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came into conflict for the control of Armenia. Trajan quickly reduced the latter country to a Roman province, and, in subsequent campaigns, he wrested from the Parthians the ancient countries of Mesopotamia and Assyria. Trajan died in Cilicia, A. D. 117. His ashes were conveyed to Rome in a golden urn, and placed under the column which bears his
203. Ha'drian began his reign by surrendering the Asiatic conquests of Trajan. During the twenty years of almost unbroken peace which marked his administration, Hadrian visited the remotest corners of his empire, studied the wants and interests of his people, and tried impartially to secure the best good of all. York in England, Athens, Antioch, and Alexandria shared with Rome the honors of an imperial capital; and each had its part of those great architectural works which, in some cases, still exist to commemorate the glory of Hadrian. A revolt of the Jews, A. D. 131-135, was ended with the banishment from Palestine of the last remnants of their race. A Roman colony, Æ'lia Capitolina, was founded upon the site of Jerusalem, to which the Christians, expelled by Titus, were freely admitted with the first of their Gentile bishops. Of all the benefits which Hadrian conferred upon the empire, the greatest, perhaps, was his choice of a successor.
204. T. Aurelius Antoni'nus came to the throne. A. D. 138. His uneventful reign presents the rare example in Roman annals of twentythree years' undisturbed tranquillity, and is a striking example of the truth of the saying, “Happy is the people that has no history." The happiness of his great family, for so he regarded his subjects, was the ruling purpose of his life. In Britain, the Roman boundary was pushed to its farthest northern limit during this reign, and guarded by the "Wall of Antoninus," extending from the Frith of Forth to the Clyde.
Marcus Aurelius, the nephew of Hadrian, who, together with L. Verus, had been adopted by Antoninus, assumed the latter's name* with his crown. He resembled his adoptive father in his love of religion, justice, and peace; but his reign was far less happy, owing to calamities which were beyond his power to avert. The barbarians north of the Danube began to be crowded by a new and great immigration from the steppes of Asia. The Scythic hordes, broken up from their ancient seats, we know not by what impulse or necessity, had thrown themselves upon the Germans, and these were driven across the Roman frontier, even into Italy, which they ravaged as far as Aquilei'a, on the Adriatic. The two emperors proceeded against them. Verus died in the Venetian country A. D. 169, but Aurelius remained at his post on the Danube, summer and winter, for three
*Of the two Antonines, the first is commonly called Antoninus Pius; the second, Marcus Antoninus.
years. He gained a great victory over the Quadi, A. D. 174. A sudden storm, occurring during the battle, decided the result. The pagans attributed it to an intervention of Jupiter Pluvius; but the Christians, to the prayers of Christian soldiers in the "Thundering Legion.”
During the first years of the reign of Aurelius, the Parthians made a formidable attack upon the eastern provinces, destroyed an entire legion, and ravaged all Syria. The general Avidius Cassius, being sent against them as the lieutenant of Verus, more than made good the Roman losses, for he extended the boundary of the empire again to the Tigris. But after the death of Verus, Cassius was led to proclaim himself emperor, and gained possession of most of the Asiatic provinces. Before Aurelius could arrive in the East, the rebel chief was slain by his own officers, after a reign of three months. Aurelius caused his papers to be burnt without reading them, and suffered no man to be punished for his part in the rebellion.
The elevation and self-control which distinguished the emperor were owing, in great measure, to the Stoic philosophy which he studied from his twelfth year. The only blot on his character is the persecution of the Christians, which was doubtless instigated by the harsh and arrogant Stoics who surrounded him. Justin Martyr at Rome, the venerable Polycarp at Smyrna, and multitudes of less illustrious disciples at Vienna and Lyons, suffered death for their fidelity to their religion, A. D. 167–177. Marcus Aurelius died in Pannonia, A. D. 180.
