Polydore Vergil.

Polydore Vergil's English history, from an early translation preserved among the mss. of the old royal library in the British museum online

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Theodora the dowghter in lawe of Herculeus, of whom he begat yj.
sonnes and brothers unto Constantine. These above said, dividing
the emperie betweene theim, Galerius chose the easte parties ; Con-
stantius tooke ItaUe with all Affricke, Spaine and Fraunce. Never-
theiesse, in that he was a prince of great parsimonie, and in noe
respecte ambitious, he lived onlie satisfied with the dominion of
Fraunce and Spaine ; finallie, xiij. yeares after the beginninge of his
reigne in Brittaine, being a while attainted with diseases at Yorke,
ended his life, being justelie numbered emonge the heroicall per-
sons. Their was in himme as it weare in eequall balance, gravitee,
measure, integritee of life, liberalitee of goodds; for he, greatlie

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usinge bowntie and largesse, hadde a minde in no poincte yealdinge
to riches, yea, forgettinge his peculiar commoditee, was woont to saye
that welthe was muche better in the hand of privat men then in
chestes of princes, where thei cowlde proffet or availe noe mann ;
bie the which humilitee and popularitee of the goodd prince his
provinces florished in most convenable quietnes. Hee was most
prudent and wise in the administration of all functions, and for
his skille in warfare verie profitable to Romaines, wherebie his
verie memoriall seemed in moste pleasant wise to affect his soldiers,
insomuche that with the greate favor of all menne they forthe-
with saluted his sonne Constantinus, begotten of Helena in Constan-
Brittaine, in the name of moste puissant emperowre ; and in the ^^^^'
meane time at Rome Maxentius the sonne of Herculeus of the
Pretorian soldiers in sodaine uprore was salued in the titell of
Augustus. Here must wee make deepe rehersall as towchinge
Constantinus, of whome I thincke it better to use tacitumitee
then to speake but littell, for hee, being begott of firittishe mother,
borne and made emperour in Brittaine, noe doubte made his
native countrie paretaker of the greatnes of his glorie. Herculeus
Maximianus, which surrendered the empire with Diocletian, lived
then privatlie in Lucania, who when he harde that his sonne Lucania
Maxentius was bie voyce denownced emperour, in all haste cam * ^^^^S
to Rome minding again to take on himme the empire, geeving bie to Naples.
his letters instigation to Diocletianus that hee wowlde revoke his
owlde dignitee, which thinge Diocletianus, in this poincte wise
and warie, refused and abhorred as a thinge moste pemicius and
pestilent to manne ; but the other in a great assemblee didd reason
and debate the matter with his sonne, and beeganne to currie favour
with the soldiers, moovinge them to disposses Maxentius, and
restore the imperiall power to him. From the obteininge of this
pturpose he soe much fayled, that with great reproaches thei
justlie upbroyded him, which thinge was bothe covertlie and
craftilie donne, leaste the suspicion of enie suche guile 2b hee in-
tended towardes Constantinus shoulde openlie apeare. Where-
fore Herculeus bie all meanes having attempted the deprivation

