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Title: History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — Volume 2
Author: Gibbon, Edward, 1737-1794
Language: English
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Edward Gibbon, Esq.

With notes by the Rev. H. H. Milman


Chapter XVI: Conduct Towards The Christians, From Nero To
Constantine.--Part I.

     The Conduct Of The Roman Government Towards The Christians,
     From The Reign Of Nero To That Of Constantine. [1a]

[Footnote 1a: The sixteenth chapter I cannot help considering as a
very ingenious and specious, but very disgraceful extenuation of the
cruelties perpetrated by the Roman magistrates against the Christians.
It is written in the most contemptibly factious spirit of prejudice
against the sufferers; it is unworthy of a philosopher and of humanity.
Let the narrative of Cyprian's death be examined. He had to relate
the murder of an innocent man of advanced age, and in a station deemed
venerable by a considerable body of the provincials of Africa, put to
death because he refused to sacrifice to Jupiter. Instead of pointing
the indignation of posterity against such an atrocious act of tyranny,
he dwells, with visible art, on the small circumstances of decorum and
politeness which attended this murder, and which he relates with as much
parade as if they were the most important particulars of the event.
Dr. Robertson has been the subject of much blame for his real or
supposed lenity towards the Spanish murderers and tyrants in America.
That the sixteenth chapter of Mr. G. did not excite the same or greater
disapprobation, is a proof of the unphilosophical and indeed fanatical
animosity against Christianity, which was so prevalent during the latter
part of the eighteenth century.--Mackintosh: see Life, i. p. 244, 245.]

If we seriously consider the purity of the Christian religion, the
sanctity of its moral precepts, and the innocent as well as austere
lives of the greater number of those who during the first ages embraced
the faith of the gospel, we should naturally suppose, that so benevolent
a doctrine would have been received with due reverence, even by the
unbelieving world; that the learned and the polite, however they may
deride the miracles, would have esteemed the virtues, of the new sect;
and that the magistrates, instead of persecuting, would have protected
an order of men who yielded the most passive obedience to the laws,
though they declined the active cares of war and government. If, on the
other hand, we recollect the universal toleration of Polytheism, as it
was invariably maintained by the faith of the people, the incredulity of
philosophers, and the policy of the Roman senate and emperors, we are at
a loss to discover what new offence the Christians had committed, what
new provocation could exasperate the mild indifference of antiquity,
and what new motives could urge the Roman princes, who beheld without
concern a thousand forms of religion subsisting in peace under their
gentle sway, to inflict a severe punishment on any part of their
subjects, who had chosen for themselves a singular but an inoffensive
mode of faith and worship.

The religious policy of the ancient world seems to have assumed a more
stern and intolerant character, to oppose the progress of Christianity.
About fourscore years after the death of Christ, his innocent disciples
were punished with death by the sentence of a proconsul of the most
amiable and philosophic character, and according to the laws of
an emperor distinguished by the wisdom and justice of his general
administration. The apologies which were repeatedly addressed to the
successors of Trajan are filled with the most pathetic complaints, that
the Christians, who obeyed the dictates, and solicited the liberty,
of conscience, were alone, among all the subjects of the Roman empire,
excluded from the common benefits of their auspicious government. The
deaths of a few eminent martyrs have been recorded with care; and from
the time that Christianity was invested with the supreme power, the
governors of the church have been no less diligently employed in
displaying the cruelty, than in imitating the conduct, of their Pagan
adversaries. To separate (if it be possible) a few authentic as well as
interesting facts from an undigested mass of fiction and error, and
to relate, in a clear and rational manner, the causes, the extent, the
duration, and the most important circumstances of the persecutions to
which the first Christians were exposed, is the design of the present
chapter. [1b]

[Footnote 1b: The history of the first age of Christianity is only
found in the Acts of the Apostles, and in order to speak of the first
persecutions experienced by the Christians, that book should naturally
have been consulted; those persecutions, then limited to individuals
and to a narrow sphere, interested only the persecuted, and have been
related by them alone. Gibbon making the persecutions ascend no higher
than Nero, has entirely omitted those which preceded this epoch, and of
which St. Luke has preserved the memory. The only way to justify this
omission was, to attack the authenticity of the Acts of the Apostles;
for, if authentic, they must necessarily be consulted and quoted. Now,
antiquity has left very few works of which the authenticity is so well
established as that of the Acts of the Apostles. (See Lardner's Cred. of
Gospel Hist. part iii.) It is therefore, without sufficient reason, that
Gibbon has maintained silence concerning the narrative of St. Luke, and
this omission is not without importance.--G.]

The sectaries of a persecuted religion, depressed by fear animated with
resentment, and perhaps heated by enthusiasm, are seldom in a proper
temper of mind calmly to investigate, or candidly to appreciate,
the motives of their enemies, which often escape the impartial and
discerning view even of those who are placed at a secure distance from
the flames of persecution. A reason has been assigned for the conduct of
the emperors towards the primitive Christians, which may appear the more
specious and probable as it is drawn from the acknowledged genius of
Polytheism. It has already been observed, that the religious concord of
the world was principally supported by the implicit assent and reverence
which the nations of antiquity expressed for their respective traditions
and ceremonies. It might therefore be expected, that they would unite
with indignation against any sect or people which should separate itself
from the communion of mankind, and claiming the exclusive possession of
divine knowledge, should disdain every form of worship, except its own,
as impious and idolatrous. The rights of toleration were held by mutual
indulgence: they were justly forfeited by a refusal of the accustomed
tribute. As the payment of this tribute was inflexibly refused by the
Jews, and by them alone, the consideration of the treatment which they
experienced from the Roman magistrates, will serve to explain how far
these speculations are justified by facts, and will lead us to discover
the true causes of the persecution of Christianity.

Without repeating what has already been mentioned of the reverence of
the Roman princes and governors for the temple of Jerusalem, we
shall only observe, that the destruction of the temple and city was
accompanied and followed by every circumstance that could exasperate the
minds of the conquerors, and authorize religious persecution by the most
specious arguments of political justice and the public safety. From the
reign of Nero to that of Antoninus Pius, the Jews discovered a fierce
impatience of the dominion of Rome, which repeatedly broke out in the
most furious massacres and insurrections. Humanity is shocked at the
recital of the horrid cruelties which they committed in the cities
of Egypt, of Cyprus, and of Cyrene, where they dwelt in treacherous
friendship with the unsuspecting natives; [1] and we are tempted to
applaud the severe retaliation which was exercised by the arms of
the legions against a race of fanatics, whose dire and credulous
superstition seemed to render them the implacable enemies not only of
the Roman government, but of human kind. [2] The enthusiasm of the Jews
was supported by the opinion, that it was unlawful for them to pay
taxes to an idolatrous master; and by the flattering promise which they
derived from their ancient oracles, that a conquering Messiah would soon
arise, destined to break their fetters, and to invest the favorites of
heaven with the empire of the earth. It was by announcing himself as
their long-expected deliverer, and by calling on all the descendants
of Abraham to assert the hope of Israel, that the famous Barchochebas
collected a formidable army, with which he resisted during two years the
power of the emperor Hadrian. [3]

[Footnote 1: In Cyrene, they massacred 220,000 Greeks; in Cyprus,
240,000; in Egypt, a very great multitude. Many of these unhappy victims
were sawn asunder, according to a precedent to which David had given the
sanction of his example. The victorious Jews devoured the flesh, licked
up the blood, and twisted the entrails like a girdle round their bodies.
See Dion Cassius, l. lxviii. p. 1145. * Note: Some commentators, among
them Reimar, in his notes on Dion Cassius think that the hatred of
the Romans against the Jews has led the historian to exaggerate the
cruelties committed by the latter. Don. Cass. lxviii. p. 1146.--G.]

[Footnote 2: Without repeating the well-known narratives of Josephus, we
may learn from Dion, (l. lxix. p. 1162,) that in Hadrian's war 580,000
Jews were cut off by the sword, besides an infinite number which
perished by famine, by disease, and by fire.]

[Footnote 3: For the sect of the Zealots, see Basnage, Histoire des
Juifs, l. i. c. 17; for the characters of the Messiah, according to the
Rabbis, l. v. c. 11, 12, 13; for the actions of Barchochebas, l. vii. c.
12. (Hist. of Jews iii. 115, &c.)--M.]

Notwithstanding these repeated provocations, the resentment of the
Roman princes expired after the victory; nor were their apprehensions
continued beyond the period of war and danger. By the general indulgence
of polytheism, and by the mild temper of Antoninus Pius, the Jews
were restored to their ancient privileges, and once more obtained the
permission of circumcising their children, with the easy restraint, that
they should never confer on any foreign proselyte that distinguishing
mark of the Hebrew race. [4] The numerous remains of that people, though
they were still excluded from the precincts of Jerusalem, were permitted
to form and to maintain considerable establishments both in Italy and
in the provinces, to acquire the freedom of Rome, to enjoy municipal
honors, and to obtain at the same time an exemption from the burdensome
and expensive offices of society. The moderation or the contempt of the
Romans gave a legal sanction to the form of ecclesiastical police which
was instituted by the vanquished sect. The patriarch, who had fixed
his residence at Tiberias, was empowered to appoint his subordinate
ministers and apostles, to exercise a domestic jurisdiction, and to
receive from his dispersed brethren an annual contribution. [5] New
synagogues were frequently erected in the principal cities of the
empire; and the sabbaths, the fasts, and the festivals, which were
either commanded by the Mosaic law, or enjoined by the traditions of the
Rabbis, were celebrated in the most solemn and public manner. [6] Such
gentle treatment insensibly assuaged the stern temper of the Jews.
Awakened from their dream of prophecy and conquest, they assumed the
behavior of peaceable and industrious subjects. Their irreconcilable
hatred of mankind, instead of flaming out in acts of blood and violence,
evaporated in less dangerous gratifications. They embraced every
opportunity of overreaching the idolaters in trade; and they pronounced
secret and ambiguous imprecations against the haughty kingdom of Edom.

[Footnote 4: It is to Modestinus, a Roman lawyer (l. vi. regular.) that
we are indebted for a distinct knowledge of the Edict of Antoninus. See
Casaubon ad Hist. August. p. 27.]

[Footnote 5: See Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, l. iii. c. 2, 3. The
office of Patriarch was suppressed by Theodosius the younger.]

[Footnote 6: We need only mention the Purim, or deliverance of the
Jews from he rage of Haman, which, till the reign of Theodosius, was
celebrated with insolent triumph and riotous intemperance. Basnage,
Hist. des Juifs, l. vi. c. 17, l. viii. c. 6.]

[Footnote 7: According to the false Josephus, Tsepho, the grandson of
Esau, conducted into Italy the army of Eneas, king of Carthage. Another
colony of Idumaeans, flying from the sword of David, took refuge in the
dominions of Romulus. For these, or for other reasons of equal weight,
the name of Edom was applied by the Jews to the Roman empire. * Note:
The false Josephus is a romancer of very modern date, though some of
these legends are probably more ancient. It may be worth considering
whether many of the stories in the Talmud are not history in a
figurative disguise, adopted from prudence. The Jews might dare to say
many things of Rome, under the significant appellation of Edom, which
they feared to utter publicly. Later and more ignorant ages took
literally, and perhaps embellished, what was intelligible among the
generation to which it was addressed. Hist. of Jews, iii. 131. ----The
false Josephus has the inauguration of the emperor, with the seven
electors and apparently the pope assisting at the coronation! Pref. page

Since the Jews, who rejected with abhorrence the deities adored by
their sovereign and by their fellow-subjects, enjoyed, however, the free
exercise of their unsocial religion, there must have existed some other
cause, which exposed the disciples of Christ to those severities from
which the posterity of Abraham was exempt. The difference between them
is simple and obvious; but, according to the sentiments of antiquity,
it was of the highest importance. The Jews were a nation; the Christians
were a sect: and if it was natural for every community to respect the
sacred institutions of their neighbors, it was incumbent on them
to persevere in those of their ancestors. The voice of oracles, the
precepts of philosophers, and the authority of the laws, unanimously
enforced this national obligation. By their lofty claim of superior
sanctity the Jews might provoke the Polytheists to consider them as an
odious and impure race. By disdaining the intercourse of other nations,
they might deserve their contempt. The laws of Moses might be for the
most part frivolous or absurd; yet, since they had been received during
many ages by a large society, his followers were justified by the
example of mankind; and it was universally acknowledged, that they had
a right to practise what it would have been criminal in them to neglect.
But this principle, which protected the Jewish synagogue, afforded not
any favor or security to the primitive church. By embracing the faith of
the gospel, the Christians incurred the supposed guilt of an unnatural
and unpardonable offence. They dissolved the sacred ties of custom and
education, violated the religious institutions of their country, and
presumptuously despised whatever their fathers had believed as true,
or had reverenced as sacred. Nor was this apostasy (if we may use the
expression) merely of a partial or local kind; since the pious deserter
who withdrew himself from the temples of Egypt or Syria, would equally
disdain to seek an asylum in those of Athens or Carthage. Every
Christian rejected with contempt the superstitions of his family, his
city, and his province. The whole body of Christians unanimously refused
to hold any communion with the gods of Rome, of the empire, and of
mankind. It was in vain that the oppressed believer asserted the
inalienable rights of conscience and private judgment. Though his
situation might excite the pity, his arguments could never reach the
understanding, either of the philosophic or of the believing part of
the Pagan world. To their apprehensions, it was no less a matter
of surprise, that any individuals should entertain scruples against
complying with the established mode of worship, than if they had
conceived a sudden abhorrence to the manners, the dress, or the language
of their native country. [8] [8a]

[Footnote 8: From the arguments of Celsus, as they are represented and
refuted by Origen, (l. v. p. 247--259,) we may clearly discover the
distinction that was made between the Jewish people and the Christian
sect. See, in the Dialogue of Minucius Felix, (c. 5, 6,) a fair and
not inelegant description of the popular sentiments, with regard to the
desertion of the established worship.]

[Footnote 8a: In all this there is doubtless much truth; yet does not
the more important difference lie on the surface? The Christians
made many converts the Jews but few. Had the Jewish been equally
a proselyting religion would it not have encountered as violent

The surprise of the Pagans was soon succeeded by resentment; and the
most pious of men were exposed to the unjust but dangerous imputation of
impiety. Malice and prejudice concurred in representing the Christians
as a society of atheists, who, by the most daring attack on the
religious constitution of the empire, had merited the severest
animadversion of the civil magistrate. They had separated themselves
(they gloried in the confession) from every mode of superstition
which was received in any part of the globe by the various temper of
polytheism: but it was not altogether so evident what deity, or what
form of worship, they had substituted to the gods and temples of
antiquity. The pure and sublime idea which they entertained of the
Supreme Being escaped the gross conception of the Pagan multitude,
who were at a loss to discover a spiritual and solitary God, that was
neither represented under any corporeal figure or visible symbol, nor
was adored with the accustomed pomp of libations and festivals, of
altars and sacrifices. [9] The sages of Greece and Rome, who had
elevated their minds to the contemplation of the existence and
attributes of the First Cause, were induced by reason or by vanity to
reserve for themselves and their chosen disciples the privilege of this
philosophical devotion. [10] They were far from admitting the prejudices
of mankind as the standard of truth, but they considered them as flowing
from the original disposition of human nature; and they supposed that
any popular mode of faith and worship which presumed to disclaim the
assistance of the senses, would, in proportion as it receded from
superstition, find itself incapable of restraining the wanderings of the
fancy, and the visions of fanaticism. The careless glance which men
of wit and learning condescended to cast on the Christian revelation,
served only to confirm their hasty opinion, and to persuade them that
the principle, which they might have revered, of the Divine Unity,
was defaced by the wild enthusiasm, and annihilated by the airy
speculations, of the new sectaries. The author of a celebrated dialogue,
which has been attributed to Lucian, whilst he affects to treat the
mysterious subject of the Trinity in a style of ridicule and contempt,
betrays his own ignorance of the weakness of human reason, and of the
inscrutable nature of the divine perfections. [11]

[Footnote 9: Cur nullas aras habent? templa nulla? nulla nota
simulacra!--Unde autem, vel quis ille, aut ubi, Deus unicus, solitarius,
desti tutus? Minucius Felix, c. 10. The Pagan interlocutor goes on to
make a distinction in favor of the Jews, who had once a temple, altars,
victims, &c.]

[Footnote 10: It is difficult (says Plato) to attain, and dangerous
to publish, the knowledge of the true God. See the Theologie des
Philosophes, in the Abbe d'Olivet's French translation of Tully de
Natura Deorum, tom. i. p. 275.]

[Footnote 11: The author of the Philopatris perpetually treats the
Christians as a company of dreaming enthusiasts, &c.; and in one place
he manifestly alludes to the vision in which St. Paul was transported
to the third heaven. In another place, Triephon, who personates a
Christian, after deriding the gods of Paganism, proposes a mysterious

It might appear less surprising, that the founder of Christianity should
not only be revered by his disciples as a sage and a prophet, but that
he should be adored as a God. The Polytheists were disposed to adopt
every article of faith, which seemed to offer any resemblance, however
distant or imperfect, with the popular mythology; and the legends of
Bacchus, of Hercules, and of Aesculapius, had, in some measure, prepared
their imagination for the appearance of the Son of God under a human
form. [12] But they were astonished that the Christians should abandon
the temples of those ancient heroes, who, in the infancy of the world,
had invented arts, instituted laws, and vanquished the tyrants or
monsters who infested the earth, in order to choose for the exclusive
object of their religious worship an obscure teacher, who, in a recent
age, and among a barbarous people, had fallen a sacrifice either to
the malice of his own countrymen, or to the jealousy of the Roman
government. The Pagan multitude, reserving their gratitude for
temporal benefits alone, rejected the inestimable present of life and
immortality, which was offered to mankind by Jesus of Nazareth. His mild
constancy in the midst of cruel and voluntary sufferings, his universal
benevolence, and the sublime simplicity of his actions and character,
were insufficient, in the opinion of those carnal men, to compensate for
the want of fame, of empire, and of success; and whilst they refused to
acknowledge his stupendous triumph over the powers of darkness and of
the grave, they misrepresented, or they insulted, the equivocal
birth, wandering life, and ignominious death, of the divine Author of
Christianity. [13]

[Footnote 12: According to Justin Martyr, (Apolog. Major, c. 70-85,)
the daemon who had gained some imperfect knowledge of the prophecies,
purposely contrived this resemblance, which might deter, though by
different means, both the people and the philosophers from embracing the
faith of Christ.]

[Footnote 13: In the first and second books of Origen, Celsus treats the
birth and character of our Savior with the most impious contempt. The
orator Libanius praises Porphyry and Julian for confuting the folly of
a sect., which styles a dead man of Palestine, God, and the Son of God.
Socrates, Hist. Ecclesiast. iii. 23.]

The personal guilt which every Christian had contracted, in thus
preferring his private sentiment to the national religion, was
aggravated in a very high degree by the number and union of the
criminals. It is well known, and has been already observed, that Roman
policy viewed with the utmost jealousy and distrust any association
among its subjects; and that the privileges of private corporations,
though formed for the most harmless or beneficial purposes, were
bestowed with a very sparing hand. [14] The religious assemblies of
the Christians who had separated themselves from the public worship,
appeared of a much less innocent nature; they were illegal in their
principle, and in their consequences might become dangerous; nor were
the emperors conscious that they violated the laws of justice, when,
for the peace of society, they prohibited those secret and sometimes
nocturnal meetings. [15] The pious disobedience of the Christians made
their conduct, or perhaps their designs, appear in a much more serious
and criminal light; and the Roman princes, who might perhaps have
suffered themselves to be disarmed by a ready submission, deeming their
honor concerned in the execution of their commands, sometimes attempted,
by rigorous punishments, to subdue this independent spirit, which boldly
acknowledged an authority superior to that of the magistrate. The extent
and duration of this spiritual conspiracy seemed to render it everyday
more deserving of his animadversion. We have already seen that the
active and successful zeal of the Christians had insensibly diffused
them through every province and almost every city of the empire. The new
converts seemed to renounce their family and country, that they might
connect themselves in an indissoluble band of union with a peculiar
society, which every where assumed a different character from the rest
of mankind. Their gloomy and austere aspect, their abhorrence of the
common business and pleasures of life, and their frequent predictions of
impending calamities, [16] inspired the Pagans with the apprehension of
some danger, which would arise from the new sect, the more alarming as
it was the more obscure. "Whatever," says Pliny, "may be the principle
of their conduct, their inflexible obstinacy appeared deserving of
punishment." [17]

[Footnote 14: The emperor Trajan refused to incorporate a company of
150 firemen, for the use of the city of Nicomedia. He disliked all
associations. See Plin. Epist. x. 42, 43.]

[Footnote 15: The proconsul Pliny had published a general edict against
unlawful meetings. The prudence of the Christians suspended their
Agapae; but it was impossible for them to omit the exercise of public

[Footnote 16: As the prophecies of the Antichrist, approaching
conflagration, &c., provoked those Pagans whom they did not convert,
they were mentioned with caution and reserve; and the Montanists were
censured for disclosing too freely the dangerous secret. See Mosheim,

[Footnote 17: Neque enim dubitabam, quodcunque esset quod faterentur,
(such are the words of Pliny,) pervicacian certe et inflexibilem
obstinationem lebere puniri.]

The precautions with which the disciples of Christ performed the offices
of religion were at first dictated by fear and necessity; but they were
continued from choice. By imitating the awful secrecy which reigned in
the Eleusinian mysteries, the Christians had flattered themselves that
they should render their sacred institutions more respectable in the
eyes of the Pagan world. [18] But the event, as it often happens to
the operations of subtile policy, deceived their wishes and their
expectations. It was concluded, that they only concealed what they
would have blushed to disclose. Their mistaken prudence afforded an
opportunity for malice to invent, and for suspicious credulity to
believe, the horrid tales which described the Christians as the most
wicked of human kind, who practised in their dark recesses every
abomination that a depraved fancy could suggest, and who solicited the
favor of their unknown God by the sacrifice of every moral virtue. There
were many who pretended to confess or to relate the ceremonies of this
abhorred society. It was asserted, "that a new-born infant, entirely
covered over with flour, was presented, like some mystic symbol of
initiation, to the knife of the proselyte, who unknowingly inflicted
many a secret and mortal wound on the innocent victim of his error; that
as soon as the cruel deed was perpetrated, the sectaries drank up
the blood, greedily tore asunder the quivering members, and pledged
themselves to eternal secrecy, by a mutual consciousness of guilt. It
was as confidently affirmed, that this inhuman sacrifice was succeeded
by a suitable entertainment, in which intemperance served as a
provocative to brutal lust; till, at the appointed moment, the lights
were suddenly extinguished, shame was banished, nature was forgotten;
and, as accident might direct, the darkness of the night was polluted
by the incestuous commerce of sisters and brothers, of sons and of
mothers." [19]

[Footnote 18: See Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 101, and
Spanheim, Remarques sur les Caesars de Julien, p. 468, &c.]

[Footnote 19: See Justin Martyr, Apolog. i. 35, ii. 14. Athenagoras, in
Legation, c. 27. Tertullian, Apolog. c. 7, 8, 9. Minucius Felix, c. 9,
10, 80, 31. The last of these writers relates the accusation in the most
elegant and circumstantial manner. The answer of Tertullian is the
boldest and most vigorous.]

But the perusal of the ancient apologies was sufficient to remove
even the slightest suspicion from the mind of a candid adversary. The
Christians, with the intrepid security of innocence, appeal from the
voice of rumor to the equity of the magistrates. They acknowledge, that
if any proof can be produced of the crimes which calumny has imputed to
them, they are worthy of the most severe punishment. They provoke the
punishment, and they challenge the proof. At the same time they urge,
with equal truth and propriety, that the charge is not less devoid of
probability, than it is destitute of evidence; they ask, whether any
one can seriously believe that the pure and holy precepts of the gospel,
which so frequently restrain the use of the most lawful enjoyments,
should inculcate the practice of the most abominable crimes; that a
large society should resolve to dishonor itself in the eyes of its own
members; and that a great number of persons of either sex, and every age
and character, insensible to the fear of death or infamy, should consent
to violate those principles which nature and education had imprinted
most deeply in their minds. [20] Nothing, it should seem, could weaken
the force or destroy the effect of so unanswerable a justification,
unless it were the injudicious conduct of the apologists themselves, who
betrayed the common cause of religion, to gratify their devout hatred to
the domestic enemies of the church. It was sometimes faintly insinuated,
and sometimes boldly asserted, that the same bloody sacrifices, and
the same incestuous festivals, which were so falsely ascribed to the
orthodox believers, were in reality celebrated by the Marcionites, by
the Carpocratians, and by several other sects of the Gnostics, who,
notwithstanding they might deviate into the paths of heresy, were still
actuated by the sentiments of men, and still governed by the precepts of
Christianity. [21] Accusations of a similar kind were retorted upon the
church by the schismatics who had departed from its communion, [22] and
it was confessed on all sides, that the most scandalous licentiousness
of manners prevailed among great numbers of those who affected the name
of Christians. A Pagan magistrate, who possessed neither leisure nor
abilities to discern the almost imperceptible line which divides the
orthodox faith from heretical pravity, might easily have imagined that
their mutual animosity had extorted the discovery of their common guilt.
It was fortunate for the repose, or at least for the reputation, of the
first Christians, that the magistrates sometimes proceeded with more
temper and moderation than is usually consistent with religious zeal,
and that they reported, as the impartial result of their judicial
inquiry, that the sectaries, who had deserted the established worship,
appeared to them sincere in their professions, and blameless in their
manners; however they might incur, by their absurd and excessive
superstition, the censure of the laws. [23]

[Footnote 20: In the persecution of Lyons, some Gentile slaves were
compelled, by the fear of tortures, to accuse their Christian master.
The church of Lyons, writing to their brethren of Asia, treat the horrid
charge with proper indignation and contempt. Euseb. Hist. Eccles. v. i.]

[Footnote 21: See Justin Martyr, Apolog. i. 35. Irenaeus adv. Haeres. i.
24. Clemens. Alexandrin. Stromat. l. iii. p. 438. Euseb. iv. 8. It would
be tedious and disgusting to relate all that the succeeding writers have
imagined, all that Epiphanius has received, and all that Tillemont
has copied. M. de Beausobre (Hist. du Manicheisme, l. ix. c. 8, 9) has
exposed, with great spirit, the disingenuous arts of Augustin and Pope
Leo I.]

[Footnote 22: When Tertullian became a Montanist, he aspersed the morals
of the church which he had so resolutely defended. "Sed majoris est
Agape, quia per hanc adolescentes tui cum sororibus dormiunt, appendices
scilicet gulae lascivia et luxuria." De Jejuniis c. 17. The 85th canon
of the council of Illiberis provides against the scandals which too
often polluted the vigils of the church, and disgraced the Christian
name in the eyes of unbelievers.]

[Footnote 23: Tertullian (Apolog. c. 2) expatiates on the fair and
honorable testimony of Pliny, with much reason and some declamation.]

Chapter XVI: Conduct Towards The Christians, From Nero To
Constantine.--Part II.

History, which undertakes to record the transactions of the past, for
the instruction of future ages, would ill deserve that honorable office,
if she condescended to plead the cause of tyrants, or to justify the
maxims of persecution. It must, however, be acknowledged, that the
conduct of the emperors who appeared the least favorable to the
primitive church, is by no means so criminal as that of modern
sovereigns, who have employed the arm of violence and terror against
the religious opinions of any part of their subjects. From their
reflections, or even from their own feelings, a Charles V. or a Lewis
XIV. might have acquired a just knowledge of the rights of conscience,
of the obligation of faith, and of the innocence of error. But the
princes and magistrates of ancient Rome were strangers to those
principles which inspired and authorized the inflexible obstinacy of the
Christians in the cause of truth, nor could they themselves discover in
their own breasts any motive which would have prompted them to refuse a
legal, and as it were a natural, submission to the sacred institutions
of their country. The same reason which contributes to alleviate the
guilt, must have tended to abate the vigor, of their persecutions.
As they were actuated, not by the furious zeal of bigots, but by the
temperate policy of legislators, contempt must often have relaxed, and
humanity must frequently have suspended, the execution of those laws
which they enacted against the humble and obscure followers of Christ.
From the general view of their character and motives we might naturally
conclude: I. That a considerable time elapsed before they considered the
new sectaries as an object deserving of the attention of government. II.
That in the conviction of any of their subjects who were accused of so
very singular a crime, they proceeded with caution and reluctance. III.
That they were moderate in the use of punishments; and, IV. That the
afflicted church enjoyed many intervals of peace and tranquility.
Notwithstanding the careless indifference which the most copious and
the most minute of the Pagan writers have shown to the affairs of the
Christians, [24] it may still be in our power to confirm each of these
probable suppositions, by the evidence of authentic facts.

[Footnote 24: In the various compilation of the Augustan History, (a
part of which was composed under the reign of Constantine,) there are
not six lines which relate to the Christians; nor has the diligence of
Xiphilin discovered their name in the large history of Dion Cassius.
* Note: The greater part of the Augustan History is dedicated to
Diocletian. This may account for the silence of its authors concerning
Christianity. The notices that occur are almost all in the lives
composed under the reign of Constantine. It may fairly be concluded,
from the language which he had into the mouth of Maecenas, that Dion was
an enemy to all innovations in religion. (See Gibbon, infra, note 105.)
In fact, when the silence of Pagan historians is noticed, it should be
remembered how meagre and mutilated are all the extant histories of the

1. By the wise dispensation of Providence, a mysterious veil was cast
over the infancy of the church, which, till the faith of the Christians
was matured, and their numbers were multiplied, served to protect them
not only from the malice but even from the knowledge of the Pagan world.
The slow and gradual abolition of the Mosaic ceremonies afforded a safe
and innocent disguise to the more early proselytes of the gospel. As
they were, for the greater part, of the race of Abraham, they were
distinguished by the peculiar mark of circumcision, offered up their
devotions in the Temple of Jerusalem till its final destruction, and
received both the Law and the Prophets as the genuine inspirations of
the Deity. The Gentile converts, who by a spiritual adoption had been
associated to the hope of Israel, were likewise confounded under the
garb and appearance of Jews, [25] and as the Polytheists paid less
regard to articles of faith than to the external worship, the new sect,
which carefully concealed, or faintly announced, its future greatness
and ambition, was permitted to shelter itself under the general
toleration which was granted to an ancient and celebrated people in
the Roman empire. It was not long, perhaps, before the Jews themselves,
animated with a fiercer zeal and a more jealous faith, perceived the
gradual separation of their Nazarene brethren from the doctrine of the
synagogue; and they would gladly have extinguished the dangerous heresy
in the blood of its adherents. But the decrees of Heaven had already
disarmed their malice; and though they might sometimes exert the
licentious privilege of sedition, they no longer possessed the
administration of criminal justice; nor did they find it easy to infuse
into the calm breast of a Roman magistrate the rancor of their own zeal
and prejudice. The provincial governors declared themselves ready to
listen to any accusation that might affect the public safety; but as
soon as they were informed that it was a question not of facts but of
words, a dispute relating only to the interpretation of the Jewish laws
and prophecies, they deemed it unworthy of the majesty of Rome seriously
to discuss the obscure differences which might arise among a barbarous
and superstitious people. The innocence of the first Christians was
protected by ignorance and contempt; and the tribunal of the Pagan
magistrate often proved their most assured refuge against the fury of
the synagogue. [26] If indeed we were disposed to adopt the
traditions of a too credulous antiquity, we might relate the distant
peregrinations, the wonderful achievements, and the various deaths
of the twelve apostles: but a more accurate inquiry will induce us
to doubt, whether any of those persons who had been witnesses to the
miracles of Christ were permitted, beyond the limits of Palestine,
to seal with their blood the truth of their testimony. [27] From the
ordinary term of human life, it may very naturally be presumed that most
of them were deceased before the discontent of the Jews broke out into
that furious war, which was terminated only by the ruin of Jerusalem.
During a long period, from the death of Christ to that memorable
rebellion, we cannot discover any traces of Roman intolerance, unless
they are to be found in the sudden, the transient, but the cruel
persecution, which was exercised by Nero against the Christians of the
capital, thirty-five years after the former, and only two years before
the latter, of those great events. The character of the philosophic
historian, to whom we are principally indebted for the knowledge of this
singular transaction, would alone be sufficient to recommend it to our
most attentive consideration.

[Footnote 25: An obscure passage of Suetonius (in Claud. c. 25) may
seem to offer a proof how strangely the Jews and Christians of Rome were
confounded with each other.]

[Footnote 26: See, in the xviiith and xxvth chapters of the Acts of the
Apostles, the behavior of Gallio, proconsul of Achaia, and of Festus,
procurator of Judea.]

[Footnote 27: In the time of Tertullian and Clemens of Alexandria, the
glory of martyrdom was confined to St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. James.
It was gradually bestowed on the rest of the apostles, by the more
recent Greeks, who prudently selected for the theatre of their preaching
and sufferings some remote country beyond the limits of the Roman
empire. See Mosheim, p. 81; and Tillemont, Memoires Ecclesiastiques,
tom. i. part iii.]

In the tenth year of the reign of Nero, the capital of the empire was
afflicted by a fire which raged beyond the memory or example of former
ages. [28] The monuments of Grecian art and of Roman virtue, the
trophies of the Punic and Gallic wars, the most holy temples, and the
most splendid palaces, were involved in one common destruction. Of the
fourteen regions or quarters into which Rome was divided, four only
subsisted entire, three were levelled with the ground, and the remaining
seven, which had experienced the fury of the flames, displayed a
melancholy prospect of ruin and desolation. The vigilance of government
appears not to have neglected any of the precautions which might
alleviate the sense of so dreadful a calamity. The Imperial gardens
were thrown open to the distressed multitude, temporary buildings were
erected for their accommodation, and a plentiful supply of corn and
provisions was distributed at a very moderate price. [29] The most
generous policy seemed to have dictated the edicts which regulated the
disposition of the streets and the construction of private houses; and
as it usually happens, in an age of prosperity, the conflagration of
Rome, in the course of a few years, produced a new city, more regular
and more beautiful than the former. But all the prudence and humanity
affected by Nero on this occasion were insufficient to preserve him from
the popular suspicion. Every crime might be imputed to the assassin of
his wife and mother; nor could the prince who prostituted his person
and dignity on the theatre be deemed incapable of the most extravagant
folly. The voice of rumor accused the emperor as the incendiary of his
own capital; and as the most incredible stories are the best adapted
to the genius of an enraged people, it was gravely reported, and firmly
believed, that Nero, enjoying the calamity which he had occasioned,
amused himself with singing to his lyre the destruction of ancient Troy.
[30] To divert a suspicion, which the power of despotism was unable
to suppress, the emperor resolved to substitute in his own place some
fictitious criminals. "With this view," continues Tacitus, "he inflicted
the most exquisite tortures on those men, who, under the vulgar
appellation of Christians, were already branded with deserved infamy.
They derived their name and origin from Christ, who in the reign of
Tiberius had suffered death by the sentence of the procurator Pontius
Pilate. [31] For a while this dire superstition was checked; but it
again burst forth; [31a] and not only spread itself over Judaea, the
first seat of this mischievous sect, but was even introduced into
Rome, the common asylum which receives and protects whatever is
impure, whatever is atrocious. The confessions of those who were seized
discovered a great multitude of their accomplices, and they were all
convicted, not so much for the crime of setting fire to the city, as
for their hatred of human kind. [32] They died in torments, and their
torments were imbittered by insult and derision. Some were nailed on
crosses; others sewn up in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to the
fury of dogs; others again, smeared over with combustible materials,
were used as torches to illuminate the darkness of the night. The
gardens of Nero were destined for the melancholy spectacle, which was
accompanied with a horse-race and honored with the presence of the
emperor, who mingled with the populace in the dress and attitude of
a charioteer. The guilt of the Christians deserved indeed the most
exemplary punishment, but the public abhorrence was changed into
commiseration, from the opinion that those unhappy wretches were
sacrificed, not so much to the public welfare, as to the cruelty of
a jealous tyrant." [33] Those who survey with a curious eye the
revolutions of mankind, may observe, that the gardens and circus of
Nero on the Vatican, which were polluted with the blood of the first
Christians, have been rendered still more famous by the triumph and by
the abuse of the persecuted religion. On the same spot, [34] a temple,
which far surpasses the ancient glories of the Capitol, has been
since erected by the Christian Pontiffs, who, deriving their claim of
universal dominion from an humble fisherman of Galilee, have succeeded
to the throne of the Caesars, given laws to the barbarian conquerors of
Rome, and extended their spiritual jurisdiction from the coast of the
Baltic to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

[Footnote 28: Tacit. Annal. xv. 38--44. Sueton in Neron. c. 38. Dion
Cassius, l. lxii. p. 1014. Orosius, vii. 7.]

[Footnote 29: The price of wheat (probably of the modius,) was reduced
as low as terni Nummi; which would be equivalent to about fifteen
shillings the English quarter.]

[Footnote 30: We may observe, that the rumor is mentioned by Tacitus
with a very becoming distrust and hesitation, whilst it is greedily
transcribed by Suetonius, and solemnly confirmed by Dion.]

[Footnote 31: This testimony is alone sufficient to expose the
anachronism of the Jews, who place the birth of Christ near a century
sooner. (Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, l. v. c. 14, 15.) We may learn
from Josephus, (Antiquitat. xviii. 3,) that the procuratorship of Pilate
corresponded with the last ten years of Tiberius, A. D. 27--37. As to
the particular time of the death of Christ, a very early tradition
fixed it to the 25th of March, A. D. 29, under the consulship of the two
Gemini. (Tertullian adv. Judaeos, c. 8.) This date, which is adopted by
Pagi, Cardinal Norris, and Le Clerc, seems at least as probable as the
vulgar aera, which is placed (I know not from what conjectures) four
years later.]

[Footnote 31a: This single phrase, Repressa in praesens exitiabilis
superstitio rursus erumpebat, proves that the Christians had already
attracted the attention of the government; and that Nero was not the
first to persecute them. I am surprised that more stress has not been
laid on the confirmation which the Acts of the Apostles derive from
these words of Tacitus, Repressa in praesens, and rursus erumpebat.--G.
----I have been unwilling to suppress this note, but surely the
expression of Tacitus refers to the expected extirpation of the religion
by the death of its founder, Christ.--M.]

[Footnote 32: Odio humani generis convicti. These words may either
signify the hatred of mankind towards the Christians, or the hatred of
the Christians towards mankind. I have preferred the latter sense, as
the most agreeable to the style of Tacitus, and to the popular error, of
which a precept of the gospel (see Luke xiv. 26) had been, perhaps, the
innocent occasion. My interpretation is justified by the authority of
Lipsius; of the Italian, the French, and the English translators of
Tacitus; of Mosheim, (p. 102,) of Le Clerc, (Historia Ecclesiast. p.
427,) of Dr. Lardner, (Testimonies, vol. i. p. 345,) and of the Bishop
of Gloucester, (Divine Legation, vol. iii. p. 38.) But as the word
convicti does not unite very happily with the rest of the sentence,
James Gronovius has preferred the reading of conjuncti, which is
authorized by the valuable MS. of Florence.]

[Footnote 33: Tacit. Annal xv. 44.]

[Footnote 34: Nardini Roma Antica, p. 487. Donatus de Roma Antiqua, l.
iii. p. 449.]

But it would be improper to dismiss this account of Nero's persecution,
till we have made some observations that may serve to remove the
difficulties with which it is perplexed, and to throw some light on the
subsequent history of the church.

1. The most sceptical criticism is obliged to respect the truth of this
extraordinary fact, and the integrity of this celebrated passage of
Tacitus. The former is confirmed by the diligent and accurate Suetonius,
who mentions the punishment which Nero inflicted on the Christians, a
sect of men who had embraced a new and criminal superstition. [35] The
latter may be proved by the consent of the most ancient manuscripts;
by the inimitable character of the style of Tacitus by his reputation,
which guarded his text from the interpolations of pious fraud; and by
the purport of his narration, which accused the first Christians of
the most atrocious crimes, without insinuating that they possessed any
miraculous or even magical powers above the rest of mankind. [36] 2.
Notwithstanding it is probable that Tacitus was born some years
before the fire of Rome, [37] he could derive only from reading and
conversation the knowledge of an event which happened during his
infancy. Before he gave himself to the public, he calmly waited till his
genius had attained its full maturity, and he was more than forty years
of age, when a grateful regard for the memory of the virtuous Agricola
extorted from him the most early of those historical compositions which
will delight and instruct the most distant posterity. After making a
trial of his strength in the life of Agricola and the description of
Germany, he conceived, and at length executed, a more arduous work; the
history of Rome, in thirty books, from the fall of Nero to the accession
of Nerva. The administration of Nerva introduced an age of justice and
propriety, which Tacitus had destined for the occupation of his old age;
[38] but when he took a nearer view of his subject, judging, perhaps,
that it was a more honorable or a less invidious office to record the
vices of past tyrants, than to celebrate the virtues of a reigning
monarch, he chose rather to relate, under the form of annals, the
actions of the four immediate successors of Augustus. To collect, to
dispose, and to adorn a series of fourscore years, in an immortal work,
every sentence of which is pregnant with the deepest observations and
the most lively images, was an undertaking sufficient to exercise the
genius of Tacitus himself during the greatest part of his life. In
the last years of the reign of Trajan, whilst the victorious monarch
extended the power of Rome beyond its ancient limits, the historian was
describing, in the second and fourth books of his annals, the tyranny
of Tiberius; [39] and the emperor Hadrian must have succeeded to the
throne, before Tacitus, in the regular prosecution of his work, could
relate the fire of the capital, and the cruelty of Nero towards the
unfortunate Christians. At the distance of sixty years, it was the duty
of the annalist to adopt the narratives of contemporaries; but it was
natural for the philosopher to indulge himself in the description of
the origin, the progress, and the character of the new sect, not so
much according to the knowledge or prejudices of the age of Nero, as
according to those of the time of Hadrian. 3 Tacitus very frequently
trusts to the curiosity or reflection of his readers to supply those
intermediate circumstances and ideas, which, in his extreme conciseness,
he has thought proper to suppress. We may therefore presume to imagine
some probable cause which could direct the cruelty of Nero against the
Christians of Rome, whose obscurity, as well as innocence, should have
shielded them from his indignation, and even from his notice. The Jews,
who were numerous in the capital, and oppressed in their own country,
were a much fitter object for the suspicions of the emperor and of the
people: nor did it seem unlikely that a vanquished nation, who already
discovered their abhorrence of the Roman yoke, might have recourse to
the most atrocious means of gratifying their implacable revenge. But the
Jews possessed very powerful advocates in the palace, and even in the
heart of the tyrant; his wife and mistress, the beautiful Poppaea, and
a favorite player of the race of Abraham, who had already employed their
intercession in behalf of the obnoxious people. [40] In their room
it was necessary to offer some other victims, and it might easily be
suggested that, although the genuine followers of Moses were innocent of
the fire of Rome, there had arisen among them a new and pernicious sect
of Galilaeans, which was capable of the most horrid crimes. Under the
appellation of Galilaeans, two distinctions of men were confounded,
the most opposite to each other in their manners and principles; the
disciples who had embraced the faith of Jesus of Nazareth, [41] and the
zealots who had followed the standard of Judas the Gaulonite. [42] The
former were the friends, the latter were the enemies, of human kind;
and the only resemblance between them consisted in the same inflexible
constancy, which, in the defence of their cause, rendered them
insensible of death and tortures. The followers of Judas, who impelled
their countrymen into rebellion, were soon buried under the ruins of
Jerusalem; whilst those of Jesus, known by the more celebrated name of
Christians, diffused themselves over the Roman empire. How natural was
it for Tacitus, in the time of Hadrian, to appropriate to the Christians
the guilt and the sufferings, [42a] which he might, with far greater
truth and justice, have attributed to a sect whose odious memory was
almost extinguished! 4. Whatever opinion may be entertained of this
conjecture, (for it is no more than a conjecture,) it is evident that
the effect, as well as the cause, of Nero's persecution, was confined
to the walls of Rome, [43] [43a] that the religious tenets of the
Galilaeans or Christians, were never made a subject of punishment, or
even of inquiry; and that, as the idea of their sufferings was for
a long time connected with the idea of cruelty and injustice, the
moderation of succeeding princes inclined them to spare a sect,
oppressed by a tyrant, whose rage had been usually directed against
virtue and innocence.

[Footnote 35: Sueton. in Nerone, c. 16. The epithet of malefica, which
some sagacious commentators have translated magical, is considered
by the more rational Mosheim as only synonymous to the exitiabilis of

[Footnote 36: The passage concerning Jesus Christ, which was inserted
into the text of Josephus, between the time of Origen and that
of Eusebius, may furnish an example of no vulgar forgery. The
accomplishment of the prophecies, the virtues, miracles, and
resurrection of Jesus, are distinctly related. Josephus acknowledges
that he was the Messiah, and hesitates whether he should call him a man.
If any doubt can still remain concerning this celebrated passage, the
reader may examine the pointed objections of Le Fevre, (Havercamp.
Joseph. tom. ii. p. 267-273), the labored answers of Daubuz, (p. 187-232,
and the masterly reply (Bibliotheque Ancienne et Moderne, tom. vii. p.
237-288) of an anonymous critic, whom I believe to have been the learned
Abbe de Longuerue. * Note: The modern editor of Eusebius, Heinichen, has
adopted, and ably supported, a notion, which had before suggested
itself to the editor, that this passage is not altogether a forgery, but
interpolated with many additional clauses. Heinichen has endeavored
to disengage the original text from the foreign and more recent

[Footnote 37: See the lives of Tacitus by Lipsius and the Abbe de
la Bleterie, Dictionnaire de Bayle a l'article Particle Tacite, and
Fabricius, Biblioth. Latin tem. Latin. tom. ii. p. 386, edit. Ernest.

[Footnote 38: Principatum Divi Nervae, et imperium Trajani, uberiorem,
securioremque materiam senectuti seposui. Tacit. Hist. i.]

[Footnote 39: See Tacit. Annal. ii. 61, iv. 4. * Note: The perusal of
this passage of Tacitus alone is sufficient, as I have already said, to
show that the Christian sect was not so obscure as not already to have
been repressed, (repressa,) and that it did not pass for innocent in the
eyes of the Romans.--G.]

[Footnote 40: The player's name was Aliturus. Through the same channel,
Josephus, (de vita sua, c. 2,) about two years before, had obtained the
pardon and release of some Jewish priests, who were prisoners at Rome.]

[Footnote 41: The learned Dr. Lardner (Jewish and Heathen Testimonies,
vol ii. p. 102, 103) has proved that the name of Galilaeans was a very
ancient, and perhaps the primitive appellation of the Christians.]

[Footnote 42: Joseph. Antiquitat. xviii. 1, 2. Tillemont, Ruine des
Juifs, p. 742 The sons of Judas were crucified in the time of Claudius.
His grandson Eleazar, after Jerusalem was taken, defended a strong
fortress with 960 of his most desperate followers. When the battering
ram had made a breach, they turned their swords against their wives
their children, and at length against their own breasts. They dies to
the last man.]

[Footnote 42a: This conjecture is entirely devoid, not merely of
verisimilitude, but even of possibility. Tacitus could not be deceived
in appropriating to the Christians of Rome the guilt and the sufferings
which he might have attributed with far greater truth to the followers
of Judas the Gaulonite, for the latter never went to Rome. Their revolt,
their attempts, their opinions, their wars, their punishment, had
no other theatre but Judaea (Basn. Hist. des. Juifs, t. i. p. 491.)
Moreover the name of Christians had long been given in Rome to the
disciples of Jesus; and Tacitus affirms too positively, refers too
distinctly to its etymology, to allow us to suspect any mistake on his
part.--G. ----M. Guizot's expressions are not in the least too strong
 against this strange imagination of Gibbon; it may be doubted
whether the followers of Judas were known as a sect under the name of

[Footnote 43: See Dodwell. Paucitat. Mart. l. xiii. The Spanish
Inscription in Gruter. p. 238, No. 9, is a manifest and acknowledged
forgery contrived by that noted imposter. Cyriacus of Ancona, to flatter
the pride and prejudices of the Spaniards. See Ferreras, Histoire
D'Espagne, tom. i. p. 192.]

[Footnote 43a: M. Guizot, on the authority of Sulpicius Severus, ii. 37,
and of Orosius, viii. 5, inclines to the opinion of those who extend the
persecution to the provinces. Mosheim rather leans to that side on this
much disputed question, (c. xxxv.) Neander takes the view of Gibbon,
which is in general that of the most learned writers. There is indeed no
evidence, which I can discover, of its reaching the provinces; and the
apparent security, at least as regards his life, with which St. Paul
pursued his travels during this period, affords at least a strong
inference against a rigid and general inquisition against the Christians
in other parts of the empire.--M.]

It is somewhat remarkable that the flames of war consumed, almost at the
same time, the temple of Jerusalem and the Capitol of Rome; [44] and it
appears no less singular, that the tribute which devotion had destined
to the former, should have been converted by the power of an assaulting
victor to restore and adorn the splendor of the latter. [45] The
emperors levied a general capitation tax on the Jewish people;
and although the sum assessed on the head of each individual was
inconsiderable, the use for which it was designed, and the severity with
which it was exacted, were considered as an intolerable grievance. [46]
Since the officers of the revenue extended their unjust claim to many
persons who were strangers to the blood or religion of the Jews, it was
impossible that the Christians, who had so often sheltered themselves
under the shade of the synagogue, should now escape this rapacious
persecution. Anxious as they were to avoid the slightest infection of
idolatry, their conscience forbade them to contribute to the honor of
that daemon who had assumed the character of the Capitoline Jupiter.
As a very numerous though declining party among the Christians still
adhered to the law of Moses, their efforts to dissemble their Jewish
origin were detected by the decisive test of circumcision; [47] nor were
the Roman magistrates at leisure to inquire into the difference of
their religious tenets. Among the Christians who were brought before the
tribunal of the emperor, or, as it seems more probable, before that
of the procurator of Judaea, two persons are said to have appeared,
distinguished by their extraction, which was more truly noble than
that of the greatest monarchs. These were the grandsons of St. Jude the
apostle, who himself was the brother of Jesus Christ. [48] Their natural
pretensions to the throne of David might perhaps attract the respect of
the people, and excite the jealousy of the governor; but the meanness of
their garb, and the simplicity of their answers, soon convinced him that
they were neither desirous nor capable of disturbing the peace of the
Roman empire. They frankly confessed their royal origin, and their near
relation to the Messiah; but they disclaimed any temporal views, and
professed that his kingdom, which they devoutly expected, was purely of
a spiritual and angelic nature. When they were examined concerning their
fortune and occupation, they showed their hands, hardened with daily
labor, and declared that they derived their whole subsistence from the
cultivation of a farm near the village of Cocaba, of the extent of
about twenty-four English acres, [49] and of the value of nine thousand
drachms, or three hundred pounds sterling. The grandsons of St. Jude
were dismissed with compassion and contempt. [50]

[Footnote 44: The Capitol was burnt during the civil war between
Vitellius and Vespasian, the 19th of December, A. D. 69. On the 10th of
August, A. D. 70, the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the hands of
the Jews themselves, rather than by those of the Romans.]

[Footnote 45: The new Capitol was dedicated by Domitian. Sueton. in
Domitian. c. 5. Plutarch in Poplicola, tom. i. p. 230, edit. Bryant. The
gilding alone cost 12,000 talents (above two millions and a half.) It
was the opinion of Martial, (l. ix. Epigram 3,) that if the emperor had
called in his debts, Jupiter himself, even though he had made a general
auction of Olympus, would have been unable to pay two shillings in the

[Footnote 46: With regard to the tribute, see Dion Cassius, l. lxvi. p.
1082, with Reimarus's notes. Spanheim, de Usu Numismatum, tom. ii. p.
571; and Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, l. vii. c. 2.]

[Footnote 47: Suetonius (in Domitian. c. 12) had seen an old man of
ninety publicly examined before the procurator's tribunal. This is what
Martial calls, Mentula tributis damnata.]

[Footnote 48: This appellation was at first understood in the most
obvious sense, and it was supposed, that the brothers of Jesus were the
lawful issue of Joseph and Mary. A devout respect for the virginity
of the mother of God suggested to the Gnostics, and afterwards to the
orthodox Greeks, the expedient of bestowing a second wife on Joseph.
The Latins (from the time of Jerome) improved on that hint, asserted the
perpetual celibacy of Joseph, and justified by many similar examples
the new interpretation that Jude, as well as Simon and James, who were
styled the brothers of Jesus Christ, were only his first cousins. See
Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiat. tom. i. part iii.: and Beausobre, Hist.
Critique du Manicheisme, l. ii. c. 2.]

[Footnote 49: Thirty-nine, squares of a hundred feet each, which, if
strictly computed, would scarcely amount to nine acres.]

[Footnote 50: Eusebius, iii. 20. The story is taken from Hegesippus.]

But although the obscurity of the house of David might protect them
from the suspicions of a tyrant, the present greatness of his own
family alarmed the pusillanimous temper of Domitian, which could only be
appeased by the blood of those Romans whom he either feared, or hated,
or esteemed. Of the two sons of his uncle Flavius Sabinus, [51] the
elder was soon convicted of treasonable intentions, and the younger,
who bore the name of Flavius Clemens, was indebted for his safety to
his want of courage and ability. [52] The emperor for a long time,
distinguished so harmless a kinsman by his favor and protection,
bestowed on him his own niece Domitilla, adopted the children of that
marriage to the hope of the succession, and invested their father with
the honors of the consulship.

[Footnote 51: See the death and character of Sabinus in Tacitus, (Hist.
iii. 74 ) Sabinus was the elder brother, and, till the accession of
Vespasian, had been considered as the principal support of the Flavium

[Footnote 52: Flavium Clementem patruelem suum contemptissimoe
inertice.. ex tenuissima suspicione interemit. Sueton. in Domitian. c.

But he had scarcely finished the term of his annual magistracy, when, on
a slight pretence, he was condemned and executed; Domitilla was banished
to a desolate island on the coast of Campania; [53] and sentences either
of death or of confiscation were pronounced against a great number of
who were involved in the same accusation. The guilt imputed to
their charge was that of Atheism and Jewish manners; [54] a singular
association of ideas, which cannot with any propriety be applied except
to the Christians, as they were obscurely and imperfectly viewed by the
magistrates and by the writers of that period. On the strength of so
probable an interpretation, and too eagerly admitting the suspicions of
a tyrant as an evidence of their honorable crime, the church has placed
both Clemens and Domitilla among its first martyrs, and has branded the
cruelty of Domitian with the name of the second persecution. But this
persecution (if it deserves that epithet) was of no long duration. A
few months after the death of Clemens, and the banishment of Domitilla,
Stephen, a freedman belonging to the latter, who had enjoyed the favor,
but who had not surely embraced the faith, of his mistress, [54a]
assassinated the emperor in his palace. [55] The memory of Domitian was
condemned by the senate; his acts were rescinded; his exiles recalled;
and under the gentle administration of Nerva, while the innocent
were restored to their rank and fortunes, even the most guilty either
obtained pardon or escaped punishment. [56]

[Footnote 53: The Isle of Pandataria, according to Dion. Bruttius
Praesens (apud Euseb. iii. 18) banishes her to that of Pontia, which was
not far distant from the other. That difference, and a mistake, either
of Eusebius or of his transcribers, have given occasion to suppose two
Domitillas, the wife and the niece of Clemens. See Tillemont, Memoires
Ecclesiastiques, tom. ii. p. 224.]

[Footnote 54: Dion. l. lxvii. p. 1112. If the Bruttius Praesens,
from whom it is probable that he collected this account, was the
correspondent of Pliny, (Epistol. vii. 3,) we may consider him as a
contemporary writer.]

[Footnote 54a: This is an uncandid sarcasm. There is nothing to connect
Stephen with the religion of Domitilla. He was a knave detected in the
malversation of money--interceptarum pecuniaram reus.--M.]

[Footnote 55: Suet. in Domit. c. 17. Philostratus in Vit. Apollon. l.

[Footnote 56: Dion. l. lxviii. p. 1118. Plin. Epistol. iv. 22.]

II. About ten years afterwards, under the reign of Trajan, the younger
Pliny was intrusted by his friend and master with the government of
Bithynia and Pontus. He soon found himself at a loss to determine by
what rule of justice or of law he should direct his conduct in the
execution of an office the most repugnant to his humanity. Pliny had
never assisted at any judicial proceedings against the Christians,
with whose name alone he seems to be acquainted; and he was totally
uninformed with regard to the nature of their guilt, the method of their
conviction, and the degree of their punishment. In this perplexity he
had recourse to his usual expedient, of submitting to the wisdom of
Trajan an impartial, and, in some respects, a favorable account of the
new superstition, requesting the emperor, that he would condescend to
resolve his doubts, and to instruct his ignorance. [57] The life of
Pliny had been employed in the acquisition of learning, and in the
business of the world.

Since the age of nineteen he had pleaded with distinction in the
tribunals of Rome, [58] filled a place in the senate, had been invested
with the honors of the consulship, and had formed very numerous
connections with every order of men, both in Italy and in the provinces.
From his ignorance therefore we may derive some useful information. We
may assure ourselves, that when he accepted the government of Bithynia,
there were no general laws or decrees of the senate in force against the
Christians; that neither Trajan nor any of his virtuous predecessors,
whose edicts were received into the civil and criminal jurisprudence,
had publicly declared their intentions concerning the new sect; and that
whatever proceedings had been carried on against the Christians, there
were none of sufficient weight and authority to establish a precedent
for the conduct of a Roman magistrate.

[Footnote 57: Plin. Epistol. x. 97. The learned Mosheim expresses
himself (p. 147, 232) with the highest approbation of Pliny's moderate
and candid temper. Notwithstanding Dr. Lardner's suspicions (see Jewish
and Heathen Testimonies, vol. ii. p. 46,) I am unable to discover any
bigotry in his language or proceedings. * Note: Yet the humane Pliny put
two female attendants, probably deaconesses to the torture, in order to
ascertain the real nature of these suspicious meetings: necessarium
credidi, ex duabus ancillis, quae ministrae dicebantor quid asset veri
et per tormenta quaerere.--M.]

[Footnote 58: Plin. Epist. v. 8. He pleaded his first cause A. D. 81;
the year after the famous eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, in which his
uncle lost his life.]

Chapter XVI: Conduct Towards The Christians, From Nero To
Constantine.--Part III.

The answer of Trajan, to which the Christians of the succeeding age have
frequently appealed, discovers as much regard for justice and humanity
as could be reconciled with his mistaken notions of religious policy.
[59] Instead of displaying the implacable zeal of an inquisitor, anxious
to discover the most minute particles of heresy, and exulting in the
number of his victims, the emperor expresses much more solicitude to
protect the security of the innocent, than to prevent the escape of the
guilty. He acknowledged the difficulty of fixing any general plan; but
he lays down two salutary rules, which often afforded relief and support
to the distressed Christians. Though he directs the magistrates to
punish such persons as are legally convicted, he prohibits them, with
a very humane inconsistency, from making any inquiries concerning the
supposed criminals. Nor was the magistrate allowed to proceed on every
kind of information. Anonymous charges the emperor rejects, as too
repugnant to the equity of his government; and he strictly requires, for
the conviction of those to whom the guilt of Christianity is imputed,
the positive evidence of a fair and open accuser. It is likewise
probable, that the persons who assumed so invidiuous an office, were
obliged to declare the grounds of their suspicions, to specify (both in
respect to time and place) the secret assemblies, which their
Christian adversary had frequented, and to disclose a great number of
circumstances, which were concealed with the most vigilant jealousy from
the eye of the profane. If they succeeded in their prosecution, they
were exposed to the resentment of a considerable and active party, to
the censure of the more liberal portion of mankind, and to the ignominy
which, in every age and country, has attended the character of an
informer. If, on the contrary, they failed in their proofs, they
incurred the severe and perhaps capital penalty, which, according to a
law published by the emperor Hadrian, was inflicted on those who falsely
attributed to their fellow-citizens the crime of Christianity. The
violence of personal or superstitious animosity might sometimes prevail
over the most natural apprehensions of disgrace and danger but it cannot
surely be imagined, that accusations of so unpromising an appearance
were either lightly or frequently undertaken by the Pagan subjects of
the Roman empire. [60] [60a]

[Footnote 59: Plin. Epist. x. 98. Tertullian (Apolog. c. 5) considers
this rescript as a relaxation of the ancient penal laws, "quas Trajanus
exparte frustratus est:" and yet Tertullian, in another part of his
Apology, exposes the inconsistency of prohibiting inquiries, and
enjoining punishments.]

[Footnote 60: Eusebius (Hist. Ecclesiast. l. iv. c. 9) has preserved
the edict of Hadrian. He has likewise (c. 13) given us one still more
favorable, under the name of Antoninus; the authenticity of which is
not so universally allowed. The second Apology of Justin contains some
curious particulars relative to the accusations of Christians. *
Note: Professor Hegelmayer has proved the authenticity of the edict of
Antoninus, in his Comm. Hist. Theol. in Edict. Imp. Antonini. Tubing.
1777, in 4to.--G. ----Neander doubts its authenticity, (vol. i. p. 152.)
In my opinion, the internal evidence is decisive against it.--M]

[Footnote 60a: The enactment of this law affords strong presumption,
that accusations of the "crime of Christianity," were by no means so
uncommon, nor received with so much mistrust and caution by the ruling
authorities, as Gibbon would insinuate. --M.]

The expedient which was employed to elude the prudence of the laws,
affords a sufficient proof how effectually they disappointed the
mischievous designs of private malice or superstitious zeal. In a large
and tumultuous assembly, the restraints of fear and shame, so forcible
on the minds of individuals, are deprived of the greatest part of their
influence. The pious Christian, as he was desirous to obtain, or to
escape, the glory of martyrdom, expected, either with impatience or with
terror, the stated returns of the public games and festivals. On
those occasions the inhabitants of the great cities of the empire were
collected in the circus or the theatre, where every circumstance of the
place, as well as of the ceremony, contributed to kindle their devotion,
and to extinguish their humanity. Whilst the numerous spectators,
crowned with garlands, perfumed with incense, purified with the blood
of victims, and surrounded with the altars and statues of their tutelar
deities, resigned themselves to the enjoyment of pleasures, which
they considered as an essential part of their religious worship, they
recollected, that the Christians alone abhorred the gods of mankind,
and by their absence and melancholy on these solemn festivals, seemed
to insult or to lament the public felicity. If the empire had been
afflicted by any recent calamity, by a plague, a famine, or an
unsuccessful war; if the Tyber had, or if the Nile had not, risen beyond
its banks; if the earth had shaken, or if the temperate order of the
seasons had been interrupted, the superstitious Pagans were convinced
that the crimes and the impiety of the Christians, who were spared
by the excessive lenity of the government, had at length provoked the
divine justice. It was not among a licentious and exasperated populace,
that the forms of legal proceedings could be observed; it was not in an
amphitheatre, stained with the blood of wild beasts and gladiators, that
the voice of compassion could be heard. The impatient clamors of the
multitude denounced the Christians as the enemies of gods and men,
doomed them to the severest tortures, and venturing to accuse by name
some of the most distinguished of the new sectaries, required with
irresistible vehemence that they should be instantly apprehended and
cast to the lions. [61] The provincial governors and magistrates who
presided in the public spectacles were usually inclined to gratify the
inclinations, and to appease the rage, of the people, by the sacrifice
of a few obnoxious victims. But the wisdom of the emperors protected
the church from the danger of these tumultuous clamors and irregular
accusations, which they justly censured as repugnant both to the
firmness and to the equity of their administration. The edicts of
Hadrian and of Antoninus Pius expressly declared, that the voice of the
multitude should never be admitted as legal evidence to convict or to
punish those unfortunate persons who had embraced the enthusiasm of the
Christians. [62]

[Footnote 61: See Tertullian, (Apolog. c. 40.) The acts of the martyrdom
of Polycarp exhibit a lively picture of these tumults, which were
usually fomented by the malice of the Jews.]

[Footnote 62: These regulations are inserted in the above mentioned
document of Hadrian and Pius. See the apology of Melito, (apud Euseb. l
iv 26)]

III. Punishment was not the inevitable consequence of conviction, and
the Christians, whose guilt was the most clearly proved by the testimony
of witnesses, or even by their voluntary confession, still retained in
their own power the alternative of life or death. It was not so much the
past offence, as the actual resistance, which excited the indignation
of the magistrate. He was persuaded that he offered them an easy pardon,
since, if they consented to cast a few grains of incense upon the altar,
they were dismissed from the tribunal in safety and with applause. It
was esteemed the duty of a humane judge to endeavor to reclaim, rather
than to punish, those deluded enthusiasts. Varying his tone according
to the age, the sex, or the situation of the prisoners, he frequently
condescended to set before their eyes every circumstance which could
render life more pleasing, or death more terrible; and to solicit, nay,
to entreat, them, that they would show some compassion to themselves,
to their families, and to their friends. [63] If threats and persuasions
proved ineffectual, he had often recourse to violence; the scourge and
the rack were called in to supply the deficiency of argument, and
every art of cruelty was employed to subdue such inflexible, and, as it
appeared to the Pagans, such criminal, obstinacy. The ancient apologists
of Christianity have censured, with equal truth and severity, the
irregular conduct of their persecutors who, contrary to every principle
of judicial proceeding, admitted the use of torture, in order to obtain,
not a confession, but a denial, of the crime which was the object of
their inquiry. [64] The monks of succeeding ages, who, in their peaceful
solitudes, entertained themselves with diversifying the deaths and
sufferings of the primitive martyrs, have frequently invented torments
of a much more refined and ingenious nature. In particular, it has
pleased them to suppose, that the zeal of the Roman magistrates,
disdaining every consideration of moral virtue or public decency,
endeavored to seduce those whom they were unable to vanquish, and that
by their orders the most brutal violence was offered to those whom they
found it impossible to seduce. It is related, that females, who were
prepared to despise death, were sometimes condemned to a more severe
trial, [64a] and called upon to determine whether they set a higher
value on their religion or on their chastity. The youths to whose
licentious embraces they were abandoned, received a solemn exhortation
from the judge, to exert their most strenuous efforts to maintain the
honor of Venus against the impious virgin who refused to burn incense on
her altars. Their violence, however, was commonly disappointed, and the
seasonable interposition of some miraculous power preserved the chaste
spouses of Christ from the dishonor even of an involuntary defeat. We
should not indeed neglect to remark, that the more ancient as well
as authentic memorials of the church are seldom polluted with these
extravagant and indecent fictions. [65]

[Footnote 63: See the rescript of Trajan, and the conduct of Pliny. The
most authentic acts of the martyrs abound in these exhortations. Note:
Pliny's test was the worship of the gods, offerings to the statue of the
emperor, and blaspheming Christ--praeterea maledicerent Christo.--M.]

[Footnote 64: In particular, see Tertullian, (Apolog. c. 2, 3,) and
Lactantius, (Institut. Divin. v. 9.) Their reasonings are almost the
same; but we may discover, that one of these apologists had been a
lawyer, and the other a rhetorician.]

[Footnote 64a: The more ancient as well as authentic memorials of the
church, relate many examples of the fact, (of these severe trials,)
which there is nothing to contradict. Tertullian, among others, says,
Nam proxime ad lenonem damnando Christianam, potius quam ad leonem,
confessi estis labem pudicitiae apud nos atrociorem omni poena et omni
morte reputari, Apol. cap. ult. Eusebius likewise says, "Other virgins,
dragged to brothels, have lost their life rather than defile their
virtue." Euseb. Hist. Ecc. viii. 14.--G. The miraculous interpositions
were the offspring of the coarse imaginations of the monks.--M.]

[Footnote 65: See two instances of this kind of torture in the Acta
Sincere Martyrum, published by Ruinart, p. 160, 399. Jerome, in his
Legend of Paul the Hermit, tells a strange story of a young man, who
was chained naked on a bed of flowers, and assaulted by a beautiful and
wanton courtesan. He quelled the rising temptation by biting off his

The total disregard of truth and probability in the representation of
these primitive martyrdoms was occasioned by a very natural mistake. The
ecclesiastical writers of the fourth or fifth centuries ascribed to the
magistrates of Rome the same degree of implacable and unrelenting zeal
which filled their own breasts against the heretics or the idolaters of
their own times.

It is not improbable that some of those persons who were raised to
the dignities of the empire, might have imbibed the prejudices of the
populace, and that the cruel disposition of others might occasionally be
stimulated by motives of avarice or of personal resentment. [66] But it
is certain, and we may appeal to the grateful confessions of the first
Christians, that the greatest part of those magistrates who exercised
in the provinces the authority of the emperor, or of the senate, and
to whose hands alone the jurisdiction of life and death was intrusted,
behaved like men of polished manners and liberal education, who
respected the rules of justice, and who were conversant with the
precepts of philosophy. They frequently declined the odious task of
persecution, dismissed the charge with contempt, or suggested to the
accused Christian some legal evasion, by which he might elude
the severity of the laws. [67] Whenever they were invested with a
discretionary power, [68] they used it much less for the oppression,
than for the relief and benefit of the afflicted church. They were
far from condemning all the Christians who were accused before their
tribunal, and very far from punishing with death all those who were
convicted of an obstinate adherence to the new superstition. Contenting
themselves, for the most part, with the milder chastisements of
imprisonment, exile, or slavery in the mines, [69] they left the unhappy
victims of their justice some reason to hope, that a prosperous event,
the accession, the marriage, or the triumph of an emperor, might
speedily restore them, by a general pardon, to their former state. The
martyrs, devoted to immediate execution by the Roman magistrates, appear
to have been selected from the most opposite extremes. They were either
bishops and presbyters, the persons the most distinguished among the
Christians by their rank and influence, and whose example might strike
terror into the whole sect; [70] or else they were the meanest and most
abject among them, particularly those of the servile condition, whose
lives were esteemed of little value, and whose sufferings were viewed by
the ancients with too careless an indifference. [71] The learned Origen,
who, from his experience as well as reading, was intimately acquainted
with the history of the Christians, declares, in the most express terms,
that the number of martyrs was very inconsiderable. [72] His authority
would alone be sufficient to annihilate that formidable army of martyrs,
whose relics, drawn for the most part from the catacombs of Rome, have
replenished so many churches, [73] and whose marvellous achievements
have been the subject of so many volumes of Holy Romance. [74] But
the general assertion of Origen may be explained and confirmed by the
particular testimony of his friend Dionysius, who, in the immense city
of Alexandria, and under the rigorous persecution of Decius, reckons
only ten men and seven women who suffered for the profession of the
Christian name. [75]

[Footnote 66: The conversion of his wife provoked Claudius Herminianus,
governor of Cappadocia, to treat the Christians with uncommon severity.
Tertullian ad Scapulam, c. 3.]

[Footnote 67: Tertullian, in his epistle to the governor of Africa,
mentions several remarkable instances of lenity and forbearance, which
had happened within his knowledge.]

[Footnote 68: Neque enim in universum aliquid quod quasi certam formam
habeat, constitui potest; an expression of Trajan, which gave a very
great latitude to the governors of provinces. * Note: Gibbon altogether
forgets that Trajan fully approved of the course pursued by Pliny. That
course was, to order all who persevered in their faith to be led to
execution: perseverantes duci jussi.--M.]

[Footnote 69: In Metalla damnamur, in insulas relegamur. Tertullian,
Apolog. c. 12. The mines of Numidia contained nine bishops, with a
proportionable number of their clergy and people, to whom Cyprian
addressed a pious epistle of praise and comfort. See Cyprian. Epistol.
76, 77.]

[Footnote 70: Though we cannot receive with entire confidence either the
epistles, or the acts, of Ignatius, (they may be found in the 2d volume
of the Apostolic Fathers,) yet we may quote that bishop of Antioch
as one of these exemplary martyrs. He was sent in chains to Rome as a
public spectacle, and when he arrived at Troas, he received the pleasing
intelligence, that the persecution of Antioch was already at an end. *
Note: The acts of Ignatius are generally received as authentic, as are
seven of his letters. Eusebius and St. Jerome mention them: there are
two editions; in one, the letters are longer, and many passages appear
to have been interpolated; the other edition is that which contains the
real letters of St. Ignatius; such at least is the opinion of the wisest
and most enlightened critics. (See Lardner. Cred. of Gospel Hist.) Less,
uber dis Religion, v. i. p. 529. Usser. Diss. de Ign. Epist. Pearson,
Vindic, Ignatianae. It should be remarked, that it was under the reign
of Trajan that the bishop Ignatius was carried from Antioch to Rome,
to be exposed to the lions in the amphitheatre, the year of J. C. 107,
according to some; of 116, according to others.--G.]

[Footnote 71: Among the martyrs of Lyons, (Euseb. l. v. c. 1,) the
slave Blandina was distinguished by more exquisite tortures. Of the five
martyrs so much celebrated in the acts of Felicitas and Perpetua, two
were of a servile, and two others of a very mean, condition.]

[Footnote 72: Origen. advers. Celsum, l. iii. p. 116. His words deserve
to be transcribed. * Note: The words that follow should be quoted. "God
not permitting that all his class of men should be exterminated:"
which appears to indicate that Origen thought the number put to death
inconsiderable only when compared to the numbers who had survived.
Besides this, he is speaking of the state of the religion under
Caracalla, Elagabalus, Alexander Severus, and Philip, who had not
persecuted the Christians. It was during the reign of the latter that
Origen wrote his books against Celsus.--G.]

[Footnote 73: If we recollect that all the Plebeians of Rome were not
Christians, and that all the Christians were not saints and martyrs, we
may judge with how much safety religious honors can be ascribed to bones
or urns, indiscriminately taken from the public burial-place. After ten
centuries of a very free and open trade, some suspicions have arisen
among the more learned Catholics. They now require as a proof of
sanctity and martyrdom, the letters B.M., a vial full of red liquor
supposed to be blood, or the figure of a palm-tree. But the two former
signs are of little weight, and with regard to the last, it is observed
by the critics, 1. That the figure, as it is called, of a palm, is
perhaps a cypress, and perhaps only a stop, the flourish of a comma
used in the monumental inscriptions. 2. That the palm was the symbol of
victory among the Pagans. 3. That among the Christians it served as the
emblem, not only of martyrdom, but in general of a joyful resurrection.
See the epistle of P. Mabillon, on the worship of unknown saints, and
Muratori sopra le Antichita Italiane, Dissertat. lviii.]

[Footnote 74: As a specimen of these legends, we may be satisfied with
10,000 Christian soldiers crucified in one day, either by Trajan or
Hadrian on Mount Ararat. See Baronius ad Martyrologium Romanum;
Tille mont, Mem. Ecclesiast. tom. ii. part ii. p. 438; and Geddes's
Miscellanies, vol. ii. p. 203. The abbreviation of Mil., which may
signify either soldiers or thousands, is said to have occasioned some
extraordinary mistakes.]

[Footnote 75: Dionysius ap. Euseb l. vi. c. 41 One of the seventeen
was likewise accused of robbery. * Note: Gibbon ought to have said,
was falsely accused of robbery, for so it is in the Greek text. This
Christian, named Nemesion, falsely accused of robbery before the
centurion, was acquitted of a crime altogether foreign to his character,
but he was led before the governor as guilty of being a Christian, and
the governor inflicted upon him a double torture. (Euseb. loc. cit.) It
must be added, that Saint Dionysius only makes particular mention of
the principal martyrs, [this is very doubtful.--M.] and that he says,
in general, that the fury of the Pagans against the Christians gave
to Alexandria the appearance of a city taken by storm. [This refers to
plunder and ill usage, not to actual slaughter.--M.] Finally it should
be observed that Origen wrote before the persecution of the emperor

During the same period of persecution, the zealous, the eloquent, the
ambitious Cyprian governed the church, not only of Carthage, but even of
Africa. He possessed every quality which could engage the reverence
of the faithful, or provoke the suspicions and resentment of the Pagan
magistrates. His character as well as his station seemed to mark out
that holy prelate as the most distinguished object of envy and danger.
[76] The experience, however, of the life of Cyprian, is sufficient
to prove that our fancy has exaggerated the perilous situation of a
Christian bishop; and the dangers to which he was exposed were less
imminent than those which temporal ambition is always prepared to
encounter in the pursuit of honors. Four Roman emperors, with their
families, their favorites, and their adherents, perished by the sword
in the space of ten years, during which the bishop of Carthage guided by
his authority and eloquence the councils of the African church. It was
only in the third year of his administration, that he had reason, during
a few months, to apprehend the severe edicts of Decius, the vigilance
of the magistrate and the clamors of the multitude, who loudly demanded,
that Cyprian, the leader of the Christians, should be thrown to the
lions. Prudence suggested the necessity of a temporary retreat, and
the voice of prudence was obeyed. He withdrew himself into an obscure
solitude, from whence he could maintain a constant correspondence with
the clergy and people of Carthage; and, concealing himself till the
tempest was past, he preserved his life, without relinquishing either
his power or his reputation. His extreme caution did not, however,
escape the censure of the more rigid Christians, who lamented, or the
reproaches of his personal enemies, who insulted, a conduct which they
considered as a pusillanimous and criminal desertion of the most sacred
duty. [77] The propriety of reserving himself for the future exigencies
of the church, the example of several holy bishops, [78] and the divine
admonitions, which, as he declares himself, he frequently received in
visions and ecstacies, were the reasons alleged in his justification.
[79] But his best apology may be found in the cheerful resolution, with
which, about eight years afterwards, he suffered death in the cause of
religion. The authentic history of his martyrdom has been recorded with
unusual candor and impartiality. A short abstract, therefore, of its
most important circumstances, will convey the clearest information of
the spirit, and of the forms, of the Roman persecutions. [80]

[Footnote 76: The letters of Cyprian exhibit a very curious and original
picture both of the man and of the times. See likewise the two lives of
Cyprian, composed with equal accuracy, though with very different views;
the one by Le Clerc (Bibliotheque Universelle, tom. xii. p. 208-378,)
the other by Tillemont, Memoires Ecclesiastiques, tom. iv part i. p.

[Footnote 77: See the polite but severe epistle of the clergy of Rome to
the bishop of Carthage. (Cyprian. Epist. 8, 9.) Pontius labors with the
greatest care and diligence to justify his master against the general

[Footnote 78: In particular those of Dionysius of Alexandria, and
Gregory Thaumaturgus, of Neo-Caesarea. See Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. l.
vi. c. 40; and Memoires de Tillemont, tom. iv. part ii. p. 685.]

[Footnote 79: See Cyprian. Epist. 16, and his life by Pontius.]

[Footnote 80: We have an original life of Cyprian by the deacon Pontius,
the companion of his exile, and the spectator of his death; and we
likewise possess the ancient proconsular acts of his martyrdom. These
two relations are consistent with each other, and with probability; and
what is somewhat remarkable, they are both unsullied by any miraculous

Chapter XVI: Conduct Towards The Christians, From Nero To
Constantine.--Part IV.

When Valerian was consul for the third, and Gallienus for the fourth
time, Paternus, proconsul of Africa, summoned Cyprian to appear in
his private council-chamber. He there acquainted him with the Imperial
mandate which he had just received, [81] that those who had abandoned
the Roman religion should immediately return to the practice of the
ceremonies of their ancestors. Cyprian replied without hesitation, that
he was a Christian and a bishop, devoted to the worship of the true and
only Deity, to whom he offered up his daily supplications for the safety
and prosperity of the two emperors, his lawful sovereigns.

With modest confidence he pleaded the privilege of a citizen, in
refusing to give any answer to some invidious and indeed illegal
questions which the proconsul had proposed. A sentence of banishment
was pronounced as the penalty of Cyprian's disobedience; and he
was conducted without delay to Curubis, a free and maritime city of
Zeugitania, in a pleasant situation, a fertile territory, and at the
distance of about forty miles from Carthage. [82] The exiled bishop
enjoyed the conveniences of life and the consciousness of virtue.
His reputation was diffused over Africa and Italy; an account of his
behavior was published for the edification of the Christian world; [83]
and his solitude was frequently interrupted by the letters, the visits,
and the congratulations of the faithful. On the arrival of a new
proconsul in the province the fortune of Cyprian appeared for some time
to wear a still more favorable aspect. He was recalled from banishment;
and though not yet permitted to return to Carthage, his own gardens
in the neighborhood of the capital were assigned for the place of his
residence. [84]

[Footnote 81: It should seem that these were circular orders, sent at
the same time to all the governors. Dionysius (ap. Euseb. l. vii. c. 11)
relates the history of his own banishment from Alexandria almost in the
same manner. But as he escaped and survived the persecution, we must
account him either more or less fortunate than Cyprian.]

[Footnote 82: See Plin. Hist. Natur. v. 3. Cellarius, Geograph. Antiq.
part iii. p. 96. Shaw's Travels, p. 90; and for the adjacent country,
(which is terminated by Cape Bona, or the promontory of Mercury,)
l'Afrique de Marmol. tom. ii. p. 494. There are the remains of an
aqueduct near Curubis, or Curbis, at present altered into Gurbes; and
Dr. Shaw read an inscription, which styles that city Colonia Fulvia. The
deacon Pontius (in Vit. Cyprian. c. 12) calls it "Apricum et competentem
locum, hospitium pro voluntate secretum, et quicquid apponi eis ante
promissum est, qui regnum et justitiam Dei quaerunt."]

[Footnote 83: See Cyprian. Epistol. 77, edit. Fell.]

[Footnote 84: Upon his conversion, he had sold those gardens for the
benefit of the poor. The indulgence of God (most probably the liberality
of some Christian friend) restored them to Cyprian. See Pontius, c. 15.]

At length, exactly one year [85] after Cyprian was first apprehended,
Galerius Maximus, proconsul of Africa, received the Imperial warrant
for the execution of the Christian teachers. The bishop of Carthage was
sensible that he should be singled out for one of the first victims;
and the frailty of nature tempted him to withdraw himself, by a secret
flight, from the danger and the honor of martyrdom; [85a] but soon
recovering that fortitude which his character required, he returned to
his gardens, and patiently expected the ministers of death. Two officers
of rank, who were intrusted with that commission, placed Cyprian between
them in a chariot, and as the proconsul was not then at leisure, they
conducted him, not to a prison, but to a private house in Carthage,
which belonged to one of them. An elegant supper was provided for the
entertainment of the bishop, and his Christian friends were permitted
for the last time to enjoy his society, whilst the streets were filled
with a multitude of the faithful, anxious and alarmed at the approaching
fate of their spiritual father. [86] In the morning he appeared before
the tribunal of the proconsul, who, after informing himself of the name
and situation of Cyprian, commanded him to offer sacrifice, and pressed
him to reflect on the consequences of his disobedience. The refusal of
Cyprian was firm and decisive; and the magistrate, when he had taken the
opinion of his council, pronounced with some reluctance the sentence of
death. It was conceived in the following terms: "That Thascius Cyprianus
should be immediately beheaded, as the enemy of the gods of Rome, and as
the chief and ringleader of a criminal association, which he had seduced
into an impious resistance against the laws of the most holy emperors,
Valerian and Gallienus." [87] The manner of his execution was the
mildest and least painful that could be inflicted on a person convicted
of any capital offence; nor was the use of torture admitted to obtain
from the bishop of Carthage either the recantation of his principles or
the discovery of his accomplices.

[Footnote 85: When Cyprian; a twelvemonth before, was sent into exile,
he dreamt that he should be put to death the next day. The event made it
necessary to explain that word, as signifying a year. Pontius, c. 12.]

[Footnote 85a: This was not, as it appears, the motive which induced
St. Cyprian to conceal himself for a short time; he was threatened to be
carried to Utica; he preferred remaining at Carthage, in order to suffer
martyrdom in the midst of his flock, and in order that his death might
conduce to the edification of those whom he had guided during life.
Such, at least, is his own explanation of his conduct in one of his
letters: Cum perlatum ad nos fuisset, fratres carissimi, frumentarios
esse missos qui me Uticam per ducerent, consilioque carissimorum
persuasum est, ut de hortis interim recederemus, justa interveniente
causa, consensi; eo quod congruat episcopum in ea civitate, in qua
Ecclesiae dominicae praeest, illie. Dominum confiteri et plebem
universam praepositi praesentis confessione clarificari Ep. 83.--G]

[Footnote 86: Pontius (c. 15) acknowledges that Cyprian, with whom he
supped, passed the night custodia delicata. The bishop exercised a
last and very proper act of jurisdiction, by directing that the younger
females, who watched in the streets, should be removed from the dangers
and temptations of a nocturnal crowd. Act. Preconsularia, c. 2.]

[Footnote 87: See the original sentence in the Acts, c. 4; and in
Pontius, c. 17 The latter expresses it in a more rhetorical manner.]

As soon as the sentence was proclaimed, a general cry of "We will die
with him," arose at once among the listening multitude of Christians who
waited before the palace gates. The generous effusions of their zeal
and their affection were neither serviceable to Cyprian nor dangerous
to themselves. He was led away under a guard of tribunes and centurions,
without resistance and without insult, to the place of his execution,
a spacious and level plain near the city, which was already filled with
great numbers of spectators. His faithful presbyters and deacons were
permitted to accompany their holy bishop. [87a] They assisted him in
laying aside his upper garment, spread linen on the ground to catch
the precious relics of his blood, and received his orders to bestow
five-and-twenty pieces of gold on the executioner. The martyr then
covered his face with his hands, and at one blow his head was separated
from his body. His corpse remained during some hours exposed to
the curiosity of the Gentiles: but in the night it was removed, and
transported in a triumphal procession, and with a splendid illumination,
to the burial-place of the Christians. The funeral of Cyprian was
publicly celebrated without receiving any interruption from the Roman
magistrates; and those among the faithful, who had performed the last
offices to his person and his memory, were secure from the danger of
inquiry or of punishment. It is remarkable, that of so great a multitude
of bishops in the province of Africa, Cyprian was the first who was
esteemed worthy to obtain the crown of martyrdom. [88]

[Footnote 87a: There is nothing in the life of St. Cyprian, by Pontius,
nor in the ancient manuscripts, which can make us suppose that the
presbyters and deacons in their clerical character, and known to be
such, had the permission to attend their holy bishop. Setting aside all
religious considerations, it is impossible not to be surprised at the
kind of complaisance with which the historian here insists, in favor of
the persecutors, on some mitigating circumstances allowed at the
death of a man whose only crime was maintaining his own opinions with
frankness and courage.--G.]

[Footnote 88: Pontius, c. 19. M. de Tillemont (Memoires, tom. iv. part
i. p. 450, note 50) is not pleased with so positive an exclusion of any
former martyr of the episcopal rank. * Note: M. de. Tillemont, as an
honest writer, explains the difficulties which he felt about the text of
Pontius, and concludes by distinctly stating, that without doubt there
is some mistake, and that Pontius must have meant only Africa Minor
or Carthage; for St. Cyprian, in his 58th (69th) letter addressed
to Pupianus, speaks expressly of many bishops his colleagues, qui
proscripti sunt, vel apprehensi in carcere et catenis fuerunt; aut qui
in exilium relegati, illustri itinere ed Dominum profecti sunt; aut qui
quibusdam locis animadversi, coeleses coronas de Domini clarificatione

It was in the choice of Cyprian, either to die a martyr, or to live an
apostate; but on the choice depended the alternative of honor or infamy.
Could we suppose that the bishop of Carthage had employed the profession
of the Christian faith only as the instrument of his avarice or
ambition, it was still incumbent on him to support the character he
had assumed; [89] and if he possessed the smallest degree of manly
fortitude, rather to expose himself to the most cruel tortures, than
by a single act to exchange the reputation of a whole life, for the
abhorrence of his Christian brethren, and the contempt of the Gentile
world. But if the zeal of Cyprian was supported by the sincere
conviction of the truth of those doctrines which he preached, the crown
of martyrdom must have appeared to him as an object of desire rather
than of terror. It is not easy to extract any distinct ideas from the
vague though eloquent declamations of the Fathers, or to ascertain the
degree of immortal glory and happiness which they confidently promised
to those who were so fortunate as to shed their blood in the cause of
religion. [90] They inculcated with becoming diligence, that the fire of
martyrdom supplied every defect and expiated every sin; that while the
souls of ordinary Christians were obliged to pass through a slow
and painful purification, the triumphant sufferers entered into the
immediate fruition of eternal bliss, where, in the society of the
patriarchs, the apostles, and the prophets, they reigned with Christ,
and acted as his assessors in the universal judgment of mankind. The
assurance of a lasting reputation upon earth, a motive so congenial to
the vanity of human nature, often served to animate the courage of the

The honors which Rome or Athens bestowed on those citizens who
had fallen in the cause of their country, were cold and unmeaning
demonstrations of respect, when compared with the ardent gratitude and
devotion which the primitive church expressed towards the victorious
champions of the faith. The annual commemoration of their virtues and
sufferings was observed as a sacred ceremony, and at length terminated
in religious worship. Among the Christians who had publicly confessed
their religious principles, those who (as it very frequently happened)
had been dismissed from the tribunal or the prisons of the Pagan
magistrates, obtained such honors as were justly due to their imperfect
martyrdom and their generous resolution. The most pious females courted
the permission of imprinting kisses on the fetters which they had worn,
and on the wounds which they had received. Their persons were esteemed
holy, their decisions were admitted with deference, and they too often
abused, by their spiritual pride and licentious manners, the preeminence
which their zeal and intrepidity had acquired. [91] Distinctions like
these, whilst they display the exalted merit, betray the inconsiderable
number of those who suffered, and of those who died, for the profession
of Christianity.

[Footnote 89: Whatever opinion we may entertain of the character or
principles of Thomas Becket, we must acknowledge that he suffered
death with a constancy not unworthy of the primitive martyrs. See Lord
Lyttleton's History of Henry II. vol. ii. p. 592, &c.]

[Footnote 90: See in particular the treatise of Cyprian de Lapsis, p.
87-98, edit. Fell. The learning of Dodwell (Dissertat. Cyprianic. xii.
xiii.,) and the ingenuity of Middleton, (Free Inquiry, p. 162, &c.,)
have left scarcely any thing to add concerning the merit, the honors,
and the motives of the martyrs.]

[Footnote 91: Cyprian. Epistol. 5, 6, 7, 22, 24; and de Unitat.
Ecclesiae. The number of pretended martyrs has been very much
multiplied, by the custom which was introduced of bestowing that
honorable name on confessors. Note: M. Guizot denies that the letters
of Cyprian, to which he refers, bear out the statement in the text. I
cannot scruple to admit the accuracy of Gibbon's quotation. To take only
the fifth letter, we find this passage: Doleo enim quando audio quosdam
improbe et insolenter discurrere, et ad ineptian vel ad discordias
vacare, Christi membra et jam Christum confessa per concubitus illicitos
inquinari, nec a diaconis aut presbyteris regi posse, sed id agere ut
per paucorum pravos et malos mores, multorum et bonorum confessorum
gloria honesta maculetur. Gibbon's misrepresentation lies in the
ambiguous expression "too often." Were the epistles arranged in a
different manner in the edition consulted by M. Guizot?--M.]

The sober discretion of the present age will more readily censure than
admire, but can more easily admire than imitate, the fervor of the
first Christians, who, according to the lively expressions of
Sulpicius Severus, desired martyrdom with more eagerness than his own
contemporaries solicited a bishopric. [92] The epistles which Ignatius
composed as he was carried in chains through the cities of Asia, breathe
sentiments the most repugnant to the ordinary feelings of human nature.
He earnestly beseeches the Romans, that when he should be exposed in
the amphitheatre, they would not, by their kind but unseasonable
intercession, deprive him of the crown of glory; and he declares his
resolution to provoke and irritate the wild beasts which might be
employed as the instruments of his death. [93] Some stories are related
of the courage of martyrs, who actually performed what Ignatius had
intended; who exasperated the fury of the lions, pressed the executioner
to hasten his office, cheerfully leaped into the fires which were
kindled to consume them, and discovered a sensation of joy and pleasure
in the midst of the most exquisite tortures. Several examples have been
preserved of a zeal impatient of those restraints which the emperors
had provided for the security of the church. The Christians sometimes
supplied by their voluntary declaration the want of an accuser, rudely
disturbed the public service of paganism, [94] and rushing in crowds
round the tribunal of the magistrates, called upon them to pronounce and
to inflict the sentence of the law. The behavior of the Christians was
too remarkable to escape the notice of the ancient philosophers;
but they seem to have considered it with much less admiration than
astonishment. Incapable of conceiving the motives which sometimes
transported the fortitude of believers beyond the bounds of prudence or
reason, they treated such an eagerness to die as the strange result of
obstinate despair, of stupid insensibility, or of superstitious frenzy.
[95] "Unhappy men!" exclaimed the proconsul Antoninus to the Christians
of Asia; "unhappy men! if you are thus weary of your lives, is it so
difficult for you to find ropes and precipices?" [96] He was extremely
cautious (as it is observed by a learned and picus historian) of
punishing men who had found no accusers but themselves, the Imperial
laws not having made any provision for so unexpected a case: condemning
therefore a few as a warning to their brethren, he dismissed the
multitude with indignation and contempt. [97] Notwithstanding this
real or affected disdain, the intrepid constancy of the faithful was
productive of more salutary effects on those minds which nature or
grace had disposed for the easy reception of religious truth. On these
melancholy occasions, there were many among the Gentiles who pitied,
who admired, and who were converted. The generous enthusiasm was
communicated from the sufferer to the spectators; and the blood of
martyrs, according to a well-known observation, became the seed of the

[Footnote 92: Certatim gloriosa in certamina ruebatur; multique avidius
tum martyria gloriosis mortibus quaerebantur, quam nunc Episcopatus
pravis ambitionibus appetuntur. Sulpicius Severus, l. ii. He might have
omitted the word nunc.]

[Footnote 93: See Epist. ad Roman. c. 4, 5, ap. Patres Apostol. tom.
ii. p. 27. It suited the purpose of Bishop Pearson (see Vindiciae
Ignatianae, part ii. c. 9) to justify, by a profusion of examples and
authorities, the sentiments of Ignatius.]

[Footnote 94: The story of Polyeuctes, on which Corneille has founded
a very beautiful tragedy, is one of the most celebrated, though not
perhaps the most authentic, instances of this excessive zeal. We should
observe, that the 60th canon of the council of Illiberis refuses the
title of martyrs to those who exposed themselves to death, by publicly
destroying the idols.]

[Footnote 95: See Epictetus, l. iv. c. 7, (though there is some doubt
whether he alludes to the Christians.) Marcus Antoninus de Rebus suis,
l. xi. c. 3 Lucian in Peregrin.]

[Footnote 96: Tertullian ad Scapul. c. 5. The learned are divided
between three persons of the same name, who were all proconsuls of
Asia. I am inclined to ascribe this story to Antoninus Pius, who was
afterwards emperor; and who may have governed Asia under the reign of

[Footnote 97: Mosheim, de Rebus Christ, ante Constantin. p. 235.]

But although devotion had raised, and eloquence continued to inflame,
this fever of the mind, it insensibly gave way to the more natural hopes
and fears of the human heart, to the love of life, the apprehension
of pain, and the horror of dissolution. The more prudent rulers of the
church found themselves obliged to restrain the indiscreet ardor of
their followers, and to distrust a constancy which too often abandoned
them in the hour of trial. [98] As the lives of the faithful became less
mortified and austere, they were every day less ambitious of the honors
of martyrdom; and the soldiers of Christ, instead of distinguishing
themselves by voluntary deeds of heroism, frequently deserted their
post, and fled in confusion before the enemy whom it was their duty to
resist. There were three methods, however, of escaping the flames of
persecution, which were not attended with an equal degree of guilt:
first, indeed, was generally allowed to be innocent; the second was of
a doubtful, or at least of a venial, nature; but the third implied a
direct and criminal apostasy from the Christian faith.

[Footnote 98: See the Epistle of the Church of Smyrna, ap. Euseb. Hist.
Eccles. Liv. c. 15 * Note: The 15th chapter of the 10th book of the
Eccles. History of Eusebius treats principally of the martyrdom of St.
Polycarp, and mentions some other martyrs. A single example of weakness
is related; it is that of a Phrygian named Quintus, who, appalled at
the sight of the wild beasts and the tortures, renounced his faith. This
example proves little against the mass of Christians, and this chapter
of Eusebius furnished much stronger evidence of their courage than of
their timidity.--G----This Quintus had, however, rashly and of his own
accord appeared before the tribunal; and the church of Smyrna condemn
"his indiscreet ardor," coupled as it was with weakness in the hour of

I. A modern inquisitor would hear with surprise, that whenever an
information was given to a Roman magistrate of any person within his
jurisdiction who had embraced the sect of the Christians, the charge
was communicated to the party accused, and that a convenient time was
allowed him to settle his domestic concerns, and to prepare an answer to
the crime which was imputed to him. [99] If he entertained any doubt
of his own constancy, such a delay afforded him the opportunity of
preserving his life and honor by flight, of withdrawing himself into
some obscure retirement or some distant province, and of patiently
expecting the return of peace and security. A measure so consonant to
reason was soon authorized by the advice and example of the most
holy prelates; and seems to have been censured by few except by the
Montanists, who deviated into heresy by their strict and obstinate
adherence to the rigor of ancient discipline. [100]

II.The provincial governors, whose zeal was less prevalent than their
avarice, had countenanced the practice of selling certificates, (or
libels, as they were called,) which attested, that the persons therein
mentioned had complied with the laws, and sacrificed to the Roman
deities. By producing these false declarations, the opulent and timid
Christians were enabled to silence the malice of an informer, and to
reconcile in some measure their safety with their religion. A slight
penance atoned for this profane dissimulation. [101] [101a]

III. In every persecution there were great numbers of unworthy
Christians who publicly disowned or renounced the faith which they had
professed; and who confirmed the sincerity of their abjuration, by the
legal acts of burning incense or of offering sacrifices. Some of
these apostates had yielded on the first menace or exhortation of the
magistrate; whilst the patience of others had been subdued by the length
and repetition of tortures. The affrighted countenances of some betrayed
their inward remorse, while others advanced with confidence and alacrity
to the altars of the gods. [102] But the disguise which fear had
imposed, subsisted no longer than the present danger. As soon as the
severity of the persecution was abated, the doors of the churches were
assailed by the returning multitude of penitents who detested their
idolatrous submission, and who solicited with equal ardor, but with
various success, their readmission into the society of Christians. [103]

[Footnote 99: In the second apology of Justin, there is a particular
and very curious instance of this legal delay. The same indulgence was
granted to accused Christians, in the persecution of Decius: and Cyprian
(de Lapsis) expressly mentions the "Dies negantibus praestitutus." *
Note: The examples drawn by the historian from Justin Martyr and Cyprian
relate altogether to particular cases, and prove nothing as to the
general practice adopted towards the accused; it is evident, on the
contrary, from the same apology of St. Justin, that they hardly ever
obtained delay. "A man named Lucius, himself a Christian, present at an
unjust sentence passed against a Christian by the judge Urbicus, asked
him why he thus punished a man who was neither adulterer nor robber,
nor guilty of any other crime but that of avowing himself a Christian."
Urbicus answered only in these words: "Thou also hast the appearance
of being a Christian." "Yes, without doubt," replied Lucius. The judge
ordered that he should be put to death on the instant. A third, who came
up, was condemned to be beaten with rods. Here, then, are three examples
where no delay was granted.----[Surely these acts of a single passionate
and irritated judge prove the general practice as little as those quoted
by Gibbon.--M.] There exist a multitude of others, such as those of
Ptolemy, Marcellus, &c. Justin expressly charges the judges with
ordering the accused to be executed without hearing the cause. The words
of St. Cyprian are as particular, and simply say, that he had appointed
a day by which the Christians must have renounced their faith; those who
had not done it by that time were condemned.--G. This confirms the
statement in the text.--M.]

[Footnote 100: Tertullian considers flight from persecution as an
imperfect, but very criminal, apostasy, as an impious attempt to elude
the will of God, &c., &c. He has written a treatise on this subject,
(see p. 536--544, edit. Rigalt.,) which is filled with the wildest
fanaticism and the most incoherent declamation. It is, however, somewhat
remarkable, that Tertullian did not suffer martyrdom himself.]

[Footnote 101: The libellatici, who are chiefly known by the writings
of Cyprian, are described with the utmost precision, in the copious
commentary of Mosheim, p. 483--489.]

[Footnote 101a: The penance was not so slight, for it was exactly the
same with that of apostates who had sacrificed to idols; it lasted
several years. See Fleun Hist. Ecc. v. ii. p. 171.--G.]

[Footnote 102: Plin. Epist. x. 97. Dionysius Alexandrin. ap. Euseb.
l. vi. c. 41. Ad prima statim verba minantis inimici maximus fratrum
numerus fidem suam prodidit: nec prostratus est persecutionis impetu,
sed voluntario lapsu seipsum prostravit. Cyprian. Opera, p. 89. Among
these deserters were many priests, and even bishops.]

[Footnote 103: It was on this occasion that Cyprian wrote his treatise
De Lapsis, and many of his epistles. The controversy concerning the
treatment of penitent apostates, does not occur among the Christians of
the preceding century. Shall we ascribe this to the superiority of their
faith and courage, or to our less intimate knowledge of their history!]

[Footnote 103a: Pliny says, that the greater part of the Christians
persisted in avowing themselves to be so; the reason for his consulting
Trajan was the periclitantium numerus. Eusebius (l. vi. c. 41) does not
permit us to doubt that the number of those who renounced their faith
was infinitely below the number of those who boldly confessed it. The
prefect, he says and his assessors present at the council, were alarmed
at seeing the crowd of Christians; the judges themselves trembled.
Lastly, St. Cyprian informs us, that the greater part of those who had
appeared weak brethren in the persecution of Decius, signalized
their courage in that of Gallius. Steterunt fortes, et ipso dolore
poenitentiae facti ad praelium fortiores Epist. lx. p. 142.--G.]

IV. Notwithstanding the general rules established for the conviction
and punishment of the Christians, the fate of those sectaries, in an
extensive and arbitrary government, must still in a great measure, have
depended on their own behavior, the circumstances of the times, and
the temper of their supreme as well as subordinate rulers. Zeal might
sometimes provoke, and prudence might sometimes avert or assuage, the
superstitious fury of the Pagans. A variety of motives might dispose the
provincial governors either to enforce or to relax the execution of the
laws; and of these motives the most forcible was their regard not only
for the public edicts, but for the secret intentions of the emperor,
a glance from whose eye was sufficient to kindle or to extinguish
the flames of persecution. As often as any occasional severities were
exercised in the different parts of the empire, the primitive Christians
lamented and perhaps magnified their own sufferings; but the celebrated
number of ten persecutions has been determined by the ecclesiastical
writers of the fifth century, who possessed a more distinct view of the
prosperous or adverse fortunes of the church, from the age of Nero to
that of Diocletian. The ingenious parallels of the ten plagues of Egypt,
and of the ten horns of the Apocalypse, first suggested this calculation
to their minds; and in their application of the faith of prophecy to the
truth of history, they were careful to select those reigns which
were indeed the most hostile to the Christian cause. [104] But these
transient persecutions served only to revive the zeal and to restore the
discipline of the faithful; and the moments of extraordinary rigor
were compensated by much longer intervals of peace and security. The
indifference of some princes, and the indulgence of others, permitted
the Christians to enjoy, though not perhaps a legal, yet an actual and
public, toleration of their religion.

[Footnote 104: See Mosheim, p. 97. Sulpicius Severus was the first
author of this computation; though he seemed desirous of reserving the
tenth and greatest persecution for the coming of the Antichrist.]

Chapter XVI: Conduct Towards The Christians, From Nero To
Constantine.--Part V.

The apology of Tertullian contains two very ancient, very singular, but
at the same time very suspicious, instances of Imperial clemency; the
edicts published by Tiberius, and by Marcus Antoninus, and designed not
only to protect the innocence of the Christians, but even to proclaim
those stupendous miracles which had attested the truth of their
doctrine. The first of these examples is attended with some difficulties
which might perplex a sceptical mind. [105] We are required to believe,
that Pontius Pilate informed the emperor of the unjust sentence of death
which he had pronounced against an innocent, and, as it appeared,
a divine, person; and that, without acquiring the merit, he exposed
himself to the danger of martyrdom; that Tiberius, who avowed his
contempt for all religion, immediately conceived the design of placing
the Jewish Messiah among the gods of Rome; that his servile senate
ventured to disobey the commands of their master; that Tiberius, instead
of resenting their refusal, contented himself with protecting the
Christians from the severity of the laws, many years before such laws
were enacted, or before the church had assumed any distinct name or
existence; and lastly, that the memory of this extraordinary transaction
was preserved in the most public and authentic records, which escaped
the knowledge of the historians of Greece and Rome, and were only
visible to the eyes of an African Christian, who composed his apology
one hundred and sixty years after the death of Tiberius. The edict of
Marcus Antoninus is supposed to have been the effect of his devotion and
gratitude for the miraculous deliverance which he had obtained in the
Marcomannic war. The distress of the legions, the seasonable tempest of
rain and hail, of thunder and of lightning, and the dismay and defeat of
the barbarians, have been celebrated by the eloquence of several Pagan
writers. If there were any Christians in that army, it was natural that
they should ascribe some merit to the fervent prayers, which, in the
moment of danger, they had offered up for their own and the public
safety. But we are still assured by monuments of brass and marble, by
the Imperial medals, and by the Antonine column, that neither the prince
nor the people entertained any sense of this signal obligation, since
they unanimously attribute their deliverance to the providence of
Jupiter, and to the interposition of Mercury. During the whole course of
his reign, Marcus despised the Christians as a philosopher, and punished
them as a sovereign. [106] [106a]

[Footnote 105: The testimony given by Pontius Pilate is first mentioned
by Justin. The successive improvements which the story acquired (as
if has passed through the hands of Tertullian, Eusebius, Epiphanius,
Chrysostom, Orosius, Gregory of Tours, and the authors of the several
editions of the acts of Pilate) are very fairly stated by Dom Calmet
Dissertat. sur l'Ecriture, tom. iii. p. 651, &c.]

[Footnote 106: On this miracle, as it is commonly called, of the
thundering legion, see the admirable criticism of Mr. Moyle, in his
Works, vol. ii. p. 81--390.]

[Footnote 106a]: Gibbon, with this phrase, and that below, which admits
the injustice of Marcus, has dexterously glossed over one of the most
remarkable facts in the early Christian history, that the reign of the
wisest and most humane of the heathen emperors was the most fatal to the
Christians. Most writers have ascribed the persecutions under Marcus to
the latent bigotry of his character; Mosheim, to the influence of the
philosophic party; but the fact is admitted by all. A late writer (Mr.
Waddington, Hist. of the Church, p. 47) has not scrupled to assert, that
"this prince polluted every year of a long reign with innocent blood;"
but the causes as well as the date of the persecutions authorized or
permitted by Marcus are equally uncertain. Of the Asiatic edict recorded
by Melito. the date is unknown, nor is it quite clear that it was an
Imperial edict. If it was the act under which Polycarp suffered, his
martyrdom is placed by Ruinart in the sixth, by Mosheim in the ninth,
year of the reign of Marcus. The martyrs of Vienne and Lyons are
assigned by Dodwell to the seventh, by most writers to the seventeenth.
In fact, the commencement of the persecutions of the Christians appears
to synchronize exactly with the period of the breaking out of the
Marcomannic war, which seems to have alarmed the whole empire, and the
emperor himself, into a paroxysm of returning piety to their gods, of
which the Christians were the victims. See Jul, Capit. Script. Hist
August. p. 181, edit. 1661. It is remarkable that Tertullian (Apologet.
c. v.) distinctly asserts that Verus (M. Aurelius) issued no edicts
against the Christians, and almost positively exempts him from the
charge of persecution.--M. This remarkable synchronism, which explains
the persecutions under M Aurelius, is shown at length in Milman's
History of Christianity, book ii. v.--M. 1845.]

