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slain; Verona immediately surrendered at discre- QūAP. tion, and the garrison was made prisoners of war.' When the officers of the victorious army congratulated their master on this important success, they ventured to add some respectful complaints, of such a nature, however, as the most jealous monarchs will listen to without displeasure. They represented to Constantine, that, not contented with performing all the duties of a commander, he had exposed his own person with an excess of valour which almost degenerated into rashness; and they conjured him for the future to pay more regard to the preservation of a life, in which the safety of Rome and of the empire was involved.* While Constantine signalized his conduct and va- !.
lour in the field, the sovereign of Italy appeared in-Maxentius. sensible of the calamities and danger of a civil war which raged in the heart of his dominions. Pleasure was still the only business of Maxentius. Concealing, or at least attempting to conceal, from the public knowledge the misfortunes of his arms," he indulged himself in a vain confidence, which deferred the remedies of the approaching evil, without deferring the evil itself. The rapid progress of Constantinej was scarcely sufficient to awaken him from this fatal security; he flattered himself, that his well-known liberality, and the majesty of the Roman name, which had already delivered him from two invasions, would dissipate with the same facility the
* They wanted chains for so great a multitude of captives; and the whole council was at a loss: but the sagacious conqueror imagined the happy expedient of converting into fetters the swords of the vanquished. Panegyr. Vet. ix. 11. & Panegyr. Wet. ix. 10. * Literas calamitatum suarum indices supprimebat. Panegyr. Wet. ix. 15. * Remedia malorum potius quam mala differebat, is the fine censure which Tacitus passes on the supine indolence of Vitellius. jThe Marquis Maffei has made it extremely probable that Constantine was still at Verona, the 1st of September, A. D. 312, and that the memorable aera of the indictions was dated from his conquest of the Cisalpine Gaul.
CHAP. rebellious army of Gaul. The officers of experience
and ability, who had served under the banners of Maximian, were at length compelled to inform his effeminate son of the imminent danger to which he was reduced; and, with a freedom that at once surprised and convinced him, to urge the necessity of preventing his ruin, by a vigorous exertion of his remaining power. The resources of Maxentius, both of men and money, were still considerable. The Praetorian guards felt how strongly their own interest and safety were connected with his cause;
and a third army was soon collected, more numerous than those which had been lost in the battles of Turin and Verona. It was far from the intention of the emperor to lead his troops in person. A stranger to the exercises of war, he trembled at the apprehension of so dangerous a contest; and as fear is commonly superstitious, he listened with melancholy attention to the rumours of omens and presages which seemed to menace his life and empire. Shame at length supplied the place of courage, and forced him to take the field. He was unable to sustain the contempt of the Roman people. The Circus resounded with their indignant clamours, and they tumultuously besieged the gates of the palace, reproaching the pusillanimity of their indolent sovereign, and celebrating the heroic spirit of Constantine." Before Maxentius left Rome,
he consulted the Sibylline books. The guardians of these ancient oracles were as well versed in the arts
of this world as they were ignorant of the secrets of fate; and they returned him a very prudent answer,
which might adapt itself to the event, and secure
their reputation, whatever should be the chance of arms.'
* See Panegyr. Wet. xi. 16. Lactantius de M. P. c. 44.
* Illo die hostem Romanorum esse periturum. The vanquished prince became of course the enemy of Rome.
The celerity of Constantine's march has been com- CUAP. pared to the rapid conquest of Italy by the first of the —oCaesars; nor is the flattering parallel repugnant to the . truth of history, since no more than fifty-eight days near Rome. elapsed between the surrender of Verona and the **** final decision of the war. Constantine had always apprehended that the tyrant would consult the dictates of fear, and perhaps of prudence; and that, instead of risking his last hopes in a general engagement, he would shut himself up within the walls of Rome. His ample magazines secured him against the danger of famine ; and as the situation of Constantine admitted not of delay, he might have been reduced to the sad necessity of destroying with fire and sword the imperial city, the noblest reward of his victory, and the deliverance of which had been the motive, or rather indeed the pretence, of the civil war." It was with equal surprise and pleasure, that on his arrival at a place called Saxa Rubra, about nine miles from Rome," he discovered the army of Maxentius prepared to give him battle." Their long front filled a very spacious plain, and their deep array reached to the banks of the Tyber, which covered their rear, and forbade their retreat. We are informed, and we may believe, that Constantine disposed his troops with consummate skill, and that he chose for himself the post of honour and danger. Distinguished by the splendour of his arms, he charged in person the cavalry of his rival; and his
* See Panegyr. Wet. ix. 16. x. 27. The former of these orators magnifies the hoards of corn, which Maxentius had collected from Africa and the Islands. And yet, if there is any truth in the scarcity mentioned by Eusebius (in Vit. Constantin. l. i. c. 36.), the imperial granaries must have been open only to the soldiers.