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of this younge man, he tamed toward Constantinus his sonne in
lawe (for to him hadd he married his dowghter Fausta)^ whoe
havinge lefte rewlers in Brittaine^ didde then leade his life in
Fraonce. Constantinus jentilie interteyned Herculeus, but the
olde manne greatlie solUcited in minde to hasten his distruction^
trustinge to the loove of his dowghter Fausta, didde participate his
whole councell with her,whoe^ partelie fearinge deceyt and trea-
son^ partelie moved with the seemelie loove beetweene manne
and wife^ forthewith disclosed the same to her husband Constan-
tinus, noe marvaile, thoughe hee desired to bee revenged ; but
Herculeus at Massilia, from whence hee minded to have fledde
unto his Sonne, was slaine by the oommandement of the em-
peror. Galerius not longe departed this life, and a littell beefore
hee died yealded to one Lucinius borne in Denmarcke the appel-
lation of Caesar. And soe all at one time Constantinus obteyned
Fraunoe, and the weste costes; Maxentius Italic, Affiricke, and
^gypt; Maximian, whoe was a great while beefore created Caosar
of Galerius, helde the east partes; Licinius had under himme
Illirium. But Constantinus, inflamed with the empire of the
whole worlde, passed over into Italic, wheare, five years after the
beginninge of his dominion, hee raysed* warre againste Maxentius ;
which didd manifestlie proove that noe societie of kingedom canne
longe endewre or abide a fellowe and coequall. After a fewe
conflictes, Maxentius beinge put to flighte at the lengthe beefore
the ende of the vj. yeare of his reigne, at the bridge called Milvius
pons, neare unto the cittie of Rome, he with a certaine number of
his menne were tlirowne hedlong into the river Tibris, to there
utter confusion ; and that fortune mighte in all respectes seeme to
bee correspondent to the wille of Constantinus, it fell owte verie
commoduslie not longe after that hee had taken possession of
Italic that the yonger Maximian joyned in battule with licinius,
whiche Licinius havinge married Constantia the sister of Con-
stantinus for this alliaimce hee grewe in suspicion with Maximian :
but deathe sodainelie prevented his intente at Tharsis, moste
studiuslie endevoringe his warrs. Constantinus, Maximian beinge

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deadde, didde straighte waye warre upon Licinias^ notwitfastand-
inge that hee was joined in amitee and alliance uilto himme :
whome, when after much fightinge hee hadd bereft of all regalitee^
he moreover^ contrarie to his promise, procured himme to bee
slaine at Thessalonica* Leadinge a private life, Licinius reigned
under the appellation of Ccesar xv. yeares, which was the cccxxvu*
yeareof our salvation. Constantinus bie these meanes havinge
engroched large dominion, entituled his sonnes Ccesars. This de- The dif-
nomination of Cssars (that wee maye in this place make commo- |.^7en the
dius interpretation) was not so muche the reall dignitee of the ^^^^
empire, as a degree and steppe of preferment thereunto, to the Augustus.
end that (as it weare bie the handds of himme which was
Augustus and Emperoure) those Ciesars migfate receave the
government of the empire. This manne, as we have seyde bee-
fore, after hee hadd geven the overthrowe to Maxentius and seased
ItaUe into his handdes, proceaded to Rome, unto whome shortelie
repaired Sylvester Bisshoppe, of singuler and aegregius holliness,
and with faciUtee perswaded himme to deserve well of the
Christian religion, whoe of his owne accorde all readie hadd good
affiaunce therein ; ferthermore, beefore that he weiit to Rome (as
it is crediblie thought) hee was soe instructed of his own moother
Helena, that goinge towards battayle he used the sygne of the
crosse as a defence. There are which write thus : that the selfe
same daye wherein he victoriuslie encountered with Maxentius,
the wether. beinge deere, he aspied a crosse and worshiped the
same, and harde a voice from above sayinge, ^ O ! Constantine, in
this signe shallte thou vanquisshe; ' nether didde this oracle lacke
effecte. Wherefore this goddlie prince beegonne in aU comers of
the earthe greatlie to augemente and defende religion ; for at Rome
in the gardines of one Equitius hee builded a cherche, beawtifieng What
the same with bownteus giftes, offeringe a diademe or crowne of f^'J^^^""
gowlde, richelie beeseene with precius stones, to the ende that Rave to Syi-
Silvester and all the bisshopps succeedinge showlde wear it. But
this man, replenished with modestie and verie temperat in ex-

