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CHAP.
XVIII.

Virtues of
Crispus.

an innocent boy, the offspring of their marriage, pre-
served for some time his life, the title of Caesar, and
a precarious hope of the succession. Besides the
females, and the allies of the Flavian house, ten or
twelve males, to whom the language of modern courts
would apply the title of princes of the blood, seemed,
according to the order of their birth, to be destined
either to inherit or to support the throne of Con-
stantine. But in less than thirty years, this numerous
and increasing family was reduced to the persons of
Constantius and Julian, who alone had survived a
series of crimes and calamities, such as the tragic
poets have deplored in the devoted lines of Pelops
and of Cadmus. -
Crispus, the eldest son of Constantine, and the
presumptive heir of the empire, is represented by
impartial historians as an amiable and accomplished
youth. The care of his education, or at least of his
studies, was intrusted to Lactantius, the most elo-
quent of the Christians; a preceptor admirably quali-
fied to form the taste, and to excite the virtues, of
his illustrious disciple.' At the age of seventeen,
Crispus was invested with the title of Caesar, and the
administration of the Gallic provinces, where the in-
roads of the Germans gave him an early occasion of
signalizing his military prowess. In the civil war
which broke out soon afterwards, the father and son
divided their powers; and this history has already cele-
brated the valour as well as conduct displayed by the
latter, in forcing the straits of the Hellespont, so
obstinately defended by the superior fleet of Licinius.
This naval victory contributed to determine the event
of the war; and the names of Constantine and of
| Jerom. in Chron. The poverty of Lactantius may be applied either to the
praise of the disinterested philosopher, or to the shame of the unfeeling patron.
See Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiast. tom. vi. part i. p. 345. Dupin, Bibliothéque

Ecclesiast. tom. i. p. 205. Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel History, part ii. vol. vii. p. 66.

Crispus were united in the joyful acclamations of CHAP.

their eastern subjects: who loudly proclaimed, that the world had been subdued, and was now governed, by an emperor endowed with every virtue; and by his illustrious son, a prince beloved of heaven, and the lively image of his father's perfections. The public favour, which seldom accompanies old age, diffused its lustre over the youth of Crispus. He deserved the esteem, and he engaged the affections, of the court, the army, and the people. The experienced merit of a reigning monarch is acknowledged by his subjects with reluctance, and frequently denied with partial and discontented murmurs; while, from the opening virtues of his successor, they fondly conceive the most unbounded hopes of private as well as public felicity.'

XVIII.

This dangerous popularity soon excited the atten- Jealousy

tion of Constantine, who, both as a father and as a king, was impatient of an equal. Instead of attempting to secure the allegiance of his son, by the ge. nerous ties of confidence and gratitude, he resolved to prevent the mischiefs which might be apprehended from dissatisfied ambition. Crispus soon had reason to complain, that while his infant brother Constantius was sent, with the title of Caesar, to reign over his peculiar department of the Gallic provinces," he, a prince of mature years, who had performed such recent and signal services, instead of being raised to the superior rank of Augustus, was confined almost a prisoner to his father's court; and exposed, with

j Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. 1. x, c. 9. Eutropius (x. 6) styles him “egregium virum;” and Julian (Orat. i.) very plainly alludes to the exploits of Crispus in the civil war. See Spanheim. Comment. p. 92.

* Compare Idatius and the Paschal Chronicle, with Ammianus (l. xiv. c. 5). The year in which Constantius was created Caesar seems to be more accurately fixed by the two chronologists; but the historian who lived in his court could not be ignorant of the day of the anniversary. For the appointment of the new Casar to the provinces of Gaul, see Julian. Orat. i. p. 12. Godefroy, Chronol. Legum, p. 26, and Blondel de la Primauté de l'Eglise, p. 1183.

Constantine. A.D. 324. Oct. 10.

out power or defence, to every calumny which the malice of his enemies could suggest. Under such painful circumstances, the royal youth might not always be able to compose his behaviour, or suppress his discontent; and we may be assured, that he was encompassed by a train of indiscreet or perfidious followers, who assiduously studied to inflame, and who were perhaps instructed to betray, the unguarded warmth of his resentment. An edict of Constantine, published about this time, manifestly indicates his real or affected suspicions, that a secret conspiracy had been formed against his person and government. By all the allurements of honours and rewards, he invites informers of every degree to accuse without exception his magistrates or ministers, his friends or his most intimate favourites, protesting, with a solemn asseveration, that he himself will listen to the charge, that he himself will revenge his injuries; and concluding with a prayer, which discovers some apprehension of danger, that the providence of the Supreme Being may still continue to protect the safety of the emperor and of the empire.' The informers, who complied with so liberal an invitation, were sufficiently versed in the arts of courts to select the friends and adherents of Crispus as the guilty persons; nor is there any reason to distrust the veracity of the emperor, who had promised an ample measure of revenge and punishment. The policy of Constantine maintained, however, the same appearances of regard and confidence towards a son, whom he began to consider as his most irreconcilable enemy. Medals were struck with the customary vows for the long and auspicious reign of the young Caesar;" and as the people, who were not admitted into the secrets of the palace, still loved his virtues, and respected his CHAP.

