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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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HISTORY OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, VOLUME 2

Edward Gibbon, Esq.

With notes by the Rev. H. H. Milman

1782 (Written), 1845 (Revised)



CONTENTS:

Chapter XVI--Conduct Towards The Christians, From Nero To Constantine.--
Part I.   Part II.   Part III.   Part IV.   Part V.   Part VI.   Part
VII.   Part VIII.

The Conduct Of The Roman Government Towards The Christians, From The
Reign Of Nero To That Of Constantine.


Chapter XVII: Foundation Of Constantinople.--Part I.   Part II.   Part
III.   Part IV.   Part V.   Part VI.

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


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

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.


Chapter XIX: Constantius Sole Emperor.--Part I.   PartII.   Part III.
Part IV.

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


Chapter XX: Conversion Of Constantine.--Part I.   Part II.   Part III.
PartIV.

The Motives, Progress, And Effects Of The Conversion Of Constantine.--
Legal Establishment And Constitution Of The Christian Or Catholic
Church.


Chapter XXI: Persecution Of Heresy, State Of The Church.--Part I.   Part
II.   Part III.   Part IV.   Part V.   Part VI.   Part VII.

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.


Chapter XXII: Julian Declared Emperor.--Part I   Part II.   Part III.
Part IV.

Julian Is Declared Emperor By The Legions Of Gaul.--His March And
Success.--The Death Of Constantius.--Civil Administration Of Julian.


Chapter XXIII: Reign Of Julian.--Part I.   Part II.   Part III.   Part
IV.   Part V.

The Religion Of Julian.--Universal Toleration.--He Attempts To Restore
And Reform The Pagan Worship--To Rebuild The Temple Of Jerusalem--His
Artful Persecution Of The Christians.--Mutual Zeal And Injustice.


Chapter XXIV: The Retreat And Death Of Julian.--Part I.   Part II.
Part III.   Part IV.   Part V.

Residence Of Julian At Antioch.--His Successful Expedition Against The
Persians.--Passage Of The Tigris--The Retreat And Death Of Julian.--
Election Of Jovian.--He Saves The Roman Army By A Disgraceful Treaty.


Chapter XXV: Reigns Of Jovian And Valentinian, Division Of The Empire.--
Part I.   Part II.   Part III.   Part IV.   Part V.   Part VI.   Part
VII.

The Government And Death Of Jovian.--Election Of Valentinian, Who
Associates His Brother Valens, And Makes The Final Division Of The
Eastern And Western Empires.--Revolt Of Procopius.--Civil And
Ecclesiastical Administration.--Germany.--Britain.--Africa.--The East.--
The Danube.--Death Of Valentinian.--His Two Sons, Gratian And
Valentinian II., Succeed To The Western Empire.


Chapter XXVI: Progress of The Huns.--Part I.   Part II.   Part III.
Part IV.   Part V.

Manners Of The Pastoral Nations.--Progress Of The Huns, From China To
Europe.--Flight Of The Goths.--They Pass The Danube. --Gothic War.--
Defeat And Death Of Valens.--Gratian Invests Theodosius With The Eastern
Empire.--His Character And Success. --Peace And Settlement Of The Goths.



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.

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. *

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; 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. 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 Isræl, that the famous Barchochebas collected a formidable
army, with which he resisted during two years the power of the emperor
Hadrian.

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. 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. 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. 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.

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. *

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. 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. 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.

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 Æsculapius, had, in some measure, prepared
their imagination for the appearance of the Son of God under a human
form. 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.

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. 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. 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, 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."

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. 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."

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. 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. Accusations of a similar kind were retorted upon the
church by the schismatics who had departed from its communion, 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.



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, it may still be in our power to confirm each of these
probable suppositions, by the evidence of authentic facts.

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 Isræl, were likewise confounded under the
garb and appearance of Jews, 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. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. For a
while this dire superstition was checked; but it again burst forth;
* and not only spread itself over Judæa, 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.
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." 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, 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 Cæsars, 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.

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. 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. 2. Notwithstanding it
is probable that Tacitus was born some years before the fire of Rome,
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; 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; 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 Poppæa, and a favorite player of the race of Abraham, who had
already employed their intercession in behalf of the obnoxious people.
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 Galilæans, which was capable of the most horrid
crimes. Under the appellation of Galilæans, 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, and the zealots who had followed the standard of Judas the
Gaulonite. 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, * 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, that the religious tenets of the Galilæans 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.

It is somewhat remarkable that the flames of war consumed, almost at
the same time, the temple of Jerusalem and the Capitol of Rome; 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. 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. 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 dæmon 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; 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 Judæa, 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. 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,
and of the value of nine thousand drachms, or three hundred pounds
sterling. The grandsons of St. Jude were dismissed with compassion and
contempt.

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, 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. 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.

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; 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; 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, * assassinated
the emperor in his palace. 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.

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 lame 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. 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, 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.



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.
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. *

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. 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.

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. 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. 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, 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.

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. 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. Whenever they were invested with a discretionary
power, 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, 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; 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. 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. 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, and whose
marvellous achievements have been the subject of so many volumes of
Holy Romance. 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.

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.
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. The
propriety of reserving himself for the future exigencies of the church,
the example of several holy bishops, and the divine admonitions, which,
as he declares himself, he frequently received in visions and ecstacies,
were the reasons alleged in his justification. 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.



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, 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. 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; 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.

At length, exactly one year 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; * 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. 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." 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.

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. * 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.

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; 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. 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 martyrs. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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, 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. "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?" He was extremely cautious (as it
is observed by a learned and pious 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. 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 church.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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. * 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. 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.

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. 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.



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. 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. *

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. 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; * 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. 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.
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. 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.

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. 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; 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. 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 Mammæa
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. The sentiments
of Mammæa 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.
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 the promiscuous massacre, which, on their account,
has improperly received the name of Persecution. *

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. 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; 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. 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. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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 ) 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.

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. 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, 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.

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. * 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. 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. * 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.

Amidst the frequent revolutions of the empire, the Christians still
flourished in peace and prosperity; and notwithstanding a celebrated æra
of martyrs has been deduced from the accession of Diocletian, 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. The principal eunuchs, Lucian 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, 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, 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.

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; attempted to revive the credit of their
expiring oracles; and listened with eager credulity to every impostor,
who flattered their prejudices by a tale of wonders. 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 dæmons, they mutually concurred in
restoring and establishing the reign of superstition. 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; and many among the Romans were desirous that the
writings of Cicero should be condemned and suppressed by the authority
of the senate. 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, which have since been committed to the flames by the prudence
of orthodox emperors.



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, 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 *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. 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. 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.

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. 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 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
Cæsar. 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.

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,
was appointed (whether from accident or design) to set bounds to the
progress of Christianity. At the earliest dawn of day, the Prætorian
præfect, 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.

The next day the general edict of persecution was published; 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; * 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.

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.

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. 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.

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. 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 Prætorian præfect 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. 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.

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. 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.

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. 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,
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. 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.



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 Cæsar,
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. 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. 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.

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.

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. 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. 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. 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 Aglæ, 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 Aglæ 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.

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. 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. 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. 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:--

"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." 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
sincerity.

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 Prætorian præfect, 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.

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.

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.

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. 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, * 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. 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. 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. 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.



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, * 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. 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: and since there were some
governors, who from a real or affected clemency had preserved their
hands unstained with the blood of the faithful, 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 judicial, 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.

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, 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; 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, * 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.



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 conqueror 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 Cæsars 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 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.

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. 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; and of the sylvan reign of Amycus, who defied the son of Leda
to the combat of the cestus. 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. From the Cyanean rocks to the point and harbor of Byzantium,
the winding length of the Bosphorus extends about sixteen miles, 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 oldcastles, 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: but the Turkish conqueror was most probably
ignorant, that near two thousand years before his reign, continents by
a bridge of boats. 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.

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. 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. 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.

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, amt 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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. * 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 Ægean or Archipelago. Ancient
Troy, 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
Sigæan to the Rhætean 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 Rhæteum celebrated his
memory with divine honors. 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 Rhætean 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.

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,
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. 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.

[See Basilica Of Constantinople]

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, 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: 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. 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; 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." 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.

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.
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. From the eastern promontory to the golden gate,
the extreme length of Constantinople was about three Roman miles; 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. But
the suburbs of Pera and Galata, though situate beyond the harbor, may
deserve to be considered as a part of the city; 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. Such an extent may not seem unworthy of an Imperial
residence. Yet Constantinople must yield to Babylon and Thebes, to
ancient Rome, to London, and even to Paris.



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. 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. 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. 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. 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, 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.

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; 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. 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. The Circus, or Hippodrome, was a
stately building about four hundred paces in length, and one hundred in
breadth. The space between the two met 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. The beauty of the Hippodrome has been long since
defaced by the rude hands of the Turkish conquerors; 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 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. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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,
and alienated the demesnes of Pontus and Asia to grant hereditary
estates by the easy tenure of maintaining a house in the capital. 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.

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
Cæsars was in some measure imitated by the founder of Constantinople:
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. * 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, dignified the public council with the appellation of senate,
communicated to the citizens the privileges of Italy, 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.

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; 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. But while they displayed the vigor
and freshness of youth, the founder prepared to celebrate the dedication
of his city. 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. 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. But the name of Constantinople has prevailed
over that honorable epithet; and after the revolution of fourteen
centuries, still perpetuates the fame of its author.

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; from
which, as well as from the Notitia * of the East and West, 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.



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. 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. 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. 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.

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, 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 Prætorian præfects, with the præfects 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. Among those illustrious magistrates who
were esteemed coordinate with each other, the seniority of appointment
gave place to the union of dignities. 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.

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. In the epistles which the emperor addressed to the two
consuls elect, it was declared, that they were created by his sole
authority. 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. 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. 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. 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. The procession moved from the
palace 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. 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. In the two capitals of
the empire the annual games of the theatre, the circus, and the
amphitheatre, 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. 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.

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, 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. 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. 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 Cæsar 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. 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. 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.

II. The fortunes of the Prætorian præfects 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
præfects, always formidable, and sometimes fatal to the masters whom
they served, was supported by the strength of the Prætorian bands; but
after those haughty troops had been weakened by Diocletian, and finally
suppressed by Constantine, the præfects, 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 Prætorian præfect; and after
the monarchy was once more united in the person of Constantine, he still
continued to create the same number of Four Præfects, and intrusted to
their care the same provinces which they already administered. 1. The
præfect 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
præfect of Illyricum. 3. The power of the præfect of Italy was not
confined to the country from whence he derived his title; it extended
over the additional territory of Rhætia 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 præfect 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.

After the Prætorian præfects 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 Prætorian præfects. 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 præfect; 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. His appointments were suitable to his dignity; 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 præfects,
they were attentive to counterbalance the power of this great office by
the uncertainty and shortness of its duration.

From their superior importance and dignity, Rome and Constantinople
were alone excepted from the jurisdiction of the Prætorian præfects. 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. Valerius Messalla was appointed the first præfect of Rome, that
his reputation might countenance so invidious a measure; but, at the end
of a few days, that accomplished citizen 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. As
the sense of liberty became less exquisite, the advantages of order
were more clearly understood; and the præfect, 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 prætors, 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, was gradually
reduced to two or three, and their important functions were confined to
the expensive obligation 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 præfects
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. 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 Prætorian præfects.



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
præfects, and the honorable magistrates of the provinces. In this class
the proconsuls of Asia, Achaia, and Africa, claimed a preëminence, which
was yielded to the remembrance of their ancient dignity; and the appeal
from their tribunal to that of the præfects was almost the only mark of
their dependence. 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. The place of Augustal prefect 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-prefects,
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 Respectable.

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 præfects or their deputies,
with the administration of justice and the finances in their respective
districts. The ponderous volumes of the Codes and Pandects 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 præfects,
who alone could impose the heavy fine of fifty pounds of gold: their
vicegerents were confined to the trifling weight of a few ounces.
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 Prætorian præfect. 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; and to prohibit the governor or his son from
contracting marriage with a native, or an inhabitant; or from purchasing
slaves, lands, or houses, within the extent of his jurisdiction.
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.

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. 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, on the
coast of Phnicia; 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 great empire, already corrupted by the
multiplicity of laws, of arts, and of vices. The court of the Prætorian
præfect 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. 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, 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.

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. 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. 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 Prætorian
præfects 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. 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, 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.

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 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. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. An effort so prodigious surpassed the wants of a more
ancient, and the faculties of a later, period.

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, 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 lose of honor, of fortune, or even of life.
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.
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, and a peculiar name in the Latin language.



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. 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.
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.

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 propositus, or præfect 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 præfects of their bed-chamber above the heads
of all the ministers of the palace; 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.
2. The principal administration of public affairs was committed to the
diligence and abilities of the master of the offices. 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 quæstor 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; a similar assistant
was granted to every proconsul, and to every prætor, who exercised a
military or provincial command; with the extent of conquest, the two
quæstors were gradually multiplied to the number of four, of eight,
of twenty, and, for a short time, perhaps, of forty; 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. The practice of Augustus
was imitated by succeeding princes; the occasional commission was
established as a permanent office; and the favored quæstor, assuming a
new and more illustrious character, alone survived the suppression of
his ancient and useless colleagues. As the orations which he composed in
the name of the emperor, 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 Prætorian
præfects, 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. In some respects, the office of the Imperial quæstor 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. 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. 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, 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. But these were not
the valuable inhabitants: the plains that stretch from the foot of
Mount Argæus 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. The demesnes of Cappadocia were
important enough to require the inspection of a count; 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. 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. 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. The counts of the domestics had succeeded to the
office of the Prætorian præfects; like the præfects, they aspired from
the service of the palace to the command of armies.

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, 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.

The deceitful and dangerous experiment of the criminal question, 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. 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
ignominious torture. 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. 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. 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, 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.

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 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.



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

The name and use of the indictions, which serve to ascertain the
chronology of the middle ages, were derived from the regular practice
of the Roman tributes. 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 Prætorian præfects,
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
præfects, and their provincial 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. 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,
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. A large
portion of the tribute was paid in money; and of the current coin of
the empire, gold alone could be legally accepted. 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 * 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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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.

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. * 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. 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.
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. 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 Ædui, 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; and with the probable
accession of those of Chalons and Macon, the population would amount to
eight hundred thousand souls. In the time of Constantine, the territory
of the Ædui 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. A just analogy would seem to
countenance the opinion of an ingenious historian, 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.

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.
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. As this general tax
upon industry was collected every fourth year, it was styled the Lustral
Contribution: and the historian Zosimus 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.

These general taxes were imposed and levied by the absolute authority
of the monarch; but the occasional offerings of the coronary goldstill
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 Cæsar 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. 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 Cæsar, 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.

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.



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. 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.

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 tot 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.

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. 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. His unworthy favorites, enriched by
the boundless liberality of their master, usurped with impunity the
privilege of rapine and corruption. 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. 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.

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, 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, 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 Cæsar, 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.

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. At the age of
seventeen, Crispus was invested with the title of Cæsar, 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 Licinius.
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.

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 Cæsar, to reign over his peculiar department of the Gallic
provinces, 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.

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 Cæsar; 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. 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. 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; 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. The Cæsar Licinius, a youth of amiable manners,
was involved in the ruin of Crispus: 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. 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.

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. 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 Phædra. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. * The deaths of a son and a
nephew, with the execution of a great number of respectable, and perhaps
innocent friends, 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.



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 Cæsar; and the
dates of their promotion may be referred to the tenth, the twentieth,
and the thirtieth years of the reign of their father. 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 Cæsar, to an equality with his cousins.
In favor of the latter, Constantine invented the new and singular
appellation of Nobilissimus; 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.

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. The same assiduous cultivation was bestowed, though
not perhaps with equal success, to improve the minds of the sons and
nephews of Constantine. 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
Cæsarea 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 Cæsars to the armies and
provinces, he maintained every part of the empire in equal obedience
to its supreme head. 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, or by the active part which the
policy of Constantine engaged him to assume in the wars of the Goths and
Sarmatians.

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. 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. 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.
The offensive arms of the Sarmatians were short daggers, long lances,
and a weighty bow vow 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. 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.

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, he describes in the most lively colors
the dress and manners, the arms and inroads, of the Getæ 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 Jazygæ, 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. 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: 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 shores of the northern ocean.

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 Mæsia. 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. * 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 himself.

He contributed at least to improve this advantage, by his negotiations
with the free and warlike people of Chersonesus, whose capital, situate
on the western coast of the Tauric or Crimæan 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.

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. * 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.

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 Æthiopia, Persia, and the most remote countries
of India, congratulated the peace and prosperity of his government. 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.

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 præfect 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. 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.



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. 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 Præfect
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, 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.

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 Cæsars, 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.

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. 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.

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, 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 most important fortresses of Mesopotamia. 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. 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, * 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.

During the long period of the reign of Constantius, the provinces of the
East were afflicted by the calamities of the Persian war. 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. 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.
The event of the day was most commonly adverse to the Romans, but in the
battle of Singara, heir imprudent valor had almost achieved a signal
and decisive victory. The stationary troops of Singara * 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 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.

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. 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;
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, 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, 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. *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 Massagetæ. 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.

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.



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; 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. 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, 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.

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 præfectures 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. 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.

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.

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,
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. 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.

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. 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 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. 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.

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, 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. 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. 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. 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; 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. 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.

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. 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. 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.

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, 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. 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. Their patience was at length exhausted; and
Treves, the seat of Prætorian government, gave the signal of revolt, by
shutting her gates against Decentius, who had been raised by his brother
to the rank either of Cæsar or of Augustus. 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. 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. 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; 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, 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, * was sent to explore the latent remains of the
conspiracy in the remote province of Britain. The honest indignation
expressed by Martin, vice-præfect 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.



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, were introduced into
Greece and Rome by the contagion of Asiatic luxury. Their progress was
rapid; and the eunuchs, who, in the time of Augustus, had been abhorred,
as the monstrous retinue of an Egyptian queen, were gradually admitted
into the families of matrons, of senators, and of the emperors
themselves. 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, 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. 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. 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, 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.
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.

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. *
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 Cæsarea. 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. 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 Cæsar, 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 præfecture. In this fortunate change,
the new Cæsar 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.

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 Cæsar 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.
Constantina, his wife, is described, not as a woman, but as one of
the infernal furies tormented with an insatiate thirst of human blood.
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. 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 Cæsar himself, concealed in 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.

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 Cæsar were united by the same interest, and pursued by the same
enemies. 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 præfect, and
Montius, quæstor of the palace, were empowered by a special commission
* 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 præfect 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 præfect
condescended to take his seat in council; but his first step was to
signify a concise and haughty mandate, importing that the Cæsar 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. The quæstor reproached Gallus in a haughty language, that
a prince who was scarcely authorized to remove a municipal magistrate,
should presume to imprison a Prætorian præfect; 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 præfect and
the quæstor, 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.

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 Cæsar 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.



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

After a long delay, the reluctant Cæsar 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. 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 Cæsar himself, with only
ten post-carriages, should hasten to the Imperial residence at Milan.
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, * 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 Cæsar, and hurried away to Pola, 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 Cæsar 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. 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.

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. 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. As the most effectual instrument of their providence,
he gratefully acknowledges the steady and generous friendship of the
empress Eusebia, 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.

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 Cæsar
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. 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. 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 Cæsar, to reign over the countries beyond the Alps.

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. 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.

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. 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 Cæsar 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 Cæsar 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; while the officers who surrounded the tribunal
expressed, with decent reserve, their sense of the merits of the
representative of Constantius.

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.
The four-and-twenty days which the Cæsar 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. 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 Cæsar; 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 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.

The protection of the Rhætian 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. He proceeded from Milan to Rome along the Æmilian 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 beauty.

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

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, 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. 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; 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; 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.

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. 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 Taifalæ, 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! * 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.



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 Prætorian præfect
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. 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 Cæsar, 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.
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, 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,
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. 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.

The military historian, 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. * 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 balistæ. 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.

The ancient city of Amid or Amida, which sometimes assumes the
provincial appellation of Diarbekir, 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. 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 Vertæ; 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. 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.

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. 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; 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.

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, 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 Bezabde.
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 ingloriously to retreat into his winter quarters at Antioch.
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.

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. 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, and may deserve to be considered as the original seat of
their Gallic monarchy. 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.



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. 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. 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 theory. 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.

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 Cæsar 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; * 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.
The power of the enemy was yet unbroken; and the Cæsar 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.

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 Cæsar 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. 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 interest of his patroness Eusebia, at length obtained over the
armies of Gaul. 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 Cæsar, 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.

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. 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 Cæsar, 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 Cæsar, 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. 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 Cæsar, 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. 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.

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. 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. 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 Cæsar immediately sent his captives to the court of Constantius,
who, accepting them as a valuable present, 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. 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 Cæsar 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.

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. Cæsar 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. 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 Cæsar 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 Cæsar 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 Cæsar
repassed the Rhine, after terminating a war, the success of which has
been compared to the ancient glories of the Punic and Cimbric victories.

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.
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 Cæsar 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. The arms of Julian had restored a free
and secure navigation, which Constantius 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.

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. 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, prætorian præfect 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 Cæsar had rejected, with abhorrence, a mandate for the
levy of an extraordinary tax; a new superindiction, which the præfect
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." 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.

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 curi, 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. 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. 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; 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. 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.



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 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. 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. 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. 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, and was afterwards admitted, by
the initiatory rites of baptism, into the number of the faithful. 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; 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,
and the second directed the regular consultation of the Aruspices. 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 æra of the reign of Constantine.

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; 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. 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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. 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. 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. Perhaps the patience of the primitive church may be ascribed to
its weakness, as well as to its virtue. 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.

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 Isræl 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. 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. 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.



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. 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. 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. 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.

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 Isrælites 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. The piety, rather than the humanity, of
Constantine soon abolished in his dominions the punishment which the
Savior of mankind had condescended to suffer; 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. 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. But the principal standard which displayed
the triumph of the cross was styled the Labarum, an obscure, though
celebrated name, which has been vainly derived from almost all the
languages of the world. It is described 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. 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.
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. 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.

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. 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 * 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.
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; 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. The præternatural 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. 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.

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. 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 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 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. The learned bishop of Cæsarea 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;
instead of collecting and recording the evidence of so many living
witnesses who must have been spectators of this stupendous miracle;
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, was disregarded by the Christians of the age which
immediately followed the conversion of Constantine. 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.

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 ) 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, acquired over his mind, was imputed by the
Pagans to the effect of magic. Lactantius, who has adorned the precepts
of the gospel with the eloquence of Cicero, and Eusebius, who has
consecrated the learning and philosophy of the Greeks to the service
of religion, 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, and the fourth eclogue of Virgil. 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; 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.



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 catechumens, with an affected
secrecy, which served to excite their wonder and curiosity. 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. 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. 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.

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 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. 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, 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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 * 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. The
rays of the gospel illuminated the coast of India. The colonies of Jews,
who had penetrated into Arabia and Ethiopia, 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, * who, in the time
of Constantine, devoted his life to the conversion of those sequestered
regions. Under the reign of his son Constantius, Theophilus, 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 Sabæans, 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.

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, 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; 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 intrusts 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. 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. 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 Æthiopia, 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; 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.

The Catholic church was administered by the spiritual and legal
jurisdiction of eighteen hundred bishops; 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. 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
assemblies.

I. The freedom of election subsisted long after the legal establishment
of Christianity; 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, 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 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; 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. 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 indiscretion.

II. The bishops alone possessed the faculty of spiritual generation: and
this extraordinary privilege might compensate, in some degree, for the
painful celibacy 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. 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 (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 * 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. 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 and Carthage maintained their peculiar establishment
of five hundred ecclesiastical ministers. Their ranks 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. Six hundred
parabolani, or adventurers, visited the sick at Alexandria; eleven
hundred copiat, 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.



Chapter XX: Conversion Of Constantine.--Part IV.

III. The edict of Milan secured the revenue as well as the peace of the
church. 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;
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 Cæcilian, 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. 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. 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, but the standard of their
wealth insensibly rose with the dignity and opulence of the cities
which they governed. An authentic but imperfect rent-roll specifies some
houses, shops, gardens, and farms, which belonged to the three Basilic
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. The patrimony
of the church was still subject to all the public compositions of the
state. The clergy of Rome, Alexandria, Thessalonica, &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.

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, 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. 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, 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. 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.

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, 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. Under the reign of the
younger Theodosius, the polite and eloquent Synesius, one of the
descendants of Hercules, filled the episcopal seat of Ptolemais, near
the ruins of ancient Cyrene, and the philosophic bishop supported
with dignity the character which he had assumed with reluctance. 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.
After a fruitless attempt to reclaim the haughty magistrate by mild and
religious admonition, Synesius proceeds to inflict the last sentence of
ecclesiastical justice, 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. Such principles and such examples insensibly
prepared the triumph of the Roman pontiffs, who have trampled on the
necks of kings.

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. 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 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 subtleties, 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.

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. 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. 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; 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. 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 to the infallible decrees of the general
councils.



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. 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 Manichæans, who had recently imported from
Persia a more artful composition of Oriental and Christian theology. 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 Manichæans 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. 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; 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.

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. 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. Cæcilian 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 Cæcilian 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
Cæcilian, 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. 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 Prætorian 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 Cæcilian; 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.

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 Cæcilian, 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 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.
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 Cæsarean
Mauritania.

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, 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, * could not be perfectly understood, till after an assiduous
study of thirty years.

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. A numerous colony of Jews had been invited, by the
favor of the Ptolemies, to settle in their new capital. 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. 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.
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. The material soul of the universe
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.



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
Lycæum, 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. 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. I. The faith of the Ebionites,
perhaps of the Nazarenes, 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. 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, 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 Æon, or
Emanation of the Deity, might assume the outward shape and visible
appearances of a mortal; but they vainly pretended, that the
imperfections of matter are incompatible with the purity of a celestial
substance. 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, 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 airy phantom, who seemed to
expire on the cross, and, after three days, to rise from the dead.

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, and abused by the heretics, 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,
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, 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.

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. 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, 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, 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; but as the
act of generation, in the most spiritual and abstracted sense, must be
supposed to transmit the properties of a common nature, 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. 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.



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; 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, 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. 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 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.
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.
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 Cæsarea, 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, was referred to the supreme authority of the
general council of Nice.

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. 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, 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, 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 Cæsar or Augustus,
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 coëqual and coëternal beings, composed the Divine
Essence; and it would have implied contradiction, that any of them
should not have existed, or that they should ever cease to exist.
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, 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.

If the bishops of the council of Nice 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, 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 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. This pure and distinct
equality was tempered, on the one hand, by the internal connection, and
spiritual penetration which indissolubly unites the divine persons; 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. 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 dæmons 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; 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.

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, and avenged the violated dignity
of the church. The zealous Hilary, 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. 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."

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 Ætius, 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. Armed with texts
of Scripture, and with captious syllogisms from the logic of Aristotle,
the subtle Ætius 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.
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 Ætius; 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, 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, 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.

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. 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, 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. 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. 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.



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; 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, 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, 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 Cæsarea yielded a reluctant and
ambiguous consent to the Homoousion; and the wavering conduct of the
Nicomedian Eusebius served only to delay, about three months, his
disgrace and exile. 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.

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. 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.

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; 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. 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.
The Arians, who considered as their own the victory of Constantius,
preferred his glory to that of his father. 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. 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.

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." 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. 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. 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 Ætius. 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. 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 Prætorian præfect 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. 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.

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 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 Cæsarea, 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, and
that of divination. 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.

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; 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 Æthiopia; familiarly conversing with the meanest of the populace, and
humbly saluting the saints and hermits of the desert. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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
Cæsarea 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
Cæsarea; 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. 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 Cæsarea, 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. 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.



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. 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. 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.

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. 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, the præfect 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 as an exile and a suppliant on the
holy threshold of the Vatican. 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, 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. 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 language.

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. 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. 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. 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 Æthiopia to Britain, over the whole extent of the
Christian world.

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; 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. 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; 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.

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, 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; 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. 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, 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.

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 Vercellæ,
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 Beræa 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. 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.

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. 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. 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, 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.

The disgrace and exile of the orthodox bishops of the West were
designed as so many preparatory steps to the ruin of Athanasius himself.
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. 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.



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 Isræl 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. 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.

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, * to exclude
Athanasius from the most remote and sequestered regions of the earth.
Counts, præfects, 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. 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 Pachomius 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. 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. 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 dæmons 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; 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. 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,
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 of the civil power.

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 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, 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, 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. 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.

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 præfect 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 Fælix;
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 Fælix, 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 Fælix 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.

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, 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. 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. The fate of Hermogenes instructed
Philip, the Prætorian præfect, 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 Zeuxippus, 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 præfect 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.



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 between sharp and heavy boards. 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 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."

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. 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. 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.

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. 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.

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; 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. 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 dæmons.
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.

A modern writer, who, with a just confidence, has prefixed to his own
history the honorable epithets of political and philosophical, 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.
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. 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 Phnicia; in which every mode of
prostitution was devoutly practised in the face of day, and to the honor
of Venus. 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.

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; 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. 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." 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." 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.

The divisions of Christianity suspended the ruin of Paganism; 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 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.



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 Cæsar; 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. 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. 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. 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 Cæsar 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.

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 Cæsar; 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 Celtæ, 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. The Cæsar 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 Cæsar 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, 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 præfect was indispensable in the council of the prince.
In the mean while the Cæsar 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.

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 Cæsar; he granted a sufficient number of post-wagons to transport
the wives and families of the soldiers, 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 Cæsar, 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 Cæsar 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.

As soon as the approach of the troops was announced, the Cæsar 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 Cæsar, 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; 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 Cæsar 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; 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.

The grief of Julian could proceed only from his innocence; out his
innocence must appear extremely doubtful 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 these sentiments;
or to ascertain the principles of action which might escape the
observation, while they guided, or rather impelled, the steps of Julian
himself. The discontent of the troops was produced by the malice of his
enemies; their tumult was the natural effect of interest and of passion;
and if Julian had tried to conceal a deep design under the appearances
of chance, he must have employed the most consummate artifice without
necessity, and probably without success. He solemnly declares, in the
presence of Jupiter, of the Sun, of Mars, of Minerva, and of all the
other deities, that till the close of the evening which preceded his
elevation, he was utterly ignorant of the designs of the soldiers; and
it may seem ungenerous to distrust the honor of a hero and the truth of
a philosopher. Yet the superstitious confidence that Constantius was the
enemy, and that he himself was the favorite, of the gods, might prompt
him to desire, to solicit, and even to hasten the auspicious moment
of his reign, which was predestined to restore the ancient religion of
mankind. When Julian had received the intelligence of the conspiracy,
he resigned himself to a short slumber; and afterwards related to his
friends that he had seen the genius of the empire waiting with some
impatience at his door, pressing for admittance, and reproaching his
want of spirit and ambition. Astonished and perplexed, he addressed his
prayers to the great Jupiter, who immediately signified, by a clear and
manifest omen, that he should submit to the will of heaven and of the
army. The conduct which disclaims the ordinary maxims of reason, excites
our suspicion and eludes our inquiry. Whenever the spirit of fanaticism,
at once so credulous and so crafty, has insinuated itself into a
noble mind, it insensibly corrodes the vital principles of virtue and
veracity.

To moderate the zeal of his party, to protect the persons of his
enemies, to defeat and to despise the secret enterprises which were
formed against his life and dignity, were the cares which employed
the first days of the reign of the new emperor. Although he was firmly
resolved to maintain the station which he had assumed, he was still
desirous of saving his country from the calamities of civil war, of
declining a contest with the superior forces of Constantius, and
of preserving his own character from the reproach of perfidy and
ingratitude. Adorned with the ensigns of military and imperial pomp,
Julian showed himself in the field of Mars to the soldiers, who glowed
with ardent enthusiasm in the cause of their pupil, their leader,
and their friend. He recapitulated their victories, lamented their
sufferings, applauded their resolution, animated their hopes, and
checked their impetuosity; nor did he dismiss the assembly, till he had
obtained a solemn promise from the troops, that if the emperor of the
East would subscribe an equitable treaty, they would renounce any views
of conquest, and satisfy themselves with the tranquil possession of the
Gallic provinces. On this foundation he composed, in his own name,
and in that of the army, a specious and moderate epistle, which
was delivered to Pentadius, his master of the offices, and to his
chamberlain Eutherius; two ambassadors whom he appointed to receive the
answer, and observe the dispositions of Constantius. This epistle is
inscribed with the modest appellation of Cæsar; but Julian solicits in a
peremptory, though respectful, manner, the confirmation of the title of
Augustus. He acknowledges the irregularity of his own election, while
he justifies, in some measure, the resentment and violence of the troops
which had extorted his reluctant consent. He allows the supremacy of
his brother Constantius; and engages to send him an annual present of
Spanish horses, to recruit his army with a select number of barbarian
youths, and to accept from his choice a Prætorian præfect of approved
discretion and fidelity. But he reserves for himself the nomination of
his other civil and military officers, with the troops, the revenue,
and the sovereignty of the provinces beyond the Alps. He admonishes
the emperor to consult the dictates of justice; to distrust the arts of
those venal flatterers, who subsist only by the discord of princes;
and to embrace the offer of a fair and honorable treaty, equally
advantageous to the republic and to the house of Constantine. In this
negotiation Julian claimed no more than he already possessed. The
delegated authority which he had long exercised over the provinces of
Gaul, Spain, and Britain, was still obeyed under a name more independent
and august. The soldiers and the people rejoiced in a revolution which
was not stained even with the blood of the guilty. Florentius was a
fugitive; Lupicinus a prisoner. The persons who were disaffected to the
new government were disarmed and secured; and the vacant offices were
distributed, according to the recommendation of merit, by a prince who
despised the intrigues of the palace, and the clamors of the soldiers.

The negotiations of peace were accompanied and supported by the most
vigorous preparations for war. The army, which Julian held in readiness
for immediate action, was recruited and augmented by the disorders
of the times. The cruel persecutions of the faction of Magnentius had
filled Gaul with numerous bands of outlaws and robbers. They cheerfully
accepted the offer of a general pardon from a prince whom they could
trust, submitted to the restraints of military discipline, and
retained only their implacable hatred to the person and government of
Constantius. As soon as the season of the year permitted Julian to take
the field, he appeared at the head of his legions; threw a bridge over
the Rhine in the neighborhood of Cleves; and prepared to chastise the
perfidy of the Attuarii, a tribe of Franks, who presumed that they
might ravage, with impunity, the frontiers of a divided empire. The
difficulty, as well as glory, of this enterprise, consisted in a
laborious march; and Julian had conquered, as soon as he could penetrate
into a country, which former princes had considered as inaccessible.
After he had given peace to the Barbarians, the emperor carefully
visited the fortifications along the Rhine from Cleves to Basil;
surveyed, with peculiar attention, the territories which he had
recovered from the hands of the Alemanni, passed through Besançon, which
had severely suffered from their fury, and fixed his headquarters at
Vienna for the ensuing winter. The barrier of Gaul was improved and
strengthened with additional fortifications; and Julian entertained some
hopes that the Germans, whom he had so often vanquished, might, in his
absence, be restrained by the terror of his name. Vadomair was the only
prince of the Alemanni whom he esteemed or feared and while the subtle
Barbarian affected to observe the faith of treaties, the progress of his
arms threatened the state with an unseasonable and dangerous war. The
policy of Julian condescended to surprise the prince of the Alemanni
by his own arts: and Vadomair, who, in the character of a friend, had
incautiously accepted an invitation from the Roman governors, was seized
in the midst of the entertainment, and sent away prisoner into the heart
of Spain. Before the Barbarians were recovered from their amazement,
the emperor appeared in arms on the banks of the Rhine, and, once more
crossing the river, renewed the deep impressions of terror and respect
which had been already made by four preceding expeditions.



Chapter XXII: Julian Declared Emperor.--Part II.

The ambassadors of Julian had been instructed to execute, with the
utmost diligence, their important commission. But, in their passage
through Italy and Illyricum, they were detained by the tedious and
affected delays of the provincial governors; they were conducted by
slow journeys from Constantinople to Cæsarea in Cappadocia; and when
at length they were admitted to the presence of Constantius, they found
that he had already conceived, from the despatches of his own officers,
the most unfavorable opinion of the conduct of Julian, and of the Gallic
army. The letters were heard with impatience; the trembling messengers
were dismissed with indignation and contempt; and the looks, gestures,
the furious language of the monarch, expressed the disorder of his soul.
The domestic connection, which might have reconciled the brother and the
husband of Helena, was recently dissolved by the death of that princess,
whose pregnancy had been several times fruitless, and was at last fatal
to herself. The empress Eusebia had preserved, to the last moment of her
life, the warm, and even jealous, affection which she had conceived for
Julian; and her mild influence might have moderated the resentment of a
prince, who, since her death, was abandoned to his own passions, and to
the arts of his eunuchs. But the terror of a foreign invasion obliged
him to suspend the punishment of a private enemy: he continued his march
towards the confines of Persia, and thought it sufficient to signify the
conditions which might entitle Julian and his guilty followers to the
clemency of their offended sovereign. He required, that the presumptuous
Cæsar should expressly renounce the appellation and rank of Augustus,
which he had accepted from the rebels; that he should descend to his
former station of a limited and dependent minister; that he should vest
the powers of the state and army in the hands of those officers who were
appointed by the Imperial court; and that he should trust his safety to
the assurances of pardon, which were announced by Epictetus, a Gallic
bishop, and one of the Arian favorites of Constantius. Several months
were ineffectually consumed in a treaty which was negotiated at the
distance of three thousand miles between Paris and Antioch; and, as soon
as Julian perceived that his modest and respectful behavior served only
to irritate the pride of an implacable adversary, he boldly resolved
to commit his life and fortune to the chance of a civil war. He gave a
public and military audience to the quæstor Leonas: the haughty
epistle of Constantius was read to the attentive multitude; and Julian
protested, with the most flattering deference, that he was ready to
resign the title of Augustus, if he could obtain the consent of those
whom he acknowledged as the authors of his elevation. The faint proposal
was impetuously silenced; and the acclamations of "Julian Augustus,
continue to reign, by the authority of the army, of the people, of the
republic which you have saved," thundered at once from every part of the
field, and terrified the pale ambassador of Constantius. A part of
the letter was afterwards read, in which the emperor arraigned the
ingratitude of Julian, whom he had invested with the honors of the
purple; whom he had educated with so much care and tenderness; whom he
had preserved in his infancy, when he was left a helpless orphan. "An
orphan!" interrupted Julian, who justified his cause by indulging his
passions: "does the assassin of my family reproach me that I was left an
orphan? He urges me to revenge those injuries which I have long studied
to forget." The assembly was dismissed; and Leonas, who, with some
difficulty, had been protected from the popular fury, was sent back to
his master with an epistle, in which Julian expressed, in a strain of
the most vehement eloquence, the sentiments of contempt, of hatred,
and of resentment, which had been suppressed and imbittered by the
dissimulation of twenty years. After this message, which might be
considered as a signal of irreconcilable war, Julian, who, some weeks
before, had celebrated the Christian festival of the Epiphany, made
a public declaration that he committed the care of his safety to the
Immortal Gods; and thus publicly renounced the religion as well as the
friendship of Constantius.

The situation of Julian required a vigorous and immediate resolution.
He had discovered, from intercepted letters, that his adversary,
sacrificing the interest of the state to that of the monarch, had again
excited the Barbarians to invade the provinces of the West. The position
of two magazines, one of them collected on the banks of the Lake of
Constance, the other formed at the foot of the Cottian Alps, seemed to
indicate the march of two armies; and the size of those magazines, each
of which consisted of six hundred thousand quarters of wheat, or rather
flour, was a threatening evidence of the strength and numbers of the
enemy who prepared to surround him. But the Imperial legions were still
in their distant quarters of Asia; the Danube was feebly guarded; and if
Julian could occupy, by a sudden incursion, the important provinces of
Illyricum, he might expect that a people of soldiers would resort to his
standard, and that the rich mines of gold and silver would contribute to
the expenses of the civil war. He proposed this bold enterprise to the
assembly of the soldiers; inspired them with a just confidence in
their general, and in themselves; and exhorted them to maintain
their reputation of being terrible to the enemy, moderate to their
fellow-citizens, and obedient to their officers. His spirited discourse
was received with the loudest acclamations, and the same troops which
had taken up arms against Constantius, when he summoned them to leave
Gaul, now declared with alacrity, that they would follow Julian to
the farthest extremities of Europe or Asia. The oath of fidelity was
administered; and the soldiers, clashing their shields, and pointing
their drawn swords to their throats, devoted themselves, with horrid
imprecations, to the service of a leader whom they celebrated as
the deliverer of Gaul and the conqueror of the Germans. This solemn
engagement, which seemed to be dictated by affection rather than by
duty, was singly opposed by Nebridius, who had been admitted to
the office of Prætorian præfect. That faithful minister, alone and
unassisted, asserted the rights of Constantius, in the midst of an armed
and angry multitude, to whose fury he had almost fallen an honorable,
but useless sacrifice. After losing one of his hands by the stroke of a
sword, he embraced the knees of the prince whom he had offended. Julian
covered the præfect with his Imperial mantle, and, protecting him from
the zeal of his followers, dismissed him to his own house, with less
respect than was perhaps due to the virtue of an enemy. The high office
of Nebridius was bestowed on Sallust; and the provinces of Gaul, which
were now delivered from the intolerable oppression of taxes, enjoyed
the mild and equitable administration of the friend of Julian, who was
permitted to practise those virtues which he had instilled into the mind
of his pupil.

