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It is not my intention to detain the reader by expatiating on the variety or the importance of the subject which I have undertaken to treat; since the merit of the choice would serve to render the weakness of the execution still more apparent, and still less excusable. But as I have presumed to lay before the Public a first volume only” of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, it will perhaps be expected that I should explain, in a few words, the nature and limits of my general plan.
The memorable series of revolutions, which, in the course of about thirteen centuries, gradually undermined, and at length destroyed, the solid fabric of human greatness, may, with some propriety, be divided into the three following periods:
I. The first of these periods may be traced from the age of Trajan and the Antonines, when the Roman monarchy, having attained its full strength and maturity, began to verge towards its decline; and will extend to the subversion of the western empire by the barbarians of Germany and Scythia, the rude ancestors of the most polished nations of modern Europe. This extraordinary revolution, which subjected Rome to the power of a Gothic conqueror, was completed about the beginning of the sixth century.
II. The second period of the Decline and Fall of Rome may be supposed to commence with the reign of Justinian, who by his laws, as well as by his victories, restored a transient splendour to the eastern empire. It will comprehend the invasion of Italy by the Lombards; the conquest of the Asiatic and African provinces by the Arabs, who embraced the religion of Mahomet; the revolt of the Roman people against the feeble princes of Constantinople; and the elevation of Charlemagne, who, in the year 800, established the second, or German, empire of the west.
III. The last and longest of these periods includes about six centuries and a half; from the revival of the western empire, till the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, and the extinction of a degenerate race of princes, who continued to assume the titles of Cesar and Augustus after their dominions were contracted to the limits of a single city; in which the language, as well as manners, of the ancient Romans had been long since forgotten. The writer who should undertake to relate the events of this period would find himself obliged to enter into the general history of the Crusades, as far as they contributed to the ruin of the Greek empire; and he would scarcely be able to restrain his curiosity from making some inquiry into the state of the city of Rome, during the darkness and con fusion of the middle ages.
*The first volume of the quarto, which is now contained in the first volume of this octavo edition.
As I have ventured, perhaps too hastily, to commit to the press a work, which, in every sense of the word, deserves the epithet of imperfect, I consider myself as contracting an engagement to finish, most probably in a second volume,” the first of these memorable periods; and to deliver to the public the complete History of the Decline and Fall of Rome, from the age of the Antonines to the subversion of the western empire. With regard to the subsequent periods, though I may entertain some hopes, I dare not presume to give any assurances. The execution of the extensive plan which I have described would connect the ancient and modern history of the world; but it would require many years of health, of leisure, and of perseverance.
Bentick-Street, Feb. 1, 1776
P.S. The entire History, which is now published, of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West abundantly discharges my engagements with the public. Perhaps their favourable opinion may encourage me to prosecute a work, which, however laborious it may seem, is the most agreeable occupation of my leisure hours. Bentick-Street, JMarch 1, 1781.
An author easily persuades himself that the public opinion is still favourable to his labours; and I have now embraced the serious resolution of proceeding to the last period of my original design, and of the Roman empire, the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, in the year 1453. The most patient reader, who computes that three ponderous volumesf have been already employed on the events of four centuries, may, perhaps, be alarmed at the long prospect of nine hundred years. But it is not my intention to expatiate with the same minuteness on the whole series of the Byzantine history. At our entrance into this period, the reign of Justinian, and the conquests of the Mahometans, will deserve and detain our attention; and the last age of Constantinople (the Crusades and the Turks) is connected with the revolutions of modern Europe. From the seventh to the eleventh century, the obscure interval will be supplied by a concise narrative of such facts as may still appear either interesting or important.
Bentick-street, March 1, 1782.
*The Author, as it frequently happens, took an inadequate measure of his growing work. The remainder of the first period has filled two volumes in quarto, being the first and second volumes of this edition. 3 The first two volumes of this edition,
CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
The Extent and Military Force of the Empire, in
Contrast of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius ... ib.
Military Establishment of the Roman Em-
TS- - - - - - ----- ... . . . . . . . . . ib.
aul and Spain ..
Africa o -
Improvement of Agriculture in the Western
Countries of the Empire..
Introduction of Fruits, &c...
The Vine ............
General Plenty ....
Arts of Luxury ..
Foreign Trade....... -
Gold and Silver ..
Decline of Courage ..
of Genius ....
Of the Constitution of the Roman Empire, in the
.dge of the Antonines.
A. D. Pac--
Idea of a Monarchy ..... ------ ----------- 36
Situation of Augustus .. 1b.