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pences, wowlde in noe wise receave it, as a thinge nothinge agree-
ing with relligion, being contented with a white Phrigian mitre.
Moreover hee builded the howse called Constantia, at this day
named Lateranensis, in the mownte Ceelius^ adjoyninge there bie a
foonte of our sacred baptisme of redde marble ; and neare nnto
that on the hill Yaticanus a cherche to Saincte Peeter prince of the
Apostells, and an other to Sainct Paule, noe lesse resplendent in
furniture, in the high waye called Ostiensis : allso in the theatre
of Sessoria hee builded Hollie Crosse churche (for soe it is termed)
beinge beefore in Jherusalem, there beestowinge a peece of our
Helena. lordes crosse which hee browghtfrom Hierusalem 5 for Helena, the
mother of Constantine, a woman of unspeakable devotion, went
unto Hierusalem to serche forthe this victorious banner of our
Saviour, which thing trewlie seemed verie harde ; for, to thentente
that all monumentes of Christes passion (for soe our Divines doe
name it) mighte cleane bee abolished, the picture of Venus was
set up in the place where the crosse lay hidden of the mischevus
enemies of the Christian name : nevertheless when the rubbishe
was voyded owt of the place three crosses were fownde confuselie
lienge together, the one was our Lordes, the other those whereon
the two theeves weere put to execution ; but that Christes mighte
bee discried from the reste it was engraved with a triple titell :
which was this, ^ Jhesus of Nazarethe kinge of the Jewes,* all moste
beinge wome owte with yeares. But a greater token ensewed, for
the crosse beinge put unto a deade womanne restored life unto her.
This noble prince Constantinus beinge mooved with those thinges
didde forbedd in this wise to putt enie moe to deathe, to the ende
that that thinge whiche beefore was a reproche and villanie
emonge menn might now beecomme in estimation and honorable.
Helene streyght after shee hadd fownde owte this crosse, sedefied
a sumptuus temple, bearinge with her at her departure to her
Sonne the nayles wherewith Christes blessed corpes was fastened
to the woodde, whearof the one Constantinus ware in the creste
of his helmet, an other he bestowed as a munition on his horse

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for the fielde, the thirde he kaste into the sea to apeace the rage

thereof, and to chaunge a stormie tempest. But that peece of

the crosse which Helena browghte owte of Siria^ garnishing the

same with gowld and precius stones, he beestowed in his howse of

Sessoria, which was allso exceddinglie resplendent throwghe his

munificentie. Hee builded the churche of Saint Agnes with a other

christeninge foonte wheare his doughter and sister were baptized, ^^^\^^

greatlie settinge forthe the same with his riche giftes. He aedefied tine.

two other churches, the one in Tiburtina via to Sainct Laurence,

the other in Lauicana to Sainct Marcelline, beetweene two baye

trees, where he made a tumbe for his mother, includinge the same

in a sepulchre of redde marble. To this churche, like as to the

reste, weare geeven manie precius Jewells ; but what kinde of giftes

these weare, and howe precius, which weare beestowed in suche

holy places by the Emperoure, I minde not to expresse, least I

showled incurre the envie of evel prelates, sithe that vj. hundred

yeare since they weare taken owte of the churches. Withowte the

cittee he buildid mani churches, one at the towne named Ostia

to the two apostells, an other to Saincte Jhon Baptist in Alban,

the thirde at Capua under the common name of the apostels, the

fowrthe ab Naples, the fifthe and sixte at Constantinople. Con-

stantinus, biesides these godlie woorckes wherof wee have spoken,

did banishe Arrius, prelate of Alexandria, with vj. other lewed

ministers of wicked supersticions, bie the Nicene Coun^ell, bie

cause hee went abowte to skanne the Christian relligion with

mischevus lies and glosinges. All temples of idolls, with the golden

tables of Apollo at Delphus, bie the injunction of this prince,

weare destroyed. Finallie, he founded noe relligus place but

that francklie hee gave thereunto assuered giftes and certaine


And these are the noble and godlie woorckes of the great prince
Constantine and his mother Helen (whome the renomed parent
Brittaine brought foorthe), worthie of all memorie, and easlie sur-
mountinge all the actes of the former emperoures, allbeit I have

