Images de page



rial dignity on Licinius, and for two years the Roman world was peaceably governed by six masters: Constantine, Maximian, and Maxentius in the West; Galerius, Maximin, and Licinius in the East. 228. The peace was first broken by the dissensions of Maximian and his

The elder emperor fled from Rome, and was well received by Constantine, who had married his daughter. Before long, however, Maximian entered again into plots with Maxentius for the ruin of Constantine; which becoming known to their intended victim, he returned promptly from his campaign on the Rhine, besieged his father-in-law in Massilia, and put him to death, A. D. 310. Galerius died the next year at Nicomedia, and the empire was again divided into four parts, of which Constantine ruled the extreme west; Maxentius, Italy and Africa; Licinius, Illyricum and Thrace; Maximin, Egypt and Asia.

The cruel and rapacious character of Maxentius wearied out his subjects, who sent deputies from Rome, beseeching Constantine to come and be their sovereign. This great general had won the love of his followers, not less by his firm and successful dealings with the barbarians, than by his liberal protection of the Christians, whose virtues he esteemed, and whose riglıts of conscience le respected. On his march toward Italy, it is said that he beheld a vision. A flaming cross appeared in the heavens, bearing in Greek the inscription, "By this, conquer !” Thenceforth, the cross replaced the pagan symbols which had been carried at the head of the legions; and the omen, if such it was, was amply fulfilled.

229. Constantine passed the Alps, A. D. 312, defeated the troops of Maxentius near Turin, captured Verona after an obstinate siege and battle, and encountered his rival in a final combat before the gates of Rome. In the battle of the Mil'vian Bridge, Maxentius was defeated and drowned. The following year, Maximin was defeated by Licinius, in a great battle at Heraclea, on the Propontis, and put an end to his life at Tarsus, in Cilicia. Constantine and Licinius, in a series of battles, divided the world between them. The river Strymon and the Ægean became the boundaries between the Eastern and Western empires. Two sons of Constantine and one of Licinius received the title of Cæsar. Crispus, on the Rhine, gained a victory over the Franks and Alemanni; and Constantine, on the Danube, executed a terrible vengeance upon the Goths, who had invaded the Roman territory.

230. After seven years' peace, war broke out between the emperors, in A. D. 322. Licinius was defeated near Hadriano'ple, besieged in Byzantium, and finally overthrown upon the Heights of Scuta'ri, overlooking the latter city. His death made Constantine the so ruler of the civilized world. His great dominion received a new constitution suitable to its magnitude. The seat of government was fixed upon the confines of Europe and Asia, in the new and magnificent city bearing the emperor's


name, which he built upon the ruins of the Greek Byzantium. The whole empire was divided into four præfectures, which nearly corresponded to the dominions of the four emperors, A. D. 311. (? 228.) Each præfecture was divided into dioceses, and each diocese into proconsular governments, or presidencies.

This subdivision of the empire gave rise to three ranks of officials, somewhat resembling the nobility of modern Europe. The republican form of government, so ostentatiously cherished by Augustus, had now disappeared, and in its place was the elaborate ceremony of an Oriental court. Even the 10,000 spies, known as the “King's Eyes,” were maintained as of old by Xerxes and Darius. A standing army of 645,000 men was kept upon the frontier; but as Roman citizens were now averse to military service, the legions were largely composed of barbarian mercenaries. The Franks, especially, had great importance, both in the court and camp of Constantine.

231. The great event of this reign was the admission of Christianity as, in a certain sense, the religion of the state. The Edict of Milan, A. D. 313, guaranteed to the hitherto persecuted people perfect security and respect; that of A. D. 324 exhorted all subjects of the empire to follow the example of their sovereign, and become Christians. Heathenism was not yet proscribed. Constantine was pontifex maximus, and must, on certain occasions, have offered sacrifices to the fabulous gods of Rome. It was only in his last days that he received Christian baptism; but he presided in the first General Council of the Church at Nice, in Bithynia, A. D. 325, to which he had convened bishops from all parts of the empire, to decide certain disputed matters of faith. Though he treated the assembled fathers with every mark of reverence, he refused to persecute Arius and his followers, the Alexandrian heretics, whom the Council condemned.

