Skip to main content

Full text of "The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire"

See other formats


Mv; : :''v; : ' : 

Nik. « 

Presented to the 

LIBRARY of the 






VOL. I. 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of Toronto 

5- A 


co *.<- '■f^ > ^^' i ^^^^\^S^^^^ 

.iH,fCC 8 V a— F 

'• '""^t/Balearea 

%.m Pityuasae , 

!»• C A E I 


in 180 AD. 

£V X I N U S 

B^^^^^fT^^^f^r % M( ^^|¥r o o * . .&/S*fo M$*$f /P^fc 

p.oo,n' 1 C JV3 Z > <> Ai.ri gafaBnurfr J«pMr~TjC!.TH,. 1 ^* i ;*3f r~ T~S& U LuBFj"'^j'fff ^ a,.j»S )"££^" 










J. B. BURY, M.A. 




VOL. I. 





Nexv Edition 


It is not my intention to detain the reader by expatiating 
on the variety, or the importance of the subject, which I 
have undertaken to treat; since the merit of the choice 
would serve to render the weakness of the execution still more 
apparent, and still less excusable. But, as I have presumed 
to lay before the Public a. first volume only x of the History 
of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, it will perhaps 
be expected that I should explain, in a few words, the nature 
and limits of my general plan. 

The memorable series of revolutions, which, in the course 
of about thirteen centuries, gradually undermined, and at 
length destroyed, the solid fabric of human greatness, may, 
with some propriety, be divided into the three following 
periods : 

I. The first of these periods may be traced from the age 
of Trajan and the Antonines, when the Roman monarchy, 
having attained its full strength and maturity, began to 
verge towards its decline ; and will extend to the subver- 
sion of the Western Empire, by the barbarians of Germany 
and Scythia, the rude ancestors of the most polished nations 
of modern Europe. This extraordinary revolution, which 
subjected Rome to the power of a Gothic conqueror, was 
completed about the beginning of the sixth century. 

1 The first volume of the quarto, which is now contained in the two first 
volumes of the octavo, edition. 


II. The second period of the Decline and Fall of Rome, 
may be supposed to commence with the reign of Justinian, 
who by his laws, as well as by his victories, restored a 
transient splendour to the Eastern Empire. It will compre- 
hend the invasion of Italy by the Lombards ; the conquest 
of the Asiatic and African provinces by the Arabs, who 
embraced the religion of Mahomet ; the revolt of the Roman 
people against the feeble princes of Constantinople ; and the 
elevation of Charlemagne, who, in the year 800, established 
the second, or German Empire of the West. 

III. The last and longest of these periods includes about 
six centuries and a half; from the revival of the Western 
Empire till the taking of Constantinople by the Turks and 
the extinction of a degenerate race of princes, who continued 
to assume the titles of Caesar and Augustus, after their 
dominions were contracted to the limits of a single city ; in 
which the language, as well as manners, of the ancient 
Romans had been long since forgotten. The writer who 
should undertake to relate the events of this period would 
find himself obliged to enter into the general history of the 
Crusades, as far as they contributed to the ruin of the Greek 
Empire ; and he would scarcely be able to restrain his curio- 
sity from making some enquiry into the state of the city of 
Rome during the darkness and confusion of the middle ages. 

As I have ventured, perhaps too hastily, to commit to 
the press a work, which, in every sense of the word, deserves 
the epithet of imperfect, I consider myself as contracting an 
engagement to finish, most probably in a second volume, 1 the 

The Author, as it requently happens, took an inadequate measure ot 
his growing work. The remainder of the first period has filled two volumes 
in quarto, being the third, fourth, fifth and sixth volumes of the octavo 


first of these memorable periods ; and to deliver to the 
Public the complete History of the Decline and Fall of 
Rome, from the age of the Antonines to the subversion of 
the Western Empire. With regard to the subsequent 
periods, though I may entertain some hopes, I dare not 
presume to give any assurances. The execution of the 
extensive plan which I have described would connect the 
ancient and modern history of the World ; but it would 
require many years of health, of leisure, and of perseverance. 

Bentinck Street, 
February i, 1776. 

P.S. — The entire History, which is now published, of the 
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West abun- 
dantly discharges my engagements with the Public. Per- 
haps their favourable opinion may encourage me to prosecute 
a work, which, however laborious it may seem, is the most 
agreeable occupation of my leisure hours. 

Bentinck Street, 
March 1, 1781. 

An Author easily persuades himself that the public 
opinion is still favourable to his labours; and I have now 
embraced the serious resolution of proceeding to the last 
period of my original design, and of the Roman Empire, 
the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, in the year one 
thousand four hundred and fifty-three. The most patient 
reader, who computes that three ponderous volumes 1 have 
been already employed on the events of four centuries, may, 
perhaps, be alarmed at the long prospect of nine hundred 
years. But it is not my intention to expatiate with the 

1 Containing chaps, i. to xxxviii.J 


same minuteness on the whole series of the Byzantine history. 
At our entrance into this period, the reign of Justinian and 
the conquests of the Mahometans will deserve and detain 
our attention, and the last age of Constantinople (the Cru- 
sades and the Turks) is connected with the revolutions of 
Modern Europe. From the seventh to the eleventh century, 
the obscure interval will be supplied by a concise narrative of 
such facts as may still appear either interesting or important. 

Bentinck Street, 
March I, 1782. 


Diligence and accuracy are the only merits which an histori- 
cal writer may ascribe to himself ; if any merit indeed can be 
assumed from the performance of an indispensable duty. I 
may therefore be allowed to say that I have carefully ex- 
amined all the original materials that could illustrate the 
subject which I had undertaken to treat. Should I ever 
complete the extensive design which has been sketched out 
in the preface, I might perhaps conclude it with a critical 
account of the authors consulted during the progress of the 
whole work ; and, however such an attempt might incur the 
censure of ostentation, I am persuaded that it would be sus- 
ceptible of entertainment as well as information. 

At present I shall content myself with a single observa- 
tion. The Biographers, who, under the reigns of Diocletian 
and Constantine, composed or rather compiled, the lives of 
the emperors, from Hadrian to the sons of Carus, are usually 
mentioned under the names of vElius Spartianus, Julius Capi- 
tolinus, iElius Lampridius, Vulcatius Gallicanus, Trebellius 
Pol Ho, and Flavius Vopiscus. But there is so much perplexity 
in the titles of the MSS., and so many disputes have arisen 
among the critics (see Fabricius Biblioth. Latin. 1. iii. c. 6) 
concerning their number, their names and their respective 
property, that for the most part I have quoted them without 
distinction, under the general and well-known title of the 
Augustan History. 

1 [Which in the first quarto edition of vol. i. were printed at the end of 
the volume.] 


The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 
is now delivered to the public in a more convenient form. 
Some alterations and improvements had presented themselves 
to my mind, but I was unwilling to injure or offend the pur 
chasers of the preceding editions. The accuracy of the cor- 
rector of the press has been already tried and approved ; and 
perhaps I may stand excused if, amidst the avocations of a 
busy writer, I have preferred the pleasures of composition 
and study to the minute diligence of revising a former pub- 

Bentinck Street, 
April 20, 1783. 



I now discharge my promise, and complete my design, of 
writing the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire, both in the West and the East. The whole period 
extends from the age of Trajan and the Antonines to the 
taking of Constantinople by Mahomet the Second; and 
includes a review of the Crusades and the state of Rome during 
the middle ages. Since the publication of the first volume, 
twelve years have elapsed ; twelve years, according to my 
wish, " of health, of leisure and of perseverance 1 '. I may now 
congratulate my deliverance from a long and laborious service, 
and my satisfaction will be pure and perfect, if the public 
favour should be extended to the conclusion of my work. 

It was my first intention to have collected under one view 
the numerous authors, of every age and language, from whom 
I have derived the materials of this history ; and I am still 
convinced that the apparent ostentation would be more than 
compensated by real use. If I have renounced this idea, if I 
have declined an undertaking which had obtained the appro- 
bation of a master-artist, 1 my excuse may be found in the 
extreme difficulty of assigning a proper measure to such a 
catalogue. A naked list of names and editions would not be 
satisfactory either to myself or my readers : the characters of 
the principal Authors of the Roman and Byzantine History 
have been occasionally connected with the events which they 

1 See Dr. Robertson's Preface to his History of America. 


describe ; a more copious and critical enquiry might indeed 
deserve, but it would demand, an elaborate volume, which 
might swell by degrees into a general library of historical 
writers. For the present I shall content myself with renewing 
my serious protestation, that I have always endeavoured to 
draw from the fountain-head ; that my curiosity, as well as a 
sense of duty, has always urged me to study the originals ; 
and that, if they have sometimes eluded my search, I have 
carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose faith a 
passage or a fact were reduced to depend. 

I shall soon visit the banks of the lake of Lausanne, a 
country which I have known and loved from my early youth. 
Under a mild government, amidst a beauteous landskip, in a 
life of leisure and independence, and among a people of easy 
and elegant manners, I have enjoyed, and may again hope to 
enjoy, the varied pleasures of retirement and society. But I 
shall ever glory in the name and character of an Englishman : 
I am proud of my birth in a free and enlightened country ; 
and the approbation of that country is the best and most 
honourable reward for my labours. Were I ambitious of any 
other Patron than the Public, I would inscribe this work to a 
Statesman, who, in a long, a stormy, and at length an unfor- 
tunate administration, had many political opponents, almost 
without a personal enemy : who has retained, in his fall from 
power, many faithful and disinterested friends; and who, 
under the pressure of severe infirmity, enjoys the lively vigour 
of his mind, and the felicity of his incomparable temper. 
Lord North will permit me to express the feelings of friend- 
ship in the language of truth: but even truth and friendship 
should be silent, if he still dispensed the favours of the crown. 

In a remote solitude, vanity may still whisper in my ear 
that my readers, perhaps, may enquire whether, in the con- 
clusion of the present work, I am now taking an everlasting 
farewell. They shall hear all that I know myself, all that I 


could reveal to the most intimate friend. The motives of 
action or silence are now equally balanced ; nor can I pro- 
nounce, in my most secret thoughts, on which side the scale 
will preponderate. I cannot dissemble that twelve ample 
octavos must have tried, and may have exhausted, the indul- 
gence of the Public; that, in the repetition of similar attempts, 
a successful Author has much more to lose, than he can hope 
to gain ; that I am now descending into the vale of years ; 
and that the most respectable of my countrymen, the men 
whom I aspire to imitate, have resigned the pen of history 
about the same period of their lives. Yet I consider that the 
annals of ancient and modern times may afford many rich and 
interesting subjects ; that I am still possessed of health and 
leisure; that by the practice of writing some skill and facility 
must be acquired ; and that in the ardent pursuit of truth 
and knowledge I am not conscious of decay. To an active 
mind, indolence is more painful than labour; and the first 
months of my liberty will be occupied and amused in the ex- 
cursions of curiosity and taste. By such temptations I have 
been sometimes seduced from the rigid duty even of a pleasing 
and voluntary task : but my time will now be my own ; and 
in the use or abuse of independence I shall no longer fear my 
own reproaches or those of my friends. I am fairly entitled 
to a year of jubilee: next summer and the following winter 
will rapidly pass away ; and experience only can determine 
whether I shall still prefer the freedom and variety of study 
to the design and composition of a regular work, which ani- 
mates, while it confines, the daily application of the Author. 
Caprice and accident may influence my choice ; but the 
dexterity of self-love will contrive to applaud either active 
industry or philosophic repose. 

Downing Street, 
May i, 1788. 

P-.S. — I shall embrace this opportunity of introducing two 



verbal remarks, which have not conveniently offered themselves 
to my notice. 1. As often as I use the definitions of beyond 
the Alps, the Rhine, the Danube, &c, I generally suppose 
myself at Rome, and afterwards at Constantinople : without 
observing whether this relative geography may agree with the 
local, but variable, situation of the reader or the historian. 
2. In proper names of foreign, and especially of Oriental, 
origin, it should be always our aim to express in our English 
version a faithful copy of the original. But this rule, which 
is founded on a just regard to uniformity and truth, must 
often be relaxed ; and the exceptions will be limited or en- 
larged by the custom of the language and the taste of the 
interpreter. Our alphabets may be often defective : a harsh 
sound, an uncouth spelling, might offend the ear or the eye 
of our countrymen ; and some words, notoriously corrupt, are 
fixed, and, as it were, naturalized in the vulgar tongue. The 
prophet Mohammed can no longer be stripped of the famous, 
though improper appellation of Mahomet: the well-known 
cities of Aleppo, Damascus and Cairo, would almost be lost 
in the strange descriptions of Haleb, Demashk and A I Cahira: 
the titles and offices of the Ottoman empire are fashioned by 
the practice of three hundred years ; and we are pleased to 
blend the three Chinese monosyllables Con-fii-tzee in the 
respectable name of Confucius, or even to adopt the Portu- 
guese corruption of Mandarin. But I would vary the use of 
Zoroaster and Zerdusht, as I drew my information from Greece 
or Persia : since our connexion with India, the genuine Tim- 
our is restored to the throne of Tamerlane : our most correct 
writers have retrenched the Al, the superfluous article, from 
the Koran; and we escape an ambiguous termination by 
adopting Moslem instead of Musulman, in the plural number. 
In these, and in a thousand examples, the shades of distinc- 
tion are often minute; and I can feel, where I cannot explain 
the motives of my choice. 



The Extent and Military Force of the Empire, in the Age of the 



Introduction I 

Moderation of Augustus ... ... ... ... i 

Imitated by his Successors ... ... ... ... ... ... 3 

Conquest of Britain, the First Exception to it 3 

Conquest of Dacia, the Second Exception to it ... ... ... 5 

Conquests of Trajan in the East 6 

Resigned by his Successor Hadrian ... ... ... ... 7 

Contrast of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius ... ... 7 

Pacific System of Hadrian and the two Antonines ... ... 8 

Defensive Wars of Marcus Antoninus ... ... ... ... 8 

Military Establishment of the Roman Emperors ... ... ... 9 

Discipline ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 10 

Exercises ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 11 

The Legions under the Emperors ... ... ... 12 

Arms ... ... ... ... ... 12 

Cavalry ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 13 

Auxiliaries ... ... ... ... 14 

Artillery 15 

Encampment ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 15 

March 16 

Number and Disposition of the Legions ... 16 

Navy ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 17 

Amount of the whole Establishment ... ... ... ... 18 

View of the Provinces of the Roman Empire .... ... ... 18 

Spain 19 

Gaul 19 

Britain 20 

Italy 20 

The Danube and Illyrian Frontier 21 

Rhastia 22 

Noricum and Pannonia ... ... ... ... ... ... 22 

Dalmatia 22 

Maesia and Dacia ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 22 

Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece ... ... 23 

Asia Minor ... .. ... ... ... ... ... ••• 23 

Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine « 24 



Egypt ... .„ 


The Mediterranean with its Islands 
General idea ot the Roman Empire 


2 5 


Of the Union and Internal Prosperity of the Roman Empire in the Age of 
the Antonines 

Principles of Government 

Universal Spirit ol Toleration 

Of the People 

Of Philosophers 

Of the Magistrates 

In the Provinces 

At Rome 

Freedom of Rome 


The Provinces 

Colonies, and Municipal Towns 
Division of the Latin and the Greek Provinces ... 
General Use of both the Greek and Latin Languages 

Their Treatment 


Numbers ... 

Populousness of the Roman Empire 

Obedience and Union 

Roman Monuments ... 

Many of them erected at Private Expense 

Example of Herodes Atticus 

His Reputation 

Most of the Roman Monuments for Public Use ... 

Temples, Theatres, Aqueducts 

Number and Greatness of the Cities of the Empire 

In Italy 

Gaul and Spain 



Roman Roads.. 



Improvement of Agriculture in the Western Countries 

Introduction of Fruits, &c 

The Vine 

The Olive 


Artificial Grass 

General Plenty 

Arts of Luxury 

of the 









Foreign Trade ., ... 54, 

Gold and Silver 55 

General Felicity 56 

Decline of Courage 56 

of Genius 


Degeneracy ... .„ t „ 58 


Of the Constitution of the Roman Empire, in the Age of the Antonines 

Idea of a Monarchy ... ... 59 

Situation of Augustus ... ... 59 

He reforms the Senate ... ... ... ... ... ... 60 

Resigns his usurped Power ... ... ... ... ... ... 60 

Is prevailed upon to resume it under the Title of Emperor or 

General ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 61 

Power of the Roman Generals 62 

Lieutenants of the Emperor... ... ... 63 

Division of the Provinces between the Emperor and the Senate 63 
The former preserves his Military Commands, and Guards, in 

Rome itself ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 64 

Consular and Tribunitian powers ... ... ... ... ... 64 

Imperial Prerogatives 65 

The Magistrates 66 

The Senate ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 67 

General Idea of the Imperial System 68 

Court of the Emperors 68 

Deification ... 68 

Titles of Augustus and Caesar ... ... 70 

Character and Policy of Augustus ... ... 70 

Image of Liberty for the People ... ... ... 71 

Attempts of the Senate after the Death of Caligula ... ... 71 

Image of Government for the Armies ... ... ... ... 72 

Their Obedience ... 72 

Designation of a Successor 73 

OfTiberius ... ... ... 73 

OfTitus 73 

The Race of the Caesars, and Flavian Family ... 74 

96 Adoption and Character of Trajan ... ... ... ... ... 74 

117 Of Hadrian ... ... ... ... ... ... 75 

Adoption of the elder and younger Verus 75 

138-180 Adoption of the two Antonines ... 76 

Character and Reign of Pius ... ... ... ... ... 76 

of Marcus ... ... ... ... ... 77 

Happiness of the Romans ... 78 

Its precarious Nature... ... ... ... ... ... ... 78 

Memory of Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian ... ... 79 

Peculiar Misery of the Romans under their Tyrants 79 

Insensibility of the Orientals 79 

Knowledge and free Spirit of the Romans 80 

Extent of their Empire left them no Place of Refuge ... .. 81 

b VOL. I. 




The Cruelty, Follies, and Murder of Commodus — Election of Pertinax — 
His attempts to reform the State — His Assassination by the Praetorian 

Indulgence of Marcus 

To his wife Faustina 

To his son Commodus 

180 Accession of the Emperor Commodus 

Character of Commodus 

His Return to Rome 

183 Is wounded by an Assassin ... 

Hatred and cruelty of Commodus towards the Senate 

The Quintilian Brothers 

186 The Minister Perennis 

Revolt of Maternus ... 

The Minister Cleander 

His Avarice and Cruelty 
189 Sedition and Death of Cleander 

Dissolute Pleasures of Commodus ... 

His Ignorance and low Sports 

Hunting of Wild Beasts 

Commodus Displays his skill in the Amphitheatre 

Acts as a Gladiator ... 

His Infamy and Extravagance 

Conspiracy of his Domestics 

192 Death of Commodus ... 
Choice of Pertinax for Emperor 
He is acknowledged by the Praetorian Guards 

193 And by the Senate ... 

The Memory of Commodus declared infamous 
Legal Jurisdiction of the Senate over the Emperors 
Virtues of Pertinax ... 
He endeavours to Reform the State 
His Regulations 
His Popularity 
Discontent of the Praetorians 
A Conspiracy Prevented 
193 Murder of Pertinax by the Praetorians 
















Public Sale of the Empire to Didius Juliamis by the Prcetorian Guards 
— Clodius Albinus in Britain, Pesccnnius Niger in Syria, and 
Septimius Severus in Pannonia, declare against the Murderers of 
Pertinax — Civil Wars and Victory of Severus over his three Rivals — 
Relaxation of discipline — New Maxims of Government 

Proportion of the Military Force to the Number of the 

People 103 

The Praetorian Guards ... ... ... ... ... ... 103 

Their Institution ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 103 

Their Camp ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 104 




Strength and Confidence .. ... ... 104 

Their specious Claims 105 

They offer the Empire to Sale 105 

193 It is purchased by Julian 106 

Julian is acknowledged by the Senate ... ... ... ... 106 

Takes possession of the Palace ... ... ... 107 

The public Discontent ... 107 

The Armies of Britain, Syria, and Pannonia, declare against 

Julian ... ... ... ... 108 

Clodius Albinus in Britain 108 

Pescennius Niger in Syria ... 109 

Pannonia and Dalmatia ... 111 

193 Septimius Severus ... in 

Declared Emperor by the Pannonian Legions in 

Marches into Italy ... 112 

Advances towards Rome 112 

Distress of Julian 113 

His uncertain Conduct 113 

Is deserted by the Praetorians ... ... ... 113 

Is condemned and executed by Order of the Senate 114 

Disgrace of the Praetorian Guards ... 114 

Funeral and Apotheosis of Pertinax ... .. 115 

1 93 _I 97 Success of Severus against Niger and against Albinus ... 115 

Conduct of the two Civil Wars ... ... 116 

Arts of Severus ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 116 

Towards Niger ... 116 

Towards Albinus 117 

Event of the Civil Wars 118 

Decided by one or two Battles ... 118 

Siege of Byzantium ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 119 

Death of Niger and Albinus 120 

Cruel Consequences of the Civil Wars ... 120 

Animosity of Severus against the Senate ... ... ... ... 120 

The Wisdom and Justice of his Government 121 

General Peace and Prosperity ... ... ... 121 

Relaxation of Military Discipline ... 122 

New Establishment of the Praetorian Guards 122 

The Office of Praetorian Praefect 123 

The Senate oppressed by Military Despotism 124 

New Maxims of the Imperial Prerogative 124 


The Death of Severus — Tyranny of Caracalla — Usurpation of Macrinus 
— Follies of Elagabalus — Virtues of Alexander Severus— Licentiousness 
of the Army — General State of the Roman Finances 

Greatness and Discontent of Severus 
His wife the Empress Julia ... 
Their two sons, Caracalla and Geta 
Their mutual Aversion to each other 
Three Emperors ... .„ ... 





— ... 128 




208 The Caledonian War 

Fingal and his Heroes 

Contrast of the Caledonians and the Romans 

Ambition of Caracalla 

211 Death of Severus, and Accession of his two sons 

Jealousy and Hatred of the two Emperors 

Fruitless Negotiation for dividing the Empire between them ... 

212 Murder of Geta ... 

Remorse and Cruelty of Caracalla 

Death of Papinian 

213 His Tyranny extended over the whole Empire 

Relaxation of Discipline 

217 Murder of Caracalla 

Imitation of Alexander 

Election and Character of Macrinus 

Discontent of the Senate ... ... 

of the Army ... 

Macrinus attempts a Reformation of the Army 

Death of the Empress Julia 

Education, Pretensions, and Revolt of Elagabalus, called at 

first Bassianus and Antoninus ... 

218 Defeat and Death of Macrinus 

Elagabalus writes to the Senate 

2ig Picture of Elagabalus 
His Superstition 

His profligate and effeminate Luxury 

Contempt of Decency, which distinguished the Roman Tyrants 
Discontents of the Army ... 

221 Alexander Severus declared Caesar ... 

222 Sedition of the Guards, and Murder of Elagabalus 
Accession of Alexander Severus 

Power of his Mother Mamaea 
His wise and moderate Administration 
Education and Virtuous Temper of Alexander ... 
Journal of his Ordinary Life 
222-235 General happiness of the Roman World 

Alexander refuses the name of Antoninus 

He attempts to reform the Army ... 

Seditions of the Prsetorian Guards, and Murder of Ulpian 

Danger of Dion Cassius 

Tumults of the Legions 

Firmness of the Emperor 

Defects of his Reign and Character 

Digression on the Finances of the Empire 

Establishment of the Tribute on Roman Citizens 

Abolition of the Tribute 

Tributes of the Provinces ... 

of Asia 

of Egypt, Gaul, Africa and Spain 

of the Isle of Gyar us 

Amount of the Revenue 

Taxes on Roman Citizens instituted by Augustus 

I. The Customs 



II. The Excise 162 

III. Tax on Legacies and Inheritances ... ... ... 162 

Suited to the Laws and Manners ... ... ... 163 

Regulations of the Emperors ... ... .. ... ... 164 

Edict of Caracalla ... ... ... ... ... 164 

The Freedom of the City given to all Provincials, for the pur- 
pose of Taxation ... ... ... ... ... ... 164 

Temporary Reduction of the Tribute ... ... ... ... 165 

Consequences of the universal Freedom of Rome 165 


The Elevation and Tyranny of Maximin — Rebellion in Africa and Italy, 
under the Authority of the Senate — Civil Wars and Seditions— Violent 

Deaths of Maximin and his Son, of Maximus and Balbinus, and of the 
three Gordians — Usurpation and Secular Games of Philip 

The apparent Ridicule and solid Advantages of hereditary Suc- 
cession ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 167 

Want of it in the Roman Empire productive of the greatest 

Calamities ... ... ... ... .. 168 

Birth and Fortunes of Maximin ... ... ... ... ... 169 

His Military Service and Honours ... ... ... 169 

235 Conspiracy of Maximin ... ... ... ... ... ... 170 

Murder of Alexander Severus ... 170 

Tyranny of Maximin ... ... ... ... ... ... 171 

Oppression of the Provinces ... ... .., ... ... 173 

237 Revolt in Africa ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 174 

Character and Elevation of the two Gordians ... ... ... 175 

They solicit the Confirmation of their Authority 176 

The Senate ratifies the Election of the Gordians ... ... 177 

Declares Maximin a public Enemy ... ... 178 

Assumes the Command of Rome and Italy ... ... ... 178 

Prepares for a Civil War ... ... ... ... ... ... 178 

237 Defeat and Death of the two Gordians ... ... 179 

Election of Maximus and Balbinus by the Senate 180 

Their Characters ... ... 180 

Tumult at Rome ... ... ... ... ... 181 

The younger Gordian is declared Caesar ... 181 

Maximin prepares to attack the Senate and their Emperors ... 182 

238 Marches into Italy 183 

Siege of Aquileia ... ... ... 183 

Conduct of Maximus ... ... ... 184 

238 Murder of Maximin and his son ... ... 185 

His Portrait 185 

Joy of the Roman World ... 186 

Sedition at Rome ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 186 

Discontent of the Praetorian Guards 187 

238 Massacre of Maximus and Balbinus ... ... 188 

The third Gordian remains sole Emperor ... ... ... ... 189 

Innocence and Virtues of Gordian ... ... ... ... ... 189 

240 Administration of Misitheus 190 



242 The Persian War 190 

243 The Arts of Philip 191 

244 Murder of Gordian 191 

Form of a Military Republic 192 

Reign of Philip 193 

248 Secular Games 193 

Decline of the Roman Empire 193 


Of the State 0/ Persia after the Restoration of the Monarchy by Artaxerxes 

The Barbarians of the East and of the North 195 

Revolutions of Asia 195 

The Persian Monarchy restored by Artaxerxes ... ... ... 196 

Reformation of the Magian Religion 197 

Persian Theology, two Principles 198 

Religious Worship 200 

Ceremonies and moral Precepts ... ... ... ... ... 200 

Encouragement of Agriculture 201 

Power of the Magi ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 201 

Spirit of Persecution ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 203 

Establishment of the Royal Authority in the Provinces ... 203 

Extent and Population of Persia ... ... ... ... ... 204 

Recapitulation of the War between the Parthian and Roman 

Empires ... ... 205 

165 Cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon ... ... ... ... ... 205 

216 Conquest of Osrhoene by the Romans ... ... ... ... 207 

230 Artaxerxes claims the Provinces of Asia, and declares War 

against the Romans ... ... ... ... ... ... 208 

233 Pretended Victory of Alexander Severus ... ... ... ... 208 

More probable Account of the War ... ... ... ... 209 

240 Character and Maxims of Artaxerxes ... ... ... ... 211 

Military Power ofthe Persians ... ... ... ... ... 211 

Their Infantry contemptible ... ... ... ... ... 211 

Their Cavalry excellent 212 


The State of Germany till the Invasion of the Barbarians, in the Time of 
the Emperor Decius 

Extent of Germany 213 

Climate ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 214 

Its Effects on the Natives 215 

Origin of the Germans 216 

Fables and Conjectures ... ... ... ... ... ... 217 

The Germans ignorant of Letters 218 

of Arts and Agriculture ... ... 218 

; ofthe Use of Metals 220 

Their Indolence ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 221 

Their Taste for Strong Liquors 222 

State of Population ... ... ... ... 222 



German Freedom 

Assemblies of the People 

Authority of the Princes and Magistrates 

More Absolute over the Property, than over the Persons 

of the Germans 
Voluntary Engagements 
German Chastity 

Its Probable Causes 

Religion ... ... ... 

Its Effects in Peace 

in War 

The Bards 

Causes which checked the Progress of the Germans 

Want of Arms ... 

Discipline ... 

Civil Dissensions of Germany 
Fomented by the Policy of Rome 
Transient Union against Marcus Antoninus 

Distinction of the German Tribes 






The Emperors Decius, Gallus, JEmilianus, Valerian, and Gallicnus- 
General Irruption of the Barbarians — The Thirty Tyrants 

248-268 The Nature of the Subject 

The Emperor Philip ... 

249 Services, Revolt, Victory, and Reign of the Emperor Decius 

250 He marches against the Goths 
Origin of the Goths from Scandinavia 

Religion of the Goths ... 

Institutions and Death of Odin 

Agreeable, but uncertain Hypothesis concerning Odin ... 

Emigration of the Goths from Scandinavia into Prussia 

from Prussia to the Ukraine ... 

The Gothic Nation increases in its March 

Distinction of the Germans and Sarmatians 

Description of the Ukraine ... 

The Goths invade the Roman Provinces 

Various Events of the Gothic War 

Decius revives the office of Censor in the Person of Valerian 
The Design Impracticable, and without Effect ... 
Defeat and Death of Decius and his Son ... 

251 Election of Gallus ... ... 

252 Retreat of the Goths ... 
Gallus purchases Peace by the Payment of an annual Tribute 
Popular Discontent ... 

253 Victory and Revolt of ^Emilianus ... 
Gallus abandoned and slain ... 
Valerian revenges the Death of Gallus 

Is acknowledged Emperor ... 

Character of Valerian ... 










268 General Misfortunes Of the Reigns of Valerian and Gallienus 

Inroads of the Barbarians 

Origin and Confederacy of the Franks 

They invade Gaul 

Ravage Spain 

Pass over into Africa... 

Origin and Renown of the Suevi 

A mixed body of Suevi assume the name of Alemanni ... 

Invade Gaul and Italy 

Are repulsed from Rome by the Senate and People 

The Senators excluded by Gallienus from the Military Service 

Gallienus contracts an Alliance with the Alemanni 

Inroads of the Goths 

Conquest of the Bosphorus by the Goths 

The Goths acquire a Naval Force 

First Naval Expedition of the Goths 

The Goths besiege and take Trebizond ... 
The Second Expedition of the Goths 

They plunder the Cities of Bithynia ... 

Retreat of the Goths 

Third Naval Expedition of the Goths 

They pass the Bosphorus and the Hellespont 
Ravage Greece, and threaten Italy 
Their Divisions and Retreat... 
Ruin of the Temple of Ephesus 

Conduct of the Goths at Athens 

Conquest of Armenia by the Persians 

Valerian marches into the East '. 

260 Is defeated and taken prisoner by Sapor. King of Persia 

Sapor overruns Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia 

Boldness and Success of Odenathus against Sapor 

Treatment of Valerian 

Character and Administration of Gallienus 

The Thirty Tyrants ... 

Their real Number not more than nineteen 

Character and Merit of the Tyrants 

Their obscure Birth 

The Causes of their Rebellion 

Their violent Deaths 

Fatal Consequences of these Usurpations... 

Disorders of Sicily 

Tumults of Alexandria 

Rebellion of the Isaurians 

Famine and Pestilence 

Diminution of the Human Species 






Reign of Claudius— Defeat of the Goths— Victories, Triumph and Death of 


?68 Aureolus invades Italy, is defeated, and besieged at Milan 
Death of Gallienus „, .,. ... ... ._ 




Character and Elevation of the Emperor Claudius 

268 Death of Aureolus ... ... 

Clemency and Justice of Claudius 

He undertakes the Reformation of the Army 

269 The Goths invade the Empire ... 

Distress and Firmness of Claudius ... 

His Victory over the Goths ... 

270 Death of the Emperor, who Recommends Aurelian 


The Attempt and Fall of Quintilius 

Origin and Services of Aurelian 

Aurelian's successful Reign ... 

His Severe Discipline 

He concludes a Treaty with the Goths 
He resigns to them the Province of Dacia 

270 The Alemannic War ... 
The Alemanni invade Italy ... 
They are at last vanquished by Aurelian 

271 Superstitious Ceremonies 
Fortifications at Rome 

271 Aurelian suppresses the two Usurpers 
Succession of Usurpers in Gaul 

271 The Reign and Defeat of Tetricus 

272 Character of Zenobia 

Her Beauty and Learning ... 

Her Valour ... ... 

She revenges her Husband's Death 

She reigns over the East and Egypt 

272 The Expedition of Aurelian ... 
The Emperor defeats the Palmyrenians in the Battles of 

and Emesa 

The State of Palmyra 

It is besieged by Aurelian ... 

273 Aurelian becomes Master of Zenobia and of the City 

Behaviour of Zenobia ... 

Rebellion and ruin of Palmyra 

Aurelian suppresses the Rebellion of Firmus in Egypt 

274 Triumph of Aurelian ... 

His Treatment of Tetricus and Zenobia ... 
His Magnificence and Devotion 

He suppresses a Sedition at Rome 

Observations upon it ... 

Cruelty of Aurelian ... 

275 He marches into the East, and is Assassinated ... 

for h 














Conduct of the Army and Senate after the Death of Aurelian. — Reigns of 
Tacitus, Probus, Cams and his Sons 

Extraordinary Contest between the Army and the Senate for 

the Choice of an Emperor 317 

275 A peaceful Interregnum of Eight Months... ... „. .,, 318 


A.P. PA0E 

The Consul assembles the Senate 3 J 9 

Character of Tacitus 3*9 

He is elected Emperor 3 2 ° 

He accepts the Purple 3 21 

Authority of the Senate 3 21 

Their Joy and Confidence 3 22 

276 Tacitus is acknowleged by the Army 3 2 3 

The Alani invade Asia and are repulsed by Tacitus 3 2 3 

276 Death of the Emperor Tacitus 3 2 4 

Usurpation and Death of his Brother Florianus 3 2 4 

Their Family Subsists in Obscurity 3 2 5 

Character and Elevation of the Emperor Probus 3 26 

His Respectful Conduct towards the Senate 3 26 

Victories of Probus over the Barbarians 3 2 % 

277 He delivers Gaul from the Invasion of the Germans 329 

He carries his Arms into Germany 33° 

He builds a Wall from the Rhine to the Danube 33 1 

Introduction and Settlement of the Barbarians 33 2 

Daring Enterprise of the Franks ... 333 

279 Revolt of Saturninus in the East ... ... ... ... ... 334 

280 of Bonosus~and Proculus in Gaul 335 

281 Triumph of the Emperor Probus 335 

His Discipline ... ... ... ... ... ••• ••• 33*> 

282 His Death 33& 

Election and Character of Carus 337 

The Sentiments of the Senate and People 33 8 

Carus defeats the Sarmatians and marches into the East ... 339 

283 He gives Audience to the Persian Ambassadors 339 

283 His victories and extraordinary Death ... ... ... ... 34° 

He is succeeded by his two Sons, Carinus and Numerian ... 341 

284 Vices of Carinus ... ... ... ... ... ••• ••• 34 1 

He celebrates the Roman Games 343 

Spectacles of Rome ... ... ... ... ... ••• ••• 343 

The Amphitheatre ... ... ... ... ... ... ••■ 344 

Return of Numerian with the Army from Persia 34^ 

Death of Numerian ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 347 

284 Election of the Emperor Diocletian ... ... 34$ 

285 Defeat and Death of Carinus 349 


The Reign of Diocletian and his three Associates, Maximian, Galerius, and 
Constantius — General Re-establishment of Order and Tranquillity — The 
Persian War, Victory, and Triumph — The New Form of Administra- 
tion — Abdication and Retirement of Diocletian and Maximian 

285 Elevation and Character of Diocletian ... ... ... ... 350 

His Clemency in Victory ... ... ... ... ... ... 351 

286 Association and Character of Maximian ... ... ... ... 352 

292 Association of two Csesars, Galerius and Constantius ... ... 353 

[293] Departments and Harmony of the four Princes 354 

Series of Events 355 


4.D. PAGE 

287 State of the Peasants of Gaul 355 

Their Rebellion „ 356 

And Chastisement ... ... ... ... ... ... .., 356 

287 Revolt of Carausius in Britain ... ... ... ... ... 357 

[286] Importance of Britain ... ... 357 

Power of Carausius ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 358 

289 Acknowledged by the other Emperors ... ... ... ... 358 

294 [293] His Death ... ... 359 

296 Recovery of Britain by Constantius 359 

Defence of the Frontiers ... ... ... ... ... ... 360 

Fortifications ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 360 

Dissensions of the Barbarians ... 361 

Conduct of the Emperors ... ... ... ... ... ... 361 

Valour of the Caesars ... ... 361 

Treatment of the Barbarians ... ... ... 362 

Wars of Africa and Egypt ... ... ... ... ... ... 363 

296 Conduct of Diocletian in Egypt ... 363 

[295] He suppresses Books of Alchymy ... ... 365 

Novelty and Progress of that Art ... ... ... ... ... 365 

The Persian War ... ... ... 366 

282 Tiridates the Armenian ... ... ... ... ... ... 366 

286 His Restoration to the Throne of Armenia 367 

State of the Country 367 

Revolt of the People and Nobles 367 

Story of Mamgo ... ... ... ... ... 368 

The Persians recover Armenia ... ... 368 

296 War between the Persians and the Romans ... ... ... 369 

Defeat of Galerius ... ... ... 369 

His Reception by Diocletian ... ... ... ... ... 370 

297 Second Campaign of Galerius ... 371 

His Victory 371 

His Behaviour to his Royal Captives ... 371 

Negotiation for Peace ... ... ... ... ... ... 372 

Speech of the Persian Ambassador 372 

Answer of Galerius ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 373 

Moderation of Diocletian 373 

Conclusion of a Treaty of Peace ... 373 

Articles of the Treaty ... ... 374 

The Aboras fixed as the Limits between the Empires 374 

Cession of five Provinces beyond the Tigris ... ... ... 375 

Armenia 375 

Iberia 376 

303 Triumph of Diocletian and Maximian ... ... 376 

Long Absence of the Emperors from Rome ... ... ... 377 

Their Residence at Milan ... ... ... ... 378 

at Nicomedia ... ... ... ... ... 378 

Debasement of Rome and of the Senate ... ... 379 

New Bodies of Guards, Jovians and Herculians ... ... ... 379 

Civil Magistracies laid aside ... 380 

Imperial Dignity and Titles ... ... ... ... ... 381 

Diocletian assumes the Diadem, and introduces the Persian 

Ceremonial ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 382 

New Form of Administration, two Augusti and two Caesars ... 383 



Increase of Taxes 

Abdication of Diocletian and Maximian ... 

Resemblance to Charles V 

304 Long Illness of Diocletian ... 

His Prudence ... 

Compliance of Maximian 

Retirement of Diocletian at Salona 

His Philosophy 

313 His Death 

Description of Salona and the adjacent Country 

Of Diocletian's Palace 

Decline of the Arts 

of Letters 

The new Platonists 





Troubles after the abdication of Diocletian — Death of Constantius — 
Elevation of Constantine and Maxentius — Six Emperors at the same 
time — Death of Maximian and Galerius — Victories of Constantine 
over Maxentius and Licinius — Reunion of the Empire under the 
Authority of Constantine 


305-323 Period of Civil Wars and Confusion ... 

Character and Situation of Constantius 

Of Galerius 

The two Cassars, Severus and Maximin 

Ambition of Galerius disappointed by two Revolutions . 
274 Birth, Education, and Escapa of Constantine 
306 Death of Constantius and Elevation of Constantine 

He is acknowledged by Galerius, who gives him only the 
Caesar, and that of Augustus to Severus 

The Brothers and Sisters of Constantine 

Discontent of the Romans at the Apprehension of Taxe 

306 Maxentius declared Emperor at Rome 

Maximian reassumes the Purple 

397 Defeat and Death of Severus 

Maximian gives his daughter Fausta, and the Title of Au 

to Constantine ... 
Galerius invades Italy 
His Retreat 

307 Elevation of Licinius to the Rank of Augustus ... 
Elevation of Maximin 

308 Six Emperors 
Misfortunes of Maximian 

310 His Death 

[311] Death of Galerius 

His Dominion shared between Maximin and Licinius 
306-312 Administration of Constantine in Gaul 

Tyranny of Maxentius in Italy and Africa 
312 Civil War between Constantine and Maxentius ... 

Preparations ... 

Constantine passes the Alps 

title of 



4 J 7 



■ Battle of Turin 

Siege and Battle of Verona 
Indolence and Fears of Maxentius ... 

312 Victory of Constantine near Rome... 
His Reception 
His Conduct at Rome 

313 His Alliance with Licinius ... 
War between Maximin and Licinius 
The Defeat of Maximin 

His Death 

Cruelty of Licinius 

Unfortunate Fate of the Empress Valeria and her Mother 

314 Quarrel between Constantine and Licinius 
First Civil War between them 

314 Battle of Cibalis 

Battle of Mardia 

Treaty of Peace ... 

315-323 General Peace and Laws of Constantine 

322 The Gothic War 

323 Second Civil War between Constantine and Licinius 

Battle of Hadrianople ... ... 

Siege of Byzantium and Naval Victory of Crispus 
Battle of Chrysopolis 
Submission and Death of Licinius 

324 Reunion of the Empire 



4 2 5 




Gibbon is one of those few writers who hold as high a place 
in the history of literature as in the roll of great historians. 
He concerns us here as an historian ; our business is to con- 
sider how^far the view which he has presented of the decline 
and fall of the Roman Empire can be accepted as faithful to 
the facts, and in what respects it needs correction in the 
light of discoveries which have been made since he wrote. 
But the fact that his work, composed more than a hundred 
years ago, is still successful with the general circle of educated 
people, and has not gone the way of Hume and Robertson, 
whom we laud as " classics " and leave on the cold shelves, is 
due to the singularly happy union of the historian and the 
man of letters. Gibbon thus ranks with Thucydides and 
Tacitus, and is perhaps the clearest example that brilliance of 
style and accuracy of statement — in Livy's case conspicuously 
divorced — are perfectly compatible in an historian. 

His position among men of letters depends both on the 
fact that he was an exponent of important ideas and on his 
style. The appreciation of his style devolves upon the 
history of literature ; but it may be interesting to illustrate 
how much attention he paid to it, by alterations which he 
made in his text. The first volume was published, in quarto 
form, in 1776, and the second quarto edition of this volume, 
which appeared in 1782, exhibits a considerable number of 



Changes in 
the second 

variants. Having carefully collated the two editions through- 
nmvoiSn^e 116 ou t the first fourteen chapters, I have observed that, in most 
cases, the changes were made for the sake not of correcting 
mis-statements of fact, but of improving the turn of a sentence, 
rearranging the dactyls and cretics, or securing greater accuracy 
of expression. Some instances may be interesting. 

P. 2. 

P. 10. 

P. 5*. 

P. 59- 

P. 62. 

First edition. 

Instead of exposing his 
person and his legions to 
the arrows of the Par- 
thians, he satisfied himself 
ivith the restitution of the 
standards and prisoners 
which were taken in the 
defeat of Crassus. 

The peasant or me- 
chanic, imbibed the useful 
prejudice . . . that, al- 
though the prowess of a 
private soldier, might es- 
cape the notice of fame, 
it would be in his power to 
confer glory or disgrace 
on the company, the 
legion, or even the army, 
to whose honours he was 

The olive, in the western 
world, was the companion as 
well as the symbol of peace. 

The general definition of 
a monarchy seems to be 
that of a state, &c. 

On the most important 
occasions, peace and war 
were seriously debated in 
the senate. 

Second edition. 

Instead of exposing his 
person and his legions to 
the arrows of the Parthians 
he obtained, by an honour- 
able treaty, the restitution 
of the standards and 
prisoners which had been 
taken in the defeat of 

The peasant, or me- 
chanic imbibed the useful 
prejudice . . . that al- 
though the prowess of a 
private soldier must often 
escape the notice of fame, 
his own behaviour might 
sometimes confer glory or 
disgrace on the company, 
the legion, or even the 
army, to whose honours he 
was associated. 

The olive, in the western 
world, followed the progress 
of peace of which it was 
considered as the symbol. 

The obvious definition 
of a monarchy seems to be 
that of a state, &c. 

The most important resolu- 
tions of peace and war 
were seriously debated in 
the senate. 



p. 87. 

p. 70. 


P. 106. 

P. no. 

First edition. 

The present greatness 
of the Roman state, the 
corruption of manners, 
and the licence of the 
soldiers, added new weight 
to the advocates of 

However the latter [i.e. 
the name Caesar], was 
diffused by adoption and 
female alliance, Nero was 
the last prince who could 
claim so noble an extraction. 

Which . . . had just finish- 
ed the conquest of Judaea. 

To ascend a throne 
streaming with the blood 
of so near a relation. 

Severus, who had suf- 
ficient greatness of mind 
to adopt several useful 
institutions from a van- 
quished enemy. 

Second edition. 

The present greatness 
of the Roman state, the 
corruption of manners, 
and the licence of the 
soldiers supplied new argu- 
ments to the advocates of 

However the latter was 
diffused by adoption and 
female alliance, Nero was 
the last prince who could 
allege any hereditary claim 
to the honours of the Julian 

Which . . . had recently 
achieved the conquest of 

To ascend a throne 
polluted with the recent 
blood of so near a relation. 

Severus, who afterwards 
displayed the greatness of his 
mind by adopting several 
useful institutions from a 
vanquished enemy. 

These are a few specimens of the numerous cases in which 
alterations have been made for the purpose of improving 
the language. Sometimes, in the new edition, statements 
are couched in a less positive form. For example : — 

P 9. 


The legions themselves 
consisted of Roman citizens. 

And he even conde- 
scended to give lessons of 
philosophy in a more 
public manner than suited 
the modesty of a sage or 
the dignity of an emperor. 

The legions themselves 
were supposed to consist of 
Roman citizens. 

And he even conde- 
scended to give lessons of 
philosophy in a more 
public manner than was 
perhaps consistent with the 
modesty of a sage or the 
dignity of an emperor. 
VOL. I. 



There are also cases, where something is added which, 
without changing the general sense, renders a statement fuller, 
more picturesque, or more vivid. Thus : — 

P. 24. 

P. 48. 

P. 57- 

Second edition. 

A sandy desert, alike 
destitute of wood and water, 
skirts along the doubtful 
confine of Syria, from the 
Euphrates to the Red Sea. 

The spirit of improve- 
ment had passed the Alps 
and been felt even in the 
woods of Britain, which 
were gradually cleared away 
to open a free space for 
convenient and elegant habita- 

The sciences of physic 
and astronomy were suc- 
cessfully cultivated by the 
Greeks; the observations of 
Ptolemy and the writings of 
Galen are studied by those 
who have improved their 
discoveries and corrected 
their errors; but if we 
except the inimitable 
Lucian, this age of indo- 
lence passed away without 
having produced a single 
writer of original genius, 
or who excelled in the arts of 
elegant composition. 

|aKn^: Jt ma y be noticed in this connexion that at a later 
fr-Tchapter period Gibbon set to work to revise the second edition, 

of his work , -i. i /> i 

but did not get further than p. 32 of the first volume. 1 
His own copy with autograph marginal notes was exhibited 
last year, on the occasion of the Gibbon Centenary, by the 

First edition. 

A sandy desert skirted 
along the doubtful confine 
of Syria, from the Eu- 
phrates to the Red Sea. 

The spirit of improve- 
ment had passed the Alps 
and been felt even in the 
woods of Britain. 

The sciences of physic 
and astronomy were culti- 
vated with some degree of 
reputation ; but if we ex- 
cept the inimitable Lucian, 
an age of indolence passed 
away without producing a 
single writer of genius, 
who deserved the attention 
of posterity. 

1 It is stated that there are also unimportant annotations in vols. iv. 
and vi, 


Royal Historical Society, and is to be seen in the British 
Museum. The corrections and annotations are as follows : — 

" To describe the prosperous condition of their empire.' 1 "' g^ 1 ^* 
Read times for empire. 

" And afterwards from the death of Marcus Antoninus.'" 
The following note is entered : " Should I not have given the 
history of that fortunate period which was interposed between 
two iron ages ? Should I not have deduced the decline of 
the Empire from the Civil Wars that ensued after the Fall of 
Nero, or even from the tyranny which succeeded the reign of 
Augustus ? Alas ! I should : but of what avail is this tardy 
knowledge ? Where error is irreparable, repentance is use- 
less: 1 

"To deduce the most important circumstances of its P2 = 1 
decline and fall : a revolution which will ever be remembered, 
and is still felt by the nations of the earth." These words 
are erased and the following are substituted : " To prosecute 
the decline and fall of the empire of Rome : of whose 
language, religion and laws the impression will be long pre- 
served in our own and the neighbouring countries of Europe". 
To which an observation is appended : " N.B. Mr. Hume 
told me that, in correcting his history, he always laboured 
to reduce superlative^, and soften positives. Have Asia and 
Africa, from Japan to Morocco, any feeling or memory of the 
Roman Empire ? " 

On the words " rapid succession of triumphs," note : 
" Excursion I. on the succession of 'Roman triumphs ". 

On "bulwarks and boundaries," note: " Incertum metu?.3=:3 
an per invidiam (Tacit. Annal. i. 11). Why must rational 
advice be imputed to a base or foolish motive ? To what 
cause, error, malevolence, or flattery shall I ascribe the un- 
worthy alternative ? Was the historian dazzled by Trajan's 
conquests ? " 

"On the immortality and transmigration of soul" (compare p. e = 5 


footnote). Note : " Julian assigns this Theological cause, of 
whose power he himself might be conscious (Cccsares, p. 327). 
Yet I am not assured that the religion of Zamolxis subsisted 
in the time of Trajan ; or that his Dacians were the same 
people with the Getae of Herodotus. The transmigration 
of the soul has been believed by many nations, warlike as the 
Celts, or pusillanimous like the Hindoos. When speculative 
opinion is kindled into practical enthusiasm, its operation 
will be determined by the praevious character of the man or 
the nation." 

p. 7 = c "On their destroyers than on their benefactors.'''' Note : 

" The first place in the temple of fame is due and is assigned 
to the successful heroes who had struggled with adversity ; 
who, after signalizing their valour in the deliverance of their 
country, have displayed their wisdom and virtue in foundation 
or government of a flourishing state. Such men as Moses, 
Cyrus, Alfred, Gustavus Vasa, Henry IV. of France, &c." 

" The thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the 
most exalted [characters . . . but he] lamented with a sigh 
that his advanced age, &c." All included within the brackets 
is erased, and the following substituted : " the most exalted 
minds. Late generations and far distant climates may im- 
pute their calamities to the immortal author of the Iliad. 
The spirit of Alexander was inflamed by the praises of 
Achilles : and succeeding Heroes have been ambitious to 
tread in the footsteps of Alexander. Like him the Emperor 
Trajan aspired to the conquest of the East; but the Roman 
lamented with a sigh," &c. 

P11 __ 9 "A just preference was given to the climates of the north 
over those of the south."''' Note : " The distinction of North 
and South is real and intelligible ; and our pursuit is termin- 
ated on either side by the poles of the Earth. But the 
difference of East and West is arbitrary and shifts round the 
globe. As the men of the North, not of the West, the 


legions of Gaul and Germany were superior to the South- 
Eastern natives of Asia and Egypt. It is the triumph of 
cold over heat ; which may, however, and has been sur- 
mounted by moral causes. 11 

"A correspondent number of tribunes and centurions. 11 P15 = 12 
Note : " The composition of the Roman officers was very faulty. 
1. It was late before a Tribune was fixed to each cohort. 
Six tribunes were chosen for the entire legion which two of 
them commanded by turns (Polyt. 1. vi. p. 526, edit. Schweig- 
haeuser), for the space of two months. 2. One long sub- 
ordination from the Colonel to the Corporal was unknown. 
I cannot discover any intermediate ranks between the Tribune 
and the Centurion, the Centurion and the manipularis or 
private leginary [sic] . 3. As the tribunes were often 
without experience, the centurions were often without educa- 
tion, mere soldiers of fortune who had risen from the ranks 
(eo immitior quia toleraverat, Tacit. Annal. i. 20). A body 
equal to eight or nine of our batallions might be commanded 
by half a dozen young gentlemen and fifty or sixty old 
sergeants. Like the legions, our great ships of war may 
seem ill provided with officers : but in both cases the deficiency 
is corrected by strong principles of discipline and rigour." 

"As in the instance of Horace and Agricola. 11 These p. n, foot- 

O note 53 = 

words are erased. Note: "quod mihi pareret legio Romana If footaoto 
Tribuno (Horat. Serm. 1. i. vi. 45), a worthy commander of 
three and twenty from the school of Athens ! Augustus 
was indulgent to Roman birth, liberis Senatorum . . . militiam. 
auspicantes non tribunatum modo legionum sed et praefecturas 
alarum dedit (Sueton. c. 38) . 11 

" A league and a half above the surface of the sea. 11 Note : p 32 foot 
" More correctly, according to Mr. Bouguer, 2500 toises 26° footnote 
(Buffon, Supplement, torn. v. p. 304). The height of Mont 
Blanc is now fixed to 2416 toises (Saussure, Voyage dans les 
Alpes, torn. i. p. 495) : but the lowest ground from whence 


it can be seen is itself greatly elevated above the level of the 
sea. He who sails by the isle of Teneriff, contemplates the 
entire Pike, from the foot to the summit." 

jje moral of But Gibbon has his place in literature not only as the 

the Decline -T J 

and Faii stylist, who never lays aside his toga when he takes up his 
pen, but as the expounder of a large and striking idea in a 
sphere of intense interest to mankind, and as a powerful 
representative of certain tendencies of his age. The guid- 
ing idea or " moral " of his history is briefly stated in his 
epigram : " I have described the triumph of barbarism and 
religion ". In other words, the historical development of 
human societies, since the second century after Christ, was a 
retrogression (according to ordinary views of "progress 11 ), 
for which Christianity was mainly to blame. This conclusion 
of Gibbon tended in the same direction as the theories of 
Rousseau ; only, while Rousseau dated the decline from the 
day when men left Arcadia, Gibbon's era was the death of 
Marcus Aurelius. 

its contri- We are thus taken into a region of speculation where every 

bution to o • x J 

sophy^f " traveller must make his own chart. But to attempt to deny a 
general truth in Gibbon's point of view is vain ; and it is feeble 
to deprecate his sneer. We may spare more sympathy than 
he for the warriors and the churchmen ; but all that has since 
been added to his knowledge of facts has neither reversed nor 
blunted the point of the " Decline and Fall 11 . Optimism of 
temperament may shut the eyes ; faith, wedded to some "one in- 
creasing purpose " which it shrinks from grasping, may divert 
from the path of facts. But for an inquirer not blinded by 
religious prepossessions, or misled by comfortable sophistries, 
Gibbon really expounded one of the chief data with which the 
philosophy of history has to reckon. How are we to define 
progress ? how recognize retrogression ? What is the end in 
relation to which such words have their meaning, and is 


there a law which will explain " the triumph of barbarism 
and religion"" as a necessary moment in a reasonable 
process towards that end, whatever it may be? Answers 
have been given since Gibbon's day, engaging to the intellect, 
but always making some demand on the faith — answers 
for which he would have the same smile as for Leo's 
Dogmatic Epistle. There is certainly some reason for 
thinking these questions insoluble. We may say at least that 
the meaning of the philosophy of history is misapprehended 
until it is recognized that its function is not to solve problems 
but to transform them. 

But, though the moral of Gibbon's work has not lost its onion's 

. . . treatmen 

meaning yet, it is otherwise with the particular treatment of ° f a ^ E 
Christian theology and Christian institutions. Our point 
of view has altered, and, if Gibbon were writing now, the tone 
of his " candid and rational inquiry " would certainly be 
different. His manner would not be that of sometimes open, 
sometimes transparently veiled, dislike ; he would rather assume 
an attitude of detachment. He would be affected by that 
merely historical point of view, which is a note of the present 
century and its larger tolerances ; and more than half disarmed 
by that wide diffusion of unobtrusive scepticism among educated 
people, which seems to render offensive warfare superfluous. 
The man of letters admires the fine edge of subtle sarcasm, 
wielded by Gibbon with such skill and effect ; while the 
historian is interested in an historical standpoint of the last 
century. Neither the historian nor the man of letters will 
any longer subscribe, without a thousand reserves, to the 
theological chapters of the "Decline and Fall," and no 
discreet inquirer would go there for his ecclesiastical history. 
Yet we need not hide the fact that Gibbon's success has in a 
large measure been due to his scorn for the Church ; which, 
most emphatically expressed in the theological chapters, has, 
as one might say, spiced his book. The attack of a man, 



to be partly 
explained by 
his tempera- 

.118 reason- 
aole scepti- 


equipped with erudition, and of perfectly sober judgment, 
on cherished beliefs and revered institutions, must always 
excite the interest, by irritating the passions, of men. Gibbon's 
classical moderation of judgment, his temperate mood, was 
responsible, as well as foreign education and the influence 
of French thought, for his attitude to Christianity and to 
Mahometanism. He hated excess, and the immoderation 
of the multitude. He could suffer the tolerant piety of 
a learned abbe or " the fat slumbers of the Church " ; but 
with the religious faith of a fanatical populace or the ardour 
of its demagogues his reason was unable to sympathize. In the 
spirit of Cicero or Tacitus he despised the superstitions of the 
vulgar, and regarded the unmeasured enthusiasm of the 
early Christians as many sober Churchmen regard the 
fanaticism of Islam. He dealt out the same measure to the 
opposite enthusiasm of Julian the Apostate. 2 His work 
was all the more effective, because he was never dogmatic 
himself. His irony should not be construed as insincerity, 
but rather as showing that he was profoundly — one 
might say, constitutionally — convinced of the truth of that 
sceptical conclusion which has been, in a different spirit, 
formulated precisely by the Bishop of Oxford ; " there is no 
room for sweeping denunciations or trenchant criticisms in 
the dealings of a world whose falsehoods and veracities are 
separated by so very thin a barrier ". 

Thus Gibbon's attitude to religion, while it was conditioned 
by the intellectual atmosphere of Europe in that age, was 
also the expression of the man. When Dean Milman spoke 
of his " bold and disingenuous attack on Christianity ," 3 he 
made one of those futile charges which it would be im- 
possible to prove and impossible to disprove ; such imputa- 

2 The influence of Gibbon's picture of Julian can be discerned in Ibsen's 
" Emperor and Galilaean ". 

3 In a footnote to the Autobiography. 


tions as are characteristic of theologians in the heat of con- 
troversy and may be condoned to politicians in the heat of 
electioneering, but in an historical critic are merely an im- 

It has sometimes been remarked that those histories are most ulterior 

purposes and 

readable which are written to prove a thesis. The indict- spirit in 
ment of the Empire by Tacitus, the defence of Cassarianism oratory 
by Mommsen, Grote's vindication of democracy, Droysen's 
advocacy of monarchy, might be cited as examples. All these 
writers intended to present the facts as they took place, but 
all wrote with prepossessions and opinions, in the light of 
which they interpreted the events of history. Arnold Arnold's 

J L , J view 

deliberately advocated such partiality on the ground that " the 
past is reflected to us by the present and the partyman feels the 
present most - ". Another Oxford Regius Professor remarked 
that " without some infusion of spite it seems as if history 
could not be written 11 . On the other side stands the formula 
of Ranke as to the true task of the historian : " Ich will bloss Banked view 
sagen wie es eigentlich gewesen ist ". The Greek History of 
Bishop Thirlwall, the English Constitutional History of 
Bishop Stubbs himself, were written in this spirit. But the 
most striking instances perhaps, because they tread with such 
light feet on the treacherous ashes of more recent history, 
are Ranke and Bishop Creighton. Thucydides is the most 
ancient example of this historical reserve. It cannot be said Gibbon's P re- 

1 m possessions 

that Gibbon sat down to write with any ulterior purpose, but, 
as we have seen, he allowed his temperament to colour his 
history, and used it to prove a congenial thesis. But, while 
he put things in the light demanded by this thesis, he 
related his facts accurately. If we take into account the vast 
range of his work, his accuracy is amazing. He laboured and accuracy 
under some disadvantages, which are set forth in his own 
Memoirs. He had not enjoyed that school and university 
training in the languages and literatures of Greece and 

Gibbon's text 


Rome which is probably the best preparation for historical 
imperfect research. His knowledge of Greek was imperfect; he was 

knowledge of ° 

Greek ver y f ar from having the " scrupulous ear of the well-flogged 

critic". He has committed errors of translation, and was 
capable of writing " Gregory of Nazianzen ". But such slips 
are singularly few. Nor is he accustomed to take lightly 
quotations at second hand ; like that famous passage of 
Eligius of Noyon — held up by Arnold as a warning — which 
Robertson and Hallam successively copied from Mosheim, 
where it had appeared in a garbled form, to prove exactly the 
opposite of its true meaning. 

«o 1 n e in enda ' From one curious inaccuracy, which neither critics nor 
editors seem to have observed, he must I think be acquitted. 
In his account of the disturbances in Africa and Egypt in the 
reign of Diocletian, we meet the following passage (chap, 
xiii., p. 363) : — 

" Julian had assumed the purple at Carthage. Achilleus 
at Alexandria, and even the Blemmyes, renewed, or 
rather continued their incursions into the Upper 

Achilleus arose at this time (295-6 a.d.) as a tyrant at 
Alexandria ; but that he made either at this date or at any 
previous date an incursion into the Upper Egypt, there is 
not a trace of evidence in our authorities. I am convinced 
however that this error was not originally due to the author, 
but merely a treacherous misprint, which was overlooked by 
him in correcting the proof sheets, and has also escaped 
the notice of his editors. By a slight change in punctua- 
tion we obtain a perfectly correct statement of the situation : — 

" Julian had assumed the purple at Carthage, Achilleus 
at Alexandria ; and even the Blemmyes renewed, or 
rather continued, their incursions into the Upper 

to Tillemont 


I have no doubts that this was the sentence originally meant 
and probably written by Gibbon, and have felt no scruple 
in extirpating the inveterate error from the text. 4 

Gibbon's diligent accuracy in the use of his materials Gibbon's debt 
cannot be over-praised, and it will not be diminished by 
giving the due credit to his French predecessor Tillemont. 
The Histoire des Empereurs and the Meinoires eccUsiastiques, 
laborious and exhaustive collections of material, were 
addressed to the special student and not to the general 
reader, but scholars may still consult them with profit. It 
is interesting to find Mommsen in his later years retracting 
one of his earlier judgments and reverting to a conclusion of 
Tillemont. In his recent edition 5 of the Laterculus of 
Polemius Silvius, he writes thus : — 

"ITauteur de la Notice — peritissimi Tillemontii verba 
sunt (hist. 5, 699) — vivoit en Occident et ne savoit 
pas trop letat ou estoit TOrient ; ei iuvenis contra- 
ction, hodie subscribo ". 

It is one of Gibbon's merits that he made full use of Tille- 
mont, "whose inimitable accuracy almost assumes the 
character of genius," as far as Tillemont guided him, up to 
the reign of Anastasius I. ; and it is only just to the 
mighty work of the Frenchman to impute to him a 
large share in the accuracy which the Englishman achieved. 
From the historical, though not from the literary, point of 

4 In some other cases I have corrected the text in this volume, (i). p. 55, 
n. 109 ; Sumelpur for Jumelpur, see Appendix 9. (2). p. 259, 1. 2 from top ; 
the reading of the received text " public " is surely a printer's error, which 
escaped detection, for " republic," which I have ventured to restore. (3). p. 
279, 1. 5 from foot, I have assumed an instance of " lipography ". (4). p. 328, 
n. 35, " Lycius " had been already corrected (see Smith's ed.) to " Lydius ". 
Probably Gibbon had his Zosimus open before him when he wrote this note, 
and his pen traced Lycius because Lycia happened to occur in the very next line 
of his authority. I have followed Sir William Smith's precedent in dealing 
freely with the punctuation, and in modernizing the spelling of a few words. 

8 In the Chronica Minora (M. G. H.), vol. i., 512 sqq. See p. 533. 


view, Gibbon, deserted by Tillemont, distinctly declines, 
though he is well sustained through the wars of Justinian by 
the clear narrative of Procopius. 
his necessary Recognizing that Gibbon was accurate, we do not acknow- 

limitations ,-,,.,.. 

ledge by implication that he was always right ; for 
accuracy is relative to opportunities. The discovery of 
new materials, the researches of numerous scholars, in the 
course of a hundred years, have not only added to our know- 
ledge of facts, but have modified and upset conclusions which 
Gibbon with his materials was justified in drawing. Compare 
a chapter or two of Mr. HodgkhVs Italy and her Invaders 
with the corresponding episode in Gibbon, and many minor 
points will appear in which correction has been needful. If 
Gibbon were alive and writing now, his history would be very 
different. Affected by the intellectual experiences of the past 
century he could not adopt quite the same historical attitude ; 
and we should consequently lose the colouring of his brilliant 
attack on Christianity. Again, he would have found it an 
absolute necessity to learn what he insolently called that 
" barbarous idiom, 11 the German language ; and this might 
have affected his style as it would certainly have affected his 
matter. We dare not deplore Gibbon's limitations, for they 
were the conditions of his great achievement. 
thl unity oi Not the least important aspect of the Decline and Fall is 
its lesson in the unity of history, the favourite theme of Mr. 
Freeman. The title displays the cardinal fact that the 
Empire founded by Augustus fell in 1461 ; that all the 
changes which transformed the Europe of Marcus Aurelius 
into the Europe of Erasmus had not abolished the name 
and memory of the Empire. And whatever names 
of contempt — in harmony with his thesis — Gibbon might 
apply to the institution in the period of its later decline, 
such as the "Lower Empire, 11 or "Greek Empire, 11 his title 
rectified any false impressions that such language might 



cause. On the continuity of the Roman Empire depended 
the unity of his work. By the emphasis laid on this fact he 
did the same kind of service to the study of history in England, 
that Mr. Bryce has done in his Holy Roman Empire by 
tracing the thread which connects the Europe of Francis the 
Second with the Europe of Charles the Great. 

Gibbon read widely, and had a large general knowledge of 
history, which supplied him with many happy illustrations. 
It is worth pointing out that the gap in his knowledge of 
ancient history was the period of the Diadochi and Epigoni. 
If he had been familiar with that period, he would not have 
said that Diocletian was the first to give to the world the 
example of a resignation of sovereignty. He would have 
referred to the conspicuous case of Ptolemy Soter ; Mr. Free- 
man would have added Lydiadas, the tyrant of Megalopolis. 
Of the earlier example of Asarhaddon Gibbon could not have 

To pass from scope and spirit to method, Gibbon's New method 

. . ....... . , . . °f research 

historical sense kept him constantly right in dealing with his 
sources, but he can hardly be said to have treated them 
methodically. The growth of German erudition is one of the 
leading features of the intellectual history of the nineteenth 
century ; and one of its most important contributions to 
historical method lies in the investigation of sources. German 
scholars have indeed pressed this " Quellenkunde " further » Queiien. 

. . . kritik " 

than it can safely be pressed. A philologist, writing his 
doctoral dissertation, will bring plausible reasons to prove 
where exactly Diodorus ceased to "write out' 1 '' Ephorus, 
whose work Ave do not possess, and began to write out some- 
body else, whose work is also lost to us. But, though the 
method lends itself to the multiplication of vain subtleties, 
it is absolutely indispensable for scientific historiography. It 
is in fact part of the science of evidence. The distinction 
of primary and derivative authorities might be used as a test. 


The untrained historian fails to recognize that nothing is 
added to the value of a statement of Widukind by its 
repetition by Thietmar or Ekkehard, and that a record in the 
Continuation of Theophanes gains no further credibility from 
the fact that it likewise occurs in Cedrenus, Zonaras or 

While evidence is more systematically arranged, greater 
care is bestowed on sifting and probing what our authorities 
say, and in distinguishing contemporary from later witnesses. 
Not a few important results have been derived from such 
methods ; they enable us to trace the growth of stories. The 
evidence against Faustina shrinks into nothing ; the existence 
of Pope Joan is exploded. It is irrelevant to condemn a 
statement of Zonaras as made by a " modern Greek ". The 
question is, where did he get it ? c 

The difficult questions connected with the authorship and 
compilation of the Historia Augusta have produced a chest- 
ful of German pamphlets, but they did not trouble Gibbon. 
The relationships of the later Greek chronicles and histories 
are more difficult and intricate even than the questions 
raised by the Historia Augusta, but he did not even formu- 
late a prudent interrogation. Ferdinand Hirsch, twenty 
years ago, cleared new roads through this forest, in which 
George the Monk and the Logothete who continued him, 
Leo Grammaticus and Simeon Magister, John Scylitzes, 
George Cedrenus and Zonaras lived in promiscuous obscurity. 
Biittner-Wobst on one side, C. de Boor on the other, have 
been working effectually on the same lines, clearing up the 
haze which surrounds George the Monk — the time has gone 
by for calling him George Hamartolus. Another formidable 
problem, that of John Malalas — with his namesake John of 

6 Gibbon had a notion of this, but did not apply it methodically. See in 
this vol., p. 415, note 59 : " but those modern Greeks had the opportunity of 
consulting many writers which have since been lost ". And sge, in general, 
his Preface to the fourth volume of the quarto ed. 


Antioch, so hard to catch, — having been grappled with by 
Jeep, Sotiriades and others, is now being more effectively 
treated by Patzig. 

Criticism, too, has reiected some sources from which Gibbon Example 01 

77 •* use of un- 

drew without suspicion. In the interest of literature weJ™*2" rH,y 
may perhaps be glad that like Ockley he used with confidence 
the now discredited Al Wakidi. Before such maintained 
perfection of manner, to choose is hard ; but the chapters on 
the origin of Mahometanism and its first triumphs against 
the Empire would alone be enough to win perpetual literary 
fame. Without Al Wakidi's romance they would not have 
been written ; and the historian, compelled to regard Gibbon's 
description as he would a Life of Charles the Great based on 
the monk of St. Gall, must refer the inquirer after facts to 
Sprenger's Life of Mahomet and Weil's History of the 
Caliphs. 7 

In connexion with the use of materials, reference may be Error of 
made to a mode of proceeding which Gibbon has sometimes ^^ t of 
adopted and which modern method condemns. It is not period * 
legitimate to blend the evidence of two different periods in 
order to paint a complete picture of an institution. Great 
caution, for example, is needed in using the Greek epics, 
of which the earliest and latest parts differ by a long interval, 
for the purpose of pourtraying a so-called Homeric or 
heroic age. A notice of Fredegarius will not be necessarily 
applicable to the age of the sons and grandsons of Chlodwig, 
and a custom which was familiar to Gregory or Venantius 

7 In Mahometan history in general, it may be added, not only has advance 
been made by access to new literary oriental documents, but its foundations 
have been more surely grounded by numismatic researches, especially those 
of Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole. This scholar's recently published handbook con- 
taining tables and lists of the " Mohammadan " Dynasties is a guerdon for 
which students of history must be most deeply grateful. The special histories 
of Mahometan Sicily and Spain have been worked out by Amari and Dozy. 
For the Mongols we have the overwhelming results of Sir Henry Howorth's 
learning and devotion to his "vasty" subject. 


may have become obsolete before the days of the last Mer- 
wings. It is instructive to compare Gibbon's description of 
the social and political institutions of our Teutonic forefathers 
with that of Bishop Stubbs. Gibbon blends together with 
dexterity the evidence of Caesar and Tacitus, between whom 
a century had elapsed, and composes a single picture ; whereas 
Bishop Stubbs keeps the statements of the two Romans care- 
fully apart, and by comparing them is able to show that in 
certain respects the Germans had developed in the interval. 
Gibbon's account of the military establishment of the Empire, 
in the first chapter of his work, is open to a like objection. 
He has blended, without due criticism, the evidence of 
Vegetius with that of earlier writers. 8 
progress of In the study of sources, then, our advance has been great, 
criticism while the labours of an historian have become more arduous. 
It leads us to another advance of the highest importance. 
To use historical documents with confidence, an assurance 
that the words of the writer have been correctly transmitted 
is manifestly indispensable. It generally happens that our texts 
have come down in several MSS., of different ages, and there 
are often various discrepancies. We have then to determine 
the relations of the MSS. to each other and their comparative 
values. To the pure philologist this is part of the alphabet 
of his profession ; but the pure historian takes time to realize 
it, and it was not realized in the age of Gibbon as it is to-day. 
Nothing forces upon the historian the necessity of having a 
sound text so impressively as the process of comparing 
different documents in order to determine whether one was 
dependent on another, — the process of investigating sources. 

8 It may be said for Gibbon, however, that even Mommsen, in his volume 
on the Provinces, has adopted this practice of blending evidence of different 
dates. For the historical artist, it is very tempting, when the evidence for 
any particular period is scanty ; but in the eyes of the scientific historian it 
is indefensible. 


In tliis respect we have now to be thankful for many blessings 
denied to Gibbon and — so recent is our progress — denied to 
Milman and Finlay. We have Mommsen's editions of improve! 
Jordanes and the Variae of Cassiodorius, his Chronica Minora 
(still incomplete), including, for instance, Idatius, the Prospers, 
Count Marcellinus ; we have Peter's Historia Augusta, 
Gardthausen's Ammianus, Luetjohann's Sidonius Apolli- 
naris ; Du Chesne's Liber Pontificalis ; and a large number 
of critical texts of ecclesiastical writers might be mentioned. 9 
The Greek historians have been less fortunate. The Bonn Defective 
edition of the "Byzantine Writers," issued under the 
auspices of Niebuhr and Bekker in the early part of 
this century, was the most lamentably feeble production 
ever given to the world by German scholars of great reputa- 
tion. It marked no advance on the older folio edi- 
tion, except that it was cheaper, and that one or two 
new documents were included. But there is now a reason- 
able prospect that we shall by degrees have a complete series 
of trustworthy texts. De Boor showed the way by his and improved 

•> J J Greek texts 

splendid edition of Theophanes and his smaller texts of 
Theophylactus Simocatta and the Patriarch Nicephorus. 
Mendelssohn's Zosimus, and Reifferscheid's Anna Comnena 
stand beside them. Haury promises a Procopius, and we 
are expecting from Seger a long desired John Scylitzes, the 
greater part of whose text, though existing in a MS. at 
Paris, has never been printed and can only be inferred by a 
comparison of the Latin translation of Gabius with the 
chronicle of Cedrenus who copied him with faithful servility. 

The legends of the Saints, though properly outside the ^ e 1 s fc ff n u 1 a e ry 
domain of the historian proper, often supply him with valu- Samta 
able help. For " Culturgeschichte " they are a direct source. 
Finlay observed that the Acta Sanctorum contain an un- 

9 Especially the Corpus Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum. 

d VOL I. 




Examples : 
(1) Numis- 



explored mine for the social life of the Eastern Empire. 
But before they can be confidently dealt with, trained 
criticism must do its will on the texts ; the relations between 
the various versions of each legend must be defined and the 
tradition in each case made clear. The task is huge ; the 
libraries of Europe and Hither Asia are full of these holy 
tales. But Usener has made a good beginning and Krumbacher 
has rendered the immense service of pointing out precisely 
what the problems are. 10 

Besides improved methods of dealing with the old material, 
much new material of various kinds has been discovered, 
since the work of Gibbon. To take one department, our 
coins have increased in number. It seems a pity that he 
who worked at his Spanheim with such diligence was not 
able to make use of Eckhel's great work on Imperial 
coinage which began to appear in 1792 and was completed 
in 1798. Since then we have had Cohen, and the special 
works of Saulcy and Sabatier. M. Schlumberger's splendid 
study of Byzantine sigillography must be mentioned in the 
same connexion. 11 

The constitution and history of the Principate, and the 
provincial government of the early Emperors, have been 

10 Usener, Der heilige Theodosios, 1890. Krumbacher, Studien zu den 
Legenden des heiligen Theodosios, 1892. It is worth while to state briefly 
what the chief problem is. The legends of the Saints were collected, 
rehandled, cleansed of casual heresy, and put into literary form in the tenth 
century (towards its close according to Vasilievski) by Symeon Metaphrastes. 
Most of our MSS. are derived from the edition of Symeon ; but there are 
also extant, some, comparatively few, containing the original pre-Symeonic 
versions, which formed the chief literary recreation of ordinary men and 
women before the tenth century. The problem is to collect the materials 
for a critical edition of as many legends as have been preserved in their 
original form. When that is done, we shall have the data for fully appreciat- 
ing the methods of Symeon. As for the text Krumbacher points out that 
what we want is a thoroughgoing study of the Grammar of the MSS. 

11 M. Schlumberger followed up this work by an admirable monograph on 
Nicephorus Phocas, luxuriously illustrated ; and we are looking forward to 
the appearance of a companion work on Basil II. 


placed on an entirely new basis by Mommsen and his school. 12 
The Romisches Staatsrecht is a fabric for whose rearing was 
needed not only improved scholarship but an extensive 
collection of epigraphic material. The Corpus of Latin Epigraphy 
Inscriptions is the keystone of the work. 

Hence Gibbon's first chapters are somewhat " out of date ". 
But on the other hand his admirable description of the 
change from the Principate to absolute Monarchy, and the 
system of Diocletian and Constantine, is still most valuable. 
Here inscriptions are less illustrative, and he disposed of much 
the same material as we, especially the Codex Theodosianus. 
New light is badly wanted, and has not been to any extent 
forthcoming, on the respective contributions of Diocletian 
and Constantine to the organization of the new monarchy. 
As to the arrangement of the provinces we have indeed a yeronaListo. 

o i Provinces 

precious document in the Verona List (published by Mommsen), 
which, dating from 297 a.d., shows Diocletian's reorganiza- 
tion. The modifications which were made between this year 
and the beginning of the fifth century when the Notitia 
Dignitatum was drawn up, can be largely determined not 
only by lists in Rufus and Ammianus, but, as far as the 
eastern provinces are concerned, by the Laterculus of 
Polemius Silvius. Thus, partly by critical method applied 
to Polemius, partly by the discovery of a new document, we 
are enabled to rectify the list of Gibbon, who adopted the 
simple plan of ascribing to Diocletian and Constantine the 
detailed organization of the Notitia. Otherwise our know- 
ledge of the changes of Diocletian has not been greatly 
augmented ; but our clearer conception of the Principate and 
its steady development towards pure monarchy has reflected 

12 The first volume of Mr. Pelham's history of the Empire, which is ex- 
pected shortly, will show, when compared with Menvale, how completely 
our knowledge of Roman institutions has been transformed within a very 
recent period. 


light on Diocletian's system ; and the tendencies of the 
third century, though still obscure at many points, have 
been made more distinct. The year of the Gordians is still 
as great a puzzle as ever ; but the dates of Alexandrine 
coins with the tribunician years give us here, as elsewhere, 
limits of which Gibbon was ignorant. While speaking of the 
third century, I may add that Calpurnius Siculus, whom 
Gibbon claimed as a contemporary of Carinus, has been 
restored by modern criticism to the reign of Nero, and this 
error has vitiated some of Gibbon's pages. 

The constitutional history of the Empire from Diocletian 
forward has still to be written systematically. Some note- 
worthy contributions to this subject have been made by 
Russian scholars. 
O) Law Gibbon's forty-first chapter is still not only famous, but 

admired by jurists as a brief and brilliant exposition of the 
principles of Roman law. To say that it is worthy of the 
subject is the best tribute that can be paid to it. A series 
of foreign scholars of acute legal ability has elaborated the 
study of the science in the present century ; I need only 
refer to such names as Savigny and Jhering. A critical 
edition of the Corpus juris Romani by Mommsen himself has 
Gains been one of the chief contributions. The manuscript of 
Gaius is the new discovery to be recorded ; and we can 
imagine with what interest Gibbon, were he restored to 
earth, would compare in Gneist's parallel columns the Institu- 
tions with the elder treatise. 

But whoever takes up Gibbon's theme now will not be 

content with an exposition of the Justinianean Law. He 

must go on to its later development in the subsequent 

Graco centuries, in the company of Zacharia von Lingenthal and 

Roman law J , 

Heimbach. Such a study has been made possible and 

comparatively easy by the magnificent works of Zacharia ; 

Eoioga among whose achievements I may single out his restoration of 


the Ecloga, which used to be ascribed to Leo VI., to its true 
author Leo III. ; a discovery which illuminated in a most wel- 
come manner the Isaurian reformation. It is interesting to 
observe that the last work which engaged him even on his 
death-bed was an attempt to prove exactly the same thing for 
the military treatise known as the Tactics of Leo VI. Here 
too Zacharia thinks that Leo was the Isaurian, while the 
received view is that he was the " Philosopher ". 

Having illustrated by examples the advantages open to an 
historian of the present day, which were not open to Gibbon, 
for dealing with Gibbon's theme, — improved and refined 
methods, a closer union of philology with history, and 
ampler material — we may go on to consider a general defect 
in his treatment of the Later Empire, and here too exhibit, 
by a few instances, progress made in particular departments. 

Gibbon ended the first half of his work with the so-called Gibbons 

treatment o 

fall of the Western Empire in 476 a.d. — a date which has Imp^" 
been fixed out of regard for Italy and Rome, and should 
strictly be 480 a.d. in consideration of Julius Nepos. Thus 
the same space is devoted to the first three hundred years 
which is allowed to the remaining nine hundred and eighty. 
Nor does the inequality end here. More than a quarter of 
the second half of the work deals with the first two of these 
ten centuries. The mere statement of the fact shows that 
the history of the Empire from Heraclius to the last Grand 
Comnenus of Trebizond is merely a sketch with certain 
episodes more fully treated. The personal history and 
domestic policy of all the Emperors, from the son of Heraclius 
to Isaac Angelus, are compressed into one chapter. This mode 
of dealing with the subject is in harmony with the author's con- 
temptuous attitude to the " Byzantine " or " Lower " Empire. 

But Gibbon's account of the internal history of the False im- 
pression as to 

Empire after Heraclius is not only superficial ; it gives an ^S^fy cf 


entirely false impression of the facts. If the materials had 
been then as well sifted and studied as they are even to-day, 
he could not have failed to see that beneath the intrigues 
and crimes of the Palace there were deeper causes at work, 
and beyond the revolutions of the Capital City wider issues 
implied. The cause for which the Iconoclasts contended 
involved far more than an ecclesiastical rule or usage ; it 
meant, and they realized, the regeneration of the Empire. 
Or, to take another instance : the key to the history of the 
tenth and eleventh centuries, is the struggle between the 
Imperial throne and the great landed interest of Asia Minor ; 13 
the accession of Alexius Commenus marked the final victory 
of the latter. Nor had Gibbon any conception of the great 
ability of most of the Emperors from Leo the Isaurian to 
Basil II., or, we might say, to Constantine the conqueror 
of Armenia. The designation of the story of the later 
Empire as a " uniform tale of weakness and misery ,1 u is one 
and as to it-, of the most untrue, and most effective, judgments ever uttered 


by a thoughtful historian. Before the outrage of 1204, the 
Empire was the bulwark of the West. 15 

Reaction Against Gibbon's point of view there has been a gradual 

reaction which may be said to have culminated within the 

Finiay's last ten years. It was begun by Finlay, whose unprosperous 
speculations in Greece after the Revolution prompted him to 
seek for the causes of the insecurity of investments in land, 
and, leading him back to the year 146 B.C., involved him in 

13 This has been best pointed out by C. Neumann. 

14 Chap, xlviii. ad init., where a full statement of his view of the later 
Empire will be found. 

15 I need not repeat here what I have said elsewhere, and what many 
others have said (recently Mr. Frederic Harrison in two essays in his %'olume 
entitled The Meaning of History) as to the various services of the Empire to 
Europe. They are beginning to be generally recognized and they have been 
brought out in Mr. C. VV. Oman's brief and skilful sketch of the " Byzantine 
Empire " (1S92). 




a history of the "Byzantine Empire" which embedded a 
history of Greece. 16 The great value of Finlay's work lies not 
only in its impartiality and in his trained discernment of the 
commercial and financial facts underlying the superficial history 
of the chronicles, but in its full and trustworthy narration of 
the events. By the time that Mr. Tozer's edition appeared 
in 1876, it was being recognized that Gibbon's word on the 
later Empire was not the last. Meanwhile Hertzberg was other 
going over the ground in Germany, and Gfrorer, whose 
ecclesiastical studies had taken him into those regions, had 
written a good deal of various value. Hirsch's Byzantinische 
Studien had j ust appeared, and Rambaud's V Empire grec au 
a'" 1 '-' siecle. M. Sathas was bringing out his Bibliotheca Grseca 
medii aevi — including two volumes of Psellus — and was begin- 
ning his Documents inedits. Professor Lambros was working 
at his Athens in the Twelfth Century and preparing his editio 
princeps of the great Archbishop Akominatos. Hopf had 
collected a mass of new materials from the archives of southern 
cities. In England, Freeman was pointing out the true position 
of New Rome and her Emperors in the history of Europe. 

These tendencies have increased in volume and velocity 
within the last twenty years. They may be said to have 
reached their culminating point in the publication of Professor 
Krumbacher's History of Byzantine Literature. 17 The im- Krumtaciie 
portance of this work, of vast scope and extraordinary accuracy, 
can only be fully understood by the specialist. It has already 
promoted and facilitated the progress of the study in an in- 
calculable measure ; and it was soon followed by the inaugura- 

16 Since then a Greek scholar, K. Papai rigopulos, has covered the whole his- 
tory of Greece from the earliest times to the present century, in his 'la-ropia 
rov 'EWtivlkov iQvovs. The same gigantic task, but in a more popular form, 
has been undertaken and begun by Professor Lambros, but is not yet finished. 

17 Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (565-1453), 1891. 



tion of a journal, entirely devoted to works on " Byzantine "" 
subjects, by the same scholar. The Byzantinische Zeitschrift 
would have been impossible twenty-five years ago and nothing 
shows more surely the turn of the tide. Professor Krum- 
bacher's work seems likely to form as important an epoch as 
that of Ducange. 

school of 

Meanwhile in a part of Europe which deems itself to have 
received the torch from the Emperors as it has received their 
torch from the Patriarchs, and which has always had a special 
regard for the city of Constantine, some excellent work was 
being done. In Russia, Muralt edited the chronicle of 
George the monk and his Continuers, and compiled Byzantine 
Fasti. The Journal of the Ministry of Public Instruction is 
the storehouse of a long series of most valuable articles 
dealing, from various sides, with the history of the later 
Empire, by those indefatigable workers Uspenski and Vasi- 
lievski. At length, in 1894, Krumbacher's lead has been 
followed, and the Vizantiski Vremennik, a Russian counter- 
part of the Byzantinische Zeitschrift, has been started under 
the joint editorship of Vasilievski and Regel, and is clearly 
destined, with the help of Veselovski, Kondakov, Bieliaiev and 
the rest of a goodly fellowship, to make its mark. 

Progress of 
since Gibbon 
Examples : 

After this general sketch of the new prospects of later 
Imperial history, it will be useful to show by some examples 
what sort of progress is being made, and what kind of work 
has to be done. I will first take some special points of 
interest connected with Justinian. My second example shall 
be the topography of Constantinople ; and my third the large 
field of literature composed in colloquial Greek. Lastly, the 
capital defect of the second half of Gibbon's work, his in- 
adequate treatment, or rather his neglect, of the Slavs, wil 
serve to illustrate our historical progress. 


New lio-ht has been cast, from more than one side, on the w Justinian. 

& ' ' ' (a) Procopius 

reign of Justinian where there are so many uncertain and |?cret e 
interesting places. The first step that methodical history 
had to take was a thoroughgoing criticism of Procopius, and 
this was more than half done by Dahn in his elaborate 
monograph. The double problem of the " Secret History " 
has stimulated the curiosity of the historian and the critic. 
Was Procopius the author ? and in any case, are the state- 
ments credible ? Gibbon has inserted in his notes the worst 
bits of the scandals which far outdid the convivium quinqua- 
ginta meretricum described by Burchard, or the feast of 
Sophonius Tigellinus ; and he did not hesitate to believe them. 
Their credibility is now generally questioned, but the historian 
of Caesarea is a much more interesting figure if it can be 
shown that he was the author. From a careful comparison 
of the Secret History with the works of Procopian authorship, 
in point of style, Dahn concluded that Procopius wrote it. 
Ranke argued against this view and maintained that it was 
the work of a malcontent who had obtained possession of a 
private diary of Procopius, on which framework he constructed 
the scandalous chronicle, imitating successfully the Procopian 
style. 18 

The question has been placed on a new footing by Haury ; 10 -n,, discovery 
and it is very interesting to find that the solution depends on 
the right determination of certain dates. The result is 
briefly as follows : — 

Procopius was a malcontent who hated Justinian and all 
his works. He set himself the task of writing a history of 
his time, which, as the secretary of Belisarius, he had good 
opportunities of observing. He composed a narrative of 
the military events, in which he abstained from committing 

18 I was seduced by this hypothesis of Ranke (Later Roman Empire, i- 
363), but no longer believe in it. 

19 Procopiana. 1891, 


himself, so that it could be safely published in his own life- 
time. Even here his critical attitude to the government is 
sometimes clear. He allows it to be read between the lines 
that he regarded the reconquest of Africa and Italy as 
calamities for those countries ; which thus came under an 
oppressor, to be stripped by his governors and tax gatherers. 
But the domestic administration was more dangerous ground, 
on which Procopius could not tread without raising a voice 
of bitter indignation and hatred. So he dealt with this in a 
book which was to be kept secret during his own life and 
bequeathed to friends who might be trusted to give it to the 
world at a suitable time. The greater part of the Military 
History, which treated in seven Books the Persian, Vandalic, 
and Gothic wars, was finished in 545 a.d., and perhaps read 
to a select circle of friends ; at a later time some additions 
were made, but no changes in what had been already Avritten. 
The Secret History, as Haury has proved from internal 
evidence, was written in 550. 20 About three years later the 
Military History received an eighth Book, bringing the story 
down to the end of the Gothic war. Then the work came 
under the notice of Justinian, who saw that a great historian 
had arisen ; and Procopius, who had certainly not described 
the wars for the purpose of pleasing the Emperor, but had 
sailed as close to the wind as he dared, was called upon to 
undertake the disagreeable task of lauding the oppressor. An 
Imperial command was clearly the origin of the De Aedi- 
ficiis (560 a.d.), in which the reluctant writer adopted the 
plan of making adulation so fulsome, that, except to 
Justinian's vanity, he might appear to be laughing in his 

20 One of the author's points is that Justinian was the real ruler during the 
nominal reign of Justin, who was an " ass ". Hence he dates Justinian's 
administration (not of course his Imperial years) from 518. The conse- 
quence of this important discovery of Haury, which he has proved up to the 
hilt, is that the work was written in 550 (not, as before believed, in 559) — 
the thirty-second year of Justinian's administration. 


sleeve. At the very beginning of the treatise he has a sly 
allusion to the explosives which were lying in his desk, un- 
known to the Imperial spies. 

Such is the outline of the literary motives of Procopius as 
we must conceive them, now that we have a practical certainty 
that he, and no other, wrote the Secret History. For 
Haury's dates enable us, as he points out, to argue as follows : 
If Procopius did not write the book, it was obviously written 
by a forger, who wished it to pass as a Procopian work. But 
in 550 no forger could have had the close acquaintance with 
the Military History which is exhibited by the author of the 
Anecdota. And moreover the identity of the introduction 
of the eighth Book of the Military History with that of 
the Secret History, which was urged by Ranke as an objection 
to the genuineness of the latter work, now tells decisively 
in favour of it. For if Procopius composed it in 553, how 
could a forger, writing in 550, have anticipated it ? And if 
the forger composed it in 550, how are we to explain its 
appearances in a later work of Procopius himself? These 
considerations put it beyond all reasonable doubt that 
Procopius was the author of the Secret History ; for this 
assumption is the only one which supplies an intelligible 
explanation of the facts. 

Another puzzle in connexion with Justinian lay in certain w Theo- 

1 * philus' Life of 

biographical details relating to that emperor and his family, Justirjan 
which Alemanni, in his commentary on the Secret History, 
quoted on the authority of a Life of Justinian by a certain 
Abbot Theophilus, said to have been the Emperor's preceptor. 
Of these biographical notices, and of Justinian's preceptor 
Theophilus, we otherwise knew nothing ; nor had any one, 
since Alemanni, seen the Biography. Gibbon and other 
historians accepted without question the statements quoted 
by Alemanni ; though it would have been wiser to treat them 
with more reserve, until some data for criticizing them 


were discovered. The puzzle of Alemannrs source, the 
2? 1£?b™7 Li^ °f Theophilus, was solved by Mr. Bryce, who dis- 
covered in the library of the Barbarini palace at Rome the 
original text from which Alemanni drew his information. 21 
It professes to be an extract from a Slavonic work, containing 
the Life of Justinian up to the thirtieth year of his reign, 
composed by Bogomil, abbot of the monastery of St. Alexander 
in Dardania. This extract was translated by Marnavich, 
Canon of Sebenico (afterwards Bishop of Bosnia, 1631-1639), 
a friend of Alemanni, and some notes were appended by the 
same scholar. Bogomil is the Slavonic equivalent of the 
Greek Theophilus, which was accordingly adopted by 
Alemanni in his references. Mr. Bryce has shown clearly 
that this document, interesting as it is in illustrating how 
Slavonic legends had grown up round the name of Justinian, 
is worthless as history, and that there is no reason to suppose 
that sucli a person as the Dardanian Bogomil ever existed. 
We are indeed met by a new problem, which, however, is of 
no serious concern to the practical purposes of history. How 
did Marnavich obtain a copy of the original Life, from which 
he made the extract, and which he declares to be preserved in 
the library of the monks who profess the rule of St. Basil on 
Mount Athos ? Does the original still exist, on Mount 
Athos or elsewhere ? or did it ever exist ? 

The wars of Justinian 22 in the west have been fully and 
admirably related by Mr. Hodgkin, with the exception of the 
obscure conquest of Spain, on which there is too little to be 
said and nothing further seems likely to come to light. In 
regard to the ecclesiastical policy of Justinian there is still a 
field for research. 

21 The Life of Justinian by Theophilus, in the English Historical Review. 
Vasil'ev has given an account of Mr. Bryce's article in the Vizantiski Vrem- 
ennik, i., 469 sqq. 

23 The Persian and Lazic Wars have been related in detail in my Later 
Roman Empire, vol. i. 


As for the study of the great work of Anthemius, which (c) sanct* 

J ° r Sophia, ana 

brings us to the general subject of Byzantine art, much has^ zantine 
been done within the last half century. Gibbon had nothing 
to help him for the buildings of Constantinople that could 
compare with Adam's splendid work which he consulted for 
the buildings of Spalato. We have now Salzenberg's luxuri- 
ous work, Alt-christliche Baudenkmale von Constantinopel, 
published just fifty years ago by the Prussian government, 
with plates which enable us to make a full study of the 
architecture of St. Sophia. A few months ago a complete 
and scholarly English study of this church by Messrs. Lethaby 
and Swainson appeared. Other churches, too, especially 
those at Ravenna, have received careful attention ; De Vogue's 
admirable work on the architecture of Syria is well known ; 
but Strzygovski has only too good reason for complaining 
that the study of Byzantine architecture, as a whole, has not 
yet properly begun. A large work on the churches of Greece, 
which two English scholars are preparing, ought to do much 
to further the cause which Strzygovski has at heart, and to 
which he has made valuable contributions himself. 23 More 
progress is perhaps being made in the study of miniature 
painting and iconography ; and in this field the work of the 
Russian student Kondakov is the most noteworthy. 

The study of works of architecture in ancient cities, like <£> a ££» £p°- 
Athens, Rome, or Constantinople, naturally entails a study of Sopie aa " 
the topography of the town ; and in the case of Constanti- 
nople this study is equally important for the historian. 
Little progress of a satisfactory kind can be made until either 
Constantinople passes under a European government, or a 
complete change comes over the spirit of Turkish administra- 
tion. The region of the Imperial Palace and the ground 

23 His new work on the reservoirs of Constantinople may be specially 


between the Hippodrome and St. Sophia must be excavated 
before certainty on the main points can be attained. Labarte's 
a priori reconstruction of the plan of the palace, on the 
basis of the Cerimonies of Constantine Porphyrogennetos and 
scattered notices in other Greek writers, was wonderfully in- 
genious and a certain part of it is manifestly right, though 
there is much which is not borne out by a more careful 
examination of the sources. The next step was taken by a 
Russian scholar Bieliaiev who has recently published a most 
valuable study on the Cerimonies, 24 in which he has tested the 
reconstruction of Labarte and shown us exactly where we 
are, — what we know, and what with our present materials 
we cannot possibly know. Between Labarte and Bieliaiev the 
whole problem was obscured by the unscholarly work of 
Paspates, the Greek antiquarian ; whose sole merit was that 
he kept the subject before the world. As the acropolis is 
the scene of so many great events in the history which Gibbon 
recorded, it is well to warn the reader that our sources make 
it absolutely certain that the Hippodrome adjoined the 
Palace; there was no public space between them. The 
Augusteum did not lie, as Paspates asserted, between the 
Palace and the Hippodrome, 25 but between the north side of 
the Hippodrome and St. Sophia. 

24 Byzantina. Ocherki, materialy, i zamietki po Vizantiskim drevnostiam, 
1891-3. I must not omit to mention Dr. Mordtmann's valuable Esquisse 
topographique (1892), and N. Destunis has made noteworthy contributions 
to the subject. 

25 With blameworthy indiscretion I accepted this false view of Paspates, 
in my Later Roman Empire, without having gone methodically into the 
sources. I was misled by the fame won by the supposed " topographical 
discoveries " of this diligent antiquarian and by his undeservedly high 
reputation ; this, however, is no excuse, and unfortunately the error has 
vitiated my account of the Nika revolt. I have gone into the theory of 
Paspates in the Scottish Review (April, 1894), where he is treated too leniently. 
His misuse of authorities is simply astounding. I may take the opportunity 
of saying that I hope to rewrite the two volumes of my Later Roman 
Empire and correct, so far as I may be able, its many faults. A third volume, 
dealing with the ninth century, will, I hope, appear at a not too distant date. 


On the trades and industries of the Imperial City, on the The Book of 

i ,i i .the Prefect 

trade corporations and the minute control exercised over 
them by the government, new light has been thrown by M. 
Nicole's discovery and publication of the Prefect's Book, a 
code of regulations drawn up by Leo VI. The demes of 
Constantinople are a subject which needs investigation. 
They are certainly not to be regarded as Gibbon and his 
successors have regarded them, as mere circus parties. They 
must represent, as Uspenski points out in the opening number 
of the new Vizantiski Vremennik, organized divisions of the 

A field in which the historian must wander to breathe theor-vuigar- 


spirit and learn the manner of the mediaeval Greek world j s Litteratur " 
that of the romance, both prose and verse, written in the 
vulgar tongue. This field was closed to Gibbon, but the 
labours of many scholars, above all Legrand, have rendered it 
now easily accessible. Out of a large number of interesting 
things I may refer especially to two. One is the epic of 
Digenes Akritas, the Roland or Cid of the Later Empire, a Digenes 
poem of the tenth century, which illustrates the life of 
Armatoli and the border warfare against the Saracens in the 
Cilician mountains. The other is the Book of the Conquest 
of the Morea, 2 * 3 a mixture of fiction and fact, but invaluable The chronicle 

7 of Morea 

for realizing the fascinating though complicated history of 
the " Latin ,1 settlements in Greece. That history was set 
aside by Gibbon, with the phrase, " I shall not pursue the History of 

•> ' L * 1 Greece after 

obscure and various dynasties that rose and fell on the conquest 
continent or in the isles," though he deigns to give a page or 
two to Athens. 27 But it is a subject with unusual possibilities 

26 The Greek and the French versions were published by Buchon, un- 
critically. A new edition of the Greek text is promised by Dr. John Schmitt. 

27 The history of mediaeval Athens has been recorded at length in an 
attractive work by Gregorovius, the counterpart of his great history of 
mediaeval Rome. 


for picturesque treatment, and out of which, Gibbon, if lie 
had apprehended the opportunity, and had possessed the 
materials, would have made a brilliant chapter. Since 
Finlay, who entered into this episode of Greek history 
with great fulness, the material has been largely increased 
by the researches of Hopf. 28 
i4) The siava As I have already observed, it is perhaps on the Slavonic 

and their . „ 

u^Later wltl1 side of the history of the Empire that Gibbon is most 
conspicuously inadequate. Since he wrote, various causes 
have combined to increase our knowledge of Slavonic antiquity. 
The Slavs themselves have engaged in methodical investiga- 
tion of their own past; and, since the entire or partial 
emancipations of the southern Slavs from Asiatic rule, a 
general interest in Slavonic things has grown up throughout 
Europe. Gibbon dismissed the history of the First Bulgarian 
Kingdom, from its foundation in the reign of Constantine 
Pogonatus to its overthrow by the second Basil, in two 
pages. To-day the author of a history of the Empire on the 
same scale would find two hundred a strict limit. Gibbon 
tells us nothing of the Slavonic missionaries, Cyril and 
Methodius, round whose names an extensive literature has 
been formed. It is only in recent years that the geography 
of the Illyrian peninsula has become an accessible subject of 

^fn^contro. The investigation of the history of the northern peoples 
who came under the influence of the Empire has been 
stimulated by controversy, and controversy has been animated 

Hi siavs m and even embittered by national pride. The question of 

Greece mi 

Slavonic settlements in Greece has been thoroughly ventilated, 

28 For a full account of Vulgar-griechische Litteratur, I may refer to 
Krumbacher's Gesch. der Byz. Litt. Here it is unnecessary to do more 
than indicate its existence and importance. I may add that the historian 
cannot neglect the development of the language, for which these romances 
(and other documents) furnish ample data. Here the Greeks themselves 
have an advantage, and scholars like Hatzidakes, Psichares, and Jannares 
are in this field doing work of the best kind. 


because Fallmerayer excited the scholarship of Hellenes and 
Philhellenes to refute what they regarded as an insulting 
paradox. 29 So, too, the pride of the Roumanians was irritated 
by Roesler, who denied that they were descended from the wonginof. 

J ' J the Rou- 

inhabitants of Trajan's Dacia and described them as later manlan8 
immigrants of the thirteenth century. Pic* arose against 
him ; then Hermuzaki argued for an intermediate date. 
The best Hungarian scholar of the day joined the fray, on 
the other side; and the contention became bitter between 
Vlach and Magyar, the Roumanian pretensions to Sieben- 
biirgen — "Dacia irredenta -11 — sharpening the lances of the 
foes. The Roumanians have not come out of their " question " 
as well as the Hellenes. Hungary too has its own question. <3)ugro- 

o J i Finnic or 

Are the Magyars to be ethnically associated with the Finns or ^ n i e shorlgin 
given over to the family of the Turks, whom as champions 
of Christendom they had opposed at Mohacz and Varna? 
It was a matter of pride for the Hungarian to detach him- 
self from the Turk ; and the evidence is certainly on his 
side. Hunfalvy's conclusions have successfully defied the 
assaults of Vambery. 30 Again in Russia there has been a <« origin of 

J D the Russian 

long and vigorous contest, — the so-called Norman or No^nknmc 
Varangian question. No doubt is felt now by the impartial 
judge as to the Scandinavian origin of the princes of Kiev, 
and that the making of Russia was due to Northmen or 
Varangians. Kunik and Pogodin were reinforced by 
Thomsen of Denmark ; and the pure Slavism of Ilovaiski 31 

29 Fallmerayer's thesis that there was no pure Hellenic blood in Greece was 
triumphantly refuted. No one denies that there was a large Slavonic 
element in the country parts, especially of the Peloponnesus. 

30 In a paper entitled, The Coming of the Hungarians, in the Scottish 
Review of July, 1892, I have discussed the questions connected with early 
Magyar history, and criticized Hunfalvy's Magyarorszag Ethnographiaja 
(1876) and Vambery's A magyarok eredete (1882). One of the best works 
dealing with the subject has been written by a Slav (C. Grot). 

31 Ilovaiski's work Istorija Rossii, vol. i. (Kiev period), is, though his main 
thesis is a mistake, most instructive. 

e VOL. I. 


and Gedeonov, though its champions were certainly able, is a 
lost cause, 
progress in From such collisions sparks have flown and illuminated 

Slavonic JT 

EdMitory dark corners. For the Slavs the road was first cleared by 
Safarik. The development of the comparative philology of 
the Indo-Germanic tongues has had its effect ; the Slavonic 
languages have been brought into line, chiefly by the life- 
work of Miklosich ; and the science is being developed by 
such scholars as Jagic and Leskien. The several countries 
of the Balkan lands have their archaeologists and archaeological 
journals; and the difficulty which now meets the historian 
is not the absence but the plenitude of philological and 
historical literature. 

me early A word may be added about the Hungarians, who have 

history of J m . 

the Magyars no |. been so successful with their early history as the Slavs. 
Until the appearance of Ffunfalvy, their methods were ante- 
diluvian, and their temper credulous. The special work of 
Jaszay, and the first chapters of Szalay's great History of 
Hungary, showed no advance on Katdna and Pray, who were 
consulted by Gibbon. All believed in the Anonymous 
Scribe of King Bela ; Jaszay simply transcribed him. Then 
Roesler came and dispelled the illusion. Our main sources 
now are Constantine Porphyrogennetos, and the earlier 
Asiatic traveller Ibn Dasta, who has been rendered accessible 
by Chwolson. 32 The linguistic researches of Ahlquist, 
Hunfalvy and others into Vogul, Ostjak and the rest of the 
Ugro-Finnic kindred, must be taken into account by the 
critic who is dealing with those main sources. The Chazars, 
to whom the Hungarians were once subject, the Patzinaks, 
who drove the Magyars from " Lebedia " to " Atelkuzu " and 

52 Chwolson, Izviestiia o Chozarach, Burtasach, Bolgaracb, Madiarach, 
Slavaniacb, i Rusach. 


from "Atelkuzu" to Pannonia, and other peoples of the 
same kind, have profited by these investigations. 

The foregoing instances will serve to give a general idea of 
the respects in which Gibbon's history might be described as 
behind date. To follow out all the highways and byways of 
progress would mean the usurpation of at least a volume by 
the editor. What more has to be said, must be said briefly 
in notes and appendices. That Gibbon is behind date in 
many details, and in some departments of importance, simply 
signifies that we and our fathers have not lived in an 
absolutely incompetent world. But in the main things he is 
still our master, above and beyond " date ". It is needless 
to dwell on the obvious qualities which secure to him im- 
munity from the common lot of historical writers, — such as 
the bold and certain measure of his progress through the ages ; 
his accurate vision, and his tact in managing perspective; his 
discreet reserves of judgment and timely scepticism; the 
immortal affectation of his unique manner. By virtue of 
these superiorities he can defy the danger with which the 
activity of successors must always threaten the worthies of 
the past. But there is another point which was touched on in 
an earlier page and to which here, in a different connexion, 
we may briefly revert. It is well to realize that the greatest 
history of modern times was written by one in whom a dis- 
trust of enthusiasm was deeply rooted. 33 This cynicism was 
not inconsistent with partiality, with definite prepossessions, 
with a certain spite. In fact it supplied the antipathy 
which the artist infused when he mixed his most effective 
colours. The conviction that enthusiasm is inconsistent with 
intellectual balance was engrained in his mental constitu- 

33 And who regarded history as "little more than the register of the crimes, 
follies and misfortunes of mankind " (see below, p. 77). 


tion, and confirmed by study and experience. It might be 
reasonably maintained that zeal for men or causes is an 
historian's marring, and that " reserve sympathy " — the 
principle of Thucydides — is the first lesson he has to learn. 
But without venturing on any generalization we must 
consider Gibbon's zealous distrust of zeal as an essential 
and most suggestive characteristic of the " Decline and 





The Extent and Military Force of the Empire in the Age of the 


In the second century of the Christian ./Era, the empire of Rome introduction 
comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most 
civilized portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive 
monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined 
valour. The gentle, but powerful, influence of laws and manners 
had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their 
peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of 
wealth and luxury. The image of a free constitution was 
preserved with decent reverence. The Roman senate appeared 
to possess the sovereign authority, and devolved on the em- 
perors all the executive powers of government. During a 
happy period of more than fourscore years, the public adminis- a.d. 9&.180 
tration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, 
Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. It is the design of 
this and of the two succeeding chapters, to describe the prosper- 
ous condition of their empire ; and afterwards, from the death 
of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circum- 
stances of its decline and fall : a revolution which will ever be 
remembered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth. 

