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Allured into the the summer in T'he troops
CHAP. would animate his troops by the remembrance of the
victory which, on the same auspicious ground, had
with a considerable body of cavalry, a few days be. CHAP. -fore the battle of Mursa.
XVIII. The city of Mursa, or Essek, celebrated in modern times for a bridge of boats five miles in length over the Mursa. river Drave, and the adjacent morassess?, has been al-A.D
was. Sept. 28. ways considered as a place of importance in the wars of Hungary. Magnentius directing his march towards Mursa, set fire to the gates, and, by a sudden assault, had almost scaled the walls of the town. The vigilance of the garrison extinguished the flames; the approach of Constantius left him no time to continue the operations of the siege: and the emperor soon removed the only obstacle that could embarrass his motions, by forcing a body of troops which had taken post in an adjoining amphitheatre. The field of battle round Mursa was a naked and level plain : on this ground the army of Constantius formed with the Drave on their right; while their left, either from the nature of their disposition, or from the superiority of their cavalry, extended far beyond the right flank of Magnentius83. The troops on both sides remained under arms in anxious expectation during the greatest part of the morning; and the son of Constantine, after animating his soldiers by an eloquent speech, retired into a church at some distance from the field of battle, and committed to his generals the conduct of this decisive day84. They deserved his confidence by the valour and mili, tary skill which they exerted. They wisely began the action upon the left; and advancing their whole wing of cavalry in an oblique line, they suddenly wheeled it
82 This remarkable bridge, which is flanked with towers, and sup. ported on large wooden piles, was constructed, A. D. 1566, by Sultan Solinan, to facilitate the march of his armies into Hungary, See Browne's Travels, and Busching's System of Geography, vol. ii. p. 90.
83 This position; and the subsequent evolutions, are clearly, though concisely, described by Julian, Orat, i. p. 36.
84 Sulpicius Severus, l. ii. p. 405. The emperor passed the day in prayer with Valens, the Arian bishop of Mursa, who gained his confidence by announcing the success of the battle. M. de Tillemont (Hist, des Empereurs, iom iv. p. 1110,) very properly remarks the silence of Julian with regard to the personal prowess of Constantius in the battle of Mursa. The silence of flattery is sometimes equal to the most positive and authen. tic evidence.
CHAP. on the right flank of the enemy, which was unprepared XVIII. A
to resist the impetuosity of their charge. But the Romans of the West soon rallied, by the habits of discipline; and the Barbarians of Germany supported the renown of their national bravery. The engagement soon became general ; was maintained with various and singular turns of fortune; and scarcely ended with the darkness of the night. The signal victory which Constantius obtained is attributed to the arms of his cavalry. His cuirassiers are described as so many massy statues of steel, glittering with their scaly armour, and breaking with their ponderous lances the firm array of the Gallic legions. As soon as the legions gave way, the lighter and more active squadrons of the second line rode sword in hand into the intervals, and completed the disorder. In the mean while, the huge bodies of the Germans were exposed almost naked to the dexterity of the oriental archers ; and whole troops of tbose barbarians were urged by anguish and despair to precipitate themselves into the broad and rapid stream of the Dravers. The number of the slain was computed at fifty-four thousand men, and the slaughter of the conquerors was more considerable than that of the vanquished6; a circumstance which proves the obstinacy of the contest, and justifies the observation of an ancient writer, that the forces of the empire were consumed in the fatal battle of Mursa, by the loss of a veteran army, sufficient to defend the frontiers, or to add new triumpbs to the glory of Rome87. Notwithstanding the invectives of a
85 Julian, Orat. i. p. 36, 37; and Orat. ii. p. 59, 60. Zonaras, tom. ii. 1, xiii. p. 17. Zosimus, I. ii.p. 150-135. The last of these celebrates the dexterity of the archer Menelaus, wlio could discharge three arrows at the same time : an advantage which, according to his apprehension of military affairs, materially contributed to the victory of Constantius.
86 According to Zonaras, Constantius, out of 80,000 men, lost 50.000; and Magnentius lost 24,000 out of 36,000. The other articles of this ac count seem probable and authentic, but the numbers of the tyrant's army must have been mistaken, either by the author or his transcribers. Magnentius had collected the whole foice of the West, Romans and Barbarians, into one formidable body, which cannot fairly he estimated at less than 100,000 men. Julian, Orat. i. p. 31, 35.
