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" A« the old law-phnae rant, Baron et Feme— the master and his 



VOL. 11. 




C. Sberman 9c Co. Printer!, 
10 St. James Street. 




Chapter II. — ^The Women of Rome during the Proscription. 

Under the Empire. Cornelia. Portia. Falvia - 9 

Chapter IIL — ^The Women of the Empire. Plancina. The 

first Agrippina - - - - - ^ 19 

Chapter IV. — The Women of Rome under the Empire conti* 

nued ..---- 25 

Chapter V. — The Women of Rome under the Empire conti- 
nued. Epicharis. Polla Argenteria. Paulina. Pomponia 
Grecina - - - - - - 51 

Chapter VI. — The Women of the Empire. Sextilia. Ve- 
leda. Epinina. Domitia Longina - - - 63 

Chapter VIL — The Women of the Empire. Plotina Pom- 
peia. Julia Sahina. The Empress Faustina - 76 

Chapter VIII. — ^The Women of the Empire. Julia Sahina. 
Galeria Faustina. Annia Faustina - ^ -92 


Chaftir IX. — ^The Women of the Empire. Fadilk. Marcia. 
Lucilla. The Empress Crispina ... 101 

Chaftkr X. — ^The Women of the Empire. The Empress 
Julia Domna * - - - - 109 

Chaftbr XI. — ^The Women of the Empire. Julia Maesa. 
Soemias. Mammea . / . • 121 

Chaftbr XII. — The Women of the Empire. Paulina. Vic- 
toria ...... 139 

Chapter XIII. — ^The Women of the Empire. Zenohia 147 

Chaptbr XIV.— The WomenV the Empire. Valeria. Theo- 
dora. Prisca. Helena .... 171 





The Women of Rome. During the Proicription. Under the Empire. 

Cornelia. Portia. Falna. 

In the primitive state of Roman society, when women, 
considered as slaves, were treated as children, when men 
took wives without love, and lived with them without 
respect, the intellectual capacity of the sex was rarely 
felt, and never acknowledged : the idea of female agency 
operating upon public affairs, could not have suggested 
itself under a government founded on the law of the 
strongest. But, as civilisatldi advanced, and mind began 
to make way against brute force, the moral resources of 
the women were gradually brought into action. 

The occasional intervention of the sex, once admitted as 
an expedient, was progressively adopted into the system 
of the republic, though without place and unrecognised. 
While censors condemned, and satirists ridicul^, the 
women acquired weight in public estimation ; their com- 
plaints of wrongs long endured commanded attention; 
rights long withheld were gradually conceded to them; 

VOL. ii. 1 



and they would have ultimately attained to the full exer- 
cise of those intellectual and moral qualities with which 
nature had endowed them, if Rome herself had not sub- 
mitted to influences, which, in all times and regions where 
they have subsisted, have checked the march of civilisa- 
tion, and thrown back society upon the point from which 
it first started. Society in its foulest corruption, as in its 
original ignorance, has no political existence, but in a 
slavish submission to irresponsible power. 

The causes which enfeeblcid the stoical virtues of repub- 
lican Rome, and barbarized her imported refinements, 
have been ably detailed by the historians of eighteen hun- 
dred years : causes inherent in the nature of things, which 
have produced the same effects in modern states, inferior 
only tp Rome herself. A moral corruption, ^he offspring 
of exclusive privileges, and of the egoism of wealth and 
power,) — the vices of a degraded and pauperized com- 
monalty, — the impatience of the sufifering masses, sighing 
for the rule of a single person, (who should be the master, 
not the accomplice of their ferocious tyrants,) — ^the aer- 
vjlity of a senate which had lost its dignity with its virtue, 
— and the disorganization of provinces, beggared by pro- 
consular misgovernment, — all contributed to render the 
despotism of Augustus a political necessity : but the vices 
which his power held in abeyance, were not eradicated by 
his sway. 

The civil contests, with the wars and proscriptions they 
originated, while they extinguished the expiring sparks of 
male virtue in the blood of the " last of the Romans," were 
equally unfavourable to the developement of the gentler 
and more domestic qualities of the women. But still their 
energies, if occasionally niisdirected, were never subdued. 
Their moral influence over the fiercest spirits of the times 
is recorded, with the selfish crimes of their masters. The 
image of the intellectual Metella was ever present to Sylla 
in his moments of doubt and danger ; and he related to a 
friend that she had appeared to him in a dream, warning 
him that he would soon join her, (as Hippias, the tyrant of 
Athens, dreamed he was with his mother, the night before 


the battle of Marathon, where he fell,) — proving the im- 
pression she had made on a mind inaccessible to all other 
human ties. 

The part which the frail but not unimportant Sem- 
pronia* took in the Catilinarian conspiracy, in extorting 
the secret of Lentulus, which had the fall of Rome for its 
object, and in betraying it to Cicero, if not illustrative of 
female virtue, at least shows the extent of female agency, 
in times so eventful. Ceesar, reproached with habits which 
must have thrown him so much iato the power of women, 
when asked by a sarcastic censor if he '< supposed that 
Rome would submit to female rule," replied, ** And why 
not 1 Semiramis subdued the East, and the Amazons con- 
quered Asia." His opinion of the value of the sex (how* 
ever he had himself laboured to reduce it) is fuUy marked 
in his well known aphorism on his own wife, the incom- 
parable Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna.*)* 

But, in the midst of this universal degeneracy, there 
were women superior in morals, as in mind, to the men 
with whom they associated. The wives of Brutus and 
of Pompey are brilliant but not exceptional examples. 
Portia, the worthy daughter of Cato, astonished even 
Brutus by her stoical heroism, and purchased her hus- 
band's confidence, by an feet of which few men, even of 
her own sect, were capable. ' Acquainted with a conspi- 
racy which involved the lives of the most eminent men in 
Rome, she was at once true to her woman's love, and her 
cause ; for though she fainted when Brutus went forth to 
assassinate Caesar, she remained faithful to the great secret 
reposed in her. Celebrated for her philosophy and her 
courage, Portia died the victim of conjugal tenderness. 
• Even the horrible conflicts of the proscription, the type 
of all reigns of terror, in all ages, was relieved by the 
affections of woman, who carried on the tradition of hu- 
manity, when its sympathies seemed on the point of utter 

• Sallust. 

t Notwithstanding the infidelities of CsBsar to Cornelia, he celebrated 
her virtues, when dead, in the eloquent oration he pronounced over her 


extinction. The well-timed liberality of the beautiful wife 
of Acilius, who distributed her wealth among the satellites 
of the triumvirate, and saved the life of her husband, (per- 
mitted to escape, under the escort of the very soldiers 
armed with poniards to kill him,)— the ingenuity of the 
wife of Ancius, who, inclosing her husband in a trunk, 
which she had carried out of their palace by porters, and 
then accompanied him in his perilous flight, — ^and, above 
all, the heroic courage of the mother of Mark Antony, 
who braved power in its most awful and most afflicting 
form, are prominent instances of the heroic devotedness of 
the women, which afibrd the only relief to the crimes of 
an age, the most prdfligate and abandoned in recorded 

Mark Antony had lent himself to the proscription of his 
own uncle Lucius, who fled for refuge to his sister, where 
the assassins found him. Spreading her arms as a shield 
before him, she exclaimed, << Respect the uncle of your 
general :'' the soldiers paused in their work of blood, and 
permitted the wretched mother to appeal to the triumvirate. 
The venerable Julia then presented herself in the forum, 
where Mark Antony and his colleagues were seated at the 
tribunal ; and fixing her stem eyes on her son, she said, 
<< Triumvir, I come to denounce myself as the protectress 
of a prescript : the law fl0ndemns us both to death — 
strike'!" The triumvirs were abashed, and Lucius was 

Cbrnelia, the virtuous and the wise wife of Pompey^ 
sighed not for power, nor was agitated by ambitious rival- 
ries. Far above the personal passions that leagued her 
husband with Ceesar, and with Cassius, (the enemies of 
public liberty,) she shared his dangers, trembled for his 
designs, and lived and died a model of devoted wifehood. 

The genius and conduct of the first wife of Mark An- 
tony, the patrician Fulvia, had a considerable influence on 
public affairs during the hottest times of the civil wars. 
Fulvia, the daughter of Lucullus, when married to Publius 
Clodius^ shared in all the factious intrigues of her husband, 
and promoted his views. On the death of Clodius (assas- 

sinated on the Appian Way, by the soldiexs of Mlo,) she 
made her grief subservient to her policy ; and excited a 
popular insurrection, by exposing the body, under the 
marble portico of her sumptuous dwelling, to the gaze of 
sympathizing multitudes* Csesar and Pompey testified 
their sense of the services she had rendered them by their 
unlimited confidence, and by forwarding her marriage 
with Mark Antony* When Octavius and Antony went in 
pursuit of the murderer of Julius Caesar, they resigned all * 
power into her hands, and she governed in their absence 
with sovereign authority. 

Indignant at the inconstancy of Mark Antony, at being 
abandoned by a husband to whom she was attached with 
that intensity which energized all her actions, and having 
in vain striven to wean him from Cleopatra, Fulvia at« 
tempted in her desperation to ally herself with his rival, 
Octavius. The world's future master received her ad^ 
vances with coldness ; and stung with mortification, she 
employed the most astute devices to sow the seeds of dis- 
sension between the members of the triumvirate and their 
partisans. She instigated her brother-in-law, Lucius, to 
revolt, and aided him in raising legions of malecontents, 
who, after a brave stand at Perugia, were discomfited by 

Fulvia, o^ the loss of t^battle, fiew from Italy to 
Athens, from the vengeanc^^f the conqueror, and to 
rejoin and perhaps tecover tjp affections of the faithless 
husband, who had been the caase of all her indiscretions 
and disasters. She found him, only to be again scorned 
and abandoned; and her great energies .breaking down 
under her disappointed afiections, she died at Athens of a 
broken heart. 

Octavius Csesar, with his usual quick and clear percep- 
tion, did not overlook the sort of domestic diplomacy car- 
ried on, through the instrumentality of the won^en of the 
Julian family :* but turning his observation to profit, made 

* Julius Cesar forced his daughter Jblia, so celebrated for her beauty 
and her virtue, to divorce her hasband Cornelius C^epio, and united her 
to Pompey, for purposes purely political. As long as she lived, the hoe- 

VOL. II. 2 


the beauty, accomplishments, and extreme popularity of 
his sister Octavia, subservient to his designs on the supreme 
power in the state. 

All Rome testified its admiration of the virtues of Octa- 
via, and applauded the choice of her brother, when he 
proposed her to Mark Antony, as the successor of the 
unfortunate Fulvia. Worn out with civil war, which was 
perpetuated by a succession of factious rivals, the people 
looked up to Octavia as the one tie capable of consolidating 
the interests and views of the jarring triumvirate, — ^as the 
sacred pledge of public tranquillity. But Octavius, in 
forwarding this ill-assorted alliance, had a far different 
design. He knew Mark Antony ; and, in his voluptuous 
colleague's future neglect and abiandonment of his faultless 
and popular sister, he anticipated a cause of final rupture, 
which would justify his resentment with the public, and 
rouse their feelings dn his behalf. 

Antony, as the slave of Cleopatra, soon realized these 
anticipations ; and, that no insult might be spared which 
could rouse popular indignation, the wily brother sent 
Octavia after her faithless husband, when on a march 
against the Bactrians, to solicit a return of those affections 
which he well knew she had never possessed. Antony 
fell into the snare ; and, instead of welcoming his wife, 
despatched a command for J|pr instant returi^ fiyii^g him- 
self to Egypt, to calm thl^ealousies of Cleopatra, who 
dreaded the innocence andn^arms of the sister, more than 
the arms and anger of tiic^powerful brother. 

Octavia, on her return from this inauspicious journey, 
endeavoured to avert the afiected wrath of her brother, 
and to spare the people the calamities of a new rupture. 
But the policy of Octavius was not to be moved ; and the 
people, who saw in Octavia a successor of the great 
Roman matrons of the republic, who beheld in the mother 
of Marcdlud another Cornelia, felt her slights as their 

tile feelings of the gretA rivali were kept in check ; and her early death 
was the signal for a civil war, which broke down all ties of amity between 
the father and 8on<in-iaw» and again let loose the evils of faction. 


own. Octavius profited by the circumstance ; the torch 
of war was again lighted, the Roman armies again met 
in civil conflict ; the wrongs of the outraged wife were 
amply avenged in the field of Actium, and the gentlest of 
Women gave to the most absolute of men the mastery of 
the world. 

Octavius, having destroyed his two unworthy colleagues, 
and played his farce of a public resignation of a temporary 
command, was persuaded by his complaisant audience to 
place himself at the head of the Roman government, with 
the title of Imperator,^a title till then importing merely 
a military command ; but thenceforth a sound signifying 
power in its greatest, worst, and most irresponsible extent. 
Under the spell of this awful title, the Tiberiuses, Caligu- 
las, the Neroes, and the Domitians, of ancient and of 
modern times, have triumphed over the rights, liberties, 
and happiness of mankind ; and the same title, (first con<- 
ierred under the acclamations of sanguinary legions and 
of debased senators, nearly two thousand years back, in 
the Roman forum,) may still command the paid " vwats^^ 
x>f living soldiers and senators : but in the icy solitudes of 
Siberia, in the sunless mines of Poland, in the dreary 
dungeons of Spielberg, curses '^ deep not loud" are the 
response of broken hearts to that sound, which gives to 
one human being the power <£ trampling upon millions. 

Octavius Ceesar, the chief magistrate of Rome, with the 
qualification of Imperator, and the personal epithet of 
Augustus, united also in himself the dignities of Chief 
Pontiff and of Censor. By thus seizing the management 
of the established religion, and the legal power of inter- 
fering with the conduct and fortunes of every member of 
the Roman community, he completed that perfect fabric 
of despotism, which the potentates of modern Europe 
have, at various epochs, unsuccessfully striven to imitate. 
But, with the manners of oriental courts for his example 
and his excuse, Augustus took upon himself no' state, and 
assumed not any of the ostentatious insignia of sovereign 
power. The court of Augustus, and of the first series of 
his^ successors, '< corresponded with the forms of the admi- 


nistration- The emperors, if we except those t3rrants, 
whose capricious folly violated every lav of nature and 
of decency, disdained that pomp and ceremony, which 
might offend their countrymen, hut 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 intercourse of visits and entertainments. 
Their habit, their palace, their table, were suited only to 
the rank of an opulent senator ; and their family, however 
numerous and splendid, was composed entirely of their 
domestic slaves and freedmen. " The deification of the 
emperor," says Gibbon, " is the only instance in which 
they departed from their accustomed prudence and mo- 
desty.. The Asiatic Greeks were the first inventors, the 
successors of Alexander the first objects of this servile 
and impious mode of adulation."* 

But though the exterior forms of society remained un- 
changed, its domestic virtues had melted away with the 
respect for domestic duties. A new distribution of public 
power opened a new sphere in society, and created a dis- 
tinction of classes and families, even among the patricians,' 
which had the worst eflfects on the women of the imperial 
regime. It conferred on them an undue personal influ- 
ence, it placed at their disposal enormous wealth, it re- 
leased them from the preocmpying duties of* private life, - 
and it crushed those ennobling affections, which had % 
hitherto been so productive of a disinterested devotedness. 
The women of the Julian family, with SeWy but splendid 
exceptions, bore no resemblance to the mothers of the 
Scipios and the Gracchi ; and, under the reign of the 
twelve Ceesars, the false and selfish wives and ambitious 
mothers of men brutified by egotism, and maddened by 
power, reacted upon their masters with all the violence, 
of which, in the first instance, they were themselves the 

Augustus, who had done more towards undermining 
female virtue by his calculating policy, than his predeoes- 

* Gibbon, ToL i. p. 111. 


sor had efl^ted by his personal profligacy, was the victim 
of his own machinations against the sex ; and, in the days 
of his supreme power, he was as wretched in his domestic 
life, as lie was great and fortunate in his public career. He 
had been twice married : his first wife, Scribonia, having 
served the purposes of a temporary policy, was repudiated 
on the day which gave birth to the fatal and ill-fated Julia, 
who avenged her mother's wron^ by the ignominy she 
brought on her father's name. The inspiration of Ovid, 
the destiny of the younger Antony, and the retributive 
punishment of Augustus, Julia, the beautiful, the.graceful, 
the gifled, and the frail, withered in exile, and died a dread- 
ful death— ^a martyr to that social demoralization, which 
had been brought on by the proscriptions and wars of the 
ambitious aristocracy to which she belonged. 

Scribonia was repudiated to make way for the magnifi* 
cent Livia DrusiUa, the wife of Tiberius Nero, (ominous 
names,) and the mother of the Emperor Tiberius. Livia, 
the maaimafimnina of Seneca, whom Augustus tore from 
her husband, was the only woman who awakened an afiec- 
tion, which almost belonged to virtue, in his passionless 
heart. She seemed designed by nature and by education 
to be his friend, his counsellor, and his Wife. He first saw 
her when she was fiying from the perils brought on her 
I A ^y ^^^ husband's devotion to* the cause of Antony ; and 
the passion her excited beauty then inspired, seems to have 
been the only one that overcame the habitual prudence and 
constitutional coldness of Octavius ; it mastered even his 
ambition, and ended only with his life. 

From the moment of his marriage with this adroit and 
clever woman, he trusted her with his most secret designs, 
sharing with her his power and his honours. If the sacri- 
fice of private feeling to public good be an evidence of 
• superior intellect, the mind of Livia must have been cast 
ia a great mould. Like her gentler sister-in-law, Octavia, 
she lost her eldest son, Drusus, the destined successor to 
the empire, the great captain of^ his age, who had planted 
the Roman eagles where the name of Rome had, till then, 
scarcely been known: but, unlike Octavia, she refused 



herself thiat ^< luxury of wo," which is oilener the token of 
a selfish weakness, than an evidence of sqnsibility. 

Stunixed, but not vanquished by a blow, fatal alike to 
her ambition and her motherly love, she wound up all her 
faculties to meet the shock, and to avert its consequences 
from Augustus and from Rome.* Sending for Arcus, (a 
Greek philosopher, then living in the court of Augustus,) 
she took his advice, rather than asked such cold and 
pedantic consolation as Seneca puts into his mouth on the 
occasion; for she stiOed her own grief, to cheer the spirits 
and revive the hopes of Caesar and of Rome, by pointing 
out a successor to Drusus, in the person of her second son, 
Tiberius, wha then gave every promise of being worthy to 
represent him : still, Tiberius was the necessity of her de- 
spair, not the election of her affections. 

The conspiracy of Cinna afforded another occasion for 
exhibiting the discretion and long-sighted wisdom of Livia: 
for to her advice may be attributed the act of sagacious 
clemency, which contradicted all the antecedents of Augus- 
tus. It was not in the nature of the subtle tyrant to par- 
don the enemy of that supremacy which it had cost him 
so much to establish, the disturber of that peace which was 
the object and the ornament of its exercise. His modera- 
tion, (the inspiration of his habitual caution,) was balanced 
by the more urgent fears, awakened by a conspiracy so 
unexpected, and by the threatened renewal of civil war ; 
and he became a prey to a harassing indecision, which 
alternately condemned the young conspirator to death, and 
pleaded for the life of the grandscm of Pompe'y. Of these 
struggles Livia was the sole witness; and when, in a 
paroxysm of concentrated rage, Augustus was on the 
point of again committing himself with posterity, by 
doing that which was a fault as well as a crime, Livia is 
said to have interposed her irresistible eloquence and habi- 
tual influence, and to have guided the hand, which had 

* Seneca holdi her forth ai a splendid example of fortitude and regu- 
lated Mnsibili^, in hie consolatory epistle to Marcia, (the daughter of 
Cordus CremutiasO who, with Octat ia, wept unceasingly the death of a 
bolored and ftttowite son, to the neglect or all her other ties and dotiee. 


sanctioned the proscription of Clceroy to sign the pardon 
of Cinna* 

The respect and deference of Augustus for Livia, ter- 
minated only with his life. At her request, he accom- 
panied Tiberius on the outset of his journey to Illyria, 
though labouring at the time under so severe an illness, 
that, on his return, he died at Nola. In his last moments, 
as he lay on his couch, supported by his wife, he desired 
to have a mirror ; and, as he gazed on it for a moment, 
the splendid phantoms of his great deeds seemed to pass 
before his mind : he called on his surrounding train to ap« 
plaud him for the part he had played — the last gleam of 
vainglorious ambition, the last tribute to human weakness. 
But there was a yet deeper feeling present in that moment 
of nature's final triumph over all factitious interests. 
Turning his eyes upon Livia, he drew her, in the grasp of 
death, still closer to him; and exclaiming, « Livia, be 
happy, and remember how we have loved," the monarch 
of the world- died like a hero of romance. 


The Women of the Empire. Plancina. The firat Agrippioa. 

Whateveh were the faults of Livia, they appear to have 
mainly emanated from an intense maternal instinct. Ill- 
directed by circumstances, atid by ambition, the master 
passion of the age, shd suffered that most acute of all 
penalties under which the human heart can break — ^ma- 
ternal disappointment: for the mother of Tiberius was 
eminently and fearfully taught to feel — 

** How much ibarper than a aerpMit'a tooth 
Is an nngimtefol chUd." 


20 WOlUir OF BOKB. 

The son, pupil, and protege of Livia, gave at first the 
happy promise of a benevolent reign, by an immediate 
acknowledgment that he owed his power to his mother, and 
by the prospective advantages he might derive from her 
experience.* Livia still held a place near the person of 
her imperial son, retained an influence over his actions, a 
voice in his councils ; and while she continued to do so, 
the wisdom, policy, and liberality of his government were 
conspicuous. It was during this brief interval of sanity 
in the life of a maniac or a monster, that the Roman 
people, among other blessings, enjoyed a liberty, analogous 
to the free press of modern times — freedom of speech, the 
unrestrained expression of public opinion ; <f .for, in a free 
city, (said the dissimulating expositor of his mother's wis- 
dom,) in a free city, the tongue of every man should be 
free." Taxes, too, were gradually lessened, and luxury 
restrained by salutary regulations. At home all was 
peace ; abroad all was victory : Germanicus conquered the 
barbarians of the north, and Tiberius won the hearts of 
the Romans. 

Power, however, parasites, pleasure, and the outburst of 
passions, long checked but inherent, soon broke the re- 
straints which early habits and education had imposed; 
and neither Rome nor Livia were long permitted to enjoy 
the illusion Of this seeming virtue and borrowed wisdom. 
The control of (he mother's more powerful mind soon be- 
came offensive and insupportable to the son ; and, when 
she was removed from the councils of Tiberius, and 
banished from his society, her authority over him gave 
way to that of Plancina, his beautiful and artful mistress, 
and wife of the absent Piso, governor of Syria. 

Plancina, either early perverted, or pre-eminently or- 
ganized for evil, became the very soul of that faction 
which aimed at the ruin of Germanicus ; and she executed 
the delicate mission of calumny against the most illustrious 
character of the age, with an address which gained for 

* Tiberius (crammed prohBblj by his mother and his tator) pronounced 
a fiineral oration over his father at nine years old. He alto obtained a 
triumph in his early yooth by his military exploits. 


her the exclusive confidenoe of Tiherius. When at length, 
the emperor had determined on the death of his too for- 
midable kinsman, it was to her that he entrusted the con« 
yeyance of his secret orders to Piso, her husband, for the 
administration of poison ! and her courage and dexterity 
in undertaking the perilous mission are evidences of the 
intellectual superiority of the bad woman, over the im- 
perial tyrant, of whose devices she was probably the 
instigator, not less than the agent. 

Opposed to Plancina, in the history of Rome's worst 
times, stands forward. a woman, whose life and character 
were illustrations of all that is brightest in humanity,-— 
Agrippina, the widow of the murdered Germanicus, and 
grandaughter of Augustus Csesar. Agrippina united to 
the beauty of Julia, (her unfortunate mother,) the firmness 
of purpose which distinguished her illustrious father ; and 
she nobly maintained the glory of her descent, which her 
brothers and sisters had so deeply dishonoured. Proud of 
the blood of Augustus flowing in her veins, she aimed at 
representing his political wisdom. 

In her devotion to her husband, Germanicus, she ac- 
companied him in his arduous campaigns, sharing alike 
his dangers and his triumphs, and giving birth to her 
beautiful children amidst the unaccomodated vicissitudes of 
a camp. She thus rendered herself adored by the soldiery, 
and so respected by their officers, that, in the temporary 
absences of Germanicus, they consulted and obeyed her, 
as if the spirit and skill of the Ceesars were her natural 

Tacitus relates that, the army being stationed along the 
bank of the Rhine, news was brought that four l^ons, 
under Cecina, were pressed by the barbarians, and in 
imminent danger. Germanicus, at the time, being absent 
with another body of tlie army, the destruction of the 
bridge over the Rhine was proposed in a moment of despair 
and confusion, as a measure of necessary security ; but 
Agrippina, taking upon herself the functions and responsi* 
bility of a general, resolutely opposed the measure, awaited 
the retreating legions at the head of the bridge, praised 

22 woxBir or sokb. 

their valour, thanked them for their services, supplied 
cloths and bandages for the Wounded, and thus prevented 
a great catastrophe.* 

This incident sank deep into the mind of Tiberius, as 
indicating a profound policy, and an ill-concealed ambition. 
He complained ^' that Agrippina was more influential with 
the troops than their proper commanders ; that a womaii 
had put down a sedition, when the name of the emperor 
was powerless ;" that << she habited her son affectedly in the 
guise of a simple soldier, while she taught the legions to 
hail him Csesar." These impressions were never ef&ced ; 
and Grermanicus, in the midst of his successes and his 
glory, was suddenly struck down by poison, and died in 
the arms of Agrippina. Having given to nature and to 
grief their awful tribute, 4he illustrious widow prepared 
for vengeance, and commenced her voyage to Italy with 
her husband's precious remains, her children, and a part 
of the army, in a procession, which, in pomp and cir- 
cumstance, resembled a triumph rather than a funeral 

All Rome was still in the first stupor of astonishment 
and grief at the sudden and mysterious death of Grermani- 
cus, (who had attained only to the prime of life, and was 
of a robust temperament,) when Agrippina, and her mourn- 
ing train, appeared at its gates. She bore in her arms the 
urn which contained his honoured ashes, she was sur-* 
rounded by his beautiful children, and followed by the 
veteran legions who had fought and conquered under his 
command. Thus accompanied, she had traversed the 
empire, from Syria through Italy. The Roman people re- 
ceived her, clad in mourning, and bathed in tears; and, by 
the light of a thousand torches, and in the presence of 
millions, Agrippina deposited the remains of her husband 
by the side of those of the deified Augustus. 

This great duty paid, a still greater remained to be ac- 
complished; that of demanding justice for Glermanicus, 

* Ac ni A^ippina impositom Rheno pon^em aolvi prohibuiBBet, erunt 

2ui id flag^tiam formidine aaderenL Sed femiha ingens animi mania 
ueia per eos.dies induit, &c.— Anrndtum, I. i. $ Ixix. 


and the punishment of his murderer. Tiberius, terrified 
by the popularity of Agrippina, reihained within the mys- 
terious recesses of his palace; he sent, however, his officers 
to compliment her with the title of <<The glory of the 
Roman matrons;" and granted her request of a trial, 
which could not be refused without exciting suspicions 
against himself. 

Agrippina appeared before the senate, and courageously 
and eloquently pleading her cause, astounded her audience 
by accusing Piso, the favourite and confidant of Tiberius, 
and the husband of Plancina, of the murder of Grermani- 
cus. The conscript fathers heard her and were silent: 
but their silence was the sentence of Piso ; and, the morn- 
ing afler his accusation, he was found dead on his couch. 
His death was attributed to the secret orders of Tiberius, 
issued in probable anticipation of the revelations of his 
despairing agent. 

Agrippina had been the early and only love of Germa* 
nicus, had shared his pursuits in the study, as well as his 
perils in the field. Her children had been reared amidst 
the din of war; and her spirit, at once intellectual and 
martial, may have induced her husband, as he lay dying in 
her arms, and with the poison of Tiberius circulating in his 
veins, to caution her against that unbending haughtiness, 
(the besetting sin of her character,) which, however; be- 
coming in the grandaughter of Augustus, might be fatal 
to the widow of Germanicus, and to the children whom 
be- bequeathed to her sole guardianship and love. But the 
spirit which, in the impetuous mind of woman, springs 
from a sense of right, is rarely to be controlled by the 
cold dictates of expediency. In the imperial circle, and 
in the presence of Tiberius, Agrippina conducted herself 
with the same lofly and uncompromising dignity, as at 
the head of the Roman army, and before the Roman 

The increasing love of the people for the family of 
Germanicus, and their reverence for Agrippina, openly 
expressed whenever she appeared in public, confirmed the 
apprehensions excited in the emperor by this high and 

24 woniv OF moMx. 

unffinehing bearing. His first attack upon her, (the great- 
est injury which tyranny could inflict on a mother,) was 
her separation from her children ; his next was her banish- 
ment to a desolate island ; and his last and least, sentence 
of death. Its mtuiner was slow and torturing to the 
fullest extent of ingenious cruelty,*— starvation ; the vilest 
outrage on the most faultless of the women of antiquity, 
dictated by the meanest jealousy of the worst of their 

The atrocious conduct of Tiberius towards the widow 
of Grermanicus was followed by his more unnatural cruelty 
to Livia, the author of his life, and of all its greatness, 
whom he abandoned to neglect and desolation, and to all 
the unalleviated infirmities of extreine old age. On her 
death, he broke her will, as carelessly as he had broken 
her heart ; he persecuted, or put to death the few friends 
adversity had led her, and forbade the senate to jrender to 
her memory those honours, which that servile body had 
decreed to the widow of Augustus. Frankly avowing 
his envy of Priam, who had survived all his kindred, 
he continued to sacrifice to his cruelty, to his avarice, 
and to his fears, friends, relations, and the opulent of 
all classes ; so that in Rome there was not one family, 
which might not reproach htm for the loss of a father, 
a husband, a brother, or a son. ^ 

To this Augustan age of crime, for ever memorable in 
the fasti of human wickedness and weakness, is referable 
that sacrifice, which, however propitiatory and predestined 
in a spiritual sense, well belonged, as a human fact, to the 
iniquity of this dark epoch.:): 

* Tacitus eives this only as a supposition ; but it is to be observed that 
Tiberius had already condemned his exiled wife, the unfortunate Julia, 
the daughter of Augustus, to the same death. 

t " After the virtuous and unfortunate widow of Germanicus had been 
nut to death, Tiberius received the thanks of the senate for his clemency ^ 
oecause she bad not been publicly strangled, nor her body drawn with a 
hook to the GemonisD, where those of common malefactors were ex- 
posed." — Tacit Ann, 1. vi. $ 25. 

X V.TertuUien en racontant cet evenoment, dit que Pilate, ^tonn^ des 
prodigea qui soivirent la mort du Sauveur, en rendit oompte 4 Tib^ ; et 



The Women of Rome under the Empire continued. 

TiBBSius having oppressed the world for twenty-two 
years, was murdered in the midst of his disgusting vices, 
by the favourite he had chosen for his successor, — -*< a 
serpent," (as be himself said,) *< whom he had reared for 
the Roman people, a Phaeton for the world !" The 
people, when they learned his decease, became frantic 
with joy ; and heedless of the future, in the joy of a mo- 
mentary liberation, gave free vent to their feelings : but 
ihe senate, whose slavish habits the tyrant's death could 
not disturb, preserved unbroken their hypocrisy ; and gave 
to him who was unworthy to be accounted a man, a place 
among the gods. 

Among the untranscribable vices and crimes of the 
Emperor Caligula, the most fatal, if not the most extrava- 
gant, were directed against the morals and the happiness 
of woman ; and from the attempts of his brute passions 
and tyrannical power, even the females of his own family 
were not exempted. 

The unworthy son of Germanicus, (so early torn from 
the arms of his illustrious mother, to be reared in the 
vicious court of his father's murderer, among slaves and 
parasites, and the enemies of his house,) started, like his 
predecessor, with qualities which recalled his noble origin, 
and seemed to justify the hopes held out by a precocious 
genius, and promised virtues. But the illusion (if it in- 
deed existed) was but short-lived ; and when he raised a 

que ce prince ayant propose au Senat de mettre Jesna au rang dea Dieuz, 
ce corpa s'y opposa : il ajoute que I'emperear menaca de mort toua ceuz 
qui acconeraient lea chr^tiens. Mala Tertullien eat le aeul hiatorien qui 
rapporte ce faiL La relieioQ n'a paa beaoin de fablea pour ae defendre» 
et Tib^re ^tait le prince Te moina digne de connaitre et de protdger iin 
cube ai moral." — S^r, HUti Univertd. 

VOL. 11. 3 


courtezan to the throne of the empire, and placed her in 
the college of the priesthood, when he made his horse a 
consul, huilt a temple to himself, and deified the power of 
Jupiter, when he fed his wild heasts with human victims, 
and studded the manger of his charger with precious 
stones, when he avowed his wish <* that the Romans had 
but one head, that he might destroy all at a single blow," 
and attempted their destruction by famine, through his 
monopoly of corn, — it became but too evident that the 
master of mankind was mad. 

Yet, among the many victims of his insane caprices, 
not one, during his three years' reign, dared offer opposi- 
tion to his frantic career, save only an aged woman. His 
grandmother, Antonia, the still surviving mother of Grer« 
manicus, whose long widowhood had been devoted to the 
education of her noble son and his less worthy brothers, 
albne remonstrated with Caligula, and reproved, if she 
could not reform, his monstrous vices. <'Fear you not 
the gods 1" she asked, " fear you not the laws f ' " The 
laws," replied Caligula ; " my will alone is law ;" and the 
death of Antonia, which followed quickly on the inter- 
view, was a scarcely noticed confirmation of the fact. 

Caligula died by assassination,'the natural death of a reck- 
less despot, — the common "temperament" of irresponsible 
power in all ages. His successor, the stupid, sensual, 
and cruel Claudius, was well calculated to perpetuate the 
combination. This promising pupil of Titus Livius, the his- 
torian, was dragged from under a bed (where he had con- 
cealed himself during the commotion of Caligula's death) 
to assume the throne. 

The grandson and ward of Livia, he for a while upheld 
the popular prejudice in his favour, by the exhibition of 
some false lights of intellect and humanity, the fading 
rays of an artificial but unavailing education. He soon, 
however, gave up the struggle between nature and precept ; 
and, incapable of exercising the power forced on him by 
the accident of birth, and after many proofs of uncontrolla- 
ble voluptuousness, and of hopeless imbecility, he per- 
mitted the reins of government to fall into the hands of the 


woman, whom his freedmen and parasites had chosen for 
his wife, — ^that woman whose name shame might he 
ashamed to write, did not historic truth demand the re- 
cord, — ^the infamous Messalina Valeria. 

When the depravity of man placed this worst of women 
in the highest station, and gave her power over the lives of 
myriads, there were still in the capital of the world women 
of unblemished virtue, of great genius, and of high acquire- 
ments, — women, who, like the sisters of Claudius himself, 
were conspicuous for talent, beauty, and conduct. Among 
these was Poppsea, the wife of the senator Scipio, whose 
popularity exposed her to the envy of the abandoned Em- 
press, and who expiated her superiority with her life. But 
such ^omen were ill placed in those times ; and, like the 
jarring elements of ill-assorted natural combinations, they 
appeared, only to be eliminated. 

Messalina, dissolute and frivolous, as she is described, 
succeeded in possessing herself of that political power, 
which the imbecile Claudius had consigned to slaves and 
freedmen; and she became for a time the presiding destiny 
of Rome. 

Narcissus, the freedman and secretary of Claudius, (who, 
availing himself of the infirmities of his besotted master, 
had abused his trust, to plunder the citizens of Rome; and 
.who, to enrich himself, put many of its distinguished men 
to death, in the name of the Emperor, if not with his 
knowledge,) had awakened the fears of Messalina. Jealous 
of his power, if not' indignant at crimes which might be 
attributed to herself, she resolved on removing him from 
the counsels and presence of Claudius. But Narcissus, 
who had favoured her mad follies, and encouraged her 
vices, beheld her encroachments of political power with 
apprehension, and her intrigues against himself with a 
thirst for revenge. He resolved therefore on her sacrifice; 
and Messalina soon presented him a favourable oppor- 

The unworthy daughter of the patrician, Messala Bar- 
batus, and of the stoical and high-minded Lepida, was by 
nature but a foolish, feeble, and frivolous creature, the early 


victim of vanity, and uncontrolled paasion. Power, which 
made her cruel, seems also to have made her mad. The 
last act of her vicious and degraded life was marked by 
characteristics of the age, and by traits which place the 
romance of history far beyond the boldest combinations of 
fictitious narrative. 

Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula, had broken through 
all the restraints of marriage, that holiest law, so sacred to 
the ancient Romans, the germ of all that was great and 
good in their lives and polity. They had all forced wives 
from their husbands, on the spur of passion or of expe- 
diency ; but Messalina added a new feature of extravaganpe 
and of guilt to this abandoned violence, in taking anothei^ 
woman's husband, in the lifetime and with the consent of 
her own. She not only caused Caius Silius to repudiate 
his own lovely and virtuous wife; (cited as the model 
woman of her day,) but, (as it has been said,) brought over 
the infatuated Claudius to sign the marriage contracts* 
Tacitus observes that this event would have been regarded 
aa a fable, if all Rome had nqt witnessed it. 

Having sent Claudius to Ostia, she proceeded with heir 
doomed bridegroom to one of those beautiful villas which 
her taste and extravagance had multiplied in the Campa- 
nia ; and accompanied by a courtly train of the youth of 
both sexes, distinguished for their rank and their beauty. 
Amidst the luxuriant imagery of an Italian vintage, in 
scenes of sylvan beauty and of imperial magnificence, the 
mythological drama of the union of Bacchus and Ariadne 
was represented, in all its poetry, and in all its licentious- 
ness. The ivy and vine-crowned Silius was still quaffing 
the Circe cup of pleasure, sharing the homage and the 
shame of the imperial Ariadne, when the tramp of soldiers 
disturbed the music of the fete« The grim, apparition of 

^The fimperor*8 strange conduct on this occasion is explained, as 
having been founded in a superstitious motive. " £z quibusdum porten- 
lis, harioli prosdizerunt periculum imminere imperatori : quod ut Ciau< 
dius propulsaret, in alterumque transferret, permisit ut Messalina nuberet 
Silio, ut ita in Siliuin, tanquam in imperatorem, periculum ipsi imminens, 
fnuiBferretttr/'— Sue<on. Edit. Lugd. Bat. ]651» p. 528, Note 2. 


the Pr«etonafi gvutrd suddenly put to flight the sporting 
fauns and laughing nymphs ; and even Ariadne scarcely 
escaped the iron clutch of armed power, while Silius was 
seized and borne away to death. 

Messalina, abandoned by all, proceeded on foot to Rome. 
None ventured to offer a chariot to her, who had been so 
lately the destiny of all. Weary and worn, she at length 
obtained from a peasant permission to place herself in his 
cart ; and thus the transient mistress of the world returned 
to the gates of its capital, which she had so lately left in 
all the sovereignty of power and of pleasure. Claudius 
had been roused for an instant from his sleep of shame by 
his parasite ministers; but Messalina, counting on the 
fondness of a fool, (that frailest of all reliances) still be- 
lieved in the potency of her charms and caresses, and re- 
solved to plead her own cause before him. 

The difficulty of obtaining admission to the imperial 
presence induced her to seek the protection and company 
of one, against whose sacred footsteps no gates were ever 
closed,-^the high priestess of the vestals, the spotless and 
venerable Vibadia. Accompanied by this holy woman, 
and by her own two beautiful children, Britannicus and 
Octavia, (a fine trait of nature, or of cunning) vice, sup- 
ported by innocence and virtue, sought the tribunal of 
power and fatuity. When this graphic and singular group 
stood before the gates of the palace, and demanded entrance, 
the officers of the guard refused a passage to Messalina tind 
her children ; but Vibadia asked no leave, and passed on 
unaccompanied to the presence of Claudius. 

Whatever may have been the ttiotive of the charitable 
vestal, she pleaded for the life of the culprit with a dignity 
and an eloquence worthy of a better subject. She is said 
to have accused the indulgence and weakness of Claudius 
as the causes of his wife's vices, and to have asked her 
life for the sake of his children. Claudius, prompted by 
the still powerful Narcissus, (whose vengeance was now 
so near its accomplishment) heard Vibadia with respect, 
and dismissed her with a promise that, at her request, he 
would hear the criminal and the wretched empress in her 



own defence, at some future moment. The feeble Claudius 
was often heard to say: — " When will this ungrateful Mes- 
salina come ?" forgetful that he had already commanded 
her execution. 

. When the tribune, sent with a military force, by Nar- 
cissus, in the name of the emperor, to inflict the sentence, 
sought the condemned empress ia the Gardens of Lucul- 
lus, (those beautifbl gardens which she had, purchased with 
the blood of Valerius Asiaticus, and of the innocent and 
heroic Poppeea) he found Messalina, on whoise brows the 
vine-crowned diadem of Ariadne could have scarcely faded, 
prostrate on the earth, pale, haggard, and dishevelled. 
Beside her sat her mother, Lepida, earnest and calm, per- 
forming with the sternness of her philosophical creed, the 
last duties of a parent. " 3he could not,'' she said, " teach 
her daughter how to live; she had come to teach her how 
to die I" 

When the soldier approached, Messalina, conscious of 
his fearful mission, shuddered, and wept. Lepida, placing 
a sword in her hand, commanded her to dry her tears, 
and to save herself the ignominy of a criminars fate, by 
dying like a Roman empress. Messalina took the sword) 
and placed the point against her bosom ; but her courage 
failed. She had not the moral force necessary to obey 
her stoic mother : and the soldier whose weapon she held, 
in cruelty or in compassion, pressed the hand of the 
wretched woman in his own, and plunged the sword to her 
heart. Messalina was no more ; but all the circumstances, 
the institutions, and the men which conferred upon her a 
short-lived and fatal pre-eminence, were still left in una- 
bated force and pernicious activity. 

Messalina has continued from her own days to the 
present, a favourite theme of misogynist satirists ; and of 
all recorded women, she lies under the most odious impu- 
tations, to justify their thesis. The imagination, indeed, 
recoils from an implicit credence in such disgusting details ; 
and, for the dignity of human nature, seeks a ground for 
disbelief in the exaggerations of poetry, and the courtier- 
like malice of gossiping contemporaries. But no historic 


doubts can redeem the name of Messaiina from its pro- 
verbial application ; and since, even to save the honour of 
womanhood, that name cannot be blotted from the historic 
page, justice and the best interests of the species require, 
that the actions it recalls should be traced to their true 
causes, and that a higher moral should be drawn from its 
citation^ than can be attained by general inferences from , 
the individual to the sex. 

In the more striking cases of human misconduct there 
are, for the most part, two parties — ^the criminals who 
offend, and the society which first prepares the act, and 
then passively acquiesces in it. If such, therefore, was 
Messaiina, must we not ask what was the age in which 
her excesses were possible ? what the average morality of 
the men who had brought society to such a condition ? If 
the women of Suetonius and of Juvenal were degraded, 
the seeds of their vices sprang from the murders, the con* 
fiscations, and the violence, which attended the overthrow 
of the republic. Long pxotiacted anarchy had obliterated 
almost every trace of virtue in the patricians of Rome. 
Dissolute, cowardly, and slavish, beyond the ignominy of 
oriental despotism, the men of the empire were themselves 
guilty of every crime and meanness. They set the tone 
of manners, they afforded to the women the examples and 
the encouragements of sin ; and, having lost that finQ moral 
sense, which places the honour of the husband in the wife^s 
keeping, they had lost the right of controlling female con- 
duct, or reproaching female delinquency. 

The death of Messaiina was announced to the emperor 
while he was at dinner — the death of that Messaiina, for 
whose return he still sighed, and whose absence he still 
dwelt on with the reiterated reproachful question : — '^ Will 
she never come ?" Claudius, however, received the news 
without emotion, and continued to eat ; not suffering an 
event so full of horror to disturb his irepast, or to derange 
his digestion. 

The besotted emperor, always gorged or drunk, was but 
the puppet of his freedmen and slaves, who laughed at 
his stupidity, indulged his vices, availed themselves of his 


crimes, and governed in his name. The influence which 
his parasites had obtained through the dissolute Mcssalina, 
and the facility with which Narcissus got rid of her when 
she became troublesome, taught them the necessity of 
giving her a successor ; and they chose one whose impe- 
rial descent seemed calculated to cover her subserviency 
to their rule. In fixing upon Julia Agrippina, the empe- 
ror's niece, to be his wife, they violated every sense of 
decency ; and their utter ignorance of the character and 
genius of the woman whose ambitious views they for- 
warded, was no less conspicuous in the choice, than the 
obtnsity of their moral sense. . 

There is still extant a contemporary portrait of Clau- 
dius, sketched by the hand of a great master, which has 
preserved for posterity such * minute and striking traits of 
the man and of the times, as chronicles seldom retain, and 
the remote historian still more rarely condescends to 
adopt. The Apocoloquintosis of Seneca is one of the 
most humorous burlesques which the wit of antiquity has 
produced. It opens with the supposed arrival of Claudius 
in the other world, (he having died of ap indigestion) to 
claim the family honours of adscription into << the quiet 
order of the gods.'"*^ He is ushered into the presence of 
the assembled deities, and announced to Jupiter, as a qui* 
dam^ a creature of extraordinary and bloated size, with 
white hair, and a shaking head, dragging his right foot 
after him, and muttering only confused and incoherent 
sounds. When asked << whence he came," he answers 
*< he does not know," in a pronunciation so inarticulate, 
as to be quite incomprehensible; being neither Latin, 
Greek, nor any other 'known tongue. Jupiter, com- 
pletely puzzled, calls upon Hercules, as a great traveller, 
one skilled in the dialects of all nations, to interpret. But 
Hercules, upon looking into <<the creature's" face, de- 

* The title of the tract ApoccloquintoMt is a parody upon the technical 
term for this process, Apotheoeis. The Apo-pumpkinosis (for so the 
word may be translated) is a mere passing joke, and enters for nothing 
into the satire itself. It was written five years after the marriage of 


Glares it a monster, and, (by its tottering movements and 
snorting respiration,) a product of the sea : and he trem- 
bles lest he should be assigned a new labour, more for- 
midable than all the other twelve. 

