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small band of mutinous soldiers. The virtues of Alexander were largely owing to the watchful care of his mother, in guarding his childhood from the wickedness with which he was surrounded. The prince repaid her vigilance by the most dutiful and tender regard; and it is said that her over-cautious and economical policy, which led him to withhold gifts of money demanded by the army, occasioned his death.
213. The ringleader of the mutiny was Max'imin, a Thracian peasanta brutal and illiterate ruffian, yet with enough natural ability to cause him to be chosen emperor by his comrades. Three years this savage ruled the world, his only policy being hatred toward the noble and covetousness toward the rich; until the people of Africa, roused to fury by the extortions of his agents, revolted and crowned their proconsul, Gor'dian, and his son. The two Gordians were slain within a month; but the Senate supplied their place by two of its own number, and with unwonted spirit prepared for the defense of Italy. Maximin marched from his winterquarters on the Danube, but he had advanced no farther than Aquileia when he was murdered in his tent by his own soldiers.
214. Though the legions had destroyed the emperor of their choice; they had no intention of yielding to that of the Senate. They murdered Pupie'nus and Balbi'nus within six weeks of their triumph over Maximin, and bestowed the imperial robes upon a younger Gordian, the grandson of the former proconsul of Africa. This boy of twelve years was intended, of course, to be a mere tool of his ministers. Timesith'eus, the prætorian præfect, was an able officer, and, so long as he lived, vigorously upheld the imperial power against Persian assaults and African insurrections. He was succeeded in command by Philip the Arabian, who artfully procured the death of the young emperor, and assumed the purple himself. He wrote to the Senate that Gordian had died of disease, and requested that divine honors should be paid to his memory.
215. Among the few events recorded of the five years (A. D. 244–249) of Philip's reign, is the celebration of the "Secular Games" at Rome, upon the completion of a thousand years from the building of the city, April 21, A. D. 248. Rival emperors were set up by the Syrians, and by the army in Mosia and Pannonia. Decius, a senator, was sent by Philip to appease the latter. Their mock-emperor was already dead, but the soldiers, believing their guilt too great to be forgiven by Philip, thronged around Decius with tumultuous cries of "Death or the purple!" The loyal officer, with a hundred swords at his throat, was compelled to be crowned, and to consent to lead his rebellious army into Italy. He wrote to assure his master that he was only acting a part, and would resign his mock-sovereignty as soon as he could escape his troublesome subjects. But Philip did not believe these professions of loyalty. He marched to meet the insurgents at Verona, was defeated and slain, Sept., A. D. 249.
216. The two years' reign of Decius (A. D. 249–251) was marked by two widely different attempts to restore the ancient religion and morality of Rome-the revival of the censorship and the persecution of the Christians. It was deeply felt that the calamities of the empire were due to the corruption of its people. But the first measure produced no effect, while the second only aroused the evil passions of men, and occasioned untold misery. The bishops of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome became martyrs, and Alexandria was the scene of a frightful massacre. Another calamity, for which Decius was not responsible, was the first great incursion of the Goths, who ravaged the provinces of Mœsia and Thrace south of the Danube. Decius was defeated by them in A. D. 250; and the next year, in attempting to cut off their retreat, he lost his life in a great battle.
217. Gallus, an able general, was crowned by the Senate, Hostilia'nus, the son of Decius, being associated with him in the imperial dignity. Calamities thickened; pestilence raged in Rome, and fresh swarms of barbarians, only encouraged by the successes of the Goths, and the sums of money which had been paid them as the price of peace, ravaged the Danubian provinces. Hostilianus died of the plague, and the distress of the people led them to unjust accusations of the emperor. Æmilianus having defeated an army of the invaders, was proclaimed as sovereign by his troops, and, marching into Italy, defeated Gallus and his son at Interam'na. Æmilian was acknowledged by the Senate, but his reign was short. Valerian, a noble and virtuous officer, had been sent by Gallus to bring the Gallic and German legions to his aid. He arrived too late to save his master, but he defeated Æmilian near the scene of his former victory, and himself received the allegiance of Senate and people.