CHAP.
XVIII.

A. D. 325.
October 1.

Disgrace
and death
of Crispus.
A.D. 326.
July.

1 Cod. Theod. l. ix. tit. iv. Godefroy suspected the secret motives of this law. Comment. tom. iii. p. 9. * Ducange Fam. Byzant, p. 28. Tillemont, tom. iv. p. 610.

dignity, a poet who solicits his recal from exile, adores with equal devotion the majesty of the father and that of the son." The time was now arrived for celebrating the august ceremony of the twentieth year of the reign of Constantine; and the emperor, for that purpose, removed his court from Nicomedia to Rome, where the most splendid preparations had been made for his reception. Every eye, and every tongue, affected to express their sense of the general happiness, and the veil of ceremony and dissimulation was drawn for a while over the darkest designs of revenge and murder." In the midst of the festival, the unfortunate Crispus was apprehended by order of the emperor, who laid aside the tenderness of a father, without assuming the equity of a judge. The examination was short and private;" and as it was thought decent to conceal the fate of the young prince from the eyes of the Roman people, he was sent under a strong guard to Pola, in Istria, where, soon afterwards, he was put to death, either by the hand of the executioner, or by the more gentle operation of poison." The Caesar Licinius, a youth of amiable manners, was involved in the ruin of Crispus;' and the stern jealousy of

* His name was Porphyrius Optatianus. The date of his panegyric, written according to the taste of the age in vile acrostics, is settled by Scaliger ad Euseb. p. 250. Tillemont, tom. iv. p. 607, and Fabricius Biblioth. Latin. l. iv. c. 1. Zosim. l. ii. p. 103. Godefroy Chronol. Legum, p. 28. P Axelros, without a trial, is the strong, and most probably the just, expression of Suidas. The elder Victor, who wrote under the next reign, speaks with becoming caution. “Natü grandior incertum quâ causã, patris judicio occidisset.” If we consult the succeeding writers, Eutropius, the younger Victor, Orosius, Jerom, Zosimus, Philostorgius, and Gregory of Tours; their knowledge will appear gradually to increase, as their means of information must have diminished; a circumstance which frequently occurs in historical disquisition. * Ammianus (l. xiv. c. 11) uses the general expression of peremptum. Codinus (p.34) beheads the young prince; but Sidonius Apollinaris (Epistol. v. 8), for the sake perhaps of an antithesis to Fausta's warm bath, chooses to administer a draught of cold poison. * Sororis filium, commoda indolis juvenem. Eutropius, x. 6. May I not be permitted to conjecture, that Crispus had married Helena, the daughter of the emperor Licinuis, and that on the happy delivery of the princess, in the year 322,

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Constantine was unmoved by the prayers and tears of his favourite sister, pleading for the life of a son; whose rank was his only crime, and whose loss she did not long survive. The story of these unhappy princes, the nature and evidence of their guilt, the forms of their trial, and the circumstances of their death, were buried in mysterious obscurity; and the courtly bishop, who has celebrated in an elaborate work the virtues and piety of his hero, observes a prudent silence on the subject of these tragic events." Such haughty contempt for the opinion of mankind, whilst it imprints an indelible stain on the memory of Constantine, must remind us of the very different behaviour of one of the greatest monarchs of the present age. The Czar Peter, in the full possession of despotic power, submitted to the judgment of Russia, of Europe, and of posterity, the reasons which had compelled him to subscribe the condemnation of a criminal, or at least of a degenerate, son." The innocence of Crispus was so universally acknowledged, that the modern Greeks, who adore the memory of their founder, are reduced to palliate the guilt of a parricide, which the common feelings of human nature forbade them to justify. They pretend, that as soon as the afflicted father discovered the falsehood of the accusation by which his credulity had been so fatally misled, he published to the world his repentance and remorse; that he mourned forty days, during which he abstained from the use of the bath, and all the ordinary comforts of life; and that, for the lasting instruction of posterity, he erected a golden statue of Crispus, with this memorable in

CHAP.
XVIII.

The em-
press
Fausta.

a general pardon was granted by Constantine P See Ducange Fam. Byzant.
p. 47, and the law (l. ix. tit. xxxvii.) of the Theodosian Code, which has so
much embarrassed the interpreters. Godefroy, tom. iii. p. 267.
* See the life of Constantine, particularly 1. ii. c. 19, 20. Two hundred and
fifty years afterwards Evagrius (l. iii. c.41) deduced from the silence of Eusebius
a vain argument against the reality of the fact.
* Histoire de Pierre le Grand, par Voltaire, part ii. c. x.

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