Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

not called upon to defend them from the repeated injuries of these unfeeling robbers? A tribune who deserts his post is punished with death and deprived of the honours of burial.100 With what justice could I pronounce his sentence, if, in the hour of danger, I myself neglected a duty far more sacred and far more important? God has placed me in this elevated post; his providence will guard and support me. Should I be condemned to suffer, I shall derive comfort from the testimony of a pure and upright conscience. Would to heaven that I still possessed a councillor like Sallust! If they think proper to send me a successor, I shall submit without reluctance ; and had much rather improve the short opportunity of doing good than enjoy a long and lasting impunity of evil." 1M The precarious and dependent situation of Julian displayed his virtues and concealed his defects. The young hero who supported, in Gaul, the throne of Constantius was not permitted to reform the vices of the government; but he had courage to alleviate or to pity the distress of the people. Unless he had been able to revive the martial spirit of the Romans, or to introduce the arts of industry and refinement among their savage enemies, he could not entertain any rational hopes of securing the public tranquillity, either by the peace or conquest of Germany. Yet the victories of Julian suspended, for a short time, the inroads of the Barbarians, and delayed the ruin of the Western Empire. Deicriiiuon His salutary influence restored the cities of Gaul, which had been so long exposed to the evils of civil discord, barbarian war, and domestic tyranny; and the spirit of industry was revived with the hopes of enjoyment. Agriculture, manufactures, and commerce again flourished under the protection of the laws; and the curia, or civil corporations, were again filled with useful and respectable members: the youth were no longer apprehensive of marriage; and married persons were no longer apprehensive of posterity: the public and private festivals were celebrated with customary pomp; and the frequent and secure intercourse of the provinces displayed the image of national prosperity.102 A mind like that of Julian must have felt the general happiness of which he was the author ■ but he viewed

100 [The reading and meaning of this sentence of Julian are uncertain.]

101 Ammian. xvii. 3. Julian. Epistol. xv. [leg. xvii.J edit. Spanheim [497. ed. HertL]. Such a conduct almost justifies the encomium of Mamertinus. Ita illi annl spatia divisasunt, ut am Barbaras domitet, autcivibusjurarestituat; perpetuum professus, aut contra hostem, aut contra vitia, certamen.

102 Libanius, OraL Parental, in Imp. Julian, c. 38, in Fabricius Bibliothec. Graec torn. vii. p. 263, 364.

'with peculiar satisfaction and complacency the city of Paris, the seat of his winter residence, and the object even of his partial affection.103 That splendid capital, which now embraces an ample territory on either side of the Seine, was originally confined to the small island in the midst of the river, from whence the inhabitants derived a supply of pure and salubrious water. The river bathed the foot of the walls; and the town was accessible only by two wooden bridges. A forest overspread the northern side of the Seine; but on the south, the ground, which now bears the name of the university, was insensibly covered with houses, and adorned with a palace and amphitheatre, baths, an aqueduct, and a field of Mars for the exercise for the Roman troops. The severity of the climate was tempered by the neighbourhood of the ocean; and with some precautions, which experience had taught, the vine and fig-tree were successfully cultivated. But in remarkable winters, the Seine was deeply frozen ; and the huge pieces of ice that floated down the stream might be compared, by an Asiatic, to the blocks of white marble which were extracted from the quarries of Phrygia. The licentiousness and corruption of Antioch recalled to the memory of Julian the severe and simple manners of his beloved Lutetia ;104 where the amusements of the theatre were unknown or despised. He indignantly contrasted the effeminate Syrians with the brave and honest simplicity of the Gauls, and almost forgave the intemperance which was the only stain of the Celtic character.106 If Julian could now revisit the capital of France, he might converse with men of science and genius, capable of understanding and of instructing a disciple of the Greeks; he might excuse the lively and graceful follies of a nation whose martial spirit has never been enervated by the indulgence of luxury; and he must applaud the perfection of that inestimable art which softens and refines and embellishes the intercourse of social life.