The principal conquests of the Romans were achieved under Moderation 
the republic ; and the emperors, for the most part, were satisfied o1 **** 
with preserving those dominions which had been acquired by 
the policy of the senate, the active emulation of the consuls, and 
the martial enthusiasm of the people. The seven first centuries 
were filled with a rapid succession of triumphs ; but it was 
reserved for Augustus to relinquish the ambitious design of 

1 VOL. I. 


subduing the whole earth, and to introduce a spirit of moderation 
into the public councils. Inclined to peace by his temper and 
situation, it was easy for him to discover that Rome, in her 
present exalted situation, had much less to hope than to fear 
from the chance of arms ; and that, in the prosecution of remote 
wars, the undertaking became every day more difficult, the 
event more doubtful, and the possession more precarious and 
less beneficial. The experience of Augustus added weight to 
these salutary reflections, and effectually convinced him that, by 
the prudent vigour of his counsels, it would be easy to secure 
every concession which the safety or the dignity of Rome might 
require from the most formidable barbarians. Instead of expos- 
ing his person and his legions to the arrows of the Parthians, 
he obtained, by an honourable treaty, the restitution of the 
standards and prisoners which had been taken in the defeat 
of Crassus. 1 

His generals, in the early part of his reign, attempted the 
reduction of ^Ethiopia and Arabia Felix. They marched near 
a thousand miles to the south of the tropic ; but the heat of the 
climate soon repelled the invaders and protected the unwarlike 
natives of those sequestered regions. 2 The northern countries 
of Europe scarcely deserved the expense and labour of conquest. 
The forests and morasses of Germany were filled with a hardy 
race of barbarians, who despised life when it was separated from 
freedom ; and though, on the first attack, they seemed to yield 
to the weight of the Roman power, they soon, by a signal act of 
despair, regained their independence, and reminded Augustus of 
the vicissitude of fortune. 3 On the death of that emperor his 
testament was publicly read in the senate. He bequeathed, as 
a valuable legacy to his successors, the advice of confining the 
empire within those limits which nature seemed to have placed 

1 Dion Cassius (1. liv. p. 736 [8]) with the annotations of Reimar, who as 
collected all that Roman vanity has left upon the subject. The marble of Ancyra, 
on which Augustus recorded his own exploits, asserts that he compelled the Parthians 
to restore the ensigns of Crassus. 

2 Strabo (1. xvi. p. 780), Pliny the elder (Hist. Natur. 1. vi. 32, 35 [28, 29]) 
and Dion Cassius (1. liii. p. 723 [29], and 1. liv. p. 734 [6] ) have left us very 
curious details concerning these wars. The Romans made themselves masters of 
Mariaba, or Merab, a city of Arabia Felix, well known to the Orientals (see 
Abulfeda and the Nubian geography, p. 52). They were arrived within three 
clays' journey of the Spice country, the rich object of their invasion. [See Momm- 
sen, Romische Geschichte, v. p. 608 sqq.~\ 

3 By the slaughter of Varus and his three legions. See the first book of the 
Annals of Tacitus. Sueton. in August, c. 23, and Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. 
117, &c. Augustus did not receive the melancholy news with all the temper and 
firmness that might have been expected from his character. 


as its permanent bulwarks and boundaries ; on the west the 
Atlantic ocean ; the Rhine and Danube on the north ; the 
Euphrates on the east ; and towards the south the sandy deserts 
of Arabia and Africa. 4 

Happily for the repose of mankind, the moderate system imitated 
recommended by the wisdom of Augustus was adopted by the cessd™" " 
fears and vices of his immediate successors. Engaged in the 
pursuit of pleasure or in the exercise of tyranny, the first Caesars 
seldom showed themselves to the armies, or to the provinces ; 
nor were they disposed to suffer that those triumphs which their 
indolence neglected should be usurped by the conduct and 
valour of their lieutenants. The military fame of a subject was 
considered as an insolent invasion of the Imperial prerogative ; 
and it became the duty, as well as interest, of every Roman 
general, to guard the frontiers intrusted to his care, without as- 
piring to conquests which might have proved no less fatal to 
himself than to the vanquished barbarians. 5 

The only accession which the Roman empire received during conquest 
the first century of the Christian sera was the province of Britain. was r tne 
In this single instance the successors of Caesar and Augustus tion to" 1 ' 
were persuaded to follow the example of the former, rather than 
the precept of the latter. The proximity of its situation to the 
coast of Gaul seemed to invite their arms ; the pleasing, though 
doubtful, intelligence of a peai-1 fishery attracted their avarice ; 6 
and as Britain was viewed in the light of a distinct and insulated 
world, the conquest scarcely formed any exception to the general 
system of continental measures. After a war of about forty 
years, undertaken by the most stupid, 7 maintained by the most 
dissolute, and terminated by the most timid of all the emperors, 

* Tacit. Annal. 1. ii. [i. n], Dion Cassius, 1. lvi. p. 832 [33], and the speech of 
Augustus himself, in Julian's Caesars. It receives great light from the learned 
notes of his French translator, M. Spanheim. 

'Germanicus, Suetonius Paulinus, and Agricola were checked and recalled 
in the course of their victories. Corbulo was put to death. Military merit, as it 
is admirably expressed by Tacitus, was, in the strictest sense of the word, 
imperatoria virtus. 

6 Caesar himself conceals that ignoble motive ; but it is mentioned by Suetonius, 
c. 47. The British pearls proved, however, of little value, on account of their 
dark and livid colour. Tacitus observes, with reason (in Agricola, c. 12), that it 
was an inherent defect. " Ego facilius crediderim, naturam margaritis deesse 
quam nobis avaritiam." 

7 Claudius, Nero, and Domitian. A hope is expressed by Pomponius Mela, 1. 
iii. c. 6 (he wrote under Claudius), that, by the success of the Roman arms, the 
island and its savage inhabitants would soon be better known. It is amusing 
enough to peruse such passages in thu midst of London. 


the far greater part of the island submitted to the Roman yoke. 8 
The various tribes of Britons possessed valour without conduct, 
and the love of freedom without the spirit of union. They took up 
arms with savage fierceness, they laid them down, or turned 
them against each other with wild inconstancy ; and while they 
fought singly, they were successively subdued. Neither the 
fortitude of Caractacus, nor the despair of Boadicea, nor the 
fanaticism of the Druids, could avert the slavery of their country, 
or resist the steady progress of the Imperial generals, who 
maintained the national glory, when the throne was disgraced 
by the weakest or the most vicious of mankind. At the very 
time when Domitian, confined to his palace, felt the terrors 
which he inspired, his legions, under the command of the 
virtuous Agricola, defeated the collected force of the Caledonians 
at the foot of the Grampian hills ; 9 and his fleets, venturing to 
explore an unknown and dangerous navigation, displayed the 
Roman arms round every part of the island. The conquest 
of Britain was considered as already achieved ; and it was the 
design of Agricola to complete and ensure his success by the 
easy reduction of Ireland, for which, in his opinion, one legion 
and a few auxiliaries were sufficient. 10 The western isle might 
be improved into a valuable possession, and the Britons would 
wear their chains with the less reluctance, if the prospect and 
example of freedom was on every side removed from before 
their eyes. 

But the superior merit of Agricola soon occasioned his removal 
from the government of Britain ; and for ever disappointed this 
rational, though extensive, scheme of conquest. Before his 
departure the prudent general had provided for security as well 
as for dominion. He had observed that the island is almost 
divided into two unequal parts by the opposite gulfs or, as they 
are now called, the Friths of Scotland. Across the narrow interval 
of about forty miles he had drawn a line of military stations, 
which was afterwards fortified, in the reign of Antoninus Pius, by 
a turf rampart, erected on foundations of stone. 11 This wall 

8 See the admirable abridgment, given by Tacitus, in the Life of Agricola, and 
copiously, though perhaps not completely, illustrated by our own antiquarians, 
Camden and Horsley. [See Appendix 2.] 

9 [There is no good ground for the identification of mons Graupius with the 
Grampian hills. The date of the battle was 84 or 85 A.D. ; the place is quite 

10 The Irish writers, jealous of their national honour, are extremely provoked on 
this occasion, both with Tacitus and with Agricola. [Agricola's design was not 
carried out because Domitian refused to send the additional legion.] 

11 See Horsley's Britannia Romana. 1. i. c. 10. 


of Antoninus, at a small distance beyond the modern cities of 
Edinburgh and Glasgow, was fixed as the limit of the Roman 
province. The native Caledonians preserved, in the northern ex- 
tremity of the island, their wild independence, for which they 
were not less indebted to their poverty than to their valour. 
Their incursions were frequently repelled and chastised; but 
their country was never subdued. 12 The masters of the fairest 
and most wealthy climates of the globe turned with contempt 
from gloomy hills assailed by the winter tempest, from lakes 
concealed in a blue mist, and from cold and lonely heaths, over 
which the deer of the forest were chased by a troop of naked 
barbarians. 13 

Such was the state of the Roman frontiers, and such the conquest, of 
maxims of Imperial policy, from the death of Augustus to the second Ci - e 
accession of Trajan. That virtuous and active prince had re- fiVTc.vicc] 
ceived the education of a soldier, and possessed the talents of a 
general. 14 The peaceful system of his predecessors was inter- 
rupted by scenes of war and conquest ; and the legions, after a 
long interval, beheld a military emperor at their head. The first 
exploits of Trajan were aga'nst the Dacians. the most warlike of 
men, who dwelt beyond the Danube, and who, during the reign 
of Domitian, had insulted, with impunity, the majesty of Rome. 15 
To the strength and fierceness of barbarians they added a con- 
tempt for life, which was derived from a warm persuasion of the 
immortality and ti-ansmigration of the soul. 16 Decebalus, the 
Dacian king, approved himself a rival not unworthy of Trajan ; 
nor did he despair of his own and the public fortune, till, by the 
confession of his enemies, he had exhausted every resource both 
of valour and policy. 17 This memorable war, with a very short 
suspension of hostilities, lasted five years ; and as the emperor 
could exert, without control, the whole force of the state, it was 
terminated by the absolute submission of the barbarians. 1S The 
new province of Dacia, which formed a second exception to the 

12 The poet Buchanan celebrates, with elegance and spirit (see his Sylvae, v.), 
the unviolated independence of his native country. But, if the single testimony of 
Richard of Cirencester was sufficient to create a Roman province of Vespasiana to 
the north of the wall, that independence would be reduced within very narrow limits. 

13 See Appian (in Procem. [5]) and the uniform imagery of Ossian's poems, 
which, according to every hypothesis, were composed by a native Caledonian. 

14 See Pliny's Panegyric, which seems founded on facts. 

15 Dion Cassius, 1. lxvii. [6 et sqq.]. 

18 Herodotus, 1. iv. c. 94. Julian in the Caesars, with Spanheim's observations. 

17 Plin. Epist. viii. 9. 

18 Dion Cassius, 1. lxviii. p. 1 1123, 1131 [6 and 14]. Julian, in Csesaribus. 
Eutropius, viii. 2, 6. Aurelius Victor in Epitome. [See Appendix 3.] 


precept of Augustus, was about thirteen hundred miles in cir- 
cumference. Its natural boundaries were the Dniester, the 
Theiss, or Tibiscus, the Lower Danube, and the Euxine Sea. 
The vestiges of a military road may still be traced from the 
banks of the Danube to the neighbourhood of Bender, a place 
famous in modem history, and the actual frontier of the Turkish 
and Russian empires. 19 
oenqneati of Trajan was ambitious of fame ; and as long as mankind shall 
cut ' continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than 

on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the 
vice of the most exalted characters. The praises of Alexander, 
transmitted by a succession of poets and historians, had kindled 
a dangerous emulation in the mind of Trajan. Like him, the 
Roman emperor undertook an expedition against the nations 
of the east, but he lamented with a sigh that his advanced age 
scarcely left him any hopes of equalling the renown of the son 
of Philip. 20 Yet the success of Trajan, however transient, 
was rapid and specious. The degenerate Parthians, broken by 
intestine discord, fled before his arms. He descended the 
river Tigris in triumph, from the mountains of Armenia to the 
Persian gulf. He enjoyed the honour of being the first, as he 
was the last, of the Roman generals, who ever navigated that 
remote sea. His fleets ravished the coasts of Arabia ; and 
Trajan vainly flattered himself that he was approaching towards 
the confines of India. a Every day the astonished senate 
received the intelligence of new names and new nations that 
acknowledged his sway. They were informed that the kings 
of Bosphorus, Colchos, Iberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and even the 
Parthian monarch himself, had accepted their diadems from 
the hands of the emperor ; that the independent tribes of the 
Median and Carduchian hills had implored his protection ; and 
that the rich countries of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, 
were reduced into the state of provinces. 22 But the death 
of Trajan soon clouded the splendid prospect ; 23 and it was 

19 See a Memoir of M. d'Anville, on the Province ofDacia, in the Acad£mie 
des Inscriptions, torn, xxviii. ; p. 444-468. 

20 Trajan's sentiments are represented in a very just and lively manner in the 
Caesars of Julian. [The date of the beginning of the Parthian War is 114 a.d.] 

21 Eutropius and Sextus Rufus have endeavoured to perpetuate the illusion. 
See a very sensible dissertation of M. Freret, in the Acad^mie des Inscriptions, 
torn. xxi. p. 55. 

22 Dion Cassius, 1. lxviii. [18 et sqq.~\ ; and the Abbreviators. 

23 [117 A.D. A triumph in honour of this eastern expedition was celebrated 
after the emperor's death. On inscriptions he is called Divus Traianus Parthicus, 
instead of Divus Traianus (Schiller, Gesch. dtr rum. Kaiscrzeit, i. 563).] 


justly to be dreaded that so many distant nations would throw 
off the unaccustomed yoke, when they were no longer restrained 
by the powerful hand which had imposed it. 

It was an ancient tradition that, when the Capitol was founded Resigned by 
by one of the Roman kings, the god Terminus (who presided Hadrian * 80 ' 
over boundaries, and was represented according to the fashion of 
that age by a large stone) alone, among all the inferior deities, 
refused to yield his place to Jupiter himself. A favourable in- 
ference was drawn from his obstinacy, which was interpreted by 
the augurs as a sure presage that the boundaries of the Roman 
power would never recede. 24 During many ages, the predic- 
tion, as it is usual, contributed to its own accomplishment. But 
though Terminus had resisted the majesty of Jupiter, he sub- 
mitted to the authority of the emperor Hadrian. 25 The re- 
signation of all the eastern conquests of Trajan was the first 
measure of his reign. He restored to the Parthians the election 
of an independent sovereign ; withdrew the Roman garrisons from 
the provinces of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria ; and, in 
compliance with the precepts of Augustus, once more established 
the Euphrates as the frontier of the empire. 26 Censure, which 
arraigns the public actions and the private motives of princes, 
has ascribed to envy a conduct which might be attributed to the 
prudence and moderation of Hadrian. The various character of 
that" emperor, capable, by turns, of the meanest and the most 
generous sentiments, may afford some colour to the suspicion. It 
was, however, scarcely in his power to place the superiority of 
his predecessor in a more conspicuous light, than by thus con- 
fessing himself unequal to the task of defending the conquests 
of Trajan. 

The martial and ambitious spirit of Trajan formed a very sin- contrast of 
gular contrast with the moderation of his successor. The restless Antoninus 
activity of Hadrian was not less remarkable when compared with 
the gentle repose of Antoninus Pius. The life of the former 
was almost a perpetual journey ; and as he possessed the various 
talents of the soldier, the statesman, and the scholar, he gratified 
his curiosity in the discharge of his duty. Careless of the dif- 

24 Ovid Fast. 1. ii. ver. 667. See Livy [i. 55] , and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 
under the reign of Tarquin. 

25 St. Augustin is highly delighted with the proof of the weakness of Terminus, 
and the vanity of the Augurs. See De Civitate Dei, iv. 29. [The loss of trans- 
Rhenane Germany was a previous instance of the retreat of Terminus.] 

26 See the Augustan History, p. 5 [i. 9]. Jerome's Chronicle, and all the 
Epitomisers. It is somewhat surprising, that this memorable event should be 
omitted by Dion, or rather by Xiphilin. [See Appendix 3. 



ference of seasons and of climates, he marched on foot, and bare- 
headed, over the snows of Caledonia, and the sultry plains of the 
Upper Egypt ; nor was there a province of the empire which, in 
the course of his reign, was not honoured with the presence of 
the monarch. 27 But the tranquil life of Antoninus Pius was spent 
in the bosom of Italy ; and, during the twenty-three years that 
he directed the public administration, the longest journeys of 
that amiable prince extended no farther than from his palace 
in Rome to the retirement of his Lanuvian villa. 28 
Padiicjys- Notwithstanding this difference in their personal conduct, the 

drtan a D d the general system of Augustus was equally adopted and uniformly 
luces * pursued by Hadrian and by the two Antonines. They persisted 
in the design of maintaining the dignity of the empire, without 
attempting to enlarge its limits. By every honourable expedient 
they invited the friendship of the barbarians ; and endeavoured 
to convince mankind that the Roman power, raised above the 
temptation of conquest, was actuated only by the love of order 
and justice. During a long period of forty-three years their 
virtuous labours were crowned with success ; and, if we except a 
few slight hostilities that served to exercise the legions of the 
frontier, the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius offer the fair 
prospect of universal peace. 29 The Roman name was revered 
among the most remote nations of the earth. The fiercest 
barbarians frequently submitted their differences to the arbitra- 
tion of the emperor ; and we are informed by a contemporary 
historian that he had seen ambassadors who were refused the 
honour which they came to solicit, of being admitted into the 
rank of subjects. 30 
Defensive The terror of the Roman arms added weight and dignity to 

MarensAn- the moderation of the emperors. They preserved peace by a 
constant preparation for war ; and while justice regulated their 
conduct, they announced to the nations on their confines that 

2 7 Dion, 1. Ixix. p. 115 [9]. Hist. August, p. 5, 8 [i. 10 and 16]. If all our 
historians were lost, medals, inscriptions, and other monuments, would be 
sufficient to record the travels of Hadrian. [See Diirr, Die Reisen des Kaisers 
Hadrian, 1881.] 

28 See the Augustan History and the Epitomes. [Date : 138-161 A.D.] 

29 We must, however, remember that, in the time of Hadrian, a rebellion of 
the Jews raged with religious fury, though only in a single province. Pausanias 
(1. viii. c. 43), mentions two necessary and successful wars, conducted by the 
generals of Pius. 1st, Against the wandering Moors, who were driven into the 
solitudes of Atlas. 2d, Against the Brigantes of Britain, who had invaded the 
Roman province. Both these wars (with several other hostilities) are mentioned 
in the Augustan History, p. 19 [ii. 5} 

30 Appian of Alexandria, in the preface to his History of the Roman Wars [7] . 


they were as little disposed to endure as to offer an injury. The 
military strength, which it had been sufficient for Hadrian and 
the elder Antoninus to display, was exerted against the Parthians 
and the Germans by the emperor Marcus. The hostilities of 
the barbarians provoked the resentment of that philosophic 
monarch, and, in the prosecution of a just defence, Marcus and 
his generals obtained many signal victories, both on the Euphrates 
and on the Danube. 31 The military establishment of the Roman 
empire, which thus assured either its tranquillity or success, will 
now become the proper and important object of our attention. 

In the purer ages of the commonwealth, the use of arms was Military 
reserved for those ranks of citizens who had a country to love, a *' the Bomu 
property to defend, and some share in enacting those laws which empero^, 
it was their interest, as well as duty, to maintain. But in 
proportion as the public freedom was lost in extent of conquest, 
war was gradually improved into an art, and degraded into 
a trade. 32 The legions themselves, even at the time when they 
were recruited in the most distant provinces, were supposed 
to consist of Roman citizens. That distinction was generally 
considered either as a legal qualification or as a proper recom- 
pense for the soldier ; but a more serious regard was paid to the 
essential merit of age, strength, and military stature. 33 In 
all levies, a just preference was given to the climates of the 
north over those of the south ; the race of men born to the 
exercise of arms was sought for in the country rather than in 
cities, and it was very reasonably presumed that the hardy 
occupations of smiths, carpenters, and huntsmen would supply 
more vigour and resolution than the sedentaiy trades which are 
employed in the service of luxury. 34 After every qualification of 
property had been laid aside, the armies of the Roman emperors 
were still commanded, for the most part, by officers of a liberal 
birth and education; but the common soldiers, like the mercenary 

31 Dion, 1. lxxi. Hist. August, in Marco [iv. 9, 12, 17, 20, 22, &c.]. The Parthian 
victories gave birth to a crowd of contemptible historians, whose memory has been 
rescued from oblivion, and exposed to ridicule, in a very lively piece of criticism of 

32 The poorest rank of soldiers possessed above forty pounds sterling (Dionys. 
Halicarn. iv. 17), a very high qualification, at a time when money was so scarce, 
that an ounce of silver was equivalent to seventy pound weight of brass. The 
populace, excluded by the ancient constitution, were indiscriminately admitted 
by Marius. See Sallust. de Bell. Jugurth. c. 91 [86]. 

33 Caesar formed his legion Alauda of Gauls and strangers ; but it was during 
the licence of civil war ; and after the victory he gave them the freedom of the 
city, for their reward. [It was really formed, B.C. 55 ; Suetonius, Jul. 24.] 

81 See Vegetius de Re Militari, 1. i. c. 2-7. 


troops of modern Europe, were drawn from the meanest, and 
very frequently from the most profligate, of mankind. 
Difdpiiiu That public virtue, which among the ancients was denominated 

patriotism, is derived from a strong sense of our own interest in 
the preservation and prosperity of the free government of which 
we are members. Such a sentiment, which had rendered the 
legions of the republic almost invincible, could make but a 
very feeble impression on the mercenary servants of a despotic 
prince ; and it became necessary to supply that defect by other 
motives, of a different, but not less forcible nature, — honour 
and religion. The peasant, or mechanic, imbibed the useful 
prejudice that he was advanced to the more dignified profession 
of arms, in which his rank and reputation would depend on his 
own valour ; and that, although the prowess of a private soldier 
must often escape the notice of fame, his own behaviour might 
sometimes confer glory or disgrace on the company, the legion, 
or even the army, to whose honours he was associated. On his 
first entrance into the service, an oath was administered to him 
with every circumstance of solemnity. He promised never to 
desert his standard, to submit his own will to the commands of 
his leaders, and to sacrifice his life for the safety of the emperor 
and the empire. 35 The attachment of the Roman troops to 
their standards was inspired by the united influence of religion 
and of honour. The golden eagle, which glittered in the front 
of the legion, was the object of their fondest devotion ; nor was 
it esteemed less impious than it was ignominious, to abandon 
that sacred ensign in the hour of danger. 36 These motives, 
which derived their strength from the imagination, were en- 
forced by fears and hopes of a more substantial kind. Regular 
pay, occasional donatives, and a stated recompense, after the 
appointed term of service, alleviated the hardships of the 
military life, 37 whilst, on the other hand, it was impossible for 

3' The oath of service and fidelity to the emperor was annually renewed by 
the troops, on the first of January. 

36 Tacitus calls the Roman Eagles, Bellorum Deos. They were placed in a 
chapel in the camp, and with the other deities received the religious worship of 
the troops. 

37 See Gronovius de Pecunia vetere, 1. iii. p. 120, &c. The emperor Domitian 
raised the annual stipend of the legionaries to twelve pieces of gold, which, in 
his time, was equivalent to about ten of our guineas. This pay, somewhat 
higher than our own, had been, and was afterwards, gradually increased, accord- 
ing to the progress of wealth and military government. After twenty years' 
service, the veteran received three thousand denarii (about one hundred pounds 
sterling), or a proportionable allowance of land. The pay and advani^cs oi the 
guards were, in general, about double those of the legions. 


cowardice or disobedience to escape the severest punishment. 
The centurions were authorized to chastise with blows, the 
generals had a right to punish with death ; and it was an inflex- 
ible maxim of Roman discipline, that a good soldier should 
dread his officers far more than the enemy. From such laudable 
arts did the valour of the Imperial troops receive a degree of 
firmness and docility, unattainable by the impetuous and ir- 
regular passions of barbarians. 

And yet so sensible were the Romans of the imperfection of Exercises 
valour without skill and practice, that, in their language, the 
name of an army was borrowed from the word which signified 
exercise. 3S Military exercises were the important and unre- 
mitted object of their discipline. The recruits and young- 
soldiers were constantly trained, both in the morning and m 
the evening, nor was age or knowledge allowed to excuse the 
veterans from the daily repetition of what they had completely 
learnt. Large sheds were erected in the winter-quarters of the 
troops, that their useful labours might not receive any interrup- 
tion from the most tempestuous weather; and it was carefully 
observed, that the arms destined to this imitation of war should 
be of double the weight which was required in real action. 39 
It is not the purpose of this work to enter into any minute 
description of the Roman exercises. We shall only remark that 
they comprehended whatever could add strength to the body, 
activity to the limbs, or grace to the motions. The soldiers 
were diligently instructed to march, to run, to leap, to swim, 
to carry heavy burdens, to handle every species of arms that 
was used either for offence or for defence, either in distant 
engagement or in a closer onset ; to form a variety of evolutions; 
and to move to the sound of flutes in the Pyrrhic or martial dance. 40 
In the midst of peace, the Roman troops familiarised themselves 
with the practice of war ; and it is prettily remarked by an 
ancient historian who had fought against them, that the 
effusion of blood was the only circumstance which distinguished 
a field of battle from a field of exercise. 41 It was the policy 

38 Exercitus ab exercitando, Varro de Lingua Latina, 1. iv. [v 87 ed. L. Miiller]. 
Cicero in Tusculan, 1. ii. 37. There is room for a very interesting work, which 
should lay open the connexion between the languages and manners of nations. 

39 Vegetius, 1. i. c. u, and the rest of his first book. 

40 The Pyrrhic Dance is extremely well illustrated by M. le Beau, in the 
Acad^mie des Inscriptions, torn. xxxv. p. 262, &c. That learned academician, 
in a series of memoirs, has collected all the passages of the ancients that relate 
to the Roman legion. 

4:1 Joseph, de Bell. Judaico, 1. iii. c. 5. We are indebted to this Jew for some 
very curious details 01 Roman discipline. 


of the ablest generals, and even of the emperors themselves, to 
encourage these military studies by their presence and example ; 
and we are informed that Hadrian, as well as Trajan, frequently 
condescended to instruct the inexperienced soldiers, to reward 
the diligent, and sometimes to dispute with them the prize of 
superior strength or dexterity. 42 Under the reigns of those 
princes, the science of tactics was cultivated with success ; and 
as long as the empire retained any vigour, their military 
instructions were respected as the most perfect model of Roman 
Thciegiom Nine centuries of war had gradually introduced into the service 
amporon man}' alterations and improvements. The legions, as they are 
described by Polybius, 43 in the time of the Punic wars, differed 
very materially from those which achieved the victories of 
Caesar, or defended the monarchy of Hadrian and the Antonines. 
The constitution of the Imperial legion may be described in a 
few words. 44 The heavy armed infantry, which composed 
its principal strength, 45 was divided into ten cohorts, and 
fifty-five companies, under the orders of a correspondent number 
of tribunes and centurions. The first cohort, which always 
claimed the post of honour and the custody of the eagle, 
was formed of eleven hundred and five soldiers, the most ap- 
proved for valour and fidelity. The remaining nine cohorts 
consisted each of five hundred and fifty-five ; and the whole 
body of legionary infantry amounted to six thousand one hundred 
Ami men. Their arms were uniform, and admirably adapted to the 

nature of their service : an open helmet, with a lofty crest ; a 
breast-plate, or coat of mail ; greaves on their legs, and an 
ample buckler on their left arm. The buckler was of an oblong 
and concave figure, four feet in length, and two and a half in 
breadth, framed of a light wood, covered with a bull's hide, and 
strongly guarded with plates of brass. Besides a lighter spear, 
the legionary soldier grasped in his right hand the formidable 
pilum, a ponderous javelin, whose utmost length was about six 

42 Plin. Panegyr. c. 13. Life of Hadrian, in the Augustan History [i. 14]. 

43 See an admirable digression on the Roman discipline, in the sixth book of 
his history [19-42]. 

44 Vegetius de Re Militari, 1. ii. c. 5, &c. Considerable part of his very perplexed 
abridgment was taken from the regulations of Trajan and Hadrian ; and the 
legion, as he describes it, cannot suit any other age of the Roman empire. 

45 Vegetius de Re Militari, 1. ii. c. 1. In the purer age of Caesar and Cicero, 
the word miles was almost confined to the infantry. Under the Lower Empire, 
and in the times of chivalry, it was appropriated almost as exclusively to the men 
at arms, who fought on horseback. [This account of the army demands some 
corrections. See Appendix 4.] 


feet, and which was terminated by a massy triangular point of 
steel of eighteen inches. 46 This instrument was indeed much 
inferior to our modern fire-arms ; since it was exhausted by a 
single discharge, at the distance of only ten or twelve paces. 
Yet, when it was launched by a firm and skilful hand, there was 
not any cavalry that durst venture within its reach, nor any 
shield or corslet that could sustain the impetuosity of its weight. 
As soon as the Roman had darted his pilum, he drew his sword, 
and rushed forwards to close with the enemy. It was a short 
well-tempered Spanish blade, that carried a double edge, and 
was alike suited to the purpose of striking or of pushing ; but 
the soldier was always instructed to prefer the latter use of his 
weapon, as his own body remained less exposed, whilst he 
inflicted a more dangerous wound on his adversary. 47 The 
legion was usually drawn up eight deep ; and the regular dis- 
tance of three feet was left between the files as well as ranks. 48 
A body of troops, habituated to preserve this open order, in a 
long front and a rapid charge, found themselves prepared to 
execute every disposition which the circumstances of war, or the 
skill of their leader, might suggest. The soldier possessed a free 
space for his arms and motions, and sufficient intervals were 
allowed, through which seasonable reinforcements might be 
introduced to the relief of the exhausted combatants. 49 The 
tactics of the Greeks and Macedonians were formed on very 
different principles. The strength of the phalanx depended on 
sixteen ranks of long pikes, wedged together in the closest 
array. 50 But it was soon discovered, by reflection as well as by 
the event, that the strength of the phalanx was unable to 
contend with the activity of the legion. 51 

The cavalry, without which the force of the legion would have cavalry 
remained imperfect, was divided into ten troops or squadrons ; 
the first, as the companion of the first cohort, consisted of an 
hundred and thirty-two men ; whilst each of the other nine 
amounted only to sixty-six. The entire establishment formed a 

46 In the time of Polybius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1. v. c. 45) the steel 
point of the pilum seems to have been much longer. In the time of Yegetius 
it was reduced to a foot or even nine inches. I have chosen a medium. 

47 For the legionary arms, see Lipsius de Militia Romana., 1. iii. c. 2-7. 

48 See the beautiful comparison of Virgil, Georgic. ii. v. 279. 

49 M. Guichard, Mdmoires Militaires, torn. i. c. 4, and Nouveaux M^moires, 
torn. i. p. 293-311, has treated the. subject like a scholar and an officer. 

50 See Arrian's Tactics [12]. With the true partiality of a Greek, Arrian rather 
chose to describe the phalanx of which he had read, than the legions which he 
had commanded. 

51 Polyb. 1. xvii. [xviii. 15]. 


regiment, if we may use the modem expression, of seven hundred 
and twenty-six horse, naturally connected with its respective 
legion, but occasionally separated to act in the line, and to com- 
pose a part of the wings of the army. 52 The cavalry of the emperors 
was no longer composed, like that of the ancient republic, of the 
noblest youths of Rome and Italy, who, by performing their mili- 
tary service on horseback, prepared themselves for the offices of 
senator and consul ; and solicited, by deeds of valour, the future 
suiTrages of their countrymen. 53 Since the alteration of manners 
and government, the most wealthy of the equestrian order were 
engaged in the administration of justice, and of the revenue ; 64 
and whenever they embraced the profession of arms, they were 
immediately intrusted with a troop of horse, or a cohort of foot. 55 
Trajan and Hadrian formed their cavalry from the same pro- 
vinces, and the same class of their subjects, which recruited the 
ranks of the legion. The horses were bred, for the most part, in 
Spain or Cappadocia. The Roman troopers despised the complete 
armour with which the cavalry of the East was encumbered. 
Their more useful arms consisted in a helmet, an oblong shield, 
light boots, and a coat of mail. A javelin, and a long broad 
sword, were their principal weapons of offence. The use of 
lances and of iron maces they seemed to have borrowed from 
the barbarians. 56 

The safety and honour of the empire was principally intrusted 
to the legions, bat the policy of Rome condescended to adopt 
every useful instrument of war. Considerable levies were regu- 
larly made among the provincials, who had not yet deserved the 
honourable distinction of Romans. Many dependent princes 
and communities, dispersed round the frontiers, were permitted, 
for a while, to hold their freedom and security by the tenure of 
military service. 57 Even select troops of hostile barbarians were 

B2 Veget. de Re Militari, 1. ii. c. 6. His positive testimony, which might be 
supported by circumstantial evidence, ought surely to silence those critics who 
refuse the Imperial legion its proper body of cavalry. [But his testimony must 
be treated with great caution.] 

53 See Livy almost throughout, particularly xlii. 6r. 

64 Plin. Hist. Natur. xxxiii. 2. The true sense of that very curious passage 
was first discovered and illustrated by M. de Beaufort, Republique Romaine, 1. 
ii. c. 2. 

35 As in the instance of Horace and Agricola, This appears to have been a 
defect in the Roman discipline; which Hadrian endeavoured to remedy by 
ascertaining the legal age of a tribune. [For the equites, compare Mommsen, Staats- 
recht, iii. 476-569.] 

66 See Arrian's Tactics [4]. 

67 Such, in particular, was the state of the Batavians. Tacit. Germania, c. 29. 


frequently compelled or persuaded to consume their dangerous 
valour in remote climates, and for the benefit of the state. 58 All 
these were included under the general name of auxiliaries ; and 
howsoever they might vary according to the difference of times 
and circumstances, then - numbers were seldom much inferior to 
those of the legions themselves. 59 Among the auxiliaries, the 
bravest and most faithful bands were placed under the command 
of praefects and centurions, and severely trained in the arts of 
Roman discipline ; but the far greater part retained those arms, 
to which the nature of their country, or their early habits of life, 
more peculiarly adapted them. By this institution, each legion, 
to whom a certain proportion of auxiliaries was allotted, contained 
within itself every species of lighter troops, and of missile 
weapons ; and was capable of encountering every nation with 
the advantages of its respective arms and discipline. 00 Nor was 
the legion destitute of what, in modern language, would be 
styled a train of artillery. It consisted in ten military engines Artillery 
of the largest, and fifty-five of a smaller size ; but all of which, 
either in an oblique or horizontal manner, discharged stones and 
darts with irresistible violence. 61 

The camp of a Roman legion presented the appearance of a Encampment 
fortified city. 62 As soon as the space was marked out, the 
pioneers carefully levelled the ground, and removed every im- 
pediment that might interrupt its perfect regularity. Its form 
was an exact quadrangle ; and we may calculate, that a square 
of about seven hundred yards was sufficient for the encampment 
of twenty thousand Romans ; though a similar number of our 
own troops would expose to the enemy a front of more than 
treble that extent. In the midst of the camp, the praetorium, 

58 Marcus Antoninus obliged the vanquished Quadi and Marcomanni to 
supply him with a large body of troops, which he immediately sent into Britain. 
Dion Cassius, 1. lxxi. [16]. 

69 Tacit. Annal. iv. 5. Those who fix a regular proportion of as many loot, 
and twice as many horse, confound the auxiliaries of the emperors with the Italian 
allies of the republic. [See Appendix 4.] 

60 Vegetius, ii. 2. Arrian, in his order of march and battle against the Alani. 

61 The subject of the ancient machines is treated with great knowledge and 
ingenuity by the Chevalier Folard (Polybe, torn. ii. p. 233-290). He prefers them 
in many respects to our modern cannon and mortars. We may observe that 
the use of them in the field gradually became more prevalent, in proportion as 
personal valour and military skill declined with the Roman empire. When men 
were no longer found, their place was supplied by machines. See Vegetius, ii. 25. 

62 Vegetius finishes his second book, and the description of the legion, with 
the following emphatic words: " Universa quag in quoque belli genere necessaria 
esse creduntur, secum legio debet ubique portare, ut in quovis loco fixerit castra, 
armatam faciat civitatem". 


or general's quarters, rose above the others ; the cavalry, the 
infantry, and the auxiliaries occupied their respective stations ; 
the streets were broad and perfectly straight, and a vacant space 
of two hundred feet was left on all sides, between the tents and 
the rampart. The rampart itself was usually twelve feet high, 
armed with a line of strong and intricate palisades, and defended 
by a ditch of twelve feet in depth as well as in breadth. This 
important labour was performed by the hands of the legionaries 
themselves ; to whom the use of the spade and the pick-axe was 
no less familiar than that of the sword or pilum. Active valour 
may often be the present of nature ; but such patient diligence 
can be the fruit only of habit and discipline. 63 
M«xch; Whenever the trumpet gave the signal of departure, the camp 

was almost instantly broken up, and the troops fell into their 
ranks without delay or confusion. Besides their arms, which 
the legionaries scarcely considered as an encumbrance, they 
were laden with their kitchen furniture, the instruments of 
fortification, and the provision of many days. 64 Under this 
weight, which would oppress the delicacy of a modern soldier, 
they were trained by a regular step to advance, in about six 
hours, near twenty miles. 65 On the appearance of an enemy, 
they threw aside their baggage, and, by easy and rapid evolu- 
tions, converted the column of march into an order of battle. 66 
The slingers and archers skirmished in the front ; the auxiliaries 
formed the first line, and were seconded or sustained by the 
strength of the legions ; the cavalry covered the flanks, and 
the military engines were placed in the rear. 
Number &nd Such were the arts of war, by which the Roman emperors 
/&"iegionj defended their extensive conquests, and preserved a military 
spirit, at a time when every other virtue was oppressed by luxury 
and despotism. If, in the consideration of their armies, we 
pass from their discipline to their numbers, we shall not find it 
easy to define them with any tolerable accuracy. We may 
compute, however, that the legion, which was itself a body of six 
thousand eight hundred and thirty-one Romans, might, with its 
attendant auxiliaries, amount to about twelve thousand five 

83 For the Roman Castrametation, see Polybius, 1. vi. [27 et sqq.~\ with Lipsius 
de Militia Romana, Joseph, de Bell. Jud. 1. iii. c. 5. Vegetius, i. 21-25, "'• 9> an ^ 
Ivlgmoires de Guichard, torn. i. c. 1. 

M Cicero in Tusculan, ii. 37 [16]. — Joseph, de Bell. Jud. 1. iii. 5. Frontinus, iv. 1. 

ffi Vegetius, i. 9. See Me'moires de l'Acadgmie des Inscriptions, torn. xxv. p. 

66 See those evolutions admirably well explained by M, Guichard, Nouveau* 
Memoires, torn. i. p. 141-234. 


hundred men. The peace establishment of Hadrian and his 
successors was composed of no less than thirty of these formidable 
brigades ; and most probably formed a standing force of three 
hundred and seventy-five thousand men. Instead of being 
confined within the walls of fortified cities, which the Romans 
considered as the refuge of weakness or pusillanimity, the legions 
were encamped on the banks of the great rivers, and along the 
frontiers of the barbarians. As their stations, for the most part, 
remained fixed and permanent, we may venture to describe the 
distribution of the troops. Three legions were sufficient for 
Britain. The principal strength lay upon the Rhine and 
Danube, and consisted of sixteen legions, in the following pro- 
portions ; two in the Lower, and three in the Upper Germany ; 
one in Rhaetia, one in Noricum, four in Pannonia, three in Maesia, 
and two in Dacia. The defence of the Euphrates was intrusted 
to eight legions, six of whom were planted in Syria, and the other 
two in Cappadocia. With regard to Egypt, Africa and Spain, as 
they were far removed from any important scene of war, a single 
legion maintained the domestic tranquillity of each of those 
great pi'ovinces. Even Italy was not left destitute of a military 
force. Above twenty thousand chosen soldiers, distinguished 
by the titles of City Cohorts and Praetorian Guards, watched 
over the safety of the monarch and the capital. As the authors 
of almost every revolution that distracted the empire, the 
Praetorians will very soon and very loudly demand our attention ; 
but, in their arms and institutions, we cannot find any circum- 
stance which discriminated them from the legions, unless it 
were a more splendid appearance, and a less rigid discipline. 67 

The navy maintained by the emperors might seem inadequate Navy 
to their greatness ; but it was fully sufficient for every useful 
purpose of government. The ambition of the Romans was con- 
fined to the land ; nor was that warlike people ever actuated 
by the enterprising spirit which had prompted the navigators of 
Tyre, of Carthage, and even of Marseilles, to enlarge the bounds 
of the world, and to explore the most remote coasts of the ocean. 
To the Romans the ocean remained an object of terror rather 
than of curiosity ; 6S the whole extent of the Mediterranean, 

67 Tacitus (Annal. iv. 5) has given us a state of the legions under Tiberius; 
and Dion Cassius (1. Iv. p. 794 [23] ) under Alexander Severus. I have en- 
deavoured to fix on the proper medium between these two periods. See likewise 
. Lipsius do Magnitudine Romana, 1. i. c. 4, 5. [On the author's procedure here, 
see Appendix 4. On the Praetorian Guards see below, p. 104.] 

68 The Romans tried to disguise, by the pretence of religious awe, their 
, ignorance and terror. See Tacit. Germania, c. 34. 

2 VOL. I. 



Amount of 
the whole 

View of the 
provinces of 

the Ho man 

after the destruction of Carthage and the extirpation of the 
pirates, was included within their provinces. The policy of the 
emperors was directed only to preserve the peaceful dominion of 
that sea, and to protect the commerce of their subjects. With 
these moderate views, Augustus stationed two permanent fleets 
In the most convenient ports of Italy, the one at Ravenna, on the 
Adriatic, the other at Misenum, in the bay of Naples. Experi- 
ence seems at length to have convinced the ancients that, 
as soon as their galleys exceeded two, or at the most three 
ranks of oars, they were suited rather for vain pomp than for 
real service. Augustus himself, in the victory of Actium, had 
seen the superiority of his own light frigates (they were called 
Liburnians) over the lofty but unwieldy castles of his rival. 69 
Of these Liburnians he composed the two fleets of Ravenna and 
Misenum, destined to command, the one the eastern, the other 
the western division of the Mediterranean ; and to each of the 
squadrons he attached a body of several thousand marines. 
Besides these two ports, which may be considered as the prin- 
cipal seats of the Roman navy, a very considerable force was 
stationed at Frejus, on the coast of Provence, and the Euxine 
was guarded by forty ships, and three thousand soldiers. To all 
these we add the fleet which preserved the communication be- 
tween Gaul and Britain, and a great number of vessels con- 
stantly maintained on the Rhine and Danube, to harass the 
countiy, or to intercept the passage of the barbarians. 70 If we 
review this general state of the Imperial forces, of the cavalry as 
well as infantry, of the legions, the auxiliaries, the guards, 
and the navy, the most liberal computation will not allow us to 
fix the entire establishment by sea and by land at more than 
four hundred and fifty thousand men : a military power which, 
however formidable it may seem, was equalled by a monarch of 
the last century, v/hose kingdom was confined within a single 
province of the Roman empire. 71 

We have attempted to explain the spirit which moderated, 
and the strength which supported, the power of Hadrian and 
the Antonines. We shall now endeavour, with clearness and 
precision, to describe the provinces once united under their 

09 Plutarch, in Marc. Anton [66] . And yet if we may credit Orosius, these 
monstrous castles were no more than ten feet above the water, vi. 19. [They had 
two ranks of oars.] 

70 See Lipsius, de Magnitud. Rom. 1. i. c. 5. The sixteen last chapters of 
Vegetius relate to naval affairs. [See Appendix 5.] 

71 Voltaire, Siecle de Louis XIV. c. 29. It must, however, be remembered, 
that France still feels that extraordinary effort. 


sway, but, at present, divided into so many independent and 
hostile states. 72 

Spain, the western extremity of the empire, of Europe, and span. 
of the ancient world, has, in every age, invariably preserved 
the same natural limits ; the Pyrenean mountains, the Mediter- 
ranean, and the Atlantic Ocean. That great peninsula, at 
present so unequally divided between two sovereigns, was 
distributed by Augustus into three provinces, Lusitania, Baetica, 
and Tarraconensis. 73 The kingdom of Portugal now fills the place 
of the warlike country of the Lusitanians; and the loss sustained 
by the former, on the side of the East, is compensated by an 
accession of territory towards the North. The confines of 
Grenada and Andalusia correspond with those of ancient Baetica. 
The remainder of Spain — Gallicia, and the Asturias, Biscay, and 
Navarre, Leon, and the two Castilles, Murcia, Valencia, Catalonia, 
and Arragon, — all contributed to form the third and most con- 
siderable of the Roman governments, which, from the name of 
its capital, was styled the province of Tarragona. 74 Of the 
native barbarians, the Celtiberians were the most powerful, as 
the Cantabrians and Asturians proved the most obstinate. Con- 
fident in the strength of their mountains, they were the last who 
submitted to the arms of Rome, and the first who threw off the 
yoke of the Arabs. 

Ancient Gaul, as it contained the whole country between theGani 
Pyrenees, the Alps, the Rhine, and the Ocean, was of greater 
extent than modern France. To the dominions of that powerful 
monarchy, with its recent acquisitions of Alsace and Lorraine, 
we must add the duchy of Savoy, the cantons of Switzerland, the 
four electorates of the Rhine, and the territories of Liege, Lux- 
emburg, Hainault, Flanders and Brabant. When Augustus gave 
laws to the conquests of his father, he introduced a division of 
Gaul equally adapted to the progress of the legions, to the 
course of the rivers, and to the principal national distinctions, 
which had comprehended above an hundred independent states. 75 

73 [This list of the provinces is incomplete. For full list see Appendix 6.] 

73 [Baetica was divided from Tarraconensis by the saltus Castutonensis.] 

74 See Strabo, 1. ii. [Rather iii. p. 166.] It is natural enough to suppose, that 
Arragon is derived from Tarraconensis, and several moderns who have written in 
Latin use those words as synonymous. It is, however, certain, that the Arragon, 
a little stream which falls from the Pyrenees into the Ebro, first gave its name to 
a country, and gradually to a kingdom. See dAnville, Geographie du Moyen 
Age, p. 181. 

76 One hundred and fifteen cities appear in the Notitia of Gaul ; and it is well 
known that this appellation was applied not only to the capital town, but to the 
whole territory of each state. But Plutarch and Appian increase the number of 
tribes to three or four hundred. 


The sea-coast of the Mediterranean, Languedoc, Provence, and 
Dauphine, received their provincial appellation from the colony 
of Narbonne. The government of Aquitaine was extended from 
the Pyrenees to the Loire. The country between the Loire and 
the Seine was styled the Celtic Gaul, and soon borrowed a new 
denomination from the celebrated colony of Lugdunum, or Lyons. 
The Belgic lay beyond the Seine, and in more ancient times had 
been bounded only by the Rhine ; but a little before the age of 
Caesar, the Germans, abusing their superiority of valour, had 
occupied a considerable portion of the Belgic territory. The 
Roman conquerors very eagerly embraced so flattering a circum- 
stance, and the Gallic frontier of the Rhine, from Basil to 
Leyden, received the pompous names of the Upper and the 
Lower Germany. 76 Such, under the reign of the Antonines, 
were the six provinces of Gaul ; the Narbonnese, Aquitaine, 
the Celtic, or Lyonnese, the Belgic, and the two Germanies. 

We have already had occasion to mention the conquest of 
Britain, and to fix the boundary of the Roman province in this 
island. It comprehended all England, Wales, and the Lowlands 
of Scotland, as far as the Friths of Dumbarton and Edinburgh. 
Before Britain lost her freedom, the country was irregularly 
divided between thirty tribes of barbarians, of whom the most 
considerable were the Belgae in the West, the Brigantes in the 
North, the Silures in South Wales, and the Iceni in Norfolk and 
Suffolk. 77 As far as we can either trace or credit the resemblance 
of manners and language, Spain, Gaul and Britain were peopled 
by the same hardy race of savages. Before they yielded to the 
Roman arms, they often disputed the field, and often renewed 
the contest. After their submission they constituted the 
western division of the European provinces, which extended 
from the columns of Hercules to the wall of Antoninus, 7S and 
from the mouth of the Tagus to the sources of the Rhine and 

Before the Roman conquest, the country which is now called 
Lombardy was not considered as a part of Italy. It had been 
occupied by a powerful colony of Gauls, who, settling them- 
selves along the banks of the Po, from Piedmont to Romagna, 
carried their arms and diffused their name from the Alps to the 

76 D'Anville, Notice de l'Ancienne Gaule. [These frontier districts received 
their names when the true province of Germany, between Rhine and Elbe, which 
had been won by Drusus, was lost by the defeat of Varus in 9 A.D.] 

77 Whitaker's History of Manchester, vol. i. c. 3. 

78 [A rampart from the Clyde to the Forth built in the reign of Antoninus 
Pius by the prefect Lollius Urbicus. For this wall see Stuart's Caledonia.] 


Apennine. The Ligurians dwelt on the rocky coast, which now 
forms the republic of Genoa. 79 Venice was yet unborn ; but the 
territories of that state, which lie to the east of the Adige, were 
inhabited by the Venetians. 80 The middle part of the peninsula, 
that now composes the duchy of Tuscany and the ecclesiastical 
state, was the ancient seat of the Etruscans and Umbrians ; to 
the former of whom Italy was indebted for the first rudiments 
of a civilized life. 81 The Tiber rolled at the foot of the seven 
hills of Rome, and the country of the Sabines, the Latins, and 
the Volsci, from that river to the frontiers of Naples, was the 
theatre of her infant victories. On that celebrated ground the 
first consuls deserved triumphs, their successors adorned villas, 
and their posterity have erected convents. 82 Capua and Cam- 
pania possessed the immediate territory of Naples ; the rest of 
the kingdom was inhabited by many warlike nations, the Marsi, 
the Samnites, the Apulians, and the Lucanians ; and the sea- 
coasts had been covered by the flourishing colonies of the Greeks. 
We may remark, that when Augustus divided Italy into eleven 
regions, the little province of Istria was annexed to that seat of 
Roman sovereignty. 83 

The European provinces of Rome were protected by the course rae Danube 
of the Rhine and the Danube. The latter of those mighty frontier 
streams, which rises at the distance of only thirty miles from the 
former, flows above thirteen hundred miles, for the most part to 
the south-east, collects the tribute of sixty navigable rivers, and 
is, at length, through six mouths, received into the Euxine, 
which appears scarcely equal to such an accession of waters. 84 
The provinces of the Danube soon acquired the general appella- 
tion of Illyricum, or the Illyrian frontier, 85 and were esteemed 
the most warlike of the empire ; but they deserve to be more 
particularly considered under the names of Rhaetia, Noricum, 

79 [We shall find late Greek historians calling the Genoese Ligurians (Aiyoupiot). 
It sounds odd, but serves to remind us that the great city of Liguria did not 
preserve the ancient name of the territory like her eastern rival, the great city of 

80 The Italian Vencti, though often confounded with the Gauls, were more 
probably of Illyrian origin. See M. Freret, M6moires de l'Acad6mie des In- 
scriptions, torn, xviii. 

81 See Maffei Verona illustrata, 1. . 

82 The first contrast was observed by the ancients. See Florus, 1. n. The 
second must strike every modern traveller. 

83 Pliny (Hist. Natur. 1. iii. [6]) follows the division of Italy, by Augustus. 
M Tournefort, Voyages en Grece et Asie Mineure, lettre xviii. 

85 The name of Illyricum originally belonged to the sea-coast of the Adriatic, 
and was gradually extended by the Romans from the Alps to the Euxine Sea. 
See Severini Pannonia, 1. i. c. a. 



Noricum and 

JIfflsia and 

Pannonia, Dalmatia, Dacia, Maesia, Thrace, Macedonia, and 

The province of Rhsetia, which soon extinguished the name 
of the Vindelicians, extended from the summit of the Alps to 
the banks of the Danube ; from its source, as far as its conflux 
with the Inn. The greatest part of the flat country is subject 
to the elector of Bavaria ; the city of Augsburg is protected by 
the constitution of the German empire ; the Grisons are safe in 
their mountains ; and the country of Tyrol is ranked among the 
numerous provinces of the house of Austria. 

The wide extent of territory which is included between the 
Inn, the Danube, and the Save, — Austria, Styria, Carinthia, 
Carniola, the Lower Hungary and Sclavonia, — was known to the 
ancients under the names of Noricum and Pannonia. In their 
original state of independence their fierce inhabitants were in- 
timately connected. Under the Roman government they were 
frequently united, and they still remain the patrimony of a 
single family. They now contain the residence of a German 
prince, who styles himself Emperor of the Romans, and form 
the centre, as well as strength, of the Austrian power. It may 
not be improper to observe, that, if we except Bohemia, Moravia, 
the northern sknts of Austria, and a part of Hungary, between 
the Theiss and the Danube, all the other dominions of the house 
of Austria were" comprised within the limits of the Roman 

Dalmatia, to which the name of Illyricum more properly be- 
longed, was a long, but narrow tract, between the Save and the 
Adriatic. The best part of the sea-coast, which still retains its 
ancient appellation, is a province of the Venetian state, and the 
seat of the little republic of Ragusa. The inland parts have 
assumed the Sclavonian names of Croatia and Bosnia ; the former 
obeys an Austrian governor, the latter a Turkish pasha ; but the 
whole country is still infested by tribes of barbarians, whose 
savage independence irregularly marks the doubtful limit of the 
Christian and Mahometan power. SG 

After the Danube had received the waters of the Theiss and 
the Save, it acquired, at least among the Greeks, the name of 
Ister. S7 It formerly divided Maesia and Dacia, the latter of 

86 A Venetian traveller, the Abbate Fortis, has lately given us some account of 
those very obscure countries. But the geography and antiquities of the western 
Illyricum can be expected only from the munificence of the emperor, its sovereign. 
[See Mr. Jackson's work entitled Dalmatia, the Quarnero, and Istria.] 

87 The Save rises near the confines of Istria, and was considered by the more 
early Greeks as the principal stream of the Danube, 


which, as we have already seen, was a conquest of Trajan, and 
the only province beyond the river. If we inquire into the 
present state of those countries, we shall find that, on the left 
hand of the Danube, Temeswar and Transylvania have been 
annexed, after many revolutions, to the crown of Hungary ; 
whilst the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia acknowledge 
the supremacy of the Ottoman Porte. On the right hand of the 
Danube, Maesia, which during the middle ages was broken into 
the barbarian kingdoms of Servia and Bulgaria, is again united 
in Turkish slavery. 

The appellation of Roumelia, which is still bestowed by the Thrace msc<v 
Turks on the extensive countries of Thrace, Macedonia, andcr^c**" 
Greece, preserves the memory of their ancient state under the 
Roman empire. 88 In the time of the Antonines, the martial 
regions of Thrace, from the mountains of Haemus and Rhodope 
to the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, had assumed the form of 
a province. Notwithstanding the change of masters and of 
religion, the new city of Rome, founded by Constantine on the 
banks of the Bosphorus, has ever since remained the capital of a 
great monarchy. The kingdom of Macedonia, which, under the 
reign of Alexander, gave laws to Asia, derived more solid 
advantages from the policy of the two Philips ; and, with its 
dependencies of Epirus and Thessaly, extended from the iEgean 
to the Ionian sea. When we reflect on the fame of Thebes and 
Argos, of Sparta and Athens, we can scarcely persuade ourselves 
that so many immortal republics of ancient Greece were lost in 
a single province of the Roman empire, which, from the superior 
influence of the Achaean league, was usually denominated the 
province of Achaia. 

Such was the state of Europe under the Roman emperors. Asia Minor 
The provinces of Asia, without excepting the transient conquests 
of Trajan, are ail comprehended within the limits of the Turkish 
power. But instead of following the arbitrary divisions of 
despotism and ignorance, it will be safer for us, as well as more 
agreeable, to observe the indelible characters of nature. The 
name of Asia Minor is attributed, with some propriety, to the 
peninsula which, confined between the Euxine and the Medi- 
terranean, advances from the Euphrates towards Europe. The 
most extensive and flourishing district westward of Mount Taurus 

88 [Thrace is Eastern Roumelia ; Macedonia and Greece, Western Roumelia. 
Since Greece became independent, one hears less of Western Roumelia, but the 
name is still applicable to Macedonia ; Greece has severed her connexion with the 
usurped inheritance of New Rome. Only the Eastern Roumelia wiil as a rule be 
fouud marked on maps. See Appendix 7.] 


and the river Halys, was dignified by the Romans with the 
exclusive title of Asia. The jurisdiction of that province 
extended over the ancient monarchies of Troy, Lydia, and 
Phrygia, the maritime countries of the Pamphylians, Lycians, 
and Carians, and the Grecian colonies of Ionia, which equalled 
in arts, though not in arms, the glory of their parent. The 
kingdoms of Bithynia and Pontus possessed the northern side of 
the peninsula from Constantinople to Trebizond. On the op- 
posite side the province of Cilicia was terminated by the 
mountains of Syria : the inland country, separated from the 
Roman Asia by the river Halys, and from Armenia by the 
Euphrates, had once formed the independent kingdom of 
Cappadocia. In this place we may observe that the northern 
shores of the Euxine, beyond Trebizond in Asia and beyond the 
Danube in Europe, acknowledged the sovereignty of the em- 
perors, and received at their hands either tributary princes or 
Roman garrisons. Budzak, Crim Tartary, Circassia, and Min- 
grelia, are the modern appellations of those savage countries. 89 
sjrria, pha Under the successors of Alexander, Syria was the seat of the 
Palestine Seleucidae, who reigned over Upper Asia, till the successful re- 
volt of the Parthians confined their dominions between the 
Euphrates and the Mediterranean. When Syria became sub- 
ject to the Romans, it formed the eastern frontier of their 
empire ; nor did that province, in its utmost latitude, know any 
other bounds than the mountains of Cappadocia to the north, 
and, towards the south, the confines of Egypt and the Red Sea. 
Phoenicia and Palestine were sometimes annexed to, and some- 
times separated from, the jurisdiction of Syria. The former of 
these was a narrow and rocky coast ; the latter was a territory 
scarcely superior to Wales, either in fertility or extent. Yet 
Phoenicia and Palestine will for ever live in the memory of man- 
kind ; since America, as well as Europe, has received letters 
from the one, and religion from the other. 90 A sandy desert, 

89 See the Periplus of Arrian. He examined the coasts of the Euxine, when he 
was governor of Cappadocia. 

90 The progress of religion is well known. The use of letters was introduced 
among the savages of Europe about fifteen hundred years before Christ; and 
the Europeans carried them to America, about fifteen centuries after the Christian 
Eera. Bat in a period of three thousand years, the Phoenician alphabet received 
considerable alterations, as it passed through the bands of the Greeks and 
Romans. [The date here given for the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet 
to Europe, that is, among the Greeks, is much too early. The earliest date that 
can be plausibly maintained is the tenth century, the latest, the eighth. But 
there are traces of hieroglyphic writing at Mycenae, and Mr. Arthur Evans's 
discoveries in Crete point to the use not only of hieroglyphics, but a syllabary 
(like the Cyprian) centuries before the introduction of the Phoenician letters.] 


alike destitute of wood and water, skirts along the doubtful 
confine of Syria, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. The 
wandering life of the Arabs was inseparably connected with 
their independence, and wherever, on some spots less barren than 
the rest, they ventured to form any settled habitations, they soon 
became subjects to the Roman empire. 91 

The geographers of antiquity have frequently hesitated to Egypt 
what portion of the globe they should ascribe Egypt. 92 By its 
situation that celebrated kingdom is included within the 
immense peninsula of Africa ; but it is accessible only on the 
side of Asia, whose revolutions, in almost every period of history, 
Egypt has humbly obeyed. A Roman praefect was seated on 
the splendid throne of the Ptolemies ; and the iron sceptre of the 
Mamalukes is now in the hands of a Tui'kish pasha. The Nile 
flows down the country, above five hundred miles from the tropic 
of Cancer to the Mediterranean, and marks, on either side, the 
extent of fertility by the measure of its inundations. Cyrene, 
situated towards the west and along the sea-coast, was first a 
Greek colony, afterwards a province of Egypt, and is now lost 
in the desert of Barca. 

From Cyrene to the ocean, the coast of Africa extends above Africa 
fifteen hundred miles ; yet so closely is it pressed between the 
Mediterranean and the Sahara, or sandy desert, that its breadth 
seldom exceeds fowscore or an hundred miles. The eastern 
division was considered by the Romans as the more peculiar and 
proper province of Africa. Till the arrival of the Phoenician 
colonies, that fertile country was inhabited by the Libyans, the 
most savage of mankind. Under the immediate jurisdiction of 
Carthage it became the centre of commerce and empire; but the 
republic of Carthage is now degenerated into the feeble and 
disorderly states of Tripoli and Tunis. The military government 
of Algiers oppresses the wide extent of Numidia, as it was once 
united under Massinissa and Jugurtha : but in the time of 
Augustus the limits of Numidia were contracted ; and at least 
two-thirds of the country acquiesced in the name of Mauritania, 
with the epithet of Canadensis. 93 The genuine Mauritania, or 

91 Dion Cassius, lxviii. p. 1131 [14]. 

92 Ptolemy and Strabo, with the modern geographers, fix the Isthmus of Suez 
as the boundary of Asia and Africa. Dionysius, Mela, Pliny, Sallust, Hirtius, and 
Solinus, have preferred for that purpose the western branch of the Nile, or even 
the great Catabathmus, or descent, which last would assign to Asia not only Egypt, 
but part of Libya. 

93 [The boundary between Maur. Caes. and Maur. Ting, was the river 


country of the Moors, which, from the ancient city of Tingi, or 
Tangier, was distinguished by the appellation of Tingitana, is 
represented by the modern kingdom of Fez. Salle, on the Ocean, 
so infamous at present for its piratical depredations, was noticed 
by the Romans, as the extreme object of their power, and almost 
of their geography. A city of their foundation may still be 
discovered near Mequinez, the residence of the barbarian whom 
we condescend to style the Emperor of Morocco ; but it does not 
appear that his more southern dominions, Morocco itself, and 
Segelmessa, were ever comprehended within the Roman 
province. The western parts of Africa are intersected by the 
branches of Mount Atlas, a name so idly celebrated by the fancy 
of poets; 94 but which is now diffused over the immense ocean 
that rolls between the ancient and the new continent. 95 
The Mediter. Having now finished the circuit of the Roman empire, we may 

r**ne&n with. ™ * 

its uiands observe that Africa is divided from Spain by a narrow strait of 
about twelve miles, through which the Atlantic flows into the 
Mediterranean. The columns of Hercules, so famous among 
the ancients, were two mountains which seemed to have been 
torn asunder by some convulsion of the elements ; and at the 
foot of the European mountain the fortress of Gibraltar is 
now seated. The whole extent of the Mediterranean Sea, its 
coasts and its islands, were comprised within the Roman 
dominion. Of the larger islands, the two Baleares, which 
derive their names of Majorca and Minorca from their respective 
size, are subject at present, the former to Spain, the latter to 
Great Britain. It is easier to deplore the fate than to describe 
the actual condition of Corsica. Two Italian sovereigns assume 
a regal title from Sardinia and Sicily. Crete, or Candia, with 
Cyprus, and most of the smaller islands of Greece and Asia, have 
been subdued by the Turkish arms ; whilst the little rock of 
Malta defies their power, and has emerged, under the govern- 
ment of its military Order, into fame and opulence. 
Generaiidea This long enumeration of provinces, whose broken fragments 
eL t p'i?e Roman have formed so many powerful kingdoms, might almost induce 
us to forgive the vanity or ignorance of the ancients. Dazzled 

M The long range, moderate height, and gentle declivity of Mount Atlas (see 
Shaw's Travels, p. 5) are very unlike a solitary mountain which rears its head into 
the clouds, and seems to support the heavens. The peak of Teneriff, on the 
contrary, rises a league and a half above the surface of the sea, and, as it was 
frequently visited by the Phoenicians, might engage the notice of the Greek poets. 
See Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, torn. i. p. 312. Histoire des Voyages, torn. ii. 

95 M. de Voltaire, torn. xiv. p. 297, unsupported by either fact or probability, 
has generously bestowed the Canary Islands on ths Roman empire. 


with the extensive sway, the irresistible strength, and the real 
or affected moderation of the emperors, they permitted them- 
selves to despise, and sometimes to forget, the outlying coun- 
tries which had been left in the enjoyment of a barbarous 
independence ; and they gradually assumed the licence of 
confounding the Roman monarchy with the globe of the 
earth. 96 But the temper, as well as knowledge, of a modern 
historian require a more sober and accurate language. He 
may impress a juster image of the greatness of Rome by observ- 
ing that the empire was above two thousand miles in breadth, 
from the wall of Antoninus and the northern limits of Dacia to 
Mount Atlas and the tropic of Cancer ; that it extended in 
length more than three thousand miles, from the Western Ocean 
to the Euphrates ; that it was situated in the finest part of the 
Temperate Zone, between the twenty-fourth and fifty-sixth 
degrees of northern latitude ; and that it was supposed to con- 
tain above sixteen hundred thousand square miles, for the most 
part of fertile and well-cultivated land. 97 

96 Bergier, Hist, des Grands Chemins, 1. iii. c. i, 2, 3. 4: a very useful collec- 

97 See Templeman's Survey of the Globe ; but I distrust both the doctor's 
learning and his maps. 




Of the Union and Internal Prosperity of the Roman Empire, in the 
Age of the Antonines 

It is not alone by the rapidity or extent of conquest that we 
should estimate the greatness of Rome. The sovereign of the 
Russian deserts commands a larger portion of the globe. In 
the seventh summer after his passage of the Hellespont, 
Alexander erected the Macedonian trophies on the banks of 
the Hyphasis. x Within less than a century, the irresistible 
Zingis, and the Mogul princes of his race, spread their cruel 
devastations and transient empire from the sea of China to the 
confines of Egypt and Germany. 2 But the firm edifice of 
Roman power was raised and preserved by the wisdom of ages. 
The obedient provinces of Trajan and the Antonines were 
united by laws and adorned by arts. They might occasionally 
suffer from the partial abuse of delegated authority ; but the 
general principle of government was wise, simple, and bene- 
ficent. They enjoyed the l'eligion of their ancestors, whilst in 
civil honours and advantages they were exalted, by just degrees, 
to an equality with their conquerors. 

I. The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it 
concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of 
the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of 
their subjects. The various modes of worship which prevailed 
in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally 
true ; by the philosopher as equally false ; and by the magis- 
trate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only 
mutual indulgence, but even religious concord. 

The superstition of the people was not embittered by any 
mixture of theological rancour ; nor was it confined by the 
chains of any speculative system. The devout polytheist, though 
fondly attached to his national rites, admitted with implicit 

1 They were erected about the midway between Labor and Dehli. The con- 
quests of Alexander in Hindostan were confined to the Punjab, a country watered 
by the five great streams of the Indus. 

3 See M. de Guignes Histoire des Huns, 1. xv. xvi. and xvii. 


faith the different religions of the earth. 3 Fear, gratitude, and 
curiosity, a dream or an omen, a singular disorder, or a distant 
journey, perpetually disposed him to multiply the articles of his 
belief, and to enlarge the list of his protectors. The thin 
texture of the pagan mythology was interwoven with various 
but not discordant materials. As soon as it was allowed that 
sages and heroes, who had lived or who had died for the benefit 
of their country, were exalted to a state of power and immortal- 
ity, it was universally confessed that they deserved, if not the 
adoration, at least the reverence of all mankind. The deities 
of a thousand groves and a thousand streams possessed in peace 
their local and respective influence ; nor could the Roman who 
deprecated the wrath of the Tiber deride the Egyptian who 
presented his offering to the beneficent genius of the Nile. 
The visible powers of Nature, the planets, and the elements, 
were the same throughout the universe. The invisible governors 
of the moral world were inevitably cast in a similar mould of 
fiction and allegory. Every virtue, and even vice, acquired its 
divine representative ; every art and profession its patron, whose 
attributes in the most distant ages and countries were uniformly 
derived from the character of their peculiar votaries. A republic 
of gods of such opposite tempers and interests required, in 
every system, the moderating hand of a supreme magistrate, 
who, by the progress of knowledge and of flattery, was gradually 
invested with the sublime perfections of an Eternal Parent and 
an Omnipotent Monarch. 4 Such was the mild spirit of anti- 
quity, that the nations were less attentive to the difference 
than to the resemblance of their religious worship. The Greek, 
the Roman, and the Barbarian, as they met before their inspec- 
tion altars, easily persuaded themselves that, under various 
names and with various ceremonies, they adored the same 
deities. The elegant mythology of Homer gave a beautiful 
and almost a regular form to the polytheism of the ancient 
world. 5 

3 There is not any writer who describes in so lively a manner as Herodotus, 
the true genius of Polytheism. The best commentary may be found in Mr. Hume's 
Natural History of Religion ; and the best contrast in Bossuet's Universal History. 
Some obscure traces of an intolerant spirit appear in the conduct of the Egyptians 
(see Juvenal, Sat. xv. ) ; and the Christians as well as Jews, who lived under the 
Roman empire, formed a very important exception: so important indeed, that 
the discussion will require a distinct chapter of this work. 

* The rights, power, and pretensions of the sovereign of Olympus are very 
clearly described in the xvth book of the Illiad : in the Greek original, I mean ; 
for Mr. Pope, without perceiving it, has improved the theology of Homer. 

5 See for instance, Caesar de Bell. Gall. vi. 17. Within a century or two the 
Gauls themselves applied to their gods the names of Mercury, Mars, Apollo, &c. 


ofphiio- The philosophers of Greece deduced their morals from the 

nature of man rather than from that of God. They meditated, 
however, on the Divine Nature as a very curious and important 
speculation, and in the profound inquiry they displayed the 
strength and weakness of the human understanding. 6 Of the 
four most celebrated schools, the Stoics and the Platonists en- 
deavoured to reconcile the jarring interests of reason and piety. 
They have left us the most sublime proofs of the existence and 
perfections of the first cause ; but, as it was impossible for them 
to conceive the creation of matter, the workman in the Stoic 
philosophy was not sufficiently distinguished from the work ; 
whilst, on the contrary, the spiritual God of Plato and his 
disciples resembled an idea rather than a substance. The 
opinions of the Academics and Epicureans were of a less re- 
ligious cast; but, whilst the modest science of the former induced 
therto to doubt, the positive ignorance of the latter urged them 
to deny, the providence of a Supreme Ruler. The spirit of 
inquiry, prompted by emulation and supported by freedom, had 
divided the public teachers of philosophy into a variety of 
contending sects ; but the ingenuous youth, who from eveiy 
part resorted to Athens and the other seats of learning in the 
Roman empire, were alike instructed in every school to reject 
and to despise the religion of the multitude. How, indeed, 
was it possible that a philosopher should accept as divine truths 
the idle tales of the poets, and the incoherent traditions of 
antiquity; or that he should adore, as gods, those imperfect beings 
whom he must have despised, as men ! Against such unworthy 
adversaries, Cicero condescended to employ the arms of reason 
and eloquence ; but the satire of Lucian was a much more 
adequate as well as more efficacious weapon. We may be well 
assured that a writer conversant with the world would never 
have ventured to expose the gods of his country to public 
ridicule, had they not already been the objects of secret con- 
tempt among the polished and enlightened orders of society. 7 

Notwithstanding the fashionable irreligion which prevailed in 
the age of the Antonines, both the interests of the priests and 
the credulity of the people were sufficiently respected. In their 
writings and conversation the philosophers of antiquity asserted 

6 The admirable work of Cicero de Natura Deorum, is the best clue we have to 
guide us through the dark and profound abyss. He represents with candour, and 
confutes with subtlety, the opinions of the philosophers. 

7 I do not pretend to assert that, in this irreligious age, the natural terrors of 
superstition, dreams, omens, apparitions, &c, had lost their efficacy. 


the independent dignity of reason; but they resigned their actions 
to the commands of law and of custom. Viewing with a smile of 
pity and indulgence the various errors of the vulgar, they diligently 
practised the ceremonies of their fathers, devoutly frequented 
the temples of the gods ; and, sometimes condescending to act a 
part on the theatre of superstition, they concealed the sentiments 
of an Atheist under the sacerdotal robes. Reasoners of such a 
temper were scarcely inclined to wrangle about their respective 
modes of faith or of worship. It was indifferent to them what 
shape the folly of the multitude might choose to assume ; and 
they approached, with the same inward contempt and the same 
external reverence, the altars of the Libyan, the Olympian, or 
the Capitoline Jupiter. 8 

It is not easy to conceive from what motives a spirit of per- °f a ^ e ma « lB 
secution could introduce itself into the Roman councils. The 
magistrates could not be actuated by a blind though honest 
bigotry, since the magistrates were themselves philosophers ; and 
the schools of Athens had given laws to the senate. They could 
not be impelled by ambition or avarice, as the temporal and 
ecclesiastical powers were united in the same hands. The 
pontiffs were chosen among the most illustrious of the senators ; 
and the office of Supreme Pontiff was constantly exercised by 
the emperors themselves. They knew and valued the advan- 
tages of religion, as it is connected with civil government. They 
encouraged the public festivals which humanize the manners of 
the people. They managed the arts of divination as a con- 
venient instrument of policy ; and they respected, as the firmest 
bond of society, the useful persuasion that, either in this or in a 
future life, the crime of perjury is most assuredly punished by 
the avenging gods. 9 But, whilst they acknowledged the general 
advantages of religion, they were convinced that the various 
modes of worship contributed alike to the same salutary purposes ; 
and that, in every country, the form of superstition which had 
received the sanction of time and experience was the best 
adapted to the climate and to its inhabitants. Avarice and taste 
very frequently despoiled the vanquished nations of the elegant 

8 Socrates, Epicurus, Cicero, and Plutarch, always inculcated a decent reverence 
for the religion of their own country, and of mankind. The devotion of Epicurus 
was assiduous and exemplary. Diogen. Laert. x. 10. [In this passage nothing is said 
of the devotion of Epicurus, rij? ixiv yap irp'os Stovs 6o-iot7)tos . . . aAtKTOS i] 5ia0e<ris 
seems to have been mistranslated. ] 

9 Polybius, 1. vi. c. 56. Juvenal, Sat. xiK., laments that in his time this 
apprehension had lost much of its effect. 



statues of their gods and the rich ornaments of their temples ; 10 
but, in the exercise of the religion which they derived from 
their ancestors, they uniformly experienced the indulgence, and 
even protection, of the Roman conquerors. The province of 
Gaul seems, and indeed only seems, an exception to this universal 
toleration. Under the specious pretext of abolishing human 
sacrifices, the emperors Tiberius and Claudius suppressed the 
dangerous power of the Druids ; u but the priests themselves, 
their gods, and their altars, subsisted in peaceful obscurity till 
the final destruction of Paganism. 12 

Rome, the capital of a great monarchy, was incessantly filled 
with subjects and strangers from every part of the world, 13 who 
all introduced and enjoyed the favourite superstitions of their 
native country. 14 Every city in the empire was justified in 
maintaining the purity of its ancient ceremonies ; and the Roman 
senate, using the common privilege, sometimes interposed to 
check this inundation of foreign rites. The Egyptian supersti- 
tion, of all the most contemptible and abject, was frequently 
prohibited ; the temples of Serapis and Isis demolished, and 
their worshippers banished from Rome and Italy. 15 But the 
zeal of fanaticism prevailed over the cold and feeble efforts of 
policy. The exiles returned, the proselytes multiplied, the 
temples were restored with increasing splendour, and Isis and 
Serapis at length assumed their place among the Roman deities. 16 
Nor was this indulgence a departure from the old maxims of 
government. In the purest ages of the commonwealth, Cybele 

i°See the fate of Syracuse, Tarentum, Ambracia, Corinth, &c., the conduct of 
Verres, in Cicero (Actio ii. Orat. 4), and the usual practice of governors, in the 
viiith Satire of Juvenal. 

"Sueton. in Claud. [25]— Plin. Hist. Nat. xxx. i. 

12 Pelloutier Histoire des Celtes, torn. vi. p. 230-252. 

is Seneca Consolat. ad Helviam, p. 74 [6]. Edit. Lips. 

"Dionysius Halicarn. Antiquitat. Roman., 1. ii. [i. p. 275, Reiske]. 

" In the year of Rome 701, the temple of Isis and Serapis was demolished by 
the order of the senate (Dion Cassius, I. xl. p. 252 [47] ), and even by the hands of 
the consul (Valerius Maximus, 1, 3). [But this passage in Valerius refers to the first 
demolition in B.C. 219.] After the death of Caesar, it was restored at the public ex- 
pense (Dion, 1. xlvii. p. 501 [15]). When Augustus was in Egypt, he revered the 
majesty of Serapis (Dion, 1. Ii. p. 647 [16]) ; but in the Pomaerium of Rome, and 
a mile round it, he prohibited the worship of the Egyptian gods (Dion, 1. liii. p. 
697 [2], 1. liv. p. 735 [6]). They remained, however, very fashionable under his 
reign (Ovid, de Art. Amand. 1. i. [77]) and that of his successor, till the justice of 
Tiberius was provoked to some acts of severity. (See Tacit. Annal. ii. 85, Joseph. 
Antiquit. 1. xviii. c. 3.) 

16 Tertullian in Apologetic, c. 6, p. 74. Edit. Havercamp. I am inclined to 
attribute their establishment to the devotion of the Flavian family. 


and iEsculapius had been invited by solemn embassies ; 17 and it 
was customary to tempt the protectors of besieged cities by the 
promise of more distinguished honours than they possessed in 
their native country. ls Rome gradually became the common 
temple of her subjects; and the freedom of the city was be- 
stowed on all the gods of mankind. 19 

II. The narrow policy of preserving without any foreign Freedom of 
mixture the pure blood of the ancient citizens, had checked ° me 
the fortune, and hastened the ruin, of Athens and Sparta. The 
aspiring genius of Rome sacrificed vanity to ambition, and 
deemed it more prudent, as well as honourable, to adopt virtue 
and merit for her own wheresoever they were found, among 
slaves or strangers, enemies or barbarians. 20 During the 
most flourishing sera of the Athenian commonwealth the number 
of citizens gradually decreased from about thirty 21 to twenty- 
one thousand. 22 If, on the contrary, we study the growth of 
the Roman republic, we may discover that, notwithstanding the 
incessant demands of wars and colonies, the citizens, who, in 
the first census of Servius Tullius, amounted to no more than 
eighty-three thousand, 23 were multiplied, before the com 
mencement of the social war, to the number of four hundred and 
sixty-three thousand men able to bear arms in the service of their 
country. 24 When the allies of Rome claimed an equal share of 
honours and privileges, the senate indeed preferred the chance of 
arms to an ignominious concession. The Samnites and the 
Lucanians paid the severe penalty of their rashness; but the rest 
of the Italian states, as they successively returned to their duty, 
were admitted into the bosom of the republic, 25 and soon con- 
tributed to the ruin of public freedom. Under a democratical 

17 See Livy, 1. xi. [12] and xxix. [11]. 

18 Macrob. Saturnalia, 1. Hi. c. 9. He gives us a form ">f evocation. 

19 Minucius Felix in Octavio, p. 54. Arnobius, 1. vi. p. 115. 

20 Tacit. Annal. xi. 24. The Orbis Romanus of the learned Spanheim is a 
complete history of the progressive admission of Latium, Italy, and the provinces 
to the freedom of Rome. 

21 Herodotus, v. 97. It should seem, however, that he followed a large and 
popular estimation. 

22 Athenaeus Deipnosophist, 1. vi. p. 272, Edit. Casaubon. Meursius de Fortuna 
Attica, c. 4. [For the population of Athens, see Clinton's Fasti Hellenici, vol. i. 
p. 381, and Boeckh's Staatshaushaltung der Athener. But new light has been 
thrown on the Athenian as on other ancient populations by Beloch, He estimates 
the population of Athens c. 431 B.C. at 35,000.] 

23 [Perhaps about 20,000. See Mommsen, Hist, of Rome, i. 436, Eng. Tr.] 

24 See a very accurate collection of the numbers of each Lustrum in M. de Beau- 
fort, Republique Romaine, 1. iv. c. 4. 

25 Appian de Bell, civil. 1. i. [53] . Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. 15, 16, 17. 

3 VOL. I. 


government the citizens exercise the powers of sovereignty ; 
and those powers will be first abused, and afterwards lost, if 
they are committed to an unwieldy multitude. But, when the 
popular assemblies had been suppressed by the administration 
of the emperors, the conquerors were distinguished from the 
vanquished nations only as the first and most honourable order 
of subjects; and their increase, however rapid, was no longer 
exposed to the same dangers. Yet the wisest princes who 
adopted the maxims of Augustus guarded with the strictest 
care the dignity of the Roman name, and diffused the freedom 
of the city with a prudent liberality. 26 
Italy Till the privileges of Romans had been progressively extended 

to all the inhabitants of the empire, an important distinction 
was preserved between Italy and the provinces. The former 
was esteemed the centre of public unity, and the firm basis of 
the constitution. Italy claimed the birth, or at least the re- 
sidence, of the emperors and the senate. 27 The estates of 
the Italians were exempt from taxes, their persons from the 
arbitrary jurisdiction of governors. Their municipal corpora- 
tions, formed after the perfect model of the capital, 28 were 
intrusted, under the immediate eye of the supreme power, with 
the execution of the laws. From the foot of the Alps to the ' 
extremity of Calabria, all the natives of Italy were born citizens 
of Rome. Their partial distinctions were obliterated, and they 
insensibly coalesced into one great nation, united by language, 
manners, and civil institutions, and equal to the weight of a 
powerful empire. The republic gloried in her generous policy, i 
and was frequently rewarded by the merit and services of her ' 
adopted sons. Had she always confined the distinction of 
Romans to the ancient families within the walls of the city, 
that immortal name would have been deprived of some of its 
noblest ornaments. Virgil was a native of Mantua ; Horace 
was inclined to doubt whether he should call himself an Apulian 
or a Lucanian ; it was in Padua that an historian was found ! 

26 Maecenas had advised him to declare, by one edict, all his subjects citizens. 
But we may justly suspect that the Historian Dion was the author of a counsel, so 
much adapted to the practice of his own age, and so little to that of Augustus. 

27 The senators were obliged to have one-third of their own landed property in 
Italy. See Plin. 1. vi. ep. 19. The qualification was reduced by Marcus to one- 
fourth. Since the reign of Trajan, Italy had sunk nearer to the level of the 

28 [This statement is too strong. The municipal constitutions of the Italian 
towns were hardly created in a day. The old constitutions were modified by the 
new relation with Rome, but not abolished.] 


worthy to record the majestic series of Roman victories. The 
patriot family of the Catos emerged from Tusculum ; and the 
little town of Arpinum claimed the double honour of producing 
Marius and Cicero, the former of whom deserved, after Romulus 
and Camillus, to be styled the Third Founder of Rome ; and 
the latter, after saving his country from the designs of Catiline, 
enabled her to contend with Athens for the palm of elo- 
quence. 29 

The provinces of the empire (as they have been described in The P ro- 
the preceding chapter) were destitute of any public force or 
constitutional freedom. In Etruria, in Greece, 30 and in 
Gaul, 31 it was the first care of the senate to dissolve those 
dangerous confederacies which taught mankind that, as the 
Roman arms prevailed by division, they might be resisted by 
union. Those princes whom the ostentation of gratitude or 
generosity permitted for a while to hold a precarious sceptre 
were dismissed from their thrones, as soon as they had per- 
formed their appointed task of fashioning to the yoke the 
vanquished nations. The free states and cities which had 
embraced the cause of Rome were rewarded with a nominal 
alliance, and insensibly sunk into real servitude. The public 
authority was everywhere exercised by the ministers of the 
senate and of the emperors, and that authority was absolute 
and without control. But the same salutary maxims of govern- 
ment, which had secured the peace and obedience of Italy, 
were extended to the most distant conquests. A nation of 
Romans was gradually formed in the provinces, by the double 
expedient of introducing colonies, and of admitting the most 
faithful and deserving of the provincials to the freedom of 

" Wheresoever the Roman conquers, he inhabits," is a very colonies and 
just observation of Seneca, 32 confirmed by history and experi- towns 
ence. The natives of Italy, allured by pleasure or by interest, 
hastened to enjoy the advantages of victory ; and we may 
remark that, about forty years after the reduction of Asia, 
eighty thousand Romans were massacred in one day by the 

29 The first part of the Verona Illustrata of the Marquis Maffei gives the 
clearest and most comprehensive view of the state of Italy under the Caesars. 

30 See Pausanias, 1. vii. [16]. The Romans condescended to restore the 
names of those assemblies, when they could no longer be dangerous. 

31 They are frequently mentioned by Caesar. The Abbe Dubos attempts, with 
very little success, to prove that the assemblies of Gaul were continued under the 
emperors. Histoire de l'Etablissement de la Monarchic Francoise, 1. i. c. 4. 

33 Seneca in Consolat. ad Helviam, c. 6. 


cruel orders of Mithridates. 33 These voluntary exiles were en- 
gaged for the most part in the occupations of commerce, agri- 
culture, and the farm of the revenue. But after the legions 
were rendered permanent by the emperors, the provinces were 
peopled bjr a race of soldiers ; and the veterans, whether they 
received the reward of their service in land or in money, usually 
settled with their families in the country where they had honour- 
ably spent their youth. Throughout the emph*e, but more parti- 
cularly in the western parts, the most fertile districts and the 
most convenient situations were reserved for the establishment 
of colonies ; some of which were of a civil and others of a 
military nature. In their manners and internal policy, the 
colonies formed a perfect representation of their great parent ; 
and [as] they were soon endeared to the natives by the ties of 
friendship and alliance, they effectually diffused a reverence 
for the Roman name, and a desire which was seldom disap- 
pointed of sharing, in due time, its honours and advantages. 34 
The municipal cities insensibly equalled the rank and splendour 
of the colonies ; and in the reign of Hadrian it was disputed 
which was the preferable condition, of those societies which had 
issued from, or those which had been received into, the bosom 
of Rome. 35 The right of Latium, as it was called, conferred on 
the cities . to which it had been granted a more partial favour. 
The magistrates only, at the expiration of their office, assumed 
the quality of Roman citizens ; but as those offices were annual, 
in a few years they circulated round the principal families. 36 
Those of the provincials who were permitted to bear arms in the 
legions ; 3 ~ those who exercised any civil employment ; all, in a 
word, who performed any public service, or displayed any personal 

33Memnon apud Photium, c. 33 [c. 31; Miiller, F. H. G. , iii. p. 542]. Valer. 
Maxim, ix. 2. Plutarch [Sulla, 24.J and Dion Cassius [fr. 99 ; vol. i. p. 342, ed. 
Melber] swell the massacre to 150,000 citizens ; but I should esteem the smaller 
number to be more than sufficient. 

34 Tw enty-five colonies were settled in Spain (see Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 3, 4, iv. 
35) : and nine in Britain, of which London, Colchester, Lincoln, Chester, Gloucester, 
and Bath, still remain considerable cities (see Richard of Cirencester, p. 36, and 
Whitaker's History of Manchester, 1. i. c. 3). r The authority of Richard of 
Cirencester on Roman Britain is of no value. See Appendix 2.] 

35 Aul. Gell. Noctes Atticae, xvi. 13. The Emperor Hadrian expressed his 
surprise that the cities of Utica, Gades, and Italica, which already enjoyed the 
rights of Municipia, should solicit the title of colonies. Their example, however, 
became fashionable, and the empire was filled with honorary colonies. See 
Spanheim, de Usu Numismatum. Dissertat. xiii. [For colonies, municipal tewns 
and the right of Latium, see Appendix 8.] 

36 Spanheim, Orbis Roman, c. 8. p. 62. 

s^Aristid. in Romae Encomio, torn. i. p. 218. Edit. Jebb. 


talents, were rewarded with a present, whose value was continu- 
ally diminished hy the increasing liberality of the emperors. 
Yet even in the age of the Antonines, when the freedom of the 
city had been bestowed on the greater number of their subjects, 
it was still accompanied with very solid advantages. The bulk 
of the people acquired, with that title, the benefit of the Roman 
laws, particularly in the interesting articles of marriage, testa- 
ments, and inheritances ; and the road of fortune was open to 
those whose pretensions were seconded by favour or merit. The 
grandsons of the Gauls who had besieged Julius Csesar in Alesia 
commanded legions, governed provinces, and were admitted into 
the senate of Rome. 38 Their ambition, instead of disturbing the 
tranquillity of the state, was intimately connected with its safety 
and greatness. 

So sensible were the Romans of the influence of language over Division of 
national manners, that it was their most serious care to extend, the Greet 
with the progress of their arms, the use of the Latin tongue. 39 provulces 
The ancient dialects of Italy, the Sabine, the Etruscan, and the 
Venetian, sunk into oblivion ; but in the provinces, the east was 
less docile than the west to the voice of its victorious preceptors. 
This obvious difference marked the two portions of the empire 
with a distinction of colours, which, though it was in some degree 
concealed during the meridian splendour of prosperity, became 
gradually more visible as the shades of night descended upon 
the Roman world. The western countries were civilized by the 
same hands which subdued them. As soon as the barbarians 
were reconciled to obedience, their minds were opened to any 
new impressions of knowledge and politeness. The language of 
Virgil and Cicero, though with some inevitable mixture of cor- 
ruption, was so universally adopted in Africa, Spain, Gaul, 
Britain, and Pannonia, 40 that the faint traces of the Punic or 
Celtic idioms were preserved only in the mountains, or among 
the peasants. 41 Education and study insensibly inspired the 

38 Tacit. Annal. xi. 23, 24. Hist. iv. 74. 

39 See Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 5. Augustin. de Civitate Dei, xix. 7. Lipsius de 
pronunciatione Lingure Latinse, c. 3. 

40 Apuleius and Augustin will answer for Africa; Strabo for Spain and Gaul; 
Tacitus, in the life of Agricola, for Britain ; and Velleius Paterculus, for Pannonia. 
To them we may add the language of the Inscriptions. [The statement in the 
text needs modification especially in regard to Britain.] 

41 The Celtic was preserved in the mountains of Wales, Cornwall, and Armories 
We may observe that Apuleius reproaches an African youth, who lived among the 
populace, with the use of the Punic; whilst he had almost forgot Greek, and 
neither could nor would speak Latin. (Apolog. p. 596.) The greater part of St. 
Austin's congregations were strangers to the Punic, 


natives of those countries with the sentiments of Romans ; and 
Italy gave fashions, as well as laws, to her Latin provincials. 
They solicited with more ardour, and obtained with more facility, 
the freedom and honours of the state ; supported the national 
dignity in letters 42 and in arms ; and, at length, in the person of 
Trajan, produced an emperor whom the Scipios would not have 
disowned for their countryman. The situation of the Greeks 
was very different from that of the barbarians. The former had 
been long since civilized and corrupted. They had too much 
taste to relinquish their language, and too much vanity to adopt 
any foreign institutions. Still preserving the prejudices, after 
they had lost the virtues, of their ancestors, they affected to 
despise the unpolished manners of the Roman conquerors, whilst 
they were compelled to respect their superior wisdom and 
power. 43 Nor was the influence of the Grecian language and 
sentiments confined to the narrow limits of that once celebrated 
country. Their empire, by the progress of colonies and con- 
quest, had been diffused from the Hadriatic to the Euphrates and 
the Nile. Asia was covered with Greek cities, and the long 
reign of the Macedonian kings had introduced a silent revolution 
into Syria and Egypt. In their pompous courts those princes 
united the elegance of Athens with the luxury of the East, and 
the example of the court was imitated, at an humble distance, 
by the higher ranks of their subjects. Such was the general 
division of the Roman empire into the Latin and Greek lan- 
guages. To these we may add a third distinction for the body 
of the natives in Syria, and especially in Egypt. The use of 
their ancient dialects, by secluding them from the commerce of 
mankind, checked the improvements of those barbarians. 44 The 
slothful effeminacy of the former exposed them to the contempt, 
the sullen ferociousness of the latter excited the aversion, of the 
conquerors. 45 Those nations had submitted to the Roman 
power, but they seldom desired or deserved the freedom of the 
city ; and it was remarked that more than two hundred and 

42 Spain alone produced Columella, the Senecas, Lucan, Martial, and Qulntiliar 
[but not, as far as we know, Silius Italicus, who, if his name really connected him 
with Italica, must have been Italicanus] . 

43 There is not, I believe, from Dionysius to Libanius, a single Greek critic who 
mentions Virgil or Horace. They seem ignorant that the Romans had any good 

44 The curious reader may see in Dupin (Bibliotheque Ecctesiastique, torn. xix. 
p. i, c. 8), how much the use of the Syriac and Egyptian languages was still 

48 See Juvenal, Sat. iii. and xv. Ammian. Marcellin. xxii. 16. 


thirty years elapsed after the ruin of the Ptolemies, before an 
Egyptian was admitted into the senate of Rome. 46 

It is a just though trite observation, that victorious Rome was General use 
herself subdued by the arts of Greece. Those immortal writers |ua£es lan " 
who still command the admiration of modern Europe soon be- 
came the favourite object of study and imitation in Italy and the 
western provinces. But the elegant amusements of the Romans 
were not suffered to interfere with their sound maxims of policy. 
Whilst they acknowledged the charms of the Greek, they asserted 
the dignity of the Latin, tongue, and the exclusive use of the 
latter was inflexibly maintained in the administration of civil as 
well as military government. 47 The two languages exercised at 
the same time their separate jurisdiction throughout the empire: 
the former, as the natural idiom of science ; the latter, as the 
legal dialect of public transactions. Those who united letters 
with business were equally conversant with both ; and it was 
almost impossible, in any province, to find a Roman subject, 
of a liberal education, who was at once a stranger to the Greek 
and to the Latin language. 

It was by such institutions that the nations of the empire in- slaves 
sensibly melted away into the Roman name and people. But 
there still remained, in the centre of every province and of every 
family, an unhappy condition of men who endured the weight, 
without sharing the benefits, of society. In the free states of 
antiquity the domestic slaves were exposed to the wanton rigour Their treat 
of despotism. The perfect settlement of the Roman empire was ment 
preceded by ages of violence and rapine. The slaves consisted, 
for the most part, of barbarian captives, taken in thousands by 
the chance of war, purchased at a vile price, 48 accustomed to a 
life of independence, and impatient to break and to revenge their 
fetters. Against such internal enemies, whose desperate in- 
surrections had more than once reduced the republic to the brink 
of destruction, 49 the most severe regulations 50 and the most cruel 
treatment seemed almost justified by the great law of self- 
preservation. But when the principal nations of Europe, Asia, 

46 Dion Cassius, 1. lxxvi, p. 1275 [5]. The first instance happened under the 
reign of Septimius Severus. 

47 See Valerius Maximus, 1. ii. c. 2, n. 2. The Emperor Claudius disfranchised 
an eminent Grecian for not understanding Latin. He was probably in some 
public office. Suetonius in Claud, c. 16. 

48 In the camp of Lucullus, an ox sold for a drachma, and a slave for four 
drachmae, or about three shillings. Plutarch, in Lucull. p. 580 [14]. [Compare 
Dureau de la Malle, Econ. Pol. des Romains, i. 15.] 

49 Diodorus Siculus in Eclog. Hist. 1. xxxiv. and xxxvi. Florus, iii. 19, 20. 
60 See a remarkable instance of severity, in Cicero in Verrem, v. 3. 


and Africa were united under the laws of one sovereign, the 
source of foreign supplies flowed with much less abundance, and 
the Romans were reduced to the milder but more tedious method 
of propagation. In their numerous families, and particularly in 
their country estates, they encouraged the marriage of their 
slaves. The sentiments of nature, the habits of education, and 
the possession of a dependent species of property, contributed 
to alleviate the hardships of servitude. 51 The existence of a 
slave became an object of greater value, and though his happi- 
ness still depended on the temper and circumstances of the 
master, the humanity of the latter, instead of being restrained by 
fear, was encouraged by the sense of his own interest. The 
progress of manners was accelerated by the virtue or policy of 
the emperors ; and by the edicts of Hadrian and the Antonines 
the protection of the laws was extended to the most abject part 
of mankind. The jurisdiction of life and death over the slaves, 
a power long exercised and often abused, was taken out of 
private hands, and reserved to the magistrates alone. The sub- 
terraneous prisons were abolished ; and, upon a just complaint of 
intolerable treatment, the injured slave obtained either his 
deliverance or a less cruel master. 52 
Enfranchise- Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition, was 
not denied to the Roman slave ; and, if he had any opportunity 
of making himself either useful or agreeable, he might very 
naturally expect that the diligence and fidelity of a few years 
would be rewarded with the inestimable gift of freedom. The 
benevolence of the master was so frequently prompted by the 
meaner suggestions of vanity and avarice, that the laws found 
it more necessary to restrain than to encourage a profuse and 
undistinguishing liberality, which might degenerate into a very 
dangerous abuse. 53 It was a maxim of ancient jurisprudence, 
that a slave had not any country of his own ; he acquired with 
his liberty an admission into the political society of which his 
patron was a member. The consequences of this maxim would 
have prostituted the privileges of the Roman city to a mean 
and promiscuous multitude. Some seasonable exceptions were 
therefore provided ; and the honourable distinction was confined 

51 See in Grater, and the other collectors, a great number of inscriptions 
addressed by slaves to their wives, children, fellow-servants, masters, ike. They 
are all most probably of the Imperial age. 

62 See the Augustan History [i, 18], and a dissertation of M. de Burigny, in 
the xxxvth volume of the Academy of Inscriptions, upon the Roman slaves. 

53 See another dissertation of M. de Burigny in the xxxviith volume, on the 
Roman freedmen. 



to such slaves only as, for just causes, and with the approbation 
of the magistrate, should receive a solemn and legal manumis- 
sion. Even these chosen freedmen obtained no more than the 
private rights of citizens, and were rigorously excluded from 
civil or military honours. Whatever might be the merit 
or fortune of their sons, they likewise were esteemed unworthy 
of a seat in the senate ; nor were the traces of a servile 
origin allowed to be completely obliterated till the third 
or fourth generation. 54 Without destroying the distinction 
of ranks, a distant prospect of freedom and honours was pre- 
sented, even to those whom pride and prejudice almost dis- 
dained to number among the human species. 

It was once proposed to discriminate the slaves by a peculiar Numbers 
habit, but it was justly apprehended that there might be some 
danger in acquainting them with their own numbers. 55 Without 
interpreting, in their utmost strictness, the liberal appellations of 
legions and myriads, 56 we may venture to pronounce that the 
proportion of slaves, who were valued as property, was more con- 
siderable than that of servants, who can be computed only as an 
expense. 57 The youths of a promising genius were instructed in 
the arts and sciences, and their price was ascertained by the 
degree of their skill and talents. 58 Almost every profession, 
either liberal 59 or mechanical, might be found in the household 
of an opulent senator. The ministers of pomp and sensuality 
were multiplied beyond the conception of modern luxury. 60 It 
was more for the interest of the merchant or manufacturer to 
purchase than to hire his workmen ; and in the country slaves 
were employed as the cheapest and most laborious instruments 
of agriculture. To confirm the general observation, and to dis- 
play the multitude of slaves, we might allege a variety of par- 
ticular instances. It was discovered, on a very melancholy 
occasion, that four hundred slaves were maintained ina single palace 

B4 Spanheim. Orbis Roman. 1. i. c. 16. p. 124, &c. 

55 Seneca de Clementia, 1. i. c. 24. The original is much stronger, "Quantum 
periculum immineret si servi nostri numerare nos coepissent ''. 

56 See Pliny (Hist. Natur. 1. xxxiii.) and Athenceus (Deipnosophist, I. vi. p. 272K 
The latter boldly asserts that he knew very many (jra/xiroAAot) Romans who 
possessed, not for use, but ostentation, ten and even twenty thousand slaves. 

57 In Paris there are not more than 43,700 domestics of every sort, and not a 
twelfth part of the inhabitants. Messange, Recherches sur la Population, p. 186. 

5S A learned slave sold for many hundred pounds sterling ; Atticus always bred 
and taught them himself. Cornel. Nepos in Vit. c. 13. 

69 Many of the Roman physicians were slaves. See Dr. Middleton's Disserta- 
tion and Defence. [On the state of Physicians among the Old Romans, 1734.] 

60 Their ranks and offices are very copiously enumerated by Pignprius de 
Servis. [For whole subject cp. Wallcn, Hist, de l'Esclavage.] 


of Rome. 61 The same number of four hundred belonged to an 
estate, which an African widow, of a very private condition, re- 
signed to her son, whilst she reserved for herself a much larger 
share of her property. 62 A freedman, under the reign of Augustus, 
though his fortune had suffered great losses in the civil wars, left 
behind him three thousand six hundred yoke of oxen, two hundred 
and fifty thousand head of smaller cattle, and, what was almost 
included in the description of cattle, four thousand one hundred 
and sixteen slaves. 63 
Populously The number of subjects who acknowledged the laws of Rome, 
empire of citizens, of provincials, and of slaves, cannot now be fixed with 
such a degree of accuracy as the importance of the object would 
deserve. 64 We are informed that, when the emperor Claudius 
exercised the office of censor, he took an account of six millions 
nine hundred and forty-five thousand Roman citizens, who, with 
the proportion of women and children, must have amounted to 
about twenty millions of souls. The multitude of subjects of an 
inferior rank was uncertain and fluctuating. But, after weighing 
with attention every circumstance which could influence the 
balance, it seems probable that there existed, in the time of 
Claudius, about twice as many provincials as there were citizens, 
of either sex and of eveiy age ; and that the slaves were at least 
equal in number to the free inhabitants of the Roman world. 
The total amount of this imperfect calculation would rise to 
about one hundred and twenty millions of persons : a degree of 
population which possibly exceeds that of modern Europe, 65 and 
forms the most numerous society that has ever been united 
under the same system of government. 

61 Tacit. Annal. xiv. 43. They all were executed for not preventing their master's 

62 Apuleius in Apolog. p. 548. Edit. Delphin. 

63 Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xxxiii. 47. 

64 [The subject of the population of the Roman empire has been discussed in 
detail in Dureau de la Malle's Economie Politique, on which work Merivale's 
investigation is based (History of the Romans under the Empire, chap. 39). 
Merivale reckons the entire population under Augustus, "including both sexes, 
all ages and every class of inhabitants," at eighty-five millions, of which forty fall 
to the European, forty-five to the Asiatic provinces. In the present day the total 
population of these European lands is two and a half times as great. Gibbon's 
calculation is, on any theory, far too large.] 

65 Compute twenty millions in France, twenty-two in Germany, four in 
Hungary, ten in Italy with its islands, eight in Great Britain and Ireland, eight 
'n Spain and Portugal, ten or twelve in the European Russia, six in Poland, six 
in Greece and Turkey, four in Sweden, three in Denmark and Norway, four in 
the Low Countries. The whole would amount to one hundred and five, or one 
hundred and seven millions. See Voltaire, de l'Histoire Ge'neYale. [The present 
population of Europe is somewhat about three hundred and fifty millions.] 


Domestic peace and union were the natural consequences of obedience and 
the moderate and comprehensive policy embraced by the 
Romans. If we turn our eyes towards the monarchies of Asia, 
we shall behold despotism in the centre and weakness in the 
extremities ; the collection of the revenue, or the administration 
of justice, enforced by the presence of an army; hostile bar- 
barians, established in the heart of the country, hereditary 
satraps usurping the dominion of the provinces and subjects, 
inclined to rebellion, though incapable of freedom. But the 
obedience of the Roman world was uniform, voluntary, and 
permanent. The vanquished nations, blended into one great 
people, resigned the hope, nay even the wish, of resuming their 
independence, and scarcely considered their own existence as 
distinct from the existence of Rome. The established authority 
of the emperors pervaded without an effort the wide extent of 
their dominions, and was exercised with the same facility on 
the banks of the Thames, or of the Nile, as on those of the 
Tiber. The legions were destined to serve against the public 
enemy, and the civil magistrate seldom required the aid of a 
military force. 66 In this state of general security, the leisure 
as well as opulence both of the prince and people were devoted to 
improve and to adorn the Roman empire. 

Among the innumerable monuments of architecture con- Koman monu- 
structed by the Romans, how many have escaped the notice of 
history, how few have resisted the ravages of time and bar- 
barism ! And yet even the majestic ruins that are still scattered 
over Italy and the provinces would be sufficient to prove that 
those countries were once the seat of a polite and powerful 
empire. Their greatness alone, or their beauty, might deserve 
our attention ; but they are rendered more interesting by two 
important circumstances, which connect the agreeable history 
of the arts with the more useful history of human manners. 
Many of those works were erected at private expense, and 
almost all were intended for public benefit. 

It is natural to suppose that the greatest number, as well as Many of them 

*> *■ ™ erected at 

the most considerable of the Roman edifices, were raised by the private ex- 
emperors, who possessed so unbounded a command both of men 
and money. Augustus was accustomed to boast that he had 
found his capital of brick, and that he had left it of marble. 67 

68 Joseph de Bell. Judaico. 1. ii. c. 16. The oration of Agrippa, or rather of 
the historian, is a fine picture of the Roman empire. 

•^Sueton. in August, c. 28. Augustus built in Rome the temple and forum 
of Mars the Avenger ; the Temple of Jupiter Tonans in the capitol ; that of 


The strict economy of Vespasian was the source of his magnifi- 
cence. The works of Trajan bear the stamp of his genius. 
The public monuments with which Hadrian adorned every 
province of the empire were executed not only by his orders, 
but under his immediate inspection. He was himself an artist; 
and he loved the arts, as they conduced to the glory of the 
monarch. They were encouraged by the Antonines, as they 
contributed to the happiness of the people. But if the emperors 
were the first, they were not the only architects of their 
dominions. Their example was universally imitated by their 
principal subjects, who were not afraid of declaring that they 
had spirit to conceive, and wealth to accomplish, the noblest 
undertakings. Scarcely had the proud structure of the Coli- 
seum been dedicated at Rome, before the edifices of a smaller scale 
indeed, but of the same design and materials, were erected for 
the use, and at the expense, of the cities of Capua and 
Verona. 68 The inscription of the stupendous bridge of Alcantara 
attests that it was thrown over the Tagus by the contribution 
of a few Lusitanian communities. When Pliny was intrusted 
with the government of Bithynia and Pontus, provinces by no 
means the richest or most considerable of the empire, he found 
the cities within his jurisdiction striving with each other in 
every useful and ornamental work that might deserve the 
curiosity of strangers or the gratitude of their citizens. It was 
the duty of the Proconsul to supply their deficiencies, to direct 
their taste, and sometimes to moderate their emulation. 69 
The opulent senators of Rome and the provinces esteemed it 
an honour, and almost an obligation, to adorn the splendour of 
their age and country ; and the influence of fashion very fre- 
quently supplied the want of taste or generosity. Among a 
crowd of these private benefactors, we may select H erodes 
Atticus, an Athenian citizen, who lived in the age of the 
Antonines. Whatever might be the motive of his conduct, 
his magnificence would have been worthy of the greatest 

Apollo Palatine, with publi~ libraries ; the portico and basilica of Caius and 
Lucius ; the porticoes of Livia and Octavia, and the theatre of Marcellus. The 
example of the sovereign was imitated by his ministers and generals ; and his 
friend Agrippa left behind him the immortal monument of the Pantheon. 

68 See Maffei, Verona illustrata, . iv. p. 68. 

B9 See the xth book of Pliny's Epistles. He mentions the following works, 
carried on at the expense of the cities. At Nicomedia, a new forum, an aqueduct, 
and a canal, left unfinished by a king ; at Nice, a Gymnasium and a theatre, 
which had already cost near ninety thousand pounds ; baths at Prusa and 
C.laudiopolis ; and an aqueduct of sixteen miles in length for the use of Sinope. 


The family of Herod, at least after it had been favoured by Example of 
fortune, was lineally descended from Cimon and Miltiades, Atticus" 
Theseus and Cecrops, /Eacus and J upiter. But the posterity of 
so many gods and heroes was fallen into the most abject state. 
His grandfather had suffered by the hands of justice, and Julius 
Atticus, his father, must have ended his life in poverty and 
contempt, had he not discovered an immense treasure buried 
under an old house, the l&st remains of his patrimony. According 
to the rigour of law, the emperor might have asserted his claim ; 
and the prudent Atticus prevented, by a frank confession, the 
officiousness of informers. But the equitable Nerva, who then 
filled the throne, refused to accept any part of it, and commanded 
him to use, without scruple, the present of fortune. The cautious 
Athenian still insisted that the treasure was too considerable for 
a subject, and that he knew not how to use it. Abuse it then, 
replied the monarch, with a good-natured peevishness ; for it is 
your own. 70 Many will be of opinion that Atticus literally 
obeyed the emperor's last instructions, since he expended the 
greatest part of his fortune, which was much increased by an 
advantageous marriage, in the service of the Public. He had 
obtained for his son Herod the prefecture of the free cities of 
Asia; and the young magistrate, observing that the town of 
Troas was indifferently supplied with water, obtained from the 
munificence of Hadrian three hundred myriads of drachms (about 
a hundred thousand pounds) for the construction of a new aque- 
duct. But in the execution of the work the charge amounted to 
more than double the estimate, and the officers of the revenue be- 
gan to murmur, till the generous Atticus silenced their complaints 
by requesting that he might be permitted to take upon himself 
the whole additional expense. 71 

The ablest preceptors of Greece and Asia had been invited by Hisreputa- 
liberal rewards to direct the education of young Herod. Their 
pupil soon became a celebrated orator in the useless rhetoric of 
that age, which, confining itself to the schools, disdained to visit 
either the Forum or the Senate. He was honoured with the 
consulship at Rome ; but the greatest part of his life Avas spent in 
a philosophic retirement at Athens, and his adjacent villas ; 

70 Hadrian afterwards made a very equitable regulation, which divided all 
treasure trove between the right of property and that of discovery. Hist. August, 
p. 9 [i. 18]. 

