idleness was
unknown. Some were employed in blowing of glass, others in weaving of
linen, others again manufacturing the papyrus. Either sex, and every
age, was engaged in the pursuits of industry, nor did even the blind or
the lame want occupations suited to their condition. But the people
of Alexandria, a various mixture of nations, united the vanity and
inconstancy of the Greeks with the superstition and obstinacy of the
Egyptians. The most trifling occasion, a transient scarcity of flesh
or lentils, the neglect of an accustomed salutation, a mistake of
precedency in the public baths, or even a religious dispute, were at any
time sufficient to kindle a sedition among that vast multitude, whose
resentments were furious and implacable. After the captivity of Valerian
and the insolence of his son had relaxed the authority of the laws,
the Alexandrians abandoned themselves to the ungoverned rage of their
passions, and their unhappy country was the theatre of a civil war,
which continued (with a few short and suspicious truces) above twelve
years. All intercourse was cut off between the several quarters of the
afflicted city, every street was polluted with blood, every building of
strength converted into a citadel; nor did the tumults subside till a
considerable part of Alexandria was irretrievably ruined. The spacious
and magnificent district of Bruchion, * with its palaces and musæum, the
residence of the kings and philosophers of Egypt, is described above a
century afterwards, as already reduced to its present state of dreary

III. The obscure rebellion of Trebellianus, who assumed the purple in
Isauria, a petty province of Asia Minor, was attended with strange and
memorable consequences. The pageant of royalty was soon destroyed by an
officer of Gallienus; but his followers, despairing of mercy, resolved
to shake off their allegiance, not only to the emperor, but to the
empire, and suddenly returned to the savage manners from which they
had never perfectly been reclaimed. Their craggy rocks, a branch of the
wide-extended Taurus, protected their inaccessible retreat. The tillage
of some fertile valleys supplied them with necessaries, and a habit of
rapine with the luxuries of life. In the heart of the Roman monarchy,
the Isaurians long continued a nation of wild barbarians. Succeeding
princes, unable to reduce them to obedience, either by arms or policy,
were compelled to acknowledge their weakness, by surrounding the hostile
and independent spot with a strong chain of fortifications, which often
proved insufficient to restrain the incursions of these domestic foes.
The Isaurians, gradually extending their territory to the sea-coast,
subdued the western and mountainous part of Cilicia, formerly the nest
of those daring pirates, against whom the republic had once been obliged
to exert its utmost force, under the conduct of the great Pompey.

Our habits of thinking so fondly connect the order of the universe with
the fate of man, that this gloomy period of history has been decorated
with inundations, earthquakes, uncommon meteors, preternatural darkness,
and a crowd of prodigies fictitious or exaggerated. But a long and
general famine was a calamity of a more serious kind. It was the
inevitable consequence of rapine and oppression, which extirpated the
produce of the present, and the hope of future harvests. Famine is
almost always followed by epidemical diseases, the effect of scanty and
unwholesome food. Other causes must, however, have contributed to the
furious plague, which, from the year two hundred and fifty to the
year two hundred and sixty-five, raged without interruption in every
province, every city, and almost every family, of the Roman empire.
During some time five thousand persons died daily in Rome; and many
towns, that had escaped the hands of the Barbarians, were entirely

We have the knowledge of a very curious circumstance, of some use
perhaps in the melancholy calculation of human calamities. An exact
register was kept at Alexandria of all the citizens entitled to receive
the distribution of corn. It was found, that the ancient number of those
comprised between the ages of forty and seventy, had been equal to the
whole sum of claimants, from fourteen to fourscore years of age, who
remained alive after the reign of Gallienus. Applying this authentic
fact to the most correct tables of mortality, it evidently proves, that
above half the people of Alexandria had perished; and could we venture
to extend the analogy to the other provinces, we might suspect, that
war, pestilence, and famine, had consumed, in a few years, the moiety of
the human species.

Chapter XI: Reign Of Claudius, Defeat Of The Goths.--Part I.

     Reign Of Claudius.--Defeat Of The Goths.--Victories,
     Triumph, And Death Of Aurelian.

Under the deplorable reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, the empire was
oppressed and almost destroyed by the soldiers, the tyrants, and the
barbarians. It was saved by a series of great princes, who derived their
obscure origin from the martial provinces of Illyricum. Within a period
of about thirty years, Claudius, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian and his
colleagues, triumphed over the foreign and domestic enemies of the
state, reestablished, with the military discipline, the strength of the
frontiers, and deserved the glorious title of Restorers of the Roman

The removal of an effeminate tyrant made way for a succession of heroes.
The indignation of the people imputed all their calamities to Gallienus,
and the far greater part were indeed, the consequence of his dissolute
manners and careless administration. He was even destitute of a sense of
honor, which so frequently supplies the absence of public virtue; and as
long as he was permitted to enjoy the possession of Italy, a victory of
the barbarians, the loss of a province, or the rebellion of a general,
seldom disturbed the tranquil course of his pleasures. At length, a
considerable army, stationed on the Upper Danube, invested with the
Imperial purple their leader Aureolus; who, disdaining a confined and
barren reign over the mountains of Rhætia, passed the Alps, occupied
Milan, threatened Rome, and challenged Gallienus to dispute in the
field the sovereignty of Italy. The emperor, provoked by the insult, and
alarmed by the instant danger, suddenly exerted that latent vigor which
sometimes broke through the indolence of his temper. Forcing himself
from the luxury of the palace, he appeared in arms at the head of his
legions, and advanced beyond the Po to encounter his competitor. The
corrupted name of Pontirolo still preserves the memory of a bridge over
the Adda, which, during the action, must have proved an object of the
utmost importance to both armies. The Rhætian usurper, after receiving
a total defeat and a dangerous wound, retired into Milan. The siege of
that great city was immediately formed; the walls were battered with
every engine in use among the ancients; and Aureolus, doubtful of his
internal strength, and hopeless of foreign succors already anticipated
the fatal consequences of unsuccessful rebellion.

His last resource was an attempt to seduce the loyalty of the besiegers.
He scattered libels through the camp, inviting the troops to desert an
unworthy master, who sacrificed the public happiness to his luxury, and
the lives of his most valuable subjects to the slightest suspicions.
The arts of Aureolus diffused fears and discontent among the principal
officers of his rival. A conspiracy was formed by Heraclianus the
Prætorian præfect, by Marcian, a general of rank and reputation, and by
Cecrops, who commanded a numerous body of Dalmatian guards. The death
of Gallienus was resolved; and notwithstanding their desire of first
terminating the siege of Milan, the extreme danger which accompanied
every moment's delay obliged them to hasten the execution of their
daring purpose. At a late hour of the night, but while the emperor still
protracted the pleasures of the table, an alarm was suddenly given, that
Aureolus, at the head of all his forces, had made a desperate sally
from the town; Gallienus, who was never deficient in personal bravery,
started from his silken couch, and without allowing himself time either
to put on his armor, or to assemble his guards, he mounted on
horseback, and rode full speed towards the supposed place of the attack.
Encompassed by his declared or concealed enemies, he soon, amidst the
nocturnal tumult, received a mortal dart from an uncertain hand. Before
he expired, a patriotic sentiment using in the mind of Gallienus,
induced him to name a deserving successor; and it was his last request,
that the Imperial ornaments should be delivered to Claudius, who then
commanded a detached army in the neighborhood of Pavia. The report at
least was diligently propagated, and the order cheerfully obeyed by the
conspirators, who had already agreed to place Claudius on the throne.
On the first news of the emperor's death, the troops expressed some
suspicion and resentment, till the one was removed, and the other
assuaged, by a donative of twenty pieces of gold to each soldier. They
then ratified the election, and acknowledged the merit of their new

The obscurity which covered the origin of Claudius, though it was
afterwards embellished by some flattering fictions, sufficiently betrays
the meanness of his birth. We can only discover that he was a native of
one of the provinces bordering on the Danube; that his youth was spent
in arms, and that his modest valor attracted the favor and confidence
of Decius. The senate and people already considered him as an
excellent officer, equal to the most important trusts; and censured the
inattention of Valerian, who suffered him to remain in the subordinate
station of a tribune. But it was not long before that emperor
distinguished the merit of Claudius, by declaring him general and chief
of the Illyrian frontier, with the command of all the troops in Thrace,
Mæsia, Dacia, Pannonia, and Dalmatia, the appointments of the præfect
of Egypt, the establishment of the proconsul of Africa, and the sure
prospect of the consulship. By his victories over the Goths, he
deserved from the senate the honor of a statue, and excited the jealous
apprehensions of Gallienus. It was impossible that a soldier could
esteem so dissolute a sovereign, nor is it easy to conceal a just
contempt. Some unguarded expressions which dropped from Claudius were
officiously transmitted to the royal ear. The emperor's answer to an
officer of confidence describes in very lively colors his own character,
and that of the times. "There is not any thing capable of giving me more
serious concern, than the intelligence contained in your last despatch;
that some malicious suggestions have indisposed towards us the mind of
our friend and parent Claudius. As you regard your allegiance, use
every means to appease his resentment, but conduct your negotiation with
secrecy; let it not reach the knowledge of the Dacian troops; they are
already provoked, and it might inflame their fury. I myself have sent
him some presents: be it your care that he accept them with pleasure.
Above all, let him not suspect that I am made acquainted with his
imprudence. The fear of my anger might urge him to desperate counsels."
The presents which accompanied this humble epistle, in which the monarch
solicited a reconciliation with his discontented subject, consisted of
a considerable sum of money, a splendid wardrobe, and a valuable
service of silver and gold plate. By such arts Gallienus softened the
indignation and dispelled the fears of his Illyrian general; and during
the remainder of that reign, the formidable sword of Claudius was always
drawn in the cause of a master whom he despised. At last, indeed, he
received from the conspirators the bloody purple of Gallienus: but
he had been absent from their camp and counsels; and however he might
applaud the deed, we may candidly presume that he was innocent of
the knowledge of it. When Claudius ascended the throne, he was about
fifty-four years of age.

The siege of Milan was still continued, and Aureolus soon discovered
that the success of his artifices had only raised up a more determined
adversary. He attempted to negotiate with Claudius a treaty of alliance
and partition. "Tell him," replied the intrepid emperor, "that such
proposals should have been made to Gallienus; he, perhaps, might have
listened to them with patience, and accepted a colleague as despicable
as himself." This stern refusal, and a last unsuccessful effort,
obliged Aureolus to yield the city and himself to the discretion of the
conqueror. The judgment of the army pronounced him worthy of death; and
Claudius, after a feeble resistance, consented to the execution of the
sentence. Nor was the zeal of the senate less ardent in the cause of
their new sovereign. They ratified, perhaps with a sincere transport
of zeal, the election of Claudius; and, as his predecessor had shown
himself the personal enemy of their order, they exercised, under the
name of justice, a severe revenge against his friends and family. The
senate was permitted to discharge the ungrateful office of punishment,
and the emperor reserved for himself the pleasure and merit of obtaining
by his intercession a general act of indemnity.

Such ostentatious clemency discovers less of the real character of
Claudius, than a trifling circumstance in which he seems to have
consulted only the dictates of his heart. The frequent rebellions of
the provinces had involved almost every person in the guilt of treason,
almost every estate in the case of confiscation; and Gallienus often
displayed his liberality by distributing among his officers the property
of his subjects. On the accession of Claudius, an old woman threw
herself at his feet, and complained that a general of the late emperor
had obtained an arbitrary grant of her patrimony. This general was
Claudius himself, who had not entirely escaped the contagion of the
times. The emperor blushed at the reproach, but deserved the confidence
which she had reposed in his equity. The confession of his fault was
accompanied with immediate and ample restitution.

In the arduous task which Claudius had undertaken, of restoring the
empire to its ancient splendor, it was first necessary to revive among
his troops a sense of order and obedience. With the authority of
a veteran commander, he represented to them that the relaxation of
discipline had introduced a long train of disorders, the effects of
which were at length experienced by the soldiers themselves; that a
people ruined by oppression, and indolent from despair, could no longer
supply a numerous army with the means of luxury, or even of subsistence;
that the danger of each individual had increased with the despotism of
the military order, since princes who tremble on the throne will guard
their safety by the instant sacrifice of every obnoxious subject.
The emperor expiated on the mischiefs of a lawless caprice, which the
soldiers could only gratify at the expense of their own blood; as their
seditious elections had so frequently been followed by civil wars, which
consumed the flower of the legions either in the field of battle, or
in the cruel abuse of victory. He painted in the most lively colors the
exhausted state of the treasury, the desolation of the provinces,
the disgrace of the Roman name, and the insolent triumph of rapacious
barbarians. It was against those barbarians, he declared, that he
intended to point the first effort of their arms. Tetricus might reign
for a while over the West, and even Zenobia might preserve the dominion
of the East. These usurpers were his personal adversaries; nor could he
think of indulging any private resentment till he had saved an empire,
whose impending ruin would, unless it was timely prevented, crush both
the army and the people.

The various nations of Germany and Sarmatia, who fought under the Gothic
standard, had already collected an armament more formidable than any
which had yet issued from the Euxine. On the banks of the Niester,
one of the great rivers that discharge themselves into that sea, they
constructed a fleet of two thousand, or even of six thousand vessels;
numbers which, however incredible they may seem, would have been
insufficient to transport their pretended army of three hundred and
twenty thousand barbarians. Whatever might be the real strength of the
Goths, the vigor and success of the expedition were not adequate to the
greatness of the preparations. In their passage through the Bosphorus,
the unskilful pilots were overpowered by the violence of the current;
and while the multitude of their ships were crowded in a narrow
channel, many were dashed against each other, or against the shore. The
barbarians made several descents on the coasts both of Europe and Asia;
but the open country was already plundered, and they were repulsed with
shame and loss from the fortified cities which they assaulted. A spirit
of discouragement and division arose in the fleet, and some of their
chiefs sailed away towards the islands of Crete and Cyprus; but the main
body, pursuing a more steady course, anchored at length near the foot of
Mount Athos, and assaulted the city of Thessalonica, the wealthy capital
of all the Macedonian provinces. Their attacks, in which they displayed
a fierce but artless bravery, were soon interrupted by the rapid
approach of Claudius, hastening to a scene of action that deserved the
presence of a warlike prince at the head of the remaining powers of the
empire. Impatient for battle, the Goths immediately broke up their camp,
relinquished the siege of Thessalonica, left their navy at the foot of
Mount Athos, traversed the hills of Macedonia, and pressed forwards to
engage the last defence of Italy.

We still posses an original letter addressed by Claudius to the senate
and people on this memorable occasion. "Conscript fathers," says the
emperor, "know that three hundred and twenty thousand Goths have invaded
the Roman territory. If I vanquish them, your gratitude will reward my
services. Should I fall, remember that I am the successor of Gallienus.
The whole republic is fatigued and exhausted. We shall fight after
Valerian, after Ingenuus, Regillianus, Lollianus, Posthumus, Celsus,
and a thousand others, whom a just contempt for Gallienus provoked
into rebellion. We are in want of darts, of spears, and of shields. The
strength of the empire, Gaul, and Spain, are usurped by Tetricus, and
we blush to acknowledge that the archers of the East serve under the
banners of Zenobia. Whatever we shall perform will be sufficiently
great." The melancholy firmness of this epistle announces a hero
careless of his fate, conscious of his danger, but still deriving a
well-grounded hope from the resources of his own mind.

The event surpassed his own expectations and those of the world. By
the most signal victories he delivered the empire from this host of
barbarians, and was distinguished by posterity under the glorious
appellation of the Gothic Claudius. The imperfect historians of an
irregular war do not enable as to describe the order and circumstances
of his exploits; but, if we could be indulged in the allusion, we might
distribute into three acts this memorable tragedy. I. The decisive
battle was fought near Naissus, a city of Dardania. The legions at first
gave way, oppressed by numbers, and dismayed by misfortunes. Their
ruin was inevitable, had not the abilities of their emperor prepared
a seasonable relief. A large detachment, rising out of the secret
and difficult passes of the mountains, which, by his order, they had
occupied, suddenly assailed the rear of the victorious Goths. The
favorable instant was improved by the activity of Claudius. He revived
the courage of his troops, restored their ranks, and pressed the
barbarians on every side. Fifty thousand men are reported to have been
slain in the battle of Naissus. Several large bodies of barbarians,
covering their retreat with a movable fortification of wagons, retired,
or rather escaped, from the field of slaughter. II. We may presume
that some insurmountable difficulty, the fatigue, perhaps, or the
disobedience, of the conquerors, prevented Claudius from completing
in one day the destruction of the Goths. The war was diffused over the
province of Mæsia, Thrace, and Macedonia, and its operations drawn out
into a variety of marches, surprises, and tumultuary engagements,
as well by sea as by land. When the Romans suffered any loss, it was
commonly occasioned by their own cowardice or rashness; but the superior
talents of the emperor, his perfect knowledge of the country, and
his judicious choice of measures as well as officers, assured on most
occasions the success of his arms. The immense booty, the fruit of so
many victories, consisted for the greater part of cattle and slaves. A
select body of the Gothic youth was received among the Imperial troops;
the remainder was sold into servitude; and so considerable was the
number of female captives, that every soldier obtained to his share
two or three women. A circumstance from which we may conclude, that the
invaders entertained some designs of settlement as well as of plunder;
since even in a naval expedition, they were accompanied by their
families. III. The loss of their fleet, which was either taken or sunk,
had intercepted the retreat of the Goths. A vast circle of Roman posts,
distributed with skill, supported with firmness, and gradually
closing towards a common centre, forced the barbarians into the most
inaccessible parts of Mount Hæmus, where they found a safe refuge, but a
very scanty subsistence. During the course of a rigorous winter in
which they were besieged by the emperor's troops, famine and pestilence,
desertion and the sword, continually diminished the imprisoned
multitude. On the return of spring, nothing appeared in arms except
a hardy and desperate band, the remnant of that mighty host which had
embarked at the mouth of the Niester.

The pestilence which swept away such numbers of the barbarians, at
length proved fatal to their conqueror. After a short but glorious
reign of two years, Claudius expired at Sirmium, amidst the tears and
acclamations of his subjects. In his last illness, he convened the
principal officers of the state and army, and in their presence
recommended Aurelian, one of his generals, as the most deserving of
the throne, and the best qualified to execute the great design which he
himself had been permitted only to undertake. The virtues of Claudius,
his valor, affability, justice, and temperance, his love of fame and of
his country, place him in that short list of emperors who added lustre
to the Roman purple. Those virtues, however, were celebrated with
peculiar zeal and complacency by the courtly writers of the age of
Constantine, who was the great grandson of Crispus, the elder brother
of Claudius. The voice of flattery was soon taught to repeat, that gods,
who so hastily had snatched Claudius from the earth, rewarded his merit
and piety by the perpetual establishment of the empire in his family.

Notwithstanding these oracles, the greatness of the Flavian family (a
name which it had pleased them to assume) was deferred above twenty
years, and the elevation of Claudius occasioned the immediate ruin
of his brother Quintilius, who possessed not sufficient moderation or
courage to descend into the private station to which the patriotism
of the late emperor had condemned him. Without delay or reflection, he
assumed the purple at Aquileia, where he commanded a considerable force;
and though his reign lasted only seventeen days, * he had time to obtain
the sanction of the senate, and to experience a mutiny of the troops. As
soon as he was informed that the great army of the Danube had invested
the well-known valor of Aurelian with Imperial power, he sunk under
the fame and merit of his rival; and ordering his veins to be opened,
prudently withdrew himself from the unequal contest.

The general design of this work will not permit us minutely to relate
the actions of every emperor after he ascended the throne, much less to
deduce the various fortunes of his private life. We shall only observe,
that the father of Aurelian was a peasant of the territory of Sirmium,
who occupied a small farm, the property of Aurelius, a rich senator.
His warlike son enlisted in the troops as a common soldier, successively
rose to the rank of a centurion, a tribune, the præfect of a legion, the
inspector of the camp, the general, or, as it was then called, the
duke, of a frontier; and at length, during the Gothic war, exercised the
important office of commander-in-chief of the cavalry. In every station
he distinguished himself by matchless valor, rigid discipline, and
successful conduct. He was invested with the consulship by the emperor
Valerian, who styles him, in the pompous language of that age, the
deliverer of Illyricum, the restorer of Gaul, and the rival of the
Scipios. At the recommendation of Valerian, a senator of the highest
rank and merit, Ulpius Crinitus, whose blood was derived from the same
source as that of Trajan, adopted the Pannonian peasant, gave him his
daughter in marriage, and relieved with his ample fortune the honorable
poverty which Aurelian had preserved inviolate.

The reign of Aurelian lasted only four years and about nine months;
but every instant of that short period was filled by some memorable
achievement. He put an end to the Gothic war, chastised the Germans who
invaded Italy, recovered Gaul, Spain, and Britain out of the hands of
Tetricus, and destroyed the proud monarchy which Zenobia had erected in
the East on the ruins of the afflicted empire.

It was the rigid attention of Aurelian, even to the minutest articles of
discipline, which bestowed such uninterrupted success on his arms. His
military regulations are contained in a very concise epistle to one of
his inferior officers, who is commanded to enforce them, as he wishes
to become a tribune, or as he is desirous to live. Gaming, drinking, and
the arts of divination, were severely prohibited. Aurelian expected that
his soldiers should be modest, frugal, and laborous; that their armor
should be constantly kept bright, their weapons sharp, their clothing
and horses ready for immediate service; that they should live in their
quarters with chastity and sobriety, without damaging the cornfields,
without stealing even a sheep, a fowl, or a bunch of grapes, without
exacting from their landlords, either salt, or oil, or wood. "The public
allowance," continues the emperor, "is sufficient for their support;
their wealth should be collected from the spoils of the enemy, not from
the tears of the provincials." A single instance will serve to display
the rigor, and even cruelty, of Aurelian. One of the soldiers had
seduced the wife of his host. The guilty wretch was fastened to two
trees forcibly drawn towards each other, and his limbs were torn asunder
by their sudden separation. A few such examples impressed a salutary
consternation. The punishments of Aurelian were terrible; but he had
seldom occasion to punish more than once the same offence. His own
conduct gave a sanction to his laws, and the seditious legions dreaded a
chief who had learned to obey, and who was worthy to command.

Chapter XI: Reign Of Claudius, Defeat Of The Goths.--Part II.

The death of Claudius had revived the fainting spirit of the Goths. The
troops which guarded the passes of Mount Hæmus, and the banks of the
Danube, had been drawn away by the apprehension of a civil war; and it
seems probable that the remaining body of the Gothic and Vandalic tribes
embraced the favorable opportunity, abandoned their settlements of
the Ukraine, traversed the rivers, and swelled with new multitudes the
destroying host of their countrymen. Their united numbers were at length
encountered by Aurelian, and the bloody and doubtful conflict ended only
with the approach of night. Exhausted by so many calamities, which they
had mutually endured and inflicted during a twenty years' war, the Goths
and the Romans consented to a lasting and beneficial treaty. It was
earnestly solicited by the barbarians, and cheerfully ratified by
the legions, to whose suffrage the prudence of Aurelian referred the
decision of that important question. The Gothic nation engaged to supply
the armies of Rome with a body of two thousand auxiliaries, consisting
entirely of cavalry, and stipulated in return an undisturbed retreat,
with a regular market as far as the Danube, provided by the emperor's
care, but at their own expense. The treaty was observed with such
religious fidelity, that when a party of five hundred men straggled
from the camp in quest of plunder, the king or general of the barbarians
commanded that the guilty leader should be apprehended and shot to death
with darts, as a victim devoted to the sanctity of their engagements. *
It is, however, not unlikely, that the precaution of Aurelian, who
had exacted as hostages the sons and daughters of the Gothic chiefs,
contributed something to this pacific temper. The youths he trained in
the exercise of arms, and near his own person: to the damsels he gave a
liberal and Roman education, and by bestowing them in marriage on some
of his principal officers, gradually introduced between the two nations
the closest and most endearing connections.

But the most important condition of peace was understood rather than
expressed in the treaty. Aurelian withdrew the Roman forces from Dacia,
and tacitly relinquished that great province to the Goths and Vandals.
His manly judgment convinced him of the solid advantages, and taught him
to despise the seeming disgrace, of thus contracting the frontiers
of the monarchy. The Dacian subjects, removed from those distant
possessions which they were unable to cultivate or defend, added
strength and populousness to the southern side of the Danube. A fertile
territory, which the repetition of barbarous inroads had changed into a
desert, was yielded to their industry, and a new province of Dacia still
preserved the memory of Trajan's conquests. The old country of that name
detained, however, a considerable number of its inhabitants, who dreaded
exile more than a Gothic master. These degenerate Romans continued to
serve the empire, whose allegiance they had renounced, by introducing
among their conquerors the first notions of agriculture, the useful
arts, and the conveniences of civilized life. An intercourse of commerce
and language was gradually established between the opposite banks of the
Danube; and after Dacia became an independent state, it often proved the
firmest barrier of the empire against the invasions of the savages of
the North. A sense of interest attached these more settled barbarians
to the alliance of Rome, and a permanent interest very frequently ripens
into sincere and useful friendship. This various colony, which filled
the ancient province, and was insensibly blended into one great people,
still acknowledged the superior renown and authority of the Gothic
tribe, and claimed the fancied honor of a Scandinavian origin. At the
same time, the lucky though accidental resemblance of the name of Getæ,
* infused among the credulous Goths a vain persuasion, that in a remote
age, their own ancestors, already seated in the Dacian provinces, had
received the instructions of Zamolxis, and checked the victorious arms
of Sesostris and Darius.

While the vigorous and moderate conduct of Aurelian restored the
Illyrian frontier, the nation of the Alemanni violated the conditions
of peace, which either Gallienus had purchased, or Claudius had imposed,
and, inflamed by their impatient youth, suddenly flew to arms. Forty
thousand horse appeared in the field, and the numbers of the infantry
doubled those of the cavalry. The first objects of their avarice were
a few cities of the Rhætian frontier; but their hopes soon rising with
success, the rapid march of the Alemanni traced a line of devastation
from the Danube to the Po.

The emperor was almost at the same time informed of the irruption, and
of the retreat, of the barbarians. Collecting an active body of troops,
he marched with silence and celerity along the skirts of the Hercynian
forest; and the Alemanni, laden with the spoils of Italy, arrived at
the Danube, without suspecting, that on the opposite bank, and in an
advantageous post, a Roman army lay concealed and prepared to intercept
their return. Aurelian indulged the fatal security of the barbarians,
and permitted about half their forces to pass the river without
disturbance and without precaution. Their situation and astonishment
gave him an easy victory; his skilful conduct improved the advantage.
Disposing the legions in a semicircular form, he advanced the two horns
of the crescent across the Danube, and wheeling them on a sudden
towards the centre, enclosed the rear of the German host. The dismayed
barbarians, on whatsoever side they cast their eyes, beheld, with
despair, a wasted country, a deep and rapid stream, a victorious and
implacable enemy.

Reduced to this distressed condition, the Alemanni no longer disdained
to sue for peace. Aurelian received their ambassadors at the head of his
camp, and with every circumstance of martial pomp that could display
the greatness and discipline of Rome. The legions stood to their arms
in well-ordered ranks and awful silence. The principal commanders,
distinguished by the ensigns of their rank, appeared on horseback on
either side of the Imperial throne. Behind the throne the consecrated
images of the emperor, and his predecessors, the golden eagles, and the
various titles of the legions, engraved in letters of gold, were exalted
in the air on lofty pikes covered with silver. When Aurelian assumed
his seat, his manly grace and majestic figure taught the barbarians
to revere the person as well as the purple of their conqueror. The
ambassadors fell prostrate on the ground in silence. They were commanded
to rise, and permitted to speak. By the assistance of interpreters they
extenuated their perfidy, magnified their exploits, expatiated on
the vicissitudes of fortune and the advantages of peace, and, with an
ill-timed confidence, demanded a large subsidy, as the price of the
alliance which they offered to the Romans. The answer of the emperor
was stern and imperious. He treated their offer with contempt, and their
demand with indignation, reproached the barbarians, that they were
as ignorant of the arts of war as of the laws of peace, and finally
dismissed them with the choice only of submitting to this unconditional
mercy, or awaiting the utmost severity of his resentment. Aurelian had
resigned a distant province to the Goths; but it was dangerous to trust
or to pardon these perfidious barbarians, whose formidable power kept
Italy itself in perpetual alarms.

Immediately after this conference, it should seem that some unexpected
emergency required the emperor's presence in Pannonia. He devolved on
his lieutenants the care of finishing the destruction of the Alemanni,
either by the sword, or by the surer operation of famine. But an active
despair has often triumphed over the indolent assurance of success. The
barbarians, finding it impossible to traverse the Danube and the Roman
camp, broke through the posts in their rear, which were more feebly
or less carefully guarded; and with incredible diligence, but by a
different road, returned towards the mountains of Italy. Aurelian, who
considered the war as totally extinguished, received the mortifying
intelligence of the escape of the Alemanni, and of the ravage which they
already committed in the territory of Milan. The legions were commanded
to follow, with as much expedition as those heavy bodies were capable of
exerting, the rapid flight of an enemy whose infantry and cavalry moved
with almost equal swiftness. A few days afterwards, the emperor
himself marched to the relief of Italy, at the head of a chosen body of
auxiliaries, (among whom were the hostages and cavalry of the Vandals,)
and of all the Prætorian guards who had served in the wars on the

As the light troops of the Alemanni had spread themselves from the Alps
to the Apennine, the incessant vigilance of Aurelian and his officers
was exercised in the discovery, the attack, and the pursuit of the
numerous detachments. Notwithstanding this desultory war, three
considerable battles are mentioned, in which the principal force of both
armies was obstinately engaged. The success was various. In the first,
fought near Placentia, the Romans received so severe a blow, that,
according to the expression of a writer extremely partial to Aurelian,
the immediate dissolution of the empire was apprehended. The crafty
barbarians, who had lined the woods, suddenly attacked the legions in
the dusk of the evening, and, it is most probable, after the fatigue
and disorder of a long march. The fury of their charge was irresistible;
but, at length, after a dreadful slaughter, the patient firmness of the
emperor rallied his troops, and restored, in some degree, the honor of
his arms. The second battle was fought near Fano in Umbria; on the
spot which, five hundred years before, had been fatal to the brother of
Hannibal. Thus far the successful Germans had advanced along the Æmilian
and Flaminian way, with a design of sacking the defenceless mistress
of the world. But Aurelian, who, watchful for the safety of Rome, still
hung on their rear, found in this place the decisive moment of giving
them a total and irretrievable defeat. The flying remnant of their host
was exterminated in a third and last battle near Pavia; and Italy was
delivered from the inroads of the Alemanni.

Fear has been the original parent of superstition, and every new
calamity urges trembling mortals to deprecate the wrath of their
invisible enemies. Though the best hope of the republic was in the valor
and conduct of Aurelian, yet such was the public consternation, when the
barbarians were hourly expected at the gates of Rome, that, by a decree
of the senate the Sibylline books were consulted. Even the emperor
himself from a motive either of religion or of policy, recommended this
salutary measure, chided the tardiness of the senate, and offered to
supply whatever expense, whatever animals, whatever captives of any
nation, the gods should require. Notwithstanding this liberal offer, it
does not appear, that any human victims expiated with their blood the
sins of the Roman people. The Sibylline books enjoined ceremonies of a
more harmless nature, processions of priests in white robes, attended
by a chorus of youths and virgins; lustrations of the city and
adjacent country; and sacrifices, whose powerful influence disabled
the barbarians from passing the mystic ground on which they had been
celebrated. However puerile in themselves, these superstitious arts were
subservient to the success of the war; and if, in the decisive battle of
Fano, the Alemanni fancied they saw an army of spectres combating on
the side of Aurelian, he received a real and effectual aid from this
imaginary reenforcement.

But whatever confidence might be placed in ideal ramparts, the
experience of the past, and the dread of the future, induced the Romans
to construct fortifications of a grosser and more substantial kind. The
seven hills of Rome had been surrounded, by the successors of Romulus,
with an ancient wall of more than thirteen miles. The vast enclosure may
seem disproportioned to the strength and numbers of the infant state.
But it was necessary to secure an ample extent of pasture and arable
land, against the frequent and sudden incursions of the tribes of
Latium, the perpetual enemies of the republic. With the progress of
Roman greatness, the city and its inhabitants gradually increased,
filled up the vacant space, pierced through the useless walls, covered
the field of Mars, and, on every side, followed the public highways
in long and beautiful suburbs. The extent of the new walls, erected by
Aurelian, and finished in the reign of Probus, was magnified by popular
estimation to near fifty, but is reduced by accurate measurement to
about twenty-one miles. It was a great but a melancholy labor, since the
defence of the capital betrayed the decline of the monarchy. The Romans
of a more prosperous age, who trusted to the arms of the legions
the safety of the frontier camps, were very far from entertaining a
suspicion, that it would ever become necessary to fortify the seat of
empire against the inroads of the barbarians.

The victory of Claudius over the Goths, and the success of Aurelian
against the Alemanni, had already restored to the arms of Rome their
ancient superiority over the barbarous nations of the North. To chastise
domestic tyrants, and to reunite the dismembered parts of the empire,
was a task reserved for the second of those warlike emperors. Though
he was acknowledged by the senate and people, the frontiers of Italy,
Africa, Illyricum, and Thrace, confined the limits of his reign. Gaul,
Spain, and Britain, Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor, were still possessed
by two rebels, who alone, out of so numerous a list, had hitherto
escaped the dangers of their situation; and to complete the ignominy of
Rome, these rival thrones had been usurped by women.

A rapid succession of monarchs had arisen and fallen in the provinces
of Gaul. The rigid virtues of Posthumus served only to hasten his
destruction. After suppressing a competitor, who had assumed the purple
at Mentz, he refused to gratify his troops with the plunder of the
rebellious city; and in the seventh year of his reign, became the victim
of their disappointed avarice. The death of Victorinus, his friend
and associate, was occasioned by a less worthy cause. The shining
accomplishments of that prince were stained by a licentious passion,
which he indulged in acts of violence, with too little regard to the
laws of society, or even to those of love. He was slain at Cologne, by
a conspiracy of jealous husbands, whose revenge would have appeared more
justifiable, had they spared the innocence of his son. After the murder
of so many valiant princes, it is somewhat remarkable, that a female
for a long time controlled the fierce legions of Gaul, and still more
singular, that she was the mother of the unfortunate Victorinus. The
arts and treasures of Victoria enabled her successively to place Marius
and Tetricus on the throne, and to reign with a manly vigor under the
name of those dependent emperors. Money of copper, of silver, and of
gold, was coined in her name; she assumed the titles of Augusta and
Mother of the Camps: her power ended only with her life; but her life
was perhaps shortened by the ingratitude of Tetricus.

When, at the instigation of his ambitious patroness, Tetricus assumed
the ensigns of royalty, he was governor of the peaceful province of
Aquitaine, an employment suited to his character and education. He
reigned four or five years over Gaul, Spain, and Britain, the slave
and sovereign of a licentious army, whom he dreaded, and by whom he
was despised. The valor and fortune of Aurelian at length opened the
prospect of a deliverance. He ventured to disclose his melancholy
situation, and conjured the emperor to hasten to the relief of his
unhappy rival. Had this secret correspondence reached the ears of the
soldiers, it would most probably have cost Tetricus his life; nor could
he resign the sceptre of the West without committing an act of treason
against himself. He affected the appearances of a civil war, led
his forces into the field, against Aurelian, posted them in the most
disadvantageous manner, betrayed his own counsels to his enemy, and with
a few chosen friends deserted in the beginning of the action. The rebel
legions, though disordered and dismayed by the unexpected treachery of
their chief, defended themselves with desperate valor, till they were
cut in pieces almost to a man, in this bloody and memorable battle,
which was fought near Chalons in Champagne. The retreat of the irregular
auxiliaries, Franks and Batavians, whom the conqueror soon compelled or
persuaded to repass the Rhine, restored the general tranquillity, and
the power of Aurelian was acknowledged from the wall of Antoninus to the
columns of Hercules.

As early as the reign of Claudius, the city of Autun, alone and
unassisted, had ventured to declare against the legions of Gaul. After a
siege of seven months, they stormed and plundered that unfortunate city,
already wasted by famine. Lyons, on the contrary, had resisted with
obstinate disaffection the arms of Aurelian. We read of the punishment
of Lyons, but there is not any mention of the rewards of Autun. Such,
indeed, is the policy of civil war; severely to remember injuries, and
to forget the most important services. Revenge is profitable, gratitude
is expensive.

Aurelian had no sooner secured the person and provinces of Tetricus,
than he turned his arms against Zenobia, the celebrated queen of Palmyra
and the East. Modern Europe has produced several illustrious women
who have sustained with glory the weight of empire; nor is our own
age destitute of such distinguished characters. But if we except the
doubtful achievements of Semiramis, Zenobia is perhaps the only female
whose superior genius broke through the servile indolence imposed on her
sex by the climate and manners of Asia. She claimed her descent from the
Macedonian kings of Egypt, * equalled in beauty her ancestor Cleopatra,
and far surpassed that princess in chastity and valor. Zenobia was
esteemed the most lovely as well as the most heroic of her sex. She was
of a dark complexion, (for in speaking of a lady these trifles become
important.) Her teeth were of a pearly whiteness, and her large black
eyes sparkled with uncommon fire, tempered by the most attractive
sweetness. Her voice was strong and harmonious. Her manly understanding
was strengthened and adorned by study. She was not ignorant of the Latin
tongue, but possessed in equal perfection the Greek, the Syriac, and
the Egyptian languages. She had drawn up for her own use an epitome
of oriental history, and familiarly compared the beauties of Homer and
Plato under the tuition of the sublime Longinus.

This accomplished woman gave her hand to Odenathus, who, from a private
station, raised himself to the dominion of the East. She soon became
the friend and companion of a hero. In the intervals of war, Odenathus
passionately delighted in the exercise of hunting; he pursued with ardor
the wild beasts of the desert, lions, panthers, and bears; and the ardor
of Zenobia in that dangerous amusement was not inferior to his own. She
had inured her constitution to fatigue, disdained the use of a covered
carriage, generally appeared on horseback in a military habit, and
sometimes marched several miles on foot at the head of the troops. The
success of Odenathus was in a great measure ascribed to her incomparable
prudence and fortitude. Their splendid victories over the Great King,
whom they twice pursued as far as the gates of Ctesiphon, laid the
foundations of their united fame and power. The armies which they
commanded, and the provinces which they had saved, acknowledged not any
other sovereigns than their invincible chiefs. The senate and people of
Rome revered a stranger who had avenged their captive emperor, and even
the insensible son of Valerian accepted Odenathus for his legitimate

Chapter XI: Reign Of Claudius, Defeat Of The Goths.--Part III.

After a successful expedition against the Gothic plunderers of Asia, the
Palmyrenian prince returned to the city of Emesa in Syria. Invincible
in war, he was there cut off by domestic treason, and his favorite
amusement of hunting was the cause, or at least the occasion, of his
death. His nephew Mæonius presumed to dart his javelin before that
of his uncle; and though admonished of his error, repeated the same
insolence. As a monarch, and as a sportsman, Odenathus was provoked,
took away his horse, a mark of ignominy among the barbarians, and
chastised the rash youth by a short confinement. The offence was soon
forgot, but the punishment was remembered; and Mæonius, with a few
daring associates, assassinated his uncle in the midst of a great
entertainment. Herod, the son of Odenathus, though not of Zenobia, a
young man of a soft and effeminate temper, was killed with his father.
But Mæonius obtained only the pleasure of revenge by this bloody deed.
He had scarcely time to assume the title of Augustus, before he was
sacrificed by Zenobia to the memory of her husband.