By a singular fatality, the hardships which they had endured under the
government of a virtuous prince, immediately ceased on the accession of
a tyrant; and as none except themselves had experienced the injustice
of Marcus, so they alone were protected by the lenity of Commodus. The
celebrated Marcia, the most favored of his concubines, and who at length
contrived the murder of her Imperial lover, entertained a singular
affection for the oppressed church; and though it was impossible that
she could reconcile the practice of vice with the precepts of the
gospel, she might hope to atone for the frailties of her sex and
profession by declaring herself the patroness of the Christians. [107]
Under the gracious protection of Marcia, they passed in safety the
thirteen years of a cruel tyranny; and when the empire was established
in the house of Severus, they formed a domestic but more honorable
connection with the new court. The emperor was persuaded, that in a
dangerous sickness, he had derived some benefit, either spiritual or
physical, from the holy oil, with which one of his slaves had anointed
him. He always treated with peculiar distinction several persons of
both sexes who had embraced the new religion. The nurse as well as the
preceptor of Caracalla were Christians; [107a] and if that young prince
ever betrayed a sentiment of humanity, it was occasioned by an
incident, which, however trifling, bore some relation to the cause of
Christianity. [108] Under the reign of Severus, the fury of the populace
was checked; the rigor of ancient laws was for some time suspended; and
the provincial governors were satisfied with receiving an annual present
from the churches within their jurisdiction, as the price, or as the
reward, of their moderation. [109] The controversy concerning the
precise time of the celebration of Easter, armed the bishops of Asia
and Italy against each other, and was considered as the most important
business of this period of leisure and tranquillity. [110] Nor was
the peace of the church interrupted, till the increasing numbers of
proselytes seem at length to have attracted the attention, and to
have alienated the mind of Severus. With the design of restraining the
progress of Christianity, he published an edict, which, though it was
designed to affect only the new converts, could not be carried into
strict execution, without exposing to danger and punishment the
most zealous of their teachers and missionaries. In this mitigated
persecution we may still discover the indulgent spirit of Rome and of
Polytheism, which so readily admitted every excuse in favor of those who
practised the religious ceremonies of their fathers. [111]

[Footnote 107: Dion Cassius, or rather his abbreviator Xiphilin, l.
lxxii. p. 1206. Mr. Moyle (p. 266) has explained the condition of the
church under the reign of Commodus.]

[Footnote 107a: The Jews and Christians contest the honor of having
furnished a nurse is the fratricide son of Severus Caracalla. Hist. of
Jews, iii. 158.--M.]

[Footnote 108: Compare the life of Caracalla in the Augustan History,
with the epistle of Tertullian to Scapula. Dr. Jortin (Remarks on
Ecclesiastical History, vol. ii. p. 5, &c.) considers the cure of
Severus by the means of holy oil, with a strong desire to convert it
into a miracle.]

[Footnote 109: Tertullian de Fuga, c. 13. The present was made during
the feast of the Saturnalia; and it is a matter of serious concern
to Tertullian, that the faithful should be confounded with the most
infamous professions which purchased the connivance of the government.]

[Footnote 110: Euseb. l. v. c. 23, 24. Mosheim, p. 435--447.]

[Footnote 111: Judaeos fieri sub gravi poena vetuit. Idem etiam de
Christianis sanxit. Hist. August. p. 70.]

But the laws which Severus had enacted soon expired with the authority
of that emperor; and the Christians, after this accidental tempest,
enjoyed a calm of thirty-eight years. [112] Till this period they had
usually held their assemblies in private houses and sequestered places.
They were now permitted to erect and consecrate convenient edifices for
the purpose of religious worship; [113] to purchase lands, even at Rome
itself, for the use of the community; and to conduct the elections of
their ecclesiastical ministers in so public, but at the same time in
so exemplary a manner, as to deserve the respectful attention of the
Gentiles. [114] This long repose of the church was accompanied with
dignity. The reigns of those princes who derived their extraction from
the Asiatic provinces, proved the most favorable to the Christians; the
eminent persons of the sect, instead of being reduced to implore the
protection of a slave or concubine, were admitted into the palace in the
honorable characters of priests and philosophers; and their mysterious
doctrines, which were already diffused among the people, insensibly
attracted the curiosity of their sovereign. When the empress Mammaea
passed through Antioch, she expressed a desire of conversing with the
celebrated Origen, the fame of whose piety and learning was spread over
the East. Origen obeyed so flattering an invitation, and though he
could not expect to succeed in the conversion of an artful and ambitious
woman, she listened with pleasure to his eloquent exhortations, and
honorably dismissed him to his retirement in Palestine. [115] The
sentiments of Mammaea were adopted by her son Alexander, and the
philosophic devotion of that emperor was marked by a singular but
injudicious regard for the Christian religion. In his domestic chapel he
placed the statues of Abraham, of Orpheus, of Apollonius, and of Christ,
as an honor justly due to those respectable sages who had instructed
mankind in the various modes of addressing their homage to the supreme
and universal Deity. [116] A purer faith, as well as worship, was openly
professed and practised among his household. Bishops, perhaps for the
first time, were seen at court; and, after the death of Alexander, when
the inhuman Maximin discharged his fury on the favorites and servants of
his unfortunate benefactor, a great number of Christians of every rank
and of both sexes, were involved in the promiscuous massacre, which, on
their account, has improperly received the name of Persecution. [117]

[Footnote 112: Sulpicius Severus, l. ii. p. 384. This computation
(allowing for a single exception) is confirmed by the history of
Eusebius, and by the writings of Cyprian.]

[Footnote 113: The antiquity of Christian churches is discussed by
Tillemont, (Memoires Ecclesiastiques, tom. iii. part ii. p. 68-72,)
and by Mr. Moyle, (vol. i. p. 378-398.) The former refers the first
construction of them to the peace of Alexander Severus; the latter, to
the peace of Gallienus.]

[Footnote 114: See the Augustan History, p. 130. The emperor Alexander
adopted their method of publicly proposing the names of those persons
who were candidates for ordination. It is true that the honor of this
practice is likewise attributed to the Jews.]

[Footnote 115: Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. l. vi. c. 21. Hieronym. de
Script. Eccles. c. 54. Mammaea was styled a holy and pious woman, both
by the Christians and the Pagans. From the former, therefore, it was
impossible that she should deserve that honorable epithet.]

[Footnote 116: See the Augustan History, p. 123. Mosheim (p. 465) seems
to refine too much on the domestic religion of Alexander. His design
of building a public temple to Christ, (Hist. August. p. 129,) and the
objection which was suggested either to him, or in similar circumstances
to Hadrian, appear to have no other foundation than an improbable
report, invented by the Christians, and credulously adopted by an
historian of the age of Constantine.]

[Footnote 117: Euseb. l. vi. c. 28. It may be presumed that the success
of the Christians had exasperated the increasing bigotry of the Pagans.
Dion Cassius, who composed his history under the former reign, had
most probably intended for the use of his master those counsels of
persecution, which he ascribes to a better age, and to and to the
favorite of Augustus. Concerning this oration of Maecenas, or rather of
Dion, I may refer to my own unbiased opinion, (vol. i. c. 1, note 25,)
and to the Abbe de la Bleterie (Memoires de l'Academie, tom. xxiv. p.
303 tom xxv. p. 432.) * Note: If this be the case, Dion Cassius must
have known the Christians they must have been the subject of his
particular attention, since the author supposes that he wished his
master to profit by these "counsels of persecution." How are we to
reconcile this necessary consequence with what Gibbon has said of the
ignorance of Dion Cassius even of the name of the Christians?
(c. xvi. n. 24.) (Gibbon speaks of Dion's silence, not of his
ignorance.--M) The supposition in this note is supported by no proof; it
is probable that Dion Cassius has often designated the Christians by the
name of Jews. See Dion Cassius, l. lxvii. c 14, lxviii. l--G. On this
point I should adopt the view of Gibbon rather than that of M Guizot.--M]

[Footnote 107a: It is with good reason that this massacre has been
called a persecution, for it lasted during the whole reign of Maximin,
as may be seen in Eusebius. (l. vi. c. 28.) Rufinus expressly confirms
it: Tribus annis a Maximino persecutione commota, in quibus finem et
persecutionis fecit et vitas Hist. l. vi. c. 19.--G.]

Notwithstanding the cruel disposition of Maximin, the effects of his
resentment against the Christians were of a very local and temporary
nature, and the pious Origen, who had been proscribed as a devoted
victim, was still reserved to convey the truths of the gospel to the ear
of monarchs. [118] He addressed several edifying letters to the emperor
Philip, to his wife, and to his mother; and as soon as that prince,
who was born in the neighborhood of Palestine, had usurped the Imperial
sceptre, the Christians acquired a friend and a protector. The public
and even partial favor of Philip towards the sectaries of the new
religion, and his constant reverence for the ministers of the church,
gave some color to the suspicion, which prevailed in his own times,
that the emperor himself was become a convert to the faith; [119] and
afforded some grounds for a fable which was afterwards invented, that he
had been purified by confession and penance from the guilt contracted
by the murder of his innocent predecessor. [120] The fall of Philip
introduced, with the change of masters, a new system of government, so
oppressive to the Christians, that their former condition, ever since
the time of Domitian, was represented as a state of perfect freedom and
security, if compared with the rigorous treatment which they experienced
under the short reign of Decius. [121] The virtues of that prince will
scarcely allow us to suspect that he was actuated by a mean resentment
against the favorites of his predecessor; and it is more reasonable to
believe, that in the prosecution of his general design to restore the
purity of Roman manners, he was desirous of delivering the empire from
what he condemned as a recent and criminal superstition. The bishops
of the most considerable cities were removed by exile or death: the
vigilance of the magistrates prevented the clergy of Rome during sixteen
months from proceeding to a new election; and it was the opinion of the
Christians, that the emperor would more patiently endure a competitor
for the purple, than a bishop in the capital. [122] Were it possible to
suppose that the penetration of Decius had discovered pride under the
disguise of humility, or that he could foresee the temporal dominion
which might insensibly arise from the claims of spiritual authority, we
might be less surprised, that he should consider the successors of St.
Peter, as the most formidable rivals to those of Augustus.

[Footnote 118: Orosius, l. vii. c. 19, mentions Origen as the object of
Maximin's resentment; and Firmilianus, a Cappadocian bishop of that age,
gives a just and confined idea of this persecution, (apud Cyprian Epist.

[Footnote 119: The mention of those princes who were publicly
supposed to be Christians, as we find it in an epistle of Dionysius of
Alexandria, (ap. Euseb. l. vii. c. 10,) evidently alludes to Philip and
his family, and forms a contemporary evidence, that such a report had
prevailed; but the Egyptian bishop, who lived at an humble distance
from the court of Rome, expresses himself with a becoming diffidence
concerning the truth of the fact. The epistles of Origen (which were
extant in the time of Eusebius, see l. vi. c. 36) would most probably
decide this curious rather than important question.]

[Footnote 120: Euseb. l. vi. c. 34. The story, as is usual, has
been embellished by succeeding writers, and is confuted, with much
superfluous learning, by Frederick Spanheim, (Opera Varia, tom. ii. p.
400, &c.)]

[Footnote 121: Lactantius, de Mortibus Persecutorum, c. 3, 4. After
celebrating the felicity and increase of the church, under a long
succession of good princes, he adds, "Extitit post annos plurimos,
execrabile animal, Decius, qui vexaret Ecclesiam."]

[Footnote 122: Euseb. l. vi. c. 39. Cyprian. Epistol. 55. The see
of Rome remained vacant from the martyrdom of Fabianus, the 20th of
January, A. D. 259, till the election of Cornelius, the 4th of June, A.
D. 251 Decius had probably left Rome, since he was killed before the end
of that year.]

The administration of Valerian was distinguished by a levity and
inconstancy ill suited to the gravity of the Roman Censor. In the first
part of his reign, he surpassed in clemency those princes who had been
suspected of an attachment to the Christian faith. In the last three
years and a half, listening to the insinuations of a minister addicted
to the superstitions of Egypt, he adopted the maxims, and imitated the
severity, of his predecessor Decius. [123] The accession of Gallienus,
which increased the calamities of the empire, restored peace to the
church; and the Christians obtained the free exercise of their religion
by an edict addressed to the bishops, and conceived in such terms as
seemed to acknowledge their office and public character. [124] The
ancient laws, without being formally repealed, were suffered to sink
into oblivion; and (excepting only some hostile intentions which are
attributed to the emperor Aurelian [125] the disciples of Christ passed
above forty years in a state of prosperity, far more dangerous to their
virtue than the severest trials of persecution.

[Footnote 123: Euseb. l. vii. c. 10. Mosheim (p. 548) has very clearly
shown that the praefect Macrianus, and the Egyptian Magus, are one and
the same person.]

[Footnote 124: Eusebius (l. vii. c. 13) gives us a Greek version of this
Latin edict, which seems to have been very concise. By another edict, he
directed that the Coemeteria should be restored to the Christians.]

[Footnote 125: Euseb. l. vii. c. 30. Lactantius de M. P. c. 6. Hieronym.
in Chron. p. 177. Orosius, l. vii. c. 23. Their language is in general
so ambiguous and incorrect, that we are at a loss to determine how far
Aurelian had carried his intentions before he was assassinated. Most of
the moderns (except Dodwell, Dissertat. Cyprian. vi. 64) have seized the
occasion of gaining a few extraordinary martyrs. * Note: Dr. Lardner
has detailed, with his usual impartiality, all that has come down to us
relating to the persecution of Aurelian, and concludes by saying,
"Upon more carefully examining the words of Eusebius, and observing the
accounts of other authors, learned men have generally, and, as I think,
very judiciously, determined, that Aurelian not only intended, but did
actually persecute: but his persecution was short, he having died soon
after the publication of his edicts." Heathen Test. c. xxxvi.--Basmage
positively pronounces the same opinion: Non intentatum modo, sed
executum quoque brevissimo tempore mandatum, nobis infixum est in
aniasis. Basn. Ann. 275, No. 2 and compare Pagi Ann. 272, Nos. 4, 12,

The story of Paul of Samosata, who filled the metropolitan see of
Antioch, while the East was in the hands of Odenathus and Zenobia, may
serve to illustrate the condition and character of the times. The wealth
of that prelate was a sufficient evidence of his guilt, since it was
neither derived from the inheritance of his fathers, nor acquired by the
arts of honest industry. But Paul considered the service of the church
as a very lucrative profession. [126] His ecclesiastical jurisdiction
was venal and rapacious; he extorted frequent contributions from
the most opulent of the faithful, and converted to his own use a
considerable part of the public revenue. By his pride and luxury, the
Christian religion was rendered odious in the eyes of the Gentiles. His
council chamber and his throne, the splendor with which he appeared in
public, the suppliant crowd who solicited his attention, the multitude
of letters and petitions to which he dictated his answers, and the
perpetual hurry of business in which he was involved, were circumstances
much better suited to the state of a civil magistrate, [127] than to the
humility of a primitive bishop. When he harangued his people from the
pulpit, Paul affected the figurative style and the theatrical gestures
of an Asiatic sophist, while the cathedral resounded with the loudest
and most extravagant acclamations in the praise of his divine eloquence.
Against those who resisted his power, or refused to flatter his vanity,
the prelate of Antioch was arrogant, rigid, and inexorable; but he
relaxed the discipline, and lavished the treasures of the church on
his dependent clergy, who were permitted to imitate their master in the
gratification of every sensual appetite. For Paul indulged himself
very freely in the pleasures of the table, and he had received into
the episcopal palace two young and beautiful women as the constant
companions of his leisure moments. [128]

[Footnote 126: Paul was better pleased with the title of Ducenarius,
than with that of bishop. The Ducenarius was an Imperial procurator, so
called from his salary of two hundred Sestertia, or 1600l. a year. (See
Salmatius ad Hist. August. p. 124.) Some critics suppose that the bishop
of Antioch had actually obtained such an office from Zenobia, while
others consider it only as a figurative expression of his pomp and

[Footnote 127: Simony was not unknown in those times; and the clergy
some times bought what they intended to sell. It appears that the
bishopric of Carthage was purchased by a wealthy matron, named Lucilla,
for her servant Majorinus. The price was 400 Folles. (Monument. Antiq.
ad calcem Optati, p. 263.) Every Follis contained 125 pieces of silver,
and the whole sum may be computed at about 2400l.]

[Footnote 128: If we are desirous of extenuating the vices of Paul, we
must suspect the assembled bishops of the East of publishing the most
malicious calumnies in circular epistles addressed to all the churches
of the empire, (ap. Euseb. l. vii. c. 30.)]

Notwithstanding these scandalous vices, if Paul of Samosata had
preserved the purity of the orthodox faith, his reign over the capital
of Syria would have ended only with his life; and had a seasonable
persecution intervened, an effort of courage might perhaps have placed
him in the rank of saints and martyrs. [128a]

Some nice and subtle errors, which he imprudently adopted and
obstinately maintained, concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, excited
the zeal and indignation of the Eastern churches. [129]

From Egypt to the Euxine Sea, the bishops were in arms and in
motion. Several councils were held, confutations were published,
excommunications were pronounced, ambiguous explanations were by turns
accepted and refused, treaties were concluded and violated, and at
length Paul of Samosata was degraded from his episcopal character,
by the sentence of seventy or eighty bishops, who assembled for that
purpose at Antioch, and who, without consulting the rights of the clergy
or people, appointed a successor by their own authority. The
manifest irregularity of this proceeding increased the numbers of the
discontented faction; and as Paul, who was no stranger to the arts of
courts, had insinuated himself into the favor of Zenobia, he maintained
above four years the possession of the episcopal house and office.
[129a] The victory of Aurelian changed the face of the East, and the two
contending parties, who applied to each other the epithets of schism and
heresy, were either commanded or permitted to plead their cause before
the tribunal of the conqueror. This public and very singular trial
affords a convincing proof that the existence, the property,
the privileges, and the internal policy of the Christians, were
acknowledged, if not by the laws, at least by the magistrates, of the
empire. As a Pagan and as a soldier, it could scarcely be expected that
Aurelian should enter into the discussion, whether the sentiments
of Paul or those of his adversaries were most agreeable to the true
standard of the orthodox faith. His determination, however, was founded
on the general principles of equity and reason. He considered the
bishops of Italy as the most impartial and respectable judges among the
Christians, and as soon as he was informed that they had unanimously
approved the sentence of the council, he acquiesced in their opinion,
and immediately gave orders that Paul should be compelled to relinquish
the temporal possessions belonging to an office, of which, in the
judgment of his brethren, he had been regularly deprived. But while we
applaud the justice, we should not overlook the policy, of Aurelian, who
was desirous of restoring and cementing the dependence of the provinces
on the capital, by every means which could bind the interest or
prejudices of any part of his subjects. [130]

[Footnote 128a: It appears, nevertheless, that the vices and
immoralities of Paul of Samosata had much weight in the sentence
pronounced against him by the bishops. The object of the letter,
addressed by the synod to the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, was to
inform them of the change in the faith of Paul, the altercations and
discussions to which it had given rise, as well as of his morals and the
whole of his conduct. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. l. vii c. xxx--G.]

[Footnote 129: His heresy (like those of Noetus and Sabellius, in the
same century) tended to confound the mysterious distinction of the
divine persons. See Mosheim, p. 702, &c.]

[Footnote 129a: "Her favorite, (Zenobia's,) Paul of Samosata, seems to
have entertained some views of attempting a union between Judaism and
Christianity; both parties rejected the unnatural alliance." Hist.
of Jews, iii. 175, and Jost. Geschichte der Israeliter, iv. 167. The
protection of the severe Zenobia is the only circumstance which may
raise a doubt of the notorious immorality of Paul.--M.]

[Footnote 130: Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. l. vii. c. 30. We are entirely
indebted to him for the curious story of Paul of Samosata.]

Amidst the frequent revolutions of the empire, the Christians still
flourished in peace and prosperity; and notwithstanding a celebrated
aera of martyrs has been deduced from the accession of Diocletian, [131]
the new system of policy, introduced and maintained by the wisdom of
that prince, continued, during more than eighteen years, to breathe the
mildest and most liberal spirit of religious toleration. The mind of
Diocletian himself was less adapted indeed to speculative inquiries,
than to the active labors of war and government. His prudence rendered
him averse to any great innovation, and though his temper was not very
susceptible of zeal or enthusiasm, he always maintained an habitual
regard for the ancient deities of the empire. But the leisure of the two
empresses, of his wife Prisca, and of Valeria, his daughter, permitted
them to listen with more attention and respect to the truths of
Christianity, which in every age has acknowledged its important
obligations to female devotion. [132] The principal eunuchs, Lucian
[133] and Dorotheus, Gorgonius and Andrew, who attended the person,
possessed the favor, and governed the household of Diocletian, protected
by their powerful influence the faith which they had embraced. Their
example was imitated by many of the most considerable officers of the
palace, who, in their respective stations, had the care of the Imperial
ornaments, of the robes, of the furniture, of the jewels, and even of
the private treasury; and, though it might sometimes be incumbent on
them to accompany the emperor when he sacrificed in the temple, [134]
they enjoyed, with their wives, their children, and their slaves, the
free exercise of the Christian religion. Diocletian and his colleagues
frequently conferred the most important offices on those persons
who avowed their abhorrence for the worship of the gods, but who had
displayed abilities proper for the service of the state. The bishops
held an honorable rank in their respective provinces, and were treated
with distinction and respect, not only by the people, but by the
magistrates themselves. Almost in every city, the ancient churches were
found insufficient to contain the increasing multitude of proselytes;
and in their place more stately and capacious edifices were erected
for the public worship of the faithful. The corruption of manners and
principles, so forcibly lamented by Eusebius, [135] may be considered,
not only as a consequence, but as a proof, of the liberty which the
Christians enjoyed and abused under the reign of Diocletian. Prosperity
had relaxed the nerves of discipline. Fraud, envy, and malice prevailed
in every congregation. The presbyters aspired to the episcopal office,
which every day became an object more worthy of their ambition. The
bishops, who contended with each other for ecclesiastical preeminence,
appeared by their conduct to claim a secular and tyrannical power in the
church; and the lively faith which still distinguished the Christians
from the Gentiles, was shown much less in their lives, than in their
controversial writings.

[Footnote 131: The Aera of Martyrs, which is still in use among the
Copts and the Abyssinians, must be reckoned from the 29th of August, A.
D. 284; as the beginning of the Egyptian year was nineteen days earlier
than the real accession of Diocletian. See Dissertation Preliminaire a
l'Art de verifier les Dates. * Note: On the aera of martyrs see the
very curious dissertations of Mons Letronne on some recently discovered
inscriptions in Egypt and Nubis, p. 102, &c.--M.]

[Footnote 132: The expression of Lactantius, (de M. P. c. 15,)
"sacrificio pollui coegit," implies their antecedent conversion to the
faith, but does not seem to justify the assertion of Mosheim, (p. 912,)
that they had been privately baptized.]

[Footnote 133: M. de Tillemont (Memoires Ecclesiastiques, tom. v. part
i. p. 11, 12) has quoted from the Spicilegium of Dom Luc d'Archeri a
very curious instruction which Bishop Theonas composed for the use of

[Footnote 134: Lactantius, de M. P. c. 10.]

[Footnote 135: Eusebius, Hist. Ecclesiast. l. viii. c. 1. The reader
who consults the original will not accuse me of heightening the picture.
Eusebius was about sixteen years of age at the accession of the emperor

Notwithstanding this seeming security, an attentive observer might
discern some symptoms that threatened the church with a more violent
persecution than any which she had yet endured. The zeal and rapid
progress of the Christians awakened the Polytheists from their supine
indifference in the cause of those deities, whom custom and education
had taught them to revere. The mutual provocations of a religious war,
which had already continued above two hundred years, exasperated the
animosity of the contending parties. The Pagans were incensed at the
rashness of a recent and obscure sect, which presumed to accuse their
countrymen of error, and to devote their ancestors to eternal misery.
The habits of justifying the popular mythology against the invectives
of an implacable enemy, produced in their minds some sentiments of faith
and reverence for a system which they had been accustomed to consider
with the most careless levity. The supernatural powers assumed by the
church inspired at the same time terror and emulation. The followers
of the established religion intrenched themselves behind a similar
fortification of prodigies; invented new modes of sacrifice, of
expiation, and of initiation; [136] attempted to revive the credit of
their expiring oracles; [137] and listened with eager credulity to every
impostor, who flattered their prejudices by a tale of wonders. [138]
Both parties seemed to acknowledge the truth of those miracles which
were claimed by their adversaries; and while they were contented with
ascribing them to the arts of magic, and to the power of daemons,
they mutually concurred in restoring and establishing the reign of
superstition. [139] Philosophy, her most dangerous enemy, was now
converted into her most useful ally. The groves of the academy, the
gardens of Epicurus, and even the portico of the Stoics, were almost
deserted, as so many different schools of scepticism or impiety; [140]
and many among the Romans were desirous that the writings of Cicero
should be condemned and suppressed by the authority of the senate. [141]
The prevailing sect of the new Platonicians judged it prudent to connect
themselves with the priests, whom perhaps they despised, against the
Christians, whom they had reason to fear. These fashionable Philosophers
prosecuted the design of extracting allegorical wisdom from the fictions
of the Greek poets; instituted mysterious rites of devotion for the use
of their chosen disciples; recommended the worship of the ancient gods
as the emblems or ministers of the Supreme Deity, and composed against
the faith of the gospel many elaborate treatises, [142] which have since
been committed to the flames by the prudence of orthodox emperors. [143]

[Footnote 136: We might quote, among a great number of instances, the
mysterious worship of Mythras, and the Taurobolia; the latter of which
became fashionable in the time of the Antonines, (see a Dissertation of
M. de Boze, in the Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. ii.
p. 443.) The romance of Apuleius is as full of devotion as of satire. *
Note: On the extraordinary progress of the Mahriac rites, in the West,
see De Guigniaud's translation of Creuzer, vol. i. p. 365, and Note 9,
tom. i. part 2, p. 738, &c.--M.]

[Footnote 137: The impostor Alexander very strongly recommended the
oracle of Trophonius at Mallos, and those of Apollo at Claros and
Miletus, (Lucian, tom. ii. p. 236, edit. Reitz.) The last of these,
whose singular history would furnish a very curious episode, was
consulted by Diocletian before he published his edicts of persecution,
(Lactantius, de M. P. c. 11.)]

[Footnote 138: Besides the ancient stories of Pythagoras and Aristeas,
the cures performed at the shrine of Aesculapius, and the fables related
of Apollonius of Tyana, were frequently opposed to the miracles of
Christ; though I agree with Dr. Lardner, (see Testimonies, vol. iii. p.
253, 352,) that when Philostratus composed the life of Apollonius, he
had no such intention.]

[Footnote 139: It is seriously to be lamented, that the Christian
fathers, by acknowledging the supernatural, or, as they deem it, the
infernal part of Paganism, destroy with their own hands the great
advantage which we might otherwise derive from the liberal concessions
of our adversaries.]

[Footnote 140: Julian (p. 301, edit. Spanheim) expresses a pious joy,
that the providence of the gods had extinguished the impious sects,
and for the most part destroyed the books of the Pyrrhonians and
Epicuraeans, which had been very numerous, since Epicurus himself
composed no less than 300 volumes. See Diogenes Laertius, l. x. c. 26.]

[Footnote 141: Cumque alios audiam mussitare indignanter, et dicere
opportere statui per Senatum, aboleantur ut haec scripta, quibus
Christiana Religio comprobetur, et vetustatis opprimatur auctoritas.
Arnobius adversus Gentes, l. iii. p. 103, 104. He adds very properly,
Erroris convincite Ciceronem... nam intercipere scripta, et publicatam
velle submergere lectionem, non est Deum defendere sed veritatis
testificationem timere.]

[Footnote 142: Lactantius (Divin. Institut. l. v. c. 2, 3) gives a very
clear and spirited account of two of these philosophic adversaries
of the faith. The large treatise of Porphyry against the Christians
consisted of thirty books, and was composed in Sicily about the year

[Footnote 143: See Socrates, Hist. Ecclesiast. l. i. c. 9, and Codex
Justinian. l. i. i. l. s.]

Chapter XVI: Conduct Towards The Christians, From Nero To
Constantine.--Part VI.

Although the policy of Diocletian and the humanity of Constantius
inclined them to preserve inviolate the maxims of toleration, it was
soon discovered that their two associates, Maximian and Galerius,
entertained the most implacable aversion for the name and religion of
the Christians. The minds of those princes had never been enlightened
by science; education had never softened their temper. They owed their
greatness to their swords, and in their most elevated fortune they still
retained their superstitious prejudices of soldiers and peasants. In the
general administration of the provinces they obeyed the laws which
their benefactor had established; but they frequently found occasions of
exercising within their camp and palaces a secret persecution, [144] for
which the imprudent zeal of the Christians sometimes offered the most
specious pretences. A sentence of death was executed upon Maximilianus,
an African youth, who had been produced by his own father [144a] before
the magistrate as a sufficient and legal recruit, but who obstinately
persisted in declaring, that his conscience would not permit him to
embrace the profession of a soldier. [145] It could scarcely be expected
that any government should suffer the action of Marcellus the Centurion
to pass with impunity. On the day of a public festival, that officer
threw away his belt, his arms, and the ensigns of his office, and
exclaimed with a loud voice, that he would obey none but Jesus Christ
the eternal King, and that he renounced forever the use of carnal
weapons, and the service of an idolatrous master. The soldiers, as
soon as they recovered from their astonishment, secured the person of
Marcellus. He was examined in the city of Tingi by the president of that
part of Mauritania; and as he was convicted by his own confession, he
was condemned and beheaded for the crime of desertion. [146] Examples of
such a nature savor much less of religious persecution than of martial
or even civil law; but they served to alienate the mind of the emperors,
to justify the severity of Galerius, who dismissed a great number of
Christian officers from their employments; and to authorize the opinion,
that a sect of enthusiastics, which avowed principles so repugnant to
the public safety, must either remain useless, or would soon become
dangerous, subjects of the empire.

[Footnote 144: Eusebius, l. viii. c. 4, c. 17. He limits the number of
military martyrs, by a remarkable expression, of which neither his Latin
nor French translator have rendered the energy. Notwithstanding the
authority of Eusebius, and the silence of Lactantius, Ambrose,
Sulpicius, Orosius, &c., it has been long believed, that the Thebaean
legion, consisting of 6000 Christians, suffered martyrdom by the order
of Maximian, in the valley of the Pennine Alps. The story was first
published about the middle of the 5th century, by Eucherius, bishop of
Lyons, who received it from certain persons, who received it from Isaac,
bishop of Geneva, who is said to have received it from Theodore, bishop
of Octodurum. The abbey of St. Maurice still subsists, a rich monument
of the credulity of Sigismund, king of Burgundy. See an excellent
Dissertation in xxxvith volume of the Bibliotheque Raisonnee,
p. 427-454.]

[Footnote 144a: M. Guizot criticizes Gibbon's account of this incident.
He supposes that Maximilian was not "produced by his father as a
recruit," but was obliged to appear by the law, which compelled the sons
of soldiers to serve at 21 years old. Was not this a law of Constantine?
Neither does this circumstance appear in the acts. His father had
clearly expected him to serve, as he had bought him a new dress for the
occasion; yet he refused to force the conscience of his son. and when
Maximilian was condemned to death, the father returned home in joy,
blessing God for having bestowed upon him such a son.--M.]

[Footnote 145: See the Acta Sincera, p. 299. The accounts of his
martyrdom and that of Marcellus, bear every mark of truth and

[Footnote 146: Acta Sincera, p. 302. * Note: M. Guizot here justly
observes, that it was the necessity of sacrificing to the gods, which
induced Marcellus to act in this manner.--M.]

After the success of the Persian war had raised the hopes and the
reputation of Galerius, he passed a winter with Diocletian in the palace
of Nicomedia; and the fate of Christianity became the object of their
secret consultations. [147] The experienced emperor was still inclined
to pursue measures of lenity; and though he readily consented to exclude
the Christians from holding any employments in the household or the
army, he urged in the strongest terms the danger as well as cruelty
of shedding the blood of those deluded fanatics. Galerius at length
extorted [147a] from him the permission of summoning a council, composed
of a few persons the most distinguished in the civil and military
departments of the state.

The important question was agitated in their presence, and those
ambitious courtiers easily discerned, that it was incumbent on them to
second, by their eloquence, the importunate violence of the Caesar. It
may be presumed, that they insisted on every topic which might
interest the pride, the piety, or the fears, of their sovereign in the
destruction of Christianity. Perhaps they represented, that the glorious
work of the deliverance of the empire was left imperfect, as long as an
independent people was permitted to subsist and multiply in the heart
of the provinces. The Christians, (it might specially be alleged,)
renouncing the gods and the institutions of Rome, had constituted a
distinct republic, which might yet be suppressed before it had acquired
any military force; but which was already governed by its own laws and
magistrates, was possessed of a public treasure, and was intimately
connected in all its parts by the frequent assemblies of the bishops,
to whose decrees their numerous and opulent congregations yielded an
implicit obedience. Arguments like these may seem to have determined the
reluctant mind of Diocletian to embrace a new system of persecution;
but though we may suspect, it is not in our power to relate, the secret
intrigues of the palace, the private views and resentments, the jealousy
of women or eunuchs, and all those trifling but decisive causes which
so often influence the fate of empires, and the councils of the wisest
monarchs. [148]

[Footnote 147: De M. P. c. 11. Lactantius (or whoever was the author of
this little treatise) was, at that time, an inhabitant of Nicomedia;
but it seems difficult to conceive how he could acquire so accurate a
knowledge of what passed in the Imperial cabinet. Note: * Lactantius,
who was subsequently chosen by Constantine to educate Crispus, might
easily have learned these details from Constantine himself, already of
sufficient age to interest himself in the affairs of the government,
and in a position to obtain the best information.--G. This assumes the
doubtful point of the authorship of the Treatise.--M.]

[Footnote 147a: This permission was not extorted from Diocletian; he
took the step of his own accord. Lactantius says, in truth, Nec tamen
deflectere potuit (Diocletianus) praecipitis hominis insaniam; placuit
ergo amicorum sententiam experiri. (De Mort. Pers. c. 11.) But this
measure was in accordance with the artificial character of Diocletian,
who wished to have the appearance of doing good by his own impulse and
evil by the impulse of others. Nam erat hujus malitiae, cum bonum quid
facere decrevisse sine consilio faciebat, ut ipse laudaretur. Cum autem
malum. quoniam id reprehendendum sciebat, in consilium multos advocabat,
ut alioram culpao adscriberetur quicquid ipse deliquerat. Lact. ib.
Eutropius says likewise, Miratus callide fuit, sagax praeterea et
admodum subtilis ingenio, et qui severitatem suam aliena invidia vellet
explere. Eutrop. ix. c. 26.--G.----The manner in which the coarse and
unfriendly pencil of the author of the Treatise de Mort. Pers. has drawn
the character of Diocletian, seems inconsistent with this profound
subtilty. Many readers will perhaps agree with Gibbon.--M.]

[Footnote 148: The only circumstance which we can discover, is the
devotion and jealousy of the mother of Galerius. She is described by
Lactantius, as Deorum montium cultrix; mulier admodum superstitiosa. She
had a great influence over her son, and was offended by the disregard of
some of her Christian servants. * Note: This disregard consisted in the
Christians fasting and praying instead of participating in the
banquets and sacrifices which she celebrated with the Pagans. Dapibus
sacrificabat poene quotidie ac vicariis suis epulis exhibebat.
Christiani abstinebant, et illa cum gentibus epulante, jejuniis hi
et oratiomibus insisteban; hine concepit odium Lact de Hist. Pers. c.

The pleasure of the emperors was at length signified to the Christians,
who, during the course of this melancholy winter, had expected, with
anxiety, the result of so many secret consultations. The twenty-third
of February, which coincided with the Roman festival of the Terminalia,
[149] was appointed (whether from accident or design) to set bounds
to the progress of Christianity. At the earliest dawn of day, the
Praetorian praefect, [150] accompanied by several generals, tribunes,
and officers of the revenue, repaired to the principal church of
Nicomedia, which was situated on an eminence in the most populous and
beautiful part of the city. The doors were instantly broke open; they
rushed into the sanctuary; and as they searched in vain for some
visible object of worship, they were obliged to content themselves
with committing to the flames the volumes of the holy Scripture. The
ministers of Diocletian were followed by a numerous body of guards and
pioneers, who marched in order of battle, and were provided with all
the instruments used in the destruction of fortified cities. By their
incessant labor, a sacred edifice, which towered above the Imperial
palace, and had long excited the indignation and envy of the Gentiles,
was in a few hours levelled with the ground. [151]

[Footnote 149: The worship and festival of the god Terminus
are elegantly illustrated by M. de Boze, Mem. de l'Academie des
Inscriptions, tom. i. p. 50.]

[Footnote 150: In our only MS. of Lactantius, we read profectus; but
reason, and the authority of all the critics, allow us, instead of
that word, which destroys the sense of the passage, to substitute

[Footnote 151: Lactantius, de M. P. c. 12, gives a very lively picture
of the destruction of the church.]

The next day the general edict of persecution was published; [152] and
though Diocletian, still averse to the effusion of blood, had moderated
the fury of Galerius, who proposed, that every one refusing to offer
sacrifice should immediately be burnt alive, the penalties inflicted on
the obstinacy of the Christians might be deemed sufficiently rigorous
and effectual. It was enacted, that their churches, in all the provinces
of the empire, should be demolished to their foundations; and the
punishment of death was denounced against all who should presume to
hold any secret assemblies for the purpose of religious worship. The
philosophers, who now assumed the unworthy office of directing the blind
zeal of persecution, had diligently studied the nature and genius of the
Christian religion; and as they were not ignorant that the speculative
doctrines of the faith were supposed to be contained in the writings
of the prophets, of the evangelists, and of the apostles, they most
probably suggested the order, that the bishops and presbyters should
deliver all their sacred books into the hands of the magistrates; who
were commanded, under the severest penalties, to burn them in a public
and solemn manner. By the same edict, the property of the church was at
once confiscated; and the several parts of which it might consist
were either sold to the highest bidder, united to the Imperial domain,
bestowed on the cities and corporations, or granted to the solicitations
of rapacious courtiers. After taking such effectual measures to abolish
the worship, and to dissolve the government of the Christians, it was
thought necessary to subject to the most intolerable hardships the
condition of those perverse individuals who should still reject the
religion of nature, of Rome, and of their ancestors. Persons of
a liberal birth were declared incapable of holding any honors or
employments; slaves were forever deprived of the hopes of freedom, and
the whole body of the people were put out of the protection of the law.
The judges were authorized to hear and to determine every action that
was brought against a Christian. But the Christians were not permitted
to complain of any injury which they themselves had suffered; and thus
those unfortunate sectaries were exposed to the severity, while they
were excluded from the benefits, of public justice. This new species of
martyrdom, so painful and lingering, so obscure and ignominious, was,
perhaps, the most proper to weary the constancy of the faithful: nor can
it be doubted that the passions and interest of mankind were disposed on
this occasion to second the designs of the emperors. But the policy of a
well-ordered government must sometimes have interposed in behalf of the
oppressed Christians; [152a] nor was it possible for the Roman princes
entirely to remove the apprehension of punishment, or to connive at
every act of fraud and violence, without exposing their own authority
and the rest of their subjects to the most alarming dangers. [153]

[Footnote 152: Mosheim, (p. 922--926,) from man scattered passages of
Lactantius and Eusebius, has collected a very just and accurate
notion of this edict though he sometimes deviates into conjecture and

[Footnote 152a: This wants proof. The edict of Diocletian was executed
in all its right during the rest of his reign. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. l
viii. c. 13.--G.]

[Footnote 153: Many ages afterwards, Edward J. practised, with great
success, the same mode of persecution against the clergy of England. See
Hume's History of England, vol. ii. p. 300, last 4to edition.]

This edict was scarcely exhibited to the public view, in the most
conspicuous place of Nicomedia, before it was torn down by the hands
of a Christian, who expressed at the same time, by the bitterest
invectives, his contempt as well as abhorrence for such impious and
tyrannical governors. His offence, according to the mildest laws,
amounted to treason, and deserved death. And if it be true that he was
a person of rank and education, those circumstances could serve only to
aggravate his guilt. He was burnt, or rather roasted, by a slow fire;
and his executioners, zealous to revenge the personal insult which had
been offered to the emperors, exhausted every refinement of cruelty,
without being able to subdue his patience, or to alter the steady and
insulting smile which in his dying agonies he still preserved in his
countenance. The Christians, though they confessed that his conduct
had not been strictly conformable to the laws of prudence, admired the
divine fervor of his zeal; and the excessive commendations which they
lavished on the memory of their hero and martyr, contributed to fix a
deep impression of terror and hatred in the mind of Diocletian. [154]

[Footnote 154: Lactantius only calls him quidam, et si non recte,
magno tamer animo, &c., c. 12. Eusebius (l. viii. c. 5) adorns him with
secular honora Neither have condescended to mention his name; but the
Greeks celebrate his memory under that of John. See Tillemont, Memones
Ecclesiastiques, tom. v. part ii. p. 320.]

His fears were soon alarmed by the view of a danger from which he very
narrowly escaped. Within fifteen days the palace of Nicomedia, and even
the bed-chamber of Diocletian, were twice in flames; and though both
times they were extinguished without any material damage, the singular
repetition of the fire was justly considered as an evident proof that it
had not been the effect of chance or negligence. The suspicion naturally
fell on the Christians; and it was suggested, with some degree of
probability, that those desperate fanatics, provoked by their present
sufferings, and apprehensive of impending calamities, had entered into
a conspiracy with their faithful brethren, the eunuchs of the
palace, against the lives of two emperors, whom they detested as the
irreconcilable enemies of the church of God.

Jealousy and resentment prevailed in every breast, but especially in
that of Diocletian. A great number of persons, distinguished either
by the offices which they had filled, or by the favor which they had
enjoyed, were thrown into prison. Every mode of torture was put in
practice, and the court, as well as city, was polluted with many bloody
executions. [155] But as it was found impossible to extort any discovery
of this mysterious transaction, it seems incumbent on us either to
presume the innocence, or to admire the resolution, of the sufferers.
A few days afterwards Galerius hastily withdrew himself from Nicomedia,
declaring, that if he delayed his departure from that devoted palace, he
should fall a sacrifice to the rage of the Christians.

The ecclesiastical historians, from whom alone we derive a partial and
imperfect knowledge of this persecution, are at a loss how to account
for the fears and dangers of the emperors. Two of these writers, a
prince and a rhetorician, were eye-witnesses of the fire of Nicomedia.
The one ascribes it to lightning, and the divine wrath; the other
affirms, that it was kindled by the malice of Galerius himself. [156]

[Footnote 155: Lactantius de M. P. c. 13, 14. Potentissimi quondam
Eunuchi necati, per quos Palatium et ipse constabat. Eusebius (l.
viii. c. 6) mentions the cruel executions of the eunuchs, Gorgonius and
Dorotheus, and of Anthimius, bishop of Nicomedia; and both those writers
describe, in a vague but tragical manner, the horrid scenes which were
acted even in the Imperial presence.]

[Footnote 156: See Lactantius, Eusebius, and Constantine, ad Coetum
Sanctorum, c. xxv. Eusebius confesses his ignorance of the cause of this
fire. Note: As the history of these times affords us no example of any
attempts made by the Christians against their persecutors, we have no
reason, not the slightest probability, to attribute to them the fire in
the palace; and the authority of Constantine and Lactantius remains to
explain it. M. de Tillemont has shown how they can be reconciled.
Hist. des Empereurs, Vie de Diocletian, xix.--G. Had it been done by a
Christian, it would probably have been a fanatic, who would have avowed
and gloried in it. Tillemont's supposition that the fire was first
caused by lightning, and fed and increased by the malice of Galerius,
seems singularly improbable.--M.]

As the edict against the Christians was designed for a general law of
the whole empire, and as Diocletian and Galerius, though they might not
wait for the consent, were assured of the concurrence, of the Western
princes, it would appear more consonant to our ideas of policy, that the
governors of all the provinces should have received secret instructions
to publish, on one and the same day, this declaration of war within
their respective departments. It was at least to be expected, that the
convenience of the public highways and established posts would have
enabled the emperors to transmit their orders with the utmost despatch
from the palace of Nicomedia to the extremities of the Roman world; and
that they would not have suffered fifty days to elapse, before the edict
was published in Syria, and near four months before it was signified to
the cities of Africa. [157]

This delay may perhaps be imputed to the cautious temper of Diocletian,
who had yielded a reluctant consent to the measures of persecution, and
who was desirous of trying the experiment under his more immediate
eye, before he gave way to the disorders and discontent which it must
inevitably occasion in the distant provinces. At first, indeed, the
magistrates were restrained from the effusion of blood; but the use of
every other severity was permitted, and even recommended to their zeal;
nor could the Christians, though they cheerfully resigned the ornaments
of their churches, resolve to interrupt their religious assemblies,
or to deliver their sacred books to the flames. The pious obstinacy of
Felix, an African bishop, appears to have embarrassed the subordinate
ministers of the government. The curator of his city sent him in chains
to the proconsul. The proconsul transmitted him to the Praetorian
praefect of Italy; and Felix, who disdained even to give an evasive
answer, was at length beheaded at Venusia, in Lucania, a place on
which the birth of Horace has conferred fame. [158] This precedent, and
perhaps some Imperial rescript, which was issued in consequence of it,
appeared to authorize the governors of provinces, in punishing with
death the refusal of the Christians to deliver up their sacred books.
There were undoubtedly many persons who embraced this opportunity of
obtaining the crown of martyrdom; but there were likewise too many who
purchased an ignominious life, by discovering and betraying the holy
Scripture into the hands of infidels. A great number even of bishops
and presbyters acquired, by this criminal compliance, the opprobrious
epithet of Traditors; and their offence was productive of much present
scandal and of much future discord in the African church. [159]

[Footnote 157: Tillemont, Memoires Ecclesiast. tom. v. part i. p. 43.]

[Footnote 158: See the Acta Sincera of Ruinart, p. 353; those of Felix
of Thibara, or Tibiur, appear much less corrupted than in the other
editions, which afford a lively specimen of legendary license.]

[Footnote 159: See the first book of Optatus of Milevis against the
Donatiste, Paris, 1700, edit. Dupin. He lived under the reign of

The copies as well as the versions of Scripture, were already so
multiplied in the empire, that the most severe inquisition could no
longer be attended with any fatal consequences; and even the sacrifice
of those volumes, which, in every congregation, were preserved for
public use, required the consent of some treacherous and unworthy
Christians. But the ruin of the churches was easily effected by the
authority of the government, and by the labor of the Pagans. In some
provinces, however, the magistrates contented themselves with shutting
up the places of religious worship. In others, they more literally
complied with the terms of the edict; and after taking away the doors,
the benches, and the pulpit, which they burnt as it were in a funeral
pile, they completely demolished the remainder of the edifice. [160]
It is perhaps to this melancholy occasion that we should apply a very
remarkable story, which is related with so many circumstances of variety
and improbability, that it serves rather to excite than to satisfy
our curiosity. In a small town in Phrygia, of whose names as well as
situation we are left ignorant, it should seem that the magistrates and
the body of the people had embraced the Christian faith; and as some
resistance might be apprehended to the execution of the edict, the
governor of the province was supported by a numerous detachment of
legionaries. On their approach the citizens threw themselves into the
church, with the resolution either of defending by arms that sacred
edifice, or of perishing in its ruins. They indignantly rejected the
notice and permission which was given them to retire, till the soldiers,
provoked by their obstinate refusal, set fire to the building on all
sides, and consumed, by this extraordinary kind of martyrdom, a great
number of Phrygians, with their wives and children. [161]

[Footnote 160: The ancient monuments, published at the end of Optatus,
p. 261, &c. describe, in a very circumstantial manner, the proceedings
of the governors in the destruction of churches. They made a minute
inventory of the plate, &c., which they found in them. That of the
church of Cirta, in Numidia, is still extant. It consisted of two
chalices of gold, and six of silver; six urns, one kettle, seven lamps,
all likewise of silver; besides a large quantity of brass utensils, and
wearing apparel.]

[Footnote 161: Lactantius (Institut. Divin. v. 11) confines the calamity
to the conventiculum, with its congregation. Eusebius (viii. 11) extends
it to a whole city, and introduces something very like a regular siege.
His ancient Latin translator, Rufinus, adds the important circumstance
of the permission given to the inhabitants of retiring from thence.
As Phrygia reached to the confines of Isauria, it is possible that the
restless temper of those independent barbarians may have contributed to
this misfortune. Note: Universum populum. Lact. Inst. Div. v. 11.--G.]

Some slight disturbances, though they were suppressed almost as soon as
excited, in Syria and the frontiers of Armenia, afforded the enemies of
the church a very plausible occasion to insinuate, that those troubles
had been secretly fomented by the intrigues of the bishops, who
had already forgotten their ostentatious professions of passive and
unlimited obedience. [162]

The resentment, or the fears, of Diocletian, at length transported him
beyond the bounds of moderation, which he had hitherto preserved, and
he declared, in a series of cruel edicts, [162a] his intention of
abolishing the Christian name. By the first of these edicts, the
governors of the provinces were directed to apprehend all persons of
the ecclesiastical order; and the prisons, destined for the vilest
criminals, were soon filled with a multitude of bishops, presbyters,
deacons, readers, and exorcists. By a second edict, the magistrates were
commanded to employ every method of severity, which might reclaim
them from their odious superstition, and oblige them to return to the
established worship of the gods. This rigorous order was extended, by a
subsequent edict, to the whole body of Christians, who were exposed to a
violent and general persecution. [163]

Instead of those salutary restraints, which had required the direct
and solemn testimony of an accuser, it became the duty as well as the
interest of the Imperial officers to discover, to pursue, and to torment
the most obnoxious among the faithful. Heavy penalties were denounced
against all who should presume to save a prescribed sectary from the
just indignation of the gods, and of the emperors. Yet, notwithstanding
the severity of this law, the virtuous courage of many of the Pagans, in
concealing their friends or relations, affords an honorable proof,
that the rage of superstition had not extinguished in their minds the
sentiments of nature and humanity. [164]

[Footnote 162: Eusebius, l. viii. c. 6. M. de Valois (with some
probability) thinks that he has discovered the Syrian rebellion in
an oration of Libanius; and that it was a rash attempt of the tribune
Eugenius, who with only five hundred men seized Antioch, and might
perhaps allure the Christians by the promise of religious toleration.
From Eusebius, (l. ix. c. 8,) as well as from Moses of Chorene, (Hist.
Armen. l. ii. 77, &c.,) it may be inferred, that Christianity was
already introduced into Armenia.]

[Footnote 162a: He had already passed them in his first edict. It
does not appear that resentment or fear had any share in the new
persecutions: perhaps they originated in superstition, and a specious
apparent respect for its ministers. The oracle of Apollo, consulted
by Diocletian, gave no answer; and said that just men hindered it from
speaking. Constantine, who assisted at the ceremony, affirms, with an
oath, that when questioned about these men, the high priest named the
Christians. "The Emperor eagerly seized on this answer; and drew against
the innocent a sword, destined only to punish the guilty: he instantly
issued edicts, written, if I may use the expression, with a poniard;
and ordered the judges to employ all their skill to invent new modes of
punishment. Euseb. Vit Constant. l. ii c 54."--G.]

[Footnote 163: See Mosheim, p. 938: the text of Eusebius very plainly
shows that the governors, whose powers were enlarged, not restrained, by
the new laws, could punish with death the most obstinate Christians as
an example to their brethren.]

[Footnote 164: Athanasius, p. 833, ap. Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiast. tom v
part i. 90.]

Chapter XVI: Conduct Towards The Christians, From Nero To
Constantine.--Part VII.

Diocletian had no sooner published his edicts against the Christians,
than, as if he had been desirous of committing to other hands the
work of persecution, he divested himself of the Imperial purple. The
character and situation of his colleagues and successors sometimes urged
them to enforce and sometimes inclined them to suspend, the execution of
these rigorous laws; nor can we acquire a just and distinct idea of
this important period of ecclesiastical history, unless we separately
consider the state of Christianity, in the different parts of the
empire, during the space of ten years, which elapsed between the first
edicts of Diocletian and the final peace of the church.

The mild and humane temper of Constantius was averse to the oppression
of any part of his subjects. The principal offices of his palace
were exercised by Christians. He loved their persons, esteemed their
fidelity, and entertained not any dislike to their religious principles.
But as long as Constantius remained in the subordinate station
of Caesar, it was not in his power openly to reject the edicts of
Diocletian, or to disobey the commands of Maximian. His authority
contributed, however, to alleviate the sufferings which he pitied and
abhorred. He consented with reluctance to the ruin of the churches; but
he ventured to protect the Christians themselves from the fury of the
populace, and from the rigor of the laws. The provinces of Gaul (under
which we may probably include those of Britain) were indebted for the
singular tranquillity which they enjoyed, to the gentle interposition of
their sovereign. [165] But Datianus, the president or governor of Spain,
actuated either by zeal or policy, chose rather to execute the public
edicts of the emperors, than to understand the secret intentions
of Constantius; and it can scarcely be doubted, that his provincial
administration was stained with the blood of a few martyrs. [166]

The elevation of Constantius to the supreme and independent dignity
of Augustus, gave a free scope to the exercise of his virtues, and the
shortness of his reign did not prevent him from establishing a system
of toleration, of which he left the precept and the example to his son
Constantine. His fortunate son, from the first moment of his accession,
declaring himself the protector of the church, at length deserved the
appellation of the first emperor who publicly professed and established
the Christian religion. The motives of his conversion, as they may
variously be deduced from benevolence, from policy, from conviction,
or from remorse, and the progress of the revolution, which, under his
powerful influence and that of his sons, rendered Christianity the
reigning religion of the Roman empire, will form a very interesting and
important chapter in the present volume of this history. At present
it may be sufficient to observe, that every victory of Constantine was
productive of some relief or benefit to the church.

[Footnote 165: Eusebius, l. viii. c. 13. Lactantius de M. P. c. 15.
Dodwell (Dissertat. Cyprian. xi. 75) represents them as inconsistent
with each other. But the former evidently speaks of Constantius in the
station of Caesar, and the latter of the same prince in the rank of

[Footnote 166: Datianus is mentioned, in Gruter's Inscriptions, as
having determined the limits between the territories of Pax Julia, and
those of Ebora, both cities in the southern part of Lusitania. If we
recollect the neighborhood of those places to Cape St. Vincent, we may
suspect that the celebrated deacon and martyr of that name had been
inaccurately assigned by Prudentius, &c., to Saragossa, or Valentia.
See the pompous history of his sufferings, in the Memoires de Tillemont,
tom. v. part ii. p. 58-85. Some critics are of opinion, that the
department of Constantius, as Caesar, did not include Spain, which still
continued under the immediate jurisdiction of Maximian.]

The provinces of Italy and Africa experienced a short but violent
persecution. The rigorous edicts of Diocletian were strictly and
cheerfully executed by his associate Maximian, who had long hated the
Christians, and who delighted in acts of blood and violence. In the
autumn of the first year of the persecution, the two emperors met at
Rome to celebrate their triumph; several oppressive laws appear to
have issued from their secret consultations, and the diligence of the
magistrates was animated by the presence of their sovereigns. After
Diocletian had divested himself of the purple, Italy and Africa were
administered under the name of Severus, and were exposed, without
defence, to the implacable resentment of his master Galerius. Among the
martyrs of Rome, Adauctus deserves the notice of posterity. He was of
a noble family in Italy, and had raised himself, through the successive
honors of the palace, to the important office of treasurer of the
private Jemesnes. Adauctus is the more remarkable for being the only
person of rank and distinction who appears to have suffered death,
during the whole course of this general persecution. [167]

[Footnote 167: Eusebius, l. viii. c. 11. Gruter, Inscrip. p. 1171, No.
18. Rufinus has mistaken the office of Adauctus, as well as the place
of his martyrdom. * Note: M. Guizot suggests the powerful cunuchs of the
palace. Dorotheus, Gorgonius, and Andrew, admitted by Gibbon himself to
have been put to death, p. 66.]

The revolt of Maxentius immediately restored peace to the churches of
Italy and Africa; and the same tyrant who oppressed every other class of
his subjects, showed himself just, humane, and even partial, towards the
afflicted Christians. He depended on their gratitude and affection, and
very naturally presumed, that the injuries which they had suffered, and
the dangers which they still apprehended from his most inveterate enemy,
would secure the fidelity of a party already considerable by their
numbers and opulence. [168] Even the conduct of Maxentius towards the
bishops of Rome and Carthage may be considered as the proof of his
toleration, since it is probable that the most orthodox princes would
adopt the same measures with regard to their established clergy.
Marcellus, the former of these prelates, had thrown the capital into
confusion, by the severe penance which he imposed on a great number
of Christians, who, during the late persecution, had renounced or
dissembled their religion. The rage of faction broke out in frequent and
violent seditions; the blood of the faithful was shed by each other's
hands, and the exile of Marcellus, whose prudence seems to have been
less eminent than his zeal, was found to be the only measure capable of
restoring peace to the distracted church of Rome. [169] The behavior
of Mensurius, bishop of Carthage, appears to have been still more
reprehensible. A deacon of that city had published a libel against the
emperor. The offender took refuge in the episcopal palace; and though it
was somewhat early to advance any claims of ecclesiastical immunities,
the bishop refused to deliver him up to the officers of justice. For
this treasonable resistance, Mensurius was summoned to court, and
instead of receiving a legal sentence of death or banishment, he was
permitted, after a short examination, to return to his diocese. [170]
Such was the happy condition of the Christian subjects of Maxentius,
that whenever they were desirous of procuring for their own use any
bodies of martyrs, they were obliged to purchase them from the most
distant provinces of the East. A story is related of Aglae, a Roman
lady, descended from a consular family, and possessed of so ample an
estate, that it required the management of seventy-three stewards. Among
these Boniface was the favorite of his mistress; and as Aglae mixed love
with devotion, it is reported that he was admitted to share her bed. Her
fortune enabled her to gratify the pious desire of obtaining some sacred
relics from the East. She intrusted Boniface with a considerable sum
of gold, and a large quantity of aromatics; and her lover, attended
by twelve horsemen and three covered chariots, undertook a remote
pilgrimage, as far as Tarsus in Cilicia. [171]

[Footnote 168: Eusebius, l. viii. c. 14. But as Maxentius was vanquished
by Constantine, it suited the purpose of Lactantius to place his death
among those of the persecutors. * Note: M. Guizot directly contradicts
this statement of Gibbon, and appeals to Eusebius. Maxentius, who
assumed the power in Italy, pretended at first to be a Christian, to
gain the favor of the Roman people; he ordered his ministers to cease
to persecute the Christians, affecting a hypocritical piety, in order to
appear more mild than his predecessors; but his actions soon proved that
he was very different from what they had at first hoped. The actions
of Maxentius were those of a cruel tyrant, but not those of a persecutor:
the Christians, like the rest of his subjects, suffered from his vices,
but they were not oppressed as a sect. Christian females were exposed to
his lusts, as well as to the brutal violence of his colleague Maximian,
but they were not selected as Christians.--M.]

[Footnote 169: The epitaph of Marcellus is to be found in Gruter,
Inscrip. p 1172, No. 3, and it contains all that we know of his history.
Marcellinus and Marcellus, whose names follow in the list of popes, are
supposed by many critics to be different persons; but the learned Abbe
de Longuerue was convinced that they were one and the same. Veridicus
rector lapsis quia crimina flere Praedixit miseris, fuit omnibus hostis
amarus. Hinc furor, hinc odium; sequitur discordia, lites, Seditio,
caedes; solvuntur foedera pacis. Crimen ob alterius, Christum qui in
pace negavit Finibus expulsus patriae est feritate Tyranni. Haec
breviter Damasus voluit comperta referre: Marcelli populus meritum
cognoscere posset.----We may observe that Damasus was made Bishop of
Rome, A. D. 366.]

[Footnote 170: Optatus contr. Donatist. l. i. c. 17, 18. * Note: The
words of Optatus are, Profectus (Roman) causam dixit; jussus con reverti
Carthaginem; perhaps, in pleading his cause, he exculpated himself,
since he received an order to return to Carthage.--G.]

[Footnote 171: The Acts of the Passion of St. Boniface, which abound in
miracles and declamation, are published by Ruinart, (p. 283--291,) both
in Greek and Latin, from the authority of very ancient manuscripts.
Note: We are ignorant whether Aglae and Boniface were Christians at the
time of their unlawful connection. See Tillemont. Mem, Eccles. Note on
the Persecution of Domitian, tom. v. note 82. M. de Tillemont proves
also that the history is doubtful.--G. ----Sir D. Dalrymple (Lord
Hailes) calls the story of Aglae and Boniface as of equal authority with
our popular histories of Whittington and Hickathrift. Christian
Antiquities, ii. 64.--M.]

The sanguinary temper of Galerius, the first and principal author of the
persecution, was formidable to those Christians whom their misfortunes
had placed within the limits of his dominions; and it may fairly be
presumed that many persons of a middle rank, who were not confined by
the chains either of wealth or of poverty, very frequently deserted
their native country, and sought a refuge in the milder climate of the
West. [171a] As long as he commanded only the armies and provinces of
Illyricum, he could with difficulty either find or make a considerable
number of martyrs, in a warlike country, which had entertained the
missionaries of the gospel with more coldness and reluctance than any
other part of the empire. [172] But when Galerius had obtained the
supreme power, and the government of the East, he indulged in their
fullest extent his zeal and cruelty, not only in the provinces of Thrace
and Asia, which acknowledged his immediate jurisdiction, but in those
of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, where Maximin gratified his own
inclination, by yielding a rigorous obedience to the stern commands
of his benefactor. [173] The frequent disappointments of his ambitious
views, the experience of six years of persecution, and the salutary
reflections which a lingering and painful distemper suggested to the
mind of Galerius, at length convinced him that the most violent efforts
of despotism are insufficient to extirpate a whole people, or to subdue
their religious prejudices. Desirous of repairing the mischief that he
had occasioned, he published in his own name, and in those of Licinius
and Constantine, a general edict, which, after a pompous recital of the
Imperial titles, proceeded in the following manner:--

[Footnote 171a: A little after this, Christianity was propagated to the
north of the Roman provinces, among the tribes of Germany: a multitude
of Christians, forced by the persecutions of the Emperors to take
refuge among the Barbarians, were received with kindness. Euseb. de Vit.
Constant. ii. 53. Semler Select. cap. H. E. p. 115. The Goths owed their
first knowledge of Christianity to a young girl, a prisoner of war;
she continued in the midst of them her exercises of piety; she fasted,
prayed, and praised God day and night. When she was asked what good
would come of so much painful trouble she answered, "It is thus that
Christ, the Son of God, is to be honored." Sozomen, ii. c. 6.--G.]

[Footnote 172: During the four first centuries, there exist few traces
of either bishops or bishoprics in the western Illyricum. It has been
thought probable that the primate of Milan extended his jurisdiction
over Sirmium, the capital of that great province. See the Geographia
Sacra of Charles de St. Paul, p. 68-76, with the observations of Lucas

[Footnote 173: The viiith book of Eusebius, as well as the supplement
concerning the martyrs of Palestine, principally relate to the
persecution of Galerius and Maximin. The general lamentations with which
Lactantius opens the vth book of his Divine Institutions allude to their
cruelty.] "Among the important cares which have occupied our mind for
the utility and preservation of the empire, it was our intention to
correct and reestablish all things according to the ancient laws and
public discipline of the Romans. We were particularly desirous of
reclaiming into the way of reason and nature, the deluded Christians who
had renounced the religion and ceremonies instituted by their fathers;
and presumptuously despising the practice of antiquity, had invented
extravagant laws and opinions, according to the dictates of their fancy,
and had collected a various society from the different provinces of our
empire. The edicts, which we have published to enforce the worship of
the gods, having exposed many of the Christians to danger and distress,
many having suffered death, and many more, who still persist in their
impious folly, being left destitute of any public exercise of religion,
we are disposed to extend to those unhappy men the effects of our wonted
clemency. We permit them therefore freely to profess their private
opinions, and to assemble in their conventicles without fear or
molestation, provided always that they preserve a due respect to the
established laws and government. By another rescript we shall signify
our intentions to the judges and magistrates; and we hope that our
indulgence will engage the Christians to offer up their prayers to the
Deity whom they adore, for our safety and prosperity for their own, and
for that of the republic." [174] It is not usually in the language of
edicts and manifestos that we should search for the real character or
the secret motives of princes; but as these were the words of a dying
emperor, his situation, perhaps, may be admitted as a pledge of his

[Footnote 174: Eusebius (l. viii. c. 17) has given us a Greek version,
and Lactantius (de M. P. c. 34) the Latin original, of this memorable
edict. Neither of these writers seems to recollect how directly
it contradicts whatever they have just affirmed of the remorse and
repentance of Galerius. Note: But Gibbon has answered this by his just
observation, that it is not in the language of edicts and manifestos
that we should search * * for the secre motives of princes.--M.]

When Galerius subscribed this edict of toleration, he was well assured
that Licinius would readily comply with the inclinations of his friend
and benefactor, and that any measures in favor of the Christians would
obtain the approbation of Constantine. But the emperor would not venture
to insert in the preamble the name of Maximin, whose consent was of
the greatest importance, and who succeeded a few days afterwards to the
provinces of Asia. In the first six months, however, of his new reign,
Maximin affected to adopt the prudent counsels of his predecessor; and
though he never condescended to secure the tranquillity of the church by
a public edict, Sabinus, his Praetorian praefect, addressed a
circular letter to all the governors and magistrates of the provinces,
expatiating on the Imperial clemency, acknowledging the invincible
obstinacy of the Christians, and directing the officers of justice
to cease their ineffectual prosecutions, and to connive at the secret
assemblies of those enthusiasts. In consequence of these orders, great
numbers of Christians were released from prison, or delivered from the
mines. The confessors, singing hymns of triumph, returned into their
own countries; and those who had yielded to the violence of the tempest,
solicited with tears of repentance their readmission into the bosom of
the church. [175]

[Footnote 175: Eusebius, l. ix. c. 1. He inserts the epistle of the

But this treacherous calm was of short duration; nor could the
Christians of the East place any confidence in the character of their
sovereign. Cruelty and superstition were the ruling passions of the soul
of Maximin. The former suggested the means, the latter pointed out the
objects of persecution. The emperor was devoted to the worship of the
gods, to the study of magic, and to the belief of oracles. The prophets
or philosophers, whom he revered as the favorites of Heaven, were
frequently raised to the government of provinces, and admitted into his
most secret councils. They easily convinced him that the Christians had
been indebted for their victories to their regular discipline, and that
the weakness of polytheism had principally flowed from a want of
union and subordination among the ministers of religion. A system of
government was therefore instituted, which was evidently copied from the
policy of the church. In all the great cities of the empire, the
temples were repaired and beautified by the order of Maximin, and
the officiating priests of the various deities were subjected to the
authority of a superior pontiff destined to oppose the bishop, and to
promote the cause of paganism. These pontiffs acknowledged, in their
turn, the supreme jurisdiction of the metropolitans or high priests
of the province, who acted as the immediate vicegerents of the emperor
himself. A white robe was the ensign of their dignity; and these
new prelates were carefully selected from the most noble and opulent
families. By the influence of the magistrates, and of the sacerdotal
order, a great number of dutiful addresses were obtained, particularly
from the cities of Nicomedia, Antioch, and Tyre, which artfully
represented the well-known intentions of the court as the general sense
of the people; solicited the emperor to consult the laws of justice
rather than the dictates of his clemency; expressed their abhorrence of
the Christians, and humbly prayed that those impious sectaries might at
least be excluded from the limits of their respective territories. The
answer of Maximin to the address which he obtained from the citizens of
Tyre is still extant. He praises their zeal and devotion in terms of
the highest satisfaction, descants on the obstinate impiety of the
Christians, and betrays, by the readiness with which he consents to
their banishment, that he considered himself as receiving, rather than
as conferring, an obligation. The priests as well as the magistrates
were empowered to enforce the execution of his edicts, which were
engraved on tables of brass; and though it was recommended to them to
avoid the effusion of blood, the most cruel and ignominious punishments
were inflicted on the refractory Christians. [176]

[Footnote 176: See Eusebius, l. viii. c. 14, l. ix. c. 2--8. Lactantius
de M. P. c. 36. These writers agree in representing the arts of Maximin;
but the former relates the execution of several martyrs, while the
latter expressly affirms, occidi servos Dei vetuit. * Note: It is
easy to reconcile them; it is sufficient to quote the entire text of
Lactantius: Nam cum clementiam specie tenus profiteretur, occidi servos
Dei vetuit, debilitari jussit. Itaque confessoribus effodiebantur oculi,
amputabantur manus, nares vel auriculae desecabantur. Haec ille moliens
Constantini litteris deterretur. Dissimulavit ergo, et tamen, si quis
inciderit. mari occulte mergebatur. This detail of torments inflicted on
the Christians easily reconciles Lactantius and Eusebius. Those who died
in consequence of their tortures, those who were plunged into the sea,
might well pass for martyrs. The mutilation of the words of Lactantius
has alone given rise to the apparent contradiction.--G. ----Eusebius.
ch. vi., relates the public martyrdom of the aged bishop of Emesa, with
two others, who were thrown to the wild beasts, the beheading of Peter,
bishop of Alexandria, with several others, and the death of Lucian,
presbyter of Antioch, who was carried to Numidia, and put to death in
prison. The contradiction is direct and undeniable, for although
Eusebius may have misplaced the former martyrdoms, it may be doubted
whether the authority of Maximin extended to Nicomedia till after the
death of Galerius. The last edict of toleration issued by Maximin and
published by Eusebius himself, Eccl. Hist. ix. 9. confirms the statement
of Lactantius.--M.]

The Asiatic Christians had every thing to dread from the severity of
a bigoted monarch who prepared his measures of violence with such
deliberate policy. But a few months had scarcely elapsed before the
edicts published by the two Western emperors obliged Maximin to suspend
the prosecution of his designs: the civil war which he so rashly
undertook against Licinius employed all his attention; and the defeat
and death of Maximin soon delivered the church from the last and most
implacable of her enemies. [177]

[Footnote 177: A few days before his death, he published a very ample
edict of toleration, in which he imputes all the severities which the
Christians suffered to the judges and governors, who had misunderstood
his intentions.See the edict of Eusebius, l. ix. c. 10.]

In this general view of the persecution, which was first authorized by
the edicts of Diocletian, I have purposely refrained from describing the
particular sufferings and deaths of the Christian martyrs. It would have
been an easy task, from the history of Eusebius, from the declamations
of Lactantius, and from the most ancient acts, to collect a long series
of horrid and disgustful pictures, and to fill many pages with racks and
scourges, with iron hooks and red-hot beds, and with all the variety
of tortures which fire and steel, savage beasts, and more savage
executioners, could inflict upon the human body. These melancholy scenes
might be enlivened by a crowd of visions and miracles destined either to
delay the death, to celebrate the triumph, or to discover the relics of
those canonized saints who suffered for the name of Christ. But I cannot
determine what I ought to transcribe, till I am satisfied how much I
ought to believe. The gravest of the ecclesiastical historians, Eusebius
himself, indirectly confesses, that he has related whatever might
redound to the glory, and that he has suppressed all that could tend to
the disgrace, of religion. [178] Such an acknowledgment will naturally
excite a suspicion that a writer who has so openly violated one of the
fundamental laws of history, has not paid a very strict regard to the
observance of the other; and the suspicion will derive additional credit
from the character of Eusebius, [178a] which was less tinctured with
credulity, and more practised in the arts of courts, than that of
almost any of his contemporaries. On some particular occasions, when
the magistrates were exasperated by some personal motives of interest or
resentment, the rules of prudence, and perhaps of decency, to overturn
the altars, to pour out imprecations against the emperors, or to strike
the judge as he sat on his tribunal, it may be presumed, that every mode
of torture which cruelty could invent, or constancy could endure, was
exhausted on those devoted victims. [179] Two circumstances, however,
have been unwarily mentioned, which insinuate that the general treatment
of the Christians, who had been apprehended by the officers of justice,
was less intolerable than it is usually imagined to have been. 1. The
confessors who were condemned to work in the mines were permitted by the
humanity or the negligence of their keepers to build chapels, and freely
to profess their religion in the midst of those dreary habitations.
[180] 2. The bishops were obliged to check and to censure the forward
zeal of the Christians, who voluntarily threw themselves into the hands
of the magistrates. Some of these were persons oppressed by poverty
and debts, who blindly sought to terminate a miserable existence by a
glorious death. Others were allured by the hope that a short confinement
would expiate the sins of a whole life; and others again were actuated
by the less honorable motive of deriving a plentiful subsistence, and
perhaps a considerable profit, from the alms which the charity of the
faithful bestowed on the prisoners. [181] After the church had triumphed
over all her enemies, the interest as well as vanity of the captives
prompted them to magnify the merit of their respective sufferings. A
convenient distance of time or place gave an ample scope to the progress
of fiction; and the frequent instances which might be alleged of holy
martyrs, whose wounds had been instantly healed, whose strength had been
renewed, and whose lost members had miraculously been restored, were
extremely convenient for the purpose of removing every difficulty, and
of silencing every objection. The most extravagant legends, as they
conduced to the honor of the church, were applauded by the credulous
multitude, countenanced by the power of the clergy, and attested by the
suspicious evidence of ecclesiastical history.

[Footnote 178: Such is the fair deduction from two remarkable passages
in Eusebius, l. viii. c. 2, and de Martyr. Palestin. c. 12. The prudence
of the historian has exposed his own character to censure and suspicion.
It was well known that he himself had been thrown into prison; and it
was suggested that he had purchased his deliverance by some dishonorable
compliance. The reproach was urged in his lifetime, and even in
his presence, at the council of Tyre. See Tillemont, Memoires
Ecclesiastiques, tom. viii. part i. p. 67.]

[Footnote 178a: Historical criticism does not consist in rejecting
indiscriminately all the facts which do not agree with a particular
system, as Gibbon does in this chapter, in which, except at the last
extremity, he will not consent to believe a martyrdom. Authorities are
to be weighed, not excluded from examination. Now, the Pagan historians
justify in many places the detail which have been transmitted to us by
the historians of the church, concerning the tortures endured by
the Christians. Celsus reproaches the Christians with holding their
assemblies in secret, on account of the fear inspired by their
sufferings, "for when you are arrested," he says, "you are dragged to
punishment: and, before you are put to death, you have to suffer all
kinds of tortures." Origen cont. Cels. l. i. ii. vi. viii. passing.
Libanius, the panegyrist of Julian, says, while speaking of the
Christians. "Those who followed a corrupt religion were in continual
apprehensions; they feared lest Julian should invent tortures still more
refined than those to which they had been exposed before, as mutilation,
burning alive, &c.; for the emperors had inflicted upon them all these
barbarities." Lib. Parent in Julian. ap. Fab. Bib. Graec. No. 9, No.
58, p. 283--G. ----This sentence of Gibbon has given rise to several
learned dissertation: Moller, de Fide Eusebii Caesar, &c., Havniae,
1813. Danzius, de Eusebio Caes. Hist. Eccl. Scriptore, ejusque tide
historica recte aestimanda, &c., Jenae, 1815. Kestner Commentatio de
Eusebii Hist. Eccles. conditoris auctoritate et fide, &c. See also
Reuterdahl, de Fontibus Historiae Eccles. Eusebianae, Lond. Goth., 1826.
Gibbon's inference may appear stronger than the text will warrant, yet
it is difficult, after reading the passages, to dismiss all suspicion of
partiality from the mind.--M.]

[Footnote 179: The ancient, and perhaps authentic, account of the
sufferings of Tarachus and his companions, (Acta Sincera Ruinart, p.
419--448,) is filled with strong expressions of resentment and contempt,
which could not fail of irritating the magistrate. The behavior of
Aedesius to Hierocles, praefect of Egypt, was still more extraordinary.
Euseb. de Martyr. Palestin. c. 5. * Note: M. Guizot states, that the
acts of Tarachus and his companion contain nothing that appears dictated
by violent feelings, (sentiment outre.) Nothing can be more painful than
the constant attempt of Gibbon throughout this discussion, to find some
flaw in the virtue and heroism of the martyrs, some extenuation for the
cruelty of the persecutors. But truth must not be sacrificed even to
well-grounded moral indignation. Though the language of these martyrs is
in great part that of calm de fiance, of noble firmness, yet there are
many expressions which betray "resentment and contempt." "Children
of Satan, worshippers of Devils," is their common appellation of the
heathen. One of them calls the judge another, one curses, and declares
that he will curse the Emperors, as pestilential and bloodthirsty
tyrants, whom God will soon visit in his wrath. On the other hand,
though at first they speak the milder language of persuasion, the cold
barbarity of the judges and officers might surely have called forth one
sentence of abhorrence from Gibbon. On the first unsatisfactory answer,
"Break his jaw," is the order of the judge. They direct and witness the
most excruciating tortures; the people, as M. Guizot observers, were so
much revolted by the cruelty of Maximus that when the martyrs appeared
in the amphitheatre, fear seized on all hearts, and general murmurs
against the unjust judge rank through the assembly. It is singular, at
least, that Gibbon should have quoted "as probably authentic," acts so
much embellished with miracle as these of Tarachus are, particularly
towards the end.--M. * Note: Scarcely were the authorities informed of
this, than the president of the province, a man, says Eusebius, harsh
and cruel, banished the confessors, some to Cyprus, others to different
parts of Palestine, and ordered them to be tormented by being set to
the most painful labors. Four of them, whom he required to abjure
their faith and refused, were burnt alive. Euseb. de Mart. Palest. c.
xiii.--G. Two of these were bishops; a fifth, Silvanus, bishop of
Gaza, was the last martyr; another, named John was blinded, but used
to officiate, and recite from memory long passages of the sacred

[Footnote 180: Euseb. de Martyr. Palestin. c. 13.]

[Footnote 181: Augustin. Collat. Carthagin. Dei, iii. c. 13, ap.
Tillanant, Memoires Ecclesiastiques, tom. v. part i. p. 46. The
controversy with the Donatists, has reflected some, though perhaps a
partial, light on the history of the African church.]

Chapter XVI: Conduct Towards The Christians, From Nero To
Constantine.--Part VIII.

The vague descriptions of exile and imprisonment, of pain and torture,
are so easily exaggerated or softened by the pencil of an artful orator,
[181a] that we are naturally induced to inquire into a fact of a more
distinct and stubborn kind; the number of persons who suffered death in
consequence of the edicts published by Diocletian, his associates, and
his successors. The recent legendaries record whole armies and
cities, which were at once swept away by the undistinguishing rage of
persecution. The more ancient writers content themselves with pouring
out a liberal effusion of loose and tragical invectives, without
condescending to ascertain the precise number of those persons who were
permitted to seal with their blood their belief of the gospel. From
the history of Eusebius, it may, however, be collected, that only nine
bishops were punished with death; and we are assured, by his particular
enumeration of the martyrs of Palestine, that no more than ninety-two
Christians were entitled to that honorable appellation. [182] [182a] As
we are unacquainted with the degree of episcopal zeal and courage
which prevailed at that time, it is not in our power to draw any useful
inferences from the former of these facts: but the latter may serve
to justify a very important and probable conclusion. According to the
distribution of Roman provinces, Palestine may be considered as the
sixteenth part of the Eastern empire: [183] and since there were some
governors, who from a real or affected clemency had preserved their
hands unstained with the blood of the faithful, [184] it is reasonable
to believe, that the country which had given birth to Christianity,
produced at least the sixteenth part of the martyrs who suffered
death within the dominions of Galerius and Maximin; the whole might
consequently amount to about fifteen hundred, a number which, if it is
equally divided between the ten years of the persecution, will allow an
annual consumption of one hundred and fifty martyrs. Allotting the same
proportion to the provinces of Italy, Africa, and perhaps Spain, where,
at the end of two or three years, the rigor of the penal laws was either
suspended or abolished, the multitude of Christians in the Roman empire,
on whom a capital punishment was inflicted by a judicia, sentence, will
be reduced to somewhat less than two thousand persons. Since it cannot
be doubted that the Christians were more numerous, and their enemies
more exasperated, in the time of Diocletian, than they had ever been in
any former persecution, this probable and moderate computation may teach
us to estimate the number of primitive saints and martyrs who sacrificed
their lives for the important purpose of introducing Christianity into
the world.

[Footnote 181a: Perhaps there never was an instance of an author
committing so deliberately the fault which he reprobates so strongly
in others. What is the dexterous management of the more inartificial
historians of Christianity, in exaggerating the numbers of the martyrs,
compared to the unfair address with which Gibbon here quietly dismisses
from the account all the horrible and excruciating tortures which fell
short of death? The reader may refer to the xiith chapter (book
viii.) of Eusebius for the description and for the scenes of these

[Footnote 182: Eusebius de Martyr. Palestin. c. 13. He closes his
narration by assuring us that these were the martyrdoms inflicted in
Palestine, during the whole course of the persecution. The 9th chapter
of his viiith book, which relates to the province of Thebais in Egypt,
may seem to contradict our moderate computation; but it will only lead
us to admire the artful management of the historian. Choosing for the
scene of the most exquisite cruelty the most remote and sequestered
country of the Roman empire, he relates that in Thebais from ten to one
hundred persons had frequently suffered martyrdom in the same day. But
when he proceeds to mention his own journey into Egypt, his language
insensibly becomes more cautious and moderate. Instead of a large, but
definite number, he speaks of many Christians, and most artfully selects
two ambiguous words, which may signify either what he had seen, or
what he had heard; either the expectation, or the execution of the
punishment. Having thus provided a secure evasion, he commits the
equivocal passage to his readers and translators; justly conceiving that
their piety would induce them to prefer the most favorable sense. There
was perhaps some malice in the remark of Theodorus Metochita, that all
who, like Eusebius, had been conversant with the Egyptians, delighted in
an obscure and intricate style. (See Valesius ad loc.)]

[Footnote 182a: This calculation is made from the martyrs, of whom
Eusebius speaks by name; but he recognizes a much greater number.
Thus the ninth and tenth chapters of his work are entitled, "Of
Antoninus, Zebinus, Germanus, and other martyrs; of Peter the monk. of
Asclepius the Maroionite, and other martyrs." [Are these vague contents
of chapters very good authority?--M.] Speaking of those who suffered
under Diocletian, he says, "I will only relate the death of one of
these, from which, the reader may divine what befell the rest." Hist.
Eccl. viii. 6. [This relates only to the martyrs in the royal
household.--M.] Dodwell had made, before Gibbon, this calculation and
these objections; but Ruinart (Act. Mart. Pref p. 27, et seq.) has
answered him in a peremptory manner: Nobis constat Eusebium in historia
infinitos passim martyres admisisse. quamvis revera paucorum nomina
recensuerit. Nec alium Eusebii interpretem quam ipsummet Eusebium
proferimus, qui (l. iii. c. 33) ait sub Trajano plurimosa ex fidelibus
martyrii certamen subiisse (l. v. init.) sub Antonino et Vero
innumerabiles prope martyres per universum orbem enituisse affirmat. (L.
vi. c. 1.) Severum persecutionem concitasse refert, in qua per omnes
ubique locorum Ecclesias, ab athletis pro pietate certantibus, illustria
confecta fuerunt martyria. Sic de Decii, sic de Valeriani,
persecutionibus loquitur, quae an Dodwelli faveant conjectionibus
judicet aequus lector. Even in the persecutions which Gibbon has
represented as much more mild than that of Diocletian, the number of
martyrs appears much greater than that to which he limits the martyrs of
the latter: and this number is attested by incontestable monuments. I
will quote but one example. We find among the letters of St. Cyprian one
from Lucianus to Celerinus, written from the depth of a prison, in which
Lucianus names seventeen of his brethren dead, some in the quarries,
some in the midst of tortures some of starvation in prison. Jussi sumus
(he proceeds) secundum prae ceptum imperatoris, fame et siti necari, et
reclusi sumus in duabus cellis, ta ut nos afficerent fame et siti et
ignis vapore.--G.]

[Footnote 183: When Palestine was divided into three, the praefecture of
the East contained forty-eight provinces. As the ancient distinctions of
nations were long since abolished, the Romans distributed the provinces
according to a general proportion of their extent and opulence.]

[Footnote 184: Ut gloriari possint nullam se innocentium poremisse, nam
et ipse audivi aloquos gloriantes, quia administratio sua, in hac paris
merit incruenta. Lactant. Institur. Divin v. 11.]

We shall conclude this chapter by a melancholy truth, which obtrudes
itself on the reluctant mind; that even admitting, without hesitation or
inquiry, all that history has recorded, or devotion has feigned, on
the subject of martyrdoms, it must still be acknowledged, that the
Christians, in the course of their intestine dissensions, have inflicted
far greater severities on each other, than they had experienced from
the zeal of infidels. During the ages of ignorance which followed the
subversion of the Roman empire in the West, the bishops of the Imperial
city extended their dominion over the laity as well as clergy of the
Latin church. The fabric of superstition which they had erected, and
which might long have defied the feeble efforts of reason, was at length
assaulted by a crowd of daring fanatics, who from the twelfth to the
sixteenth century assumed the popular character of reformers. The church
of Rome defended by violence the empire which she had acquired by fraud;
a system of peace and benevolence was soon disgraced by proscriptions,
war, massacres, and the institution of the holy office. And as the
reformers were animated by the love of civil as well as of religious
freedom, the Catholic princes connected their own interest with that of
the clergy, and enforced by fire and the sword the terrors of spiritual
censures. In the Netherlands alone, more than one hundred thousand of
the subjects of Charles V. are said to have suffered by the hand of the
executioner; and this extraordinary number is attested by Grotius, [185]
a man of genius and learning, who preserved his moderation amidst the
fury of contending sects, and who composed the annals of his own age and
country, at a time when the invention of printing had facilitated the
means of intelligence, and increased the danger of detection.

If we are obliged to submit our belief to the authority of Grotius, it
must be allowed, that the number of Protestants, who were executed in a
single province and a single reign, far exceeded that of the primitive
martyrs in the space of three centuries, and of the Roman empire. But if
the improbability of the fact itself should prevail over the weight of
evidence; if Grotius should be convicted of exaggerating the merit and
sufferings of the Reformers; [186] we shall be naturally led to inquire
what confidence can be placed in the doubtful and imperfect monuments
of ancient credulity; what degree of credit can be assigned to a courtly
bishop, and a passionate declaimer, [186a] who, under the protection
of Constantine, enjoyed the exclusive privilege of recording the
persecutions inflicted on the Christians by the vanquished rivals or
disregarded predecessors of their gracious sovereign.

[Footnote 185: Grot. Annal. de Rebus Belgicis, l. i. p. 12, edit. fol.]

[Footnote 186: Fra Paola (Istoria del Concilio Tridentino, l. iii.)
reduces the number of the Belgic martyrs to 50,000. In learning and
moderation Fra Paola was not inferior to Grotius. The priority of time
gives some advantage to the evidence of the former, which he loses, on
the other hand, by the distance of Venice from the Netherlands.]

[Footnote 186a: Eusebius and the author of the Treatise de Mortibus
Persecutorum. It is deeply to be regretted that the history of this
period rest so much on the loose and, it must be admitted, by no means
scrupulous authority of Eusebius. Ecclesiastical history is a solemn
and melancholy lesson that the best, even the most sacred, cause will
eventually the least departure from truth!--M.]

Chapter XVII: Foundation Of Constantinople.--Part I.

Foundation Of Constantinople.--Political System Constantine, And His
Successors.--Military Discipline.--The Palace.--The Finances.

The unfortunate Licinius was the last rival who opposed the greatness,
and the last captive who adorned the triumph, of Constantine. After a
tranquil and prosperous reign, the conquerer bequeathed to his family
the inheritance of the Roman empire; a new capital, a new policy, and
a new religion; and the innovations which he established have been
embraced and consecrated by succeeding generations. The age of the
great Constantine and his sons is filled with important events; but
the historian must be oppressed by their number and variety, unless he
diligently separates from each other the scenes which are connected only
by the order of time. He will describe the political institutions that
gave strength and stability to the empire, before he proceeds to relate
the wars and revolutions which hastened its decline. He will adopt the
division unknown to the ancients of civil and ecclesiastical affairs:
the victory of the Christians, and their intestine discord, will supply
copious and distinct materials both for edification and for scandal.

After the defeat and abdication of Licinius, his victorious rival
proceeded to lay the foundations of a city destined to reign in future
times, the mistress of the East, and to survive the empire and religion
of Constantine. The motives, whether of pride or of policy, which
first induced Diocletian to withdraw himself from the ancient seat
of government, had acquired additional weight by the example of
his successors, and the habits of forty years. Rome was insensibly
confounded with the dependent kingdoms which had once acknowledged
her supremacy; and the country of the Caesars was viewed with cold
indifference by a martial prince, born in the neighborhood of the
Danube, educated in the courts and armies of Asia, and invested with
the purple by the legions of Britain. The Italians, who had received
Constantine as their deliverer, submissively obeyed the edicts which he
sometimes condescended to address to the senate and people of Rome;
but they were seldom honored with the presence of their new sovereign.
During the vigor of his age, Constantine, according to the various
exigencies of peace and war, moved with slow dignity, or with active
diligence, along the frontiers of his extensive dominions; and was
always prepared to take the field either against a foreign or a domestic
enemy. But as he gradually reached the summit of prosperity and the
decline of life, he began to meditate the design of fixing in a more
permanent station the strength as well as majesty of the throne. In the
choice of an advantageous situation, he preferred the confines of Europe
and Asia; to curb with a powerful arm the barbarians who dwelt between
the Danube and the Tanais; to watch with an eye of jealousy the conduct
of the Persian monarch, who indignantly supported the yoke of an
ignominious treaty. With these views, Diocletian had selected and
embellished the residence of Nicomedia: but the memory of Diocletian was
justly abhorred by the protector of the church: and Constantine was not
insensible to the ambition of founding a city which might perpetuate
the glory of his own name. During the late operations of the war against
Licinius, he had sufficient opportunity to contemplate, both as a
soldier and as a statesman, the incomparable position of Byzantium;
and to observe how strongly it was guarded by nature against a hostile
attack, whilst it was accessible on every side to the benefits of
commercial intercourse. Many ages before Constantine, one of the most
judicious historians of antiquity [1 had described the advantages of a
situation, from whence a feeble colony of Greeks derived the command of
the sea, and the honors of a flourishing and independent republic. [2]

[Footnote 1: Polybius, l. iv. p. 423, edit. Casaubon. He observes that
the peace of the Byzantines was frequently disturbed, and the extent of
their territory contracted, by the inroads of the wild Thracians.]

[Footnote 2: The navigator Byzas, who was styled the son of Neptune,
founded the city 656 years before the Christian aera. His followers
were drawn from Argos and Megara. Byzantium was afterwards rebuild and
fortified by the Spartan general Pausanias. See Scaliger Animadvers. ad
Euseb. p. 81. Ducange, Constantinopolis, l. i part i. cap 15, 16. With
regard to the wars of the Byzantines against Philip, the Gauls, and
the kings of Bithynia, we should trust none but the ancient writers who
lived before the greatness of the Imperial city had excited a spirit of
flattery and fiction.]

If we survey Byzantium in the extent which it acquired with the
august name of Constantinople, the figure of the Imperial city may be
represented under that of an unequal triangle. The obtuse point, which
advances towards the east and the shores of Asia, meets and repels
the waves of the Thracian Bosphorus. The northern side of the city is
bounded by the harbor; and the southern is washed by the Propontis, or
Sea of Marmara. The basis of the triangle is opposed to the west, and
terminates the continent of Europe. But the admirable form and division
of the circumjacent land and water cannot, without a more ample
explanation, be clearly or sufficiently understood. The winding channel
through which the waters of the Euxine flow with a rapid and incessant
course towards the Mediterranean, received the appellation of Bosphorus,
a name not less celebrated in the history, than in the fables, of
antiquity. [3] A crowd of temples and of votive altars, profusely
scattered along its steep and woody banks, attested the unskilfulness,
the terrors, and the devotion of the Grecian navigators, who, after
the example of the Argonauts, explored the dangers of the inhospitable
Euxine. On these banks tradition long preserved the memory of the palace
of Phineus, infested by the obscene harpies; [4] and of the sylvan reign
of Amycus, who defied the son of Leda to the combat of the cestus. [5]
The straits of the Bosphorus are terminated by the Cyanean rocks, which,
according to the description of the poets, had once floated on the face
of the waters; and were destined by the gods to protect the entrance of
the Euxine against the eye of profane curiosity. [6] From the Cyanean
rocks to the point and harbor of Byzantium, the winding length of the
Bosphorus extends about sixteen miles, [7] and its most ordinary breadth
may be computed at about one mile and a half. The new castles of Europe
and Asia are constructed, on either continent, upon the foundations
of two celebrated temples, of Serapis and of Jupiter Urius. The old
castles, a work of the Greek emperors, command the narrowest part of the
channel in a place where the opposite banks advance within five hundred
paces of each other. These fortresses were destroyed and strengthened by
Mahomet the Second, when he meditated the siege of Constantinople: [8]
but the Turkish conqueror was most probably ignorant, that near two
thousand years before his reign, Darius had chosen the same situation to
connect the two continents by a bridge of boats. [9] At a small distance
from the old castles we discover the little town of Chrysopolis,
or Scutari, which may almost be considered as the Asiatic suburb of
Constantinople. The Bosphorus, as it begins to open into the Propontis,
passes between Byzantium and Chalcedon. The latter of those cities was
built by the Greeks, a few years before the former; and the blindness
of its founders, who overlooked the superior advantages of the opposite
coast, has been stigmatized by a proverbial expression of contempt. [10]

[Footnote 3: The Bosphorus has been very minutely described by Dionysius
of Byzantium, who lived in the time of Domitian, (Hudson, Geograph
Minor, tom. iii.,) and by Gilles or Gyllius, a French traveller of the
XVIth century. Tournefort (Lettre XV.) seems to have used his own eyes,
and the learning of Gyllius. Add Von Hammer, Constantinopolis und der
Bosphoros, 8vo.--M.]

[Footnote 4: There are very few conjectures so happy as that of Le
Clere, (Bibliotehque Universelle, tom. i. p. 148,) who supposes that
the harpies were only locusts. The Syriac or Phoenician name of those
insects, their noisy flight, the stench and devastation which they
occasion, and the north wind which drives them into the sea, all
contribute to form the striking resemblance.]

[Footnote 5: The residence of Amycus was in Asia, between the old and
the new castles, at a place called Laurus Insana. That of Phineus was in
Europe, near the village of Mauromole and the Black Sea. See Gyllius de
Bosph. l. ii. c. 23. Tournefort, Lettre XV.]

[Footnote 6: The deception was occasioned by several pointed rocks,
alternately sovered and abandoned by the waves. At present there are two
small islands, one towards either shore; that of Europe is distinguished
by the column of Pompey.]

[Footnote 7: The ancients computed one hundred and twenty stadia, or
fifteen Roman miles. They measured only from the new castles, but they
carried the straits as far as the town of Chalcedon.]

[Footnote 8: Ducas. Hist. c. 34. Leunclavius Hist. Turcica Mussulmanica,
l. xv. p. 577. Under the Greek empire these castles were used as state
prisons, under the tremendous name of Lethe, or towers of oblivion.]

[Footnote 9: Darius engraved in Greek and Assyrian letters, on two
marble columns, the names of his subject nations, and the amazing
numbers of his land and sea forces. The Byzantines afterwards
transported these columns into the city, and used them for the altars of
their tutelar deities. Herodotus, l. iv. c. 87.]

[Footnote 10: Namque arctissimo inter Europam Asiamque divortio
Byzantium in extrema Europa posuere Greci, quibus, Pythium Apollinem
consulentibus ubi conderent urbem, redditum oraculum est, quaererent
sedem oecerum terris adversam. Ea ambage Chalcedonii monstrabantur
quod priores illuc advecti, praevisa locorum utilitate pejora legissent
Tacit. Annal. xii. 63.]

The harbor of Constantinople, which may be considered as an arm of the
Bosphorus, obtained, in a very remote period, the denomination of the
Golden Horn. The curve which it describes might be compared to the horn
of a stag, or as it should seem, with more propriety, to that of an ox.
[11] The epithet of golden was expressive of the riches which every wind
wafted from the most distant countries into the secure and capacious
port of Constantinople. The River Lycus, formed by the conflux of two
little streams, pours into the harbor a perpetual supply of fresh water,
which serves to cleanse the bottom, and to invite the periodical
shoals of fish to seek their retreat in that convenient recess. As the
vicissitudes of tides are scarcely felt in those seas, the constant
depth of the harbor allows goods to be landed on the quays without the
assistance of boats; and it has been observed, that in many places the
largest vessels may rest their prows against the houses, while their
sterns are floating in the water. [12] From the mouth of the Lycus to
that of the harbor, this arm of the Bosphorus is more than seven miles
in length. The entrance is about five hundred yards broad, and a strong
chain could be occasionally drawn across it, to guard the port and city
from the attack of a hostile navy. [13]

[Footnote 11: Strabo, l. vii. p. 492, [edit. Casaub.] Most of the
antlers are now broken off; or, to speak less figuratively, most of the
recesses of the harbor are filled up. See Gill. de Bosphoro Thracio, l.
i. c. 5.]

[Footnote 12: Procopius de Aedificiis, l. i. c. 5. His description
is confirmed by modern travellers. See Thevenot, part i. l. i. c. 15.
Tournefort, Lettre XII. Niebuhr, Voyage d'Arabie, p. 22.]

[Footnote 13: See Ducange, C. P. l. i. part i. c. 16, and his
Observations sur Villehardouin, p. 289. The chain was drawn from
the Acropolis near the modern Kiosk, to the tower of Galata; and was
supported at convenient distances by large wooden piles.]

Between the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, the shores of Europe and Asia,
receding on either side, enclose the sea of Marmara, which was known to
the ancients by the denomination of Propontis. The navigation from the
issue of the Bosphorus to the entrance of the Hellespont is about one
hundred and twenty miles.

Those who steer their westward course through the middle of the
Propontis, may at once descry the high lands of Thrace and Bithynia,
and never lose sight of the lofty summit of Mount Olympus, covered with
eternal snows. [14] They leave on the left a deep gulf, at the bottom
of which Nicomedia was seated, the Imperial residence of Diocletian; and
they pass the small islands of Cyzicus and Proconnesus before they cast
anchor at Gallipoli; where the sea, which separates Asia from Europe, is
again contracted into a narrow channel.

[Footnote 14: Thevenot (Voyages au Levant, part i. l. i. c. 14)
contracts the measure to 125 small Greek miles. Belon (Observations,
l. ii. c. 1.) gives a good description of the Propontis, but contents
himself with the vague expression of one day and one night's sail. When
Sandy's (Travels, p. 21) talks of 150 furlongs in length, as well as
breadth we can only suppose some mistake of the press in the text of
that judicious traveller.]

The geographers who, with the most skilful accuracy, have surveyed the
form and extent of the Hellespont, assign about sixty miles for the
winding course, and about three miles for the ordinary breadth of those
celebrated straits. [15] But the narrowest part of the channel is found
to the northward of the old Turkish castles between the cities of Sestus
and Abydus. It was here that the adventurous Leander braved the passage
of the flood for the possession of his mistress. [16] It was here
likewise, in a place where the distance between the opposite banks
cannot exceed five hundred paces, that Xerxes imposed a stupendous
bridge of boats, for the purpose of transporting into Europe a hundred
and seventy myriads of barbarians. [17] A sea contracted within such
narrow limits may seem but ill to deserve the singular epithet of
broad, which Homer, as well as Orpheus, has frequently bestowed on the
Hellespont. [17a] But our ideas of greatness are of a relative nature:
the traveller, and especially the poet, who sailed along the Hellespont,
who pursued the windings of the stream, and contemplated the rural
scenery, which appeared on every side to terminate the prospect,
insensibly lost the remembrance of the sea; and his fancy painted those
celebrated straits, with all the attributes of a mighty river flowing
with a swift current, in the midst of a woody and inland country, and
at length, through a wide mouth, discharging itself into the Aegean or
Archipelago. [18] Ancient Troy, [19] seated on a an eminence at the foot
of Mount Ida, overlooked the mouth of the Hellespont, which scarcely
received an accession of waters from the tribute of those immortal
rivulets the Simois and Scamander. The Grecian camp had stretched twelve
miles along the shore from the Sigaean to the Rhaetean promontory; and
the flanks of the army were guarded by the bravest chiefs who fought
under the banners of Agamemnon. The first of those promontories was
occupied by Achilles with his invincible myrmidons, and the dauntless
Ajax pitched his tents on the other. After Ajax had fallen a sacrifice
to his disappointed pride, and to the ingratitude of the Greeks, his
sepulchre was erected on the ground where he had defended the navy
against the rage of Jove and of Hector; and the citizens of the rising
town of Rhaeteum celebrated his memory with divine honors. [20] Before
Constantine gave a just preference to the situation of Byzantium, he had
conceived the design of erecting the seat of empire on this celebrated
spot, from whence the Romans derived their fabulous origin. The
extensive plain which lies below ancient Troy, towards the Rhaetean
promontory and the tomb of Ajax, was first chosen for his new capital;
and though the undertaking was soon relinquished the stately remains
of unfinished walls and towers attracted the notice of all who sailed
through the straits of the Hellespont. [21]

[Footnote 15: See an admirable dissertation of M. d'Anville upon the
Hellespont or Dardanelles, in the Memoires tom. xxviii. p. 318--346. Yet
even that ingenious geographer is too fond of supposing new, and perhaps
imaginary measures, for the purpose of rendering ancient writers as
accurate as himself. The stadia employed by Herodotus in the description
of the Euxine, the Bosphorus, &c., (l. iv. c. 85,) must undoubtedly
be all of the same species; but it seems impossible to reconcile them
either with truth or with each other.]

[Footnote 16: The oblique distance between Sestus and Abydus was
thirty stadia. The improbable tale of Hero and Leander is exposed by M.
Mahudel, but is defended on the authority of poets and medals by M.
de la Nauze. See the Academie des Inscriptions, tom. vii. Hist. p. 74.
elem. p. 240. Note: The practical illustration of the possibility of
Leander's feat by Lord Byron and other English swimmers is too well
known to need particularly reference--M.]

[Footnote 17: See the seventh book of Herodotus, who has erected an
elegant trophy to his own fame and to that of his country. The review
appears to have been made with tolerable accuracy; but the vanity, first
of the Persians, and afterwards of the Greeks, was interested to magnify
the armament and the victory. I should much doubt whether the invaders
have ever outnumbered the men of any country which they attacked.]

[Footnote 17a: Gibbon does not allow greater width between the two
nearest points of the shores of the Hellespont than between those of the
Bosphorus; yet all the ancient writers speak of the Hellespontic strait
as broader than the other: they agree in giving it seven stadia in its
narrowest width, (Herod. in Melp. c. 85. Polym. c. 34. Strabo, p. 591.
Plin. iv. c. 12.) which make 875 paces. It is singular that Gibbon, who
in the fifteenth note of this chapter reproaches d'Anville with being
fond of supposing new and perhaps imaginary measures, has here adopted
the peculiar measurement which d'Anville has assigned to the stadium.
This great geographer believes that the ancients had a stadium of
fifty-one toises, and it is that which he applies to the walls of
Babylon. Now, seven of these stadia are equal to about 500 paces, 7
stadia = 2142 feet: 500 paces = 2135 feet 5 inches.--G. See Rennell,
Geog. of Herod. p. 121. Add Ukert, Geographie der Griechen und Romer, v.
i. p. 2, 71.--M.]

[Footnote 18: See Wood's Observations on Homer, p. 320. I have, with
pleasure, selected this remark from an author who in general seems to
have disappointed the expectation of the public as a critic, and still
more as a traveller. He had visited the banks of the Hellespont; and had
read Strabo; he ought to have consulted the Roman itineraries. How
was it possible for him to confound Ilium and Alexandria Troas,
(Observations, p. 340, 341,) two cities which were sixteen miles distant
from each other? * Note: Compare Walpole's Memoirs on Turkey, v. i.
p. 101. Dr. Clarke adopted Mr. Walpole's interpretation of the salt
Hellespont. But the old interpretation is more graphic and Homeric.
Clarke's Travels, ii. 70.--M.]

[Footnote 19: Demetrius of Scepsis wrote sixty books on thirty lines
of Homer's catalogue. The XIIIth Book of Strabo is sufficient for our

[Footnote 20: Strabo, l. xiii. p. 595, [890, edit. Casaub.] The
disposition of the ships, which were drawn upon dry land, and the posts
of Ajax and Achilles, are very clearly described by Homer. See Iliad,
ix. 220.]

[Footnote 21: Zosim. l. ii. [c. 30,] p. 105. Sozomen, l. ii. c. 3.
Theophanes, p. 18. Nicephorus Callistus, l. vii. p. 48. Zonaras,
tom. ii. l. xiii. p. 6. Zosimus places the new city between Ilium and
Alexandria, but this apparent difference may be reconciled by the large
extent of its circumference. Before the foundation of Constantinople,
Thessalonica is mentioned by Cedrenus, (p. 283,) and Sardica by Zonaras,
as the intended capital. They both suppose with very little probability,
that the emperor, if he had not been prevented by a prodigy, would have
repeated the mistake of the blind Chalcedonians.]

We are at present qualified to view the advantageous position of
Constantinople; which appears to have been formed by nature for the
centre and capital of a great monarchy. Situated in the forty-first
degree of latitude, the Imperial city commanded, from her seven hills,
[22] the opposite shores of Europe and Asia; the climate was healthy and
temperate, the soil fertile, the harbor secure and capacious; and the
approach on the side of the continent was of small extent and easy
defence. The Bosphorus and the Hellespont may be considered as the two
gates of Constantinople; and the prince who possessed those important
passages could always shut them against a naval enemy, and open them to
the fleets of commerce. The preservation of the eastern provinces
may, in some degree, be ascribed to the policy of Constantine, as the
barbarians of the Euxine, who in the preceding age had poured their
armaments into the heart of the Mediterranean, soon desisted from
the exercise of piracy, and despaired of forcing this insurmountable
barrier. When the gates of the Hellespont and Bosphorus were shut, the
capital still enjoyed within their spacious enclosure every production
which could supply the wants, or gratify the luxury, of its numerous
inhabitants. The sea-coasts of Thrace and Bithynia, which languish
under the weight of Turkish oppression, still exhibit a rich prospect of
vineyards, of gardens, and of plentiful harvests; and the Propontis
has ever been renowned for an inexhaustible store of the most exquisite
fish, that are taken in their stated seasons, without skill, and almost
without labor. [23] But when the passages of the straits were thrown
open for trade, they alternately admitted the natural and artificial
riches of the north and south, of the Euxine, and of the Mediterranean.
Whatever rude commodities were collected in the forests of Germany
and Scythia, and far as the sources of the Tanais and the Borysthenes;
whatsoever was manufactured by the skill of Europe or Asia; the corn of
Egypt, and the gems and spices of the farthest India, were brought by
the varying winds into the port of Constantinople, which for many ages
attracted the commerce of the ancient world. [24]

[See Basilica Of Constantinople]

[Footnote 22: Pocock's Description of the East, vol. ii. part ii. p.
127. His plan of the seven hills is clear and accurate. That traveller
is seldom unsatisfactory.]

[Footnote 23: See Belon, Observations, c. 72--76. Among a variety of
different species, the Pelamides, a sort of Thunnies, were the most
celebrated. We may learn from Polybius, Strabo, and Tacitus, that the
profits of the fishery constituted the principal revenue of Byzantium.]

[Footnote 24: See the eloquent description of Busbequius, epistol. i.
p. 64. Est in Europa; habet in conspectu Asiam, Egyptum. Africamque
a dextra: quae tametsi contiguae non sunt, maris tamen navigandique
commoditate veluti junguntur. A sinistra vero Pontus est Euxinus, &c.]

The prospect of beauty, of safety, and of wealth, united in a single
spot, was sufficient to justify the choice of Constantine. But as some
decent mixture of prodigy and fable has, in every age, been supposed
to reflect a becoming majesty on the origin of great cities, [25] the
emperor was desirous of ascribing his resolution, not so much to the
uncertain counsels of human policy, as to the infallible and eternal
decrees of divine wisdom. In one of his laws he has been careful to
instruct posterity, that in obedience to the commands of God, he laid
the everlasting foundations of Constantinople: [26] and though he has
not condescended to relate in what manner the celestial inspiration
was communicated to his mind, the defect of his modest silence has been
liberally supplied by the ingenuity of succeeding writers; who describe
the nocturnal vision which appeared to the fancy of Constantine, as he
slept within the walls of Byzantium. The tutelar genius of the city, a
venerable matron sinking under the weight of years and infirmities, was
suddenly transformed into a blooming maid, whom his own hands adorned
with all the symbols of Imperial greatness. [27] The monarch awoke,
interpreted the auspicious omen, and obeyed, without hesitation,
the will of Heaven The day which gave birth to a city or colony was
celebrated by the Romans with such ceremonies as had been ordained by a
generous superstition; [28] and though Constantine might omit some rites
which savored too strongly of their Pagan origin, yet he was anxious
to leave a deep impression of hope and respect on the minds of the
spectators. On foot, with a lance in his hand, the emperor himself led
the solemn procession; and directed the line, which was traced as the
boundary of the destined capital: till the growing circumference was
observed with astonishment by the assistants, who, at length, ventured
to observe, that he had already exceeded the most ample measure of a
great city. "I shall still advance," replied Constantine, "till He,
the invisible guide who marches before me, thinks proper to stop."
[29] Without presuming to investigate the nature or motives of this
extraordinary conductor, we shall content ourselves with the more humble
task of describing the extent and limits of Constantinople. [30]

[Footnote 25: Datur haec venia antiquitati, ut miscendo humana divinis,
primordia urbium augustiora faciat. T. Liv. in prooem.]

