« PrécédentContinuer »
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 Mæsia. 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 Mæsia. 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 Sirmium, 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 Nume'rian. 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 Ctes'iphon. He had advanced beyond the
Tigris, and seemed about to overthrow the Peršian 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 Coin of Diocletian, enlarged
near Margus, in upper Moesia. 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.
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.
RECAPITULATION. 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. 235-241) 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 revoit 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 Gothis. 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 alope, 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 power upon his friend and comrade Maxim'ian, with the title of Augustus. A few years later, two Cæsars, Gale'rius and Constan'tius, were added to the imperial college, each being associated, as adopted son and successor, with one of the emperors. To the Cæsars were assigned the more exposed provinces, which needed an active and vigilant administration, while the Augusti kept to themselves the old and settled portions of the empire. Constantius had Gaul, Spain, Britain, and the whole frontier of the Rhine; Galerius had Noricum, Pannonia, and Mesia, with the defenses of the Danube; while Maximian governed Italy and Africa, and Diocletian retained for himself Thrace, Macedonia, Egypt, and the East. Though allotted thus to its several rulers, the empire was not divided. The four princes governed in consultation, and were equally honored in all parts of the realm.
223. In A. D. 286, a naval chief, Carau'sius, being intrusted with a powerful fleet for the defense of the British and Gallic coasts against the Franks, gained over the troops in Britain, seized the island, and set up an independent government. He built new ships, and soon became master of the Western seas. Diocletian and Maximian, after vain attempts to break his power, were compelled to acknowledge him as their colleague in the empire, A. D. 287. Constantius, upon becoming Cæsar, made war, A. D. 292, upon this new Augustus; captured Boulogne after a long and severe siege, and was preparing to invade Britain, when Carausius was killed by his chief officer, Allec'tus.
Constantius landed, three years later, in Britain, and by a battle near London recovered the island. He afterward drove the Alemanni out of Gaul, and settled his captives in colonies upon the lands depopulated by their ravages. At the same time, Maximian quelled a formidable revolt of the Moors in Africa; and Diocletian, by a siege of eight months, captured Alexandria, where a rival emperor had usurped the throne, and punished the rebellious city by a massacre in which many thousands perished.' The Cæsar Galerius made war against the Persians for the recovery of Armenia, which they had taken from Tirida'tes, the vassal of Rome. He was defeated near Carrhæ, on the very scene of the overthrow of Crassus, more than three centuries before; but he retrieved this misfortune by a great victory over King Narses, followed by an advantageous peace.
224. The system of Diocletian was thus effective and prosperous, as far as it concerned the foreign enemies of the state ; but the expenses of four imperial courts, with the immense number of soldiers and officials, imposed heavy burdens upon the people. The wretched tax-payers were often tortured to enforce payments which they were unable to make. The civil wars of the preceding centuries had deprived extensive districts of inhabitants; and the productions of the earth and of human industry had ceased.
225. The greatest blot upon the memory of Diocletian is the persecution of Christians in the last year of his reign. Every province and every great city of the empire had now heard the doctrines of Christ, and the church in Rome numbered 50,000 members. In an age of turbulence and corruption, Christians were every-where distinguished as the most orderly, industrious, loyal, and honest members of the community. Their refusal to worship the image of the emperor, which was an essential part of the Roman religion, had brought upon them several local persecutions, but none so widely extended and severe as that of Diocletian. The edict requiring uniformity of worship was issued A. D. 303. Instantly the cruel passions of the pagans were let loose from restraint. Innocent blood flowed in every province. Whoever liad either malice or covetousness to indulge, had only to accuse his enemy of being a Christian, and to be rewarded with half the confiscated goods. In the extreme west, Constantius protected those of the “new religion,” but elsewhere there was no appeal from the atrocious cruelties sanctioned by courts of law.
226. Of the many acts by which Diocletian abased the authority of the Senate, the most effective was the removal of the center of government from the ancient city on the Tiber. His own official residence was at Nicomedia; that of Maximian, at Milan; while Constantius held a provincial court at York, and Galerius at Sirmium, on the Savus. The Senate thus became the mere council of a provincial town. · Imperial edicts took the place of the laws which had formerly received its sanction. The insolent prætorians were, at the same time, replaced by the “Jovian” and “Herculean Guards”; and their præfect, who had been a rival of the emperor, became merely an officer of the palace. Diocletian, however, celebrated the twentieth year of his reign, and his numerous victories, by a triumphal entry into Rome; and this was the last “triumph" which the ancient capital ever, beheld.
227. The next year, A. D. 305, Diocletian, worn out with the cares of empire, formally abdicated his power, and compelled Maximian to do the
The two Cæsars now became Augusti, and two new candidates, Maximin and Severus, were appointed by Galerius to the former title. The legions in Britain were dissatisfied, however, by seeing the choice of a successor taken away from their own imperator; and upon the death of Constantius, A. D. 306, they immediately proclaimed Con'stantine, his son. He was acknowledged as Cæsar by Galerius, who conferred the rank of Augustus on Severus.
But, the next year, Maxen'tius, son of Maximian, was declared emperor by the Senate and people of Rome, and his father resumed the purple, which he had unwillingly laid aside at the command of Diocletian. Sererus, attempting to crush this insurrection, was taken captive at Ravenna, and privately put to death. Galerius now conferred the impe