Images de page

in any one family as it had among the members, by adoption or otherwise, of the Julian house.


Augustus (B. C. 30-A. D. 14) combines in himself all dignities of the Re. public, but carefully avoids the appearance of royalty. He leaves the peaceful provinces to the Senate, but assumes the command of those which are at war. The Germans, under Arminius, revolt and destroy the legions of Varus. The “ Augustan Age” is distinguished for prosperity and enlightenment. Tiberius (A. D. 1+-37) succeeds Augustus, but Sejanus rules the empire. Germanicus and many others are persecuted and put to death. Caius Cæsar (Caligula, A. D. 37-41) begins well, but, soon spoiled by power, exhibits “the awful spectacle of a madman, master of the civilized world." He is succeeded by his uncle Claudius (A. D. 41-51), a weak but honest man. Agrippina, baving poisoned him, makes her son Nero emperor (A. D. 54-68). Upon the death of his instructors, he proves a reckless and cruel tyrant. He rebuilds Rome with unprecedented magnifi. cence after the great fire. Having caused the death of his best generals, le kills himself only in time to escape the vengeance of his people.


[ocr errors]


195. Galba, the most distinguished general of his time, had gained the favor of the emperor Claudius by refusing to assume the crown upon the death of Caligula. He had proved his ability and worth by his wise and just administration of the province of Africa, and had been honored at Rome with the highest dignities to which his patrician birth and eminent services entitled him. He was now more than seventy years of age, but learning that Nero had sent orders for his death, he resolved to rid the world of a tyrant hy accepting the crown. He was a Roman of the ancient style, and the luxurious prætorians were equally disgusted with his strict discipline and his sparing distribution of money. By adopting Piso as his successor, he disappointed Otho, who easily raised a revolt against him, and the aged emperor and his adopted son slain in the Forum, Jan. 15, A. D. 69.

196. Otho, the early favorite of Nero, had for ten years been governor of Lusitania. He was acknowledged, on the death of Galba, by the Senate and most of the provinces, but the legions in Germany had already (Jan, 3, 69) proclaimed their own general, Vitellius. The armies of the two generals met near the confluence of the Adda and the Po. Otho was defeated, and died by his own hand. Vitellius, having gained a crown by the skill and energy of his officers, lost it by his own unworthiness. Without the courage or ability of his predecessors, he sur. passed them in contemptible self-indulgence. Vespasian, commander in Judæa, in revolting against this monster, was hailed by the acclamations of all good people, and supported by all the legions of the East. He took possession of Egypt, the grain-market of Rome, and sent his lieutenants into Italy. This time the generals of Vitellius were defeated on the Po, the capital was taken by assault, and the disgraced emperor put to death.

197. During the reign of Vespasian, order and prosperity succeeded to the storms which had convulsed the empire. The old discipline was revived, the revenues were re-organized, the capital was beautified, and the people employed by the construction of such great works as the Coliseum and the Temple of Peace. The space inclosed by Vero for his own enjoyment, was thrown open by Vespasian to the use of the people; and the materials of the Golden House served to enrich many public buildings. The revolt of the Batavians and other tribes on the lower Rhine was suppressed, A. D. 70; the Jewish War of Independence was finally subdued, the Holy City taken, and the people dispersed. Agric'ola completed the subjugation of Britain as far as the Tyne and the Solway, which he connected by earthworks and a chain of forts.

198. Titus, the son of Vespasian, having proved his military talent during the reign of his father, by the capture of Jerusalem, had been rewarded by a triumph, and by the title of Cæsar, which implied his association in the government. At the death of Vespasian, he became sole emperor without opposition. Whatever may have been his personal faults, Titus distinguished himself as a ruler by sincere and constant efforts to promote the happiness of his people. Recollecting, one evening, that he had performed no act of kindness, he exclaimed that he had lost a day.

The circumstances of his reign made peculiar demands upon the emperor's benevolence. The beautiful Campanian towns, Hercula'neum and Pompe'ii, were destroyed by a sudden eruption of Vesuvius. A fire raged again three days and nights at Rome, followed by a general and fatal pestilence. Titus assumed the pecuniary loss as his own, and even sold the ornaments of his palace to defray the expense of rebuilding the ruined houses. He established public baths on the site of Nero's gardens on the Esquiline, and completed the Coliseum, or Flavian Amphitheater, which he dedicated by a festival of a hundred days, including combats of 5,000 wild beasts. After a reign of but little more than two years, Titus died of a fever, having named his brother as his successor, A. D. 81.

199. Domitian was regarded by the people with more favor than he deserved, on account of the virtues of his father and brother. His nature was morose and jealous; and when his ill-success in military matters began to be contrasted with the victories of his predecessors, he became cruel and tyrannical, reviving the false accusations, forfeitures, and death-penalties of the reign of Nero. He was partially successful in his wars in Gerniany, but he was defeated on the Danube with great disaster, and even consented to pay an annual tribute to the Dacians, to keep them from invading Mæsia. When the cruelties of Domitian began to excite the fears of his servants, he was murdered, Sept. 18, A. D. 96.

200. The Senate now asserted a power which it had failed to exercise since the days of Augustus, by naming Nerva as sovereign. He was a childless old man, but he chose for his successor M. Ulpius Traja'nus, a general whose vigor and ability, already shown in war, promised well for the interests of the state. It was henceforth considered the duty of the emperor to select from all his subjects the man most fit to rule, without reference to his own family, and the heir thus adopted bore the name of Cæsar. The mild, beneficent, and economical government of Nerva afforded a pleasing contrast to the severe and sanguinary rule of Domitian. Upon his death, which occurred A. D. 98, his adopted heir was immediately recognized as emperor.

201. Trajan was born in Spain, and his youth had been passed in military service. The Romans regarded him as the best of all their emperors. In personal character he was brave and generous, diligent and modest; in his policy as a ruler he was both wise and liberal. He scrupulously regarded the rights and dignities of the Senate, and treated its members as his equals. He was most diligent in hearing causes that were presented for his judgment, and in corresponding with the governors of provinces, who consulted him on all important affairs in their administration.

He managed the finances so well, that, without oppressive taxes or unjust confiscations, he always had means for the construction of roads, bridges, and aqueducts; for loans to persons whose estates had been injured by earthquakes or tempests; and for public buildings in Rome and all the provinces. The Ulpian Library and the great "Forum of Trajan," for the better transaction of public business, among many other useful and elegant works, bore witness to his liberality. The reign of Trajan was a literary epoch only second to that of Augustus. The great historian Tacitus, the younger Pliny, Plutarch, Sueto'nius, and Epicte'tus, the slave-philosopher, were all living at this time.

202. Augustus had enjoined his heirs to regard the Rhine, the Danube, and the Euphrates as the limits of their dominion. Trajan, however, desiring to throw off the disgraceful tribute which Domitian had promised to the Dacians, made war twice against their king, Deceb’alus. He was completely victorious; the king was slain, and his country became a Roman province guarded by colonies and forts. On his return, A. D. 105, Trajan celebrated a triumph, and exhibited games during 123 days. It is said that 11,000 wild beasts were slaughtered in these spectacles, and that 10,000 gladiators, mostly Dacian prisoners, killed each other "to make a Roman holiday.”

In the later years of this reign, the Roman and the Parthian empires 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, Ælia 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, wlio, 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 secoud, 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

A. H.-22.

« PrécédentContinuer »