With the assistance of his most faithful friends, she immediately filled
the vacant throne, and governed with manly counsels Palmyra, Syria, and
the East, above five years. By the death of Odenathus, that authority
was at an end which the senate had granted him only as a personal
distinction; but his martial widow, disdaining both the senate and
Gallienus, obliged one of the Roman generals, who was sent against her,
to retreat into Europe, with the loss of his army and his reputation.
Instead of the little passions which so frequently perplex a female
reign, the steady administration of Zenobia was guided by the most
judicious maxims of policy. If it was expedient to pardon, she could
calm her resentment; if it was necessary to punish, she could impose
silence on the voice of pity. Her strict economy was accused of avarice;
yet on every proper occasion she appeared magnificent and liberal. The
neighboring states of Arabia, Armenia, and Persia, dreaded her enmity,
and solicited her alliance. To the dominions of Odenathus, which
extended from the Euphrates to the frontiers of Bithynia, his widow
added the inheritance of her ancestors, the populous and fertile
kingdom of Egypt. * The emperor Claudius acknowledged her merit, and
was content, that, while he pursued the Gothic war, sheshould assert
the dignity of the empire in the East. ^61? The conduct, however, of
Zenobia, was attended with some ambiguity; not is it unlikely that
she had conceived the design of erecting an independent and hostile
monarchy. She blended with the popular manners of Roman princes the
stately pomp of the courts of Asia, and exacted from her subjects the
same adoration that was paid to the successor of Cyrus. She bestowed on
her three sons a Latin education, and often showed them to the troops
adorned with the Imperial purple. For herself she reserved the diadem,
with the splendid but doubtful title of Queen of the East.

When Aurelian passed over into Asia, against an adversary whose sex
alone could render her an object of contempt, his presence restored
obedience to the province of Bithynia, already shaken by the arms and
intrigues of Zenobia. Advancing at the head of his legions, he accepted
the submission of Ancyra, and was admitted into Tyana, after an
obstinate siege, by the help of a perfidious citizen. The generous
though fierce temper of Aurelian abandoned the traitor to the rage of
the soldiers; a superstitious reverence induced him to treat with lenity
the countrymen of Apollonius the philosopher. Antioch was deserted on
his approach, till the emperor, by his salutary edicts, recalled the
fugitives, and granted a general pardon to all, who, from necessity
rather than choice, had been engaged in the service of the Palmyrenian
Queen. The unexpected mildness of such a conduct reconciled the minds of
the Syrians, and as far as the gates of Emesa, the wishes of the people
seconded the terror of his arms.

Zenobia would have ill deserved her reputation, had she indolently
permitted the emperor of the West to approach within a hundred miles of
her capital. The fate of the East was decided in two great battles; so
similar in almost every circumstance, that we can scarcely distinguish
them from each other, except by observing that the first was fought
near Antioch, and the second near Emesa. In both the queen of Palmyra
animated the armies by her presence, and devolved the execution of her
orders on Zabdas, who had already signalized his military talents by the
conquest of Egypt. The numerous forces of Zenobia consisted for the most
part of light archers, and of heavy cavalry clothed in complete steel.
The Moorish and Illyrian horse of Aurelian were unable to sustain the
ponderous charge of their antagonists. They fled in real or affected
disorder, engaged the Palmyrenians in a laborious pursuit, harassed them
by a desultory combat, and at length discomfited this impenetrable but
unwieldy body of cavalry. The light infantry, in the mean time, when
they had exhausted their quivers, remaining without protection against
a closer onset, exposed their naked sides to the swords of the legions.
Aurelian had chosen these veteran troops, who were usually stationed
on the Upper Danube, and whose valor had been severely tried in the
Alemannic war. After the defeat of Emesa, Zenobia found it impossible
to collect a third army. As far as the frontier of Egypt, the nations
subject to her empire had joined the standard of the conqueror, who
detached Probus, the bravest of his generals, to possess himself of
the Egyptian provinces. Palmyra was the last resource of the widow
of Odenathus. She retired within the walls of her capital, made
every preparation for a vigorous resistance, and declared, with the
intrepidity of a heroine, that the last moment of her reign and of her
life should be the same.

Amid the barren deserts of Arabia, a few cultivated spots rise like
islands out of the sandy ocean. Even the name of Tadmor, or Palmyra,
by its signification in the Syriac as well as in the Latin language,
denoted the multitude of palm-trees which afforded shade and verdure to
that temperate region. The air was pure, and the soil, watered by some
invaluable springs, was capable of producing fruits as well as corn.
A place possessed of such singular advantages, and situated at a
convenient distance between the Gulf of Persia and the Mediterranean,
was soon frequented by the caravans which conveyed to the nations of
Europe a considerable part of the rich commodities of India. Palmyra
insensibly increased into an opulent and independent city, and
connecting the Roman and the Parthian monarchies by the mutual benefits
of commerce, was suffered to observe an humble neutrality, till at
length, after the victories of Trajan, the little republic sunk into the
bosom of Rome, and flourished more than one hundred and fifty years in
the subordinate though honorable rank of a colony. It was during that
peaceful period, if we may judge from a few remaining inscriptions,
that the wealthy Palmyrenians constructed those temples, palaces, and
porticos of Grecian architecture, whose ruins, scattered over an extent
of several miles, have deserved the curiosity of our travellers. The
elevation of Odenathus and Zenobia appeared to reflect new splendor on
their country, and Palmyra, for a while, stood forth the rival of Rome:
but the competition was fatal, and ages of prosperity were sacrificed to
a moment of glory.

In his march over the sandy desert between Emesa and Palmyra, the
emperor Aurelian was perpetually harassed by the Arabs; nor could he
always defend his army, and especially his baggage, from those flying
troops of active and daring robbers, who watched the moment of surprise,
and eluded the slow pursuit of the legions. The siege of Palmyra was
an object far more difficult and important, and the emperor, who, with
incessant vigor, pressed the attacks in person, was himself wounded with
a dart. "The Roman people," says Aurelian, in an original letter, "speak
with contempt of the war which I am waging against a woman. They are
ignorant both of the character and of the power of Zenobia. It is
impossible to enumerate her warlike preparations, of stones, of arrows,
and of every species of missile weapons. Every part of the walls is
provided with two or three balist and artificial fires are thrown
from her military engines. The fear of punishment has armed her with a
desperate courage. Yet still I trust in the protecting deities of Rome,
who have hitherto been favorable to all my undertakings." Doubtful,
however, of the protection of the gods, and of the event of the siege,
Aurelian judged it more prudent to offer terms of an advantageous
capitulation; to the queen, a splendid retreat; to the citizens, their
ancient privileges. His proposals were obstinately rejected, and the
refusal was accompanied with insult.

The firmness of Zenobia was supported by the hope, that in a very short
time famine would compel the Roman army to repass the desert; and by the
reasonable expectation that the kings of the East, and particularly the
Persian monarch, would arm in the defence of their most natural ally.
But fortune, and the perseverance of Aurelian, overcame every obstacle.
The death of Sapor, which happened about this time, distracted the
councils of Persia, and the inconsiderable succors that attempted to
relieve Palmyra, were easily intercepted either by the arms or
the liberality of the emperor. From every part of Syria, a regular
succession of convoys safely arrived in the camp, which was increased
by the return of Probus with his victorious troops from the conquest
of Egypt. It was then that Zenobia resolved to fly. She mounted the
fleetest of her dromedaries, and had already reached the banks of the
Euphrates, about sixty miles from Palmyra, when she was overtaken by the
pursuit of Aurelian's light horse, seized, and brought back a captive
to the feet of the emperor. Her capital soon afterwards surrendered, and
was treated with unexpected lenity. The arms, horses, and camels, with
an immense treasure of gold, silver, silk, and precious stones, were all
delivered to the conqueror, who, leaving only a garrison of six hundred
archers, returned to Emesa, and employed some time in the distribution
of rewards and punishments at the end of so memorable a war, which
restored to the obedience of Rome those provinces that had renounced
their allegiance since the captivity of Valerian.

When the Syrian queen was brought into the presence of Aurelian, he
sternly asked her, How she had presumed to rise in arms against the
emperors of Rome! The answer of Zenobia was a prudent mixture of respect
and firmness. "Because I disdained to consider as Roman emperors an
Aureolus or a Gallienus. You alone I acknowledge as my conqueror and
my sovereign." But as female fortitude is commonly artificial, so it is
seldom steady or consistent. The courage of Zenobia deserted her in the
hour of trial; she trembled at the angry clamors of the soldiers, who
called aloud for her immediate execution, forgot the generous despair
of Cleopatra, which she had proposed as her model, and ignominiously
purchased life by the sacrifice of her fame and her friends. It was to
their counsels, which governed the weakness of her sex, that she imputed
the guilt of her obstinate resistance; it was on their heads that she
directed the vengeance of the cruel Aurelian. The fame of Longinus,
who was included among the numerous and perhaps innocent victims of her
fear, will survive that of the queen who betrayed, or the tyrant who
condemned him. Genius and learning were incapable of moving a fierce
unlettered soldier, but they had served to elevate and harmonize the
soul of Longinus. Without uttering a complaint, he calmly followed the
executioner, pitying his unhappy mistress, and bestowing comfort on his
afflicted friends.

Returning from the conquest of the East, Aurelian had already crossed
the Straits which divided Europe from Asia, when he was provoked by
the intelligence that the Palmyrenians had massacred the governor and
garrison which he had left among them, and again erected the standard
of revolt. Without a moment's deliberation, he once more turned his
face towards Syria. Antioch was alarmed by his rapid approach, and the
helpless city of Palmyra felt the irresistible weight of his resentment.
We have a letter of Aurelian himself, in which he acknowledges, that old
men, women, children, and peasants, had been involved in that dreadful
execution, which should have been confined to armed rebellion; and
although his principal concern seems directed to the reestablishment
of a temple of the Sun, he discovers some pity for the remnant of
the Palmyrenians, to whom he grants the permission of rebuilding and
inhabiting their city. But it is easier to destroy than to restore.
The seat of commerce, of arts, and of Zenobia, gradually sunk into an
obscure town, a trifling fortress, and at length a miserable village.
The present citizens of Palmyra, consisting of thirty or forty
families, have erected their mud cottages within the spacious court of a
magnificent temple.

Another and a last labor still awaited the indefatigable Aurelian; to
suppress a dangerous though obscure rebel, who, during the revolt of
Palmyra, had arisen on the banks of the Nile. Firmus, the friend and
ally, as he proudly styled himself, of Odenathus and Zenobia, was no
more than a wealthy merchant of Egypt. In the course of his trade to
India, he had formed very intimate connections with the Saracens and the
Blemmyes, whose situation on either coast of the Red Sea gave them an
easy introduction into the Upper Egypt. The Egyptians he inflamed with
the hope of freedom, and, at the head of their furious multitude, broke
into the city of Alexandria, where he assumed the Imperial purple,
coined money, published edicts, and raised an army, which, as he vainly
boasted, he was capable of maintaining from the sole profits of his
paper trade. Such troops were a feeble defence against the approach of
Aurelian; and it seems almost unnecessary to relate, that Firmus
was routed, taken, tortured, and put to death. Aurelian might now
congratulate the senate, the people, and himself, that in little more
than three years, he had restored universal peace and order to the Roman

Since the foundation of Rome, no general had more nobly deserved a
triumph than Aurelian; nor was a triumph ever celebrated with superior
pride and magnificence. The pomp was opened by twenty elephants, four
royal tigers, and above two hundred of the most curious animals from
every climate of the North, the East, and the South. They were followed
by sixteen hundred gladiators, devoted to the cruel amusement of the
amphitheatre. The wealth of Asia, the arms and ensigns of so many
conquered nations, and the magnificent plate and wardrobe of the
Syrian queen, were disposed in exact symmetry or artful disorder. The
ambassadors of the most remote parts of the earth, of Æthiopia, Arabia,
Persia, Bactriana, India, and China, all remarkable by their rich or
singular dresses, displayed the fame and power of the Roman emperor, who
exposed likewise to the public view the presents that he had received,
and particularly a great number of crowns of gold, the offerings of
grateful cities. The victories of Aurelian were attested by the long
train of captives who reluctantly attended his triumph, Goths, Vandals,
Sarmatians, Alemanni, Franks, Gauls, Syrians, and Egyptians. Each people
was distinguished by its peculiar inscription, and the title of Amazons
was bestowed on ten martial heroines of the Gothie nation who had been
taken in arms. But every eye, disregarding the crowd of captives, was
fixed on the emperor Tetricus and the queen of the East. The former,
as well as his son, whom he had created Augustus, was dressed in Gallic
trousers, a saffron tunic, and a robe of purple. The beauteous figure
of Zenobia was confined by fetters of gold; a slave supported the
gold chain which encircled her neck, and she almost fainted under the
intolerable weight of jewels. She preceded on foot the magnificent
chariot, in which she once hoped to enter the gates of Rome. It was
followed by two other chariots, still more sumptuous, of Odenathus and
of the Persian monarch. The triumphal car of Aurelian (it had formerly
been used by a Gothic king) was drawn, on this memorable occasion,
either by four stags or by four elephants. The most illustrious of the
senate, the people, and the army closed the solemn procession. Unfeigned
joy, wonder, and gratitude, swelled the acclamations of the multitude;
but the satisfaction of the senate was clouded by the appearance of
Tetricus; nor could they suppress a rising murmur, that the haughty
emperor should thus expose to public ignominy the person of a Roman and
a magistrate.

But however, in the treatment of his unfortunate rivals, Aurelian might
indulge his pride, he behaved towards them with a generous clemency,
which was seldom exercised by the ancient conquerors. Princes who,
without success, had defended their throne or freedom, were frequently
strangled in prison, as soon as the triumphal pomp ascended the Capitol.
These usurpers, whom their defeat had convicted of the crime of treason,
were permitted to spend their lives in affluence and honorable repose.
The emperor presented Zenobia with an elegant villa at Tibur, or Tivoli,
about twenty miles from the capital; the Syrian queen insensibly sunk
into a Roman matron, her daughters married into noble families, and her
race was not yet extinct in the fifth century. Tetricus and his son were
reinstated in their rank and fortunes. They erected on the Cælian hill a
magnificent palace, and as soon as it was finished, invited Aurelian to
supper. On his entrance, he was agreeably surprised with a picture which
represented their singular history. They were delineated offering to the
emperor a civic crown and the sceptre of Gaul, and again receiving
at his hands the ornaments of the senatorial dignity. The father was
afterwards invested with the government of Lucania, and Aurelian, who
soon admitted the abdicated monarch to his friendship and conversation,
familiarly asked him, Whether it were not more desirable to administer a
province of Italy, than to reign beyond the Alps. The son long continued
a respectable member of the senate; nor was there any one of the Roman
nobility more esteemed by Aurelian, as well as by his successors.

So long and so various was the pomp of Aurelian's triumph, that although
it opened with the dawn of day, the slow majesty of the procession
ascended not the Capitol before the ninth hour; and it was already dark
when the emperor returned to the palace. The festival was protracted by
theatrical representations, the games of the circus, the hunting of wild
beasts, combats of gladiators, and naval engagements. Liberal donatives
were distributed to the army and people, and several institutions,
agreeable or beneficial to the city, contributed to perpetuate the
glory of Aurelian. A considerable portion of his oriental spoils was
consecrated to the gods of Rome; the Capitol, and every other temple,
glittered with the offerings of his ostentatious piety; and the temple
of the Sun alone received above fifteen thousand pounds of gold. This
last was a magnificent structure, erected by the emperor on the side of
the Quirinal hill, and dedicated, soon after the triumph, to that deity
whom Aurelian adored as the parent of his life and fortunes. His mother
had been an inferior priestess in a chapel of the Sun; a peculiar
devotion to the god of Light was a sentiment which the fortunate peasant
imbibed in his infancy; and every step of his elevation, every victory
of his reign, fortified superstition by gratitude.

The arms of Aurelian had vanquished the foreign and domestic foes of
the republic. We are assured, that, by his salutary rigor, crimes and
factions, mischievous arts and pernicious connivance, the luxurious
growth of a feeble and oppressive government, were eradicated throughout
the Roman world. But if we attentively reflect how much swifter is the
progress of corruption than its cure, and if we remember that the
years abandoned to public disorders exceeded the months allotted to the
martial reign of Aurelian, we must confess that a few short intervals
of peace were insufficient for the arduous work of reformation. Even his
attempt to restore the integrity of the coin was opposed by a formidable
insurrection. The emperor's vexation breaks out in one of his private
letters. "Surely," says he, "the gods have decreed that my life should
be a perpetual warfare. A sedition within the walls has just now given
birth to a very serious civil war. The workmen of the mint, at the
instigation of Felicissimus, a slave to whom I had intrusted an
employment in the finances, have risen in rebellion. They are at length
suppressed; but seven thousand of my soldiers have been slain in the
contest, of those troops whose ordinary station is in Dacia, and the
camps along the Danube." Other writers, who confirm the same fact,
add likewise, that it happened soon after Aurelian's triumph; that the
decisive engagement was fought on the Cælian hill; that the workmen of
the mint had adulterated the coin; and that the emperor restored the
public credit, by delivering out good money in exchange for the bad,
which the people was commanded to bring into the treasury.

We might content ourselves with relating this extraordinary transaction,
but we cannot dissemble how much in its present form it appears to us
inconsistent and incredible. The debasement of the coin is indeed well
suited to the administration of Gallienus; nor is it unlikely that the
instruments of the corruption might dread the inflexible justice of
Aurelian. But the guilt, as well as the profit, must have been confined
to a very few; nor is it easy to conceive by what arts they could arm a
people whom they had injured, against a monarch whom they had betrayed.
We might naturally expect that such miscreants should have shared
the public detestation with the informers and the other ministers of
oppression; and that the reformation of the coin should have been an
action equally popular with the destruction of those obsolete accounts,
which by the emperor's order were burnt in the forum of Trajan. In an
age when the principles of commerce were so imperfectly understood, the
most desirable end might perhaps be effected by harsh and injudicious
means; but a temporary grievance of such a nature can scarcely excite
and support a serious civil war. The repetition of intolerable taxes,
imposed either on the land or on the necessaries of life, may at last
provoke those who will not, or who cannot, relinquish their country.
But the case is far otherwise in every operation which, by whatsoever
expedients, restores the just value of money. The transient evil is
soon obliterated by the permanent benefit, the loss is divided among
multitudes; and if a few wealthy individuals experience a sensible
diminution of treasure, with their riches, they at the same time
lose the degree of weight and importance which they derived from the
possession of them. However Aurelian might choose to disguise the real
cause of the insurrection, his reformation of the coin could furnish
only a faint pretence to a party already powerful and discontented.
Rome, though deprived of freedom, was distracted by faction. The
people, towards whom the emperor, himself a plebeian, always expressed
a peculiar fondness, lived in perpetual dissension with the senate, the
equestrian order, and the Prætorian guards. Nothing less than the firm
though secret conspiracy of those orders, of the authority of the
first, the wealth of the second, and the arms of the third, could have
displayed a strength capable of contending in battle with the veteran
legions of the Danube, which, under the conduct of a martial sovereign,
had achieved the conquest of the West and of the East.

Whatever was the cause or the object of this rebellion, imputed with so
little probability to the workmen of the mint, Aurelian used his victory
with unrelenting rigor. He was naturally of a severe disposition. A
peasant and a soldier, his nerves yielded not easily to the impressions
of sympathy, and he could sustain without emotion the sight of tortures
and death. Trained from his earliest youth in the exercise of arms, he
set too small a value on the life of a citizen, chastised by military
execution the slightest offences, and transferred the stern discipline
of the camp into the civil administration of the laws. His love of
justice often became a blind and furious passion and whenever he deemed
his own or the public safety endangered, he disregarded the rules of
evidence, and the proportion of punishments. The unprovoked rebellion
with which the Romans rewarded his services, exasperated his haughty
spirit. The noblest families of the capital were involved in the guilt
or suspicion of this dark conspiracy. A nasty spirit of revenge urged
the bloody prosecution, and it proved fatal to one of the nephews of
the emperor. The executioners (if we may use the expression of a
contemporary poet) were fatigued, the prisons were crowded, and the
unhappy senate lamented the death or absence of its most illustrious
members. Nor was the pride of Aurelian less offensive to that assembly
than his cruelty. Ignorant or impatient of the restraints of civil
institutions, he disdained to hold his power by any other title than
that of the sword, and governed by right of conquest an empire which he
had saved and subdued.

It was observed by one of the most sagacious of the Roman princes,
that the talents of his predecessor Aurelian were better suited to the
command of an army, than to the government of an empire. Conscious of
the character in which nature and experience had enabled him to excel,
he again took the field a few months after his triumph. It was expedient
to exercise the restless temper of the legions in some foreign war, and
the Persian monarch, exulting in the shame of Valerian, still braved
with impunity the offended majesty of Rome. At the head of an army, less
formidable by its numbers than by its discipline and valor, the emperor
advanced as far as the Straits which divide Europe from Asia. He there
experienced that the most absolute power is a weak defence against the
effects of despair. He had threatened one of his secretaries who was
accused of extortion; and it was known that he seldom threatened in
vain. The last hope which remained for the criminal, was to involve some
of the principal officers of the army in his danger, or at least in his
fears. Artfully counterfeiting his master's hand, he showed them, in
a long and bloody list, their own names devoted to death. Without
suspecting or examining the fraud, they resolved to secure their lives
by the murder of the emperor. On his march, between Byzanthium and
Heraclea, Aurelian was suddenly attacked by the conspirators, whose
stations gave them a right to surround his person, and after a short
resistance, fell by the hand of Mucapor, a general whom he had always
loved and trusted. He died regretted by the army, detested by the
senate, but universally acknowledged as a warlike and fortunate prince,
the useful, though severe reformer of a degenerate state.

Chapter XII: Reigns Of Tacitus, Probus, Carus And His Sons.--Part I.

     Conduct Of The Army And Senate After The Death Of Aurelian.--
     Reigns Of Tacitus, Probus, Carus, And His Sons.

Such was the unhappy condition of the Roman emperors, that, whatever
might be their conduct, their fate was commonly the same. A life of
pleasure or virtue, of severity or mildness, of indolence or glory,
alike led to an untimely grave; and almost every reign is closed by the
same disgusting repetition of treason and murder. The death of Aurelian,
however, is remarkable by its extraordinary consequences. The legions
admired, lamented, and revenged their victorious chief. The artifice
of his perfidious secretary was discovered and punished. The deluded
conspirators attended the funeral of their injured sovereign, with
sincere or well-feigned contrition, and submitted to the unanimous
resolution of the military order, which was signified by the following
epistle: "The brave and fortunate armies to the senate and people of
Rome.--The crime of one man, and the error of many, have deprived us
of the late emperor Aurelian. May it please you, venerable lords and
fathers! to place him in the number of the gods, and to appoint a
successor whom your judgment shall declare worthy of the Imperial
purple! None of those whose guilt or misfortune have contributed to
our loss, shall ever reign over us." The Roman senators heard, without
surprise, that another emperor had been assassinated in his camp; they
secretly rejoiced in the fall of Aurelian; and, besides the recent
notoriety of the facts, constantly draws his materials from the Journals
of the Senate, and the but the modest and dutiful address of the
legions, when it was communicated in full assembly by the consul,
diffused the most pleasing astonishment. Such honors as fear and perhaps
esteem could extort, they liberally poured forth on the memory of their
deceased sovereign. Such acknowledgments as gratitude could inspire,
they returned to the faithful armies of the republic, who entertained
so just a sense of the legal authority of the senate in the choice of an
emperor. Yet, notwithstanding this flattering appeal, the most prudent
of the assembly declined exposing their safety and dignity to the
caprice of an armed multitude. The strength of the legions was, indeed,
a pledge of their sincerity, since those who may command are seldom
reduced to the necessity of dissembling; but could it naturally be
expected, that a hasty repentance would correct the inveterate habits
of fourscore years? Should the soldiers relapse into their accustomed
seditions, their insolence might disgrace the majesty of the senate, and
prove fatal to the object of its choice. Motives like these dictated
a decree, by which the election of a new emperor was referred to the
suffrage of the military order.

The contention that ensued is one of the best attested, but most
improbable events in the history of mankind. The troops, as if satiated
with the exercise of power, again conjured the senate to invest one of
its own body with the Imperial purple. The senate still persisted in its
refusal; the army in its request. The reciprocal offer was pressed and
rejected at least three times, and, whilst the obstinate modesty of
either party was resolved to receive a master from the hands of the
other, eight months insensibly elapsed; an amazing period of tranquil
anarchy, during which the Roman world remained without a sovereign,
without a usurper, and without a sedition. * The generals and
magistrates appointed by Aurelian continued to execute their ordinary
functions; and it is observed, that a proconsul of Asia was the only
considerable person removed from his office in the whole course of the

An event somewhat similar, but much less authentic, is supposed to have
happened after the death of Romulus, who, in his life and character,
bore some affinity with Aurelian. The throne was vacant during twelve
months, till the election of a Sabine philosopher, and the public peace
was guarded in the same manner, by the union of the several orders of
the state. But, in the time of Numa and Romulus, the arms of the people
were controlled by the authority of the Patricians; and the balance
of freedom was easily preserved in a small and virtuous community. The
decline of the Roman state, far different from its infancy, was attended
with every circumstance that could banish from an interregnum the
prospect of obedience and harmony: an immense and tumultuous capital,
a wide extent of empire, the servile equality of despotism, an army
of four hundred thousand mercenaries, and the experience of frequent
revolutions. Yet, notwithstanding all these temptations, the discipline
and memory of Aurelian still restrained the seditious temper of the
troops, as well as the fatal ambition of their leaders. The flower of
the legions maintained their stations on the banks of the Bosphorus, and
the Imperial standard awed the less powerful camps of Rome and of the
provinces. A generous though transient enthusiasm seemed to animate the
military order; and we may hope that a few real patriots cultivated the
returning friendship of the army and the senate, as the only expedient
capable of restoring the republic to its ancient beauty and vigor.

On the twenty-fifth of September, near eight months after the murder of
Aurelian, the consul convoked an assembly of the senate, and reported
the doubtful and dangerous situation of the empire. He slightly
insinuated, that the precarious loyalty of the soldiers depended on the
chance of every hour, and of every accident; but he represented, with
the most convincing eloquence, the various dangers that might attend any
further delay in the choice of an emperor. Intelligence, he said, was
already received, that the Germans had passed the Rhine, and occupied
some of the strongest and most opulent cities of Gaul. The ambition of
the Persian king kept the East in perpetual alarms; Egypt, Africa, and
Illyricum, were exposed to foreign and domestic arms, and the levity of
Syria would prefer even a female sceptre to the sanctity of the Roman
laws. The consul, then addressing himself to Tacitus, the first of the
senators, required his opinion on the important subject of a proper
candidate for the vacant throne.

If we can prefer personal merit to accidental greatness, we shall esteem
the birth of Tacitus more truly noble than that of kings. He claimed his
descent from the philosophic historian, whose writings will instruct the
last generations of mankind. The senator Tacitus was then seventy-five
years of age. The long period of his innocent life was adorned with
wealth and honors. He had twice been invested with the consular dignity,
and enjoyed with elegance and sobriety his ample patrimony of between
two and three millions sterling. The experience of so many princes, whom
he had esteemed or endured, from the vain follies of Elagabalus to the
useful rigor of Aurelian, taught him to form a just estimate of the
duties, the dangers, and the temptations of their sublime station. From
the assiduous study of his immortal ancestor, he derived the knowledge
of the Roman constitution, and of human nature. The voice of the people
had already named Tacitus as the citizen the most worthy of empire.
The ungrateful rumor reached his ears, and induced him to seek the
retirement of one of his villas in Campania. He had passed two months in
the delightful privacy of Baiæ, when he reluctantly obeyed the summons
of the consul to resume his honorable place in the senate, and to assist
the republic with his counsels on this important occasion.

He arose to speak, when from every quarter of the house, he was saluted
with the names of Augustus and emperor. "Tacitus Augustus, the gods
preserve thee! we choose thee for our sovereign; to thy care we intrust
the republic and the world. Accept the empire from the authority of the
senate. It is due to thy rank, to thy conduct, to thy manners." As soon
as the tumult of acclamations subsided, Tacitus attempted to decline the
dangerous honor, and to express his wonder, that they should elect his
age and infirmities to succeed the martial vigor of Aurelian. "Are these
limbs, conscript fathers! fitted to sustain the weight of armor, or to
practise the exercises of the camp? The variety of climates, and the
hardships of a military life, would soon oppress a feeble constitution,
which subsists only by the most tender management. My exhausted strength
scarcely enables me to discharge the duty of a senator; how insufficient
would it prove to the arduous labors of war and government! Can you
hope, that the legions will respect a weak old man, whose days have been
spent in the shade of peace and retirement? Can you desire that I should
ever find reason to regret the favorable opinion of the senate?"

The reluctance of Tacitus (and it might possibly be sincere) was
encountered by the affectionate obstinacy of the senate. Five hundred
voices repeated at once, in eloquent confusion, that the greatest of the
Roman princes, Numa, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, had ascended
the throne in a very advanced season of life; that the mind, not the
body, a sovereign, not a soldier, was the object of their choice; and
that they expected from him no more than to guide by his wisdom the
valor of the legions. These pressing though tumultuary instances were
seconded by a more regular oration of Metius Falconius, the next on the
consular bench to Tacitus himself. He reminded the assembly of the
evils which Rome had endured from the vices of headstrong and capricious
youths, congratulated them on the election of a virtuous and experienced
senator, and, with a manly, though perhaps a selfish, freedom, exhorted
Tacitus to remember the reasons of his elevation, and to seek a
successor, not in his own family, but in the republic. The speech of
Falconius was enforced by a general acclamation. The emperor elect
submitted to the authority of his country, and received the voluntary
homage of his equals. The judgment of the senate was confirmed by the
consent of the Roman people, and of the Prætorian guards.

The administration of Tacitus was not unworthy of his life and
principles. A grateful servant of the senate, he considered that
national council as the author, and himself as the subject, of the laws.
He studied to heal the wounds which Imperial pride, civil discord, and
military violence, had inflicted on the constitution, and to restore,
at least, the image of the ancient republic, as it had been preserved by
the policy of Augustus, and the virtues of Trajan and the Antonines.
It may not be useless to recapitulate some of the most important
prerogatives which the senate appeared to have regained by the election
of Tacitus. 1. To invest one of their body, under the title of emperor,
with the general command of the armies, and the government of the
frontier provinces. 2. To determine the list, or, as it was then styled,
the College of Consuls. They were twelve in number, who, in successive
pairs, each, during the space of two months, filled the year, and
represented the dignity of that ancient office. The authority of the
senate, in the nomination of the consuls, was exercised with such
independent freedom, that no regard was paid to an irregular request of
the emperor in favor of his brother Florianus. "The senate," exclaimed
Tacitus, with the honest transport of a patriot, "understand the
character of a prince whom they have chosen." 3. To appoint the
proconsuls and presidents of the provinces, and to confer on all the
magistrates their civil jurisdiction. 4. To receive appeals through the
intermediate office of the præfect of the city from all the tribunals of
the empire. 5. To give force and validity, by their decrees, to such
as they should approve of the emperor's edicts. 6. To these several
branches of authority we may add some inspection over the finances,
since, even in the stern reign of Aurelian, it was in their power to
divert a part of the revenue from the public service.

Circular epistles were sent, without delay, to all the principal cities
of the empire, Treves, Milan, Aquileia, Thessalo nica, Corinth, Athens,
Antioch, Alexandria, and Carthage, to claim their obedience, and to
inform them of the happy revolution, which had restored the Roman senate
to its ancient dignity. Two of these epistles are still extant.
We likewise possess two very singular fragments of the private
correspondence of the senators on this occasion. They discover the most
excessive joy, and the most unbounded hopes. "Cast away your indolence,"
it is thus that one of the senators addresses his friend, "emerge from
your retirements of Baiæ and Puteoli. Give yourself to the city, to the
senate. Rome flourishes, the whole republic flourishes. Thanks to the
Roman army, to an army truly Roman; at length we have recovered our
just authority, the end of all our desires. We hear appeals, we appoint
proconsuls, we create emperors; perhaps too we may restrain them--to the
wise a word is sufficient." These lofty expectations were, however,
soon disappointed; nor, indeed, was it possible that the armies and the
provinces should long obey the luxurious and unwarlike nobles of Rome.
On the slightest touch, the unsupported fabric of their pride and power
fell to the ground. The expiring senate displayed a sudden lustre,
blazed for a moment and was extinguished forever.

All that had yet passed at Rome was no more than a theatrical
representation, unless it was ratified by the more substantial power of
the legions. Leaving the senators to enjoy their dream of freedom and
ambition, Tacitus proceeded to the Thracian camp, and was there, by the
Prætorian præfect, presented to the assembled troops, as the prince whom
they themselves had demanded, and whom the senate had bestowed. As soon
as the præfect was silent, the emperor addressed himself to the soldiers
with eloquence and propriety. He gratified their avarice by a liberal
distribution of treasure, under the names of pay and donative. He
engaged their esteem by a spirited declaration, that although his
age might disable him from the performance of military exploits, his
counsels should never be unworthy of a Roman general, the successor of
the brave Aurelian.

Whilst the deceased emperor was making preparations for a second
expedition into the East, he had negotiated with the Alani, * a Scythian
people, who pitched their tents in the neighborhood of the Lake Moeotis.
Those barbarians, allured by presents and subsidies, had promised to
invade Persia with a numerous body of light cavalry. They were faithful
to their engagements; but when they arrived on the Roman frontier,
Aurelian was already dead, the design of the Persian war was at least
suspended, and the generals, who, during the interregnum, exercised a
doubtful authority, were unprepared either to receive or to oppose
them. Provoked by such treatment, which they considered as trifling and
perfidious, the Alani had recourse to their own valor for their payment
and revenge; and as they moved with the usual swiftness of Tartars, they
had soon spread themselves over the provinces of Pontus, Cappadocia,
Cilicia, and Galatia. The legions, who from the opposite shores of
the Bosphorus could almost distinguish the flames of the cities and
villages, impatiently urged their general to lead them against the
invaders. The conduct of Tacitus was suitable to his age and station.
He convinced the barbarians of the faith, as well as the power, of the
empire. Great numbers of the Alani, appeased by the punctual discharge
of the engagements which Aurelian had contracted with them, relinquished
their booty and captives, and quietly retreated to their own deserts,
beyond the Phasis. Against the remainder, who refused peace, the Roman
emperor waged, in person, a successful war. Seconded by an army of brave
and experienced veterans, in a few weeks he delivered the provinces of
Asia from the terror of the Scythian invasion.

But the glory and life of Tacitus were of short duration. Transported,
in the depth of winter, from the soft retirement of Campania to the
foot of Mount Caucasus, he sunk under the unaccustomed hardships of a
military life. The fatigues of the body were aggravated by the cares of
the mind. For a while, the angry and selfish passions of the soldiers
had been suspended by the enthusiasm of public virtue. They soon broke
out with redoubled violence, and raged in the camp, and even in the
tent of the aged emperor. His mild and amiable character served only to
inspire contempt, and he was incessantly tormented with factions which
he could not assuage, and by demands which it was impossible to satisfy.
Whatever flattering expectations he had conceived of reconciling the
public disorders, Tacitus soon was convinced that the licentiousness of
the army disdained the feeble restraint of laws, and his last hour was
hastened by anguish and disappointment. It may be doubtful whether the
soldiers imbrued their hands in the blood of this innocent prince. It is
certain that their insolences was the cause of his death. He expired at
Tyana in Cappadocia, after a reign of only six months and about twenty

The eyes of Tacitus were scarcely closed, before his brother Florianus
showed himself unworthy to reign, by the hasty usurpation of the purple,
without expecting the approbation of the senate. The reverence for the
Roman constitution, which yet influenced the camp and the provinces, was
sufficiently strong to dispose them to censure, but not to provoke them
to oppose, the precipitate ambition of Florianus. The discontent would
have evaporated in idle murmurs, had not the general of the East, the
heroic Probus, boldly declared himself the avenger of the senate. The
contest, however, was still unequal; nor could the most able leader, at
the head of the effeminate troops of Egypt and Syria, encounter, with
any hopes of victory, the legions of Europe, whose irresistible strength
appeared to support the brother of Tacitus. But the fortune and activity
of Probus triumphed over every obstacle. The hardy veterans of his
rival, accustomed to cold climates, sickened and consumed away in the
sultry heats of Cilicia, where the summer proved remarkably unwholesome.
Their numbers were diminished by frequent desertion; the passes of
the mountains were feebly defended; Tarsus opened its gates; and the
soldiers of Florianus, when they had permitted him to enjoy the Imperial
title about three months, delivered the empire from civil war by the
easy sacrifice of a prince whom they despised.

The perpetual revolutions of the throne had so perfectly erased every
notion of hereditary title, that the family of an unfortunate emperor
was incapable of exciting the jealousy of his successors. The children
of Tacitus and Florianus were permitted to descend into a private
station, and to mingle with the general mass of the people. Their
poverty indeed became an additional safeguard to their innocence. When
Tacitus was elected by the senate, he resigned his ample patrimony to
the public service; an act of generosity specious in appearance, but
which evidently disclosed his intention of transmitting the empire to
his descendants. The only consolation of their fallen state was the
remembrance of transient greatness, and a distant hope, the child of a
flattering prophecy, that at the end of a thousand years, a monarch
of the race of Tacitus should arise, the protector of the senate, the
restorer of Rome, and the conqueror of the whole earth.

The peasants of Illyricum, who had already given Claudius and Aurelian
to the sinking empire, had an equal right to glory in the elevation of
Probus. Above twenty years before, the emperor Valerian, with his usual
penetration, had discovered the rising merit of the young soldier, on
whom he conferred the rank of tribune, long before the age prescribed
by the military regulations. The tribune soon justified his choice, by a
victory over a great body of Sarmatians, in which he saved the life of
a near relation of Valerian; and deserved to receive from the emperor's
hand the collars, bracelets, spears, and banners, the mural and the
civic crown, and all the honorable rewards reserved by ancient Rome
for successful valor. The third, and afterwards the tenth, legion were
intrusted to the command of Probus, who, in every step of his promotion,
showed himself superior to the station which he filled. Africa and
Pontus, the Rhine, the Danube, the Euphrates, and the Nile, by turns
afforded him the most splendid occasions of displaying his personal
prowess and his conduct in war. Aurelian was indebted for the honest
courage with which he often checked the cruelty of his master.
Tacitus, who desired by the abilities of his generals to supply his own
deficiency of military talents, named him commander-in-chief of all the
eastern provinces, with five times the usual salary, the promise of the
consulship, and the hope of a triumph. When Probus ascended the Imperial
throne, he was about forty-four years of age; in the full possession
of his fame, of the love of the army, and of a mature vigor of mind and

His acknowledge merit, and the success of his arms against Florianus,
left him without an enemy or a competitor. Yet, if we may credit his own
professions, very far from being desirous of the empire, he had accepted
it with the most sincere reluctance. "But it is no longer in my power,"
says Probus, in a private letter, "to lay down a title so full of envy
and of danger. I must continue to personate the character which the
soldiers have imposed upon me." His dutiful address to the senate
displayed the sentiments, or at least the language, of a Roman patriot:
"When you elected one of your order, conscript fathers! to succeed the
emperor Aurelian, you acted in a manner suitable to your justice and
wisdom. For you are the legal sovereigns of the world, and the power
which you derive from your ancestors will descend to your posterity.
Happy would it have been, if Florianus, instead of usurping the purple
of his brother, like a private inheritance, had expected what your
majesty might determine, either in his favor, or in that of other
person. The prudent soldiers have punished his rashness. To me they
have offered the title of Augustus. But I submit to your clemency my
pretensions and my merits." When this respectful epistle was read by the
consul, the senators were unable to disguise their satisfaction, that
Probus should condescend thus numbly to solicit a sceptre which he
already possessed. They celebrated with the warmest gratitude
his virtues, his exploits, and above all his moderation. A decree
immediately passed, without a dissenting voice, to ratify the election
of the eastern armies, and to confer on their chief all the several
branches of the Imperial dignity: the names of Cæsar and Augustus, the
title of Father of his country, the right of making in the same day
three motions in the senate, the office of Pontifex, Maximus, the
tribunitian power, and the proconsular command; a mode of investiture,
which, though it seemed to multiply the authority of the emperor,
expressed the constitution of the ancient republic. The reign of Probus
corresponded with this fair beginning. The senate was permitted to
direct the civil administration of the empire. Their faithful general
asserted the honor of the Roman arms, and often laid at their feet
crowns of gold and barbaric trophies, the fruits of his numerous
victories. Yet, whilst he gratified their vanity, he must secretly have
despised their indolence and weakness. Though it was every moment in
their power to repeal the disgraceful edict of Gallienus, the proud
successors of the Scipios patiently acquiesced in their exclusion from
all military employments. They soon experienced, that those who refuse
the sword must renounce the sceptre.