205. Deceived by the youthful promise of his only son, Aurelius had associated Com'modus with him in the government at the age of fifteen. If the young prince could have enjoyed many years of training under the wise and virtuous care of his father, he might indeed have become all that was hoped of him. But the untimely death of the good Aurelius left his son at seventeen a weak, self-indulgent youth, easily controled by worthless associates. For three years the government continued in the course which Aurelius had marked out for it. But, A. D. 183, a plot for the murder of Commodus was detected, and many senators were believed to be involved. His revengeful nature, stimulated by fear, now made him a monster of tyranny. His only use of imperial power was to issue warrants for the death of all whom he suspected. Vain of his strength and skill, he assumed the name of the Roman Hercules, and exhibited himself in the amphitheater as a marksman and gladiator. At last, some of the intended victims of his proscriptions avoided their own destruction by strangling him in his bed-chamber, after he had reigned twelve years and nine months, A. D. 192.
206. The decline of the empire, which had been delayed by the Five Good Emperors - Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines proceeded with frightful rapidity under Commodus. The armies in the
provinces, tired of discipline, broke up into petty bands which robbed and murdered on their own account. One historian tells us that Peren'nis, the prætorian præfect, was deposed and slain, with his wife and children, upon the demand of 1,500 insurgent soldiers who had marched unresisted from Britain to Rome. Society was as thoroughly demoralized as the army. Except among the despised and persecuted Christians, purity of life was scarcely to be found. Poverty was creeping upon the nations through the decline of industry, but luxury and self-indulgence were more wildly excessive than ever.
Galba (A. D. 68, 69) offends his guards by his strict economy, and is murdered after seven months. Otho, three months emperor, is defeated by Vitellius, who reigns from April to December, A. D. 69. Vespasian (A. D. 69-79) restores peace, order, and prosperity. In his reign Jerusalem is destroyed. The short but beneficent reign of Titus (A. D. 79-81) is disturbed by great calamities-earthquake, fire, and pestilence. Domitian (A. D. 81–96) is a gloomy tyrant, disgraced abroad and detested at home. Nerva (A. D. 96–98) restores confidence, and chooses for his successor Trajan (A. D. 98-117), who is called the best and ablest of all the emperors. He gains victories north of the Danube and east of the Euphrates, thus extending the empire to the utmost limits which it ever attains. Hadrian (A. D. 117–138) visits every portion of his dominions, and diffuses every-where the blessings of peace and good government. Antoninus Pius (A. D. 138–161) enjoys a reign of unexampled tranquillity. Marcus Aurelius (A. D. 161-180), though a peaceful philosopher by choice, is involved by necessity in many wars. He generously forgives the rebellion led by Cassius, but permits a persecution of the Christians, at the instance of the Stoics. Commodus (A. D. 180–193), exasperated by a plot against his life, becomes a revengeful tyrant, and under his reckless misrule all order, industry, and safety vanish from the empire.
SECOND PERIOD, A. D. 193–284.
207. By their unchecked disorders, the soldiers had learned their power, and now assumed to set up and put down emperors at their will. The murderers of Commodus proceeded to the house of Pertinax, præfect of the city, and offered him the crown. He was a good old man, one of the few surviving friends of Marcus Antoninus, and one to whose care the young prince Commodus had been committed. He reluctantly accepted the dangerous honor, and the result justified his fears. The economy and order which he attempted to introduce, disgusted equally the amusement-loving citizens and the turbulent and grasping soldiers. Pertinax was murdered in his own palace by the prætorians, March 28, A. D. 193, after a reign of less than three months. The guards now put up the imperial crown at public auction, and sold it to Did'ius Julia'nus, a wealthy senator, for $15,000,000. The Senate acknowledged him, and he reigned more than two months at Rome. But the armies in Britain, Pannonia, and Syria, not so much offended by the scandalous insolence
as encouraged by the example of their comrades at the capital, set up their own leaders, Albi'nus, Seve'rus, and Niger, as emperors.
208. Severus arrived first at Rome, gained over the prætorians by promises of donatives, and was acknowledged by the Senate. Julianus was deserted and slain in his palace. The first imperial act of Severus was to disarm the prætorians, and to banish them to a distance of 100 miles from the capital. He defeated his two rivals, the one at Cyzicus and Issus, and the other near Lyons (Lugdu'num), in Gaul; and by their death became undisputed master of the empire. Instead of the old prætorians, he garrisoned Rome with 40,000 troops chosen from the legions, and their chief, the prætorian præfect, became, next the sovereign, the most powerful person in the world; for, beside his military command, he had control of the public treasury, and great influence in the making and enforcing of the laws. Severus was an able and successful general. He extended the empire eastward by the capture of the Parthian capital, and the conquest of Adiabe'ne; and northward, by his wars against the Caledonians. He died at York, the Roman capital of Britain, A. D. 211, having reigned eighteen years.