71 Philostrat. in Vit. Sophist. I. ii. p. 548. [We cannot implicitly trust the 
statements of Philostratus, the biographer of Herodes, for he was also the 
biographer of Apollonius of Tyana.] 


perpetually surrounded by sophists, who acknowledged, without 
reluctance, the superiority of a rich and generous rival. 72 The 
monuments of his genius have perished ; some remains still pre- 
serve the fame of his taste and munificence : modern travellers 
have measured the remains of the stadium which he constructed 
at Athens. It was six hundred feet in length, built entirely of 
white marble, capable of admitting the whole body of the people, 
and finished in four years, whilst Herod was president of the 
Athenian games. To the memory of his wife Regilla he dedi- 
cated a theatre, scarcely to be paralleled in the empire : no wood 
except cedar very curiously carved, was employed in any part of 
the building. The Odeum, designed by Pericles for musical per- 
formances and the rehearsal of new tragedies, had been a trophy of 
the victory of the arts over Barbaric greatness ; as the timbers 
employed in the construction consisted chiefly of the masts of 
the Persian vessels. Notwithstanding the repairs bestowed on 
that ancient edifice by a king of Cappadocia, it was again fallen 
to decay. Herod restored its ancient beauty and magnificence. 73 
Nor was the liberality of that illustrious citizen confined to 
the walls of Athens. The most splendid ornaments bestowed 
on the temple of Neptune in the Isthmus, a theatre at Corinth, 
a stadium at Delphi, a bath at Thermopylae, and an aqueduct 
at Canusium in Italy, were insufficient to exhaust his treasures. 
The people of Epirus, Thessaly, Euboea, Boeotia, and Peloponnesus, 
experienced his favours ; and many inscriptions of the cities of 
Greece and Asia gratefully style Herodes Atticus their patron 
and benefactor. 74 
Most of the In the commonwealths of Athens and Rome, the modest 
m°ent a s n fo? onu ' simplicity of private houses announced the equal condition of 
tampie™ 8 : freedom ; whilst the sovereignty of the people was represented 
a&uktwk in the majestic edifices destined to the public use: 75 nor was 
this republican spirit totally extinguished by the introduction of 
wealth and monarchy. It was in works of national honour and 
benefit that the most virtuous of the emperors affected to dis- 
play their magnificence. The golden palace of Nero excited a 

? 2 Aulus Gellius, in Noct. Attic, i. 2, ix. 2, xviii. 10, xix. 12. Phitostrat. p. 
564 [ii. 14]. 

73 [The Odeum of Herodes is here wrongly distinguished from his theatre 
and confounded with the Odeum of Pericles. The latter, which has disappeared, 
was close to the Theatre of Dionysus, but on the east side ; that of Herodes, of 
which there are still ample remains, was on the west (S. W. of the Acropolis).] 

74 See Philostrat. 1. ii. p. 548, 560 [3 sqq.~\ . Pausanias 1. i. [19] and vii. 20. The life 
of Herodes, in the xxxth volume of the Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions. 

78 It is particularly remarked of Athens by Dicaearchus, de Statu Graeciae, p. 8, 
nter Geographos Minores, edit. Hudson. 



just indignation, but the vast extent of ground which had been 
usurped by his selfish luxury was more nobly filled under the 
succeeding reigns by the Coliseum, the baths of Titus, the 
Claudian portico, and the temples dedicated to the goddess of 
Peace and to the genius of Rome. 76 These monuments of 
architecture, the property of the Roman people, were adorned 
with the most beautiful productions of Grecian painting and 
sculpture ; and in the temple of Peace a very curious library 
was open to the curiosity of the learned. At a small distance 
from thence was situated the Forum of Trajan. It was sur- 
rounded with a lofty portico in the form of a quadrangle, into 
which four triumphal arches opened a noble and spacious en- 
trance : in the centre arose a column of marble, whose height 
of one hundred and ten feet denoted the elevation of the hill that 
had been cut away. This column, which still subsists in its 
ancient beauty, exhibited an exact representation of the Dacian 
victories of its founder. The veteran soldier contemplated the 
story of his own campaigns, and, by an easy illusion of national 
vanity, the peaceful citizen associated himself to the honours of 
the triumph. All the other quarters of the capital, and all the 
provinces of the empire, were embellished by the same liberal 
spirit of public magnificence, and were filled with amphitheatres, 
theatres, temples, porticos, triumphal arches, baths and aqueducts, 
all variously conducive to the health, the devotion, and the 
pleasures of the meanest citizen. The last mentioned of those 
edifices deserve our peculiar attention. The boldness of the en- 
terprise, the solidity of the execution, and the uses to which they 
were subservient, rank the aqueducts among the noblest monu- 
ments of Roman genius and power. The aqueducts of the capital 
claim a just pre-eminence; but the curious traveller, who, without 
the light of history, should examine those of Spoleto, of Metz, or 
of Segovia, would veiy naturally conclude that those provincial 
towns had formerly been the residence of some potent monarch. 
The solitudes of Asia and Africa were once covered with flourish- 
ing cities, whose populousness, and even whose existence, was 
derived from such artificial supplies of a perennial stream of 
fresh water. 77 

76 Donatus de Roma Vetere, 1. iii. c. 4, 5, 6, Nardini Roma Antica, 1. iii. n, 
12, 13, and an MS. description of ancient Rome, by Bernardus Oricellarius, or 
Rucellas, of which I obtained a copy from the library of the Canon Ricardi at 
Florence. Two celebrated pictures of Timanthes and of Protogenes are men- 
tioned by Pliny [xxxv. 36] as in the Temple of Peace ; and the Laocoon was 
found in the baths of Titus. [The Temple of Peace was erected by Vespasian.] 

77 Montfaucon, l'Antiquite' Expliquee, torn. iv. p. 2. 1. i. c. 9. Fabretti has 
composed a very learned treatise on the aqueducts of Roro- 

i*e empire 


Number and We have computed the inhabitants, and contemplated the 
the a citiesof public works, of the Roman empire. The observation of the 
number and greatness of its cities will serve to confirm the 
former and to multiply the latter. It may not be unpleasing to 
collect a few scattered instances relative to that subject, without 
forgetting, however, that, from the vanity of nations and the 
poverty of language, the vague appellation of city has been 
indifferently bestowed on Rome and upon Laurentum. I. 
.indent Italy is said to have contained eleven hundred and ninety- 
seven cities ; and, for whatsoever aera of antiquity the expression 
might be intended, 7S there is not any reason to believe the country 
less populous in the age of the Antonines, than in that of Romu- 
lus. The petty states of Latium were contained within the metro- 
polis of the empire, by whose superior influence they had been 
attracted. Those parts of Italy which have so long languished 
under the lazy tyranny of priests and viceroys had been afflicted 
only by the more tolerable calamities of war; and the first symp- 
toms of decay which they experienced were amply compensated by 
the rapid improvements of the Cisalpine Gaul. The splendour of 
Verona may be traced in its remains : yet Verona was less cele- 
brated than Aquileia or Padua, Milan or Ravenna. II. The 
spirit of improvement had passed the Alps, and been felt even 
in the woods of Britain, which were gradually cleared away to 
open a free space for convenient and elegant habitations. York 
was the seat of government ; London was already enriched by 
commerce ; and Bath was celebrated for the salutary effects of 
its medicinal waters. Gaul could boast of her twelve hundred 
cities ; 79 and, though, in the northern parts, many of them, without 
excepting Paris itself, were little more than the rude and imper- 
fect townships of a rising people, the southern provinces imitated 
the wealth and elegance of Italy. 80 Many were the cities of 
Gaul, Marseilles, Aries, Nismes, Narbonne, Toulouse, Bor- 
deaux, Autun, Vienne, Lyons, Langres, and Treves, whose 
ancient condition might sustain an equal, and perhaps advan- 
tageous, comparison with their present state. With regard to 
Spain, that country flourished as a province, and has declined as a 
kingdom. Exhausted by the abuse of her strength, by America, 
and by superstition, her pride might possibly be confounded, if 

78 Lilian Hist. Var. 1. ix" c. 16. He lived in the time of Alexander Severus. 
See Fabricius, Biblioth. Grasca, 1. iv. c. 21. 

79 Joseph de Bell. Jud. ii. 16. The number, however, is mentioned and should 
be received with a degree of latitude. 

so Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 5. 


we required such a list of three hundred and sixty cities as Pliny 
has exhibited under the reign of Vespasian. 81 III. Three hun- Africa 
dred African cities had once acknowledged the authority of Car- 
thage, 82 nor is it likely that their numbers diminished under the 
administration of the emperors : Carthage itself rose with new 
splendour from its ashes ; and that capital, as well as Capua and 
Corinth, soon recovered all the advantages which can be separated 
from independent sovereignty. IV. The provinces of the east 
present the contrast of Roman magnificence with Turkish barbar- Asia 
ism. The ruins of antiquity, scattered over uncultivated fields, and 
ascribed by ignorance to the power of magic, scarcely afford a 
shelter to the oppressed peasant or wandering Arab. Under the 
reign of the Caesars, the proper Asia alone contained five hundred 
populous cities, 83 enriched with all the gifts of nature, and 
adorned with all the refinements of art. Eleven cities of Asia 
had once disputed the honour of dedicating a temple to Tiberius, 
and their respective merits were examined by the senate. 84 
Four of them were immediately rejected as unequal to the bur- 
den ; and among these was Laodicea, whose splendour is still 
displayed in its ruins. 85 Laodicea collected a very considerable 
revenue from its flocks of sheep, celebrated for the fineness of 
their wool, and had received, a little before the contest, a legacy . 
of above four hundred thousand pounds by the testament of a 
generous citizen. 86 If such was the poverty of Laodicea, what 
must have been the wealth of those cities, whose claim appeared \ 
preferable, and particularly of Pergamus, of Smyrna, and of Ephe- 
sus, who so long disputed with each other the titular primacy of 
Asia ? 87 The capitals of Syria and Egypt held a still superior rank 

81 Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 3, 4. iv. 35. The list seems authentic and accurate: 
the division of the provinces and the different condition of the cities are minutely 

82 Strabon. Geograph. 1. xvii. p. n 89. 

83 Joseph, de Bell. Jud. ii. 16. Philostrat. in Vit. Sophist. 1. ii. p. 548. Edit. 
Olear. [Life of Herodes, 3.] 

84 Tacit. Annal. iv. 55. I have taken some pains in consulting and comparing 
modern travellers, with regard to the fate of those eleven cities of Asia ; seven 
or eight are totally destroyed, Hypsepe, Tralles, Laodicea, Ilium, Halicarnassus, 
Miletus, Ephesus, and we may add Sardis. Of the remaining three, Pergamus 
is a straggling village of two or three thousand inhabitants ; Magnesia, under 
the name of Guzel-hissar, a town of some consequence ; and Smyrna, a great 
city, peopled by a hundred thousand souls. But even at Smyrna, while the Franks 
have maintained commerce, the Turks have ruined the arts. 

85 See a very exact and pleasing description of the ruins of Laodicea, in 
Chandler's Travels through Asia Minor, p. 225, &c. 

86 Strabo, 1. xii. p. 866. He had studied at Tralles. 

87 See a dissertation of M. de Bose, Mem. de l'Acad^mie, torn, xviii. Aristides 
pronounced an oration which is still extant, to recommend concord to the rival cities. 

4 VOL. I. 


in the empire: Antioch and Alexandria looked down with disdain 
on a crowd of dependent cities, ss and yielded with reluctance to 
the majesty of Rome itself. 

Eoman roads All these cities were connected with each other, and with the 
capital, by the public highways, which, issuing from the Forum 
of Rome, traversed Italy, pervaded the provinces, and were ter- 
minated only by the frontiers of the empire. If we carefully 
trace the distance from the wall of Antoninus to Rome, and from 
thence to Jerusalem, it will be found that the great chain of 
communication, from the north-west to the south-east point of 
the empire, was drawn out to the length of four thousand and 
eighty Roman miles. 89 The public roads were accurately 
divided by milestones, and ran in a direct line from one 
city to another, with very little respect for the obstacles 
either of nature or private property. Mountains were per- 
forated, and bold arches thrown over the broadest and most 
rapid streams. 90 The middle part of the road was raised 
into a terrace which commanded the adjacent country, consisted 
of several strata of sand, gravel, and cement and was paved with 
large stones, or, in some places near the capital, with granite. 91 
Such was the solid construction of the Roman highways, whose 
firmness has not entirely yielded to the effort of fiiteen centuries. 
They united the subjects of the most distant provinces by an easy 
and familiar intercourse ; but their primary object had been to 
facilitate the marches of the legions ; nor was any country con- 
sidered as completely subdued, till it had been rendered, in all 
its parts, pervious to the arms and authority of the conqueror. 

posts The advantage of receiving the earliest intelligence, and of con- 

veying their orders with celerity, induced the emperors to estab- 
lish, throughout their extensive dominions, the regular institution 

88 The inhabitants of Egypt, exclusive of Alexandria, amounted to seven 
millions and a half (Joseph, de Bell. Jud. ii. 16). Under the military government 
of the Mamalukes, Syria was supposed to contain sixty thousand villages (Histoire 
de Timur Bee, 1. v. c. 20). 

89 The following Itinerary may serve to convey some idea of the direction of 
the road, and of the distance between the principal towns. I. From the wall of 
Antoninus to York, 222 Roman miles. II. London 227. III. Rhutupiae or 
Sandwich 67. IV. The navigation to Boulogne 45. V. Rheims 174. VI. Lyons 
330. VII. Milan 324. VIII. Rome 426. IX. Brundusium 360. X. The 
navigation to Dyrrachium 40. XL Byzantium 711. XII. Ancyra 283. XIII. 
Tarsus 301. XIV. Antioch 141. XV. Tyre 252. XVI. Jerusalem 168. In all 
4080 Roman, or 3740 English miles. See the Itineraries published by Wesseling, 
his annotations; Gale and Stukeley for Britain, and M. d'Anville for Gaul and Italy. 

90 Montfaucon (lAntiquitii Expliqu^e, torn. iv. p. 2. 1. i. c. 5.) has described 
the bridges of Narni, Alcantara, Nismes, &c. 

91 Bergicr. Histoire des grands Chemins de l'Empire Romain, 1. ii. c. 1-28. 


of posts. 92 Houses were everywhere erected at the distance only 
of five or six miles ; each of them was constantly provided with 
forty horses, and, by the help of these relays, it was easy to 
travel an hundred miles in a day along the Roman roads. 93 The 
use of the posts was allowed to those who claimed it by an Im- 
perial mandate; but, though originally intended for the public 
service, it was sometimes indulged to the business or conveniency 
of private citizens. 94 Nor was the communication of the Roman Navigation 
empire less free and open by sea than it was by land. The 
provinces surrounded and enclosed the Mediterranean ; and Italy, 
in the shape of an immense promontory, advanced into the midst 
of that great lake. The coasts of Italy are, in general, destitute 
of safe harbours ; but human industry had corrected the defici- 
encies of nature ; and the artificial port of Ostia, in particular, 
situate at the mouth of the Tiber, and formed by the Emperor 
Claudius, was an useful monument of Roman greatness. 05 From 
this port, which was only sixteen miles from the capital, a favour- 
able breeze frequently carried vessels in seven days to the 
columns of Hercules, and in nine or ten to Alexandria in Egypt. 96 

Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed improvement 
to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with in tL 
some beneficial consequences to mankind ; and the same free- countries 
dom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise 
the improvements, of social life. In the more remote ages of 
antiquity, the world was unequally divided. The east was in 
the immemorial possession of arts and luxury ; whilst the west 
was inhabited by rude and warlike barbarians, who either dis- 
dained agriculture, or to whom it was totally unknown. Under 
the protection of an established government, the productions of 
happier climates and the industry of more civilized nations . 

were gradually introduced into the western countries of Europe; 

92 Procopius in Hist. Arcana, c. 30, Bergier Hist, des grands Chemins, 1. 
iv. Codex Theodosian, 1. viii. tit. v. vol. ii. p. 506-563, with Godefroy's learned 

93 In the time of Theodosius, Cresarius, a magistrate of high rank, went post 
from Antioch to Constantinople. He began his journey at night, was in Cappa- 
docia (165 miles from Antioch) the ensuing evening, and arrived at Constantinople 
the sixth day about noon. The whole distance was 725 Roman, or 665 English 
miles. See Libanius Orat. xxii. and the Itineraria, p. 572-581. [For the post- 
system or cursus publicus see the article under this title in Smith's Diet, of Anti- 
quities ; and Hudemann's Gesch. des rom. Postwesens.] 

94 Pliny, though a favourite and a minister, made an apology for granting 
post horses to his wife on the most urgent business, Epist. x. 121, 122. 

95 Bergier Hist, des grands Chemins, 1. iv. c. 49. 

96 Plin. Hist. Natur. xix 1. [From Puteoli, Pliny says.] 



and the natives were encouraged, by an open and profitable 
commerce, to multiply the former as well as to improve the 
latter. It would be almost impossible to enumerate all the 
articles, either of the animal or the vegetable reign, which were 
successively imported into Europe from Asia and Egypt : 97 but 
it will not be unworthy of the dignity, and much less of the 
utility, of an historical work, slightly to touch on a few of the 

introduction principal heads. 1. Almost all the flowers, the herbs, and the 
' c fruits that grow in our European gardens are of foreign ex- 
traction, which, in many cases, is betrayed even by their 
names : the apple was a native of Italy, and, when the 
Romans had tasted the richer flavour of the apricot, the peach, 
the pomegranate, the citron, and the orange, they contented 
themselves with applying to all these new fruits the common 
denomination of apple, discriminating them from each other 
by the additional epithet of their country. 2. In the time of 

The vine Homer, the vine grew wild in the island of Sicily and most 
probably in the adjacent continent ; but it was not improved 
by the skill, nor did it afford a liquor grateful to the taste, of 
the savage inhabitants. 98 A thousand years afterwards, Italy 
could boast that, of the fourscore most generous and celebrated 
wines, more than two-thirds were produced from her soil. " 
The blessing was soon communicated to the Narbonnese pro- 
vince of Gaul ; but so intense was the cold to the north of the 
Cevennes, that, in the time of Strabo, it was thought impossible 
to ripen the grapes in those parts of Gaul. 10 ° This difficulty, 
however, was gradually vanquished ; and there is some reason 
to believe that the vineyards of Burgundy are as old as the age 

The olive of the Antonines. 101 3. The olive, in the western world, 
followed the progress of peace, of which it was considered as 
the symbol. Two centuries after the foundation of Rome, 
both Italy and Africa were strangers to that useful plant ; it 
was naturalized in those countries ; and at length carried into 

97 It is not improbable that the Greeks and Phoenicians introduced some new 
arts and productions into the neighbourhood of Marseilles and Gades. 
93 See Homer Odyss. I. ix. v. 358. 

99 Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xiv. [11]. 

100 Strab. Geograph. 1. iv. p. 223. The intense cold of a Gallic winter was al- 
most proverbial among the ancients. [Compare Cicero, de Rep., iii. o.] 

101 In the beginning of the ivth century, the orator Eumenius (Panegyric. Veter. 
viii. 6. edit. Delphin. [Incerti, Graf. Actio Constantino Aug., viii. 6 ed. Bahrens]) 
speaks of the vines in the territory of Autun, which were decayed through age, and 
the first plantation of which was totally unknown. The Pagus Arebrignus is sup- 
posed by M. d'Anville to be the district of Beaune, celebrated, even at present, 
for one of the first growths of Burgundy. 


the heart of Spain and Gaul. The timid errors of the ancients, 
that it required a certain degree of heat, and could only flourish 
in the neighbourhood of the sea, were insensibly exploded by 
industry and experience. 102 4. The cultivation of flax was riax 
transported from Egypt to Gaul, and enriched the whole 
country, however it might impoverish the particular lands on 
which it was sown. 103 5. The use of artificial grasses became Artificial 
familiar to the farmers both of Italy and the provinces, parti- 
cularly the Lucerne, which derived its name and origin from 
Media. 104 The assured supply of wholesome and plentiful 
food for the cattle during winter multiplied the number of the 
flocks and herds, which in their turn contributed to the fertility 
of the soil. To all these improvements may be added an 
assiduous attention to mines and fisheries, which, by employing 
a multitude of laborious hands, serve to increase the pleasures 
of the rich and the subsistence of the poor. The elegant General 
treatise of Columella describes the advanced state of the plenty 
Spanish husbandry, under the reign of Tiberius ; and it may 
be observed that those famines which so frequently afflicted 
the infant republic were seldom or never experienced by the 
extensive empire of Rome. The accidental scarcity, in any 
single province, was immediately relieved by the plenty of its 
more fortunate neighbours. 

Agriculture is the foundation of manufactures ; since the Arts of 
productions of nature are the materials of art. Under the lnxury 
Roman empire, the labour of an industrious and ingenious 
people was variously, but incessantly, employed in the service of 
the rich. In their dress, their table, their houses, and their 
furniture, the favourites of fortune united every refinement of 
conveniency, of elegance, and of splendour, whatever could 
soothe their pride or gratify their sensuality. Such refinements, 
under the odious name of luxury, have been severely arraigned 
by the moralists of every age ; and it might perhaps be more 
conducive to the virtue, as well as happiness, of mankind, if all 
possessed the necessaries, and none the superfluities, of life. But 
in the present imperfect condition of society, luxury, though it 
may proceed from vice or folly, seems to be the only means that 
can correct the unequal distribution of property. The diligent 
mechanic, and the skilful artist, who have obtained no share in 

wpiin. Hist. Natur. 1. xv. [i]. 
10 3Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xix. [i, 2]. 

1M See the agreeable Essays on Agriculture by Mr. Harte, in which he has 
collected all that the ancients and rnoderns have said of lucerne. 



the division of the earth, receive a voluntary tax from the 
possessors of land ; and the latter are prompted, by a sense of 
interest, to improve those estates, with whose produce they may 
purchase additional pleasures. This operation, the particular 
effects of which are felt in every society, acted with much more 
diffusive energy in the Roman world. The provinces would soon 
have been exhausted of their wealth, if the manufactures and 
commerce of luxury had not insensibly restored to the industrious 
subjects the sums which were exacted from them by the arms 
and authority of Rome. As long as the circulation was confined 
within the bounds of the empire, it impressed the political 
machine with a new degree of activity, and its consequences, 
sometimes beneficial, could never become pernicious. 
Foreign But it is no easv task to confine luxury within the limits of an 

empire. The most remote countries of the ancient world were 
ransacked to supply the pomp and delicacy of Rome. The 
forest of Scythia afforded some valuable furs. Amber was 
brought over land from the shores of the Baltic to the Danube ; 
and the barbarians were astonished at the price which they 
received in exchange for so useless a commodity. 105 There was 
a considerable demand for Babylonian carpets, and other manu- 
factures of the East ; but the most important and unpopular 
branch of foreign trade was carried on with Arabia and India. 
Every year, about the time of the summer solstice, a fleet of an 
hundred and twenty vessels sailed from Myos-hormos, a port of 
Egypt, on the Red Sea. By the periodical assistance of the 
monsoons, they traversed the ocean in about forty days. The 
coast of Malabar, or the island of Ceylon, 100 was the usual term 
of their navigation, and it was in those markets that the 
merchants from the more remote countries of Asia expected 
their arrival. The return of the fleet of Egypt was fixed to the 
months of December or January; and as soon as their rich cargo 
had been transported on the backs of camels from the Red Sea 
to the Nile, and had descended that river as far as Alexandria, 
it was poured, without delay, into the capital of the empire. 107 
The objects of oriental traffic were splendid and trifling : silk, a 

105 Tacit. Germania, c. 45. Plin. Hist. Natur. xxxvii. 11 [7]. The latter observed, 
with some humour, that even fashion had not yet found out the use of amber. 
Nero sent a Roman knight to purchase great quantities on the spot, where it was 
produced ; the coast of modern Prussia. 

106 Called Taprobana by the Romans, and Screndib by the AraDs. It was dis- 
covered under the reign of Claudius, and gradually became the principal mart of 
the east. 

' 07 Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. vi. [23]. Strabo. 1. xvii. [p. 798]. 


pound of which was esteemed not inferior in value to a pound 
of gold ; 108 precious stones, among which the pearl claimed the 
first rank after the diamond ; 109 and a variety of aromatics, that 
were consumed in religious worship and the pomp of funerals. 110 
The labour and risk of the voyage was rewarded with almost in- 
credible profit ; but the profit was made upon Roman subjects, 
and a few individuals were enriched at the expense of the Public. 
As the natives of Arabia and India were contented with the pro- 
ductions and manufactures of their own country, silver, on the Gold and 
side of the Romans, was the principal, if not the only, instrument Sllver 
of commerce. It was a complaint worthy of the gravity of the 
senate, that, in the purchase of female ornaments, the wealth of 
the state was irrecoverably given away to foreign and hostile 
nations. 111 The annual loss is computed, by a writer of an 
inquisitive but censorious temper, at upwards of eight hundred 
thousand pounds sterling. 112 Such was the style of discontent, 
brooding over the dark prospect of approaching poverty. And 
yet, if we compare the proportion between gold and silver, as it 
stood in the time of Pliny, and as it was fixed in the reign of 
Constantine, we shall discover within that period a very con- 
siderable increase. 113 There is not the least reason to suppose 
that gold was become more scarce ; it is therefore evident that 

i° 8 Hist. August, p. 224 [xxvi. 45] . A silk garment was considered as an 
ornament to a woman, but as a disgrace to a man. 

109 The two great pearl fisheries were the same as at present, Ormuz and Cape 
Comorin. As well as we can compare ancient with modern geography, Rome 
was supplied with diamonds from the mine of Sumelpur, in Bengal, which is 
described in the Voyages de Ta vernier, torn. ii. p. 281. [See Appendix 9.] 

110 [But the use of aromatic spices among the Romans was by no means con- 
fined to these purposes.] 

111 Tacit. Annal. iii. 53. In a speech of Tiberius. [The statement in the 
text is an exaggeration and must be considerably modified, as also the subsequent 
remark about the plentifulness of the precious metals. Silver was not the only, 
though it seems to have been the chief, commodity sent to the east ; and there 
was certainly, as Merivale admits, a distinct though gradual diminution in the 
amount of gold and silver in circulation in the second century. Yet in regard to 
the first question, Gibbon had grasped facts ; the spirit of his observation is 
right. " Two texts of Pliny assert the constant drain of specie to the East ; and 
the assertion is confirmed by the circumstances of the case, for the Indians and 
the nations beyond India, who transmitted to the West their silks and spices, 
cared little for the wines and oils of Europe, still less for the manufactures in 
wool and leather which formed the staples of commerce in the Mediterranean. . . . 
The difficulty of maintaining the yield of the precious metals is marked in the 
severe regulations of the late emperors, and is further attested by the progressive 
debasement of the currency." (Merivale, Hist, of the Romans, cap. 68, vol. viii. 
p. 352). Cp. Finlay, History of Greece, i. 49, 50.] 

112 Plin. Hist. Natur. xii. 18. In another place he computes half that sum; 
Quingenties H. S. for India exclusive of Arabia. 

113 Tne proportion which was 1 to 10, and 12^, rose to 14^, the legal regulation 
Df Constantine. See Arbuthnot's Table of ancient Coins, c. v. 




Decline of 
courage ; 

silver was grown more common ; that whatever might be the 
amount of the Indian and Arabian exports, they were far from 
exhausting the wealth of the Roman world ; and that the pro- 
duce of the mines abundantly supplied the demands of commerce. 

Notwithstanding the propensity of mankind to exalt the past, 
and to depreciate the present, the tranquil and prosperous state 
of the empire was warmly felt, and honestly confessed, by the 
provincials as well as Romans. " They acknowledged that the 
true principles of social life, laws, agriculture, and science, which 
had been first invented by the wisdom of Athens, were now 
firmly established by the power of Rome, under whose auspicious 
influence the fiercest barbarians were united by an equal govern- 
ment and common language. They affirm that, with the 
improvement of arts, the human species was visibly multiplied. 
They celebrate the increasing splendour of the cities, the 
beautiful face of the country, cultivated and adorned like an 
immense garden ; and the long festival of peace, which was en- 
joyed by so many nations, forgetful of their ancient animosities, 
and delivered from the apprehension of future danger." 114 
Whatever suspicions may be suggested by the air of rhetoric and 
declamation which seems to prevail in these passages, the 
substance of them is perfectly agreeable to historic truth. 

It was scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries should 
discover in the public felicity the latent causes of decay and 
corruption. This long peace, and the uniform government of 
the Romans, introduced a slow and secret poison into the vitals 
of the empire. The minds of men were gradually reduced to the 
same level, the fire of genius was extinguished, and even the 
military spirit evaporated. The natives of Europe were brave 
and robust. Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Illyricum supplied the 
legions with excellent soldiers, and constituted the real strength 
of the monarchy. Their personal valour remained, but they no 
longer possessed that public courage which is nourished by the 
love of independence, the sense of national honour, the presence 
of danger, and the habit of command. They received laws and 
governors from the will of their sovereign, and trusted for their 
defence to a mercenary army. The posterity of their boldest 
leaders was contented with the rank of citizens and subjects. 
The most aspiring spirits resorted to the court or standard of the 
emperors ; and the deserted provinces, deprived of political 

U4 Among many other passages, see Pliny (Hist. Natur. iii. 5.), Aristides (de 
Urbe Roma) and Tertullian (de Anima, c. 30.). 


strength or union, insensibly sunk into the languid indifference 
of private life. 

The love of letters, almost inseparable from peace and refine- otgenins 
ment, was fashionable among the subjects of Hadrian and the 
Antonines, who were themselves men of learning and curiosity. 
It was diffused over the whole extent of their empire ; the most 
northern tribes of Britons had acquu-ed a taste for rhetoric ; 
Homer as well as Virgil were transcribed and studied on the 
banks of the Rhine and Danube ; and the most liberal rewards 
sought out the faintest glimmerings of literary merit. 115 The 
sciences of physic and astronomy were successfully cultivated by 
the Greeks ; the observations of Ptolemy and the writings of 
Galen are studied by those who have improved their discoveries 
and corrected their errors ; but, if we except the inimitable 
Lucian, this age of indolence passed away without having pro- 
duced a single writer of original genius or who excelled in the 
arts of elegant composition. The authority of Plato and Aristotle, 
of Zeno and Epicurus, still reigned in the schools, and their sys- 
tems, transmitted with blind deference from one generation of 
disciples to another, precluded every generous attempt to exer- 
cise the powers, or enlarge the limits, of the human mind. The 
beauties of the poets and orators, instead of kindling a fire like 
their own, inspired only cold and servile imitations : or, if any 
ventured to deviate from those models, they deviated at the same 
time from good sense and propriety. On the revival of letters, 
the youthful vigour of the imagination after a long repose, 
national emulation, a new religion, new languages, and a new 
world, called forth the genius of Europe. But the provincials of 
Rome, trained by a uniform artificial foreign education, were en- 
gaged in a very unequal competition with those bold ancients, 
who, by expresssing their genuine feelings in their native tongue, 
had already occupied every place of honour. The name of Poet 

115 Herodes Atticus gave the sophist Polemo above eight thousand pounds for 
three declamations. See Philostrat. 1. i. p. 558 [Life of Herodes, 7]. The An- 
tonines founded a school at Athens, in which professors of grammar, rhetoric, 
politics, and the four great sects of philosophy, were maintained at the public ex- 
pense for the instruction of youth. The salary of a philosopher was ten thousand 
drachmae, between three and four hundred pounds a year. Similar establishments 
were formed in the other great cities of the empire. See Lucian in Eunuch, torn. 
ii. p. 353. edit. Reitz. Philostrat. 1. ii. p. 566. Hist. August, p. 21 [iii., 11]. Dion 
Cassius, 1. lxxxi. p. 1195 [31] . Juvenal himself, in a morose satire, which in every line 
betrays his own disappointment and envy, is obliged, however, to say — O Juvenes, 
circumspicit et agitat [leg. stimulat] vos, Materiamque sibi Duds indulgentia 
quaerit. — Satlr. vii. 20. [Vespasian was the first to appoint salaried professors in 
Home ; Suetonius, in Vespas. 18.] 


was almost forgotten ; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists. 
A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the 
face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by 
the corruption of taste. 
Degeneracy The sublime Longinus, who in somewhat a later period, and 
in the court of a Syrian queen, preseiwed the spirit of ancient 
Athens, observes and laments this degeneracy of his contem- 
poraries, which debased their sentiments, enervated their 
courage, and depressed their talents. " In the same manner," 
says he, " as some children always remain pigmies, whose infant 
limbs have been too closely confined ; thus our tender minds, 
fettered by the prejudices and habits of a just servitude, are 
unable to expand themselves, or to attain that well-proportioned 
greatness which we admire in the ancients, who, living under a 
popular government, wrote with the same freedom as they 
acted." ne This diminutive stature of mankind, if we pursue 
the metaphor, was daily sinking below the old standard, and 
the Roman world was indeed peopled by a race of pigmies, 
when the fierce giants of the north broke in and mended the 
puny breed. They restored a manly spirit of freedom ; and, 
after the revolution of ten centuries, freedom became the happy 
parent of taste and science. 

116 Longin. de Sublim. c. 43, p. 229 edit. Toll. Here too we may say of 
Longinus, "his own example strengthens all his laws''. Instead of proposing 
his sentiments with a manly boldness, he insinuates them with the most guarded 
caution, puts them into the mouth of a friend, and, as far as we can collect from 
a corrupted text, makes a show of refuting them himself. [The author calls him 
"sublime" in allusion to the work On Sublimity, irepi v^/ovs. But the author- 
ship of this able and striking treatise is very doubtful ; it is certain that it was nc-" 
written by Zenobia's Longinus.] 



Of the Constitution of the Roman Empire, in the Age of the 


The obvious definition of a monarchy seems to be that of a state, idea of a 
in which a single person, by whatsoever name he may be dis- 
tinguished, is intrusted with the execution of the laws, the 
management of the revenue, and the command of the army. 
But unless public liberty is protected by intrepid and vigilant 
guardians, the authority of so formidable a magistrate will soon 
degenerate into despotism. The influence of the clergy, in an 
age of superstition, might be usefully employed to assert the 
rights of mankind ; but so intimate is the connexion between 
the throne and the altar, that the banner of the church has very 
seldom been seen on the side of the people. A martial nobility 
and stubborn commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, 
and collected into constitutional assemblies, form the only 
balance capable of preserving a free constitution against enter- 
prises of an aspiring prince. 

Every barrier of the Roman constitution had been levelled situation of 
by the vast ambition of the dictator ; every fence had been 
extirpated by the cruel hand of the triumvir. After the victory 
of Actium, the fate of the Roman world depended on the will 
of Octavianus, surnamed Caesar by his uncle's adoption, and 
afterwards Augustus, by the flattery of the senate. 1 The 
conqueror was at the head of forty-four veteran legions, 2 con- 
scious of their own strength and of the weakness of the con- 
stitution, habituated during twenty years' civil war to eveiy act 
of blood and violence, and passionately devoted to the house 
of Caesar, from whence alone they had received and expected 
the most lavish rewards. The provinces long oppressed by the 
ministers of the republic, sighed for the government of a single 

1 [His original name was C. Octavius, hence Merivale usually (incorrectly) 
speaks of him as Octavius. For he ceased to be an Octavius, and became a 
Julius, by his uncle's adoption; his full name in 44 B.C. was C. Julius Caesar 
Octavianus. The title Augustus was conferred Jan. 16, 27 B.C.] 

2 Orosius, vi. 18. 



He reforms 
the senate 

Resigns his 



person, who would be the master, not the accomplice, of those 
petty tyrants. The people of Rome, viewing with a secret 
pleasure the humiliation of the aristocracy, demanded only 
bread and public shows, and were supplied with both by the liberal 
hand of Augustus. The rich and polite Italians, who had 
almost universally embraced the philosophy of Epicurus, enjoyed 
the present blessings of ease and tranquillity, and suffered not 
the pleasing dream to be interrupted by the memory of their 
old tumultuous freedom. With its power, the senate had lost 
its dignity ; many of the most noble families were extinct. 
The republicans of spirit and ability had perished in the field 
of battle, or in the proscription. The door of the assembly 
had been designedly left open for a mixed multitude of more 
than a thousand persons, who reflected disgrace upon their rank, 
instead of deriving honour from it. 3 

The reformation of the senate, was one of the first steps in 
which Augustus laid aside the tyrant, and professed himself the 
father of his country. He was elected censor ; and, in concert 
with his faithful Agrippa, he examined the list of the senators, 
expelled a few members, 4 whose vices or whose obstinacy re- 
quired a public example, persuaded near two hundred to prevent 
the shame of an expulsion by a voluntary retreat, raised the 
qualification of a senator to about ten thousand pounds, created 
a sufficient number of patrician families, and accepted for himself 
the honourable title of Prince of the Senate, which had always 
been bestowed by the censors on the citizen the most eminent 
for his honours and services. 5 But, whilst he thus restored the 
dignity, he destroyed the independence of the senate. The 
principles of a free constitution are irrecoverably lost, when the 
legislative power is nominated by the executive. 

Before an assembly thus modelled and prepared, Augustus pro- 
nounced a studied oration, which displayed his patriotism, and 
disguised his ambition. " He lamented, yet excused, his past 
conduct. Filial piety had required at his hands the revenge of 
his father's murder ; the humanity of his own nature had some- 
times given way to the stern laws of necessity, and to a forced 
connexion with two unworthy colleagues : as long as Antony 

8 Julius Caesar introduced soldiers, strangers and half-barbarians, into the senate. 
(Sueton. in Caesar, c. 80.) The abuse became still more scandalous after his 

* [But Dion, as Milman pointed out, says that he erased no senator's name 
from the list ; see next note.] 

5 Dion Cassius, 1. iii. p. 693 [42], Suetonjus in August, c. 35. [But see Appen- 
dix 10. ) 


lived, the republic forbad him to abandon her to a degenerate 
Roman and a barbarian queen. He was now at liberty to satisfy 
his duty and his inclination. He solemnly restored the senate 
and people to all their ancient rights ; and wished only to mingle 
with the crowd of his fellow-citizens, and to share the blessings 
which he had obtained for his country." 6 

It would require the pen of Tacitus (if Tacitus had assisted at is prevailed 
this assembly) to describe the various emotions of the senate ; SSSe it uSdei 
those that were suppressed, and those that were affected. It emperor oV 
was dangerous to trust the sincerity of Augustus ; to seem to general 
distrust it was still more dangerous. The respective advantages 
of monarchy and a republic have often divided speculative 
inquirers ; the present greatness of the Roman state, the corrup- 
tion of manners, and the licence of the soldiers, supplied new 
arguments to the advocates of monarchy ; and these general 
views of government were again warped by the hopes and fears 
of each individual. Amidst this confusion of sentiments, the 
answer of the senate was unanimous and decisive. They 
refused to accept the resignation of Augustus ; they conjured 
liim not to desert the republic which he had saved. After a 
decent resistance the crafty tyrant submitted to the orders of 
the senate ; and consented to receive the government of the 
provinces, and the general command of the Roman armies, under 
the well-knownnamesof PROcoNSULandlMPERATOR. 7 But he would 
receive them only for ten years. Even before the expiration of 
that period, he hoped that the wounds of civil discord would be 
completely healed, and that the republic, restored to its pristine 
health and vigour, would no longer require the dangerous inter- 
position of so extraordinary a magistrate. The memory of this 
comedy, repeated several times during the life of Augustus, was 
preserved to the last ages of the empire by the peculiar pomp 
with which the perpetual monarchs of Rome always solemnized 
the tenth years of their reign. 8 

a Dion, 1. liii. p. 6983 [3], gives us a prolix and bombastic speech on this great 
occasion. I have borrowed from Suetonius and Tacitus the general language of 

7 Imperator (from which we have derived emperor) signified under the republic 
no more than general, and was emphatically bestowed by the soldiers, when on 
the field of battle they proclaimed their victorious leader worthy of that title. 
When the Roman emperors assumed it in that sense, they placed it after their name, 
and marked how often they had taken it. [Thus, as an imperial title, imperator 
preceded the emperor's name, but Imp. Hi. after his name meant that he was 
saluted Imperator by his troops for the third time, on the occasion of his second 
victory after his accession.] 

8 Dion, 1. liii. p. 703, etc. [11, cp. 16.] 


power or the Without any violation of the principles of the constitution 
ijeoerau the general of the Roman armies might receive and exercise an 
authority almost despotic over the soldiers, the enemies, and the 
subjects of the republic. With regard to the soldiers, the 
jealousy of freedom had, even from the earliest ages of Rome, 
given way to the hopes of conquest, and a just sense of military 
discipline. The dictator, or consul, had a right to command the 
service of the Roman youth, and to punish an obstinate or 
cowardly disobedience by the most severe and ignominious 
penalties, by striking the offender out of the list of citizens, by 
confiscating his property, and by selling his person into slavery. 9 
The most sacred rights of freedom, confirmed by the Porcian and 
Sempronian laws, were suspended by the military engagement. 
In his camp the general exercised an absolute power of life and 
death ; his jurisdiction was not confined by any forms of trial or 
rules of proceeding, and the execution of the sentence was 
immediate and without appeal. 10 The choice of the enemies of 
Rome was regularly decided by the legislative authority. The 
most important resolutions of peace and war were seriously 
debated in the senate, and solemnly ratified by the people. But 
when the arms of the legions were carried to a great distance 
from Italy, the generals assumed the liberty of directing them 
against whatever people, and in whatever manner, they judged 
most advantageous for the public service. It was from the 
success, not from the justice, of their enterprises, that they 
expected the honours of a triumph. In the use of victory, 
especially after they were no longer controlled by the commis- 
sioners of the senate, they exercised the most unbounded 
despotism. When Pompey commanded in the East, he rewarded 
his soldiers and allies, dethroned princes, divided kingdoms, 
founded colonies, and distributed the treasures of Mithridates. 
On his return to Rome he obtained, by a single act of the senate 
and people, the universal ratification of all his proceedings. 11 

y Liv. Epitom. 1. xiv. Valer. Maxim, vi. 3. 

10 See in the viiith book of Livy, the conduct of Manlius Torquatus and Papi- 
rius Cursor. They violated the laws of nature and humanity, but they asserted 
those of military discipline ; and the people, who abhorred the action, were obliged 
to respect the principle. 

u By the lavish but unconstrained suffrages of the people, Pompey had ob- 
tained a military command scarcely inferior to that of Augustus. Among the 
extraordinary acts of power executed by the former, we may remark the founda- 
tion of twenty-nine cities, and the distribution of three or four millions sterling 
to his troops. The ratification of his acts met with some opposition and delays 
in the senate. See Plutarch, Appian, Dion Cassius, and the first book of the to Atticus. 


Such was the power over the soldiers, and over the enemies of 
Rome, which was either granted to, or assumed by, the generals 
of the republic. They were, at the same time, the governors, or 
rather monarchs, of the conquered provinces, united the civil 
with the military character, administered justice as well as the 
finances, and exercised both the executive and legislative power 
of the state. 

From what has been already observed in the first chapter of Lieutenants 
this work, some notion may be formed of the armies and pro- peror em ~ 
vinces thus intrusted to the ruling hand of Augustus. But, as it 
was impossible that he could personally command the legions of 
so many distant frontiers, he was indulged by the senate, as 
Pompey had already been, in the permission of devolving the 
execution of his great office on a sufficient number of lieutenants. 
In rank and authority these officers seemed not inferior to the 
ancient proconsuls ; but their station was dependent and pre- 
carious. They received and held their commissions at the will 
of a superior, to whose auspicious influence the merit of their 
action was legally attributed. 12 They were the representatives 
of the emperor. The emperor alone was the general of the 
republic, and his jurisdiction, civil as well as military, extended 
over all the conquests of Rome. It was some satisfaction, how- 
ever, to the senate that he always delegated his power to the 
members of their body. The imperial lieutenants were of con- 
sular or praetorian dignity ; the legions were commanded by 
senators, and the prefecture of Egypt was the only important 
trust committed to a Roman knight. 

Within six days after Augustus had been compelled to accept Division of 
so very liberal a grant, he resolved to gratify the pride of the between the" 
senate by an easy sacrifice. He represented to them that they the P se r nate n 
had enlarged his powers, even beyond that degree which might 
be required by the melancholy condition of the times. They 
had not permitted him to refuse the laborious command of the 
armies and the frontiers ; but he must insist on being allowed 
to restore the more peaceful and secure provinces to the mild 
administration of the civil magistrate. In the division of the 
provinces Augustus provided for his own power and for the dignity 
of the republic. The proconsuls of the senate, particularly those 

12 Under the commonwealth, a triumph could only be claimed by the general, 
who was authorized to take the Auspices in the name of the people. By an exact 
consequence, drawn from this principle of policy and religion, the triumph was 
reserved to the emperor, and his most successful lieutenants were satisfied with 
some marks of distinction, which, under the name of triumphal honours, were 
invented in their favour. [On the provincial governors see Appendix 10.] 


of Asia, Greece, and Africa, enjoyed a more honourable char- 
acter than the lieutenants of the emperor, who commanded in 
Gaul or Syria. The former were attended by lictors, the latter 
by soldiers. A law was passed that, wherever the emperor was 
present, his extraordinary commission should supersede the or- 
dinary jurisdiction of the governor; a custom was introduced, 
that the new conquests belonged to the imperial portion ; and 
it was soon discovered that the authority of the Prince, the 
favourite epithet of Augustus, was the same in every part of the 
The former In return for this imaginary concession, Augustus obtained an 
EL military important privilege, which rendered him master of Rome and 
iuards D in Italy. By a dangerous exception to the ancient maxims, he was 
authorized to preserve his military command, supported by a 
numerous body of guards, even in time of peace, and in the heart 
of the capital. 13 His command, indeed, was confined to those 
citizens who were engaged in the service by the military oath ; 
but such was the propensity of the Romans to servitude, that the 
oath was voluntarily taken by the magistrates, the senators, and 
the equestrian order, till the homage of flattery was insensibly 
converted into an annual and solemn protestation of fidelity. 
consular and Although Augustus considered a military force as the firmest 
powers foundation, he wisely rejected it as a very odious instrument, of 
government. It was more agreeable to his temper, as well as to 
his policy, to reign under the venerable names of ancient magis- 
tracy, and artfully to collect in his own person all the scattered 
rays of civil jurisdiction. With this view, he permitted the senate 
to confer upon him, for his life, the powers of the consular 14 and 
tribunitian offices, 15 which were, in the same manner, continued 
to all his successors. The consuls had succeeded to the kings of 
Rome, and represented the dignity of the state. They superin- 
tended the ceremonies of religion, levied and commanded the 
legions, gave audience to foreign ambassadors, and presided in 
the assemblies both of the senate and people. The general 

13 [The praetorian guards and the fleets (at Ravenna and Misenum) were the 
two exceptions to the principle that Italy was outside the jurisdiction of the Im- 
perator] . 

M Cicero (de Legibus, iii. 3.) gives the consular office the name of Regia potestas : 
and Polybius (1. vi. c. 3.) observes three powers in the Roman constitution. The 
monarchical was represented and exercised by the consuls. [But see Appendix 10. ] 

15 As the tribunitian power (distinct from the annual office) was first invented 
for the dictator Caesar (Dion, 1. xliv. p. 384 [5]), we may easily conceive, that it 
was given as a reward for having so nobly asserted, by arms, the sacred rights of 
the tribunes and people. See his own commentaries, de Bell. Civil. 1. i. 


control of the finances was intrusted to their care and, though 
they seldom had leisure to administer justice in person, they 
were considered as the supreme guardians of law, equity, and the 
public peace. Such was their ordinary jurisdiction ; but when- 
ever the senate empowered the first magistrate to consult the 
safety of the commonwealth, he was raised by that degree above 
the laws, and exercised, in the defence of liberty, a temporary 
despotism. 16 The character of the tribunes was, in every respect, 
different from that of the consuls. The appearance of the former 
was modest and humble ; but their persons were sacred and in- 
violable. Their force was suited rather for opposition than for 
action. They were instituted to defend the oppressed, to pardon 
offences, to arraign the enemies of the people, and, when they 
judged it necessary, to stop, by a single word, the whole machine 
of government. As long as the republic subsisted, the dangerous 
influence which either the consul or the tribune might derive 
from their respective jurisdiction was diminished by several im- 
portant restrictions. Their authority expired with the year in 
which they were elected ; the former office was divided between 
two, the latter among ten persons ; and, as both in their private 
and public interest they were adverse to each other, their mutual 
conflicts contributed, for the most part, to strengthen rather than 
to destroy the balance of the constitution. But when the con- 
sular and tribunitian powers were united, 1 " when they were vested 
for life in a single person, when the general of the army was, at the 
same time, the minister of the senate and the representative of 
the Roman people, it was impossible to resist the exercise, nor 
was it easy to define the limits, of his imperial prerogative. 

To these accumulated honours the policy of Augustus soon imperial pn- 
added the splendid as well as important dignities of supreme roi 
pontiff, and of censor. 18 By the former he acquired the manage- 
ment of the religion, and by the latter a legal inspection over 
the manners and fortunes, of the Roman people. If so many 
distinct and independent powers did not exactly unite with 
each other, the complaisance of the senate was prepared to 

16 Augustus exercised nine annual consulships without interruption. He then 
most artfully refused that magistracy as well as the dictatorship, absented himself 
from Rome, and waited till the fatal effects of tumult and faction forced the senate 
to invest him with a perpetual consulship. Augustus, as well as his successors, 
affected, however, to conceal so invidious a title. 

17 [But observe that the tribunate (as the author afterwards points out) was not 
discontinued, though, overshadowed by the tribunicia potestas of the emperor, 
It lost all political significance.] 

18 [See Appendix 10.] 

5 VOL. I. 


supply every deficiency by the most ample and extraordinary 
concessions. The emperors, as the first ministers of the republic, 
were exempted from the obligation and penalty of many incon- 
venient laws : they were authorized to convoke the senate, to 
make several motions in the same day, to recommend candidates 
for the honours of the state, to enlarge the bounds of the city, 
to employ the revenue at their discretion, to declare peace and 
war, to ratify treaties ; and by a most comprehensive clause, 
they were empowered to execute whatsoever they should judge 
advantageous to the empire, and agreeable to the majesty of 
things private or public, human or divine. 19 

When all the various powers of executive government were 
committed to the Imperial magistrate, the ordinary magistrates of 
the commonwealth languished in obscurity, without vigour, and 
almost without business. The names and forms of the ancient 
administration were preserved by Augustus with the most anxious 
care. The usual number of consuls, praetors, and tribunes 20 
were annually invested with their respective ensigns of office, 
and continued to discharge some of their least important func- 
tions. Those honours still attracted the vain ambition of the 
Romans ; and the emperors themselves, though invested for life 
with the powers of the consulship, 21 frequently aspired to the 
title of that annual dignity, which they condescended to share 
with the most illustrious of their fellow-citizens. 22 In the elec- 
tion of these magistrates, the people, during the reign of 
Augustus, were permitted to expose all the inconveniences of a 
wild democracy. That artful prince, instead of discovering the 

19 See a fragment of a Decree of the Senate, conferring on the Emperor 
Vespasian all the powers granted to his predecessors, Augustus, Tiberius, and 
Claudius. This curious and important monument is published in Gutter's 
Inscriptions, No. ccxlii. [Corp. Insc. Lat. vi. 930. This document is known as 
the lex de imperio Vespasiani.~) 

20 Two consuls were created on the Calends of January ; but in the course of 
the year others were substituted in their places, till the annual number seems to 
have amounted to no less than twelve. The praetors were usually sixteen or 
eighteen (Lipsius in Excurs. D. ad. Tacit. Annal. 1. i.). I have not mentioned 
the iEdiles or Quaestors. Officers of the police or revenue easily adapt themselves 
to any form of government. In the time of Nero the tribunes legally possessed 
the right of intercession, though it might be dangerous to exercise it (Tacit. Annal. 
xvi. 26). In the time of Trajan, it was doubtful whether the tribuneship was an 
office or a name (Plin. Epist. 123) [But it still existed in the 5th century, being 
mentioned in the Theodosian Code.] 

21 [See above note n.] 

22 The tyrants themselves were ambitious of the consulship. The virtuous princes 
were moderate in the pursuit, and exact in the discharge, of it. Trajan revived 
the ancient oath, and swore before the consul's tribunal that he would observe the 
laws (Plin. Panegyric, c. 64). 


least symptom of impatience, humbly solicited their suffrages 
for himself or his friends, and scrupulously practised all the 
duties of an ordinary candidate. 23 But we may venture to as- 
cribe to his councils the first measure of the succeeding reign, 
by which the elections were transferred to the senate. 2i The 
assemblies of the people were for ever abolished, and the em- 
perors were delivered from a dangerous multitude, who, without 
restoring liberty, might have disturbed, and perhaps endangered, 
the established government. 

By declaring themselves the protectors of the people, Marius The senate 
and Caesar had subverted the constitution of their country. But 
as soon as the senate had been humbled and disarmed, such 
an assembly, consisting of five or six hundred persons, was found 
a much more tractable and useful instrument of dominion. It 
was on the dignity of the senate that Augustus and his suc- 
cessors founded their new empire ; and they affected, on every 
occasion, to adopt the language and principles of Patricians. In 
the administration of their own powers, they frequently con- 
sulted the great national council, and seemed to refer to its decision 
the most important concerns of peace and war. Rome, Italy, 
and the internal provinces were subject to the immediate 
jurisdiction of the senate. With regard to civil objects, it was 
the supreme court of appeal ; with regard to criminal matters, a 
tribunal, constituted for the trial of all offences that were com- 
mitted by men in any public station, or that affected the peace 
and majesty of the Roman people. The exercise of the judicial 
power became the most frequent and serious occupation of the 
senate ; and the important causes that were pleaded before them 
afforded a last refuge to the spirit of ancient eloquence. As a 
council of state, and as a court of justice, the senate possessed 
very considerable prerogatives ; but in its legislative capacity, in 
which it was supposed virtually to represent the people, the 
rights of sovereignty were acknowledged to reside in that 
assembly. Every power was derived from their authority, every 
law was ratified by their sanction. Their regular meetings were 
held on three stated days in every month, the Calends, the 

^Quoties Magistratuum Comitiis interesset, tribus cum candidatis suis circui- 
bat ; supplicabatque more solemni. Ferebat et ipse suffragium in tribubus, ut 
unus e populo. Suetonius in August, c. 56. 

24 Turn primum Comitia e campo ad patres translata sunt. Tacit. Annal. i. 15. 
The word primum seems to allude to some faint and unsuccessful efforts, which 
were made towards restoring them to the people. [One formality was still left to 
the popular assembly — the renuntiatio of the elected candidates. Gibbon's infer- 
ence from primum is hardly tenable ; but he is right in so far that Augustus had 
prepared the way for the change of Tiberius.] 



General idea 
of the Impert 
al system 

Court of the 

Nones, and the Ides. The debates were conducted with decent 
freedom ; and the emperors themselves, who gloried in the 
name of senators, sat, voted, and divided with their equals. 

To resume, in a few words, the system of the Imperial govern- 
ment, as it was instituted by Augustus, and maintained by those 
princes who understood their own interest and that of the 
neople, it may be defined an absolute monarchy disguised by 
the forms of a commonwealth. The masters of the Roman world 
surrounded their throne with darkness, concealed their irresistible 
strength, and humbly professed themselves the accountable 
ministers of the senate, whose supreme decrees they dictated and 
obeyed. 25 

The face of the court corresponded with the forms of the 
administration. The emperors, if we except those tyrants whose 
capricious folly violated every law of nature and decency, dis- 
dained that pomp and ceremony which might offend their 
countrymen, but could add nothing to their real power. In 
all the offices of life, they affected to confound themselves 
with their subjects, and maintained with them an equal inter- 
course of visits and entertainments. Their habit, their palace, 
their table, were suited only to the rank of an opulent 
senator. Their family, however numerous or splendid, was 
composed entirely of their domestic slaves and freedmen. 26 
Augustus or Trajan would have blushed at employing the 
meanest of the Romans in those menial offices which, in the 
household and bedchamber of a limited monarch, are so eagerly 
solicited by the proudest nobles of Britain. 

The deification of the emperors 27 is the only instance in 
which they departed from their accustomed prudence and 
modesty. The Asiatic Greeks were the first inventors, the 
successors of Alexander 28 the first objects, of this servile and 

25 Dion Cassius (1. liii. p. 703-714 Ti2-i8] ) has given a very loose and partial 
sketch of the Imperial system. To illustrate and often to correct him, I have 
mentioned Tacitus, examined Suetonius, and consulted the following moderns : 
the Abb£ de la Ble'terie in the M^moires de l'AcadeVnie des Inscriptions, torn, 
xix. xxi. xxiv. xxv. xxvii. Beaufort, Republique Romaine, torn. i. p. 255-275. 
The dissertations of Noodt and Gronovius, de lege Regia : printed at Leyden, 
in the year 1731. Gravina de Imperio Romano, p. 479-544 of his Opuscula. 
Maffei Verona Illustrata, p. i. p. 245, &c. 

26 A weak prince will always be governed by his domestics. The power of 
slaves aggravated the shame of the Romans ; and the senate paid court to a 
Pallas or a Narcissus. There is a chance that a modern favourite may be a 

27 See a treatise of Van Dale de Consecratione Principum. It would be easier 
for me to copy, than it has been to verify, the quotations of that learned Dutch- 

28 [And Alexander himself.] 


impious mode of adulation. It was easily transferred from the 
kings to the governors of Asia ; and the Roman magistrates 
very frequently were adored as provincial deities, with the 
pomp of altars and temples, of festivals and sacrifices. 29 It was 
natural that the emperors should not refuse what the proconsuls 
had accepted ; and the divine honours which both the one and 
the other received from the provinces attested rather the 
despotism than the servitude of Rome. But the conquerors 
soon imitated the vanquished nations in the arts of flattery ; 
and the imperious spirit of the first Caesar too easily consented 
to assume, during his life time, a place among the tutelar deities 
of Rome. The milder temper of his successor declined so 
dangerous an ambition, which was never afterwards revived, 
except by the madness of Caligula and Domitian. Augustus 
permitted indeed some of the provincial cities to erect temples 
to his honour, on condition that they should associate the 
worship of Rome with that of the sovereign ; he tolerated 
private superstition, of which he might be the object; 30 but he 
contented himself with being revered by the senate and people 
in his human character, and wisely left to his successor 
the care of his public deification. A regular custom was in- 
troduced, that, on the decease of every emperor who had 
neither lived nor died like a tyrant, the senate by a solemn 
decree should place him in the number of the gods : and the 
ceremonies of his apotheosis were blended with those of his 
funeral. This legal, and, as it should seem, injudicious pro- 
fanation, so abhorrent to our stricter principles, was received 
with a very faint murmur 31 by the easy nature of Polytheism ; 
but it was received as an institution, not of religion, but of 
policy. We should disgrace the virtues of the Antonines by 
comparing them with the vices of Hercules or Jupiter. Even 
the characters of Caesar or Augustus were far superior to those 
of the popular deities. But it was the misfortune of the former 
to live in an enlightened age, and their actions were too faith- 
fully recorded to admit of such a mixture of fable and mystery 
as the devotion of the vulgar requires. As soon as their 

29 See a dissertation of the Abbe" Mongault in the first volume of the Academy 
of Inscriptions. [For the whole subject see the admirable article of Mr. Purser 
on Apotheosis, in thenewedit. of Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.] 

30 Jurandasque tuum per nomen ponimus aras, says Horace to the emperor 
himself, and Horace was well acquainted with the court of Augustus. 

31 See Cicero in Philippic, i. 6. Julian in Cassaribus, Inque Deum templis 
jurabit Roma per umbras, is the indignant expression of Lucan ; but it is a 
patriotic rather than a devout indignation. 


divinity was established by law, it sunk into oblivion, without 
contributing either to their own fame or to the dignity of 
succeeding princes. 
Titus of In the consideration of the Imperial government, we have 

cZiZ?'" and frequently mentioned the artful founder, under his well-known 
title of Augustus, which was not however conferred upon him 
till the edifice was almost completed. The obscure name of 
Octavianus he derived from a mean family in the little town of 
Aricia. It was stained with the blood of the proscriptions ; 
and he was desirous, had it been possible, to erase all memory 
of his former life. The illustrious surname of Csesar he had 
assumed, as the adopted son of the dictator ; but he had too 
much good sense either to hope to be confounded, or to wish to 
be compared, with that extraordinary man. It was proposed 
[27B.O.] in the senate to dignify their minister with a new appel- 
lation ; and after a very serious discussion, that of Augustus 
was chosen, among several others, as being the most expressive 
of the character of peace and sanctity which he uniformly 
affected. 32 Augustus was therefore a personal, Ccesar a family 
distinction. The former should naturally have expired with the 
prince on whom it was bestowed ; and however the latter Avas 
diffused by adoption and female alliance, Nero was the last 
prince who could allege any hereditary claim to the honours of 
the Julian line. But, at the time of his death, the practice of 
a century had inseparably connected those appellations with the 
Imperial dignity, and they have been preserved by a long suc- 
cession of emperors, — Romans, Greeks, Franks, and Germans, — 
from the fall of the republic to the present time. A distinction 
was, however, soon introduced. The sacred title of Augustus 
was always reserved for the monarch, whilst the name of Caesar 
was more freely communicated to his relations ; and, from the 
reign of Hadrian at least, was appropriated to the second 
person in the state, who was considered as the presumptive heir 
of the empire. 
character and The tender respect of Augustus for a free constitution which 
AusTuitas he had destroyed can only be explained by an attentive con- 
sideration of the character of that subtle tyrant. A cool head, 
an unfeeling heart, and a cowardly disposition, prompted him 
at the age of nineteen to assume the mask of hypocrisy, which 
he never afterwards laid aside. With the same hand, and pro- 

32 Dion Cassius, 1. liii. p. 710 [16] with the curious Annotations of Reimar. 
[Augustus, rendered in Greek by 2e/3ao-Tds, cast a certain religious halo over the 
head of the emperor, cp. Dion loc. cit.] 


bably with the same temper, he signed the proscription of 
Cicero and the pardon of Cinna. His virtues, and even his 
vices, were artificial ; and according to the various dictates of 
his interest, he was at first the enemy, and at last the father, of 
the Roman world. 33 When he framed the artful system of the 
Imperial authority, his moderation was inspired by his fears. 
He wished to deceive the people by an image of civil liberty, 
and the armies by an image of civil government. 

I. The death of Csesar was ever before his eyes. He had image of 
lavished wealth and honours on his adherents ; but the most me people 
favoured friends of his uncle were in the number of the con- 
spirators. The fidelity of the legions might defend his authority 
against open rebellion, but their vigilance could not secure his 
person from the dagger of a determined republican ; and the 
Romans, who revered the memory of Brutus, 34 would applaud the 
imitation of his virtue. Caesar had provoked his fate as much 
by the ostentation of his power as by his power itself. The 
consul or the tribune might have reigned in peace. The title 
of king had armed the Romans against his life. Augustus was 
sensible that mankind is governed by names ; nor was he de- 
ceived in his expectation that the senate and people would sub- 
mit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they 
still enjoyed their ancient freedom. A feeble senate and ener- 
vated people cheerfully acquiesced in the pleasing illusion, as 
long as it was supported by the virtue, or by even the prudence, 
of the successors of Augustus. It was a motive of self-preserva- 
tion, not a principle of liberty, that animated the conspirators 
against Caligula, Nero, and Domitian. They attacked the per- 
son of the tyrant, without aiming their blow at the authority of 
the emperor. 

There appears, indeed, one memorable occasion, in which the Attempt oi 
senate, after seventy years of patience, made an ineffectual after aw 9 
attempt to reassume its long-forgotten rights. When the throne oaUgoU 
was vacant by the murder of Caligula, the consuls convoked 
that assembly in the Capitol, condemned the memory of the 
Caesars, gave the watchword liberty to the few cohorts who 

33 As Octavianus advanced to the banquet of the Caesars, his colour changed 
like that of the chameleon ; pale at first, then red, afterwards black, he at last 
assumed the mild livery of Venus and the Graces (Caesars, p. 309). This image, 
employed by Julian in his ingenious fiction, is just and elegant; but, when he con- 
siders this change of character as real, and ascribes it to the power of philosophy, 
he does too much honour to philosophy and to Octavianus. 

34 Two centuries after the establishment of monarchy, the emperor Marcus 
Antoninus recommends the character of Brutus as a perfect model of Roman virtue. 



Image of 
for the 

faintly adhered to their standard, and during eight and forty 
hours, acted as the independent chiefs of a free commonwealth. 
But while they deliberated, the praetorian guards had resolved. 
The stupid Claudius, brother of Germanicus, was already in their 
camp, invested with the Imperial purple, and prepared to sup- 
port his election by arms. The dream of liberty was at an end ; 
and the senate awoke to all the horrors of inevitable servitude. 
Deserted by the people, and threatened by a military force, that 
feeble assembly was compelled to ratify the choice of the prae- 
torians, and to embrace the benefit of an amnesty, which 
Claudius had the prudence to offer, and the generosity to ob- 
serve. 35 

II. The insolence of the armies inspired Augustus with fears 
of a still more alarming nature. The despair of the citizens 
could only attempt what the power of the soldiers was, at any 
time, able to execute. How precarious was his own authority 
over men whom he had taught to violate every social duty ! He 
had heard their seditious clamours ; he dreaded their calmer 
moments of reflection. One revolution had been purchased by 
immense rewards ; but a second revolution might double those 
rewards. The troops professed the fondest attachment to the 
house of Caesar ; but the attachments of the multitude are 
capricious and inconstant. Augustus summoned to his aid 
whatever remained in those fierce minds of Roman prejudices ; 
enforced the rigour of discipline by the sanction of law ; and, 
interposing the majesty of the senate between the emperor and 
the army, boldly claimed their allegiance as the first magistrate 
of the republic- 36 

During a long period of two hundred and twenty years, from 
the establishment of this artful system to the death of Com- 
modus, the dangers inherent to a military government were, in 
a great measure, suspended. The soldiers were seldom roused to 
that fatal sense of their own strength, and of the weakness of 
the civil authority, which was, before and afterwards, productive 
of such dreadful calamities. Caligula and Domitian were assas- 
sinated in their palace by their own domestics : 37 the convul- 

se It is much to be regretted that we have lost the part of Tacitus which treated 
of that transaction. We are forced to content ourselves with the popular rumours 
of Josephus, and the imperfect hints of Dion and Suetonius. 

36 Augustus restored the ancient severity of discipline. After the civil wars, 
he dropped the endearing name of Fellow-Soldiers, and called them only Soldiers 
(Sueton. in August, c. 25). See the use Tiberius made of the senate in the 
mutiny of the Pannonian legions (Tacit. Annal. i. [25]). 

37 [Caligula was slain by officers of the praetorian guards.] 


sions which agitated Rome on the death of the former were 
confined to the walls of the city. But Nero involved the whole 
empire in his ruin. In the space of eighteen months four 
princes perished by the sword ; and the Roman world was 
shaken by the fury of the contending armies. Excepting only 
this short, though violent, eruption of military licence, the two 
centuries from Augustus to Commodus passed away, unstained 
with civil blood, and undisturbed by revolutions. The emperor 
was elected by the authority of the senate and the consent of the 
soldiers.^ The legions respected their oath of fidelity ; and it 
requires a minute inspection of the Roman annals to discover 
three inconsiderable rebellions, which were all suppressed in a 
few months, and without even the hazard of a battle. 39 

In elective monarchies, the vacancy of the throne is a moment Designation of 
big with danger and mischief. The Roman emperors, desirous 
to spare the legions that interval of suspense, and the temptation 
of an irregular choice, invested their designed successor with so 
large a share of present power, as should enable him, after their 
decease, to assume the remainder without suffering the empire 
to perceive the change of masters. Thus Augustus, after all hiso/Tiberiua 
fairer prospects had been snatched from him by untimely deaths, 
rested his last hopes on Tiberius, obtained for his adopted son 
the censorial and tribunitian powers, and dictated a law, by 
which the future prince was invested with an authority equal to 
his own over the provinces and the armies. 40 Thus Vespasian 
subdued the generous mind of his eldest son. Titus was adored of Titus 
by the eastern legions, which, under his command, had recently 
achieved the conquest of Judea. His power was dreaded, and, 
as his virtues were clouded by the intemperance of youth, his 
designs were suspected. Instead of listening to such unworthy 
suspicions, the prudent monarch associated Titus to the full 
powers of the Imperial dignity ; and the grateful son ever 
approved himself the humble and faithful minister of so indulgent 
a father. 41 

38 These words seem to have been the constitutional language. See Tacit. 
Annal. xiii. 4. 

39 The first was Camillus Scribonianus, who took up arms in Dalmatia against 
Claudius, and was deserted by his own troops in five days ; the second, L. 
Antonius, in Germany, who rebelled against Domitian ; and the third, Avidius 
Cassius, in the reign of M. Antoninus. The two last reigned but a few months 
and were cut off by their own adherents. We may observe, that both Camillu 
and Cassius coloured their ambition with the design of restoring the republic 
a task, said Cassius, peculiarly reserved for his name and family. 

40 Velleius Paterculus, l.ii c. 121. Sueton. in Tiber, c. 20. 

41 Sueton. in Tit. c. 6. Plin. in Praefat. Hist. Natur. 


The race of The good sense of Vespasian engaged him indeed to embrace 

the Caesars ^ j. o o 

and the every measure that might confirm his recent and precarious 

Flavian * cj j. 

family elevation. The military oath, and the fidelity of the troops, had 

been consecrated, by the habits of an hundred years, to the 
name and family of the Caesars ; and, although that family had 
been continued only by the fictitious rite of adoption, the Romans 
still revered, in the person of Nero, the grandson of Germanicus, 
and the lineal successor of Augustus. It was not without re- 
luctance and remorse that the praetorian guards had been per- 
suaded to abandon the cause of the tyrant. 42 The rapid down- 
fall of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, taught the armies to consider 
the emperors as the creatures of their will, and the instruments 
of their licence. The birth of Vespasian was mean ; his grand- 
father had been a private soldier, his father a petty officer of the 
revenue, 43 his own merit had raised him, in an advanced age, to 
the empire ; but his merit was rather useful than shining, and 
his virtues were disgraced by a strict and even sordid parsimony. 
Such a prince consulted his true interest by the association of a 
son whose more splendid and amiable character might turn the 
public attention from the obscure origin to the future glories of 
the Flavian house. Under the mild administration of Titus, the 
Roman world enjoyed a transient felicity, and his beloved 
memory served to protect, above fifteen years, the vices of his 
brother Domitian. 

ad. 96. Nerva had scarcely accepted the purple from the assassins of 

character*" Domitian before he discovered that his feeble age was unable to 
stem the torrent of public disorders which had multiplied under 
the long tyranny of his predecessor. His mild disposition was 
respected by the good ; but the degenerate Romans required a 
more vigorous character, Avhose justice should strike terror into 
the guilty. Though he had several relations, he fixed his choice 
on a stranger. He adopted Trajan, then about forty years of 
age, and who commanded a powerful arcny in the Lower 
Germany ; and immediately, by a decree of the senate, declared 

a.d. 98 him his colleague and successor in the empire. 44 It is sincerely 
to be lamented, that, whilst we are fatigued with the disgustful 
relation of Nero's crimes and follies, we are reduced to collect 
the actions of Trajan from the glimmerings of an abridgment, or 

42 This idea is frequently and strongly inculcated by Tacitus. See Hist. i. 5. 16. 
ii. 76. 

4:! The emperor Vespasian, with his usual good sense, laughed at the Genealo- 
gists, who deduced his family from Flavius, the founder of Reate (his native 
country), and one of the companions of Hercules. Sueton. in Vespasian, i. 12. 

44 Dio. 1. lxviii. p. 1121 [3]. Plin. Secund. in Panegyric. [7] 


the doubtful light of a panegyric. There remains, however, one 
panegyric far removed beyond the suspicion of flattery. Above 
two hundred and fifty years after the death of Trajan, the senate, 
in pouring out the customary acclamations on the accession of a 
new emperor, wished that he might surpass the felicity of 
Augustus, and the virtue of Trajan. 45 

We may readily believe that the father of his country hesitated ad. m. 
whether he ought to intrust the various and doubtful character 
of his kinsman Hadrian with sovereign power. In his last 
moments, the arts of the empress Plotina either fixed the 
irresolution of Trajan, or boldly supposed a fictitious adoption, 46 
the truth of which could not be safely disputed ; and Hadrian 
was peaceably acknowledged as his lawful successor. Under 
his reign, as has been already mentioned, the empire flourished 
in peace and prosperity. He encouraged the arts, reformed the 
laws, asserted military discipline, and visited all his provinces in 
person. His vast and active genius was equally suited to the 
most enlarged views and the minute details of civil policy. But 
the ruling passions of his soul were curiosity and vanity. As 
they prevailed, and as they were attracted by different objects, 
Hadrian was, by turns, an excellent prince, a ridiculous sophist, 
and a jealous tyrant. The general tenor of his conduct deserved 
praise for its equity and moderation. Yet, in the first days of his 
reign, he put to death four consular senators, his personal 
enemies, and men who had been judged worthy of empire ; and 
the tediousness of a painful illness rendered him, at last, peevish 
and cruel. The senate doubted whether they should pronounce 
him a god or a tyrant ; and the honours decreed to his memory 
were granted to the prayers of the pious Antoninus. 47 

The caprice of Hadrian influenced his choice of a successor. Adoption of 
After revolving in his mind several men of distinguished merit, younger 
whom he esteemed and hated, he adopted iElius Verus, a gay 
and voluptuous nobleman, recommended by uncommon beauty 
to the lover of Antinous. 48 But whilst Hadrian was delighting 

* 5 Felicior Augusto, melior Trajano. Eutrop. viii. 5. 

46 Dion (1. lxix. p. 1249 [1] ) affirms the whole to have been a fiction, on the 
authority of his father, who being governor of the province where Trajan died, 
had very good opportunities of sifting this mysterious transaction. Yet Dodwell 
(Praglect. Camden, xvii.) has maintained, that Hadrian was called to the certain 
hope of the empire during the life-time of Trajan. 

47 Dion, 1. lxx. p. 1 171 [1] . Aurel. Victor [13]. 

■ )s The deification of Antinous, his medals, statutes, temples, city, oracles, and 
constellation, are well known, and still dishonour the memory of Hadrian. Yet 
we may remark, that of the first fifteen emperors Claudius was the only one whose 
taste in love was entirely correct. For the honours of Antinous, see Spanheim, 
Commentaires sur les Caesars de Julien, p. 80. 


himself with his own applause, and the acclamations of the 
soldiers, whose consent had been secured by an immense donative, 
the new Caesar 49 was ravished from his embraces by an untimely 
death. He left only one son. Hadrian commended the boy to 
the gratitude of the Antonines. He was adopted by Pius; and, 
on the accession of Marcus, was invested with an equal share of 
sovereign power. Among the many vices of this younger Verus, 
he possessed one virtue — a dutiful reverencefor his wiser colleague, 
to whom he willingly abandoned the ruder cares of empire. 
The philosophic emperor dissembled his follies, lamented his 
early death, and cast a decent veil over his memory. 

Adoption of As soon as Hadrian's passion was either gratified or dis- 

Antoninea appointed, he resolved to deserve the thanks of posterity by 
placing the most exalted merit on the Roman throne. His dis- 
cerning eye easily discovered a senator about fifty years of age, 
blameless in all the offices of life; and a youth of about seventeen, 
whose riper years opened the fair prospect of every virtue : the 
elder of these was declared the son and successor of Hadrian, on 
condition, however, that he himself should immediately adopt 
the younger. The two Antonines (for it is of them that we are now 
speaking) governed the Roman world forty-two years with the 

a.d. 138-180 same invariable spirit of wisdom and virtue. Although Pius 
had two sons, 50 he preferred the welfare of Rome to the interest 
of his family, gave his daughter Faustina in marriage to young 
Marcus, obtained from the senate the tribunitian and proconsular 
powers, and, with a noble disdain, or rather ignorance, of jealousy, 
associated him to all the labours of government. Marcus, on the 
other hand, revered the character of his benefactor, loved him 
as a parent, obeyed him as his sovereign, 51 and, after he was no 
more, regulated his own administration by the example and 
maxims of his predecessor. Their united reigns are possibly the 
only period of history in which the happiness of a great people 
was the sole object of government. 

characterand Titus Antoninus Pius had been justly denominated a second 
Numa. The same love of religion, justice, and peace, was the 
distinguishing characteristic of both princes. But the situation 
of the latter opened a much larger field for the exercise of those 

*• Hist. August, p. 13 [ii. 1]. Aurelius Victor in Epitom. [9]. 

50 Without the help of medals and inscriptions, we should be ignorant of this 
fact, so honourable to the memory of Pius. [But see Hist. Aug. iii. i. 7. We 
have their names from coins.] 

61 During the twenty-three years of Pius's reign, Marcus was only two nights 
absent from the palace, and even those were at different times. Hist. August, p. 25. 
[iv. 7.] 


virtues. Numa could only prevent a few neighbouring villages 
from plundering each other's harvests. Antoninus diffused 
order and tranquillity over the greatest part of the earth. His 
reign is marked by the rare advantage of furnishing veiy few 
materials for history ; which is, indeed, little more than the 
register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind. In 
private life he was an amiable as well as a good man. The 
native simplicity of his virtue was a stranger to vanity or affec- 
tation. He enjoyed with moderation the conveniences of his 
fortune, and the innocent pleasures of society ; 52 and the bene- 
volence of his soul displayed itself in a cheerful serenity of 

The virtue of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was of a severer or Marcus 
and more laborious kind. 53 It was the well-earned harvest of 
many a learned conference, of many a patient lecture, and many 
a midnight lucubration. At the age of twelve years he em- 
braced the rigid system of the Stoics, which taught him to 
submit his body to his mind, his passions to his reason ; to con- 
sider virtue as the only good, vice as the only evil, all things 
external as things indifferent. 5i His Meditations, composed in 
the tumult of a camp, are still extant ; and he even condescended 
to give lessons on philosophy, in a more public manner than was 
perhaps consistent with the modesty of a sage or the dignity 
of an emperor. 55 But his life was the noblest commentary on 
the precepts of Zeno. He was severe to himself, indulgent to 
the imperfection of others, just and beneficent to all man- 
kind. He regretted that Avidius Cassius, who excited a rebellion 
in Syria, had disappointed him, by a voluntary death, of the 

52 He was fond of the theatre and rot insensible to the charms of the fair sex. 
Marcus Antoninus, i. 16. Hist. August, p. 20. 21 [iii. 8 and 11]. Julian in 

53 The enemies of Marcus charged him with hypocrisy and with a want of that 
simplicity which distinguished Pius and even Verus (Hist. Aug. p. 34 [iii. 29]). 
This suspicion, unjust as it was, may serve to account for the superior applause 
bestowed upon personal qualifications, in preference to the social virtues. Even 
Marcus Antoninus has been called a hypocrite ; but the wildest scepticism never 
insinuated that Caesar might possibly be a coward, or Tully a fool. Wit and val- 
our are qualifications more easily ascertained than humanity or the love of jus- 

54 Tacitus has characterized, in a few words, the principles of the Portico: 
Doctores sapientiae secutus est, qui sola bona quae honesta, mala tantum quse 
turpia ; potentiam, nobilitatem, caeteraque extra animum, neque bonis neque 
malis adnumerant. Tacit. Hist. iv. 5. 

56 Before he went on the second expedition against the Germans, he read 
lectures of philosophy to the Roman people, during three days. He had already 
done the same in the cities of Greece and Asia. Hist. August, p. 41, in Cassio, 
c- 3- 


pleasure of converting an enemy into a friend ; and he justified 
the sincerity of that sentiment, by moderating the zeal of the 
senate against the adherents of the traitor. 56 War he detested, 
as the disgrace and calamity of human nature ; but when the 
necessity of a just defence called upon him to take up arms, he 
readily exposed his person to eight winter campaigns on the 
frozen banks of the Danube, the severity of which was at last 
fatal to the weakness of his constitution. His memory was 
revered by a grateful posterity, and above a century after his 
death many persons preserved the image of Marcus Antoninus 
among those of their household gods. 57 

Happiness of If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the 
world during which the condition of the human race was most 
happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that 
which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of 
Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was 
governed by absolute power, under the guidance of vir- 
tue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but 
gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and 
authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the 
civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, 
Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of 
liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the ac- 
countable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honour 
of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been 
capable of enjoying a rational freedom. 

its precarious The labours of these monarchs were over-paid by the immense 
reward that inseparably waited on their success ; by the honest 
pride of virtue, and by the exquisite delight of beholding the 
general happiness of which they were the authors. A just but 
melancholy reflection embittered, however, the noblest of human 
enjoyments. They must often have recollected the instability 
of a happiness which depended on the character of a single man. 
The fatal moment was perhaps approaching, when some licentious 
youth, or some jealous tyrant, would abuse, to the destruction, 
that absolute power which they had exerted for the benefit of 
their people. The ideal restraints of the senate and the laws 
might serve to display the virtues, but could never correct the 
vices, of the empei-or. The military force was a blind and irre- 
sistible instrument of oppression ; and the corruption of Roman 
manners would always supply flatterers eager to applaud, and 

•^Dio. 1. lxxi. p. 1190 [23], Hist. August, in Avid. Cassio [8]. 
W Hist. August, in Marc. Antonin. c. 18. 


ministers prepared to serve, the fear or the avarice, the lust or 
the cruelty, of their masters. 

These gloomy apprehensions had been already justified by Memory of 
the experience of the Romans. The annals of the emperors caiigtua] 
exhibit a strong and various picture of human nature, which we Domi'tian 
should vainly seek among the mixed and doubtful characters of 
modern history. In the conduct of those monarchs we may 
trace the utmost lines of vice and virtue ; the most exalted per- 
fection and the meanest degeneracy of our own species. The 
golden age of Trajan and the Antonines had been preceded by 
an age of iron. It is almost superfluous to enumerate the un- 
worthy successoi's of Augustus. Their unparalleled vices, and 
the splendid theatre on which they were acted, have saved 
them from oblivion. The dark unrelenting Tiberius, the furious 
Caligula, the stupid Claudius, the profligate and cruel Nero, the 
beastly Vitellius, 58 and the timid inhuman Domitian, are con- 
demned to everlasting infamy. During fourscore years (ex- 
cepting only the short and doubtful respite of Vespasian's 
reign), 59 Rome groaned beneath an unremitting tyranny, which 
exterminated the ancient families of the republic, and was 
fatal to almost every virtue and every talent that arose in that 
unhappy period. 

Under the reign of these monsters 60 the slavery of the Romans p ec uiiar 
was accompanied with two peculiar circumstances, the one the Romans 
occasioned by their former liberty, the other by their extensive Rants' 1611 
conquests, which rendered their condition more wretched than 
that of the victims of tyranny in any other age or country. 
From these causes were derived, 1. The exquisite sensibility of 
the sufferers ; and 2. The impossibility of escaping from the 
hand of the oppressor. 

I. When Persia was governed by the descendants of Sefi, a insensibility 
race of princes whose wanton cruelty often stained their divan, orientals 
their table, and their bed with the blood of their favourites, 
there is a saying recorded of a young nobleman, That he never 

ss Vitellius consumed in mere eating at least six millions of our money, in 
about seven months. It is not easy to express his vices with dignity, or even 
decency. Tacitus fairly calls him a hog ; but it is by substituting for a coarse 
word a very fine image. "At Vitellius, umbraculis hortorum abditus, ut ignava 
animalia, quibus si cibum suggeras jacent torpentque, praeterita, instantia, futura, 
pari oblivione dimiserat. Atque il!um nemore Aricino desidem et marcentem," &c. 
Tacit. Hist. iii. 36, ii. 95. Sueton. in Vitell. c. 13. Dio. Cassius, 1. lxv. p. 1062 [3]. 

09 The execution of Helvidius Priscus and of the virtuous Eponina disgraced 
the reign of Vespasian. 

60 [But there is another side to this picture, which may be seen by studying 
Mommsen's volume on the provinces]. 


departed from the sultan's presence without satisfying himself 
whether his head was still on his shoulders. The experience of 
every day might almost justify the scepticism of Rustan. 61 Yet 
the fatal sword, suspended above him by a single thread, seems 
not to have disturbed the slumbers, or interrupted the tran- 
quillity, of the Persian. The monarch's frown, he well knew, 
could level him with the dust ; but the stroke of lightning or 
apoplexy might be equally fatal ; and it was the part of a wise 
man to forget the inevitable calamities of human life in the en- 
joyment of the fleeting hour. He was dignified with the appel- 
lation of the king's slave ; had, perhaps, been purchased from 
obscure parents, in a country which he had never known ; and 
was trained up from his infancy in the severe discipline of the 
seraglio. 62 His name, his wealth, his honours, were the gift of 
a master, who might, without injustice, resume what he had 
bestowed. Rustan's knowledge, if he possessed any, could only 
serve to confirm his habits by prejudices. His language afforded 
not words for any form of government, except absolute mon- 
archy. The history of the East informed him that such had 
ever been the condition of mankind. 63 The Koran, and the 
interpreters of that divine book, inculcated to him that the 
sultan was the descendant of the prophet, and the vicegerent of 
heaven ; that patience was the first virtue of a Mussulman, and 
unlimited obedience the great duty of a subject. 
Knowledge The minds of the Romans were veiy differently prepared for 
spirit of the slavery. Oppressed beneath the weight of their own corruption 
and of military violence, they for a long while preserved the sen- 
timents, or at least the ideas, of their freeborn ancestors. The 
education of Helvklius and Thrasea, of Tacitus and Pliny, was 
the same as that of Cato and Cicero. From Grecian philosophy 
they had imbibed the justest and most liberal notions of the dignity 
of human nature and the origin of civil society. The history of 
their own country had taught them to revere a free, a virtuous, 
and a victorious commonwealth ; to abhor the successful crimes 
of Caesar and Augustus ; and inwardly to despise those tyrants 
whom they adored with the most abject flattery. As magistrates 
and senators, they were admitted into the great council which 

61 Voyage de Chardin en Perse, vol. iii. p. 293. 

62 The practice of raising slaves to the great offices of state is still more 
common among the Turks than among the Persians. The miserable countries 
of Georgia and Circassia supply rulers to the greatest part of the East. 

63 Chardin says that European travellers have diffused among the Persians 
some ideas of the freedom and mildness of our governments. They have done 
them a very ill office. 


had once dictated laws to the earth, whose name gave still a 
sanction to the acts of the monarch, and whose authority was so 
often prostituted to the vilest purposes of tyranny. Tiberius, 
and those emperors who adopted his maxims, attempted to dis- 
guise their murders by the formalities of justice, and perhaps 
enjoyed a secret pleasure in rendering the senate their accomplice 
as well as their victim. By this assembly the last of the Romans 
were condemned for imaginary crimes and real virtues. Their 
infamous accusers assumed the language of independent patriots, 
who arraigned a dangerous citizen before the tribunal of his 
country ; and the public service was rewarded by riches and 
honours. 04 The servile judges professed to assert the majesty of 
the commonwealth, violated in the person of its first magistrate, 65 
whose clemency they most applauded when they trembled the 
most at his inexorable and impending cruelty. 66 The tyrant 
beheld their baseness with just contempt, and encountered their 
secret sentiments of detestation with sincere and avowed hatred 
for the whole body of the senate. 

II. The division of Europe into a number of independent Extent of 
states, connected, however, Avith each other, by the general re- left them no 
semblance of religion, language and manners, is productive of refuge 
the most beneficial consequences to the liberty of mankind. A 
modern tyrant, who should find no resistance either in his own 
breast or in his people, would soon experience a gentle restraint 
from the example of his equals, the dread of present censure, 
the advice of his allies, and the apprehension of his enemies. 
The object of his displeasure, escaping from the narrow limits of 
his dominions, would easily obtain, in a happier climate, a secure 
refuge, a new fortune adequate to his merit, the freedom of 
complaint, and perhaps the means of revenge. But the empire 
of the Romans filled the world, and, when that empire fell into 
the hands of a single person, the world became a safe and 

64 They alleged the example of Scipio and Cato (Tacit. Annal. iii. 66.) 
Marcellus Eprius and Crispius Vibius had acquired two millions and a half under 
Nero. Their wealth, which aggravated their crimes, protected them under 
Vespasian. See Tacit. Hist. iv. 43. Dialog, de Orator, c. 8. For one accusation, 
Regulus, the just object of Pliny's satire, received from the senate the consular 
ornaments, and a present of sixty thousand pounds. 

68 The crime of majesty was formerly a treasonable offence against the Roman 
people. As tribunes of the people, Augustus and Tiberius applied it to their own 
persons, and extended it to an infinite latitude. 

66 After the virtuous and unfortunate widow of Germanicus had been put to 
death, Tiberius received the thanks of the senate for his clemency. She had 
not been publicly strangled ; nor was the body drawn with a hook to the Gemonias, 
where those of common malefactors were exposed. See Tacit. Annal. vi. 25. 
Sueton. in Tiberio. c. 53. 

6 VOL. I. 


dreary prison for his enemies. The slave of Imperial despotism, 
whether he was condemned to drag his gilded chain in Rome 
and the senate, or to wear out a life of exile on the barren rock 
of Seriphus, or the frozen banks of the Danube, expected his 
fate in silent despair. 67 To resist was fatal, and it was impos- 
sible to fly. On every side he was encompassed with a vast 
extent of sea and land, which he could never hope to traverse 
without being discovered, seized, and restored to his irritated 
master. Beyond the frontiers, his anxious view could discover 
nothing, except the ocean, inhospitable deserts, hostile tribes of 
barbarians, of fierce manners and unknown language, or de- 
pendent kings, who would gladly purchase the emperor's pro- 
tection by the sacrifice of an obnoxious fugitive. 6S " Wherever 
you are," said Cicero to the exiled Marcellus, " remember that 
you are equally within the power of the conqueror." G9 

67 Seriphus was a small rocky island in the JEgean Sea, the inhabitants of which 
were despised for their ignorance and obscurity. The place of Ovid's exile is well 
known by his just but unmanly lamentations. It should seem that he only re- 
ceived an order to leave Rome in so many days, and to transport himself to Tomi. 
Guards and gaolers were unnecessary. 

68 Under Tiberius, a Roman knight attempted to flv to the Parthians. He was 
stopt in the straits of Sicily ; but so little danger did there appear in the example, 
that the most jealous of tyrants disdained to punish it. Tacit. Annal. vi. 14. 

69 Cicero ad Familiares, iv. 7. 



The cruelty, follies, and murder of Commodus — Election of Perlinax 
— his attempts to reform the State — his assassination by the Pre- 
toria)/ Guards 

The mildness of Marcus, which the rigid discipline of the Stoics indulgence of 
was unable to eradicate, formed, at the same time, the most 
amiable, and the only defective, part of his character. His 
excellent understanding was often deceived by the unsuspect- 
ing goodness of his heart. Artful men, who study the passions 
of princes and conceal their own, approached his person in the 
disguise of philosophic sanctity, and acquired riches and honours 
by affecting to despise them. 1 His excessive indulgence to his 
brother, 2 his wife, and his son, exceeded the bounds of private 
virtue, and became a public injury, by the example and con- 
sequences of their vices. 

Faustina, the daughter of Pius and the wife of Marcus, has t° ws wife 

7 O Faustina ; 

been as much celebrated for her gallantries as for her beauty. 
The grave simplicity of the philosopher was ill calculated to 
engage her wanton levity, or to fix that unbounded passion for 
variety which often discovered personal merit in the meanest 
of mankind. 3 The Cupid of the ancients was, in general, a 
veiy sensual deity ; and the amours of an empress, as they exact 
on her side the plainest advances, are seldom susceptible of 
much sentimental delicacy. Marcus was the only man in the 
empire who seemed ignorant or insensible of the irregularities 
of Faustina; which, according to the prejudices of every age, 
reflected some disgrace on the injured husband. He promoted 

1 See the complaints of Avidius Cassius. Hist. August, p. 45 [vi. 14]. These 
are, it is true, the complaints of faction ; but even faction exaggerates, rather 
than invents. 

2 [L. Verus, his brother by adoption.] 

3 [Siquidem] Faustinam satis constat [constetjapud Cayetam, conditiones sibi et 
nauticas et gladiatorias elegisse. Hist. August, p. 30 [iv. 19]. Lampridius explains 
the sort of merit which Faustina chose, and the conditions which she exacted. Hist. 
August, p. 102 [xvii, 5 ]. [There is no trustworthy evidence for the truth of these 
charges] . 



Accession of 
the emperor 

several of her lovers to posts of honour and profit/ and, during 
a connexion of thirty years, invariably gave her proofs of the 
most tender confidence, and of a respect which ended not with 
her life. In his Meditations he thanks the gods, who had be- 
stowed on him a wife so faithful, so gentle, and of such a 
wonderful simplicity of manners. 5 The obsequious senate, at his 
earnest request, declared her a goddess. She was represented 
in her temples, with the attributes of Juno, Venus, and Ceres ; 
and it was decreed that, on the day of their nuptials, the youth 
of either sex should pay their vows before the altar of their 
chaste patroness. 6 

The monstrous vices of the son have cast a shade on the purity 
of the father's virtues. It has been objected to Marcus, that he 
sacrificed the happiness of millions to a fond partiality for a 
worthless boy ; and that he chose a successor in his own family 
rather than in the republic. Nothing, however, was neglected 
by the anxious father, and by the men of virtue and learning 
whom he summoned to his assistance, to expand the narrow 
mind of young Commodus, to correct his growing vices, and to 
render him worthy of the throne for which he was designed. 
Cut the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except 
in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous. The 
distasteful lesson of a grave philosopher was, in a moment, 
obliterated by the whisper of a profligate favourite ; and Marcus 
himself blasted the fruits of this laboured education, by admitting 
his son, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, to a full participation of 
the Imperial power. He lived but four years afterwards; but he 
lived long enough to repent a rash measure, which raised the 
impetuous youth above the restraint of reason and authority. 

Most of the crimes which disturb the internal peace of society 
are produced by the restraints which the necessary, but unequal, 
laws of property have imposed on the appetites of mankind, by 
confining to a few the possession of those objects that are coveted 
by many. Of all our passions and appetites, the love of power 
is of the most imperious and unsociable nature, since the pride 
of one man requires the submission of the multitude. In the 

4 Hist. August, p. 34 fiv. 29]. 

"Meditat. 1. i. [17]. The world has laughed at the credulity of Marcus; but 
Madame Dacier assures us (and we may credit a lady) that the husband will 
always be deceived, if the wife condescends to dissemble. 

6 Dio. Cassius, 1. lxxi. p. 1195 [31]. Hist. August, p. 33. [iv. 26]. Coni- 
mentaire de Spanheim sur les Ccesars de Julien, p. 289. The deification of 
Faustina is the only defect which Julian's ciiticism is able to discover in the all- 
accomplished character of Marcus. 


tumult of civil discord the laws of society lose their force, and 
their place is seldom supplied by those of humanity. The 
ardour of contention, the pride of victory, the despair of success, 
the memory of past injuries, and the fear of future dangers, all 
contribute to inflame the mind, and to silence the voice of pity. 
From such motives almost every page of history has been 
stained with civil blood ; but these motives will not account for 
the unprovoked cruelties of Commodus, who had nothing to 
wish, and everything to enjoy. The beloved son of Marcus a. d. iso 
succeeded to his father, amidst the acclamations of the senate 
and armies ; 7 and when he ascended the throne, the happy 
youth saw round him neither competitor to remove, nor enemies 
to punish. In this calm elevated station it was surely natural 
that he should prefer the love of mankind to their detestation, 
the mild glories of his five predecessors to the ignominious fate 
of Nero and Domitian. 

Yet Commodus was not, as he has been represented, a tiger character of 
born with an insatiate thirst of human blood, and capable, from 
his infancy, of the most inhuman actions. s Nature had formed 
him of a weak, rather than a wicked, disposition. His simpli- 
city and timidity rendered him the slave of his attendants, who 
gradually corrupted his mind. His cruelty, which at first 
obeyed the dictates of others, degenerated into habit, and at 
length became the ruling passion of his soul. 9 

Upon the death of his father Commodus found himself em- He returns to 
barrassed with the command of a great army, and the conduct 
of a difficult war against the Quadi and Marcomanni. 10 The 
servile and profligate youths whom Marcus had banished soon 
regained their station and influence about the new emperor. 
They exaggerated the hardships and dangers of a campaign in 
the wild countries beyond the Danube ; and they assured the 

7 Commodus was the first Porfhyrogenitus (born since his father's accession 
to the throne). By a new strain of flattery, the Egyptian medals date by the years 
of his life ; as if they werj synonymous to those of his reign. Tillemont. Hist, 
des Empereurs, torn. ii. p. 752. [The claim of Commodus to be nobilissimus 
omnium principum (Corp. Insc. Lat. v. 4867) was well grounded. He could 
point to five emperors as his ancestors. His imperial name was M. Aurelius 
Commodus Antoninus. He had been made a Ccesar in 166, and Imperator in 176 
A.D. at the age of 15.] 

8 Hist. August, p. 46 [vii. 1]. 

9 Dion Cassius, 1. lxxii. p. 1203 [i], 

10 According to Tertullian (Apolog. c. 25.) he died at Sirmium. But the situation 
of Vindobona, or Vienna, where both the Victors place his death, is better adapted 
to the operations of the war against the Marcomanni and Quadi. [Date 17th 
March, 180 a.d.J 


indolent prince that the terror of his name and the arms of 
his lieutenants would be sufficient to complete the conquest of 
the dismayed barbarians, or to impose such conditions as were 
more advantageous than any conquest. By a dexterous applica- 
tion to his sensual appetites, they compared the tranquillity, the 
splendour, the refined pleasures of Rome with the tumult of a 
Pannonian camp, which afforded neither leisure nor materials 
for luxury. 11 Commodus listened to the pleasing advice ; but 
whilst he hesitated between his own inclination and the awe 
which he still retained for his father's counsellors, the summer 
insensibly elapsed, and his triumphal entry into the capital was 
deferred till the autumn. His gi'aceful person, 12 popular address, 
and imagined virtues attracted the public favour ; the honour- 
able peace which he had recently granted to the barbarians 
diffused an universal joy ; 13 his impatience to revisit Rome was 
fondly ascribed to the love of his country ; and his dissolute 
course of amusements was faintly condemned in a prince of 
nineteen years of age. 

During the three first years of his reign, the forms, and even 
the spirit, of the old administration were maintained by those 
faithful counsellors, to whom Marcus had recomended his son, 
and for whose wisdom and integritv Commodus still entertained 
a reluctant esteem. The young prince and his profligate fa- 
vourites reveled in all the license of sovereign power ; but his 
hands were yet unstained with blood ; and he had even displayed 
a generosity of sentiment, which might perhaps have ripened 
into solid virtue. 14 A fatal incident decided his fluctuating 
is wounded One evening, as the emperor was returning to the palace 
assassin through a dark and narrow portico in the amphitheatre, 15 an 

A.D. 183 & r f > 

11 Herodian, 1. i. p. 12 [6]. 

12 Herodian, 1. i. p. 16 [7]. 

13 This universal joy is well described (from the medals as well as historians) 
by Mr. Wotton, Hist, of Rome, p. 192, 193. [The terms of the peace were that 
the Marcomanni and Quadi should not approach nearer than 150 Roman miles to 
the Danube, should pay a tribute of corn, and furnish a contingent of recruits, 
and should not make war on the Vandals, Buri, and Jazygcs, who were Roman 
subjects. The treaty was a good one if Commodus had been strong enough to 
insist on its execution. Its articles were not carried out, yet the peace was 
not disturbed.] 

M Manilius, the confidential secretary qfAvidius Cassius, was discovered after 
he had lain concealed for several years. The emperor nobly relieved the public 
anxiety by refusing to see him, and burning his papers without opening them, 
Dion Cassius, 1. lxxii. p. 1209. 

1 5 See Maffei degli Amphitheatri, p. 126, 


assassin, who waited his passage, rushed upon him with a drawn 
sword, loudly exclaiming, The senate sends you this. The menace 
prevented the deed ; the assassin was seized by the guards, 
and immediately revealed the authors of the conspiracy. It had 
been formed, not in the state, but within the walls of the palace. 
Lucilla, the emperor's sister, and widow of Lucius Verus, im- 
patient of the second rank, and jealous of the reigning empress, 
had armed the murderer against her brother's life. She had 
not ventured to communicate the black design to her second 
husband, Claudius Pompeianus, a senator of distinguished merit 
and unshaken loyalty ; but among the crowd of her lovers (for 
she imitated the manners of Faustina) she found men of despe- 
rate fortunes and wild ambition, who were prepared to serve her 
more violent as well as her tender passions. The conspirators 
experienced the rigour of justice, and the abandoned princess 
was punished, first with exile, and afterwards with death. 16 

But the words of the assassin sunk deep into the mind of Hatred ana 
Commodus, and left an indelible impression of fear and hatred c^nUodiL 
against the whole body of the senate. Those whom he had senate 
dreaded as importunate ministers, he now suspected as secret 
enemies. The Delators, a race of men discouraged, and almost 
extinguished, under the former reigns, again became formidable 
as soon as they discovered that the emperor was desirous of find- 
ing disaffection and treason in the senate. That assembly, whom 
Marcus had ever considered as the great council of the nation, 
was composed of the most distinguished of the Romans ; and 
distinction of every kind soon became criminal. The possession 
of wealth stimulated the diligence of the informers ; rigid virtue 
implied a tacit censure of the irregularities of Commodus ; im- 
portant services implied a dangerous superiority of merit, and 
the friendship of the father always insured the aversion of the 
son. Suspicion was equivalent to proof ; trial to condemnation. 
The execution of a considerable senator was attended with the 
death of all who might lament or revenge his fate ; and when 
Commodus had once tasted human blood, he became incap- 
able of pity or remorse. 

Of these innocent victims of tyranny, none died more lamented TneQuintman 
than the two brothers of the Quintilian family, Maximus and 
Condianus, whose fraternal love has saved their names from 
oblivion, and endeared their memory to posterity. Their studies 
and their occupations, their pursuits and their pleasures, were 

16 Dio. 1. lxxii. p. 1205 [4] Herodian, 1. i. p. 16 [8] Hist. August, p. 46 [vii. 4.] 
[The would-be assassin was Claudius Pompeianus Quintianus, T^ucilla's stepson.] 


still the same. In the enjoyment of a great estate, they never 
admitted the idea of a separate interest : some fragments are 
now extant of a treatise 17 which they composed in common ; and 
in every action of life it was observed that their two bodies were 
animated by one soul. The Anton ines, who valued their virtues 
and delighted in their union, raised them, in the same year, to 
the consulship ; and Marcus afterwards intrusted to their joint 
care the civil administration of Greece, and a great military 
command, in which they obtained a signal victory over the 
Germans. The kind cruelty of Commodus united them in 
death. 18 
ThB minister The tyrant's rage, after having shed the noblest blood of the 
Peremus se nate, at length recoiled on the principal instrument of his 
cruelty. Whilst Commodus was immersed in blood and luxury, 
he devolved the detail of the public business on Perennis ; a 
servile and ambitious minister, who had obtained his post by 
the murder of his predecessor, but who possessed a considerable 
share of vigour and ability. By acts of extortion, and the for- 
feited estates of the nobles sacrificed to his avarice, he had 
accumulated an immense treasure. The Praetorian guards were 
under his immediate command ; and his son, who already dis- 
covered a military genius, was at the head of the Illvrian 
legions. Perennis aspired to the empire ; or what, in the eyes 
of Commodus, amounted to the same crime, he was capable of 
aspiring to it, had he not been prevented, surprised, and put to 
a.d. i8G death. The fall of a minister is a very trifling incident in the 
L 18i l general history of the empire ; but it was hastened by an 

extraordinary circumstance, which proved how much the nerves 
of discipline were already relaxed. The legions of Britain, dis- 
contented with the administration of Perennis, formed a deputa- 
tion of fifteen hundred select men, with instructions to march to 
Rome, and lay their complaints before the emperor. These 
military petitioners, by their own determined behaviour, by in- 
flaming the divisions of the guards, by exaggerating the strength 
of the British army, and by alarming the fears of Commodus, ex- 
acted and obtained the minister's death, as the only redress of 
their grievances. 19 This presumption of a distant army, and 

17 [On agriculture.] 

18 In a note upon the Augustan History, Casaubon has collected a number of 
particulars concerning these celebrated brothers. See p. 94 of his learned com- 

19 Dio. 1. lxxii. p. 1210 [9]. Herodian, 1. i. p. 22 [9]. Hist. August, p. 48 
[vij. 6. 1-5] . Dion gives a much less odious character of Perennis, than the 


their discovery of the weakness of government, was a sure 
presage of the most dreadful convulsions. 

The neidiffence of the public administration was betrayed Kevoit of 


soon afterwards by a new disorder, which arose from the smallest 
beginnings. A spirit of desertion began to prevail among the 
troops, and the deserters, instead of seeking their safety in flight 
or concealment, infested the highways. Maternus, a private 
soldier, of a daring boldness above his station, collected these 
bands of robbers into a little army, set open the prisons, invited 
the slaves to assert their freedom, and plundered with impunity 
the rich and defenceless cities of Gaul and Spain. The governors 
of the provinces, who had long been the spectators, and perhaps 
the partners, of his depredations, were, at length, roused from 
their supine indolence by the threatening commands of the 
emperor. Maternus found that he was encompassed, and fore- 
saw that he must be overpowered. A great effort of despair 
was his last resource. He ordered his followers to disperse, to 
pass the Alps in small parties and various disguises, and to 
assemble at Rome, during the licentious tumult of the festival 
of Cybele. 20 To murder Commodus, and to ascend the vacant 
throne, was the ambition of no vulgar robber. His measures 
were so ably concerted that his concealed troops already filled 
the streets of Rome. The envy of an accomplice discovered [i87 ad.] 
and ruined this singular enterprise in the moment when it was 
ripe for execution. 21 

Suspicious princes often promote the last of mankind, from a The minister 
vain persuasion that those who have no dependence except on 
their favour will have no attachment except to the person of 
their benefactor. Cleander, the successor of Perennis, was a 
Phrygian by birth ; of a nation, over whose stubborn but 
servile temper blows only could prevail. 22 He had been sent 
from his native country to Rome, in the capacity of a slave. As 
a slave he entered the imperial palace, rendered himself useful 

other historians. His moderation is almost a pledge of his veracity. [The policy 
of Perennis, which caused his fall, aimed at ousting the senators from military 
appointments and substituting men of the Equestrian order. The intervention of 
the Britannic legions rests on Dion. Date 185, cp. Miiller, Hermes, 18, p. 623 sqq.] 

20 During the second Punic war, the Romans imported from Asia the worship of 
the mother of the gods. Her festival, the Megalesia, began on the fourth of April, 
and lasted six days. The streets were crowded with mad processions, the theatres 
with spectators, and the public tables with unbidden guests. Order and police 
were suspended, and pleasure was the only serious business of the city. See Ovid 
de Fastis, 1. iv. 189, &c. 

21 Herodian, 1. i. p. 23, 28 [10]. 

23 Cicero pro Flacco, c. 27 

and cruelty 


to his master's passions, and rapidly ascended to the most exalted 
station which a subject could enjoy. His influence over the 
mind of Commodus was much greater than that of his predecessor ; 
His avarice for Cleander was devoid of any ability or virtue which could 
inspire the emperor with envy or distrust. Avarice was the 
reigning passion of his soul, and the great principle of his 
administration. The rank of consul, of Patrician, of senator, was 
exposed to public sale ; and it would have been considered as 
disaffection if any one had refused to purchase these empty 
and disgraceful honours with the greatest part of his fortune. 23 
In the lucrative provincial employments the minister shared with 
the governor the spoils of the people. The execution of the laws 
was venal and arbitrary. A wealthy criminal might obtain not 
only the reversal of the sentence by which he was justly con- 
demned ; but might likewise inflict whatever punishment he 
pleased on the accuser, the witnesses, and the judge. 

By these means Cleander, in the space of three years, had 
accumulated more wealth than had ever yet been possessed by 
any freedman.' 24 Commodus was perfectly satisfied with the 
magnificent presents which the artful courtier laid at his feet in 
the most seasonable moments. To divert the public envy, 
Cleander, under the emperor's name, erected baths, porticos, 
and places of exercise, for the use of the people. 25 He flattered 
himself that the Romans, dazzled and amused by this apparent 
liberality, would be less affected by the bloody scenes which 
were daily exhibited ; that they would forget the death of 
Byrrhus, a senator to whose superior merit the late emperor 
had granted one of his daughters ; and that they would for- 
give the execution of Arrius Antoninus, the last representative 
of the name and virtues of the Antonines. The former, with 
more integrity than prudence, had attempted to disclose to his 
brother-in-law the true character of Cleander. An equitable 
sentence pronounced by the latter, when proconsul of Asia, 
against a worthless creature of the favourite, proved fatal to 

23 One of these dear-bought promotions occasioned a current bon mot, that 
Julius Solon was banished into the senate. [In one year there were no less than 
twenty-five consuls.] 

24 Dion (1. lxxii. p. 1213 [12]) observes that no freedman had possessed riches 
equal to those of Cleander. The fortune of Pallas amounted, however, to upwards 
of five and twenty hundred thousand pounds — ter millies. 

25 Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1213 [12]. Herodian, 1. i. p. 29 [12]. Hist. August, p. 
52 [vii. 17] . These baths were situated near the Porta Capena. See Nardini 
Roma Antica, p. 79. 


him. 26 After the fall of Perennis the teiTors of Commodus had, 
for a short time, assumed the appearance of a return to virtue. 
He repealed the most odious of his acts, loaded his memory 
with the public execration, and ascribed to the pernicious 
counsels of that wicked minister all the errors of his inex- 
perienced youth. But his repentance lasted only thirty days ; 
and, under Oleander's tyranny, the administration of Pei'ennis 
was often regretted. 