The hopes of Julian depended much less on the number of his troops, than
on the celerity of his motions. In the execution of a daring enterprise,
he availed himself of every precaution, as far as prudence could
suggest; and where prudence could no longer accompany his steps, he
trusted the event to valor and to fortune. In the neighborhood of Basil
he assembled and divided his army. One body, which consisted of ten
thousand men, was directed under the command of Nevitta, general of the
cavalry, to advance through the midland parts of Rhætia and Noricum.
A similar division of troops, under the orders of Jovius and Jovinus,
prepared to follow the oblique course of the highways, through the Alps,
and the northern confines of Italy. The instructions to the generals
were conceived with energy and precision: to hasten their march in close
and compact columns, which, according to the disposition of the ground,
might readily be changed into any order of battle; to secure themselves
against the surprises of the night by strong posts and vigilant guards;
to prevent resistance by their unexpected arrival; to elude examination
by their sudden departure; to spread the opinion of their strength, and
the terror of his name; and to join their sovereign under the walls
of Sirmium. For himself Julian had reserved a more difficult and
extraordinary part. He selected three thousand brave and active
volunteers, resolved, like their leader, to cast behind them every hope
of a retreat; at the head of this faithful band, he fearlessly plunged
into the recesses of the Marcian, or Black Forest, which conceals
the sources of the Danube; and, for many days, the fate of Julian was
unknown to the world. The secrecy of his march, his diligence, and
vigor, surmounted every obstacle; he forced his way over mountains and
morasses, occupied the bridges or swam the rivers, pursued his direct
course, without reflecting whether he traversed the territory of the
Romans or of the Barbarians, and at length emerged, between Ratisbon
and Vienna, at the place where he designed to embark his troops on
the Danube. By a well-concerted stratagem, he seized a fleet of light
brigantines, as it lay at anchor; secured a apply of coarse provisions
sufficient to satisfy the indelicate, and voracious, appetite of a
Gallic army; and boldly committed himself to the stream of the Danube.
The labors of the mariners, who plied their oars with incessant
diligence, and the steady continuance of a favorable wind, carried
his fleet above seven hundred miles in eleven days; and he had already
disembarked his troops at Bononia, * only nineteen miles from Sirmium,
before his enemies could receive any certain intelligence that he
had left the banks of the Rhine. In the course of this long and
rapid navigation, the mind of Julian was fixed on the object of his
enterprise; and though he accepted the deputations of some cities, which
hastened to claim the merit of an early submission, he passed before the
hostile stations, which were placed along the river, without indulging
the temptation of signalizing a useless and ill-timed valor. The banks
of the Danube were crowded on either side with spectators, who gazed on
the military pomp, anticipated the importance of the event, and diffused
through the adjacent country the fame of a young hero, who advanced
with more than mortal speed at the head of the innumerable forces of the
West. Lucilian, who, with the rank of general of the cavalry, commanded
the military powers of Illyricum, was alarmed and perplexed by the
doubtful reports, which he could neither reject nor believe. He had
taken some slow and irresolute measures for the purpose of collecting
his troops, when he was surprised by Dagalaiphus, an active officer,
whom Julian, as soon as he landed at Bononia, had pushed forwards with
some light infantry. The captive general, uncertain of his life or
death, was hastily thrown upon a horse, and conducted to the presence of
Julian; who kindly raised him from the ground, and dispelled the terror
and amazement which seemed to stupefy his faculties. But Lucilian had no
sooner recovered his spirits, than he betrayed his want of discretion,
by presuming to admonish his conqueror that he had rashly ventured,
with a handful of men, to expose his person in the midst of his enemies.
"Reserve for your master Constantius these timid remonstrances," replied
Julian, with a smile of contempt: "when I gave you my purple to kiss,
I received you not as a counsellor, but as a suppliant." Conscious that
success alone could justify his attempt, and that boldness only could
command success, he instantly advanced, at the head of three thousand
soldiers, to attack the strongest and most populous city of the Illyrian
provinces. As he entered the long suburb of Sirmium, he was received
by the joyful acclamations of the army and people; who, crowned with
flowers, and holding lighted tapers in their hands, conducted their
acknowledged sovereign to his Imperial residence. Two days were devoted
to the public joy, which was celebrated by the games of the circus;
but, early on the morning of the third day, Julian marched to occupy the
narrow pass of Succi, in the defiles of Mount Hæmus; which, almost in
the midway between Sirmium and Constantinople, separates the provinces
of Thrace and Dacia, by an abrupt descent towards the former, and
a gentle declivity on the side of the latter. The defence of this
important post was intrusted to the brave Nevitta; who, as well as the
generals of the Italian division, successfully executed the plan of the
march and junction which their master had so ably conceived.

The homage which Julian obtained, from the fears or the inclination of
the people, extended far beyond the immediate effect of his arms. The
præfectures of Italy and Illyricum were administered by Taurus and
Florentius, who united that important office with the vain honors of the
consulship; and as those magistrates had retired with precipitation to
the court of Asia, Julian, who could not always restrain the levity of
his temper, stigmatized their flight by adding, in all the Acts of
the Year, the epithet of fugitive to the names of the two consuls.
The provinces which had been deserted by their first magistrates
acknowledged the authority of an emperor, who, conciliating the
qualities of a soldier with those of a philosopher, was equally admired
in the camps of the Danube and in the cities of Greece. From his palace,
or, more properly, from his head-quarters of Sirmium and Naissus, he
distributed to the principal cities of the empire, a labored apology
for his own conduct; published the secret despatches of Constantius; and
solicited the judgment of mankind between two competitors, the one of
whom had expelled, and the other had invited, the Barbarians. Julian,
whose mind was deeply wounded by the reproach of ingratitude, aspired
to maintain, by argument as well as by arms, the superior merits of
his cause; and to excel, not only in the arts of war, but in those of
composition. His epistle to the senate and people of Athens seems to
have been dictated by an elegant enthusiasm; which prompted him to
submit his actions and his motives to the degenerate Athenians of his
own times, with the same humble deference as if he had been pleading,
in the days of Aristides, before the tribunal of the Areopagus. His
application to the senate of Rome, which was still permitted to bestow
the titles of Imperial power, was agreeable to the forms of the expiring
republic. An assembly was summoned by Tertullus, præfect of the city;
the epistle of Julian was read; and, as he appeared to be master of
Italy his claims were admitted without a dissenting voice. His oblique
censure of the innovations of Constantine, and his passionate invective
against the vices of Constantius, were heard with less satisfaction;
and the senate, as if Julian had been present, unanimously exclaimed,
"Respect, we beseech you, the author of your own fortune." An artful
expression, which, according to the chance of war, might be differently
explained; as a manly reproof of the ingratitude of the usurper, or as
a flattering confession, that a single act of such benefit to the state
ought to atone for all the failings of Constantius.

The intelligence of the march and rapid progress of Julian was speedily
transmitted to his rival, who, by the retreat of Sapor, had obtained
some respite from the Persian war. Disguising the anguish of his soul
under the semblance of contempt, Constantius professed his intention of
returning into Europe, and of giving chase to Julian; for he never spoke
of his military expedition in any other light than that of a hunting
party. In the camp of Hierapolis, in Syria, he communicated this design
to his army; slightly mentioned the guilt and rashness of the Cæsar; and
ventured to assure them, that if the mutineers of Gaul presumed to meet
them in the field, they would be unable to sustain the fire of their
eyes, and the irresistible weight of their shout of onset. The speech
of the emperor was received with military applause, and Theodotus,
the president of the council of Hierapolis, requested, with tears
of adulation, that his city might be adorned with the head of
the vanquished rebel. A chosen detachment was despatched away in
post-wagons, to secure, if it were yet possible, the pass of Succi;
the recruits, the horses, the arms, and the magazines, which had been
prepared against Sapor, were appropriated to the service of the civil
war; and the domestic victories of Constantius inspired his partisans
with the most sanguine assurances of success. The notary Gaudentius had
occupied in his name the provinces of Africa; the subsistence of
Rome was intercepted; and the distress of Julian was increased by
an unexpected event, which might have been productive of fatal
consequences. Julian had received the submission of two legions and a
cohort of archers, who were stationed at Sirmium; but he suspected, with
reason, the fidelity of those troops which had been distinguished by the
emperor; and it was thought expedient, under the pretence of the exposed
state of the Gallic frontier, to dismiss them from the most important
scene of action. They advanced, with reluctance, as far as the confines
of Italy; but as they dreaded the length of the way, and the savage
fierceness of the Germans, they resolved, by the instigation of one
of their tribunes, to halt at Aquileia, and to erect the banners of
Constantius on the walls of that impregnable city. The vigilance of
Julian perceived at once the extent of the mischief, and the necessity
of applying an immediate remedy. By his order, Jovinus led back a
part of the army into Italy; and the siege of Aquileia was formed with
diligence, and prosecuted with vigor. But the legionaries, who seemed to
have rejected the yoke of discipline, conducted the defence of the place
with skill and perseverance; invited the rest of Italy to imitate the
example of their courage and loyalty; and threatened the retreat of
Julian, if he should be forced to yield to the superior numbers of the
armies of the East.

But the humanity of Julian was preserved from the cruel alternative
which he pathetically laments, of destroying or of being himself
destroyed: and the seasonable death of Constantius delivered the Roman
empire from the calamities of civil war. The approach of winter could
not detain the monarch at Antioch; and his favorites durst not oppose
his impatient desire of revenge. A slight fever, which was perhaps
occasioned by the agitation of his spirits, was increased by the
fatigues of the journey; and Constantius was obliged to halt at the
little town of Mopsucrene, twelve miles beyond Tarsus, where he expired,
after a short illness, in the forty-fifth year of his age, and the
twenty-fourth of his reign. His genuine character, which was composed
of pride and weakness, of superstition and cruelty, has been fully
displayed in the preceding narrative of civil and ecclesiastical events.
The long abuse of power rendered him a considerable object in the eyes
of his contemporaries; but as personal merit can alone deserve the
notice of posterity, the last of the sons of Constantine may be
dismissed from the world, with the remark, that he inherited the
defects, without the abilities, of his father. Before Constantius
expired, he is said to have named Julian for his successor; nor does it
seem improbable, that his anxious concern for the fate of a young and
tender wife, whom he left with child, may have prevailed, in his last
moments, over the harsher passions of hatred and revenge. Eusebius, and
his guilty associates, made a faint attempt to prolong the reign of the
eunuchs, by the election of another emperor; but their intrigues were
rejected with disdain, by an army which now abhorred the thought of
civil discord; and two officers of rank were instantly despatched, to
assure Julian, that every sword in the empire would be drawn for his
service. The military designs of that prince, who had formed three
different attacks against Thrace, were prevented by this fortunate
event. Without shedding the blood of his fellow-citizens, he escaped
the dangers of a doubtful conflict, and acquired the advantages of a
complete victory. Impatient to visit the place of his birth, and the new
capital of the empire, he advanced from Naissus through the mountains
of Hæmus, and the cities of Thrace. When he reached Heraclea, at the
distance of sixty miles, all Constantinople was poured forth to receive
him; and he made his triumphal entry amidst the dutiful acclamations
of the soldiers, the people, and the senate. At innumerable multitude
pressed around him with eager respect and were perhaps disappointed
when they beheld the small stature and simple garb of a hero, whose
unexperienced youth had vanquished the Barbarians of Germany, and
who had now traversed, in a successful career, the whole continent of
Europe, from the shores of the Atlantic to those of the Bosphorus. A few
days afterwards, when the remains of the deceased emperor were landed
in the harbor, the subjects of Julian applauded the real or affected
humanity of their sovereign. On foot, without his diadem, and clothed in
a mourning habit, he accompanied the funeral as far as the church of
the Holy Apostles, where the body was deposited: and if these marks of
respect may be interpreted as a selfish tribute to the birth and dignity
of his Imperial kinsman, the tears of Julian professed to the world that
he had forgot the injuries, and remembered only the obligations, which
he had received from Constantius. As soon as the legions of Aquileia
were assured of the death of the emperor, they opened the gates of the
city, and, by the sacrifice of their guilty leaders, obtained an easy
pardon from the prudence or lenity of Julian; who, in the thirty-second
year of his age, acquired the undisputed possession of the Roman empire.



Chapter XXII: Julian Declared Emperor.--Part III.

Philosophy had instructed Julian to compare the advantages of action
and retirement; but the elevation of his birth, and the accidents of
his life, never allowed him the freedom of choice. He might perhaps
sincerely have preferred the groves of the academy, and the society of
Athens; but he was constrained, at first by the will, and afterwards
by the injustice, of Constantius, to expose his person and fame to the
dangers of Imperial greatness; and to make himself accountable to
the world, and to posterity, for the happiness of millions. Julian
recollected with terror the observation of his master Plato, that the
government of our flocks and herds is always committed to beings of a
superior species; and that the conduct of nations requires and deserves
the celestial powers of the gods or of the genii. From this principle he
justly concluded, that the man who presumes to reign, should aspire to
the perfection of the divine nature; that he should purify his soul
from her mortal and terrestrial part; that he should extinguish his
appetites, enlighten his understanding, regulate his passions, and
subdue the wild beast, which, according to the lively metaphor of
Aristotle, seldom fails to ascend the throne of a despot. The throne of
Julian, which the death of Constantius fixed on an independent basis,
was the seat of reason, of virtue, and perhaps of vanity. He despised
the honors, renounced the pleasures, and discharged with incessant
diligence the duties, of his exalted station; and there were few among
his subjects who would have consented to relieve him from the weight of
the diadem, had they been obliged to submit their time and their actions
to the rigorous laws which that philosophic emperor imposed on himself.
One of his most intimate friends, who had often shared the frugal
simplicity of his table, has remarked, that his light and sparing diet
(which was usually of the vegetable kind) left his mind and body always
free and active, for the various and important business of an author, a
pontiff, a magistrate, a general, and a prince. In one and the same day,
he gave audience to several ambassadors, and wrote, or dictated, a great
number of letters to his generals, his civil magistrates, his private
friends, and the different cities of his dominions. He listened to
the memorials which had been received, considered the subject of the
petitions, and signified his intentions more rapidly than they could be
taken in short-hand by the diligence of his secretaries. He possessed
such flexibility of thought, and such firmness of attention, that he
could employ his hand to write, his ear to listen, and his voice to
dictate; and pursue at once three several trains of ideas without
hesitation, and without error. While his ministers reposed, the prince
flew with agility from one labor to another, and, after a hasty dinner,
retired into his library, till the public business, which he had
appointed for the evening, summoned him to interrupt the prosecution of
his studies. The supper of the emperor was still less substantial
than the former meal; his sleep was never clouded by the fumes of
indigestion; and except in the short interval of a marriage, which was
the effect of policy rather than love, the chaste Julian never shared
his bed with a female companion. He was soon awakened by the entrance
of fresh secretaries, who had slept the preceding day; and his servants
were obliged to wait alternately while their indefatigable master
allowed himself scarcely any other refreshment than the change of
occupation. The predecessors of Julian, his uncle, his brother, and his
cousin, indulged their puerile taste for the games of the Circus, under
the specious pretence of complying with the inclinations of the people;
and they frequently remained the greatest part of the day as idle
spectators, and as a part of the splendid spectacle, till the ordinary
round of twenty-four races was completely finished. On solemn festivals,
Julian, who felt and professed an unfashionable dislike to these
frivolous amusements, condescended to appear in the Circus; and after
bestowing a careless glance at five or six of the races, he hastily
withdrew with the impatience of a philosopher, who considered every
moment as lost that was not devoted to the advantage of the public or
the improvement of his own mind. By this avarice of time, he seemed to
protract the short duration of his reign; and if the dates were less
securely ascertained, we should refuse to believe, that only sixteen
months elapsed between the death of Constantius and the departure of
his successor for the Persian war. The actions of Julian can only
be preserved by the care of the historian; but the portion of his
voluminous writings, which is still extant, remains as a monument of the
application, as well as of the genius, of the emperor. The Misopogon,
the Cæsars, several of his orations, and his elaborate work against the
Christian religion, were composed in the long nights of the two winters,
the former of which he passed at Constantinople, and the latter at
Antioch.

The reformation of the Imperial court was one of the first and most
necessary acts of the government of Julian. Soon after his entrance
into the palace of Constantinople, he had occasion for the service of
a barber. An officer, magnificently dressed, immediately presented
himself. "It is a barber," exclaimed the prince, with affected surprise,
"that I want, and not a receiver-general of the finances." He questioned
the man concerning the profits of his employment and was informed, that
besides a large salary, and some valuable perquisites, he enjoyed a
daily allowance for twenty servants, and as many horses. A thousand
barbers, a thousand cup-bearers, a thousand cooks, were distributed
in the several offices of luxury; and the number of eunuchs could
be compared only with the insects of a summer's day. The monarch who
resigned to his subjects the superiority of merit and virtue, was
distinguished by the oppressive magnificence of his dress, his table,
his buildings, and his train. The stately palaces erected by Constantine
and his sons, were decorated with many colored marbles, and ornaments of
massy gold. The most exquisite dainties were procured, to gratify their
pride, rather than their taste; birds of the most distant climates, fish
from the most remote seas, fruits out of their natural season, winter
roses, and summer snows. The domestic crowd of the palace surpassed the
expense of the legions; yet the smallest part of this costly multitude
was subservient to the use, or even to the splendor, of the throne. The
monarch was disgraced, and the people was injured, by the creation and
sale of an infinite number of obscure, and even titular employments;
and the most worthless of mankind might purchase the privilege of being
maintained, without the necessity of labor, from the public revenue. The
waste of an enormous household, the increase of fees and perquisites,
which were soon claimed as a lawful debt, and the bribes which they
extorted from those who feared their enmity, or solicited their favor,
suddenly enriched these haughty menials. They abused their fortune,
without considering their past, or their future, condition; and their
rapine and venality could be equalled only by the extravagance of their
dissipations. Their silken robes were embroidered with gold, their
tables were served with delicacy and profusion; the houses which they
built for their own use, would have covered the farm of an ancient
consul; and the most honorable citizens were obliged to dismount from
their horses, and respectfully to salute a eunuch whom they met on
the public highway. The luxury of the palace excited the contempt and
indignation of Julian, who usually slept on the ground, who yielded
with reluctance to the indispensable calls of nature; and who placed his
vanity, not in emulating, but in despising, the pomp of royalty.

By the total extirpation of a mischief which was magnified even beyond
its real extent, he was impatient to relieve the distress, and to
appease the murmurs of the people; who support with less uneasiness the
weight of taxes, if they are convinced that the fruits of their industry
are appropriated to the service of the state. But in the execution of
this salutary work, Julian is accused of proceeding with too much haste
and inconsiderate severity. By a single edict, he reduced the palace
of Constantinople to an immense desert, and dismissed with ignominy the
whole train of slaves and dependants, without providing any just, or at
least benevolent, exceptions, for the age, the services, or the poverty,
of the faithful domestics of the Imperial family. Such indeed was
the temper of Julian, who seldom recollected the fundamental maxim of
Aristotle, that true virtue is placed at an equal distance between the
opposite vices. The splendid and effeminate dress of the Asiatics,
the curls and paint, the collars and bracelets, which had appeared so
ridiculous in the person of Constantine, were consistently rejected by
his philosophic successor. But with the fopperies, Julian affected to
renounce the decencies of dress; and seemed to value himself for his
neglect of the laws of cleanliness. In a satirical performance, which
was designed for the public eye, the emperor descants with pleasure, and
even with pride, on the length of his nails, and the inky blackness of
his hands; protests, that although the greatest part of his body was
covered with hair, the use of the razor was confined to his head alone;
and celebrates, with visible complacency, the shaggy and populous beard,
which he fondly cherished, after the example of the philosophers of
Greece. Had Julian consulted the simple dictates of reason, the first
magistrate of the Romans would have scorned the affectation of Diogenes,
as well as that of Darius.

But the work of public reformation would have remained imperfect, if
Julian had only corrected the abuses, without punishing the crimes, of
his predecessor's reign. "We are now delivered," says he, in a familiar
letter to one of his intimate friends, "we are now surprisingly
delivered from the voracious jaws of the Hydra. I do not mean to apply
the epithet to my brother Constantius. He is no more; may the earth lie
light on his head! But his artful and cruel favorites studied to deceive
and exasperate a prince, whose natural mildness cannot be praised
without some efforts of adulation. It is not, however, my intention,
that even those men should be oppressed: they are accused, and they
shall enjoy the benefit of a fair and impartial trial." To conduct this
inquiry, Julian named six judges of the highest rank in the state and
army; and as he wished to escape the reproach of condemning his personal
enemies, he fixed this extraordinary tribunal at Chalcedon, on the
Asiatic side of the Bosphorus; and transferred to the commissioners an
absolute power to pronounce and execute their final sentence, without
delay, and without appeal. The office of president was exercised by
the venerable præfect of the East, a second Sallust, whose virtues
conciliated the esteem of Greek sophists, and of Christian bishops. He
was assisted by the eloquent Mamertinus, one of the consuls elect, whose
merit is loudly celebrated by the doubtful evidence of his own applause.
But the civil wisdom of two magistrates was overbalanced by the
ferocious violence of four generals, Nevitta, Agilo, Jovinus, and
Arbetio. Arbetio, whom the public would have seen with less surprise
at the bar than on the bench, was supposed to possess the secret of
the commission; the armed and angry leaders of the Jovian and Herculian
bands encompassed the tribunal; and the judges were alternately swayed
by the laws of justice, and by the clamors of faction.

The chamberlain Eusebius, who had so long abused the favor of
Constantius, expiated, by an ignominious death, the insolence, the
corruption, and cruelty of his servile reign. The executions of Paul
and Apodemius (the former of whom was burnt alive) were accepted as
an inadequate atonement by the widows and orphans of so many hundred
Romans, whom those legal tyrants had betrayed and murdered. But justice
herself (if we may use the pathetic expression of Ammianus ) appeared
to weep over the fate of Ursulus, the treasurer of the empire; and
his blood accused the ingratitude of Julian, whose distress had been
seasonably relieved by the intrepid liberality of that honest minister.
The rage of the soldiers, whom he had provoked by his indiscretion, was
the cause and the excuse of his death; and the emperor, deeply wounded
by his own reproaches and those of the public, offered some consolation
to the family of Ursulus, by the restitution of his confiscated
fortunes. Before the end of the year in which they had been adorned with
the ensigns of the prefecture and consulship, Taurus and Florentius were
reduced to implore the clemency of the inexorable tribunal of Chalcedon.
The former was banished to Vercellæ in Italy, and a sentence of death
was pronounced against the latter. A wise prince should have rewarded
the crime of Taurus: the faithful minister, when he was no longer able
to oppose the progress of a rebel, had taken refuge in the court of
his benefactor and his lawful sovereign. But the guilt of Florentius
justified the severity of the judges; and his escape served to display
the magnanimity of Julian, who nobly checked the interested diligence
of an informer, and refused to learn what place concealed the wretched
fugitive from his just resentment. Some months after the tribunal of
Chalcedon had been dissolved, the prætorian vicegerent of Africa, the
notary Gaudentius, and Artemius duke of Egypt, were executed at Antioch.
Artemius had reigned the cruel and corrupt tyrant of a great province;
Gaudentius had long practised the arts of calumny against the
innocent, the virtuous, and even the person of Julian himself. Yet
the circumstances of their trial and condemnation were so unskillfully
managed, that these wicked men obtained, in the public opinion, the
glory of suffering for the obstinate loyalty with which they had
supported the cause of Constantius. The rest of his servants were
protected by a general act of oblivion; and they were left to enjoy
with impunity the bribes which they had accepted, either to defend the
oppressed, or to oppress the friendless. This measure, which, on the
soundest principles of policy, may deserve our approbation, was executed
in a manner which seemed to degrade the majesty of the throne. Julian
was tormented by the importunities of a multitude, particularly of
Egyptians, who loudly redemanded the gifts which they had imprudently
or illegally bestowed; he foresaw the endless prosecution of vexatious
suits; and he engaged a promise, which ought always to have been sacred,
that if they would repair to Chalcedon, he would meet them in person, to
hear and determine their complaints. But as soon as they were landed,
he issued an absolute order, which prohibited the watermen from
transporting any Egyptian to Constantinople; and thus detained his
disappointed clients on the Asiatic shore till, their patience and money
being utterly exhausted, they were obliged to return with indignant
murmurs to their native country.



Chapter XXII: Julian Declared Emperor.--Part IV.

The numerous army of spies, of agents, and informers enlisted by
Constantius to secure the repose of one man, and to interrupt that of
millions, was immediately disbanded by his generous successor. Julian
was slow in his suspicions, and gentle in his punishments; and his
contempt of treason was the result of judgment, of vanity, and of
courage. Conscious of superior merit, he was persuaded that few among
his subjects would dare to meet him in the field, to attempt his life,
or even to seat themselves on his vacant throne. The philosopher could
excuse the hasty sallies of discontent; and the hero could despise the
ambitious projects which surpassed the fortune or the abilities of the
rash conspirators. A citizen of Ancyra had prepared for his own use a
purple garment; and this indiscreet action, which, under the reign
of Constantius, would have been considered as a capital offence, was
reported to Julian by the officious importunity of a private enemy. The
monarch, after making some inquiry into the rank and character of
his rival, despatched the informer with a present of a pair of purple
slippers, to complete the magnificence of his Imperial habit. A more
dangerous conspiracy was formed by ten of the domestic guards, who had
resolved to assassinate Julian in the field of exercise near Antioch.
Their intemperance revealed their guilt; and they were conducted in
chains to the presence of their injured sovereign, who, after a lively
representation of the wickedness and folly of their enterprise, instead
of a death of torture, which they deserved and expected, pronounced a
sentence of exile against the two principal offenders. The only instance
in which Julian seemed to depart from his accustomed clemency, was the
execution of a rash youth, who, with a feeble hand, had aspired to
seize the reins of empire. But that youth was the son of Marcellus, the
general of cavalry, who, in the first campaign of the Gallic war, had
deserted the standard of the Cæsar and the republic. Without appearing
to indulge his personal resentment, Julian might easily confound
the crime of the son and of the father; but he was reconciled by the
distress of Marcellus, and the liberality of the emperor endeavored to
heal the wound which had been inflicted by the hand of justice.

Julian was not insensible of the advantages of freedom. From his studies
he had imbibed the spirit of ancient sages and heroes; his life and
fortunes had depended on the caprice of a tyrant; and when he ascended
the throne, his pride was sometimes mortified by the reflection, that
the slaves who would not dare to censure his defects were not worthy
to applaud his virtues. He sincerely abhorred the system of Oriental
despotism, which Diocletian, Constantine, and the patient habits of
fourscore years, had established in the empire. A motive of superstition
prevented the execution of the design, which Julian had frequently
meditated, of relieving his head from the weight of a costly diadem; but
he absolutely refused the title of Dominus, or Lord, a word which
was grown so familiar to the ears of the Romans, that they no longer
remembered its servile and humiliating origin. The office, or rather
the name, of consul, was cherished by a prince who contemplated with
reverence the ruins of the republic; and the same behavior which had
been assumed by the prudence of Augustus was adopted by Julian from
choice and inclination. On the calends of January, at break of day, the
new consuls, Mamertinus and Nevitta, hastened to the palace to salute
the emperor. As soon as he was informed of their approach, he leaped
from his throne, eagerly advanced to meet them, and compelled the
blushing magistrates to receive the demonstrations of his affected
humility. From the palace they proceeded to the senate. The emperor, on
foot, marched before their litters; and the gazing multitude admired the
image of ancient times, or secretly blamed a conduct, which, in their
eyes, degraded the majesty of the purple. But the behavior of Julian was
uniformly supported. During the games of the Circus, he had, imprudently
or designedly, performed the manumission of a slave in the presence of
the consul. The moment he was reminded that he had trespassed on the
jurisdiction of another magistrate, he condemned himself to pay a fine
of ten pounds of gold; and embraced this public occasion of declaring to
the world, that he was subject, like the rest of his fellow-citizens,
to the laws, and even to the forms, of the republic. The spirit of his
administration, and his regard for the place of his nativity, induced
Julian to confer on the senate of Constantinople the same honors,
privileges, and authority, which were still enjoyed by the senate of
ancient Rome. A legal fiction was introduced, and gradually established,
that one half of the national council had migrated into the East; and
the despotic successors of Julian, accepting the title of Senators,
acknowledged themselves the members of a respectable body, which
was permitted to represent the majesty of the Roman name. From
Constantinople, the attention of the monarch was extended to the
municipal senates of the provinces. He abolished, by repeated edicts,
the unjust and pernicious exemptions which had withdrawn so many idle
citizens from the services of their country; and by imposing an equal
distribution of public duties, he restored the strength, the splendor,
or, according to the glowing expression of Libanius, the soul of the
expiring cities of his empire. The venerable age of Greece excited the
most tender compassion in the mind of Julian, which kindled into rapture
when he recollected the gods, the heroes, and the men superior to heroes
and to gods, who have bequeathed to the latest posterity the monuments
of their genius, or the example of their virtues. He relieved the
distress, and restored the beauty, of the cities of Epirus and
Peloponnesus. Athens acknowledged him for her benefactor; Argos, for her
deliverer. The pride of Corinth, again rising from her ruins with the
honors of a Roman colony, exacted a tribute from the adjacent republics,
for the purpose of defraying the games of the Isthmus, which were
celebrated in the amphitheatre with the hunting of bears and panthers.
From this tribute the cities of Elis, of Delphi, and of Argos, which had
inherited from their remote ancestors the sacred office of perpetuating
the Olympic, the Pythian, and the Nemean games, claimed a just
exemption. The immunity of Elis and Delphi was respected by the
Corinthians; but the poverty of Argos tempted the insolence of
oppression; and the feeble complaints of its deputies were silenced by
the decree of a provincial magistrate, who seems to have consulted only
the interest of the capital in which he resided. Seven years after
this sentence, Julian allowed the cause to be referred to a superior
tribunal; and his eloquence was interposed, most probably with success,
in the defence of a city, which had been the royal seat of Agamemnon,
and had given to Macedonia a race of kings and conquerors.

The laborious administration of military and civil affairs, which were
multiplied in proportion to the extent of the empire, exercised the
abilities of Julian; but he frequently assumed the two characters of
Orator and of Judge, which are almost unknown to the modern sovereigns
of Europe. The arts of persuasion, so diligently cultivated by the first
Cæsars, were neglected by the military ignorance and Asiatic pride of
their successors; and if they condescended to harangue the soldiers,
whom they feared, they treated with silent disdain the senators, whom
they despised. The assemblies of the senate, which Constantius had
avoided, were considered by Julian as the place where he could exhibit,
with the most propriety, the maxims of a republican, and the talents of
a rhetorician. He alternately practised, as in a school of declamation,
the several modes of praise, of censure, of exhortation; and his friend
Libanius has remarked, that the study of Homer taught him to imitate
the simple, concise style of Menelaus, the copiousness of Nestor, whose
words descended like the flakes of a winter's snow, or the pathetic
and forcible eloquence of Ulysses. The functions of a judge, which are
sometimes incompatible with those of a prince, were exercised by Julian,
not only as a duty, but as an amusement; and although he might have
trusted the integrity and discernment of his Prætorian præfects, he
often placed himself by their side on the seat of judgment. The
acute penetration of his mind was agreeably occupied in detecting and
defeating the chicanery of the advocates, who labored to disguise the
truths of facts, and to pervert the sense of the laws. He sometimes
forgot the gravity of his station, asked indiscreet or unseasonable
questions, and betrayed, by the loudness of his voice, and the agitation
of his body, the earnest vehemence with which he maintained his opinion
against the judges, the advocates, and their clients. But his knowledge
of his own temper prompted him to encourage, and even to solicit, the
reproof of his friends and ministers; and whenever they ventured to
oppose the irregular sallies of his passions, the spectators could
observe the shame, as well as the gratitude, of their monarch. The
decrees of Julian were almost always founded on the principles of
justice; and he had the firmness to resist the two most dangerous
temptations, which assault the tribunal of a sovereign, under the
specious forms of compassion and equity. He decided the merits of the
cause without weighing the circumstances of the parties; and the poor,
whom he wished to relieve, were condemned to satisfy the just demands of
a wealthy and noble adversary. He carefully distinguished the judge from
the legislator; and though he meditated a necessary reformation of the
Roman jurisprudence, he pronounced sentence according to the strict and
literal interpretation of those laws, which the magistrates were bound
to execute, and the subjects to obey.

The generality of princes, if they were stripped of their purple, and
cast naked into the world, would immediately sink to the lowest rank
of society, without a hope of emerging from their obscurity. But the
personal merit of Julian was, in some measure, independent of his
fortune. Whatever had been his choice of life, by the force of intrepid
courage, lively wit, and intense application, he would have obtained, or
at least he would have deserved, the highest honors of his profession;
and Julian might have raised himself to the rank of minister, or
general, of the state in which he was born a private citizen. If the
jealous caprice of power had disappointed his expectations, if he had
prudently declined the paths of greatness, the employment of the same
talents in studious solitude would have placed beyond the reach of
kings his present happiness and his immortal fame. When we inspect,
with minute, or perhaps malevolent attention, the portrait of Julian,
something seems wanting to the grace and perfection of the whole figure.
His genius was less powerful and sublime than that of Cæsar; nor did
he possess the consummate prudence of Augustus. The virtues of Trajan
appear more steady and natural, and the philosophy of Marcus is more
simple and consistent. Yet Julian sustained adversity with firmness, and
prosperity with moderation. After an interval of one hundred and twenty
years from the death of Alexander Severus, the Romans beheld an emperor
who made no distinction between his duties and his pleasures; who
labored to relieve the distress, and to revive the spirit, of his
subjects; and who endeavored always to connect authority with merit,
and happiness with virtue. Even faction, and religious faction, was
constrained to acknowledge the superiority of his genius, in peace as
well as in war, and to confess, with a sigh, that the apostate Julian
was a lover of his country, and that he deserved the empire of the
world.



Chapter XXIII: Reign Of Julian.--Part I.

     The Religion Of Julian.--Universal Toleration.--He Attempts
     To Restore And Reform The Pagan Worship--To Rebuild The
     Temple Of Jerusalem--His Artful Persecution Of The
     Christians.--Mutual Zeal And Injustice.

The character of Apostate has injured the reputation of Julian; and
the enthusiasm which clouded his virtues has exaggerated the real and
apparent magnitude of his faults. Our partial ignorance may represent
him as a philosophic monarch, who studied to protect, with an equal
hand, the religious factions of the empire; and to allay the theological
fever which had inflamed the minds of the people, from the edicts of
Diocletian to the exile of Athanasius. A more accurate view of the
character and conduct of Julian will remove this favorable prepossession
for a prince who did not escape the general contagion of the times. We
enjoy the singular advantage of comparing the pictures which have been
delineated by his fondest admirers and his implacable enemies. The
actions of Julian are faithfully related by a judicious and candid
historian, the impartial spectator of his life and death. The unanimous
evidence of his contemporaries is confirmed by the public and private
declarations of the emperor himself; and his various writings express
the uniform tenor of his religious sentiments, which policy would have
prompted him to dissemble rather than to affect. A devout and sincere
attachment for the gods of Athens and Rome constituted the ruling
passion of Julian; the powers of an enlightened understanding were
betrayed and corrupted by the influence of superstitious prejudice; and
the phantoms which existed only in the mind of the emperor had a real
and pernicious effect on the government of the empire. The vehement zeal
of the Christians, who despised the worship, and overturned the
altars of those fabulous deities, engaged their votary in a state of
irreconcilable hostility with a very numerous party of his subjects;
and he was sometimes tempted by the desire of victory, or the shame of
a repulse, to violate the laws of prudence, and even of justice. The
triumph of the party, which he deserted and opposed, has fixed a stain
of infamy on the name of Julian; and the unsuccessful apostate has been
overwhelmed with a torrent of pious invectives, of which the signal
was given by the sonorous trumpet of Gregory Nazianzen. The interesting
nature of the events which were crowded into the short reign of this
active emperor, deserve a just and circumstantial narrative. His
motives, his counsels, and his actions, as far as they are connected
with the history of religion, will be the subject of the present
chapter.

The cause of his strange and fatal apostasy may be derived from the
early period of his life, when he was left an orphan in the hands of
the murderers of his family. The names of Christ and of Constantius,
the ideas of slavery and of religion, were soon associated in a youthful
imagination, which was susceptible of the most lively impressions. The
care of his infancy was intrusted to Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, who
was related to him on the side of his mother; and till Julian reached
the twentieth year of his age, he received from his Christian preceptors
the education, not of a hero, but of a saint. The emperor, less jealous
of a heavenly than of an earthly crown, contented himself with the
imperfect character of a catechumen, while he bestowed the advantages
of baptism on the nephews of Constantine. They were even admitted to the
inferior offices of the ecclesiastical order; and Julian publicly read
the Holy Scriptures in the church of Nicomedia. The study of religion,
which they assiduously cultivated, appeared to produce the fairest
fruits of faith and devotion. They prayed, they fasted, they distributed
alms to the poor, gifts to the clergy, and oblations to the tombs of
the martyrs; and the splendid monument of St. Mamas, at Cæsarea, was
erected, or at least was undertaken, by the joint labor of Gallus and
Julian. They respectfully conversed with the bishops, who were eminent
for superior sanctity, and solicited the benediction of the monks and
hermits, who had introduced into Cappadocia the voluntary hardships
of the ascetic life. As the two princes advanced towards the years of
manhood, they discovered, in their religious sentiments, the difference
of their characters. The dull and obstinate understanding of Gallus
embraced, with implicit zeal, the doctrines of Christianity; which never
influenced his conduct, or moderated his passions. The mild disposition
of the younger brother was less repugnant to the precepts of the gospel;
and his active curiosity might have been gratified by a theological
system, which explains the mysterious essence of the Deity, and
opens the boundless prospect of invisible and future worlds. But
the independent spirit of Julian refused to yield the passive and
unresisting obedience which was required, in the name of religion, by
the haughty ministers of the church. Their speculative opinions
were imposed as positive laws, and guarded by the terrors of eternal
punishments; but while they prescribed the rigid formulary of the
thoughts, the words, and the actions of the young prince; whilst
they silenced his objections, and severely checked the freedom of his
inquiries, they secretly provoked his impatient genius to disclaim the
authority of his ecclesiastical guides. He was educated in the Lesser
Asia, amidst the scandals of the Arian controversy. The fierce contests
of the Eastern bishops, the incessant alterations of their creeds, and
the profane motives which appeared to actuate their conduct, insensibly
strengthened the prejudice of Julian, that they neither understood nor
believed the religion for which they so fiercely contended. Instead of
listening to the proofs of Christianity with that favorable attention
which adds weight to the most respectable evidence, he heard with
suspicion, and disputed with obstinacy and acuteness, the doctrines for
which he already entertained an invincible aversion. Whenever the young
princes were directed to compose declamations on the subject of the
prevailing controversies, Julian always declared himself the advocate of
Paganism; under the specious excuse that, in the defence of the weaker
cause, his learning and ingenuity might be more advantageously exercised
and displayed.

As soon as Gallus was invested with the honors of the purple, Julian was
permitted to breathe the air of freedom, of literature, and of Paganism.
The crowd of sophists, who were attracted by the taste and liberality of
their royal pupil, had formed a strict alliance between the learning and
the religion of Greece; and the poems of Homer, instead of being admired
as the original productions of human genius, were seriously ascribed
to the heavenly inspiration of Apollo and the muses. The deities of
Olympus, as they are painted by the immortal bard, imprint themselves on
the minds which are the least addicted to superstitious credulity.
Our familiar knowledge of their names and characters, their forms and
attributes, seems to bestow on those airy beings a real and substantial
existence; and the pleasing enchantment produces an imperfect and
momentary assent of the imagination to those fables, which are the most
repugnant to our reason and experience. In the age of Julian, every
circumstance contributed to prolong and fortify the illusion; the
magnificent temples of Greece and Asia; the works of those artists who
had expressed, in painting or in sculpture, the divine conceptions of
the poet; the pomp of festivals and sacrifices; the successful arts of
divination; the popular traditions of oracles and prodigies; and the
ancient practice of two thousand years. The weakness of polytheism
was, in some measure, excused by the moderation of its claims; and the
devotion of the Pagans was not incompatible with the most licentious
scepticism. Instead of an indivisible and regular system, which occupies
the whole extent of the believing mind, the mythology of the Greeks was
composed of a thousand loose and flexible parts, and the servant of the
gods was at liberty to define the degree and measure of his religious
faith. The creed which Julian adopted for his own use was of the largest
dimensions; and, by strange contradiction, he disdained the salutary
yoke of the gospel, whilst he made a voluntary offering of his reason
on the altars of Jupiter and Apollo. One of the orations of Julian is
consecrated to the honor of Cybele, the mother of the gods, who required
from her effeminate priests the bloody sacrifice, so rashly performed
by the madness of the Phrygian boy. The pious emperor condescends to
relate, without a blush, and without a smile, the voyage of the
goddess from the shores of Pergamus to the mouth of the Tyber, and the
stupendous miracle, which convinced the senate and people of Rome that
the lump of clay, which their ambassadors had transported over the seas,
was endowed with life, and sentiment, and divine power. For the truth
of this prodigy he appeals to the public monuments of the city; and
censures, with some acrimony, the sickly and affected taste of those
men, who impertinently derided the sacred traditions of their ancestors.

