John Lord.

Anceint states and empires online

. (page 52 of 55)
Online LibraryJohn LordAnceint states and empires → online text (page 52 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of the Rhine. He became the favorite of the army, and was
saluted as imperator. Severus fled to his tent, and was
assassinated, a. d. 235.

The savage, Maximin, who now governed the empire,
ruled like a barbarian, as he was, disdaining: all

Maximin. . ~

culture, and hostile to all refinements. Confisca-
tions, exile, or death awaited the few illustrious men who
His cruel- adorned the age. Only brute force was recogniz-
ed as a claim to imperial favor. The sole object
of Maximin was to secure the favor of the soldiers, barbari-
ans like himself, whom he propitiated with exorbitant dona-
tions, extorted by fines and confiscations, and derived from
the sack of temples. He lived in the camp, and knew
nothing of the cities he ruled.

Such outrages of course proA r oked rebellion, and M. Anto-
nius Gordianus, the proconsul of Africa, a descend-
ant of the Gracchi and of Trajan, distinguished
for wealth and culture, was proclaimed emperor, at the age
of eighty, who associated with him, in the government, his
son. The Senate confirmed the Gordians, who fixed their
court at Carthage, but Maximin suppressed the insurrection,
and proceeded to Rome to satisfy his vengeance. The
Senate, in despair, conferred the purple on two members
of their own body, Maximus, an able soldier, and Bal-
binus, a poet and orator. The praetorians supported their
Death of claims, and Maximin was assassinated in his tent,
Maximin. A ^ 2 38. But the new emperors had scarcely
given promise of a wise administration, before they in turn
were assassinated by the praetorians, and Gordian, a grand-
son of the first of that name, was elevated to the imperial
dignity. He, again, was soon murdered in a mutiny of the
soldiers, who elected Philip as his successor, a. d.
p- 244. This emperor, whose reign was marked by the

celebration of the secular games with unwonted magnifi-
cence, to commemorate the one thousand years since Rome
was founded, was put to death by the praetorian guards the

Chap, xlv.] Raid of the Goths. 611

following year, and the dignity of Augustus was conferred
on Decius. .

His reign is memorable for a savage persecution of the
Christians, and the victories of the Goths, who, in Persecution

i t • i -, -i -rV • n of the Chris-

the preceding reign, had penetrated to Dacia, and tians.
conquered Moesia. The next twenty years were mournful
and disgraceful. The emperor marched against these bar-
barians in person, but was defeated by them in Thrace, and
lost his life at a place called Abrutum, a. d. 251. The Goths
continued their ravages alone; the coasts of the Euxine, and
made themselves masters of the Crimea. Thev r. ?

J Ravages of

then sailed, with a large fleet, to the northern parts the Goths.
of the Euxine, took Pityus and Trapezus, attacked the
wealthy cities of the Thracian Bosphorus, conquered Chal-
cedon, Nicomedia, and Nice, and retreated laden with spoil.
The next year, with five hundred boats, they pursued their
destructive navigation, destroyed Cyzicus, crossed the
JEgean, landed at Athens, plundered Thebes, Argos, Corinth
and Sparta, advanced to the coasts of Epirus, and devas-
tated the whole Illyrian peninsula. In their ravages they
destroyed the famous temple of Ephesus, and, wearied witli
plunder, returned through Moesia to their own settlements
beyond the Danube.

During this raid, the son of Decius, Hostilianus, reigned in
conjunction with Gallus, one of the generals of Decius, but
were put to death bv ^Emilianus, g-overnor of „

1 J ' ° Successive

Pannonia and Moesia, who had succeeded in emperors.
gaining a victory over the new and terrible enemy. He was
in turn overthrown by Valerianus — a nobleman of great dis-
tinction, who signalized himself by considerable military
ability, and who associated with himself in the empire his son,
Gallienus, a. d. 253, whose frivolities were an offset to the
virtues of his father. Valerian was taken prisoner by Sapor,
king of Persia, and shortly after died, and the Roman world
relapsed under the sway of his son, and at a time of great
calamity, memorable for the successes of the Goths, and the
direst pestilence which had ever visited the empire. Galli-

612 Decline of the Empire. [Chap. XLV.

enus — not without accomplishments, but utterly unfit to
govern an empire in the stormy times which wit-

Gallienus. - , „ . . „ . „ ,

nessed the fierce irruptions of the Goths — was
slain by a conspiracy of his officers, a. r>. 268.

