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CHAP.
XVIII.

Massacre of the princes.

The voice of the dying emperor had recommended the care of his funeral to the piety of Constantius; and that prince, by the vicinity of his eastern station, could easily prevent the diligence of his brothers, who resided in their distant government of Italy and Gaul. As soon as he had taken possession of the palace of Constantinople, his first care was to remove the apprehensions of his kinsmen, by a solemn oath, which he pledged for their security. His next employment was to find some specious pretence which might release his conscience from the obligation of an imprudent promise. The arts of fraud were made subservient to the designs of cruelty; and a manifest forgery was attested by a person of the most sacred character. From the hands of the bishop of Nicomedia, Constantius received a fatal scroll, affirmed to be the genuine testament of his father; in which the emperor expressed his suspicions that he had been poisoned by his brothers; and conjured his sons to revenge his death, and to consult their own safety by the punishment of the guilty.” Whatever reasons might have been alleged by these unfortunate princes to defend their life and honour against so incredible an accusation, they were silenced by the furious clamours of the soldiers, who declared themselves, at once, their enemies, their judges, and their executioners. The spirit and even the forms of legal proceedings were repeatedly violated in a promiscuous massacre; which involved the two uncles of Constantius, seven of his cousins, of whom Dalmatius and Hannibalianus were the most illustrious, the Patrician Optatus, who had married a sister of the late emperor, * I have related this singular anecdote on the authority of Philostorgius, l. ii. c. 16. But if such a pretext was ever used by Constantine and his adherents, it was laid aside with contempt, as soon as it had served their immediate purpose.

Athanasius (tom. i. p. 856) mentions the oath which Constantius had taken for the security of his kinsmen.

and the praefect Ablavius, whose power and riches had
inspired him with some hopes of obtaining the purple.
If it were necessary to aggravate the horrors of this
bloody scene, we might add, that Constantius himself
had espoused the daughter of his uncle Julius, and that
he had bestowed his sister in marriage on his cousin
Hannibalianus. These alliances, which the policy
of Constantine, regardless of the public prejudice,"
had formed between the several branches of the im-
perial house, served only to convince mankind, that
these princes were as cold to the endearments of con-
jugal affection, as they were insensible to the ties of
consanguinity, and the moving entreaties of youth
and innocence. Of so numerous a family, Gallus
and Julian alone, the two youngest children of Julius
Constantius, were saved from the hands of the assas-
sins, till their rage, satiated with slaughter, had in
some measure subsided. The emperor Constantius,
who, in the absence of his brothers, was the most
obnoxious to guilt and reproach, discovered, on some
future occasions, a faint and transient remorse for
those cruelties which the perfidious counsels of his
ministers, and the irresistible violence of the troops,
had extorted from his unexperienced youth.”
y Conjugia sobrinarum diu ignorata, tempore addito percrebuisse. Tacit.
Annal. xii. 6. and Lipsius ad loc. The repeal of the ancient law, and the prac-
tice of five hundred years, were insufficient to eradicate the prejudices of the
Romans; who still considered the marriages of cousins-german as a species of
imperfect incest (Augustin de Civitate Dei, xv. 6); and Julian, whose mind
was biassed by superstition and resentment, stigmatizes these unnatural alliances
between his own cousins with the opprobrious epithet of yaway re ov yaway
(Orat. vii. p. 228). The jurisprudence of the canons has since revived and
enforced this prohibition, without being able to introduce it either into the civil
or the common law of Europe. See on the subject of these marriages, Taylor's
Civil Law, p. 331. Brouer de Jure Connub. l. ii. c. 12. Hericourt des Loix
Ecclesiastiques, part iii. c. 5. Fleury Institutions du Droit Cononique, tom. i.
p. 331. Paris, 1767; and Fra-Paolo Istoria del Concilio Trident. 1. viii.
* Julian (ad S.P.Q. Athen. p. 270) charges his cousin Constantius with the
whole guilt of a massacre, from which he himself so narrowly escaped. His as-
sertion is confirmed by Athanasius, who, for reasons of a very different nature, was

not less an enemy of Constantius (tom. i. p. 856). Zosimus joins in the same accusation. But the three abbreviators, Eutropius and the Victors, use very

CHAP.
XVIII.
CHAP.
XVIII.

The massacre of the Flavian race was succeeded by a new division of the provinces; which was rati

oivision of fied in a personal interview of the three brothers.