But the devout philosopher, who sincerely embraced, and warmly
encouraged, the superstition of the people, reserved for himself the
privilege of a liberal interpretation; and silently withdrew from the
foot of the altars into the sanctuary of the temple. The extravagance of
the Grecian mythology proclaimed, with a clear and audible voice, that
the pious inquirer, instead of being scandalized or satisfied with the
literal sense, should diligently explore the occult wisdom, which had
been disguised, by the prudence of antiquity, under the mask of folly
and of fable. The philosophers of the Platonic school, Plotinus,
Porphyry, and the divine Iamblichus, were admired as the most skilful
masters of this allegorical science, which labored to soften and
harmonize the deformed features of Paganism. Julian himself, who was
directed in the mysterious pursuit by Ædesius, the venerable successor
of Iamblichus, aspired to the possession of a treasure, which he
esteemed, if we may credit his solemn asseverations, far above the
empire of the world. It was indeed a treasure, which derived its value
only from opinion; and every artist who flattered himself that he had
extracted the precious ore from the surrounding dross, claimed an equal
right of stamping the name and figure the most agreeable to his peculiar
fancy. The fable of Atys and Cybele had been already explained by
Porphyry; but his labors served only to animate the pious industry of
Julian, who invented and published his own allegory of that ancient and
mystic tale. This freedom of interpretation, which might gratify the
pride of the Platonists, exposed the vanity of their art. Without a
tedious detail, the modern reader could not form a just idea of the
strange allusions, the forced etymologies, the solemn trifling, and
the impenetrable obscurity of these sages, who professed to reveal
the system of the universe. As the traditions of Pagan mythology were
variously related, the sacred interpreters were at liberty to select
the most convenient circumstances; and as they translated an arbitrary
cipher, they could extract from any fable any sense which was adapted to
their favorite system of religion and philosophy. The lascivious form of
a naked Venus was tortured into the discovery of some moral precept, or
some physical truth; and the castration of Atys explained the revolution
of the sun between the tropics, or the separation of the human soul from
vice and error.

The theological system of Julian appears to have contained the sublime
and important principles of natural religion. But as the faith, which is
not founded on revelation, must remain destitute of any firm assurance,
the disciple of Plato imprudently relapsed into the habits of vulgar
superstition; and the popular and philosophic notion of the Deity seems
to have been confounded in the practice, the writings, and even in the
mind of Julian. The pious emperor acknowledged and adored the Eternal
Cause of the universe, to whom he ascribed all the perfections of
an infinite nature, invisible to the eyes and inaccessible to the
understanding, of feeble mortals. The Supreme God had created, or
rather, in the Platonic language, had generated, the gradual succession
of dependent spirits, of gods, of dæmons, of heroes, and of men; and
every being which derived its existence immediately from the First
Cause, received the inherent gift of immortality. That so precious
an advantage might be lavished upon unworthy objects, the Creator had
intrusted to the skill and power of the inferior gods the office of
forming the human body, and of arranging the beautiful harmony of the
animal, the vegetable, and the mineral kingdoms. To the conduct of these
divine ministers he delegated the temporal government of this lower
world; but their imperfect administration is not exempt from discord
or error. The earth and its inhabitants are divided among them, and the
characters of Mars or Minerva, of Mercury or Venus, may be distinctly
traced in the laws and manners of their peculiar votaries. As long as
our immortal souls are confined in a mortal prison, it is our interest,
as well as our duty, to solicit the favor, and to deprecate the wrath,
of the powers of heaven; whose pride is gratified by the devotion
of mankind; and whose grosser parts may be supposed to derive some
nourishment from the fumes of sacrifice. The inferior gods might
sometimes condescend to animate the statues, and to inhabit the temples,
which were dedicated to their honor. They might occasionally visit the
earth, but the heavens were the proper throne and symbol of their glory.
The invariable order of the sun, moon, and stars, was hastily admitted
by Julian, as a proof of their eternal duration; and their eternity was
a sufficient evidence that they were the workmanship, not of an inferior
deity, but of the Omnipotent King. In the system of Platonists, the
visible was a type of the invisible world. The celestial bodies, as they
were informed by a divine spirit, might be considered as the objects
the most worthy of religious worship. The Sun, whose genial influence
pervades and sustains the universe, justly claimed the adoration of
mankind, as the bright representative of the Logos, the lively, the
rational, the beneficent image of the intellectual Father.

In every age, the absence of genuine inspiration is supplied by the
strong illusions of enthusiasm, and the mimic arts of imposture. If,
in the time of Julian, these arts had been practised only by the pagan
priests, for the support of an expiring cause, some indulgence might
perhaps be allowed to the interest and habits of the sacerdotal
character. But it may appear a subject of surprise and scandal, that
the philosophers themselves should have contributed to abuse the
superstitious credulity of mankind, and that the Grecian mysteries
should have been supported by the magic or theurgy of the modern
Platonists. They arrogantly pretended to control the order of nature, to
explore the secrets of futurity, to command the service of the inferior
dæmons, to enjoy the view and conversation of the superior gods, and by
disengaging the soul from her material bands, to reunite that immortal
particle with the Infinite and Divine Spirit.

The devout and fearless curiosity of Julian tempted the philosophers
with the hopes of an easy conquest; which, from the situation of their
young proselyte, might be productive of the most important consequences.
Julian imbibed the first rudiments of the Platonic doctrines from the
mouth of Ædesius, who had fixed at Pergamus his wandering and persecuted
school. But as the declining strength of that venerable sage was unequal
to the ardor, the diligence, the rapid conception of his pupil, two of
his most learned disciples, Chrysanthes and Eusebius, supplied, at his
own desire, the place of their aged master. These philosophers seem to
have prepared and distributed their respective parts; and they artfully
contrived, by dark hints and affected disputes, to excite the impatient
hopes of the aspirant, till they delivered him into the hands of their
associate, Maximus, the boldest and most skilful master of the Theurgic
science. By his hands, Julian was secretly initiated at Ephesus, in
the twentieth year of his age. His residence at Athens confirmed this
unnatural alliance of philosophy and superstition. He obtained the
privilege of a solemn initiation into the mysteries of Eleusis, which,
amidst the general decay of the Grecian worship, still retained some
vestiges of their primæval sanctity; and such was the zeal of Julian,
that he afterwards invited the Eleusinian pontiff to the court of Gaul,
for the sole purpose of consummating, by mystic rites and sacrifices,
the great work of his sanctification. As these ceremonies were performed
in the depth of caverns, and in the silence of the night, and as the
inviolable secret of the mysteries was preserved by the discretion of
the initiated, I shall not presume to describe the horrid sounds,
and fiery apparitions, which were presented to the senses, or the
imagination, of the credulous aspirant, till the visions of comfort and
knowledge broke upon him in a blaze of celestial light. In the caverns
of Ephesus and Eleusis, the mind of Julian was penetrated with sincere,
deep, and unalterable enthusiasm; though he might sometimes exhibit the
vicissitudes of pious fraud and hypocrisy, which may be observed, or at
least suspected, in the characters of the most conscientious fanatics.
From that moment he consecrated his life to the service of the gods;
and while the occupations of war, of government, and of study, seemed
to claim the whole measure of his time, a stated portion of the hours of
the night was invariably reserved for the exercise of private devotion.
The temperance which adorned the severe manners of the soldier and
the philosopher was connected with some strict and frivolous rules of
religious abstinence; and it was in honor of Pan or Mercury, of Hecate
or Isis, that Julian, on particular days, denied himself the use of some
particular food, which might have been offensive to his tutelar deities.
By these voluntary fasts, he prepared his senses and his understanding
for the frequent and familiar visits with which he was honored by the
celestial powers. Notwithstanding the modest silence of Julian himself,
we may learn from his faithful friend, the orator Libanius, that he
lived in a perpetual intercourse with the gods and goddesses; that they
descended upon earth to enjoy the conversation of their favorite hero;
that they gently interrupted his slumbers by touching his hand or his
hair; that they warned him of every impending danger, and conducted him,
by their infallible wisdom, in every action of his life; and that he had
acquired such an intimate knowledge of his heavenly guests, as readily
to distinguish the voice of Jupiter from that of Minerva, and the form
of Apollo from the figure of Hercules. These sleeping or waking visions,
the ordinary effects of abstinence and fanaticism, would almost degrade
the emperor to the level of an Egyptian monk. But the useless lives
of Antony or Pachomius were consumed in these vain occupations. Julian
could break from the dream of superstition to arm himself for battle;
and after vanquishing in the field the enemies of Rome, he calmly
retired into his tent, to dictate the wise and salutary laws of an
empire, or to indulge his genius in the elegant pursuits of literature
and philosophy.

The important secret of the apostasy of Julian was intrusted to the
fidelity of the initiated, with whom he was united by the sacred ties
of friendship and religion. The pleasing rumor was cautiously circulated
among the adherents of the ancient worship; and his future greatness
became the object of the hopes, the prayers, and the predictions of the
Pagans, in every province of the empire. From the zeal and virtues of
their royal proselyte, they fondly expected the cure of every evil, and
the restoration of every blessing; and instead of disapproving of the
ardor of their pious wishes, Julian ingenuously confessed, that he
was ambitious to attain a situation in which he might be useful to his
country and to his religion. But this religion was viewed with a
hostile eye by the successor of Constantine, whose capricious passions
alternately saved and threatened the life of Julian. The arts of magic
and divination were strictly prohibited under a despotic government,
which condescended to fear them; and if the Pagans were reluctantly
indulged in the exercise of their superstition, the rank of Julian would
have excepted him from the general toleration. The apostate soon became
the presumptive heir of the monarchy, and his death could alone have
appeased the just apprehensions of the Christians. But the young prince,
who aspired to the glory of a hero rather than of a martyr, consulted
his safety by dissembling his religion; and the easy temper of
polytheism permitted him to join in the public worship of a sect which
he inwardly despised. Libanius has considered the hypocrisy of his
friend as a subject, not of censure, but of praise. "As the statues of
the gods," says that orator, "which have been defiled with filth, are
again placed in a magnificent temple, so the beauty of truth was seated
in the mind of Julian, after it had been purified from the errors and
follies of his education. His sentiments were changed; but as it would
have been dangerous to have avowed his sentiments, his conduct still
continued the same. Very different from the ass in Æsop, who disguised
himself with a lion's hide, our lion was obliged to conceal himself
under the skin of an ass; and, while he embraced the dictates of reason,
to obey the laws of prudence and necessity." The dissimulation of Julian
lasted about ten years, from his secret initiation at Ephesus to
the beginning of the civil war; when he declared himself at once the
implacable enemy of Christ and of Constantius. This state of constraint
might contribute to strengthen his devotion; and as soon as he had
satisfied the obligation of assisting, on solemn festivals, at the
assemblies of the Christians, Julian returned, with the impatience of a
lover, to burn his free and voluntary incense on the domestic chapels of
Jupiter and Mercury. But as every act of dissimulation must be painful
to an ingenuous spirit, the profession of Christianity increased the
aversion of Julian for a religion which oppressed the freedom of his
mind, and compelled him to hold a conduct repugnant to the noblest
attributes of human nature, sincerity and courage.



Chapter XXIII: Reign Of Julian.--Part II.

The inclination of Julian might prefer the gods of Homer, and of the
Scipios, to the new faith, which his uncle had established in the Roman
empire; and in which he himself had been sanctified by the sacrament of
baptism. But, as a philosopher, it was incumbent on him to justify his
dissent from Christianity, which was supported by the number of its
converts, by the chain of prophecy, the splendor of or miracles, and
the weight of evidence. The elaborate work, which he composed amidst
the preparations of the Persian war, contained the substance of those
arguments which he had long revolved in his mind. Some fragments have
been transcribed and preserved, by his adversary, the vehement Cyril
of Alexandria; and they exhibit a very singular mixture of wit and
learning, of sophistry and fanaticism. The elegance of the style and the
rank of the author, recommended his writings to the public attention;
and in the impious list of the enemies of Christianity, the celebrated
name of Porphyry was effaced by the superior merit or reputation of
Julian. The minds of the faithful were either seduced, or scandalized,
or alarmed; and the pagans, who sometimes presumed to engage in the
unequal dispute, derived, from the popular work of their Imperial
missionary, an inexhaustible supply of fallacious objections. But in the
assiduous prosecution of these theological studies, the emperor of
the Romans imbibed the illiberal prejudices and passions of a polemic
divine. He contracted an irrevocable obligation to maintain and
propagate his religious opinions; and whilst he secretly applauded the
strength and dexterity with which he wielded the weapons of
controversy, he was tempted to distrust the sincerity, or to despise
the understandings, of his antagonists, who could obstinately resist the
force of reason and eloquence.

The Christians, who beheld with horror and indignation the apostasy of
Julian, had much more to fear from his power than from his arguments.
The pagans, who were conscious of his fervent zeal, expected, perhaps
with impatience, that the flames of persecution should be immediately
kindled against the enemies of the gods; and that the ingenious malice
of Julian would invent some cruel refinements of death and torture which
had been unknown to the rude and inexperienced fury of his predecessors.
But the hopes, as well as the fears, of the religious factions were
apparently disappointed, by the prudent humanity of a prince, who was
careful of his own fame, of the public peace, and of the rights of
mankind. Instructed by history and reflection, Julian was persuaded,
that if the diseases of the body may sometimes be cured by salutary
violence, neither steel nor fire can eradicate the erroneous opinions of
the mind. The reluctant victim may be dragged to the foot of the altar;
but the heart still abhors and disclaims the sacrilegious act of the
hand. Religious obstinacy is hardened and exasperated by oppression;
and, as soon as the persecution subsides, those who have yielded are
restored as penitents, and those who have resisted are honored as saints
and martyrs. If Julian adopted the unsuccessful cruelty of Diocletian
and his colleagues, he was sensible that he should stain his memory with
the name of a tyrant, and add new glories to the Catholic church,
which had derived strength and increase from the severity of the pagan
magistrates. Actuated by these motives, and apprehensive of disturbing
the repose of an unsettled reign, Julian surprised the world by an
edict, which was not unworthy of a statesman, or a philosopher. He
extended to all the inhabitants of the Roman world the benefits of a
free and equal toleration; and the only hardship which he inflicted on
the Christians, was to deprive them of the power of tormenting their
fellow-subjects, whom they stigmatized with the odious titles of
idolaters and heretics. The pagans received a gracious permission, or
rather an express order, to open All their temples; and they were at
once delivered from the oppressive laws, and arbitrary vexations, which
they had sustained under the reign of Constantine, and of his sons. At
the same time the bishops and clergy, who had been banished by the Arian
monarch, were recalled from exile, and restored to their respective
churches; the Donatists, the Novatians, the Macedonians, the Eunomians,
and those who, with a more prosperous fortune, adhered to the doctrine
of the Council of Nice. Julian, who understood and derided their
theological disputes, invited to the palace the leaders of the hostile
sects, that he might enjoy the agreeable spectacle of their furious
encounters. The clamor of controversy sometimes provoked the emperor to
exclaim, "Hear me! the Franks have heard me, and the Alemanni;" but
he soon discovered that he was now engaged with more obstinate and
implacable enemies; and though he exerted the powers of oratory to
persuade them to live in concord, or at least in peace, he was perfectly
satisfied, before he dismissed them from his presence, that he had
nothing to dread from the union of the Christians. The impartial
Ammianus has ascribed this affected clemency to the desire of fomenting
the intestine divisions of the church, and the insidious design of
undermining the foundations of Christianity, was inseparably connected
with the zeal which Julian professed, to restore the ancient religion of
the empire.

As soon as he ascended the throne, he assumed, according to the custom
of his predecessors, the character of supreme pontiff; not only as
the most honorable title of Imperial greatness, but as a sacred and
important office; the duties of which he was resolved to execute with
pious diligence. As the business of the state prevented the emperor from
joining every day in the public devotion of his subjects, he dedicated
a domestic chapel to his tutelar deity the Sun; his gardens were filled
with statues and altars of the gods; and each apartment of the palace
displaced the appearance of a magnificent temple. Every morning he
saluted the parent of light with a sacrifice; the blood of another
victim was shed at the moment when the Sun sunk below the horizon;
and the Moon, the Stars, and the Genii of the night received their
respective and seasonable honors from the indefatigable devotion of
Julian. On solemn festivals, he regularly visited the temple of the god
or goddess to whom the day was peculiarly consecrated, and endeavored to
excite the religion of the magistrates and people by the example of
his own zeal. Instead of maintaining the lofty state of a monarch,
distinguished by the splendor of his purple, and encompassed by
the golden shields of his guards, Julian solicited, with respectful
eagerness, the meanest offices which contributed to the worship of the
gods. Amidst the sacred but licentious crowd of priests, of inferior
ministers, and of female dancers, who were dedicated to the service of
the temple, it was the business of the emperor to bring the wood,
to blow the fire, to handle the knife, to slaughter the victim, and,
thrusting his bloody hands into the bowels of the expiring animal, to
draw forth the heart or liver, and to read, with the consummate skill of
an haruspex, imaginary signs of future events. The wisest of the Pagans
censured this extravagant superstition, which affected to despise the
restraints of prudence and decency. Under the reign of a prince, who
practised the rigid maxims of economy, the expense of religious worship
consumed a very large portion of the revenue a constant supply of the
scarcest and most beautiful birds was transported from distant climates,
to bleed on the altars of the gods; a hundred oxen were frequently
sacrificed by Julian on one and the same day; and it soon became a
popular jest, that if he should return with conquest from the Persian
war, the breed of horned cattle must infallibly be extinguished. Yet
this expense may appear inconsiderable, when it is compared with the
splendid presents which were offered either by the hand, or by order,
of the emperor, to all the celebrated places of devotion in the Roman
world; and with the sums allotted to repair and decorate the ancient
temples, which had suffered the silent decay of time, or the
recent injuries of Christian rapine. Encouraged by the example, the
exhortations, the liberality, of their pious sovereign, the cities and
families resumed the practice of their neglected ceremonies. "Every part
of the world," exclaims Libanius, with devout transport, "displayed
the triumph of religion; and the grateful prospect of flaming altars,
bleeding victims, the smoke of incense, and a solemn train of priests
and prophets, without fear and without danger. The sound of prayer and
of music was heard on the tops of the highest mountains; and the same
ox afforded a sacrifice for the gods, and a supper for their joyous
votaries."

But the genius and power of Julian were unequal to the enterprise of
restoring a religion which was destitute of theological principles, of
moral precepts, and of ecclesiastical discipline; which rapidly hastened
to decay and dissolution, and was not susceptible of any solid or
consistent reformation. The jurisdiction of the supreme pontiff, more
especially after that office had been united with the Imperial dignity,
comprehended the whole extent of the Roman empire. Julian named for his
vicars, in the several provinces, the priests and philosophers whom he
esteemed the best qualified to cooperate in the execution of his
great design; and his pastoral letters, if we may use that name,
still represent a very curious sketch of his wishes and intentions. He
directs, that in every city the sacerdotal order should be composed,
without any distinction of birth and fortune, of those persons who were
the most conspicuous for the love of the gods, and of men. "If they
are guilty," continues he, "of any scandalous offence, they should be
censured or degraded by the superior pontiff; but as long as they retain
their rank, they are entitled to the respect of the magistrates and
people. Their humility may be shown in the plainness of their domestic
garb; their dignity, in the pomp of holy vestments. When they are
summoned in their turn to officiate before the altar, they ought not,
during the appointed number of days, to depart from the precincts of
the temple; nor should a single day be suffered to elapse, without
the prayers and the sacrifice, which they are obliged to offer for
the prosperity of the state, and of individuals. The exercise of their
sacred functions requires an immaculate purity, both of mind and body;
and even when they are dismissed from the temple to the occupations of
common life, it is incumbent on them to excel in decency and virtue the
rest of their fellow-citizens. The priest of the gods should never be
seen in theatres or taverns. His conversation should be chaste, his
diet temperate, his friends of honorable reputation; and if he sometimes
visits the Forum or the Palace, he should appear only as the advocate
of those who have vainly solicited either justice or mercy. His studies
should be suited to the sanctity of his profession. Licentious tales,
or comedies, or satires, must be banished from his library, which ought
solely to consist of historical or philosophical writings; of history,
which is founded in truth, and of philosophy, which is connected with
religion. The impious opinions of the Epicureans and sceptics deserve
his abhorrence and contempt; but he should diligently study the systems
of Pythagoras, of Plato, and of the Stoics, which unanimously teach that
there are gods; that the world is governed by their providence; that
their goodness is the source of every temporal blessing; and that
they have prepared for the human soul a future state of reward or
punishment." The Imperial pontiff inculcates, in the most persuasive
language, the duties of benevolence and hospitality; exhorts his
inferior clergy to recommend the universal practice of those virtues;
promises to assist their indigence from the public treasury; and
declares his resolution of establishing hospitals in every city, where
the poor should be received without any invidious distinction of country
or of religion. Julian beheld with envy the wise and humane regulations
of the church; and he very frankly confesses his intention to deprive
the Christians of the applause, as well as advantage, which they had
acquired by the exclusive practice of charity and beneficence. The
same spirit of imitation might dispose the emperor to adopt several
ecclesiastical institutions, the use and importance of which were
approved by the success of his enemies. But if these imaginary plans of
reformation had been realized, the forced and imperfect copy would have
been less beneficial to Paganism, than honorable to Christianity. The
Gentiles, who peaceably followed the customs of their ancestors, were
rather surprised than pleased with the introduction of foreign manners;
and in the short period of his reign, Julian had frequent occasions to
complain of the want of fervor of his own party.

The enthusiasm of Julian prompted him to embrace the friends of Jupiter
as his personal friends and brethren; and though he partially overlooked
the merit of Christian constancy, he admired and rewarded the noble
perseverance of those Gentiles who had preferred the favor of the gods
to that of the emperor. If they cultivated the literature, as well as
the religion, of the Greeks, they acquired an additional claim to the
friendship of Julian, who ranked the Muses in the number of his tutelar
deities. In the religion which he had adopted, piety and learning
were almost synonymous; and a crowd of poets, of rhetoricians, and
of philosophers, hastened to the Imperial court, to occupy the vacant
places of the bishops, who had seduced the credulity of Constantius. His
successor esteemed the ties of common initiation as far more sacred than
those of consanguinity; he chose his favorites among the sages, who were
deeply skilled in the occult sciences of magic and divination; and every
impostor, who pretended to reveal the secrets of futurity, was
assured of enjoying the present hour in honor and affluence. Among the
philosophers, Maximus obtained the most eminent rank in the friendship
of his royal disciple, who communicated, with unreserved confidence, his
actions, his sentiments, and his religious designs, during the anxious
suspense of the civil war. As soon as Julian had taken possession of
the palace of Constantinople, he despatched an honorable and pressing
invitation to Maximus, who then resided at Sardes in Lydia, with
Chrysanthius, the associate of his art and studies. The prudent and
superstitious Chrysanthius refused to undertake a journey which showed
itself, according to the rules of divination, with the most threatening
and malignant aspect: but his companion, whose fanaticism was of a
bolder cast, persisted in his interrogations, till he had extorted from
the gods a seeming consent to his own wishes, and those of the emperor.
The journey of Maximus through the cities of Asia displayed the triumph
of philosophic vanity; and the magistrates vied with each other in
the honorable reception which they prepared for the friend of their
sovereign. Julian was pronouncing an oration before the senate, when
he was informed of the arrival of Maximus. The emperor immediately
interrupted his discourse, advanced to meet him, and after a tender
embrace, conducted him by the hand into the midst of the assembly; where
he publicly acknowledged the benefits which he had derived from
the instructions of the philosopher. Maximus, who soon acquired the
confidence, and influenced the councils of Julian, was insensibly
corrupted by the temptations of a court. His dress became more splendid,
his demeanor more lofty, and he was exposed, under a succeeding reign,
to a disgraceful inquiry into the means by which the disciple of Plato
had accumulated, in the short duration of his favor, a very scandalous
proportion of wealth. Of the other philosophers and sophists, who were
invited to the Imperial residence by the choice of Julian, or by the
success of Maximus, few were able to preserve their innocence or
their reputation. The liberal gifts of money, lands, and houses, were
insufficient to satiate their rapacious avarice; and the indignation of
the people was justly excited by the remembrance of their abject poverty
and disinterested professions. The penetration of Julian could not
always be deceived: but he was unwilling to despise the characters of
those men whose talents deserved his esteem: he desired to escape the
double reproach of imprudence and inconstancy; and he was apprehensive
of degrading, in the eyes of the profane, the honor of letters and of
religion.

The favor of Julian was almost equally divided between the Pagans,
who had firmly adhered to the worship of their ancestors, and the
Christians, who prudently embraced the religion of their sovereign. The
acquisition of new proselytes gratified the ruling passions of his
soul, superstition and vanity; and he was heard to declare, with the
enthusiasm of a missionary, that if he could render each individual
richer than Midas, and every city greater than Babylon, he should not
esteem himself the benefactor of mankind, unless, at the same time,
he could reclaim his subjects from their impious revolt against the
immortal gods. A prince who had studied human nature, and who possessed
the treasures of the Roman empire, could adapt his arguments, his
promises, and his rewards, to every order of Christians; and the merit
of a seasonable conversion was allowed to supply the defects of a
candidate, or even to expiate the guilt of a criminal. As the army is
the most forcible engine of absolute power, Julian applied himself, with
peculiar diligence, to corrupt the religion of his troops, without whose
hearty concurrence every measure must be dangerous and unsuccessful;
and the natural temper of soldiers made this conquest as easy as it was
important. The legions of Gaul devoted themselves to the faith, as well
as to the fortunes, of their victorious leader; and even before the
death of Constantius, he had the satisfaction of announcing to his
friends, that they assisted with fervent devotion, and voracious
appetite, at the sacrifices, which were repeatedly offered in his camp,
of whole hecatombs of fat oxen. The armies of the East, which had been
trained under the standard of the cross, and of Constantius, required a
more artful and expensive mode of persuasion. On the days of solemn
and public festivals, the emperor received the homage, and rewarded
the merit, of the troops. His throne of state was encircled with the
military ensigns of Rome and the republic; the holy name of Christ was
erased from the Labarum; and the symbols of war, of majesty, and of
pagan superstition, were so dexterously blended, that the faithful
subject incurred the guilt of idolatry, when he respectfully saluted the
person or image of his sovereign. The soldiers passed successively in
review; and each of them, before he received from the hand of Julian a
liberal donative, proportioned to his rank and services, was required to
cast a few grains of incense into the flame which burnt upon the altar.
Some Christian confessors might resist, and others might repent; but
the far greater number, allured by the prospect of gold, and awed by the
presence of the emperor, contracted the criminal engagement; and their
future perseverance in the worship of the gods was enforced by every
consideration of duty and of interest. By the frequent repetition of
these arts, and at the expense of sums which would have purchased the
service of half the nations of Scythia, Julian gradually acquired for
his troops the imaginary protection of the gods, and for himself the
firm and effectual support of the Roman legions. It is indeed more than
probable, that the restoration and encouragement of Paganism revealed
a multitude of pretended Christians, who, from motives of temporal
advantage, had acquiesced in the religion of the former reign; and who
afterwards returned, with the same flexibility of conscience, to the
faith which was professed by the successors of Julian.

While the devout monarch incessantly labored to restore and propagate
the religion of his ancestors, he embraced the extraordinary design of
rebuilding the temple of Jerusalem. In a public epistle to the nation or
community of the Jews, dispersed through the provinces, he pities
their misfortunes, condemns their oppressors, praises their constancy,
declares himself their gracious protector, and expresses a pious hope,
that after his return from the Persian war, he may be permitted to pay
his grateful vows to the Almighty in his holy city of Jerusalem. The
blind superstition, and abject slavery, of those unfortunate exiles,
must excite the contempt of a philosophic emperor; but they deserved the
friendship of Julian, by their implacable hatred of the Christian name.
The barren synagogue abhorred and envied the fecundity of the rebellious
church; the power of the Jews was not equal to their malice; but their
gravest rabbis approved the private murder of an apostate; and their
seditious clamors had often awakened the indolence of the Pagan
magistrates. Under the reign of Constantine, the Jews became the
subjects of their revolted children nor was it long before they
experienced the bitterness of domestic tyranny. The civil immunities
which had been granted, or confirmed, by Severus, were gradually
repealed by the Christian princes; and a rash tumult, excited by the
Jews of Palestine, seemed to justify the lucrative modes of oppression
which were invented by the bishops and eunuchs of the court of
Constantius. The Jewish patriarch, who was still permitted to exercise
a precarious jurisdiction, held his residence at Tiberias; and the
neighboring cities of Palestine were filled with the remains of a people
who fondly adhered to the promised land. But the edict of Hadrian was
renewed and enforced; and they viewed from afar the walls of the holy
city, which were profaned in their eyes by the triumph of the cross and
the devotion of the Christians.



Chapter XXIII: Reign Of Julian.--Part III.

In the midst of a rocky and barren country, the walls of Jerusalem
enclosed the two mountains of Sion and Acra, within an oval figure of
about three English miles. Towards the south, the upper town, and the
fortress of David, were erected on the lofty ascent of Mount Sion: on
the north side, the buildings of the lower town covered the spacious
summit of Mount Acra; and a part of the hill, distinguished by the name
of Moriah, and levelled by human industry, was crowned with the stately
temple of the Jewish nation. After the final destruction of the temple
by the arms of Titus and Hadrian, a ploughshare was drawn over the
consecrated ground, as a sign of perpetual interdiction. Sion was
deserted; and the vacant space of the lower city was filled with the
public and private edifices of the Ælian colony, which spread themselves
over the adjacent hill of Calvary. The holy places were polluted with
mountains of idolatry; and, either from design or accident, a chapel was
dedicated to Venus, on the spot which had been sanctified by the death
and resurrection of Christ. * Almost three hundred years after those
stupendous events, the profane chapel of Venus was demolished by the
order of Constantine; and the removal of the earth and stones revealed
the holy sepulchre to the eyes of mankind. A magnificent church was
erected on that mystic ground, by the first Christian emperor; and the
effects of his pious munificence were extended to every spot which had
been consecrated by the footstep of patriarchs, of prophets, and of the
Son of God.

The passionate desire of contemplating the original monuments of their
redemption attracted to Jerusalem a successive crowd of pilgrims, from
the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and the most distant countries of
the East; and their piety was authorized by the example of the empress
Helena, who appears to have united the credulity of age with the warm
feelings of a recent conversion. Sages and heroes, who have visited
the memorable scenes of ancient wisdom or glory, have confessed the
inspiration of the genius of the place; and the Christian who knelt
before the holy sepulchre, ascribed his lively faith, and his fervent
devotion, to the more immediate influence of the Divine Spirit. The
zeal, perhaps the avarice, of the clergy of Jerusalem, cherished and
multiplied these beneficial visits. They fixed, by unquestionable
tradition, the scene of each memorable event. They exhibited the
instruments which had been used in the passion of Christ; the nails and
the lance that had pierced his hands, his feet, and his side; the crown
of thorns that was planted on his head; the pillar at which he was
scourged; and, above all, they showed the cross on which he suffered,
and which was dug out of the earth in the reign of those princes, who
inserted the symbol of Christianity in the banners of the Roman legions.
Such miracles as seemed necessary to account for its extraordinary
preservation, and seasonable discovery, were gradually propagated
without opposition. The custody of the true cross, which on Easter
Sunday was solemnly exposed to the people, was intrusted to the bishop
of Jerusalem; and he alone might gratify the curious devotion of the
pilgrims, by the gift of small pieces, which they encased in gold or
gems, and carried away in triumph to their respective countries. But as
this gainful branch of commerce must soon have been annihilated, it was
found convenient to suppose, that the marvelous wood possessed a
secret power of vegetation; and that its substance, though continually
diminished, still remained entire and unimpaired. It might perhaps
have been expected, that the influence of the place and the belief of
a perpetual miracle, should have produced some salutary effects on the
morals, as well as on the faith, of the people. Yet the most respectable
of the ecclesiastical writers have been obliged to confess, not only
that the streets of Jerusalem were filled with the incessant tumult of
business and pleasure, but that every species of vice--adultery, theft,
idolatry, poisoning, murder--was familiar to the inhabitants of the holy
city. The wealth and preeminence of the church of Jerusalem excited the
ambition of Arian, as well as orthodox, candidates; and the virtues of
Cyril, who, since his death, has been honored with the title of Saint,
were displayed in the exercise, rather than in the acquisition, of his
episcopal dignity.

The vain and ambitious mind of Julian might aspire to restore the
ancient glory of the temple of Jerusalem. As the Christians were firmly
persuaded that a sentence of everlasting destruction had been pronounced
against the whole fabric of the Mosaic law, the Imperial sophist would
have converted the success of his undertaking into a specious argument
against the faith of prophecy, and the truth of revelation. He was
displeased with the spiritual worship of the synagogue; but he approved
the institutions of Moses, who had not disdained to adopt many of the
rites and ceremonies of Egypt. The local and national deity of the Jews
was sincerely adored by a polytheist, who desired only to multiply
the number of the gods; and such was the appetite of Julian for bloody
sacrifice, that his emulation might be excited by the piety of Solomon,
who had offered, at the feast of the dedication, twenty-two thousand
oxen, and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep. These considerations
might influence his designs; but the prospect of an immediate and
important advantage would not suffer the impatient monarch to expect
the remote and uncertain event of the Persian war. He resolved to erect,
without delay, on the commanding eminence of Moriah, a stately temple,
which might eclipse the splendor of the church of the resurrection on
the adjacent hill of Calvary; to establish an order of priests, whose
interested zeal would detect the arts, and resist the ambition, of their
Christian rivals; and to invite a numerous colony of Jews, whose stern
fanaticism would be always prepared to second, and even to anticipate,
the hostile measures of the Pagan government. Among the friends of the
emperor (if the names of emperor, and of friend, are not incompatible)
the first place was assigned, by Julian himself, to the virtuous and
learned Alypius. The humanity of Alypius was tempered by severe justice
and manly fortitude; and while he exercised his abilities in the civil
administration of Britain, he imitated, in his poetical compositions,
the harmony and softness of the odes of Sappho. This minister, to whom
Julian communicated, without reserve, his most careless levities, and
his most serious counsels, received an extraordinary commission to
restore, in its pristine beauty, the temple of Jerusalem; and the
diligence of Alypius required and obtained the strenuous support of the
governor of Palestine. At the call of their great deliverer, the Jews,
from all the provinces of the empire, assembled on the holy mountain of
their fathers; and their insolent triumph alarmed and exasperated the
Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem. The desire of rebuilding the temple
has in every age been the ruling passion of the children of Isræl. In
this propitious moment the men forgot their avarice, and the women their
delicacy; spades and pickaxes of silver were provided by the vanity of
the rich, and the rubbish was transported in mantles of silk and purple.
Every purse was opened in liberal contributions, every hand claimed
a share in the pious labor, and the commands of a great monarch were
executed by the enthusiasm of a whole people.

Yet, on this occasion, the joint efforts of power and enthusiasm were
unsuccessful; and the ground of the Jewish temple, which is now covered
by a Mahometan mosque, still continued to exhibit the same edifying
spectacle of ruin and desolation. Perhaps the absence and death of the
emperor, and the new maxims of a Christian reign, might explain the
interruption of an arduous work, which was attempted only in the last
six months of the life of Julian. But the Christians entertained a
natural and pious expectation, that, in this memorable contest, the
honor of religion would be vindicated by some signal miracle. An
earthquake, a whirlwind, and a fiery eruption, which overturned and
scattered the new foundations of the temple, are attested, with some
variations, by contemporary and respectable evidence. This public event
is described by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, in an epistle to the emperor
Theodosius, which must provoke the severe animadversion of the Jews;
by the eloquent Chrysostom, who might appeal to the memory of the elder
part of his congregation at Antioch; and by Gregory Nazianzen, who
published his account of the miracle before the expiration of the
same year. The last of these writers has boldly declared, that this
preternatural event was not disputed by the infidels; and his assertion,
strange as it may seem is confirmed by the unexceptionable testimony of
Ammianus Marcellinus. The philosophic soldier, who loved the virtues,
without adopting the prejudices, of his master, has recorded, in
his judicious and candid history of his own times, the extraordinary
obstacles which interrupted the restoration of the temple of Jerusalem.
"Whilst Alypius, assisted by the governor of the province, urged, with
vigor and diligence, the execution of the work, horrible balls of fire
breaking out near the foundations, with frequent and reiterated attacks,
rendered the place, from time to time, inaccessible to the scorched and
blasted workmen; and the victorious element continuing in this manner
obstinately and resolutely bent, as it were, to drive them to a
distance, the undertaking was abandoned." * Such authority should
satisfy a believing, and must astonish an incredulous, mind. Yet a
philosopher may still require the original evidence of impartial and
intelligent spectators. At this important crisis, any singular accident
of nature would assume the appearance, and produce the effects of a
real prodigy. This glorious deliverance would be speedily improved and
magnified by the pious art of the clergy of Jerusalem, and the active
credulity of the Christian world and, at the distance of twenty years, a
Roman historian, care less of theological disputes, might adorn his work
with the specious and splendid miracle.



Chapter XXIII: Reign Of Julian.--Part IV.

The restoration of the Jewish temple was secretly connected with the
ruin of the Christian church. Julian still continued to maintain the
freedom of religious worship, without distinguishing whether this
universal toleration proceeded from his justice or his clemency. He
affected to pity the unhappy Christians, who were mistaken in the most
important object of their lives; but his pity was degraded by contempt,
his contempt was embittered by hatred; and the sentiments of Julian were
expressed in a style of sarcastic wit, which inflicts a deep and deadly
wound, whenever it issues from the mouth of a sovereign. As he was
sensible that the Christians gloried in the name of their Redeemer,
he countenanced, and perhaps enjoined, the use of the less honorable
appellation of Galilæans. He declared, that by the folly of the
Galilæans, whom he describes as a sect of fanatics, contemptible to
men, and odious to the gods, the empire had been reduced to the brink of
destruction; and he insinuates in a public edict, that a frantic patient
might sometimes be cured by salutary violence. An ungenerous distinction
was admitted into the mind and counsels of Julian, that, according to
the difference of their religious sentiments, one part of his subjects
deserved his favor and friendship, while the other was entitled only
to the common benefits that his justice could not refuse to an obedient
people. According to a principle, pregnant with mischief and oppression,
the emperor transferred to the pontiffs of his own religion the
management of the liberal allowances for the public revenue, which had
been granted to the church by the piety of Constantine and his sons.
The proud system of clerical honors and immunities, which had been
constructed with so much art and labor, was levelled to the ground; the
hopes of testamentary donations were intercepted by the rigor of the
laws; and the priests of the Christian sect were confounded with the
last and most ignominious class of the people. Such of these regulations
as appeared necessary to check the ambition and avarice of the
ecclesiastics, were soon afterwards imitated by the wisdom of an
orthodox prince. The peculiar distinctions which policy has bestowed, or
superstition has lavished, on the sacerdotal order, must be confined to
those priests who profess the religion of the state. But the will of
the legislator was not exempt from prejudice and passion; and it was the
object of the insidious policy of Julian, to deprive the Christians of
all the temporal honors and advantages which rendered them respectable
in the eyes of the world.

A just and severe censure has been inflicted on the law which prohibited
the Christians from teaching the arts of grammar and rhetoric. The
motives alleged by the emperor to justify this partial and oppressive
measure, might command, during his lifetime, the silence of slaves and
the applause of flatterers. Julian abuses the ambiguous meaning of
a word which might be indifferently applied to the language and the
religion of the Greeks: he contemptuously observes, that the men who
exalt the merit of implicit faith are unfit to claim or to enjoy the
advantages of science; and he vainly contends, that if they refuse
to adore the gods of Homer and Demosthenes, they ought to content
themselves with expounding Luke and Matthew in the church of the
Galilæans. In all the cities of the Roman world, the education of the
youth was intrusted to masters of grammar and rhetoric; who were elected
by the magistrates, maintained at the public expense, and distinguished
by many lucrative and honorable privileges. The edict of Julian appears
to have included the physicians, and professors of all the liberal
arts; and the emperor, who reserved to himself the approbation of the
candidates, was authorized by the laws to corrupt, or to punish, the
religious constancy of the most learned of the Christians. As soon
as the resignation of the more obstinate teachers had established the
unrivalled dominion of the Pagan sophists, Julian invited the rising
generation to resort with freedom to the public schools, in a just
confidence, that their tender minds would receive the impressions of
literature and idolatry. If the greatest part of the Christian youth
should be deterred by their own scruples, or by those of their parents,
from accepting this dangerous mode of instruction, they must, at the
same time, relinquish the benefits of a liberal education. Julian had
reason to expect that, in the space of a few years, the church would
relapse into its primæval simplicity, and that the theologians, who
possessed an adequate share of the learning and eloquence of the age,
would be succeeded by a generation of blind and ignorant fanatics,
incapable of defending the truth of their own principles, or of exposing
the various follies of Polytheism.