[Footnote 26: He says in one of his laws, pro commoditate urbis quam
aeteras nomine, jubente Deo, donavimus. Cod. Theodos. l. xiii. tit. v.
leg. 7.]

[Footnote 27: The Greeks, Theophanes, Cedrenus, and the author of
the Alexandrian Chronicle, confine themselves to vague and general
expressions. For a more particular account of the vision, we are obliged
to have recourse to such Latin writers as William of Malmesbury. See
Ducange, C. P. l. i. p. 24, 25.]

[Footnote 28: See Plutarch in Romul. tom. i. p. 49, edit. Bryan. Among
other ceremonies, a large hole, which had been dug for that purpose,
was filled up with handfuls of earth, which each of the settlers brought
from the place of his birth, and thus adopted his new country.]

[Footnote 29: Philostorgius, l. ii. c. 9. This incident, though borrowed
from a suspected writer, is characteristic and probable.]

[Footnote 30: See in the Memoires de l'Academie, tom. xxxv p. 747-758,
a dissertation of M. d'Anville on the extent of Constantinople. He
takes the plan inserted in the Imperium Orientale of Banduri as the most
complete; but, by a series of very nice observations, he reduced the
extravagant proportion of the scale, and instead of 9500, determines the
circumference of the city as consisting of about 7800 French toises.]

In the actual state of the city, the palace and gardens of the Seraglio
occupy the eastern promontory, the first of the seven hills, and cover
about one hundred and fifty acres of our own measure. The seat of
Turkish jealousy and despotism is erected on the foundations of a
Grecian republic; but it may be supposed that the Byzantines were
tempted by the conveniency of the harbor to extend their habitations
on that side beyond the modern limits of the Seraglio. The new walls of
Constantine stretched from the port to the Propontis across the enlarged
breadth of the triangle, at the distance of fifteen stadia from the
ancient fortification; and with the city of Byzantium they enclosed
five of the seven hills, which, to the eyes of those who approach
Constantinople, appear to rise above each other in beautiful order.
[31] About a century after the death of the founder, the new buildings,
extending on one side up the harbor, and on the other along the
Propontis, already covered the narrow ridge of the sixth, and the broad
summit of the seventh hill. The necessity of protecting those suburbs
from the incessant inroads of the barbarians engaged the younger
Theodosius to surround his capital with an adequate and permanent
enclosure of walls. [32] From the eastern promontory to the golden gate,
the extreme length of Constantinople was about three Roman miles; [33]
the circumference measured between ten and eleven; and the surface
might be computed as equal to about two thousand English acres. It is
impossible to justify the vain and credulous exaggerations of modern
travellers, who have sometimes stretched the limits of Constantinople
over the adjacent villages of the European, and even of the Asiatic
coast. [34] But the suburbs of Pera and Galata, though situate beyond
the harbor, may deserve to be considered as a part of the city; [35]
and this addition may perhaps authorize the measure of a Byzantine
historian, who assigns sixteen Greek (about fourteen Roman) miles for
the circumference of his native city. [36] Such an extent may not seem
unworthy of an Imperial residence. Yet Constantinople must yield to
Babylon and Thebes, [37] to ancient Rome, to London, and even to Paris.

[Footnote 31: Codinus, Antiquitat. Const. p. 12. He assigns the
church of St. Anthony as the boundary on the side of the harbor. It is
mentioned in Ducange, l. iv. c. 6; but I have tried, without success, to
discover the exact place where it was situated.]

[Footnote 32: The new wall of Theodosius was constructed in the year
413. In 447 it was thrown down by an earthquake, and rebuilt in three
months by the diligence of the praefect Cyrus. The suburb of the
Blanchernae was first taken into the city in the reign of Heraclius
Ducange, Const. l. i. c. 10, 11.]

[Footnote 33: The measurement is expressed in the Notitia by 14,075
feet. It is reasonable to suppose that these were Greek feet, the
proportion of which has been ingeniously determined by M. d'Anville.
He compares the 180 feet with 78 Hashemite cubits, which in different
writers are assigned for the heights of St. Sophia. Each of these cubits
was equal to 27 French inches.]

[Footnote 34: The accurate Thevenot (l. i. c. 15) walked in one hour and
three quarters round two of the sides of the triangle, from the Kiosk
of the Seraglio to the seven towers. D'Anville examines with care,
and receives with confidence, this decisive testimony, which gives a
circumference of ten or twelve miles. The extravagant computation of
Tournefort (Lettre XI) of thirty-tour or thirty miles, without including
Scutari, is a strange departure from his usual character.]

[Footnote 35: The sycae, or fig-trees, formed the thirteenth region, and
were very much embellished by Justinian. It has since borne the names
of Pera and Galata. The etymology of the former is obvious; that of
the latter is unknown. See Ducange, Const. l. i. c. 22, and Gyllius de
Byzant. l. iv. c. 10.]

[Footnote 36: One hundred and eleven stadia, which may be translated
into modern Greek miles each of seven stadia, or 660, sometimes only 600
French toises. See D'Anville, Mesures Itineraires, p. 53.]

[Footnote 37: When the ancient texts, which describe the size of Babylon
and Thebes, are settled, the exaggerations reduced, and the measures
ascertained, we find that those famous cities filled the great but not
incredible circumference of about twenty-five or thirty miles. Compare
D'Anville, Mem. de l'Academie, tom. xxviii. p. 235, with his Description
de l'Egypte, p. 201, 202.]

[Footnote 38: If we divide Constantinople and Paris into equal squares
of 50 French toises, the former contains 850, and the latter 1160, of
those divisions.]

Chapter XVII: Foundation Of Constantinople.--Part II.

The master of the Roman world, who aspired to erect an eternal monument
of the glories of his reign could employ in the prosecution of that
great work, the wealth, the labor, and all that yet remained of the
genius of obedient millions. Some estimate may be formed of the expense
bestowed with Imperial liberality on the foundation of Constantinople,
by the allowance of about two millions five hundred thousand pounds for
the construction of the walls, the porticos, and the aqueducts. [39] The
forests that overshadowed the shores of the Euxine, and the celebrated
quarries of white marble in the little island of Proconnesus, supplied
an inexhaustible stock of materials, ready to be conveyed, by the
convenience of a short water carriage, to the harbor of Byzantium. [40]
A multitude of laborers and artificers urged the conclusion of the work
with incessant toil: but the impatience of Constantine soon discovered,
that, in the decline of the arts, the skill as well as numbers of
his architects bore a very unequal proportion to the greatness of his
designs. The magistrates of the most distant provinces were therefore
directed to institute schools, to appoint professors, and by the hopes
of rewards and privileges, to engage in the study and practice of
architecture a sufficient number of ingenious youths, who had received
a liberal education. [41] The buildings of the new city were executed by
such artificers as the reign of Constantine could afford; but they were
decorated by the hands of the most celebrated masters of the age of
Pericles and Alexander. To revive the genius of Phidias and Lysippus,
surpassed indeed the power of a Roman emperor; but the immortal
productions which they had bequeathed to posterity were exposed without
defence to the rapacious vanity of a despot. By his commands the cities
of Greece and Asia were despoiled of their most valuable ornaments. [42]
The trophies of memorable wars, the objects of religious veneration, the
most finished statues of the gods and heroes, of the sages and poets,
of ancient times, contributed to the splendid triumph of Constantinople;
and gave occasion to the remark of the historian Cedrenus, [43] who
observes, with some enthusiasm, that nothing seemed wanting except
the souls of the illustrious men whom these admirable monuments were
intended to represent. But it is not in the city of Constantine, nor in
the declining period of an empire, when the human mind was depressed by
civil and religious slavery, that we should seek for the souls of Homer
and of Demosthenes.

[Footnote 39: Six hundred centenaries, or sixty thousand pounds' weight
of gold. This sum is taken from Codinus, Antiquit. Const. p. 11; but
unless that contemptible author had derived his information from some
purer sources, he would probably have been unacquainted with so obsolete
a mode of reckoning.]

[Footnote 40: For the forests of the Black Sea, consult Tournefort,
Lettre XVI. for the marble quarries of Proconnesus, see Strabo, l.
xiii. p. 588, (881, edit. Casaub.) The latter had already furnished the
materials of the stately buildings of Cyzicus.]

[Footnote 41: See the Codex Theodos. l. xiii. tit. iv. leg. 1. This law
is dated in the year 334, and was addressed to the praefect of Italy,
whose jurisdiction extended over Africa. The commentary of Godefroy on
the whole title well deserves to be consulted.]

[Footnote 42: Constantinopolis dedicatur poene omnium urbium nuditate.
Hieronym. Chron. p. 181. See Codinus, p. 8, 9. The author of the
Antiquitat. Const. l. iii. (apud Banduri Imp. Orient. tom. i. p. 41)
enumerates Rome, Sicily, Antioch, Athens, and a long list of other
cities. The provinces of Greece and Asia Minor may be supposed to have
yielded the richest booty.]

[Footnote 43: Hist. Compend. p. 369. He describes the statue, or rather
bust, of Homer with a degree of taste which plainly indicates that
Cadrenus copied the style of a more fortunate age.]

During the siege of Byzantium, the conqueror had pitched his tent on the
commanding eminence of the second hill. To perpetuate the memory of
his success, he chose the same advantageous position for the principal
Forum; [44] which appears to have been of a circular, or rather
elliptical form. The two opposite entrances formed triumphal arches; the
porticos, which enclosed it on every side, were filled with statues;
and the centre of the Forum was occupied by a lofty column, of which
a mutilated fragment is now degraded by the appellation of the burnt
pillar. This column was erected on a pedestal of white marble twenty
feet high; and was composed of ten pieces of porphyry, each of
which measured about ten feet in height, and about thirty-three in
circumference. [45] On the summit of the pillar, above one hundred and
twenty feet from the ground, stood the colossal statue of Apollo. It
was a bronze, had been transported either from Athens or from a town
of Phrygia, and was supposed to be the work of Phidias. The artist had
represented the god of day, or, as it was afterwards interpreted, the
emperor Constantine himself, with a sceptre in his right hand, the globe
of the world in his left, and a crown of rays glittering on his head.
[46] The Circus, or Hippodrome, was a stately building about four
hundred paces in length, and one hundred in breadth. [47] The space
between the two metoe or goals were filled with statues and obelisks;
and we may still remark a very singular fragment of antiquity; the
bodies of three serpents, twisted into one pillar of brass. Their triple
heads had once supported the golden tripod which, after the defeat
of Xerxes, was consecrated in the temple of Delphi by the victorious
Greeks. [48] The beauty of the Hippodrome has been long since defaced by
the rude hands of the Turkish conquerors; [48a] but, under the similar
appellation of Atmeidan, it still serves as a place of exercise for
their horses. From the throne, whence the emperor viewed the Circensian
games, a winding staircase [49] descended to the palace; a magnificent
edifice, which scarcely yielded to the residence of Rome itself, and
which, together with the dependent courts, gardens, and porticos,
covered a considerable extent of ground upon the banks of the Propontis
between the Hippodrome and the church of St. Sophia. [50] We might
likewise celebrate the baths, which still retained the name of
Zeuxippus, after they had been enriched, by the munificence of
Constantine, with lofty columns, various marbles, and above threescore
statues of bronze. [51] But we should deviate from the design of this
history, if we attempted minutely to describe the different buildings
or quarters of the city. It may be sufficient to observe, that whatever
could adorn the dignity of a great capital, or contribute to the benefit
or pleasure of its numerous inhabitants, was contained within the walls
of Constantinople. A particular description, composed about a century
after its foundation, enumerates a capitol or school of learning, a
circus, two theatres, eight public, and one hundred and fifty-three
private baths, fifty-two porticos, five granaries, eight aqueducts or
reservoirs of water, four spacious halls for the meetings of the senate
or courts of justice, fourteen churches, fourteen palaces, and four
thousand three hundred and eighty-eight houses, which, for their size
or beauty, deserved to be distinguished from the multitude of plebeian
inhabitants. [52]

[Footnote 44: Zosim. l. ii. p. 106. Chron. Alexandrin. vel Paschal. p.
284, Ducange, Const. l. i. c. 24. Even the last of those writers seems
to confound the Forum of Constantine with the Augusteum, or court of the
palace. I am not satisfied whether I have properly distinguished what
belongs to the one and the other.]

[Footnote 45: The most tolerable account of this column is given by
Pocock. Description of the East, vol. ii. part ii. p. 131. But it is
still in many instances perplexed and unsatisfactory.]

[Footnote 46: Ducange, Const. l. i. c. 24, p. 76, and his notes ad
Alexiad. p. 382. The statue of Constantine or Apollo was thrown down
under the reign of Alexius Comnenus. * Note: On this column (says M. von
Hammer) Constantine, with singular shamelessness, placed his own statue
with the attributes of Apollo and Christ. He substituted the nails of
the Passion for the rays of the sun. Such is the direct testimony of
the author of the Antiquit. Constantinop. apud Banduri. Constantine was
replaced by the "great and religious" Julian, Julian, by Theodosius. A.
D. 1412, the key stone was loosened by an earthquake. The statue fell
in the reign of Alexius Comnenus, and was replaced by the cross.
The Palladium was said to be buried under the pillar. Von Hammer,
Constantinopolis und der Bosporos, i. 162.--M.]

[Footnote 47: Tournefort (Lettre XII.) computes the Atmeidan at four
hundred paces. If he means geometrical paces of five feet each, it was
three hundred toises in length, about forty more than the great circus
of Rome. See D'Anville, Mesures Itineraires, p. 73.]

[Footnote 48: The guardians of the most holy relics would rejoice if
they were able to produce such a chain of evidence as may be alleged
on this occasion. See Banduri ad Antiquitat. Const. p. 668. Gyllius de
Byzant. l. ii. c. 13. 1. The original consecration of the tripod
and pillar in the temple of Delphi may be proved from Herodotus and
Pausanias. 2. The Pagan Zosimus agrees with the three ecclesiastical
historians, Eusebius, Socrates, and Sozomen, that the sacred ornaments
of the temple of Delphi were removed to Constantinople by the order of
Constantine; and among these the serpentine pillar of the Hippodrome is
particularly mentioned. 3. All the European travellers who have visited
Constantinople, from Buondelmonte to Pocock, describe it in the same
place, and almost in the same manner; the differences between them are
occasioned only by the injuries which it has sustained from the Turks.
Mahomet the Second broke the under jaw of one of the serpents with a
stroke of his battle axe Thevenot, l. i. c. 17. * Note: See note 75, ch.
lxviii. for Dr. Clarke's rejection of Thevenot's authority. Von
Hammer, however, repeats the story of Thevenot without questioning its

[Footnote 48a: In 1808 the Janizaries revolted against the vizier
Mustapha Baisactar, who wished to introduce a new system of military
organization, besieged the quarter of the Hippodrome, in which stood
the palace of the viziers, and the Hippodrome was consumed in the

[Footnote 49: The Latin name Cochlea was adopted by the Greeks, and very
frequently occurs in the Byzantine history. Ducange, Const. i. c. l, p.

[Footnote 50: There are three topographical points which indicate the
situation of the palace. 1. The staircase which connected it with the
Hippodrome or Atmeidan. 2. A small artificial port on the Propontis,
from whence there was an easy ascent, by a flight of marble steps, to
the gardens of the palace. 3. The Augusteum was a spacious court, one
side of which was occupied by the front of the palace, and another by
the church of St. Sophia.]

[Footnote 51: Zeuxippus was an epithet of Jupiter, and the baths were a
part of old Byzantium. The difficulty of assigning their true situation
has not been felt by Ducange. History seems to connect them with St.
Sophia and the palace; but the original plan inserted in Banduri places
them on the other side of the city, near the harbor. For their beauties,
see Chron. Paschal. p. 285, and Gyllius de Byzant. l. ii. c. 7.
Christodorus (see Antiquitat. Const. l. vii.) composed inscriptions in
verse for each of the statues. He was a Theban poet in genius as well
as in birth:--Baeotum in crasso jurares aere natum. * Note: Yet, for
his age, the description of the statues of Hecuba and of Homer are by no
means without merit. See Antholog. Palat. (edit. Jacobs) i. 37--M.]

[Footnote 52: See the Notitia. Rome only reckoned 1780 large houses,
domus; but the word must have had a more dignified signification. No
insulae are mentioned at Constantinople. The old capital consisted of 42
streets, the new of 322.]

The populousness of his favored city was the next and most serious
object of the attention of its founder. In the dark ages which succeeded
the translation of the empire, the remote and the immediate consequences
of that memorable event were strangely confounded by the vanity of
the Greeks and the credulity of the Latins. [53] It was asserted, and
believed, that all the noble families of Rome, the senate, and the
equestrian order, with their innumerable attendants, had followed their
emperor to the banks of the Propontis; that a spurious race of strangers
and plebeians was left to possess the solitude of the ancient capital;
and that the lands of Italy, long since converted into gardens, were at
once deprived of cultivation and inhabitants. [54] In the course of this
history, such exaggerations will be reduced to their just value: yet,
since the growth of Constantinople cannot be ascribed to the general
increase of mankind and of industry, it must be admitted that this
artificial colony was raised at the expense of the ancient cities of
the empire. Many opulent senators of Rome, and of the eastern provinces,
were probably invited by Constantine to adopt for their country
the fortunate spot, which he had chosen for his own residence. The
invitations of a master are scarcely to be distinguished from commands;
and the liberality of the emperor obtained a ready and cheerful
obedience. He bestowed on his favorites the palaces which he had built
in the several quarters of the city, assigned them lands and pensions
for the support of their dignity, [55] and alienated the demesnes
of Pontus and Asia to grant hereditary estates by the easy tenure of
maintaining a house in the capital. [56] But these encouragements and
obligations soon became superfluous, and were gradually abolished.
Wherever the seat of government is fixed, a considerable part of the
public revenue will be expended by the prince himself, by his ministers,
by the officers of justice, and by the domestics of the palace. The most
wealthy of the provincials will be attracted by the powerful motives of
interest and duty, of amusement and curiosity. A third and more
numerous class of inhabitants will insensibly be formed, of servants,
of artificers, and of merchants, who derive their subsistence from their
own labor, and from the wants or luxury of the superior ranks. In less
than a century, Constantinople disputed with Rome itself the preeminence
of riches and numbers. New piles of buildings, crowded together with too
little regard to health or convenience, scarcely allowed the intervals
of narrow streets for the perpetual throng of men, of horses, and of
carriages. The allotted space of ground was insufficient to contain
the increasing people; and the additional foundations, which, on either
side, were advanced into the sea, might alone have composed a very
considerable city. [57]

[Footnote 53: Liutprand, Legatio ad Imp. Nicephornm, p. 153. The modern
Greeks have strangely disfigured the antiquities of Constantinople. We
might excuse the errors of the Turkish or Arabian writers; but it is
somewhat astonishing, that the Greeks, who had access to the authentic
materials preserved in their own language, should prefer fiction to
truth, and loose tradition to genuine history. In a single page of
Codinus we may detect twelve unpardonable mistakes; the reconciliation
of Severus and Niger, the marriage of their son and daughter, the
siege of Byzantium by the Macedonians, the invasion of the Gauls, which
recalled Severus to Rome, the sixty years which elapsed from his death
to the foundation of Constantinople, &c.]

[Footnote 54: Montesquieu, Grandeur et Decadence des Romains, c. 17.]

[Footnote 55: Themist. Orat. iii. p. 48, edit. Hardouin. Sozomen, l. ii.
c. 3. Zosim. l. ii. p. 107. Anonym. Valesian. p. 715. If we could credit
Codinus, (p. 10,) Constantine built houses for the senators on the exact
model of their Roman palaces, and gratified them, as well as himself,
with the pleasure of an agreeable surprise; but the whole story is full
of fictions and inconsistencies.]

[Footnote 56: The law by which the younger Theodosius, in the year 438,
abolished this tenure, may be found among the Novellae of that emperor
at the end of the Theodosian Code, tom. vi. nov. 12. M. de Tillemont
(Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 371) has evidently mistaken the nature
of these estates. With a grant from the Imperial demesnes, the same
condition was accepted as a favor, which would justly have been deemed a
hardship, if it had been imposed upon private property.]

[Footnote 57: The passages of Zosimus, of Eunapius, of Sozomen, and of
Agathias, which relate to the increase of buildings and inhabitants at
Constantinople, are collected and connected by Gyllius de Byzant. l.
i. c. 3. Sidonius Apollinaris (in Panegyr. Anthem. 56, p. 279, edit.
Sirmond) describes the moles that were pushed forwards into the sea,
they consisted of the famous Puzzolan sand, which hardens in the water.]

The frequent and regular distributions of wine and oil, of corn or
bread, of money or provisions, had almost exempted the poorest citizens
of Rome from the necessity of labor. The magnificence of the first
Caesars was in some measure imitated by the founder of Constantinople:
[58] but his liberality, however it might excite the applause of the
people, has in curred the censure of posterity. A nation of legislators
and conquerors might assert their claim to the harvests of Africa, which
had been purchased with their blood; and it was artfully contrived by
Augustus, that, in the enjoyment of plenty, the Romans should lose
the memory of freedom. But the prodigality of Constantine could not be
excused by any consideration either of public or private interest; and
the annual tribute of corn imposed upon Egypt for the benefit of his
new capital, was applied to feed a lazy and insolent populace, at the
expense of the husbandmen of an industrious province. [59] [59a] Some
other regulations of this emperor are less liable to blame, but they
are less deserving of notice. He divided Constantinople into fourteen
regions or quarters, [60] dignified the public council with the
appellation of senate, [61] communicated to the citizens the privileges
of Italy, [62] and bestowed on the rising city the title of Colony, the
first and most favored daughter of ancient Rome. The venerable parent
still maintained the legal and acknowledged supremacy, which was due to
her age, her dignity, and to the remembrance of her former greatness.

[Footnote 58: Sozomen, l. ii. c. 3. Philostorg. l. ii. c. 9. Codin.
Antiquitat. Const. p. 8. It appears by Socrates, l. ii. c. 13, that the
daily allowance of the city consisted of eight myriads of which we may
either translate, with Valesius, by the words modii of corn, or consider
us expressive of the number of loaves of bread. * Note: At Rome the
poorer citizens who received these gratuities were inscribed in a
register; they had only a personal right. Constantine attached the right
to the houses in his new capital, to engage the lower classes of
the people to build their houses with expedition. Codex Therodos. l.

[Footnote 59: See Cod. Theodos. l. xiii. and xiv., and Cod. Justinian.
Edict. xii. tom. ii. p. 648, edit. Genev. See the beautiful complaint of
Rome in the poem of Claudian de Bell. Gildonico, ver. 46-64.----Cum
subiit par Roma mihi, divisaque sumsit Aequales aurora togas; Aegyptia
rura In partem cessere novam.]

[Footnote 59a: This was also at the expense of Rome. The emperor ordered
that the fleet of Alexandria should transport to Constantinople the
grain of Egypt which it carried before to Rome: this grain supplied Rome
during four months of the year. Claudian has described with force the
famine occasioned by this measure:--

     Haec nobis, haec ante dabas; nunc pabula tantum
     Roma precor: miserere tuae; pater optime, gentis:
     Extremam defende famem. Claud. de Bell. Gildon. v. 34.--G.

It was scarcely this measure. Gildo had cut off the African as well as
the Egyptian supplies.--M.]

[Footnote 60: The regions of Constantinople are mentioned in the code
of Justinian, and particularly described in the Notitia of the younger
Theodosius; but as the four last of them are not included within the
wall of Constantine, it may be doubted whether this division of the city
should be referred to the founder.]

[Footnote 61: Senatum constituit secundi ordinis; Claros vocavit.
Anonym Valesian. p. 715. The senators of old Rome were styled
Clarissimi. See a curious note of Valesius ad Ammian. Marcellin. xxii.
9. From the eleventh epistle of Julian, it should seem that the place
of senator was considered as a burden, rather than as an honor; but the
Abbe de la Bleterie (Vie de Jovien, tom. ii. p. 371) has shown that this
epistle could not relate to Constantinople. Might we not read, instead
of the celebrated name of the obscure but more probable word Bisanthe
or Rhoedestus, now Rhodosto, was a small maritime city of Thrace. See
Stephan. Byz. de Urbibus, p. 225, and Cellar. Geograph. tom. i. p. 849.]

[Footnote 62: Cod. Theodos. l. xiv. 13. The commentary of Godefroy (tom.
v. p. 220) is long, but perplexed; nor indeed is it easy to ascertain in
what the Jus Italicum could consist, after the freedom of the city had
been communicated to the whole empire. * Note: "This right, (the Jus
Italicum,) which by most writers is referred with out foundation to the
personal condition of the citizens, properly related to the city as a
whole, and contained two parts. First, the Roman or quiritarian
property in the soil, (commercium,) and its capability of mancipation,
usucaption, and vindication; moreover, as an inseparable consequence of
this, exemption from land-tax. Then, secondly, a free constitution
in the Italian form, with Duumvirs, Quinquennales. and Aediles, and
especially with Jurisdiction." Savigny, Geschichte des Rom. Rechts i. p.

[Footnote 63: Julian (Orat. i. p. 8) celebrates Constantinople as not
less superior to all other cities than she was inferior to Rome itself.
His learned commentator (Spanheim, p. 75, 76) justifies this language
by several parallel and contemporary instances. Zosimus, as well as
Socrates and Sozomen, flourished after the division of the empire
between the two sons of Theodosius, which established a perfect equality
between the old and the new capital.]

As Constantine urged the progress of the work with the impatience of
a lover, the walls, the porticos, and the principal edifices were
completed in a few years, or, according to another account, in a few
months; [64] but this extraordinary diligence should excite the less
admiration, since many of the buildings were finished in so hasty and
imperfect a manner, that under the succeeding reign, they were preserved
with difficulty from impending ruin. [65] But while they displayed the
vigor and freshness of youth, the founder prepared to celebrate the
dedication of his city. [66] The games and largesses which crowned the
pomp of this memorable festival may easily be supposed; but there is one
circumstance of a more singular and permanent nature, which ought
not entirely to be overlooked. As often as the birthday of the city
returned, the statute of Constantine, framed by his order, of gilt wood,
and bearing in his right hand a small image of the genius of the place,
was erected on a triumphal car. The guards, carrying white tapers, and
clothed in their richest apparel, accompanied the solemn procession as
it moved through the Hippodrome. When it was opposite to the throne of
the reigning emperor, he rose from his seat, and with grateful reverence
adored the memory of his predecessor. [67] At the festival of the
dedication, an edict, engraved on a column of marble, bestowed the title
of Second or New Rome on the city of Constantine. [68] But the name of
Constantinople [69] has prevailed over that honorable epithet; and after
the revolution of fourteen centuries, still perpetuates the fame of its
author. [70]

[Footnote 64: Codinus (Antiquitat. p. 8) affirms, that the foundations
of Constantinople were laid in the year of the world 5837, (A. D. 329,)
on the 26th of September, and that the city was dedicated the 11th
of May, 5838, (A. D. 330.) He connects those dates with several
characteristic epochs, but they contradict each other; the authority of
Codinus is of little weight, and the space which he assigns must appear
insufficient. The term of ten years is given us by Julian, (Orat. i. p.
8;) and Spanheim labors to establish the truth of it, (p. 69-75,) by
the help of two passages from Themistius, (Orat. iv. p. 58,) and of
Philostorgius, (l. ii. c. 9,) which form a period from the year 324
to the year 334. Modern critics are divided concerning this point of
chronology and their different sentiments are very accurately described
by Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 619-625.]

[Footnote 65: Themistius. Orat. iii. p. 47. Zosim. l. ii. p. 108.
Constantine himself, in one of his laws, (Cod. Theod. l. xv. tit. i.,)
betrays his impatience.]

[Footnote 66: Cedrenus and Zonaras, faithful to the mode of superstition
which prevailed in their own times, assure us that Constantinople was
consecrated to the virgin Mother of God.]

[Footnote 67: The earliest and most complete account of this
extraordinary ceremony may be found in the Alexandrian Chronicle, p.
285. Tillemont, and the other friends of Constantine, who are offended
with the air of Paganism which seems unworthy of a Christian prince, had
a right to consider it as doubtful, but they were not authorized to omit
the mention of it.]

[Footnote 68: Sozomen, l. ii. c. 2. Ducange C. P. l. i. c. 6. Velut
ipsius Romae filiam, is the expression of Augustin. de Civitat. Dei, l.
v. c. 25.]

[Footnote 69: Eutropius, l. x. c. 8. Julian. Orat. i. p. 8. Ducange C.
P. l. i. c. 5. The name of Constantinople is extant on the medals of

[Footnote 70: The lively Fontenelle (Dialogues des Morts, xii.) affects
to deride the vanity of human ambition, and seems to triumph in the
disappointment of Constantine, whose immortal name is now lost in
the vulgar appellation of Istambol, a Turkish corruption of. Yet the
original name is still preserved, 1. By the nations of Europe. 2. By
the modern Greeks. 3. By the Arabs, whose writings are diffused over
the wide extent of their conquests in Asia and Africa. See D'Herbelot,
Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 275. 4. By the more learned Turks, and by the
emperor himself in his public mandates Cantemir's History of the Othman
Empire, p. 51.]

The foundation of a new capital is naturally connected with the
establishment of a new form of civil and military administration.
The distinct view of the complicated system of policy, introduced by
Diocletian, improved by Constantine, and completed by his immediate
successors, may not only amuse the fancy by the singular picture of a
great empire, but will tend to illustrate the secret and internal causes
of its rapid decay. In the pursuit of any remarkable institution, we may
be frequently led into the more early or the more recent times of the
Roman history; but the proper limits of this inquiry will be included
within a period of about one hundred and thirty years, from the
accession of Constantine to the publication of the Theodosian code; [71]
from which, as well as from the Notitia [71a] of the East and West, [72]
we derive the most copious and authentic information of the state of the
empire. This variety of objects will suspend, for some time, the course
of the narrative; but the interruption will be censured only by those
readers who are insensible to the importance of laws and manners, while
they peruse, with eager curiosity, the transient intrigues of a court,
or the accidental event of a battle.

[Footnote 71: The Theodosian code was promulgated A. D. 438. See the
Prolegomena of Godefroy, c. i. p. 185.]

[Footnote 71a: The Notitia Dignitatum Imperii is a description of all
the offices in the court and the state, of the legions, &c. It resembles
our court almanacs, (Red Books,) with this single difference, that our
almanacs name the persons in office, the Notitia only the offices. It is
of the time of the emperor Theodosius II., that is to say, of the fifth
century, when the empire was divided into the Eastern and Western. It is
probable that it was not made for the first time, and that descriptions
of the same kind existed before.--G.]

[Footnote 72: Pancirolus, in his elaborate Commentary, assigns to the
Notitia a date almost similar to that of the Theodosian Code; but his
proofs, or rather conjectures, are extremely feeble. I should be rather
inclined to place this useful work between the final division of
the empire (A. D. 395) and the successful invasion of Gaul by the
barbarians, (A. D. 407.) See Histoire des Anciens Peuples de l'Europe,
tom. vii. p. 40.]

Chapter XVII: Foundation Of Constantinople.--Part III.

The manly pride of the Romans, content with substantial power, had
left to the vanity of the East the forms and ceremonies of ostentatious
greatness. [73] But when they lost even the semblance of those virtues
which were derived from their ancient freedom, the simplicity of Roman
manners was insensibly corrupted by the stately affectation of the
courts of Asia. The distinctions of personal merit and influence, so
conspicuous in a republic, so feeble and obscure under a monarchy, were
abolished by the despotism of the emperors; who substituted in their
room a severe subordination of rank and office from the titled slaves
who were seated on the steps of the throne, to the meanest instruments
of arbitrary power. This multitude of abject dependants was interested
in the support of the actual government from the dread of a revolution,
which might at once confound their hopes and intercept the reward of
their services. In this divine hierarchy (for such it is frequently
styled) every rank was marked with the most scrupulous exactness,
and its dignity was displayed in a variety of trifling and solemn
ceremonies, which it was a study to learn, and a sacrilege to neglect.
[74] The purity of the Latin language was debased, by adopting, in the
intercourse of pride and flattery, a profusion of epithets, which Tully
would scarcely have understood, and which Augustus would have rejected
with indignation. The principal officers of the empire were saluted,
even by the sovereign himself, with the deceitful titles of your
Sincerity, your Gravity, your Excellency, your Eminence, your sublime
and wonderful Magnitude, your illustrious and magnificent Highness. [75]
The codicils or patents of their office were curiously emblazoned
with such emblems as were best adapted to explain its nature and high
dignity; the image or portrait of the reigning emperors; a triumphal
car; the book of mandates placed on a table, covered with a rich carpet,
and illuminated by four tapers; the allegorical figures of the provinces
which they governed; or the appellations and standards of the troops
whom they commanded Some of these official ensigns were really exhibited
in their hall of audience; others preceded their pompous march whenever
they appeared in public; and every circumstance of their demeanor, their
dress, their ornaments, and their train, was calculated to inspire
a deep reverence for the representatives of supreme majesty. By a
philosophic observer, the system of the Roman government might have been
mistaken for a splendid theatre, filled with players of every character
and degree, who repeated the language, and imitated the passions, of
their original model. [76]

[Footnote 73: Scilicet externae superbiae sueto, non inerat notitia
nostri, (perhaps nostroe;) apud quos vis Imperii valet, inania
transmittuntur. Tacit. Annal. xv. 31. The gradation from the style of
freedom and simplicity, to that of form and servitude, may be traced in
the Epistles of Cicero, of Pliny, and of Symmachus.]

[Footnote 74: The emperor Gratian, after confirming a law of precedency
published by Valentinian, the father of his Divinity, thus continues:
Siquis igitur indebitum sibi locum usurpaverit, nulla se ignoratione
defendat; sitque plane sacrilegii reus, qui divina praecepta neglexerit.
Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. v. leg. 2.]

[Footnote 75: Consult the Notitia Dignitatum at the end of the
Theodosian code, tom. vi. p. 316. * Note: Constantin, qui remplaca le
grand Patriciat par une noblesse titree et qui changea avec d'autres
institutions la nature de la societe Latine, est le veritable fondateur
de la royaute moderne, dans ce quelle conserva de Romain. Chateaubriand,
Etud. Histor. Preface, i. 151. Manso, (Leben Constantins des Grossen,)
p. 153, &c., has given a lucid view of the dignities and duties of the
officers in the Imperial court.--M.]

[Footnote 76: Pancirolus ad Notitiam utriusque Imperii, p. 39. But his
explanations are obscure, and he does not sufficiently distinguish the
painted emblems from the effective ensigns of office.]

All the magistrates of sufficient importance to find a place in the
general state of the empire, were accurately divided into three classes.
1. The Illustrious. 2. The Spectabiles, or Respectable. And, 3. the
Clarissimi; whom we may translate by the word Honorable. In the times
of Roman simplicity, the last-mentioned epithet was used only as a
vague expression of deference, till it became at length the peculiar
and appropriated title of all who were members of the senate, [77] and
consequently of all who, from that venerable body, were selected to
govern the provinces. The vanity of those who, from their rank and
office, might claim a superior distinction above the rest of the
senatorial order, was long afterwards indulged with the new appellation
of Respectable; but the title of Illustrious was always reserved to some
eminent personages who were obeyed or reverenced by the two subordinate
classes. It was communicated only, I. To the consuls and patricians;
II. To the Praetorian praefects, with the praefects of Rome and
Constantinople; III. To the masters-general of the cavalry and the
infantry; and IV. To the seven ministers of the palace, who exercised
their sacred functions about the person of the emperor. [78] Among those
illustrious magistrates who were esteemed coordinate with each other,
the seniority of appointment gave place to the union of dignities. [79]
By the expedient of honorary codicils, the emperors, who were fond of
multiplying their favors, might sometimes gratify the vanity, though not
the ambition, of impatient courtiers. [80]

[Footnote 77: In the Pandects, which may be referred to the reigns
of the Antonines, Clarissimus is the ordinary and legal title of a

[Footnote 78: Pancirol. p. 12-17. I have not taken any notice of the two
inferior ranks, Prefectissimus and Egregius, which were given to many
persons who were not raised to the senatorial dignity.]

[Footnote 79: Cod. Theodos. l. vi. tit. vi. The rules of precedency
are ascertained with the most minute accuracy by the emperors, and
illustrated with equal prolixity by their learned interpreter.]

[Footnote 80: Cod. Theodos. l. vi. tit. xxii.]

I. As long as the Roman consuls were the first magistrates of a free
state, they derived their right to power from the choice of the people.
As long as the emperors condescended to disguise the servitude which
they imposed, the consuls were still elected by the real or apparent
suffrage of the senate. From the reign of Diocletian, even these
vestiges of liberty were abolished, and the successful candidates who
were invested with the annual honors of the consulship, affected to
deplore the humiliating condition of their predecessors. The Scipios and
the Catos had been reduced to solicit the votes of plebeians, to pass
through the tedious and expensive forms of a popular election, and to
expose their dignity to the shame of a public refusal; while their own
happier fate had reserved them for an age and government in which the
rewards of virtue were assigned by the unerring wisdom of a gracious
sovereign. [81] In the epistles which the emperor addressed to the
two consuls elect, it was declared, that they were created by his sole
authority. [82] Their names and portraits, engraved on gilt tables of
ivory, were dispersed over the empire as presents to the provinces, the
cities, the magistrates, the senate, and the people. [83] Their solemn
inauguration was performed at the place of the Imperial residence; and
during a period of one hundred and twenty years, Rome was constantly
deprived of the presence of her ancient magistrates. [84]

[Footnote 81: Ausonius (in Gratiarum Actione) basely expatiates on this
unworthy topic, which is managed by Mamertinus (Panegyr. Vet. xi. [x.]
16, 19) with somewhat more freedom and ingenuity.]

[Footnote 82: Cum de Consulibus in annum creandis, solus mecum
volutarem.... te Consulem et designavi, et declaravi, et priorem
nuncupavi; are some of the expressions employed by the emperor Gratian
to his preceptor, the poet Ausonius.]

[Footnote 83:
     Immanesque... dentes
     Qui secti ferro in tabulas auroque micantes,
     Inscripti rutilum coelato
     Consule nomen Per proceres et vulgus eant.
     --Claud. in ii. Cons. Stilichon. 456.

Montfaucon has represented some of these tablets or dypticks see
Supplement a l'Antiquite expliquee, tom. iii. p. 220.]

[Footnote 84:
     Consule laetatur post plurima seculo viso
     Pallanteus apex: agnoscunt rostra curules
     Auditas quondam proavis:
     desuetaque cingit Regius auratis
     Fora fascibus Ulpia lictor.
     --Claud. in vi. Cons. Honorii, 643.

From the reign of Carus to the sixth consulship of Honorius, there was
an interval of one hundred and twenty years, during which the emperors
were always absent from Rome on the first day of January. See the
Chronologie de Tillemonte, tom. iii. iv. and v.]

On the morning of the first of January, the consuls assumed the ensigns
of their dignity. Their dress was a robe of purple, embroidered in silk
and gold, and sometimes ornamented with costly gems. [85] On this solemn
occasion they were attended by the most eminent officers of the state
and army, in the habit of senators; and the useless fasces, armed with
the once formidable axes, were borne before them by the lictors. [86]
The procession moved from the palace [87] to the Forum or principal
square of the city; where the consuls ascended their tribunal, and
seated themselves in the curule chairs, which were framed after
the fashion of ancient times. They immediately exercised an act of
jurisdiction, by the manumission of a slave, who was brought before
them for that purpose; and the ceremony was intended to represent the
celebrated action of the elder Brutus, the author of liberty and of
the consulship, when he admitted among his fellow-citizens the faithful
Vindex, who had revealed the conspiracy of the Tarquins. [88] The public
festival was continued during several days in all the principal cities
in Rome, from custom; in Constantinople, from imitation in Carthage,
Antioch, and Alexandria, from the love of pleasure, and the superfluity
of wealth. [89] In the two capitals of the empire the annual games of
the theatre, the circus, and the amphitheatre, [90] cost four thousand
pounds of gold, (about) one hundred and sixty thousand pounds sterling:
and if so heavy an expense surpassed the faculties or the inclinations
of the magistrates themselves, the sum was supplied from the Imperial
treasury. [91] As soon as the consuls had discharged these customary
duties, they were at liberty to retire into the shade of private
life, and to enjoy, during the remainder of the year, the undisturbed
contemplation of their own greatness. They no longer presided in the
national councils; they no longer executed the resolutions of peace
or war. Their abilities (unless they were employed in more effective
offices) were of little moment; and their names served only as the legal
date of the year in which they had filled the chair of Marius and of
Cicero. Yet it was still felt and acknowledged, in the last period
of Roman servitude, that this empty name might be compared, and even
preferred, to the possession of substantial power. The title of consul
was still the most splendid object of ambition, the noblest reward of
virtue and loyalty. The emperors themselves, who disdained the faint
shadow of the republic, were conscious that they acquired an additional
splendor and majesty as often as they assumed the annual honors of the
consular dignity. [92]

[Footnote 85: See Claudian in Cons. Prob. et Olybrii, 178, &c.; and
in iv. Cons. Honorii, 585, &c.; though in the latter it is not easy to
separate the ornaments of the emperor from those of the consul. Ausonius
received from the liberality of Gratian a vestis palmata, or robe of
state, in which the figure of the emperor Constantius was embroidered.

     Cernis et armorum proceres legumque potentes:
     Patricios sumunt habitus; et more Gabino
     Discolor incedit legio, positisque parumper
     Bellorum signis, sequitur vexilla Quirini. Lictori cedunt aquilae, ridetque
     togatus Miles, et in mediis effulget curia castris.
     --Claud. in iv. Cons. Honorii, 5.
     --strictaque procul radiare secures.
     --In Cons. Prob. 229]

[Footnote 87: See Valesius ad Ammian. Marcellin. l. xxii. c. 7.]

[Footnote 88:

     Auspice mox laeto sonuit clamore tribunal;
     Te fastos ineunte quater; solemnia ludit
     Omina libertas; deductum Vindice morem
     Lex servat, famulusque jugo laxatus herili
     Ducitur, et grato remeat securior ictu.
     --Claud. in iv Cons. Honorii, 611]

[Footnote 89: Celebrant quidem solemnes istos dies omnes ubique
urbes quae sub legibus agunt; et Roma de more, et Constantinopolis
de imitatione, et Antiochia pro luxu, et discincta Carthago, et domus
fluminis Alexandria, sed Treviri Principis beneficio. Ausonius in Grat.

[Footnote 90: Claudian (in Cons. Mall. Theodori, 279-331) describes,
in a lively and fanciful manner, the various games of the circus,
the theatre, and the amphitheatre, exhibited by the new consul. The
sanguinary combats of gladiators had already been prohibited.]

[Footnote 91: Procopius in Hist. Arcana, c. 26.]

[Footnote 92: In Consulatu honos sine labore suscipitur. (Mamertin.
in Panegyr. Vet. xi. [x.] 2.) This exalted idea of the consulship is
borrowed from an oration (iii. p. 107) pronounced by Julian in the
servile court of Constantius. See the Abbe de la Bleterie, (Memoires de
l'Academie, tom. xxiv. p. 289,) who delights to pursue the vestiges of
the old constitution, and who sometimes finds them in his copious fancy]

The proudest and most perfect separation which can be found in any age
or country, between the nobles and the people, is perhaps that of the
Patricians and the Plebeians, as it was established in the first age of
the Roman republic. Wealth and honors, the offices of the state, and the
ceremonies of religion, were almost exclusively possessed by the former
who, preserving the purity of their blood with the most insulting
jealousy, [93] held their clients in a condition of specious vassalage.
But these distinctions, so incompatible with the spirit of a free
people, were removed, after a long struggle, by the persevering efforts
of the Tribunes. The most active and successful of the Plebeians
accumulated wealth, aspired to honors, deserved triumphs, contracted
alliances, and, after some generations, assumed the pride of ancient
nobility. [94] The Patrician families, on the other hand, whose original
number was never recruited till the end of the commonwealth, either
failed in the ordinary course of nature, or were extinguished in so
many foreign and domestic wars, or, through a want of merit or fortune,
insensibly mingled with the mass of the people. [95] Very few remained
who could derive their pure and genuine origin from the infancy of
the city, or even from that of the republic, when Caesar and Augustus,
Claudius and Vespasian, created from the body of the senate a competent
number of new Patrician families, in the hope of perpetuating an order,
which was still considered as honorable and sacred. [96] But these
artificial supplies (in which the reigning house was always included)
were rapidly swept away by the rage of tyrants, by frequent revolutions,
by the change of manners, and by the intermixture of nations. [97]
Little more was left when Constantine ascended the throne, than a vague
and imperfect tradition, that the Patricians had once been the first
of the Romans. To form a body of nobles, whose influence may restrain,
while it secures the authority of the monarch, would have been very
inconsistent with the character and policy of Constantine; but had he
seriously entertained such a design, it might have exceeded the measure
of his power to ratify, by an arbitrary edict, an institution which
must expect the sanction of time and of opinion. He revived, indeed,
the title of Patricians, but he revived it as a personal, not as an
hereditary distinction. They yielded only to the transient superiority
of the annual consuls; but they enjoyed the pre-eminence over all the
great officers of state, with the most familiar access to the person of
the prince. This honorable rank was bestowed on them for life; and as
they were usually favorites, and ministers who had grown old in
the Imperial court, the true etymology of the word was perverted
by ignorance and flattery; and the Patricians of Constantine were
reverenced as the adopted Fathers of the emperor and the republic. [98]

[Footnote 93: Intermarriages between the Patricians and Plebeians were
prohibited by the laws of the XII Tables; and the uniform operations of
human nature may attest that the custom survived the law. See in Livy
(iv. 1-6) the pride of family urged by the consul, and the rights of
mankind asserted by the tribune Canuleius.]

[Footnote 94: See the animated picture drawn by Sallust, in the
Jugurthine war, of the pride of the nobles, and even of the virtuous
Metellus, who was unable to brook the idea that the honor of the
consulship should be bestowed on the obscure merit of his lieutenant
Marius. (c. 64.) Two hundred years before, the race of the Metelli
themselves were confounded among the Plebeians of Rome; and from the
etymology of their name of Coecilius, there is reason to believe that
those haughty nobles derived their origin from a sutler.]

[Footnote 95: In the year of Rome 800, very few remained, not only of
the old Patrician families, but even of those which had been created by
Caesar and Augustus. (Tacit. Annal. xi. 25.) The family of Scaurus (a
branch of the Patrician Aemilii) was degraded so low that his father,
who exercised the trade of a charcoal merchant, left him only teu
slaves, and somewhat less than three hundred pounds sterling. (Valerius
Maximus, l. iv. c. 4, n. 11. Aurel. Victor in Scauro.) The family was
saved from oblivion by the merit of the son.]

[Footnote 96: Tacit. Annal. xi. 25. Dion Cassius, l. iii. p. 698.
The virtues of Agricola, who was created a Patrician by the emperor
Vespasian, reflected honor on that ancient order; but his ancestors had
not any claim beyond an Equestrian nobility.]

[Footnote 97: This failure would have been almost impossible if it
were true, as Casaubon compels Aurelius Victor to affirm (ad Sueton,
in Caesar v. 24. See Hist. August p. 203 and Casaubon Comment., p. 220)
that Vespasian created at once a thousand Patrician families. But this
extravagant number is too much even for the whole Senatorial order.
unless we should include all the Roman knights who were distinguished by
the permission of wearing the laticlave.]

[Footnote 98: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 118; and Godefroy ad Cod. Theodos. l.
vi. tit. vi.]

II. The fortunes of the Praetorian praefects were essentially different
from those of the consuls and Patricians. The latter saw their ancient
greatness evaporate in a vain title.

The former, rising by degrees from the most humble condition, were
invested with the civil and military administration of the Roman world.
From the reign of Severus to that of Diocletian, the guards and the
palace, the laws and the finances, the armies and the provinces, were
intrusted to their superintending care; and, like the Viziers of the
East, they held with one hand the seal, and with the other the standard,
of the empire. The ambition of the praefects, always formidable, and
sometimes fatal to the masters whom they served, was supported by the
strength of the Praetorian bands; but after those haughty troops had
been weakened by Diocletian, and finally suppressed by Constantine, the
praefects, who survived their fall, were reduced without difficulty to
the station of useful and obedient ministers. When they were no longer
responsible for the safety of the emperor's person, they resigned the
jurisdiction which they had hitherto claimed and exercised over all
the departments of the palace. They were deprived by Constantine of all
military command, as soon as they had ceased to lead into the field,
under their immediate orders, the flower of the Roman troops; and
at length, by a singular revolution, the captains of the guards were
transformed into the civil magistrates of the provinces. According to
the plan of government instituted by Diocletian, the four princes had
each their Praetorian praefect; and after the monarchy was once more
united in the person of Constantine, he still continued to create the
same number of Four Praefects, and intrusted to their care the same
provinces which they already administered. 1. The praefect of the East
stretched his ample jurisdiction into the three parts of the globe which
were subject to the Romans, from the cataracts of the Nile to the banks
of the Phasis, and from the mountains of Thrace to the frontiers of
Persia. 2. The important provinces of Pannonia, Dacia, Macedonia, and
Greece, once acknowledged the authority of the praefect of Illyricum. 3.
The power of the praefect of Italy was not confined to the country from
whence he derived his title; it extended over the additional territory
of Rhaetia as far as the banks of the Danube, over the dependent islands
of the Mediterranean, and over that part of the continent of Africa
which lies between the confines of Cyrene and those of Tingitania. 4.
The praefect of the Gauls comprehended under that plural denomination
the kindred provinces of Britain and Spain, and his authority was obeyed
from the wall of Antoninus to the foot of Mount Atlas. [99]

[Footnote 99: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 109, 110. If we had not fortunately
possessed this satisfactory account of the division of the power and
provinces of the Praetorian praefects, we should frequently have been
perplexed amidst the copious details of the Code, and the circumstantial
minuteness of the Notitia.]

After the Praetorian praefects had been dismissed from all military
command, the civil functions which they were ordained to exercise over
so many subject nations, were adequate to the ambition and abilities of
the most consummate ministers. To their wisdom was committed the supreme
administration of justice and of the finances, the two objects which,
in a state of peace, comprehend almost all the respective duties of the
sovereign and of the people; of the former, to protect the citizens
who are obedient to the laws; of the latter, to contribute the share
of their property which is required for the expenses of the state. The
coin, the highways, the posts, the granaries, the manufactures, whatever
could interest the public prosperity, was moderated by the authority
of the Praetorian praefects. As the immediate representatives of the
Imperial majesty, they were empowered to explain, to enforce, and on
some occasions to modify, the general edicts by their discretionary
proclamations. They watched over the conduct of the provincial
governors, removed the negligent, and inflicted punishments on the
guilty. From all the inferior jurisdictions, an appeal in every matter
of importance, either civil or criminal, might be brought before the
tribunal of the praefect; but his sentence was final and absolute; and
the emperors themselves refused to admit any complaints against the
judgment or the integrity of a magistrate whom they honored with such
unbounded confidence. [100] His appointments were suitable to his
dignity; [101] and if avarice was his ruling passion, he enjoyed
frequent opportunities of collecting a rich harvest of fees, of
presents, and of perquisites. Though the emperors no longer dreaded the
ambition of their praefects, they were attentive to counterbalance
the power of this great office by the uncertainty and shortness of its
duration. [102]

[Footnote 100: See a law of Constantine himself. A praefectis autem
praetorio provocare, non sinimus. Cod. Justinian. l. vii. tit. lxii.
leg. 19. Charisius, a lawyer of the time of Constantine, (Heinec. Hist.
Romani, p. 349,) who admits this law as a fundamental principle of
jurisprudence, compares the Praetorian praefects to the masters of the
horse of the ancient dictators. Pandect. l. i. tit. xi.]

[Footnote 101: When Justinian, in the exhausted condition of the empire,
instituted a Praetorian praefect for Africa, he allowed him a salary of
one hundred pounds of gold. Cod. Justinian. l. i. tit. xxvii. leg. i.]

[Footnote 102: For this, and the other dignities of the empire, it
may be sufficient to refer to the ample commentaries of Pancirolus and
Godefroy, who have diligently collected and accurately digested in their
proper order all the legal and historical materials. From those authors,
Dr. Howell (History of the World, vol. ii. p. 24-77) has deduced a very
distinct abridgment of the state of the Roman empire]

From their superior importance and dignity, Rome and Constantinople were
alone excepted from the jurisdiction of the Praetorian praefects. The
immense size of the city, and the experience of the tardy, ineffectual
operation of the laws, had furnished the policy of Augustus with a
specious pretence for introducing a new magistrate, who alone could
restrain a servile and turbulent populace by the strong arm of arbitrary
power. [103] Valerius Messalla was appointed the first praefect of Rome,
that his reputation might countenance so invidious a measure; but, at
the end of a few days, that accomplished citizen [104] resigned his
office, declaring, with a spirit worthy of the friend of Brutus, that he
found himself incapable of exercising a power incompatible with public
freedom. [105] As the sense of liberty became less exquisite, the
advantages of order were more clearly understood; and the praefect, who
seemed to have been designed as a terror only to slaves and vagrants,
was permitted to extend his civil and criminal jurisdiction over the
equestrian and noble families of Rome. The praetors, annually created as
the judges of law and equity, could not long dispute the possession
of the Forum with a vigorous and permanent magistrate, who was usually
admitted into the confidence of the prince. Their courts were deserted,
their number, which had once fluctuated between twelve and eighteen,
[106] was gradually reduced to two or three, and their important
functions were confined to the expensive obligation [107] of exhibiting
games for the amusement of the people. After the office of the Roman
consuls had been changed into a vain pageant, which was rarely displayed
in the capital, the praefects assumed their vacant place in the senate,
and were soon acknowledged as the ordinary presidents of that venerable
assembly. They received appeals from the distance of one hundred miles;
and it was allowed as a principle of jurisprudence, that all municipal
authority was derived from them alone. [108] In the discharge of his
laborious employment, the governor of Rome was assisted by fifteen
officers, some of whom had been originally his equals, or even his
superiors. The principal departments were relative to the command of a
numerous watch, established as a safeguard against fires, robberies,
and nocturnal disorders; the custody and distribution of the public
allowance of corn and provisions; the care of the port, of the
aqueducts, of the common sewers, and of the navigation and bed of the
Tyber; the inspection of the markets, the theatres, and of the private
as well as the public works. Their vigilance insured the three principal
objects of a regular police, safety, plenty, and cleanliness; and as
a proof of the attention of government to preserve the splendor and
ornaments of the capital, a particular inspector was appointed for the
statues; the guardian, as it were, of that inanimate people, which,
according to the extravagant computation of an old writer, was scarcely
inferior in number to the living inhabitants of Rome. About thirty years
after the foundation of Constantinople, a similar magistrate was created
in that rising metropolis, for the same uses and with the same powers.
A perfect equality was established between the dignity of the two
municipal, and that of the four Praetorian praefects. [109]

[Footnote 103: Tacit. Annal. vi. 11. Euseb. in Chron. p. 155. Dion
Cassius, in the oration of Maecenas, (l. lvii. p. 675,) describes the
prerogatives of the praefect of the city as they were established in his
own time.]

[Footnote 104: The fame of Messalla has been scarcely equal to his
merit. In the earliest youth he was recommended by Cicero to the
friendship of Brutus. He followed the standard of the republic till it
was broken in the fields of Philippi; he then accepted and deserved the
favor of the most moderate of the conquerors; and uniformly asserted his
freedom and dignity in the court of Augustus. The triumph of Messalla
was justified by the conquest of Aquitain. As an orator, he disputed the
palm of eloquence with Cicero himself. Messalla cultivated every muse,
and was the patron of every man of genius. He spent his evenings in
philosophic conversation with Horace; assumed his place at table between
Delia and Tibullus; and amused his leisure by encouraging the poetical
talents of young Ovid.]

[Footnote 105: Incivilem esse potestatem contestans, says the translator
of Eusebius. Tacitus expresses the same idea in other words; quasi
nescius exercendi.]

[Footnote 106: See Lipsius, Excursus D. ad 1 lib. Tacit. Annal.]

[Footnote 107: Heineccii. Element. Juris Civilis secund ordinem
Pandect i. p. 70. See, likewise, Spanheim de Usu. Numismatum, tom. ii.
dissertat. x. p. 119. In the year 450, Marcian published a law, that
three citizens should be annually created Praetors of Constantinople by
the choice of the senate, but with their own consent. Cod. Justinian.
li. i. tit. xxxix. leg. 2.]

[Footnote 108: Quidquid igitur intra urbem admittitur, ad P. U. videtur
pertinere; sed et siquid intra contesimum milliarium. Ulpian in Pandect
l. i. tit. xiii. n. 1. He proceeds to enumerate the various offices of
the praefect, who, in the code of Justinian, (l. i. tit. xxxix. leg. 3,)
is declared to precede and command all city magistrates sine injuria ac
detrimento honoris alieni.]

[Footnote 109: Besides our usual guides, we may observe that Felix
Cantelorius has written a separate treatise, De Praefecto Urbis;
and that many curious details concerning the police of Rome and
Constantinople are contained in the fourteenth book of the Theodosian

Chapter XVII: Foundation Of Constantinople.--Part IV.

Those who, in the imperial hierarchy, were distinguished by the title
of Respectable, formed an intermediate class between the illustrious
praefects, and the honorable magistrates of the provinces. In this class
the proconsuls of Asia, Achaia, and Africa, claimed a preeminence, which
was yielded to the remembrance of their ancient dignity; and the appeal
from their tribunal to that of the praefects was almost the only mark
of their dependence. [110] But the civil government of the empire was
distributed into thirteen great Dioceses, each of which equalled the
just measure of a powerful kingdom. The first of these dioceses was
subject to the jurisdiction of the count of the east; and we may convey
some idea of the importance and variety of his functions, by observing,
that six hundred apparitors, who would be styled at present either
secretaries, or clerks, or ushers, or messengers, were employed in his
immediate office. [111] The place of Augustal proefect of Egypt was
no longer filled by a Roman knight; but the name was retained; and the
extraordinary powers which the situation of the country, and the temper
of the inhabitants, had once made indispensable, were still continued
to the governor. The eleven remaining dioceses, of Asiana, Pontica,
and Thrace; of Macedonia, Dacia, and Pannonia, or Western Illyricum; of
Italy and Africa; of Gaul, Spain, and Britain; were governed by twelve
vicars or vice-proefects, [112] whose name sufficiently explains
the nature and dependence of their office. It may be added, that the
lieutenant-generals of the Roman armies, the military counts and dukes,
who will be hereafter mentioned, were allowed the rank and title of

[Footnote 110: Eunapius affirms, that the proconsul of Asia was
independent of the praefect; which must, however, be understood with
some allowance. the jurisdiction of the vice-praefect he most assuredly
disclaimed. Pancirolus, p. 161.]

[Footnote 111: The proconsul of Africa had four hundred apparitors;
and they all received large salaries, either from the treasury or the
province See Pancirol. p. 26, and Cod. Justinian. l. xii. tit. lvi.

[Footnote 112: In Italy there was likewise the Vicar of Rome. It has
been much disputed whether his jurisdiction measured one hundred miles
from the city, or whether it stretched over the ten thousand provinces
of Italy.]

As the spirit of jealousy and ostentation prevailed in the councils
of the emperors, they proceeded with anxious diligence to divide the
substance and to multiply the titles of power. The vast countries
which the Roman conquerors had united under the same simple form of
administration, were imperceptibly crumbled into minute fragments; till
at length the whole empire was distributed into one hundred and
sixteen provinces, each of which supported an expensive and splendid
establishment. Of these, three were governed by proconsuls, thirty-seven
by consulars, five by correctors, and seventy-one by presidents.
The appellations of these magistrates were different; they ranked in
successive order, the ensigns of and their situation, from accidental
circumstances, might be more or less agreeable or advantageous. But they
were all (excepting only the pro-consuls) alike included in the class of
honorable persons; and they were alike intrusted, during the pleasure of
the prince, and under the authority of the praefects or their deputies,
with the administration of justice and the finances in their respective
districts. The ponderous volumes of the Codes and Pandects [113]
would furnish ample materials for a minute inquiry into the system of
provincial government, as in the space of six centuries it was approved
by the wisdom of the Roman statesmen and lawyers.

It may be sufficient for the historian to select two singular and
salutary provisions, intended to restrain the abuse of authority.

1. For the preservation of peace and order, the governors of the
provinces were armed with the sword of justice. They inflicted corporal
punishments, and they exercised, in capital offences, the power of
life and death. But they were not authorized to indulge the condemned
criminal with the choice of his own execution, or to pronounce a
sentence of the mildest and most honorable kind of exile. These
prerogatives were reserved to the praefects, who alone could impose the
heavy fine of fifty pounds of gold: their vicegerents were confined to
the trifling weight of a few ounces. [114] This distinction, which seems
to grant the larger, while it denies the smaller degree of authority,
was founded on a very rational motive. The smaller degree was infinitely
more liable to abuse. The passions of a provincial magistrate might
frequently provoke him into acts of oppression, which affected only
the freedom or the fortunes of the subject; though, from a principle of
prudence, perhaps of humanity, he might still be terrified by the
guilt of innocent blood. It may likewise be considered, that exile,
considerable fines, or the choice of an easy death, relate more
particularly to the rich and the noble; and the persons the most exposed
to the avarice or resentment of a provincial magistrate, were thus
removed from his obscure persecution to the more august and impartial
tribunal of the Praetorian praefect. 2. As it was reasonably apprehended
that the integrity of the judge might be biased, if his interest was
concerned, or his affections were engaged, the strictest regulations
were established, to exclude any person, without the special
dispensation of the emperor, from the government of the province
where he was born; [115] and to prohibit the governor or his son from
contracting marriage with a native, or an inhabitant; [116] or
from purchasing slaves, lands, or houses, within the extent of his
jurisdiction. [117] Notwithstanding these rigorous precautions, the
emperor Constantine, after a reign of twenty-five years, still deplores
the venal and oppressive administration of justice, and expresses the
warmest indignation that the audience of the judge, his despatch of
business, his seasonable delays, and his final sentence, were
publicly sold, either by himself or by the officers of his court. The
continuance, and perhaps the impunity, of these crimes, is attested by
the repetition of impotent laws and ineffectual menaces. [118]

[Footnote 113: Among the works of the celebrated Ulpian, there was one
in ten books, concerning the office of a proconsul, whose duties in the
most essential articles were the same as those of an ordinary governor
of a province.]

[Footnote 114: The presidents, or consulars, could impose only two
ounces; the vice-praefects, three; the proconsuls, count of the east,
and praefect of Egypt, six. See Heineccii Jur. Civil. tom. i. p. 75.
Pandect. l. xlviii. tit. xix. n. 8. Cod. Justinian. l. i. tit. liv. leg.
4, 6.]

[Footnote 115: Ut nulli patriae suae administratio sine speciali
principis permissu permittatur. Cod. Justinian. l. i. tit. xli. This law
was first enacted by the emperor Marcus, after the rebellion of Cassius.
(Dion. l. lxxi.) The same regulation is observed in China, with equal
strictness, and with equal effect.]

[Footnote 116: Pandect. l. xxiii. tit. ii. n. 38, 57, 63.]

[Footnote 117: In jure continetur, ne quis in administratione
constitutus aliquid compararet. Cod. Theod. l. viii. tit. xv. leg. l.
This maxim of common law was enforced by a series of edicts (see
the remainder of the title) from Constantine to Justin. From this
prohibition, which is extended to the meanest officers of the governor,
they except only clothes and provisions. The purchase within five
years may be recovered; after which on information, it devolves to the

[Footnote 118: Cessent rapaces jam nunc officialium manus; cessent,
inquam nam si moniti non cessaverint, gladiis praecidentur, &c. Cod.
Theod. l. i. tit. vii. leg. l. Zeno enacted that all governors should
remain in the province, to answer any accusations, fifty days after the
expiration of their power. Cod Justinian. l. ii. tit. xlix. leg. l.]

All the civil magistrates were drawn from the profession of the law.
The celebrated Institutes of Justinian are addressed to the youth of
his dominions, who had devoted themselves to the study of Roman
jurisprudence; and the sovereign condescends to animate their diligence,
by the assurance that their skill and ability would in time be rewarded
by an adequate share in the government of the republic. [119] The
rudiments of this lucrative science were taught in all the considerable
cities of the east and west; but the most famous school was that of
Berytus, [120] on the coast of Phoenicia; which flourished above three
centuries from the time of Alexander Severus, the author perhaps of
an institution so advantageous to his native country. After a regular
course of education, which lasted five years, the students dispersed
themselves through the provinces, in search of fortune and honors; nor
could they want an inexhaustible supply of business in a great empire
already corrupted by the multiplicity of laws, of arts, and of vices.
The court of the Praetorian praefect of the east could alone furnish
employment for one hundred and fifty advocates, sixty-four of whom were
distinguished by peculiar privileges, and two were annually chosen, with
a salary of sixty pounds of gold, to defend the causes of the treasury.
The first experiment was made of their judicial talents, by appointing
them to act occasionally as assessors to the magistrates; from thence
they were often raised to preside in the tribunals before which they had
pleaded. They obtained the government of a province; and, by the aid of
merit, of reputation, or of favor, they ascended, by successive steps,
to the illustrious dignities of the state. [121] In the practice of the
bar, these men had considered reason as the instrument of dispute; they
interpreted the laws according to the dictates of private interest and
the same pernicious habits might still adhere to their characters in the
public administration of the state. The honor of a liberal profession
has indeed been vindicated by ancient and modern advocates, who have
filled the most important stations, with pure integrity and consummate
wisdom: but in the decline of Roman jurisprudence, the ordinary
promotion of lawyers was pregnant with mischief and disgrace. The noble
art, which had once been preserved as the sacred inheritance of the
patricians, was fallen into the hands of freedmen and plebeians,
[122] who, with cunning rather than with skill, exercised a sordid and
pernicious trade. Some of them procured admittance into families for the
purpose of fomenting differences, of encouraging suits, and of preparing
a harvest of gain for themselves or their brethren. Others, recluse
in their chambers, maintained the dignity of legal professors, by
furnishing a rich client with subtleties to confound the plainest
truths, and with arguments to color the most unjustifiable pretensions.
The splendid and popular class was composed of the advocates, who
filled the Forum with the sound of their turgid and loquacious rhetoric.
Careless of fame and of justice, they are described, for the most part,
as ignorant and rapacious guides, who conducted their clients through a
maze of expense, of delay, and of disappointment; from whence, after
a tedious series of years, they were at length dismissed, when their
patience and fortune were almost exhausted. [123]

[Footnote 119: Summa igitur ope, et alacri studio has leges nostras
accipite; et vosmetipsos sic eruditos ostendite, ut spes vos pulcherrima
foveat; toto legitimo opere perfecto, posse etiam nostram rempublicam
in par tibus ejus vobis credendis gubernari. Justinian in proem.

[Footnote 120: The splendor of the school of Berytus, which preserved in
the east the language and jurisprudence of the Romans, may be computed
to have lasted from the third to the middle of the sixth century
Heinecc. Jur. Rom. Hist. p. 351-356.]

[Footnote 121: As in a former period I have traced the civil and
military promotion of Pertinax, I shall here insert the civil honors of
Mallius Theodorus. 1. He was distinguished by his eloquence, while he
pleaded as an advocate in the court of the Praetorian praefect. 2.
He governed one of the provinces of Africa, either as president or
consular, and deserved, by his administration, the honor of a brass
statue. 3. He was appointed vicar, or vice-praefect, of Macedonia. 4.
Quaestor. 5. Count of the sacred largesses. 6. Praetorian praefect of
the Gauls; whilst he might yet be represented as a young man. 7. After a
retreat, perhaps a disgrace of many years, which Mallius (confounded by
some critics with the poet Manilius; see Fabricius Bibliothec. Latin.
Edit. Ernest. tom. i.c. 18, p. 501) employed in the study of the Grecian
philosophy he was named Praetorian praefect of Italy, in the year 397.
8. While he still exercised that great office, he was created, it the
year 399, consul for the West; and his name, on account of the infamy of
his colleague, the eunuch Eutropius, often stands alone in the Fasti. 9.
In the year 408, Mallius was appointed a second time Praetorian praefect
of Italy. Even in the venal panegyric of Claudian, we may discover the
merit of Mallius Theodorus, who, by a rare felicity, was the intimate
friend, both of Symmachus and of St. Augustin. See Tillemont, Hist. des
Emp. tom. v. p. 1110-1114.]

[Footnote 122: Mamertinus in Panegyr. Vet. xi. [x.] 20. Asterius apud
Photium, p. 1500.]

[Footnote 123: The curious passage of Ammianus, (l. xxx. c. 4,) in which
he paints the manners of contemporary lawyers, affords a strange
mixture of sound sense, false rhetoric, and extravagant satire. Godefroy
(Prolegom. ad. Cod. Theod. c. i. p. 185) supports the historian by
similar complaints and authentic facts. In the fourth century, many
camels might have been laden with law-books. Eunapius in Vit. Aedesii,
p. 72.]

III. In the system of policy introduced by Augustus, the governors,
those at least of the Imperial provinces, were invested with the
full powers of the sovereign himself. Ministers of peace and war, the
distribution of rewards and punishments depended on them alone, and
they successively appeared on their tribunal in the robes of civil
magistracy, and in complete armor at the head of the Roman legions.
[124] The influence of the revenue, the authority of law, and the
command of a military force, concurred to render their power supreme and
absolute; and whenever they were tempted to violate their allegiance,
the loyal province which they involved in their rebellion was scarcely
sensible of any change in its political state. From the time of Commodus
to the reign of Constantine, near one hundred governors might be
enumerated, who, with various success, erected the standard of revolt;
and though the innocent were too often sacrificed, the guilty might be
sometimes prevented, by the suspicious cruelty of their master. [125]
To secure his throne and the public tranquillity from these formidable
servants, Constantine resolved to divide the military from the civil
administration, and to establish, as a permanent and professional
distinction, a practice which had been adopted only as an occasional
expedient. The supreme jurisdiction exercised by the Praetorian
praefects over the armies of the empire, was transferred to the two
masters-general whom he instituted, the one for the cavalry, the other
for the infantry; and though each of these illustrious officers was more
peculiarly responsible for the discipline of those troops which were
under his immediate inspection, they both indifferently commanded in the
field the several bodies, whether of horse or foot, which were united
in the same army. [126] Their number was soon doubled by the division of
the east and west; and as separate generals of the same rank and title
were appointed on the four important frontiers of the Rhine, of the
Upper and the Lower Danube, and of the Euphrates, the defence of the
Roman empire was at length committed to eight masters-general of
the cavalry and infantry. Under their orders, thirty-five military
commanders were stationed in the provinces: three in Britain, six in
Gaul, one in Spain, one in Italy, five on the Upper, and four on the
Lower Danube; in Asia, eight, three in Egypt, and four in Africa.
The titles of counts, and dukes, [127] by which they were properly
distinguished, have obtained in modern languages so very different a
sense, that the use of them may occasion some surprise. But it should be
recollected, that the second of those appellations is only a corruption
of the Latin word, which was indiscriminately applied to any military
chief. All these provincial generals were therefore dukes; but no
more than ten among them were dignified with the rank of counts or
companions, a title of honor, or rather of favor, which had been
recently invented in the court of Constantine. A gold belt was the
ensign which distinguished the office of the counts and dukes; and
besides their pay, they received a liberal allowance sufficient
to maintain one hundred and ninety servants, and one hundred and
fifty-eight horses. They were strictly prohibited from interfering
in any matter which related to the administration of justice or the
revenue; but the command which they exercised over the troops of their
department, was independent of the authority of the magistrates.
About the same time that Constantine gave a legal sanction to the
ecclesiastical order, he instituted in the Roman empire the nice balance
of the civil and the military powers. The emulation, and sometimes the
discord, which reigned between two professions of opposite interests
and incompatible manners, was productive of beneficial and of pernicious
consequences. It was seldom to be expected that the general and the
civil governor of a province should either conspire for the disturbance,
or should unite for the service, of their country. While the one delayed
to offer the assistance which the other disdained to solicit, the troops
very frequently remained without orders or without supplies; the public
safety was betrayed, and the defenceless subjects were left exposed to
the fury of the Barbarians. The divided administration which had been
formed by Constantine, relaxed the vigor of the state, while it secured
the tranquillity of the monarch.

[Footnote 124: See a very splendid example in the life of Agricola,
particularly c. 20, 21. The lieutenant of Britain was intrusted with
the same powers which Cicero, proconsul of Cilicia, had exercised in the
name of the senate and people.]

[Footnote 125: The Abbe Dubos, who has examined with accuracy (see
Hist. de la Monarchie Francoise, tom. i. p. 41-100, edit. 1742) the
institutions of Augustus and of Constantine, observes, that if Otho had
been put to death the day before he executed his conspiracy, Otho would
now appear in history as innocent as Corbulo.]

[Footnote 126: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 110. Before the end of the reign of
Constantius, the magistri militum were already increased to four. See
Velesius ad Ammian. l. xvi. c. 7.]

[Footnote 127: Though the military counts and dukes are frequently
mentioned, both in history and the codes, we must have recourse to the
Notitia for the exact knowledge of their number and stations. For the
institution, rank, privileges, &c., of the counts in general see Cod.
Theod. l. vi. tit. xii.--xx., with the commentary of Godefroy.]

The memory of Constantine has been deservedly censured for another
innovation, which corrupted military discipline and prepared the ruin
of the empire. The nineteen years which preceded his final victory over
Licinius, had been a period of license and intestine war. The rivals
who contended for the possession of the Roman world, had withdrawn the
greatest part of their forces from the guard of the general frontier;
and the principal cities which formed the boundary of their respective
dominions were filled with soldiers, who considered their countrymen as
their most implacable enemies. After the use of these internal garrisons
had ceased with the civil war, the conqueror wanted either wisdom or
firmness to revive the severe discipline of Diocletian, and to suppress
a fatal indulgence, which habit had endeared and almost confirmed to the
military order. From the reign of Constantine, a popular and even legal
distinction was admitted between the Palatines [128] and the Borderers;
the troops of the court, as they were improperly styled, and the troops
of the frontier. The former, elevated by the superiority of their pay
and privileges, were permitted, except in the extraordinary emergencies
of war, to occupy their tranquil stations in the heart of the provinces.
The most flourishing cities were oppressed by the intolerable weight
of quarters. The soldiers insensibly forgot the virtues of their
profession, and contracted only the vices of civil life. They were
either degraded by the industry of mechanic trades, or enervated by the
luxury of baths and theatres. They soon became careless of their martial
exercises, curious in their diet and apparel; and while they inspired
terror to the subjects of the empire, they trembled at the hostile
approach of the Barbarians. [129] The chain of fortifications which
Diocletian and his colleagues had extended along the banks of the great
rivers, was no longer maintained with the same care, or defended with
the same vigilance. The numbers which still remained under the name
of the troops of the frontier, might be sufficient for the ordinary
defence; but their spirit was degraded by the humiliating reflection,
that they who were exposed to the hardships and dangers of a perpetual
warfare, were rewarded only with about two thirds of the pay and
emoluments which were lavished on the troops of the court. Even the
bands or legions that were raised the nearest to the level of those
unworthy favorites, were in some measure disgraced by the title of
honor which they were allowed to assume. It was in vain that Constantine
repeated the most dreadful menaces of fire and sword against the
Borderers who should dare desert their colors, to connive at the inroads
of the Barbarians, or to participate in the spoil. [130] The mischiefs
which flow from injudicious counsels are seldom removed by the
application of partial severities; and though succeeding princes labored
to restore the strength and numbers of the frontier garrisons, the
empire, till the last moment of its dissolution, continued to languish
under the mortal wound which had been so rashly or so weakly inflicted
by the hand of Constantine.

[Footnote 128: Zosimus, l ii. p. 111. The distinction between the two
classes of Roman troops, is very darkly expressed in the historians,
the laws, and the Notitia. Consult, however, the copious paratitlon,
or abstract, which Godefroy has drawn up of the seventh book, de Re
Militari, of the Theodosian Code, l. vii. tit. i. leg. 18, l. viii. tit.
i. leg. 10.]

[Footnote 129: Ferox erat in suos miles et rapax, ignavus vero in hostes
et fractus. Ammian. l. xxii. c. 4. He observes, that they loved downy
beds and houses of marble; and that their cups were heavier than their

[Footnote 130: Cod. Theod. l. vii. tit. i. leg. 1, tit. xii. leg. i. See
Howell's Hist. of the World, vol. ii. p. 19. That learned historian, who
is not sufficiently known, labors to justify the character and policy of

The same timid policy, of dividing whatever is united, of reducing
whatever is eminent, of dreading every active power, and of expecting
that the most feeble will prove the most obedient, seems to pervade the
institutions of several princes, and particularly those of Constantine.
The martial pride of the legions, whose victorious camps had so often
been the scene of rebellion, was nourished by the memory of their past
exploits, and the consciousness of their actual strength. As long as
they maintained their ancient establishment of six thousand men, they
subsisted, under the reign of Diocletian, each of them singly, a visible
and important object in the military history of the Roman empire. A few
years afterwards, these gigantic bodies were shrunk to a very diminutive
size; and when seven legions, with some auxiliaries, defended the city
of Amida against the Persians, the total garrison, with the inhabitants
of both sexes, and the peasants of the deserted country, did not exceed
the number of twenty thousand persons. [131] From this fact, and from
similar examples, there is reason to believe, that the constitution
of the legionary troops, to which they partly owed their valor and
discipline, was dissolved by Constantine; and that the bands of Roman
infantry, which still assumed the same names and the same honors,
consisted only of one thousand or fifteen hundred men. [132] The
conspiracy of so many separate detachments, each of which was awed
by the sense of its own weakness, could easily be checked; and the
successors of Constantine might indulge their love of ostentation, by
issuing their orders to one hundred and thirty-two legions, inscribed on
the muster-roll of their numerous armies. The remainder of their troops
was distributed into several hundred cohorts of infantry, and squadrons
of cavalry. Their arms, and titles, and ensigns, were calculated to
inspire terror, and to display the variety of nations who marched
under the Imperial standard. And not a vestige was left of that severe
simplicity, which, in the ages of freedom and victory, had distinguished
the line of battle of a Roman army from the confused host of an Asiatic
monarch. [133] A more particular enumeration, drawn from the Notitia,
might exercise the diligence of an antiquary; but the historian will
content himself with observing, that the number of permanent stations or
garrisons established on the frontiers of the empire, amounted to five
hundred and eighty-three; and that, under the successors of Constantine,
the complete force of the military establishment was computed at six
hundred and forty-five thousand soldiers. [134] An effort so prodigious
surpassed the wants of a more ancient, and the faculties of a later,

[Footnote 131: Ammian. l. xix. c. 2. He observes, (c. 5,) that the
desperate sallies of two Gallic legions were like a handful of water
thrown on a great conflagration.]

[Footnote 132: Pancirolus ad Notitiam, p. 96. Memoires de l'Academie des
Inscriptions, tom. xxv. p. 491.]

[Footnote 133: Romana acies unius prope formae erat et hominum et
armorum genere.--Regia acies varia magis multis gentibus dissimilitudine
armorum auxiliorumque erat. T. Liv. l. xxxvii. c. 39, 40. Flaminius,
even before the event, had compared the army of Antiochus to a supper in
which the flesh of one vile animal was diversified by the skill of the
cooks. See the Life of Flaminius in Plutarch.]

[Footnote 134: Agathias, l. v. p. 157, edit. Louvre.]

In the various states of society, armies are recruited from very
different motives. Barbarians are urged by the love of war; the citizens
of a free republic may be prompted by a principle of duty; the subjects,
or at least the nobles, of a monarchy, are animated by a sentiment of
honor; but the timid and luxurious inhabitants of a declining empire
must be allured into the service by the hopes of profit, or compelled
by the dread of punishment. The resources of the Roman treasury were
exhausted by the increase of pay, by the repetition of donatives, and by
the invention of new emolument and indulgences, which, in the opinion
of the provincial youth might compensate the hardships and dangers of
a military life. Yet, although the stature was lowered, [135] although
slaves, least by a tacit connivance, were indiscriminately received
into the ranks, the insurmountable difficulty of procuring a regular
and adequate supply of volunteers, obliged the emperors to adopt more
effectual and coercive methods. The lands bestowed on the veterans,
as the free reward of their valor were henceforward granted under a
condition which contain the first rudiments of the feudal tenures; that
their sons, who succeeded to the inheritance, should devote themselves
to the profession of arms, as soon as they attained the age of manhood;
and their cowardly refusal was punished by the loss of honor, of
fortune, or even of life. [136] But as the annual growth of the sons of
the veterans bore a very small proportion to the demands of the service,
levies of men were frequently required from the provinces, and
every proprietor was obliged either to take up arms, or to procure a
substitute, or to purchase his exemption by the payment of a heavy fine.
The sum of forty-two pieces of gold, to which it was reduced ascertains
the exorbitant price of volunteers, and the reluctance with which the
government admitted of this alterative. [137] Such was the horror
for the profession of a soldier, which had affected the minds of the
degenerate Romans, that many of the youth of Italy and the provinces
chose to cut off the fingers of their right hand, to escape from being
pressed into the service; and this strange expedient was so commonly
practised, as to deserve the severe animadversion of the laws, [138] and
a peculiar name in the Latin language. [139]

[Footnote 135: Valentinian (Cod. Theodos. l. vii. tit. xiii. leg. 3)
fixes the standard at five feet seven inches, about five feet four
inches and a half, English measure. It had formerly been five feet ten
inches, and in the best corps, six Roman feet. Sed tunc erat amplior
multitude se et plures sequebantur militiam armatam. Vegetius de Re
Militari l. i. c. v.]

[Footnote 136: See the two titles, De Veteranis and De Filiis
Veteranorum, in the seventh book of the Theodosian Code. The age at
which their military service was required, varied from twenty-five to
sixteen. If the sons of the veterans appeared with a horse, they had
a right to serve in the cavalry; two horses gave them some valuable

[Footnote 137: Cod. Theod. l. vii. tit. xiii. leg. 7. According to the
historian Socrates, (see Godefroy ad loc.,) the same emperor Valens
sometimes required eighty pieces of gold for a recruit. In the following
law it is faintly expressed, that slaves shall not be admitted inter
optimas lectissimorum militum turmas.]

[Footnote 138: The person and property of a Roman knight, who had
mutilated his two sons, were sold at public auction by order of
Augustus. (Sueton. in August. c. 27.) The moderation of that artful
usurper proves, that this example of severity was justified by the
spirit of the times. Ammianus makes a distinction between the effeminate
Italians and the hardy Gauls. (L. xv. c. 12.) Yet only 15 years
afterwards, Valentinian, in a law addressed to the praefect of Gaul,
is obliged to enact that these cowardly deserters shall be burnt alive.
(Cod. Theod. l. vii. tit. xiii. leg. 5.) Their numbers in Illyricum were
so considerable, that the province complained of a scarcity of recruits.
(Id. leg. 10.)]

[Footnote 139: They were called Murci. Murcidus is found in Plautus and
Festus, to denote a lazy and cowardly person, who, according to Arnobius
and Augustin, was under the immediate protection of the goddess
Murcia. From this particular instance of cowardice, murcare is used
as synonymous to mutilare, by the writers of the middle Latinity. See
Linder brogius and Valesius ad Ammian. Marcellin, l. xv. c. 12]

Chapter XVII: Foundation Of Constantinople.--Part V.

The introduction of Barbarians into the Roman armies became every day
more universal, more necessary, and more fatal. The most daring of the
Scythians, of the Goths, and of the Germans, who delighted in war, and
who found it more profitable to defend than to ravage the provinces,
were enrolled, not only in the auxiliaries of their respective nations,
but in the legions themselves, and among the most distinguished of the
Palatine troops. As they freely mingled with the subjects of the empire,
they gradually learned to despise their manners, and to imitate their
arts. They abjured the implicit reverence which the pride of Rome had
exacted from their ignorance, while they acquired the knowledge
and possession of those advantages by which alone she supported her
declining greatness. The Barbarian soldiers, who displayed any military
talents, were advanced, without exception, to the most important
commands; and the names of the tribunes, of the counts and dukes, and of
the generals themselves, betray a foreign origin, which they no longer
condescended to disguise. They were often intrusted with the conduct of
a war against their countrymen; and though most of them preferred the
ties of allegiance to those of blood, they did not always avoid
the guilt, or at least the suspicion, of holding a treasonable
correspondence with the enemy, of inviting his invasion, or of sparing
his retreat. The camps and the palace of the son of Constantine were
governed by the powerful faction of the Franks, who preserved the
strictest connection with each other, and with their country, and who
resented every personal affront as a national indignity. [140] When
the tyrant Caligula was suspected of an intention to invest a very
extraordinary candidate with the consular robes, the sacrilegious
profanation would have scarcely excited less astonishment, if, instead
of a horse, the noblest chieftain of Germany or Britain had been the
object of his choice. The revolution of three centuries had produced
so remarkable a change in the prejudices of the people, that, with the
public approbation, Constantine showed his successors the example of
bestowing the honors of the consulship on the Barbarians, who, by their
merit and services, had deserved to be ranked among the first of the
Romans. [141] But as these hardy veterans, who had been educated in
the ignorance or contempt of the laws, were incapable of exercising
any civil offices, the powers of the human mind were contracted by the
irreconcilable separation of talents as well as of professions. The
accomplished citizens of the Greek and Roman republics, whose characters
could adapt themselves to the bar, the senate, the camp, or the schools,
had learned to write, to speak, and to act with the same spirit, and
with equal abilities.

[Footnote 140: Malarichus--adhibitis Francis quorum ea tempestate in
palatio multitudo florebat, erectius jam loquebatur tumultuabaturque.
Ammian. l. xv. c. 5.]

[Footnote 141: Barbaros omnium primus, ad usque fasces auxerat et
trabeas consulares. Ammian. l. xx. c. 10. Eusebius (in Vit. Constantin.
l. iv c.7) and Aurelius Victor seem to confirm the truth of this
assertion yet in the thirty-two consular Fasti of the reign of
Constantine cannot discover the name of a single Barbarian. I should
therefore interpret the liberality of that prince as relative to the
ornaments rather than to the office, of the consulship.]

IV. Besides the magistrates and generals, who at a distance from the
court diffused their delegated authority over the provinces and armies,
the emperor conferred the rank of Illustrious on seven of his more
immediate servants, to whose fidelity he intrusted his safety, or his
counsels, or his treasures. 1. The private apartments of the palace were
governed by a favorite eunuch, who, in the language of that age, was
styled the proepositus, or praefect of the sacred bed-chamber. His
duty was to attend the emperor in his hours of state, or in those of
amusement, and to perform about his person all those menial services,
which can only derive their splendor from the influence of royalty.
Under a prince who deserved to reign, the great chamberlain (for such we
may call him) was a useful and humble domestic; but an artful domestic,
who improves every occasion of unguarded confidence, will insensibly
acquire over a feeble mind that ascendant which harsh wisdom and
uncomplying virtue can seldom obtain. The degenerate grandsons of
Theodosius, who were invisible to their subjects, and contemptible to
their enemies, exalted the praefects of their bed-chamber above the
heads of all the ministers of the palace; [142] and even his deputy, the
first of the splendid train of slaves who waited in the presence, was
thought worthy to rank before the respectable proconsuls of Greece
or Asia. The jurisdiction of the chamberlain was acknowledged by the
counts, or superintendents, who regulated the two important provinces
of the magnificence of the wardrobe, and of the luxury of the Imperial
table. [143] 2. The principal administration of public affairs was
committed to the diligence and abilities of the master of the offices.
[144] He was the supreme magistrate of the palace, inspected the
discipline of the civil and military schools, and received appeals from
all parts of the empire, in the causes which related to that numerous
army of privileged persons, who, as the servants of the court, had
obtained for themselves and families a right to decline the authority
of the ordinary judges. The correspondence between the prince and his
subjects was managed by the four scrinia, or offices of this minister of
state. The first was appropriated to memorials, the second to epistles,
the third to petitions, and the fourth to papers and orders of a
miscellaneous kind. Each of these was directed by an inferior master of
respectable dignity, and the whole business was despatched by a
hundred and forty-eight secretaries, chosen for the most part from the
profession of the law, on account of the variety of abstracts of reports
and references which frequently occurred in the exercise of their
several functions. From a condescension, which in former ages would have
been esteemed unworthy the Roman majesty, a particular secretary was
allowed for the Greek language; and interpreters were appointed to
receive the ambassadors of the Barbarians; but the department of foreign
affairs, which constitutes so essential a part of modern policy, seldom
diverted the attention of the master of the offices. His mind was more
seriously engaged by the general direction of the posts and arsenals
of the empire. There were thirty-four cities, fifteen in the East,
and nineteen in the West, in which regular companies of workmen were
perpetually employed in fabricating defensive armor, offensive weapons
of all sorts, and military engines, which were deposited in the
arsenals, and occasionally delivered for the service of the troops. 3.
In the course of nine centuries, the office of quaestor had experienced
a very singular revolution. In the infancy of Rome, two inferior
magistrates were annually elected by the people, to relieve the consuls
from the invidious management of the public treasure; [145] a similar
assistant was granted to every proconsul, and to every praetor, who
exercised a military or provincial command; with the extent of conquest,
the two quaestors were gradually multiplied to the number of four, of
eight, of twenty, and, for a short time, perhaps, of forty; [146] and
the noblest citizens ambitiously solicited an office which gave them
a seat in the senate, and a just hope of obtaining the honors of the
republic. Whilst Augustus affected to maintain the freedom of election,
he consented to accept the annual privilege of recommending, or rather
indeed of nominating, a certain proportion of candidates; and it was his
custom to select one of these distinguished youths, to read his orations
or epistles in the assemblies of the senate. [147] The practice of
Augustus was imitated by succeeding princes; the occasional commission
was established as a permanent office; and the favored quaestor,
assuming a new and more illustrious character, alone survived the
suppression of his ancient and useless colleagues. [148] As the orations
which he composed in the name of the emperor, [149] acquired the force,
and, at length, the form, of absolute edicts, he was considered as the
representative of the legislative power, the oracle of the council, and
the original source of the civil jurisprudence. He was sometimes invited
to take his seat in the supreme judicature of the Imperial consistory,
with the Praetorian praefects, and the master of the offices; and he was
frequently requested to resolve the doubts of inferior judges: but as
he was not oppressed with a variety of subordinate business, his
leisure and talents were employed to cultivate that dignified style
of eloquence, which, in the corruption of taste and language, still
preserves the majesty of the Roman laws. [150] In some respects, the
office of the Imperial quaestor may be compared with that of a modern
chancellor; but the use of a great seal, which seems to have been
adopted by the illiterate barbarians, was never introduced to attest the
public acts of the emperors. 4. The extraordinary title of count of the
sacred largesses was bestowed on the treasurer-general of the revenue,
with the intention perhaps of inculcating, that every payment flowed
from the voluntary bounty of the monarch. To conceive the almost
infinite detail of the annual and daily expense of the civil and
military administration in every part of a great empire, would exceed
the powers of the most vigorous imagination.

The actual account employed several hundred persons, distributed into
eleven different offices, which were artfully contrived to examine and
control their respective operations. The multitude of these agents had
a natural tendency to increase; and it was more than once thought
expedient to dismiss to their native homes the useless supernumeraries,
who, deserting their honest labors, had pressed with too much eagerness
into the lucrative profession of the finances. [151] Twenty-nine
provincial receivers, of whom eighteen were honored with the title of
count, corresponded with the treasurer; and he extended his jurisdiction
over the mines from whence the precious metals were extracted, over the
mints, in which they were converted into the current coin, and over
the public treasuries of the most important cities, where they were
deposited for the service of the state. The foreign trade of the empire
was regulated by this minister, who directed likewise all the linen and
woollen manufactures, in which the successive operations of spinning,
weaving, and dyeing were executed, chiefly by women of a servile
condition, for the use of the palace and army. Twenty-six of these
institutions are enumerated in the West, where the arts had been more
recently introduced, and a still larger proportion may be allowed for
the industrious provinces of the East. [152] 5. Besides the public
revenue, which an absolute monarch might levy and expend according
to his pleasure, the emperors, in the capacity of opulent citizens,
possessed a very extensive property, which was administered by the
count or treasurer of the private estate. Some part had perhaps been
the ancient demesnes of kings and republics; some accessions might be
derived from the families which were successively invested with the
purple; but the most considerable portion flowed from the impure source
of confiscations and forfeitures. The Imperial estates were scattered
through the provinces, from Mauritania to Britain; but the rich and
fertile soil of Cappadocia tempted the monarch to acquire in that
country his fairest possessions, [153] and either Constantine or his
successors embraced the occasion of justifying avarice by religious
zeal. They suppressed the rich temple of Comana, where the high priest
of the goddess of war supported the dignity of a sovereign prince; and
they applied to their private use the consecrated lands, which were
inhabited by six thousand subjects or slaves of the deity and her
ministers. [154] But these were not the valuable inhabitants: the plains
that stretch from the foot of Mount Argaeus to the banks of the Sarus,
bred a generous race of horses, renowned above all others in the ancient
world for their majestic shape and incomparable swiftness. These sacred
animals, destined for the service of the palace and the Imperial games,
were protected by the laws from the profanation of a vulgar master.
[155] The demesnes of Cappadocia were important enough to require the
inspection of a count; [156] officers of an inferior rank were stationed
in the other parts of the empire; and the deputies of the private, as
well as those of the public, treasurer were maintained in the exercise
of their independent functions, and encouraged to control the authority
of the provincial magistrates. [157] 6, 7. The chosen bands of cavalry
and infantry, which guarded the person of the emperor, were under the
immediate command of the two counts of the domestics. The whole number
consisted of three thousand five hundred men, divided into seven
schools, or troops, of five hundred each; and in the East, this
honorable service was almost entirely appropriated to the Armenians.
Whenever, on public ceremonies, they were drawn up in the courts and
porticos of the palace, their lofty stature, silent order, and splendid
arms of silver and gold, displayed a martial pomp not unworthy of the
Roman majesty. [158] From the seven schools two companies of horse and
foot were selected, of the protectors, whose advantageous station was
the hope and reward of the most deserving soldiers. They mounted guard
in the interior apartments, and were occasionally despatched into
the provinces, to execute with celerity and vigor the orders of their
master. [159] The counts of the domestics had succeeded to the office
of the Praetorian praefects; like the praefects, they aspired from the
service of the palace to the command of armies.

[Footnote 142: Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. 8.]

[Footnote 143: By a very singular metaphor, borrowed from the military
character of the first emperors, the steward of their household was
styled the count of their camp, (comes castrensis.) Cassiodorus very
seriously represents to him, that his own fame, and that of the empire,
must depend on the opinion which foreign ambassadors may conceive of
the plenty and magnificence of the royal table. (Variar. l. vi. epistol.

[Footnote 144: Gutherius (de Officiis Domus Augustae, l. ii. c. 20, l.
iii.) has very accurately explained the functions of the master of the
offices, and the constitution of the subordinate scrinia. But he vainly
attempts, on the most doubtful authority, to deduce from the time of
the Antonines, or even of Nero, the origin of a magistrate who cannot be
found in history before the reign of Constantine.]

[Footnote 145: Tacitus (Annal. xi. 22) says, that the first quaestors
were elected by the people, sixty-four years after the foundation of the
republic; but he is of opinion, that they had, long before that period,
been annually appointed by the consuls, and even by the kings. But this
obscure point of antiquity is contested by other writers.]

[Footnote 146: Tacitus (Annal. xi. 22) seems to consider twenty as the
highest number of quaestors; and Dion (l. xliii. p 374) insinuates, that
if the dictator Caesar once created forty, it was only to facilitate the
payment of an immense debt of gratitude. Yet the augmentation which he
made of praetors subsisted under the succeeding reigns.]

[Footnote 147: Sueton. in August. c. 65, and Torrent. ad loc. Dion. Cas.
p. 755.]

[Footnote 148: The youth and inexperience of the quaestors, who entered
on that important office in their twenty-fifth year, (Lips. Excurs. ad
Tacit. l. iii. D.,) engaged Augustus to remove them from the management
of the treasury; and though they were restored by Claudius, they seem to
have been finally dismissed by Nero. (Tacit Annal. xiii. 29. Sueton. in
Aug. c. 36, in Claud. c. 24. Dion, p. 696, 961, &c. Plin. Epistol. x.
20, et alibi.) In the provinces of the Imperial division, the place of
the quaestors was more ably supplied by the procurators, (Dion Cas. p.
707. Tacit. in Vit. Agricol. c. 15;) or, as they were afterwards called,
rationales. (Hist. August. p. 130.) But in the provinces of the senate
we may still discover a series of quaestors till the reign of Marcus
Antoninus. (See the Inscriptions of Gruter, the Epistles of Pliny, and a
decisive fact in the Augustan History, p. 64.) From Ulpian we may learn,
(Pandect. l. i. tit. 13,) that under the government of the house of
Severus, their provincial administration was abolished; and in the
subsequent troubles, the annual or triennial elections of quaestors must
have naturally ceased.]

[Footnote 149: Cum patris nomine et epistolas ipse dictaret, et edicta
conscrib eret, orationesque in senatu recitaret, etiam quaestoris vice.
Sueton, in Tit. c. 6. The office must have acquired new dignity, which
was occasionally executed by the heir apparent of the empire. Trajan
intrusted the same care to Hadrian, his quaestor and cousin. See
Dodwell, Praelection. Cambden, x. xi. p. 362-394.]

[Footnote 150: Terris edicta daturus; Supplicibus responsa.--Oracula
regis Eloquio crevere tuo; nec dignius unquam Majestas meminit sese
Romana locutam.----Claudian in Consulat. Mall. Theodor. 33. See likewise
Symmachus (Epistol. i. 17) and Cassiodorus. (Variar. iv. 5.)]

[Footnote 151: Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. 30. Cod. Justinian. l. xii. tit.

[Footnote 152: In the departments of the two counts of the treasury,
the eastern part of the Notitia happens to be very defective. It may
be observed, that we had a treasury chest in London, and a gyneceum or
manufacture at Winchester. But Britain was not thought worthy either of
a mint or of an arsenal. Gaul alone possessed three of the former, and
eight of the latter.]

[Footnote 153: Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. xxx. leg. 2, and Godefroy ad

[Footnote 154: Strabon. Geograph. l. xxii. p. 809, [edit. Casaub.] The
other temple of Comana, in Pontus, was a colony from that of Cappadocia,
l. xii. p. 835. The President Des Brosses (see his Saluste, tom. ii. p.
21, [edit. Causub.]) conjectures that the deity adored in both Comanas
was Beltis, the Venus of the east, the goddess of generation; a very
different being indeed from the goddess of war.]

[Footnote 155: Cod. Theod. l. x. tit. vi. de Grege Dominico. Godefroy
has collected every circumstance of antiquity relative to the
Cappadocian horses. One of the finest breeds, the Palmatian, was the
forfeiture of a rebel, whose estate lay about sixteen miles from Tyana,
near the great road between Constantinople and Antioch.]

[Footnote 156: Justinian (Novell. 30) subjected the province of the
count of Cappadocia to the immediate authority of the favorite eunuch,
who presided over the sacred bed-chamber.]

[Footnote 157: Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. xxx. leg. 4, &c.]

[Footnote 158: Pancirolus, p. 102, 136. The appearance of these military
domestics is described in the Latin poem of Corippus, de Laudibus
Justin. l. iii. 157-179. p. 419, 420 of the Appendix Hist. Byzantin.
Rom. 177.]

[Footnote 159: Ammianus Marcellinus, who served so many years, obtained
only the rank of a protector. The first ten among these honorable
soldiers were Clarissimi.]

The perpetual intercourse between the court and the provinces was
facilitated by the construction of roads and the institution of posts.
But these beneficial establishments were accidentally connected with
a pernicious and intolerable abuse. Two or three hundred agents or
messengers were employed, under the jurisdiction of the master of the
offices, to announce the names of the annual consuls, and the edicts
or victories of the emperors. They insensibly assumed the license
of reporting whatever they could observe of the conduct either of
magistrates or of private citizens; and were soon considered as the
eyes of the monarch, [160] and the scourge of the people. Under the warm
influence of a feeble reign, they multiplied to the incredible number
of ten thousand, disdained the mild though frequent admonitions of
the laws, and exercised in the profitable management of the posts a
rapacious and insolent oppression. These official spies, who regularly
corresponded with the palace, were encouraged by favor and reward,
anxiously to watch the progress of every treasonable design, from the
faint and latent symptoms of disaffection, to the actual preparation
of an open revolt. Their careless or criminal violation of truth and
justice was covered by the consecrated mask of zeal; and they might
securely aim their poisoned arrows at the breast either of the guilty or
the innocent, who had provoked their resentment, or refused to purchase
their silence. A faithful subject, of Syria perhaps, or of Britain, was
exposed to the danger, or at least to the dread, of being dragged in
chains to the court of Milan or Constantinople, to defend his life and
fortune against the malicious charge of these privileged informers. The
ordinary administration was conducted by those methods which extreme
necessity can alone palliate; and the defects of evidence were
diligently supplied by the use of torture. [161]

[Footnote 160: Xenophon, Cyropaed. l. viii. Brisson, de Regno Persico,
l. i No 190, p. 264. The emperors adopted with pleasure this Persian

[Footnote 161: For the Agentes in Rebus, see Ammian. l. xv. c. 3, l.
xvi. c. 5, l. xxii. c. 7, with the curious annotations of Valesius. Cod.
Theod. l. vi. tit. xxvii. xxviii. xxix. Among the passages collected in
the Commentary of Godefroy, the most remarkable is one from Libanius, in
his discourse concerning the death of Julian.]

The deceitful and dangerous experiment of the criminal quaestion, as
it is emphatically styled, was admitted, rather than approved, in
the jurisprudence of the Romans. They applied this sanguinary mode of
examination only to servile bodies, whose sufferings were seldom weighed
by those haughty republicans in the scale of justice or humanity; but
they would never consent to violate the sacred person of a citizen, till
they possessed the clearest evidence of his guilt. [162] The annals
of tyranny, from the reign of Tiberius to that of Domitian,
circumstantially relate the executions of many innocent victims; but, as
long as the faintest remembrance was kept alive of the national freedom
and honor, the last hours of a Roman were secured from the danger of
ignominions torture. [163] The conduct of the provincial magistrates
was not, however, regulated by the practice of the city, or the strict
maxims of the civilians. They found the use of torture established not
only among the slaves of oriental despotism, but among the Macedonians,
who obeyed a limited monarch; among the Rhodians, who flourished by the
liberty of commerce; and even among the sage Athenians, who had asserted
and adorned the dignity of human kind. [164] The acquiescence of the
provincials encouraged their governors to acquire, or perhaps to usurp,
a discretionary power of employing the rack, to extort from vagrants or
plebeian criminals the confession of their guilt, till they insensibly
proceeded to confound the distinction of rank, and to disregard the
privileges of Roman citizens. The apprehensions of the subjects urged
them to solicit, and the interest of the sovereign engaged him to
grant, a variety of special exemptions, which tacitly allowed, and even
authorized, the general use of torture. They protected all persons of
illustrious or honorable rank, bishops and their presbyters, professors
of the liberal arts, soldiers and their families, municipal officers,
and their posterity to the third generation, and all children under
the age of puberty. [165] But a fatal maxim was introduced into the new
jurisprudence of the empire, that in the case of treason, which included
every offence that the subtlety of lawyers could derive from a hostile
intention towards the prince or republic, [166] all privileges were
suspended, and all conditions were reduced to the same ignominious
level. As the safety of the emperor was avowedly preferred to every
consideration of justice or humanity, the dignity of age and the
tenderness of youth were alike exposed to the most cruel tortures; and
the terrors of a malicious information, which might select them as the
accomplices, or even as the witnesses, perhaps, of an imaginary crime,
perpetually hung over the heads of the principal citizens of the Roman
world. [167]

[Footnote 162: The Pandects (l. xlviii. tit. xviii.) contain the
sentiments of the most celebrated civilians on the subject of torture.
They strictly confine it to slaves; and Ulpian himself is ready to
acknowledge that Res est fragilis, et periculosa, et quae veritatem

[Footnote 163: In the conspiracy of Piso against Nero, Epicharis
(libertina mulier) was the only person tortured; the rest were intacti
tormentis. It would be superfluous to add a weaker, and it would be
difficult to find a stronger, example. Tacit. Annal. xv. 57.]

[Footnote 164: Dicendum... de Institutis Atheniensium, Rhodiorum,
doctissimorum hominum, apud quos etiam (id quod acerbissimum est)
liberi, civesque torquentur. Cicero, Partit. Orat. c. 34. We may learn
from the trial of Philotas the practice of the Macedonians. (Diodor.
Sicul. l. xvii. p. 604. Q. Curt. l. vi. c. 11.)]

[Footnote 165: Heineccius (Element. Jur. Civil. part vii. p. 81) has
collected these exemptions into one view.]

[Footnote 166: This definition of the sage Ulpian (Pandect. l. xlviii.
tit. iv.) seems to have been adapted to the court of Caracalla, rather
than to that of Alexander Severus. See the Codes of Theodosius and ad
leg. Juliam majestatis.]

[Footnote 167: Arcadius Charisius is the oldest lawyer quoted to justify
the universal practice of torture in all cases of treason; but this
maxim of tyranny, which is admitted by Ammianus with the most respectful
terror, is enforced by several laws of the successors of Constantine.
See Cod. Theod. l. ix. tit. xxxv. majestatis crimine omnibus aequa est

These evils, however terrible they may appear, were confined to the
smaller number of Roman subjects, whose dangerous situation was in
some degree compensated by the enjoyment of those advantages, either of
nature or of fortune, which exposed them to the jealousy of the monarch.
The obscure millions of a great empire have much less to dread from
the cruelty than from the avarice of their masters, and their humble
happiness is principally affected by the grievance of excessive taxes,
which, gently pressing on the wealthy, descend with accelerated weight
on the meaner and more indigent classes of society. An ingenious
philosopher [168] has calculated the universal measure of the public
impositions by the degrees of freedom and servitude; and ventures to
assert, that, according to an invariable law of nature, it must always
increase with the former, and diminish in a just proportion to the
latter. But this reflection, which would tend to alleviate the miseries
of despotism, is contradicted at least by the history of the Roman
empire; which accuses the same princes of despoiling the senate of its
authority, and the provinces of their wealth. Without abolishing all
the various customs and duties on merchandises, which are imperceptibly
discharged by the apparent choice of the purchaser, the policy of
Constantine and his successors preferred a simple and direct mode of
taxation, more congenial to the spirit of an arbitrary government. [169]

[Footnote 168: Montesquieu, Esprit des Loix, l. xii. c. 13.]

[Footnote 169: Mr. Hume (Essays, vol. i. p. 389) has seen this
importance with some degree of perplexity.]

Chapter XVII: Foundation Of Constantinople.--Part VI.