The empire was now threatened by barbarians, and wasted
by pestilence, and distracted by rebellions and riots. It was
on the verge of ruin; but the ruin was averted for one
hundred years by a succession of great princes, who traced
their origin to the martial province of Illyricum. The first of
these emperors was Claudius, one of the generals of Galli-
enus, and was fifty-four years of age when invested with the
purple. He led the armies of the waning empire against the
Alemanni, who had invaded Italy, and drove them beyond
the Alps. But a fiercer tribe of Germanic barbarians
remained to be subdued or repelled — those who had devas-
tated Greece — the Goths. They again appeared upon the
„ L ,. . Euxine with a fleet, variously estimated from two

Gothic mva- ' •"

sums. thousand to six thousand vessels, carrying three

hundred and twenty thousand men. A division of this vast,
but undisciplined force, invaded Crete and Cyprus, but the
main body ravaged Macedonia, and undertook the siege of
Thessalonica. Claudius advanced to meet them, and gained at
Defeat of the Naissus a complete victory, where fifty thousand of
barbarians, the barbarians perished. A desultory war followed
in Thrace, Macedonia, and Moesia, which resulted in the
destruction of the Gothic fleet, and an immense booty in
captives and cattle.

Claudius survived this great, but not decisive victory, but

two years, and was carried off by pestilence, at Sirmiun, a. n.

270 ; but not until he had designated for his successor a still

greater man — the celebrated Aurelian, whose

father had been a peasant. Every day of his short

reign was filled with wonders. He put an end to the Gothic

war, chastised the Germans who invaded Italy, recovered

Gaul, Britain, and Spain, defeated the Alemanni,

who devastated the empire from the Po to the

Danube, destroyed the proud monarchy which Zenobia had

Chap. XL v.] Zenobia. 613

built up in the deserts of the East, took the queen captive, and
carried her to Rome, where he celebrated the most magni-
ficent triumph which the world had seen since the days of
Pompey and Caesar. This celebrated woman, equaling Cleo-
patra in beauty, and Boadicea in valor, and blending the
popular manners of the Roman princes with the stately pomp
of Oriental kings, had retired, on her defeat, to the beautiful
city which Solomon had built, shaded with palms, and orna-
mented with palaces. There, in that Tadmor of the wilder-
ness, Palmyra, the capital of her empire, which
embraced a large part of Asia Minor, Syria, and
Egypt, she had cultivated the learning of the Greeks, and
the Oriental tongues of the countries she ruled, excelling
equally in the chase and in war, the most truly accomplished
woman of antiquity, — sprung, like Cleopatra, from the Greek
kings of Egypt. Among her counselors was the celebrated
Longinus — the most conspicuous ornament of the last age of
Greek classic literature, and a philosopher who taught the wis-
dom of Plato. When Palmyra was taken by Aurelian, this
great man, who had stimulated Zenobia in her rebellion, was
executed, without uttering a word of complaint, together with
the people of the city, with remorseless barbarity, and the
city of Solomon became an inconsiderable Arab town. The
queen, who had fled, was pursued and taken, and ZenoWa tak .
graced the magnificent triumph of the martial en captive.
emperor. The captive queen was made to precede the tri-
umphal chariot, on foot, loaded with fetters of gold, and
arrayed in the most gorgeous dress of her former empire.
She was not executed, but permitted to reside in the capital
in the state of princes.

This great and brilliant triumph — one of the last glories
of the setting sun of Roman greatness — seemed to Triu h of
augur the restoration of the empire. The emperor Am-eiian.
was sanguine, and boasted that all extex-nal danger had
passed away. But in a few months he was summoned to
meet new enemies in the East, and he was murdered by a
conspiracy of his officers, probably in revenge for the cruel-

614 Decline of the Empire. [Chap. xly.

ties and massacres he had inflicted at Rome. In one of his
reforms a sedition arose, and was quelled inexorably by the
slaughter of seven thousand of the soldiers, besides a large
number of the leading nobles.

His sceptre descended to Tacitus, a. d. 275, a descendant
of the great historian: a man, says Niebuhr, " who


was great in every thing that could distinguish a
senator ; he possessed immense property, of which he made
a brilliant use; he was a man of unblemished character; he
possessed the knowledge of a statesman, and had, in his
youth, shown great military skill." Scarcely was he inaugu-
rated as emperor before he marched against the Alans, a Scy-
thian tribe, who had ravaged Pontus, Cappadocia, Cilicia, and
Galatea. He, however, lost his life amid the hardships of
his first campaign, at the age of seventy-five, and after a
brief reign of six months.