87 Ingentes R. I. vires eâ dimicatione consumptæ sunt, ad quælibet bella externa idoneæ, quæ multum triumphorum possent securitatisque conferre. Eutropius, s. 13. The younger Victor expresses himself to the same effect.
servile orator, there is not the least reason to believe CHAP,
XVIII. that the tyrant deserted his own standard in the beginning of the engagement. He seems to have displayed the virtues of a general and of a soldier till the day was irrecoverably lost, and his camp in the pos. session of the enemy. Magnentius then consulted his safety, and throwing away the Imperial ornaments, escaped with some difficulty from the pursuit of the light horse, who incessantly followed his rapid flight from the banks of the Drave to the foot of the Julian Alps88.
The approach of winter supplied the indolence of Conquest Constantius with specious reasons for deferring the a. 02. 3:52. prosecution of the war till the ensuing spring. Magnentius had fixed his residence in the city of Aquileia, and shewed a seeming resolution to dispute the pas. sage of the mountains and morasses which fortified the confines of the Venetian province. The surprisal of a castle in the Alps by the secret march of the Imperialists, could scarcely have determined him to relinquish the possession of Italy, if the inclinations of the people had supported the cause of their tyrants. But the memory of the cruelties exercised by his ministers, after the unsuccessful revolt of Nepotian, had left a deep impression of horror and resentment on the minds of the Romans. That rash youth, the son of the prin. cess Eutropia, and the nephew of Constantine, had seen with indignation the sceptre of the West usurped by a perfidious barbarian. Arming a desperate troop of slaves and gladiators, he overpowered the feeble guard of the domestic tranquillity of Rome, received the homage of the senate, and assuming the title of Augustus, precariously reigned during a tumult of twentyeight days. The march of some regular forces put an
88 On this occasion, we must prefer the unsuspected testimony of Zosi. mus and Zonaras to the flattering assertions of Julian. The younger Vic. tor paints the character of Magnentius in a singular light : “ Sermonis acer, animi tumidi, et immodicè timidus; artifex tamen ad occultandain audaciæ specie formidinem." Is it most likely that in the battle of Mursa his behaviour was governed by nature or by art ? I should incline for the latter.
89 Julian, Orat. i. p. 38, 39. In that place, however, as well as in Oration ii. p. 97, he insinuates the general disposition of the senate, the people, and the soldiers of Italy, towards the party of the emperor.
CHAP. end to his ambitious hopes : the rebellion was extip
guished in the blood of Nepotian, of his mother Eutropia, and of his adherents : and the proscription was extended to all wbo had contracted a fatal alliance with the name and family of Constantine". But as soon as Constantius, after the battle of Mursa, became master of the sea-coast of Dalmatia, a band of noble exiles, who had ventured to equip a fleet in some harbour of the Hadriatic, sought protection and revenge in his victorious camp. By their secret intelligence with their countrymen, Rome and the Italian cities were persuaded to display the banners of Constantius on their walls. The grateful veterans, enriched by the liberality of the father, signalized their gratitude and loyalty to the son. The cavalry, the legions, and the auxiliaries of Italy, renewed their oath of allegiance to Constantius; and the usurper, alarmed by the general desertion was compelled, with the remains of his faithful troops, to retire beyond the Alps into the provinces of Gaul. The detachments, however, which were ordered either to press or to intercept the flight of Magnentius, conducted themselves with the usaal imprudence of success; and allowed bim, in the plains of Pavia, an opportunity of turning on his pursuers, and of gratifying his despair by the carnage of
a useless victory”. Last de The pride of Magnentius was reduced, by repeated fiat and
misfortunes, to sue, and to sue in vain, for peace. He Magnen- first despatched a senator, in whose abilities he contius,
553 fided, and afterwards several bishops, whose holy chaAugust10. racter might obtain a more favourable audience, with
the offer of resigning the purple, and the promise of de. voting the remainder of bis life to the service of the emperor. But Constantius, though he granted fair terms
xiliaries of son: The Signalized the
90. The elder Victor describes in a pathetic manner the miserable con. dition of Rome: “Cujus stolidum ingenium adeo P. R. patribusque exitio fuit, uti passim domus, fora, viæ, templaque, cruore, cadaveribusque opple. rentur bustorum modo." Athanasius (tom. i. p. 677.) deplores the fate of several illustrious victims, and Julian (Orat. ii. p.58.) execrates the cruelty of Marcellinus, the implacable enemy of the house of Constantine.
91 Zosim. l. ii, p. 133. Victor in Epitome. The panegyrists of Con. stantius, with their usual candour, forget to mention this accidental defeat.