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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
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
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.
Constantine, the eldest of the Caesars, obtained, with
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
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
treaty. See Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 420.