The name and use of the indictions, [170] which serve to ascertain the
chronology of the middle ages, were derived from the regular practice of
the Roman tributes. [171] The emperor subscribed with his own hand, and
in purple ink, the solemn edict, or indiction, which was fixed up in the
principal city of each diocese, during two months previous to the first
day of September. And by a very easy connection of ideas, the word
indiction was transferred to the measure of tribute which it prescribed,
and to the annual term which it allowed for the payment. This general
estimate of the supplies was proportioned to the real and imaginary
wants of the state; but as often as the expense exceeded the revenue, or
the revenue fell short of the computation, an additional tax, under the
name of superindiction, was imposed on the people, and the most valuable
attribute of sovereignty was communicated to the Praetorian praefects,
who, on some occasions, were permitted to provide for the unforeseen and
extraordinary exigencies of the public service. The execution of these
laws (which it would be tedious to pursue in their minute and intricate
detail) consisted of two distinct operations: the resolving the general
imposition into its constituent parts, which were assessed on the
provinces, the cities, and the individuals of the Roman world; and the
collecting the separate contributions of the individuals, the cities,
and the provinces, till the accumulated sums were poured into the
Imperial treasuries. But as the account between the monarch and
the subject was perpetually open, and as the renewal of the demand
anticipated the perfect discharge of the preceding obligation, the
weighty machine of the finances was moved by the same hands round the
circle of its yearly revolution. Whatever was honorable or important in
the administration of the revenue, was committed to the wisdom of the
praefects, and their provincia. representatives; the lucrative functions
were claimed by a crowd of subordinate officers, some of whom depended
on the treasurer, others on the governor of the province; and who,
in the inevitable conflicts of a perplexed jurisdiction, had frequent
opportunities of disputing with each other the spoils of the people. The
laborious offices, which could be productive only of envy and reproach,
of expense and danger, were imposed on the Decurions, who formed the
corporations of the cities, and whom the severity of the Imperial laws
had condemned to sustain the burdens of civil society. [172] The whole
landed property of the empire (without excepting the patrimonial estates
of the monarch) was the object of ordinary taxation; and every new
purchaser contracted the obligations of the former proprietor. An
accurate census, [173] or survey, was the only equitable mode of
ascertaining the proportion which every citizen should be obliged to
contribute for the public service; and from the well-known period of the
indictions, there is reason to believe that this difficult and expensive
operation was repeated at the regular distance of fifteen years. The
lands were measured by surveyors, who were sent into the provinces;
their nature, whether arable or pasture, or vineyards or woods, was
distinctly reported; and an estimate was made of their common value from
the average produce of five years. The numbers of slaves and of cattle
constituted an essential part of the report; an oath was administered
to the proprietors, which bound them to disclose the true state of their
affairs; and their attempts to prevaricate, or elude the intention of
the legislator, were severely watched, and punished as a capital crime,
which included the double guilt of treason and sacrilege. [174] A large
portion of the tribute was paid in money; and of the current coin of the
empire, gold alone could be legally accepted. [175] The remainder of the
taxes, according to the proportions determined by the annual indiction,
was furnished in a manner still more direct, and still more oppressive.
According to the different nature of lands, their real produce in the
various articles of wine or oil, corn or barley, wood or iron, was
transported by the labor or at the expense of the provincials [175a] to
the Imperial magazines, from whence they were occasionally distributed
for the use of the court, of the army, and of two capitals, Rome and
Constantinople. The commissioners of the revenue were so frequently
obliged to make considerable purchases, that they were strictly
prohibited from allowing any compensation, or from receiving in money
the value of those supplies which were exacted in kind. In the primitive
simplicity of small communities, this method may be well adapted to
collect the almost voluntary offerings of the people; but it is at once
susceptible of the utmost latitude, and of the utmost strictness, which
in a corrupt and absolute monarchy must introduce a perpetual contest
between the power of oppression and the arts of fraud. [176] The
agriculture of the Roman provinces was insensibly ruined, and, in the
progress of despotism which tends to disappoint its own purpose, the
emperors were obliged to derive some merit from the forgiveness of
debts, or the remission of tributes, which their subjects were utterly
incapable of paying. According to the new division of Italy, the fertile
and happy province of Campania, the scene of the early victories and of
the delicious retirements of the citizens of Rome, extended between the
sea and the Apennine, from the Tiber to the Silarus. Within sixty years
after the death of Constantine, and on the evidence of an actual survey,
an exemption was granted in favor of three hundred and thirty thousand
English acres of desert and uncultivated land; which amounted to one
eighth of the whole surface of the province. As the footsteps of the
Barbarians had not yet been seen in Italy, the cause of this amazing
desolation, which is recorded in the laws, can be ascribed only to the
administration of the Roman emperors. [177]

[Footnote 170: The cycle of indictions, which may be traced as high
as the reign of Constantius, or perhaps of his father, Constantine, is
still employed by the Papal court; but the commencement of the year
has been very reasonably altered to the first of January. See l'Art de
Verifier les Dates, p. xi.; and Dictionnaire Raison. de la Diplomatique,
tom. ii. p. 25; two accurate treatises, which come from the workshop of
the Benedictines. ---- It does not appear that the establishment of the
indiction is to be at tributed to Constantine: it existed before he had
been created Augustus at Rome, and the remission granted by him to
the city of Autun is the proof. He would not have ventured while only
Caesar, and under the necessity of courting popular favor, to establish
such an odious impost. Aurelius Victor and Lactantius agree in
designating Diocletian as the author of this despotic institution. Aur.
Vict. de Caes. c. 39. Lactant. de Mort. Pers. c. 7--G.]

[Footnote 171: The first twenty-eight titles of the eleventh book of the
Theodosian Code are filled with the circumstantial regulations on the
important subject of tributes; but they suppose a clearer knowledge of
fundamental principles than it is at present in our power to attain.]

[Footnote 172: The title concerning the Decurions (l. xii. tit. i.) is
the most ample in the whole Theodosian Code; since it contains not less
than one hundred and ninety-two distinct laws to ascertain the duties
and privileges of that useful order of citizens. * Note: The Decurions
were charged with assessing, according to the census of property
prepared by the tabularii, the payment due from each proprietor. This
odious office was authoritatively imposed on the richest citizens of
each town; they had no salary, and all their compensation was, to be
exempt from certain corporal punishments, in case they should have
incurred them. The Decurionate was the ruin of all the rich. Hence
they tried every way of avoiding this dangerous honor; they concealed
themselves, they entered into military service; but their efforts were
unavailing; they were seized, they were compelled to become Decurions,
and the dread inspired by this title was termed Impiety.--G. ----The
Decurions were mutually responsible; they were obliged to undertake for
pieces of ground abandoned by their owners on account of the pressure of
the taxes, and, finally, to make up all deficiencies. Savigny chichte
des Rom. Rechts, i. 25.--M.]

[Footnote 173: Habemus enim et hominum numerum qui delati sunt, et agrun
modum. Eumenius in Panegyr. Vet. viii. 6. See Cod. Theod. l. xiii. tit.
x. xi., with Godefroy's Commentary.]

[Footnote 174: Siquis sacrilega vitem falce succiderit, aut feracium
ramorum foetus hebetaverit, quo delinet fidem Censuum, et mentiatur
callide paupertatis ingenium, mox detectus capitale subibit exitium, et
bona ejus in Fisci jura migrabunt. Cod. Theod. l. xiii. tit. xi. leg. 1.
Although this law is not without its studied obscurity, it is, however
clear enough to prove the minuteness of the inquisition, and the
disproportion of the penalty.]

[Footnote 175: The astonishment of Pliny would have ceased. Equidem
miror P. R. victis gentibus argentum semper imperitasse non aurum. Hist
Natur. xxxiii. 15.]

[Footnote 175a: The proprietors were not charged with the expense of
this transport in the provinces situated on the sea-shore or near
the great rivers, there were companies of boatmen, and of masters of
vessels, who had this commission, and furnished the means of transport
at their own expense. In return, they were themselves exempt,
altogether, or in part, from the indiction and other imposts. They had
certain privileges; particular regulations determined their rights and
obligations. (Cod. Theod. l. xiii. tit. v. ix.) The transports by
land were made in the same manner, by the intervention of a privileged
company called Bastaga; the members were called Bastagarii Cod. Theod.
l. viii. tit. v.--G.]

[Footnote 176: Some precautions were taken (see Cod. Theod. l. xi. tit.
ii. and Cod. Justinian. l. x. tit. xxvii. leg. 1, 2, 3) to restrain the
magistrates from the abuse of their authority, either in the exaction or
in the purchase of corn: but those who had learning enough to read the
orations of Cicero against Verres, (iii. de Frumento,) might instruct
themselves in all the various arts of oppression, with regard to the
weight, the price, the quality, and the carriage. The avarice of an
unlettered governor would supply the ignorance of precept or precedent.]

[Footnote 177: Cod. Theod. l. xi. tit. xxviii. leg. 2, published the
24th of March, A. D. 395, by the emperor Honorius, only two months after
the death of his father, Theodosius. He speaks of 528,042 Roman jugera,
which I have reduced to the English measure. The jugerum contained
28,800 square Roman feet.]

Either from design or from accident, the mode of assessment seemed to
unite the substance of a land tax with the forms of a capitation. [178]
The returns which were sent of every province or district, expressed the
number of tributary subjects, and the amount of the public impositions.
The latter of these sums was divided by the former; and the estimate,
that such a province contained so many capita, or heads of tribute; and
that each head was rated at such a price, was universally received, not
only in the popular, but even in the legal computation. The value of
a tributary head must have varied, according to many accidental, or at
least fluctuating circumstances; but some knowledge has been preserved
of a very curious fact, the more important, since it relates to one of
the richest provinces of the Roman empire, and which now flourishes as
the most splendid of the European kingdoms. The rapacious ministers of
Constantius had exhausted the wealth of Gaul, by exacting twenty-five
pieces of gold for the annual tribute of every head. The humane policy
of his successor reduced the capitation to seven pieces. [179] A
moderate proportion between these opposite extremes of extraordinary
oppression and of transient indulgence, may therefore be fixed at
sixteen pieces of gold, or about nine pounds sterling, the common
standard, perhaps, of the impositions of Gaul. [180] But this
calculation, or rather, indeed, the facts from whence it is deduced,
cannot fail of suggesting two difficulties to a thinking mind, who
will be at once surprised by the equality, and by the enormity, of the
capitation. An attempt to explain them may perhaps reflect some light on
the interesting subject of the finances of the declining empire.

[Footnote 178: Godefroy (Cod. Theod. tom. vi. p. 116) argues with weight
and learning on the subject of the capitation; but while he explains the
caput, as a share or measure of property, he too absolutely excludes the
idea of a personal assessment.]

[Footnote 179: Quid profuerit (Julianus) anhelantibus extrema penuria
Gallis, hinc maxime claret, quod primitus partes eas ingressus, pro
capitibusingulis tributi nomine vicenos quinos aureos reperit flagitari;
discedens vero septenos tantum numera universa complentes. Ammian. l.
xvi. c. 5.]

[Footnote 180: In the calculation of any sum of money under Constantine
and his successors, we need only refer to the excellent discourse of Mr.
Greaves on the Denarius, for the proof of the following principles; 1.
That the ancient and modern Roman pound, containing 5256 grains of Troy
weight, is about one twelfth lighter than the English pound, which is
composed of 5760 of the same grains. 2. That the pound of gold, which
had once been divided into forty-eight aurei, was at this time coined
into seventy-two smaller pieces of the same denomination. 3. That five
of these aurei were the legal tender for a pound of silver, and that
consequently the pound of gold was exchanged for fourteen pounds eight
ounces of silver, according to the Roman, or about thirteen pounds
according to the English weight. 4. That the English pound of silver is
coined into sixty-two shillings. From these elements we may compute the
Roman pound of gold, the usual method of reckoning large sums, at forty
pounds sterling, and we may fix the currency of the aureus at somewhat
more than eleven shillings. * Note: See, likewise, a Dissertation of
M. Letronne, "Considerations Generales sur l'Evaluation des Monnaies
Grecques et Romaines" Paris, 1817--M.]

I. It is obvious, that, as long as the immutable constitution of human
nature produces and maintains so unequal a division of property,
the most numerous part of the community would be deprived of their
subsistence, by the equal assessment of a tax from which the sovereign
would derive a very trifling revenue. Such indeed might be the theory of
the Roman capitation; but in the practice, this unjust equality was no
longer felt, as the tribute was collected on the principle of a
real, not of a personal imposition. [180a] Several indigent citizens
contributed to compose a single head, or share of taxation; while the
wealthy provincial, in proportion to his fortune, alone represented
several of those imaginary beings. In a poetical request, addressed to
one of the last and most deserving of the Roman princes who reigned in
Gaul, Sidonius Apollinaris personifies his tribute under the figure of
a triple monster, the Geryon of the Grecian fables, and entreats the new
Hercules that he would most graciously be pleased to save his life
by cutting off three of his heads. [181] The fortune of Sidonius far
exceeded the customary wealth of a poet; but if he had pursued the
allusion, he might have painted many of the Gallic nobles with the
hundred heads of the deadly Hydra, spreading over the face of the
country, and devouring the substance of a hundred families. II. The
difficulty of allowing an annual sum of about nine pounds sterling, even
for the average of the capitation of Gaul, may be rendered more evident
by the comparison of the present state of the same country, as it is
now governed by the absolute monarch of an industrious, wealthy, and
affectionate people. The taxes of France cannot be magnified, either
by fear or by flattery, beyond the annual amount of eighteen millions
sterling, which ought perhaps to be shared among four and twenty
millions of inhabitants. [182] Seven millions of these, in the capacity
of fathers, or brothers, or husbands, may discharge the obligations of
the remaining multitude of women and children; yet the equal proportion
of each tributary subject will scarcely rise above fifty shillings of
our money, instead of a proportion almost four times as considerable,
which was regularly imposed on their Gallic ancestors. The reason of
this difference may be found, not so much in the relative scarcity or
plenty of gold and silver, as in the different state of society, in
ancient Gaul and in modern France. In a country where personal freedom
is the privilege of every subject, the whole mass of taxes, whether they
are levied on property or on consumption, may be fairly divided among
the whole body of the nation. But the far greater part of the lands of
ancient Gaul, as well as of the other provinces of the Roman world, were
cultivated by slaves, or by peasants, whose dependent condition was a
less rigid servitude. [183] In such a state the poor were maintained at
the expense of the masters who enjoyed the fruits of their labor; and as
the rolls of tribute were filled only with the names of those citizens
who possessed the means of an honorable, or at least of a decent
subsistence, the comparative smallness of their numbers explains and
justifies the high rate of their capitation. The truth of this assertion
may be illustrated by the following example: The Aedui, one of the most
powerful and civilized tribes or cities of Gaul, occupied an extent of
territory, which now contains about five hundred thousand inhabitants,
in the two ecclesiastical dioceses of Autun and Nevers; [184] and
with the probable accession of those of Chalons and Macon, [185] the
population would amount to eight hundred thousand souls. In the time
of Constantine, the territory of the Aedui afforded no more than
twenty-five thousand heads of capitation, of whom seven thousand were
discharged by that prince from the intolerable weight of tribute. [186]
A just analogy would seem to countenance the opinion of an ingenious
historian, [187] that the free and tributary citizens did not surpass
the number of half a million; and if, in the ordinary administration of
government, their annual payments may be computed at about four millions
and a half of our money, it would appear, that although the share of
each individual was four times as considerable, a fourth part only of
the modern taxes of France was levied on the Imperial province of
Gaul. The exactions of Constantius may be calculated at seven millions
sterling, which were reduced to two millions by the humanity or the
wisdom of Julian.

[Footnote 180a: Two masterly dissertations of M. Savigny, in the Mem. of
the Berlin Academy (1822 and 1823) have thrown new light on the taxation
system of the Empire. Gibbon, according to M. Savigny, is mistaken in
supposing that there was but one kind of capitation tax; there was a
land tax, and a capitation tax, strictly so called. The land tax was,
in its operation, a proprietor's or landlord's tax. But, besides this,
there was a direct capitation tax on all who were not possessed of
landed property. This tax dates from the time of the Roman conquests;
its amount is not clearly known. Gradual exemptions released different
persons and classes from this tax. One edict exempts painters. In Syria,
all under twelve or fourteen, or above sixty-five, were exempted; at a
later period, all under twenty, and all unmarried females; still
later, all under twenty-five, widows and nuns, soldiers, veterani and
clerici--whole dioceses, that of Thrace and Illyricum. Under Galerius
and Licinius, the plebs urbana became exempt; though this, perhaps, was
only an ordinance for the East. By degrees, however, the exemption
was extended to all the inhabitants of towns; and as it was strictly
capitatio plebeia, from which all possessors were exempted it fell at
length altogether on the coloni and agricultural slaves. These were
registered in the same cataster (capitastrum) with the land tax. It
was paid by the proprietor, who raised it again from his coloni and

[Footnote 181: Geryones nos esse puta, monstrumque tributum,

    Hic capita ut vivam, tu mihi tolle tria.
    Sidon. Apollinar. Carm. xiii.

The reputation of Father Sirmond led me to expect more satisfaction than
I have found in his note (p. 144) on this remarkable passage. The words,
suo vel suorum nomine, betray the perplexity of the commentator.]

[Footnote 182: This assertion, however formidable it may seem, is
founded on the original registers of births, deaths, and marriages,
collected by public authority, and now deposited in the Controlee
General at Paris. The annual average of births throughout the whole
kingdom, taken in five years, (from 1770 to 1774, both inclusive,) is
479,649 boys, and 449,269 girls, in all 928,918 children. The province
of French Hainault alone furnishes 9906 births; and we are assured, by
an actual enumeration of the people, annually repeated from the year
1773 to the year 1776, that upon an average, Hainault contains 257,097
inhabitants. By the rules of fair analogy, we might infer, that the
ordinary proportion of annual births to the whole people, is about 1 to
26; and that the kingdom of France contains 24,151,868 persons of both
sexes and of every age. If we content ourselves with the more moderate
proportion of 1 to 25, the whole population will amount to 23,222,950.
From the diligent researches of the French Government, (which are not
unworthy of our own imitation,) we may hope to obtain a still greater
degree of certainty on this important subject * Note: On no subject has
so much valuable information been collected since the time of Gibbon,
as the statistics of the different countries of Europe but much is still
wanting as to our own--M.]

[Footnote 183: Cod. Theod. l. v. tit. ix. x. xi. Cod. Justinian. l. xi.
tit. lxiii. Coloni appellantur qui conditionem debent genitali solo,
propter agriculturum sub dominio possessorum. Augustin. de Civitate Dei,
l. x. c. i.]

[Footnote 184: The ancient jurisdiction of (Augustodunum) Autun in
Burgundy, the capital of the Aedui, comprehended the adjacent territory
of (Noviodunum) Nevers. See D'Anville, Notice de l'Ancienne Gaule, p.
491. The two dioceses of Autun and Nevers are now composed, the former
of 610, and the latter of 160 parishes. The registers of births, taken
during eleven years, in 476 parishes of the same province of Burgundy,
and multiplied by the moderate proportion of 25, (see Messance
Recherches sur la Population, p. 142,) may authorizes us to assign
an average number of 656 persons for each parish, which being again
multiplied by the 770 parishes of the dioceses of Nevers and Autun, will
produce the sum of 505,120 persons for the extent of country which was
once possessed by the Aedui.]

[Footnote 185: We might derive an additional supply of 301,750
inhabitants from the dioceses of Chalons (Cabillonum) and of Macon,
(Matisco,) since they contain, the one 200, and the other 260 parishes.
This accession of territory might be justified by very specious reasons.
1. Chalons and Macon were undoubtedly within the original jurisdiction
of the Aedui. (See D'Anville, Notice, p. 187, 443.) 2. In the Notitia
of Gaul, they are enumerated not as Civitates, but merely as Castra.
3. They do not appear to have been episcopal seats before the fifth and
sixth centuries. Yet there is a passage in Eumenius (Panegyr. Vet. viii.
7) which very forcibly deters me from extending the territory of the
Aedui, in the reign of Constantine, along the beautiful banks of the
navigable Saone. * Note: In this passage of Eumenius, Savigny supposes
the original number to have been 32,000: 7000 being discharged, there
remained 25,000 liable to the tribute. See Mem. quoted above.--M.]

[Footnote 186: Eumenius in Panegyr Vet. viii. 11.]

[Footnote 187: L'Abbe du Bos, Hist. Critique de la M. F. tom. i. p. 121]

But this tax, or capitation, on the proprietors of land, would have
suffered a rich and numerous class of free citizens to escape. With
the view of sharing that species of wealth which is derived from art or
labor, and which exists in money or in merchandise, the emperors imposed
a distinct and personal tribute on the trading part of their subjects.
[188] Some exemptions, very strictly confined both in time and place,
were allowed to the proprietors who disposed of the produce of their own
estates. Some indulgence was granted to the profession of the liberal
arts: but every other branch of commercial industry was affected by the
severity of the law. The honorable merchant of Alexandria, who imported
the gems and spices of India for the use of the western world; the
usurer, who derived from the interest of money a silent and ignominious
profit; the ingenious manufacturer, the diligent mechanic, and even the
most obscure retailer of a sequestered village, were obliged to admit
the officers of the revenue into the partnership of their gain; and the
sovereign of the Roman empire, who tolerated the profession, consented
to share the infamous salary, of public prostitutes. [188a] As this
general tax upon industry was collected every fourth year, it was styled
the Lustral Contribution: and the historian Zosimus [189] laments that
the approach of the fatal period was announced by the tears and terrors
of the citizens, who were often compelled by the impending scourge to
embrace the most abhorred and unnatural methods of procuring the sum at
which their property had been assessed. The testimony of Zosimus cannot
indeed be justified from the charge of passion and prejudice; but, from
the nature of this tribute it seems reasonable to conclude, that it was
arbitrary in the distribution, and extremely rigorous in the mode of
collecting. The secret wealth of commerce, and the precarious profits of
art or labor, are susceptible only of a discretionary valuation, which
is seldom disadvantageous to the interest of the treasury; and as
the person of the trader supplies the want of a visible and permanent
security, the payment of the imposition, which, in the case of a land
tax, may be obtained by the seizure of property, can rarely be extorted
by any other means than those of corporal punishments. The cruel
treatment of the insolvent debtors of the state, is attested, and
was perhaps mitigated by a very humane edict of Constantine, who,
disclaiming the use of racks and of scourges, allots a spacious and airy
prison for the place of their confinement. [190]

[Footnote 188: See Cod. Theod. l. xiii. tit. i. and iv.]

[Footnote 188a: The emperor Theodosius put an end, by a law. to this
disgraceful source of revenue. (Godef. ad Cod. Theod. xiii. tit. i. c.
1.) But before he deprived himself of it, he made sure of some way of
replacing this deficit. A rich patrician, Florentius, indignant at this
legalized licentiousness, had made representations on the subject to
the emperor. To induce him to tolerate it no longer, he offered his own
property to supply the diminution of the revenue. The emperor had the
baseness to accept his offer--G.]

[Footnote 189: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 115. There is probably as much passion
and prejudice in the attack of Zosimus, as in the elaborate defence of
the memory of Constantine by the zealous Dr. Howell. Hist. of the World,
vol. ii. p. 20.]

[Footnote 190: Cod. Theod. l. xi. tit vii. leg. 3.]

These general taxes were imposed and levied by the absolute authority
of the monarch; but the occasional offerings of the coronary gold still
retained the name and semblance of popular consent. It was an ancient
custom that the allies of the republic, who ascribed their safety or
deliverance to the success of the Roman arms, and even the cities of
Italy, who admired the virtues of their victorious general, adorned the
pomp of his triumph by their voluntary gifts of crowns of gold, which
after the ceremony were consecrated in the temple of Jupiter, to remain
a lasting monument of his glory to future ages. The progress of zeal and
flattery soon multiplied the number, and increased the size, of these
popular donations; and the triumph of Caesar was enriched with two
thousand eight hundred and twenty-two massy crowns, whose weight
amounted to twenty thousand four hundred and fourteen pounds of gold.
This treasure was immediately melted down by the prudent dictator, who
was satisfied that it would be more serviceable to his soldiers than to
the gods: his example was imitated by his successors; and the custom
was introduced of exchanging these splendid ornaments for the more
acceptable present of the current gold coin of the empire. [191] The
spontaneous offering was at length exacted as the debt of duty; and
instead of being confined to the occasion of a triumph, it was supposed
to be granted by the several cities and provinces of the monarchy,
as often as the emperor condescended to announce his accession, his
consulship, the birth of a son, the creation of a Caesar, a victory over
the Barbarians, or any other real or imaginary event which graced the
annals of his reign. The peculiar free gift of the senate of Rome was
fixed by custom at sixteen hundred pounds of gold, or about sixty-four
thousand pounds sterling. The oppressed subjects celebrated their own
felicity, that their sovereign should graciously consent to accept this
feeble but voluntary testimony of their loyalty and gratitude. [192]

[Footnote 191: See Lipsius de Magnitud. Romana, l. ii. c. 9. The
Tarragonese Spain presented the emperor Claudius with a crown of gold
of seven, and Gaul with another of nine, hundred pounds weight. I have
followed the rational emendation of Lipsius. * Note: This custom is of
still earlier date, the Romans had borrowed it from Greece. Who is not
acquainted with the famous oration of Demosthenes for the golden crown,
which his citizens wished to bestow, and Aeschines to deprive him

[Footnote 192: Cod. Theod. l. xii. tit. xiii. The senators were supposed
to be exempt from the Aurum Coronarium; but the Auri Oblatio, which was
required at their hands, was precisely of the same nature.]

A people elated by pride, or soured by discontent, are seldom qualified
to form a just estimate of their actual situation. The subjects of
Constantine were incapable of discerning the decline of genius and manly
virtue, which so far degraded them below the dignity of their ancestors;
but they could feel and lament the rage of tyranny, the relaxation of
discipline, and the increase of taxes. The impartial historian,
who acknowledges the justice of their complaints, will observe some
favorable circumstances which tended to alleviate the misery of
their condition. The threatening tempest of Barbarians, which so soon
subverted the foundations of Roman greatness, was still repelled, or
suspended, on the frontiers. The arts of luxury and literature were
cultivated, and the elegant pleasures of society were enjoyed, by the
inhabitants of a considerable portion of the globe. The forms, the pomp,
and the expense of the civil administration contributed to restrain the
irregular license of the soldiers; and although the laws were violated
by power, or perverted by subtlety, the sage principles of the Roman
jurisprudence preserved a sense of order and equity, unknown to the
despotic governments of the East. The rights of mankind might derive
some protection from religion and philosophy; and the name of freedom,
which could no longer alarm, might sometimes admonish, the successors of
Augustus, that they did not reign over a nation of Slaves or Barbarians.

[Footnote 193: The great Theodosius, in his judicious advice to his son,
(Claudian in iv. Consulat. Honorii, 214, &c.,) distinguishes the station
of a Roman prince from that of a Parthian monarch. Virtue was necessary
for the one; birth might suffice for the other.]

Chapter XVIII: Character Of Constantine And His Sons.--Part I.

Character Of Constantine.--Gothic War.--Death Of Constantine.--Division
Of The Empire Among His Three Sons.--Persian War.--Tragic Deaths Of
Constantine The Younger And Constans.--Usurpation Of Magnentius.--Civil
War.--Victory Of Constantius.

The character of the prince who removed the seat of empire, and
introduced such important changes into the civil and religious
constitution of his country, has fixed the attention, and divided
the opinions, of mankind. By the grateful zeal of the Christians, the
deliverer of the church has been decorated with every attribute of a
hero, and even of a saint; while the discontent of the vanquished party
has compared Constantine to the most abhorred of those tyrants, who,
by their vice and weakness, dishonored the Imperial purple. The same
passions have in some degree been perpetuated to succeeding generations,
and the character of Constantine is considered, even in the present age,
as an object either of satire or of panegyric. By the impartial union of
those defects which are confessed by his warmest admirers, and of those
virtues which are acknowledged by his most-implacable enemies, we might
hope to delineate a just portrait of that extraordinary man, which the
truth and candor of history should adopt without a blush. [1] But
it would soon appear, that the vain attempt to blend such discordant
colors, and to reconcile such inconsistent qualities, must produce a
figure monstrous rather than human, unless it is viewed in its proper
and distinct lights, by a careful separation of the different periods of
the reign of Constantine.

[Footnote 1: On ne se trompera point sur Constantin, en croyant tout le
mal ru'en dit Eusebe, et tout le bien qu'en dit Zosime. Fleury, Hist.
Ecclesiastique, tom. iii. p. 233. Eusebius and Zosimus form indeed the
two extremes of flattery and invective. The intermediate shades are
expressed by those writers, whose character or situation variously
tempered the influence of their religious zeal.]

The person, as well as the mind, of Constantine, had been enriched
by nature with her choices endowments. His stature was lofty, his
countenance majestic, his deportment graceful; his strength and activity
were displayed in every manly exercise, and from his earliest youth,
to a very advanced season of life, he preserved the vigor of his
constitution by a strict adherence to the domestic virtues of chastity
and temperance. He delighted in the social intercourse of familiar
conversation; and though he might sometimes indulge his disposition to
raillery with less reserve than was required by the severe dignity
of his station, the courtesy and liberality of his manners gained the
hearts of all who approached him. The sincerity of his friendship
has been suspected; yet he showed, on some occasions, that he was not
incapable of a warm and lasting attachment. The disadvantage of an
illiterate education had not prevented him from forming a just estimate
of the value of learning; and the arts and sciences derived some
encouragement from the munificent protection of Constantine. In the
despatch of business, his diligence was indefatigable; and the active
powers of his mind were almost continually exercised in reading,
writing, or meditating, in giving audiences to ambassadors, and in
examining the complaints of his subjects. Even those who censured
the propriety of his measures were compelled to acknowledge, that he
possessed magnanimity to conceive, and patience to execute, the most
arduous designs, without being checked either by the prejudices of
education, or by the clamors of the multitude. In the field, he infused
his own intrepid spirit into the troops, whom he conducted with the
talents of a consummate general; and to his abilities, rather than to
his fortune, we may ascribe the signal victories which he obtained over
the foreign and domestic foes of the republic. He loved glory as the
reward, perhaps as the motive, of his labors. The boundless ambition,
which, from the moment of his accepting the purple at York, appears as
the ruling passion of his soul, may be justified by the dangers of his
own situation, by the character of his rivals, by the consciousness of
superior merit, and by the prospect that his success would enable him
to restore peace and order to the distracted empire. In his civil
wars against Maxentius and Licinius, he had engaged on his side the
inclinations of the people, who compared the undissembled vices of those
tyrants with the spirit of wisdom and justice which seemed to direct the
general tenor of the administration of Constantine. [2]

[Footnote 2: The virtues of Constantine are collected for the most part
from Eutropius and the younger Victor, two sincere pagans, who wrote
after the extinction of his family. Even Zosimus, and the Emperor
Julian, acknowledge his personal courage and military achievements.]

Had Constantine fallen on the banks of the Tyber, or even in the plains
of Hadrianople, such is the character which, with a few exceptions, he
might have transmitted to posterity. But the conclusion of his reign
(according to the moderate and indeed tender sentence of a writer of
the same age) degraded him from the rank which he had acquired among
the most deserving of the Roman princes. [3] In the life of Augustus,
we behold the tyrant of the republic, converted, almost by imperceptible
degrees, into the father of his country, and of human kind. In that of
Constantine, we may contemplate a hero, who had so long inspired his
subjects with love, and his enemies with terror, degenerating into a
cruel and dissolute monarch, corrupted by his fortune, or raised by
conquest above the necessity of dissimulation. The general peace which
he maintained during the last fourteen years of his reign, was a period
of apparent splendor rather than of real prosperity; and the old age
of Constantine was disgraced by the opposite yet reconcilable vices of
rapaciousness and prodigality. The accumulated treasures found in the
palaces of Maxentius and Licinius, were lavishly consumed; the
various innovations introduced by the conqueror, were attended with
an increasing expense; the cost of his buildings, his court, and
his festivals, required an immediate and plentiful supply; and the
oppression of the people was the only fund which could support the
magnificence of the sovereign. [4] His unworthy favorites, enriched
by the boundless liberality of their master, usurped with impunity the
privilege of rapine and corruption. [5] A secret but universal decay
was felt in every part of the public administration, and the emperor
himself, though he still retained the obedience, gradually lost the
esteem, of his subjects. The dress and manners, which, towards the
decline of life, he chose to affect, served only to degrade him in the
eyes of mankind. The Asiatic pomp, which had been adopted by the pride
of Diocletian, assumed an air of softness and effeminacy in the person
of Constantine. He is represented with false hair of various colors,
laboriously arranged by the skilful artists to the times; a diadem of
a new and more expensive fashion; a profusion of gems and pearls, of
collars and bracelets, and a variegated flowing robe of silk, most
curiously embroidered with flowers of gold. In such apparel, scarcely
to be excused by the youth and folly of Elagabalus, we are at a loss to
discover the wisdom of an aged monarch, and the simplicity of a Roman
veteran. [6] A mind thus relaxed by prosperity and indulgence, was
incapable of rising to that magnanimity which disdains suspicion, and
dares to forgive. The deaths of Maximian and Licinius may perhaps be
justified by the maxims of policy, as they are taught in the schools
of tyrants; but an impartial narrative of the executions, or rather
murders, which sullied the declining age of Constantine, will suggest
to our most candid thoughts the idea of a prince who could sacrifice
without reluctance the laws of justice, and the feelings of nature, to
the dictates either of his passions or of his interest.

[Footnote 3: See Eutropius, x. 6. In primo Imperii tempore optimis
principibus, ultimo mediis comparandus. From the ancient Greek version
of Poeanius, (edit. Havercamp. p. 697,) I am inclined to suspect that
Eutropius had originally written vix mediis; and that the offensive
monosyllable was dropped by the wilful inadvertency of transcribers.
Aurelius Victor expresses the general opinion by a vulgar and indeed
obscure proverb. Trachala decem annis praestantissimds; duodecim
sequentibus latro; decem novissimis pupillus ob immouicas profusiones.]

[Footnote 4: Julian, Orat. i. p. 8, in a flattering discourse pronounced
before the son of Constantine; and Caesares, p. 336. Zosimus, p. 114,
115. The stately buildings of Constantinople, &c., may be quoted as a
lasting and unexceptionable proof of the profuseness of their founder.]

[Footnote 5: The impartial Ammianus deserves all our confidence.
Proximorum fauces aperuit primus omnium Constantinus. L. xvi. c. 8.
Eusebius himself confesses the abuse, (Vit. Constantin. l. iv. c. 29,
54;) and some of the Imperial laws feebly point out the remedy. See
above, p. 146 of this volume.]

[Footnote 6: Julian, in the Caesars, attempts to ridicule his uncle.
His suspicious testimony is confirmed, however, by the learned Spanheim,
with the authority of medals, (see Commentaire, p. 156, 299, 397, 459.)
Eusebius (Orat. c. 5) alleges, that Constantine dressed for the public,
not for himself. Were this admitted, the vainest coxcomb could never
want an excuse.]

The same fortune which so invariably followed the standard of
Constantine, seemed to secure the hopes and comforts of his domestic
life. Those among his predecessors who had enjoyed the longest and
most prosperous reigns, Augustus Trajan, and Diocletian, had been
disappointed of posterity; and the frequent revolutions had never
allowed sufficient time for any Imperial family to grow up and multiply
under the shade of the purple. But the royalty of the Flavian line,
which had been first ennobled by the Gothic Claudius, descended through
several generations; and Constantine himself derived from his royal
father the hereditary honors which he transmitted to his children. The
emperor had been twice married. Minervina, the obscure but lawful object
of his youthful attachment, [7] had left him only one son, who was
called Crispus. By Fausta, the daughter of Maximian, he had three
daughters, and three sons known by the kindred names of Constantine,
Constantius, and Constans. The unambitious brothers of the great
Constantine, Julius Constantius, Dalmatius, and Hannibalianus, [8]
were permitted to enjoy the most honorable rank, and the most affluent
fortune, that could be consistent with a private station. The youngest
of the three lived without a name, and died without posterity. His two
elder brothers obtained in marriage the daughters of wealthy senators,
and propagated new branches of the Imperial race. Gallus and Julian
afterwards became the most illustrious of the children of Julius
Constantius, the Patrician.

The two sons of Dalmatius, who had been decorated with the vain title of
Censor, were named Dalmatius and Hannibalianus. The two sisters of the
great Constantine, Anastasia and Eutropia, were bestowed on Optatus and
Nepotianus, two senators of noble birth and of consular dignity. His
third sister, Constantia, was distinguished by her preeminence of
greatness and of misery. She remained the widow of the vanquished
Licinius; and it was by her entreaties, that an innocent boy, the
offspring of their marriage, preserved, for some time, his life, the
title of Caesar, and a precarious hope of the succession. Besides the
females, and the allies of the Flavian house, ten or twelve males, to
whom the language of modern courts would apply the title of princes of
the blood, seemed, according to the order of their birth, to be destined
either to inherit or to support the throne of Constantine. But in less
than thirty years, this numerous and increasing family was reduced to
the persons of Constantius and Julian, who alone had survived a series
of crimes and calamities, such as the tragic poets have deplored in the
devoted lines of Pelops and of Cadmus.

[Footnote 7: Zosimus and Zonaras agree in representing Minervina as the
concubine of Constantine; but Ducange has very gallantly rescued her
character, by producing a decisive passage from one of the panegyrics:
"Ab ipso fine pueritiae te matrimonii legibus dedisti."]

[Footnote 8: Ducange (Familiae Byzantinae, p. 44) bestows on him, after
Zosimus, the name of Constantine; a name somewhat unlikely, as it
was already occupied by the elder brother. That of Hannibalianus is
mentioned in the Paschal Chronicle, and is approved by Tillemont. Hist.
des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 527.]

Crispus, the eldest son of Constantine, and the presumptive heir of
the empire, is represented by impartial historians as an amiable and
accomplished youth. The care of his education, or at least of his
studies, was intrusted to Lactantius, the most eloquent of the
Christians; a preceptor admirably qualified to form the taste, and
the excite the virtues, of his illustrious disciple. [9] At the age
of seventeen, Crispus was invested with the title of Caesar, and the
administration of the Gallic provinces, where the inroads of the Germans
gave him an early occasion of signalizing his military prowess. In the
civil war which broke out soon afterwards, the father and son divided
their powers; and this history has already celebrated the valor as
well as conduct displayed by the latter, in forcing the straits of the
Hellespont, so obstinately defended by the superior fleet of Lacinius.
This naval victory contributed to determine the event of the war;
and the names of Constantine and of Crispus were united in the joyful
acclamations of their eastern subjects; who loudly proclaimed, that the
world had been subdued, and was now governed, by an emperor endowed with
every virtue; and by his illustrious son, a prince beloved of Heaven,
and the lively image of his father's perfections. The public favor,
which seldom accompanies old age, diffused its lustre over the youth of
Crispus. He deserved the esteem, and he engaged the affections, of the
court, the army, and the people. The experienced merit of a reigning
monarch is acknowledged by his subjects with reluctance, and frequently
denied with partial and discontented murmurs; while, from the opening
virtues of his successor, they fondly conceive the most unbounded hopes
of private as well as public felicity. [10]

[Footnote 9: Jerom. in Chron. The poverty of Lactantius may be applied
either to the praise of the disinterested philosopher, or to the shame
of the unfeeling patron. See Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiast. tom. vi. part
1. p. 345. Dupin, Bibliotheque Ecclesiast. tom. i. p. 205. Lardner's
Credibility of the Gospel History, part ii. vol. vii. p. 66.]

[Footnote 10: Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. l. x. c. 9. Eutropius (x. 6)
styles him "egregium virum;" and Julian (Orat. i.) very plainly alludes
to the exploits of Crispus in the civil war. See Spanheim, Comment. p.

This dangerous popularity soon excited the attention of Constantine,
who, both as a father and as a king, was impatient of an equal. Instead
of attempting to secure the allegiance of his son by the generous ties
of confidence and gratitude, he resolved to prevent the mischiefs which
might be apprehended from dissatisfied ambition. Crispus soon had reason
to complain, that while his infant brother Constantius was sent, with
the title of Caesar, to reign over his peculiar department of the Gallic
provinces, [11] he, a prince of mature years, who had performed such
recent and signal services, instead of being raised to the superior rank
of Augustus, was confined almost a prisoner to his father's court; and
exposed, without power or defence, to every calumny which the malice of
his enemies could suggest. Under such painful circumstances, the royal
youth might not always be able to compose his behavior, or suppress his
discontent; and we may be assured, that he was encompassed by a train of
indiscreet or perfidious followers, who assiduously studied to inflame,
and who were perhaps instructed to betray, the unguarded warmth of
his resentment. An edict of Constantine, published about this time,
manifestly indicates his real or affected suspicions, that a secret
conspiracy had been formed against his person and government. By all the
allurements of honors and rewards, he invites informers of every degree
to accuse without exception his magistrates or ministers, his friends
or his most intimate favorites, protesting, with a solemn asseveration,
that he himself will listen to the charge, that he himself will revenge
his injuries; and concluding with a prayer, which discovers some
apprehension of danger, that the providence of the Supreme Being may
still continue to protect the safety of the emperor and of the empire.

[Footnote 11: Compare Idatius and the Paschal Chronicle, with Ammianus,
(l, xiv. c. 5.) The year in which Constantius was created Caesar seems
to be more accurately fixed by the two chronologists; but the historian
who lived in his court could not be ignorant of the day of the
anniversary. For the appointment of the new Caesar to the provinces of
Gaul, see Julian, Orat. i. p. 12, Godefroy, Chronol. Legum, p. 26. and
Blondel, de Primaute de l'Eglise, p. 1183.]

[Footnote 12: Cod. Theod. l. ix. tit. iv. Godefroy suspected the secret
motives of this law. Comment. tom. iii. p. 9.]

The informers, who complied with so liberal an invitation, were
sufficiently versed in the arts of courts to select the friends and
adherents of Crispus as the guilty persons; nor is there any reason to
distrust the veracity of the emperor, who had promised an ample measure
of revenge and punishment. The policy of Constantine maintained,
however, the same appearances of regard and confidence towards a son,
whom he began to consider as his most irreconcilable enemy. Medals were
struck with the customary vows for the long and auspicious reign of the
young Caesar; [13] and as the people, who were not admitted into the
secrets of the palace, still loved his virtues, and respected his
dignity, a poet who solicits his recall from exile, adores with equal
devotion the majesty of the father and that of the son. [14] The time
was now arrived for celebrating the august ceremony of the twentieth
year of the reign of Constantine; and the emperor, for that purpose,
removed his court from Nicomedia to Rome, where the most splendid
preparations had been made for his reception. Every eye, and every
tongue, affected to express their sense of the general happiness, and
the veil of ceremony and dissimulation was drawn for a while over
the darkest designs of revenge and murder. [15] In the midst of the
festival, the unfortunate Crispus was apprehended by order of the
emperor, who laid aside the tenderness of a father, without assuming the
equity of a judge. The examination was short and private; [16] and as it
was thought decent to conceal the fate of the young prince from the
eyes of the Roman people, he was sent under a strong guard to Pola, in
Istria, where, soon afterwards, he was put to death, either by the hand
of the executioner, or by the more gentle operations of poison. [17] The
Caesar Licinius, a youth of amiable manners, was involved in the ruin of
Crispus: [18] and the stern jealousy of Constantine was unmoved by the
prayers and tears of his favorite sister, pleading for the life of a
son, whose rank was his only crime, and whose loss she did not long
survive. The story of these unhappy princes, the nature and evidence of
their guilt, the forms of their trial, and the circumstances of their
death, were buried in mysterious obscurity; and the courtly bishop, who
has celebrated in an elaborate work the virtues and piety of his hero,
observes a prudent silence on the subject of these tragic events. [19]
Such haughty contempt for the opinion of mankind, whilst it imprints an
indelible stain on the memory of Constantine, must remind us of the very
different behavior of one of the greatest monarchs of the present age.
The Czar Peter, in the full possession of despotic power, submitted to
the judgment of Russia, of Europe, and of posterity, the reasons which
had compelled him to subscribe the condemnation of a criminal, or at
least of a degenerate son. [20]

[Footnote 13: Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 28. Tillemont, tom. iv. p. 610.]

[Footnote 14: His name was Porphyrius Optatianus. The date of his
panegyric, written, according to the taste of the age, in vile
acrostics, is settled by Scaliger ad Euseb. p. 250, Tillemont, tom. iv.
p. 607, and Fabricius, Biblioth. Latin, l. iv. c. 1.]

[Footnote 15: Zosim. l. ii. p. 103. Godefroy, Chronol. Legum, p. 28.]

[Footnote 16: The elder Victor, who wrote under the next reign, speaks
with becoming caution. "Natu grandior incertum qua causa, patris judicio
occidisset." If we consult the succeeding writers, Eutropius, the
younger Victor, Orosius, Jerom, Zosimus, Philostorgius, and Gregory of
Tours, their knowledge will appear gradually to increase, as their means
of information must have diminished--a circumstance which frequently
occurs in historical disquisition.]

[Footnote 17: Ammianus (l. xiv. c. 11) uses the general expression
of peremptum Codinus (p. 34) beheads the young prince; but Sidonius
Apollinaris (Epistol. v. 8,) for the sake perhaps of an antithesis to
Fausta's warm bath, chooses to administer a draught of cold poison.]

[Footnote 18: Sororis filium, commodae indolis juvenem. Eutropius, x. 6
May I not be permitted to conjecture that Crispus had married Helena the
daughter of the emperor Licinius, and that on the happy delivery of the
princess, in the year 322, a general pardon was granted by Constantine?
See Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 47, and the law (l. ix. tit. xxxvii.) of
the Theodosian code, which has so much embarrassed the interpreters.
Godefroy, tom. iii. p. 267 * Note: This conjecture is very doubtful. The
obscurity of the law quoted from the Theodosian code scarcely allows any
inference, and there is extant but one meda which can be attributed to a
Helena, wife of Crispus.]

[Footnote 19: See the life of Constantine, particularly l. ii. c. 19,
20. Two hundred and fifty years afterwards Evagrius (l. iii. c. 41)
deduced from the silence of Eusebius a vain argument against the reality
of the fact.]

[Footnote 20: Histoire de Pierre le Grand, par Voltaire, part ii. c.

The innocence of Crispus was so universally acknowledged, that the
modern Greeks, who adore the memory of their founder, are reduced to
palliate the guilt of a parricide, which the common feelings of human
nature forbade them to justify. They pretend, that as soon as the
afflicted father discovered the falsehood of the accusation by which
his credulity had been so fatally misled, he published to the world
his repentance and remorse; that he mourned forty days, during which
he abstained from the use of the bath, and all the ordinary comforts of
life; and that, for the lasting instruction of posterity, he erected a
golden statue of Crispus, with this memorable inscription: To my son,
whom I unjustly condemned. [21] A tale so moral and so interesting
would deserve to be supported by less exceptionable authority; but if
we consult the more ancient and authentic writers, they will inform us,
that the repentance of Constantine was manifested only in acts of blood
and revenge; and that he atoned for the murder of an innocent son, by
the execution, perhaps, of a guilty wife. They ascribe the misfortunes
of Crispus to the arts of his step-mother Fausta, whose implacable
hatred, or whose disappointed love, renewed in the palace of Constantine
the ancient tragedy of Hippolitus and of Phaedra. [22] Like the
daughter of Minos, the daughter of Maximian accused her son-in-law of
an incestuous attempt on the chastity of his father's wife; and easily
obtained, from the jealousy of the emperor, a sentence of death against
a young prince, whom she considered with reason as the most formidable
rival of her own children. But Helena, the aged mother of Constantine,
lamented and revenged the untimely fate of her grandson Crispus; nor
was it long before a real or pretended discovery was made, that Fausta
herself entertained a criminal connection with a slave belonging to the
Imperial stables. [23] Her condemnation and punishment were the instant
consequences of the charge; and the adulteress was suffocated by
the steam of a bath, which, for that purpose, had been heated to an
extraordinary degree. [24] By some it will perhaps be thought, that the
remembrance of a conjugal union of twenty years, and the honor of their
common offspring, the destined heirs of the throne, might have softened
the obdurate heart of Constantine, and persuaded him to suffer his wife,
however guilty she might appear, to expiate her offences in a solitary
prison. But it seems a superfluous labor to weigh the propriety, unless
we could ascertain the truth, of this singular event, which is attended
with some circumstances of doubt and perplexity. Those who have
attacked, and those who have defended, the character of Constantine,
have alike disregarded two very remarkable passages of two orations
pronounced under the succeeding reign. The former celebrates the
virtues, the beauty, and the fortune of the empress Fausta, the
daughter, wife, sister, and mother of so many princes. [25] The latter
asserts, in explicit terms, that the mother of the younger Constantine,
who was slain three years after his father's death, survived to weep
over the fate of her son. [26] Notwithstanding the positive testimony of
several writers of the Pagan as well as of the Christian religion, there
may still remain some reason to believe, or at least to suspect, that
Fausta escaped the blind and suspicious cruelty of her husband. [26a]
The deaths of a son and a nephew, with the execution of a great number
of respectable, and perhaps innocent friends, [27] who were involved in
their fall, may be sufficient, however, to justify the discontent of the
Roman people, and to explain the satirical verses affixed to the palace
gate, comparing the splendid and bloody reigns of Constantine and Nero.

[Footnote 21: In order to prove that the statue was erected by
Constantine, and afterwards concealed by the malice of the Arians,
Codinus very readily creates (p. 34) two witnesses, Hippolitus, and
the younger Herodotus, to whose imaginary histories he appeals with
unblushing confidence.]

[Footnote 22: Zosimus (l. ii. p. 103) may be considered as our original.
The ingenuity of the moderns, assisted by a few hints from the ancients,
has illustrated and improved his obscure and imperfect narrative.]

[Footnote 23: Philostorgius, l. ii. c. 4. Zosimus (l. ii. p. 104, 116)
imputes to Constantine the death of two wives, of the innocent Fausta,
and of an adulteress, who was the mother of his three successors.
According to Jerom, three or four years elapsed between the death of
Crispus and that of Fausta. The elder Victor is prudently silent.]

[Footnote 24: If Fausta was put to death, it is reasonable to believe
that the private apartments of the palace were the scene of her
execution. The orator Chrysostom indulges his fancy by exposing the
naked desert mountain to be devoured by wild beasts.]

[Footnote 25: Julian. Orat. i. He seems to call her the mother of
Crispus. She might assume that title by adoption. At least, she was not
considered as his mortal enemy. Julian compares the fortune of Fausta
with that of Parysatis, the Persian queen. A Roman would have more
naturally recollected the second Agrippina:

     Et moi, qui sur le trone ai suivi mes ancetres:
     Moi, fille, femme,soeur, et mere de vos maitres.]

[Footnote 26: Monod. in Constantin. Jun. c. 4, ad Calcem Eutrop. edit.
Havercamp. The orator styles her the most divine and pious of queens.]

[Footnote 26a: Manso (Leben Constantins, p. 65) treats this inference o:
Gibbon, and the authorities to which he appeals, with too much
contempt, considering the general scantiness of proof on this curious

[Footnote 27: Interfecit numerosos amicos. Eutrop. xx. 6.]

[Footnote 28: Saturni aurea saecula quis requirat? Sunt haec gemmea, sed
Neroniana. Sidon. Apollinar. v. 8. ----It is somewhat singular that
these satirical lines should be attributed, not to an obscure libeller,
or a disappointed patriot, but to Ablavius, prime minister and favorite
of the emperor. We may now perceive that the imprecations of the Roman
people were dictated by humanity, as well as by superstition. Zosim. l.
ii. p. 105.]

Chapter XVIII: Character Of Constantine And His Sons.--Part II.

By the death of Crispus, the inheritance of the empire seemed to devolve
on the three sons of Fausta, who have been already mentioned under
the names of Constantine, of Constantius, and of Constans. These young
princes were successively invested with the title of Caesar; and the
dates of their promotion may be referred to the tenth, the twentieth,
and the thirtieth years of the reign of their father. [29] This conduct,
though it tended to multiply the future masters of the Roman world,
might be excused by the partiality of paternal affection; but it is not
so easy to understand the motives of the emperor, when he endangered
the safety both of his family and of his people, by the unnecessary
elevation of his two nephews, Dalmatius and Hannibalianus. The former
was raised, by the title of Caesar, to an equality with his cousins.
In favor of the latter, Constantine invented the new and singular
appellation of Nobilissimus; [30] to which he annexed the flattering
distinction of a robe of purple and gold. But of the whole series
of Roman princes in any age of the empire, Hannibalianus alone was
distinguished by the title of King; a name which the subjects of
Tiberius would have detested, as the profane and cruel insult of
capricious tyranny. The use of such a title, even as it appears under
the reign of Constantine, is a strange and unconnected fact, which
can scarcely be admitted on the joint authority of Imperial medals and
contemporary writers. [31] [31a]

[Footnote 29: Euseb. Orat. in Constantin. c. 3. These dates are
sufficiently correct to justify the orator.]

[Footnote 30: Zosim. l. ii. p. 117. Under the predecessors of
Constantine, No bilissimus was a vague epithet, rather than a legal and
determined title.]

[Footnote 31: Adstruunt nummi veteres ac singulares. Spanheim de Usu
Numismat. Dissertat. xii. vol. ii. p. 357. Ammianus speaks of this Roman
king (l. xiv. c. l, and Valesius ad loc.) The Valesian fragment styles
him King of kings; and the Paschal Chronicle acquires the weight of
Latin evidence.]

[Footnote 31a: Hannibalianus is always designated in these authors by
the title of king. There still exist medals struck to his honor, on
which the same title is found, Fl. Hannibaliano Regi. See Eckhel, Doct.
Num. t. viii. 204. Armeniam nationesque circum socias habebat, says Aur.
Victor, p. 225. The writer means the Lesser Armenia. Though it is not
possible to question a fact supported by such respectable authorities,
Gibbon considers it inexplicable and incredible. It is a strange abuse
of the privilege of doubting, to refuse all belief in a fact of such
little importance in itself, and attested thus formally by contemporary
authors and public monuments. St. Martin note to Le Beau i. 341.--M.]

The whole empire was deeply interested in the education of these five
youths, the acknowledged successors of Constantine. The exercise of
the body prepared them for the fatigues of war and the duties of
active life. Those who occasionally mention the education or talents of
Constantius, allow that he excelled in the gymnastic arts of leaping and
running that he was a dexterous archer, a skilful horseman, and a master
of all the different weapons used in the service either of the cavalry
or of the infantry. [32] The same assiduous cultivation was bestowed,
though not perhaps with equal success, to improve the minds of the sons
and nephews of Constantine. [33] The most celebrated professors of
the Christian faith, of the Grecian philosophy, and of the Roman
jurisprudence, were invited by the liberality of the emperor, who
reserved for himself the important task of instructing the royal youths
in the science of government, and the knowledge of mankind. But
the genius of Constantine himself had been formed by adversity and
experience. In the free intercourse of private life, and amidst the
dangers of the court of Galerius, he had learned to command his own
passions, to encounter those of his equals, and to depend for his
present safety and future greatness on the prudence and firmness of his
personal conduct. His destined successors had the misfortune of being
born and educated in the imperial purple. Incessantly surrounded with a
train of flatterers, they passed their youth in the enjoyment of luxury,
and the expectation of a throne; nor would the dignity of their rank
permit them to descend from that elevated station from whence the
various characters of human nature appear to wear a smooth and uniform
aspect. The indulgence of Constantine admitted them, at a very tender
age, to share the administration of the empire; and they studied the art
of reigning, at the expense of the people intrusted to their care. The
younger Constantine was appointed to hold his court in Gaul; and his
brother Constantius exchanged that department, the ancient patrimony of
their father, for the more opulent, but less martial, countries of
the East. Italy, the Western Illyricum, and Africa, were accustomed to
revere Constans, the third of his sons, as the representative of the
great Constantine. He fixed Dalmatius on the Gothic frontier, to which
he annexed the government of Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece. The city
of Caesarea was chosen for the residence of Hannibalianus; and the
provinces of Pontus, Cappadocia, and the Lesser Armenia, were destined
to form the extent of his new kingdom. For each of these princes a
suitable establishment was provided. A just proportion of guards, of
legions, and of auxiliaries, was allotted for their respective dignity
and defence. The ministers and generals, who were placed about their
persons, were such as Constantine could trust to assist, and even to
control, these youthful sovereigns in the exercise of their delegated
power. As they advanced in years and experience, the limits of their
authority were insensibly enlarged: but the emperor always reserved for
himself the title of Augustus; and while he showed the Caesars to the
armies and provinces, he maintained every part of the empire in equal
obedience to its supreme head. [34] The tranquillity of the last
fourteen years of his reign was scarcely interrupted by the contemptible
insurrection of a camel-driver in the Island of Cyprus, [35] or by the
active part which the policy of Constantine engaged him to assume in the
wars of the Goths and Sarmatians.

[Footnote 32: His dexterity in martial exercises is celebrated by
Julian, (Orat. i. p. 11, Orat. ii. p. 53,) and allowed by Ammianus, (l.
xxi. c. 16.)]

[Footnote 33: Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. l. iv. c. 51. Julian, Orat. i.
p. 11-16, with Spanheim's elaborate Commentary. Libanius, Orat. iii. p.
109. Constantius studied with laudable diligence; but the dulness of
his fancy prevented him from succeeding in the art of poetry, or even of

[Footnote 34: Eusebius, (l. iv. c. 51, 52,) with a design of exalting
the authority and glory of Constantine, affirms, that he divided the
Roman empire as a private citizen might have divided his patrimony. His
distribution of the provinces may be collected from Eutropius, the two
Victors and the Valesian fragment.]

[Footnote 35: Calocerus, the obscure leader of this rebellion, or rather
tumult, was apprehended and burnt alive in the market-place of Tarsus,
by the vigilance of Dalmatius. See the elder Victor, the Chronicle of
Jerom, and the doubtful traditions of Theophanes and Cedrenus.]

Among the different branches of the human race, the Sarmatians form a
very remarkable shade; as they seem to unite the manners of the Asiatic
barbarians with the figure and complexion of the ancient inhabitants of
Europe. According to the various accidents of peace and war, of alliance
or conquest, the Sarmatians were sometimes confined to the banks of the
Tanais; and they sometimes spread themselves over the immense plains
which lie between the Vistula and the Volga. [36] The care of their
numerous flocks and herds, the pursuit of game, and the exercises
of war, or rather of rapine, directed the vagrant motions of the
Sarmatians. The movable camps or cities, the ordinary residence of their
wives and children, consisted only of large wagons drawn by oxen, and
covered in the form of tents. The military strength of the nation was
composed of cavalry; and the custom of their warriors, to lead in their
hand one or two spare horses, enabled them to advance and to retreat
with a rapid diligence, which surprised the security, and eluded the
pursuit, of a distant enemy. [37] Their poverty of iron prompted
their rude industry to invent a sort of cuirass, which was capable
of resisting a sword or javelin, though it was formed only of horses'
hoofs, cut into thin and polished slices, carefully laid over each other
in the manner of scales or feathers, and strongly sewed upon an under
garment of coarse linen. [38] The offensive arms of the Sarmatians were
short daggers, long lances, and a weighty bow with a quiver of arrows.
They were reduced to the necessity of employing fish-bones for the
points of their weapons; but the custom of dipping them in a venomous
liquor, that poisoned the wounds which they inflicted, is alone
sufficient to prove the most savage manners, since a people impressed
with a sense of humanity would have abhorred so cruel a practice, and
a nation skilled in the arts of war would have disdained so impotent a
resource. [39] Whenever these Barbarians issued from their deserts in
quest of prey, their shaggy beards, uncombed locks, the furs with which
they were covered from head to foot, and their fierce countenances,
which seemed to express the innate cruelty of their minds, inspired the
more civilized provincials of Rome with horror and dismay.

[Footnote 36: Cellarius has collected the opinions of the ancients
concerning the European and Asiatic Sarmatia; and M. D'Anville has
applied them to modern geography with the skill and accuracy which
always distinguish that excellent writer.]

[Footnote 37: Ammian. l. xvii. c. 12. The Sarmatian horses were
castrated to prevent the mischievous accidents which might happen from
the noisy and ungovernable passions of the males.]

[Footnote 38: Pausanius, l. i. p. 50,. edit. Kuhn. That inquisitive
traveller had carefully examined a Sarmatian cuirass, which was
preserved in the temple of Aesculapius at Athens.]

[Footnote 39: Aspicis et mitti sub adunco toxica ferro, Et telum causas
mortis habere duas. Ovid, ex Ponto, l. iv. ep. 7, ver. 7.----See in the
Recherches sur les Americains, tom. ii. p. 236--271, a very curious
dissertation on poisoned darts. The venom was commonly extracted from
the vegetable reign: but that employed by the Scythians appears to have
been drawn from the viper, and a mixture of human blood.]

The use of poisoned arms, which has been spread over both worlds, never
preserved a savage tribe from the arms of a disciplined enemy. The
tender Ovid, after a youth spent in the enjoyment of fame and luxury,
was condemned to a hopeless exile on the frozen banks of the Danube,
where he was exposed, almost without defence, to the fury of these
monsters of the desert, with whose stern spirits he feared that his
gentle shade might hereafter be confounded. In his pathetic, but
sometimes unmanly lamentations, [40] he describes in the most lively
colors the dress and manners, the arms and inroads, of the Getae and
Sarmatians, who were associated for the purposes of destruction; and
from the accounts of history there is some reason to believe that these
Sarmatians were the Jazygae, one of the most numerous and warlike tribes
of the nation. The allurements of plenty engaged them to seek a
permanent establishment on the frontiers of the empire. Soon after the
reign of Augustus, they obliged the Dacians, who subsisted by fishing on
the banks of the River Teyss or Tibiscus, to retire into the hilly
country, and to abandon to the victorious Sarmatians the fertile plains
of the Upper Hungary, which are bounded by the course of the Danube and
the semicircular enclosure of the Carpathian Mountains. [41] In this
advantageous position, they watched or suspended the moment of attack,
as they were provoked by injuries or appeased by presents; they
gradually acquired the skill of using more dangerous weapons, and
although the Sarmatians did not illustrate their name by any memorable
exploits, they occasionally assisted their eastern and western
neighbors, the Goths and the Germans, with a formidable body of cavalry.
They lived under the irregular aristocracy of their chieftains: [42] but
after they had received into their bosom the fugitive Vandals, who
yielded to the pressure of the Gothic power, they seem to have chosen a
king from that nation, and from the illustrious race of the Astingi, who
had formerly dwelt on the hores of the northern ocean. [43]

[Footnote 40: The nine books of Poetical Epistles which Ovid composed
during the seven first years of his melancholy exile, possess, beside
the merit of elegance, a double value. They exhibit a picture of the
human mind under very singular circumstances; and they contain many
curious observations, which no Roman except Ovid, could have an
opportunity of making. Every circumstance which tends to illustrate the
history of the Barbarians, has been drawn together by the very accurate
Count de Buat. Hist. Ancienne des Peuples de l'Europe, tom. iv. c. xvi.
p. 286-317]

[Footnote 41: The Sarmatian Jazygae were settled on the banks of
Pathissus or Tibiscus, when Pliny, in the year 79, published his Natural
History. See l. iv. c. 25. In the time of Strabo and Ovid, sixty or
seventy years before, they appear to have inhabited beyond the Getae,
along the coast of the Euxine.]

[Footnote 42: Principes Sarmaturum Jazygum penes quos civitatis regimen
plebem quoque et vim equitum, qua sola valent, offerebant. Tacit. Hist.
iii. p. 5. This offer was made in the civil war between Vitellino and

[Footnote 43: This hypothesis of a Vandal king reigning over Sarmatian
subjects, seems necessary to reconcile the Goth Jornandes with the Greek
and Latin historians of Constantine. It may be observed that Isidore,
who lived in Spain under the dominion of the Goths, gives them for
enemies, not the Vandals, but the Sarmatians. See his Chronicle in
Grotius, p. 709. Note: I have already noticed the confusion which must
necessarily arise in history, when names purely geographical, as this of
Sarmatia, are taken for historical names belonging to a single nation.
We perceive it here; it has forced Gibbon to suppose, without any reason
but the necessity of extricating himself from his perplexity, that
the Sarmatians had taken a king from among the Vandals; a supposition
entirely contrary to the usages of Barbarians Dacia, at this period, was
occupied, not by Sarmatians, who have never formed a distinct race, but
by Vandals, whom the ancients have often confounded under the general
term Sarmatians. See Gatterer's Welt-Geschiehte p. 464--G.]

This motive of enmity must have inflamed the subjects of contention,
which perpetually arise on the confines of warlike and independent
nations. The Vandal princes were stimulated by fear and revenge; the
Gothic kings aspired to extend their dominion from the Euxine to the
frontiers of Germany; and the waters of the Maros, a small river which
falls into the Teyss, were stained with the blood of the contending
Barbarians. After some experience of the superior strength and numbers
of their adversaries, the Sarmatians implored the protection of the
Roman monarch, who beheld with pleasure the discord of the nations, but
who was justly alarmed by the progress of the Gothic arms. As soon
as Constantine had declared himself in favor of the weaker party, the
haughty Araric, king of the Goths, instead of expecting the attack of
the legions, boldly passed the Danube, and spread terror and devastation
through the province of Maesia.

To oppose the inroad of this destroying host, the aged emperor took the
field in person; but on this occasion either his conduct or his fortune
betrayed the glory which he had acquired in so many foreign and domestic
wars. He had the mortification of seeing his troops fly before an
inconsiderable detachment of the Barbarians, who pursued them to the
edge of their fortified camp, and obliged him to consult his safety by
a precipitate and ignominious retreat. [43a] The event of a second and
more successful action retrieved the honor of the Roman name; and the
powers of art and discipline prevailed, after an obstinate contest, over
the efforts of irregular valor. The broken army of the Goths abandoned
the field of battle, the wasted province, and the passage of the Danube:
and although the eldest of the sons of Constantine was permitted to
supply the place of his father, the merit of the victory, which diffused
universal joy, was ascribed to the auspicious counsels of the emperor

[Footnote 43a: Gibbon states, that Constantine was defeated by the Goths
in a first battle. No ancient author mentions such an event. It is, no
doubt, a mistake in Gibbon. St Martin, note to Le Beau. i. 324.--M.]

He contributed at least to improve this advantage, by his negotiations
with the free and warlike people of Chersonesus, [44] whose capital,
situate on the western coast of the Tauric or Crimaean peninsula,
still retained some vestiges of a Grecian colony, and was governed by
a perpetual magistrate, assisted by a council of senators, emphatically
styled the Fathers of the City.

The Chersonites were animated against the Goths, by the memory of the
wars, which, in the preceding century, they had maintained with unequal
forces against the invaders of their country. They were connected with
the Romans by the mutual benefits of commerce; as they were supplied
from the provinces of Asia with corn and manufactures, which they
purchased with their only productions, salt, wax, and hides. Obedient
to the requisition of Constantine, they prepared, under the conduct of
their magistrate Diogenes, a considerable army, of which the principal
strength consisted in cross-bows and military chariots. The speedy march
and intrepid attack of the Chersonites, by diverting the attention of
the Goths, assisted the operations of the Imperial generals. The Goths,
vanquished on every side, were driven into the mountains, where, in the
course of a severe campaign, above a hundred thousand were computed to
have perished by cold and hunger Peace was at length granted to their
humble supplications; the eldest son of Araric was accepted as the most
valuable hostage; and Constantine endeavored to convince their chiefs,
by a liberal distribution of honors and rewards, how far the friendship
of the Romans was preferable to their enmity. In the expressions of his
gratitude towards the faithful Chersonites, the emperor was still more
magnificent. The pride of the nation was gratified by the splendid
and almost royal decorations bestowed on their magistrate and his
successors. A perpetual exemption from all duties was stipulated for
their vessels which traded to the ports of the Black Sea. A regular
subsidy was promised, of iron, corn, oil, and of every supply which
could be useful either in peace or war. But it was thought that
the Sarmatians were sufficiently rewarded by their deliverance from
impending ruin; and the emperor, perhaps with too strict an economy,
deducted some part of the expenses of the war from the customary
gratifications which were allowed to that turbulent nation.

[Footnote 44: I may stand in need of some apology for having used,
without scruple, the authority of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, in all
that relates to the wars and negotiations of the Chersonites. I am
aware that he was a Greek of the tenth century, and that his accounts
of ancient history are frequently confused and fabulous. But on this
occasion his narrative is, for the most part, consistent and probable
nor is there much difficulty in conceiving that an emperor might have
access to some secret archives, which had escaped the diligence of
meaner historians. For the situation and history of Chersone, see
Peyssonel, des Peuples barbares qui ont habite les Bords du Danube, c.
xvi. 84-90. ----Gibbon has confounded the inhabitants of the city of
Cherson, the ancient Chersonesus, with the people of the Chersonesus
Taurica. If he had read with more attention the chapter of Constantius
Porphyrogenitus, from which this narrative is derived, he would have
seen that the author clearly distinguishes the republic of Cherson from
the rest of the Tauric Peninsula, then possessed by the kings of the
Cimmerian Bosphorus, and that the city of Cherson alone furnished
succors to the Romans. The English historian is also mistaken in saying
that the Stephanephoros of the Chersonites was a perpetual magistrate;
since it is easy to discover from the great number of Stephanephoroi
mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogenitus, that they were annual
magistrates, like almost all those which governed the Grecian republics.
St. Martin, note to Le Beau i. 326.--M.]

Exasperated by this apparent neglect, the Sarmatians soon forgot,
with the levity of barbarians, the services which they had so lately
received, and the dangers which still threatened their safety. Their
inroads on the territory of the empire provoked the indignation of
Constantine to leave them to their fate; and he no longer opposed the
ambition of Geberic, a renowned warrior, who had recently ascended the
Gothic throne. Wisumar, the Vandal king, whilst alone, and unassisted,
he defended his dominions with undaunted courage, was vanquished and
slain in a decisive battle, which swept away the flower of the Sarmatian
youth. [44a] The remainder of the nation embraced the desperate
expedient of arming their slaves, a hardy race of hunters and herdsmen,
by whose tumultuary aid they revenged their defeat, and expelled the
invader from their confines. But they soon discovered that they had
exchanged a foreign for a domestic enemy, more dangerous and more
implacable. Enraged by their former servitude, elated by their present
glory, the slaves, under the name of Limigantes, claimed and usurped the
possession of the country which they had saved. Their masters, unable to
withstand the ungoverned fury of the populace, preferred the hardships
of exile to the tyranny of their servants. Some of the fugitive
Sarmatians solicited a less ignominious dependence, under the hostile
standard of the Goths. A more numerous band retired beyond the
Carpathian Mountains, among the Quadi, their German allies, and were
easily admitted to share a superfluous waste of uncultivated land. But
the far greater part of the distressed nation turned their eyes towards
the fruitful provinces of Rome. Imploring the protection and forgiveness
of the emperor, they solemnly promised, as subjects in peace, and as
soldiers in war, the most inviolable fidelity to the empire which should
graciously receive them into its bosom. According to the maxims adopted
by Probus and his successors, the offers of this barbarian colony were
eagerly accepted; and a competent portion of lands in the provinces of
Pannonia, Thrace, Macedonia, and Italy, were immediately assigned for
the habitation and subsistence of three hundred thousand Sarmatians.
[45] [45a]

[Footnote 44a: Gibbon supposes that this war took place because
Constantine had deducted a part of the customary gratifications, granted
by his predecessors to the Sarmatians. Nothing of this kind appears in
the authors. We see, on the contrary, that after his victory, and to
punish the Sarmatia is for the ravages they had committed, he withheld
the sums which it had been the custom to bestow. St. Martin, note to Le
Beau, i. 327.--M.]

[Footnote 45: The Gothic and Sarmatian wars are related in so broken and
imperfect a manner, that I have been obliged to compare the following
writers, who mutually supply, correct, and illustrate each other. Those
who will take the same trouble, may acquire a right of criticizing
my narrative. Ammianus, l. xvii. c. 12. Anonym. Valesian. p. 715.
Eutropius, x. 7. Sextus Rufus de Provinciis, c. 26. Julian Orat. i.
p. 9, and Spanheim, Comment. p. 94. Hieronym. in Chron. Euseb. in Vit.
Constantin. l. iv. c. 6. Socrates, l. i. c. 18. Sozomen, l. i. c. 8.
Zosimus, l. ii. p. 108. Jornandes de Reb. Geticis, c. 22. Isidorus in
Chron. p. 709; in Hist. Gothorum Grotii. Constantin. Porphyrogenitus de
Administrat. Imperii, c. 53, p. 208, edit. Meursii.]

[Footnote 45a: Compare, on this very obscure but remarkable war, Manso,
Leben Coa xantius, p. 195--M.]

By chastising the pride of the Goths, and by accepting the homage of a
suppliant nation, Constantine asserted the majesty of the Roman empire;
and the ambassadors of Aethiopia, Persia, and the most remote countries
of India, congratulated the peace and prosperity of his government. [46]
If he reckoned, among the favors of fortune, the death of his eldest
son, of his nephew, and perhaps of his wife, he enjoyed an uninterrupted
flow of private as well as public felicity, till the thirtieth year of
his reign; a period which none of his predecessors, since Augustus, had
been permitted to celebrate. Constantine survived that solemn festival
about ten months; and at the mature age of sixty-four, after a short
illness, he ended his memorable life at the palace of Aquyrion, in the
suburbs of Nicomedia, whither he had retired for the benefit of the air,
and with the hope of recruiting his exhausted strength by the use of
the warm baths. The excessive demonstrations of grief, or at least of
mourning, surpassed whatever had been practised on any former occasion.
Notwithstanding the claims of the senate and people of ancient Rome,
the corpse of the deceased emperor, according to his last request, was
transported to the city, which was destined to preserve the name and
memory of its founder. The body of Constantine adorned with the vain
symbols of greatness, the purple and diadem, was deposited on a golden
bed in one of the apartments of the palace, which for that purpose had
been splendidly furnished and illuminated. The forms of the court were
strictly maintained. Every day, at the appointed hours, the principal
officers of the state, the army, and the household, approaching the
person of their sovereign with bended knees and a composed countenance,
offered their respectful homage as seriously as if he had been still
alive. From motives of policy, this theatrical representation was for
some time continued; nor could flattery neglect the opportunity of
remarking that Constantine alone, by the peculiar indulgence of Heaven,
had reigned after his death. [47]

[Footnote 46: Eusebius (in Vit. Const. l. iv. c. 50) remarks three
circumstances relative to these Indians. 1. They came from the shores of
the eastern ocean; a description which might be applied to the coast
of China or Coromandel. 2. They presented shining gems, and unknown
animals. 3. They protested their kings had erected statues to represent
the supreme majesty of Constantine.]

[Footnote 47: Funus relatum in urbem sui nominis, quod sane P. R.
aegerrime tulit. Aurelius Victor. Constantine prepared for himself a
stately tomb in the church of the Holy Apostles. Euseb. l. iv. c. 60.
The best, and indeed almost the only account of the sickness, death, and
funeral of Constantine, is contained in the fourth book of his Life by

But this reign could subsist only in empty pageantry; and it was soon
discovered that the will of the most absolute monarch is seldom obeyed,
when his subjects have no longer anything to hope from his favor, or to
dread from his resentment. The same ministers and generals, who bowed
with such referential awe before the inanimate corpse of their deceased
sovereign, were engaged in secret consultations to exclude his two
nephews, Dalmatius and Hannibalianus, from the share which he had
assigned them in the succession of the empire. We are too imperfectly
acquainted with the court of Constantine to form any judgment of the
real motives which influenced the leaders of the conspiracy; unless
we should suppose that they were actuated by a spirit of jealousy and
revenge against the praefect Ablavius, a proud favorite, who had long
directed the counsels and abused the confidence of the late emperor. The
arguments, by which they solicited the concurrence of the soldiers and
people, are of a more obvious nature; and they might with decency,
as well as truth, insist on the superior rank of the children of
Constantine, the danger of multiplying the number of sovereigns, and the
impending mischiefs which threatened the republic, from the discord of
so many rival princes, who were not connected by the tender sympathy of
fraternal affection. The intrigue was conducted with zeal and secrecy,
till a loud and unanimous declaration was procured from the troops,
that they would suffer none except the sons of their lamented monarch to
reign over the Roman empire. [48] The younger Dalmatius, who was united
with his collateral relations by the ties of friendship and interest, is
allowed to have inherited a considerable share of the abilities of the
great Constantine; but, on this occasion, he does not appear to have
concerted any measure for supporting, by arms, the just claims which
himself and his royal brother derived from the liberality of their
uncle. Astonished and overwhelmed by the tide of popular fury, they seem
to have remained, without the power of flight or of resistance, in the
hands of their implacable enemies. Their fate was suspended till the
arrival of Constantius, the second, and perhaps the most favored, of the
sons of Constantine.

[Footnote 48: Eusebius (l. iv. c. 6) terminates his narrative by
this loyal declaration of the troops, and avoids all the invidious
circumstances of the subsequent massacre.]

[Footnote 49: The character of Dalmatius is advantageously, though
concisely drawn by Eutropius. (x. 9.) Dalmatius Ceasar prosperrima
indole, neque patrou absimilis, haud multo post oppressus est factione
militari. As both Jerom and the Alexandrian Chronicle mention the third
year of the Ceasar, which did not commence till the 18th or 24th
of September, A. D. 337, it is certain that these military factions
continued above four months.]

Chapter XVIII: Character Of Constantine And His Sons.--Part III.

The voice of the dying emperor had recommended the care of his funeral
to the piety of Constantius; and that prince, by the vicinity of his
eastern station, could easily prevent the diligence of his brothers, who
resided in their distant government of Italy and Gaul. As soon as he had
taken possession of the palace of Constantinople, his first care was
to remove the apprehensions of his kinsmen, by a solemn oath which
he pledged for their security. His next employment was to find some
specious pretence which might release his conscience from the obligation
of an imprudent promise. The arts of fraud were made subservient to the
designs of cruelty; and a manifest forgery was attested by a person of
the most sacred character. From the hands of the Bishop of Nicomedia,
Constantius received a fatal scroll, affirmed to be the genuine
testament of his father; in which the emperor expressed his suspicions
that he had been poisoned by his brothers; and conjured his sons to
revenge his death, and to consult their own safety, by the punishment
of the guilty. [50] Whatever reasons might have been alleged by these
unfortunate princes to defend their life and honor against so incredible
an accusation, they were silenced by the furious clamors of the
soldiers, who declared themselves, at once, their enemies, their
judges, and their executioners. The spirit, and even the forms of legal
proceedings were repeatedly violated in a promiscuous massacre; which
involved the two uncles of Constantius, seven of his cousins, of whom
Dalmatius and Hannibalianus were the most illustrious, the Patrician
Optatus, who had married a sister of the late emperor, and the Praefect
Ablavius, whose power and riches had inspired him with some hopes of
obtaining the purple. If it were necessary to aggravate the horrors of
this bloody scene, we might add, that Constantius himself had espoused
the daughter of his uncle Julius, and that he had bestowed his sister in
marriage on his cousin Hannibalianus. These alliances, which the policy
of Constantine, regardless of the public prejudice, [51] had formed
between the several branches of the Imperial house, served only to
convince mankind, that these princes were as cold to the endearments
of conjugal affection, as they were insensible to the ties of
consanguinity, and the moving entreaties of youth and innocence. Of so
numerous a family, Gallus and Julian alone, the two youngest children
of Julius Constantius, were saved from the hands of the assassins, till
their rage, satiated with slaughter, had in some measure subsided. The
emperor Constantius, who, in the absence of his brothers, was the most
obnoxious to guilt and reproach, discovered, on some future occasions,
a faint and transient remorse for those cruelties which the perfidious
counsels of his ministers, and the irresistible violence of the troops,
had extorted from his unexperienced youth. [52]

[Footnote 50: I have related this singular anecdote on the authority
of Philostorgius, l. ii. c. 16. But if such a pretext was ever used by
Constantius and his adherents, it was laid aside with contempt, as
soon as it served their immediate purpose. Athanasius (tom. i. p. 856)
mention the oath which Constantius had taken for the security of his
kinsmen. ----The authority of Philostorgius is so suspicious, as not to
be sufficient to establish this fact, which Gibbon has inserted in his
history as certain, while in the note he appears to doubt it.--G.]

[Footnote 51: Conjugia sobrinarum diu ignorata, tempore addito
percrebuisse. Tacit. Annal. xii. 6, and Lipsius ad loc. The repeal
of the ancient law, and the practice of five hundred years, were
insufficient to eradicate the prejudices of the Romans, who still
considered the marriages of cousins-german as a species of imperfect
incest. (Augustin de Civitate Dei, xv. 6;) and Julian, whose mind was
biased by superstition and resentment, stigmatizes these unnatural
alliances between his own cousins with the opprobrious epithet (Orat.
vii. p. 228.). The jurisprudence of the canons has since received and
enforced this prohibition, without being able to introduce it either
into the civil or the common law of Europe. See on the subject of these
marriages, Taylor's Civil Law, p. 331. Brouer de Jure Connub. l. ii.
c. 12. Hericourt des Loix Ecclesiastiques, part iii. c. 5. Fleury,
Institutions du Droit Canonique, tom. i. p. 331. Paris, 1767, and Fra
Paolo, Istoria del Concilio Trident, l. viii.]

[Footnote 52: Julian (ad S. P.. Q. Athen. p. 270) charges his cousin
Constantius with the whole guilt of a massacre, from which he himself
so narrowly escaped. His assertion is confirmed by Athanasius, who,
for reasons of a very different nature, was not less an enemy of
Constantius, (tom. i. p. 856.) Zosimus joins in the same accusation. But
the three abbreviators, Eutropius and the Victors, use very qualifying
expressions: "sinente potius quam jubente;" "incertum quo suasore;" "vi

The massacre of the Flavian race was succeeded by a new division of
the provinces; which was ratified in a personal interview of the three
brothers. Constantine, the eldest of the Caesars, obtained, with a
certain preeminence of rank, the possession of the new capital, which
bore his own name and that of his father. Thrace, and the countries of
the East, were allotted for the patrimony of Constantius; and Constans
was acknowledged as the lawful sovereign of Italy, Africa, and the
Western Illyricum. The armies submitted to their hereditary right; and
they condescended, after some delay, to accept from the Roman senate the
title of Augustus. When they first assumed the reins of government, the
eldest of these princes was twenty-one, the second twenty, and the third
only seventeen, years of age. [53]

[Footnote 53: Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. l. iv. c. 69. Zosimus, l. ii.
p. 117. Idat. in Chron. See two notes of Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs,
tom. iv. p. 1086-1091. The reign of the eldest brother at Constantinople
is noticed only in the Alexandrian Chronicle.]

While the martial nations of Europe followed the standards of his
brothers, Constantius, at the head of the effeminate troops of Asia,
was left to sustain the weight of the Persian war. At the decease of
Constantine, the throne of the East was filled by Sapor, son of
Hormouz, or Hormisdas, and grandson of Narses, who, after the victory
of Galerius, had humbly confessed the superiority of the Roman power.
Although Sapor was in the thirtieth year of his long reign, he was still
in the vigor of youth, as the date of his accession, by a very strange
fatality, had preceded that of his birth. The wife of Hormouz remained
pregnant at the time of her husband's death; and the uncertainty of the
sex, as well as of the event, excited the ambitious hopes of the princes
of the house of Sassan. The apprehensions of civil war were at length
removed, by the positive assurance of the Magi, that the widow of
Hormouz had conceived, and would safely produce a son. Obedient to
the voice of superstition, the Persians prepared, without delay, the
ceremony of his coronation.

A royal bed, on which the queen lay in state, was exhibited in the
midst of the palace; the diadem was placed on the spot, which might be
supposed to conceal the future heir of Artaxerxes, and the prostrate
satraps adored the majesty of their invisible and insensible sovereign.
[54] If any credit can be given to this marvellous tale, which seems,
however, to be countenanced by the manners of the people, and by
the extraordinary duration of his reign, we must admire not only the
fortune, but the genius, of Sapor. In the soft, sequestered education
of a Persian harem, the royal youth could discover the importance of
exercising the vigor of his mind and body; and, by his personal merit,
deserved a throne, on which he had been seated, while he was yet
unconscious of the duties and temptations of absolute power. His
minority was exposed to the almost inevitable calamities of domestic
discord; his capital was surprised and plundered by Thair, a powerful
king of Yemen, or Arabia; and the majesty of the royal family was
degraded by the captivity of a princess, the sister of the deceased
king. But as soon as Sapor attained the age of manhood, the presumptuous
Thair, his nation, and his country, fell beneath the first effort of the
young warrior; who used his victory with so judicious a mixture of rigor
and clemency, that he obtained from the fears and gratitude of the Arabs
the title of Dhoulacnaf, or protector of the nation. [55] [55a]

[Footnote 54: Agathias, who lived in the sixth century, is the author
of this story, (l. iv. p. 135, edit. Louvre.) He derived his information
from some extracts of the Persian Chronicles, obtained and translated
by the interpreter Sergius, during his embassy at that country. The
coronation of the mother of Sapor is likewise mentioned by Snikard,
(Tarikh. p. 116,) and D'Herbelot (Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 703.)
----The author of the Zenut-ul-Tarikh states, that the lady herself
affirmed her belief of this from the extraordinary liveliness of the
infant, and its lying on the right side. Those who are sage on such
subjects must determine what right she had to be positive from these
symptoms. Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, i 83.--M.]

[Footnote 55: D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 764.]

[Footnote 55a: Gibbon, according to Sir J. Malcolm, has greatly
mistaken the derivation of this name; it means Zoolaktaf, the Lord of
the Shoulders, from his directing the shoulders of his captives to be
pierced and then dislocated by a string passed through them. Eastern
authors are agreed with respect to the origin of this title. Malcolm,
i. 84. Gibbon took his derivation from D'Herbelot, who gives both, the
latter on the authority of the Leb. Tarikh.--M.]

The ambition of the Persian, to whom his enemies ascribe the virtues of
a soldier and a statesman, was animated by the desire of revenging the
disgrace of his fathers, and of wresting from the hands of the Romans
the five provinces beyond the Tigris. The military fame of Constantine,
and the real or apparent strength of his government, suspended the
attack; and while the hostile conduct of Sapor provoked the resentment,
his artful negotiations amused the patience of the Imperial court.
The death of Constantine was the signal of war, [56] and the actual
condition of the Syrian and Armenian frontier seemed to encourage the
Persians by the prospect of a rich spoil and an easy conquest.
The example of the massacres of the palace diffused a spirit of
licentiousness and sedition among the troops of the East, who were no
longer restrained by their habits of obedience to a veteran commander.
By the prudence of Constantius, who, from the interview with his
brothers in Pannonia, immediately hastened to the banks of the
Euphrates, the legions were gradually restored to a sense of duty and
discipline; but the season of anarchy had permitted Sapor to form
the siege of Nisibis, and to occupy several of the mo st important
fortresses of Mesopotamia. [57] In Armenia, the renowned Tiridates had
long enjoyed the peace and glory which he deserved by his valor
and fidelity to the cause of Rome. [57a] The firm alliance which he
maintained with Constantine was productive of spiritual as well as of
temporal benefits; by the conversion of Tiridates, the character of a
saint was applied to that of a hero, the Christian faith was preached
and established from the Euphrates to the shores of the Caspian, and
Armenia was attached to the empire by the double ties of policy and
religion. But as many of the Armenian nobles still refused to abandon
the plurality of their gods and of their wives, the public tranquillity
was disturbed by a discontented faction, which insulted the feeble age
of their sovereign, and impatiently expected the hour of his death. He
died at length after a reign of fifty-six years, and the fortune of the
Armenian monarchy expired with Tiridates. His lawful heir was driven
into exile, the Christian priests were either murdered or expelled
from their churches, the barbarous tribes of Albania were solicited to
descend from their mountains; and two of the most powerful governors,
usurping the ensigns or the powers of royalty, implored the assistance
of Sapor, and opened the gates of their cities to the Persian garrisons.
The Christian party, under the guidance of the Archbishop of Artaxata,
the immediate successor of St. Gregory the Illuminator, had recourse to
the piety of Constantius. After the troubles had continued about three
years, Antiochus, one of the officers of the household, executed with
success the Imperial commission of restoring Chosroes, [57b] the son
of Tiridates, to the throne of his fathers, of distributing honors and
rewards among the faithful servants of the house of Arsaces, and of
proclaiming a general amnesty, which was accepted by the greater part of
the rebellious satraps. But the Romans derived more honor than advantage
from this revolution. Chosroes was a prince of a puny stature and a
pusillanimous spirit. Unequal to the fatigues of war, averse to the
society of mankind, he withdrew from his capital to a retired palace,
which he built on the banks of the River Eleutherus, and in the centre
of a shady grove; where he consumed his vacant hours in the rural sports
of hunting and hawking. To secure this inglorious ease, he submitted to
the conditions of peace which Sapor condescended to impose; the payment
of an annual tribute, and the restitution of the fertile province of
Atropatene, which the courage of Tiridates, and the victorious arms of
Galerius, had annexed to the Armenian monarchy. [58] [58a]

[Footnote 56: Sextus Rufus, (c. 26,) who on this occasion is no
contemptible authority, affirms, that the Persians sued in vain for
peace, and that Constantine was preparing to march against them: yet
the superior weight of the testimony of Eusebius obliges us to admit the
preliminaries, if not the ratification, of the treaty. See Tillemont,
Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 420. ----Constantine had endeavored
to allay the fury of the prosecutions, which, at the instigation of the
Magi and the Jews, Sapor had commenced against the Christians. Euseb
Vit. Hist. Theod. i. 25. Sozom. ii. c. 8, 15.--M.]

[Footnote 57: Julian. Orat. i. p. 20.]

[Footnote 57a: Tiridates had sustained a war against Maximin. caused
by the hatred of the latter against Christianity. Armenia was the
first nation which embraced Christianity. About the year 276 it was the
religion of the king, the nobles, and the people of Armenia. From St.
Martin, Supplement to Le Beau, v. i. p. 78.----Compare Preface to
History of Vartan by Professor Neumann, p ix.--M.]

[Footnote 57b: Chosroes was restored probably by Licinius, between 314
and 319. There was an Antiochus who was praefectus vigilum at Rome, as
appears from the Theodosian Code, (l. iii. de inf. his quae sub ty.,) in
326, and from a fragment of the same work published by M. Amedee Peyron,
in 319. He may before this have been sent into Armenia. St. M. p. 407.
[Is it not more probable that Antiochus was an officer in the service
of the Caesar who ruled in the East?--M.] Chosroes was succeeded in the
year 322 by his son Diran. Diran was a weak prince, and in the sixteenth
year of his reign. A. D. 337. was betrayed into the power of the
Persians by the treachery of his chamberlain and the Persian governor of
Atropatene or Aderbidjan. He was blinded: his wife and his son Arsaces
shared his captivity, but the princes and nobles of Armenia claimed the
protection of Rome; and this was the cause of Constantine's declaration
of war against the Persians.--The king of Persia attempted to make
himself master of Armenia; but the brave resistance of the people, the
advance of Constantius, and a defeat which his army suffered at Oskha in
Armenia, and the failure before Nisibis, forced Shahpour to submit to
terms of peace. Varaz-Shahpour, the perfidious governor of Atropatene,
was flayed alive; Diran and his son were released from captivity; Diran
refused to ascend the throne, and retired to an obscure retreat: his son
Arsaces was crowned king of Armenia. Arsaces pursued a vacillating
policy between the influence of Rome and Persia, and the war recommenced
in the year 345. At least, that was the period of the expedition of
Constantius to the East. See St. Martin, additions to Le Beau, i. 442.
The Persians have made an extraordinary romance out of the history of
Shahpour, who went as a spy to Constantinople, was taken, harnessed like
a horse, and carried to witness the devastation of his kingdom. Malcolm.

[Footnote 58: Julian. Orat. i. p. 20, 21. Moses of Chorene, l. ii. c.
89, l. iii. c. 1--9, p. 226--240. The perfect agreement between the
vague hints of the contemporary orator, and the circumstantial narrative
of the national historian, gives light to the former, and weight to the
latter. For the credit of Moses, it may be likewise observed, that
the name of Antiochus is found a few years before in a civil office of
inferior dignity. See Godefroy, Cod. Theod. tom. vi. p. 350.]

[Footnote 58a: Gibbon has endeavored, in his History, to make use of the
information furnished by Moses of Chorene, the only Armenian
historian then translated into Latin. Gibbon has not perceived all the
chronological difficulties which occur in the narrative of that writer.
He has not thought of all the critical discussions which his text ought
to undergo before it can be combined with the relations of the western
writers. From want of this attention, Gibbon has made the facts which he
has drawn from this source more erroneous than they are in the original.
This judgment applies to all which the English historian has derived
from the Armenian author. I have made the History of Moses a subject
of particular attention; and it is with confidence that I offer the
results, which I insert here, and which will appear in the course of
my notes. In order to form a judgment of the difference which exists
between me and Gibbon, I will content myself with remarking, that
throughout he has committed an anachronism of thirty years, from whence
it follows, that he assigns to the reign of Constantius many events
which took place during that of Constantine. He could not, therefore,
discern the true connection which exists between the Roman history and
that of Armenia, or form a correct notion of the reasons which induced
Constantine, at the close of his life, to make war upon the Persians, or
of the motives which detained Constantius so long in the East; he does
not even mention them. St. Martin, note on Le Beau, i. 406. I have
inserted M. St. Martin's observations, but I must add, that the
chronology which he proposes, is not generally received by Armenian
scholars, not, I believe, by Professor Neumann.--M.]

During the long period of the reign of Constantius, the provinces of
the East were afflicted by the calamities of the Persian war. [58c] The
irregular incursions of the light troops alternately spread terror and
devastation beyond the Tigris and beyond the Euphrates, from the gates
of Ctesiphon to those of Antioch; and this active service was performed
by the Arabs of the desert, who were divided in their interest and
affections; some of their independent chiefs being enlisted in the
party of Sapor, whilst others had engaged their doubtful fidelity to the
emperor. [59] The more grave and important operations of the war
were conducted with equal vigor; and the armies of Rome and Persia
encountered each other in nine bloody fields, in two of which
Constantius himself commanded in person. [60] The event of the day was
most commonly adverse to the Romans, but in the battle of Singara, their
imprudent valor had almost achieved a signal and decisive victory. The
stationary troops of Singara [60a] retired on the approach of Sapor, who
passed the Tigris over three bridges, and occupied near the village
of Hilleh an advantageous camp, which, by the labor of his numerous
pioneers, he surrounded in one day with a deep ditch and a lofty
rampart. His formidable host, when it was drawn out in order of battle,
covered the banks of the river, the adjacent heights, and the whole
extent of a plain of above twelve miles, which separated the two armies.
Both were alike impatient to engage; but the Barbarians, after a slight
resistance, fled in disorder; unable to resist, or desirous to weary,
the strength of the heavy legions, who, fainting with heat and thirst,
pursued them across the plain, and cut in pieces a line of cavalry,
clothed in complete armor, which had been posted before the gates of the
camp to protect their retreat. Constantius, who was hurried along in the
pursuit, attempted, without effect, to restrain the ardor of his troops,
by representing to them the dangers of the approaching night, and the
certainty of completing their success with the return of day. As they
depended much more on their own valor than on the experience or the
abilities of their chief, they silenced by their clamors his timid
remonstrances; and rushing with fury to the charge, filled up the ditch,
broke down the rampart, and dispersed themselves through the tents to
recruit their exhausted strength, and to enjoy the rich harvest of their
labors. But the prudent Sapor had watched the moment of victory. His
army, of which the greater part, securely posted on the heights, had
been spectators of the action, advanced in silence, and under the shadow
of the night; and his Persian archers, guided by the illumination of the
camp, poured a shower of arrows on a disarmed and licentious crowd. The
sincerity of history [61] declares, that the Romans were vanquished with
a dreadful slaughter, and that the flying remnant of the legions was
exposed to the most intolerable hardships. Even the tenderness of
panegyric, confessing that the glory of the emperor was sullied by
the disobedience of his soldiers, chooses to draw a veil over the
circumstances of this melancholy retreat. Yet one of those venal
orators, so jealous of the fame of Constantius, relates, with amazing
coolness, an act of such incredible cruelty, as, in the judgment of
posterity, must imprint a far deeper stain on the honor of the Imperial
name. The son of Sapor, the heir of his crown, had been made a captive
in the Persian camp. The unhappy youth, who might have excited the
compassion of the most savage enemy, was scourged, tortured, and
publicly executed by the inhuman Romans. [62]

[Footnote 58c: It was during this war that a bold flatterer (whose name
is unknown) published the Itineraries of Alexander and Trajan, in order
to direct the victorious Constantius in the footsteps of those great
conquerors of the East. The former of these has been published for the
first time by M. Angelo Mai (Milan, 1817, reprinted at Frankfort, 1818.)
It adds so little to our knowledge of Alexander's campaigns, that it
only excites our regret that it is not the Itinerary of Trajan, of whose
eastern victories we have no distinct record--M]

[Footnote 59: Ammianus (xiv. 4) gives a lively description of the
wandering and predatory life of the Saracens, who stretched from the
confines of Assyria to the cataracts of the Nile. It appears from the
adventures of Malchus, which Jerom has related in so entertaining a
manner, that the high road between Beraea and Edessa was infested by
these robbers. See Hieronym. tom. i. p. 256.]

[Footnote 60: We shall take from Eutropius the general idea of the war.
A Persis enim multa et gravia perpessus, saepe captis, oppidis, obsessis
urbibus, caesis exercitibus, nullumque ei contra Saporem prosperum
praelium fuit, nisi quod apud Singaram, &c. This honest account is
confirmed by the hints of Ammianus, Rufus, and Jerom. The two first
orations of Julian, and the third oration of Libanius, exhibit a more
flattering picture; but the recantation of both those orators, after
the death of Constantius, while it restores us to the possession of
the truth, degrades their own character, and that of the emperor. The
Commentary of Spanheim on the first oration of Julian is profusely
learned. See likewise the judicious observations of Tillemont, Hist. des
Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 656.]

[Footnote 60a: Now Sinjar, or the River Claboras.--M.]

[Footnote 61: Acerrima nocturna concertatione pugnatum est, nostrorum
copiis ngenti strage confossis. Ammian. xviii. 5. See likewise
Eutropius, x. 10, and S. Rufus, c. 27. ----The Persian historians, or
romancers, do not mention the battle of Singara, but make the captive
Shahpour escape, defeat, and take prisoner, the Roman emperor. The Roman
captives were forced to repair all the ravages they had committed, even
to replanting the smallest trees. Malcolm. i. 82.--M.]

[Footnote 62: Libanius, Orat. iii. p. 133, with Julian. Orat. i. p. 24,
and Spanneism's Commentary, p. 179.]

Whatever advantages might attend the arms of Sapor in the field, though
nine repeated victories diffused among the nations the fame of his
valor and conduct, he could not hope to succeed in the execution of his
designs, while the fortified towns of Mesopotamia, and, above all, the
strong and ancient city of Nisibis, remained in the possession of the
Romans. In the space of twelve years, Nisibis, which, since the time
of Lucullus, had been deservedly esteemed the bulwark of the East,
sustained three memorable sieges against the power of Sapor; and the
disappointed monarch, after urging his attacks above sixty, eighty, and
a hundred days, was thrice repulsed with loss and ignominy. [63] This
large and populous city was situate about two days' journey from the
Tigris, in the midst of a pleasant and fertile plain at the foot of
Mount Masius. A treble enclosure of brick walls was defended by a deep
ditch; [64] and the intrepid resistance of Count Lucilianus, and his
garrison, was seconded by the desperate courage of the people. The
citizens of Nisibis were animated by the exhortations of their bishop,
[65] inured to arms by the presence of danger, and convinced of the
intentions of Sapor to plant a Persian colony in their room, and to lead
them away into distant and barbarous captivity. The event of the two
former sieges elated their confidence, and exasperated the haughty
spirit of the Great King, who advanced a third time towards Nisibis,
at the head of the united forces of Persia and India. The ordinary
machines, invented to batter or undermine the walls, were rendered
ineffectual by the superior skill of the Romans; and many days had
vainly elapsed, when Sapor embraced a resolution worthy of an eastern
monarch, who believed that the elements themselves were subject to his
power. At the stated season of the melting of the snows in Armenia, the
River Mygdonius, which divides the plain and the city of Nisibis, forms,
like the Nile, [66] an inundation over the adjacent country. By the
labor of the Persians, the course of the river was stopped below the
town, and the waters were confined on every side by solid mounds of
earth. On this artificial lake, a fleet of armed vessels filled with
soldiers, and with engines which discharged stones of five hundred
pounds weight, advanced in order of battle, and engaged, almost upon a
level, the troops which defended the ramparts. [66a] The irresistible
force of the waters was alternately fatal to the contending parties,
till at length a portion of the walls, unable to sustain the accumulated
pressure, gave way at once, and exposed an ample breach of one hundred
and fifty feet. The Persians were instantly driven to the assault, and
the fate of Nisibis depended on the event of the day. The heavy-armed
cavalry, who led the van of a deep column, were embarrassed in the mud,
and great numbers were drowned in the unseen holes which had been filled
by the rushing waters. The elephants, made furious by their wounds,
increased the disorder, and trampled down thousands of the Persian
archers. The Great King, who, from an exalted throne, beheld the
misfortunes of his arms, sounded, with reluctant indignation, the signal
of the retreat, and suspended for some hours the prosecution of the
attack. But the vigilant citizens improved the opportunity of the night;
and the return of day discovered a new wall of six feet in
height, rising every moment to fill up the interval of the breach.
Notwithstanding the disappointment of his hopes, and the loss of more
than twenty thousand men, Sapor still pressed the reduction of Nisibis,
with an obstinate firmness, which could have yielded only to the
necessity of defending the eastern provinces of Persia against
a formidable invasion of the Massagetae. [67] Alarmed by this
intelligence, he hastily relinquished the siege, and marched with rapid
diligence from the banks of the Tigris to those of the Oxus. The danger
and difficulties of the Scythian war engaged him soon afterwards to
conclude, or at least to observe, a truce with the Roman emperor, which
was equally grateful to both princes; as Constantius himself, after the
death of his two brothers, was involved, by the revolutions of the
West, in a civil contest, which required and seemed to exceed the most
vigorous exertion of his undivided strength.

[Footnote 63: See Julian. Orat. i. p. 27, Orat. ii. p. 62, &c., with the
Commentary of Spanheim, (p. 188-202,) who illustrates the circumstances,
and ascertains the time of the three sieges of Nisibis. Their dates are
likewise examined by Tillemont, (Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 668,
671, 674.) Something is added from Zosimus, l. iii. p. 151, and the
Alexandrine Chronicle, p. 290.]

[Footnote 64: Sallust. Fragment. lxxxiv. edit. Brosses, and Plutarch
in Lucull. tom. iii. p. 184. Nisibis is now reduced to one hundred and
fifty houses: the marshy lands produce rice, and the fertile meadows,
as far as Mosul and the Tigris, are covered with the ruins of towns and
allages. See Niebuhr, Voyages, tom. ii. p. 300-309.]

[Footnote 65: The miracles which Theodoret (l. ii. c. 30) ascribes to
St. James, Bishop of Edessa, were at least performed in a worthy cause,
the defence of his couutry. He appeared on the walls under the figure of
the Roman emperor, and sent an army of gnats to sting the trunks of the
elephants, and to discomfit the host of the new Sennacherib.]

[Footnote 66: Julian. Orat. i. p. 27. Though Niebuhr (tom. ii. p. 307)
allows a very considerable swell to the Mygdonius, over which he saw a
bridge of twelve arches: it is difficult, however, to understand this
parallel of a trifling rivulet with a mighty river. There are many
circumstances obscure, and almost unintelligible, in the description of
these stupendous water-works.]

[Footnote 66a: Macdonald Kinnier observes on these floating batteries,
"As the elevation of place is considerably above the level of the
country in its immediate vicinity, and the Mygdonius is a very
insignificant stream, it is difficult to imagine how this work could
have been accomplished, even with the wonderful resources which the king
must have had at his disposal" Geographical Memoir. p. 262.--M.]

[Footnote 67: We are obliged to Zonaras (tom. ii. l. xiii. p. 11) for
this invasion of the Massagetae, which is perfectly consistent with
the general series of events to which we are darkly led by the broken
history of Ammianus.]

After the partition of the empire, three years had scarcely elapsed
before the sons of Constantine seemed impatient to convince mankind that
they were incapable of contenting themselves with the dominions which
they were unqualified to govern. The eldest of those princes soon
complained, that he was defrauded of his just proportion of the spoils
of their murdered kinsmen; and though he might yield to the superior
guilt and merit of Constantius, he exacted from Constans the cession
of the African provinces, as an equivalent for the rich countries of
Macedonia and Greece, which his brother had acquired by the death of
Dalmatius. The want of sincerity, which Constantine experienced in a
tedious and fruitless negotiation, exasperated the fierceness of his
temper; and he eagerly listened to those favorites, who suggested to
him that his honor, as well as his interest, was concerned in the
prosecution of the quarrel. At the head of a tumultuary band, suited for
rapine rather than for conquest, he suddenly broke onto the dominions of
Constans, by the way of the Julian Alps, and the country round Aquileia
felt the first effects of his resentment. The measures of Constans, who
then resided in Dacia, were directed with more prudence and ability. On
the news of his brother's invasion, he detached a select and disciplined
body of his Illyrian troops, proposing to follow them in person, with
the remainder of his forces. But the conduct of his lieutenants soon
terminated the unnatural contest.

By the artful appearances of flight, Constantine was betrayed into an
ambuscade, which had been concealed in a wood, where the rash youth,
with a few attendants, was surprised, surrounded, and slain. His body,
after it had been found in the obscure stream of the Alsa, obtained the
honors of an Imperial sepulchre; but his provinces transferred their
allegiance to the conqueror, who, refusing to admit his elder brother
Constantius to any share in these new acquisitions, maintained the
undisputed possession of more than two thirds of the Roman empire. [68]

[Footnote 68: The causes and the events of this civil war are related
with much perplexity and contradiction. I have chiefly followed Zonaras
and the younger Victor. The monody (ad Calcem Eutrop. edit. Havercamp.)
pronounced on the death of Constantine, might have been very
instructive; but prudence and false taste engaged the orator to involve
himself in vague declamation.]

Chapter XVIII: Character Of Constantine And His Sons.--Part IV.

The fate of Constans himself was delayed about ten years longer, and the
revenge of his brother's death was reserved for the more ignoble hand of
a domestic traitor. The pernicious tendency of the system introduced by
Constantine was displayed in the feeble administration of his sons;
who, by their vices and weakness, soon lost the esteem and affections of
their people. The pride assumed by Constans, from the unmerited success
of his arms, was rendered more contemptible by his want of abilities
and application. His fond partiality towards some German captives,
distinguished only by the charms of youth, was an object of scandal to
the people; [69] and Magnentius, an ambitious soldier, who was himself
of Barbarian extraction, was encouraged by the public discontent to
assert the honor of the Roman name. [70] The chosen bands of Jovians and
Herculians, who acknowledged Magnentius as their leader, maintained
the most respectable and important station in the Imperial camp. The
friendship of Marcellinus, count of the sacred largesses, supplied with
a liberal hand the means of seduction. The soldiers were convinced by
the most specious arguments, that the republic summoned them to break
the bonds of hereditary servitude; and, by the choice of an active
and vigilant prince, to reward the same virtues which had raised the
ancestors of the degenerate Constans from a private condition to the
throne of the world. As soon as the conspiracy was ripe for execution,
Marcellinus, under the pretence of celebrating his son's birthday, gave
a splendid entertainment to the illustrious and honorable persons of the
court of Gaul, which then resided in the city of Autun. The intemperance
of the feast was artfully protracted till a very late hour of the night;
and the unsuspecting guests were tempted to indulge themselves in a
dangerous and guilty freedom of conversation. On a sudden the doors were
thrown open, and Magnentius, who had retired for a few moments,
returned into the apartment, invested with the diadem and purple. The
conspirators instantly saluted him with the titles of Augustus and
Emperor. The surprise, the terror, the intoxication, the ambitious
hopes, and the mutual ignorance of the rest of the assembly, prompted
them to join their voices to the general acclamation. The guards
hastened to take the oath of fidelity; the gates of the town were shut;
and before the dawn of day, Magnentius became master of the troops and
treasure of the palace and city of Autun. By his secrecy and diligence
he entertained some hopes of surprising the person of Constans, who was
pursuing in the adjacent forest his favorite amusement of hunting, or
perhaps some pleasures of a more private and criminal nature. The rapid
progress of fame allowed him, however, an instant for flight, though
the desertion of his soldiers and subjects deprived him of the power of
resistance. Before he could reach a seaport in Spain, where he intended
to embark, he was overtaken near Helena, [71] at the foot of the
Pyrenees, by a party of light cavalry, whose chief, regardless of the
sanctity of a temple, executed his commission by the murder of the son
of Constantine. [72]

[Footnote 69: Quarum (gentium) obsides pretio quaesitos pueros
venustiore quod cultius habuerat libidine hujusmodi arsisse pro certo
habet. Had not the depraved taste of Constans been publicly avowed, the
elder Victor, who held a considerable office in his brother's reign,
would not have asserted it in such positive terms.]

[Footnote 70: Julian. Orat. i. and ii. Zosim. l. ii. p. 134. Victor in
Epitome. There is reason to believe that Magnentius was born in one of
those Barbarian colonies which Constantius Chlorus had established in
Gaul, (see this History, vol. i. p. 414.) His behavior may remind us of
the patriot earl of Leicester, the famous Simon de Montfort, who could
persuade the good people of England, that he, a Frenchman by birth had
taken arms to deliver them from foreign favorites.]