M* See Julian, in Misopogon. p. 340, 341 [438, 439, ed. Hertl.]. The primitive state of Paris is illustrated by Henry Valesius (ad Ammian. xx. 4), his brother Hadrian Valesius, or de Valois, and M. d'Anville (in their respective Notitias of Ancient Gaul), the AbW de Longuerue, Description de la France, torn. I p. 12, 13, and M. Bonamy (in the Mem. de l'Academie des Inscriptions, torn. xv. p. 656691).

1MTV ^lAn" An«rnay [aovjmwok]. Julian, in Misopogon. p. 340[438, ed. Hertl.]. Leucetia, or Lutetia, was the ancient name of the city which, according to the fashion of the fourth century, assumed the territorial appellation of Parisii.

losjulian. in Misopogon. p. 359, 360 [463, 465, ed. Hertl.].

^

CHAPTER XX

The Motive*, Progress, and Effects of the Conversion of Constantine Legal Establishment and Constitution of the Christian or Catholic Church

The public establishment of Christianity may be considered as one of those important and domestic revolutions which excite the most lively curiosity and afford the most valuable instruction. The victories and the civil policy of Constantine no longer influence the state of Europe; but a considerable portion of the globe still retains the impression which it received from the conversion of that monarch; and the ecclesiastical institutions of his reign are still connected, by an indissoluble chain, with the opinions, the passions, and the interests of the present generation. D.tnofthi In the consideration of a subject which may be examined onstutua with impartiality, but cannot be viewed with indifference, a difficulty immediately arises of a very unexpected nature; that of ascertaining the real and precise date of the conversion of A.d. a* Constantine. The eloquent Lactantius, in the midst of his court, seems impatient' to proclaim to the world the glorious example of the sovereign of Gaul; who, in the first moments of his reign, acknowledged and adored the majesty of the true and only God.2 The learned Eusebius has ascribed the faith of

1 The date of the Divine Institutions of Lactantius has been accurately discussed, difficulties have been started, solutions proposed, and an expedient imagined of two original editions: the former published during the persecution of Diocletian, the latter under that of Licinius. See Dufresnoy, Prefat. p. v. TiUemont, Mem Ecclesiast. torn. vi. p. 465-470. Lardner's Credibility, part ii. vol. vii. p. 78-86. For my own part, I am almost convinced that Lactantius dedicated his Institutions to the sovereign of Gaul, at a time when Galerius, Maximin, and even Licinius, persecuted the Christians; that is, between the years 306 and 311. [The work was probably begun about 304, and finished perhaps by 308, certainly before 311.]

"Lactaat. Divin. Institute i. 1, vii. 27. The first and most important of these passages is indeed wanting in twenty-eight manuscripts; but it is found in nineteen. If we weigh the comparative value of those manuscripts, one of 900 years old, in the king of France's library, may be alleged in its favour; but the passage is omitted in the correct manuscript of Bologna, which the P. de Montfaucon ascribes to the sixth or seventh century (Diarium Italia p. 409). The taste of most of the editors (except Isceus, see Lactam, edit. Dufresnoy, torn. i. p. 596) has felt Constantine to the miraculous sign which was displayed in the heavens whilst he meditated and prepared the Italian expedi- A.d. Sii tion.3 The historian Zosimus maliciously asserts that the emperor had imbrued his hands in the blood of his eldest son, before he publicly renounced the gods of Rome and of his ancestors.4 The perplexity produced by these discordant A.d. authorities is derived from the behaviour of Constantine himself. According to the strictness of ecclesiastical language, the first of the Christian emperors was unworthy of that name, till the moment of his death; since it was only during his last illness that he received, as a catechumen, the imposition of Ad or hands,5 and was afterwards admitted, by the initiatory rites of baptism, into the number of the faithful.6 The Christianity of Constantine must be allowed in a much more vague and qualified sense; and the nicest accuracy is required in tracing the slow and almost imperceptible gradations by which the monarch declared himself the protector, and at length the proselyte, of the church. It was an arduous task to eradicate the habits and prejudices of his education, to acknowledge the divine power of Christ, and to understand that the truth of his revelation was incompatible with the worship of the gods. The obstacles which he had probably experienced in his own mind instructed him to proceed with caution in the momentous change of a national religion; and he insensibly discovered his new opinions, as far as he could enforce them with safety and with effect. During the whole course of his reign, the stream of Christianity flowed with a gentle, though accelerated, motion:

the genuine style of Lactantius. [On these and other minor interpolations, see Brandt's papers in the Sitzungsberichte of the Vienna Academy, 118 and 119; cp. Appendix i.J

» Euseb. in Vit. Constant. I. i. a 27-32.