Pestilence and famine contributed to fill up the measure of sedition; and 

, Till i death of 

the calamities of Rome.- 7 I he first could only be imputed tocieander 
the just indignation of the gods ; but a monopoly of corn, sup- 
ported by the riches and power of the minister, was considered 
as the immediate cause of the second. The popular discontent, 
after it had long circulated in whispers, broke out in the as- 
sembled circus. The people quitted their favourite amusements 
for the more delicious pleasure of revenge, rushed in crowds 
towards a palace in the suburbs, one of the emperor's retire- 
ments, and demanded, with angry clamours, the head of the 
public enemy. Cleander, who commanded the Praetorian 
guards, 28 ordered a body of cavalry to sally forth and disperse 
the seditious multitude. The multitude fled with precipitation 
towards the city ; several were slain, and many more were 
trampled to death ; but, when the cavalry entered the streets 
their pursuit was checked by a shower of stones and darts from 
the roofs and windows of the houses. The foot guards, 29 who 
had been long jealous of the prerogatives and insolence of the 
Praetorian cavalry, embraced the party of the people. The 
tumult became a regular engagement, and threatened a general 
massacre. The Praetorians at length gave way, oppressed with 
numbers ; and the tide of popular fury returned with redoubled 

26 Hist. August, p. 48. 

27 Herodian, 1. i. p. 28 [12]. Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1215 [14]. The latter says, 
that two thousand persons died every day at Rome, during a considerable length 
of time. [The pestilence was probably a new outbreak of the same plague 
which had ravaged the Empire under Marcus.] 

28 Tuncque primum tres prsefecti praetorio mere : inter quos libertinus. From 
some remains of modesty, Cleander declined the title, whilst he assumed the 
powers, of Praetorian Prefect. As the other freedmen were styled, from their 
several departments, a rationibus, ab epistolis ; Cleander called himself a pugione, 
as intrusted with the defence of his master's person. Salmasius and Casaubon 
seem to have talked very idly upon this passage. 

29 Oi tt)5 n-dAew; -e'c,"ot crrpaTLUTai. Herodian, 1. i. p. 31 [12] . It IS doubtful 

whether he means the Praetorian infantry, or the cohortes urbanse, a body of six 
thousand men, but whose rank and discipline were not equal to their numbers. 
Neither Tillemont nor Wotton choose to decide this question. [Doubtless th? 
cphortes urbana.") 


violence against the gates of the palace, where Commodus lay 
dissolved in luxury, and alone unconscious of the civil war. It 
was death to approach his person with the unwelcome news. 
He would have perished in this supine security had not two women, 
his eldest sister Fadilla, and Marcia the most favoured of his 
concubines, ventured to break into his presence. Bathed in 
tears, and with dishevelled hair, they threw themselves at his 
feet, and, with all the pressing eloquence of fear, discovered to 
the affrighted emperor the crimes of the minister, the rage of 
the people, and the impending ruin which in a few minutes 
would burst over his palace and person. Commodus started 
from his dream of pleasure, and commanded that the head of 
Cleander should be thrown out to the people. The desired 
spectacle instantly appeased the tumult ; and the son of Marcus 
might even yet have regained the affection and confidence of 
his subjects. 30 
Dissolute But every sentiment of virtue and humanity was extinct in the 

Commodus mind of Commodus. Whilst he thus abandoned the reins of 
empire to these unworthy favourites, he valued nothing in 
sovereign power except the unbounded licence of indulging his 
sensual appetites. His hours were spent in a seraglio of three 
hundred beautiful women and as many boys, of eveiy rank and 
of every province ; and, wherever the arts of seduction proved 
ineffectual, the brutal lover had recourse to violence. The 
ancient historians 31 have expatiated on these abandoned scenes 
of prostitution, which scorned every restraint of nature or 
modesty ; but it would not be easy to translate their too faithful 
descriptions into the decency of modern language. The intervals 
Hisiporance of lust were filled up with the basest amusements. The in- 
sports fluence of a polite age and the labour of an attentive education 

had never been able to infuse into his rude and brutish mind 
the least tinctm*e of learning ; and he was the first of the Roman 
emperors totally devoid of taste for the pleasures of the under- 
standing. Nero himself excelled, or affected to excel, in the 
elegant arts of music and poetry ; nor should we despise his 
pursuits, had he not converted the pleasing relaxation of a 
leisure hour into the serious business and ambition of his life. 
But Commodus, from his earliest infancy, discovered an aversion 
to whatever was rational or liberal, and a fond attachment to 

so Dion Cassius, 1. lxxii. p. 1215 [13]. Herodian, 1. i, p. 32 [13] Hist. August, 
p. 48 [vii. 7]. .,,... 

81 Sororibus suis constupratis. Ipsas concubinas suas sub oculis suis stupran 
jubebat. Nee irruentium in se juvenum carebat infamia, omni parte corporis 
atque ore in sexum utrumque pollutus. Hist. August, p. 47 [vii. 5], 


the amusements of the populace, — the sports of the circus and 
amphitheatre, the combats of gladiators, and the hunting of 
wild beasts. The masters in every branch of learning, whom 
Marcus provided for his son, were heard with inattention and 
disgust ; whilst the Moors and Parthians, who taught him to 
dart the javelin and to shoot with the bow, found a disciple 
who delighted in his application, and soon equaled the most 
skilful of his instructors in the steadiness of the eye and the 
dexterity of the hand. 

The servile crowd, whose fortune depended on their master's Hunting of 
vices, applauded these ignoble pursuits. The perfidious voice of w 
flattery reminded him that, by exploits of the same nature, by 
the defeat of the Nemean lion, and the slaughter of the wild 
boar of Erymanthus, the Grecian Hercules had acquired a place 
among the gods, and an immortal memory among men. They 
only forgot to observe that, in the first ages of society, when the 
fiercer animals often dispute with man the possession of an un- 
settled country, a successful war against those savages is one of 
the most innocent and beneficial labours of heroism. In the 
civilized state of the Roman empire the wild beasts had long 
since retired from the face of man and the neighbourhood of 
populous cities. To surprise them in their solitary haunts, and 
to transport them to Rome, that they might be slain in pomp by 
the hand of an emperor, was an enterprise equally ridiculous for 
the prince and oppressive for the people. 32 Ignorant of these 
distinctions, Commodus eagerly embraced the glorious resem- 
blance, and styled himself (as we still read on his medals) 33 the 
Roman Hercules. The club and the lion's hide were placed by 
the side of the throne amongst the ensigns of sovereignty ; and 
statues were erected, in which Commodus was represented in 
the character and with the attributes of the God whose valour 
and dexterity he endeavoured to emulate in the daily course of 
his ferocious amusements. 34 

Elated with these praises, which gradually extinguished the commodus 
innate sense of shame, Commodus resolved to exhibit, before thesu&uitae 
eyes of the Roman people, those exercises which till then he had theatre 

32 The African lions, when pressed by hunger, infested the open villages and 
cultivated country ; and they infested them with impunity. The royal beast was 
reserved for the pleasures of the emperor and the capital; and the unfortunate 
peasant, who killed one of them, though in his own defence, incurred a very heavy 
penalty. This extraordinary game law was mitigated by Honorius, and finally 
repealed by Justinian. Codex Theodos. torn. v. p. 92, et Comment. Gothofred. 

33 Spanheim de Numismat. Dissertat. xii. torn. ii. 493. [Here. Comm., and on 
Alexandrine coins 'Po^aToi- 'Hpa/cAe a] . 

34 Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1216 [15]. Hist. August, p. 49 [vii. 8], 


decently confined within the walls of his palace and to the pre- 
sence of a few favourites. On the appointed day the various 
motives of flattery, fear, and curiosity, attracted to the amphi- 
theatre an innumerable multitude of spectators ; and some 
degree of applause was deservedly bestowed on the uncommon skill 
of the Imperial performer. Whether he aimed at the head or heart 
of the animal, the wound was alike certain and mortal. With 
arrows, whose point was shaped into the form of a crescent, 
Commodus often intercepted the rapid career and cut asunder 
the long- bony neck of the ostrich. 35 A panther was let loose ; 
and the archer Avaited till he had leaped upon a trembling male- 
factor. In the same instant the shaft flew, the beast dropt dead, 
and the man remained unhurt. The dens of the amphitheatre 
disgorged at once a hundred lions ; a hundred darts from the 
unerring hand of Commodus laid them dead as they ran raging 
round the Arena. Neither the huge bulk of the elephant nor 
the scaly hide of the rhinoceros could defend them from his 
stroke. ^Ethiopia and India yielded their most extraordinary 
productions ; and several animals were slain in the amphitheatre 
which had been seen only in the representations of art, or per- 
haps of fancy. 36 In all these exhibitions, the surest precautions 
were used to protect the person of the Roman Hercules from the 
desperate spring of any savage who might possibly disregard the 
dignity of the emperor and the sanctity of the god. 37 
Acts as a But the meanest of the populace were affected with shame 

and indignation, when they beheld their sovereign enter the 
lists as a gladiator, and glory in a profession which the laws and 
manners of the Romans had branded with the justest note of 
infamy. 3S He chose the habit and arms of the Secutor, whose 
combat with the Reliarius formed one of the most lively scenes 
in the bloody sports of the amphitheatre. The Secutor was armed 

35 The ostrich's neck is three feet long, and composed of seventeen vertebrae. 
See Buffon Hist. Naturelle. 

•^Commodus killed a camelopardalis or giraffe (Dion, 1. lxxii p. 1211 [10]) 
the tallest, the most gentle, and the most useless of the large quadrupeds. This 
singular animal, a native only of the interior parts of Africa, has not been seen in 
Europe since the revival of letters, and though M. de Buffon (Hist. Naturelle. 
torn, xiii.) has endeavoured to describe, he has not ventured to delineate, the 

37 Herodian, 1, i. p. 37 [15] . Hist. August, p. 50 [vii. 11]. 

38 The virtuous, and even the wise, princes forbade the senators and knights to 
embrace this scandalous profession, under pain of infamy, or what was more 
dreaded by those profligate wretches, of exile. The tyrants allured them to dis- 
honour by threats and rewards. Nero once produced, in the arena, forty 
senators and sixty knights. See Lipsius, Saturnalia, 1. ii. c. 2. He has happily 
corrected a passage of Suetonius, in Nerone, c. 12. 



with an helmet, sword, and buckler ; his naked antagonist had 
only a large net and a trident ; with the one he endeavoured to 
entangle, with the other to dispatch, his enemy. If he missed 
the first throw he was obliged to fly from the pursuit of the 
Secutor till he had prepared his net for a second cast. 39 The 
emperor fought in this character seven hundred and thirty-five 
several times. These glorious achievements were carefully re- 
corded in the public acts of the empire ; and, that he might 
omit no circumstance of infamy, he received from the common 
fund of gladiators a stipend so exorbitant that it became a new 
and most ignominious tax upon the Roman people. 40 It may 
be easily supposed that in these engagements the master of the 
world was always successful : in the amphitheatre his victories 
were not often sanguinary ; but when he exercised his skill in 
the school of gladiators, or his own palace, his wretched 
antagonists were frequently honoured with a mortal wound from 
the hand of Commodus, and obliged to seal their flattery with 
their blood. 41 He now disdained the appellation of Hercules, his infamy 
The name of Paulus, a celebrated Secutor, was the only one ganco 
which delighted his ear. It was inscribed on his colossal statues, 
and repeated in the redoubled acclamations 42 of the mournful 
and applauding senate. 43 Claudius Pompeianus, the virtuous 
husband of Lucilla, was the only senator who asserted the honour 
of his rank. As a father he permitted his sons to consult their 
safety by attending the amphitheatre. As a Roman he declared 
that his own life was in the emperor's hands, but that he would 
never behold the son of Marcus prostituting his person and 
dignity. Notwithstanding his manly resolution, Pompeianus 
escaped the resentment of the tyrant, and, with his honour, had 
the good fortune to preserve his life. 44 

Commodus had now attained the summit of vice and infamy. 

39 Lipsius, 1. ii. c. 7, 8. Juvenal in the eighth satire gives a picturesque de- 
scription of this combat. 

40 Hist. August, p. 5o[vii. n~|. Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1220 [19]. He received, for 
each time, decies, about ,££000 pounds sterling. 

41 Victor tells us that Commodus only allowed his antagonists a leaden weapon, 
dreading most probably the consequences of their despair. [Cezsar. , 4.] 

42 They were obliged to repeat six hundred and twenty-six times, Paulus, first 
of the Secutors, &c. 

43 Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1221 [20]. He speaks of his own baseness and danger. 

44 He mixed however some prudence with his courage, and passed the greatest 
part of his time in a country retirement ; alleging his advanced age, and the 
weakness of his eyes. " I never saw him in the senate," says Dion, " except during 
the short reign of Pertinax." All his infirmities had suddenly left him, and they 
returned as suddenly upon the murder of that excellent prince. Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 
1227 [3]. 



his domestics 

Amidst the acclamations of a flattering court, he was unable to 
disguise from himself that he had deserved the contempt and 
hatred of eveiy man of sense and virtue in his empire. His 
ferocious spirit was irritated by the consciousness of that hatred, 
by the envy of every kind of merit, by the just apprehension of 
danger, and by the habit of slaughter which he contracted in his 
conspiracy of daily amusements. History has preserved a long list of consular 
senators sacrificed to his wanton suspicion, which sought out, 
with peculiar anxiety, those unfortunate persons connected, 
however remotely, with the family of the Antonines, without 
sparing even the ministers of his crimes or pleasures. 45 His 
cruelty proved at last fatal to himself. He had shed with im- 
punity the noblest blood of Rome : he perished as soon as he 
was dreaded by his own domestics. Marcia, his favourite con- 
cubine, Eclectus, his chamberlain, and Lsetus, his Praetorian 
praefect, alarmed by the fate of their companions and predecessors, 
resolved to prevent the destruction which eveiy hour hung over 
their heads, either from the mad caprice of the tyrant, or thesudden 
indignation of the people. Marcia seized the occasion of presenting 
a draught of wine to her lover, after he had fatigued himself 
with hunting some wild beasts. Commodus retired to sleep ; but 
whilst he was labouring with the effects of poison and drunken- 
ness, a robust youth, by profession a wrestler, entered his 
chamber, and strangled him without resistance. The body was 
secretly conveyed out of the palace, before the least suspicion 
was entertained in the city, or even in the court, of the emperor's 
death. Such was the fate of the son of Marcus, and so easy was 
it to destroy a hated tyrant, who, by the artificial powers of 
government, had oppressed, during thh'teen years, so many 
millions of subjects, every one of whom was equal to their 
master in personal strength and personal abilities. 46 

The measures of the conspirators were conducted with the 
deliberate coolness and celerity which the greatness of the 
occasion required. They resolved instantly to fill the vacant 
throne with an emperor whose character would justify and 

45 The prasfects were changed almost hourly or daily ; and the caprice of 
Commodus was often fatal to his most favoured chamberlains. Hist. August. 46, 
51 [vii. 14 and 15]. 

^Dion, 1. lxxii. p. 1222 [22]. Herodian, 1. i. p. 43. Hist. August, p. 52. [vii. 
17]. [The situation on the death of Commodus has been well compared with the 
situation on the death of Nero. The general joy at deliverance from tyranny, 
the measures taken by the senate in branding the memory of the fallen tyrant, 
were alike ; and Pertinax, the successor of Commodus, closely resemblol Galba, 
the successor of Nero, in age, respectability, good intentions, and unfitness for 
the imperial power (Schiller, i. 668).] 

Death of 
AD. 192. 

Choice of 
for emperor 


maintain the action that had been committed. They fixed on 
Pertinax, prefect of the city, an ancient senator of consular rank, 
whose conspicuous merit had broke through the obscurity of his 
birth, and raised him to the first honours of the state. He had 
successively governed most of the provinces of the empire ; and 
in all his great employments, military as well as civil, he had 
uniformly distinguished himself, by the firmness, the prudence, 
and the integrity of his conduct. 47 He now remained almost 
alone of the friends and ministers of Marcus ; and, when, at a 
late hour of the night, he was awakened with the news that the 
chamberlain and the prsefect were at his door, he received them 
with intrepid resignation, and desired they would execute their 
master's orders. Instead of death, they offered him the throne 
of the Roman world. During some moments he distrusted their 
intentions and assurances. Convinced at length of the death of 
Commodus, he accepted the purple with a sincere reluctance, 
the natural effect of his knowledge both of the duties and of 
the dangers of the supreme rank. 48 

Laetus conducted without delay his new emperor to the camp He u acknow. 
of the Praetorians, diffusing at the same time through the city aKri b a y n the 
seasonable report that Commodus died suddenly of an apoplexy ; gUMtU 
and that the virtuous Pertinax had already succeeded to the 
throne. The guards were rather surprised than pleased with 
the suspicious death of a prince whose indulgence and liberality 
they alone had experienced; but the emergency of the occasion 
the authority of their prefect, the reputation of Pertinax, and 
the clamours of the people, obliged them to stifle their secret 

me!chan! iDa Th V , aS ^*T t{ 7w Alba , Pom P ei V" Piedmont, and son of a timber 
merchant The order of his employments it is marked by Capitolinus) well 

ZVfe "V.Zir eXF ? SSiVe ° f %" ^ ° f ^r/ment'and "' 

01 the age. i. He was a centurion. 2. Praefect of a cohort in Syria in the 

EST rHe'wl 111 Bmain - 3 r Hc 0btained an Ab > or squadron o? horse in 
™ a * Jt a com missary of provisions on the ^milian way. c He com- 

manded the fleet upon the Rhine. 6. He was procurator of Daciatwitrfa salary^ 
about 1600/. a year 7. He commanded the Veterans of a legion 8 He 

firsi Terio, in t t ° f Se T£- > ° f Pr ^ r - la With the c ™d of £ 
hTJhhu and Nor ' cum - "• H " was consul about the year 175. 
Danule T ,H P rCUS mt ? ^ ^ , J* He commanded an army on the 
17 Of Briain T rH C T^K legate ? f , Ma2Sia - ^ Of Dacia. 16. Of Syria. 
17. Ut Britain. i3. He had the care of the public provisions at Rome to He 
was proconsul of Africa. 20. Prsefect of the city. Herod an (1 id a* Hi' il\ 
doe S Justlce t his d interested s in but CapitoLus X col ected^vfryt^u 
ar rumour, charges him with a great fortune acquired by briber! 'and coirupdCn 

SSinix a^he' 7^ -^P" D V° n CaSS ^ His ful1 name was P Helens 
i trunax, and he was born in 126 A.D.] 

CommodS. ^ thC C3SSarS ' taXCS h ' m Whh bdng acce: *ary to the death of 

7 VOL. L 


discontents, to accept the donative promised by the new 
emperor, to swear allegiance to him, and, with joyful acclama- 
tions and laurels in their hands, to conduct him to the senate- 
house, that the military consent might be ratified by the civil 
and by the This important night was now far spent ; with the dawn of day, 
193, ut jii^> and the commencement of the new year, the senators expected a 
summons to attend an ignominious ceremony. In spite of all 
remonstrances, even of those of his creatures who yet preserved 
any regard for prudence or decency, Commodus had resolved to 
pass the night in the gladiators' school, and from thence to take 
possession of the consulship, in the habit and with the attendance 
of that infamous crew. On a sudden, before the break of day, 
the senate was called together in the temple of Concord, to 
meet the guards, and to ratify the election of a new emperor. 
For a few minutes they sat in silent suspense, doubtful of 
their unexpected deliverance, and suspicious of the cruel artifices 
of Commodus : but, when at length they were assured that the 
tyrant was no more, they resigned themselves to all the trans- 
ports of joy and indignation. Pertinax, who modestly repre- 
sented the meanness of his extraction, and pointed out several 
noble senators more deserving than himself of the empire, was 
constrained by their dutiful violence to ascend the throne, and 
received all the titles of Imperial power, confirmed by the most 
The memory sincere vows of fidelity. The memory of Commodus was branded 
declared in with eternal infamy. The names of tyrant, of gladiator, of 
public enemy, resounded in every corner of the house. They 
decreed in tumultuous 49 votes, that his honours should be reversed, 
his titles erased from the public monuments, his statues thrown 
down, his body dragged with a hook into the stripping-room of 
the gladiators, to satiate the public fury ; and they expressed 
some indignation against those officious servants who had already 
presumed to screen his remains from the justice of the senate. 
But Pertinax could not refuse those last rites to the memory of 
Marcus and the tears of his first protector Claudius Pompeianus, 
who lamented the cruel fate of his brother-in-law, and lamented 
still more that he had deserved it. 50 

49 [By this epithet Gibbon alludes to the rhythmical acclamations which were the 
usage in the proceedings of the senate. In the adclamationes graves recorded here 
by Lampridius, the words hostis and parricide recur as a sort of refrain.] 

50 Capitolinus gives us the particulars of these tumultuary votes, which were 
moved by one senator, and repeated, or rather chaunted, by the whole body. 
Hist. August, p. 52. [vii. 18]. 


These effusions of impotent rage against a dead emperor, Legal juris- 
whom the senate had flattered when alive with the most abject senate over 
servility, betrayed a just but ungenerous spirit of revenge. The 
legality of these decrees was, however, supported by the prin- 
ciples of the Imperial constitution. To censure, to depose, or 
to punish with death, the first magistrate of the republic who 
had abused his delegated trust, was the ancient and undoubted 
prerogative of the Roman senate ; 51 but that feeble assembly 
was obliged to content itself with inflicting on a fallen tyrant 
that public justice from which, during his life and reign, he had 
been shielded by the strong arm of military despotism. 

Pertinax found a nobler way of condemning his predecessor's virtues of 


memory, — by the contrast of his own virtues with the vices of 
Commodus. On the day of his accession he resigned over to 
his wife and son his whole private fortune ; 52 that they might 
have no pretence to solicit favours at the expense of the state. 
He refused to flatter the vanity of the former with the title of 
Augusta, or to corrupt the inexperienced youth of the latter by 
the rank of Caesar. Accurately distinguishing between the 
duties of a parent and those of a sovereign, he educated his son 
with a severe simplicity, which, while it gave him no assured 
prospect of the throne, might in time have rendered him worthy 
of it. In public the behaviour of Pertinax was grave and affable. 
He lived with the virtuous part of the senate 53 (and, in a private 
station, he had been acquainted with the true character of each 
individual), without either pride or jealousy ; considered them as 
friends and companions, Avith whom he had shared the dangers 
of the tyranny, and with whom he wished to enjoy the security of 
the present time. He very frequently invited them to familiar 
entertainments, the frugality of which was ridiculed by those 
who remembered and regretted the luxurious prodigality of 
Commodus. 54 

51 The senate condemned Nero to be put to death more majorum. Sueton. c. 49. 

52 [This act has considerable significance in the history of the exchequer of 
the Roman Empire. Antoninus Pius had already acted in the same way, making 
over his private property to his daughter Faustina. The principle involved was 
the separation of the Emperor's private purse from ihefiscus, or public money 
which came to him as Emperor. This separation was systematically carried out 
by Septimius Severus.] 

53 [The note of the policy of Pertinax was the restoration of the authority of 
the senate, which, during the preceding century, had been gradually becoming less 
and less. He assumed the title princeps senatus, and things looked like a return 
of the system of Augustus. ] 

54 Dion (1. lxxiii. p. 122 [3]) speaks of these entertainments, as a senator who 
had supped with the emperor; Capitolinus (Hist. August, p. 58 [viii. 12]) like 
a slave who had received his intelligence from one of the scullions. 



He en- 
deavours to 
reform the 


His regul 

To heal, as far as it was possible, the wounds inflicted by the 
hand of tyranny, was the pleasing, but melancholy, task of Per- 
tinax. The innocent victims who yet survived were recalled from 
exile, released from prison, and restored to the full possession 
of their honours and fortunes. The unburied bodies of murdered 
senators (for the cruelty of Commodus endeavoured to extend 
itself beyond death) were deposited in the sepulchres of their 
ancestors ; their memory was justified ; and every consolation 
was bestowed on their ruined and afflicted families. Among 
these consolations, one of the most grateful was the punishment 
of the Delators, the common enemies of their master, of virtue, 
and of their country. Yet, even in the inquisition of these legal 
assassins, Pertinax proceeded with a steady temper, which gave 
everything to justice, and nothing to popular prejudice and 

The finances of the state demanded the most vigilant care oi 
the emperor. Though every measure of injustice and extortion 
had been adopted which could collect the property of the sub- 
ject into the coffers of the prince^ the rapaciousness of Com- 
modus had been so very inadequate to his extravagance that, 
upon his death, no more than eight thousand pounds were found 
in the exhausted treasury, 65 to defray the current expenses of 
government, and to discharge the pressing demand of a liberal 
donative, which the new emperor had been obliged to promise to 
the Praetorian guards. Yet, under these distressed circumstances, 
Pertinax had the generous firmness to remit all the oppressive 
taxes invented by Commodus, and to cancel all the unjust claims 
of the treasury ; declaring, in a decree of the senate, " that he 
was better satisfied to administer a poor republic with innocence, 
than to acquire riches by the ways of tyranny and dishonour". 
Economy and industry he considered as the pure and genuine 
sources of wealth ; and from them he soon derived a copious 
supply for the public necessities. The expense of the house- 
hold was immediately reduced to one half. All the instruments 
of luxury Pertinax exposed to public auction, 56 gold and silvei 
plate, chariots of a singular construction, a superfluous wardrobe 
of silk and embroidery, and a great number of beautiful slaves 

55 Decies. The blameless economy of Pius, left his successors a treasure of 
vicies septies viiliies, above two and twenty millions sterling. Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 

I2 3 I[8J. 

56 Besides the design of converting these useless ornaments into money. Dion 
(1. lxxiii. p. 1229 [5]) assigns two secret motives of Pertinax. He wished to expose 
the vices of Commodus, and to discover by the purchasers those who most re- 
sembled him. 


of both sexes; excepting only, with attentive humanity, those 
who were bom in a state of freedom, and had been ravished 
from the arms of their weeping parents. At the same time 
that he obliged the worthless favourites of the tyrant to resign 
a part of their ill-gotten wealth, he satisfied the just creditors of 
the state, and unexpectedly discharged the long arrears of honest 
services. He removed the oppressive restrictions which had been 
laid upon commerce, and granted all the uncultivated lands in 
Italy and the provinces to those who would improve them ; with 
an exemption from tribute during the term of ten years. 57 

Such an uniform conduct had already secured to Pei'tinax theandpopu- 
noblest reward of a sovereign, the love and esteem of his people. y 
Those who remembered the virtues of Marcus were happy to 
contemplate in their new emperor the features of that bright 
original, and flattered themselves that they should long enjoy 
the benign influence of his administration. A hasty zeal to 
reform the corrupted state, accompanied with less prudence 
than might have been expected from the years and experience 
of Pertinax, proved fatal to himself and to his country. His 
honest indiscretion united against him the servile crowd, who 
found their private benefit in the public disorders, and who pre- 
ferred the favour of a tyrant to the inexorable equality of the 
laws. 58 

Amidst the general joy the sullen and angry countenance of Discontent of 
the Praetorian guards betrayed their inward dissatisfaction. They torianT 
had reluctantly submitted to Pertinax ; they dreaded the strict- 
ness of the ancient discipline, which he was preparing to restore ; 
and they regretted the licence of the former reign. Their dis- 
contents were secretly fomented by Laetus, their praefect, who 
found, when it was too late, that his new emperor would reward 
a servant, but would not be ruled by a favourite. On the third 
day of his reign, the soldiers seized on a noble senator, with a 
design to carry him to the camp, and to invest him with the 
imperial purple. Instead of being dazzled by the dangerous 
honour, the affrighted victim escaped from their violence, and 
took refuge at the feet of Pertinax. A short time afterwards a conspiracy 
Sosius Falco, one of the consuls of the year, a rash youth, 59 but prevented 

57 Though Capitolinus has picked up many idle tales of the private life of Per- 
tinax, he joins with Dion and Herodian in admiring his public conduct [viii. 13]. 

58 Leges, rem surdam, inexorabilem esse. T. Liv. ii. 3. 

59 If we credit Capitolinus (which is rather difficult) Falco behaved with the 
most petulant indecency to Pertinax on the day of his accession. The wise 
emperor only admonished him of his youth and inexperience. Hist. August, p. 55 
[viii. 5]. 


of an ancient and opulent family, listened to the voice of 
ambition ; and a conspiracy was formed during a short absence 
of Pertinax, which was crushed by his sudden return to Rome 
and his resolute behaviour. Falco was on the point of being 
justly condemned to death as a public enemy, had he not been 
saved by the earnest and sincere entreaties of the injured 
emperor ; who conjured the senate that the purity of his reign 
might not be stained by the blood even of a guilty senator. 
Murder of These disappointments served only to irritate the rage of the 

them* y Praetorian guards. On the twenty-eight of March, eighty-six days 
193,'Mai-ch 28 only after the death of Commodus, a general sedition broke out 
in the camp, which the officers wanted either power or inclination 
to suppress. Two or three hundred of the most desperate 
soldiers marched at noon-day, with arms in their hands and fury 
in their looks, towards the Imperial palace. The gates were 
thrown open by their companions upon guard ; and by the 
domestics of the old court, who had already formed a secret 
conspiracy against the life of the too virtuous emperor. On the 
news of their approach, Pertinax, disdaining either flight or con- 
cealment, advanced to meet his assassins ; and recalled to their 
minds his own innocence, and the sanctity of their recent oath. 
For a few moments they stood in silent suspense, ashamed of 
their atrocious design, and awed by the venerable aspect and 
majestic firmness of their sovereign, till at length, the despair of 
pardon reviving their fury, a barbarian of the country of 
Tongres 60 levelled the first blow against Pertinax, who was 
instantly dispatched with a multitude of wounds. His head, 
separated from his body, and placed on a lance, was carried in 
triumph to the Praetorian camp, in the sight of a mournful and 
indignant people, who lamented the unworthy fate of that 
excellent prince, and the transient blessings of a reign, the 
memory of which could serve only to aggravate their approaching 
misfortunes. 61 

60 The modern bishopric of Liege. This soldier probably belonged to the Bata- 
vian horse-guards, who were mostly raised in the Duchy of Gueldres and the 
neighbourhood, and were distinguished by their valour, and by the boldness with 
which they swam their horses across the broadest and most rapid rivers. Tacit. 
Hist. iv. 12. Dion, 1. lv. p. 797 [24]. Lipsius de magnituchne Romani, L i. 
c. 4. 

61 Dion, 1. brxiii. p. 1232 [10]. Herodian, 1. ii. p. 60. [5]. Hist. August, p. 
58 [viii. 11]. Victor in Epitom., and in Ca^saiib. Eutropius, viii. >6. 



Public sale of the empire to Didius Julianas by the Prcelorian 
Guards — Clodius Albums in Britain, Pescennius Niger in Syria, 
and Septimius Severus in Pannonia, declare against the mur- 
derers of Pertinax — Civil wars, and victory of Severus over his 
three rivals— Relaxation of discipline — New maxims of govern- 

The power of the sword is more sensibly felt in an extensive Proportion of 
monarchy than in a small community. It has been calculated force^totiie 
by the ablest politicians that no state, without being soon ex-p5 ro 
hausted, can maintain above the hundredth part of its members 
in arms and idleness. But, although this relative proportion 
may be uniform, its influence over the rest of the society will vary 
according to the degree of its positive strength. The advan- 
tages of military science and discipline cannot be exerted, unless 
a proper number of soldiers are united into one body, and 
actuated by one soul. With a handful of men, such an union 
would be ineffectual ; with an unwieldy host, it would be im- 
practicable ; and the powers of the machine would be alike 
destroyed by the extreme minuteness, or the excessive weight, 
of its springs. To illustrate this observation we need only re- 
flect that there is no superiority of natural strength, artificial 
weapons, or acquired skill, which could enable one man to keep 
in constant subjection one hundred of his fellow-creatures : the 
tyrant of a single town, or a small district, would soon discover 
that an hundred armed followers were a weak defence against 
ten thousand peasants or citizens ; but an hundred thousand well- 
disciplined soldiers will command, with despotic sway, ten 
millions of subjects ; and a body of ten or fifteen thousand 
guards will strike terror into the most numerous populace that 
ever crowded the streets of an immense capital. 

The Praetorian bands, whose licentious fury was the first The Pra>toriao 
symptom and cause of the decline of the Roman empire, gUir 
scarcely amounted to the last mentioned number. 1 They de- Their in»utn- 

x They were originally nine or ten thousand men (for Tacitus and Dion are not 
agreed upon the subject), divided into as many cohorts. Vitellius increased them 



Their camp 

strength and 


rived their institution from Augustus. That crafty tyrant, 
sensible that laws might colour, but that arms alone could 
maintain, his usurped dominion, had gradually formed this 
powerful body of guards, in constant readiness to protect his 
person, to awe the senate, and either to prevent or to crush the 
first motions of rebellion. He distinguished these favoured 
troops by a double pay, and superior privileges ; but, as their 
formidable aspect would at once have alarmed and irritated the 
Roman people, three cohorts only were stationed in the capital ; 
whilst the remainder was dispersed in the adjacent towns of 
Italy. 2 But after fifty years of peace and servitude, Tiberius 
ventured on a decisive measure, which for ever riveted the 
fetters of his country. Under the fair pretences of relieving 
Italy from the heavy burden of military quarters, and of intro- 
ducing a stricter discipline among the guards, he assembled 
them at Rome, in a permanent camp, 3 which was fortified with 
skilful care, 4 and placed on a commanding situation. 5 

Such formidable servants are always necessary, but often 
fatal, to the throne of despotism. By thus introducing the 
Praetorian guards, as it were, into the palace and the senate, the 
emperors taught them to perceive their own strength, and the 
weakness of the civil government ; to view the vices of their 
masters with familiar contempt, and to lay aside that reveren- 
tial awe which distance only, and mystery, can preserve towards 
an imaginary power. In the luxurious idleness of an opulent 
city, their pride was nourished by the sense of their irresistible 
weight ; nor was it possible to conceal from them that the 
person of the sovereign, the authority of the senate, the public 

to sixteen thousand, and, as far as we can learn from inscriptions, they never after- 
wards sunk much below that number. See Lipsius de magnitudine Romani, i. 4. 
[The last statement must be modified. The Praetorian guard was a reorganisation 
of the bodyguard of the generals of the republic. Augustus fixed the Prastorium 
in Rome, and determined, as the number of the guard, nine cohorts, each cohort 
consisting of a thousand men. A tenth cohort was subsequently added, but the 
exact date of this addition is not clear. Vitellius, as Gibbon says (Tacitus, Hist, 
ii. 93), increased the number to sixteen ; but Vespasian restored theoriginal nine 
(Aurelius Victor, Caes. 40, 24, cp. Zosimus ii. 17). There is some evidence in in- 
scriptions suggesting that there were twelve cohorts between the reign of Gaius 
and that of Vitellius. For number of prasfects, see Appendix 11.] 

2 Sueton. in August, c. 49. 

■» Tacit. Annal. iv. 2. Suet, in Tiber, c. 37. Dion Cassius, 1. lvii. p. 867 [19]. 

4 In the civil war between Vitellius and Vespasian, the Praetorian camp was 
attacked and defended with all the machines used in the siege of the best fortified 
cities. Tacit. Hist. iii. 84. 

5 Close to the walls of the city, on the broad summit of the Quirinal and Vimi- 
nal hills. See Nardini, Roma Antica, p. 174. Donatus de Roma Antiqua, p. 46 
[Not on the hills, but to the east of them.] 


treasure, and the seat of empire, were all in their hands. 
To divert the Praetorian bands from these dangerous reflections 
the firmest and best established princes were obliged to mix 
blandishments with commands, rewards with punishments, to 
flatter their pride, indulge their pleasures, connive at their 
irregularities, and to purchase their precarious faith by a liberal 
donative ; which, since the elevation of Claudius, was exacted 
as a legal claim on the accession of every new emperor. 6 

The advocates of the guards endeavoured to justify by argu- Their spec io « s 
ments the power which they asserted by arms ; and to maintain claim8 
that, according to the purest principles of the constitution, their 
consent was essentially necessary in the appointment of an 
emperor. The election of consuls, of generals, and of magistrates, 
however it had been recently usurped by the senate, was the 
ancient and undoubted right of the Roman people. 7 But where 
was the Roman people to be found ? Not surely amongst the 
mixed multitude of slaves and strangers that filled the streets of 
Rome ; a servile populace, as devoid of spirit as destitute of pro- 
perty. The defenders of the state, selected from the flower of 
Italian youth, 8 and trained in the exercise of arms and virtue, 
were the genuine representatives of the people, and the best 
entitled to elect the military chief of the republic. These asser- 
tions, however defective in reason, became unanswerable, when 
the fierce Praetorians increased their weight, by throwing, like 
the barbarian conqueror of Rome, their swords into the scale 9 

The Praetorians had violated the sanctity of the throne, by the They o fler the 
atrocious murder of Pertinax ; they dishonoured the majesty of 3f Iroto 
it, by their subsequent conduct. The camp was without a 
leader, for even the praefect Laetus, who had excited the tempest, 
prudently declined the public indignation. Amidst the wild 
disorder, Sulpicianus, the emperor's father-in-law, and governor 

6 Claudius, raised by the soldiers to the empire, was the first who rave a dona- 
tive. He gave quina dena, 120/. (Sueton in Claud, c. 10) : when Marcus, with his 
colleague Lucius Verus, took quiet possession of the throne, he gave vicena, 160/ 
to each of the guards Hist. August, p. 25 [iv. 7 ] . (Dion, lxxiii. p. 1231 18] ) 
,hZT Y m s . ome f idea of the amount of these sums, by Hadrian's complaint 
sterling prom0tl0n ° f a Csesar had cost him ter billies, two millions and a half 

\ "Cicero de Legibus, in. 3. The first book of Livy, and the second of Dionysius 
kings rnaSSUS ' authority of the people, even in the election of the 

An 8 Ji hey W T Xig inall y re cruited in Latium, Etruria, and the old colonies (Tacit. 
title fnfTf" r 5 '' J em P eror ° th0 compliments their vanity, with the flattering 
titles of Italic Alumni, Romana vere juventus. Tacit. Hist i 84 

'43 [i] S,egC ° f R ° me ^ the Ga " 1S ' SeC LJVy ' V " 48 ' 1>luta ^ ch - in CamilL P- 


of the city, who had been sent to the camp on the first alarm ot 
mutiny, was endeavouring to calm the fury of the multitude, when 
he was silenced by the clamorous return of the murderers, bearing 
on a lance the head of Pertinax. Though history has accus- 
tomed us to observe every principle and every passion yielding 
to the imperious dictates of ambition, it is scarcely credible that, 
in these moments of horror, Sulpicianus should have aspired to 
ascend a throne polluted with the recent blood of so near a 
relation, and so excellent a prince. He had already begun to 
use the only effectual argument, and to treat for the Imperial 
dignity ; but the more prudent of the Praetorians, apprehensive 
that, in this private contract, they should not obtain a just price 
for so valuable a commodity, ran out upon the ramparts ; and, 
with a loud voice, proclaimed that the Roman world was to be 
disposed of to the best bidder by public auction. 10 
it is This infamous offer, the most insolent excess of military licence, 

SSEan!*i.D. 7 diffused an universal grief, shame, and indignation throughout 
28 ' the city. It reached at length the ears of Didius Julianus, a 

wealthy senator, who, regardless of the public calamities, was 
indulging himself in the luxury of the table. 11 His wife and his 
daughter, his freedmen and his parasites, easily convinced him 
that he deserved the throne, and earnestly conjured him to em- 
brace so fortunate an opportunity. The vain old man hastened 
to the Praetorian camp, where Sulpicianus was still in treaty with 
the guards ; and began to bid against him from the foot of the 
rampart. The unworthy negotiation was transacted by faithful 
emissaries, who passed alternately from one candidate to the 
other, and acquainted each of them with the offers of his rival. 
Sulpicianus had already promised a donative of five thousand 
drachms (above one hundred and sixty pounds) to each soldier ; 
when Julian, eager for the prize, rose at once to the sum of six thou- 
sand two hundred and fifty drachms, or upwards of two hundred 
pounds sterling. The gates of the camp were instantly thrown 
open to the purchaser ; he was declared emperor, and received 
an oath of allegiance from the soldiers, who retained humanity 
enough to stipulate that he should pardon and forget the com- 
petition of Sulpicianus. 
J^»»» It was now incumbent on the Praetorians to fulfil the condi- 

uy tii» senate tions of the sale. They placed their new sovereign, whom they 

"Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1234 [11]. Herodian, 1. ii. p. 63 [6]. Hist. August, p. 60 
[ix. 2]. Though the three historians agree that it was in fact an auction, Hero- 
dian alone affirms that it was proclaimed as such by the soldiers. 

11 Spartianus softens the most odious parts of the character and elevation of Julian. 


served and despised, in the centre of their ranks, surrounded 
him on every side with their shields, and conducted him in close 
order of battle through the deserted streets of the city. The 
senate was commanded to assemble, and those who had been the 
distinguished friends of Pertinax, or the personal enemies of 
Julian, found it necessary to affect a more than common share of 
satisfaction at this happy revolution. 1 '- After Julian had filled 
the senate house with armed soldiers, he expatiated on the 
freedom of his election, his own eminent virtues, and his full 
assurance of the affections of the senate. The obsequious 
assembly congratulated their own and the public felicity ; 
engaged their allegiance, and conferred on him all the several 
branches of the Imperial power. 13 From the senate Julian was Takes 
conducted by the same military procession, to take possession of Sie palace oi 
the palace. The first objects which struck his eyes were the 
abandoned trunk of Pertinax, and the frugal entertainment 
prepared for his supper. The one he viewed with indifference ; 
the other with contempt. A magnificent feast was prepared by 
his order, and he amused himself till a very late hour, with dice, 
and the performances of Pylades, a celebrated dancer. Yet it 
was observed that, after the crowd of flatterers dispersed, and 
left him to darkness, solitude, and terrible reflection, he passed 
a sleepless night ; revolving most probably in his mind his own 
rash folly, the fate of his virtuous predecessor, and the doubtful 
and dangerous tenure of an empire, which had not been ac- 
quired by merit, but purchased by money. 14 

He had reason to tremble. On the throne of the world he The public 
found himself without a friend, and even without an adherent. (JSCOnteIlt 
The guards themselves were ashamed of the prince whom their 
avarice had persuaded them to accept ; nor was there a citizen 
who did not consider his elevation with horror, as the last 
insult on the Roman name. The nobility, whose conspicuous 
station and ample possessions exacted the strictest caution, dis- 
sembled their sentiments, and met the affected civility of the 

12 Dion Cassius, at that time praetor, had been a personal enemy to Julian, 
1. lxxiii. p. 1235 [12]. 

13 Hist. August, p. 61 [ix. 3, 3]. We learn from thence one curious circum- 
stance, that the new emperor, whatever had been his birth, was immediately 
aggregated to the number of Patrician families. [His imperial name was M. 
Didius Severus Julianus. His wife, Mallia Scanilla, and his daughter, Didia Clara, 
received the title of Augusta (Hist. Aug. ix. 3). Pertinax had declined that 
honour for his consort.] 

14 Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1235 [13]. Hist. August, p. 61 fix. 3, 10] . I have endeavoured 
to blend into one consistent story, the seeming contradictions of the two writers. 



The armies of 


Syria, and 





Albinus in 

emperor with smiles of complacency and professions of duty. 
But the people, secure hi their numbers and obscurity, gave a 
free vent to their passions. The streets and public places of 
Rome resounded with clamours and imprecations. The enraged 
multitude affronted the person of Julian, rejected his liberality, 
and, conscious of the impotence of their own resentment, they 
called aloud on the legions of the frontiers to assert the violated 
majesty of the Roman empire. 

The public discontent was soon diffused from the centre to 
the frontiers of the empire. The armies of Britain, of S) r ria, and 
of Illyricum, lamented the death of Pertinax, in whose company, 
or under whose command, they had so often fought and con- 
quered. They received with surprise, with indignation, and 
perhaps with envy, the extraordinary intelligence that the 
Praetorians had disposed of the empire by public auction ; and 
they sternly refused to l-atify the ignominious bargain. Their 
immediate and unanimous revolt wa!s fatal to Julian, but it was 
fatal at the same time to the public peace ; as the generals of 
the respective armies, Clodius Albinus, Pescennius Niger, and 
Septimius Severus, were still more anxious to succeed than to 
revenge the murdered Pertinax. Their forces were exactly 
balanced. Each of them was at the head of three legions, 15 
with a numerous train of auxiliaries ; and, however different in 
their characters, they were all soldiers of experience and capa- 

Clodius Albinus, 10 governor of Britain, surpassed both his 
competitors in the nobility of his extraction, which he derived 
from some of the most illustrious names of the old republic. 17 
But the branch, from whence he claimed his descent, was sunk 
into mean circumstances, and transplanted into a remote pro- 
vince. It is difficult to form a just idea of his true character. 
Under the philosophic cloak of austerity, he stands accused of 
concealing most of the vices which degrade human nature. 18 
But his accusers are those venal writers who adored the fortune 
of Severus, and trampled on the ashes of an unsuccessful rival. 
Virtue, or the appearances of virtue, recommended Albinus to 
the confidence and good opinion of Marcus ; and his preserving 

1 5 Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1235 [14]. 

16 TD- Clodius Septimus Albinus.] 

17 The Postumian and the Cejonian ; the former of whom was raised to the 
consulship in the fifth year after its institution. 

18 Spartianus in his undigested collections, mixes up all the virtues and all the 
vices that enter into the human composition, and bestows them on the same 
object. Such, indeed, are many of the characters in the Augustan history. 


with the son the same interest which he had acquired with 
the father is a proof at least that he was possessed of a very 
flexible disposition. The favour of a tyrant does not always 
suppose a want of merit in the object of it; he may, without 
intending it, reward a man of worth and ability, or he may find 
such a man useful to his own service. It does not appear that 
Albinus served the son of Marcus, either as the minister of his 
cruelties, or even as the associate of his pleasures. He was em- 
ployed in a distant honourable command, when he received a 
confidential letter from the emperor, acquainting him of the 
treasonable designs of some discontented generals, and authoriz- 
ing him to declare himself the guardian and successor of the 
throne, by assuming the title and ensigns of Caesar. 19 The 
governor of Britain wisely declined the dangerous honour, which 
would have marked him for the jealousy, or involved him in the 
approaching ruin, of Commodus. He courted power by nobler, 
or, at least, by more specious, arts. On a premature report of 
the death of the emperor, he assembled his troops ; and, in an 
eloquent discourse, deplored the inevitable mischiefs of des- 
potism, described the happiness and glory which their ancestors 
had enjoyed under the consular government, and declared his 
firm resolution to reinstate the senate and people in their legal 
authority. This popular harangue was answered by the loud 
acclamations of the British legions, and received at Rome with 
a secret murmur of applause. Safe in the possession of his little 
world, and in the command of an army less distinguished indeed 
for discipline than for numbers and valour, 20 Albinus braved the 
menaces of Commodus, maintained towards Pertinax a stately 
ambiguous reserve, and instantly declared against the usurpation 
of Julian. The convulsions of the capital added new weight to 
his sentiments, or rather to his professions, of patriotism. A 
regard to decency induced him to decline the lofty titles of 
Augustus and Emperor, and he imitated perhaps the example of 
Galba, who, on a similar occasion, had styled himself the 
Lieutenant of the senate and people. 21 

Personal merit alone had raised Pescennius Niger -'- from an pesceunius 
obscure birth and station to the government of Syria ; a lucra- Syria* 

10 Hist. August, p. So, 84 [xii. 2, and 6, 4, 5]. 

20 Pertinax, who governed Britain a few years before, had been left for dead 
in a mutiny of the soldiers. Hist. August, p. 54 [viii. 3]. Yet they loved and 
regretted liim ; admirantibus earn virtutem cui irascebnntur. 

21 Sueton. in Galb. c. 10. [Legatum se seuatus ac pop. R. professus est.] 

22 [C. Pescennius Niger Justus.] 


tive and important command, which in times of civil confusion 
gave him a near prospect of the throne. Yet his parts seem to 
have been better suited to the second than to the first rank ; he 
was an unequal rival, though he might have approved himself an 
excellent lieutenant, to Severus, who afterwards displayed the 
greatness of his mind by adopting several useful institutions 
from a vanquished enemy. 2:i In his government, Niger ac- 
quired the esteem of the soldiers and the love of the provincials. 
His rigid discipline fortified the valour and confirmed the 
obedience of the former, whilst the voluptuous Syrians were less 
delighted with the mild firmness of his administration than with 
the affability of his manners and the apparent pleasure with 
which he attended their frequent and pompous festivals. 24 As 
soon as the intelligence of the atrocious murder of Pertinax had 
reached Antioch, the wishes of Asia invited Niger to assume the 
Imperial purple and revenge his death. The legions of the 
eastern frontier embraced his cause ; the opulent but unarmed 
provinces, from the frontiers of ^Ethiopia 25 to the Hadriatic, 
cheerfully submitted to his power ; and the kings beyond the 
Tigris and the Euphrates congratulated his election, and offered 
him their homage and services. The mind of Niger was not 
capable of receiving this sudden tide of fortune ; he flattered 
himself that his accession would be undisturbed by competition, 
and unstained by civil blood ; and whilst he enjoyed the vain 
pomp of triumph, he neglected to secure the means of victory. 
Instead of entering into an effectual negotiation with the 
powerful armies of the West, whose resolution might decide, or 
at least must balance, the mighty contest ; instead of advancing 
without delay towards Rome and Italy, where his presence was 
impatiently expected, 26 Niger trifled away in the luxury of 
Antioch those irretrievable moments which were diligently 
improved by the decisive activity of Severus. 27 

23 Hist. August, p. 76 [xi. 7] . 

24 Herod. 1. ii. p. 68 [7]. The Chronicle of John Malala, of Antioch, shows the 
zealous attachment of his countrymen to these festivals, which at once gratified 
their superstition, and their love of pleasure. 

25 A king of Thebes, in Egypt, is mentioned in the Augustan History, as an ally, 
and, indeed, as a personal friend of Niger. If Spartianus is not, as I strongly 
suspect, mistaken, he has brought to light a dynasty of tributary princes totally 
unknown to history. 

26 Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1238 [15]. Herod, 1. ii. p. 67 [7]. Averse in everyone's 
mouth at that time, seems to express the general opinion of the three rivals; 
Optimus est Niger, bonus Afer. pessimus Albus. Hist. August, p. 75 [xi. 8]. [The 
verse was originally in Greek, but the Latin of Spartianus was innocent of the 
false quantity which Gibbon ascribes to it. It ran optimus est Fuscus, &c] 

^Herodian, 1. ii. p. 71 [8]. 


The country of Pannonia and Dalmatia, which occupied the Pumoma and 
space between the Danube and the Hadriatic, was one of the Dahnatia 
last and most difficult conquests of the Romans. In the defence 
of national freedom, two hundred thousand of these barbarians 
had once appeared in the field, alarmed the declining age of 
Augustus, and exercised the vigilant prudence of Tiberius at 
the head of the collected force of the empire. 28 The Pannonians 
yielded at length to the arms and institutions of Rome. Their 
recent subjection, however, the neighbourhood, and even the 
mixture of the unconquered tribes, and perhaps the climate, 
adapted, as it has been observed, to the production of great 
bodies and slow minds, 29 all contributed to preserve some remains 
of their original ferocity, and, under the tame resemblance of 
Roman provincials, the hardy features of the natives were still 
to be discerned. Their warlike youth afforded an inexhaustible 
supply of recruits to the legions stationed on the banks of the 
Danube, and which, from a perpetual warfare against the 
Germans and Sarmatians, were deservedly esteemed the best 
troops in the service. 

The Pannonian army was at this time commanded by Septimius septtmnu 
Severus, a native of Africa, who, in the gradual ascent of private Bevenu 
honours, had concealed his daring ambition, which was never 
diverted from its steady course by the allurements of pleasure, 
the apprehension of danger, or the feelings of humanity. 30 " 
On the first news of the murder of Pertinax, he assembled his 
troops, painted in the most lively colours the crime, the insolence, 
and the weakness of the Praetorian guards, and animated the 
legions to arms and to revenge. He concluded (and the perora- 
tion was thought extremely eloquent) with promising every 
soldier about four hundred pounds; an honourable donative, 
double in value to the infamous bribe with which Julian had declared 
purchased the empire. 3 * The acclamations of the army im- SKS by 
mediately saluted Severus with the names of Augustus, Pertinax £#£, 
and Emperor ; and he thus attained the lofty station to which SuS" 

28 See an account of that memorable war in Velleius Paterculus, ii no &e who 
served in the army of Tiberius. '' " 

allo^e^nfl t u h e e nce? Cti0n ° f Her ° dian ' L * P ' 74 ^ Wi " the m ° dern Austrians 
*> In the letter to Albinus, already mentioned, Commodus accuses Severus as 
one of the ambitious generals who censured his conduct, and wished to occupy his 
place. Hist. August, p. 80 [xii. 2]. " 

Si Pannonia was too poor to supply such a sum. It was probably promised in 
he camp, and paid at Rome, after the victory. In fixing the sum, I have adopted 
the conjecture of Casaubon. See Hist. August, p. 65 [x 5]. Comment, p. 115 


he was invited by conscious merit and a long train of dreams 
and omens, the fruitful offspring either of his superstition or 
policy. 32 

The new candidate for empire saw and improved the peculiar 
advantage of his situation. His province extended to the 
Julian Alps, which gave an easy access into Italy; and he 
remembered the saying of Augustus, That a Pannonian army 
Manhesinto might in ten days appear in sight of Rome. 33 By a celerity 
proportioned to the greatness of the occasion, he might reason- 
ably hope to revenge Pertinax, punish Julian, and receive the 
homage of the senate and people, as their lawful emperor, 
before his competitors, separated from Italy by an immense 
tract of sea and land, were apprized of his success, or even of 
his election. During the whole expedition, he scarcely allowed 
himself any moments for sleep or food ; marching on foot, and 
in complete armour, at the head of his columns, he insinuated 
himself into the confidence and affection of his troops, pressed 
their diligence, revived their spirits, animated their hopes, and 
was well satisfied to share the hardships of the meanest soldier, 
whilst he kept in view the infinite superiority of his reward. 
Advances The wretched Julian had expected, and thought himself 

Rome s prepared, to dispute the empire with the governor of Syria ; 
but in the invincible and rapid approach of the Pannonian 
legions, he saw his inevitable ruin. 34 The hasty arrival of 
every messenger increased his just apprehensions. He was 
successively informed that Severus had passed the Alps ; that 
the Italian cities, unwilling or unable to oppose his progress, 
had received him with the warmest professions of joy and duty ; 
that the important place of Ravenna had surrendered without 
resistance, and that the Hadriatic fleet was in the hands of the 
conqueror. The enemy was now within two hundred and fifty 

33 Herodian, 1. ii. p. 78 [11]. Severus was declared emperor on the banks of 
the Danube, either at Carnuntum, according to Spartianus (Hist. August, p. 65 
[x. 5] ) or else at Sabaria, according to Victor [Cses. xx. 1] . Mr. Hume, in supposing 
that the birth and dignity of Severus were too much inferior to the Imperial crown, 
and that he marched into Italy as general only, has not considered this transaction 
with his usual accuracy. (Essay on the original contract.) [The date in Hist. Aug. 
is idibus Augustis, but Baronius (followed by Pagi, Gibbon, Clinton and De 
Ouleneer) amended idibus April., 13th April.] 

83 Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. 111. We must reckon the march from the 
nearest verge of Pannonia, and extend the sight of the city, as far as two hundred 

34 [Schiller remarks that the events which attended the elevation of Vespasian 
repeat themselves in that of Severus. His march recalls the march of Antonius 
Primus with the Pannonian legions. Julianus neglected to occupy the Alpine 


miles of Rome ; and every moment diminished the narrow span 
oi life and empire allotted to Julian "drrow span 

n, -j. x ^ c ""piuieu tne venal faith of the Pr£ptoviin« filial Julian 
he crty w,th unavailing preparations for w£ SfcfS 

paiace , as it those last mtrenchments could be defended 
without hope of relief, against a vietorious invader Fear and 
lianrn prevented the guards from deserting his ; standard • but 

the pleasures of the baths and theatres IE ' "' " t' gh ' 
use th had almost **£?£?£& "theT^h 7f 
vhmh they were oppressed. The unpractised elephants whose 
uncouth appearance, it was hoped, would strike terror into the 
army of he north, threw their unskilful riders and the awt 
ward evolnt ons of the marines, drawn from tL fet of Mise, mm" 
were an object of ridicule to the populace; St the se^te 
:r^r> WIth SeCrCt P'— ,the duress and weakness oTtt 

the senate. He entr^^e P tSL' g S2 oe 

^oniXontri; at •£■=.«? ^"M 
S^ S^' «» ^ * -4"P ceremoni™ and" 

° VOL. I. 


course, he passed, without difficulty, the defiles of the Apennine, 
received into his party the troops and ambassadors sent to retard 
his progress, and made a short halt at Interamna, about seventy 
miles from Rome. His victory was already secure ; but the 
despair of the Praetorians might have rendered it bloody ; and 
Severus had the laudable ambition of ascending the throne 
without drawing the sword. 38 His emissaries, dispersed in the 
capital, assured the guards that, provided they would abandon 
their worthless prince, and the perpetrators of the murder of 
Pertinax, to the justice of the conqueror, he would no longer 
consider that melancholy event as the act of the whole body. 
The faithless Praetorians, whose resistance was supported only 
by sullen obstinacy, gladly complied with the easy conditions, 
seized the greatest part of the assassins, and signified to the 
senate that they no longer defended the cause of Julian. That 
assembly, convoked by the consul, unanimously acknowledged 
Severus as lawful emperor, decreed divine honours to Pertinax, 
and pronounced a sentence of deposition and death against his 
and con- unfortunate successor. Julian was conducted into a private 
execntecfby apartment of the baths of the palace, and beheaded as a common 
ilnate! a!d criminal, after having purchased, with an immense treasure, an 
183, Juno 2 anx i ous anc l precarious reign of only sixty-six days. 39 The 
almost incredible expedition of Severus, who, in so short a space 
of time, conducted a numerous army from the banks of the 
Danube to those of the Tiber, proves at once the plenty of 
provisions produced by agriculture and commerce, the goodness 
of the roads, the discipline of the legions, and the indolent 
subdued temper of the provinces. 40 
Disgrace of The first cares of Severus were bestowed on two measures, the 
guard* ° r an one dictated by policy, the other by decency ; the revenge, and 
the honours due to the memory of Pertinax. Before the new 
emperor entered Rome, he issued his commands to the Prae- 

38 Victor [Caes. 19] and Eutropius, viii. 17, mention a combat near the 
Milvian Bridge, the Ponte Molle, unknown to the better and more ancient 

39 Dion, 1. lxxiii. p. 1240 [17]. Herodian, 1. ii. p. 83 [12]. Hist. August, p. 
63 [ix. 9]. 

40 From these sixty -six days, we must first deduct sixteen, as Pertinax was 
murdered on the 28th of March, and Severus most probably elected on the 13th of 
April. (See Hist. August, p. 65, and Tillemont Hist, des Empereurs, torn. iii. p. 
393, Note 7.) We cannot allow less than ten days after his election, to put a 
numerous army in motion. Forty days remain for this rapid march, and, as we 
may compute about eight hundred miles from Rome to the neighbourhood of 
Vienna, the army of Severus marched twenty miles every day, without halt or inter- 


torian guards, directing them to wait his arrival on a large plain 
near the city, without arms, but in the habits of ceremony in 
which they were accustomed to attend their sovereign. He was 
obeyed by those haughty troops, whose contrition was the effect 
of their just terrors. A chosen part of the Illyrian army en- 
compassed them with leveled spears. Incapable of flight or 
resistance, they expected their fate in silent consternation. 
Severus mounted the tribunal, sternly reproached them with 
perfidy and cowardice, dismissed them with ignominy from the 
trust which they had betrayed, despoiled them of their splendid 
ornaments, and banished them, on pain of death, to the distance 
of an hundred miles from the capital. During the transaction, 
another detachment had been sent to seize their arms, occupy 
their camp, and prevent the hasty consequences of their despair. 41 

The funeral and consecration of Pertinax was next solemnized 
with every circumstance of sad magnificence. 42 The senate, Funeral and 
with a melancholy pleasure, performed the last rites to that Pertinax 13 01 
excellent prince, whom they had loved and still regretted. The 
concern of his successor was probably less sincere. He esteemed 
the virtues of Pertinax, but those virtues would for ever have 
confined his ambition to a private station. Severus pronounced 
his funeral oration with studied eloquence, inward satisfaction, 
and well-acted sorrow ; and by this pious regard to his memory, 
convinced the credulous multitude that he alone was worthy to 
snpply his place. Sensible, however, that arms, not ceremonies, 
must assert his claim to the empire, he left Rome at the end 
of thirty days, and, without suffering himself to be elated by this 
easy victory, prepared to encounter his more formidable rivals. 

The uncommon abilities and fortune of Severus have induced success of 
an elegant historian to compare him with the first and greatest against Niger 
of the Csesars. 43 The parallel is, at least, imperfect. Where Aibinus' 1 "' 
shall we find, in the character of Severus, the commanding 
superiority of soul, the generous clemency, and the various 
genius, which could reconcile and unite the love of pleasure, 
the thirst of knowledge, and the fire of ambition ? 44 In one 

41 Dion, 1. lxxiv. p. 124.1 [1]. Herodian, 1. ii. p. 84 [13]. 

42 Dion, 1. lxxiv. p. 1244 [4] , who assisted at the ceremony as a senator, gives 
a most pompous description of it. 

43 Herodian, 1, iii. p. 112 [7, 7]. 

44 Though it is not, most assuredly, the intention of Lucan to exalt the 
character of Caesar, yet the idea he gives of that hero, in the tenth book of the Phar- 
salia, where he describes him, at the same time, making love to Cleopatra, 
sustaining a siege against the power of Egypt, and conversing with the sages of 
the country, is, in reality, the noblest panegyric. 



Conduct of 
the two 
civil wars. 
Arts of 


instance only, they may be compared, with some degree of pro 
priety, in the celerity of their motion, and their civil victories. 
In less than four years, 45 Severus subdued the riches of the east, 
and the valour of the west. He vanquished two competitors of 
reputation and ability, and defeated numerous armies, provided 
with weapons and discipline equal to his own. In that age, the 
art of fortification and the principles of tactics, were well under- 
stood by all the Roman generals ; and the constant superiority 
of Severus was that of an artist, who uses the same instruments 
with more skill and industry than his rivals. I shall not, how- 
ever, enter into a minute narrative of these military operations ; 
but as the two civil wars against Niger and against Albinus, 
were almost the same in their conduct, event, and consequences, 
I shall collect into one point of view the most striking circum- 
stances, tending to develop the character of the conqueror, and 
the state of the empire. , 

Falsehood and insincerity, unsuitable as they seem to the 
dignity of public transactions, offend us with a less degrading 
idea of meanness than when they are found in the intercourse 
of private life. In the latter, they discover a want of courage ; 
in the other, only a defect of power ; and, as it is impossible for 
the most able statesmen to subdue millions of followers and 
enemies by their own personal strength, the world, under the 
name of policy, seems to have granted them a very liberal in- 
dulgence of craft and dissimulation. Yet the arts of Severus 
cannot be justified by the most ample privileges of state-reason. 
He promised only to betray, he flattered only to ruin ; and 
however he might occasionally bind himself by oaths and 
treaties, his conscience, obsequious to his interest, always re- 
leased him from the inconvenient obligation. 46 

If his two competitors, reconciled by their common danger, 
had advanced upon him without delay, perhaps Severus would 
have sunk under their united effort. Had they even attacked 
him at the same time, with separate views and separate armies, 
the contest might have been long and doubtful. But they fell, 
singly and successively, an easy prey to the arts as well as arms 
of their subtle enemy, lulled into security by the moderation of 
his professions, and overwhelmed by the rapidity of his action. 
He first marched against Niger, whose reputation and power he 
the most dreaded : but he declined any hostile declarations, 

45 Reckoning from his election, April 13. 193, to the death of Albinus. February 
19, 197. See Tillemont's Chronology. 

46 Herodian, 1. ii. p. 85 [13]. 


suppressed the name of his antagonist, and only signified to 
the senate and people his intention of regulating the eastern 
provinces. In private he spoke of Niger, his old friend and 
intended successor, 47 with the most affectionate regard, and 
highly applauded his generous design of revenging the murder 
of Pertinax. To punish the vile usurper of the throne was the 
duty of every Roman general. To persevere in arms, and to 
resist a lawful emperor, acknowledged by the senate, would 
alone render him criminal. 48 The sons of Niger had fallen into 
his hands among the children of the provincial governors, de- 
tained at Rome as pledges for the loyalty of their parents. 49 As 
long as the power of Niger inspired terror, or even respect, they 
were educated with the most tender care, with the children of 
Severus himself; but they were soon involved in their father's 
ruin, and removed, first by exile, and afterwards by death, from 
the eye of public compassion. 511 

Whilst Severus was ene;ao-ed in his eastern war, he had reason towards 

o o * Albinus 

to apprehend that the governor of Britain might pass the sea 
and the Alps, occupy the vacant seat of empire, and oppose 
his return with the authority of the senate and the forces of the 
West. The ambiguous conduct of Albinus, in not assuming the 
Imperial title, left room for negotiation. Forgetting at once 
Ills professions of patriotism and the jealousy of sovereign power, 
he accepted the precarious rank of Csesar, as a reward for his 
fatal neutrality. Till the first contest was decided, Severus 
treated the man whom he had doomed to destruction with 
every mark of esteem and regard. Even in the letter in which 
he announced his victory over Niger he styles Albinus the 
brother of his soul and empire, sends him the affectionate saluta- 
tions of his wife Julia, and his young family, and entreats him to 
preserve the armies and the republic faithful to their common 
interest. The messengers charged with this letter were in- 
structed to accost the Caesar with respect, to desire a private 
audience, and to plunge their daggers into his heart. 51 The 

47 Whilst Severus was very dangerously ill, it was industriously given out that he 
intended to appoint Niger and Albinus his successors. As he could not be sincere 
with respect to both, be might not be so with regard to either. Yet Severus carried 
his hypocrisy so far as to profess that intention in the memoirs of his own life. 

43 Hist. August, p. 65 [x. 8, 7 ; and cp. 6]. 

49 This practice, invented by Commodus, proved very useful to Severus. He 
found, at Rome, the children of many of the principal adherents of his rivals; 
and he employed them more than once to intimidate, or seduce, the parents. 

60 Herodian. 1. iii. p. 06. Hist. August, p. 67, 63 [x. 8, 9]. 

01 Hist. August, p. 81 [xii. 7]. Spartianus lias inserted this curious letter at full 


conspiracy was discovered, and the too credulous Albinus at 
length passed over to the continent, and prepared for an unequal 
contest with his rival, who rushed upon him at the head of a 
veteran and victorious army. 

Events of the The military labours of Severus seem inadequate to the im- 
portance of his conquests. Two engagements, the one near 
the Hellespont, the other in the narrow defiles of Cilicia, de- 

[194 a.d.] cided the fate of his Syrian competitor ; and the troops of Europe 
asserted their usual ascendant over the effeminate natives of 
Asia. 5 - The battle of Lyons, where one hundred and fifty thou- 
sand Romans 53 were engaged, was equally fatal to Albinus. The 

[197 a.d.| valour of the British army maintained, indeed, a sharp and doubt- 
ful contest with the hardy discipline of the Illyrian legions. 
The fame and person of Severus appeared, during a few moments, 
irrecoverably lost, till that warlike prince rallied his fainting 
troops, and led them on to a decisive victory. 54 The war was 
finished by that memorable day. 

decided by The civil wars of modern Europe have been distinguished, not 

one or two l o ' 

battles only by the fierce animosity, but likewise by the obstinate per- 
severance, of the contending factions. They have generally 
been justified by some principle, or, at least, coloured by some 
pretext, of religion, freedom, or loyalty. The leaders were 
nobles of independent property and hereditary influence. The 
troops fought like men interested in the decision of the quarrel ; 
and as military spirit and party zeal were strongly diffused 
throughout the whole community, a vanquished chief was im- 
mediately supplied with new adherents, eager to shed their 
blood in the same cause. But the Romans, after the fall of the 
republic, combated only for the choice of masters. Under the 
standard of a popular candidate for empire, a few enlisted 
from affection, some from fear, many from interest, none from 
principle. The legions, uninflamed by party zeal, were allured 
into civil war by liberal donatives, and still more liberal promises. 
A defeat, by disabling the chief from the performance of his 
engagements, dissolved the mercenary allegiance of his followers, 
and left them to consult their own safety by a timely deser- 
tion of an unsuccessful cause. It was of little moment to the 
provinces under whose name they were oppressed or governed ; 

62 Consult the third book of Herodian, and the seventy-fourth book of Dion 

53 Dion, 1. lxxv. p. 1260 [6]. 

54 Dion, 1. lxxv. p. 1261 [6]. Herodian, 1. iii. p. no [7]. Hist. August, p. 
68 [x. 11]. The battle was fought in the plain of Trevoux, three or four leagues 
from Lyons. See Tillemont, torn. iii. p. 406, note 18. 


they were driven by the impulsion of the present power, and as 
soon as that power yielded to a superior force, they hastened to 
implore the clemency of the conqueror, who, as he had an 
immense debt to discharge, was obliged to sacrifice the most 
guilty countries to the avarice of his soldiers. In the vast ex- 
tent of the Roman empire there were few fortified cities 
capable of protecting a routed army ; nor was there any person, 
or family, or order of men, whose natural interest, unsupported 
by the powers of government, was capable of restoring the cause 
of a sinking party. 55 

Yet, in the contest between Niger and Severus, a single city siege of 
deserves an honourable exception. As Byzantium was one of yzul n ™ 
the greatest passages from Europe into Asia, it had been 
provided with a strong garrison, and a fleet of five hundred 
vessels was anchored in the harbour. 56 The impetuosity of 
Severus disappointed this prudent scheme of defence ; he left 
to his generals the siege of Byzantium, forced the less guarded 
passage of the Hellespont, and, impatient of a meaner enemy, 
pressed forward to encounter his rival. Byzantium, attacked by 
a numerous and increasing army, and afterwards by the whole 
naval power of the empire, sustained a siege of three years, and 
remained faithful to the name and memory of Niger. The 
citizens and soldiers (we know not from what cause) were 
animated with equal fury ; several of the principal officers of 
Niger, who despaired of, or who disdained a pardon, had thrown 
themselves into this last refuge ; the fortifications were esteemed 
impregnable, and, in the defence of the place, a celebrated 
engineer displayed all the mechanic powers known to the 
ancients. 57 Byzantium, at length, surrendered to famine. The a.d.196] 
magistrates and soldiers were put to the sword, the walls 
demolished, the privileges suppressed, and the destined capital 
of the East subsisted only as an open village, subject to the 
insulting jurisdiction of Perinthus. The historian Dion, who had 
admired the flourishing, and lamented the desolate, state of 
Byzantium, accused the revenge of Severus for depriving the 

56 Montesquieu, Considerations sur la Grandeur et la Decadence des Romains, 
c. xii. 

56 Most of these, as may be supposed, were small open vessels ; some, howerer, 
were galleys of two, and a few of three, ranks of oars. 

87 The engineer's name was Priscus. His skill saved his life, and he was taken 
into the service of the conqueror. For the particular facts of the siege consult 
Dion Cassius (1. lxxfijv. p. 1251 [n-i3])and Herodian (1. iii. p. 95 [6]): for the 
theory of it, the fanciful Chevalier de Folard may be looked into. See Poiybe, 
torn. i. p. 76. 



Death of 
Niger and 
Cruel conse- 
quences of 
the ciTil 

Animosity oi 
against the 

Roman people of the strongest bulwark against the barbarians 
of Pontus and Asia. 58 The truth of this observation was but too 
well justified in the succeeding age, when the Gothic fleets 
covered the Euxine, and passed through the undefended 
Bosphorus into the centre of the Mediterranean. 

Both Niger and Albinus were discovered and put to death in 
their flight from the field of battle. Their fate excited neither 
surprise nor compassion. They had staked their lives against 
the chance of empire, and suffered what they would have 
inflicted ; nor did Severus claim the arrogant superiority of 
suffering his rivals to live in a private station. But his un- 
forgiving temper, stimulated by avarice, indulged a spirit of 
revenge, where there was no room for apprehension. The most 
considerable of the provincials, who, without any dislike to the 
fortunate candidate, had obeyed the governor under whose 
authority they were accidentally placed, were punished by 
death, exile, and especially by the confiscation of their estates. 
Many cities of the East were stript of their ancient honours, and 
obliged to pay, into the treasury of Severus, four times the 
amount of the sums contributed by them for the service of Niger. 59 

Till the final decision of the war, the cruelty of Severus was, 
in some measure, restrained by the uncertainty of the event and 
his pretended reverence for the senate. The head of Albinus, 
accompanied with a menacing letter, announced to the Romans 
that he was resolved to spare none of the adherents of his un- 
fortunate competitors. He was irritated by the just suspicion 
that he had never possessed the affections of the senate, and 
he concealed his old malevolence under the recent discovery of 
some treasonable correspondencies. Thirty-five senators, how- 
ever, accused of having favoured the party of Albinus, he freely 
pardoned ; and, by his subsequent behaviour, endeavoured to 
convince them that he had forgotten, as well as forgiven, their 
supposed offences. But, at the same time, he condemned 
forty-one 60 other senators, whose names history has recorded ; 

58 Notwithstanding the authority of Spartianus and some modern Greeks, we 
may be assured, from Dion and Herodian, that Byzantium, many years after the 
death of Severus, lay in ruins. [But the statement of Spartianus (xiii. i), that 
Severus repented of his harshness, owing (ostensibly?) to the intercession of Cara- 
calla, is confirmed by the legend 'AvTwi-tiVia 2e/Sao-ra, on Byzantine coins ; Eckhel, 
ii. 32 (cp. Schiller, i. 713). Not Byzantium, but its fortifications, were demolished.] 

5 » Dion, 1. lxxiv. p. 1250 [8]. 

80 Dion (1. lxxv. p. 1262 [8]), only twenty-nine senators are mentioned by him, 
but forty-one are named in the Augustan History, p. 69 [x. 13] , among whom were 
six of the name of Pescennius. Herodian (1. iii. p. 115 T8]) speaks in genera] oi 
the cruelties of Severus. [It is safer here to follow Dion. J 


their wives, children, and clients, attended them in death, and 
the noblest provincials of Spain and Gaul were involved in the 
same ruin. Such rigid justice, for so he termed it, was, in the 
opinion of Severus, the only conduct capable of ensuring peace 
to the people, or stability to the prince ; and he condescended 
slightly to lament that, to be mild, it was necessary that he 
should first be cruel. 01 

The true interest of an absolute monarch generally coincides Tin vrisdom 
with that of his people. Their numbers, their wealth, their Ms sowm- of 
order, and their security, are the best and only foundations of m * 
his real greatness ; and, were he totally devoid of virtue, prudence 
might supply its place, and would dictate the same rule of 
conduct. Severus considered the Roman empire as his property, 
and had no sooner secured the possession, than he bestowed his 
care on the cultivation and improvement of so valuable an 
acquisition. Salutary laws, executed with inflexible firmness, 
soon corrected most of the abuses with which, since the death 
of Marcus, every part of the government had been infected. In 
the administration of justice, the judgments of the emperor 
were characterized by attention, discernment, and impartiality : 
and, whenever he deviated from the strict line of equity, it was 
generally in favour of the poor and oppressed ; not so much 
indeed from any sense of humanity, as from the natural pro- 
pensity of a despot to humble the pride of greatness, and to 
sink all his subjects to the same common level of absolute 
dependence. His expensive taste for building, magnificent 
shows, and, above all, a constant and liberal distribution of corn General peace 
and provisions, were the surest means of captivating the pern™ 8 " 
affection of the Roman people. 62 The misfortunes of civil 
discord were obliterated. The calm of peace and prosperity was 
once more experienced in the provinces, and many cities, 
restored by the munificence of Severus, assumed the title of his 
colonies, and attested by public monuments their gratitude and 
felicity. 68 The fame of the Roman arms was revived by that 

61 Aurelius Victor [Cass. 20, 13]. 

62 Dion, i. lxxvi. p. 1272 [1]. Hist. August, p. 67 [x. 8]. Severus celebrated 
the secular games with extraordinary magnificence, and he left in the public 
granaries a provision of corn for seven years, at the rate of 75,000 modii, 
or about 2500 quarters per day. I am persuaded that the granaries of Severus 
were supplied for a long term, but I am not less persuaded that policy on one 
hand, and admiration on the other, magnified the hoard far beyond its true contents. 

88 See Spanheim's treatise of ancient medals, the inscriptions, and our learned 
travellers Spon and Wheeler, Shaw, Pocock, &c. , who, in Africa, Greece, and 
Asia, have found more monuments of Severus, than of any other Roman emperor 


warlike and successful emperor, 04 and he boasted, with a just 
pride, that, having received the empire oppressed with foreign 
and domestic wars, he leit it established in profound, universal 
and honourable peace. 65 
Relaxation of Although the wounds of civil war appeared completely healed, 
discipline its mortal poison still lurked in the vitals of the constitution. 
Severus possessed a considerable share of vigour and ability ; but 
the daring soul of the first Caesar, or the deep policy of Augustus, 
were scarcely equal to the task of curbing the insolence of the 
victorious legions. By gratitude, by misguided policy, by seem- 
ing necessity, Severus was induced to relax the nerves of disci- 
pline. 66 The vanity of his soldiers was flattered with the honour of 
wearing gold rings ; their ease was indulged in the permission of 
living with their wives in the idleness of quarters. He increased 
their pay beyond the example of former times, and taught them 
to expect, and soon to claim, "extraordinary donatives on every 
public occasion of danger or festivity. Elated by success, ener- 
vated by luxury, and raised above the level of subjects by their 
dangerous privileges, 67 they soon became incapable of military 
fatigue, oppressive to the countiy, and impatient of a just sub- 
ordination. Their officers asserted the superiority of rank by a 
more profuse and elegant luxury. There is still extant a letter 
of Severus, lamenting the licentious state of the army, and ex- 
horting one of his generals to begin the necessary reformation 
from the tribunes themselves ; since, as he justly observes, the 
officer who has forfeited the esteem, will never command the 
obedience, of his soldiers. 68 Had the emperor pursued the train 
of reflection, he would have discovered that the primary cause 
of this general corruption might be ascribed, not indeed to the 
example, but to the pernicious indulgence, however, of the com- 
Newest^*- The Praetorians, who murdered their emperor and sold the 

lishraent of 

the Frxtonan 

64 He carried his victorious arms to Seleucia and Ctesiphon, the capitals of the 
Parthian monarchy. I shall have occasion to mention this war in its proper place. 

65 Etiam in Britannis, was his own just and emphatic expression. Hist. 
Augusi73 [x. 23]. 

' iC > Herodian, 1. iii. p. 115 [8]. Hist. August, p. 68 [x. 12]. [The popularity of 
Severus and his son Caracnlla with the soldiers is illustrated by the vast number 
of inscriptions in their honour. It is tru that discipline was in some respects 
relaxed ; but in other respects the efficacy of the army was improved.] 

67 Upon the insolence and privileges of the soldiers, the 16th satire, falsely 
ascribed to Juvenal, may be consulted ; the style and circumstances of it would 
induce me to believe that it was composed under the reign of Severus or that of 
his son. 

68 Hist. August, p. 75 [xi. 3J. 


empire, had received the just punishment of their treason ; but 
the necessary, though dangerous, institution of guards was soon 
restored on a new model by Severus, and increased to four times 
the ancient number. 69 Formerly these troops had been recruited 
in Italy ; and, as the adjacent provinces gi-adually imbibed the 
softer manners of Rome, the levies were extended to Macedonia, 
Noricum and Spain. In the room of these elegant troops, better 
adapted to the pomp of courts than to the uses of war, it was 
established by Severus, that, from all the legions of the frontiers, 
the soldiers most distinguished for strength, valour, and fidelity, 
should be occasionally draughted, and promoted, as an honour 
and reward, into the more eligible service of the guards. 70 By 
this new institution, the Italian youth were diverted from the 
exercise of arms, and the capital was terrified by the strange 
aspect and manners of a multitude of barbarians. But Severus 
flattered himself that the legions would consider these chosen 
Praetorians as the representatives of the whole military order ; 
and that the present aid of fifty thousand men, superior in arms 
and appointments to any force that could be brought into the 
field against them, would for ever crush the hopes of rebellion, 
and secure the empire to himself and his posterity. 

The command of these favoured and formidable troops soon Th. office of 
became the first office of the empire. As the government de- P r*fect &n 
generated into military despotism, the Praetorian pi - aefect, who 
in his origin had been a simple captain of the guards, was 
placed, not only at the head of the army, but of the finances, 
and even of the law. In every department of administration, he 
represented the person, and exercised the authority, of the 
emperor. The first praefect who enjoyed and abused this 
immense power was Plautianus, the favourite minister of 
Severus. His reign lasted above ten years, till the marriage of 
his daughter with the eldest son of the emperor, which seemed 
to assure his fortune, proved the occasion of his ruin. 71 The 
animosities of the palace, by irritating the ambition and alarm- 

<> 9 Herodian, 1. iii. p. 131 [13]. 

70 Dion, 1. Ixxiv. p. 1243 [2]. [It was the policy of Severus (the African) to 
level the distinctions which had subsisted between Italy and the provinces. Some 
acts of Hadrian had already pointed in the same direction. See Appendix 11. 
Caracalla, as we shall see, carried the policy to its logical end.] 

71 One of his most daring and wanton acts of power was the castration of a 
hundred free Romans, some of them married men, and even fathers of families ; 
merely that his daughter, on her marriage with the young emperor, might be 
attended by a train of eunuchs worthy of an Eastern queen. Dion, 1. Ixxvi. p. 
1271 [1]. [The daughter's name was Fulvin Hautilla. Caracalla hated her.l. 


ing the fears of Plautianus, threatened to produce a revolution, 
and obliged the emperor, who still loved him, to consent with 
reluctance to his death. 72 After the fall of Plautianus, an 
eminent lawyer, the celebrated Papinian, was appointed to 
execute the motley office of Praetorian praefect. 73 
■ he senate Till the reign of Severus, the virtue, and even the good sense 
rafttaiy 7 of the emperors had been distinguished by their zeal or affected 
reverence for the senate, and by a tender regard to the nice 
frame of civil policy instituted by Augustus. But the youth of 
Severus had been trained in the implicit obedience of camps, 
and his riper years spent in the despotism of military command. 
His haughty and inflexible spirit could not discover, or would 
not acknowledge, the advantage of preserving an intermediate 
power, however imaginary, between the emperor and the army. 
He disdained to profess himself the servant of an assembly that 
detested his person and trembled at his frown ; he issued his 
commands, where his request would have proved as effectual ; 
assumed the conduct and style of a sovereign and a conqueror, 
and exercised, without disguise, the whole legislative as well as 
the executive power. 
Hew maxims The victory over the senate was easy and inglorious. Every 

of the Imperi- i • 1-iJi.j.l • x. a. 

aipreroga.- eye and every passion were directed to the supreme magistrate, 
who possessed the arms and treasure of the state ; whilst the 
senate, neither elected by the people, nor guarded by the 
military force, nor animated by public spirit, rested its declining 
authority on the frail and crumbling basis of ancient opinion. 
The fine theory of a republic insensibly vanished, and made way 
for the more natural and substantial feelings of monarchy. As the 
freedom and honours of Rome were successfully communicated to 
the provinces, in which the old government had been either un- 
known, or was remembered with abhorrence, the tradition of re- 
publican maxims was gradually obliterated. The Greek historians 
of the age of the Antonines 7i observe, with a malicious pleasure, 
that, although the sovereign of Rome, in compliance with an obso- 
lete prejudice, abstained from the name of king, he possessed the 
full measure of regal power. In the reign of Severus, the senate 
was filled with polished and eloquent slaves from the eastern pro- 
s' 2 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1274 [4]. Herodian, 1. iii. p. 122, 129 [12]. The grammarian 
of Alexandria seems, as it is not unusual, much better acquainted with this 
mysterious transaction ; and more assured of the guilt of Plautianus than the 
Roman senator ventures to be. [Date 205 A.D.] 

73 [But not alone. He shared the office with Maecius Laetus.] 
74 Appian in Proaem. [6]. 


vinces, who justified personal flattery by speculative principles of 
servitude. These new advocates of prerogative were heard with 
pleasure by the court, and with patience by the people, when they 
inculcated the duty of passive obedience, and descanted on the 
inevitable mischiefs of freedom. The lawyers and the historians 
concurred in teaching that the Imperial authority was held, not 
by the delegated commission, but by the irrevocable resignation, 
of the senate ; that the emperor was freed from the restraint 
of civil laws, could command by his arbitrary will the lives and 
fortunes of his subjects, and might dispose of the empire as of 
his private patrimony. 75 The most eminent of the civil lawyers, 
and particularly Papinian, Paulus, and Ulpian, flourished under 
the house of Severus ; and the Roman jurisprudence, having 
closely united itself with the system of monarchy, was supposed 
to have attained its full maturity and perfection. 

The contemporaries of Severus, in the enjoyment of the peace 
and glory of his reign, forgave the cruelties by which it had been 
introduced. Posterity, who experienced the fatal effect of his 
maxims and example, justly considered him as the principal 
author of the decline of the Roman empire. 76 

7 * Dion Cassius seems to hare written with no other view, than to form these 
opinions into an historical system. The Pandects will show how assiduously the 
lawyers, on their side, laboured in the cause of prerogative. 

76 [Cp. Appendix n.] 



The death of Severus — Tyranny of Caracalla — Usurpation of 
Macrinus — Follies of Elagabalus — Virtues of Alexander 
Severus — Licentiousness of the army — General state of the 
Roman Finances 

Greatnws and The ascent to greatness, however steep and dangerous, may 
sevens entertain an active spirit with the consciousness and exercise of 
its own powers : but the possession of a throne could never yet 
afford a lasting satisfaction to an ambitious mind. This melan- 
choly truth was felt and acknowledged by Severus. Fortune 
and merit had, from an humble station, elevated him to the first 
place among mankind. He had been "all things," as he said 
himself, "and all was of little value". 1 Distracted with the 
care, not of acquiring, but of preserving, an empire, oppressed 
with age and infirmities, careless of fame, 2 and satiated with 
power, all his prospects of life were closed. The desire of per- 
petuating the greatness of his family was the only remaining 
wish of his ambition and paternal tenderness. 
His wife the Like most of the Africans, Severus was passionately addicted 
to the vain studies of magic and divination, deeply versed in 
the interpretation of dreams and omens, and perfectly acquainted 
with the science of judicial astrology ; which, in almost every 
age except the present, has maintained its dominion over the 
mind of man. He had lost his first wife whilst he was governor 
of the Lyonnese Gaul. 3 In the choice of a second, he sought 
only to connect himself with some favourite of fortune ; and, as 
soon as he had discovered that a young lady of Emesa in Syria 
had a royal nativity, he solicited and obtained her hand. 4 Julia 

1 Hist. August, p. 71 [x. 18]. " Omnia fui, et nihil expedit." 

2 Dion Cassius, 1. lxxvi. p. 1284 [16]. 

3 About the year 186. M. de Tillemont is miserably embarrassed with a passage 
of Dion, in which the Empress Faustina, who died in the year 175, is introduced 
as having contributed to the marriage of Severus and Julia (1. lxxiv. p. 1243 [3]). 
The learned compiler forgot that Dion is relating, not a real fact, but a dream of 
Severus ; and dreams are circumscribed to no limits of time or space. Did M. 
de Tillemont imagine that marriages were consummated in the Temple of Venus 
at Rome ? Hist, des Empereurs, torn. iii. p. 389. Note 6. 

4 Hist. August, p. 65 [x. 3J. 


Domna (for that was her name) deserved all that the stars 
could promise her. She possessed, even in an advanced age, the 
attractions of beauty, 5 and united to a lively imagination a firm- 
ness of mind, and strength of judgment, seldom bestowed on 
her sex. Her amiable qualities never made any deep impres- 
sion on the dark and jealous temper of her husband ; but, in 
her son's reign, she administered the principal affairs of the 
empire with a prudence that supported his authority ; and with 
a moderation that sometimes corrected his wild extravagancies. 6 
Julia applied herself to letters and philosophy with some success, 
and with the most splendid reputation. She was the patroness 
of every art, and the friend of every man of genius. 7 The 
grateful flattery of the learned has celebrated her virtues ; but, if 
we may credit the scandal of ancient history, chastity was very 
far from being the most conspicuous virtue of the Empress Julia. s 

Two sons, Caracalla 9 and Geta, were the fruit of this marriage, Their two 
and the destined heirs of the empire. The fond hopes of thecauaand' v 
father, and of the Roman world, were soon disappointed by 
these vain youths, who displayed the indolent security of hered- 
itary princes, and a presumption that fortune would supply 
the place of merit and application. Without any emulation of 
virtue or talents, they discovered, almost from their infancy, a 
fixed and implacable antipathy for each other. 

Their aversion, confirmed by years, and fomented by the arts Their mutual 
of their interested favourites, broke out in childish, and gradu- each other 
ally in more serious, competitions ; and at length divided the 
theatre, the circus, and the court, into two factions, actuated 
by the hopes and fears of their respective leaders. The prudent 
emperor endeavoured, by every expedient of advice and author- 
ity, to allay this growing animosity. The unhappy discord of 
his sons clouded all his prospects, and threatened to overturn a 
throne raised with so much labour, cemented with so much 
blood, and guarded with every defence of arms and treasure. 
With an impartial hand he maintained between them an exact 

5 Hist. August, p. 85 [xiii. 10]. 

6 Dion Cassius, 1. Ixxvii. p. 1304, 1312 [18 and Ixxviii. 4]. 

7 See a Dissertation of Menage, at the end of his edition of Diogenes Laertius, 
de Foeminis Philosophis. 

8 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1285 [16]. Aurelius Victor [Ccesar, xx. 23]. 

9 Bassianus was his first name, as it had been that of his maternal grandfather. 
During his reign he assumed the appellation of Antoninus, which is employed by 
lawyers and ancient historians. [But see next note.] After his death, the public 
indignation loaded him with the nick-names of Tarantus and Caracalla. The first 
was borrowed from a celebrated Gladiator, the second from a long Gallic gown 
which he distributed to the people of Rome. [Hist. Aug. x. 11.] 




The Cale- 
donian war, 
A.D. 208 

balance of favour, conferred on both the rank of Augustus, 
with the revered name of Antoninus ; and for the first time 
the Roman world beheld three emperors. 10 Yet even this 
equal conduct served only to inflame the contest, whilst 
the fierce Caracalla asserted the right of primogeniture, 
and the milder Geta courted the affections of the people 
and the soldiers. In the anguish of a disappointed father, 
Severus foretold that the weaker of his sons would fall a 
sacrifice to the stronger ; who, in his turn, would be ruined 
by his own vices. 11 

In these circumstances the intelligence of a war in Britain, 
and of an invasion of the province by the barbarians of the 
North, was received with pleasure by Severus. Though the 
vigilance of his lieutenants might have been sufficient to repel 
the distant enemy, he resolved to embrace the honourable pre- 
text of withdrawing his sons from the luxury of Rome, which 
enervated their minds and irritated their passions, and of inuring 
their youth to the toils of war and government. Notwithstand- 
ing his advanced age (for he was above threescore), and his 
gout, which obliged him to be carried in a litter, he transported 
himself in person into that remote island, attended by his two 
sons, his whole court, and a formidable army. He immediately 
passed the walls of Hadrian and Antoninus, and entered the 
enemy's country, with the design of completing the long-at- 
tempted conquest of Britain. He penetrated to the northern 
extremity of the island without meeting an enemy. But the 
concealed ambuscades of the Caledonians, who hung unseen on 
the rear and flanks of his army, the coldness of the climate, and 
the severity of a winter march across the hills and morasses of 
Scotland, are reported to have cost the Romans above fifty 

10 The elevation of Caracalla is fixed by the accurate M. de Tillemont to the 
year 198 ; the association of Geta, to the year 208. [Caracalla (the proper form 
is Caracallus) was made Caesar in 196 at Viminacium, imperator under the name 
M. Aurelius Antoninus in 197, and finally Augustus with " tribunician power'' 
in 198 (in the tenth year of his age). It is to be observed that on his first eleva- 
tion Severus associated his name with the memory of Pertinax, and he appears 
on inscriptions as L. Septimius Severus Pertinax Augustus. But afterwards he 
resolved to affiliate his family to the more august house of the Antonines. In 
Imperial style he was the son of Marcus and brother of Commodus ; both he 
and his sons were Antonines. He even thought of perpetuating Antoninus (like 
Augustus) as a synonym of the Imperial title. See Spartianus, Geta. ii. 2, in 
animo habuit Severus ut omnes deinceps principes quemadmodum Augusti, ita 
etiam Antonini dicej-entur idque amore Marci, &c. As for the association of 
Geta as Augustus, it must be placed in Sept. or Oct. 209 A.D. ; cp. Corp. Ins. 
Att. iii. p. 9.] 

11 Herodian, 1. iii. p. 130 [13]. The lives of Caracalla and Geta, in the 
Augustan History. 


thousand men. 12 The Caledonians at length yielded to the 
powerful and obstinate attack, sued for peace, and surrendered 
a part of their arms, and a large tract of territory. 13 But their 
apparent submission lasted no longer than the present terror. 
As soon as the Roman legions had retired, they resumed their 
hostile independence. Their restless spirit provoked Severus to 
send a new army into Caledonia, with the most bloody orders, 
not to subdue, but to extirpate the natives. They were saved 
by the death of their haughty enemy. 14 

This Caledonian war, neither marked by decisive events, nor Fingai and 
attended with any important consequences, would ill deserve our 
attention ; but it is supposed, not without a considerable degree 
of probability, that the invasion of Severus is connected with the 
most shining period of the British history or fable. Fingai, 
whose fame, with that of his heroes and bards, has been revived 
in our language by a recent publication, is said to have com- 
manded the Caledonians in that memorable juncture, to have 
eluded the power of Severus, and to have obtained a signa 
victory on the banks of the Carun, in which the son of the King 
of the World, Caracul, fled from his arms along the fields of his 
pride. 15 Something of a doubtful mist still hangs over these 
Highland traditions; nor can it be entirely dispelled by the contrast of 

the Cale- 

most ingenious researches of modern criticism : 16 but if we donians and 
could, with safety, indulge the pleasing supposition that Fingai 
lived, and that Ossian sung, the striking contrast of the situation 
and manners of the contending nations might amuse a philo- 
sophic mind. The parallel would be little to the advantage of 
the more civilized people, if we compared the unrelenting 
revenge of Severus with the generous clemency of Fingai ; the 

12 [An exaggeration of Dion Cassius, Ixxvi. 13. That some battles of im- 
portance were fought is proved by an inscription discovered some years ago 
(Epkem. Epig. iv. p. 327).] 

13 [The wall of Antoninus Pius had been abandoned ; but Severus seems to have 
renewed the wall of Hadrian from Tunnocelum to Segedunum. Hist. Aug. x. 18, 2. 
Muro per transversam insulam ducto utrinque ad finem oceani munivit. Whence 
he got the name B?-itannicus Maximus.] 

14 Dion, 1. Ixxvi. p. 1280, &c. [12]. Herodian, 1. iii. p. 132, &c. [14]. 

15 Ossian's Poems, vol. i. p. 175. 

16 That the Caracul of Ossian is the Caracalla of the Roman history, is, 
perhaps, the only point of British antiquity in which Mr. Macpherson and Mr. 
Whitaker are of the same opinion ; and yet the opinion is not without difficulty. 
In the Caledonian war, the son of Severus was known only by the appellation of 
Antoninus ; and it may seem strange that the Highland bard should describe him 
by a nick-name, invented four years afterwards, scarcely used by the Romans till 
after the death of that emperor, and seldom employed by the most ancient 
historians. See Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1317 [9]. Hist. August, p. 89 [xiii. 9]. 
Aurel. Victor [epit. 21]. Euseb. in Chron. ad ann. 214. 

9 VOL. I. 



Ambition of 

timid and brutal cruelty of Caracalla, with the bravery, the 
tenderness, the elegant genius of Ossian ; the mercenary chiefs 
who, from motives of fear or interest, served under the Imperial 
standard, with the freeborn warriors who started to arms at the 
voice of the King of Morven ; if, in a word, we contemplated 
the untutored Caledonians, glowing with the warm virtues of 
nature, and the degenerate Romans, polluted with the mean 
vices of wealth and slavery. 

The declining health and last illness of Severus inflamed the 
wild ambition and black passions of Caracalla's soul. Impatient 
of any delay or division of empire, he attempted, more than 
once, to shorten the small remainder of his father's days, and 
endeavoured, but without success, to excite a mutiny among the 
troops. 17 The old emperor had often censured the misguided 
lenity of Marcus, who, by a single act of justice, might have 
saved the Romans from the tyranny of his worthless son. Placed 
in the same situation, he experienced how easily the rigour of a 
judge dissolves away in the tenderness of a parent. He deliber- 
ated, he threatened, but he could not punish ; and this last and 
only instance of mercy was more fatal to the empire than a long 
series of cruelty. is The disorder of his mind irritated the pains 
of his body ; he wished impatiently for death, and hastened the 
Death of instant of it by his impatience. He expired at York in the 
■ccMdonof sixty-fifth year of his life, and in the eighteenth of a glorious 
A U D t . 1 2ll' on,, and successful reign. In his last moments he recommended 
4tiiF«bmAiy concor( i ^o his sons, and his sons to the army. The salutary 
advice never reached the heart, or even the understanding, of 
the impetuous youths ; but the more obedient troops, mindful of 
their oath of allegiance, and of the authority of their deceased 
master, resisted the solicitations of Caracalla, and proclaimed 
both brothers emperors of Rome. The new princes soon left the 
Caledonians in peace, returned to the capital, celebrated their 
father's funeral with divine honours, and were cheerfully 
acknowledged as lawful sovereigns by the senate, the people, and 
the provinces. Some pre-eminence of rank seems to have been 
allowed to the elder brother ; but they both administered the 
empire with equal and independent power. 19 

Such a divided form of government would have proved a 

17 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1282 [14]. Hist. August, p. 72 [x. 20]. Aurel. Victor. 

18 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1283 [14] . Hist. August, p. 89 [xiii. 11, 3]. 

19 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1284 [15]. Herodian, 1. iii. p. 135 [15]. [The title Pont. 
Max. seems to have been reserved for the elder brother ; Geta is only Pont, on 
coins and inscriptions. Eckhel, vii. 230.] 

Jealousy and 
hatred of the 
two emperors 


source of discord between the most affectionate brothers. It 
was impossible that it could long subsist between two implacable 
enemies, who neither desired nor could trust a reconciliation. 
It was visible that one only could reign, and that the other 
must fall ; and each of them, judging of his rival's designs by his 
own, guarded his life with the most jealous vigilance from the 
repeated attacks of poison or the sword. Their rapid journey 
through Gaul and Italy, during which they never ate at the 
same table, or slept in the same house, displayed to the provinces 
the odious spectacle of fraternal discord. On their arrival at 
Rome, they immediately divided the vast extent of the Imperial 
palace. 20 No communication was allowed between their apart- 
ments ; the doors and passages were diligently fortified, and 
guards posted and relieved with the same strictness as in a 
besieged place. The emperors met only in public, in the 
presence of their afflicted mother ; and each surrounded by a 
numerous train of armed followers. Even on these occasions of 
ceremony, the dissimulation of courts could ill disguise the 
rancour of their hearts. 21 

This latent civil war already distracted the whole government, Fruitless nc- 
when a scheme was suggested that seemed of mutual benefit to dividing the 
the hostile brothers. It was proposed, that, since it was impos- tween them 
sible to reconcile their minds, they should separate their 
interest, and divide the empire between them. The conditions 
of the treaty were already drawn with some accuracy. It was 
agreed, that Caracalla, as the elder brother, should remain in 
possession of Europe and the western Africa ; and that he should 
relinquish the sovereignty of Asia and Egypt to Geta, who 
might fix his residence at Alexandria or Antioch, cities little in- 
ferior to Rome itself in wealth and greatness ; that numerous 

20 Mr. Hume is justly surprised at a passage of Herodian(l. iv. p. 139 [1]), who, 
on this occasion, represents the Imperial palace as equal in extent to [greater 
than] the rest of Rome. The whole region of the Palatine Mount on which it was 
built occupied, at most, a circumference of eleven or twelve thousand feet. (See 
the Notitia and Victor, in Nardini's Roma Antica.) But we should recollect that 
the opulent senators had almost surrounded the city with their extensive gardens 
and suburb palaces, the greatest part of which had been gradually confiscated by 
the emperors. If Geta resided in the gardens that bore his name on the Jani- 
culum and if Caracalla inhabited the gardens of Maecenas on the Esquiline, the 
rival brothers were separated from each other by the distance of several miles ; 
and yet the intermediate space was filled by the Imperial gardens of Sallust, of 
Lucullus, of Agrippa, of Domitian, of Caius, &c, all skirting round the city, and 
all connected with each other, and with the palace, by bridges thrown over the 
Tiber and the streets. But this explanation of Herodian would require, though it 
ill deserves, a particular dissertation, illustrated by a map of ancient Rome. [See 
Hume, Essay on Populousness of Ancient Nations. — Milman.] 

21 Herodian, 1. iv. p. 139 [1] . 


armies should be constantly encamped on either side of the 
Thracian Bosphorus, to guard the frontiers of the rival monarchies; 
and that the senators of European extraction should acknowledge 
the sovereign of Rome, whilst the natives of Asia followed the 
emperor of the East. The tears of the empress Julia interrupted 
the negotiation, the first idea of which had filled every Roman 
breast with surprise and indignation. The mighty mass of 
conquest was so intimately connected by the hand of time and 
policy, that it required the most forcible violence to rend it 
asunder. The Romans had reason to dread that the disjointed 
members would soon be reduced by a civil war under the 
dominion of one master ; but, if the separation was permanent, 
the division of the provinces must terminate in the dissolution 
of an empire whose unity, had hitherto remained inviolate. 22 
Herder of Had the treaty been carried into execution, the sovereign of 

A.p/212, Europe might soon have been the conqueror of Asia ; but Cara- 
emrj " calla obtained an easier though a more guilty victory. He art- 
fully listened to his mother's entreaties, and consented to meet 
his brother in her apartment, on terms of peace and reconcilia- 
tion. In the midst of their conversation, some centurions, who 
had contrived to conceal themselves, rushed with drawn swords 
upon the unfortunate Geta. His distracted mother strove to 
protect him in her arms ; but in the unavailing struggle, she was 
wounded in the hand, and covered with the blood of her younger 
son, while she saw the elder animating and assisting 23 the fury 
of the assassins. As soon as the deed was perpetrated, Caracalla, 
with hasty steps and horror in his countenance, ran towards the 
Praetorian camp, as his only refuge, and threw himself on the 
ground before the statues of the tutelar deities. 24 The soldiers 

22 Herodian, 1. iv. p. 144 [4]. [Yet, in this proposal, we can see foreshadowed 
the geographical division of the Empire among two or more Emperors, which was 
made a principle of government by Diocletian. The tendency to disruption be- 
tween the eastern and western groups of provinces had been already seen in the 
revolt of Avidius Cassius, and the " tyranny " of Pescennius Niger. . In fact, at the 
elevation of Severus, the four sovereignties of Diocletian, — the four Prasfectures of 
Constantine — are shadowed forth. (1) Albinus in Gaul; (2) Julianus in Italy; 
(3) Severus in the Illyrian Peninsula ; (4) Niger in Asia, are, in a sense, fore- 
runners of Constantine, Maximian, Galerius, and Diocletian respectively.] 

^Caracalla consecrated, in the temple of Serapis, the sword, with which, as he 
boasted, he had slain his brother Geta. Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1307 [23]. 

24 Herodian, 1. iv. p. 147 [4]. In every Roman camp there was a small 
chapel near the head-quarters, in which the statues of the tutelar deities were 
preserved and adored ; and we may remark that the eagles, and other military 
ensigns, were in the first rank of these deities ; an excellent institution, which 
confirmed discipline by the sanction of religion. See Lipsius de Militia Roman!, 
iv. 5, v. 2. 


attempted to raise and comfort him. In broken and disordered 
words he informed them of his imminent danger and fortunate 
escape : insinuating that he had prevented the designs of his 
enemy, and declared his resolution to live and die with his faith- 
ful troops. Geta had been the favourite of the soldiers ; but 
complaint was useless, revenge was dangerous, and they still rever- 
enced the son of Severus. Their discontent died away in idle 
murmurs, and Caracalla soon convinced them of the justice of 
his cause, by distributing in one lavish donative the accumulated 
treasures of his father's reign. 25 The real sentiments of the 
soldiers alone were of importance to his power or safety. Their 
declaration in his favour commanded the dutiful professions of the 
senate. The obsequious assembly was always prepared to ratify 
the decision of fortune ; but as Caracalla wished to assuage the 
first emotions of public indignation, the name of Geta was 
mentioned with decency, and he received the funeral honours 
of a Roman emperor. 26 Posterity, in pity to his misfortune, has 
cast a veil over his vices. We consider that young prince as 
the innocent victim of his brother's ambition, without recollect- 
ing that he himself wanted power, rather than inclination, to 
consummate the same attempts of revenge and murder. 

The crime went not unpunished. Neither business, nor Remorse and 
pleasure, nor flattery, could defend Caracalla from the stings of caracalla 
a guilty conscience ; and he confessed, in the anguish of a tor- 
tured mind, that his disordered fancy often beheld the angry 
forms of his father and his brother rising into life, to threaten and 
upbraid him. 27 The consciousness of his crime should have in- 
duced him to convince mankind, by the virtues of his reign, 
that the bloody deed had been the involuntary effect of fatal 
necessity. But the repentance of Caracalla only prompted him 
to remove from the world whatever could remind him of his 
guilt, or recall the memory of his murdered brother. On his 
return from the senate to the palace, he found his mother in the 
company of several noble matrons, weeping over the untimely 
fate of her younger son. The jealous emperor threatened them 
with instant death : the sentence was executed against Fadilla, 
the last remaining daughter of the Emperor Marcus ; and even 
the afflicted Julia was obliged to silence her lamentations, to 

25 Herodian, 1. iv. p. 148 [4]. Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1289 [3]. 

26 Geta was placed among the gods. Sit divus, dum non sit vivus, said his 
brother. Hist. August, p. 91 [xiv. 2, 8]. Some marks of Geta's consecration are 
Still found upon medals. 

27 Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1301 [15]. 


suppress her sighs, and to receive the assassin with smiles of joy 
and approbation. It was computed that, under the vague ap- 
pellation of the friends of Geta, above twenty thousand persons 
of both sexes suffered death. His guards and freedmen, the 
ministers of his serious business, and the companions of his looser 
hours, those who by his interest had been promoted to any com- 
mands in the army or provinces, with the long connected chain 
of their dependants, were included in the proscription ; which 
endeavoured to reach every one who had maintained the 
smallest correspondence with Geta, who lamented his death, 
or who even mentioned his name. 28 Helvius Pertinax, son to the 
prince of that name, lost his life by an unseasonable witticism. 29 
It was a sufficient crime of Thrasea Priscus to be descended 
from a family in which the love of liberty seemed an hereditary 
quality. 30 The particular causes of calumny and suspicion were 
at length exhausted ; and when a senator was accused of being 
a secret enemy to the government, the emperor was satisfied 
with the general proof that he was a man of property and virtue. 
From this well-grounded principle, he frequently drew the most 
bloody inferences. 
pacinian ^ ne execution of so many innocent citizens was bewailed by 

the secret tears of their friends and families. The death of 
Papinian, the Praetorian prsefect, 31 was lamented as a public 
calamity. During the last seven years of Severus, he had exer- 
cised the most important offices of the state, and, by his salutary 
influence, guided the emperor's steps in the paths of justice and 
moderation. In full assurance of his virtue and abilities, Severus, 
on his deathbed, had conjured him to watch over the prosperity 
and union of the Imperial family. 32 The honest labours of 
Papinian served only to inflame the hatred which Caracalla had 
already conceived against his father's minister. After the 
murder of Geta, the praefect was commanded to exert the powers 

28 Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1290 [4]. Herodian, 1. iv. p. 150 [6]. Dion (p. 1298 
[lxxvii. 12] ) says that the comic poets no longer durst employ the name of Geta 
in their plays, and that the estates of those who mentioned it in their testaments 
were confiscated. 

- 9 Caracalla had assumed the names of several conquered nations ; Pertinax 
observed, that the name of Geticus (he had obtained some advantage over the 
Goths or Geta?) would be a proper addition to Parthicus, Alemannicus, &c. Hist. 
August, p. 89 [xiii. 10, 6]. 

30 Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1291 [5]. He was probably descended from Helvidius 
Priscus, and Thrasea Paetus, those patriots whose firm, but useless and unseason- 
able, virtue has been immortalized by Tacitus. 

31 [Dion says that Caracalla, on his accession, had deposed Papinian from this 
office ; and Dion was in a position to know.] 

