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far advanced in life when chosen by the Senate. The
public events of his short but beneficent reign are unim-
portant. He relieved poverty, diminished the expenses of
the State, and set, in his own life, an example of republican
simplicity. But he did not reign long enough to Death of
have his character tested. He died in six- Nerva.
teen months after his elevation to the purple. His chief
work was to create a title for his successor, for he assumed
the right of adoption, and made choice of Trajan, without



598 Climax of the Roman Empire. [Ciiap. xliv.

regard to his own kin, then at the head of the armies of
Germany.

The new emperor, one of the most illustrious that ever
m . reigned at Rome, was born in Spain, a. d. 52, and

Trajan. ° ' *■ 7 '

had spent his life in the camp. He had a tall and
commanding form, was social and genial in his habits, and
inspired universal respect. No better choice could have
been made. He entered his capital without pomp, unattended
by guards, distinguished only for the dignity of his bearing,
allowing free access to his person, and paying vows to the
gods of his country. His wife, Plotina, bore herself as the
spouse of a simple senator, and his sister, Marciana, exhibited
a demeanor equally commendable.

The great external event of his reign was the war against
The Dacian the Daeians, and their country was the last which

the Romans subdued in Europe. They belonged
to the Thracian group of nations, and were identical with
the Getse. They inhabited the country which was bordered
on the south by the Danube and Moesia. They were engaged
in frequent wars with the Romans, and obtained a decided
advantage, in the reign of Domitian, under their king Dece-
balus. The honor of the empire was so far tarnished as to
pay a tribute to Dacia, but Trajan resolved to wipe away the
disgrace, and headed himself an expedition into this distant
country, a. d. 101, with eighty thousand veterans, subdued
Decebalus, and added Dacia to the provinces of the empire.
He built a bridge over the Danube, on solid stone piers, about
two hundred and twenty miles below the modern Belgrade,
which was a remarkable architectural work, four thousand
five hundred and seventy feet in length. Enough treasures
were secured by the conquest of Dacia to defray the expenses
of the war, and of the celebrated triumph which commemo-
rated his victories. At the games instituted in honor of this
Gladiatorial conquest, eleven thousand beasts were slain, and
sports. ten thousand gladiators fought in the Flavian Am-

phitheatre. The column on which his victories were repre-
sented still remains to perpetuate his magnificence, with its



Chap. XLIV.] Conquests and Death of Trajan. 599

two thousand five hundred figures in bas-relief, winding in a
spiral band around it from the base to the summit — one of
the most, interesting relics of antiquity. Near this column
were erected the Forum Trajanum and the Ba- TheForum
silica Ulpia, the former one thousand one hundred Tra o anum -
feet long, and the basilica connected with it, surrounded with
colonnades, and filled with colossal statues. This enormous
structure covered more ground than the Flavian Amphithea-
tre, and was built by the celebrated Apollodorus, of Damas-
cus. It filled the whole space between the Capitoline and
the Quirinal. The double colonnade which surrounded it
was one of the most beautiful works of art in the world.

On the conquest of Dacia, Trajan devoted himself to the
internal administration of his vast empire. He maintained
the dignity of the Senate, and allowed the laws to take their
course. He was untiring in his efforts to provide for the
material wants of his subjects, and in developing the resources
of the empire, nor did he rule by oppressive exactions.

After seven years of wise administration, he again was
called into the field to extend the eastern frontier xhe Parthian
of the empire. His efforts were directed against ex P edltlon -
Armenia and Parthia. He reduced the former to a Roman
province, and advanced into those Caucasian regions where
no Roman imperator had preceded him, except Pompey,
receiving the submission of Iberians and Albanians. To
overthrow Parthia was now his object, and he advanced
across the Tigris to Ctesiphon. In the Parthian capital he
was saluted as imperator; but, oppressed with gloom and
enfeebled by sickness, he did not presume to reach, as he had
aspired, the limits of the Macedonian conquest. He was too
old for such work. He returned to Antioch, sick- Death of
ened, and died in Cilicia, August, a. d. 117, after Tra J an -
a prosperous and even glorious reign of nineteen and a half
years. But he had the satisfaction of having raised the
empire to a state of unparalleled prosperity, and of having
extended its limits on the east and on the west to the farthest
point it ever reached.