[Footnote 71: This ancient city had once flourished under the name of
Illiberis (Pomponius Mela, ii. 5.) The munificence of Constantine gave
it new splendor, and his mother's name. Helena (it is still called
Elne) became the seat of a bishop, who long afterwards transferred his
residence to Perpignan, the capital of modern Rousillon. See D'Anville.
Notice de l'Ancienne Gaule, p. 380. Longuerue, Description de la France,
p. 223, and the Marca Hispanica, l. i. c. 2.]

[Footnote 72: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 119, 120. Zonaras, tom. ii. l. xiii. p.
13, and the Abbreviators.]

As soon as the death of Constans had decided this easy but important
revolution, the example of the court of Autun was imitated by the
provinces of the West. The authority of Magnentius was acknowledged
through the whole extent of the two great praefectures of Gaul and
Italy; and the usurper prepared, by every act of oppression, to collect
a treasure, which might discharge the obligation of an immense donative,
and supply the expenses of a civil war. The martial countries of
Illyricum, from the Danube to the extremity of Greece, had long obeyed
the government of Vetranio, an aged general, beloved for the simplicity
of his manners, and who had acquired some reputation by his experience
and services in war. [73] Attached by habit, by duty, and by gratitude,
to the house of Constantine, he immediately gave the strongest
assurances to the only surviving son of his late master, that he would
expose, with unshaken fidelity, his person and his troops, to inflict a
just revenge on the traitors of Gaul. But the legions of Vetranio were
seduced, rather than provoked, by the example of rebellion; their
leader soon betrayed a want of firmness, or a want of sincerity; and
his ambition derived a specious pretence from the approbation of the
princess Constantina. That cruel and aspiring woman, who had obtained
from the great Constantine, her father, the rank of Augusta, placed
the diadem with her own hands on the head of the Illyrian general; and
seemed to expect from his victory the accomplishment of those unbounded
hopes, of which she had been disappointed by the death of her husband
Hannibalianus. Perhaps it was without the consent of Constantina, that
the new emperor formed a necessary, though dishonorable, alliance with
the usurper of the West, whose purple was so recently stained with her
brother's blood. [74]

[Footnote 73: Eutropius (x. 10) describes Vetranio with more temper, and
probably with more truth, than either of the two Victors. Vetranio was
born of obscure parents in the wildest parts of Maesia; and so much had
his education been neglected, that, after his elevation, he studied the

[Footnote 74: The doubtful, fluctuating conduct of Vetranio is described
by Julian in his first oration, and accurately explained by Spanheim,
who discusses the situation and behavior of Constantina.]

The intelligence of these important events, which so deeply affected the
honor and safety of the Imperial house, recalled the arms of Constantius
from the inglorious prosecution of the Persian war. He recommended
the care of the East to his lieutenants, and afterwards to his cousin
Gallus, whom he raised from a prison to a throne; and marched towards
Europe, with a mind agitated by the conflict of hope and fear, of grief
and indignation. On his arrival at Heraclea in Thrace, the emperor gave
audience to the ambassadors of Magnentius and Vetranio. The first author
of the conspiracy Marcellinus, who in some measure had bestowed the
purple on his new master, boldly accepted this dangerous commission; and
his three colleagues were selected from the illustrious personages
of the state and army. These deputies were instructed to soothe the
resentment, and to alarm the fears, of Constantius. They were empowered
to offer him the friendship and alliance of the western princes,
to cement their union by a double marriage; of Constantius with the
daughter of Magnentius, and of Magnentius himself with the ambitious
Constantina; and to acknowledge in the treaty the preeminence of rank,
which might justly be claimed by the emperor of the East. Should pride
and mistaken piety urge him to refuse these equitable conditions, the
ambassadors were ordered to expatiate on the inevitable ruin which must
attend his rashness, if he ventured to provoke the sovereigns of the
West to exert their superior strength; and to employ against him
that valor, those abilities, and those legions, to which the house of
Constantine had been indebted for so many triumphs. Such propositions
and such arguments appeared to deserve the most serious attention; the
answer of Constantius was deferred till the next day; and as he had
reflected on the importance of justifying a civil war in the opinion
of the people, he thus addressed his council, who listened with real or
affected credulity: "Last night," said he, "after I retired to rest,
the shade of the great Constantine, embracing the corpse of my murdered
brother, rose before my eyes; his well-known voice awakened me to
revenge, forbade me to despair of the republic, and assured me of the
success and immortal glory which would crown the justice of my arms."
The authority of such a vision, or rather of the prince who alleged
it, silenced every doubt, and excluded all negotiation. The ignominious
terms of peace were rejected with disdain. One of the ambassadors of
the tyrant was dismissed with the haughty answer of Constantius; his
colleagues, as unworthy of the privileges of the law of nations, were
put in irons; and the contending powers prepared to wage an implacable
war. [75]

[Footnote 75: See Peter the Patrician, in the Excerpta Legationem p.

Such was the conduct, and such perhaps was the duty, of the brother
of Constans towards the perfidious usurper of Gaul. The situation and
character of Vetranio admitted of milder measures; and the policy of
the Eastern emperor was directed to disunite his antagonists, and to
separate the forces of Illyricum from the cause of rebellion. It was
an easy task to deceive the frankness and simplicity of Vetranio, who,
fluctuating some time between the opposite views of honor and interest,
displayed to the world the insincerity of his temper, and was insensibly
engaged in the snares of an artful negotiation. Constantius acknowledged
him as a legitimate and equal colleague in the empire, on condition that
he would renounce his disgraceful alliance with Magnentius, and appoint
a place of interview on the frontiers of their respective provinces;
where they might pledge their friendship by mutual vows of fidelity, and
regulate by common consent the future operations of the civil war. In
consequence of this agreement, Vetranio advanced to the city of Sardica,
[76] at the head of twenty thousand horse, and of a more numerous body
of infantry; a power so far superior to the forces of Constantius, that
the Illyrian emperor appeared to command the life and fortunes of his
rival, who, depending on the success of his private negotiations, had
seduced the troops, and undermined the throne, of Vetranio. The chiefs,
who had secretly embraced the party of Constantius, prepared in his
favor a public spectacle, calculated to discover and inflame the
passions of the multitude. [77] The united armies were commanded to
assemble in a large plain near the city. In the centre, according to the
rules of ancient discipline, a military tribunal, or rather scaffold,
was erected, from whence the emperors were accustomed, on solemn and
important occasions, to harangue the troops. The well-ordered ranks of
Romans and Barbarians, with drawn swords, or with erected spears, the
squadrons of cavalry, and the cohorts of infantry, distinguished by the
variety of their arms and ensigns, formed an immense circle round the
tribunal; and the attentive silence which they preserved was sometimes
interrupted by loud bursts of clamor or of applause. In the presence of
this formidable assembly, the two emperors were called upon to explain
the situation of public affairs: the precedency of rank was yielded to
the royal birth of Constantius; and though he was indifferently skilled
in the arts of rhetoric, he acquitted himself, under these difficult
circumstances, with firmness, dexterity, and eloquence. The first part
of his oration seemed to be pointed only against the tyrant of Gaul;
but while he tragically lamented the cruel murder of Constans, he
insinuated, that none, except a brother, could claim a right to the
succession of his brother. He displayed, with some complacency, the
glories of his Imperial race; and recalled to the memory of the troops
the valor, the triumphs, the liberality of the great Constantine, to
whose sons they had engaged their allegiance by an oath of fidelity,
which the ingratitude of his most favored servants had tempted them to
violate. The officers, who surrounded the tribunal, and were
instructed to act their part in this extraordinary scene, confessed
the irresistible power of reason and eloquence, by saluting the emperor
Constantius as their lawful sovereign. The contagion of loyalty and
repentance was communicated from rank to rank; till the plain of Sardica
resounded with the universal acclamation of "Away with these upstart
usurpers! Long life and victory to the son of Constantine! Under his
banners alone we will fight and conquer." The shout of thousands, their
menacing gestures, the fierce clashing of their arms, astonished and
subdued the courage of Vetranio, who stood, amidst the defection of his
followers, in anxious and silent suspense. Instead of embracing the last
refuge of generous despair, he tamely submitted to his fate; and taking
the diadem from his head, in the view of both armies fell prostrate at
the feet of his conqueror. Constantius used his victory with prudence
and moderation; and raising from the ground the aged suppliant, whom he
affected to style by the endearing name of Father, he gave him his hand
to descend from the throne. The city of Prusa was assigned for the
exile or retirement of the abdicated monarch, who lived six years in the
enjoyment of ease and affluence. He often expressed his grateful sense
of the goodness of Constantius, and, with a very amiable simplicity,
advised his benefactor to resign the sceptre of the world, and to seek
for content (where alone it could be found) in the peaceful obscurity of
a private condition. [78]

[Footnote 76: Zonaras, tom. ii. l. xiii. p. 16. The position of Sardica,
near the modern city of Sophia, appears better suited to this interview
than the situation of either Naissus or Sirmium, where it is placed by
Jerom, Socrates, and Sozomen.]

[Footnote 77: See the two first orations of Julian, particularly p.
31; and Zosimus, l. ii. p. 122. The distinct narrative of the historian
serves to illustrate the diffuse but vague descriptions of the orator.]

[Footnote 78: The younger Victor assigns to his exile the emphatical
appellation of "Voluptarium otium." Socrates (l. ii. c. 28) is the
voucher for the correspondence with the emperor, which would seem to
prove that Vetranio was indeed, prope ad stultitiam simplicissimus.]

The behavior of Constantius on this memorable occasion was celebrated
with some appearance of justice; and his courtiers compared the studied
orations which a Pericles or a Demosthenes addressed to the populace
of Athens, with the victorious eloquence which had persuaded an armed
multitude to desert and depose the object of their partial choice. [79]
The approaching contest with Magnentius was of a more serious and bloody
kind. The tyrant advanced by rapid marches to encounter Constantius, at
the head of a numerous army, composed of Gauls and Spaniards, of Franks
and Saxons; of those provincials who supplied the strength of the
legions, and of those barbarians who were dreaded as the most formidable
enemies of the republic. The fertile plains [80] of the Lower Pannonia,
between the Drave, the Save, and the Danube, presented a spacious
theatre; and the operations of the civil war were protracted during
the summer months by the skill or timidity of the combatants. [81]
Constantius had declared his intention of deciding the quarrel in
the fields of Cibalis, a name that would animate his troops by the
remembrance of the victory, which, on the same auspicious ground,
had been obtained by the arms of his father Constantine. Yet by the
impregnable fortifications with which the emperor encompassed his camp,
he appeared to decline, rather than to invite, a general engagement.

It was the object of Magnentius to tempt or to compel his adversary to
relinquish this advantageous position; and he employed, with that view,
the various marches, evolutions, and stratagems, which the knowledge of
the art of war could suggest to an experienced officer. He carried by
assault the important town of Siscia; made an attack on the city of
Sirmium, which lay in the rear of the Imperial camp, attempted to force
a passage over the Save into the eastern provinces of Illyricum; and cut
in pieces a numerous detachment, which he had allured into the narrow
passes of Adarne. During the greater part of the summer, the tyrant of
Gaul showed himself master of the field. The troops of Constantius
were harassed and dispirited; his reputation declined in the eye of the
world; and his pride condescended to solicit a treaty of peace, which
would have resigned to the assassin of Constans the sovereignty of the
provinces beyond the Alps. These offers were enforced by the eloquence
of Philip the Imperial ambassador; and the council as well as the army
of Magnentius were disposed to accept them. But the haughty usurper,
careless of the remonstrances of his friends, gave orders that Philip
should be detained as a captive, or, at least, as a hostage; while he
despatched an officer to reproach Constantius with the weakness of
his reign, and to insult him by the promise of a pardon if he would
instantly abdicate the purple. "That he should confide in the justice of
his cause, and the protection of an avenging Deity," was the only answer
which honor permitted the emperor to return. But he was so sensible of
the difficulties of his situation, that he no longer dared to retaliate
the indignity which had been offered to his representative. The
negotiation of Philip was not, however, ineffectual, since he determined
Sylvanus the Frank, a general of merit and reputation, to desert with a
considerable body of cavalry, a few days before the battle of Mursa.

[Footnote 79: Eum Constantius..... facundiae vi dejectum Imperio in pri
vatum otium removit. Quae gloria post natum Imperium soli proces sit
eloquio clementiaque, &c. Aurelius Victor, Julian, and Themistius (Orat.
iii. and iv.) adorn this exploit with all the artificial and gaudy
coloring of their rhetoric.]

[Footnote 80: Busbequius (p. 112) traversed the Lower Hungary and
Sclavonia at a time when they were reduced almost to a desert, by the
reciprocal hostilities of the Turks and Christians. Yet he mentions with
admiration the unconquerable fertility of the soil; and observes that
the height of the grass was sufficient to conceal a loaded wagon from
his sight. See likewise Browne's Travels, in Harris's Collection, vol
ii. p. 762 &c.]

[Footnote 81: Zosimus gives a very large account of the war, and the
negotiation, (l. ii. p. 123-130.) But as he neither shows himself a
soldier nor a politician, his narrative must be weighed with attention,
and received with caution.]

The city of Mursa, or Essek, celebrated in modern times for a bridge
of boats, five miles in length, over the River Drave, and the adjacent
morasses, [82] has been always considered as a place of importance in
the wars of Hungary. Magnentius, directing his march towards Mursa, set
fire to the gates, and, by a sudden assault, had almost scaled the walls
of the town. The vigilance of the garrison extinguished the flames; the
approach of Constantius left him no time to continue the operations of
the siege; and the emperor soon removed the only obstacle that could
embarrass his motions, by forcing a body of troops which had taken post
in an adjoining amphitheatre. The field of battle round Mursa was a
naked and level plain: on this ground the army of Constantius formed,
with the Drave on their right; while their left, either from the nature
of their disposition, or from the superiority of their cavalry, extended
far beyond the right flank of Magnentius. [83] The troops on both sides
remained under arms, in anxious expectation, during the greatest part of
the morning; and the son of Constantine, after animating his soldiers
by an eloquent speech, retired into a church at some distance from
the field of battle, and committed to his generals the conduct of
this decisive day. [84] They deserved his confidence by the valor and
military skill which they exerted. They wisely began the action upon the
left; and advancing their whole wing of cavalry in an oblique line,
they suddenly wheeled it on the right flank of the enemy, which was
unprepared to resist the impetuosity of their charge. But the Romans of
the West soon rallied, by the habits of discipline; and the Barbarians
of Germany supported the renown of their national bravery. The
engagement soon became general; was maintained with various and singular
turns of fortune; and scarcely ended with the darkness of the night. The
signal victory which Constantius obtained is attributed to the arms of
his cavalry. His cuirassiers are described as so many massy statues
of steel, glittering with their scaly armor, and breaking with their
ponderous lances the firm array of the Gallic legions. As soon as the
legions gave way, the lighter and more active squadrons of the second
line rode sword in hand into the intervals, and completed the disorder.
In the mean while, the huge bodies of the Germans were exposed almost
naked to the dexterity of the Oriental archers; and whole troops of
those Barbarians were urged by anguish and despair to precipitate
themselves into the broad and rapid stream of the Drave. [85] The number
of the slain was computed at fifty-four thousand men, and the slaughter
of the conquerors was more considerable than that of the vanquished;
[86] a circumstance which proves the obstinacy of the contest, and
justifies the observation of an ancient writer, that the forces of the
empire were consumed in the fatal battle of Mursa, by the loss of a
veteran army, sufficient to defend the frontiers, or to add new triumphs
to the glory of Rome. [87] Notwithstanding the invectives of a servile
orator, there is not the least reason to believe that the tyrant
deserted his own standard in the beginning of the engagement. He seems
to have displayed the virtues of a general and of a soldier till the
day was irrecoverably lost, and his camp in the possession of the enemy.
Magnentius then consulted his safety, and throwing away the Imperial
ornaments, escaped with some difficulty from the pursuit of the light
horse, who incessantly followed his rapid flight from the banks of the
Drave to the foot of the Julian Alps. [88]

[Footnote 82: This remarkable bridge, which is flanked with towers, and
supported on large wooden piles, was constructed A. D. 1566, by Sultan
Soliman, to facilitate the march of his armies into Hungary.]

[Footnote 83: This position, and the subsequent evolutions, are clearly,
though concisely, described by Julian, Orat. i. p. 36.]

[Footnote 84: Sulpicius Severus, l. ii. p. 405. The emperor passed the
day in prayer with Valens, the Arian bishop of Mursa, who gained his
confidence by announcing the success of the battle. M. de Tillemont
(Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 1110) very properly remarks the
silence of Julian with regard to the personal prowess of Constantius in
the battle of Mursa. The silence of flattery is sometimes equal to the
most positive and authentic evidence.]

[Footnote 85: Julian. Orat. i. p. 36, 37; and Orat. ii. p. 59, 60.
Zonaras, tom ii. l. xiii. p. 17. Zosimus, l. ii. p. 130-133.
The last of these celebrates the dexterity of the archer Menelaus,
who could discharge three arrows at the same time; an advantage
which, according to his apprehension of military affairs, materially
contributed to the victory of Constantius.]

[Footnote 86: According to Zonaras, Constantius, out of 80,000
men, lost 30,000; and Magnentius lost 24,000 out of 36,000. The other
articles of this account seem probable and authentic, but the numbers of
the tyrant's army must have been mistaken, either by the author or his
transcribers. Magnentius had collected the whole force of the West,
Romans and Barbarians, into one formidable body, which cannot fairly be
estimated at less than 100,000 men. Julian. Orat. i. p. 34, 35.]

[Footnote 87: Ingentes R. I. vires ea dimicatione consumptae sunt,
ad quaelibet bella externa idoneae, quae multum triumphorum possent
securitatisque conferre. Eutropius, x. 13. The younger Victor expresses
himself to the same effect.]

[Footnote 88: On this occasion, we must prefer the unsuspected testimony
of Zosimus and Zonaras to the flattering assertions of Julian. The
younger Victor paints the character of Magnentius in a singular light:
"Sermonis acer, animi tumidi, et immodice timidus; artifex tamen ad
occultandam audaciae specie formidinem." Is it most likely that in the
battle of Mursa his behavior was governed by nature or by art should
incline for the latter.]

The approach of winter supplied the indolence of Constantius with
specious reasons for deferring the prosecution of the war till the
ensuing spring. Magnentius had fixed his residence in the city of
Aquileia, and showed a seeming resolution to dispute the passage of
the mountains and morasses which fortified the confines of the Venetian
province. The surprisal of a castle in the Alps by the secret march of
the Imperialists, could scarcely have determined him to relinquish the
possession of Italy, if the inclinations of the people had supported the
cause of their tyrant. [89] But the memory of the cruelties exercised
by his ministers, after the unsuccessful revolt of Nepotian, had left
a deep impression of horror and resentment on the minds of the Romans.
That rash youth, the son of the princess Eutropia, and the nephew of
Constantine, had seen with indignation the sceptre of the West usurped
by a perfidious barbarian. Arming a desperate troop of slaves and
gladiators, he overpowered the feeble guard of the domestic tranquillity
of Rome, received the homage of the senate, and assuming the title of
Augustus, precariously reigned during a tumult of twenty-eight days.
The march of some regular forces put an end to his ambitious hopes:
the rebellion was extinguished in the blood of Nepotian, of his mother
Eutropia, and of his adherents; and the proscription was extended to
all who had contracted a fatal alliance with the name and family of
Constantine. [90] But as soon as Constantius, after the battle of Mursa,
became master of the sea-coast of Dalmatia, a band of noble exiles, who
had ventured to equip a fleet in some harbor of the Adriatic, sought
protection and revenge in his victorious camp. By their secret
intelligence with their countrymen, Rome and the Italian cities were
persuaded to display the banners of Constantius on their walls. The
grateful veterans, enriched by the liberality of the father, signalized
their gratitude and loyalty to the son. The cavalry, the legions,
and the auxiliaries of Italy, renewed their oath of allegiance to
Constantius; and the usurper, alarmed by the general desertion, was
compelled, with the remains of his faithful troops, to retire beyond the
Alps into the provinces of Gaul. The detachments, however, which were
ordered either to press or to intercept the flight of Magnentius,
conducted themselves with the usual imprudence of success; and allowed
him, in the plains of Pavia, an opportunity of turning on his pursuers,
and of gratifying his despair by the carnage of a useless victory. [91]

[Footnote 89: Julian. Orat. i. p. 38, 39. In that place, however, as
well as in Oration ii. p. 97, he insinuates the general disposition of
the senate, the people, and the soldiers of Italy, towards the party of
the emperor.]

[Footnote 90: The elder Victor describes, in a pathetic manner, the
miserable condition of Rome: "Cujus stolidum ingenium adeo P. R.
patribusque exitio fuit, uti passim domus, fora, viae, templaque,
cruore, cadaveri busque opplerentur bustorum modo." Athanasius (tom.
i. p. 677) deplores the fate of several illustrious victims, and Julian
(Orat. ii p 58) execrates the cruelty of Marcellinus, the implacable
enemy of the house of Constantine.]

[Footnote 91: Zosim. l. ii. p. 133. Victor in Epitome. The panegyrists
of Constantius, with their usual candor, forget to mention this
accidental defeat.]

The pride of Magnentius was reduced, by repeated misfortunes, to sue,
and to sue in vain, for peace. He first despatched a senator, in whose
abilities he confided, and afterwards several bishops, whose holy
character might obtain a more favorable audience, with the offer of
resigning the purple, and the promise of devoting the remainder of his
life to the service of the emperor. But Constantius, though he granted
fair terms of pardon and reconciliation to all who abandoned the
standard of rebellion, [92] avowed his inflexible resolution to inflict
a just punishment on the crimes of an assassin, whom he prepared
to overwhelm on every side by the effort of his victorious arms.
An Imperial fleet acquired the easy possession of Africa and Spain,
confirmed the wavering faith of the Moorish nations, and landed a
considerable force, which passed the Pyrenees, and advanced towards
Lyons, the last and fatal station of Magnentius. [93] The temper of the
tyrant, which was never inclined to clemency, was urged by distress to
exercise every act of oppression which could extort an immediate supply
from the cities of Gaul. [94] Their patience was at length exhausted;
and Treves, the seat of Praetorian government, gave the signal of
revolt, by shutting her gates against Decentius, who had been raised
by his brother to the rank either of Caesar or of Augustus. [95] From
Treves, Decentius was obliged to retire to Sens, where he was
soon surrounded by an army of Germans, whom the pernicious arts of
Constantius had introduced into the civil dissensions of Rome. [96] In
the mean time, the Imperial troops forced the passages of the Cottian
Alps, and in the bloody combat of Mount Seleucus irrevocably fixed the
title of rebels on the party of Magnentius. [97] He was unable to bring
another army into the field; the fidelity of his guards was corrupted;
and when he appeared in public to animate them by his exhortations,
he was saluted with a unanimous shout of "Long live the emperor
Constantius!" The tyrant, who perceived that they were preparing to
deserve pardon and rewards by the sacrifice of the most obnoxious
criminal, prevented their design by falling on his sword; [98] a death
more easy and more honorable than he could hope to obtain from the hands
of an enemy, whose revenge would have been colored with the specious
pretence of justice and fraternal piety. The example of suicide
was imitated by Decentius, who strangled himself on the news of his
brother's death. The author of the conspiracy, Marcellinus, had
long since disappeared in the battle of Mursa, [99] and the public
tranquillity was confirmed by the execution of the surviving leaders
of a guilty and unsuccessful faction. A severe inquisition was extended
over all who, either from choice or from compulsion, had been involved
in the cause of rebellion. Paul, surnamed Catena from his superior
skill in the judicial exercise of tyranny, [99a] was sent to explore the
latent remains of the conspiracy in the remote province of Britain. The
honest indignation expressed by Martin, vice-praefect of the island, was
interpreted as an evidence of his own guilt; and the governor was urged
to the necessity of turning against his breast the sword with which
he had been provoked to wound the Imperial minister. The most innocent
subjects of the West were exposed to exile and confiscation, to death
and torture; and as the timid are always cruel, the mind of Constantius
was inaccessible to mercy. [100]

[Footnote 92: Zonaras, tom. ii. l. xiii. p. 17. Julian, in several
places of the two orations, expatiates on the clemency of Constantius to
the rebels.]

[Footnote 93: Zosim. l. ii. p. 133. Julian. Orat. i. p. 40, ii. p. 74.]

[Footnote 94: Ammian. xv. 6. Zosim. l. ii. p. 123. Julian, who (Orat.
i. p. 40) unveighs against the cruel effects of the tyrant's despair,
mentions (Orat. i. p. 34) the oppressive edicts which were dictated
by his necessities, or by his avarice. His subjects were compelled to
purchase the Imperial demesnes; a doubtful and dangerous species of
property, which, in case of a revolution, might be imputed to them as a
treasonable usurpation.]

[Footnote 95: The medals of Magnentius celebrate the victories of the
two Augusti, and of the Caesar. The Caesar was another brother, named
Desiderius. See Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 757.]

[Footnote 96: Julian. Orat. i. p. 40, ii. p. 74; with Spanheim, p. 263.
His Commentary illustrates the transactions of this civil war. Mons
Seleuci was a small place in the Cottian Alps, a few miles distant from
Vapincum, or Gap, an episcopal city of Dauphine. See D'Anville, Notice
de la Gaule, p. 464; and Longuerue, Description de la France, p.
327.---- The Itinerary of Antoninus (p. 357, ed. Wess.) places Mons
Seleucu twenty-four miles from Vapinicum, (Gap,) and twenty-six from
Lucus. (le Luc,) on the road to Die, (Dea Vocontiorum.) The situation
answers to Mont Saleon, a little place on the right of the small river
Buech, which falls into the Durance. Roman antiquities have been found
in this place. St. Martin. Note to Le Beau, ii. 47.--M.]

[Footnote 97: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 134. Liban. Orat. x. p. 268, 269.
The latter most vehemently arraigns this cruel and selfish policy of

[Footnote 98: Julian. Orat. i. p. 40. Zosimus, l. ii. p. 134. Socrates,
l. ii. c. 32. Sozomen, l. iv. c. 7. The younger Victor describes his
death with some horrid circumstances: Transfosso latere, ut erat vasti
corporis, vulnere naribusque et ore cruorem effundens, exspiravit. If
we can give credit to Zonaras, the tyrant, before he expired, had the
pleasure of murdering, with his own hand, his mother and his brother

[Footnote 99: Julian (Orat. i. p. 58, 59) seems at a loss to determine,
whether he inflicted on himself the punishment of his crimes, whether
he was drowned in the Drave, or whether he was carried by the avenging
daemons from the field of battle to his destined place of eternal

[Footnote 99a: This is scarcely correct, ut erat in complicandis
negotiis artifex dirum made ei Catenae inditum est cognomentum. Amm.
Mar. loc. cit.--M.]

[Footnote 100: Ammian. xiv. 5, xxi. 16.]

Chapter XIX: Constantius Sole Emperor.--Part I.

     Constantius Sole Emperor.--Elevation And Death Of Gallus.--
     Danger And Elevation Of Julian.--Sarmatian And Persian
     Wars.--Victories Of Julian In Gaul.

The divided provinces of the empire were again united by the victory of
Constantius; but as that feeble prince was destitute of personal merit,
either in peace or war; as he feared his generals, and distrusted his
ministers; the triumph of his arms served only to establish the reign
of the eunuchs over the Roman world. Those unhappy beings, the ancient
production of Oriental jealousy and despotism, [1] were introduced into
Greece and Rome by the contagion of Asiatic luxury. [2] Their progress
was rapid; and the eunuchs, who, in the time of Augustus, had been
abhorred, as the monstrous retinue of an Egyptian queen, [3] were
gradually admitted into the families of matrons, of senators, and of the
emperors themselves. [4] Restrained by the severe edicts of Domitian
and Nerva, cherished by the pride of Diocletian, reduced to an humble
station by the prudence of Constantine, [6] they multiplied in the
palaces of his degenerate sons, and insensibly acquired the knowledge,
and at length the direction, of the secret councils of Constantius. The
aversion and contempt which mankind had so uniformly entertained for
that imperfect species, appears to have degraded their character, and to
have rendered them almost as incapable as they were supposed to be, of
conceiving any generous sentiment, or of performing any worthy action.
[7] But the eunuchs were skilled in the arts of flattery and intrigue;
and they alternately governed the mind of Constantius by his fears, his
indolence, and his vanity. [8] Whilst he viewed in a deceitful mirror
the fair appearance of public prosperity, he supinely permitted them to
intercept the complaints of the injured provinces, to accumulate immense
treasures by the sale of justice and of honors; to disgrace the most
important dignities, by the promotion of those who had purchased
at their hands the powers of oppression, [9] and to gratify their
resentment against the few independent spirits, who arrogantly
refused to solicit the protection of slaves. Of these slaves the most
distinguished was the chamberlain Eusebius, who ruled the monarch and
the palace with such absolute sway, that Constantius, according to
the sarcasm of an impartial historian, possessed some credit with
this haughty favorite. [10] By his artful suggestions, the emperor was
persuaded to subscribe the condemnation of the unfortunate Gallus, and
to add a new crime to the long list of unnatural murders which pollute
the honor of the house of Constantine.

[Footnote 1: Ammianus (l. xiv. c. 6) imputes the first practice of
castration to the cruel ingenuity of Semiramis, who is supposed to have
reigned above nineteen hundred years before Christ. The use of eunuchs
is of high antiquity, both in Asia and Egypt. They are mentioned in the
law of Moses, Deuteron. xxxiii. 1. See Goguet, Origines des Loix, &c.,
Part i. l. i. c. 3.]

[Footnote 2: Eunuchum dixti velle te; Quia solae utuntur his
reginae--Terent. Eunuch. act i. scene 2. This play is translated from
Meander, and the original must have appeared soon after the eastern
conquests of Alexander.]

[Footnote 3: Miles.... spadonibus Servire rugosis potest. Horat. Carm.
v. 9, and Dacier ad loe. By the word spado, the Romans very forcibly
expressed their abhorrence of this mutilated condition. The Greek
appellation of eunuchs, which insensibly prevailed, had a milder sound,
and a more ambiguous sense.]

[Footnote 4: We need only mention Posides, a freedman and eunuch of
Claudius, in whose favor the emperor prostituted some of the most
honorable rewards of military valor. See Sueton. in Claudio, c. 28.
Posides employed a great part of his wealth in building.

     Ut Spado vincebat Capitolia Nostra
     Juvenal. Sat. xiv.]

[Footnote 5: Castrari mares vetuit. Sueton. in Domitian. c. 7. See Dion
Cassius, l. lxvii. p. 1107, l. lxviii. p. 1119.]

[Footnote 6: There is a passage in the Augustan History, p. 137, in
which Lampridius, whilst he praises Alexander Severus and Constantine
for restraining the tyranny of the eunuchs, deplores the mischiefs
which they occasioned in other reigns. Huc accedit quod eunuchos nec in
consiliis nec in ministeriis habuit; qui soli principes perdunt, dum
eos more gentium aut regum Persarum volunt vivere; qui a populo etiam
amicissimum semovent; qui internuntii sunt, aliud quam respondetur,
referentes; claudentes principem suum, et agentes ante omnia ne quid

[Footnote 7: Xenophon (Cyropaedia, l. viii. p. 540) has stated the
specious reasons which engaged Cyrus to intrust his person to the guard
of eunuchs. He had observed in animals, that although the practice of
castration might tame their ungovernable fierceness, it did not diminish
their strength or spirit; and he persuaded himself, that those who were
separated from the rest of human kind, would be more firmly attached to
the person of their benefactor. But a long experience has contradicted
the judgment of Cyrus. Some particular instances may occur of eunuchs
distinguished by their fidelity, their valor, and their abilities; but
if we examine the general history of Persia, India, and China, we shall
find that the power of the eunuchs has uniformly marked the decline and
fall of every dynasty.]

[Footnote 8: See Ammianus Marcellinus, l. xxi. c. 16, l. xxii. c. 4. The
whole tenor of his impartial history serves to justify the invectives
of Mamertinus, of Libanius, and of Julian himself, who have insulted the
vices of the court of Constantius.]

[Footnote 9: Aurelius Victor censures the negligence of his sovereign in
choosing the governors of the provinces, and the generals of the army,
and concludes his history with a very bold observation, as it is much
more dangerous under a feeble reign to attack the ministers than the
master himself. "Uti verum absolvam brevi, ut Imperatore ipso clarius
ita apparitorum plerisque magis atrox nihil."]

[Footnote 10: Apud quem (si vere dici debeat) multum Constantius potuit.
Ammian. l. xviii. c. 4.]

When the two nephews of Constantine, Gallus and Julian, were saved from
the fury of the soldiers, the former was about twelve, and the latter
about six, years of age; and, as the eldest was thought to be of a
sickly constitution, they obtained with the less difficulty a precarious
and dependent life, from the affected pity of Constantius, who was
sensible that the execution of these helpless orphans would have been
esteemed, by all mankind, an act of the most deliberate cruelty. [11]
Different cities of Ionia and Bithynia were assigned for the places of
their exile and education; but as soon as their growing years excited
the jealousy of the emperor, he judged it more prudent to secure those
unhappy youths in the strong castle of Macellum, near Caesarea. The
treatment which they experienced during a six years' confinement, was
partly such as they could hope from a careful guardian, and partly such
as they might dread from a suspicious tyrant. [12] Their prison was an
ancient palace, the residence of the kings of Cappadocia; the situation
was pleasant, the buildings of stately, the enclosure spacious. They
pursued their studies, and practised their exercises, under the tuition
of the most skilful masters; and the numerous household appointed to
attend, or rather to guard, the nephews of Constantine, was not unworthy
of the dignity of their birth. But they could not disguise to themselves
that they were deprived of fortune, of freedom, and of safety; secluded
from the society of all whom they could trust or esteem, and condemned
to pass their melancholy hours in the company of slaves devoted to the
commands of a tyrant who had already injured them beyond the hope
of reconciliation. At length, however, the emergencies of the state
compelled the emperor, or rather his eunuchs, to invest Gallus, in the
twenty-fifth year of his age, with the title of Caesar, and to cement
this political connection by his marriage with the princess Constantina.
After a formal interview, in which the two princes mutually engaged
their faith never to undertake any thing to the prejudice of each other,
they repaired without delay to their respective stations. Constantius
continued his march towards the West, and Gallus fixed his residence at
Antioch; from whence, with a delegated authority, he administered the
five great dioceses of the eastern praefecture. [13] In this fortunate
change, the new Caesar was not unmindful of his brother Julian, who
obtained the honors of his rank, the appearances of liberty, and the
restitution of an ample patrimony. [14]

[Footnote 11: Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. iii. p. 90) reproaches the
apostate with his ingratitude towards Mark, bishop of Arethusa, who
had contributed to save his life; and we learn, though from a less
respectable authority, (Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p.
916,) that Julian was concealed in the sanctuary of a church. * Note:
Gallus and Julian were not sons of the same mother. Their father, Julius
Constantius, had had Gallus by his first wife, named Galla: Julian
was the son of Basilina, whom he had espoused in a second marriage.
Tillemont. Hist. des Emp. Vie de Constantin. art. 3.--G.]

[Footnote 12: The most authentic account of the education and adventures
of Julian is contained in the epistle or manifesto which he himself
addressed to the senate and people of Athens. Libanius, (Orat.
Parentalis,) on the side of the Pagans, and Socrates, (l. iii. c. 1,)
on that of the Christians, have preserved several interesting

[Footnote 13: For the promotion of Gallus, see Idatius, Zosimus, and the
two Victors. According to Philostorgius, (l. iv. c. 1,) Theophilus, an
Arian bishop, was the witness, and, as it were, the guarantee of this
solemn engagement. He supported that character with generous firmness;
but M. de Tillemont (Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 1120) thinks it
very improbable that a heretic should have possessed such virtue.]

[Footnote 14: Julian was at first permitted to pursue his studies at
Constantinople, but the reputation which he acquired soon excited the
jealousy of Constantius; and the young prince was advised to withdraw
himself to the less conspicuous scenes of Bithynia and Ionia.]

The writers the most indulgent to the memory of Gallus, and even Julian
himself, though he wished to cast a veil over the frailties of his
brother, are obliged to confess that the Caesar was incapable of
reigning. Transported from a prison to a throne, he possessed neither
genius nor application, nor docility to compensate for the want of
knowledge and experience. A temper naturally morose and violent,
instead of being corrected, was soured by solitude and adversity; the
remembrance of what he had endured disposed him to retaliation rather
than to sympathy; and the ungoverned sallies of his rage were often
fatal to those who approached his person, or were subject to his power.
[15] Constantina, his wife, is described, not as a woman, but as one of
the infernal furies tormented with an insatiate thirst of human blood.
[16] Instead of employing her influence to insinuate the mild counsels
of prudence and humanity, she exasperated the fierce passions of her
husband; and as she retained the vanity, though she had renounced, the
gentleness of her sex, a pearl necklace was esteemed an equivalent price
for the murder of an innocent and virtuous nobleman. [17] The cruelty of
Gallus was sometimes displayed in the undissembled violence of popular
or military executions; and was sometimes disguised by the abuse of law,
and the forms of judicial proceedings. The private houses of Antioch,
and the places of public resort, were besieged by spies and informers;
and the Caesar himself, concealed in a a plebeian habit, very frequently
condescended to assume that odious character. Every apartment of the
palace was adorned with the instruments of death and torture, and a
general consternation was diffused through the capital of Syria. The
prince of the East, as if he had been conscious how much he had to fear,
and how little he deserved to reign, selected for the objects of his
resentment the provincials accused of some imaginary treason, and his
own courtiers, whom with more reason he suspected of incensing, by their
secret correspondence, the timid and suspicious mind of Constantius.
But he forgot that he was depriving himself of his only support, the
affection of the people; whilst he furnished the malice of his enemies
with the arms of truth, and afforded the emperor the fairest pretence of
exacting the forfeit of his purple, and of his life. [18]

[Footnote 15: See Julian. ad S. P. Q. A. p. 271. Jerom. in Chron.
Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, x. 14. I shall copy the words of Eutropius,
who wrote his abridgment about fifteen years after the death of Gallus,
when there was no longer any motive either to flatter or to depreciate
his character. "Multis incivilibus gestis Gallus Caesar.... vir natura
ferox et ad tyrannidem pronior, si suo jure imperare licuisset."]

[Footnote 16: Megaera quidem mortalis, inflammatrix saevientis assidua,
humani cruoris avida, &c. Ammian. Marcellin. l. xiv. c. 1. The sincerity
of Ammianus would not suffer him to misrepresent facts or characters,
but his love of ambitious ornaments frequently betrayed him into an
unnatural vehemence of expression.]

[Footnote 17: His name was Clematius of Alexandria, and his only crime
was a refusal to gratify the desires of his mother-in-law; who solicited
his death, because she had been disappointed of his love. Ammian. xiv.
c. i.]

[Footnote 18: See in Ammianus (l. xiv. c. 1, 7) a very ample detail of
the cruelties of Gallus. His brother Julian (p. 272) insinuates, that a
secret conspiracy had been formed against him; and Zosimus names (l. ii.
p. 135) the persons engaged in it; a minister of considerable rank, and
two obscure agents, who were resolved to make their fortune.]

As long as the civil war suspended the fate of the Roman world,
Constantius dissembled his knowledge of the weak and cruel
administration to which his choice had subjected the East; and the
discovery of some assassins, secretly despatched to Antioch by the
tyrant of Gaul, was employed to convince the public, that the emperor
and the Caesar were united by the same interest, and pursued by the same
enemies. [19] But when the victory was decided in favor of Constantius,
his dependent colleague became less useful and less formidable. Every
circumstance of his conduct was severely and suspiciously examined, and
it was privately resolved, either to deprive Gallus of the purple, or
at least to remove him from the indolent luxury of Asia to the hardships
and dangers of a German war. The death of Theophilus, consular of the
province of Syria, who in a time of scarcity had been massacred by the
people of Antioch, with the connivance, and almost at the instigation,
of Gallus, was justly resented, not only as an act of wanton cruelty,
but as a dangerous insult on the supreme majesty of Constantius. Two
ministers of illustrious rank, Domitian the Oriental praefect, and
Montius, quaestor of the palace, were empowered by a special commission
[19a] to visit and reform the state of the East. They were instructed to
behave towards Gallus with moderation and respect, and, by the gentlest
arts of persuasion, to engage him to comply with the invitation of his
brother and colleague. The rashness of the praefect disappointed these
prudent measures, and hastened his own ruin, as well as that of his
enemy. On his arrival at Antioch, Domitian passed disdainfully
before the gates of the palace, and alleging a slight pretence of
indisposition, continued several days in sullen retirement, to prepare
an inflammatory memorial, which he transmitted to the Imperial court.
Yielding at length to the pressing solicitations of Gallus, the praefect
condescended to take his seat in council; but his first step was to
signify a concise and haughty mandate, importing that the Caesar should
immediately repair to Italy, and threatening that he himself would
punish his delay or hesitation, by suspending the usual allowance of his
household. The nephew and daughter of Constantine, who could ill brook
the insolence of a subject, expressed their resentment by instantly
delivering Domitian to the custody of a guard. The quarrel still
admitted of some terms of accommodation. They were rendered
impracticable by the imprudent behavior of Montius, a statesman whose
arts and experience were frequently betrayed by the levity of his
disposition. [20] The quaestor reproached Gallus in a haughty language,
that a prince who was scarcely authorized to remove a municipal
magistrate, should presume to imprison a Praetorian praefect; convoked
a meeting of the civil and military officers; and required them, in
the name of their sovereign, to defend the person and dignity of his
representatives. By this rash declaration of war, the impatient temper
of Gallus was provoked to embrace the most desperate counsels. He
ordered his guards to stand to their arms, assembled the populace
of Antioch, and recommended to their zeal the care of his safety and
revenge. His commands were too fatally obeyed. They rudely seized the
praefect and the quaestor, and tying their legs together with ropes,
they dragged them through the streets of the city, inflicted a thousand
insults and a thousand wounds on these unhappy victims, and at last
precipitated their mangled and lifeless bodies into the stream of the
Orontes. [21]

[Footnote 19: Zonaras, l. xiii. tom. ii. p. 17, 18. The assassins had
seduced a great number of legionaries; but their designs were discovered
and revealed by an old woman in whose cottage they lodged.]

[Footnote 19a: The commission seems to have been granted to Domitian
alone. Montius interfered to support his authority. Amm. Marc. loc.

[Footnote 20: In the present text of Ammianus, we read Asper, quidem,
sed ad lenitatem propensior; which forms a sentence of contradictory
nonsense. With the aid of an old manuscript, Valesius has rectified
the first of these corruptions, and we perceive a ray of light in the
substitution of the word vafer. If we venture to change lenitatem into
lexitatem, this alteration of a single letter will render the whole
passage clear and consistent.]

[Footnote 21: Instead of being obliged to collect scattered and
imperfect hints from various sources, we now enter into the full stream
of the history of Ammianus, and need only refer to the seventh and ninth
chapters of his fourteenth book. Philostorgius, however, (l. iii. c. 28)
though partial to Gallus, should not be entirely overlooked.]

After such a deed, whatever might have been the designs of Gallus, it
was only in a field of battle that he could assert his innocence with
any hope of success. But the mind of that prince was formed of an equal
mixture of violence and weakness. Instead of assuming the title of
Augustus, instead of employing in his defence the troops and treasures
of the East, he suffered himself to be deceived by the affected
tranquillity of Constantius, who, leaving him the vain pageantry of a
court, imperceptibly recalled the veteran legions from the provinces
of Asia. But as it still appeared dangerous to arrest Gallus in his
capital, the slow and safer arts of dissimulation were practised with
success. The frequent and pressing epistles of Constantius were filled
with professions of confidence and friendship; exhorting the Caesar to
discharge the duties of his high station, to relieve his colleague from
a part of the public cares, and to assist the West by his presence, his
counsels, and his arms. After so many reciprocal injuries, Gallus had
reason to fear and to distrust. But he had neglected the opportunities
of flight and of resistance; he was seduced by the flattering assurances
of the tribune Scudilo, who, under the semblance of a rough soldier,
disguised the most artful insinuation; and he depended on the credit
of his wife Constantina, till the unseasonable death of that princess
completed the ruin in which he had been involved by her impetuous
passions. [22]

[Footnote 22: She had preceded her husband, but died of a fever on the
road at a little place in Bithynia, called Coenum Gallicanum.]

Chapter XIX: Constantius Sole Emperor.--Part II.

After a long delay, the reluctant Caesar set forwards on his journey to
the Imperial court. From Antioch to Hadrianople, he traversed the wide
extent of his dominions with a numerous and stately train; and as he
labored to conceal his apprehensions from the world, and perhaps from
himself, he entertained the people of Constantinople with an exhibition
of the games of the circus. The progress of the journey might, however,
have warned him of the impending danger. In all the principal cities he
was met by ministers of confidence, commissioned to seize the offices of
government, to observe his motions, and to prevent the hasty sallies
of his despair. The persons despatched to secure the provinces which he
left behind, passed him with cold salutations, or affected disdain; and
the troops, whose station lay along the public road, were studiously
removed on his approach, lest they might be tempted to offer their
swords for the service of a civil war. [23] After Gallus had been
permitted to repose himself a few days at Hadrianople, he received a
mandate, expressed in the most haughty and absolute style, that his
splendid retinue should halt in that city, while the Caesar himself,
with only ten post-carriages, should hasten to the Imperial residence at

In this rapid journey, the profound respect which was due to the
brother and colleague of Constantius, was insensibly changed into rude
familiarity; and Gallus, who discovered in the countenances of the
attendants that they already considered themselves as his guards, and
might soon be employed as his executioners, began to accuse his fatal
rashness, and to recollect, with terror and remorse, the conduct by
which he had provoked his fate. The dissimulation which had hitherto
been preserved, was laid aside at Petovio, [23a] in Pannonia. He was
conducted to a palace in the suburbs, where the general Barbatio, with
a select band of soldiers, who could neither be moved by pity, nor
corrupted by rewards, expected the arrival of his illustrious victim. In
the close of the evening he was arrested, ignominiously stripped of
the ensigns of Caesar, and hurried away to Pola, [23b] in Istria, a
sequestered prison, which had been so recently polluted with royal
blood. The horror which he felt was soon increased by the appearance of
his implacable enemy the eunuch Eusebius, who, with the assistance of
a notary and a tribune, proceeded to interrogate him concerning the
administration of the East. The Caesar sank under the weight of shame
and guilt, confessed all the criminal actions and all the treasonable
designs with which he was charged; and by imputing them to the advice of
his wife, exasperated the indignation of Constantius, who reviewed with
partial prejudice the minutes of the examination. The emperor was easily
convinced, that his own safety was incompatible with the life of his
cousin: the sentence of death was signed, despatched, and executed;
and the nephew of Constantine, with his hands tied behind his back,
was beheaded in prison like the vilest malefactor. [24] Those who are
inclined to palliate the cruelties of Constantius, assert that he soon
relented, and endeavored to recall the bloody mandate; but that the
second messenger, intrusted with the reprieve, was detained by the
eunuchs, who dreaded the unforgiving temper of Gallus, and were desirous
of reuniting to their empire the wealthy provinces of the East. [25]

[Footnote 23: The Thebaean legions, which were then quartered at
Hadrianople, sent a deputation to Gallus, with a tender of their
services. Ammian. l. xiv. c. 11. The Notitia (s. 6, 20, 38, edit. Labb.)
mentions three several legions which bore the name of Thebaean. The zeal
of M. de Voltaire to destroy a despicable though celebrated legion, has
tempted him on the slightest grounds to deny the existence of a Thenaean
legion in the Roman armies. See Oeuvres de Voltaire, tom. xv. p. 414,
quarto edition.]

[Footnote 23a: Pettau in Styria.--M]

[Footnote 23b: Rather to Flanonia. now Fianone, near Pola. St.

[Footnote 24: See the complete narrative of the journey and death of
Gallus in Ammianus, l. xiv. c. 11. Julian complains that his brother
was put to death without a trial; attempts to justify, or at least to
excuse, the cruel revenge which he had inflicted on his enemies; but
seems at last to acknowledge that he might justly have been deprived of
the purple.]

[Footnote 25: Philostorgius, l. iv. c. 1. Zonaras, l. xiii. tom. ii. p.
19. But the former was partial towards an Arian monarch, and the latter
transcribed, without choice or criticism, whatever he found in the
writings of the ancients.]

Besides the reigning emperor, Julian alone survived, of all the numerous
posterity of Constantius Chlorus. The misfortune of his royal birth
involved him in the disgrace of Gallus. From his retirement in the happy
country of Ionia, he was conveyed under a strong guard to the court
of Milan; where he languished above seven months, in the continual
apprehension of suffering the same ignominious death, which was daily
inflicted almost before his eyes, on the friends and adherents of
his persecuted family. His looks, his gestures, his silence, were
scrutinized with malignant curiosity, and he was perpetually assaulted
by enemies whom he had never offended, and by arts to which he was
a stranger. [26] But in the school of adversity, Julian insensibly
acquired the virtues of firmness and discretion. He defended his honor,
as well as his life, against the insnaring subtleties of the eunuchs,
who endeavored to extort some declaration of his sentiments; and whilst
he cautiously suppressed his grief and resentment, he nobly disdained to
flatter the tyrant, by any seeming approbation of his brother's
murder. Julian most devoutly ascribes his miraculous deliverance to the
protection of the gods, who had exempted his innocence from the sentence
of destruction pronounced by their justice against the impious house of
Constantine. [27] As the most effectual instrument of their providence,
he gratefully acknowledges the steady and generous friendship of the
empress Eusebia, [28] a woman of beauty and merit, who, by the ascendant
which she had gained over the mind of her husband, counterbalanced,
in some measure, the powerful conspiracy of the eunuchs. By the
intercession of his patroness, Julian was admitted into the Imperial
presence: he pleaded his cause with a decent freedom, he was heard with
favor; and, notwithstanding the efforts of his enemies, who urged
the danger of sparing an avenger of the blood of Gallus, the milder
sentiment of Eusebia prevailed in the council. But the effects of a
second interview were dreaded by the eunuchs; and Julian was advised to
withdraw for a while into the neighborhood of Milan, till the emperor
thought proper to assign the city of Athens for the place of his
honorable exile. As he had discovered, from his earliest youth, a
propensity, or rather passion, for the language, the manners, the
learning, and the religion of the Greeks, he obeyed with pleasure an
order so agreeable to his wishes. Far from the tumult of arms, and
the treachery of courts, he spent six months under the groves of the
academy, in a free intercourse with the philosophers of the age, who
studied to cultivate the genius, to encourage the vanity, and to inflame
the devotion of their royal pupil. Their labors were not unsuccessful;
and Julian inviolably preserved for Athens that tender regard which
seldom fails to arise in a liberal mind, from the recollection of the
place where it has discovered and exercised its growing powers. The
gentleness and affability of manners, which his temper suggested and his
situation imposed, insensibly engaged the affections of the strangers,
as well as citizens, with whom he conversed. Some of his fellow-students
might perhaps examine his behavior with an eye of prejudice and
aversion; but Julian established, in the schools of Athens, a general
prepossession in favor of his virtues and talents, which was soon
diffused over the Roman world. [29]

[Footnote 26: See Ammianus Marcellin. l. xv. c. 1, 3, 8. Julian himself
in his epistle to the Athenians, draws a very lively and just picture of
his own danger, and of his sentiments. He shows, however, a tendency to
exaggerate his sufferings, by insinuating, though in obscure terms, that
they lasted above a year; a period which cannot be reconciled with the
truth of chronology.]

[Footnote 27: Julian has worked the crimes and misfortunes of the family
of Constantine into an allegorical fable, which is happily conceived and
agreeably related. It forms the conclusion of the seventh Oration, from
whence it has been detached and translated by the Abbe de la Bleterie,
Vie de Jovien, tom. ii. p. 385-408.]

[Footnote 28: She was a native of Thessalonica, in Macedonia, of a noble
family, and the daughter, as well as sister, of consuls. Her marriage
with the emperor may be placed in the year 352. In a divided age, the
historians of all parties agree in her praises. See their testimonies
collected by Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 750-754.]

[Footnote 29: Libanius and Gregory Nazianzen have exhausted the arts as
well as the powers of their eloquence, to represent Julian as the first
of heroes, or the worst of tyrants. Gregory was his fellow-student at
Athens; and the symptoms which he so tragically describes, of the future
wickedness of the apostate, amount only to some bodily imperfections,
and to some peculiarities in his speech and manner. He protests,
however, that he then foresaw and foretold the calamities of the church
and state. (Greg. Nazianzen, Orat. iv. p. 121, 122.)]

Whilst his hours were passed in studious retirement, the empress,
resolute to achieve the generous design which she had undertaken, was
not unmindful of the care of his fortune. The death of the late Caesar
had left Constantius invested with the sole command, and oppressed by
the accumulated weight, of a mighty empire. Before the wounds of civil
discord could be healed, the provinces of Gaul were overwhelmed by a
deluge of Barbarians. The Sarmatians no longer respected the barrier
of the Danube. The impunity of rapine had increased the boldness and
numbers of the wild Isaurians: those robbers descended from their craggy
mountains to ravage the adjacent country, and had even presumed, though
without success, to besiege the important city of Seleucia, which was
defended by a garrison of three Roman legions. Above all, the Persian
monarch, elated by victory, again threatened the peace of Asia, and the
presence of the emperor was indispensably required, both in the West
and in the East. For the first time, Constantius sincerely acknowledged,
that his single strength was unequal to such an extent of care and of
dominion. [30] Insensible to the voice of flattery, which assured
him that his all-powerful virtue, and celestial fortune, would still
continue to triumph over every obstacle, he listened with complacency to
the advice of Eusebia, which gratified his indolence, without offending
his suspicious pride. As she perceived that the remembrance of Gallus
dwelt on the emperor's mind, she artfully turned his attention to the
opposite characters of the two brothers, which from their infancy had
been compared to those of Domitian and of Titus. [31] She accustomed
her husband to consider Julian as a youth of a mild, unambitious
disposition, whose allegiance and gratitude might be secured by the gift
of the purple, and who was qualified to fill with honor a subordinate
station, without aspiring to dispute the commands, or to shade the
glories, of his sovereign and benefactor. After an obstinate, though
secret struggle, the opposition of the favorite eunuchs submitted to
the ascendency of the empress; and it was resolved that Julian, after
celebrating his nuptials with Helena, sister of Constantius, should be
appointed, with the title of Caesar, to reign over the countries beyond
the Alps. [32]

[Footnote 30: Succumbere tot necessitatibus tamque crebris unum se,
quod nunquam fecerat, aperte demonstrans. Ammian. l. xv. c. 8. He
then expresses, in their own words, the fattering assurances of the

[Footnote 31: Tantum a temperatis moribus Juliani differens fratris
quantum inter Vespasiani filios fuit, Domitianum et Titum. Ammian. l.
xiv. c. 11. The circumstances and education of the two brothers, were so
nearly the same, as to afford a strong example of the innate difference
of characters.]

[Footnote 32: Ammianus, l. xv. c. 8. Zosimus, l. iii. p. 137, 138.]

Although the order which recalled him to court was probably accompanied
by some intimation of his approaching greatness, he appeals to the
people of Athens to witness his tears of undissembled sorrow, when he
was reluctantly torn away from his beloved retirement. [33] He trembled
for his life, for his fame, and even for his virtue; and his sole
confidence was derived from the persuasion, that Minerva inspired all
his actions, and that he was protected by an invisible guard of angels,
whom for that purpose she had borrowed from the Sun and Moon. He
approached, with horror, the palace of Milan; nor could the ingenuous
youth conceal his indignation, when he found himself accosted with false
and servile respect by the assassins of his family. Eusebia, rejoicing
in the success of her benevolent schemes, embraced him with the
tenderness of a sister; and endeavored, by the most soothing caresses,
to dispel his terrors, and reconcile him to his fortune. But the
ceremony of shaving his beard, and his awkward demeanor, when he first
exchanged the cloak of a Greek philosopher for the military habit of
a Roman prince, amused, during a few days, the levity of the Imperial
court. [34]

[Footnote 33: Julian. ad S. P. Q. A. p. 275, 276. Libanius, Orat. x.
p. 268. Julian did not yield till the gods had signified their will by
repeated visions and omens. His piety then forbade him to resist.]

[Footnote 34: Julian himself relates, (p. 274) with some humor, the
circumstances of his own metamorphoses, his downcast looks, and his
perplexity at being thus suddenly transported into a new world, where
every object appeared strange and hostile.]

The emperors of the age of Constantine no longer deigned to consult
with the senate in the choice of a colleague; but they were anxious that
their nomination should be ratified by the consent of the army. On this
solemn occasion, the guards, with the other troops whose stations were
in the neighborhood of Milan, appeared under arms; and Constantius
ascended his lofty tribunal, holding by the hand his cousin Julian, who
entered the same day into the twenty-fifth year of his age. [35] In
a studied speech, conceived and delivered with dignity, the emperor
represented the various dangers which threatened the prosperity of the
republic, the necessity of naming a Caesar for the administration of
the West, and his own intention, if it was agreeable to their wishes,
of rewarding with the honors of the purple the promising virtues of the
nephew of Constantine. The approbation of the soldiers was testified by
a respectful murmur; they gazed on the manly countenance of Julian, and
observed with pleasure, that the fire which sparkled in his eyes was
tempered by a modest blush, on being thus exposed, for the first
time, to the public view of mankind. As soon as the ceremony of his
investiture had been performed, Constantius addressed him with the tone
of authority which his superior age and station permitted him to assume;
and exhorting the new Caesar to deserve, by heroic deeds, that sacred
and immortal name, the emperor gave his colleague the strongest
assurances of a friendship which should never be impaired by time, nor
interrupted by their separation into the most distant climes. As soon as
the speech was ended, the troops, as a token of applause, clashed their
shields against their knees; [36] while the officers who surrounded the
tribunal expressed, with decent reserve, their sense of the merits of
the representative of Constantius.

[Footnote 35: See Ammian. Marcellin. l. xv. c. 8. Zosimus, l. iii. p.
139. Aurelius Victor. Victor Junior in Epitom. Eutrop. x. 14.]

[Footnote 36: Militares omnes horrendo fragore scuta genibus illidentes;
quod est prosperitatis indicium plenum; nam contra cum hastis clypei
feriuntur, irae documentum est et doloris... ... Ammianus adds, with
a nice distinction, Eumque ut potiori reverentia servaretur, nec supra
modum laudabant nec infra quam decebat.]

The two princes returned to the palace in the same chariot; and during
the slow procession, Julian repeated to himself a verse of his favorite
Homer, which he might equally apply to his fortune and to his fears.
[37] The four-and-twenty days which the Caesar spent at Milan after his
investiture, and the first months of his Gallic reign, were devoted to
a splendid but severe captivity; nor could the acquisition of honor
compensate for the loss of freedom. [38] His steps were watched, his
correspondence was intercepted; and he was obliged, by prudence,
to decline the visits of his most intimate friends. Of his former
domestics, four only were permitted to attend him; two pages, his
physician, and his librarian; the last of whom was employed in the care
of a valuable collection of books, the gift of the empress, who studied
the inclinations as well as the interest of her friend. In the room of
these faithful servants, a household was formed, such indeed as became
the dignity of a Caesar; but it was filled with a crowd of slaves,
destitute, and perhaps incapable, of any attachment for their new
master, to whom, for the most part, they were either unknown or
suspected. His want of experience might require the assistance of a wise
council; but the minute instructions which regulated the service of his
table, and the distribution of his hours, were adapted to a youth still
under the discipline of his preceptors, rather than to the situation of
a prince intrusted with the conduct of an important war. If he aspired
to deserve the esteem of his subjects, he was checked by the fear of
displeasing his sovereign; and even the fruits of his marriage-bed were
blasted by the jealous artifices of Eusebia [39] herself, who, on this
occasion alone, seems to have been unmindful of the tenderness of her
sex, and the generosity of her character. The memory of his father and
of his brothers reminded Julian of his own danger, and his apprehensions
were increased by the recent and unworthy fate of Sylvanus. In the
summer which preceded his own elevation, that general had been chosen
to deliver Gaul from the tyranny of the Barbarians; but Sylvanus soon
discovered that he had left his most dangerous enemies in the Imperial
court. A dexterous informer, countenanced by several of the principal
ministers, procured from him some recommendatory letters; and erasing
the whole of the contents, except the signature, filled up the vacant
parchment with matters of high and treasonable import. By the industry
and courage of his friends, the fraud was however detected, and in a
great council of the civil and military officers, held in the presence
of the emperor himself, the innocence of Sylvanus was publicly
acknowledged. But the discovery came too late; the report of the
calumny, and the hasty seizure of his estate, had already provoked the
indignant chief to the rebellion of which he was so unjustly accused.
He assumed the purple at his head- quarters of Cologne, and his active
powers appeared to menace Italy with an invasion, and Milan with a
siege. In this emergency, Ursicinus, a general of equal rank, regained,
by an act of treachery, the favor which he had lost by his eminent
services in the East. Exasperated, as he might speciously allege, by the
injuries of a similar nature, he hastened with a few followers to join
the standard, and to betray the confidence, of his too credulous friend.
After a reign of only twenty-eight days, Sylvanus was assassinated: the
soldiers who, without any criminal intention, had blindly followed the
example of their leader, immediately returned to their allegiance; and
the flatterers of Constantius celebrated the wisdom and felicity of the
monarch who had extinguished a civil war without the hazard of a battle.

[Footnote 37: The word purple which Homer had used as a vague but common
epithet for death, was applied by Julian to express, very aptly, the
nature and object of his own apprehensions.]

[Footnote 38: He represents, in the most pathetic terms, (p. 277,) the
distress of his new situation. The provision for his table was, however,
so elegant and sumptuous, that the young philosopher rejected it with
disdain. Quum legeret libellum assidue, quem Constantius ut privignum
ad studia mittens manu sua conscripserat, praelicenter disponens quid in
convivio Caesaris impendi deberit: Phasianum, et vulvam et sumen exigi
vetuit et inferri. Ammian. Marcellin. l. xvi. c. 5.]

[Footnote 39: If we recollect that Constantine, the father of Helena,
died above eighteen years before, in a mature old age, it will appear
probable, that the daughter, though a virgin, could not be very young
at the time of her marriage. She was soon afterwards delivered of a
son, who died immediately, quod obstetrix corrupta mercede, mox natum
praesecto plusquam convenerat umbilico necavit. She accompanied the
emperor and empress in their journey to Rome, and the latter, quaesitum
venenum bibere per fraudem illexit, ut quotiescunque concepisset,
immaturum abjicerit partum. Ammian. l. xvi. c. 10. Our physicians will
determine whether there exists such a poison. For my own part I am
inclined to hope that the public malignity imputed the effects of
accident as the guilt of Eusebia.]

[Footnote 40: Ammianus (xv. v.) was perfectly well informed of the
conduct and fate of Sylvanus. He himself was one of the few followers
who attended Ursicinus in his dangerous enterprise.]

The protection of the Rhaetian frontier, and the persecution of the
Catholic church, detained Constantius in Italy above eighteen months
after the departure of Julian. Before the emperor returned into the
East, he indulged his pride and curiosity in a visit to the ancient
capital. [41] He proceeded from Milan to Rome along the Aemilian and
Flaminian ways, and as soon as he approached within forty miles of the
city, the march of a prince who had never vanquished a foreign enemy,
assumed the appearance of a triumphal procession. His splendid train
was composed of all the ministers of luxury; but in a time of profound
peace, he was encompassed by the glittering arms of the numerous
squadrons of his guards and cuirassiers. Their streaming banners of
silk, embossed with gold, and shaped in the form of dragons, waved
round the person of the emperor. Constantius sat alone in a lofty car,
resplendent with gold and precious gems; and, except when he bowed
his head to pass under the gates of the cities, he affected a stately
demeanor of inflexible, and, as it might seem, of insensible gravity.
The severe discipline of the Persian youth had been introduced by the
eunuchs into the Imperial palace; and such were the habits of patience
which they had inculcated, that during a slow and sultry march, he was
never seen to move his hand towards his face, or to turn his eyes either
to the right or to the left. He was received by the magistrates and
senate of Rome; and the emperor surveyed, with attention, the civil
honors of the republic, and the consular images of the noble families.
The streets were lined with an innumerable multitude. Their repeated
acclamations expressed their joy at beholding, after an absence of
thirty-two years, the sacred person of their sovereign, and Constantius
himself expressed, with some pleasantry, he affected surprise that the
human race should thus suddenly be collected on the same spot. The son
of Constantine was lodged in the ancient palace of Augustus: he presided
in the senate, harangued the people from the tribunal which Cicero had
so often ascended, assisted with unusual courtesy at the games of the
Circus, and accepted the crowns of gold, as well as the Panegyrics which
had been prepared for the ceremony by the deputies of the principal
cities. His short visit of thirty days was employed in viewing the
monuments of art and power which were scattered over the seven hills and
the interjacent valleys. He admired the awful majesty of the Capitol,
the vast extent of the baths of Caracalla and Diocletian, the severe
simplicity of the Pantheon, the massy greatness of the amphitheatre of
Titus, the elegant architecture of the theatre of Pompey and the Temple
of Peace, and, above all, the stately structure of the Forum and column
of Trajan; acknowledging that the voice of fame, so prone to invent
and to magnify, had made an inadequate report of the metropolis of the
world. The traveller, who has contemplated the ruins of ancient Rome,
may conceive some imperfect idea of the sentiments which they must
have inspired when they reared their heads in the splendor of unsullied

[See The Pantheon: The severe simplicity of the Pantheon]

[Footnote 41: For the particulars of the visit of Constantius to Rome,
see Ammianus, l. xvi. c. 10. We have only to add, that Themistius was
appointed deputy from Constantinople, and that he composed his fourth
oration for his ceremony.]

The satisfaction which Constantius had received from this journey
excited him to the generous emulation of bestowing on the Romans some
memorial of his own gratitude and munificence. His first idea was to
imitate the equestrian and colossal statue which he had seen in the
Forum of Trajan; but when he had maturely weighed the difficulties of
the execution, [42] he chose rather to embellish the capital by the gift
of an Egyptian obelisk. In a remote but polished age, which seems to
have preceded the invention of alphabetical writing, a great number of
these obelisks had been erected, in the cities of Thebes and Heliopolis,
by the ancient sovereigns of Egypt, in a just confidence that the
simplicity of their form, and the hardness of their substance, would
resist the injuries of time and violence. [43] Several of these
extraordinary columns had been transported to Rome by Augustus and his
successors, as the most durable monuments of their power and victory;
[44] but there remained one obelisk, which, from its size or sanctity,
escaped for a long time the rapacious vanity of the conquerors. It was
designed by Constantine to adorn his new city; [45] and, after being
removed by his order from the pedestal where it stood before the Temple
of the Sun at Heliopolis, was floated down the Nile to Alexandria. The
death of Constantine suspended the execution of his purpose, and this
obelisk was destined by his son to the ancient capital of the empire.
A vessel of uncommon strength and capaciousness was provided to convey
this enormous weight of granite, at least a hundred and fifteen feet in
length, from the banks of the Nile to those of the Tyber. The obelisk of
Constantius was landed about three miles from the city, and elevated, by
the efforts of art and labor, in the great Circus of Rome. [46] [46a]

[Footnote 42: Hormisdas, a fugitive prince of Persia, observed to the
emperor, that if he made such a horse, he must think of preparing a
similar stable, (the Forum of Trajan.) Another saying of Hormisdas is
recorded, "that one thing only had displeased him, to find that men died
at Rome as well as elsewhere." If we adopt this reading of the text of
Ammianus, (displicuisse, instead of placuisse,) we may consider it as
a reproof of Roman vanity. The contrary sense would be that of a

[Footnote 43: When Germanicus visited the ancient monuments of Thebes,
the eldest of the priests explained to him the meaning of these hiero
glyphics. Tacit. Annal. ii. c. 60. But it seems probable, that before
the useful invention of an alphabet, these natural or arbitrary signs
were the common characters of the Egyptian nation. See Warburton's
Divine Legation of Moses, vol. iii. p. 69-243.]

[Footnote 44: See Plin. Hist. Natur. l. xxxvi. c. 14, 15.]

[Footnote 45: Ammian. Marcellin l. xvii. c. 4. He gives us a Greek
interpretation of the hieroglyphics, and his commentator Lindenbrogius
adds a Latin inscription, which, in twenty verses of the age of
Constantius, contain a short history of the obelisk.]

[Footnote 46: See Donat. Roma. Antiqua, l. iii. c. 14, l. iv. c. 12,
and the learned, though confused, Dissertation of Bargaeus on Obelisks,
inserted in the fourth volume of Graevius's Roman Antiquities, p. 1897-
1936. This dissertation is dedicated to Pope Sixtus V., who erected the
obelisk of Constantius in the square before the patriarchal church of
at. John Lateran.]

[Footnote 46a: It is doubtful whether the obelisk transported by
Constantius to Rome now exists. Even from the text of Ammianus, it is
uncertain whether the interpretation of Hermapion refers to the older
obelisk, (obelisco incisus est veteri quem videmus in Circo,) raised, as
he himself states, in the Circus Maximus, long before, by Augustus, or
to the one brought by Constantius. The obelisk in the square before the
church of St. John Lateran is ascribed not to Rameses the Great but to
Thoutmos II. Champollion, 1. Lettre a M. de Blacas, p. 32.--M]

The departure of Constantius from Rome was hastened by the alarming
intelligence of the distress and danger of the Illyrian provinces. The
distractions of civil war, and the irreparable loss which the Roman
legions had sustained in the battle of Mursa, exposed those countries,
almost without defence, to the light cavalry of the Barbarians; and
particularly to the inroads of the Quadi, a fierce and powerful nation,
who seem to have exchanged the institutions of Germany for the arms
and military arts of their Sarmatian allies. [47] The garrisons of the
frontiers were insufficient to check their progress; and the indolent
monarch was at length compelled to assemble, from the extremities of
his dominions, the flower of the Palatine troops, to take the field in
person, and to employ a whole campaign, with the preceding autumn and
the ensuing spring, in the serious prosecution of the war. The
emperor passed the Danube on a bridge of boats, cut in pieces all that
encountered his march, penetrated into the heart of the country of the
Quadi, and severely retaliated the calamities which they had inflicted
on the Roman province. The dismayed Barbarians were soon reduced to sue
for peace: they offered the restitution of his captive subjects as an
atonement for the past, and the noblest hostages as a pledge of their
future conduct. The generous courtesy which was shown to the first among
their chieftains who implored the clemency of Constantius, encouraged
the more timid, or the more obstinate, to imitate their example; and the
Imperial camp was crowded with the princes and ambassadors of the most
distant tribes, who occupied the plains of the Lesser Poland, and
who might have deemed themselves secure behind the lofty ridge of the
Carpathian Mountains. While Constantius gave laws to the Barbarians
beyond the Danube, he distinguished, with specious compassion, the
Sarmatian exiles, who had been expelled from their native country by the
rebellion of their slaves, and who formed a very considerable accession
to the power of the Quadi. The emperor, embracing a generous but
artful system of policy, released the Sarmatians from the bands of this
humiliating dependence, and restored them, by a separate treaty, to the
dignity of a nation united under the government of a king, the friend
and ally of the republic. He declared his resolution of asserting the
justice of their cause, and of securing the peace of the provinces by
the extirpation, or at least the banishment, of the Limigantes, whose
manners were still infected with the vices of their servile origin. The
execution of this design was attended with more difficulty than glory.
The territory of the Limigantes was protected against the Romans by the
Danube, against the hostile Barbarians by the Teyss. The marshy
lands which lay between those rivers, and were often covered by their
inundations, formed an intricate wilderness, pervious only to the
inhabitants, who were acquainted with its secret paths and inaccessible
fortresses. On the approach of Constantius, the Limigantes tried the
efficacy of prayers, of fraud, and of arms; but he sternly rejected
their supplications, defeated their rude stratagems, and repelled with
skill and firmness the efforts of their irregular valor. One of their
most warlike tribes, established in a small island towards the conflux
of the Teyss and the Danube, consented to pass the river with the
intention of surprising the emperor during the security of an amicable
conference. They soon became the victims of the perfidy which they
meditated. Encompassed on every side, trampled down by the cavalry,
slaughtered by the swords of the legions, they disdained to ask for
mercy; and with an undaunted countenance, still grasped their weapons in
the agonies of death. After this victory, a considerable body of Romans
was landed on the opposite banks of the Danube; the Taifalae, a Gothic
tribe engaged in the service of the empire, invaded the Limigantes on
the side of the Teyss; and their former masters, the free Sarmatians,
animated by hope and revenge, penetrated through the hilly country, into
the heart of their ancient possessions. A general conflagration revealed
the huts of the Barbarians, which were seated in the depth of the
wilderness; and the soldier fought with confidence on marshy ground,
which it was dangerous for him to tread. In this extremity, the bravest
of the Limigantes were resolved to die in arms, rather than to yield:
but the milder sentiment, enforced by the authority of their elders, at
length prevailed; and the suppliant crowd, followed by their wives and
children, repaired to the Imperial camp, to learn their fate from the
mouth of the conqueror. After celebrating his own clemency, which was
still inclined to pardon their repeated crimes, and to spare the remnant
of a guilty nation, Constantius assigned for the place of their exile a
remote country, where they might enjoy a safe and honorable repose. The
Limigantes obeyed with reluctance; but before they could reach, at least
before they could occupy, their destined habitations, they returned to
the banks of the Danube, exaggerating the hardships of their situation,
and requesting, with fervent professions of fidelity, that the emperor
would grant them an undisturbed settlement within the limits of the
Roman provinces. Instead of consulting his own experience of their
incurable perfidy, Constantius listened to his flatterers, who were
ready to represent the honor and advantage of accepting a colony of
soldiers, at a time when it was much easier to obtain the pecuniary
contributions than the military service of the subjects of the empire.
The Limigantes were permitted to pass the Danube; and the emperor gave
audience to the multitude in a large plain near the modern city of Buda.
They surrounded the tribunal, and seemed to hear with respect an oration
full of mildness and dignity when one of the Barbarians, casting his
shoe into the air, exclaimed with a loud voice, Marha! Marha! [47a] a
word of defiance, which was received as a signal of the tumult. They
rushed with fury to seize the person of the emperor; his royal throne
and golden couch were pillaged by these rude hands; but the faithful
defence of his guards, who died at his feet, allowed him a moment to
mount a fleet horse, and to escape from the confusion. The disgrace
which had been incurred by a treacherous surprise was soon retrieved
by the numbers and discipline of the Romans; and the combat was only
terminated by the extinction of the name and nation of the Limigantes.
The free Sarmatians were reinstated in the possession of their
ancient seats; and although Constantius distrusted the levity of their
character, he entertained some hopes that a sense of gratitude might
influence their future conduct. He had remarked the lofty stature and
obsequious demeanor of Zizais, one of the noblest of their chiefs. He
conferred on him the title of King; and Zizais proved that he was not
unworthy to reign, by a sincere and lasting attachment to the interests
of his benefactor, who, after this splendid success, received the name
of Sarmaticus from the acclamations of his victorious army. [48]

[Footnote 47: The events of this Quadian and Sarmatian war are related
by Ammianus, xvi. 10, xvii. 12, 13, xix. 11]

[Footnote 47a: Reinesius reads Warrha, Warrha, Guerre, War. Wagner note
as a mm. Marc xix. ll.--M.]

[Footnote 48: Genti Sarmatarum magno decori confidens apud eos regem
dedit. Aurelius Victor. In a pompous oration pronounced by Constantius
himself, he expatiates on his own exploits with much vanity, and some

Chapter XIX: Constantius Sole Emperor.--Part III.

While the Roman emperor and the Persian monarch, at the distance
of three thousand miles, defended their extreme limits against the
Barbarians of the Danube and of the Oxus, their intermediate frontier
experienced the vicissitudes of a languid war, and a precarious truce.
Two of the eastern ministers of Constantius, the Praetorian praefect
Musonian, whose abilities were disgraced by the want of truth and
integrity, and Cassian, duke of Mesopotamia, a hardy and veteran
soldier, opened a secret negotiation with the satrap Tamsapor. [49]
[49a] These overtures of peace, translated into the servile and
flattering language of Asia, were transmitted to the camp of the Great
King; who resolved to signify, by an ambassador, the terms which he was
inclined to grant to the suppliant Romans. Narses, whom he invested with
that character, was honorably received in his passage through Antioch
and Constantinople: he reached Sirmium after a long journey, and, at his
first audience, respectfully unfolded the silken veil which covered the
haughty epistle of his sovereign. Sapor, King of Kings, and Brother
of the Sun and Moon, (such were the lofty titles affected by Oriental
vanity,) expressed his satisfaction that his brother, Constantius
Caesar, had been taught wisdom by adversity. As the lawful successor of
Darius Hystaspes, Sapor asserted, that the River Strymon, in Macedonia,
was the true and ancient boundary of his empire; declaring, however,
that as an evidence of his moderation, he would content himself with
the provinces of Armenia and Mesopotamia, which had been fraudulently
extorted from his ancestors. He alleged, that, without the restitution
of these disputed countries, it was impossible to establish any treaty
on a solid and permanent basis; and he arrogantly threatened, that if
his ambassador returned in vain, he was prepared to take the field in
the spring, and to support the justice of his cause by the strength of
his invincible arms. Narses, who was endowed with the most polite and
amiable manners, endeavored, as far as was consistent with his duty, to
soften the harshness of the message. [50] Both the style and substance
were maturely weighed in the Imperial council, and he was dismissed
with the following answer: "Constantius had a right to disclaim the
officiousness of his ministers, who had acted without any specific
orders from the throne: he was not, however, averse to an equal and
honorable treaty; but it was highly indecent, as well as absurd, to
propose to the sole and victorious emperor of the Roman world, the same
conditions of peace which he had indignantly rejected at the time when
his power was contracted within the narrow limits of the East: the
chance of arms was uncertain; and Sapor should recollect, that if the
Romans had sometimes been vanquished in battle, they had almost always
been successful in the event of the war." A few days after the departure
of Narses, three ambassadors were sent to the court of Sapor, who was
already returned from the Scythian expedition to his ordinary residence
of Ctesiphon. A count, a notary, and a sophist, had been selected for
this important commission; and Constantius, who was secretly anxious for
the conclusion of the peace, entertained some hopes that the dignity
of the first of these ministers, the dexterity of the second, and the
rhetoric of the third, [51] would persuade the Persian monarch to abate
of the rigor of his demands. But the progress of their negotiation was
opposed and defeated by the hostile arts of Antoninus, [52] a Roman
subject of Syria, who had fled from oppression, and was admitted into
the councils of Sapor, and even to the royal table, where, according to
the custom of the Persians, the most important business was frequently
discussed. [53] The dexterous fugitive promoted his interest by the same
conduct which gratified his revenge. He incessantly urged the ambition
of his new master to embrace the favorable opportunity when the bravest
of the Palatine troops were employed with the emperor in a distant war
on the Danube. He pressed Sapor to invade the exhausted and defenceless
provinces of the East, with the numerous armies of Persia, now
fortified by the alliance and accession of the fiercest Barbarians. The
ambassadors of Rome retired without success, and a second embassy, of
a still more honorable rank, was detained in strict confinement, and
threatened either with death or exile.

[Footnote 49: Ammian. xvi. 9.]

[Footnote 49a: In Persian, Ten-schah-pour. St. Martin, ii. 177.--M.]

[Footnote 50: Ammianus (xvii. 5) transcribes the haughty letter.
Themistius (Orat. iv. p. 57, edit. Petav.) takes notice of the silken
covering. Idatius and Zonaras mention the journey of the ambassador; and
Peter the Patrician (in Excerpt. Legat. p. 58) has informed us of his

[Footnote 51: Ammianus, xvii. 5, and Valesius ad loc. The sophist,
or philosopher, (in that age these words were almost synonymous,) was
Eustathius the Cappadocian, the disciple of Jamblichus, and the friend
of St. Basil. Eunapius (in Vit. Aedesii, p. 44-47) fondly attributes to
this philosophic ambassador the glory of enchanting the Barbarian king
by the persuasive charms of reason and eloquence. See Tillemont, Hist.
des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 828, 1132.]

[Footnote 52: Ammian. xviii. 5, 6, 8. The decent and respectful behavior
of Antoninus towards the Roman general, sets him in a very interesting
light; and Ammianus himself speaks of the traitor with some compassion
and esteem.]

[Footnote 53: This circumstance, as it is noticed by Ammianus, serves to
prove the veracity of Herodotus, (l. i. c. 133,) and the permanency of
the Persian manners. In every age the Persians have been addicted to
intemperance, and the wines of Shiraz have triumphed over the law of
Mahomet. Brisson de Regno Pers. l. ii. p. 462-472, and Voyages en Perse,
tom, iii. p. 90.]

The military historian, [54] who was himself despatched to observe the
army of the Persians, as they were preparing to construct a bridge of
boats over the Tigris, beheld from an eminence the plain of Assyria, as
far as the edge of the horizon, covered with men, with horses, and with
arms. Sapor appeared in the front, conspicuous by the splendor of
his purple. On his left hand, the place of honor among the Orientals,
Grumbates, king of the Chionites, displayed the stern countenance of an
aged and renowned warrior. The monarch had reserved a similar place on
his right hand for the king of the Albanians, who led his independent
tribes from the shores of the Caspian. [54a] The satraps and generals
were distributed according to their several ranks, and the whole army,
besides the numerous train of Oriental luxury, consisted of more than
one hundred thousand effective men, inured to fatigue, and selected from
the bravest nations of Asia. The Roman deserter, who in some measure
guided the councils of Sapor, had prudently advised, that, instead of
wasting the summer in tedious and difficult sieges, he should march
directly to the Euphrates, and press forwards without delay to seize the
feeble and wealthy metropolis of Syria. But the Persians were no sooner
advanced into the plains of Mesopotamia, than they discovered that every
precaution had been used which could retard their progress, or defeat
their design. The inhabitants, with their cattle, were secured in places
of strength, the green forage throughout the country was set on fire,
the fords of the rivers were fortified by sharp stakes; military engines
were planted on the opposite banks, and a seasonable swell of the waters
of the Euphrates deterred the Barbarians from attempting the ordinary
passage of the bridge of Thapsacus. Their skilful guide, changing his
plan of operations, then conducted the army by a longer circuit, but
through a fertile territory, towards the head of the Euphrates, where
the infant river is reduced to a shallow and accessible stream. Sapor
overlooked, with prudent disdain, the strength of Nisibis; but as he
passed under the walls of Amida, he resolved to try whether the majesty
of his presence would not awe the garrison into immediate submission.
The sacrilegious insult of a random dart, which glanced against the
royal tiara, convinced him of his error; and the indignant monarch
listened with impatience to the advice of his ministers, who conjured
him not to sacrifice the success of his ambition to the gratification of
his resentment. The following day Grumbates advanced towards the gates
with a select body of troops, and required the instant surrender of the
city, as the only atonement which could be accepted for such an act
of rashness and insolence. His proposals were answered by a general
discharge, and his only son, a beautiful and valiant youth, was pierced
through the heart by a javelin, shot from one of the balistae. The
funeral of the prince of the Chionites was celebrated according to the
rites of the country; and the grief of his aged father was alleviated by
the solemn promise of Sapor, that the guilty city of Amida should serve
as a funeral pile to expiate the death, and to perpetuate the memory, of
his son.

[Footnote 54: Ammian. lxviii. 6, 7, 8, 10.]

[Footnote 54a: These perhaps were the barbarous tribes who inhabit the
northern part of the present Schirwan, the Albania of the ancients. This
country, now inhabited by the Lezghis, the terror of the neighboring
districts, was then occupied by the same people, called by the ancients
Legae, by the Armenians Gheg, or Leg. The latter represent them as
constant allies of the Persians in their wars against Armenia and the
Empire. A little after this period, a certain Schergir was their king,
and it is of him doubtless Ammianus Marcellinus speaks. St. Martin, ii.

The ancient city of Amid or Amida, [55] which sometimes assumes the
provincial appellation of Diarbekir, [56] is advantageously situate in
a fertile plain, watered by the natural and artificial channels of the
Tigris, of which the least inconsiderable stream bends in a semicircular
form round the eastern part of the city. The emperor Constantius
had recently conferred on Amida the honor of his own name, and the
additional fortifications of strong walls and lofty towers. It was
provided with an arsenal of military engines, and the ordinary garrison
had been reenforced to the amount of seven legions, when the place was
invested by the arms of Sapor. [57] His first and most sanguine hopes
depended on the success of a general assault. To the several nations
which followed his standard, their respective posts were assigned;
the south to the Vertae; the north to the Albanians; the east to
the Chionites, inflamed with grief and indignation; the west to the
Segestans, the bravest of his warriors, who covered their front with a
formidable line of Indian elephants. [58] The Persians, on every side,
supported their efforts, and animated their courage; and the monarch
himself, careless of his rank and safety, displayed, in the prosecution
of the siege, the ardor of a youthful soldier. After an obstinate
combat, the Barbarians were repulsed; they incessantly returned to the
charge; they were again driven back with a dreadful slaughter, and two
rebel legions of Gauls, who had been banished into the East, signalized
their undisciplined courage by a nocturnal sally into the heart of the
Persian camp. In one of the fiercest of these repeated assaults, Amida
was betrayed by the treachery of a deserter, who indicated to the
Barbarians a secret and neglected staircase, scooped out of the rock
that hangs over the stream of the Tigris. Seventy chosen archers of the
royal guard ascended in silence to the third story of a lofty tower,
which commanded the precipice; they elevated on high the Persian
banner, the signal of confidence to the assailants, and of dismay to the
besieged; and if this devoted band could have maintained their post a
few minutes longer, the reduction of the place might have been purchased
by the sacrifice of their lives. After Sapor had tried, without success,
the efficacy of force and of stratagem, he had recourse to the slower
but more certain operations of a regular siege, in the conduct of which
he was instructed by the skill of the Roman deserters. The trenches
were opened at a convenient distance, and the troops destined for that
service advanced under the portable cover of strong hurdles, to fill
up the ditch, and undermine the foundations of the walls. Wooden towers
were at the same time constructed, and moved forwards on wheels, till
the soldiers, who were provided with every species of missile weapons,
could engage almost on level ground with the troops who defended the
rampart. Every mode of resistance which art could suggest, or courage
could execute, was employed in the defence of Amida, and the works of
Sapor were more than once destroyed by the fire of the Romans. But the
resources of a besieged city may be exhausted. The Persians repaired
their losses, and pushed their approaches; a large preach was made by
the battering-ram, and the strength of the garrison, wasted by the sword
and by disease, yielded to the fury of the assault. The soldiers, the
citizens, their wives, their children, all who had not time to escape
through the opposite gate, were involved by the conquerors in a
promiscuous massacre.

[Footnote 55: For the description of Amida, see D'Herbelot, Bebliotheque
Orientale, p. Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 108. Histoire de Timur Bec, par
Cherefeddin Ali, l. iii. c. 41. Ahmed Arabsiades, tom. i. p. 331, c. 43.
Voyages de Tavernier, tom. i. p. 301. Voyages d'Otter, tom. ii. p.
273, and Voyages de Niebuhr, tom. ii. p. 324-328. The last of these
travellers, a learned and accurate Dane, has given a plan of Amida,
which illustrates the operations of the siege.]

[Footnote 56: Diarbekir, which is styled Amid, or Kara Amid, in the
public writings of the Turks, contains above 16,000 houses, and is the
residence of a pacha with three tails. The epithet of Kara is derived
from the blackness of the stone which composes the strong and ancient
wall of Amida. ----In my Mem. Hist. sur l'Armenie, l. i. p. 166, 173, I
conceive that I have proved this city, still called, by the Armenians,
Dirkranagerd, the city of Tigranes, to be the same with the famous
Tigranocerta, of which the situation was unknown. St. Martin, i. 432. On
the siege of Amida, see St. Martin's Notes, ii. 290. Faustus of
Byzantium, nearly a contemporary, (Armenian,) states that the Persians,
on becoming masters of it, destroyed 40,000 houses though Ammianus
describes the city as of no great extent, (civitatis ambitum non nimium
amplae.) Besides the ordinary population, and those who took refuge from
the country, it contained 20,000 soldiers. St. Martin, ii. 290. This
interpretation is extremely doubtful. Wagner (note on Ammianus)
considers the whole population to amount only to--M.]

[Footnote 57: The operations of the siege of Amida are very minutely
described by Ammianus, (xix. 1-9,) who acted an honorable part in the
defence, and escaped with difficulty when the city was stormed by the

[Footnote 58: Of these four nations, the Albanians are too well known
to require any description. The Segestans [Sacastene. St. Martin.]
inhabited a large and level country, which still preserves their name,
to the south of Khorasan, and the west of Hindostan. (See Geographia
Nubiensis. p. 133, and D'Herbelot, Biblitheque Orientale, p. 797.)
Notwithstanding the boasted victory of Bahram, (vol. i. p. 410,) the
Segestans, above fourscore years afterwards, appear as an independent
nation, the ally of Persia. We are ignorant of the situation of the
Vertae and Chionites, but I am inclined to place them (at least
the latter) towards the confines of India and Scythia. See Ammian.
----Klaproth considers the real Albanians the same with the ancient
Alani, and quotes a passage of the emperor Julian in support of his
opinion. They are the Ossetae, now inhabiting part of Caucasus. Tableaux
Hist. de l'Asie, p. 179, 180.--M. ----The Vertae are still unknown. It
is possible that the Chionites are the same as the Huns. These people
were already known; and we find from Armenian authors that they were
making, at this period, incursions into Asia. They were often at war
with the Persians. The name was perhaps pronounced differently in the
East and in the West, and this prevents us from recognizing it. St.
Martin, ii. 177.--M.]

But the ruin of Amida was the safety of the Roman provinces.

As soon as the first transports of victory had subsided, Sapor was at
leisure to reflect, that to chastise a disobedient city, he had lost the
flower of his troops, and the most favorable season for conquest. [59]
Thirty thousand of his veterans had fallen under the walls of Amida,
during the continuance of a siege, which lasted seventy-three days; and
the disappointed monarch returned to his capital with affected triumph
and secret mortification. It is more than probable, that the inconstancy
of his Barbarian allies was tempted to relinquish a war in which they
had encountered such unexpected difficulties; and that the aged king
of the Chionites, satiated with revenge, turned away with horror from a
scene of action where he had been deprived of the hope of his family and
nation. The strength as well as the spirit of the army with which
Sapor took the field in the ensuing spring was no longer equal to the
unbounded views of his ambition. Instead of aspiring to the conquest of
the East, he was obliged to content himself with the reduction of two
fortified cities of Mesopotamia, Singara and Bezabde; [60] the one
situate in the midst of a sandy desert, the other in a small peninsula,
surrounded almost on every side by the deep and rapid stream of the
Tigris. Five Roman legions, of the diminutive size to which they had
been reduced in the age of Constantine, were made prisoners, and
sent into remote captivity on the extreme confines of Persia. After
dismantling the walls of Singara, the conqueror abandoned that solitary
and sequestered place; but he carefully restored the fortifications
of Bezabde, and fixed in that important post a garrison or colony of
veterans; amply supplied with every means of defence, and animated
by high sentiments of honor and fidelity. Towards the close of the
campaign, the arms of Sapor incurred some disgrace by an unsuccessful
enterprise against Virtha, or Tecrit, a strong, or, as it was
universally esteemed till the age of Tamerlane, an impregnable fortress
of the independent Arabs. [61] [61a]

[Footnote 59: Ammianus has marked the chronology of this year by three
signs, which do not perfectly coincide with each other, or with
the series of the history. 1 The corn was ripe when Sapor invaded
Mesopotamia; "Cum jam stipula flaveate turgerent;" a circumstance,
which, in the latitude of Aleppo, would naturally refer us to the month
of April or May. See Harmer's Observations on Scripture vol. i. p. 41.
Shaw's Travels, p. 335, edit 4to. 2. The progress of Sapor was checked
by the overflowing of the Euphrates, which generally happens in July and
August. Plin. Hist. Nat. v. 21. Viaggi di Pietro della Valle, tom. i. p.
696. 3. When Sapor had taken Amida, after a siege of seventy-three days,
the autumn was far advanced. "Autumno praecipiti haedorumque improbo
sidere exorto." To reconcile these apparent contradictions, we must
allow for some delay in the Persian king, some inaccuracy in the
historian, and some disorder in the seasons.]

[Footnote 60: The account of these sieges is given by Ammianus, xx. 6,
7. ----The Christian bishop of Bezabde went to the camp of the king of
Persia, to persuade him to check the waste of human blood Amm. Mare xx.

[Footnote 61: For the identity of Virtha and Tecrit, see D'Anville,
Geographie. For the siege of that castle by Timur Bec or Tamerlane, see
Cherefeddin, l. iii. c. 33. The Persian biographer exaggerates the merit
and difficulty of this exploit, which delivered the caravans of Bagdad
from a formidable gang of robbers.]

[Footnote 61a: St. Martin doubts whether it lay so much to the south.
"The word Girtha means in Syriac a castle or fortress, and might be
applied to many places."]

The defence of the East against the arms of Sapor required and would
have exercised, the abilities of the most consummate general; and it
seemed fortunate for the state, that it was the actual province of the
brave Ursicinus, who alone deserved the confidence of the soldiers
and people. In the hour of danger, [62] Ursicinus was removed from his
station by the intrigues of the eunuchs; and the military command of
the East was bestowed, by the same influence, on Sabinian, a wealthy and
subtle veteran, who had attained the infirmities, without acquiring
the experience, of age. By a second order, which issued from the same
jealous and inconstant councils, Ursicinus was again despatched to the
frontier of Mesopotamia, and condemned to sustain the labors of a war,
the honors of which had been transferred to his unworthy rival. Sabinian
fixed his indolent station under the walls of Edessa; and while he
amused himself with the idle parade of military exercise, and moved
to the sound of flutes in the Pyrrhic dance, the public defence was
abandoned to the boldness and diligence of the former general of
the East. But whenever Ursicinus recommended any vigorous plan of
operations; when he proposed, at the head of a light and active army, to
wheel round the foot of the mountains, to intercept the convoys of the
enemy, to harass the wide extent of the Persian lines, and to relieve
the distress of Amida; the timid and envious commander alleged, that he
was restrained by his positive orders from endangering the safety of
the troops. Amida was at length taken; its bravest defenders, who had
escaped the sword of the Barbarians, died in the Roman camp by the hand
of the executioner: and Ursicinus himself, after supporting the disgrace
of a partial inquiry, was punished for the misconduct of Sabinian by the
loss of his military rank. But Constantius soon experienced the truth
of the prediction which honest indignation had extorted from his injured
lieutenant, that as long as such maxims of government were suffered to
prevail, the emperor himself would find it is no easy task to defend
his eastern dominions from the invasion of a foreign enemy. When he had
subdued or pacified the Barbarians of the Danube, Constantius proceeded
by slow marches into the East; and after he had wept over the smoking
ruins of Amida, he formed, with a powerful army, the siege of Becabde.
The walls were shaken by the reiterated efforts of the most enormous of
the battering-rams; the town was reduced to the last extremity; but it
was still defended by the patient and intrepid valor of the garrison,
till the approach of the rainy season obliged the emperor to raise the
siege, and ingloviously to retreat into his winter quarters at Antioch.
[63] The pride of Constantius, and the ingenuity of his courtiers, were
at a loss to discover any materials for panegyric in the events of the
Persian war; while the glory of his cousin Julian, to whose military
command he had intrusted the provinces of Gaul, was proclaimed to the
world in the simple and concise narrative of his exploits.

[Footnote 62: Ammianus (xviii. 5, 6, xix. 3, xx. 2) represents the merit
and disgrace of Ursicinus with that faithful attention which a soldier
owed to his general. Some partiality may be suspected, yet the whole
account is consistent and probable.]

[Footnote 63: Ammian. xx. 11. Omisso vano incepto, hiematurus Antiochiae
redit in Syriam aerumnosam, perpessus et ulcerum sed et atrocia, diuque
deflenda. It is thus that James Gronovius has restored an obscure
passage; and he thinks that this correction alone would have deserved
a new edition of his author: whose sense may now be darkly perceived.
I expected some additional light from the recent labors of the learned
Ernestus. (Lipsiae, 1773.) * Note: The late editor (Wagner) has
nothing better to suggest, and le menta with Gibbon, the silence of

In the blind fury of civil discord, Constantius had abandoned to the
Barbarians of Germany the countries of Gaul, which still acknowledged
the authority of his rival. A numerous swarm of Franks and Alemanni were
invited to cross the Rhine by presents and promises, by the hopes of
spoil, and by a perpetual grant of all the territories which they should
be able to subdue. [64] But the emperor, who for a temporary service had
thus imprudently provoked the rapacious spirit of the Barbarians, soon
discovered and lamented the difficulty of dismissing these formidable
allies, after they had tasted the richness of the Roman soil. Regardless
of the nice distinction of loyalty and rebellion, these undisciplined
robbers treated as their natural enemies all the subjects of the
empire, who possessed any property which they were desirous of acquiring
Forty-five flourishing cities, Tongres, Cologne, Treves, Worms, Spires,
Strasburgh, &c., besides a far greater number of towns and villages,
were pillaged, and for the most part reduced to ashes. The Barbarians of
Germany, still faithful to the maxims of their ancestors, abhorred the
confinement of walls, to which they applied the odious names of prisons
and sepulchres; and fixing their independent habitations on the banks of
rivers, the Rhine, the Moselle, and the Meuse, they secured themselves
against the danger of a surprise, by a rude and hasty fortification of
large trees, which were felled and thrown across the roads. The Alemanni
were established in the modern countries of Alsace and Lorraine; the
Franks occupied the island of the Batavians, together with an extensive
district of Brabant, which was then known by the appellation of
Toxandria, [65] and may deserve to be considered as the original seat
of their Gallic monarchy. [66] From the sources, to the mouth, of the
Rhine, the conquests of the Germans extended above forty miles to the
west of that river, over a country peopled by colonies of their own name
and nation: and the scene of their devastations was three times more
extensive than that of their conquests. At a still greater distance the
open towns of Gaul were deserted, and the inhabitants of the fortified
cities, who trusted to their strength and vigilance, were obliged to
content themselves with such supplies of corn as they could raise on the
vacant land within the enclosure of their walls. The diminished legions,
destitute of pay and provisions, of arms and discipline, trembled at the
approach, and even at the name, of the Barbarians.

[Footnote 64: The ravages of the Germans, and the distress of Gaul,
may be collected from Julian himself. Orat. ad S. P. Q. Athen. p. 277.
Ammian. xv. ll. Libanius, Orat. x. Zosimus, l. iii. p. 140. Sozomen, l.
iii. c. l. (Mamertin. Grat. Art. c. iv.)]

[Footnote 65: Ammianus, xvi. 8. This name seems to be derived from the
Toxandri of Pliny, and very frequently occurs in the histories of
the middle age. Toxandria was a country of woods and morasses, which
extended from the neighborhood of Tongres to the conflux of the Vahal
and the Rhine. See Valesius, Notit. Galliar. p. 558.]

[Footnote 66: The paradox of P. Daniel, that the Franks never obtained
any permanent settlement on this side of the Rhine before the time of
Clovis, is refuted with much learning and good sense by M. Biet, who
has proved by a chain of evidence, their uninterrupted possession of
Toxandria, one hundred and thirty years before the accession of Clovis.
The Dissertation of M. Biet was crowned by the Academy of Soissons, in
the year 1736, and seems to have been justly preferred to the discourse
of his more celebrated competitor, the Abbe le Boeuf, an antiquarian,
whose name was happily expressive of his talents.]

Chapter XIX: Constantius Sole Emperor.--Part IV.

Under these melancholy circumstances, an unexperienced youth was
appointed to save and to govern the provinces of Gaul, or rather, as he
expressed it himself, to exhibit the vain image of Imperial greatness.
The retired scholastic education of Julian, in which he had been more
conversant with books than with arms, with the dead than with the
living, left him in profound ignorance of the practical arts of war and
government; and when he awkwardly repeated some military exercise which
it was necessary for him to learn, he exclaimed with a sigh, "O Plato,
Plato, what a task for a philosopher!" Yet even this speculative
philosophy, which men of business are too apt to despise, had filled the
mind of Julian with the noblest precepts and the most shining examples;
had animated him with the love of virtue, the desire of fame, and the
contempt of death. The habits of temperance recommended in the schools,
are still more essential in the severe discipline of a camp. The simple
wants of nature regulated the measure of his food and sleep. Rejecting
with disdain the delicacies provided for his table, he satisfied his
appetite with the coarse and common fare which was allotted to the
meanest soldiers. During the rigor of a Gallic winter, he never suffered
a fire in his bed-chamber; and after a short and interrupted slumber, he
frequently rose in the middle of the night from a carpet spread on the
floor, to despatch any urgent business, to visit his rounds, or to steal
a few moments for the prosecution of his favorite studies. [67] The
precepts of eloquence, which he had hitherto practised on fancied topics
of declamation, were more usefully applied to excite or to assuage the
passions of an armed multitude: and although Julian, from his early
habits of conversation and literature, was more familiarly acquainted
with the beauties of the Greek language, he had attained a competent
knowledge of the Latin tongue. [68] Since Julian was not originally
designed for the character of a legislator, or a judge, it is probable
that the civil jurisprudence of the Romans had not engaged any
considerable share of his attention: but he derived from his philosophic
studies an inflexible regard for justice, tempered by a disposition
to clemency; the knowledge of the general principles of equity and
evidence, and the faculty of patiently investigating the most intricate
and tedious questions which could be proposed for his discussion.
The measures of policy, and the operations of war, must submit to the
various accidents of circumstance and character, and the unpractised
student will often be perplexed in the application of the most perfect

But in the acquisition of this important science, Julian was assisted
by the active vigor of his own genius, as well as by the wisdom and
experience of Sallust, and officer of rank, who soon conceived a
sincere attachment for a prince so worthy of his friendship; and whose
incorruptible integrity was adorned by the talent of insinuating the
harshest truths without wounding the delicacy of a royal ear. [69]

[Footnote 67: The private life of Julian in Gaul, and the severe
discipline which he embraced, are displayed by Ammianus, (xvi. 5,) who
professes to praise, and by Julian himself, who affects to ridicule,
(Misopogon, p. 340,) a conduct, which, in a prince of the house of
Constantine, might justly excite the surprise of mankind.]

[Footnote 68: Aderat Latine quoque disserenti sufficiens sermo. Ammianus
xvi. 5. But Julian, educated in the schools of Greece, always considered
the language of the Romans as a foreign and popular dialect which he
might use on necessary occasions.]

[Footnote 69: We are ignorant of the actual office of this excellent
minister, whom Julian afterwards created praefect of Gaul. Sallust was
speedly recalled by the jealousy of the emperor; and we may still read a
sensible but pedantic discourse, (p. 240-252,) in which Julian deplores
the loss of so valuable a friend, to whom he acknowledges himself
indebted for his reputation. See La Bleterie, Preface a la Vie de
lovien, p. 20.]

Immediately after Julian had received the purple at Milan, he was sent
into Gaul with a feeble retinue of three hundred and sixty soldiers.
At Vienna, where he passed a painful and anxious winter in the hands of
those ministers to whom Constantius had intrusted the direction of his
conduct, the Caesar was informed of the siege and deliverance of
Autun. That large and ancient city, protected only by a ruined wall and
pusillanimous garrison, was saved by the generous resolution of a few
veterans, who resumed their arms for the defence of their country. In
his march from Autun, through the heart of the Gallic provinces, Julian
embraced with ardor the earliest opportunity of signalizing his courage.
At the head of a small body of archers and heavy cavalry, he preferred
the shorter but the more dangerous of two roads; [69a] and sometimes
eluding, and sometimes resisting, the attacks of the Barbarians, who
were masters of the field, he arrived with honor and safety at the camp
near Rheims, where the Roman troops had been ordered to assemble.
The aspect of their young prince revived the drooping spirits of the
soldiers, and they marched from Rheims in search of the enemy, with
a confidence which had almost proved fatal to them. The Alemanni,
familiarized to the knowledge of the country, secretly collected their
scattered forces, and seizing the opportunity of a dark and rainy day,
poured with unexpected fury on the rear-guard of the Romans. Before the
inevitable disorder could be remedied, two legions were destroyed; and
Julian was taught by experience that caution and vigilance are the most
important lessons of the art of war. In a second and more successful
action, he recovered and established his military fame; but as the
agility of the Barbarians saved them from the pursuit, his victory was
neither bloody nor decisive. He advanced, however, to the banks of
the Rhine, surveyed the ruins of Cologne, convinced himself of the
difficulties of the war, and retreated on the approach of winter,
discontented with the court, with his army, and with his own success.
[70] The power of the enemy was yet unbroken; and the Caesar had no
sooner separated his troops, and fixed his own quarters at Sens, in the
centre of Gaul, than he was surrounded and besieged, by a numerous host
of Germans. Reduced, in this extremity, to the resources of his own
mind, he displayed a prudent intrepidity, which compensated for all the
deficiencies of the place and garrison; and the Barbarians, at the end
of thirty days, were obliged to retire with disappointed rage.

[Footnote 69a: Aliis per Arbor--quibusdam per Sedelaucum et Coram in
debere firrantibus. Amm. Marc. xvi. 2. I do not know what place can be
meant by the mutilated name Arbor. Sedelanus is Saulieu, a small town of
the department of the Cote d'Or, six leagues from Autun. Cora answers
to the village of Cure, on the river of the same name, between Autun
and Nevera 4; Martin, ii. 162.--M. ----Note: At Brocomages, Brumat, near
Strasburgh. St. Martin, ii. 184.--M.]

[Footnote 70: Ammianus (xvi. 2, 3) appears much better satisfied with
the success of his first campaign than Julian himself; who very fairly
owns that he did nothing of consequence, and that he fled before the

The conscious pride of Julian, who was indebted only to his sword for
this signal deliverance, was imbittered by the reflection, that he was
abandoned, betrayed, and perhaps devoted to destruction, by those who
were bound to assist him, by every tie of honor and fidelity. Marcellus,
master-general of the cavalry in Gaul, interpreting too strictly
the jealous orders of the court, beheld with supine indifference the
distress of Julian, and had restrained the troops under his command from
marching to the relief of Sens. If the Caesar had dissembled in silence
so dangerous an insult, his person and authority would have been exposed
to the contempt of the world; and if an action so criminal had been
suffered to pass with impunity, the emperor would have confirmed the
suspicions, which received a very specious color from his past conduct
towards the princes of the Flavian family. Marcellus was recalled, and
gently dismissed from his office. [71] In his room Severus was appointed
general of the cavalry; an experienced soldier, of approved courage and
fidelity, who could advise with respect, and execute with zeal; and who
submitted, without reluctance to the supreme command which Julian,
by the inrerest of his patroness Eusebia, at length obtained over the
armies of Gaul. [72] A very judicious plan of operations was adopted for
the approaching campaign. Julian himself, at the head of the remains of
the veteran bands, and of some new levies which he had been permitted to
form, boldly penetrated into the centre of the German cantonments,
and carefully reestablished the fortifications of Saverne, in an
advantageous post, which would either check the incursions, or intercept
the retreat, of the enemy. At the same time, Barbatio, general of the
infantry, advanced from Milan with an army of thirty thousand men, and
passing the mountains, prepared to throw a bridge over the Rhine, in the
neighborhood of Basil. It was reasonable to expect that the Alemanni,
pressed on either side by the Roman arms, would soon be forced to
evacuate the provinces of Gaul, and to hasten to the defence of their
native country. But the hopes of the campaign were defeated by the
incapacity, or the envy, or the secret instructions, of Barbatio; who
acted as if he had been the enemy of the Caesar, and the secret ally
of the Barbarians. The negligence with which he permitted a troop of
pillagers freely to pass, and to return almost before the gates of his
camp, may be imputed to his want of abilities; but the treasonable act
of burning a number of boats, and a superfluous stock of provisions,
which would have been of the most essential service to the army of Gaul,
was an evidence of his hostile and criminal intentions. The Germans
despised an enemy who appeared destitute either of power or of
inclination to offend them; and the ignominious retreat of Barbatio
deprived Julian of the expected support; and left him to extricate
himself from a hazardous situation, where he could neither remain with
safety, nor retire with honor. [73]

[Footnote 71: Ammian. xvi. 7. Libanius speaks rather more advantageously
of the military talents of Marcellus, Orat. x. p. 272. And Julian
insinuates, that he would not have been so easily recalled, unless he
had given other reasons of offence to the court, p. 278.]