It was undoubtedly the wish and design of Julian to deprive the
Christians of the advantages of wealth, of knowledge, and of power; but
the injustice of excluding them from all offices of trust and profit
seems to have been the result of his general policy, rather than the
immediate consequence of any positive law. Superior merit might deserve
and obtain, some extraordinary exceptions; but the greater part of the
Christian officers were gradually removed from their employments in the
state, the army, and the provinces. The hopes of future candidates were
extinguished by the declared partiality of a prince, who maliciously
reminded them, that it was unlawful for a Christian to use the sword,
either of justice, or of war; and who studiously guarded the camp and
the tribunals with the ensigns of idolatry. The powers of government
were intrusted to the pagans, who professed an ardent zeal for the
religion of their ancestors; and as the choice of the emperor was often
directed by the rules of divination, the favorites whom he preferred as
the most agreeable to the gods, did not always obtain the approbation of
mankind. Under the administration of their enemies, the Christians had
much to suffer, and more to apprehend. The temper of Julian was averse
to cruelty; and the care of his reputation, which was exposed to the
eyes of the universe, restrained the philosophic monarch from violating
the laws of justice and toleration, which he himself had so recently
established. But the provincial ministers of his authority were placed
in a less conspicuous station. In the exercise of arbitrary power, they
consulted the wishes, rather than the commands, of their sovereign;
and ventured to exercise a secret and vexatious tyranny against the
sectaries, on whom they were not permitted to confer the honors of
martyrdom. The emperor, who dissembled as long as possible his knowledge
of the injustice that was exercised in his name, expressed his real
sense of the conduct of his officers, by gentle reproofs and substantial
rewards.

The most effectual instrument of oppression, with which they were
armed, was the law that obliged the Christians to make full and
ample satisfaction for the temples which they had destroyed under
the preceding reign. The zeal of the triumphant church had not always
expected the sanction of the public authority; and the bishops, who were
secure of impunity, had often marched at the head of their congregation,
to attack and demolish the fortresses of the prince of darkness. The
consecrated lands, which had increased the patrimony of the sovereign or
of the clergy, were clearly defined, and easily restored. But on these
lands, and on the ruins of Pagan superstition, the Christians had
frequently erected their own religious edifices: and as it was necessary
to remove the church before the temple could be rebuilt, the justice
and piety of the emperor were applauded by one party, while the other
deplored and execrated his sacrilegious violence. After the ground was
cleared, the restitution of those stately structures which had been
levelled with the dust, and of the precious ornaments which had been
converted to Christian uses, swelled into a very large account of
damages and debt. The authors of the injury had neither the ability nor
the inclination to discharge this accumulated demand: and the impartial
wisdom of a legislator would have been displayed in balancing
the adverse claims and complaints, by an equitable and temperate
arbitration. But the whole empire, and particularly the East, was thrown
into confusion by the rash edicts of Julian; and the Pagan magistrates,
inflamed by zeal and revenge, abused the rigorous privilege of the Roman
law, which substitutes, in the place of his inadequate property, the
person of the insolvent debtor. Under the preceding reign, Mark, bishop
of Arethusa, had labored in the conversion of his people with arms more
effectual than those of persuasion. The magistrates required the full
value of a temple which had been destroyed by his intolerant zeal: but
as they were satisfied of his poverty, they desired only to bend his
inflexible spirit to the promise of the slightest compensation. They
apprehended the aged prelate, they inhumanly scourged him, they tore his
beard; and his naked body, anointed with honey, was suspended, in a net,
between heaven and earth, and exposed to the stings of insects and the
rays of a Syrian sun. From this lofty station, Mark still persisted to
glory in his crime, and to insult the impotent rage of his persecutors.
He was at length rescued from their hands, and dismissed to enjoy the
honor of his divine triumph. The Arians celebrated the virtue of their
pious confessor; the Catholics ambitiously claimed his alliance; and the
Pagans, who might be susceptible of shame or remorse, were deterred from
the repetition of such unavailing cruelty. Julian spared his life: but
if the bishop of Arethusa had saved the infancy of Julian, posterity
will condemn the ingratitude, instead of praising the clemency, of the
emperor.

At the distance of five miles from Antioch, the Macedonian kings of
Syria had consecrated to Apollo one of the most elegant places of
devotion in the Pagan world. A magnificent temple rose in honor of
the god of light; and his colossal figure almost filled the capacious
sanctuary, which was enriched with gold and gems, and adorned by the
skill of the Grecian artists. The deity was represented in a bending
attitude, with a golden cup in his hand, pouring out a libation on the
earth; as if he supplicated the venerable mother to give to his arms the
cold and beauteous Daphne: for the spot was ennobled by fiction; and
the fancy of the Syrian poets had transported the amorous tale from the
banks of the Peneus to those of the Orontes. The ancient rites of Greece
were imitated by the royal colony of Antioch. A stream of prophecy,
which rivalled the truth and reputation of the Delphic oracle, flowed
from the Castalian fountain of Daphne. In the adjacent fields a stadium
was built by a special privilege, which had been purchased from Elis;
the Olympic games were celebrated at the expense of the city; and a
revenue of thirty thousand pounds sterling was annually applied to
the public pleasures. The perpetual resort of pilgrims and spectators
insensibly formed, in the neighborhood of the temple, the stately
and populous village of Daphne, which emulated the splendor, without
acquiring the title, of a provincial city. The temple and the village
were deeply bosomed in a thick grove of laurels and cypresses, which
reached as far as a circumference of ten miles, and formed in the most
sultry summers a cool and impenetrable shade. A thousand streams of
the purest water, issuing from every hill, preserved the verdure of the
earth, and the temperature of the air; the senses were gratified
with harmonious sounds and aromatic odors; and the peaceful grove was
consecrated to health and joy, to luxury and love. The vigorous youth
pursued, like Apollo, the object of his desires; and the blushing maid
was warned, by the fate of Daphne, to shun the folly of unseasonable
coyness. The soldier and the philosopher wisely avoided the temptation
of this sensual paradise: where pleasure, assuming the character of
religion, imperceptibly dissolved the firmness of manly virtue. But
the groves of Daphne continued for many ages to enjoy the veneration of
natives and strangers; the privileges of the holy ground were enlarged
by the munificence of succeeding emperors; and every generation added
new ornaments to the splendor of the temple.

When Julian, on the day of the annual festival, hastened to adore
the Apollo of Daphne, his devotion was raised to the highest pitch
of eagerness and impatience. His lively imagination anticipated the
grateful pomp of victims, of libations and of incense; a long procession
of youths and virgins, clothed in white robes, the symbol of their
innocence; and the tumultuous concourse of an innumerable people. But
the zeal of Antioch was diverted, since the reign of Christianity, into
a different channel. Instead of hecatombs of fat oxen sacrificed by the
tribes of a wealthy city to their tutelar deity the emperor complains
that he found only a single goose, provided at the expense of a priest,
the pale and solitary in habitant of this decayed temple. The altar was
deserted, the oracle had been reduced to silence, and the holy ground
was profaned by the introduction of Christian and funereal rites. After
Babylas (a bishop of Antioch, who died in prison in the persecution of
Decius) had rested near a century in his grave, his body, by the order
of Cæsar Gallus, was transported into the midst of the grove of Daphne.
A magnificent church was erected over his remains; a portion of the
sacred lands was usurped for the maintenance of the clergy, and for the
burial of the Christians at Antioch, who were ambitious of lying at
the feet of their bishop; and the priests of Apollo retired, with their
affrighted and indignant votaries. As soon as another revolution seemed
to restore the fortune of Paganism, the church of St. Babylas was
demolished, and new buildings were added to the mouldering edifice which
had been raised by the piety of Syrian kings. But the first and most
serious care of Julian was to deliver his oppressed deity from
the odious presence of the dead and living Christians, who had so
effectually suppressed the voice of fraud or enthusiasm. The scene of
infection was purified, according to the forms of ancient rituals;
the bodies were decently removed; and the ministers of the church
were permitted to convey the remains of St. Babylas to their former
habitation within the walls of Antioch. The modest behavior which might
have assuaged the jealousy of a hostile government was neglected,
on this occasion, by the zeal of the Christians. The lofty car, that
transported the relics of Babylas, was followed, and accompanied, and
received, by an innumerable multitude; who chanted, with thundering
acclamations, the Psalms of David the most expressive of their contempt
for idols and idolaters. The return of the saint was a triumph; and the
triumph was an insult on the religion of the emperor, who exerted his
pride to dissemble his resentment. During the night which terminated
this indiscreet procession, the temple of Daphne was in flames; the
statue of Apollo was consumed; and the walls of the edifice were left
a naked and awful monument of ruin. The Christians of Antioch asserted,
with religious confidence, that the powerful intercession of St. Babylas
had pointed the lightnings of heaven against the devoted roof: but as
Julian was reduced to the alternative of believing either a crime or a
miracle, he chose, without hesitation, without evidence, but with some
color of probability, to impute the fire of Daphne to the revenge of the
Galilæans. Their offence, had it been sufficiently proved, might have
justified the retaliation, which was immediately executed by the order
of Julian, of shutting the doors, and confiscating the wealth, of the
cathedral of Antioch. To discover the criminals who were guilty of the
tumult, of the fire, or of secreting the riches of the church, several
of the ecclesiastics were tortured; and a Presbyter, of the name of
Theodoret, was beheaded by the sentence of the Count of the East. But
this hasty act was blamed by the emperor; who lamented, with real or
affected concern, that the imprudent zeal of his ministers would tarnish
his reign with the disgrace of persecution.


Chapter XXIII: Reign Of Julian.--Part V.

The zeal of the ministers of Julian was instantly checked by the frown
of their sovereign; but when the father of his country declares himself
the leader of a faction, the license of popular fury cannot easily be
restrained, nor consistently punished. Julian, in a public composition,
applauds the devotion and loyalty of the holy cities of Syria, whose
pious inhabitants had destroyed, at the first signal, the sepulchres
of the Galilæans; and faintly complains, that they had revenged
the injuries of the gods with less moderation than he should have
recommended. This imperfect and reluctant confession may appear to
confirm the ecclesiastical narratives; that in the cities of Gaza,
Ascalon, Cæsarea, Heliopolis, &c., the Pagans abused, without prudence
or remorse, the moment of their prosperity. That the unhappy objects
of their cruelty were released from torture only by death; and as their
mangled bodies were dragged through the streets, they were pierced
(such was the universal rage) by the spits of cooks, and the distaffs of
enraged women; and that the entrails of Christian priests and virgins,
after they had been tasted by those bloody fanatics, were mixed with
barley, and contemptuously thrown to the unclean animals of the city.
Such scenes of religious madness exhibit the most contemptible and
odious picture of human nature; but the massacre of Alexandria attracts
still more attention, from the certainty of the fact, the rank of the
victims, and the splendor of the capital of Egypt.

George, from his parents or his education, surnamed the Cappadocian, was
born at Epiphania in Cilicia, in a fuller's shop. From this obscure and
servile origin he raised himself by the talents of a parasite; and the
patrons, whom he assiduously flattered, procured for their worthless
dependent a lucrative commission, or contract, to supply the army with
bacon. His employment was mean; he rendered it infamous. He accumulated
wealth by the basest arts of fraud and corruption; but his malversations
were so notorious, that George was compelled to escape from the pursuits
of justice. After this disgrace, in which he appears to have saved his
fortune at the expense of his honor, he embraced, with real or affected
zeal, the profession of Arianism. From the love, or the ostentation,
of learning, he collected a valuable library of history rhetoric,
philosophy, and theology, and the choice of the prevailing faction
promoted George of Cappadocia to the throne of Athanasius. The entrance
of the new archbishop was that of a Barbarian conqueror; and each moment
of his reign was polluted by cruelty and avarice. The Catholics of
Alexandria and Egypt were abandoned to a tyrant, qualified, by nature
and education, to exercise the office of persecution; but he oppressed
with an impartial hand the various inhabitants of his extensive diocese.
The primate of Egypt assumed the pomp and insolence of his lofty
station; but he still betrayed the vices of his base and servile
extraction. The merchants of Alexandria were impoverished by the unjust,
and almost universal, monopoly, which he acquired, of nitre, salt,
paper, funerals, &c.: and the spiritual father of a great people
condescended to practise the vile and pernicious arts of an informer.
The Alexandrians could never forget, nor forgive, the tax, which he
suggested, on all the houses of the city; under an obsolete claim, that
the royal founder had conveyed to his successors, the Ptolemies and the
Cæsars, the perpetual property of the soil. The Pagans, who had been
flattered with the hopes of freedom and toleration, excited his devout
avarice; and the rich temples of Alexandria were either pillaged or
insulted by the haughty prince, who exclaimed, in a loud and threatening
tone, "How long will these sepulchres be permitted to stand?" Under
the reign of Constantius, he was expelled by the fury, or rather by the
justice, of the people; and it was not without a violent struggle, that
the civil and military powers of the state could restore his authority,
and gratify his revenge. The messenger who proclaimed at Alexandria the
accession of Julian, announced the downfall of the archbishop. George,
with two of his obsequious ministers, Count Diodorus, and Dracontius,
master of the mint were ignominiously dragged in chains to the public
prison. At the end of twenty-four days, the prison was forced open by
the rage of a superstitious multitude, impatient of the tedious forms
of judicial proceedings. The enemies of gods and men expired under their
cruel insults; the lifeless bodies of the archbishop and his associates
were carried in triumph through the streets on the back of a camel;
* and the inactivity of the Athanasian party was esteemed a shining
example of evangelical patience. The remains of these guilty wretches
were thrown into the sea; and the popular leaders of the tumult declared
their resolution to disappoint the devotion of the Christians, and to
intercept the future honors of these martyrs, who had been punished,
like their predecessors, by the enemies of their religion. The fears of
the Pagans were just, and their precautions ineffectual. The meritorious
death of the archbishop obliterated the memory of his life. The rival of
Athanasius was dear and sacred to the Arians, and the seeming conversion
of those sectaries introduced his worship into the bosom of the Catholic
church. The odious stranger, disguising every circumstance of time and
place, assumed the mask of a martyr, a saint, and a Christian hero; and
the infamous George of Cappadocia has been transformed into the renowned
St. George of England, the patron of arms, of chivalry, and of the
garter.

About the same time that Julian was informed of the tumult of
Alexandria, he received intelligence from Edessa, that the proud
and wealthy faction of the Arians had insulted the weakness of the
Valentinians, and committed such disorders as ought not to be suffered
with impunity in a well-regulated state. Without expecting the slow
forms of justice, the exasperated prince directed his mandate to the
magistrates of Edessa, by which he confiscated the whole property of
the church: the money was distributed among the soldiers; the lands were
added to the domain; and this act of oppression was aggravated by the
most ungenerous irony. "I show myself," says Julian, "the true friend of
the Galilæans. Their admirable law has promised the kingdom of heaven
to the poor; and they will advance with more diligence in the paths of
virtue and salvation, when they are relieved by my assistance from the
load of temporal possessions. Take care," pursued the monarch, in a more
serious tone, "take care how you provoke my patience and humanity. If
these disorders continue, I will revenge on the magistrates the crimes
of the people; and you will have reason to dread, not only confiscation
and exile, but fire and the sword." The tumults of Alexandria were
doubtless of a more bloody and dangerous nature: but a Christian bishop
had fallen by the hands of the Pagans; and the public epistle of Julian
affords a very lively proof of the partial spirit of his administration.
His reproaches to the citizens of Alexandria are mingled with
expressions of esteem and tenderness; and he laments, that, on this
occasion, they should have departed from the gentle and generous manners
which attested their Grecian extraction. He gravely censures the offence
which they had committed against the laws of justice and humanity; but
he recapitulates, with visible complacency, the intolerable provocations
which they had so long endured from the impious tyranny of George
of Cappadocia. Julian admits the principle, that a wise and vigorous
government should chastise the insolence of the people; yet, in
consideration of their founder Alexander, and of Serapis their tutelar
deity, he grants a free and gracious pardon to the guilty city, for
which he again feels the affection of a brother.

After the tumult of Alexandria had subsided, Athanasius, amidst the
public acclamations, seated himself on the throne from whence his
unworthy competitor had been precipitated: and as the zeal of the
archbishop was tempered with discretion, the exercise of his authority
tended not to inflame, but to reconcile, the minds of the people. His
pastoral labors were not confined to the narrow limits of Egypt. The
state of the Christian world was present to his active and capacious
mind; and the age, the merit, the reputation of Athanasius, enabled him
to assume, in a moment of danger, the office of Ecclesiastical Dictator.
Three years were not yet elapsed since the majority of the bishops of
the West had ignorantly, or reluctantly, subscribed the Confession of
Rimini. They repented, they believed, but they dreaded the unseasonable
rigor of their orthodox brethren; and if their pride was stronger than
their faith, they might throw themselves into the arms of the Arians, to
escape the indignity of a public penance, which must degrade them to the
condition of obscure laymen. At the same time the domestic differences
concerning the union and distinction of the divine persons, were
agitated with some heat among the Catholic doctors; and the progress of
this metaphysical controversy seemed to threaten a public and lasting
division of the Greek and Latin churches. By the wisdom of a select
synod, to which the name and presence of Athanasius gave the authority
of a general council, the bishops, who had unwarily deviated into error,
were admitted to the communion of the church, on the easy condition of
subscribing the Nicene Creed; without any formal acknowledgment of their
past fault, or any minute definition of their scholastic opinions. The
advice of the primate of Egypt had already prepared the clergy of Gaul
and Spain, of Italy and Greece, for the reception of this salutary
measure; and, notwithstanding the opposition of some ardent spirits,
the fear of the common enemy promoted the peace and harmony of the
Christians.

The skill and diligence of the primate of Egypt had improved the season
of tranquillity, before it was interrupted by the hostile edicts of the
emperor. Julian, who despised the Christians, honored Athanasius with
his sincere and peculiar hatred. For his sake alone, he introduced an
arbitrary distinction, repugnant at least to the spirit of his former
declarations. He maintained, that the Galilæans, whom he had recalled
from exile, were not restored, by that general indulgence, to
the possession of their respective churches; and he expressed his
astonishment, that a criminal, who had been repeatedly condemned by the
judgment of the emperors, should dare to insult the majesty of the laws,
and insolently usurp the archiepiscopal throne of Alexandria, without
expecting the orders of his sovereign. As a punishment for the imaginary
offence, he again banished Athanasius from the city; and he was pleased
to suppose, that this act of justice would be highly agreeable to his
pious subjects. The pressing solicitations of the people soon convinced
him, that the majority of the Alexandrians were Christians; and that
the greatest part of the Christians were firmly attached to the cause of
their oppressed primate. But the knowledge of their sentiments, instead
of persuading him to recall his decree, provoked him to extend to all
Egypt the term of the exile of Athanasius. The zeal of the multitude
rendered Julian still more inexorable: he was alarmed by the danger of
leaving at the head of a tumultuous city, a daring and popular leader;
and the language of his resentment discovers the opinion which he
entertained of the courage and abilities of Athanasius. The execution
of the sentence was still delayed, by the caution or negligence of
Ecdicius, præfect of Egypt, who was at length awakened from his lethargy
by a severe reprimand. "Though you neglect," says Julian, "to write to
me on any other subject, at least it is your duty to inform me of your
conduct towards Athanasius, the enemy of the gods. My intentions have
been long since communicated to you. I swear by the great Serapis,
that unless, on the calends of December, Athanasius has departed from
Alexandria, nay, from Egypt, the officers of your government shall pay
a fine of one hundred pounds of gold. You know my temper: I am slow to
condemn, but I am still slower to forgive." This epistle was enforced by
a short postscript, written with the emperor's own hand. "The contempt
that is shown for all the gods fills me with grief and indignation.
There is nothing that I should see, nothing that I should hear, with
more pleasure, than the expulsion of Athanasius from all Egypt. The
abominable wretch! Under my reign, the baptism of several Grecian ladies
of the highest rank has been the effect of his persecutions." The death
of Athanasius was not expressly commanded; but the præfect of Egypt
understood that it was safer for him to exceed, than to neglect, the
orders of an irritated master. The archbishop prudently retired to the
monasteries of the Desert; eluded, with his usual dexterity, the snares
of the enemy; and lived to triumph over the ashes of a prince, who, in
words of formidable import, had declared his wish that the whole
venom of the Galilæan school were contained in the single person of
Athanasius.

I have endeavored faithfully to represent the artful system by which
Julian proposed to obtain the effects, without incurring the guilt,
or reproach, of persecution. But if the deadly spirit of fanaticism
perverted the heart and understanding of a virtuous prince, it must, at
the same time, be confessed that the real sufferings of the Christians
were inflamed and magnified by human passions and religious enthusiasm.
The meekness and resignation which had distinguished the primitive
disciples of the gospel, was the object of the applause, rather than of
the imitation of their successors. The Christians, who had now possessed
above forty years the civil and ecclesiastical government of the empire,
had contracted the insolent vices of prosperity, and the habit of
believing that the saints alone were entitled to reign over the earth.
As soon as the enmity of Julian deprived the clergy of the privileges
which had been conferred by the favor of Constantine, they complained
of the most cruel oppression; and the free toleration of idolaters and
heretics was a subject of grief and scandal to the orthodox party. The
acts of violence, which were no longer countenanced by the magistrates,
were still committed by the zeal of the people. At Pessinus, the altar
of Cybele was overturned almost in the presence of the emperor; and in
the city of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, the temple of Fortune, the sole place
of worship which had been left to the Pagans, was destroyed by the rage
of a popular tumult. On these occasions, a prince, who felt for the
honor of the gods, was not disposed to interrupt the course of justice;
and his mind was still more deeply exasperated, when he found that the
fanatics, who had deserved and suffered the punishment of incendiaries,
were rewarded with the honors of martyrdom. The Christian subjects of
Julian were assured of the hostile designs of their sovereign; and, to
their jealous apprehension, every circumstance of his government
might afford some grounds of discontent and suspicion. In the ordinary
administration of the laws, the Christians, who formed so large a
part of the people, must frequently be condemned: but their indulgent
brethren, without examining the merits of the cause, presumed their
innocence, allowed their claims, and imputed the severity of their judge
to the partial malice of religious persecution. These present hardships,
intolerable as they might appear, were represented as a slight prelude
of the impending calamities. The Christians considered Julian as a cruel
and crafty tyrant; who suspended the execution of his revenge till he
should return victorious from the Persian war. They expected, that as
soon as he had triumphed over the foreign enemies of Rome, he would lay
aside the irksome mask of dissimulation; that the amphitheatre would
stream with the blood of hermits and bishops; and that the Christians
who still persevered in the profession of the faith, would be deprived
of the common benefits of nature and society. Every calumny that could
wound the reputation of the Apostate, was credulously embraced by
the fears and hatred of his adversaries; and their indiscreet clamors
provoked the temper of a sovereign, whom it was their duty to respect,
and their interest to flatter. They still protested, that prayers and
tears were their only weapons against the impious tyrant, whose head
they devoted to the justice of offended Heaven. But they insinuated,
with sullen resolution, that their submission was no longer the effect
of weakness; and that, in the imperfect state of human virtue,
the patience, which is founded on principle, may be exhausted by
persecution. It is impossible to determine how far the zeal of Julian
would have prevailed over his good sense and humanity; but if we
seriously reflect on the strength and spirit of the church, we shall be
convinced, that before the emperor could have extinguished the religion
of Christ, he must have involved his country in the horrors of a civil
war.



Chapter XXIV: The Retreat And Death Of Julian.--Part I.

     Residence Of Julian At Antioch.--His Successful Expedition
     Against The Persians.--Passage Of The Tigris--The Retreat
     And Death Of Julian.--Election Of Jovian.--He Saves The
     Roman Army By A Disgraceful Treaty.

The philosophical fable which Julian composed under the name of the
Cæsars, is one of the most agreeable and instructive productions
of ancient wit. During the freedom and equality of the days of the
Saturnalia, Romulus prepared a feast for the deities of Olympus, who had
adopted him as a worthy associate, and for the Roman princes, who had
reigned over his martial people, and the vanquished nations of the
earth. The immortals were placed in just order on their thrones of
state, and the table of the Cæsars was spread below the Moon in the
upper region of the air. The tyrants, who would have disgraced the
society of gods and men, were thrown headlong, by the inexorable
Nemesis, into the Tartarean abyss. The rest of the Cæsars successively
advanced to their seats; and as they passed, the vices, the defects, the
blemishes of their respective characters, were maliciously noticed
by old Silenus, a laughing moralist, who disguised the wisdom of a
philosopher under the mask of a Bacchanal. As soon as the feast was
ended, the voice of Mercury proclaimed the will of Jupiter, that a
celestial crown should be the reward of superior merit. Julius Cæsar,
Augustus, Trajan, and Marcus Antoninus, were selected as the most
illustrious candidates; the effeminate Constantine was not excluded
from this honorable competition, and the great Alexander was invited to
dispute the prize of glory with the Roman heroes. Each of the candidates
was allowed to display the merit of his own exploits; but, in the
judgment of the gods, the modest silence of Marcus pleaded more
powerfully than the elaborate orations of his haughty rivals. When the
judges of this awful contest proceeded to examine the heart, and to
scrutinize the springs of action, the superiority of the Imperial Stoic
appeared still more decisive and conspicuous. Alexander and Cæsar,
Augustus, Trajan, and Constantine, acknowledged, with a blush, that
fame, or power, or pleasure had been the important object of their
labors: but the gods themselves beheld, with reverence and love,
a virtuous mortal, who had practised on the throne the lessons of
philosophy; and who, in a state of human imperfection, had aspired to
imitate the moral attributes of the Deity. The value of this agreeable
composition (the Cæsars of Julian) is enhanced by the rank of the
author. A prince, who delineates, with freedom, the vices and virtues of
his predecessors, subscribes, in every line, the censure or approbation
of his own conduct.

In the cool moments of reflection, Julian preferred the useful and
benevolent virtues of Antoninus; but his ambitious spirit was inflamed
by the glory of Alexander; and he solicited, with equal ardor, the
esteem of the wise, and the applause of the multitude. In the season of
life when the powers of the mind and body enjoy the most active vigor,
the emperor who was instructed by the experience, and animated by the
success, of the German war, resolved to signalize his reign by some more
splendid and memorable achievement. The ambassadors of the East, from
the continent of India, and the Isle of Ceylon, had respectfully saluted
the Roman purple. The nations of the West esteemed and dreaded the
personal virtues of Julian, both in peace and war. He despised the
trophies of a Gothic victory, and was satisfied that the rapacious
Barbarians of the Danube would be restrained from any future violation
of the faith of treaties by the terror of his name, and the additional
fortifications with which he strengthened the Thracian and Illyrian
frontiers. The successor of Cyrus and Artaxerxes was the only rival whom
he deemed worthy of his arms; and he resolved, by the final conquest of
Persia, to chastise the naughty nation which had so long resisted
and insulted the majesty of Rome. As soon as the Persian monarch was
informed that the throne of Constantius was filed by a prince of a very
different character, he condescended to make some artful, or perhaps
sincere, overtures towards a negotiation of peace. But the pride of
Sapor was astonished by the firmness of Julian; who sternly declared,
that he would never consent to hold a peaceful conference among the
flames and ruins of the cities of Mesopotamia; and who added, with a
smile of contempt, that it was needless to treat by ambassadors, as
he himself had determined to visit speedily the court of Persia.
The impatience of the emperor urged the diligence of the military
preparations. The generals were named; and Julian, marching from
Constantinople through the provinces of Asia Minor, arrived at Antioch
about eight months after the death of his predecessor. His ardent desire
to march into the heart of Persia, was checked by the indispensable duty
of regulating the state of the empire; by his zeal to revive the worship
of the gods; and by the advice of his wisest friends; who represented
the necessity of allowing the salutary interval of winter quarters,
to restore the exhausted strength of the legions of Gaul, and the
discipline and spirit of the Eastern troops. Julian was persuaded to
fix, till the ensuing spring, his residence at Antioch, among a people
maliciously disposed to deride the haste, and to censure the delays, of
their sovereign.

If Julian had flattered himself, that his personal connection with the
capital of the East would be productive of mutual satisfaction to the
prince and people, he made a very false estimate of his own character,
and of the manners of Antioch. The warmth of the climate disposed the
natives to the most intemperate enjoyment of tranquillity and opulence;
and the lively licentiousness of the Greeks was blended with the
hereditary softness of the Syrians. Fashion was the only law, pleasure
the only pursuit, and the splendor of dress and furniture was the only
distinction of the citizens of Antioch. The arts of luxury were honored;
the serious and manly virtues were the subject of ridicule; and the
contempt for female modesty and reverent age announced the universal
corruption of the capital of the East. The love of spectacles was the
taste, or rather passion, of the Syrians; the most skilful artists were
procured from the adjacent cities; a considerable share of the revenue
was devoted to the public amusements; and the magnificence of the games
of the theatre and circus was considered as the happiness and as the
glory of Antioch. The rustic manners of a prince who disdained such
glory, and was insensible of such happiness, soon disgusted the delicacy
of his subjects; and the effeminate Orientals could neither imitate,
nor admire, the severe simplicity which Julian always maintained, and
sometimes affected. The days of festivity, consecrated, by ancient
custom, to the honor of the gods, were the only occasions in which
Julian relaxed his philosophic severity; and those festivals were the
only days in which the Syrians of Antioch could reject the allurements
of pleasure. The majority of the people supported the glory of the
Christian name, which had been first invented by their ancestors: they
contended themselves with disobeying the moral precepts, but they were
scrupulously attached to the speculative doctrines of their religion.
The church of Antioch was distracted by heresy and schism; but the
Arians and the Athanasians, the followers of Meletius and those of
Paulinus, were actuated by the same pious hatred of their common
adversary.

The strongest prejudice was entertained against the character of an
apostate, the enemy and successor of a prince who had engaged the
affections of a very numerous sect; and the removal of St. Babylas
excited an implacable opposition to the person of Julian. His subjects
complained, with superstitious indignation, that famine had pursued the
emperor's steps from Constantinople to Antioch; and the discontent of
a hungry people was exasperated by the injudicious attempt to relieve
their distress. The inclemency of the season had affected the harvests
of Syria; and the price of bread, in the markets of Antioch, had
naturally risen in proportion to the scarcity of corn. But the fair
and reasonable proportion was soon violated by the rapacious arts of
monopoly. In this unequal contest, in which the produce of the land is
claimed by one party as his exclusive property, is used by another as a
lucrative object of trade, and is required by a third for the daily and
necessary support of life, all the profits of the intermediate agents
are accumulated on the head of the defenceless customers. The hardships
of their situation were exaggerated and increased by their own
impatience and anxiety; and the apprehension of a scarcity gradually
produced the appearances of a famine. When the luxurious citizens
of Antioch complained of the high price of poultry and fish, Julian
publicly declared, that a frugal city ought to be satisfied with a
regular supply of wine, oil, and bread; but he acknowledged, that it was
the duty of a sovereign to provide for the subsistence of his people.
With this salutary view, the emperor ventured on a very dangerous and
doubtful step, of fixing, by legal authority, the value of corn. He
enacted, that, in a time of scarcity, it should be sold at a price which
had seldom been known in the most plentiful years; and that his own
example might strengthen his laws, he sent into the market four hundred
and twenty-two thousand modii, or measures, which were drawn by his
order from the granaries of Hierapolis, of Chalcis, and even of Egypt.
The consequences might have been foreseen, and were soon felt. The
Imperial wheat was purchased by the rich merchants; the proprietors of
land, or of corn, withheld from the city the accustomed supply; and the
small quantities that appeared in the market were secretly sold at an
advanced and illegal price. Julian still continued to applaud his own
policy, treated the complaints of the people as a vain and ungrateful
murmur, and convinced Antioch that he had inherited the obstinacy,
though not the cruelty, of his brother Gallus. The remonstrances of the
municipal senate served only to exasperate his inflexible mind. He
was persuaded, perhaps with truth, that the senators of Antioch who
possessed lands, or were concerned in trade, had themselves contributed
to the calamities of their country; and he imputed the disrespectful
boldness which they assumed, to the sense, not of public duty, but of
private interest. The whole body, consisting of two hundred of the most
noble and wealthy citizens, were sent, under a guard, from the palace to
the prison; and though they were permitted, before the close of evening,
to return to their respective houses, the emperor himself could
not obtain the forgiveness which he had so easily granted. The same
grievances were still the subject of the same complaints, which were
industriously circulated by the wit and levity of the Syrian Greeks.
During the licentious days of the Saturnalia, the streets of the city
resounded with insolent songs, which derided the laws, the religion,
the personal conduct, and even the beard, of the emperor; the spirit
of Antioch was manifested by the connivance of the magistrates, and
the applause of the multitude. The disciple of Socrates was too deeply
affected by these popular insults; but the monarch, endowed with a quick
sensibility, and possessed of absolute power, refused his passions
the gratification of revenge. A tyrant might have proscribed, without
distinction, the lives and fortunes of the citizens of Antioch; and
the unwarlike Syrians must have patiently submitted to the lust, the
rapaciousness and the cruelty, of the faithful legions of Gaul. A milder
sentence might have deprived the capital of the East of its honors and
privileges; and the courtiers, perhaps the subjects, of Julian, would
have applauded an act of justice, which asserted the dignity of the
supreme magistrate of the republic. But instead of abusing, or exerting,
the authority of the state, to revenge his personal injuries, Julian
contented himself with an inoffensive mode of retaliation, which it
would be in the power of few princes to employ. He had been insulted
by satires and libels; in his turn, he composed, under the title of
the Enemy of the Beard, an ironical confession of his own faults, and a
severe satire on the licentious and effeminate manners of Antioch. This
Imperial reply was publicly exposed before the gates of the palace; and
the Misopogon still remains a singular monument of the resentment, the
wit, the humanity, and the indiscretion of Julian. Though he affected to
laugh, he could not forgive. His contempt was expressed, and his revenge
might be gratified, by the nomination of a governor worthy only of
such subjects; and the emperor, forever renouncing the ungrateful
city, proclaimed his resolution to pass the ensuing winter at Tarsus in
Cilicia.

Yet Antioch possessed one citizen, whose genius and virtues might atone,
in the opinion of Julian, for the vice and folly of his country. The
sophist Libanius was born in the capital of the East; he publicly
professed the arts of rhetoric and declamation at Nice, Nicomedia,
Constantinople, Athens, and, during the remainder of his life, at
Antioch. His school was assiduously frequented by the Grecian youth; his
disciples, who sometimes exceeded the number of eighty, celebrated their
incomparable master; and the jealousy of his rivals, who persecuted him
from one city to another, confirmed the favorable opinion which Libanius
ostentatiously displayed of his superior merit. The preceptors of Julian
had extorted a rash but solemn assurance, that he would never attend
the lectures of their adversary: the curiosity of the royal youth
was checked and inflamed: he secretly procured the writings of this
dangerous sophist, and gradually surpassed, in the perfect imitation
of his style, the most laborious of his domestic pupils. When Julian
ascended the throne, he declared his impatience to embrace and reward
the Syrian sophist, who had preserved, in a degenerate age, the
Grecian purity of taste, of manners, and of religion. The emperor's
prepossession was increased and justified by the discreet pride of his
favorite. Instead of pressing, with the foremost of the crowd, into
the palace of Constantinople, Libanius calmly expected his arrival
at Antioch; withdrew from court on the first symptoms of coldness and
indifference; required a formal invitation for each visit; and taught
his sovereign an important lesson, that he might command the obedience
of a subject, but that he must deserve the attachment of a friend.
The sophists of every age, despising, or affecting to despise, the
accidental distinctions of birth and fortune, reserve their esteem for
the superior qualities of the mind, with which they themselves are so
plentifully endowed. Julian might disdain the acclamations of a venal
court, who adored the Imperial purple; but he was deeply flattered by
the praise, the admonition, the freedom, and the envy of an independent
philosopher, who refused his favors, loved his person, celebrated his
fame, and protected his memory. The voluminous writings of Libanius
still exist; for the most part, they are the vain and idle compositions
of an orator, who cultivated the science of words; the productions of
a recluse student, whose mind, regardless of his contemporaries, was
incessantly fixed on the Trojan war and the Athenian commonwealth.
Yet the sophist of Antioch sometimes descended from this imaginary
elevation; he entertained a various and elaborate correspondence; he
praised the virtues of his own times; he boldly arraigned the abuse of
public and private life; and he eloquently pleaded the cause of Antioch
against the just resentment of Julian and Theodosius. It is the common
calamity of old age, to lose whatever might have rendered it desirable;
but Libanius experienced the peculiar misfortune of surviving the
religion and the sciences, to which he had consecrated his genius.
The friend of Julian was an indignant spectator of the triumph of
Christianity; and his bigotry, which darkened the prospect of the
visible world, did not inspire Libanius with any lively hopes of
celestial glory and happiness.



Chapter XXIV: The Retreat And Death Of Julian.--Part II.

The martial impatience of Julian urged him to take the field in the
beginning of the spring; and he dismissed, with contempt and reproach,
the senate of Antioch, who accompanied the emperor beyond the limits of
their own territory, to which he was resolved never to return. After a
laborious march of two days, he halted on the third at Beræa, or Aleppo,
where he had the mortification of finding a senate almost entirely
Christian; who received with cold and formal demonstrations of respect
the eloquent sermon of the apostle of paganism. The son of one of
the most illustrious citizens of Beræa, who had embraced, either from
interest or conscience, the religion of the emperor, was disinherited
by his angry parent. The father and the son were invited to the Imperial
table. Julian, placing himself between them, attempted, without success,
to inculcate the lesson and example of toleration; supported, with
affected calmness, the indiscreet zeal of the aged Christian, who seemed
to forget the sentiments of nature, and the duty of a subject; and at
length, turning towards the afflicted youth, "Since you have lost a
father," said he, "for my sake, it is incumbent on me to supply his
place." The emperor was received in a manner much more agreeable to
his wishes at Batnæ, * a small town pleasantly seated in a grove of
cypresses, about twenty miles from the city of Hierapolis. The solemn
rites of sacrifice were decently prepared by the inhabitants of Batnæ,
who seemed attached to the worship of their tutelar deities, Apollo and
Jupiter; but the serious piety of Julian was offended by the tumult of
their applause; and he too clearly discerned, that the smoke which arose
from their altars was the incense of flattery, rather than of devotion.
The ancient and magnificent temple which had sanctified, for so many
ages, the city of Hierapolis, no longer subsisted; and the consecrated
wealth, which afforded a liberal maintenance to more than three hundred
priests, might hasten its downfall. Yet Julian enjoyed the satisfaction
of embracing a philosopher and a friend, whose religious firmness had
withstood the pressing and repeated solicitations of Constantius and
Gallus, as often as those princes lodged at his house, in their passage
through Hierapolis. In the hurry of military preparation, and the
careless confidence of a familiar correspondence, the zeal of Julian
appears to have been lively and uniform. He had now undertaken an
important and difficult war; and the anxiety of the event rendered him
still more attentive to observe and register the most trifling presages,
from which, according to the rules of divination, any knowledge of
futurity could be derived. He informed Libanius of his progress as far
as Hierapolis, by an elegant epistle, which displays the facility of his
genius, and his tender friendship for the sophist of Antioch.

Hierapolis, * situate almost on the banks of the Euphrates, had
been appointed for the general rendezvous of the Roman troops, who
immediately passed the great river on a bridge of boats, which was
previously constructed. If the inclinations of Julian had been similar
to those of his predecessor, he might have wasted the active and
important season of the year in the circus of Samosata or in the
churches of Edessa. But as the warlike emperor, instead of Constantius,
had chosen Alexander for his model, he advanced without delay to Carrhæ,
a very ancient city of Mesopotamia, at the distance of fourscore miles
from Hierapolis. The temple of the Moon attracted the devotion
of Julian; but the halt of a few days was principally employed in
completing the immense preparations of the Persian war. The secret of
the expedition had hitherto remained in his own breast; but as Carrhæ
is the point of separation of the two great roads, he could no longer
conceal whether it was his design to attack the dominions of Sapor
on the side of the Tigris, or on that of the Euphrates. The emperor
detached an army of thirty thousand men, under the command of his
kinsman Procopius, and of Sebastian, who had been duke of Egypt. They
were ordered to direct their march towards Nisibis, and to secure
the frontier from the desultory incursions of the enemy, before they
attempted the passage of the Tigris. Their subsequent operations were
left to the discretion of the generals; but Julian expected, that after
wasting with fire and sword the fertile districts of Media and Adiabene,
they might arrive under the walls of Ctesiphon at the same time that he
himself, advancing with equal steps along the banks of the Euphrates,
should besiege the capital of the Persian monarchy. The success of this
well-concerted plan depended, in a great measure, on the powerful and
ready assistance of the king of Armenia, who, without exposing the
safety of his own dominions, might detach an army of four thousand
horse, and twenty thousand foot, to the assistance of the Romans. But
the feeble Arsaces Tiranus, king of Armenia, had degenerated still more
shamefully than his father Chosroes, from the manly virtues of the great
Tiridates; and as the pusillanimous monarch was averse to any enterprise
of danger and glory, he could disguise his timid indolence by the
more decent excuses of religion and gratitude. He expressed a pious
attachment to the memory of Constantius, from whose hands he had
received in marriage Olympias, the daughter of the præfect Ablavius; and
the alliance of a female, who had been educated as the destined wife of
the emperor Constans, exalted the dignity of a Barbarian king.
Tiranus professed the Christian religion; he reigned over a nation of
Christians; and he was restrained, by every principle of conscience and
interest, from contributing to the victory, which would consummate the
ruin of the church. The alienated mind of Tiranus was exasperated by the
indiscretion of Julian, who treated the king of Armenia as his slave,
and as the enemy of the gods. The haughty and threatening style of the
Imperial mandates awakened the secret indignation of a prince, who, in
the humiliating state of dependence, was still conscious of his royal
descent from the Arsacides, the lords of the East, and the rivals of the
Roman power.