* Zosimus, 1. ii. p. 104 [c. 29].

1 That rite was always used in making a catechumen (see Bingham's Antiquities, 1. x. c. 1, p. 419; Dom. Chardon, Hist, des Sacremens, torn. i. p. 62) and Constantine received it for the/irst time (Euseb. in Vit. Constant. 1. iv. c. 61) immediately before his baptism and death. From the connexion of these two facts, Valesius (ad loc. Euseb.) has drawn the conclusion, which is reluctantly admitted by Tillemont (Hist des Empereurs, torn. iv. p. 628), and opposed with feeble arguments by Mosheim (p. 968).

• Euseb. in Vit. Constant. 1. iv. c. 61,62, 63. The legend of Constantine's baptism at Rome, thirteen years before his death, was invented in the eighth century, as a proper motive for his donation. Such has been the gradual progress of knowledge that a story of which Cardinal Baronius (Anna). Ecclesiast. A.D. 324, No. 43-49) declared himself the unblushing advocate is now feebly supported, even within the verge of the Vatican. See the Antiquitates Christiana;, torn. ii. p. 232; a work published with six approbations at Rome, in the year 1751, by Father Mamachi, a learned Dominican.

VOL. II. 19

but its general direction was sometimes checked, and sometimes diverted, by the accidental circumstances of the times, and by the prudence, or possibly by the caprice, of the monarch. His ministers were permitted to signify the intentions of their master in the various language which was best adapted to their respective principles ;7 and he artfully balanced the hopes and fears of his subjects by publishing in the same

AD.m year two edicts; the first of which enjoined the solemn observance of Sunday,8 and the second directed the regular consultation of the Aruspices.9 While this important revolution yet remained in suspense, the Christians and the Pagans watched the conduct of their sovereign with the same anxiety, but with very opposite sentiments. The former were prompted by every motive of zeal, as well as vanity, to exaggerate the marks of his favour, and the evidences of his faith. The latter, till their just apprehensions were changed into despair and resentment, attempted to conceal from the world, and from themselves, that the gods of Rome could no longer reckon the emperor in the number of their votaries. The same passions and prejudices have engaged the partial writers of the times to connect the public profession of Christianity with the most glorious or the most ignominious aera of the reign of Constantine.

HiiPMjg Whatever symptoms of Christian piety might transpire in the discourses or actions of Constantine, he persevered till he was near forty years of age in the practice of the established religion ;10 and the same conduct, which in the court of Nicomedia might be imputed to his fear, could be ascribed only to the inclination or policy of the sovereign of Gaul. His liberality restored and enriched the temples of the gods: the medals which issued from his Imperial mint are impressed with the

7 The qufestor, or secretary, who composed the law of the Theodosian Code, makes his master say with indifference, "hominibus supradictae religionis" (1. xvi. tit. ii. leg. i). The minister of ecclesiastical affairs was allowed a more de-out and respectful style, rriv ivQitTpov icat ayturan); Ko0oamcw Ipqinceuif, the legal, most holy, and catholic worship. See Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 1. x. c. 6.

8 Cod. Theodos. L ii. tit. viii. leg. i. Cod. Justinian. 1. iii. tit. xii. leg. iii. Constantine styles the Lord's day dies solis, a name which could not offend the ears of his Pagan subjects.

'Cod. Theod. 1. xvi. tit. x. leg. i. Godefroy, in the character of a commentator, endeavours (torn. vi. p. 257) to excuse Constantine; but the more zealous Baronius (Annal. Eccl. A.D. 321, No. 18) censures his profane conduct with truth and asperity.

10Theodoret (1. i. c. 18) seems to insinuate that Helena gave her son a Christian education; but we may be assured, from the superior authority of Eusebius (in Vit. Constant. L iii. c. 47), that she herself was indebted to, Constantine for the knowledge of Christianity.

« ForrigeFortsett »