[Footnote 72: Severus, non discors, non arrogans, sed longa militiae
frugalitate compertus; et eum recta praeeuntem secuturus, ut duetorem
morigeran miles. Ammian xvi. 11. Zosimus, l. iii. p. 140.]

[Footnote 73: On the design and failure of the cooperation between
Julian and Barbatio, see Ammianus (xvi. 11) and Libanius, (Orat. x. p.
273.) Note: Barbatio seems to have allowed himself to be surprised and

As soon as they were delivered from the fears of invasion, the Alemanni
prepared to chastise the Roman youth, who presumed to dispute the
possession of that country, which they claimed as their own by the
right of conquest and of treaties. They employed three days, and as many
nights, in transporting over the Rhine their military powers. The fierce
Chnodomar, shaking the ponderous javelin which he had victoriously
wielded against the brother of Magnentius, led the van of the
Barbarians, and moderated by his experience the martial ardor which
his example inspired. [74] He was followed by six other kings, by ten
princes of regal extraction, by a long train of high-spirited nobles,
and by thirty-five thousand of the bravest warriors of the tribes of
Germany. The confidence derived from the view of their own strength, was
increased by the intelligence which they received from a deserter, that
the Caesar, with a feeble army of thirteen thousand men, occupied a
post about one-and-twenty miles from their camp of Strasburgh. With this
inadequate force, Julian resolved to seek and to encounter the Barbarian
host; and the chance of a general action was preferred to the tedious
and uncertain operation of separately engaging the dispersed parties of
the Alemanni. The Romans marched in close order, and in two columns; the
cavalry on the right, the infantry on the left; and the day was so far
spent when they appeared in sight of the enemy, that Julian was desirous
of deferring the battle till the next morning, and of allowing his
troops to recruit their exhausted strength by the necessary refreshments
of sleep and food. Yielding, however, with some reluctance, to the
clamors of the soldiers, and even to the opinion of his council, he
exhorted them to justify by their valor the eager impatience, which,
in case of a defeat, would be universally branded with the epithets of
rashness and presumption. The trumpets sounded, the military shout was
heard through the field, and the two armies rushed with equal fury to
the charge. The Caesar, who conducted in person his right wing, depended
on the dexterity of his archers, and the weight of his cuirassiers. But
his ranks were instantly broken by an irregular mixture of light horse
and of light infantry, and he had the mortification of beholding
the flight of six hundred of his most renowned cuirassiers. [75] The
fugitives were stopped and rallied by the presence and authority of
Julian, who, careless of his own safety, threw himself before them,
and urging every motive of shame and honor, led them back against the
victorious enemy. The conflict between the two lines of infantry was
obstinate and bloody. The Germans possessed the superiority of strength
and stature, the Romans that of discipline and temper; and as the
Barbarians, who served under the standard of the empire, united the
respective advantages of both parties, their strenuous efforts, guided
by a skilful leader, at length determined the event of the day. The
Romans lost four tribunes, and two hundred and forty-three soldiers, in
this memorable battle of Strasburgh, so glorious to the Caesar, [76]
and so salutary to the afflicted provinces of Gaul. Six thousand of
the Alemanni were slain in the field, without including those who were
drowned in the Rhine, or transfixed with darts while they attempted to
swim across the river. [77] Chnodomar himself was surrounded and taken
prisoner, with three of his brave companions, who had devoted themselves
to follow in life or death the fate of their chieftain. Julian received
him with military pomp in the council of his officers; and expressing a
generous pity for the fallen state, dissembled his inward contempt
for the abject humiliation, of his captive. Instead of exhibiting the
vanquished king of the Alemanni, as a grateful spectacle to the cities
of Gaul, he respectfully laid at the feet of the emperor this splendid
trophy of his victory. Chnodomar experienced an honorable treatment:
but the impatient Barbarian could not long survive his defeat, his
confinement, and his exile. [78]

[Footnote 74: Ammianus (xvi. 12) describes with his inflated eloquence
the figure and character of Chnodomar. Audax et fidens ingenti robore
lacertorum, ubi ardor proelii sperabatur immanis, equo spumante
sublimior, erectus in jaculum formidandae vastitatis, armorumque
nitore conspicuus: antea strenuus et miles, et utilis praeter caeteros
ductor... Decentium Caesarem superavit aequo marte congressus.]

[Footnote 75: After the battle, Julian ventured to revive the rigor of
ancient discipline, by exposing these fugitives in female apparel to
the derision of the whole camp. In the next campaign, these troops nobly
retrieved their honor. Zosimus, l. iii. p. 142.]

[Footnote 76: Julian himself (ad S. P. Q. Athen. p. 279) speaks of the
battle of Strasburgh with the modesty of conscious merit; Zosimus
compares it with the victory of Alexander over Darius; and yet we are at
a loss to discover any of those strokes of military genius which fix the
attention of ages on the conduct and success of a single day.]

[Footnote 77: Ammianus, xvi. 12. Libanius adds 2000 more to the
number of the slain, (Orat. x. p. 274.) But these trifling differences
disappear before the 60,000 Barbarians, whom Zosimus has sacrificed
to the glory of his hero, (l. iii. p. 141.) We might attribute this
extravagant number to the carelessness of transcribers, if this
credulous or partial historian had not swelled the army of 35,000
Alemanni to an innumerable multitude of Barbarians,. It is our own fault
if this detection does not inspire us with proper distrust on similar

[Footnote 78: Ammian. xvi. 12. Libanius, Orat. x. p. 276.]

After Julian had repulsed the Alemanni from the provinces of the Upper
Rhine, he turned his arms against the Franks, who were seated nearer
to the ocean, on the confines of Gaul and Germany; and who, from
their numbers, and still more from their intrepid valor, had ever been
esteemed the most formidable of the Barbarians. [79] Although they
were strongly actuated by the allurements of rapine, they professed a
disinterested love of war; which they considered as the supreme honor
and felicity of human nature; and their minds and bodies were so
completely hardened by perpetual action, that, according to the lively
expression of an orator, the snows of winter were as pleasant to them
as the flowers of spring. In the month of December, which followed the
battle of Strasburgh, Julian attacked a body of six hundred Franks, who
had thrown themselves into two castles on the Meuse. [80] In the midst
of that severe season they sustained, with inflexible constancy, a siege
of fifty-four days; till at length, exhausted by hunger, and satisfied
that the vigilance of the enemy, in breaking the ice of the river, left
them no hopes of escape, the Franks consented, for the first time, to
dispense with the ancient law which commanded them to conquer or to die.
The Caesar immediately sent his captives to the court of Constantius,
who, accepting them as a valuable present, [81] rejoiced in the
opportunity of adding so many heroes to the choicest troops of his
domestic guards. The obstinate resistance of this handful of Franks
apprised Julian of the difficulties of the expedition which he meditated
for the ensuing spring, against the whole body of the nation. His rapid
diligence surprised and astonished the active Barbarians. Ordering his
soldiers to provide themselves with biscuit for twenty days, he suddenly
pitched his camp near Tongres, while the enemy still supposed him in his
winter quarters of Paris, expecting the slow arrival of his convoys
from Aquitain. Without allowing the Franks to unite or deliberate,
he skilfully spread his legions from Cologne to the ocean; and by
the terror, as well as by the success, of his arms, soon reduced the
suppliant tribes to implore the clemency, and to obey the commands, of
their conqueror. The Chamavians submissively retired to their former
habitations beyond the Rhine; but the Salians were permitted to possess
their new establishment of Toxandria, as the subjects and auxiliaries
of the Roman empire. [82] The treaty was ratified by solemn oaths; and
perpetual inspectors were appointed to reside among the Franks, with
the authority of enforcing the strict observance of the conditions.
An incident is related, interesting enough in itself, and by no means
repugnant to the character of Julian, who ingeniously contrived both the
plot and the catastrophe of the tragedy. When the Chamavians sued for
peace, he required the son of their king, as the only hostage on whom
he could rely. A mournful silence, interrupted by tears and groans,
declared the sad perplexity of the Barbarians; and their aged chief
lamented in pathetic language, that his private loss was now imbittered
by a sense of public calamity. While the Chamavians lay prostrate at the
foot of his throne, the royal captive, whom they believed to have been
slain, unexpectedly appeared before their eyes; and as soon as the
tumult of joy was hushed into attention, the Caesar addressed the
assembly in the following terms: "Behold the son, the prince, whom you
wept. You had lost him by your fault. God and the Romans have restored
him to you. I shall still preserve and educate the youth, rather as a
monument of my own virtue, than as a pledge of your sincerity. Should
you presume to violate the faith which you have sworn, the arms of
the republic will avenge the perfidy, not on the innocent, but on the
guilty." The Barbarians withdrew from his presence, impressed with the
warmest sentiments of gratitude and admiration. [83]

[Footnote 79: Libanius (Orat. iii. p. 137) draws a very lively picture
of the manners of the Franks.]

[Footnote 80: Ammianus, xvii. 2. Libanius, Orat. x. p. 278. The Greek
orator, by misapprehending a passage of Julian, has been induced to
represent the Franks as consisting of a thousand men; and as his head
was always full of the Peloponnesian war, he compares them to the
Lacedaemonians, who were besieged and taken in the Island of Sphatoria.]

[Footnote 81: Julian. ad S. P. Q. Athen. p. 280. Libanius, Orat. x.
p. 278. According to the expression of Libanius, the emperor, which La
Bleterie understands (Vie de Julien, p. 118) as an honest confession,
and Valesius (ad Ammian. xvii. 2) as a mean evasion, of the truth. Dom
Bouquet, (Historiens de France, tom. i. p. 733,) by substituting
another word, would suppress both the difficulty and the spirit of this

[Footnote 82: Ammian. xvii. 8. Zosimus, l. iii. p. 146-150, (his
narrative is darkened by a mixture of fable,) and Julian. ad S. P. Q.
Athen. p. 280. His expression. This difference of treatment confirms the
opinion that the Salian Franks were permitted to retain the settlements
in Toxandria. Note: A newly discovered fragment of Eunapius, whom
Zosimus probably transcribed, illustrates this transaction. "Julian
commanded the Romans to abstain from all hostile measures against the
Salians, neither to waste or ravage their own country, for he called
every country their own which was surrendered without resistance or toil
on the part of the conquerors." Mai, Script. Vez Nov. Collect. ii. 256,
and Eunapius in Niebuhr, Byzant. Hist.]

[Footnote 83: This interesting story, which Zosimus has abridged, is
related by Eunapius, (in Excerpt. Legationum, p. 15, 16, 17,) with all
the amplifications of Grecian rhetoric: but the silence of Libanius,
of Ammianus, and of Julian himself, renders the truth of it extremely

It was not enough for Julian to have delivered the provinces of Gaul
from the Barbarians of Germany. He aspired to emulate the glory of the
first and most illustrious of the emperors; after whose example,
he composed his own commentaries of the Gallic war. [84] Caesar has
related, with conscious pride, the manner in which he twice passed the
Rhine. Julian could boast, that before he assumed the title of Augustus,
he had carried the Roman eagles beyond that great river in three
successful expeditions. [85] The consternation of the Germans, after
the battle of Strasburgh, encouraged him to the first attempt; and the
reluctance of the troops soon yielded to the persuasive eloquence of
a leader, who shared the fatigues and dangers which he imposed on the
meanest of the soldiers. The villages on either side of the Meyn, which
were plentifully stored with corn and cattle, felt the ravages of an
invading army. The principal houses, constructed with some imitation
of Roman elegance, were consumed by the flames; and the Caesar boldly
advanced about ten miles, till his progress was stopped by a dark
and impenetrable forest, undermined by subterraneous passages, which
threatened with secret snares and ambush every step of the assailants.
The ground was already covered with snow; and Julian, after repairing an
ancient castle which had been erected by Trajan, granted a truce of ten
months to the submissive Barbarians. At the expiration of the truce,
Julian undertook a second expedition beyond the Rhine, to humble the
pride of Surmar and Hortaire, two of the kings of the Alemanni, who had
been present at the battle of Strasburgh. They promised to restore
all the Roman captives who yet remained alive; and as the Caesar had
procured an exact account from the cities and villages of Gaul, of the
inhabitants whom they had lost, he detected every attempt to deceive
him, with a degree of readiness and accuracy, which almost established
the belief of his supernatural knowledge. His third expedition was
still more splendid and important than the two former. The Germans had
collected their military powers, and moved along the opposite banks of
the river, with a design of destroying the bridge, and of preventing
the passage of the Romans. But this judicious plan of defence was
disconcerted by a skilful diversion. Three hundred light-armed and
active soldiers were detached in forty small boats, to fall down the
stream in silence, and to land at some distance from the posts of the
enemy. They executed their orders with so much boldness and celerity,
that they had almost surprised the Barbarian chiefs, who returned in
the fearless confidence of intoxication from one of their nocturnal
festivals. Without repeating the uniform and disgusting tale of
slaughter and devastation, it is sufficient to observe, that Julian
dictated his own conditions of peace to six of the haughtiest kings of
the Alemanni, three of whom were permitted to view the severe discipline
and martial pomp of a Roman camp. Followed by twenty thousand captives,
whom he had rescued from the chains of the Barbarians, the Caesar
repassed the Rhine, after terminating a war, the success of which has
been compared to the ancient glories of the Punic and Cimbric victories.

[Footnote 84: Libanius, the friend of Julian, clearly insinuates
(Orat. ix. p. 178) that his hero had composed the history of his
Gallic campaigns But Zosimus (l. iii. p, 140) seems to have derived
his information only from the Orations and the Epistles of Julian. The
discourse which is addressed to the Athenians contains an accurate,
though general, account of the war against the Germans.]

[Footnote 85: See Ammian. xvii. 1, 10, xviii. 2, and Zosim. l. iii. p.
144. Julian ad S. P. Q. Athen. p. 280.]

As soon as the valor and conduct of Julian had secured an interval of
peace, he applied himself to a work more congenial to his humane and
philosophic temper. The cities of Gaul, which had suffered from the
inroads of the Barbarians, he diligently repaired; and seven important
posts, between Mentz and the mouth of the Rhine, are particularly
mentioned, as having been rebuilt and fortified by the order of Julian.
[86] The vanquished Germans had submitted to the just but humiliating
condition of preparing and conveying the necessary materials. The active
zeal of Julian urged the prosecution of the work; and such was the
spirit which he had diffused among the troops, that the auxiliaries
themselves, waiving their exemption from any duties of fatigue,
contended in the most servile labors with the diligence of the Roman
soldiers. It was incumbent on the Caesar to provide for the subsistence,
as well as for the safety, of the inhabitants and of the garrisons. The
desertion of the former, and the mutiny of the latter, must have been
the fatal and inevitable consequences of famine. The tillage of the
provinces of Gaul had been interrupted by the calamities of war; but the
scanty harvests of the continent were supplied, by his paternal care,
from the plenty of the adjacent island. Six hundred large barks, framed
in the forest of the Ardennes, made several voyages to the coast of
Britain; and returning from thence, laden with corn, sailed up the
Rhine, and distributed their cargoes to the several towns and fortresses
along the banks of the river. [87] The arms of Julian had restored a
free and secure navigation, which Constantinius had offered to purchase
at the expense of his dignity, and of a tributary present of two
thousand pounds of silver. The emperor parsimoniously refused to his
soldiers the sums which he granted with a lavish and trembling hand to
the Barbarians. The dexterity, as well as the firmness, of Julian was
put to a severe trial, when he took the field with a discontented army,
which had already served two campaigns, without receiving any regular
pay or any extraordinary donative. [88]

[Footnote 86: Ammian. xviii. 2. Libanius, Orat. x. p. 279, 280. Of these
seven posts, four are at present towns of some consequence; Bingen,
Andernach, Bonn, and Nuyss. The other three, Tricesimae, Quadriburgium,
and Castra Herculis, or Heraclea, no longer subsist; but there is
room to believe, that on the ground of Quadriburgium the Dutch have
constructed the fort of Schenk, a name so offensive to the fastidious
delicacy of Boileau. See D'Anville, Notice de l'Ancienne Gaule, p. 183.
Boileau, Epitre iv. and the notes. Note: Tricesimae, Kellen, Mannert,
quoted by Wagner. Heraclea, Erkeleus in the district of Juliers. St.
Martin, ii. 311.--M.]

[Footnote 87: We may credit Julian himself, (Orat. ad S. P. Q.
Atheniensem, p. 280,) who gives a very particular account of the
transaction. Zosimus adds two hundred vessels more, (l. iii. p. 145.) If
we compute the 600 corn ships of Julian at only seventy tons each, they
were capable of exporting 120,000 quarters, (see Arbuthnot's Weights
and Measures, p. 237;) and the country which could bear so large
an exportation, must already have attained an improved state of

[Footnote 88: The troops once broke out into a mutiny, immediately
before the second passage of the Rhine. Ammian. xvii. 9.]

A tender regard for the peace and happiness of his subjects was the
ruling principle which directed, or seemed to direct, the administration
of Julian. [89] He devoted the leisure of his winter quarters to the
offices of civil government; and affected to assume, with more pleasure,
the character of a magistrate than that of a general. Before he took the
field, he devolved on the provincial governors most of the public and
private causes which had been referred to his tribunal; but, on his
return, he carefully revised their proceedings, mitigated the rigor
of the law, and pronounced a second judgment on the judges themselves.
Superior to the last temptation of virtuous minds, an indiscreet and
intemperate zeal for justice, he restrained, with calmness and dignity,
the warmth of an advocate, who prosecuted, for extortion, the president
of the Narbonnese province. "Who will ever be found guilty," exclaimed
the vehement Delphidius, "if it be enough to deny?" "And who," replied
Julian, "will ever be innocent, if it be sufficient to affirm?" In the
general administration of peace and war, the interest of the sovereign
is commonly the same as that of his people; but Constantius would have
thought himself deeply injured, if the virtues of Julian had defrauded
him of any part of the tribute which he extorted from an oppressed
and exhausted country. The prince who was invested with the ensigns of
royalty, might sometimes presume to correct the rapacious insolence of
his inferior agents, to expose their corrupt arts, and to introduce an
equal and easier mode of collection. But the management of the finances
was more safely intrusted to Florentius, praetorian praefect of Gaul,
an effeminate tyrant, incapable of pity or remorse: and the haughty
minister complained of the most decent and gentle opposition, while
Julian himself was rather inclined to censure the weakness of his own
behavior. The Caesar had rejected, with abhorrence, a mandate for the
levy of an extraordinary tax; a new superindiction, which the praefect
had offered for his signature; and the faithful picture of the public
misery, by which he had been obliged to justify his refusal, offended
the court of Constantius. We may enjoy the pleasure of reading the
sentiments of Julian, as he expresses them with warmth and freedom in
a letter to one of his most intimate friends. After stating his own
conduct, he proceeds in the following terms: "Was it possible for the
disciple of Plato and Aristotle to act otherwise than I have done? Could
I abandon the unhappy subjects intrusted to my care? Was I not called
upon to defend them from the repeated injuries of these unfeeling
robbers? A tribune who deserts his post is punished with death, and
deprived of the honors of burial. With what justice could I pronounce
his sentence, if, in the hour of danger, I myself neglected a duty far
more sacred and far more important? God has placed me in this elevated
post; his providence will guard and support me. Should I be condemned to
suffer, I shall derive comfort from the testimony of a pure and upright
conscience. Would to Heaven that I still possessed a counsellor like
Sallust! If they think proper to send me a successor, I shall submit
without reluctance; and had much rather improve the short opportunity
of doing good, than enjoy a long and lasting impunity of evil." [90] The
precarious and dependent situation of Julian displayed his virtues and
concealed his defects. The young hero who supported, in Gaul, the throne
of Constantius, was not permitted to reform the vices of the government;
but he had courage to alleviate or to pity the distress of the people.
Unless he had been able to revive the martial spirit of the Romans,
or to introduce the arts of industry and refinement among their savage
enemies, he could not entertain any rational hopes of securing the
public tranquillity, either by the peace or conquest of Germany. Yet
the victories of Julian suspended, for a short time, the inroads of the
Barbarians, and delayed the ruin of the Western Empire.

[Footnote 89: Ammian. xvi. 5, xviii. 1. Mamertinus in Panegyr. Vet. xi.

[Footnote 90: Ammian. xvii. 3. Julian. Epistol. xv. edit. Spanheim. Such
a conduct almost justifies the encomium of Mamertinus. Ita illi anni
spatia divisa sunt, ut aut Barbaros domitet, aut civibus jura restituat,
perpetuum professus, aut contra hostem, aut contra vitia, certamen.]

His salutary influence restored the cities of Gaul, which had been so
long exposed to the evils of civil discord, Barbarian war, and domestic
tyranny; and the spirit of industry was revived with the hopes of
enjoyment. Agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, again flourished
under the protection of the laws; and the curioe, or civil corporations,
were again filled with useful and respectable members: the youth were
no longer apprehensive of marriage; and married persons were no longer
apprehensive of posterity: the public and private festivals were
celebrated with customary pomp; and the frequent and secure intercourse
of the provinces displayed the image of national prosperity. [91] A mind
like that of Julian must have felt the general happiness of which he was
the author; but he viewed, with particular satisfaction and complacency,
the city of Paris; the seat of his winter residence, and the object even
of his partial affection. [92] That splendid capital, which now embraces
an ample territory on either side of the Seine, was originally
confined to the small island in the midst of the river, from whence the
inhabitants derived a supply of pure and salubrious water. The river
bathed the foot of the walls; and the town was accessible only by two
wooden bridges. A forest overspread the northern side of the Seine, but
on the south, the ground, which now bears the name of the University,
was insensibly covered with houses, and adorned with a palace and
amphitheatre, baths, an aqueduct, and a field of Mars for the exercise
of the Roman troops. The severity of the climate was tempered by the
neighborhood of the ocean; and with some precautions, which experience
had taught, the vine and fig-tree were successfully cultivated. But in
remarkable winters, the Seine was deeply frozen; and the huge pieces of
ice that floated down the stream, might be compared, by an Asiatic, to
the blocks of white marble which were extracted from the quarries of
Phrygia. The licentiousness and corruption of Antioch recalled to the
memory of Julian the severe and simple manners of his beloved Lutetia;
[93] where the amusements of the theatre were unknown or despised. He
indignantly contrasted the effeminate Syrians with the brave and honest
simplicity of the Gauls, and almost forgave the intemperance, which was
the only stain of the Celtic character. [94] If Julian could now revisit
the capital of France, he might converse with men of science and genius,
capable of understanding and of instructing a disciple of the Greeks; he
might excuse the lively and graceful follies of a nation, whose martial
spirit has never been enervated by the indulgence of luxury; and he
must applaud the perfection of that inestimable art, which softens and
refines and embellishes the intercourse of social life.

[Footnote 91: Libanius, Orat. Parental. in Imp. Julian. c. 38, in
Fabricius Bibliothec. Graec. tom. vii. p. 263, 264.]

[Footnote 92: See Julian. in Misopogon, p. 340, 341. The primitive
state of Paris is illustrated by Henry Valesius, (ad Ammian. xx. 4,)
his brother Hadrian Valesius, or de Valois, and M. D'Anville, (in
their respective Notitias of ancient Gaul,) the Abbe de Longuerue,
(Description de la France, tom. i. p. 12, 13,) and M. Bonamy, (in the
Mem. de l'Aca demie des Inscriptions, tom. xv. p. 656-691.)]

[Footnote 93: Julian, in Misopogon, p. 340. Leuce tia, or Lutetia, was
the ancient name of the city, which, according to the fashion of the
fourth century, assumed the territorial appellation of Parisii.]

[Footnote 94: Julian in Misopogon, p. 359, 360.]

Chapter XX: Conversion Of Constantine.--Part I.

    The Motives, Progress, And Effects Of The Conversion Of
Constantine.--Legal Establishment And Constitution Of The Christian Or
Catholic Church.

The public establishment of Christianity may be considered as one of
those important and domestic revolutions which excite the most lively
curiosity, and afford the most valuable instruction. The victories and
the civil policy of Constantine no longer influence the state of Europe;
but a considerable portion of the globe still retains the impression
which it received from the conversion of that monarch; and the
ecclesiastical institutions of his reign are still connected, by an
indissoluble chain, with the opinions, the passions, and the interests
of the present generation. In the consideration of a subject which may
be examined with impartiality, but cannot be viewed with indifference,
a difficulty immediately arises of a very unexpected nature; that of
ascertaining the real and precise date of the conversion of Constantine.
The eloquent Lactantius, in the midst of his court, seems impatient [1]
to proclaim to the world the glorious example of the sovereign of Gaul;
who, in the first moments of his reign, acknowledged and adored the
majesty of the true and only God. [2] The learned Eusebius has ascribed
the faith of Constantine to the miraculous sign which was displayed in
the heavens whilst he meditated and prepared the Italian expedition. [3]
The historian Zosimus maliciously asserts, that the emperor had imbrued
his hands in the blood of his eldest son, before he publicly renounced
the gods of Rome and of his ancestors. [4] The perplexity produced by
these discordant authorities is derived from the behavior of Constantine
himself. According to the strictness of ecclesiastical language, the
first of the Christian emperors was unworthy of that name, till the
moment of his death; since it was only during his last illness that
he received, as a catechumen, the imposition of hands, [5] and was
afterwards admitted, by the initiatory rites of baptism, into the number
of the faithful. [6] The Christianity of Constantine must be allowed
in a much more vague and qualified sense; and the nicest accuracy is
required in tracing the slow and almost imperceptible gradations by
which the monarch declared himself the protector, and at length the
proselyte, of the church. It was an arduous task to eradicate the habits
and prejudices of his education, to acknowledge the divine power
of Christ, and to understand that the truth of his revelation was
incompatible with the worship of the gods. The obstacles which he had
probably experienced in his own mind, instructed him to proceed
with caution in the momentous change of a national religion; and he
insensibly discovered his new opinions, as far as he could enforce them
with safety and with effect. During the whole course of his reign, the
stream of Christianity flowed with a gentle, though accelerated, motion:
but its general direction was sometimes checked, and sometimes diverted,
by the accidental circumstances of the times, and by the prudence, or
possibly by the caprice, of the monarch. His ministers were permitted to
signify the intentions of their master in the various language which
was best adapted to their respective principles; [7] and he artfully
balanced the hopes and fears of his subjects, by publishing in the same
year two edicts; the first of which enjoined the solemn observance of
Sunday, [8] and the second directed the regular consultation of the
Aruspices. [9] While this important revolution yet remained in suspense,
the Christians and the Pagans watched the conduct of their sovereign
with the same anxiety, but with very opposite sentiments. The former
were prompted by every motive of zeal, as well as vanity, to exaggerate
the marks of his favor, and the evidences of his faith. The latter,
till their just apprehensions were changed into despair and resentment,
attempted to conceal from the world, and from themselves, that the
gods of Rome could no longer reckon the emperor in the number of their
votaries. The same passions and prejudices have engaged the partial
writers of the times to connect the public profession of Christianity
with the most glorious or the most ignominious aera of the reign of

[Footnote 1: The date of the Divine Institutions of Lactantius has
been accurately discussed, difficulties have been started, solutions
proposed, and an expedient imagined of two original editions; the former
published during the persecution of Diocletian, the latter under that of
Licinius. See Dufresnoy, Prefat. p. v. Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiast. tom.
vi. p. 465-470. Lardner's Credibility, part ii. vol. vii. p. 78-86.
For my own part, I am almost convinced that Lactantius dedicated his
Institutions to the sovereign of Gaul, at a time when Galerius, Maximin,
and even Licinius, persecuted the Christians; that is, between the years
306 and 311.]

[Footnote 2: Lactant. Divin. Instit. i. l. vii. 27. The first and
most important of these passages is indeed wanting in twenty-eight
manuscripts; but it is found in nineteen. If we weigh the comparative
value of these manuscripts, one of 900 years old, in the king of
France's library may be alleged in its favor; but the passage is omitted
in the correct manuscript of Bologna, which the P. de Montfaucon
ascribes to the sixth or seventh century (Diarium Italic. p. 489.) The
taste of most of the editors (except Isaeus; see Lactant. edit.
Dufresnoy, tom. i. p. 596) has felt the genuine style of Lactantius.]

[Footnote 3: Euseb. in Vit. Constant. l. i. c. 27-32.]

[Footnote 4: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 104.]

[Footnote 5: That rite was always used in making a catechumen, (see
Bingham's Antiquities. l. x. c. i. p. 419. Dom Chardon, Hist. des
Sacramens, tom. i. p. 62,) and Constantine received it for the first
time (Euseb. in Vit Constant. l. iv. c. 61) immediately before his
baptism and death. From the connection of these two facts, Valesius (ad
loc. Euseb.) has drawn the conclusion which is reluctantly admitted
by Tillemont, (Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 628,) and opposed with
feeble arguments by Mosheim, (p. 968.)]

[Footnote 6: Euseb. in Vit. Constant. l. iv. c. 61, 62, 63. The legend
of Constantine's baptism at Rome, thirteen years before his death, was
invented in the eighth century, as a proper motive for his donation.
Such has been the gradual progress of knowledge, that a story, of which
Cardinal Baronius (Annual Ecclesiast. A. D. 324, No. 43-49) declared
himself the unblushing advocate, is now feebly supported, even within
the verge of the Vatican. See the Antiquitates Christianae, tom. ii. p.
232; a work published with six approbations at Rome, in the year 1751 by
Father Mamachi, a learned Dominican.]

[Footnote 7: The quaestor, or secretary, who composed the law of the
Theodosian Code, makes his master say with indifference, "hominibus
supradictae religionis," (l. xvi. tit. ii. leg. 1.) The minister of
ecclesiastical affairs was allowed a more devout and respectful style,
the legal, most holy, and Catholic worship.]

[Footnote 8: Cod. Theodos. l. ii. viii. tit. leg. 1. Cod. Justinian. l.
iii. tit. xii. leg. 3. Constantine styles the Lord's day dies solis, a
name which could not offend the ears of his pagan subjects.]

[Footnote 9: Cod. Theodos. l. xvi. tit. x. leg. l. Godefroy, in the
character of a commentator, endeavors (tom. vi. p. 257) to excuse
Constantine; but the more zealous Baronius (Annal. Eccles. A. D. 321,
No. 17) censures his profane conduct with truth and asperity.]

Whatever symptoms of Christian piety might transpire in the discourses
or actions of Constantine, he persevered till he was near forty years
of age in the practice of the established religion; [10] and the same
conduct which in the court of Nicomedia might be imputed to his fear,
could be ascribed only to the inclination or policy of the sovereign of
Gaul. His liberality restored and enriched the temples of the gods;
the medals which issued from his Imperial mint are impressed with the
figures and attributes of Jupiter and Apollo, of Mars and Hercules;
and his filial piety increased the council of Olympus by the solemn
apotheosis of his father Constantius. [11] But the devotion of
Constantine was more peculiarly directed to the genius of the Sun,
the Apollo of Greek and Roman mythology; and he was pleased to be
represented with the symbols of the God of Light and Poetry. The
unerring shafts of that deity, the brightness of his eyes, his laurel
wreath, immortal beauty, and elegant accomplishments, seem to point him
out as the patron of a young hero. The altars of Apollo were crowned
with the votive offerings of Constantine; and the credulous multitude
were taught to believe, that the emperor was permitted to behold with
mortal eyes the visible majesty of their tutelar deity; and that, either
walking or in a vision, he was blessed with the auspicious omens of a
long and victorious reign. The Sun was universally celebrated as the
invincible guide and protector of Constantine; and the Pagans might
reasonably expect that the insulted god would pursue with unrelenting
vengeance the impiety of his ungrateful favorite. [12]

[Footnote 10: Theodoret. (l. i. c. 18) seems to insinuate that Helena
gave her son a Christian education; but we may be assured, from the
superior authority of Eusebius, (in Vit. Constant. l. iii. c. 47,)
that she herself was indebted to Constantine for the knowledge of

[Footnote 11: See the medals of Constantine in Ducange and Banduri. As
few cities had retained the privilege of coining, almost all the medals
of that age issued from the mint under the sanction of the Imperial

[Footnote 12: The panegyric of Eumenius, (vii. inter Panegyr. Vet.,)
which was pronounced a few months before the Italian war, abounds
with the most unexceptionable evidence of the Pagan superstition of
Constantine, and of his particular veneration for Apollo, or the Sun; to
which Julian alludes.]

As long as Constantine exercised a limited sovereignty over the
provinces of Gaul, his Christian subjects were protected by the
authority, and perhaps by the laws, of a prince, who wisely left to
the gods the care of vindicating their own honor. If we may credit the
assertion of Constantine himself, he had been an indignant spectator
of the savage cruelties which were inflicted, by the hands of Roman
soldiers, on those citizens whose religion was their only crime. [13] In
the East and in the West, he had seen the different effects of severity
and indulgence; and as the former was rendered still more odious by the
example of Galerius, his implacable enemy, the latter was recommended to
his imitation by the authority and advice of a dying father. The son of
Constantius immediately suspended or repealed the edicts of persecution,
and granted the free exercise of their religious ceremonies to all those
who had already professed themselves members of the church. They were
soon encouraged to depend on the favor as well as on the justice of
their sovereign, who had imbibed a secret and sincere reverence for the
name of Christ, and for the God of the Christians. [14]

[Footnote 13: Constantin. Orat. ad Sanctos, c. 25. But it might easily
be shown, that the Greek translator has improved the sense of the
Latin original; and the aged emperor might recollect the persecution of
Diocletian with a more lively abhorrence than he had actually felt to
the days of his youth and Paganism.]

[Footnote 14: See Euseb. Hist. Eccles. l. viii. 13, l. ix. 9, and in
Vit. Const. l. i. c. 16, 17 Lactant. Divin. Institut. i. l. Caecilius de
Mort. Persecut. c. 25.]

About five months after the conquest of Italy, the emperor made a solemn
and authentic declaration of his sentiments by the celebrated edict
of Milan, which restored peace to the Catholic church. In the personal
interview of the two western princes, Constantine, by the ascendant
of genius and power, obtained the ready concurrence of his colleague,
Licinius; the union of their names and authority disarmed the fury of
Maximin; and after the death of the tyrant of the East, the edict of
Milan was received as a general and fundamental law of the Roman world.

[Footnote 15: Caecilius (de Mort. Persecut. c. 48) has preserved the
Latin original; and Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. l. x. c. 5) has given
a Greek translation of this perpetual edict, which refers to some
provisional regulations.]

The wisdom of the emperors provided for the restitution of all the
civil and religious rights of which the Christians had been so unjustly
deprived. It was enacted that the places of worship, and public lands,
which had been confiscated, should be restored to the church, without
dispute, without delay, and without expense; and this severe injunction
was accompanied with a gracious promise, that if any of the purchasers
had paid a fair and adequate price, they should be indemnified from
the Imperial treasury. The salutary regulations which guard the future
tranquillity of the faithful are framed on the principles of enlarged
and equal toleration; and such an equality must have been interpreted
by a recent sect as an advantageous and honorable distinction. The
two emperors proclaim to the world, that they have granted a free and
absolute power to the Christians, and to all others, of following the
religion which each individual thinks proper to prefer, to which he has
addicted his mind, and which he may deem the best adapted to his
own use. They carefully explain every ambiguous word, remove every
exception, and exact from the governors of the provinces a strict
obedience to the true and simple meaning of an edict, which was designed
to establish and secure, without any limitation, the claims of religious
liberty. They condescend to assign two weighty reasons which have
induced them to allow this universal toleration: the humane intention of
consulting the peace and happiness of their people; and the pious hope,
that, by such a conduct, they shall appease and propitiate the Deity,
whose seat is in heaven. They gratefully acknowledge the many signal
proofs which they have received of the divine favor; and they trust that
the same Providence will forever continue to protect the prosperity of
the prince and people. From these vague and indefinite expressions of
piety, three suppositions may be deduced, of a different, but not of an
incompatible nature. The mind of Constantine might fluctuate between the
Pagan and the Christian religions. According to the loose and complying
notions of Polytheism, he might acknowledge the God of the Christians as
one of the many deities who compose the hierarchy of heaven. Or
perhaps he might embrace the philosophic and pleasing idea, that,
notwithstanding the variety of names, of rites, and of opinions, all the
sects, and all the nations of mankind, are united in the worship of the
common Father and Creator of the universe. [16]

[Footnote 16: A panegyric of Constantine, pronounced seven or eight
months after the edict of Milan, (see Gothofred. Chronolog. Legum, p. 7,
and Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 246,) uses the following
remarkable expression: "Summe rerum sator, cujus tot nomina sant, quot
linguas gentium esse voluisti, quem enim te ipse dici velin, scire non
possumus." (Panegyr. Vet. ix. 26.) In explaining Constantine's progress
in the faith, Mosheim (p. 971, &c.) is ingenious, subtle, prolix.]

But the counsels of princes are more frequently influenced by views of
temporal advantage, than by considerations of abstract and speculative
truth. The partial and increasing favor of Constantine may naturally be
referred to the esteem which he entertained for the moral character of
the Christians; and to a persuasion, that the propagation of the gospel
would inculcate the practice of private and public virtue. Whatever
latitude an absolute monarch may assume in his own conduct, whatever
indulgence he may claim for his own passions, it is undoubtedly his
interest that all his subjects should respect the natural and civil
obligations of society. But the operation of the wisest laws is
imperfect and precarious. They seldom inspire virtue, they cannot always
restrain vice. Their power is insufficient to prohibit all that they
condemn, nor can they always punish the actions which they prohibit.
The legislators of antiquity had summoned to their aid the powers of
education and of opinion. But every principle which had once maintained
the vigor and purity of Rome and Sparta, was long since extinguished
in a declining and despotic empire. Philosophy still exercised her
temperate sway over the human mind, but the cause of virtue derived very
feeble support from the influence of the Pagan superstition. Under these
discouraging circumstances, a prudent magistrate might observe with
pleasure the progress of a religion which diffused among the people a
pure, benevolent, and universal system of ethics, adapted to every duty
and every condition of life; recommended as the will and reason of
the supreme Deity, and enforced by the sanction of eternal rewards or
punishments. The experience of Greek and Roman history could not inform
the world how far the system of national manners might be reformed and
improved by the precepts of a divine revelation; and Constantine might
listen with some confidence to the flattering, and indeed reasonable,
assurances of Lactantius. The eloquent apologist seemed firmly to
expect, and almost ventured to promise, that the establishment of
Christianity would restore the innocence and felicity of the primitive
age; that the worship of the true God would extinguish war and
dissension among those who mutually considered themselves as the
children of a common parent; that every impure desire, every angry or
selfish passion, would be restrained by the knowledge of the gospel; and
that the magistrates might sheath the sword of justice among a people
who would be universally actuated by the sentiments of truth and piety,
of equity and moderation, of harmony and universal love. [17]

[Footnote 17: See the elegant description of Lactantius, (Divin
Institut. v. 8,) who is much more perspicuous and positive than becomes
a discreet prophet.]

The passive and unresisting obedience, which bows under the yoke of
authority, or even of oppression, must have appeared, in the eyes of
an absolute monarch, the most conspicuous and useful of the evangelic
virtues. [18] The primitive Christians derived the institution of civil
government, not from the consent of the people, but from the decrees
of Heaven. The reigning emperor, though he had usurped the sceptre
by treason and murder, immediately assumed the sacred character of
vicegerent of the Deity. To the Deity alone he was accountable for the
abuse of his power; and his subjects were indissolubly bound, by their
oath of fidelity, to a tyrant, who had violated every law of nature and
society. The humble Christians were sent into the world as sheep among
wolves; and since they were not permitted to employ force even in the
defence of their religion, they should be still more criminal if they
were tempted to shed the blood of their fellow-creatures in disputing
the vain privileges, or the sordid possessions, of this transitory life.
Faithful to the doctrine of the apostle, who in the reign of Nero had
preached the duty of unconditional submission, the Christians of the
three first centuries preserved their conscience pure and innocent
of the guilt of secret conspiracy, or open rebellion. While they
experienced the rigor of persecution, they were never provoked either to
meet their tyrants in the field, or indignantly to withdraw themselves
into some remote and sequestered corner of the globe. [19] The
Protestants of France, of Germany, and of Britain, who asserted with
such intrepid courage their civil and religious freedom, have been
insulted by the invidious comparison between the conduct of the
primitive and of the reformed Christians. [20] Perhaps, instead of
censure, some applause may be due to the superior sense and spirit of
our ancestors, who had convinced themselves that religion cannot abolish
the unalienable rights of human nature. [21] Perhaps the patience of
the primitive church may be ascribed to its weakness, as well as to its

A sect of unwarlike plebeians, without leaders, without arms, without
fortifications, must have encountered inevitable destruction in a rash
and fruitless resistance to the master of the Roman legions. But the
Christians, when they deprecated the wrath of Diocletian, or solicited
the favor of Constantine, could allege, with truth and confidence, that
they held the principle of passive obedience, and that, in the space
of three centuries, their conduct had always been conformable to their
principles. They might add, that the throne of the emperors would be
established on a fixed and permanent basis, if all their subjects,
embracing the Christian doctrine, should learn to suffer and to obey.

[Footnote 18: The political system of the Christians is explained by
Grotius, de Jure Belli et Pacis, l. i. c. 3, 4. Grotius was a republican
and an exile, but the mildness of his temper inclined him to support the
established powers.]

[Footnote 19: Tertullian. Apolog. c. 32, 34, 35, 36. Tamen nunquam
Albiniani, nec Nigriani vel Cassiani inveniri potuerunt Christiani.
Ad Scapulam, c. 2. If this assertion be strictly true, it excludes the
Christians of that age from all civil and military employments, which
would have compelled them to take an active part in the service of their
respective governors. See Moyle's Works, vol. ii. p. 349.]

[Footnote 20: See the artful Bossuet, (Hist. des Variations des Eglises
Protestantes, tom. iii. p. 210-258.) and the malicious Bayle, (tom ii.
p. 820.) I name Bayle, for he was certainly the author of the Avis aux
Refugies; consult the Dictionnaire Critique de Chauffepie, tom. i. part
ii. p. 145.]

[Footnote 21: Buchanan is the earliest, or at least the most celebrated,
of the reformers, who has justified the theory of resistance. See his
Dialogue de Jure Regni apud Scotos, tom. ii. p. 28, 30, edit. fol.

In the general order of Providence, princes and tyrants are considered
as the ministers of Heaven, appointed to rule or to chastise the nations
of the earth. But sacred history affords many illustrious examples of
the more immediate interposition of the Deity in the government of his
chosen people. The sceptre and the sword were committed to the hands of
Moses, of Joshua, of Gideon, of David, of the Maccabees; the virtues
of those heroes were the motive or the effect of the divine favor, the
success of their arms was destined to achieve the deliverance or the
triumph of the church. If the judges of Israel were occasional and
temporary magistrates, the kings of Judah derived from the royal unction
of their great ancestor an hereditary and indefeasible right, which
could not be forfeited by their own vices, nor recalled by the caprice
of their subjects. The same extraordinary providence, which was no
longer confined to the Jewish people, might elect Constantine and
his family as the protectors of the Christian world; and the devout
Lactantius announces, in a prophetic tone, the future glories of his
long and universal reign. [22] Galerius and Maximin, Maxentius and
Licinius, were the rivals who shared with the favorite of heaven the
provinces of the empire. The tragic deaths of Galerius and Maximin soon
gratified the resentment, and fulfilled the sanguine expectations,
of the Christians. The success of Constantine against Maxentius and
Licinius removed the two formidable competitors who still opposed the
triumph of the second David, and his cause might seem to claim the
peculiar interposition of Providence. The character of the Roman tyrant
disgraced the purple and human nature; and though the Christians might
enjoy his precarious favor, they were exposed, with the rest of his
subjects, to the effects of his wanton and capricious cruelty. The
conduct of Licinius soon betrayed the reluctance with which he had
consented to the wise and humane regulations of the edict of Milan. The
convocation of provincial synods was prohibited in his dominions; his
Christian officers were ignominiously dismissed; and if he avoided
the guilt, or rather danger, of a general persecution, his partial
oppressions were rendered still more odious by the violation of a solemn
and voluntary engagement. [23] While the East, according to the lively
expression of Eusebius, was involved in the shades of infernal darkness,
the auspicious rays of celestial light warmed and illuminated the
provinces of the West. The piety of Constantine was admitted as an
unexceptionable proof of the justice of his arms; and his use of victory
confirmed the opinion of the Christians, that their hero was inspired,
and conducted, by the Lord of Hosts. The conquest of Italy produced a
general edict of toleration; and as soon as the defeat of Licinius
had invested Constantine with the sole dominion of the Roman world, he
immediately, by circular letters, exhorted all his subjects to imitate,
without delay, the example of their sovereign, and to embrace the divine
truth of Christianity. [24]

[Footnote 22: Lactant Divin. Institut. i. l. Eusebius in the course of
his history, his life, and his oration, repeatedly inculcates the divine
right of Constantine to the empire.]

[Footnote 23: Our imperfect knowledge of the persecution of Licinius
is derived from Eusebius, (Hist. l. x. c. 8. Vit. Constantin. l. i. c.
49-56, l. ii. c. 1, 2.) Aurelius Victor mentions his cruelty in general

[Footnote 24: Euseb. in Vit. Constant. l. ii. c. 24-42 48-60.]

Chapter XX: Conversion Of Constantine.--Part II.

The assurance that the elevation of Constantine was intimately connected
with the designs of Providence, instilled into the minds of the
Christians two opinions, which, by very different means, assisted the
accomplishment of the prophecy. Their warm and active loyalty exhausted
in his favor every resource of human industry; and they confidently
expected that their strenuous efforts would be seconded by some
divine and miraculous aid. The enemies of Constantine have imputed to
interested motives the alliance which he insensibly contracted with the
Catholic church, and which apparently contributed to the success of his
ambition. In the beginning of the fourth century, the Christians still
bore a very inadequate proportion to the inhabitants of the empire; but
among a degenerate people, who viewed the change of masters with the
indifference of slaves, the spirit and union of a religious party
might assist the popular leader, to whose service, from a principle of
conscience, they had devoted their lives and fortunes. [25] The example
of his father had instructed Constantine to esteem and to reward the
merit of the Christians; and in the distribution of public offices,
he had the advantage of strengthening his government, by the choice
of ministers or generals, in whose fidelity he could repose a just and
unreserved confidence. By the influence of these dignified missionaries,
the proselytes of the new faith must have multiplied in the court and
army; the Barbarians of Germany, who filled the ranks of the legions,
were of a careless temper, which acquiesced without resistance in the
religion of their commander; and when they passed the Alps, it may
fairly be presumed, that a great number of the soldiers had already
consecrated their swords to the service of Christ and of Constantine.
[26] The habits of mankind and the interests of religion gradually
abated the horror of war and bloodshed, which had so long prevailed
among the Christians; and in the councils which were assembled under
the gracious protection of Constantine, the authority of the bishops was
seasonably employed to ratify the obligation of the military oath, and
to inflict the penalty of excommunication on those soldiers who threw
away their arms during the peace of the church. [27] While Constantine,
in his own dominions, increased the number and zeal of his faithful
adherents, he could depend on the support of a powerful faction in those
provinces which were still possessed or usurped by his rivals. A secret
disaffection was diffused among the Christian subjects of Maxentius
and Licinius; and the resentment, which the latter did not attempt to
conceal, served only to engage them still more deeply in the interest of
his competitor. The regular correspondence which connected the bishops
of the most distant provinces, enabled them freely to communicate their
wishes and their designs, and to transmit without danger any useful
intelligence, or any pious contributions, which might promote the
service of Constantine, who publicly declared that he had taken up arms
for the deliverance of the church. [28]

[Footnote 25: In the beginning of the last century, the Papists of
England were only a thirtieth, and the Protestants of France only a
fifteenth, part of the respective nations, to whom their spirit and
power were a constant object of apprehension. See the relations which
Bentivoglio (who was then nuncio at Brussels, and afterwards cardinal)
transmitted to the court of Rome, (Relazione, tom. ii. p. 211, 241.)
Bentivoglio was curious, well informed, but somewhat partial.]

[Footnote 26: This careless temper of the Germans appears almost
uniformly on the history of the conversion of each of the tribes.
The legions of Constantine were recruited with Germans, (Zosimus, l.
ii. p. 86;) and the court even of his father had been filled with
Christians. See the first book of the Life of Constantine, by Eusebius.]

[Footnote 27: De his qui arma projiciunt in pace, placuit eos abstinere
a communione. Council. Arelat. Canon. iii. The best critics apply these
words to the peace of the church.]

[Footnote 28: Eusebius always considers the second civil war against
Licinius as a sort of religious crusade. At the invitation of the
tyrant, some Christian officers had resumed their zones; or, in
other words, had returned to the military service. Their conduct was
afterwards censured by the twelfth canon of the Council of Nice; if this
particular application may be received, instead of the lo se and general
sense of the Greek interpreters, Balsamor Zonaras, and Alexis Aristenus.
See Beveridge, Pandect. Eccles. Graec. tom. i. p. 72, tom. ii. p. 73

The enthusiasm which inspired the troops, and perhaps the emperor
himself, had sharpened their swords while it satisfied their conscience.
They marched to battle with the full assurance, that the same God, who
had formerly opened a passage to the Israelites through the waters of
Jordan, and had thrown down the walls of Jericho at the sound of the
trumpets of Joshua, would display his visible majesty and power in
the victory of Constantine. The evidence of ecclesiastical history
is prepared to affirm, that their expectations were justified by the
conspicuous miracle to which the conversion of the first Christian
emperor has been almost unanimously ascribed. The real or imaginary
cause of so important an event, deserves and demands the attention of
posterity; and I shall endeavor to form a just estimate of the famous
vision of Constantine, by a distinct consideration of the standard,
the dream, and the celestial sign; by separating the historical, the
natural, and the marvellous parts of this extraordinary story, which, in
the composition of a specious argument, have been artfully confounded in
one splendid and brittle mass.

I. An instrument of the tortures which were inflicted only on slaves and
strangers, became on object of horror in the eyes of a Roman citizen;
and the ideas of guilt, of pain, and of ignominy, were closely united
with the idea of the cross. [29] The piety, rather than the humanity,
of Constantine soon abolished in his dominions the punishment which the
Savior of mankind had condescended to suffer; [30] but the emperor had
already learned to despise the prejudices of his education, and of
his people, before he could erect in the midst of Rome his own statue,
bearing a cross in its right hand; with an inscription which referred
the victory of his arms, and the deliverance of Rome, to the virtue of
that salutary sign, the true symbol of force and courage. [31] The same
symbol sanctified the arms of the soldiers of Constantine; the cross
glittered on their helmet, was engraved on their shields, was interwoven
into their banners; and the consecrated emblems which adorned the person
of the emperor himself, were distinguished only by richer materials
and more exquisite workmanship. [32] But the principal standard which
displayed the triumph of the cross was styled the Labarum, [33] an
obscure, though celebrated name, which has been vainly derived from
almost all the languages of the world. It is described [34] as a long
pike intersected by a transversal beam. The silken veil, which hung down
from the beam, was curiously inwrought with the images of the reigning
monarch and his children. The summit of the pike supported a crown of
gold which enclosed the mysterious monogram, at once expressive of the
figure of the cross, and the initial letters, of the name of Christ.
[35] The safety of the labarum was intrusted to fifty guards, of
approved valor and fidelity; their station was marked by honors and
emoluments; and some fortunate accidents soon introduced an opinion,
that as long as the guards of the labarum were engaged in the execution
of their office, they were secure and invulnerable amidst the darts of
the enemy. In the second civil war, Licinius felt and dreaded the power
of this consecrated banner, the sight of which, in the distress
of battle, animated the soldiers of Constantine with an invincible
enthusiasm, and scattered terror and dismay through the ranks of the
adverse legions. [36] The Christian emperors, who respected the example
of Constantine, displayed in all their military expeditions the standard
of the cross; but when the degenerate successors of Theodosius had
ceased to appear in person at the head of their armies, the labarum
was deposited as a venerable but useless relic in the palace of
Constantinople. [37] Its honors are still preserved on the medals of
the Flavian family. Their grateful devotion has placed the monogram
of Christ in the midst of the ensigns of Rome. The solemn epithets
of, safety of the republic, glory of the army, restoration of public
happiness, are equally applied to the religious and military trophies;
and there is still extant a medal of the emperor Constantius, where the
standard of the labarum is accompanied with these memorable words, By
This Sign Thou Shalt Conquer. [38]

[Footnote 29: Nomen ipsum crucis absit non modo a corpore civium Romano
rum, sed etiam a cogitatione, oculis, auribus. Cicero pro Raberio, c.
5. The Christian writers, Justin, Minucius Felix, Tertullian, Jerom, and
Maximus of Turin, have investigated with tolerable success the figure
or likeness of a cross in almost every object of nature or art; in the
intersection of the meridian and equator, the human face, a bird flying,
a man swimming, a mast and yard, a plough, a standard, &c., &c., &c. See
Lipsius de Cruce, l. i. c. 9.]

[Footnote 30: See Aurelius Victor, who considers this law as one of the
examples of Constantine's piety. An edict so honorable to Christianity
deserved a place in the Theodosian Code, instead of the indirect mention
of it, which seems to result from the comparison of the fifth and
eighteenth titles of the ninth book.]

[Footnote 31: Eusebius, in Vit. Constantin. l. i. c. 40. This statue,
or at least the cross and inscription, may be ascribed with more
probability to the second, or even third, visit of Constantine to Rome.
Immediately after the defeat of Maxentius, the minds of the senate and
people were scarcely ripe for this public monument.]

[Footnote 32: Agnoscas, regina, libens mea signa necesse est; In
quibus effigies crucis aut gemmata refulget Aut longis solido ex auro
praefertur in hastis. Hoc signo invictus, transmissis Alpibus Ultor
Servitium solvit miserabile Constantinus. Christus purpureum gemmanti
textus in auro Signabat Labarum, clypeorum insignia Christus Scripserat;
ardebat summis crux addita cristis. Prudent. in Symmachum, l. ii. 464,

[Footnote 33: The derivation and meaning of the word Labarum or Laborum,
which is employed by Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrose, Prudentius, &c., still
remain totally unknown, in spite of the efforts of the critics, who
have ineffectually tortured the Latin, Greek, Spanish, Celtic, Teutonic,
Illyric, Armenian, &c., in search of an etymology. See Ducange, in
Gloss. Med. et infim. Latinitat. sub voce Labarum, and Godefroy, ad Cod.
Theodos. tom. ii. p. 143.]

[Footnote 34: Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. l. i. c. 30, 31. Baronius
(Annal. Eccles. A. D. 312, No. 26) has engraved a representation of the

[Footnote 35: Transversa X litera, summo capite circumflexo, Christum
in scutis notat. Caecilius de M. P. c. 44, Cuper, (ad M. P. in edit.
Lactant. tom. ii. p. 500,) and Baronius (A. D. 312, No. 25) have
engraved from ancient monuments several specimens (as thus of these
monograms) which became extremely fashionable in the Christian world.]

[Footnote 36: Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. l. ii. c. 7, 8, 9. He
introduces the Labarum before the Italian expedition; but his narrative
seems to indicate that it was never shown at the head of an army till
Constantine above ten years afterwards, declared himself the enemy of
Licinius, and the deliverer of the church.]

[Footnote 37: See Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. xxv. Sozomen, l. i. c. 2.
Theophan. Chronograph. p. 11. Theophanes lived towards the end of the
eighth century, almost five hundred years after Constantine. The modern
Greeks were not inclined to display in the field the standard of
the empire and of Christianity; and though they depended on every
superstitious hope of defence, the promise of victory would have
appeared too bold a fiction.]

[Footnote 38: The Abbe du Voisin, p. 103, &c., alleges several of these
medals, and quotes a particular dissertation of a Jesuit the Pere de
Grainville, on this subject.]

II. In all occasions of danger and distress, it was the practice of the
primitive Christians to fortify their minds and bodies by the sign of
the cross, which they used, in all their ecclesiastical rites, in all
the daily occurrences of life, as an infallible preservative against
every species of spiritual or temporal evil. [39] The authority of the
church might alone have had sufficient weight to justify the devotion of
Constantine, who in the same prudent and gradual progress acknowledged
the truth, and assumed the symbol, of Christianity. But the testimony of
a contemporary writer, who in a formal treatise has avenged the cause of
religion, bestows on the piety of the emperor a more awful and sublime
character. He affirms, with the most perfect confidence, that in the
night which preceded the last battle against Maxentius, Constantine was
admonished in a dream [39a] to inscribe the shields of his soldiers with
the celestial sign of God, the sacred monogram of the name of Christ;
that he executed the commands of Heaven, and that his valor and
obedience were rewarded by the decisive victory of the Milvian Bridge.
Some considerations might perhaps incline a sceptical mind to suspect
the judgment or the veracity of the rhetorician, whose pen, either from
zeal or interest, was devoted to the cause of the prevailing faction.
[40] He appears to have published his deaths of the persecutors at
Nicomedia about three years after the Roman victory; but the interval of
a thousand miles, and a thousand days, will allow an ample latitude
for the invention of declaimers, the credulity of party, and the tacit
approbation of the emperor himself who might listen without indignation
to a marvellous tale, which exalted his fame, and promoted his designs.
In favor of Licinius, who still dissembled his animosity to the
Christians, the same author has provided a similar vision, of a form of
prayer, which was communicated by an angel, and repeated by the whole
army before they engaged the legions of the tyrant Maximin. The frequent
repetition of miracles serves to provoke, where it does not subdue, the
reason of mankind; [41] but if the dream of Constantine is separately
considered, it may be naturally explained either by the policy or the
enthusiasm of the emperor. Whilst his anxiety for the approaching day,
which must decide the fate of the empire, was suspended by a short and
interrupted slumber, the venerable form of Christ, and the well-known
symbol of his religion, might forcibly offer themselves to the active
fancy of a prince who reverenced the name, and had perhaps secretly
implored the power, of the God of the Christians. As readily might a
consummate statesman indulge himself in the use of one of those military
stratagems, one of those pious frauds, which Philip and Sertorius had
employed with such art and effect. [42] The praeternatural origin of
dreams was universally admitted by the nations of antiquity, and a
considerable part of the Gallic army was already prepared to place their
confidence in the salutary sign of the Christian religion. The secret
vision of Constantine could be disproved only by the event; and the
intrepid hero who had passed the Alps and the Apennine, might view with
careless despair the consequences of a defeat under the walls of Rome.
The senate and people, exulting in their own deliverance from an odious
tyrant, acknowledged that the victory of Constantine surpassed the
powers of man, without daring to insinuate that it had been obtained by
the protection of the gods. The triumphal arch, which was erected about
three years after the event, proclaims, in ambiguous language, that
by the greatness of his own mind, and by an instinct or impulse of the
Divinity, he had saved and avenged the Roman republic. [43] The Pagan
orator, who had seized an earlier opportunity of celebrating the virtues
of the conqueror, supposes that he alone enjoyed a secret and intimate
commerce with the Supreme Being, who delegated the care of mortals to
his subordinate deities; and thus assigns a very plausible reason
why the subjects of Constantine should not presume to embrace the new
religion of their sovereign. [44]

[Footnote 39: Tertullian de Corona, c. 3. Athanasius, tom. i. p. 101.
The learned Jesuit Petavius (Dogmata Theolog. l. xv. c. 9, 10) has
collected many similar passages on the virtues of the cross, which in
the last age embarrassed our Protestant disputants.]

[Footnote 39a: Manso has observed, that Gibbon ought not to have
separated the vision of Constantine from the wonderful apparition in the
sky, as the two wonders are closely connected in Eusebius. Manso, Leben
Constantine, p. 82--M.]

[Footnote 40: Caecilius de M. P. c. 44. It is certain, that this
historical declamation was composed and published while Licinius,
sovereign of the East, still preserved the friendship of Constantine and
of the Christians. Every reader of taste must perceive that the style
is of a very different and inferior character to that of Lactantius;
and such indeed is the judgment of Le Clerc and Lardner, (Bibliotheque
Ancienne et Moderne, tom. iii. p. 438. Credibility of the Gospel, &c.,
part ii. vol. vii. p. 94.) Three arguments from the title of the
book, and from the names of Donatus and Caecilius, are produced by the
advocates for Lactantius. (See the P. Lestocq, tom. ii. p. 46-60.) Each
of these proofs is singly weak and defective; but their concurrence
has great weight. I have often fluctuated, and shall tamely follow the
Colbert Ms. in calling the author (whoever he was) Caecilius.]

[Footnote 41: Caecilius de M. P. c. 46. There seems to be some reason
in the observation of M. de Voltaire, (Euvres, tom. xiv. p. 307.) who
ascribes to the success of Constantine the superior fame of his
Labarum above the angel of Licinius. Yet even this angel is favorably
entertained by Pagi, Tillemont, Fleury, &c., who are fond of increasing
their stock of miracles.]

[Footnote 42: Besides these well-known examples, Tollius (Preface to
Boileau's translation of Longinus) has discovered a vision of Antigonus,
who assured his troops that he had seen a pentagon (the symbol of
safety) with these words, "In this conquer." But Tollius has most
inexcusably omitted to produce his authority, and his own character,
literary as well as moral, is not free from reproach. (See Chauffepie,
Dictionnaire Critique, tom. iv. p. 460.) Without insisting on the
silence of Diodorus Plutarch, Justin, &c., it may be observed that
Polyaenus, who in a separate chapter (l. iv. c. 6) has collected
nineteen military stratagems of Antigonus, is totally ignorant of this
remarkable vision.]

[Footnote 43: Instinctu Divinitatis, mentis magnitudine. The inscription
on the triumphal arch of Constantine, which has been copied by Baronius,
Gruter, &c., may still be perused by every curious traveller.]

[Footnote 44: Habes profecto aliquid cum illa mente Divina secretum;
qua delegata nostra Diis Minoribus cura uni se tibi dignatur ostendere
Panegyr. Vet. ix. 2.]

III. The philosopher, who with calm suspicion examines the dreams and
omens, the miracles and prodigies, of profane or even of ecclesiastical
history, will probably conclude, that if the eyes of the spectators have
sometimes been deceived by fraud, the understanding of the readers
has much more frequently been insulted by fiction. Every event, or
appearance, or accident, which seems to deviate from the ordinary course
of nature, has been rashly ascribed to the immediate action of the
Deity; and the astonished fancy of the multitude has sometimes given
shape and color, language and motion, to the fleeting but uncommon
meteors of the air. [45] Nazarius and Eusebius are the two most
celebrated orators, who, in studied panegyrics, have labored to exalt
the glory of Constantine. Nine years after the Roman victory, Nazarius
[46] describes an army of divine warriors, who seemed to fall from the
sky: he marks their beauty, their spirit, their gigantic forms, the
stream of light which beamed from their celestial armor, their patience
in suffering themselves to be heard, as well as seen, by mortals; and
their declaration that they were sent, that they flew, to the assistance
of the great Constantine. For the truth of this prodigy, the Pagan
orator appeals to the whole Gallic nation, in whose presence he was then
speaking; and seems to hope that the ancient apparitions [47] would now
obtain credit from this recent and public event. The Christian fable of
Eusebius, which, in the space of twenty-six years, might arise from the
original dream, is cast in a much more correct and elegant mould. In one
of the marches of Constantine, he is reported to have seen with his own
eyes the luminous trophy of the cross, placed above the meridian sun and
inscribed with the following words: By This Conquer. This amazing object
in the sky astonished the whole army, as well as the emperor himself,
who was yet undetermined in the choice of a religion: but his
astonishment was converted into faith by the vision of the ensuing
night. Christ appeared before his eyes; and displaying the same
celestial sign of the cross, he directed Constantine to frame a similar
standard, and to march, with an assurance of victory, against Maxentius
and all his enemies. [48] The learned bishop of Caesarea appears to be
sensible, that the recent discovery of this marvellous anecdote would
excite some surprise and distrust among the most pious of his readers.
Yet, instead of ascertaining the precise circumstances of time and
place, which always serve to detect falsehood or establish truth; [49]
instead of collecting and recording the evidence of so many living
witnesses who must have been spectators of this stupendous miracle; [50]
Eusebius contents himself with alleging a very singular testimony; that
of the deceased Constantine, who, many years after the event, in the
freedom of conversation, had related to him this extraordinary incident
of his own life, and had attested the truth of it by a solemn oath. The
prudence and gratitude of the learned prelate forbade him to suspect the
veracity of his victorious master; but he plainly intimates, that in a
fact of such a nature, he should have refused his assent to any meaner
authority. This motive of credibility could not survive the power of
the Flavian family; and the celestial sign, which the Infidels might
afterwards deride, [51] was disregarded by the Christians of the age
which immediately followed the conversion of Constantine. [52] But the
Catholic church, both of the East and of the West, has adopted a prodigy
which favors, or seems to favor, the popular worship of the cross. The
vision of Constantine maintained an honorable place in the legend of
superstition, till the bold and sagacious spirit of criticism presumed
to depreciate the triumph, and to arraign the truth, of the first
Christian emperor. [53]

[Footnote 45: M. Freret (Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom.
iv. p. 411-437) explains, by physical causes, many of the prodigies of
antiquity; and Fabricius, who is abused by both parties, vainly tries
to introduce the celestial cross of Constantine among the solar halos.
Bibliothec. Graec. tom. iv. p. 8-29. * Note: The great difficulty in
resolving it into a natural phenomenon, arises from the inscription;
even the most heated or awe-struck imagination would hardly discover
distinct and legible letters in a solar halo. But the inscription may
have been a later embellishment, or an interpretation of the meaning
which the sign was construed to convey. Compare Heirichen, Excur in
locum Eusebii, and the authors quoted.]

[Footnote 46: Nazarius inter Panegyr. Vet. x. 14, 15. It is unnecessary
to name the moderns, whose undistinguishing and ravenous appetite has
swallowed even the Pagan bait of Nazarius.]

[Footnote 47: The apparitions of Castor and Pollux, particularly to
announce the Macedonian victory, are attested by historians and public
monuments. See Cicero de Natura Deorum, ii. 2, iii. 5, 6. Florus, ii.
12. Valerius Maximus, l. i. c. 8, No. 1. Yet the most recent of these
miracles is omitted, and indirectly denied, by Livy, (xlv. i.)]

[Footnote 48: Eusebius, l. i. c. 28, 29, 30. The silence of the same
Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History, is deeply felt by those
advocates for the miracle who are not absolutely callous.]

[Footnote 49: The narrative of Constantine seems to indicate, that he
saw the cross in the sky before he passed the Alps against Maxentius.
The scene has been fixed by provincial vanity at Treves, Besancon, &c.
See Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 573.]

[Footnote 50: The pious Tillemont (Mem. Eccles. tom. vii. p. 1317)
rejects with a sigh the useful Acts of Artemius, a veteran and a martyr,
who attests as an eye-witness to the vision of Constantine.]

[Footnote 51: Gelasius Cyzic. in Act. Concil. Nicen. l. i. c. 4.]

[Footnote 52: The advocates for the vision are unable to produce a
single testimony from the Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries,
who, in their voluminous writings, repeatedly celebrate the triumph
of the church and of Constantine. As these venerable men had not any
dislike to a miracle, we may suspect, (and the suspicion is confirmed by
the ignorance of Jerom,) that they were all unacquainted with the life
of Constantine by Eusebius. This tract was recovered by the diligence
of those who translated or continued his Ecclesiastical History, and who
have represented in various colors the vision of the cross.]

[Footnote 53: Godefroy was the first, who, in the year 1643, (Not ad
Philostorgium, l. i. c. 6, p. 16,) expressed any doubt of a miracle
which had been supported with equal zeal by Cardinal Baronius, and the
Centuriators of Magdeburgh. Since that time, many of the Protestant
critics have inclined towards doubt and disbelief. The objections are
urged, with great force, by M. Chauffepie, (Dictionnaire Critique, tom.
iv. p. 6--11;) and, in the year 1774, a doctor of Sorbonne, the Abbe du
Veisin published an apology, which deserves the praise of learning
and moderation. * Note: The first Excursus of Heinichen (in Vitam
Constantini, p. 507) contains a full summary of the opinions and
arguments of the later writers who have discussed this interminable
subject. As to his conversion, where interest and inclination, state
policy, and, if not a sincere conviction of its truth, at least a
respect, an esteem, an awe of Christianity, thus coincided, Constantine
himself would probably have been unable to trace the actual history of
the workings of his own mind, or to assign its real influence to each
concurrent motive.--M]

The Protestant and philosophic readers of the present age will incline
to believe, that in the account of his own conversion, Constantine
attested a wilful falsehood by a solemn and deliberate perjury. They may
not hesitate to pronounce, that in the choice of a religion, his mind
was determined only by a sense of interest; and that (according to the
expression of a profane poet) [54] he used the altars of the church as a
convenient footstool to the throne of the empire. A conclusion so harsh
and so absolute is not, however, warranted by our knowledge of human
nature, of Constantine, or of Christianity. In an age of religious
fervor, the most artful statesmen are observed to feel some part of the
enthusiasm which they inspire, and the most orthodox saints assume
the dangerous privilege of defending the cause of truth by the arms of
deceit and falsehood.

Personal interest is often the standard of our belief, as well as of
our practice; and the same motives of temporal advantage which might
influence the public conduct and professions of Constantine, would
insensibly dispose his mind to embrace a religion so propitious to his
fame and fortunes. His vanity was gratified by the flattering assurance,
that he had been chosen by Heaven to reign over the earth; success had
justified his divine title to the throne, and that title was founded
on the truth of the Christian revelation. As real virtue is sometimes
excited by undeserved applause, the specious piety of Constantine, if at
first it was only specious, might gradually, by the influence of praise,
of habit, and of example, be matured into serious faith and fervent
devotion. The bishops and teachers of the new sect, whose dress and
manners had not qualified them for the residence of a court, were
admitted to the Imperial table; they accompanied the monarch in his
expeditions; and the ascendant which one of them, an Egyptian or a
Spaniard, [55] acquired over his mind, was imputed by the Pagans to the
effect of magic. [56] Lactantius, who has adorned the precepts of
the gospel with the eloquence of Cicero, [57] and Eusebius, who has
consecrated the learning and philosophy of the Greeks to the service of
religion, [58] were both received into the friendship and familiarity of
their sovereign; and those able masters of controversy could patiently
watch the soft and yielding moments of persuasion, and dexterously
apply the arguments which were the best adapted to his character and
understanding. Whatever advantages might be derived from the acquisition
of an Imperial proselyte, he was distinguished by the splendor of his
purple, rather than by the superiority of wisdom, or virtue, from
the many thousands of his subjects who had embraced the doctrines of
Christianity. Nor can it be deemed incredible, that the mind of an
unlettered soldier should have yielded to the weight of evidence, which,
in a more enlightened age, has satisfied or subdued the reason of a
Grotius, a Pascal, or a Locke. In the midst of the incessant labors
of his great office, this soldier employed, or affected to employ, the
hours of the night in the diligent study of the Scriptures, and the
composition of theological discourses; which he afterwards pronounced
in the presence of a numerous and applauding audience. In a very long
discourse, which is still extant, the royal preacher expatiates on
the various proofs still extant, the royal preacher expatiates on the
various proofs of religion; but he dwells with peculiar complacency on
the Sibylline verses, [59] and the fourth eclogue of Virgil. [60] Forty
years before the birth of Christ, the Mantuan bard, as if inspired
by the celestial muse of Isaiah, had celebrated, with all the pomp of
oriental metaphor, the return of the Virgin, the fall of the serpent,
the approaching birth of a godlike child, the offspring of the great
Jupiter, who should expiate the guilt of human kind, and govern
the peaceful universe with the virtues of his father; the rise and
appearance of a heavenly race, primitive nation throughout the world;
and the gradual restoration of the innocence and felicity of the golden
age. The poet was perhaps unconscious of the secret sense and object of
these sublime predictions, which have been so unworthily applied to the
infant son of a consul, or a triumvir; [61] but if a more splendid, and
indeed specious interpretation of the fourth eclogue contributed to
the conversion of the first Christian emperor, Virgil may deserve to be
ranked among the most successful missionaries of the gospel. [62]

[Footnote 54:

     Lors Constantin dit ces propres paroles:
     J'ai renverse le culte des idoles:
     Sur les debris de leurs temples fumans
     Au Dieu du Ciel j'ai prodigue l'encens.
     Mais tous mes soins pour sa grandeur supreme
          N'eurent jamais d'autre objet que moi-meme;

     Les saints autels n'etoient a mes regards
     Qu'un marchepie du trone des Cesars.
     L'ambition, la fureur, les delices
     Etoient mes Dieux, avoient mes sacrifices.
     L'or des Chretiens, leur intrigues, leur sang
         Ont cimente ma fortune et mon rang.

The poem which contains these lines may be read with pleasure, but
cannot be named with decency.]

[Footnote 55: This favorite was probably the great Osius, bishop of
Cordova, who preferred the pastoral care of the whole church to the
government of a particular diocese. His character is magnificently,
though concisely, expressed by Athanasius, (tom. i. p. 703.) See
Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. vii. p. 524-561. Osius was accused, perhaps
unjustly, of retiring from court with a very ample fortune.]

[Footnote 56: See Eusebius (in Vit. Constant. passim) and Zosimus, l.
ii. p. 104.]

[Footnote 57: The Christianity of Lactantius was of a moral rather
than of a mysterious cast. "Erat paene rudis (says the orthodox Bull)
disciplinae Christianae, et in rhetorica melius quam in theologia
versatus." Defensio Fidei Nicenae, sect. ii. c. 14.]

[Footnote 58: Fabricius, with his usual diligence, has collected a list
of between three and four hundred authors quoted in the Evangelical
Preparation of Eusebius. See Bibl. Graec. l. v. c. 4, tom. vi. p.

[Footnote 59: See Constantin. Orat. ad Sanctos, c. 19 20. He chiefly
depends on a mysterious acrostic, composed in the sixth age after the
Deluge, by the Erythraean Sibyl, and translated by Cicero into Latin.
The initial letters of the thirty-four Greek verses form this prophetic
sentence: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of the World.]

[Footnote 60: In his paraphrase of Virgil, the emperor has frequently
assisted and improved the literal sense of the Latin ext. See Blondel
des Sibylles, l. i. c. 14, 15, 16.]

[Footnote 61: The different claims of an elder and younger son of
Pollio, of Julia, of Drusus, of Marcellus, are found to be incompatible
with chronology, history, and the good sense of Virgil.]

[Footnote 62: See Lowth de Sacra Poesi Hebraeorum Praelect. xxi. p. 289-
293. In the examination of the fourth eclogue, the respectable bishop
of London has displayed learning, taste, ingenuity, and a temperate
enthusiasm, which exalts his fancy without degrading his judgment.]

Chapter XX: Conversion Of Constantine.--Part III.

The awful mysteries of the Christian faith and worship were concealed
from the eyes of strangers, and even of catechu mens, with an affected
secrecy, which served to excite their wonder and curiosity. [63] But
the severe rules of discipline which the prudence of the bishops had
instituted, were relaxed by the same prudence in favor of an Imperial
proselyte, whom it was so important to allure, by every gentle
condescension, into the pale of the church; and Constantine was
permitted, at least by a tacit dispensation, to enjoy most of the
privileges, before he had contracted any of the obligations, of a
Christian. Instead of retiring from the congregation, when the voice of
the deacon dismissed the profane multitude, he prayed with the faithful,
disputed with the bishops, preached on the most sublime and intricate
subjects of theology, celebrated with sacred rites the vigil of Easter,
and publicly declared himself, not only a partaker, but, in some
measure, a priest and hierophant of the Christian mysteries. [64] The
pride of Constantine might assume, and his services had deserved, some
extraordinary distinction: and ill-timed rigor might have blasted the
unripened fruits of his conversion; and if the doors of the church had
been strictly closed against a prince who had deserted the altars of
the gods, the master of the empire would have been left destitute of
any form of religious worship. In his last visit to Rome, he piously
disclaimed and insulted the superstition of his ancestors, by refusing
to lead the military procession of the equestrian order, and to offer
the public vows to the Jupiter of the Capitoline Hill. [65] Many years
before his baptism and death, Constantine had proclaimed to the world,
that neither his person nor his image should ever more be seen within
the walls of an idolatrous temple; while he distributed through the
provinces a variety of medals and pictures, which represented the
emperor in an humble and suppliant posture of Christian devotion. [66]

[Footnote 63: The distinction between the public and the secret parts of
divine service, the missa catechumenorum and the missa fidelium, and the
mysterious veil which piety or policy had cast over the latter, are very
judiciously explained by Thiers, Exposition du Saint Sacrament, l. i. c.
8- 12, p. 59-91: but as, on this subject, the Papists may reasonably be
suspected, a Protestant reader will depend with more confidence on the
learned Bingham, Antiquities, l. x. c. 5.]

[Footnote 64: See Eusebius in Vit. Const. l. iv. c. 15-32, and the whole
tenor of Constantine's Sermon. The faith and devotion of the emperor
has furnished Batonics with a specious argument in favor of his early
baptism. Note: Compare Heinichen, Excursus iv. et v., where these
questions are examined with candor and acuteness, and with constant
reference to the opinions of more modern writers.--M.]

[Footnote 65: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 105.]

[Footnote 66: Eusebius in Vit. Constant. l. iv. c. 15, 16.]

The pride of Constantine, who refused the privileges of a catechumen,
cannot easily be explained or excused; but the delay of his baptism may
be justified by the maxims and the practice of ecclesiastical antiquity.
The sacrament of baptism [67] was regularly administered by the bishop
himself, with his assistant clergy, in the cathedral church of the
diocese, during the fifty days between the solemn festivals of Easter
and Pentecost; and this holy term admitted a numerous band of infants
and adult persons into the bosom of the church. The discretion of
parents often suspended the baptism of their children till they could
understand the obligations which they contracted: the severity of
ancient bishops exacted from the new converts a novitiate of two or
three years; and the catechumens themselves, from different motives of
a temporal or a spiritual nature, were seldom impatient to assume the
character of perfect and initiated Christians. The sacrament of baptism
was supposed to contain a full and absolute expiation of sin; and the
soul was instantly restored to its original purity, and entitled to
the promise of eternal salvation. Among the proselytes of Christianity,
there are many who judged it imprudent to precipitate a salutary rite,
which could not be repeated; to throw away an inestimable privilege,
which could never be recovered. By the delay of their baptism, they
could venture freely to indulge their passions in the enjoyments of this
world, while they still retained in their own hands the means of a sure
and easy absolution. [68] The sublime theory of the gospel had made
a much fainter impression on the heart than on the understanding of
Constantine himself. He pursued the great object of his ambition through
the dark and bloody paths of war and policy; and, after the victory,
he abandoned himself, without moderation, to the abuse of his fortune.
Instead of asserting his just superiority above the imperfect heroism
and profane philosophy of Trajan and the Antonines, the mature age of
Constantine forfeited the reputation which he had acquired in his youth.
As he gradually advanced in the knowledge of truth, he proportionally
declined in the practice of virtue; and the same year of his reign in
which he convened the council of Nice, was polluted by the execution,
or rather murder, of his eldest son. This date is alone sufficient
to refute the ignorant and malicious suggestions of Zosimus, [69] who
affirms, that, after the death of Crispus, the remorse of his father
accepted from the ministers of christianity the expiation which he had
vainly solicited from the Pagan pontiffs. At the time of the death
of Crispus, the emperor could no longer hesitate in the choice of a
religion; he could no longer be ignorant that the church was possessed
of an infallible remedy, though he chose to defer the application of it
till the approach of death had removed the temptation and danger of
a relapse. The bishops whom he summoned, in his last illness, to the
palace of Nicomedia, were edified by the fervor with which he requested
and received the sacrament of baptism, by the solemn protestation that
the remainder of his life should be worthy of a disciple of Christ,
and by his humble refusal to wear the Imperial purple after he had been
clothed in the white garment of a Neophyte. The example and reputation
of Constantine seemed to countenance the delay of baptism. [70] Future
tyrants were encouraged to believe, that the innocent blood which they
might shed in a long reign would instantly be washed away in the waters
of regeneration; and the abuse of religion dangerously undermined the
foundations of moral virtue.

[Footnote 67: The theory and practice of antiquity, with regard to the
sacrament of baptism, have been copiously explained by Dom Chardon,
Hist. des Sacremens, tom. i. p. 3-405; Dom Martenne de Ritibus Ecclesiae
Antiquis, tom. i.; and by Bingham, in the tenth and eleventh books of
his Christian Antiquities. One circumstance may be observed, in which
the modern churches have materially departed from the ancient custom.
The sacrament of baptism (even when it was administered to infants) was
immediately followed by confirmation and the holy communion.]

[Footnote 68: The Fathers, who censured this criminal delay, could not
deny the certain and victorious efficacy even of a death-bed baptism.
The ingenious rhetoric of Chrysostom could find only three arguments
against these prudent Christians. 1. That we should love and pursue
virtue for her own sake, and not merely for the reward. 2. That we
may be surprised by death without an opportunity of baptism. 3. That
although we shall be placed in heaven, we shall only twinkle like little
stars, when compared to the suns of righteousness who have run their
appointed course with labor, with success, and with glory. Chrysos tom
in Epist. ad Hebraeos, Homil. xiii. apud Chardon, Hist. des Sacremens,
tom. i. p. 49. I believe that this delay of baptism, though attended
with the most pernicious consequences, was never condemned by any
general or provincial council, or by any public act or declaration of
the church. The zeal of the bishops was easily kindled on much slighter
occasion. * Note: This passage of Chrysostom, though not in his more
forcible manner, is not quite fairly represented. He is stronger in
other places, in Act. Hom. xxiii.--and Hom. i. Compare, likewise, the
sermon of Gregory of Nysea on this subject, and Gregory Nazianzen. After
all, to those who believed in the efficacy of baptism, what argument
could be more conclusive, than the danger of dying without it? Orat.

[Footnote 69: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 104. For this disingenuous falsehood
he has deserved and experienced the harshest treatment from all the
ecclesiastical writers, except Cardinal Baronius, (A. D. 324, No.
15-28,) who had occasion to employ the infidel on a particular service
against the Arian Eusebius. Note: Heyne, in a valuable note on this
passage of Zosimus, has shown decisively that this malicious way of
accounting for the conversion of Constantine was not an invention of
Zosimus. It appears to have been the current calumny eagerly adopted and
propagated by the exasperated Pagan party. Reitemeter, a later editor
of Zosimus, whose notes are retained in the recent edition, in the
collection of the Byzantine historians, has a disquisition on the
passage, as candid, but not more conclusive than some which have
preceded him--M.]

[Footnote 70: Eusebius, l. iv. c. 61, 62, 63. The bishop of Caesarea
supposes the salvation of Constantine with the most perfect confidence.]

The gratitude of the church has exalted the virtues and excused the
failings of a generous patron, who seated Christianity on the throne
of the Roman world; and the Greeks, who celebrate the festival of the
Imperial saint, seldom mention the name of Constantine without adding
the title of equal to the Apostles. [71] Such a comparison, if it allude
to the character of those divine missionaries, must be imputed to the
extravagance of impious flattery. But if the parallel be confined to
the extent and number of their evangelic victories the success of
Constantine might perhaps equal that of the Apostles themselves. By the
edicts of toleration, he removed the temporal disadvantages which had
hitherto retarded the progress of Christianity; and its active and
numerous ministers received a free permission, a liberal encouragement,
to recommend the salutary truths of revelation by every argument which
could affect the reason or piety of mankind. The exact balance of the
two religions continued but a moment; and the piercing eye of ambition
and avarice soon discovered, that the profession of Christianity might
contribute to the interest of the present, as well as of a future life.
[72] The hopes of wealth and honors, the example of an emperor, his
exhortations, his irresistible smiles, diffused conviction among the
venal and obsequious crowds which usually fill the apartments of a
palace. The cities which signalized a forward zeal by the voluntary
destruction of their temples, were distinguished by municipal
privileges, and rewarded with popular donatives; and the new capital of
the East gloried in the singular advantage that Constantinople was never
profaned by the worship of idols. [73] As the lower ranks of society
are governed by imitation, the conversion of those who possessed
any eminence of birth, of power, or of riches, was soon followed by
dependent multitudes. [74] The salvation of the common people was
purchased at an easy rate, if it be true that, in one year, twelve
thousand men were baptized at Rome, besides a proportionable number
of women and children, and that a white garment, with twenty pieces
of gold, had been promised by the emperor to every convert. [75] The
powerful influence of Constantine was not circumscribed by the narrow
limits of his life, or of his dominions. The education which he bestowed
on his sons and nephews secured to the empire a race of princes, whose
faith was still more lively and sincere, as they imbibed, in their
earliest infancy, the spirit, or at least the doctrine, of Christianity.
War and commerce had spread the knowledge of the gospel beyond the
confines of the Roman provinces; and the Barbarians, who had disdained
as humble and proscribed sect, soon learned to esteem a religion which
had been so lately embraced by the greatest monarch, and the most
civilized nation, of the globe. [76] The Goths and Germans, who enlisted
under the standard of Rome, revered the cross which glittered at the
head of the legions, and their fierce countrymen received at the same
time the lessons of faith and of humanity. The kings of Iberia and
Armenia [76a] worshipped the god of their protector; and their subjects,
who have invariably preserved the name of Christians, soon formed
a sacred and perpetual connection with their Roman brethren. The
Christians of Persia were suspected, in time of war, of preferring their
religion to their country; but as long as peace subsisted between
the two empires, the persecuting spirit of the Magi was effectually
restrained by the interposition of Constantine. [77] The rays of the
gospel illuminated the coast of India. The colonies of Jews, who had
penetrated into Arabia and Ethiopia, [78] opposed the progress of
Christianity; but the labor of the missionaries was in some measure
facilitated by a previous knowledge of the Mosaic revelation; and
Abyssinia still reveres the memory of Frumentius, [78a] who, in the time
of Constantine, devoted his life to the conversion of those sequestered
regions. Under the reign of his son Constantius, Theophilus, [79] who
was himself of Indian extraction, was invested with the double character
of ambassador and bishop. He embarked on the Red Sea with two hundred
horses of the purest breed of Cappadocia, which were sent by the emperor
to the prince of the Sabaeans, or Homerites. Theophilus was intrusted
with many other useful or curious presents, which might raise the
admiration, and conciliate the friendship, of the Barbarians; and he
successfully employed several years in a pastoral visit to the churches
of the torrid zone. [80]

[Footnote 71: See Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 429. The
Greeks, the Russians, and, in the darker ages, the Latins themselves,
have been desirous of placing Constantine in the catalogue of saints.]

[Footnote 72: See the third and fourth books of his life. He was
accustomed to say, that whether Christ was preached in pretence, or in
truth, he should still rejoice, (l. iii. c. 58.)]

[Footnote 73: M. de Tillemont (Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 374,
616) has defended, with strength and spirit, the virgin purity of
Constantinople against some malevolent insinuations of the Pagan

[Footnote 74: The author of the Histoire Politique et Philosophique
des deux Indes (tom. i. p. 9) condemns a law of Constantine, which gave
freedom to all the slaves who should embrace Christianity. The emperor
did indeed publish a law, which restrained the Jews from circumcising,
perhaps from keeping, any Christian slave. (See Euseb. in Vit. Constant.
l. iv. c. 27, and Cod. Theod. l. xvi. tit. ix., with Godefroy's
Commentary, tom. vi. p. 247.) But this imperfect exception related only
to the Jews, and the great body of slaves, who were the property of
Christian or Pagan masters, could not improve their temporal condition
by changing their religion. I am ignorant by what guides the Abbe Raynal
was deceived; as the total absence of quotations is the unpardonable
blemish of his entertaining history.]

[Footnote 75: See Acta S Silvestri, and Hist. Eccles. Nicephor. Callist.
l. vii. c. 34, ap. Baronium Annal. Eccles. A. D. 324, No. 67, 74.
Such evidence is contemptible enough; but these circumstances are in
themselves so probable, that the learned Dr. Howell (History of the
World, vol. iii. p. 14) has not scrupled to adopt them.]

[Footnote 76: The conversion of the Barbarians under the reign of
Constantine is celebrated by the ecclesiastical historians. (See
Sozomen, l. ii. c. 6, and Theodoret, l. i. c. 23, 24.) But Rufinus, the
Latin translator of Eusebius, deserves to be considered as an original
authority. His information was curiously collected from one of the
companions of the Apostle of Aethiopia, and from Bacurius, an Iberian
prince, who was count of the domestics. Father Mamachi has given an
ample compilation on the progress of Christianity, in the first and
second volumes of his great but imperfect work.]

[Footnote 76a: According to the Georgian chronicles, Iberia (Georgia)
was converted by the virgin Nino, who effected an extraordinary cure on
the wife of the king Mihran. The temple of the god Aramazt, or Armaz,
not far from the capital Mtskitha, was destroyed, and the cross erected
in its place. Le Beau, i. 202, with St. Martin's Notes. ----St. Martin
has likewise clearly shown (St. Martin, Add. to Le Beau, i. 291) Armenia
was the first nation w hich embraced Christianity, (Addition to Le Beau,
i. 76. and Memoire sur l'Armenie, i. 305.) Gibbon himself suspected this
truth.--"Instead of maintaining that the conversion of Armenia was not
attempted with any degree of success, till the sceptre was in the hands
of an orthodox emperor," I ought to have said, that the seeds of the
faith were deeply sown during the season of the last and greatest
persecution, that many Roman exiles might assist the labors of Gregory,
and that the renowned Tiridates, the hero of the East, may dispute with
Constantine the honor of being the first sovereign who embraced the
Christian religion Vindication]

[Footnote 77: See, in Eusebius, (in Vit. l. iv. c. 9,) the pressing and
pathetic epistle of Constantine in favor of his Christian brethren of

[Footnote 78: See Basnage, Hist. des Juifs, tom. vii. p. 182, tom. viii.
p. 333, tom. ix. p. 810. The curious diligence of this writer pursues
the Jewish exiles to the extremities of the globe.]

[Footnote 78a: Abba Salama, or Fremonatus, is mentioned in the Tareek
Negushti, chronicle of the kings of Abyssinia. Salt's Travels, vol. ii.
p. 464.--M.]

[Footnote 79: Theophilus had been given in his infancy as a hostage by
his countrymen of the Isle of Diva, and was educated by the Romans in
learning and piety. The Maldives, of which Male, or Diva, may be the
capital, are a cluster of 1900 or 2000 minute islands in the Indian
Ocean. The ancients were imperfectly acquainted with the Maldives; but
they are described in the two Mahometan travellers of the ninth century,
published by Renaudot, Geograph. Nubiensis, p. 30, 31 D'Herbelot,
Bibliotheque Orientale p. 704. Hist. Generale des Voy ages, tom. viii.
----See the dissertation of M. Letronne on this question. He conceives
that Theophilus was born in the island of Dahlak, in the Arabian Gulf.
His embassy was to Abyssinia rather than to India. Letronne, Materiaux
pour l'Hist. du Christianisme en Egypte Indie, et Abyssinie. Paris, 1832
3d Dissert.--M.]

[Footnote 80: Philostorgius, l. iii. c. 4, 5, 6, with Godefroy's learned
observations. The historical narrative is soon lost in an inquiry
concerning the seat of Paradise, strange monsters, &c.]

The irresistible power of the Roman emperors was displayed in the
important and dangerous change of the national religion. The terrors
of a military force silenced the faint and unsupported murmurs of the
Pagans, and there was reason to expect, that the cheerful submission
of the Christian clergy, as well as people, would be the result
of conscience and gratitude. It was long since established, as a
fundamental maxim of the Roman constitution, that every rank of citizens
was alike subject to the laws, and that the care of religion was the
right as well as duty of the civil magistrate. Constantine and his
successors could not easily persuade themselves that they had forfeited,
by their conversion, any branch of the Imperial prerogatives, or
that they were incapable of giving laws to a religion which they had
protected and embraced. The emperors still continued to exercise a
supreme jurisdiction over the ecclesiastical order, and the sixteenth
book of the Theodosian code represents, under a variety of titles, the
authority which they assumed in the government of the Catholic church.
But the distinction of the spiritual and temporal powers, [81] which had
never been imposed on the free spirit of Greece and Rome, was introduced
and confirmed by the legal establishment of Christianity. The office of
supreme pontiff, which, from the time of Numa to that of Augustus, had
always been exercised by one of the most eminent of the senators, was
at length united to the Imperial dignity. The first magistrate of the
state, as often as he was prompted by superstition or policy, performed
with his own hands the sacerdotal functions; [82] nor was there any
order of priests, either at Rome or in the provinces, who claimed a more
sacred character among men, or a more intimate communication with the
gods. But in the Christian church, which instrusts the service of the
altar to a perpetual succession of consecrated ministers, the monarch,
whose spiritual rank is less honorable than that of the meanest deacon,
was seated below the rails of the sanctuary, and confounded with the
rest of the faithful multitude. [83] The emperor might be saluted as
the father of his people, but he owed a filial duty and reverence to the
fathers of the church; and the same marks of respect, which Constantine
had paid to the persons of saints and confessors, were soon exacted by
the pride of the episcopal order. [84] A secret conflict between the
civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions embarrassed the operation of
the Roman government; and a pious emperor was alarmed by the guilt and
danger of touching with a profane hand the ark of the covenant. The
separation of men into the two orders of the clergy and of the laity
was, indeed, familiar to many nations of antiquity; and the priests of
India, of Persia, of Assyria, of Judea, of Aethiopia, of Egypt, and of
Gaul, derived from a celestial origin the temporal power and possessions
which they had acquired. These venerable institutions had gradually
assimilated themselves to the manners and government of their respective
countries; [85] but the opposition or contempt of the civil power served
to cement the discipline of the primitive church. The Christians had
been obliged to elect their own magistrates, to raise and distribute a
peculiar revenue, and to regulate the internal policy of their republic
by a code of laws, which were ratified by the consent of the people and
the practice of three hundred years. When Constantine embraced the faith
of the Christians, he seemed to contract a perpetual alliance with
a distinct and independent society; and the privileges granted or
confirmed by that emperor, or by his successors, were accepted, not
as the precarious favors of the court, but as the just and inalienable
rights of the ecclesiastical order.

[Footnote 81: See the epistle of Osius, ap. Athanasium, vol. i. p. 840.
The public remonstrance which Osius was forced to address to the son,
contained the same principles of ecclesiastical and civil government
which he had secretly instilled into the mind of the father.]

[Footnote 82: M. de la Bastiel has evidently proved, that Augustus and
his successors exercised in person all the sacred functions of pontifex
maximus, of high priest, of the Roman empire.]

[Footnote 83: Something of a contrary practice had insensibly prevailed
in the church of Constantinople; but the rigid Ambrose commanded
Theodosius to retire below the rails, and taught him to know the
difference between a king and a priest. See Theodoret, l. v. c. 18.]

[Footnote 84: At the table of the emperor Maximus, Martin, bishop of
Tours, received the cup from an attendant, and gave it to the presbyter,
his companion, before he allowed the emperor to drink; the empress
waited on Martin at table. Sulpicius Severus, in Vit. S Martin, c. 23,
and Dialogue ii. 7. Yet it may be doubted, whether these extraordinary
compliments were paid to the bishop or the saint. The honors usually
granted to the former character may be seen in Bingham's Antiquities,
l. ii. c. 9, and Vales ad Theodoret, l. iv. c. 6. See the haughty
ceremonial which Leontius, bishop of Tripoli, imposed on the empress.
Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 754. (Patres Apostol. tom.
ii. p. 179.)]

[Footnote 85: Plutarch, in his treatise of Isis and Osiris, informs us
that the kings of Egypt, who were not already priests, were initiated,
after their election, into the sacerdotal order.]

The Catholic church was administered by the spiritual and legal
jurisdiction of eighteen hundred bishops; [86] of whom one thousand were
seated in the Greek, and eight hundred in the Latin, provinces of the
empire. The extent and boundaries of their respective dioceses had been
variously and accidentally decided by the zeal and success of the first
missionaries, by the wishes of the people, and by the propagation of the
gospel. Episcopal churches were closely planted along the banks of the
Nile, on the sea-coast of Africa, in the proconsular Asia, and through
the southern provinces of Italy. The bishops of Gaul and Spain, of
Thrace and Pontus, reigned over an ample territory, and delegated their
rural suffragans to execute the subordinate duties of the pastoral
office. [87] A Christian diocese might be spread over a province,
or reduced to a village; but all the bishops possessed an equal and
indelible character: they all derived the same powers and privileges
from the apostles, from the people, and from the laws. While the civil
and military professions were separated by the policy of Constantine, a
new and perpetual order of ecclesiastical ministers, always respectable,
sometimes dangerous, was established in the church and state. The
important review of their station and attributes may be distributed
under the following heads: I. Popular Election. II. Ordination of the
Clergy. III. Property. IV. Civil Jurisdiction. V. Spiritual censures.
VI. Exercise of public oratory. VII. Privilege of legislative

[Footnote 86: The numbers are not ascertained by any ancient writer or
original catalogue; for the partial lists of the eastern churches are
comparatively modern. The patient diligence of Charles a Sto Paolo, of
Luke Holstentius, and of Bingham, has laboriously investigated all the
episcopal sees of the Catholic church, which was almost commensurate
with the Roman empire. The ninth book of the Christian antiquities is a
very accurate map of ecclesiastical geography.]

[Footnote 87: On the subject of rural bishops, or Chorepiscopi,
who voted in tynods, and conferred the minor orders, See Thomassin,
Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 447, &c., and Chardon, Hist. des
Sacremens, tom. v. p. 395, &c. They do not appear till the fourth
century; and this equivocal character, which had excited the jealousy
of the prelates, was abolished before the end of the tenth, both in the
East and the West.]

I. The freedom of election subsisted long after the legal establishment
of Christianity; [88] and the subjects of Rome enjoyed in the church
the privilege which they had lost in the republic, of choosing the
magistrates whom they were bound to obey. As soon as a bishop had closed
his eyes, the metropolitan issued a commission to one of his suffragans
to administer the vacant see, and prepare, within a limited time, the
future election. The right of voting was vested in the inferior clergy,
who were best qualified to judge of the merit of the candidates; in
the senators or nobles of the city, all those who were distinguished
by their rank or property; and finally in the whole body of the people,
who, on the appointed day, flocked in multitudes from the most remote
parts of the diocese, [89] and sometimes silenced by their tumultuous
acclamations, the voice of reason and the laws of discipline. These
acclamations might accidentally fix on the head of the most deserving
competitor; of some ancient presbyter, some holy monk, or some layman,
conspicuous for his zeal and piety. But the episcopal chair was
solicited, especially in the great and opulent cities of the empire, as
a temporal rather than as a spiritual dignity. The interested views, the
selfish and angry passions, the arts of perfidy and dissimulation, the
secret corruption, the open and even bloody violence which had formerly
disgraced the freedom of election in the commonwealths of Greece and
Rome, too often influenced the choice of the successors of the apostles.
While one of the candidates boasted the honors of his family, a second
allured his judges by the delicacies of a plentiful table, and a third,
more guilty than his rivals, offered to share the plunder of the church
among the accomplices of his sacrilegious hopes [90] The civil as well
as ecclesiastical laws attempted to exclude the populace from this
solemn and important transaction. The canons of ancient discipline,
by requiring several episcopal qualifications, of age, station, &c.,
restrained, in some measure, the indiscriminate caprice of the electors.
The authority of the provincial bishops, who were assembled in the
vacant church to consecrate the choice of the people, was interposed to
moderate their passions and to correct their mistakes. The bishops
could refuse to ordain an unworthy candidate, and the rage of contending
factions sometimes accepted their impartial mediation. The submission,
or the resistance, of the clergy and people, on various occasions,
afforded different precedents, which were insensibly converted into
positive laws and provincial customs; [91] but it was every where
admitted, as a fundamental maxim of religious policy, that no bishop
could be imposed on an orthodox church, without the consent of its
members. The emperors, as the guardians of the public peace, and as the
first citizens of Rome and Constantinople, might effectually declare
their wishes in the choice of a primate; but those absolute monarchs
respected the freedom of ecclesiastical elections; and while they
distributed and resumed the honors of the state and army, they allowed
eighteen hundred perpetual magistrates to receive their important
offices from the free suffrages of the people. [92] It was agreeable
to the dictates of justice, that these magistrates should not desert an
honorable station from which they could not be removed; but the wisdom
of councils endeavored, without much success, to enforce the residence,
and to prevent the translation, of bishops. The discipline of the West
was indeed less relaxed than that of the East; but the same passions
which made those regulations necessary, rendered them ineffectual. The
reproaches which angry prelates have so vehemently urged against
each other, serve only to expose their common guilt, and their mutual

[Footnote 88: Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom, ii. l. ii. c. 1-8,
p. 673-721) has copiously treated of the election of bishops during the
five first centuries, both in the East and in the West; but he shows a
very partial bias in favor of the episcopal aristocracy. Bingham, (l.
iv. c. 2) is moderate; and Chardon (Hist. des Sacremens tom. v. p.
108-128) is very clear and concise. * Note: This freedom was extremely
limited, and soon annihilated; already, from the third century, the
deacons were no longer nominated by the members of the community, but by
the bishops. Although it appears by the letters of Cyprian, that even
in his time, no priest could be elected without the consent of the
community. (Ep. 68,) that election was far from being altogether free.
The bishop proposed to his parishioners the candidate whom he had
chosen, and they were permitted to make such objections as might be
suggested by his conduct and morals. (St. Cyprian, Ep. 33.) They lost
this last right towards the middle of the fourth century.--G]

[Footnote 89: Incredibilis multitudo, non solum ex eo oppido, (Tours,)
sed etiam ex vicinis urbibus ad suffragia ferenda convenerat, &c.
Sulpicius Severus, in Vit. Martin. c. 7. The council of Laodicea, (canon
xiii.) prohibits mobs and tumults; and Justinian confines confined the
right of election to the nobility. Novel. cxxiii. l.]

[Footnote 90: The epistles of Sidonius Apollinaris (iv. 25, vii. 5, 9)
exhibit some of the scandals of the Gallican church; and Gaul was less
polished and less corrupt than the East.]

[Footnote 91: A compromise was sometimes introduced by law or by
consent; either the bishops or the people chose one of the three
candidates who had been named by the other party.]

[Footnote 92: All the examples quoted by Thomassin (Discipline de
l'Eglise, tom. ii. l. iii. c. vi. p. 704-714) appear to be extraordinary
acts of power, and even of oppression. The confirmation of the bishop of
Alexandria is mentioned by Philostorgius as a more regular proceeding.
(Hist Eccles. l. ii. ll.) * Note: The statement of Planck is more
consistent with history: "From the middle of the fourth century, the
bishops of some of the larger churches, particularly those of the
Imperial residence, were almost always chosen under the influence of
the court, and often directly and immediately nominated by the emperor."
Planck, Geschichte der Christlich-kirchlichen Gesellschafteverfassung,
verfassung, vol. i p 263.--M.]

II. The bishops alone possessed the faculty of spiritual generation: and
this extraordinary privilege might compensate, in some degree, for the
painful celibacy [93] which was imposed as a virtue, as a duty, and
at length as a positive obligation. The religions of antiquity, which
established a separate order of priests, dedicated a holy race, a tribe
or family, to the perpetual service of the gods. [94] Such institutions
were founded for possession, rather than conquest. The children of
the priests enjoyed, with proud and indolent security, their sacred
inheritance; and the fiery spirit of enthusiasm was abated by the cares,
the pleasures, and the endearments of domestic life. But the Christian
sanctuary was open to every ambitious candidate, who aspired to its
heavenly promises or temporal possessions. This office of priests, like
that of soldiers or magistrates, was strenuously exercised by those
men, whose temper and abilities had prompted them to embrace the
ecclesiastical profession, or who had been selected by a discerning
bishop, as the best qualified to promote the glory and interest of the
church. The bishops [95] (till the abuse was restrained by the prudence
of the laws) might constrain the reluctant, and protect the distressed;
and the imposition of hands forever bestowed some of the most valuable
privileges of civil society. The whole body of the Catholic clergy, more
numerous perhaps than the legions, was exempted [95a] by the emperors
from all service, private or public, all municipal offices, and all
personal taxes and contributions, which pressed on their fellow-
citizens with intolerable weight; and the duties of their holy
profession were accepted as a full discharge of their obligations to the
republic. [96] Each bishop acquired an absolute and indefeasible right
to the perpetual obedience of the clerk whom he ordained: the clergy of
each episcopal church, with its dependent parishes, formed a regular
and permanent society; and the cathedrals of Constantinople [97] and
Carthage [98] maintained their peculiar establishment of five hundred
ecclesiastical ministers. Their ranks [99] and numbers were insensibly
multiplied by the superstition of the times, which introduced into the
church the splendid ceremonies of a Jewish or Pagan temple; and a long
train of priests, deacons, sub-deacons, acolythes, exorcists, readers,
singers, and doorkeepers, contributed, in their respective stations, to
swell the pomp and harmony of religious worship. The clerical name
and privileges were extended to many pious fraternities, who devoutly
supported the ecclesiastical throne. [100] Six hundred parabolani, or
adventurers, visited the sick at Alexandria; eleven hundred copiatoe,
or grave-diggers, buried the dead at Constantinople; and the swarms of
monks, who arose from the Nile, overspread and darkened the face of the
Christian world.

[Footnote 93: The celibacy of the clergy during the first five or six
centuries, is a subject of discipline, and indeed of controversy,
which has been very diligently examined. See in particular, Thomassin,
Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. l. ii. c. lx. lxi. p. 886-902, and
Bingham's Antiquities, l. iv. c. 5. By each of these learned but partial
critics, one half of the truth is produced, and the other is concealed.
----Note: Compare Planck, (vol. i. p. 348.) This century, the third,
first brought forth the monks, or the spirit of monkery, the celibacy of
the clergy. Planck likewise observes, that from the history of Eusebius
alone, names of married bishops and presbyters may be adduced by

[Footnote 94: Diodorus Siculus attests and approves the hereditary
succession of the priesthood among the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and the
Indians, (l. i. p. 84, l. ii. p. 142, 153, edit. Wesseling.) The magi
are described by Ammianus as a very numerous family: "Per saecula multa
ad praesens una eademque prosapia multitudo creata, Deorum cultibus
dedicata." (xxiii. 6.) Ausonius celebrates the Stirps Druidarum, (De
Professorib. Burdigal. iv.;) but we may infer from the remark of Caesar,
(vi. 13,) that in the Celtic hierarchy, some room was left for choice
and emulation.]

[Footnote 95: The subject of the vocation, ordination, obedience, &c.,
of the clergy, is laboriously discussed by Thomassin (Discipline
de l'Eglise, tom. ii. p. 1-83) and Bingham, (in the 4th book of his
Antiquities, more especially the 4th, 6th, and 7th chapters.) When
the brother of St. Jerom was ordained in Cyprus, the deacons forcibly
stopped his mouth, lest he should make a solemn protestation, which
might invalidate the holy rites.]

[Footnote 95a: This exemption was very much limited. The municipal
offices were of two kinds; the one attached to the individual in his
character of inhabitant, the other in that of proprietor. Constantine
had exempted ecclesiastics from offices of the first description. (Cod.
Theod. xvi. t. ii. leg. 1, 2 Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. l. x. c. vii.)
They sought, also, to be exempted from those of the second, (munera
patrimoniorum.) The rich, to obtain this privilege, obtained subordinate
situations among the clergy. Constantine published in 320 an edict, by
which he prohibited the more opulent citizens (decuriones and curiales)
from embracing the ecclesiastical profession, and the bishops from
admitting new ecclesiastics, before a place should be vacant by the
death of the occupant, (Godefroy ad Cod. Theod.t. xii. t. i. de Decur.)
Valentinian the First, by a rescript still more general enacted that
no rich citizen should obtain a situation in the church, (De Episc 1.
lxvii.) He also enacted that ecclesiastics, who wished to be exempt from
offices which they were bound to discharge as proprietors, should be
obliged to give up their property to their relations. Cod Theodos l. xii
t. i. leb. 49--G.]

[Footnote 96: The charter of immunities, which the clergy obtained from
the Christian emperors, is contained in the 16th book of the Theodosian
code; and is illustrated with tolerable candor by the learned Godefroy,
whose mind was balanced by the opposite prejudices of a civilian and a

[Footnote 97: Justinian. Novell. ciii. Sixty presbyters, or priests, one
hundred deacons, forty deaconesses, ninety sub-deacons, one hundred and
ten readers, twenty-five chanters, and one hundred door-keepers; in
all, five hundred and twenty-five. This moderate number was fixed by the
emperor to relieve the distress of the church, which had been involved
in debt and usury by the expense of a much higher establishment.]

[Footnote 98: Universus clerus ecclesiae Carthaginiensis.... fere
quingenti vei amplius; inter quos quamplurima erant lectores infantuli.
Victor Vitensis, de Persecut. Vandal. v. 9, p. 78, edit. Ruinart. This
remnant of a more prosperous state still subsisted under the oppression
of the Vandals.]