The veteran general, M. Aurelius Probus, the commander

of the Eastern provinces, was proclaimed emperor

Probus. . x ' . . r l

by the legions, although originally of peasant rank.
He was forty-five years of age, and united the military
greatness of Aurelian with political prudence, in all respects
the best choice which could have been made, and one of
the best and greatest of all the emperors. His six years of
administration were marked by uninterrupted successes, and
he won a fame equal to that of the ancient heroes. He restored
peace and order in all the provinces ; he broke the power
His warlike of the Sarmatians ; he secured the alliance of the

Goths ; he drove the Isaurians to their strongholds
among their inaccessible mountains ; he chastised the rebel-
lious cities of Egypt; he delivered Gaul from the Germanic
barbarians ; he drove the Franks to their morasses at the
mouth of the Rhine ; he vanquished the Burgundians who
had wandered in quest of booty from the banks of the Oder ;
he defeated the Lygii, a fierce tribe on the borders of Sile-
sia ; he extended his victories to the Elbe, and erected a wall,
two hundred miles in length, from the Danube to the Rhine ;
so that " there was not left," says Gibbon, " in all the

Chap, xlv.] Probus and Cams. 615

provinces, a hostile barbarian, or tyrant, or even a robber."
After having destroyed four hundred thousand of the bar-
barians, he returned to his capital to celebrate a triumph,
which equaled in splendor that of Aurelian. He, too, fan-
cied that all external enemies were subdued forever, and
that Rome should henceforth rejoice in eternal peace. But
scarcely had the pseans of victory been sung by a triumphant
and infatuated people, when he was assassinated in a mutiny
of his own troops, whom he had compelled to labor in
draining the marshes around Sirmium, a. d. 282.

The soldiers, repenting the act as soon as it was done,
conferred the purple on the praetorian prefect, and
notified the Senate of its choice. And the choice
was a good one ; and the new emperor, Cams, at sixty years
of age, conferring the title of Caesar upon his two sons
Carinus and Numerianus, whom he left to govern the West
hastened against the Sarmatians, who had overrun Illyricum
Successful in his objects, he advanced, in the depth of winter
through Thrace and Asia Minor to the confines of Persia
The Persian king, wishing to avert the storm, sent his em
bassadors to the imperial camp, and found the emperor
seated on the grass, dining from peas and bacon, in all the
simplicity of the early successors of Mohammed. But be-
fore he could advance beyond the Tigris, his tent was struck
by lightning, and he was killed, on Christmas day, a. d. 283.

Carinus and ISTumerian succeeded to the vacant throne.
The former, at Rome, disgraced his trust bv indo-

' . . . . Carinus.

lence and shameless vices ; while the latter, in
the camp, was unfit, though virtuous, to control the turbulent
soldiers, and was found murdered in his bed the very day
that Carinus celebrated the games with unusual mag-

The army raised C. Valerius Diocletianus to the vacant
dignity, and his first act was to execute the murderer of
jSTumerian. His next was to encounter Carinus in battle,
who was slain, a. d. 285, and Diocletian — perhaps the great-
est emperor after Augustus— reigned alone.

616 Decline of the Empire. [Chap. xlv.

Diocletian is, however, rendered infamous in ecclesiastical
history, as the most bitter of all the persecutors of

Diocletian. . j

the Christians, now a large and growing body ; but
he was a man of the most distinguished abilities, though of
obscure birth, in a little Dalmatian town. He commenced
his illustrious reign at the age of thirty-nine, and reigned
twenty years, — more as a statesman than warrior, — politic,
judicious, indefatigable in business, and steady in his

This emperor inaugurated a new era, and a new policy of
important government. The cares of State in a disordered

political &

changes. age, when the empire was threatened on every
side by hostile barbarians, and disgraced by insurrections
and tumults, induced Diocletian to associate with himself
three colleagues, who had won fame in the wars of Aurelian
and Cams. Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius — one of
whom had the dignity of Augustus, and two that of Caesar.
Maximian, associated with Diocletian, with the rank of
Augustus, had been also an Illyrian peasant, and was
assigned to the government of the western provinces, while
Diocletian retained that of the eastern. Maximian estab-
lished the seat of his government at Milan, giving a death-
blow to the Senate, which, though still mentioned honorably
by name, was henceforth severed from the imperial court.
The empire had been ruled by soldiers ever since pressing
dangers had made it apparent that only men of martial vir-
tues could preserve it from the barbarians. But now the
most undisguised military rule, uninfluenced by old consti-
tutional form, was the only recognized authority, and the
warlike emperors, bred in the camp, had a disdain of the
ancient capital, as well as great repugnance to the enervated
praetorian soldiers, who made and unmade emperors, whose
privileges Avere abolished forever. Milan was selected for
the seat of imperial government, from its proximity to the
frontier, perpetually menaced by the barbarians; and this
city, before a mere military post, now assumed the splendor
of an imperial city, and was defended by a double Avail.

