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is not at all probable that a man who had philosophy
enough to renounce the empire should show so little
as to become a fanatic persecutor. Diocletian is,
for the most part, ignorantly represented as an
enemy ever in arms against the faithful, and his
reign as a continual massacre; but nothing can be
more contrary to truth. The era of martyrs, which
begins at his accession, should not, therefore, have
commenced until two years before his abdication,

72 Ancient and Modern History.

for no person suffered martyrdom during the first
twenty years of his reign.

The story of his having quitted the empire out
of vexation because he had not been able to abolish
Christianity is a contemptible fiction. Had he been
really such a persecutor he would, on the contrary,
have continued to reign, that he might have had an
opportunity to destroy it in earnest, and if he was
compelled to abdicate, as it is alleged without any
sort of proof, he did not quit the reins of empire
from chagrin or regret. The vain pleasure of record-
ing extraordinary incidents and increasing the num-
ber of martyrs has induced writers to add false and
incredible persecutions to those that were but too
true. They pretend that under the reign of Diocle-
tian, in the year 297, Maximian Herculius, Caesar,
doomed to martyrdom the whole Theban legion, con-
sisting of six thousand six hundred Christians, who
were sent into the midst of the Alps, where they
allowed themselves to be massacred, without mur-
muring at their fate. This story, so much cele-
brated, was not written until nearly two hundred
years after the supposed event, by the abbot Eukerus,
who related it from hearsay. Granting there actu-
ally was such a legion as the Theban, or Thebean, a
circumstance that is very doubtful, is it probable that
Maximian Herculius should, as is reported, recall
them from the East to appease a sedition which hap-
pened among the Gauls? Wherefore should he
deprive himself of six thousand six hundred good


Italy. 73

soldiers, for whom he had immediate occasion, to
quell this sedition? How happened they to be all
Christians, without exception? Wherefore murder
them on the route. Who were the persons at whose
hands they suffered martyrdom? To what purpose
should this butchery be enacted, at a time when there
was no persecution, at an era when the Church en-
joyed the most profound tranquillity, when under the
very eye of Diocletian, even in Nicomedia, opposite
his own palace, the Christians had built a superb
cathedral ? " The profound peace and perfect lib-
erty which we enjoy," says Eusebius, " is the occa-
sion of our being remiss in our duty." Is this pro-
found peace, this perfect liberty, consistent with the
massacre of six thousand six hundred soldiers? If
this incredible fact had been true, would Eusebius
have passed it over in silence? So many true mar-
tyrs have sealed the gospel with their blood that their
glory should not be shared with those who did not
share their sufferings ; certain it is, Diocletian, in the
last two years of his reign, and Galerius, for some
years after, persecuted with great violence the Chris-
tians of Asia Minor and the neighboring countries.
But in Spain, Gaul, and England, which were then in
the division of Constantius Chlorus, far from being
proscribed, they saw their religion the prevailing
faith ; and Eusebius says that Maxentius, who was
elected emperor at Rome in the year 306, persecuted
no person. The Christians effectually served Constan-
tius Chlorus, whose wife Helena publicly embraced

74 Ancient and Modern History.

their religion ; then they formed a considerable party
in the state. Their money and their arms con-
tributed largely in raising Constantine to the pur-
ple ; for this reason they became odious to the senate
and the people of Rome, as well as to the praetorian
cohorts, who universally declared for Maxentius, his
competitor for the empire. Our historians stigmatize
Maxentius with the name of tyrant, because he was
unfortunate : certain it is, however, he was the true
emperor, as having been proclaimed by the senate
and people of Rome.

The reign of Constantine is a glorious era for
religion, which it crowned with triumph. There was
no occasion to intermingle prodigies, such as the
apparition of the labarum in the clouds, without
once mentioning in what country that standard
appeared : there was no necessity to relate that the
guards of the labarum were invulnerable. The
shield of Egeria that fell from heaven in ancient
Rome, the oriflamme brought to St. Denis by an
angel, and all such imitations of the Palladium of
Troy serve only to debase truth with an air of fiction.
Divers learned antiquarians have sufficiently refuted
these errors, which philosophy disavows, and which
true criticism must always destroy. Let us con-
fine our attention to a view of those incidents, in
consequence of which Rome ceased to be the metrop-
olis of the empire.