600 Climax of the Roman Empire. [Chap. xliv.

Publius iElius Hadrian succeeded this great emperor, and
was born in Rome a. d. 76, and was a son of the

Hadrian. , _.

first cousin of 1 raj an. He made extraordinary-
attainments as a youth, and served honorably in the armies
of his country, especially daring the Dacian wars. At
twenty-five he was qusestor, at thirty-one he was praetor, and
in the following year was made consul, for the forms of the
old republic were maintained under the emperors. He was
adopted by Trajan, and left at the head of the army at
Antioch at the age of forty-two, when Trajan died on his
way to Rome. He was at once proclaimed emperor by the
army, and its choice was confirmed by the Senate.

He entered upon his reign with matured knowledge and
experience, and sought the development of the empire rather
than its extension beyond the Euphrates. He therefore
withdrew his armies from Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Par-
thia, and returned to Rome to celebrate, in Trajan's name,
a magnificent triumph, and by employing the spoils of war
in largesses and remission of taxes. Averse to the extension
His warlike of the empire, he still aimed to secure its limits
expeditions. ^ VQm hostile i nroa< 3 Sj an a was thus led to repel
invasions in Dacia and Britain. He marched at the head of
his legions, bareheaded and on foot, as far as Moesia, and in
another compaign through Gaul to the Rhine, and then
crossed over to Britain, and secured the northern frontier, by
a wall sixty-eight and a half miles in length, against the
Caledonians. He then returned to Gaul, passed through
Spain, crossed the straits to Mauritania, threatened by the
Moors, restored tranquillity, and then advanced to the fron-
tiers of Parthia. He then returned through Asia Minor, and
across the ^Egean to Athens, and commenced the splendid
works with which he adorned the intellectual capital of the
empire. Before returning to Rome, he visited Carthage and
Sicily.

Five years later, he made a second progress through the
empire, which lasted ten years, with some intervals, spent in
his capital, residing chiefly at Athens, constructing great



Chap. XLIY.] Hadrian. 601

architectural works, and holding converse with philosophers
and scholars. During this period he visited Alexandria,
whose schools were rivaled only by those of Hadrian
Athens, studying the fantastic philosophy of the provinces.
Gnostics, and probably examining the Christian system. He
ascended the Nile as far as Thebes, and then repaired to An-
tioch, and returned to Rome through Asia Minor. In his
progress, he not merely informed himself of the condition of
the empire, but corrected abuses, and made the Roman rule
tolerable.

His remaining years were spent at Rome, diligently
administrating the affairs of his vast government, His public
founding libraries and schools, and decorating his works -
capital with magnificent structures. His temple of Venus
at Rome was the largest ever erected in the city, and his
mausoleum, stripped of its ornaments, now forms the Castle
of St. Angelo. Next to the Coliseum, it was the grandest
architectural monument in Rome. He also built a villa at
Tivoli, whose remains are among the most interesting which
seventeen centuries have preserved.

This good emperor made a noble choice for his successor,
Titus Aurelius Antonius, and soon after died childless, a. d.
138, after a peaceful reign of twenty-one years, in which,
says Merivale, " he reconciled, with eminent success, things
hitherto found irreconcilable : a contented ai'my and a peace-
ful frontier ; an abundant treasury with lavish expenditure ; a
free Senate and stable monarchy ; and all this without the
lustre of a great military reputation, the foil of an odious
predecessor, or disgust at recent civil commotions. He
recognized, in theory, both conquerors and conquered as one
people, and greeted in person every race among his sub-
jects." He had personal defects of character, but his reign
is one of the best of the imperial series, and marked the
crowning age of Roman civilization.

Antonius Pius, his successor, had less ability, but a still
more faultless character. He sprung from the Antonius
ranks of the nobility; was consul in the third Plu3,



602 Climax of the Roman Empire. [Chap. xliv".

year of Hadrian, and was prefect of Asia until his adoption,
when he took up his residence in Rome, and never left its
neighborhood during the remainder of his life. His peaceful
reign is barren of external events, but fruitful in the peace
and security of his subjects, and the only drawback in his
happiness was the licentious character of his wife, who bore
him two sons and two daughters. The sons died before his
elevation, but one of his daughters married M. Annius Verus,
whom he adopted as his successor, and associated with him
Death of in the government of the empire. He died after a
J ntomus - reign of twenty-three years, and was buried in the
mausoleum of Hadrian, which he completed. His character
is thus drawn by his son-in-law and successor, Marcus Aure-
lius : " In my father, I noticed mildness of manner with firm-
ness of resolution, contempt of vainglory, industry in busi-
ness, and accessibility of person. He knew how

