« ForrigeFortsett »
her connection with the king of the Huns, the guilty princess had been sent away as an object of horror, from Constantinople to Italy: her life was spared; but the ceremony of her marriage was performed with some obscure and nominal husband, before she was immured in a perpetual prison, to bewail those crimes and misfortunes, which Honoria might have escaped, had she not been born the daughter of an emperor. *
A native of Gaul, and a contemporary, the learned and eloquent Sidonius, who was afterwards bishop of Clermont, had made a promise to one of his friends, that he would compose a regular history of the war of Attila. If the modesty of Sidonius had not discouraged him from the prosecution of this interesting work,t the historian would have related, with the simplicity of truth, those memorable events, to which the poet, in vague and doubtful metaphors, has concisely alluded. I The kings and nations of Germany and Scythia, from the Volga perhaps to the Danube, obeyed the warlike summons of Attila. From the royal village, in the plains of Hungary, his standard moved towards the west; and, after a march of seven or eight hundred miles, he reached the conflux of the Rhine and the Neckar; where he was joined by the Franks, who adhered to his ally, the elder of the sons of Clodion. A troop of light barbarians, who daughter and heiress of the younger Theodosius, would have asserted her right to the eastern empire.
* The adventures of Honoria are imperfectly related by Jornandes, de Successione Regn. c. 97, and de Reb. Get. c. 42, p. 674, and in the Chronicles of Prosper and Marcellinus; but they cannot be made consistent or probable, unless we separate, by an interval of time and place, her intrigue with Eugenius, and her invitation of Attila.
of Exegeras mihi, ut promitterem tibi, Attilä bellum stylo me posteris intimaturum . . . cæperam scribere, sed operis arrepti fasce perspecto, tæduit inchoasse. Sidon, Apoll. 1. 8, epist. 15, p. 246.
Subito cum rupta tumultu
Panegyr. Avit. 319, & ';
roamed in quest of plunder, might choose the winter for the convenience of passing the river on the ice; but the innumerable cavalry of the Huns required such plenty of forage and provisions, as could be procured only in a milder season; the Hercynian forest supplied materials for a bridge of boats; and the hostile myriads were poured, with resistless violence, into the Belgic provinces.* The consternation of Gaul was universal; and the various fortunes of its cities have been adorned by tradition with martyrdoms and miracles. Troyes was saved by the merits of St. Lupus; St. Servatius was removed from the world, that he might not behold the ruin of Tongres; and the prayers of St. Gene. vieve diverted the march of Attila from the neighbourhood of Paris. But as the greatest part of the Gallic cities were alike destitute of saints and soldiers, they were besieged and stormed by the Huns; who practised, in the example of Metz, i their customary maxims of war. They involved, in a promiscuous massacre, the priests who served at the altar,
* The most authentic and circumstantial account of this war is contained in Jornandes, (de Reb. Geticis, c. 36-41, p. 662–672) who has sometimes abridged, and sometimes transcribed, the larger history of Cassiodorus. Jornandes, a quotation which it would be superfluous to repeat, may be corrected and illustrated by Gregory of Tours, 1. 2, c. 5–7, and the Chronicles of Idatius, Isidore, and the two Prospers. All the ancient testimonies are collected and inserted in the Historians of France; but the reader should be cautioned against a supposed extract from the Chronicle of Idatius, (among the fragments of Fredegarius, tom. ii, p. 462,) which often contradicts the genuine text of the Gallician bishop. (The numerous bands, led by Attila, must have forced a passage over the Rhine at many different points. Tongres, Worms, Mentz, Treves, Spires and Strasburg were almost simultaneously stormed. (Schmidt, 1. 175.) Near Rhenen, in Dutch Guelderland, the summit of a lofty hill is surrounded by an ancient rampart, which still bears the name of De Hunnen-Schants, or the Huns' Fort. This was probably erected and garrisoned by them to overawe the Batavi, whose island it commanded.-ED.]
+ The ancient legendaries deserve some regard, as they are obliged to connect their fables with the real history of their own times. See the lives of St. Lupus, St. Anianus, the bishops of Metz, Ste. Genevieve, &c. in the Historians of France, tom. i, p. 644, 645, 649, tom. iii, p. 369.
I The scepticism of the Count de Buat (Hist. des Peuples, tom. vii, p. 539, 540,) cannot be reconciled with any principles of reason or criticism. Is not Gregory of Tours precise and positive in his account of the destruction of Metz ? At the distance of no more than a hundred years, could he be ignorant, could the people be ignorant, of the fate of a city, the actual residence of his sovereigns, the kings of Ausand the infants, who, in the hour of danger, had been providently baptized by the bishop; the flourishing city was delivered to the flames, and a solitary chapel of St. Stephen marked the place were it formerly stood. From the Rhine and the Moselle, Attila advanced into the heart of Gaul : crossed the Seine at Auxerre; and, after a long and laborious march, fixed his camp under the walls of Orleans. He was desirous of securing his conquests by the possession of an advantageous post, which commanded the passage of the Loire; and be depended on the secret invitation of Sangiban, king of the Alani, who had promised to betray the city, and to revolt from the service of the empire. But this treacherous conspiracy was detected and disappointed : Orleans had been strengthened with recent fortifications; and the assaults of the Huns were vigorously repelled by the faithful valour of the soldiers or citizens, who defended the place. The pastoral diligence of Anianus, a bishop of primitive sanctity and consummate prudence, exhausted every art of religious policy to support their courage, till the arrival of the expected succours. After an obstinate siege, the walls were shaken by the battering rams; the Huns had already occupied the suburbs; and the people, who were incapable of bearing arms, lay prostrate in prayer. Anianus, who anxiously counted the days and hours, dispatched a trusty messenger to observe, from the rampart, the face of the distant country. He returned twice, without any intelligence that could inspire hope or comfort; but, in his third report, he mentioned a small cloud, which he had faintly descried at the extremity of the horizon. “It is the aid of God!" exclaimed the bishop, in a tone of pious confidence; and the whole multitude repeated after him, “It is the aid of God!” The remote object, on which every eye was fixed, became each moment larger and more distinct; the Roman and Gothic banners were gradually perceived ; and a favourable wind blowing aside the dust, discovered, in deep array, the impatient squadrons of Ætius and Theodoric, who pressed forward to the relief of Orleans.