The disgusting ghost is, however, at length recognised 
as the Emperor Claudius ; and Jupiter,, addressing the 
'' conscript fathers" of Olympus to collect their opimon 
concerning his apotheosis, declares him to be quite as 
deserving of that honour as many of his predecessors, — 
being at least of the blood of the divine Augustus and 

At the ill-timed jest of the facetious thunderer, the dei- 
fied Augustus is brought upon his legs to address the 
assembly^ and protest against the inference. . << Conscript 
fathers," he exclaims, '' I call on you to witness that I 
have never yet troubled you with a speech, or meddled in 
your affairs ; but grief and shame must have vent, and I 
jcannot now sit by in silence. Was it for this that I put 
an end to civil bloodshed, apd gave peace to the world 1 
Was it for this that I reconstituted Rome by my laws, 
and ornamented it with my works? I want words to 
express my indignation. Here is a wretch, without the 
courage to drive away a fly, who has yet dared to slay 
men as lightly as he would fling the dice. What shall I 
say of his infinite perversions of justice, or how find leisure 
to bewail the public calamities, oppressed as I am by the 
miseries he has brought on my own family ! 

" This creature, who so long had thriven b^aeath the 
lustre of my name, how has he shown his gratitude ? By 
murdering the two Julias, my nieces, the one by the sword, 
and the other by starvation, and by killing my grandson 
Silanus. Oh, Jupiter, take good care lest, hy making 
this wretch a god, you adopt his crimes as your own I 
But, tell me, oh divine Claudius, how had you the confi- 
dence to condemn so many victims, without even the form 
of a trial, or of a simple hearing ? Was this your custom 
in Rome ? if so, it certainly is not ours in heaven. Jupiter 
in bis long reign never injured any one, except, indeed, 
when he broke Vulcan's leg; and if in his passion he 


once hung up his wife in the heavens, he did not kill her, 
as you murdered Messalina, my grand-niece. 

" How say you ? you do not know I may the gods con- 
found you ! this ignorance is worse than the murder itself. 
And is this wretch to become a god ? Look at him, a 
creature made in spite ! If he can apeak only three plain 
•words consecutively, Fm content to be his slave ; and yet 
he forsooth must be a god ! Who, think you, will wor- 
ship him ? who believe in him 1 or who do you imagine 
will acknowledge hereafter your own divinities, if such 
are to be the specimens of your manufacture ?" 

Opposed to this personal sketch of one of the world's 
mighty masters by the stylus of wit and of truth, there 
exists a contemporary portrait, taken also from the life, 
of another individual, on the more tangible forms of which 
posterity still gazes with an intense unfading admiration. 
It is a statue, combining an expression of moral dignity 
and of intellectual force, with as much physical beauty 
and poetical grace, as the genius of sculpture ever bor- 
rowed from breathing nature, to work out its own mira- 
cles of art. This statue — a history and an epic in itself— 
represents a woman in the prime of middle life, seated in 
a chair of state, and in the deep repose of meditative 
thought. Her stature is lofty, her brow of high capacity, 
her mouth expressive of love and wit^ and all her features 
are harmonized by that regularity, which is ever denied 
to defective organizations. Over the whole of this simply- 
draped and noble figure, there is an air of tranquil ma- 
jesty, which, in its solemn influence, likens it to the sta- 
tues of the gods. It is the resemblance of one who 
received from her son the glorious title of " the best of 
mothers,"— -of Agrippina, such as she was, when chosen 
to be the wife of Claudius. 

Julia Agrippina, the great-granddaughter of Augustus, 
the daughter of Germanicus, was born amidst the exciting 
circumstances of war, in a Roman camp, on the shores of 
the Rhine ; and she was reared under the laurels of her 
father's conquests, and under the halo of her mother's 
grandeur. The first incident in her youthful existence 


was her fatbeir^s obsequies ; and her first p^Nseption of the 
career, which birth and genius opened to her, might have 
been derived from the acclamations of sympathy and 
respect, accorded by the Roman people to her family, 
even in the presence of her father's murderers. 

Her early estrangement from her glorious mother, by 
the banishment and horrid death of the widow of Germani* 
cus, was followed by the persecution of her brothers, her 
sisters, and herself, by the infamous Sejanus. The early 
death of the high-minded Domitius, the husband of her 
youth, and the father of her only child, exposed her first 
to the fatal preference, and then to the hate and vengeance 
of her brother Caligula. He accused her of a participa- 
tion in the conspiracy of Lentulus, before the senate, 
whom he forced to condemn her. Driven into a long 
exile in a desolate island, her. son w^ torn from her arms, 
and committed for education to the care of a rope-dancer, 
and the keeper of baths. The constant dread of a violent 
death, the persecution and exile of Seneca, Burrhus, and 
others of the bravest and wisest of her friends, were fearful 
antecedents ; and, to a mind of such power and intensity, 
they must have proved fostering elements of that spirit of 
vengeance, which might well have '< filled her from top to 
toe with direst cruelty ,"-^uch as some historians have, 
attributed to her, though none have substantiated the fact» 
on which they have relied. 

On the death of Caligula, Agrippina, recalled from 
exile, was married to the Consul Crispinus, whose sudden 
death was (according to the notions of the times) ascribed 
to poison, administered, as her enemies asserted, by his 
wife. Five years afler this event, Pallas, the favourite of 
Claudius, and the rival of Narcissus, struck by the genius 
of Agrippina, aware of her apprehensions of Narcissus, 
and won, perhaps, by her beauty and her arts, proposed 
her to Claudius as the successor of Messalina. 

The obstacle opposed to this marriage by the ties of 
consanguinity, was relieved by a special law, an innova- 
tion in the jurisprudence of Rome ; and, afier the perilous 
interval of a year, during which Agrippina had to contend 


with the intrigues of Narcissus, the rivalry of Lollia 
Paulina, and that of Calphurni£i,-the daughter of Germani* 
cus ascended the throne of Augustus. 

Seizing the reins of government in her vigorous grasp, 
from that moment she ruled the empire, in the name of her 
imbecile husband, in a spirit of reform, that seemed an 
anticipation of modern institutes. Her brilliant adminis* 
tration opened with vigour : faction was controlled, an- 
archy gave way to order, and despotism itself was made 
subservient to retributive justice. She abolished, at once, 
that organized system of espionage, which, for the pur- 
poses of confiscation, had filled Rome with informers and 
their victims. She re-established order in the finances, 
and economy in the domestic expenditure of the palace. 
She gave an example 6f courtly propriety in the reserve 
and dignity of her deportment ; and the imperial palace, 
(so long dishonoured by the «rgies of Messalina,) became 
more i^evere in its manners, and decent in all its exterior 

The crimes attributed to Claudius, and committed with 
his passive assent, seemed to have been suspended from 
the morning of his marriage. Grave ministers replaced 
the dissolute minions of a feeble government ; the banished 
genius and Worth of Rome were recalled ; the brave and 
popular Burrhus was placed in command of the Praetorian 
guards ; and Seneca, the philosopher, the friend and par- 
tisan of the family of Germanicus, was appointed to be 
the preceptor of Domitius, the long neglected and es- 
tranged son of the empress. Salutary laws were enacted, 
and were executed with inflexible severity ; and the abuses 
which had infected every department, were swept away 
and abolished. 

The administration of Agrippina, in its general charac- 
ter thus vigorous and benevolent, seems to have rendered 
her obnoxious to much obloquy ; and Tacitus, on the au- 
thority of contemporary pamphleteers, (in modern par- 
lance) has loaded her memory with the imputation of 
inordinate ambition, cmd with the commisfsion of some 
sanguinary deeds in its gratification. In these charges, 


there is, probably, considerable calumny ; though the tern- 
{ler of the times^ and the character of the imperial govern- 
ment, scarcely allow an utter incredulity as to all the facts* 
In those days, greatness and goodness were not twin sis- 
ters : and it may be supposed that a temperameat like 
Agrippina's did not shrink from the arbitrary and cruel 
acts which might be thought necessary to her safety or 
advancement. Still, the woman must be judged by the 
circumstances under which she lived, and with referenoe 
to the morality of her contemporaries; and, so judged, she 
rises immeasurably superior to the greatest men asso- 
ciated with her history. 

Hitherto the emperors had given to their wives while 
still living, the name of Augusta, and when dead had 
placed them with the epithet Diva in the list of the divini- 
ties ; but they had reserved for themselves all the personal 
distinctions directly connected with the act of governing. 

Agrippina was the first woman who acquired the privi- 
lege of entering the capitol in the vehicle assigned to the 
priests in religious ceremonies, a distinction granting to 
her a sort of functional importance, a positive place in the 
hierarchy of constituted authorities. On all public occa- 
sions she took an elevated seat, reserved for her close to 
the tribunal occupied by the emperor; and she was re- 
ceived with the same honours as Claudius himself. It was 
thus seated, that she accepted the homage of the British 
captives, and the thanks of Caractacus for the life granted 
at her intercession, — a singular spectacle to the Roman 
people, who beheld for the first time a female invested 
with the pomp of sovereign power. 

Agrippina, popular and respected, took no pains to con- 
ceal that she considered herself as sharing with Claudius 
that empire, which the genius and valour of her ancestors 
had won and consolidated. The year afler her marriage, 
she succeeded in procuring the adoption of her son Domi- 
tius, with the style or title of Nero Claudius Ceesar, to the 
prejudice of the emperor's own child by Messalina, the 
infant Britannicus. It was on this occasion that she re- 
ceived the imperial cognomen of Augusta, and that to the 

VOL* II. 4 


prophetic Augur who bade her << beware, lest the son she 
so elevated might prove her ruin/' she replied, ^< Let me 
perish, but let Nero reign." 

In this answer we have the secret of her great actions, 
and the motive for all her imputed crimes. Amidst all her 
lofly aspirations, her indomitable pride, her keen sense of 
injuries inflicted, her consciousness of power acquired, 
there was one deep and redeeming affection : this brilliant 
despot, the astute politician of her age, was still above all, 
and in all — a mother ! To win for Nero the favour of the 
people, she affected to consider him as a simple citizen, 
devoted to that antique liberty from which Rome had 
derived all her ancient glory. To win the senate, she 
sent the well-taught pupil of the plausible Seneca, to spout 
his theme, and plead the cause of Troy before their con- 
script wisdom, in a long pedantic oration, written by his 
tutor. The rank of the young Roscius of the imperial 
stage, and the cause he espoused, won all suffirages ; the 
genius and the accomplishments of Nero were extolled to 
the skies ; and Agrippina, so celebrated for her wit and 
her sarcasm, must have laughed in secret (perhaps with 
&neca) at a world, so easily imposed upon, and so lightly 

The character of the boy, Bntannicus> was yet untried, 
the genius of Nero was already admitted ; and, when a 
marriage between the grandson of Germanicus and the inno- 
cent Octavia, (the emperor's daughter,) was accomplished 
by the empress and her ministers, the hopes and views of 
Agrippina attained their consummation. 

Thus relieved from maternal anxiety, Agrippina gave 
up her mind to the af&irs of state ; and the last years of 
the reign of Claudius were crowned with glory and pros* 
perity. Wise ministers at home, great generals abroad, 
the people satiated with << bread and games," the army 
glutted with victories and spoils, the conquest of Mauri* 
tania, the successes in Armenia, the subjugation of the 
British provinces to the very verge of the Irish seas, all 
alike flattered the vainglory of the Romans, whose na- 
tional pride had survived all their other public virtues. 

The most magnificent naumachia ever exhibited, was 


given in celebration of these events, at a cost incredible, 
when compared with the expenses of modern governments; 
and was followed by public games and dramatic spectacles 
without end. Many great public works were likewise 
commenced, even beyond the confines of Italy; and a 
colony and a city were founded in Belgic Gaul, on the 
shores of the Rhiae, on the very spot where Agrippina 
first saw the light, in the arms of her immortal mother. 
The colony was composed of all that remained of the 
veteran soldiers of Germanicus and their families ; and the 
noble city, which replaced the straw-thatched huts of the 
Ubians, took the name of Colonia Agrippina — ^the Cologne 
of modern times. 

In the midst of these great works, Agrippina found time 
to write her own memoirs, from which Tacitus acknow- 
ledges that he borrowed, in the composition of his history :* 
but, while her genius and vigpur were giving such illustra- 
tion to the reign of an emperor proverbial tor imbecility 
and indolence, Claudius died ! 

The simple fact of his death is, that the emperor, noto- 
rious for his sensuality and gluttony, sinking under pre- 
mature old age brought on by excesses^, and loaded with 
the infirmity incidental to intemperance, was taken ill, 
after supping heartily on a dish of mushrooms ; a circum- 
stance so little regarded in his family, (accustomed as they 
were to witness the effects of his debauchery,) as almost to 
have escaped the notice of the bystanders. Claudius, 
either from stupidity or drunkenness, scarcely complained; 
and when his physician^ Xenophon, was induced to apply 
a feather to the fauces, he used pnly the common remedy, 
adopted in cases of simple indigestion. 

An event, however, thus natural in all its details, was 
ascribed to poison ; — not indeed by respectable contempo- 
rary historians, (one of whom, and the most garrulous, 

* Id ego, a ecriptoribui annalium non tradiium* reperi in commentariif 
Agrippinae fills, quie, Neronis Principis mater, vitam suam et casus buo- 
ram posteris memoravit. — Annal. 1. iv. liii. It is singular that Tacitus,, 
haying these memoirs to consult, should so often refer to conflicting au- 
thorities of a secondary character. 


Seneca, was present at the scene,) but by the writers of 
succeeding reigns. The motive assigned for the treache- 
rous act was found in the fears of Agrippina. Domitia 
Lepida, the daughter of Drusus, and of Antonia the grand- 
niece of Augustus, (one of the most dissolute women of her 
age,) had found means to insinuate herself into the confi- 
dence of Claudius, and to awaken him to a sense of the 
power obtained by his wife at his expense : and the em- 
peror was reported to have said, that it was his misfortune 
first to suffer from the conduct of his wives, and then to 
have to punish them. Agrippina is accused of having 
acted on his threat ; and is said to have saved her own life 
by anticipating the natural death of her husband. 

To a tale like this, the piercing genius of modern eriti- 
dsm would oppose many objections. It was the Interest 
of Agrippina that Claudius should live. The claims of 
the young Britannicus to the succession, the uncertain 
result of education on the character of the artificial Nero, 
were motives for preserving the emperor's life. Agrippina^ 
possessed of unlimited power, could scarcely be disturbed 
by the intrigues of a few envious women, or discontented 
men ; while the growing infirmities of her husband seemed 
to render the crime imputed to her by Tacitus as unneces* 
sary as it was impolitic. The truth is among the secrets 
of eternity : but, whatever may have been the guilt of 
Agrippina, it must have been shared by Seneca and by 
Burrhus ; who, though, in their after lives, they proved 
themselves not above the temptation to crime, were then in 
the height of their reputation ; and they were not driven 
by abject fear, to forfeit a character for virtue, so pain- 
fully acquired, — a forfeiture, unnecessary at that moment, 
as it must have been odious. 

During the perilous interval while Claudius struggled 
between life and death, the genius of Agrippina came forth 
in all its vigour and intensity. She took immediate pos- 
sessicm of Britannicus and Octavia, covered them with 
caresses, and promised them protection, mingling her tears 
with theirs for the a]fproaching loss of a father. She 
sent away Nero to the army, near Rome, under the con- 


duct of Burrhus. Preaented by that popular general, and 
prompted by his mother, Nero harangued the legions in a 
speech written by Seneca. He promised largesses to the 
soldiers, introduced the name and exploits of his grand- 
father, recalling that great man's person by the striking 
resemblance he bore him. Burrhus seia^ the moment of 
excitement thus produced, to propose the young Ceesar as 
the successor of Claudius ; the army adopted him by ac- 
clamations, and their echoes were carried oa the winds to 
the ears of the watchful mother. 

Then, and not till then, the gates of the palace were 
thrown open ; the death of Claudius was disclosed ; and 
the elevation of Nero by the choice of the army, was made 
known to the Roman people. The people adopted the 
election of the Praetorian cohorts ; and Agrippina followed 
up the coup dUkUxt by sending Nero to the senate, whom 
he addressed in another well-conned speech. He pro* 
nounced the usual funeral eulogium on the late emperor, 
enumerating hia splendid virtues, (1) and demanding that 
Claudius should be raised to the rank of the gqds. During 
this oration, Nero alone preserved a dignified gravity ; the 
conscript fathers were convulsed with laughter ; but they, 
nevertheless,, decreed the apotheosis of the dullest and 
most defective of men. 

While this farce was performing before the hereditary 
wisdom of Rome, where was Agrippina ? Most probably 
shut up in measureless content with Seneca, and, with her 
characteristic humour, and her intimate knowledge of the 
weakness and ridicules of Claudius, assisting the author 
of the Apocoloquintosis to pen that witty brochure^ which 
so little resembles the other productions of the prosing 
maxim-monger, that we may almost suppose it owes him 
little beyond his name. 

In all this great historical drama, who was the protago- 
nist ? who the manager, and most efficient actor ? woman, or 
her master ? Whose was the superior mind ? who was the 
intellectual agent ? Was it the wily Seaeca ? the ductile 
Burrhus ? the sordid army ? the servile senate ? the im- 
pressionable people, or the consistent, concentrated Agrip- 



pina, who, actuated by one all-absorbing feeling, in the 
pursuit of one great object, put them all in motion ? — ^that 
feeling was maternal love, that object the empire of the 
world ! 

Nero was but eighteen when the genius of his mother 
placed him on the throne of the Ceesars. Although mar- 
ried in boyhood to the daughter of the late emperor, he 
was still in the hands of those able preceptors, who now 
became the ministers of his government. Grateful and 
submissive, he made no effort to wiest the authority from 
her who was still so willing to exercise it ; but gracefully, 
and, to all appearance, voluntarily, threw back the reins 
of administration, into those hands which had so long and 
so firmly held them. 

His confidence in Agrippina he expressed in well-turned 
phrases ; and he acted his part as one fiilly conscious of 
the great audience before which he was performing. When 
the officers of the palace-guard first came to him, to ask 
the password of the watch, he replied, << the best of all 
mothers." The tender acknowledgment, as it was whis- 
pered from post to post, in the midnight silence of the 
Aventine, must have recalled to many a rude mind this fond 
reminiscences of early life, mingling the best afiections of 
nature and of infancy, with the stern thoughts and relent- 
less duties of h)ilitary discipline. 

The senate vied with the sovereign in its demonstrations 
of deference to his august mother. They raised Agrippina 
to the priesthood, an important item of the supreme 
authority, an assignment at once of power and respect : 
they decreed her a guard of honour, and the right of being 
preceded by two lictors bearing the fasces; the latter 
testifying that her position was not merely honorary. 

The conscript fathers, who had so readily conceded the 
apotheosis of the dead emperor, soon learned to resist no 
wish of the living Augusta. In compliance with her will, 
they removed their sittings to an apartment in the palace, 
where Agrippina, scarcely concealed by a transparent 
ctiTtain, was present at their deliberations, and directed 
their measures. 


Claudius had already accustomed the Roman people to 
behold, in the person of Agrippina, a female taking her 
place on the imperial tribunal : and Nero, besides con- 
tinuing that concession, had even followed her litter on 
foot when she passed beyond the gates of the palace, as a 
testimony of deference. Under these influences, Seneca, 
Burrhus, and Pallas, became but the agents of her will ; 
and they readily gave their sanction to her acts of ex* 
pedient severity, while they assisted to prolong an adminis- 
tration which enabled her to contribute to their enormous 
wealth, and to uphold their public consideration : for her 
government, directed, in many instfuices, to the people's 
good, readily obtained the people's confidence* Such, 
indeed, were the repose and the prosperity of the empire 
under her vigorous and vigilant sway, that Trajan, in after 
times, was wont to compare the first five years of Nero's 
reign with those of Rome's best emperors. 

Agrippina, in thus drawing to herself the power and the 
authority of the state, stepped simply into the place which 
circumstances had assigned her : but, in providing for the 
exigencies of the moment, she must, from the first, have 
been distracted with anxieties for a doubtful future. 

Under the charm of her able administration, the people 
knight, indeed, have been dazzled by the external varnish, 
which education had thrown over the character of the 
emperor, while the senate was edified by the wisdom of the 
young orator's prepared speeches. But while Seneca 
eulogized the genius of his pupil, while Burrhus approved, 
while all Rome applauded, and none possibly remembered 
the early promises of Tiberius and Caligula, or discovered, 
under a demeanour so imposing and professions so plausi- 
ble, the future buflbon of the theatre, the monster-incen- 
diary of Rome — ^the vigilant eye of motherhood could not 
have been thus satisfied and deceived. The deep dissimu- 
lation with which Nero concealed the nascent vices of his 
disposition from the public, could not have escaped the 
keen scrutiny of a mother. 

Agrippina must have early discovered that Nero was 
deficient in that physical sensibility, the source of all high 

44 WOM£lf OF.BOMA. 

intellect, of the nobler faculties, and finer sympathies, 
which distinguish man, and raise him above the tiger and 
the vulture. This son, so loved in the perversity of ma* 
ternal instinct, though long estranged from her observa- 
tion, must have eventually laid bare the inherent egoism 
and cruelty of his indomitable nature ; and of this, the 
protection and sympathy she lavished on Octavia, the ten- 
derness with which she watched over the life of the young 
Britannicus, and the profound policy by which she endea- 
voured to prolong her own government, are sufficient 
evidences. Agrippina is reported to have said to one, who, 
by betraying her confidence, has rendered her apothegm 
historical — " The reign of Nero has began as that of Au- 
gustus ended ; but when I am gone, it will end as that o: 
Augustus began :" the awful prophecy was soon accom* 
plished. ^ 

These well founded fears give a clue to many solecisms 
in the conduct of Agrippina^ who, vibrating between her 
powerful instincts, and her nobler views for a mighty 
empire, alternately appears in all the wisdom of a great 
stateswoman, and in all the feebleness of a fond mother. 

While Nero was still making public professions of mode- 
ration and modesty, he was already secretly indulging in 
dissolute habits, and acquiring an independent volition by 
the indulgence of his passions. A growing sense of that 
irresponsible power, which maddens all in whom it is 
awakened, rendered him gradually more negligent of his 
mother's counsels, and more impatient of her control. 
Agrippina, with the indiscretion of a fretful jealousy, 
sternly interfered with his inordinate passion for his beau- 
tiful mistress, Acte, and reproved his neglect of his own 
wife for the dissolute PoppsBa, whpm he had forced from 
her husband, the bravest of his generals. Her aversion 
for Anicetus, the freed slave and preceptor of Nero's 
childhood, her increasing coldness towards Pallas, who 
was winning favour with the emperor by degrading sub- 
missions, and her ill-concealed suspicion of Burrhus and 
Seneca, all contributed to widen the breach between the 
dissimulating son and the impetuous mother, which ended 
in the ruin of both. 


Still Agrippina remained standing in the gap between 
present prosperity and future desolation, public and pri« 
vate; but she already stood alone. As power melted from 
her hands, and strengthened in those of Nero, her par* 
tisans dropped off, her friends deserted. Seneca and 
Burrhus, who had secretly fevoured the profligacy of their 
imperial pupil, under the shallow plea that, by indulging 
his passions, they were softening his nature, obtained an 
influence over the mind of the emperor, of which Agrip- 
pina was the vigilant and indignant observer. She who 
had so long known Seneca, and had prized and used his 
talents while she despised his character,— ^he who was so 
well aware that his enormous wealth, (acquired since she 
had recalled him from exile,) had been increased by inor- 
dinate avarice, — she who had seen through the ductility 
of the brave Burrhus, and found it applicable to every 
emergency, — ^was thrown off her guard by their ingrati« 
tude and desertion ; and she burst forth against both, in 
that flow of feminine invective, in that strain of sarcastic 
and witty irony, for which she was so celebrated and so 

Her quondam friends and praUgeSy thus converted into 
irreconcilable enemies, were added to the increasing nxun* 
her of those who were desirous of her ruin, and willing to 
efiect it at any risk. By her reduction of the public 
expenditure, and by the order she had introduced into the 
imperial household, Agrippina may have been considered 
as at the head of the reform party of the day ; and Nero, 
aware of her popularity, continued to pay her respectful, 
but cold, homage in public : but he already rejected her 
advice, and avoided her society. While he sent her mag- 
nifieent presents, he lessened her influence, until scarcely 
a vestige of her former power in the government remained* 

On the occasion of a public reception given to an em^ 
bassy from the East, the internal dissensions of the court 
were manifested in overt act. When Agrippina, in the 
exercise of the imperial rights gratited to her by Claudius 
and the senate, moved forward to take her usual place 
beside the emperor, Nero sprang forward with officious 


courtesy and ironical respect, to prevent the accomplish- 
ment of her intention. After this public insult, which pro- 
voked the smiles of the courtiers, but filled the empress 
mother with rage, Agrippina lost all self-control. She no 
lon'ger complained, but threatened ; she talked of drawing 
out the young Britannicus from his retreat, of presenting 
him to the Praetorian guards, and of relating the motives 
under which she acted, and the artifices by which she had 
preferred her own son to a throne of which he now ap- 
peared so unworthy. 

Words, thus passionately and thus impoliticly uttered, 
were soon conveyed to the emperor. To awaken fear in 
a person so cowardly and so cruel, was to let loose his 
worst passions ; and the designs of Agrippina (which, if 
seriously embraced, would have been more carefully con- 
cealed,) were frustrated by the murder of Britannicus — 
poisoned while supping with the emperor, in the presence 
of Octavia. 

Agrippina was stunned by the boldness and atrocity of 
a crime which involved her own ruin. That Seneca and 
Burrhus were cognizant of the murder may be inferred 
from the large share which both obtained of the confis- 
cated estates of the victim ; but Agrippina lost in Britan- 
nicus her last security against the criminal machinations 
of her unnatural son ; and she testified, says Tacitus, by 
her horror and consternation, her innocence of the crime, 
in which the malice of her enemies sought to involve her. 

Still unsubdued, she boldly bound up her own fate with 
that of Rome ; and is said to have allied herself with the 
most eminent patriots among the patrician malecontents, 
and to have even gained the tribunes by her eloquence, 
and the centurions by her largesses. Whether only sus- 
pected of these designs, or betrayed, Nero deprived her of 
her guards, replaced them by his own, and made her a 
prisoner in her own palace. It was at this period that 
Nero was accused of having attempted her life by poison ; 
against which the unhappy mother, it is said, had fortified 
her constitution by antidotes. 

The failure of the crime, if crime there was, (for, if the 


story is in keeping with the character of the emperor, 
Ihe circumstances will not stand the scrutiny of modem 
criticism), was followed by a reconciliation, to which the 
mother was only too ready to accede, and of which she 
was perhaps alone the dupe. But a new accusation was 
brought against her by Julia Silana, the widow of that 
Silanus, who had put himself to death on the event of 
Agrippina's marriage with Claudius. Julia discovered, 
or pretended to have discovered, a conspiracy contrived 
by the mother to dethrone her son, and to place Plautus, 
a descendant of Augustus, at the head of the empire. 
Agrippina pleaded her own cause ; and, in a passionate 
outburst of feeling, exclaimed, << the woman who has made 
this accusation never had a son." 

The defence was successful, and the accusation fkiled. 
Agrippina was declared innocent, her accuser was banish- 
ed, and Nero, embracing his mother, covered her with 
caresses, and once more received her into his seeming 
confidence. But, if she were deceived by this show of 
afiection, the world was not ; and Agrippina, returning to 
her villa at Antium, was abandoned by all, save the few 
faithful servants who now composed her diminished house* 

The eventful tragedy hastened rapidly to its last act. 
The awful catastrophe needs but a simple narration, to 
give it all that poetical interest, which is wanting to the 
dramatized murder of Britannicus.* Nero, though now 
resolved on the death of his mother, was perplexed by the 
difficulties which surrounded its perpetration ; and he con- 
fided his distress to the slave to whose care Tiberius had 
consigned his infancy. 

The stratagem which Anicetus proposed was at t)nce 
adopted, as promising an all but certain success. Agrip- 
pina was still at Antium, when the plot was to be carried 

* Racine's play, though bearing ihe name of Britannicus, deriires its 
principal interest from Agrippina. It is Evident that the author thought 
the murder of a mother too horrible for scenic representation ; but, in 
selecting the precursory act, which leads to it, for his drama, he h&s 
sacrificed truth and effect to conventional propriety. 


into execution. Nero had proceeded with the imperial 
court to Baie, to celebrate the festival of Minerva ; and 
he despatched an a^ctionate message to his mother^ (for 
^Vfrom such a mother, he observed, one must endure much 
and forgive all,") which brought the credulous or poUtie 
empress to his arms. 

The imperial villa at Bauli stood at a short distance 
from the lovely shores of Raise; and the emperor, watching 
the approach of his mother's barge, sprang forward to 
assist her to land. When the moment arrived for their 
progress to Baise, another barge, remarkable for its ele- 
gance and splendour, was destined for Agrippina and her 
attendants. But a muttered warning from an unknown 
voice deterred her from accepting the distinction. Nero, 
thus foiled for the moment, laughed at her fears, increased 
his caresses, and assisted in placing her in her litter, when 
she determined to go by land. 

During the festival, he placed her at his right hand, and 
talked to her, sometimes with familiar gayety, sometimes 
with an air of gravity that gave^to his whispered sentences 
the air of state secrets. At an hour after midnight, 
Agrippina withdrew, leaving the younger guests to pro- 
long their orgies.. Nero himself conducted her to the 
barge, in which she was to return. Their parting, it is 
said, was marked by the strong emotion (whether of ap- 
prehension or of regret) of the emperor; who stood on the 
shore till the little vessel, on which his eyes were fixed, 
had disappeared behind a headland. 

The night was calm and clear ; the firmament sparkled 
with the lights of myriads of stars; and the sea, as if to 
accuse the criminal, was smooth as a mirror. The 
happy mother (then all a mother), reclined on a couch 
spread on the deck beneath a canopy of rich drapery ; in 
the fulness of her heart, she continued conversing with 
Creperius Gallus, who stood near the helm, and with her 
freed woman, Acerronia, who lay at her feet. They 
were still felicitating her on her perfect reconciliation with 
the emperor, and spoke of happy days to come for Rome 
and for the world, when the canopy above them suddenly 


kl\ with a tremendous crash, which proved it to be laden 

with lead and iron. Gallus was killed on the spot. A 

towety rushing forward to despatch the empress, arrested 

the attention of Acerronia, who, exclaiming, << You mistake 

--I am Agrippina," received the blow on her bosom, and 

expired.^ Agrippina, with her usual energy and presence 

of mindf plunged into the calm waters, and was taken up 

by a vessel from the Lucrine Lake and conveyed to Bauli 

in safety. 

Nero received the intelligence of the failure of his ma- 
chinations with horror and consternation. Agrippina, 
alive and aware of his meditated crime, was a witness 
against him to the world, and to posterity. The convic- 
tion served only to increase his ferocity; and no longer 
seeking his advice from slaves and freed men, he sum- 
moned his graver counsellors, Seneca and Burrhus, to his 
presence. He stated to them his complaints against his 
mother, and appealed to their judgment on the necessity 
of getting rid of her, and the means of effecting the desira- 
ble purpose. Seneca, the cautious and wily — wilting to 
strike, but fearful to speak, — signed with his head to Bur- 
rhus- The stout soldier, equally vile, but more dauntless 
than the philosopher, observed that the Prsetorian cohorts 
would never stand calmly by to witness the death of the 
daughter of Germanicus, murdered in cold blood ; and he 
advised that Anicetus, the one man in Rome capable of 
the perilous act, should be intrusted with its consum- 

It was evening when this awful council was held ; it 
was scarcely night when Anicetus and a party of soldiers 
landed on the flowery shores of Bauli, and crept with 
noiseless steps to the silent villa where Agrippina lay on 
her restless couch, confiding to her female slave her suf- 
fering and her suspicions. The soldiers had surrounded 
the palace, when Anicetus, with a centurion and others, 
burst open the doors, seizing the slaves they met in their 
way. When they reached the half-lighted chamber of 
the empress, the slave with whom she was conversing 
screamed and fled. Aggrippina, raising herself, with all 

VOL. II. 5 



the assumed, dignity of her birth and station, exclaimed, 
'' If you are sent to inquire afler my health, tell the em* 
peror I am better. But if you come with evil intent, be- 
ware ; my son can never have commanded a parricide." 

To this artful but noble apostrophe, the captain of the 
galley replied by striking the empress on the head. 
Roused, rather than stunned, by the blow, she spraiig 
up like a wounded lioness, and, observing the centurion 
drawing his sword, she rent aside her drapery, and cried 
— <« Strike here! This is the womb that gave birth to 
Nero !" The centurion obeyed ; and, under the reiterated 
blows of her murderers, the mother of the world'd master 
sank, without further resistance, and fell dead upon her 

Thus perished Julia Agrippina, afler a glorious reign of 
ten years. Suspected of great crimes, history has best 
proved her great qualities. During the last five years of 
her husband's, and the first five of her son's reign, she 
gave peace and prosperity to the empire by the sagacity 
of her administration ; and she carried on the light of mind 
by the encouragement of the lettered. Personally distin- 
guished as she was intellectually endowed, the noblest 
artists of her own and of modern times have stood in- 
debted to the beauty of her form for their models of sym- 
metry and grace ; and the greatest historian of Rome, in 
making her authorship his own,*' may owe something of 
the terseness of his style to the brevity of her wit, which 
spoke in epigram. Her faults belonged to the bad men 
and bad age in which she lived — the worst on record : her 
virtues and her genius were her own. She inherited them 
from Agrippa, the friend and counsellor of Augustus, and 
from Agrippina, the wife of OermanicUs« 

Her remains, beautiful even in death, were burned with 
indecent haste, on the couch where she fell. As the flames 
arose, Mnester, a freedman of the empress, pierced his 
bosom with his sword ; and, springing upon the pyre, 
mingled his memory, for ever, with that of the daughter 
of Germanicus. To that memory Nero raised po tomb ; 

* Tacilui. 


to its honour Seneca composed no oration. The emperor, 
like an emancipated spirit of evil exulting in his crime, 
wrote boldly to the senate to avow the deed ; and Seneca 
wrote also to justify it. When the fStes of Minerva were 
over, Nero returned to Rome ; and the people rushed forth 
round his golden chariot, and hailed the parricide with 
joyous acclamations. 

It was not till after his death, that the household slaves 
of Agrippina ventured to raise a lowly monument to their 
mistress, near a ruined villa of Julius Csesar, on the high 
road to Misenum. After a sweep of nearly two thousand 
years, when the traveller wanders along the delicious 
shores of BaisB, and tracks the steps of antiquity, some 
simple cicerone is sure to guide him to the spot, and, 
pointing, with a sigh of traditional sympathy, to an 
almost illegible inscription, traced on a mouldering rock, 
observes : 

£cco la tomba della Grande Agrippina. 


The Women of Rome under the Empire continued. Epicharis. PoUa 
Argenteria. Paulina. Pomponia Grecina. 

The death of Agrippina was closely followed by the 
accomplishment of her prophecy. Nero threw off the 
last restraints which a feeble reason and a doubtful hu- 
manity had imposed on his frantic cruelty. The events 
of his subsequent reign are marked in blood ; but the brief 
and graphic historian, who has lent his genius to illustrate 
them, is in the hands of the educated, from Indus to the 
Pole ; and their recapitulation is unnecessary. The striking 
circumstance, the warning moral, derivable from the nar- 


rative, and deserving to be held forth to all posterity, is 
the fact, that mankind submitted to this madman ; and 
that, among the base and craven slaves who pandered to 
his power, were some of the most polished intellects of 
the. age. 

Still, Rome was not wholly destitute of men, and of 
women, too, whose spirit revolted against the ruthless 
cruelty of Nero, and who were resolved on his destruc- 
tion at all sacrifices. A conspiracy was formed by Caius 
Piso, who had rendered himself popular by his private 
and his public virtues, by his genius, and by the brilliant 
versatility of his talents. He had already incurred the 
hate and the suspicion of Nero, as being among the men 
marked out as his successor to the empire. 

Into this conspiracy a woman was admijtted, who soon 
became its vivifying spirit, and most efficient partisan; 
this was Epicharis, an enfranchised slave, whose early 
and predestined life had rendered her celebrated for her 
beauty and her conquests, but could not have prepared 
her to sustain the weight of a perilous enterprise in which 
the interests of a mighty empire were involved. In her 
eagerness for a crisis, she had proposed engaging in the 
plot the officers of the marine, and had succeeded in the 
attempt. But, among their number, some one of her new 
adherents, either in fear or in avarice, denounced the con- 
spiracy, and involved in his accusations some of the most 
eminent and best men of Rome. 

It was still in the power of Piso, through his favour 
with the army, and his popularity with the people, to 
have had himself proclaimed emperor ; or he might have 
retreated to some distant province, and awaited the death 
of Nero by other hands ; but, despairing of a world from 
which liberty was banished, he refused to live; and, re- 
tiring to his villa, he was found, by the officers sent to 
arrest him, with his veins open, and dead upon his couch. 

Epicharis was taken alive, and brought into the presence 
of Nero, who mingled all the seductions of a man not des- 
titute in the arts of persuasion, with all the terrors of the 
tyrant, to flatter or to betray her into the revelations he 


desired: but no blandishment disturbed, no torture sub* 
dued, the constancy of her nature. Scourges, hot irons, 
the sword, and the fagot, were applied to her delicate 
person to extort a name, and were applied in vain. Not 
one^word that could compromise an accomplice escaped 
her lips ; and, mangled and tortured, she was taken back 
to her prison. There, while her guards were employed, 
in a distant part of the chamber, in preparing new instru- 
ments of torture, she strangled herself with a scarf, with 
which she fastened her neck to the back of her chair, and 
carried with her the secret of her brave heart, that, if re- 
vealed, would have compromised the lives of hundreds. 

But there were others engaged in the plot ; Seneca and 
Lucan — ^the stoic philosopher and the elegant versifier! 
They, the preceptor, the friends, and the favourites of 
Nero, had joined in the political movements ; and how did 
they act ? They died as they had lived, in the indulgence 
of their habitual egotism, and in that feebleness of spirit 
which belongs to the littleness of inordinate vanity, how- 
ever brilliant the talent with which it may be accom/- 

Lucan, a young literary adventurer from Cordova, had 
recommended himself to the emperor's notice by poetical 
panegyrics on the imperial author^ Received into high 
favour at court, and promoted to office, his short-sighted 
self-sufficiency led him to enter the lists with the imperial 
author of <' Niobe." The laurel was won by Lucan; and 
Nero, who could bear no rival near the throne, even of 
Parnassus, treated him from that time with indignity and 

Confounding his own wrongs with those of his country, 
Lucan readily entered into the conspiracy of Piso, and was 
condemned to death. Under these circumstances, he has 
been accused, (let it be hoped falsely), of having denounced 
his own mother, in the hope of purchasing pardon from 
his parricide master. But his life was not saved by the 
atrocious complaisance ; and the only favour he obtained 
was the choice of his death. He chose that of the gentle- 
men stoics of the day— the warm bath and an open artery ; 



and he expired in all the vanity of authorship, reciting his 
own verses. 

To his wife^Polla Argenteria, he assigned the more dif- 
ficult task of surviving him, hut of surviving him only to 
copy that poem destined to immortalize his memory, ^s 
she supported him in his last moments, she consented to 
live, and to become the preserver of his work, the guar- 
dian of his fame. All Rome bore testimony 4o the courage 
with which she accepted this office, and to the judgment 
with which it was executed. Shut up in her solitary re- 
treat, with the bust of Lucan beside her, and clad in the 
deep weeds of widowhood, Polla Argenteria was seen, by 
those who had the courage to visit her, in the daily task 
of carefully revising the Pharsalia ; and she thus pre- 
sented an image of conjugal devotedness, and of intellec- 
tual capacity^ well fitted to the highest inspirations of art, 
but which still remains for genius to embody and perpe- 

The conspiracy of Piso furnished Nero with a pretext 
for the death of Seneca, against whom, however, the 
proofs were not very conclusive: but the enormous wealth 
of the quondam preceptor pointed him out as a probable 
successor to the empire ; exciting tit once the jealousy and 
cupidity of the tyrant pupil. That Seneca was acquainted 
with the conspiracy, and even with the day and hour in 
which Nero was to perish, we are informed on the au- 
thority of Tacitus. The rhetorical philosopher attempted 
to explain away his conduct, and to clear himself of the 
suspicions which were raised against him ; but the author 
of the treatise " of^benefits," which opens with the maxim, 
that <* services ill placed are necessarily ill repaid," though 
he had deceived Caligula, and for a while imposed on 
Agrippina, possessed no sophistry to baffle the cupidity of 

Having, therefore,- retired with his young wife, Paulina, 
from Rome to one of his villas in the Campania, he was 
seated at supper with her and with two friends, when the 
house was surrounded by soldiers, and the imperial sen- 
tence deliv^ied to him. The manner of his death, like 

, UUDBft TOE XMPISfi* (^ 

ib&t of Lucaoy was left to himself. Assuming, for the 
inevitable occasion, the stoicism he had so ostentatiously 
professed, and so often conveniently shaken off, he pre* 
pared himself to die ; observing that «< such a mandate 
might well be expected from the tyrant, who bad assassi- 
Dated his own brother, (of whose property Seneca had 
shared the plunder,) and murdered his own mother,'' (to 
which Seneca had consented, and which he publicly justi- 
fied:) a memorable instance of that sera sapientia^ the 
of&pring of a fear-awakened conscience, which, ever 
coming too late for profitable action, serves only to embit- 
ter the occasion which it cannot repair. 

Seneca died as he had lived, — ^an egotist and a hypo- 
crite, the Tartufte of an austere and self-denying philoso- 
phy. When the excited feeling of his devoted wife broke 
forth in an impatient expression of a wish |o die with her 
husband, he eagerly availed himself of the offer, and 
encouraged the sacrifice ; and he beheld, without remorse, 
her full young veins pour forth their tide of life, while his 
own bled so slowly, that he was conveyed to a warm bath, 
to quicken their circulation. 

But while Paulina was sinking, Nero, more merciful 
than the author of the treatise '< on clemency," ordered 
that her wounds should be bound up, afid her life saved* 
Thus deprived of his conjugal victim, Seneca turned to his 
attendants, whom he edified with strains of self-praise and 
mouth morality ; observing, that though he had nought 
else to bequeath them^ he left them the example of his life, 
the innocence of which they might imitate, and by imi- 
tating, gain immortality. Having thus shown his friends 
and followers how a philosopher could die^ this counterfeit 
Socrates poured forth a libation to Jupiter Liberator, and 
surrendered himself to his fate. 

Thus perished, with a falsehood on his lips, the man 
whom St. Jerome has not disdained to rank among Chris- 
tian writers,'"' but whose memory is not the less consigned 

* " D'anciennefl ^ilioni de Seneque contiennent qaatone lettret que 
ce philo«ophe aurait ^critea k St Paul ; maia angourd'hui cea lettrea aoat 


to the immortal contempt of the truthful and the honest, 
in all future times and nations. But Paulina, the single- 
hearted and self-immolating, lived on, an object of venera- 
tion and respectful curiosity to all Rome : men came to 
gaze upon her pale and bloodless form, as upon a fine 
monument of Parian marble^ chiselled by genius, to com- 
memorate some great sacrifice of female virtue ; a noble 
impersonation of the moral endurance of woman's affec- 
tions, and of that sustaining tenderness which can suffer 
all, and even survive all, under the energizing excitement 
of a life-mastering sentiment. Paulina, while she lived, 
was the most eloquent monument of the cruelty and 
tyranny of the murderer of her husband, of him who was 
the master of her own destiny, and the enemy of all public 
and private excellence. 

In the five years which filled up the interval from the 
death of Agrippina to that of Nero, the number, no less 
than the atrocity of the crimes committed by the tyrant 
and endured by the people, startles the belief of the most 
credulous, and might surpass the conception of the most 

The parricide had suspended his career of blood guilti- 
ness, to contend for the charioteer's prize at the Olympic 
games, (for Nero, with the true tendency of an animal 
temperament, loved to live with horses, and managed them 
better than any groom in the imperial stables :) but on his 
return to Rome, crowned with golden laurels, and sur- 
rounded by mimes and musicians, his murderous appetite 
again sought out the objects of its indulgence ; and the 
monster, who had scarcely left a friend to destroy, turned 
his eyes upon the Empress Poppsea, his beautiful wife, in 
hatr^ and disgust. From the moment he had married 
her, she had lost the piquant charm of vice, her greatest 
attraction in the eyes of her satiated husband ; and now, 

J^n^ralement regard^es comme apocryphei, quoique St Angastin et St. 
erome le^ aient cities pourStre de Seneque, et qa'on ait prouve pardes 
raisons ing^nieases la vraisemblance d'uii commerce epistolaire entre le 
philoaopbe et I'apdtre.— > Vie de Seneque, CSuvret Complilee avee la tfU' 
dmcturn pear Miaord. 


a/ler overwhelming h^ with outrage, he determined to put 
her to death. 

His thirst of blood increasing, as it was fed by private 
murders and public executions, he observed, at one of his 
orgies, " Caligula wished that after him the world might 
perish; I wish it to be burnt, and to be the witness of 
its destruction." Ere the morning's dawn, Rome was in 
flames, and it was asserted that the imperial lyrist was 
seen, by the light of its flames, in the masquerade of a 
musician, reciting his own poem on the burning of Troy ! 

The greater part of such a capital as the world has 
never since beheld, was thus destroyed ; and the terrified 
and drunken incendiary, on coming to his senses, added to 
his iniquity, by throwing the odious act upon a community 
which was at that time becoming numerous in Rome, — a 
community which, though preaching virtue, charity, the 
worship of one God, and the love of the universal species, 
had, as yet, been confounded with the despised Jews, and 
thus saved from persecution, by obscurity or contempt 

How Httle the sect was then known to the higher classes 
of the Romans, may be gathered from that powerful his- 
torian, to whose pages classical posterity looks as the best 
authority for the times they record. Nevertheless, in re- 
lating the horrible fact, with all its disgusting details, the 
historian has left behind him an indelible testimony of his 
incapability of reading the future in the present, a defect 
which has so often vitiated the judgments 6f those reputed 
the wisest in their generation. However lowly the per- 
secuted sect might have been at the moment of the catas- 
trophe, its dogmas, at the period when Tacitus wrote, were 
sufficiently known, to have redeemed it from the contempt 
with which he treats it ; for it unquestionably exhibited, 
both in the nature of its doctrines, and in the rapidity of 
their dissemination, features well calculated to startle an 
inquiring and philosophical spectator. 