Chapter XII: Reigns Of Tacitus, Probus, Carus And His Sons.--Part II.

The strength of Aurelian had crushed on every side the enemies of Rome.
After his death they seemed to revive with an increase of fury and of
numbers. They were again vanquished by the active vigor of Probus,
who, in a short reign of about six years, equalled the fame of ancient
heroes, and restored peace and order to every province of the Roman
world. The dangerous frontier of Rhætia he so firmly secured, that he
left it without the suspicion of an enemy. He broke the wandering power
of the Sarmatian tribes, and by the terror of his arms compelled those
barbarians to relinquish their spoil. The Gothic nation courted the
alliance of so warlike an emperor. He attacked the Isaurians in their
mountains, besieged and took several of their strongest castles, and
flattered himself that he had forever suppressed a domestic foe, whose
independence so deeply wounded the majesty of the empire. The troubles
excited by the usurper Firmus in the Upper Egypt had never been
perfectly appeased, and the cities of Ptolemais and Coptos, fortified by
the alliance of the Blemmyes, still maintained an obscure rebellion. The
chastisement of those cities, and of their auxiliaries the savages of
the South, is said to have alarmed the court of Persia, and the Great
King sued in vain for the friendship of Probus. Most of the exploits
which distinguished his reign were achieved by the personal valor and
conduct of the emperor, insomuch that the writer of his life expresses
some amazement how, in so short a time, a single man could be present in
so many distant wars. The remaining actions he intrusted to the care of
his lieutenants, the judicious choice of whom forms no inconsiderable
part of his glory. Carus, Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius, Galerius,
Asclepiodatus, Annibalianus, and a crowd of other chiefs, who afterwards
ascended or supported the throne, were trained to arms in the severe
school of Aurelian and Probus.

But the most important service which Probus rendered to the republic was
the deliverance of Gaul, and the recovery of seventy flourishing
cities oppressed by the barbarians of Germany, who, since the death
of Aurelian, had ravaged that great province with impunity. Among the
various multitude of those fierce invaders we may distinguish, with some
degree of clearness, three great armies, or rather nations, successively
vanquished by the valor of Probus. He drove back the Franks into their
morasses; a descriptive circumstance from whence we may infer, that the
confederacy known by the manly appellation of Free, already occupied
the flat maritime country, intersected and almost overflown by the
stagnating waters of the Rhine, and that several tribes of the
Frisians and Batavians had acceded to their alliance. He vanquished
the Burgundians, a considerable people of the Vandalic race. * They had
wandered in quest of booty from the banks of the Oder to those of the
Seine. They esteemed themselves sufficiently fortunate to purchase, by
the restitution of all their booty, the permission of an undisturbed
retreat. They attempted to elude that article of the treaty. Their
punishment was immediate and terrible. But of all the invaders of Gaul,
the most formidable were the Lygians, a distant people, who reigned
over a wide domain on the frontiers of Poland and Silesia. In the Lygian
nation, the Arii held the first rank by their numbers and fierceness.
"The Arii" (it is thus that they are described by the energy of Tacitus)
"study to improve by art and circumstances the innate terrors of their
barbarism. Their shields are black, their bodies are painted black.
They choose for the combat the darkest hour of the night. Their host
advances, covered as it were with a funeral shade; nor do they often
find an enemy capable of sustaining so strange and infernal an aspect.
Of all our senses, the eyes are the first vanquished in battle." Yet
the arms and discipline of the Romans easily discomfited these horrid
phantoms. The Lygii were defeated in a general engagement, and Semno,
the most renowned of their chiefs, fell alive into the hands of Probus.
That prudent emperor, unwilling to reduce a brave people to despair,
granted them an honorable capitulation, and permitted them to return in
safety to their native country. But the losses which they suffered in
the march, the battle, and the retreat, broke the power of the nation:
nor is the Lygian name ever repeated in the history either of Germany
or of the empire. The deliverance of Gaul is reported to have cost the
lives of four hundred thousand of the invaders; a work of labor to the
Romans, and of expense to the emperor, who gave a piece of gold for the
head of every barbarian. But as the fame of warriors is built on the
destruction of human kind, we may naturally suspect, that the sanguinary
account was multiplied by the avarice of the soldiers, and accepted
without any very severe examination by the liberal vanity of Probus.

Since the expedition of Maximin, the Roman generals had confined
their ambition to a defensive war against the nations of Germany, who
perpetually pressed on the frontiers of the empire. The more daring
Probus pursued his Gallic victories, passed the Rhine, and displayed his
invincible eagles on the banks of the Elbe and the Necker. He was fully
convinced that nothing could reconcile the minds of the barbarians to
peace, unless they experienced, in their own country, the calamities of
war. Germany, exhausted by the ill success of the last emigration,
was astonished by his presence. Nine of the most considerable princes
repaired to his camp, and fell prostrate at his feet. Such a treaty was
humbly received by the Germans, as it pleased the conqueror to dictate.
He exacted a strict restitution of the effects and captives which they
had carried away from the provinces; and obliged their own magistrates
to punish the more obstinate robbers who presumed to detain any part of
the spoil. A considerable tribute of corn, cattle, and horses, the only
wealth of barbarians, was reserved for the use of the garrisons which
Probus established on the limits of their territory. He even entertained
some thoughts of compelling the Germans to relinquish the exercise of
arms, and to trust their differences to the justice, their safety to
the power, of Rome. To accomplish these salutary ends, the constant
residence of an Imperial governor, supported by a numerous army, was
indispensably requisite. Probus therefore judged it more expedient to
defer the execution of so great a design; which was indeed rather of
specious than solid utility. Had Germany been reduced into the state
of a province, the Romans, with immense labor and expense, would have
acquired only a more extensive boundary to defend against the fiercer
and more active barbarians of Scythia.

Instead of reducing the warlike natives of Germany to the condition of
subjects, Probus contented himself with the humble expedient of raising
a bulwark against their inroads. The country which now forms the circle
of Swabia had been left desert in the age of Augustus by the emigration
of its ancient inhabitants. The fertility of the soil soon attracted a
new colony from the adjacent provinces of Gaul. Crowds of adventurers,
of a roving temper and of desperate fortunes, occupied the doubtful
possession, and acknowledged, by the payment of tithes the majesty of
the empire. To protect these new subjects, a line of frontier garrisons
was gradually extended from the Rhine to the Danube. About the reign
of Hadrian, when that mode of defence began to be practised, these
garrisons were connected and covered by a strong intrenchment of trees
and palisades. In the place of so rude a bulwark, the emperor Probus
constructed a stone wall of a considerable height, and strengthened it
by towers at convenient distances. From the neighborhood of Newstadt and
Ratisbon on the Danube, it stretched across hills, valleys, rivers, and
morasses, as far as Wimpfen on the Necker, and at length terminated
on the banks of the Rhine, after a winding course of near two hundred
miles. This important barrier, uniting the two mighty streams that
protected the provinces of Europe, seemed to fill up the vacant space
through which the barbarians, and particularly the Alemanni, could
penetrate with the greatest facility into the heart of the empire. But
the experience of the world, from China to Britain, has exposed the vain
attempt of fortifying any extensive tract of country. An active enemy,
who can select and vary his points of attack, must, in the end, discover
some feeble spot, on some unguarded moment. The strength, as well as the
attention, of the defenders is divided; and such are the blind effects
of terror on the firmest troops, that a line broken in a single place is
almost instantly deserted. The fate of the wall which Probus erected may
confirm the general observation. Within a few years after his death,
it was overthrown by the Alemanni. Its scattered ruins, universally
ascribed to the power of the Dæmon, now serve only to excite the wonder
of the Swabian peasant.

Among the useful conditions of peace imposed by Probus on the vanquished
nations of Germany, was the obligation of supplying the Roman army with
sixteen thousand recruits, the bravest and most robust of their youth.
The emperor dispersed them through all the provinces, and distributed
this dangerous reenforcement, in small bands of fifty or sixty each,
among the national troops; judiciously observing, that the aid which the
republic derived from the barbarians should be felt but not seen. Their
aid was now become necessary. The feeble elegance of Italy and the
internal provinces could no longer support the weight of arms. The hardy
frontiers of the Rhine and Danube still produced minds and bodies equal
to the labors of the camp; but a perpetual series of wars had gradually
diminished their numbers. The infrequency of marriage, and the ruin
of agriculture, affected the principles of population, and not only
destroyed the strength of the present, but intercepted the hope
of future, generations. The wisdom of Probus embraced a great and
beneficial plan of replenishing the exhausted frontiers, by new colonies
of captive or fugitive barbarians, on whom he bestowed lands, cattle,
instruments of husbandry, and every encouragement that might engage
them to educate a race of soldiers for the service of the republic.
Into Britain, and most probably into Cambridgeshire, he transported a
considerable body of Vandals. The impossibility of an escape reconciled
them to their situation, and in the subsequent troubles of that island,
they approved themselves the most faithful servants of the state. Great
numbers of Franks and Gepidæ were settled on the banks of the Danube and
the Rhine. A hundred thousand Bastarnæ, expelled from their own country,
cheerfully accepted an establishment in Thrace, and soon imbibed the
manners and sentiments of Roman subjects. But the expectations of
Probus were too often disappointed. The impatience and idleness of
the barbarians could ill brook the slow labors of agriculture. Their
unconquerable love of freedom, rising against despotism, provoked them
into hasty rebellions, alike fatal to themselves and to the provinces;
nor could these artificial supplies, however repeated by succeeding
emperors, restore the important limit of Gaul and Illyricum to its
ancient and native vigor.

Of all the barbarians who abandoned their new settlements, and disturbed
the public tranquillity, a very small number returned to their own
country. For a short season they might wander in arms through the
empire; but in the end they were surely destroyed by the power of
a warlike emperor. The successful rashness of a party of Franks was
attended, however, with such memorable consequences, that it ought not
to be passed unnoticed. They had been established by Probus, on the
sea-coast of Pontus, with a view of strengthening the frontier against
the inroads of the Alani. A fleet stationed in one of the harbors of
the Euxine fell into the hands of the Franks; and they resolved, through
unknown seas, to explore their way from the mouth of the Phasis to
that of the Rhine. They easily escaped through the Bosphorus and
the Hellespont, and cruising along the Mediterranean, indulged
their appetite for revenge and plunder by frequent descents on the
unsuspecting shores of Asia, Greece, and Africa. The opulent city of
Syracuse, in whose port the natives of Athens and Carthage had formerly
been sunk, was sacked by a handful of barbarians, who massacred the
greatest part of the trembling inhabitants. From the Island of Sicily,
the Franks proceeded to the columns of Hercules, trusted themselves to
the ocean, coasted round Spain and Gaul, and steering their triumphant
course through the British Channel, at length finished their surprising
voyage, by landing in safety on the Batavian or Frisian shores. The
example of their success, instructing their countrymen to conceive the
advantages and to despise the dangers of the sea, pointed out to their
enterprising spirit a new road to wealth and glory.

Notwithstanding the vigilance and activity of Probus, it was almost
impossible that he could at once contain in obedience every part of his
wide-extended dominions. The barbarians, who broke their chains, had
seized the favorable opportunity of a domestic war. When the emperor
marched to the relief of Gaul, he devolved the command of the East on
Saturninus. That general, a man of merit and experience, was driven into
rebellion by the absence of his sovereign, the levity of the Alexandrian
people, the pressing instances of his friends, and his own fears; but
from the moment of his elevation, he never entertained a hope of empire,
or even of life. "Alas!" he said, "the republic has lost a useful
servant, and the rashness of an hour has destroyed the services of many
years. You know not," continued he, "the misery of sovereign power; a
sword is perpetually suspended over our head. We dread our very guards,
we distrust our companions. The choice of action or of repose is no
longer in our disposition, nor is there any age, or character, or
conduct, that can protect us from the censure of envy. In thus exalting
me to the throne, you have doomed me to a life of cares, and to an
untimely fate. The only consolation which remains is, the assurance that
I shall not fall alone." But as the former part of his prediction was
verified by the victory, so the latter was disappointed by the clemency
of Probus. That amiable prince attempted even to save the unhappy
Saturninus from the fury of the soldiers. He had more than once
solicited the usurper himself to place some confidence in the mercy of a
sovereign who so highly esteemed his character, that he had punished, as
a malicious informer, the first who related the improbable news of his
disaffection. Saturninus might, perhaps, have embraced the generous
offer, had he not been restrained by the obstinate distrust of his
adherents. Their guilt was deeper, and their hopes more sanguine, than
those of their experienced leader.

The revolt of Saturninus was scarcely extinguished in the East, before
new troubles were excited in the West, by the rebellion of Bonosus and
Proculus, in Gaul. The most distinguished merit of those two officers
was their respective prowess, of the one in the combats of Bacchus,
of the other in those of Venus, yet neither of them was destitute
of courage and capacity, and both sustained, with honor, the august
character which the fear of punishment had engaged them to assume, till
they sunk at length beneath the superior genius of Probus. He used the
victory with his accustomed moderation, and spared the fortune, as well
as the lives of their innocent families.

The arms of Probus had now suppressed all the foreign and domestic
enemies of the state. His mild but steady administration confirmed the
reestablishment of the public tranquillity; nor was there left in the
provinces a hostile barbarian, a tyrant, or even a robber, to revive the
memory of past disorders. It was time that the emperor should revisit
Rome, and celebrate his own glory and the general happiness. The triumph
due to the valor of Probus was conducted with a magnificence suitable
to his fortune, and the people who had so lately admired the trophies of
Aurelian, gazed with equal pleasure on those of his heroic successor.
We cannot, on this occasion, forget the desperate courage of about
fourscore gladiators, reserved, with near six hundred others, for the
inhuman sports of the amphitheatre. Disdaining to shed their blood for
the amusement of the populace, they killed their keepers, broke from the
place of their confinement, and filled the streets of Rome with blood
and confusion. After an obstinate resistance, they were overpowered
and cut in pieces by the regular forces; but they obtained at least an
honorable death, and the satisfaction of a just revenge.

The military discipline which reigned in the camps of Probus was less
cruel than that of Aurelian, but it was equally rigid and exact. The
latter had punished the irregularities of the soldiers with unrelenting
severity, the former prevented them by employing the legions in constant
and useful labors. When Probus commanded in Egypt, he executed many
considerable works for the splendor and benefit of that rich country.
The navigation of the Nile, so important to Rome itself, was improved;
and temples, buildings, porticos, and palaces were constructed by the
hands of the soldiers, who acted by turns as architects, as engineers,
and as husbandmen. It was reported of Hannibal, that in order to
preserve his troops from the dangerous temptations of idleness, he had
obliged them to form large plantations of olive-trees along the coast
of Africa. From a similar principle, Probus exercised his legions in
covering with rich vineyards the hills of Gaul and Pannonia, and two
considerable spots are described, which were entirely dug and planted
by military labor. One of these, known under the name of Mount Almo, was
situated near Sirmium, the country where Probus was born, for which he
ever retained a partial affection, and whose gratitude he endeavored to
secure, by converting into tillage a large and unhealthy tract of marshy
ground. An army thus employed constituted perhaps the most useful, as
well as the bravest, portion of Roman subjects.

But in the prosecution of a favorite scheme, the best of men, satisfied
with the rectitude of their intentions, are subject to forget the bounds
of moderation; nor did Probus himself sufficiently consult the patience
and disposition of his fierce legionaries. The dangers of the military
profession seem only to be compensated by a life of pleasure and
idleness; but if the duties of the soldier are incessantly aggravated
by the labors of the peasant, he will at last sink under the intolerable
burden, or shake it off with indignation. The imprudence of Probus is
said to have inflamed the discontent of his troops. More attentive to
the interests of mankind than to those of the army, he expressed the
vain hope, that, by the establishment of universal peace, he should soon
abolish the necessity of a standing and mercenary force. The unguarded
expression proved fatal to him. In one of the hottest days of summer,
as he severely urged the unwholesome labor of draining the marshes of
Sirmium, the soldiers, impatient of fatigue, on a sudden threw down
their tools, grasped their arms, and broke out into a furious mutiny.
The emperor, conscious of his danger, took refuge in a lofty tower,
constructed for the purpose of surveying the progress of the work. The
tower was instantly forced, and a thousand swords were plunged at
once into the bosom of the unfortunate Probus. The rage of the troops
subsided as soon as it had been gratified. They then lamented their
fatal rashness, forgot the severity of the emperor, whom they had
massacred, and hastened to perpetuate, by an honorable monument, the
memory of his virtues and victories.

When the legions had indulged their grief and repentance for the
death of Probus, their unanimous consent declared Carus, his Prætorian
præfect, the most deserving of the Imperial throne. Every circumstance
that relates to this prince appears of a mixed and doubtful nature.
He gloried in the title of Roman Citizen; and affected to compare the
purity of his blood with the foreign and even barbarous origin of the
preceding emperors; yet the most inquisitive of his contemporaries, very
far from admitting his claim, have variously deduced his own birth, or
that of his parents, from Illyricum, from Gaul, or from Africa. Though
a soldier, he had received a learned education; though a senator, he
was invested with the first dignity of the army; and in an age when the
civil and military professions began to be irrecoverably separated from
each other, they were united in the person of Carus. Notwithstanding the
severe justice which he exercised against the assassins of Probus, to
whose favor and esteem he was highly indebted, he could not escape
the suspicion of being accessory to a deed from whence he derived the
principal advantage. He enjoyed, at least, before his elevation, an
acknowledged character of virtue and abilities; but his austere temper
insensibly degenerated into moroseness and cruelty; and the imperfect
writers of his life almost hesitate whether they shall not rank him in
the number of Roman tyrants. When Carus assumed the purple, he was about
sixty years of age, and his two sons, Carinus and Numerian had already
attained the season of manhood.

The authority of the senate expired with Probus; nor was the repentance
of the soldiers displayed by the same dutiful regard for the civil
power, which they had testified after the unfortunate death of Aurelian.
The election of Carus was decided without expecting the approbation of
the senate, and the new emperor contented himself with announcing, in
a cold and stately epistle, that he had ascended the vacant throne. A
behavior so very opposite to that of his amiable predecessor afforded
no favorable presage of the new reign: and the Romans, deprived of power
and freedom, asserted their privilege of licentious murmurs. The voice
of congratulation and flattery was not, however, silent; and we may
still peruse, with pleasure and contempt, an eclogue, which was composed
on the accession of the emperor Carus. Two shepherds, avoiding the
noontide heat, retire into the cave of Faunus. On a spreading beech
they discover some recent characters. The rural deity had described, in
prophetic verses, the felicity promised to the empire under the reign
of so great a prince. Faunus hails the approach of that hero, who,
receiving on his shoulders the sinking weight of the Roman world, shall
extinguish war and faction, and once again restore the innocence and
security of the golden age.

It is more than probable, that these elegant trifles never reached the
ears of a veteran general, who, with the consent of the legions, was
preparing to execute the long-suspended design of the Persian war.
Before his departure for this distant expedition, Carus conferred on his
two sons, Carinus and Numerian, the title of Cæsar, and investing the
former with almost an equal share of the Imperial power, directed the
young prince, first to suppress some troubles which had arisen in Gaul,
and afterwards to fix the seat of his residence at Rome, and to assume
the government of the Western provinces. The safety of Illyricum was
confirmed by a memorable defeat of the Sarmatians; sixteen thousand
of those barbarians remained on the field of battle, and the number of
captives amounted to twenty thousand. The old emperor, animated with the
fame and prospect of victory, pursued his march, in the midst of winter,
through the countries of Thrace and Asia Minor, and at length, with his
younger son, Numerian, arrived on the confines of the Persian monarchy.
There, encamping on the summit of a lofty mountain, he pointed out to
his troops the opulence and luxury of the enemy whom they were about to

The successor of Artaxerxes, * Varanes, or Bahram, though he had subdued
the Segestans, one of the most warlike nations of Upper Asia, was
alarmed at the approach of the Romans, and endeavored to retard their
progress by a negotiation of peace. His ambassadors entered the camp
about sunset, at the time when the troops were satisfying their hunger
with a frugal repast. The Persians expressed their desire of being
introduced to the presence of the Roman emperor. They were at length
conducted to a soldier, who was seated on the grass. A piece of stale
bacon and a few hard peas composed his supper. A coarse woollen garment
of purple was the only circumstance that announced his dignity. The
conference was conducted with the same disregard of courtly elegance.
Carus, taking off a cap which he wore to conceal his baldness, assured
the ambassadors, that, unless their master acknowledged the superiority
of Rome, he would speedily render Persia as naked of trees as his own
head was destitute of hair. Notwithstanding some traces of art and
preparation, we may discover in this scene the manners of Carus, and the
severe simplicity which the martial princes, who succeeded Gallienus,
had already restored in the Roman camps. The ministers of the Great King
trembled and retired.

The threats of Carus were not without effect. He ravaged Mesopotamia,
cut in pieces whatever opposed his passage, made himself master of
the great cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, (which seemed to have
surrendered without resistance,) and carried his victorious arms beyond
the Tigris. He had seized the favorable moment for an invasion. The
Persian councils were distracted by domestic factions, and the greater
part of their forces were detained on the frontiers of India. Rome and
the East received with transports the news of such important advantages.
Flattery and hope painted, in the most lively colors, the fall of
Persia, the conquest of Arabia, the submission of Egypt, and a lasting
deliverance from the inroads of the Scythian nations. But the reign
of Carus was destined to expose the vanity of predictions. They were
scarcely uttered before they were contradicted by his death; an event
attended with such ambiguous circumstances, that it may be related in a
letter from his own secretary to the præfect of the city. "Carus," says
he, "our dearest emperor, was confined by sickness to his bed, when a
furious tempest arose in the camp. The darkness which overspread the sky
was so thick, that we could no longer distinguish each other; and the
incessant flashes of lightning took from us the knowledge of all that
passed in the general confusion. Immediately after the most violent clap
of thunder, we heard a sudden cry that the emperor was dead; and it soon
appeared, that his chamberlains, in a rage of grief, had set fire to the
royal pavilion; a circumstance which gave rise to the report that Carus
was killed by lightning. But, as far as we have been able to investigate
the truth, his death was the natural effect of his disorder."

Chapter XII: Reigns Of Tacitus, Probus, Carus And His Sons.--Part III.

The vacancy of the throne was not productive of any disturbance. The
ambition of the aspiring generals was checked by their natural fears,
and young Numerian, with his absent brother Carinus, were unanimously
acknowledged as Roman emperors. The public expected that the successor
of Carus would pursue his father's footsteps, and, without allowing the
Persians to recover from their consternation, would advance sword in
hand to the palaces of Susa and Ecbatana. But the legions, however
strong in numbers and discipline, were dismayed by the most abject
superstition. Notwithstanding all the arts that were practised to
disguise the manner of the late emperor's death, it was found impossible
to remove the opinion of the multitude, and the power of opinion is
irresistible. Places or persons struck with lightning were considered
by the ancients with pious horror, as singularly devoted to the wrath of
Heaven. An oracle was remembered, which marked the River Tigris as the
fatal boundary of the Roman arms. The troops, terrified with the fate of
Carus and with their own danger, called aloud on young Numerian to obey
the will of the gods, and to lead them away from this inauspicious
scene of war. The feeble emperor was unable to subdue their obstinate
prejudice, and the Persians wondered at the unexpected retreat of a
victorious enemy.

The intelligence of the mysterious fate of the late emperor was soon
carried from the frontiers of Persia to Rome; and the senate, as well as
the provinces, congratulated the accession of the sons of Carus. These
fortunate youths were strangers, however, to that conscious superiority,
either of birth or of merit, which can alone render the possession of
a throne easy, and as it were natural. Born and educated in a private
station, the election of their father raised them at once to the rank of
princes; and his death, which happened about sixteen months afterwards,
left them the unexpected legacy of a vast empire. To sustain with temper
this rapid elevation, an uncommon share of virtue and prudence was
requisite; and Carinus, the elder of the brothers, was more than
commonly deficient in those qualities. In the Gallic war he discovered
some degree of personal courage; but from the moment of his arrival
at Rome, he abandoned himself to the luxury of the capital, and to the
abuse of his fortune. He was soft, yet cruel; devoted to pleasure,
but destitute of taste; and though exquisitely susceptible of vanity,
indifferent to the public esteem. In the course of a few months, he
successively married and divorced nine wives, most of whom he left
pregnant; and notwithstanding this legal inconstancy, found time to
indulge such a variety of irregular appetites, as brought dishonor on
himself and on the noblest houses of Rome. He beheld with inveterate
hatred all those who might remember his former obscurity, or censure
his present conduct. He banished, or put to death, the friends
and counsellors whom his father had placed about him, to guide his
inexperienced youth; and he persecuted with the meanest revenge his
school-fellows and companions who had not sufficiently respected the
latent majesty of the emperor. With the senators, Carinus affected a
lofty and regal demeanor, frequently declaring, that he designed to
distribute their estates among the populace of Rome. From the dregs of
that populace he selected his favorites, and even his ministers. The
palace, and even the Imperial table, were filled with singers, dancers,
prostitutes, and all the various retinue of vice and folly. One of his
doorkeepers he intrusted with the government of the city. In the room of
the Prætorian præfect, whom he put to death, Carinus substituted one of
the ministers of his looser pleasures. Another, who possessed the
same, or even a more infamous, title to favor, was invested with the
consulship. A confidential secretary, who had acquired uncommon skill in
the art of forgery, delivered the indolent emperor, with his own consent
from the irksome duty of signing his name.

When the emperor Carus undertook the Persian war, he was induced, by
motives of affection as well as policy, to secure the fortunes of
his family, by leaving in the hands of his eldest son the armies and
provinces of the West. The intelligence which he soon received of
the conduct of Carinus filled him with shame and regret; nor had he
concealed his resolution of satisfying the republic by a severe act of
justice, and of adopting, in the place of an unworthy son, the brave and
virtuous Constantius, who at that time was governor of Dalmatia. But the
elevation of Constantius was for a while deferred; and as soon as the
father's death had released Carinus from the control of fear or decency,
he displayed to the Romans the extravagancies of Elagabalus, aggravated
by the cruelty of Domitian.

The only merit of the administration of Carinus that history could
record, or poetry celebrate, was the uncommon splendor with which, in
his own and his brother's name, he exhibited the Roman games of the
theatre, the circus, and the amphitheatre. More than twenty years
afterwards, when the courtiers of Diocletian represented to their frugal
sovereign the fame and popularity of his munificent predecessor, he
acknowledged that the reign of Carinus had indeed been a reign of
pleasure. But this vain prodigality, which the prudence of Diocletian
might justly despise, was enjoyed with surprise and transport by the
Roman people. The oldest of the citizens, recollecting the spectacles of
former days, the triumphal pomp of Probus or Aurelian, and the secular
games of the emperor Philip, acknowledged that they were all surpassed
by the superior magnificence of Carinus.

The spectacles of Carinus may therefore be best illustrated by the
observation of some particulars, which history has condescended to
relate concerning those of his predecessors. If we confine ourselves
solely to the hunting of wild beasts, however we may censure the vanity
of the design or the cruelty of the execution, we are obliged to confess
that neither before nor since the time of the Romans so much art and
expense have ever been lavished for the amusement of the people. By the
order of Probus, a great quantity of large trees, torn up by the roots,
were transplanted into the midst of the circus. The spacious and shady
forest was immediately filled with a thousand ostriches, a thousand
stags, a thousand fallow deer, and a thousand wild boars; and all
this variety of game was abandoned to the riotous impetuosity of the
multitude. The tragedy of the succeeding day consisted in the massacre
of a hundred lions, an equal number of lionesses, two hundred leopards,
and three hundred bears. The collection prepared by the younger Gordian
for his triumph, and which his successor exhibited in the secular
games, was less remarkable by the number than by the singularity of
the animals. Twenty zebras displayed their elegant forms and variegated
beauty to the eyes of the Roman people. Ten elks, and as many
camelopards, the loftiest and most harmless creatures that wander over
the plains of Sarmatia and Æthiopia, were contrasted with thirty African
hyænas and ten Indian tigers, the most implacable savages of the torrid
zone. The unoffending strength with which Nature has endowed the greater
quadrupeds was admired in the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus of the Nile,
and a majestic troop of thirty-two elephants. While the populace gazed
with stupid wonder on the splendid show, the naturalist might indeed
observe the figure and properties of so many different species,
transported from every part of the ancient world into the amphitheatre
of Rome. But this accidental benefit, which science might derive from
folly, is surely insufficient to justify such a wanton abuse of the
public riches. There occurs, however, a single instance in the first
Punic war, in which the senate wisely connected this amusement of the
multitude with the interest of the state. A considerable number of
elephants, taken in the defeat of the Carthaginian army, were driven
through the circus by a few slaves, armed only with blunt javelins.
The useful spectacle served to impress the Roman soldier with a just
contempt for those unwieldy animals; and he no longer dreaded to
encounter them in the ranks of war.

The hunting or exhibition of wild beasts was conducted with a
magnificence suitable to a people who styled themselves the masters of
the world; nor was the edifice appropriated to that entertainment less
expressive of Roman greatness. Posterity admires, and will long admire,
the awful remains of the amphitheatre of Titus, which so well deserved
the epithet of Colossal. It was a building of an elliptic figure, five
hundred and sixty-four feet in length, and four hundred and sixty-seven
in breadth, founded on fourscore arches, and rising, with four
successive orders of architecture, to the height of one hundred and
forty feet. The outside of the edifice was encrusted with marble, and
decorated with statues. The slopes of the vast concave, which formed the
inside, were filled and surrounded with sixty or eighty rows of seats
of marble likewise, covered with cushions, and capable of receiving with
ease about fourscore thousand spectators. Sixty-four vomitories (for
by that name the doors were very aptly distinguished) poured forth the
immense multitude; and the entrances, passages, and staircases were
contrived with such exquisite skill, that each person, whether of
the senatorial, the equestrian, or the plebeian order, arrived at his
destined place without trouble or confusion. Nothing was omitted, which,
in any respect, could be subservient to the convenience and pleasure of
the spectators. They were protected from the sun and rain by an ample
canopy, occasionally drawn over their heads. The air was continally
refreshed by the playing of fountains, and profusely impregnated by the
grateful scent of aromatics. In the centre of the edifice, the arena,
or stage, was strewed with the finest sand, and successively assumed the
most different forms. At one moment it seemed to rise out of the earth,
like the garden of the Hesperides, and was afterwards broken into
the rocks and caverns of Thrace. The subterraneous pipes conveyed an
inexhaustible supply of water; and what had just before appeared a level
plain, might be suddenly converted into a wide lake, covered with
armed vessels, and replenished with the monsters of the deep. In the
decoration of these scenes, the Roman emperors displayed their wealth
and liberality; and we read on various occasions that the whole
furniture of the amphitheatre consisted either of silver, or of gold, or
of amber. The poet who describes the games of Carinus, in the
character of a shepherd, attracted to the capital by the fame of their
magnificence, affirms that the nets designed as a defence against the
wild beasts, were of gold wire; that the porticos were gilded; and that
the belt or circle which divided the several ranks of spectators from
each other was studded with a precious mosaic of beautiful stones.

In the midst of this glittering pageantry, the emperor Carinus, secure
of his fortune, enjoyed the acclamations of the people, the flattery
of his courtiers, and the songs of the poets, who, for want of a more
essential merit, were reduced to celebrate the divine graces of his
person. In the same hour, but at the distance of nine hundred miles from
Rome, his brother expired; and a sudden revolution transferred into the
hands of a stranger the sceptre of the house of Carus.

The sons of Carus never saw each other after their father's death. The
arrangements which their new situation required were probably deferred
till the return of the younger brother to Rome, where a triumph was
decreed to the young emperors for the glorious success of the Persian
war. It is uncertain whether they intended to divide between them the
administration, or the provinces, of the empire; but it is very unlikely
that their union would have proved of any long duration. The jealousy
of power must have been inflamed by the opposition of characters. In the
most corrupt of times, Carinus was unworthy to live: Numerian deserved
to reign in a happier period. His affable manners and gentle virtues
secured him, as soon as they became known, the regard and affections
of the public. He possessed the elegant accomplishments of a poet and
orator, which dignify as well as adorn the humblest and the most exalted
station. His eloquence, however it was applauded by the senate, was
formed not so much on the model of Cicero, as on that of the modern
declaimers; but in an age very far from being destitute of poetical
merit, he contended for the prize with the most celebrated of his
contemporaries, and still remained the friend of his rivals; a
circumstance which evinces either the goodness of his heart, or the
superiority of his genius. But the talents of Numerian were rather of
the contemplative than of the active kind. When his father's elevation
reluctantly forced him from the shade of retirement, neither his temper
nor his pursuits had qualified him for the command of armies. His
constitution was destroyed by the hardships of the Persian war; and he
had contracted, from the heat of the climate, such a weakness in his
eyes, as obliged him, in the course of a long retreat, to confine
himself to the solitude and darkness of a tent or litter. The
administration of all affairs, civil as well as military, was devolved
on Arrius Aper, the Prætorian præfect, who to the power of his important
office added the honor of being father-in-law to Numerian. The Imperial
pavilion was strictly guarded by his most trusty adherents; and during
many days, Aper delivered to the army the supposed mandates of their
invisible sovereign.

It was not till eight months after the death of Carus, that the Roman
army, returning by slow marches from the banks of the Tigris, arrived
on those of the Thracian Bosphorus. The legions halted at Chalcedon in
Asia, while the court passed over to Heraclea, on the European side of
the Propontis. But a report soon circulated through the camp, at first
in secret whispers, and at length in loud clamors, of the emperor's
death, and of the presumption of his ambitious minister, who still
exercised the sovereign power in the name of a prince who was no
more. The impatience of the soldiers could not long support a state of
suspense. With rude curiosity they broke into the Imperial tent, and
discovered only the corpse of Numerian. The gradual decline of his
health might have induced them to believe that his death was natural;
but the concealment was interpreted as an evidence of guilt, and
the measures which Aper had taken to secure his election became the
immediate occasion of his ruin Yet, even in the transport of their rage
and grief, the troops observed a regular proceeding, which proves how
firmly discipline had been reestablished by the martial successors of
Gallienus. A general assembly of the army was appointed to be held at
Chalcedon, whither Aper was transported in chains, as a prisoner and a
criminal. A vacant tribunal was erected in the midst of the camp, and
the generals and tribunes formed a great military council. They soon
announced to the multitude that their choice had fallen on Diocletian,
commander of the domestics or body-guards, as the person the most
capable of revenging and succeeding their beloved emperor. The future
fortunes of the candidate depended on the chance or conduct of the
present hour. Conscious that the station which he had filled exposed him
to some suspicions, Diocletian ascended the tribunal, and raising his
eyes towards the Sun, made a solemn profession of his own innocence,
in the presence of that all-seeing Deity. Then, assuming the tone of
a sovereign and a judge, he commanded that Aper should be brought
in chains to the foot of the tribunal. "This man," said he, "is the
murderer of Numerian;" and without giving him time to enter on a
dangerous justification, drew his sword, and buried it in the breast of
the unfortunate præfect. A charge supported by such decisive proof
was admitted without contradiction, and the legions, with repeated
acclamations, acknowledged the justice and authority of the emperor

Before we enter upon the memorable reign of that prince, it will be
proper to punish and dismiss the unworthy brother of Numerian. Carinus
possessed arms and treasures sufficient to support his legal title to
the empire. But his personal vices overbalanced every advantage of birth
and situation. The most faithful servants of the father despised the
incapacity, and dreaded the cruel arrogance, of the son. The hearts of
the people were engaged in favor of his rival, and even the senate
was inclined to prefer a usurper to a tyrant. The arts of Diocletian
inflamed the general discontent; and the winter was employed in secret
intrigues, and open preparations for a civil war. In the spring, the
forces of the East and of the West encountered each other in the plains
of Margus, a small city of Mæsia, in the neighborhood of the Danube.
The troops, so lately returned from the Persian war, had acquired their
glory at the expense of health and numbers; nor were they in a condition
to contend with the unexhausted strength of the legions of Europe. Their
ranks were broken, and, for a moment, Diocletian despaired of the purple
and of life. But the advantage which Carinus had obtained by the valor
of his soldiers, he quickly lost by the infidelity of his officers. A
tribune, whose wife he had seduced, seized the opportunity of revenge,
and, by a single blow, extinguished civil discord in the blood of the

Chapter XIII: Reign Of Diocletian And This Three Associates.--Part I.

     The Reign Of Diocletian And His Three Associates, Maximian,
     Galerius, And Constantius.--General Reestablishment Of Order
     And Tranquillity.--The Persian War, Victory, And Triumph.--
     The New Form Of Administration.--Abdication And Retirement
     Of Diocletian And Maximian.

As the reign of Diocletian was more illustrious than that of any of
his predecessors, so was his birth more abject and obscure. The strong
claims of merit and of violence had frequently superseded the ideal
prerogatives of nobility; but a distinct line of separation was hitherto
preserved between the free and the servile part of mankind. The parents
of Diocletian had been slaves in the house of Anulinus, a Roman senator;
nor was he himself distinguished by any other name than that which he
derived from a small town in Dalmatia, from whence his mother deduced
her origin. It is, however, probable that his father obtained the
freedom of the family, and that he soon acquired an office of scribe,
which was commonly exercised by persons of his condition. Favorable
oracles, or rather the consciousness of superior merit, prompted his
aspiring son to pursue the profession of arms and the hopes of fortune;
and it would be extremely curious to observe the gradation of arts and
accidents which enabled him in the end to fulfil those oracles, and to
display that merit to the world. Diocletian was successively promoted to
the government of Mæsia, the honors of the consulship, and the important
command of the guards of the palace. He distinguished his abilities
in the Persian war; and after the death of Numerian, the slave, by the
confession and judgment of his rivals, was declared the most worthy of
the Imperial throne. The malice of religious zeal, whilst it arraigns
the savage fierceness of his colleague Maximian, has affected to cast
suspicions on the personal courage of the emperor Diocletian. It would
not be easy to persuade us of the cowardice of a soldier of fortune, who
acquired and preserved the esteem of the legions as well as the favor
of so many warlike princes. Yet even calumny is sagacious enough to
discover and to attack the most vulnerable part. The valor of Diocletian
was never found inadequate to his duty, or to the occasion; but he
appears not to have possessed the daring and generous spirit of a hero,
who courts danger and fame, disdains artifice, and boldly challenges
the allegiance of his equals. His abilities were useful rather than
splendid; a vigorous mind, improved by the experience and study of
mankind; dexterity and application in business; a judicious mixture of
liberality and economy, of mildness and rigor; profound dissimulation,
under the disguise of military frankness; steadiness to pursue his
ends; flexibility to vary his means; and, above all, the great art of
submitting his own passions, as well as those of others, to the interest
of his ambition, and of coloring his ambition with the most specious
pretences of justice and public utility. Like Augustus, Diocletian may
be considered as the founder of a new empire. Like the adopted son of
Cæsar, he was distinguished as a statesman rather than as a warrior; nor
did either of those princes employ force, whenever their purpose could
be effected by policy.

The victory of Diocletian was remarkable for its singular mildness. A
people accustomed to applaud the clemency of the conqueror, if the usual
punishments of death, exile, and confiscation, were inflicted with
any degree of temper and equity, beheld, with the most pleasing
astonishment, a civil war, the flames of which were extinguished in the
field of battle. Diocletian received into his confidence Aristobulus,
the principal minister of the house of Carus, respected the lives, the
fortunes, and the dignity, of his adversaries, and even continued in
their respective stations the greater number of the servants of Carinus.
It is not improbable that motives of prudence might assist the humanity
of the artful Dalmatian; of these servants, many had purchased his favor
by secret treachery; in others, he esteemed their grateful fidelity to
an unfortunate master. The discerning judgment of Aurelian, of Probus,
and of Carus, had filled the several departments of the state and army
with officers of approved merit, whose removal would have injured the
public service, without promoting the interest of his successor. Such a
conduct, however, displayed to the Roman world the fairest prospect
of the new reign, and the emperor affected to confirm this favorable
prepossession, by declaring, that, among all the virtues of his
predecessors, he was the most ambitious of imitating the humane
philosophy of Marcus Antoninus.