His euloscy. J L

to relax, as well as when to labor. From him I
learned to acquiesce in every foi'tune, to exercise foresight in
public affairs, to rise superior to vulgar praises, to worship the
gods without superstition, to serve mankind without ambition,
to be sober and steadfast, to be content with little, to be no
sophist or dreaming bookworm, to be practical and active, to
be neat and cheerful, to be temperate, modest in dress, and in-
different to the beauty of slaves and furniture, not to be led
away by novelties, yet to render honor to true philosophers."
What a picture of a heathen emperor, drawn by a pagan
philosopher ! — the single purpose of ruling for the happiness
of their subjects, and realizing the idea of a paternal govern-
ment, and this in one of the most corrupt periods of Roman
society.

Marcus Aurelius, like Trajan and Hadrian, derived his
Marcus origin from Spain, but was born in Italy. His

features are the most conspicuously preserved in
the repositories of ancient art, as his name is the most honor-
ably enshrined on the pages of history — the noblest and most
august type of the ancient rulers of the world, far tran-
scending any Jewish king in the severity of his virtues, and



Chap. XLIV.] Marcus Aurelius. 603

the elevation of his soul. His life was modeled on the strict-
est discipline of the stoical philosophy, of which he was the
brightest Ornament. He was nearly forty years of age on
the death of his father-in-law, although for twenty-three
years he had sat side by side with him on the tribunals of
the State. His reign, therefore, was virtually a long one,
and he Avas devoted to all the duties which his station im-
posed. He was great as ruler, as he was profound as a
philosopher.

It was under his illustrious reign that the barbarians
formed a general union for the invasion of the invasion of
Roman world, and struck the first of those fatal the etnpire -
blows under which the empire finally succumbed. "We have
but little information of the long contest with Germans, Sar-
matians, Marcomanni, Quadi, and Alani, on the banks of the
Danube, who were pressed forward by the Scythian tribes.
They were repelled, indeed, but they soon after advanced,
with renovated forces, when the empire was weakened by
the miserable emperors who succeeded Aurelius. And al-
though this great prince commemorated his victory over the
barbarians by a column similar to that of Trajan, still they
were far from being subdued, and a disgraceful peace, which
followed his death, shows that they were exceed- D eatn of
ingly formidable. He died at Sirmium, or Vindo- Am ' elins -
bona (Vienna), exhausted by incessant wars and the cares
of State, a. d. 180, in the fifty-ninth year of his age, and
twentieth of his reign. The concurrent testimony of histori-
ans represents this emperor as the loftiest character that ever
wielded a sceptre among the nations of antiquity, although
we can not forget that he was a persecutor of the Christians.

His son, Commodus, succeeded him, and the thirteen year?
of his inglorious reign are summed up in conflicts with the
Moors, Dacians, and Germans. Skillful generals, n

' ° Commodus.

by their successes, warded off* the attacks of bar-
barians, but the character and rule of the emperor resembled
that of Nero and Domitian. He was weak, cruel, pleasure-
seeking, and dissolute. His time was divided between pri-



604: Climax of the JRoman Empire. [Chap. xliv.

vate vices and disgraceful public exhibitions. He fought as
a gladiator more than seven hundred times, and against
antagonists whose only weapons were tin and lead. He
also laid claim to divinity, and was addicted to debasing
superstitions. He destroyed the old ministers of his father,
and decimated the Senate. All who excited his jealousy, or
his covetousness, were put out of the way. He was poisoned
by his favorite mistress, Marcia, and the Senate set the brand
of infamy on his name. Thus perished the last of the line
of the Antonines, even as the Julian line was ended by the
assassination of Nero, and the Flavian by that of Domitian,
and the empire became once again the prize of the soldier,
a. d. 192.



CHAPTER XLY.

THE DECLINE OF THE EMPIRE.