232. Crispus, the eldest son of Constantine, who had been named Cæsar at the age of seventeen, was the idol of the people, but an object of jealousy to his father, who suspected him of treasonable designs. Whether the charges against him were true, we have no means of knowing. He was seized during the festivities in Rome, in honor of the twentietlı year of his father's reign, tried secretly, and put to death. The last years of Constantine were disturbed by fresh movements of the barbarians north of the Danube. The Sarmatians, being attacked by the Goths, implored the aid of the Romans. Constantine was defeated in one battle with the invaders, but in the next he was victorious, and 100,000 Gotlis, driven into the mountains, perished with cold and hunger. In the division of spoils, the Sarmatians were dissatisfied, and revenged themselves by making inroads upon the Roman dominions. In succeeding wars they were defeated and scattered; 300,000 were received as vassals of the empire, and settled in military colonies in Pannonia, Thrace, Macedonia, and Italy.

233. Hoping to secure peace to the empire after his death, Constantine assigned its different parts to his three sons and two nephews, whom he had carefully educated for their great responsibilities. But his care was unavailing. Immediately upon his decease, A. D. 337, Constantius, his second son, being nearest, seized the capital, and ordered a massacre of all whose birth or power could give them any hopes of obtaining the sovereignty. Of his own relatives, only two cousins, Gallus and Julian, escaped. The three sons of Constantine then divided the empire between them. Constantine II., the eldest, received the capital, together with Gaul, Spain, and Britain ; Constantius had Thrace and the East; Constans, Italy, Africa, and western Illyricum.

The reign of Constantius was occupied by a disastrous war with Persia. The pagan Armenians revolted upon the death of their king, Tiridates a "friend of the Romans,” who had established Christian worship in his dominions - and opened their gates to the Persians. The son of Tiridates sought the aid of Constantius, who succeeded in restoring the prince Chos'roes to his dominions. The fortress of Nisibis, which was esteemed the bulwark of the East, withstood three memorable sieges by the Persians; but the Roman armies were defeated in nine pitched battles, and the raids of the Persian cavalry extended even to the Mediterranean, where they captured and plundered Antioch.

234. In the meanwhile, discord had broken out between the emperors in the West, and Constantine II., invading the dominions of his brother Constans, was defeated and slain near Aquileia. Constans seized his prorinces, and reigned ten years (A. D. 340–350) over two-thirds of his father's empire. Magnentius, an officer in Gaul, then assumed the purple, and Constans was slain. Constantius, recalled from his Persian wars, defeated Magnentius in a toilsome campaign on the Danube; received the submission of Rome and the Italian cities; and finally, by a great battle among the Cottian Alps, ended the rebellion with the life of the usurper, A. D. 353. Sixteen years after the death of the great Constantine, the empire was thus reunited under one sovereign. Gallus, the cousin of Constantius, had been taken from prison to receive the title of Cæsar and the government of the East. But he proved wholly unfit to rule; he treated with insult the embassador of his cousin, and even caused him to be murdered by the mob of Antioch. Gallus was thereupon recalled, and put to death at Pola, in Is'tria.

[ocr errors]


Diocletian (A. D. 281-305) associates Maximian as “ Augustus," and Galerius and Constantius as “Cæsars," with himself in the management of the empire. Constantius overthrows the sovereignty of Carausius in Britain and northern Gaul. Galerius gains victories in Asia; Diocletian, in Egypt; and Maximian, in Africa. The new system is efficient abroad, but oppressive at home. Christians are severely persecuted. Seat of government removed from Rome. Diocletian aud Maximian resign, A. D. 305. Galerius (A. D. 305-311) and Constantius (A. D. 305, 306) become emperors; Severus and Maximin, Cæsars. Constantine the Great (A. D. 306–337), succeeding his father, Constantius, eventually conquers Maximian, who has resumed the purple, and Maxentius (A. D. 312), who has been proclaimed at Rome, and reigns over the Western empire. Licinius (A. D. 307–323), after the death of Galerius, conquers Maximin, and reigns east of the Ægean. Constantine conquers Licinius, A. D. 323, and becomes sole emperor. Fixes his court at Constantinople; reorganizes the government; makes Christianity the religion of the state; has wars with the Goths; and establishes military colonies of Sarmatians within the bounds of the empire. After his death, his three sons destroy their kinsmen, and divide the dominion between them. While Constantius II. is at war with Persia, his brother, Constantine II., is slain by Constans, who is himself deposed, after ten years, by Maguentius. Constantius, returning from the East, A. D. 350, defeats Magnentius, and reigns over his father's entire dominion, A. D. 353-361.