Had Tacitus, in adopting the memoirs of Agrippina, 
borrowed also her perspicacity, he might have seen in the 
community «< commonly known by the name of Chris- 


tians,'' the nucleus of a system containing within it the 
seeds of a mighty revolution. By preaching the equality 
of all men in the sight of God, the followers of Jesus 
were bringing over the lowest and most numerous portion 
of mankind, the politically degraded, and the personally 
enslaved ; while, by substituting for the absurd, worn out, 
grossly tangible creed of polytheism, an idealized and 
subtle belief in one invisible and inscrutable intelligence, 
^he last refinement of the most penetrating philosophers of 
Grreece) they secured the ultimate adhesion of the specu- 
lative and the refined. 

To the modern, at least, looking on the past from the 
vantage ground of experience, it seems scarcely possible 
to comprehend, how a calm and penetrating politician, like 
Tacitus, could have avoided seeing, in the utter prostration 
and effceteness of the Roman religion, (laughed at by the 
ffreat, its ministers, and deserted by the common people 
for the grossest superstitions,) the causes of approaching 
destruction ; or how could he have failed to behold in the 
Christian system the creation of an overruling necessity, 
— «n adaptation to the wants of the times, predestined to 

«< From the death of Christ to that memorable rebellion of 
the Jews, which was terminated only by the ruin of Jeru- 
salem,'' (says Gibbon,)* " we cannot discover any traces 
of Roman intolerance, unless they be found in the sudden, 
the transient, but cruel persecution, which was exercised 
by Nero against the Christians, when the capital of the 
empire was afflicted by fire, which raged beyond the 
memory or example of former ages." By this calamity, 
the monuments of Grecian art, and of Roman virtue, the 
trophies of the Punic and Gallic wars, the most holy 
temples and the most splendid palaces, were involved in 
one common destruction ; and it was in vain that the vigi- 
lance of government neglected none of those precautions 
which tended to alleviate the evil ; that the imperial gar- 
dens were thrown open to the distressed multitude, that 
temporary buildings were erected for their accoromoda- 

• Vol. n. 


tioD; and that a plentiful supply of corn and provisions 
was distributed at a moderate price. 

Still the voice of rumour accused the emperor himself 
of having been the incendiary of his own capital ; and no 
prudence could defend him from the suspicion of the peo- 
ple, who believed that every crime might be justly imputed 
to the assassin of his mother and his wife.* Nero, there- 
fore, attempted to remove the odious suspicion from him- 
self, by accusing the Christians, "whom obscurity and 
innocence might have shielded from persecution." 

The Jews, numerous in the capital, and oppressed in 
their own country, might have been deemed a much fitter 
object for the suspicions of the emperor and the people ; 
but they had very recently possessed a protectress wanting 
to the humble Christians, — had a powerful advocate in the 
palace of Nero, and even in the heart of the tyrant him- 
self. This was his own mistress and wife, Poppaea, who, 
while yet in power, had, (in conjunction with the actor 
Aliturus, the emperor's favourite, and himself of " the race 
of Abraham,") employed her intercession on behalf of the 
obnoxious Jews. But the lowly and misrepresented Gali- 
leans,t though lefl undisturbed by the late .sagacious em- 
press, had not as yet made their way to the palaces of 
imperial favourites, nor obtained protection on that site, 
where the head of their community was in future times to 
succeed in temporal power to the Ceesars, and in spiritual 
authority to the Pontifices Maximi of Rome. 

" In the annals of the historian Tacitus, afler the de- 
scription of the terrible fire at Rome, we read," says a 
modern ecclesiastical historian^ " with sorrow and indig- 
nation, the following passage ;" and the desicription is too 
authoritative and too graphic to be here omitted. 

* Gibbon, toL iL 

t ** Under the appellation of Galileaiis, two distinctions of men were 
confounded, the most opposite to each other in their manners and prin- 
ciples: the disciples who had embraced the faith of Jesas of Nazareth, 
and the patriot feealota who had followed the standard of Judas the Gau- 
lonite." The former were the friends, the latter were deemed the ene- 
mies of mankind. — Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 

I Thd lUv. Gteorge Waddington, in his History of the Church, p. 13. 


>< To suppress the commoo rumour that he had himself 
set fire to the city, Nero procured others to he accused, 
and inflicted exquisite punishments upon those people, 
who were held in abhorrence for their crimes, and were 
commonly known by the name of Christians. They had 
their denomination from Chiristus, who, in the reign of 
Tiberius, was put to death as a criminal, by the procura- 
tor, Pontius Pilate. Thi^ superstition, though checked for 
a while, broke out again, and spread not only Over Judea, 
the source of this evil, but reached the city also, whither 
flow, from all quartersrall things vile and shameful, and 
where they find shelter and encouragement. At first, 
those only were apprehended who confessed themselves 
of that sect; aflerwards a vast multitude was discovered 
by them, all of whom were condemned, not so much for 
the crime of burning the city, as for their enmity to man- 
kind.* These executions were so contrived as to expose 
them to derision and contempt. Some were covered over 
with the skins of wild beasts, and torn to pieces by dogs ; 
some were crucified ; and others, having been daubed 
over with combustible materials, were set up as lights in 
the night time," &o. 

But the imagination sinks, the heart withers, atid everf 
womanly sympathy writhes, under the belief that such 
things could be, and that man — the master of the temporal 
world — the supreme head of the species, " the Lord over 
all," — should " play such tricks before high heaven," and 
should, in the short revolution of one day, have multi- 
plied more crimes, and produced more sufferings, than the 
ether sex (his self-assumed born servant) has lefl on re- 
cord during the vast sweep of six thousaiUd years. 

Yet even in this worst epoch of indited story, there were 
some instances of the highest elevation of moral nature, 
such as might have glorified the best times and best com- 
munities. While " the sect called Christians" were still 
illuminating the gardens of Nero with their burning bodies, 
the blood of the victims was multiplying the number of 

* Odio humani generis convicti: an equivocal ezprenion, which may 
imply the eDoiity of mankind towaids them. 


their proselytes, if not among the men of Rome, at least 
among the women. The noble wife of an illustrious sena- 
tor, the patrician Pomponia Grecina, was accused of the 
crime of Christianism ! Nero, (sick, perhaps, of his own 
excesses, and in the temperance of surfeited satiety, which 
follows all brutal ex<3ess), handed over the suspected ad- 
herent of the new spiritual philosophy, to the ancient laws 
of Rome, which constituted the husband the sole judge, in 
all cases in which his wife was the accused culprit, (a 
curious proof of the real and legal state of womanhood in 
Rome in the first century of Christianity.) The husband 
heard her plead her cause at his tribunal ; and whether 
she had or not '< almost persuaded him to be a Christian," 
be declared her innocent, and acquitted her with all the 
power which the law accorded him. 

But a still greater contemporary example of the highest 
virtue, combined with the noblest heroism, was, at this 
time, rescuing humanity from universal odium ; and this 
example still came from woman, the great conservalress 
of humanity in all epochs of its impending extinction. 

The great colossus of power and iniquity— ^the Roman 
state — (an eternal monument and warning to posterity,) 
though undermined and rotten within, was still powerful 
and imposing without ; and bravery, the earliest, was also 
the last of its virtues. The spirit of all Rome still hovered 
over its remote camps ; and the Romans, (no longer re- 
spected for their justice at home,) were still famed for 
their prowess in arms abroad. 

While Nero found a pretext for burning the Christians 
in Rome, his worthy representative, therefore, in Britai0» 
Suetonius Paulinus, was carrying fire and devastation, not 
only to the hearths of the conquered, but into the sombre 
fi>rests of the Druidical worship ; destroying at once the 
altars and the institutes, the religion and the liberty of a 
barbarous but free and brave people. The cruelty and 
brutal insults of some Roman centurions, towards the 
innocent slaughters of a British chieflainess, (Boadicea, the 
leader or princess of the Iceni,) roused a spirit, which the 

VOL. II. 6 


most oppressive burdens and severe persecutions had not 
armed into resistance. 

Boadicea,* doubly armed by maternal vengeance and 
by patriot pride, headed the most powerful revolt ever 
raised against Roman power in Britain. Calpus, the ' 
Roman governor, was deposed : sixty thousand Romans 
were defeated. Suetonius Paulinus, surrounded by an 
armed and formidable multitude, in vain fortified himself 
in London : and, fearing to perish by famine, he gave 
battle, in spite of the inequality of numbers. But he re- 
called to his legions that they must now rely on the ad- 
vantage which theit tactics and discipline gave them oter 
a disorderly multitude. 

Boadicea, with her two daughters, was at the head of 
that tumultuous multitude; and from her war-chariot 
harangued and stilled them into silence as she spoke. 
♦* Every law, human and divine," (observes this orator 
of Nature's own school) " authorizes me, though I were 
a private individual, to wash out the shame inflicted on 
those my children,. in the blood of the violators. But I 
go to fight, oh Britons, to avenge your wrongs with my 
own. Either we this day exterminate our tyrants, or we 
die in the glory of the attempt. It is better to die free, 
than to live dishonoured and enslaved !" ' 

Boadicea gave the signal for the onset, and was said by 
the Romans themselves to have commanded with the skill 
of an experienced general, and to have fought with the 
courage of the bravest soldier. She fought in the only 
legitimate war — the fight of freedom, the salvation of her 
native land, and the destruction of the invading enemies of 
her country. Eighty thousand British patriots Ml around 
her, and (terished in the struggle. She also fell^ — but, like 
another royal patriot, by her own hand. No one British 

* Boadicea, though atamped by the Romana of that day with the epi* 
thet of barbarian, aiid» in fact, the creature of another education, and other 
circumatancea from thoae crf'the women of Rome, belongs to their history. 
At that time Rome had become the universe : and the accident of birth 
was not alone a sufficient ground for excluding any one who belonged to 
the annala of the empire, from a place in the general tableau of its moral 


prince or king had ever done so much for England as this 
woman; and Rome never vanquished a foe, whose fail 
covered its victors with deeper shame or fouler disgrace. 
The story of Boadicea, as' queen, patriot, and mother, is 
one of the most dramatic in the history of woman ; and her 
character and courage are among the brightest illumina- 
tions that irradiate its pages. 


The Women of the Empire Seztilia. Veleda. CpmiAa. 

Domitia Longina. 

Thb death of Nero, in its manner and circumstances, 
was characterized by a poetical justice. Its perpetration, 
q^arked by horror and contempt, was an act of popular 
rage and indignation. The people who, during the life of 
the empress mother, had still, in the person of her son, 
revered the grandson of Grermttnicus, the lineal descendant 
of Augustus, and the last of the Julian race, now branded 
with execration the memory of the frantic tyrant, whose 
ruin nearly " involved that of the whole empire."* In the 
space of nineteen months, four successive princes perished 
by the sword, the Roman world was shaken by contending 
armies to its centre, and the danger of a general dissolu- 
tion, moral and political, proceeding from unbridled mili- 
tary license, were circumstances which made the eulogium 
of her, whose reign had been one of wisdom and prosperity, 
and whose ashes still remained unhonoured on the shores 
of BaisB. 

Out of such elements of anarchy and disorganization, 
arose three passing phantoms, masters of the world, con- 

•Gibbon, vol. i. p. 118. 


jared up as if by the spell of some evil and magical power, 
from the crumbling fragments of the social and moral 

The brief existence of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, gave 
a still further extension to the crimes and vices incidental 
to an unquestioned authority; and their rapid rise and 
downfall, << while it taught the arn^ies to consider the 
Roman emperors as the creatures of their will," made 
them " the instruments of their license,"* and consum- 
mated the ruin of Roman liberty for ever. In this awful 
interval, the uncurbed passions and sensual appetites of 
man raged unrestricted, while the influence of woman's 
civilizing affections lay in abeyance, or was only called on 
in moments of man's direst exigency. 

The virtues by which Galba had been distinguished as a 
subject, turned to vices, when he became emperor; and the 
puppet of the " Pedagogues" (as his three favourites were 
called, each of whom governed alternately, with different 
dispositions to evil,) became hateful as the plunderer of the 
people, and contemptible as the appraiser of the riches of 
the great. His short reign was only marked by tyfo 
important facts : that he was the last emperor derived 
from the ancient nobility of Rome, and that he gave the 
first example of the election of an emperor in a foreign 

His colleague and successor Otho, (who in better times 
would have teen a better man, and who would have been 
worthy to govern others, had he not, in the intoxication of 
unlimited power lost the power of governing himself,) soon 
shared his fate, and fell the victim of the circumstances in 
which he was placed. Both had banished all women 
from their courts, save the worst; yet Otho paid a last 
tribute to the generous sympathies of the sex ; and, while 
the dagger destined for his self-destruction lay beside him, 
his last thought was given to his wife and sister. Having 

• Gibbon, p. 120. 

t Valeato imperii arcano, posse principem alibi quam Romae, fieri. — 


written letters, full of feeling, to both, commending his 

asbes to their x^re, he put himself to death. 

The character and court of Vitellius, the proverbial 
gourmand of antiquity,* protected all the vices most fatal 
to the interests and happiness of woman. Vitellius^ who 
had taken Nero for his model, and had made a solemn 
offering to his manes, had been, like the son of Agrippina, 
an object of the cares and fears of an enlightened and 
high-minded mother, (Sextilia,) who^^ on his accession to 
power, he honoured with the name of Augusta. Sextilia, 
when she heard that her son was raised to the throne of 
the empire, wept in the bitterness of her heart, foreseeing 
in that event his. death, and probably her own. 

The event justified her apprehensions; for Vitellius, true 
to his type, and to his antecedents,! having learned a 
popular prophecy, which declared that, if he survived his 
mother, he would enjoy a prolonged life, forthwith banished 
her from his court. When, however, he discovered that 
he could not break her heart by his ferocidus ingratitude, 
he put her to death, j: 

* «Toatet lea ricbesMt de Rome saffitaiem k peine aoxd^penses de 
salable : elle coata quatre-vingt-dii-millions de sesterces en quatre mois, 
on ruina des villes poor satinaire I, sa yoracit^."— 'iSeg-ur, HuL Univer' 

It was said of ViteQias that he paid the revenueaof a province for a 
sapper: "had he li^ed," said Josephus, " he would ha^e deroured the 
empire." But the science of the emperor, according to the modern phi- 
losophy of the caisine, was by no means comparable to hi8extrayagance8<; 
as bis famous " dish of Minerva*' sufficiently proves. In the fasti of epi> 
curism, there is nothinjg less accordant to the principles of a healthftil 
taste, than that dish which gave to the master ot the world the reputation 
of the master-cook of his age. According to the receipt o# ViteUius, his 
diefs were ordered to " take the livers of a thousand young eel pouts, the 
brains of as many pheasants, and the soft roes of as many lampreys," 
which, with a variety of other ingredients, too nomerous to mention, 
composed this famous dish, called ** the shield of Minerva," probably from 
the golden plateau on which it was first served. As all the great men of 
Rome cooked their way to his favour, his brother Lucius, to excel all 
others, gave him a supper, at which were served up two thousand dishes 
of fish, and seven thousand of fowl and game. 

t He was the companion of Tiberius, was popular with Caligula for 
his skill in charioteering, with Claudius for his gambling, and with Nero 
for his vices and his flattery. 

t Concerning the death of Sextilia, Suetonius says that " opinion was 
divided ; that the emperor was suspected of having starved her, on ac» 



From that moment all the barriers of humanity were 
thrown down. The excess of the emperor's debaucheries 
rendered his palace uninhabitable by virtuous women ; and 
the empress, (one of the most virtuous,) obtained permis* 
sion to retire to an humble and secluded dwelling in the 
most remote and solitary part of the Aventiiie, where, for- 
gotten by her brutified husband, she not improbably 
escaped a violent death, to which, in some moment of 
ferocious caprice, her '* master" might have condemned 

It is worthy, however, of observation, that when danger 
and difBculty fell upon this monster, his mind turned in 
sympathy towards his neglected wife ; and Tacitus tells 
us that he gave up the struggle for throne and life, lest an 
obstinate resistance should harden the victor's heart against 
her and his children. 

When the fears inspired by the crimes of Vitellius gave 
place to contempt for his vices, the awful prediction of his 
mother was accomplished. The legions raued the standard 
of revolt abroad, the Prsetorians at home rejected their owa 
choice, disgusted at his ferocious stupidity. Without avail- 
ing himself of the chances of ppen war, Vitellius remained 
in Rome to await his doom. The people rose tumultuously; 
civil war raged in the streets, even to the gates of the 
palace; and the glorious capitol was taken by storm. 

Vitellius, meantime, seated at supper, enjoyed his '< dish 
of Minerya ;" the battle raging without between his Grer- 
man guards and the people, and the flames rising from the 
cradle of Roman greatness. This, his last orgie, was 
accompani^ by the murder of the prefect Sabinus, who 
was torn to pieces before his eyes, for having proclaimed 
Vespasian his successor. Having thus, for the last time 

count of a German woman's prophecv, that he would emoy a long and 
yigorous reign if he survived his mother ^ but others said that Seztilia, 
worn out with a weariness j)f the present, and despair of the future, de- 
manded poison at her son's hands, and obtained it without difficulty." 
Tacitus barely mentions her death, but in terms somewhat suspicious. 
*' £rat iili (he says) et fessa state parens, que tamen pancis ante diebus 
opportune morte, ezcidium domus pnevenit ; nihil principatu filii ademta, 
nisi luctum et bonam famam.'* 


enjoyed the delicacies of a copious feast, the emperor, 
(whom nothing could determine to fight like a soldier, or 
die like a man,) escaped in disguise, accompanied by his 
cook and confectioner, and fled to his wile, who received 
him in his direst adversity, as if she had not been banished 
from his splendid prosperity. 

Deceived by false intelligence, he returned to the palace, 
aad found it a desert. Loading his girdle with gold coin, 
he next attempted to hide behind the bed of one of the 
palace porters, where he was attacked by dogs, discovered, 
and dragged, half naked and bleeding, to the forum: 
there, overwhelmed with outrages, he was slain, and his 
body cast into the Tiber. 

Of the brief and infamous reign of this monster, nothing 
remains for posterity but a brief record of his crimes, and 
of the corruption and cowardice of the people who endured 
them. His wise mother and gentle wife are known only 
by their virtues and their wrongs. 

The star of the Flavian family, which, though destined 
to shed future glories on Rome, had arisen obscurely and 
unobserved, lighted the virtues of Vespasian and the genius 
of Titus to the throne of the world ;* — and, under the suc- 
cessive mild and wise administrations of the father and the 
son, (who laughed at the genealogy ascribed to them by 
parasitical flatterers,) humanity enjoyed a transient repose* 
Vespasian, too great and sagacious to accept the dangerous 
part of despot, (assigned to him by the base senate, even 
while they affected to preserve to Rome the title of repub- 
lic,) terminated the ciyil wars of Rome with glory to him- 
self, and salvation to the people. 

A foreign war, however, suddenly broke out, which ex- 
posed the emperor and the empire to imminent peril : it 
was a war of patriotism, and it was kindled in Batavia, 
under the military command of Claudius Civilis, a victim 
of the cruelty of Vitellius, who was doubly animated by 
the desire of vengeance, and the love of liberty. His deep- 
seated hatred to the tyrant emperor, which had long lain 



dormant, suddenly burst forth into an unexpected resist- 
ance to Rome. 

The echoes of the long-silent forests of (xermany were 
then again awakened by the passionate eloquence of a 
patriot prophetess^ whose counsels were received like 
oracles, and whose watchword was — liberty. Her name 
was Veleda,* her habitation an antique tower, eitibosomed 
in a gloomy wood. Her lonely retreat became a beacon 
of wisdom to her barbarian countrymen ; and even the 
eminent and the ambitious of the most civilized communi- 
ties sought the tower of the female seer, to obtain her coun- 
sels, and to profit by her spirit-stirring words. Among 
these came Claudius Civil is ; and the result of this com- 
munication was a war, that threatened the existence of 
the Roman power in Germany. 

The sympathies of various tribes and nations rallied, at 
the call of the oppressed Germans, against Rome. A 
formidable army suddenly arose from the whispered con- 
spiracies of Veleda's forest tower. The Gauls made 
common cause with their Teutonic neighbours ; and the 
Druids and Druidesses, so long proscribed and persecuted 
by the latter Ceesars for their religion's sake, animated the 
people and their leaders. Langres, Treves, and other im- 
portant cities, caught the contagion of revolt, which spread 
even to the Roman camp. The result of the war need not 
here be related ; but the great part played by the Grerman 
prophetess is not only memorable in itself, but appears not 
to have been without its influence on Vespasian, in that 
one act which was the sole blot of his reign, the condem- 
nation and death of the illustrious Eponina. 

The condemnation of this heroic woman was an act of 
cruelty, which no political expediency could justify, and 
which the humanity of all ages has condemned; but it 
served as a dark ground to enhance the lustre of the vir- 
tues of a devoted woman, whose example proved that 

* " Inesse quinetiam sanctum aliqnid (in feminis) et proTidum putant4 
liec aut concilia earum aspernantur ant responsa negligunt. Vidimus, sub 
Divo Vespasiano, Velidam diu apud plerosque nummis loco habitam." — 
Tacitus ae Mor. Germ, 


e^jbty years of crime and demoralization had still left 
iDodels of female heroism and virtue^ to dignify the sex, 
and to redeem the species from utter degradation. 

Julius Sabinus, (who had assumed the name of Ccesar,) 
when pursued after his defeat by the government, had 
taken leave of his friends, sent back his slaves, and set 
fire to his house, in which it was believed he had perished. 
He had, however, retired to the deep recesses of a cavern, 
followed only by two slaves, to whom he had given ftee- 
dom, and of whose fidelity he was assured. His young 
wife, Eponina, whose conjugal piety was the theme of 
universal respect at Rome, gave herself up to the most 
violent despair. She desired to renounce a life that had 
now become a burden ; and her unfeigned grief favoured 
the belief that her husband no longer exist^. In pity to 
her sufferings, Sabinus at last secretly informed her of his 
existence and his retreat; when Eponina, (having pro 
longed for a time the appearance of her grief to lull sus- 
]ncion,) flew to share the voluntary captivity of her hus- 
band, withdrawing from the world with the object which 
alone had made life of value to her. 

In the depths of an obscure cave, in a remote ft>rest, 
under every privation, she gave birth to two children; but, 
whether from treachery or imprudence, the retreat of this 
unfortunate family was at last discovered. They were 
brought in chains before Vespasian, who, at their appear- 
ance, was observed to shed tears, and seemed almost 
inclined to yield to the touching prayers of the noble and 
suppliant Eponina. The habit of that age, and the politics 
of the times, the alarms of the senate, and the advice of 
Mucian, were the assigned motives of his sacrificing his 
oompassion to state policy. He condemned the illustrious 
outlaws to be executed, and reserved his mercy exclusively 
for their infants. 

At the moment that Eponina was about to be led to exe- 
cution, she recovered that pride, which her fears and her 
hopes for the safety of her husband had alike prostrated ; 
and, turning indignantly to the emperor, she boldly ex- 
claimed, << Learn, Vespasian, that I have enjoyed more 


happiness in the performances of my duties, and in pro- 
longing the days of your victim, though hut in the rude 
recess of an obscure cavern, than you will henceforth 
ever enjoy, amidst the splendours that surround your 

The glory of martyrdom and the sympathies of the 
Roman people accompanied Eponina to the scaffold ; re- 
morse and shame remained in the palace of the emperor, 
who erred but once, and that once through the instinctive 
violence and injustice of the master towards the servant. 
It was upon this occasion that Vespasian might have 
uttered, << I am then a man afler all," with a far more 
humiliating conviction of the fact, than when the insolence 
of Mucian irritated him into a momentary fit of passion, 
and, by disturbing the even tenour of his philosophic 
temper, called forth that well-known and self-glorifying 

Under the mild and splendid reign of Titus, (Vespasian^s 
son and successor) the Roman world enjoyed a transient 
felicity ; but even his character has not escaped suspicion 
and reproach. His rigorous severity to the Jews, which, 
in the judgment of posterity, has stained his memory with 
the imputation of cruelty, was, however, favourably ccm- 
strued by a people, who, during an interval of eighty 
years, had been the victims and witnesses of the wanton 
ferocity of their imperial tyrants. 

But Titus, permitted to be cruel with impunity, was 
reproached with feebleness, when his predilection for the 
society of woman was known ; and he was reviled for 
giving to the sex an empire over his passions and his will, 
&tal to his own glory, and dangerous to the prosperity of 
the empire. Arriving in Rome, afler his sanguinary con- 
quests in the East, accompanied by the far-famed Bere- 
nice, the beautiful daughter of the king of Judea, he 
gave himself up without reserve to a passion the most 
publicly testified, for this' foreign queen; and he thus 
shocked the prejudices of the Romans, whose conven- 
tional fastidiousness (it would appear) had long survived 
their moral feeling. 


fierenice had followed Titus to Rome, and ibr a time 
iohabited his palace ; she had even received his promise 
of marriage. But the master of the world evinced his 
mastery over himself, by discarding his beautiful mis- 
tress ; and, by this one act, he obtained a brighter fame 
than that which even his conquest of Jerusalem, and all 
his success as a warrior and a statesman, had procured 
for him. 

The reign of his successor and brother, Domitian, was 
the reign of every crime, and the triumph of every vice ; 
and the low ebb to which the moral condition of society 
was reduced in Rome, by the influence of his predecessors, 
and the manners of his own court and of society, though 
preserved in the bitter satires of Juvenal, and by the 
epigrammatic wit of Martial, ought, perhaps, for the good 
of mankind, to be for ever erased from the records of 
history. Still, however, in such details of a general social 
depravity, the frailties of one sex bear no proportion to the 
selfish vices and sanguinary crimes of the other. 

The condition of woman, elevated in public consideration 
during the two wise and preceding reigns, fell, with a 
fearful rapidity, during the monstrous despotism of Domi- 
tian. Their virtues or their genius became a mark for 
proscription, in some instances for death ; and he who 
waged open war against the lettered and enlightened 
among the men— ^who sent Epictetus to compose his 
morals in exile and in chains — who punished Matemus* 
and Julius Rusticus with death, for having told the' truth 
and eulogized the virtuous — was well worthy to offer pre- 
miums for femcUe corruption, and to give out a maxim 
which had the force of an edict, '« that woman was a 
natural-born slave, and man her divine righted master." 

But the shameful passions, the odious vices, the beastly 
sensuality, and ingenious cruelty of Domitian, amounting 
to delirium, did not prevent statues of gold being erected 
to the glory of a degraded monster, who, while he im- 

* Matermn wrote & book affainst tjrranny. Julias Rasticus made an 
Elogium on Thrasea and on HelvkUos Priacus. 


piously took the title of ^* Lord and God," sought amuse- 
ment in witnessing the tottures of his fellow-creatures, 
and gloated over human agonies, with a voluptuous enjoy- 
ment, that savoured of the most ferocious species of mono- 
mania ! 

His palaces swarmed with spies, parasites, and courte- 
zans ; he always went in public to the baths and theatres, 
surrounded by the shameless harpies whose sordid avidity 
preyed upon the labours of the Roman citizens, — of those 
very citizens, whose prudery had taken exception to the 
attachment of Titus for Berenice, and in whom all sense 
of moral right, and all idea of public spirit, seemed crushed 
and extinguished. 

Still, in the palace of the emperor, in the very bosom 
of his family, the mild and beneficent tenets of the new 
reforming faith had found their way. The cousin-german 
of Domitian, Flavins Clemens, avowed his conversion 
from Pagan orthodoxy, by deserting the altars of Jove 
for those of Jehovah, and was put to death. The fair 
and courageous relation of Domitian, the beautifiil Domi- 
tella, made the same hazardous confession, and escaped a 
public execution, by a perpetual exile. To flatter the 
increasing bigotry of the besotted people, Domitian re- 
vived the most violent persecution against the preachers 
of << peace and good- will to all men ;" a dogma, indeed, 
which must have been sufficiently formidable to the mon- 
ster tyrant himself, whose vocation was to trample on 
all human affections, and to uphold the exclusive selfish- 
ness of unrestricted power. Domitian, the murderer and 
parricide, came forward, like Nero, as the orthodox con- 
servator of that antique and worn-out theology, the state 
religion of the empire ; and none were spared, when ac- 
cused of propagating the new doctrine, or worshipping at 
its altars. 

Feared and hated in his own family, as throughout the 
world, he had long held his wife, the Empress Domitia 
Longina,* as the special object of his capricious passions. 

* Saetonioi. 


Alternately actuated by preference or by satiety, he had 
ibrmaily repudiated and driven her from his palace, then 
n^ooed her back to his embraces, and restored her to the 
honours of his empress and wife ; and when finally he re- 
solved to guard against all future weaknesses, by putting 
faer to death, hiis premeditated crime against his wife 
became the cause of his own destruction. 

Domitian had already put to death the most illustrious 
senators ; and others of almost equal note had fallen vic- 
tims to his suspicious jealousy, and his insatiable appetite 
for blood ; but the envious murderer of the glorious Agri- 
cola still sought to satisfy his unquenched cruelty, by wit- 
nessing the dying agonies of the woman he had most 
loved, and had most wronged. 

"> Domitia Longina, the daughter of Corbulo,'' says one 
of her biographers, << was endowed with an exquisite 
beauty, an extreme desire to please, and a mind lofly and 
capable of the highest enterprises," qualities eminently 
favourable or fatal to their possessor, according to the 
judgment associated with their exercise, or to the circum- 
stances by which they are fated to be directed and con- 
trolled. Tom by the powerful Domitian, while yet in his 
second consulate, from the private circles which her beauty 
and her wit were calculated to brighten, and where her 
vanity and ambition might have lain for ever dormant, she 
was forcibly carried on by the Caesar of the day ; who, 
trampling upon every law, human and divine, separated 
her from her husband, iElius Lamia, and married her in 
the face of all Rome. 

On becoming emperor, Domitian raised her to the 
throne, by the style and title of Augusta, placed her at the 
head of his depraved court, initiated her in its orgies, and 
exposed her to all its temptations. From such an abyss 
of vice it was impossible to escape without taint ; — and, if 
the vain and beautiful Domitia was frail, the master who 
outraged and perverted her was responsible for her frailty. 
Whatever were her sins, they never extended to any vio- 
lation of nature, — a sort of negative virtue in that age ; 
and the gallantry of which ahe was accused, (common to 

VOL. II. 7 


the time, to the caste, and to the court in which she lived,) 
became almost venial, when compared with the atrocious 
crimes and disgusting vices of her brute master. and his 
male associates. ''^ 

Whatever was the extent of Doraitia's frailty, it served 
the purpose of her stupid and incontinent husband to 
found accusations against her conduct, and to expose hei, 
through his parasites «nd paid scandal-mongers, to cotem- 
porary condemnation, and to the indolent and uninquiring 
contempt of posterity ; for history has few doubts where 
the assumed errors of woman are in question. Suspected, 
or at least accused by Domitian, of exciting a deeper inte- 
rest in the Emperor Titus than his ]cnown admiration of 
her talents accounted for, she made her own defence, and 
was cleared of the aspersion by the tribunal to which she 

Domitian, with reviving passion, again placed her on a 
throne from which he soon soyght once more to hurl her* 
But scarcely separated, he again took her back with in- 
creasing fondness, and declared, what was perfectly true, 
" that he did so in obedience to the voice of (he people." 
It was in the midst of this seeming affection, that he re- 
solved on her death. 

A happy accident threw into the hands of the empress 
the black catalogue of proscriptions, on which the emperor 
had inscribed the names of the chief confidential officers 
of his own household; and at the head of the list stood 
that of the empress herself. Among the rest were Par- 
thenius, the prefect of the palace, and Stephanus, the 
chamberlain, together with the two brave generals, Nor- 
banus and Petronius. Domitia instantly warned them of 
their danger, that they might save themselves by flight. 
They took the warning, but remained to destroy the medi- 
tated destroyer of their lives. The conspiracy which 
ended in the death of the most disgustingly sanguinary of 
the Roman tyrants, was merely domestic ; and it resem- 

* Domitia was a patroness and a lovftr of letters ; she protected the 
Jewish historian Josephus with steady friendship, even while Titus and 
DfMnitiao ^rsecated nis nation and destroyed its capital. 


hledf in the manner of its execution, some similar scenes 

enacted in the imperial chambers of the reckless despots 

oT modem times. '♦ 

Domitian had retired from one of his sumptuous orgies 

to his magnificent dormitory, and already slept on the 

eider-down of his purple couch, (for the wicked sleep 

soundly, under the influence of the same insensibility 

which makes them criminal,) when the raging of a pitiless 

storm disturbed his surfeit slumbers; and the lightning, 

whose vivid flashes were reflected on the mirrored surface 

of the walls,* awakened the fears of the powerful tyrant, 

who was said to be as superstitious as the most ignorant 

of his subjects. 

Domitian instantly despatched a messenger for a noted 
astrologer, to consult his occult wisdom on the conflict of 
the elements, so awful and perhaps portentous. The 
shallow seer explained the phenomenon, as the forerunner 
of a great political revolution ; and the emperor, in the 
feverish irritability of guilt and fear, ordered the unhappy 
prophet to be put to death. 

He then rose, and declared his intention of going to the 
bath, to soothe his perturbed spirits ; but Parthenius and 
Stephanus counselled him not to leave the security of the 
imperial apartment. Confessing, with a frank duplicity, 
that the prediction of the astrologer was not unfounded, 
they declared that there was a conspiracy formed against 
his life, and that they had possessed themselves of a list 
of the names of the conspirators, which they now pre- 
sented to him. Domitian, astounded, took the list from 
their hands, and, bending his head to peruse it, — ^perished. 
Thus fell the last of the twelve Caesars. He owed his 
death to the woman he had outraged and perverted, but 
who was neither concerned in the conspiracy, nor present 
at its execution. The innocence of Domitia Longina on 
this point was never doubted, but by one writer of no great 

* The walls of some of his ajMiitments were inlaid with polished atones, 
which reflected all that was doingt— a part of the system of espionage 
carried on in the palace. 


authority ;* taid her wrongs and her merits were acknow- 
ledged both by the senate and the people^ The latter 
hailed her with acclamations, and the former invited the 
imperial widow to appear before its tribanaly to receive 
the expression of its respects, and to offer her whatever of 
her husband's vast possessions she might please to accept. 
Domitia declined their munificent liberality, and only 
asked permission to raise a statue to the memory of him 
who had elevated her to the throne of the empire. The 
request was granted, after the people had flung down^ with 
execration the golden statues of Domitian, which they had 
once raised to his glory ; so that after his death nothing 
remained to recall his monstrous existence, but a portrait 
effigy in marble, which was erected on the Via Capitolina 
by his widow, and which, for her sake only, was permitted 
to remain. The sanguinary reign of Domitian might have 
passed in horror and in shame to oblivion, had not his 
crimes been immortalized in the pages of Tacitus, and his 
ridicules and his vices preserved in the covert and racy 
ridicule of Juvenal. 


The Women of the Empire. Plotina Pompeii. Jalia/SBbiat. The 

£mpreM Faustiaa. 

To the dark age, over whose sanguinary gloom the 
genius of Vespasian and Titus alone shed a transient 
light, succeeded a century, which, like the Trive de JDieu 
<^f more modern barbarism, gave humanity breathing time, 
and checked that impulsion to utter disorganization, by 
which society seemed to be mastered. This bright epoch of 

■ * *'One writer only/' saya Bajle, ** notices the poanbility of Domitia 
having been in the conapiracy, ot which ahe was certainly th^ caoae, and 
this was Aoreiios Victor." 


fioinan story owed its serenity to the sagacious govern- 
ment and well conditioned characters of Nerva, Trajan, 
Adrian, the two Antonines, and Marcus Aurelius. Though 
the nature of this tenure was precarious, the people en* 
joyed under it all the prosperity which may be derived 
from a felicitous alliance of monarchy and liberty. *< Happy 
times," (says Tacitus, expatiating upon this golden age of 
political history,) ^^ happy times, when every man thought 
what he spoke, and spoke what he thought !" 

During this prosperous interval, however, neither insti- 
tutions nor popular efforts had any share in protecting the 
common rights of humanity. The men placed at the head 
of the empire, during the second century of the Christian 
era were foreigners. Born in classes, among which the 
sympathies were cherished, and reared far from the bruti- 
iying associations of tyranny and slavery, they were men, 
not monsters ; and they were chosen, under the prevalence 
of absolute power, and in a degraded society, as the best 
expedients to which outraged humanity could resort in 
moments of direst urgency. 

The same men who had destroyed the atrocious Domitian, 
proposed the wise, the mild, and moderate Nerva, as his 
successor, — ^the senate and the people approving the choice. 
The Praetorians, (the "physical force men" of the day,) 
alone testified their dissatisfaction by a sullen and suspi- 
cious silence. They alone regretted their brute protector, 
who had raised their power and their pay beyond all former 
precedent; and they feared a reign which promised so 
little to a body important only in the worst of times, and 
to the worst of men. 

Nerva, the lover of letters and humanity, the friend of 
Quinctilian, of Pliny, and of Tacitus, (of whom the two 
latter honoured the consulate, to which he raised them,) 
forwarded the great cause of reform, whencesoever it came. 
He ordered persecution for opinion sake to cease ; he pro- 
tected, by an imperial edict, the lowly dissenters from the 
faith of Olympus ; and recalled the members of the new 
sect of Christianity, (so numerous in Rome, as among tlie 



Gentiles every where,) from Ihmr remote exiles, to their 
hearths and homes in the capital. 

He even permitted one of their persecuted leaders, (St. 
John of Nicomedia,) to return to his little community at 
Ephesus, and to, preach his religicm of charity, (a religion 
as yet nearly without forms or worldly distinctions,) within 
view of the gorgeous shrines of Diana, and her oracular 
priesthood, — mingliog with the poetical lo Peans of the 
established mythology, his doctrine of humanity — his 
ritual of the heart : — '* My children, love one another."* 

This beneficent reign of fifteen months terminated with 
the Ufe of the venerable Nerva, leaving the throne of the 
world to one, who eminently possessed the great quality 
wanting to his predecessor, firmness of purpose (the per* 
severance that banishes danger by braving it,)— « quality 
which, in sovereigns and warriors, inspires that confidence 
in others, by which they are themselves impelled. 

Nerva, the wisest of the Roman emperors, and the 
first of foreign extraction, had named, as his colleague and 
successor, Trajan, a stranger, like himself, whose heroic 
courage and grandeur of mind had already recommended 
'him to the senate and to the army. A native of Seville, 
he had arrived in Roine, a soldier of fortune, and the son 
of a father who had raised his obscure name by his bravery 
in the war against the Jews. Trajan had Mmself fought 
the campaigns of Asia, Africa, and Grermany, with honour 
and renown. 

Hardy under fatigue, wise in council, and spirited in ac- 
tion, he partook of the fatigues and privations of the com* 
mon soldier ; and, by learning to obey, he acquired the 
first elements of a capacity to govern. After a series of 
glorious actions, he was recalled tp Rome, to ascend the 
throne of the empire; and entered the capitol of the 

* The Charch of Ephesas, which was founded by St Paul, and go* 
▼erned by Timothy, was blessed by the presence of St. John during toe 
latest years of bis long life. Of him it is related, on sufficient authority, 
that, when his infirmities no longer allowed him to perform the offices 
of religion, he continued ever to dismiss the society with this parting 
benediction— '* My children, lore one another." — HUstory of the Church, 
by the Rev. O. Waddingtm, 

WQMSir OF TBS IfiKHBa* 79 

if vorM, not as the people had expected, (who weot forth in 
multitudes to meet him,) with all the pomp and circum- 
ataoce of a military triumph, and with all the insignia of 
imperial power, but in the simplicity of a citizeo-soldier 
of the antique republican times, on foot, and attended by a 
few faithful followers, his companions in arms* 

Scarcely had the new emperor passed into the spacious 
ioclosure of that woadrous palace raised by Nero, (a city 
in itself,)'*' when a woman, simply habited, but of ~a noble 
bearing and a dignified beauty, demanded admission also 
into its vestibule*'!' 

When challenged by the officers on duty, and asked 
whence she came, and who she was,, that she presumed 
on so lof^y a privilege at such a moment, she replied, 
with great simplicity, that she was Plotina Pompeia, the 
wife of Trajan. This modest announcement of the Csesar's 
empress, the Augusta Diva of future worship, called forth 
the loudest acclamations of pleasure and surprise from the 
impressionable and delighted multitude. The soldiers, 
centurions, and lictors, hailed the new empress with the 
fluttering of their eagles, the flaunting of standards^ and. 
the elevation of the fasces which were carried before her. 

On approaching the threshold of her future residence, 
she paused ; and, gazing for a moment upon the vast and 
splendid sanctuary of power, polluted by so many vices, 
the monument of so many crimes, she turned to the people ; 
and, raising her hands and eyes to heaven, exclaimed em- 
phatically, <' May the gods send me forth from this august 
palace, whenever I may be destined to leave it, even as I 
now enter it ; and may the high destiny to which fortune 
now raises me leave me in possession of the same quali'* 

* This palace included in its walls the Palatine and Esquiline hills. 
Its immense gardens contained every description of scenery, pastoral 
and 8at«ge : and all the arts eontribatod to their decoration. For the 
** sovereign buffoon" of imperial Rome possessed both the taste of an 
artitt*s temperament and the world's wealth with which to indulge it. 

t In this vestibnle (whose walls were of alabaster studded with gems, 
whose floor was a marqueterie of ivory and |^old,) stood the colossal 
statue of Nero, one hundred and twenty feet hieh. Among its singular 
luinrtes was« roof, which let fall the mo«t refreihuig showers or per- 
fumed waten. 


ties with which I this day assume it !" Millions of voices 
responded to the prayer by enthusiastic cheerings ; and 
the impression thus happily, or artfully, made on the 
public mind, was never afterwards effaced. / 

From that moment, the genius and the virtues of Plo- 
tina became exemplary in private manners, and influential 
in public affairs ; and her character and accomplishments^ 
are among the strongest proofs of the moral and intellec- 
tual excellence which still clung to some of the women of 
Rome, at the epoch of its rapid decline, and on the eve of 
an overwhelming destruction of all existing civilization. 

Plotina was a Roman lady by birth, and had been the 
early love and chosen partner of Trajan's earlier and 
humbler days, when he first arrived in Rome. She had 
accompanied her hUsband in his campaigns, sharing in 
his perils with the courage of a soldier's wife. She shared, 
too, his amazement and regrets, when, in his camp at 
Cologne, he received the news of an elevation, which he 
had neither solicited nor desired. The deepest satisfac- 
tion he derived from the event was the power it gave him 
to heal the wounds of the empire. 

Placed on the throne of the empire, Plotina participated 
in all the anxieties of a nineteen years' reign, and in all 
the difficulties attendant on that visually " fatal pre-emi- 
nence." Scarcely accepting the title of empress, and 
declining that of Augusta, until the glorious epithet of 
optimtis and the title of '^ father of his people" had been 
forced on her husband, she averted the envy of the great 
by her modesty, and won the afifection of the people by 
her afiability ; and above all by the sympathy she exhi- 
bited for their wants and their desires. To her influence 
was attributed a diminution of the taxes, by which the 
provinces had been impoverished, irritated, and driven into 
insurrections:* and to her disinterested wisdom were 
ascribed many other financial reforms, which won for her 
imperial husband a love that long survived, in the hearts 

* " Son bamanit^ contribna beaQcoo|) i la dimination det impois, doat. 
let provincea etaient surcharg^ea." — DictUmnaire HuUriquiB at Critique. 


of the Roman people, the Temembrance of his Dacian 
triumphs and his conquests in the East. 

Remarkable for the dignity of her deportment, and for 
that moral decency^ which respects all the exterior forms of 
life, (the biefisiance of positive virtues,) she introduced by 
her example a censorship of taste, wfaich extended its in> 
fluence even to the lowest public amusements of the people. 
The most scandalous license had been permitted during 
former reigns, in the theatres and pantomimes ; and Titus 
had endeavoured to suppress this indecency by an edict ; 
but the corrupted people, seconded by a libertine aristo« 
cracy, had forced the Emperor Nerva to repeal the edict, 
and to restore the scandal. It was not until the improving 
influence of Trajan and Plotina was felt in the circles of 
Rome, that the people themselves, becoming disgusted 
with their own license, (or, as a modern historian observes, 
^^revenu au sentiment de la pudeur^'*) called upon the 
government to renew the decree of Titus, and to annul 
the indulgences of the often too facile Nerva.t 

The power of woman over the moral tastes of the 
public was never more strongly illustrated ; and the ex* 
ample should not be lost upon posterity. The women of 
modem times, who boast the possession of a moral code 
of purer observance, and of more imposing sanction, have 
too generally abdicated this power, from deficiency in that 
moral courage, so necessary to resist the tyranny of 
fashion, and to withhold protection from practices or from 
persons in vogue, when they are at war with public de-^ 
cency. Society as at present constituted, is, in this re* 
spect, a perpetual compromise between principles and 
conventions, — an attempted reconcilement of the dignity 
of virtue with the conveniencies of sycophancy : and as 

* Cette imperatrice amiable et bien faite, avait un air de d^ence et 
da gravity, son eeprit etait eJev^, et elle ne Temployait, qae poar faire du 
hisn^^IHctionnatre Hiatorique, 

t Among the grand ballets performed at the imfwrial theatres of ancient 
Rome» many enacted the atorips **in praise of eminent women." Bot the 
grace and lieauty of women was wanting in these public exhibitions ; and 
if, in aome of them, decency was violated, it waa not 1^ the aex whose 
iniereat it is to protect it 


the fault lies principally with the women, so does the 
penalty. The condition of public morals has in all ages 
been decisive of the place and consideration of the sex. 

Equally occupied with the happiness as with the glory 
of Rome, Trajan and Plotina alike justified the panegyrics, 
which Pliny* lavished exclusively on the emperor ; and 
realized the hopes of Phitarch,t expressed in that immortal 
letter which he addressed to his pupil, after he ascended 
the throne. 

The beneficent forethought of the government soon ex- 
tended to all the cities of Italy ; and, to preserve them 
from the sudden famines to which they had been exposed 
by inordinate taxation, Trajan reformed the system of 
administration, protected the interest and the liberty of 
commerce, and, by this sole and simple means, preserved 
such an abundance to the people, that Egypt (the ancient 
granary of Italy), when struck by an accidental famine, 
applied for corn to Rome, and was supplied with it during 
the whole year. "The administration," (says Pliny,) 
"of the government was so wise on this subject, that 
there was always an abundance of com in Rome, and 
want nowhere." 