Able or virtuous princes had now ruled the Roman world,
with a few exceptions, from Julius Ccesar to Com- App;lrent
modus, a period of more than two hundred years, prosperity.
Among these were some odious tyrants, or madmen, who
were removed by assassination. But some of these very
tyrants governed with ability, and such was the general
prosperity, such the wonderful mechanism of government for
which the Romans had a genius, that the general condition
of the world was better than at any preceding period. All
that government could do to preserve and extend civilization
was done, on the whole. Despotism was not signally op-
pressive, and the regime of Augustus, of Vespasian, and
Hadrian was generally maintained. The Roman governors,
appointed by the emperors, ruled more wisely and benefi-
cently than in the time of the republic. Peace, security, and
law reigned, and, in consequence, the population increased,
civilization advanced, and wealth was accumulated. The
whole empire rejoiced in populous cities, in works of art, in
literary culture, and in genial manners. Society was pagan,
but attractive, and Rome herself was the resort of travelers,
the centre of fashion and glory, the joy and the pride of the
whole earth. There were no destructive wars, except on the
frontiers ; all classes were secure, the face of nature was
cultivated and beautiful, and poets sung the praises of
civilization such as never existed but in isolated cities
and countries.

But now we observe the commencement of a great and
melancholy change. Prosperity had led to vice, false se-



606 Decline of the Empire. [Ciiap. xlv.

curity, and pride. All classes had become corrupt. Dispropor-
Great moral tionate fortunes, slavery, and luxury undermined
changes. ^q moral health, and destroyed not only eleva-
tion of sentiment but martial virtues. Literature declined
in spirit and taste, and was directed to frivolous subjects.
Christianity had not become a power sufficiently strong to
change or modify the corrupt institutions controlled by the
powerful classes. The expensive luxury of the nobles was
almost incredible. The most distant provinces were ran-
sacked for game, fish, and fowl for the tables of the great.
Usury was practiced at a ruinous rate. Every thing was
measured by the money standard. Art was prostituted to
please degraded tastes. There was no dignity of character;
women were degraded ; only passing vanities made any
impression on egotistical classes ; games and festivals were
multiplied ; gladiatorial sports outraged humanity ; the
descendants of the proudest families prided themselves
chiefly on their puerile frivolities ; the worst rites of pagan-
ism were practiced; slaves performed the most important
functions ; the circus and the theatre were engrossing pleas-
ures ; the baths were the resort of the idle and the luxurious,
who almost lived in them, and were scenes of disgraceful
orgies; great extravagance in dress and ornaments was
universal ; the pleasures of the table degenerated to riotous
excesses ; cooks, buffoons, and dancers received more consid-
eration than scholars and philosophers ; everybody wor-
shiped the shrine of mammon ; all science was directed to
utilities that demoralized ; sensualism reigned triumphant,
and the people lived as if there were no God.

Such a state must prepare the way for violence, and when
Preparations e xterna l dangers came there were not sufficient vir-
for violence. tues to meet them. But the decline was gradual,
and dangers were still at a distance. Both nature and art
"were the objects of perpetual panegyric, and the worldly and
sensual Romans dreamed only of a millennium of protracted

j°y s -

The last experiment of a constitutional empire was sue-



Chap. XL v.] S&ptimius Sever us. 607

ceeded by undisguised military despotism, and no one now
desired or expected! the restoration of the republic. The
Senate was servile and submissive, the people had no voice
in public affairs, and the prefects of the imperial guard
were the recognized lieutenants and often masters of the
emperors.

Pertinax succeeded to the sceptre of Commodus, a wise and
good man, and great hopes were entertained of a p er tinaxand
beneficent reign, when they were suddenly blasted uhanus -
by a sedition of the praetorians, only eighty-six days after
the death of Commodus, and these guards publicly sold the
empire to Didius Julianus, a wealthy senator, at the price
of one thousand dollars to each soldier. Such a bargain dis-
gusted the capital, and raised the legions in the provinces to
revolt. Each of the three principal armies set up their own
candidate, but L. Septimius Severus, who com-
manded in Illyricum, was the fortunate one, and
was confirmed by the Senate. Didius Julianus was murdered
after a brief reign of sixty-six days, and the praetorians who
had created the scandal were disbanded.

The reign of this general was able and fortunate, although
he was cruel and superstitious. His vigor prevented the
separation of the empire for a century ; but he had power-
ful rivals in Clodius Albinus, in Britain, and Pescennius
Niger, in Syria, both of whom he subdued. At Lyons it is
said that one hundred and fifty thousand Romans fought on
both sides, when Albinus was killed. The fall of Niger at
the Hellespont insured the submission of the East, and the
victorious emperor penetrated as far as Ctesiphon, and
received the submission of Mesopotamia and Arabia. The
triumphal arch erected by him celebrated those military
successes.