Constantine, who was elevated to the Imperial
throne against the inclinations of the Romans, could

Italy. 75

not be agreeable to that people. It is very evident,
that the murder of Licinius, his brother-in-law, in
violation of the most solemn oaths; the death of
Licinianus, his nephew, murdered at twelve years
of age; the fate of his father-in-law Maximin,
butchered by his order at Marseilles ; of his own son
Crispus, whom he put to death, after he had gained
him several battles; and of his wife Fausta, stifled
in a hot bath; must have created an abhorrence,
which could not allay the hatred of his subjects.
And this is probably the reason that induced him to
transfer the seat of empire to Byzantium. We find,
in the code of Theodosius, an edict of Constantine,
in which he declares, that he founded Constantinople
by the express command of God : thus, in order to
silence the murmurs of his people, he feigned a
revelation. This single circumstance is sufficient to
make us acquainted with his real character. Our
greedy curiosity would fain penetrate through the
interior recesses in the heart of a man like Con-
stantine, who, in a little time, altered the whole
economy of the Roman Empire ; the residence of the
sovereign, the manners of the court, the customs,
language, apparel, government, and religion. How
shall we discern the real character of a prince, whom
one party has described as the most criminal, and the
other as the most virtuous of mankind? If we sup-
pose he made everything subservient to what he
thought his own interest, we shall not be mistaken.
To know whether the ruin of the empire was

76 Ancient and Modern History.

really owing to Constantine, will be an inquiry, in all
respects, worthy of your understanding. It plainly
appears that he was the ruin of Rome : but, in trans-
porting the throne to the Thracian Bosphorus, he
formed in the East considerable barriers against
the irruptions of those Barbarians, who, in the
reigns of his successors, deluged Europe, and found
Italy without defence: he seems to have sacrificed
the West as a victim for the East. Italy fell when
Constantinople arose. The political history of those
times would be a study at once curious and instruct-
ive : at present, in lieu of history, we have scarcely
anything but satire and panegyric. Even by means
of panegyric we are sometimes enabled to investi-
gate the truth. Constantine, for example, is extolled
to the skies, for having exposed to wild beasts, in the
circus, all the chiefs of the Franks, and the prisoners
he took in an expedition to the Rhine : such was the
treatment offered to the predecessors of Clovis and
Charlemagne. The writers who have been so base
as to applaud cruel actions have at least established
the facts, and sensible readers judge of them by the
light of their own understanding. The most cir-
cumstantial part in the history of this revolution is
that which relates to the establishment of the
Church, and the troubles to which it was exposed.
It is melancholy reflection, that scarcely had the
Christian religion ascended the throne, than the
holiness of it was profaned by Christians unworthy
of the name, who blindly followed the dictates of


Italy. '77

revenge, even at a time when their triumph over all
their enemies ought to have inspired them with the
spirit of peace. In Syria and Palestine, they mas-
sacred all the magistrates who had been severe in
executing the laws against them ; they drowned the
wife and daughter of Maximin, and his sons and
relatives perished by the most cruel torments. The
disputes about the consubstantiability of the world
involved mankind in confusion and bloodshed : in a
word, Ammianus Marcellinus says the Christians of
his time attacked one another like wild beasts.
Great virtues they doubtless had, of which
Ammianus has taken no notice: these are always
concealed from the eyes of an enemy, while one's
vices appear in the most conspicuous point of view.

The Church of Rome was preserved from these
crimes and misfortunes ; at first, she had neither
power nor blemish, but remained a long time quiet
and discreet in the midst of an idolatrous senate and
people. In that capital of the known world were
seven hundred temples, great and small, dedicated
to the gods " ma jorum et minorum gentium."
These existed even to the reign of Theodosius;
and long after him, the people of the country per-
sisted in their ancient worship. Hence the fol-
lowers of the old religion acquired the appellation
of Pagans, of Pagani, from the little towns called
Pagi, where idolatry was allowed to exist even to
the eighth century.

We know very well the imposture on which Con-

7 8 Ancient and Modern History.

stantine's donation is founded : but we cannot con-
ceive how such an imposture should have been so
long credited : those who denied it were frequently
punished in Italy and in other countries. Who, for
example, could imagine that even so late as the year
1478, divers persons should have been committed
to the flames for having opposed this error ?