Simple in his manners, frugal in his domestic interior, 
indulgent to others, and severe only to himself, an en- 
courager of merit, and a keen observer Of those who 
possessed it, 'Trajan raised none to high employments in 
the governmentj but such as were qualified for public 
trust by their known private probity ; and he despised the 
vulgar maxim that the corrupt citizen was capable of 
making an honest and an able n^inister. He was often 

* " When yoo lived with us, you ihared our dangeraand our alannt — the 
penalties of virtue, under those princes who were detested even by those 
who perverted them. Now yoa reign, and your conduct is conformable 
to the sentiments you possesscKi as a citizen." 

t "I shall be happy if your reign answers to the great qualitjes I have 
discovered in you ; out, if power corrupts them, the danger will be yours 
— Che ignominy mine: the crimes of !\ero and of Alcibiades blasted the 
reputation of Seneca and Socrates, and they have been reproached with 
the vices of their i>espective pupi'ls; but, if you continue all that I have 
knowti you to be, I shall be tne happiest of men."— P/utercA*s EpitUe to 

wousH OF TBS SMrxmm^ 83 

heard to say, ** I gbvern iiow,*as I desired to be governed 
when I was a private subject." 

Modern historians, however, indirectly accuse this great 
emperor of submitting too implicitly to the councils of his 
wife, and of being influenced in one of the most important 
acts of his life (the naming a successor to the empire) by 
the ^^ arts of the empress."* His long, wise, and glorious 
reign, is an answer to the reproach ; while the imputed 
influence of Plotina, over an administration so enlightened, 
a government so prosperous, is an immortal testimony of 
her genius, her sensibility, and her wisdom. 

But there was a fault imputable to the early reign of 
Trajan, which may be taken more as an example of the 
fallibility of all human judgment, than considered as the 
result of an inherent cruelty. This was the temporary 
persecution of the Christians in the remote province of 
Bithynia, on the western extremity of the Euxine sea : 'a 
persecution sanctioned by the supreme government, on the 
false representations of its delegates. These readily found 
credence from the Roman people, the orthodox supporters 
of the state church of the Pantheon, who had just sated 
their love of blood, in celebrating the triumph of Trajan 
by the death of ten thousand gladiators.f 

The people had heard with joy of the sufferings of the 
Christian reformers, whose increasing numbers and in- 
fluence gave rise to the " no popery" cry of that day. 
But the milder intentions of Trajan were proved, by send- 
ing the iiumane and accomplished Pliny as governor to 
Pontus and Bithynia, during the\ heat of the persecution 
carried on by the proconsular govemment.:|: Pliny, after 
mentioning, in his well-known epistle to the emperor, the 
perplexities of a situation which placed him between con- 
tending parties, the one armed with power and prejudice, 
and the other a persecuted and oppressed community, 
*' against whom he oould find no crime"-— thus proceeds, 

* " In bis last moments, the arts of the Empress Plotina either fixed 
the irresolotion of Trajan, or boldly supposed a fictitious adoption.**— 
OUion, Tol. i. 

t Segor. t A. D. 107. 

'84 wonir or tbm sxfisb* 

in a style which would answer the parpose of modern 
goverDors, who, in equally difficult positions, attempt the 
exercise of power instigated by charity, against power 
armed with prejudices and personal interests* 

After mentioning the difficulty of proceeding against 
men charged with no other crime than the name of Chris- 
tian, Pliny proceeds as follows : — ** Others were named 
by an informer, who at first confessed themselves Chris- 
tians, but afterwards denied it : some said that they had 
belonged to the community, bat had since left it, (some 
three years, some longer, and one or two more above 
twenty years.) They all worshipped your image, and 
the statues of the gods ; and these also reviled Christ* 
They affirmed that the whole of their fault or error* lay 
in this — ^that they were wont to meet together on a stated 
day, before it was light, and sing, among themselves alter* 
nately,f a hymn to Christ as to God, and bind themselves, 
by an oath, not to the commission of any wickedness, bat 
to be guihy of no theft, or robbery, or adultery ; never to 
falsify their word, nor to deny a pledge committed to them, 
when called upon to return it. When these things were 
performed, it was their custom to separate, and then to 
come together again to a meal, which they ate in common, 
without any disorder ; but this they had forborne since the 
publication of my edict, by which, according to your com- 
mands, I prohibited associations. 

«« After receiving this account, I judged it t(ie more 
necessary to examine, and that by torture, (alas for the 
philosopher !) two maid servants, which were called minis- 
ters ; but I have discovered nothing beside a bad and ex- 
cessive superstition. 

*^ Suspending, therefore, all judicial proceedings, I have 
recourse to you for advice: for it has appeared to me 
matter highly deserving consideration, especially upon 
account of the great number of persons who are in danger 
of fuftering ; for many of all ages, of every rank, and of 

* "Affirmabantftiitem hanc faivae aammam vel cnlpesae vel erroria." 
t Secum invicem : a remarkable ovideoce of the early use of Antiphonjr 
in the church aervioe. 


both sexes, are accused, and will be accused. Nor has 
the contagion of this superstition seized cities only, but the 
lesser towns also, and the opei;i country ; nevertheless, it 
seems to me that it may be restrained and corrected. It 
is certain that the temples, which were almost forsaken, 
begin to be more frequented ; and the sacred solemnities, 
after a long intermission, are revived. Victims, likewise, 
are every where bought up, whereas, for a time, there were 
few purchasers. Whence it is easy to imagine what num- 
bers of men might be reclaimed, if opportunity were grant- 
ed them for repentance." 

The most curious circumstance in this memorable epis- 
tle, (which is invaluable when so few works are extant to 
guide inquiry through this most obscure period of early 
Christianity,*) is the part which even the humblest wo- 
men took in the new religion. The torturing of two ser- 
vant maids, who were " called ministers," is not only a 
proof of the importance of female agency in the great 
change then effecting in human opinion, but (being given 
under the hand of the proconsul himself,f ) is, perhaps, the 
truest as it is among the earliest evidences of female mar- 
tyrdom on record. 

The wise and benevolent interference of Pliny produced 
the most salutary effects to the government ; and Trajan, 
(further, enlightened by the works of St. Simeon, and 
touched by his courageous death,) stopped all persecution, 
and pardoned those, who, if in the eyes of contemporary 
orthodoxy, they erred in their spiritual belief, were proved 
to be innocent of the political and social crimes laid to 
their charge. To the good sense of Trajan, it appeared, 
that from a community in which two " servant maids were 
ministers," the empire had little (subversive of the throne 

* History of the Church. 

t The condact of Pliny, fall of wisdom and humanity, was still obliged 
io bend to the circumstances in which he was placed : and in this instance 
to yield to the ienorance and violence of the people : " but," says one of 
his b&A bioffrapners and translators, *' il gouverna les peuples en philoio- 
phe plein d'numanit^, diminua les impots, r^tablit la justice, et fit regner 
le bon ordre. Une persecution s'etant ailum^e contre les Chretiens, Pline 
osa plaidre ieur cause aupres de r£mpereur," &c. — Sacy. 

VOL. n. 8 


and the altar) to fear.* The toleration of Trajan inspired 
V so much veneration for his character, that, in future days 
of the Christian church (the inflexible enemy at all times of 
Pagan glory) the services of Trajan were remembered. 
Many writers, and among others, Paulus Diaconus, and 
St. John of Damascus, declared that the great Pope St. 
Gregory had obtained from heaven the salvation of the 
tolerant emperor, five centuries after his death \f May it 
also be hoped that the acknowledged power of Plotina over 
her warrior husband was not wholly forgotten ; and that 
in the pious saint^s '< oraisons her sins (also) were remem* 
bered !" 

While all merit is accorded to the mercy of Pliny, and 
to the justice of Trajan, the agency of Plotina silently but 
directly influenced the conduct of both. History has 
deigned to record, that her councils were given to TVajan, 
even at the frequent risk of his displeasure ; and that, in 
many instances, she discovered the malversations of the 
most accredited of the governors of the remotest provinces, 
denounced them to the emperor, and by reiterated suppli- 
cations induced him to replace the worthless with the 
worthy, the tyrannic with the just.:|: It was, probably, by 
her courageous advice, that Pliny (the friend of all the best 

* On accuBait le> cbr^tiena d*etre conduits par un eBprit de faction k 
renyeraer le trone et Yes aut«ls, et par un •ysteme d'anarchie de vouloir 
etablir Te^aiit^ sur les mines de toutes las institutions. — SeguVf Ahrigi 
de VHistoire UniverseUe. 

.t This alMord story, which is here introduced merely at displaying the 
opinion once prevalent in the church, concerning Trajan, is thus narrated. 
The Pope, in regarding Trajan*s column, was struck by a bas-relief, repre- 
senting him as descending from his horse, and pausing in his expedition justice by a widow, whose son had been slain; and thereupon, in 
his admiration of the pagan's charity, the saint prayed on the tomb of St. 
Peter, with such unction, for the emperor*s soul, that he redeemed it fVom 
punishment I'he Pope was informed in a dream of the success of his 
prayers, with an intimation not to perform the like good office in future, 
in favour of any one who had not been baptized. Of this fable» our 
ancestors, the Anglo-Saxons, were the inventors : and it was so confi- 
dently received, that Cardinal Baronius found himself obliged to refute it 
at considerable len^h. — Bayte, 

t Plotine, ne craupant point d^plaire, lorsque c'^tait Favantage du 
]>euple, avertissoit Tnyan des malversations des gouverneurs de pro- 
Tinces. Ses conseils cootriboerent k la suppression de plusieun abas. 
— Hittoire Ahr4gi det AhUdt Brotier, de Siant Leger, &c» 


vomen in Rome, and the patron of many of the poorest) 
vas sent to replace the persecuting proconsul of Bithynia 
and Pontus. 

The close of the glorious reign of Trajan would have 
been happier, (if less brilliant,) for Rome and for the world, 
if the pacific councils of Plotina and of Plutarch had been 
acted on. But Trajan was a soldier ; and his passion for 
military glory superseded, to the last, his wisdom and his 
discretion. " Nature," (he was wont to say,) " has des- 
tined me to bear arms, not to turn over books." 

In the accomplishment of his vocation, he leA Rome, at 
the head of a powerful army ; and (having made an impe- 
rial progress into Africa, visited his native Spain, and 
rebuilt the pillars of Hercules,) he passed oq into Asia, in 
the desire to attack the Parthians, >and to obtain a glory 
denied to his predecessors — the glory of conquering the 
unconquered ! Plotina, who could not dissuade, accompa- 
nied him in the perilous enterprise, — abandoning the luxu- 
rious magnificence of her Roman palace, for the privations 
of a camp, and once more buckling on the armour of 
heroism, with which, in early life, she had so long encoun- 
tered the hardships and fatigues of a military life. 

But both the emperor and herself were now advanced 
in years. Of the passions of Trajan, his ambition alone 
remained : the illusions of Plotina, too, may have passed 
away ; but her affections were indestructible. She is re- 
corded, however, as taking part in the campaigns in 
Armenia, Mesopotamia, Arabia Petrsea, in the countriesbX)f 
the Euxine and the Caspian seas ; in all which, Trajan,, 
like another Caesar, conquered — wherever " he came and 

Always at his side, Plotina passed tne Tigris with him 
over a bridge of boats ; and, following him across the Per- 
sian gulf, was present at his victory over "Araby the 
blessed." She heard him while, fanned by the voluptuous 
airs of the Isle of Ormuz, he planned his victories and 
lamented that <'he was not young enough to trace the 
steps of Alexander into India:" but she heard him as 
forethoughtful woman listens to the ambitious dreams of 


man, when the dream of life itself is hastening to its 

After the battle of Mesopotamia, in which the Jews, 
who fought bravely, were almost exterminated, Trajan, 
who had already fallen into a state of mortal languor, was 
prevailed on to pass the winter in Syria, with the intention 
of going to Babylon in spring. He was perishing under 
the eyes of Plotina, who, worn out with fatigue, resolved 
to carry him back to Rome, by slow journeys : but when 
they arrived at Selenunta, in Cilicia, he was attacked with 
apoplexy, and died in the arms of the empress, in his 
sixty-fourth year, and the nineteenth of his reign.* 

Seated by the dead body of her husband, in a strange 
land, with a restless army within view of the death- 
chamber of that great spirit, now so still, Plotina was 
surrounded by the ambitious intriguers of a court, the 
aspirants Of no less a prize than an empire. Whether 
she was oi^ was not aware of the uncertain projects of 
Trajan as to a successor, she resolved on giving him one, 
who, with sagacity to govern the empire, had the glory 
of having already defended it. JPlotina, at this awful 
inomcnt — the moment that intervenes between the con- 
ception and the attempting of a great and perilous deed, 
— presents a singular example of one of the most difficult 
and doubtful positions in which humanity can be placed. 

If her design was awful, her decision was prompt, and 
its success triumphant and complete. Ere the secret of 
the emperor's death had transpired to the army, she had 
convinced the most powerful men about his person, that 
the emperor had adopted as his successor Adrian, the 
most brilliant and able of his generals. She had written 
to the senate to inform the conscript fathers of the adop- 
tion ; and the senate, upon her word alone, accredited the 
fact. She presented the object of her choice to the Syrian 
legions, and they received him with acclamations at her 
hands ; and, when the army of the East declared in his 
favour, Rome, the senate, and the people, assented to an 

•A.D. 117, 


authority, which it would have been in vain, had it been 
~1 wise, to resist.* 

Adrian, the countryman of Trajan, was, of all his gene- 
rals, the one whom he had raised to the highest distinc- 
tion, and whom he was said to have loved the least. 
Adrian was devoted to philosophy, literature, and to elo- 
quence, as Trajan had been to war. Brilliant, polished, 
and jealous of the glory attained by others in the high 
iotellectual career he had chosen for himself, he ap- 
peared to possess a character incompatible with the 
hardier qualities, and more soldierly and direct impres- 
sions of Trajan. But he had the good luck to attract the 
attention of Plotina by his literary genius, and to win her 
friendship by other talents more available to the state ; 
and her credit with the empefpr decided his fortunes. 

Thus influenced, Plotina prevailed on Trajan to give 
Adrian his niece, Julia Sabina, in marriage, to name him 
prefect, and general-in-chief of the army ; and (aAer his 
signal feats in the Parthian war,) to present him with that 
superb diamond, which he had himself received from 
Nerva, when chosen as his successor. Sustained by the 
protection of the empress, and by the utifhy of his own 
services, Adrian soon vanquished the prejudices of the 
emperor. His eloquence, and the talent with which he 
composed the speeches and letters of Trajan, rendered 
him as necessary in the closet as in .the, field; and the 
despatches of the soldier-emperor benefited by the pen of 
the most accomplished scholar of the day, who had also 
contributed to the glory of the achievements they recorded. 

Many historians assert that Trajan, uncertain in his 
projects as to a successor, had first resolved to transmit 
his power to Servianus, and afterwards to Lusius, or, in 
fine, to Nervantius Prisons, a celebrated jurisconsult. But 
be that as it may, it is certain that, though Adrian deserved 
the throne of the empire, he owed it only to the friendship 
and arts of the empress Plotina.| 

* Dion. — Scgur.— Dodwell. 

t'^Plusieurs fois, il avoit montre le desseiii de laiaser le choix d'un 
emperear k la decision da a^nat Quoiqtt'il en soil, il par&it certain, que 



Few as are the historic fragments reroaiDing of the 
reign of Trajan, a conti*oversy as to the motives of the 
conduct of Plotina has been maintained, even to modern 
times. But there is sufficient evidence that, whatever that 
conduct may have been, the empire accepted without re- 
luctance the emperor she gave it ; that Adrian, the learned, 
the brave, and the peremptory, was the man wanting for 
the epoch, and that the choice of the empress in his favour 
perfectly accorded with the necessities of the times, the 
crowning motive of all sound policy. ^ 

Plotina, having calmed the effervescence of military 
restlessness, stifled the intrigues of a court faetion,^7md 
thus for a while upheld and prolonged the great cause of 
peace and hun^anity, resigned herself to the melancholy 
luxury of her own woes, and^o the performance of a duty, 
as sacred to the widow, as it was imperative on the em- 

She led Cilicia at the head of a military force, bearing 
in her arms the funeral urn which contained the ashes of 
her heroic husband. Another Agrippina, she was received 
in Rome like the immortal widow of. Germanicus ; and, 
followed by the mourning multitude of all classes, she pro- 
ceeded to the forum of Trajan, and placed his remains 
within the pedestal* of that noble column, which was 
raised by the gratitude of Rome, in honour of the empe- 
ror's triumphs over the Dacians and other enemies of 
Rome. Pictured with many incidents of his prowess, 
which have been neglected by the historians of his own 
times, this monument is a record of inestimable value both 
to the artist and the antiquarian. Posterity, in gazing on 
its elaborate details, may add a tender interest to their 
admiration, when they recall the conjugal devotion of the 
great woman, who embalmed the site with her tears, as 

si Adrien m^rita Tempire i>)ir ses talens, il ne le dot qu' k Tamitie, et 
peut-^tre k Tartifice de Plotina." — Segur, See also Dion, Aurelius Victor, 
Gibbon, Dodweil, &c. 

* *'I1 suddetto pjedestallo 6 ornato di trofei di Aquile, e di epirlande 
fktte di (bglie di quercia, ed e si mirabilmente scolpito ed arcnitettato, 
che Tiene considerato per il piii bel piedestallo, cue si possa immagi* 
nare." — Vasi. 


she gazed on the sculptured story of her husband's 
prowess, and raised her eyes to the statue of him (which 
then crowned this noblest specimen of Roman art,) whose 
ashes she deposited amidst the trophies of his glory.* 

Plotina, after the performance of this great duty, retired 
from public life. Adrian continued, during the remainder 
of her days, to acknowledge, in his adopted mother, the 
foundress of his own fortunes, and the true pacificator of 
the empire.t He nobly repaid the great benefits she had 
conferred on the public and on himself, by a reverence 
for her character almost religious ; and by an affection 
for her person and society, which might have been deemed 
more than filial, if the character and age of the empress 
had not placed her beyond the possibility of suspicion. He 
continued to benefit by her great experience, he accepted 
her counsels, he authorized her imperial title of Augusta, 
and preserved her authority in the state, as in the time of 

The people and the senate considered her with equal 
respect and gratitude ; and, though her advice and influ- 
ence with' Adrian, as with i?rajan, contributed to the sup- 
pression of many public abuses, and to the exposure of 
many ofRcial malversations, (both among the great and 
the little,) yet her popularity prevailed over all private 

* **E benche queata colonna riinanesse nel recinto di Roma, ci6 non 
(wtante, per singolar privilegio, nel aao piedestallo vennero poste, entro 
un'ama d'oro, le ceneri di Trajano, che dall' Asia furono trasportate in 
Koma." — Vasi, 

This noblest of ail Roman columns, (the work of Apollodonis of Da- 
mascus,) corresponded in grandeur nvith the most spacious and magnifi- 
cent of all the imperial Forums. Its bassi relievi, consisting of two 
thousand figures, besides the horses, elephants, and matertel of the 
Roman army, was long a school of art to the great master painters oi 
Italy; and Raphael, Gialio Romano, Caravaggio, and others of their 
immortal confraternity, gave their days aild nights to its contemplation. 
The statue of Trajan, of gilt bronze, was piously replaced, by Sixtu«t V., 
with the statue of St. Peter. 

t Ce prince lui dat I'adoption que Trajan fit de lui, et par consequent 
Tempire; elle eut pour lui des sentimens qui ne passerent point les 
homes de la sagesse. Adrien loiiyours plein d'unc tendre reconnaissance 
de ses services, lui conserva Tautonte qu'elle avait eu sous Trajan." — 
JHctiomtaire Universelle, &c. 

tA.D. 129. 


pique and personal resentment. Based on her public ser- 
vices, it lasted during her prolonged life ; and at her death 
it raised her to the rank of the gods themselves. 

Notwithstanding these merits the historical eulogist of 
her husband's reign, allowed no place in the studied para- 
graphs of his eloquent flattery, to her whose mind and 
character stamped the age in which she lived with the 
great seal of civilizing humanity : but the Roman public, 
more just than the courtly historiographer of *< the father 
of his country," raised a temple* to the honour of " the 
mother of the people" — a temple, in which her memory 
and mediation were long invoked by the sacred style of 
Plotina Diva. 


The Women of the Empire. Julia Sabina. Galeria Faustina. Annia 


. At the death of Trajan, the fortunes of Rome demanded 
a great prince ; and history has amply recorded, that the 
Emperor Adrian well merited the title. He gave to the 
empire one of its longest intervals of prosperity and peace ; 

* Jf the remains of this temple be ever sought by some tasteful and en- 
terprisioff woman, (like her, whose munificence gave to the antiquarian 
world of Europe one great monument more of imperfectiy recorded 
times,!) they will probably be found near the Forum of Trajan, the site 
of the temple raised to the divinity of her husband, and not far from the 
spot where some ruins have alresdy been discovered, of the Ulpian 
library, and the imperial palace : but it is not unlikely that the site once 
dedicated to the virtues of this pagan empress may now be consecrated 
by the two beautiful Christian temples, elevated in the name, and to the 
divinity of another deified woman : for, over the ruins of the Foro Tra- 
jano now stand the churches of Santa Maria^ and of Sonia Maria di 

t The late Duchess of Devonshire, who brought to light the column of Pbocas. 


he rendered the people happy by a wise and just adminis- 
tration ;* and his love of letters, of science, and of arts, 
affixed the seal of intellectuality to his reign of twenty-bne 
years, upholding for a time the cause of civilisation which 
the virtues of his immediate predecessors had favoured^f 

Yet this great prince was the reverse of a great man, 
and still less of a good one ! The private vices of Adrian, 
gradually developed by" the increasing facility of their in- 
dulgence, soon balanced the influence of his political vir- 
tues in public opinion ; and if, in the first years of his great 
reign, even truth compared him to Augjustus, posterity has 
detected in his last years a not unfounded parallel with 
Nero. His policy and wisdom) had, indeed, dictated the 
humane expediency of religious toleration ;f " and his vast 
and active genius was alike suited to the tnost enlarged 
views, and to the most minute details of civil policy :"§ 
but inordinate vanity overshadowed his higher qualities ; 

* Adrian eaye stability to jurisprudence by a code, which prevented all 
Tariations of the text, and captious interpretations of corrupt pnetors. 

t The remains of the emperor's public monuments still attest the gran> 
dear of his designs. The Moia of Adrian, the modern Castle St. An- 
gelo, is now the Citadel of Rome ; and its vaults still exist in all the 
perfection of their primitive construction. The traveller still wanders, 
likewise, with interest over the ruins of his palace and gardens, among^ 
the classic miracles of Tivoli, which once contained a mimic representa- 
tion of all the most renowned sites and places in the tlten known world. 
At Nimes, " les arenas et le pont du garde ont traverses les siecles, et 
r^istent encor aux outrages du tems." 

t In his quality of poet and ideologist, Adrian was a professed admirer 
of the ritual of the Greeka; and he was one of the few emperors, who, 
in assuming the honours of the sovereign pontificate, celebrated its func- 
tions with zeal and solemnity. A free mquirer into all relieions. he was 
ap tolerant to Christianity that it was suspected that some of the beautiful 
temples he had constructed in the East we're intended to be dedicated to 
Christ* He displayed much moderation towards the new religionists, 
protected them by lawS) and ordered the punishment of their calum- 

$ Always merciful to the people, he softened the miseries of slavery, by 
abolishing the horrid custom of putting all slaves to death whose masters 
were assassinated. He was the first also to forbid the sale of unfortunate 
women in the marts of vice ; and it is a curious trait of the times, and of 
the state of the capital of the world, that, notwithstanding its forums, its 
palaces, and magnificent public monuments, the streets were so narrow, 
that he forbade horsemen riding, and carts and heavy equipages passing, 
through them, in an anxiety to save the lives of his subjects, whicn were 
endangered by the practice. 


<^ the ruljng passion of his soul" betrayed him into all the 
littleness'; of the meaner vices of humanity; and many of 
his private faults, like the worst of his public crimes, were 
attributable to the lowest, as it is the most relentless of 
passions, — envy. 

The imperial artist and poet was inexorable to contem- 
porary genius ; and the politic prince, who so often showed 
clemency to those who attacked his life, could not pardon 
those who wounded his self-love.* The admirer of talents 
was jealous of the talented, and his friendship for superior 
merit, became, in the end, more dangerous than his indif- 
ference and neglect. Always great before the world, and 
little at home, Adrian abolished polygamy in his remotest 
colonies ;t while he converted his exquisite villa at Tivoli, 
his << grotto of the sirens,"^ into a temple of licentious 
pleasure. By his disgusting profligacy, and his cruel ne- 
glect, he drove his wife, Julia Sabina, upon the dangerous 
expedient of a culpable revenge ; and, by his continued 
unmanly persecution, he urged her upon self-destruction.§ 

Adrian, one of the greatest of Roman emperors, died 
in his vocation of the vainest of men;|| nor has the vanity 

* lUttstrated in his conduct to Apollodorus, the architect, whose criti- 
cism on a work of the emperor's cost bi^ his life. 

t In Britain, where, during his residence, he reformed the laws and 
morals of the people ; and where he " advanced civilisation by rendering 
the ties of matrimony more sacred, and abolishing by a public edict the 
universal polygamy which he found prevailing there." — Vniveraal History, 
Ancient and Modem, 

t Among the remains of the gardens of Adrian, there is shown La 
grotta delle Serene, *' orribile ma delizziosa grotta," — says the modern 

$ The treatment which this* imperial husband afforded to the niece of 
his benefactor, has not been without its parallel in modern times. He 
set spies about the empress to watch her conduct, and ** his curiosity led 
him to intercept and read all her letters." He even succeeded in turning 
the patrician fashion of Rome against her in her own court ; and, after 
the death of her aunt Plotina, (for whom his gratitude, " etait le seul de 
ses sentiments qui ne se d^mentit jamais,") he overwhelmed Sabina with 
his contempt and calumny ; " engaging," says an elegant historian of bis 
reign, "les personnes de sa cour klui faire ^prouver les plus sanglantes 
mortifications, et la maltraita tellement qu elie finit par se donner la 

. II Making pretty verses for the admiration of the literary coteries of the 
Aventine, wnich have reached posterity. 


of the women of his own, or any other age, been cha- 
racterized by a cruel and reckless rivalry, like that which 
put Appollodorus to death, and which denied the merits of 
Homer, Cicero, and Sallust. 

These incoherencies in the life of this illustrious sove- 
reign, but most fallible man, rendered the senate doubtful, 
afler his death, whether to pronounce him a god or a tyrant. 
The last and wisest act of his reign was his adoption of 
Antonine as his successor ; and he thus, in consulting the 
happiness of his people, accomplished the wish of the 
Greek sage, by '' seating philosophy on the throne of the 
world." The characters and government of these two il- 
lustrious men justified their election ; for their reigns con- 
stituted that portion of the Roman empire, during which 
the condition of the human race was most bright and pros- 

History, it might be thought, was only written for the 
preservation of g)reat events and great names. The his- 
torians of the people, the chroniclers of private life, are 
few and incidental ; and fewest in a state of society, like 
that of the silver age of the Roman empire. Contemporary 
romance, likewise, preserves no details of the domestic life 
of those times, nor founds its fables upon facts displaying 
the characteristic combinpttions of reality. The Roman 
satirists of the second clbtury pounced, indeed, upon the 
frailties of contemporary women, to supply themselves with 
subject matter for their satires. But these they found most 
marked in the highest classes of society ; and, in exposing 
them with a rancorous garrulity which modern Juvenals 
have never surpassed, they do not seem to have troubled 
themselves much about the authenticity of their anecdotes. 

Although history has unavoidably or accidentally pre- 
served the great deeds of great women, along with the 
records of their foibles, the milder, but not less influential 
virtues and talents of the women of private life have there- 
fore escaped utter oblivion, only in rare instances, and 
through the eminence and celebrity of the men with whom 
they were associated. The women of the families of Pliny, 
and of his preceptor, Quinctilian, whose virtues were thus 


recorded, were probably examples, rather than exceptions, 
to the general state of that class of female society in Rome, 
of which the court and it» satirical historiographers and 
journalists took no cognizance. 

In the middle classes of all ages apd countries, the un- 
ostentatious, domestic virtues have existed in the greatest 
intensity; nor can it reasonably be doubted that Rome 
itself must have perished and disappeared, if the city had 
faithfully reflected the vices of the court and the patrician. 

It was not, however, from the humbler classes of society, 
that the imperial successora of Adrian chose their wives. 
Titus Antoninus Pius, " the praised in all languages," " the 
second Numa," (" for the same love of religion, justice, 
and peace, was the distinguishing characteristic of both 
princes"*) — who " diffused order and tranquillity over the 
greatest part of the earth— who enjoyed with moderation 
the elevation of his fortunes, and united them with the in- 
nocent pleasures of society" — Antoninus Pius married, 
while yet a private Roman citizen, Galeria Faustina, the 
daughter of Annius Verus, prefect of Rome, a woman 
who is said to have added, to the splendour of aii illustrious 
birth, a person the most faultless, and a wit the most 
polished and insinuating. 

In the garbled history of tJM Roman empresses, the 
frailties of the Empress Galel^ Faustina form a dark 
item ! But the wisest of sovereigns, and most pious of men 
— (he who is cited as a model of domestic virtue) — cloved 
Faustina, with constancy and confidence, during her life ; 
and raised temples to her virtues, and altars to her divinity, 
aflef her death. Among the beautiful medals extant of 
this reign, which still fix the glance of admiring virtu^ 
there is one which represents Antoninus Pius on one side, 
and, on the reverse, Faustina ascending to heaven, with 
a lighted torch, under the figure of Diana ;* an evidence 


t Another medal of Faustina, in the Cabinet du Roi, at Paris (discovered 
by the Baron Spanheim), is thus described .■ — ** Ce beau m^aiiloa repr^* 
sente, d*un cote Antonin, et de I'autre la consecration de Faustina, sous 
un ty jl)e assez rare de cette nouvelle D^esse, port^e an ciel k demi voil^e, 
Bon sur un aigte — mail sur un Pegase." — Commientairt de Spanheim, &«. 


at least of the faith of AntoDinui^ in the virtues of his wife 
offered at the tribunal of contemporary public opinion. 

*< Without the help of medals and inscriptions," says 
Gibbon, ^< we should be ignorant of some of the facts 
most honourable to the memory of Pius ; " and it is equally 
true that Faustina, in more than one instance, stands in- 
debted to the imitative arts of her time, for her justification 
against the libels of malignant writers, both of ancient and 
of modem time^. 

In all ages the union of wit and beauty in woman has been 
reluctantly and rarely pardoned by her masters; and though 
female dulness (when profligate and pretty) is permitted, 
uareproached, to found its fortunes on its frailties, yet the 
success of higher endowments never fails to alarm the self- 
love of the self-sufficient pretenders to fame of both sexes 
—and, above all, of the small dealers in the trade of 
literary de&mation, with whom envy is in alliance with 
cupidity. To the contraband traffic of the literary libeller, 
the times of Adrian and the Antonines were favourable. 
Like society itself, literature had fallen into a state of de- 
cadence ; the name of poet was almost forgotten ; and that 
of orator was usurped by sophists : a cloud of critics, of 
compilers, and of commentators, darkened the face of 
learning ; and the decline^ genius was fast followed by the 
corruption of taste.* ^ x 

Annia Faustina, the daughter of Galeria Faustina and 
of Antoninus Pius, inherited her mother's beauty,! her 

While the name of Faustina is writing on this page, one of her coins 
lies beside it, on which her exquisitely chiselled image bears testimony 
to that character of intellectual beauty, which may have entitled her to 
ascend to the Olympian Parnassus — ** non sur un aigle— mais sur un 

* ** If we except the inimitable Locian, this age of indolence passed 
away without having produced a single writer of original genius." — Gilh 
bon, vol. i 

t To judee from her portrait, her beauty, less perfect than her mother's, 
roust have been not less attractive. " Elle avait" (says a French transla- 
tor) ** de resprit et les graces, la tete petite, le visase un peu avanc^, le 
oou long, et les yeux petits, mais fort vifs, et toutes les saillies de Tetour- 
derie." Her head-dress is piecisely that in vogue at the present mo- 
ment ; and her features bear a striking resemblance to those of the sisters 
of Napoleon. 

VOL. II. 9 


wit, her elevated fortunes, and more than the reputation 
of her imputed gallantries. She was, however, the chosen 
wife of Marcus Aurelius, called " the philosopher." Anto« 
ninus Pius, (although he had two sons), had, with his inva- 
riable wisdom and virtue, preferred the welfare of Rome 
to the interest of his family ; and he gave his daughter 
Faustina in marriage to his young colleague, Marcus, 
whom he had raised while a youth to proconsular power ; 
*' with a noble disdain, or rather ignorance, of jealousy, 
associating him in all the labours of government." 

The united reigns of the illustrious husbands of the two 
Faustinas (says Gibbon) *< are possibly the only periods 
of history, in which the happiness of a great people was 
the sole object of the government. During the twenty- 
three years of the reign of Pius, Marcus, his son-in-law, 
is reported to have been only two nights absent from the 
palace ; and even these were at different periods,"* — ^an 
instance of domestic habits scarcely to be paralleled even 
in modern times, among the club-husbands of "the most 
domestic and moral country under heaven." 

" When the love of letters, inseparable from peace and 
refinement," and so fashionable in the court of the Anto- 
nines, is called to mind, and wh^ the studious and elegant 
tastes of the philosophic empei^^, and the wit and beauty 
of their wives, are taken into tfi^icture of their domestic 
lives, it is difficult to imagine a more charming idea of 
elegant and happy domesticity, united to all the luxuries 
and enjoyments of an imperial magnificence. The con- 
jijgal happiness of Antoninus Pius may, therefore, be 
taken as reflected in the married life of his wise successor 
and son-in-law.t It appears, indeed, on the evidence of 
history, that " Marcus Aurelius lived with Julia Faustina 
on terms of the most perfect esteem and confidence ; and, 
during a connexion of thirty years, he invariably gave her 

* Hist. August p. 25. 

t Gibbon. The two Antonines governed the Roman tvorM fortf-two 
years, A. D. 138-180. Julia Faustina died only five years before bet 
illustrious husband, 175; so that they must have grown old together. 
After her death he retired from public life. 


proofs of the most tender coniidence, and of a respect 
which ended not with her life.'' In his <' Meditations," 
he *« thanks the gods who had bestowed on him a wife so 
faithful, so gentle, and of such wonderful simplicity of 
manners.'' The obsequious senate at his earliest request 
declared her a' goddess. She was represented in her 
temple, with the attributes of Juno, Venus, and Ceres ; 
and '' it was decreed that on the day of their nuptials, the 
youth cff either sex should pay their vows before the altars 
of their chaste patroness."* 

Thirty years ! what an epoch in married life — in life 
itself — ^what an intimate observation must it have afforded ! 
what comparative views, what conclusive evidence, what 
irrefragable proofs, by which to have tested the conduct, 
the character, and the actions of an intimate friend and 
associate, thus ever present, in youth, maturity, and age, 
to the hourly observation of one of the wisest and most 
moral men of antiquity ! With such experience, it is 
morally impossible that Marcus could have been deceived 
in the character of his wife ; and still more so, that, afler 
her decease, he should have sanctioned her vice in the eyes 
of a laughing world, by a solemn act, tantamount to the 
canonization of modern ti|^s. Still, in opposition to this 
testimony of Marcus AuMpis, the philosopher, his wife, 
the adored and deified Juna Faustina, is handed down to 
the remotest posterity, as a woman of unbounded levity 
and immorality.! 

But, such as she was, Faustina held a boundless influ- 
ence over the heart of her husband — an influence, be it 

* Notwithstanding the sneer of the bachelor historian of the decline 
and fall, the Roman public long celebrated the fetes which were instituted 
in the honour of Faustina; and a venerable priesthood burnt incense on 
her altars. She was further snmamed Mater Castrorum, on the occasion 
of her visiting the camp, at a time when an abundance of rain fell to re- 
lieve the Roman army, which was perishing with drought 

t ** Capitolin nous affirme que rimperatnce gardait si peu de m^na^e- 
ment,qu un jour Marc Aurele la surpritdinant t£te-lL-t£te avec Tertallius, 
TertuUitan etiam prandeniem cum uxcre d^frehendit," a detection,' which, 
whether true or false, recalls the supper of Maiy Stiftirt and Rinio, 
which, in another age, served the purposes of faction, and was itt ezcnse 
for murder. 


observed, SO coincident mih his refined tastes, his justice^ 
und his humanity, that not one act of cruelty, or meanness, 
was perpetrated through the perversion of her passions, or 
the abuse of her power, to cloud the mild glories of that 
reign, during which '' the Vast extent of the Roman empire 
was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of 
wisdom and virtue." The contemporary witnesses of the 
private life of Marcus Aurelius were all in his favour; 
his memory, says the historian, << was revered by a grate- 
ful posterity ; and many persons preserved his image 
among those of their household gods." 

If such were the husbands, it is little likely that both 
should have tolerated the vices imputed to their wives. In 
recording, therefore, the frailties of Faustina, and scoffing 
at the credulity^ of Marcus Aurelius, may not faction 
have borrowed the stylus of history, and calumny pranked 
its falsehoods in the colouring of truth ? — may not the 
bitter spirit and disappointed views, which dictated ^^he 
complaints" of the ambitious Avidius Cassius, have served 
the purposes of the enemies of Marcus ;t and may not the 
slander of neglected wits and rival beauties have exagge- 
rated the faults, or invented the vices of Faustina? For 
when has faction paused ere it struck, or inquired ere it 
crushed?— or when has even Mth rank elevated a natu- 
rally sordid and vulgar mino^bove the barter of cha- 
racter and consideration, if personal interests were to be 
forwarded, or personal pique gratified ?^ May not some 

* " The world," (says Gibbon, with the chuckle of a c^ibataire) " the 
world has laaghed at the credulity of Marcus, but Madame Dacier assures 
us (and we may credit a lady) that the husband will always be deceivedr. 
if the wife condescends to deceive*'— (/)«;2tne and FdUj ac.)— an admis- 
sion rather in favour of the cleTemess of woman, than of the judgment 
of her master. 

t **The enemies of MarciUs charged him with hypocrisy, and with a 
want of that simplicity which distinguished Pins, and even Veroe. This 
suspicion, unjust as it was, may serve to account for the superior applause 
bestowed upon personal qualincations, in prefbrence to the social virtues." 
— >6i^tUoii. 

I The chivalry of French literature (when literature was chivalrous in 
France) undertook the defence of Annia Faustina, and one amnaiag and 
learned dissertation appeared ob the subject in the Mereurt de ^tmce, 
1745, by Jaques Marcnand. 


discarded freed woman of the beautiful and whimsical 
Julia Faustina, some well paid and pampered minion of 
the imperial toilet, have repaid the accumulated benefits 
of her august mistress by slander and treachery; and, 
coining for present purposes her gossipry into drachmes, 
ha?e supplied future historians with such ignoble detaib, 
as furnished forth the historic << dreams" of Dion Cassius*' 
and the flippant satires of Julian the Apostate ?t 


The Women of the £mpire. Fadilla. Marcia. Lucilla. TbeGmpren 


Thk accession of Commodus to the throne of his father, 
amidst the acclamations of the senate and tHe armies, was 
^ event the most disastrous for Rome and for humanity. 
I**or, though Commodus was not, perhaps, a <' tiger let 

* Dion Cassius, by birth a Bitl^lan, was ten veara in Rome, collecting 
Anecdotes and traditions for hisi%emoirg,*' and for his ** history/' which 
he wrote, according to his own account; in consequence of a dream. The 
monster Commodus his patron, he said, appeared to him and ordered him 
to execute it. In haunting the marble porticos, the^boudoirs of the decayed 
courtiers and faded beauties of*' La viellc Cour," of the reigning emperor's 
father and mother, it is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that he 
may have picked op many of his details from the surrivors of the ladies 
pf the household of Julia Faustina. A modern French critic, in tracing, 
in the cleamets of his style, an imitation of Thucydides, accuses him of 
being **credule, superstitieuz, bizarre, partiel, et ^ffalement port^ k la 
flatterie et k la satire." It is enough to add, that he defamed Cicero, and 
decried Brutus. 

t The deification of Faustina is the only defect which Julian's criticism 
is able to discover in all the accomplished character of Marcos. See his 
Satires on the Cssars. Yet Julian owed his own elevation to the throne 
of the empire to the wisdom and influence of a woman, Eusebia, the wife 
of Constance. The temple of Antoninus and Faustina, the modern cus- 
tom-hooee of Rome, is an additional evidence to character. The coupling 
of husband and wife in a common worship, after theirdeath, would have 
been too cutting a sarcasm, had the scandals afterwards current been theii 
•erioosly believed. 



loose, with an insatiate thirst for human blood, and capa- 
hie from .hi» infancy of the most inhuman actions," he had 
within him the sources of the darkest crimes, and most 
degrading vices, — ^that defective organization which neither 
feels nor sympathizes, — and that feebleness of will, which 
leaves its possessor a prey to the corrupt, and a mimic 
follower of the vicious. '^ But his cruelty, which at first 
obeyed the dictates of others, degenerated into habit ; and 
at length became the ruling passion of his soul." His 
hatred to the senate and all good men ; his murder of the 
wise and innocent Quinctilians, (brothers,) and of his own 
corrupt favourite and minister, Perennis ; his utter neglect 
of the affairs and interests of the empire^ whilst he indulged 
in every vice, and " lived immersed in blood and luxury ;'' 
his rapacity, his avarice, and dissolute pleasures, which 
outraged the honour and happiness of the highest families ; 
his love of the most brutal sports of the lowest of the peo- 
ple ; his passion for hunting wild beasts, and the fearful 
and disgusting scenes in which the imperial gladiator 
passed his days, — are all rapidly passed over by the 
decency of modern historians; and, for the dignity of 
human nature, and the interests of society, they might 
best be forgotten, were they not necessary to account for 
the awful demoralization of the society of Rome at this 
disgusting epoch. 

The women were, as usual, the greatest su£ferers by 
such prevalent corruption. The seraglio of the imperial 
palace rarely contained less than three hundred victims, 
the flower of the female beauty of the empire, which the 
arts of seduction, or the brute violence of an illimitable 
power, readily procured. But the women, however cor* 
rupted and outraged, were not always passive: their ener* 
gies did not sleep with their virtue; they mingled in many 
of the most important political intrigues of the time, and 
shared the disgusts and fears of the senate and the people. 
They also came forth occasionally in the characteristic 
humanity of their sex ; and, upon one occasion, they saved 
even the life of the monster who oppressed them. 

When pestilence and famine were contributing to fill up 



the calamities of Rome, and the popular discontents were 
embittered by a inonopoiy of corn, which was supported 
by the power of a base and corrupt minister, the people, 
(by one of those abrupt, and sometimes unaccountable im- 
pulsions, by which masses are simultaneously moved,) 
aaddenly rushed from the circus, where they had been 
enjoying some public amusements, and proceed to one 
of. the delicious imperial villas in the suburbs, (a favourite* 
retreat of the emperor's,) where, with tumultuous clamours, 
they demanded the head of the favourite. 

^« Oleander, who commanded the Preetorian guards, 
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. Thd 
foot-guards, who had been long jealous of the prerogatives 
aod insolence of the Prsetorian cavalry, embraced the party 
of the people. The tumult became a regular engagement, 
and threatened a general massacre. 

'<The Pnetorians at length gave way oppressed with 
numbers; and the tide of popular fury returned with 
redoubled 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 ; and he would have perished in this 
supine security, had not two women, his elder sister Fadilla, 
and Marcia, the most favoured of his concubines, ventured 
to break into his presence. Bathed in tears, and with dishe- 
velled 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, thus startled 
from his dream of pleasure, commanded that the head of 
Oleander should be thrown out to the people.*** 

* Gibbon*! Roman Elmpire, ?ol. i. chap. 4'. 


The desired spectacle instantly appeased the tumult; 
and the son of Marcus might even yet have regained the 
affection and confidence of his subjects, if the counsels of 
Fadilla and Marcia had been listened to. Commodus thus 
owed his life to the sex he had outraged, and to the protec- 
tion of those natural affections, which the most amiable of 
his sisters, and the most devoted of his mistresses, still 
preserved for him. . , . 

But Commodus had another sister, of a far other tem- 
perament and character, than that of the gentle and 
humane Fadilla — Lucilla, the favourite daughter of Mar- 
cus Aurelius, whom he had educated under his own eye, 
and in his own philosophy, and to whose young mind he is 
said to have given high motives, noble sentiments, and a 
love for all the virtues. Lucilla, thus educated, was 
married at seventeen to the brave and beautiful, but most 
profligate voluptuary, Lucius Verus. She was sent from 
Rome to Syria, (where Lucius commanded the army,) for 
the celebration of the nuptials ; and in the height of the 
war against the Armenians and Parthians, Verus, (then 
CsBsar,) came to Ephesus, to receive his young and beau* 
tiful bride, and to wed her with all the magnificent cere- 
monial of an imperial marriage. 

Lucilla, intelligent and passionate,^ (described by all 
writers as the inheritress of her mother's charms and her 
grandmother's wit,) fell deeply Jn love with the husband, 
whom state policy had given her ; and if that love had 
been returned, might have lived honoured and died deified. 
But Lucius, vain, faithless, and dissolute, repaid her de- 
votion, first with indifierence, then with neglect ; while he 
disgusted her natural and enthusiastic afiection, by a dis- 
solute libertinism, which the defective moral feeling of the 
man took no precaution to conceal. 

The " hatred of a woman scorned" acted upon the 
vehement temperament and impressionable character of 

* " Lucille, belle, bien faite, et tr^ spirituelle, m^ritait un mari moini 
corrompu que Verua: ayant trouv^ ce,prince jplong^ dana let debauches 
lea ploa miame% elle 8*en degouU."— jBiqgr. Umvefi, 

LVCILUk. 105 

Lucilla with commm^urate yioleoce : but it was not till 
long after her return from Syria to Rome, that some per- 
soiud insults on the part of her husband, and some dark 
suspicions of his guilty preference- for her own sistery 
drove her to the fullest indulgence of her violent temper, 
which left her the sport of excited and bitter feelings, 
until, becoming frail herself, she pointed her accusations 
against all who awakened her jealousy, or discovered her 

The death of her husband, the man she had most loved 
and most hated, (whose portrait, busts, and statues, still 
attest the personal beauty which was the ultimate cause of 
his greatness, and of his crimes,) restored Liucilla to that 
mental equanimity, for which she was remarkable in her 
maiden days ; but, still docile to the direction of her illus- 
trious father, she accepted from his hands a husband the 
reverse of Lucius. Paulus Pompeianus was the most dis- 
tinguished of the Roman senators, and one of the most 
virtuous and noble of Roman dtizeus.* But he was of 
an advanced age, of studious and philosophic habits, and 
of severe -and reserved manners. Lucilla, who married 
him against her wishes and her will, lived with him with- 
out confidence or affectioo ; and she stands accused of the 
ruling vice of -the age, as it was of the court of her mfa- 
mous and brutal brother, the vice which, in the refinement 
of modern parlance, gives to its female professors the 
modified epithet of ^^ femmes galantes*" 

The gifted but perverted Lucilla, as time faded the 
lustre of her beauty, and lessened the number of her ad- 
mirers^ gave herself up to political intrigues; and she 
formed a powerful faction in her brother's court. Among 
other motives assigned for lier conduct, the indignities 
heaped on her by the reigniug empress, Crispins, are said, 
by the most eminent of modem historians, to have been 
not the least influential. 