The military dispositions of Julian were skilfully contrived to deceive
the spies and to divert the attention of Sapor. The legions appeared
to direct their march towards Nisibis and the Tigris. On a sudden they
wheeled to the right; traversed the level and naked plain of Carrhæ; and
reached, on the third day, the banks of the Euphrates, where the strong
town of Nicephorium, or Callinicum, had been founded by the Macedonian
kings. From thence the emperor pursued his march, above ninety miles,
along the winding stream of the Euphrates, till, at length, about one
month after his departure from Antioch, he discovered the towers of
Circesium, * the extreme limit of the Roman dominions. The army of
Julian, the most numerous that any of the Cæsars had ever led against
Persia, consisted of sixty-five thousand effective and well-disciplined
soldiers. The veteran bands of cavalry and infantry, of Romans and
Barbarians, had been selected from the different provinces; and a just
preeminence of loyalty and valor was claimed by the hardy Gauls, who
guarded the throne and person of their beloved prince. A formidable body
of Scythian auxiliaries had been transported from another climate, and
almost from another world, to invade a distant country, of whose name
and situation they were ignorant. The love of rapine and war allured to
the Imperial standard several tribes of Saracens, or roving Arabs, whose
service Julian had commanded, while he sternly refuse the payment of the
accustomed subsidies. The broad channel of the Euphrates was crowded by
a fleet of eleven hundred ships, destined to attend the motions, and to
satisfy the wants, of the Roman army. The military strength of the fleet
was composed of fifty armed galleys; and these were accompanied by
an equal number of flat-bottomed boats, which might occasionally be
connected into the form of temporary bridges. The rest of the ships,
partly constructed of timber, and partly covered with raw hides, were
laden with an almost inexhaustible supply of arms and engines, of
utensils and provisions. The vigilant humanity of Julian had embarked a
very large magazine of vinegar and biscuit for the use of the soldiers,
but he prohibited the indulgence of wine; and rigorously stopped a long
string of superfluous camels that attempted to follow the rear of the
army. The River Chaboras falls into the Euphrates at Circesium; and
as soon as the trumpet gave the signal of march, the Romans passed the
little stream which separated two mighty and hostile empires. The custom
of ancient discipline required a military oration; and Julian embraced
every opportunity of displaying his eloquence. He animated the impatient
and attentive legions by the example of the inflexible courage and
glorious triumphs of their ancestors. He excited their resentment by a
lively picture of the insolence of the Persians; and he exhorted them to
imitate his firm resolution, either to extirpate that perfidious nation,
or to devote his life in the cause of the republic. The eloquence of
Julian was enforced by a donative of one hundred and thirty pieces of
silver to every soldier; and the bridge of the Chaboras was instantly
cut away, to convince the troops that they must place their hopes of
safety in the success of their arms. Yet the prudence of the emperor
induced him to secure a remote frontier, perpetually exposed to the
inroads of the hostile Arabs. A detachment of four thousand men was
left at Circesium, which completed, to the number of ten thousand, the
regular garrison of that important fortress.

From the moment that the Romans entered the enemy's country, the country
of an active and artful enemy, the order of march was disposed in three
columns. The strength of the infantry, and consequently of the whole
army was placed in the centre, under the peculiar command of their
master-general Victor. On the right, the brave Nevitta led a column of
several legions along the banks of the Euphrates, and almost always
in sight of the fleet. The left flank of the army was protected by the
column of cavalry. Hormisdas and Arinthæus were appointed generals of
the horse; and the singular adventures of Hormisdas are not undeserving
of our notice. He was a Persian prince, of the royal race of the
Sassanides, who, in the troubles of the minority of Sapor, had escaped
from prison to the hospitable court of the great Constantine. Hormisdas
at first excited the compassion, and at length acquired the esteem,
of his new masters; his valor and fidelity raised him to the military
honors of the Roman service; and though a Christian, he might indulge
the secret satisfaction of convincing his ungrateful country, than
at oppressed subject may prove the most dangerous enemy. Such was the
disposition of the three principal columns. The front and flanks of
the army were covered by Lucilianus with a flying detachment of fifteen
hundred light-armed soldiers, whose active vigilance observed the
most distant signs, and conveyed the earliest notice, of any hostile
approach. Dagalaiphus, and Secundinus duke of Osrhoene, conducted
the troops of the rear-guard; the baggage securely proceeded in the
intervals of the columns; and the ranks, from a motive either of use
or ostentation, were formed in such open order, that the whole line of
march extended almost ten miles. The ordinary post of Julian was at the
head of the centre column; but as he preferred the duties of a general
to the state of a monarch, he rapidly moved, with a small escort of
light cavalry, to the front, the rear, the flanks, wherever his presence
could animate or protect the march of the Roman army. The country which
they traversed from the Chaboras, to the cultivated lands of Assyria,
may be considered as a part of the desert of Arabia, a dry and barren
waste, which could never be improved by the most powerful arts of human
industry. Julian marched over the same ground which had been trod above
seven hundred years before by the footsteps of the younger Cyrus, and
which is described by one of the companions of his expedition, the sage
and heroic Xenophon. "The country was a plain throughout, as even as the
sea, and full of wormwood; and if any other kind of shrubs or reeds
grew there, they had all an aromatic smell, but no trees could be seen.
Bustards and ostriches, antelopes and wild asses, appeared to be the
only inhabitants of the desert; and the fatigues of the march were
alleviated by the amusements of the chase." The loose sand of the desert
was frequently raised by the wind into clouds of dust; and a great
number of the soldiers of Julian, with their tents, were suddenly thrown
to the ground by the violence of an unexpected hurricane.

The sandy plains of Mesopotamia were abandoned to the antelopes and wild
asses of the desert; but a variety of populous towns and villages were
pleasantly situated on the banks of the Euphrates, and in the islands
which are occasionally formed by that river. The city of Annah, or
Anatho, the actual residence of an Arabian emir, is composed of two long
streets, which enclose, within a natural fortification, a small island
in the midst, and two fruitful spots on either side, of the Euphrates.
The warlike inhabitants of Anatho showed a disposition to stop the march
of a Roman emperor; till they were diverted from such fatal presumption
by the mild exhortations of Prince Hormisdas, and the approaching
terrors of the fleet and army. They implored, and experienced, the
clemency of Julian, who transplanted the people to an advantageous
settlement, near Chalcis in Syria, and admitted Pusæus, the governor,
to an honorable rank in his service and friendship. But the impregnable
fortress of Thilutha could scorn the menace of a siege; and the emperor
was obliged to content himself with an insulting promise, that, when he
had subdued the interior provinces of Persia, Thilutha would no longer
refuse to grace the triumph of the emperor. The inhabitants of the
open towns, unable to resist, and unwilling to yield, fled with
precipitation; and their houses, filled with spoil and provisions, were
occupied by the soldiers of Julian, who massacred, without remorse
and without punishment, some defenceless women. During the march, the
Surenas, * or Persian general, and Malek Rodosaces, the renowned emir of
the tribe of Gassan, incessantly hovered round the army; every straggler
was intercepted; every detachment was attacked; and the valiant
Hormisdas escaped with some difficulty from their hands. But the
Barbarians were finally repulsed; the country became every day less
favorable to the operations of cavalry; and when the Romans arrived
at Macepracta, they perceived the ruins of the wall, which had been
constructed by the ancient kings of Assyria, to secure their dominions
from the incursions of the Medes. These preliminaries of the expedition
of Julian appear to have employed about fifteen days; and we may compute
near three hundred miles from the fortress of Circesium to the wall of
Macepracta.

The fertile province of Assyria, which stretched beyond the Tigris, as
far as the mountains of Media, extended about four hundred miles from
the ancient wall of Macepracta, to the territory of Basra, where the
united streams of the Euphrates and Tigris discharge themselves into the
Persian Gulf. The whole country might have claimed the peculiar name of
Mesopotamia; as the two rivers, which are never more distant than fifty,
approach, between Bagdad and Babylon, within twenty-five miles, of each
other. A multitude of artificial canals, dug without much labor in a
soft and yielding soil connected the rivers, and intersected the
plain of Assyria. The uses of these artificial canals were various and
important. They served to discharge the superfluous waters from one
river into the other, at the season of their respective inundations.
Subdividing themselves into smaller and smaller branches, they refreshed
the dry lands, and supplied the deficiency of rain. They facilitated the
intercourse of peace and commerce; and, as the dams could be speedily
broke down, they armed the despair of the Assyrians with the means of
opposing a sudden deluge to the progress of an invading army. To the
soil and climate of Assyria, nature had denied some of her choicest
gifts, the vine, the olive, and the fig-tree; * but the food which
supports the life of man, and particularly wheat and barley, were
produced with inexhaustible fertility; and the husbandman, who committed
his seed to the earth, was frequently rewarded with an increase of two,
or even of three, hundred. The face of the country was interspersed with
groves of innumerable palm-trees; and the diligent natives celebrated,
either in verse or prose, the three hundred and sixty uses to which
the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the juice, and the fruit, were
skilfully applied. Several manufactures, especially those of leather and
linen, employed the industry of a numerous people, and afforded valuable
materials for foreign trade; which appears, however, to have been
conducted by the hands of strangers. Babylon had been converted into a
royal park; but near the ruins of the ancient capital, new cities had
successively arisen, and the populousness of the country was displayed
in the multitude of towns and villages, which were built of bricks dried
in the sun, and strongly cemented with bitumen; the natural and peculiar
production of the Babylonian soil. While the successors of Cyrus reigned
over Asia, the province of Syria alone maintained, during a third part
of the year, the luxurious plenty of the table and household of the
Great King. Four considerable villages were assigned for the subsistence
of his Indian dogs; eight hundred stallions, and sixteen thousand mares,
were constantly kept, at the expense of the country, for the royal
stables; and as the daily tribute, which was paid to the satrap,
amounted to one English bushel of silver, we may compute the annual
revenue of Assyria at more than twelve hundred thousand pounds sterling.



Chapter XXIV: The Retreat And Death Of Julian.--Part III.

The fields of Assyria were devoted by Julian to the calamities of war;
and the philosopher retaliated on a guiltless people the acts of rapine
and cruelty which had been committed by their haughty master in the
Roman provinces. The trembling Assyrians summoned the rivers to their
assistance; and completed, with their own hands, the ruin of their
country. The roads were rendered impracticable; a flood of waters was
poured into the camp; and, during several days, the troops of Julian
were obliged to contend with the most discouraging hardships. But every
obstacle was surmounted by the perseverance of the legionaries, who were
inured to toil as well as to danger, and who felt themselves animated
by the spirit of their leader. The damage was gradually repaired;
the waters were restored to their proper channels; whole groves of
palm-trees were cut down, and placed along the broken parts of the road;
and the army passed over the broad and deeper canals, on bridges of
floating rafts, which were supported by the help of bladders. Two cities
of Assyria presumed to resist the arms of a Roman emperor: and they
both paid the severe penalty of their rashness. At the distance of fifty
miles from the royal residence of Ctesiphon, Perisabor, * or Anbar,
held the second rank in the province; a city, large, populous, and well
fortified, surrounded with a double wall, almost encompassed by a branch
of the Euphrates, and defended by the valor of a numerous garrison. The
exhortations of Hormisdas were repulsed with contempt; and the ears of
the Persian prince were wounded by a just reproach, that, unmindful of
his royal birth, he conducted an army of strangers against his king and
country. The Assyrians maintained their loyalty by a skilful, as well
as vigorous, defence; till the lucky stroke of a battering-ram, having
opened a large breach, by shattering one of the angles of the wall, they
hastily retired into the fortifications of the interior citadel. The
soldiers of Julian rushed impetuously into the town, and after the
full gratification of every military appetite, Perisabor was reduced to
ashes; and the engines which assaulted the citadel were planted on the
ruins of the smoking houses. The contest was continued by an incessant
and mutual discharge of missile weapons; and the superiority which the
Romans might derive from the mechanical powers of their balistæ and
catapultæ was counterbalanced by the advantage of the ground on the side
of the besieged. But as soon as an Helepolis had been constructed, which
could engage on equal terms with the loftiest ramparts, the tremendous
aspect of a moving turret, that would leave no hope of resistance or
mercy, terrified the defenders of the citadel into an humble submission;
and the place was surrendered only two days after Julian first appeared
under the walls of Perisabor. Two thousand five hundred persons, of both
sexes, the feeble remnant of a flourishing people, were permitted
to retire; the plentiful magazines of corn, of arms, and of splendid
furniture, were partly distributed among the troops, and partly reserved
for the public service; the useless stores were destroyed by fire or
thrown into the stream of the Euphrates; and the fate of Amida was
revenged by the total ruin of Perisabor.

The city or rather fortress, of Maogamalcha, which was defended by
sixteen large towers, a deep ditch, and two strong and solid walls of
brick and bitumen, appears to have been constructed at the distance of
eleven miles, as the safeguard of the capital of Persia. The emperor,
apprehensive of leaving such an important fortress in his rear,
immediately formed the siege of Maogamalcha; and the Roman army was
distributed, for that purpose, into three divisions. Victor, at the head
of the cavalry, and of a detachment of heavy-armed foot, was ordered to
clear the country, as far as the banks of the Tigris, and the suburbs of
Ctesiphon. The conduct of the attack was assumed by Julian himself, who
seemed to place his whole dependence in the military engines which
he erected against the walls; while he secretly contrived a more
efficacious method of introducing his troops into the heart of the city
Under the direction of Nevitta and Dagalaiphus, the trenches were opened
at a considerable distance, and gradually prolonged as far as the edge
of the ditch. The ditch was speedily filled with earth; and, by the
incessant labor of the troops, a mine was carried under the foundations
of the walls, and sustained, at sufficient intervals, by props of
timber. Three chosen cohorts, advancing in a single file, silently
explored the dark and dangerous passage; till their intrepid leader
whispered back the intelligence, that he was ready to issue from his
confinement into the streets of the hostile city. Julian checked their
ardor, that he might insure their success; and immediately diverted
the attention of the garrison, by the tumult and clamor of a general
assault. The Persians, who, from their walls, contemptuously beheld the
progress of an impotent attack, celebrated with songs of triumph the
glory of Sapor; and ventured to assure the emperor, that he might
ascend the starry mansion of Ormusd, before he could hope to take the
impregnable city of Maogamalcha. The city was already taken. History has
recorded the name of a private soldier the first who ascended from the
mine into a deserted tower. The passage was widened by his companions,
who pressed forwards with impatient valor. Fifteen hundred enemies were
already in the midst of the city. The astonished garrison abandoned the
walls, and their only hope of safety; the gates were instantly burst
open; and the revenge of the soldier, unless it were suspended by lust
or avarice, was satiated by an undistinguishing massacre. The governor,
who had yielded on a promise of mercy, was burnt alive, a few days
afterwards, on a charge of having uttered some disrespectful words
against the honor of Prince Hormisdas. * The fortifications were razed
to the ground; and not a vestige was left, that the city of Maogamalcha
had ever existed. The neighborhood of the capital of Persia was adorned
with three stately palaces, laboriously enriched with every production
that could gratify the luxury and pride of an Eastern monarch. The
pleasant situation of the gardens along the banks of the Tigris, was
improved, according to the Persian taste, by the symmetry of flowers,
fountains, and shady walks: and spacious parks were enclosed for the
reception of the bears, lions, and wild boars, which were maintained
at a considerable expense for the pleasure of the royal chase. The park
walls were broken down, the savage game was abandoned to the darts of
the soldiers, and the palaces of Sapor were reduced to ashes, by the
command of the Roman emperor. Julian, on this occasion, showed himself
ignorant, or careless, of the laws of civility, which the prudence and
refinement of polished ages have established between hostile princes.
Yet these wanton ravages need not excite in our breasts any vehement
emotions of pity or resentment. A simple, naked statue, finished by the
hand of a Grecian artist, is of more genuine value than all these rude
and costly monuments of Barbaric labor; and, if we are more deeply
affected by the ruin of a palace than by the conflagration of a cottage,
our humanity must have formed a very erroneous estimate of the miseries
of human life.

Julian was an object of hatred and terror to the Persian and the
painters of that nation represented the invader of their country under
the emblem of a furious lion, who vomited from his mouth a consuming
fire. To his friends and soldiers the philosophic hero appeared in
a more amiable light; and his virtues were never more conspicuously
displayed, than in the last and most active period of his life. He
practised, without effort, and almost without merit, the habitual
qualities of temperance and sobriety. According to the dictates of that
artificial wisdom, which assumes an absolute dominion over the mind
and body, he sternly refused himself the indulgence of the most natural
appetites. In the warm climate of Assyria, which solicited a luxurious
people to the gratification of every sensual desire, a youthful
conqueror preserved his chastity pure and inviolate; nor was Julian ever
tempted, even by a motive of curiosity, to visit his female captives
of exquisite beauty, who, instead of resisting his power, would have
disputed with each other the honor of his embraces. With the same
firmness that he resisted the allurements of love, he sustained the
hardships of war. When the Romans marched through the flat and flooded
country, their sovereign, on foot, at the head of his legions, shared
their fatigues and animated their diligence. In every useful labor, the
hand of Julian was prompt and strenuous; and the Imperial purple was wet
and dirty as the coarse garment of the meanest soldier. The two sieges
allowed him some remarkable opportunities of signalizing his personal
valor, which, in the improved state of the military art, can seldom
be exerted by a prudent general. The emperor stood before the citadel
before the citadel of Perisabor, insensible of his extreme danger,
and encouraged his troops to burst open the gates of iron, till he was
almost overwhelmed under a cloud of missile weapons and huge stones,
that were directed against his person. As he examined the exterior
fortifications of Maogamalcha, two Persians, devoting themselves for
their country, suddenly rushed upon him with drawn cimeters: the emperor
dexterously received their blows on his uplifted shield; and, with a
steady and well-aimed thrust, laid one of his adversaries dead at
his feet. The esteem of a prince who possesses the virtues which he
approves, is the noblest recompense of a deserving subject; and the
authority which Julian derived from his personal merit, enabled him to
revive and enforce the rigor of ancient discipline. He punished with
death or ignominy the misbehavior of three troops of horse, who, in
a skirmish with the Surenas, had lost their honor and one of their
standards: and he distinguished with obsidional crowns the valor of the
foremost soldiers, who had ascended into the city of Maogamalcha. After
the siege of Perisabor, the firmness of the emperor was exercised by the
insolent avarice of the army, who loudly complained, that their services
were rewarded by a trifling donative of one hundred pieces of silver.
His just indignation was expressed in the grave and manly language of a
Roman. "Riches are the object of your desires; those riches are in
the hands of the Persians; and the spoils of this fruitful country are
proposed as the prize of your valor and discipline. Believe me," added
Julian, "the Roman republic, which formerly possessed such immense
treasures, is now reduced to want and wretchedness once our princes have
been persuaded, by weak and interested ministers, to purchase with gold
the tranquillity of the Barbarians. The revenue is exhausted; the
cities are ruined; the provinces are dispeopled. For myself, the only
inheritance that I have received from my royal ancestors is a soul
incapable of fear; and as long as I am convinced that every real
advantage is seated in the mind, I shall not blush to acknowledge an
honorable poverty, which, in the days of ancient virtue, was considered
as the glory of Fabricius. That glory, and that virtue, may be your own,
if you will listen to the voice of Heaven and of your leader. But if
you will rashly persist, if you are determined to renew the shameful and
mischievous examples of old seditions, proceed. As it becomes an emperor
who has filled the first rank among men, I am prepared to die, standing;
and to despise a precarious life, which, every hour, may depend on an
accidental fever. If I have been found unworthy of the command, there
are now among you, (I speak it with pride and pleasure,) there are many
chiefs whose merit and experience are equal to the conduct of the most
important war. Such has been the temper of my reign, that I can retire,
without regret, and without apprehension, to the obscurity of a private
station." The modest resolution of Julian was answered by the unanimous
applause and cheerful obedience of the Romans, who declared their
confidence of victory, while they fought under the banners of their
heroic prince. Their courage was kindled by his frequent and familiar
asseverations, (for such wishes were the oaths of Julian,) "So may I
reduce the Persians under the yoke!" "Thus may I restore the strength
and splendor of the republic!" The love of fame was the ardent
passion of his soul: but it was not before he trampled on the ruins of
Maogamalcha, that he allowed himself to say, "We have now provided some
materials for the sophist of Antioch."

The successful valor of Julian had triumphed over all the obstacles that
opposed his march to the gates of Ctesiphon. But the reduction, or even
the siege, of the capital of Persia, was still at a distance: nor can
the military conduct of the emperor be clearly apprehended, without a
knowledge of the country which was the theatre of his bold and skilful
operations. Twenty miles to the south of Bagdad, and on the eastern bank
of the Tigris, the curiosity of travellers has observed some ruins of
the palaces of Ctesiphon, which, in the time of Julian, was a great and
populous city. The name and glory of the adjacent Seleucia were forever
extinguished; and the only remaining quarter of that Greek colony
had resumed, with the Assyrian language and manners, the primitive
appellation of Coche. Coche was situate on the western side of the
Tigris; but it was naturally considered as a suburb of Ctesiphon, with
which we may suppose it to have been connected by a permanent bridge
of boats. The united parts contribute to form the common epithet of
Al Modain, the cities, which the Orientals have bestowed on the winter
residence of the Sassinades; and the whole circumference of the Persian
capital was strongly fortified by the waters of the river, by lofty
walls, and by impracticable morasses. Near the ruins of Seleucia, the
camp of Julian was fixed, and secured, by a ditch and rampart, against
the sallies of the numerous and enterprising garrison of Coche. In this
fruitful and pleasant country, the Romans were plentifully supplied with
water and forage: and several forts, which might have embarrassed the
motions of the army, submitted, after some resistance, to the efforts
of their valor. The fleet passed from the Euphrates into an artificial
derivation of that river, which pours a copious and navigable stream
into the Tigris, at a small distance below the great city. If they had
followed this royal canal, which bore the name of Nahar-Malcha, the
intermediate situation of Coche would have separated the fleet and army
of Julian; and the rash attempt of steering against the current of the
Tigris, and forcing their way through the midst of a hostile capital,
must have been attended with the total destruction of the Roman navy.
The prudence of the emperor foresaw the danger, and provided the remedy.
As he had minutely studied the operations of Trajan in the same country,
he soon recollected that his warlike predecessor had dug a new and
navigable canal, which, leaving Coche on the right hand, conveyed the
waters of the Nahar-Malcha into the river Tigris, at some distance above
the cities. From the information of the peasants, Julian ascertained the
vestiges of this ancient work, which were almost obliterated by design
or accident. By the indefatigable labor of the soldiers, a broad and
deep channel was speedily prepared for the reception of the Euphrates.
A strong dike was constructed to interrupt the ordinary current of the
Nahar-Malcha: a flood of waters rushed impetuously into their new bed;
and the Roman fleet, steering their triumphant course into the Tigris,
derided the vain and ineffectual barriers which the Persians of
Ctesiphon had erected to oppose their passage.

As it became necessary to transport the Roman army over the Tigris,
another labor presented itself, of less toil, but of more danger, than
the preceding expedition. The stream was broad and rapid; the ascent
steep and difficult; and the intrenchments which had been formed on the
ridge of the opposite bank, were lined with a numerous army of heavy
cuirassiers, dexterous archers, and huge elephants; who (according to
the extravagant hyperbole of Libanius) could trample with the same
ease a field of corn, or a legion of Romans. In the presence of such an
enemy, the construction of a bridge was impracticable; and the intrepid
prince, who instantly seized the only possible expedient, concealed
his design, till the moment of execution, from the knowledge of the
Barbarians, of his own troops, and even of his generals themselves.
Under the specious pretence of examining the state of the magazines,
fourscore vessels * were gradually unladen; and a select detachment,
apparently destined for some secret expedition, was ordered to stand to
their arms on the first signal. Julian disguised the silent anxiety of
his own mind with smiles of confidence and joy; and amused the hostile
nations with the spectacle of military games, which he insultingly
celebrated under the walls of Coche. The day was consecrated to
pleasure; but, as soon as the hour of supper was passed, the emperor
summoned the generals to his tent, and acquainted them that he had
fixed that night for the passage of the Tigris. They stood in silent
and respectful astonishment; but, when the venerable Sallust assumed the
privilege of his age and experience, the rest of the chiefs supported
with freedom the weight of his prudent remonstrances. Julian contented
himself with observing, that conquest and safety depended on the
attempt; that instead of diminishing, the number of their enemies would
be increased, by successive reenforcements; and that a longer delay
would neither contract the breadth of the stream, nor level the height
of the bank. The signal was instantly given, and obeyed; the most
impatient of the legionaries leaped into five vessels that lay nearest
to the bank; and as they plied their oars with intrepid diligence, they
were lost, after a few moments, in the darkness of the night. A flame
arose on the opposite side; and Julian, who too clearly understood
that his foremost vessels, in attempting to land, had been fired by
the enemy, dexterously converted their extreme danger into a presage
of victory. "Our fellow-soldiers," he eagerly exclaimed, "are already
masters of the bank; see--they make the appointed signal; let us hasten
to emulate and assist their courage." The united and rapid motion of
a great fleet broke the violence of the current, and they reached the
eastern shore of the Tigris with sufficient speed to extinguish the
flames, and rescue their adventurous companions. The difficulties of a
steep and lofty ascent were increased by the weight of armor, and
the darkness of the night. A shower of stones, darts, and fire, was
incessantly discharged on the heads of the assailants; who, after
an arduous struggle, climbed the bank and stood victorious upon the
rampart. As soon as they possessed a more equal field, Julian, who,
with his light infantry, had led the attack, darted through the ranks
a skilful and experienced eye: his bravest soldiers, according to the
precepts of Homer, were distributed in the front and rear: and all
the trumpets of the Imperial army sounded to battle. The Romans, after
sending up a military shout, advanced in measured steps to the animating
notes of martial music; launched their formidable javelins; and rushed
forwards with drawn swords, to deprive the Barbarians, by a closer
onset, of the advantage of their missile weapons. The whole engagement
lasted above twelve hours; till the gradual retreat of the Persians
was changed into a disorderly flight, of which the shameful example
was given by the principal leader, and the Surenas himself. They were
pursued to the gates of Ctesiphon; and the conquerors might have entered
the dismayed city, if their general, Victor, who was dangerously wounded
with an arrow, had not conjured them to desist from a rash attempt,
which must be fatal, if it were not successful. On their side, the
Romans acknowledged the loss of only seventy-five men; while they
affirmed, that the Barbarians had left on the field of battle two
thousand five hundred, or even six thousand, of their bravest soldiers.
The spoil was such as might be expected from the riches and luxury of
an Oriental camp; large quantities of silver and gold, splendid arms and
trappings, and beds and tables of massy silver. * The victorious emperor
distributed, as the rewards of valor, some honorable gifts, civic, and
mural, and naval crowns; which he, and perhaps he alone, esteemed more
precious than the wealth of Asia. A solemn sacrifice was offered to
the god of war, but the appearances of the victims threatened the most
inauspicious events; and Julian soon discovered, by less ambiguous
signs, that he had now reached the term of his prosperity.

On the second day after the battle, the domestic guards, the Jovians and
Herculians, and the remaining troops, which composed near two thirds of
the whole army, were securely wafted over the Tigris. While the Persians
beheld from the walls of Ctesiphon the desolation of the adjacent
country, Julian cast many an anxious look towards the North, in full
expectation, that as he himself had victoriously penetrated to the
capital of Sapor, the march and junction of his lieutenants, Sebastian
and Procopius, would be executed with the same courage and diligence.
His expectations were disappointed by the treachery of the Armenian
king, who permitted, and most probably directed, the desertion of his
auxiliary troops from the camp of the Romans; and by the dissensions of
the two generals, who were incapable of forming or executing any plan
for the public service. When the emperor had relinquished the hope of
this important reenforcement, he condescended to hold a council of war,
and approved, after a full debate, the sentiment of those generals,
who dissuaded the siege of Ctesiphon, as a fruitless and pernicious
undertaking. It is not easy for us to conceive, by what arts of
fortification a city thrice besieged and taken by the predecessors of
Julian could be rendered impregnable against an army of sixty thousand
Romans, commanded by a brave and experienced general, and abundantly
supplied with ships, provisions, battering engines, and military stores.
But we may rest assured, from the love of glory, and contempt of danger,
which formed the character of Julian, that he was not discouraged by any
trivial or imaginary obstacles. At the very time when he declined the
siege of Ctesiphon, he rejected, with obstinacy and disdain, the most
flattering offers of a negotiation of peace. Sapor, who had been so long
accustomed to the tardy ostentation of Constantius, was surprised by the
intrepid diligence of his successor. As far as the confines of India and
Scythia, the satraps of the distant provinces were ordered to assemble
their troops, and to march, without delay, to the assistance of their
monarch. But their preparations were dilatory, their motions slow;
and before Sapor could lead an army into the field, he received the
melancholy intelligence of the devastation of Assyria, the ruin of
his palaces, and the slaughter of his bravest troops, who defended the
passage of the Tigris. The pride of royalty was humbled in the dust; he
took his repasts on the ground; and the disorder of his hair expressed
the grief and anxiety of his mind. Perhaps he would not have refused to
purchase, with one half of his kingdom, the safety of the remainder;
and he would have gladly subscribed himself, in a treaty of peace, the
faithful and dependent ally of the Roman conqueror. Under the pretence
of private business, a minister of rank and confidence was secretly
despatched to embrace the knees of Hormisdas, and to request, in the
language of a suppliant, that he might be introduced into the presence
of the emperor. The Sassanian prince, whether he listened to the voice
of pride or humanity, whether he consulted the sentiments of his birth,
or the duties of his situation, was equally inclined to promote a
salutary measure, which would terminate the calamities of Persia, and
secure the triumph of Rome. He was astonished by the inflexible firmness
of a hero, who remembered, most unfortunately for himself and for his
country, that Alexander had uniformly rejected the propositions
of Darius. But as Julian was sensible, that the hope of a safe and
honorable peace might cool the ardor of his troops, he earnestly
requested that Hormisdas would privately dismiss the minister of Sapor,
and conceal this dangerous temptation from the knowledge of the camp.



Chapter XXIV: The Retreat And Death Of Julian.--Part IV.

The honor, as well as interest, of Julian, forbade him to consume his
time under the impregnable walls of Ctesiphon and as often as he defied
the Barbarians, who defended the city, to meet him on the open plain,
they prudently replied, that if he desired to exercise his valor,
he might seek the army of the Great King. He felt the insult, and he
accepted the advice. Instead of confining his servile march to the banks
of the Euphrates and Tigris, he resolved to imitate the adventurous
spirit of Alexander, and boldly to advance into the inland provinces,
till he forced his rival to contend with him, perhaps in the plains of
Arbela, for the empire of Asia. The magnanimity of Julian was applauded
and betrayed, by the arts of a noble Persian, who, in the cause of
his country, had generously submitted to act a part full of danger, of
falsehood, and of shame. With a train of faithful followers, he deserted
to the Imperial camp; exposed, in a specious tale, the injuries which he
had sustained; exaggerated the cruelty of Sapor, the discontent of
the people, and the weakness of the monarchy; and confidently offered
himself as the hostage and guide of the Roman march. The most rational
grounds of suspicion were urged, without effect, by the wisdom and
experience of Hormisdas; and the credulous Julian, receiving the traitor
into his bosom, was persuaded to issue a hasty order, which, in the
opinion of mankind, appeared to arraign his prudence, and to endanger
his safety. He destroyed, in a single hour, the whole navy, which had
been transported above five hundred miles, at so great an expense of
toil, of treasure, and of blood. Twelve, or, at the most, twenty-two
small vessels were saved, to accompany, on carriages, the march of the
army, and to form occasional bridges for the passage of the rivers.
A supply of twenty days' provisions was reserved for the use of the
soldiers; and the rest of the magazines, with a fleet of eleven hundred
vessels, which rode at anchor in the Tigris, were abandoned to the
flames, by the absolute command of the emperor. The Christian bishops,
Gregory and Augustin, insult the madness of the Apostate, who executed,
with his own hands, the sentence of divine justice. Their authority, of
less weight, perhaps, in a military question, is confirmed by the cool
judgment of an experienced soldier, who was himself spectator of the
conflagration, and who could not disapprove the reluctant murmurs of
the troops. Yet there are not wanting some specious, and perhaps solid,
reasons, which might justify the resolution of Julian. The navigation of
the Euphrates never ascended above Babylon, nor that of the Tigris above
Opis. The distance of the last-mentioned city from the Roman camp was
not very considerable: and Julian must soon have renounced the vain
and impracticable attempt of forcing upwards a great fleet against the
stream of a rapid river, which in several places was embarrassed
by natural or artificial cataracts. The power of sails and oars was
insufficient; it became necessary to tow the ships against the current
of the river; the strength of twenty thousand soldiers was exhausted
in this tedious and servile labor, and if the Romans continued to march
along the banks of the Tigris, they could only expect to return home
without achieving any enterprise worthy of the genius or fortune of
their leader. If, on the contrary, it was advisable to advance into the
inland country, the destruction of the fleet and magazines was the
only measure which could save that valuable prize from the hands of the
numerous and active troops which might suddenly be poured from the gates
of Ctesiphon. Had the arms of Julian been victorious, we should now
admire the conduct, as well as the courage, of a hero, who, by depriving
his soldiers of the hopes of a retreat, left them only the alternative
of death or conquest.

The cumbersome train of artillery and wagons, which retards the
operations of a modern army, were in a great measure unknown in the
camps of the Romans. Yet, in every age, the subsistence of sixty
thousand men must have been one of the most important cares of a prudent
general; and that subsistence could only be drawn from his own or from
the enemy's country. Had it been possible for Julian to maintain a
bridge of communication on the Tigris, and to preserve the conquered
places of Assyria, a desolated province could not afford any large or
regular supplies, in a season of the year when the lands were covered
by the inundation of the Euphrates, and the unwholesome air was darkened
with swarms of innumerable insects. The appearance of the hostile
country was far more inviting. The extensive region that lies between
the River Tigris and the mountains of Media, was filled with villages
and towns; and the fertile soil, for the most part, was in a very
improved state of cultivation. Julian might expect, that a conqueror,
who possessed the two forcible instruments of persuasion, steel and
gold, would easily procure a plentiful subsistence from the fears or
avarice of the natives. But, on the approach of the Romans, the rich
and smiling prospect was instantly blasted. Wherever they moved,
the inhabitants deserted the open villages, and took shelter in the
fortified towns; the cattle was driven away; the grass and ripe corn
were consumed with fire; and, as soon as the flames had subsided which
interrupted the march of Julian, he beheld the melancholy face of a
smoking and naked desert. This desperate but effectual method of defence
can only be executed by the enthusiasm of a people who prefer their
independence to their property; or by the rigor of an arbitrary
government, which consults the public safety without submitting to their
inclinations the liberty of choice. On the present occasion the zeal
and obedience of the Persians seconded the commands of Sapor; and
the emperor was soon reduced to the scanty stock of provisions, which
continually wasted in his hands. Before they were entirely consumed, he
might still have reached the wealthy and unwarlike cities of Ecbatana
or Susa, by the effort of a rapid and well-directed march; but he was
deprived of this last resource by his ignorance of the roads, and by the
perfidy of his guides. The Romans wandered several days in the country
to the eastward of Bagdad; the Persian deserter, who had artfully led
them into the spare, escaped from their resentment; and his followers,
as soon as they were put to the torture, confessed the secret of the
conspiracy. The visionary conquests of Hyrcania and India, which had so
long amused, now tormented, the mind of Julian. Conscious that his own
imprudence was the cause of the public distress, he anxiously balanced
the hopes of safety or success, without obtaining a satisfactory answer,
either from gods or men. At length, as the only practicable measure, he
embraced the resolution of directing his steps towards the banks of
the Tigris, with the design of saving the army by a hasty march to
the confines of Corduene; a fertile and friendly province, which
acknowledged the sovereignty of Rome. The desponding troops obeyed
the signal of the retreat, only seventy days after they had passed the
Chaboras, with the sanguine expectation of subverting the throne of
Persia.

As long as the Romans seemed to advance into the country, their march
was observed and insulted from a distance, by several bodies of Persian
cavalry; who, showing themselves sometimes in loose, and sometimes
in close order, faintly skirmished with the advanced guards. These
detachments were, however, supported by a much greater force; and the
heads of the columns were no sooner pointed towards the Tigris than a
cloud of dust arose on the plain. The Romans, who now aspired only to
the permission of a safe and speedy retreat, endeavored to persuade
themselves, that this formidable appearance was occasioned by a troop
of wild asses, or perhaps by the approach of some friendly Arabs. They
halted, pitched their tents, fortified their camp, passed the whole
night in continual alarms; and discovered at the dawn of day, that
they were surrounded by an army of Persians. This army, which might be
considered only as the van of the Barbarians, was soon followed by the
main body of cuirassiers, archers, and elephants, commanded by Meranes,
a general of rank and reputation. He was accompanied by two of the
king's sons, and many of the principal satraps; and fame and expectation
exaggerated the strength of the remaining powers, which slowly advanced
under the conduct of Sapor himself. As the Romans continued their march,
their long array, which was forced to bend or divide, according to the
varieties of the ground, afforded frequent and favorable opportunities
to their vigilant enemies. The Persians repeatedly charged with fury;
they were repeatedly repulsed with firmness; and the action at Maronga,
which almost deserved the name of a battle, was marked by a considerable
loss of satraps and elephants, perhaps of equal value in the eyes of
their monarch. These splendid advantages were not obtained without
an adequate slaughter on the side of the Romans: several officers of
distinction were either killed or wounded; and the emperor himself, who,
on all occasions of danger, inspired and guided the valor of his troops,
was obliged to expose his person, and exert his abilities. The weight of
offensive and defensive arms, which still constituted the strength and
safety of the Romans, disabled them from making any long or effectual
pursuit; and as the horsemen of the East were trained to dart their
javelins, and shoot their arrows, at full speed, and in every possible
direction, the cavalry of Persia was never more formidable than in
the moment of a rapid and disorderly flight. But the most certain and
irreparable loss of the Romans was that of time. The hardy veterans,
accustomed to the cold climate of Gaul and Germany, fainted under the
sultry heat of an Assyrian summer; their vigor was exhausted by the
incessant repetition of march and combat; and the progress of the army
was suspended by the precautions of a slow and dangerous retreat, in
the presence of an active enemy. Every day, every hour, as the supply
diminished, the value and price of subsistence increased in the Roman
camp. Julian, who always contented himself with such food as a hungry
soldier would have disdained, distributed, for the use of the troops,
the provisions of the Imperial household, and whatever could be spared,
from the sumpter-horses, of the tribunes and generals. But this feeble
relief served only to aggravate the sense of the public distress; and
the Romans began to entertain the most gloomy apprehensions that, before
they could reach the frontiers of the empire, they should all perish,
either by famine, or by the sword of the Barbarians.