Constantine certainly granted, not to the bishop of
Rome only, but to the cathedral, which was the
church of St. John, one thousand marks of gold, and
thirty thousand of silver, with fourteen thousand
sols annually, and certain lands in Calabria: this
patrimony was augmented by every succeeding
emperor ; and the bishops of Rome stood in need of
such assistance. The missionaries whom they sent
into those parts of Europe where the pagan worship
prevailed, the bishops expelled from their sees, to
whom they afforded an asylum, and the great num-
ber of poor whom they maintained, absolutely
required very great revenues. The credit of the
rank, which was superior to all wealth, soon ren-
dered the pastors of the Christians at Rome, the
most considerable men of the western world. True
piety condescended to accept of this ministry, but
ambition intrigued for it; so that the papal chair
became the subject of violent disputes: even as
early as the middle of the fourth century, the con-
sul Praetextatus, who was a heathen, said : " If you
will make me bishop of Rome, I will make myself
a Christian."

Italy. 79

Nevertheless, this bishop had no other power than
that which arose from his personal virtue, credit, or
intrigue, under favorable circumstances. No pastor
of the Church ever enjoyed any civil jurisdiction,
much less the rights of regality. Not one of them
had what is called the "jus terrendi," neither the
right of territory, nor the power of pronouncing,
" do, dico, abdico." The emperors still continued
the supreme judges in everything but points of
doctrine. They even convoked councils. At Nice,
Constantine received and determined the mutual
complaints and accusations which the bishops
brought against each other. The title of sovereign
pontiff was still attached to the empire. When the
Goths took possession of Rome after the Heruli,
when the famous Theodoric, not less powerful than
Charlemagne was in the sequel, had established the
seat of his empire at Ravenna, in the beginning of
the sixth century, without arrogating to himself the
title of emperor of the West, which it was in his
power to assume, he exercised over the Romans
precisely the same power which the Caesars had
enjoyed : he preserved the senate ; he allowed lib-
erty of conscience ; the orthodox Christians, Arians,
and Idolaters, were equally subject to the civil laws:
he judged the Goths by the Gothic, the Romans
by the Roman law : he presided by his commissaries
at the elections of bishops : he prohibited simony,
and appeased schisms. When two popes disputed
the episcopal chair, he appointed Symmachus; and

80 Ancient and Modern History.

this very Symmachus being accused, he tried him by
his " Missi Dominici."

His son Athalaric regulated the elections of the
popes, as well as of all the other metropolitans in
his different kingdoms, by an edict that was always
observed; an edict which was digested by his
minister, C'assiodorus, who afterwards retired to
Monte Cassino, and embraced the rule of St. Bene-
dict; an edict to which Pope John II. submitted
without hesitation. When Belisarius came to Italy
and reduced it under the imperial power, it is well
known that he banished Pope Silverius, and in so
doing did not exceed the bounds of his authority,
though perhaps he transgressed the rules of justice.
Belisarius, and afterwards Narses, having rescued
Rome from the yoke of the Goths, Italy was deluged
by other barbarians, such as tHe Gepidae, Franks,
and Germans. The whole western empire was rav-
aged, and became a prey to savage nations. The
Lombards extended their dominion through all that
was called "Italia Citerior." Alboin, the founder
of that new dynasty, was no other than a barbarous
freebooter, but the victors soon adopted the manners,
politeness, language, and religion of the vanquished.
This was not the case with the first Franks and the
Burgundians, who brought into Gaul their own
unpolished language, and their manners, that were
still more rustic.

The Lombard nation was at first composed of
Pagans and Arians. About the year 640, their king,

Italy. 8 1

Rotharis, published an edict, granting liberty of
conscience to the professors of all religions, so that
in almost every town of Italy there was a Catholic
bishop and an Arian bishop, who allowed the idol-
aters, still scattered among the villages, to live in