3 - It is said that Papinian was himself a relation of the empress Julia. 


of his skill and eloquence in a studied apology for that atrocious 
deed. The philosophic Seneca had condescended to compose a 
similar epistle to the senate, in the name of the son and assassin 
of Agrippina. 33 "That it was easier to commit than to justify 
a parricide," was the glorious reply of Papinian, 34 who did not 
hesitate between the loss of life and that of honour. Such in- 
trepid virtue, which had escaped pure and unsullied from the 
intrigues of courts, the habits of business, and the arts of his 
profession, reflects more lustre on the memory of Papinian than 
all his great employments, his numerous writings, and the supe- 
rior reputation as a lawyer, which he has preserved through every 
age of the Roman jurisprudence. 35 

It had hitherto been the peculiar felicity of the Romans, and hi« tyranny 
in the worst of times their consolation, that the virtue of the the whole 
emperors was active, and their vice indolent. Augustus, Trajan, emp 
Hadrian, and Marcus, visited their extensive dominions in 
person, and their progress was marked by acts of wisdom and 
beneficence. The tyranny of Tiberius, Nero, and Domitian, who 
resided almost constantly at Rome, or in the adjacent villas, 
was confined to the senatorial and equestrian orders. 36 But 
Caracalla was the common enemy of mankind. He left the a.d. 213 
capital (and he never returned to it) 37 about a year after the 
murder of Geta. The rest of his reign was spent in the several 
provinces of the empire, particularly those of the East, and 
every province was, by turns, the scene of his rapine and cruelty. 
The senators, compelled by fear to attend his capricious 
motions, were obliged to provide daily entertainments at an 
immense expense, which he abandoned with contempt to his 
guards ; and to erect, in every city, magnificent palaces and 
theatres, which he either disdained to visit, or ordered to be 
immediately thrown down. The most wealthy families were 
ruined by partial fines and confiscations, and the great body of 
his subjects oppressed by ingenious and aggravated taxes. 38 In 

33 Tacit. Annal. xiv. 2. 

34 Hist. August, p. 88 [xiii. 8, 5]. 

35 With regard to Papinian, see Heineccius's Historia Juris Romani, 1. 330, &c. 
[The true cause of Papinian's execution was probably that he was highly un- 
popular with the soldiers, whose wishes Caracalla was always ready to humour.] 

36 Tiberius and Domitian never moved from the neighbourhood of Rome. 
Nero made a short journey into Greece. " Et laudatorum Principum usus ex 
aequo quamvis procul agentibus. Sasvi proximis ingruunt." Tacit. Hist. iv. 75. 

37 [There is a coin, however, which suggests that Caracalla returned to Italy 
and Rome in 214 A.D., after his successful campaigns on the Rhine and Neckar ; 
Eckhel, vii. 211.] 

38 Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1294 [9]. 



the midst of peace, and upon the slightest provocation, he 
issued his commands, at Alexandria in Egypt, for a general 
massacre. From a secure post in the temple of Serapis, he 
viewed and directed the slaughter of many thousand citizens, 
as well as strangers, without distinguishing either the number 
or the crime of the sufferers ; since, as he coolly informed the 
senate, all the Alexandrians, those who had perished and those 
who had escaped, were alike guilty. 39 
R«inxation of The wise instructions of Severus never made any lasting 
impression on the mind of his son, who, although not destitute 
of imagination and eloquence, was equally devoid of judgment 
and humanity. 40 One dangerous maxim, worthy of a tyrant, 
was remembered and abused by Caracalla, "To secure the 
affections of the army, and to esteem the rest of his subjects 
as of little moment ". 41 But the liberality of the father had 
been restrained by prudence, and his indulgence to the troops 
was tempered by firmness and authority. The careless profusion 
of the son was the policy of one reign, and the inevitable ruin 
both of the army and of the empire. The vigour of the soldiers, 
instead of being confirmed by the severe discipline of camps, 
melted away in the luxury of cities. The excessive increase of 
their pay and donatives 42 exhausted the state to enrich the 

39 Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1307 [23]. Herodian, 1. iv. p. 158 [9]. The former 
represents it as a cruel massacre, the latter as a perfidious one too. It seems 
probable that the Alexandrians had irritated the tyrant by their railleries, and 
perhaps by their tumults. [The punishment of Alexandria, which was given 
over to the soldiers to plunder, was hardly such an act of caprice as Gibbon 
represents it. The harshness of Caracalla to that city was inherited from Severus ; 
under both reigns Alexandrine coins are very rare. There seem to have been 
serious conspiracies in Egypt, which demanded summary dealing.] 

40 Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1296 [11]. 

41 Dion, 1. lxxvi. p. 1284 [15]. M. Wotton (Hist, of Rome, p. 330) suspects 
that this maxim was invented by Caracalla himself and attributed to his father. 

42 Dion (1. Ixxviii. p. 1343 [36] ) informs us that the extraordinary gifts of 
Caracalla to the army amounted annually to seventy millions of drachmae (about 
two millions three hundred and fifty thousand pounds). There is another passage 
in Dion, concerning the military pay, infinitely curious ; were it not obscure, 
imperfect, and probably corrupt. The best sense seems to be, that the Praetorian 
guards received twelve hundred and fifty drachmae (forty pounds) a year. (Dion, 
1. lxxvii. p. 1307 [24].) Under the reign of Augustus, they were paid at the rate 
of two drachmae, or denarii, per day, 720 a year (Tacit. Annal. i. 17). Domitian, 
who increased the soldiers' pay one-fourth, must have raised the Prcetorians to 960 
drachmae (Gronovius de Pecunia. Veteri, 1. iii. c. 2). These successive augmenta- 
tions ruined the empire, for, with the soldiers' pay, their numbers too were in- 
creased. We have seen the Praetorians alone increased from 10,000 to 50,000 
men. [It has been pointed out by Guizot that Gibbon misunderstood the passage 
of Dion, which refers not to the annual pay of soldiers, but to the recompense 
given at the end of their term of service. But, as Valois saw, the numbers seem 
to be transposed, for the praetorians received a larger sum than the legionaries.] 


military order, whose modesty in peace, and service in war, is 
best secured by an honourable poverty. The demeanour of 
Caracalla was haughty and full of pride ; but with the troops he 
forgot even the proper dignity of his rank, encouraged their 
insolent familiarity, and, neglecting the essential duties of a 
general, affected to imitate the dress and manners of a common 

It was impossible that such a character and such a conduct as Murder of 
that of Caracalla could inspire either love or esteem; but, asA.D. an 
long as his vices were beneficial to the armies, he was secure 8th March. 
from the danger of rebellion. A secret conspiracy, provoked by 
his own jealousy, was fatal to the tyrant. The Praetorian 
prefecture was divided between two ministers. The military 
department was intrusted to Adventus, an experienced rather 
than an able soldier ; and the civil affairs were transacted by 
Opilius Macrinus, who, by his dexterity in business, had raised 
himself, with a fair character, to that high office. But his 
favour varied with the caprice of the emperor, and his life might 
depend on the slightest suspicion, or the most casual circum- 
stance. Malice or fanaticism had suggested to an African, 
deeply skilled in the knowledge of futurity, a very dangerous 
prediction, that Macrinus and his son were destined to reign 
over the empire. The report was soon diffused through the 
province ; and, Avhen the man was sent in chains to Rome, he 
still asserted, in the presence of the praefect of the city, the 
faith of his prophecy. That magistrate, who had received the 
most pressing instructions to inform himself of the successors of 
Caracalla, immediately communicated the examination of the 
African to the Imperial court, which at that time resided in 
Syria. But notwithstanding the diligence of the public 
messengers, a friend of Macrinus found means to apprize him 
of the approaching danger. The emperor received the letters 
from Rome ; and, as he was then engaged in the conduct of a 
chariot race, he delivered them unopened to the Praetorian 
praefect, directing him to dispatch the ordinary affairs, and to 
report the more important business that might be contained in 
them. Macrinus read his fate and resolved to prevent it. He 
inflamed the discontents of some inferior officers, and employed 
the hand of Martialis, a desperate soldier, who had been refused 
the rank of centurion. The devotion of Caracalla had prompted 
him to make a pilgrimage from Edessa to the celebrated temple 
of the Moon at Carrhae. He was attended by a body of cavalry; 

43 [8th April, see Clinton ad ann.] 



but having stopped on the road for some necessary occasion, 
his guards preserved a respectful distance, and Martialis, 
approaching his person under a pretence of duty, stabbed him 
with a dagger. The bold assassin was instantly killed by a 
Scythian archer of the Imperial guard. Such was the end of a 
monster whose life disgraced human nature, and Avhose reign 
accused the patience of the Romans. 44 The grateful soldiers 
forgot his vices, remembered only his partial liberality, and 
obliged the senate to prostitute their own dignity and that of 
religion by granting him a place among the gods. Whilst he 
iMiuue»of was upon earth, Alexander the Great was the only hero whom 
this god deemed worthy his admiration. He assumed the name 
and ensigns of Alexander, formed a Macedonian phalanx of 
guards, 45 persecuted the disciples of Aristotle, and displayed 
with a puerile enthusiasm the only sentiment by which he 
discovered any regard for virtue or glory. We can easily 
conceive that, after the battle of Narva and the conquest of 
Poland, Charles the Twelfth (though he still wanted the more 
elegant accomplishments of the son of Philip) might boast of 
having rivalled his valour and magnanimity ; but in no one 
action of his life did Caracalla express the faintest resemblance 
of the Macedonian hero, except in the murder of a great number 
of his own and of his father's friends. 46 

After the extinction of the house of Severus, the Roman 
world remained three days without a master. The choice of 
the army (for the authority of a distant and feeble senate was 
little regarded) hung in anxious suspense ; as no candidate pre- 
sented himself whose distinguished bh*th and merit could engage 
their attachment and unite their suffrages. The decisive weight 
of the Praetorian guards elevated the hopes of their praefects, 
and these powerful ministers began to assert their legal claim to 
fill the vacancy of the Imperial throne. Adventus, however, 
the senior prefect, conscious of his age and infirmities, of his 

Election and 
character of 

44 Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1312 [5, 4]. Herodian, 1. iv. p. 168 [13]. [Gibbon does 
not give this emperor due credit for his ability as an administrator (carrying out 
his father's policy) and his important military works.] 

45 [Those who have studied the question say that Caracalla's development of the 
phalanx was, under the circumstances of the empire, a benefit and a necessity. 
Hadrian had already pointed the way to this tactical change.] 

46 The fondness of Caracalla for the name and ensigns of Alexander, is still 
preserved on the medals of that emperor. See Spanheim, de Usu Numismatum. 
Dissertat. xii. Herodian (1. iv. p. 154 [8] ) had seen very ridiculous pictures, in 
which a figure was drawn with one side of the face like Alexander, and the other 
like Caracalla. [Admiration for Alexander as an ideal was a feature of the age. 
Sulla and Hannibal were also special favourites of Caracalla.] 


small reputation and his smaller abilities, resigned the dangerous 
honour to the crafty ambition of his colleague Macrinus, whose 
well dissembled grief removed all suspicion of his being acces- 
sory to his master's death. 47 The troops neither loved nor es- 
teemed his character. They cast their eyes around in search 
of a competitor, and at last yielded with reluctance to his pro- 
mises of unbounded liberality and indulgence. A short time 
after his accession he conferred on his son Diadumenianus, at a.d. 217. 
the age of only ten years, the Imperial title and the popular 
name of Antoninus. 4S The beautiful figure of the youth, assisted 
by an additional donative, for which the ceremony furnished a 
pretext, might attract, it was hoped, the favour of the army, 
and secure the doubtful throne of Macrinus. 

The authority of the new sovereign had been ratified by the Discontent ox 
cheerful submission of the senate and provinces. They ex- 
ulted in their unexpected deliverance from a hated tyrant, and 
it seemed of little consequence to examine into the virtues of 
the successor of Caracalla. But as soon as the first transports of 
joy and surprise had subsided, they began to scrutinize the 
merits of Macrinus with a critical severity, and to arraign the 
hasty choice of the army. It had hitherto been considered as 
a fundamental maxim of the constitution that the emperor must 
always be chosen in the senate, and the sovereign power, no 
longer exercised by the whole body, was always delegated to 
one of its members. But Macrinus was not a senator. 49 The 
sudden elevation of the Praetorian preefects betrayed the mean- 
ness of their origin ; and the equestrian order was still in pos- 
session of that great office, which commanded with arbitrary 
sway the lives and fortunes of the senate. A murmur of in- 
dignation was heard, that a man, whose obscure 50 extraction 

47 Herodian, 1. iv. p. 169 [14]. Hist. August, p. 94 [xv. 4] . 

48 [M. Opellius (Opilius in Hist. Aug.) Antoninus Diadumenianus nobiliss. 
Caesar. Macrinus himself took the name of Severus.] 

49 Dion, 1. lxxxix. p. 1350 [1]. Elagabalus reproached his predecessor, with 
daring to seat himself on the throne ; though, as Praetorian prasfect, he could 
not have been admitted into the senate after the voice of the crier had cleared the 
house. The personal favour of Plautianus and Sejanus had broke through the 
established rule. They rose indeed from the equestrian order ; but they pre- 
served the prefecture with the rank of senator, and even with the consulship. 
[Macrinus was the first man of equestrian order who became emperor.] 

50 He was a native of Coesarea, in Numidia, and began his fortune by serving 
in the household of Plautian, from whose ruin he narrowly escaped. His enemies 
asserted that he was born a slave, and had exercised, among other infamous pro- 
fessions, that of Gladiator. The fashion of aspersing the birth and condition of an 
adversary seems to have lasted from the time of the Greek orators to the learned 
grammarians of the last age. 


had never been illustrated by any signal service, should dare to 
invest himself with the purple, instead of bestowing it on some 
distinguished senator, equal in birth and dignity to the splendour 
of the Imperial station. As soon as the character of Macrinus 
was surveyed by the sharp eye of discontent, some vices, and 
many defects, were easily discovered. The choice of his 
ministers was in several instances justly censured, and the dis- 
satisfied people, with their usual candour, accused at once his 
indolent tameness and his excessive severity. 51 
aad the army His rash ambition had climbed a height where it was difficult 
to stand with firmness, and impossible to fall without instant 
destruction. Trained in the arts of courts and the forms of civil 
business, he trembled in the presence of the fierce and undis- 
ciplined multitude, over whom he had assumed the command : 
his military talents were despised, and his personal courage sus- 
pected : a whisper that circulated in the camp, disclosed the 
fatal secret of the conspiracy against the late emperor, aggravated 
the guilt of murder by the baseness of hypocrisy, and heightened 
contempt by detestation. To alienate the soldiers, and to pro- 
voke inevitable ruin, the character of a reformer was only 
wanting ; and such was the peculiar hardship of his fate, that 
Macrinus was compelled to exercise that invidious office. The 
prodigality of Caracalla had left behind it a long train of ruin 
and disorder : and, if that worthless tyrant had been capable of 
reflecting on the sure consequences of his own conduct, he would 
perhaps have enjoyed the dark prospect of the distress and 
calamities which he bequeathed to his successoi^s. 
Macrinuiat- In the management of this necessary reformation, Macrinus 
formation of proceeded with a cautious prudence which would have restored 
health and vigour to the Roman army in an easy and almost 
imperceptible manner. To the soldiers already engaged in the 
service, he was constrained to leave the dangerous privileges 
and extravagant pay given by Caracalla ; but the new recruits 
were received on the more moderate, though liberal, establish- 
ment of Severus, and gradually formed to modesty and obedi- 
ence. 52 One fatal error destroyed the salutary effects of this 

51 Both Dion and Herodian speak of the virtues and vices of Macrinus with 
candour and impartiality ; but the author of his Life, in the Augustan History, 
seems to have implicitly copied some of the venal writers employed by Elagabalus 
to blacken the memory of his predecessor. 

52 Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1336 [28] . The sense of the author is as clear as the 
intention of the emperor ; but M. Wotton has mistaken both, by understanding the 
distinction, not of veterans and recruits, but of old and new legions. History of 
Rome, p. 347. 


judicious plan. The numerous army, assembled in the East by 
the late emperor, instead of being immediately dispersed by 
Macrinus through the several provinces, was suffered to remain 
united in Syria during the winter that followed his elevation. 
In the luxurious idleness of their quarters, the troops viewed 
their strength and numbers, communicated their complaints, and 
revolved in their minds the advantages of another revolution. 
The veterans, instead of being flattered by the advantageous 
distinction, were alarmed by the first steps of the emperor, 
which they considered as the presage of his future intentions. 
The recruits, with sullen reluctance, entered on a service, whose 
labours were increased while its rewards were diminished by a 
covetous and unwarlike sovereign. The murmurs of the army 
swelled with impunity into seditious clamours ; and the partial 
mutinies betrayed a spirit of discontent and disaffection, that 
waited only for the slightest occasion to break out on every side 
into a general rebellion. To minds thus disposed the occasion 
soon presented itself. 

The Empress Julia had experienced all the vicissitudes of Death of the 
fortune. From an humble station, she had been raised to great- HvEducatkm, 
ness, only to taste the superior bitterness of an exalted rank. Sidrevoitof 
She was doomed to weep over the death of one of her sons, and called aVnrst 
over the life of the other. The cruel fate of Caracalla, though her Antoninus 
good sense must have long taught her to expect it, awakened 
the feelings of a mother and of an empress. Notwithstanding the 
respectful civility expressed by the usurper towards the widow 
of Severus, she descended with a painful struggle into the con- 
dition of a subject, and soon withdrew herself by a voluntary 
death from the anxious and humiliating dependence. 53 Julia 
Maesa, her sister, was ordered to leave the court and Antioch. 
She retired to Emesa with an immense fortune, the fruit of 
twenty years' favour, accompanied by her two daughters, 
Soaemias and Mamaea, each of whom was a widow, and each had 
an only son. Bassianus, for that was the name of the son of 
Soaemias, was consecrated to the honourable ministry of high 
priest of the Sun ; and this holy vocation, embraced either from 
prudence or superstition, contributed to raise the Syrian youth 
to the empire of Rome. A numerous body of troops were 
stationed at Emesa ; and, as the severe discipline of Macrinus 
had constrained them to pass the winter encamped, they were 
eager to revenge the cruelty of such unaccustomed hardships. 

53 Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1330 [23]. The abridgment of Xiphilin, though less 
particular, is in this place clearer than the original. 


The soldiers, who resorted in crowds to the temple of the Sun, 
beheld with veneration and delight the elegant dress and figure 
of the young pontiff: they recognized, or thought that they recog- 
nized, the features of Caracalla, whose memory they now adored. 
The artful Maesa saw and cherished their rising partiality, and, 
readily sacrificing her daughter's reputation to the fortune of her 
grandson, she insinuated that Bassianus was the natural son of 
their murdered sovereign. The sums distributed by her emis- 
saries with a lavish hand 54 silenced every objection, and the 
profusion sufficiently proved the affinity, or at least the re- 
semblance, of Bassianus with the great original. The young 
Antoninus (for he had assumed and polluted that respectable 

ad. its name) was declared emperor by the troops of Emesa, asserted his 
hereditary right, and called aloud on the armies to follow the 
standard of a young and liberal prince, who had taken up arms to 
revenge his father's death and the oppression of the military order. 55 

Defe»tknd Whilst a conspiracy of women and eunuchs was concerted 

M»criniu! with prudence, and conducted with rapid vigour, Macrinus, who 
by a decisive motion might have crushed his infant enemy, 
floated between the opposite extremes of terror and security, 
which alike fixed him inactive at Antioch. A spirit of rebellion 
diffused itself through all the camps and garrisons of Syria, 
successive detachments murdered their officers, 56 and joined the 
party of the rebels ; and the tardy restitution of military pay 
and privileges was imputed to the acknowledged weakness of 
Macrinus. At length he marched out of Antioch, to meet the 
increasing and zealous army of the young pretender. His own 
troops seemed to take the field with faintness and reluctance ; 

a.d. 218 but, in the heat of battle, 57 the Praetorian guards, almost by an 

54 [The temple of the Sun was rich.] 

55 According to Lampridius (Hist. August, p. 135 [xviii. 60]) Alexander Severus 
lived twenty-nine years, three months, and seven days. As he was killed March 
19, 235, he was born December 12, 205, and was consequently about this time 
thirteen years old, as his elder cousin might be about seventeen. This computa- 
tion suits much better the history of the young princes than that of Herodian (1. v. 
p. 181 [3]), who represents them as three years younger; whilst, by an opposite 
error of chronology, he lengthens the reign of Elagabalus two years beyond its real 
duration. For the particulars of the conspiracy, see Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1339 [31]. 
Herodian, 1. v. p. 184 [3]. [The author's conclusion is probably mistaken. 
Alexander was born October i, 208, and was thus thirteen and a half years old on 
his elevation in March, 222 (Aur. Victor, Caes. 24, 1). The statement of Lam- 
pridius may well be a slip.] 

56 By a most dangerous proclamation of the pretended Antoninus, every soldier 
who brought in his officer's head became entitled to his private estate, as well as 
to his military commission. 

57 Dion, 1. lxxviii. p. 1344 [37]. Herodian, 1. v. p. 186 [4]. The battle was 
fought near the village of Immae, about two and twenty miles from Antioch. 


involuntary impulse, asserted the superiority of their valour and 
discipline. The rebel ranks were broken; when the mother and 
grandmother of the Syrian prince, who, according to their eastern 
custom, had attended the army, threw themselves from their 
covered chariots, and, by exciting the compassion of the soldiers, 
endeavoured to animate their drooping courage. Antoninus 
himself, who in the rest of his life never acted like a man, in 
this important crisis of his fate approved himself a hero, mounted 
his horse, and, at the head of his rallied troops, charged sword in 
hand among the thickest of the enemy ; whilst the eunuch 
Gannys, whose occupation had been confined to female cares 
and the soft luxury of Asia, displayed the talents of an able 
and experienced general. The battle still raged with doubtful 
violence, and Macrinus might have obtained the victory, had he 
not betrayed his own cause by a shameful and precipitate flight. 
His cowardice served only to protract his life a few days, and to 
stamp deserved ignominy on his misfortunes. It is scarcely 
necessary to add that his son Diadumenianus was in- 
volved in the same fate. As soon as the stubborn Praetorians 
could be convinced that they fought for a prince who had 
basely deserted them, they surrendered to the conqueror ; 
the contending parties of the Roman army, mingling 
tears of joy and tenderness, united under the banners of the 
imagined son of Caracalla, and the East 58 acknowledged with 
pleasure the first emperor of Asiatic extraction. 

The letters of Macrinus had condescended to inform the Eiaga^.i™ 
senate of the slight disturbance occasioned by an impostor in senate 
Syria, and a decree immediately passed, declaring the rebel and 
his family public enemies ; with a promise of pardon, however, 
to such of his deluded adherents as should merit it by an 
immediate return to their duty. During the twenty days that 
elapsed from the declaration to the victory of Antoninus (for in 
so short an interval was the fate of the Roman world decided), 
the capital and the provinces, more especially those of the East, 
were distracted with hopes and fears, agitated with tumult, and 
stained with a useless effusion of civil blood, since whosoever of 
the rivals prevailed in Syria must reign over the empire. The 
specious letters in which the young conqueror announced his 
victory to the obedient senate were filled with professions of 
virtue and moderation ; the shining examples of Marcus and 
Augustus he should ever consider as the great rule of his 

88 [In this episode, the opposition between East and West was probably an 
important element.] 


administration ; and he affected to dwell with pride on the 
striking resemblance of his own age and fortunes with those of 
Augustus, who in the earliest youth had revenged by a successful 
war the murder of his father. By adopting the style of Marcus 
Aurelius Antoninus, son of Antoninus, and grandson of Severus, 
he tacitly asserted his hereditary claim to empire ; but, by 
assuming the tribunitian and proconsular powers 59 before they 
had been conferred on him by a decree of the senate, he offended 
the delicacy of Roman prejudice. This new and injudicious 
violation of the constitution was probably dictated either by the 
ignorance of his Syrian courtiers, or the fierce disdain of his 
military followers. 60 
picture of As the attention of the new emperor was diverted by the 

Ajf^nai *' most trifling amusements, he wasted many months in his 
luxurious progress from Syria to Italy, passed at Nicomedia the 
first winter after his victory, and deferred till the ensuing 
summer his triumphal entry into the capital. A faithful picture, 
however, which preceded his arrival, and was placed by his im- 
mediate order over the altar of Victory in the senate-house, con- 
veyed to the Romans the just but unworthy resemblance of his 
person and manners. He was drawn in his sacerdotal robes of silk 
and gold, after the loose flowing fashion of the Medes and Phoeni- 
cians ; his head was covered with a lofty tiara, his numerous collars 
and bracelets were adorned with gems of an inestimable value. 
His eye-brows were tinged with black, and his cheeks painted 
with an artificial red and white. 61 The grave senators confessed 
with a sigh, that, after having long experienced the stem tyranny 
of their own countrymen, Rome was at length humbled beneath 
the effeminate luxury of Oriental despotism. 
ms supersti The sun was worshipped at Emesa under the name of Elaga- 
tlon balus, 62 and under the form of a black conical stone, which, as 

it was universally believed, had fallen from heaven on that 
sacred place. To this protecting deity, Antoninus, not without 
some reason, ascribed his elevation to the throne. The display 
of superstitious gratitude was the only serious business of his 

59 [Pius felix proconsul t 'rib. pot. was the form stereotyped by Caracalla. The 
senate conferred the title Augusta on Julia Msesa.] 
«o Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1353 [4]. 

61 Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1363 [14]. Herodian, 1. v. p. 189 [5]. 

62 This name is derived by the learned, from two Syriac words, Ela, a god, and 
Gabal, to form, the forming, or plastic God ; a proper, and even happy epithet for 
the Sun. Wotton's History of Rome, p. 378. [The newer derivation is al gebal, 
" the mountain". The Greeks made the name into //W;<?-gabalos by a tempting 
popular etymology.] 


reign. The triumph of the god of Emesa over all the religions 
of the earth, was the great object of his zeal and vanity ; and 
the appellation of Elagabalus (for he presumed as pontiff and 
favourite to adopt that sacred name) was dearer to him than all 
the titles of Imperial greatness. 63 In a solemn procession through 
the streets of Rome, the way was strewed with gold dust ; the 
black stone, set in precious gems, was placed on a chariot drawn 
by six milk-white horses richly caparisoned. The pious em- 
peror held the reins, and, supported by his ministers, moved 
slowly backwards, that he might perpetually enjoy the felicity 
of the divine presence. In a magnificent temple raised on the 
Palatine Mount, the sacrifices of the god Elagabalus were 
celebrated with every circumstance of cost and solemnity. The 
richest wines, the most extraordinary victims, and the rarest 
aromatics, were profusely consumed on his altar. Around the 
altar a chorus of Syrian damsels performed their lascivious 
dances to the sound of barbarian music, whilst the gravest 
personages of the state and army, clothed in long Phoenician 
tunics, officiated in the meanest functions, with affected zeal and 
secret indignation. 64 

To this temple, as to the common centre of religious worship, 
the Imperial fanatic attempted to remove the Ancilia, the 
Palladium, 65 and all the sacred pledges of the faith of Numa. 
A crowd of inferior deities attended in various stations the 
majesty of the god of Emesa ; but his court was still imperfect, 
till a female of distinguished rank was admitted to his bed. 
Pallas had been first chosen for his consort ; but, as it was 
dreaded that her warlike terrors might affright the soft delicacy 
of a Syrian deity, the Moon, adoi'ed by the Africans 66 under the 
name of Astarte, was deemed a more suitable companion for the 
Sun. Her image, with the rich offerings of her temple as a 
marriage portion, was transported with solemn pomp from 
Carthage to Rome, and the day of these mystic nuptials was a 
general festival in the capital and throughout the empire. 67 

6S [His imperial name was M. Aurelius Antoninus, that of his reputed father.] 

64 Herodian, 1. v. 190 [5]. 

65 He broke into the sanctuary of Vesta, and carried away a statue, which he 
supposed to be the Palladium ; but the vestals boasted that, by a pious fraud, they 
had imposed a counterfeit image on the profane intruder. Hist. August, p. 103 
[xvii. 6]. 

66 [That is, the Phoenician settlers in Africa; for Astarte was a Syrian goddess.] 
87 Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1360 [12]. Herodian, 1. v. p. 193 [6]. The subjects of 

the empire were obliged to make liberal presents to the new-married couple ; and 
j whatever they had promised during the life of Elagabalus was carefully exacted 

under the administration of Mamsea. 

10 VOL. I. 


Hie profligate A rational voluptuary adheres with invariable respect to the 
ate luxury temperate dictates of nature, and improves the gratifications of 
sense by social intercourse, endearing connexions, and the soft 
colouring of taste and imagination. But Elagabalus (I speak of 
the emperor of that name), corrupted by his youth, his countiy, 
and his fortune, abandoned himself to the grossest pleasures 
with ungovemed fury, and soon found disgust and satiety in the 
midst of his enjoyments. The inflammatory powers of art were 
summoned to his aid : the confused multitude of women, of 
wines, and of dishes, and the studied variety of attitudes and 
sauces, served to revive his languid appetites. New terms and 
new inventions in these sciences, the only ones cultivated and 
patronized by the monarch, 68 signalized his reign, and trans- 
mitted his infamy to succeeding times. A capricious prodigality 
supplied the want of taste and elegance ; and, whilst Elagabalus 
lavished away the treasures of his people in the wildest extrava- 
gance, his own voice and that of his flatterers applauded a spirit 
and magnificence unknown to the tameness of his predecessors. 
To confound the order of seasons and climates, 69 to sport with 
the passions and prejudices of his subjects, and to subvert every 
law of nature and decency, were in the number of his most 
delicious amusements. A long train of concubines, and a rapid 
succession of wives, among whom was a vestal virgin, ravished 
by force from her sacred asylum, 70 were insufficient to satisfy the 
impotence of his passions. The master of the Roman world 
affected to copy the dress and manners of the female sex, pre- 
ferred the distaff" to the sceptre, and dishonoured the principal 
dignities of the empire by distributing them among his numerous 
lovers'; one of whom was publicly invested with the title and 
authority of the emperor's, or, as he more properly styled 
himself, of the empress's husband. 71 

68 The invention of a new sauce was liberally rewarded : but if it was not relished, 
the inventor was confined to eat of nothing else, till he had discovered another more 
agreeable to the Imperial palate. Hist. August, p. in [xvii. 29]. 

69 He never would eat sea-fish except at a great distance from the sea ; he then 
would distribute vast quantities of the rarest sorts, brought at an immense expense, 
to the peasants of the inland country. Hist. August, p. 109 [xvii. 23]. 

70 Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1358 [9]. Herodian, 1. v. p. 192 [6]. 

71 Hierocles enjoyed that honour ; but he would have been supplanted by one 
Zoticus, had he not contrived, by a potion, to enervate the powers of his rival, who, 
being found on trial unequal to his reputation, was driven with ignominy from the 
palace. Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1363, 1364 [15, 16] . A dancer was made prsefect of 
the city, a charioteer praefect of the watch, a barber praefect of the provisions. 
These three ministers, with many inferior officers, were all recommended eiiormi- 
tate membrorum. Hist. August, p. 105 [xvii. 12]. 


It may seem probable the vices and follies of Elaa;abalus have contempt of 

■» * " decsncv 

been adorned by fancy and blackened by prejudice. 72 Yet, con- which aistin- 
fininjy ourselves to the public scenes displayed before the Romar> Roman 

1 i ii i ,.. i . tyrants 

people, and attested by grave and contemporary historians, their 
inexpressible infamy surpasses that of any other age or country. 
The licence of an eastern monarch is secluded from the eye of 
curiosity by the inaccessible Avails of the seraglio. The senti- 
ments of honour and gallantry have introduced a refinement of 
pleasure, a regard for decency, and a respect for the public 
opinion, into the modern courts of Europe ; but the corrupt and 
opulent nobles of Rome gratified every vice that could be 
collected from the mighty conflux of nations and manners. 
Secure of impunity, careless of censure, they lived without re- 
straint in the patient and humble society of their slaves and 
parasites. The emperor, in his turn, viewing every rank of his 
subjects with the same contemptuous indifference, asserted 
without control his sovereign privilege of lust and luxury. 

The most worthless of mankind are not afraid to condemn in 5 lBC °!£ e ,? ts of 

the army 

others the same disorders which they allow in themselves ; and 
can readily discover some nice difference of age, character, or 
station, to justify the partial distinction. The licentious soldiers, 
who had raised to the throne the dissolute son of Caracalla, 
blushed at their ignominious choice, and turned with disgust from 
that monster, to contemplate with pleasure the opening virtues 
of his cousin Alexander, the son of Mamaea. The crafty Maesa, 
sensible that her grandson Elagabalus must inevitably destroy 
himself by his own vices, had provided another and surer sup- 
port of her family. Embracing a favourable moment of fondness 
and devotion, she had persuaded the young emperor to adopt 
Alexander, and to invest him with the title of Caesar, that his Alexander 
own divine occupations might be no longer interrupted by the ^ltreTcasar, 
care of the earth. In the second rank, that amiable prince soon 
acquired the affections of the public, and excited the tyrant's 
jealousy, who resolved to terminate the dangerous competition 
either by corrupting the manners, or by taking aAvay the life, of his 
rival. His arts proved unsuccessful ; his vain designs were con- 
stantly discovered by his own loquacious folly, and disappointed 
by those virtuous and faithful servants whom the prudence of 
Mamaea had placed about the person of her son. In a hasty 
sally of passion, Elagabalus resolved to execute by force what he 
had been unable to compass by fraud, and by a despotic sentence 

72 Even the credulous compiler of his Life, in the Augustan History (p. in [ti. 
30]), is inclined to suspect that his vices may have been exaggerated. 


degraded his cousin from the rank and honours of Caesar. The 
message was received in the senate with silence, and in the 
camp with fury. The Praetorian guards swore to protect Alex- 
ander, and to revenge the dishonoured majesty of the throne. 
The tears and promises of the trembling Elagabalus, who only 
begged them to spare his life, and to leave him in the possession 
of his beloved Hierocles, diverted their just indignation; and 
they contented themselves with empowering their praefects to 
watch over the safety of Alexander and the conduct of the 
emperor. 73 
sedition of It was impossible that such a reconciliation should last, or that 

and murder of even the mean soul of Elagabalus could hold an empire on such 
Aj£ a 222, M ' humiliating terms of dependence. He soon attempted, by a 
dangei^ous experiment, to try the temper of the soldiers. The 
report of the death of Alexander, and the natural suspicion that 
he had been murdered, inflamed their passions into fury, and the 
tempest of the camp could only be appeased by the presence 
and authority of the popular youth. Provoked at this new in- 
stance of their affection for his cousin, and their contempt for his 
person, the emperor ventured to punish some of the leaders of 
the mutiny. His unseasonable severity proved instantly fatal to 
his minions, his mother, and himself. Elagabalus was massacred 
by the indignant Praetorians, his mutilated corpse dragged 
through the streets of the city, and thrown into the Tiber. 
His memory was branded with eternal mtamy by the senate ; 
the justice of whose decree has been ratified by posterity. 74 
Accession of In the room of Elagabalus, his cousin Alexander was raised to 
te'verus 46 ' the throne by the Praetorian guards. His relation to the family 
of Severus, whose name he assumed, 75 was the same as that of 

73 Dion, 1. lxxix. p. 1366 [19]. Herodian, 1. v. p. 195 201 [8]. Hist. 

August, p. 105 [xvii. 13]. The last of the three historians [Lampridius] seems to 
have followed the best authors in his account of the revolution. [His chief autho- 
rity was Marius Maximus.] 

74 The aera of the death of Elagabalus, and of the accession of Alexander, has 
employed the learning and ingenuity of Pagi, Tillemont, Valsecchi, Vignoli, and 
Torre, bishop of Adria. The question is most assuredly intricate ; but I still adhere 
to the authority of Dion, the truth of whose calculations is undeniable, and the 
purity of whose text is justified by the agreement of Xiphilin, Zonaras, and Ced- 
renus. Elagabalus reigned three years, nine months, and four days, from his 
victory over Macrinus, and was killed March 10, 222. But what shall we reply to the 
medals, undoubtedly genuine, which reckon the fifth year of his tribunitian power? 
We shall reply, with the learned Valsecchi, that the usurpation of Macrinus was 
annihilated, and that the son of Caracalla dated'his reign from his father's death. 
After resolving this great difficulty, the smaller knots of this question may be easily 
untied, or cut asunder. [Exact date uncertain, but probably falls in the first half 
of March, 222 ; cp., however, Clinton, Fasti Romatti, i. 234, 236. Eckhel, 8, 430.] 

75 [M. Aurelius Severus Alexander.] 


his predecessor ; his virtue and his danger had already endeared 
him to the Romans, and the eager liberality of the senate con- 
ferred upon him, in one day, the various titles and powers of the 
Imperial dignity. 76 But, as Alexander was a modest and dutiful 
youth of only seventeen years of age, the reins of government 
were in the hands of two women, of his mother Mamaea, and of 
Maesa, his grandmother. After the death of the latter, who 
survived but a short time the elevation of Alexander, Mamaea 
remained the sole regent of her son and of the empire. 

In every age and country, the wiser, or at least the stronger, Powerofhis 
of the two sexes, has usurped the powers of the state, and con- Mamaea 
fined the other to the cares and pleasures of domestic life. In 
hereditary monarchies, however, and especially in those of 
modern Europe, the gallant spirit of chivalry, and the law of 
succession, have accustomed us to allow a singular exception ; 
and a woman is often acknowledged the absolute sovereign of a 
great kingdom, in which she would be deemed incapable of 
exercising the smallest employment, civil or military. But as 
the Roman emperors were still considered as the generals and 
magistrates of the republic, their wives and mothers, although 
distinguished by the name of Augusta, were never associated to 
their personal honours ; and a female reign would have appeared 
an inexpiable prodigy in the eyes of those primitive Romans, 
who married without love, or loved without delicacy and re- 
spect. 77 The haughty Agrippina aspired, indeed, to share the 
honours of the empire, which she had conferred on her son ; but 
her mad ambition, detested by every citizen who felt for the 
dignity of Rome, was disappointed by the artful firmness of 
Seneca and Burrhus. 78 The good sense, or the indifference, of 
succeeding princes, restrained them from offending the prejudices 
of their subjects; and it was reserved for the profligate Elagabalus 
to disgrace the acts of the senate with the name of his mother 
Soaemias, who was placed by the side of the consuls, and sub- 
scribed, as a regular member, the decrees of the legislative 
assembly. Her more prudent sister, Mamaea, declined the use- 

76 Hist. August, p. 114. [xvii. i]. By this unusual precipitation, the senate 
meant to confound the hopes of pretenders, and prevent the factions of the 

77 Metellus Numidicus, the censor, acknowledged to the Roman people, in a 
public oration, that, had kind Nature allowed us to exist without the help ol woman, 
we should be delivered from a very troublesome companion ; and he could recom- 
mend matrimony only as the sacrifice of private pleasure to public duty. Aulus 
Gellius, i. 6. 

78 Tacit. Annal. xiii. 5. [After Agrippina, the title Augusta had no political 



\V:ce and 
moderate ad- 


and virtuous 
temper of 

less and odious prerogative, and a solemn law was enacted, 
excluding women for ever from the senate, and devoting to the 
infernal gods the head of the wretch by whom this sanction 
should be violated. 79 The substance, not the pageantry, of 
power was the object of Mamaea' s manly ambition. She main- 
tained an absolute and lasting empire over the mind of her son, 
and in his affection the mother could not brook a rival. Alex- 
ander, with her consent, married the daughter of a Patrician; 80 
but his respect for his father-in-law, and love for the empress, 
were inconsistent with the tenderness or interest of Mamaea. 
The patrician was executed on the ready accusation of treason, 
and the wife of Alexander driven with ignominy from the 
palace, and banished into Africa. si 

Notwithstanding this act of jealous cruelty, as well as some 
instances of avarice, with which Mamaea is charged, the general 
tenor of her administration was equally for the benefit of her 
son and of the empire. With the approbation of the senate, she 
chose sixteen of the wisest and most virtuous senators, as a per- 
petual council of state, before whom every public business of 
moment was debated and determined. The celebrated Ulpian, 
equally distinguished b} r his knowledge of, and his respect for, 
the laws of Rome, was at their head ; and the prudent firmness 
of this aristocracy restored order and authority to the govern- 
ment. As soon as they had purged the city from foreign super- 
stition and luxury, the remains of the capricious tyranny of 
Elagabalus, they applied themselves to remove his worthless 
creatures from every department of public administration, and 
to supply their places with men of virtue and ability. Learning, 
and the love of justice, became the only recommendations for 
civil offices ; valour, and the love of discipline, the only 
qualifications for military employments. 82 

But the most important care of Mamaea and her wise coun- 

79 Hist. August, p. 102, 107 [xvii. 4 and 18]. 

80 [Sallustia Barbia Orbiana, daughter of Sallustius Macrinus, who conspired 
against the life of Alexander. Gibbon is too ready to assume that Mamaea was to 

81 Dion, 1. lxxx. p. 1369 [2]. Herodian, 1. vi. p. 206 [1]. Hist. August, p. 
131 [xviii. 49]. Herodian represents the patrician as innocent. The Augustan 
History, on the authority of Dexippus, condemns him as guilty of a conspiracy 
against the life of Alexander. It is impossible to pronounce between them : but 
Dion is an irreproachable witness of the jealousy and cruelty of Mamasa towards 
the young empress, whose hard fate Alexander lamented, but durst not oppose. 

8 - Herodian, 1. vi. p. 203 [1]. Hist. August, p. 119 [xviii. 15]. The latter 
insinuates that, when any law was to be passed, the council was assisted by a 
number of able lawyers and experienced senators, whose opinions were separately 
given and taken down in writing. 


sellors was to form the character of the young emperor, on whose 
personal qualities the happiness or misery of the Roman world 
must ultimately depend. The fortunate soil assisted, and even 
prevented, the hand of cultivation. An excellent understanding 
soon convinced Alexander of the advantages of virtue, the plea- 
sure of knowledge, and the necessity of labour. A natural 
mildness and moderation of temper preserved him from the 
assaults of passion and the allurements of vice. His unalterable 
regard for his mother, and his esteem for the wise Ulpian, 
guarded his unexperienced youth from the poison of flattery. 

The simple journal of his ordinary occupations exhibits a journal onus 
pleasing picture of an accomplished emperor, sa and, with some ° r n * ry 
allowance for the difference of manners, might well deserve the 
imitation of modern princes. Alexander rose early ; the first 
moments of the day were consecrated to private devotion, and 
his domestic chapel was filled with the images of those heroes 
who, by improving or reforming human life, had deserved the 
grateful reverence of posterity. But, as he deemed the service 
of mankind the most acceptable worship of the gods, the 
greatest part of his morning hours Mas employed in his council, 
where he discussed public affairs, and determined private causes, 
with a patience and discretion above his years. The dryness of 
business was relieved by the charms of litei*ature ; and a portion 
of time was always set apart for his favourite studies of poetry, 
history, and philosophy. The works of Virgil and Horace, the 
republics of Plato and Cicero, formed his taste, enlarged his 
understanding, and gave him the noblest ideas of man and 
government. The exercises of the body succeeded to those of 
the mind ; and Alexander, who was tall, active, and robust, sur- 
passed most of his equals in the gymnastic arts. Refreshed by 
the use of the bath and a slight dinner, he resumed, with new 
vigour, the business of the day, and, till the hour of supper, the 
pi-incipal meal of the Romans, he was attended by his secretaries, 
with whom he read and answered the multitude of letters, 
memorials, and petitions, that must have been addressed to the 
master of the greatest part of the world. His table was served 
with the most frugal simplicity ; and, whenever he was at liberty 
to consult his own inclination, the company consisted of a few 
select friends, men of learning and virtue, amongst whom Ulpian 
was constantly invited. Their conversation was familiar and 

83 See his life in the Augustan History. The undistinguishing compiler has 
buried these interesting anecdotes under a load of trivial and unmeaning circum- 


instructive ; and the pauses were occasionally enlivened by the 
recital of some pleasing composition, which supplied the place 
of the dancers, comedians, and even gladiators, so frequently 
summoned to the tables of the rich and luxurious Romans. 84 
The dress of Alexander was plain and modest, his demeanour 
courteous and affable : at the proper hours his palace was open 
to all his subjects, but the voice of a crier was heard, as in the 
Eleusinian mysteries, pronouncing the same salutary admonition : 
"Let none enter these holy walls, unless he is conscious of a 
pure and innocent mind ", 85 
General hap- Such an uniform tenor of life, which left not a moment for vice 
L n m"n°wori e d, or folly, is a better proof of the wisdom and justice of Alexander's 
government than all the trifling details preserved in the com- 
pilation of Lampridius. Since the accession of Commodus the 
Roman world had experienced, during a term of forty years, the 
successive and various vices of four tyrants. From the death of 
Elagabalus it enjoyed an auspicious calm of thirteen years. The 
provinces, relieved from the oppressive taxes invented by 
Caracalla and his pretended son, flourished in peace and pros- 
perity under the administration of magistrates, who were con- 
vinced by experience that to deserve the love of the subjects 
was their best and only method of obtaining the favour of their 
sovereign. While some gentle restraints were imposed on the 
innocent luxury of the Roman people, the price of provisions 
and the interest of money were reduced by the paternal care 
of Alexander, whose prudent liberality, without distressing the 
industrious, supplied the wants and amusements of the populace. 
The dignity, the freedom, the authority of the senate was 
restored ; and every virtuous senator might approach the person 
of the emperor without a fear and without a blush. 
Aievander re- The name of Antoninus, ennobled by the virtues of Pius and 
or Antoninvu* Marcus, had been communicated by adoption to the dissolute 
Verus, and by descent to the cruel Commodus. It became the 
honourable appellation of the sons of Severus, was bestowed on 
young Diadumenianus, and at length prostituted to the infamy 
of the high priest of Emesa. Alexander, though pressed by the 
studied, and perhaps sincere, importunity of the senate, nobly 
refused the borrowed lustre of a name ; whilst in his whole con- 
duct he laboured to restore the glories and felicity of the age of 
the genuine Antonines. 80 

M See the 13th Satire of Juvenal. 8B Hist. August, p. 119 [xviii. 18]. 

86 See in the Hist. August, p. 116, 117 [xviii. 6-11], the whole contest between 
Alexander and the senate, extracted from the journals of that assembly. It 


In the civil administration of Alexander, wisdom was en- h« attempts 
forced by power, and the people, sensible of the public felicity, the r ?JmT 
repaid their benefactor with their love and gratitude. There 
still remained a greater, a more necessary, but a more difficult 
enterprise : the reformation of the military order, whose interest 
and temper, confirmed by long impunity, rendered them im- 
patient of the restraints of discipline, and careless of the blessings 
of public tranquillity. In the execution of his design the 
emperor affected to display his love, and to conceal his fear, of 
the army. The most rigid economy in every other branch of 
the administration supplied a fund of gold and silver for the 
ordinary pay and the extraordinary rewards of the troops. In 
their marches he relaxed the severe obligation of carrying 
seventeen days' provision on their shoulders. Ample magazines 
were formed along the public roads, and as soon as they entered 
the enemy's country, a numerous train of mules and camels 
waited on their haughty laziness. As Alexander despaired of 
correcting the luxury of his soldiers, he attempted, at least, to 
direct it to objects of martial pomp and ornament, fine horses, 
splendid armour, and shields enriched with silver and gold. He 
shared whatever fatigues he was obliged to impose, visited, in 
person, the sick and wounded, preserved an exact register of 
their services and his own gratitude, and expressed, on every 
occasion, the warmest regard for a body of men, whose welfare, 
as he affected to declare, was so closely connected with that of 
the state. 87 By the most gentle arts he laboured to inspire the 
fierce multitude with a sense of duty, and to restore at least a 
faint image of that discipline to Avhich the Romans owed their 
empire over so many other nations, as warlike and more power- 
ful than themselves. But his prudence was vain, his courage 
fatal, and the attempt towards a reformation served only to 
inflame the ills it was meant to cure. 

The Praetorian guards were attached to the youth of Alexander, ssdittons 
They loved him as a tender pupil, whom they had saved from a torian guards, 
tyrant's fury, and placed on the Imperial throne. That amiable onnpun" 
prince was sensible of the obligation ; but, as his gratitude was 
restrained within the limits of reason and justice, they soon 
were more dissatisfied with the virtues of Alexander than they 

happened on the sixth of March, probably of the year 223, when the Romans had 
enjoyed, almost a twelvemonth, the blessings of his reign. Before the appellation 
of Antoninus was offered him as a title of honour, the senate waited to see whether 
Alexander would not assume it as a family name. 

87 It was a favourite saying of the emperor's, Se milites magis servare, quam 
seipsum ; quod salus publica in his esset. Hist. August, p. 130 [xviii. 47]. 


had ever been with the vices of Elagabalus. Their praefect, the 
wise Ulpian, was the friend of the laws and of the people ; he 
was considered as the enemy of the soldiers, and to his per- 
nicious counsels every scheme of reformation was imputed. 
Some trifling accident blew up their discontent into a furious 
mutiny ; and a civil war raged, during three days, in Rome, 
whilst the life of that excellent minister was defended by the 
grateful people. S8 Terrified, at length, by the sight of some 
houses in flames, and by the threats of a general conflagration, 
the people yielded with a sigh, and left the virtuous but un- 
fortunate Ulpian to his fate. He was pursued into the Imperial 
palace, and massacred at the feet of his master, who vainly strove 
to cover him with the purple, and to obtain his pardon from the 
inexorable soldiers. Such was the deploi'able weakness of 
government that the emperor was unable to revenge his 
murdered friend and his insulted dignity, without stooping to 
the arts of patience and dissimulation. Epagathus, the principal 
leader of the mutiny, was removed from Rome, by the honour- 
able employment of praefect of Egypt ; from that high rank he 
was gently degraded to the government of Crete ; and when, 
at length, his popularity among the guards was effaced by time 
and absence, Alexander ventured to inflict the tardy, but 
deserved, punishment of his crimes. 89 Under the reign of a just 
and virtuous prince, the tyranny of the army threatened with 
instant death his most faithful ministers, who were suspected 
of an intention to correct their intolerable disorders. The 
ranker of historian Dion Cassius had commanded the Pannonian legions 

Dion Cassius , , ° 

with the spirit ot ancient discipline. Lheir brethren or Rome, 
embracing the common cause of military licence, demanded the 
head of the reformer. Alexander, however, instead of yielding 
to their seditious clamours, showed a just sense of his merit and 
services, by appointing him his colleague in the consulship, 
and defraying from his own treasury the expense of that vain 
dignity ; but, as it was justly apprehended that if the soldiers 
beheld him with the ensigns of his office they would revenge 

88 [Gibbon has fallen into error by confusing different occasions. There is no 
reason to suppose that Ulpian's life was in danger during the street battles be- 
tween the populace and guards. They disobeyed his discipline then, but it was in 
a later mutiny, directed against himself, that he was slain. See Zonaras, xii. 15, 
and Dion, lxxx. 2.] 

89 Though the author of the life of Alexander (Hist. August, p. 132 [xviii. 51]), 
mentions the sedition raised against Ulpian by the soldiers, he conceals the 
catastrophe, as it might discover a weakness in the administration of his hero. 
From this designed omission, we may judge of the weight and candour of that 


the insult in his blood, the nominal first magistrate of the states 
retired, by the emperor's advice, from the city, and spent the 
greatest part of his consulship at his villas in Campania. 90 

The lenity of the emperor confirmed the insolence of the Tumults of 
troops; the legions imitated the example of the guards, and theleglons 
defended their prerogative of licentiousness with the same 
furious obstinacy. The administration of Alexander was an 
unavailing struggle against the corruption of his age. In 
Illyricum, in Mauritania, in Armenia, in Mesopotamia, in 
Germany, fresh mutinies perpetually broke out ; his officers were 
murdered, his authority was insulted, and his life at last 
sacrificed to the fierce discontents of the army. 91 One particular Firmness of 
fact well deserves to be recorded, as it illustrates the manners of the emperor 
the troops, and exhibits a singular instance of their return to a 
sense of duty and obedience. Whilst the emperor lay at Antioch, 
in his Persian expedition, the particulars of which we shall 
hereafter relate, the punishment of some soldiers, who had been 
discovered in the baths of women, excited a sedition in the 
legion to which they belonged. Alexander ascended his 
tribunal, and with a modest firmness represented to the armed 
multitude the absolute necessity, as well as his inflexible resolu- 
tion, of correcting the vices introduced by his impure predecessor, 
and of maintaining the discipline, which could not be relaxed 
without the ruin of the Roman name and empire. Their 
clamours interrupted his mild expostulation. " Reserve your 
shouts," said the undaunted emperor, " till you take the field 
against the Persians, the Germans, and the Sarmatians. Be 
silent in the presence of your sovereign and benefactor, who 
bestows upon you the corn, the clothing, and the money of the 
provinces. Be silent, or I shall no longer style you soldiers, but 
citizens, 9 ' 2 if those indeed who disclaim the laws of Rome deserve 
to be ranked among the meanest of the people." His menaces 
inflamed the fury of the legion, and their brandished arms al- 
ready threatened his person. "Your courage," resumed the 

30 For an account of Ulpian's fate and his own danger, see the mutilated con- 
clusion of Dion's History, 1. lxxx. p. 1371 [4]. 

91 Annotat. Reimar. ad Dion Cassius, 1. lxxx. p. 1369 [2]. 

93 Julius Csesar had appeased a sedition with the same word, Quirites : which, 
thus opposed to Soldiers, was used in a sense of contempt, and reduced the 
offenders to the less honourable condition of mere citizens. Tacit. Annal. i. 43. 
[The truth of this anecdote of Alexander's firmness has been suspected by recent 
historians, and Schiller suggests that it may have been due to the ambiguity of the 
name Severus. It is clear that, if the story is true, Alexander was consciously imi- 
tating Julius.] 


intrepid Alexander, "would be more nobly displayed in the field 
of battle ; me you may destroy, you cannot intimidate ; and the 
severe justice of the republic would punish your crime and 
revenge my death." The legion still persisted in clamorous 
sedition, when the emperor pronounced, with a loud voice, the 
decisive sentence, " Citizens ! lay down your arms, and depart 
in peace to your respective habitations ". The tempest was 
instantly appeased ; the soldiers, filled with grief and shame, 
silently confessed the justice of their punishment and the 
power of discipline, yielded up their arms and military ensigns, 
and retired in confusion, not to their camp, but to the several 
inns of the city. Alexander enjoyed, during thirty days, the 
edifying spectacle of their repentance ; nor did he restore them 
to their former rank in the army, till he had punished with 
death those tribunes whose connivance had occasioned the 
mutiny. The grateful legion served the emperor whilst living, 
and revenged him when dead. 93 

The resolutions of the multitude generally depend on a 
moment ; and the caprice of passion might equally determine 
the seditious legion to lay down their arms at the emperor's feet, 
or to plunge them into his breast. Perhaps, if the singular 
transaction had been investigated by the penetration of a 
philosopher, we should discover the secret causes which on that 
occasion authorized the boldness of the prince and commanded 
the obedience of the troops ; and perhaps, if it had been related 
by a judicious historian, we should find this action, worthy of 
Caesar himself, reduced nearer to the level of probability and the 
common standard of the character of Alexander Severus. The 
abilities of that amiable prince seem to have been inadequate to 
the difficulties of his situation, the firmness of his conduct 
inferior to the purity of his intentions. His virtues, as well as 
the vices of Elagabalus, contracted a tincture of weakness and 
effeminacy from the soft climate of Syria, of which he was a 
native ; though he blushed at his foreign origin, and listened 
with a vain complacency to the flattering genealogists, who 
derived his race from the ancient stock of Roman nobility. 94 
The pride and avarice of his mother cast a shade on the glories 
of his reign ; and by exacting from his riper years the same 
dutiful obedience which she had justly claimed from his unex- 

93 Hist. August, p. 132 [xviii. 54]. 

91 From the Metelli. Hist. August, p. 129 [xviii. 44]. The choice was judici- 
ous. In one short period of twelve years, the Metelli could reckon seven consul- 
ships, and five triumphs. See Velleius Paterculus, ii. 11, and the Fasti. 


perienced youth, Mamaea exposed to public ridicule both her 
son's character and her own. 95 The fatigues of the Persian war 
irritated the military discontent ; the unsuccessful event de- 
graded the reputation of the emperor as a general, and even 
as a soldier. Every cause prepared, and every circumstance 
hastened, a revolution, which distracted the Roman empire with 
a long series of intestine calamities. 

The dissolute tyranny of Commodus, the civil wars occasioned Digression on 
by his death, and the new maxims of policy introduced by the the empire 
house of Severus, had all contributed to increase the dangerous 
power of the army, and to obliterate the faint image of laws 
and liberty that was still impressed on the minds of the Romans. 
This internal change, which undermined the foundations of 
the empire, we have endeavoured to explain with some degree 
of order and perspicuity. The personal characters of the 
emperors, their victories, laws, follies and fortunes, can interest 
us no further than as they are connected with the general 
history of the Decline and Fall of the monarchy. Our constant 
attention to that great object will not suffer us to overlook a 
most important edict of Antoninus Caracalla, which communi- 
cated to all the free inhabitants of the empire the name and 
privileges of Roman citizens. His unbounded liberality flowed 
not, however, from the sentiments of a generous mind ; it was 
the sordid result of avarice, 96 and will naturally be illustrated 
by some observations on the finances of that state, from the 
victorious ages of the commonwealth to the reign of Alexander 

The siege of Veii in Tuscany, the first considerable enterprise Estawuh- 
of the Romans, was protracted to the tenth year, much less by "" 
the strength of the place than by the unskilfulness of the 
besiegers. The unaccustomed hardships of so many winter 

95 The life of Alexander, in the Augustan History, is the mere idea of a perfect 
prince, an awkward imitation of the Cyropasdia. The account of his reign, as 
given by Herodian, is rational and moderate, consistent with the general history of 
the age ; and, in some of the most invidious particulars, confirmed by the decisive 
fragments of Dion. Yet from a very paltry prejudice, the greater number of our 
modern writers abuse Herodian, and copy the Augustan History. See Mess, de 
Tillemont and Wotton. From the opposite prejudice, the Emperor Julian (in 
Csesarib. p. 315) dwells with a visible satisfaction on the effeminate weakness of 
the Syrian, and the ridiculous avarice of his mother. 

96 [Schiller is possibly right in his view (i. 751) that military, not financial, con- 
siderations were the chief motive in determining Caracalla's edict. Italy was no 
longer able to recruit the legions, and the auxilia were gradually taking their place, 
while the Germans were stepping into the place of the auxilia. The extension of 
citizenship was also expedient, in face of the barbarians who were pressing into the 


campaigns, at the distance of near twenty miles from home, 07 
required more than common encouragements ; and the senate 
wisely prevented the clamours of the people, by the institution 
of a regular pay for the soldiers, which was levied by a general 
tribute, assessed according to an equitable proportion on the 
property of the citizens. 93 During more than two hundred 
years after the conquest of Veii, the victories of the republic 
added less to the wealth than to the power of Rome. The 
states of Italy paid their tribute in military service only, and the 
vast force, both by sea and land, which was exerted in the 
Punic wars, was maintained at the expense of the Romans them- 
selves. That high-spirited people (such is often the generous 
enthusiasm of freedom) cheerfully submitted to the most 
excessive but voluntary burdens, in the just confidence that they 
should speedily enjoy the rich harvest of their labours. Their 
expectations were not disappointed. In the course of a few 
and !\tPiition vears, the riches of Syracuse, of Carthage, of Macedonia, and of 
SnRomrn Ute Asia, were brought in triumph to Rome. The treasures of 
citizen* Perseus alone amounted to near two millions sterling, and the 
Roman people, the sovereign of so many nations, was for ever 
delivered from the weight of taxes. 09 The increasing revenue 
of the provinces was found sufficient to defray the ordinary 
establishment of war and government, and the superfluous mass 
of gold and silver was deposited in the temple of Saturn, and 
reserved for any unforeseen emergency of the state. 100 
Tnbntes of History has never perhaps suffered a greater or more irrepar- 
the provinces a ki e injury than in the loss of that curious register bequeathed 
by Augustus to the senate, in which that experienced prince so 
accurately balanced the revenues and expenses of the Roman 
empire. 101 Deprived of this clear and comprehensive estimate, 
we are reduced to collect a few imperfect hints from such of the 

97 According to the more accurate Dionysius, the city itself was only an hundred 
stadia, or twelve miles and a half from Rome; though some out-posts might be 
advanced farther on the side of Etruria. Nardini, in a professed treatise, has com- 
bated the popular opinion and the authority of two popes, and has removed Veii 
from Civita Castellana, to a little spot called Isola, in the midway between Rome 
and the lake Bracciano. 

9S See the 4th [c. 59] and 5th [c. 7] books of Livy. In the Roman census, pro- 
perty, power and taxation, were commensurate with each other. 

99 Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xxxiii. c. 3. Cicero de Officiis, ii. 22. Plutarch, in P. 
iEmil. p. 275 [38]. 

100 See a fine description of this accumulated wealth of ages, in Lucan's Phars. 
L iii. v. 155, &c. 

101 Tacit, in Annal. i. 11. It seems to have existed in the time of Appian. [The 
Breviarium Imperii ; cp. Dion, lvi. 33.] 


ancients as have accidently turned aside from the splendid to 
the more useful parts of history. We are informed that, by the of Asia 
conquests of Pompey, the tributes of Asia were raised from 
fifty to one hundred and thirty-five millions of drachms, or about 
four millions and a half sterling. 102 Under the last and most ofEgjrpt 
indolent of the Ptolemies, the revenue of Egypt is said to have 
amounted to twelve thousand five hundred talents ; a sum 
equivalent to more than two millions and a half of our money, 
but which was afterwards considerably improved by the more 
exact economy of the Romans, and the increase of the trade of 
Ethiopia and India. 103 Gaul was enriched by rapine, as Egypt of * 111 
was by commerce, and the tributes of those two great provinces 
have been compared as nearly equal to each other in value. 104 The of Africa 
ten thousand Euboic or Phoenician talents, about four millions 
sterling, 105 which vanquished Carthage was condemned to pay 
within the term of fifty years, were a slight acknowledgment of 
the superiority of Rome, 106 and cannot bear the least proportion 
with the taxes afterwards raised both on the lands and on the 
persons of the inhabitants, when the fertile coast of Africa was 
reduced into a province. 107 

Spain, by a very singular fatality, was the Peru and Mexico of Spain 
of the old world. The discovery of the rich western continent 
by the Phoenicians, and the oppression of the simple natives, who 
were compelled to labour in their own mines for the benefit of 
strangers, form an exact type of the more recent history of 
Spanish America. 10S The Phoenicians were acquainted only 
with the sea coast of Spain ; avarice as well as ambition carried 
the arms of Rome and Carthage into the heart of the country, 
and almost every part of the soil was found pregnant with 
copper, silver, and gold. Mention is made of a mine near 
Carthagena which yielded every day twenty-five thousand 
drachms of silver, or about three hundred thousand pounds a 

102 Plutarch, in Pompeio, p. 642 [45. There is little doubt that Plutarch means 
they were raised to eighty-five millions.] 

103 Strabo, 1. xvii. p. 798. 

104 Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. 30. He seems to give the preference to the revenue 
of Gaul. . si 

lo;i The Euboic, the Phoenician, and Alexandrian talents, were double in weight 
to the Attic. See Hooper on ancient weights and measures, p. iv. c. 5. It is very 
probable that the same talent was carried from Tyre to Carthage. [The ratio of 
the Euboic to the Attic talent after the time of Solon was about 4 to 3.] 

ws Polyb. 1. xv. c. 2. 

107 Appian in Punicis, p. 84. 

308 Diodorus Siculus, 1. v. [37]. Cadiz was built by the Phoenicians a little more 
than a thousand years before Christ. See Veil. PatRrcul. i. a. 


year. 109 Twenty thousand pounds weight of gold was annually 
received from the provinces of Asturia, Gallicia, and Lusi- 
tania. 110 

We want both leisure and materials to pursue this curious 
inquiry through the many potent states that were annihilated in 
the Roman empire. Some notion, however, may be formed of 
the revenue of the provinces where considerable wealth had 
been deposited by nature, or collected by man, if we observe the 
severe attention that was directed to the abodes of solitude and 
sterility. Augustus once received a petition from the inhabitants 
of Gyarus, humbly praying that they might be relieved from 
one third of their excessive impositions. Their whole tax 
amounted indeed to no more than one hundred and fifty 
drachms, or about five pounds ; but Gyarus was a little island, or 
rather a rock, of the JEgean Sea, destitute of fresh water and 
every necessary of life, and inhabited only by a few wretched 
fishermen. 111 

From the faint glimmerings of such doubtful and scattered 
lights, we should be inclined to believe, 1st, That (with every 
fair allowance for the difference of times and circumstances) the 
general income of the Roman provinces could seldom amount 
to less than fifteen or twenty millions of our money ; 112 and, 
2ndly, That so ample a revenue must have been fully adequate 
to all the expenses of the moderate government instituted by 
Augustus, whose court was the modest family of a private 
senator, and whose military establishment was calculated for the 
defence of the frontiers, without any aspiring views of conquest, 
or any serious apprehension of a foreign invasion. 

Notwithstanding the seeming probability of both these con- 
clusions, the latter of them at least is positively disowned by 
the language and conduct of Augustus. It is not easy to 
determine whether, on this occasion, he acted as the common 
father of the Roman world, or as the oppressor of liberty ; 
whether he wished to relieve the provinces, or to impoverish 

i^Strabo, 1. iii. p. 148. 

110 Plin. Hist. Natur. 1. xxxiii. c. 3. He mentions likewise a silver mine in Dal- 
matic, that yielded every day fifty pounds to the state. 

ln Strabo, 1. x. p. 485. Tacit. Annal. iii. 69, and iv. 30. See in Tournefort 
(Voyages au Levant, Lettre viii.) a very lively picture of the actual misery of 

112 Lipsius de magnitude Romana (1. ii. c. iii.) computes the revenue at one 
hundred and fifty millions of gold crowns ; but his whole book, though learned and 
ingenious, betrays a very heated imagination. [For the inquiry touching the revenue 
of the empire we have not sufficient data to make even an approximate estimate.] 


the senate and the equestrian order. But no sooner had he 
assumed the reins of government than he frequently intimated 
the insufficiency of the tributes, and the necessity of throwing 
an equitable proportion of the public burden upon Rome and 
Italy. In the prosecution of this unpopular design, he advanced, 
however, by cautious and well-weighed steps. The introduction 
of customs was followed by the establishment of an excise, and 
the scheme of taxation was completed by an artful assessment 
on the real and personal property of the Roman citizens, who 
had been exempted from any kind of contribution above a 
century and a half. 

I. In a great empire like that of Rome, a natural balance ofThecMtomi 
money must have gradually established itself. It has been 
already observed that, as the wealth of the provinces was 
attracted to the capital by the strong hand of conquest and 
power, so a considerable part of it was restored to the indus- 
trious provinces by the gentle influence of commerce and arts. 
In the reign of Augustus and his successors, 113 duties were 
imposed on every kind of merchandise, which through a 
thousand channels flowed to the great centre of opulence and 
luxury ; and in whatsoever manner the law was expressed, it 
was the Roman purchaser, and not the provincial merchant, who 
paid the tax. 114 The rate of the customs varied from the eighth 
to the fortieth part of the value of the commodity ; and we 
have a right to suppose that the variation was directed by the 
unalterable maxims of policy : that a higher duty was fixed on 
the articles of luxury than on those of necessity, and that the 
productions raised or manufactured by the labour of the subjects 
of the empire were treated with more indulgence than was 
shown to the pernicious, or at least the unpopular, commerce of 
Arabia and India. 115 There is still extant a long but imperfect 
catalogue of eastern commodities, which about the time of 
Alexander Severus were subject to the payment of duties : 
cinnamon, myrrh, pepper, ginger, and the whole tribe of 
aromatics ; a great variety of precious stones, among which the 
diamond was the most remarkable for its price, and the 
emerald for its beauty : 116 Parthian and Babylonian leather, 

113 [But also in force before.] 

114 Tacit. Annal. xiii. 31. 

115 See Pliny (Hist. Natur. I. vi. c. 28, 1. xii. c. 18). His observation, that the 
Indian commodities were sold at Rome at a hundred times their original price, 
may give us some notion of the produce of the customs, since that original price 
amounted to more than eight hundred thousand pounds. 

116 The ancients were unacquainted with the art of cutting diamonds. 

11 VOL. I. 


cottons, silks, both raw and manufactured, ebony, ivory, and 
eunuchs. 117 We may observe that the use and value of those 
effeminate slaves gradually rose with the decline of the empire. 
The excise II. The excise, introduced by Augustus after the civil wars, 
was extremely moderate, but it was general. 118 It seldom 
exceeded one per cent. ; but it comprehended whatever was sold 
in the markets or by public auction, from the most considerable 
purchases of land and houses to those minute objects which can 
only derive a value from their infinite multitude and daily con- 
sumption. Such a tax, as it affects the body of the people, has 
ever been the occasion of clamour and discontent. An emperor 
well acquainted with the wants and resources of the state was 
obliged to declare, by a public edict, that the support of the 
army depended in a great measure on the produce of the 
excise. 119 
Taxoniega- III. When Augustus resolved to establish a permanent 
tiierfttnces military force for the defence of his government against foreign 
and domestic enemies, he instituted a peculiar treasury for the 
pay of the soldiers, the rewards of the veterans, and the extra- 
ordinary expenses of war. The ample revenue of the excise, 
though peculiarly appropriated to those uses, was found in- 
adequate. To supply the deficiency, the emperor suggested a 
new tax of five per cent, on all legacies and inheritances. But 
the nobles of Rome were more tenacious of property than of 
freedom. Their indignant murmurs were received by Augustus 
with his usual temper. He candidly referred the whole busi- 
ness to the senate, and exhorted them to provide for the public 
service by some other expedient of a less odious nature. They 
were divided and perplexed. He insinuated to them that their 
obstinacy would oblige him to propose a general land-tax and 
capitation. They acquiesced in silence. 120 The new imposition 
on legacies and inheritances was however mitigated by some 
restrictions. It did not take place unless the object was of a 
certain value, most probably of fifty or an hundred pieces of 
gold : 121 nor could it be exacted from the nearest of kin on the 

U7 M. Bouchaud, in his treatise de l'Impot chez les Romains, has transcribed 
this catalogue from the Digest, and attempts to illustrate it by a very prolix com- 

118 [It was imposed in Rome and Italy ; but cannot be proved for the provinces.] 

119 Tacit. Annal. i. 78. Two years afterwards, the reduction of the poor king- 
dom of Cappadocia gave Tiberius a pretence for diminishing the excise to one 
half ; but the relief was of a very short duration. 

120 Dion Cassius, 1. lv. p. 799 [25], 1. Ivi. p. 825 [28]. [This tax was introduced 
6 A.D.] 

Wl The sum is only fixed by conjecture. 


father's side. 122 When the rights of nature and property were thus 
secured, it seemed reasonable that a stranger, or a distant relation, 
who acquired an unexpected accession of fortune, should cheer- 
fully resign a twentieth part of it for the benefit of the state. 123 

Such a tax, plentiful as it must prove in every wealthy com- suited to tiio 

laws CLUd 

munity, was most happily suited to the situation of the Romans, manners 
who could frame their arbitrary wills, according to the dictates 
of reason or caprice, without any restraint from the modern 
fetters of entails and settlements. From various causes, the 
partiality of paternal affection often lost its influence over the 
stern patriots of the commonwealth and the dissolute nobles of 
the empire ; and if the father bequeathed to his son the fourth 
part of his estate, he removed all ground of legal complaint. 124 
But a rich childless old man was a domestic tyrant, and his 
power increased with his years and infirmities. A servile crowd, 
in which he frequently reckoned praetors and consuls, courted 
his smiles, pampered his avarice, applauded his follies, served 
his passions, and waited with impatience for his death. The 
arts of attendance and flattery were formed into a most lucrative 
science ; those who professed it acquired a peculiar appellation ; 
and the whole city, according to the lively descriptions of satire, 
was divided between two parties, the hunters and their game. 125 
Yet while so many unjust and extravagant wills were every day 
dictated by cunning, and subscribed by folly, a few were the 
result of rational esteem and virtuous gratitude. Cicero, who 
had so often defended the lives and fortunes of his fellow- 
citizens, was rewarded with legacies to the amount of an hundred 
and seventy thousand pounds ; 126 nor do the friends of the 
younger Pliny seem to have been less generous to that amiable 
orator. 127 Whatever was the motive of the testator, the treasury 
claimed, without distinction, the twentieth part of his estate ; 
and in the course of two or three generations, the whole property 
of the subject must have gradually passed through the coffers of 
the state. 

122 As the Roman law subsisted for many ages, the Cognati, or relations on the 
mother's side, were not called to the succession. This harsh institution was gradu- 
ally undermined by humanity, and finally abolished by Justinian. 

123 Plin. Panegyric, c. 37. [The tax was known as vicesima hereditatium, = ^ per 

124 See Heineccius in the Antiquit. Juris Romani, 1. ii. 

125 Horat. 1. ii. Sat. v. Petron. c. n6, &c. Plin. 1. ii. Epist. 20. 

126 Cicero in Philipp. ii. c. 16. 

127 See his epistles. Every such Will gave him an occasion of displaying his 
reverence to the dead, and his justice to the living. He reconciled both, in his 
behaviour to a son who had been disinherited by his mother (v. 1). 



of the empe- 

Edict of Cara- 


The freedom 
of the city 

fiven to all 
he provin- 
cials for tha 
purpose of 

In the first and golden years of the reign of Nero, that prince, 
from a desire of popularity, and perhaps from a blind impulse of 
benevolence, conceived a wish of abolishing the oppression of 
the customs and excise. The wisest senators applauded his 
magnanimity : but they diverted him from the execution of a 
design which would have dissolved the strength and resources 
of the republic. 128 Had it indeed been possible to realize this 
dream of fancy, such princes as Trajan and the Antonines would 
surely have embraced with ardour the glorious opportunity of 
conferring so signal an obligation on mankind. Satisfied, how- 
ever, with alleviating the public burden, they attempted not to 
remove it. The mildness and precision of their laws ascertained 
the rule and measure of taxation, and protected the subject of 
every rank against arbitrary interpretations, antiquated claims, 
and the insolent vexation of the farmers of the revenue. 129 
For it is somewhat singular that, in every age, the best and 
wisest of the Roman governors persevered in this pernicious 
method of collecting the principal branches at least of the excise 
and customs. 130 

The sentiments, and indeed the situation, of Caracalla were 
very different from those of the Antonines. Inattentive, or 
rather averse, to the welfare of his people, he found himself 
under the necessity of gratifying the insatiate avarice which he 
had excited in the army. Of the several impositions introduced 
by Augustus, the twentieth on inheritances and legacies was 
the most fruitful as well as the most comprehensive. As its 
influence was not confined to Rome or Italy, the produce con- 
tinually increased with the gradual extension of the Roman City. 
The new citizens, though charged on equal terms 131 with the 
payment of new taxes which had not affected them as subjects, 
derived an ample compensation from the rank they obtained, 
the privileges they acquired, and the fair prospect of honours 
and fortune that was thrown open to their ambition. But the 
favour which implied a distinction was lost in the prodigality of 
Caracalla, and the reluctant provincials were compelled to 
assume the vain title and the real obligations of Roman citizens. 
Nor was the rapacious son of Severus contented with such a 

J 28 Tacit. Annal. xiii. 5c. Esprit des Loix, 1. xii. c. 19. 

129 See Pliny's Panegyric, the Augustan History, and Burman. de Vectigal. 

130 The tributes (properly so called) were not farmed ; since the good princes 
often remitted many millions of arrears. 

131 The situation of the new citizens is minutely described by Pliny (Panegyric. 
c. 37, 38, 39). Trajan published a law very much in their favour. 


measure of taxation as had appeared sufficient to his moderate 
predecessors. Instead of a twentieth, he exacted a tenth of all 
legacies and inheritances ; and during his reign (for the ancient 
proportion was restored after his death) he crushed alike every 
part of the empire under the weight of his iron sceptre. 132 

When all the provincials became liable to the peculiar imposi- Temporaryre- 

p t» - L - ,i i . •*■■>■%' rtuction of the 

tions or Roman citizens, they seemed to acquire a legal exemp- tribute 
tion from the tributes which they had paid in their former con- 
dition of subjects. Such were not the maxims of government 
adopted by Caracalla and his pretended son. The old as well as 
the new taxes were, at the same time, levied in the provinces. 
It was reserved for the virtue of Alexander to relieve them in a 
great measure from this intolerable grievance, by reducing the 
tributes to a thirtieth part of the sum exacted at the time of his 
accession. 133 It is impossible to conjecture the motive that en- 
gaged him to spare so trifling a remnant of the public evil ; but 
the noxious weed, which had not been totally eradicated, again 
sprang up with the most luxuriant growth, and in the succeeding 
age darkened the Roman world with its deadly shade. In the 
course of this history, we shall be too often summoned to explain 
the land-tax, the capitation, and the heavy contributions of corn, 
wine, oil, and meat, which were exacted from the provinces for 
the use of the court, the army, and the capital. 

As long as Rome and Italy were respected as the centre of consequences 
government, a national spirit was preserved by the ancient, and m freedom of 
insensibly imbibed by the adopted, citizens. The principal 
commands of the army were filled by men who had received a 
liberal education, were well instructed in the advantages of laws 
and letters, and who had risen by equal steps through the 
regular succession of civil and military honours. 134 To their 
influence and example we may partly ascribe the modest obedi- 
ence of the legions during the two first centuries of the Imperial 

But when the last enclosure of the Roman constitution was 
trampled down by Caracalla, the separation of possessions gradu- 
ally succeeded to the distinction of ranks. The more polished 
citizens of the internal provinces were alone qualified to act as 

132 Dion, 1. lxxvii. p. 1295 [9]. [The tax was reduced again to 5 per cent, 
by Macrinus. By the sixth century it had altogether disappeared.] 

133 He who paid ten aurei, the usual tribute, was charged with no more than the 
third part of an aureus, and proportional pieces of gold were coined by Alexander's 
order. Hist. August, p. 127 [xviii. 39], with the commentary of Salmasius. 

134 See the lives of Agricola, Vespasian, Trajan, Severus, and his three com- 
petitors ; and indeed of all the eminent men of those times. 


lawyers and magistrates. The rougher trade of arms vas 
abandoned to the peasants and barbarians of the frontiers, who 
kneAv no country but their camp, no science but that of war, no 
civil laws, and scarcely those of military discipline. With bloody 
hands, savage manners, and desperate resolutions, they some- 
times guarded, but much oftener subverted, the throne of the 



The elevation, and tyranny, of Maximin — Rebellion in Africa and 
Italy, under the authority of the Senate — Civil Wars and Sedi- 
tions — Violent Deat/is of Maximin and his Son, of Maximus and 
Balbinus, and of the three Gordians — Usurpation and Secular 
Games of Philip 

Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in me apparent 
the world, an hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest c e * 
scope for ridicule. Is it possible to relate without an indignant 
smile, that, on the father's decease, the property of a nation, 
like that of a drove of oxen, descends to his infant son, as yet 
unknown to mankind and to himself, and that the bravest 
warriors and the wisest statesmen, relinquishing their natural 
right to empire, approach the royal ci'adle with bended knees 
and protestations of inviolable fidelity ? Satire and declamation 
may paint these obvious topics in the most dazzling colours, but 
our more serious thoughts will respect a useful prejudice, that 
establishes a rule of succession, independent of the passions of 
mankind ; and we shall cheerfully acquiesce in any expedient 
which deprives the multitude of the dangerous, and indeed the 
ideal, power of giving themselves a master. 

In the cool shade of retirement, we may easily devise imagin- and solid 
ary forms of government, in which the sceptre shall be con- of hereditary 
stantly bestowed on the most worthy by the free and incorrupt*** 
suffrage of the whole community. Experience overtui'ns these 
airy fabrics, and teaches us that in a large society the election of 
a monarch can never devolve to the wisest or to the most 
numerous part of the people. The army is the only order of 
men sufficiently united to concur in the same sentiments, and 
powerful enough to impose them on the rest of their fellow- 
citizens ; but the temper of soldiers, habituated at once to 
violence and to slavery, i*enders them very unfit guardians of a 
legal or even a civil constitution. Justice, humanity, or politi- 
cal wisdom, are qualities they are too little acquainted with in 
themselves to appreciate them in others. Valour will acquire 


their esteem, and liberality will purchase their suffrage ; but the 
first of these merits is often lodged in the most savage breasts ; 
the latter can only exert itself at the expense of the public ; and 
both may be turned against the possessor of the throne by the 
ambition of a daring rival. 
w»nt of it in The superior prerogative of birth, when it has obtained the 
empire pro- sanction of time and popular opinion, is the plainest and least 

ductive of tlis *■ 

greatest invidious of all distinctions among mankind. The acknowledged 
right extinguishes the hopes of faction, and the conscious 
security disarms the cruelty of the monarch. To the firm 
establishment of this idea we owe the peaceful succession and 
mild administration of European monarchies. To the defect of 
it we must attribute the frequent civil wars, through which an 
Asiatic despot is obliged to cut his way to the throne of his 
fathers. Yet, even in the East, the sphere of contention is 
usually limited to the princes of the reigning house, and, as soon 
as the more fortunate competitor has removed his brethren, by the 
sword and the bow-string, he no longer entertains any jealousy 
of his meaner subjects. But the Roman empire, after the autho- 
rity of the senate had sunk into contempt, was a vast scene of 
confusion. The royal, and even noble, families of the provinces 
had long since been led in triumph before the car of the haughty 
republicans. The ancient families of Rome had successively 
fallen beneath the tyranny of the Caesars ; and, whilst those 
princes were shackled by the forms of a commonwealth, and 
disappointed by the repeated failure of their posterity, 1 it was 
impossible that any idea of hereditary succession should have 
taken root in the minds of their subjects. The right to the 
throne, which none could claim from birth, every one assumed 
from merit. The daring hopes of ambition were set loose from 
the salutary restraints of law and prejudice, and the meanest of 
mankind might, without folly, entertain a hope of being raised 
by valour and fortune to a rank in the army, in which a single 
crime would enable him to wrest the sceptre of the world from 
his feeble and unpopular master. After the murder of Alex- 
ander Severus and the elevation of Maximin, no emperor could 
think himself safe upon the throne, and every barbarian peasant 
of the frontier might aspire to that august but dangerous sta- 

1 There had been no example of three successive generations on the throne ; only 
three instances of sons who succeeded their fathers. The marriages of Caesars (not- 
withstanding the permission, and the frequent practice, of divorces) were generally 


About thirty-two years before that event, the emperor Birth and for- 
Severus, returning from an Eastern expedition, halted in Thrace, Maximin 
to celebrate, with military games, the birthday of his younger 
son, Geta. The country flocked in crowds to behold their sove- 
reign, and a young barbarian of gigantic stature earnestly 
solicited, in his rude dialect, that he might be allowed to con- 
tend for the prize of wrestling. As the pride of discipline 
would have been disgraced in the overthrow of a Roman soldier 
by a Thracian peasant, he was matched with the stoutest 
followers of the camp, sixteen of whom he successively laid on 
the ground. His victory was rewarded by some trifling gifts, 
and a permission to enlist in the troops. The next day the 
happy barbarian was distinguished above a crowd of recruits, 
dancing and exulting after the fashion of his country. As soon 
as he perceived that he had attracted the emperor's notice, he 
instantly ran up to his horse, and followed him on foot, without 
the least appearance of fatigue, in a long and rapid career. 
"Thracian," said Severus, with astonishment, "art thou dis- 
posed to wrestle after thy race ? " " Most willingly, Sir," re- 
plied the unwearied youth, and, almost in a breath, overthrew 
seven of the strongest soldiers in the army. A gold collar was 
the prize of his matchless vigour and activity, and he was 
immediately appointed to serve in the horse -guards who always 
attended on the person of the sovereign. 2 

Maximin, for that was his name, though born on the terri- nis military 
tories of the empire, descended from a mixed race of barbarians, honours" 1 
His father was a Goth, and his mother of the nation of the 
Alani. 3 He displayed on every occasion a valour equal to his 
strength ; and his native fierceness was soon tempered or dis- 
guised by the knowledge of the world. Under the reign of 
Severus and his son, he obtained the rank of centurion, with the 
favour and esteem of both those princes, the former of whom 
was an excellent judge of merit. Gratitude forbade Maximin 
to serve under the assassin of Caracalla. Honour taught him to 
decline the effeminate insults of Elagabalus. On the accession 
of Alexander he returned to court, and was placed by that 
prince in a station useful to the service and honourable to him- 
self. The fourth legion, to which he was appointed tribune, 
soon became, under his care, the best disciplined of the whole 
army. With the general applause of the soldiers, who bestowed 
on their favourite hero the names of Ajax and Hercules, he was 

2 Hist. August, p. 138 [xix. 1]. 

3 [His father's name was Micca, his mother's Hababa.] 



Conspiracy of 

A.D. 235, 
March 19, 
Murder of 

successively promoted to the first military command, 4 and had 
not he still retained too much of his savage origin, the emperor 
might perhaps have given his own sister in marriage to the son 
of Maximin. 5 

Instead of securing his fidelity, these favours served only to 
inflame the ambition of the Thracian peasant, who deemed his 
fortune inadequate to his merit as long as he was constrained 
to acknowledge a superior. Though a stranger to real wisdom, 
he was not devoid of a selfish cunning, which showed him that 
the emperor had lost the affection of the army, and taught him 
to improve their discontent to his own advantage. It is easy 
for faction and calumny to shed their poison on the administra- 
tion of the best of princes, and to accuse even their virtues by art- 
fully confounding them with those vices to which they bear the 
nearest affinity. The troops listened with pleasure to the 
emissaries of Maximin. They blushed at their own ignominious 
patience, which, during thirteen years, had supported the vexa- 
tious discipline imposed by an effeminate Syrian, the timid 
slave of his mother and of the senate. It was time, they cried, 
to cast away that useless phantom of the civil power, and to 
elect for their prince and general a real soldier, educated in 
camps, exercised in war, who would assert the glory and distribute 
among his companions the treasures of the empire. A great 
army was at that time assembled on the banks of the Rhine, 
under the command of the emperor himself, who, almost im- 
mediately after his return from the Persian war, had been obliged 
to march against the barbarians of Germany. The important 
care of training and reviewing the new levies was intrusted to 
Maximin. One day, as he entered the field of exercise, the 
troops either from a sudden impulse or a formed conspiracy, 
saluted him emperor, silenced by their loud acclamations his 
obstinate refusal, and hastened to consummate their rebellion 
by the murder of Alexander Severus. 

The circumstances of his death are vaiiously related. The 
writers who suppose that he died in ignorance of the ingratitude 
and ambition of Maximin affirm that, after taking a frugal re- 
past in the sight of the army, he retired to sleep, and that about 
the seventh hour of the day a party of his own guards broke 

4 Hist. August, p. 140 [xix. 6], Herodian, 1. vi. p. 223 [8]. Aurelius Victor. 
By comparing these authors, it should seem, that Maximin had the particular 
command of the Triballian horse, with the general commission of disciplining the 
recruits of the whole arm)'. His Biographer ought to have marked, with more 
care, his exploits, and the successive steps of his military promotions. 

8 See the original letter of Alexander Severus, Hist. August, p. 149 [xix. 29]. 


into the Imperial tent, and, with many wounds, assassinated 
their virtuous and unsuspecting prince. If we credit another, 
and indeed a more probable, account, Maximin was invested 
with the purple by a numerous detachment, at the distance of 
several miles from the head quarters, and he trusted for success 
rather to the secret wishes than to the public declarations of the 
great army. Alexander had sufficient time to awaken a faint 
sense of loyalty among his troops ; but their reluctant pro- 
fessions of fidelity quickly vanished on the appearance of 
Maximin, who declared himself the friend and advocate of the 
military order, and was unanimously acknowledged emperor of 
the Romans by the applauding legions. The son of Mamaea, be- 
trayed and deserted, withdrew into his tent, desirous at least to 
conceal his approaching fate from the insults of the multitude. 
He was soon followed by a tribune and some centurions, the 
ministers of death ; but instead of receiving with manly resolu- 
tion the inevitable stroke, his unavailing cries and entreaties 
disgraced the last moments of his life, and converted into con- 
tempt some portion of the just pity which his innocence and 
misfortunes must inspire. His mother, Mamaea, whose pride 
and avarice he loudly accused as the cause of his ruin, perished 
with her son. The most faithful of his friends were sacrificed 
to the first fury of the soldiers. Others were reserved for the 
more deliberate cruelty of the usurper, and those who experienced 
mildest treatment were stripped of their employments and 
ignominiously driven from the court and army. 7 

The former tyrants Caligula and Nero, Commodus and Tyranny or 
Caracalla, Avere all dissolute and unexperienced youths, 8 educated 
in the purple, and corrupted by the pride of empire, the luxury 

6 Hist. August, p. 135 [xviii. 61] . I have softened some of the most improbable 
circumstances of this wretched biographer. From this ill-worded narration, it 
should seem that, the prince's buffoon having accidently entered the tent, and 
awakened the slumbering monarch, the fear of punishment urged him to persuade 
the disaffected soldiers to commit the murder. [The place of the event was doubt- 
less Mainz or its neighbourhood (so the Chronicle of Jerome, based on the Canon 
of Eusebius), but Lampridius, Hist. Aug. xviii. 59, and Aurelius Victor, Caesar, 
xxiv. 4, strangely place the assassination at Sicilia in Britain. I do not profess to 
understand either Britain or Sicilia. Schiller guesses a confusion with Vicus Brit- 
annicus, Bretzenheim near Mainz.] 

7 Herodian, 1. vi. p. 223-227 [8 and 9. The date of Alexander's death is March 
(18, or 19 according to Borghesi) 235. Maximin was acknowledged by the Senate 
on the 25th. J. Lohrer (de C. Julio Vero Maximino, 1883) has sought to fix the 
date as Feb. 10.] 

8 Caligula, the eldest of the four, was only twenty-five years of age when he 
ascended the throne ; Caracalla was twenty-three, Commodus nineteen, and Nero 
no more than seventeen. 


of Rome, and the perfidious voice of flattery. The cruelty of 
Maximin 9 was derived from a different source, the fear of con- 
tempt. Though he depended on the attachment of the soldiers, 
who loved him for virtues like their own, he was conscious that 
his mean and barbarian origin, his savage appearance, and his 
total ignorance of the arts and institutions of civil life, 10 formed 
a very unfavourable contrast with the amiable manners of the 
unhappy Alexander. He remembered that, in his humbler 
fortune, he had often waited before the doors of the haughty 
nobles of Rome, and had been denied admittance by the in- 
solence of their slaves. He recollected too the friendship of a 
few who had relieved his poverty, and assisted his rising hopes. 
But those who had spurned, and those who bad protected, the 
Thracian, were guilty of the same crime, the knowledge of his 
original obscurity. For this crime many were put to death ; 
and by the execution of several of his benefactors Maximin 
published, in characters of blood, the indelible history of his 
baseness and ingratitude. 11 

The dark and sanguinary soul of the tyrant was open to every 
suspicion against those among his subjects who were the most 
distinguished by their birth or merit. Whenever he was alarmed 
with the sound of treason, his cruelty was unbounded and unre- 
lenting. A conspiracy against his life was either discovered or 
imagined, and Magnus, a consular senator, was named as the 
principal author of it. Without a witness, without a trial, and 
without an opportunity of defence, Magnus, with four thousand 
of his supposed accomplices, were put to death. Italy and the 
whole empire were infested with innumerable spies and in- 
formers. On the slightest accusation, the first of the Roman 

9 [His imperial name is C. Julius Verus Maximinus.] 

10 It appears that he was totally ignorant of the Greek language ; which, from 
its universal use in conversation and letters, was an essential part of every liberal 
education. [His Latin was very imperfect.] 

11 Hist. August, p. 141 [xix. 8]. Herodian, 1. vii. p. 237 [1]. The latter of 
these historians has been most unjustly censured for sparing the vices of Maximin. 
[Gibbon is unfair to Maximin (though afterwards indeed, p. 183, in the name of 
" the candid severity of history," he partially retracts his harsh judgment). Maxi- 
min was a rude soldier, but he was thoroughly well meaning and capable. He 
was equal to the emergencies of the empire, and able to cope with the dangers on 
the Rhine and the Danube, with which Alexander had not the strength to deal. 
Like Septimius Severus, he had no sympathy with the senate, with Italy, or with 
the populace of Rome. For him the army was the popiilies Komanus. The intense 
hatred, however, which the senate conceived for him was chiefly due to the some- 
what tyrannical rule of his praetorian praefect, Vitalian, who governed at Rome 
while the emperor defended the frontiers. Numerous inscriptions testify to Maxi- 
min's activity in every province in repairing and extending roads.] 


nobles, who had governed provinces, commanded armies, and 
been adorned with the consular and triumphal ornaments, were 
chained on the public carriages, and hurried away to the em- 
peror's presence. Confiscation, exile, or simple death, were 
esteemed uncommon instances of his lenity. Some of the 
unfortunate sufferers he ordered to be sewed up in the hides of 
slaughtered animals, others to be exposed to wild beasts, others 
again to be beaten to death with clubs. During the three years 
of his reign he disdained to visit either Rome or Italy. His 
camp, occasionally removed from the banks of the Rhine to 
those of the Danube, was the seat of his stern despotism, which 
trampled on every principle of law and justice, and was supported 
by the avowed power of the sword. 12 No man of noble birth, 
elegant accomplishments, or knowledge of civil business, was 
suffered near his person ; and the court of a Roman emperor 
revived the idea of those ancient chiefs of slaves and gladiators, 
whose savage power had left a deep impression of terror and 
detestation. 13 

As long as the cruelty of Maximin was confined to the the^o^cei 
illustrious senators, or even to the bold adventurers who in the 
court or army expose themselves to the caprice of fortune, the 
body of the people viewed their sufferings with indifference, or 
perhaps with pleasure. But the tyrant's avarice, stimulated by 
the insatiate desires of the soldiers, at length attacked the 
public property. 14 Every city of the empire was possessed of an 
independent revenue, destined to purchase corn for the multi- 
tude, and to supply the expenses of the games and entertain- 
ments. By a single act of authority, the whole mass of wealth 
was at once confiscated for the use of the Imperial treasmy. The 
temples were stripped of their most valuable offerings of gold 
and silver, and the statues of gods, heroes, and emperors, were 
melted down and coined into money. These impious orders 

12 The wife of Maximin, by insinuating wise counsels with female gentleness, 
sometimes brought back the tyrant to the way of truth and humanity. See Am- 
mianus Marcellinus, xiv. i [8], where he alludes to the fact which he had more fully 
related under the reign of the Gordians. We may collect from the medals, that 
Paullina was the name of this benevolent empress ; and from the title of Diva, that 
she died before Maximin. (Valesius ad loc. cit. Ammian.) Spanheim de U. et 
P. N. torn. ii. p. 300. 

13 He was compared to Spartacus and Athenio. Hist. August, p. 141 [xix. 9]. 

14 [This is put rather unfairly. Money was wanted for the military operations on 
the frontiers ; and one can feel little indignation that the amusements of the popu- 
lace should have been postponed for the defence of the empire. Gibbon hardly 
seems to realize that Maximin's warfare was serious, and that his organization of 
the frontier defences was of capital importance.] 


could not be executed without tumults and massacres, as in 
many places the people chose rather to die in the defence of 
their altars than to behold in the midst of peace their cities 
exposed to the rapine and cruelty of war. The soldiers them- 
selves, among whom this sacrilegious plunder was distributed, 
received it with a blush ; and, hardened as they were in acts of 
violence, they dreaded the just reproaches of their friends and 
relations. Throughout the Roman world a general cry of indig- 
nation was heard, imploring vengeance on the common enemy 
of human kind ; and at length, by an act of private oppression, 
a peaceful and unarmed province was driven into rebellion 
against him. 15 
Eavoitin The procurator of Africa was a servant worthy of such a 

a rii 2 ^ 7 ' master, who considered the fines and confiscations of the rich as 
one of the most fruitful branches of the Imperial revenue. An 
iniquitous sentence had been pronounced against some opulent 
youths of that country, the execution of which would have 
stripped them of far the greater part of their patrimony. In this 
extremity, a resolution that must either complete or prevent 
their ruin was dictated by despair. A respite of three days, 
obtained with difficulty from the rapacious treasurer, was em- 
ployed in collecting from their estates a great number of slaves 
and peasants blindly devoted to the commands of their lords, 
and armed with the rustic weapons of clubs and axes. The 
leaders of the conspiracy, as they Avere admitted to the audience 
of the procurator, stabbed him with the daggers concealed 
under their garments, and, by the assistance of their tumultuary 
train, seized on the little town of Thysdrus, 16 and erected the 
standard of rebellion against the sovereign of the Roman empire. 
They rested their hopes on the hatred of mankind against 
Maximin, and they judiciously resolved to oppose to that de- 
tested tyrant an emperor whose mild virtues had already ac- 
quired the love and esteem of the Romans, and whose authority 
over the province would give weight and stability to the enter- 
prise. Gordianus, 17 their proconsul, and the object of their 
choice, refused, with unfeigned reluctance, the dangerous 

15 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 238 [3]. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 15 [13]. 

16 In the fertile territory of Byzacium, one hundred and fifty miles to the south 
of Carthage. This city was decorated, probably by the Gordians, with the title of 
colony, and with a fine amphitheatre, which is still in a very perfect state. See 
Itinerar. Wesseling, p. 59, and Shaw's Travels, p. 117. [Thysdrus is now El- 
Djemm. This revolt took place in spring 238. Eckhel, vii. 293. The chronology 
of the events of this year is hopelessly perplexing and uncertain. See App. 12.] 

17 [M. Antonius Gordianus.] 


honour, and begged with tears that they should suffer him to 
terminate in peace a long and innocent life, without staining his 
feeble age with civil blood. Their menaces compelled him to 
accept the Imperial purple, his only refuge indeed against the 
jealous cruelty of Maximin ; since, according to the reasoning of 
tyrants, those who have been esteemed worthy of the throne 
deserve death, and those who deliberate have already re- 
belled. 18 

The family of Gordianus was one of the most illustrious of the characterand 
Roman senate. On the father's side he was descended from the «fe V two n ° f 
Gracchi ; on his mother's, from the emperor Trajan. A great Gor(Uans 
estate enabled him to support the dignity of his birth, and in 
the enjoyment of it he displayed an elegant taste and beneficent 
disposition. The palace in Rome formerly inhabited by the 
great Pompey had been, during several generations, in the 
possession of Gordian's family. 19 It was distinguished by ancient 
trophies of naval victories, and decorated with the works of 
modern painting. His villa on the road to Praeneste was 
celebrated for baths of singular beauty and extent, for three 
stately rooms of an hundred feet in length, and for a magnificent 
portico, supported by two hundred columns of the four most 
curious and costly sorts of marble. 20 The public shows ex- 
hibited at his expense, and in which the people were entertained 
with many hundreds of wild beasts and gladiators, 21 seem to 
surpass the fortune of a subject; and, whilst the liberality of 
other magistrates was confined to a few solemn festivals in 
Rome, the magnificence of Gordian was repeated, when he was 
aedile, every month in the year, and extended, during his consul- 
ship, to the principal cities of Italy. He was twice elevated to 

18 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 239 [4]. Hist. August, p. 153 [xx. 7]. 

19 Hist. August, p. 152 [xx. 3]. The celebrated house of Pompey in carinis, 
was usurped by Marc Antony, and consequently became, after the Triumvir's 
death, a part of the Imperial domain. The emperor Trajan allowed and even en- 
couraged the rich senators to purchase those magnificent and useless palaces (Plin. 
Panegyric, c. 50) ; and it may seem probable, that on this occasion, Pompey's 
house came into the possession of Gordian's great-grandfather. 

20 The Claudian, the Numidian, the Carystian, and the Synnadian. The 
colours of Roman marbles have been faintly described and imperfectly distinguished. 
It appears, however, that the Carystian was a sea green, and that the marble of 
Synnada was white mixed with oval spots of purple [rose-red]. See Salmasius 
ad Hist. August, p. 164 [xx. 30]. [The Numidian was a yellow crocus.] 

21 Hist. August, p. 151, 152 [xx. 3 and 4]. He sometimes gave five hundred 
pair of Gladiators, never less than one hundred and fifty. He once gave for the 
use of the Circus one hundred Sicilian, and as many Cappadocian horses. The 
animals designed for hunting were chiefly bears, boars, bulls, stags, elks, wild 
asses, &c. Elephants and lions seem to have been appropriated to Imperial mas- 


the last-mentioned dignity, by Caracalla and by Alexander ; for 
he possessed the uncommon talent of acquiring the esteem of 
virtuous princes, without alarming the jealousy of tyrants. His 
long life was innocently spent in the study of letters and the 
peaceful honours of Rome ; and, till he was named proconsul of 
Africa by the voice of the senate and the approbation of Alex- 
ander, 22 he appears prudently to have declined the command of 
armies and the government of provinces. As long as that 
emperor lived, Africa was happy under the administration of his 
worthy representative ; after the barbarous Maximin had usurped 
the throne, Gordianus alleviated the miseries which he was 
unable to prevent. When he reluctantly accepted the purple, 
he was above fourscore years old ; a last and valuable remains 
of the happy age of the Antonines, whose virtues he revived in 
his own conduct, and celebrated in an elegant poem of thirty 
books. With the venerable proconsul, his son, who had ac- 
companied him into Africa as his lieutenant, was likewise de- 
clared emperor. His manners were less pure, but his character 
Avas equally amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two 
acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand 
volumes, attested the variety of his inclinations ; and from the 
productions which he left behind him, it appears that both the 
one and the other were designed for use rather than for ostenta- 
tion. 23 The Roman people acknowledged in the features of the 
younger Gordian the resemblance of Scipio Africanus, recollected 
with pleasure that his mother was the grand-daughter of 
Antoninus Pius, and rested the public hope on those latent 
virtues which had hitherto, as they fondly imagined, lain con- 
cealed in the luxurious indolence of a private life. 
Thcysoudt As soon as the Gordians had appeased the first tumult of a 
tion of their" popular election they removed their court to Carthage. They 
7 were received with the acclamations of the Africans, who 
honoured their virtues, and who, since the visit of Hadrian, had 
never beheld the majesty of a Roman emperor. But these vain 
acclamations neither strengthened nor confirmed the title of the 
Gordians. They were induced by principle, as well as interest, 
to solicit the approbation of the senate ; and a deputation of the 

32 See the original letter, in the Augustan History, p. 152 [xx. 5], which at once 
shows Alexander's respect for the authority of the senate, and his esteem for the 
proconsul appointed by that assembly. 

23 By each of his concubines, the younger Gordian left three or four children. 
His literary productions, though less numerous, were by no means contemp- 


noblest provincials was sent, without delay, to Rome, to relate 
and justify the conduct of their countrymen, who, having long 
suffered with patience, were at length resolved to act with 
vigour. The letters of the new princes were modest and 
respectful, excusing the necessity which had obliged them to 
accept the Imperial title, but submitting their election and their 
fate to the supreme judgment of the senate. 24 

The inclinations of the senate were neither doubtful nor The ienate 
divided. The birth and noble alliances of the Gordians had election 0/ 
intimately connected them with the most illustrious houses of 
Rome. Their fortune had created many dependants in that 
assembly, their merit had acquired many friends. Their mild 
administration opened the flattering prospect of the restoration, 
not only of the civil but even of the republican government. 
The terror of military violence, which had first obliged the senate 
to forget the murder of Alexander, and to ratify the election of 
a barbarian peasant, 25 now produced a contrary effect, and pro- 
voked them to assert the injured rights of freedom and humanity. 
The hatred of Maximin towards the senate was declared and 
implacable ; the tamest submission had not appeased his fury, 
the most cautious innocence would not remove his suspicions ; 
and even the care of their own safety urged them to share the 
fortune of an enterprise, of which (if unsuccessful) they were 
sure to be the first victims. These considerations, and perhaps 
others of a more private nature, were debated in a previous 
conference of the consuls and the magistrates. As soon as their 
resolution was decided, they convoked in the temple of Castor 
the whole body of the senate, according to an ancient form of 
secrecy, 26 calculated to awaken their attention and to conceal 
their decrees. " Conscript fathers," said the consul Syllanus, 
"the two Gordians, both of consular dignity, the one your 
proconsul, and the other your lieutenant, have been declared 
empei*ors by the general consent of Africa. Let us return 
thanks," he boldly continued, " to the youth of Thysdrus ; let 
us return thanks to the faithful people of Carthage, our generous 
deliverers from a horrid monster. — Why do you hear me thus 
coolly, thus timidly ? Why do you cast these anxious looks on 

24 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 243 [6]. Hist. August, p. 144 [xix. 14]. 

25 Quod tamen patres, dum periculosum existimant inermes armato resistere, 
approbaverunt. Aurelius Victor [Caesar. 25]. 

26 Even the servants of the house, the scribes, &c, were excluded, and their 
office was filled by the senators themselves. We are obliged to the Augustan 
History, p. 157 [xx. 12], for preserving this curious example of the old discipline 
of the commonwealth. 

12 VOL. L 


each other ? why hesitate ? Maximin is a public enemy ! may 
his enmity soon expire with him, 27 and may we long enjoy the 
prudence and felicity of Gordian the father, the valour and con- 
stancy of Gordian the son ! " 28 The noble ardour of the consul 
and declares revived the languid spirit of the senate. By an unanimous 
pubiiTenemy decree the election of the Gordians was ratified ; Maximin, his 
son, and his adherents were pronounced enemies of their country, 
and liberal rewards were offered to whomsoever had the courage 
and good fortune to destroy them. 
Assumes the During the emperor's absence a detachment of the Praetorian 
Rom'Tand ' guards remained at Rome, to protect, or rather to command, 
Italy the capital. The prsefect Vitalianus had signalized his fidelity 

to Maximin by the alacrity with which he had obeyed, and 
even prevented, the cruel mandates of the tyrant. His death 
alone could rescue the authority of the senate, and the lives of 
the senators, from a state of danger and suspense. Before their 
resolves had transpired, a quaestor and some tribunes were com- 
missioned to take his devoted life. They executed the order 
with equal boldness and success ; and, with their bloody daggers 
in their hands, ran through the streets, proclaiming to the 
people and the soldiers the news of the happy revolution. The 
enthusiasm of liberty was seconded by the promise of a large 
donative in lands and money; the statues of Maximin were 
thrown down ; the capital of the empire acknowledged, with 
transport, the authority of the two Gordians and the senate ; * 9 
and the example of Rome was followed by the rest of Italy. 
and prepares A new spirit had arisen in that assembly, whose long patience 

fnr n ffiHl war ■* - • T •! • ■ 1* 

had been insulted by wanton despotism and military licence. 
The senate assumed the reins of government, and, with a calm 
intrepidity, prepared to vindicate by arms the cause of freedom. 
Among the consular senators recommended by their merit and 
services to the favour of the emperor Alexander, it was easy to 
select twenty, not unequal to the command of an army and the 
conduct of a war. 30 To these was the defence of Italy intrusted. 
Each was appointed to act in his respective department, 
authorized to enrol and discipline the Italian youth, and in- 
structed to fortify the ports and highways against the impending 

27 [The Latin text has a confident future ; difacient ut esse iani desinat. Gibbon 
renders it as if it were faciant.~\ 

28 This spirited speech, translated from the Augustan historian, p. 156 [xx. 11] , 
seems transcribed by him from the original registers of the senate. 

2 9Herodian, 1. vii. p. 244 [6], 

30 [Compare Herodian, viii. 5, 5, with Zosimus, i. 14, and Hist. Aug. xxi. 10.] 

for a civil war 


invasion of Maximin. A number of deputies, chosen from the 
most illustrious of the senatorian and equestrian orders, were 
despatched at the same time to the governors of the several 
provinces, earnestly conjuring them to fly to the assistance of 
their country, and to remind the nations of their ancient ties of 
friendship with the Roman senate and people. The general 
respect with which these deputies were received, and the zeal 
of Italy and the provinces in favour of the senate, sufficiently 
prove that the subjects of Maximin were reduced to that un- 
common distress, in which the body of the people has more to 
fear from oppression than from resistance. The consciousness of 
that melancholy truth inspires a degree of persevering fury 
seldom to be found in those civil wars which are artificially 
supported for the benefit of a few factious and designing- 
leaders. 31 

For, while the cause of the Gordians was embraced with such Defeat and 
diffusive ardour, the Gordians themselves were no more. The two Gordians 
feeble court of Carthage was alarmed with the rapid approach 3rd ivay '[238, 
of Capelianus, governor of Mauritania, 32 who, with a small AprU1 
band of veterans 33 and a fierce host of barbarians, attacked a 
faithful but unwarlike province. The younger Gordian sallied 
out to meet the enemy at the head of a few guards, and a 
numerous undisciplined multitude, educated in the peaceful 
luxury of Carthage. His useless valour served only to procure 
him an honourable death in the field of battle. His aged father, 
whose reign had not exceeded thirty-six days, put an end to his 
life on the first news of the defeat. Carthage, destitute of 
defence, opened her gates to the conqueror, and Africa was 
exposed to the rapacious cruelty of a slave, obliged to satisfy his 
unrelenting master with a large account of blood and treasure. 34 

31 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 247 [7], 1. viii. p. 277 [6]. Hist. August, p. 156-158 [xx, 
13 sgq.~\. [See Corp. Insc. Lat. iii. 1422, 1423, 1456.] 

32 [Not of Mauritania, but of Numidia. See C. I. L. viii. 2170.] 

33 [The legion iii. Augusta.] 