While Julian struggled with the almost insuperable difficulties of his
situation, the silent hours of the night were still devoted to study
and contemplation. Whenever he closed his eyes in short and interrupted
slumbers, his mind was agitated with painful anxiety; nor can it be
thought surprising, that the Genius of the empire should once more
appear before him, covering with a funeral veil his head, and his horn
of abundance, and slowly retiring from the Imperial tent. The monarch
started from his couch, and stepping forth to refresh his wearied
spirits with the coolness of the midnight air, he beheld a fiery meteor,
which shot athwart the sky, and suddenly vanished. Julian was convinced
that he had seen the menacing countenance of the god of war; the council
which he summoned, of Tuscan Haruspices, unanimously pronounced that he
should abstain from action; but on this occasion, necessity and reason
were more prevalent than superstition; and the trumpets sounded at the
break of day. The army marched through a hilly country; and the hills
had been secretly occupied by the Persians. Julian led the van with
the skill and attention of a consummate general; he was alarmed by
the intelligence that his rear was suddenly attacked. The heat of the
weather had tempted him to lay aside his cuirass; but he snatched a
shield from one of his attendants, and hastened, with a sufficient
reenforcement, to the relief of the rear-guard. A similar danger
recalled the intrepid prince to the defence of the front; and, as he
galloped through the columns, the centre of the left was attacked, and
almost overpowered by the furious charge of the Persian cavalry and
elephants. This huge body was soon defeated, by the well-timed evolution
of the light infantry, who aimed their weapons, with dexterity
and effect, against the backs of the horsemen, and the legs of the
elephants. The Barbarians fled; and Julian, who was foremost in every
danger, animated the pursuit with his voice and gestures. His trembling
guards, scattered and oppressed by the disorderly throng of friends and
enemies, reminded their fearless sovereign that he was without armor;
and conjured him to decline the fall of the impending ruin. As they
exclaimed, a cloud of darts and arrows was discharged from the flying
squadrons; and a javelin, after razing the skin of his arm, transpierced
the ribs, and fixed in the inferior part of the liver. Julian attempted
to draw the deadly weapon from his side; but his fingers were cut by the
sharpness of the steel, and he fell senseless from his horse. His guards
flew to his relief; and the wounded emperor was gently raised from the
ground, and conveyed out of the tumult of the battle into an adjacent
tent. The report of the melancholy event passed from rank to rank; but
the grief of the Romans inspired them with invincible valor, and the
desire of revenge. The bloody and obstinate conflict was maintained by
the two armies, till they were separated by the total darkness of the
night. The Persians derived some honor from the advantage which they
obtained against the left wing, where Anatolius, master of the offices,
was slain, and the præfect Sallust very narrowly escaped. But the event
of the day was adverse to the Barbarians. They abandoned the field;
their two generals, Meranes and Nohordates, fifty nobles or satraps, and
a multitude of their bravest soldiers; and the success of the Romans, if
Julian had survived, might have been improved into a decisive and useful
victory.

The first words that Julian uttered, after his recovery from the
fainting fit into which he had been thrown by loss of blood, were
expressive of his martial spirit. He called for his horse and arms,
and was impatient to rush into the battle. His remaining strength was
exhausted by the painful effort; and the surgeons, who examined his
wound, discovered the symptoms of approaching death. He employed
the awful moments with the firm temper of a hero and a sage; the
philosophers who had accompanied him in this fatal expedition, compared
the tent of Julian with the prison of Socrates; and the spectators,
whom duty, or friendship, or curiosity, had assembled round his couch,
listened with respectful grief to the funeral oration of their dying
emperor. "Friends and fellow-soldiers, the seasonable period of my
departure is now arrived, and I discharge, with the cheerfulness of a
ready debtor, the demands of nature. I have learned from philosophy, how
much the soul is more excellent than the body; and that the separation
of the nobler substance should be the subject of joy, rather than of
affliction. I have learned from religion, that an early death has often
been the reward of piety; and I accept, as a favor of the gods, the
mortal stroke that secures me from the danger of disgracing a character,
which has hitherto been supported by virtue and fortitude. I die without
remorse, as I have lived without guilt. I am pleased to reflect on the
innocence of my private life; and I can affirm with confidence, that
the supreme authority, that emanation of the Divine Power, has been
preserved in my hands pure and immaculate. Detesting the corrupt and
destructive maxims of despotism, I have considered the happiness of the
people as the end of government. Submitting my actions to the laws of
prudence, of justice, and of moderation, I have trusted the event to
the care of Providence. Peace was the object of my counsels, as long
as peace was consistent with the public welfare; but when the imperious
voice of my country summoned me to arms, I exposed my person to the
dangers of war, with the clear foreknowledge (which I had acquired from
the art of divination) that I was destined to fall by the sword. I now
offer my tribute of gratitude to the Eternal Being, who has not suffered
me to perish by the cruelty of a tyrant, by the secret dagger of
conspiracy, or by the slow tortures of lingering disease. He has
given me, in the midst of an honorable career, a splendid and glorious
departure from this world; and I hold it equally absurd, equally
base, to solicit, or to decline, the stroke of fate. This much I have
attempted to say; but my strength fails me, and I feel the approach
of death. I shall cautiously refrain from any word that may tend to
influence your suffrages in the election of an emperor. My choice might
be imprudent or injudicious; and if it should not be ratified by the
consent of the army, it might be fatal to the person whom I should
recommend. I shall only, as a good citizen, express my hopes, that the
Romans may be blessed with the government of a virtuous sovereign."
After this discourse, which Julian pronounced in a firm and gentle tone
of voice, he distributed, by a military testament, the remains of his
private fortune; and making some inquiry why Anatolius was not present,
he understood, from the answer of Sallust, that Anatolius was killed;
and bewailed, with amiable inconsistency, the loss of his friend. At
the same time he reproved the immoderate grief of the spectators; and
conjured them not to disgrace, by unmanly tears, the fate of a prince,
who in a few moments would be united with heaven, and with the stars.
The spectators were silent; and Julian entered into a metaphysical
argument with the philosophers Priscus and Maximus, on the nature of the
soul. The efforts which he made, of mind as well as body, most probably
hastened his death. His wound began to bleed with fresh violence; his
respiration was embarrassed by the swelling of the veins; he called
for a draught of cold water, and, as soon as he had drank it, expired
without pain, about the hour of midnight. Such was the end of that
extraordinary man, in the thirty-second year of his age, after a reign
of one year and about eight months, from the death of Constantius. In
his last moments he displayed, perhaps with some ostentation, the love
of virtue and of fame, which had been the ruling passions of his life.

The triumph of Christianity, and the calamities of the empire, may, in
some measure, be ascribed to Julian himself, who had neglected to
secure the future execution of his designs, by the timely and judicious
nomination of an associate and successor. But the royal race of
Constantius Chlorus was reduced to his own person; and if he entertained
any serious thoughts of investing with the purple the most worthy among
the Romans, he was diverted from his resolution by the difficulty of the
choice, the jealousy of power, the fear of ingratitude, and the natural
presumption of health, of youth, and of prosperity. His unexpected death
left the empire without a master, and without an heir, in a state of
perplexity and danger, which, in the space of fourscore years, had never
been experienced, since the election of Diocletian. In a government
which had almost forgotten the distinction of pure and noble blood, the
superiority of birth was of little moment; the claims of official rank
were accidental and precarious; and the candidates, who might aspire to
ascend the vacant throne could be supported only by the consciousness of
personal merit, or by the hopes of popular favor. But the situation of
a famished army, encompassed on all sides by a host of Barbarians,
shortened the moments of grief and deliberation. In this scene of terror
and distress, the body of the deceased prince, according to his own
directions, was decently embalmed; and, at the dawn of day, the generals
convened a military senate, at which the commanders of the legions, and
the officers both of cavalry and infantry, were invited to assist.
Three or four hours of the night had not passed away without some secret
cabals; and when the election of an emperor was proposed, the spirit of
faction began to agitate the assembly. Victor and Arinthæus collected
the remains of the court of Constantius; the friends of Julian attached
themselves to the Gallic chiefs, Dagalaiphus and Nevitta; and the
most fatal consequences might be apprehended from the discord of two
factions, so opposite in their character and interest, in their maxims
of government, and perhaps in their religious principles. The superior
virtues of Sallust could alone reconcile their divisions, and unite
their suffrages; and the venerable præfect would immediately have been
declared the successor of Julian, if he himself, with sincere and modest
firmness, had not alleged his age and infirmities, so unequal to the
weight of the diadem. The generals, who were surprised and perplexed by
his refusal, showed some disposition to adopt the salutary advice of an
inferior officer, that they should act as they would have acted in
the absence of the emperor; that they should exert their abilities
to extricate the army from the present distress; and, if they were
fortunate enough to reach the confines of Mesopotamia, they should
proceed with united and deliberate counsels in the election of a lawful
sovereign. While they debated, a few voices saluted Jovian, who was
no more than first of the domestics, with the names of Emperor and
Augustus. The tumultuary acclamation * was instantly repeated by the
guards who surrounded the tent, and passed, in a few minutes, to the
extremities of the line. The new prince, astonished with his own fortune
was hastily invested with the Imperial ornaments, and received an oath
of fidelity from the generals, whose favor and protection he so lately
solicited. The strongest recommendation of Jovian was the merit of his
father, Count Varronian, who enjoyed, in honorable retirement, the fruit
of his long services. In the obscure freedom of a private station,
the son indulged his taste for wine and women; yet he supported, with
credit, the character of a Christian and a soldier. Without being
conspicuous for any of the ambitious qualifications which excite
the admiration and envy of mankind, the comely person of Jovian, his
cheerful temper, and familiar wit, had gained the affection of his
fellow-soldiers; and the generals of both parties acquiesced in a
popular election, which had not been conducted by the arts of their
enemies. The pride of this unexpected elevation was moderated by the
just apprehension, that the same day might terminate the life and reign
of the new emperor. The pressing voice of necessity was obeyed without
delay; and the first orders issued by Jovian, a few hours after his
predecessor had expired, were to prosecute a march, which could alone
extricate the Romans from their actual distress.



Chapter XXIV: The Retreat And Death Of Julian.--Part V.

The esteem of an enemy is most sincerely expressed by his fears; and
the degree of fear may be accurately measured by the joy with which he
celebrates his deliverance. The welcome news of the death of Julian,
which a deserter revealed to the camp of Sapor, inspired the desponding
monarch with a sudden confidence of victory. He immediately detached the
royal cavalry, perhaps the ten thousand Immortals, to second and support
the pursuit; and discharged the whole weight of his united forces on the
rear-guard of the Romans. The rear-guard was thrown into disorder; the
renowned legions, which derived their titles from Diocletian, and his
warlike colleague, were broke and trampled down by the elephants; and
three tribunes lost their lives in attempting to stop the flight of
their soldiers. The battle was at length restored by the persevering
valor of the Romans; the Persians were repulsed with a great slaughter
of men and elephants; and the army, after marching and fighting a long
summer's day, arrived, in the evening, at Samara, on the banks of the
Tigris, about one hundred miles above Ctesiphon. On the ensuing day,
the Barbarians, instead of harassing the march, attacked the camp, of
Jovian; which had been seated in a deep and sequestered valley. From
the hills, the archers of Persia insulted and annoyed the wearied
legionaries; and a body of cavalry, which had penetrated with desperate
courage through the Prætorian gate, was cut in pieces, after a doubtful
conflict, near the Imperial tent. In the succeeding night, the camp
of Carche was protected by the lofty dikes of the river; and the
Roman army, though incessantly exposed to the vexatious pursuit of the
Saracens, pitched their tents near the city of Dura, four days after
the death of Julian. The Tigris was still on their left; their hopes
and provisions were almost consumed; and the impatient soldiers, who had
fondly persuaded themselves that the frontiers of the empire were not
far distant, requested their new sovereign, that they might be permitted
to hazard the passage of the river. With the assistance of his wisest
officers, Jovian endeavored to check their rashness; by representing,
that if they possessed sufficient skill and vigor to stem the torrent
of a deep and rapid stream, they would only deliver themselves naked
and defenceless to the Barbarians, who had occupied the opposite banks,
Yielding at length to their clamorous importunities, he consented, with
reluctance, that five hundred Gauls and Germans, accustomed from their
infancy to the waters of the Rhine and Danube, should attempt the
bold adventure, which might serve either as an encouragement, or as a
warning, for the rest of the army. In the silence of the night, they
swam the Tigris, surprised an unguarded post of the enemy, and displayed
at the dawn of day the signal of their resolution and fortune. The
success of this trial disposed the emperor to listen to the promises
of his architects, who propose to construct a floating bridge of the
inflated skins of sheep, oxen, and goats, covered with a floor of earth
and fascines. Two important days were spent in the ineffectual labor;
and the Romans, who already endured the miseries of famine, cast a look
of despair on the Tigris, and upon the Barbarians; whose numbers and
obstinacy increased with the distress of the Imperial army.

In this hopeless condition, the fainting spirits of the Romans were
revived by the sound of peace. The transient presumption of Sapor had
vanished: he observed, with serious concern, that, in the repetition of
doubtful combats, he had lost his most faithful and intrepid nobles, his
bravest troops, and the greatest part of his train of elephants: and
the experienced monarch feared to provoke the resistance of despair, the
vicissitudes of fortune, and the unexhausted powers of the Roman empire;
which might soon advance to relieve, or to revenge, the successor of
Julian. The Surenas himself, accompanied by another satrap, * appeared
in the camp of Jovian; and declared, that the clemency of his sovereign
was not averse to signify the conditions on which he would consent to
spare and to dismiss the Cæsar with the relics of his captive army.
The hopes of safety subdued the firmness of the Romans; the emperor was
compelled, by the advice of his council, and the cries of his soldiers,
to embrace the offer of peace; and the præfect Sallust was immediately
sent, with the general Arinthæus, to understand the pleasure of the
Great King. The crafty Persian delayed, under various pretenses,
the conclusion of the agreement; started difficulties, required
explanations, suggested expedients, receded from his concessions,
increased his demands, and wasted four days in the arts of negotiation,
till he had consumed the stock of provisions which yet remained in the
camp of the Romans. Had Jovian been capable of executing a bold and
prudent measure, he would have continued his march, with unremitting
diligence; the progress of the treaty would have suspended the attacks
of the Barbarians; and, before the expiration of the fourth day, he
might have safely reached the fruitful province of Corduene, at the
distance only of one hundred miles. The irresolute emperor, instead of
breaking through the toils of the enemy, expected his fate with patient
resignation; and accepted the humiliating conditions of peace, which
it was no longer in his power to refuse. The five provinces beyond the
Tigris, which had been ceded by the grandfather of Sapor, were
restored to the Persian monarchy. He acquired, by a single article, the
impregnable city of Nisibis; which had sustained, in three successive
sieges, the effort of his arms. Singara, and the castle of the Moors,
one of the strongest places of Mesopotamia, were likewise dismembered
from the empire. It was considered as an indulgence, that the
inhabitants of those fortresses were permitted to retire with their
effects; but the conqueror rigorously insisted, that the Romans should
forever abandon the king and kingdom of Armenia. § A peace, or rather a
long truce, of thirty years, was stipulated between the hostile nations;
the faith of the treaty was ratified by solemn oaths and religious
ceremonies; and hostages of distinguished rank were reciprocally
delivered to secure the performance of the conditions.

The sophist of Antioch, who saw with indignation the sceptre of his hero
in the feeble hand of a Christian successor, professes to admire the
moderation of Sapor, in contenting himself with so small a portion of
the Roman empire. If he had stretched as far as the Euphrates the
claims of his ambition, he might have been secure, says Libanius, of not
meeting with a refusal. If he had fixed, as the boundary of Persia,
the Orontes, the Cydnus, the Sangarius, or even the Thracian Bosphorus,
flatterers would not have been wanting in the court of Jovian to
convince the timid monarch, that his remaining provinces would still
afford the most ample gratifications of power and luxury. Without
adopting in its full force this malicious insinuation, we must
acknowledge, that the conclusion of so ignominious a treaty was
facilitated by the private ambition of Jovian. The obscure domestic,
exalted to the throne by fortune, rather than by merit, was impatient to
escape from the hands of the Persians, that he might prevent the designs
of Procopius, who commanded the army of Mesopotamia, and establish his
doubtful reign over the legions and provinces which were still ignorant
of the hasty and tumultuous choice of the camp beyond the Tigris. In the
neighborhood of the same river, at no very considerable distance from
the fatal station of Dura, the ten thousand Greeks, without generals, or
guides, or provisions, were abandoned, above twelve hundred miles from
their native country, to the resentment of a victorious monarch. The
difference of their conduct and success depended much more on their
character than on their situation. Instead of tamely resigning
themselves to the secret deliberations and private views of a single
person, the united councils of the Greeks were inspired by the generous
enthusiasm of a popular assembly; where the mind of each citizen is
filled with the love of glory, the pride of freedom, and the contempt
of death. Conscious of their superiority over the Barbarians in arms and
discipline, they disdained to yield, they refused to capitulate: every
obstacle was surmounted by their patience, courage, and military skill;
and the memorable retreat of the ten thousand exposed and insulted the
weakness of the Persian monarchy.

As the price of his disgraceful concessions, the emperor might
perhaps have stipulated, that the camp of the hungry Romans should be
plentifully supplied; and that they should be permitted to pass the
Tigris on the bridge which was constructed by the hands of the Persians.
But, if Jovian presumed to solicit those equitable terms, they were
sternly refused by the haughty tyrant of the East, whose clemency had
pardoned the invaders of his country. The Saracens sometimes intercepted
the stragglers of the march; but the generals and troops of Sapor
respected the cessation of arms; and Jovian was suffered to explore the
most convenient place for the passage of the river. The small vessels,
which had been saved from the conflagration of the fleet, performed
the most essential service. They first conveyed the emperor and his
favorites; and afterwards transported, in many successive voyages, a
great part of the army. But, as every man was anxious for his personal
safety, and apprehensive of being left on the hostile shore, the
soldiers, who were too impatient to wait the slow returns of the boats,
boldly ventured themselves on light hurdles, or inflated skins; and,
drawing after them their horses, attempted, with various success, to
swim across the river. Many of these daring adventurers were swallowed
by the waves; many others, who were carried along by the violence of the
stream, fell an easy prey to the avarice or cruelty of the wild Arabs:
and the loss which the army sustained in the passage of the Tigris, was
not inferior to the carnage of a day of battle. As soon as the Romans
were landed on the western bank, they were delivered from the hostile
pursuit of the Barbarians; but, in a laborious march of two hundred
miles over the plains of Mesopotamia, they endured the last extremities
of thirst and hunger. They were obliged to traverse the sandy desert,
which, in the extent of seventy miles, did not afford a single blade
of sweet grass, nor a single spring of fresh water; and the rest of
the inhospitable waste was untrod by the footsteps either of friends or
enemies. Whenever a small measure of flour could be discovered in the
camp, twenty pounds weight were greedily purchased with ten pieces of
gold: the beasts of burden were slaughtered and devoured; and the desert
was strewed with the arms and baggage of the Roman soldiers, whose
tattered garments and meagre countenances displayed their past
sufferings and actual misery. A small convoy of provisions advanced to
meet the army as far as the castle of Ur; and the supply was the more
grateful, since it declared the fidelity of Sebastian and Procopius.
At Thilsaphata, the emperor most graciously received the generals
of Mesopotamia; and the remains of a once flourishing army at length
reposed themselves under the walls of Nisibis. The messengers of Jovian
had already proclaimed, in the language of flattery, his election, his
treaty, and his return; and the new prince had taken the most effectual
measures to secure the allegiance of the armies and provinces of Europe,
by placing the military command in the hands of those officers, who,
from motives of interest, or inclination, would firmly support the cause
of their benefactor.

The friends of Julian had confidently announced the success of his
expedition. They entertained a fond persuasion that the temples of the
gods would be enriched with the spoils of the East; that Persia would
be reduced to the humble state of a tributary province, governed by the
laws and magistrates of Rome; that the Barbarians would adopt the dress,
and manners, and language of their conquerors; and that the youth of
Ecbatana and Susa would study the art of rhetoric under Grecian masters.
The progress of the arms of Julian interrupted his communication
with the empire; and, from the moment that he passed the Tigris, his
affectionate subjects were ignorant of the fate and fortunes of their
prince. Their contemplation of fancied triumphs was disturbed by the
melancholy rumor of his death; and they persisted to doubt, after they
could no longer deny, the truth of that fatal event. The messengers of
Jovian promulgated the specious tale of a prudent and necessary peace;
the voice of fame, louder and more sincere, revealed the disgrace of the
emperor, and the conditions of the ignominious treaty. The minds of the
people were filled with astonishment and grief, with indignation and
terror, when they were informed, that the unworthy successor of Julian
relinquished the five provinces which had been acquired by the victory
of Galerius; and that he shamefully surrendered to the Barbarians the
important city of Nisibis, the firmest bulwark of the provinces of the
East. The deep and dangerous question, how far the public faith should
be observed, when it becomes incompatible with the public safety, was
freely agitated in popular conversation; and some hopes were entertained
that the emperor would redeem his pusillanimous behavior by a splendid
act of patriotic perfidy. The inflexible spirit of the Roman senate had
always disclaimed the unequal conditions which were extorted from the
distress of their captive armies; and, if it were necessary to satisfy
the national honor, by delivering the guilty general into the hands of
the Barbarians, the greatest part of the subjects of Jovian would have
cheerfully acquiesced in the precedent of ancient times.

But the emperor, whatever might be the limits of his constitutional
authority, was the absolute master of the laws and arms of the state;
and the same motives which had forced him to subscribe, now pressed him
to execute, the treaty of peace. He was impatient to secure an empire
at the expense of a few provinces; and the respectable names of
religion and honor concealed the personal fears and ambition of Jovian.
Notwithstanding the dutiful solicitations of the inhabitants, decency,
as well as prudence, forbade the emperor to lodge in the palace of
Nisibis; but the next morning after his arrival. Bineses, the ambassador
of Persia, entered the place, displayed from the citadel the standard
of the Great King, and proclaimed, in his name, the cruel alternative
of exile or servitude. The principal citizens of Nisibis, who, till that
fatal moment, had confided in the protection of their sovereign, threw
themselves at his feet. They conjured him not to abandon, or, at least,
not to deliver, a faithful colony to the rage of a Barbarian tyrant,
exasperated by the three successive defeats which he had experienced
under the walls of Nisibis. They still possessed arms and courage to
repel the invaders of their country: they requested only the permission
of using them in their own defence; and, as soon as they had asserted
their independence, they should implore the favor of being again
admitted into the ranks of his subjects. Their arguments, their
eloquence, their tears, were ineffectual. Jovian alleged, with some
confusion, the sanctity of oaths; and, as the reluctance with which he
accepted the present of a crown of gold, convinced the citizens of their
hopeless condition, the advocate Sylvanus was provoked to exclaim, "O
emperor! may you thus be crowned by all the cities of your dominions!"
Jovian, who in a few weeks had assumed the habits of a prince, was
displeased with freedom, and offended with truth: and as he reasonably
supposed, that the discontent of the people might incline them to submit
to the Persian government, he published an edict, under pain of death,
that they should leave the city within the term of three days. Ammianus
has delineated in lively colors the scene of universal despair, which
he seems to have viewed with an eye of compassion. The martial youth
deserted, with indignant grief, the walls which they had so gloriously
defended: the disconsolate mourner dropped a last tear over the tomb
of a son or husband, which must soon be profaned by the rude hand of a
Barbarian master; and the aged citizen kissed the threshold, and clung
to the doors, of the house where he had passed the cheerful and careless
hours of infancy. The highways were crowded with a trembling multitude:
the distinctions of rank, and sex, and age, were lost in the general
calamity. Every one strove to bear away some fragment from the wreck of
his fortunes; and as they could not command the immediate service of an
adequate number of horses or wagons, they were obliged to leave
behind them the greatest part of their valuable effects. The savage
insensibility of Jovian appears to have aggravated the hardships of
these unhappy fugitives. They were seated, however, in a new-built
quarter of Amida; and that rising city, with the reenforcement of a very
considerable colony, soon recovered its former splendor, and became the
capital of Mesopotamia. Similar orders were despatched by the emperor
for the evacuation of Singara and the castle of the Moors; and for the
restitution of the five provinces beyond the Tigris. Sapor enjoyed the
glory and the fruits of his victory; and this ignominious peace has
justly been considered as a memorable æra in the decline and fall of the
Roman empire. The predecessors of Jovian had sometimes relinquished
the dominion of distant and unprofitable provinces; but, since the
foundation of the city, the genius of Rome, the god Terminus, who
guarded the boundaries of the republic, had never retired before the
sword of a victorious enemy.

After Jovian had performed those engagements which the voice of his
people might have tempted him to violate, he hastened away from the
scene of his disgrace, and proceeded with his whole court to enjoy the
luxury of Antioch. Without consulting the dictates of religious zeal,
he was prompted, by humanity and gratitude, to bestow the last honors
on the remains of his deceased sovereign: and Procopius, who sincerely
bewailed the loss of his kinsman, was removed from the command of the
army, under the decent pretence of conducting the funeral. The corpse
of Julian was transported from Nisibis to Tarsus, in a slow march of
fifteen days; and, as it passed through the cities of the East,
was saluted by the hostile factions, with mournful lamentations and
clamorous insults. The Pagans already placed their beloved hero in the
rank of those gods whose worship he had restored; while the invectives
of the Christians pursued the soul of the Apostate to hell, and his body
to the grave. One party lamented the approaching ruin of their altars;
the other celebrated the marvellous deliverance of their church. The
Christians applauded, in lofty and ambiguous strains, the stroke of
divine vengeance, which had been so long suspended over the guilty
head of Julian. They acknowledge, that the death of the tyrant, at the
instant he expired beyond the Tigris, was revealed to the saints of
Egypt, Syria, and Cappadocia; and instead of suffering him to fall by
the Persian darts, their indiscretion ascribed the heroic deed to the
obscure hand of some mortal or immortal champion of the faith. Such
imprudent declarations were eagerly adopted by the malice, or credulity,
of their adversaries; who darkly insinuated, or confidently asserted,
that the governors of the church had instigated and directed the
fanaticism of a domestic assassin. Above sixteen years after the death
of Julian, the charge was solemnly and vehemently urged, in a public
oration, addressed by Libanius to the emperor Theodosius. His suspicions
are unsupported by fact or argument; and we can only esteem the generous
zeal of the sophist of Antioch for the cold and neglected ashes of his
friend.

It was an ancient custom in the funerals, as well as in the triumphs,
of the Romans, that the voice of praise should be corrected by that of
satire and ridicule; and that, in the midst of the splendid pageants,
which displayed the glory of the living or of the dead, their
imperfections should not be concealed from the eyes of the world.
This custom was practised in the funeral of Julian. The comedians, who
resented his contempt and aversion for the theatre, exhibited, with
the applause of a Christian audience, the lively and exaggerated
representation of the faults and follies of the deceased emperor. His
various character and singular manners afforded an ample scope for
pleasantry and ridicule. In the exercise of his uncommon talents, he
often descended below the majesty of his rank. Alexander was transformed
into Diogenes; the philosopher was degraded into a priest. The purity of
his virtue was sullied by excessive vanity; his superstition disturbed
the peace, and endangered the safety, of a mighty empire; and his
irregular sallies were the less entitled to indulgence, as they appeared
to be the laborious efforts of art, or even of affectation. The remains
of Julian were interred at Tarsus in Cilicia; but his stately tomb,
which arose in that city, on the banks of the cold and limpid Cydnus,
was displeasing to the faithful friends, who loved and revered the
memory of that extraordinary man. The philosopher expressed a very
reasonable wish, that the disciple of Plato might have reposed amidst
the groves of the academy; while the soldier exclaimed, in bolder
accents, that the ashes of Julian should have been mingled with those
of Cæsar, in the field of Mars, and among the ancient monuments of
Roman virtue. The history of princes does not very frequently renew the
examples of a similar competition.



Chapter XXV: Reigns Of Jovian And Valentinian, Division Of The
Empire.--Part I.

     The Government And Death Of Jovian.--Election Of
     Valentinian, Who Associates His Brother Valens, And Makes
     The Final Division Of The Eastern And Western Empires.--
     Revolt Of Procopius.--Civil And Ecclesiastical
     Administration.--Germany.--Britain.--Africa.--The East.--The
     Danube.--Death Of Valentinian.--His Two Sons, Gratian And
     Valentinian II., Succeed To The Western Empire.

The death of Julian had left the public affairs of the empire in a
very doubtful and dangerous situation. The Roman army was saved by an
inglorious, perhaps a necessary treaty; and the first moments of peace
were consecrated by the pious Jovian to restore the domestic tranquility
of the church and state. The indiscretion of his predecessor, instead
of reconciling, had artfully fomented the religious war: and the balance
which he affected to preserve between the hostile factions, served only
to perpetuate the contest, by the vicissitudes of hope and fear, by the
rival claims of ancient possession and actual favor. The Christians
had forgotten the spirit of the gospel; and the Pagans had imbibed the
spirit of the church. In private families, the sentiments of nature were
extinguished by the blind fury of zeal and revenge: the majesty of the
laws was violated or abused; the cities of the East were stained with
blood; and the most implacable enemies of the Romans were in the bosom
of their country. Jovian was educated in the profession of Christianity;
and as he marched from Nisibis to Antioch, the banner of the Cross, the
Labarum of Constantine, which was again displayed at the head of the
legions, announced to the people the faith of their new emperor. As soon
as he ascended the throne, he transmitted a circular epistle to all
the governors of provinces; in which he confessed the divine truth,
and secured the legal establishment, of the Christian religion. The
insidious edicts of Julian were abolished; the ecclesiastical immunities
were restored and enlarged; and Jovian condescended to lament, that the
distress of the times obliged him to diminish the measure of charitable
distributions. The Christians were unanimous in the loud and sincere
applause which they bestowed on the pious successor of Julian. But they
were still ignorant what creed, or what synod, he would choose for the
standard of orthodoxy; and the peace of the church immediately revived
those eager disputes which had been suspended during the season of
persecution. The episcopal leaders of the contending sects, convinced,
from experience, how much their fate would depend on the earliest
impressions that were made on the mind of an untutored soldier, hastened
to the court of Edessa, or Antioch. The highways of the East were
crowded with Homoousian, and Arian, and Semi-Arian, and Eunomian
bishops, who struggled to outstrip each other in the holy race: the
apartments of the palace resounded with their clamors; and the ears
of the prince were assaulted, and perhaps astonished, by the singular
mixture of metaphysical argument and passionate invective. The
moderation of Jovian, who recommended concord and charity, and referred
the disputants to the sentence of a future council, was interpreted as
a symptom of indifference: but his attachment to the Nicene creed was at
length discovered and declared, by the reverence which he expressed for
the celestial virtues of the great Athanasius. The intrepid veteran of
the faith, at the age of seventy, had issued from his retreat on the
first intelligence of the tyrant's death. The acclamations of the
people seated him once more on the archiepiscopal throne; and he wisely
accepted, or anticipated, the invitation of Jovian. The venerable figure
of Athanasius, his calm courage, and insinuating eloquence, sustained
the reputation which he had already acquired in the courts of four
successive princes. As soon as he had gained the confidence, and secured
the faith, of the Christian emperor, he returned in triumph to his
diocese, and continued, with mature counsels and undiminished vigor, to
direct, ten years longer, the ecclesiastical government of Alexandria,
Egypt, and the Catholic church. Before his departure from Antioch, he
assured Jovian that his orthodox devotion would be rewarded with a long
and peaceful reign. Athanasius, had reason to hope, that he should be
allowed either the merit of a successful prediction, or the excuse of a
grateful though ineffectual prayer.

The slightest force, when it is applied to assist and guide the natural
descent of its object, operates with irresistible weight; and Jovian had
the good fortune to embrace the religious opinions which were supported
by the spirit of the times, and the zeal and numbers of the most
powerful sect. Under his reign, Christianity obtained an easy and
lasting victory; and as soon as the smile of royal patronage was
withdrawn, the genius of Paganism, which had been fondly raised and
cherished by the arts of Julian, sunk irrecoverably. In many cities,
the temples were shut or deserted: the philosophers who had abused their
transient favor, thought it prudent to shave their beards, and disguise
their profession; and the Christians rejoiced, that they were now in
a condition to forgive, or to revenge, the injuries which they had
suffered under the preceding reign. The consternation of the Pagan
world was dispelled by a wise and gracious edict of toleration; in which
Jovian explicitly declared, that although he should severely punish the
sacrilegious rites of magic, his subjects might exercise, with freedom
and safety, the ceremonies of the ancient worship. The memory of this
law has been preserved by the orator Themistius, who was deputed by the
senate of Constantinople to express their royal devotion for the new
emperor. Themistius expatiates on the clemency of the Divine Nature, the
facility of human error, the rights of conscience, and the independence
of the mind; and, with some eloquence, inculcates the principles of
philosophical toleration; whose aid Superstition herself, in the hour of
her distress, is not ashamed to implore. He justly observes, that in
the recent changes, both religions had been alternately disgraced by the
seeming acquisition of worthless proselytes, of those votaries of the
reigning purple, who could pass, without a reason, and without a blush,
from the church to the temple, and from the altars of Jupiter to the
sacred table of the Christians.

In the space of seven months, the Roman troops, who were now returned to
Antioch, had performed a march of fifteen hundred miles; in which
they had endured all the hardships of war, of famine, and of climate.
Notwithstanding their services, their fatigues, and the approach of
winter, the timid and impatient Jovian allowed only, to the men and
horses, a respite of six weeks. The emperor could not sustain the
indiscreet and malicious raillery of the people of Antioch. He was
impatient to possess the palace of Constantinople; and to prevent the
ambition of some competitor, who might occupy the vacant allegiance
of Europe. But he soon received the grateful intelligence, that his
authority was acknowledged from the Thracian Bosphorus to the Atlantic
Ocean. By the first letters which he despatched from the camp of
Mesopotamia, he had delegated the military command of Gaul and Illyricum
to Malarich, a brave and faithful officer of the nation of the
Franks; and to his father-in-law, Count Lucillian, who had formerly
distinguished his courage and conduct in the defence of Nisibis.
Malarich had declined an office to which he thought himself unequal;
and Lucillian was massacred at Rheims, in an accidental mutiny of the
Batavian cohorts. But the moderation of Jovinus, master-general of the
cavalry, who forgave the intention of his disgrace, soon appeased the
tumult, and confirmed the uncertain minds of the soldiers. The oath of
fidelity was administered and taken, with loyal acclamations; and
the deputies of the Western armies saluted their new sovereign as he
descended from Mount Taurus to the city of Tyana in Cappadocia. From
Tyana he continued his hasty march to Ancyra, capital of the province of
Galatia; where Jovian assumed, with his infant son, the name and ensigns
of the consulship. Dadastana, an obscure town, almost at an equal
distance between Ancyra and Nice, was marked for the fatal term of his
journey and life. After indulging himself with a plentiful, perhaps
an intemperate, supper, he retired to rest; and the next morning the
emperor Jovian was found dead in his bed. The cause of this sudden death
was variously understood. By some it was ascribed to the consequences
of an indigestion, occasioned either by the quantity of the wine, or
the quality of the mushrooms, which he had swallowed in the evening.
According to others, he was suffocated in his sleep by the vapor
of charcoal, which extracted from the walls of the apartment the
unwholesome moisture of the fresh plaster. But the want of a regular
inquiry into the death of a prince, whose reign and person were soon
forgotten, appears to have been the only circumstance which countenanced
the malicious whispers of poison and domestic guilt. The body of Jovian
was sent to Constantinople, to be interred with his predecessors, and
the sad procession was met on the road by his wife Charito, the daughter
of Count Lucillian; who still wept the recent death of her father, and
was hastening to dry her tears in the embraces of an Imperial husband.
Her disappointment and grief were imbittered by the anxiety of maternal
tenderness. Six weeks before the death of Jovian, his infant son had
been placed in the curule chair, adorned with the title of Nobilissimus,
and the vain ensigns of the consulship. Unconscious of his fortune, the
royal youth, who, from his grandfather, assumed the name of Varronian,
was reminded only by the jealousy of the government, that he was the son
of an emperor. Sixteen years afterwards he was still alive, but he had
already been deprived of an eye; and his afflicted mother expected every
hour, that the innocent victim would be torn from her arms, to appease,
with his blood, the suspicions of the reigning prince.

After the death of Jovian, the throne of the Roman world remained ten
days, without a master. The ministers and generals still continued to
meet in council; to exercise their respective functions; to maintain the
public order; and peaceably to conduct the army to the city of Nice in
Bithynia, which was chosen for the place of the election. In a solemn
assembly of the civil and military powers of the empire, the diadem was
again unanimously offered to the præfect Sallust. He enjoyed the glory
of a second refusal: and when the virtues of the father were alleged
in favor of his son, the præfect, with the firmness of a disinterested
patriot, declared to the electors, that the feeble age of the one, and
the unexperienced youth of the other, were equally incapable of the
laborious duties of government. Several candidates were proposed; and,
after weighing the objections of character or situation, they were
successively rejected; but, as soon as the name of Valentinian was
pronounced, the merit of that officer united the suffrages of the whole
assembly, and obtained the sincere approbation of Sallust himself.
Valentinian was the son of Count Gratian, a native of Cibalis, in
Pannonia, who from an obscure condition had raised himself, by matchless
strength and dexterity, to the military commands of Africa and Britain;
from which he retired with an ample fortune and suspicious integrity.
The rank and services of Gratian contributed, however, to smooth the
first steps of the promotion of his son; and afforded him an early
opportunity of displaying those solid and useful qualifications, which
raised his character above the ordinary level of his fellow-soldiers.
The person of Valentinian was tall, graceful, and majestic. His manly
countenance, deeply marked with the impression of sense and spirit,
inspired his friends with awe, and his enemies with fear; and to second
the efforts of his undaunted courage, the son of Gratian had inherited
the advantages of a strong and healthy constitution. By the habits of
chastity and temperance, which restrain the appetites and invigorate
the faculties, Valentinian preserved his own and the public esteem. The
avocations of a military life had diverted his youth from the elegant
pursuits of literature; * he was ignorant of the Greek language, and the
arts of rhetoric; but as the mind of the orator was never disconcerted
by timid perplexity, he was able, as often as the occasion prompted him,
to deliver his decided sentiments with bold and ready elocution. The
laws of martial discipline were the only laws that he had studied; and
he was soon distinguished by the laborious diligence, and inflexible
severity, with which he discharged and enforced the duties of the
camp. In the time of Julian he provoked the danger of disgrace, by the
contempt which he publicly expressed for the reigning religion; and
it should seem, from his subsequent conduct, that the indiscreet and
unseasonable freedom of Valentinian was the effect of military spirit,
rather than of Christian zeal. He was pardoned, however, and still
employed by a prince who esteemed his merit; and in the various events
of the Persian war, he improved the reputation which he had already
acquired on the banks of the Rhine. The celerity and success with which
he executed an important commission, recommended him to the favor of
Jovian; and to the honorable command of the second school, or company,
of Targetiers, of the domestic guards. In the march from Antioch, he
had reached his quarters at Ancyra, when he was unexpectedly summoned,
without guilt and without intrigue, to assume, in the forty-third year
of his age, the absolute government of the Roman empire.

The invitation of the ministers and generals at Nice was of little
moment, unless it were confirmed by the voice of the army. The aged
Sallust, who had long observed the irregular fluctuations of popular
assemblies, proposed, under pain of death, that none of those persons,
whose rank in the service might excite a party in their favor, should
appear in public on the day of the inauguration. Yet such was the
prevalence of ancient superstition, that a whole day was voluntarily
added to this dangerous interval, because it happened to be the
intercalation of the Bissextile. At length, when the hour was supposed
to be propitious, Valentinian showed himself from a lofty tribunal; the
judicious choice was applauded; and the new prince was solemnly invested
with the diadem and the purple, amidst the acclamation of the troops,
who were disposed in martial order round the tribunal. But when he
stretched forth his hand to address the armed multitude, a busy whisper
was accidentally started in the ranks, and insensibly swelled into
a loud and imperious clamor, that he should name, without delay, a
colleague in the empire. The intrepid calmness of Valentinian obtained
silence, and commanded respect; and he thus addressed the assembly: "A
few minutes since it was in your power, fellow-soldiers, to have left me
in the obscurity of a private station. Judging, from the testimony of my
past life, that I deserved to reign, you have placed me on the throne.
It is now my duty to consult the safety and interest of the republic.
The weight of the universe is undoubtedly too great for the hands of
a feeble mortal. I am conscious of the limits of my abilities, and the
uncertainty of my life; and far from declining, I am anxious to solicit,
the assistance of a worthy colleague. But, where discord may be
fatal, the choice of a faithful friend requires mature and serious
deliberation. That deliberation shall be my care. Let your conduct be
dutiful and consistent. Retire to your quarters; refresh your minds and
bodies; and expect the accustomed donative on the accession of a
new emperor." The astonished troops, with a mixture of pride, of
satisfaction, and of terror, confessed the voice of their master.
Their angry clamors subsided into silent reverence; and Valentinian,
encompassed with the eagles of the legions, and the various banners of
the cavalry and infantry, was conducted, in warlike pomp, to the palace
of Nice. As he was sensible, however, of the importance of preventing
some rash declaration of the soldiers, he consulted the assembly of
the chiefs; and their real sentiments were concisely expressed by the
generous freedom of Dagalaiphus. "Most excellent prince," said that
officer, "if you consider only your family, you have a brother; if you
love the republic, look round for the most deserving of the Romans." The
emperor, who suppressed his displeasure, without altering his intention,
slowly proceeded from Nice to Nicomedia and Constantinople. In one of
the suburbs of that capital, thirty days after his own elevation, he
bestowed the title of Augustus on his brother Valens; * and as the
boldest patriots were convinced, that their opposition, without
being serviceable to their country, would be fatal to themselves, the
declaration of his absolute will was received with silent submission.
Valens was now in the thirty-sixth year of his age; but his abilities
had never been exercised in any employment, military or civil; and his
character had not inspired the world with any sanguine expectations. He
possessed, however, one quality, which recommended him to Valentinian,
and preserved the domestic peace of the empire; devout and grateful
attachment to his benefactor, whose superiority of genius, as well as of
authority, Valens humbly and cheerfully acknowledged in every action of
his life.