" Maxentius ... tandem urbe in Sara Rubra, millia ferme novem a gerrime progressus. Aurelius Victor. See Cellarius, Geograph. Antiq. tom. i. p. 463. Saxa Rubra was in the neighbourhood of the Cremera, a trifling rivulet, illustrated by the valour and glorious death of the three hundred Fabii.
• The post which Maxentius had taken, with the Tyber in his rear, is very clearly described by the two Panegyrists, ix. 16. x. 28.
CHAP. irresistible attack determined the fortune of the day. XIV. The cavalry of Maxentius was principally composed either of unwieldy cuirassiers, or of light Moors and Numidians. They yielded to the vigour of the Gallic horse, which possessed more activity than the one, more firmness than the other. The defeat of the two wings left the infantry without any protection on its flanks, and the undisciplined Italians fled without reluctance from the standard of a tyrant whom they had always hated, and whom they no longer feared. The Praetorians, conscious that their offences were beyond the reach of mercy, were animated by revenge and despair. Notwithstanding their repeated efforts, those brave veterans were unable to recover the victory: they obtained, however, an honourable death; and it was observed that their bodies covered the same ground that had been occupied by their ranks.” The confusion then became general, and the dismayed troops of Maxentius, pursued by an implacable enemy, rushed by thousands into the deep and rapid stream of the Tyber. The emperor himself attempted to escape back into the city over the Milvian bridge, but the crowds which pressed together through that narrow passage forced him into the river, where he was immediately drowned by the weight of his armour." His body, which had sunk very deep into the mud, was found with some difficulty the next day. The sight of his head, when it was exposed to the eyes of the people, convinced them of their deliverance, and admonished them to CHAP. receive, with acclamations of loyalty and gratitude, the fortunate Constantine, who thus achieved by his valour and ability the most splendid enterprise of . his life." In the use of victory, Constantine neither deserved His recepthe praise of clemency, nor incurred the censure of" immoderate rigour." He inflicted the same treatment to which a defeat would have exposed his own person and family, put to death the two sons of the tyrant, and carefully extirpated his whole race. The most distinguished adherents of Maxentius must have expected to share his fate, as they had shared his prosperity and his crimes; but when the Roman people loudly demanded a greater number of victims, the conqueror resisted, with firmness and humanity, those servile clamours, which were dictated by flattery, as well as by resentment. Informers were punished and discouraged; the innocent, who had suffered under the late tyranny, were recalled from exile, and restored to their estates. A general act of oblivion quieted the minds and settled the property of the people, both in Italy and in Africa." The first time that Constantine honoured the senate with his presence, he recapitulated his own services and exploits in a modest oration, assured that illustrious order of his sincere regard, and promised to re-establish its ancient dignity and privileges. The
P Exceptis latrocinii illius primis auctoribus, qui desperată venia, locum quem pugnac sumpserant texere corporibus, Panegyr. Wet. ix. 17.
* A very idle rumour soon prevailed, that Maxentius, who had not taken any precaution for his own retreat, had contrived a very artful snare to destroy the army of the pursuers; but that the wooden bridge which was to have been loosened on the approach of Constantine, unluckily broke down under the weight of the flying Italians. M. de Tillemont (Hist, des Empereurs, tom. iv. part i. p. 576.) very seriously examines whether, in contradiction to common sense, the testimony of Eusebius and Zosimus ought to prevail over the silence of Lactantius, Nazarius, and the anonymous, but contemporary orator, who composed the ninth Panegyric.
* Zosimus, l. ii. p. 86–88, and the two Panegyrics, the former of which was pronounced a few months afterwards, afford the clearest notion of this great battle. Lactantius, Eusebius, and even the Epitomes, supply several useful hints.
* Zosimus, the enemy of Constantine, allows (l. ii. p. 88) that only a few of the friends of Maxentius were put to death; but we may remark the expressive passage of Nazarius (Panegyr. Wet. x. 6.), Omnibus qui labefactari statum ejus poterant cum stirpe deletis. The other orator (Panegyr. Wet. ix. 20, 21) contents himself with observing, that Constantine, when he entered Rome, did not imitate the cruel massacres of Cinna, of Marius, or of Sylla.
‘See the two Panegyrics, and the laws of this and the ensuing year, in the Theodosian Code.