tracia ? The learned count, who seems to have undertaken the apos logy of Attila and the barbarians, appeals to the false Idatius, parcens civitatibus Germaniæ et Galliæ; and forgets that the true Idatius had explicitly affirmed, plurimæ civitates effractce, among which he enu. merates Metz.
The facility with which Attila had penetrated into the heart of Gaul, may be ascribed to his insidious policy, as | well as to the terror of his arms. His public declarations were skilfully mitigated by his private assurances; he alternately soothed and threatened the Romans and the Goths; and the courts of Ravenna and Thoulouse, mutually suspi. cious of each other's intentions, beheld, with supine indifference, the approach of their common enemy. Ætius was the sole guardian of the public safety ; but his wisest measures were embarrassed by a faction, which, since the death of Placidia, infested the imperial palace : the youth of Italy trembled at the sound of the trumpet; and the barbarians, who, from fear or affection, were inclined to the cause of Attila, awaited, with doubtful and venal faith, the event of the war. The patrician passed the Alps at the head of some troops, whose strength and numbers scarcely deserved the name of an army.* But on his arrival at Arles, or Lyons, he was confounded by the intelligence, that the Visigoths, refusing to embrace the defence of Gaul, had determined to expect, within their own territories, the formidable invader, whom they professed to despise. The senator Avitus, who, after the honourable exercise of the prætorian prefecture, had retired to his estate in Auvergne, was persuaded to accept the important embassy, which he executed with ability and success. He represented to Theodoric, that an ambitious conqueror, who aspired to the dominion of the earth, could be resisted only by the firm and unanimous alliance of the powers whom he laboured to oppress. The lively eloquence of Avitus inflamed the Gothic warriors, by the description of the injuries which their ancestors had suffered from the Huns; whose implacable fury still pursued .them from the Danube to the foot of the Pyrenees. He strenuously urged, that it was the duty of every Christian to save, from sacrilegious violation, the churches of God and the relics of the saints; that it was the interest of every barbarian, who had acquired a settlement in Gaul, to defend the fields and vineyards which were cultivated for his use,
* Vis liquerat Alpes
Ætius,-tenue, et rarum sine milite ducens
Panegyr. Avit. 328, &c
against the desolation of the Scythian shepherds. Theodoric yielded to the evidence of truth ; adopted the measure at once the most prudent and the most honourable ; and declared, that, as the faithful ally of Ætius and the Romans, he was ready to expose his life and kingdom for the common safety of Gaul.* The Visigoths, who, at that time, were in the mature vigour of their fame and power, obeyed with alacrity the signal of war; prepared their arms and horses, and assembled under the standard of their aged king, who was resolved, with his two eldest sons, Torismond and Theodoric, to command in person his numerous and valiant people. The example of the Goths determined several tribes or nations, that seemed to fluctuate between the Huns and the Romans. The indefatigable diligence of the patrician gradually collected the troops of Gaul and Germany, who had formerly acknowledged themselves the subjects, or soldiers, of the republic, but who now claimed the rewards of voluntary service, and the rank of independent allies; the Læti, the Armoricans, the Breones, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Sarmatians or Alani, the Ripuarians, and the Franks who followed Meroveus as their lawful prince. Such was the various army, which, under the conduct of Ætius and Theodoric, advanced, by rapid marches, to relieve Or. leans, and to give battle to the innumerable host of Attila.f
* The policy of Attila, of Ætius, and of the Visigoths, is imper. fectly described in the Panegyric of Avitus, and the thirty-sixth chapter of Jornandes. The poet and the historian were both biassed by personal or national prejudices. The former exalts the merit and importance of Avitus ; orbis, Avite, salus ! &c. The latter is anxious to shew the Goths in the most favourable light. Yet their agreements when they are fairly interpreted, is a proof of their veracity.
* The review of the army of Ætius is made by Jornandes, c. 36, p. 664, edit. Grot., tom. ii, p. 23, of the Historians of France, with the notes of the Benedictine editor. The Læti were a promiscuous race of barbarians, born or naturalized in Gaul; and the Riparii, or Ripuarii, derived their name from their posts on the three rivers, the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Moselle; the Armoricans possessed the independent cities between the Seine and the Loire. A colony of Saxons had been planted in the diocese of Bayeux; the Burgundians were settled in Savoy; and the Breones were a warlike tribe of Rhætians, to the east of the lake of Constance. [The Burgundians are ranked by Jornandes in the arıny of Ætius, while, in a recent note (p. 14), the quotation from Sidonius places them under the command of Attila. Internal discord had divided the Franks, and there was reason for posting some of them on each side. But no such civil strife disunited the Burgun.