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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 Mæsa 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
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 peasant — a 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 Moesia 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 Mosia 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, Hostilianus, 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