The personal pretensions, the jealousies, and the gal- 

* The Tirtaoas husband of Lucilla was the only aenator who asserted 
the honour of hii rank» during the reign of Commodua. 


lantries of these two great ladies, had long added to the 
disorders of the imperial court ; and, under the sangoinary 
dispensations of their common and ferocious master, their 
agitated and restless lives terminated in the cruel and vio- 
lent death of both. The unfortunate empress, detected in 
an illicit amour,^ by a husband to whom no vice however 
disgusting, no crime however atrocious, was unknown, 
was banished to the island of Caprea, where, having occu- 
pied the throne of the Csesars for three years, she was put 
to death by the command of her husband, in the bloom of 
her youth and life.* 

The assumed cause of the death of Lucilla was a crime 
of a darker dye* "One evening, as the emperor was re- 
turning to the palace through a dark and narrow portico 
in the amphitheatre, an 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 im- 
mediately revealed the authors of the conspiracy." 

This plot had been formed^ not in the state, but within 
the walls of the palace. " Lucilla, the emperor's sister, 
impatient 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; but, 
among the crowd of her lovers, 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,"t 

When the antecedents of this " abandoned princess" are 
taken intp consideration, her crimes, though never to be 
excused, are perfectly explained ; and the interval, which 

* Bruttia Crispina Augusta, daughter of the Consul Bnittins PnBsens, 
is described as having a graceful person and a susceptible heart ; bat 
there is no medal extant of her; sne was put to death by Conimodas> 
A. D. 183, and was scarcely three years married. 

t Gibbon's Roman Hist. vol. i. chap. zii. 

XASCIA. 107 

occurred between the epoch, when the innocent and inteU 
ligent girl sat at her father's feet, (imbibing that philo- 
sophy which gave him his immortality,) and the awful 
nooment when she submitted to the hands of the execu- 
tioner, may have been filled up by sad and fearful details, 
which charity would accept as qualifying clauses, ip 
faTour of one so gifted and so unfortunate, though so 

Commodus survived his victims ten years ; and what 
remained to be told of the horrible life and reign of the 
murderer of his wife and sister, as far as relates to the 
influence of the women of his time, seems more impar- 
tially related by the eloquent historian, to whose authority 
this page in the story of Roman women stands so deeply 

" Commodus had now attained the summit of vice and 
infamy. Amidst the acclamations of a flattering court, 
he was unable to disguise from himself that he haa de- 
served the contempt and hatred of every man of sense 
aod virtue in his empire. His ferocious spirit was irrita- 
ted, 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 
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, with- 
out sparing even the ministers of his crimes or pleasures. 
His cruelty proved at last fatal to himself. He had shed 
with impunity the noblest blood of Rome : he perished as 
,soon as he was dreaded by his own domestics. Marcia, 
his &vourite concubine, Eclectus his chamberlain, and 
Laetus his Prsetorian prefect, alarmed by the fate of their 
companions and predecessors, resolved to prevent the 
destruction which every hour hung over their heads, either 
from the mad caprice of the tyrant, or the sudden indigna- 
tion of the people* 

108 wonN or ram sxfirb. 

^ Maroia* seized the occasion of preseiiting a draught 
of wine to her loyer, after he had fatigned himself with 
hunting some wild heasts* Commodus retired to sleep ; 
but, whilst he was labouring with the efiects of poison and 
drunkenness, a robust youth, by profession a wrestler, 
entered his chamber, and strangled him without resistence. 
The body was secretly conveyed out of the palace, b^re 
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 thirteen yeans 
so many millions of subjects, each of whom was equal to 
their master in personal strength^ and in personal abili* 


The fall of this young monster-master of Rome and of 

its empire, like that of those who had preceded, and had 
resembled him in crime and power, brought with it th« 
usual political moral. The most absolute monarchy hafl 
always to dread the caprices, if not the reason of a DatioH 
of slaves ; and, from the Csesars to the Czars, despots hav^ 
been for ever taught, but taught in vain, that power losefi 
in safety and security, what it gains by force and irrespoa- 
sibility. ^ 

Amidst all the crimes and vices of the reign of Com- 
modus, one strange solecism, characterized by mercy and 
policy, occurs to astound posterity : the great refbnning 
medium of the age was unrepressed— Christianity was re- 
spected, and the Christians were released from persecution* 
No reason has been assigned for this political anomalyy 
except that a woman, (the only woman who ever made 
Commodus feel he had a heart,) interfered in their behalf, 

* MareiR, Laetoi, and Eolectut, the first officer of the palace. Ind in 
vain endeavoured to per»aade the emperor to revoke an order he had 
issued to massacre all the spectstors in the theatre on a particular da^. 
He drove them from him with menacesr and wrote an order for their 
death. A child left in the room with Commodus picked up the fatal lift 
as it fell from his hands while he slept, and carried it to Marcia, who 
showed it to L^eius and Eclectos. 

t Gibbon's Roman Hist. vol. L chap. iv. 


and gave them her protectioD. Marcia was a Christian;* 
and she who committed an act, which Pagan patriotism 
deified in Brutus, but which Christian ethics must con- 
demn, saved millions of liv€S by her influential inter- 
ference ; and proved that humanity, not cruelty, had urged 
her to participate in a deed, by which the world was re- 
leased from the sway of a tyrant and a monster, t 


The Women of the Empire. The Empress Julia Domna. 

It was the good fortune of the conspirators, who, in 
preserving their own lives, had for a time, saved Rome, 
that they were enabled to justify their actions, by giving 
to the empire a master worthy to succeed to the wise and 
illustrious Antoninus, and capable, by his well-known virtue 
and experience, of healing the wounds inflicted by the 
frantic cruelty of Commodus. 

The people and the senate, on learning the death of 
him who had oppressed and tortured them for thirteen 
years resigned themselves to transports of joy, and loudly 
approved the successor, who had been chosen for them. 
Pertinax, (taken from his bed in the middle of the night to 
ascend the throne of the world,) mistook his election for 
the execution of a death-warrant. He was the son of a 

* ** Sous ce regne infiime, on Toit avec surprise qtie les chretiens ne 
fiirent pas persecnt^s : on pr^tende qu'iis ^talent proteg^ par Marcia, 
celle de toutes ses maitresses qui avait pris le plus d empire sur son 
esprit." — Segur. 

t "II (Commodus) vendait des arrets de mort, les scelerats s'adressant 
i Itti avec confiance, pour les d^livrer de leurs ennemis. Surpassant de 
d^lire Neron et Caligula, il fit couper les bras auz pr^tres de JBellona, 
parceque, cette D^esse 6tait repr^sent^ mutil^e: U sachfia des hommes 
a Mithra," &c — &Bgur. 

VOL. II. 10 


timber-merchant in Piedmont; and had reached the highest 
rank in the state, by his virtues and his talents. In all 
his great employ merits, military as well as civil, he had 
uniformly distinguished himself by the firmness, the pru- 
dence, and the integrity of his conduct. 

On his accession to the throne, Pertinax refused to 
flatter the vanity of his wife with the title of Augusta, or 
to <* corrupt the inexperienced youth of his son by giving 
him the rank of Caesar." He settled, however, on them 
the whole of his private fortune, that they might have no 
pretence to solicit favours from the state. In private life, 
he had lived with the most virtuous and enlightened of the 
^nate ; and when raised to the throne, he received them 
into his intimate society, and invited them to those familiar 
entertainments, which were ridici^led for their frugality, 
by such as had shared the orgies,, and regretted the luxu- 
rioiis prodigality of Commodus. 

Dion Cassius, in his history, speaks of these family 
parties and imperial conversazioni, like " a senator who 
supped with the emperor ;" while Capitolinus (one of the 
literary gleaners who, in all times, haunt the houses of the 
great, and live on the sweepings of society) writes on the 
same subject,''^ << like a slave who had received his intelli- 
gence from one of the scullions ;" but posterity is at no 
loss to decide between them. The new emperor desired 
to reform the state, and to remit a portion of the oppressive 
taxes invented by Con^modus : and by this frugality, he 
set the example of public economy, a^d at the same time 
reduced the expenses of the imperial household one half. 

Pertinax, it is related, exposed to public auction the 
instruments of luxury, the gold and silver plate, a super- 
fluous wardrobe of silk and embroidery, and a great 
number of beautiful slaves, of both sexes ; excepting only 
such as had been born in a state of freedom, and forcibly 
taken from the arms of their 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 

* Gibbon.>-Capitolinat. Hist.'Auguit 


creditors of the state, and unexpectedly discharged the 

hug arrears of honest services."* 
fiome, socially speaking, was not in a state to bear such 

rapid reforms, as, having the welfare of the many for thftir 
object, uncompromisingly infringed on the luxuries and 
the privileges of the few. All, indeed, who still retained 
some principle of patriotism, to whatever grades' and 
classes they might belong, revered Pertinax for his justice, 
his wisdom, and his beneficence, as well as for the moral 
courage with which he opposed the corruption of the 
times ; but these were a small minority. The corrupt, the 
ignorant and the prejudiced, who branded with the names 
of innovation and democracy those salutary changes, and 
humane restrictions, which could alone save society from 
utter dissolution, were masters of its fate. The faction 
which had so long supported Commodus in his infamy and 
tyranny, accordingly resolved upon the destruction of the 
reforming emperor. In this conspiracy were united the 
Praetorians ^who hated an emperor that permitted neither 
rapine nor hcense), and a party of malecontents, composed 
of corrupt slaves, freedmen, courtezans, and informers ; 
together with the debauchees of patrician rank, and what- 
ever was most cowardly and corrupt in the senate, or 
despised and abhorred in the court. 

The assassination of Pertinax was the result. The 
soldiers surrounded him in his palace when he was alone 
and unarmed. He received them with firmness ; and the 
noble appeal he made to their judgment, for a time sus- 
pended their intention, while, trembling and uncertain, 
they stood in his presence with eyes cast down and swords 
half sheathed. But when at length a savage German sol- 
dier struck the emperor with his lance on the head, his 
comrades in cowardice followed up the blow; and Per- 
tinax, yielding to the brute force of the murderers, enve- 
loped his venerable head in his toga, and invoking Jupiter 
the avenger, fell to the earth, covered wi^h wounds. f 
It was remarkable that one only of the officers of the 

palace came to his defence. This was Eclectus, who had 

* Gibbon. t After a reign of three months. A. D. 193. 


placed him on the throne ; and who, defending the empe* 
ror against his murderers, fell dead at his feet. 

In a reign so short, there was little room for female 
intervention, either in good or in evil ; but the widow of 
Pertinax, the empress of three months, evinced her worthi- 
ness and elevation of mind, by retiring at once to h^ 
origihal privacy, rejecting all honours, and refusing all 
solace. Her only son, following in her steps, made no 
pretensions to a throne stained with the blood of his father, 
and with that of so many of his predecessors. 

From the death of Pertinax, Rome ceased for a time to 
have laws add government, while the sword, which gave 
power, took it away at pleasure; and the Preetorian 
cohorts, from the heights of their rampaits, put up the 
empire publicly for sale to the highest bidder. It was 
knocked down to Didius Julianus, a vain, weak, old man, 
by profession a jurisconsult ; and by the force c^ accumu- 
lation, the richest citizen in Rome. Julianus, to gratify 
the vengeance of the Prs&torians, stopped at no crime; 
and, to please the partisans of Commodus, he drew from 
her retreat the once influential and heroic Marcia, who 
was instantly put to death — an ofiering to the manes of 
Commodus. Julianus survived the victim of his pitifbl and 
cruel expediency but a few weeks : he was murdered by 
his own guards ; and his wife and daughter saved their 
lives only by the resignation of their wealth and titles, and 
an immediate retreat into an undisturbed oblivion. 

The right of might, exemplified by the power of the 
PrsBtorians, ^<< whose licentious fury was the first symptom 
and cause or the decline of the Roman empire,") resumed 
its barbarous prerogative over the civilized world. The 
armies of Britain, Syria, and Pannonia, caught the public 
discontents of Rome, on the remotest frontiers of the em- 
pire ; and, in jealousy, or in justice, opposed the assumed 
claims of the powerful PrsBtorians to dispose of the empire 
by the fiat of their will. 

Three candidates for empirq,* generals of these respec- 

* Severus, Albin, and Niffer, alt generals, formed b^ Marcut Anreliut, 
respected by the army, aniffeared by tbe enemy. — Hittory vf Rome, 


tive armies, fought for the greatest prize the world could 
give ; the commander of the Panuonian army, Septimius 
Severus, an African, was the victor. An ambitious sol« 
dler, trained in the implicit obedience of camps, and used 
to the despotism of command, discerning and relentless, 
he long concealed his daring ambition, which " never de- 
viated from its course, through apprehensions of danger or 
feelings of humanity." Whatever is most cruel in the 
consequences of civil war followed the steps of the new 
emperor ; and he was preceded to the gates of Rome by 
the head of his brave rival, Albinus, and by a letter that 
announced to the Romans his resolution to spare none of 
the adherents of his two unfortunate competitors. *" 

This paltry vengeance, taken on a brave and discom- 
fited enemy and brother soldier, was followed by the 
accomplishment of his ferocious promise. He put twenty 
Roman senators, in the presence of their weeping families, 
to death ; and having, by the force of his restless and re- 
lentless energies, established tranquillity at home, he car- 
ried his arms into the East, where (cruel in Asia as in 
Rome) he put all to death that had resisted his power. 

On his return from Syria, through Palestine, ^ptimius 
vas struck by the invincible spirit of the Jews, who had 
attempted some resistance to his power; and he ordered 
that no subject of the empire should profess the religion of 
Moses. He was jealous also of the mild influence of the 
Christians, whose creed of peace, charity, and love, was a 
reproach to that system of warfare and physical supremacy, 
by which he reigned over the fortunes and the destinies of 
mankind. He issued, therefore, an unsparing edict against 
the followers of Jesus, the pertinacious reformers whose 
principles his power could not annihilate^ though their 
lives were at his disposal. Lietting loose the tigerish spirit 
of persecution against all the dissenters from his own state 
standard of credulity and violence, he again raised the 
stake in Palestine; and one of the first victims committed 
to the flames was a woman : Macella, the mother of Pota- 

* '* La femme, lea enfant, et tout let partitant d'Albin qu'on put laitir, 
furent egorg^t." — Segur. 



nianus, led the way to more distinguished martyrs — ^to 
Ireneus, bishop of Lyons, and to the father of the cele- 
brated Origen. 

The emperor, on his return to Rome, (where he came 
in triumph to enjoy a glory merited by great exploits, and 
sullied by great crimes,*) put several Christian soldiers to 
death; and it was at this perilous epoch that Tertullian 
dared to publish his eloquent apology for Christianity — a 
glorious manifesto of charity and faith, in favour of re- 
form, put forth at the head-quarters of violence and 
oppression. He proved, upon irrecusable evidence, that 
the sect called Christians aimed at no temporal power, and 
coveted no worldly wealth ; that their forc^ was moral 
and spiritual, not physical nor temporal ; that, they were 
submissive to the laws, and to the government of the 
empire — ^not armed against them ; that their morals and 
manners were as mild as they were pure ; that violence 
could not triumph over their conviction ; and that persecu- 
tion only increased their numbers. 

Such was the beautiful picture of a community, held 
together by a moral principle, and chaifacterized by a 
spiritual sentiment — a community whose ministers were 
unpaid, unendowed, untitled, unoffending by any of those 
gorgeous Oriental forms which conferred personal distinc- 
tion, the crosier of the augur, the tiara of the Persian 
priesthood. The courageous Tertullian proceeded with 
the following frank confession :-^" We are already in 
your camps, in your senates, in your cities, in your fields, 
in your palaces, in your houses ! we have left you only 
your temples, and your amphitheatres." He might have 
added, also, we share the pillow of imperial repose, and 
slumber on the bosom of imperial power. The heart of 
the tyrant who persecutes us, beats sometimes responsively 
to our own ; and the pulse, quickened by the uncontrolled 

* " The contemporaries of Severus, in the peace and glory of his reign, 
^rgave the cruelties by which it was introduced. Posterity, who expe- 
rienced the fatal effects of his maxims and example, justly considerMi 
him as the principal author of the decline of the Roman empire." — Gib- 
bon, voL i. 


passions of unlimited power, calms down to sofVer eipo- 
tiom, under the influence of the earliest, the truest, and 
omt pertinacious of our ministers-— woman ! 

Such a minister was ever near the impetuous and mer- 
ciless emperor, cherishing the faint spark of humanity 
which a niggard nature ,had kindled in his heart, counter- 
acting the atrocious counsels of Piautianus, his infamous 
minister, softening his own cruel edicts, and moderating 
Lis violence : and if the persecution against the Christians 
did not wholly cease, it was relaxed, through the influence 
of the most accomplished and intellectual woman of the 
age, the empress, J6lia Domna. 

It belonged to the ignorance of the rude soldier, bred in 
camps, to believe in judicial astrology, and to the ambitious 
adventurer, who had early raised his eyes froni the govern- 
ment of a province to an empire, to desire a high aJiianoe. 
Severus was led, by both these impulses, to select a wife 
from amongst the fairest favourites of fortune and nature. 
He chose << a young lady of Emesa, in Syria, who had <a 
royal nativity,' and who, on her arrival in Rome, with a 
sister scarcely less eminently endowed, is, by some his- 
torians, supposed to have attracted the notice and protec- 
tion of the Empress Annia Faustina. The courtly favour, 
it is thought, contributed to the elevation of the beautiful 
stranger, by forwarding her union with Severus, who was 
then one of the most celebrated generals of the day."* 

Julia Domna was the daughter of a noble Phoenician, a 
high priest of the temple of the Sun at Emesa. Nature 
had endowed her with great intellectual and personal en- 
dowments ; and the high gifts of beauty, wit, imagination, 
and discernment, were augmented by all the advantages 
of 6tudy and education. She is said to have been well 
acquainted with history, moral philosophy, geometry, and 
other sciences, which she cultivated through life ; and her 
mental accomplishments won her the friendship of all the 
most distinguished among the learned in Rome, " where," 

* De Tillemont, Hist des Cmpereun. 


(says one of her modern historians, in modem phrase,) 
<< elle vint, dans I'intention de faire fortune, et y reussit*" 

From the time of her union with Severus, (twenty yeani 
before his elevation to the throne,) he almost always adopt- 
ed her counsels, and mainly owed to them that high repu- 
tation with his army, which induced his troops in Illyria 
to proclaim him emperor. Although Julia Domna has 
been accused, by the scandal of ancient history,''^ of gal- 
lantry in her early days, (the common accusation of the 
compilers of anecdotes, who pass for historians,) all writers 
acknowledge that the follies of her youth were effaced by 
the virtues and the genius which glorified her maturity ; 
and that, when seated on the throne of the empire, she 
surrounded it by whatever the declining literature and 
science of the day still preserved of the wise, able, and 

Wherever she went, she was accompanied by the most 
learned ahd philosophical men of Rome ; and wherever 
the sword of persecution was returned to its sheath by her 
suspicious and saturnine husband, the relenting act was 
ascribed to the mediation of the wise and humane empress, 
who, in the lifetime of the father,f gave promise of the 
sagacious administration, with which she commenced the 
reign of her^ fearful son, Caracalla* ^ 

Julia Domna deserved all that the stars could promise 
her. ^< She possessed, even in advanced age," (says Gib- 
bon,) <' the attractions of beauty, and united to a lively 
imagination a firmness of mind and strength of judgment 
seldom bestowed on her sex. Her amiable qualities never 
made any deep impression 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 some- 


t " Les conBeils qu*elle doonait k son ^pousei et (}a*il saivoit presqne 
toujours, contribuerent k loi meriter la haute reputation qu'il avait parmi 
lee troupes." — DicUonnaire Universelle, Historique et Biograpkioue. 

t This is contradicted by other writers, and even by Gibbon himself. 


dmes corrected his wild extravagances. Julia applied 
iierself 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 ; and 
the grateful flattery of the learned has celebrated her 

Severus, though he escaped assassination, (the natural 
death of a Roman emperor,) died ailer the old fashion of 
the most successful military adventurers, worn out with 
fatigues, satiated with power, and preaching those virtues 
to others which he had never practised ; as if the act of 
dying was a personal distinction, that conferred on the 
moribund, authority to propound maxims which in life 
they had never exemplified. <' Omnia fui et nihil expedit," 
was his last, (perhaps his first,) moral reflection ; aiid the 
desire of perpetuating the greatness of his family was his 
last ambition. 

The sons who succeeded him, the two young fierce 
Caesars, Caracalla and Geta, (whom he had associated in 
his power while living, and one of whom attempted to 
hasten his death,*) disappointed the hopes of their father, 
and of Rome :^f, indeed, Rome had any hopes of youths 
who early displayed ^' the indolent security of hereditary 
princes, and a presumption that fortune would supply tlui 
place of merit and application." On their return from 
Britain to Rome, the unnatural hatred, the implacable 
antipathy which had already broken forth in the jealousies 
of their infancy, rendered it obvious << that only one could 
reign, and that the other must fall." 

On their arrival in the capital, they immediately divided 
the vast extent of the imperial palace between them. <' No 
communication was allowed between their apartments ; the 
doors and passages were diligently fortified, and guards 

* *' While the emperor wat dying at Tork,N(&iVer his expedition into 


matmy amoog the troops." — OUtbon. 

t OMian'8 Poema. 


posted and relieved, with the saAie strictness as in a be- 
sieged place." The young emperors never met. but in 
public, and then only in the presence of their afflicted 

If all Rome, (brutified as it was by the constant spectacle 
of crime,) was shocked by the violence of this fraternal 
discord, which the conventional ceremonies and profound 
dissimulation of a court could ill disguise, the still devoted 
mother, the high-minded Julia Domna, beheld it with deep 
affliction, and the worst predictions of its evil consequences. 
A latent civil war was already distracting the government, 
and originating a scheme for separating the hostile brothers, 
by dividing the empire between them, a scheme which 
would eventually have terminated in << the dissolution of 
the etanpire itself, whose unity had hitherto remained invio- 
lable." The empress mother, to whose superior genius 
both brothers still resorted, (through an influence difficult 
to account for,) contemplated the fatal negotiation, with 
grief and indigna,tion ; and it is admitted by all the histo- 
rians who have treated of the times, that her tears and 
eloquence alone broke up the fatal treaty, and thus fbr a 
time saved the empire. 

Caracalla, who listened with his habitual deference, and 
profound dissimulation, to his mother's arguments, con- 
sented to abide by her decision ; and, affecting to yield to 
her entreaties, met his long estranged brother in her apart- 
ments, upon terms of seeming peace and lasting concilia- 
tion. The meeting took place under the fbndest aspira- 
tions of the confiding mother's heart ; and a conversation, 
carried on with ease and confidence, had commenced 
aniong the reunited family, when some centurions, inge- 
niously concealed in the apartment, rushed suddenly with 
drawn swords upon the young and unfortunate Geta. The 
distracted mother threw her arms round the victim ; and, 
striving in vain to shield him in her embrace, was wounded 
in the hand, in the dreadful struggle. Covered with the 
blood of her younger son, she saw her elder animating 
and assisting the fury of his assassins; and Geta fell dead 
at her feet. 


Caracalla,^ with fear and fury stamped on kis counte- 
jumce, flew to the asylum of the Pnetorian camp, the 
natural sanctuary of an imperial murderer, stained with 
his brother's •blood. '< The soldiers," (says the historian,) 
<< raised and comforted him, as he fell prostrate before 
the statues of the tutdar deities of the camp:" but who 
was to comfort the bereaved mother ? 

The emperor, armed with the protection of the army, 
(purchased by the most lavish donations of ^he accumu- 
lated treasures of his father's reign,) hurried to the senate, 
and prevailed on that obsequious assembly, Twhich was 
always prepared to ratify the decisions of fortune,) to 
declare in his favour. f But there was another assembly, 
congregated by sympathy and pity^ less prepared to ratify 
his crime. Qq his return from the senate to the imperial 
palace, the fratricide proceeded to his mother's apartment, 
and found the empress surrounded by the noblest matrons 
of Rome, mothers like herself, and weeping, in common 
feelings of humanity and maternity, the wretchedness of 
one, who, as the mother of the murdered and the mur* 
derer, was equally inaccessible to hope or consolation. 

The jealous temper of Caracalla, rankling with remorse 
and cruelty, became furious at the reproachful and touch- 
ing spectacle. He ordered the ladies to disperse, threaten- 
ing them with death ; and, to prove his fearful sincerity, 
he consigned one of the terrified mourners to instant exe- 
cution. This victim was of imperial rank — a woman 
who had " done the state some service," who had advo- 
cated the people's cause, and had saved the life of a Ro- 
man emperor, and quelled an insurrection : the person 
chosen as a terrible example by Caracalla was Fadilla, 
the last remaining daughter of the emperor Marcus Aure- 
lius, and the saviour-sister of Commodus. 

Afler the execution of this imperial princess, even the 
august but wretched mother of the fratricide emperor was 

* Herodian. 
t One of th 
plied, '* I consent 

t One of the senate proposing the apotheoais of Geta, the emperor re* 
It : I li£e nim better in bea?en than on earth." 


obliged to silence her lamentatioilis, to suppress her sighs, 
<« and to receive her assassin son with smiles of approba- 
tion." For he was still her son ; and still for his sake, 
and for that of the empire, she resumed her influence on 
his government, (whatever it might be) and " administered 
the principal afiairs of the empire, with a justice that sup- 
ported his authority, and with a moderation that isometimes 
corrected his wild extravagances."* 

The mnrder of Fadilla, the friend and confidant of the 
empress mother, was followed with other acts of vengeance 
and cruelty against all who came under the vague appella- 
tion of '< the friends of Geta ;" and twenty thousand per- 
sons of both sexes are computed to have been put to death. 
The most eminent lawyer of Rome, Papinian, the friend of 
Severus and Julia, was among the number of the victims.! 
His death was lamented as a public calamity ; while the 
execution of so many innocent citizens " was bewailed by 
the secret tears of their friends and their families." 

It was & maxim of Caracalla " to secure the afiections 
of the army, and to esteem the rest of his subjects as of 
little consequence ;" and he died the victim of this physi- 
cal-force philosophy, by which he had lived and reigned. 
He was murdered during his progress in the East, and 
while on a pilgrimage to the temple of the Moon at Carrse. 
A Scythian archer of the imperial guard struck the blow, 
the paid agent of a military conspiracy, provoked by the 
emperor's jealousy of Opilius Macrinus, the Praetorian Pre- 
fect, A.D. 227 .$ 

The house of Severus was extinguished ; and the empire 
was three days without a master, when the choice of the 

* Dion Catrinf. Liv. Ixxvii. Gibbon, vol. I Julia, representing to 
ber Bon that the people were so exhausted by his rapacity, that they could 
no longer pay tlie ordinary taxes, he replied: — "I shall have wnatever 
money I want, as long as I command a sword.'* 

t Haying been desired to compose a defence for the emperor, he 
refused the task, observing, " it is easier to commit fratricide than to 
justify it" 

X Montesquieu, finding the name of '* tyrant" too mild for such a mon- 
ster, calls him the destroyer of mankind, and adds : — " Caligula, Neron^ 
Domitien, et Cmnmode, ji'ezercaient lenr cruautds, que £ui8 Rome; 
Caracalla promenait tes fureurs dans le monde entier." 



army fell, after aome hesitation, upon the secret instigator 

of the assassin of Caracalla — Macrinus. 
To the last hour of her son's life, Julia Domna, who 

iiad accompanied him to the East, administered all that 
nras moral or intellectual in the government of the empire; 
and the respectful civility of the usurper Macrinus to the 
widow of Severus might have flattered her with a hope of 
an honourable, if not a happy old age, in the society of 
the lettered and the scientific, whom to the last she served 
and protected. 

But the heart, if not the spirit, of this great woman, 
and most unfortunate of mothers, was broken. " She had 
experienced all the vicissitudes of fortune. From an 
humble station she had been raised to greatness, only to 
taste the superior bitterness of an exalted rank. She was 
doomed to weep over the death of one of her sons, and 
over the life of another. The terrible death of Caracalla, 
though her good sense must have long taught her to ex- 
pect it, awakened the feelings of a mother and an empress. 
She descended with a painful struggle into the condition 
of a subject, and soon withdrew herself, by a voluntary 
death, from an anxious and a humiliating dependence."* 
She refused all food, and died of inanition. 


Tbe Women of the Empire. Julia Maesa. Boemiad. Mammea. 

The empire, on the death of Caracalla, and under the 
sudden and transient usurpations of Macrinus, resembled 
some enormous and untrustworthy bark, struggling for 
existence amidst the rage and fury of contending ele- 

* This passage from Gibbon is foanded on the authority of Dion, and 
the abridgment of Xiphilins, which, he sajps, "though less particular, is 
in thin place, clearer than the original." 

VOL. n« 11 


ments, straining against the storm, tossed by the swell, 
and torn and disntantled, beyond the science or power of 
its commander to right or save it. Yet, beneath the tem- 
pest of destructive events, which was sweeping over the 
surface of society, there flowed on an under-current of 
history, winding its way to posterity, (though but by a 
thread,) like the subterranean streamlet, which the earth- 
quake above disturbs not in its course. 

Marcus Macrinus, an obscure native of Algiers, who 
had passed through the grades of gladiator, notary, law- 
yer, and prefect, ascended the throne through perfidy and 
murder. He was still in Syria, and had scarcely felt him- 
self an emperor, amidst the antagonist interests and dis- 
contents of the army and the senate, when a conspiracy 
of women, "concerted with prudence and conducted with 
vigour," hurled the false and feeble usurper from the ele- 
vated point to which crime and cruelty had led him ; and 
added another page to the history of the intellectual acti- 
vity of the sex, by which the destinies of mankind have 
been so oflen covertly influenced. 

Afler the murder of Caracalla, and the death of the 
Empress Julia Domna, her sister, Julia Maesa, was ordered 
by the Emperor Macrlnus to leave the court and city <of 
Antioch. In the course of twenty years' favour, during 
the reigns of her brother-in-law, the Emperor Severus, 
and of her nephew, Caracalla, Julia Maesa had main- 
tained her position near the person of her imperial sister, 
had amassed an enormous fortune, and made high alli- 
ances. The young Syrian adventuress, who had first 
studied the weakness and gullibility of man in the Temple 
of Bmesa, and who had come to Rome to seek her fortune, 
not only had won, but what was far more difRcult in such 
times, had maintained it. 

Well studied in all the arts and means by which society 
is m6ved or imposed on, she had become a power in the 
imperial court, in which she resided, and which she had 
followed to Antioch. On the mandate of Macrinus, she 
retired to her native city of Emesa, taking with her an 
immense fortune, her two beautiful and widowed daugh* 


ters, Soeemias and Mammea, and their two sons, (for each 
had an only child). The younger, Alexander Severus, 
the son of Mammea, was still in childhood. Bassi&nus, 
the son of Soesmias, who had received his cognomen of 
Heliogabalus from his early consecration to the ministry 
of Highpriest of the Sun, was a youth of nineteen, re- 
markable for the beauty of his person, the vivacity of his 
character, and the grace of bis movements. 

The troops stationed at Emesa, and constrained by the 
severe discipline of the new emperor to pass the winter in 
that remote encampment, resorted in crowds (either from 
idleness or devotion) to the splendid Temple of the Sun. 
There, they beheld with veneration and delight the elegant 
figure and dress of the young pontiff, in whom they thought 
they recognised a resemblance to his cousin, Caracallaj 
whose memory they still adored. 

Julia Maesa, who had probably, more from prudence 
than supelrstition, placed her elder grandson in the sanc- 
tuary of the most venerated of the eastern temples, saw 
and cherished the rising partiality of the army for the 
young and splendid priest. She even endeavoured to 
deepen the impression of his resemblance to their mur- 
dered sovereign, by insinuating a suspicion more favour- 
able to her ambitious views for her grandson, than to the 
honour of his mother. By the hands of her emissaries, 
she distributed sums of money to the troops with a lavish 
hand ; and the troops, eager to avenge the hardships in- 
flicted on them by an emperor they despised, were easily 
induced to proclaim Heliogabalus emperor — ^to assert his 
supposed hereditary right — and to call upon the army to 
join the standard of him, who had taken up arms to re- 
venge the death of Caracalla, on the oppressor of the mili- 
tary. The camps and garrisons of Syria heard the appeal, 
and responded to it : and successive detachments murdered 
their officers, and joined the rebels. 

Macrinus, with difficulty roused to meet the danger, 
inarched, with his Prsetorians and the main body of the 
army, upon the rebel force of the Syrian prince ; and 
thou^t to defeat, by a blow, what he contemptuously 


named *< the infant's conspiracy." But the soldiers con^ 
aidered him with distrust ; while the increasing and zealous 
army of the young pretender were animated by the pre- 
sence, and fanaticised by the arts and eloquence, of Maesa 
and Sosemias — (the one in the prime of her genius, the 
other of her beauty ^) who, according to their Asiatic cus* 
torn, accompanied the army in their chariots. 

The reluctance of the imperial troops to attack the rebel 
forces was apparent in their first faint onset ; but the Prae» 
toricui guards, with a sudden outburst of their ancient 
spirit, asserted their superiority in discipline, and the rebel 
ranks were broken. The glories of the young representa- 
tive of the Sun were on the point of being eclipsed for 
ever ; when Maesa and Sosemias, throwing themselves 
from their chariots, mounted, their chargers ; and, gallop- 
ing into the heart of the fray, excited the compassion and 
animated the drooping courage of the troops, while they 
even inspired their son with a temporary and transient 
heroism, foreign to his character. Thus influenced, He- 
liogabalus, placing himself at the head of the troops they 
had rallied, pfunged, sword in hand, into ^ the thickest of 
the enemy. 

It was then that Macrinus, astounded, or intimidated, 
fled while the battle was yet doubtfpl ; and the Praetorians, 
ashamed of the deserter for whom they fought, instantly 
surrendered. The Roman army, thus again united, 
" mingled tears of joy ;" and the physical force of the 
strongest, (governed by the moral power of the weakest,) 
ranged itself under the banners of Maesa and Sosemias. 

Macrinus and his son were taken and put to death ; and 
the Roman senate, called on to legalize forms dictated by 
the army, solemnly proclaimed Heliogabalus emperor ; at 
the same time, bestowing the imperial title of Augusta on 
his mother and grandmother, to whose genius and skill it 
was considered that he owed the empire. 

The choice of Maesa would, probably, have fallea on 
Alexander, but he was a child. In political, as in moral 
science, wisdom is sometimes compelled to adopt a present 
and fivaiktble incidentt in furtherance of a great and future 


good ; and in such cases hesitation is more frequently the 
result of weakness than caution. With all the exquisite 
personal beauty and imposing deportment of Heliogabalus, 
the young priest of the Sun was but the expedient of the 
astute and statesmanlike mind of his grandmother. To 
dethrone Macrinus^ before he returned to Rome, — to ofier 
to the senate an immediate representative, and the army 
an imposing image of power, in the person of one who 
carried so brilliant an influence along with him, — was a 
device which, (though temporary and even dangerous,) 
afibrded the only means by which the able but unscrupu- 
lous Maesa could efiect a revolution that involved the 
interests of the empire, along with the safety and lives of 
her own family. 

But, remote from the pageantry by which her purposes 
Were temporarily answered, Maesa had still a reserve of 
hope and promise, for the happiness and solace of man* 
kind, in the character, the genius, and natural virtues, ot 
the son of her young daughter, Mammea — ^Alexander 
Severus — as yet bi)t a studious and affectionate boy, in 
the hands of the wisest of tutors, and the most sagacious 
of mothers. 

The young prince, for the present, was kept out of 
sight ; and the obscurity with which his female guardians 
surrounded him was proof of their discretion. Helioga* 
balus, afler wasting a year, contrary to the wishes of his 
family and partisans, in his luxurious and splendid pro- 
gress from Syria to Italy, at last made his entry into the 
capital. He was the first emperor of an Astatic extrac- 
tion ; and his picture, (which preceded his arrival, and 
was placed over the altar of victory in the senate house,) 
conveyed to the Romans a just but by no means favour- 
able resemblance of the person and manners of the Syrian 

He was depicted in his sacerdotal robes of silk and gold ,* 
his head was crowned with a tiara (the mitre of a Priest 
of the Sun) ; and his numerous collars and bracelets were 
studded with gems of great value. <^ His eyebrows, also, 
were tinged with black, and his cheeks painted with an 



artificial red and white ; and th^ grave senators confessed 
with a sigh, that, afler having long experienced the stern 
tyranny of their own countrymen, Rome was at length 
humbled beneath the effeminate luxury of Oriental des- 

To his tutelar deity, the young emperor ascribed his 
elevation to the throne ; and, in this consciousness of his 
divine right, he scoffed at all human control. The influence 
of his early priestcraft was more powerful than all the 
worldly wisdom of his grandmother could effect to coun- 
teract it ; and the title of pontiff was dearer to him than 
all the titles of imperial greatness.* 

Mingling the most superstitious fanaticism with the most 
profligate vices and effeminate luxury, he was frequently 
seen leading the solemn procession of the Sun, which 
(represented by a black conical stone^ set with gems,) was 
placed in a chariot, drawn by six white horses. The pious 
emperor, holding the reins, and supported by his ministers, 
moved backwards, ^that he might perpetually enjoy the 
felicity of the divine presence, while in the celebration of 
the worship which followed. Choirs of« Syrian damsels 
and ballets of dancing girls followed ; and " the gravest 
personages of the state and army, clothed in long Phoeni- 
cian tunics^ officiated in the meanest functions, with affected 
zeal and secret indignation, "f 

To all these innovations upon the common sense and 
common decencies of society, the people, the soldiers, and 
the senate, were still disgracefully submissive ; and when 
the frantic follies of the emperor received one courageous 
check, it was from the firmness of a few retired but vene- 
rated women, the priestesses of Vesta. Upon making the 
Temple of the Sun, the common centre of religious wor- 
ship in Rome, the imperial fanatic resolved on removing 
the Palladium, and all the " sacred pledges of the faith of 

* Herodiat-^Gibbon. 

t Roral and religious processions of a similar character, and with a 
like CTOct, have been seen in modern times ; the greatest persons in the 
state and^army assisting, to urore their orthodoxy and their lovalty to the 
restored chnrch and suc» of th» Capets. 


Nutna," to the altars of his tutelar god. In violation of 
the most religibus of all Roman prejudices, he broke into 
the sanctuary of Vesta, and carried away what he believed 
to be the Palladium ; but the priestesses, by a pious fraud, 
defeated the sacrilegious violence, and imposed a beautiful 
but fictitious image on the profane intruder."*^ It was pro;- 
bably on the discovery of this device, that he again broke 
in upon the last sanctuary of female purity, and carrying 
off by force one of the vestals, added her to the succes- 
sion of wives, which his caprice had immolated to his 

The contempt of decency, which had hitherto distin* 
guished all former tyrants was surpassed by the inexpres- 
sible infamy of Heliogabalus ; which, if not exaggerated, 
was unparalleled in any other age and country : and even 
credulity pauses to inquire how millions could submit so 
long to the mad and vicious atrocities of one maniac ; and 
that maniac, a boy— or how the business of the empire, 
the indispensable administration that supported its ex- 
chequer and provided for the contingencies of its remote 
provinces all over the world, were organized and perpetu- 
ated under such a government. 

It is a reproach hurled at Heliogabalus by the most phi- 
losophical of modern historians, that it was reserved for 
him << to permit the acts of the senate to be discharged in 
the name of his mother, Sosemias, who was placed in the 
senate, by the side of the consuls, and who subscribed as 
a regular member the decrees of the legislative assembly.*' 

" In every age and country," continues Gibbon, <* the 
wiser, or at least the stronger, of the two sexes has usurped 
the powers of the state, and confined the other to the cares 
and pltosures 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 ex- 

* HiBt Aagott. 


ercising 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 inexplicable prodigy." In impe- 
rial Rome, however, such prodigies were neither new nor 

But, while Sosemias was '^subscribing decrees," and 
strenuously busied in the public affairs, what was her son, 
her emperor and master, about ? What prank was " the 
wiser, or at least stronger of the two sexes" playing? 
what crime was Heliogabalus perpetrating 7 what dish was 
he concocting?* or was the senate, whose wisdom this 
obtrusive woman was supposed to insult by her presence, 
really more indignant at the " inexplicable prodigy" of the 
admittance of the emperor's mother into their august as- 
sembly, than at the elevation of the emperor's barber, or 
court-fool, to the honours of the prefecture ? 

The master of the world, in spite of the counsels of his 
mother, and the reprobation of his grandame, afiected to 
copy the dress and manners of the female sex, and to pre- 
fer the distaff to the sceptre. Habited in silken robes, 
studded with gems, he passed his days in lounging on 
couches of massy gold, cushioned with eider-down ; and, 
when not engaged abroad in the most disgraceful pursuits, 
he was shut up in apartments strewn with flowers, and 
lighted from golden cressets, fed with balm and amber, 
where he was perpetually surrounded by buffoons, players, 
parasites, and concubines. It was, probably, from the 
midst of this privy council that he issued his famous 
census, «< for numbering all the rats, mice, and spiders in 
Rome, to give him an idea of its population." 

* The inyention of a new sauce was liberally rewarded ; but, if it was 
not relished, the inventor was confined to eat of nothing else, till he bad 
discovered another more agreeable to the imperial palate. Heliogabalus 
never could eat sea-fish except at a great distance from the sea ; ne then 
would distribute vast quantities of the rarest sorts, brought at an immense 
expense, to the peasants of the inland countrj. — HiiL AvgutL p. 109. 


Under such circumstaoces, might not a womany and 
that woman a mother, be excused her presumption in 
watching over the public interests, which her << wiser" or 
*< stronger" master neglected ; bringing her instincts and 
quick natural perceptions to bear upon a craft, in which so 
many fools and so many knaves have been deemed adepts? 
Might she not venture to play a game, which the worst 
and wickedest of the other sex had hitherto played in 
Rome, with such fearful odds, against the welfare and hap- 
piness of mankind — the game of power ! 

While the mother of Heliogabalus was acting with 
energy in the senate, his *' crafty grandmother," the 
foundress of his fortunes, was watching over him in the 
interior of his palace, and vainly endeavouring to check 
the torrent of vice and crime, which were hurrying him to 
perdition. Soon, however, made sensible that her elder 
grandson must eventually destroy himself, by the violence 
of his own passions, she prepared to bring forward that 
ofher and surer support of his family, whose happy nature 
his mother and herself had so long fostered and improved 
by the noblest education. 

That Maesa believed Heliogabalus mad, there can be no 
doubt ; and she, therefore, embraced a favourable moment 
of fondness or devotion, to persuade the young emperor 
to adopt his cousin, Alexander Severus, and to endow him 
with the title of Gsesar,— an act which she observed would 
leave him to his own divine and pious vocation of high- 
priest of the sun, " no longer distracted by the cares of 
the earth." 

The youthful Alexander Severus was shortly afler de- 
clared Caesar : but, by acquiring the afiections of the peo- 
ple, he soon awakened the jealousy and hatreid of the 
emperor, who frequently attempted by stratagem to take 
his life. By the vigilance of his grandmother, and the 
prudence of the faithful servants whom his mother Mam- 
mea had placed about his person, Alexander, however, 
escaped ; and the noeditated crimes of Heliogabalus were 
frequently frustrated by his own loquacious folly. 

In a fit of passion, and by a despotic sentence, the em- 


peror at length detemniDed to degrade his cousin from the 
rank and title of Csesar. The noessage was received in 
the senate with silence, in the camp with fury ; and the 
Prtetorians swore to protect Alexander, and vindicate the 
majesty of the throne, to which they had raised the tyrant 
whom they now blushed to own. For this mutiny the 
emperor attempted .to punish some of the leaders, and the 
sedition of the guards was the result. 

The headlong imprudence of Heliogabalus was fatal to 
himself and to his ministers : he was assassinated by the 
Prsetorians, his body thrown into the Tiber, and his 
memory branded with infamy by the senate. Alexander 
Severus, endeared to the Romans by his dangers and his 
virtues, and, above all, by the favour created for him by 
Maesa and his mother, was raised to the throne, and ^' in- 
vested in one day with all the various titles and powers of 
imperial dignity." 

The new emperor, << a modest and dutiful youth, of only 
seventeen years of age," committed the reins of govern- 
ment to the hands of his mother Mammea, and of Maesa ; 
and, afler the death of the latter, (who survived his eleva- 
tion but a short time,) Mammea remained the sole regent 
of her son, and of the empire.* 

With a profound knowledge of mankind, and in full pos- 
session of public opinion on the subject of female govern- 
ment (against which the maxims of the most authoritative 
writers were directed),t Mammea resolved on avoiding all 
offensive display of power. Her first judicious act was to 
decline the prerogative assumed by her more ambitious 
sister, of taking her place in the legislative assembly of 
the empire ; her next, to issue a law excluding women for 
ever from the senate, with the penalty of <« devoting to the 
infernal gods the head of her by whom this law should be 
violated." She well knew that society, governed more by 

* Gibbon. Hist. Aagust. 

t Metellus ^^omidicus, the censor, avowed to the Roman people, in a 

Sablic oration, that had kind Nature allowed man to exist without the 
elp of women, he would have been delivered from a very troublesome 


c<»iventional forms than by principles, took ready oflfenoe 
at every tangible image of power, that interfered with the 
exclusive mastery of the <' wiser or stronger sex ;" while 
it lent its suffrages to the secret influence, and profited by 
the private agency which, though often greater than the 
throne, was still behind it. 