Chapter XXV: Reigns Of Jovian And Valentinian, Division Of The
Empire.--Part II.

Before Valentinian divided the provinces, he reformed the administration
of the empire. All ranks of subjects, who had been injured or oppressed
under the reign of Julian, were invited to support their public
accusations. The silence of mankind attested the spotless integrity of
the præfect Sallust; and his own pressing solicitations, that he might
be permitted to retire from the business of the state, were rejected
by Valentinian with the most honorable expressions of friendship and
esteem. But among the favorites of the late emperor, there were many who
had abused his credulity or superstition; and who could no longer hope
to be protected either by favor or justice. The greater part of the
ministers of the palace, and the governors of the provinces, were
removed from their respective stations; yet the eminent merit of
some officers was distinguished from the obnoxious crowd; and,
notwithstanding the opposite clamors of zeal and resentment, the whole
proceedings of this delicate inquiry appear to have been conducted with
a reasonable share of wisdom and moderation. The festivity of a new
reign received a short and suspicious interruption from the sudden
illness of the two princes; but as soon as their health was restored,
they left Constantinople in the beginning of the spring. In the castle,
or palace, of Mediana, only three miles from Naissus, they executed the
solemn and final division of the Roman empire. Valentinian bestowed on
his brother the rich præfecture of the East, from the Lower Danube to
the confines of Persia; whilst he reserved for his immediate government
the warlike * præfectures of Illyricum, Italy, and Gaul, from the
extremity of Greece to the Caledonian rampart, and from the rampart
of Caledonia to the foot of Mount Atlas. The provincial administration
remained on its former basis; but a double supply of generals and
magistrates was required for two councils, and two courts: the division
was made with a just regard to their peculiar merit and situation,
and seven master-generals were soon created, either of the cavalry or
infantry. When this important business had been amicably transacted,
Valentinian and Valens embraced for the last time. The emperor of the
West established his temporary residence at Milan; and the emperor of
the East returned to Constantinople, to assume the dominion of fifty
provinces, of whose language he was totally ignorant.

The tranquility of the East was soon disturbed by rebellion; and the
throne of Valens was threatened by the daring attempts of a rival whose
affinity to the emperor Julian was his sole merit, and had been his only
crime. Procopius had been hastily promoted from the obscure station of a
tribune, and a notary, to the joint command of the army of Mesopotamia;
the public opinion already named him as the successor of a prince who
was destitute of natural heirs; and a vain rumor was propagated by his
friends, or his enemies, that Julian, before the altar of the Moon at
Carrhæ, had privately invested Procopius with the Imperial purple.
He endeavored, by his dutiful and submissive behavior, to disarm the
jealousy of Jovian; resigned, without a contest, his military command;
and retired, with his wife and family, to cultivate the ample patrimony
which he possessed in the province of Cappadocia. These useful and
innocent occupations were interrupted by the appearance of an officer
with a band of soldiers, who, in the name of his new sovereigns,
Valentinian and Valens, was despatched to conduct the unfortunate
Procopius either to a perpetual prison or an ignominious death. His
presence of mind procured him a longer respite, and a more splendid
fate. Without presuming to dispute the royal mandate, he requested the
indulgence of a few moments to embrace his weeping family; and while
the vigilance of his guards was relaxed by a plentiful entertainment,
he dexterously escaped to the sea-coast of the Euxine, from whence he
passed over to the country of Bosphorus. In that sequestered region he
remained many months, exposed to the hardships of exile, of solitude,
and of want; his melancholy temper brooding over his misfortunes, and
his mind agitated by the just apprehension, that, if any accident should
discover his name, the faithless Barbarians would violate, without much
scruple, the laws of hospitality. In a moment of impatience and
despair, Procopius embarked in a merchant vessel, which made sail for
Constantinople; and boldly aspired to the rank of a sovereign, because
he was not allowed to enjoy the security of a subject. At first he
lurked in the villages of Bithynia, continually changing his habitation
and his disguise. By degrees he ventured into the capital, trusted his
life and fortune to the fidelity of two friends, a senator and a eunuch,
and conceived some hopes of success, from the intelligence which he
obtained of the actual state of public affairs. The body of the people
was infected with a spirit of discontent: they regretted the justice and
the abilities of Sallust, who had been imprudently dismissed from the
præfecture of the East. They despised the character of Valens, which
was rude without vigor, and feeble without mildness. They dreaded the
influence of his father-in-law, the patrician Petronius, a cruel and
rapacious minister, who rigorously exacted all the arrears of tribute
that might remain unpaid since the reign of the emperor Aurelian. The
circumstances were propitious to the designs of a usurper. The hostile
measures of the Persians required the presence of Valens in Syria: from
the Danube to the Euphrates the troops were in motion; and the capital
was occasionally filled with the soldiers who passed or repassed the
Thracian Bosphorus. Two cohorts of Gaul were persuaded to listen to
the secret proposals of the conspirators; which were recommended by the
promise of a liberal donative; and, as they still revered the memory
of Julian, they easily consented to support the hereditary claim of his
proscribed kinsman. At the dawn of day they were drawn up near the baths
of Anastasia; and Procopius, clothed in a purple garment, more suitable
to a player than to a monarch, appeared, as if he rose from the dead,
in the midst of Constantinople. The soldiers, who were prepared for his
reception, saluted their trembling prince with shouts of joy and vows
of fidelity. Their numbers were soon increased by a band of sturdy
peasants, collected from the adjacent country; and Procopius, shielded
by the arms of his adherents, was successively conducted to the
tribunal, the senate, and the palace. During the first moments of his
tumultuous reign, he was astonished and terrified by the gloomy silence
of the people; who were either ignorant of the cause, or apprehensive
of the event. But his military strength was superior to any actual
resistance: the malecontents flocked to the standard of rebellion; the
poor were excited by the hopes, and the rich were intimidated by the
fear, of a general pillage; and the obstinate credulity of the multitude
was once more deceived by the promised advantages of a revolution. The
magistrates were seized; the prisons and arsenals broke open; the gates,
and the entrance of the harbor, were diligently occupied; and, in a few
hours, Procopius became the absolute, though precarious, master of the
Imperial city. * The usurper improved this unexpected success with some
degree of courage and dexterity. He artfully propagated the rumors
and opinions the most favorable to his interest; while he deluded the
populace by giving audience to the frequent, but imaginary, ambassadors
of distant nations. The large bodies of troops stationed in the cities
of Thrace and the fortresses of the Lower Danube, were gradually
involved in the guilt of rebellion: and the Gothic princes consented to
supply the sovereign of Constantinople with the formidable strength of
several thousand auxiliaries. His generals passed the Bosphorus, and
subdued, without an effort, the unarmed, but wealthy provinces of
Bithynia and Asia. After an honorable defence, the city and island of
Cyzicus yielded to his power; the renowned legions of the Jovians and
Herculians embraced the cause of the usurper, whom they were ordered to
crush; and, as the veterans were continually augmented with new levies,
he soon appeared at the head of an army, whose valor, as well as
numbers, were not unequal to the greatness of the contest. The son of
Hormisdas, a youth of spirit and ability, condescended to draw his
sword against the lawful emperor of the East; and the Persian prince
was immediately invested with the ancient and extraordinary powers of
a Roman Proconsul. The alliance of Faustina, the widow of the emperor
Constantius, who intrusted herself and her daughter to the hands of
the usurper, added dignity and reputation to his cause. The princess
Constantia, who was then about five years of age, accompanied, in a
litter, the march of the army. She was shown to the multitude in the
arms of her adopted father; and, as often as she passed through the
ranks, the tenderness of the soldiers was inflamed into martial fury:
they recollected the glories of the house of Constantine, and they
declared, with loyal acclamation, that they would shed the last drop of
their blood in the defence of the royal infant.

In the mean while Valentinian was alarmed and perplexed by the doubtful
intelligence of the revolt of the East. * The difficulties of a German
was forced him to confine his immediate care to the safety of his
own dominions; and, as every channel of communication was stopped or
corrupted, he listened, with doubtful anxiety, to the rumors which
were industriously spread, that the defeat and death of Valens had left
Procopius sole master of the Eastern provinces. Valens was not dead: but
on the news of the rebellion, which he received at Cæsarea, he basely
despaired of his life and fortune; proposed to negotiate with the
usurper, and discovered his secret inclination to abdicate the Imperial
purple. The timid monarch was saved from disgrace and ruin by the
firmness of his ministers, and their abilities soon decided in his favor
the event of the civil war. In a season of tranquillity, Sallust
had resigned without a murmur; but as soon as the public safety was
attacked, he ambitiously solicited the preeminence of toil and danger;
and the restoration of that virtuous minister to the præfecture of the
East, was the first step which indicated the repentance of Valens, and
satisfied the minds of the people. The reign of Procopius was apparently
supported by powerful armies and obedient provinces. But many of the
principal officers, military as well as civil, had been urged, either
by motives of duty or interest, to withdraw themselves from the guilty
scene; or to watch the moment of betraying, and deserting, the cause of
the usurper. Lupicinus advanced by hasty marches, to bring the legions
of Syria to the aid of Valens. Arintheus, who, in strength, beauty, and
valor, excelled all the heroes of the age, attacked with a small troop
a superior body of the rebels. When he beheld the faces of the soldiers
who had served under his banner, he commanded them, with a loud voice,
to seize and deliver up their pretended leader; and such was the
ascendant of his genius, that this extraordinary order was instantly
obeyed. Arbetio, a respectable veteran of the great Constantine, who
had been distinguished by the honors of the consulship, was persuaded to
leave his retirement, and once more to conduct an army into the field.
In the heat of action, calmly taking off his helmet, he showed his gray
hairs and venerable countenance: saluted the soldiers of Procopius by
the endearing names of children and companions, and exhorted them no
longer to support the desperate cause of a contemptible tyrant; but
to follow their old commander, who had so often led them to honor and
victory. In the two engagements of Thyatira and Nacolia, the unfortunate
Procopius was deserted by his troops, who were seduced by the
instructions and example of their perfidious officers. After wandering
some time among the woods and mountains of Phrygia, he was betrayed
by his desponding followers, conducted to the Imperial camp, and
immediately beheaded. He suffered the ordinary fate of an unsuccessful
usurper; but the acts of cruelty which were exercised by the conqueror,
under the forms of legal justice, excited the pity and indignation of
mankind.

Such indeed are the common and natural fruits of despotism and
rebellion. But the inquisition into the crime of magic, which, under the
reign of the two brothers, was so rigorously prosecuted both at Rome and
Antioch, was interpreted as the fatal symptom, either of the displeasure
of Heaven, or of the depravity of mankind. Let us not hesitate to
indulge a liberal pride, that, in the present age, the enlightened part
of Europe has abolished a cruel and odious prejudice, which reigned in
every climate of the globe, and adhered to every system of religious
opinions. The nations, and the sects, of the Roman world, admitted with
equal credulity, and similar abhorrence, the reality of that infernal
art, which was able to control the eternal order of the planets, and
the voluntary operations of the human mind. They dreaded the mysterious
power of spells and incantations, of potent herbs, and execrable rites;
which could extinguish or recall life, inflame the passions of the soul,
blast the works of creation, and extort from the reluctant dæmons the
secrets of futurity. They believed, with the wildest inconsistency,
that this preternatural dominion of the air, of earth, and of hell, was
exercised, from the vilest motives of malice or gain, by some wrinkled
hags and itinerant sorcerers, who passed their obscure lives in penury
and contempt. The arts of magic were equally condemned by the public
opinion, and by the laws of Rome; but as they tended to gratify the
most imperious passions of the heart of man, they were continually
proscribed, and continually practised. An imaginary cause as capable of
producing the most serious and mischievous effects. The dark predictions
of the death of an emperor, or the success of a conspiracy, were
calculated only to stimulate the hopes of ambition, and to dissolve the
ties of fidelity; and the intentional guilt of magic was aggravated by
the actual crimes of treason and sacrilege. Such vain terrors disturbed
the peace of society, and the happiness of individuals; and the harmless
flame which insensibly melted a waxen image, might derive a powerful and
pernicious energy from the affrighted fancy of the person whom it was
maliciously designed to represent. From the infusion of those herbs,
which were supposed to possess a supernatural influence, it was an easy
step to the use of more substantial poison; and the folly of mankind
sometimes became the instrument, and the mask, of the most atrocious
crimes. As soon as the zeal of informers was encouraged by the ministers
of Valens and Valentinian, they could not refuse to listen to another
charge, too frequently mingled in the scenes of domestic guilt; a charge
of a softer and less malignant nature, for which the pious, though
excessive, rigor of Constantine had recently decreed the punishment
of death. This deadly and incoherent mixture of treason and magic,
of poison and adultery, afforded infinite gradations of guilt and
innocence, of excuse and aggravation, which in these proceedings appear
to have been confounded by the angry or corrupt passions of the judges.
They easily discovered that the degree of their industry and discernment
was estimated, by the Imperial court, according to the number of
executions that were furnished from the respective tribunals. It was not
without extreme reluctance that they pronounced a sentence of acquittal;
but they eagerly admitted such evidence as was stained with perjury, or
procured by torture, to prove the most improbable charges against the
most respectable characters. The progress of the inquiry continually
opened new subjects of criminal prosecution; the audacious informer,
whose falsehood was detected, retired with impunity; but the wretched
victim, who discovered his real or pretended accomplices, were seldom
permitted to receive the price of his infamy. From the extremity of
Italy and Asia, the young, and the aged, were dragged in chains to the
tribunals of Rome and Antioch. Senators, matrons, and philosophers,
expired in ignominious and cruel tortures. The soldiers, who were
appointed to guard the prisons, declared, with a murmur of pity and
indignation, that their numbers were insufficient to oppose the flight,
or resistance, of the multitude of captives. The wealthiest families
were ruined by fines and confiscations; the most innocent citizens
trembled for their safety; and we may form some notion of the magnitude
of the evil, from the extravagant assertion of an ancient writer,
that, in the obnoxious provinces, the prisoners, the exiles, and the
fugitives, formed the greatest part of the inhabitants.

When Tacitus describes the deaths of the innocent and illustrious
Romans, who were sacrificed to the cruelty of the first Cæsars, the art
of the historian, or the merit of the sufferers, excites in our breast
the most lively sensations of terror, of admiration, and of pity. The
coarse and undistinguishing pencil of Ammianus has delineated his bloody
figures with tedious and disgusting accuracy. But as our attention is
no longer engaged by the contrast of freedom and servitude, of recent
greatness and of actual misery, we should turn with horror from the
frequent executions, which disgraced, both at Rome and Antioch, the
reign of the two brothers. Valens was of a timid, and Valentinian of a
choleric, disposition. An anxious regard to his personal safety was the
ruling principle of the administration of Valens. In the condition of a
subject, he had kissed, with trembling awe, the hand of the oppressor;
and when he ascended the throne, he reasonably expected, that the
same fears, which had subdued his own mind, would secure the patient
submission of his people. The favorites of Valens obtained, by the
privilege of rapine and confiscation, the wealth which his economy would
have refused. They urged, with persuasive eloquence, that, in all cases
of treason, suspicion is equivalent to proof; that the power supposes
the intention, of mischief; that the intention is not less criminal than
the act; and that a subject no longer deserves to live, if his life
may threaten the safety, or disturb the repose, of his sovereign. The
judgment of Valentinian was sometimes deceived, and his confidence
abused; but he would have silenced the informers with a contemptuous
smile, had they presumed to alarm his fortitude by the sound of danger.
They praised his inflexible love of justice; and, in the pursuit of
justice, the emperor was easily tempted to consider clemency as a
weakness, and passion as a virtue. As long as he wrestled with his
equals, in the bold competition of an active and ambitious life,
Valentinian was seldom injured, and never insulted, with impunity: if
his prudence was arraigned, his spirit was applauded; and the proudest
and most powerful generals were apprehensive of provoking the resentment
of a fearless soldier. After he became master of the world, he
unfortunately forgot, that where no resistance can be made, no courage
can be exerted; and instead of consulting the dictates of reason and
magnanimity, he indulged the furious emotions of his temper, at a time
when they were disgraceful to himself, and fatal to the defenceless
objects of his displeasure. In the government of his household, or of
his empire, slight, or even imaginary, offences--a hasty word, a
casual omission, an involuntary delay--were chastised by a sentence of
immediate death. The expressions which issued the most readily from the
mouth of the emperor of the West were, "Strike off his head;" "Burn him
alive;" "Let him be beaten with clubs till he expires;" and his most
favored ministers soon understood, that, by a rash attempt to dispute,
or suspend, the execution of his sanguinary commands, they might involve
themselves in the guilt and punishment of disobedience. The repeated
gratification of this savage justice hardened the mind of Valentinian
against pity and remorse; and the sallies of passion were confirmed
by the habits of cruelty. He could behold with calm satisfaction the
convulsive agonies of torture and death; he reserved his friendship for
those faithful servants whose temper was the most congenial to his own.
The merit of Maximin, who had slaughtered the noblest families of Rome,
was rewarded with the royal approbation, and the præfecture of Gaul.
Two fierce and enormous bears, distinguished by the appellations of
Innocence, and Mica Aurea, could alone deserve to share the favor of
Maximin. The cages of those trusty guards were always placed near the
bed-chamber of Valentinian, who frequently amused his eyes with the
grateful spectacle of seeing them tear and devour the bleeding limbs
of the malefactors who were abandoned to their rage. Their diet and
exercises were carefully inspected by the Roman emperor; and when
Innocence had earned her discharge, by a long course of meritorious
service, the faithful animal was again restored to the freedom of her
native woods.



Chapter XXV: Reigns Of Jovian And Valentinian, Division Of The
Empire.--Part III.

But in the calmer moments of reflection, when the mind of Valens was not
agitated by fear, or that of Valentinian by rage, the tyrant resumed the
sentiments, or at least the conduct, of the father of his country. The
dispassionate judgment of the Western emperor could clearly perceive,
and accurately pursue, his own and the public interest; and the
sovereign of the East, who imitated with equal docility the various
examples which he received from his elder brother, was sometimes guided
by the wisdom and virtue of the præfect Sallust. Both princes invariably
retained, in the purple, the chaste and temperate simplicity which had
adorned their private life; and, under their reign, the pleasures of the
court never cost the people a blush or a sigh. They gradually reformed
many of the abuses of the times of Constantius; judiciously adopted and
improved the designs of Julian and his successor; and displayed a style
and spirit of legislation which might inspire posterity with the most
favorable opinion of their character and government. It is not from the
master of Innocence, that we should expect the tender regard for the
welfare of his subjects, which prompted Valentinian to condemn the
exposition of new-born infants; and to establish fourteen skilful
physicians, with stipends and privileges, in the fourteen quarters
of Rome. The good sense of an illiterate soldier founded a useful and
liberal institution for the education of youth, and the support of
declining science. It was his intention, that the arts of rhetoric
and grammar should be taught in the Greek and Latin languages, in the
metropolis of every province; and as the size and dignity of the school
was usually proportioned to the importance of the city, the academies
of Rome and Constantinople claimed a just and singular preeminence. The
fragments of the literary edicts of Valentinian imperfectly represent
the school of Constantinople, which was gradually improved by subsequent
regulations. That school consisted of thirty-one professors in different
branches of learning. One philosopher, and two lawyers; five sophists,
and ten grammarians for the Greek, and three orators, and ten
grammarians for the Latin tongue; besides seven scribes, or, as they
were then styled, antiquarians, whose laborious pens supplied the public
library with fair and correct copies of the classic writers. The rule of
conduct, which was prescribed to the students, is the more curious, as
it affords the first outlines of the form and discipline of a modern
university. It was required, that they should bring proper certificates
from the magistrates of their native province. Their names, professions,
and places of abode, were regularly entered in a public register. The
studious youth were severely prohibited from wasting their time in
feasts, or in the theatre; and the term of their education was limited
to the age of twenty. The præfect of the city was empowered to chastise
the idle and refractory by stripes or expulsion; and he was directed to
make an annual report to the master of the offices, that the knowledge
and abilities of the scholars might be usefully applied to the public
service. The institutions of Valentinian contributed to secure the
benefits of peace and plenty; and the cities were guarded by the
establishment of the Defensors; freely elected as the tribunes and
advocates of the people, to support their rights, and to expose their
grievances, before the tribunals of the civil magistrates, or even
at the foot of the Imperial throne. The finances were diligently
administered by two princes, who had been so long accustomed to the
rigid economy of a private fortune; but in the receipt and application
of the revenue, a discerning eye might observe some difference between
the government of the East and of the West. Valens was persuaded, that
royal liberality can be supplied only by public oppression, and his
ambition never aspired to secure, by their actual distress, the future
strength and prosperity of his people. Instead of increasing the
weight of taxes, which, in the space of forty years, had been gradually
doubled, he reduced, in the first years of his reign, one fourth of the
tribute of the East. Valentinian appears to have been less attentive and
less anxious to relieve the burdens of his people. He might reform the
abuses of the fiscal administration; but he exacted, without scruple, a
very large share of the private property; as he was convinced, that the
revenues, which supported the luxury of individuals, would be much more
advantageously employed for the defence and improvement of the state.
The subjects of the East, who enjoyed the present benefit, applauded
the indulgence of their prince. The solid but less splendid, merit of
Valentinian was felt and acknowledged by the subsequent generation.

But the most honorable circumstance of the character of Valentinian, is
the firm and temperate impartiality which he uniformly preserved in
an age of religious contention. His strong sense, unenlightened, but
uncorrupted, by study, declined, with respectful indifference, the
subtle questions of theological debate. The government of the Earth
claimed his vigilance, and satisfied his ambition; and while he
remembered that he was the disciple of the church, he never forgot that
he was the sovereign of the clergy. Under the reign of an apostate, he
had signalized his zeal for the honor of Christianity: he allowed to his
subjects the privilege which he had assumed for himself; and they might
accept, with gratitude and confidence, the general toleration which was
granted by a prince addicted to passion, but incapable of fear or
of disguise. The Pagans, the Jews, and all the various sects which
acknowledged the divine authority of Christ, were protected by the laws
from arbitrary power or popular insult; nor was any mode of worship
prohibited by Valentinian, except those secret and criminal practices,
which abused the name of religion for the dark purposes of vice and
disorder. The art of magic, as it was more cruelly punished, was more
strictly proscribed: but the emperor admitted a formal distinction to
protect the ancient methods of divination, which were approved by the
senate, and exercised by the Tuscan haruspices. He had condemned,
with the consent of the most rational Pagans, the license of nocturnal
sacrifices; but he immediately admitted the petition of Prætextatus,
proconsul of Achaia, who represented, that the life of the Greeks would
become dreary and comfortless, if they were deprived of the invaluable
blessing of the Eleusinian mysteries. Philosophy alone can boast, (and
perhaps it is no more than the boast of philosophy,) that her gentle
hand is able to eradicate from the human mind the latent and deadly
principle of fanaticism. But this truce of twelve years, which was
enforced by the wise and vigorous government of Valentinian, by
suspending the repetition of mutual injuries, contributed to soften the
manners, and abate the prejudices, of the religious factions.

The friend of toleration was unfortunately placed at a distance from the
scene of the fiercest controversies. As soon as the Christians of the
West had extricated themselves from the snares of the creed of Rimini,
they happily relapsed into the slumber of orthodoxy; and the small
remains of the Arian party, that still subsisted at Sirmium or Milan,
might be considered rather as objects of contempt than of resentment.
But in the provinces of the East, from the Euxine to the extremity of
Thebais, the strength and numbers of the hostile factions were more
equally balanced; and this equality, instead of recommending the
counsels of peace, served only to perpetuate the horrors of religious
war. The monks and bishops supported their arguments by invectives;
and their invectives were sometimes followed by blows. Athanasius still
reigned at Alexandria; the thrones of Constantinople and Antioch were
occupied by Arian prelates, and every episcopal vacancy was the
occasion of a popular tumult. The Homoousians were fortified by the
reconciliation of fifty-nine Macedonian, or Semi-Arian, bishops; but
their secret reluctance to embrace the divinity of the Holy Ghost,
clouded the splendor of the triumph; and the declaration of Valens, who,
in the first years of his reign, had imitated the impartial conduct of
his brother, was an important victory on the side of Arianism. The two
brothers had passed their private life in the condition of catechumens;
but the piety of Valens prompted him to solicit the sacrament of
baptism, before he exposed his person to the dangers of a Gothic war. He
naturally addressed himself to Eudoxus, * bishop of the Imperial city;
and if the ignorant monarch was instructed by that Arian pastor in the
principles of heterodox theology, his misfortune, rather than his guilt,
was the inevitable consequence of his erroneous choice. Whatever had
been the determination of the emperor, he must have offended a numerous
party of his Christian subjects; as the leaders both of the Homoousians
and of the Arians believed, that, if they were not suffered to reign,
they were most cruelly injured and oppressed. After he had taken this
decisive step, it was extremely difficult for him to preserve either
the virtue, or the reputation of impartiality. He never aspired,
like Constantius, to the fame of a profound theologian; but as he had
received with simplicity and respect the tenets of Eudoxus, Valens
resigned his conscience to the direction of his ecclesiastical guides,
and promoted, by the influence of his authority, the reunion of the
Athanasian heretics to the body of the Catholic church. At first, he
pitied their blindness; by degrees he was provoked at their obstinacy;
and he insensibly hated those sectaries to whom he was an object of
hatred. The feeble mind of Valens was always swayed by the persons with
whom he familiarly conversed; and the exile or imprisonment of a private
citizen are the favors the most readily granted in a despotic court.
Such punishments were frequently inflicted on the leaders of the
Homoousian party; and the misfortune of fourscore ecclesiastics of
Constantinople, who, perhaps accidentally, were burned on shipboard,
was imputed to the cruel and premeditated malice of the emperor, and his
Arian ministers. In every contest, the Catholics (if we may anticipate
that name) were obliged to pay the penalty of their own faults, and of
those of their adversaries. In every election, the claims of the Arian
candidate obtained the preference; and if they were opposed by the
majority of the people, he was usually supported by the authority of
the civil magistrate, or even by the terrors of a military force.
The enemies of Athanasius attempted to disturb the last years of his
venerable age; and his temporary retreat to his father's sepulchre has
been celebrated as a fifth exile. But the zeal of a great people, who
instantly flew to arms, intimidated the præfect: and the archbishop
was permitted to end his life in peace and in glory, after a reign
of forty-seven years. The death of Athanasius was the signal of the
persecution of Egypt; and the Pagan minister of Valens, who forcibly
seated the worthless Lucius on the archiepiscopal throne, purchased
the favor of the reigning party, by the blood and sufferings of their
Christian brethren. The free toleration of the heathen and Jewish
worship was bitterly lamented, as a circumstance which aggravated the
misery of the Catholics, and the guilt of the impious tyrant of the
East.

The triumph of the orthodox party has left a deep stain of persecution
on the memory of Valens; and the character of a prince who derived
his virtues, as well as his vices, from a feeble understanding and a
pusillanimous temper, scarcely deserves the labor of an apology. Yet
candor may discover some reasons to suspect that the ecclesiastical
ministers of Valens often exceeded the orders, or even the intentions,
of their master; and that the real measure of facts has been very
liberally magnified by the vehement declamation and easy credulity of
his antagonists. 1. The silence of Valentinian may suggest a probable
argument that the partial severities, which were exercised in the
name and provinces of his colleague, amounted only to some obscure
and inconsiderable deviations from the established system of religious
toleration: and the judicious historian, who has praised the equal
temper of the elder brother, has not thought himself obliged to contrast
the tranquillity of the West with the cruel persecution of the East.
2. Whatever credit may be allowed to vague and distant reports, the
character, or at least the behavior, of Valens, may be most distinctly
seen in his personal transactions with the eloquent Basil, archbishop
of Cæsarea, who had succeeded Athanasius in the management of the
Trinitarian cause. The circumstantial narrative has been composed by the
friends and admirers of Basil; and as soon as we have stripped away
a thick coat of rhetoric and miracle, we shall be astonished by the
unexpected mildness of the Arian tyrant, who admired the firmness of his
character, or was apprehensive, if he employed violence, of a general
revolt in the province of Cappadocia. The archbishop, who asserted,
with inflexible pride, the truth of his opinions, and the dignity of his
rank, was left in the free possession of his conscience and his throne.
The emperor devoutly assisted at the solemn service of the cathedral;
and, instead of a sentence of banishment, subscribed the donation of
a valuable estate for the use of a hospital, which Basil had lately
founded in the neighborhood of Cæsarea. 3. I am not able to discover,
that any law (such as Theodosius afterwards enacted against the Arians)
was published by Valens against the Athanasian sectaries; and the edict
which excited the most violent clamors, may not appear so extremely
reprehensible. The emperor had observed, that several of his subjects,
gratifying their lazy disposition under the pretence of religion, had
associated themselves with the monks of Egypt; and he directed the
count of the East to drag them from their solitude; and to compel these
deserters of society to accept the fair alternative of renouncing their
temporal possessions, or of discharging the public duties of men and
citizens. The ministers of Valens seem to have extended the sense of
this penal statute, since they claimed a right of enlisting the young
and able-bodied monks in the Imperial armies. A detachment of cavalry
and infantry, consisting of three thousand men, marched from Alexandria
into the adjacent desert of Nitria, which was peopled by five thousand
monks. The soldiers were conducted by Arian priests; and it is reported,
that a considerable slaughter was made in the monasteries which
disobeyed the commands of their sovereign.

The strict regulations which have been framed by the wisdom of modern
legislators to restrain the wealth and avarice of the clergy, may be
originally deduced from the example of the emperor Valentinian. His
edict, addressed to Damasus, bishop of Rome, was publicly read in the
churches of the city. He admonished the ecclesiastics and monks not
to frequent the houses of widows and virgins; and menaced their
disobedience with the animadversion of the civil judge. The director was
no longer permitted to receive any gift, or legacy, or inheritance, from
the liberality of his spiritual-daughter: every testament contrary to
this edict was declared null and void; and the illegal donation was
confiscated for the use of the treasury. By a subsequent regulation, it
should seem, that the same provisions were extended to nuns and bishops;
and that all persons of the ecclesiastical order were rendered incapable
of receiving any testamentary gifts, and strictly confined to the
natural and legal rights of inheritance. As the guardian of domestic
happiness and virtue, Valentinian applied this severe remedy to the
growing evil. In the capital of the empire, the females of noble and
opulent houses possessed a very ample share of independent property: and
many of those devout females had embraced the doctrines of Christianity,
not only with the cold assent of the understanding, but with the warmth
of affection, and perhaps with the eagerness of fashion. They sacrificed
the pleasures of dress and luxury; and renounced, for the praise of
chastity, the soft endearments of conjugal society. Some ecclesiastic,
of real or apparent sanctity, was chosen to direct their timorous
conscience, and to amuse the vacant tenderness of their heart: and the
unbounded confidence, which they hastily bestowed, was often abused by
knaves and enthusiasts; who hastened from the extremities of the
East, to enjoy, on a splendid theatre, the privileges of the monastic
profession. By their contempt of the world, they insensibly acquired its
most desirable advantages; the lively attachment, perhaps of a young and
beautiful woman, the delicate plenty of an opulent household, and the
respectful homage of the slaves, the freedmen, and the clients of
a senatorial family. The immense fortunes of the Roman ladies were
gradually consumed in lavish alms and expensive pilgrimages; and the
artful monk, who had assigned himself the first, or possibly the sole
place, in the testament of his spiritual daughter, still presumed
to declare, with the smooth face of hypocrisy, that he was only the
instrument of charity, and the steward of the poor. The lucrative, but
disgraceful, trade, which was exercised by the clergy to defraud the
expectations of the natural heirs, had provoked the indignation of a
superstitious age: and two of the most respectable of the Latin fathers
very honestly confess, that the ignominious edict of Valentinian was
just and necessary; and that the Christian priests had deserved to lose
a privilege, which was still enjoyed by comedians, charioteers, and the
ministers of idols. But the wisdom and authority of the legislator are
seldom victorious in a contest with the vigilant dexterity of private
interest; and Jerom, or Ambrose, might patiently acquiesce in the
justice of an ineffectual or salutary law. If the ecclesiastics were
checked in the pursuit of personal emolument, they would exert a more
laudable industry to increase the wealth of the church; and dignify
their covetousness with the specious names of piety and patriotism.

Damasus, bishop of Rome, who was constrained to stigmatize the avarice
of his clergy by the publication of the law of Valentinian, had the
good sense, or the good fortune, to engage in his service the zeal and
abilities of the learned Jerom; and the grateful saint has celebrated
the merit and purity of a very ambiguous character. But the splendid
vices of the church of Rome, under the reign of Valentinian and Damasus,
have been curiously observed by the historian Ammianus, who delivers his
impartial sense in these expressive words: "The præfecture of Juventius
was accompanied with peace and plenty, but the tranquillity of his
government was soon disturbed by a bloody sedition of the distracted
people. The ardor of Damasus and Ursinus, to seize the episcopal seat,
surpassed the ordinary measure of human ambition. They contended with
the rage of party; the quarrel was maintained by the wounds and death
of their followers; and the præfect, unable to resist or appease the
tumult, was constrained, by superior violence, to retire into the
suburbs. Damasus prevailed: the well-disputed victory remained on the
side of his faction; one hundred and thirty-seven dead bodies were found
in the Basilica of Sicininus, where the Christians hold their religious
assemblies; and it was long before the angry minds of the people resumed
their accustomed tranquillity. When I consider the splendor of the
capital, I am not astonished that so valuable a prize should inflame the
desires of ambitious men, and produce the fiercest and most obstinate
contests. The successful candidate is secure, that he will be enriched
by the offerings of matrons; that, as soon as his dress is composed with
becoming care and elegance, he may proceed, in his chariot, through the
streets of Rome; and that the sumptuousness of the Imperial table will
not equal the profuse and delicate entertainments provided by the taste,
and at the expense, of the Roman pontiffs. How much more rationally
(continues the honest Pagan) would those pontiffs consult their true
happiness, if, instead of alleging the greatness of the city as an
excuse for their manners, they would imitate the exemplary life of some
provincial bishops, whose temperance and sobriety, whose mean apparel
and downcast looks, recommend their pure and modest virtue to the
Deity and his true worshippers!" The schism of Damasus and Ursinus was
extinguished by the exile of the latter; and the wisdom of the præfect
Prætextatus restored the tranquillity of the city. Prætextatus was a
philosophic Pagan, a man of learning, of taste, and politeness; who
disguised a reproach in the form of a jest, when he assured Damasus,
that if he could obtain the bishopric of Rome, he himself would
immediately embrace the Christian religion. This lively picture of the
wealth and luxury of the popes in the fourth century becomes the more
curious, as it represents the intermediate degree between the humble
poverty of the apostolic fishermen, and the royal state of a temporal
prince, whose dominions extend from the confines of Naples to the banks
of the Po.



Chapter XXV: Reigns Of Jovian And Valentinian, Division Of The
Empire.--Part IV.

When the suffrage of the generals and of the army committed the sceptre
of the Roman empire to the hands of Valentinian, his reputation in
arms, his military skill and experience, and his rigid attachment to
the forms, as well as spirit, of ancient discipline, were the principal
motives of their judicious choice. The eagerness of the troops, who
pressed him to nominate his colleague, was justified by the dangerous
situation of public affairs; and Valentinian himself was conscious, that
the abilities of the most active mind were unequal to the defence of the
distant frontiers of an invaded monarchy. As soon as the death of
Julian had relieved the Barbarians from the terror of his name, the most
sanguine hopes of rapine and conquest excited the nations of the East,
of the North, and of the South. Their inroads were often vexatious,
and sometimes formidable; but, during the twelve years of the reign of
Valentinian, his firmness and vigilance protected his own dominions; and
his powerful genius seemed to inspire and direct the feeble counsels of
his brother. Perhaps the method of annals would more forcibly express
the urgent and divided cares of the two emperors; but the attention of
the reader, likewise, would be distracted by a tedious and desultory
narrative. A separate view of the five great theatres of war; I.
Germany; II. Britain; III. Africa; IV. The East; and, V. The Danube;
will impress a more distinct image of the military state of the empire
under the reigns of Valentinian and Valens.

I. The ambassadors of the Alemanni had been offended by the harsh and
haughty behavior of Ursacius, master of the offices; who by an act
of unseasonable parsimony, had diminished the value, as well as the
quantity, of the presents to which they were entitled, either from
custom or treaty, on the accession of a new emperor. They expressed,
and they communicated to their countrymen, their strong sense of the
national affront. The irascible minds of the chiefs were exasperated
by the suspicion of contempt; and the martial youth crowded to their
standard. Before Valentinian could pass the Alps, the villages of Gaul
were in flames; before his general Degalaiphus could encounter the
Alemanni, they had secured the captives and the spoil in the forests of
Germany. In the beginning of the ensuing year, the military force of the
whole nation, in deep and solid columns, broke through the barrier of
the Rhine, during the severity of a northern winter. Two Roman counts
were defeated and mortally wounded; and the standard of the Heruli and
Batavians fell into the hands of the Heruli and Batavians fell into
the hands of the conquerors, who displayed, with insulting shouts and
menaces, the trophy of their victory. The standard was recovered; but
the Batavians had not redeemed the shame of their disgrace and flight in
the eyes of their severe judge. It was the opinion of Valentinian, that
his soldiers must learn to fear their commander, before they could cease
to fear the enemy. The troops were solemnly assembled; and the trembling
Batavians were enclosed within the circle of the Imperial army.
Valentinian then ascended his tribunal; and, as if he disdained to
punish cowardice with death, he inflicted a stain of indelible ignominy
on the officers, whose misconduct and pusillanimity were found to be
the first occasion of the defeat. The Batavians were degraded from their
rank, stripped of their arms, and condemned to be sold for slaves to the
highest bidder. At this tremendous sentence, the troops fell prostrate
on the ground, deprecated the indignation of their sovereign, and
protested, that, if he would indulge them in another trial, they would
approve themselves not unworthy of the name of Romans, and of his
soldiers. Valentinian, with affected reluctance, yielded to their
entreaties; the Batavians resumed their arms, and with their arms, the
invincible resolution of wiping away their disgrace in the blood of the
Alemanni. The principal command was declined by Dagalaiphus; and
that experienced general, who had represented, perhaps with too
much prudence, the extreme difficulties of the undertaking, had the
mortification, before the end of the campaign, of seeing his rival
Jovinus convert those difficulties into a decisive advantage over the
scattered forces of the Barbarians. At the head of a well-disciplined
army of cavalry, infantry, and light troops, Jovinus advanced, with
cautious and rapid steps, to Scarponna, * in the territory of Metz,
where he surprised a large division of the Alemanni, before they had
time to run to their arms; and flushed his soldiers with the confidence
of an easy and bloodless victory. Another division, or rather army,
of the enemy, after the cruel and wanton devastation of the adjacent
country, reposed themselves on the shady banks of the Moselle. Jovinus,
who had viewed the ground with the eye of a general, made a silent
approach through a deep and woody vale, till he could distinctly
perceive the indolent security of the Germans. Some were bathing their
huge limbs in the river; others were combing their long and flaxen hair;
others again were swallowing large draughts of rich and delicious wine.
On a sudden they heard the sound of the Roman trumpet; they saw the
enemy in their camp. Astonishment produced disorder; disorder was
followed by flight and dismay; and the confused multitude of the bravest
warriors was pierced by the swords and javelins of the legionaries and
auxiliaries. The fugitives escaped to the third, and most considerable,
camp, in the Catalonian plains, near Chalons in Champagne: the
straggling detachments were hastily recalled to their standard; and
the Barbarian chiefs, alarmed and admonished by the fate of their
companions, prepared to encounter, in a decisive battle, the victorious
forces of the lieutenant of Valentinian. The bloody and obstinate
conflict lasted a whole summer's day, with equal valor, and with
alternate success. The Romans at length prevailed, with the loss of
about twelve hundred men. Six thousand of the Alemanni were slain, four
thousand were wounded; and the brave Jovinus, after chasing the flying
remnant of their host as far as the banks of the Rhine, returned to
Paris, to receive the applause of his sovereign, and the ensigns of the
consulship for the ensuing year. The triumph of the Romans was indeed
sullied by their treatment of the captive king, whom they hung on
a gibbet, without the knowledge of their indignant general. This
disgraceful act of cruelty, which might be imputed to the fury of the
troops, was followed by the deliberate murder of Withicab, the son of
Vadomair; a German prince, of a weak and sickly constitution, but of a
daring and formidable spirit. The domestic assassin was instigated and
protected by the Romans; and the violation of the laws of humanity
and justice betrayed their secret apprehension of the weakness of the
declining empire. The use of the dagger is seldom adopted in public
councils, as long as they retain any confidence in the power of the
sword.