34 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 254 [9]. Hist. August, p. 158-160 [xx. 15 sgg.~\. We 
may observe that one month and six days for the reign of Gordian is a just cor- 
rection of Casaubon and Panvinius, instead of the absurd reading of one year and 
six months. See Commentar. p. 193. Zosimus relates, 1. i. p. 17 [16] . that the two 
Gordians perished by a tempest in the midst of their navigation. A strange ignor- 
ance of history, or a strange abuse of metaphors ! [The date of the death of the 
Gordians is now known to be 238, but the month is uncertain. Sec Appendix 12. 
The meeting of the senate is stated to have taken place on the 9th June or July 
(see next note). It is clear that this meeting followed quickly on the news from 
Africa ; the words of Capitolinus are — senatus praetrepidus in aedem Concofdiae 
concurrit. Thus the view of Eckhel and Clinton that the Gordians fell in April, 
or March, 238, implies the rejection of this date.] 



the senate, 
Dta July 

Election of The fate of the Gordians filled Rome with just, but unexpected, 
Baibinusby terror. The senate, convoked in the temple of Concord, affected 
to transact the common business of the day ; and seemed to de- 
cline, with trembling anxiety, the consideration of their own, 
and the public, danger. A silent consternation prevailed on the 
assembly, till a senator, of the name and family of Trajan, 
awakened his brethren from their fatal lethargy. He represented 
to them that the choice of cautious dilatory measures had been 
long since out of their power ; that Maximin, implacable by 
nature and exasperated by injuries, was advancing towards Italy, 
at the head of the military force of the empire ; and that their 
only remaining alternative was either to meet him bravely in 
the field, or tamely to expect the tortures and ignominious death 
reserved for unsuccessful rebellion. "We have lost," continued 
he, " two excellent princes ; but, unless we desert ourselves, the 
hopes of the republic have not perished with the Gordians. 
Many are the senators whose virtues have deserved, and whose 
abilities would sustain, the Imperial dignity. Let us elect two 
emperors, one of whom may conduct the war against the public 
enemy, whilst his colleague remains at Rome to direct the civil 
administration. I cheerfully expose myself to the danger and 
envy of the nomination, and give my vote in favour of Maximus 
and Balbinus. Ratify my choice, conscript fathers, or appoint, 
in their place, others more worthy of the empire." The general 
apprehension silenced the whispers of jealousy; the merit of the 
candidates was universally acknowledged ; and the house re- 
sounded with the sincere acclamations of " Long life and victory 
to the Emperors Maximus and Balbinus. You are happy in the 
judgment of the senate ; may the republic be happy under your 
administration ! " 35 

The virtues and the reputation of the new emperors justified 
the most sanguine hopes of the Romans. The various nature of 
their talents seemed to appropriate to each his peculiar depart- 
ment of peace and war, without leaving room for jealous emula- 
tion. Balbinus was an admired orator, a poet of distinguished 
fame, and a wise magistrate, who had exercised with innocence 
and applause the civil jurisdiction in almost all the interior 
provinces of the empire. His birth was noble, 36 his fortune 

35 See the Augustan History, p. 166 [xxi. i], from the registers of the senate; 
the date is confessedly faulty, but the coincidence of the Apollinarian games 
enables us to correct it. [Iunias in Hist. Aug. xxi. i, is supposed to be a mere 
slip of the pen for Iulias.] 

36 He was descended from Cornelius Bnlbns, a noble Spaniard, and the adopted 
son of Theophanes the Greek historian. Balbus obtained the freedom of Rome by 

Their char 


affluent, his manners liberal and affable. In him, the love of 
pleasure was corrected by a sense of dignity, nor had the habits 
of ease deprived him of a capacity for business. The mind 
of Maximus 37 was formed in a rougher mould. By his valour 
and abilities he had raised himself from the meanest origin to 
the first employments of the state and army. His victories over 
the Sarmatians and the Germans, the austerity of his life, and 
the rigid impartiality of his justice whilst he was praefect of the 
city, commanded the esteem of a people whose affections were 
engaged in favour of the more amiable Balbinus. The two 
colleagues had both been consul (Balbinus had twice enjoyed 
that honourable office), both had been named among the twenty 
lieutenants of the senate ; and, since the one was sixty and the 
other seventy-four years old, 38 they had both attained the full 
maturity of age and experience. 

After the senate had conferred on Maximus and Balbinus an Tumult at 
equal portion of the consular and tribunitian powers, the title of younger" 16 
Fathers of their country, and the joint office of Supreme Pontiff, declared'" 
they ascended to the Capitol to return thanks to the gods, Cssar 
protectors of Rome. 39 The solemn rites of sacrifice were dis- 
turbed by a sedition of the people. The licentious multitude 
neither loved the rigid Maximus, nor did they sufficiently fear the 
mild and humane Balbinus. Their increasing numbers sur- 
rounded the temple of Jupiter ; with obstinate clamours they 
asserted their inherent right of consenting to the election of 
their sovereign : and demanded, with an apparent moderation, 
that, besides the two emperors chosen by the senate, a third 
should be added of the family of the Gordians, as a just return 
of gratitude to those princes who had sacrificed their lives for the 
republic. At the head of the city guards and the youth of the 

the favour of Pompey, and preserved it by the eloquence of Cicero (see Orat. pro 
Cornel. Balbo). The friendship of Caesar (to whom he rendered the most impor- 
tant secret services in the civil war) raised him to the consulship and the pontificate, 
honours never yet possessed by a stranger. The nephew of this Balbus triumphed 
over the Garamantes. See Dictionnaire de Bayle, au mot Balbus, where he dis- 
tinguishes the several persons of that name, and rectifies, with his usual accuracy, 
the mistakes of former writers concerning them. [The full name of Balbinus was 
D. Caelius Calvinus Balbinus.] 

37 [M. Clodius Pupienus Maximus (on coins Pupienus, in African inscriptions 

33 Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 622 [17]. But little dependence is to be had on the autho- 
rity of a modern Greek, so grossly ignorant of the history of the third century that 
he creates several imaginary emperors, and confounds those who really existed. 

39 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 256 [10] , supposes that the senate was at first convoked 
in the Capitol, and is very eloquent on the occasion. The Augustan History, p. 
?66 [xxi. 3], seems much more authentic. 



Maximin pre 
pares to 
attack the 
senate and 
their em- 

equestrian order. Maximus and Balbinus attempted to cut their 
way through the seditious multitude. The multitude, armed 
with sticks and stones, drove them back into the Capitol. It is 
prudent to yield, when the contest, whatever may be the issue 
of it, must be fatal to both parties. A boy, only thirteen years 
of age, the grandson of the elder and nephew of the younger 
Gordian, was produced to the people, invested with the orna- 
ments and title of Caesar. 40 The tumult, was appeased by this 
easy condescension ; and the two emperors, as soon as they 
had been peaceably acknowledged in Rome, prepared to defend 
Italy against the common enemy. 

Whilst in Rome and Africa revolutions succeeded each other 
with such amazing rapidity, the mind of Maximin was agitated 
by the most furious passions. He is said to have received the 
news of the rebellion of the Gordians, and of the decree of the 
senate against him, not with the temper of a man, but the rage 
of a wild beast ; which, as it could not discharge itself on the 
distant senate, threatened the life of his son, of his friends, 
and of all who ventured to approach his person. The grateful in- 
telligence of the death of the Gordians was quickly followed by 
the assurance that the senate, laying aside all hopes of pardon 
or accommodation, had substituted in their room two emperors, 
with whose merit he could not be unacquainted. Revenge was 
the only consolation left to Maximin, and revenge could only be 
obtained by arms. The strength of the legions had been 
assembled by Alexander from all parts of the empire. Three 
successful campaigns against the Germans and the Sarmatians 41 
had raised their fame, confirmed their discipline, and even in- 
creased their numbers, by filling the ranks with the flower of 
the barbarian youth. The life of Maximin had been spent in 
war, and the candid severity of history cannot refuse him the 
valour of a soldier, or even the abilities of an experienced 
general. 4 " 2 It might naturally be expected that a prince of such 
a character, instead of suffering the rebellion to gain stability by 
delay, should immediately have marched from the banks of the 

40 [It is worthy of notice that he was not adopted as son by either of the Augusti, 
as was usual in such cases.] 

41 [On the Rhine against the Germans 235 and 236, on the Danube against Sar- 
matians and Dacians in 237. Hence the titles Germanicus, Daciais, Sarmaticus 
which his son also bore.] 

42 In Herodian, 1. vii. p. 249 [8], and in the Augustan History [xix. 18 ; xx. 14] 
we have three several orations of Maximin to his army, on the rebellion of Africa 
and Rome : M. de Tillemont has very justly observed, that they neither agree with 
each other, nor with truth. Histoire des Empereurs, torn. iii. p. 799. 


Danube to those of the Tiber, and that his victorious army, 
instigated by contempt for the senate, and eager to gather the 
spoils of Italy, should have burned with impatience to finish the 
easy and lucrative conquest. Yet, as far as we can trust to the 
obscure chronology of that period, 43 it appears that the operations 
of some foreign war deferred the Italian expedition till the 
ensuing spring. From the prudent conduct of Maximin, we may 
learn that the savage features of his character have been exag- 
gerated by the pencil of party ; that his passions, however 
impetuous, submitted to the force of reason ; and that the 
barbarian possessed something of the generous spirit of Sylla, 
who subdued the enemies of Rome before he suffered himself to 
revenge his private injuries. 44 

When the troops of Maximin, advancing 45 in excellent order, Marches into 
arrived at the foot of the Julian Alps, they were terrified by 23I, February 
the silence and desolation that reigned on the frontiers of Italy. 
The villages and open toAvns had been abandoned, on their 
approach, by the inhabitants, the cattle was driven away, the 
provisions removed or destroyed, the bridges broken down, nor 
was anything left which could afford either shelter or subsist- 
ence to an invader. Such had been the wise orders of the 
generals of the senate, whose design was to protract the war, 
to ruin the army of Maximin by the slow operation of famine, 
and to consume his strength in the sieges of the principal cities 
of Italy, which they had plentifully stored with men and pro- 
visions from the deserted country. Aquileia received and with- 
stood the first shock of the invasion. The streams that issue siege of 
from the head of the Hadriatic gulf, swelled by the melting of q 
the winter snows, 46 opposed an unexpected obstacle to the arms 

43 The carelessness of the writers of that age leaves us in a singular perplexity. 
1. We know that Maximus and Balbinus were killed during the Capitoline games. 
Herodian, 1. viii. p. 285 [8]. The authority of Censorinus (de Die Natali, c. 18) 
enables us to fix those games with certainty to the year 238, but leaves us in ignor- 
ance of the month or day. 2. The election of Gordian by the senate is fixed, with 
equal certainty, to the 27th of May ; but we are at a loss to discover, whether it 
was in the same or the preceding year. Tillemont and Muratori, who maintain 
the two opposite opinions, bring into the field a desultory troop of authorities, 
conjectures and probabilities. The one seems to draw out, the other to contract, 
the series of events, between those periods, more than can be well reconciled to 
reason and history. Yet it is necessary to choose between them. [See further 
Appendix 12.] 

•"Velleius Paterculus, 1. ii. c. 24. The president de Montesquieu (in his 
dialogue between Sylla and Eucrates) expresses the sentiments of the dictator in 
a spirited and even sublime manner. 

45 [From Sirmium.] 

46 Muratori (Annali d'ltalia, torn. ii. p. 294) thinks the melting of the snows 
suits better with the months of June or July, than with that of February. The 


of Maximin. At length, on a singular bridge, constructed, with 
art and difficulty, of large hogsheads, he transported his army to 
the opposite bank, rooted up the beautiful vineyards in the 
neighbourhood of Aquileia, demolished the suburbs, and employed 
the timber of the buildings in the engines and towers with which 
on every side he attacked the city. The walls, fallen to decay 
during the security of a long peace, had been hastily repaired 
on this sudden emergency ; but the firmest defence of Aquileia 
consisted in the constancy of the citizens ; all ranks of whom, 
instead of being dismayed, were animated by the extreme 
danger, and their knowledge of the tyrant's unrelenting temper. 
Their courage was supported and directed by Crispinus and 
Menophilus, two of the twenty lieutenants of the senate, who, 
with a small body of regular troops, had thrown themselves 
into the besieged place. The army of Maximin was repulsed in 
repeated attacks, his machines destroyed by showers of artificial 
fire ; and the generous enthusiasm of the Aquileians was 
exalted into a confidence of success, by the opinion that Belenus, 
their tutelar deity, combated in person in the defence of his dis- 
tressed worshippers. 47 

The Emperor Maximus, who had advanced as far as Ravenna 
to secure that important place, and to hasten the military pre- 
parations, beheld the event of the war in the more faithful 
mirror of reason and policy. He was too sensible that a single 
town could not resist the persevering efforts of a great army ; 
and he dreaded lest the enemy, tired with the obstinate re- 
sistance of Aquileia, should on a sudden relinquish the fruitless 
siege and march directly towards Rome. The fate of the empire 
and the cause of freedom must then be committed to the chance 
of a battle ; and what arms could he oppose to the veteran 
legions of the Rhine and Danube ? Some troops newly levied 
among the generous but enervated youth of Italy, and a body of 

opinion of a man who passed his life between the Alps and the Apennines is un- 
doubtedly of great weight ; yet I observe, i. That the long winter, of which 
Muratori takes advantage, is to be found only in the Latin version, and not in the 
Creek text, of Herodian. 2. That the vicissitude of suns and rains, to which the 
soldiers of Maximin were exposed (Herodian, 1. viii. p. 277 [5]), denotes the spring 
rather than the summer. We may observe likewise, that these several streams, as 
they melted into one, composed the Timavus, so poetically (in every sense of the 
word) described by Virgil. They are about twelve miles to the east of Aquileia. 
See Cluver. Italia Antiqua, torn. i. p. 189, &c. 

4 ? Herodian, 1. viii. p. 272 [3]. The Celtic deity was supposed to be Apollo, 
and received under that name the thanks of the senate. A temple was likewise 
built to Venus the Bald, in honour of the women of Aquileia, who had given up 
their hair to make ropes for the military engines. 


German auxiliaries, on whose firmness, in the hour of trial, it was 
dangerous to depend. In the midst of these just alarms, the 
stroke of domestic conspiracy punished the crimes of Maximin 
and delivered Rome and the senate from the calamities 
that would surely have attended the victory of an enrageo 

The people of Aquileia had scarcely experienced any of the Murder of 

r . . r • .1 . J . i ■■/• n Maiimin and 

common miseries or a siege; their magazines were plentifully his son, 
supplied, and several fountains within the walls assured them April 
of an inexhaustible resource of fresh water. The soldiers of 
Maximin were, on the contrary, exposed to the inclemency of 
the season, the contagion of disease, and the horrors of famine. 
The naked country was ruined, the rivers filled with the slain and 
polluted with blood. A spirit of despair and disaffection began 
to diffuse itself among the troops ; and, as they were cut off from 
all intelligence, they easily believed that the whole empire had 
embraced the cause of the senate, and that they were left as 
devoted victims to perish under the impregnable walls of 
Aquileia. The fierce temper of the tyrant was exasperated by 
disappointments, which he imputed to the cowardice of his 
army ; and his wanton and ill-timed cruelty, instead of striking 
terror, inspired hatred and a just desire of revenge. A party of 
Praetorian guards, who trembled for their wives and children in 
the camp of Alba, near Rome, executed the sentence of the 
senate. Maximin, abandoned by his guards, was slain in his 
tent, with his son (whom he had associated to the honours of 
the purple), Anulinus the praefect, and the principal ministers of 
his tyranny. 48 The sight of their heads, borne on the point of 
spears, convinced the citizens of Aquileia that the siege was at 
an end ; the gates of the city were thrown open, a liberal market 
was provided for the hungry troops of Maximin, and the whole 
army joined in solemn protestations of fidelity to the senate and 
people of Rome, and to their lawful emperors Maximus and 
Balbinus. Such was the deserved fate of a brutal savage, His portrait 
destitute, as he has generally been represented, of every senti- 
ment that distinguishes a civilized, or even a human, being. 
The body was suited to the soul. The stature of Maximin 
exceeded the measure of eight feet, and circumstances almost 

^Herodian, 1. viii. p. 279 [5]. Hist. August, p. 146 [xix. 23]. The duration 
of Maximin's reign has not been defined with much accuracy, except by Eutropius, 
who allows him three years and a few days (1. ix. 1); we may depend on the 
integrity of the text, as the Latin original is checked by the Greek version of 
Pasanius (see Appendix 1). 

Roman world 


incredible are related of his matchless strength and appetite. 49 
Had he lived in a less enlightened age, tradition and poetry 
might well have described him as one of those monstrous giants, 
whose supernatural power was constantly exerted for the destruc- 
tion of mankind. 

joy of the It is easier to conceive than to describe the universal joy of the 

Roman world on the fall of the tyrant, the news of which is said 
to have been carried in four days from Aquileia to Rome. The 
return of Maximus was a triumphal procession ; his colleague 
and young Gordian went out to meet him, and the three princes 
made their entry into the capital, attended by the ambassadors 
of almost all the cities of Italy, saluted with the splendid offerings 
of gratitude and superstition, and received with the unfeigned 
acclamations of the senate and people, who persuaded themselves 
that a golden age would succeed to an age of iron. 50 The 
conduct of the two emperors corresponded with these expecta- 
tions. They administered justice in person ; and the rigour of 
the one was tempered by the other's clemency. The oppressive 
taxes with which Maximin had loaded the rights of inheritance 
and succession were repealed, or at least moderated. Discipline 
'was revived, and with the advice of the senate many wise laws 
were enacted by their Imperial ministers, who endeavoured to 
restore a civil constitution on the ruins of military tyranny. 
" What reward may we expect for delivering Rome from a 
monster ? " was the question asked by Maximus, in a moment of 
freedom and confidence. Balbinus answered it without hesita- 
tion, " The love of the senate, of the people, and of all mankind". 
"Alas I" replied his more penetrating colleague, "Alas! I dread 
the hatred of the soldiei's, and the fatal effects of their resent- 
ment." 01 His apprehensions were but too well justified by the 

sedition at Whilst Maximus was preparing to defend Italy against the 
common foe, Balbinus, who remained at Rome, had been engaged 
in scenes of blood and intestine discord. Distrust and jealousy 
reigned in the senate ; and even in the temples where they 

49 Eight Roman feet and one third, which are equal to above eight English feet, as 
the two measures are to each other in the proportion of 967 to 1000. See Graves's 
discourse on the Roman foot. We are told that Maximin could drink in a day an 
amphora (or about seven gallons) of wine and eat thirty or forty pounds of meat. He 
could move a loaded waggon, break a horse's leg with his fist, crumble stones in his 
hand, and tear up small trees by the roots. See his Life in the Augustan History. 

50 See the congratulatory letter of Claudius Julianus the consul, to the two 
emperors, in the Augustan History [xxi. 17]. 

si Hist. August, p. 171 [xxi. 15]. 



assembled every senator carried either open or concealed arms. 
In the midst of their deliberations, two veterans of the guards, 
actuated either by cui'iosity or a sinister motive, audaciously 
thrust themselves into the house, and advanced by degrees 
beyond the altar of Victory. Gallicanus, a consular, and 
Maecenas, a praetorian senatoi', viewed with indignation their 
insolent intrusion : drawing their daggers, they laid the spies, 
for such they deemed them, dead at the foot of the altar, and 
then, advancing to the door of the senate, imprudently exhorted 
the multitude to massacre the Praetorians as the secret adherents 
of the tyrant. Those who escaped the first fury of the tumult 
took refuge in the camp, which they defended with superior 
advantage against the reiterated attacks of the people, assisted 
by the numerous bands of gladiators, the property of opulent 
nobles. The civil war lasted many days, Avith infinite loss and 
confusion on both sides. When the pipes were broken that 
supplied the camp with water, the Praetorians were reduced to 
intolerable distress; but, in their turn, they made desperate sallies 
into the city, set fire to a great number of houses, and filled the 
streets with the blood of the inhabitants. The emperor Balbinus 
attempted, by ineffectual edicts and precarious truces, to re- 
concile the factions of Rome. But their animosity, though 
smothered for a while, burnt with redoubled violence. The 
soldiers, detesting the senate and the people, despised the weak- 
ness of a prince who wanted either the spirit or the power to 
command the obedience of his subjects. 52 

After the tyrant's death his formidable army had acknowledged, Discontent or 
from necessity rather than from choice, the authority of Maximus, gutrdf 
who transported himself without delay to the camp before 
Aquileia. As soon as he had received their oath of fidelity he 
addressed them in terms full of mildness and moderation ; 
lamented rather than arraigned the wild disorders of the times, 
and assured the soldiers that, of all their past conduct, the 
senate would remember only their generous desertion of the 
tyrant and their voluntary return to their duty. Maximus en- 
forced his exhortations by a liberal donative, purified the camp 
by a solemn sacrifice of expiation, and then dismissed the legions 
to their several provinces, impressed, as he hoped, with a lively 
sense of gratitude and obedience. 53 But nothing could reconcile 
the haughty spirit of the Praetorians. They attended the em- 
perors on the memorable day of their public entry into Rome : 

^Herodian, 1. viii. p. 258 [12]. ^ Herodian, 1. viii. p. 213 [7I, 


but, amidst the general acclamations, the sullen dejected 
countenance of the guards sufficiently declared that they con- 
sidered themselves as the object, rather than the partners, of the 
triumph. When the whole body was united in their camp, those 
who had served under Maximin, and those who had remained at 
Rome, insensibly communicated to each other their complaints 
and apprehensions. The emperors chosen by the army had 
perished with ignominy ; those elected by the senate were 
seated on the throne. 54 The long discord between the civil and 
military powers was decided by a war in which the former had 
obtained a complete victory. The soldiers must now learn a 
new doctrine of submission to the senate ; and, whatever 
clemency was affected by that politic assembly, they dreaded a 
slow revenge, coloured by the name of discipline, and justified 
by fair pretences of the public good. But their fate was still in 
their own hands ; and, if they had courage to despise the vain 
terrors of an impotent republic, it was easy to convince the world 
that those who were masters of the arms were masters of the 
authority of the state. 
Massacre of When the senate elected two pi-inces, it is probable that, be- 
BaibiSL s an sides the declared reason of providing for the various emergen- 
cies of peace and wai*, they were actuated by the secret desire 
of weakening by division the despotism of the supreme magis- 
trate. Their policy was effectual, but it proved fatal both to 
their emperors and to themselves. The jealousy of power was 
soon exasperated by the difference of character. Maximus 
despised Balbinus as a luxurious noble, and was in his turn 
disdained by his colleague as an obscure soldier. Their silent 
discord was understood rather than seen ; 55 but the mutual con- 
sciousness prevented them from uniting in any vigorous measures 
of defence against their common enemies of the Praetorian camp. 
ad. 233, The whole city was employed in the Capitoline games, and the 
emperors were left almost alone in the palace. On a sud- 
den they were alarmed by the approach of a troop of desperate 
assassins. Ignorant of each other's situation or designs, for they 
already occupied very distant apartments, afraid to give or to 

04 The observation had been made imprudently enough in the acclamations of 
the senate, and with regard to the soldiers it carried the appearance of a wanton 
insult. Hist. August, p. 170 [xxi. 12]. 

55 Discordise tacitoe et quas intelligerentur potius quam viderentur. Hist. 
August, p. 170 [xxi. 14]. This well chosen expression is probably stolen from 
some better writer. [On the coins, however, we see amor mutuus, concordia Augg. . 
&c. It was arranged that Balbinus should undertake the war on the Danube, 
Pupienus that on the Euphrates.] 

July 15 


receive assistance, they wasted the important moments in idle 
debates and fruitless recriminations. The arrival of the guards 
put an end to the vain strife. They seized on these emperors 
of the senate, for such they called them with malicious contempt, 
stripped them of their garments, and dragged them in insolent 
triumph through the streets of Rome, with a design of inflicting 
a slow and cruel death on these unfortunate princes. The fear 
of a rescue from the faithful Germans of the Imperial guards 
shortened their tortures ; and their bodies, mangled with a 
thousand wounds, were left exposed to the insults or to the pity 
of the populace. 56 

In the space of a few months six princes had been cut off by The third 
the sword. Gordian, who had already received the title of mains sola* 
Caesar, was the only person that occurred to the soldiers as empero 
proper to fill the vacant throne. 57 They carried him to the camp 
and unanimously saluted him Augustus and Emperor. 58 His 
name was dear to the senate and people ; his tender age pro- 
mised a long impunity of military licence ; and the submission 
of Rome and the provinces to the choice of the Praetorian guards 
saved the republic, at the expense indeed of its freedom and 
dignity, from the horrors of a new civil war in the heart of the 
capital. 59 

As the third Gordian was only nineteen years of age at the innocence and 
time of his death, the history of his life, were it known to us Indian 01 
with greater accuracy than it really is, would contain little more 
than the account of his education and the conduct of the minis- 
ters who by turns abused or guided the simplicity of his inex- 
perienced youth. Immediately after his accession he fell into 
the hands of his mother's eunuchs, that pernicious vermin of the 
East, who, since the days of Elagabalus, had infested the Roman 
palace. By the artful conspiracy of these wretches an impene- 

58 Herodian, 1. viii. p. 287, 288 [8]. [The date is probably August ; see 
Appendix 12. Gibbon pccepted 15th July.] 

67 Quia non alius erat in praesenti, is the expression of the Augustan History 
[xxi. 14]. 

88 [Before 29th August, as is proved by Alexandrine coins.] 

59 Quintus Curtius (1. x. c. 9), pays an elegant compliment to the emperor of 
the day, for having, by his happy accession, extinguished so many fire-brands, 
sheathed so many swords, and put an end to the evils of a divided government. 
After weighing with attention every word of the passage, I am of opinion that it 
suits better with the elevation of Gordian than with any other period of the Roman 
History. In that case, it may serve to decide the age of Quintus Curtius. Those 
who place him under the first Ccesars argue from the purity of his style, but are 
embarrassed by the silence of Quintilian in his accurate list of Roman historians. 
It is now srmrrally agreed to place Curtius in the reign of Nero ; but of his life we 
know nothing.] 


trable veil was drawn between an innocent prince and his 
oppressed subjects, the virtuous disposition of Gordian was 
deceived, and the honours of the empire sold without his know- 
ledge, though in a very public manner, to the most worthless of 
mankind. We are ignorant by what fortunate accident the 
emperor escaped from this ignominious slavery, and devolved 
his confidence on a minister whose wise counsels had no object 
except the glory of the sovereign and the happiness of the 
people. It should seem that love and learning introduced Misi- 
a.d.240, theus 60 to the favour of Gordian. The young prince married the 
ttoifofMisi- daughter of his master of rhetoric, and promoted his father- 
in-law to the first offices of the empire. Two admirable letters 
that passed between them are still extant. The minister, with the 
conscious dignity of virtue, congratulates Gordian that he is de- 
livered from the tyranny of the eunuchs, 61 and still more, that 
he is sensible of his deliverance. The emperor acknowledges, 
with an amiable confusion, the errors of his past conduct ; and 
laments, with singular propriety, the misfortune of a monarch 
from whom a venal tribe of courtiers perpetually labour to con- 
ceal the truth. 62 
The Persian The life of Misitheus had been spent in the profession of 
letters, not of arms ; yet such was the versatile genius of that 
great man that, when he was appointed Praetorian praefect, he 
discharged the military duties of his place with vigour and 
ability. The Persians had invaded Mesopotamia, and threatened 
Antioch. By the persuasion of his father-in-law, the young 
emperor quitted the luxury of Rome, opened, for the last time 
recorded in history, the temple of Janus, and marched in person 
into the East. 63 On his approach with a great army, the Persians 
withdrew their garrisons from the cities which they had already 

60 [The true name of this minister was C. Furius Sabinius Aquila Timesitheus. 
His name occurs on inscriptions. Gibbon calls him Misitheus after the Augustan 
History. The marriage of Gordian with his daughter, Tranquillina, is placed too 
early by Gibbon (240 A.D.). Alexandrine coins prove that it took place in the 
fourth tribunate of the emperor, between 30th August 241 and 29th August 242.] 

61 Hist. August, p. 161 [xx. 24 and 25] . From some hints in the two letters, I 
should expect that the eunuchs were not expelled the palace without some degree 
of gentle violence, and that young Gordian rather approved of, than consented to, 
their disgrace. 

63 Duxit uxorem filiam Misithei, quern causa eloquentiaa dignum parentela sua 
putavit ; et prsefectum statim fecit ; post quod non puerile jam et contemptibile 
videbatur imperium [ib. 23]. 

63 [The army of Gordian halted on its way and cleared Thrace of barbarian 
invaders, Alans, Goths, and Sarmatians. It has been conjectured that on this 
occasion Viminncium was made a colonia.] 


taken, and retired from the Euphrates to the Tigris. 64 Gordian 
enjoyed the pleasure of announcing to the senate the first 
success of his arms, which he ascribed with a becoming modesty 
and gratitude to the wisdom of his father and praefect. During 
the whole expedition, Misitheus watched over the safety and 
discipline of the army ; whilst he prevented their dangerous 
murmurs by maintaining a regular plenty in the camp, and by 
establishing ample magazines of vinegar, bacon, straw, barley, 
and wheat, in all the cities of the frontier. 65 But the prosperity 
of Gordian expired with Misitheus, who died of a flux, not with- 
out veiy strong suspicions of poison. Philip, his successor in a jo. :«, 
the prefecture, was an Arab by birth, and consequently, in the ™p 
earlier part of his life, a robber by profession. His rise from so 
obscure a station to the first dignities of the empire seems to 
prove that he was a bold and able leader. But his boldness 
prompted him to aspire to the throne, and his abilities were 
employed to supplant, not to serve, his indulgent master. The 
minds of the soldiers were irritated by an artificial scarcity, 
created by his contrivance in the camp ; and the distress of the 
army was attributed to the youth and incapacity of the prince. 
It is not in our power to trace the successive steps of the secret 
conspiracy and open sedition which were at length fatal to 
Gordian. A sepulchral monument was erected to his memory Murder of 

i cfii i liii -i n pi Gordian, 

on the spot Dt> where he was killed, near the conflux or the a.d. zm 
Euphrates with the little river Aboras. 67 The fortunate Philip, 
raised to the empire by the votes of the soldiers, found a ready 
obedience from the senate and the provinces. 08 

64 [The successes were due to the abilities of Timesitheus. Carrhae and Nisibis, 
which, along with Hatra, had been taken by Sapor in his invasion of 241 A.D., 
were recovered, and the Roman army, having defeated the Persians at Resaina, 
prepared to march on Ctesiphon.] 

65 Hist. August, p. 162 [xx. 27J. Aurelius Victor [Caesar. 27]. Porphyrius in 
Vit. Plotin. ap. Fabricium Biblioth. Graec. 1. iv. c. 36 [c. 3, p. 103, ed. Westermann 
and Boissonade] . The philosopher Plotinus accompanied the army, prompted by 
the love of knowledge, and by the hope of penetrating as far as India. 

66 About twenty miles from the little town of Circesium, on the frontier of the 
two empires. [Eutropius, ix. 2, 3.] 

67 The inscription (which contained a very singular pun) was erased by the order 
of Licinius, who claimed some degree of relationship to Philip (Hist. August, p. 
165 [xx. 34] ) ; but the tumulus or mound of earth which formed the sepulchre, 
still subsisted in the time of Julian. See Ammian. Marcellin. xxiii. 5. [The pun 
to which Gibbon refers was on the name of Philip. Gordian is described as the 
conqueror of various peoples. "Victori Persarum, victori, &c. — sed non victori 
Philipporum." It seems that Gordian had suffered a reverse in some skirmish with 
the Alans near Philippi.] 

63 Aurelius Victor. Eutrop. ix. 2. Orosius, vii. 20. Ammianus Maicellinus, 
xxiii. 5. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 19 [19]. Philip, who was a native of Bostra, was about 
forty years of age. [His name was M. Julius Philippus.] 


Smtar fa ^ e cann °t forbear transcribing the ingenious, though some- 

repubuc what fanciful, description, which a celebrated writer of our own 
times has traced of the military government of the Roman 
empire. " What in that age was called the Roman empire was 
only an irregular republic, not unlike the aristocracy 69 of 
Algiers, 70 where the militia, possessed of the sovereignty, 
creates and deposes a magistrate, who is styled a Dey. Perhaps, 
indeed, it may be laid down as a general rule, that a military 
government is, in some respects, more republican than mon- 
archical. Nor can it be said that the soldiers only partook of 
the government by their disobedience and rebellions. The 
speeches made to them by the emperors, were they not at 
length of the same nature as those formerly pronounced to the 
people by the consuls and the tribunes ? And although the 
armies had no regular place or forms of assembly, though their 
debates were short, their action sudden, and their resolves 
seldom the result of cool reflection, did they not dispose, with 
absolute sway, of the public fortune ? What was the emperor, 
except the minister of a violent government, elected for the 
private benefit of the soldier?; ? 

" When the army a elected Philip, who was Praetorian 
praefect to the third Gordian, the latter demanded that he might 
remain sole emperor; he was unable to obtain it. He requested 
that the power might be equally divided between them ; the 
army would not listen to his speech. He consented to be 
degraded to the rank of Caesar ; the favour was refused him. 
He desired, at least, he might be appointed Praetorian praefect ; 
his prayer was rejected. Finally, he pleaded for his life. The 
ai'my, in these several judgments, exercised the supreme magis- 
tracy." According to the historian, whose doubtful narrative the 
president De Montesquieu has adopted, Philip, who, during the 
whole transaction, had preserved a sullen silence, was inclined to 
spare the innocent life of his benefactor ; till, recollecting that his 
innocence might excite a dangerous compassion in the Roman 
world, he commanded, without regard to his suppliant cries, that 
he should be seized, stript, and led away to instant death. 
After a moment's pause the inhuman sentence was executed. 71 

69 Can the epithet of Aristocracy be applied, with any propriety, to the govern- 
ment of Algiers? Every military government floats between the extremes of abso- 
lute monarchy and wild democracy. 

70 The military republic of the Mamalukes in Egypt would have afforded M. de 
Montesquieu (see Considerations sur la Grandeur et la Decadence des Romains, c. 
16) a juster and more noble parallel. 

71 The Augustan History (p. 163, 164 [xx. 30]) cannot, in this instance, be re- 
conciled with itself or with probability. How could Philip condemn his predecessor. 


On his return from the East to Rome, Philip, desirous of Ret™ of 
obliterating the memory of his crimes, and of captivating the 
affections of the people, solemnized the secular games with 
infinite pomp and magnificence. Since their institution or 
revival by Augustus, 72 they had been celebrated by Claudius, by 
Domitian, and by Severus, and were now renewed, the fifth 
time, on the accomplishment of the full period of a thousand 
vears from the foundation of Rome. Every circumstance of the secular 

i i op 11 i i - i games, A.D. 

secular games was skilfully adapted to inspire the superstitious as, April a 
mind with deep and solemn reverence. The long interval 
between them 73 exceeded the term of human life ; and, as none 
of the spectators had already seen them, none could flatter 
themselves with the expectation of beholding them a second 
time. The mystic sacrifices were performed, during three 
nights, on the banks of the Tiber ; and the Campus Martius 
resounded with music and dances, and was illuminated with 
innumerable lamps and torches. Slaves and strangers were ex- 
cluded from any participation in these national ceremonies. A 
chorus of twenty-seven youths, and as many virgins, of noble 
families, and whose parents were both alive, implored the pro- 
pitious gods in favour of the present, and for the hope of the 
rising generation ; requesting, in religious hymns, that, accord- 
ing to the faith of their ancient oracles, they would still maintain 
the virtue, the felicity, and the empire of the Roman people. 74 
The magnificence of Philip's shows and entertainments dazzled 
the eyes of the multitude. The devout were employed in the 
rites of superstition, whilst the reflecting few revolved in their 
anxious minds the past history and the future fate of the empire. 

Since Romulus, with a small band of shepherds and outlaws. Decline of the 


and yet consecrate his memory? How could he order his public execution, and 
yet, in his letters to the senate, exculpate himself from the guilt of his death? 
Philip, though an ambitious usurper, was by no means a mad tyrant. Some chrono- 
logical difficulties have likewise been discovered by the nice eyes of Tillemont 
and Muratori, in this supposed association of Philip to the empire. 

72 The account of the last supposed celebration, though in an enlightened period 
of history, was so very doubtful and obscure, that the alternative seems not doubt- 
ful. When the popish jubilees, the copy of the secular games, were invented by 
Boniface VIII. , the crafty pope pretended that he only revived an ancient institution. 
See M. le Chais, Lettres sur les Jubiles. 

73 Either of a hundred, or a hundred and ten years. Varro and Livy adopted 
the former opinion, but the infallible authority of the Sybil consecrated the latter 
(Censorinus de Die Natal, c. 17). The emperors Claudius and Philip, however, did 
not treat the oracle with implicit respect. 

74 The idea of the secular games is best understood from the poem of Horace, 
and the description of Zosimus, 1. ii. p. 167 [5] , &c. [Milliarium Soeculum is on 
the coins.] 

13 VOL. I. 


fortified himself on the hills near the Tiber, ten centuries had 
already elapsed. 75 During the four first ages, the Romans, in 
the laborious school of poverty, had acquired the virtues of war 
and government : by the vigorous exertion of those virtues, and 
by the assistance of fortune, they had obtained, in the course of 
the three succeeding centuries, an absolute empire over many 
countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The last three hundred 
years had been consumed in apparent prosperity and internal 
decline. The nation of soldiers, magistrates, and legislators, 
who composed the thirty-five tribes of the Roman people, was 
dissolved into the common mass of mankind, and confounded 
with the millions of servile provincials, who had received the 
name, without adopting the spirit, of Romans. A mercenary 
army, levied among the subjects and barbarians of the frontier, 
was the only order of men who preserved and abused their 
independence. By their tumultuary election, a Syrian, a Goth, 
or an Arab, was exalted to the throne of Rome, and invested 
with despotic power over the conquests and over the country of 
the Scipios. 

The limits of the Roman empire still extended from the 
Western Ocean to the Tigris, and from Mount Atlas to the 
Rhine and the Danube. To the undiscerning eye of the vulgar, 
Philip appeared a monarch no less powerful than Hadrian or 
Augustus had formerly been. The form was still the same, but 
the animating health and vigour were fled. The industry of 
the people was discouraged and exhausted by a long series of 
oppression. The discipline of the legions, which alone, after 
the extinction of every other virtue, had propped the greatness 
of the state, was corrupted by the ambition, or relaxed by the 
weakness, of the emperors. The strength of the frontiers, which 
had always consisted in arms rather than in fortifications, was 
insensibly undermined ; and the fairest provinces were left ex- 
posed to the rapaciousness or ambition of the barbarians, who soon 
discovered the decline of the Roman empire. 

75 The received calculation of Varro assigns to the foundation of Rome an aera 
that corresponds with the 754th year before Christ. But so little is the chronology 
of Rome to be depended on in the more early ages, that Sir Isaac Newton has 
brought the same event as low as the year 627. 



Of the Slate of Persia after the Restoration of the Monarch/ by 

Whenever Tacitus indulges himself in those beautiful episodes, The tar 
in which he relates some domestic transaction of the Germans East^nd of 
or of the Parthians, his principal object is to relieve the atten- 
tion of the reader from a uniform scene of vice and misery. 
From the reign of Augustus to the time of Alexander Severus, 
the enemies of Rome were in her bosom — the tyrants, and the 
soldiers ; and her prosperity had a very distant and feeble interest 
in the revolutions that might happen beyond the Rhine and the 
Euphrates. But, when the military order had levelled in wild 
anarchy the power of the prince, the laws of the senate, and even 
the discipline of the camp, the barbarians of the North and of the 
East, who had long hovered on the frontier, boldly attacked the 
provinces of a declining monarchy. Their vexatious inroads were 
changed into formidable irruptions, and, after a long vicissitude 
of mutual calamities, many tribes of the victorious invaders 
established themselves in the provinces of the Roman empire. 
To obtain a clearer knowledge of these great events we shall 
endeavour to form a previous idea of the character, forces, and 
designs of those nations who avenged the cause of Hannibal 
and Mithridates. 

In the more early ages of the world, whilst the forest that Revolution* 

•^ of Asia 

covered Europe afforded a retreat to a few wandering savages, 
the inhabitants of Asia were already collected into populous 
cities, and reduced under extensive empires, the seat of the arts, 
of luxury and of despotism. The Assyrians reigned over the 
East, 2 till the sceptre of Ninus and Semiramis dropt from the 

1 [On the sources for Eastern affairs see Appendix 13 ; on the Zend Avesta and 
Persian religion, Appendix 14.] 

2 An ancient chronologist quoted by Velleius Paterculus (1. i. c. 6) observes that 
the Assyrians, the Medes, the Persians, and the Macedonians, reigned over Asia 
one thousand nine hundred and ninety-five years, from the accession of Ninus to 
the defeat of Antiochus by the Romans. As the latter of these great events 
happened 189 years before Christ, the former may be placed 2184 years before the 
same rera. The Astronomical Observations, found at Babylon by Alexander, went 


hands of their enervated successors. The Medes and the Baby- 
lonians divided their power, and were themselves swallowed up 
in the monarchy of the Persians, whose arms could not be con- 
fined within the narrow limits of Asia. Followed, as it is said, 
by two millions of men, Xerxes, the descendant of Cyrus, in- 
vaded Greece. Thirty thousand soldiers, under the command of 
Alexander, the son of Philip, who was intrusted by the Greeks 
with their glory and revenge, were sufficient to subdue Persia. 
The princes of the house of Seleucus usurped and lost the Mace- 
donian command over the East. About the same time that, by 
an ignominious treaty, they resigned to the Romans the country 
on this side Mount Taurus, they were driven by the Parthians, 
an obscure horde of Scythian origin, from all the provinces of 
Upper Asia. The formidable power of the Parthians, which 
spread from India to the frontiers of Syria, was in its turn sub- 
verted by Ardshir, 3 or Artaxerxes; the founder of a new dynasty, 
which, under the name of Sassanides, governed Persia till the 
invasion of the Arabs. This great revolution, whose fatal in- 
fluence was soon experienced by the Romans, happened in the 
fourth year of Alexander Severus, two hundred and twenty-six 
years after the Christian aera. 4 
The Persian Artaxerxes had served with great reputation in the armies of 
SoredbyXr- Artaban, the last king of the Parthians, and it appears that he 
tazerxes wag d r j ven [ n ^ exile and rebellion by royal ingratitude, the 
customary reward for superior merit. His birth was obscure, 
and the obscurity equally gave room to the aspersions of his 
enemies, and the flattery of his adherents. If we credit the 
scandal of the former, Artaxerxes sprang from the illegitimate 
commerce of a tanner's wife with a common soldier. 5 The latter 
represents him as descended from a branch of the ancient kings 
of Persia, though time and misfortune had gradually reduced his 

fifty years higher. [Babylonian history begins in the fourth chiliad B.C. ; Assyrian 
barely in the 14th century. The second and greater Assyrian empire was founded 
by Assur-nasir-pal and Salmanassar II. his son in the ninth century.] 

8 [Ardeshlr is the approved transliteration.] 

* In the five hundred and thirty-eighth year of the asra of Seleucus. See Agathias, 
1. ii. p. 63 [27]. This great event (such is the carelessness of the Orientals) is 
placed by Eutychius as high as the tenth year of Commodus, and by Moses of 
Cnorene as low as the reign of Philip. Ammianus Marcellinus has so servilely 
copied (xxiii. 6) his ancient materials, which are indeed very good, that he describes 
the family of the Arsacides as still seated on the Persian throne in the middle of 
the fourth century. 

6 The tanner's name was Babec ; the soldier's, Sassan ; from the former Artax- 
erxes obtained the surname of Babegan ; from the latter all his descendants have 
been styled Sassanides. [Ardeshtr IV. was the son of Babag, the eleventh prince of 
Pars or Persis. B&bagan means ' ' son of Babag 


encestors to the humble station of private citizens. 6 As the 
lineal heir of the monarchy, he asserted his right to the throne, 
and challenged the noble task of delivering the Persians from 
the oppression under which they groaned above five centuries 
since the death of Darius. The Parthians were defeated in 
three great battles. In the last of these their king Artaban 
was slain, and the spirit of the nation was for ever broken. 7 
The authority of Artaxerxes was solemnly acknowledged in a 
great assembly held at Balch in Khorasan. Two younger 
branches of the royal house of Arsaces were confounded among 
the prostrate satraps. A third, more mindful of ancient grandeur 
than of present necessity, attempted to retire with a numerous 
train of vassals, towards their kinsman, the king of Armenia ; 
but this little army of deserters was intercepted and cut off 
by the vigilance of the conqueror, 8 who boldly assumed the 
double diadem, and the title of King of Kings, which had been 
enjoyed by his predecessor. 9 But these pompous titles, instead 
of gratifying the vanity of the Persian, served only to admonish 
him of his duty, and to inflame in his soul the ambition of re- 
storing, in their full splendour, the religion and empire of Cyrus. 

I. During the long servitude of Persia under the Macedonian Reformation 

i i t» 1 • i i . r T-i ia.-li ' tne Ma E !an 

and the Parthian yoke, the nations ot Europe and Asia had religion 
mutually adopted and corrupted each other's superstitions. The 
Arsacides, indeed, practised the worship of the Magi ; but they 
disgraced and polluted it with a various mixture of foreign 
idolatry. The memory of Zoroaster, the ancient prophet and 
philosopher of the Persians, 10 was still revered in the East; but 
the obsolete and mysterious language in which the Zendavesta 

6 D'Hcrbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, Ardshir, 

7 Dion Cassius, 1. lxxx. [3I. Herodian, 1. vi. p. 207 [2]. Abulpharagius 
Dynast, p. 80. [The battle was fought at Hormuz, between Behbehan and Schusch- 
ter. The approved spelling of Artaban is Ardevan. He was the fifth Parthian 
king of that name.] 

8 See Moses Chorenensis, 1. ii. c. 65-71. 

9 [Ardeshlr IV. of the small kingdom of Persis became, when he overthrew the 
Parthian monarchy, Ardeshlr I. of the great kingdom of Persia. His title was 
" King of Kings of Eran and Turan ". The Parthians were not completely quelled, 
though they had lost their king, till 232 A.D.] 

10 Hyde and Prideaux, working up the Persian legends and their own conjec- 
tures into a very agreeable story, represent Zoroaster as a contemporary of Darius 
Hystaspis. But it is sufficient to observe that the Greek writers, who lived almost 
in the same age, agree in placing the sera of Zoroaster many hundred, or even 
thousand, years before their own time. The judicious criticism of Mr. Moyle per- 
ceived, and maintained against his uncle Dr. Prideaux, the antiquity of the Persian 
prophet. See his work, vol. ii. [Of Zarathustra or Zoroaster himself we know 
nothing. All the stories about him are mere fables ; and it cannot be determined 
whether he was a god made into a man, or a man who really lived.] 


was composed, u opened a field of dispute to seventy sects, 
who variously explained the fundamental doctrines of their 
religion, and were all equally derided by a crowd of infidels, who 
rejected the divine mission and miracles of the prophet. To 
suppress the idolaters, re-unite the schismatics, and confute the 
unbelievers by the infallible decision of a general council, the 
pious Artaxerxes summoned the Magi from all parts of his do- 
minions. These priests, who had so long sighed in contempt 
and obscurity, obeyed the welcome summons ; and on the ap- 
pointed day appeared to the number of about eighty thousand. 
But as the debates of so tumultuous an assembly could not have 
been directed by the authority of reason, or influenced by the 
art of policy, the Persian synod was reduced, by successive opera- 
tions, to forty thousand, to four thousand, to four hundred, to 
forty, and at last to seven Magi, the most respected for their 
learning and piety. One of these, Erdaviraph, a young but holy 
prelate, received from the hands of his brethren three cups of 
soporiferous wine. He di'ank them off, and instantly fell into a 
long and profound sleep. As soon as he waked, he related to 
the king and to the believing multitude his journey to Heaven, 
and his intimate conferences with the Deity. Every doubt was 
silenced by this supernatural evidence ; and the articles of the 
faith of Zoroaster were fixed with equal authority and precision. 12 
A short delineation of that celebrated system will be found use- 
ful, not only to display the character of the Persian nation, but 
to illustrate many of their most important transactions, both in 
peace and war, with the Roman empire. 13 
Persian The great and fundamental article of the system was the 

tw 6 o°pSipie» celebrated doctrine of the two principles ; a bold and injudicious 
attempt of Eastern philosophy to reconcile the existence of 
moral and physical evil with the attributes of a beneficent 
Creator and Governor of the world. The first and original Being, 

11 That ancient idiom was called the Zend. The language of the commentary, 
the Pehlvi, though much more modern, has ceased many ages ago to be a living 
tongue. [It was spoken in the western regions of Iran, Zend in the eastern.] This 
fact alone (if it is allowed as authentic) sufficiently warrants the antiquity of 
those writings, which M. d'Anquetil has brought into Europe, and translated into 
French. [On. the Zend Avesta see Appendix 14.] 

12 Hyde de Religione veterum Pers. c. 21. 

13 1 have principally drawn this account from the Zendavesta of M. dAnquetil, 
and the Sadder, subjoined to Dr. Hyde's treatise. It must, however, be confessed, 
that the studied obscurity of a prophet, the figurative style of the East, and the 
deceitful medium of a French or Latin version, may have betrayed us into error 
and heresy, in this abridgment of Persian theology. [Unfortunately the Sadder 
is a late compilation, — post-Mahometan.] 


in whom, or by whom, the universe exists, is denominated in 
the writings of Zoroaster, Time without bounds ; but it must be 
confessed that this infinite substance seems rather a meta- 
physical abstraction of the mind than a real object endowed 
with self-consciousness, or possessed of moral perfections. 14 From 
either the blind or the intelligent operation of this infinite Time, 
which bears but too near an affinity with the Chaos of the 
Greeks, the two secondary but active principles of the universe 
were from all eternity produced, Ormusd and Ahriman, each of 
them possessed of the powers of creation, but each disposed, by 
his invariable nature, to exercise them with different designs. 15 
The principle of good is eternally absorbed in light : the principle 
of evil eternally buried in darkness. The wise benevolence of 
Ormusd formed man capable of virtue, and abundantly provided 
his fair habitation with the materials of happiness. By his 
vigilant providence, the motion of the planets, the order of the 
seasons, and the temperate mixture of the elements are pre- 
served. But the malice of Ahriman has long since pierced 
Ormusd '.v egg ; or, in other words, has violated the harmony of 
his works. Since that fatal eruption, the most minute particles 
of good and evil are intimately intermingled and agitated to- 
gether, the rankest poisons spring up amidst the most salutary 
plants ; deluges, earthquakes, and conflagrations attest the con- 
flict of Nature ; and the little world of man is perpetually shaken 
by vice and misfortune. Whilst the rest of human kind are led 
away captives in the chains of their infernal enemy, the faithful 
Persian alone reserves his religious adoration for his friend and 
protector Ormusd, and fights under his banner of light, in the 
full confidence that he shall, in the last day, share the glory of 
his triumph. At that decisive period the enlightened wisdom 
of goodness will render the power of Ormusd superior to the 
furious malice of his rival. Ahriman and his followers, disarmed 
and subdued, will sink into their native darkness ; and virtue 
will maintain the eternal peace and harmony of the universe. 16 

14 [This doctrine is not Zoroastrian. Late systems endeavoured to overcome the 
dualism, and unify the two principles by assuming a higher principle — space, or 
time, or fate— from which both sprang. ] 

15 [Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainya. The law was revealed by Ahura Mazda 
to Zarathustra (Zoroaster).] 

ls The modern Parsees (and in some degree the Sadder) exalt Ormusd into the 
first and omnipotent cause, whilst they degrade Ahriman into an inferior but 
rebellious spirit. Their desire of pleasing the Mahometans may have contributed 
to refine their theological system. [The doctrine of the future triumph of Ormusd 
is not in the Zendavesta.] 




and moral 

The theology of Zoroaster was darkly comprehended by 
foreigners, and even by the far greater number of his disciples ; 
but the most careless observers were struck with the philosophic 
simplicity of the Persian worship. " That people/' says Herodo- 
tus, 17 "rejects the use of temples, of altars, and of statues, and 
smiles at the folly of those nations, who imagine that the gods 
are sprung from, or bear any affinity with, the human nature. The 
tops of the highest mountains are the places chosen for sacrifices. 
Hymns and prayers are the principal worship ; the Supreme 
God who fills the wide circle of heaven, is the object to whom 
they are addressed." Yet, at the same time, in the true spirit 
of a polytheist, he accuses them of adoring Earth, Water, Fire, 
the Winds, and the Sun and Moon. But the Persians of every 
age have denied the charge, and explained the equivocal con- 
duct which might appear to give a colour to it. The elements, 
and more particularly Fire, Light, and the Sun, whom they called 
Mithra, were the objects of their religious reverence, because they 
considered them as the purest symbols, the noblest productions, 
and the most powerful agents of the Divine Power and Nature. 18 

Every mode of religion, to make a deep and lasting impression 
on the human mind, must exercise our obedience by enjoining 
practices of devotion, for which we can assign no reason ; and 
must acquire our esteem, by inculcating moral duties analogous 
to the dictates of our own hearts. The religion of Zoroaster 
was abundantly provided with the former, and possessed a 
sufficient portion of the latter. At the age of puberty the faith- 
ful Persian was invested with a mysterious girdle, the badge of 
the divine protection ; and from that moment all the actions of 
his life, even the most indifferent or the most necessary, were 
sanctified by their peculiar prayers, ejaculations, or genuflexions ; 
the omission of which, under any circumstances, was a grievous 
sin, not inferior in guilt to the violation of the moral duties. 
The moral duties, however, of justice, mercy, liberality, &c, were 
in their turn required of the disciple of Zoroaster, who wished 
to escape the persecution of Ahriman, and to live with Ormusd in 
a blissful eternity, where the degree of felicity will be exactly 
proportioned to the degree of virtue and piety. 19 

17 Herodotus, 1. i. c. 131. But Dr. Prideaux thinks, with reason, that the use 
of temples was afterwards permitted in the Magian religion. 

18 Hyde de Relig. Pers. c. 8. Notwithstanding all their distinctions and pro- 
testations, which seem sincere enough, their tyrants, the Mahometans, have con- 
stantly stigmatized them as idolatrous worshippers of the fire. 

19 See the Sadder, the smallest part of which consists of moral precepts. The 
ceremonies enjoined are infinite and trifling. Fifteen genuflexions, prayers, &c, 


But there are some remarkable instances in which Zoroaster Encourage- 
lays aside the prophet, assumes the legislator, and discovers a apiculture 
liberal concern for private and public happiness, seldom to be 
found among the grovelling or visionary schemes of superstition. 
Fasting and celibacy, the common means of purchasing the 
divine favour, he condemns with abhorrence, as a criminal 
rejection of the best gifts of providence. The saint, in the 
Magian religion, is obliged to beget children, to plant useful 
trees, to destroy noxious animals, to convey water to the dry 
lands of Persia, and to work out his salvation by pursuing all the 
labours of agriculture. We may quote from the Zend Avesta a 
wise and benevolent maxim, which compensates for many an 
absurdity. " He who sows the ground with care and diligence 
acquires a greater stock of religious merit than he could gain by 
the repetition often thousand prayers." 20 In the spring of every 
year a festival was celebrated, destined to represent the primitive 
equality, and the present connexion, of mankind. The stately 
kings of Persia, exchanging their vain pomp for more genuine 
greatness, freely mingled with the humblest but most useful of 
their subjects. On that day the husbandmen were admitted, 
without distinction, to the table of the king and his satraps. 
The monarch accepted their petitions, inquired into their 
grievances, and conversed with them on the most equal terms. 
" From your labours," was he accustomed to say (and to say 
with truth, if not with sincerity), " from your labours we receive 
our subsistence ; you derive your tranquillity from our vigilance . 
since, therefore, we are mutually necessary to each other, let us 
live together like brothers in concord and love." 21 Such a 
festival must indeed have degenerated, in a wealthy and despotic 
empire, into a theatrical representation ; but it was at least a 
comedy well worthy of a royal audience, and which might some- 
times imprint a salutary lesson on the mind of a young prince. 

Had Zoroaster, in all his institutions, invariably supported this Poweroftn 
exalted character, his name would deserve a place with those of M*si 
Numa and Confucius, and his system would be justly entitled to 
all the applause which it has pleased some of our divines, and 
even some of our philosophers, to bestow on it. But in that 
motley composition, dictated by reason and passion, by enthusi- 
asm and by selfish motives, some useful and sublime truths were 

were required whenever the devout Persian cut his nails or made water ; or as 
often as he put on the sacred girdle. Sadder, Art. 14, 50, 60. 

20 Zend Avesta, torn. i. p. 224, and Precis du Systeme de Zoroastre, torn. iii. 

21 Hvde de Religione Persarum, c. 19. 


disgraced by a mixture of the most abject and dangerous super- 
stition. The Magi, or sacerdotal order, were extremely numerous, 
since, as we have already seen, fourscore thousand of them were 
convened in a general council. Their forces were multiplied by 
discipline. A regular hierarchy was diffused through all the 
provinces of Persia ; and the Archimagus, who resided at Balch, 
was respected as the visible head of the church, and the lawful 
successor of Zoroaster. 22 The property of the Magi was very 
considerable. Besides the less invidious possession of a large 
tract of the most fertile lands of Media, 23 they levied a general 
tax on the fortunes and the industry of the Persians. 24 " Though 
your good works," says the interested prophet, "exceed in 
number the leaves of the trees, the drops of rain, the stars in 
the heaven, or the sands on the sea-shore, they will all be un- 
profitable to you, unless they are accepted by the destour, or 
priest. To obtain the acceptation of this guide to salvation, you 
must faithfully pay him tithes of all you possess, of your goods, of 
your lands, and of your money. If the destour be satisfied, your 
soul will escape hell tortures ; you will secure praise in this 
world and happiness in the next. For the destours are the 
teachers of religion ; they know all things, and they deliver all 
men." 25 

These convenient maxims of reverence and implicit faith were 
doubtless imprinted with care on the tender minds of youth ; 
since the Magi were the masters of education in Persia, and to 
their hands the children even of the royal family were intrusted. 26 
The Persian priests, who were of a speculative genius, preserved 
and investigated the secrets of Oriental philosophy; and acquired, 
either by superior knowledge or superior art, the reputation of 
being well versed in some occult sciences, which have derived 
their appellation from the Magi. 27 Those of more active dis- 
positions mixed with the world in courts and cities ; and it is 

22 Id. c. 28. Both Hyde and Prideaux affect to apply to the Magian, the terms 
consecrated to the Christian, hierarchy. 

23 Ammian. Marcellin. xxiii. 6. He informs us (as far as we may credit him) of 
two curious particulars ; 1, that the Magi derived some of their most secret 
doctrines from the Indian Brachmans ; and, 2, that they were a tribe or family, as 
well as order. 

24 The divine institution of tithes exhibits a singular instance of conformity be- 
tween the law of Zoroaster and that of Moses. Those who cannot otherwise 
account for it may suppose, if they please, that the Magi of the latter times in- 
serted so useful an interpolation into the writings of their prophet. 

23 Sadder, Art. 8. 

26 Plato in Alcibiad [37] . 

27 Pliny (Hist. Natur. 1. xxx. c. 1) observes that magic held mankind by the 
triple chain of religion, of physic, and of astronomy. 


observed that the administration of Artaxerxes was in a great 
measure directed by the counsels of the sacerdotal order, whose 
dignity, either from policy or devotion, that prince restored to 
its ancient splendour. 28 

The first counsel of the Magi was agreeable to the unsociable spirit or 

<* • i on i n i on i persecution 

genius of their iaith/ y to the practice ot ancient kings, 30 and 
even to the example of their legislator, who had fallen a victim 
to a religious war excited by his own intolerant zeal. 31 By an 
edict of Artaxerxes, the exercise of every worship, except that 
of Zoroaster, was severely prohibited. The temples of the 
Parthians, and the statues of their deified monarchs, were thrown 
down with ignominy. 32 The sword of Aristotle (such was the 
name given by the Orientals to the polytheism and philosophy 
of the Greeks) was easily broken : 33 the flames of persecution 
soon reached the more stubborn Jews and Christians ; 34 nor did 
they spare the heretics of their own nation and religion. The 
majesty of Ormusd, who was jealous of a rival, was seconded by 
the despotism of Artaxerxes, who could not suffer a rebel ; and 
the schismatics within his vast empire were soon reduced to the 
inconsiderable number of eighty thousand. 35 This spirit of 
persecution reflects dishonour on the religion of Zoroaster ; but, 
as it was not productive of any civil commotion, it served to 
strengthen the new monarchy by uniting all the various inhabi- 
tants of Persia in the bands of religious zeal. 

II. Artaxerxes, by his valour and conduct, had wrested the Jf *hVroya e i nt 
sceptre of the East from the ancient royal family of Parthia. ^e h p°ro- yin 
There still remained the more difficult task of establishing, v* 11 " 3 
throughout the vast extent of Persia, a uniform and vigorous 
administration. The weak indulgence of the Arsacides had 
resigned to their sons and brothers the principal provinces and 
the greatest offices of the kingdom, in the nature of hereditary 

28 Agathias, 1. iv. p. 134 [24. As nothing is said here of the Magi, it has been 
supposed by Sir Wm. Smith that Gibbon meant to refer to ii. 26.] 

29 Mr. Hume, in the Natural History of Religion, sagaciously remarks that 
the most refined and philosophic sects are constantly the most intolerant. 

30 Cicero de Legibus, ii. 10. Xerxes, by the advice of the Magi, destroyed the 
temples of Greece. 

31 Hyde de Rel. Persar. c. 23, 24. D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, Zcrdusht. 
Life of Zoroaster in torn. ii. of the Zendavesta. 

32 Compare Moses of Chorene, 1. ii. c. 74, with Ammian. Marcellin. xxiii. 6. 
Hereafter I shall make use of these passages. 

33 Rabbi Abraham, in the Tarikh Schickard, p. 108, 109. 

3J Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, 1. viii. e. 3. Sozomen, 1. ii. c. 1. Manes, who 
suffered an ignominious death, may be deemed a Magian, as well as a Christian, 
heretic. [The reference to Sozomen should apparently be ii. 9 sqq.~\ 
35 Hyde de Religione Persar. c. 21. 


possessions. The vitaxae, or eighteen most powerful satraps, 
were permitted to assume the regal title, and the vain pride of 
the monarch was delighted with a nominal dominion over so 
many vassal kings. Even tribes of barbarians in their mountains, 
and the Greek cities of Upper Asia, 36 within their walls, scarcely 
acknowledged, or seldom obeyed, any superior; and the Parthian 
empire exhibited, under other names, a lively image of the feudal 
system 37 which has since prevailed in Europe. But the active 
victor, at the head of a numerous and disciplined army, visited 
in person every province of Persia. The defeat of the boldest 
rebels and the reduction of the strongest fortifications 38 diffused 
the terror of his arms and prepared the way for the peaceful 
reception of his authority. An obstinate resistance was fatal to 
the chiefs ; but their followers were treated with lenity. 39 A 
cheerful submission was rewarded with honours and riches ; but 
the prudent Artaxerxes, suffering no person except himself to 
assume the title of king, abolished every intermediate power 
Ext o?\i nd r between the throne and the people. His kingdom, nearly equal 
Penia in extent to modern Persia, was, on eveiy side, bounded by 

the sea or by great rivers, — by the Euphrates, the Tigris, the 
Araxes, the Oxus, and the Indus ; by the Caspian Sea and the 
Gulf of Persia.* That country was computed to contain, in the 

36 These colonies were extremely numerous. Seleucus Nicator founded thirty- 
nine cities, all named from himself, or some of his relations (see Appian in Syriac. 
p. 124 [57]). The asra of Seleucus (still in use among the eastern Christians) 
appears as late as the year 508, of Christ 196, on the medals of the Greek cities 
within the Parthian empire. See Moyle's works, vol. i. p. 273, &c, and M. Freret. 
M£m. de l'Acad^mie, torn. xix. 

37 The modern Persians distinguish that period as the dynasty of the kings of 
the nations. See Plin. Hist. Nat. vi. 25. 

38 Eutychius (torn. i. p. 367, 371, 375) relates the siege of the Island of Mesene 
in the Tigris, with some circumstances not unlike the story of Nisus and Scylla. 

39 Agathias, ii. p. 64 [26] . The princes of Segestan defended their independence 
during many years. As romances generally transport to an ancient period the events 
of their own time, it is not impossible that the fabulous exploits of Rustan Prince 
of Segestan may have been grafted on this real history. 

40 We can scarcely attribute to the Persian monarchy the sea coast of Gedrosia 
or Macran, which extends along the Indian Ocean from Cape Jask (the promontory 
Capella) to Cape Goadel. In the time of Alexander, and probably many ages after- 
wards, it was thinly inhabited by a savage people of Ichthyophagi, or Fishermen, 
who knew no arts, who acknowledged no master, and who were divided by inhos- 
pitable deserts from the rest of the world. (See Arrian de Reb. Indicis [26]. ) In the 
twelfth century, the little town of Taiz (supposed by M. d'Anville to be the Tesa 
of Ptolemy) was peopled and enriched by the resort of the Arabian merchants. 
(See Geographia Nubiens. p. 58, and d'Anville G^ographie Ancienne, torn. ii. p. 
283.) In the last age the whole country was divided between three princes, one 
Mahometan and two Idolaters, who maintained their independence against the 
successors of Shaw Abbas. (Voyages de Tavernier, part i. 1. v. p. 635.) 


last century, five hundred and fifty-four cities, sixty thousand 
villages, and about forty millions of souls. 41 If we compare the 
administration of the house of Sassan with that of the house of 
Sesi, the political influence of the Magian with that of the 
Mahometan religion, we shall probably infer that the kingdom 
of Artaxerxes contained at least as great a number of cities, 
villages, and inhabitants. But it must likewise be confessed 
that in every age the want of harbours on the sea coast, and the 
scarcity of fresh water in the inland provinces, have been very 
unfavourable to the commerce and agriculture of the Persians ; 
who, in the calculation of their numbers, seem to have indulged 
one of the meanest, though most common, artifices of national 

As soon as the ambitious mind of Artaxerxes had triumphed Recapituia- 
over the resistance of his vassals, he began to threaten the ware between 
neighbouring states, who, during the long slumber of his pre- and R a m'a^ n 
decessors, had insulted Persia with impunity. He obtained some emp 
easy victories over the wild Scythians and the effeminate 
Indians ; but the Romans were an enemy who, by their past 
njuries and present power, deserved the utmost efforts of his 
arms. A forty years' tranquillity, the fruit of valour and modera- 
tion, had succeeded the victories of Trajan. During the period 
that elapsed from the accession of Marcus to the reign of 
Alexander, the Roman and the Parthian empires were twice 
engaged in war ; and, although the whole strength of the 
Arsacides contended with a part only of the forces of Rome, the 
event was most commonly in favour of the latter. Macrinus, 
indeed, prompted by his precarious situation and pusillanimous 
temper, purchased a peace at the expense of near two millions 
of our money ; 42 but the generals of Marcus, the emperor 
Severus, and his son, erected many trophies in Armenia, 
Mesopotamia, and Assyria. Among their exploits, the im- 
perfect relation of which would have unseasonably interrupted 
the more important series of domestic revolutions, we shall only 
mention the repeated calamities of the two great cities of 
Seleucia and Ctesiphon. 

Seleucia, on the western bank of the Tigris, about forty-five cities 
miles to the north of ancient Babylon, was the capital of the oteiiphon 

^Chardin, torn. iii. c. i, 2, 3. [The number seems too high. At the present 
time the population of Iran and Turan (including Afghanistan, Beluchistan, &c.) is 
said to be between fifteen and sixteen millions.] 

42 Dion, 1. xxviii. p. 1335 [27. Two hundred million sesterces. Yet the coins 
of 218 a.d. boast of a Victoria Parthica.] 


Macedonian conquests in Upper Asia. 43 Many ages after the 
fall of their empire, Seleucia retained the genuine characters of 
a Grecian colony — arts, military virtue, and the love of freedom. 
The independent republic was governed by a senate of three 
hundred nobles ; the people consisted of six hundred thousand 
citizens ; the walls were strong, and, as long as concord prevailed 
among the several orders of the state, they viewed with con- 
tempt the power of the Parthian : but the madness of faction 
was sometimes provoked to implore the dangerous aid of the 
common enemy, who was posted almost at the gates of the 
colony. 44 The Parthian monarchs, like the Mogul sovereigns 
of Hindostan, delighted in the pastoral life of their Scythian 
ancestors ; and the Imperial camp was frequently pitched in the 
plain of Ctesiphon, on the eastern bank of the Tigris, at the 
distance of only three miles from Seleucia. 45 The innumerable 
attendants on luxury and despotism resorted to the court, and 
the little village of Ctesiphon insensibly swelled into a great 
city. 46 Under the reign of Marcus, the Roman generals 
penetrated as far as Ctesiphon and Seleucia. 47 They were 
received as friends by the Greek colony ; they attacked as 
enemies the seat of the Parthian kings ; yet both cities ex- 
perienced the same treatment. The sack and conflagration of 
Seleucia, with the massacre of three hundred thousand of the 
inhabitants, tarnished the glory of the Roman triumph. 48 
Seleucia, already exhausted by the neighbourhood of a too 
powerful rival, sunk under the fatal blow ; but Ctesiphon, in 
about thirty-three years, had sufficiently recovered its strength 
to maintain an obstinate siege against the emperor Severus. 
The city was, however, taken by assault ; the king, who de- 

43 For the precise situation of Babylon, Seleucia, Ctesiphon, Modain, ?nd Bag- 
dad, cities often confounded with each other, see an excellent Geographical Tract 
of M. d'Anville, in M£m. de 1' Academic, torn. xxx. 

44 Tacit. Annal. vi. 42. Plin. Hist. Nat. vi. 26. 

43 This may be inferred from Strabo, 1. xvi. p. 743. 

46 That most curious traveller, Bernier (see Hist, de Voyages, torn, x.), who 
followed the camp of Aurengzebe from Delhi to Cashmir, describes with great 
accuracy the immense moving city. The guard of cavalry consisted of 35,000 men, 
that of infantry of 10,000. It was computed that the camp contained 150,000 
horses, mules, and elephants ; 50,000 camels, 50,000 oxen, and between 300,000 
and 400,000 persons. Almost all Delhi followed the court, whose magnificence 
supported its industry. 

47 [These successes were achieved by Avidius Cassius. He took Nisibis, and 
Dausara near Edessa. The Parthians were defeated at Europos in Cyrrhestica.] 

48 Dion, 1. lxxi. p. 1178 [2]. Hist. August, p. 38 [v. 8J. Eutrop. viii. 10. 
Euseb. in Chronic, [ann. 2180]. Quadratus (quoted in the Augustan History) 
attempted to vindicate the Romans by alleging that the citizens of Seleucia had 
first violated their faith. 


fended it in person, escaped with precipitation ; an hundred 
thousand captives and a rich booty rewarded the fatigues of 
the Roman soldiers. 49 Notwithstanding these misfortunes, 
Ctesiphon succeeded to Babylon and to Seleucia as one of the 
great capitals of the East. 50 In summer, the monarch of Persia 
enjoyed at Ecbatana the cool breezes of the mountains of Media ; 
but the mildness of the climate engaged him to prefer Ctesiphon 
for his winter residence. 

From these successful inroads the Romans derived no real or conquest of 
lasting benefit ; nor did they attempt to preserve such distant the Romans 
conquests, separated from the provinces of the empire by a 
large tract of intermediate desert. The reduction of the king- 
dom of Osrhoene was an acquisition of less splendour indeed, 
but of a far more solid advantage. That little state occupied 
the northern and most fertile part of Mesopotamia, between the 
Euphrates and the Tigris. Edessa, its capital, was situated 
about twenty miles beyond the former of those rivers, and the 
inhabitants, since the time of Alexander, were a mixed race 
of Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, and Armenians. 51 The feeble 
sovereigns of Osrhoene, placed on the dangerous verge of two 
contending empires, were attached from inclination to the 
Parthian cause ; but the superior power of Rome exacted from 
them a reluctant homage, which is still attested by their 
medals. 52 After the conclusion of the Parthian war under 
Marcus, it was judged prudent to secure some substantial pledges 
of their doubtful fidelity. Forts were constructed in several 
parts of the country, and a Roman garrison was fixed in the 
strong town of Nisibis. During the troubles that followed the 
death of Commodus, the princes of Osrhoene attempted to 
shake off the yoke ; but the stern policy of Severus confirmed 
their dependence, 53 and the perfidy of Caracalla completed the 
easy conquest. Abgarus, the last king 54 of Edessa, was sent in aj>.216 
chains to Rome, his dominions reduced into a province, and his 

49 Dion, 1. lxxv. p. 1263 [9]. Herodian, 1. iii. p. 120 [9]. Hist. August, p. 70 
[x. 16. Hiemali prope tempore, which fixes the capture to end of 197 or beginning 
of 198 A.D.] 

00 [Ctesiphon was restored by Sapor II.] 

51 The polished citizens of Antioch called those of Edessa mixed barbarians. 
It was, however, some praise, that, of the three dialects of the Syriac, the purest 
and most elegant (the Aramaean) was spoke at Edessa. This remark M. Bayer 
(Hist. Edess. p. 5) has borrowed from George of Malatia, a Syrian writer. 

62 [Compare Eckhel, iii. 514.] 

53 Dion, 1. lxxv. p. 1248, 1249, 1250 [1, 2, 3]. M. Bayer has neglected to use 
this most important passage. 

54 [Bastleus was the title. J 



claims the 
pro vine is of 
Asia, and de- 
clares war 
against the 
AD. 230 

victory of 
A.D. 233 

capital dignified with the rank of colony ; 55 and thus the 
Romans, about ten years before the fall of the Parthian 
monarchy, obtained a firm and permanent establishment beyond 
the Euphrates. 56 

Prudence as well as glory might have justified a war on the 
side of Artaxerxes, had his views been confined to the defence 
or the acquisition of a useful frontier. But the ambitious Per- 
sian openly avowed a far more extensive design of conquest ; 
and he thought himself able to support his lofty pretensions by 
the arms of reason as well as by those of power. Cyrus, he 
alleged, had first subdued, and his successors had for a long time 
possessed, the whole extent of Asia, as far as the Propontis and 
the JEge&n Sea ; the provinces of Caria and Ionia, under their 
empire, had been governed by Persian satraps ; and all Egypt, to 
the confines of iEthiopia, had acknowledged their sovereignty. 57 
Their rights had been suspended, but not destroyed, by a long 
usurpation ; 58 and, as soon as he received the Persian diadem, 
which birth and successful valour had placed upon his head, 
the first great duty of his station called upon him to restore 
the ancient limits and splendour of the monarchy. The Great 
King, therefore (such was the haughty style of his embassies to 
the Emperor Alexander), commanded the Romans instantly to 
depart from all the provinces of his ancestors, and, yielding to 
the Persians the empire of Asia, to content themselves with the 
undisturbed possession of Europe. This haughty mandate was 
delivered by four hundred of the tallest and most beautiful of 
the Persians ; who, by their fine horses, splendid arms, and rich 
apparel, displayed the pride and greatness of their master. 59 
Such an embassy was much less an offer of negotiation than a 
declaration of war. Both Alexander Severus and Artaxerxes, 
collecting the military force of the Roman and Persian mon- 
archies, resolved in this important contest to lead their armies 
in person. 

If we credit what should seem the most authentic of all 

58 [Caracalla promoted Carrhae to be a Roman colony. Eckhel, iii. 508. He 
seems to have formed the design of annexing Armenia as a province.] 

66 This kingdom, from Osrhoes, who gave a new name to the country, to the 
last Abgarus, had lasted 353 years. See the learned work of M. Bayer, Historia 
Osrhoena et Edessena. 

87 Xenophon, in the preface to the Cyropsedia, gives a clear and magnificent 
idea of the extent of the empire of Cyrus. Herodotus (1. iii. c. 79, &c.) enters into 
a curious and particular description of the twenty great Satrapies into which the 
Persian empire was divided by Darius Hystaspis. 

68 [Dion, lxxx. 4, 1.] 

*•* Herodian, vi. 209, 212 [2 and 4]. 


records, an oration, still extant, and delivered by the emperor 
himself to the senate, we must allow that the victory of Alex- 
ander Severus was not inferior to any of those formerly obtained 
over the Persians by the son of Philip. The army of the Great 
King consisted of one hundred and twenty thousand horse, 
clothed in complete armour of steel; of seven hundred elephants 
with towers filled with archers on their backs ; and of eighteen 
hundred chariots armed with scythes. This formidable host, 
the like of which is not to be found in eastern history, and has 
scarcely been imagined in eastern romance, 60 was discomfited in 
a great battle, in which the Roman Alexander approved himself 
an intrepid soldier and a skilful general. The Great King fled 
before his valour: an immense booty and the conquest of Meso- 
potamia were the immediate fruits of this signal victory. Such 
are the circumstances of this ostentatious and improbable rela- 
tion, dictated, as it too plainly appears, by the vanity of the 
monarch, adorned by the unblushing servility of his flatterers 
and received without contradiction by a distant and obsequious 
senate. « Far from being inclined to believe that the arms of 
Alexander obtained any memorable advantage over the Persians 
we are induced to suspect that all this blaze of imaginary glory 
was designed to conceal some real disgrace. 

Our suspicions are confirmed by the authority of a contem- More pro- 
porary historian, who mentions the virtues of Alexander with 5? thew'aT* 
respect, and his faults with candour. He describes the judicious 
plan which had been formed for the conduct of the war. Three 
Roman armies were destined to invade Persia at the same time 
and by different roads. But the operations of the campaign' 

«o There were two hundred scythed chariots at the battle of Arbela, in the host 
of Darius In the yast army of Tigranes, which was vanquished by Lucullus 
seventeen thousand horse only were completely armed. Antiochus brought fifty 
four elephants into the field against the Romans : by his frequent wars and nego na- 
tions with the princes of India, he had once collected an hundred and fifty of those 
great animals ; but it may be questioned, whether the most powerful monarch of 
Hindostan ever formed a hne of battle of seven hundred elephants. Instead of 
three or four thousand elephants, which the Great Mogul was supposed to possess 

mat^e ZilTf S> rV 1 - J' ■ P u- l & discovered - by a more accurate mquiry,' 
that he had only five hundred for his baggage, and eighty or ninety for the service 

hf.n ?L fillH ^ e fn T V ^" ed w " tb ;.. re g"d to the number which Porus brought 
into the field but Quintus Curtius (vui. 13), in this instance judicious and moder- 
ate, is contented with eighty-five elephants, distinguished by their size and strength. 
IiVht™' ff \ an >mals are the most numerous and the most esteemed, 

eighteen elephants are allowed as a sufficient proportion for each of the nine 

StfvtVt W , k V US r army JS divided - The Wh0le numb er, of one hundred 
and sixty-two elephants of war, may sometimes be doubled. Hist, des Voyages 
i torn. ix. p. 260. J ° 

61 Hist. August, p. 133 [xviii. 55]. 

14 VOL. I. 


though wisely concerted, were not executed either with ability 
or success. The first of these armies, as soon as it had entered 
the marshy plains of Babylon, towards the artificial conflux of 
the Euphrates and the Tigris, 62 was encompassed by the superior 
numbers, and destroyed by the arrows, of the enemy. The 
alliance of Chosroes, king of Armenia, 63 and the long tract of 
mountainous country, in which the Persian cavalry was of little 
service, opened a secure entrance into the heart of Media to the 
second of the Roman armies. These brave troops laid waste 
the adjacent provinces, and by several successful actions against 
Artaxerxes gave a faint colour to the emperor's vanity. But 
the retreat of this victorious army was imprudent, or at least 
unfortunate. In repassing the mountains, great numbers of 
soldiers perished by the badness of the roads and the severity 
of the winter season. It had been resolved that whilst these 
two great detachments penetrated into the opposite extremes 
of the Persian dominions, the main body, under the command 
of Alexander himself, should support their attack by invading 
the centre of the kingdom. But the unexperienced youth, in- 
fluenced by his mother's counsels, and perhaps by his own fears, 
deserted the bravest troops and the fairest prospect of victory ; 
and, after consuming in Mesopotamia an inactive and inglorious 
summer, he led back to Antioch an army diminished by sickness, 
and provoked by disappointment. The behaviour of Artaxerxes 
had been veiy different. Flying with rapidity from the hills of 
Media to the marshes of the Euphrates, he had everywhere 
opposed the invaders in person ; and in either fortune had 
united with the ablest conduct the most undaunted resolution. 
But in several obstinate engagements against the veteran legions 
of Rome the Persian monarch had lost the flower of his troops. 
Even his victories had weakened his power. The favourable 
opportunities of the absence of Alexander, and of the confusions 
that followed that emperor's death, presented themselves in 
vain to his ambition. Instead of expelling the Romans, as 
he pretended, from the continent of Asia, he found himself 

62 M. de Tillemont has already observed that Herodian's geography is some- 
what confused. 

63 Moses of Chorene (Hist. Armen. 1. ii. c. 71) illustrates this invasion of Media, 
by asserting that Chosroes, King of Armenia, defeated Artaxerxes, and pursued 
him to the confines of India. The exploits of Chosroes have been magnified, and 
he acted as a dependent ally to the Romans. [But Chosroes really inflicted a 
serious defeat on Ardeshir in 228, drove him back from Armenia, and invaded his 
realm, pressing as far as Ctesiphon, if not to the borders of Arabia. The Romans 
had not yet appeared on the scene.] 


unable to wrest from their hands the little province of Mesopo- 
tamia. 6i 

The reign of Artaxerxes, which from the last defeat of the character and 

Ti-iir* n *i maxima of 

Parthians lasted only fourteen years, forms a memorable asra in Artaxenea, 

* A.D 240 

the history of the East, and even in that of Rome. His charac- 
ter seems to have been marked by those bold and commanding 
features that generally distinguish the princes who conquer, 
from those who inherit, an empire. Till the last period of the 
Persian monarchy, his code of laws was respected as the ground- 
work of their civil and religious policy. 05 Several of his sayings 
are preserved. One of them in particular discovers a deep in- 
sight into the constitution of government. "The authority of 
the prince," said Artaxerxes, " must be defended by a military 
force ; that force can only be maintained by taxes ; all taxes 
must, at last, fall upon agriculture ; and agriculture can never 
flourish except under the protection of justice and modera- 
tion." 66 Artaxerxes bequeathed his new empire, and his am- 
bitious designs against the Romans, to Sapor, a son not unworthy 
of his great father ; but those designs were too extensive for the 
power of Persia, and served only to involve both nations in a 
long series of destructive wars and reciprocal calamities. 

The Persians, long since civilized and corrupted, were very Military 
far from possessing the martial independence, and the intrepid lenSLu 
hardiness, both of mind and body, Avhich have rendered the 
northern barbarians masters of the world. The science of war, 
that constituted the more rational force of Greece and Rome, as 
it now does of Europe, never made any considerable progress 
in the East. Those disciplined evolutions which harmonize and 
animate a confused multitude were unknown to the Persians. 
They were equally unskilled in the arts of constructing, besieg- 
ing, or defending regular fortifications. They trusted more to 
their numbers than to their courage ; more to their courage than 
to their discipline. The infantry was a half-armed, spiritless Their infantry 

r J ' r contemptible 

Gi For the account of this war, see Herodian, 1. vi. p. 209, 212 [5] . The old 
abbreviators and modern compilers have blindly followed the Augustan History. 
[Though no very glorious exploit was wrought in this campaign of Alexander, it 
is clear that the Persians were completely checked in their advance westward, and 
that the Romans gained some victories. Cp. Aurelius Victor, Csesar. 24, 2, and 
Eutropius, viii. 23. Not an inch of ground was lost to the empire. ] 

65 Eutychius, torn. ii. p. 180, vers. Pocock. The great Chosroes Noushirwan 
sent the code of Artaxerxes to all his satraps, as the invariable rule of their con- 

66 D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, au mot Ardshir. We may observe that, 
after an ancient period of fables, and a long interval of darkness, the modern his- 
•torics of Persia begin to assume an air of truth with the dynasty of the Sassanides. 


crowd of peasants, levied in haste by the allurements of plunder, 
and as easily dispersed by a victory as by a defeat. The mon- 
arch and his nobles transported into the camp the pride and 
luxury of the seraglio. Their military operations were impeded 
by a useless train of women, eunuchs, horses, and camels ; and 
in the midst of a successful campaign the Persian host was often 
separated or destroyed by an unexpected famine. 67 
«ceuent ^ But tne n °bles of Persia, in the bosom of luxury and despotism, 
preserved a strong sense of personal gallantry and national 
honour. From the age of seven years they were taught to speak 
truth, to shoot with the bow, and to ride ; and it was universally 
confessed that in the two last of these arts they had made a 
more than common proficiency. 68 The most distinguished youth 
were educated under the monarch's eye, practised their exercises 
in the gate of his palace, and were severely trained up to the 
habits of temperance and obedience in their long and laborious 
parties of hunting. In every province the satrap maintained a 
like school of military virtue. The Persian nobles (so natural is 
the idea of feudal tenures) received from the king's bounty lands 
and houses on the condition of their service in war. They were 
ready on the first summons to mount on horseback, with a martial 
and splendid train of followers, and to join the numerous bodies 
of guards, Avho were carefully selected from among the most robust 
slaves and the bravest adventurers of Asia. These armies, both 
of light and of heavy cavalry, equally formidable by the im- 
petuosity of their charge and the rapidity of their motions, 
threatened, as an impending cloud, the eastern provinces of the 
declining empire of Rome. 69 

67 Herodian, 1. vi. p. 214 [5]. Ammiamis Marcellinus, 1. xxiii. c. 6. Some 
differences may be observed between the two historians, the natural effects of the 
changes produced by a century and a half. 

68 The Persians are still the most skilful horsemen, and their horses the finest, in 
the East. 

69 From Herodotus, Xenophon, Herodian, Ammianus, Chardin, &c. , I have 
extracted such probable accounts of the Persian nobility, as seem either common to 
every age, or particular to that of the Sassanides. 



The State of Germany till the Invasion of the Barbarians, in the 
Time of the Emperor Decius 

The government and religion of Persia have deserved some 
notice from their connexion with the decline and fall of the 
Roman empire. We shall occasionally mention the Scythian or 
Sarmatian tribes, which, with their arms and horses, their Hocks 
and herds, their wives and families, wandered over the immense 
plains which spread themselves from the Caspian Sea to the 
Vistula, from the confines of Persia to those of Germany. But 
the warlike Germans, who first resisted, then invaded, and at 
length overturned, the Western monarchy of Rome, will occupy 
a much more important place in this histoiy, and possess a 
stronger, and, if we may use the expression, a more domestic, 
claim to our attention and regard. The most civilized nations 
of modern Europe issued from the woods of Germany, and in 
the rude institutions of those barbarians we may still distinguish 
the original principles of our present laws and manners. In 
their primitive state of simplicity and independence, the Germans 
were surveyed by the discerning eye, and delineated by the 
masterly pencil, of Tacitus, the first of historians who applied the 
science of philosophy to the study of facts. The expressive 
conciseness of his descriptions has deserved to exercise the dili- 
gence of innumerable antiquarians, and to excite the genius and 
penetration of the philosophic historians of our own times. The 
subject, however various and important, has already been so 
frequently, so ably, and so successfully discussed, that it is now 
grown familiar to the reader, and difficult to the writer. We 
shall therefore content ourselves with observing, and indeed 
with repeating, some of the most important chcumstances of 
climate, of manners, and of institutions, which rendered the wild 
barbarians of Germany such formidable enemies to the Roman 

Ancient Germany, excluding from its independent limits the Extent of 
province westward of the Rhine, which had submitted to the GennaBy 


Roman yoke, extended itself over a third part of Europe. 1 
Almost the whole of modern Germany, Denmark, Norway, 
Sweden, Finland, Livonia, Prussia, and the greater part of 
Poland, were peopled by the various tribes of one great nation, 
whose complexion, manners, and language denoted a common 
origin, and preserved a striking resemblance. On the west, 
ancient Germany was divided by the Rhine from the Gallic, 
and on the south by the Danube from the Illyrian, provinces of 
the empire. A ridge of hills, rising from the Danube, and called 
the Carpathian Mountains, covered Germany on the side of 
Dacia or Hungary. The eastern frontier was faintly marked by 
the mutual fears of the Germans and the Sarmatians, and was 
often confounded by the mixture of warring and confederating 
tribes of the two nations. In the remote darkness of the north 
the ancients imperfectly descried a frozen ocean that lay beyond 
the Baltic Sea and beyond the peninsula, or islands, 2 of Scan- 

Some ingenious writers 3 have suspected that Europe was 
much colder formerly than it is at present; and the most ancient 
descriptions of the climate of Germany tend exceedingly to 
confirm their theory. The general complaints of intense frost 
and eternal winter are perhaps little to be regarded, since we 
have no method of reducing to the accurate standard of the 
thermometer the feelings or the expressions of an orator born in 
the happier regions of Greece or Asia. But I shall select two re- 
markable circumstances of a less equivocal nature. 1 . The great 
rivers which covered the Roman provinces, the Rhine and the 
Danube, were frequently frozen over, and capable of supporting 
the most enormous weights. The barbarians, who often chose 
that severe season for their inroads, transported, without appre- 
hension or danger, their numerous armies, their cavalry, and 

1 [Though the author exaggerates the extent of ancient Germany towards the 
east, he is not so far wrong as has sometimes been supposed. Speaking roughly, 
German tribes occupied the whole of Europe between the Rhine and the Vistula, 
the Northern Sea and the Danube. Vandals, Burgundians, Turcilingi, Skiri, 
and Gutones held the land between the Oder and Vistula.] 

3 The modern philosophers of Sweden seem agreed that the waters of the Baltic 
gradually sink in a regular proportion, which they have ventured to estimate at 
half an inch every year. Twenty centuries ago, the flat country of Scandinavia 
must have been covered by the sea ; while the high lands rose above the waters, as 
so many islands of various forms and dimensions. Such indeed is the notion given 
us by Mela, Pliny, and Tacitus, of the vast countries round the Baltic. See in the 
Bibliotheque Raisonn^e, torn. xl. and xlv. , a large abstract of Dalin's History of 
Sweden, composed in the Swedish language. 

s In particular, Mr. Hume, and the Abbe" du Bos, and M. Pelloutier, Hist, des 
Celtes, torn. i. 


their heavy waggons, over a vast and solid bridge of ice. 4 
Modern ages have not presented an instance of a like phenomenon. 
2. The reindeer, that useful animal, from whom the savage of 
the North derives the best comforts of his dreary life, is of a 
constitution that supports, and even requires, the most intense 
cold. He is found on the rock of Spitzberg, within ten degrees 
of the pole ; he seems to delight in the snows of Lapland and 
Siberia ; but at present he cannot subsist, much less multiply, in 
any country to the south of the Baltic. 5 In the time of Caesar, 
the reindeer, as well as the elk and the wild bull, was a native 
of the Hercynian forest, which then overshadowed a great part 
of Germany and Poland. 6 The modern improvements suffi- 
ciently explain the causes of the diminution of the cold. These 
immense woods have been gradually cleared, which intercepted 
from the earth the rays of the sun. 7 The morasses have been 
drained, and, in proportion as the soil has been cultivated, the 
air has become more temperate. Canada, at this day, is an 
exact picture of ancient Germany. Although situate in the 
same parallel with the f nest provinces of France and England, 
that country experiences the most rigorous cold. The reindeer 
are very numerous, the ground is covered with deep and lasting 
snow, and the great river of St. Lawrence is regularly frozen, 
in a season when the waters of the Seine and the Thames are 
usually free from ice. 8 

It is difficult to ascertain, and easy to exaggerate, the influence its effects on 
of the climate of ancient Germany over the minds and bodies of the natlves 
the natives. Many writers have supposed, and most have 
allowed, though, as it should seem, without any adequate proof, 
that the rigorous cold of the North was favourable to long life 
and generative vigour, that the women were more fruitful, and 

4 Diodorus Siculus, 1. v. p. 340, edit. Wessel [25]. Herodian, 1. vi. p. 221 [7] 
Jornandes, c. 55. On the banks of the Danube, the wine, when brought to table 
was frequently frozen into great lumps, frusta vini. Ovid Epist. ex Ponto, 1. iv. 7 
7-10. Virgil Georgic. 1. lii. 355. The fact is confirmed by a soldier and a philo 
sopher, who had experienced the intense cold of Thrace. See Xenophon, Anabasis 
1. vii. p. 560, edit. Hutchinson [4] . [Milman in his note on this passage refers to 
an incident in the Thirty Years' War. In 1635 "Jan van Werth, an Imperialist 
partisan, crossed the Rhine from Heidelberg on the ice with 5000 men, and sur- 
prised Spires".] 

5 Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, torn. xii. p. 79, 116. 

6 Caesar de Bell. Gallic, vi. 23, &c. The most inquisitive of the Germans were 
ignorant of its utmost limits, although some of them had travelled in it more than 
sixty days' journey. 

7 Cluverius (Germania Antiqua, 1. iii. c. 47) investigates the small and scattered 
remains of the Hercynian Wood. 

" Charlevoix, Histoire du Canada. 



the human species more prolific, than in wanner or more 
temperate climates. 9 We may assert, with greater confidence, 
that the keen air of Germany formed the large and masculine 
limbs of the natives, who were, in general, of a more lofty 
stature than the people of the South, 10 gave them a kind of 
strength better adapted to violent exertions than to patient 
labour, and inspired them with constitutional bravery, which is 
the result of nerves and spirits. The severity of a winter 
campaign, that chilled the courage of the Roman troops, was 
scarcely felt by these hardy children of the North, 11 who, in 
their turn, were unable to resist the summer heats, and dissolved 
away in languor and sickness under the beams of an Italian 
sun. 12 
orieinofthe There is not anywhere upon the globe a large tract of country, 
which we have discovered destitute of inhabitants, or whose first 
population can be fixed with any degree of historical certainty. 
And yet, as the most philosophic minds can seldom refrain from 
investigating the infancy of great nations, our curiosity consumes 
itself in toilsome and disappointed efforts. When Tacitus con- 
sidered the purity of the German blood, and the forbidding 
aspect of the country, he was disposed to pronounce those 
barbarians Indigence, or natives of the soil. We may allow with 
safety, and perhaps with truth, that ancient Germany was not 
originally peopled by any foreign colonies already formed into a 
political society ; 13 but that the name and nation received their 
existence from the gradual union of some wandering savages of 
the Hercynian woods. To assert those savages to have been 
the spontaneous production of the earth which they inhabited 
would be a rash inference, condemned by religion, and un- 
warranted by reason. 

•Olaus Rudbeck asserts that the Swedish women often bear ten or twelve 
children, and not uncommonly twenty or thirty; but the authority of Rudbeck 
is much to be suspected. 

10 In hos artus, in haec corpora, quas miramur, excrescunt. Tacit. Germania, 
c. 20. Cluver. 1. i. c. 14. 

11 Plutarch, in Mario. The Cimbri, by way of amusement, often slid down 
mountains of snow on their broad shields. 

12 The Romans made war in all climates, and by their excellent discipline were 
in a great measure preserved in health and vigour. It may be remarked that 
man is the only animal which can live and multiply in every country from the equator 
to the poles. The hog seems to approach the nearest to our species in that privi- 

13 Tacit. German, c. 3. The emigration of the Gauls followed the course of the 
Danube, and discharged itself on Greece and Asia. Tacitus could discover only 
one inconsiderable tribe that retained any traces of a Gallic origin. [The Cotini, 
c. 43. They were certainly not Gallic] 


Such rational doubt is but ill suited with the genius of popular KMwaaa 
vanity. Among the nations who have adopted the Mosaic 
history of the world, the ark of Noah has been of the same use, 
as w;is formerly to the Greeks and Romans the siege of Troy. 
On a narrow basis of acknowledged truth, an immense but rude 
superstructure of fable has been erected; and the wild Irishman, 14 
as well as the wild Tartar, 15 could point out the individual son 
of Japhet from whose loins his ancestors were lineally descended. 
The last century abounded with antiquarians of profound learn- 
ing and easy faith, who, by the dim light of legends and traditions, 
of conjectures and etymologies, conducted the great-grandchildren 
of Noah from the Tower of Babel to the extremities of the globe. 
Of these judicious critics, one of the most entertaining was Olaus 
Rudbeck, professor in the university of Upsal. 16 Whatever is 
celebrated either in history or fable, this zealous patriot ascribes 
to his country. From Sweden (which formed so considerable a 
part of ancient Germany) the Greeks themselves derived their 
alphabetical characters, their astronomy, and their religion. Of 
that delightful region (for such it appeared to the eyes of a 
native) the Atlantis of Plato, the country of the Hyperboreans, 
the gardens of the Hesperides, the Fortunate Islands, and even 
the Elysian Fields, were all but faint and imperfect transcripts. 
A clime so profusely favoured by Nature could not long remain 
desert after the flood. The learned Rudbeck allows the family 
of Noah a few years to multiply from eight to about twenty 
thousand persons. He then disperses them into small colonies 
to replenish the earth, and to propagate the human species. 
The German or Swedish detachment (which marched, if I am 
not mistaken, under the command of Askenaz the son of Gomer, 
the son of Japhet) distinguished itself by a more than common 
diligence in the prosecution of this great work. The northern 
hive cast its swarms over the greatest part of Europe, Africa, 
and Asia ; and (to use the author's metaphor) the blood circu- 
lated back from the extremities to the heart. 

14 According to Dr. Keating (History of Ireland, p. 13, 14), the giant Partho- 
lanus, who was the son of Seara, the son of Esra, the son of Sru, the son of Fram- 
ant, the son of Fathaclan, the son of Magog, the son of Japhet, the son of Noah, 
landed on the coast of Munster, the 14th day of May, in the year of the world one 
thousand nine hundred and seventy-eight. Though he succeeded in his great 
enterprise, the loose behaviour of his wife rendered his domestic life very unhappy, 

and provoked him to such a degree, that he killed her favourite greyhound. 

This, as the learned historian very properly observes, was the first instance of 
female falsehood and infidelity ever known in Ireland. 

15 Genealogical History of the Tartars by Abulghazi Bahadur Khan. 

10 His work, entitled Atlantica, is uncommonly scarce. Bayle has given two 
most curious extracts from it. R^publique des Lettres, Janvier et Fdvrier, 1685. 


The Germans But all tliis well-laboured system of German antiquities is 
letters annihilated by a single fact, too well attested to admit of any 

doubt, and of too decisive a nature to leave room for any reply. 
The Germans, in the age of Tacitus, were unacquainted with 
the use of letters ; 17 and the use of letters is the principal 
circumstance that distinguishes a civilized people from a herd of 
savages, incapable of knowledge or reflection. Without that 
artificial help the human memory soon dissipates or corrupts the 
ideas intrusted to her charge ; and the nobler faculties of the 
mind, no longer supplied with models or with materials, 
gradually forget their powers : the judgment becomes feeble 
and lethargic, the imagination languid or irregular. Fully to 
apprehend this important truth, let us attempt, in an improved 
society, to calculate the immense distance between the man of 
learning and the illiterate peasant. The former, by reading and 
reflection, multiplies his own experience, and lives in distant 
ages and remote countries ; whilst the latter, rooted to a single 
spot, and confined to a few years of existence, surpasses but veiy 
little his fellow-labourer the ox in the exercise of his mental 
faculties. The same and even a greater difference will be 
found between nations than between individuals ; and we may 
safely pronounce, that without some species of writing no people 
has ever preserved the faithful annals of their history, ever made 
any considerable progress in the abstract sciences, or ever 
possessed, in any tolerable degree of perfection, the useful and 
agreeable arts of life, 
of arts and Of these arts the ancient Germans were wretchedly destitute. 
They passed their lives in a state of ignorance and poverty, 
which it has pleased some declaimers to dignify with the 
appellation of virtuous simplicity. Modern Germany is said to 

17 Tacit. Germ. ii. 19. Literarum secreta viri parlter ac fceminae ignorant. We 
may rest contented with this decisive authority, without entering into the obscure 
disputes concerning the antiquity of the Runic characters. The learned Celsius, a 
Swede, a scholar and a philosopher, was of opinion, that they were nothing more 
than the Roman letters, with the curves changed into straight lines for the ease of 
engraving. See Pelloutier, Histoire des Celtes, 1. ii. c. 11. Dictionnaire Diplo- 
matique, torn. i. p. 223. We may add, that the oldest Runic inscriptions are 
supposed to be of the third century, and the most ancient writer who mentions the 
Runic characters, is Venantius Fortunatus (Carm. vii. 18), who lived towards the 
end of the sixth century. 

Barbara fraxineis pingatur R u n A tabellis. [See Zacher, Das Gothische Alpha- 
bet Vulfilas und das Runenalphabet ; Mr. Isaac Taylor, Greeks and Goths ; 
Stephen's Runic Monuments. Mr. Taylor's theory that the Runic alphabet was 
originally derived from the Greeks by the trade route, which existed at a very early 
age between the Euxine and the Baltic, is gaining ground. It was certainly de- 
veloped in Scandinavia, not in Germany. The number of Runic inscriptions found 
in Germany is very small.] 



contain about two thousand three hundred walled towns. 18 In 
a much wider extent of country the geographer Ptolemy could 
discover no more than ninety places which he decorates with 
the name of cities ; 19 though, according to our ideas, they 
would but ill deserve that splendid title. We can only suppose 
them to have been rude fortifications, constructed in the centre 
of the woods, and designed to secure the women, children, and 
cattle, whilst the warriors of the tribe marched out to repel a 
sudden invasion. 20 But Tacitus asserts, as a well-known fact, 
that the Germans, in his time, had no cities ; 21 and that they 
affected to despise the works of Roman industry as places of 
confinement rather than of security. 22 Their edifices were not 
even contiguous, or formed into regular villas ; 23 each barbarian 
fixed his independent dwelling on the spot to which a plain, a 
wood, or a stream of fresh water, had induced him to give the 
preference. Neither stone, nor brick, nor tiles, were employed 
in these slight habitations. 24 They were indeed no more than 
low huts of a circular figure, built of rough timber, thatched 
with straw, and pierced at the top to leave a free passage for the 
smoke. In the most inclement winter, the hardy German was 
satisfied with a scanty garment made of the skin of some 
animal. The nations who dwelt towards the North clothed 
themselves in furs ; and the women manufactured for their own 
use a coarse kind of linen. 25 The game of various sorts with 
which the forests of Germany were plentifully stocked supplied its 
inhabitants with food and exercise. 25 Their monstrous herds of 
cattle, less remarkable indeed for their beauty than for their 
utility, 27 formed the principal object of their wealth. A small 
quantity of corn was the only produce exacted from the earth : the 

18 Recherches Philosophiques sur les AmeYicains, torn. iii. p. 228. The author 
of that very curious work is, if I am not misinformed, a German by birth. [De 

19 The Alexandrian Geographer is often criticized by the accurate Cluverius. 

20 See Caesar, and the learned Mr. Whitaker in his History of Manchester, vol. i. 

21 Tacit. Germ. 16. 

22 When the Germans commanded the Ubii of Cologne to cast off the Roman 
yoke, and with their new freedom to resume their ancient manners, they insisted 
on the immediate demolition of the walls of the colony. " Postulamus a vobis, 
muros colonice, munimenta servitii, detrahatis ; etiam fera animalia, si clausa 
teneas, virtutis obliviscuntur." Tacit. Hist. iv. 64. 

23 The straggling villages of Silesia are several miles in length. See Cluver. 1. i. 
c. 13. 

24 One hundred and forty years after Tacitus a few more regular structures were 
erected near the Rhine and Danube. Herodian 1. vii. p. 234. 

25 Tacit. Germ. 17. 

26 Tacit. Germ. 5. 

27 Caesar de Bell. Gall, 


use of orchards or artificial meadows was unknown to the Germans ; 
nor can we expect any improvements in agriculture from a 
people whose property every year experienced a general change 
by a new division of the arable lands, and who, in that strange 
operation, avoided disputes by suffering a great part of their 
territory to lie waste and without tillage. 28 

Gold, silver, and iron were extremely scarce in Germany. Its 
barbarous inhabitants wanted both skill and patience to investi- 
gate those rich veins of silver, which have so liberally rewarded 
the attention of the princes of Brunswick and Saxony. Sweden, 
which now supplies Europe with iron, was equally ignorant of 
its own riches ; and the appearance of the arms of the Germans 
furnished a sufficient proof how little iron they were able to be- 
stow on what they must have deemed the noblest use of that 
metal. The various transactions of peace and war had intro- 
duced some Roman coins (chiefly silver) among the borderers of 
the Rhine and Danube ; but the more distant tribes were ab- 
solutely unacquainted with the use of money, carried on their 
confined traffic by the exchange of commodities, and prized their 
rude earthen vessels as of equal value with the silver vases, the 
presents of Rome to their princes and ambassadors. 29 To a 
mind capable of reflection such leading facts convey more in- 
struction than a tedious detail of subordinate circumstances. 
The value of money has been settled by general consent to ex- 
press our wants and our property, as letters were invented to 
express our ideas ; and both these institutions, by giving more 
active energy to the powers and passions of human nature, have 
contributed to multiply the objects they were designed to repre- 
sent. The use of gold and silver is in a great measure factitious ; 
but it would be impossible to enumerate the important and 
various services which agriculture, and all the arts, have received 
from iron, when tempered and fashioned by the operation of 
fire and the dexterous hand of man. Money, in a word, is the 
most universal incitement, iron the most powerful instrument, of 
human industry ; and it is very difficult to conceive by what 
means a people, neither actuated by the one nor seconded by 
the other, could emerge from the grossest barbarism. 30 

28 Tacit Germ. 26. Caesar, vi. 22. 

29 Tacit. Germ. 5. 

30 It is said that the Mexicans and Peruvians, without the use of either money 
or iron, had made a very great progress in the arts. Those arts, and the monu- 
ments they produced, have been strangely magnified. See Rechcrches sur les 
AmtJricains, torn. ii. p. 153, &c. 


If we contemplate a savage nation in any part of the globe, a-rheirindo- 
supine indolence and a carelessness of futurity will be found to 
constitute their general character. In a civilized state every 
faculty of man is expanded and exercised ; and the great chain 
of mutual dependence connects and embraces the several mem- 
bers of society. The most numerous portion of it is employed 
in constant and useful labour. The select few, placed by for- 
tune above that necessity, can, however, fill up their time by 
the pursuits of interest or glory, by the improvement of their 
estate or of their understanding, by the duties, the pleasures, 
and even the follies, of social life. The Germans were not 
possessed of these varied resources. The care of the house and 
family, the management of the land and cattle, were delegated 
to the old and the infirm, to women and slaves. The lazy war- 
rior, destitute of every art that might employ his leisure hours, 
consumed his days and nights in the animal gratifications of 
sleep and food. And yet, by a wonderful diversity of nature 
(according to the remark of a writer who had pierced into its 
darkest recesses), the same barbarians are by turns the most 
indolent and the most restless of mankind. They delight in 
sloth, they detest tranquillity. 31 The languid soul, oppressed 
with its own weight, anxiously required some new and powerful 
sensation ; and war and danger were the only amusements ade- 
quate to its fierce temper. The sound that summoned the 
German to arms was grateful to his ear. It roused him from 
his uncomfortable lethargy, gave him an active pursuit, and, by 
strong exercise of the body, and violent emotions of the mind, 
restored him to a more lively sense of his existence. In the 
dull intervals of peace these barbarians were immoderately 
addicted to deep gaming and excessive drinking; both of which, 
by different means, the one by inflaming their passions, the 
other by extinguishing their reason, alike relieved them from 
the pain of thinking. They gloried in passing whole days and 
nights at table ; and the blood of friends and relations often 
stained their numerous and drunken assemblies. 32 Their debts 
of honour (for in that light they have transmitted to us those of 
play) they discharged with the most romantic fidelity. The 
desperate gamester, who had staked his person and liberty on 
a last throw of the dice, patiently submitted to the decision of 
fortune, and suffered himself to be bound, chastised, and sold 
into remote slavery, by his weaker but more lucky antagonist. 33 

S1 Tacit. Germ. 15. 32 Tacit. Germ. 22, 23. 

33 Tacit. Germ. 24. The Germans might borrow the arts of play from the 
Romans, but the passion is wonderfully inherent in the human species. 



Their taste 
for strong 

State of 

Strong beer, a liquor extracted with very little art from wheat 
or barley, and corrupted (as it is strongly expressed by Tacitus) 
into a certain semblance of wine, was sufficient for the gross 
purposes of German debauchery. But those who had tasted 
the rich wines of Italy, and afterwards of Gaul, sighed for that 
more delicious species of intoxication. They attempted not, 
however (as has since been executed with so much success), to 
naturalize the vine on the banks of the Rhine and Danube ; nor 
did they endeavour to procure by industry the materials of an 
advantageous commerce. To solicit by labour what might be 
ravished by arms was esteemed unworthy of the German spirit. 34 
The intemperate thirst of strong liquors often urged the bar- 
barians to invade the provinces on which art or nature had be- 
stowed those much envied presents. The Tuscan Avho betrayed 
his country to the Celtic nations attracted them into Italy by 
the prospect of the rich fruits and delicious wines, the produc- 
tions of a happier climate. 35 And in the same manner the 
German auxiliaries, invited into France during the civil wars of 
the sixteenth century, were allured by the promise of plenteous 
quarters in the provinces of Champagne and Burgundy. 3& 
Drunkenness, the most illiberal, but not the most dangerous of 
our vices, was sometimes capable, in a less civilized state of man- 
kind, of occasioning a battle, a war, or a revolution. 

The climate of ancient Germany has been mollified, and the 
soil fertilized, by the labour of ten centuries from the time of 
Charlemagne. The same extent of ground, which at present 
maintains, in ease and plenty, a million of husbandmen and 
artificers, was unable to supply an hundred thousand lazy 
warriors with the simple necessaries of life. 37 The Germans 
abandoned their immense forests to the exercise of hunting, 
employed in pasturage the most considerable part of their lands, 
bestowed on the small remainder a rude and careless cultivation, 
and then accused the scantiness and sterility of a country that 
refused to maintain the multitude of its inhabitants. When the 
return of famine severely admonished them of the importance of 
the arts, the national distress was sometimes alleviated by the 

34 Tacit. Germ. 14. S 3 Plutarch, in Camillo. T. Liv. v. 33. 

3<i Dubos, Hist, de la Monarchic Francoise, torn. i. p. 193. 