«< The substance, not the pageantry of power, was the 
object of Mammea's manly ambition;" and she main* 
tained an absolute and lasting empire over the mind of her 
son, while she brooked no rival in his aflections. It was 
under the impulse of this maternal jealousy, (the besetting 
sin of fond motherhood) that she committed the one only 
crime and fault that clouded her bright reign :* at the risk 
of losing her son's affections, she banished his young wife, 
on the pretence of a conspiracy, which it was alSirmed that 
her father had formed against the throne of his son-in-law* 

The senate who had readily confirmed the election of 
Alexander to the throne of the empire, and saluted the 
boy sovereign with the title of " father of his country," 
was satisfied to leave the administration in the hands of 
his mother, who instantly organized a council of sixteen, 
taken from the most estimable of the members of the 
senate. She also raised Fabius Sabinus, '< the Cato of his 
age," and Ulpian, the most eminent jurisconsult of any 
age, to the ministry. The probity and talents of these 
men endeared them to the people ; and the recorded wis- 
dom of their policy justifies their election in the eyes of 

If the most eminent female sovereigns have been re« 
proached with owing the glory of their reigns to the able 
ministers who have directed their councils, society at least 
stands indebted to female sagacity, for the penetration 
which brings forward such men, and the pertinacity which 
retains them. 

The young emperor was early taught to despise the 
effeminate habits and vain forms of a court, which had 
been mounted by his mad cousin upon the gorgeous 

* Dion CaniQi. 



heraldry of oriental fiishions. He relinquished the aacri- 
legious title which the vileness of the Roman people had 
lavished on the late emperor ; and one of his first decrees 
forhade that any should giire him the name of '« Lord." 
Habited in a simple white robe, without gold or jewels, 
Alexander walked the streets of Rome, unaccompanied 
even by a single guard : mingling freely with the citizens, 
he conversed much with the lettered and scientific, and 
was only cold and haughty to the servile and the false. 

Uniler his mother's counsels,, he encouraged a general 
reform in all the departments of government. The most 
enlightened jurisconsults of the day were called in to assist 
the senate with their advice and authority. He even con- 
ciliated the professors of Christianity, by adopting one of 
their highest dogmas, which was inscribed in letters of 
gold in many parts of his palace : ^^Dq unto others as you 
would they should do unto you." 

The utmost toleration was shown to the rights of con- 
science ; and, in spite of the prejudices of the people, the 
government, more enlightened than the governed, not only 
rejected persecutions for religion's sake, but proposed to 
erect a temple to the founder of the sect of the Christians, 
and to raise the divine reformer of the existing morals^ 
and the teacher of a new religion, to the rank of the wor« 
shipped gods of the old theology. 

But the still powerful priesthood took the alarm, and 
roused the bigotry of the orthodox votarists of '< Jupiter the 
thunderer," while they remonstrated with the young em- 
peror on his dangerous innovation : <« If you raise temples 
to this new deity," they observed, "our temples will be 
deserted ;" and the union between the church and state of 
Rome was still too intimate and formidable, to permit th6 
government to fly in the face of the Pagan hierarchy.* 

There was, however, a private chapel, a domestic 
temple, in the interior of the imperial palace, which, in its 
singular assemblage of the tangible imagery of all re* 
Itgions, proved that the sovereign (more tolerant than bia 

* Hiftoira UjiiveneUe.r-Hi8t Aagiut. 


people) was also more philosophic than exclusive, in his 
devotion to any one particular creed. This chapel con- 
tained, among the statues of the virtuous and eminent of 
all countries and ages, those of Abraham and of Christ, to 
which the young emperor offered divine honours, " con- 
sidering that whatever was marked by a character of 
grandeur and wisdom, was in itself divine." 

Still Alexander Severus was not a Christian; for he 
openly professed the religion of the state, and attended its 
gorgeous worship ; but he loved the morality of Chris- 
tianity, and he revered the doctrine of his mother's creed. 
While Maesa, austere, able, and courageous, impressed 
on his young mind the manly principles Which make great 
sovereigns, his mother, Mammea, indulgent, spiritual, and 
humane, inspired him with the mild affections of Chris- 
tianity,^ the religion she was herself supposed to profess. 

The results of the education by which both these able 
women called forth the great and inherent qualities of a 
happy organization, for the blessing of Rome and of man- 
kind, are best illustrated in the habits to which it gave 
birth ; and the history of a day of the ordinary life of 
Alexander Severus may be considered as a breviary, into 
which the young sovereigns of modern times (who are not 
of " the wiser or stronger sex") may look with advantage, 
when they are placed by " the galladt spirit of chivalry 
and the law of succession," at the head of great kingdoms, 
" in defiance of all order and national decorum !" 

The early removal of Heliogabalus to the temple of the 
Sun, and his initiation into the impositions of its priest- 
hood, scarcely account for the differences of character 
observable in the pupils of the sagacious Maesa. But 

* The motber of the reigning emperor was obliged to use much jprecao- 
tion in the profession of a faith ^hich was hostile to the state orthodozr. 
It is recorded that when the Empress Mammea passed through Antioch, 
'* she expressed a desire of conversing with the celebrated Origen, the 
fame of whose piety and learning was spread over the East. Origen 
obeyed so flattering an invitation, and, thoueh he could not expect to 
succeed in the conversatron of an artful and ambitious woman, she lis- 
tened with pleasure to his elocnient exhortations, and honourably dis- 
missed him to his retirement in Palestine."-^Gt66on. 

VOL. n. 12 


education can only develope, it cannot create ; and the de- 
fective and ignoble nature of Heliogabalus rendered him 
insensible to those finer impressions, so happily excited in 
the more spiritual temperament of Alexander, whose ex* 
cellent understanding soon convinced him of the advan- 
tages of virtue, the pleasure of knowledge, and the neces- 
sity of labour. '< A natural mildness and moderation of 
temper preserved him from the assaults of passion, and 
from the allurements of vice. His unalterable regard for 
his early preceptor, the wise Ulpian, guarded his inexpe- 
rienced youth from the poison of flattery." 

<< 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 was employed 
in his council, when he discussed public affairs and deter- 
mined private causes, with a patience and discretion above 
his years. The dryness of business was relieved by the 
charms of literature ; 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 re- 
publics of Plato and Cicero, formed his taste, enlarged his 
understanding, and gave him the noblest ideas of man and 

" The exercises of the body succeeded to those of the 
mind ; and Alexander, who was tall, active, and robust, 
surpassed most of his equals in 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 principal meal of the Romans, he was 
attended by his secretaries, with whom he read and an- 
swered 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 con- 
sult his own inclination, the company consisted of a few 

MAMMBA. 135 

select friends, men of learning and virtue, amongst whom 
Ulpian was constantly invited. Their conversation was 
familiar and 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. The dress of Alexander 
was plain and modest, his demeanour courteous and affa- 
ble ; at the proper hours his palace was open to all his 
subjects, but the voice of a crier was heard, as in the Eleu- 
sinian mysteries, pronouncing the same salutary admo- 
nition : < Let none enter those holy walls, unless he is 
conscious of a pure and innocent mind.' "* 

Among the anticipated institutions of modern times, 
founded by this extraordinary government, (organized by 
a woman, and administered by the child of her care, and 
pupil of her precepts,) was a public school, opened for 
gratuitous education, and more peculiarly dedicated to the 
reception of orphan infancy. Alexander, to mark his 
respect for her who originated the beneficent idea, called 
these schools Mammean. 

But the wise female legislator, so capable of noble and 
philosophical generalizations, failed through her early and 
inveterate habits of female economy. By her spirit of 
detail, and an impatient reform of abuses which had be- 
come a part and parcel of the law of the land, she weak- 
ened her own influence, and endangered the throne of her 
son. Her reduction of the civil list soon extended to the 
military expenditure ; and she is accused of having exer- 
cised her ascendancy over the emperor to induce him to 
reduce the largesses to the soldiery, which the corruption 
of the time and the influence of the army rendered neces- 
sary. Other attempts at military reform were also made ; 
seconded by the minister Ulpian. These, however, ren- 
dered him the object of special hatred to the cohorts, (ene-? 
mies to all discipline.) The soldiers accordingly rose, 
attacked and pursued him to the palace, and even to the 

♦ Gibbon. 


apartment of the emperor, who, throwing himself before 
their victim, bravely defended him. But the effort was 
vain : and Ulpian was murdered almost in the arms of his 
sovereign. Alexander, though he could not save his 
minister, punished with the utmost severity the chief 
leaders of the sedition, and thus paved the way, by his 
courage and justice, to his own ruin. 

A long peace of ten years, and all the prosperity which 
peace brings with it had given to Rome and her provinces 
that repose which humanizes a people, and, without the 
odium of an oppressive taxation, fills the treasury of a 
government— when Artaxerxes, whose ambition knew no 
bounds, afler vanquishing the Parthians, attacked the 
Romans in Syria with fearful success, and filled all Rome 
with shame and apprehension^ 

The emperor, less timid, and more temperate than his 
subjects, addressed a letter to the Persian monarch, ex- 
horting him to consolidate his own unstable throne by 
peace and wisdom, rather than to seek a vain glory at the 
expense of the blood of his subjects, and of the world's 
repose. The reply of the Persian hero was in the trtie 
spirit of a military despot, and an oriental sovereign. 
*^ Laws and principles (he said) are for the vulgar ; the 
right of kings is their might. Tell your emperor such is 
my reply to his philosophic letter, and that I shall oppose 
my camp to his paper, my sword to his pen, mj blood to 
his ink, and my actions to bis discourses." 

To this military pedantry Alexander made no reply; 
but, calmly accounting to the senate aiid the people for 
the necessity he was under of beginning a war, to which 
their pecuniary resources were to contribute, — and, having 
deliberately counselled with his ablest generals concerning 
his plans of operation, he left Rome, its senate, and a popu- 
lation in tears and mourning for his departure, and marched 
for Antioch, the Sybaris of the East. The first and last 
despatch of Alexander to the senate was short but satisfac- 
tory, and concluded with the simple and modest phrase— 
" The countries conquered by Artaxerxes have returned 
under the Roman domination." Rome received back her 



emperor with transports of joy and gratitude. The people 
demanded for him the honours of a triumph, and he entered 
the capital in a chariot drawn by the elephants which he 
had taken in battle from the enemy. But the greater tri« 
uraph was in his mother's hearty and when the senate 
gave him the name of Persicus, she may have glorified 
herself in pronouncing the fer dearer name of *« son." 

Rome* did not long enjoy her triumphs and her peace. 
The Germans, by passing the Rhine, and ravaging Illyria 
and Gaul, obliged the emperor again to take the field : the 
people again wept his departure, and his mother accompa- 
nied him on this, his last and most perilous, campaign. 

Alexander continued to display the talents of a great 
general, and the courage of a brave soldier ; and he soon 
beat back the enemy to the shores of the Rhine. But a 
domestic and unsuspected enemy, in the heart of his 
army, and at its head, stood armed, and near his person, 
ready to strike a blow, which even maternal vigilance 
could not avert. This enemy was his friend, his de- 
pendent, one whose bravery had placed him in command 
over the army, Maximin, — a Goth by birth, a barbarian 
by nature. 

The- emperor had retired to his tent from the fatigues 
of the field ; and, after a frugal repast, had thrown him- 
self on his couch and slept. His mother was, as usual, 
near him, when, about the seventh hour of the day, a part 
of his own guards broke into the imperial tent, and mur- 
dered "their virtuous and unsuspecting prince."* The 
unfortunate mother, in attempting to save her son, fell 
dead under the reiterated wounds inflicted bv the assassins 
of both. The similar fate of sons and mothers, so differ- 
ently constituted as Heliogabaliis and Alexander, and their 
respective parents, is a curious trait in the history of their 
times, and a further proof of the undeviating constancy of 
the maternal disposition. 

The Praetorians were avenged ; and the barbarous and 
ungrateful instrument of their vengeance, their " Ajax," 

* In his twentjr-ninth year, and foorteenth of his reign, A. D. 235. 



and their << Hercules," who had led them to conspire 
against his own patron and friend, by fomenting their 
discontents, ascended the throne of the empire, and once 
more gave up the world to anarchy and desolation. 

" The administration of Alexander," says Gibbon, << was 
an unavailing struggle against the corruption of the age.'* 
That << firm, wise, and beneficent administration," accord- 
ing to all writers, modern and ancient, was said to be or- 
ganized and maintaiAed to the last by his mother,^ whose 
influence over the emperor the army abhorred and punish- 
ed, and on whose errors, the writers of the << wiser sex" 
have dwelt with visible satisfaction.f 

But Mammea's greatest fault was, that she was a re- 
former: her greatest reproach was that, "by exacting 
from the riper years of her son the same obedience she 
had justly claimed, from his inexperienced youth, she 
exposed to public ridicule his character and her own.'' 
The history of her son's glorious reign, (a reign of peace, 
prosperity, aQd reform,) is the best answer to the re- 
proaches of invidious and partial annalists, imperial 
satirists, and philosophical, ^but not altogether unpre- 
judiced, nor consistent,) historians. 

The people and the provinces wept the death of him 
who had for a time restored their liberties, and revived, in 
their favour, order and the laws;:]: and even the army, 

* " The abilities of that amiable prince, (Alexander,) seem to have been 
inadequate to the difficulties of his situation, the firmness of his conduct 
inferior to the purity of his intentions." — Gibson, 

t See the Augustan Hijstory.-Herojdian, and the Satires on the Ciesars, 
in which the Emperor Julian '" dwells, with a virible satisfaction, on the 
effeminate weakness of the Syrian, and the ridiculous avarice, (retrench- 
ments,) of his mother." Gibhion is frequently at variance with himself in 
his rapid and beautiful sketch of the reign of Alexander; and often 

** Damns with faint praise" 

" the wise and moderate administration" of his government. It is thus, 
also, that while he speaks of " the first and golden years of the reign of 
Nero," (when it is notorious Agrippina reigned in his name,) he yet talks 
of "Agrippina's mad ambitiop being detected by every Roman citi- 
zen," &c. 

t "The most eminent of civil lawyers, Papinian, Paulus, and Ulpian, 
fiounshed under the houie of Sevenis," says Gibbon. But what was the 


forgetting the rigour of his reforms, and the severity of his 
discipline, remembered his virtues, and punished his mur- 
derers with death. The senate, in obedience to public 
feeling, ordered the apotheosis of Alexander Severusand of 
his mother Mammea ; and in the time of Constantino, their 
joint festivals were still celebrated by the priests and the 


The Women of the Empire. Paulina. Victoria. 

Julius Maximinus was elected the successor of Alexan- 
der Severus ; and the most savage and illiterate of men thus , 
succeeded to the most intellectual. Maximin, a Thracian 
by birth, a giant in stature, a Cyclops in features, and 
more suited to be the hero of a tale of the Ogres,* than 
the master of the civilized world, has been universally 
represented by historians, as barbarous, and bloody, and 
ignorant of all the arts and institutions of civil life.^ His 
brute courage and military merits, however, had recom- 
mended him to the favour of Septimius Severus, of Cara-^ 
calla, aud even of Heliogabalus, who recalled him from 

house of Severus? Two young Syrian adventurers, who came to seek 
their fortune in Rome, and founded il — the one by marrying *' un soldat 
heureuz," who became a sovereign ; the other, by her extraordinary 
genius and energy bringing over the army to her views, and placing her 
two grandsons successively on the throne of the world. It was, however, 
under this "house of Severus," and when Mammea was carrying on the 
administration of the empire, that the Roman jurisprudence "having 
closely united itself with the system of the monarchy, was supposed to 
have obtained its full maturity and perfection." 

* He is described as being eight feet high, consuming forty pounds of 
meat per day, knocking out the teeth of a horse with a blow, and drawing 
a loaded carl with ease. — Hist. August.^ Segur. • 

t He was totally ignorant of Greek, at that time as universal among 
the educated Romans, in letters and conversation, as French in the pre- 
sent day among the same class in England. 


his native Thrace, (where his dislike of Macrinus had 
banished him) in order to make him tribune. By these 
high distinctions of imperial favour, he induced Sulpicius, 
a consular dignitary, to give him in marriage his accom- 
plished and beautiful daughter, Paulina, the worthy de« 
acendant of Catulus. 

Of the cruelty of the sanguinary Maximin, and even of 
his " lenity,"* history has taken due note ; while of the 
virtues of his wife little has been said, and that little, inci- 
dentally. " Still," (says Gibbon, on the authority of 
Ammianus Marcellinus) " the wife of Maximin, by insi- 
nuating wise counsels with female gentleness, sometimes 
brought back the tyrant to the way of truth and humanity." 
Wisdom, truth, and humanity, were, then, the prerogative 
of the spiritual nature of woman, even at a time when man 
was fast degenerating into his earliest distinguishing pre- 
rogative, brute force ! 

During the three years' reign of Maximin, in which he 
disdained to visit either Rome or Italy, the accomplished 
lady of the most lu:;[urious of all capitals^ followed the 
wandering and predatory camp of her rude husband 
through Germany and the northern provinces, until the 
emperor fixed the imperial seat of his stern despotism on 
the savage shores of the " fast-rolling Danube." What a 
contrast to the garden scenery of Italy (when all Italy was 
the garden of Rome,):!: must the dark forests and gloomy 

* "Confiscation, exile, or simple death, were esteemed uncommon 
instances of lenity." — Gibbon. 

t The lazuries and refinements of the Romans of the wealthy classes 
have no parallel in modern times. Pompey's house, which became 
part of the imperial domains, was then occupied by the Gordians. It 
surpassed, in splendour and art, all the houses of modem London, and 
the Parisian hotels of the " erand monarch." It was purchased by the 
Gordians, the wealthiest and most munificent family in Rome; though 
** their villa, on the road to Praeneste, was celebrated for baths of singular 
beauty and extent, and for three stately rooms of a hundred'feet in length ; 
but, above all, for a magnificent portico, supported by two hundred co- 
lumns of the most curious and costly sorts of marble. 

X " Quoiaue Tenceinrde Rome ne fut pas, k beaucoup pres, si grande 
qu'elle est a present, les fauxbourgs en ^toient prodigieusement etendus : 
ritalie, pleine de maisons de plaisance, n'etoit proprement que le jardin 
de Rome. Les laboureurs ^talent en Sicile, en Afrique, en £gypte, et 


lakes of this wild region have presented to the young and 
refined empress ! 

Supported by the avowed power of the sword, Maximin 
assumed a supremacy which trampled on every principle 
of law and justice; while the gentle Paulina sought to 
temper his fierce decrees by insinuated counsels, which 
no raan dared to have offered to a sovereign, who is 
said to have rivalled the idea of those <* ancient chiefs of 
slaves and gladiators, whose savage power had lefl so deep 
an impression of terror and detestation." 

It is recorded of this barbarian that he was wont to 
wear his wife's bracelets as finger rings ; and, in some 
moment of gorgeous puerility, such as the fiercest war- 
riors are prone to, Paulina may have found a favourable 
moment to plead the cause of humanity and toleration, to 
stem the torrent of persecution, again let loose upon the 
Christians, and to exercise that influence over the passions 
of her ferocious master, which induced him to impress his 
medals with her mild image ; and^ at her death, to immor- 
talize her virtues by acceding to. her apotheosis, and giving 
her the title of " Diva." 

The death of Paulina was followed by the most unbri- 
dled cruelty and maddening violence of Maximin; and 
the oppression of the provinces, the exactions of the pro- 
consuls (who even stripped the temples of their treasures, 
and coined the golden statues of their gods into money,) 
the rapacity of the procurator of Africa, the disgust and 
hatred of the senate and the people of Rome, but, above 
all, the abhorrence of the suffering army, hastened forward 
the natural destiny of the atrocious tyrant. 

Maximin had returned to Italy, and, while besieging 
Aquilea,^ (where his soldiers were perishing under its 
impregnable walls,) a party of the Praetorian guards 
(*< who trembled for their wives and children") slew him 
in his tent. His head was sent to Rome, the world re- 
joiced, and the uncontrolled tyranny of man was for a 

les jardiniera en Italie : les terres n'etaient presque cultivees que par lea 
eaclaves des citoyens Romaina." — Montesqvieu Orandeur et. Decadence 
de9 Remains, vol. vi. 


time suspended by the death of a savage, destitute of 
every sentiment that distinguishes a human being. 

When the courier, expedited by the army to inform the 
senate of the assassination of Maximin, entered Rome, the 
people he found assembled at the theatre. The joy was 
universal, the head of the monster was burnt in the Cam- 
pus Martins, incense smoked in every temple, confidence 
was restored to every heart, and peace was re-established 
throughout the empire. Yet this " monster" was elected 
to the throne but three short years before, because *« the 
army were impatient of the discipline imposed by an effe- 
minate Syrian, the slave of his mother."* 

The further repetition of a story so similar in all its 
atrocious and successive events, so disgraceful to the 
species, so heartrending to humanity, and so fearfully 
illustrative of the evil arising out of a military despotism, 
and of the base institutes bequeathed to posterity by the 
earlier Roman emperors, may well be spared, in pages 
dedicated to the neglected history of woman's moral 
agency. During the latter half of the third century of 
the Christian era, the mightiest empire of the world was 
but an arena, on whose bloody stage anarchy and a bar- 
barian ambition played their dreadful parts, through every 
phasis of treason and carnage, of the darkest intolerance, 
and the most reckless cruelty. 

The empire had long become the gifl of military ca- 
price ; and the throne, the seat of all power in one day, 
had become the scaffold of its occupant the next. Those 
good men and feeble emperors who succeeded the savage 
Goth, the two Gordians, Papinian, Balbinus, and the 
young, brave, and intellectual third Gordian Augustus,t 
were all murdered in their turn, through the treachery of 
slaves, and the barbarity of soldiers, j: 

* Jolian'B Satire. 

t He was only nineteen jreara of aee when he was mardered. His love 
of learning introduced Misitheus to his notice, who became his master in 
rhetoric, his first minister, and his father-in-law — for he married his 
daaghter. The genius of the father, and the accomplishments of the 
daughter, alone brightened this epoch of brutal power. 

t The Augustan Bistorj. 


Philip, by usurpation, and by conspiracy, the successor 
of the innocent and virtuous Gordian Augustus, was by 
birth an Arab, by profession a robber, and by tempera- 
ment bold, brave, treacherous, and cruel. Murdered in 
his turn, (an assassin gave him the throne-^^n assassin 
hurled him from it,) a respite for humanity was hoped, 
from the election of the . high-minded Decius, who sue* 
oeeded him : fiut he was only permitted to reigb, or serve, 
two years. His valour and devotedness to the glory of 
Rome rendered him worthy of a name, already so conse* 
crated in its history ; and his heroic death belonged to the 
poetry, as well as to the annals of his country.*' 

The short and feeble reign of Valerian, stamped as it 
was with some faint character of lingering civilisation, 
passed rapidly away ; and the aged emperor, taken pri« 
Boner by Sapor in the Persian war, terminated his 
wretched life in chains and captivity. Military anarchyj* 
then exhibited thirty tyrants at a time, disputing a prize 
so fatal to the winners. In the foreground of the dramatic 
terrors of the times, stood conspicuous the accomplished 
Grallienus, who, decorated by his feeble father Valerian 
with the title of Caesar, united all the graces of poetry and 
eloquence, to all the vicea of a Nero and a Heliogabalus. 

Of the other phantom-tyrants who started forth from 
various parts of the empire, in Italy, in Gaul, in Illyria, 
and in the East, (all taking the name of Caesar, and some 
enjoying imperial power, by sharing it with the supreme 
chief who reigned in Rome,) a few there were, who by 
talent or by valour, had assisted to defend the empire from 
the increasing hordes of unguessed barbarians, who came 
pouring through the gorges of the Rhsetian Alps, or from 

* The persecution of the Christians, during this short reign, was an 
affiiir of party ; the partisans of Philip, the rival of Decius, were Chris- 

t " What in this age" (says Montesquieu) *' was called the Roman em- 
pire, was only an irregular republic, npt unlike the aristocracy of Algiers. 
Perhaps, indeed, it may be laid down as a general rule, that a military 
government is, in some respects, more republican than monarchical," 
&c. — Connderations Isur la wctndeur et la Decadence des Romains. 


the depths of the Hercynian forests, like \ a new crea- 

Among these enlightened but ultramontane usurpers, 
who, by, stemming the tide of destruction, which on every 
side threatened the extinction of the moral government of 
the world, stiil preserved the debris of civilisation, were 
two women, of different regions and races, indeed, but 
characterized alike by all the qualities of temperament 
and mind, which distinguish womanhood in its liighest 
physical and intellectual peculiarity j — ^high intuitive per- 
ception, quick feelings, devoted afi^tions, deep-seated in- 
dignation, deathless resentments, and indomitable perse- 
verance. They both obtained the great objects for which 
they aspired— ^justice and power for those they loved — 
and they both fell victims, not to their own crimes, but to 
their virtues. These were Victoria, the heroine of the 
West, and Zenobia, .queen of the Blast. 

The invasion of the empire by the Goths, towards the 
close of the third century, (when Claudius the secondf 
impersonated the shadowy part of emperor, and when a 
succession of usurpers in the east and west assumed the 
purple, and disputed the power of supreme authority,) 
brought ruin and invasion to the gates of the capital, and 
induced the necessity of raising new walls for its defence, 
which the Romans of more prosperous ages would never 
have deemed necessary to protect the " seat of the empire 
from the inroads of barbarians." 

The victory of Claudius over the Goths, and that of 
his immortal general and successor Aurelian over the 
Alemanni, restored, however, the arms of Rome to their 
ancient superiority over the barbarians of the north.:^ But 
to chastise domestic tyrants, and to re-unite the dismem- 
bered parts of the empire, was a task reserved for the 
second of these warlike emperors. 

* Par rey^Doment da monde le plus extraordinaire, Rome avait si bien 
an^anti tout lea peuples, que, lorsqu'elle fut vaincue elle-meme, il sembla 
que la terre en eut enfant^ de nouveaux, pour la detruire. — Afonieayuteu, 
Urandeur et Decadence des Romains, vol. vi. p. 150. 

tA.D.270. t Gibbon. 

ViCTOftlA. 145 

Though Aurelian, on arriving at the throne, was ac* 
knowledged by the senate and the 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 rebels, who alone, out 
of so numerous a list, had hitherto escaped the dangers of 
their situation, and maintained their supremacy : " to com« 
piete the ignominy of Rome, these rival potentates were 

Among the rapid succession of monarchs who had pre- 
viously arisen and fallen in Gaul, was Marcus Victorinus, 
distinguished for his valour and his political genius. He 
had been educated by his mother Aurelia Victoria, called 
** the heroine of the west ;! and was associated in the em- 
pire by Posthumus, the tyrant of the Gauls." Victorinus 
maintained his rank and influence for five years af\er his 
elevation to the divided throne of the empire ; but at length 
falling a victim to his private vices, he was assassinated 
at CJologne by " a conspiracy of jealous husbands." 

Victoria, when she saw not only her son but her grand- 
son perish, wept some natural tears ; but, with the spirit 
of the women of her race, she dried them soon ; and, 
instead of lamenting the murdered, flew to avenge their 
death, and to save the throne for Gaul, which she had 
rescued from the despotism of Rome. She placed herself 
at the head of the army, and inspired the soldiers with a 
confidence in her divine-righted womanhood, which in- 
duced the^:^ to acknowledge her supremacy, to obey her 
commands, and to give her the title of " niother of armies." 

She conducted herself with that lofty pride, that firm 
tranquillity, which equally announce physical courage, 
and morat concentration, rendering her worthy of the 
title. She made head against Gatlienus, and, in the reign 
of Claudius, she caused Tetricus to be elected emperor at 
Bordeaux, where he was yet but the governor of Acqui- 
taine. She even for a time set the power and arms of 

♦ Gibbon. 

t Segar. PoUio assigns her an article among the thirty tjrants.— Iftsf. 
August, p. 200. 

VOL. 11^ 13 


Aurelian at defiance, with the same dauntless spirit with 
which she opposed the power of Gfaliienus. "After the 
murder of so many valiant princes," (says Gibbon) " it is 
somewhat remarkable, that a female H>r a long time con- 
trolled the fierce legions of Gaul, and still more singular 
that she was the mother of the unfortunate Victorinus. 
The arms and treasures of Victoria enabled her succes- 
sively to place Marius and Tetricus on the throne, and to 
reign with a manly vigour, under the name of those de- 
pendent 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." 

While the magnanimous Victoria gave away thrones, 
she could not give the spirit and the genius that were 
necessary, in times so troublous, to preserve them. She 
had placed " her nominee," Tetricus, over Gaul, Spain, 
and Britain; but he reigned the slave of a licentious 
army, and only deliveijed himself from his bondage by an 
act of baseness and treachery, which gained him the pro- 
tection of Aurelian, and the odious suspicion of having 
murdered his heroic benefactress,* and betrayed his par- 

The mysterious death of Victoria was followed by the 
memorable battle of Chalons in Champagne, which gave 
victory to Aurelian, and immortalized the treachery, cow- 
ardice, and cruelty of Tetricus. 

Aurelian, acknowledged emperor from the wall of An- 
tonine to the columns of Hercules, had now only one rebel 
power to contend with. The " heroine of the west" was 
no more ! But there was still another rebel to man's 
despotic power to vanquish, another woman to subdue ; 
and Aurelian, the mighty conqueror and emperor, turned 
his arms against " the queen of the East," the last of the 
thirty tyrants, who still wore the imperial purple, and re- 
tained the imperial dignity, with the title of Augusta. 

* A. 171. " Victoria ne survecat qae t^uelqaes mois A la nomination de 
ce prince ; on a pretendu que Tetriciu, jaiouz de sa trop grande aatorit^i 
lui avait ot^ la vie." — Hist, Univ. 



The Women of the Empiro. Zenobii. 

During the anarchical reign and divided sway of the 
Emperor Gallienus, (whose father Valerian was held in 
captivity by <* the great king,'' who had already humbled 
Rome, and was at the head of a Ibrce which recalled the 
armies of Artaxerxes,) a new political power suddenly 
sprung up amidst the sandy deserts of the East. This 
power, (a political phenomenon, like the produce. of some 
sudden eruption in the natural world) was created by the 
energy and genius of a woman ; and it swept over the 
ho^ts of the worshippers of the Sun, humbling the pride, 
and checking the rapid course of the haughty representa> 
tives of Cyrus and Mandane. 

Amidst the most barren deserts of Arabia, there bloomed 
an oasis, (like some island Eden rising out of the sandy 
ocean) which, from the beauty and shade of its palms, 
bore the name of Palmyra, and which tradition assumed 
to have been the site of the Tadmorof King Solomon. It9 
pure air, its numerous springs, and fruitful soil, with its 
happy position, (between the gulf of Persia and the Medi* 
terranean) had made it a halt for the caravans, which bore 
to Rome and to the remotest nations of its empire the rich 
productions of India. For the mutual commercial benefits 
it conferred on the Roman and Parthian empires, the little 
republic of the desert had been long suffered to maintain 
a peaceable obscurity ; and it still preserved an humble 
neutrality, until it was suddenly raised to be the capital 
of an empire, and to stand forth the rival of Rome herself. 

Odenatus, the brave chief of that peculiar tribe of Arabs 
called Saracens, who rather dwelt in than reigned over the 
desert regions that sUrround Palmyra, becoming alarmed 
at the approach of Sapor, sent ambassadors to the Persian 


monarch, with the voluntary ofTer of his homage, and with 
costly presents to bribe his friendship. Sapor received both 
with contefnpt, threw the presents into the water, and 
ordered the donor to come in person, and (his hands tied 
behind his back,) to prostrate himself at the feet of his 
sovereign master. 

The Arab chief writhed under the insult. But there was 
one for ever near him, in war or peace — ^in the fight, or in 
the chase— who urged him to avenge it ! and who, pour- 
ing her «« spirit into his ear,"* encouraged him to take 
arms against *< the greatest king of the earth," to oppose 
his own wandering Arabs to the Persian phalanx, and 
fighting for his honour and independence, to conquer, or to 

The counsel, like the enterprise, seemed more than 
human ! But Odenatus listened to it, as though it were 
oracular ; for it came from Zenobia, his wife, companion, 
and friend, the supposed descended from Semiramis and 
from the Ptolemies, a woman, in genius and patriotism re- 
sembling her immediate ancestress Cleopatra. « If the 
doubtful achievements of Semiramis be excepted," says 
Gibbon, " Zenobia, perhaps, was the only female, whose 
superior genius broke through the servile indolence imposed 
on her sex by the climate, the manners, (and the institu- 
tions) of Asia." 

To a mind, whose resources assisted to raise her hus- 
band from a private station to a throne, she united a person, 
whose beauty the dryestand sternest historians have deigned 
to celebrate. The philosophy of Gibbon, and the scepti- 
cism of Bayle, have alike paused, while their flattered ima- 
gination lingered over pages of the personal gossipry of 
rollio in which the charms of Zenobia were enumerated, 
from " the dark flashes of her large black eyes," to the 
" pearly lustre of her beautiful teeth."t Her voice, like 

* Non aliter etiam, coiOnge atsiieta quae multoram senteDtilL fortior 
marito fuisse perhibetur, mulieram omnium nobiiissima Orientaliom 
fieminarium, et ut Cornelius Capitolinua asserit.speciosiBBiraa. — TrdkOiut 
PoUio in triginta Tyrannia, 

t " Oculis supra modum Tiffentibus, nigris, spiritus divini, veDustads 
incredibilis: tantus candor in aentibus, ut margaritas eam plerique puta< 

ZS2VOmA« 149 

her mind, was strong and harmonious, and her manly 
understanding, strengthened and developed by study, en* 
abled her, in the midst of the fatigues of war and of the 
chase, to conquer the difficulties of the Greek, the Syriac, 
and the Egyptian languages ; all of which she spoke with 
grace and purity : and, though she did not venture to con* 
verse in Latin, she was learned in every branch of its 

Such was Zenobia, when her counsels worked on Oden< 
atus, and encouraged him to undertake a war, which could 
only be justified by its success, a success to which she 
mainly contributed.^ Her eloquence, her beauty, and her 
genius, are allowed by all writers to have had a miracu- 
lous efi^t on the ardent temperaments and fervid spirits of 
the warm-blooded sons of the desert ; and the Arabs of all 
tribes and denominations crowded to her standard, panting 
to resent the wrongs of the braye chief, whom she had 
chosen for her husband. The forces of Odenatus and 
Zenobia thus became so considerable as to induce the 
Roman legions to join them, and to make common cause 
against the common enemy. Zenobia, (who had inured 
her constitution to fatigue) disdaining to take the field in a 
covered carriage, (like the ladies of th^ Persian camp) ap- 
peared on horseback, in a military habit, and in all the 
brilliant panoply of war. Sometimes she descended from 
her Arab charger, and marched on foot for many miles 
across the Syrian desert, at the head of the troops. It was 
thus, when at the side of her husband, she first encoun- 
tered the Persian army, in the plain^ of Mesopotamia. 

The engagement that ensued was long and doubtful ; 
but the impetuous courage of the light Arab cohorts pre- 
vailed over the ponderous unwieldy armament of " the 
great king." The Persians gave way ; Mesopotamia, 
Nisiblis, and Carrse, were taken. The troops of Sapor 
were cut to pieces, his treasures plundered, his Woknen 

rent habere, non dentes." — PuUio. Eyes and teeth never had " une plus . 
belle immortality." 

* " £Ue contribua beaucoup aux grandes victoires qu'il (Odenate) rem- 
porta 8ur les Persea, et qui conserverent Torient aux Komains."— ^a^. 



made prisoners, and Sapor himself pursued to the very 
walls of his gorgeous city of Ctesiphon, (the rival of 
Babylon,) above whose ramparts the Roman eagles and 
the palmy standards of Zenobia soon fluttered.* 

Sapor and Zenobia are now but sounds, representing to 
men's minds the passing incarnations of great passions and 
great powers, which, sixteen centuries back, influenced the 
destinies and happiness of society. But, while of these 
splendid existences not a particle of dust remains, the 
local features of the grand wild scene on which they 
played their parts are still the same ; and in their sublime 
durability they seem to mock the brief supremacy of self- 
sufiicient humanity. The Diola still rolls on its tributary 
stream into the Tigris, as when it reflected the sunny 
banners of Persia, and the green standards of Palmyra. 
The mounds of Ctesiphonf still attract the distant gaze 
of the travellers of the caravan from Aleppo to Bagdad ; 
and the plain, which spreads far and wide round the area 
of the ruined city, once the scene of fierce combat between 
the Persians and Arabians, now aflbrds a cover to the hare 
and the gazelle, where they repose in peace among the 
fragments of extinct dynasties, and browse luxuriously on 
the aromatic heath, whose soil the blood of kings and 
heroes has ennobled. y 

That the success of Odenatus was, in a great measure, 
ascribable to the incomparable prudence and fortitude of 
Zenobia, is aflirmed by Gibbon. " Their splendid vic- 
tories over the great king," he says, " whom they twice 
pursued as far as the gates of Ctesiphon, laid the founda- 

* Aurelian bears testimony of this fact in a letter written to the senate 
in the following terms. Audio, P. C. mihi objici quod non virile munus 
impleverim, Zenobiam triumphando. Nee ilii qui me reprehendunt, satis 
laudarent, si scierent qualis ilia est mulier quam pruoens in conciliis, 
qaam constans in dispositionibus, quam erga milites gratis, qaam larga 

3uum neceasitas postulet, quam tristia quum seyeritas poscat. Poisam 
icere illius esse quod Odenatus Persas vicit. ac fugato Sapore, Ctesi- 
pfaontem usque pervenit, &c. — TrebeUiua PdUioin triginta Tyronnts. 

t "Ctesiphon was the second of the two cities, the grandeur of which 
contributCQ to the proffreasive annihilation of Babylon. It stood opposite 
to Seleucia,on the banks of the Tigris."— See .£2vumon« to the Rtum <^ 
Ctenphon and SdewMt in Mr. Buckingham's IVaveli in Meaopotamia, 


tions of their united fame and power. The armies which 
they commanded, and the provinces which they had saved, 
acknowledged not any other sovereign than these invinci- 
ble chiefs. The senate and people of Rome revered the 
strangers who had aveoged their captive emperor, and 
even the insensible son of Valerian accepted Odenatus for 
his legitimate colleague." He granted the dignity of a 
Roman empress to Zenobia, with the title of Augusta. 
These distinctions accorded by the faineant emperor to 
the saviours of his throoe and power, covered the indolent 
Gallienus with ridicule ; and enrolled Odenatus and Zeno- 
bia in the imperial list of " the thirty tyrants." 

When the pacification of the East by the victories of 
the king and queen of Palmyra (as they were now styled) 
had been ratified, and when Odenatus and Zenobia, with 
their children and friends, were beginning to enjoy all the 
pleasures of domestic life, at their beautiful capital of the 
desert, the days and glory of Odenatus were suddenly 
terminated by assassination. MsBonius, his nephew, am- 
bitious of his uncle's throne, sought to possess it by 
treachery and murder ; and he found an opportunity, in 
the familiarity of private intercourse, to assassinate both 
him and his eldest son Herod.^ 

- Surrounded by a feeble band of partisans, the young 
and unnatural assassin had scarcely assumed the title of 
Augustus, as a colleague of the Roman empire, when 
Zenobia defeated his intentions, and sacrificed the self- 
styled emperor to the manes of her husband and his son.f 

* The story of the crime of Mosonius is variously told. Some of the 
accounts are confused and inconsistent. In the Augustan history, the 
murder of Odenatus is ascribed to a dispute between the uncle and nephew 
at a hunting party, in which the latter dared to dart his javelin before that 
of the royal sportsman. 

t Herod, the son of Odenatus, was not by Zenobia. He was a yoqng 
man of soft and effeminate temper, and so childish in his habits and pur- 
suits, that his parents were wont to send him presents of gems and toys, 
found among the spoils of the enemy, which he received with deliebt. 
This fact proves that this illustrious stepmother did not merit the epitoet 
of "Maratre/* bestowed on her by a Greek historian ; but it is remarkable 
that, while all the faults attributable to Zenobia are given as **on dits," 
her great deeds are recorded as historical truths, to which the most im- 
placable of her enemies, as well as the most careless of her detracton, 
bear witness. 


Supported by the faithful friends of her deceased hus* 
band, the idol of the troops, and of the people, and the 
pride even of the wealthy magnates of Palmyra, (to whose 
splendid city of palaces she had given a reflection of her 
own glory) Zenobia was proclaimed the successor most 
worthy to fill the throne of her husband. For six years 
she governed Palmyra, Syria, and Egypt,* with manly 
counsels and womanly humanity. 

But she governed not for herself; she professed to rule 
only for the interests and during the minority of her three 
son^. To the first born she had given a Latin name, to 
the second a Greek, to the third a Syrian ;! for, with an 
ambition that «* grew with what it fed on," Zenobia, proud 
of her imperial title of '< Augusta," and over-excited by 
maternal fbeling, and by her own splendid success in all 
her enterprises, had destined her elder son to reign in 
Rome, her second over Greece, and her youngest over the 
Asiatic kingdom, of which she proudly considered herself 
as the foundress. 

By the death of Odenatus, that imperial title and au- 
thority was at an end, which the senate had granted him 
only as a personal distinction. '< But his martial widow, 
disdaining both the senate and the Emperor Gallienus, 
obliged one of the Roman generals who was sent against 
her, to retreat into Europe, with the loss of his army and 
of his reputation ;" and increased her power by the defeat 
of those from whom it was derived. 

Raised by high motives and ennobling pursuits above 
all the petty passions which so frequently perplex a female 
reign, even more than foreign adversaries, the steady ad- 
ministration of Zenobia was guarded by the most judicious 
maxims of prudent 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. 

* Non seulement elle conserva les provinces qui avaient ^t^ sous ]'ob^is- 
sance d'Odenat, maiselle conquit au8&i I'E^jrpte, et se preparait ^d'autres 
conquetea, lorsque I'Empereur Aurelien lui alia faire la gaene.—Bayle. 

t Uerenneanus, Tiinolaus, and Vabaliath. It was thus that Catherine 
of Russia created ** foregone conclusions" in favour of her grandsons. 


Her strict economy was accused of aTfirioe : yet on every 
proper occasion she appeared magnificent and liberal* 
The neighbouring states of Arabia, Armenia, and Persia, 
dreaded her enmity, and solicited her alliance. To the 
dominions of Odenatus, which extended from the Eu- 
phrates to the frontiers of Bithynia, his widow added the 
inheritance of her ancestors, the populous and fertile king* 
dom of EgypU The Emperor Claudius acknowledged her 
merit, and was content that, while he pursued the Grothic 
war, she should assert the dignity of the empire in the 

The conduct, however, of Zenobia was said to have 
been *'• attended with some ambiguity ;" nor is it unlikely 
that she had conceived the design of erecting an indepen- 
dent and hostile monarchy : for she blended with the popu- 
lar manners of Ronian 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 a Latin education, and of^en 
showed them to the troops adorned with the imperial pur- 
ple. For herself she reserved the diadem, with the splen- 
did but doubtful title of « Queen of the East.' *'* 

During this happiest and most glorious epoch of her life, 
she gave herself up to the most intellectual occupations. 
She had drawn up for her own use an epitome of oriental 
history, (for history she was wont to say was " the true 
science of kings,") and she familiarly compared the beau- 
ties of Homer; and Plato, under the tuition of her preceptor 
and first minister, the well-known Greek writer, Longinus* 
No contemporary sovereign is represented as being capa- 
ble of such high pursuits ; nor did any sovereign of any 
time select a wiser or more illustrious minister ; nor any 

* Gibbon. ** M^lant 2i-piopo8 la doaceur," (sa^ one of the latest his- 
torians who have borne testimony to the wise reisn of one of the feebler 
sex.) ** melant &-propos la douceur et la sevdrit^, prodigue d'or et d'honneurs 
pour ceuz qui aervaient ses desseins, elle ^gala en habil^t^ les plus grands 
rois. Amie des lettres, elle honora de sa compagnie, et combla de faveurs 
le ceUbre Longin, qui trouva souvent dans le genie de cette reine Id 
module du sublime qu'il nous apprit k connaitre. — SegWt IKtL Univ, 


mintsfter ever serve a more enlightened or judicious sore 
reign, of either sex. 

But, while on one side Zenobia devoted herself to Pagan 
learning, and loaded with wealth and favours the most emi- 
nent Pagan writer of the age, she was not only suspected 
of professing the Jewish doctrines, and of favouring its 
writers, but at the same time she entered freely into the 
religious quarrels by which the Christians at the close of 
the third century were beginning to impede the progress 
of their own great cause. Zenobia, herself a platonist, 
was well adapted to comprehend the mysteries and subtil- 
ties with which the contending Christian councils were 
mingling the pure and simple moralities of Christ ; and the 
queen of the East, in the midst of her complicated duties 
and pursuits, political and literary, became, in her mira- 
culous versatility, the protectress of Paul of Samosata, 
Bishop of Antioch, against the synodical persecutions of 
the council of Antioch : the bishop was accused of adopt- 
ing the heresy of Artemon, a doctrine which Zenobia was 
suspected of peculiarly favouring.* 

From occupations so ennobling, and so spiritual, the 
philosophic legislatress of Palmyra was suddenly drawn 
off, by the astounding intelligence of the immediate expe- 
dition of the emperor Aurelian into Asia, who, after his 
victories in the west, and death of Victoria, was resolved 
on turning the whole force of his prowess against the Queen 
of the East. 

Aurelian (the successor of the feeble Claudius II.), one 
of the bravest, fiercest, and most invincible of Rome's 
barbarian emperors, was the offspring of a Pannonian 
peasant, and of a frail and inferior priestess of the sun. 
He had owed the fortunes of his private life, and the glory 

* " St. Athanase dit (Ju'elle ^toit jaiTO, ce qu' Abalfarage ^crit aprdsloi, 
mais au moins elie miivoit beaucoup les sentimeiu des Juifs, et on pretend 
que ce fut k cause d'elle. que Paul de Samosate, ^v^que d'Antioche, do- 
quel elle ^toit protectrice, tomba dans I'h^resie d'Art^mon, dont les senti- 
mens touchant J^aus Christ approchaient fort de ceuz de la synagogue." 
De Tilleroont, cited by Bayle, who, however, adds:'— Pour persui^erauz 
gens qu'elle 6toit juive de religion, il faudroit qu'il all^gu4t d^autres t^ 
moigaages.-^I>ic(. Art, Zenoiie, 

ZBNOBU* 155 

of his public career, to his matchless valour and uneon* 
querable energies, qualities which eventually raised him 
from a common soldier to the throne of the empire. The 
reputation of having killed with his own hand nine hun- 
dred enemies, marks his bravery and ferocity. But the 
severe and rigid nerve of the soldier rarely yielded to the 
sympathy of the man ; and the judge who sustained with- 
out emotion the sight of the most dreadful tortures, and 
inflicted the cruelest deaths, mistook that for a virtue, 
which was only the irresistible propensity to cruelty, of 
one defective in all the higher and softer qualities which 
spiritualize man. 