The first considerable action of his reign seemed to evince his
sincerity as well as his moderation. After the example of Marcus, he
gave himself a colleague in the person of Maximian, on whom he bestowed
at first the title of Cæsar, and afterwards that of Augustus. But the
motives of his conduct, as well as the object of his choice, were of
a very different nature from those of his admired predecessor. By
investing a luxurious youth with the honors of the purple, Marcus had
discharged a debt of private gratitude, at the expense, indeed, of the
happiness of the state. By associating a friend and a fellow-soldier
to the labors of government, Diocletian, in a time of public danger,
provided for the defence both of the East and of the West. Maximian
was born a peasant, and, like Aurelian, in the territory of Sirmium.
Ignorant of letters, careless of laws, the rusticity of his appearance
and manners still betrayed in the most elevated fortune the meanness
of his extraction. War was the only art which he professed. In a long
course of service, he had distinguished himself on every frontier of the
empire; and though his military talents were formed to obey rather than
to command, though, perhaps, he never attained the skill of a consummate
general, he was capable, by his valor, constancy, and experience, of
executing the most arduous undertakings. Nor were the vices of Maximian
less useful to his benefactor. Insensible to pity, and fearless of
consequences, he was the ready instrument of every act of cruelty which
the policy of that artful prince might at once suggest and disclaim. As
soon as a bloody sacrifice had been offered to prudence or to revenge,
Diocletian, by his seasonable intercession, saved the remaining few whom
he had never designed to punish, gently censured the severity of his
stern colleague, and enjoyed the comparison of a golden and an iron age,
which was universally applied to their opposite maxims of government.
Notwithstanding the difference of their characters, the two emperors
maintained, on the throne, that friendship which they had contracted in
a private station. The haughty, turbulent spirit of Maximian, so fatal,
afterwards, to himself and to the public peace, was accustomed to
respect the genius of Diocletian, and confessed the ascendant of reason
over brutal violence. From a motive either of pride or superstition,
the two emperors assumed the titles, the one of Jovius, the other of
Herculius. Whilst the motion of the world (such was the language of
their venal orators) was maintained by the all-seeing wisdom of Jupiter,
the invincible arm of Hercules purged the earth from monsters and

But even the omnipotence of Jovius and Herculius was insufficient
to sustain the weight of the public administration. The prudence of
Diocletian discovered that the empire, assailed on every side by the
barbarians, required on every side the presence of a great army, and of
an emperor. With this view, he resolved once more to divide his unwieldy
power, and with the inferior title of Cæsars, * to confer on two
generals of approved merit an unequal share of the sovereign authority.
Galerius, surnamed Armentarius, from his original profession of a
herdsman, and Constantius, who from his pale complexion had acquired the
denomination of Chlorus, were the two persons invested with the second
honors of the Imperial purple. In describing the country, extraction,
and manners of Herculius, we have already delineated those of Galerius,
who was often, and not improperly, styled the younger Maximian, though,
in many instances both of virtue and ability, he appears to have
possessed a manifest superiority over the elder. The birth of
Constantius was less obscure than that of his colleagues. Eutropius,
his father, was one of the most considerable nobles of Dardania, and
his mother was the niece of the emperor Claudius. Although the youth
of Constantius had been spent in arms, he was endowed with a mild and
amiable disposition, and the popular voice had long since acknowledged
him worthy of the rank which he at last attained. To strengthen the
bonds of political, by those of domestic, union, each of the emperors
assumed the character of a father to one of the Cæsars, Diocletian
to Galerius, and Maximian to Constantius; and each, obliging them to
repudiate their former wives, bestowed his daughter in marriage or his
adopted son. These four princes distributed among themselves the wide
extent of the Roman empire. The defence of Gaul, Spain, and Britain,
was intrusted to Constantius: Galerius was stationed on the banks of
the Danube, as the safeguard of the Illyrian provinces. Italy and Africa
were considered as the department of Maximian; and for his peculiar
portion, Diocletian reserved Thrace, Egypt, and the rich countries
of Asia. Every one was sovereign with his own jurisdiction; but their
united authority extended over the whole monarchy, and each of them was
prepared to assist his colleagues with his counsels or presence. The
Cæsars, in their exalted rank, revered the majesty of the emperors, and
the three younger princes invariably acknowledged, by their gratitude
and obedience, the common parent of their fortunes. The suspicious
jealousy of power found not any place among them; and the singular
happiness of their union has been compared to a chorus of music, whose
harmony was regulated and maintained by the skilful hand of the first

This important measure was not carried into execution till about six
years after the association of Maximian, and that interval of time had
not been destitute of memorable incidents. But we have preferred, for
the sake of perspicuity, first to describe the more perfect form of
Diocletian's government, and afterwards to relate the actions of his
reign, following rather the natural order of the events, than the dates
of a very doubtful chronology.

The first exploit of Maximian, though it is mentioned in a few words by
our imperfect writers, deserves, from its singularity, to be recorded
in a history of human manners. He suppressed the peasants of Gaul, who,
under the appellation of Bagaudæ, had risen in a general insurrection;
very similar to those which in the fourteenth century successively
afflicted both France and England. It should seem that very many of
those institutions, referred by an easy solution to the feudal system,
are derived from the Celtic barbarians. When Cæsar subdued the Gauls,
that great nation was already divided into three orders of men; the
clergy, the nobility, and the common people. The first governed by
superstition, the second by arms, but the third and last was not of any
weight or account in their public councils. It was very natural for the
plebeians, oppressed by debt, or apprehensive of injuries, to implore
the protection of some powerful chief, who acquired over their persons
and property the same absolute right as, among the Greeks and Romans,
a master exercised over his slaves. The greatest part of the nation
was gradually reduced into a state of servitude; compelled to perpetual
labor on the estates of the Gallic nobles, and confined to the soil,
either by the real weight of fetters, or by the no less cruel and
forcible restraints of the laws. During the long series of troubles
which agitated Gaul, from the reign of Gallienus to that of Diocletian,
the condition of these servile peasants was peculiarly miserable; and
they experienced at once the complicated tyranny of their masters, of
the barbarians, of the soldiers, and of the officers of the revenue.

Their patience was at last provoked into despair. On every side they
rose in multitudes, armed with rustic weapons, and with irresistible
fury. The ploughman became a foot soldier, the shepherd mounted on
horseback, the deserted villages and open towns were abandoned to the
flames, and the ravages of the peasants equalled those of the fiercest
barbarians. They asserted the natural rights of men, but they asserted
those rights with the most savage cruelty. The Gallic nobles, justly
dreading their revenge, either took refuge in the fortified cities,
or fled from the wild scene of anarchy. The peasants reigned without
control; and two of their most daring leaders had the folly and rashness
to assume the Imperial ornaments. Their power soon expired at the
approach of the legions. The strength of union and discipline obtained
an easy victory over a licentious and divided multitude. A severe
retaliation was inflicted on the peasants who were found in arms; the
affrighted remnant returned to their respective habitations, and their
unsuccessful effort for freedom served only to confirm their slavery.
So strong and uniform is the current of popular passions, that we might
almost venture, from very scanty materials, to relate the particulars of
this war; but we are not disposed to believe that the principal
leaders, Ælianus and Amandus, were Christians, or to insinuate, that the
rebellion, as it happened in the time of Luther, was occasioned by the
abuse of those benevolent principles of Christianity, which inculcate
the natural freedom of mankind.

Maximian had no sooner recovered Gaul from the hands of the peasants,
than he lost Britain by the usurpation of Carausius. Ever since the rash
but successful enterprise of the Franks under the reign of Probus, their
daring countrymen had constructed squadrons of light brigantines, in
which they incessantly ravaged the provinces adjacent to the ocean. To
repel their desultory incursions, it was found necessary to create a
naval power; and the judicious measure was prosecuted with prudence and
vigor. Gessoriacum, or Boulogne, in the straits of the British Channel,
was chosen by the emperor for the station of the Roman fleet; and the
command of it was intrusted to Carausius, a Menapian of the meanest
origin, but who had long signalized his skill as a pilot, and his valor
as a soldier. The integrity of the new admiral corresponded not with
his abilities. When the German pirates sailed from their own harbors, he
connived at their passage, but he diligently intercepted their return,
and appropriated to his own use an ample share of the spoil which they
had acquired. The wealth of Carausius was, on this occasion, very justly
considered as an evidence of his guilt; and Maximian had already given
orders for his death. But the crafty Menapian foresaw and prevented
the severity of the emperor. By his liberality he had attached to his
fortunes the fleet which he commanded, and secured the barbarians in his
interest. From the port of Boulogne he sailed over to Britain, persuaded
the legion, and the auxiliaries which guarded that island, to embrace
his party, and boldly assuming, with the Imperial purple, the title of
Augustus defied the justice and the arms of his injured sovereign.

When Britain was thus dismembered from the empire, its importance was
sensibly felt, and its loss sincerely lamented. The Romans celebrated,
and perhaps magnified, the extent of that noble island, provided on
every side with convenient harbors; the temperature of the climate, and
the fertility of the soil, alike adapted for the production of corn
or of vines; the valuable minerals with which it abounded; its rich
pastures covered with innumerable flocks, and its woods free from wild
beasts or venomous serpents. Above all, they regretted the large amount
of the revenue of Britain, whilst they confessed, that such a province
well deserved to become the seat of an independent monarchy. During
the space of seven years it was possessed by Carausius; and fortune
continued propitious to a rebellion supported with courage and ability.
The British emperor defended the frontiers of his dominions against the
Caledonians of the North, invited, from the continent, a great number
of skilful artists, and displayed, on a variety of coins that are still
extant, his taste and opulence. Born on the confines of the Franks,
he courted the friendship of that formidable people, by the flattering
imitation of their dress and manners. The bravest of their youth he
enlisted among his land or sea forces; and, in return for their useful
alliance, he communicated to the barbarians the dangerous knowledge of
military and naval arts. Carausius still preserved the possession of
Boulogne and the adjacent country. His fleets rode triumphant in the
channel, commanded the mouths of the Seine and of the Rhine, ravaged
the coasts of the ocean, and diffused beyond the columns of Hercules the
terror of his name. Under his command, Britain, destined in a future
age to obtain the empire of the sea, already assumed its natural and
respectable station of a maritime power.

By seizing the fleet of Boulogne, Carausius had deprived his master of
the means of pursuit and revenge. And when, after a vast expense of
time and labor, a new armament was launched into the water, the Imperial
troops, unaccustomed to that element, were easily baffled and defeated
by the veteran sailors of the usurper. This disappointed effort was
soon productive of a treaty of peace. Diocletian and his colleague, who
justly dreaded the enterprising spirit of Carausius, resigned to him
the sovereignty of Britain, and reluctantly admitted their perfidious
servant to a participation of the Imperial honors. But the adoption
of the two Cæsars restored new vigor to the Romans arms; and while
the Rhine was guarded by the presence of Maximian, his brave associate
Constantius assumed the conduct of the British war. His first enterprise
was against the important place of Boulogne. A stupendous mole, raised
across the entrance of the harbor, intercepted all hopes of relief. The
town surrendered after an obstinate defence; and a considerable part of
the naval strength of Carausius fell into the hands of the besiegers.
During the three years which Constantius employed in preparing a fleet
adequate to the conquest of Britain, he secured the coast of Gaul,
invaded the country of the Franks, and deprived the usurper of the
assistance of those powerful allies.

Before the preparations were finished, Constantius received the
intelligence of the tyrant's death, and it was considered as a sure
presage of the approaching victory. The servants of Carausius imitated
the example of treason which he had given. He was murdered by his first
minister, Allectus, and the assassin succeeded to his power and to his
danger. But he possessed not equal abilities either to exercise the
one or to repel the other. He beheld, with anxious terror, the opposite
shores of the continent already filled with arms, with troops, and with
vessels; for Constantius had very prudently divided his forces, that
he might likewise divide the attention and resistance of the enemy. The
attack was at length made by the principal squadron, which, under the
command of the præfect Asclepiodatus, an officer of distinguished merit,
had been assembled in the north of the Seine. So imperfect in those
times was the art of navigation, that orators have celebrated the daring
courage of the Romans, who ventured to set sail with a side-wind, and
on a stormy day. The weather proved favorable to their enterprise. Under
the cover of a thick fog, they escaped the fleet of Allectus, which had
been stationed off the Isle of Wight to receive them, landed in safety
on some part of the western coast, and convinced the Britons, that a
superiority of naval strength will not always protect their country from
a foreign invasion. Asclepiodatus had no sooner disembarked the imperial
troops, then he set fire to his ships; and, as the expedition proved
fortunate, his heroic conduct was universally admired. The usurper
had posted himself near London, to expect the formidable attack of
Constantius, who commanded in person the fleet of Boulogne; but the
descent of a new enemy required his immediate presence in the West.
He performed this long march in so precipitate a manner, that he
encountered the whole force of the præfect with a small body of harassed
and disheartened troops. The engagement was soon terminated by the total
defeat and death of Allectus; a single battle, as it has often happened,
decided the fate of this great island; and when Constantius landed on
the shores of Kent, he found them covered with obedient subjects. Their
acclamations were loud and unanimous; and the virtues of the conqueror
may induce us to believe, that they sincerely rejoiced in a revolution,
which, after a separation of ten years, restored Britain to the body of
the Roman empire.

Chapter XIII: Reign Of Diocletian And This Three Associates.--Part II.

Britain had none but domestic enemies to dread; and as long as the
governors preserved their fidelity, and the troops their discipline,
the incursions of the naked savages of Scotland or Ireland could
never materially affect the safety of the province. The peace of the
continent, and the defence of the principal rivers which bounded the
empire, were objects of far greater difficulty and importance. The
policy of Diocletian, which inspired the councils of his associates,
provided for the public tranquility, by encouraging a spirit of
dissension among the barbarians, and by strengthening the fortifications
of the Roman limit. In the East he fixed a line of camps from Egypt to
the Persian dominions, and for every camp, he instituted an adequate
number of stationary troops, commanded by their respective officers,
and supplied with every kind of arms, from the new arsenals which he had
formed at Antioch, Emesa, and Damascus. Nor was the precaution of the
emperor less watchful against the well-known valor of the barbarians of
Europe. From the mouth of the Rhine to that of the Danube, the ancient
camps, towns, and citidels, were diligently reestablished, and, in the
most exposed places, new ones were skilfully constructed: the strictest
vigilance was introduced among the garrisons of the frontier, and
every expedient was practised that could render the long chain of
fortifications firm and impenetrable. A barrier so respectable was
seldom violated, and the barbarians often turned against each other
their disappointed rage. The Goths, the Vandals, the Gepidæ, the
Burgundians, the Alemanni, wasted each other's strength by destructive
hostilities: and whosoever vanquished, they vanquished the enemies
of Rome. The subjects of Diocletian enjoyed the bloody spectacle, and
congratulated each other, that the mischiefs of civil war were now
experienced only by the barbarians.

Notwithstanding the policy of Diocletian, it was impossible to maintain
an equal and undisturbed tranquillity during a reign of twenty years,
and along a frontier of many hundred miles. Sometimes the barbarians
suspended their domestic animosities, and the relaxed vigilance of
the garrisons sometimes gave a passage to their strength or dexterity.
Whenever the provinces were invaded, Diocletian conducted himself with
that calm dignity which he always affected or possessed; reserved his
presence for such occasions as were worthy of his interposition, never
exposed his person or reputation to any unnecessary danger, insured his
success by every means that prudence could suggest, and displayed,
with ostentation, the consequences of his victory. In wars of a more
difficult nature, and more doubtful event, he employed the rough valor
of Maximian; and that faithful soldier was content to ascribe his
own victories to the wise counsels and auspicious influence of his
benefactor. But after the adoption of the two Cæsars, the emperors
themselves, retiring to a less laborious scene of action, devolved
on their adopted sons the defence of the Danube and of the Rhine. The
vigilant Galerius was never reduced to the necessity of vanquishing
an army of barbarians on the Roman territory. The brave and active
Contsantius delivered Gaul from a very furious inroad of the Alemanni;
and his victories of Langres and Vindonissa appear to have been actions
of considerable danger and merit. As he traversed the open country with
a feeble guard, he was encompassed on a sudden by the superior multitude
of the enemy. He retreated with difficulty towards Langres; but, in the
general consternation, the citizens refused to open their gates, and the
wounded prince was drawn up the wall by the means of a rope. But, on the
news of his distress, the Roman troops hastened from all sides to his
relief, and before the evening he had satisfied his honor and revenge
by the slaughter of six thousand Alemanni. From the monuments of those
times, the obscure traces of several other victories over the barbarians
of Sarmatia and Germany might possibly be collected; but the tedious
search would not be rewarded either with amusement or with instruction.

The conduct which the emperor Probus had adopted in the disposal of the
vanquished, was imitated by Diocletian and his associates. The captive
barbarians, exchanging death for slavery, were distributed among the
provincials, and assigned to those districts (in Gaul, the territories
of Amiens, Beauvais, Cambray, Treves, Langres, and Troyes, are
particularly specified ) which had been depopulated by the calamities of
war. They were usefully employed as shepherds and husbandmen, but were
denied the exercise of arms, except when it was found expedient to
enroll them in the military service. Nor did the emperors refuse the
property of lands, with a less servile tenure, to such of the barbarians
as solicited the protection of Rome. They granted a settlement to
several colonies of the Carpi, the Bastarnæ, and the Sarmatians; and, by
a dangerous indulgence, permitted them in some measure to retain their
national manners and independence. Among the provincials, it was a
subject of flattering exultation, that the barbarian, so lately an
object of terror, now cultivated their lands, drove their cattle to the
neighboring fair, and contributed by his labor to the public plenty.
They congratulated their masters on the powerful accession of subjects
and soldiers; but they forgot to observe, that multitudes of secret
enemies, insolent from favor, or desperate from oppression, were
introduced into the heart of the empire.

While the Cæsars exercised their valor on the banks of the Rhine and
Danube, the presence of the emperors was required on the southern
confines of the Roman world. From the Nile to Mount Atlas Africa was in
arms. A confederacy of five Moorish nations issued from their deserts
to invade the peaceful provinces. Julian had assumed the purple at
Carthage. Achilleus at Alexandria, and even the Blemmyes, renewed, or
rather continued, their incursions into the Upper Egypt. Scarcely any
circumstances have been preserved of the exploits of Maximian in the
western parts of Africa; but it appears, by the event, that the progress
of his arms was rapid and decisive, that he vanquished the fiercest
barbarians of Mauritania, and that he removed them from the mountains,
whose inaccessible strength had inspired their inhabitants with
a lawless confidence, and habituated them to a life of rapine and
violence. Diocletian, on his side, opened the campaign in Egypt by the
siege of Alexandria, cut off the aqueducts which conveyed the waters of
the Nile into every quarter of that immense city, and rendering his
camp impregnable to the sallies of the besieged multitude, he pushed
his reiterated attacks with caution and vigor. After a siege of eight
months, Alexandria, wasted by the sword and by fire, implored the
clemency of the conqueror, but it experienced the full extent of his
severity. Many thousands of the citizens perished in a promiscuous
slaughter, and there were few obnoxious persons in Egypt who escaped a
sentence either of death or at least of exile. The fate of Busiris and
of Coptos was still more melancholy than that of Alexandria: those proud
cities, the former distinguished by its antiquity, the latter enriched
by the passage of the Indian trade, were utterly destroyed by the arms
and by the severe order of Diocletian. The character of the Egyptian
nation, insensible to kindness, but extremely susceptible of fear, could
alone justify this excessive rigor. The seditions of Alexandria had
often affected the tranquillity and subsistence of Rome itself. Since
the usurpation of Firmus, the province of Upper Egypt, incessantly
relapsing into rebellion, had embraced the alliance of the savages of
Æthiopia. The number of the Blemmyes, scattered between the Island of
Meroe and the Red Sea, was very inconsiderable, their disposition
was unwarlike, their weapons rude and inoffensive. Yet in the public
disorders, these barbarians, whom antiquity, shocked with the deformity
of their figure, had almost excluded from the human species, presumed
to rank themselves among the enemies of Rome. Such had been the unworthy
allies of the Egyptians; and while the attention of the state was
engaged in more serious wars, their vexations inroads might again harass
the repose of the province. With a view of opposing to the Blemmyes a
suitable adversary, Diocletian persuaded the Nobatæ, or people of Nubia,
to remove from their ancient habitations in the deserts of Libya, and
resigned to them an extensive but unprofitable territory above Syene and
the cataracts of the Nile, with the stipulation, that they should ever
respect and guard the frontier of the empire. The treaty long subsisted;
and till the establishment of Christianity introduced stricter notions
of religious worship, it was annually ratified by a solemn sacrifice in
the Isle of Elephantine, in which the Romans, as well as the barbarians,
adored the same visible or invisible powers of the universe.

At the same time that Diocletian chastised the past crimes of the
Egyptians, he provided for their future safety and happiness by many
wise regulations, which were confirmed and enforced under the succeeding
reigns. One very remarkable edict which he published, instead of being
condemned as the effect of jealous tyranny, deserves to be applauded as
an act of prudence and humanity. He caused a diligent inquiry to be made
"for all the ancient books which treated of the admirable art of
making gold and silver, and without pity, committed them to the flames;
apprehensive, as we are assumed, lest the opulence of the Egyptians
should inspire them with confidence to rebel against the empire." But if
Diocletian had been convinced of the reality of that valuable art, far
from extinguishing the memory, he would have converted the operation of
it to the benefit of the public revenue. It is much more likely,
that his good sense discovered to him the folly of such magnificent
pretensions, and that he was desirous of preserving the reason and
fortunes of his subjects from the mischievous pursuit. It may be
remarked, that these ancient books, so liberally ascribed to Pythagoras,
to Solomon, or to Hermes, were the pious frauds of more recent adepts.
The Greeks were inattentive either to the use or to the abuse of
chemistry. In that immense register, where Pliny has deposited the
discoveries, the arts, and the errors of mankind, there is not the
least mention of the transmutation of metals; and the persecution of
Diocletian is the first authentic event in the history of alchemy.
The conquest of Egypt by the Arabs diffused that vain science over the
globe. Congenial to the avarice of the human heart, it was studied in
China as in Europe, with equal eagerness, and with equal success. The
darkness of the middle ages insured a favorable reception to every
tale of wonder, and the revival of learning gave new vigor to hope, and
suggested more specious arts of deception. Philosophy, with the aid of
experience, has at length banished the study of alchemy; and the present
age, however desirous of riches, is content to seek them by the humbler
means of commerce and industry.

The reduction of Egypt was immediately followed by the Persian war.
It was reserved for the reign of Diocletian to vanquish that powerful
nation, and to extort a confession from the successors of Artaxerxes, of
the superior majesty of the Roman empire.

We have observed, under the reign of Valerian, that Armenia was subdued
by the perfidy and the arms of the Persians, and that, after the
assassination of Chosroes, his son Tiridates, the infant heir of the
monarchy, was saved by the fidelity of his friends, and educated under
the protection of the emperors. Tiridates derived from his exile such
advantages as he could never have obtained on the throne of Armenia; the
early knowledge of adversity, of mankind, and of the Roman discipline.
He signalized his youth by deeds of valor, and displayed a matchless
dexterity, as well as strength, in every martial exercise, and even in
the less honorable contests of the Olympian games. Those qualities
were more nobly exerted in the defence of his benefactor Licinius.
That officer, in the sedition which occasioned the death of Probus,
was exposed to the most imminent danger, and the enraged soldiers were
forcing their way into his tent, when they were checked by the single
arm of the Armenian prince. The gratitude of Tiridates contributed soon
afterwards to his restoration. Licinius was in every station the friend
and companion of Galerius, and the merit of Galerius, long before he
was raised to the dignity of Cæsar, had been known and esteemed by
Diocletian. In the third year of that emperor's reign Tiridates was
invested with the kingdom of Armenia. The justice of the measure was
not less evident than its expediency. It was time to rescue from the
usurpation of the Persian monarch an important territory, which, since
the reign of Nero, had been always granted under the protection of the
empire to a younger branch of the house of Arsaces.

When Tiridates appeared on the frontiers of Armenia, he was received
with an unfeigned transport of joy and loyalty. During twenty-six
years, the country had experienced the real and imaginary hardships of
a foreign yoke. The Persian monarchs adorned their new conquest with
magnificent buildings; but those monuments had been erected at the
expense of the people, and were abhorred as badges of slavery. The
apprehension of a revolt had inspired the most rigorous precautions:
oppression had been aggravated by insult, and the consciousness of the
public hatred had been productive of every measure that could render it
still more implacable. We have already remarked the intolerant spirit
of the Magian religion. The statues of the deified kings of Armenia, and
the sacred images of the sun and moon, were broke in pieces by the
zeal of the conqueror; and the perpetual fire of Ormuzd was kindled and
preserved upon an altar erected on the summit of Mount Bagavan. It was
natural, that a people exasperated by so many injuries, should arm
with zeal in the cause of their independence, their religion, and their
hereditary sovereign. The torrent bore down every obstacle, and the
Persian garrisons retreated before its fury. The nobles of Armenia flew
to the standard of Tiridates, all alleging their past merit, offering
their future service, and soliciting from the new king those honors and
rewards from which they had been excluded with disdain under the foreign
government. The command of the army was bestowed on Artavasdes, whose
father had saved the infancy of Tiridates, and whose family had been
massacred for that generous action. The brother of Artavasdes obtained
the government of a province. One of the first military dignities
was conferred on the satrap Otas, a man of singular temperance and
fortitude, who presented to the king his sister and a considerable
treasure, both of which, in a sequestered fortress, Otas had preserved
from violation. Among the Armenian nobles appeared an ally, whose
fortunes are too remarkable to pass unnoticed. His name was Mamgo, his
origin was Scythian, and the horde which acknowledge his authority had
encamped a very few years before on the skirts of the Chinese empire,
which at that time extended as far as the neighborhood of Sogdiana.
Having incurred the displeasure of his master, Mamgo, with his
followers, retired to the banks of the Oxus, and implored the protection
of Sapor. The emperor of China claimed the fugitive, and alleged
the rights of sovereignty. The Persian monarch pleaded the laws of
hospitality, and with some difficulty avoided a war, by the promise that
he would banish Mamgo to the uttermost parts of the West, a punishment,
as he described it, not less dreadful than death itself. Armenia was
chosen for the place of exile, and a large district was assigned to the
Scythian horde, on which they might feed their flocks and herds, and
remove their encampment from one place to another, according to the
different seasons of the year. They were employed to repel the invasion
of Tiridates; but their leader, after weighing the obligations and
injuries which he had received from the Persian monarch, resolved to
abandon his party. The Armenian prince, who was well acquainted with
this merit as well as power of Mamgo, treated him with distinguished
respect; and, by admitting him into his confidence, acquired a brave and
faithful servant, who contributed very effectually to his restoration.

For a while, fortune appeared to favor the enterprising valor of
Tiridates. He not only expelled the enemies of his family and country
from the whole extent of Armenia, but in the prosecution of his revenge
he carried his arms, or at least his incursions, into the heart of
Assyria. The historian, who has preserved the name of Tiridates from
oblivion, celebrates, with a degree of national enthusiasm, his personal
prowess: and, in the true spirit of eastern romance, describes the
giants and the elephants that fell beneath his invincible arm. It is
from other information that we discover the distracted state of the
Persian monarchy, to which the king of Armenia was indebted for some
part of his advantages. The throne was disputed by the ambition of
contending brothers; and Hormuz, after exerting without success the
strength of his own party, had recourse to the dangerous assistance of
the barbarians who inhabited the banks of the Caspian Sea. The civil
war was, however, soon terminated, either by a victor or by a
reconciliation; and Narses, who was universally acknowledged as king of
Persia, directed his whole force against the foreign enemy. The contest
then became too unequal; nor was the valor of the hero able to withstand
the power of the monarch, Tiridates, a second time expelled from the
throne of Armenia, once more took refuge in the court of the emperors. *
Narses soon reestablished his authority over the revolted province; and
loudly complaining of the protection afforded by the Romans to rebels
and fugitives, aspired to the conquest of the East.

Neither prudence nor honor could permit the emperors to forsake the
cause of the Armenian king, and it was resolved to exert the force of
the empire in the Persian war. Diocletian, with the calm dignity which
he constantly assumed, fixed his own station in the city of Antioch,
from whence he prepared and directed the military operations. The
conduct of the legions was intrusted to the intrepid valor of Galerius,
who, for that important purpose, was removed from the banks of the
Danube to those of the Euphrates. The armies soon encountered each other
in the plains of Mesopotamia, and two battles were fought with various
and doubtful success; but the third engagement was of a more decisive
nature; and the Roman army received a total overthrow, which is
attributed to the rashness of Galerius, who, with an inconsiderable
body of troops, attacked the innumerable host of the Persians. But the
consideration of the country that was the scene of action, may suggest
another reason for his defeat. The same ground on which Galerius was
vanquished, had been rendered memorable by the death of Crassus, and the
slaughter of ten legions. It was a plain of more than sixty miles, which
extended from the hills of Carrhæ to the Euphrates; a smooth and barren
surface of sandy desert, without a hillock, without a tree, and without
a spring of fresh water. The steady infantry of the Romans, fainting
with heat and thirst, could neither hope for victory if they preserved
their ranks, nor break their ranks without exposing themselves to the
most imminent danger. In this situation they were gradually encompassed
by the superior numbers, harassed by the rapid evolutions, and destroyed
by the arrows of the barbarian cavalry. The king of Armenia had
signalized his valor in the battle, and acquired personal glory by the
public misfortune. He was pursued as far as the Euphrates; his horse
was wounded, and it appeared impossible for him to escape the victorious
enemy. In this extremity Tiridates embraced the only refuge which
appeared before him: he dismounted and plunged into the stream. His
armor was heavy, the river very deep, and at those parts at least half
a mile in breadth; yet such was his strength and dexterity, that he
reached in safety the opposite bank. With regard to the Roman general,
we are ignorant of the circumstances of his escape; but when he returned
to Antioch, Diocletian received him, not with the tenderness of a friend
and colleague, but with the indignation of an offended sovereign. The
haughtiest of men, clothed in his purple, but humbled by the sense of
his fault and misfortune, was obliged to follow the emperor's chariot
above a mile on foot, and to exhibit, before the whole court, the
spectacle of his disgrace.

As soon as Diocletian had indulged his private resentment, and asserted
the majesty of supreme power, he yielded to the submissive entreaties of
the Cæsar, and permitted him to retrieve his own honor, as well as that
of the Roman arms. In the room of the unwarlike troops of Asia, which
had most probably served in the first expedition, a second army was
drawn from the veterans and new levies of the Illyrian frontier, and
a considerable body of Gothic auxiliaries were taken into the Imperial
pay. At the head of a chosen army of twenty-five thousand men, Galerius
again passed the Euphrates; but, instead of exposing his legions in the
open plains of Mesopotamia he advanced through the mountains of Armenia,
where he found the inhabitants devoted to his cause, and the country as
favorable to the operations of infantry as it was inconvenient for the
motions of cavalry. Adversity had confirmed the Roman discipline, while
the barbarians, elated by success, were become so negligent and remiss,
that in the moment when they least expected it, they were surprised by
the active conduct of Galerius, who, attended only by two horsemen,
had with his own eyes secretly examined the state and position of their
camp. A surprise, especially in the night time, was for the most
part fatal to a Persian army. "Their horses were tied, and generally
shackled, to prevent their running away; and if an alarm happened, a
Persian had his housing to fix, his horse to bridle, and his corselet to
put on, before he could mount." On this occasion, the impetuous attack
of Galerius spread disorder and dismay over the camp of the barbarians.
A slight resistance was followed by a dreadful carnage, and, in the
general confusion, the wounded monarch (for Narses commanded his armies
in person) fled towards the deserts of Media. His sumptuous tents, and
those of his satraps, afforded an immense booty to the conqueror; and an
incident is mentioned, which proves the rustic but martial ignorance
of the legions in the elegant superfluities of life. A bag of shining
leather, filled with pearls, fell into the hands of a private soldier;
he carefully preserved the bag, but he threw away its contents, judging
that whatever was of no use could not possibly be of any value. The
principal loss of Narses was of a much more affecting nature. Several
of his wives, his sisters, and children, who had attended the army, were
made captives in the defeat. But though the character of Galerius had in
general very little affinity with that of Alexander, he imitated, after
his victory, the amiable behavior of the Macedonian towards the family
of Darius. The wives and children of Narses were protected from violence
and rapine, conveyed to a place of safety, and treated with every mark
of respect and tenderness, that was due from a generous enemy to their
age, their sex, and their royal dignity.

Chapter XIII: Reign Of Diocletian And This Three Associates.--Part III.

While the East anxiously expected the decision of this great contest,
the emperor Diocletian, having assembled in Syria a strong army of
observation, displayed from a distance the resources of the Roman
power, and reserved himself for any future emergency of the war. On
the intelligence of the victory he condescended to advance towards the
frontier, with a view of moderating, by his presence and counsels, the
pride of Galerius. The interview of the Roman princes at Nisibis was
accompanied with every expression of respect on one side, and of
esteem on the other. It was in that city that they soon afterwards gave
audience to the ambassador of the Great King. The power, or at least the
spirit, of Narses, had been broken by his last defeat; and he considered
an immediate peace as the only means that could stop the progress of the
Roman arms. He despatched Apharban, a servant who possessed his favor
and confidence, with a commission to negotiate a treaty, or rather to
receive whatever conditions the conqueror should impose. Apharban opened
the conference by expressing his master's gratitude for the generous
treatment of his family, and by soliciting the liberty of those
illustrious captives. He celebrated the valor of Galerius, without
degrading the reputation of Narses, and thought it no dishonor to
confess the superiority of the victorious Cæsar, over a monarch who
had surpassed in glory all the princes of his race. Notwithstanding the
justice of the Persian cause, he was empowered to submit the present
differences to the decision of the emperors themselves; convinced as he
was, that, in the midst of prosperity, they would not be unmindful of
the vicissitudes of fortune. Apharban concluded his discourse in the
style of eastern allegory, by observing that the Roman and Persian
monarchies were the two eyes of the world, which would remain imperfect
and mutilated if either of them should be put out.

"It well becomes the Persians," replied Galerius, with a transport of
fury, which seemed to convulse his whole frame, "it well becomes the
Persians to expatiate on the vicissitudes of fortune, and calmly to read
us lectures on the virtues of moderation. Let them remember their own
moderation, towards the unhappy Valerian. They vanquished him by fraud,
they treated him with indignity. They detained him till the last moment
of his life in shameful captivity, and after his death they exposed
his body to perpetual ignominy." Softening, however, his tone, Galerius
insinuated to the ambassador, that it had never been the practice of the
Romans to trample on a prostrate enemy; and that, on this occasion,
they should consult their own dignity rather than the Persian merit.
He dismissed Apharban with a hope that Narses would soon be informed on
what conditions he might obtain, from the clemency of the emperors, a
lasting peace, and the restoration of his wives and children. In this
conference we may discover the fierce passions of Galerius, as well as
his deference to the superior wisdom and authority of Diocletian. The
ambition of the former grasped at the conquest of the East, and had
proposed to reduce Persia into the state of a province. The prudence
of the latter, who adhered to the moderate policy of Augustus and
the Antonines, embraced the favorable opportunity of terminating a
successful war by an honorable and advantageous peace.

In pursuance of their promise, the emperors soon afterwards appointed
Sicorius Probus, one of their secretaries, to acquaint the Persian court
with their final resolution. As the minister of peace, he was received
with every mark of politeness and friendship; but, under the pretence of
allowing him the necessary repose after so long a journey, the audience
of Probus was deferred from day to day; and he attended the slow motions
of the king, till at length he was admitted to his presence, near the
River Asprudus in Media. The secret motive of Narses, in this delay,
had been to collect such a military force as might enable him, though
sincerely desirous of peace, to negotiate with the greater weight and
dignity. Three persons only assisted at this important conference, the
minister Apharban, the præfect of the guards, and an officer who had
commanded on the Armenian frontier. The first condition proposed by the
ambassador is not at present of a very intelligible nature; that the
city of Nisibis might be established for the place of mutual exchange,
or, as we should formerly have termed it, for the staple of trade,
between the two empires. There is no difficulty in conceiving the
intention of the Roman princes to improve their revenue by some
restraints upon commerce; but as Nisibis was situated within their own
dominions, and as they were masters both of the imports and exports, it
should seem that such restraints were the objects of an internal law,
rather than of a foreign treaty. To render them more effectual, some
stipulations were probably required on the side of the king of Persia,
which appeared so very repugnant either to his interest or to his
dignity, that Narses could not be persuaded to subscribe them. As this
was the only article to which he refused his consent, it was no longer
insisted on; and the emperors either suffered the trade to flow in its
natural channels, or contented themselves with such restrictions, as it
depended on their own authority to establish.

As soon as this difficulty was removed, a solemn peace was concluded and
ratified between the two nations. The conditions of a treaty so glorious
to the empire, and so necessary to Persia Persian, may deserve a
more peculiar attention, as the history of Rome presents very few
transactions of a similar nature; most of her wars having either been
terminated by absolute conquest, or waged against barbarians ignorant of
the use of letters. I. The Aboras, or, as it is called by Xenophon,
the Araxes, was fixed as the boundary between the two monarchies. That
river, which rose near the Tigris, was increased, a few miles below
Nisibis, by the little stream of the Mygdonius, passed under the walls
of Singara, and fell into the Euphrates at Circesium, a frontier
town, which, by the care of Diocletian, was very strongly fortified.
Mesopotomia, the object of so many wars, was ceded to the empire; and
the Persians, by this treaty, renounced all pretensions to that great
province. II. They relinquished to the Romans five provinces beyond the
Tigris. Their situation formed a very useful barrier, and their natural
strength was soon improved by art and military skill. Four of these,
to the north of the river, were districts of obscure fame and
inconsiderable extent; Intiline, Zabdicene, Arzanene, and Moxoene; but
on the east of the Tigris, the empire acquired the large and mountainous
territory of Carduene, the ancient seat of the Carduchians, who
preserved for many ages their manly freedom in the heart of the despotic
monarchies of Asia. The ten thousand Greeks traversed their country,
after a painful march, or rather engagement, of seven days; and it is
confessed by their leader, in his incomparable relation of the retreat,
that they suffered more from the arrows of the Carduchians, than from
the power of the Great King. Their posterity, the Curds, with very
little alteration either of name or manners, * acknowledged the nominal
sovereignty of the Turkish sultan. III. It is almost needless to
observe, that Tiridates, the faithful ally of Rome, was restored to the
throne of his fathers, and that the rights of the Imperial supremacy
were fully asserted and secured. The limits of Armenia were extended as
far as the fortress of Sintha in Media, and this increase of dominion
was not so much an act of liberality as of justice. Of the provinces
already mentioned beyond the Tigris, the four first had been dismembered
by the Parthians from the crown of Armenia; and when the Romans acquired
the possession of them, they stipulated, at the expense of the usurpers,
an ample compensation, which invested their ally with the extensive and
fertile country of Atropatene. Its principal city, in the same situation
perhaps as the modern Tauris, was frequently honored by the residence of
Tiridates; and as it sometimes bore the name of Ecbatana, he imitated,
in the buildings and fortifications, the splendid capital of the Medes.
IV. The country of Iberia was barren, its inhabitants rude and savage.
But they were accustomed to the use of arms, and they separated from the
empire barbarians much fiercer and more formidable than themselves.
The narrow defiles of Mount Caucasus were in their hands, and it was
in their choice, either to admit or to exclude the wandering tribes of
Sarmatia, whenever a rapacious spirit urged them to penetrate into the
richer climes of the South. The nomination of the kings of Iberia, which
was resigned by the Persian monarch to the emperors, contributed to the
strength and security of the Roman power in Asia. The East enjoyed a
profound tranquillity during forty years; and the treaty between the
rival monarchies was strictly observed till the death of Tiridates; when
a new generation, animated with different views and different passions,
succeeded to the government of the world; and the grandson of Narses
undertook a long and memorable war against the princes of the house of

The arduous work of rescuing the distressed empire from tyrants and
barbarians had now been completely achieved by a succession of Illyrian
peasants. As soon as Diocletian entered into the twentieth year of his
reign, he celebrated that memorable æra, as well as the success of his
arms, by the pomp of a Roman triumph. Maximian, the equal partner of his
power, was his only companion in the glory of that day. The two Cæsars
had fought and conquered, but the merit of their exploits was ascribed,
according to the rigor of ancient maxims, to the auspicious influence of
their fathers and emperors. The triumph of Diocletian and Maximian was
less magnificent, perhaps, than those of Aurelian and Probus, but it was
dignified by several circumstances of superior fame and good fortune.
Africa and Britain, the Rhine, the Danube, and the Nile, furnished their
respective trophies; but the most distinguished ornament was of a more
singular nature, a Persian victory followed by an important conquest.
The representations of rivers, mountains, and provinces, were carried
before the Imperial car. The images of the captive wives, the sisters,
and the children of the Great King, afforded a new and grateful
spectacle to the vanity of the people. In the eyes of posterity, this
triumph is remarkable, by a distinction of a less honorable kind. It
was the last that Rome ever beheld. Soon after this period, the emperors
ceased to vanquish, and Rome ceased to be the capital of the empire.