[Footnote 99: The number of seven orders has been fixed in the Latin
church, exclusive of the episcopal character. But the four inferior
ranks, the minor orders, are now reduced to empty and useless titles.]

[Footnote 100: See Cod. Theodos. l. xvi. tit. ii. leg. 42, 43.
Godefroy's Commentary, and the Ecclesiastical History of Alexandria,
show the danger of these pious institutions, which often disturbed the
peace of that turbulent capital.]

Chapter XX: Conversion Of Constantine.--Part IV.

III. The edict of Milan secured the revenue as well as the peace of the
church. [101] The Christians not only recovered the lands and houses of
which they had been stripped by the persecuting laws of Diocletian,
but they acquired a perfect title to all the possessions which they
had hitherto enjoyed by the connivance of the magistrate. As soon as
Christianity became the religion of the emperor and the empire, the
national clergy might claim a decent and honorable maintenance; and the
payment of an annual tax might have delivered the people from the more
oppressive tribute, which superstition imposes on her votaries. But as
the wants and expenses of the church increased with her prosperity, the
ecclesiastical order was still supported and enriched by the voluntary
oblations of the faithful. Eight years after the edict of Milan,
Constantine granted to all his subjects the free and universal
permission of bequeathing their fortunes to the holy Catholic church;
[102] and their devout liberality, which during their lives was checked
by luxury or avarice, flowed with a profuse stream at the hour of their
death. The wealthy Christians were encouraged by the example of their
sovereign. An absolute monarch, who is rich without patrimony, may be
charitable without merit; and Constantine too easily believed that he
should purchase the favor of Heaven, if he maintained the idle at the
expense of the industrious; and distributed among the saints the wealth
of the republic. The same messenger who carried over to Africa the head
of Maxentius, might be intrusted with an epistle to Caecilian, bishop of
Carthage. The emperor acquaints him, that the treasurers of the province
are directed to pay into his hands the sum of three thousand folles, or
eighteen thousand pounds sterling, and to obey his further requisitions
for the relief of the churches of Africa, Numidia, and Mauritania. [103]
The liberality of Constantine increased in a just proportion to his
faith, and to his vices. He assigned in each city a regular allowance of
corn, to supply the fund of ecclesiastical charity; and the persons of
both sexes who embraced the monastic life became the peculiar favorites
of their sovereign. The Christian temples of Antioch, Alexandria,
Jerusalem, Constantinople &c., displayed the ostentatious piety of a
prince, ambitious in a declining age to equal the perfect labors of
antiquity. [104] The form of these religious edifices was simple and
oblong; though they might sometimes swell into the shape of a dome, and
sometimes branch into the figure of a cross. The timbers were framed
for the most part of cedars of Libanus; the roof was covered with tiles,
perhaps of gilt brass; and the walls, the columns, the pavement, were
encrusted with variegated marbles. The most precious ornaments of gold
and silver, of silk and gems, were profusely dedicated to the service of
the altar; and this specious magnificence was supported on the solid and
perpetual basis of landed property. In the space of two centuries, from
the reign of Constantine to that of Justinian, the eighteen hundred
churches of the empire were enriched by the frequent and unalienable
gifts of the prince and people. An annual income of six hundred pounds
sterling may be reasonably assigned to the bishops, who were placed at
an equal distance between riches and poverty, [105] but the standard of
their wealth insensibly rose with the dignity and opulence of the
cities which they governed. An authentic but imperfect [106] rent-roll
specifies some houses, shops, gardens, and farms, which belonged to the
three Basilicoe of Rome, St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John Lateran, in
the provinces of Italy, Africa, and the East. They produce, besides
a reserved rent of oil, linen, paper, aromatics, &c., a clear annual
revenue of twenty-two thousand pieces of gold, or twelve thousand pounds
sterling. In the age of Constantine and Justinian, the bishops no longer
possessed, perhaps they no longer deserved, the unsuspecting confidence
of their clergy and people. The ecclesiastical revenues of each diocese
were divided into four parts for the respective uses of the bishop
himself, of his inferior clergy, of the poor, and of the public worship;
and the abuse of this sacred trust was strictly and repeatedly checked.
[107] The patrimony of the church was still subject to all the public
compositions of the state. [108] The clergy of Rome, Alexandria,
Chessaionica, &c., might solicit and obtain some partial exemptions; but
the premature attempt of the great council of Rimini, which aspired to
universal freedom, was successfully resisted by the son of Constantine.

[Footnote 101: The edict of Milan (de M. P. c. 48) acknowledges, by
reciting, that there existed a species of landed property, ad jus
corporis eorum, id est, ecclesiarum non hominum singulorum pertinentia.
Such a solemn declaration of the supreme magistrate must have been
received in all the tribunals as a maxim of civil law.]

[Footnote 102: Habeat unusquisque licentiam sanctissimo Catholicae
(ecclesioe) venerabilique concilio, decedens bonorum quod optavit
relinquere. Cod. Theodos. l. xvi. tit. ii. leg. 4. This law was
published at Rome, A. D. 321, at a time when Constantine might foresee
the probability of a rupture with the emperor of the East.]

[Footnote 103: Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. l. x. 6; in Vit. Constantin. l.
iv. c. 28. He repeatedly expatiates on the liberality of the Christian
hero, which the bishop himself had an opportunity of knowing, and even
of lasting.]

[Footnote 104: Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. l. x. c. 2, 3, 4. The bishop of
Caesarea who studied and gratified the taste of his master, pronounced
in public an elaborate description of the church of Jerusalem, (in Vit
Cons. l. vi. c. 46.) It no longer exists, but he has inserted in the
life of Constantine (l. iii. c. 36) a short account of the architecture
and ornaments. He likewise mentions the church of the Holy Apostles at
Constantinople, (l. iv. c. 59.)]

[Footnote 105: See Justinian. Novell. cxxiii. 3. The revenue of the
patriarchs, and the most wealthy bishops, is not expressed: the highest
annual valuation of a bishopric is stated at thirty, and the lowest at
two, pounds of gold; the medium might be taken at sixteen, but these
valuations are much below the real value.]

[Footnote 106: See Baronius, (Annal. Eccles. A. D. 324, No. 58, 65, 70,
71.) Every record which comes from the Vatican is justly suspected; yet
these rent-rolls have an ancient and authentic color; and it is at least
evident, that, if forged, they were forged in a period when farms not
kingdoms, were the objects of papal avarice.]

[Footnote 107: See Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. iii. l. ii.
c. 13, 14, 15, p. 689-706. The legal division of the ecclesiastical
revenue does not appear to have been established in the time of Ambrose
and Chrysostom. Simplicius and Gelasius, who were bishops of Rome in the
latter part of the fifth century, mention it in their pastoral letters
as a general law, which was already confirmed by the custom of Italy.]

[Footnote 108: Ambrose, the most strenuous assertor of ecclesiastical
privileges, submits without a murmur to the payment of the land tax. "Si
tri butum petit Imperator, non negamus; agri ecclesiae solvunt tributum
solvimus quae sunt Caesaris Caesari, et quae sunt Dei Deo; tributum
Caesaris est; non negatur." Baronius labors to interpret this tribute as
an act of charity rather than of duty, (Annal. Eccles. A. D. 387;) but
the words, if not the intentions of Ambrose are more candidly explained
by Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. iii. l. i. c. 34. p. 668.]

[Footnote 109: In Ariminense synodo super ecclesiarum et clericorum
privilegiis tractatu habito, usque eo dispositio progressa est, ut juqa
quae viderentur ad ecclesiam pertinere, a publica functione cessarent
inquietudine desistente; quod nostra videtur dudum sanctio repulsisse.
Cod. Theod. l. xvi. tit. ii. leg. 15. Had the synod of Rimini carried
this point, such practical merit might have atoned for some speculative

IV. The Latin clergy, who erected their tribunal on the ruins of
the civil and common law, have modestly accepted, as the gift of
Constantine, [110] the independent jurisdiction, which was the fruit of
time, of accident, and of their own industry. But the liberality of
the Christian emperors had actually endowed them with some legal
prerogatives, which secured and dignified the sacerdotal character.
[111] 1. Under a despotic government, the bishops alone enjoyed and
asserted the inestimable privilege of being tried only by their peers;
and even in a capital accusation, a synod of their brethren were the
sole judges of their guilt or innocence. Such a tribunal, unless it
was inflamed by personal resentment or religious discord, might be
favorable, or even partial, to the sacerdotal order: but Constantine
was satisfied, [112] that secret impunity would be less pernicious
than public scandal: and the Nicene council was edited by his public
declaration, that if he surprised a bishop in the act of adultery,
he should cast his Imperial mantle over the episcopal sinner. 2. The
domestic jurisdiction of the bishops was at once a privilege and a
restraint of the ecclesiastical order, whose civil causes were decently
withdrawn from the cognizance of a secular judge. Their venial offences
were not exposed to the shame of a public trial or punishment; and the
gentle correction which the tenderness of youth may endure from its
parents or instructors, was inflicted by the temperate severity of the
bishops. But if the clergy were guilty of any crime which could not
be sufficiently expiated by their degradation from an honorable and
beneficial profession, the Roman magistrate drew the sword of justice,
without any regard to ecclesiastical immunities. 3. The arbitration
of the bishops was ratified by a positive law; and the judges were
instructed to execute, without appeal or delay, the episcopal decrees,
whose validity had hitherto depended on the consent of the parties. The
conversion of the magistrates themselves, and of the whole empire, might
gradually remove the fears and scruples of the Christians. But they
still resorted to the tribunal of the bishops, whose abilities
and integrity they esteemed; and the venerable Austin enjoyed
the satisfaction of complaining that his spiritual functions were
perpetually interrupted by the invidious labor of deciding the claim or
the possession of silver and gold, of lands and cattle. 4. The ancient
privilege of sanctuary was transferred to the Christian temples,
and extended, by the liberal piety of the younger Theodosius, to the
precincts of consecrated ground. [113] The fugitive, and even guilty
suppliants,were permitted to implore either the justice, or the mercy,
of the Deity and his ministers. The rash violence of despotism was
suspended by the mild interposition of the church; and the lives
or fortunes of the most eminent subjects might be protected by the
mediation of the bishop.

[Footnote 110: From Eusebius (in Vit. Constant. l. iv. c. 27) and
Sozomen (l. i. c. 9) we are assured that the episcopal jurisdiction
was extended and confirmed by Constantine; but the forgery of a famous
edict, which was never fairly inserted in the Theodosian Code (see
at the end, tom. vi. p. 303,) is demonstrated by Godefroy in the most
satisfactory manner. It is strange that M. de Montesquieu, who was a
lawyer as well as a philosopher, should allege this edict of Constantine
(Esprit des Loix, l. xxix. c. 16) without intimating any suspicion.]

[Footnote 111: The subject of ecclesiastical jurisdiction has been
involved in a mist of passion, of prejudice, and of interest. Two of
the fairest books which have fallen into my hands, are the Institutes
of Canon Law, by the Abbe de Fleury, and the Civil History of Naples,
by Giannone. Their moderation was the effect of situation as well as of
temper. Fleury was a French ecclesiastic, who respected the authority of
the parliaments; Giannone was an Italian lawyer, who dreaded the power
of the church. And here let me observe, that as the general propositions
which I advance are the result of many particular and imperfect facts, I
must either refer the reader to those modern authors who have expressly
treated the subject, or swell these notes disproportioned size.]

[Footnote 112: Tillemont has collected from Rufinus, Theodoret, &c.,
the sentiments and language of Constantine. Mem Eccles tom. iii p. 749,

[Footnote 113: See Cod. Theod. l. ix. tit. xlv. leg. 4. In the works of
Fra Paolo. (tom. iv. p. 192, &c.,) there is an excellent discourse
on the origin, claims, abuses, and limits of sanctuaries. He justly
observes, that ancient Greece might perhaps contain fifteen or twenty
axyla or sanctuaries; a number which at present may be found in Italy
within the walls of a single city.]

V. The bishop was the perpetual censor of the morals of his people
The discipline of penance was digested into a system of canonical
jurisprudence, [114] which accurately defined the duty of private or
public confession, the rules of evidence, the degrees of guilt, and
the measure of punishment. It was impossible to execute this spiritual
censure, if the Christian pontiff, who punished the obscure sins of the
multitude, respected the conspicuous vices and destructive crimes of
the magistrate: but it was impossible to arraign the conduct of the
magistrate, without, controlling the administration of civil government.
Some considerations of religion, or loyalty, or fear, protected the
sacred persons of the emperors from the zeal or resentment of the
bishops; but they boldly censured and excommunicated the subordinate
tyrants, who were not invested with the majesty of the purple. St.
Athanasius excommunicated one of the ministers of Egypt; and the
interdict which he pronounced, of fire and water, was solemnly
transmitted to the churches of Cappadocia. [115] Under the reign of
the younger Theodosius, the polite and eloquent Synesius, one of the
descendants of Hercules, [116] filled the episcopal seat of Ptolemais,
near the ruins of ancient Cyrene, [117] and the philosophic bishop
supported with dignity the character which he had assumed with
reluctance. [118] He vanquished the monster of Libya, the president
Andronicus, who abused the authority of a venal office, invented new
modes of rapine and torture, and aggravated the guilt of oppression
by that of sacrilege. [119] After a fruitless attempt to reclaim the
haughty magistrate by mild and religious admonition, Synesius proceeds
to inflict the last sentence of ecclesiastical justice, [120] which
devotes Andronicus, with his associates and their families, to the
abhorrence of earth and heaven. The impenitent sinners, more cruel than
Phalaris or Sennacherib, more destructive than war, pestilence, or a
cloud of locusts, are deprived of the name and privileges of Christians,
of the participation of the sacraments, and of the hope of Paradise. The
bishop exhorts the clergy, the magistrates, and the people, to renounce
all society with the enemies of Christ; to exclude them from their
houses and tables; and to refuse them the common offices of life,
and the decent rites of burial. The church of Ptolemais, obscure and
contemptible as she may appear, addresses this declaration to all her
sister churches of the world; and the profane who reject her decrees,
will be involved in the guilt and punishment of Andronicus and his
impious followers. These spiritual terrors were enforced by a dexterous
application to the Byzantine court; the trembling president implored
the mercy of the church; and the descendants of Hercules enjoyed the
satisfaction of raising a prostrate tyrant from the ground. [121] Such
principles and such examples insensibly prepared the triumph of the
Roman pontiffs, who have trampled on the necks of kings.

[Footnote 114: The penitential jurisprudence was continually improved
by the canons of the councils. But as many cases were still left to
the discretion of the bishops, they occasionally published, after
the example of the Roman Praetor, the rules of discipline which they
proposed to observe. Among the canonical epistles of the fourth century,
those of Basil the Great were the most celebrated. They are inserted in
the Pandects of Beveridge, (tom. ii. p. 47-151,) and are translated by
Chardon, Hist. des Sacremens, tom. iv. p. 219-277.]

[Footnote 115: Basil, Epistol. xlvii. in Baronius, (Annal. Eccles. A.
D. 370. N. 91,) who declares that he purposely relates it, to convince
govern that they were not exempt from a sentence of excommunication his
opinion, even a royal head is not safe from the thunders of the Vatican;
and the cardinal shows himself much more consistent than the lawyers and
theologians of the Gallican church.]

[Footnote 116: The long series of his ancestors, as high as Eurysthenes,
the first Doric king of Sparta, and the fifth in lineal descent
from Hercules, was inscribed in the public registers of Cyrene, a
Lacedaemonian colony. (Synes. Epist. lvii. p. 197, edit. Petav.) Such a
pure and illustrious pedigree of seventeen hundred years, without adding
the royal ancestors of Hercules, cannot be equalled in the history of

[Footnote 117: Synesius (de Regno, p. 2) pathetically deplores the
fallen and ruined state of Cyrene. Ptolemais, a new city, 82 miles
to the westward of Cyrene, assumed the metropolitan honors of the
Pentapolis, or Upper Libya, which were afterwards transferred to

[Footnote 118: Synesius had previously represented his own
disqualifications. He loved profane studies and profane sports; he
was incapable of supporting a life of celibacy; he disbelieved the
resurrection; and he refused to preach fables to the people unless he
might be permitted to philosophize at home. Theophilus primate of Egypt,
who knew his merit, accepted this extraordinary compromise.]

[Footnote 119: The promotion of Andronicus was illegal; since he was a
native of Berenice, in the same province. The instruments of torture are
curiously specified; the press that variously pressed on distended the
fingers, the feet, the nose, the ears, and the lips of the victims.]

[Footnote 120: The sentence of excommunication is expressed in a
rhetorical style. (Synesius, Epist. lviii. p. 201-203.) The method of
involving whole families, though somewhat unjust, was improved into
national interdicts.]

[Footnote 121: See Synesius, Epist. xlvii. p. 186, 187. Epist. lxxii. p.
218, 219 Epist. lxxxix. p. 230, 231.]

VI. Every popular government has experienced the effects of rude or
artificial eloquence. The coldest nature is animated, the firmest reason
is moved, by the rapid communication of the prevailing impulse; and each
hearer is affected by his own passions, and by those of the surrounding
multitude. The ruin of civil liberty had silenced the demagogues of
Athens, and the tribunes of Rome; the custom of preaching which seems
to constitute a considerable part of Christian devotion, had not been
introduced into the temples of antiquity; and the ears of monarchs were
never invaded by the harsh sound of popular eloquence, till the pulpits
of the empire were filled with sacred orators, who possessed some
advantages unknown to their profane predecessors. [122] The arguments
and rhetoric of the tribune were instantly opposed with equal arms,
by skilful and resolute antagonists; and the cause of truth and
reason might derive an accidental support from the conflict of hostile
passions. The bishop, or some distinguished presbyter, to whom he
cautiously delegated the powers of preaching, harangued, without the
danger of interruption or reply, a submissive multitude, whose minds had
been prepared and subdued by the awful ceremonies of religion. Such was
the strict subordination of the Catholic church, that the same concerted
sounds might issue at once from a hundred pulpits of Italy or Egypt,
if they were tuned [123] by the master hand of the Roman or Alexandrian
primate. The design of this institution was laudable, but the fruits
were not always salutary. The preachers recommended the practice of the
social duties; but they exalted the perfection of monastic virtue, which
is painful to the individual, and useless to mankind. Their charitable
exhortations betrayed a secret wish that the clergy might be permitted
to manage the wealth of the faithful, for the benefit of the poor. The
most sublime representations of the attributes and laws of the Deity
were sullied by an idle mixture of metaphysical subleties, puerile
rites, and fictitious miracles: and they expatiated, with the most
fervent zeal, on the religious merit of hating the adversaries,
and obeying the ministers of the church. When the public peace was
distracted by heresy and schism, the sacred orators sounded the trumpet
of discord, and, perhaps, of sedition. The understandings of their
congregations were perplexed by mystery, their passions were inflamed
by invectives; and they rushed from the Christian temples of Antioch
or Alexandria, prepared either to suffer or to inflict martyrdom. The
corruption of taste and language is strongly marked in the vehement
declamations of the Latin bishops; but the compositions of Gregory and
Chrysostom have been compared with the most splendid models of Attic, or
at least of Asiatic, eloquence. [124]

[Footnote 122: See Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. ii. l. iii.
c. 83, p. 1761-1770,) and Bingham, (Antiquities, vol. i. l. xiv. c. 4,
p. 688- 717.) Preaching was considered as the most important office of
the bishop but this function was sometimes intrusted to such presbyters
as Chrysoetom and Augustin.]

[Footnote 123: Queen Elizabeth used this expression, and practised this
art whenever she wished to prepossess the minds of her people in favor
of any extraordinary measure of government. The hostile effects of this
music were apprehended by her successor, and severely felt by his son.
"When pulpit, drum ecclesiastic," &c. See Heylin's Life of Archbishop
Laud, p. 153.]

[Footnote 124: Those modest orators acknowledged, that, as they were
destitute of the gift of miracles, they endeavored to acquire the arts
of eloquence.]

VII. The representatives of the Christian republic were regularly
assembled in the spring and autumn of each year; and these synods
diffused the spirit of ecclesiastical discipline and legislation
through the hundred and twenty provinces of the Roman world. [125] The
archbishop or metropolitan was empowered, by the laws, to summon the
suffragan bishops of his province; to revise their conduct, to vindicate
their rights, to declare their faith, and to examine the merits of
the candidates who were elected by the clergy and people to supply the
vacancies of the episcopal college. The primates of Rome, Alexandria,
Antioch, Carthage, and afterwards Constantinople, who exercised a more
ample jurisdiction, convened the numerous assembly of their dependent
bishops. But the convocation of great and extraordinary synods was the
prerogative of the emperor alone. Whenever the emergencies of the church
required this decisive measure, he despatched a peremptory summons to
the bishops, or the deputies of each province, with an order for the
use of post-horses, and a competent allowance for the expenses of their
journey. At an early period, when Constantine was the protector, rather
than the proselyte, of Christianity, he referred the African controversy
to the council of Arles; in which the bishops of York of Treves, of
Milan, and of Carthage, met as friends and brethren, to debate in their
native tongue on the common interest of the Latin or Western church.
[126] Eleven years afterwards, a more numerous and celebrated assembly
was convened at Nice in Bithynia, to extinguish, by their final
sentence, the subtle disputes which had arisen in Egypt on the subject
of the Trinity. Three hundred and eighteen bishops obeyed the summons of
their indulgent master; the ecclesiastics of every rank, and sect,
and denomination, have been computed at two thousand and forty-eight
persons; [127] the Greeks appeared in person; and the consent of the
Latins was expressed by the legates of the Roman pontiff. The session,
which lasted about two months, was frequently honored by the presence of
the emperor. Leaving his guards at the door, he seated himself (with
the permission of the council) on a low stool in the midst of the hall.
Constantine listened with patience, and spoke with modesty: and while
he influenced the debates, he humbly professed that he was the
minister, not the judge, of the successors of the apostles, who had
been established as priests and as gods upon earth. [128] Such profound
reverence of an absolute monarch towards a feeble and unarmed assembly
of his own subjects, can only be compared to the respect with which the
senate had been treated by the Roman princes who adopted the policy of
Augustus. Within the space of fifty years, a philosophic spectator of
the vicissitudes of human affairs might have contemplated Tacitus in the
senate of Rome, and Constantine in the council of Nice. The fathers
of the Capitol and those of the church had alike degenerated from the
virtues of their founders; but as the bishops were more deeply rooted in
the public opinion, they sustained their dignity with more decent pride,
and sometimes opposed with a manly spirit the wishes of their sovereign.
The progress of time and superstition erased the memory of the weakness,
the passion, the ignorance, which disgraced these ecclesiastical synods;
and the Catholic world has unanimously submitted [129] to the infallible
decrees of the general councils. [130]

[Footnote 125: The council of Nice, in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and
seventh canons, has made some fundamental regulations concerning synods,
metropolitan, and primates. The Nicene canons have been variously
tortured, abused, interpolated, or forged, according to the interest
of the clergy. The Suburbicarian churches, assigned (by Rufinus) to the
bishop of Rome, have been made the subject of vehement controversy (See
Sirmond, Opera, tom. iv. p. 1-238.)]

[Footnote 126: We have only thirty-three or forty-seven episcopal
subscriptions: but Addo, a writer indeed of small account, reckons six
hundred bishops in the council of Arles. Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom.
vi. p. 422.]

[Footnote 127: See Tillemont, tom. vi. p. 915, and Beausobre, Hist.
du Mani cheisme, tom i p. 529. The name of bishop, which is given by
Eusychius to the 2048 ecclesiastics, (Annal. tom. i. p. 440, vers.
Pocock,) must be extended far beyond the limits of an orthodox or even
episcopal ordination.]

[Footnote 128: See Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. l. iii. c. 6-21.
Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiastiques, tom. vi. p. 669-759.]

[Footnote 129: Sancimus igitur vicem legum obtinere, quae a quatuor
Sanctis Coueiliis.... expositae sunt act firmatae. Praedictarum enim
quat uor synodorum dogmata sicut sanctas Scripturas et regulas sicut
leges observamus. Justinian. Novell. cxxxi. Beveridge (ad Pandect.
proleg. p. 2) remarks, that the emperors never made new laws in
ecclesiastical matters; and Giannone observes, in a very different
spirit, that they gave a legal sanction to the canons of councils.
Istoria Civile di Napoli, tom. i. p. 136.]

[Footnote 130: See the article Concile in the Eucyclopedie, tom. iii.
p. 668-879, edition de Lucques. The author, M. de docteur Bouchaud,
has discussed, according to the principles of the Gallican church,
the principal questions which relate to the form and constitution of
general, national, and provincial councils. The editors (see Preface, p.
xvi.) have reason to be proud of this article. Those who consult their
immense compilation, seldom depart so well satisfied.]

Chapter XXI: Persecution Of Heresy, State Of The Church.--Part I.

Persecution Of Heresy.--The Schism Of The Donatists.--The Arian
Controversy.--Athanasius.--Distracted State Of The Church And Empire
Under Constantine And His Sons.--Toleration Of Paganism.

The grateful applause of the clergy has consecrated the memory of
a prince who indulged their passions and promoted their interest.
Constantine gave them security, wealth, honors, and revenge; and the
support of the orthodox faith was considered as the most sacred and
important duty of the civil magistrate. The edict of Milan, the great
charter of toleration, had confirmed to each individual of the Roman
world the privilege of choosing and professing his own religion. But
this inestimable privilege was soon violated; with the knowledge of
truth, the emperor imbibed the maxims of persecution; and the sects
which dissented from the Catholic church were afflicted and oppressed
by the triumph of Christianity. Constantine easily believed that
the Heretics, who presumed to dispute his opinions, or to oppose his
commands, were guilty of the most absurd and criminal obstinacy; and
that a seasonable application of moderate severities might save those
unhappy men from the danger of an everlasting condemnation. Not a
moment was lost in excluding the ministers and teachers of the separated
congregations from any share of the rewards and immunities which the
emperor had so liberally bestowed on the orthodox clergy. But as the
sectaries might still exist under the cloud of royal disgrace, the
conquest of the East was immediately followed by an edict which
announced their total destruction. [1] After a preamble filled with
passion and reproach, Constantine absolutely prohibits the assemblies of
the Heretics, and confiscates their public property to the use either
of the revenue or of the Catholic church. The sects against whom the
Imperial severity was directed, appear to have been the adherents
of Paul of Samosata; the Montanists of Phrygia, who maintained an
enthusiastic succession of prophecy; the Novatians, who sternly rejected
the temporal efficacy of repentance; the Marcionites and Valentinians,
under whose leading banners the various Gnostics of Asia and Egypt
had insensibly rallied; and perhaps the Manichaeans, who had recently
imported from Persia a more artful composition of Oriental and Christian
theology. [2] The design of extirpating the name, or at least of
restraining the progress, of these odious Heretics, was prosecuted with
vigor and effect. Some of the penal regulations were copied from the
edicts of Diocletian; and this method of conversion was applauded by the
same bishops who had felt the hand of oppression, and pleaded for the
rights of humanity. Two immaterial circumstances may serve, however,
to prove that the mind of Constantine was not entirely corrupted by
the spirit of zeal and bigotry. Before he condemned the Manichaeans and
their kindred sects, he resolved to make an accurate inquiry into
the nature of their religious principles. As if he distrusted the
impartiality of his ecclesiastical counsellors, this delicate commission
was intrusted to a civil magistrate, whose learning and moderation he
justly esteemed, and of whose venal character he was probably ignorant.
[3] The emperor was soon convinced, that he had too hastily proscribed
the orthodox faith and the exemplary morals of the Novatians, who had
dissented from the church in some articles of discipline which were not
perhaps essential to salvation. By a particular edict, he exempted
them from the general penalties of the law; [4] allowed them to build
a church at Constantinople, respected the miracles of their saints,
invited their bishop Acesius to the council of Nice; and gently
ridiculed the narrow tenets of his sect by a familiar jest; which, from
the mouth of a sovereign, must have been received with applause and
gratitude. [5]

[Footnote 1: Eusebius in Vit. Constantin. l. iii. c. 63, 64, 65, 66.]

[Footnote 2: After some examination of the various opinions of
Tillemont, Beausobre, Lardner, &c., I am convinced that Manes did not
propagate his sect, even in Persia, before the year 270. It is strange,
that a philosophic and foreign heresy should have penetrated so rapidly
into the African provinces; yet I cannot easily reject the edict of
Diocletian against the Manichaeans, which may be found in Baronius.
(Annal Eccl. A. D. 287.)]

[Footnote 3: Constantinus enim, cum limatius superstitionum quaeroret
sectas, Manichaeorum et similium, &c. Ammian. xv. 15. Strategius, who
from this commission obtained the surname of Musonianus, was a Christian
of the Arian sect. He acted as one of the counts at the council of
Sardica. Libanius praises his mildness and prudence. Vales. ad locum

[Footnote 4: Cod. Theod. l. xvi. tit. 5, leg. 2. As the general law is
not inserted in the Theodosian Code, it probable that, in the year 438,
the sects which it had condemned were already extinct.]

[Footnote 5: Sozomen, l. i. c. 22. Socrates, l. i. c. 10. These
historians have been suspected, but I think without reason, of an
attachment to the Novatian doctrine. The emperor said to the bishop,
"Acesius, take a ladder, and get up to heaven by yourself." Most of the
Christian sects have, by turns, borrowed the ladder of Acesius.]

The complaints and mutual accusations which assailed the throne of
Constantine, as soon as the death of Maxentius had submitted Africa to
his victorious arms, were ill adapted to edify an imperfect proselyte.
He learned, with surprise, that the provinces of that great country,
from the confines of Cyrene to the columns of Hercules, were distracted
with religious discord. [6] The source of the division was derived from
a double election in the church of Carthage; the second, in rank and
opulence, of the ecclesiastical thrones of the West. Caecilian and
Majorinus were the two rival prelates of Africa; and the death of the
latter soon made room for Donatus, who, by his superior abilities and
apparent virtues, was the firmest support of his party. The advantage
which Caecilian might claim from the priority of his ordination, was
destroyed by the illegal, or at least indecent, haste, with which it had
been performed, without expecting the arrival of the bishops of Numidia.
The authority of these bishops, who, to the number of seventy, condemned
Caecilian, and consecrated Majorinus, is again weakened by the infamy
of some of their personal characters; and by the female intrigues,
sacrilegious bargains, and tumultuous proceedings, which are imputed
to this Numidian council. [7] The bishops of the contending factions
maintained, with equal ardor and obstinacy, that their adversaries were
degraded, or at least dishonored, by the odious crime of delivering
the Holy Scriptures to the officers of Diocletian. From their mutual
reproaches, as well as from the story of this dark transaction, it may
justly be inferred, that the late persecution had imbittered the zeal,
without reforming the manners, of the African Christians. That
divided church was incapable of affording an impartial judicature; the
controversy was solemnly tried in five successive tribunals, which
were appointed by the emperor; and the whole proceeding, from the
first appeal to the final sentence, lasted above three years. A severe
inquisition, which was taken by the Praetorian vicar, and the proconsul
of Africa, the report of two episcopal visitors who had been sent to
Carthage, the decrees of the councils of Rome and of Arles, and the
supreme judgment of Constantine himself in his sacred consistory,
were all favorable to the cause of Caecilian; and he was unanimously
acknowledged by the civil and ecclesiastical powers, as the true and
lawful primate of Africa. The honors and estates of the church were
attributed to his suffragan bishops, and it was not without difficulty,
that Constantine was satisfied with inflicting the punishment of exile
on the principal leaders of the Donatist faction. As their cause was
examined with attention, perhaps it was determined with justice. Perhaps
their complaint was not without foundation, that the credulity of the
emperor had been abused by the insidious arts of his favorite Osius. The
influence of falsehood and corruption might procure the condemnation
of the innocent, or aggravate the sentence of the guilty. Such an act,
however, of injustice, if it concluded an importunate dispute, might be
numbered among the transient evils of a despotic administration, which
are neither felt nor remembered by posterity.

[Footnote 6: The best materials for this part of ecclesiastical history
may be found in the edition of Optatus Milevitanus, published (Paris,
1700) by M. Dupin, who has enriched it with critical notes, geographical
discussions, original records, and an accurate abridgment of the whole
controversy. M. de Tillemont has bestowed on the Donatists the greatest
part of a volume, (tom. vi. part i.;) and I am indebted to him for an
ample collection of all the passages of his favorite St. Augustin, which
relate to those heretics.]

[Footnote 7: Schisma igitur illo tempore confusae mulieris iracundia
peperit; ambitus nutrivit; avaritia roboravit. Optatus, l. i. c. 19. The
language of Purpurius is that of a furious madman. Dicitur te necasse
lilios sororis tuae duos. Purpurius respondit: Putas me terreri a te..
occidi; et occido eos qui contra me faciunt. Acta Concil. Cirtenais,
ad calc. Optat. p. 274. When Caecilian was invited to an assembly of
bishops, Purpurius said to his brethren, or rather to his accomplices,
"Let him come hither to receive our imposition of hands, and we will
break his head by way of penance." Optat. l. i. c. 19.]

But this incident, so inconsiderable that it scarcely deserves a place
in history, was productive of a memorable schism which afflicted the
provinces of Africa above three hundred years, and was extinguished only
with Christianity itself. The inflexible zeal of freedom and fanaticism
animated the Donatists to refuse obedience to the usurpers, whose
election they disputed, and whose spiritual powers they denied.
Excluded from the civil and religious communion of mankind, they boldly
excommunicated the rest of mankind, who had embraced the impious party
of Caecilian, and of the Traditors, from which he derived his pretended
ordination. They asserted with confidence, and almost with exultation,
that the Apostolical succession was interrupted; that all the bishops of
Europe and Asia were infected by the contagion of guilt and schism; and
that the prerogatives of the Catholic church were confined to the chosen
portion of the African believers, who alone had preserved inviolate the
integrity of their faith and discipline. This rigid theory was supported
by the most uncharitable conduct. Whenever they acquired a proselyte,
even from the distant provinces of the East, they carefully repeated
the sacred rites of baptism [8] and ordination; as they rejected the
validity of those which he had already received from the hands of
heretics or schismatics. Bishops, virgins, and even spotless infants,
were subjected to the disgrace of a public penance, before they could be
admitted to the communion of the Donatists. If they obtained possession
of a church which had been used by their Catholic adversaries, they
purified the unhallowed building with the same zealous care which a
temple of idols might have required. They washed the pavement, scraped
the walls, burnt the altar, which was commonly of wood, melted the
consecrated plate, and cast the Holy Eucharist to the dogs, with
every circumstance of ignominy which could provoke and perpetuate the
animosity of religious factions. [9] Notwithstanding this irreconcilable
aversion, the two parties, who were mixed and separated in all the
cities of Africa, had the same language and manners, the same zeal
and learning, the same faith and worship. Proscribed by the civil and
ecclesiastical powers of the empire, the Donatists still maintained in
some provinces, particularly in Numidia, their superior numbers; and
four hundred bishops acknowledged the jurisdiction of their primate. But
the invincible spirit of the sect sometimes preyed on its own vitals:
and the bosom of their schismatical church was torn by intestine
divisions. A fourth part of the Donatist bishops followed the
independent standard of the Maximianists. The narrow and solitary path
which their first leaders had marked out, continued to deviate from the
great society of mankind. Even the imperceptible sect of the Rogatians
could affirm, without a blush, that when Christ should descend to judge
the earth, he would find his true religion preserved only in a few
nameless villages of the Caesarean Mauritania. [10]

[Footnote 8: The councils of Arles, of Nice, and of Trent, confirmed
the wise and moderate practice of the church of Rome. The Donatists,
however, had the advantage of maintaining the sentiment of Cyprian, and
of a considerable part of the primitive church. Vincentius Lirinesis (p.
532, ap. Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. vi. p. 138) has explained why the
Donatists are eternally burning with the Devil, while St. Cyprian reigns
in heaven with Jesus Christ.]

[Footnote 9: See the sixth book of Optatus Milevitanus, p. 91-100.]

[Footnote 10: Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiastiques, tom. vi. part i. p. 253.
He laughs at their partial credulity. He revered Augustin, the great
doctor of the system of predestination.]

The schism of the Donatists was confined to Africa: the more diffusive
mischief of the Trinitarian controversy successively penetrated into
every part of the Christian world. The former was an accidental quarrel,
occasioned by the abuse of freedom; the latter was a high and mysterious
argument, derived from the abuse of philosophy. From the age of
Constantine to that of Clovis and Theodoric, the temporal interests both
of the Romans and Barbarians were deeply involved in the theological
disputes of Arianism. The historian may therefore be permitted
respectfully to withdraw the veil of the sanctuary; and to deduce the
progress of reason and faith, of error and passion from the school of
Plato, to the decline and fall of the empire.

The genius of Plato, informed by his own meditation, or by the
traditional knowledge of the priests of Egypt, [11] had ventured to
explore the mysterious nature of the Deity. When he had elevated his
mind to the sublime contemplation of the first self-existent, necessary
cause of the universe, the Athenian sage was incapable of conceiving
how the simple unity of his essence could admit the infinite variety
of distinct and successive ideas which compose the model of the
intellectual world; how a Being purely incorporeal could execute that
perfect model, and mould with a plastic hand the rude and independent
chaos. The vain hope of extricating himself from these difficulties,
which must ever oppress the feeble powers of the human mind, might
induce Plato to consider the divine nature under the threefold
modification--of the first cause, the reason, or Logos, and the soul
or spirit of the universe. His poetical imagination sometimes fixed and
animated these metaphysical abstractions; the three archical on original
principles were represented in the Platonic system as three Gods, united
with each other by a mysterious and ineffable generation; and the Logos
was particularly considered under the more accessible character of the
Son of an Eternal Father, and the Creator and Governor of the world.
Such appear to have been the secret doctrines which were cautiously
whispered in the gardens of the academy; and which, according to the
more recent disciples of Plato, [11a] could not be perfectly understood,
till after an assiduous study of thirty years. [12]

[Footnote 11: Plato Aegyptum peragravit ut a sacerdotibus Barbaris
numeros et coelestia acciperet. Cicero de Finibus, v. 25. The Egyptians
might still preserve the traditional creed of the Patriarchs. Josephus
has persuaded many of the Christian fathers, that Plato derived a
part of his knowledge from the Jews; but this vain opinion cannot be
reconciled with the obscure state and unsocial manners of the Jewish
people, whose scriptures were not accessible to Greek curiosity till
more than one hundred years after the death of Plato. See Marsham Canon.
Chron. p. 144 Le Clerc, Epistol. Critic. vii. p. 177-194.]

[Footnote 11a: This exposition of the doctrine of Plato appears to me
contrary to the true sense of that philosopher's writings. The brilliant
imagination which he carried into metaphysical inquiries, his style,
full of allegories and figures, have misled those interpreters who did
not seek, from the whole tenor of his works and beyond the images which
the writer employs, the system of this philosopher. In my opinion, there
is no Trinity in Plato; he has established no mysterious generation
between the three pretended principles which he is made to distinguish.
Finally, he conceives only as attributes of the Deity, or of matter,
those ideas, of which it is supposed that he made substances, real
beings.----According to Plato, God and matter existed from all eternity.
Before the creation of the world, matter had in itself a principle of
motion, but without end or laws: it is this principle which Plato calls
the irrational soul of the world, because, according to his doctrine,
every spontaneous and original principle of motion is called soul. God
wished to impress form upon matter, that is to say, 1. To mould matter,
and make it into a body; 2. To regulate its motion, and subject it to
some end and to certain laws. The Deity, in this operation, could not
act but according to the ideas existing in his intelligence: their union
filled this, and formed the ideal type of the world. It is this ideal
world, this divine intelligence, existing with God from all eternity,
and called by Plato which he is supposed to personify, to
substantialize; while an attentive examination is sufficient to convince
us that he has never assigned it an existence external to the Deity,
(hors de la Divinite,) and that he considered the as the aggregate of
the ideas of God, the divine understanding in its relation to the world.
The contrary opinion is irreconcilable with all his philosophy: thus he
says that to the idea of the Deity is essentially united that of
intelligence, of a logos. He would thus have admitted a double logos;
one inherent in the Deity as an attribute, the other independently
existing as a substance. He affirms that the intelligence, the principle
of order cannot exist but as an attribute of a soul, the principle of
motion and of life, of which the nature is unknown to us. How, then,
according to this, could he consider the logos as a substance endowed
with an independent existence? In other places, he explains it by these
two words, knowledge, science, which signify the attributes of the
Deity. When Plato separates God, the ideal archetype of the world and
matter, it is to explain how, according to his system, God has
proceeded, at the creation, to unite the principle of order which he had
within himself, his proper intelligence, the principle of motion, to the
principle of motion, the irrational soul which was in matter. When he
speaks of the place occupied by the ideal world, it is to designate the
divine intelligence, which is its cause. Finally, in no part of his
writings do we find a true personification of the pretended beings of
which he is said to have formed a trinity: and if this personification
existed, it would equally apply to many other notions, of which might be
formed many different trinities. This error, into which many ancient as
well as modern interpreters of Plato have fallen, was very natural.
Besides the snares which were concealed in his figurative style; besides
the necessity of comprehending as a whole the system of his ideas, and
not to explain isolated passages, the nature of his doctrine itself
would conduce to this error. When Plato appeared, the uncertainty of
human knowledge, and the continual illusions of the senses, were
acknowledged, and had given rise to a general scepticism. Socrates had
aimed at raising morality above the influence of this scepticism: Plato
endeavored to save metaphysics, by seeking in the human intellect a
source of certainty which the senses could not furnish. He invented the
system of innate ideas, of which the aggregate formed, according to him,
the ideal world, and affirmed that these ideas were real attributes, not
only attached to our conceptions of objects, but to the nature of the
objects themselves; a nature of which from them we might obtain a
knowledge. He gave, then, to these ideas a positive existence as
attributes; his commentators could easily give them a real existence as
substances; especially as the terms which he used to designate them,
essential beauty, essential goodness, lent themselves to this
substantialization, (hypostasis.)--G. ----We have retained this view of
the original philosophy of Plato, in which there is probably much truth.
The genius of Plato was rather metaphysical than impersonative: his
poetry was in his language, rather than, like that of the Orientals, in
his conceptions.--M.]

[Footnote 12: The modern guides who lead me to the knowledge of the
Platonic system are Cudworth, Basnage, Le Clerc, and Brucker. As the
learning of these writers was equal, and their intention different, an
inquisitive observer may derive instruction from their disputes, and
certainty from their agreement.]

The arms of the Macedonians diffused over Asia and Egypt the language
and learning of Greece; and the theological system of Plato was taught,
with less reserve, and perhaps with some improvements, in the celebrated
school of Alexandria. [13] A numerous colony of Jews had been invited,
by the favor of the Ptolemies, to settle in their new capital. [14]
While the bulk of the nation practised the legal ceremonies, and pursued
the lucrative occupations of commerce, a few Hebrews, of a more
liberal spirit, devoted their lives to religious and philosophical
contemplation. [15] They cultivated with diligence, and embraced with
ardor, the theological system of the Athenian sage. But their national
pride would have been mortified by a fair confession of their former
poverty: and they boldly marked, as the sacred inheritance of their
ancestors, the gold and jewels which they had so lately stolen from
their Egyptian masters. One hundred years before the birth of Christ,
a philosophical treatise, which manifestly betrays the style and
sentiments of the school of Plato, was produced by the Alexandrian Jews,
and unanimously received as a genuine and valuable relic of the inspired
Wisdom of Solomon. [16] A similar union of the Mosaic faith and the
Grecian philosophy, distinguishes the works of Philo, which were
composed, for the most part, under the reign of Augustus. [17] The
material soul of the universe [18] might offend the piety of the
Hebrews: but they applied the character of the Logos to the Jehovah of
Moses and the patriarchs; and the Son of God was introduced upon earth
under a visible, and even human appearance, to perform those familiar
offices which seem incompatible with the nature and attributes of the
Universal Cause. [19]

[Footnote 13: Brucker, Hist. Philosoph. tom. i. p. 1349-1357. The
Alexandrian school is celebrated by Strabo (l. xvii.) and Ammianus,
(xxii. 6.) Note: The philosophy of Plato was not the only source of
that professed in the school of Alexandria. That city, in which Greek,
Jewish, and Egyptian men of letters were assembled, was the scene of a
strange fusion of the system of these three people. The Greeks brought a
Platonism, already much changed; the Jews, who had acquired at Babylon
a great number of Oriental notions, and whose theological opinions had
undergone great changes by this intercourse, endeavored to reconcile
Platonism with their new doctrine, and disfigured it entirely: lastly,
the Egyptians, who were not willing to abandon notions for which the
Greeks themselves entertained respect, endeavored on their side
to reconcile their own with those of their neighbors. It is in
Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon that we trace the influence
of Oriental philosophy rather than that of Platonism. We find in these
books, and in those of the later prophets, as in Ezekiel, notions
unknown to the Jews before the Babylonian captivity, of which we do not
discover the germ in Plato, but which are manifestly derived from
the Orientals. Thus God represented under the image of light, and the
principle of evil under that of darkness; the history of the good and
bad angels; paradise and hell, &c., are doctrines of which the origin,
or at least the positive determination, can only be referred to the
Oriental philosophy. Plato supposed matter eternal; the Orientals and
the Jews considered it as a creation of God, who alone was eternal. It
is impossible to explain the philosophy of the Alexandrian school solely
by the blending of the Jewish theology with the Greek philosophy. The
Oriental philosophy, however little it may be known, is recognized at
every instant. Thus, according to the Zend Avesta, it is by the Word
(honover) more ancient than the world, that Ormuzd created the universe.
This word is the logos of Philo, consequently very different from that
of Plato. I have shown that Plato never personified the logos as the
ideal archetype of the world: Philo ventured this personification. The
Deity, according to him, has a double logos; the first is the ideal
archetype of the world, the ideal world, the first-born of the Deity;
the second is the word itself of God, personified under the image of a
being acting to create the sensible world, and to make it like to
the ideal world: it is the second-born of God. Following out his
imaginations, Philo went so far as to personify anew the ideal world,
under the image of a celestial man, the primitive type of man, and the
sensible world under the image of another man less perfect than the
celestial man. Certain notions of the Oriental philosophy may have
given rise to this strange abuse of allegory, which it is sufficient to
relate, to show what alterations Platonism had already undergone, and
what was their source. Philo, moreover, of all the Jews of Alexandria,
is the one whose Platonism is the most pure. It is from this mixture of
Orientalism, Platonism, and Judaism, that Gnosticism arose, which had
produced so many theological and philosophical extravagancies, and in
which Oriental notions evidently predominate.--G.]

[Footnote 14: Joseph. Antiquitat, l. xii. c. 1, 3. Basnage, Hist. des
Juifs, l. vii. c. 7.]

[Footnote 15: For the origin of the Jewish philosophy, see Eusebius,
Praeparat. Evangel. viii. 9, 10. According to Philo, the Therapeutae
studied philosophy; and Brucker has proved (Hist. Philosoph. tom. ii. p.
787) that they gave the preference to that of Plato.]

[Footnote 16: See Calmet, Dissertations sur la Bible, tom. ii. p. 277.
The book of the Wisdom of Solomon was received by many of the fathers as
the work of that monarch: and although rejected by the Protestants
for want of a Hebrew original, it has obtained, with the rest of the
Vulgate, the sanction of the council of Trent.]

[Footnote 17: The Platonism of Philo, which was famous to a proverb,
is proved beyond a doubt by Le Clerc, (Epist. Crit. viii. p. 211-228.)
Basnage (Hist. des Juifs, l. iv. c. 5) has clearly ascertained, that
the theological works of Philo were composed before the death, and most
probably before the birth, of Christ. In such a time of darkness, the
knowledge of Philo is more astonishing than his errors. Bull, Defens.
Fid. Nicen. s. i. c. i. p. 12.]

[Footnote 18: Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet. Besides
this material soul, Cudworth has discovered (p. 562) in Amelius,
Porphyry, Plotinus, and, as he thinks, in Plato himself, a superior,
spiritual upercosmian soul of the universe. But this double soul is
exploded by Brucker, Basnage, and Le Clerc, as an idle fancy of the
latter Platonists.]

[Footnote 19: Petav. Dogmata Theologica, tom. ii. l. viii. c. 2, p. 791.
Bull, Defens. Fid. Nicen. s. i. c. l. p. 8, 13. This notion, till it
was abused by the Arians, was freely adopted in the Christian theology.
Tertullian (adv. Praxeam, c. 16) has a remarkable and dangerous passage.
After contrasting, with indiscreet wit, the nature of God, and the
actions of Jehovah, he concludes: Scilicet ut haec de filio Dei non
credenda fuisse, si non scripta essent; fortasse non credenda de
l'atre licet scripta. * Note: Tertullian is here arguing against the
Patripassians; those who asserted that the Father was born of the
Virgin, died and was buried.--M.]

Chapter XXI: Persecution Of Heresy, State Of The Church.--Part II.

The eloquence of Plato, the name of Solomon, the authority of the school
of Alexandria, and the consent of the Jews and Greeks, were insufficient
to establish the truth of a mysterious doctrine, which might please, but
could not satisfy, a rational mind. A prophet, or apostle, inspired
by the Deity, can alone exercise a lawful dominion over the faith of
mankind: and the theology of Plato might have been forever confounded
with the philosophical visions of the Academy, the Porch, and the
Lycaeum, if the name and divine attributes of the Logos had not been
confirmed by the celestial pen of the last and most sublime of the
Evangelists. [20] The Christian Revelation, which was consummated under
the reign of Nerva, disclosed to the world the amazing secret, that the
Logos, who was with God from the beginning, and was God, who had made
all things, and for whom all things had been made, was incarnate in the
person of Jesus of Nazareth; who had been born of a virgin, and suffered
death on the cross. Besides the genera design of fixing on a perpetual
basis the divine honors of Christ, the most ancient and respectable of
the ecclesiastical writers have ascribed to the evangelic theologian a
particular intention to confute two opposite heresies, which disturbed
the peace of the primitive church. [21] I. The faith of the Ebionites,
[22] perhaps of the Nazarenes, [23] was gross and imperfect. They
revered Jesus as the greatest of the prophets, endowed with supernatural
virtue and power. They ascribed to his person and to his future reign
all the predictions of the Hebrew oracles which relate to the spiritual
and everlasting kingdom of the promised Messiah. [24] Some of them might
confess that he was born of a virgin; but they obstinately rejected the
preceding existence and divine perfections of the Logos, or Son of God,
which are so clearly defined in the Gospel of St. John. About fifty
years afterwards, the Ebionites, whose errors are mentioned by Justin
Martyr with less severity than they seem to deserve, [25] formed a very
inconsiderable portion of the Christian name. II. The Gnostics, who
were distinguished by the epithet of Docetes, deviated into the contrary
extreme; and betrayed the human, while they asserted the divine, nature
of Christ. Educated in the school of Plato, accustomed to the sublime
idea of the Logos, they readily conceived that the brightest Aeon,
or Emanation of the Deity, might assume the outward shape and visible
appearances of a mortal; [26] but they vainly pretended, that the
imperfections of matter are incompatible with the purity of a celestial

While the blood of Christ yet smoked on Mount Calvary, the Docetes
invented the impious and extravagant hypothesis, that, instead of
issuing from the womb of the Virgin, [27] he had descended on the banks
of the Jordan in the form of perfect manhood; that he had imposed on the
senses of his enemies, and of his disciples; and that the ministers of
Pilate had wasted their impotent rage on an ury phantom, who seemed to
expire on the cross, and, after three days, to rise from the dead. [28]

[Footnote 20: The Platonists admired the beginning of the Gospel of St.
John as containing an exact transcript of their own principles. Augustin
de Civitat. Dei, x. 29. Amelius apud Cyril. advers. Julian. l. viii. p.
283. But in the third and fourth centuries, the Platonists of Alexandria
might improve their Trinity by the secret study of the Christian
theology. Note: A short discussion on the sense in which St. John has
used the word Logos, will prove that he has not borrowed it from the
philosophy of Plato. The evangelist adopts this word without previous
explanation, as a term with which his contemporaries were already
familiar, and which they could at once comprehend. To know the sense
which he gave to it, we must inquire that which it generally bore in his
time. We find two: the one attached to the word logos by the Jews of
Palestine, the other by the school of Alexandria, particularly by Philo.
The Jews had feared at all times to pronounce the name of Jehovah; they
had formed a habit of designating God by one of his attributes; they
called him sometimes Wisdom, sometimes the Word. By the word of the Lord
were the heavens made. (Psalm xxxiii. 6.) Accustomed to allegories, they
often addressed themselves to this attribute of the Deity as a real
being. Solomon makes Wisdom say "The Lord possessed me in the beginning
of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from
the beginning, or ever the earth was." (Prov. viii. 22, 23.) Their
residence in Persia only increased this inclination to sustained
allegories. In the Ecclesiasticus of the son of Sirach, and the Book of
Wisdom, we find allegorical descriptions of Wisdom like the following:
"I came out of the mouth of the Most High; I covered the earth as a
cloud;... I alone compassed the circuit of heaven, and walked in the
bottom of the deep... The Creator created me from the beginning, before
the world, and I shall never fail." (Eccles. xxiv. 35- 39.) See also the
Wisdom of Solomon, c. vii. v. 9. [The latter book is clearly
Alexandrian.--M.] We see from this that the Jews understood from the
Hebrew and Chaldaic words which signify Wisdom, the Word, and which were
translated into Greek, a simple attribute of the Deity, allegorically
personified, but of which they did not make a real particular being
separate from the Deity. The school of Alexandria, on the contrary, and
Philo among the rest, mingling Greek with Jewish and Oriental notions,
and abandoning himself to his inclination to mysticism, personified the
logos, and represented it a distinct being, created by God, and
intermediate between God and man. This is the second logos of Philo,
that which acts from the beginning of the world, alone in its kind,
creator of the sensible world, formed by God according to the ideal
world which he had in himself, and which was the first logos, the first-
born of the Deity. The logos taken in this sense, then, was a created
being, but, anterior to the creation of the world, near to God, and
charged with his revelations to mankind.----Which of these two senses is
that which St. John intended to assign to the word logos in the first
chapter of his Gospel, and in all his writings? St. John was a Jew, born
and educated in Palestine; he had no knowledge, at least very little, of
the philosophy of the Greeks, and that of the Grecizing Jews: he would
naturally, then, attach to the word logos the sense attached to it by
the Jews of Palestine. If, in fact, we compare the attributes which he
assigns to the logos with those which are assigned to it in Proverbs, in
the Wisdom of Solomon, in Ecclesiasticus, we shall see that they are the
same. The Word was in the world, and the world was made by him; in him
was life, and the life was the light of men, (c. i. v. 10-14.) It is
impossible not to trace in this chapter the ideas which the Jews had
formed of the allegorized logos. The evangelist afterwards really
personifies that which his predecessors have personified only
poetically; for he affirms "that the Word became flesh," (v. 14.) It was
to prove this that he wrote. Closely examined, the ideas which he gives
of the logos cannot agree with those of Philo and the school of
Alexandria; they correspond, on the contrary, with those of the Jews of
Palestine. Perhaps St. John, employing a well-known term to explain a
doctrine which was yet unknown, has slightly altered the sense; it is
this alteration which we appear to discover on comparing different
passages of his writings.----It is worthy of remark, that the Jews of
Palestine, who did not perceive this alteration, could find nothing
extraordinary in what St. John said of the Logos; at least they
comprehended it without difficulty, while the Greeks and Grecizing Jews,
on their part, brought to it prejudices and preconceptions easily
reconciled with those of the evangelist, who did not expressly
contradict them. This circumstance must have much favored the progress
of Christianity. Thus the fathers of the church in the two first
centuries and later, formed almost all in the school of Alexandria, gave
to the Logos of St. John a sense nearly similar to that which it
received from Philo. Their doctrine approached very near to that which
in the fourth century the council of Nice condemned in the person of
Arius.--G.----M. Guizot has forgotten the long residence of St. John at
Ephesus, the centre of the mingling opinions of the East and West, which
were gradually growing up into Gnosticism. (See Matter. Hist. du
Gnosticisme, vol. i. p. 154.) St. John's sense of the Logos seems as far
removed from the simple allegory ascribed to the Palestinian Jews as
from the Oriental impersonation of the Alexandrian. The simple truth may
be that St. John took the familiar term, and, as it were infused into it
the peculiar and Christian sense in which it is used in his writings.

[Footnote 21: See Beausobre, Hist. Critique du Manicheisme, tom. i. p.
377. The Gospel according to St. John is supposed to have been published
about seventy years after the death of Christ.]

[Footnote 22: The sentiments of the Ebionites are fairly stated by
Mosheim (p. 331) and Le Clerc, (Hist. Eccles. p. 535.) The Clementines,
published among the apostolical fathers, are attributed by the critics
to one of these sectaries.]

[Footnote 23: Stanch polemics, like a Bull, (Judicium Eccles. Cathol.
c. 2,) insist on the orthodoxy of the Nazarenes; which appears less pure
and certain in the eyes of Mosheim, (p. 330.)]

[Footnote 24: The humble condition and sufferings of Jesus have always
been a stumbling-block to the Jews. "Deus... contrariis coloribus
Messiam depinxerat: futurus erat Rex, Judex, Pastor," &c. See Limborch
et Orobio Amica Collat. p. 8, 19, 53-76, 192-234. But this objection has
obliged the believing Christians to lift up their eyes to a spiritual
and everlasting kingdom.]

[Footnote 25: Justin Martyr, Dialog. cum Tryphonte, p. 143, 144. See Le
Clerc, Hist. Eccles. p. 615. Bull and his editor Grabe (Judicium Eccles.
Cathol. c. 7, and Appendix) attempt to distort either the sentiments
or the words of Justin; but their violent correction of the text is
rejected even by the Benedictine editors.]

[Footnote 26: The Arians reproached the orthodox party with borrowing
their Trinity from the Valentinians and Marcionites. See Beausobre,
Hist. de Manicheisme, l. iii. c. 5, 7.]

[Footnote 27: Non dignum est ex utero credere Deum, et Deum Christum....
non dignum est ut tanta majestas per sordes et squalores muli eris
transire credatur. The Gnostics asserted the impurity of matter, and of
marriage; and they were scandalized by the gross interpretations of the
fathers, and even of Augustin himself. See Beausobre, tom. ii. p. 523,
* Note: The greater part of the Docetae rejected the true divinity
of Jesus Christ, as well as his human nature. They belonged to the
Gnostics, whom some philosophers, in whose party Gibbon has enlisted,
make to derive their opinions from those of Plato. These philosophers
did not consider that Platonism had undergone continual alterations,
and that those who gave it some analogy with the notions of the Gnostics
were later in their origin than most of the sects comprehended under
this name Mosheim has proved (in his Instit. Histor. Eccles. Major. s.
i. p. 136, sqq and p. 339, sqq.) that the Oriental philosophy, combined
with the cabalistical philosophy of the Jews, had given birth to
Gnosticism. The relations which exist between this doctrine and the
records which remain to us of that of the Orientals, the Chaldean and
Persian, have been the source of the errors of the Gnostic Christians,
who wished to reconcile their ancient notions with their new belief. It
is on this account that, denying the human nature of Christ, they
also denied his intimate union with God, and took him for one of the
substances (aeons) created by God. As they believed in the eternity of
matter, and considered it to be the principle of evil, in opposition to
the Deity, the first cause and principle of good, they were unwilling to
admit that one of the pure substances, one of the aeons which came forth
from God, had, by partaking in the material nature, allied himself to
the principle of evil; and this was their motive for rejecting the real
humanity of Jesus Christ. See Ch. G. F. Walch, Hist. of Heresies in
Germ. t. i. p. 217, sqq. Brucker, Hist. Crit. Phil. ii. p 639.--G.]

[Footnote 28: Apostolis adhuc in saeculo superstitibus apud Judaeam
Christi sanguine recente, et phanlasma corpus Domini asserebatur.
Cotelerius thinks (Patres Apostol. tom. ii. p. 24) that those who will
not allow the Docetes to have arisen in the time of the Apostles, may
with equal reason deny that the sun shines at noonday. These Docetes,
who formed the most considerable party among the Gnostics, were so
called, because they granted only a seeming body to Christ. * Note: The
name of Docetae was given to these sectaries only in the course of the
second century: this name did not designate a sect, properly so called;
it applied to all the sects who taught the non- reality of the material
body of Christ; of this number were the Valentinians, the Basilidians,
the Ophites, the Marcionites, (against whom Tertullian wrote his book,
De Carne Christi,) and other Gnostics. In truth, Clement of Alexandria
(l. iii. Strom. c. 13, p. 552) makes express mention of a sect of
Docetae, and even names as one of its heads a certain Cassianus;
but every thing leads us to believe that it was not a distinct sect.
Philastrius (de Haeres, c. 31) reproaches Saturninus with being a
Docete. Irenaeus (adv. Haer. c. 23) makes the same reproach against
Basilides. Epiphanius and Philastrius, who have treated in detail on
each particular heresy, do not specially name that of the Docetae.
Serapion, bishop of Antioch, (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. l. vi. c. 12,) and
Clement of Alexandria, (l. vii. Strom. p. 900,) appear to be the first
who have used the generic name. It is not found in any earlier record,
though the error which it points out existed even in the time of the
Apostles. See Ch. G. F. Walch, Hist. of Her. v. i. p. 283. Tillemont,
Mempour servir a la Hist Eccles. ii. p. 50. Buddaeus de Eccles. Apost.
c. 5 & 7--G.]

The divine sanction, which the Apostle had bestowed on the fundamental
principle of the theology of Plato, encouraged the learned proselytes of
the second and third centuries to admire and study the writings of the
Athenian sage, who had thus marvellously anticipated one of the most
surprising discoveries of the Christian revelation. The respectable name
of Plato was used by the orthodox, [29] and abused by the heretics, [30]
as the common support of truth and error: the authority of his skilful
commentators, and the science of dialectics, were employed to justify
the remote consequences of his opinions and to supply the discreet
silence of the inspired writers. The same subtle and profound questions
concerning the nature, the generation, the distinction, and the equality
of the three divine persons of the mysterious Triad, or Trinity, [31]
were agitated in the philosophical and in the Christian schools of
Alexandria. An eager spirit of curiosity urged them to explore the
secrets of the abyss; and the pride of the professors, and of their
disciples, was satisfied with the sciences of words. But the most
sagacious of the Christian theologians, the great Athanasius himself,
has candidly confessed, [32] that whenever he forced his understanding
to meditate on the divinity of the Logos, his toilsome and unavailing
efforts recoiled on themselves; that the more he thought, the less
he comprehended; and the more he wrote, the less capable was he of
expressing his thoughts. In every step of the inquiry, we are compelled
to feel and acknowledge the immeasurable disproportion between the
size of the object and the capacity of the human mind. We may strive to
abstract the notions of time, of space, and of matter, which so closely
adhere to all the perceptions of our experimental knowledge. But as soon
as we presume to reason of infinite substance, of spiritual generation;
as often as we deduce any positive conclusions from a negative idea, we
are involved in darkness, perplexity, and inevitable contradiction. As
these difficulties arise from the nature of the subject, they oppress,
with the same insuperable weight, the philosophic and the theological
disputant; but we may observe two essential and peculiar circumstances,
which discriminated the doctrines of the Catholic church from the
opinions of the Platonic school.

[Footnote 29: Some proofs of the respect which the Christians
entertained for the person and doctrine of Plato may be found in De la
Mothe le Vayer, tom. v. p. 135, &c., edit. 1757; and Basnage, Hist. des
Juifs tom. iv. p. 29, 79, &c.]

[Footnote 30: Doleo bona fide, Platonem omnium heraeticorum
condimentarium factum. Tertullian. de Anima, c. 23. Petavius (Dogm.
Theolog. tom. iii. proleg. 2) shows that this was a general complaint.
Beausobre (tom. i. l. iii. c. 9, 10) has deduced the Gnostic errors
from Platonic principles; and as, in the school of Alexandria, those
principles were blended with the Oriental philosophy, (Brucker, tom. i.
p. 1356,) the sentiment of Beausobre may be reconciled with the opinion
of Mosheim, (General History of the Church, vol. i. p. 37.)]

[Footnote 31: If Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, (see Dupin, Bibliotheque
Ecclesiastique, tom. i. p. 66,) was the first who employed the word
Triad, Trinity, that abstract term, which was already familiar to the
schools of philosophy, must have been introduced into the theology of
the Christians after the middle of the second century.]

[Footnote 32: Athanasius, tom. i. p. 808. His expressions have an
uncommon energy; and as he was writing to monks, there could not be any
occasion for him to affect a rational language.]

I. A chosen society of philosophers, men of a liberal education and
curious disposition, might silently meditate, and temperately discuss
in the gardens of Athens or the library of Alexandria, the abstruse
questions of metaphysical science. The lofty speculations, which
neither convinced the understanding, nor agitated the passions, of the
Platonists themselves, were carelessly overlooked by the idle, the busy,
and even the studious part of mankind. [33] But after the Logos had been
revealed as the sacred object of the faith, the hope, and the religious
worship of the Christians, the mysterious system was embraced by a
numerous and increasing multitude in every province of the Roman world.
Those persons who, from their age, or sex, or occupations, were the
least qualified to judge, who were the least exercised in the habits
of abstract reasoning, aspired to contemplate the economy of the
Divine Nature: and it is the boast of Tertullian, [34] that a Christian
mechanic could readily answer such questions as had perplexed the wisest
of the Grecian sages. Where the subject lies so far beyond our
reach, the difference between the highest and the lowest of human
understandings may indeed be calculated as infinitely small; yet the
degree of weakness may perhaps be measured by the degree of obstinacy
and dogmatic confidence. These speculations, instead of being treated as
the amusement of a vacant hour, became the most serious business of the
present, and the most useful preparation for a future, life. A theology,
which it was incumbent to believe, which it was impious to doubt, and
which it might be dangerous, and even fatal, to mistake, became the
familiar topic of private meditation and popular discourse. The cold
indifference of philosophy was inflamed by the fervent spirit of
devotion; and even the metaphors of common language suggested the
fallacious prejudices of sense and experience. The Christians, who
abhorred the gross and impure generation of the Greek mythology, [35]
were tempted to argue from the familiar analogy of the filial and
paternal relations. The character of Son seemed to imply a perpetual
subordination to the voluntary author of his existence; [36] but as the
act of generation, in the most spiritual and abstracted sense, must be
supposed to transmit the properties of a common nature, [37] they durst
not presume to circumscribe the powers or the duration of the Son of
an eternal and omnipotent Father. Fourscore years after the death of
Christ, the Christians of Bithynia, declared before the tribunal of
Pliny, that they invoked him as a god: and his divine honors have been
perpetuated in every age and country, by the various sects who assume
the name of his disciples. [38] Their tender reverence for the memory of
Christ, and their horror for the profane worship of any created being,
would have engaged them to assert the equal and absolute divinity of the
Logos, if their rapid ascent towards the throne of heaven had not been
imperceptibly checked by the apprehension of violating the unity and
sole supremacy of the great Father of Christ and of the Universe. The
suspense and fluctuation produced in the minds of the Christians by
these opposite tendencies, may be observed in the writings of the
theologians who flourished after the end of the apostolic age, and
before the origin of the Arian controversy. Their suffrage is claimed,
with equal confidence, by the orthodox and by the heretical parties; and
the most inquisitive critics have fairly allowed, that if they had the
good fortune of possessing the Catholic verity, they have delivered
their conceptions in loose, inaccurate, and sometimes contradictory
language. [39]

[Footnote 33: In a treatise, which professed to explain the opinions
of the ancient philosophers concerning the nature of the gods we might
expect to discover the theological Trinity of Plato. But Cicero very
honestly confessed, that although he had translated the Timaeus, he
could never understand that mysterious dialogue. See Hieronym. praef. ad
l. xii. in Isaiam, tom. v. p. 154.]

[Footnote 34: Tertullian. in Apolog. c. 46. See Bayle, Dictionnaire, au
mot Simonide. His remarks on the presumption of Tertullian are profound
and interesting.]

[Footnote 35: Lactantius, iv. 8. Yet the Probole, or Prolatio, which the
most orthodox divines borrowed without scruple from the Valentinians,
and illustrated by the comparisons of a fountain and stream, the sun and
its rays, &c., either meant nothing, or favored a material idea of the
divine generation. See Beausobre, tom. i. l. iii. c. 7, p. 548.]

[Footnote 36: Many of the primitive writers have frankly confessed, that
the Son owed his being to the will of the Father.----See Clarke's
Scripture Trinity, p. 280-287. On the other hand, Athanasius and his
followers seem unwilling to grant what they are afraid to deny. The
schoolmen extricate themselves from this difficulty by the distinction
of a preceding and a concomitant will. Petav. Dogm. Theolog. tom. ii. l.
vi. c. 8, p. 587-603.]

[Footnote 37: See Petav. Dogm. Theolog. tom. ii. l. ii. c. 10, p. 159.]

[Footnote 38: Carmenque Christo quasi Deo dicere secum invicem. Plin.
Epist. x. 97. The sense of Deus, Elohim, in the ancient languages, is
critically examined by Le Clerc, (Ars Critica, p. 150-156,) and the
propriety of worshipping a very excellent creature is ably defended by
the Socinian Emlyn, (Tracts, p. 29-36, 51-145.)]

[Footnote 39: See Daille de Usu Patrum, and Le Clerc, Bibliotheque
Universelle, tom. x. p. 409. To arraign the faith of the Ante-Nicene
fathers, was the object, or at least has been the effect, of the
stupendous work of Petavius on the Trinity, (Dogm. Theolog. tom. ii.;)
nor has the deep impression been erased by the learned defence of Bishop
Bull. Note: Dr. Burton's work on the doctrine of the Ante-Nicene fathers
must be consulted by those who wish to obtain clear notions on this

Chapter XXI: Persecution Of Heresy, State Of The Church.--Part III.

II. The devotion of individuals was the first circumstance which
distinguished the Christians from the Platonists: the second was the
authority of the church. The disciples of philosophy asserted the rights
of intellectual freedom, and their respect for the sentiments of their
teachers was a liberal and voluntary tribute, which they offered to
superior reason. But the Christians formed a numerous and disciplined
society; and the jurisdiction of their laws and magistrates was strictly
exercised over the minds of the faithful. The loose wanderings of the
imagination were gradually confined by creeds and confessions; [40] the
freedom of private judgment submitted to the public wisdom of synods;
the authority of a theologian was determined by his ecclesiastical rank;
and the episcopal successors of the apostles inflicted the censures of
the church on those who deviated from the orthodox belief. But in an age
of religious controversy, every act of oppression adds new force to
the elastic vigor of the mind; and the zeal or obstinacy of a spiritual
rebel was sometimes stimulated by secret motives of ambition or avarice.
A metaphysical argument became the cause or pretence of political
contests; the subtleties of the Platonic school were used as the badges
of popular factions, and the distance which separated their respective
tenets were enlarged or magnified by the acrimony of dispute. As long
as the dark heresies of Praxeas and Sabellius labored to confound the
Father with the Son, [41] the orthodox party might be excused if they
adhered more strictly and more earnestly to the distinction, than to the
equality, of the divine persons. But as soon as the heat of controversy
had subsided, and the progress of the Sabellians was no longer an object
of terror to the churches of Rome, of Africa, or of Egypt, the tide
of theological opinion began to flow with a gentle but steady motion
towards the contrary extreme; and the most orthodox doctors allowed
themselves the use of the terms and definitions which had been censured
in the mouth of the sectaries. [42] After the edict of toleration
had restored peace and leisure to the Christians, the Trinitarian
controversy was revived in the ancient seat of Platonism, the learned,
the opulent, the tumultuous city of Alexandria; and the flame of
religious discord was rapidly communicated from the schools to the
clergy, the people, the province, and the East. The abstruse question of
the eternity of the Logos was agitated in ecclesiastic conferences and
popular sermons; and the heterodox opinions of Arius [43] were soon
made public by his own zeal, and by that of his adversaries. His most
implacable adversaries have acknowledged the learning and blameless life
of that eminent presbyter, who, in a former election, had declared, and
perhaps generously declined, his pretensions to the episcopal throne.
[44] His competitor Alexander assumed the office of his judge. The
important cause was argued before him; and if at first he seemed to
hesitate, he at length pronounced his final sentence, as an absolute
rule of faith. [45] The undaunted presbyter, who presumed to resist the
authority of his angry bishop, was separated from the community of
the church. But the pride of Arius was supported by the applause of a
numerous party. He reckoned among his immediate followers two bishops
of Egypt, seven presbyters, twelve deacons, and (what may appear almost
incredible) seven hundred virgins. A large majority of the bishops of
Asia appeared to support or favor his cause; and their measures were
conducted by Eusebius of Caesarea, the most learned of the Christian
prelates; and by Eusebius of Nicomedia, who had acquired the reputation
of a statesman without forfeiting that of a saint. Synods in Palestine
and Bithynia were opposed to the synods of Egypt. The attention of the
prince and people was attracted by this theological dispute; and the
decision, at the end of six years, [46] was referred to the supreme
authority of the general council of Nice.

[Footnote 40: The most ancient creeds were drawn up with the greatest
latitude. See Bull, (Judicium Eccles. Cathol.,) who tries to prevent
Episcopius from deriving any advantage from this observation.]

[Footnote 41: The heresies of Praxeas, Sabellius, &c., are accurately
explained by Mosheim (p. 425, 680-714.) Praxeas, who came to Rome about
the end of the second century, deceived, for some time, the simplicity
of the bishop, and was confuted by the pen of the angry Tertullian.]

[Footnote 42: Socrates acknowledges, that the heresy of Arius proceeded
from his strong desire to embrace an opinion the most diametrically
opposite to that of Sabellius.]

[Footnote 43: The figure and manners of Arius, the character and
numbers of his first proselytes, are painted in very lively colors by
Epiphanius, (tom. i. Haeres. lxix. 3, p. 729,) and we cannot but
regret that he should soon forget the historian, to assume the task of

[Footnote 44: See Philostorgius (l. i. c. 3,) and Godefroy's ample
Commentary. Yet the credibility of Philostorgius is lessened, in the
eyes of the orthodox, by his Arianism; and in those of rational critics,
by his passion, his prejudice, and his ignorance.]

[Footnote 45: Sozomen (l. i. c. 15) represents Alexander as indifferent,
and even ignorant, in the beginning of the controversy; while Socrates
(l. i. c. 5) ascribes the origin of the dispute to the vain curiosity
of his theological speculations. Dr. Jortin (Remarks on Ecclesiastical
History, vol. ii. p. 178) has censured, with his usual freedom, the
conduct of Alexander.]

[Footnote 46: The flames of Arianism might burn for some time in secret;
but there is reason to believe that they burst out with violence as
early as the year 319. Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. vi. p. 774-780.]

    When the mysteries of the Christian faith were dangerously
exposed to public debate, it might be observed, that the human
understanding was capable of forming three district, though imperfect
systems, concerning the nature of the Divine Trinity; and it was
pronounced, that none of these systems, in a pure and absolute sense,
were exempt from heresy and error. [47] I. According to the first
hypothesis, which was maintained by Arius and his disciples, the Logos
was a dependent and spontaneous production, created from nothing by the
will of the father. The Son, by whom all things were made, [48] had been
begotten before all worlds, and the longest of the astronomical periods
could be compared only as a fleeting moment to the extent of his
duration; yet this duration was not infinite, [49] and there had been
a time which preceded the ineffable generation of the Logos. On this
only-begotten Son, the Almighty Father had transfused his ample spirit,
and impressed the effulgence of his glory. Visible image of invisible
perfection, he saw, at an immeasurable distance beneath his feet, the
thrones of the brightest archangels; yet he shone only with a reflected
light, and, like the sons of the Romans emperors, who were invested
with the titles of Caesar or Augustus, [50] he governed the universe
in obedience to the will of his Father and Monarch. II. In the second
hypothesis, the Logos possessed all the inherent, incommunicable
perfections, which religion and philosophy appropriate to the Supreme
God. Three distinct and infinite minds or substances, three coequal and
coeternal beings, composed the Divine Essence; [51] and it would have
implied contradiction, that any of them should not have existed, or that
they should ever cease to exist. [52] The advocates of a system which
seemed to establish three independent Deities, attempted to preserve the
unity of the First Cause, so conspicuous in the design and order of
the world, by the perpetual concord of their administration, and the
essential agreement of their will. A faint resemblance of this unity of
action may be discovered in the societies of men, and even of
animals. The causes which disturb their harmony, proceed only from the
imperfection and inequality of their faculties; but the omnipotence
which is guided by infinite wisdom and goodness, cannot fail of choosing
the same means for the accomplishment of the same ends. III. Three
beings, who, by the self-derived necessity of their existence, possess
all the divine attributes in the most perfect degree; who are eternal in
duration, infinite in space, and intimately present to each other, and
to the whole universe; irresistibly force themselves on the astonished
mind, as one and the same being, [53] who, in the economy of grace, as
well as in that of nature, may manifest himself under different forms,
and be considered under different aspects. By this hypothesis, a real
substantial trinity is refined into a trinity of names, and abstract
modifications, that subsist only in the mind which conceives them.
The Logos is no longer a person, but an attribute; and it is only in a
figurative sense that the epithet of Son can be applied to the eternal
reason, which was with God from the beginning, and by which, not by
whom, all things were made. The incarnation of the Logos is reduced to
a mere inspiration of the Divine Wisdom, which filled the soul, and
directed all the actions, of the man Jesus. Thus, after revolving around
the theological circle, we are surprised to find that the Sabellian
ends where the Ebionite had begun; and that the incomprehensible mystery
which excites our adoration, eludes our inquiry. [54]

[Footnote 47: Quid credidit? Certe, aut tria nomina audiens tres Deos
esse credidit, et idololatra effectus est; aut in tribus vocabulis
trinominem credens Deum, in Sabellii haeresim incurrit; aut edoctus ab
Arianis unum esse verum Deum Patrem, filium et spiritum sanctum credidit
creaturas. Aut extra haec quid credere potuerit nescio. Hieronym adv.
Luciferianos. Jerom reserves for the last the orthodox system, which is
more complicated and difficult.]

[Footnote 48: As the doctrine of absolute creation from nothing was
gradually introduced among the Christians, (Beausobre, tom. ii. p. 165-
215,) the dignity of the workman very naturally rose with that of the

[Footnote 49: The metaphysics of Dr. Clarke (Scripture Trinity, p.
276-280) could digest an eternal generation from an infinite cause.]

[Footnote 50: This profane and absurd simile is employed by several of
the primitive fathers, particularly by Athenagoras, in his Apology to
the emperor Marcus and his son; and it is alleged, without censure, by
Bull himself. See Defens. Fid. Nicen. sect. iii. c. 5, No. 4.]

[Footnote 51: See Cudworth's Intellectual System, p. 559, 579. This
dangerous hypothesis was countenanced by the two Gregories, of Nyssa and
Nazianzen, by Cyril of Alexandria, John of Damascus, &c. See Cudworth,
p. 603. Le Clerc, Bibliotheque Universelle, tom xviii. p. 97-105.]

[Footnote 52: Augustin seems to envy the freedom of the Philosophers.
Liberis verbis loquuntur philosophi.... Nos autem non dicimus duo vel
tria principia, duos vel tres Deos. De Civitat. Dei, x. 23.]

[Footnote 53: Boetius, who was deeply versed in the philosophy of Plato
and Aristotle, explains the unity of the Trinity by the indifference of
the three persons. See the judicious remarks of Le Clerc, Bibliotheque
Choisie, tom. xvi. p. 225, &c.]

[Footnote 54: If the Sabellians were startled at this conclusion, they
were driven another precipice into the confession, that the Father was
born of a virgin, that he had suffered on the cross; and thus deserved
the epithet of Patripassians, with which they were branded by their
adversaries. See the invectives of Tertullian against Praxeas, and the
temperate reflections of Mosheim, (p. 423, 681;) and Beausobre, tom. i.
l. iii. c. 6, p. 533.]

If the bishops of the council of Nice [55] had been permitted to follow
the unbiased dictates of their conscience, Arius and his associates
could scarcely have flattered themselves with the hopes of obtaining a
majority of votes, in favor of an hypothesis so directly averse to
the two most popular opinions of the Catholic world. The Arians soon
perceived the danger of their situation, and prudently assumed those
modest virtues, which, in the fury of civil and religious dissensions,
are seldom practised, or even praised, except by the weaker party. They
recommended the exercise of Christian charity and moderation; urged the
incomprehensible nature of the controversy, disclaimed the use of any
terms or definitions which could not be found in the Scriptures; and
offered, by very liberal concessions, to satisfy their adversaries
without renouncing the integrity of their own principles. The victorious
faction received all their proposals with haughty suspicion; and
anxiously sought for some irreconcilable mark of distinction,
the rejection of which might involve the Arians in the guilt and
consequences of heresy. A letter was publicly read, and ignominiously
torn, in which their patron, Eusebius of Nicomedia, ingenuously
confessed, that the admission of the Homoousion, or Consubstantial,
a word already familiar to the Platonists, was incompatible with the
principles of their theological system. The fortunate opportunity was
eagerly embraced by the bishops, who governed the resolutions of the
synod; and, according to the lively expression of Ambrose, [56] they
used the sword, which heresy itself had drawn from the scabbard, to cut
off the head of the hated monster. The consubstantiality of the Father
and the Son was established by the council of Nice, and has been
unanimously received as a fundamental article of the Christian faith,
by the consent of the Greek, the Latin, the Oriental, and the Protestant
churches. But if the same word had not served to stigmatize the
heretics, and to unite the Catholics, it would have been inadequate to
the purpose of the majority, by whom it was introduced into the orthodox
creed. This majority was divided into two parties, distinguished by
a contrary tendency to the sentiments of the Tritheists and of the
Sabellians. But as those opposite extremes seemed to overthrow the
foundations either of natural or revealed religion, they mutually agreed
to qualify the rigor of their principles; and to disavow the just, but
invidious, consequences, which might be urged by their antagonists. The
interest of the common cause inclined them to join their numbers, and to
conceal their differences; their animosity was softened by the healing
counsels of toleration, and their disputes were suspended by the use
of the mysterious Homoousion, which either party was free to interpret
according to their peculiar tenets. The Sabellian sense, which, about
fifty years before, had obliged the council of Antioch [57] to
prohibit this celebrated term, had endeared it to those theologians who
entertained a secret but partial affection for a nominal Trinity. But
the more fashionable saints of the Arian times, the intrepid Athanasius,
the learned Gregory Nazianzen, and the other pillars of the church,
who supported with ability and success the Nicene doctrine, appeared to
consider the expression of substance as if it had been synonymous
with that of nature; and they ventured to illustrate their meaning, by
affirming that three men, as they belong to the same common species, are
consubstantial, or homoousian to each other. [58] This pure and distinct
equality was tempered, on the one hand, by the internal connection, and
spiritual penetration which indissolubly unites the divine persons;
[59] and, on the other, by the preeminence of the Father, which was
acknowledged as far as it is compatible with the independence of the
Son. [60] Within these limits, the almost invisible and tremulous ball
of orthodoxy was allowed securely to vibrate. On either side, beyond
this consecrated ground, the heretics and the daemons lurked in ambush
to surprise and devour the unhappy wanderer. But as the degrees of
theological hatred depend on the spirit of the war, rather than on the
importance of the controversy, the heretics who degraded, were treated
with more severity than those who annihilated, the person of the Son.
The life of Athanasius was consumed in irreconcilable opposition to the
impious madness of the Arians; [61] but he defended above twenty
years the Sabellianism of Marcellus of Ancyra; and when at last he
was compelled to withdraw himself from his communion, he continued to
mention, with an ambiguous smile, the venial errors of his respectable
friend. [62]

[Footnote 55: The transactions of the council of Nice are related by the
ancients, not only in a partial, but in a very imperfect manner. Such a
picture as Fra Paolo would have drawn, can never be recovered; but such
rude sketches as have been traced by the pencil of bigotry, and that of
reason, may be seen in Tillemont, (Mem. Eccles. tom. v. p. 669-759,) and
in Le Clerc, (Bibliotheque Universelle, tom. x p. 435-454.)]

[Footnote 56: We are indebted to Ambrose (De Fide, l. iii.) knowledge
of this curious anecdote. Hoc verbum quod viderunt adversariis esse
formidini; ut ipsis gladio, ipsum nefandae caput haereseos.]

[Footnote 57: See Bull, Defens. Fid. Nicen. sect. ii. c. i. p. 25-36. He
thinks it his duty to reconcile two orthodox synods.]

[Footnote 58: According to Aristotle, the stars were homoousian to each
other. "That Homoousios means of one substance in kind, hath been shown
by Petavius, Curcellaeus, Cudworth, Le Clerc, &c., and to prove it would
be actum agere." This is the just remark of Dr. Jortin, (vol. ii p.
212,) who examines the Arian controversy with learning, candor, and

[Footnote 59: See Petavius, (Dogm. Theolog. tom. ii. l. iv. c. 16, p.
453, &c.,) Cudworth, (p. 559,) Bull, (sect. iv. p. 285-290, edit.
Grab.) The circumincessio, is perhaps the deepest and darkest he whole
theological abyss.]

[Footnote 60: The third section of Bull's Defence of the Nicene Faith,
which some of his antagonists have called nonsense, and others heresy,
is consecrated to the supremacy of the Father.]

[Footnote 61: The ordinary appellation with which Athanasius and his
followers chose to compliment the Arians, was that of Ariomanites.]

[Footnote 62: Epiphanius, tom i. Haeres. lxxii. 4, p. 837. See the
adventures of Marcellus, in Tillemont, (Mem. Eccles. tom. v. i. p. 880-
899.) His work, in one book, of the unity of God, was answered in the
three books, which are still extant, of Eusebius.----After a long and
careful examination, Petavius (tom. ii. l. i. c. 14, p. 78) has
reluctantly pronounced the condemnation of Marcellus.]

The authority of a general council, to which the Arians themselves had
been compelled to submit, inscribed on the banners of the orthodox party
the mysterious characters of the word Homoousion, which essentially
contributed, notwithstanding some obscure disputes, some nocturnal
combats, to maintain and perpetuate the uniformity of faith, or at least
of language. The consubstantialists, who by their success have deserved
and obtained the title of Catholics, gloried in the simplicity and
steadiness of their own creed, and insulted the repeated variations of
their adversaries, who were destitute of any certain rule of faith. The
sincerity or the cunning of the Arian chiefs, the fear of the laws or of
the people, their reverence for Christ, their hatred of Athanasius, all
the causes, human and divine, that influence and disturb the counsels
of a theological faction, introduced among the sectaries a spirit of
discord and inconstancy, which, in the course of a few years, erected
eighteen different models of religion, [63] and avenged the violated
dignity of the church. The zealous Hilary, [64] who, from the peculiar
hardships of his situation, was inclined to extenuate rather than to
aggravate the errors of the Oriental clergy, declares, that in the wide
extent of the ten provinces of Asia, to which he had been banished,
there could be found very few prelates who had preserved the knowledge
of the true God. [65] The oppression which he had felt, the disorders
of which he was the spectator and the victim, appeased, during a short
interval, the angry passions of his soul; and in the following passage,
of which I shall transcribe a few lines, the bishop of Poitiers unwarily
deviates into the style of a Christian philosopher. "It is a thing,"
says Hilary, "equally deplorable and dangerous, that there are as many
creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines as inclinations, and as
many sources of blasphemy as there are faults among us; because we make
creeds arbitrarily, and explain them as arbitrarily. The Homoousion is
rejected, and received, and explained away by successive synods. The
partial or total resemblance of the Father and of the Son is a subject
of dispute for these unhappy times. Every year, nay, every moon, we make
new creeds to describe invisible mysteries. We repent of what we
have done, we defend those who repent, we anathematize those whom we
defended. We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our
own in that of others; and reciprocally tearing one another to pieces,
we have been the cause of each other's ruin." [66]

[Footnote 63: Athanasius, in his epistle concerning the Synods of
Seleucia and Rimini, (tom. i. p. 886-905,) has given an ample list of
Arian creeds, which has been enlarged and improved by the labors of the
indefatigable Tillemont, (Mem. Eccles. tom. vi. p. 477.)]

[Footnote 64: Erasmus, with admirable sense and freedom, has delineated
the just character of Hilary. To revise his text, to compose the annals
of his life, and to justify his sentiments and conduct, is the province
of the Benedictine editors.]

[Footnote 65: Absque episcopo Eleusio et paucis cum eo, ex majore parte
Asianae decem provinciae, inter quas consisto, vere Deum nesciunt. Atque
utinam penitus nescirent! cum procliviore enim venia ignorarent quam
obtrectarent. Hilar. de Synodis, sive de Fide Orientalium, c. 63, p.
1186, edit. Benedict. In the celebrated parallel between atheism and
superstition, the bishop of Poitiers would have been surprised in the
philosophic society of Bayle and Plutarch.]

[Footnote 66: Hilarius ad Constantium, l. i. c. 4, 5, p. 1227, 1228.
This remarkable passage deserved the attention of Mr. Locke, who has
transcribed it (vol. iii. p. 470) into the model of his new common-place

It will not be expected, it would not perhaps be endured, that I should
swell this theological digression, by a minute examination of the
eighteen creeds, the authors of which, for the most part, disclaimed the
odious name of their parent Arius. It is amusing enough to delineate the
form, and to trace the vegetation, of a singular plant; but the tedious
detail of leaves without flowers, and of branches without fruit,
would soon exhaust the patience, and disappoint the curiosity, of the
laborious student. One question, which gradually arose from the Arian
controversy, may, however, be noticed, as it served to produce and
discriminate the three sects, who were united only by their common
aversion to the Homoousion of the Nicene synod. 1. If they were asked
whether the Son was like unto the Father, the question was resolutely
answered in the negative, by the heretics who adhered to the principles
of Arius, or indeed to those of philosophy; which seem to establish an
infinite difference between the Creator and the most excellent of his
creatures. This obvious consequence was maintained by Aetius, [67] on
whom the zeal of his adversaries bestowed the surname of the Atheist.
His restless and aspiring spirit urged him to try almost every
profession of human life. He was successively a slave, or at least
a husbandman, a travelling tinker, a goldsmith, a physician, a
schoolmaster, a theologian, and at last the apostle of a new church,
which was propagated by the abilities of his disciple Eunomius. [68]
Armed with texts of Scripture, and with captious syllogisms from the
logic of Aristotle, the subtle Aetius had acquired the fame of an
invincible disputant, whom it was impossible either to silence or to
convince. Such talents engaged the friendship of the Arian bishops, till
they were forced to renounce, and even to persecute, a dangerous ally,
who, by the accuracy of his reasoning, had prejudiced their cause in the
popular opinion, and offended the piety of their most devoted followers.
2. The omnipotence of the Creator suggested a specious and respectful
solution of the likeness of the Father and the Son; and faith might
humbly receive what reason could not presume to deny, that the Supreme
God might communicate his infinite perfections, and create a being
similar only to himself. [69] These Arians were powerfully supported
by the weight and abilities of their leaders, who had succeeded to the
management of the Eusebian interest, and who occupied the principal
thrones of the East. They detested, perhaps with some affectation, the
impiety of Aetius; they professed to believe, either without reserve, or
according to the Scriptures, that the Son was different from all other
creatures, and similar only to the Father. But they denied, the he
was either of the same, or of a similar substance; sometimes boldly
justifying their dissent, and sometimes objecting to the use of the word
substance, which seems to imply an adequate, or at least, a distinct,
notion of the nature of the Deity. 3. The sect which deserted the
doctrine of a similar substance, was the most numerous, at least in the
provinces of Asia; and when the leaders of both parties were assembled
in the council of Seleucia, [70] their opinion would have prevailed by a
majority of one hundred and five to forty-three bishops. The Greek word,
which was chosen to express this mysterious resemblance, bears so close
an affinity to the orthodox symbol, that the profane of every age have
derided the furious contests which the difference of a single diphthong
excited between the Homoousians and the Homoiousians. As it frequently
happens, that the sounds and characters which approach the nearest
to each other accidentally represent the most opposite ideas, the
observation would be itself ridiculous, if it were possible to mark any
real and sensible distinction between the doctrine of the Semi-Arians,
as they were improperly styled, and that of the Catholics themselves.
The bishop of Poitiers, who in his Phrygian exile very wisely aimed at
a coalition of parties, endeavors to prove that by a pious and faithful
interpretation, [71] the Homoiousion may be reduced to a consubstantial
sense. Yet he confesses that the word has a dark and suspicious
aspect; and, as if darkness were congenial to theological disputes, the
Semi-Arians, who advanced to the doors of the church, assailed them with
the most unrelenting fury.

[Footnote 67: In Philostorgius (l. iii. c. 15) the character and
adventures of Aetius appear singular enough, though they are carefully
softened by the hand of a friend. The editor, Godefroy, (p. 153,) who
was more attached to his principles than to his author, has collected
the odious circumstances which his various adversaries have preserved or

[Footnote 68: According to the judgment of a man who respected both
these sectaries, Aetius had been endowed with a stronger understanding
and Eunomius had acquired more art and learning. (Philostorgius l. viii.
c. 18.) The confession and apology of Eunomius (Fabricius, Bibliot.
Graec. tom. viii. p. 258-305) is one of the few heretical pieces which
have escaped.]

[Footnote 69: Yet, according to the opinion of Estius and Bull, (p.
297,) there is one power--that of creation--which God cannot communicate
to a creature. Estius, who so accurately defined the limits of
Omnipotence was a Dutchman by birth, and by trade a scholastic divine.
Dupin Bibliot. Eccles. tom. xvii. p. 45.]

[Footnote 70: Sabinus ap. Socrat. (l. ii. c. 39) had copied the acts:
Athanasius and Hilary have explained the divisions of this Arian synod;
the other circumstances which are relative to it are carefully collected
by Baro and Tillemont]

[Footnote 71: Fideli et pia intelligentia... De Synod. c. 77, p. 1193.
In his his short apologetical notes (first published by the Benedictines
from a MS. of Chartres) he observes, that he used this cautious
expression, qui intelligerum et impiam, p. 1206. See p. 1146.
Philostorgius, who saw those objects through a different medium, is
inclined to forget the difference of the important diphthong. See in
particular viii. 17, and Godefroy, p. 352.]

The provinces of Egypt and Asia, which cultivated the language and
manners of the Greeks, had deeply imbibed the venom of the Arian
controversy. The familiar study of the Platonic system, a vain and
argumentative disposition, a copious and flexible idiom, supplied the
clergy and people of the East with an inexhaustible flow of words and
distinctions; and, in the midst of their fierce contentions, they easily
forgot the doubt which is recommended by philosophy, and the submission
which is enjoined by religion. The inhabitants of the West were of a
less inquisitive spirit; their passions were not so forcibly moved by
invisible objects, their minds were less frequently exercised by the
habits of dispute; and such was the happy ignorance of the Gallican
church, that Hilary himself, above thirty years after the first general
council, was still a stranger to the Nicene creed. [72] The Latins had
received the rays of divine knowledge through the dark and doubtful
medium of a translation. The poverty and stubbornness of their native
tongue was not always capable of affording just equivalents for the
Greek terms, for the technical words of the Platonic philosophy, [73]
which had been consecrated, by the gospel or by the church, to express
the mysteries of the Christian faith; and a verbal defect might
introduce into the Latin theology a long train of error or perplexity.
[74] But as the western provincials had the good fortune of deriving
their religion from an orthodox source, they preserved with steadiness
the doctrine which they had accepted with docility; and when the Arian
pestilence approached their frontiers, they were supplied with the
seasonable preservative of the Homoousion, by the paternal care of the
Roman pontiff. Their sentiments and their temper were displayed in the
memorable synod of Rimini, which surpassed in numbers the council of
Nice, since it was composed of above four hundred bishops of Italy,
Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Illyricum. From the first debates it
appeared, that only fourscore prelates adhered to the party, though
they affected to anathematize the name and memory, of Arius. But this
inferiority was compensated by the advantages of skill, of experience,
and of discipline; and the minority was conducted by Valens and
Ursacius, two bishops of Illyricum, who had spent their lives in the
intrigues of courts and councils, and who had been trained under the
Eusebian banner in the religious wars of the East. By their arguments
and negotiations, they embarrassed, they confounded, they at last
deceived, the honest simplicity of the Latin bishops; who suffered
the palladium of the faith to be extorted from their hand by fraud and
importunity, rather than by open violence. The council of Rimini was
not allowed to separate, till the members had imprudently subscribed a
captious creed, in which some expressions, susceptible of an heretical
sense, were inserted in the room of the Homoousion. It was on this
occasion, that, according to Jerom, the world was surprised to find
itself Arian. [75] But the bishops of the Latin provinces had no sooner
reached their respective dioceses, than they discovered their mistake,
and repented of their weakness. The ignominious capitulation was
rejected with disdain and abhorrence; and the Homoousian standard, which
had been shaken but not overthrown, was more firmly replanted in all the
churches of the West. [76]

[Footnote 72: Testor Deumcoeli atque terrae me cum neutrum audissem,
semper tamen utrumque sensisse.... Regeneratus pridem et in episcopatu
aliquantisper manens fidem Nicenam nunquam nisi exsulaturus audivi.
Hilar. de Synodis, c. xci. p. 1205. The Benedictines are persuaded that
he governed the diocese of Poitiers several years before his exile.]

[Footnote 73: Seneca (Epist. lviii.) complains that even the of the
Platonists (the ens of the bolder schoolmen) could not be expressed by a
Latin noun.]

[Footnote 74: The preference which the fourth council of the Lateran
at length gave to a numerical rather than a generical unity (See Petav.
tom. ii. l. v. c. 13, p. 424) was favored by the Latin language: seems
to excite the idea of substance, trinitas of qualities.]

[Footnote 75: Ingemuit totus orbis, et Arianum se esse miratus est.
Hieronym. adv. Lucifer. tom. i. p. 145.]

[Footnote 76: The story of the council of Rimini is very elegantly told
by Sulpicius Severus, (Hist. Sacra, l. ii. p. 419-430, edit. Lugd. Bat.
1647,) and by Jerom, in his dialogue against the Luciferians. The design
of the latter is to apologize for the conduct of the Latin bishops, who
were deceived, and who repented.]

Chapter XXI: Persecution Of Heresy, State Of The Church.--Part IV.

Such was the rise and progress, and such were the natural revolutions
of those theological disputes, which disturbed the peace of Christianity
under the reigns of Constantine and of his sons. But as those princes
presumed to extend their despotism over the faith, as well as over the
lives and fortunes, of their subjects, the weight of their suffrage
sometimes inclined the ecclesiastical balance: and the prerogatives of
the King of Heaven were settled, or changed, or modified, in the cabinet
of an earthly monarch. The unhappy spirit of discord which pervaded the
provinces of the East, interrupted the triumph of Constantine; but
the emperor continued for some time to view, with cool and careless
indifference, the object of the dispute. As he was yet ignorant of the
difficulty of appeasing the quarrels of theologians, he addressed to
the contending parties, to Alexander and to Arius, a moderating epistle;
[77] which may be ascribed, with far greater reason, to the untutored
sense of a soldier and statesman, than to the dictates of any of his
episcopal counsellors. He attributes the origin of the whole controversy
to a trifling and subtle question, concerning an incomprehensible
point of law, which was foolishly asked by the bishop, and imprudently
resolved by the presbyter. He laments that the Christian people, who had
the same God, the same religion, and the same worship, should be divided
by such inconsiderable distinctions; and he seriously recommend to the
clergy of Alexandria the example of the Greek philosophers; who could
maintain their arguments without losing their temper, and assert
their freedom without violating their friendship. The indifference and
contempt of the sovereign would have been, perhaps, the most effectual
method of silencing the dispute, if the popular current had been less
rapid and impetuous, and if Constantine himself, in the midst of faction
and fanaticism, could have preserved the calm possession of his own
mind. But his ecclesiastical ministers soon contrived to seduce the
impartiality of the magistrate, and to awaken the zeal of the proselyte.
He was provoked by the insults which had been offered to his statues;
he was alarmed by the real, as well as the imaginary magnitude of
the spreading mischief; and he extinguished the hope of peace and
toleration, from the moment that he assembled three hundred bishops
within the walls of the same palace. The presence of the monarch swelled
the importance of the debate; his attention multiplied the arguments;
and he exposed his person with a patient intrepidity, which animated
the valor of the combatants. Notwithstanding the applause which has
been bestowed on the eloquence and sagacity of Constantine, [78] a Roman
general, whose religion might be still a subject of doubt, and whose
mind had not been enlightened either by study or by inspiration,
was indifferently qualified to discuss, in the Greek language, a
metaphysical question, or an article of faith. But the credit of his
favorite Osius, who appears to have presided in the council of Nice,
might dispose the emperor in favor of the orthodox party; and a
well-timed insinuation, that the same Eusebius of Nicomedia, who now
protected the heretic, had lately assisted the tyrant, [79] might
exasperate him against their adversaries. The Nicene creed was ratified
by Constantine; and his firm declaration, that those who resisted the
divine judgment of the synod, must prepare themselves for an immediate
exile, annihilated the murmurs of a feeble opposition; which, from
seventeen, was almost instantly reduced to two, protesting bishops.
Eusebius of Caesarea yielded a reluctant and ambiguous consent to the
Homoousion; [80] and the wavering conduct of the Nicomedian Eusebius
served only to delay, about three months, his disgrace and exile. [81]
The impious Arius was banished into one of the remote provinces of
Illyricum; his person and disciples were branded by law with the odious
name of Porphyrians; his writings were condemned to the flames, and a
capital punishment was denounced against those in whose possession they
should be found. The emperor had now imbibed the spirit of controversy,
and the angry, sarcastic style of his edicts was designed to inspire his
subjects with the hatred which he had conceived against the enemies of
Christ. [82]

[Footnote 77: Eusebius, in Vit. Constant. l. ii. c. 64-72. The
principles of toleration and religious indifference, contained in this
epistle, have given great offence to Baronius, Tillemont, &c., who
suppose that the emperor had some evil counsellor, either Satan or
Eusebius, at his elbow. See Cortin's Remarks, tom. ii. p. 183. * Note:
Heinichen (Excursus xi.) quotes with approbation the term "golden
words," applied by Ziegler to this moderate and tolerant letter of
Constantine. May an English clergyman venture to express his regret that
"the fine gold soon became dim" in the Christian church?--M.]

[Footnote 78: Eusebius in Vit. Constantin. l. iii. c. 13.]

[Footnote 79: Theodoret has preserved (l. i. c. 20) an epistle from
Constantine to the people of Nicomedia, in which the monarch declares
himself the public accuser of one of his subjects; he styles Eusebius
and complains of his hostile behavior during the civil war.]

[Footnote 80: See in Socrates, (l. i. c. 8,) or rather in Theodoret,
(l. i. c. 12,) an original letter of Eusebius of Caesarea, in which he
attempts to justify his subscribing the Homoousion. The character of
Eusebius has always been a problem; but those who have read the second
critical epistle of Le Clerc, (Ars Critica, tom. iii. p. 30-69,) must
entertain a very unfavorable opinion of the orthodoxy and sincerity of
the bishop of Caesarea.]

[Footnote 81: Athanasius, tom. i. p. 727. Philostorgius, l. i. c. 10,
and Godefroy's Commentary, p. 41.]

[Footnote 82: Socrates, l. i. c. 9. In his circular letters, which
were addressed to the several cities, Constantine employed against the
heretics the arms of ridicule and comic raillery.]

But, as if the conduct of the emperor had been guided by passion instead
of principle, three years from the council of Nice were scarcely elapsed
before he discovered some symptoms of mercy, and even of indulgence,
towards the proscribed sect, which was secretly protected by his
favorite sister. The exiles were recalled, and Eusebius, who gradually
resumed his influence over the mind of Constantine, was restored to the
episcopal throne, from which he had been ignominiously degraded. Arius
himself was treated by the whole court with the respect which would have
been due to an innocent and oppressed man. His faith was approved by
the synod of Jerusalem; and the emperor seemed impatient to repair his
injustice, by issuing an absolute command, that he should be solemnly
admitted to the communion in the cathedral of Constantinople. On the
same day, which had been fixed for the triumph of Arius, he expired;
and the strange and horrid circumstances of his death might excite a
suspicion, that the orthodox saints had contributed more efficaciously
than by their prayers, to deliver the church from the most formidable
of her enemies. [83] The three principal leaders of the Catholics,
Athanasius of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, and Paul of
Constantinople were deposed on various f accusations, by the sentence of
numerous councils; and were afterwards banished into distant provinces
by the first of the Christian emperors, who, in the last moments of his
life, received the rites of baptism from the Arian bishop of Nicomedia.
The ecclesiastical government of Constantine cannot be justified
from the reproach of levity and weakness. But the credulous monarch,
unskilled in the stratagems of theological warfare, might be deceived by
the modest and specious professions of the heretics, whose sentiments he
never perfectly understood; and while he protected Arius, and persecuted
Athanasius, he still considered the council of Nice as the bulwark of
the Christian faith, and the peculiar glory of his own reign. [84]

[Footnote 83: We derive the original story from Athanasius, (tom. i.
p. 670,) who expresses some reluctance to stigmatize the memory of the
dead. He might exaggerate; but the perpetual commerce of Alexandria and
Constantinople would have rendered it dangerous to invent. Those who
press the literal narrative of the death of Arius (his bowels suddenly
burst out in a privy) must make their option between poison and

[Footnote 84: The change in the sentiments, or at least in the conduct,
of Constantine, may be traced in Eusebius, (in Vit. Constant. l. iii.
c. 23, l. iv. c. 41,) Socrates, (l. i. c. 23-39,) Sozomen, (l. ii.
c. 16-34,) Theodoret, (l. i. c. 14-34,) and Philostorgius, (l. ii. c.
1-17.) But the first of these writers was too near the scene of action,
and the others were too remote from it. It is singular enough, that the
important task of continuing the history of the church should have been
left for two laymen and a heretic.]

The sons of Constantine must have been admitted from their childhood
into the rank of catechumens; but they imitated, in the delay of
their baptism, the example of their father. Like him they presumed to
pronounce their judgment on mysteries into which they had never been
regularly initiated; [85] and the fate of the Trinitarian controversy
depended, in a great measure, on the sentiments of Constantius; who
inherited the provinces of the East, and acquired the possession of the
whole empire. The Arian presbyter or bishop, who had secreted for
his use the testament of the deceased emperor, improved the fortunate
occasion which had introduced him to the familiarity of a prince,
whose public counsels were always swayed by his domestic favorites. The
eunuchs and slaves diffused the spiritual poison through the palace, and
the dangerous infection was communicated by the female attendants to
the guards, and by the empress to her unsuspicious husband. [86] The
partiality which Constantius always expressed towards the Eusebian
faction, was insensibly fortified by the dexterous management of their
leaders; and his victory over the tyrant Magnentius increased his
inclination, as well as ability, to employ the arms of power in the
cause of Arianism. While the two armies were engaged in the plains of
Mursa, and the fate of the two rivals depended on the chance of war, the
son of Constantine passed the anxious moments in a church of the martyrs
under the walls of the city. His spiritual comforter, Valens, the Arian
bishop of the diocese, employed the most artful precautions to obtain
such early intelligence as might secure either his favor or his escape.
A secret chain of swift and trusty messengers informed him of the
vicissitudes of the battle; and while the courtiers stood trembling
round their affrighted master, Valens assured him that the Gallic
legions gave way; and insinuated with some presence of mind, that
the glorious event had been revealed to him by an angel. The grateful
emperor ascribed his success to the merits and intercession of the
bishop of Mursa, whose faith had deserved the public and miraculous
approbation of Heaven. [87] The Arians, who considered as their own the
victory of Constantius, preferred his glory to that of his father. [88]
Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, immediately composed the description of a
celestial cross, encircled with a splendid rainbow; which during the
festival of Pentecost, about the third hour of the day, had appeared
over the Mount of Olives, to the edification of the devout pilgrims, and
the people of the holy city. [89] The size of the meteor was gradually
magnified; and the Arian historian has ventured to affirm, that it was
conspicuous to the two armies in the plains of Pannonia; and that the
tyrant, who is purposely represented as an idolater, fled before the
auspicious sign of orthodox Christianity. [90]

[Footnote 85: Quia etiam tum catechumenus sacramentum fidei merito
videretiu potuisse nescire. Sulp. Sever. Hist. Sacra, l. ii. p. 410.]

[Footnote 86: Socrates, l. ii. c. 2. Sozomen, l. iii. c. 18. Athanas.
tom. i. p. 813, 834. He observes that the eunuchs are the natural
enemies of the Son. Compare Dr. Jortin's Remarks on Ecclesiastical
History, vol. iv. p. 3 with a certain genealogy in Candide, (ch. iv.,)
which ends with one of the first companions of Christopher Columbus.]