The kingdom of Lombardy extended from Pied-
mont to Brindisi, and the territory of Otranto; it
comprehended Benevento, Bari, and Tarentum,
but did not include Apulia, Rome, nor Ravenna.
These countries still remained annexed to the feeble
empire of the East. The Church of Rome had
therefore been transferred from the dominions of
the Goths to that of the Greeks. An exarch gov-
erned Rome in the name of the emperor, but he
did not reside in that city, which was almost aban-
doned to her own will. His residence was at
Ravenna, from which place he sent his orders to the
duke or prefect of Rome, and to the senators, who
were still honored with the name of " Patres con-
scripti" The form of the municipal government
still existed in this ancient capital, so deplorably
fallen to decay, and the republican spirit was never
quite extinguished. These principles were sus-
tained by the example of Venice, a republic first
founded by fear and misery, and in a little time
raised by courage and commerce. Venice was
already so powerful that even in the eighth century
she re-established the exarch Scholasticus, who had
been expelled from Ravenna.
Vol. 246

82 Ancient and Modern History.

What then was the situation of Rome, in the
seventh and eighth centuries ? That of an unfortun-
ate city, poorly defended by the exarchs, continually
exposed to the threats of the Lombards, and ever
acknowledging the power of the emperors. The
credit of the popes increased in the desolation of
the city. They often acted as its fathers and com-
forters, but always as subjects. They could not even
be consecrated without the express permission of
the exarch. The forms in which this permission
was demanded and granted, are preserved to this
day. The Roman clergy wrote to the metropolitan
of Ravenna, soliciting the intercession of his beat-
itude with the governor; the pope afterwards sent
his profession of faith to the metropolitan.

Astolphus, king of Lombardy, at length made
himself master of the whole exarchate of Ravenna,
in the year 751, and put an end to that imperial vice-
royalty, which had existed one hundred and eighty-
three years. As the duchy of Rome depended on
the exarchate of Ravenna, Astolphus laid claim to
Rome, by right of conquest. Then Pope Stephen
II., the sole defender of the unhappy Romans,
demanded succor of the emperor Constantine, sur-
named Copronymus. All the assistance which this
miserable emperor sent was an officer of the palace
with a letter to the Lombard king. This weakness
of the Greek emperors was the real origin of the
new western empire, as well as of the papal great-

Italy. 83



ROME, so often sacked by Barbarians, abandoned
by the emperors, hard pressed by the Lombards, and
incapable of restoring the ancient republic, could
no longer pretend to greatness. It was absolutely
necessary, however, that she should enjoy some
quiet. This blessing she might have tasted, could
she have been at that time wholly governed by her
bishops, as were so many towns of Germany later,
and this benefit at least would have produced
anarchy, but the Christians had not yet imbibed
the opinion that a bishop could be invested with
the sovereign power, though in the history of man-
kind we find so many examples of the priesthood's
being united with the secular power in other relig-

Pope Gregory III. was the first who had recourse
to the protection of the Franks, against the Lom-
bards and the emperors. His successor, Zacharias,
animated with the same spirit, acknowledged Pepin,
who usurped the kingdom of France, as a lawful
king. It is pretended that Pepin, while he was yet no
more than prime minister, desired to know of the
pope who was the true king he who had nothing
but the right and title, or he who had the merit and
authority and that his holiness decided in favor of
the minister. It has never been clearly proved that

84 Ancient and Modern History.

this farce was really acted, but certain it is Pope
Stephen III. called Pepin to his assistance against
the Lombards; that he actually came to France,
and in the church of St. Denis, gave the royal
unction to Pepin, who was the first anointed sov-
ereign in Europe. This first usurper not only
received the sacred unction of the pope, after hav-
ing received it from St. Boniface, who was called
the apostle of Germany, but Stephen III. forbade
the French, on pain of excommunication, to bestow
it on the kings of any other race. When this bishop,
an exile from his own country, and suppliant in a
foreign land, had the courage to give laws to his
protectors, his policy assumed an authority which
secured that of his benefactor, and Pepin, that he
might the more safely enjoy that which was not
his due, allowed the pope to possess those rights
to which he had no title.