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towched them sleyghtlie ; for others throwghe blooddshedd and
manslaughter purchased their glorie emonge mortall menne^ but
these bie their godlines, there trewe relligion, their great liberalite^
their justice, obteined of Grodde (as it is justlie to bee thowght)
everlastinge life, and on the earthe everlasting prayse and honor.
Constan- Constantine (according to the testimonie of Sainct Hierom) beinge
S^tywd "^®"® oulde, or not longe beefore he departed this life, was baptized
in Jof^ of Busebius, Busshop of Nicomedia, and b reported to have
deferred his baptisme unto that time, that accordinge to the
example of Christe he might bee baptized in the river Jordan*
But the notorius bathinge vessel], which he so sumpteuslie made
at Rome, maketh a manne (not withoute cause) in that poincte to
thincke noe otherwise than Sainct Hierom writethe* For marvaile
it weare that a manne soe well deserving of Christes relligion,
woold not at the verie firste broonte enter the gate of Christian
pietie, that is to saye, bee baptized, seing that this oracle of our
Saviour is well knowne to.all menu, ^ Whoe so ever beeleeveth and is
baptized shall bee saved,' &c. But uppon these thingges, sithe tbei
are diverslie written, I will not greadie tarrie. Constantinus was a
mann as it weare ordayned to great perfection, as in whome within
the remembrance of manne weare the greatest vertewse bothe of
boddie and minde, conninge in the warlike sciens;, fortunat in
battaile it selfe, an emest embracer of justice ; finallie, borne to
have praise and conmiendacion. Some laws hee made profitable
to the common wealthe> som he abolished. He builded the Citte
Constantinople as the counterfaite and like unto Rome, in the
coste of Thracia> whearas Byzantium stoode. Hee repaired Dre-
pana, in Bythinia, naminge it Helenople, bie his mother's name.
There are somme, which, as concerninge his ende, doe write that
as hee went owt of Byzantium towardes whote baines for the
recovery of his helth that hee leffce his mortal! life, wherebie per-
adventure hee maye seeme to have ben sicke of the leprie; but
their are divers authors, and emonge the rest Sainct Hierom, which
testifie that he, mindinge to warre with the Persians (or, as Eutro^

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plus saithe, with the Parthians^ bie cause thei invaded Mesopo*-
tamia,) did die at a common village, called Aciroii, bie Nicomedia,
the cccxL. yeare of our salvation. Hee was Ixvj. years oulde,
and reigned xxxi. But see how it ofte chauncethe that longe life
is hurtfull to a man ; trulie, Constantine, a great patron of Christes
relligion, at the length, according to the authoritee of Sainct
Hierom, was not cleane at defiance with the heresie of Arius. At
that time that this emperoure chaunged life for deathe there ap-
peared a great comete, or blasinge starre, of wonderous bignes.

But thus muche hetherto; now let us retume to the opposicion
of those things which conceme the state of Brittaine*

CAMD. soc.

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At what time the Emperoure Constantine departed owte of
Brittaine into Fraunce, as wee made rehersall in our laste booke,
hee lefte behinde him certaine cheefe officers to ordre the Ilond,
and emonge the reste one Maximus, a manne of haute corage : he
ledde with him a goodde parte of the youthe and princes^ in
whose valiaunce^ faithe, and constancie he reposed his whole con-
fidence : with whome he beinge accompanied and garded passed
into FrauncCy and consequentlie into Italic, eche wheare suppres-
singe his adversaries. In the meane time the Brittishe contrie,
at the lenghthe seeminge to have purchased libertie, biecause
havinge Constantine, a Brytayn borne, theyr kinge and gover-
noure, the lorde of the whole worlde, it surmounted all others in
honor, dignitee, and authoritee, and moste plausiblie continued in
this estate, so that if there were in foretimes enie hatred on their
partes towards the Romaines, it was now cleane abolished, seinge
that bothe hie the Providence of Godde and the benefit of the
redoubted prince they enjoyed peace, and a luckie principle of
suche honors as mighte redownde to their posteritee* Albeit the
imperie remained not longe after in the stocke of Constantine (so
sodaine is the fall of humaine treasures), neverthelesse the maiestie
of the imperie coulde not perishe, sithe that even at this presente
the kinges of Englonde, accordinge to the usage of their aunciters,
doe weare the imperiall diademe as a gifte exhibited of Constan-