235. Julian, the younger brother of Gallus, was permitted to pursue his favorite studies at Athens, until, A. D. 355, he was called to the court of Milan, dignified with the title of Cæsar, and intrusted with the government of Gaul. His conduct displayed great energy and talent. He severely defeated the Alemanni, in the battle of Strasbourg; drove the Franks from their castles on the Meuse; and in three invasions of Germany, liberated 20,000 Roman captives. He rebuilt the cities of Gaul which the barbarians had destroyed; adorned Paris, his winter residence, with a palace, theater, and batlıs; imported grain from Britain for the sustenance of the people; and protected agriculture, manufactures, and commerce.

Constantius became jealous of his cousin's fame, and sought to disarm and disgrace him, by ordering the greater part of the Gallic army to the East. Julian was preparing to send away his devoted followers, but the soldiers mutinied, proclaimed him emperor, and forced him to assume the purple robe. An embassy to Constantius was contemptuously dismissed; and Julian, after again chastising the Franks, and improving the defenses of the German frontier, set forth to decide the question by actual war. Penetrating the Black Forest as far as the Danube, he descended that river with a captured fleet, surprised Sirmium, and was received with acclamations by the people. He sent letters justifying his conduct to the principal cities of the empire, especially to the senates of Athens and Rome; and he was invested by the latter with the imperial titles which it alone could legally bestow. The sudden death of Constantius, at Tarsus, Nov., A. D. 361, ended the uncertainty. All Constantinople poured forth to welcome Julian, at a distance of sixty miles from the capital, and soldiers and people throughout the empire accepted him as their head.

236. His first acts were to retrench the Oriental luxury of the palace, to punish the officers of Constantius who had oppressed the people, and to dismiss the 10,000 spies. A philosopher by choice, and an emperor only by compulsion, Julian prided himself upon the frugal simplicity of his habits, and professed himself merely the “servant of the Republic." He is known in history by the unhappy name of “ Julian the Apostate.” Incensed against the Christian cousins who had murdered his entire family, he extended his hatred to the faith which they so unworthily professed. He publicly renounced Christianity, and placed himself and his empire under the protection of the “Immortal Gods.”

To spite the Christians, he patronized the Jews, and attempted to rebuild their Temple at Jerusalem; but he was thwarted by balls of fire breaking out near the foundation, which made it impossible for the workmen to approach. * He excluded all Christians from the schools of grammar and rhetoric, hoping thus to degrade them in intellectual rank, and weaken them in controversy. He, however, disappointed the pagan zealots by proclaiming toleration to all parties. In the spring of A. D. 363, Julian departed with a great army for the East, where the ravages of the Persian king had for four years met with little resistance. He gained an important victory over the Persians at Ctesiphon, but in a subsequent skirmish he was mortally wounded, and died, June, A. D. 363, after a reign of only sixteen months.

237. Jovian, the captain of the life-guards, was saluted as Augustus by the generals of Julian. He obtained peace with the Persian king by ceding the five provinces east of the Tigris, and then conducted a difficult retreat to the capital. The principal act of his reign was the re-establishment of Christian worship and of universal tolerance. He died, Feb., A. D. 364, after a reign of eight months. The civil and military officers of the empire met at Nicæa, and chose for their sovereign Valentin'ian, a Christian and a brave soldier, who had distinguished himself by service both on the Tigris and the Rhine. His brother Valens was made his colleague, with the command of the East, extending from the lower Danube to the boundaries of Persia.

238. Valentinian fixed his capital at Milan, which alternated with Rheims and Treves as his headquarters. He signally defeated the Alemanni, and guarded the Rhine by a new series of forts. The coasts of western Europe now began to be overrun by piratical Saxons, while the Picts and Scots swept over all the cultivated fields of southern Britain. from the Wall of Antoninus to the coast of Kent. Theodo'sius, father of the future emperor of that name, led a veteran army to the relief of the Britons, and afterward gained among the Orkneys a great naval victory over the Saxons.

* So says Ammianus Marcelli'nus, an honest and usually trustworthy historian, contemporary with Julian, and probably a pagan.

« PrécédentContinuer »