It was no enviable distinction, for the causes that were tending to the destruction of the empire were more numerous and fiercely active than ever. The Franks from the lower Rhine, the Aleman'ni from southern Germany, ravaged Italy, Gaul, and Spain, and even crossed the straits into Africa. The Goths had made themselves fleets from the forests of the Euxine, with which they devastated the coasts of Asia Minor and Greece, capturing and burning innumerable cities, among which were Cyzicus, Chalcedon, Ephesus, and even Corinth and Athens. The new Persian kingdom of the Sassanidæ had increased in power. Its second monarch, Sapor, conquered Armenia, and overran the Roman provinces in the East. He defeated and captured Valerian in a battle near the Euphrates, and gratified his pride by a spectacle which no monarch before had ever been able to exhibit a Roman emperor, loaded with chains but clothed in purple, a perpetual captive at his court.
The government being thus overwhelmed with calamities, various pretenders claimed the sovereignty of the several fragments of the empire. These adventurers were known in general as the "Thirty Tyrants." Their
reigns were usually too short or too insignificant to be worthy of mention. Palmyra continued to be the royal seat of Odena'tus, and after his death, of his widow, Zenob ́ia, for ten years, A. D. 264–273, inclusive. Pos'thumus established a kingdom in Gaul, which lasted seventeen years. Valerian, before his disasters in the East, had associated with him, in the cares of empire, his son Gallie'nus; but that prince could attempt little more than the defense of Italy. Aure'olus, commanding on the upper Danube, assumed the imperial title and crossed the Alps. He was defeated by Gallienus, and besieged in Milan. Through his arts, Gallienus was slain by his own soldiers; but they conferred the purple on a more honest man and better general, whom the murdered prince had named in his dying moments. Milan was taken and Aureolus put to death.
218. Though the Roman Empire seemed to be doomed to destruction, equally by disunion within and the attacks of barbarians from without, its final disruption was delayed by a succession of able emperors. Claudius, who succeeded Gallienus, A. D. 268, vanquished the Alemanni in Italy, and the Goths in Mosia. Aurelian (A. D. 270–275) again routed the Goths in Pannonia; and then recalling the advice of Augustus, he ceded to the barbarians the provinces north of the Danube, removing the Roman inhabitants to Mosia. He made a war against Zenobia, which ended in the capture of the "Queen of the East," and the overthrow of her kingdom. A still more difficult enterprise awaited Aurelian in the west, where Tet'ricus, the last successor of Posthumus, had united Gaul, Spain, and Britain into one powerful monarchy. But he was conquered, and the empire was again established on the borders of the Atlantic, A. D. 274.
Aurelian was about to turn his victorious arms against the Persians, when he was assassinated by several of his officers, owing to a plot formed by his secretary, Mnes'theus. The army, indignant at the crime, applied to the Senate for a new emperor, instead of permitting any general to seize the crown. The Senate, after six months' hesitation, during which the soldiers respectfully waited, named M. Claudius Tac'itus, a senator of vast wealth and blameless character. He would gladly have declined the laborious and perilous position, on account of his age and infirmities; but the Senate insisted, and Tacitus was crowned. All the acts of his short reign were directed to the improvement of morals, and the establishment of law and order throughout the empire. He was called away to Asia Minor, where a troop of Goths, engaged by Aurelian to serve in his Eastern expedition, were committing disorders for want of pay. They were expelled; but Tacitus, enfeebled by old age, sank under the exertion. and he died two hundred days from his accession to the throne, A. D. 276.
219. Florian, brother of Tacitus, assumed the purple at Rome, while the army in the East proclaimed Probus, their general. The soldiers of
Florian, however, refused to fight their comrades, and, after three months, put their leader to death. Probus, thus undisputed master of the Roman world, was an able general and a wise and beneficent sovereign. He not only drove the Germans out of Gaul, subdued the Sarmatians, and terrified the Goths into peaceable behavior, but he provided for the security of his extended frontier by settling the border provinces with numerous colonies of barbarians, who, becoming civilized, made a barrier against further incursions of their countrymen. He wished, also, to improve waste lands. by the draining of marshes and the planting of vines, and to employ in these works the dangerous leisure of his soldiers. But the legionaries did not share the thrifty policy of their emperor. They mutinied at Sir'mium, and by another murder ended the beneficent reign of Probus, A. D. 282.