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tinus to his successors. Thus Brittaine was quiet, as Eutropius
wittnessethe^ at such time as Constantine departinge this life, lefte
behinde himme three sonnes, Constantius, Constans, and Con-
stantine, as .heyres to the empire. To this laste was allotted
Brittaine, Fraunce, Spaine, and the lies Orchades ; but within
shorte space contention risinge betweene himme and Constantius,
he joyned in fighte at Aquileya in Italic, and was slaine ; so that
Brittaine and the other provinces fell into the dominion of Con»
stantius, whoe dieng laste of all his breetherne, more then xx^
yeares hadde the same in his jurisdiction ; after which time the
province littel lesse then xxiiij. yeares after didde not refuse
dewtie and loyaltee, which was the v^^ yeare of the reigne of the
two brothers, Gratianus and Valentinianus, which was the
cccLxxxviJ. yeare of our salvation. At the same season Maximus,
of whome wee made mention beefore, was made Emperoure in
Brittaine throughe the suffrages of his soldiers, albeit som menn
reported it to have benne donne in Spaine. This manne, enflamed
with the desier of encreasinge his power, forthewith tooke mooster
of his lustie younge menne, in whome hee perceaved sufficiencie of
force and might to make battaile, and, limitinge a good quantitee
of soldiers, departed into Fraunce. The Emperoure Gratianus
goeng owte of the cittey to resiste and extinguisbe this commo-
tion, in the conduite of his armie into Fraunce gave preferment to
the bende of the menne named Halani (whoe weare discended of
Scithians), and entised unto hime bie goulden rewardes : which
ministred suche great oflFence to his owlde warriers, that not longe
after they cleane forsooke himme, and the Romaine trowpe betoke
them selves to Maximus. Gratianus beinge amazed at the sodaine
alienation and fleete of his menn, and endevoring to retire into
Italic, beinge entrapped with disceite was slaine at Lions. Valen-
tinianus, the brother of Gratian, runninge away for feare of hos-
tiUtee, went to . Byzantium unto Theodosius, which at the com-
mandment of Gratian had taken on himme the rewle of the easte
partes. This Theodosius (as Saincte Hierom reportethe) was the

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sonn of that Theodosius which was murdered in Affirica at the
instigation of Valens^ for whome Gratianus sendinge owt of Spaine
in those troblesom broyles made him copartener of the empire ;
wherefore Theodosius, not forgetful of good tumes, entertained
Valentinian with fatherlie loove, mindinge beefore all thinges to
preferre the revenginge of the deathe of Gratian, raysed warre
against Mazimus, whoe as then sojomied in Italie. But all
thinges weare donne with suche oeleritee that hee hadd allmost
overcommed the difficultee of the Alpes beefore that it was re-
ported that Theodosius was removed from Byzantium, and
Maximus, not knowinge that then especiallie sinistre and evel
fortune is to bee feared when it makethe moste frindelie and
propice semblant towards us, did then securelie sojome at Aqui-
leia, wheare he sodainlie beinge beeseeged and apprehended hadd
his hedde striken of : suche is the unstabilitee of worldlie matters,
that bothe they florishe and perishe in one moment. Some
writers doe affirme that three miles from thence Maximus was
overeommed of Theodosius and Valentinianus, and so yealded
quicke into the handes of his enemies, there receavinge his laste
penaltie of the conquerors, one yeare being scarslie accomplished
after the death of Gratian. Martin the Bisshopp of Towres, a
mann of singuler integritee, is reported to have towlde beefore
unto Maximus, then abidinge in Brittaine, that hee shoulde ende
his life unfortunatlie : besides this, Victor, the sonn of Maximus,
was slaine in Fraunce. Thus all the attemptes of Maximus came to
small effecte and evel ende. From thencefoorthe the estate of
the Ilond beegan sore to decaye, for in shorte space the Brittons,
as wee shall hereafter declare, loste bothe libertie and empire.
Fardermore, it is a common saieng that Maximus while he was in
the pursuite and chase of Gratian, in th% parte of Fraunce named
Celtica, did appoint Conan a Britton borne as cheefe guide over
BriteZ ^h^ cittes bordering on the ocean called Armorieke. This Conan,
after that with noe small rowte of his Brittons he hadd while
made there abode and reigned, to the ende hee mighte there make