37 The Helvetian nation, which issued from the country called Switzerland, con- 
tained, of every age and sex, 368,000 persons (Caesar de Bell. Gall. i. 29). At 
present, the number of people in the Pays de Vaud (a small district on the banks 
of the Leman Lake, much more distinguished for politeness than for industry) 
amounts to 112,591. See an excellent Tract of M. Muret, in the M6moires de la. 
Soci^te' de Berne 


emigration of a third, perhaps, or a fourth part of their youth. 38 
The possession and the enjoyment of property are the pledges 
which bind a civilized people to an improved country. But the 
Germans, who carried with them what they most valued, their 
arms, their cattle, and their women, cheerfully abandoned the 
vast silence of their woods for the unbounded hopes of plunder 
and conquest. The innumerable swarms that issued, or seemed 
to issue, from the great storehouse of nations, were multiplied 
by the fears of the vanquished and by the credulity of succeeding 
ages. And from facts thus exaggerated, an opinion was gradu- 
ally established, and has been supported by writers of distin- 
guished reputation, that, in the age of Csesar and Tacitus, the 
inhabitants of the North were far more numerous than they are 
in our days. 39 A more serious inquiry into the causes of popula- 
tion seems to have convinced modern philosophers of the 
falsehood, and indeed the impossibility, of the supposition. To 
the names of Mariana and of Machiavel 40 we can oppose the 
equal names of Robertson and Hume. 41 

A warlike nation like the Germans, without either cities, German 
letters, arts, or money, found some compensation for this savage 
state in the enjoyment of liberty. Their poverty secured their 
freedom, since our desires and our possessions are the strongest 
fetters of despotism. " Among the Suiones (says Tacitus) riches 
are held in honour. They are therefore subject to an absolute 
monarch, who instead of intrusting his people with the free use 
of arms, as is practised in the rest of Germany, commits them to 
the safe custody, not of a citizen, or even of a freedman, but of 
a slave. The neighbours of the Suiones, the Sitones, are sunk 
even below servitude ; they obey a woman." 42 In the mention 
of these exceptions, the great historian sufficiently acknowledges 
the general theory of government. We are only at a loss to 
conceive by what means riches and despotism could penetrate 
into a remote corner of the North, and extinguish the generous 
flame that blazed with such fierceness on the frontier of the 
Roman provinces, or how the ancestors of those Danes and 

33 Paul Diaconus, c. i, 2, 3. Machiavel, Davila, and the rest of Paul's followers, 
represent these emigrations too much as regular and concerted measures. 

39 Sir William Temple and Montesquieu have indulged, on this subject, the 
usual liveliness of their fancy. 

40 Machiavel, Hist, di Firenze, 1. i. Mariana, Hist. Hispan. 1. v. c. 1. 

41 Robertson's Cha. V. Hume's Politic. Ess. 

42 Tacit. Germ. 44, 45. Freinshemius (who dedicated his supplement to Livy, 
to Christina of Sweden) thinks proper to be very angry with the Roman who ex- 
pressed so very little reverence for Northern queens. 


Norwegians,, so distinguished in later ages by their unconquered 
spirit, could thus tamely resign the great character of German 
liberty. 43 Some tribes, however, on the coast of the Baltic, 
acknowledged the authority of kings, though without relinquish- 
ing the rights of men ; 44 but in the far greater part of Germany 
the form of government was a democracy, tempered, indeed, 
and controlled, not so much by general and positive laws as by 
the occasional ascendant of birth or valour, of eloquence or 
superstition. 45 

Civil governments, in their first institutions, are voluntary 
associations for mutual defence. To obtain the desired end it 
is absolutely necessary that each individual should conceive him- 
self obliged to submit his private opinion and actions to the 
judgment of the greater number of his associates. The German 
tribes were contented with this rude but liberal outline of 
political society. As soon as a youth, born of free parents, had 
attained the age of manhood, he was introduced into the general 
council of his countrymen, solemnly invested with a shield and 
spear, and adopted as an equal and worthy member of the 
military commonwealth. The assembly of the warriors of the 
tribe was convened at stated seasons, or on sudden emergencies. 
The trial of public offences, the election of magistrates, and the 
great business of peace and war, were determined by its in- 
dependent voice. Sometimes, indeed, these important questions 
were previously considered and prepared in a more select council 
of the principal chieftains. 46 The magistrates might deliberate 
and persuade, the people only could resolve and execute ; and 
the resolutions of the Germans were for the most part hasty 
and violent. Barbarians accustomed to place their freedom in 
gratifying the present passion, and their courage in overlooking 

43 May we not suspect that superstition was the parent of despotism? The de- 
scendants of Odin (whose race was not extinct till the year 1060) are said to have 
reigned in Sweden above a thousand years. The temple of Upsal was the ancient 
seat of religion and empire. In the year 1153 I find a singular law prohibiting the 
use and possession of arms to any, except the king's guards. Is it not probable 
that it was coloured by the pretence of reviving an old institution? See Dalin's 
History of Sweden in the Bibliotheque Raisonnee, torn. xl. and xlv. 

44 Tacit. Germ. c. 43. [The Gotones, that is, the Goths, who in the time of 
Tacitus lived on the right bank of the lower Vistula; but in the third century we 
find them on the Black Sea. Pliny also mentions the Guttones, Nat. Hist. iv. 14.] 

45 Id. c. 11, 12, 13, &c. 

46 Grotius changes an expression of Tacitus, pertrnctantur into pratractantur. 
The correction is equally just and ingenious. [Germ. 11. apud principes pertrac- 
tentur. No change is necessary ; perlractentur means " be thoroughly discussed ". 
But the general meaning is the same.] 


all future consequences, turned away with indignant contempt 
from the remonstrances of justice and policy, and it was the 
practice to signify by a hollow murmur their dislike of such timid 
councils. But, whenever a more popular orator proposed to 
vindicate the meanest citizen, from either foreign or domestic 
injury, whenever he called upon his fellow-countrymen to assert 
the national honour, or to pursue some enterprise full of danger 
and glory, a loud clashing of shields and spears expressed the 
eager applause of the assembly. For the Germans always met 
in arms, and it was constantly to be dreaded lest an irregular 
multitude, inflamed with faction and strong liquors, should use 
those arms to enforce, as well as to declare, their furious resolves. 
We may recollect how often the diets of Poland have been 
polluted with blood, and the more numerous party has been 
compelled to yield to the more violent and seditious. 47 

A general of the tribe was elected on occasions of danger ; Authority of 
and, if the danger was pressing and extensive, several tribes and magu- 8 
concurred in the choice of the same general. The bravest war- tratBS 
rior was named to lead his countrymen into the field, by his 
example rather than by his commands. But this power, how- 
ever limited, was still invidious. It expired with the war, and 
in time of peace, the German tribes acknowledged not any 
supreme chief. 48 Princes were, however, appointed, in the 
general assembly, to administer justice, or rather to compose 
differences, 49 in their respective districts. In the choice of 
these magistrates as much regard was shown to birth as to 
merit. 50 To each was assigned, by the public, a guard, and a 
council of an hundred persons, and the first of the princes ap- 
pears to have enjoyed a pre-eminence of rank and honour which 
sometimes tempted the Romans to compliment him with the 
regal title. 51 

The comparative view of the powers of the magistrates, in two ™ e r r e t ^ aolutB 
remarkable instances, is alone sufficient to represent the whole gSRS™ 
system of German manners. The disposal of the landed property gSJJJJJr" 
within their district was absolutely vested in their hands, and 
they distributed it every year according to a new division. 52 At 
the same time they were not authorized to punish with death, to 

4 ? Even in our ancient parliament, the barons often carried a question not so 
much by the number of votes as by that of their armed followers. 

48 Cassar de Bell. Gall. vi. 23. 

49 Minuunt controversias, is a very happy expression of Caesar's. 

50 Reges ex nobilitate, duces ex virtute sumunt. Tacit. Germ. 7. 

61 Cluver. Germ. Ant. 1. i. c. 38, 

62 Caesar, vi. 22. Tacit. Germ. 26. 

15 VOL. I. 


imprison, or even to strike a private citizen. 63 A people thus 
jealous of their persons, and careless of their possessions, must 
have been totally destitute of industry and the arts, but animated 
with a high sense of honour and independence, 
voluntary The Germans respected only those duties which they imposed 

engagemen ^ themselves. The most obscure soldier resisted with disdain 
the authority of the magistrates. " The noblest youths blushed 
not to be numbered among the faithful companions of some 
renowned chief, to whom they devoted their arms and service. 
A noble emulation prevailed among the companions to obtain 
the first place in the esteem of their chief; amongst the chiefs, 
to acquire the greatest number of valiant companions. To be 
ever surrounded by a band of select youths was the pride and 
strength of the chiefs, their ornament in peace, their defence in 
war. The glory of such distinguished heroes diffused itself 
beyond the narrow limits of their own tribe. Presents and 
embassies solicited their friendship, and the fame of their arms 
often ensured victory to the party which they espoused. In the 
hour of danger it was shameful for the chief to be surpassed in 
valour by his companions ; shameful for the companions not to 
equal the valour of their chief. To survive his fall in battle 
was indelible infamy. To protect his person, and to adorn his 
glory with the trophies of their own exploits, were the most 
sacred of their duties. The chiefs combated for victoiy, the 
companions for the chief. The noblest warriors, whenever their 
native country was sunk in the laziness of peace, maintained 
their numerous bands in some distant scene of action, to exercise 
their restless spirit, and to acquire renown by voluntary dangers. 
Gifts worthy of soldiers, the warlike steed, the bloody and ever 
victorious lance, were the rewards which the companions claimed 
from the liberality of their chief. The rude plenty of his hos- 
pitable board was the only pay that he could bestow, or they 
would accept. War, rapine, and the free-will offerings of his 
friends, supplied the materials of this munificence." 54 This 
institution, however it might accidentally weaken the several 
republics, invigorated the general character of the Germans, 
and even ripened amongst them all the virtues of which bar- 
barians are susceptible — the faith and valour, the hospitality 
and the courtesy, so conspicuous long afterwards in the ages of 
chivalry. The honourable gifts, bestowed by the chief on his 
brave companions, have been supposed, by an ingenious writer, 

P» Tacit. Germ. 7. M Tacit. Germ. 13, 14. 


to contain the first rudiments of the fiefs, distributed after the 
conquest of the Roman provinces, by the barbarian lords among 
their vassals, with a similar duty of homage and military ser- 
vice. 55 These conditions, are, however, very repugnant to the 
maxims of the ancient Germans, who delighted in mutual pre- 
sents, but without either imposing or accepting the weight of 
obligations. 56 

" In the days of chivalry, or more properly of romance, all German cna*. 
the men were brave, and all the women were chaste ; " and, tJ 
notwithstanding the latter of these virtues is acquired and pre- 
served with much more difficulty than the former, it is ascribed, 
almost without exception, to the wives of the ancient Germans. 
Polygamy was not in use, except among the princes, and among 
them only for the sake of multiplying their alliances. Divorces 
were prohibited by manners rather than by laws. Adulteries 
were punished as rare and inexpiable crimes ; nor was seduction 
justified by example and fashion. 57 We may easily discover 
that Tacitus indulges an honest pleasure in the contrast of bar- 
barian virtue with the dissolute conduct of the Roman ladies : 
yet there are some striking circumstances that give an air of 
truth, or at least of probability, to the conjugal faith and chastity 
of the Germans. 

Although the progress of civilization has undoubtedly con- it» probable 


tributed to assuage the fiercer passions of human nature, it 
seems to have been less favourable to the virtue of chastity, 
whose most dangerous enemy is the softness of the mind. The 
refinements of life corrupt while they polish the intercourse of 
the sexes. The gross appetite of love becomes most dangerous, 
when it is elevated, or rather, indeed, disguised, by sentimental 
passion. The elegance of dress, of motion, and of manners, 
gives a lustre to beauty, and inflames the senses through the 
imagination. Luxurious entertainments, midnight dances, and 
licentious spectacles, present at once temptation and opportunity 
to female frailty. 58 From such dangers the unpolished wives of 
the barbarians were secured by poverty, solitude, and the painful 

5 * Esprit des Loix, 1. xxx. c. 3. The brilliant imagination of Montesquieu is 
corrected, however, by the dry cold reason of the Abbe" de Mably. Observations 
sur l'Histoire de France, torn. i. p. 356. 

86 Gaudent muneribus, sed nee data imputant, nee acceptis obligantur. Tacit. 
Germ. c. 21. 

57 The adulteress was whipped through the village. Neither wealth nor beauty 
could inspire compassion, or procure her a second husband. [Tacit. Germ.] 18, 19. 

68 Ovid employs two hundred lines in the research of places the most favourable 
to love. Above all he considers the theatre as the best adapted to collect the 
beauties of Rome, and to melt them into tenderness and sensuality. 


cares of a domestic life. The German huts, open on every side 
to the eye of indiscretion or jealousy, were a better safeguard 
of conjugal fidelity than the walls, the bolts, and the eunuchs 
of a Persian haram. To this reason another may be added of a 
more honourable nature. The Germans treated their women 
with esteem and confidence, consulted them on every occasion 
of importance, and fondly believed that in their breasts resided 
a sanctity and wisdom more than human. Some of these inter- 
preters of fate, such as Velleda, in the Batavian war, governed, 
in the name of the deity, the fiercest nations of Germany. 59 
The rest of the sex, without being adored as goddesses, were 
respected as the free and equal companions of soldiers ; associ- 
ated even by the marriage ceremony to a life of toil, of danger, 
and of glory. 60 In their great invasions, the camps of the bar- 
barians were filled with a multitude of women, who remained 
firm and undaunted amidst the sound of arms, the various forms 
of destruction, and the honourable wounds of their sons and 
husbands. 61 Fainting armies of Germans have more than once 
been driven back upon the enemy by the generous despair of 
the women, who dreaded death much less than servitude. It 
the day was irrecoverably lost, they well knew how to deliver 
themselves and their children, with their own hands, from an 
insulting victor. 62 Heroines of such a cast may claim our ad- 
miration ; but they were most assuredly neither lovely nor very 
susceptible of love. Whilst they affected to emulate the stern 
virtues of man, they must have resigned that attractive softness 
in which principally consist the charm and weakness of woman. 
Conscious pride taught the German females to suppress every 
tender emotion that stood in competition with honour, and the 
first honour of the sex has ever been that of chastity. The 
sentiments and conduct of these high-spirited matrons may, at 
once, be considered as a cause, as an effect, and as a proof, of 
the general character of the nation. Female courage, however 
it may be raised by fanaticism, or confirmed by habit, can be 
only a faint and imperfect imitation of the manly valour that 
distinguishes the age or country in which it may be found. 

M Tacit. Hist. iv. 61, 65. 

60 The marriage present was a yoke of oxen, horses, and arms. See Germ. c. 
18. Tacitus is somewhat too florid on the subject. 

61 The change of exigere into exugere is a most excellent correction [c. 7. Exugere 
plagas would hardly be possible. Exigere flagas is right, ' ' to examine, probe the 

62 Tacit. Germ. c. 7. Plutarch, in Mario. Before the wives of the Teutones 
destroyed themselves and their children, they had offered to surrender, on con- 
dition that they should be received as the slaves of the vestal virgins. 


The religious system of the Germans (if the wild opinions of Religion 
savages can deserve that name) was dictated by their wants, 
their fears, and their ignorance. 63 They adored the great 
visible objects and agents of Nature, the Sun and the Moon, 
the Fire and the Earth ; together with those imaginary deities 
who were supposed to preside over the most important occupa- 
tions of human life. They were persuaded that, by some 
ridiculous arts of divination, they could discover the will of the 
superior beings, and that human sacrifices were the most precious 
and acceptable offering to their altars. Some applause has been 
hastily bestowed on the sublime notion entertained by that 
people of the Deity whom they neither confined within the walls 
of a temple, nor represented by any human figure ; but when 
we recollect that the Germans were unskilled in architecture, 
and totally unacquainted with the art of sculpture, we shall 
readily assign the true reason of a scruple, which arose not so 
much from a superiority of reason as from a want of ingenuity. 
The only temples in Germany were dark and ancient groves, 
consecrated by the reverence of succeeding generations. Their 
secret gloom, the imagined residence of an invisible power, by 
presenting no distinct object of fear or worship, impressed the 
mind with a still deeper sense of religious horror; 64 and the 
priests, rude and illiterate as they were, had been taught by 
experience the use of every artifice that could preserve and 
fortify impressions so well suited to their own interest. 

The same ignorance which renders barbarians incapable of its effects in 
conceiving or embracing the useful restraints of laws exposes 
them naked and unarmed to the blind terrors of superstition. 
The German priests, improving this favourable temper of their 
countrymen, had assumed a jurisdiction even in temporal 
concerns which the magistrate could not venture to exercise ; 
and the haughty warrior patiently submitted to the lash of 
correction, when it was inflicted, not by any human power, but 
by the immediate order of the god of war. 65 The defects of 
civil policy were sometimes supplied by the interposition of 
ecclesiastical authority. The latter was constantly exerted to 
maintain silence and decency in the popular assemblies ; and 

63 Tacitus has employed a few lines, and Cluverius one hundred and twenty-four 
pages, on this obscure subject. The former discovers in Germany the gods of 
Greece and Rome. The latter is positive that, under the emblems of the sun, the 
moon, and the fire, his pious ancestors worshipped the Trinity in unity. 

64 The sacred wood, described with such sublime horror by Lucan, was in the 
neighbourhood of Marseilles ; but there were many of the same kind in Germany. 

69 Tacit. Germania, c. 7. 


was sometimes extended to a more enlarged concern for the 
national welfare. A solemn procession was occasionally cele- 
brated in the present countries of Mecklenburgh and Pomer- 
ania. The unknown symbol of the Earth, covered with a thick 
veil, was placed on a carriage drawn by cows ; and in this 
manner the goddess, whose common residence was in the isle of 
Rugen, visited several adjacent tribes of her worshippers. During 
her progress, the sound of war was hushed, quarrels were sus- 
pended, arms laid aside, and the restless Germans had an 
opportunity of tasting the blessings of peace and harmony. 66 
The trace of God, so often and so ineffectually proclaimed by the 
clergy of the eleventh century, was an obvious imitation of this 
ancient custom. 67 

But the influence of religion was far more powerful to inflame 
than to moderate the fierce passions of the Germans. Interest 
and fanaticism often prompted its ministers to sanctify the most 
daring and the most unjust enterprises, by the approbation of 
Heaven, and full assurances of success. The consecrated 
standards, long revered in the groves of superstition, were 
placed in the front of the battle ; 68 and the hostile army was 
devoted with dire execrations to the gods of war and of thunder. 09 
In the faith of soldiers (and such were the Germans) cowardice 
is the most unpardonable of sins. A brave man was the worthy 
favourite of their martial deities ; the wretch who had lost his 
shield was alike banished from the religious and the civil 
assemblies of his countrymen. Some tribes of the north seem 
to have embraced the doctrine of transmigration, 70 others 
imagined a gross paradise of immortal drunkenness. 71 All 
agreed that a life spent in arms, and a glorious death in battle, 
were the best preparations for a happy futurity, either in this or 
in another world. 

The immortality so vainly promised by the priests was, in 
some degree, conferred by the bards. That singular order of 
men has most deservedly attracted the notice of all who have 
attempted to investigate the antiquities of the Celts, the Scandi- 

60 Tacit. Germania, c. 40. 

6y See Dr. Robertson's History of Charles V. vol. i. note 10. 

68 Tacit. Germ. c. 7. These standards were only the heads of wild beasts. 

69 See an instance of this custom, Tacit. Annal. xiii. 57. 

70 Caesar, Diodorus, and Lucan, seem to ascribe this doctrine to the Gauls, but 
M. Pelloutier (Histoire des Celtes, 1. iii. c. 18) labours to reduce their expressions 
to a more orthodox sense. 

71 Concerning this gross but alluring doctrine of the Edda, see Fable xx. in the 
curious version of that book, published by M. Mallet, in his Introduction to the 
History of Denmark. 


navians, and the Germans. Their genius and character, as well 
as the reverence paid to that important office, have been 
sufficiently illustrated. But we cannot so easily express, or even 
conceive, the enthusiasm of arms and glory which they kindled 
in the breast of their audience. Among a polished people, a 
taste for poetry is rather an amusement of the fancy than a 
passion of the soul. And yet, when in calm retirement we 
peruse the combats described by Homer or Tasso, we are in- 
sensibly seduced by the fiction, and feel a momentary glow of 
martial ardour. But how faint, how cold is the sensation which 
a peaceful mind can receive from solitary study ! It was in the 
hour of battle, or in the feast of victory, that the bards celebrated 
the glory of heroes of ancient days, the ancestors of those 
warlike chieftains who listened with transport to their artless 
but animated strains. The view of arms and of danger 
heightened the effect of the military song ; and the passions 
which it tended to excite, the desire of fame and the contempt 
of death, were the habitual sentiments of a German mind. 72 

Such was the situation and such were the manners of the ^^•dto? 
ancient Germans. Their climate, their want of learning, of arts, $$£""„. 
and of laws, their notions of honour, of gallantry, and of religion, manB 
their sense of freedom, impatience of peace, and thirst of 
enterprise, all contributed to form a people of military heroes. 
And yet we find that, during more than two hundred and fiity 
years that elapsed from the defeat of Varus to the reign of 
Decius, these formidable barbarians made few considerable 
attempts, and not any material impression, on the luxurious and 
enslaved provinces of the empire. Their progress was checked 
by their want of arms and discipline, and their fury was diverted 
by the intestine divisions of ancient Germany. 

I. It has been observed, with ingenuity, and not without want of arms 
truth, that the command of iron soon gives a nation the command 
of gold. But the rude tribes of Germany, alike destitute of 
both those valuable metals, were reduced slowly to acquire, by 
their unassisted strength, the possession of the one as well as 
the other. The face of a German army displayed their 
poverty of iron. Swords and the longer kind of lances they 
could seldom use. Their framece (as they called them in their 

72 See Tacit. Germ. c. 3. Diodor. Sicul. 1. v. [29]. Strabo, 1. iv. p. 197. The 
classical reader may remember the rank of Demodocus in the Phaeacian court, and 
the ardour infused by Tyrtaeus into the fainting Spartans. Yet there is little pro- 
bability that the Greeks and the Germans were the same people. Much learned 
trifling might be spared, if our antiquarians would condescend to reflect that 
similar manners will naturally be produced by similar situations. 


own language) were long spears headed with a sharp but narrow 
iron point, and which, as occasion required, they either darted 
from a distance, or pushed in close onset. With this spear and 
with a shield their cavalry was contented. A multitude of 
darts, scattered 73 with incredible force, were an additional 
resource of the infantry. Their military dress, when they wore 
any, was nothing more than a loose mantle. A variety of 
colours was the only ornament of their wooden or their osier 
shields. Few of the chiefs were distinguished by cuirasses, 
scarce any by helmets. Though the horses of Germany were 
neither beautiful, swift, nor practised in the skilful evolutions of 
the Roman manage, several of the nations obtained renown by 
their cavalry; but, in general, the principal strength of the 
Germans consisted in their infantry, 74 which was drawn up in 
andofdis- several deep columns, according to the distinction of tribes and 
cipiine families. Impatient of fatigue or delay, these half-armed 
warriors rushed to battle Avith dissonant shouts and disordered 
ranks ; and sometimes, by the effort of native valour, prevailed 
over the constrained and more artificial bravery of the Roman 
mercenaries. But as the barbarians poured forth their whole 
souls on the first onset, they knew not how to rally or to retire. 
A repulse was a sure defeat ; and a defeat was most commonly 
total destruction. When we recollect the complete armour of 
the Roman soldiers, their discipline, exercises, evolutions, 
fortified camps, and military engines, it appears a just matter of 
surprise how the naked and unassisted valour of the barbarians 
could dare to encounter in the field the strength of the legions 
and the various troops of the auxiliaries, which seconded their 
operations. The contest was too unequal, till the introduction 
of luxury had enervated the vigour, and a spirit of disobedience 
and sedition had relaxed the discipline, of the Roman armies. 
The introduction of barbarian auxiliaries into those armies 
was a measure attended with very obvious dangers, as it might 
gradually instruct the Germans in the arts of war and of policy. 
Although they were admitted in small numbers and with the 
strictest precaution, the example of Civilis was proper to 
convince the Romans that the danger was not imaginary, and 
that their precautions were not always sufficient. 75 During the 

73 Missilia spargunt, Tacit. Germ. c. 6. Either that historian used a vague 
expression, or he meant that they were thrown at random. 

74 It was the principal distinction from the Sarmatians, who generally fought 
on horseback. 

75 The relation of this enterprise occupies a great part of the fourth and fifth 
books of the History of Tacitus, and is more remarkable for its eloquence than 
perspicuity. Sir Henry Saville has observed several inaccuracies. 


civil wars that followed the death of Nero, that artful and in- 
trepid Batavian, whom his enemies condescended to compare 
with Hannibal and Sertorius, 76 formed a great design of freedom 
and ambition. Eight Batavian cohorts, renowned in the wars of 
Britain and Italy, repaired to his standard. He introduced an 
army of Germans into Gaul, prevailed on the powerful cities of 
Treves and Langres to embrace his cause, defeated the legions, 
destroyed their fortified camps, and employed against the 
Romans the military knowledge which he had acquired in their 
service. When at length, after an obstinate struggle, he yielded 
to the power of the empire, Civilis secured himself and his 
country by an honourable treaty. The Batavians still continued 
to occupy the islands of the Rhine, 77 the allies, not the servants, 
of the Roman monarchy. 

II. The strength of ancient Germany appears formidable when civil dusen- 
we consider the effects that might have been produced by its Germany 
united effort. The wide extent of country might very possibly 
contain a million of warriors, as all who were of an age to bear 
arms were of a temper to use them. But this fierce multitude, 
incapable of concerting or executing any plan of national great- 
ness, was agitated by various and often hostile intentions. 
Germany was divided into more than forty independent states ; 
and even in each state the union of the several tribes was ex- 
tremely loose and precarious. The barbarians were easily pro- 
voked ; they knew not how to forgive an injury, much less an 
insult ; their resentments were bloody and implacable. The 
casual disputes that so frequently happened in their tumultuous 
parties of hunting or drinking were sufficient to inflame the 
minds of whole nations ; the private feud of any considerable 
chieftains diffused itself among their followers and allies. To 
chastise the insolent, or to plunder the defenceless, were alike 
causes of war. The most formidable states of Germany affected 
to encompass their territories with a wide frontier of solitude 
and devastation. The awful distance preserved by their neigh- 
bours attested the terror of their arms, and in some measure 
defended them from the danger of unexpected incursions. 78 

" The Bructeri (it is Tacitus who now speaks) were totally ex- fomented by 
terminated by the neighbouring tribes, 79 provoked by their Ro e m P e oUcyof 

76 Tacit. Hist. iv. 13. Like them, he had lost an eye. 

77 It was contained between the two branches of the old Rhine, as they sub- 
sisted before the face of the country was changed by art and nature. See Cluver. 
German. Antiq. 1. iii. c. 30, 37. 78 Caesar de Bell. Gall. 1. vi. 23. 

79 They are mentioned however in the ivth and vth centuries by Nazarius, Am- 
mianus, Claudian, &c. , as a tribe of Franks. See Cluver. Germ. Antiq. 1. iii. c. 13. 


insolence, allured by the hopes of spoil, and perhaps inspired 
by the tutelar deities of the empire. Above sixty thousand 
barbarians were destroyed, not by the Roman arms, but in our 
sight, and for our entertainment. May the nations, enemies of 
Rome, ever preserve this enmity to each other ! We have now 
attained the utmost verge of prosperity, 80 and have nothing left 
to demand of fortune except the discord of the barbarians." 81 
These sentiments, less worthy of the humanity than of the 
patriotism of Tacitus, express the invariable maxims of the 
policy of his countrymen. They deemed it a much safer 
expedient to divide than to combat the barbarians, from whose 
defeat they could derive neither honour nor advantage. The 
money and negotiations of Rome insinuated themselves into the 
heart of Germany, and every art of seduction was used with 
dignity to conciliate those nations whom their proximity to the 
Rhine or Danube might render the most useful friends as well 
as the most troublesome enemies. Chiefs of renown and power 
were flattered by the most trifling presents, which they received 
either as marks of distinction or as the instruments of luxury. 
In civil dissensions, the weaker faction endeavoured to strengthen 
its interest by entering into secret connexions with the governors 
of the frontier provinces. Every quarrel among the Germans 
was fomented by the intrigues of Rome ; and every plan of 
union and public good was defeated by the stronger bias of 
private jealousy and interest. 82 
Transient The general conspiracy which terrified the Romans under the 

M^c n ul galnst reign of Marcus Antoninus comprehended almost all the nations 
Antomnui Q £ Germany, and even Sarmatia, from the mouth of the Rhine 
to that of the Danube. 83 It is impossible for us to determine 

89 Urgentibus is the common reading, but good sense, Lipsius, and some MSS. 
declare for Vergentibus. [An unnecessary correction.] 

81 Tacit. Germania, c. 33. The pious Abb6 de la Bteterie is very angry with 
Tacitus, talks of the devil who was a murderer from the beginning, &c, &c. 

82 Many traces of this policy may be discovered in Tacitus and Dion ; and 
many more may be inferred from the principles of human nature. 

83 Hist. August, p. 31 [iv. 22]. Ammian. Marcellin. 1. xxxi. c. 5. Aurel. Victor. 
[Cses. 16]. The Emperor Marcus was reduced to sell the rich furniture of the 
palace, and to enlist slaves and robbers. [This war is generally called the Mar- 
comannic, but its proper name, at first, was the Bellum 1 Germanicum. At a later 
stage, when the Sarmatians made common cause with the Germans, it was called 
the Bellum Germanicum Sarmaticum. The Romans took the field in 167, and 
hostilities lasted, with a short interval of peace, till the accession of Commodus, 
180. The following German peoples took part in it :— Marcomanni, Quadi, Narisci, 
Victovali, Hermunduri, Vandals, Buri ; also the (Sarmatian) Jazyges, who dwelt be- 
tween the Theiss and Danube. Large settlements of the conquered barbarians were 
made within the limits of the Empire, so that this period has importance for the his- 
tory of the Roman colonatm, It has been well treated by Heisterbergk in his 
work, Die Entstehung des Colonats.] 


whether this hasty confederation was formed by necessity, by 
reason, or by passion ; but we may rest assured, that the 
barbarians were neither allured by the indolence or provoked 
by the ambition of the Roman monarch. This dangerous in- 
vasion required all the firmness and vigilance of Marcus. He 
fixed generals of ability in the several stations of attack, and 
assumed in person the conduct of the most important province 
on the Upper Danube. After a long and doubtful conflict, the 
spirit of the barbarians was subdued. The Quadi and the 
Marcomanni, 84 who had taken the lead in the war, were the 
most severely punished in its catastrophe. They were com- 
manded to retire five miles 86 from their own banks of the 
Danube, and to deliver up the flower of the youth, who were 
immediately sent into Britain, a remote island, where they might 
be secure as hostages and useful as soldiers. 88 On the frequent 
rebellions of the Quadi and Marcomanni, the irritated emperor 
resolved to reduce their country into the form of a province. 87 
His designs were disappointed by death. This formidable 
league, however, the only one that appears in the two first 
centuries of the Imperial history, was entirely dissipated with- 
out leaving any traces behind in Germany. 

In the course of this introductory chapter, we have confined Distinction of 
ourselves to the general outlines of the manners of Germany, tribes 
without attempting to describe or to distinguish the various 
tribes which filled that great country in the time of Caesar, of 
Tacitus, or of Ptolemy. 88 As the ancient, or as new tribes 
successively present themselves in the series of this history, we 
shall concisely mention their origin, their situation, and their 
particular character. Modern nations are fixed and permanent 
societies, connected among themselves by laws and government, 
bound to their native soil by arts and agriculture. The German 
tribes were voluntary and fluctuating associations of soldiers, 
almost of savages. The same territory often changed its inhabi- 
tants in the tide of conquest and emigration. The same com- 
munities, uniting in a plan of defence or invasion, bestowed a 

84 The Marcomanni, acolony, who, from the banksof the Rhine, occupied Bohemia 
and Moravia, had once erected a great and formidable monarchy under their king 
Maroboduus. SeeStrabo, 1. vii. [290]. Veil. Pat. ii. 105 [108]. Tacit. Annal. ii. 63. 

85 Mr. Wotton (History of Rome, p. 166) increases the prohibition to ten times 
the distance. His reasoning is specious but not conclusive. Five miles were 
sufficient for a fortified barrier. 

86 Dion, 1. lxxi. [11 it sqq."\ and lxxii. [a]. 

87 [He intended to form two new provinces, Marcomannia and Sarmatia.] 

88 [For our authorities on early German History, see Appendix 15.] 


new title on their new confederacy. The dissolution of an ancient 
confederacy restored to the independent tribes their peculiar but 
long forgotten appellation. A victorious state often communi- 
cated its own name to a vanquished people. Sometimes crowds 
of volunteers flocked from all parts to the standard of a favourite 
leader ; his camp became their country, and some circumstance 
of the enterprise soon gave a common denomination to the 
mixed multitude. The distinctions of the ferocious invaders 
were perpetually varied by themselves, and confounded by the 
astonished subjects of the Roman empire. 89 

Wars and the administration of public affairs are the principal 
subjects of history ; but the number of persons interested in 
these busy scenes is very different, according to the different 
condition of mankind. In great monarchies millions of obedient 
subjects pursue their useful occupations in peace and obscurity. 
The attention of the writer, as well as of the reader, is solely 
confined to a court, a capital, a regular army, and the districts 
which happen to be the occasional scene of military operations. 
But a state of freedom and barbarism, the season of civil com- 
motions, or the situation of petty republics, 90 raises almost every 
member of the community into action and consequently into 
notice. The irregular divisions and the restless motions of the 
people of Germany dazzle our imagination, and seem to multiply 
their numbers. The profuse enumeration of kings and warriors, 
of armies and nations, inclines us to forget that the same objects 
are continually repeated under a variety of appellations, and 
that the most splendid appellations have been frequently lavished 
on the most inconsiderable objects. 

89 See an excellent dissertation on the origin and migrations of nations, in the 
M^moires de l'Acad^mie des Inscriptions, torn, xviii. p. 48-71. It is seldom 
that the antiquarian and the philosopher are so happily blended. 

90 Should we suspect that Athens contained only 21,000 citizens, and Sparta 
no more than 39,000? See Hume and Wallace on the number of mankind in 
ancient and modern times. [See above, chap. ii. note 22.] 



The Emperors Decius, Gallus, Mmilianus, Valerian, and Gallienus — 
The general Irruption of the Barbarians — The thirty Tyrants 

From the great secular games celebrated by Philip to the death g£ £$££ of 
of the emperor Gallienus, there elapsed twenty years of shame a.d.m8-26b' 
and misfortune. During that calamitous period, every instant 
of time was marked, every province of the Roman world was 
afflicted, by barbarous invaders and military tyrants, and the 
ruined empire seemed to approach the last and fatal moment of 
its dissolution. The confusion of the times and the scarcity of 
authentic memorials oppose equal difficulties to the historian, 
who attempts to preserve a clear and unbroken thread of narra- 
tion. 1 Surrounded with imperfect fragments, always concise, 
often obscure, and sometimes contradictory, he is reduced to 
collect, to compare, and to conjecture : and though he ought 
never to place his conjectures in the rank of facts, yet the 
knowledge of human nature, and of the sure operation of its 
fierce and unrestrained passions, might, on some occasions, supply 
the want of historical materials. 

There is not, for instance, any difficulty in conceiving that the xt» emparor 
successive murders of so many emperors had loosened all the p 
ties of allegiance between the prince and people ; that all the 
generals of Philip were disposed to imitate the example of their 
master; and that the caprice of armies, long since habituated to 
frequent and violent revolutions, might every day raise to the 
throne the most obscure of their fellow-soldiers. History can 
only add, that the rebellion against the emperor Philip broke 
out in the summer of the year two hundred and forty-nine, 
among the legions of Maesia, and that a subaltern officer, 2 named 
Marinus, was the object of their seditious choice. Philip was 

1 [We have almost no sources for Philip's reign. Gibbon mentions no events 
during the years between his accession in 244 and the secular games in 248. An 
expedition led by Philip himself against the Carpi seems to have been the most 
important occurrence. ] 

2 The expression used by Zosimus [i. 20] and Zonaras [xii. 19] may signify 
that Marinus commanded a century, a cohort, or a legion. 


alarmed. He dreaded lest the treason of the Maesian army 
should prove the first spark of a general conflagration. Dis- 
tracted with the consciousness of his guilt and of his danger, he 
communicated the intelligence to the senate. A gloomy silence 
voiTrtctor^ prevailed, the effect of fear, and perhaps of disaffection, till at 
th^ emperor l en gth Decius, one of the assembly, assuming a spirit worthy of 
ad"?49 his noble extraction, ventured to discover more intrepidity than 
the emperor seemed to possess. He treated the whole business 
with contempt, as a hasty and inconsiderate tumult, and Philip's 
rival as a phantom of royalty, who in a very few days would be 
destroyed by the same inconstancy that had created him. The 
speedy completion of the prophecy inspired Philip with a just 
esteem for so able a counsellor, and Decius appeared to him the 
only person capable of restoring peace and discipline to an army 
whose tumultuous spirit did not immediately subside after the 
murder of Marinus. Decius, 3 who long resisted his own nomi- 
nation, seems to have insinuated the danger of presenting a 
leader of merit to the angry and apprehensive minds of the 
soldiers ; and his prediction was again confirmed by the event. 
The legions of Maesia forced their judge to become their accom- 
plice. They left him only the alternative of death or the purple. 
His subsequent conduct, after that decisive measure, was unavoid- 
able. He conducted or followed his army to the confines of Italy, 
whither Philip, collecting all his force to repel the formidable 
competitor whom he had raised up, advanced to meet him. The 
Imperial troops were superior in number ; but the rebels formed 
an army of veterans, commanded by an able and experienced 
leader. Philip was either killed in the battle or put to death a 
few days afterwards at Verona. His son and associate in the 
empire, 4 was massacred at Rome by the Praetorian guards ; and 
the victorious Decius, with more favourable circumstances than 
the ambition of that age can usually plead, was universally ac- 
knowledged by the senate and provinces. It is reported that, 
immediately after his reluctant acceptance of the title of Augus- 
tus, he had assured Philip by a private message of his innocence 

8 His birth at Bubalia, a little village in Pannonia (Eutrop. ix. [4], Victor, in 
Ccesarib. [29] et Epitom. [29] ), seems to contradict, unless it was merely acciden- 
tal, his supposed descent from the Decii. Six hundred years had bestowed 
nobility on the Decii ; but at the commencement of that period, they were only 
Plebeians of merit, and among the first who shared the consulship with the 
haughty Patricians. Plebeia? Deciorum animee, &c. Juvenal, Sat. viii. E54. See 
the spirited speech of Decius in Livy, x. 9, 10 [7, 8]. [C. Messius Quintus Traianus 
Decius. The date of his elevation fell in the last days of 248 (Schiller, i. 803).] 

4 [Also named Philip.] 


and loyalty, solemnly protesting that, on his arrival in Italy, he 
would resign the Imperial ornaments, and return to the con- 
dition of an obedient subject. His professions might be sincere; 
but, in the situation where fortune had placed him, it was scarcely 
possible that he could either forgive or be forgiven. 5 

The emperor Decius had employed a few months in the works He marches 
of peace 6 and the administration of justice, when he was sum- Goth™ 

v * AD 250 

moned to the banks of the Danube by the invasion of the Goths. 
This is the first considerable occasion in which history mentions 
that great people, who afterwards broke the Roman power, 
sacked the Capitol, and reigned in Gaul, Spain, and Italy. So 
memorable was the part which they acted in the subversion of 
the Western empire, that the name of Goths is frequently but 
improperly used as a general appellation of rude and warlike 

In the beginning of the sixth century, and after the conquest origin of the 
of Italy, the Goths, in possession of present greatness, very Scandinavia 
naturally indulged themselves in the prospect of past and of 
future glory. They wished to preserve the memory of their 
ancestors, and to transmit to posterity their own achievements. 
The principal minister of the court of Ravenna, the learned 
Cassiodorus, gratified the inclination of the conquerors in a 
Gothic history, which consisted of twelve books, now reduced to 
the imperfect abridgment of Jornandes. 7 These writers passed 
with the most artful conciseness over the misfortunes of the 
nation, celebrated its successful valour, and adorned the triumph 
with many Asiatic trophies that more properly belonged to the 
people of Scythia. On the faith of ancient songs, the uncertain 
but the only memorials of barbarians, they deduced the first 
origin of the Goths from the vast island or peninsula of 
Scandinavia. 8 That extreme country of the North was not 
unknown to the conquerors of Italy ; the ties of ancient con- 
sanguinity had been strengthened by recent offices of friendship ; 
and a Scandinavian king had cheerfully abdicated his savage 
greatness, that he might pass the remainder of his days in the 

6 Zosiraus, 1. i. p. 20 [22] . Zonaras, L xii. p. 624 [19]. Edit. Louvre. 

8 [He conferred the rank of Caesar on his two sons, Q. Herennius Etruscus 
Messius Decius and C. Valens Hostilianus Messius Quintus.] 

7 See the prefaces of Cassiodorus and Jornandes : it is surprising that the latter 
should be omitted in the excellent edition, published by Grotius, of the Gothic 
writers. Qordanes is now recognized as the correct spelling of the Gothic writer 
whom Gibbon calls Jornandes. See Appendix 15.] 

8 On the authority of Ablavius, Jornandes quotes some old Gothic chronicles 
in verse. De Reb. Geticis, c. 4. [The Scandinavian origin of the Goths was a 
legend believed by themselves, but there is no historical evidence for it.] 


peaceful and polished court of Ravenna. 9 Many vestiges, 
which cannot be ascribed to the arts of popular vanity, attest 
the ancient residence of the Goths in the countries beyond the 
Baltic. From the time of the geographer Ptolemy, the southern 
part of Sweden seems to have continued in the possession of the 
less enterprising remnant of the nation, and a large territory is 
even at present divided into east and west Gothland. During 
the middle ages (from the ninth to the twelfth century), whilst 
Christianity was advancing with a slow progress into the North, 
the Goths and the Swedes composed two distinct and sometimes 
hostile members of the same monarchy. 10 The latter of these 
two names has prevailed without extinguishing the former. The 
Swedes, who might well be satisfied with their own fame in 
arms, have in every age claimed the kindred glory of the 
Goths. In a moment of discontent against the court of Rome, 
Charles the Twelfth insinuated that his victorious troops were 
not degenerated from their brave ancestors, who had already 
subdued the mistress of the world. 11 
Beugonof Till the end of the eleventh century, a celebrated temple 
1116 th * subsisted at Upsal, the most considerable town of the Swedes 
and Goths. It was enriched with the gold which the Scandi- 
navians had acquired in their piratical adventures, and sanctified 
by the uncouth representations of the three principal deities, 
the god of war, the goddess of generation, and the god of 
thunder. In the general festival that was solemnized every 
ninth year, nine animals of every species (without excepting the 
human) were sacrificed, and their bleeding bodies suspended in 
the sacred grove adjacent to the temple. 12 The only traces that 
now subsist of this barbaric superstition are contained in the 
Edda, a system of mythology, compiled in Iceland about the 
thirteenth century, and studied by the learned of Denmark and 
Sweden, as the most valuable remains of their ancient traditions. 
initttutioM Notwithstanding the mysterious obscurity of the Edda, we can 

and death of . 


9 Jornandes, c. 3. 

10 See, in the Prolegomena of Grotius [to Hist. Gotth., Vand. et Lang.], some 
large extracts from Adam of Bremen [98 sqq.], and Saxo-Grammaticus [124 sqq.]. 
The former wrote in the year 1077, the latter flourished about the year 1200. 

» Voltaire, Histoire de Charles XII. 1. iii. When the Austrians desired the 
aid of the court of Rome against Gustavus Adolphus, they always represented 
that conqueror as the lineal successor of Alaric. Harte's History of Gustavus, vol. 
ii. p. 123. 

w See Adam of Bremen in Grotii Prolegomenis, p. 104 [105]. The temple of Upsal 
was destroyed by lngo King of Sweden, who began his reign in the year 1075, 
and about fourscore years afterwards a Christian Cathedral was erected on <ts 
ruins. See Dalin's History of Sweden in the Bibliotheque Raisonn^e. 


easily distinguish two persons confounded under the name of 
Odin — the god of war, and the great legislator of Scandinavia. 
The latter, the Mahomet of the North, instituted a religion 
adapted to the climate and to the people. Numerous tribes on 
either side of the Baltic were subdued by the invincible valour of 
Odin, by his persuasive eloquence, and by the fame which he 
acquired of a most skilful magician. The faith that he had 
propagated, during a long and prosperous life, he confirmed by 
a voluntary death. Apprehensive of the ignominious approach 
of disease and infirmity, he resolved to expire as became a 
warrior. In a solemn assembly of the Swedes and Goths, he 
wounded himself in nine mortal places, hastening away (as he 
asserted with his dying voice) to prepare the feast of heroes in 
the palace of the god of war. 13 

The native and proper habitation of Odin is distinguished by Agreeatio but 
the appellation of As-gard. The happy resemblance of that hypothesis 
name, with As-burg, or As-of, 14 words of a similar signification, oX e ng 
has given rise to an historical system of so pleasing a contexture 
that we could almost wish to persuade ourselves of its truth. It 
is supposed that Odin was the chief of a tribe of barbarians 
which dwelt on the banks of the lake Maeotis, till the fall of 
Mithridates and the arms of Pompey menaced the North with 
servitude ; that Odin, yielding with indignant fury to a power 
which he was unable to resist, conducted his tribe from the 
frontiers of the Asiatic Sarmatia into Sweden, with the great 
design of forming, in that inaccessible retreat of freedom, a 
religion and a people which, in some remote age, might be sub- 
servient to his immortal revenge ; when his invincible Goths, 
armed with martial fanaticism, should issue in numerous swarms 
from the neighbourhood of the Polar circle, to chastise the 
oppressors of mankind. 15 

If so many successive generations of Goths were capable of Emigration of 
preserving a faint tradition of their Scandinavian origin, we must &£ m scandi- 

naria into 

18 Mallet, Introduction a l'Histoire du Dannemarc. 

14 Mallet, c. iv. p. 55, has collected from Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy, and Stephanus 
Byzantinus, the vestiges of such a city and people. 

18 This wonderful expedition of Odin, which, by deducing the enmity of the 
Goths and Romans from so memorable a cause, might supply the noble ground- 
work of an Epic Poem, cannot safely be received as authentic history. Accord- 
ing to the obvious sense of the Edda, and the interpretation of the most skilful 
critics, As-gard, instead of denoting a real city of the Asiatic Sarmatia, is the 
fictitious appellation of the mystic abode of the gods, the Olympus of Scandinavia ; 
from whence the prophet was supposed to descend, when he announced his new 
religion to the Gothic nations, who were already seated in the southern parts of 

16 VOL. L 


not expect, from such unlettered barbarians, any distinct account 
of the time and circumstances of their emigration. To cross the 
Baltic was an easy and natural attempt. The inhabitants of 
Sweden were masters of a sufficient number of large vessels with 
oars, 16 and the distance is little more than one hundred miles 
from Carlscroon to the nearest ports of Pomerania and Prussia. 
Here, at length, Ave land on firm and historic ground. At least 
as early as the Christian aera, 17 and as late as the age of the 
Antonines, 18 the Goths were established towards the mouth of 
the Vistula, and in that fertile province where the commercial 
cities of Thorn, Elbing, Konigsberg, and Danzig, were long 
afterwards founded. 19 Westward of the Goths, the numerous 
tribes of the Vandals were spread along the banks of the Oder, 
and the sea coast of Pomerania and Mecklenburg. A striking 
resemblance of manners, complexion, religion, and language, 
seemed to indicate that the Vandals and the Goths were 
originally one great people. 20 The latter appear to have been 
subdivided into Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Gepidae. 21 The dis- 
tinction among the Vandals was more strongly marked by the 
independent names of Heruli, Burgundians, Lombards, and a 
variety of other petty states, many of which, in a future age, 
expanded themselves into powerful monarchies. 
SpSmSio 1 * In the age of the Antonines the Goths were still seated in 
Prussia. About the reign of Alexander Severus, the Roman 
province of Dacia had already experienced their proximity by 
frequent and destructive inroads. 22 In this interval, therefore, 

16 Tacit. Germania, c. 44. 

17 Tacit. Annal. ii. 62. If we could yield a firm assent to the navigations of 
Pytheas of Marseilles, we must allow that the Goths had passed the Baltic at least 
three hundred years before Christ. 

18 Ptolemy, 1. ii. 

19 By the German colonies who followed the arms of the Teutonic knights. 
The conquest and conversion of Prussia were completed by those adventurers in 
the xiiith century. 

20 Pliny (Hist. Natur. iv. 14) and Procopius (in Bell. Vandal. 1. i. c. 1 [2] ) agree 
in this opinion. They lived in distant ages, and possessed different means of in- 
vestigating the truth. [Resemblances in proper names point to a close kinship.] 

21 The Ostro and Visi, the Eastern and Western Goths, obtained those denomina- 
tions from their original seats in Scandinavia. In all their future marches and 
settlements they preserved, with their names, the same relative situation. When 
they first departed from Sweden, the infant colony was contained in three vessels. 
The third being a heavy sailer lagged behind, and the crew, which afterwards 
swelled into a nation, received from that circumstance the appellation of Gepidae 
or Loiterers. Jornandes, c. 17. [On this division and the early migrations of the 
Goths, see Appendix 15, 16.] 

22 See a fragment of Peter Patricius in the Excerpta Legationum ; and with re- 
gard to its probable date, see Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, torn. iii. p. 346. 
[Fr. 8, F.H.G. iv. p. 186]. 


of about seventy years, we must place the second migration of 
the Goths from the Baltic to the Euxine ; but the cause that 
produced it lies concealed among the various motives which 
actuate the conduct of unsettled barbarians. Either a pestilence 
or a famine, a victory or a defeat, an oracle of the gods, or the 
eloquence of a daring leader, were sufficient to impel the Gothic 
arms on the milder climates of the south. Besides the influence 
of a martial religion, the numbers and spirit of the Goths were 
equal to the most dangerous adventures. The use of round 
bucklers and short swords rendered them formidable in a close 
engagement ; the manly obedience which they yielded to 
hereditary kings gave uncommon union and stability to their 
councils ; 23 and the renowned Amala, the hero of that age, 
and the tenth ancestor of Theodoric, king of Italy, enforced, by 
the ascendant of personal merit, the prerogative of his birth, 
which he derived from the Anses, or demigods of the Gothic 
nation. 24 

The fame of a great enterprise excited the bravest warriors The Gothic 
from all the Vandalic states of Germany, many of whom are creases in its 

/» f i i.-iti march 

seen a tew years afterwards combating under the common 
standard of the Goths. 25 The first motions of the emigrants 
canned them to the banks of the Prypec, a river universally 
conceived by the ancients to be the southern branch of the 
Borysthenes. 26 The windings of that great stream through the 
plains of Poland and Russia gave a direction to their line of 
march, and a constant supply of fresh water and pasturage to 
their numerous herds of cattle. They followed the unknown 
course of the river, confident in their valour, and careless of 
whatever power might oppose their progress. The Bastarnae 
and the Venedi were the first who presented themselves ; and 
the flower of their youth, either from choice or compulsion, 
increased the Gothic army. The Bastamae dwelt on the northern 
side of the Carpathian mountains ; the immense tract of land 

23 Omnium harum gentium insigne, rotunda scuta, breves gladii, et erga reges 
obsequium. Tacit. Germania, c. 43. The Goths probably acquired their iron 
by the commerce of amber. 

24 Jomandes, c. 13, 14. [Theodoric was not " King of Italy," as we shall see ; 
the expression is a loose one.] 

25 The Heruli, and the Uregundi or Burgundi, are particularly mentioned. See 
Mascou's History of the Germans, 1. v. A passage in the Augustan History, p. 28 
[iv. 14], seems to allude to this great emigration. The Marcomannic war was 
partly occasioned by the pressure of barbarous tribes, who fled before the arms of 
more northern barbarians. 

46 D'Anville, G6ographie Ancienne, and the third part of his incomparable map 
of Europe. 


that separated the Bastamae from the savages of Finland was" 
possessed, or rather wasted, by the Venedi : 27 we have some 
reason to believe that the first of these nations, which dis- 
tinguished itself in the Macedonian war, 2S and was afterwards 
divided into the formidable tribes of the Peucini, the Borani, 
the Carpi, &c, derived its origin from the Germans. With better 
Distinction of authority a Sarmatian extraction may be assigned to the Venedi, 
s^nnatiana who rendered themselves so famous in the middle ages. 29 But 
the confusion of blood and manners on that doubtful frontier 
often perplexed the most accurate observers. 30 As the Goths 
advanced near the Euxine Sea, they encountered a purer race 
of Sarmatians, the Jazyges, the Alani, and the Roxolani ; and 
they were probably the first Germans who saw the mouths of 
the Borysthenes and of the Tanais. If we inquire into the 
characteristic marks of the people of Germany and of Sarmatia, 
we shall discover that those two great portions of human kind 
were principally distinguished by fixed huts or moveable tents, 
by a close dress or flowing garments, by the marriage of one or 
of several wives, by a military force consisting, for the most 
part, either of infantry or cavalry ; and, above all, by the use of 
the Teutonic, or of the Sclavonian language ; the last of which 
has been diffused, by conquest, from the confines of Italy to the 
neighbourhood of Japan. 
?he°u&aine 0f The Goths were now in possession of the Ukraine, a country 
of considerable extent and uncommon fertility, intersected with 
navigable rivers, which from either side discharge themselves 
into the Borysthenes ; and interspersed with large and lofty 
forests of oaks. The plenty of game and fish, the innumerable 
bee-hives, deposited in the hollow of old trees and in the 
cavities of rocks, and forming, even in that rude age, a valuable 
branch of commerce, the size of the cattle, the temperature of 
the air, the aptness of the soil for every species of grain, and 
the luxuriancy of the vegetation, all displayed the liberality of 
Nature, and tempted the industry of man. 31 But the Goths 
withstood all these temptations, and still adhered to a life of 
idleness, of poverty, and of rapine. 

27 Tacit. Germania, c. 46. [The Bastamae were certainly a Germanic people.] 
^Cluver. Germ. Antiqua, 1. iii. c. 43. 

29 The Venedi, the Slavi, and the Antes, were the three great tribes of the same 
people. Jornandes, c. 24 [xxiii. 119, ed. Moramsen] . 

30 Tacitus most assuredly deserves that title, and even his cautious suspense is 
a proof of his diligent inquiries. 

31 Genealogical History of the Tartars, p. 593. Mr. Bell (vol. ii. p. 379) 
traversed the Ukraine in his journey from Petersburgh to Constantinople. The 
modern face of the country is a just representation of the ancient, since, in the" 
bands of the Cossacks, it still remains in a state of nature. 


The Scythian hordes, which, towards the east, bordered on the The ooun 
new settlements of the Goths, presented nothing to their arms, K V m«l 
except the doubtful chance of an unprofitable victory. But the proTince, 
prospect of the Roman territories was far more alluring ; and 
the fields of Dacia were covered with rich harvests, sown by the 
hands of an industrious, and exposed to be gathered by those 
of a warlike, people. It is probable that the conquests of 
Trajan, maintained by his successors less for any real advantage 
than for ideal dignity, had contributed to weaken the empire on 
that side. The new and unsettled province of Dacia was neither 
strong enough to resist, nor rich enough to satiate, the rapacious- 
ness of the barbarians. As long as the remote banks of the 
Dniester were considered as the boundary of the Roman power, 
the fortifications of the Lower Danube were more carelessly 
guarded, and the inhabitants of Maesia lived in supine security, 
fondly conceiving themselves at an inaccessible distance from 
any barbarian invaders. The irruptions of the Goths, under the 
reign of Philip, fatally convinced them of their mistake. The 
king or leader 32 of that fierce nation traversed with contempt 
the province of Dacia, and passed both the Dniester and the 
Danube without encountering any opposition capable of retard- 
ing his progress. The relaxed discipline of the Roman troops 
betrayed the most important posts where they were stationed, 
and the fear of deserved punishment induced great numbers of 
them to enlist under the Gothic standard. The various multi- 
tude of barbarians appeared, at length, under the walls of 
Marcianopolis, a city built by Trajan in honour of his sister, and 
at that time the capital of the second Maesia. 33 The inhabitants 
consented to ransom their lives and property by the payment of 
a large sum of money, and the invaders retreated back into their 
deserts, animated, rather than satisfied, with the first success 
of their arms against an opulent but feeble country. Intelli- 
gence was soon transmitted to the Emperor Decius, that Cniva, 
King of the Goths, had passed the Danube a second time, 
with more considerable forces ; that his numerous detachments 

32 [Ostrogotha is said to have been his name. Compare the eponymous 
ancestors of the Greek tribes — Dorus, /Eolus, Ion, Achaeus, &c] 

SJ In the sixteenth chapter of Jornandes, instead of secundo Msesiam, we may 
venture to substitute secundam, the second Maesia, of which Marcianopolis was 
certainly the capital (see Hierocles de Provinciis, and Wesseling ad locum, p. 636 
Itinerar.). It is surprising how this palpable error of the scribe could escape the 
judicious correction of Grotius. [Et secundo Moesiam populati. But the 
Laurentian Ms. has die before secundo, hence the true correction is de secundo, 
see Mommsen's edition, p. 81. The siege of Marcianopolis is described at length 
in frag. 18 of Dexippus, first published by Miiller, F. H. G. iii. p. 675.] 

A.D. 250 


scattered devastation over the province of Maesia, whilst the 
main body of the army, consisting of seventy thousand Germans 
and Sarmatians, a force equal to the most daring achievements, 
required the presence of the Roman monarch, and the exertion 
of his military power, 
varioui Decius found the Goths engaged before Nicopolis, on the 

Gothic war, 6 Jatrus, one of the many monuments of Trajan's victories. 34 

A n OKA ' 1 1 • 1 • 1 1 • 1 

On his approach they raised the siege, but with a design only 
of marching away to a conquest of greater importance, the 
siege of Philippopolis, a city of Thrace, founded by the father 
of Alexander, near the foot of Mount Haemus. 35 Decius followed 
them through a difficult countiy, and by forced marches ; but, 
when he imagined himself at a considerable distance from the 
rear of the Goths, Cniva turned with rapid fuiy on his pursuers. 
The camp of the Romans was surprised and pillaged, and, for 
the first time, their emperor fled in disorder before a troop of 
half-armed barbarians. After a long resistance Philippopolis, 
destitute of succour, was taken by storm. A hundred thousand 
persons are reported to have been massacred in the sack of that 
great city. 36 Many prisoners of consequence became a valuable 
accession to the spoil ; and Priscus, a brother of the late emperor 
Philip, blushed not to assume the purple under the protection 
of the barbarous enemies of Rome. 37 The time, however, con- 
sumed in that tedious siege, enabled Decius to revive the 
courage, restore the discipline, and recruit the numbers of his 
troops. He intercepted several parties of Carpi, and other 
Germans, who were hastening to share the victory of their 
countrymen, 38 intrusted the passes of the mountains to officers 
of approved valour and fidelity, 39 repaired and strengthened the 
fortifications of the Danube, and exerted his utmost vigilance to 

34 The place is still called Nicop. The little stream [Iantra] , on whose banks it 
stood, falls into the Danube. D'Anville G6ographie Ancienne, torn. i. p. 307. 

ssStephan. Byzant. de Urbibus, p. 740. Wesseling Itinerar. p. 136. Zonaras, 
by an odd mistake, ascribes the foundation of Philippopolis to the immediate 
predecessor of Decius. 

8« Ammian. xxxi. 5. [A fragment of Dexippus, first edited by Miiller (F. H. G. 
iii. p. 678, fr. 20), gives a long description of an ineffectual siege of Philippopolis 
bv the Goths. Miiller concludes that there were two sieges, the first unsuccessful, 
before the defeat and death of Decius, the second successful, after that disaster. 
This is supported by the words of Ammianus, xxxi. 5.] 

$ Aurel. Victor [Caesar.] c. 29. [Dexippus, frags. 19, 20; Zos. i. 19.] 

38 Victoria Carpicm, on some medals of Decius, insinuate these advantages. 

38 Claudius (who afterwards reigned with so much glory) was posted in the pass 
of Thermopylae with 200 Dardanians, 100 heavy and 160 light horse, 60 Cretan 
archers, and 1000 well-armed recruits. See an original letter from the emperor to 
his officers in the Augustan History, p. aoo [xxv. 16J. 


oppose either the progress or the retreat of the Goths. En- 
couraged by the return of fortune, he anxiously waited for an 
opportunity to retrieve, by a great and decisive blow, his own 
glory, and that of the Roman arms. 40 

At the same time when Decius was struggling with the vio- Deciua re- 
lence of the tempest, his mind, calm and deliberate amidst the office of 
tumult of war, investigated the more general causes that, since person of 
the age of the Antonines, had so impetuously urged the decline 
of the Roman greatness. He soon discovered that it was im- 
possible to replace that greatness on a permanent basis without 
restoring public virtue, ancient principles and manners, and the 
oppressed majesty of the laws. To execute this noble but 
arduous design, he first resolved to revive the obsolete office of 
censor ; an office which, as long as it had subsisted in its pristine 
integrity, had so much contributed to the perpetuity of the 
state, 41 till it was usurped and gradually neglected by the 
Caesars. 42 Conscious that the favour of the sovereign may confer 
power, but that the esteem of the people can alone bestow 
authority, he submitted the choice of the censor to the unbiassed 
voice of the senate. By their unanimous votes, or rather a.d. 251, 27th 
acclamations, Valerian, who was afterwards emperor, and who 
then served with distinction in the army of Decius, was declared 
the most worthy of that exalted honour. As soon as the decree 
of the senate was transmitted to the emperor, he assembled a 
great council in his camp, and, before the investiture of the censor 
elect, he apprized him of the difficulty and importance of his 
great office. " Happy Valerian," said the prince, to his dis- 
tinguished subject, "happy in the general approbation of the 
senate and of the Roman republic ! Accept the censorship of 
mankind, and judge of our manners. You will select those who 

40 Jornandes, c. 16 — 18. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 22 [23]. In the general account of 
this war, it is easy to discover the opposite prejudices of the Gothic and the Grecian 
writer. In carelessness alone they are alike. 

41 Montesquieu, Grandeur et Decadence (des Romains, c. 8. He illustrates the 
nature and use of the censorship with his usual ingenuity and with uncommon 
precision. [It is hard to suppose that Decius was so unsophisticated as really to 
imagine that the revival of the censorship would be likely to promote a revival 
of morals. It has been conjectured that the measure was a concession to the 

42 Vespasian and Titus were the last censors (Pliny, Hist. Natur. vii. 49. Cen- 
sorinus de Die Natali). The modesty of Trajan refused an honour which he de- 
served, and his example became a law to the Antonines. See Pliny's Panegyric, c. 
45 and 60. [The author apparently thought that Domitian held only the censoria 
potestas. At first indeed he was content with this ; it was conferred on him in 84 
or 85 a.d. ; but soon afterwards he assumed the censorship for life. His object 
was to control the senate. Martial (vi. 4) addresses him as Censor maxime.] 


deserve to continue members of the senate ; you will restore the 
equestrian order to its ancient splendour ; you will improve the 
revenue, yet moderate the public burdens. You will distinguish 
into regular classes the various and infinite multitude of citizens, 
and accurately review the military strength, the wealth, the 
virtue, and the resources of Rome. Your decisions shall obtain 
the force of laws. The army, the palace, the ministers of justice, 
and the great officers of the empire are all subject to your 
tribunal. None are exempted, excepting only the ordinary 
consuls, 43 the praefect of the city, the king of the sacrifices, and 
(as long as she preserves her chastity inviolate) the eldest of the 
vestal virgins. Even these few, who may not dread the severity, 
will anxiously solicit the esteem, of the Roman censor." **- 
Th.derfiii A magistrate invested with such extensive powers would have 
SS^ritnont"' appeared not so much the minister as the colleague of his sove- 
efl,ct reign. 45 Valerian justly dreaded an elevation so full of envy 

and of suspicion. He modestly urged the alarming greatness 
of the trust, his own insufficiency, and the incurable corruption 
of the times. He artfully insinuated that the office of censor 
was inseparable from the Imperial dignity, and that the feeble 
hands of a subject were unequal to the support of such an im- 
mense weight of cares and of power. 46 The approaching event 
of war soon put an end to the prosecution of a project so specious 
but so impracticable, and, whilst it preserved Valerian from the 
danger, saved the emperor Decius from the disappointment, 
which would most probably have attended it. A censor may 
maintain, he can never restore, the morals of a state. It is im- 
possible for such a magistrate to exert his authority with benefit, 
or even with effect, unless he is supported by a quick sense of 
honour and virtue in the minds of the people, by a decent rever- 
ence for the public opinion, and by a train of useful prejudices 
combating on the side of national manners. In a period when 
these principles are annihilated, the censorial jurisdiction must 
either sink into empty pageantry, or be converted into a partial 
instrument of vexatious oppression. 47 It was easier to vanquish 
the Goths than to eradicate the public vices; yet, even in 

43 Yet in spite of this exemption Pompey appeared before that tribunal, during 
his consulship. The occasion indeed was equally singular and honourable. 
Plutarch in Pomp. p. 630 [22]. 

44 See the original speech in the Augustan Hist. p. 173, 174 [xxii. 6 (2)] . 

46 This transaction might deceive Zonaras, who supposes that Valerian was 
actually declared the colleague of Decius, 1. xii. p. 625 [20]. 

48 Hist. August, p. 174 [ib.]. The emperor's reply is omitted. 

47 Such as the attempts of Augustus towards a reformation of manners. Tacit. 
Annal. iii. 24. 


the first of these enterprises, Decius lost his army and his 

The Goths were now, on every side, surrounded and pursued 222g* }i£ 
by the Roman arms. The flower of their troops had perished in jjj^ 8 and hia 
the long siege of Philippopolis, and the exhausted country could 
no longer afford subsistence for the remaining multitude of 
licentious barbarians. Reduced to this extremity, the Goths 
would gladly have purchased, by the surrender of all their booty 
and prisoners, the permission of an undisturbed retreat. But 
the emperor, confident of victory, and resolving, by the chastise- 
ment of these invaders, to strike a salutary terror into the 
nations of the North, refused to listen to any terms of accommo- 
dation. The high-spirited barbarians preferred death to slavery. 
An obscure town of Maesia, called Forum Terebronii, 48 was the 
scene of the battle. The Gothic army was drawn up in three 
lines, and, either from choice or accident, the front of the third 
line was covered by a morass. In the beginning of the action, 
the son of Decius, a youth of the fairest hopes, and already asso- 
ciated to the honours of the purple, was slain by an arrow, in 
the sight of his afflicted father; who, summoning all his fortitude, 
admonished the dismayed troops that the loss of a single soldier 
was of little importance to the republic. 49 The conflict was 
terrible ; it was the combat of despair against grief and rage. 
The first line of the Goths at length gave way in disorder ; the 
second, advancing to sustain it, shared its fate ; and the third 
only remained entire, prepared to dispute the passage of the 
morass, which was imprudently attempted by the presumption 
of the enemy. " Here the fortune of the day turned, and all 
things became adverse to the Romans : the place deep with 
ooze, sinking under those who stood, slippery to such as advanced ; 
their armour heavy, the waters deep ; nor could they wield, in 
that uneasy situation, their weighty javelins. The barbarians, 
on the contrary, were enured to encounters in the bogs ; their 
persons tall, their spears long, such as could wound at a dis- 
tance." 60 In this morass the Roman army, after an ineffectual 
struggle, was irrecoverably lost ; nor could the body of the 

<8 Tillemont, Histoire des Empereurs, torn. iii. 598. As Zosimus and some of 
his followers mistake the Danube for the Tanais, they place the field of battle in 
the plains of Scythia. [Forum Tiebonii or Abrittus is in the province of Scythia, 
which is the modern Dobrudza, but the site has not been discovered.] 

43 Aurelius Victor allows two distinct actions for the deaths of the two Decii ; 
but I have preferred the account of Jornandes. [And so Dexippus, fr. 16.] 

50 I have ventured to copy from Tacitus (Annal. i. 64) the picture of a similar 
engagement between a Roman army and a German tribe, 



Election of 

AD. 251, 

Retreat of 
the Goths 

peace by the 

payment of 
an annual 


emperor ever be found. 51 Such was the fate of Decius, in the 
fiftieth year of his age; an accomplished prince, active in war, 
and affable in peace ; 52 Avho, together with his son, has deserved 
to be compared, both in life and death, with the brightest 
examples of ancient virtue. 53 

This fatal blow humbled, for a very little time, the insolence 
of the legions. They appear to have patiently expected, and 
submissively obeyed, the decree of the senate which regulated 
the succession to the throne. From a just regard for the memory 
of Decius, the Imperial title was conferred on Hostilianus, his 
only surviving son ; but an equal rank, with more effectual power, 
was granted to Gallus, 54 whose experience and ability seemed 
equal to the great trust of guardian to the young prince and the 
distressed empire. 55 The first care of the new emperor was to 
deliver the Illyrian provinces from the intolerable weight of the 
victorious Goths. He consented to leave in their hands the 
rich fruits of their invasion, an immense booty, and, what was 
still more disgraceful, a great number of prisoners of the highest 
merit and quality. He plentifully supplied their camp with 
every conveniency that could assuage their angry spirits, or 
facilitate their so much wished-for departure ; and he even 
promised to pay them annually a large sum of gold, on condition 
they should never afterwards infest the Roman territories by 
their incursions. 56 

In the age of the Scipios, the most opulent kings of the earth, 
who courted the protection of the victorious commonwealth, 
were gratified with such trifling presents as could only derive a 
value from the hand that bestowed them ; an ivory chair, a 
coarse garment of purple, an inconsiderable piece of plate, or 
a quantity of copper coin. 57 After the wealth of nations had 

51 Jornandes, c. 18. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 22 [23]. Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 627 [20]. 
Aurelius Victor [Caes. 29, 5, and Victor, epit. 29]. 

52 The Decii were killed before the end of the year two hundred and fifty-one, 
since the new princes took possession of the consulship on the ensuing calends of 
January. [Tillemont has argued for end of November 251, and is followed by 
Hodgkin, i. p. 56, but Alexandrian coins prove that it must be earlier than August 
29, 251. See Schiller, i. 807.] 

83 Hist. August, p. 223 [xxvi. 42] gives them a very honourable place among 
the small number of good emperors who reigned between Augustus and Dio- 

54 [C. Vibius Trebonianus Gallus, governor of the two Moesias.] 

55 Haec, ubi Patres comperere. . . . decernunt. Victor in Caesaribus [30] . 

66 Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 628 [21. Zosimus, i. 24]. 

67 A Sella, a Toga, and a golden Patera of five pounds weight, were accepted 
with joy and gratitude by the wealthy King of Egypt (Livy, xxvii. 4). Quina millia 
/Eris, a weight of copper in value about eighteen pounds sterling, was the usual 
present made to foreign ambassadors (Livy, xxxi. 9). 


centred in Rome, the emperors displayed their greatness, and 
even their policy, by the regular exercise of a steady and moderate 
liberality towards the allies of the state. They relieved the 
poverty of the barbarians, honoured their merit, and recompensed 
their fidelity. These voluntary marks of bounty were under- 
stood to flow, not from the fears, but merely from the generosity 
or the gratitude of the Romans ; and whilst presents and sub- 
sidies were liberally distributed among friends and suppliants, 
they were sternly refused to such as claimed them as a debt. 58 
But this stipulation of an annual payment to a victorious enemy 
appeared without disguise in the light of an ignominious 
tribute ; the minds of the Romans were not yet accustomed Popuur ais- 
to accept such unequal laws from a tribe of barbarians ; and the 
prince, who by a necessary concession had probably saved his 
country, became the object of the general contempt and 
aversion. The death of Hostilianus, though it happened in 
the midst of a raging pestilence, was interpreted as the personal 
crime of Gallus ; 59 and even the defeat of the late emperor was 
ascribed by the voice of suspicion to the perfidious counsels of 
his hated successor. 60 The tranquillity which the empire en- 
joyed during the first year of his administration 61 served rather 
to inflame than to appease the public discontent ; and, as soon 
as the apprehensions of war were removed, the infamy of the 
peace was more deeply and more sensibly felt. 

But the Romans were irritated to a still higher degree, when victory and 
they discovered that they had not even secured their repose, Amiuanus, 
though at the expense of their honour. The dangerous secret A-D-253 
of the wealth and weakness of the empire had been revealed 
to the world. New swarms of barbarians, encouraged by the 
success, and not conceiving themselves bound by the obligation, 
of their brethren, spread devastation through the Illyrian 
provinces, and terror as far as the gates of Rome. The defence 
of the monarchy, which seemed abandoned by the pusillanimous 
emperor, was assumed by iEmilianus, 62 governor of Pannonia 
and Maesia; who rallied the scattered forces and revived the 
fainting spirits of the troops. The barbarians were unexpectedly 

58 See the firmness of a Roman general so late as the time of Alexander Severus, 
in the Excerpta Legationum, p. 25. Edit. Louvre. 

6B For the plague see Jornandes, c. 19, and Victor in Caesaribus [30, 2. 
John of Antioch, frag. 151]. 

60 These improbable accusations are alleged by Zosimus, 1. i. p. 23, 24 [24]. 

61 Jornandes, c. 19. The Gothic writer at least observed the peace which his 
victorious countrymen had sworn to Gallus. 

•* [M. Emilias 4£milianus,J 



Gallus aban- 
doned and 
A.D. 253, 


revengei the 
death of 
Gallus, and 
Is acknow- 
ledged em- 

attacked, routed, chased, and pursued beyond the Danube. The 
victorious leader distributed as a donative the money collected 
for the tribute, and the acclamations of the soldiers proclaimed 
him emperor on the field of battle. 03 Gallus, who, careless of 
the general welfare, indulged himself in the pleasures of Italy, 
was almost in the same instant informed of the success, of the 
revolt, and of the rapid approach, of his aspiring lieutenant. He 
advanced to meet him as far as the plains of Spoleto. When 
the armies came in sight of each other, the soldiers of Gallus 
compared the ignominious conduct of their sovereign with the 
glory of his rival. They admired the valour of iEmilianus ; they 
were attracted by his liberality, for he offered a considerable 
increase of pay to all deserters. 64 The murder of Gallus, and of 
his son Volusianus, 65 put an end to the civil war ; and the 
senate gave a legal sanction to the rights of conquest. The 
letters of iEmilianus to that assembly displayed a mixture of 
moderation and vanity. He assured them that he should 
resign to their wisdom the civil administration ; and, contenting 
himself with the quality of their general, would in a short time 
assert the glory of Rome, and deliver the empire from all the 
barbarians both of the North and of the East. 66 His pride was 
flattei-ed by the applause of the senate ; and medals are still 
extant, representing him with the name and attributes of 
Hercules the Victor, and of Mars the Avenger. 67 

If the new monarch possessed the abilities, he wanted the 
time, necessary to fulfil these splendid promises. Less than four 
months intervened between his victory and his fall. 68 He had 
vanquished Gallus : he sunk under the weight of a competitor 
more formidable than Gallus. That unfortunate prince had 
sent Valerian, already distinguished by the honourable title of 

63 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 25, 26 [28]. 

64 Victor in Caesaribus [31, 2, states that Gallus and his son were slain at 

65 [Veldumnianus Volusianus became Caesar on the accession of his father, and 
Augustus on the death of Hostilianus (before end of 251).] 

^Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 628 [22]. 

a Banduri Numismata, p. 94. 

88 Eutropius, 1. ix. c. 6, says tertio mense. Eusebius omits this emperor. [Val- 
erian and Gallienus were emperors before 22nd October 253 ; see Wilmanns, 
1472. Alexandrian coins, which are so useful in determining limits, prove that 
^Emilianus must have overthrown Gallus before 29th August 253, and that he 
was not slain himself earlier than 30th August 253. Aurelius Victor and 
Zonaras agree that the reign of ^milianus lasted not quite four months ; Jordanes, 
like Eutropius, says tertio mense. If, then, we place the death of ^Emilianus 
early in September, we must place that of Gallus late in May or early in June. 
See Schiller, i. 810.] 



censor, to bring the legions of Gaul and Germany 69 to his aid. 
Valerian executed that commission with zeal and fidelity ; 
and, as he arrived too late to save his sovereign, he resolved to 
l'evenge him. The troops of iEmilianus, who still lay encamped 
in the plains of Spoleto, were awed by the sanctity of his 
character, but much more by the superior strength of his army ; 
and, as they were now become as incapable of personal attach- 
ment as they had always been of constitutional principle, they 
readily imbrued their hands in the blood of a prince who so ad. 253, 

* , *■ August 

lately had been the object of their partial choice. The guilt 
was theirs, but the advantage of it was Valerian's ; who obtained 
the possession of the throne by the means indeed of a civil war, 
but with a degree of innocence singular in that age of revolu- 
tions ; since he owed neither gratitude nor allegiance to his 
predecessor, whom he dethroned. 

Valerian was about sixty years of age 70 when he was invested y^^ Tot 
with the purple, not by the caprice of the populace or the 
clamours of the army, but by the unanimous voice of the Roman 
world. In his gradual ascent through the honours of the state 
he had deserved the favour of virtuous princes, and had declared 
himself the enemy of tyrants. 71 His noble birth, his mild but 
unblemished manners, his learning, prudence, and experience, 
were revered by the senate and people ; and, if mankind 
(according to the observation of an ancient writer) had been left 
at liberty to choose a master, their choice would most assuredly 
have fallen on Valerian. 72 Perhaps the merit of this emperor 
was inadequate to his reputation ; perhaps his abilities, or at 
least his spirit, were affected by the languor and coldness of old 
age. The consciousness of his decline engaged him to share General mis 
the throne with a younger and more active associate : 73 the reigns of 

Valerian and 

emergency of the times demanded a general no less than a ckduemu, 

A.D. 253-268 

69 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 28 [29]. Eutropius and Victor station Valerian's army in 
Rhsetia [where they proclaimed him Emperor]. 

70 He was about seventy at the time of his accession, or, as it is more probable, 
of his death. Hist. August, p. 173 [xxii. 5 (1)]. Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, 
torn. iii. p. 893, note 1. 

"Inimicus Tyrannorum, Hist. August, p. 173 [ib.]. In the glorious struggle 
of the senate against Maximin, Valerian acted a very spirited part. Hist. August. 
p. 156 [xx. 9] . 

72 According to the distinction of Victor, he seems to have received the title of 
Imperator from the army, and that of Augustus from the senate. 

73 From Victor and from the medals, Tillemont (torn. iii. p. 710) very justly 
infers that Gallienus was associated to the empire about the month of August of 
the year 253. [This date is too early. /Emilianus was not slain till after August 
29. We can only say that Gallienus was associated as Augustus before 
October 22.] 


prince ; and the experience of the Roman censor might have 
directed him where to bestow the Imperial purple, as the reward 
of military merit. But, instead of making a judicious choice, 
which would have confirmed his reign and endeared his memory, 
Valerian, consulting only the dictates of affection or vanity, 
immediately invested with the supreme honours his son 
Gallienus, 74 a youth whose effeminate vices had been hitherto 
concealed by the obscurity of a private station. The joint 
government of the father and the son subsisted about seven, and 
the sole administration of Gallienus continued about eight, years. 
But the whole period was one uninterrupted series of confusion 
and calamity. As the Roman empire was at the same time, and 
on every side, attacked by the blind fury of foreign invaders, 
and the wild ambition of domestic usurpers, we shall consult 
order and perspicuity by pursuing not so much the doubtful 
arrangement of dates as the more natural distribution of subjects. 
The most dangerous enemies of Rome, during the reigns of 

wt.«xiaSi tUe Valerian and Gallienus, were, — 1. The Franks. 2. The Alemanni. 
3. The Goths ; and, 4. The Persians. Under these general 
appellations we may comprehend the adventures of less con- 
siderable tribes, whose obscure and uncouth names would only 
serve to oppress the memory and perplex the attention of the 

orfffin&na I. As the posterity of the Franks compose one of the greatest 

confederacy , 1 • 1 ■ i . r -n i n P 

of the rraniu ana most enlightened nations of Europe, the powers of learning 
and ingenuity have been exhausted in the discovery of their 
unlettered ancestors. To the tales of credulity have succeeded 
the systems of fancy. Every passage has been sifted, every 
spot has been surveyed, that might possibly reveal some faint 
traces of their origin. It has been supposed that Pannonia, 75 
that Gaul, that the northern parts of Germany, 76 gave birth to 
that celebrated colony of warriors. At length the most rational 
critics, rejecting the fictitious emigrations of ideal conquerors, 
have acquiesced in a sentiment whose simplicity persuades us of 
its truth. 77 They suppose that, about the year two hundred 

w [P. Licinius Egnatius Gallienus. The son of Gallienus was also associated 
in the empire — P. Licinius Cornelius Valerianus.] 

78 Various systems have been formed to explain difficult passages in Gregory of 
Tours, 1. ii. c. 9. 

76 The Geographer of Ravenna, i. n, by mentioning Mauringania on the 
confines of Denmark, as the ancient seat of the Franks, gave birth to an ingenious 
system of Leibnitz. 

77 See Cluver. Germania Antiqua, 1. iii. c. 20. M. Freret, in the M^moires de 
l'Academie des Inscriptions, torn, xviii. [The Franks were the descendants of the 


and forty, 78 a new confederacy was formed under the name of 
Franks by the old inhabitants of the Lower Rhine and the Weser. 
The present circle of Westphalia, the Landgraviate of Hesse, 
and the duchies of Brunswick and Luneburg, were the ancient 
seat of the Chauci, who, in their inaccessible morasses, defied 
the Roman arms; 79 of the Cherusci, proud of the fame of Armi- 
nius; of the Catti, formidable by their firm and intrepid infantry; 
and of several other tribes of inferior power and renown. 80 The 
love of liberty was the ruling passion of these Germans ; the 
enjoyment of it their best treasure ; the word that expressed 
that enjoyment the most pleasing to their ear. They deserved, 
they assumed, they maintained the honourable epithet of Franks 
or Freemen ; which concealed, though it did not extinguish, the 
peculiar names of the several states of the confederacy. 81 Tacit 
consent and mutual advantage dictated the first laws of the 
union ; it was gradually cemented by habit and experience. 
The league of the Franks may admit of some comparison with 
the Helvetic body ; in which every canton, retaining its inde- 
pendent sovereignty, consults with its brethren in the common 
cause, without acknowledging the authority of any supreme 
head or representative assembly. 82 But the principle of the 
two confederacies was extremely different. A peace of two 
hundred years has rewarded the wise and honest policy of the 
Swiss. An inconstant spirit, the thirst of rapine, and a disre- 
gard to the most solemn treaties, disgraced the character of the 

The Romans had long experienced the daring valour of the They invade 
people of Lower Germany. The union of their strength threat- 
ened Gaul with a more formidable invasion, and required the 
presence of Gallienus, the heir and colleague of Imperial power. 83 
Whilst that prince 84 and his infant son Saloninus displayed in 
the court of Treves the majesty of the empire, its armies were 

Sugambri and Chamavi and in the third century had been increased by the 
Chatti. The Amsivarii, Chattuarii and some of the Bructeri also joined their 

78 Most probably under the reign of Gordian, from an accidental circumstance 
fully canvassed by Tillemont, torn. iii. p. 710, 1181. 

79 PIin. Hist. Natur. xvi. 1. The panegyrists frequently allude to the morasses 
of the Franks. 

80 Tacit. Germania, c. 30, 37. 

81 In a subsequent period most of those old names are occasionally mentioned. 
See some vestiges of them in Cluver. Germ. Antiq. 1. iii 

82 Simler de Rcpublica Helvet, cum notis Fuselin. 

83 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 27 [30] . 

84 [Zonaras, xii. 14.J 


ably conducted by their general Posthumus, 85 who, though he 
afterwards betrayed 86 the family of Valerian, was ever faithful 
to the great interest of the monarchy. The treacherous lan- 
guage of panegyrics and medals darkly announces a long series 
of victories. Trophies and titles attest (if such evidence can 
attest) the fame of Posthumus, who is repeatedly styled The 
Conqueror of the Germans, and the Saviour of Gaul. 87 
ravage Spain But a single fact, the only one indeed of which we have any 
distinct knowledge, erases in a great measure these monuments 
of vanity and adulation. The Rhine, though dignified with the 
title of Safeguard of the provinces, was an imperfect barrier 
against the daring spirit of enterprise with which the Franks 
were actuated. Their rapid devastations stretched from the 
river to the foot of the Pyrenees ; nor were they stopped by 
those mountains. Spain, which had never dreaded, was unable 
to resist, the inroads of the Germans. During twelve years, 88 
the greatest part of the reign of Gallienus, that opulent countiy 
was the theatre of unequal and destructive hostilities. Tarra- 
gona, the flourishing capital of a peaceful province, was sacked 
and almost destroyed; 89 and so late as the days of Orosius, who 
wrote in the fifth century, wretched cottages, scattered amidst 
the ruins of magnificent cities, still recorded the rage of the 
and pass over barbarians. 90 When the exhausted country no longer supplied 
m a variety of plunder, the Franks seized on some vessels in the 

ports of Spain 91 and transported themselves into Mauritania. 
The distant province was astonished with the fury of these bar- 

85 [M. Cassianius Latinius Postumus.] 

86 [He was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers in 258, shortly after Gallienus 
had hastened from the Rhine frontier to the defence ol the Danube. The emperor's 
elder son and colleague, Valerian the Younger, who had been left at Koln to 
represent him, was slain by the rebels in 259. The reign of Postumus, one ot 
the " thirty tyrants," lasted till 268. Gibbon omits to mention the elder son of 
Gallienus, Valerian. Saloninus was the younger, but he was called Valerian after 
his brother's death.] 

87 M. de Brequigny (in the M6moires de l'Acad^mie, torn, xxx.) has given us a 
very curious life of Posthumus. A series of the Augustan History from Medals 
and Inscriptions has been more than once planned, and is still much wanted. 
[See Eckhel, vii. 439.] 

88 [256-268 A.D.] 

S3 Aurel. Victor [Caes.], c. 33 [§ 3]. Instead of Pane direpto, both the sense 
and the expression require ddeto, though, indeed, for different reasons, it is alike 
difficult to correct the text of the best and of the worst writers. 

90 In the time of Ausonius (the end of the fourth century) Ilerda or Lerida was 
in a very ruinous state (Auson. Epist. xxv. 58), which probably was the conse- 
quence of this invasion. [See Orosius, vii. 22, 8.] 

91 Valesius is therefore mistaken in supposing that the Franks had invaded 
Spain by sea. 


barians, who seemed to fall from a new world, as their name, 
manners, and complexion were equally unknown on the coast of 
Africa. 92 

II. In that part of Upper Saxony, beyond the Elbe, which is origin and 
at present called the Marquisate of Lusace, there existed in the suevi 
ancient times a sacred wood, the awful seat of the superstition 
of the Suevi. None were permitted to enter the holy precincts 
without confessing, by their servile bonds and suppliant posture, 
the immediate presence of the sovereign Deity. 93 Patriotism 
contributed, as well as devotion, to consecrate the Sonnenwald, 
or wood of the Semnones. 94 It was universally believed that 
the nation had received its first existence on that sacred spot. 
At stated periods the numerous tribes who gloried in the Suevic 
blood resorted thither by their ambassadors ; and the memory of 
their common extraction was perpetuated by barbaric rights and 
human sacrifices. The wide extended name of Suevi filled the 
interior countries of Germany, from the banks of the Oder to 
those of the Danube. They were distinguished from the other 
Germans by their peculiar mode of dressing their long hair, 
which they gathered into a rude knot on the crown of the head ; 
and they delighted in an ornament that showed their ranks 
more lofty and terrible in the eyes of the enemy. 95 Jealous as 
the Germans were of military renown, they all confessed the 
superior valour of the Suevi ; and the tribes of the Usipetes and 
Tencteri, who, with a vast army, encountered the dictator 
Caesar, declared that they esteemed it not a disgrace to have 
fled before a people to whose arms the immortal gods them- 
selves were unequal. 96 

In the reign of the Emperor Caracalla, an innumerable swarm a mixed body 
of Suevi appeared on the banks of the Main, and in the neigh- asaumTthe 
bourhood of the Roman provinces, in quest either of food, of Aiemanni 
plunder, or of glory. 97 The hasty army of volunteers gradually 
coalesced into a great and permanent nation, and, as it was com- 
posed from so many different tribes, assumed the name of 
Aiemanni, or Allmen, to denote at once their various lineage and 

92 Aurel. Victor [Cass. 33] . Eutrop. ix. 6. 

93 Tacit. Germania, 38 [39] . 

94 Oliver. German. Antiq. iii. 25. 

95 Sic Suevi a ceteris German is, sic Suevorum ingenui a servis separantur. A 
proud separation ! 

96 Caesar in Bello Gallico, iv. 7. 

97 Victor in Caracal. [Caes. 21]. Dion Cassius, lxxvii. p. 1350 [13]. [The 
invaders were defeated by Caracalla, 213 A.D.] 

17 VOL. I. 


their common bravery. 98 The latter was soon felt by the 
Romans in many a hostile inroad. The Alemanni fought chiefly 
on horseback ; but their cavalry was rendered still more formid- 
able by a mixture of light infantry selected from the bravest and 
most active of the youth, whom frequent exercise had enured to 
accompany the horsemen in the longest march, the most rapid 
charge, or the most precipitate retreat." 
mvade Gaul This warlike people of Germans had been astonished by the 

and Italy r r „ . , _ , » , . 

immense preparations ot Alexander beverus ; they were dis- 
mayed by the arms of his successor, a barbarian equal in valour 
and fierceness to themselves. But, still hovering on the frontiers of 
the empire, they increased the general disorder that ensued after 
the death of Decius. They inflicted severe wounds on the rich 
provinces of Gaul : they were the first who removed the veil 
that covered the feeble majesty of Italy. A numerous body of 
the Alemanni penetrated across the Danube, and through the 
Rhaetian Alps into the plains of Lombardy, advanced as far as 
Ravenna, and displayed the victorious banners of barbarians 
almost in sight of Rome. 100 The insult and the danger rekindled 
in the senate some sparks of their ancient virtue. Both the 
emperors were engaged in far distant wars, Valerian in the East, 
and Gallienus on the Rhine. All the hopes and resources of the 
are repnised Romans were in themselves. In this emergency, the senators 
th°e™enate e by resume( l the defence of the republic, drew out the Praetorian 
and people g ua rds, who had been left to garrison the capital, and filled up 
their numbers by enlisting into the public service the stoutest 
and most willing of the Plebeians. The Alemanni, astonished 
with the sudden appearance of an army more numerous than 
their own, retired into Germany, laden with spoil ; and their 
retreat was esteemed as a victory by the unwarlike Romans. 101 
The senators When Gallienus received the intelligence that his capital was 
Ga c me d nus by delivered from the barbarians, he was much less delighted than 

from the 

98 This etymology (far different from those which amuse the fancy of the learned) 
is preserved by Asinius Quadratus, an original historian, quoted by Agathias, i. c. 
5. [Another derivation is Alah-mannen, " men of the sanctuary," referring to the 
wood of the Semnones. The identification of the Alamanni with the Suevians is 
very uncertain.] 

99 The Suevi engaged Caesar in this manner and the manoeuvre deserved the 
approbation of the conqueror (in Bello Gallico, i. 48). 

i°° Hist. August, p. 215, 216 [xxvi. 18, 21]. Dexippus in the Excerpta Lega- 
tionum, p. 8 [p. n, ed. Bonn; F.H.G. iii. p. 682]. Hieronym. Chron. Orosius, 
vii. 22. [The first campaigns of Gallienus against the Alamanni were in 256 
and 257. The invasion of Italy took place 259-260. Simultaneously another band 
invaded Gaul, and was subdued near Arelate ; Gregory of Tours, i. 32.] 

J 01 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 34 [37] , 


alarmed with the courage of the senate, since it might one day 
prompt them to rescue the republic a from domestic tyranny, as 
well as from foreign invasion. His timid ingratitude was 
published to his subjects in an edict which prohibited the 
senators from exercising any military employment, and even 
from approaching the camps of the legions. But his fears were 
groundless. The rich and luxurious nobles, sinking into their 
natural character, accepted as a favour this disgraceful exemp- 
tion from military service ; and, as long as they were indulged 
in the enjoyment of their baths, their theatres, and their villas, 
they cheerfully resigned the more dangerous cares of empire to 
the rough hands of peasants and soldiers. 102 

Another invasion of the Alemanni, of a more formidable aspect, Gaiiiennscon 
but more glorious event, is mentioned by a writer of the Lower amance with 
Empire. Three hundred thousand of that warlike people are manni 8 " 
said to have been vanquished, in a battle near Milan, by 
Gallienus in person, at the head of only ten thousand Romans. 103 
We may however, with great probability, ascribe this incredible 
victory either to the credulity of the historian, or to some ex- 
aggerated exploits of one of the emperor's lieutenants. It was 
by arms of a very different nature that Gallienus endeavoured to 
protect Italy from the fury of the Germans. He espoused Pipa, 
the daughter of a king of the Marcomanni, a Suevic tribe, which 
was often confounded with the Alemanni in their wars and 
conquests. 104 To the father, as the price of his alliance, he 
granted an ample settlement in Pannonia. The native charms 
of unpolished beauty seem to have fixed the daughter in the 
affections of the inconstant emperor, and the bands of policy 
were more firmly connected by those of love. But the haughty 
prejudice of Rome still refused the name of marriage to the 
profane mixture of a citizen and a barbarian ; and has stigmatized 
the German princess with the opprobrious title of concubine of 
Gallienus. 105 

III. We have already traced the emigration of the Goths from inroads of 

J ° the Gotha 

a [The original text has public, I have ventured to amend. Ed.] 

102 Aurel. Victor in Gallieno et Probo [Cresar. 34, 37]. His complaints 
breathe an uncommon spirit of freedom. 

103 Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 631 [24. This victory was probably gained in the same 
invasion which has been already described ; Gallienus fell upon them as they were 
retreating. We need not assume two invasions, or doubt the statement of 

104 One of the Victors calls him King of the Marcomanni, the other, of the 

105 See Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, torn. iii. p. 398, &c. [She was only 
a concubine and must not be confounded with the Empress Salonina.] 


Scandinavia, or at least from Prussia, to the mouth of the 
Borysthenes, and have followed their victorious arms from the 
Borysthenes to the Danube. Under the reigns of Valerian and 
Gallienus the frontier of the last-mentioned river was perpetually 
infested by the inroads of Germans and Sarmatians ; but it was 
defended by the Romans with more than usual firmness and 
success. The provinces that were the seat of war recruited the 
armies of Rome with an inexhaustible supply of hardy soldiers : 
and more than one of these Illyrian peasants attained the 
station, and displayed the abilities, of a general. Though 
flying parties of the barbarians, who incessantly hovered on the 
banks of the Danube, penetrated sometimes to the confines of 
Italy and Macedonia, their progress was commonly checked, or 
then- return intercepted, by the Imperial lieutenants. 106 But 
the great stream of the Gothic hostilities was diverted into a 
very different channel. The Goths, in their new settlement of 
the Ukraine, soon became masters of the northern coast of the 
Euxine : to the south of that inland sea were situated the soft 
and wealthy provinces of Asia Minor, which possessed all that 
could attract, and nothing that could resist, a barbarian con- 
conquest of The banks of the Borysthenes are only sixty miles distant 
pnonufby the from the narrow entrance 107 of the peninsula of Crim Tartary , 
known to the ancients under the name of Chersonesus Taurica. 10s 
On that inhospitable shore, Euripides, embellishing with ex- 
quisite art the tales of antiquity, has placed the scene of one of 
his most affecting tragedies. 109 The bloody sacrifices of Diana, 
the arrival of Orestes and Pylades, and the triumph of virtue and 
religion over savage fierceness, serve to represent an historical 
truth, that the Tauri, the original inhabitants of the peninsula, 
were in some degree reclaimed from their brutal manners by a 
gradual intercourse with the Grecian colonies which settled along 
the maritime coast. The little kingdom of Bosphorus, whose 
capital was situated on the straits through which the Meeotis 
communicates itself to the Euxine, was composed of degenerate 

106 See the lives of Claudius, Aurelian, and Probus, in the Augustan History. 
[Dacia was lost to the Goths about 255 or 256. The event is not recorded, but 
it is inferred from the fact that no coins or inscriptions in the province date from 
a later year than 255 ; see Mommsen, Romische Geschichte, v. 220, Hodgkin, i. 57.] 

107 It is about half a league in breadth. Genealogical History of the Tartars, 
p. 598. 

108 M. de Peyssonel, who had been French consul at Caffa, in his Observations 
sur les Peuples Barbares, qui ont habite' les bords du Danube. 

100 Euripides in Iphigenia in Taurid. 


Greeks and half-civilized barbarians. It subsisted as an inde- 
pendent state from the time of the Peloponnesian war, 110 was 
at last swallowed up by the ambition of Mithridates, 111 and, with 
the rest of his dominions, sunk under the weight of the Roman 
arms. From the reign of Augustus, 112 the kings of Bosphorus 
were the humble, but not useless, allies of the empire. By 
presents, by arms, and by a slight fortification drawn across the 
isthmus, they effectually guarded against the roving plunderers 
of Sarmatia the access of a country which, from its peculiar 
situation and convenient harbours, commanded the Euxine Sea 
and Asia Minor. 113 As long as the sceptre was possessed by a 
lineal succession of kings, they acquitted themselves of their 
important charge with vigilance and success. Domestic factions, 
and the fears or private interest of obscure usurpers who seized 
on the vacant throne, admitted the Goths into the heart of 
Bosphorus. With the acquisition of a superfluous waste of fertile 
soil, the conquerors obtained the command of a naval force 
sufficient to transport their armies to the coast of Asia. 114 The^^toce 
ships used in the navigation of the Euxine were of a very 
singular construction. They were slight flat-bottomed barks 
framed of timber only, without the least mixture of iron, and 
occasionally covered with a shelving roof on the appearance of a 
tempest. 115 In these floating houses the Goths carelessly trusted 
themselves to the mercy of an unknown sea, under the conduct 
of sailors pressed into the service, and whose skill and fidelity 
were equally suspicious. But the hopes of plunder had banished 
every idea of danger, and a natural fearlessness of temper 
supplied in their minds the more rational confidence which is 
the just result of knowledge and experience. Warriors of such 
a daring spirit must have often murmured against the cowardice 
of their guides, who required the strongest assurances of a settled 
calm before they would venture to embark, and would scarcely 
ever be tempted to lose sight of the land. Such, at least, is the 

110 Strabo, I. vii. p. 309. The first kings of Bosphorus were the allies of 

111 Appian in Mithridat. [67] . 

112 It was reduced by the arms of Agrippa. Orosius, vi. ax. Eutropius, vii. 
9. The Romans once advanced within three days' march of the Tanais. Tacit. 
Annal. xii. 17. 

113 See the Toxaris ot Lucian, if we credit the sincerity and the virtues of the 
Scythian, who relates a great war of his nation against the kings of Bosphorus. 

114 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 28 [31. Coins prove that the lineal succession did not cease 
before 267 at the earliest.] 

115 Strabo, 1. xi. [p. 495]. Tacit. Hist. iii. 47. They were called Camaree. 



practice of the modern Turks ; m and they are probably not 
inferior in the art of navigation to the ancient inhabitants of 
First naval The fleet of the Goths, leaving the coast of Circassia on the 
the Gotta left hand, first appeared before Pityus, 117 the utmost limits of the 
Roman provinces ; a city provided with a convenient port, and 
fortified with a strong wall. Here they met with a resistance 
more obstinate than they had reason to expect from the feeble 
garrison of a distant fortress. They were repulsed ; and their 
disappointment seemed to diminish the terror of the Gothic 
name. As long as Successianus, an officer of superior rank and 
merit, defended that frontier, all their efforts were ineffectual ; 
but, as soon as he was removed by Valerian to a more honourable 
but less important station, they resumed the attack of Pityus ; 
and, by the destruction of that city, obliterated the memory of 
their former disgrace. 11S 
The Goths Circling round the eastern extremity of the Euxine Sea, the 

takefcew- navigation from Pityus to Trebizond is about three hundred 
miles. 119 The course of the Goths carried them in sight of the 
country of Colchis, so famous by the expedition of the Argonauts ; 
and they even attempted, though without success, to pillage a 
rich temple at the mouth of the river Phasis. Trebizond, 
celebrated in the retreat of the Ten Thousand as an ancient 
colony of Greeks, 120 derived its wealth and splendour from the 
munificence of the emperor Hadrian, who had constructed an 
artificial port on a coast left destitute by nature of secure 
harbours. 121 The city was large and populous; a double en- 
closure of walls seemed to defy the fury of the Goths, and the 
usual garrison had been strengthened by a reinforcement of 
ten thousand men. But there are not any advantages capable 
of supplying the absence of discipline and vigilance. The 
numerous garrison of Trebizond, dissolved in riot and luxury, 
disdained to guard their impregnable fortifications. The Goths 
soon discovered the supine negligence of the besieged, erected 

11G See a very natural picture of the Euxine navigation, in the xvith letter of 

U7 Arrian places the frontier garrison at Dioscurias, or Sebastopolis, forty-four 
miles to the east of Pityus. The garrison of Phasis consisted in his time of only 
four hundred foot. See the Periplus of the Euxine. [For the Gothic invasions see 
Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, i. ch. i.] 

lltj Zosimus, 1. i. p. 30. [256 A.D.] 

119 Arrian (in Periplo Maris Euxin. p. 130 [27]) calls the distance 2610 stadia. 

1=0 Xenophon, Anabasis, 1. iv. p. 348. Edit. Hutchinson [c. 8], 

l - 1 Arrian, p. 129 [26]. The general observation is Tournefort's. 


a lofty pile of fascines, ascended the walls in the silence of the 
night, and entered the defenceless city, sword in hand. A 
general massacre of the people ensued, whilst the affrighted 
soldiers escaped through the opposite gates of the town. The 
most holy temples, and the most splendid edifices, were involved 
in a common destruction. The booty that fell into the hands of 
the Goths was immense : the wealth of the adjacent countries 
had been deposited in Trebizond, as in a secure place of refuge. 
The number of captives was incredible, as the victorious barba- 
rians ranged without opposition through the extensive province 
of Pont us. 122 The rich spoils of Trebizond filled a great fleet of 
ships that had been found in the port. The robust youth of 
the sea coast were chained to the oar ; and the Goths, satisfied 
with the success of their first naval expedition, returned in 
triumph to their new establishments in the kingdom of 
Bosphorus. 123 

The second expedition of the Goths was undertaken with The second 

o ii 11 i i-/r l expedition of 

greater powers of men and ships; but they steered a different the Goths 
course, and, disdaining the exhausted provinces of Pontus, fol- 
lowed the western coast of the Euxine, passed before the wide 
mouths of the Boiysthenes, the Dniester, and the Danube, and, 
increasing their fleet by the capture of a great number of fishing 
barques, they approached the narrow outlet through which the 
Euxine Sea pours its waters into the Mediterranean, and divides 
the continents of Europe and Asia. The garrison of Chalcedon 
was encamped near the temple of Jupiter Urius, on a promontory 
that commanded the entrance of the strait: and so inconsiderable 
were the dreaded invasions of the barbarians, that this body of 
troops surpassed in number the Gothic army. But it was in 
numbers alone that they surpassed it. They deserted with pre- They plunder 
cipitation their advantageous post, and abandoned the town of ofBitnynia 
Chalcedon, most plentifully stored with arms and money, to the 
discretion of the conquerors. Whilst they hesitated whether 
they should prefer the sea or land, Europe or Asia, for the scene 
of their hostilities, a perfidious fugitive pointed out Nicomedia, 
once the capital of the kings of Bithynia, as a rich and easy 
conquest. He guided the march, which was only sixty miles 
from the camp of Chalcedon, 124 directed the resistless attack, 
and partook of the booty ; for the Goths had learned sufficient 

122 See an epistle of Gregory Thaumaturgus, bishop of Neo-Csesarea, quoted 
by Mascou, v. 37. 

123 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 32, 33 [35]. 
124 Itiner. Hierosolym, p. 572. Wesseling. 


policy to reward the traitor whom they detested. Nice, Prusa, 
Apamsea, Cius, cities that had sometimes rivalled, or imitated, 
the splendour of Nicomedia, were involved in the same calamity, 
which, in a few weeks, raged without control through the w r hole 
province of Bithynia. Three hundred years of peace, enjoyed by 
the soft inhabitants of Asia, had abolished the exercise of arms, 
and removed the apprehension of danger. The ancient walls 
were suffered to moulder away, and all the revenue of the most 
opulent cities was reserved for the construction of baths, temples, 
and theatres. 125 
Retreatof When the city of Cvzicus withstood the utmost effort of Mith- 

the Goths i 

ridates, 1 - it was distinguished by wise laws, a naval power of two 
hundred galleys, and three arsenals, — of arms, of military engines, 
and of corn. 127 It was still the seat of wealth and luxury; but 
of its ancient strength nothing remained except the situation, in 
a little island of the Propontis, connected with the continent of 
Asia only by two bridges. From the recent sack of Prusa, the 
Goths advanced within eighteen miles 12S of the city, which they 
had devoted to destruction ; but the ruin of Cyzicus was delayed 
by a fortunate accident. The season was rainy, and the lake 
Apolloniates, the reservoir of all the springs of Mount Olympus, 
rose to an uncommon height. The little river of Rhyndacus, 
which issues from the lake, swelled into a broad and rapid stream 
and stopped the progress of the Goths. Their retreat to the 
maritime city of Heraclea, where the fleet had probably been 
stationed, was attended by a long train of waggons laden with 
the spoils of Bithynia, and was marked by the flames of Nice 
and Nicomedia, which they wantonly burnt. 1 ' 29 Some obscure 
hints are mentioned of a doubtful combat that secured their 
retreat. 130 But even a complete victory would have been of 
little moment, as the approach of the autumnal equinox summoned 
them to hasten their return. To navigate the Euxine before 
the month of May, or after that of September, is esteemed by 
the modern Turks the most unquestionable instance of rashness 
and folly. 131 

125 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 32, 33 [35]. 

12fi He besieged the place with 400 galleys, 150,000 foot, and a numerous 
cavalry. See Plutarch in Lucul. [9]. Appian in Mithridat. [72]. Cicero pro 
Lege Manilia, c. 8. 1 27 Strabo, 1. xii. p. 573. 

123 Pocock's Descriptions of the East, 1. ii. c. 23, 24. 

129 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 33 [35]. 

130 Syncellus [i. p. 717, ed. Bonn] tells an unintelligible story of Prince Odenathus , 
who defeated the Goths, and who was killed by Prince Odenathus. 

131 Voyages de Chardin. torn. i. p. 45. He sailed with the Turks from 
Constantinople to Caffa. 


When we are informed that the third fleet, equipped by the Third naval 
Goths in the ports of Bosphorus, consisted of five hundred sail It tL gouu 
of ships, 132 our ready imagination instantly computes and multi- 
plies the formidable armament ; but, as we are assured by the 
judicious Strabo, 133 that the piratical vessels used by the bar- 
barians of Pontus and the Lesser Scythia, were not capable of 
containing more than twenty-five or thirty men, we may safely 
affirm that fifteen thousand warriors at the most embarked in 
this great expedition. Impatient of the limits of the Euxine, 
they steered their destructive course from the Cimmerian to the 
Thracian Bosphorus. When they had almost gained the middle 
of the Straits, they were suddenly driven back to the entrance 
of them ; till a favourable wind, springing up the next day, car- 
ried them in a few hours into the placid sea, or rather lake, of 
the Propontis. 134 Their landing on the little island of Cvzicus They pa?« the 

it ii n i • iii« Bosphorus 

was attended with the ruin or that ancient and noble city, and the 
From thence issuing again through the narrow passage of the 
Hellespont, they pursued their winding navigation amidst the 
numerous islands scattered over the Archipelago or the ^Egean 
Sea. The assistance of captives and deserters must have been 
very necessary to pilot their vessels, and to direct their various 
incursions, as well on the coast of Greece as on that of Asia. At 
length the Gothic fleet anchored in the port of Piraeus, five miles 
distant from Athens, 135 which had attempted to make some 
preparations for a vigorous defence. Cleodamus, one of the 
engineers employed by the emperor's orders to fortify the mari- 
time cities against the Goths, had already begun to repair the 
ancient walls fallen to decay since the time of Sylla. 136 The 
efforts of his skill were ineffectual, and the barbarians became 
masters of the native seat of the muses and the arts. But, while 
the conquerors abandoned themselves to the licence of plunder 
and intemperance, 137 their fleet, that lay with a slender guard 
in the harbour of Piraeus, was unexpectedly attacked by the 
brave Dexippus, who, flying with the engineer Cleodamus from 

132 Syncellus (p. 382) [ib.] speaks of this expedition as undertaken by the 

133 Strabo, 1. xi. p. 495. 

13 -> [Gibbon omits to mention that the Goths sustained a severe naval defeat, 
before they entered the Propontis, at the hands of Venerianus. Hist. Aug. xxiii. 

130 Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 7 [error for iv. 7]. 