While the Alemanni appeared to be humbled by their recent calamities,
the pride of Valentinian was mortified by the unexpected surprisal of
Moguntiacum, or Mentz, the principal city of the Upper Germany. In the
unsuspicious moment of a Christian festival, * Rando, a bold and artful
chieftain, who had long meditated his attempt, suddenly passed the
Rhine; entered the defenceless town, and retired with a multitude of
captives of either sex. Valentinian resolved to execute severe vengeance
on the whole body of the nation. Count Sebastian, with the bands of
Italy and Illyricum, was ordered to invade their country, most probably
on the side of Rhætia. The emperor in person, accompanied by his son
Gratian, passed the Rhine at the head of a formidable army, which was
supported on both flanks by Jovinus and Severus, the two masters-general
of the cavalry and infantry of the West. The Alemanni, unable to prevent
the devastation of their villages, fixed their camp on a lofty, and
almost inaccessible, mountain, in the modern duchy of Wirtemberg, and
resolutely expected the approach of the Romans. The life of Valentinian
was exposed to imminent danger by the intrepid curiosity with which
he persisted to explore some secret and unguarded path. A troop of
Barbarians suddenly rose from their ambuscade: and the emperor, who
vigorously spurred his horse down a steep and slippery descent,
was obliged to leave behind him his armor-bearer, and his helmet,
magnificently enriched with gold and precious stones. At the signal
of the general assault, the Roman troops encompassed and ascended the
mountain of Solicinium on three different sides. Every step which they
gained, increased their ardor, and abated the resistance of the enemy:
and after their united forces had occupied the summit of the hill, they
impetuously urged the Barbarians down the northern descent, where Count
Sebastian was posted to intercept their retreat. After this signal
victory, Valentinian returned to his winter quarters at Treves; where
he indulged the public joy by the exhibition of splendid and triumphal
games. But the wise monarch, instead of aspiring to the conquest of
Germany, confined his attention to the important and laborious defence
of the Gallic frontier, against an enemy whose strength was renewed by
a stream of daring volunteers, which incessantly flowed from the most
distant tribes of the North. The banks of the Rhine from its source to
the straits of the ocean, were closely planted with strong castles
and convenient towers; new works, and new arms, were invented by the
ingenuity of a prince who was skilled in the mechanical arts; and his
numerous levies of Roman and Barbarian youth were severely trained in
all the exercises of war. The progress of the work, which was sometimes
opposed by modest representations, and sometimes by hostile attempts,
secured the tranquillity of Gaul during the nine subsequent years of the
administration of Valentinian.

That prudent emperor, who diligently practised the wise maxims of
Diocletian, was studious to foment and excite the intestine divisions
of the tribes of Germany. About the middle of the fourth century, the
countries, perhaps of Lusace and Thuringia, on either side of the Elbe,
were occupied by the vague dominion of the Burgundians; a warlike and
numerous people, * of the Vandal race, whose obscure name insensibly
swelled into a powerful kingdom, and has finally settled on a
flourishing province. The most remarkable circumstance in the ancient
manners of the Burgundians appears to have been the difference of their
civil and ecclesiastical constitution. The appellation of Hendinos was
given to the king or general, and the title of Sinistus to the high
priest, of the nation. The person of the priest was sacred, and his
dignity perpetual; but the temporal government was held by a very
precarious tenure. If the events of war accuses the courage or conduct
of the king, he was immediately deposed; and the injustice of his
subjects made him responsible for the fertility of the earth, and the
regularity of the seasons, which seemed to fall more properly within the
sacerdotal department. The disputed possession of some salt-pits engaged
the Alemanni and the Burgundians in frequent contests: the latter were
easily tempted, by the secret solicitations and liberal offers of the
emperor; and their fabulous descent from the Roman soldiers, who had
formerly been left to garrison the fortresses of Drusus, was admitted
with mutual credulity, as it was conducive to mutual interest. An army
of fourscore thousand Burgundians soon appeared on the banks of
the Rhine; and impatiently required the support and subsidies which
Valentinian had promised: but they were amused with excuses and delays,
till at length, after a fruitless expectation, they were compelled to
retire. The arms and fortifications of the Gallic frontier checked the
fury of their just resentment; and their massacre of the captives served
to imbitter the hereditary feud of the Burgundians and the Alemanni.
The inconstancy of a wise prince may, perhaps, be explained by some
alteration of circumstances; and perhaps it was the original design of
Valentinian to intimidate, rather than to destroy; as the balance of
power would have been equally overturned by the extirpation of either of
the German nations. Among the princes of the Alemanni, Macrianus, who,
with a Roman name, had assumed the arts of a soldier and a statesman,
deserved his hatred and esteem. The emperor himself, with a light and
unencumbered band, condescended to pass the Rhine, marched fifty miles
into the country, and would infallibly have seized the object of
his pursuit, if his judicious measures had not been defeated by the
impatience of the troops. Macrianus was afterwards admitted to the
honor of a personal conference with the emperor; and the favors which
he received, fixed him, till the hour of his death, a steady and sincere
friend of the republic.

The land was covered by the fortifications of Valentinian; but the
sea-coast of Gaul and Britain was exposed to the depredations of the
Saxons. That celebrated name, in which we have a dear and domestic
interest, escaped the notice of Tacitus; and in the maps of Ptolemy, it
faintly marks the narrow neck of the Cimbric peninsula, and three small
islands towards the mouth of the Elbe. This contracted territory, the
present duchy of Sleswig, or perhaps of Holstein, was incapable of
pouring forth the inexhaustible swarms of Saxons who reigned over the
ocean, who filled the British island with their language, their laws,
and their colonies; and who so long defended the liberty of the North
against the arms of Charlemagne. The solution of this difficulty is
easily derived from the similar manners, and loose constitution, of the
tribes of Germany; which were blended with each other by the slightest
accidents of war or friendship. The situation of the native Saxons
disposed them to embrace the hazardous professions of fishermen and
pirates; and the success of their first adventures would naturally
excite the emulation of their bravest countrymen, who were impatient of
the gloomy solitude of their woods and mountains. Every tide might float
down the Elbe whole fleets of canoes, filled with hardy and intrepid
associates, who aspired to behold the unbounded prospect of the ocean,
and to taste the wealth and luxury of unknown worlds. It should seem
probable, however, that the most numerous auxiliaries of the Saxons were
furnished by the nations who dwelt along the shores of the Baltic. They
possessed arms and ships, the art of navigation, and the habits of
naval war; but the difficulty of issuing through the northern columns of
Hercules (which, during several months of the year, are obstructed with
ice) confined their skill and courage within the limits of a spacious
lake. The rumor of the successful armaments which sailed from the mouth
of the Elbe, would soon provoke them to cross the narrow isthmus of
Sleswig, and to launch their vessels on the great sea. The various
troops of pirates and adventurers, who fought under the same standard,
were insensibly united in a permanent society, at first of rapine, and
afterwards of government. A military confederation was gradually
moulded into a national body, by the gentle operation of marriage and
consanguinity; and the adjacent tribes, who solicited the alliance,
accepted the name and laws, of the Saxons. If the fact were not
established by the most unquestionable evidence, we should appear to
abuse the credulity of our readers, by the description of the vessels
in which the Saxon pirates ventured to sport in the waves of the German
Ocean, the British Channel, and the Bay of Biscay. The keel of their
large flat-bottomed boats were framed of light timber, but the sides and
upper works consisted only of wicker, with a covering of strong hides.
In the course of their slow and distant navigations, they must always
have been exposed to the danger, and very frequently to the misfortune,
of shipwreck; and the naval annals of the Saxons were undoubtedly filled
with the accounts of the losses which they sustained on the coasts of
Britain and Gaul. But the daring spirit of the pirates braved the perils
both of the sea and of the shore: their skill was confirmed by the
habits of enterprise; the meanest of their mariners was alike capable of
handling an oar, of rearing a sail, or of conducting a vessel, and the
Saxons rejoiced in the appearance of a tempest, which concealed their
design, and dispersed the fleets of the enemy. After they had acquired
an accurate knowledge of the maritime provinces of the West, they
extended the scene of their depredations, and the most sequestered
places had no reason to presume on their security. The Saxon boats drew
so little water that they could easily proceed fourscore or a hundred
miles up the great rivers; their weight was so inconsiderable, that they
were transported on wagons from one river to another; and the pirates
who had entered the mouth of the Seine, or of the Rhine, might descend,
with the rapid stream of the Rhone, into the Mediterranean. Under the
reign of Valentinian, the maritime provinces of Gaul were afflicted
by the Saxons: a military count was stationed for the defence of the
sea-coast, or Armorican limit; and that officer, who found his strength,
or his abilities, unequal to the task, implored the assistance of
Severus, master-general of the infantry. The Saxons, surrounded and
outnumbered, were forced to relinquish their spoil, and to yield a
select band of their tall and robust youth to serve in the Imperial
armies. They stipulated only a safe and honorable retreat; and the
condition was readily granted by the Roman general, who meditated an act
of perfidy, imprudent as it was inhuman, while a Saxon remained alive,
and in arms, to revenge the fate of their countrymen. The premature
eagerness of the infantry, who were secretly posted in a deep valley,
betrayed the ambuscade; and they would perhaps have fallen the victims
of their own treachery, if a large body of cuirassiers, alarmed by
the noise of the combat, had not hastily advanced to extricate their
companions, and to overwhelm the undaunted valor of the Saxons. Some of
the prisoners were saved from the edge of the sword, to shed their
blood in the amphitheatre; and the orator Symmachus complains, that
twenty-nine of those desperate savages, by strangling themselves with
their own hands, had disappointed the amusement of the public. Yet the
polite and philosophic citizens of Rome were impressed with the deepest
horror, when they were informed, that the Saxons consecrated to the gods
the tithe of their human spoil; and that they ascertained by lot the
objects of the barbarous sacrifice.

II. The fabulous colonies of Egyptians and Trojans, of Scandinavians and
Spaniards, which flattered the pride, and amused the credulity, of our
rude ancestors, have insensibly vanished in the light of science and
philosophy. The present age is satisfied with the simple and rational
opinion, that the islands of Great Britain and Ireland were gradually
peopled from the adjacent continent of Gaul. From the coast of Kent, to
the extremity of Caithness and Ulster, the memory of a Celtic origin
was distinctly preserved, in the perpetual resemblance of language, of
religion, and of manners; and the peculiar characters of the British
tribes might be naturally ascribed to the influence of accidental and
local circumstances. The Roman Province was reduced to the state of
civilized and peaceful servitude; the rights of savage freedom were
contracted to the narrow limits of Caledonia. The inhabitants of that
northern region were divided, as early as the reign of Constantine,
between the two great tribes of the Scots and of the Picts, who have
since experienced a very different fortune. The power, and almost the
memory, of the Picts have been extinguished by their successful rivals;
and the Scots, after maintaining for ages the dignity of an independent
kingdom, have multiplied, by an equal and voluntary union, the honors of
the English name. The hand of nature had contributed to mark the ancient
distinctions of the Scots and Picts. The former were the men of the
hills, and the latter those of the plain. The eastern coast of Caledonia
may be considered as a level and fertile country, which, even in a rude
state of tillage, was capable of producing a considerable quantity
of corn; and the epithet of cruitnich, or wheat-eaters, expressed the
contempt or envy of the carnivorous highlander. The cultivation of the
earth might introduce a more accurate separation of property, and the
habits of a sedentary life; but the love of arms and rapine was still
the ruling passion of the Picts; and their warriors, who stripped
themselves for a day of battle, were distinguished, in the eyes of the
Romans, by the strange fashion of painting their naked bodies with gaudy
colors and fantastic figures. The western part of Caledonia irregularly
rises into wild and barren hills, which scarcely repay the toil of the
husbandman, and are most profitably used for the pasture of cattle. The
highlanders were condemned to the occupations of shepherds and hunters;
and, as they seldom were fixed to any permanent habitation, they
acquired the expressive name of Scots, which, in the Celtic tongue, is
said to be equivalent to that of wanderers, or vagrants. The inhabitants
of a barren land were urged to seek a fresh supply of food in the
waters. The deep lakes and bays which intersect their country, are
plentifully supplied with fish; and they gradually ventured to cast
their nets in the waves of the ocean. The vicinity of the Hebrides, so
profusely scattered along the western coast of Scotland, tempted their
curiosity, and improved their skill; and they acquired, by slow degrees,
the art, or rather the habit, of managing their boats in a tempestuous
sea, and of steering their nocturnal course by the light of the
well-known stars. The two bold headlands of Caledonia almost touch
the shores of a spacious island, which obtained, from its luxuriant
vegetation, the epithet of Green; and has preserved, with a slight
alteration, the name of Erin, or Ierne, or Ireland. It is probable,
that in some remote period of antiquity, the fertile plains of Ulster
received a colony of hungry Scots; and that the strangers of the
North, who had dared to encounter the arms of the legions, spread their
conquests over the savage and unwarlike natives of a solitary island. It
is certain, that, in the declining age of the Roman empire, Caledonia,
Ireland, and the Isle of Man, were inhabited by the Scots, and that the
kindred tribes, who were often associated in military enterprise, were
deeply affected by the various accidents of their mutual fortunes. They
long cherished the lively tradition of their common name and origin;
and the missionaries of the Isle of Saints, who diffused the light of
Christianity over North Britain, established the vain opinion, that
their Irish countrymen were the natural, as well as spiritual, fathers
of the Scottish race. The loose and obscure tradition has been preserved
by the venerable Bede, who scattered some rays of light over the
darkness of the eighth century. On this slight foundation, a huge
superstructure of fable was gradually reared, by the bards and the
monks; two orders of men, who equally abused the privilege of fiction.
The Scottish nation, with mistaken pride, adopted their Irish genealogy;
and the annals of a long line of imaginary kings have been adorned by
the fancy of Boethius, and the classic elegance of Buchanan.



Chapter XXV: Reigns Of Jovian And Valentinian, Division Of The
Empire.--Part V.

Six years after the death of Constantine, the destructive inroads of the
Scots and Picts required the presence of his youngest son, who reigned
in the Western empire. Constans visited his British dominions: but we
may form some estimate of the importance of his achievements, by the
language of panegyric, which celebrates only his triumph over the
elements or, in other words, the good fortune of a safe and easy passage
from the port of Boulogne to the harbor of Sandwich. The calamities
which the afflicted provincials continued to experience, from foreign
war and domestic tyranny, were aggravated by the feeble and corrupt
administration of the eunuchs of Constantius; and the transient relief
which they might obtain from the virtues of Julian, was soon lost by
the absence and death of their benefactor. The sums of gold and silver,
which had been painfully collected, or liberally transmitted, for
the payment of the troops, were intercepted by the avarice of the
commanders; discharges, or, at least, exemptions, from the military
service, were publicly sold; the distress of the soldiers, who were
injuriously deprived of their legal and scanty subsistence, provoked
them to frequent desertion; the nerves of discipline were relaxed, and
the highways were infested with robbers. The oppression of the good, and
the impunity of the wicked, equally contributed to diffuse through the
island a spirit of discontent and revolt; and every ambitious subject,
every desperate exile, might entertain a reasonable hope of subverting
the weak and distracted government of Britain. The hostile tribes of
the North, who detested the pride and power of the King of the World,
suspended their domestic feuds; and the Barbarians of the land and sea,
the Scots, the Picts, and the Saxons, spread themselves with rapid and
irresistible fury, from the wall of Antoninus to the shores of Kent.
Every production of art and nature, every object of convenience and
luxury, which they were incapable of creating by labor or procuring by
trade, was accumulated in the rich and fruitful province of Britain. A
philosopher may deplore the eternal discords of the human race, but he
will confess, that the desire of spoil is a more rational provocation
than the vanity of conquest. From the age of Constantine to the
Plantagenets, this rapacious spirit continued to instigate the poor and
hardy Caledonians; but the same people, whose generous humanity seems to
inspire the songs of Ossian, was disgraced by a savage ignorance of the
virtues of peace, and of the laws of war. Their southern neighbors have
felt, and perhaps exaggerated, the cruel depredations of the Scots and
Picts; and a valiant tribe of Caledonia, the Attacotti, the enemies, and
afterwards the soldiers, of Valentinian, are accused, by an eye-witness,
of delighting in the taste of human flesh. When they hunted the woods
for prey, it is said, that they attacked the shepherd rather than his
flock; and that they curiously selected the most delicate and brawny
parts, both of males and females, which they prepared for their horrid
repasts. If, in the neighborhood of the commercial and literary town of
Glasgow, a race of cannibals has really existed, we may contemplate, in
the period of the Scottish history, the opposite extremes of savage
and civilized life. Such reflections tend to enlarge the circle of our
ideas; and to encourage the pleasing hope, that New Zealand may produce,
in some future age, the Hume of the Southern Hemisphere.

Every messenger who escaped across the British Channel, conveyed the
most melancholy and alarming tidings to the ears of Valentinian; and
the emperor was soon informed that the two military commanders of the
province had been surprised and cut off by the Barbarians. Severus,
count of the domestics, was hastily despatched, and as suddenly
recalled, by the court of Treves. The representations of Jovinus served
only to indicate the greatness of the evil; and, after a long and
serious consultation, the defence, or rather the recovery, of Britain
was intrusted to the abilities of the brave Theodosius. The exploits of
that general, the father of a line of emperors, have been celebrated,
with peculiar complacency, by the writers of the age: but his real merit
deserved their applause; and his nomination was received, by the army
and province, as a sure presage of approaching victory. He seized the
favorable moment of navigation, and securely landed the numerous and
veteran bands of the Heruli and Batavians, the Jovians and the Victors.
In his march from Sandwich to London, Theodosius defeated several
parties of the Barbarians, released a multitude of captives, and, after
distributing to his soldiers a small portion of the spoil, established
the fame of disinterested justice, by the restitution of the remainder
to the rightful proprietors. The citizens of London, who had almost
despaired of their safety, threw open their gates; and as soon as
Theodosius had obtained from the court of Treves the important aid of a
military lieutenant, and a civil governor, he executed, with wisdom and
vigor, the laborious task of the deliverance of Britain. The vagrant
soldiers were recalled to their standard; an edict of amnesty dispelled
the public apprehensions; and his cheerful example alleviated the
rigor of martial discipline. The scattered and desultory warfare of the
Barbarians, who infested the land and sea, deprived him of the glory
of a signal victory; but the prudent spirit, and consummate art, of the
Roman general, were displayed in the operations of two campaigns, which
successively rescued every part of the province from the hands of a
cruel and rapacious enemy. The splendor of the cities, and the security
of the fortifications, were diligently restored, by the paternal care of
Theodosius; who with a strong hand confined the trembling Caledonians
to the northern angle of the island; and perpetuated, by the name and
settlement of the new province of Valentia, the glories of the reign
of Valentinian. The voice of poetry and panegyric may add, perhaps with
some degree of truth, that the unknown regions of Thule were stained
with the blood of the Picts; that the oars of Theodosius dashed the
waves of the Hyperborean ocean; and that the distant Orkneys were the
scene of his naval victory over the Saxon pirates. He left the province
with a fair, as well as splendid, reputation; and was immediately
promoted to the rank of master-general of the cavalry, by a prince who
could applaud, without envy, the merit of his servants. In the important
station of the Upper Danube, the conqueror of Britain checked and
defeated the armies of the Alemanni, before he was chosen to suppress
the revolt of Africa.

III. The prince who refuses to be the judge, instructs the people to
consider him as the accomplice, of his ministers. The military command
of Africa had been long exercised by Count Romanus, and his abilities
were not inadequate to his station; but, as sordid interest was the sole
motive of his conduct, he acted, on most occasions, as if he had been
the enemy of the province, and the friend of the Barbarians of the
desert. The three flourishing cities of Oea, Leptis, and Sabrata, which,
under the name of Tripoli, had long constituted a federal union, were
obliged, for the first time, to shut their gates against a hostile
invasion; several of their most honorable citizens were surprised and
massacred; the villages, and even the suburbs, were pillaged; and the
vines and fruit trees of that rich territory were extirpated by the
malicious savages of Getulia. The unhappy provincials implored the
protection of Romanus; but they soon found that their military governor
was not less cruel and rapacious than the Barbarians. As they were
incapable of furnishing the four thousand camels, and the exorbitant
present, which he required, before he would march to the assistance of
Tripoli; his demand was equivalent to a refusal, and he might justly be
accused as the author of the public calamity. In the annual assembly
of the three cities, they nominated two deputies, to lay at the feet of
Valentinian the customary offering of a gold victory; and to accompany
this tribute of duty, rather than of gratitude, with their humble
complaint, that they were ruined by the enemy, and betrayed by their
governor. If the severity of Valentinian had been rightly directed, it
would have fallen on the guilty head of Romanus. But the count, long
exercised in the arts of corruption, had despatched a swift and trusty
messenger to secure the venal friendship of Remigius, master of the
offices. The wisdom of the Imperial council was deceived by artifice;
and their honest indignation was cooled by delay. At length, when the
repetition of complaint had been justified by the repetition of public
misfortunes, the notary Palladius was sent from the court of Treves,
to examine the state of Africa, and the conduct of Romanus. The rigid
impartiality of Palladius was easily disarmed: he was tempted to reserve
for himself a part of the public treasure, which he brought with him for
the payment of the troops; and from the moment that he was conscious
of his own guilt, he could no longer refuse to attest the innocence and
merit of the count. The charge of the Tripolitans was declared to be
false and frivolous; and Palladius himself was sent back from Treves to
Africa, with a special commission to discover and prosecute the authors
of this impious conspiracy against the representatives of the sovereign.
His inquiries were managed with so much dexterity and success, that he
compelled the citizens of Leptis, who had sustained a recent siege of
eight days, to contradict the truth of their own decrees, and to censure
the behavior of their own deputies. A bloody sentence was pronounced,
without hesitation, by the rash and headstrong cruelty of Valentinian.
The president of Tripoli, who had presumed to pity the distress of the
province, was publicly executed at Utica; four distinguished citizens
were put to death, as the accomplices of the imaginary fraud; and the
tongues of two others were cut out, by the express order of the emperor.
Romanus, elated by impunity, and irritated by resistance, was still
continued in the military command; till the Africans were provoked, by
his avarice, to join the rebellious standard of Firmus, the Moor.

His father Nabal was one of the richest and most powerful of the Moorish
princes, who acknowledged the supremacy of Rome. But as he left, either
by his wives or concubines, a very numerous posterity, the wealthy
inheritance was eagerly disputed; and Zamma, one of his sons, was slain
in a domestic quarrel by his brother Firmus. The implacable zeal, with
which Romanus prosecuted the legal revenge of this murder, could be
ascribed only to a motive of avarice, or personal hatred; but, on this
occasion, his claims were just; his influence was weighty; and Firmus
clearly understood, that he must either present his neck to the
executioner, or appeal from the sentence of the Imperial consistory, to
his sword, and to the people. He was received as the deliverer of his
country; and, as soon as it appeared that Romanus was formidable only
to a submissive province, the tyrant of Africa became the object of
universal contempt. The ruin of Cæsarea, which was plundered and burnt
by the licentious Barbarians, convinced the refractory cities of the
danger of resistance; the power of Firmus was established, at least in
the provinces of Mauritania and Numidia; and it seemed to be his only
doubt whether he should assume the diadem of a Moorish king, or the
purple of a Roman emperor. But the imprudent and unhappy Africans soon
discovered, that, in this rash insurrection, they had not sufficiently
consulted their own strength, or the abilities of their leader. Before
he could procure any certain intelligence, that the emperor of the West
had fixed the choice of a general, or that a fleet of transports was
collected at the mouth of the Rhone, he was suddenly informed that
the great Theodosius, with a small band of veterans, had landed near
Igilgilis, or Gigeri, on the African coast; and the timid usurper
sunk under the ascendant of virtue and military genius. Though Firmus
possessed arms and treasures, his despair of victory immediately reduced
him to the use of those arts, which, in the same country, and in a
similar situation, had formerly been practised by the crafty Jugurtha.
He attempted to deceive, by an apparent submission, the vigilance of the
Roman general; to seduce the fidelity of his troops; and to protract the
duration of the war, by successively engaging the independent tribes
of Africa to espouse his quarrel, or to protect his flight. Theodosius
imitated the example, and obtained the success, of his predecessor
Metellus. When Firmus, in the character of a suppliant, accused his
own rashness, and humbly solicited the clemency of the emperor, the
lieutenant of Valentinian received and dismissed him with a friendly
embrace: but he diligently required the useful and substantial pledges
of a sincere repentance; nor could he be persuaded, by the assurances
of peace, to suspend, for an instant, the operations of an active war.
A dark conspiracy was detected by the penetration of Theodosius; and he
satisfied, without much reluctance, the public indignation, which he
had secretly excited. Several of the guilty accomplices of Firmus were
abandoned, according to ancient custom, to the tumult of a military
execution; many more, by the amputation of both their hands, continued
to exhibit an instructive spectacle of horror; the hatred of the rebels
was accompanied with fear; and the fear of the Roman soldiers was
mingled with respectful admiration. Amidst the boundless plains of
Getulia, and the innumerable valleys of Mount Atlas, it was impossible
to prevent the escape of Firmus; and if the usurper could have tired
the patience of his antagonist, he would have secured his person in
the depth of some remote solitude, and expected the hopes of a future
revolution. He was subdued by the perseverance of Theodosius; who had
formed an inflexible determination, that the war should end only by the
death of the tyrant; and that every nation of Africa, which presumed
to support his cause, should be involved in his ruin. At the head of a
small body of troops, which seldom exceeded three thousand five hundred
men, the Roman general advanced, with a steady prudence, devoid of
rashness or of fear, into the heart of a country, where he was sometimes
attacked by armies of twenty thousand Moors. The boldness of his
charge dismayed the irregular Barbarians; they were disconcerted by his
seasonable and orderly retreats; they were continually baffled by the
unknown resources of the military art; and they felt and confessed the
just superiority which was assumed by the leader of a civilized nation.
When Theodosius entered the extensive dominions of Igmazen, king of the
Isaflenses, the haughty savage required, in words of defiance, his
name, and the object of his expedition. "I am," replied the stern and
disdainful count, "I am the general of Valentinian, the lord of the
world; who has sent me hither to pursue and punish a desperate robber.
Deliver him instantly into my hands; and be assured, that if thou dost
not obey the commands of my invincible sovereign, thou, and the people
over whom thou reignest, shall be utterly extirpated." * As soon as
Igmazen was satisfied, that his enemy had strength and resolution to
execute the fatal menace, he consented to purchase a necessary peace
by the sacrifice of a guilty fugitive. The guards that were placed to
secure the person of Firmus deprived him of the hopes of escape; and
the Moorish tyrant, after wine had extinguished the sense of danger,
disappointed the insulting triumph of the Romans, by strangling himself
in the night. His dead body, the only present which Igmazen could offer
to the conqueror, was carelessly thrown upon a camel; and Theodosius,
leading back his victorious troops to Sitifi, was saluted by the warmest
acclamations of joy and loyalty.

Africa had been lost by the vices of Romanus; it was restored by the
virtues of Theodosius; and our curiosity may be usefully directed to the
inquiry of the respective treatment which the two generals received from
the Imperial court. The authority of Count Romanus had been suspended
by the master-general of the cavalry; and he was committed to safe and
honorable custody till the end of the war. His crimes were proved by the
most authentic evidence; and the public expected, with some impatience,
the decree of severe justice. But the partial and powerful favor of
Mellobaudes encouraged him to challenge his legal judges, to obtain
repeated delays for the purpose of procuring a crowd of friendly
witnesses, and, finally, to cover his guilty conduct, by the additional
guilt of fraud and forgery. About the same time, the restorer of
Britain and Africa, on a vague suspicion that his name and services
were superior to the rank of a subject, was ignominiously beheaded at
Carthage. Valentinian no longer reigned; and the death of Theodosius,
as well as the impunity of Romanus, may justly be imputed to the arts of
the ministers, who abused the confidence, and deceived the inexperienced
youth, of his sons.

If the geographical accuracy of Ammianus had been fortunately bestowed
on the British exploits of Theodosius, we should have traced, with eager
curiosity, the distinct and domestic footsteps of his march. But the
tedious enumeration of the unknown and uninteresting tribes of Africa
may be reduced to the general remark, that they were all of the swarthy
race of the Moors; that they inhabited the back settlements of the
Mauritanian and Numidian province, the country, as they have since been
termed by the Arabs, of dates and of locusts; and that, as the Roman
power declined in Africa, the boundary of civilized manners and
cultivated land was insensibly contracted. Beyond the utmost limits of
the Moors, the vast and inhospitable desert of the South extends above
a thousand miles to the banks of the Niger. The ancients, who had a very
faint and imperfect knowledge of the great peninsula of Africa, were
sometimes tempted to believe, that the torrid zone must ever remain
destitute of inhabitants; and they sometimes amused their fancy by
filling the vacant space with headless men, or rather monsters; with
horned and cloven-footed satyrs; with fabulous centaurs; and with human
pygmies, who waged a bold and doubtful warfare against the cranes.
Carthage would have trembled at the strange intelligence that the
countries on either side of the equator were filled with innumerable
nations, who differed only in their color from the ordinary appearance
of the human species: and the subjects of the Roman empire might have
anxiously expected, that the swarms of Barbarians, which issued from
the North, would soon be encountered from the South by new swarms of
Barbarians, equally fierce and equally formidable. These gloomy terrors
would indeed have been dispelled by a more intimate acquaintance with
the character of their African enemies. The inaction of the negroes
does not seem to be the effect either of their virtue or of their
pusillanimity. They indulge, like the rest of mankind, their passions
and appetites; and the adjacent tribes are engaged in frequent acts of
hostility. But their rude ignorance has never invented any effectual
weapons of defence, or of destruction; they appear incapable of
forming any extensive plans of government, or conquest; and the obvious
inferiority of their mental faculties has been discovered and abused by
the nations of the temperate zone. Sixty thousand blacks are annually
embarked from the coast of Guinea, never to return to their native
country; but they are embarked in chains; and this constant emigration,
which, in the space of two centuries, might have furnished armies to
overrun the globe, accuses the guilt of Europe, and the weakness of
Africa.



Chapter XXV: Reigns Of Jovian And Valentinian, Division Of The
Empire.--Part VI.

IV. The ignominious treaty, which saved the army of Jovian, had been
faithfully executed on the side of the Romans; and as they had solemnly
renounced the sovereignty and alliance of Armenia and Iberia, those
tributary kingdoms were exposed, without protection, to the arms of the
Persian monarch. Sapor entered the Armenian territories at the head of
a formidable host of cuirassiers, of archers, and of mercenary foot; but
it was the invariable practice of Sapor to mix war and negotiation, and
to consider falsehood and perjury as the most powerful instruments of
regal policy. He affected to praise the prudent and moderate conduct of
the king of Armenia; and the unsuspicious Tiranus was persuaded, by the
repeated assurances of insidious friendship, to deliver his person into
the hands of a faithless and cruel enemy. In the midst of a splendid
entertainment, he was bound in chains of silver, as an honor due to the
blood of the Arsacides; and, after a short confinement in the Tower of
Oblivion at Ecbatana, he was released from the miseries of life, either
by his own dagger, or by that of an assassin. * The kingdom of Armenia
was reduced to the state of a Persian province; the administration was
shared between a distinguished satrap and a favorite eunuch; and Sapor
marched, without delay, to subdue the martial spirit of the Iberians.
Sauromaces, who reigned in that country by the permission of the
emperors, was expelled by a superior force; and, as an insult on the
majesty of Rome, the king of kings placed a diadem on the head of his
abject vassal Aspacuras. The city of Artogerassa was the only place of
Armenia which presumed to resist the efforts of his arms. The treasure
deposited in that strong fortress tempted the avarice of Sapor; but the
danger of Olympias, the wife or widow of the Armenian king, excited the
public compassion, and animated the desperate valor of her subjects and
soldiers. § The Persians were surprised and repulsed under the walls of
Artogerassa, by a bold and well-concerted sally of the besieged. But
the forces of Sapor were continually renewed and increased; the hopeless
courage of the garrison was exhausted; the strength of the walls yielded
to the assault; and the proud conqueror, after wasting the rebellious
city with fire and sword, led away captive an unfortunate queen; who,
in a more auspicious hour, had been the destined bride of the son of
Constantine. Yet if Sapor already triumphed in the easy conquest of two
dependent kingdoms, he soon felt, that a country is unsubdued as long
as the minds of the people are actuated by a hostile and contumacious
spirit. The satraps, whom he was obliged to trust, embraced the first
opportunity of regaining the affection of their countrymen, and of
signalizing their immortal hatred to the Persian name. Since the
conversion of the Armenians and Iberians, these nations considered the
Christians as the favorites, and the Magians as the adversaries, of the
Supreme Being: the influence of the clergy, over a superstitious
people was uniformly exerted in the cause of Rome; and as long as
the successors of Constantine disputed with those of Artaxerxes the
sovereignty of the intermediate provinces, the religious connection
always threw a decisive advantage into the scale of the empire. A
numerous and active party acknowledged Para, the son of Tiranus, as
the lawful sovereign of Armenia, and his title to the throne was deeply
rooted in the hereditary succession of five hundred years. By the
unanimous consent of the Iberians, the country was equally divided
between the rival princes; and Aspacuras, who owed his diadem to
the choice of Sapor, was obliged to declare, that his regard for his
children, who were detained as hostages by the tyrant, was the only
consideration which prevented him from openly renouncing the alliance of
Persia. The emperor Valens, who respected the obligations of the treaty,
and who was apprehensive of involving the East in a dangerous war,
ventured, with slow and cautious measures, to support the Roman party
in the kingdoms of Iberia and Armenia. $ Twelve legions established the
authority of Sauromaces on the banks of the Cyrus. The Euphrates was
protected by the valor of Arintheus. A powerful army, under the command
of Count Trajan, and of Vadomair, king of the Alemanni, fixed their
camp on the confines of Armenia. But they were strictly enjoined not to
commit the first hostilities, which might be understood as a breach of
the treaty: and such was the implicit obedience of the Roman general,
that they retreated, with exemplary patience, under a shower of Persian
arrows till they had clearly acquired a just title to an honorable and
legitimate victory. Yet these appearances of war insensibly subsided in
a vain and tedious negotiation. The contending parties supported their
claims by mutual reproaches of perfidy and ambition; and it should seem,
that the original treaty was expressed in very obscure terms, since they
were reduced to the necessity of making their inconclusive appeal to the
partial testimony of the generals of the two nations, who had assisted
at the negotiations. The invasion of the Goths and Huns which soon
afterwards shook the foundations of the Roman empire, exposed the
provinces of Asia to the arms of Sapor. But the declining age, and
perhaps the infirmities, of the monarch suggested new maxims of
tranquillity and moderation. His death, which happened in the full
maturity of a reign of seventy years, changed in a moment the court and
councils of Persia; and their attention was most probably engaged by
domestic troubles, and the distant efforts of a Carmanian war. The
remembrance of ancient injuries was lost in the enjoyment of peace. The
kingdoms of Armenia and Iberia were permitted, by the mutual, though
tacit consent of both empires, to resume their doubtful neutrality. In
the first years of the reign of Theodosius, a Persian embassy arrived
at Constantinople, to excuse the unjustifiable measures of the former
reign; and to offer, as the tribute of friendship, or even of respect, a
splendid present of gems, of silk, and of Indian elephants.

In the general picture of the affairs of the East under the reign
of Valens, the adventures of Para form one of the most striking and
singular objects. The noble youth, by the persuasion of his mother
Olympias, had escaped through the Persian host that besieged
Artogerassa, and implored the protection of the emperor of the East. By
his timid councils, Para was alternately supported, and recalled, and
restored, and betrayed. The hopes of the Armenians were sometimes raised
by the presence of their natural sovereign, * and the ministers of
Valens were satisfied, that they preserved the integrity of the public
faith, if their vassal was not suffered to assume the diadem and
title of King. But they soon repented of their own rashness. They were
confounded by the reproaches and threats of the Persian monarch.
They found reason to distrust the cruel and inconstant temper of Para
himself; who sacrificed, to the slightest suspicions, the lives of his
most faithful servants, and held a secret and disgraceful correspondence
with the assassin of his father and the enemy of his country. Under the
specious pretence of consulting with the emperor on the subject of their
common interest, Para was persuaded to descend from the mountains of
Armenia, where his party was in arms, and to trust his independence and
safety to the discretion of a perfidious court. The king of Armenia,
for such he appeared in his own eyes and in those of his nation, was
received with due honors by the governors of the provinces through which
he passed; but when he arrived at Tarsus in Cilicia, his progress
was stopped under various pretences; his motions were watched with
respectful vigilance, and he gradually discovered, that he was a
prisoner in the hands of the Romans. Para suppressed his indignation,
dissembled his fears, and after secretly preparing his escape, mounted
on horseback with three hundred of his faithful followers. The officer
stationed at the door of his apartment immediately communicated his
flight to the consular of Cilicia, who overtook him in the suburbs, and
endeavored without success, to dissuade him from prosecuting his rash
and dangerous design. A legion was ordered to pursue the royal fugitive;
but the pursuit of infantry could not be very alarming to a body of
light cavalry; and upon the first cloud of arrows that was discharged
into the air, they retreated with precipitation to the gates of Tarsus.
After an incessant march of two days and two nights, Para and his
Armenians reached the banks of the Euphrates; but the passage of the
river which they were obliged to swim, * was attended with some delay
and some loss. The country was alarmed; and the two roads, which were
only separated by an interval of three miles had been occupied by
a thousand archers on horseback, under the command of a count and a
tribune. Para must have yielded to superior force, if the accidental
arrival of a friendly traveller had not revealed the danger and the
means of escape. A dark and almost impervious path securely conveyed
the Armenian troop through the thicket; and Para had left behind him the
count and the tribune, while they patiently expected his approach along
the public highways. They returned to the Imperial court to excuse their
want of diligence or success; and seriously alleged, that the king of
Armenia, who was a skilful magician, had transformed himself and his
followers, and passed before their eyes under a borrowed shape. After
his return to his native kingdom, Para still continued to profess
himself the friend and ally of the Romans: but the Romans had injured
him too deeply ever to forgive, and the secret sentence of his death was
signed in the council of Valens. The execution of the bloody deed was
committed to the subtle prudence of Count Trajan; and he had the merit
of insinuating himself into the confidence of the credulous prince,
that he might find an opportunity of stabbing him to the heart Para was
invited to a Roman banquet, which had been prepared with all the pomp
and sensuality of the East; the hall resounded with cheerful music, and
the company was already heated with wine; when the count retired for an
instant, drew his sword, and gave the signal of the murder. A robust and
desperate Barbarian instantly rushed on the king of Armenia; and though
he bravely defended his life with the first weapon that chance offered
to his hand, the table of the Imperial general was stained with the
royal blood of a guest, and an ally. Such were the weak and wicked
maxims of the Roman administration, that, to attain a doubtful object
of political interest the laws of nations, and the sacred rights of
hospitality were inhumanly violated in the face of the world.

V. During a peaceful interval of thirty years, the Romans secured their
frontiers, and the Goths extended their dominions. The victories of the
great Hermanric, king of the Ostrogoths, and the most noble of the race
of the Amali, have been compared, by the enthusiasm of his countrymen,
to the exploits of Alexander; with this singular, and almost incredible,
difference, that the martial spirit of the Gothic hero, instead of being
supported by the vigor of youth, was displayed with glory and success in
the extreme period of human life, between the age of fourscore and
one hundred and ten years. The independent tribes were persuaded, or
compelled, to acknowledge the king of the Ostrogoths as the sovereign of
the Gothic nation: the chiefs of the Visigoths, or Thervingi, renounced
the royal title, and assumed the more humble appellation of Judges; and,
among those judges, Athanaric, Fritigern, and Alavivus, were the most
illustrious, by their personal merit, as well as by their vicinity
to the Roman provinces. These domestic conquests, which increased the
military power of Hermanric, enlarged his ambitious designs. He invaded
the adjacent countries of the North; and twelve considerable nations,
whose names and limits cannot be accurately defined, successively
yielded to the superiority of the Gothic arms The Heruli, who inhabited
the marshy lands near the lake Mæotis, were renowned for their strength
and agility; and the assistance of their light infantry was eagerly
solicited, and highly esteemed, in all the wars of the Barbarians.
But the active spirit of the Heruli was subdued by the slow and steady
perseverance of the Goths; and, after a bloody action, in which the king
was slain, the remains of that warlike tribe became a useful accession
to the camp of Hermanric. He then marched against the Venedi; unskilled
in the use of arms, and formidable only by their numbers, which filled
the wide extent of the plains of modern Poland. The victorious Goths,
who were not inferior in numbers, prevailed in the contest, by the
decisive advantages of exercise and discipline. After the submission of
the Venedi, the conqueror advanced, without resistance, as far as the
confines of the Æstii; an ancient people, whose name is still preserved
in the province of Esthonia. Those distant inhabitants of the Baltic
coast were supported by the labors of agriculture, enriched by the trade
of amber, and consecrated by the peculiar worship of the Mother of the
Gods. But the scarcity of iron obliged the Æstian warriors to content
themselves with wooden clubs; and the reduction of that wealthy country
is ascribed to t