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Constantine, the eldest of the Caesars, obtained, with
a certain pre-eminence of rank, the possession of the
new capital, which bore his own name and that of
his father. Thrace, and the countries of the East,
were allotted for the patrimony of Constantius; and
Constans was acknowledged as the lawful sovereign
of Italy, Africa, and the western Illyricum. The
armies submitted to their hereditary right; and they
condescended, after some delay, to accept from the
Roman senate the title of Augustus. When they
first assumed the reins of government, the eldest of
these princes was twenty-one, the second twenty, and
the third only seventeen, years of age.”
While the martial nations of Europe followed the
standards of his brothers, Constantius, at the head of
the effeminate troops of Asia, was left to sustain
the weight of the Persian war. At the decease of
Constantine, the throne of the East was filled by
Sapor, son of Hormouz, or Hormisdas, and grandson
of Narses, who, after the victory of Galerius, had
humbly confessed the superiority of the Roman power.
Although Sapor was in the thirtieth year of his long
reign, he was still in the vigour of youth, as the date
of his accession, by a very strange fatality, had pre-
ceded that of his birth. The wife of Hormouz re-
mained pregnant at the time of her husband's death;
and the uncertainty of the sex, as well as of the event,
excited the ambitious hopes of the princes of the
house of Sassan. The apprehensions of civil war

Sapor king of Persia, A.D. 310.

qualifying expressions; “sinente potius quam jubente;” “incertum quo suasore;” “vi militum.”

* Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. l. iv. c. 69. Zosimus, l. ii. p. 117. Idat. in Chron. See two notes of Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 1086– 1091. The reign of the eldest brother at Constantinople is noticed only in the Alexandrian Chronicle.

were at length removed, by the positive assurance CHAP.

of the Magi, that the widow of Hormouz had conceived, and would safely produce a son. Obedient to the voice of superstition, the Persians prepared, without delay, the ceremony of his coronation. A royal bed, on which the queen lay in state, was exhibited in the midst of the palace; the diadem was placed on the spot, which might be supposed to conceal the future heir of Artaxerxes, and the prostrate satraps adored the majesty of their invisible and insensible sovereign.” If any credit can be given to this marvellous tale, which seems however to be countenanced by the manners of the people, and by the extraordinary duration of his reign, we must admire not only the fortune, but the genius, of Sapor. In the soft sequestered education of a Persian haram, the royal youth could discover the importance of exercising the vigour of his mind and body; and, by his personal merit, deserved a throne, on which he had been seated, while he was yet unconscious of the duties and temptations of absolute power. His

minority was exposed to the almost inevitable cala

mities of domestic discord; his capital was surprised and plundered by Thair, a powerful king of Yemen,

or Arabia; and the majesty of the royal family was

degraded by the captivity of a princess, the sister of the deceased king. But as soon as Sapor attained

the age of manhood, the presumptuous Thair, his na-.

tion, and his country, fell beneath the first effort of the young warrior; who used his victory with so judicious a mixture of rigour and clemency, that he

* Agathias, who lived in the sixth century, is the author of this story (l. iv. p. 135, edit. Louvre). He derived his information from some extracts of the Persian Chronicles, obtained and translated by the interpreter Sergius, during his embassy at that court. The coronation of the mother of Sapor is likewise mentioned by Schikard (Tarikh. p. 116), and D'Herbelot (Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 763). VOL. II. A A

XVIII.

obtained from the fears and gratitude of the Arabs the title of Dhoulacnaf, or protector of the nation." The ambition of the Persian, to whom his enemies ascribe the virtues of a soldier and a statesman, was animated by the desire of revenging the disgrace of his fathers, and of wresting from the hands of the Romans the five provinces beyond the Tigris. The military fame of Constantine, and the real or apparent strength of his government, suspended the attack; and while the hostile conduct of Sapor provoked the resentment, his artful negotiations amused the patience of the imperial court. The death of Constantine was the signal of war," and the actual condition of the Syrian and Armenian frontier seemed to encourage the Persians by the prospect of a rich spoil, and an easy conquest. The example of the massacres of the palace diffused a spirit of licentiousness and sedition among the troops of the East, who were no longer restrained by their habits of obedience to a veteran commander. By the prudence of Constantius, who, from the interview with his brothers, in Pannonia, immediately hastened to the banks of the Euphrates, the legions were gradually restored to a sense of duty and discipline; but the season of anarchy had permitted Sapor to form the siege of Nisibis, and to occupy several of the most important fortresses of Mesopotamia." In Armenia, the renowned Tiridates had long enjoyed the peace and glory which he deserved by his valour and fidelity to the cause of Rome. The firm alliance which he maintained with Constantine was productive of spi* D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, p. 764. * Sextus Rufus (c. 26), who on this occasion is no contemptible authority, affirms, that the Persians sued in vain for peace, and that Constantine was preparing to march against them : yet the superior weight of the testimony of Eusebius obliges us to admit the preliminaries, if not the ratification, of the

CHAP.

XVIII.

State of
Mesopo-
tamia and
Armenia.

treaty. See Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 420.
* Julian. Orat. i. p. 20.

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