His piety was also an extreme : and it was marked by 
the grossest superstition : still his devotion to the god of 
light, (which the << fortunate peasant'^ had imbibed with 
the milk of his mother^s bosom,) was the only sentiment 
in which some tincture of an imaginative feeling brightened 
the density of his rigid organization. 

The temple raised on the Quirinal Hill to his own 
tutelar deity, irradiated with gold and jewels, is said never 
to have been surpassed, even by those altars which now 
glorify the same site, in that Christian temple, which is 
unrivalled in beauty and magnificence. Firm of purpose, 
and endowed with great powers of mental concentration, 
the unlettered soldier was yet destitute of all the ordinary 
advantages of education; and his laconic and characteristic 
epistles are said to have been so interlarded with the idiom 
of the camp, as to be scarcely intelligible to those uninitiated 
in the military rhetoric of the age. 

Afler having put an end to the Gothic war, severely 
chastised the Germans, and recovered Gaul, Spain, and 
Britain out of the hands of the unfortunate Tetricus, 
Aurelian resolved on destroying another proud monarchy, 
erected on the ruins of the Roman empire in Asia. But 
above all, he resolved on humbling the pride of the con- 
quoress of Persia and of Egypt, the one sole surviving 
opponent of Rome and its victorious emperor, the as yet 
unoonquered and irresistible Zenobia. 

Having established some legislative regulations, (useful, 


indeed, and expedient, but marked with the impresmon of 
his fearful severity,) having fortified Rome, so recently in- 
vaded by the barbarians, (extending its boundaries, and 
raising its walls,) Aurelian was free to execute his great 
and darling design ; and he lefl Italy, to give battle to 
Zenobia, who, since her recent conquests of Egypt, had 
crowned her eldest son, and given him the title of a 
" Roman emperor." - 

Aurelian triumphed over every obstacle by which a bar- 
barian enemy impeded his progress ; and, fighting hi^r 
way through Sclavonia, Thrace, and Byzantium, poured 
down upon Asia Minor, at the head of an army mighty 
even for Rome. 

From the moment of his departure on this expediticm, 
there was obviously a rapid recklessness in all his move- 
ments ; and his violence, or his lenity, as he proceeded 
in his career of conquest, or of forgiveness, was marked 
with an obvious impatience^ as if some greater glory was 
yet to be achieved, than the submission of Bithynia, and 
the capture of Ancyra. Even the unexpected mercy 
with which he treated the countrymen of Apollonius the 
philosopher, his mildness to the unpunished inhabitants of 
Antioch, were an anomaly in the conduct of the most 
relentless of conquerors and of men. By thus conciliating 
the confidence of the Syrians, his salutary edicts brought 
him more quickly to the gates ^of Emesa, within a hun- 
dred miles of Palmyra. 

" Aurelian would have disdained to confess, that he had 
passed into Asia, solely to meet face to face the victorious 
heroine, whose sex alone could have rendered her an 
object of contempt:" yet ^ that the conquest of Zenobia 
was the object of this expedition, history has Icfl no doubt. 

The queen of the East would have ill deserved her 
reputation for vigilance and forethought, had she indolently 
permitted the emperor of the west to approach within a 
hundred miles of her capital, Without taking such precau- 
tions as were characteristic of an able general, and a pro- 
found states woman. A part of her army, therefore, were 
promptly stationed along the shores of the Orontes, near 

EKNOStA. 157 

Aayoch. Aur^ian attacked aod put it to flight, by a stra* 
tagem worthy of his profound military experience ; and 
Zeoobia (undismayed) waited his approach in the plains 
of Emesa, at the head of seventy thousand men-at-arms. 
This force she animated by her presence and her eloquence, 
while she devolved the execution of her orders to her 
general in chief, Zabdas, who had signalized his valour in 
the conquest of JE^pt*. 

Conspicuous by the splendour of her staff, (to use the 
military phrase <^ modem times) but more conspicuous by 
her own lofty deportment and unrivalled beauty, the Queen 
of the East appeared mounted oa an Arab st^, uniting 
in h^ person and dress all that was at once characteristic 
of the woman, the sovereign, and the warrior. Her ridi 
robe was surmounted by armour of solid gold, studded 
with jewels ; her plumed helmet was bound by a royal 
diadem of costly gems ; and her right arm was bared to 
the elbow„ that she might be {tee to wield the flashing 
lance, borne in her firm grasp. 

It was thus she presented herself to the most fojrmidable 
of her enemies, (but the most passionate of her admirers 
and eulogists.) Her Brilliant army was for the most part 
composed of light archers, with a cavalry habited in an 
armour of complete and polished steel. But troops of 
Arabs, fleet, quick, and intelligent, (as their descendants, 
who at no distant day from the battle of Emesa kindled 
the light of mind in Europe, and then disappeared like the 
genii of their own bright fables,) perpetually hovered round 
the queen of their deserts, in desultory bands. Thus they 
were enabled to harass the more disciplined and rigid le- 
gions of the Roman army, in their march over the desert. 

Aurelian drew up in the plain of Emesa, at the head of 
a mighty armament, principally composed of the veteran 
troops whose fierce valour had been well tried in the AUe- 
manic wars. This dense stern body was flanked by a 
swarthy phalanx of Moorish and Illyrian horse. All the 
prowess of a Roman army, led by its emperor, (and that 
emperor the conqueror of half the world,) lent its effect to 
the brightest battle-fleld the suii had ever shone on ! Before 

VOL. II. 14 


this scene, its masses, groupings, and foreground fibres, 
the imagination pauses, in the gratification of its highest 
enjoyments ; and, until the fixedness of the rival armies 
was broken up by the war-word of their commanders,* 
they, too, may have paused and gazed upon each other, 
with an interest, whose expression no art could seize, nor 
poetry embody. 

Aurelian and Zenobia may have now met, for the first 
time, face to face, lance to lance, the Augustus and Augusta 
of that disputed world, which they haui hitherto divided 
between them. They met in the splendid region, where, 
we are told, Grod first created man, and gave him woman 
to be an help and a mate unto him ; and they represented 
in their own persons and organization, those respective 
attributes, by which the sexes, through the aiif fill sweep of 
five thousand years, had been distinctly and ^severally 
characterized and governed. 

2«enobia, in her intellectual aspirations and maternal 
impulses, was the champion of moral force and human 
affections — ^fighting the battle of mind and country, for 
her children, and for philosophy; Aurelian warred to 
establish the right of might, to place power on its broadest 
basis, to raise tyranny to its extremest point, and to 
check the inroads of reform, by the resistance of military 
prowess ! 

The destiny of an empire, and through that empire of 
the world, was thus placed at the issue of a single battle, 
which was long, bloody, and terrible on both sides. The 
onset of Zenobia was a woman's charge, petulant and 
brilliant ; and the heavy Moorish and Illyrian cavalry of 
the imperial army were unable to sustain its shock, and 
suddenly gave way. 

Aurelian, indignant at the success of this female gene- 
ral, attacked the Palmyrians with fury ; but Zenobia en- 

* At Emesa. The Temple of the Son at Emesa was that at whoae 
altars Heliogabalus had served. Gibbon observes that Zenol]|ia was pre- 
sent both at the battles of Antioch and Emesa, " animating," he says, the 
armies by her presehce. Vopiscus mentions only the second. — Hid 


couraged her troops by her spirit and her eloquence* The 
imperial infantry had already exhausted their quivers, and 
^d in real or affected disorder; the imprudent victors, 
when exhausted in the pursuit, were, in their turn, discom- 
fited in a desultory combat : the stratagem won the day for 
Rome. Zenobia, routed, but not discouraged, made an 
able retreat upon Palmyra, and secured her remaining> 
forces within its walls. Making every preparation for 
a vigorous resistance, and addressing the citizens and 
soldiers of her capital with her usual intrepidity, telling 
them <<that the last moment of her life should be that of 
her reign," — she awaited the enemy. 

Aurelian followed close upon the retreating army ; but, 
in his march between Emesa and Palmyra, suffered much 
from the guerilla war&re of the harassing Arabs, whose 
light and fugitive troops watched the fit moment of sur- 
prise, and eluded the slow pursuit of the more disciplined, 
but less active Roman legions. Arrived before Palmyra, 
the emperor found that its siege would be an object far 
more difficult and important than he or his inost expe- 
rienced generals had contemplated. 

Aurelian pressed the attacks in person with incessant 
vigour ; and it may be that the view of the fairy palace 
of the Queen of the East, gleaming through the palms of 
its gardens, stimulated his effi>rts. It is possible that they 
may have fixed his gaze, at the moment when an arrow, 
winged from the walls, reached his person, and inflicted a 
dkep wound ; and it was, probably, while rankling under 
this infliction, that he wrote to the senate his memorable 
despatch, which, in defending his own delays, and the 
protraction of the siege, has immortalized the genius and 
prowess of his enemy. 

" The Roman people," says Aurelian, " speak with con^ 
tempt 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 warlike 
preparations of stones, of arrows, and every species of 
missile weapons. Every part of the walls is provided with 
two or three balists ; and artificial fixes are thrown from 


her military engines. The fear of punishment has armed 
her with a desperate courage. Yet, still I trust in the pro- 
tecting deities of Rome, who have hitherto been favourable 
to all my undertakings." 

Notwithstanding, however, this pious confidence, Aure- 
lian became so doubtful of the event of the siege, that he 
judged it most prudent to propose terms of an advantageous 
capitulation. He offered to the queen a splendid retreat, 
and to the citizens, their ancient privileges. Zenobia re- 
jected his offer, accompanying her refusal with irony. Her 
letter, addressed to the emperor himself, breathed a spirit 
worthy of a hero, and a patriot. Its superscription was 
<< Zenobia, Queen of the East, to Aurelian Augustus." 

" It is not," (she observes) " by writing, but by arms, 
that the submission you require from me can be obtained. 
You have dared to propose my surrender to your prowess. 
But you forget that Cleopatra preferred death to servitude. 
The Saracens, the Persians, the Armenians, are marching 
to my aid, and how are you to resist our united forces^ 
who have been more than once scared by the plunderiag 
Arabs of the desert ? When you shall see me march at 
the head of my allies, you will not repeat an insolent 
proposition^ as though you were already my conqueror 
and master." 

This haughty reply silenced the hopes of Aurelian, and 
sharpened his resentments. He attacked Palmyra witk 
fresh vigour, but he failed to triumph either over the ob* 
stinate bravery of the garrison, or the indomitable spiHt 
of the queen. 

Informed of the approach of the Persians, the eftiperor 
marched against them, and challenged them to a pitched 
battle ; but the enormous sums of money by which he 
bribed the Saracens and Armenians to defection » are 
thought to have served his cause more powerfully, than 
the arms of his legions. 

Palmyra, thus deprived of the aid of her natural allies, 
and disheartened by the death of Sapor, was further 
weakened by a famine and fearful mortality ! The possi- 
bility of further resistance was at an end. The rich mag* 


nates of the magnificent Palmyra were not superior to the 
desire of saving their splendid palaces, even at the expense 
of their national independence ; and all were ready to sur- 
render. But the firmness of Zenobia still held out. Sup- 
ported by the expectation that eventually famine must 
compel the Roman army to repass the desert, encouraged 
by the councils of her minister Longinus, and animated 
by her hopes and fears for her children, their safety, and 
their fortunes, she refused to surrender. 

The valour and perseverance of Aurelian, however, 
overcame every obstacle. From every part of Syria, "a 
regular convoy safely arrived in the Roman camp, which 
was increased by the return of Probus with his victorious 
troops from the reconquest of Egypt." It was then, when 
all was lost save her own honour, that Zenobia resolved 
to escape the ignominy of a capture, and to fly. Two of 
her youthful sons were no more ; but she had provided' 
for the safety of her two daughters, and of her younger 
boy Vaballath, as is proved by their having long survived 
the disastrous day, which rose upon the captivity of Pal* 

Zenobia, mounted on the fleetest of her dromedaries,, 
directed her flight to the Euphrates, (sixty miles from 
Palmyra,) and reached its shores in safety, with the 
intention of passing into Pensia, and claiming protection 
from her new allies. She^ had escaped from Palmyra 
under the shadows of evening. Miraculously eluding the 
valance of the Roman outposts, she arrived, (probably by 
the wondrous fleetness of the dromedary,)* m the early 
morning, at that point of the mighty rivers beneath and 
above which, » tunnel and a bridge- were supposed to 
have connected- the two royal palaces of Babylon, which 
stood on either side. 

But of the "golden city," the «^lady of kingdoms," 
"the beauty of the Chaldee's excellency,"! what re- 
mained) to« raise the spirit and cheer- the hopes of the 

* The Arabf affirm that the dromedary or camel will nm orer aa mach 
grocmd in one daj aa hones can perform in eight or ten.— ^w^bn. 
t laaiah. 



fugitive descendant of its ibandress? The Euj^rates 
then, as now,* rolled on majestically through mounds of 
ruins and hills of rubbish, which once were temples, 
palaces, and gardens, <* gates of brass," and <' broad 
walls," (the all that remained of «< the glory of kingdoms," 
<< the praise of the whole earth.") The fragments of its 
^^ pleasant palaces" were already, in the words of the 
prophet, '< the possessions of the bittern, and doleful crea« 
tures ;" and the presence of th6 last and lonely representa- 
tive of Semiramis may have startled them from their lairs, 
on a spot where ^< the Arabian ventured not to pitch his 

One great fragment existed then (and still exists) rising 
above all, which Alexander had gazed on with wonder 
and envy — the tower of Belus ! — a fragment, which, taken 
with aQ the poetry of desolation that surrounded it, may 
have first brought home to the-bosom of the Queen of the 
East a conviction and a feeling, to which much of her 
aAer conduct might be attributable ! What, indeed, was 
Palmyra to Babylon 1 and what was the end and object of 
the highest aspirations of mere vainglorious and personal 
ambition] The mounds of Babylon, and the formless 
fragments of the tower of Belus, were sublime and ready 
answers ! 

It was ID this scene, so humiliating to the last great 
foundress of an empire in the East, that Zenobia may 
have fully awakened from the false dreams of glory, and 
felt how far beyond their highest accomplishments were 
the affections of Nature ! All the mother may then have 
superseded the high excitements of the potentate ; and the 
queen, who had so lately, in the flushed spirit of her hero- 
ism and of her disappointed vengeance, resolved on self- 
destructiott, may have here first conceived the idea of a 
far more difficult sacrifice: she may have resolved to 
live : for, Zesobkt, vijilike Cleopatra, though- defeated and 
bereaved, had yet something to live fbr^— her children If 


t In dMcorering the doubtful cm bono of all things, Zenobia may have 
well deipised the pride of flt^ciam, and its ostentatious display of no- 

' < 

asNOBiA. 163 

The bark which was to convey her over the Euphrates 
into the land of her allies, was already touchii^ the shore, 
when a corps of Roman cavalry, sent in her pursuit by 
Aurelian, arrived on the spot ; and Zenobia, when on the 
point of embarking, was seized and brought prisoner to 
the imperial head-quarters. 

That a change had come over the mind and spirits of 
Zenobia, in this most awful epoch of her life, was testified 
by her conduct and manner from the moment of her cap^- 
tivity ; for a calm and passionless dignity from thence* 
forth is said to have marked her deportment. Aurelian, 
whose little mind and great revenge had stomach for 
every species of mortifying insult, could not restrain his 
impetuous tauntings, when she first appeared in his tent. 
Suddenly bursting forth, with all the brutality of the Illy- 
rian peasant, and the abruptness of the despotic soldier, 
he asked her, << how she, a woman, had dared to oppose 
the power of man, her lord and master ; and, above all, 
to set herself up in authority against the unity and supre- 
macy of Rome and its mighty emperors 1" 

The answer of Zenobia was adroit and womanly, at 
once firm and respectful: — <'I acknowledge you alone," 
(she said) <<as worthy of the title of emperor; but for your 
predecessors Gallienus and Claudius, they were unworthy 
of a throne, which they permitted to be overthrown, and 
which I upheld and saved for them." 

To this fact, to which Aurelian himself had borne testi- 
mony, he replied by referring to a council of war the fate 
of the captive queen and her partisans ; although he had 
already in his omnipotence decided, that she should live to 
grace his triumph, and to be humbled by his clemency 1 

The Roman soldiers, however, in their brutal fury, 
opposed themselves to the edict of their emperor : they 
cried aloud and with furious yells for the life of Zenobia. 
The emperor with difficulty resisted the demands of these 

natural insensibility ; and have preferred living for her family, to dyinff 
for the sake of a name, This heroism, ftr greater than aU' act of self- 
destruction, has however been brought against her to prove that, ''as fe- 
male fortitude is commonly artificial, #», it is seldom steady or con- 
sistent." — Gibbon, 


tyrants over all tyrants, who panted to tear his illustrious 
prisoner to pieces ; and he was compelled to offer to them, 
as an expiatory victim, her counsellor and minister, the 
immortal Longinus, whom he himself affected to consider 
as the responsible adviser of the daring resistance which 
Zenobia had made to his own power and prowess. The 
woman, however^ who, at the head of a band of Arabs, 
had taken the field against the Persians, wanted no other 
counsellor than her own brave spirit, to impel her to the 
defence of the kingdom she had founded, against the am- 
bitious aggression even of Aurelian himself. 

Longinus, the sublime philosopher, the zealous minister, 
the devoted friend, was led forth to a public execution, by 
order of the conquerer of his sovereign and disciple, Aure- 
lian ; and still farther to glut the brutal ferocity of the 
savage soldiers, the greatest writer of his age, (whose 
glorious works are still raising the human mind in its 
own consideration) was permitted to be tortured to death. 
The current of the Laite della Lupa was still running 
strong in the Roman temperament, when Aurelian and 
his victorious legions could gloat over the lingering ago- 
nies and palpitating fibres, of one, whose deaths like his 
life, had illustrated the great sublime he drew.*" 

That Longinus perished the victim of his zeal for Ze- 
nobia, there can be no doubt ; but that his miserable fate 
was due to her weakness or higratitude, there is no proof. 
The feeble and unsupported suppositions of the writers, 
who have furnished modern historians with their philip- 
pics against Zenobia, are not worthy of confidence, when 
weighed against the undeniable facts of her life and cha- 
racter, and against the well-known, cruelty and avenging 
temperament of Aurelian. Successful sovereigns have 
always had laudatory historiographers, and Aurelian had 
his; but the defeated and unfortunate Zenobia had no 
faithful chronicler to tell her story, and to make her de- 
fence* He, whose genius she honoured, and who best 

* ** WithoQt uttering a complaint, he caln^ly followed tbe executioner, 

Sitjiog his unhappy miatreai, and bestowing comfort on his afflicted 
■iends." — Qibbtm, 

zsnoBiA. 165 

knew her motives, would have best written her history, 
and that of the times she lived in, had he not perished 
prematurely by a cruel death. He died not, however, as 
has been written, << the innocent victim of his sovereign's 
iears," but the selected victim of the unlettered tyrant, 
who, in punishing the uncompromising minister, was " in* 
capable of being moved by the genius and the learning, 
which had served equally to harmonize and elevate the 
souls of Longinus and Zenobia." 

The insignificant retailer of the ari'dits of this dark and 
illiterate epoch of antiquity, Yopiscus, who took Aurelian 
as the subject of one of his historical romances,* is the 
authority quoted by a modem, who is hims^f a great 
authority, for the supposition that Zenobia "ignominiously 
purchased her own life, by the sacrifice of her &me and 
friends." But what were the << friends" of the bereaved 
and conquered Zenobia to her imperial rival and con- 
queror? Had he not the Queen of the Bast, the last of 
the thirty tyrants, the <« Augusta," who had disputed the 
empire with him in his power 1 — and how was she cont^ 
p^led to offer such a price for her own life, as the lives 
of her friends, when to preserve that life, for the illus* 
tration of his own vainglorious triumph, (the matchless 

* Flavins Vopiscas, in the reign of Dioclesian, composed the history of 
Aurelian, and of some of his immediate successors, which ekes out the 
■€)e very authentic compilation of the Ai^stan history. The negativa 
enlc^ium passed on Vopiscus by a modem French critic» is worth citing: 
**Quoique ce n'est pas un~bon aateur, il est cependant moins mauvaisque 
tons les autres, dont on a fait une compilation pour composer," rfiistorie 
Auffostm Scriptores. Zosimus (the other author, who furnishes Gibbon 
wiu references a^inst Zenobia, was a Greek writer of the fifth or sixtli 
century, of whom little is known, except that he wrote a history of the 
empire from Aagustus to Dioclesian. He was a zealous supporter of the 
old church of Paganism, and he could not, therefore be very faTooraUe 
to the philosophical pnpil of Longinus, who favoured the Jews, and pro- 
tected a Christian bishop : " Car il voyait avec peine s'eCablir sur les ruinei 
de la religion de ses p^res celle des Chretiens; et de cette opinion pea 
reflechie, et de son zele pour sa religion, naissent des traits de partiality 
dont on pent ezcnser Thomme, mals non pas Thistorien !" Such were thd 
hisioriaiM on wbose opinions Gibbon formed his own iden of Zenobift'i 
latter conduct. Longinus and Zenobia, (had such scribblers written in 
their times,) would have laughed at opinions thus haiarded, on events so 
far removed from the serutifiy of tbe calunBious inditers. 


pearl that was to give lustre to the victor's crown) 
was the ambition and fondest hope of Aurelian's pride 
and policy ? 

Afler the conquest of Palmyra, and the suppression of 
the rebellion in Egypt, followed the well-known triumphal 
entry of Aurelian into Rome; and << since the foundation 
of Rome," (says the great historian of its decline and fall,) 
<< no general had more nobly deserved a triumph than 
Aurelian, nor was a triumph ever celebrated with superior 
pride and magnificence." So long and various, indeed, 
was the pomp of this ceremony, that though it began with 
the dawn, it was still winding its gorgeous way toi the 
capitol, amidst the shadows of twilight ; and the great 
hero of the mighty melo-drama did not reach his palace 
till it was dark. The multitudinous people rent the air 
with acclamations, the expression of their " unfeigned joy, 
wonder, and gratitude." 

The pomp opened with an unwieldy procession of four 
royal tigers, twenty elephants, and two hundred wild and 
curious animals, the produce of every clime and region of 
the north, east, and south. These grim and most fearful 
images of brute force in all its most reckless savagery^ 
were followed close, by sixteen hundred men, formed in 
the pride of Nature's finest type, who were then wending 
their melancholy way to horrid immolation. Chosen for 
their strength and symmetry to grace the triumph, they 
were destined with the morning's light to be torn to pieces 
by the wild beasts, in whose track they now followed, — 
for the amusement of the Roman people, and the glory of 
their emperor. The victims thus set apart from the lists 
of humanity, were stigmatized with the name of Gladia- 
tors ; but they were, nevertheless, men : men such as the 
chisel of the noblest of all the arts has recorded them, for 
the wonder and admiration of posterity.* 

Close upon this frightful spectacle, so calculated to 
strike terror and pity upon every heart, came the chariots 
that were loaded with the spolia opima ; — an evidence of 

* The luring Gladiator of the CapitoL 

zxiroBiA. 167 

the gorgeous puerility and me^n ambition of the wor* 
shipped gods and tyrants of Rome. They consisted of 
the plundered wealth of Asia, and the arms and ensigns 
of the conquered nations, who had vainly struggled for 
independence against superior force. But amidst these 
spoils of war, there was one sumpter-chariot loaded with 
household elegancies, with articles of royal and domestic 
magnificence, gold and silver plate of Greek and Indian 
workmanship, carpets of Persia, and urns of Egypt, chairs 
of ivory and ewers gemmed with precious stones. All 
these were piled together, in artful disorder. 

The Roman people must have gazed on these menu* 
ments of a barbarian civilisation with envy and wonder ; 
while the eyes of the female portion of the multitude may 
have moistened, as, amidst this gorgeous splendour of the 
palace-home of the Queen of the £2ast,* they discovered 
even her very wardrobe, her rich Syrian tunics, her Per- 
sian diadem, and imperial mantle : for such was the mean- 
ness of the conqueror, *« who so nobly deserved a triumph," 
that the minutest articles of Zenobia's toilet were exposed 
to the popular gaze. Perhaps, too, in derision of the 
pedantic woman, her golden stylus, and the rolls on which 
she had written her " History of the East," together with 
the works of Longinus,t whose preservation, above all 
others, posterity would most have coveted, may have been 
among these precious spoils. 

Afler these came the ambassadors from the remotest 
parts of the earth, from Ethiopia, China, Persia, Arabia, 
India, and Bactriana ; their rich and picturesque dresses 
were called in to aid the scenic effect, and their own pre- 

* Zenobta aimait le faste, et Youlait crae sa cour ^galllt en splendedr 
cellft des rois de Perae. — HUt, Univer,, Si^r, 

t These were at that time Toluminous, though now reduced to the 
single treatise on the sublime. Lon^nus was named " the living library." 
His *'Treatiseon Uie Sublime" was found in an old monastic librarv at 
Bale, in 1554, by Francois Rohentel. The world probably owes the loss 
of his " Critical Kema»s on the Greek Authors,*' to the barbarian plunder 
of Aurelian's soldiers, when thdy took Palmyra, or to the paltry ven- 
geance of the emperor aAer he had put the illustrious author to death. 


sence ia Rome was employed to confirm the fame and 
power of the emperor 1 . 

Crowns of gold, too, '« the oflferings of grateful cities," 
which Aurelian had plundered and depopulated, and other 
offerings from nations he had enslaved, equally grateful, 
relieved the eye, between the passage of these living tri* 
hutes to his glory. Then came the train of captives, who 
best attested the great northern victories of Aurelian, war- 
riors of a new creation, the free children of the forests, 
the wild sons of the mountain and the hill. Oflen defended, 
but never subdued or exterminated, their races continued 
to pour forth from age to age, ia increasing multitudes, 
and with deathless energies, till Rome and all her great- 
ness was trampled under their victorious steps* These 
were the Franks, the Gauls, the Sarmatians, and the 
Vandals, each tribe distinguished by its peculiar standards 
and inscriptions. 

On one of these banners was emblazoned ^' the Ama- 
zons," a name given in irony, or in policy, to a little band 
of women, remarkable for their heroic beauty, who had 
been taken with arms in their hainds, fighting at their hus- . 
band's sides : << for among barbarian nations, women have 
oflen been found so fighting,"-*-a violence, indeed, xlone 
to Nature, but done by Nature herself, and ssuictified by 
the circumstances. 

The unfortunate Emperor Tetricus* followed, — the re- 
presentative of her, who made him emperor, of Victoria, 
^' the heroine of the west." But every eye, disregarding 
all the other captives, was strained to catch the first glimpse 
of the greater than all ! — the Roman Augusta— ^the rival of 
Aurelian — the Queen of the East ! She appeared at last, 
on foot, preceding her own magnificent chariot, the trium- 
phal car in which she had once hoped to enter the gates of 
Rome ka its empress mother ! Her beautiful figure was 
fettered by pondrous manacles of gold, and the chains 

* Tetricus was accompanied by bis son. They were both in the Gallic 
costume, trowsers, a saffron tunic, and a purple mantle: this is one of the 
earliest notices of French fashions on record. 


which encircled her neck were so weighty, that a slave 
walked beside her to support them, as she moved in the 
majesty of her humiliation. She seemed almost to faint 
under the weight of the jewels, with which her enfeebled, 
yet queen-like person, was decorated and encumbered. 
Not so her conqueror, who followed her steps in a tri- 
umphal car, drawn by four elephants : 

** Aloft, in awful state, 
The gocUike hero sate-^" 

the crowned " Deus" and " Dominus"* of a new species 
of worship. 

The senate, the people, and the army, closed the pro- 
cession : but, amidst their shouts of joy, some symptoms 
of discontent were manifested by the " conscript fathers," 
who, in their esprit de coi'ps^ as men and magistrates, could 
not suppress a rising murmur, when the haughty empe- 
ror thus exposed to ignominy a Roman and a magistrate, 
in the person of the ex-emperor Tetricus. For the Roman 
empress, however, who much more than shared this " igno- 
miny," there was no sympathy ! None at least was openly 
demonstrated : though among the women some proud-feel- 
ing hearts may have swelled, as this noble creature, this 
faithful wife, this devoted mother, this spirited queen, trod 
her doleful way to the capitol in chains, where she was so 
worthy to be crowned. 

They may have even felt their own wrongs in hers, 
and wept as they gazed on the fallen greatness of this 
glory of their sex ; and if one man of genius, or of 
learning, mingled with the brute mass of a degraded 
population, he, too, may have considered the intellectual 
queen, the friend of Longinus, the lover of science and 
philosophy, with a far other sentiment, than that, which 
he was forced to affect, in lavishing loud vivats on the 

* See the medals of Aurelian. Such homage had been rejected with 
abhorrence by the first Cdesars; but the title of "our lord and emperor" 
was given by the people, and accepted by the later sovereigns. 

VOL. II. 15 


hero, whose glory was foujaded oa the destruction and 
misery of the species ! 

On this great occasion, the moral triumph was the wo- 
man's; the gorgeous and theatrical solemnity was her 
master's ! Posterity must now judge between them ; but 
it is a remarkable feature in this triumph, granted tq a 
hero, that it opened with tigers, and ended with slaves. 

«It had been customary, upon all such occasions, to 
strangle those princes who had unsuccessfully opposed the 
Roman arms, in the defence of their own thrones and 
freedom ; and their execution was perpetrated as soon as 
the triumphal pomp had ascended the steps of the capitol. 
It was the wiser lenity of the Emperor Aurelian to spare 
the lives of the two unfortunate sovereigns he had de- 
feated, and to permit Tetricus and Zenobia to enjoy an 
honourable repose. Aurelian presented Zenobia with an 
elegant villa at Tivoli, in place of the kingdom he had 
ravaged from her. 

Thither she retired with her two daughters and her son, 
elevated, not degraded, to the rank of a Roman matron ; 
and if the ruins of Babylon and the deserted palaces of 
Palmyra may sometimes have recurred to her, amidst the 
pleasant paradise of Tivoli, the affections of Nature must 
have compensated her for the extinction of that false gran- 
deur, which her ambition had led her to seek, at the ex- 
pense of her happiness and repose. She had taken Semi- 
ramis and Cleopatra for the models of the heroic portions 
of her life: like the first, she had legislated and reformed; 
while, like the second, she had carried on the tradition of 
mind by her encouragement of the learned ; and, like both, 
her moral energies fell only before that physical force 
which then governed the universal world ! In her latter 
days the Queen of the East emulated the virtues of Cor- 
nelia, and may have recalled them to the Romans by her 
example and her life. Her intellectual posterity, illustra- 
ting a new phasis of society in the fifth century,* bore 

* Zenobius, Bishop of Florence, in the time of St. Ambrose, is sopposedv 
bj Baromus to have been a desciendant of the Queen of Palmyra. 


evidence to the most ancient of all dogmas — ^that great 
and good mothers are the true foundresses of the dy- 
nasties of genius. They were so in the great days of 
Israel ; and they were so in the best days of Rome. 


The Women of the Empire. Valeria. Theodora. Prisca. Helena. 

The magnificent triumph accorded by the Roman army 
and people to the most warlike and fortunate of emperors, 
was quickly followed by his assassination ! The pride of 
Aurelian had long been ofiensive to the senate; his cruelty 
was feared by all the most illustrious families of Rome, 
who sufiered from its exercise; and his ignorant and 
haughty impatience of all civil institutions, evinced his 
intention of governing by the sword that empire, which 
he vauntingly asserted he had won by the sword ! 

The greatest general, and the worst politician of his 
time, Aurelian was better fitted to command an army, 
than to govern a state ; and the acts of severity with 
which he filled up the short interval between his triumphal 
entry into the capital and his departure from it for the 
East, were abhorrent to policy, to justice, and humanity. 
" The executioners were fatigued, the prisons were crowd- 
ed, and the unhappy senate lamented the death or absence 
of its most illustrious members." 

The excuse for this severity was an insurrection of the 
workmen of the mint;* — its excesses, the result of his 
own cruel temperament, to which the excitement of shed- 
ding blood was a necessary indulgence. Five months 

* One of the earliest strikes on record. 


after his " triumph," when on his march near Byzantium, 
he fell a victim to a military and domestic conspiracy, and 
was murdered by the hands of one of his own generals, 
whom he had most trusted. 

The close of the third century found the Roman world 
a prey to a ferocious soldiery, to sanguinary tyrants, and 
to the perpetual incursions of those brave and reckless 
barbarians, whose conquests over existing civilisation 
were about to change the whole condition of society. From 
time to time, some few great individuals appeared upon the 
blood-stained arena of the empire, who, by their military 
iskill, high discipline, and dauntless spirits, upheld its gTeat<» 
ness. They were chiefly military adventurers from the 
warlike province of Illyrium. After the death of the 
good and wise Tacitus, (the descendant of the historian, 
and successor of Aurelian,) the peasantry of that province, 
<< who had already given Claudius and Aurelian to the 
sinking empire," had an equal right to glory in the eleva- 
tion of Probusi whose victories over the barbarians of all 
nations, relieved Rome from its most pressing dangers, 
and raised its proud eagles once more, on the shores of the 
remotest rivers of the north. 

The great legislative talents of Probus would have been 
equally beneficial to the ruined people as his conquests, 
had they been permitted to have tak^n effect ; but his im- 
prudence in neglecting to court that military popularity, 
by which the wisest, like the worst, were destined to be 
governed, deprived Rome of one of the best of her em- 
perors. Probus, while superintending in person the drain- 
ing of the marshes of Sirmium, (more attentive to the 
interests of mankind than to the indulgence of his troops,) 
was urging on the soldiers employed in the task, when 
they suddenly broke forth into a furious mutiny, and 
attacked his person. He flew for refuge to a lofty tower, 
but fled in vain. The tower was forced, and a thousand 
swords were plunged into the bosom of him, who, a mo- 
ment before, these slaves and tyrants had honoured as a 
god, and addressed as their " lord." 

A new reign, as usual, was followed by a new murder. 


The ambiguous death of the short-lived and excellent Em- 
peror Carius, made way for his eldest son Carinus, who 
added the vioes of Heliogabalus to the cruelty of Domitian. 
At the moment when he was about to kindle the flames of 
civil war in Rome, he, too, fell in his turn a victim to pri- 
vate vengeance; having been murdered by a tribune, 
whose wife he had seduced* 

The glorious and protracted reign of Diocletian, which 
followed, gave breathing time to exhausted humanity, and 
again lefl an opening in the dark vista of anarchical story, 
through which the light of woman's mind shone forth,— 
faintly, indeed, but still steadily. The birth of one of the 
greatest emperors which Rome ever possessed, was tis ab- 
ject as his character was elevated. His mother vi^as a 
slave in the family of a noble Roman senator ; and the 
name of his father must have been at least doubtful, since 
the son took for his own one derived from the little town 
of his mother's birth and parentage—Diodes, or Dioclea, 
in Dalmatia. 

That the freedom of the parents had been obtained, was 
proved by the son's being permitted to take the profession 
of arms. From that moment, he forced his way to for- 
tune and to fame, by every species of merit best calcu- 
lated to obtain success, till he ascended the throne of the 
empire, and at a time when sudi an occupant was most 
necessary to save it from sinking* 

The genius which raised the son of a slave to the empire 
of the world, still presided over the great reign of Diocle- 
tian ; and from his elevation to the throne, to his volun- 
tary abdication, almost every act was marked as the 
unprecedented experiment of a great and original mind. 
His early introduction of a new form of administration, 
his early association of Maximian into the government, 
and his adoption of two younger colleagues, which gave 
to Rome two Augusti and two Caesars at the same time, 
was followed by t6e well distributed departments of' the 
elder and younger imperial chiefs, and by the harmony 
and union of all. This union which cemented their 
power» notwithstanding the greate9t dissonance of cha^K;-! 



ter and disparity of talents, was among the moral mira- 
cles effected by one, who, though born a slave, taught the 
world that Nature knows no distinction in the distribution 
of her favours. 

Maximian, whom Diocletian had associated in his own 
supreme power, was a brave, ignorant, and illiterate pea- 
sant, a gallant and disciplined soldier, who well justified 
by his stature, strength, and volition, the mythical name, 
bestowed on him by his imperial patron — that of " Angus- 
tus-Herculius." For himself, Diocletian took the godlike 
title of Jovius. The two epithets, if intended to represent 
the elements of brute force inherent in one, and the high 
endowment of reason and moral government in the other, 
were respectively applicable to two men, so dissimilar, 
and yet so well associated for the interests of the times. 

The two younger Cajsars who were called on to share 
in the labours of a government, which was still that of the 
world, were Galerius, who had been raised from the pas- 
toral profession of a herdsman, to be the victorious general 
of an army ; and Constantius, whose gentler birth and 
nobler character were derived from his illustrious mother 
Eutropia, the niece of the Emperor Claudius. 

To strengthen the bonds of this political union, by ties 
of a tenderer nature, the two reigning emperors, Diocletian 
and Maximian, adopted each, one of their new associates 
as his son. Diocletian assumed the character of father 
to the rude Galerius, and Maximian to the more refined 
and well-born Constantius; while each of the Augusti 
obliged his adopted son to repudiate his already wedded 
wife,. and to assume the dangerous honours of an imperial 
son-in-law: thus bartering faith and independence for 
power and rank. 

To the herdsmen of Sardaca, (the Caesar- Armentarius 
of the wits of Rome,) was given Valeria, the daughter 
of the Emperor Diocletian. ^A creature so lovely, and 
so gifled, so high in rank and public estimation, may have 
readily reconciled the rough soldier to his separation from 
the humbler and coarser partner of the peasant's choice. 
Constantius became the husband of Flavia Theodora, the 

WOVEK OP THB sxpnuB. 175 

step-daughter of Mazimian, and only child of Eutropia, by 
a noble Syrian, her first husband. 

The wit of Theodora was an inheritance from her 
mother, and her beauty is attested by her medals: yet 
thus portioned, with such advantages of person and of 
birth, there was an obvious reluctance to this illustrious 
marriage on the part of Constantius ; and Diocletian gave 
a singular importance to his divorce, by every legal form, 
that could mark the validity of the first marriage and his 
own suspicion of the preference felt by the new Caesar, for 
the earlier ties of his youth, over the new alliances of his 
policy and ambition, t 

While the brave but gentle Constantius was yet in the 
spring of his fame, and prime of his valour, he had be- 
come enamoured of the beautiful daughter of an innkeeper 
in the little bourg of Dripanum, at whose house he lodged 
on his march through Nicomedia from Persia. The charms, 
or wit, or, perhaps, the art of the plebeian beauty, succeed- 
ed in converting the passing fancy of the Roman general 
into a permanent affection, which terminated in marriage. 
That she followed her husband in his remotest campaigns, 
is proved by the uncertainty of the birthplace of their 
first-born son, which has been <' the subject not only of 
literary, but of national dispute :" amidst the darkness of 
monkish inventions, and the partialities of more modern 
historians, it is scarcely yet ascertained, whether Britain 
or Dacia was the native place of one, whose existence 
became a great epoch in the world's history. « For, in 
the life of a roving soldier," ^observes one of the ablest 
commentators on this disputed point,) << the place of his 
marriage, or of his children's birth, have little concern 
with each other." 

That the conduct of the low-born wife of the illustrious 
Constantius had been governed by a consummate prudence, 
was proved by the quiet obscurity in which this early 
period of her life was passed : that her mind was cultivated 
and enlightened, was best attested by Constantius's consign- 
ing to her sole superintendence the education of his eldest 
son. The name of this devoted wife was Helena, that of 


her son was Constantino : — ^the future saint and Urture hero 
of the Christian world, and the first founder of its state 
church. For not to Constantino, her imperial son, alone, 
be addressed the eulogy or reproach of Dante^s fearless 
lines I* That son had never raised the cross, had not his 
nM>ther placed it in his hands ; nor would he have " con- 
quered in its sign," had she not early taught him to win the 
age, by adopting the spirit of the age : thus making her 
own reforming and spiritual creed the great state engine of 
the times, the political expediency by which the supreme 
power was to be attained and consecrated. 

Constantine, surnamed the great, was just eighteen, when 
his father, promoted by Diocktian to the rank of Caesar, 
was sent to govern Britain ; and the hearts of the mother 
and the son were still throbbing high, in the first outburst 
of their latent ambition, when the divorce of Constantius 
reduced Helena to despair, and her son to a state of ob- 
scurity, and degradation. 

Separated from his mother^ and summoned to^the palace 
of Diocletian (who then held his court in Nicomedia), Con- 
stantino became the dependent guest and suspected captive 
of the, master of his destinies. From his imperial prison 
he was only released, by being sent to join the army in 
Persia and Egypt ; for Diocletian, to avoid complying with 
his father's request that he might have his son with him 
in Britain, (where Constantius then commanded,) exposed 
him to the perils of the most hazardous warfare. 

History is silent on this darkest interval in the life of 
the bereaved and outraged mother of Constantine. But to 
Helena the epoch may have been one of intense purposes, 
and of profound oogitation. It was then that the greatest 
passions may have been brought to bear upon the highest 
views; and the sublimest vengeance ever perpetrated, a 
vengeance which turned a spiritual c(Hiviction to the ac- 
complishment of the highest maternal ambition, may have 

* " Ahi Costantino, di quanto male fu matre, 
Non la tua conversion, ma quella dote, 
Cbe di le preie il primo ncco Fatre/* Ac. 

Ikmte, Ctato lao. <p. lift. 


been then first conceived and fostered. It was then that 
the fears of the anxious mother, and the indignation of the 
discarded wife, gave the intensity of personal wrongs to 
the zeal of enthusiastic faith! The gods of Olympus 
already trembled on their altars ; and the high destiny of 
the future master of the world was determined even while 
he was yet fighting in the wars of Persia and Egypt, for 
the honours and station of a tribune, or was combating for 
life and death in a single contest with a giant barbarian 
and a " monstrous lion."* 

The reign of Diocletian closed the imperial history of 
the west, with a glory suitable to the awful grandeur or 
the approaching crisis in the history of mankind, the 
greatest on record. Stamped as it was with the seal of 
Diocletian's own genius, it equally combined within itself 
the mighty fragments of the old civilisation, and the form- 
ing elements which were to constitute the new. Twenty 
years of brilliant public prosperity were passed by the em- 
peror in fighting, conquering, travelling, and legislating,^ 
while victories abit»ad, reforms at home, rebellions sup- 
pressed, revolts chastised, thrones overthrown, and dynas- 
ties restored, were the imposing results. The capital of 
the world was embellished and enlarged, and those of the 
* remoter provinces beautified and raised in dignity and im- 
portance ; and four imperial courts were maintained with 
Asiatic luxury in different parts of the world.:|: 

* " Galen us, or perhaps his own courage, exposed Constantiiie to 
single combat with a Sarmatian, and with a monstrous lion." 

t "On lui dut plusieurs 6dit8 et r^glemens tres sages, dont on r^trouve 
qnelques dispositions dans le code de Justinien." — HUt. Univer. One of 
the most beautiful of these enacted that none should be accused by the 
man he had served. *' Banish gratitude from the earth," he said, *' and 
you banish with it repose and happiness." 

X These palaces and camps of tne delegated Ciesars were at once the 
landmarks of concentrated power, and the signs of its approaching disso- 
lution. On the division ot the empire, of which Diocletian, however, 
remained the supreme head, he confided Illyria, Thrace. Macedonia, 
and Syria, to the brutal Galerius: Gaul, and Britain, (more fortunate,) 
were placed under the government of the enlightened Constantius, who 
held his military court at York. To Maximian, the emperor's superior 
colleague, the second Aup^ustus, Italy and Spain were assigned ; whUe 
Diocletian reserved for himself Asia and Atrica, a natural preference, 
perhaps, in the son of the slave of Doclea. 

178 WOSSN OF THE uacFisx. 

Previously, the emperors (with iew exceptions) had lived 
with their great officers as companions in arms. They 
had commanded as generals, judged as praetors, adminis- 
tered as consuls, and opened their palaces to the pubiic, 
like the chief magistrates of a great commonwealth. But 
the court of Diocletian was the centre of all magnifi- 
cence, the school of all refinement; and wherever it was 
held, in Rome or in Nicomedia, was mounted upon the 
oriental type. Surrounded by slaves, (the unsightly 
guardians, of exclusive habits,) and jealously protected 
fvom intrusion by guards (stationed even in the mterior 
apartments, to which ministers and favourites alone bad 
access), the emperor, to mark still more widely the dis- 
tinction between himself and the rest of mankind, ex- 
changed the purple woollen mantle of the Caesars for a 
robe of golden tissue, and habitually bound his brow with 
the gemmed diadem of Asiatic despotism. 

By an imperial edict, he, also, commanded the Roman 
people to address him as Domixnis, (a style particularly 
o^nsive to Roman ears,) and he humbled them still fur- 
ther by calling them >< his subjects," a term till then un- 
known. The creation of new personal distinctions changed 
the associations of the people with their institutions : du^s, 
counts, viscounts, referendaries, chamberlains, and other 
new titles, replaced names and offices which had hitherto 
recalled the ancient liberties 'of Rome ; and the deepening 
shadows, which the dark ages now cast before them, gave, 
amidst the apparent splendour, indication of the coming 
obscuration of all the existing remnants of human inde- 

This weakness of the emperor was, however, lost in the 
halo of his genius and his fortune ; and his reign is quoted 
as the greatest, and his laws as the wisest, which glorified 
the last century of the empire. But if rhetoricians in their 
declamations, and poets in their eulogies, (for historians 
there were then none,*) have given the full measure of 

* The dry and cold abbreviations of CapitoIinuB and of Aurelius Victor, 
meagre and incomplete aa tbey are, scarcely give to tliese writem a 
claim to the dignity of historians. . 


praise to the glory, the genius, the Talour, and the justice 
of lUocletian, his reign has been marked for the execra- 
tion of posterity by that terrible epithet, «* the era of mar- 

Meantime, the glorioiis intellect of antiquity was silent* 
The philosophy, the poetry, the eloquence of Greece, so 
ostentatiously, yet so servilely assumed to itself by Rome, 
were becoming scarcely more than a tradition ; and, had 
not events spoken for themselves, in times so fatal to the 
spiritual nature of man, even the fasti of this reign, so 
knpoTtmnt and portentous in themselves, might have 
escaped the knowledge of posterity. 