Having bestowed peace, and restored the dignity of the
empire, this martial prince established an undis- Vigorous

..,.,. -, . n , -1T1 rUlt)0f SeVe "

guised military despotism, and threw aside aJl ms.
deference to the Senate. He created a new guard of prae-
torian soldiers four times as numerous as the old, which were



608 Decline of the Empire. [Chap. xlv.

recruited from the ranks of the barbarians, who thus began
to overawe the capital. The commander of this great force
was no less a man than the celebrated jurist, Papianus, and
he was the prime minister of the emperor. It was during
his reign that a violent persecution of the Christians took
place, a. d. 200, which called out the famous apology of Ter-
tullian. Severus died in Britain, to which he was summoned
by an irruption of Caledonians, a. d. 211, having reigned
nineteen years, and with a vigor worthy of Trajan.

He left two sons, who are best known by the names of
Caracaiia Caracalla and Geta, and both of whom, in their
and Geta. father's lifetime, had been raised to the dignity of
Augustus. The oldest son succeeded to the empire, and the
year after his elevation murdered his brother in his mother's
arms. He also executed Papinian, the praetorian prefect,
because he refused to justify the fratricide, together with
twenty thousand persons who were the friends of Geta.
After this wholesale murder he left his capital, and never
returned to it, spending his time in different provinces, which
were alternately the scene of his cruelty and rapine, a victim
of the foulest superstitions of the East, and arrogant and
vainglorious as he was savage. His tyranny became unen-
durable, and he was murdered by an agent of the praetorian
prefect, a. d. 217, Opilius Macrinus, who became the next
emperor.

Macrinus was only elevated to the purple by promising
rich donations to the soldiers, for his rank was
only' that of a knight. He undertook to restore
discipline in the army, and the licentious soldiery found a
new candidate for the empire in the person of Avitus, of the
family of Severus, a beautiful boy of seventeen, who offici-
ated as priest of the sun in Syria, and whose name in history,
from the god lie served, is called Elagabalas, or Heliogaba-
lus. But Macrinus was at the head of a formidable force,
and fought his rival with bravery, but without success.
The battle was decided against him, and he was overtaken
in flight and put to death, a. d. 218.



Chap. XLY.] Alexander Severus. 609

"With Elagabalus is associated the most repulsive and
loathsome reign of all the emperors. He was

., _ . , . , . . - , Elagabalus.

guilty oi the most shameless obscenities, and the
most degrading superstitions. He painted and dressed him-
self like an Oriental prince ; he banqueted in halls hung with
cloth of gold, and enriched with jewels ; he slept on mat-
tresses stuffed with down found only under the wings of
partridges ; he dined from tables of pure gold ; he danced
in public, arrayed in the garb of a Syrian priest ; and he
collected in his capital all the forms of idolatry and all
the hideous abominations which even Grecian paganism
despised. This wretch, who insulted every conse-

, , , „ _ His luxury.

crated sentiment, was murdered alter a reign of
little more than three years, a. d. 222, and his body was
thrown into the Tiber, and his memory branded with infamy
by the Senate.

The praetorians, who now controlled the State, offered the
purple to his cousin, Alexander Severus, grand- A]exan( j er
nephew of Septimius Severus, an emperor Avho Severus -
adorned those degenerate times, and who resembled the
great Aurelius in the severity of his virtues. His prime
minister — the prefect of the praetorian guards — was the cele-
brated ITlpian, the greatest of Roman jurists, and next to
him in dignity and power was the historian, Dion Cassius,
consul, governor in Africa, and legate in Dalmatia.

The great labors of Alexander Severus were to quell the
mutinous spirit of the praetorian guards, who
reveled in the spoil of the empire ; to subdue the
Persians ; and to repel barbarian inroads on » the western
frontiers. It was while he was in Thrace that a young bar-
barian of gigantic stature solicited permission to contend for
the prize of wrestling. Sixteen of the stoutest Roman soldiers
he successively overthrew, and he was permitted to enlist
among the troops. The next day he attracted the notice of the
emperor, and again contended successfully with seven of the
Roman champions, and received, at the hand of the emperor,
a gold collar and a place in the body-guard. He rose, step
39



010 Decline of the Empire. [Chap. XLV.

by step, till appointed to discipline the recruits of the army



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