The spot on which Rome was founded had been consecrated by ancient
ceremonies and imaginary miracles. The presence of some god, or the
memory of some hero, seemed to animate every part of the city, and the
empire of the world had been promised to the Capitol. The native Romans
felt and confessed the power of this agreeable illusion. It was derived
from their ancestors, had grown up with their earliest habits of life,
and was protected, in some measure, by the opinion of political utility.
The form and the seat of government were intimately blended together,
nor was it esteemed possible to transport the one without destroying the
other. But the sovereignty of the capital was gradually annihilated in
the extent of conquest; the provinces rose to the same level, and the
vanquished nations acquired the name and privileges, without imbibing
the partial affections, of Romans. During a long period, however,
the remains of the ancient constitution, and the influence of custom,
preserved the dignity of Rome. The emperors, though perhaps of African
or Illyrian extraction, respected their adopted country, as the seat
of their power, and the centre of their extensive dominions. The
emergencies of war very frequently required their presence on the
frontiers; but Diocletian and Maximian were the first Roman princes who
fixed, in time of peace, their ordinary residence in the provinces; and
their conduct, however it might be suggested by private motives, was
justified by very specious considerations of policy. The court of the
emperor of the West was, for the most part, established at Milan, whose
situation, at the foot of the Alps, appeared far more convenient than
that of Rome, for the important purpose of watching the motions of the
barbarians of Germany. Milan soon assumed the splendor of an Imperial
city. The houses are described as numerous and well built; the manners
of the people as polished and liberal. A circus, a theatre, a mint, a
palace, baths, which bore the name of their founder Maximian; porticos
adorned with statues, and a double circumference of walls, contributed
to the beauty of the new capital; nor did it seem oppressed even by
the proximity of Rome. To rival the majesty of Rome was the ambition
likewise of Diocletian, who employed his leisure, and the wealth of the
East, in the embellishment of Nicomedia, a city placed on the verge of
Europe and Asia, almost at an equal distance between the Danube and
the Euphrates. By the taste of the monarch, and at the expense of the
people, Nicomedia acquired, in the space of a few years, a degree of
magnificence which might appear to have required the labor of ages,
and became inferior only to Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, in extent of
populousness. The life of Diocletian and Maximian was a life of action,
and a considerable portion of it was spent in camps, or in the long
and frequent marches; but whenever the public business allowed them any
relaxation, they seemed to have retired with pleasure to their favorite
residences of Nicomedia and Milan. Till Diocletian, in the twentieth
year of his reign, celebrated his Roman triumph, it is extremely
doubtful whether he ever visited the ancient capital of the empire. Even
on that memorable occasion his stay did not exceed two months. Disgusted
with the licentious familiarity of the people, he quitted Rome with
precipitation thirteen days before it was expected that he should
have appeared in the senate, invested with the ensigns of the consular

The dislike expressed by Diocletian towards Rome and Roman freedom, was
not the effect of momentary caprice, but the result of the most
artful policy. That crafty prince had framed a new system of Imperial
government, which was afterwards completed by the family of Constantine;
and as the image of the old constitution was religiously preserved in
the senate, he resolved to deprive that order of its small remains of
power and consideration. We may recollect, about eight years before
the elevation, of Diocletian the transient greatness, and the ambitious
hopes, of the Roman senate. As long as that enthusiasm prevailed, many
of the nobles imprudently displayed their zeal in the cause of freedom;
and after the successes of Probus had withdrawn their countenance
from the republican party, the senators were unable to disguise their
impotent resentment. As the sovereign of Italy, Maximian was intrusted
with the care of extinguishing this troublesome, rather than dangerous
spirit, and the task was perfectly suited to his cruel temper. The most
illustrious members of the senate, whom Diocletian always affected to
esteem, were involved, by his colleague, in the accusation of imaginary
plots; and the possession of an elegant villa, or a well-cultivated
estate, was interpreted as a convincing evidence of guilt. The camp
of the Prætorians, which had so long oppressed, began to protect, the
majesty of Rome; and as those haughty troops were conscious of the
decline of their power, they were naturally disposed to unite their
strength with the authority of the senate. By the prudent measures of
Diocletian, the numbers of the Prætorians were insensibly reduced, their
privileges abolished, and their place supplied by two faithful legions
of Illyricum, who, under the new titles of Jovians and Herculians, were
appointed to perform the service of the Imperial guards. But the most
fatal though secret wound, which the senate received from the hands of
Diocletian and Maximian, was inflicted by the inevitable operation of
their absence. As long as the emperors resided at Rome, that assembly
might be oppressed, but it could scarcely be neglected. The successors
of Augustus exercised the power of dictating whatever laws their wisdom
or caprice might suggest; but those laws were ratified by the sanction
of the senate. The model of ancient freedom was preserved in its
deliberations and decrees; and wise princes, who respected the
prejudices of the Roman people, were in some measure obliged to assume
the language and behavior suitable to the general and first magistrate
of the republic. In the armies and in the provinces, they displayed the
dignity of monarchs; and when they fixed their residence at a distance
from the capital, they forever laid aside the dissimulation which
Augustus had recommended to his successors. In the exercise of the
legislative as well as the executive power, the sovereign advised with
his ministers, instead of consulting the great council of the nation.
The name of the senate was mentioned with honor till the last period of
the empire; the vanity of its members was still flattered with honorary
distinctions; but the assembly which had so long been the source, and
so long the instrument of power, was respectfully suffered to sink into
oblivion. The senate of Rome, losing all connection with the Imperial
court and the actual constitution, was left a venerable but useless
monument of antiquity on the Capitoline hill.

Chapter XIII: Reign Of Diocletian And This Three Associates.--Part IV.

When the Roman princes had lost sight of the senate and of their ancient
capital, they easily forgot the origin and nature of their legal power.
The civil offices of consul, of proconsul, of censor, and of tribune,
by the union of which it had been formed, betrayed to the people its
republican extraction. Those modest titles were laid aside; and if they
still distinguished their high station by the appellation of Emperor, or
Imperator, that word was understood in a new and more dignified sense,
and no longer denoted the general of the Roman armies, but the sovereign
of the Roman world. The name of Emperor, which was at first of a
military nature, was associated with another of a more servile kind.
The epithet of Dominus, or Lord, in its primitive signification, was
expressive, not of the authority of a prince over his subjects, or of a
commander over his soldiers, but of the despotic power of a master
over his domestic slaves. Viewing it in that odious light, it had
been rejected with abhorrence by the first Cæsars. Their resistance
insensibly became more feeble, and the name less odious; till at length
the style of our Lord and Emperor was not only bestowed by flattery, but
was regularly admitted into the laws and public monuments. Such lofty
epithets were sufficient to elate and satisfy the most excessive vanity;
and if the successors of Diocletian still declined the title of King,
it seems to have been the effect not so much of their moderation as of
their delicacy. Wherever the Latin tongue was in use, (and it was the
language of government throughout the empire,) the Imperial title, as
it was peculiar to themselves, conveyed a more respectable idea than
the name of king, which they must have shared with a hundred barbarian
chieftains; or which, at the best, they could derive only from Romulus,
or from Tarquin. But the sentiments of the East were very different from
those of the West. From the earliest period of history, the sovereigns
of Asia had been celebrated in the Greek language by the title of
Basileus, or King; and since it was considered as the first distinction
among men, it was soon employed by the servile provincials of the East,
in their humble addresses to the Roman throne. Even the attributes, or
at least the titles, of the Divinity, were usurped by Diocletian and
Maximian, who transmitted them to a succession of Christian emperors.
Such extravagant compliments, however, soon lose their impiety by losing
their meaning; and when the ear is once accustomed to the sound, they
are heard with indifference, as vague though excessive professions of

From the time of Augustus to that of Diocletian, the Roman princes,
conversing in a familiar manner among their fellow-citizens, were
saluted only with the same respect that was usually paid to senators and
magistrates. Their principal distinction was the Imperial or military
robe of purple; whilst the senatorial garment was marked by a broad, and
the equestrian by a narrow, band or stripe of the same honorable color.
The pride, or rather the policy, of Diocletian, engaged that artful
prince to introduce the stately magnificence of the court of Persia. He
ventured to assume the diadem, an ornament detested by the Romans as the
odious ensign of royalty, and the use of which had been considered as
the most desperate act of the madness of Caligula. It was no more than a
broad white fillet set with pearls, which encircled the emperor's head.
The sumptuous robes of Diocletian and his successors were of silk and
gold; and it is remarked with indignation, that even their shoes were
studded with the most precious gems. The access to their sacred person
was every day rendered more difficult by the institution of new forms
and ceremonies. The avenues of the palace were strictly guarded by the
various schools, as they began to be called, of domestic officers.
The interior apartments were intrusted to the jealous vigilance of
the eunuchs, the increase of whose numbers and influence was the most
infallible symptom of the progress of despotism. When a subject was at
length admitted to the Imperial presence, he was obliged, whatever might
be his rank, to fall prostrate on the ground, and to adore, according to
the eastern fashion, the divinity of his lord and master. Diocletian was
a man of sense, who, in the course of private as well as public life,
had formed a just estimate both of himself and of mankind: nor is it
easy to conceive, that in substituting the manners of Persia to those
of Rome, he was seriously actuated by so mean a principle as that of
vanity. He flattered himself, that an ostentation of splendor and luxury
would subdue the imagination of the multitude; that the monarch would be
less exposed to the rude license of the people and the soldiers, as his
person was secluded from the public view; and that habits of submission
would insensibly be productive of sentiments of veneration. Like the
modesty affected by Augustus, the state maintained by Diocletian was
a theatrical representation; but it must be confessed, that of the two
comedies, the former was of a much more liberal and manly character than
the latter. It was the aim of the one to disguise, and the object of the
other to display, the unbounded power which the emperors possessed over
the Roman world.

Ostentation was the first principle of the new system instituted
by Diocletian. The second was division. He divided the empire,
the provinces, and every branch of the civil as well as military
administration. He multiplied the wheels of the machine of government,
and rendered its operations less rapid, but more secure. Whatever
advantages and whatever defects might attend these innovations, they
must be ascribed in a very great degree to the first inventor; but
as the new frame of policy was gradually improved and completed
by succeeding princes, it will be more satisfactory to delay the
consideration of it till the season of its full maturity and perfection.
Reserving, therefore, for the reign of Constantine a more exact picture
of the new empire, we shall content ourselves with describing the
principal and decisive outline, as it was traced by the hand of
Diocletian. He had associated three colleagues in the exercise of the
supreme power; and as he was convinced that the abilities of a single
man were inadequate to the public defence, he considered the joint
administration of four princes not as a temporary expedient, but as a
fundamental law of the constitution. It was his intention, that the two
elder princes should be distinguished by the use of the diadem, and
the title of Augusti; that, as affection or esteem might direct their
choice, they should regularly call to their assistance two subordinate
colleagues; and that the Csars, rising in their turn to the first rank,
should supply an uninterrupted succession of emperors. The empire was
divided into four parts. The East and Italy were the most honorable, the
Danube and the Rhine the most laborious stations. The former claimed the
presence of the Augusti, the latter were intrusted to the administration
of the Csars. The strength of the legions was in the hands of the four
partners of sovereignty, and the despair of successively vanquishing
four formidable rivals might intimidate the ambition of an aspiring
general. In their civil government, the emperors were supposed to
exercise the undivided power of the monarch, and their edicts,
inscribed with their joint names, were received in all the provinces,
as promulgated by their mutual councils and authority. Notwithstanding
these precautions, the political union of the Roman world was gradually
dissolved, and a principle of division was introduced, which, in the
course of a few years, occasioned the perpetual separation of the
Eastern and Western Empires.

The system of Diocletian was accompanied with another very material
disadvantage, which cannot even at present be totally overlooked; a more
expensive establishment, and consequently an increase of taxes, and
the oppression of the people. Instead of a modest family of slaves and
freedmen, such as had contented the simple greatness of Augustus and
Trajan, three or four magnificent courts were established in the various
parts of the empire, and as many Roman kings contended with each other
and with the Persian monarch for the vain superiority of pomp and
luxury. The number of ministers, of magistrates, of officers, and
of servants, who filled the different departments of the state, was
multiplied beyond the example of former times; and (if we may borrow
the warm expression of a contemporary) "when the proportion of those
who received, exceeded the proportion of those who contributed, the
provinces were oppressed by the weight of tributes." From this period
to the extinction of the empire, it would be easy to deduce an
uninterrupted series of clamors and complaints. According to his
religion and situation, each writer chooses either Diocletian, or
Constantine, or Valens, or Theodosius, for the object of his invectives;
but they unanimously agree in representing the burden of the public
impositions, and particularly the land tax and capitation, as the
intolerable and increasing grievance of their own times. From such a
concurrence, an impartial historian, who is obliged to extract truth
from satire, as well as from panegyric, will be inclined to divide the
blame among the princes whom they accuse, and to ascribe their exactions
much less to their personal vices, than to the uniform system of their
administration. * The emperor Diocletian was indeed the author of that
system; but during his reign, the growing evil was confined within
the bounds of modesty and discretion, and he deserves the reproach of
establishing pernicious precedents, rather than of exercising actual
oppression. It may be added, that his revenues were managed with prudent
economy; and that after all the current expenses were discharged, there
still remained in the Imperial treasury an ample provision either for
judicious liberality or for any emergency of the state.

It was in the twenty first year of his reign that Diocletian executed
his memorable resolution of abdicating the empire; an action more
naturally to have been expected from the elder or the younger Antoninus,
than from a prince who had never practised the lessons of philosophy
either in the attainment or in the use of supreme power. Diocletian
acquired the glory of giving to the world the first example of a
resignation, which has not been very frequently imitated by succeeding
monarchs. The parallel of Charles the Fifth, however, will naturally
offer itself to our mind, not only since the eloquence of a modern
historian has rendered that name so familiar to an English reader, but
from the very striking resemblance between the characters of the two
emperors, whose political abilities were superior to their military
genius, and whose specious virtues were much less the effect of nature
than of art. The abdication of Charles appears to have been hastened
by the vicissitude of fortune; and the disappointment of his favorite
schemes urged him to relinquish a power which he found inadequate to
his ambition. But the reign of Diocletian had flowed with a tide of
uninterrupted success; nor was it till after he had vanquished all
his enemies, and accomplished all his designs, that he seems to have
entertained any serious thoughts of resigning the empire. Neither
Charles nor Diocletian were arrived at a very advanced period of life;
since the one was only fifty-five, and the other was no more than
fifty-nine years of age; but the active life of those princes, their
wars and journeys, the cares of royalty, and their application to
business, had already impaired their constitution, and brought on the
infirmities of a premature old age.

Notwithstanding the severity of a very cold and rainy winter, Diocletian
left Italy soon after the ceremony of his triumph, and began his
progress towards the East round the circuit of the Illyrian provinces.
From the inclemency of the weather, and the fatigue of the journey, he
soon contracted a slow illness; and though he made easy marches, and was
generally carried in a close litter, his disorder, before he arrived
at Nicomedia, about the end of the summer, was become very serious and
alarming. During the whole winter he was confined to his palace: his
danger inspired a general and unaffected concern; but the people could
only judge of the various alterations of his health, from the joy or
consternation which they discovered in the countenances and behavior
of his attendants. The rumor of his death was for some time universally
believed, and it was supposed to be concealed with a view to prevent
the troubles that might have happened during the absence of the Cæsar
Galerius. At length, however, on the first of March, Diocletian once
more appeared in public, but so pale and emaciated, that he could
scarcely have been recognized by those to whom his person was the most
familiar. It was time to put an end to the painful struggle, which he
had sustained during more than a year, between the care of his health
and that of his dignity. The former required indulgence and relaxation,
the latter compelled him to direct, from the bed of sickness, the
administration of a great empire. He resolved to pass the remainder of
his days in honorable repose, to place his glory beyond the reach of
fortune, and to relinquish the theatre of the world to his younger and
more active associates.

The ceremony of his abdication was performed in a spacious plain, about
three miles from Nicomedia. The emperor ascended a lofty throne, and in
a speech, full of reason and dignity, declared his intention, both to
the people and to the soldiers who were assembled on this extraordinary
occasion. As soon as he had divested himself of his purple, he withdrew
from the gazing multitude; and traversing the city in a covered chariot,
proceeded, without delay, to the favorite retirement which he had chosen
in his native country of Dalmatia. On the same day, which was the
first of May, Maximian, as it had been previously concerted, made his
resignation of the Imperial dignity at Milan. Even in the splendor of
the Roman triumph, Diocletian had meditated his design of abdicating the
government. As he wished to secure the obedience of Maximian, he exacted
from him either a general assurance that he would submit his actions to
the authority of his benefactor, or a particular promise that he would
descend from the throne, whenever he should receive the advice and the
example. This engagement, though it was confirmed by the solemnity of
an oath before the altar of the Capitoline Jupiter, would have proved a
feeble restraint on the fierce temper of Maximian, whose passion was the
love of power, and who neither desired present tranquility nor future
reputation. But he yielded, however reluctantly, to the ascendant which
his wiser colleague had acquired over him, and retired, immediately
after his abdication, to a villa in Lucania, where it was almost
impossible that such an impatient spirit could find any lasting

Diocletian, who, from a servile origin, had raised himself to the
throne, passed the nine last years of his life in a private condition.
Reason had dictated, and content seems to have accompanied, his retreat,
in which he enjoyed, for a long time, the respect of those princes to
whom he had resigned the possession of the world. It is seldom that
minds long exercised in business have formed the habits of conversing
with themselves, and in the loss of power they principally regret the
want of occupation. The amusements of letters and of devotion, which
afford so many resources in solitude, were incapable of fixing the
attention of Diocletian; but he had preserved, or at least he soon
recovered, a taste for the most innocent as well as natural pleasures,
and his leisure hours were sufficiently employed in building, planting,
and gardening. His answer to Maximian is deservedly celebrated. He was
solicited by that restless old man to reassume the reins of government,
and the Imperial purple. He rejected the temptation with a smile of
pity, calmly observing, that if he could show Maximian the cabbages
which he had planted with his own hands at Salona, he should no longer
be urged to relinquish the enjoyment of happiness for the pursuit
of power. In his conversations with his friends, he frequently
acknowledged, that of all arts, the most difficult was the art of
reigning; and he expressed himself on that favorite topic with a degree
of warmth which could be the result only of experience. "How often," was
he accustomed to say, "is it the interest of four or five ministers to
combine together to deceive their sovereign! Secluded from mankind by
his exalted dignity, the truth is concealed from his knowledge; he can
see only with their eyes, he hears nothing but their misrepresentations.
He confers the most important offices upon vice and weakness, and
disgraces the most virtuous and deserving among his subjects. By such
infamous arts," added Diocletian, "the best and wisest princes are
sold to the venal corruption of their courtiers." A just estimate of
greatness, and the assurance of immortal fame, improve our relish
for the pleasures of retirement; but the Roman emperor had filled too
important a character in the world, to enjoy without alloy the comforts
and security of a private condition. It was impossible that he could
remain ignorant of the troubles which afflicted the empire after his
abdication. It was impossible that he could be indifferent to their
consequences. Fear, sorrow, and discontent, sometimes pursued him into
the solitude of Salona. His tenderness, or at least his pride, was
deeply wounded by the misfortunes of his wife and daughter; and the last
moments of Diocletian were imbittered by some affronts, which Licinius
and Constantine might have spared the father of so many emperors,
and the first author of their own fortune. A report, though of a very
doubtful nature, has reached our times, that he prudently withdrew
himself from their power by a voluntary death.

Before we dismiss the consideration of the life and character of
Diocletian, we may, for a moment, direct our view to the place of his
retirement. Salona, a principal city of his native province of Dalmatia,
was near two hundred Roman miles (according to the measurement of the
public highways) from Aquileia and the confines of Italy, and about two
hundred and seventy from Sirmium, the usual residence of the emperors
whenever they visited the Illyrian frontier. A miserable village still
preserves the name of Salona; but so late as the sixteenth century,
the remains of a theatre, and a confused prospect of broken arches and
marble columns, continued to attest its ancient splendor. About six or
seven miles from the city, Diocletian constructed a magnificent palace,
and we may infer, from the greatness of the work, how long he had
meditated his design of abdicating the empire. The choice of a spot
which united all that could contribute either to health or to luxury,
did not require the partiality of a native. "The soil was dry and
fertile, the air is pure and wholesome, and though extremely hot during
the summer months, this country seldom feels those sultry and noxious
winds, to which the coasts of Istria and some parts of Italy are
exposed. The views from the palace are no less beautiful than the soil
and climate were inviting. Towards the west lies the fertile shore that
stretches along the Adriatic, in which a number of small islands
are scattered in such a manner, as to give this part of the sea the
appearance of a great lake. On the north side lies the bay, which led
to the ancient city of Salona; and the country beyond it, appearing in
sight, forms a proper contrast to that more extensive prospect of water,
which the Adriatic presents both to the south and to the east. Towards
the north, the view is terminated by high and irregular mountains,
situated at a proper distance, and in many places covered with villages,
woods, and vineyards."

Though Constantine, from a very obvious prejudice, affects to mention
the palace of Diocletian with contempt, yet one of their successors,
who could only see it in a neglected and mutilated state, celebrates its
magnificence in terms of the highest admiration. It covered an extent
of ground consisting of between nine and ten English acres. The form was
quadrangular, flanked with sixteen towers. Two of the sides were near
six hundred, and the other two near seven hundred feet in length. The
whole was constructed of a beautiful freestone, extracted from the
neighboring quarries of Trau, or Tragutium, and very little inferior to
marble itself. Four streets, intersecting each other at right angles,
divided the several parts of this great edifice, and the approach to
the principal apartment was from a very stately entrance, which is
still denominated the Golden Gate. The approach was terminated by a
peristylium of granite columns, on one side of which we discover the
square temple of Æsculapius, on the other the octagon temple of Jupiter.
The latter of those deities Diocletian revered as the patron of his
fortunes, the former as the protector of his health. By comparing the
present remains with the precepts of Vitruvius, the several parts of
the building, the baths, bed-chamber, the atrium, the basilica, and the
Cyzicene, Corinthian, and Egyptian halls have been described with
some degree of precision, or at least of probability. Their forms were
various, their proportions just; but they all were attended with
two imperfections, very repugnant to our modern notions of taste and
conveniency. These stately rooms had neither windows nor chimneys. They
were lighted from the top, (for the building seems to have consisted
of no more than one story,) and they received their heat by the help
of pipes that were conveyed along the walls. The range of principal
apartments was protected towards the south-west by a portico five
hundred and seventeen feet long, which must have formed a very noble and
delightful walk, when the beauties of painting and sculpture were added
to those of the prospect.

Had this magnificent edifice remained in a solitary country, it would
have been exposed to the ravages of time; but it might, perhaps, have
escaped the rapacious industry of man. The village of Aspalathus, and,
long afterwards, the provincial town of Spalatro, have grown out of its
ruins. The Golden Gate now opens into the market-place. St. John the
Baptist has usurped the honors of Æsculapius; and the temple of Jupiter,
under the protection of the Virgin, is converted into the cathedral
church. For this account of Diocletian's palace we are principally
indebted to an ingenious artist of our own time and country, whom a very
liberal curiosity carried into the heart of Dalmatia. But there is room
to suspect that the elegance of his designs and engraving has somewhat
flattered the objects which it was their purpose to represent. We are
informed by a more recent and very judicious traveller, that the awful
ruins of Spalatro are not less expressive of the decline of the art than
of the greatness of the Roman empire in the time of Diocletian. If such
was indeed the state of architecture, we must naturally believe that
painting and sculpture had experienced a still more sensible decay.
The practice of architecture is directed by a few general and even
mechanical rules. But sculpture, and above all, painting, propose to
themselves the imitation not only of the forms of nature, but of the
characters and passions of the human soul. In those sublime arts, the
dexterity of the hand is of little avail, unless it is animated by
fancy, and guided by the most correct taste and observation.

It is almost unnecessary to remark, that the civil distractions of the
empire, the license of the soldiers, the inroads of the barbarians, and
the progress of despotism, had proved very unfavorable to genius, and
even to learning. The succession of Illyrian princes restored the
empire without restoring the sciences. Their military education was not
calculated to inspire them with the love of letters; and even the mind
of Diocletian, however active and capacious in business, was totally
uninformed by study or speculation. The professions of law and physic
are of such common use and certain profit, that they will always secure
a sufficient number of practitioners, endowed with a reasonable degree
of abilities and knowledge; but it does not appear that the students in
those two faculties appeal to any celebrated masters who have flourished
within that period. The voice of poetry was silent. History was reduced
to dry and confused abridgments, alike destitute of amusement and
instruction. A languid and affected eloquence was still retained in
the pay and service of the emperors, who encouraged not any arts except
those which contributed to the gratification of their pride, or the
defence of their power.

The declining age of learning and of mankind is marked, however, by the
rise and rapid progress of the new Platonists. The school of Alexandria
silenced those of Athens; and the ancient sects enrolled themselves
under the banners of the more fashionable teachers, who recommended
their system by the novelty of their method, and the austerity of their
manners. Several of these masters, Ammonius, Plotinus, Amelius, and
Porphyry, were men of profound thought and intense application; but by
mistaking the true object of philosophy, their labors contributed much
less to improve than to corrupt the human understanding. The knowledge
that is suited to our situation and powers, the whole compass of moral,
natural, and mathematical science, was neglected by the new Platonists;
whilst they exhausted their strength in the verbal disputes of
metaphysics, attempted to explore the secrets of the invisible world,
and studied to reconcile Aristotle with Plato, on subjects of which both
these philosophers were as ignorant as the rest of mankind. Consuming
their reason in these deep but unsubstantial meditations, their minds
were exposed to illusions of fancy. They flattered themselves that they
possessed the secret of disengaging the soul from its corporal prison;
claimed a familiar intercourse with demons and spirits; and, by a very
singular revolution, converted the study of philosophy into that of
magic. The ancient sages had derided the popular superstition; after
disguising its extravagance by the thin pretence of allegory, the
disciples of Plotinus and Porphyry became its most zealous defenders.
As they agreed with the Christians in a few mysterious points of faith,
they attacked the remainder of their theological system with all the
fury of civil war. The new Platonists would scarcely deserve a place in
the history of science, but in that of the church the mention of them
will very frequently occur.

Chapter XIV: Six Emperors At The Same Time, Reunion Of The
Empire.--Part I.

     Troubles After The Abdication Of Diocletian.--Death Of
     Constantius.--Elevation Of Constantine And Maxen Tius.--Six
     Emperors At The Same Time.--Death Of Maximian And Galerius.--
     Victories Of Constantine Over Maxentius And Licinus.--
     Reunion Of The Empire Under The Authority Of Constantine.

The balance of power established by Diocletian subsisted no longer than
while it was sustained by the firm and dexterous hand of the founder. It
required such a fortunate mixture of different tempers and abilities,
as could scarcely be found or even expected a second time; two emperors
without jealousy, two Cæsars without ambition, and the same general
interest invariably pursued by four independent princes. The abdication
of Diocletian and Maximian was succeeded by eighteen years of discord
and confusion. The empire was afflicted by five civil wars; and the
remainder of the time was not so much a state of tranquillity as a
suspension of arms between several hostile monarchs, who, viewing
each other with an eye of fear and hatred, strove to increase their
respective forces at the expense of their subjects.

As soon as Diocletian and Maximian had resigned the purple, their
station, according to the rules of the new constitution, was filled by
the two Cæsars, Constantius and Galerius, who immediately assumed the
title of Augustus.

The honors of seniority and precedence were allowed to the former of
those princes, and he continued under a new appellation to administer
his ancient department of Gaul, Spain, and Britain. The government of
those ample provinces was sufficient to exercise his talents and
to satisfy his ambition. Clemency, temperance, and moderation,
distinguished the amiable character of Constantius, and his fortunate
subjects had frequently occasion to compare the virtues of their
sovereign with the passions of Maximian, and even with the arts of
Diocletian. Instead of imitating their eastern pride and magnificence,
Constantius preserved the modesty of a Roman prince. He declared, with
unaffected sincerity, that his most valued treasure was in the hearts of
his people, and that, whenever the dignity of the throne, or the danger
of the state, required any extraordinary supply, he could depend with
confidence on their gratitude and liberality. The provincials of Gaul,
Spain, and Britain, sensible of his worth, and of their own happiness,
reflected with anxiety on the declining health of the emperor
Constantius, and the tender age of his numerous family, the issue of his
second marriage with the daughter of Maximian.

The stern temper of Galerius was cast in a very different mould; and
while he commanded the esteem of his subjects, he seldom condescended to
solicit their affections. His fame in arms, and, above all, the success
of the Persian war, had elated his haughty mind, which was naturally
impatient of a superior, or even of an equal. If it were possible to
rely on the partial testimony of an injudicious writer, we might ascribe
the abdication of Diocletian to the menaces of Galerius, and relate the
particulars of a private conversation between the two princes, in which
the former discovered as much pusillanimity as the latter displayed
ingratitude and arrogance. But these obscure anecdotes are sufficiently
refuted by an impartia view of the character and conduct of Diocletian.
Whatever might otherwise have been his intentions, if he had apprehended
any danger from the violence of Galerius, his good sense would have
instructed him to prevent the ignominious contest; and as he had held
the sceptre with glory, he would have resigned it without disgrace.

After the elevation of Constantius and Galerius to the rank of Augusti,
two new Csars were required to supply their place, and to complete the
system of the Imperial government. Diocletian, was sincerely desirous
of withdrawing himself from the world; he considered Galerius, who had
married his daughter, as the firmest support of his family and of the
empire; and he consented, without reluctance, that his successor should
assume the merit as well as the envy of the important nomination. It was
fixed without consulting the interest or inclination of the princes of
the West. Each of them had a son who was arrived at the age of manhood,
and who might have been deemed the most natural candidates for the
vacant honor. But the impotent resentment of Maximian was no longer to
be dreaded; and the moderate Constantius, though he might despise the
dangers, was humanely apprehensive of the calamities, of civil war.
The two persons whom Galerius promoted to the rank of Cæsar, were much
better suited to serve the views of his ambition; and their principal
recommendation seems to have consisted in the want of merit or personal
consequence. The first of these was Daza, or, as he was afterwards
called, Maximin, whose mother was the sister of Galerius. The
unexperienced youth still betrayed, by his manners and language, his
rustic education, when, to his own astonishment, as well as that of the
world, he was invested by Diocletian with the purple, exalted to the
dignity of Cæsar, and intrusted with the sovereign command of Egypt
and Syria. At the same time, Severus, a faithful servant, addicted to
pleasure, but not incapable of business, was sent to Milan, to receive,
from the reluctant hands of Maximian, the Cæsarian ornaments, and
the possession of Italy and Africa. According to the forms of the
constitution, Severus acknowledged the supremacy of the western
emperor; but he was absolutely devoted to the commands of his benefactor
Galerius, who, reserving to himself the intermediate countries from the
confines of Italy to those of Syria, firmly established his power
over three fourths of the monarchy. In the full confidence that the
approaching death of Constantius would leave him sole master of the
Roman world, we are assured that he had arranged in his mind a long
succession of future princes, and that he meditated his own retreat from
public life, after he should have accomplished a glorious reign of about
twenty years.

But within less than eighteen months, two unexpected revolutions
overturned the ambitious schemes of Galerius. The hopes of uniting the
western provinces to his empire were disappointed by the elevation of
Constantine, whilst Italy and Africa were lost by the successful revolt
of Maxentius.

I. The fame of Constantine has rendered posterity attentive to the most
minute circumstances of his life and actions. The place of his birth, as
well as the condition of his mother Helena, have been the subject, not
only of literary, but of national disputes. Notwithstanding the recent
tradition, which assigns for her father a British king, we are obliged
to confess, that Helena was the daughter of an innkeeper; but at the
same time, we may defend the legality of her marriage, against those
who have represented her as the concubine of Constantius. The great
Constantine was most probably born at Naissus, in Dacia; and it is not
surprising that, in a family and province distinguished only by the
profession of arms, the youth should discover very little inclination to
improve his mind by the acquisition of knowledge. He was about eighteen
years of age when his father was promoted to the rank of Cæsar; but that
fortunate event was attended with his mother's divorce; and the splendor
of an Imperial alliance reduced the son of Helena to a state of disgrace
and humiliation. Instead of following Constantius in the West, he
remained in the service of Diocletian, signalized his valor in the wars
of Egypt and Persia, and gradually rose to the honorable station of
a tribune of the first order. The figure of Constantine was tall and
majestic; he was dexterous in all his exercises, intrepid in war,
affable in peace; in his whole conduct, the active spirit of youth
was tempered by habitual prudence; and while his mind was engrossed
by ambition, he appeared cold and insensible to the allurements of
pleasure. The favor of the people and soldiers, who had named him as a
worthy candidate for the rank of Cæsar, served only to exasperate
the jealousy of Galerius; and though prudence might restrain him from
exercising any open violence, an absolute monarch is seldom at a loss
now to execute a sure and secret evenge. Every hour increased the danger
of Constantine, and the anxiety of his father, who, by repeated letters,
expressed the warmest desire of embracing his son. For some time the
policy of Galerius supplied him with delays and excuses; but it was
impossible long to refuse so natural a request of his associate, without
maintaining his refusal by arms. The permission of the journey was
reluctantly granted, and whatever precautions the emperor might have
taken to intercept a return, the consequences of which he, with so
much reason, apprehended, they were effectually disappointed by the
incredible diligence of Constantine. Leaving the palace of Nicomedia in
the night, he travelled post through Bithynia, Thrace, Dacia, Pannonia,
Italy, and Gaul, and, amidst the joyful acclamations of the people,
reached the port of Boulogne in the very moment when his father was
preparing to embark for Britain.

The British expedition, and an easy victory over the barbarians of
Caledonia, were the last exploits of the reign of Constantius. He ended
his life in the Imperial palace of York, fifteen months after he had
received the title of Augustus, and almost fourteen years and a
half after he had been promoted to the rank of Cæsar. His death was
immediately succeeded by the elevation of Constantine. The ideas of
inheritance and succession are so very familiar, that the generality
of mankind consider them as founded, not only in reason, but in nature
itself. Our imagination readily transfers the same principles from
private property to public dominion: and whenever a virtuous father
leaves behind him a son whose merit seems to justify the esteem, or
even the hopes, of the people, the joint influence of prejudice and of
affection operates with irresistible weight. The flower of the western
armies had followed Constantius into Britain, and the national troops
were reenforced by a numerous body of Alemanni, who obeyed the orders
of Crocus, one of their hereditary chieftains. The opinion of their
own importance, and the assurance that Britain, Gaul, and Spain would
acquiesce in their nomination, were diligently inculcated to the legions
by the adherents of Constantine. The soldiers were asked, whether they
could hesitate a moment between the honor of placing at their head
the worthy son of their beloved emperor, and the ignominy of tamely
expecting the arrival of some obscure stranger, on whom it might please
the sovereign of Asia to bestow the armies and provinces of the West.
It was insinuated to them, that gratitude and liberality held a
distinguished place among the virtues of Constantine; nor did that
artful prince show himself to the troops, till they were prepared to
salute him with the names of Augustus and Emperor. The throne was the
object of his desires; and had he been less actuated by ambition, it was
his only means of safety. He was well acquainted with the character and
sentiments of Galerius, and sufficiently apprised, that if he wished
to live he must determine to reign. The decent and even obstinate
resistance which he chose to affect, was contrived to justify his
usurpation; nor did he yield to the acclamations of the army, till he
had provided the proper materials for a letter, which he immediately
despatched to the emperor of the East. Constantine informed him of the
melancholy event of his father's death, modestly asserted his
natural claim to the succession, and respectfully lamented, that the
affectionate violence of his troops had not permitted him to solicit
the Imperial purple in the regular and constitutional manner. The first
emotions of Galerius were those of surprise, disappointment, and rage;
and as he could seldom restrain his passions, he loudly threatened, that
he would commit to the flames both the letter and the messenger. But
his resentment insensibly subsided; and when he recollected the doubtful
chance of war, when he had weighed the character and strength of his
adversary, he consented to embrace the honorable accommodation which the
prudence of Constantine had left open to him. Without either condemning
or ratifying the choice of the British army, Galerius accepted the son
of his deceased colleague as the sovereign of the provinces beyond the
Alps; but he gave him only the title of Cæsar, and the fourth rank among
the Roman princes, whilst he conferred the vacant place of Augustus
on his favorite Severus. The apparent harmony of the empire was still
preserved, and Constantine, who already possessed the substance,
expected, without impatience, an opportunity of obtaining the honors, of
supreme power.

The children of Constantius by his second marriage were six in number,
three of either sex, and whose Imperial descent might have solicited
a preference over the meaner extraction of the son of Helena. But
Constantine was in the thirty-second year of his age, in the full vigor
both of mind and body, at the time when the eldest of his brothers could
not possibly be more than thirteen years old. His claim of superior
merit had been allowed and ratified by the dying emperor. In his last
moments Constantius bequeathed to his eldest son the care of the safety
as well as greatness of the family; conjuring him to assume both the
authority and the sentiments of a father with regard to the children of
Theodora. Their liberal education, advantageous marriages, the secure
dignity of their lives, and the first honors of the state with which
they were invested, attest the fraternal affection of Constantine;
and as those princes possessed a mild and grateful disposition, they
submitted without reluctance to the superiority of his genius and

II. The ambitious spirit of Galerius was scarcely reconciled to the
disappointment of his views upon the Gallic provinces, before the
unexpected loss of Italy wounded his pride as well as power in a still
more sensible part. The long absence of the emperors had filled Rome
with discontent and indignation; and the people gradually discovered,
that the preference given to Nicomedia and Milan was not to be ascribed
to the particular inclination of Diocletian, but to the permanent form
of government which he had instituted. It was in vain that, a few months
after his abdication, his successors dedicated, under his name, those
magnificent baths, whose ruins still supply the ground as well as the
materials for so many churches and convents. The tranquility of those
elegant recesses of ease and luxury was disturbed by the impatient
murmurs of the Romans, and a report was insensibly circulated, that
the sums expended in erecting those buildings would soon be required
at their hands. About that time the avarice of Galerius, or perhaps
the exigencies of the state, had induced him to make a very strict and
rigorous inquisition into the property of his subjects, for the purpose
of a general taxation, both on their lands and on their persons. A very
minute survey appears to have been taken of their real estates; and
wherever there was the slightest suspicion of concealment, torture was
very freely employed to obtain a sincere declaration of their personal
wealth. The privileges which had exalted Italy above the rank of the
provinces were no longer regarded: * and the officers of the revenue
already began to number the Roman people, and to settle the proportion
of the new taxes. Even when the spirit of freedom had been utterly
extinguished, the tamest subjects have sometimes ventured to resist
an unprecedented invasion of their property; but on this occasion the
injury was aggravated by the insult, and the sense of private interest
was quickened by that of national honor. The conquest of Macedonia, as
we have already observed, had delivered the Roman people from the weight
of personal taxes. Though they had experienced every form of despotism,
they had now enjoyed that exemption near five hundred years; nor could
they patiently brook the insolence of an Illyrian peasant, who, from his
distant residence in Asia, presumed to number Rome among the tributary
cities of his empire. The rising fury of the people was encouraged by
the authority, or at least the connivance, of the senate; and the feeble
remains of the Prætorian guards, who had reason to apprehend their
own dissolution, embraced so honorable a pretence, and declared their
readiness to draw their swords in the service of their oppressed
country. It was the wish, and it soon became the hope, of every citizen,
that after expelling from Italy their foreign tyrants, they should
elect a prince who, by the place of his residence, and by his maxims
of government, might once more deserve the title of Roman emperor. The
name, as well as the situation, of Maxentius determined in his favor the
popular enthusiasm.