[Footnote 87: Sulpicius Severus in Hist. Sacra, l. ii. p. 405, 406.]

[Footnote 88: Cyril (apud Baron. A. D. 353, No. 26) expressly observes
that in the reign of Constantine, the cross had been found in the bowels
of the earth; but that it had appeared, in the reign of Constantius, in
the midst of the heavens. This opposition evidently proves, that Cyril
was ignorant of the stupendous miracle to which the conversion of
Constantine is attributed; and this ignorance is the more surprising,
since it was no more than twelve years after his death that Cyril was
consecrated bishop of Jerusalem, by the immediate successor of Eusebius
of Caesarea. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. viii. p. 715.]

[Footnote 89: It is not easy to determine how far the ingenuity of Cyril
might be assisted by some natural appearances of a solar halo.]

[Footnote 90: Philostorgius, l. iii. c. 26. He is followed by the
author of the Alexandrian Chronicle, by Cedrenus, and by Nicephorus. (See
Gothofred. Dissert. p. 188.) They could not refuse a miracle, even from
the hand of an enemy.]

The sentiments of a judicious stranger, who has impartially considered
the progress of civil or ecclesiastical discord, are always entitled to
our notice; and a short passage of Ammianus, who served in the armies,
and studied the character of Constantius, is perhaps of more value than
many pages of theological invectives. "The Christian religion, which,
in itself," says that moderate historian, "is plain and simple, he
confounded by the dotage of superstition. Instead of reconciling the
parties by the weight of his authority, he cherished and promulgated, by
verbal disputes, the differences which his vain curiosity had excited.
The highways were covered with troops of bishops galloping from every
side to the assemblies, which they call synods; and while they labored
to reduce the whole sect to their own particular opinions, the public
establishment of the posts was almost ruined by their hasty and repeated
journeys." [91] Our more intimate knowledge of the ecclesiastical
transactions of the reign of Constantius would furnish an ample
commentary on this remarkable passage, which justifies the rational
apprehensions of Athanasius, that the restless activity of the clergy,
who wandered round the empire in search of the true faith, would excite
the contempt and laughter of the unbelieving world. [92] As soon as the
emperor was relieved from the terrors of the civil war, he devoted
the leisure of his winter quarters at Arles, Milan, Sirmium, and
Constantinople, to the amusement or toils of controversy: the sword of
the magistrate, and even of the tyrant, was unsheathed, to enforce the
reasons of the theologian; and as he opposed the orthodox faith of Nice,
it is readily confessed that his incapacity and ignorance were equal
to his presumption. [93] The eunuchs, the women, and the bishops, who
governed the vain and feeble mind of the emperor, had inspired him with
an insuperable dislike to the Homoousion; but his timid conscience
was alarmed by the impiety of Aetius. The guilt of that atheist was
aggravated by the suspicious favor of the unfortunate Gallus; and even
the death of the Imperial ministers, who had been massacred at Antioch,
were imputed to the suggestions of that dangerous sophist. The mind of
Constantius, which could neither be moderated by reason, nor fixed by
faith, was blindly impelled to either side of the dark and empty abyss,
by his horror of the opposite extreme; he alternately embraced and
condemned the sentiments, he successively banished and recalled the
leaders, of the Arian and Semi-Arian factions. [94] During the season of
public business or festivity, he employed whole days, and even nights,
in selecting the words, and weighing the syllables, which composed his
fluctuating creeds. The subject of his meditations still pursued
and occupied his slumbers: the incoherent dreams of the emperor were
received as celestial visions, and he accepted with complacency the
lofty title of bishop of bishops, from those ecclesiastics who forgot
the interest of their order for the gratification of their passions. The
design of establishing a uniformity of doctrine, which had engaged
him to convene so many synods in Gaul, Italy, Illyricum, and Asia, was
repeatedly baffled by his own levity, by the divisions of the Arians,
and by the resistance of the Catholics; and he resolved, as the last
and decisive effort, imperiously to dictate the decrees of a general
council. The destructive earthquake of Nicomedia, the difficulty of
finding a convenient place, and perhaps some secret motives of policy,
produced an alteration in the summons. The bishops of the East were
directed to meet at Seleucia, in Isauria; while those of the West
held their deliberations at Rimini, on the coast of the Hadriatic; and
instead of two or three deputies from each province, the whole episcopal
body was ordered to march. The Eastern council, after consuming four
days in fierce and unavailing debate, separated without any definitive
conclusion. The council of the West was protracted till the seventh
month. Taurus, the Praetorian praefect was instructed not to dismiss
the prelates till they should all be united in the same opinion; and
his efforts were supported by the power of banishing fifteen of the most
refractory, and a promise of the consulship if he achieved so difficult
an adventure. His prayers and threats, the authority of the sovereign,
the sophistry of Valens and Ursacius, the distress of cold and hunger,
and the tedious melancholy of a hopeless exile, at length extorted the
reluctant consent of the bishops of Rimini. The deputies of the East and
of the West attended the emperor in the palace of Constantinople, and he
enjoyed the satisfaction of imposing on the world a profession of
faith which established the likeness, without expressing the
consubstantiality, of the Son of God. [95] But the triumph of Arianism
had been preceded by the removal of the orthodox clergy, whom it
was impossible either to intimidate or to corrupt; and the reign of
Constantius was disgraced by the unjust and ineffectual persecution of
the great Athanasius.

[Footnote 91: So curious a passage well deserves to be transcribed.
Christianam religionem absolutam et simplicem, anili superstitione
confundens; in qua scrutanda perplexius, quam componenda gravius
excitaret discidia plurima; quae progressa fusius aluit concertatione
verborum, ut catervis antistium jumentis publicis ultro citroque
discarrentibus, per synodos (quas appellant) dum ritum omnem ad suum
sahere conantur (Valesius reads conatur) rei vehiculariae concideret
servos. Ammianus, xxi. 16.]

[Footnote 92: Athanas. tom. i. p. 870.]

[Footnote 93: Socrates, l. ii. c. 35-47. Sozomen, l. iv. c. 12-30.
Theodore li. c. 18-32. Philostorg. l. iv. c. 4--12, l. v. c. 1-4, l. vi.
c. 1-5]

[Footnote 94: Sozomen, l. iv. c. 23. Athanas. tom. i. p. 831. Tillemont
(Mem Eccles. tom. vii. p. 947) has collected several instances of the
haughty fanaticism of Constantius from the detached treatises of Lucifer
of Cagliari. The very titles of these treaties inspire zeal and terror;
"Moriendum pro Dei Filio." "De Regibus Apostaticis." "De non conveniendo
cum Haeretico." "De non parcendo in Deum delinquentibus."]

[Footnote 95: Sulp. Sever. Hist. Sacra, l. ii. p. 418-430. The Greek
historians were very ignorant of the affairs of the West.]

We have seldom an opportunity of observing, either in active or
speculative life, what effect may be produced, or what obstacles may be
surmounted, by the force of a single mind, when it is inflexibly applied
to the pursuit of a single object. The immortal name of Athanasius [96]
will never be separated from the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity,
to whose defence he consecrated every moment and every faculty of his
being. Educated in the family of Alexander, he had vigorously opposed
the early progress of the Arian heresy: he exercised the important
functions of secretary under the aged prelate; and the fathers of the
Nicene council beheld with surprise and respect the rising virtues of
the young deacon. In a time of public danger, the dull claims of age
and of rank are sometimes superseded; and within five months after his
return from Nice, the deacon Athanasius was seated on the archiepiscopal
throne of Egypt. He filled that eminent station above forty-six years,
and his long administration was spent in a perpetual combat against the
powers of Arianism. Five times was Athanasius expelled from his throne;
twenty years he passed as an exile or a fugitive: and almost every
province of the Roman empire was successively witness to his merit, and
his sufferings in the cause of the Homoousion, which he considered as
the sole pleasure and business, as the duty, and as the glory of his
life. Amidst the storms of persecution, the archbishop of Alexandria was
patient of labor, jealous of fame, careless of safety; and although his
mind was tainted by the contagion of fanaticism, Athanasius displayed a
superiority of character and abilities, which would have qualified him,
far better than the degenerate sons of Constantine, for the government
of a great monarchy. His learning was much less profound and extensive
than that of Eusebius of Caesarea, and his rude eloquence could not be
compared with the polished oratory of Gregory of Basil; but whenever
the primate of Egypt was called upon to justify his sentiments, or his
conduct, his unpremeditated style, either of speaking or writing, was
clear, forcible, and persuasive. He has always been revered, in the
orthodox school, as one of the most accurate masters of the Christian
theology; and he was supposed to possess two profane sciences, less
adapted to the episcopal character, the knowledge of jurisprudence,
[97] and that of divination. [98] Some fortunate conjectures of future
events, which impartial reasoners might ascribe to the experience and
judgment of Athanasius, were attributed by his friends to heavenly
inspiration, and imputed by his enemies to infernal magic.

[Footnote 96: We may regret that Gregory Nazianzen composed a panegyric
instead of a life of Athanasius; but we should enjoy and improve the
advantage of drawing our most authentic materials from the rich fund
of his own epistles and apologies, (tom. i. p. 670-951.) I shall not
imitate the example of Socrates, (l. ii. c. l.) who published the first
edition of the history, without giving himself the trouble to consult
the writings of Athanasius. Yet even Socrates, the more curious Sozomen,
and the learned Theodoret, connect the life of Athanasius with the
series of ecclesiastical history. The diligence of Tillemont, (tom.
viii,) and of the Benedictine editors, has collected every fact, and
examined every difficulty]

[Footnote 97: Sulpicius Severus (Hist. Sacra, l. ii. p. 396) calls him
a lawyer, a jurisconsult. This character cannot now be discovered either
in the life or writings of Athanasius.]

[Footnote 98: Dicebatur enim fatidicarum sortium fidem, quaeve augurales
portenderent alites scientissime callens aliquoties praedixisse futura.
Ammianus, xv. 7. A prophecy, or rather a joke, is related by Sozomen,
(l. iv c. 10,) which evidently proves (if the crows speak Latin) that
Athanasius understood the language of the crows.]

But as Athanasius was continually engaged with the prejudices and
passions of every order of men, from the monk to the emperor, the
knowledge of human nature was his first and most important science. He
preserved a distinct and unbroken view of a scene which was incessantly
shifting; and never failed to improve those decisive moments which
are irrecoverably past before they are perceived by a common eye. The
archbishop of Alexandria was capable of distinguishing how far he might
boldly command, and where he must dexterously insinuate; how long he
might contend with power, and when he must withdraw from persecution;
and while he directed the thunders of the church against heresy and
rebellion, he could assume, in the bosom of his own party, the flexible
and indulgent temper of a prudent leader. The election of Athanasius has
not escaped the reproach of irregularity and precipitation; [99] but the
propriety of his behavior conciliated the affections both of the clergy
and of the people. The Alexandrians were impatient to rise in arms for
the defence of an eloquent and liberal pastor. In his distress he always
derived support, or at least consolation, from the faithful attachment
of his parochial clergy; and the hundred bishops of Egypt adhered, with
unshaken zeal, to the cause of Athanasius. In the modest equipage which
pride and policy would affect, he frequently performed the episcopal
visitation of his provinces, from the mouth of the Nile to the confines
of Aethiopia; familiarly conversing with the meanest of the populace,
and humbly saluting the saints and hermits of the desert. [100] Nor
was it only in ecclesiastical assemblies, among men whose education
and manners were similar to his own, that Athanasius displayed the
ascendancy of his genius. He appeared with easy and respectful firmness
in the courts of princes; and in the various turns of his prosperous
and adverse fortune he never lost the confidence of his friends, or the
esteem of his enemies.

[Footnote 99: The irregular ordination of Athanasius was slightly
mentioned in the councils which were held against him. See Philostorg.
l. ii. c. 11, and Godefroy, p. 71; but it can scarcely be supposed that
the assembly of the bishops of Egypt would solemnly attest a public
falsehood. Athanas. tom. i. p. 726.]

[Footnote 100: See the history of the Fathers of the Desert, published
by Rosweide; and Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. vii., in the lives of
Antony, Pachomius, &c. Athanasius himself, who did not disdain to
compose the life of his friend Antony, has carefully observed how often
the holy monk deplored and prophesied the mischiefs of the Arian heresy
Athanas. tom. ii. p. 492, 498, &c.]

In his youth, the primate of Egypt resisted the great Constantine, who
had repeatedly signified his will, that Arius should be restored to the
Catholic communion. [101] The emperor respected, and might forgive,
this inflexible resolution; and the faction who considered Athanasius as
their most formidable enemy, was constrained to dissemble their hatred,
and silently to prepare an indirect and distant assault. They scattered
rumors and suspicions, represented the archbishop as a proud and
oppressive tyrant, and boldly accused him of violating the treaty which
had been ratified in the Nicene council, with the schismatic followers
of Meletius. [102] Athanasius had openly disapproved that ignominious
peace, and the emperor was disposed to believe that he had abused his
ecclesiastical and civil power, to prosecute those odious sectaries:
that he had sacrilegiously broken a chalice in one of their churches of
Mareotis; that he had whipped or imprisoned six of their bishops; and
that Arsenius, a seventh bishop of the same party, had been murdered,
or at least mutilated, by the cruel hand of the primate. [103] These
charges, which affected his honor and his life, were referred by
Constantine to his brother Dalmatius the censor, who resided at Antioch;
the synods of Caesarea and Tyre were successively convened; and the
bishops of the East were instructed to judge the cause of Athanasius,
before they proceeded to consecrate the new church of the Resurrection
at Jerusalem. The primate might be conscious of his innocence; but he
was sensible that the same implacable spirit which had dictated the
accusation, would direct the proceeding, and pronounce the sentence. He
prudently declined the tribunal of his enemies; despised the summons of
the synod of Caesarea; and, after a long and artful delay, submitted
to the peremptory commands of the emperor, who threatened to punish his
criminal disobedience if he refused to appear in the council of Tyre.
[104] Before Athanasius, at the head of fifty Egyptian prelates, sailed
from Alexandria, he had wisely secured the alliance of the Meletians;
and Arsenius himself, his imaginary victim, and his secret friend, was
privately concealed in his train. The synod of Tyre was conducted by
Eusebius of Caesarea, with more passion, and with less art, than his
learning and experience might promise; his numerous faction repeated the
names of homicide and tyrant; and their clamors were encouraged by the
seeming patience of Athanasius, who expected the decisive moment to
produce Arsenius alive and unhurt in the midst of the assembly. The
nature of the other charges did not admit of such clear and satisfactory
replies; yet the archbishop was able to prove, that in the village,
where he was accused of breaking a consecrated chalice, neither church
nor altar nor chalice could really exist.

The Arians, who had secretly determined the guilt and condemnation of
their enemy, attempted, however, to disguise their injustice by the
imitation of judicial forms: the synod appointed an episcopal commission
of six delegates to collect evidence on the spot; and this measure which
was vigorously opposed by the Egyptian bishops, opened new scenes
of violence and perjury. [105] After the return of the deputies from
Alexandria, the majority of the council pronounced the final sentence
of degradation and exile against the primate of Egypt. The decree,
expressed in the fiercest language of malice and revenge, was
communicated to the emperor and the Catholic church; and the bishops
immediately resumed a mild and devout aspect, such as became their holy
pilgrimage to the Sepulchre of Christ. [106]

[Footnote 101: At first Constantine threatened in speaking, but
requested in writing. His letters gradually assumed a menacing tone; by
while he required that the entrance of the church should be open to
all, he avoided the odious name of Arius. Athanasius, like a skilful
politician, has accurately marked these distinctions, (tom. i. p. 788.)
which allowed him some scope for excuse and delay]

[Footnote 102: The Meletians in Egypt, like the Donatists in Africa,
were produced by an episcopal quarrel which arose from the persecution.
I have not leisure to pursue the obscure controversy, which seems
to have been misrepresented by the partiality of Athanasius and the
ignorance of Epiphanius. See Mosheim's General History of the Church,
vol. i. p. 201.]

[Footnote 103: The treatment of the six bishops is specified by Sozomen,
(l. ii. c. 25;) but Athanasius himself, so copious on the subject of
Arsenius and the chalice, leaves this grave accusation without a
reply. Note: This grave charge, if made, (and it rests entirely on
the authority of Soz omen,) seems to have been silently dropped by
the parties themselves: it is never alluded to in the subsequent
investigations. From Sozomen himself, who gives the unfavorable report
of the commission of inquiry sent to Egypt concerning the cup. it does
not appear that they noticed this accusation of personal violence.--M]

[Footnote 104: Athanas, tom. i. p. 788. Socrates, l. i.c. 28. Sozomen,
l. ii. c 25. The emperor, in his Epistle of Convocation, (Euseb. in Vit.
Constant. l. iv. c. 42,) seems to prejudge some members of the
clergy and it was more than probable that the synod would apply those
reproaches to Athanasius.]

[Footnote 105: See, in particular, the second Apology of Athanasius,
(tom. i. p. 763-808,) and his Epistles to the Monks, (p. 808-866.)
They are justified by original and authentic documents; but they would
inspire more confidence if he appeared less innocent, and his enemies
less absurd.]

[Footnote 106: Eusebius in Vit. Constantin. l. iv. c. 41-47.]

Chapter XXI: Persecution Of Heresy, State Of The Church.--Part V.

But the injustice of these ecclesiastical judges had not been
countenanced by the submission, or even by the presence, of Athanasius.
He resolved to make a bold and dangerous experiment, whether the throne
was inaccessible to the voice of truth; and before the final sentence
could be pronounced at Tyre, the intrepid primate threw himself into a
bark which was ready to hoist sail for the Imperial city. The request
of a formal audience might have been opposed or eluded; but Athanasius
concealed his arrival, watched the moment of Constantine's return from
an adjacent villa, and boldly encountered his angry sovereign as he
passed on horseback through the principal street of Constantinople.
So strange an apparition excited his surprise and indignation; and the
guards were ordered to remove the importunate suitor; but his resentment
was subdued by involuntary respect; and the haughty spirit of the
emperor was awed by the courage and eloquence of a bishop, who implored
his justice and awakened his conscience. [107] Constantine listened to
the complaints of Athanasius with impartial and even gracious attention;
the members of the synod of Tyre were summoned to justify their
proceedings; and the arts of the Eusebian faction would have been
confounded, if they had not aggravated the guilt of the primate, by the
dexterous supposition of an unpardonable offence; a criminal design to
intercept and detain the corn-fleet of Alexandria, which supplied the
subsistence of the new capital. [108] The emperor was satisfied that the
peace of Egypt would be secured by the absence of a popular leader; but
he refused to fill the vacancy of the archiepiscopal throne; and the
sentence, which, after long hesitation, he pronounced, was that of a
jealous ostracism, rather than of an ignominious exile. In the remote
province of Gaul, but in the hospitable court of Treves, Athanasius
passed about twenty eight months. The death of the emperor changed the
face of public affairs and, amidst the general indulgence of a young
reign, the primate was restored to his country by an honorable edict of
the younger Constantine, who expressed a deep sense of the innocence and
merit of his venerable guest. [109]

[Footnote 107: Athanas. tom. i. p. 804. In a church dedicated to St.
Athanasius this situation would afford a better subject for a picture,
than most of the stories of miracles and martyrdoms.]

[Footnote 108: Athanas. tom. i. p. 729. Eunapius has related (in Vit.
Sophist. p. 36, 37, edit. Commelin) a strange example of the cruelty and
credulity of Constantine on a similar occasion. The eloquent Sopater, a
Syrian philosopher, enjoyed his friendship, and provoked the resentment
of Ablavius, his Praetorian praefect. The corn-fleet was detained for
want of a south wind; the people of Constantinople were discontented;
and Sopater was beheaded, on a charge that he had bound the winds by the
power of magic. Suidas adds, that Constantine wished to prove, by this
execution, that he had absolutely renounced the superstition of the

[Footnote 109: In his return he saw Constantius twice, at Viminiacum,
and at Caesarea in Cappadocia, (Athanas. tom. i. p. 676.) Tillemont
supposes that Constantine introduced him to the meeting of the three
royal brothers in Pannonia, (Memoires Eccles. tom. viii. p. 69.)]

The death of that prince exposed Athanasius to a second persecution;
and the feeble Constantius, the sovereign of the East, soon became
the secret accomplice of the Eusebians. Ninety bishops of that sect or
faction assembled at Antioch, under the specious pretence of dedicating
the cathedral. They composed an ambiguous creed, which is faintly tinged
with the colors of Semi-Arianism, and twenty-five canons, which still
regulate the discipline of the orthodox Greeks. [110] It was decided,
with some appearance of equity, that a bishop, deprived by a synod,
should not resume his episcopal functions till he had been absolved by
the judgment of an equal synod; the law was immediately applied to
the case of Athanasius; the council of Antioch pronounced, or rather
confirmed, his degradation: a stranger, named Gregory, was seated on his
throne; and Philagrius, [111] the praefect of Egypt, was instructed
to support the new primate with the civil and military powers of
the province. Oppressed by the conspiracy of the Asiatic prelates,
Athanasius withdrew from Alexandria, and passed three years [112] as an
exile and a suppliant on the holy threshold of the Vatican. [113] By
the assiduous study of the Latin language, he soon qualified himself
to negotiate with the western clergy; his decent flattery swayed and
directed the haughty Julius; the Roman pontiff was persuaded to consider
his appeal as the peculiar interest of the Apostolic see: and his
innocence was unanimously declared in a council of fifty bishops of
Italy. At the end of three years, the primate was summoned to the court
of Milan by the emperor Constans, who, in the indulgence of unlawful
pleasures, still professed a lively regard for the orthodox faith. The
cause of truth and justice was promoted by the influence of gold, [114]
and the ministers of Constans advised their sovereign to require the
convocation of an ecclesiastical assembly, which might act as the
representatives of the Catholic church. Ninety-four bishops of the West,
seventy-six bishops of the East, encountered each other at Sardica, on
the verge of the two empires, but in the dominions of the protector of
Athanasius. Their debates soon degenerated into hostile altercations;
the Asiatics, apprehensive for their personal safety, retired to
Philippopolis in Thrace; and the rival synods reciprocally hurled their
spiritual thunders against their enemies, whom they piously condemned as
the enemies of the true God. Their decrees were published and ratified
in their respective provinces: and Athanasius, who in the West was
revered as a saint, was exposed as a criminal to the abhorrence of the
East. [115] The council of Sardica reveals the first symptoms of discord
and schism between the Greek and Latin churches which were separated
by the accidental difference of faith, and the permanent distinction of

[Footnote 110: See Beveridge, Pandect. tom. i. p. 429-452, and tom. ii.
Annotation. p. 182. Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. vi. p. 310-324. St.
Hilary of Poitiers has mentioned this synod of Antioch with too much
favor and respect. He reckons ninety-seven bishops.]

[Footnote 111: This magistrate, so odious to Athanasius, is praised by
Gregory Nazianzen, tom. i. Orat. xxi. p. 390, 391.

Saepe premente Deo fert Deus alter opem.

For the credit of human nature, I am always pleased to discover some
good qualities in those men whom party has represented as tyrants and

[Footnote 112: The chronological difficulties which perplex the
residence of Athanasius at Rome, are strenuously agitated by Valesius
(Observat ad Calcem, tom. ii. Hist. Eccles. l. i. c. 1-5) and Tillemont,
(Men: Eccles. tom. viii. p. 674, &c.) I have followed the simple
hypothesis of Valesius, who allows only one journey, after the intrusion

[Footnote 113: I cannot forbear transcribing a judicious observation of
Wetstein, (Prolegomen. N.S. p. 19: ) Si tamen Historiam Ecclesiasticam
velimus consulere, patebit jam inde a seculo quarto, cum, ortis
controversiis, ecclesiae Graeciae doctores in duas partes scinderentur,
ingenio, eloquentia, numero, tantum non aequales, eam partem quae
vincere cupiebat Romam confugisse, majestatemque pontificis comiter
coluisse, eoque pacto oppressis per pontificem et episcopos Latinos
adversariis praevaluisse, atque orthodoxiam in conciliis stabilivisse.
Eam ob causam Athanasius, non sine comitatu, Roman petiit, pluresque
annos ibi haesit.]

[Footnote 114: Philostorgius, l. iii. c. 12. If any corruption was used
to promote the interest of religion, an advocate of Athanasius might
justify or excuse this questionable conduct, by the example of Cato and
Sidney; the former of whom is said to have given, and the latter to have
received, a bribe in the cause of liberty.]

[Footnote 115: The canon which allows appeals to the Roman pontiffs,
has almost raised the council of Sardica to the dignity of a general
council; and its acts have been ignorantly or artfully confounded with
those of the Nicene synod. See Tillemont, tom. vii. p. 689, and Geddos's
Tracts, vol. ii. p. 419-460.]

During his second exile in the West, Athanasius was frequently admitted
to the Imperial presence; at Capua, Lodi, Milan, Verona, Padua,
Aquileia, and Treves. The bishop of the diocese usually assisted at
these interviews; the master of the offices stood before the veil or
curtain of the sacred apartment; and the uniform moderation of the
primate might be attested by these respectable witnesses, to whose
evidence he solemnly appeals. [116] Prudence would undoubtedly suggest
the mild and respectful tone that became a subject and a bishop. In
these familiar conferences with the sovereign of the West, Athanasius
might lament the error of Constantius, but he boldly arraigned the guilt
of his eunuchs and his Arian prelates; deplored the distress and danger
of the Catholic church; and excited Constans to emulate the zeal and
glory of his father. The emperor declared his resolution of employing
the troops and treasures of Europe in the orthodox cause; and signified,
by a concise and peremptory epistle to his brother Constantius, that
unless he consented to the immediate restoration of Athanasius, he
himself, with a fleet and army, would seat the archbishop on the throne
of Alexandria. [117] But this religious war, so horrible to nature, was
prevented by the timely compliance of Constantius; and the emperor of
the East condescended to solicit a reconciliation with a subject whom he
had injured. Athanasius waited with decent pride, till he had received
three successive epistles full of the strongest assurances of the
protection, the favor, and the esteem of his sovereign; who invited him
to resume his episcopal seat, and who added the humiliating precaution
of engaging his principal ministers to attest the sincerity of his
intentions. They were manifested in a still more public manner, by the
strict orders which were despatched into Egypt to recall the adherents
of Athanasius, to restore their privileges, to proclaim their innocence,
and to erase from the public registers the illegal proceedings which had
been obtained during the prevalence of the Eusebian faction. After every
satisfaction and security had been given, which justice or even delicacy
could require, the primate proceeded, by slow journeys, through the
provinces of Thrace, Asia, and Syria; and his progress was marked by the
abject homage of the Oriental bishops, who excited his contempt
without deceiving his penetration. [118] At Antioch he saw the
emperor Constantius; sustained, with modest firmness, the embraces and
protestations of his master, and eluded the proposal of allowing the
Arians a single church at Alexandria, by claiming, in the other cities
of the empire, a similar toleration for his own party; a reply which
might have appeared just and moderate in the mouth of an independent
prince. The entrance of the archbishop into his capital was a
triumphal procession; absence and persecution had endeared him to the
Alexandrians; his authority, which he exercised with rigor, was more
firmly established; and his fame was diffused from Aethiopia to Britain,
over the whole extent of the Christian world. [119]

[Footnote 116: As Athanasius dispersed secret invectives against
Constantius, (see the Epistle to the Monks,) at the same time that he
assured him of his profound respect, we might distrust the professions
of the archbishop. Tom. i. p. 677.]

[Footnote 117: Notwithstanding the discreet silence of Athanasius, and
the manifest forgery of a letter inserted by Socrates, these menaces are
proved by the unquestionable evidence of Lucifer of Cagliari, and even
of Constantius himself. See Tillemont, tom. viii. p. 693]

[Footnote 118: I have always entertained some doubts concerning the
retraction of Ursacius and Valens, (Athanas. tom. i. p. 776.) Their
epistles to Julius, bishop of Rome, and to Athanasius himself, are of so
different a cast from each other, that they cannot both be genuine. The
one speaks the language of criminals who confess their guilt and
infamy; the other of enemies, who solicit on equal terms an honorable
reconciliation. * Note: I cannot quite comprehend the ground of Gibbon's
doubts. Athanasius distinctly asserts the fact of their retractation.
(Athan. Op. i. p. 124, edit. Benedict.) The epistles are apparently
translations from the Latin, if, in fact, more than the substance of the
epistles. That to Athanasius is brief, almost abrupt. Their retractation
is likewise mentioned in the address of the orthodox bishops of Rimini
to Constantius. Athan. de Synodis, Op t. i. p 723-M.]

[Footnote 119: The circumstances of his second return may be collected
from Athanasius himself, tom. i. p. 769, and 822, 843. Socrates, l.
ii. c. 18, Sozomen, l. iii. c. 19. Theodoret, l. ii. c. 11, 12.
Philostorgius, l. iii. c. 12.]

But the subject who has reduced his prince to the necessity of
dissembling, can never expect a sincere and lasting forgiveness; and
the tragic fate of Constans soon deprived Athanasius of a powerful and
generous protector. The civil war between the assassin and the only
surviving brother of Constans, which afflicted the empire above three
years, secured an interval of repose to the Catholic church; and the
two contending parties were desirous to conciliate the friendship of a
bishop, who, by the weight of his personal authority, might determine
the fluctuating resolutions of an important province. He gave audience
to the ambassadors of the tyrant, with whom he was afterwards accused
of holding a secret correspondence; [120] and the emperor Constantius
repeatedly assured his dearest father, the most reverend Athanasius,
that, notwithstanding the malicious rumors which were circulated by
their common enemies, he had inherited the sentiments, as well as the
throne, of his deceased brother. [121] Gratitude and humanity would have
disposed the primate of Egypt to deplore the untimely fate of Constans,
and to abhor the guilt of Magnentius; but as he clearly understood that
the apprehensions of Constantius were his only safeguard, the fervor
of his prayers for the success of the righteous cause might perhaps be
somewhat abated. The ruin of Athanasius was no longer contrived by
the obscure malice of a few bigoted or angry bishops, who abused
the authority of a credulous monarch. The monarch himself avowed the
resolution, which he had so long suppressed, of avenging his private
injuries; [122] and the first winter after his victory, which he passed
at Arles, was employed against an enemy more odious to him than the
vanquished tyrant of Gaul.

[Footnote 120: Athanasius (tom. i. p. 677, 678) defends his innocence
by pathetic complaints, solemn assertions, and specious arguments. He
admits that letters had been forged in his name, but he requests that
his own secretaries and those of the tyrant might be examined, whether
those letters had been written by the former, or received by the

[Footnote 121: Athanas. tom. i. p. 825-844.]

[Footnote 122: Athanas. tom. i. p. 861. Theodoret, l. ii. c. 16.
The emperor declared that he was more desirous to subdue Athanasius,
than he had been to vanquish Magnentius or Sylvanus.]

If the emperor had capriciously decreed the death of the most eminent
and virtuous citizen of the republic, the cruel order would have been
executed without hesitation, by the ministers of open violence or of
specious injustice. The caution, the delay, the difficulty with which
he proceeded in the condemnation and punishment of a popular bishop,
discovered to the world that the privileges of the church had already
revived a sense of order and freedom in the Roman government. The
sentence which was pronounced in the synod of Tyre, and subscribed by
a large majority of the Eastern bishops, had never been expressly
repealed; and as Athanasius had been once degraded from his episcopal
dignity by the judgment of his brethren, every subsequent act might be
considered as irregular, and even criminal. But the memory of the firm
and effectual support which the primate of Egypt had derived from the
attachment of the Western church, engaged Constantius to suspend the
execution of the sentence till he had obtained the concurrence of the
Latin bishops. Two years were consumed in ecclesiastical negotiations;
and the important cause between the emperor and one of his subjects was
solemnly debated, first in the synod of Arles, and afterwards in the
great council of Milan, [123] which consisted of above three hundred
bishops. Their integrity was gradually undermined by the arguments of
the Arians, the dexterity of the eunuchs, and the pressing solicitations
of a prince who gratified his revenge at the expense of his dignity,
and exposed his own passions, whilst he influenced those of the clergy.
Corruption, the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty, was
successfully practised; honors, gifts, and immunities were offered and
accepted as the price of an episcopal vote; [124] and the condemnation
of the Alexandrian primate was artfully represented as the only measure
which could restore the peace and union of the Catholic church. The
friends of Athanasius were not, however, wanting to their leader, or to
their cause. With a manly spirit, which the sanctity of their character
rendered less dangerous, they maintained, in public debate, and in
private conference with the emperor, the eternal obligation of religion
and justice. They declared, that neither the hope of his favor, nor
the fear of his displeasure, should prevail on them to join in the
condemnation of an absent, an innocent, a respectable brother. [125]
They affirmed, with apparent reason, that the illegal and obsolete
decrees of the council of Tyre had long since been tacitly abolished by
the Imperial edicts, the honorable reestablishment of the archbishop
of Alexandria, and the silence or recantation of his most clamorous
adversaries. They alleged, that his innocence had been attested by the
unanimous bishops of Egypt, and had been acknowledged in the councils of
Rome and Sardica, [126] by the impartial judgment of the Latin church.
They deplored the hard condition of Athanasius, who, after enjoying so
many years his seat, his reputation, and the seeming confidence of his
sovereign, was again called upon to confute the most groundless and
extravagant accusations. Their language was specious; their conduct was
honorable: but in this long and obstinate contest, which fixed the eyes
of the whole empire on a single bishop, the ecclesiastical factions were
prepared to sacrifice truth and justice to the more interesting object
of defending or removing the intrepid champion of the Nicene faith.
The Arians still thought it prudent to disguise, in ambiguous language,
their real sentiments and designs; but the orthodox bishops, armed with
the favor of the people, and the decrees of a general council, insisted
on every occasion, and particularly at Milan, that their adversaries
should purge themselves from the suspicion of heresy, before they
presumed to arraign the conduct of the great Athanasius. [127]

[Footnote 123: The affairs of the council of Milan are so imperfectly
and erroneously related by the Greek writers, that we must rejoice in
the supply of some letters of Eusebius, extracted by Baronius from the
archives of the church of Vercellae, and of an old life of Dionysius of
Milan, published by Bollandus. See Baronius, A.D. 355, and Tillemont,
tom. vii. p. 1415.]

[Footnote 124: The honors, presents, feasts, which seduced so many
bishops, are mentioned with indignation by those who were too pure or
too proud to accept them. "We combat (says Hilary of Poitiers) against
Constantius the Antichrist; who strokes the belly instead of scourging
the back;" qui non dorsa caedit; sed ventrem palpat. Hilarius contra
Constant c. 5, p. 1240.]

[Footnote 125: Something of this opposition is mentioned by Ammianus
(x. 7,) who had a very dark and superficial knowledge of ecclesiastical
history. Liberius... perseveranter renitebatur, nec visum hominem,
nec auditum damnare, nefas ultimum saepe exclamans; aperte scilicet
recalcitrans Imperatoris arbitrio. Id enim ille Athanasio semper
infestus, &c.]

[Footnote 126: More properly by the orthodox part of the council of
Sardica. If the bishops of both parties had fairly voted, the division
would have been 94 to 76. M. de Tillemont (see tom. viii. p. 1147-1158)
is justly surprised that so small a majority should have proceeded
as vigorously against their adversaries, the principal of whom they
immediately deposed.]

[Footnote 127: Sulp. Severus in Hist. Sacra, l. ii. p. 412.]

But the voice of reason (if reason was indeed on the side of Athanasius)
was silenced by the clamors of a factious or venal majority; and the
councils of Arles and Milan were not dissolved, till the archbishop of
Alexandria had been solemnly condemned and deposed by the judgment of
the Western, as well as of the Eastern, church. The bishops who had
opposed, were required to subscribe, the sentence, and to unite in
religious communion with the suspected leaders of the adverse party. A
formulary of consent was transmitted by the messengers of state to
the absent bishops: and all those who refused to submit their private
opinion to the public and inspired wisdom of the councils of Arles and
Milan, were immediately banished by the emperor, who affected to execute
the decrees of the Catholic church. Among those prelates who led the
honorable band of confessors and exiles, Liberius of Rome, Osius of
Cordova, Paulinus of Treves, Dionysius of Milan, Eusebius of Vercellae,
Lucifer of Cagliari and Hilary of Poitiers, may deserve to be
particularly distinguished. The eminent station of Liberius, who
governed the capital of the empire; the personal merit and long
experience of the venerable Osius, who was revered as the favorite of
the great Constantine, and the father of the Nicene faith, placed those
prelates at the head of the Latin church: and their example, either of
submission or resistance, would probable be imitated by the episcopal
crowd. But the repeated attempts of the emperor to seduce or to
intimidate the bishops of Rome and Cordova, were for some time
ineffectual. The Spaniard declared himself ready to suffer under
Constantius, as he had suffered threescore years before under his
grandfather Maximian. The Roman, in the presence of his sovereign,
asserted the innocence of Athanasius and his own freedom. When he was
banished to Beraea in Thrace, he sent back a large sum which had been
offered for the accommodation of his journey; and insulted the court of
Milan by the haughty remark, that the emperor and his eunuchs might want
that gold to pay their soldiers and their bishops. [128] The resolution
of Liberius and Osius was at length subdued by the hardships of exile
and confinement. The Roman pontiff purchased his return by some
criminal compliances; and afterwards expiated his guilt by a seasonable
repentance. Persuasion and violence were employed to extort the
reluctant signature of the decrepit bishop of Cordova, whose strength
was broken, and whose faculties were perhaps impaired by the weight of
a hundred years; and the insolent triumph of the Arians provoked some
of the orthodox party to treat with inhuman severity the character, or
rather the memory, of an unfortunate old man, to whose former services
Christianity itself was so deeply indebted. [129]

[Footnote 128: The exile of Liberius is mentioned by Ammianus, xv.
7. See Theodoret, l. ii. c. 16. Athanas. tom. i. p. 834-837. Hilar.
Fragment l.]

[Footnote 129: The life of Osius is collected by Tillemont, (tom. vii.
p. 524-561,) who in the most extravagant terms first admires, and then
reprobates, the bishop of Cordova. In the midst of their lamentations on
his fall, the prudence of Athanasius may be distinguished from the blind
and intemperate zeal of Hilary.]

The fall of Liberius and Osius reflected a brighter lustre on the
firmness of those bishops who still adhered, with unshaken fidelity,
to the cause of Athanasius and religious truth. The ingenious malice
of their enemies had deprived them of the benefit of mutual comfort and
advice, separated those illustrious exiles into distant provinces, and
carefully selected the most inhospitable spots of a great empire.
[130] Yet they soon experienced that the deserts of Libya, and the
most barbarous tracts of Cappadocia, were less inhospitable than the
residence of those cities in which an Arian bishop could satiate,
without restraint, the exquisite rancor of theological hatred. [131]
Their consolation was derived from the consciousness of rectitude
and independence, from the applause, the visits, the letters, and the
liberal alms of their adherents, [132] and from the satisfaction
which they soon enjoyed of observing the intestine divisions of the
adversaries of the Nicene faith. Such was the nice and capricious
taste of the emperor Constantius; and so easily was he offended by the
slightest deviation from his imaginary standard of Christian truth,
that he persecuted, with equal zeal, those who defended the
consubstantiality, those who asserted the similar substance, and those
who denied the likeness of the Son of God. Three bishops, degraded and
banished for those adverse opinions, might possibly meet in the same
place of exile; and, according to the difference of their temper, might
either pity or insult the blind enthusiasm of their antagonists, whose
present sufferings would never be compensated by future happiness.

[Footnote 130: The confessors of the West were successively banished to
the deserts of Arabia or Thebais, the lonely places of Mount Taurus, the
wildest parts of Phrygia, which were in the possession of the impious
Montanists, &c. When the heretic Aetius was too favorably entertained at
Mopsuestia in Cilicia, the place of his exile was changed, by the advice
of Acacius, to Amblada, a district inhabited by savages and infested by
war and pestilence. Philostorg. l. v. c. 2.]

[Footnote 131: See the cruel treatment and strange obstinacy of
Eusebius, in his own letters, published by Baronius, A.D. 356, No.

[Footnote 132: Caeterum exules satis constat, totius orbis studiis
celebratos pecuniasque eis in sumptum affatim congestas, legationibus
quoque plebis Catholicae ex omnibus fere provinciis frequentatos. Sulp.
Sever Hist. Sacra, p. 414. Athanas. tom. i. p. 836, 840.]

The disgrace and exile of the orthodox bishops of the West were designed
as so many preparatory steps to the ruin of Athanasius himself. [133]
Six-and-twenty months had elapsed, during which the Imperial court
secretly labored, by the most insidious arts, to remove him from
Alexandria, and to withdraw the allowance which supplied his popular
liberality. But when the primate of Egypt, deserted and proscribed by
the Latin church, was left destitute of any foreign support, Constantius
despatched two of his secretaries with a verbal commission to announce
and execute the order of his banishment. As the justice of the sentence
was publicly avowed by the whole party, the only motive which could
restrain Constantius from giving his messengers the sanction of a
written mandate, must be imputed to his doubt of the event; and to a
sense of the danger to which he might expose the second city, and the
most fertile province, of the empire, if the people should persist in
the resolution of defending, by force of arms, the innocence of their
spiritual father. Such extreme caution afforded Athanasius a specious
pretence respectfully to dispute the truth of an order, which he could
not reconcile, either with the equity, or with the former declarations,
of his gracious master. The civil powers of Egypt found themselves
inadequate to the task of persuading or compelling the primate to
abdicate his episcopal throne; and they were obliged to conclude
a treaty with the popular leaders of Alexandria, by which it was
stipulated, that all proceedings and all hostilities should be suspended
till the emperor's pleasure had been more distinctly ascertained. By
this seeming moderation, the Catholics were deceived into a false and
fatal security; while the legions of the Upper Egypt, and of Libya,
advanced, by secret orders and hasty marches, to besiege, or rather to
surprise, a capital habituated to sedition, and inflamed by religious
zeal. [134] The position of Alexandria, between the sea and the Lake
Mareotis, facilitated the approach and landing of the troops; who were
introduced into the heart of the city, before any effectual measures
could be taken either to shut the gates or to occupy the important
posts of defence. At the hour of midnight, twenty-three days after the
signature of the treaty, Syrianus, duke of Egypt, at the head of five
thousand soldiers, armed and prepared for an assault, unexpectedly
invested the church of St. Theonas, where the archbishop, with a part of
his clergy and people, performed their nocturnal devotions. The doors of
the sacred edifice yielded to the impetuosity of the attack, which was
accompanied with every horrid circumstance of tumult and bloodshed;
but, as the bodies of the slain, and the fragments of military weapons,
remained the next day an unexceptionable evidence in the possession
of the Catholics, the enterprise of Syrianus may be considered as a
successful irruption rather than as an absolute conquest. The other
churches of the city were profaned by similar outrages; and, during at
least four months, Alexandria was exposed to the insults of a licentious
army, stimulated by the ecclesiastics of a hostile faction. Many of
the faithful were killed; who may deserve the name of martyrs, if their
deaths were neither provoked nor revenged; bishops and presbyters were
treated with cruel ignominy; consecrated virgins were stripped naked,
scourged and violated; the houses of wealthy citizens were plundered;
and, under the mask of religious zeal, lust, avarice, and private
resentment were gratified with impunity, and even with applause. The
Pagans of Alexandria, who still formed a numerous and discontented
party, were easily persuaded to desert a bishop whom they feared and
esteemed. The hopes of some peculiar favors, and the apprehension of
being involved in the general penalties of rebellion, engaged them
to promise their support to the destined successor of Athanasius,
the famous George of Cappadocia. The usurper, after receiving the
consecration of an Arian synod, was placed on the episcopal throne by
the arms of Sebastian, who had been appointed Count of Egypt for the
execution of that important design. In the use, as well as in the
acquisition, of power, the tyrant, George disregarded the laws of
religion, of justice, and of humanity; and the same scenes of violence
and scandal which had been exhibited in the capital, were repeated
in more than ninety episcopal cities of Egypt. Encouraged by success,
Constantius ventured to approve the conduct of his minister. By a public
and passionate epistle, the emperor congratulates the deliverance of
Alexandria from a popular tyrant, who deluded his blind votaries by the
magic of his eloquence; expatiates on the virtues and piety of the most
reverend George, the elected bishop; and aspires, as the patron and
benefactor of the city to surpass the fame of Alexander himself. But
he solemnly declares his unalterable resolution to pursue with fire and
sword the seditious adherents of the wicked Athanasius, who, by flying
from justice, has confessed his guilt, and escaped the ignominious death
which he had so often deserved. [135]

[Footnote 133: Ample materials for the history of this third persecution
of Athanasius may be found in his own works. See particularly his very
able Apology to Constantius, (tom. i. p. 673,) his first Apology for his
flight (p. 701,) his prolix Epistle to the Solitaries, (p. 808,) and
the original protest of the people of Alexandria against the violences
committed by Syrianus, (p. 866.) Sozomen (l. iv. c. 9) has thrown into
the narrative two or three luminous and important circumstances.]

[Footnote 134: Athanasius had lately sent for Antony, and some of his
chosen monks. They descended from their mountains, announced to the
Alexandrians the sanctity of Athanasius, and were honorably conducted by
the archbishop as far as the gates of the city. Athanas tom. ii. p. 491,
492. See likewise Rufinus, iii. 164, in Vit. Patr. p. 524.]

[Footnote 135: Athanas. tom. i. p. 694. The emperor, or his Arian
secretaries while they express their resentment, betray their fears and
esteem of Athanasius.]

Chapter XXI: Persecution Of Heresy, State Of The Church.--Part VI.

Athanasius had indeed escaped from the most imminent dangers; and the
adventures of that extraordinary man deserve and fix our attention. On
the memorable night when the church of St. Theonas was invested by the
troops of Syrianus, the archbishop, seated on his throne, expected,
with calm and intrepid dignity, the approach of death. While the public
devotion was interrupted by shouts of rage and cries of terror,
he animated his trembling congregation to express their religious
confidence, by chanting one of the psalms of David which celebrates
the triumph of the God of Israel over the haughty and impious tyrant
of Egypt. The doors were at length burst open: a cloud of arrows was
discharged among the people; the soldiers, with drawn swords, rushed
forwards into the sanctuary; and the dreadful gleam of their arms was
reflected by the holy luminaries which burnt round the altar. [136]
Athanasius still rejected the pious importunity of the monks and
presbyters, who were attached to his person; and nobly refused to desert
his episcopal station, till he had dismissed in safety the last of the
congregation. The darkness and tumult of the night favored the retreat
of the archbishop; and though he was oppressed by the waves of an
agitated multitude, though he was thrown to the ground, and left without
sense or motion, he still recovered his undaunted courage, and eluded
the eager search of the soldiers, who were instructed by their Arian
guides, that the head of Athanasius would be the most acceptable present
to the emperor. From that moment the primate of Egypt disappeared from
the eyes of his enemies, and remained above six years concealed in
impenetrable obscurity. [137]

[Footnote 136: These minute circumstances are curious, as they are
literally transcribed from the protest, which was publicly presented
three days afterwards by the Catholics of Alexandria. See Athanas. tom.
l. n. 867]

[Footnote 137: The Jansenists have often compared Athanasius and
Arnauld, and have expatiated with pleasure on the faith and zeal, the
merit and exile, of those celebrated doctors. This concealed parallel is
very dexterously managed by the Abbe de la Bleterie, Vie de Jovien, tom.
i. p. 130.]

The despotic power of his implacable enemy filled the whole extent of
the Roman world; and the exasperated monarch had endeavored, by a very
pressing epistle to the Christian princes of Ethiopia, [137a] to exclude
Athanasius from the most remote and sequestered regions of the earth.
Counts, praefects, tribunes, whole armies, were successively employed to
pursue a bishop and a fugitive; the vigilance of the civil and military
powers was excited by the Imperial edicts; liberal rewards were promised
to the man who should produce Athanasius, either alive or dead; and the
most severe penalties were denounced against those who should dare to
protect the public enemy. [138] But the deserts of Thebais were now
peopled by a race of wild, yet submissive fanatics, who preferred the
commands of their abbot to the laws of their sovereign. The numerous
disciples of Antony and Pachonnus received the fugitive primate as their
father, admired the patience and humility with which he conformed to
their strictest institutions, collected every word which dropped from
his lips as the genuine effusions of inspired wisdom; and persuaded
themselves that their prayers, their fasts, and their vigils, were less
meritorious than the zeal which they expressed, and the dangers
which they braved, in the defence of truth and innocence. [139] The
monasteries of Egypt were seated in lonely and desolate places, on the
summit of mountains, or in the islands of the Nile; and the sacred horn
or trumpet of Tabenne was the well-known signal which assembled several
thousand robust and determined monks, who, for the most part, had been
the peasants of the adjacent country. When their dark retreats were
invaded by a military force, which it was impossible to resist, they
silently stretched out their necks to the executioner; and supported
their national character, that tortures could never wrest from an
Egyptian the confession of a secret which he was resolved not to
disclose. [140] The archbishop of Alexandria, for whose safety
they eagerly devoted their lives, was lost among a uniform and
well-disciplined multitude; and on the nearer approach of danger, he was
swiftly removed, by their officious hands, from one place of concealment
to another, till he reached the formidable deserts, which the gloomy
and credulous temper of superstition had peopled with daemons and savage
monsters. The retirement of Athanasius, which ended only with the life
of Constantius, was spent, for the most part, in the society of the
monks, who faithfully served him as guards, as secretaries, and as
messengers; but the importance of maintaining a more intimate connection
with the Catholic party tempted him, whenever the diligence of the
pursuit was abated, to emerge from the desert, to introduce himself into
Alexandria, and to trust his person to the discretion of his friends and
adherents. His various adventures might have furnished the subject of a
very entertaining romance. He was once secreted in a dry cistern, which
he had scarcely left before he was betrayed by the treachery of a female
slave; [141] and he was once concealed in a still more extraordinary
asylum, the house of a virgin, only twenty years of age, and who was
celebrated in the whole city for her exquisite beauty. At the hour
of midnight, as she related the story many years afterwards, she was
surprised by the appearance of the archbishop in a loose undress, who,
advancing with hasty steps, conjured her to afford him the protection
which he had been directed by a celestial vision to seek under her
hospitable roof. The pious maid accepted and preserved the sacred pledge
which was intrusted to her prudence and courage. Without imparting the
secret to any one, she instantly conducted Athanasius into her most
secret chamber, and watched over his safety with the tenderness of a
friend and the assiduity of a servant. As long as the danger continued,
she regularly supplied him with books and provisions, washed his feet,
managed his correspondence, and dexterously concealed from the eye of
suspicion this familiar and solitary intercourse between a saint whose
character required the most unblemished chastity, and a female whose
charms might excite the most dangerous emotions. [142] During the six
years of persecution and exile, Athanasius repeated his visits to his
fair and faithful companion; and the formal declaration, that he saw the
councils of Rimini and Seleucia, [143] forces us to believe that he
was secretly present at the time and place of their convocation. The
advantage of personally negotiating with his friends, and of observing
and improving the divisions of his enemies, might justify, in a prudent
statesman, so bold and dangerous an enterprise: and Alexandria
was connected by trade and navigation with every seaport of the
Mediterranean. From the depth of his inaccessible retreat the intrepid
primate waged an incessant and offensive war against the protector
of the Arians; and his seasonable writings, which were diligently
circulated and eagerly perused, contributed to unite and animate the
orthodox party. In his public apologies, which he addressed to the
emperor himself, he sometimes affected the praise of moderation;
whilst at the same time, in secret and vehement invectives, he exposed
Constantius as a weak and wicked prince, the executioner of his family,
the tyrant of the republic, and the Antichrist of the church. In the
height of his prosperity, the victorious monarch, who had chastised the
rashness of Gallus, and suppressed the revolt of Sylvanus, who had taken
the diadem from the head of Vetranio, and vanquished in the field the
legions of Magnentius, received from an invisible hand a wound, which he
could neither heal nor revenge; and the son of Constantine was the
first of the Christian princes who experienced the strength of those
principles, which, in the cause of religion, could resist the most
violent exertions [144] of the civil power.

[Footnote 137a: These princes were called Aeizanas and Saiazanas.
Athanasius calls them the kings of Axum. In the superscription of his
letter, Constantius gives them no title. Mr. Salt, during his first
journey in Ethiopia, (in 1806,) discovered, in the ruins of Axum, a
long and very interesting inscription relating to these princes. It was
erected to commemorate the victory of Aeizanas over the Bougaitae,
(St. Martin considers them the Blemmyes, whose true name is Bedjah or
Bodjah.) Aeizanas is styled king of the Axumites, the Homerites, of
Raeidan, of the Ethiopians, of the Sabsuites, of Silea, of Tiamo, of
the Bougaites. and of Kaei. It appears that at this time the king of the
Ethiopians ruled over the Homerites, the inhabitants of Yemen. He was
not yet a Christian, as he calls himself son of the invincible Mars.
Another brother besides Saiazanas, named Adephas, is mentioned, though
Aeizanas seems to have been sole king. See St. Martin, note on Le Beau,
ii. 151. Salt's Travels. De Sacy, note in Annales des Voyages, xii. p.

[Footnote 138: Hinc jam toto orbe profugus Athanasius, nec ullus
ci tutus ad latendum supererat locus. Tribuni, Praefecti, Comites,
exercitus quoque ad pervestigandum cum moventur edictis Imperialibus;
praemia dela toribus proponuntur, si quis eum vivum, si id minus, caput
certe Atha casii detulisset. Rufin. l. i. c. 16.]

[Footnote 139: Gregor. Nazianzen. tom. i. Orat. xxi. p. 384, 385. See
Tillemont Mem. Eccles. tom. vii. p. 176-410, 820-830.]

[Footnote 140: Et nulla tormentorum vis inveneri, adhuc potuit, quae
obdurato illius tractus latroni invito elicere potuit, ut nomen proprium
dicat Ammian. xxii. 16, and Valesius ad locum.]

[Footnote 141: Rufin. l. i. c. 18. Sozomen, l. iv. c. 10. This and
the following story will be rendered impossible, if we suppose that
Athanasius always inhabited the asylum which he accidentally or
occasionally had used.]

[Footnote 142: Paladius, (Hist. Lausiac. c. 136, in Vit. Patrum, p.
776,) the original author of this anecdote, had conversed with the
damsel, who in her old age still remembered with pleasure so pious
and honorable a connection. I cannot indulge the delicacy of Baronius,
Valesius, Tillemont, &c., who almost reject a story so unworthy, as they
deem it, of the gravity of ecclesiastical history.]

[Footnote 143: Athanas. tom. i. p. 869. I agree with Tillemont, (tom.
iii. p. 1197,) that his expressions imply a personal, though perhaps
secret visit to the synods.]

[Footnote 144: The epistle of Athanasius to the monks is filled with
reproaches, which the public must feel to be true, (vol. i. p.
834, 856;) and, in compliment to his readers, he has introduced the
comparisons of Pharaoh, Ahab, Belshazzar, &c. The boldness of Hilary was
attended with less danger, if he published his invective in Gaul after
the revolt of Julian; but Lucifer sent his libels to Constantius, and
almost challenged the reward of martyrdom. See Tillemont, tom. vii. p.

    The persecution of Athanasius, and of so many respectable
bishops, who suffered for the truth of their opinions, or at least for
the integrity of their conscience, was a just subject of indignation and
discontent to all Christians, except those who were blindly devoted
to the Arian faction. The people regretted the loss of their faithful
pastors, whose banishment was usually followed by the intrusion of a
stranger [145] into the episcopal chair; and loudly complained, that the
right of election was violated, and that they were condemned to obey a
mercenary usurper, whose person was unknown, and whose principles were
suspected. The Catholics might prove to the world, that they were not
involved in the guilt and heresy of their ecclesiastical governor, by
publicly testifying their dissent, or by totally separating themselves
from his communion. The first of these methods was invented at Antioch,
and practised with such success, that it was soon diffused over the
Christian world. The doxology or sacred hymn, which celebrates the glory
of the Trinity, is susceptible of very nice, but material, inflections;
and the substance of an orthodox, or an heretical, creed, may be
expressed by the difference of a disjunctive, or a copulative, particle.
Alternate responses, and a more regular psalmody, [146] were introduced
into the public service by Flavianus and Diodorus, two devout and active
laymen, who were attached to the Nicene faith. Under their conduct
a swarm of monks issued from the adjacent desert, bands of
well-disciplined singers were stationed in the cathedral of Antioch,
the Glory to the Father, And the Son, And the Holy Ghost, [147] was
triumphantly chanted by a full chorus of voices; and the Catholics
insulted, by the purity of their doctrine, the Arian prelate, who had
usurped the throne of the venerable Eustathius. The same zeal which
inspired their songs prompted the more scrupulous members of the
orthodox party to form separate assemblies, which were governed by the
presbyters, till the death of their exiled bishop allowed the election
and consecration of a new episcopal pastor. [148] The revolutions of the
court multiplied the number of pretenders; and the same city was often
disputed, under the reign of Constantius, by two, or three, or even
four, bishops, who exercised their spiritual jurisdiction over their
respective followers, and alternately lost and regained the temporal
possessions of the church. The abuse of Christianity introduced into the
Roman government new causes of tyranny and sedition; the bands of civil
society were torn asunder by the fury of religious factions; and the
obscure citizen, who might calmly have surveyed the elevation and fall
of successive emperors, imagined and experienced, that his own life and
fortune were connected with the interests of a popular ecclesiastic.
The example of the two capitals, Rome and Constantinople, may serve to
represent the state of the empire, and the temper of mankind, under the
reign of the sons of Constantine.

[Footnote 145: Athanasius (tom. i. p. 811) complains in general of this
practice, which he afterwards exemplifies (p. 861) in the pretended
election of Faelix. Three eunuchs represented the Roman people, and
three prelates, who followed the court, assumed the functions of the
bishops of the Suburbicarian provinces.]

[Footnote 146: Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. l. ii. c. 72,
73, p. 966-984) has collected many curious facts concerning the origin
and progress of church singing, both in the East and West. * Note: Arius
appears to have been the first who availed himself of this means of
impressing his doctrines on the popular ear: he composed songs
for sailors, millers, and travellers, and set them to common airs;
"beguiling the ignorant, by the sweetness of his music, into the impiety
of his doctrines." Philostorgius, ii. 2. Arian singers used to parade
the streets of Constantinople by night, till Chrysostom arrayed against
them a band of orthodox choristers. Sozomen, viii. 8.--M.]

[Footnote 147: Philostorgius, l. iii. c. 13. Godefroy has examined this
subject with singular accuracy, (p. 147, &c.) There were three heterodox
forms: "To the Father by the Son, and in the Holy Ghost." "To the
Father, and the Son in the Holy Ghost;" and "To the Father in the Son
and the Holy Ghost."]

[Footnote 148: After the exile of Eustathius, under the reign of
Constantine, the rigid party of the orthodox formed a separation which
afterwards degenerated into a schism, and lasted about fourscore years.
See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. vii. p. 35-54, 1137-1158, tom. viii.
p. 537-632, 1314-1332. In many churches, the Arians and Homoousians, who
had renounced each other's communion, continued for some time to join in
prayer. Philostorgius, l. iii. c. 14.]

I. The Roman pontiff, as long as he maintained his station and his
principles, was guarded by the warm attachment of a great people; and
could reject with scorn the prayers, the menaces, and the oblations of
an heretical prince. When the eunuchs had secretly pronounced the exile
of Liberius, the well-grounded apprehension of a tumult engaged them to
use the utmost precautions in the execution of the sentence. The capital
was invested on every side, and the praefect was commanded to seize the
person of the bishop, either by stratagem or by open force. The order
was obeyed, and Liberius, with the greatest difficulty, at the hour of
midnight, was swiftly conveyed beyond the reach of the Roman people,
before their consternation was turned into rage. As soon as they were
informed of his banishment into Thrace, a general assembly was convened,
and the clergy of Rome bound themselves, by a public and solemn oath,
never to desert their bishop, never to acknowledge the usurper Faelix;
who, by the influence of the eunuchs, had been irregularly chosen and
consecrated within the walls of a profane palace. At the end of two
years, their pious obstinacy subsisted entire and unshaken; and
when Constantius visited Rome, he was assailed by the importunate
solicitations of a people, who had preserved, as the last remnant
of their ancient freedom, the right of treating their sovereign with
familiar insolence. The wives of many of the senators and most honorable
citizens, after pressing their husbands to intercede in favor of
Liberius, were advised to undertake a commission, which in their hands
would be less dangerous, and might prove more successful. The emperor
received with politeness these female deputies, whose wealth and dignity
were displayed in the magnificence of their dress and ornaments: he
admired their inflexible resolution of following their beloved pastor
to the most distant regions of the earth; and consented that the two
bishops, Liberius and Faelix, should govern in peace their respective
congregations. But the ideas of toleration were so repugnant to the
practice, and even to the sentiments, of those times, that when the
answer of Constantius was publicly read in the Circus of Rome, so
reasonable a project of accommodation was rejected with contempt and
ridicule. The eager vehemence which animated the spectators in the
decisive moment of a horse-race, was now directed towards a different
object; and the Circus resounded with the shout of thousands, who
repeatedly exclaimed, "One God, One Christ, One Bishop!" The zeal of the
Roman people in the cause of Liberius was not confined to words alone;
and the dangerous and bloody sedition which they excited soon after the
departure of Constantius determined that prince to accept the submission
of the exiled prelate, and to restore him to the undivided dominion of
the capital. After some ineffectual resistance, his rival was expelled
from the city by the permission of the emperor and the power of the
opposite faction; the adherents of Faelix were inhumanly murdered in the
streets, in the public places, in the baths, and even in the churches;
and the face of Rome, upon the return of a Christian bishop, renewed the
horrid image of the massacres of Marius, and the proscriptions of Sylla.

[Footnote 149: See, on this ecclesiastical revolution of Rome, Ammianus,
xv. 7 Athanas. tom. i. p. 834, 861. Sozomen, l. iv. c. 15. Theodoret,
l. ii c. 17. Sulp. Sever. Hist. Sacra, l. ii. p. 413. Hieronym. Chron.
Marcellin. et Faustin. Libell. p. 3, 4. Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. vi.

II. Notwithstanding the rapid increase of Christians under the reign of
the Flavian family, Rome, Alexandria, and the other great cities of the
empire, still contained a strong and powerful faction of Infidels, who
envied the prosperity, and who ridiculed, even in their theatres, the
theological disputes of the church. Constantinople alone enjoyed the
advantage of being born and educated in the bosom of the faith. The
capital of the East had never been polluted by the worship of idols;
and the whole body of the people had deeply imbibed the opinions, the
virtues, and the passions, which distinguished the Christians of
that age from the rest of mankind. After the death of Alexander, the
episcopal throne was disputed by Paul and Macedonius. By their zeal and
abilities they both deserved the eminent station to which they aspired;
and if the moral character of Macedonius was less exceptionable, his
competitor had the advantage of a prior election and a more orthodox
doctrine. His firm attachment to the Nicene creed, which has given Paul
a place in the calendar among saints and martyrs, exposed him to the
resentment of the Arians. In the space of fourteen years he was five
times driven from his throne; to which he was more frequently restored
by the violence of the people, than by the permission of the prince; and
the power of Macedonius could be secured only by the death of his rival.
The unfortunate Paul was dragged in chains from the sandy deserts of
Mesopotamia to the most desolate places of Mount Taurus, [150] confined
in a dark and narrow dungeon, left six days without food, and at length
strangled, by the order of Philip, one of the principal ministers of the
emperor Constantius. [151] The first blood which stained the new capital
was spilt in this ecclesiastical contest; and many persons were slain
on both sides, in the furious and obstinate seditions of the people. The
commission of enforcing a sentence of banishment against Paul had been
intrusted to Hermogenes, the master-general of the cavalry; but the
execution of it was fatal to himself. The Catholics rose in the defence
of their bishop; the palace of Hermogenes was consumed; the first
military officer of the empire was dragged by the heels through the
streets of Constantinople, and, after he expired, his lifeless corpse
was exposed to their wanton insults. [152] The fate of Hermogenes
instructed Philip, the Praetorian praefect, to act with more precaution
on a similar occasion. In the most gentle and honorable terms, he
required the attendance of Paul in the baths of Xeuxippus, which had a
private communication with the palace and the sea. A vessel, which lay
ready at the garden stairs, immediately hoisted sail; and, while the
people were still ignorant of the meditated sacrilege, their bishop was
already embarked on his voyage to Thessalonica. They soon beheld, with
surprise and indignation, the gates of the palace thrown open, and
the usurper Macedonius seated by the side of the praefect on a lofty
chariot, which was surrounded by troops of guards with drawn swords. The
military procession advanced towards the cathedral; the Arians and
the Catholics eagerly rushed to occupy that important post; and three
thousand one hundred and fifty persons lost their lives in the confusion
of the tumult. Macedonius, who was supported by a regular force,
obtained a decisive victory; but his reign was disturbed by clamor and
sedition; and the causes which appeared the least connected with the
subject of dispute, were sufficient to nourish and to kindle the
flame of civil discord. As the chapel in which the body of the great
Constantine had been deposited was in a ruinous condition, the bishop
transported those venerable remains into the church of St. Acacius. This
prudent and even pious measure was represented as a wicked profanation
by the whole party which adhered to the Homoousian doctrine. The
factions immediately flew to arms, the consecrated ground was used as
their field of battle; and one of the ecclesiastical historians has
observed, as a real fact, not as a figure of rhetoric, that the well
before the church overflowed with a stream of blood, which filled the
porticos and the adjacent courts. The writer who should impute these
tumults solely to a religious principle, would betray a very imperfect
knowledge of human nature; yet it must be confessed that the motive
which misled the sincerity of zeal, and the pretence which disguised
the licentiousness of passion, suppressed the remorse which, in
another cause, would have succeeded to the rage of the Christians at
Constantinople. [153]

[Footnote 150: Cucusus was the last stage of his life and sufferings.
The situation of that lonely town, on the confines of Cappadocia,
Cilicia, and the Lesser Armenia, has occasioned some geographical
perplexity; but we are directed to the true spot by the course of the
Roman road from Caesarea to Anazarbus. See Cellarii Geograph. tom. ii.
p. 213. Wesseling ad Itinerar. p. 179, 703.]

[Footnote 151: Athanasius (tom. i. p. 703, 813, 814) affirms, in the
most positive terms, that Paul was murdered; and appeals, not only to
common fame, but even to the unsuspicious testimony of Philagrius,
one of the Arian persecutors. Yet he acknowledges that the heretics
attributed to disease the death of the bishop of Constantinople.
Athanasius is servilely copied by Socrates, (l. ii. c. 26;) but Sozomen,
who discovers a more liberal temper. presumes (l. iv. c. 2) to insinuate
a prudent doubt.]

[Footnote 152: Ammianus (xiv. 10) refers to his own account of this
tragic event. But we no longer possess that part of his history. Note:
The murder of Hermogenes took place at the first expulsion of Paul from
the see of Constantinople.--M.]

[Footnote 153: See Socrates, l. ii. c. 6, 7, 12, 13, 15, 16, 26, 27, 38,
and Sozomen, l. iii. 3, 4, 7, 9, l. iv. c. ii. 21. The acts of St.
Paul of Constantinople, of which Photius has made an abstract, (Phot.
Bibliot. p. 1419-1430,) are an indifferent copy of these historians;
but a modern Greek, who could write the life of a saint without adding
fables and miracles, is entitled to some commendation.]

Chapter XXI: Persecution Of Heresy, State Of The Church.--Part VII.

The cruel and arbitrary disposition of Constantius, which did not always
require the provocations of guilt and resistance, was justly exasperated
by the tumults of his capital, and the criminal behavior of a faction,
which opposed the authority and religion of their sovereign. The
ordinary punishments of death, exile, and confiscation, were inflicted
with partial vigor; and the Greeks still revere the holy memory of two
clerks, a reader, and a sub-deacon, who were accused of the murder of
Hermogenes, and beheaded at the gates of Constantinople. By an edict of
Constantius against the Catholics which has not been judged worthy of a
place in the Theodosian code, those who refused to communicate with the
Arian bishops, and particularly with Macedonius, were deprived of the
immunities of ecclesiastics, and of the rights of Christians; they
were compelled to relinquish the possession of the churches; and were
strictly prohibited from holding their assemblies within the walls of
the city. The execution of this unjust law, in the provinces of Thrace
and Asia Minor, was committed to the zeal of Macedonius; the civil and
military powers were directed to obey his commands; and the cruelties
exercised by this Semi- Arian tyrant in the support of the Homoiousion,
exceeded the commission, and disgraced the reign, of Constantius. The
sacraments of the church were administered to the reluctant victims,
who denied the vocation, and abhorred the principles, of Macedonius.
The rites of baptism were conferred on women and children, who, for that
purpose, had been torn from the arms of their friends and parents; the
mouths of the communicants were held open by a wooden engine, while the
consecrated bread was forced down their throat; the breasts of tender
virgins were either burnt with red-hot egg-shells, or inhumanly
compressed betweens harp and heavy boards. [154] The Novatians of
Constantinople and the adjacent country, by their firm attachment to
the Homoousian standard, deserved to be confounded with the Catholics
themselves. Macedonius was informed, that a large district of
Paphlagonia [155] was almost entirely inhabited by those sectaries. He
resolved either to convert or to extirpate them; and as he distrusted,
on this occasion, the efficacy of an ecclesiastical mission, he
commanded a body of four thousand legionaries to march against the
rebels, and to reduce the territory of Mantinium under his spiritual
dominion. The Novatian peasants, animated by despair and religious fury,
boldly encountered the invaders of their country; and though many of
the Paphlagonians were slain, the Roman legions were vanquished by an
irregular multitude, armed only with scythes and axes; and, except a few
who escaped by an ignominious flight, four thousand soldiers were left
dead on the field of battle. The successor of Constantius has expressed,
in a concise but lively manner, some of the theological calamities which
afflicted the empire, and more especially the East, in the reign of
a prince who was the slave of his own passions, and of those of his
eunuchs: "Many were imprisoned, and persecuted, and driven into
exile. Whole troops of those who are styled heretics, were massacred,
particularly at Cyzicus, and at Samosata. In Paphlagonia, Bithynia,
Galatia, and in many other provinces, towns and villages were laid
waste, and utterly destroyed." [156]

[Footnote 154: Socrates, l. ii. c. 27, 38. Sozomen, l. iv. c. 21. The
principal assistants of Macedonius, in the work of persecution, were
the two bishops of Nicomedia and Cyzicus, who were esteemed for their
virtues, and especially for their charity. I cannot forbear reminding
the reader, that the difference between the Homoousion and Homoiousion,
is almost invisible to the nicest theological eye.]

[Footnote 155: We are ignorant of the precise situation of Mantinium. In
speaking of these four bands of legionaries, Socrates, Sozomen, and
the author of the acts of St. Paul, use the indefinite terms of, which
Nicephorus very properly translates thousands. Vales. ad Socrat. l. ii.
c. 38.]

[Footnote 156: Julian. Epist. lii. p. 436, edit. Spanheim.]

While the flames of the Arian controversy consumed the vitals of the
empire, the African provinces were infested by their peculiar enemies,
the savage fanatics, who, under the name of Circumcellions, formed the
strength and scandal of the Donatist party. [157] The severe execution
of the laws of Constantine had excited a spirit of discontent and
resistance, the strenuous efforts of his son Constans, to restore the
unity of the church, exasperated the sentiments of mutual hatred,
which had first occasioned the separation; and the methods of force
and corruption employed by the two Imperial commissioners, Paul and
Macarius, furnished the schismatics with a specious contrast between the
maxims of the apostles and the conduct of their pretended successors.
[158] The peasants who inhabited the villages of Numidia and Mauritania,
were a ferocious race, who had been imperfectly reduced under the
authority of the Roman laws; who were imperfectly converted to the
Christian faith; but who were actuated by a blind and furious enthusiasm
in the cause of their Donatist teachers. They indignantly supported
the exile of their bishops, the demolition of their churches, and the
interruption of their secret assemblies. The violence of the officers of
justice, who were usually sustained by a military guard, was
sometimes repelled with equal violence; and the blood of some popular
ecclesiastics, which had been shed in the quarrel, inflamed their rude
followers with an eager desire of revenging the death of these holy
martyrs. By their own cruelty and rashness, the ministers of persecution
sometimes provoked their fate; and the guilt of an accidental tumult
precipitated the criminals into despair and rebellion. Driven from their
native villages, the Donatist peasants assembled in formidable gangs
on the edge of the Getulian desert; and readily exchanged the habits of
labor for a life of idleness and rapine, which was consecrated by the
name of religion, and faintly condemned by the doctors of the sect.
The leaders of the Circumcellions assumed the title of captains of the
saints; their principal weapon, as they were indifferently provided with
swords and spears, was a huge and weighty club, which they termed an
Israelite; and the well-known sound of "Praise be to God," which they
used as their cry of war, diffused consternation over the unarmed
provinces of Africa. At first their depredations were colored by the
plea of necessity; but they soon exceeded the measure of subsistence,
indulged without control their intemperance and avarice, burnt the
villages which they had pillaged, and reigned the licentious tyrants of
the open country. The occupations of husbandry, and the administration
of justice, were interrupted; and as the Circumcellions pretended to
restore the primitive equality of mankind, and to reform the abuses of
civil society, they opened a secure asylum for the slaves and debtors,
who flocked in crowds to their holy standard. When they were not
resisted, they usually contented themselves with plunder, but the
slightest opposition provoked them to acts of violence and murder; and
some Catholic priests, who had imprudently signalized their zeal, were
tortured by the fanatics with the most refined and wanton barbarity.
The spirit of the Circumcellions was not always exerted against their
defenceless enemies; they engaged, and sometimes defeated, the troops
of the province; and in the bloody action of Bagai, they attacked in
the open field, but with unsuccessful valor, an advanced guard of the
Imperial cavalry. The Donatists who were taken in arms, received, and
they soon deserved, the same treatment which might have been shown to
the wild beasts of the desert. The captives died, without a murmur,
either by the sword, the axe, or the fire; and the measures of
retaliation were multiplied in a rapid proportion, which aggravated the
horrors of rebellion, and excluded the hope of mutual forgiveness. In
the beginning of the present century, the example of the Circumcellions
has been renewed in the persecution, the boldness, the crimes, and the
enthusiasm of the Camisards; and if the fanatics of Languedoc surpassed
those of Numidia, by their military achievements, the Africans
maintained their fierce independence with more resolution and
perseverance. [159]

[Footnote 157: See Optatus Milevitanus, (particularly iii. 4,) with the
Donatis history, by M. Dupin, and the original pieces at the end of his
edition. The numerous circumstances which Augustin has mentioned, of the
fury of the Circumcellions against others, and against themselves,
have been laboriously collected by Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. vi. p.
147-165; and he has often, though without design, exposed injuries which
had provoked those fanatics.]

[Footnote 158: It is amusing enough to observe the language of opposite
parties, when they speak of the same men and things. Gratus, bishop of
Carthage, begins the acclamations of an orthodox synod, "Gratias Deo
omnipotenti et Christu Jesu... qui imperavit religiosissimo Constanti
Imperatori, ut votum gereret unitatis, et mitteret ministros sancti
operis famulos Dei Paulum et Macarium." Monument. Vet. ad Calcem Optati,
p. 313. "Ecce subito," (says the Donatist author of the Passion of
Marculus), "de Constantis regif tyrannica domo.. pollutum Macarianae
persecutionis murmur increpuit, et duabus bestiis ad Africam missis,
eodem scilicet Macario et Paulo, execrandum prorsus ac dirum
ecclesiae certamen indictum est; ut populus Christianus ad unionem cum
traditoribus faciendam, nudatis militum gladiis et draconum praesentibus
signis, et tubarum vocibus cogeretur." Monument. p. 304.]

[Footnote 159: The Histoire des Camisards, in 3 vols. 12mo.
Villefranche, 1760 may be recommended as accurate and impartial. It
requires some attention to discover the religion of the author.]

Such disorders are the natural effects of religious tyranny, but the
rage of the Donatists was inflamed by a frenzy of a very extraordinary
kind; and which, if it really prevailed among them in so extravagant a
degree, cannot surely be paralleled in any country or in any age. Many
of these fanatics were possessed with the horror of life, and the desire
of martyrdom; and they deemed it of little moment by what means, or
by what hands, they perished, if their conduct was sanctified by the
intention of devoting themselves to the glory of the true faith, and
the hope of eternal happiness. [160] Sometimes they rudely disturbed
the festivals, and profaned the temples of Paganism, with the design of
exciting the most zealous of the idolaters to revenge the insulted
honor of their gods. They sometimes forced their way into the courts
of justice, and compelled the affrighted judge to give orders for their
immediate execution. They frequently stopped travellers on the public
highways, and obliged them to inflict the stroke of martyrdom, by the
promise of a reward, if they consented, and by the threat of instant
death, if they refused to grant so very singular a favor. When they were
disappointed of every other resource, they announced the day on
which, in the presence of their friends and brethren, they should east
themselves headlong from some lofty rock; and many precipices were
shown, which had acquired fame by the number of religious suicides.
In the actions of these desperate enthusiasts, who were admired by one
party as the martyrs of God, and abhorred by the other as the victims of
Satan, an impartial philosopher may discover the influence and the last
abuse of that inflexible spirit which was originally derived from the
character and principles of the Jewish nation.

[Footnote 160: The Donatist suicides alleged in their justification the
example of Razias, which is related in the 14th chapter of the second
book of the Maccabees.]

The simple narrative of the intestine divisions, which distracted the
peace, and dishonored the triumph, of the church, will confirm the
remark of a Pagan historian, and justify the complaint of a venerable
bishop. The experience of Ammianus had convinced him, that the enmity of
the Christians towards each other, surpassed the fury of savage beasts
against man; [161] and Gregory Nazianzen most pathetically laments,
that the kingdom of heaven was converted, by discord, into the image of
chaos, of a nocturnal tempest, and of hell itself. [162] The fierce and
partial writers of the times, ascribing all virtue to themselves, and
imputing all guilt to their adversaries, have painted the battle of the
angels and daemons. Our calmer reason will reject such pure and perfect
monsters of vice or sanctity, and will impute an equal, or at least an
indiscriminate, measure of good and evil to the hostile sectaries, who
assumed and bestowed the appellations of orthodox and heretics. They
had been educated in the same religion and the same civil society. Their
hopes and fears in the present, or in a future life, were balanced in
the same proportion. On either side, the error might be innocent, the
faith sincere, the practice meritorious or corrupt. Their passions were
excited by similar objects; and they might alternately abuse the
favor of the court, or of the people. The metaphysical opinions of the
Athanasians and the Arians could not influence their moral character;
and they were alike actuated by the intolerant spirit which has been
extracted from the pure and simple maxims of the gospel.

[Footnote 161: Nullus infestas hominibus bestias, ut sunt sibi ferales
plerique Christianorum, expertus. Ammian. xxii. 5.]

[Footnote 162: Gregor, Nazianzen, Orav. i. p. 33. See Tillemont, tom vi.
p. 501, qua to edit.]

A modern writer, who, with a just confidence, has prefixed to his own
history the honorable epithets of political and philosophical, [163]
accuses the timid prudence of Montesquieu, for neglecting to enumerate,
among the causes of the decline of the empire, a law of Constantine, by
which the exercise of the Pagan worship was absolutely suppressed, and
a considerable part of his subjects was left destitute of priests,
of temples, and of any public religion. The zeal of the philosophic
historian for the rights of mankind, has induced him to acquiesce in
the ambiguous testimony of those ecclesiastics, who have too lightly
ascribed to their favorite hero the merit of a general persecution.
[164] Instead of alleging this imaginary law, which would have blazed
in the front of the Imperial codes, we may safely appeal to the original
epistle, which Constantine addressed to the followers of the ancient
religion; at a time when he no longer disguised his conversion, nor
dreaded the rivals of his throne. He invites and exhorts, in the most
pressing terms, the subjects of the Roman empire to imitate the example
of their master; but he declares, that those who still refuse to open
their eyes to the celestial light, may freely enjoy their temples and
their fancied gods. A report, that the ceremonies of paganism were
suppressed, is formally contradicted by the emperor himself, who wisely
assigns, as the principle of his moderation, the invincible force of
habit, of prejudice, and of superstition. [165] Without violating the
sanctity of his promise, without alarming the fears of the Pagans, the
artful monarch advanced, by slow and cautious steps, to undermine the
irregular and decayed fabric of polytheism. The partial acts of severity
which he occasionally exercised, though they were secretly promoted by a
Christian zeal, were colored by the fairest pretences of justice and the
public good; and while Constantine designed to ruin the foundations, he
seemed to reform the abuses, of the ancient religion. After the example
of the wisest of his predecessors, he condemned, under the most rigorous
penalties, the occult and impious arts of divination; which excited
the vain hopes, and sometimes the criminal attempts, of those who were
discontented with their present condition. An ignominious silence was
imposed on the oracles, which had been publicly convicted of fraud
and falsehood; the effeminate priests of the Nile were abolished; and
Constantine discharged the duties of a Roman censor, when he gave orders
for the demolition of several temples of Phoenicia; in which every mode
of prostitution was devoutly practised in the face of day, and to the
honor of Venus. [166] The Imperial city of Constantinople was, in some
measure, raised at the expense, and was adorned with the spoils, of the
opulent temples of Greece and Asia; the sacred property was confiscated;
the statues of gods and heroes were transported, with rude familiarity,
among a people who considered them as objects, not of adoration, but
of curiosity; the gold and silver were restored to circulation; and
the magistrates, the bishops, and the eunuchs, improved the fortunate
occasion of gratifying, at once, their zeal, their avarice, and their
resentment. But these depredations were confined to a small part of the
Roman world; and the provinces had been long since accustomed to
endure the same sacrilegious rapine, from the tyranny of princes and
proconsuls, who could not be suspected of any design to subvert the
established religion. [167]

[Footnote 163: Histoire Politique et Philosophique des Etablissemens des
Europeens dans les deux Indes, tom. i. p. 9.]

[Footnote 164: According to Eusebius, (in Vit. Constantin. l. ii. c.
45,) the emperor prohibited, both in cities and in the country, the
abominable acts or parts of idolatry. l Socrates (l. i. c. 17) and
Sozomen (l. ii. c. 4, 5) have represented the conduct of Constantine
with a just regard to truth and history; which has been neglected by
Theodoret (l. v. c. 21) and Orosius, (vii. 28.) Tum deinde (says the
latter) primus Constantinus justo ordine et pio vicem vertit edicto;
siquidem statuit citra ullam hominum caedem, paganorum templa claudi.]

[Footnote 165: See Eusebius in Vit. Constantin. l. ii. c. 56, 60.
In the sermon to the assembly of saints, which the emperor pronounced
when he was mature in years and piety, he declares to the idolaters (c.
xii.) that they are permitted to offer sacrifices, and to exercise every
part of their religious worship.]

[Footnote 166: See Eusebius, in Vit. Constantin. l. iii. c. 54-58,
and l. iv. c. 23, 25. These acts of authority may be compared with the
suppression of the Bacchanals, and the demolition of the temple of Isis,
by the magistrates of Pagan Rome.]

[Footnote 167: Eusebius (in Vit. Constan. l. iii. c. 54-58) and Libanius
(Orat. pro Templis, p. 9, 10, edit. Gothofred) both mention the pious
sacrilege of Constantine, which they viewed in very different lights.
The latter expressly declares, that "he made use of the sacred money,
but made no alteration in the legal worship; the temples indeed were
impoverished, but the sacred rites were performed there." Lardner's
Jewish and Heathen Testimonies, vol. iv. p. 140.]

The sons of Constantine trod in the footsteps of their father, with more
zeal, and with less discretion. The pretences of rapine and oppression
were insensibly multiplied; [168] every indulgence was shown to the
illegal behavior of the Christians; every doubt was explained to
the disadvantage of Paganism; and the demolition of the temples was
celebrated as one of the auspicious events of the reign of Constans and
Constantius. [169] The name of Constantius is prefixed to a concise law,
which might have superseded the necessity of any future prohibitions.
"It is our pleasure, that in all places, and in all cities, the temples
be immediately shut, and carefully guarded, that none may have the power
of offending. It is likewise our pleasure, that all our subjects should
abstain from sacrifices. If any one should be guilty of such an act,
let him feel the sword of vengeance, and after his execution, let
his property be confiscated to the public use. We denounce the same
penalties against the governors of the provinces, if they neglect
to punish the criminals." [170] But there is the strongest reason to
believe, that this formidable edict was either composed without being
published, or was published without being executed. The evidence of
facts, and the monuments which are still extant of brass and marble,
continue to prove the public exercise of the Pagan worship during the
whole reign of the sons of Constantine. In the East, as well as in the
West, in cities, as well as in the country, a great number of temples
were respected, or at least were spared; and the devout multitude still
enjoyed the luxury of sacrifices, of festivals, and of processions, by
the permission, or by the connivance, of the civil government. About
four years after the supposed date of this bloody edict, Constantius
visited the temples of Rome; and the decency of his behavior is
recommended by a pagan orator as an example worthy of the imitation
of succeeding princes. "That emperor," says Symmachus, "suffered the
privileges of the vestal virgins to remain inviolate; he bestowed
the sacerdotal dignities on the nobles of Rome, granted the customary
allowance to defray the expenses of the public rites and sacrifices;
and, though he had embraced a different religion, he never attempted to
deprive the empire of the sacred worship of antiquity." [171] The senate
still presumed to consecrate, by solemn decrees, the divine memory of
their sovereigns; and Constantine himself was associated, after his
death, to those gods whom he had renounced and insulted during his life.
The title, the ensigns, the prerogatives, of sovereign pontiff, which
had been instituted by Numa, and assumed by Augustus, were accepted,
without hesitation, by seven Christian emperors; who were invested with
a more absolute authority over the religion which they had deserted,
than over that which they professed. [172]

[Footnote 168: Ammianus (xxii. 4) speaks of some court eunuchs who were
spoliis templorum pasti. Libanius says (Orat. pro Templ. p. 23) that the
emperor often gave away a temple, like a dog, or a horse, or a slave, or
a gold cup; but the devout philosopher takes care to observe that these
sacrilegious favorites very seldom prospered.]

[Footnote 169: See Gothofred. Cod. Theodos. tom. vi. p. 262. Liban.
Orat. Parental c. x. in Fabric. Bibl. Graec. tom. vii. p. 235.]

[Footnote 170: Placuit omnibus locis atque urbibus universis claudi
protinus empla, et accessu vetitis omnibus licentiam delinquendi
perditis abnegari. Volumus etiam cunctos a sacrificiis abstinere.
Quod siquis aliquid forte hujusmodi perpetraverit, gladio sternatur:
facultates etiam perempti fisco decernimus vindicari: et similiter
adfligi rectores provinciarum si facinora vindicare neglexerint.
Cod. Theodos. l. xvi. tit. x. leg. 4. Chronology has discovered some
contradiction in the date of this extravagant law; the only one,
perhaps, by which the negligence of magistrates is punished by death
and confiscation. M. de la Bastie (Mem. de l'Academie, tom. xv. p.
98) conjectures, with a show of reason, that this was no more than the
minutes of a law, the heads of an intended bill, which were found
in Scriniis Memoriae among the papers of Constantius, and afterwards
inserted, as a worthy model, in the Theodosian Code.]

[Footnote 171: Symmach. Epistol. x. 54.]

[Footnote 172: The fourth Dissertation of M. de la Bastie, sur le
Souverain Pontificat des Empereurs Romains, (in the Mem. de l'Acad.
tom. xv. p. 75- 144,) is a very learned and judicious performance,
which explains the state, and prove the toleration, of Paganism from
Constantino to Gratian. The assertion of Zosimus, that Gratian was the
first who refused the pontifical robe, is confirmed beyond a doubt; and
the murmurs of bigotry on that subject are almost silenced.]

The divisions of Christianity suspended the ruin of Paganism; [173]
and the holy war against the infidels was less vigorously prosecuted by
princes and bishops, who were more immediately alarmed by the guilt and
danger of domestic rebellion. The extirpation of idolatry [174] might
have been justified by the established principles of intolerance: but
the hostile sects, which alternately reigned in the Imperial court were
mutually apprehensive of alienating, and perhaps exasperating, the minds
of a powerful, though declining faction. Every motive of authority
and fashion, of interest and reason, now militated on the side of
Christianity; but two or three generations elapsed, before their
victorious influence was universally felt. The religion which had
so long and so lately been established in the Roman empire was still
revered by a numerous people, less attached indeed to speculative
opinion, than to ancient custom. The honors of the state and army
were indifferently bestowed on all the subjects of Constantine and
Constantius; and a considerable portion of knowledge and wealth and
valor was still engaged in the service of polytheism. The superstition
of the senator and of the peasant, of the poet and the philosopher, was
derived from very different causes, but they met with equal devotion
in the temples of the gods. Their zeal was insensibly provoked by the
insulting triumph of a proscribed sect; and their hopes were revived by
the well-grounded confidence, that the presumptive heir of the empire,
a young and valiant hero, who had delivered Gaul from the arms of the
Barbarians, had secretly embraced the religion of his ancestors.

[Footnote 173: As I have freely anticipated the use of pagans and
paganism, I shall now trace the singular revolutions of those celebrated
words. 1. in the Doric dialect, so familiar to the Italians, signifies
a fountain; and the rural neighborhood, which frequented the same
fountain, derived the common appellation of pagus and pagans. (Festus
sub voce, and Servius ad Virgil. Georgic. ii. 382.) 2. By an easy
extension of the word, pagan and rural became almost synonymous, (Plin.
Hist. Natur. xxviii. 5;) and the meaner rustics acquired that name,
which has been corrupted into peasants in the modern languages of
Europe. 3. The amazing increase of the military order introduced the
necessity of a correlative term, (Hume's Essays, vol. i. p. 555;) and
all the people who were not enlisted in the service of the prince were
branded with the contemptuous epithets of pagans. (Tacit. Hist. iii.
24, 43, 77. Juvenal. Satir. 16. Tertullian de Pallio, c. 4.) 4. The
Christians were the soldiers of Christ; their adversaries, who
refused his sacrament, or military oath of baptism might deserve the
metaphorical name of pagans; and this popular reproach was introduced as
early as the reign of Valentinian (A. D. 365) into Imperial laws
(Cod. Theodos. l. xvi. tit. ii. leg. 18) and theological writings.
5. Christianity gradually filled the cities of the empire: the old
religion, in the time of Prudentius (advers. Symmachum, l. i. ad fin.)
and Orosius, (in Praefat. Hist.,) retired and languished in obscure
villages; and the word pagans, with its new signification, reverted to
its primitive origin. 6. Since the worship of Jupiter and his family has
expired, the vacant title of pagans has been successively applied to
all the idolaters and polytheists of the old and new world. 7. The Latin
Christians bestowed it, without scruple, on their mortal enemies, the
Mahometans; and the purest Unitarians were branded with the unjust
reproach of idolatry and paganism. See Gerard Vossius, Etymologicon
Linguae Latinae, in his works, tom. i. p. 420; Godefroy's Commentary
on the Theodosian Code, tom. vi. p. 250; and Ducange, Mediae et Infimae
Latinitat. Glossar.]

[Footnote 174: In the pure language of Ionia and Athens were ancient and
familiar words. The former expressed a likeness, an apparition (Homer.
Odys. xi. 601,) a representation, an image, created either by fancy
or art. The latter denoted any sort of service or slavery. The Jews of
Egypt, who translated the Hebrew Scriptures, restrained the use of
these words (Exod. xx. 4, 5) to the religious worship of an image. The
peculiar idiom of the Hellenists, or Grecian Jews, has been adopted by
the sacred and ecclesiastical writers and the reproach of idolatry has
stigmatized that visible and abject mode of superstition, which some
sects of Christianity should not hastily impute to the polytheists of
Greece and Rome.]

Chapter XXII: Julian Declared Emperor.--Part I

Julian Is Declared Emperor By The Legions Of Gaul.--His March And
Success.--The Death Of Constantius.--Civil Administration Of Julian.
While the Romans languished under the ignominious tyranny of eunuchs
and bishops, the praises of Julian were repeated with transport in every
part of the empire, except in the palace of Constantius. The barbarians
of Germany had felt, and still dreaded, the arms of the young
Caesar; his soldiers were the companions of his victory; the grateful
provincials enjoyed the blessings of his reign; but the favorites, who
had opposed his elevation, were offended by his virtues; and they justly
considered the friend of the people as the enemy of the court. As long
as the fame of Julian was doubtful, the buffoons of the palace, who
were skilled in the language of satire, tried the efficacy of those arts
which they had so often practised with success. They easily discovered,
that his simplicity was not exempt from affectation: the ridiculous
epithets of a hairy savage, of an ape invested with the purple, were
applied to the dress and person of the philosophic warrior; and his
modest despatches were stigmatized as the vain and elaborate fictions
of a loquacious Greek, a speculative soldier, who had studied the art of
war amidst the groves of the academy. [1] The voice of malicious folly
was at length silenced by the shouts of victory; the conqueror of the
Franks and Alemanni could no longer be painted as an object of contempt;
and the monarch himself was meanly ambitious of stealing from his
lieutenant the honorable reward of his labors. In the letters crowned
with laurel, which, according to ancient custom, were addressed to the
provinces, the name of Julian was omitted. "Constantius had made his
dispositions in person; he had signalized his valor in the foremost
ranks; his military conduct had secured the victory; and the captive
king of the barbarians was presented to him on the field of battle,"
from which he was at that time distant about forty days' journey. [2]
So extravagant a fable was incapable, however, of deceiving the public
credulity, or even of satisfying the pride of the emperor himself.
Secretly conscious that the applause and favor of the Romans accompanied
the rising fortunes of Julian, his discontented mind was prepared to
receive the subtle poison of those artful sycophants, who colored their
mischievous designs with the fairest appearances of truth and candor.
[3] Instead of depreciating the merits of Julian, they acknowledged,
and even exaggerated, his popular fame, superior talents, and important
services. But they darkly insinuated, that the virtues of the Caesar
might instantly be converted into the most dangerous crimes, if the
inconstant multitude should prefer their inclinations to their duty;
or if the general of a victorious army should be tempted from his
allegiance by the hopes of revenge and independent greatness. The
personal fears of Constantius were interpreted by his council as a
laudable anxiety for the public safety; whilst in private, and perhaps
in his own breast, he disguised, under the less odious appellation of
fear, the sentiments of hatred and envy, which he had secretly conceived
for the inimitable virtues of Julian.

[Footnote 1: Omnes qui plus poterant in palatio, adulandi professores
jam docti, recte consulta, prospereque completa vertebant in
deridiculum: talia sine modo strepentes insulse; in odium venit cum
victoriis suis; capella, non homo; ut hirsutum Julianum carpentes,
appellantesque loquacem talpam, et purpuratam simiam, et litterionem
Graecum: et his congruentia plurima atque vernacula principi
resonantes, audire haec taliaque gestienti, virtutes ejus obruere verbis
impudentibus conabantur, et segnem incessentes et timidum et umbratilem,
gestaque secus verbis comptioribus exornantem. Ammianus, s. xvii. 11.
* Note: The philosophers retaliated on the courtiers. Marius (says
Eunapius in a newly-discovered fragment) was wont to call his antagonist
Sylla a beast half lion and half fox. Constantius had nothing of the
lion, but was surrounded by a whole litter of foxes. Mai. Script. Byz.
Nov. Col. ii. 238. Niebuhr. Byzant. Hist. 66.--M.]

[Footnote 2: Ammian. xvi. 12. The orator Themistius (iv. p. 56, 57)
believed whatever was contained in the Imperial letters, which were
addressed to the senate of Constantinople Aurelius Victor, who published
his Abridgment in the last year of Constantius, ascribes the German
victories to the wisdom of the emperor, and the fortune of the Caesar.
Yet the historian, soon afterwards, was indebted to the favor or esteem
of Julian for the honor of a brass statue, and the important offices of
consular of the second Pannonia, and praefect of the city, Ammian. xxi.

[Footnote 3: Callido nocendi artificio, accusatoriam diritatem laudum
titulis peragebant. .. Hae voces fuerunt ad inflammanda odia probria
omnibus potentiores. See Mamertin, in Actione Gratiarum in Vet Panegyr.
xi. 5, 6.]

The apparent tranquillity of Gaul, and the imminent danger of the
eastern provinces, offered a specious pretence for the design which was
artfully concerted by the Imperial ministers. They resolved to disarm
the Caesar; to recall those faithful troops who guarded his person and
dignity; and to employ, in a distant war against the Persian monarch,
the hardy veterans who had vanquished, on the banks of the Rhine, the
fiercest nations of Germany. While Julian used the laborious hours of
his winter quarters at Paris in the administration of power, which, in
his hands, was the exercise of virtue, he was surprised by the hasty
arrival of a tribune and a notary, with positive orders, from the
emperor, which they were directed to execute, and he was commanded not
to oppose. Constantius signified his pleasure, that four entire legions,
the Celtae, and Petulants, the Heruli, and the Batavians, should be
separated from the standard of Julian, under which they had acquired
their fame and discipline; that in each of the remaining bands three
hundred of the bravest youths should be selected; and that this numerous
detachment, the strength of the Gallic army, should instantly begin
their march, and exert their utmost diligence to arrive, before the
opening of the campaign, on the frontiers of Persia. [4] The Caesar
foresaw and lamented the consequences of this fatal mandate. Most of the
auxiliaries, who engaged their voluntary service, had stipulated, that
they should never be obliged to pass the Alps. The public faith of Rome,
and the personal honor of Julian, had been pledged for the observance
of this condition. Such an act of treachery and oppression would destroy
the confidence, and excite the resentment, of the independent warriors
of Germany, who considered truth as the noblest of their virtues, and
freedom as the most valuable of their possessions. The legionaries,
who enjoyed the title and privileges of Romans, were enlisted for the
general defence of the republic; but those mercenary troops heard with
cold indifference the antiquated names of the republic and of Rome.
Attached, either from birth or long habit, to the climate and manners of
Gaul, they loved and admired Julian; they despised, and perhaps hated,
the emperor; they dreaded the laborious march, the Persian arrows, and
the burning deserts of Asia. They claimed as their own the country which
they had saved; and excused their want of spirit, by pleading the sacred
and more immediate duty of protecting their families and friends.

The apprehensions of the Gauls were derived from the knowledge of the
impending and inevitable danger. As soon as the provinces were exhausted
of their military strength, the Germans would violate a treaty which had
been imposed on their fears; and notwithstanding the abilities and valor
of Julian, the general of a nominal army, to whom the public calamities
would be imputed, must find himself, after a vain resistance, either a
prisoner in the camp of the barbarians, or a criminal in the palace of
Constantius. If Julian complied with the orders which he had received,
he subscribed his own destruction, and that of a people who deserved
his affection. But a positive refusal was an act of rebellion, and
a declaration of war. The inexorable jealousy of the emperor, the
peremptory, and perhaps insidious, nature of his commands, left not any
room for a fair apology, or candid interpretation; and the dependent
station of the Caesar scarcely allowed him to pause or to deliberate.
Solitude increased the perplexity of Julian; he could no longer apply to
the faithful counsels of Sallust, who had been removed from his office
by the judicious malice of the eunuchs: he could not even enforce his
representations by the concurrence of the ministers, who would have
been afraid or ashamed to approve the ruin of Gaul. The moment had been
chosen, when Lupicinus, [5] the general of the cavalry, was despatched
into Britain, to repulse the inroads of the Scots and Picts; and
Florentius was occupied at Vienna by the assessment of the tribute.
The latter, a crafty and corrupt statesman, declining to assume a
responsible part on this dangerous occasion, eluded the pressing and
repeated invitations of Julian, who represented to him, that in every
important measure, the presence of the praefect was indispensable in the
council of the prince. In the mean while the Caesar was oppressed by
the rude and importunate solicitations of the Imperial messengers, who
presumed to suggest, that if he expected the return of his ministers, he
would charge himself with the guilt of the delay, and reserve for them
the merit of the execution. Unable to resist, unwilling to comply,
Julian expressed, in the most serious terms, his wish, and even his
intention, of resigning the purple, which he could not preserve with
honor, but which he could not abdicate with safety.

[Footnote 4: The minute interval, which may be interposed, between the
hyeme adulta and the primo vere of Ammianus, (xx. l. 4,) instead of
allowing a sufficient space for a march of three thousand miles, would
render the orders of Constantius as extravagant as they were unjust. The
troops of Gaul could not have reached Syria till the end of autumn.
The memory of Ammianus must have been inaccurate, and his language
incorrect. * Note: The late editor of Ammianus attempts to vindicate
his author from the charge of inaccuracy. "It is clear, from the whole
course of the narrative, that Constantius entertained this design of
demanding his troops from Julian, immediately after the taking of Amida,
in the autumn of the preceding year, and had transmitted his orders into
Gaul, before it was known that Lupicinus had gone into Britain with the
Herulians and Batavians." Wagner, note to Amm. xx. 4. But it seems
also clear that the troops were in winter quarters (hiemabant) when the
orders arrived. Ammianus can scarcely be acquitted of incorrectness in
his language at least.--M]

[Footnote 5: Ammianus, xx. l. The valor of Lupicinus, and his military
skill, are acknowledged by the historian, who, in his affected language,
accuses the general of exalting the horns of his pride, bellowing in
a tragic tone, and exciting a doubt whether he was more cruel or
avaricious. The danger from the Scots and Picts was so serious that
Julian himself had some thoughts of passing over into the island.]

After a painful conflict, Julian was compelled to acknowledge, that
obedience was the virtue of the most eminent subject, and that the
sovereign alone was entitled to judge of the public welfare. He issued
the necessary orders for carrying into execution the commands of
Constantius; a part of the troops began their march for the Alps;
and the detachments from the several garrisons moved towards their
respective places of assembly. They advanced with difficulty through the
trembling and affrighted crowds of provincials, who attempted to excite
their pity by silent despair, or loud lamentations, while the wives of
the soldiers, holding their infants in their arms, accused the desertion
of their husbands, in the mixed language of grief, of tenderness, and
of indignation. This scene of general distress afflicted the humanity of
the Caesar; he granted a sufficient number of post-wagons to transport
the wives and families of the soldiers, [6] endeavored to alleviate the
hardships which he was constrained to inflict, and increased, by the
most laudable arts, his own popularity, and the discontent of the exiled
troops. The grief of an armed multitude is soon converted into rage;
their licentious murmurs, which every hour were communicated from tent
to tent with more boldness and effect, prepared their minds for the
most daring acts of sedition; and by the connivance of their tribunes, a
seasonable libel was secretly dispersed, which painted in lively colors
the disgrace of the Caesar, the oppression of the Gallic army, and the
feeble vices of the tyrant of Asia. The servants of Constantius were
astonished and alarmed by the progress of this dangerous spirit. They
pressed the Caesar to hasten the departure of the troops; but they
imprudently rejected the honest and judicious advice of Julian; who
proposed that they should not march through Paris, and suggested the
danger and temptation of a last interview.

[Footnote 6: He granted them the permission of the cursus clavularis, or
clabularis. These post-wagons are often mentioned in the Code, and were
supposed to carry fifteen hundred pounds weight. See Vales. ad Ammian.
xx. 4.]

As soon as the approach of the troops was announced, the Caesar went
out to meet them, and ascended his tribunal, which had been erected in
a plain before the gates of the city. After distinguishing the officers
and soldiers, who by their rank or merit deserved a peculiar attention,
Julian addressed himself in a studied oration to the surrounding
multitude: he celebrated their exploits with grateful applause;
encouraged them to accept, with alacrity, the honor of serving under
the eye of a powerful and liberal monarch; and admonished them, that
the commands of Augustus required an instant and cheerful obedience.
The soldiers, who were apprehensive of offending their general by an
indecent clamor, or of belying their sentiments by false and venal
acclamations, maintained an obstinate silence; and after a short
pause, were dismissed to their quarters. The principal officers were
entertained by the Caesar, who professed, in the warmest language of
friendship, his desire and his inability to reward, according to their
deserts, the brave companions of his victories. They retired from the
feast, full of grief and perplexity; and lamented the hardship of
their fate, which tore them from their beloved general and their native
country. The only expedient which could prevent their separation was
boldly agitated and approved the popular resentment was insensibly
moulded into a regular conspiracy; their just reasons of complaint were
heightened by passion, and their passions were inflamed by wine; as,
on the eve of their departure, the troops were indulged in licentious
festivity. At the hour of midnight, the impetuous multitude, with
swords, and bows, and torches in their hands, rushed into the suburbs;
encompassed the palace; [7] and, careless of future dangers, pronounced
the fatal and irrevocable words, Julian Augustus! The prince, whose
anxious suspense was interrupted by their disorderly acclamations,
secured the doors against their intrusion; and as long as it was in his
power, secluded his person and dignity from the accidents of a nocturnal
tumult. At the dawn of day, the soldiers, whose zeal was irritated
by opposition, forcibly entered the palace, seized, with respectful
violence, the object of their choice, guarded Julian with drawn swords
through the streets of Paris, placed him on the tribunal, and with
repeated shouts saluted him as their emperor. Prudence, as well as
loyalty, inculcated the propriety of resisting their treasonable
designs; and of preparing, for his oppressed virtue, the excuse
of violence. Addressing himself by turns to the multitude and to
individuals, he sometimes implored their mercy, and sometimes expressed
his indignation; conjured them not to sully the fame of their immortal
victories; and ventured to promise, that if they would immediately
return to their allegiance, he would undertake to obtain from the
emperor not only a free and gracious pardon, but even the revocation
of the orders which had excited their resentment. But the soldiers, who
were conscious of their guilt, chose rather to depend on the gratitude
of Julian, than on the clemency of the emperor. Their zeal was
insensibly turned into impatience, and their impatience into rage.
The inflexible Caesar sustained, till the third hour of the day, their
prayers, their reproaches, and their menaces; nor did he yield, till he
had been repeatedly assured, that if he wished to live, he must consent
to reign. He was exalted on a shield in the presence, and amidst the
unanimous acclamations, of the troops; a rich military collar, which was
offered by chance, supplied the want of a diadem; [8] the ceremony was
concluded by the promise of a moderate donative; and the new emperor,
overwhelmed with real or affected grief retired into the most secret
recesses of his apartment. [10]

[Footnote 7: Most probably the palace of the baths, (Thermarum,) of
which a solid and lofty hall still subsists in the Rue de la Harpe.
The buildings covered a considerable space of the modern quarter of the
university; and the gardens, under the Merovingian kings, communicated
with the abbey of St. Germain des Prez. By the injuries of time and the
Normans, this ancient palace was reduced, in the twelfth century, to a
maze of ruins, whose dark recesses were the scene of licentious love.

     Explicat aula sinus montemque amplectitur alis;
     Multiplici latebra scelerum tersura ruborem.
     .... pereuntis saepe pudoris Celatura nefas,
     Venerisque accommoda furtis.

(These lines are quoted from the Architrenius, l. iv. c. 8, a poetical
work of John de Hauteville, or Hanville, a monk of St. Alban's, about
the year 1190. See Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. i. dissert.
ii.) Yet such thefts might be less pernicious to mankind than the
theological disputes of the Sorbonne, which have been since agitated on
the same ground. Bonamy, Mem. de l'Academie, tom. xv. p. 678-632]

[Footnote 8: Even in this tumultuous moment, Julian attended to
the forms of superstitious ceremony, and obstinately refused the
inauspicious use of a female necklace, or a horse collar, which the
impatient soldiers would have employed in the room of a diadem.]

[Footnote 9: An equal proportion of gold and silver, five pieces of the
former one pound of the latter; the whole amounting to about five pounds
ten shillings of our money.]

[Footnote 10: For the whole narrative of this revolt, we may appeal
to authentic and original materials; Julian himself, (ad S. P. Q.
Atheniensem, p. 282, 283, 284,) Libanius, (Orat. Parental. c. 44-48, in
Fabricius, Bibliot. Graec. tom. vii. p. 269-273,) Ammianus, (xx. 4,)
and Zosimus, (l. iii. p. 151, 152, 153.) who, in the reign of Julian,
appears to follow the more respectable authority of Eunapius. With such
guides we might neglect the abbreviators and ecclesiastical historians.]

The grief of Julian could proceed only from his innocence; out his
innocence must appear extremely doubtful [11] in the eyes of those who
have learned to suspect the motives and the professions of princes. His
lively and active mind was susceptible of the various impressions of
hope and fear, of gratitude and revenge, of duty and of ambition, of the
love of fame, and of the fear of reproach. But it is impossible for us
to calculate the respective weight and operation of