Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

serve the name and memory of its founder. The body of Constantine, adorned with the vain symbols of greatness, the purple and diadem, was deposited on a golden bed in one of the apartments of the palace, which for that purpose had been splendidly furnished and illuminated. The forms of the court were strictly maintained. Every day, at the appointed hours, the principal officers of the state, the army, and the household, approaching the person of their sovereign with bended knees and a composed countenance, offered their respectful homage as seriously as if he had been still alive. From motives of policy, this theatrical representation was for some time continued; nor could flattery neglect the opportunity of remarking that Constantine alone, by the peculiar indulgence of heaven, had reigned after his death.49 But this reign could subsist only in empty pageantry; and it factions o was soon discovered that the will of the most absolute monarch “ is seldom obeyed, when his subjects have no longer anything to hope from his favour, or to dread from his resentment. The same ministers and generals who bowed with such reverential awe before the inanimate corpse of their deceased sovereign were engaged in secret consultations to exclude his two nephews, Dalmatius and Hannibalianus, from the share which he had assigned them in the succession of the empire. We are too imperfectly acquainted with the court of Constantine to form any judgment of the real motives which influenced the leaders of the conspiracy; unless we should suppose that they were actuated by a spirit of jealousy and revenge against the praefect Ablavius, a proud favourite, who had long directed the counsels and abused the confidence of the late emperor. The arguments by which they solicited the concurrence of the soldiers and people are of a more obvious nature: and they might with decency, as well as truth, insist on the superior rank of the children of Constantine, the danger of multiplying the number of sovereigns, and the impending mischiefs which threatened the republic, from the discord of so many rival princes, who were not connected by the tender sympathy of fraternal affection. The intrigue was conducted with zeal and secrecy till a loud and

*Funus relatum in urbem sui nominis, quod sane P. R. aegerrime tulit. Aurelius Victor (Caes. 41). Constantine had prepared for himself a stately tomb in the church of the Holy Apostles. Euseb. 1. iv. c. 60. The best, and indeed almost the only, account of the sickness, death, and funeral of Constantine, is contained in the fourth book of his Life, by Eusebius. [The Caesars did not become Augusti till

9th * and the dead emperor nominally reigned in the four intervening mont

unanimous declaration was procured from the troops that they would suffer none except the sons of their lamented monarch to reign over the Roman empire.” The younger Dalmatius, who was united with his collateral relations by the ties of friendship and interest, is allowed to have inherited a considerable share of the abilities of the great Constantine; but, on this occasion, he does not appear to have concerted any measures for supporting, by arms, the just claims which himself and his royal brother derived from the liberality of their uncle.” Astonished and overwhelmed by the tide of popular fury, they seem to have remained, without the power of flight or of resistance, in the hands of their implacable enemies. Their fate was suspended till the arrival of Constantius, the second, and perhaps the most favoured, of the sons of Constantine.

Massacre of The voice of the dying emperor had recommended the care

the princes

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 brother; and conjured hissons 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, 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 Imperial house, served only to convince mankind that these princes were as cold to the endearments of conjugal affection, as they were insensible to the ties of consanguinity and the moving entreaties of youthand innocence. Of so numerous a family Gallus and Julian alone, the two youngest children of Julius Constantius, were saved from the hands of the assassins, 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 councils of his ministers and the irresistible violence of the troops had extorted from his unexperienced youth.*

*Eusebius (l. iv. c. 6) terminates his narrative by this loyal declaration of the troops, and avoids all the invidious circumstances of the subsequent massacre.

* The character of Dalmatius is advantageously, though concisely, drawn by Eutropius (x.9). Dalmatius Caesar prosperrimä indole, neque patruo absinnilis, haud multo post oppressusest factione militari. As both Jerom and the Alexandrian Chronicle mention the third year of the Caesar, which did not commence till the 18th or 24th of September, A.D. 337, it is certain that these military factions continued above four months.

52 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. ; mentions the oath which Constantius had taken for the security of his kinsmen. [The story is very doubtful.]

53 Conjugia sobrinarum diu ignorata, tempora addito percrebuisse. Tac. Ann. xii. 6, and Lipsius ad loc. The #. of the ancient law, and the practice 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 Yáuov 1. ov Yáuwo (Orat. vii. p. 228 (296]). 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 Ecclésiastiques, part iii. c. 5; Fleury, Institutions du Droit Canonique, tom. i. p. 331. Paris, 1767; and Fra Paolo, Istoria del Concilio Trident. l. viii.

*joian (ad S. P. Q. Athen. p. 270 [i. p. 348, ed. Hertl.]) charges his cousin Constantius with the whole guilt of a massacre from which he himself so narrowly escaped. His assertion is confirmed by Athanasius, who, for reasons of a very different nature, was not less an enemy of Constantius (tom. i. p. 856 [ad, mon, 69). Zosimus joins in the same accusation. But the three abbreviators, Eutropius and the Victors, use very qualifying expressions; “sinente potius quam jubente;" “incertum quo suasore;” “vi militum". [But Julian also says Constantius acted under compulsion; cp. Or. i. p. 19.]

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The massacre of the Flavian race was succeeded by a new division of the provinces; which was ratified in a personal interview of the three brothers. 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 preceded that of his birth. The wife of Hormouz remained 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 were at length removed, by the positive assurance 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.”

Sapor, king
of Persia.

A.D. 310
[September]

* Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. l. iv. c. 69. Zosimus, l. ii. p. 117 [39]. Idat. in
Chron. See two notes of Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 1086-1991
p. 66 . The reign of the eldest brother at Constantinople is noticed only in
the Alexandrian Chronicle. [But see App. 15.]
* Agathias, who lived in the sixth century, is the author of this story (l. iv. p.
135, edit. Louvre (p. 262, ed. Bonn). 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). [Tabari does not mention the ceremony; Noldeke, 51-2.]

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 harem, 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 calamities 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 nation, 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 obtained from the fears and gratitude of the Arabs the title of Dhoulacnaf, or protector of the nation.” [Dhū-1-Iknāf) The ambition of the Persian, to whom his enemies ascribe state of the virtues of a soldier and a statesman, was animated by the to: 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,

27 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 E. obliges us to admit the preliminaries, if not the ratification, of the treaty. See Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 420. [An important feature in connexion with these wars is Sapor's persecution of the Christians in his dominion. See Ruinart, Acta sinc. p. 584 sqq., and Görres, Das Christenthum im Sassanidenreiche, in Zeitschr. f. wiss. Theol., vol. 31, 1888, p. 449 sqq.)

15

VOL. II.

« ForrigeFortsett »