Maxentius was the son of the emperor Maximian, and he had married the
daughter of Galerius. His birth and alliance seemed to offer him
the fairest promise of succeeding to the empire; but his vices and
incapacity procured him the same exclusion from the dignity of Cæsar,
which Constantine had deserved by a dangerous superiority of merit. The
policy of Galerius preferred such associates as would never disgrace
the choice, nor dispute the commands, of their benefactor. An obscure
stranger was therefore raised to the throne of Italy, and the son of
the late emperor of the West was left to enjoy the luxury of a private
fortune in a villa a few miles distant from the capital. The gloomy
passions of his soul, shame, vexation, and rage, were inflamed by envy
on the news of Constantine's success; but the hopes of Maxentius revived
with the public discontent, and he was easily persuaded to unite his
personal injury and pretensions with the cause of the Roman people.
Two Prætorian tribunes and a commissary of provisions undertook the
management of the conspiracy; and as every order of men was actuated by
the same spirit, the immediate event was neither doubtful nor difficult.
The præfect of the city, and a few magistrates, who maintained their
fidelity to Severus, were massacred by the guards; and Maxentius,
invested with the Imperial ornaments, was acknowledged by the applauding
senate and people as the protector of the Roman freedom and dignity.
It is uncertain whether Maximian was previously acquainted with the
conspiracy; but as soon as the standard of rebellion was erected at
Rome, the old emperor broke from the retirement where the authority of
Diocletian had condemned him to pass a life of melancholy and solitude,
and concealed his returning ambition under the disguise of paternal
tenderness. At the request of his son and of the senate, he condescended
to reassume the purple. His ancient dignity, his experience, and his
fame in arms, added strength as well as reputation to the party of

According to the advice, or rather the orders, of his colleague, the
emperor Severus immediately hastened to Rome, in the full confidence,
that, by his unexpected celerity, he should easily suppress the tumult
of an unwarlike populace, commanded by a licentious youth. But he found
on his arrival the gates of the city shut against him, the walls filled
with men and arms, an experienced general at the head of the rebels,
and his own troops without spirit or affection. A large body of Moors
deserted to the enemy, allured by the promise of a large donative; and,
if it be true that they had been levied by Maximian in his African war,
preferring the natural feelings of gratitude to the artificial ties of
allegiance. Anulinus, the Prætorian præfect, declared himself in favor
of Maxentius, and drew after him the most considerable part of the
troops, accustomed to obey his commands. Rome, according to the
expression of an orator, recalled her armies; and the unfortunate
Severus, destitute of force and of counsel, retired, or rather fled,
with precipitation, to Ravenna. Here he might for some time have been
safe. The fortifications of Ravenna were able to resist the attempts,
and the morasses that surrounded the town, were sufficient to prevent
the approach, of the Italian army. The sea, which Severus commanded with
a powerful fleet, secured him an inexhaustible supply of provisions,
and gave a free entrance to the legions, which, on the return of spring,
would advance to his assistance from Illyricum and the East. Maximian,
who conducted the siege in person, was soon convinced that he might
waste his time and his army in the fruitless enterprise, and that he had
nothing to hope either from force or famine. With an art more suitable
to the character of Diocletian than to his own, he directed his attack,
not so much against the walls of Ravenna, as against the mind of
Severus. The treachery which he had experienced disposed that unhappy
prince to distrust the most sincere of his friends and adherents. The
emissaries of Maximian easily persuaded his credulity, that a conspiracy
was formed to betray the town, and prevailed upon his fears not to
expose himself to the discretion of an irritated conqueror, but to
accept the faith of an honorable capitulation. He was at first received
with humanity and treated with respect. Maximian conducted the captive
emperor to Rome, and gave him the most solemn assurances that he had
secured his life by the resignation of the purple. But Severus, could
obtain only an easy death and an Imperial funeral. When the sentence was
signified to him, the manner of executing it was left to his own choice;
he preferred the favorite mode of the ancients, that of opening his
veins; and as soon as he expired, his body was carried to the sepulchre
which had been constructed for the family of Gallienus.

Chapter XIV: Six Emperors At The Same Time, Reunion Of The Empire.--Part

Though the characters of Constantine and Maxentius had very little
affinity with each other, their situation and interest were the same;
and prudence seemed to require that they should unite their forces
against the common enemy. Notwithstanding the superiority of his age
and dignity, the indefatigable Maximian passed the Alps, and, courting
a personal interview with the sovereign of Gaul, carried with him his
daughter Fausta as the pledge of the new alliance. The marriage was
celebrated at Arles with every circumstance of magnificence; and the
ancient colleague of Diocletian, who again asserted his claim to the
Western empire, conferred on his son-in-law and ally the title of
Augustus. By consenting to receive that honor from Maximian, Constantine
seemed to embrace the cause of Rome and of the senate; but his
professions were ambiguous, and his assistance slow and ineffectual. He
considered with attention the approaching contest between the masters of
Italy and the emperor of the East, and was prepared to consult his own
safety or ambition in the event of the war.

The importance of the occasion called for the presence and abilities of
Galerius. At the head of a powerful army, collected from Illyricum and
the East, he entered Italy, resolved to revenge the death of Severus,
and to chastise the rebellions Romans; or, as he expressed his
intentions, in the furious language of a barbarian, to extirpate
the senate, and to destroy the people by the sword. But the skill of
Maximian had concerted a prudent system of defence. The invader found
every place hostile, fortified, and inaccessible; and though he forced
his way as far as Narni, within sixty miles of Rome, his dominion in
Italy was confined to the narrow limits of his camp. Sensible of the
increasing difficulties of his enterprise, the haughty Galerius made the
first advances towards a reconciliation, and despatched two of his
most considerable officers to tempt the Roman princes by the offer of
a conference, and the declaration of his paternal regard for Maxentius,
who might obtain much more from his liberality than he could hope from
the doubtful chance of war. The offers of Galerius were rejected with
firmness, his perfidious friendship refused with contempt, and it was
not long before he discovered, that, unless he provided for his safety
by a timely retreat, he had some reason to apprehend the fate of
Severus. The wealth which the Romans defended against his rapacious
tyranny, they freely contributed for his destruction. The name of
Maximian, the popular arts of his son, the secret distribution of large
sums, and the promise of still more liberal rewards, checked the ardor
and corrupted the fidelity of the Illyrian legions; and when Galerius at
length gave the signal of the retreat, it was with some difficulty that
he could prevail on his veterans not to desert a banner which had so
often conducted them to victory and honor. A contemporary writer assigns
two other causes for the failure of the expedition; but they are both of
such a nature, that a cautious historian will scarcely venture to adopt
them. We are told that Galerius, who had formed a very imperfect notion
of the greatness of Rome by the cities of the East with which he was
acquainted, found his forces inadequate to the siege of that immense
capital. But the extent of a city serves only to render it more
accessible to the enemy: Rome had long since been accustomed to submit
on the approach of a conqueror; nor could the temporary enthusiasm of
the people have long contended against the discipline and valor of
the legions. We are likewise informed that the legions themselves
were struck with horror and remorse, and that those pious sons of the
republic refused to violate the sanctity of their venerable parent. But
when we recollect with how much ease, in the more ancient civil wars,
the zeal of party and the habits of military obedience had converted the
native citizens of Rome into her most implacable enemies, we shall be
inclined to distrust this extreme delicacy of strangers and barbarians,
who had never beheld Italy till they entered it in a hostile manner. Had
they not been restrained by motives of a more interested nature, they
would probably have answered Galerius in the words of Cæsar's veterans:
"If our general wishes to lead us to the banks of the Tyber, we are
prepared to trace out his camp. Whatsoever walls he has determined to
level with the ground, our hands are ready to work the engines: nor
shall we hesitate, should the name of the devoted city be Rome itself."
These are indeed the expressions of a poet; but of a poet who has been
distinguished, and even censured, for his strict adherence to the truth
of history.

The legions of Galerius exhibited a very melancholy proof of their
disposition, by the ravages which they committed in their retreat. They
murdered, they ravished, they plundered, they drove away the flocks
and herds of the Italians; they burnt the villages through which they
passed, and they endeavored to destroy the country which it had not
been in their power to subdue. During the whole march, Maxentius hung
on their rear, but he very prudently declined a general engagement with
those brave and desperate veterans. His father had undertaken a second
journey into Gaul, with the hope of persuading Constantine, who had
assembled an army on the frontier, to join in the pursuit, and to
complete the victory. But the actions of Constantine were guided by
reason, and not by resentment. He persisted in the wise resolution of
maintaining a balance of power in the divided empire, and he no longer
hated Galerius, when that aspiring prince had ceased to be an object of

The mind of Galerius was the most susceptible of the sterner passions,
but it was not, however, incapable of a sincere and lasting friendship.
Licinius, whose manners as well as character, were not unlike his own,
seems to have engaged both his affection and esteem. Their intimacy had
commenced in the happier period perhaps of their youth and obscurity.
It had been cemented by the freedom and dangers of a military life; they
had advanced almost by equal steps through the successive honors of the
service; and as soon as Galerius was invested with the Imperial dignity,
he seems to have conceived the design of raising his companion to the
same rank with himself. During the short period of his prosperity,
he considered the rank of Cæsar as unworthy of the age and merit of
Licinius, and rather chose to reserve for him the place of Constantius,
and the empire of the West. While the emperor was employed in the
Italian war, he intrusted his friend with the defence of the Danube;
and immediately after his return from that unfortunate expedition, he
invested Licinius with the vacant purple of Severus, resigning to his
immediate command the provinces of Illyricum. The news of his promotion
was no sooner carried into the East, than Maximin, who governed, or
rather oppressed, the countries of Egypt and Syria, betrayed his
envy and discontent, disdained the inferior name of Cæsar, and,
notwithstanding the prayers as well as arguments of Galerius, exacted,
almost by violence, the equal title of Augustus. For the first, and
indeed for the last time, the Roman world was administered by six
emperors. In the West, Constantine and Maxentius affected to reverence
their father Maximian. In the East, Licinius and Maximin honored with
more real consideration their benefactor Galerius. The opposition of
interest, and the memory of a recent war, divided the empire into
two great hostile powers; but their mutual fears produced an apparent
tranquillity, and even a feigned reconciliation, till the death of the
elder princes, of Maximian, and more particularly of Galerius, gave a
new direction to the views and passions of their surviving associates.

When Maximian had reluctantly abdicated the empire, the venal orators
of the times applauded his philosophic moderation. When his ambition
excited, or at least encouraged, a civil war, they returned thanks
to his generous patriotism, and gently censured that love of ease and
retirement which had withdrawn him from the public service. But it was
impossible that minds like those of Maximian and his son could long
possess in harmony an undivided power. Maxentius considered himself as
the legal sovereign of Italy, elected by the Roman senate and people;
nor would he endure the control of his father, who arrogantly declared
that by his name and abilities the rash youth had been established on
the throne. The cause was solemnly pleaded before the Prætorian guards;
and those troops, who dreaded the severity of the old emperor, espoused
the party of Maxentius. The life and freedom of Maximian were, however,
respected, and he retired from Italy into Illyricum, affecting to lament
his past conduct, and secretly contriving new mischiefs. But Galerius,
who was well acquainted with his character, soon obliged him to leave
his dominions, and the last refuge of the disappointed Maximian was the
court of his son-in-law Constantine. He was received with respect by
that artful prince, and with the appearance of filial tenderness by the
empress Fausta. That he might remove every suspicion, he resigned the
Imperial purple a second time, professing himself at length convinced
of the vanity of greatness and ambition. Had he persevered in this
resolution, he might have ended his life with less dignity, indeed, than
in his first retirement, yet, however, with comfort and reputation. But
the near prospect of a throne brought back to his remembrance the state
from whence he was fallen, and he resolved, by a desperate effort
either to reign or to perish. An incursion of the Franks had summoned
Constantine, with a part of his army, to the banks of the Rhine; the
remainder of the troops were stationed in the southern provinces of
Gaul, which lay exposed to the enterprises of the Italian emperor, and
a considerable treasure was deposited in the city of Arles. Maximian
either craftily invented, or easily credited, a vain report of the death
of Constantine. Without hesitation he ascended the throne, seized the
treasure, and scattering it with his accustomed profusion among the
soldiers, endeavored to awake in their minds the memory of his ancient
dignity and exploits. Before he could establish his authority, or finish
the negotiation which he appears to have entered into with his son
Maxentius, the celerity of Constantine defeated all his hopes. On the
first news of his perfidy and ingratitude, that prince returned by rapid
marches from the Rhine to the Saone, embarked on the last mentioned
river at Chalons, and at Lyons trusting himself to the rapidity of the
Rhone, arrived at the gates of Arles, with a military force which it was
impossible for Maximian to resist, and which scarcely permitted him to
take refuge in the neighboring city of Marseilles. The narrow neck of
land which joined that place to the continent was fortified against the
besiegers, whilst the sea was open, either for the escape of Maximian,
or for the succor of Maxentius, if the latter should choose to disguise
his invasion of Gaul under the honorable pretence of defending a
distressed, or, as he might allege, an injured father. Apprehensive
of the fatal consequences of delay, Constantine gave orders for an
immediate assault; but the scaling-ladders were found too short for the
height of the walls, and Marseilles might have sustained as long a siege
as it formerly did against the arms of Cæsar, if the garrison, conscious
either of their fault or of their danger, had not purchased their pardon
by delivering up the city and the person of Maximian. A secret but
irrevocable sentence of death was pronounced against the usurper; he
obtained only the same favor which he had indulged to Severus, and
it was published to the world, that, oppressed by the remorse of his
repeated crimes, he strangled himself with his own hands. After he had
lost the assistance, and disdained the moderate counsels of Diocletian,
the second period of his active life was a series of public calamities
and personal mortifications, which were terminated, in about three
years, by an ignominious death. He deserved his fate; but we should find
more reason to applaud the humanity of Constantine, if he had spared
an old man, the benefactor of his father, and the father of his wife.
During the whole of this melancholy transaction, it appears that Fausta
sacrificed the sentiments of nature to her conjugal duties.

The last years of Galerius were less shameful and unfortunate; and
though he had filled with more glory the subordinate station of Cæsar
than the superior rank of Augustus, he preserved, till the moment of his
death, the first place among the princes of the Roman world. He survived
his retreat from Italy about four years; and wisely relinquishing his
views of universal empire, he devoted the remainder of his life to the
enjoyment of pleasure, and to the execution of some works of public
utility, among which we may distinguish the discharging into the Danube
the superfluous waters of the Lake Pelso, and the cutting down the
immense forests that encompassed it; an operation worthy of a monarch,
since it gave an extensive country to the agriculture of his Pannonian
subjects. His death was occasioned by a very painful and lingering
disorder. His body, swelled by an intemperate course of life to
an unwieldy corpulence, was covered with ulcers, and devoured by
innumerable swarms of those insects which have given their name to a
most loathsome disease; but as Galerius had offended a very zealous and
powerful party among his subjects, his sufferings, instead of exciting
their compassion, have been celebrated as the visible effects of divine
justice. He had no sooner expired in his palace of Nicomedia, than the
two emperors who were indebted for their purple to his favors, began
to collect their forces, with the intention either of disputing, or of
dividing, the dominions which he had left without a master. They were
persuaded, however, to desist from the former design, and to agree in
the latter. The provinces of Asia fell to the share of Maximin, and
those of Europe augmented the portion of Licinius. The Hellespont and
the Thracian Bosphorus formed their mutual boundary, and the banks of
those narrow seas, which flowed in the midst of the Roman world, were
covered with soldiers, with arms, and with fortifications. The deaths
of Maximian and of Galerius reduced the number of emperors to four. The
sense of their true interest soon connected Licinius and Constantine; a
secret alliance was concluded between Maximin and Maxentius, and their
unhappy subjects expected with terror the bloody consequences of their
inevitable dissensions, which were no longer restrained by the fear or
the respect which they had entertained for Galerius.

Among so many crimes and misfortunes, occasioned by the passions of the
Roman princes, there is some pleasure in discovering a single action
which may be ascribed to their virtue. In the sixth year of his reign,
Constantine visited the city of Autun, and generously remitted the
arrears of tribute, reducing at the same time the proportion of their
assessment from twenty-five to eighteen thousand heads, subject to the
real and personal capitation. Yet even this indulgence affords the most
unquestionable proof of the public misery. This tax was so extremely
oppressive, either in itself or in the mode of collecting it, that
whilst the revenue was increased by extortion, it was diminished
by despair: a considerable part of the territory of Autun was left
uncultivated; and great numbers of the provincials rather chose to live
as exiles and outlaws, than to support the weight of civil society. It
is but too probable, that the bountiful emperor relieved, by a partial
act of liberality, one among the many evils which he had caused by his
general maxims of administration. But even those maxims were less
the effect of choice than of necessity. And if we except the death of
Maximian, the reign of Constantine in Gaul seems to have been the
most innocent and even virtuous period of his life. The provinces were
protected by his presence from the inroads of the barbarians, who either
dreaded or experienced his active valor. After a signal victory over the
Franks and Alemanni, several of their princes were exposed by his order
to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre of Treves, and the people seem to
have enjoyed the spectacle, without discovering, in such a treatment of
royal captives, any thing that was repugnant to the laws of nations or
of humanity. *

The virtues of Constantine were rendered more illustrious by the vices
of Maxentius. Whilst the Gallic provinces enjoyed as much happiness as
the condition of the times was capable of receiving, Italy and Africa
groaned under the dominion of a tyrant, as contemptible as he was
odious. The zeal of flattery and faction has indeed too frequently
sacrificed the reputation of the vanquished to the glory of their
successful rivals; but even those writers who have revealed, with
the most freedom and pleasure, the faults of Constantine, unanimously
confess that Maxentius was cruel, rapacious, and profligate. He had the
good fortune to suppress a slight rebellion in Africa. The governor and
a few adherents had been guilty; the province suffered for their crime.
The flourishing cities of Cirtha and Carthage, and the whole extent
of that fertile country, were wasted by fire and sword. The abuse of
victory was followed by the abuse of law and justice. A formidable army
of sycophants and delators invaded Africa; the rich and the noble were
easily convicted of a connection with the rebels; and those among
them who experienced the emperor's clemency, were only punished by the
confiscation of their estates. So signal a victory was celebrated by a
magnificent triumph, and Maxentius exposed to the eyes of the people the
spoils and captives of a Roman province. The state of the capital was
no less deserving of compassion than that of Africa. The wealth of Rome
supplied an inexhaustible fund for his vain and prodigal expenses, and
the ministers of his revenue were skilled in the arts of rapine. It
was under his reign that the method of exacting a free gift from the
senators was first invented; and as the sum was insensibly increased,
the pretences of levying it, a victory, a birth, a marriage, or an
imperial consulship, were proportionably multiplied. Maxentius
had imbibed the same implacable aversion to the senate, which had
characterized most of the former tyrants of Rome; nor was it possible
for his ungrateful temper to forgive the generous fidelity which had
raised him to the throne, and supported him against all his enemies.
The lives of the senators were exposed to his jealous suspicions, the
dishonor of their wives and daughters heightened the gratification of
his sensual passions. It may be presumed, that an Imperial lover
was seldom reduced to sigh in vain; but whenever persuasion proved
ineffectual, he had recourse to violence; and there remains one
memorable example of a noble matron, who preserved her chastity by
a voluntary death. The soldiers were the only order of men whom he
appeared to respect, or studied to please. He filled Rome and Italy with
armed troops, connived at their tumults, suffered them with impunity
to plunder, and even to massacre, the defenceless people; and indulging
them in the same licentiousness which their emperor enjoyed, Maxentius
often bestowed on his military favorites the splendid villa, or the
beautiful wife, of a senator. A prince of such a character, alike
incapable of governing, either in peace or in war, might purchase the
support, but he could never obtain the esteem, of the army. Yet his
pride was equal to his other vices. Whilst he passed his indolent life
either within the walls of his palace, or in the neighboring gardens of
Sallust, he was repeatedly heard to declare, that he alone was emperor,
and that the other princes were no more than his lieutenants, on whom he
had devolved the defence of the frontier provinces, that he might enjoy
without interruption the elegant luxury of the capital. Rome, which had
so long regretted the absence, lamented, during the six years of his
reign, the presence of her sovereign.

Though Constantine might view the conduct of Maxentius with abhorrence,
and the situation of the Romans with compassion, we have no reason to
presume that he would have taken up arms to punish the one or to
relieve the other. But the tyrant of Italy rashly ventured to provoke
a formidable enemy, whose ambition had been hitherto restrained by
considerations of prudence, rather than by principles of justice. After
the death of Maximian, his titles, according to the established custom,
had been erased, and his statues thrown down with ignominy. His son, who
had persecuted and deserted him when alive, effected to display the most
pious regard for his memory, and gave orders that a similar treatment
should be immediately inflicted on all the statues that had been erected
in Italy and Africa to the honor of Constantine. That wise prince, who
sincerely wished to decline a war, with the difficulty and importance
of which he was sufficiently acquainted, at first dissembled the insult,
and sought for redress by the milder expedient of negotiation, till
he was convinced that the hostile and ambitious designs of the Italian
emperor made it necessary for him to arm in his own defence. Maxentius,
who openly avowed his pretensions to the whole monarchy of the West,
had already prepared a very considerable force to invade the Gallic
provinces on the side of Rhætia; and though he could not expect any
assistance from Licinius, he was flattered with the hope that the
legions of Illyricum, allured by his presents and promises, would desert
the standard of that prince, and unanimously declare themselves
his soldiers and subjects. Constantine no longer hesitated. He had
deliberated with caution, he acted with vigor. He gave a private
audience to the ambassadors, who, in the name of the senate and people,
conjured him to deliver Rome from a detested tyrant; and without
regarding the timid remonstrances of his council, he resolved to prevent
the enemy, and to carry the war into the heart of Italy.

The enterprise was as full of danger as of glory; and the unsuccessful
event of two former invasions was sufficient to inspire the most serious
apprehensions. The veteran troops, who revered the name of Maximian,
had embraced in both those wars the party of his son, and were
now restrained by a sense of honor, as well as of interest, from
entertaining an idea of a second desertion. Maxentius, who considered
the Prætorian guards as the firmest defence of his throne, had increased
them to their ancient establishment; and they composed, including the
rest of the Italians who were enlisted into his service, a formidable
body of fourscore thousand men. Forty thousand Moors and Carthaginians
had been raised since the reduction of Africa. Even Sicily furnished
its proportion of troops; and the armies of Maxentius amounted to one
hundred and seventy thousand foot and eighteen thousand horse. The
wealth of Italy supplied the expenses of the war; and the adjacent
provinces were exhausted, to form immense magazines of corn and every
other kind of provisions.

The whole force of Constantine consisted of ninety thousand foot and
eight thousand horse; and as the defence of the Rhine required an
extraordinary attention during the absence of the emperor, it was not
in his power to employ above half his troops in the Italian expedition,
unless he sacrificed the public safety to his private quarrel. At the
head of about forty thousand soldiers he marched to encounter an enemy
whose numbers were at least four times superior to his own. But the
armies of Rome, placed at a secure distance from danger, were enervated
by indulgence and luxury. Habituated to the baths and theatres of
Rome, they took the field with reluctance, and were chiefly composed
of veterans who had almost forgotten, or of new levies who had never
acquired, the use of arms and the practice of war. The hardy legions
of Gaul had long defended the frontiers of the empire against the
barbarians of the North; and in the performance of that laborious
service, their valor was exercised and their discipline confirmed. There
appeared the same difference between the leaders as between the armies.
Caprice or flattery had tempted Maxentius with the hopes of conquest;
but these aspiring hopes soon gave way to the habits of pleasure and the
consciousness of his inexperience. The intrepid mind of Constantine had
been trained from his earliest youth to war, to action, and to military

Chapter XIV: Six Emperors At The Same Time, Reunion Of The Empire.--Part

When Hannibal marched from Gaul into Italy, he was obliged, first to
discover, and then to open, a way over mountains, and through savage
nations, that had never yielded a passage to a regular army. The Alps
were then guarded by nature, they are now fortified by art. Citadels,
constructed with no less skill than labor and expense, command every
avenue into the plain, and on that side render Italy almost inaccessible
to the enemies of the king of Sardinia. But in the course of the
intermediate period, the generals, who have attempted the passage,
have seldom experienced any difficulty or resistance. In the age of
Constantine, the peasants of the mountains were civilized and obedient
subjects; the country was plentifully stocked with provisions, and the
stupendous highways, which the Romans had carried over the Alps, opened
several communications between Gaul and Italy. Constantine preferred the
road of the Cottian Alps, or, as it is now called, of Mount Cenis, and
led his troops with such active diligence, that he descended into the
plain of Piedmont before the court of Maxentius had received any certain
intelligence of his departure from the banks of the Rhine. The city
of Susa, however, which is situated at the foot of Mount Cenis, was
surrounded with walls, and provided with a garrison sufficiently
numerous to check the progress of an invader; but the impatience of
Constantine's troops disdained the tedious forms of a siege. The same
day that they appeared before Susa, they applied fire to the gates, and
ladders to the walls; and mounting to the assault amidst a shower of
stones and arrows, they entered the place sword in hand, and cut in
pieces the greatest part of the garrison. The flames were extinguished
by the care of Constantine, and the remains of Susa preserved from
total destruction. About forty miles from thence, a more severe contest
awaited him. A numerous army of Italians was assembled under the
lieutenants of Maxentius, in the plains of Turin. Its principal strength
consisted in a species of heavy cavalry, which the Romans, since the
decline of their discipline, had borrowed from the nations of the East.
The horses, as well as the men, were clothed in complete armor, the
joints of which were artfully adapted to the motions of their bodies.
The aspect of this cavalry was formidable, their weight almost
irresistible; and as, on this occasion, their generals had drawn them
up in a compact column or wedge, with a sharp point, and with spreading
flanks, they flattered themselves that they could easily break and
trample down the army of Constantine. They might, perhaps, have
succeeded in their design, had not their experienced adversary embraced
the same method of defence, which in similar circumstances had been
practised by Aurelian. The skilful evolutions of Constantine divided and
baffled this massy column of cavalry. The troops of Maxentius fled in
confusion towards Turin; and as the gates of the city were shut against
them, very few escaped the sword of the victorious pursuers. By this
important service, Turin deserved to experience the clemency and even
favor of the conqueror. He made his entry into the Imperial palace of
Milan, and almost all the cities of Italy between the Alps and the Po
not only acknowledged the power, but embraced with zeal the party, of

From Milan to Rome, the Æmilian and Flaminian highways offered an easy
march of about four hundred miles; but though Constantine was impatient
to encounter the tyrant, he prudently directed his operations against
another army of Italians, who, by their strength and position, might
either oppose his progress, or, in case of a misfortune, might intercept
his retreat. Ruricius Pompeianus, a general distinguished by his valor
and ability, had under his command the city of Verona, and all the
troops that were stationed in the province of Venetia. As soon as he was
informed that Constantine was advancing towards him, he detached a large
body of cavalry which was defeated in an engagement near Brescia,
and pursued by the Gallic legions as far as the gates of Verona. The
necessity, the importance, and the difficulties of the siege of Verona,
immediately presented themselves to the sagacious mind of Constantine.
The city was accessible only by a narrow peninsula towards the west, as
the other three sides were surrounded by the Adige, a rapid river, which
covered the province of Venetia, from whence the besieged derived an
inexhaustible supply of men and provisions. It was not without great
difficulty, and after several fruitless attempts, that Constantine found
means to pass the river at some distance above the city, and in a place
where the torrent was less violent. He then encompassed Verona with
strong lines, pushed his attacks with prudent vigor, and repelled a
desperate sally of Pompeianus. That intrepid general, when he had used
every means of defence that the strength of the place or that of the
garrison could afford, secretly escaped from Verona, anxious not for
his own, but for the public safety. With indefatigable diligence he soon
collected an army sufficient either to meet Constantine in the field, or
to attack him if he obstinately remained within his lines. The emperor,
attentive to the motions, and informed of the approach of so formidable
an enemy, left a part of his legions to continue the operations of the
siege, whilst, at the head of those troops on whose valor and fidelity
he more particularly depended, he advanced in person to engage the
general of Maxentius. The army of Gaul was drawn up in two lines,
according to the usual practice of war; but their experienced leader,
perceiving that the numbers of the Italians far exceeded his own,
suddenly changed his disposition, and, reducing the second, extended
the front of his first line to a just proportion with that of the enemy.
Such evolutions, which only veteran troops can execute without confusion
in a moment of danger, commonly prove decisive; but as this engagement
began towards the close of the day, and was contested with great
obstinacy during the whole night, there was less room for the conduct of
the generals than for the courage of the soldiers. The return of light
displayed the victory of Constantine, and a field of carnage covered
with many thousands of the vanquished Italians. Their general,
Pompeianus, was found among the slain; Verona immediately surrendered
at discretion, and the garrison was made prisoners of war. When the
officers of the victorious army congratulated their master on this
important success, they ventured to add some respectful complaints,
of such a nature, however, as the most jealous monarchs will listen
to without displeasure. They represented to Constantine, that, not
contented with all the duties of a commander, he had exposed his own
person with an excess of valor which almost degenerated into rashness;
and they conjured him for the future to pay more regard to the
preservation of a life in which the safety of Rome and of the empire was

While Constantine signalized his conduct and valor in the field, the
sovereign of Italy appeared insensible of the calamities and danger of
a civil war which reigned in the heart of his dominions. Pleasure was
still the only business of Maxentius. Concealing, or at least attempting
to conceal, from the public knowledge the misfortunes of his arms, he
indulged himself in a vain confidence which deferred the remedies of the
approaching evil, without deferring the evil itself. The rapid progress
of Constantine was scarcely sufficient to awaken him from his fatal
security; he flattered himself, that his well-known liberality, and
the majesty of the Roman name, which had already delivered him from two
invasions, would dissipate with the same facility the rebellious army of
Gaul. The officers of experience and ability, who had served under the
banners of Maximian, were at length compelled to inform his effeminate
son of the imminent danger to which he was reduced; and, with a freedom
that at once surprised and convinced him, to urge the necessity of
preventing his ruin, by a vigorous exertion of his remaining power. The
resources of Maxentius, both of men and money, were still considerable.
The Prætorian guards felt how strongly their own interest and safety
were connected with his cause; and a third army was soon collected,
more numerous than those which had been lost in the battles of Turin and
Verona. It was far from the intention of the emperor to lead his troops
in person. A stranger to the exercises of war, he trembled at the
apprehension of so dangerous a contest; and as fear is commonly
superstitious, he listened with melancholy attention to the rumors of
omens and presages which seemed to menace his life and empire. Shame at
length supplied the place of courage, and forced him to take the field.
He was unable to sustain the contempt of the Roman people. The circus
resounded with their indignant clamors, and they tumultuously besieged
the gates of the palace, reproaching the pusillanimity of their indolent
sovereign, and celebrating the heroic spirit of Constantine. Before
Maxentius left Rome, he consulted the Sibylline books. The guardians of
these ancient oracles were as well versed in the arts of this world as
they were ignorant of the secrets of fate; and they returned him a very
prudent answer, which might adapt itself to the event, and secure their
reputation, whatever should be the chance of arms.

The celerity of Constantine's march has been compared to the rapid
conquest of Italy by the first of the Cæsars; nor is the flattering
parallel repugnant to the truth of history, since no more than
fifty-eight days elapsed between the surrender of Verona and the final
decision of the war. Constantine had always apprehended that the tyrant
would consult the dictates of fear, and perhaps of prudence; and that,
instead of risking his last hopes in a general engagement, he would shut
himself up within the walls of Rome. His ample magazines secured him
against the danger of famine; and as the situation of Constantine
admitted not of delay, he might have been reduced to the sad necessity
of destroying with fire and sword the Imperial city, the noblest reward
of his victory, and the deliverance of which had been the motive, or
rather indeed the pretence, of the civil war. It was with equal surprise
and pleasure, that on his arrival at a place called Saxa Rubra, about
nine miles from Rome, he discovered the army of Maxentius prepared to
give him battle. Their long front filled a very spacious plain, and
their deep array reached to the banks of the Tyber, which covered their
rear, and forbade their retreat. We are informed, and we may believe,
that Constantine disposed his troops with consummate skill, and that
he chose for himself the post of honor and danger. Distinguished by the
splendor of his arms, he charged in person the cavalry of his rival; and
his irresistible attack determined the fortune of the day. The cavalry
of Maxentius was principally composed either of unwieldy cuirassiers,
or of light Moors and Numidians. They yielded to the vigor of the Gallic
horse, which possessed more activity than the one, more firmness than
the other. The defeat of the two wings left the infantry without any
protection on its flanks, and the undisciplined Italians fled without
reluctance from the standard of a tyrant whom they had always hated,
and whom they no longer feared. The Prætorians, conscious that their
offences were beyond the reach of mercy, were animated by revenge and
despair. Notwithstanding their repeated efforts, those brave veterans
were unable to recover the victory: they obtained, however, an honorable
death; and it was observed that their bodies covered the same ground
which had been occupied by their ranks. The confusion then became
general, and the dismayed troops of Maxentius, pursued by an implacable
enemy, rushed by thousands into the deep and rapid stream of the Tyber.
The emperor himself attempted to escape back into the city over the
Milvian bridge; but the crowds which pressed together through that
narrow passage forced him into the river, where he was immediately
drowned by the weight of his armor. His body, which had sunk very deep
into the mud, was found with some difficulty the next day. The sight of
his head, when it was exposed to the eyes of the people, convinced them
of their deliverance, and admonished them to receive with acclamations
of loyalty and gratitude the fortunate Constantine, who thus achieved by
his valor and ability the most splendid enterprise of his life.

In the use of victory, Constantine neither deserved the praise of
clemency, nor incurred the censure of immoderate rigor. He inflicted the
same treatment to which a defeat would have exposed his own person
and family, put to death the two sons of the tyrant, and carefully
extirpated his whole race. The most distinguished adherents of Maxentius
must have expected to share his fate, as they had shared his prosperity
and his crimes; but when the Roman people loudly demanded a greater
number of victims, the conqueror resisted with firmness and humanity,
those servile clamors, which were dictated by flattery as well as by
resentment. Informers were punished and discouraged; the innocent,
who had suffered under the late tyranny, were recalled from exile, and
restored to their estates. A general act of oblivion quieted the minds
and settled the property of the people, both in Italy and in Africa.
The first time that Constantine honored the senate with his presence, he
recapitulated his own services and exploits in a modest oration,
assured that illustrious order of his sincere regard, and promised to
reestablish its ancient dignity and privileges. The grateful senate
repaid these unmeaning professions by the empty titles of honor, which
it was yet in their power to bestow; and without presuming to ratify the
authority of Constantine, they passed a decree to assign him the first
rank among the three Augusti who governed the Roman world. Games and
festivals were instituted to preserve the fame of his victory, and
several edifices, raised at the expense of Maxentius, were dedicated
to the honor of his successful rival. The triumphal arch of Constantine
still remains a melancholy proof of the decline of the arts, and a
singular testimony of the meanest vanity. As it was not possible to find
in the capital of the empire a sculptor who was capable of adorning that
public monument, the arch of Trajan, without any respect either for his
memory or for the rules of propriety, was stripped of its most elegant
figures. The difference of times and persons, of actions and characters,
was totally disregarded. The Parthian captives appear prostrate at the
feet of a prince who never carried his arms beyond the Euphrates;
and curious antiquarians can still discover the head of Trajan on the
trophies of Constantine. The new ornaments which it was necessary to
introduce between the vacancies of ancient sculpture are executed in the
rudest and most unskillful manner.

The final abolition of the Prætorian guards was a measure of prudence as
well as of revenge. Those haughty troops, whose numbers and privileges
had been restored, and even augmented, by Maxentius, were forever
suppressed by Constantine. Their fortified camp was destroyed, and the
few Prætorians who had escaped the fury of the sword were dispersed
among the legions, and banished to the frontiers of the empire,
where they might be serviceable without again becoming dangerous. By
suppressing the troops which were usually stationed in Rome, Constantine
gave the fatal blow to the dignity of the senate and people, and the
disarmed capital was exposed without protection to the insults or
neglect of its distant master. We may observe, that in this last effort
to preserve their expiring freedom, the Romans, from the apprehension of
a tribute, had raised Maxentius to the throne. He exacted that tribute
from the senate under the name of a free gift. They implored the
assistance of Constantine. He vanquished the tyrant, and converted
the free gift into a perpetual tax. The senators, according to the
declaration which was required of their property, were divided into
several classes. The most opulent paid annually eight pounds of gold,
the next class paid four, the last two, and those whose poverty might
have claimed an exemption, were assessed, however, at seven pieces
of gold. Besides the regular members of the senate, their sons, their
descendants, and even their relations, enjoyed the vain privileges, and
supported the heavy burdens, of the senatorial order; nor will it any
longer excite our surprise, that Constantine should be attentive to
increase the number of persons who were included under so useful a
description. After the defeat of Maxentius, the victorious emperor
passed no more than two or three months in Rome, which he visited twice
during the remainder of his life, to celebrate the solemn festivals
of the tenth and of the twentieth years of his reign. Constantine was
almost perpetually in motion, to exercise the legions, or to inspect the
state of the provinces. Treves, Milan, Aquileia, Sirmium, Naissus,
and Thessalonica, were the occasional places of his residence, till he
founded a new Rome on the confines of Europe and Asia.

Before Constantine marched into Italy, he had secured the friendship,
or at least the neutrality, of Licinius, the Illyrian emperor. He had
promised his sister Constantia in marriage to that prince; but the
celebration of the nuptials was deferred till after the conclusion
of the war, and the interview of the two emperors at Milan, which
was appointed for that purpose, appeared to cement the union of their
families and interests. In the midst of the public festivity they were
suddenly obliged to take leave of each other. An inroad of the Franks
summoned Constantine to the Rhime, and the hostile approach of the
sovereign of Asia demanded the immediate presence of Licinius. Maximin
had been the secret ally of Maxentius, and without being discouraged by
his fate, he resolved to try the fortune of a civil war. He moved out
of Syria, towards the frontiers of Bithynia, in the depth of winter.
The season was severe and tempestuous; great numbers of men as well
as horses perished in the snow; and as the roads were broken up by
incessant rains, he was obliged to leave behind him a considerable part
of the heavy baggage, which was unable to follow the rapidity of his
forced marches. By this extraordinary effort of diligence, he arrived
with a harassed but formidable army, on the banks of the Thracian
Bosphorus before the lieutenants of Licinius were apprised of his
hostile intentions. Byzantium surrendered to the power of Maximin, after
a siege of eleven days. He was detained some days under the walls of
Heraclea; and he had no sooner taken possession of that city, than he
was alarmed by the intelligence, that Licinius had pitched his camp at
the distance of only eighteen miles. After a fruitless negotiation, in
which the two princes attempted to seduce the fidelity of each other's
adherents, they had recourse to arms. The emperor of the East commanded
a disciplined and veteran army of above seventy thousand men; and
Licinius, who had collected about thirty thousand Illyrians, was at
first oppressed by the superiority of numbers. His military skill, and
the firmness of his troops, restored the day, and obtained a decisive
victory. The incredible speed which Maximin exerted in his flight is
much more celebrated than his prowess in the battle. Twenty-four hours
afterwards he was seen, pale, trembling, and without his Imperial
ornaments, at Nicomedia, one hundred and sixty miles from the place
of his defeat. The wealth of Asia was yet unexhausted; and though the
flower of his veterans had fallen in the late action, he had still
power, if he could obtain time, to draw very numerous levies from Syria
and Egypt. But he survived his misfortune only three or four months. His
death, which happened at Tarsus, was variously ascribed to despair, to
poison, and to the divine justice. As Maximin was alike destitute of
abilities and of virtue, he was lamented neither by the people nor by
the soldiers. The provinces of the East, delivered from the terrors of
civil war, cheerfully acknowledged the authority of Licinius.