Hugh Capet in France, and Conrad in Germany,
showed in the end that excommunication is not a
fundamental law. Nevertheless, opinion, which
governs mankind, at first imprinted in their hearts
such reverence for this ceremony, which was per-
formed by the pope at St. Denis, that Eginhard, sec-
retary to Charlemagne, expressly declared that King
Hilderic was deposed by order of Pope Stephen.
It will be thought a contradiction that this pope
should come to France to prostrate himself at the
feet of Pepin, and afterwards dispose of the crown,
but, in fact, it is no contradiction. Such prostra-

Italy. 85

tions were then considered in the same light as our
present ceremony or compliment of bowing. It
was the ancient custom of the East. Bishops were
saluted on the bended knee, and this same respect
was paid to the governors of their dioceses.
Charles, the son of Pepin, had embraced the feet
of Pope Stephen at St. Maurice, in Valais, and
Stephen, in his turn, embraced those of Pepin. All
this was a matter of no consequence, but the popes
by little and little arrogated to themselves only
this mark of respect. Pope Adrian I. is said to have
been the pontiff who ordained that nobody should
appear before him without kissing his feet. Em-
perors and kings submitted like persons of inferior
station to this ceremony, which rendered the Roman
religion more venerable in the eyes of mankind.

We are told, that in the year 754, Pepin passed
the Alps; that Astolphus, king of Lombardy, was
so intimidated by the sole presence of the Frank
that he immediately ceded the whole exarchate of
of Ravenna to the pope. Then Pepin repassed the
mountains, but scarcely had he returned, when
Astolphus, instead of giving up Ravenna to the pope,
undertook the siege of Rome. All the transactions
of those times were so irregular that Pepin certainly
might have given to the popes the exarchate of
Ravenna, though it did not belong to him, and even
made this singular donation without taking any
step to render it ineffectual. Yet it is very unlikely
that a man of Pepin's disposition, who had dethroned

86 Ancient and Modern History.

his own sovereign, should march with an army into
Italy, for no other purpose but to make presents.
Nothing can be more doubtful than this donation
which is mentioned in so many books. The librarian
Anastasius, who wrote one hunded and forty years
after Pepin's expedition, is the first who takes notice
of it. A thousand authors have quoted it since that
period, but it is now refuted by the best casuists in

At that time the human mind was possessed by
a capricious medley of cunning and simplicity, of
brutality and artifice, which was a strong character-
istic of general decay and degeneracy. Stephen
forged a letter in the name of St. Peter, addressed
from heaven, to Pepin and his children, which for its
oddity deserves to be literally inserted : " Peter,
called as apostle by Jesus Christ, the son of the liv-
ing God, etc. As by me, the catholic, apostolic,
Roman Church, mother of all other churches, is
founded on a rock, and to the end that the grace
of our Lord be fully granted to Stephen, bishop
of that sweet and holy Roman Church, whereby he
may reserve her from the hands of her persecutors.
To you, the most excellent monarchs, Pepin, Charles,
and Carloman, and to all holy bishops and abbots,
priests and monks, and even to dukes, counts, and
peoples, I, Peter, apostle, etc., I conjure you, and
the Virgin Mary, who will be much obliged to you,
gives you to understand, and commands you as
well as the thrones and dominions if you do not

Italy. 87

fight for me, I declare by the holy trinity, and my
own apostleship, that you shall never enjoy any
part of Paradise." This letter had the desired effect.
Pepin passed the Alps a second time, besieged Pavia,
and then concluded a peace with Astolphus. But
is it probable that he should cross the mountains
twice, with no other view but that of bestowing
towns upon Pope Stephen ? Why does not St. Peter
mention such an important fact in his letter? Why
does he not complain to Pepin that he was not in
possession of the exarchate? Why does not he
expressly demand that it should be restored ?

The original title of this donation never appeared.
We are therefore obliged to doubt its authenticity.
To this dilemma we are often reduced in history, as
well as in philosophy. Besides, the holy see has no
occasion for equivocal rights. The rights she has to
her territories are as incontestable as those that any
other sovereigns of Europe have to their respective
dominions. Certain it is, the pontiffs of Rome,
even then, had large patrimonies, in more than one
country. These patrimonies were always respected,
and totally exempt from tribute. They had terri-
tories among the Alps, in Tuscany, at Spoleto, in
Gaul, Sicily, and even in Corsica, before the Arab-
ians made themselves masters of that island in the
eighth century. Probably Pepin considerably aug-
mented this patrimony in the country of Romagna,
and this was called the patrimony of the exarchate.
The word " patrimony " was, in all likelihood, the

88 Ancient and Modern History.

source of the mistake. Authors of a later date, who
wrote in times of obscurity, took it for granted

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