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assewered continuance of his nation, eche wheare dispossessinge
the Gaules, bestowed his Britons in all places, yea, and refusinge
with contempte to joyne in matrimonie with the Frenchemen,
sent to have wives out of Brittaine for his people, whearbie, as
menn saye, it camme to passe that a plentuus assemble of yirgins
camme thether oute of the Ilond, and at one time, partlie bie
shipwracke partlie bie slaughter, perished xi. thousand of bothe
kindes, for the barbarus sorte slewe them and took them captives
on the shore ; emong whome it is thought that sainct Ursula was,
the doughter of Dionotus kinge of Comewall, which was espowsed
to this Conanus, When the death of Maximus was knowen in
Brittaine, one Gratianus, a man borne in the Ilonde, exercised
rewle and tyrannic for a season, who being speedelie exempted
from that function, the Romaine soldiers which as yeat weare
lefte in garison did elect Constantin, a manne of whome noe
accompte was made, nether in stocke noble, nether renowmed in
warfare, in whom onlie they seemed to bee draune with the affec-
tion of his name. This manne with an armie passed owte of the
Ilond into Fraunce, remaininge emonge the people called Veneti,
and other while emonge those which were named Cenomani, and
emong other borderers on the ocean sea, endeavoringe to solace
quietnes in Fraunce; and beinge desierus with the Vandals,
Suevians, and Halans, hee demaunded at the leaste wise trewse if
thie would not condiscend unto peace ; but hee obteined nether,
which greatlie endamaged the common welthe : but notlonge after
Constantius, a man of politique wisdom, being of Honorius sent
in to Fraunce with an armie to restore and defende the maiestie
of the imperie, subdued and slew this usurper Constantino, aboute
Orl€|ince, being farre spente and weried with beeseeginge. But
Constans (whome his father Constantine of a moonck hadde
pronownced Caesar), at what time hee mooved warre agaynst
Dyndimus and Severianus, easlie subdewing them which minded
to repell Constantine, and the alients which folowed him from the
entrie of Spaine, within a littell time after marchinge towards Vien,

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hee was there slaine of bis companion Gerontius : thus at onB
instance Constantine the father and Constans the sonn did
perishe, and Honorius^ bie procurement of Constantius, a most
yaliaunt capitan, receaved in to his jurisdiction the liond and
Brittishe armie. Paulus Diaconus and Bedas are mine authors,
who bothe well and diligentlie wrote these thinges. The selfe same
yeare whearin Constantine was denounced emperowre of the
Romaine soldiars, Arcadius died at Constantinople, and the Rioltee
of the empire openlie appaired. After the death of Constantine
forthe with disceased his sonne. Then Honorius, retaininge the
Brittishe armie, did againe derive and traine the Ilande to the
empire* After this a fewe yeares ensewing, when as after the
deathe of Honorius, and after that Theodosius the sonne of
Arcadius had pronownced as Ceesar and Augustus, Valentinianus,
the sonne of his aunte Placidia, an importunate number of the
barbanis people beeganne to moleste the Romaine imperie,
with whome the Romishe capitans hadd often conflicies. In
the meane time Brittaine seemed as it weare subject to spoyles

Online LibraryPolydore VergilPolydore Vergil's English history, from an early translation preserved among the mss. of the old royal library in the British museum → online text (page 10 of 30)