The vanquished emperor left behind him two children, a boy of about
eight, and a girl of about seven, years old. Their inoffensive age
might have excited compassion; but the compassion of Licinius was a very
feeble resource, nor did it restrain him from extinguishingthe name
and memory of his adversary. The death of Severianus will admit of
less excuse, as it was dictated neither by revenge nor by policy. The
conqueror had never received any injury from the father of that unhappy
youth, and the short and obscure reign of Severus, in a distant part of
the empire, was already forgotten. But the execution of Candidianus was
an act of the blackest cruelty and ingratitude. He was the natural son
of Galerius, the friend and benefactor of Licinius. The prudent father
had judged him too young to sustain the weight of a diadem; but he hoped
that, under the protection of princes who were indebted to his favor for
the Imperial purple, Candidianus might pass a secure and honorable life.
He was now advancing towards the twentieth year of his age, and the
royalty of his birth, though unsupported either by merit or ambition,
was sufficient to exasperate the jealous mind of Licinius. To these
innocent and illustrious victims of his tyranny, we must add the wife
and daughter of the emperor Diocletian. When that prince conferred on
Galerius the title of Cæsar, he had given him in marriage his daughter
Valeria, whose melancholy adventures might furnish a very singular
subject for tragedy. She had fulfilled and even surpassed the duties of
a wife. As she had not any children herself, she condescended to adopt
the illegitimate son of her husband, and invariably displayed towards
the unhappy Candidianus the tenderness and anxiety of a real mother.
After the death of Galerius, her ample possessions provoked the avarice,
and her personal attractions excited the desires, of his successor,
Maximin. He had a wife still alive; but divorce was permitted by the
Roman law, and the fierce passions of the tyrant demanded an immediate
gratification. The answer of Valeria was such as became the daughter
and widow of emperors; but it was tempered by the prudence which her
defenceless condition compelled her to observe. She represented to the
persons whom Maximin had employed on this occasion, "that even if honor
could permit a woman of her character and dignity to entertain a thought
of second nuptials, decency at least must forbid her to listen to his
addresses at a time when the ashes of her husband, and his benefactor
were still warm, and while the sorrows of her mind were still expressed
by her mourning garments. She ventured to declare, that she could
place very little confidence in the professions of a man whose cruel
inconstancy was capable of repudiating a faithful and affectionate
wife." On this repulse, the love of Maximin was converted into fury; and
as witnesses and judges were always at his disposal, it was easy for
him to cover his fury with an appearance of legal proceedings, and to
assault the reputation as well as the happiness of Valeria. Her estates
were confiscated, her eunuchs and domestics devoted to the most inhuman
tortures; and several innocent and respectable matrons, who were honored
with her friendship, suffered death, on a false accusation of adultery.
The empress herself, together with her mother Prisca, was condemned to
exile; and as they were ignominiously hurried from place to place before
they were confined to a sequestered village in the deserts of Syria,
they exposed their shame and distress to the provinces of the East,
which, during thirty years, had respected their august dignity.
Diocletian made several ineffectual efforts to alleviate the misfortunes
of his daughter; and, as the last return that he expected for the
Imperial purple, which he had conferred upon Maximin, he entreated that
Valeria might be permitted to share his retirement of Salona, and to
close the eyes of her afflicted father. He entreated; but as he could
no longer threaten, his prayers were received with coldness and disdain;
and the pride of Maximin was gratified, in treating Diocletian as a
suppliant, and his daughter as a criminal. The death of Maximin seemed
to assure the empresses of a favorable alteration in their fortune. The
public disorders relaxed the vigilance of their guard, and they easily
found means to escape from the place of their exile, and to repair,
though with some precaution, and in disguise, to the court of Licinius.
His behavior, in the first days of his reign, and the honorable
reception which he gave to young Candidianus, inspired Valeria with a
secret satisfaction, both on her own account and on that of her adopted
son. But these grateful prospects were soon succeeded by horror and
astonishment; and the bloody executions which stained the palace of
Nicomedia sufficiently convinced her that the throne of Maximin was
filled by a tyrant more inhuman than himself. Valeria consulted her
safety by a hasty flight, and, still accompanied by her mother Prisca,
they wandered above fifteen months through the provinces, concealed
in the disguise of plebeian habits. They were at length discovered at
Thessalonica; and as the sentence of their death was already pronounced,
they were immediately beheaded, and their bodies thrown into the sea.
The people gazed on the melancholy spectacle; but their grief and
indignation were suppressed by the terrors of a military guard. Such
was the unworthy fate of the wife and daughter of Diocletian. We lament
their misfortunes, we cannot discover their crimes; and whatever idea we
may justly entertain of the cruelty of Licinius, it remains a matter
of surprise that he was not contented with some more secret and decent
method of revenge.

The Roman world was now divided between Constantine and Licinius, the
former of whom was master of the West, and the latter of the East. It
might perhaps have been expected that the conquerors, fatigued with
civil war, and connected by a private as well as public alliance, would
have renounced, or at least would have suspended, any further designs
of ambition. And yet a year had scarcely elapsed after the death of
Maximin, before the victorious emperors turned their arms against each
other. The genius, the success, and the aspiring temper of Constantine,
may seem to mark him out as the aggressor; but the perfidious character
of Licinius justifies the most unfavorable suspicions, and by the faint
light which history reflects on this transaction, we may discover a
conspiracy fomented by his arts against the authority of his colleague.
Constantine had lately given his sister Anastasia in marriage to
Bassianus, a man of a considerable family and fortune, and had elevated
his new kinsman to the rank of Cæsar. According to the system of
government instituted by Diocletian, Italy, and perhaps Africa, were
designed for his department in the empire. But the performance of the
promised favor was either attended with so much delay, or accompanied
with so many unequal conditions, that the fidelity of Bassianus was
alienated rather than secured by the honorable distinction which he had
obtained. His nomination had been ratified by the consent of Licinius;
and that artful prince, by the means of his emissaries, soon contrived
to enter into a secret and dangerous correspondence with the new Cæsar,
to irritate his discontents, and to urge him to the rash enterprise of
extorting by violence what he might in vain solicit from the justice of
Constantine. But the vigilant emperor discovered the conspiracy before
it was ripe for execution; and after solemnly renouncing the alliance
of Bassianus, despoiled him of the purple, and inflicted the deserved
punishment on his treason and ingratitude. The haughty refusal of
Licinius, when he was required to deliver up the criminals who had taken
refuge in his dominions, confirmed the suspicions already entertained of
his perfidy; and the indignities offered at Æmona, on the frontiers
of Italy, to the statues of Constantine, became the signal of discord
between the two princes.

The first battle was fought near Cibalis, a city of Pannonia,
situated on the River Save, about fifty miles above Sirmium. From the
inconsiderable forces which in this important contest two such powerful
monarchs brought into the field, it may be inferred that the one was
suddenly provoked, and that the other was unexpectedly surprised. The
emperor of the West had only twenty thousand, and the sovereign of the
East no more than five and thirty thousand, men. The inferiority
of number was, however, compensated by the advantage of the ground.
Constantine had taken post in a defile about half a mile in breadth,
between a steep hill and a deep morass, and in that situation he
steadily expected and repulsed the first attack of the enemy. He pursued
his success, and advanced into the plain. But the veteran legions of
Illyricum rallied under the standard of a leader who had been trained to
arms in the school of Probus and Diocletian. The missile weapons on both
sides were soon exhausted; the two armies, with equal valor, rushed to
a closer engagement of swords and spears, and the doubtful contest had
already lasted from the dawn of the day to a late hour of the evening,
when the right wing, which Constantine led in person, made a vigorous
and decisive charge. The judicious retreat of Licinius saved the
remainder of his troops from a total defeat; but when he computed his
loss, which amounted to more than twenty thousand men, he thought it
unsafe to pass the night in the presence of an active and victorious
enemy. Abandoning his camp and magazines, he marched away with secrecy
and diligence at the head of the greatest part of his cavalry, and was
soon removed beyond the danger of a pursuit. His diligence preserved
his wife, his son, and his treasures, which he had deposited at Sirmium.
Licinius passed through that city, and breaking down the bridge on the
Save, hastened to collect a new army in Dacia and Thrace. In his flight
he bestowed the precarious title of Cæsar on Valens, his general of the
Illyrian frontier.

Chapter XIV: Six Emperors At The Same Time, Reunion Of The Empire.--Part

The plain of Mardia in Thrace was the theatre of a second battle no less
obstinate and bloody than the former. The troops on both sides displayed
the same valor and discipline; and the victory was once more decided
by the superior abilities of Constantine, who directed a body of five
thousand men to gain an advantageous height, from whence, during the
heat of the action, they attacked the rear of the enemy, and made a very
considerable slaughter. The troops of Licinius, however, presenting a
double front, still maintained their ground, till the approach of
night put an end to the combat, and secured their retreat towards the
mountains of Macedonia. The loss of two battles, and of his bravest
veterans, reduced the fierce spirit of Licinius to sue for peace. His
ambassador Mistrianus was admitted to the audience of Constantine: he
expatiated on the common topics of moderation and humanity, which are
so familiar to the eloquence of the vanquished; represented in the most
insinuating language, that the event of the war was still doubtful,
whilst its inevitable calamities were alike pernicious to both the
contending parties; and declared that he was authorized to propose a
lasting and honorable peace in the name of the two emperors his
masters. Constantine received the mention of Valens with indignation and
contempt. "It was not for such a purpose," he sternly replied, "that we
have advanced from the shores of the western ocean in an uninterrupted
course of combats and victories, that, after rejecting an ungrateful
kinsman, we should accept for our colleague a contemptible slave.
The abdication of Valens is the first article of the treaty." It was
necessary to accept this humiliating condition; and the unhappy Valens,
after a reign of a few days, was deprived of the purple and of his life.
As soon as this obstacle was removed, the tranquillity of the Roman
world was easily restored. The successive defeats of Licinius had
ruined his forces, but they had displayed his courage and abilities. His
situation was almost desperate, but the efforts of despair are sometimes
formidable, and the good sense of Constantine preferred a great and
certain advantage to a third trial of the chance of arms. He consented
to leave his rival, or, as he again styled Licinius, his friend and
brother, in the possession of Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt; but
the provinces of Pannonia, Dalmatia, Dacia, Macedonia, and Greece, were
yielded to the Western empire, and the dominions of Constantine
now extended from the confines of Caledonia to the extremity of
Peloponnesus. It was stipulated by the same treaty, that three royal
youths, the sons of emperors, should be called to the hopes of the
succession. Crispus and the young Constantine were soon afterwards
declared Cæsars in the West, while the younger Licinius was invested
with the same dignity in the East. In this double proportion of honors,
the conqueror asserted the superiority of his arms and power.

The reconciliation of Constantine and Licinius, though it was imbittered
by resentment and jealousy, by the remembrance of recent injuries, and
by the apprehension of future dangers, maintained, however, above eight
years, the tranquility of the Roman world. As a very regular series of
the Imperial laws commences about this period, it would not be difficult
to transcribe the civil regulations which employed the leisure of
Constantine. But the most important of his institutions are intimately
connected with the new system of policy and religion, which was not
perfectly established till the last and peaceful years of his reign.
There are many of his laws, which, as far as they concern the rights and
property of individuals, and the practice of the bar, are more properly
referred to the private than to the public jurisprudence of the empire;
and he published many edicts of so local and temporary a nature, that
they would ill deserve the notice of a general history. Two laws,
however, may be selected from the crowd; the one for its importance, the
other for its singularity; the former for its remarkable benevolence,
the latter for its excessive severity. 1. The horrid practice, so
familiar to the ancients, of exposing or murdering their new-born
infants, was become every day more frequent in the provinces, and
especially in Italy. It was the effect of distress; and the distress
was principally occasioned by the intolerant burden of taxes, and by the
vexatious as well as cruel prosecutions of the officers of the revenue
against their insolvent debtors. The less opulent or less industrious
part of mankind, instead of rejoicing in an increase of family, deemed
it an act of paternal tenderness to release their children from the
impending miseries of a life which they themselves were unable to
support. The humanity of Constantine; moved, perhaps, by some recent and
extraordinary instances of despair, * engaged him to address an edict to
all the cities of Italy, and afterwards of Africa, directing immediate
and sufficient relief to be given to those parents who should produce
before the magistrates the children whom their own poverty would
not allow them to educate. But the promise was too liberal, and the
provision too vague, to effect any general or permanent benefit. The
law, though it may merit some praise, served rather to display than to
alleviate the public distress. It still remains an authentic monument to
contradict and confound those venal orators, who were too well satisfied
with their own situation to discover either vice or misery under the
government of a generous sovereign. 2. The laws of Constantine against
rapes were dictated with very little indulgence for the most amiable
weaknesses of human nature; since the description of that crime was
applied not only to the brutal violence which compelled, but even to the
gentle seduction which might persuade, an unmarried woman, under the
age of twenty-five, to leave the house of her parents. "The successful
ravisher was punished with death; and as if simple death was inadequate
to the enormity of his guilt, he was either burnt alive, or torn in
pieces by wild beasts in the amphitheatre. The virgin's declaration,
that she had been carried away with her own consent, instead of
saving her lover, exposed her to share his fate. The duty of a public
prosecution was intrusted to the parents of the guilty or unfortunate
maid; and if the sentiments of nature prevailed on them to dissemble
the injury, and to repair by a subsequent marriage the honor of their
family, they were themselves punished by exile and confiscation. The
slaves, whether male or female, who were convicted of having been
accessory to rape or seduction, were burnt alive, or put to death by
the ingenious torture of pouring down their throats a quantity of melted
lead. As the crime was of a public kind, the accusation was permitted
even to strangers. The commencement of the action was not limited to any
term of years, and the consequences of the sentence were extended to the
innocent offspring of such an irregular union." But whenever the offence
inspires less horror than the punishment, the rigor of penal law is
obliged to give way to the common feelings of mankind. The most odious
parts of this edict were softened or repealed in the subsequent reigns;
and even Constantine himself very frequently alleviated, by partial acts
of mercy, the stern temper of his general institutions. Such, indeed,
was the singular humor of that emperor, who showed himself as indulgent,
and even remiss, in the execution of his laws, as he was severe, and
even cruel, in the enacting of them. It is scarcely possible to observe
a more decisive symptom of weakness, either in the character of the
prince, or in the constitution of the government.

The civil administration was sometimes interrupted by the military
defence of the empire. Crispus, a youth of the most amiable character,
who had received with the title of Cæsar the command of the Rhine,
distinguished his conduct, as well as valor, in several victories over
the Franks and Alemanni, and taught the barbarians of that frontier to
dread the eldest son of Constantine, and the grandson of Constantius.
The emperor himself had assumed the more difficult and important
province of the Danube. The Goths, who in the time of Claudius and
Aurelian had felt the weight of the Roman arms, respected the power
of the empire, even in the midst of its intestine divisions. But the
strength of that warlike nation was now restored by a peace of near
fifty years; a new generation had arisen, who no longer remembered the
misfortunes of ancient days; the Sarmatians of the Lake Mæotis followed
the Gothic standard either as subjects or as allies, and their united
force was poured upon the countries of Illyricum. Campona, Margus, and
Benonia, appear to have been the scenes of several memorable sieges and
battles; and though Constantine encountered a very obstinate resistance,
he prevailed at length in the contest, and the Goths were compelled to
purchased an ignominious retreat, by restoring the booty and prisoners
which they had taken. Nor was this advantage sufficient to satisfy
the indignation of the emperor. He resolved to chastise as well as to
repulse the insolent barbarians who had dared to invade the territories
of Rome. At the head of his legions he passed the Danube after repairing
the bridge which had been constructed by Trajan, penetrated into the
strongest recesses of Dacia, and when he had inflicted a severe revenge,
condescended to give peace to the suppliant Goths, on condition that, as
often as they were required, they should supply his armies with a body
of forty thousand soldiers. Exploits like these were no doubt honorable
to Constantine, and beneficial to the state; but it may surely be
questioned, whether they can justify the exaggerated assertion of
Eusebius, that all Scythia, as far as the extremity of the North,
divided as it was into so many names and nations of the most various
and savage manners, had been added by his victorious arms to the Roman

In this exalted state of glory, it was impossible that Constantine
should any longer endure a partner in the empire. Confiding in the
superiority of his genius and military power, he determined, without any
previous injury, to exert them for the destruction of Licinius, whose
advanced age and unpopular vices seemed to offer a very easy conquest.
But the old emperor, awakened by the approaching danger, deceived the
expectations of his friends, as well as of his enemies. Calling forth
that spirit and those abilities by which he had deserved the friendship
of Galerius and the Imperial purple, he prepared himself for the
contest, collected the forces of the East, and soon filled the plains of
Hadrianople with his troops, and the Straits of the Hellespont with his
fleet. The army consisted of one hundred and fifty thousand foot, and
fifteen thousand horse; and as the cavalry was drawn, for the most part,
from Phrygia and Cappadocia, we may conceive a more favorable opinion
of the beauty of the horses, than of the courage and dexterity of their
riders. The fleet was composed of three hundred and fifty galleys of
three ranks of oars. A hundred and thirty of these were furnished by
Egypt and the adjacent coast of Africa. A hundred and ten sailed
from the ports of Phoenicia and the Isle of Cyprus; and the maritime
countries of Bithynia, Ionia, and Caria, were likewise obliged to
provide a hundred and ten galleys. The troops of Constantine were
ordered to a rendezvous at Thessalonica; they amounted to above a
hundred and twenty thousand horse and foot. Their emperor was satisfied
with their martial appearance, and his army contained more soldiers,
though fewer men, than that of his eastern competitor. The legions of
Constantine were levied in the warlike provinces of Europe; action had
confirmed their discipline, victory had elevated their hopes, and
there were among them a great number of veterans, who, after seventeen
glorious campaigns under the same leader, prepared themselves to deserve
an honorable dismission by a last effort of their valor. But the naval
preparations of Constantine were in every respect much inferior to those
of Licinius. The maritime cities of Greece sent their respective quotas
of men and ships to the celebrated harbor of Piræus, and their united
forces consisted of no more than two hundred small vessels--a very
feeble armament, if it is compared with those formidable fleets which
were equipped and maintained by the republic of Athens during the
Peloponnesian war. Since Italy was no longer the seat of government,
the naval establishments of Misenum and Ravenna had been gradually
neglected; and as the shipping and mariners of the empire were supported
by commerce rather than by war, it was natural that they should the
most abound in the industrious provinces of Egypt and Asia. It is
only surprising that the eastern emperor, who possessed so great a
superiority at sea, should have neglected the opportunity of carrying an
offensive war into the centre of his rival's dominions.

Instead of embracing such an active resolution, which might have changed
the whole face of the war, the prudent Licinius expected the approach
of his rival in a camp near Hadrianople, which he had fortified with an
anxious care, that betrayed his apprehension of the event. Constantine
directed his march from Thessalonica towards that part of Thrace, till
he found himself stopped by the broad and rapid stream of the Hebrus,
and discovered the numerous army of Licinius, which filled the steep
ascent of the hill, from the river to the city of Hadrianople. Many
days were spent in doubtful and distant skirmishes; but at length the
obstacles of the passage and of the attack were removed by the intrepid
conduct of Constantine. In this place we might relate a wonderful
exploit of Constantine, which, though it can scarcely be paralleled
either in poetry or romance, is celebrated, not by a venal orator
devoted to his fortune, but by an historian, the partial enemy of his
fame. We are assured that the valiant emperor threw himself into the
River Hebrus, accompanied only by twelve horsemen, and that by the
effort or terror of his invincible arm, he broke, slaughtered, and put
to flight a host of a hundred and fifty thousand men. The credulity of
Zosimus prevailed so strongly over his passion, that among the events
of the memorable battle of Hadrianople, he seems to have selected and
embellished, not the most important, but the most marvellous. The
valor and danger of Constantine are attested by a slight wound which he
received in the thigh; but it may be discovered even from an imperfect
narration, and perhaps a corrupted text, that the victory was obtained
no less by the conduct of the general than by the courage of the hero;
that a body of five thousand archers marched round to occupy a thick
wood in the rear of the enemy, whose attention was diverted by the
construction of a bridge, and that Licinius, perplexed by so many artful
evolutions, was reluctantly drawn from his advantageous post to combat
on equal ground on the plain. The contest was no longer equal.
His confused multitude of new levies was easily vanquished by the
experienced veterans of the West. Thirty-four thousand men are reported
to have been slain. The fortified camp of Licinius was taken by assault
the evening of the battle; the greater part of the fugitives, who had
retired to the mountains, surrendered themselves the next day to the
discretion of the conqueror; and his rival, who could no longer keep the
field, confined himself within the walls of Byzantium.

The siege of Byzantium, which was immediately undertaken by Constantine,
was attended with great labor and uncertainty. In the late civil wars,
the fortifications of that place, so justly considered as the key of
Europe and Asia, had been repaired and strengthened; and as long as
Licinius remained master of the sea, the garrison was much less exposed
to the danger of famine than the army of the besiegers. The naval
commanders of Constantine were summoned to his camp, and received his
positive orders to force the passage of the Hellespont, as the fleet
of Licinius, instead of seeking and destroying their feeble enemy,
continued inactive in those narrow straits, where its superiority of
numbers was of little use or advantage. Crispus, the emperor's eldest
son, was intrusted with the execution of this daring enterprise, which
he performed with so much courage and success, that he deserved the
esteem, and most probably excited the jealousy, of his father. The
engagement lasted two days; and in the evening of the first, the
contending fleets, after a considerable and mutual loss, retired into
their respective harbors of Europe and Asia. The second day, about noon,
a strong south wind sprang up, which carried the vessels of Crispus
against the enemy; and as the casual advantage was improved by his
skilful intrepidity, he soon obtained a complete victory. A hundred
and thirty vessels were destroyed, five thousand men were slain, and
Amandus, the admiral of the Asiatic fleet, escaped with the utmost
difficulty to the shores of Chalcedon. As soon as the Hellespont
was open, a plentiful convoy of provisions flowed into the camp of
Constantine, who had already advanced the operations of the siege.
He constructed artificial mounds of earth of an equal height with the
ramparts of Byzantium. The lofty towers which were erected on that
foundation galled the besieged with large stones and darts from the
military engines, and the battering rams had shaken the walls in several
places. If Licinius persisted much longer in the defence, he exposed
himself to be involved in the ruin of the place. Before he was
surrounded, he prudently removed his person and treasures to Chalcedon
in Asia; and as he was always desirous of associating companions to the
hopes and dangers of his fortune, he now bestowed the title of Cæsar
on Martinianus, who exercised one of the most important offices of the

Such were still the resources, and such the abilities, of Licinius,
that, after so many successive defeats, he collected in Bithynia a new
army of fifty or sixty thousand men, while the activity of Constantine
was employed in the siege of Byzantium. The vigilant emperor did not,
however, neglect the last struggles of his antagonist. A considerable
part of his victorious army was transported over the Bosphorus in small
vessels, and the decisive engagement was fought soon after their landing
on the heights of Chrysopolis, or, as it is now called, of Scutari. The
troops of Licinius, though they were lately raised, ill armed, and
worse disciplined, made head against their conquerors with fruitless but
desperate valor, till a total defeat, and a slaughter of five and twenty
thousand men, irretrievably determined the fate of their leader. He
retired to Nicomedia, rather with the view of gaining some time for
negotiation, than with the hope of any effectual defence. Constantia,
his wife, and the sister of Constantine, interceded with her brother in
favor of her husband, and obtained from his policy, rather than from
his compassion, a solemn promise, confirmed by an oath, that after the
sacrifice of Martinianus, and the resignation of the purple, Licinius
himself should be permitted to pass the remainder of this life in peace
and affluence. The behavior of Constantia, and her relation to the
contending parties, naturally recalls the remembrance of that virtuous
matron who was the sister of Augustus, and the wife of Antony. But the
temper of mankind was altered, and it was no longer esteemed infamous
for a Roman to survive his honor and independence. Licinius solicited
and accepted the pardon of his offences, laid himself and his purple
at the feet of his lord and master, was raised from the ground with
insulting pity, was admitted the same day to the Imperial banquet, and
soon afterwards was sent away to Thessalonica, which had been chosen
for the place of his confinement. His confinement was soon terminated by
death, and it is doubtful whether a tumult of the soldiers, or a decree
of the senate, was suggested as the motive for his execution. According
to the rules of tyranny, he was accused of forming a conspiracy, and of
holding a treasonable correspondence with the barbarians; but as he was
never convicted, either by his own conduct or by any legal evidence, we
may perhaps be allowed, from his weakness, to presume his innocence.
The memory of Licinius was branded with infamy, his statues were thrown
down, and by a hasty edict, of such mischievous tendency that it
was almost immediately corrected, all his laws, and all the judicial
proceedings of his reign, were at once abolished. By this victory of
Constantine, the Roman world was again united under the authority of one
emperor, thirty-seven years after Diocletian had divided his power and
provinces with his associate Maximian.

The successive steps of the elevation of Constantine, from his first
assuming the purple at York, to the resignation of Licinius, at
Nicomedia, have been related with some minuteness and precision, not
only as the events are in themselves both interesting and important,
but still more, as they contributed to the decline of the empire by the
expense of blood and treasure, and by the perpetual increase, as well
of the taxes, as of the military establishment. The foundation of
Constantinople, and the establishment of the Christian religion, were
the immediate and memorable consequences of this revolution.

Chapter XV: Progress Of The Christian Religion.--Part I.

     The Progress Of The Christian Religion, And The Sentiments,
     Manners, Numbers, And Condition Of The Primitive Christians.

A candid but rational inquiry into the progress and establishment of
Christianity may be considered as a very essential part of the history
of the Roman empire. While that great body was invaded by open
violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion
gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and
obscurity, derived new vigor from opposition, and finally erected the
triumphant banner of the Cross on the ruins of the Capitol. Nor was the
influence of Christianity confined to the period or to the limits of the
Roman empire. After a revolution of thirteen or fourteen centuries,
that religion is still professed by the nations of Europe, the most
distinguished portion of human kind in arts and learning as well as
in arms. By the industry and zeal of the Europeans, it has been widely
diffused to the most distant shores of Asia and Africa; and by the means
of their colonies has been firmly established from Canada to Chili, in a
world unknown to the ancients.

But this inquiry, however useful or entertaining, is attended with
two peculiar difficulties. The scanty and suspicious materials of
ecclesiastical history seldom enable us to dispel the dark cloud that
hangs over the first age of the church. The great law of impartiality
too often obliges us to reveal the imperfections of the uninspired
teachers and believers of the gospel; and, to a careless observer, their
faults may seem to cast a shade on the faith which they professed. But
the scandal of the pious Christian, and the fallacious triumph of the
Infidel, should cease as soon as they recollect not only by whom, but
likewise to whom, the Divine Revelation was given. The theologian may
indulge the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended from
Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed
on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and
corruption, which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a
weak and degenerate race of beings. *

Our curiosity is naturally prompted to inquire by what means the
Christian faith obtained so remarkable a victory over the established
religions of the earth. To this inquiry, an obvious but satisfactory
answer may be returned; that it was owing to the convincing evidence of
the doctrine itself, and to the ruling providence of its great Author.
But as truth and reason seldom find so favorable a reception in the
world, and as the wisdom of Providence frequently condescends to use the
passions of the human heart, and the general circumstances of mankind,
as instruments to execute its purpose, we may still be permitted, though
with becoming submission, to ask, not indeed what were the first, but
what were the secondary causes of the rapid growth of the Christian
church. It will, perhaps, appear, that it was most effectually favored
and assisted by the five following causes: I. The inflexible, and if we
may use the expression, the intolerant zeal of the Christians, derived,
it is true, from the Jewish religion, but purified from the narrow and
unsocial spirit, which, instead of inviting, had deterred the Gentiles
from embracing the law of Moses. II. The doctrine of a future life,
improved by every additional circumstance which could give weight and
efficacy to that important truth. III. The miraculous powers ascribed to
the primitive church. IV. The pure and austere morals of the Christians.
V. The union and discipline of the Christian republic, which gradually
formed an independent and increasing state in the heart of the Roman

I. We have already described the religious harmony of the ancient
world, and the facility * with which the most different and even hostile
nations embraced, or at least respected, each other's superstitions. A
single people refused to join in the common intercourse of mankind. The
Jews, who, under the Assyrian and Persian monarchies, had languished
for many ages the most despised portion of their slaves, emerged from
obscurity under the successors of Alexander; and as they multiplied to
a surprising degree in the East, and afterwards in the West, they soon
excited the curiosity and wonder of other nations. The sullen obstinacy
with which they maintained their peculiar rites and unsocial manners,
seemed to mark them out as a distinct species of men, who boldly
professed, or who faintly disguised, their implacable habits to the rest
of human kind. Neither the violence of Antiochus, nor the arts of Herod,
nor the example of the circumjacent nations, could ever persuade the
Jews to associate with the institutions of Moses the elegant mythology
of the Greeks. According to the maxims of universal toleration, the
Romans protected a superstition which they despised. The polite Augustus
condescended to give orders, that sacrifices should be offered for
his prosperity in the temple of Jerusalem; whilst the meanest of the
posterity of Abraham, who should have paid the same homage to the
Jupiter of the Capitol, would have been an object of abhorrence to
himself and to his brethren. But the moderation of the conquerors was
insufficient to appease the jealous prejudices of their subjects,
who were alarmed and scandalized at the ensigns of paganism, which
necessarily introduced themselves into a Roman province. The mad attempt
of Caligula to place his own statue in the temple of Jerusalem was
defeated by the unanimous resolution of a people who dreaded death much
less than such an idolatrous profanation. Their attachment to the law of
Moses was equal to their detestation of foreign religions. The current
of zeal and devotion, as it was contracted into a narrow channel, ran
with the strength, and sometimes with the fury, of a torrent.

This inflexible perseverance, which appeared so odious or so ridiculous
to the ancient world, assumes a more awful character, since Providence
has deigned to reveal to us the mysterious history of the chosen people.
But the devout and even scrupulous attachment to the Mosaic religion,
so conspicuous among the Jews who lived under the second temple, becomes
still more surprising, if it is compared with the stubborn incredulity
of their forefathers. When the law was given in thunder from Mount
Sinai, when the tides of the ocean and the course of the planets were
suspended for the convenience of the Israelites, and when temporal
rewards and punishments were the immediate consequences of their piety
or disobedience, they perpetually relapsed into rebellion against the
visible majesty of their Divine King, placed the idols of the nations in
the sanctuary of Jehovah, and imitated every fantastic ceremony that was
practised in the tents of the Arabs, or in the cities of Phoenicia. As
the protection of Heaven was deservedly withdrawn from the ungrateful
race, their faith acquired a proportionable degree of vigor and
purity. The contemporaries of Moses and Joshua had beheld with careless
indifference the most amazing miracles. Under the pressure of every
calamity, the belief of those miracles has preserved the Jews of a later
period from the universal contagion of idolatry; and in contradiction to
every known principle of the human mind, that singular people seems to
have yielded a stronger and more ready assent to the traditions of their
remote ancestors, than to the evidence of their own senses.

The Jewish religion was admirably fitted for defence, but it was
never designed for conquest; and it seems probable that the number of
proselytes was never much superior to that of apostates. The divine
promises were originally made, and the distinguishing rite of
circumcision was enjoined, to a single family. When the posterity of
Abraham had multiplied like the sands of the sea, the Deity, from whose
mouth they received a system of laws and ceremonies, declared himself
the proper and as it were the national God of Israel and with the most
jealous care separated his favorite people from the rest of mankind. The
conquest of the land of Canaan was accompanied with so many wonderful
and with so many bloody circumstances, that the victorious Jews were
left in a state of irreconcilable hostility with all their neighbors.
They had been commanded to extirpate some of the most idolatrous tribes,
and the execution of the divine will had seldom been retarded by the
weakness of humanity. With the other nations they were forbidden to
contract any marriages or alliances; and the prohibition of receiving
them into the congregation, which in some cases was perpetual, almost
always extended to the third, to the seventh, or even to the tenth
generation. The obligation of preaching to the Gentiles the faith of
Moses had never been inculcated as a precept of the law, nor were the
Jews inclined to impose it on themselves as a voluntary duty.

In the admission of new citizens, that unsocial people was actuated by
the selfish vanity of the Greeks, rather than by the generous policy of
Rome. The descendants of Abraham were flattered by the opinion that
they alone were the heirs of the covenant, and they were apprehensive of
diminishing the value of their inheritance by sharing it too easily with
the strangers of the earth. A larger acquaintance with mankind extended
their knowledge without correcting their prejudices; and whenever the
God of Israel acquired any new votaries, he was much more indebted to
the inconstant humor of polytheism than to the active zeal of his
own missionaries. The religion of Moses seems to be instituted for
a particular country as well as for a single nation; and if a strict
obedience had been paid to the order, that every male, three times in
the year, should present himself before the Lord Jehovah, it would have
been impossible that the Jews could ever have spread themselves beyond
the narrow limits of the promised land. That obstacle was indeed removed
by the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem; but the most considerable
part of the Jewish religion was involved in its destruction; and
the Pagans, who had long wondered at the strange report of an empty
sanctuary, were at a loss to discover what could be the object, or what
could be the instruments, of a worship which was destitute of temples
and of altars, of priests and of sacrifices. Yet even in their fallen
state, the Jews, still asserting their lofty and exclusive privileges,
shunned, instead of courting, the society of strangers. They still
insisted with inflexible rigor on those parts of the law which it was in
their power to practise. Their peculiar distinctions of days, of meats,
and a variety of trivial though burdensome observances, were so many
objects of disgust and aversion for the other nations, to whose habits
and prejudices they were diametrically opposite. The painful and even
dangerous rite of circumcision was alone capable of repelling a willing
proselyte from the door of the synagogue.

Under these circumstances, Christianity offered itself to the world,
armed with the strength of the Mosaic law, and delivered from the weight
of its fetters. An exclusive zeal for the truth of religion, and the
unity of God, was as carefully inculcated in the new as in the ancient
system: and whatever was now revealed to mankind concerning the nature
and designs of the Supreme Being, was fitted to increase their reverence
for that mysterious doctrine. The divine authority of Moses and the
prophets was admitted, and even established, as the firmest basis of
Christianity. From the beginning of the world, an uninterrupted series
of predictions had announced and prepared the long-expected coming of
the Messiah, who, in compliance with the gross apprehensions of the
Jews, had been more frequently represented under the character of a King
and Conqueror, than under that of a Prophet, a Martyr, and the Son of
God. By his expiatory sacrifice, the imperfect sacrifices of the temple
were at once consummated and abolished. The ceremonial law, which
consisted only of types and figures, was succeeded by a pure and
spiritual worship, equally adapted to all climates, as well as to every
condition of mankind; and to the initiation of blood was substituted a
more harmless initiation of water. The promise of divine favor, instead
of being partially confined to the posterity of Abraham, was universally
proposed to the freeman and the slave, to the Greek and to the
barbarian, to the Jew and to the Gentile. Every privilege that could
raise the proselyte from earth to heaven, that could exalt his devotion,
secure his happiness, or even gratify that secret pride which, under the
semblance of devotion, insinuates itself into the human heart, was still
reserved for the members of the Christian church; but at the same time
all mankind was permitted, and even solicited, to accept the glorious
distinction, which was not only proffered as a favor, but imposed as an
obligation. It became the most sacred duty of a new convert to diffuse
among his friends and relations the inestimable blessing which he had
received, and to warn them against a refusal that would be severely
punished as a criminal disobedience to the will of a benevolent but
all-powerful Deity.

Chapter XV: Progress Of The Christian Religion.--Part II.

The enfranchisement of the church from the bonds of the synagogue was a
work, however, of some time and of some difficulty. The Jewish converts,
who acknowledged Jesus in the character of the Messiah foretold by their
ancient oracles, respected him as a prophetic teacher of virtue and
religion; but they obstinately adhered to the ceremonies of their
ancestors, and were desirous of imposing them on the Gentiles,
who continually augmented the number of believers. These Judaizing
Christians seem to have argued with some degree of plausibility from the
divine origin of the Mosaic law, and from the immutable perfections
of its great Author. They affirmed, that if the Being, who is the same
through all eternity, had designed to abolish those sacred rites which
had served to distinguish his chosen people, the repeal of them would
have been no less clear and solemn than their first promulgation: that,
instead of those frequent declarations, which either suppose or assert
the perpetuity of the Mosaic religion, it would have been represented
as a provisionary scheme intended to last only to the coming of the
Messiah, who should instruct mankind in a more perfect mode of faith and
of worship: that the Messiah himself, and his disciples who conversed
with him on earth, instead of authorizing by their example the most
minute observances of the Mosaic law, would have published to the
world the abolition of those useless and obsolete ceremonies, without
suffering Christianity to remain during so many years obscurely
confounded among the sects of the Jewish church. Arguments like these
appear to have been used in the defence of the expiring cause of the
Mosaic law; but the industry of our learned divines has abundantly
explained the ambiguous language of the Old Testament, and the ambiguous
conduct of the apostolic teachers. It was proper gradually to unfold
the system of the gospel, and to pronounce, with the utmost caution and
tenderness, a sentence of condemnation so repugnant to the inclination
and prejudices of the believing Jews.

The history of the church of Jerusalem affords a lively proof of the
necessity of those precautions, and of the deep impression which the
Jewish religion had made on the minds of its sectaries. The first
fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the
congregation over which they presided united the law of Moses with the
doctrine of Christ. It was natural that the primitive tradition of a
church which was founded only forty days after the death of Christ, and
was governed almost as many years under the immediate inspection of his
apostle, should be received as the standard of orthodoxy. The distant
churches very frequently appealed to the authority of their venerable
Parent, and relieved her distresses by a liberal contribution of alms.
But when numerous and opulent societies were established in the great
cities of the empire, in Antioch, Alexandria, Ephesus, Corinth, and
Rome, the reverence which Jerusalem had inspired to all the Christian
colonies insensibly diminished. The Jewish converts, or, as they were
afterwards called, the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundations of the
church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes,
that from all the various religions of polytheism enlisted under the
banner of Christ: and the Gentiles, who, with the approbation of their
peculiar apostle, had rejected the intolerable weight of the Mosaic
ceremonies, at length refused to their more scrupulous brethren the
same toleration which at first they had humbly solicited for their own
practice. The ruin of the temple of the city, and of the public religion
of the Jews, was severely felt by the Nazarenes; as in their manners,
though not in their faith, they maintained so intimate a connection
with their impious countrymen, whose misfortunes were attributed by the
Pagans to the contempt, and more justly ascribed by the Christians to
the wrath, of the Supreme Deity. The Nazarenes retired from the ruins
of Jerusalem * to the little town of Pella beyond the Jordan, where that
ancient church languished above sixty years in solitude and obscurity.
They still enjoyed the comfort of making frequent and devout visits to
the Holy City, and the hope of being one day restored to those seats
which both nature and religion taught them to love as well as to revere.
But at length, under the reign of Hadrian, the desperate fanaticism
of the Jews filled up the measure of their calamities; and the Romans,
exasperated by their repeated rebellions, exercised the rights of
victory with unusual rigor. The emperor founded, under the name of Ælia
Capitolina, a new city on Mount Sion, to which he gave the privileges
of a colony; and denouncing the severest penalties against any of the
Jewish people who should dare to approach its precincts, he fixed a
vigilant garrison of a Roman cohort to enforce the execution of his
orders. The Nazarenes had only one way left to escape the common
proscription, and the force of truth was on this occasion assisted by
the influence of temporal advantages. They elected Marcus for their
bishop, a prelate of the race of the Gentiles, and most probably
a native either of Italy or of some of the Latin provinces. At his
persuasion, the most considerable part of the congregation renounced
the Mosaic law, in the practice of which they had persevered above
a century. By this sacrifice of their habits and prejudices, they
purchased a free admission into the colony of Hadrian, and more firmly
cemented their union with the Catholic church.