209. The two sons of Severus, Caracal'la and Geta, had been associated by their father in his imperial dignity, and reigned together a year after his death. Then their mutual hatred broke out afresh, and after a vain attempt to divide the empire between them, Caracalla murdered Geta in the arms of their mother. In the five years of his sole reign, he proved one of the worst tyrants that Rome had known. Under the pretext of exterminating the "friends of Geta," he massacred 20,000 persons, some of whom were the most virtuous and illustrious in the empire. Goaded by his restless conscience, Caracalla then quitted Rome, and wandered through all the eastern and northern provinces, followed every-where by a track of poverty, desolation, and death. At last he plunged into a war with Parthia, in which he had some success; but before his second campaign he was murdered by Macri'nus, his prætorian præfect, whom the guards proclaimed emperor.
210. Macrinus bestowed the title of Cæsar upon his son, and then hastened to follow up Caracalla's victories over the Parthians. He encountered the Eastern monarch near Nis'ibis, and suffered a shameful defeat, which forced him to retire into Syria. The soldiers were now tired of their chosen imperator, whose severity of discipline was an unwelcome change from the reckless liberality of Caracalla. Julia Mæsa, sister-in-law of Severus, persuaded one division of the army to accept as their prince her grandson, Bassia'nus, whom she declared to be a son of Caracalla. He is more commonly called Elagab'alus, from the Syrian sun-god to whose priesthood he had been dedicated as a child. The wealth which Masa had hoarded during her residence at her sister's
court materially aided to convince the soldiers. A body of troops, sent to quell the insurrection, were also, in great measure, gained over to her wishes. A battle was fought near Antioch, in which Macrinus was defeated, and eventually slain, after a reign of fourteen months.
211. Elagabalus, or his ministers, hastened to send a letter to the Senate, in which he loaded himself with all the high-sounding titles of Cæsar, Imperator, son of Antoninus, grandson of Severus, Pius, Felix, Augustus, etc. The Romans passively admitted his claims, and the Arval Brothers offered their annual vows for his health and safety under all these names. The Syrian boy, who, at the age of fourteen, found himself thus clothed with imperial honors, was the most contemptible of all the tyrants that ever afflicted the Roman world. His days and nights were given up to gluttonous feasting and loathsome excesses.
The decorous and solemn rites of Roman religion were replaced by degrading sorceries, which were believed to be accompanied in secret by human sacrifices. The Syrian sun-god was placed above Jupiter Capitolinus himself, and all that was sacred or honorable in the eyes of the people became the object of insult and profanation. The emperor had been persuaded to confer the title of Cæsar on his cousin, Alexander Severus; but perceiving that this good prince soon surpassed him in the respect of the army, he sought to procure his death. A second attempt was fatal to Elagabalus. The prætorians murdered him and cast him into the Tiber.
212. Alexander Severus, now in his seventeenth year, was acknowledged with joy by the soldiers and the Senate. His blameless life and lofty and beneficent aims present a bright, refreshing contrast to the long annals of Roman degradation. Purity and economy returned to public affairs; wise and virtuous men received the highest offices; the Senate was treated with a deference which belonged to its ancient dignity, rather than to its recent base compliance with the whims of the army. If the power of Alexander had been as great as his designs were pure, the world might have been benefited.
A great revolution, about this time, changed the condition of Asia. The new Persian monarchy, under Artaxerxes, the grandson of Sassan, had overthrown the Parthian empire, and now aimed at the recovery of all the dominions of Darius Hystaspes. Artaxerxes actually sent an embassy to Alexander Severus, demanding the restitution to Persia of her ancient provinces between the Egean and the Euphrates. The reply was a declaration of war. Alexander in person met the forces of Artaxerxes in the plain east of the Euphrates, and defeated them in a great battle, A. D. 232.
Hearing that the Germans were plundering Gaul, he hastened to make peace and returned to Rome. The next year he set out for Germany; but before he could begin his military operations there, he was murdered by a