Chap, xlv.] Division of the Empire. 617

Diocletian made choice, at first, of Nicomedia, the old cap-
ital of the Bithynian kings, as the seat of his Eastern govern-
ment, equally distant from the Danube and the „ . „

' - 1 •" New seat of

Euphrates. He assumed the manner and state of government.
an Oriental monarch. He wore a diadem set with pearls,
and a robe of silk and gold instead of the simple toga with
its purple stripe. His shoes were studded with precious
stones, and his court was marked by Oriental cere- Oriental
monials. His person was difficult of access, and Diocletian.
the avenues to his palace were guarded by various classes of
officers. No one could approach him without falling pros-
trate in adoration, and he was addressed as " My lord the
emperor." But he did not live in Oriental seclusion, and was
perpetually called away by pressing dangers.

The Caesars Galerius and Constantius were sent to govern
the provinces on the frontiers ; the former, from his capital,
Sirmium, in Illyricum, watched the whole frontier Galerius
of the Danube ; the latter spent his time in Bri- stantius.
tain. Galerius was adopted by Diocletian, and received his
daughter Valeria in marriage ; while Constantius was
adopted by Maxiraian, and married his daughter Theodora.

The division of the empire under these four princes nearly
corresponded with the prefectures which Constantine subse-
quently established, and which were deemed necessary to
preserve the empire from dissolution — a dissolution inevitable,
had it not been for the great emperors whom the necessities
of the empire had raised up, but whose ruin was only for a
time averted. Not even able generals and good emperors
could save the corrupted empire. It was doomed. Vice had
prepared the way for violence. The four emperors, who now
labored to prevent a catastrophe, were engaged in perpetual
conflicts, and through their united efforts peace was restored
throughout the empire, and the last triumph that Rome ever
saw was celebrated by them.

Only one more enemy, to the eye of Diocletian, remained
to be subdued, and this was Christianity. But this enemy
was unconquerable. Silently, surely, without pomp, and

6 IS Decline of the Empire. [Chap. XLY.

without art, the new religion had made its way, against
all opposition, prejudice, and hatred, from Jews and pagans
Persecution alike, and was now a power in the empire. The
tians. followers of the hated sect were, however, from the

humble classes, and but few great men had arisen among
them, and even these were unimportant to the view of phi-
losophers and rulers. The believers formed an esoteric circle,
and were lofty, stern, and hostile to all the existing institu-
tions of society. They formed an imperium in imperio, but
did not aim, at this time, to reach political power. They
were scattered throughout the great cities of the empire, and
were ruled bj r their bishops and ministers. They did not
make war on men, but on their ideas and habits and cus-
toms. They avoided all external conflicts, and contended
with devils and passions. But government distrusted and
disliked them, and sought at different times to exterminate
them. There had already, been nine signal persecutions from
the time of Nero, and yet they had constantly increased in
numbers and influence. But now a more serious attack was to
be made upon them by the emperors, provoked, probably, by
the refusal of some Christians to take the military oath, and
The reason serve in the armies, on conscientious principles ;
secution. but interpreted by those in authority as disloyalty
in a great national crisis. The mind of the emperor was
alienated ; and both Galerius and Diocletian resolved that
a religion which seemed hostile to the political relations of
the empire, should be suppressed. A decree was issued to
destroy all the Christian churches, to confiscate their prop-
erty, to burn the sacred writings, to deprive Christians of
their civil rights, and even to doom them to death. The
decree which was publicly exhibited in Micomedia, was torn
down by a Christian, who expressed the bitterest detestation
of the tyrannical governors. The fires which broke out in the
palace were ascribed to the Christians, and the command was
finally issued to imprison all the ministers of religion, and
punish those who protected them. A persecution which has
had no parallel in history, was extended to all parts of the

Chap, xlv.] Persecution of the Christians. 619

empire. The whole civil power, goaded by the old priests
of paganism, was employed in searching out victims, and all
classes of Christians were virtually tormented and murdered.
The earth groaned for ten years under the sad calamity, and
there was apparently no hope. But whether scourged, or
lacerated, or imprisoned, or burned, the martyrs showed
patience, faith, and moral heroism, and invoked death to
show its sting, and the grave its victory.