When the name and honors of the church of Jerusalem had been restored to
Mount Sion, the crimes of heresy and schism were imputed to the obscure
remnant of the Nazarenes, which refused to accompany their Latin bishop.
They still preserved their former habitation of Pella, spread themselves
into the villages adjacent to Damascus, and formed an inconsiderable
church in the city of Beroea, or, as it is now called, of Aleppo,
in Syria. The name of Nazarenes was deemed too honorable for those
Christian Jews, and they soon received, from the supposed poverty of
their understanding, as well as of their condition, the contemptuous
epithet of Ebionites. In a few years after the return of the church of
Jerusalem, it became a matter of doubt and controversy, whether a man
who sincerely acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, but who still continued
to observe the law of Moses, could possibly hope for salvation. The
humane temper of Justin Martyr inclined him to answer this question in
the affirmative; and though he expressed himself with the most guarded
diffidence, he ventured to determine in favor of such an imperfect
Christian, if he were content to practise the Mosaic ceremonies, without
pretending to assert their general use or necessity. But when Justin was
pressed to declare the sentiment of the church, he confessed that there
were very many among the orthodox Christians, who not only excluded
their Judaizing brethren from the hope of salvation, but who declined
any intercourse with them in the common offices of friendship,
hospitality, and social life. The more rigorous opinion prevailed, as it
was natural to expect, over the milder; and an eternal bar of separation
was fixed between the disciples of Moses and those of Christ. The
unfortunate Ebionites, rejected from one religion as apostates, and
from the other as heretics, found themselves compelled to assume a more
decided character; and although some traces of that obsolete sect may be
discovered as late as the fourth century, they insensibly melted away,
either into the church or the synagogue.

While the orthodox church preserved a just medium between excessive
veneration and improper contempt for the law of Moses, the various
heretics deviated into equal but opposite extremes of error and
extravagance. From the acknowledged truth of the Jewish religion, the
Ebionites had concluded that it could never be abolished. From its
supposed imperfections, the Gnostics as hastily inferred that it never
was instituted by the wisdom of the Deity. There are some objections
against the authority of Moses and the prophets, which too readily
present themselves to the sceptical mind; though they can only be
derived from our ignorance of remote antiquity, and from our incapacity
to form an adequate judgment of the divine economy. These objections
were eagerly embraced and as petulantly urged by the vain science of
the Gnostics. As those heretics were, for the most part, averse to
the pleasures of sense, they morosely arraigned the polygamy of the
patriarchs, the gallantries of David, and the seraglio of Solomon. The
conquest of the land of Canaan, and the extirpation of the unsuspecting
natives, they were at a loss how to reconcile with the common notions of
humanity and justice. * But when they recollected the sanguinary list of
murders, of executions, and of massacres, which stain almost every page
of the Jewish annals, they acknowledged that the barbarians of Palestine
had exercised as much compassion towards their idolatrous enemies, as
they had ever shown to their friends or countrymen. Passing from the
sectaries of the law to the law itself, they asserted that it was
impossible that a religion which consisted only of bloody sacrifices and
trifling ceremonies, and whose rewards as well as punishments were all
of a carnal and temporal nature, could inspire the love of virtue, or
restrain the impetuosity of passion. The Mosaic account of the creation
and fall of man was treated with profane derision by the Gnostics, who
would not listen with patience to the repose of the Deity after six
days' labor, to the rib of Adam, the garden of Eden, the trees of life
and of knowledge, the speaking serpent, the forbidden fruit, and the
condemnation pronounced against human kind for the venial offence of
their first progenitors. The God of Israel was impiously represented by
the Gnostics as a being liable to passion and to error, capricious
in his favor, implacable in his resentment, meanly jealous of his
superstitious worship, and confining his partial providence to a single
people, and to this transitory life. In such a character they could
discover none of the features of the wise and omnipotent Father of the
universe. They allowed that the religion of the Jews was somewhat less
criminal than the idolatry of the Gentiles; but it was their fundamental
doctrine, that the Christ whom they adored as the first and brightest
emanation of the Deity appeared upon earth to rescue mankind from their
various errors, and to reveal a new system of truth and perfection.
The most learned of the fathers, by a very singular condescension, have
imprudently admitted the sophistry of the Gnostics. * Acknowledging that
the literal sense is repugnant to every principle of faith as well as
reason, they deem themselves secure and invulnerable behind the ample
veil of allegory, which they carefully spread over every tender part of
the Mosaic dispensation.

It has been remarked with more ingenuity than truth, that the virgin
purity of the church was never violated by schism or heresy before the
reign of Trajan or Hadrian, about one hundred years after the death
of Christ. We may observe with much more propriety, that, during that
period, the disciples of the Messiah were indulged in a freer latitude,
both of faith and practice, than has ever been allowed in succeeding
ages. As the terms of communion were insensibly narrowed, and the
spiritual authority of the prevailing party was exercised with
increasing severity, many of its most respectable adherents, who were
called upon to renounce, were provoked to assert their private opinions,
to pursue the consequences of their mistaken principles, and openly to
erect the standard of rebellion against the unity of the church. The
Gnostics were distinguished as the most polite, the most learned, and
the most wealthy of the Christian name; and that general appellation,
which expressed a superiority of knowledge, was either assumed by their
own pride, or ironically bestowed by the envy of their adversaries. They
were almost without exception of the race of the Gentiles, and their
principal founders seem to have been natives of Syria or Egypt, where
the warmth of the climate disposes both the mind and the body to
indolent and contemplative devotion. The Gnostics blended with the
faith of Christ many sublime but obscure tenets, which they derived from
oriental philosophy, and even from the religion of Zoroaster, concerning
the eternity of matter, the existence of two principles, and the
mysterious hierarchy of the invisible world. As soon as they launched
out into that vast abyss, they delivered themselves to the guidance of
a disordered imagination; and as the paths of error are various and
infinite, the Gnostics were imperceptibly divided into more than fifty
particular sects, of whom the most celebrated appear to have been the
Basilidians, the Valentinians, the Marcionites, and, in a still later
period, the Manichæans. Each of these sects could boast of its bishops
and congregations, of its doctors and martyrs; and, instead of the Four
Gospels adopted by the church, the heretics produced a multitude of
histories, in which the actions and discourses of Christ and of his
apostles were adapted to their respective tenets. The success of
the Gnostics was rapid and extensive. They covered Asia and Egypt,
established themselves in Rome, and sometimes penetrated into the
provinces of the West. For the most part they arose in the second
century, flourished during the third, and were suppressed in the fourth
or fifth, by the prevalence of more fashionable controversies, and by
the superior ascendant of the reigning power. Though they constantly
disturbed the peace, and frequently disgraced the name, of religion,
they contributed to assist rather than to retard the progress of
Christianity. The Gentile converts, whose strongest objections and
prejudices were directed against the law of Moses, could find admission
into many Christian societies, which required not from their untutored
mind any belief of an antecedent revelation. Their faith was insensibly
fortified and enlarged, and the church was ultimately benefited by the
conquests of its most inveterate enemies.

But whatever difference of opinion might subsist between the Orthodox,
the Ebionites, and the Gnostics, concerning the divinity or the
obligation of the Mosaic law, they were all equally animated by the
same exclusive zeal; and by the same abhorrence for idolatry, which had
distinguished the Jews from the other nations of the ancient world. The
philosopher, who considered the system of polytheism as a composition of
human fraud and error, could disguise a smile of contempt under the
mask of devotion, without apprehending that either the mockery, or the
compliance, would expose him to the resentment of any invisible, or, as
he conceived them, imaginary powers. But the established religions of
Paganism were seen by the primitive Christians in a much more odious and
formidable light. It was the universal sentiment both of the church
and of heretics, that the dæmons were the authors, the patrons, and the
objects of idolatry. Those rebellious spirits who had been degraded
from the rank of angels, and cast down into the infernal pit, were still
permitted to roam upon earth, to torment the bodies, and to seduce the
minds, of sinful men. The dæmons soon discovered and abused the natural
propensity of the human heart towards devotion, and artfully withdrawing
the adoration of mankind from their Creator, they usurped the place
and honors of the Supreme Deity. By the success of their malicious
contrivances, they at once gratified their own vanity and revenge, and
obtained the only comfort of which they were yet susceptible, the hope
of involving the human species in the participation of their guilt and
misery. It was confessed, or at least it was imagined, that they
had distributed among themselves the most important characters of
polytheism, one dæmon assuming the name and attributes of Jupiter,
another of Æsculapius, a third of Venus, and a fourth perhaps of Apollo;
and that, by the advantage of their long experience and ærial nature,
they were enabled to execute, with sufficient skill and dignity, the
parts which they had undertaken. They lurked in the temples, instituted
festivals and sacrifices, invented fables, pronounced oracles, and were
frequently allowed to perform miracles. The Christians, who, by
the interposition of evil spirits, could so readily explain every
preternatural appearance, were disposed and even desirous to admit the
most extravagant fictions of the Pagan mythology. But the belief of the
Christian was accompanied with horror. The most trifling mark of respect
to the national worship he considered as a direct homage yielded to the
dæmon, and as an act of rebellion against the majesty of God.

Chapter XV: Progress Of The Christian Religion.--Part III.

In consequence of this opinion, it was the first but arduous duty of
a Christian to preserve himself pure and undefiled by the practice
of idolatry. The religion of the nations was not merely a speculative
doctrine professed in the schools or preached in the temples. The
innumerable deities and rites of polytheism were closely interwoven
with every circumstance of business or pleasure, of public or of
private life; and it seemed impossible to escape the observance of them,
without, at the same time, renouncing the commerce of mankind, and all
the offices and amusements of society. The important transactions of
peace and war were prepared or concluded by solemn sacrifices, in which
the magistrate, the senator, and the soldier, were obliged to preside
or to participate. The public spectacles were an essential part of the
cheerful devotion of the Pagans, and the gods were supposed to accept,
as the most grateful offering, the games that the prince and people
celebrated in honor of their peculiar festivals. The Christians, who
with pious horror avoided the abomination of the circus or the theatre,
found himself encompassed with infernal snares in every convivial
entertainment, as often as his friends, invoking the hospitable
deities, poured out libations to each other's happiness. When the bride,
struggling with well-affected reluctance, was forced into hymenæal pomp
over the threshold of her new habitation, or when the sad procession of
the dead slowly moved towards the funeral pile; the Christian, on these
interesting occasions, was compelled to desert the persons who were the
dearest to him, rather than contract the guilt inherent to those impious
ceremonies. Every art and every trade that was in the least concerned in
the framing or adorning of idols was polluted by the stain of idolatry;
a severe sentence, since it devoted to eternal misery the far greater
part of the community, which is employed in the exercise of liberal or
mechanic professions. If we cast our eyes over the numerous remains of
antiquity, we shall perceive, that besides the immediate representations
of the gods, and the holy instruments of their worship, the elegant
forms and agreeable fictions consecrated by the imagination of the
Greeks, were introduced as the richest ornaments of the houses, the
dress, and the furniture of the Pagan. Even the arts of music and
painting, of eloquence and poetry, flowed from the same impure origin.
In the style of the fathers, Apollo and the Muses were the organs of the
infernal spirit; Homer and Virgil were the most eminent of his servants;
and the beautiful mythology which pervades and animates the compositions
of their genius, is destined to celebrate the glory of the dæmons.
Even the common language of Greece and Rome abounded with familiar but
impious expressions, which the imprudent Christian might too carelessly
utter, or too patiently hear.

The dangerous temptations which on every side lurked in ambush to
surprise the unguarded believer, assailed him with redoubled violence on
the days of solemn festivals. So artfully were they framed and disposed
throughout the year, that superstition always wore the appearance of
pleasure, and often of virtue. Some of the most sacred festivals in the
Roman ritual were destined to salute the new calends of January with
vows of public and private felicity; to indulge the pious remembrance of
the dead and living; to ascertain the inviolable bounds of property;
to hail, on the return of spring, the genial powers of fecundity; to
perpetuate the two memorable areas of Rome, the foundation of the city
and that of the republic, and to restore, during the humane license
of the Saturnalia, the primitive equality of mankind. Some idea may
be conceived of the abhorrence of the Christians for such impious
ceremonies, by the scrupulous delicacy which they displayed on a much
less alarming occasion. On days of general festivity, it was the custom
of the ancients to adorn their doors with lamps and with branches
of laurel, and to crown their heads with a garland of flowers. This
innocent and elegant practice might perhaps have been tolerated as a
mere civil institution. But it most unluckily happened that the doors
were under the protection of the household gods, that the laurel was
sacred to the lover of Daphne, and that garlands of flowers, though
frequently worn as a symbol of joy or mourning, had been dedicated
in their first origin to the service of superstition. The trembling
Christians, who were persuaded in this instance to comply with the
fashion of their country, and the commands of the magistrate, labored
under the most gloomy apprehensions, from the reproaches of his own
conscience, the censures of the church, and the denunciations of divine

Such was the anxious diligence which was required to guard the chastity
of the gospel from the infectious breath of idolatry. The superstitious
observances of public or private rites were carelessly practised, from
education and habit, by the followers of the established religion. But
as often as they occurred, they afforded the Christians an opportunity
of declaring and confirming their zealous opposition. By these frequent
protestations their attachment to the faith was continually fortified;
and in proportion to the increase of zeal, they combated with the more
ardor and success in the holy war, which they had undertaken against the
empire of the demons.

II. The writings of Cicero represent in the most lively colors the
ignorance, the errors, and the uncertainty of the ancient philosophers
with regard to the immortality of the soul. When they are desirous of
arming their disciples against the fear of death, they inculcate, as
an obvious, though melancholy position, that the fatal stroke of our
dissolution releases us from the calamities of life; and that those can
no longer suffer, who no longer exist. Yet there were a few sages of
Greece and Rome who had conceived a more exalted, and, in some respects,
a juster idea of human nature, though it must be confessed, that in
the sublime inquiry, their reason had been often guided by their
imagination, and that their imagination had been prompted by their
vanity. When they viewed with complacency the extent of their own mental
powers, when they exercised the various faculties of memory, of
fancy, and of judgment, in the most profound speculations, or the most
important labors, and when they reflected on the desire of fame, which
transported them into future ages, far beyond the bounds of death and of
the grave, they were unwilling to confound themselves with the beasts
of the field, or to suppose that a being, for whose dignity they
entertained the most sincere admiration, could be limited to a spot of
earth, and to a few years of duration. With this favorable prepossession
they summoned to their aid the science, or rather the language, of
Metaphysics. They soon discovered, that as none of the properties of
matter will apply to the operations of the mind, the human soul must
consequently be a substance distinct from the body, pure, simple, and
spiritual, incapable of dissolution, and susceptible of a much higher
degree of virtue and happiness after the release from its corporeal
prison. From these specious and noble principles, the philosophers who
trod in the footsteps of Plato deduced a very unjustifiable conclusion,
since they asserted, not only the future immortality, but the past
eternity, of the human soul, which they were too apt to consider as a
portion of the infinite and self-existing spirit, which pervades and
sustains the universe. A doctrine thus removed beyond the senses and the
experience of mankind, might serve to amuse the leisure of a philosophic
mind; or, in the silence of solitude, it might sometimes impart a ray
of comfort to desponding virtue; but the faint impression which had
been received in the schools, was soon obliterated by the commerce and
business of active life. We are sufficiently acquainted with the eminent
persons who flourished in the age of Cicero, and of the first Cæsars,
with their actions, their characters, and their motives, to be assured
that their conduct in this life was never regulated by any serious
conviction of the rewards or punishments of a future state. At the bar
and in the senate of Rome the ablest orators were not apprehensive of
giving offence to their hearers, by exposing that doctrine as an idle
and extravagant opinion, which was rejected with contempt by every man
of a liberal education and understanding.

Since therefore the most sublime efforts of philosophy can extend no
further than feebly to point out the desire, the hope, or, at most,
the probability, of a future state, there is nothing, except a
divine revelation, that can ascertain the existence, and describe the
condition, of the invisible country which is destined to receive the
souls of men after their separation from the body. But we may perceive
several defects inherent to the popular religions of Greece and Rome,
which rendered them very unequal to so arduous a task. 1. The general
system of their mythology was unsupported by any solid proofs; and the
wisest among the Pagans had already disclaimed its usurped authority. 2.
The description of the infernal regions had been abandoned to the fancy
of painters and of poets, who peopled them with so many phantoms and
monsters, who dispensed their rewards and punishments with so little
equity, that a solemn truth, the most congenial to the human heart, was
opposed and disgraced by the absurd mixture of the wildest fictions. 3.
The doctrine of a future state was scarcely considered among the devout
polytheists of Greece and Rome as a fundamental article of faith. The
providence of the gods, as it related to public communities rather than
to private individuals, was principally displayed on the visible theatre
of the present world. The petitions which were offered on the altars
of Jupiter or Apollo, expressed the anxiety of their worshippers for
temporal happiness, and their ignorance or indifference concerning a
future life. The important truth of the of the immortality of the soul
was inculcated with more diligence, as well as success, in India, in
Assyria, in Egypt, and in Gaul; and since we cannot attribute such a
difference to the superior knowledge of the barbarians, we must ascribe
it to the influence of an established priesthood, which employed the
motives of virtue as the instrument of ambition.

We might naturally expect that a principle so essential to religion,
would have been revealed in the clearest terms to the chosen people
of Palestine, and that it might safely have been intrusted to the
hereditary priesthood of Aaron. It is incumbent on us to adore the
mysterious dispensations of Providence, when we discover that the
doctrine of the immortality of the soul is omitted in the law of Moses
it is darkly insinuated by the prophets; and during the long period
which clasped between the Egyptian and the Babylonian servitudes, the
hopes as well as fears of the Jews appear to have been confined within
the narrow compass of the present life. After Cyrus had permitted the
exiled nation to return into the promised land, and after Ezra had
restored the ancient records of their religion, two celebrated sects,
the Sadducees and the Pharisees, insensibly arose at Jerusalem. The
former, selected from the more opulent and distinguished ranks of
society, were strictly attached to the literal sense of the Mosaic law,
and they piously rejected the immortality of the soul, as an opinion
that received no countenance from the divine book, which they revered
as the only rule of their faith. To the authority of Scripture the
Pharisees added that of tradition, and they accepted, under the name of
traditions, several speculative tenets from the philosophy or religion
of the eastern nations. The doctrines of fate or predestination, of
angels and spirits, and of a future state of rewards and punishments,
were in the number of these new articles of belief; and as the
Pharisees, by the austerity of their manners, had drawn into their party
the body of the Jewish people, the immortality of the soul became the
prevailing sentiment of the synagogue, under the reign of the Asmonæan
princes and pontiffs. The temper of the Jews was incapable of contenting
itself with such a cold and languid assent as might satisfy the mind of
a Polytheist; and as soon as they admitted the idea of a future
state, they embraced it with the zeal which has always formed the
characteristic of the nation. Their zeal, however, added nothing to
its evidence, or even probability: and it was still necessary that the
doctrine of life and immortality, which had been dictated by nature,
approved by reason, and received by superstition, should obtain the
sanction of divine truth from the authority and example of Christ.

When the promise of eternal happiness was proposed to mankind on
condition of adopting the faith, and of observing the precepts, of the
gospel, it is no wonder that so advantageous an offer should have been
accepted by great numbers of every religion, of every rank, and of every
province in the Roman empire. The ancient Christians were animated by
a contempt for their present existence, and by a just confidence of
immortality, of which the doubtful and imperfect faith of modern
ages cannot give us any adequate notion. In the primitive church, the
influence of truth was very powerfully strengthened by an opinion,
which, however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
has not been found agreeable to experience. It was universally believed,
that the end of the world, and the kingdom of heaven, were at hand.
* The near approach of this wonderful event had been predicted by the
apostles; the tradition of it was preserved by their earliest disciples,
and those who understood in their literal senses the discourse of Christ
himself, were obliged to expect the second and glorious coming of
the Son of Man in the clouds, before that generation was totally
extinguished, which had beheld his humble condition upon earth, and
which might still be witness of the calamities of the Jews under
Vespasian or Hadrian. The revolution of seventeen centuries has
instructed us not to press too closely the mysterious language of
prophecy and revelation; but as long as, for wise purposes, this error
was permitted to subsist in the church, it was productive of the most
salutary effects on the faith and practice of Christians, who lived in
the awful expectation of that moment, when the globe itself, and all
the various race of mankind, should tremble at the appearance of their
divine Judge.

Chapter XV: Progress Of The Christian Religion.--Part IV.

The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately
connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of the creation
had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state,
according to a tradition which was attributed to the prophet Elijah, was
fixed to six thousand years. By the same analogy it was inferred, that
this long period of labor and contention, which was now almost elapsed,
would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that
Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had
escaped death, or who had been miraculously revived, would reign upon
earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection. So
pleasing was this hope to the mind of believers, that the New Jerusalem,
the seat of this blissful kingdom, was quickly adorned with all the
gayest colors of the imagination. A felicity consisting only of pure and
spiritual pleasure would have appeared too refined for its inhabitants,
who were still supposed to possess their human nature and senses. A
garden of Eden, with the amusements of the pastoral life, was no longer
suited to the advanced state of society which prevailed under the Roman
empire. A city was therefore erected of gold and precious stones, and
a supernatural plenty of corn and wine was bestowed on the adjacent
territory; in the free enjoyment of whose spontaneous productions, the
happy and benevolent people was never to be restrained by any jealous
laws of exclusive property. The assurance of such a Millennium was
carefully inculcated by a succession of fathers from Justin Martyr, and
Irenæus, who conversed with the immediate disciples of the apostles,
down to Lactantius, who was preceptor to the son of Constantine. Though
it might not be universally received, it appears to have been the
reigning sentiment of the orthodox believers; and it seems so well
adapted to the desires and apprehensions of mankind, that it must
have contributed in a very considerable degree to the progress of
the Christian faith. But when the edifice of the church was almost
completed, the temporary support was laid aside. The doctrine of
Christ's reign upon earth was at first treated as a profound allegory,
was considered by degrees as a doubtful and useless opinion, and was
at length rejected as the absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism. A
mysterious prophecy, which still forms a part of the sacred canon, but
which was thought to favor the exploded sentiment, has very narrowly
escaped the proscription of the church.

Whilst the happiness and glory of a temporal reign were promised to the
disciples of Christ, the most dreadful calamities were denounced against
an unbelieving world. The edification of a new Jerusalem was to advance
by equal steps with the destruction of the mystic Babylon; and as
long as the emperors who reigned before Constantine persisted in the
profession of idolatry, the epithet of babylon was applied to the city
and to the empire of Rome. A regular series was prepared of all the
moral and physical evils which can afflict a flourishing nation;
intestine discord, and the invasion of the fiercest barbarians from
the unknown regions of the North; pestilence and famine, comets and
eclipses, earthquakes and inundations. All these were only so many
preparatory and alarming signs of the great catastrophe of Rome, when
the country of the Scipios and Cæsars should be consumed by a flame from
Heaven, and the city of the seven hills, with her palaces, her temples,
and her triumphal arches, should be buried in a vast lake of fire and
brimstone. It might, however, afford some consolation to Roman vanity,
that the period of their empire would be that of the world itself;
which, as it had once perished by the element of water, was destined to
experience a second and a speedy destruction from the element of fire.
In the opinion of a general conflagration, the faith of the Christian
very happily coincided with the tradition of the East, the philosophy of
the Stoics, and the analogy of Nature; and even the country, which, from
religious motives, had been chosen for the origin and principal scene of
the conflagration, was the best adapted for that purpose by natural and
physical causes; by its deep caverns, beds of sulphur, and numero is
volcanoes, of which those of Ætna, of Vesuvius, and of Lipari, exhibit
a very imperfect representation. The calmest and most intrepid sceptic
could not refuse to acknowledge that the destruction of the present
system of the world by fire, was in itself extremely probable. The
Christian, who founded his belief much less on the fallacious arguments
of reason than on the authority of tradition and the interpretation
of Scripture, expected it with terror and confidence as a certain and
approaching event; and as his mind was perpetually filled with the
solemn idea, he considered every disaster that happened to the empire as
an infallible symptom of an expiring world.

The condemnation of the wisest and most virtuous of the Pagans, on
account of their ignorance or disbelief of the divine truth, seems to
offend the reason and the humanity of the present age. But the primitive
church, whose faith was of a much firmer consistence, delivered over,
without hesitation, to eternal torture, the far greater part of the
human species. A charitable hope might perhaps be indulged in favor of
Socrates, or some other sages of antiquity, who had consulted the light
of reason before that of the gospel had arisen. But it was unanimously
affirmed, that those who, since the birth or the death of Christ, had
obstinately persisted in the worship of the dæmons, neither deserved
nor could expect a pardon from the irritated justice of the Deity. These
rigid sentiments, which had been unknown to the ancient world, appear to
have infused a spirit of bitterness into a system of love and harmony.
The ties of blood and friendship were frequently torn asunder by the
difference of religious faith; and the Christians, who, in this world,
found themselves oppressed by the power of the Pagans, were sometimes
seduced by resentment and spiritual pride to delight in the prospect of
their future triumph. "You are fond of spectacles," exclaims the stern
Tertullian; "expect the greatest of all spectacles, the last and eternal
judgment of the universe. How shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice,
how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs, so many fancied gods,
groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates, who
persecuted the name of the Lord, liquefying in fiercer fires than they
ever kindled against the Christians; so many sage philosophers blushing
in red-hot flames with their deluded scholars; so many celebrated poets
trembling before the tribunal, not of Minos, but of Christ; so many
tragedians, more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so
many dancers." * But the humanity of the reader will permit me to draw
a veil over the rest of this infernal description, which the zealous
African pursues in a long variety of affected and unfeeling witticisms.

Doubtless there were many among the primitive Christians of a temper
more suitable to the meekness and charity of their profession. There
were many who felt a sincere compassion for the danger of their friends
and countrymen, and who exerted the most benevolent zeal to save them
from the impending destruction. The careless Polytheist, assailed by
new and unexpected terrors, against which neither his priests nor
his philosophers could afford him any certain protection, was very
frequently terrified and subdued by the menace of eternal tortures. His
fears might assist the progress of his faith and reason; and if he
could once persuade himself to suspect that the Christian religion might
possibly be true, it became an easy task to convince him that it was the
safest and most prudent party that he could possibly embrace.

III. The supernatural gifts, which even in this life were ascribed to
the Christians above the rest of mankind, must have conduced to their
own comfort, and very frequently to the conviction of infidels. Besides
the occasional prodigies, which might sometimes be effected by the
immediate interposition of the Deity when he suspended the laws of
Nature for the service of religion, the Christian church, from the time
of the apostles and their first disciples, has claimed an uninterrupted
succession of miraculous powers, the gift of tongues, of vision, and
of prophecy, the power of expelling dæmons, of healing the sick, and
of raising the dead. The knowledge of foreign languages was frequently
communicated to the contemporaries of Irenæus, though Irenæus himself
was left to struggle with the difficulties of a barbarous dialect,
whilst he preached the gospel to the natives of Gaul. The divine
inspiration, whether it was conveyed in the form of a waking or of a
sleeping vision, is described as a favor very liberally bestowed on all
ranks of the faithful, on women as on elders, on boys as well as upon
bishops. When their devout minds were sufficiently prepared by a course
of prayer, of fasting, and of vigils, to receive the extraordinary
impulse, they were transported out of their senses, and delivered in
ecstasy what was inspired, being mere organs of the Holy Spirit, just as
a pipe or flute is of him who blows into it. We may add, that the design
of these visions was, for the most part, either to disclose the future
history, or to guide the present administration, of the church. The
expulsion of the dæmons from the bodies of those unhappy persons whom
they had been permitted to torment, was considered as a signal though
ordinary triumph of religion, and is repeatedly alleged by the
ancient apoligists, as the most convincing evidence of the truth of
Christianity. The awful ceremony was usually performed in a public
manner, and in the presence of a great number of spectators; the patient
was relieved by the power or skill of the exorcist, and the vanquished
dæmon was heard to confess that he was one of the fabled gods of
antiquity, who had impiously usurped the adoration of mankind. But the
miraculous cure of diseases of the most inveterate or even preternatural
kind, can no longer occasion any surprise, when we recollect, that
in the days of Iranæus, about the end of the second century, the
resurrection of the dead was very far from being esteemed an uncommon
event; that the miracle was frequently performed on necessary occasions,
by great fasting and the joint supplication of the church of the place,
and that the persons thus restored to their prayers had lived afterwards
among them many years. At such a period, when faith could boast of so
many wonderful victories over death, it seems difficult to account for
the scepticism of those philosophers, who still rejected and derided
the doctrine of the resurrection. A noble Grecian had rested on this
important ground the whole controversy, and promised Theophilus, Bishop
of Antioch, that if he could be gratified with the sight of a single
person who had been actually raised from the dead, he would immediately
embrace the Christian religion. It is somewhat remarkable, that the
prelate of the first eastern church, however anxious for the conversion
of his friend, thought proper to decline this fair and reasonable

The miracles of the primitive church, after obtaining the sanction of
ages, have been lately attacked in a very free and ingenious inquiry,
which, though it has met with the most favorable reception from the
public, appears to have excited a general scandal among the divines
of our own as well as of the other Protestant churches of Europe. Our
different sentiments on this subject will be much less influenced by any
particular arguments, than by our habits of study and reflection; and,
above all, by the degree of evidence which we have accustomed ourselves
to require for the proof of a miraculous event. The duty of an historian
does not call upon him to interpose his private judgment in this nice
and important controversy; but he ought not to dissemble the difficulty
of adopting such a theory as may reconcile the interest of religion with
that of reason, of making a proper application of that theory, and of
defining with precision the limits of that happy period, exempt from
error and from deceit, to which we might be disposed to extend the gift
of supernatural powers. From the first of the fathers to the last of the
popes, a succession of bishops, of saints, of martyrs, and of miracles,
is continued without interruption; and the progress of superstition
was so gradual, and almost imperceptible, that we know not in what
particular link we should break the chain of tradition. Every age bears
testimony to the wonderful events by which it was distinguished, and
its testimony appears no less weighty and respectable than that of the
preceding generation, till we are insensibly led on to accuse our own
inconsistency, if in the eighth or in the twelfth century we deny to the
venerable Bede, or to the holy Bernard, the same degree of confidence
which, in the second century, we had so liberally granted to Justin
or to Irenæus. If the truth of any of those miracles is appreciated by
their apparent use and propriety, every age had unbelievers to convince,
heretics to confute, and idolatrous nations to convert; and sufficient
motives might always be produced to justify the interposition of Heaven.
And yet, since every friend to revelation is persuaded of the reality,
and every reasonable man is convinced of the cessation, of miraculous
powers, it is evident that there must have been some period in which
they were either suddenly or gradually withdrawn from the Christian
church. Whatever æra is chosen for that purpose, the death of the
apostles, the conversion of the Roman empire, or the extinction of the
Arian heresy, the insensibility of the Christians who lived at that
time will equally afford a just matter of surprise. They still supported
their pretensions after they had lost their power. Credulity performed
the office of faith; fanaticism was permitted to assume the language of
inspiration, and the effects of accident or contrivance were ascribed
to supernatural causes. The recent experience of genuine miracles should
have instructed the Christian world in the ways of Providence, and
habituated their eye (if we may use a very inadequate expression) to the
style of the divine artist. Should the most skilful painter of modern
Italy presume to decorate his feeble imitations with the name of Raphael
or of Correggio, the insolent fraud would be soon discovered, and
indignantly rejected.

Whatever opinion may be entertained of the miracles of the primitive
church since the time of the apostles, this unresisting softness of
temper, so conspicuous among the believers of the second and third
centuries, proved of some accidental benefit to the cause of truth and
religion. In modern times, a latent and even involuntary scepticism
adheres to the most pious dispositions. Their admission of supernatural
truths is much less an active consent than a cold and passive
acquiescence. Accustomed long since to observe and to respect the
variable order of Nature, our reason, or at least our imagination, is
not sufficiently prepared to sustain the visible action of the Deity.
But, in the first ages of Christianity, the situation of mankind was
extremely different. The most curious, or the most credulous, among the
Pagans, were often persuaded to enter into a society which asserted an
actual claim of miraculous powers. The primitive Christians perpetually
trod on mystic ground, and their minds were exercised by the habits of
believing the most extraordinary events. They felt, or they fancied,
that on every side they were incessantly assaulted by dæmons, comforted
by visions, instructed by prophecy, and surprisingly delivered from
danger, sickness, and from death itself, by the supplications of the
church. The real or imaginary prodigies, of which they so frequently
conceived themselves to be the objects, the instruments, or the
spectators, very happily disposed them to adopt with the same ease,
but with far greater justice, the authentic wonders of the evangelic
history; and thus miracles that exceeded not the measure of their own
experience, inspired them with the most lively assurance of mysteries
which were acknowledged to surpass the limits of their understanding. It
is this deep impression of supernatural truths, which has been so much
celebrated under the name of faith; a state of mind described as
the surest pledge of the divine favor and of future felicity, and
recommended as the first, or perhaps the only merit of a Christian.
According to the more rigid doctors, the moral virtues, which may be
equally practised by infidels, are destitute of any value or efficacy in
the work of our justification.

Chapter XV: Progress Of The Christian Religion.--Part V.

IV. But the primitive Christian demonstrated his faith by his virtues;
and it was very justly supposed that the divine persuasion, which
enlightened or subdued the understanding, must, at the same time, purify
the heart, and direct the actions, of the believer. The first apologists
of Christianity who justify the innocence of their brethren, and the
writers of a later period who celebrate the sanctity of their ancestors,
display, in the most lively colors, the reformation of manners which was
introduced into the world by the preaching of the gospel. As it is my
intention to remark only such human causes as were permitted to second
the influence of revelation, I shall slightly mention two motives which
might naturally render the lives of the primitive Christians much purer
and more austere than those of their Pagan contemporaries, or their
degenerate successors; repentance for their past sins, and the laudable
desire of supporting the reputation of the society in which they were
engaged. *

It is a very ancient reproach, suggested by the ignorance or the malice
of infidelity, that the Christians allured into their party the most
atrocious criminals, who, as soon as they were touched by a sense of
remorse, were easily persuaded to wash away, in the water of baptism,
the guilt of their past conduct, for which the temples of the gods
refused to grant them any expiation. But this reproach, when it is
cleared from misrepresentation, contributes as much to the honor as
it did to the increase of the church. The friends of Christianity may
acknowledge without a blush, that many of the most eminent saints had
been before their baptism the most abandoned sinners. Those persons, who
in the world had followed, though in an imperfect manner, the dictates
of benevolence and propriety, derived such a calm satisfaction from the
opinion of their own rectitude, as rendered them much less susceptible
of the sudden emotions of shame, of grief, and of terror, which have
given birth to so many wonderful conversions. After the example of their
divine Master, the missionaries of the gospel disdained not the society
of men, and especially of women, oppressed by the consciousness, and
very often by the effects, of their vices. As they emerged from sin
and superstition to the glorious hope of immortality, they resolved to
devote themselves to a life, not only of virtue, but of penitence. The
desire of perfection became the ruling passion of their soul; and it is
well known, that while reason embraces a cold mediocrity, our passions
hurry us, with rapid violence, over the space which lies between the
most opposite extremes.

When the new converts had been enrolled in the number of the faithful,
and were admitted to the sacraments of the church, they found themselves
restrained from relapsing into their past disorders by another
consideration of a less spiritual, but of a very innocent and
respectable nature. Any particular society that has departed from
the great body of the nation, or the religion to which it belonged,
immediately becomes the object of universal as well as invidious
observation. In proportion to the smallness of its numbers, the
character of the society may be affected by the virtues and vices of the
persons who compose it; and every member is engaged to watch with the
most vigilant attention over his own behavior, and over that of his
brethren, since, as he must expect to incur a part of the common
disgrace, he may hope to enjoy a share of the common reputation. When
the Christians of Bithynia were brought before the tribunal of the
younger Pliny, they assured the proconsul, that, far from being engaged
in any unlawful conspiracy, they were bound by a solemn obligation to
abstain from the commission of those crimes which disturb the private
or public peace of society, from theft, robbery, adultery, perjury, and
fraud. Near a century afterwards, Tertullian with an honest pride,
could boast, that very few Christians had suffered by the hand of the
executioner, except on account of their religion. Their serious and
sequestered life, averse to the gay luxury of the age, inured them to
chastity, temperance, economy, and all the sober and domestic virtues.
As the greater number were of some trade or profession, it was incumbent
on them, by the strictest integrity and the fairest dealing, to remove
the suspicions which the profane are too apt to conceive against the
appearances of sanctity. The contempt of the world exercised them in
the habits of humility, meekness, and patience. The more they were
persecuted, the more closely they adhered to each other. Their mutual
charity and unsuspecting confidence has been remarked by infidels, and
was too often abused by perfidious friends.

It is a very honorable circumstance for the morals of the primitive
Christians, that even their faults, or rather errors, were derived
from an excess of virtue. The bishops and doctors of the church, whose
evidence attests, and whose authority might influence, the professions,
the principles, and even the practice of their contemporaries, had
studied the Scriptures with less skill than devotion; and they often
received, in the most literal sense, those rigid precepts of Christ
and the apostles, to which the prudence of succeeding commentators has
applied a looser and more figurative mode of interpretation. Ambitious
to exalt the perfection of the gospel above the wisdom of philosophy,
the zealous fathers have carried the duties of self-mortification, of
purity, and of patience, to a height which it is scarcely possible to
attain, and much less to preserve, in our present state of weakness and
corruption. A doctrine so extraordinary and so sublime must inevitably
command the veneration of the people; but it was ill calculated to
obtain the suffrage of those worldly philosophers, who, in the conduct
of this transitory life, consult only the feelings of nature and the
interest of society.

There are two very natural propensities which we may distinguish in the
most virtuous and liberal dispositions, the love of pleasure and the
love of action. If the former is refined by art and learning, improved
by the charms of social intercourse, and corrected by a just regard to
economy, to health, and to reputation, it is productive of the greatest
part of the happiness of private life. The love of action is a principle
of a much stronger and more doubtful nature. It often leads to anger,
to ambition, and to revenge; but when it is guided by the sense of
propriety and benevolence, it becomes the parent of every virtue, and if
those virtues are accompanied with equal abilities, a family, a state,
or an empire, may be indebted for their safety and prosperity to the
undaunted courage of a single man. To the love of pleasure we may
therefore ascribe most of the agreeable, to the love of action we
may attribute most of the useful and respectable, qualifications. The
character in which both the one and the other should be united and
harmonized, would seem to constitute the most perfect idea of human
nature. The insensible and inactive disposition, which should be
supposed alike destitute of both, would be rejected, by the common
consent of mankind, as utterly incapable of procuring any happiness to
the individual, or any public benefit to the world. But it was not
in this world, that the primitive Christians were desirous of making
themselves either agreeable or useful. *

The acquisition of knowledge, the exercise of our reason or fancy, and
the cheerful flow of unguarded conversation, may employ the leisure of
a liberal mind. Such amusements, however, were rejected with abhorrence,
or admitted with the utmost caution, by the severity of the fathers,
who despised all knowledge that was not useful to salvation, and who
considered all levity of discours eas a criminal abuse of the gift of
speech. In our present state of existence the body is so inseparably
connected with the soul, that it seems to be our interest to taste,
with innocence and moderation, the enjoyments of which that faithful
companion is susceptible. Very different was the reasoning of our devout
predecessors; vainly aspiring to imitate the perfection of angels, they
disdained, or they affected to disdain, every earthly and corporeal
delight. Some of our senses indeed are necessary for our preservation,
others for our subsistence, and others again for our i