220. Carus, the prætorian præfect, was hailed as emperor by the army, and conferred the title of Cæsar on his two sons, Cari'nus and Numeʼrian. Leaving the former to govern the West, Carus, with Numerian, turned toward the East; first gained a great victory over the Sarmatians in Illyricum, and then proceeded to overrun Mesopotamia, and capture the two great cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon. He had advanced beyond the Tigris, and seemed about to overthrow the Persian kingdom, when he suddenly died, whether by lightning, by disease, or by the dagger, historians are not agreed.
His son Numerian yielded to the superstitious fears of his soldiers, and withdrew within the Roman boundaries. On the retreat he was murdered by his father-in-law, who was also prætorian præfect, and who hoped to conceal the crime until he could reap the fruits of it. But the army discovered the death of their beloved emperor, and set up Diocletian, the captain of the bodyguards, to avenge and succeed him.
Carinus, meanwhile, reigning in the West, was dazzling the Roman world by expensive games, and insulting it by his profligacy. Hearing of the murder and usurpation, he marched with a large and well-disciplined army to meet Diocletian, and joined battle near Margus, in upper Mosia. The Western troops were victorious, but Carinus, while leading the pursuit, was slain by one of his own officers. His followers came to an agreement with those of Diocletian, who was universally hailed as emperor.
Coin of Diocletian, enlarged twice the size.
221. His accession began a new period in the empire, when the power of the sovereigns became more absolute, ceasing to be checked either by the lawful authority of the Senate or the insolence of the soldiers. During the ninety-two years which had elapsed since the death of Commodus, the legions had claimed the privilege, not only of raising to the imperial power whomsoever they might choose, but of removing the object of their choice whenever he ceased to content them. No general who desired to be emperor dared stint his donatives, or enforce the needful severity of discipline. But for the almost constant danger from barbarians without, the army, which was the real tyrant of the Roman world, might have already put an end to all order, peace, and civil government.
Pertinax (A. D. 193) is crowned and murdered by the prætorians, who then sell the throne to Julianus. Severus (A. D. 193-211) buys the adhesion of the guards, and having gained the imperial power, disarms and expels them. He enlarges his dominions by conquests both in the east and west. Caracalla murders his brother, and misgoverns the empire six years, A. D. 211-217. Macrinus (A. D. 217, 218) gains and loses his crown by violence. Elagabalus (A. D. 218–222) introduces Syrian manners and worship into Rome. He is succeeded by his cousin, Alexander Severus (A. D. 222-235), who gains a great victory over the new Persian empire of the Sassanidæ, but is afterward slain in Germany during a mutiny of his troops. Maximin (A. D. 235-238), a Thracian, is set up, and in three years put down, by his comrades in the army. The two Gordians reign less than a month, Pupienus and Balbinus about six weeks, when a younger Gordian (A. D. 238-244) is invested with the purple at the age of twelve. He loses his life through the arts of Philip the Arab, who becomes emperor, and celebrates, A. D. 248, the thousandth year of the existence of Rome. Decius, being sent to quell a revolt in Pannonia, is crowned by the soldiers, A. D. 249, and Philip is slain. Two great calamities mark the reign of Decius: a persecution of Christians and an incursion of Goths. Gallus (A. D. 251-253) is deposed by Æmilianus, who is soon superseded by Valerian (A. D. 251-260). The whole empire is overrun by Gothic and German invaders. Valerian, in his wars in the East, is captured, and spends the last seven years of his life at Sapor's court. "Thirty Tyrants" spring up in various parts of the empire. Gallienus reigns in Italy, first with his father. Valerian, and afterward alone, A. D. 251-268. He is slain through the management of a pretender, Aureolus, but is succeeded by Claudius (A. D. 268-270), who defeats the barbarians. Aurelian (A. D. 270–275) makes the Danube again the northern boundary of the empire; subdues Zenobia in the east and Tetricus in the west; is murdered on his way to Persia. Tacitus (A. D. 275, 276), being appointed by the Senate, reigns two hundred days. Florian, his brother, is deposed by his own troops. Probus (A. D. 276-282) restores security by a wise and energetic reign. Carus gains great victories in the East; but after his sudden death, his son Numerian abandons his conquests. Numerian is slain in the East, Carinus in the West, and Diocletian becomes emperor.
THIRD PERIOD, A. D. 284-395.
222. Under the firm and wise policy of Diocletian, the Roman world entered upon a century of greater vigor and security. The empire being too large to be administered by a single head, Diocletian conferred equal