The persecution of the Christians — this attempt to suppress
religion thought to be hostile to the imperial authority, and
not without some plausibility, since many Christians refused
to be enrolled in the armies, and suffered death sooner than
enlist — was the last great act of Diocletian. Whether wearied
with the cares of State, or dissrusted with his Retirement

, . ... . , , ' ofDiocle-

duties, or ill, or craving rest and repose, he took tian.
the extraordinary resolution of abdicating his throne, at the
very summit of his power, and at the age of fifty-nine. He
influenced Maximian to do the same, and the two Augusti gave
place to the two Caesars. The double act of resignation was
performed at Xicomedia and Milan, on the same day, May 1,
a. D. 305. Diocletian took a graceful farewell of his soldiers,
and withdrew to a retreatnear his native city of Salonse, on
the coast of the Adriatic. He withdrew to a magnificent
palace, which he had built on a square of six hundred feet,
in a lovely and fertile spot, in sight of the sea, and the
mountains, and luxurious plains. He there devoted himself
to the pleasures of agriculture, and planted cabbages with
his own hand, and refused all solicitations to resume his
power. But his repose was alloyed by the sight of
increasing troubles, and the failure of the system he had
inaugurated. If the empire could not be governed by one
master, it could not be governed by four, with their different
policies and rivalries. He lived but nine years in retire-
ment ; but long enough to see his religious policy reversed,
by the edict of Milan, which confirmed the Christian religion,
and the whole imperial fabric which he had framed reversed
by Constantine.

620 Decline of the Empire. [Chap. XLV.

Confusion followed his abdication. Civil Avars instead of
The evils barbaric wasted the empire. The ancient heart

which flow- „ • i t i i /»

e<i from it. oi the empire had no longer the presence ot an
Augustus, and a new partition virtually took place, by which
Italy and Africa became dependencies of the East. Gale-
rius — now Augustus — assumed the right to nominate the
two new Coesars, one of whom was his sister's son, who
assumed the name of Galerius Valerius Maximinus, to whom
were assigned Syria and Egypt, and the other was his faith-
ful servant, Severus, who was placed over Italy and Africa.
According to the forms of the constitution, he was subor-
dinate to Constantius, but he was devoted to Galerius. The
emperor Constantius, then in Boulogne, was dying, and his
son, Constantine, was at the court of Galerius. Though sum-
moned to the bedside of his father, Galerius sought to retain
him, but Constantine abruptly left Nicomedia, evaded Seve-
rus, traversed Europe, and reached his father, who was just
setting out for Britain, to repel an invasion of the Caledo-
nians. He reached York only to die, a. r>. 306, and with his
last breath transmitted his empire to his son, and
Constantius. commended him to the soldiers. Galerius was
transported with rage, but was compelled to submit, and
named Constantine Csesar over the western provinces, who
was not elevated to the dignity of Augustus till two years

The elevation of Severus to supreme power in Italy by
Galerius, filled the abdicated emperor Maximian with indig-
nation, and humiliated the Roman people. The .praetorians
rose against the party of Severus, who retired to Ravenna,
and soon after committed suicide. The Senate assumed their
old prerogative, and conferred the purple on Maxentius, the
son of Maximilian. Galerius again assumed the power of
nominating an Augustus, and bestowed the purple, made
vacant by the death of Severus, on an old comrade, Licinius,
originally a Dacian peasant.

Thus, there were six emperors at a time ; Constantine, in
Britain ; Maximum, who resumed the purple ; Maxentius,

Chap, xly.] Six Emperors. 621

his son ; Licinius Galerius, in the East ; and Maximin, his
nephew. Maximian crossed the Alps in person, won Sixem
over Constantine to his party, and gave him his rors -
daughter, Fausta, in marriage, and conferred upon him the
rank of Augustus ; so, in the West, Maxentius and Constan-
tine affected to be subordinate to Maximian ; while, in the
East, Licinius and Maximin obeyed the orders of their bene-
factor, Galerius. The sovereigns of the East and West
were hostile to each other, but their mutual fears produced
an apparent tranquillity, and a feigned reconciliation.

The first actual warfare, however, broke out between Max-
imian and his son. Maxentius insisted on the
renewed abdication of his father, and had the sup-

Online LibraryJohn LordAnceint states and empires → online text (page 52 of 55)