Still mind, though degraded, was not quenched; for 
while the forms of government and the calamities of war 
were combining in the west, to obliterate that literature 
and philosophy, which, (maugre the great names of Cicero, 
of Virgil, of Horace, of Livy, of Tacitus, and of the other 
luminaries of the gold and silver ages of Roman classi- 
cality,) never took a firm and deep root in the Roman 
intellect, — other causes were in operation in the eastern 
put of the empire, to rouse the dormant spirit of inquiry, 
and to enlist the passions on the side of the most abstract 
and transcendental speculation. 

The establishment of the successors of Alexander in the 
Bast, had brought the philosophy of the Greeks into the 
closest contact with the religious systems of Egypt and 
Palestine; and had forced a comparison between their 
doctrines, which, in the first instance, must have given a 
shock to the partisans of each. The Jews, established in 
Alexandria by the exigencies of commerce, were early in 
the field,^ studying the dogmas of the several sects into 
which philosophical Greece was divided, comparing them 
with their own national doctrines, and finally endeavour- 
ing to amalgamate the whole into one common system. 

It was thus that the sect of new Platonists arose, whose 
opinions gave so decided a colour to the Christianity of the 
third century, and assisted so largely in determining its 
subsequent fortunes. Of the various systems of the Greeks, 
that of Plato best accorded, by its mysticism, its obscurity. 


and its subjugation to verbal imposition, with the belief in 
miracles, and in communications between man and supe- 
rior intelligences, then current in the East. That system, 
which, at long distant intervals, has revived and recom- 
mended itself to acceptance, not more for the elegant lan- 
guage and persuasive eloquence of its founder, than for 
its aptitude to flatter the vanity of its adepts, and to 
astonish the vulgar by its sublime obscurity, very natu- 
rally obtained possession of the Asiatic imagination ; and 
though the new sect professed to be, and aimed at being, 
eclectic, and at combining all opinions in one harmonious 
whole, yet the doctrines of the Platonicians, as the most 
acceptable, eventually swallowed up the rest, and became 
the foundation of the new system. In this amalgamation, 
both sets of ideas were respectively modified : the Jewish 
(and subsequently the Christian systems), became subtil- 
ized, and imbued with more philosophic forms ; and the 
transcendentalism of the old Platonists received a deeper 
dye of vagueness and of mystery from the thaumatology 
of the East.* 

Of the early influence of this philosophy upon Chris- 
tianity, there exists distinct evidence in the opening verses 
of St. John's gospel, which are pure Platonism in language 
and in thought ; and it is not perhaps too much to refer all 
the disputes which divided and disturbed the infant church, 
to a contest between those who, in forming their religious 
creeds, adopted, and those who rejected, more or less, of 
the new philosophy. 

Several traits in the life of Plotinus mark this Asiatic 
influence upon his doctrines. His disciples, under his 

* Of Plotinus, the great writer of the new Platonists, it is obaenred : 
"Le caractere mystique et transcendental de sa philosophie la rend 
soUvent obscure et inintelligible. ISi on exige des idees clairs et precises, 
auxquelles correspondent des objets r^els, on est ibrc^ de convenir qu? 
Plotin lui-meme n'en avoit pas toujours de seniblables. Mais quand on 
parvient k se mettre a la place d'un homme, qui s'abandonne sans reserve 
auz egaremens d'une imagination ^chaufiiEe et presqu'en delire (condition 
indispensable lorsqu'on veut trouver quelqu'int6r6t au sySt^me de Plotin), 
alors on parvient a se former au moins un id4e ^^n^rale de la mani^ 
dont il a eztravagu^ en philosophie." — Bvhle E&tUwe dela PAU, Moderne, 
voL i. p. 548. 


guidance, adopted the strangest practices. One of them, 
Rogatian, a Roman prstor, sold his goods, freed hb 
slaves, and abandoned his charge, to live freely in the 
open air (an E^senian, if not a Christian practice of the 
day); and the women more especially adopted his chime- 
ras, and abandoned themselves to his reveries, so congenial 
to their lively imaginations and excitable fibre ; (another 
striking trait of the manners of the Therapeutes and 
Christian innovators.) 

While philosophy thus spiritualized the intelligence of 
the Asiatic population, religious enthusiasm spread its 
influence among all classes; and when the progress of 
Christianity finally carried the leaven of this fermentation 
into all parts of the empire, the women were most espe- 
cially induced to interest themselves in tho controversies 
to which it gave rise. Among these, the women of the 
imperial families became conspicuous for their zeal and 
pertinacity. They took the broad road of free inquiry ; 
and though often bewildered and seduced by the metaphy- 
sical distinctions of the prevailing party among the Christ 
tians, still their object was truth ; and their health, their 
repose, even their lives, were sacrificed in its pursuit. 
Combating in the field of speculative opinion with the 
ardour of neophytes, and the zeal of apostles, they pro- 
tected Lactantius,* studied Busebius, adopted the meta- 
physics of Porphyry, and opposed the scepticism of 

While the mothers and wives of the reigning sovereigns 
were thus spiritually occupied, Galerius and Maximian 
panted for a pretext to exterminate the religion, thus 
favoured, by destroying its professors. They had with 
them on this subject the bigotry of the people, the interests 
of the pontifis, the whole force derived from ancient esta- 
blishniients, the vices of the profligate, and the fears of the 

* Lactantius, for his eloquence, was iovited by Diocletian to teach rhe- 
toric in Nicomedia ; bat, from his ignorance of Greek, he had few fol- 
lowers. When there, his humanity was excited b^ the persecutions of 
the Christians, which probably became the occasion of his own conver- 

VOL. II. 16 


superstitious. But, above all, they had with them, the 
desolating dissensions, raised among the Christians them- 
selves, on vain and frivolous questions, the departure of 
the religion from its primitive simplicity, and the rankness 
of its corruptions,^ springing from the wealth and pride of 
its prelates, and from its dereliction of the free and inde- 
pendent constitution of the primitive church.f 

Diocletian, too careless of the progress of a sect which 
he probably despised, and Constantius, too* sagacious not 
to liave discovered the hold it had gained on the minds of 
mankind, were both inclined to toleration. But while the 
four heads of the imperial government were thus diversely 
afiected, the genius, the learning, and the leisure of the 
Empress Prisca, and of her daughter Valeria, (whom Dio- 
cletian had bestowed upon the unlettered Galerius,) led 
them to listen with respect to the doctrines of Christianity, 
and to commune with its orators and writers. It was 
supposed that they had been privately baptized ; and it is 
certain that several of the principal officers of their house- 
hold, and even of Diocletian's, followed the example of the 
empresses, and (protected by their influence) adopted the 
faith which they had embraced. Although their offices 
obliged the latter to accompany the emperor when he wit- 
nessed the rites of the state polytheism, they enjoyed, with 
their wives, children, and slaves, the free exercise of the 
new religion. 

While the august mother and her imperial daughter 
(the most accomplished women of their day) were thus 
raising a Christian shrine in the very palace of the perse- 
cutor, (and doubtless delayed the execution of his cruel 
policy,) the repudiated Helena, in her cloistral retreat, 
from which she was so soon called to become an empress, 
was meditating her great scheme of holy ambition, and 
dreaming that dream, which her son was so soon to ac- 
complish. Constantia, too, the daughter of Constantino 
and Theodora, was studying, on the remote shore of Bri- 
tain, those works which led the earliest disciple of Arius, 

* Hist of the Church. t Eusebius. 


(ere his doctrines had assumed a tangible form, or were 
stigmatized by a name,) to become, in future days, his 
able protectress and saviour. 

At this momentous epoch of the great struggle between 
the religion of the state and the religion of opinion, there 
was another female who, though but an homely and an 
aged woman, was yet pertinacious as the youngest, and 
influential ad the wisest. This was the mother of Galerius, 
who appears to have followed her son, in all his higher 
fortunes, and to have kept alive his zeal for the altars of 
his fathers. A worshipper of *< the mountain gods," and 
eminently bigoted and superstitious in her belief;* the 
devotion of Valeria, her spiritual and Christian daughter- 
in-law, alarmed her fears for the salvation of her son. 
Hating, also, the Empress Prisca (as mothers-in-law some- 
times hate, in the jealousy of maternal affection), she had 
thus another reason for persecuting the creed which her 
rival protected, and for inflaming the passions of Galerius 
against the Christians. 

From the two poor servant maids, tortured by Pliny in 
the ileign of Trajan, (the early martyrs and ministers of 
the religion of the people,) to the powerful and accom- 
plished princesses, who now protected its bishops, and 
defended the doctrines of its learned fathers, no link in 
the chain of female agency was broken. The Empress 
Mammea seeking out and hearing Origen, Zenobia pro- 
tecting Paul of Samosata, in part adopting his doctrines, 
(the unitarianism of the times,) Prisca and Valeria studying 
with Eusebius and Lactantius, and converting the court of 
Diocletian to Christianity,---formed a continuous chain, 
upholding the spiritual nature of that sex, without whose 
aid few religions h^ve ever been founded, and none per- 

In this divided state of opinions and of interests, the 
fanaticism of a centurion furnished Galerius, (the least 
tolerant of the Roman Csesars), with a pretext for severity, 
which savoured, however, less of religious persecution, 

* Molierad modnm superetitiosa. 


than of military rigour. At his suggestion, and by his 
influence with Diocletian, (strengthened by his military 
successes, and a winter's residence with the emperor in 
Nicomedia,) a general persecution was undertaken. The 
Christians were declared disqualified for office in the house- 
hold, the army, or the state. A council of courtiers de- 
cided on the fate of a population convicted of the forbidden 
belief; and the ministers of Diocletian, with a numerous 
body of guards, marched in order of battle upon the prin- 
cipal church of Nicomedia, situated on a beautiful eminence 
in the heart of the city, where, towering in grandeur above 
the imperial palace, it had long stood the envy of the 
orthodox anti-reformers of the age. 

The mob, which followed the constituted authorities, 
broke open the doors of the sanctuary, to plunder and de- 
stroy ; but they found nothing to commit to the flames, 
except some volumes of the sacred books. The holy 
building was, however, levelled to the ground ; and an 
edict against the Christians was published on the following 
day, the type of all future penal laws against liberty of 
conscience. Diocletian, it is true, the husband of a Chris- 
tian wife, and the father of a Christian daughter, was still 
averse from the shedding of blood ; and he endeavoured to 
moderate the rage of Galerius, who proposed to burn alive 
all who refused to sacrifice to his gods : still the punish- 
ments inflicted on the obstinate Christians might, even in 
the days of direst modern intolerance, be deemed suf- 
ficiently rigorous and eflective. 

The destruction of the Christian temple was closely fol- 
lowed by the burning of the emperor's palace. Even the 
very bedchamber of Diocletian, guarded as it was, was in 
flames. A lesson was thus read, which, had it been 
listened to, would have saved torrents of blood from flow- 
ing, and protected the remnants of ancient civilisation 
from utter extinction. 

The Christians were naturally suspected of the deed, 
for they had friends in the palace, and their advocates 
were in the very apartments of the emperor. Persons 
high in office were, therefore, thrown into prison, perse- 


cuted, and tortured ; while both city and court were pol- 
luted by bloody executions. A multitude of the proscribed 
sect took refuge in the Syrian desert ; others sought pro- 
tection amidst the barbarians of the north, (on whose 
minds the light of the new faith was breaking ;) and the 
two empresses were forced, by the dangers of their posi- 
tion, or the imperial command, to repair to the temples, 
and sacrifice at the altars of the gods and their masters. 

Maximian and Galerius continued to execute the perse-^ 
outing edict in the provinces under their sway ; but the 
wise and humane Constantius turned the blunt edge of the 
sword he was commanded to raise in Britain, and spared 
the religion which his wife Helena had taught him to 
respect, and his daughter Constantia implored him to pro» 
tect. Diocletian, too, halted half-way in his inglorious 
and sanguinary path of persecution ; and, leaving to hie 
successors the melancholy pre-eminence of dominating 
and ravaging the world, he abdicated its throne, and re- 
tired into the pivacy of domestic life, to enjoy that happi- 
ness which a throne had not given him. 

He had either forced or persuaded his fierce colleague^ 
Maximian, to abdicate with himself; and he was accompa- 
nied in his delicious retreat at Salona by his accomplished 
wife, the Empress Prisca, whose daughter Valeria suc- 
ceeded to her mother's honours, as the reigning Augusta 
of the day. 

The successors of Diocletian and Maximiao. (the good 
and evil principle of the Roman government), were their 
two CsBsars, the faithfuhrepresentatives of their respective 
and peculiar idiosyncrasies, — the fierce and rude-born 
Galerius, and the high-bred and humane Constantius. 
The two Augusti held their seats of empive in the most 
distant regions,~'^alerius in Nicomedia, Constantius in 
Britain: for the eternal city, its "original glory half 
eclipsed," was already abandoned by its emperors, and 
rapidly sinking into a provincial capital. 

On the elevation of Galerius and Constantius to supreme 
authority, they shared their imperial labours with four 
Caesars — with Licinius (the future husband of Constantia), 



with Maximin, the rude, uncultured nephew of Galerius, 
with Severus, his creature, and with Maxentius, (the 
worthy son of the abdicated emperor, Maximian,) who 
blended all the ferocity of his barbarian father, with all 
the vices of a Roman- voluptuary. 

But Galerius, the son-in-law of. Diocletian, the conqueror 
of the Persians, the persecutor of the Christians, had firmly 
established his power over three-fourths of the monarchy ; 
and, assuming the gorgeous trappings of Diocletian, in his 
court of Nicomedia, only waited the death of Constantius 
(already declining in health and years), to establish him*> 
self sole master of the Roman world. The flight of his 
captive guest, or hostage, Constantine, in the middle of the 
night, from the imperial palace in Nicomedia, his arrival 
in his father's court at York, the dying Constantius's last 
wishes, so flattering to the pride and virtues of the son of 
Helena, the elevation of that son to the rank of Csesar by 
his father's will, and by the election of the legions, and 
the new emperor of the West despatching ambassadors 
to the supreme Augustus in the East, dissolved at once 
the mighty vision of power which had so long dazzled the 
ambitious views of Galerius. 

More violent than Marius, more cruel than Nero, Gale- 
rius was further excited by the successful revolt of Max- 
entius in Africa, and by the return of his father Maximian 
to the throne, which he had abdicated, and which, in his 
deathless ambition and jealousy of Constantine, he again 

The litits of sanguinary contention were again thrown 
open to the restless passions and personality of man. The 
six imperial candidates, Augusti and Csesars, started for 
the prize of supremacy, over the prostrated rights of hu- 
manity, to be won by force and violence. In the prime of 
their strength, their crimes, and their ambition, the com- 
batants rushed from theior respective head-quarters, to fight 
the last great battle for universal empire. The mighty 
draiti€^ so. long enacting on the theatre of the world, was 



hastening to its last act. The catastrophe was terrible 
and sublime ; the details were awful and heart-rending. 
How the great fight was fought, and with what results, 
even ignorance now is not ignorant ; for history has left 
no fact untold, no event unfamiliarized. Through the 
tissue of its gorgeous commonplaces, and conventional 
phraseology, its " mingled web of good and ill toge- 
ther,'' it has woven, unintentionally, if not unconsciously, 
the fine and scarcely palpable thread of woman's agency ; 
preserving, through the coarser and baser texture of human 
actions, the precious influence of the affections, the enno- 
bling power of all that is spiritual in humanity. 

Among the great conflicts which agitated mankind in the 
commencement of the fourth century, (a portentous inter- 
val, between the precise epoch of the destruction of an old, 
and the creation of a new society,) the women suffered 
much, endured firmly, and loved and served unflinchingly ; 
and though the domestic history of these dreadful times 
may have furnished examples of many heroic Sempro- 
nias,^ and many zealous and generous Aglaes, still the 
authenticated lives of the historical women of the age are 
at once so epic and so exemplary, that the Roman em- 
presses most aptly and illustratively close the painful but 
not inglorious story of the women of the empire. 

The defeat and death of the Emperor Galerius lefl his 
widow, Valeria, exposed to imminent danger. Her father, 
the late mighty Diocletian, powerless and aged, was sink- 
ing in years and maladies, in his solitude at Salona ; and 
her strong-minded mother, the Empress Prisca, alone re- 
mained in her indestructible affection, to aid her by her 
counsels, and to protect her by her august presence. 

Valeria was in the prime of her life and her beauty; *^she 

* Pendant le court regne de ce prince feroce et insense (Maxentius) 
Rome fut inond^e de sang, et livree au pillage, la pudeur des femmes 
les plas distinguees 6tait immoiee & la brutalite de ses desirs. Sophronie, 
chretienne, et mair^e & un illustre senatear, voyant sa maison entour^e 
par les satellites du tyran, crat pouvoir sans ofieuser Dieu s'afTranchir du 
d^shonueur. Eile se poignarda, et le sang de cette nnuvelie Lucrece 
anrait peut-Stre arm6 les Rumains contre la tyrannie, s'ils n'^taient con- 
tena par una armee deToaee k Mazence. — Segur^ Hist, Univ, 


had fulfilled, and even surpassed, the duties of a wife ;'' 
and, childless herself, she had adopted a natural son of 
her husband's, (though born afler her^ marriage with the 
emperor,) and had invariably displayed towards the unfor- 
tunate Candidianus the tenderness of a mother. 

The exigencies of her position had induced Valeria to 
visit the court, in order to seek the temporary protection 
of Maximin, the nephew of Diocletian, and her nearest 
kinsman. She was accompanied by her mother and 
adopted son, and was received by the imperial successor 
of her husband with the cordiality and respect due to 
relatives so near, and to persons so august. Maximin, 
however, sensual,^ cruel, and avaricious, marked out the 
widowed empress as the victim of all those fearful passions. 
Her personal charms, her ample possessions, determined 
him to divorce his own wife, who was living, and to de- 
mand the hand of Valeria in marriage ; and his fears for 
her views as to the son of the late emperor, and his dis- 
trust of her political influence — a distrust afterwards en- 
tertained by Licinius,t — increased his desire to possess 
her. To a proposition so indecent — for Valeria was still 
in deep mourning for Galerius — she replied as became the 
daughter and widow of emperors ; but the reply was tem- 
pered by that prudence which her defenceless condition 
compelled her to observe. She represented to the persons 
whom Maximin had employed on this occasion, " that 
even if honour could permit a woman of her character and 
dignity to entertain a thought of second nuptials, decency 
at least must forbid her to listen to his addresses at a time, 
when the ashes of her husband and his benefactor were 
still warm, and while the sorrows of her mind were still 
expressed by her mourning garments. She ventured to 
declare that she could place very little confidence in the 

* " He introduced a custom, having the force of a law, that no person 
should marry a wife, without the permission of the emperor." — Lactantiu«. 

t II y a aparence que la famille de Galere ne fut exterminee que parceque 
Licinius, tyran ombrageuz, a craigne que les pretensions qu*elie pouvait 
avoir sur i'empire, ne servoient de pretexte k des mouvements populaires 
et des revokes. — Hist. Univ. 


professions of a man, whose cruel inconstancy was capable 
of repudiating a faithful and affectionate wife." 

On this repulse, the love of Maximin was converted 
into fury ; and, as witnesses and judges were always at 
his disposal, it was easy for him to cover his fury with an 
appearance of legal proceedings, and to assault the reputa- 
tion as well as the happiness of Valeria. Her estates were 
confiscated, her domestics devoted to the most inhuman 
tortures, and several innocent and respectable matrons, 
who were honoured with her friendship, sufi^red death on 
a false accusation of adultery. The empress herself, 
together with her mother Prisca, was condemned to exile ; 
and as tiiey were ignominiously hurried from place to 
place, before they were confined to a sequestered village in 
the deserts of Syria, they exposed their shame and distress 
to the provinces of the East, which, during thirty years, 
had respected their august dignity, 

Diocletian made several ineffectual efibrts to alleviate 
the misfortunes of his daughter ; and, as the last return 
that he expected for the imperial purple which he had con- 
ferred upon Maximin, he entreated that Valeria might be 
permitted to share his retirement of Salona, and to close 
the eyes of her afflicted father. He entreated, but as he 
could no longer threaten, his prayers were received with 
coldness and disdain ; and the pride of Maximin was gra- 
tified, in treating Diocletian as a auppliaat, and his daugh- 
ter as a criminal. 

The death of Maximin seemed to assure the empresses 
of a favourable alteration in their fortunes. The public 
disorders had relaxed the vigilance of their guard ; and 
they easily found means to escape from the place of their 
exile, and to repair, though with some precaution, and in 
disguise, to the court of Lucinius. His behaviour in the 
first days of his reign,^ and the honourable reception which 
he gave to young Oandidianus, inspired Valeria with a 
secret satisfaction, both on her own account, and on that 
of her adopted son. But these grateful prospects were 
soon succeeded by horror and astonishment; and the 
bloody executions which stained the palace of Nicomedia, 


sufficiently convinced her that the throne of Maximin 
was filled hy a tyrant more inhuman than himself. 
Valeria consulted her safety hy a hasty flight, and, still 
accompanied by her mother Prisca, they wandered above 
fifteen months through the provinces, concealed in the 
disguise of plebeian habits. They were at length discover- 
ed at Thessalonica ; and as the sentence of their death 
was already pronounced, they were immediately beheaded, 
and their bodies thrown into the sea. The people gazed 
on the melancholy spectacle ; but their grief and indigna- 
tion were suppressed by the terrors of a military guard. 
Such was the unworthy fate of the wife and daughter of 
Diocletian. We lament their misfortunes, we cannot dis- 
cover their crimes; and, whatever idea we may justly 
entertain of the cruelty of Licinius, it remains a matter 
of surprise that he was not contented with some more 
secret and decent method of revenge.^ 

When this tragedy, (to which one, who " nothing ex- 
tenuates" where woman is eoncemed, has done such jus- 
tice,) was enacting in the East, another was perpetrated 
in the West, of which a woman, eminent for her rank, 
her beauty, and her misfortunes, was chosen as the victim 
and agentc Policy had induced the old Emperor Maxi- 
mian, the tyrant and enemy of Constantino and Christianity, 
to give him his daughter Fausta in marriage ; and the 
courtly lady of the Lateranf became the second wife of 
the aspiring sovereign of Gaul and Britain. The murder- 
ous discords of her family involved Fausta in crimes she 
abhorred. Neither age nor adversity could disarm the 
savage ferocity of her father Maximian, who was hurled 
a second time from the throne of the empire, by his own 
unnatural son and worthy successor, Maxentius. He 
sought refuge with his soii-in-law, Constantino, in Gaul, 
who, even after the implacable old man had kindled a 
revolt against him at Marseilles, yet spared his life, and 

* Gibbon. 

t The Lateran Palace was the residence of the Princess Fausta, after 
whom it is named, in some of the earliest synodical records, " Domus 

FAVSTA. 191 

received him in his palace at Treves. Maximian repaid 
his clemency by forming new designs upon his life ; and 
the use to which he endeavoured to turn the filial submis- 
sion of his daughter Fausta,* though avoided by a horri- 
ble alternative, paints the moral density of times, in which 
such monsters could be raised over the destinies of man- 

But while the episode of woman's martyrdom, in her 
feeling, or her faith, w€is thus painfully enacting in the 
privacy of domestic life, or among the dissolute scenes of* 
a court, the great theatre of the world was clearing out 
for the performance of the last scene of one of its own 
greatest and most tragic dramas. 

The rival actors were Maxentius and Constantine, the 
sons of the late supreme emperors, Maximian and Con- 
stantius. Maxentius, enthroned in the palace of the world's 
capital, diademed with the crown of Diocletian, surrounded 
by all the imagery and associations of the Ceesars, invested 
with the supreme power by the Roman senate and army, 
adhered to the ancient religion of the empire, and was dis- 

* " Mazimien, retola de se veneer, jam de donner la mort k celui qui 
venait d'epargner sea jours. Quelques mois apres^ se trouvant encore k 
Marseille avec Constantin, dont Tame genereuse ne pouvait 8oup9onner un 

Sareil crime, il ddcouvrit son affreuz projet k sa fiUe Fausta employant tour 
tour les presens, les pri^res, les promesses, les menaces, pour ['engager 
k laisser ouvert pendant la nuit Tappartement de son epouz, et k eloigner 
les gardes qui veillaient k sa surete. La malheureuse imp^ratrice, forc6e 
de donner la mort k son pere si elle parlait, ou k son epouz si elle se 
taisait, ne sut long-temps, dans cette, affreuse position, qui elle devait 
trahir ou sauver: enfin I'amour conjugal I'emporta; elle promil k son 
pere d'obeir, et revela tout k Constantin. Ce prince, plus constern^ 
qu'effraye d'un tel forfait, refusait d'y croire, et voulut en avoir la preuve 
evidente avant de le punir. Suivant les rooeurs barbares de ce temps, les 
esclaves etaient & peine comptes au nombres des hommes: Constantin 
sacrifie les jours d un ennuque pour d^voiler Taffreuse verit^, le place 
dans son lit, ^loigne les gardes, et se tient k port^e de tout voir. An 
milieu des ombres et du silence de la nuit, Mazimien arme d'un poignard, 
s'avance, voit avec une barbare satisfaction que sa fille adegage sa marche 
de tout obstacle ; il ^ntre dans la chambre, s'approche du lit, enfonce a 
plusieurs reprises son ier dans le sein de Tcsclave, il s'ecrie : Mon ennemi 
est mort. Je suis maiire de Tempire! A peine il a prononce ces mots, 
Constantin parait k sa vue, I'atterre par aes regards menacans, el change 
sa cruelle joie en honte et en d^s^poir." — Constantin ne pardonna plus, 
et Mazimien p^rit, juste victime a*une coupable ambition, qui ne put 
s'^ieindre qu'avec sa yie.^-Hist. Univ. 


graced by all the vices of the worst of its masters. Re* 
maining shut up in the security of the walls of his capital, 
he left his defence to the victorious troops of Italy and 
Africa, a hundred and eighty thousand veterans, jealous 
and ardent in the cause of tyranny, though hating the 
tyrant they served. The army of Constantino, rude, if 
not undisciplined, amounted not to half the number ; and, 
as with the spirit of Hannibal, and the rapidity of Csesar, 
he ascended the steep acclivities of the Cottian Alps, at 
the head of his Christian Gauls, his mind must have been 
agitated by dark doubts, and his hopes of victory disturbed 
by gloomy apprehensions. The name of Rome was still 
redoubtable to men's imaginations; and the veterans 
against whom he was to lead his barbarous legions, had 
lately defeated the disciplined forces of Severus, and the 
experienced legions of Galerius. 

In the momentous interval that occurred between the 
iissue of the contest, it is remarkable that both the aspiring 
prize-fighters for universal empire had recourse, in their 
anxiety, to female inspiration, by which they alike sought 
to learn their destiny, and to shape their actions. 

Maxentius resolved on consulting the sibylline books. 
But by whom were these prophetic volumes composed ? It 
was believed by wise women in the antique times, when 
almost* every region had its sibyl, who was considered as 
the authorized interpreter of futurity. In these sacred 
volumes, Maxentius read that << the enemy of Rome was 
destined to be destroyed ;" and he hurried on, to the ac- 
complishment of his own ruin. 

Constantino, too, had his tutelary female, the Erythrian 
sibyl ; oflen consulted in his younger days, and now haply 
not forgotten. But she may not have responded to his 
hopes, since the influence and power of other counsels and 
other prophecies took possession of his mind. His mother 
Helena, her faith, and the cross she so oflen placed in his 
infant hands, may have mingled their associations with his 
sterner views, his vague hopes, his earnest and harassing 
cogitation and doubts, amounting to delirium ; and then, 
in the weariness of conjecture, and in the exhaustion of 

fatigue, he nkight have dreamed that dream, and seen that 
sign, in wHich he conquered. The miracle may have been 
thus one of nature's own working, through her physio- 
logical operations ; and if, in aAer-times, he deceived the 
world, he may have then been deceived himself. 

The scene of this vision has been variously placed, but 
never positively authenticated ; and poetry might, ' with 
much probability, lay it among the Alpine solitudes of 
Mount Cenis. During the hot noontide halt of the army 
(the time of its occurrence asserted by Constantine him- 
self), while his rude Christian soldiers lay scattered round 
him, in the dull and doubtful repose, that vibrates between 
vigilance and sleep, the emperor, awakening from this 
vision of his heated mind, may have startled them from 
their obedient slumbers to tell his dream ; and, pointing to 
some solar phenomenon, that crimsoned the canopy of 
heaven, (incidental to the sublime regions they occupied,) 
he may have told them, with prophetic emphasis, to con- 
quer through that sign which already irradiated their 
helmets, and shone upon their bucklers. The rush of the 
enthusiast army down the Alps into the lovely plains of 
Lombardy, may well be conceived; and long before the 
elaborate and imperial Labarum, half Christian, half 
pagan, could have been fabricated, the simple crucifix of 
the soldiers' worship must have carried victory to the 
walls of Rome, and made its yet pagan emperor master 
of the world. 

By the successive victories of Constantine, from his first 
assuming the purple at York, to his final conquest over 
Licinius in Nicomedia,^ the Roman empire was again 
united under one emperor. The foundation of Constanti- 
nople, and the establishment of the Christian empire, were 
the immediate and memorable consequences of this revo- 

It was then that the foundress of Constantine's great- 
ness, the presiding genius of his fortunes, his mother He- 
lena, emerged from her mysterious obscurity, and took 

* A. D. 324. 
VOL. lU 17 


her place on the steps of that throne to which her counsel^ 
and astuteness had led him. Constantine acknowledged 
her services by every public manifestation of gratitude and 
respect. Almost the first act of his power was to share it 
with her to whom in part he owed it. He founded a-city 
by the name of Helenopolis in her honour ; he gave her 
the title of Augusta, and raised her at once to all the 
dignities of a Roman empress. He presented her to the 
army with more distinction than Agrippina had ever en- 
joyed,; and he admitted her to his council, as Alexander 
Severus had done his mother Mammea. 

But what was of far greater import and weight, he 
placed her at the head of his exchequer, when a new 
system was struggling to establish its despotism over 
men's minds, for which the agency of wealth was espe« 
cially wanted, to give a uniform direction to the impulses 
of fanaticism, to concentrate the rising power of opinion, 
and to mould it to the purposes of state policy. However 
humiliating to the reason of the age, however injurious to 
the purity of truth, such an agent was well adapted to th6 
circumstances of the contingency. The savage cruelty 
and wasteful devastations of a rapidly disorganizing so- 
ciety called for any check that policy could devise, and 
almost justified any means that could stop the current of 
calamity, and give repose to the wretched species. 

To quell passion by dogma, to idealize existence, to 
give a new spring to an exhausted and purposeless civilisa- 
tion, and to tame the passions by subduing the intellect, 
if not the noblest expediency, was that alone suited to the 
actual condition of man. Judging also by the experience 
of three hundred years, this influence of wealth was, 
humanly speakings necessary to preserve the new religion 
from being divided and subdivided, till its essence should 
be lost in inextricable dispute, and to prevent it from be- 
coming another and supererogatory cause of dissension and 
discord. The momentary advantage was indeed great; 
but it was purchased at no less a price than a long and 
perfect prostration of intelligence to authority,--— by the 
sleep of a thousand years, and a subsequent struggle of 

HELBNA. 195 

principle, of which evea the Qineteenth century cannot 
foreshow the term. The Irish catholic and the English 
dissenter are still paying the penalty of opinions and of 
interests then created. 

In bringing about this new phasis of Christianity, and 
thus remodelling society, Helena was a principal, and as 
Dfiay be supposed from her antecedents, a sincere and 
zealous agent. Her eastern temperament lent itself to the 
growing mysticism of the rising church; her sufferings, 
under the fierce dispensations of pagan- despotism, gave 
energy to her predilections; and her long seclusion from 
the busy haunts of life, (while secretly directing the coun- 
cils of her ambitious son,) assisted her woman^s sagacity 
in detecting the utter effeteness of the old state hierarchy, 
and in divining the efficiency of the new, — its closer 
adaptation to the peculiar temperaments of the races which 
were then overrunning the earth. All these circum- 
stances, combining with her shrewd, astute, and device- 
ful disposition, may be believed at once to have mastered 
her convictions, and to have directed her aAer-conduct. 

While Constantino legalized the Christian church, pro- 
tected its members, and presided over its synods, Helena 
directed the treasures of the state to increasing its in- 
fluence, and kindling a new species of fervour. During 
the three preceding centuries, the clergy had been sup» 
ported by the voluntary oblations of the faithful ; and 
while their spiritual authority had prospered under the 
dispensation, much church property had been accumu- 
lated. This property, wherever it had been diverted to 
other purposes by hostile emperors, was restored by Con- 
stantino to its original uses ; and he enacted laws to pro* 
mote its further increase. 

But Helena, conscious how much further men are led 
by images to their senses, than by abstractions offered to 
their reason, turned the reveniies assigned to her govern- 
ment to the adornment and solemnity of the ceremonies of 
the church. She founded temples in the new capital of the 
world, exceeding in splendour, if not beauty, the antique 
monuments of pagan worship, and strangely contrasting 


with the chill catacombs and subterraneous crypts of the 
early congregations of Christians. ' The first church raised 
by Constantino, under the influence of Helena, was dedi- 
cated to the Divine Wisdom, clothed in a female form, 
under the invocation of Saint Sophia. Even the founda- 
tion of the imperial city itself was ascribed to the inspira- 
tion of the Virgin Mary, who was chosen its tutelar 

Helena also encouraged, if she did not originate, a ten- 
der and imaginative devotion for localities, which asso- 
ciated the affections with belief. At the head of a nume- 
rous train of saints and saintesses, she commenced a 
pilgrimage to the scenes consecrated in the early history 
of Christianity, by which she must have contributed to 
multiply conversions, while she erected beacons to fix the 
eye of wavering credulity. At her bidding, churches 
arose over each consecrated spot; and the relics she 
sought for and distributed, and the reverence she incul- 
cated for particular saints, (though they materialized the 
spirit of Christianity, and diverted its worship,) brought 
'both nearer within the grasp and comprehension of a bar- 
barous people, — sincere, but densely ignorant, when they 
were not, like the imperialist founder of the church him- 
self, indifferent to all creeds and worships. 

Philosophy may now deride, and Protestant rigour blame, 
this image- worship of an una wakened people ; but the 
" nursing mother of the church" had a cori'ect idea of the 
ardent temperament and sensitive impressionability of the 
population to which she addressed herself.* In throwing 
down the temple of Venus in Jerusalem, she raised a 

""'It was, as might not unreasonably be anticipated, a female, the 
Empress Helena, the mother of Constantino, who gave, as it were, this 
new colouring to Christian devotion. In Palestine, indeed, where her 
pious activity was chiefly employed, it was the memory of the Redeemer 
himself which hallowea the scenes of his life and death to the imaffina- 
tion of the believer. Splendid churches arose over the place of his birth 
at Bethlehem; that of his burial, near the supposed Calvary; that of his 
ascension on the Mount of Olives. So far the most spiritual piety could 
not hesitate to proceed ; to such natural and irresistible claims upon its 
veneration, no Christian heart could refuse to yield." — MUman's History 
of CkrisHamty, Book III., chap. iii. 

BBLBNA, 197 

church on its foundation that surpassed in splendour 
Heiiogabalus's temple of the sun. She lined its walls with 
precious marbles, she covered its roof with beaten gold ; 
and, in the shower of light which fell upon its dome, she 
afiected to image and perpetuate the angelic glory to which 
the fane was dedicated. 

It was in this spirit, that she animated the faith of the 
coldest proselyte, by the presumed discovery of the true 
cross, a part of which she sent to Constantinople, and part 
left at Jerusalem. While, by the exercise of her temporal 
power, she rewarded the devotion of the stronger sex, by 
her spiritual exertions, she fanaticised the weaker, till the 
agency of woman in the great cause became universally 
acknowledged ; and the z^eal and numbers of the daugh* 
ters of primitive Christianity were far surpassed, by those 
who now struggled to lay the foundations of its future 
supremacy* Female saints multiplied incalculably ; and, 
as every region of Paganism had once its sibyl, so every 
city and town had now its peculiar female martyr^ until, 
in the progress of time, the monstrous fiction of the eleven 
thousand virgins was deemed a fact of no extraordinary 
occurrence, and was universally accredited on the sole 
evidence of its imputed likelihood. 

But the spiritual vocation of the empress-saint was far 
from impeding the course of her temporal policy. Influ- 
ential in the church, and powerful in the state, time in- 
creased rather than diminished her mastery over the mind 
of Constantino. If, in the exercise of this influence, she 
may be justly accused of having urged him to the com- 
mission of one crime,^ she is proved to have saved him 
from the guilt of others. 

As commeudable for her prescience and ability as emi* 
nent for her religious zeal, even in her profound retreat 
in the East she influenced the destiny, and protected the 
rights, of her son in the West (endangered by the intrigues 
of the partisans of his step-brothers, the sons of the Em- 
press Theodora, and grandsons of the Emperor Galerius if) 

* The death of the Empress Fausta. t Crevier. 



and when her anxiety for Constantino was tempered by 
his elevation to the throne of the empire, she still pre- 
served the peace of her family and of the empire, by h^ld* 
ing the three young princes, Julius, Constans, and Han- 
nibalien, at a distance from the court and the capital, 
sometimes fixing their residence at Thoulouse, sometimes 
at Treves, and, by exempting them from all offices in the 
state, and command in the army. She finally engaged 
Constantino to establish them at Corinth, where, in the 
lovely climate of Greece, and amidst its classic scenes, 
they enjoyed that peace and freedom from crime, which 
their elder brother, Constantino the Great, never could 
have known on the throne of the world. The Emperor 
Julian, the son of Constans, taxes the conduct of Helena 
to his father and his uncles, as the artful stratagem of a 
jealous stepmother ; while more impartial historians cha- 
racterize it as a wise policy, favourable alike to the hap- 
piness of its objects and the tranquillity of the state.*' 

During the long absence of the empress-mother in the 
east, her place near the person of the emperor was assumed 
by another female, of a younger and fresher character, 
necessary, in its peculiar religious tendency, to the politi- 
cal schemes of Constantino, as the orthodox Helena her- 
self. This was the ex-empress Constantia, his half-sister, 
the widow of Licinius, his rival, and his victim. 

Constantino had scarcely established Christianity as th^ 
religion of the empire, when he was called upon to inter- 
pose his authority, to define its precise tenets, to appease 
the evil passions, and to quell the dissensions, by which the 
most learned and eminent of the Christians themselves were 
convulsing the infant church. 

The controversy between the Bishop of Alexandria and 
Arius, (a presbyter of the same city), became so formida* 
ble, that the emperor himself was compelled to arbitrate 
between them and their partisans. This was a critical 
moment in ecclesiastical history. While three hundred 

* I>e TilJemoDt nV voit qo'une sage politique en ropposant que le droit 
d'herMit^, dans les fiUde I'empereor ^tait reconnu et appuy^ det suffragof 
dtt tenat et des armi^et. — Crevier, 

C0N8TAin!'IA* 199 

bishops were assembled at NicsBa, in Bithynia, to compose 
the Arian controversy, the emperor, (more provoked, than 
experienced in such quibbles, and considering the whole 
question as trifling and unimportant), may have taken a 
royal f oad to the knowledge of this imputed heresy, by re- 
ferring to the woman, who exercised a secret influence 
over his mind. This was Constantia, so celebrated for her 
beauty, her genius, her virtue, and, above all, for her mis- 

Early converted to Christianity, she embraced the sect 
of Arianism, under the direction of her friend and pre- 
ceptor, Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia. Either her zeal 
for religion, or her perilous position, had induced her to 
accept an invitation to the court and protection of her 
august brother (though that brother had taken the lives of 
her husband and her son). At first, she shared the in- 
fluence which Helena held over Constantino ; but, afler her 
stepmother's death, she eventually obtained a complete 
ascendancy over his mind ; and the unitarians of the 
fourth century owed to Constantia the protection of their 
infant sect, and the amelioration of their sufferings.* * 

Shortly afler the return of Helena from Palestine, either 
worn out by the fatigues of her adventurous journeys, or 
breaking down under' the domestic crimes and misery of 
her great but guilty son, she sickened and died in thearma 
of Constantine, in the fourteenth year of his reign, and at 

* " The Ariftns/' says an historian of the church, " had no cause to blash 
at the obligations which they likewise owed to two preceding empresses. 
Constantia protected their infancy and their misfortanes durin? the reign 
of Constantine, and Eu^ebia promoted their prosperity under the sceptre 
of Constantius." The Catholics could also boast of similar patronage; 
but Maimbourg (book vi.) establishes a very broad distinction as to the 
agency by which such aid was in each case administered. ** As the devil 
(says that very rigid Catholic) had employed the apsistance of princesses 
to introduce Arianism into the court of Constantine, of Constantius* and 
Valeus, so God made use of the Empress i£lia Flaccilla, in order to pre- 
vent it from creeping into the court of Theodosius." In a later page 
(book zii. A. D. 590), the same author again alludes to the diabolical 
agency " which introduced the Arian heresy into the East by means of 
three women, and which was afterwards comoensated by the divine 
benevolence in raising up three princesses, Ctotildi, Indegonda, and 
Theodolinda, for the purification of France, Spain, and Italy." — Wad- 
dingtofCs History of the Churckf p. 83. 


the advanced age of eighty. Raised from the bar of a 
provincial inn, to the throne of the world, she was the first 
Diva of the Christian state : for her earthly diadem was 
soon replaced by a heavenly crown ; and the name of the 
Roman empress and foundress of the church has reached 
its double immortality, in the records of profane history, 
and in the album sanctorum of Catholic canonization. 

In the summing up of the history of the women of the 
empire, from Augustus to Constantino, Helena offers an 
apt illustration of the influaice of female intellect upon the 
great system by which society was to be governed under 
new interests. In her ready adoption of a spiritual reform 
were eicerted freedom of inquiry, and mental decision ; 
and in all she did there was intensity of affection, earnest- 
ness of purpose, and sincerity of profession. Compared 
with her august son, the balance inclines in her favour, 
even by the showing of the most favourable of his biogra- 

History, in its facts, has given the life and deeds of 
Constantino, traced in imperishable characters. It has. 
proved that he obtained his throne through blood and 
hypocrisy, that he gratified his private vengeance by the 
sacrifice of every natural tie, that he founded the empire 
of a church, in which he did not believe, upon the remains 
of a religion, to which he was superstitiously devoted, that 
he put to death his father-in-law, Maximin, — ^his brother-in- 
law, Licinius, — his nephew, the young Licinius, — his wife 
Fausta (afler twenty-three years of marriage), and his own 
and eldest son, Crispus. It is recorded against him that, 
while he raised the cross at the head of his Christian army, 
he worshipped the god of his idolatry in the splendid temple 
of his pagan subjects ; and that in founding the church 
as a state engine, he led for the last act of his life, the ' 
first of his Christian observance: for his baptism was 
rapidly succeeded by his death. He was tyrannic, cruel, 
false, and prodigal, obtaining the epithet of great from con- 
temporary adulation ; and if, during ten years, he was 
glorified by the epithet of founder of the public peace, the 
interval was one, in which bis counsels 'were governed by 


his mpther's wisdom, to whom his deference and respect 
forms the one great redeeming virtue of his nature. 

In the fourth century, the grave of the old world, and 
the cradle of the new, the story of the women of antiquity 
draws to its conclusion, and makes way for the greater 
history of the women of the middle ages. Throughout 
the long and varied series of events so rapidly sketched 
in these pages, the evidence to character in behalf of 
woman is uniform. That she has reflected many of the 
vices of her master, through outraged feelings and the 
influence of a false position, is no derogation from the 
general truth. This was but the accident of her career ; 
her spiritual and affectionate activity in humanizing society, 
in averting evil, and promoting good, was the immediate 
law of her peculiar organization, and constant as its cause. 
To limit and pervert this agency has been the great object 
of the social and legal institutions of imperfect civilisation ; 
to give a full developement to the design of nature, by 
better arrangements, will be the crowning labour of man's 
earthly warfare, his triumph over himself. 



Note 1* 

Femalb amanuenses, or secretaries, or " writers out of 
books," were by no means unusual in Rome, and the seve- 
rity of a fine lady to her SUvaria^ is quoted by one of 
the bitterest satirists of the Roman ladies on record. Ves- 
pasian, however, had a female amanuensis, Antonia, whom 
he greatly esteemed and confided in. Even the Christian 
fathers adopted this fashion, and Eusebius asserts that 
Origen had not only young men but young women to 
transcribe his works, which " they did with peculiar neat- 
ness." Among the accusations brought against the Ro- 
man women of his own time by Juvenal, is that of their 
learning; he bitterly attacks their presumption in studying 
Greek, their interlarding even their most familiar conver- 
sations with its elegant idioms and phrases, expressing even 
their sudden emotions themselves in the poetry of Greek 
exclamations ; and among their other crimes of acquire- 
ment, he further accuses them of encroaching on the 
exclusive male prerogative of mind, by discussing philoso- 
phical subjects, quoting their favourite authors and scholi- 
asts, and their mirism in affected exactness of grammar 

VOL. II. 18 

205 N0TE9. 

as taught by Remmius Palaemon : at last they meddled with 
antiquarians, and described inscriptions upon coins, &^* 
He calls tho&e « learned dames," as an ancient com- 
mentator has it, '< Antiquaria, one that does, refine or 
preserve ancient books from corruption, one studious of the 
old poets and historians, one that studies ancient coins, 
statues, and inscribed stones : lastly, such as use obsolete 
and antiquated words. All which, though they might be 
counted an overplus and curiosity in a woman, yet only 
the last is absolutely a fault." 

Note 2. 

Since the note on the Empress Crispina, vol. ii. page 
106, went to press, I have found her medal among a small 
collection made for me at Rome by the late Signor Gabri* 
elli (well known to English virtii.) The features of the 
young empress are exquisitely regular, her head-dress is 
precisely that most in vogue in the present day : she is 
styled Crispina Augusta. 

Note 3. 

" 7%c scene of tkU vtsum^^^ &c. 

Since the printing of the last chapter of the second 
volume, I have seen that the reverend author of << The 
History of Christianity," just published,* has assumed 

* The History of Chriitianity, by the Rey. H. MillDaii. 

NOTES. 207 

the probable scene of the memorable vision of Con- 
stantine, (<< whatever explanation we adopt of the vision 
itself,") to have been " before the walls of Rome." To 
the authority of the sacred historian, and the choice 
of the elegant and eminent poet, I bow with that respect 
and admiration with which I have always perused his 




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JAN 2 3 1942