He reforms the Senate...... --- 37
Resigns his usurped Power..... ----------- ib.
Power of the Roman Generals .. 38
Lieutenants of the Emperor............. ib.
Division of the Provinces between the Em-
peror and the Senate. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
The former preserves his military Command
Consular and Tribunitian Powers ... ib.
Imperial Prerogatives .......... . 40
The Magistrates. ... ib.
The Senate ....... ------------------ 41
General idea of the Imperial System ...... ib.
Court of the Emperors...... . . . . . . . . . . ib.
Deification ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... ib.
Titles of Augustus and Cesar .... . 42
Character and Policy of Augustus ... ib.
Image of Liberty for the People...... ------ 43
Attempts of the Senate after the Death of
Image of Govern ib.
Their Obedience......... 44
* Designation of a Successo ... ib.
Of Tiberius ......... ... ib.
of Titus ib.
The Race of the Cesars and Flavian Family ib
Peculiar Misery of the Romans under their
His Return to Rome ...... -
His Avarice and Cruelt
His Infamy and Extravagance
193 And by the Senate ib.
TheMemoryof C ib. Ambition of Caracalla.... ------------
A. D. Pac-
The Armies of Britain, Syria, and Pannonia
declare against Julian ....
. Clodius Albinus in Britain
Pescennius Niger in Syria ..
Pannonia and Dalmatia ....
193 Septimus Severus ........
Declared Emperor by the P
Marches into Italy........
Advances towards Rome..
Distress of Julian .
His uncertain Conduct
Is deserted by the Praetorians.. ... 67
Is condemned and executed by Order of the
193–197 Success of Severus against Niger and
against Albinus -----...----
Conduct of the two civil Wars.
Arts of Severus ..........
Towards Albinus ..
Event of the civil Wars
Decided by one or two Battles
Siege of yzantium. ------
Death of Niger and Albinus .. ---
Cruel Consequences of the civil Wars .... i
Animosity of Severus against the Senate ... ib.
The Wisdom and Justice of his Government 71
General Peace and Prosperity........ -
Relaxation of military Discipline. . ib.
New Establishment of the Praetorian Guards 72
The Office of "Praetorian Prefect .......... ib.
The Senate oppressed by military Despotism ib.
New Maxims of the Imperial Prerogative... 73
The Death of Severus—Tyranny of Caracalla—
Usurpation of Macrinus—Follies of Elagabalus
-Pirtues of Alexander Severus—Licentiousness
of the Army—General State of the Roman Finances.
A. D. PAGE
Greatness and Discontent of Severus...... 73
His Wife, the Empress Julia.............. 74
Their two Sons, Caracalla and Geta ...... ib
Their mutual Aversion to each other...... ib.
Three Emperors........ -
208 The Caledonian War
Fingal and his Heroes..
Contrast of the Caledoni
Election and Character of incrinus
Discontent of the Senate,
of the # ---------- -------- 81
Macrinus attempts areformation of the Army ib.
Death of the Empress Julia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Education, Pretensions, and Revolt of Elaga-
219 Picture of Elagabalus
His Superstition. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
His profligate and effeminate Luxury ......
Contempt of Decency, which distinguished
the Roman Tyrants. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..... 85
Discontents of the Army.. -
221 Alexander Severus declared Cesar
gabalus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [b.
of the greatest Calamities.............. no.
Birth and Fortunes of Maximin.. ... 97
His military Service and Honours ib.
235 Conspiracy of Maximin........ ... ib.
Murder of Alexander Severus ... 98
Tyranny of Maximin....... ib.
Oppression of the Provinces. 99
£37 Revolt in Africa ...................... :
Character and Elevation of the two Gordians 100
They solicit the Confirmation of their Au-
thority ... . . . . . . ... . . . . . . ... 101
The Senate ratifies the Election of the Gor-
Declares Maximin a public Enemy........ 102
Assumes the Command of Rome and Italy ib.
Prepares for a civil War ................ ib.
237 Defeat and Death of the two Gordians... ... ib.
238 Marches into Italy .
Election of Maximus and Balbinus by the
Senate ... . . . . . . . . . . . . --
Tumult at Rome ... ---- --------
The younger Gordian is declared Cesar....
Siege of Aquileia..... ib.
289 Murder of Maximin and his Son ... 106
His Portrait ............... . . . ... ib.
Joy of the Roman World ... ib.
Sedition at Rome... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
Discontent of the Praetorian Guards...... ib.
of Maximus and Balbinus ...... ib.
Innocence and Virtues of Gordian. : ib