136 [The renewed wall was known as the wall of Valerian. See Zosimus, i. 29. 
A wall was built at the same time across the Isthmus. For this invasion of 
Greece, see Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt A then i?n Mittelalter, i. 16 sqq.~] 

137 [The monuments of Athens seem on this occasion to have been spared.] 


the sack of Athens, collected a hasty band of volunteers, peasants 
as well as soldiers, and in some measure avenged the calamities 
of his country. 138 
ravage But this exploit, whatever lustre it might shed on the declin- 

Greece, /- a 1 1 

iSl tUreaten ' n £ a S e of Athens, served rather to irritate than to subdue the 
undaunted spirit of the northern invaders. A general conflagra- 
tion blazed out at the same time in every district of Greece. 139 
Thebes and Argos, Corinth and Sparta, which had formerly 
waged such memorable wars against each other, were now unable 
to bring an army into the field, or even to defend their ruined 
fortifications. The rage of war, both by land and by sea, spread 
from the eastern point of Sunium to the western coast of Epirus. 
The Goths had already advanced within sight of Italy, when 
the approach of such imminent danger awakened the indolent 
Gallienus from his dream of pleasure. The emperor appeared 
in arms ; and his presence seems to have checked the ardour, 

Their and to have divided the strength, of the enemy. Naulobatus, a 

divisions ~ J 

and retreat chief of the Heruli, accepted an honourable capitulation, entered 
with a large body of his countrymen into the service of Rome, 
and was invested with the ornaments of the consular dignity, 
which had never before been profaned by the hands of a bar- 
barian. 140 Great numbers of the Goths, disgusted with the 
perils and hardships of a tedious voyage, broke into Msesia, with 
a design of forcing their way over the Danube to their settle- 
ments in the Ukraine. The wild attempt would have proved 
inevitable destruction, if the discord of the Roman generals 
had not opened to the barbarians the means of an escape. 141 
The small remainder of this destroying host returned on board 
their vessels, and, measuring back their way through the Helles- 

188 Hist. August, p. 181 [xxiii. 13]. Victor [Caesar.] c. 33. Orosius, vii. 42. 
Zosimus, 1. i. p. 35 [39]. Zonaras, 1. xii. 635 [26]. Syncellus, p. 382 [i. p. 717, 
ed. Bonn]. It is not without some attention that we can explain and conciliate 
their imperfect hints. We can still discover some traces of the partiality of 
Dexippus, in the relation of his own and his countrymen's exploits. [Frag. 21. 
An epigram on Dexippus as a scholar, not as a deliverer, has been preserved. 
C.I. A. iii. 1, No. 716.] 

139 [Gibbon has omitted to mention the attack of the Goths on Thessalonica, 
which almost proved fatal to that city. This incident spread terror throughout 
the Illyric peninsula, and thoroughly frightened the government. It was pro- 
bably the immediate cause of the restoration of the walls of Athens and the 
other fortifications in Greece. See Zosimus, i. 29, and perhaps Eusebius in 
Miiller, F.H.G. v. 1, 21.] 

140 Syncellus, p. 382 [ib.] . This body of Heruli was for a long time faithful 
and famous. 

141 Claudius, who commanded on the Danube, thought with propriety and 
acted with spirit. His colleague was jealous of his fame. Hist. August, p. 181 
[xxiii. 14]. 


pont and the Bosphorus, ravaged in their passage the shores of 
Troy, whose fame, immortalized by Homer, will probably survive 
the memory of the Gothic conquests. As soon as they found 
themselves in safety within the bason of the Euxine, they 
landed at Anchialus in Thrace, near the foot of Mount Haemus, 
and, after all their toils, indulged themselves in the use of those 
pleasant and salutary hot baths. What remained of the voyage 
was a short and easy navigation. 142 Such was the various fate 
of this third and greatest of their naval enterprises. It may 
seem difficult to conceive how the original body of fifteen 
thousand warriors could sustain the losses and divisions of so 
bold an adventure. But, as their numbers were gradually wasted 
by the sword, by shipwrecks, and by the influence of a warm 
climate, they were perpetually renewed by troops of banditti 
and deserters, who flocked to the standard of plunder, and by a 
crowd of fugitive slaves, often of German or Sarmatian extraction, 
who eagerly seized the glorious opportunity of freedom and 
revenge. In these expeditions the Gothic nation claimed a 
superior share of honour and danger ; but the tribes that fought 
under the Gothic banners are sometimes distinguished and 
sometimes confounded in the imperfect histories of that age ; 
and, as the barbarian fleets seemed to issue from the mouth of 
the Tanais, the vague but familiar appellation of Scythians was 
frequently bestowed on the mixed multitude. 143 

In the general calamities of mankind the death of an individual, Rninofthe 
however exalted, the ruin of an edifice, however famous, are Ephesus 
passed over with careless inattention. Yet we cannot forget 
that the temple of Diana at Ephesus, after having risen with 
increasing splendour from seven repeated misfortunes, 144 was 
finally burnt by the Goths in their third naval invasion. The 
arts of Greece and the wealth of Asia had conspired to erect 
that sacred and magnificent structure. It was supported by an 
hundred and twenty-seven marble columns of the Ionic order ; 
they were the gifts of devout monarchs, and each was sixty feet 
high. The altar was adorned with the masterly sculptures 
of Praxiteles, who had, perhaps, selected from the favourite 
legends of the place the birth of the divine children of Latona, 

142 Jornandes, c. 20 

143 Zosimus, and the Greeks (as the author of the Philopatris [see below, p. 
340, note 81J), give the name of Scythians to those whom Jornandes, and the 
Latin writers, constantly represent as Goths. 

144 Hist. August, p. 178 [xxiii. 6]. Jornandes, c. 20. [The chronology is ex- 
tremely doubtful. It seems more probable that Ephesus suffered in an earlier 
invasion. Sec Hodgkin, i. 62.] 



Conduct of 
the Goths at 

Conquest of 
Armenia by 

the concealment of Apollo after the slaughter of the Cyclops, 
and the clemency of Bacchus to the vanquished Amazons. 115 
Yet the length of the temple of Ephesus was only four hundred 
and twenty-five feet, about two thirds the measure of the church 
of St. Peter's at Rome. 146 In the other dimensions, it was still 
more inferior to that sublime production of modern architecture. 
The spreading arms of a Christian cross require a much greater 
breadth than the oblong temples of the Pagans; and the boldest 
artists of antiquity would have been startled at the proposal of 
raising in the air a dome of the size and proportions of the 
Pantheon. The temple of Diana was, however, admired as one 
of the wonders of the world. Successive empires, the Persian, 
the Macedonian, and the Roman, had revered its sanctity, and 
enriched its splendour. 147 But the rude savages of the Baltic 
were destitute of a taste for the elegant arts, and they despised 
the ideal terrors of a foreign superstition. 14S 

Another circumstance is related of these invasions, which 
might deserve our notice were it not justly to be suspected as 
the fanciful conceit of a recent sophist. We are told that in 
the sack of Athens the Goths had collected all the libraries, and 
were on the point of setting fire to this funeral pile of Grecian 
learning, had not one of their chiefs, of more refined policy than 
his brethren, dissuaded them from the design, by the profound 
observation, that as long as the Greeks were addicted to the 
study of books they would never apply themselves to the ex- 
ercise of arms. 149 The sagacious counsellor (should the truth of 
the fact be admitted) reasoned like an ignorant barbarian. In 
the most polite and powerful nations genius of every kind has 
displayed itself about the same period ; and the age of science 
has generally been the age of military virtue and success. 

IV. The new sovereigns of Persia, Artaxerxes and his son 

prsefat. 1. 

Tacit. Anna!. 

145 Strabo, 1. xiv. p. 640. Vitruvius, 1. i 
71. Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxvi. 14. 

146 The length of St. Peter's is 840 Roman palms, each palm is a very little 
short of nine English inches. See Greave's Miscellanies, vol. 1, p. 233; On the 
Roman foot. 

147 The policy however of the Romans induced them to abridge the extent of 
the sanctuary or asylum, which by successive privileges had spread itself two 
stadia round the temple. Strabo, 1. xiv. p. 641. Tacit. Annal. iii. 60, &c. 

148 They offered no sacrifices to the Grecians' gods. See Epistol. Gregor. 

149 Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 635 [26]. Such an anecdote was perfectly suited to the 
taste of Montaigne. He makes use of it in his agreeable Essay on Pedantry, 1. 
i. c. 24. [Compare Anon. Continuation of Dion Cassius, in Miiller, F.H.G. iv. 
p. 196.] 


Sapor, had triumphed (as we have already seen) over the house 
of Arsaces. Of the many princes of that ancient race, Chosroes, 
king of Armenia, had alone preserved both his life and his inde- 
pendence. He defended himself by the natural strength of his 
country ; by the perpetual resort of fugitives and malcontents ; 
by the alliance of the Romans ; and, above all, by his own 
courage. Invincible in arms, during a thirty years' war, he was 
assassinated by the emissaries of Sapor, king of Persia. The 
patriotic satraps of Armenia, who asserted the freedom and 
dignity of the crown, implored the protection of Rome in favour 
of Tiridates, the lawful heir. But the son of Chosroes was an 
infant, the allies were at a distance, and the Persian monarch 
advanced towards the frontier at the head of an irresistible force. 
Young Tiridates, the future hope of his country, was saved by 
the fidelity of a servant, and Armenia continued above twenty- 
seven years a reluctant province of the great monarchy of 
Persia. 150 Elated with this easy conquest, and presuming on the 
distresses or the degeneracy of the Romans, Sapor obliged the 
strong garrisons of Carrhae and Nisibis to surrender, and spread 
devastation and terror on either side of the Euphrates. 

The loss of an important frontier, the ruin of a faithful and valerian 
natural ally, and the rapid success of Sapor's ambition, affected the East 
Rome with a deep sense of the insult as well as of the danger. 
Valerian flattered himself that the vigilance of his lieutenants 
would sufficiently provide for the safety of the Rhine and of the 
Danube ; but he resolved, notwithstanding his advanced age, to 
march in person to the defence of the Euphrates. During his 
progress through Asia Minor, the naval enterprises of the Goths 
were suspended, and the afflicted province enjoyed a transient 
and fallacious calm. He passed the Euphrates, encountered 
the Persian monarch near the walls of Edessa, was vanquished, 
and taken prisoner by Sapor. The particulars of that great is defeated 
event are darkly and imperfectly represented ; yet, by the prisoner by 
glimmering light which is afforded us, we may discover a long ofrersia, 
series of imprudence, of error, and of deserved misfortunes on 
the side of the Roman emperor. He reposed an implicit con- 
fidence in Macrianus, his Praetorian praefect. 151 That worthless 

150 Moses Chorenensis, 1. ii. c. 71, 73,74. Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 628 [21]. The 
authentic relation of the Armenian historian serves to rectify the confused account 
of the Greek. The latter talks of the children of Tiridates, who at that time was 
himself an infant. [The succession of Tiridates was resisted by his uncle Arta- 
vasdes, who then ruled in Armenia as vassal of Sapor.] 

151 Hist. August, p. 191 [xxiv. 11]. As Macrianus was an enemy to the 
Christians, they charged him with being a, magician. [There seems no reason. 



Sapor over- 

Cilicia, and 

minister rendered his master formidable only to the oppressed 
subjects, and contemptible to the enemies, of Rome. 152 By his 
weak or wicked counsels the Imperial army was betrayed into a 
situation where valour and military skill were equally unavail- 
ing. 153 The vigorous attempt of the Romans to cut their way 
through the Persian host was repulsed with great slaughter ; 154 
and Sapor, who encompassed the camp with superior numbers, 
patiently waited till the increasing rage of famine and pestilence 
had ensured his victory. The licentious murmurs of the legions 
soon accused Valerian as the cause of their calamities ; their 
seditious clamours demanded an instant capitulation. An im- 
mense sum of gold was offered to purchase the permission of a 
disgraceful retreat. But the Persian, conscious of his superior- 
ity, refused the money with disdain ; and, detaining the deputies, 
advanced in order of battle to the foot of the Roman ram- 
part, and insisted on a personal conference with the emperor. 
Valerian was reduced to the necessity of intrusting his life and 
dignity to the faith of an enemy. The interview ended as it 
was natural to expect. The emperor was made a prisoner, and 
his astonished troops laid down their arms. 155 In such a moment 
of triumph, the pride and policy of Sapor prompted him to fill 
the vacant throne with a successor entirely dependent on his 
pleasure. Cyriades, an obscure fugitive of Antioch, stained with 
every vice, was chosen to dishonour the Roman purple ; and the 
will of the Persian victor could not fail of being ratified by the 
acclamations, however reluctant, of the captive army. 156 

The Imperial slave was eager to secure the favour of his 
master by an act of treason to his native country. He con- 
ducted Sapor over the Euphrates, and, by the way of Chalcis, to 
the metropolis of the East. So rapid were the motions of the 
Persian cavalry, that, if we may credit a very judicious his- 
torian, 157 the city of Antioch was surprised when the idle multi- 

to impute any fault to Macrianus in this disaster. He appears to have been an 
able officer but unfortunately an invalid. For the defeat of Valerian and the 
chronology, see Appendix 17.] 

152 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 33 [36]. 

153 Hist. August, p. 174 [xxii. 32]. 

184 Victor in Cresar. [32]. Eutropius, ix. 7. 

lr ' 5 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 33 [36]. Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 630 [23]. Peter Patricius in the 
Exccrpta Legat. p. 29. 

156 Hist. August, p. 185 [xxiv. 1]. The reign of Cyriades appears in that 
collection prior to the death of Valerian ; but I have preferred a probable series 
of events to the doubtful chronology of a most inaccurate writer. [But see 
Appendix 17.] 

1 57 The sack of Antioch, anticipated by some historians, is assigned, by the 
decisive testimony of Ammianus Marcellinus, to the reign of Gallienus, xxiii. £. 


tude was fondly gazing on the amusements of the theatre. The 
splendid buildings of Antioch, private as well as public, were 
either pillaged or destroyed ; and the numerous inhabitants 
were put to the sword or led away into captivity. 158 The tide 
of devastation was stopped for a moment by the resolution of 
the high priest of Emesa. Arrayed in his sacerdotal robes he 
appeared at the head of a great body of fanatic peasants, armed 
only with slings, and defended his god and his property from 
the sacrilegious hands of the followers of Zoroaster. 159 But the 
ruin of Tarsus, and of many other cities, furnishes a melancholy 
proof that, except in this singular instance, the conquest of Syria 
and Cilicia scarcely interrupted the progress of the Persian arms. 
The advantages of the narrow passes of Mount Taurus were 
abandoned, in which an invader whose principal force consisted 
in his cavalry would have been engaged in a very unequal com- 
bat : and Sapor was admitted to form the siege of Caesarea, the 
capital of Cappadocia ; a city, though of the second rank, which 
was supposed to contain four hundred thousand inhabitants. 
Demosthenes commanded in the place, not so much by the com- 
mission of the emperor as in the voluntary defence of his country. 
For a long time he deferred its fate ; and, when at last Caesarea 
was betrayed by the perfidy of a physician, he cut his way 
through the Persians, who had been ordered to exert their 
utmost diligence to take him alive. This heroic chief escaped 
the power of a foe who might either have honoured or punished 
his obstinate valour ; but many thousands of his fellow-citizens 
were involved in a general massacre, and Sapor is accused of 
treating his prisoners with wanton and unrelenting cruelty. 160 
Much should undoubtedly be allowed for national animosity, 
much for humbled pride and impotent revenge ; yet, upon the 
whole, it is certain that the same prince who, in Armenia, had 
displayed the mild aspect of a legislator, showed himself to the 
Romans under the stern features of a conqueror. He despaired of 
making any permanent establishment in the empire, and sought 
only to leave behind him a wasted desert, whilst he transported 
into Persia the people and the treasures of the provinces. 161 

i r ' 8 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 35 [36]. 

159 John Malala, torn. i. p. 391 [p. 296, ed. Bonn]. He corrupts this probable 
event by some fabulous circumstances. 

160 Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 630 [23]. Deep valleys were filled up with the slain. 
Crowds of prisoners were driven to water like beasts, and many perished for want 
of food. 

161 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 25 [28], asserts that Sapor, had he not preferred spoil to 
conquest, might have remained master of Asia. 


Boldness ana At a time when the East trembled at the name of Sapor, he 
odenatnus received a present not unworthy of the greatest kings — a long 
apor train of camels laden with the most rare and valuable merchan- 
dises. The rich offering was accompanied with an epistle, respect- 
ful but not servile, from Odenathus, one of the noblest and 
most opulent senators of Palmyra. " Who is this Odenathus " 
(said the haughty victor, and he commanded that the presents 
should be cast into the Euphrates), " that he thus insolently pre- 
sumes to write to his lord ? If he entertains a hope of mitigat- 
ing his punishment, let him fall prostrate before the foot of our 
throne, with his hands bound behind his back. Should he 
hesitate, swift destruction shall be poured on his head, on his 
whole race, and on his country." 162 The desperate extremity to 
which the Palmyrenian was reduced called into action all the 
latent powers of his soul. He met Sapor ; but he met him in 
arms. Infusing his own spirit into a little army collected from 
the villages of Syria, 163 and the tents of the desert, 164 he hovered 
round the Persian host, harassed their retreat, carried off pait of 
the treasure, and, what was dearer than any treasure, several of 
the women of the Great King ; who was at last obliged to repass 
the Euphrates with some marks of haste and confusion. 105 By 
this exploit Odenathus laid the foundations of his future fame 
and fortunes. The majesty of Rome, oppressed by a Persian, 
was protected by a Syrian or Arab of Palmyra. 
Treatment of The voice of history, which is often little more than the 
enan organ of hatred or flattery, reproaches Sapor with a proud abuse 
of the rights of conquest. We are told that Valerian, in chains, 
but invested with the Imperial purple, was exposed to the 
multitude, a constant spectacle of fallen greatness ; and that, 
whenever the Persian monarch mounted on horseback, he 

162 p e ter Patricius in Excerpt. Leg. p. 29 [frag. 10, Miiller, F.H.G. iv. 
Septimius Odaenathus had been made a consularis by Valerian before April 258. 
See Waddington-Le Bas iii. 2602]. 

163 Syrorum agrestium manu. Sextus Rufus, c. 23. Rufus, Victor, the 
Augustan History (p. 192 [xxiv. 14]) and several inscriptions agree in making 
Odenathus a citizen of Palmyra. [Palmyra had been made a colonia by Severus. 
As a great commercial town, its policy was to preserve neutrality between the 
powers of the East and the West, and, while the Parthian realm lasted, this was 
feasible. But the ambition of the new Persian monarchy forced Palmyra to take 
a decided step, and either attach itself to the Empire or submit to Sapor. This 
step was taken by Odasnathus.] 

164 He possessed so powerful an interest among the wandering tribes, that 
Procopius (Bell. Persic. 1. ii. c. 5) and John Malala (torn. i. p. 391 [392; p. 297, ed. 
Bonn] ) style him Prince of the Saracen?. 

165 Peter Patricius, p. 25 [frag. 11. See also Zonaras, xii. 23 ; Zpsjfljus, i. 39", 
Syncellus, i. 716 (ed. Bonn)] . 


placed his foot on the neck of a Roman emperor. Notwith- 
standing all the remonstrances of his allies, who repeatedly 
advised him to remember the vicissitude of fortune, to dread the 
returning power of Rome, and to make his illustrious captive the 
pledge of peace, not the object of insult, Sapor still remained 
inflexible. When Valerian sunk under the weight of shame and 
grief, his skin, stuffed with straw, and formed into the likeness 
of a human figure, was preserved for ages in the most celebrated 
temple of Persia ; a more real monument of triumph than the 
fancied trophies of brass and marble so often erected by Roman 
vanity. 106 The tale is moral and pathetic, but the truth of it 
may very fairly be called in question. The letters still extant 
from the princes of the East to Sapor are manifest forgeries ; 167 
nor is it natural to suppose that a jealous monarch should, even 
in the person of a rival, thus publicly degrade the majesty of 
kings. Whatever treatment the unfortunate Valerian might 
experience in Persia, it is at least certain that the only emperor 
of Rome who had ever fallen into the hands of the enemy 
languished away his life in hopeless captivity. 

The Empei*or Gallienus, who had lona; supported with character 
impatience the censorial severity or his lather and colleague, tration of 
received the intelligence of his misfortunes with secret pleasure, 
and avowed indifference. " I knew that my father was a 
mortal," said he, " and, since he has acted as becomes a brave 
man, I am satisfied." Whilst Rome lamented the fate of her 
sovereign, the savage coldness of his son was extolled by the 
sei'vile courtiers as the perfect firmness of a hero and a stoic. 168 
It is difficult to paint the light, the various, the inconstant 
character of Gallienus, which he displayed without constraint 
as soon as he became sole possessor of the empire. In every art 
that he attempted his lively genius enabled him to succeed ; 
and, as his genius was destitute of judgment, he attempted 
every art, except the important ones of war and government. 
He was a master of several curious but useless sciences, a ready 

i 66 The Pagan writers lament, the Christian insult, the misfortunes of Valerian. 
Their various testimonies are accurately collected by Tillemont, torn. iii. p. 739, 
&c. So little has been preserved of Eastern history before Mahomet, that the 
modern Persians are totally ignorant of the victory of Sapor, an event so glorious to 
their nation. See Bibliotheque Orientale. 

167 One of these epistles is from Artavasdes, king of Armenia : since Armenia 
was then a province to Persia, the king, the kingdom, and the epistle must be 

163 See his life in the Augustan History. 

18 VOL. I. 


orator, an elegant poet, 100 a skilful gardener, an excellent cook, 
and most contemptible prince. When the great emergencies of 
the state required his presence and attention, he was engaged 
in conversation with the philosopher Plotinus, 170 wasting his 
time in trifling or licentious pleasures, preparing his initiation to 
the Grecian mysteries, or soliciting a place in the Areopagus 
of Athens. His profuse magnificence insulted the general 
poverty ; the solemn ridicule of his triumphs impressed a deeper 
sense of the public disgrace. 171 The repeated intelligence of 
invasions, defeats, and rebellions, he received with a careless 
smile ; and singling out, with affected contempt, some particular 
production of the lost province, he carelessly asked, whether 
Rome must be ruined, unless it was supplied with linen from 
Egypt, and Arras cloth from Gaul ? There were, however, a 
few short moments in the life of Gallienus when, exasperated 
by some recent injury, he suddenly appeared the intrepid soldier 
and the cruel tyrant ; till, satiated with blood or fatigued by 
resistance, he insensibly sunk into the natural mildness and 
indolence of his character. 172 
The thirty At a time when the reins of government were held with so 

loose a hand, it is not surprising that a crowd of usurpers should 
start up in every province of the empire, against the son of 
Valerian. It was probably some ingenious fancy, of comparing 

169 There is still extant a very pretty Epithalamium, composed by Gallienus, 
for the nuptials of his nephews [Hist. August, xxiii. n]. 

Ite ait, O Juvenes, pariter sudate medullis 
Omnibus, inter vos ; non murmura vestra columbae, 
Braehia non hederae, non vincant oscula conchae. 

1 70 He was on the point of giving Plotinus a ruined city of Campania to try 
the experiment of realizing Plato's Republic. See the Life of Plotinus, by Porphyry, 
in Fabricius's Biblioth. Grsec. 1. iv. 

171 A medal which bears the head of Gallienus has perplexed the antiquarians 
by its legend and reverse; the former Gallience Augusta, the latter Ubique 
Pax [Eckhel, vii. 413] . M. Spanheim supposes that the coin was struck by some 
of the enemies of Gallienus, and was designed as a severe satire on that effeminate 
prince. But, as the use of irony may seem unworthy of the gravity of the Roman 
mint, M. de Vallemont has deduced from a passage of Trebellius Pollio (Hist. 
August, p. 198) an ingenious and natural solution. Galliena was first cousin to 
the emperor. By delivering Africa from the usurper Celsus, she deserved the title 
of Augusta. [Recent authorities however accept the explanation of Spanheim.] 
On a medal in the French king's collection, we read a similar inscription of Faus- 
tina Augusta round the head of Marcus Aurelius. With regard to the Ubique 
Pax, it is easily explained by the vanity of Gallienus, who seized, perhaps, the occa- 
sion of some momentary calm. See Nouvelles de la Re'publique des Lettres 
Janvier, 1700, p. 21-34. 

172 This singular character has, I believe, been fairly transmitted to us. The 
reign of his immediate successor was short and busy, and the historians who 
wrote before the elevation of the family of Constantine could not have the most 
remote interest to misrepresent the character of Gallienus. [But see Appendix 1.] 



the thirty tyrants of Rome with the thirty tyrants of Alliens, 
that induced the writers of the Augustan history to select that 
celebrated number, which has been gradually received into a 
popular appellation. 173 But in every light the parallel is idle 
and defective. What resemblance can we discover between a 
council of thirty persons, the united oppressors of a single city, 
and an uncertain list of independent rivals, who rose and fell in 
irregular succession through the extent of a vast empire ? Nor 
can the number of thirty be completed unless we include in the 
account the women and children who were honoured with the 
Imperial title. The reign of Gallienus, distracted as it was, Their real 
produced only nineteen pretenders to the throne: Cyriades, no more than 
Macrianus, Balista, Odenathus, and Zenobia in the East; in Gaul 1 " 1 
and the western provinces, Posthumus, Lollianus, Victorinus and 
his mother Victoria, Marius, and Tetricus. In Illyricum and the 
confines of the Danube, Ingenuus, Regillianus and Aureolus ; 
in Pontus, 174 Saturninus ; in Isauria, Trebellianus ; Piso in 
Thessaly ; Valens in Achaia ; iEmilianus in Egypt ; and Celsus 
in Africa. To illustrate the obscure monuments of the life and 
death of each individual would prove a laborious task, alike 
barren of instruction and amusement. We may content our- 
selves with investigating some general characters, that most 
sti-ongly mark the condition of the times and the manners of 
the men, their pretensions, their motives, their fate, and the 
destructive consequences of their usurpation. 175 

It is sufficiently known that the odious appellation of Tyrant character and 
was often employed by the ancients to express the illegal seizure tyrants 
of supreme power, without any reference to the abuse of it. 
Several of the pretenders who raised the standard of rebellion 
against the emperor Gallienus were shining models of virtue, 
and almost all possessed a considerable share of vigour and 
ability. Their merit had recommended them to the favour of 
Valerian, and gradually promoted them to the most important 
commands of the empire. The generals who assumed the title 
of Augustus were either respected by their troops for their able 
conduct and severe discipline, or admired for valour and success 
in war, or beloved for frankness and generosity. The field of 
victory was often the scene of their election ; and even the 

173 Pollio expresses the most minute anxiety to complete the number. 

174 The place of his reign is somewhat doubtful ; but there was a tyrant in 
Pontus, and we are acquainted with the seat of all the others. [Hist. Aug. xxiv. 
29, i is here referred to. See Appendix 18.] 

178 Tillemont, torn. iii. p. 1163, reckons them somewhat differently. 


armourer Marius, the most contemptible of all the candidates 
for the purple, was distinguished however by intrepid courage, 
matchless strength, and blunt honesty. 170 His mean and recent 
trade cast, indeed, an air of ridicule on his elevation ; but his 
birth could not be more obscure than was that of the greater 
Tteir obscure part of his rivals, who were born of peasants, and enlisted in 
the army as private soldiers. In times of confusion every active 
genius finds the place assigned him by nature ; in a general 
state of war military merit is the road to glory and to greatness. 
Of the nineteen tyrants Tetricus only was a senator ; Piso alone 
was a noble. The blood of Numa, through twenty-eight suc- 
cessive generations, ran in the veins of Calphurnius Piso, 177 who, 
by female alliances, claimed a right of exhibiting in his house 
the images of Crassus and of the great Pompey. 178 His ances- 
tors had been repeatedly dignified with all the honours which 
the commonwealth could bestow; and, of all the ancient families 
of Rome, the Calphurnian alone had survived the t} r ranny of the 
Caesars. The personal qualities of Piso added new lustre to his 
race. The usurper Valens, by whose order he was killed, con- 
fessed, with deep remorse, that even an enemy ought to have 
respected the sanctity of Piso ; and, although he died in arms 
against Gallienus, the senate, with the emperor's generous per- 
mission, decreed the triumphal ornaments to the memory of so 
virtuous a rebel. 179 
The causes of The lieutenants of Valerian were grateful to the father, whom 
tneirrebeuion fo e y esteemed. They disdained to serve the luxurious indolence 
of his unworthy son. The throne of the Roman world was un- 
supported by any principle of loyalty ; and treason against such 
a prince might easily be considered as patriotism to the state. 
Yet, if we examine with candour the conduct of these usurpers, 
it will appear that they were much oftener driven into re- 
bellion by their fears than urged to it by their ambition. They 

178 See the speech of Marius, in the Augustan History, p. 187 Txxiv. 7]. The 
accidental identity of names was the only circumstance that could tempt Pollio to 
imitate Sallust. 

177 Vos O Pompilius sanguis ! is Horace's address to the Pisos. See Art. Poet. 
v. 292, with Dacier's and Sanadon's notes. 

178 Tacit. Annal. xv. 48, Hist. i. 15. In the former of these passages we ma)' 
venture to change paterna into materna. In every generation from Augustus to 
Alexander Severus, one or more Pisos appear as consuls. A Piso was deemed 
worthy of the throne by Augustus (Tacit. Annal. i. 13). A second headed a 
formidable conspiracy against Nero ; and a third was adopted, and declared 
Cassar by Galba. 

179 Hist. August, p. 195 [xxiv. 20]. The senate, in a moment of enthusiasm, 
seems to have presumed on the approbation of Gallienus. 


dreaded the cruel suspicions of Gallienus : they equally dreaded 
the capricious violence of their troops. If the dangerous favour 
of the army had imprudently declared them deserving of the 
purple, they were marked for sure destruction ; and even pru- 
dence would counsel them to secure a short enjoyment of the 
empire, and rather to try the fortune of war than to expect the 
hand of an executioner. When the clamour of the soldiers 
invested the reluctant victims with the ensigns of sovereign 
authority, they sometimes mourned in secret their approaching 
fate. " You have lost," said Saturninus, on the day of his eleva- 
tion, " you have lost a useful commander, and you have made a 
very wretched emperor." 1SU 

The apprehensions of Saturninus were justified by the repeated Their violent 
experience of revolutions. Of the nineteen tyrants who started 
up under the reign of Gallienus, there was not one who enjoyed 
a life of peace, or a natural death. As soon as they were in- 
vested with the bloody purple, they inspired their adherents 
with the same fears and ambition which had occasioned their 
own revolt. Encompassed with domestic conspiracy, military 
sedition, and civil war, they trembled on the edge of precipices, 
in which, after a longer or shorter term of anxiety, they were 
inevitably lost. These precarious monarchs received, however, 
such honours as the flattery of their respective armies and pro- 
vinces could bestow ; but their claim, founded on rebellion, 
could never obtain the sanction of law or history. Italy, Rome, 
and the senate constantly adhered to the cause of Gallienus, 
and he alone was considered as the sovereign of the empire. 
That prince condescended indeed to acknowledge the victorious 
arms of Odenathus, who deserved the honourable distinction by 
the respectful conduct which he always maintained towards the 
son of Valerian. With the general applause of the Romans and 
the consent of Gallienus, the senate conferred the title of 
Augustus on the brave Palmyrenian ; and seemed to intrust 
him with the government of the East, which he already pos- 
sessed, in so independent a manner, that, like a private succes- 
sion, he bequeathed it to his illustrious widow Zenobia. 181 

The rapid and perpetual transitions from the cottage to the Fatal conse- 
throne, and from the throne to the imive, might have amused these usurpa- 


an indifferent philosopher, were it possible for a philosopher to 

18n Hist. August, p. 196 [xxiv. 22]. 

181 The association of the brave Palmyrenian was the most popular act of the 
whole reign of Gallienus. Hist. August, p. ioo [xxiii. 12, 1. The statement is 
certainly erroneous. See Appendix 19. < 


remain indifferent amidst the general calamities of human kind. 
The election of these precarious emperors, their power and their 
death, were equally destructive to their subjects and adherents. 
The price of their fatal elevation was instantly discharged to 
the troops by an immense donative drawn from the bowels of 
the exhausted people. However virtuous was their character, 
however pure their intentions, they found themselves reduced 
to the hard necessity of supporting their usurpation by frequent 
acts of rapine and cruelty. When they fell, they involved armies 
and provinces in their fall. There is still extant a most savage 
mandate from Gallienus to one of his ministers, after the sup- 
pression of Ingenuus, who had assumed the purple in Illyricum. 
" It is not enough," says that soft but inhuman prince, " that 
you exterminate such as have appeared in arms : the chance of 
battle might have served me as effectually. The male sex of 
every age must be extirpated ; provided that, in the execution 
of the children and old men, you can contrive means to save our 
reputation. Let every one die who has dropt an expression, 
who has entertained a thought, against me, against me, the son 
of Valerian, the father and brother of so many princes. 182 Re- 
member that Ingenuus was made emperor : tear, kill, hew in 
pieces. I write to you with my own hand, and would inspire 
you with my own feelings." 183 Whilst the public forces of the 
state were dissipated in private quarrels, the defenceless pro- 
vinces lay exposed to every invader. The bravest usurpers were 
compelled by the perplexity of their situation to conclude 
ignominious treaties with the common enemy, to purchase with 
oppressive tributes the neutrality or services of the barbarians, 
and to introduce hostile and independent nations into the heart 
of the Roman monarchy. 184 

Such were the barbarians, and such the tyrants, who, under 
the reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, dismembered the provinces, 
and reduced the empire to the lowest pitch of disgrace and 
ruin, from whence it seemed impossible that it should ever 
emerge. As far as the barrenness of materials would permit, 

182 Gallienus had given the titles of Caesar and Augustus to his son Saloninus, 
slain at Cologne by the usurper Posthumus. A second son of Gallienus succeeded 
to the name and rank of his elder brother. Valerian, the brother of Gallienus, was 
also associated to the empire : several other brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces 
of the emperor, formed a very numerous royal family. See Tillemont, torn. iii. 
and M. de Brequigny in the MtJmoires de l'Academie, torn, xxxii. p. 262. 

183 Hist. August, p. 188 [xxiv. 8]. 

184 ResriHianus had some bands of Roxolani in his service ; Posthumus a body 
of Franks. It was perhaps in the character of auxiliaries that the latter introduced 
themselves into Spain. 


we have attempted to trace, with order and perspicuity, the 
general events of that calamitous period. There still remain 
some particular facts ; I. The disorders of Sicily ; II. The 
tumults of Alexandria ; and III. The rebellion of the Isaurians 
— which may serve to reflect a strong light on the horrid 

I. Whenever numerous troops of banditti, multiplied by reorders of 
success and impunity, publicly defy, instead of eluding, the 
justice of their country, we may safely infer that the excessive 
weakness of the government is felt and abused by the lowest 

ranks of the community. The situation of Sicily preserved it 
from the barbarians ; nor could the disarmed province have 
supported an usurper. The sufferings of that once flourishing 
and still fertile island were inflicted by baser hands. A licen- 
tious crowd of slaves and peasants reigned for a while over the 
plundered country, and renewed the memory of the servile wars 
of more ancient times. 1S5 Devastations, of which the husband- 
man was either the victim or the accomplice, must have ruined 
the agriculture of Sicily ; and as the principal estates were the 
property of the opulent senators of Rome, who often enclosed 
within a farm the territory of an old republic, it is not im- 
probable that this private injury might affect the capital more 
deeply than all the conquests of the Goths or the Persians. 

II. The foundation of Alexandria was a noble design, at once Tummts of 
conceived and executed by the son of Philip. The beautiful and exan 
regular form of that great city, second only to Rome itself, com- 
prehended a circumference of fifteen miles ; 186 it was peopled 

by three hundred thousand free inhabitants, besides at least an 
equal number of slaves. 1S7 The lucrative trade of Arabia and 
India flowed through the port of Alexandria to the capital and 
provinces of the empire. Idleness was unknown. Some were 
employed in blowing of glass, others in weaving of linen, others 
again in* manufacturing the papyrus. Either sex, and every age, 
was engaged in the pursuits of industry, nor did even the blind 
or the lame want occupations suited to their condition. 188 But 
the people of Alexandria, a various mixture of nations, united 
the vanity and inconstancy of the Greeks with the superstition 

185 The Augustan History, p. 177 [xxiii. 4], calls it servile bellum. See Diodor. 
Sicul. 1. xxxiv. 

186 Plin. Hist. Natur. v. 10. 

187 Diodor. Sicul. 1. xvii. p. 590. Edit. Wesseling [52]. 

188 See a very curious letter of Hadrian in the Augustan History, p. 245 [xxix. 8. 
Cp. Student's Roman Empire, p. 520.] 

a [The original text omits, presumably by accident, after again. Ed.] 


and obstinacy of the Egyptians. The most trifling occasion, a 
transient scarcity of flesh or lentils, the neglect of an accustomed 
salutation, a mistake of precedency in the public baths, or even 
a religious dispute, 1S9 were at any time sufficient to kindle a 
sedition among that vast multitude, whose resentments were 
furious and implacable. 190 After the captivity of Valerian and 
the indolence of his son had relaxed the authority of the laws, 
the Alexandrians abandoned themselves to the ungoverned rage 
of their passions, and their unhappy country was the theatre of 
a civil war, which continued (with a few short and suspicious 
truces) above twelve years. 191 All intercourse was cut off 
between the several quarters of the afflicted city, every street 
was polluted with blood, every building of strength converted 
into a citadel ; nor did the tumults subside till a considerable 
part of Alexandria was irretrievably ruined. The spacious and 
magnificent district of Bruchion, with its palaces and musaeum, 
the residence of the kings and philosophers of Egypt, is described 
above a century afterwards, as already reduced to its present 
state of a dreary solitude. 192 

III. The obscure rebellion of Trebellianus, who assumed the 
purple in Isauria, a petty province of Asia Minor, was attended 
with strange and memorable consequences. The pageant of 
royalty was soon destroyed by an officer of Gallienus ; but his 
followers, despairing of mercy, resolved to shake off their allegi- 
ance, not only to the emperor but to the empire, and suddenly 
returned to the savage manners from which they had never 
perfectly been reclaimed. Their craggy rocks, a branch of the 
wide-extended Taurus, protected their inaccessible retreat. The 
tillage ot some fertile valleys 193 supplied them with neces- 
saries, and a habit of rapine with the luxuries of life. In the 
heart of the Roman monarchy, the Isaurians long continued a 
nation of wild barbarians. Succeeding princes, unable to reduce 
them to obedience either by arms or policy, were compelled to 
acknowledge their weakness by surrounding the hostile and 
independent spot with a strong chain of fortifications, 194 which 

189 Such as the sacrilegious murder of a divine cat. See Diodor. Sicul. 1. i. 

190 Hist. August, p. 195. This long and terrible sedition was first occasioned 
by a dispute between a soldier and a townsman about a pair of shoes. [Compare 
the description of Mommsen, Rom. Gesch. v. 582 sqq.~\ 

191 Dionysius apud Euseb. Hist. Eccles. vol. vii. p. [leg.c] 21. Ammian. xxii. 16. 
192 Scaliger Animadver. ad Euseb. Chron. p. 258. Three dissertations of 

M. Bonamy, in the Mem. de l'Acad^mie, torn. ix. 
i»3 Strabo, 1. xii. p. 569. 
194 Hist. August, p. 197 [xxiv, 25] . 


often proved insufficient to restrain the incursions of these 
domestic foes. The Isaurians, gradually extending their terri- 
tory to the sea coast, subdued the western and mountainous 
part of Cilicia, formerly the nest of those daring pirates against 
whom the republic had once been obliged to exert its utmost 
force, under the conduct of the great Pompey. 195 

Our habits of thinking so fondly connect the order of the Famine and 
universe with the fate of man, that this gloomy period of history 
has been decorated with inundations, earthquakes, uncommon 
meteors, preternatural darkness, and a crowd of prodigies fictiti- 
ous or exaggerated. 196 But a long and general famine was a 
calamity of a more serious kind. It was the inevitable conse- 
quence of rapine and oppression, which extirpated the produce 
of the present and the hope of future harvests. Famine is 
almost always followed by epidemical diseases, the effect of 
scanty and unwholesome food. Other causes must however 
have contributed to the furious plague which, from the year two 
hundred and fifty to the year two hundred and sixty-five, raged 
without interruption in every province, eveiy city, and almost 
every family of the Roman empire. During some time five 
thousand persons died daily in Rome ; and many towns that 
had escaped the hands of the barbarians were entirely depopu- 
lated. 197 

We have the knowledge of a very curious circumstance, of Diminution 
some use perhaps in the melancholy calculation of human cala- species 
mities. An exact register was kept at Alexandria of all the 
citizens entitled to receive the distribution of corn. It was 
found that the ancient number of those comprised between the 
ages of forty and seventy had been equal to the whole sum of 
claimants, from fourteen to fourscore years of age, who remained 
alive after the reign of Gallienus. 198 Applying this authentic 
fact to the most correct tables of mortality, it evidently proves 
that above half the people of Alexandria had perished ; and 

195 See Cellarius, Geog. Antiq. torn. ii. p. 137, upon the limits of Isauria. 

196 Hist. August, p. 177 [xxiii. 5] . 

197 Hist. August, p. 177 [ib.]. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 24 [26]. Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 623 [21]. 
Euseb. Chronicon. Victor in Epitom. Victor in Caesar. [33]. Eutropius, ix. 5. 
Orosius, vii. 21. [One of the most significant proofs of the distress of the empire 
in the reign of Gallienus is the bankruptcy of the government, which resorted 
to the old expedient of shameless depreciation of the coinage. At the end of his 
reign the argenteus was merely a coin of base metal washed over with silver. 
See Finlay, History of Greece, ed. Tozer, vol. 1. Appendix ii.] 

198 Euseb. Hist. Eccles. vii. 21. The fact is taken from the Letters of Dionysius, 
who in the time of those troubles was bishop of Alexandria. 


could we venture to extend the analogy to the other provinces, 
we might suspect that war, pestilence, and famine, had con- 
sumed, in a few years, the moiety of the human species. 199 

199 In a great number of parishes 11,000 persons were found between fourteen 
and eighty ; 5365 between forty and seventy. See Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, 
torn. ii. p. 590. 



Reign of Claudius — Defeat of the Goths — Victories, triumph, and 
death, of Aurelian 

Under the deplorable reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, the 
empire was oppressed and almost destroyed by the soldiers, the 
tyrants, and the barbarians. It was saved by a series of great 
princes, who derived their obscure origin from the martial pro- 
vinces of Illyricum. Within a period of about thirty years, 
Claudius, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian and his colleagues, 
triumphed over the foreign and domestic enemies of the state, 
re-established, with the military discipline, the strength of the 
frontiers, and deserved the glorious title of Restorers of the 
Roman world. 

The removal of an effeminate tyrant made way for a succession Aureoius 
of heroes. The indignation of the people imputed all theins defeated, 
calamities to Gallienus, and the far greater part were, indeed, at Milan gec 
the consequence of his dissolute manners and careless adminis- 
tration. He was even destitute of a sense of honour, which so 
frequently supplies the absence of public virtue ; and, as long as 
he was permitted to enjoy the possession of Italy, a victory of the 
barbarians, the loss of a province, or the rebellion of a general, 
seldom disturbed the tranquil course of his pleasures. At length, a.d.268 
a considerable army, stationed on the Upper Danube, invested 
with the Imperial purple their leader Aureoius ; who, disdaining 
a confined and barren reign over the mountains of Rhaetia, 
passed the Alps, occupied Milan, threatened Rome, and chal- 
lenged Gallienus to dispute in the field the sovereignty of Italy. 
The emperor, provoked by the insult, and alarmed by the instant 
danger, suddenly exerted that latent vigour wh ch sometimes 
broke through the indolence of his temper. Forcing himself 
from the luxury of the palace, he appeared in arms at the head 
of his legions, and advanced beyond the Po to encounter his 
competitor. The corrupted name of Pontirolo 1 still preserves 

1 Pons Aureoli, thirteen miles from Bergamo, and thirty-two from Milan. 
See Cluver. Italia Antiq. torn, i, p. 245. Near this place, in the year 1703, the 


the memory of a bridge over the Adda, which, during the action, 
must have proved an object of the utmost importance to both 
armies. The Rhaetian usurper, after receiving a total defeat 
and a dangerous wound, retired into Milan. The siege of that 
great city was immediately formed ; the walls were battered 
with every engine in use among the ancients ; and Aureolus, 
doubtful of his internal strength, and hopeless of foreign succours, 
already anticipated the fatal consequences of unsuccessful re- 

His last resource was an attempt to seduce the loyalty of the 
besiegers. He scattered libels through their camp, inviting the 
troops to desert an unworthy master, who sacrificed the public 
happiness to his luxury, and the lives of his most valuable subjects 
to the slightest suspicions. The arts of Aureolus diffused fears 
and discontent among the principal officers of his rival. A con- 
spiracy was formed by Heraclianus, the Praetorian praefect, by 
Marcian, a general of rank and reputation, and by Cecrops, 2 who 
commanded a numerous body of Dalmatian guards. The death 
of Gallienus was resolved, and, notwithstanding their desire of 
first terminating the siege of Milan, the extreme danger which 
accompanied every moment's delay obliged them to hasten the 
execution of their daring purpose. At a late hour of the night, 
but while the emperor still protracted the pleasures of the table, 
an alarm was suddenly given that Aureolus, at the head of all 
his forces, had made a desperate sally from the town; Gallienus, 
who was never deficient in personal bravery, started from his 
silken couch, and, without allowing himself time either to put 
on his armour or to assemble his guards, he mounted on horse- 
back, and rode full speed towards the supposed place of the attack. 
Encompassed by his declared or concealed enemies, he soon, 
amidst the nocturnal tumult, received a mortal dart from an 
a.d. 268, uncertain hand. Before he expired, a patriotic sentiment rising 
Deatho? m the nrind of Gallienus induced him to name a deserving 
successor, and it was his last request that the Imperial ornaments 
should be delivered to Claudius, who then commanded a detached 
army in the neighbourhood of Pavia. The report at least was 
diligently propagated, and the order cheerfully obeyed by the 
conspirators, who had already agreed to place Claudius on the 
throne. On the first news of the emperor's death, the troops 

obstinate battle of Cassano was fought between the French and Austrians. The 
excellent relation of the Chevalier de Folard, who was present, gives a very 
distinct idea of the ground. See Polybe de Folard, torn. 3, p. 223-248. 
2 [Cecropius is the name, Hist. Aug. xxiii. 14.] 



expressed some suspicion and resentment, till the one was re- 
moved and the other assuaged by a donative of twenty pieces of 
gold to each soldier. They then ratified the election, and 
acknowledged the merit, of their new sovereign. 3 

The obscurity which covered the origin of Claudius, though it character and 
was afterwards embellished by some flattering fictions, 4 suffi- the emperor 
ciently betrays the meanness of his birth. We can only discover 
that he was a native of one of the provinces bordering on the 
Danube ; that his youth was spent in arms, and that his modest 
valour attracted the favour and confidence of Decius. The 
senate and people already considered him as an excellent officer, 
equal to the most important trusts ; and censured the inatten- 
tion of Valerian, who suffered him to remain in the subordinate 
station of a tribune. But it was not long before that emperor 
distinguished the merit of Claudius, by declaring him general 
and chief of the Illyrian frontier, with the command of all the 
troops in Thrace, Msesia, Dacia, Pannonia, and Dalmatia, the 
appointments of the preefect of Egypt, the establishment of the 
proconsul of Africa, and the sure prospect of the consulship. 
By his victories over the Goths, he deserved from the senate 
the honour of a statue and excited the jealous apprehensions of 
Gallienus. It was impossible that a soldier could esteem so 
dissolute a sovereign, nor is it easy to conceal a just contempt. 
Some unguarded expressions which dropped from Claudius were 
officiously transmitted to the royal ear. The emperor's answer 
to an officer of confidence describes in very lively colours his own 
character and that of the times. "There is not anything 
capable of giving me more serious concern, than the intelligence 
contained in your last dispatch, 5 that some malicious suggestions 
have indisposed towards us the mind of our friend and parent 
Claudius. As you regard your allegiance, use every means to 

3 On the death of Gallienus, see Trebellius Pollio in Hist. August, p. 181 [xxiii. 
14]. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 37 [40]. Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 634 [25]. Eutropius, ix. 11. 
Aurelius Victor in Epitom. [33]. Victor in Caesar. [33]. I have compared and 
blended them all, but have chiefly followed Aurelius Victor, who seems to have 
had the best memoirs. [Cecropius slew him according to Hist. Aug. ; but another 
story named Heraclian, John of Antioch 152, 3 (Miiller, F.H.G. iv.) and Zonaras, 
xii. 25. Zosimus, i. 40 is probably right in saying that Heraclian instigated the 
Dalmatian officer to strike the blow. There is a further confusion in John of 
Antioch, who makes Heraclian the Dalmatian captain.] 

4 Some supposed him, oddly enough, to be a bastard of the younger Gordian. 
Others took advantage of the province of Dardania, to deduce his origin from Dar- 
danus and the ancient kings of Troy. [M. Aurelius Claudius was his name.] 

5 Notoria, a periodical and official dispatch which the emperors received from 
the frumentarii or agents dispersed through the provinces. Of these we may 
speak hereafter 


appease his resentment, but conduct your negotiation with 
secrecy ; let it not reach the knowledge of the Dacian troops ; 
they are already provoked, and it might inflame their fury. I 
myself have sent him some presents : be it your care that he 
accept them with pleasure. Above all, let him not suspect that 
I am made acquainted with his imprudence. The fear of ray 
anger might urge him to desperate counsels." The presents 
which accompanied this humble epistle, in which the monarch 
solicited a reconciliation with his discontented subject, consisted 
of a considerable sum of money, a splendid wardrobe, and a 
valuable service of silver and gold plate. By such arts Gallienus 
softened the indignation, and dispelled the fears, of his Illyrian 
general ; and during the remainder of that reign the formidable 
sword of Claudius was always drawn in the cause of a master 
whom he despised. At last, indeed, he received from the con- 
spirators the bloody purple of Gallienus : but he had been absent 
from their camps and counsels; and, however he might applaud 
the deed, we may candidly presume that he was innocent of the 
knowledge of it. 7 When Claudius ascended the throne, he was 
about fifty- four years of age. 
peathof The siege of Milan was still continued, and Aureolus soon 

discovered that the success of his artifices had only raised up a 
more determined adversary. He attempted to negotiate with 
Claudius a treaty of alliance and partition. "Tell him," replied 
the intrepid emperor, "that such proposals should have been 
made to Gallienus ; he, perhaps, might have listened to them 
with patience, and accepted a colleague as despicable as him- 
self." 8 This stern refusal, and a last unsuccessful effort, obliged 
Aureolus to yield the city and himself to the discretion of the 
conqueror. The judgment of the army pronounced him worthy 
of death, and Claudius, after a feeble resistance, consented to 
the execution of the sentence. Nor was the zeal of the senate 
less ardent in the cause of their new sovereign. They ratified, 
perhaps with a sincere transport of zeal, the election of Claudius; 
and, as his predecessor had shown himself the personal enemy of 
their order, they exercised, under the name of justice, a severe 

6 Hist. August, p. 208 [xxv. 17]. Gallienus describes the plate, vestments, 
&c. , like a man who loved and understood those spkndid trifles. 

7 Julian (Orat. i. p. 6) affirms that Claudius acquired the empire in a just and 
even holy manner. But we may distrust the partiality of a kinsman. 

8 Hist. August, p. 203 [ib. 5]. There are some trifling differences concerning 
the circumstances of the last defeat and death of Aureolus. [The inscription in 
Boeckh (C.I.G. 6761) seems to have no independent value, but to have been com- 
posed on the basis of the account of Zosimus. See Schiller, i. 846.] 



revenge against his friends and family. The senate was per- 
mitted to discharge the ungrateful office of punishment, and 
the emperor reserved for himself the pleasure and merit of 
obtaining by his intercession a general act of indemnity. 9 

Such ostentatious clemency discovers less of the real character clemency ana 

p/-ii -i. i -n- ■ • i-ii l1_ justice of 

or Claudius than a trifling circumstance in which he seems to have Claudius 
consulted only the dictates of his heart. The frequent rebellions 
of the provinces had involved almost every person in the guilt of 
treason, almost every estate in the case of confiscation ; and 
Gallienus often displayed his liberality by distributing among his 
officers the property of his subjects. On the accession of Claudius, 
an old woman threw herself at his feet, and complained that a 
general of the late emperor had obtained an arbitrary grant of 
her patrimony. This general was Claudius himself, who had 
not entirely escaped the contagion of the times. The emperor 
blushed at the reproach, but deserved the confidence which she 
had reposed in his equity. The confession of his fault was 
accompanied with immediate and ample restitution. 10 

In the arduous task which Claudius had undertaken, of restoring Heunder- 

. - . ° takes the re- 

the empire to its ancient splendour, it was first necessary to revive formation of 

i . #• i i i t ,„.., ., thearmy 

among his troops a sense 01 order and obedience. With the 
authority of a veteran commander, he represented to them that 
the relaxation of discipline had introduced a long train of dis- 
orders, the effects of which were at length experienced by the soldiers 
themselves; that a people ruined by oppression, and indolent from 
despair, could no longer supply a numerous army with the mean° 
of luxury, or even of subsistence ; that the danger of each in- 
dividual had increased with the despotism of the military order, 
since princes who tremble on the throne will guard their safety 
by the instant sacrifice of every obnoxious subject. The emperor 
expatiated on the mischiefs of a lawless caprice which the soldier's 
could only gratify at the expense of their own blood, as their 
seditious elections had so frequently been followed by civil wars, 
which consumed the flower of the legions either in the field of 
battle or in the cruel abuse of victoiy. He painted in the most 
lively colours the exhausted state of the treasury, the desolation 
of the provinces, the disgrace of the Roman name, and the inso- 
lent triumph of rapacious barbarians. It was against those bar- 

9 Aurelius Victor in Gallien. The people loudly prayed for the damnation of 
Gallienus. The senate decreed that his relations and servants should be thrown 
down headlong from the Gemonian stairs. An obnoxious officer of the revenue 
had his eyes torn out whilst under examination. 

10 Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 137 [leg. 635 ; c. 26]. 



barians, he declared, that he intended to point the first effort of 
their arms. Tetricus might reign for a while over the West, and 
even Zenobia might preserve the dominion of the East. 11 These 
usurpers were his personal adversaries ; nor could he think of 
indulging any private resentment till he had saved an empire, 
whose impending ruin would, unless it was timely prevented, 
crush both the army and the people. 
ad. 269. The various nations of Germany and Sarmatia 12 who fought 

invade the under the Gothic standard had already collected an armament 

pmnirn 111-1 irti 

more formidable than any which had yet issued from the Euxine. 
On the banks of the Dniester, one of the great rivers that dis- 
charge themselves into that sea, they constructed a fleet of two 
thousand, or even of six thousand vessels ; 13 numbers which, 
however incredible they may seem, would have been insufficient 
to transport their pretended army of three hundred and twenty 
thousand barbarians. Whatever might be the real strength of 
the Goths, the vigour and success of the expedition were not 
adequate to the greatness of the preparations. In then* passage 
through the Bosphorus, the unskilful pilots were overpowered by 
the violence of the current ; and while the multitude of their 
ships were crowded in a narrow channel, many were dashed 
against each other, or against the shore. The barbarians made 
several descents on the coasts both of Europe and Asia ; but the 
open country was already plundered, and they were repulsed with 
shame and loss from the fortified cities which they assaulted. A 
spirit of discouragement and division arose in the fleet, and some 
of their chiefs sailed away towards the islands of Crete and Cyprus 
but the main body, pursuing a more steady course, anchored at 
length near the foot of Mount Athos, and assaulted the city of 
Thessalonica, the wealthy capital of all the Macedonian provinces 
Their attacks, in which they displayed a fierce but artless braveiy, 
were soo:; interrupted by the rapid approach of Claudius, has- 
tening to a scene of action that deserved the presence of a war- 
like prince at the head of the remaining powers of the empire. 

11 Zonaras on this occasion mentions Posthumus ; but the registers of the 
senate (Hist. August, p. 203 [ib. 4]) prove that Tetricus was already emperor of 
the western provinces. 

13 [The author does not mention the coalition of Grethungi, Tervingi, Alamrmni 
and other nations, which Claudius had to face in 268. The Alamanni crossed the 
Brenner and were dejected by Claudius near Lake Garda. Aurelius Victor, epit. 34, 
2 ; Eckhel, vii. 474 ; C. I. L. iii. 3521.] 

13 The Augustan History mentions the smaller, Zonaras [Zosimus, i. 42] the 
larger, number ; the lively fancy of Montesquieu induced him to prefer the latter. 
[For these invasions see Hodgkin, i. c. 1.] 


Impatient for battle, the Goths immediately broke up their camp, 
relinquished the siege of Thessalonica, left their navy at the foot 
of Mount Athos, traversed the hills of Macedonia, and pressed 
forwards to engage the last defence of Italy. 

We still possess an original letter addressed by Claudius to £jj££ e e ^ a ? d 
the senate and people on this memorable occasion. " Conscript ciandina 
fathers," says the emperor, "know that three hundred and 
twenty thousand Goths have invaded the Roman territory. If I 
vanquish them, your gratitude will reward my services. Should 
I fall, remember that I am the successor of Gallienus. The whole 
republic is fatigued and exhausted. We shall fight after Vale- 
rian, after Ingenuus, Regillianus, Lollianus, Posthumus, Celsus, 
and a thousand others, whom a just contempt for Gallienus pro- 
voked into rebellion. We are in want of darts, of spears, and of 
shields. The strength of the empire, Gaul and Spain, are 
usurped by Tetricus, and we blush to acknowledge that the 
archers of the East serve under the banners of Zenobia. What- 
ever we shall perform will be sufficiently great." 14 The melan- 
choly firmness of this epistle announces a hero careless of his 
fate, conscious of his danger, but still deriving a well-grounded 
hope from the resources of his own mind. 

The event surpassed his own expectations and those of the ^r^ 017 
world. By the most signal victories he delivered the empire Gotha 
from this host of barbarians, and was distinguished by posterity 
under the glorious appellation of the Gothic Claudius. The im- 
perfect historians of an irregular war 15 do not enable us to de- 
scribe the order and circumstances of his exploits ; but, if we 
could be indulged in the illusion, we might distribute into three 
acts this memorable tragedy. I. The decisive battle was fought 
near Naissus, a city of Dardania. The legions at first gave way, 
oppressed by numbers, and dismayed by misfortunes. Their 
ruin was inevitable, had not the abilities of their emperor pre- 
pared a seasonable relief. A large detachment, rising out of 
the secret and difficult passes of the mountains, which, by his 
order, they had occupied, suddenly assailed the rear of the 
victorious Goths. The favourable instant was improved by the 
activity of Claudius. He revived the courage of his troops, re- 
stored their ranks, and pressed the barbarians on every side. 

a4 Trebell. Pollio in Hist. August, p. 204 [xxv. 7]. 

15 Hist. August, in Claud. Aurelian. et Prob. Zosimus, 1. f. p. 38-42 [c. 42]. 
Zonaras, 1. xii. p. 638 [c. 26]. Aurel. Victor in Epitom. Victor Junior in 
Caesar. Eutrop. ix. n. Euseb. in Chron. [The skill with which Claudius 
planned the campaign is well brought out in the account of Schiller, i. 848.] 

19 VOL. I 


Fifty thousand men are reported to have been slain in the battle 
of Naissus. Several large bodies of barbarians, covering their 
retreat with a moveable fortification of waggons, retired, or rather 
escaped, from the field of slaughter. II. We may presume that 
some insurmountable difficulty, the fatigue, perhaps, or the dis- 
obedience, of the conquerors, prevented Claudius from complet- 
ing in one day the destruction of the Goths. The war was 
diffused over the provinces of Msesia, Thrace, and Macedonia, and 
its operations drawn out into a variety of marches, surprises, and 
tumultuary engagements, as well by sea as by land. When the 
Romans suffered any loss, it was commonly occasioned by their own 
cowardice or rashness ; but the superior talents of the emperor, 
his perfect knowledge of the country, and his judicious choice 
of measures as well as officers, assured on most occasions the 
success of his arms. The immense booty, the fruit of so many 
victories, consisted for the greater part of cattle and slaves. A 
select body of the Gothic youth was received among the Im- 
perial troops ; the remainder was sold into servitude ; and so 
considerable was the number of female captives, that every 
soldier obtained to his share two or three women. A circum- 
stance from which we may conclude that the invaders enter- 
tained some designs of settlement as well as of plunder ; since 
even in a naval expedition they were accompanied by their 
families. III. The loss of their fleet, which was either taken or 
sunk, had intercepted the retreat of the Goths. A vast circle 
of Roman posts, distributed with skill, supported with firmness, 
and gradually closing towards a common centre, forced the 
barbarians into the most inaccessible parts of Mount Haemus, 
where they found a safe refuge, but a very scanty subsistence. 
During the course of a rigorous winter, in which they were 
besieged by the emperor's troops, famine and pestilence, deser- 
tion and the sword, continually diminished the imprisoned 
&.v. 270 multitude. On the return of spring, nothing appeared in arms 
except a hardy and desperate band, the remnant of that mighty 
host which had embarked at the mouth of the Dniester. 
March. The pestilence which swept away such numbers of the bar- 

tmperor, who barians at length proved fatal to their conqueror. After a short 
Aureiianfor but glorious reign of two years, Claudius expired at Sirmium, 
amidst the tears and acclamations of his subjects. In his last 
illness, he convened the principal officers of the state and army, 
and in their presence recommended Aurelian, 16 one of his 

16 According to Zonaras (1. xii. p. 63b [ib.]) Claudius, before his death, invested 


generals, 17 as the most deserving of the throne, and the best 
qualified to execute the great design which he himself had been 
permitted only to undertake. The virtues of Claudius, his 
valour, affability, justice, and temperance, his love of fame and 
of his country, place him in that short list of emperors who 
added lustre to the Roman purple. Those virtues, however, were 
celebrated with peculiar zeal and complacency by the courtly 
writers of the age of Constantine, who was the great-grandson 
of Crispus, the elder brother of Claudius. The voice of flattery 
was soon taught to repeat that the gods, who so hastily had 
snatched Claudius from the earth, rewarded his merit and piety 
by the perpetual establishment of the empire in his family. 18 

Notwithstanding these oracles, the greatness of the Flavian The attompt 
family (a name which it had pleased them to assume) was de- Quintuius 
ferred above twenty years, and the elevation of Claudius oc- 
casioned the immediate ruin of his brother Quintilius, who 
possessed not sufficient moderation or courage to descend into 
the private station to which the patriotism of the late emperor 
had condemned him. Without delay or reflection, he assumed 
the purple at Aquileia, where he commanded a considerable 
force ; and, though his reign lasted only seventeen days, he had 
time to obtain the sanction of the senate, and to experience a 
mutiny of the troops. As soon as he was informed that the 
great army of the Danube had invested the well-known valour 
of Aurelian with Imperial power, he sunk under the fame and 
merit of his rival ; and, ordering his veins to be opened, prudently April 
withdrew himself from the unequal contest. 19 

The general design of this work will not permit us minutely origin and 
to relate the actions of every emperor after he ascended theAureuan 

him with the purple ; but this singular fact is rather contradicted than confirmed 
by other writers. [Zonaras says that Claudius recommended Aurelian to his 
officers, and that, according to some, he even proclaimed him emperor on the 

•7 [L. Domitius Aurelianus.] 

18 See the life of Claudius by Pollio, and the orations of Mamertinus, Eumenius, 
and Julian. See likewise the Caesars of Julian, p. 313. In Julian it was not adula- 
tion, but superstition and vanity. 

1J Zosimus, 1. i. p. 42 [47]. Pollio (Hist. August, p. 206 [xxv. 12, 5]) allows 
him virtues, and says that like Pertinax he was killed by licentious soldiers. 
According to Dexippus [quoted by Pollio, Hist. Aug., but what he said was (not 
occisum but) mortuum aTtoQa-vziv nee tamen addit morbo, thus leaving it doubtful] 
he died of a disease. [M. Aurelius Claudius Quintilius (this is the form of 
his name on coins, and in best MSS. of Hist Aug. ; Eckhel, vii. 478). It is to be 
noted that the Senate favoured his claims. He had been stationed to guard the 
Julian Alps and Aquileia, to cover the rear of Claudius in his Gothic war. He 
seems to have gained some victory, Cohen, 52.] 



[258 AD] 

Aurelian' s 

His severe 

throne, much less to deduce the various fortunes of his private 
life. We shall only observe, that the father of Aurelian was a 
peasant of the territory ofSirmium, who occupied a small farm, 
the property of Aurelius, a rich senator. His warlike son en- 
listed in the troops as a common soldier, successively rose to the 
rank of a centurion, a tribune, the praefect of a legion, the in- 
spector of the camp, 20 the general, or, as it was then called, the 
duke of a frontier ; and at length, during the Gothic war, 
exercised the important office of commander-in-chief of the 
cavalry. In every station he distinguished himself by matchless 
valour, 21 rigid discipline, and successful conduct. He was in- 
vested with the consulship by the emperor Valerian, who styles 
him, in the pompous language of that age, the deliverer of 
Illyricum, the restorer of Gaul, and the rival of the Scipios. At 
the recommendation of Valerian, a senator of the highest rank 
and merit, Ulpius Crinitus, whose blood was derived from the 
same source as that of Trajan, adopted the Pannonian peasant, 
gave him his daughter in marriage, and relieved with his ample 
fortune the honourable poverty which Aurelian had preserved 
inviolate. 22 

The reign of Aurelian lasted only four years and about nine 
months ; but every instant of that short period was filled by 
some memorable achievement. He put an end to the Gothic 
war, chastised the Germans who invaded Italy, recovered Gaul, 
Spain, and Britain out of the hands of Tetricus, and destroyed 
the proud monarchy which Zenobia had erected in the East on 
the ruins of the afflicted empire. 

It was the rigid attention of Aurelian even to the minutest 
articles of discipline which bestowed such uninterrupted success 
on his arms. His military regulations are contained in a very 

20 [This seems to be an invention of Vopiscus. Such an office did not exist.] 

21 Theoclius [Caesareanorum temporum scriptor] (as quoted in the Augustan 
History, p. 2ii [xxvi. 6]) affirms that in one day he killed, with his own hand, 
forty-eight Sarmatians, and in several subsequent engagements nine hundred and 
fifty. This heroic valour was admired by the soldiers, and celebrated in their rude 
songs, the burthen of which was mille mille mille occidit. 

^Acholius (ap. Hist. August, p. 213 [xxvi. 12]) describes the ceremony of the 
adoption, as it was performed at Byzantium, in the presence of the emperor and 
his great officers. [Grave doubts are felt as to the truth of these statements 
which Vopiscus professes to quote from Acholius. (1) Aurelian was consul for the 
first time in 271, according to theconsular Fasti(see Klein, Fasti consulares, no), and 
therefore cannot have been consul in 258. (2) Had he been adopted by Ulpius 
Crinitus, he must have assumed the name of his adopted father ; but he never did 
so. (3) Some of the persons present at the ceremony held offices of whose 
existence before Diocletian's time there is no other trace. See Rothkegel, Die 
Regierung des Kaisers Gallienus, p. 10.] 


concise epistle to one of his inferior officers, who is commanded 
to enforce them, as he wishes to become a tribune, or as he is 
desirous to live. Gaming, drinking, and the arts of divination 
were severely prohibited. Aurelian expected that his soldiers 
should be modest, frugal, and laborious ; that their armour 
should be constantly kept bright, their weapons sharp, their 
clothing and horses ready for immediate service ; that they 
should live in their quarters with chastity and sobriety, without 
damaging the corn fields, without stealing even a sheep, a fowl 
or a bunch of grapes, without exacting from their landlords 
either salt, or oil, or wood. " The public allowance," continues 
the emperor, " is sufficient for their support ; their wealth should 
be collected from the spoil of the enemy, not from the tears of 
the provincials." 23 A single instance will serve to display the 
rigour, and even cruelty, of Aurelian. One of the soldiers hao 
seduced the wife of his host. The guilty wretch was fastened to 
two trees forcibly drawn towards each other, and his limbs were 
torn asunder by their sudden separation. A few such examples 
impressed a salutary consternation. The punishments of Aure- 
lian were terrible ; but he had seldom occasion to punish more 
than once the same offence. His own conduct gave a sanction 
to his laws, and the seditious legions dreaded a chief who had 
learned to obey, and who was worthy to command. 

The death of Claudius had revived the fainting spirit of the Goths. He concludes 
The troops which guarded the passes of Mount Hsemus, and the theQolha 
banks of the Danube, had been drawn away by the apprehension of 
a civil war ; and it seems probable that the remaining body of 
the Gothic and Vandalic tribes embraced the favourable opportu- 
nity, abandoned their settlements of the Ukraine, traversed the 
rivers, and swelled with new multitudes the destroying host of 
their countrymen. Their united numbers were at length en- 
countered by Aurelian, and the bloody and doubtful conflict 
ended only with the approach of night. 24 Exhausted by so 
many calamities which they had mutually endured and inflicted 
during a twenty years' war, the Goths and the Romans con- 
sented to a lasting and beneficial treaty. It was earnestly 

23 Hist. August, p. 211 [xxvi. 7]. This laconic epistle is truly the work of a 
soldier ; it abounds with military phrases and words, some of which cannot be 
understood without difficulty. Ferramenta samiata is well explained by Saimasius. 
The former of the words means all weapons of offence, and is contrasted with Arma, 
defensive armour. The latter signifies keen and well sharpened. [He is called 
restitutorexercitioncoms, Cohen, 175, as well as bythemoreambitioustitlem/?/«/0r 
orbis, Cohen, 164^7.] 

a4 Zosiin. 1. 1, p. 45 [48] 


solicited by the barbarians, and cheerfully ratified by the legions, 
to whose suffrage the prudence of Aurelian referred the decision 
of that important question. The Gothic nation engaged to 
supply the armies of Rome with a body of two thousand auxili- 
aries, consisting entirely of cavalry, and stipulated in return an 
undisturbed retreat, with a regular market as far as the Danube, 
provided by the emperor's care, but at their own expense. The 
treaty was observed with such religious fidelity, that, when a 
party of five hundred men straggled from the camp in quest of 
plunder, the king or general of the barbarians commanded that 
the guilty leader should be apprehended and shot to death with 
darts, as a victim devoted to the sanctity of their engagements. It 
is, however, not unlikely that the precaution of Aurelian, who 
had exacted as hostages the sons and daughters of the Gothic 
chiefs, contributed something to this pacific temper. The youths 
he trained in the exercise of arms, and near his own person ; 
to the damsels he gave a liberal and Roman education, and, by 
bestowing them in marriage on some of his principal officers, 
gradually introduced between the two nations the closest and 
most endearing connexions. 25 
and resign* But the most important condition of peace was understood 
groyin"^? rather than expressed in the treaty. Aurelian withdrew the 
Roman forces from Dacia, and tacitly relinquished that great 
province to the Goths and Vandals. 26 His manly judgment 
convinced him of the solid advantages, and taught him to 
despise the seeming disgrace, of thus contracting the frontiers 
of the monarchy. The Dacian subjects, removed from those 
distant possessions which they were unable to cultivate or 
defend, added strength and populousness to the southern side 
of the Danube. A fertile territory, which the repetition of 
barbarous inroads had changed into a desert, was yielded to 
their industry, and a new province of Dacia 27 still preserved 
the memory of Trajan's conquests. The old country of that 
name detained, however, a considerable number of its inhabi- 
ts Dexippus (ap. Excerpta Legat. p. 12 [p. 19, ed. Bonn]) relates the whole 
transaction under the name of Vandals. Aurelian married one of the Gothic ladies 
to his general Bonosus, who was able to drink with the Goths and discover their 
secrets. Hist. August, p. 247 [xxix. 14, 15]. [The author is mistaken in 
applying the account of Dexippus to the Goths : the negotiations were with the 

26 Hist. August, p. 222 [xxvi. 39]. Eutrop. ix. 15. Sextus Rufus, c. 9. Lactan- 
tius de mortibus Persecutorum, c. 9. [But see above, chap. x. note 106.] 

27 [Dacia felix on coins, Eckhel, vii. 481. Unfortunately this new province, 
unlike the old, had no strategic importance.] 



tants, who dreaded exile more than a Gothic master. 28 These 
degenerate Romans continued to serve the empire, whose allegi- 
ance they had renounced, by introducing among their conquerors 
the first notions of agriculture, the useful arts, and the con- 
veniences of civilized life. An intercourse of commerce and 
language was gradually established between the opposite banks 
of the Danube ; and, after Dacia became an independent state, 
it often proved the firmest barrier of the empire against the 
invasions of the savages of the North. A sense of interest 
attached these more settled barbarians to the alliance of Rome, 
and a permanent interest very frequently ripens into sincere and 
useful friendship. This various colony, which filled the ancient 
province and was insensibly blended into one great people, still 
acknowledged the superior renown and authority of the Gothic 
tribe, and claimed the fancied honour of a Scandinavian origin. 
At the same time the lucky though accidental resemblance of 
the name of Getae, infused among the credulous Goths a vain 
persuasion that, in a remote age, their own ancestors, already 
seated in the Dacian provinces, had received the instructions of 
Zamolxis,and checked the victorious arms of Sesostris and Darius. 29 

While the vigorous and moderate conduct of Aurelian restored TheAiemaa- 
the Illyrian frontier, the nation of the Alemanni 30 violated the niowar 
conditions of peace, which either Gallienus had purchased, or 
Claudius had imposed, and, inflamed by their impatient youth, 
suddenly flew to arms. Forty thousand horse appeared in the 
field, 31 and the numbers of the infantry doubled those of the 
cavalry. 32 The first objects of their avarice were a few cities of 

28 The Walachians still preserve many traces of the Latin language, and have 
boasted in every age of their Roman descent. They are surrounded by, but not 
mixed with, the barbarians. See a Memoir of M. d'Anville, on ancient Dacia, 
in the Academy of Inscriptions, torn. xxx. [The Roumanian boast as to their 
descent was challenged about twenty years ago by Roesler, whose book led to 
a notable controversy, which will claim our attention at a later stage.] 

29 See the first chapter of Jornandes. The Vandals however (c. 22) main- 
tained a short independence between the rivers Marisia and Crissia (Maros and 
Keres) which fell into the Theiss. 

30 Dexippus, p. 7-12 [fr. 25]. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 43 [49]. Vopiscus in Aurelian. 
in Hist. August, [c. 18] . However these historians differ in names (Alemanni, 
Juthungi, and Marcomanni) it is evident that they mean the same people, and 
the same war; but it requires some care to conciliate and explain them. [Aurelius 
Victor, 35, 2, says Alamanni. But the whole narrative, in the text is vitiated by 
the author's deliberate confusion of the Juthungi, Alamanni and Vandals.] 

31 Cantoclarus, with his usual accuracy, chooses to translate three hundred 
thousand ; his version is equally repugnant to sense and to grammar. 

33 We may remark, as an instance of bad taste, that Dexippus applies to the 
light infantry of the Alemanni the technical terms proper only to the Grecian 



the Rhaetian frontier ; but, their hopes soon rising with success, 
the rapid march of the Alemanni traced a line of devastation 
from the Danube to the Po. 33 
a.d:270. The emperor was almost at the same time informed of the 

irruption, and of the retreat, of the barbarians. Collecting an 
active body of troops, he marched with silence and celerity along 
the skirts of the Hercyniau forest ; and the Alemanni, laden 
with the spoils of Italy, arrived at the Danube, without suspect- 
ing that, on the opposite bank, and in an advantageous post, 
a Roman army lay concealed and prepared to intercept their 
return. Aurelian indulged the fatal security of the barbarians, 
and permitted about half their forces to pass the river without 
disturbance and without precaution. Their situation and astonish- 
ment gave him an easy victory ; his skilful conduct improved the 
advantage. Disposing the legions in a semicircular form, he 
advanced the two homs of the crescent across the Danube, and, 
wheeling them on a sudden towards the centre, inclosed the rear 
of the German host. The dismayed barbarians, on whatsoever 
side they cast their eyes, beheld with despair a wasted country, a 
deep and rapid stream, a victorious and implacable enemy. 

Reduced to this distressed condition, the Alemanni no longer 
disdained to sue for peace. 34 Aurelian received their ambassadors 
at the head of his camp, and with every circumstance of martial 
pomp that could display the greatness and discipline of Rome. 
The legions stood to their arms in well-ordered ranks and awful 
silence. The principal commanders, distinguished by the 
ensigns of their rank, appeared on horseback on either side of 
the Imperial throne. Behind the throne, the consecrated images 
of the emperor and his predecessors, 35 the golden eagles, and 
the various titles of the legions, engraved in letters of gold, were 
exalted in the air on lofty pikes covered with silver. When 
Aurelian assumed his seat, his manly grace and majestic figure 36 
taught the barbarians to revere the person as well as the purple 
of their conqueror. The ambassadors fell prostrate on the ground 
in silence. They were commanded to rise, and permitted to 

33 In Dexippus we at present read Rhodanus ; M. de Valois very judiciously alters 
the word to Ei idanus. [This narrative of Dexippus refers to the Juthungi, not to 
the Alamanni.] 

s* [Really the Juthungi, Dexippus, p. 25. A.D. 270. A treaty was also made 
with the Vandals, ib.] 

35 The emperor Claudius was certainly of the number ; but we are ignorant how 
far this mark of respect was extended ; if to Caesar and Augustus, it must have 
produced a very awful spectacle ; a long line of the masters of the world. 

36 Vopiscus in Hist. August, p. 210 [xxvi. 6] . 


speak. By the assistance of interpreters they extenuated their 
perfidy, magnified their exploits, expatiated on the vicissitudes of 
fortune and the advantages of peace, and, with an ill-timed con- 
fidence, demanded a large subsidy, as the price of the alliance 
which they offered to the Romans. The answer of the emperor 
was stern and imperious. He treated their offer with contempt, 
and their demand with indignation ; reproached the barbarians, 
that they were as ignorant of the arts of war as of the laws of 
peace ; and finally dismissed them with the choice only of sub- 
mitting to his unconditioned mercy, or awaiting the utmost 
severity of his resentment. 37 Aurelian had resigned a distant 
province to the Goths ; but it was dangerous to trust or to pardon 
these perfidious barbarians, whose formidable power kept Italy 
itself in perpetual alarms. 

Immediately after this conference it should seem that some fovaderuiy 11 
unexpected emergency required the emperor's presence in 
Pannonia. He devolved on his lieutenants the care of finishing 
the destruction of the Alemanni, either by the sword, or by the 
surer operation of famine. But an active despair has often 
triumphed over the indolent assurance of success. The bar- 
barians, finding it impossible to traverse the Danube and the 
Roman camp, broke through the posts in their rear, which were 
more feebly or less carefully guarded ; and with incredible 
diligence, but by a different road, returned towards the mountains 
of Italy. 38 Aurelian, who considered the war as totally ex- 
tinguished, received the mortifying intelligence of the escape of 
the Alemanni, and of the ravage which they already committed 
in the territory of Milan. The legions were commanded to 
follow, with as much expedition as those heavy bodies were 
capable of exerting, the rapid flight of an enemy whose infantry 
and cavalry moved with almost equal swiftness. A few days 
afterwards the emperor himself marched to the relief of Italy, 
at the head of a chosen body of auxiliaries (among whom were 
the hostages and cavalry of the Vandals), and of all the Praetorian 
guards who had served in the wars on the Danube. 39 

As the light troops of the Alemanni had spread themselves and are at 

1'is t van- 

from the Alps to the Apennine, the incessant vigilance of A ure- mushed "by 
lian and his officers was exercised in the discovery, the attack, 

37 Dexippus gives them a subtle and prolix oration, worthy of a Grecian Sophist. 

38 Hist. August, p. 215 [xxvi. i8, where the invaders are called Marcomanni. 
The second invasion of the Juthungi (Dexippus, ib. adjin.) may have been connected 
with this Alamannic invasion.] 

39 Dexippus, p. 12 [fr. 25 adfiti.\ 


and the pursuit of the numerous detachments. Notwithstanding 
this desultory war, three considerable battles are mentioned, in 
which the principal force of both armies was obstinately en- 
gaged. 40 The success was various. In the first, fought near 
Placentia, the Romans received so severe a blow, that, according 
to the expression of a writer extremely partial to Aurelian, the 
immediate dissolution of the empire was apprehended. 41 The 
crafty barbarians, who had lined the woods, suddenly attacked 
the legions in the dusk of the evening, and, it is most probable, 
after the fatigue and disorder of a long march. The fuiy of 
their charge was irresistible ; but at length, after a dreadful 
slaughter, the patient firmness of the emperor rallied his troops, 
and restored, in some degree, the honour of his arms. The 
second battle was fought near Fano in Umbria ; on the spot 
which, five hundred years before, had been fatal to the brother 
of Hannibal. 42 Thus far the successful Germans had advanced 
along the .ZEmilian and Flaminian way, with a design of sacking 
the defenceless mistress of the world. But Aurelian, who, 
watchful for the safety of Rome, still hung on their rear, found 
in this place the decisive moment of giving them a total and 
irretrievable defeat. 43 The flying remnant of their host was 
exterminated in a third and last battle near Pavia ; and Italy 
was delivered from the inroads of the Alemanni. 
superstitious Fear has been the original parent of superstition, and every 
new calamity urges trembling mortals to deprecate the wrath of 
their invisible enemies. Though the best hope of the republic 
was in the valour and conduct of Aurelian, yet such was the 
public consternation, when the barbarians were hourly expected 
at the gates of Rome, that, by a decree of the senate, the 
Sibylline books were consulted. Even the emperor himself, 
from a motive either of religion or of policy, recommended the 
salutary measure, chided the tardiness of the senate, 44 and 
offered to supply whatever expense, whatever animals, what- 
ever captives of any nation, the gods should require. Not- 
withstanding this liberal offer, it does not appear that any 
human victims expiated with their blood the sins of the Roman 

40 Victor Junior in Aurelian. [Epit. 35]. 

41 Vopiscus in Hist. August, p. 216 [xxvi. 21, 1]. 

42 The little river or rather torrent of Metaurus, near Fano, has been immortalized, 
by finding such an historian as Livy, and such a poet as Horace. 

4S It is recorded by an inscription found at Pezaro. See Gruter. cclxxvi. 3 [Orelli, 

44 One should imagine, he said, that you were assembled in a Christian church, 
not in the temple of all the gods. 



people. The Sibylline books enjoined ceremonies of a more aj>. 2m, Jan. 
harmless nature, processions of priests in white robes, attended u 
by a chorus of youths and virgins ; lustrations of the city and 
adjacent country ; and sacrifices, whose powerful influence dis- 
abled the barbarians from passing the mystic ground on which 
they had been celebrated. However puerile in themselves, 
these superstitious arts were subservient to the success of the 
war ; and if, in the decisive battle of Fano, the Alemanni 
fancied they saw an army of spectres combating on the side of 
Aurelian, he received a real and effectual aid from this imaginary 
reinforcement. 45 

But, whatever confidence might be placed in ideal ramparts, o?^^e tion3 
the experience of the past, and the dread of the future, induced 
the Romans to construct fortifications of a grosser and more 
substantial kind. The seven hills of Rome had been surrounded 
by the successors of Romulus with an ancient wall of more than 
thirteen miles. 46 The vast inclosure may seem disproportioned 
to the strength and numbers of the infant state. But it was 
necessary to secure an ample extent of pasture and arable land 
against the frequent and sudden incursions of the tribes of 
Latium, the perpetual enemies of the republic. With the pro- 
gress of Roman greatness, the city and its inhabitants gradually 
increased, filled up the vacant space, pierced through the use- 
less walls, covered the field of Mars, and, on every side, followed 
the public highways in long and beautiful suburbs. 47 The ex- 
tent of the new walls, erected by Aurelian, and finished in the 
reign of Probus, was magnified by popular estimation to near 
fifty ; 48 but is reduced by accurate measurement to about twenty- 
one miles. 49 It was a great but a melancholy labour, since 

45 Vopiscus in Hist. Aug. p. 215,216 [xxvi. 19 and 20] gives a long account of 
these ceremonies, from the Registers of the senate. 

46 Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 5. To confirm our idea, we may observe that for a 
long time Mount Caelius was a grove of oaks, and Mount Viminal was over-run with 
osiers ; that in the fomth century, the Aventine was a vacant and solitary retire- 
ment ; that, till the time of Augustus, the Esquiline was an unwholesome burying 
ground ; and that the numerous inequalities remarked by the ancients in the 
Quirinal sufficiently prove that it was not covered with buildings. Of the seven 
hills, the Capitoline and Palatine only, with the adjacent valleys, were the primitive 
habitations of the Roman people. But this subject would require a dissertation. 
[It is now generally admitted that Pliny must have meant the circumference of the 
city as divided by Augustus into 14 regions.] 

4 ? Expatiantia tecta multas addidere urbes, is the expression of Pliny. 

48 Hist. August, p. 222 [xxvi. 39, 2] . Both Lipsius and Isaac Vossius have 
eagerly embraced this measure. 

49 See Nardini, Roma Antica, 1. i. c. 8. [Compare Jordan, Topographie der 
Stadt Rom im Alterthum, i. 340 sqq.] 


the defence of the capital betrayed the decline of the monarchy. 
The Romans of a more prosperous age, who trusted to the arms 
of the legions the safety of the frontier camps, 50 were very far 
from entertaining a suspicion that it would ever become necessary 
to fortify the seat of empire against the inroads of the barbarians. 51 
Aureiian The victory of Claudius over the Goths, and the success of 

theYwo 868 Aureiian against the Alemanni, had already restored to the 
unurpers arms of Rome their ancient superiority over the barbarous 
nations of the North. To chastise domestic tyrants, and to re- 
unite the dismembered parts of the empire, was a task reserved 
for the latter of those warlike emperors. Though he was 
acknowledged by the senate and people, the frontiers of Italy, 
Africa, Illyricum, and Thrace, confined the limits of his reign. 
Gaul, Spain, and Britain, Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor were 
still possessed by two rebels, who alone, out of so numerous a 
list, had hitherto escaped the dangers of their situation ; and, to 
complete the ignominy of Rome, these rival thrones had been 
usurped by women, 
succession of A rapid succession of monarchs had arisen and fallen in the 
■usurpers provinces of Gaul. The rigid virtues of Posthumus served only to 
hasten his destruction. After suppressing a competitor, who had 
assumed the purple at Mentz, he refused to gratify his troops with 
the plunder of the rebellious city ; and, in the seventh year of his 
reign, became the victim of their disappointed avarice. 52 The 
death of Victorinus, his friend and associate, was occasioned by 
a less worthy cause. The shining accomplishments 53 of that 
prince were stained by a licentious passion, which he indulged 
in acts of violence, with too little regard to the laws of society, 
or even to those of love. 54 He was slain at Cologne, by a con- 

50 Tacit. Hist. iv. 23. 

51 For Aurelian's walls, see Vopiscus in Hist. August, p. 216, 222 [xxvi. 21 ; 39]. 
Zosimus, 1. i. p. 43 [49]. Eutropius, ix. 15. Aurel. Victor in Aureiian., Victor 
Junior in Aureiian. , Euseb. Hieronym. et Idatius in Chronic. 

52 His competitor was Lollianus, or ^Elianus, if indeed these names mean the 
same person. See Tillemont, torn. iii. p. 1177. [Laelianus. See Appendix 18.] 

33 The character of this prince by Julius Aterianus (ap. Hist. August, p. 187 
[xxiv. 6] ) is worth transcribing, as it seems fair and impartial. Victorino qui post 
Junium Posthumum Gallias [G. post J. P.] rexit neminem existimo [aestimo] 
prscferendum : non in virtute Trajanum ; non Antoninum in dementia ; non in 
gravitate Nervam ; non in gubernando serario Vespasianum ; non in censura 
totius vitas ac severitate militari Pertinacem vel Severum. Sed omnia haec libido, et 
cupiditas voluptatis mulierarise [mul. vol.] sic perdidit, ut nemo audeat virtutes ejus 
in literas mittere quem constat omnium judicio meruisse puniri. [The right readings 
are inserted in brackets.] 

64 He ravished the wife of Attitianus, an actuary, or army agent. Hist. August, 
p. 186 [ib.]. Aurel. Victor in Aureiian. 


spiracy of jealous husbands, whose revenge would have appeared 
more justifiable, had they spared the innocence of his son. 
After the murder of so many valiant princes, it is somewhat 
remarkable that a female for a long time controlled the fierce 
legions of Gaul, and still more singular that she was the mother 
of the unfortunate Victorinus. The arts and treasures of Victoria 
enabled her successfully to place Marius and Tetricus on the 
throne, and to reign with a manly vigour under the name of 
those dependent emperors. Money of copper, of silver, and of 
gold, was coined in her name ; she assumed the titles of Augusta 
and Mother of the Camps : her power ended only with her 
life ; but her life was perhaps shortened by the ingratitude of 
Tetricus. 55 

When, at the instigation of his ambitious patroness, Tetricus 50 The reign and 
assumed the ensigns of royalty, he was governor of the peaceful TetrtcuS' 
province of Aquitaine, an employment suited to his character 
and education. He reigned four or five years over Gaul, Spain, 
and Britain, the slave and sovereign of a licentious army, whom 
he dreaded and by whom he was despised. The valour and 
fortune of Aurelian at length opened the prospect of a deliver- 
ance. He ventured to disclose his melancholy situation, and 
conjured the emperor to hasten to the relief of his unhappy A D m 
rival. Had this secret correspondence reached the ears of the Bummer ' 
soldiers, it would most probably have cost Tetricus his life ; 
nor could he resign the sceptre of the West without committing 
an act of treason against himself. He affected the appearances 
of a civil war, led his forces into the field against Aurelian, 
posted them in the most disadvantageous manner, betrayed his 
own counsels to the enemy, and with a few chosen friends 
deserted in the beginning of the action The rebel legions, 
though disordered and dismayed by the unexpected treachery 
of their chief, defended themselves with a desperate valour, 
till they were cut in pieces almost to a man, in this bloody and 
memorable battle, which was fought near Chalons in Champagne. 57 

65 Pollio assigns her an article among the thirty tyrants. Hist. Aug. p. 200 [xxvi. 
31. As for Marius, see Appendix 18.] 

56 [Gaius Pius (?) Esuvius Tetricus. He made his son his colleague, compare 
Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. 1106, and Burdigala (owing to his Aquitanian connexions) 
his capital.] 

57 Pollio in Hist. August p. 196. Vopiscus in Hist. August, p. 220 [xxiv. 24 ; 
xxvi. 32] . The two Victors, in the lives of Gallienus and Aurelian. Eutropius, 
ix. 13. Euseb. in Chron. Of all these writers, only the two last (but with strong 
probability) place the fall of Tetricus before that of Zenobia. M. de Boze (in the 
Academy of Inscriptions, torn, xxx.) does not wish, and Tillemont (torn. iii. p. 1189) 


The retreat of the irregular auxiliaries, Franks and Batavians, 58 
whom the conqueror soon compelled or persuaded to repass the 
Rhine, restored the general tranquillity, and the power of 
Aurelian was acknowledged from the wall of Antoninus to the 
columns of Hercules. 

As early as the reign of Claudius, the city of Autun, alone and 
unassisted, had ventured to declare against the legions of Gaul. 
After a siege of seven months, they stormed and plundered that 
unfortunate city, already wasted by famine. 59 Lyons, on the con- 
trary, had resisted with obstinate disaffection the arms of Aurelian. 
We read of the punishment of Lyons, 60 but there is not any 
mention of the rewards of Autun. Such, indeed, is the policy of 
civil war ; severely to remember injuries, and to forget the most 
important services. Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive. 
a.d. 272. Aurelian had no sooner secured the person and provinces of 

zenobia er ° Tetricus, than he turned his arms against Zenobia, the celebrated 
queen of Palmyra and the East. Modern Europe has produced 
several illustrious women who have sustained with glory the 
weight of empire ; nor is our own age destitute of such distin- 
guished characters. But if we except the doubtful achievements 
of Semiramis, Zenobia is perhaps the only female whose superior 
genius broke through the servile indolence imposed on her sex 
by the climate and manners of Asia. 61 She claimed her descent 
from the Macedonian kings of Egypt, equalled in beauty her 
ancestor Cleopatra, and far surpassed that princess in chastity 62 
her beauty and valour. Zenobia was esteemed the most lovely as well as 
and learning ^ e mo st heroic of her sex. She was of dark complexion (for in 
speaking of a lady these trifles become important). Her teeth 
were of a pearly whiteness, and her large black eyes sparkled 
with uncommon fire, tempered by the most attractive sweetness. 
Her voice was strong and harmonious. Her manly understanding 

does not dare, to follow them. I have been fairer than the one, and bolder than 
the other. [The sources leave no doubt that Aurelian had to deal with Zenobia 
and the East before he turned to Tetricus and Gaul. Tillemont's caution was 

58 Victor Junior in Aurelian. Eumenius mentions Batavicm ; some critics, with- 
out any reason, would fain alter the word to Bagaudicce. 

59 Eumen. in Vet. Panegyr. iv. 8 \j>ro restaur, schol. ed. Bahrens, p. 119] . 

60 Vopiscus in Hist. August, p. 246 [xxix. 13] . Autun was not restored till the 
reign of Diocletian. See Eumenius de restaurandis scholis. [On Autun (Augusto- 
dunum) see the elaborate essay of Mr. Freeman, Historical Essays, 4th series.] 

61 Almost everything that is said of the manners of Odenathus and Zenobia 
is taken from their lives in the Augustan History, by Trebellius Pollio, see p. 192, 
198 [xxiv. 15 and 30]. 

62 She never admitted her husband's embraces but for the sake of posterity. 
If her hopes were baffled, in the ensuing month she reiterated the experiment. 


was strengthened and adorned by study. She was not ignorant 
of the Latin tongue, but possessed in equal perfection the Greek, 
the Syriac, and the Egyptian languages. She had drawn up for 
her own use an epitome of oriental history, and familiarly com- 
pared the beauties of Homer and Plato under the tuition of the 
sublime Longinus. 

This accomplished woman gave her hand to Odenathus, who her valour 
from a private station raised himself to the dominion of the East. 
She soon became the friend and companion of a hero. In the 
intervals of war, Odenathus passionately delighted in the exercise 
of hunting ; he pursued with ardour the wild beasts of the desert, 
lions, panthers, and bears ; and the ardour of Zenobia in that 
dangerous amusement was not inferior to his own. She had 
inured her constitution to fatigue, disdained the use of a covered 
carriage, generally appeared on horseback in a military habit, and 
sometimes marched several miles on foot at the head of the troops. 
The success of Odenathus was in a great measure ascribed to her 
incomparable prudence and fortitude. Their splendid victories 
over the Great King, whom they twice pursued as far as the 
gates of Ctesiphon, laid the foundations of their united fame and 
power. The armies which they commanded, and the provinces 
which they had saved, acknowledged not any other sovereigns 
than their invincible chiefs. The senate and people of Rome 
revered a stranger who had avenged their captive emperor, and 
even the insensible son of Valerian accepted Odenathus for his 
legitimate colleague. 

After a successful expedition against the Gothic plunderers of she revenges 
Asia, the Palmyrenian prince returned to the city of Emesa in death" an 
Syria. Invincible in war, he was there cut off by domestic 
treason, and his favourite amusement of hunting was the cause, 
or at least the occasion, of his death. 63 His nephew, Maeonius, 
presumed to dart his javelin before that of his uncle ; and, 
though admonished of his error, repeated the same insolence. 
As a monarch and as a sportsman, Odenathus was provoked : 
took away his horse, a mark of ignominy among the barbarians, 
and chastised the rash youth by a short confinement. The 
offence was soon forgot, but the punishment was remembered ; a.d. 267 
and Maeonius, with a few daring associates, assassinated his uncle 
in the midst of a great entertainment. Herod, the son of Odena- 

03 Hist. August, p. 192, 193 [xxiv. 15] . Zosimus, 1. i. p. 36 [39] . Zonaras, 1. 
xii. p. 633 [c. 24] . The last is clear and probable, the others confused and in- 
consistent. The text of Syncellus [i. p. 717, ed. Bonn] , if not corrupt, is absolute 


thus, though not of Zenobia, a young man of a soft and effemin- 
ate temper, 64 was killed with his father. But Maeonius obtained 
only the pleasure of revenge by this bloody deed. He had 
scarcely time to assume the title of Augustus, before he was 
sacrificed by Zenobia to the memory of her husband. 65 
and reigns With the assistance of his most faithful friends, she immedi- 

aZSTzgypt** ately filled the vacant throne, and governed with manly counsels 
Palmyra, Syria, and the East, above five years. By the death of 
Odenathus, that authority was at an end which the senate had 
granted him only as a personal distinction ; but his martial 
widow, disdaining both the senate and Gallienus, obliged one of 
the Roman generals, who was sent against her, to retreat into 
Europe, with the loss of his army and his reputation. 66 Instead 
of the little passions which so frequently perplex a female reign, 
the steady administration of Zenobia was guided by the most 
judicious maxims of policy. If it was expedient to pardon, she 
could calm her resentment ; if it was necessary to punish, she 
could impose silence on the voice of pity. Her strict economy 
was accused of avarice ; yet on eveiy proper occasion she ap- 
peared magnificent and liberal. The neighbouring states of 
Arabia, Armenia, and Persia, dreaded her enmity, and solicited 
her alliance. To the dominions of Odenathus, which extended 
from the Euphrates to the frontiers of Bithynia, his widow added 
the inheritance of her ancestors, the populous and fertile king- 
dom of Egypt. The emperor Claudius acknowledged her merit, 
and was content that, while he pursued the Gothic war, she 
should assert the dignity of the empire in the East. 67 The 
conduct, however, of Zenobia was attended with some ambiguity; 
nor is it unlikely that she had conceived the design of erecting 
an independent and hostile monarchy. She blended with the 
popular manners of Roman princes the stately pomp of the 
courts of Asia, and exacted from her subjects the same adoration 
that was paid to the successors of Cyrus. She bestowed on her 
three sons 68 a Latin education, and often showed them to the 

64 Odenathus and Zenobia often sent him, from the spoils of the enemy, presents 
of gems and toys, which he received with infinite delight. 

-'Some very unjust suspicions have been cast on Zenobia, as if she was 
accessory to her husband's death. 

66 Hist. August, p. 180, 181 [xxiii. 13. See Appendix 19.] 

67 See in Hist. August, p. 198 [xxiv. 30] Aurelian's testimony to her merit ; 
and for the conquest of Egypt, Zosimus, 1. i. p. 39, 40 [44] . 

^Timolaus, Herennianus, and Vaballathus. It is supposed that the two 
former were already dead before the war. On the last, Aurelian bestowed a 
small province of Armenia, with the title of king ; several of his medals are still 
extant. See Tillemont, torn. iii. p. 1190. [See Appendix 19.] 


troops adorned with the Imperial purple. For herself she re- 
served the diadem, with the splendid but doubtful title of Queen 
of the East, 

When Aurelian passed over into Asia, against an adversary raeExpedi- 
whose sex alone could render her an object of contempt, his SS^Ajuna 
presence restored obedience to the province of Bithynia, already CspriBs:! 
shaken by the arms and intrigues of Zenobia. 69 Advancing at 
the head of his legions, he accepted the submission of Ancyra, 
and was admitted into Tyana, after an obstinate siege, by the 
help of a perfidious citizen. The generous though fierce temper 
of Aurelian abandoned the traitor to the rage of the soldiers : a 
superstitious reverence induced him to treat with lenity the 
countrymen of Apollonius the philosopher. 70 Antioch was 
deserted on his approach, till the emperor, by his salutary edicts, 
recalled the fugitives, and granted a general pardon to all who, 
from necessity rather than choice, had been engaged in the 
service of the Palmyrenian queen. The unexpected mildness of 
such a conduct reconciled the minds of the Syrians, and, as far as 
the gates of Emesa, the wishes of the people seconded the terror 
of his arms. 71 

Zenobia would have ill deserved her reputation, had she in- The emperor 
dolently permitted the emperor of the West to approach within pajmyrenianjj 
a hundred miles of her capital. The fate of the East was of Antioch es 
decided in two great battles ; so similar in almost every circum- an mesa 
stance that we can scarcely distinguish them from each other, 
except by observing that the first was fought near Antioch, 72 
and the second near Emesa. 73 In both, the queen of Palmyra 
animated the armies by her presence, and devolved the execu- 
tion of her orders on Zabdas, who had already signalized his 
military talents by the conquest of Egypt. The numerous forces 
of Zenobia consisted for the most part of light archers, and of 
heavy cavalry clothed in complete steel. The Moorish and II- 
lyrian horse of Aurelian were unable to sustain the ponderous 
charge of their antagonists. They fled in real or affected dis- 

69 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 44 [50]. 

70 Vopiscus (in Hist. August, p. 2i7[xxvi. 23, 24]) gives us an authentic letter, and 
a doubtful vision, of Aurelian. Apollonius of Tyana was born about the same 
time as Jesus Christ. His life (that of the former) is related in so fabulous a manner 
bv his disciples, that we are at a loss to discover whether he was a sage, an im- 
postor, or a fanatic. 

71 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 46 [52] . 

72 At a place called Immse. Eutropius, Sextus Rufus, and Jerome, mention 
only this first battle. 

73 Vopiscus in Hist. August, p. 217 Txxvi. 25] mentions only the second. 

20 vol. i- 


order, engaged the Palmyrenians in a laborious pursuit, harassed 
them by a desultory combat, and at length discomfited this im- 
penetrable but unwieldy body of cavalry. The light infantry, 
in the meantime, when they had exhausted their quivers, re- 
maining without protection against a closer onset, exposed their 
naked sides to the swords of the legions. Aurelian had chosen 
these veteran troops, who were usually stationed on the Upper 
Danube, and whose valour had been severely tried in the 
Alemannic war. 74 After the defeat of Emesa, Zenobia found it 
impossible to collect a third army. As far as the frontier of 
Egypt, the nations subject to her empire had joined the standard 
of the conqueror, who detached Probus, the bravest of his 
generals, to possess himself of the Egyptian provinces. Palmyra 
was the last resource of the widow of Odenathus. She retired 
within the walls of her capital, made every preparation for a 
vigorous resistance, and declared, with the intrepidity of a heroine, 
that the last moment of her reign and of her life should be the 
The state of Amid the barren deserts of Arabia, a few cultivated spots rise 
Palmyra j.^ j s i an( j s ou {. Q f ^ e san( jy ocean. Even the name of Tadmor, 

or Palmyra, by its signification in the Syriac as well as in the 
Latin language, denoted the multitude of palm trees which 
afforded shade and verdure to that temperate region. The air 
was pure, and the soil, watered by some invaluable springs, was 
capable of producing fruits as well as corn. A place possessed 
of such singular advantages, and situated at a convenient dis- 
tance, 75 between the Gulf of Persia and the Mediterranean, 
was soon frequented by the caravans which conveyed to the 
nations of Europe a considei'able part of the rich commodities 
of India. Palmyra insensibly increased into an opulent and in- 
dependent city, and, connecting the Roman and the Parthian 
monarchies by the mutual benefits of commerce, was suffered to 
observe an humble neutrality, till at length, after the victories 
of Trajan, the little republic sunk into the bosom of Rome, and 
flourished more than one hundred and fifty years in the subor- 
dinate though honourable rank of a colony. It was during that 
peaceful period, if we may judge from a few remaining inscrip- 
tions, that the wealthy Palmyrenians constructed those temples, 

74 Zosimus, 1. i. p. 44-48 [50-53]. His account of the two battles is clear and 

75 It was five hundred and thirty-seven miles from Seleucia, and two hundred 
and three from the nearest coast of Syria, according to the reckoning of Pliny, 
who in a few words (Hist. Natur. v. 21) gives an excellent description of Palmyra. 


palaces, and porticos of Grecian architecture, whose ruins, 
scattered over an extent of several miles, have deserved the 
curiosity of our travellers. The elevation of Odenathus and 
Zenobia appeared to reflect new splendour on their country, and 
Palmyra for a while stood forth the rival of Rome : but the com- 
petition was fatal, and ages of prosperity were sacrificed to a 
moment of glory. 76 

In his march over the sandy desert, between Emesa and it u besieged 
Palmyra, the Emperor Aurelian was perpetually harassed by the byAureUan 
Arabs ; nor could he always defend his army, and especially his 
baggage, from these flying troops of active and daring robbers, 
who watched the moment of surprise, and eluded the slow pur- 
suit of the legions. The siege of Palmyra was an object far 
more difficult and important, and the emperor, who with incessant 
vigour pressed the attacks in person, was himself wounded with 
a dart. "The Roman people," says Aurelian, in an original 
letter, " speak with contempt of the war which I am waging 
against a woman. They are ignorant both of the character and 
of the power of Zenobia. It is impossible to enumerate her war- 
like preparations, of stones, of arrows, and of every species of 
missile weapons. Every part of the walls is provided with two 
or three balistce, and artificial fires are thrown from her military 
engines. The fear of punishment has armed her with a desperate 
courage. Yet still I trust in the protecting deities of Rome, who 
have hitherto been favourable to all my undertakings." 77 Doubt- 
ful, however, of the protection of the gods, and of the event of 
the siege, Aurelian judged it more prudent to offer terms of an 
advantageous capitulation : to the queen, a splendid retreat ; to 
the citizens, their ancient privileges. His proposals were 
obstinately rejected, and the refusal was accompanied with 

The firmness of Zenobia was supported by the hope that in a who becomes 
very short time famine would compel the Roman army to repass zenobiaand 
the desert ; and by the reasonable expectation that the kings of y 
the East, and particularly the Persian monarch, would arm in 
the defence of their most natural ally. But fortune and the 
perseverance of Aurelian overcame every obstacle. The death 

76 Some English travellers from Aleppo discovered the ruins of Palmyra, about 
the end of the last century. Our curiosity has since been gratified in a more splen- 
did manner by Messieurs Wood and Dawkins. For the history of Palmyra, we 
may consult the masterly dissertation of Dr. Halley in the Philosophical Transac- 
tions ; Lowthorp's Abridgment, vol. iii. p. 518. 

77 Vopiscus in Hist August, p. 21S [xxvi. 26]. 


of Sapor, which happened about this time, 78 distracted the coun- 
cils of Persia, and the inconsiderable succours that attempted 
to relieve Palmyra, were easily intercepted either by the arms 
or the liberality of the emperor. From every part of Syria, a 
regular succession of convoys safely arrived in the camp, which 
was increased by the return of Probus with his victorious troops 
from the conquest of Egypt. It was then that Zenobia resolved 
to fly. She mounted the fleetest of her dromedaries," 9 and had 
already reached the banks of the Euphrates, about sixty miles 
from Palmyra, when she was overtaken by the pursuit of 
Aurelian's light horse, seized, and brought back a captive to the 
aj). 273 feet of the emperor. Her capital soon afterwards surrendered, 
** and was treated with unexpected lenity. The arms, horses, and 

camels, with an immense treasure of gold, silver, silk, and 
precious stones, were all delivered to the conqueror, who, leaving 
only a garrison of six hundred archers, returned to Emesa, and 
employed some time in the distribution of rewards and punish- 
ments at the end of so memorable a war, which restored to the 
obedience of Rome those pi*ovinces that had renounced their 
allegiance since the captivity of Valerian. 
Behaviour of When the Syrian queen was brought into the presence of 
Aurelian, he sternly asked her, How she had presumed to rise in 
arms against the emperors of Rome ? The answer of Zenobia 
was a prudent mixture of respect and firmness. "Because I dis- 
dained to consider as Roman emperors an Aureolus or a Gallienus. 
You alone I acknowledge as my conqueror and my sovereign." 80 
But, as female fortitude is commonly artificial, so it is seldom 
steady or consistent. The courage of Zenobia deserted her in 
the hour of trial ; she trembled at the angry clamours of the 
soldiers, who called aloud for her immediate execution, forgot 
the generous despair of Cleopatra, which she had proposed 
as her model, and ignominiously purchased life by the sacrifice 
of her fame and her friends. It was to their counsels, which 
governed the weakness of her sex, that she imputed the guilt 
of her obstinate resistance ; it was on their heads that she 

W From a very doubtful chronology I have endeavoured to extract the most 
probable date. [The death of Sapor (Shahpur 1.) is variously placed in 269 and 
272 ; his son was involved in a war with a pretender.] 

7» Hist. August, p. 218 [xxvi. 28]. Zosimus, 1. i. p. 50 [55]. Though the 
camel is a heavy beast of burden, the dromedary, who is either of the same or of a 
kindred species, is used by the natives of Asia and Africa, on all occasions which 
require celerity. The Arabs affirm that he will run over as much ground in 
one day as their fleetest horses can perform in eight or ten. See Buffon, Hist 
Naturelle, torn. xi. p. 222, and Shaw's Travels, p. 167. 

*° Pollio in Hist. August, p. 199 [xxiv. 30, 23]. 


directed the vengeance of the cruel Aurelian. The fame of 
Longinus, who was included among the numerous and perhaps 
innocent victims of her fear, will survive that of the queen who 
betrayed, or the tyrant who condemned, him. Genius and 
learning were incapable of moving a fierce unlettered soldier, 
but they had served to elevate and harmonize the soul of 
Longinus. Without uttering a complaint, he calmly followed 
the executioner, pitying his unhappy mistress, and bestowing 
comfort on his afflicted friends. 81 

Returning from the conquest of the East, Aurelian had already Rebellion and 
crossed the Streights which divide Europe from Asia, when he Palmyra 
was provoked by the intelligence that the Palmyrenians had 
massacred the governor and garrison which he had left among 
them, and again