Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

the friendship of Theodoric, and was elevated to the rank of his son, according to the barbaric rites of a military adoption.* From the shores of the Baltic, the -<Estians, or Livonians, laid their offerings of native amberf at the feet of a prince, whose fame had excited them to undertake an unknown and dangerous journey of fifteen hundred miles.

have never yet led to any satisfactory conclusion. Those who bore the name had never any lands to call their own; Cellarius assigns no country to them. They are found at times in all regions, from Spain to the Elbe, the Vistula, and the Falus Mseotis; and wherever they are found, some theorist has vainly endeavoured to give them an abiding home. They are seldom known to have engaged in any war by themselves, but generally in concert with different Gothic tribes, or, as mercenaries, in the service of the Roman emperors, who were rarely without a large body of them in their pay. When and how they became extinct is quite unknown. From all that can be ascertained respecting them, it may be inferred that they were never a distinct people, but bands of adventurers, collected at different times, indiscriminately, from all other tribes, to serve any who might hire them, like the condottieri of the Middle Ages. With this their name corresponded. In modern German, Seer denotes an army, and in early Gothic, as used by Xllphilas, it had the form of haarji. Heervolk was an old German term for an armed band; and, in times still more remote, was Haarjifolc, which the Romans, ignorant of its meaning, smoothed into Henili and conceived that it denoted a people. The forces which Odoacer led into Italy were composed of such bands, and their Gothio name caused him to be called king of the Heruli. The letter written by Cassiodorus, in the name of Theodoric, " Regi Herulorum," adopting him as a son and making a present of arms, does not give the idea of one sovereign addressing another, but of a diplomatic condescension towards the ruler of an independent but hireling band, whom the writer wished to attach to his service, by the remembrance of past "solatia," and the prospect of future advantage. See also ch. 41.—Ed.]

* Variarum, iv. 2. The spirit and forms of this martial institution are noticed by Cassiodorus; but he seems to have only translated the sentiments of the Gothic king into the language of Roman eloquence.

+ Cassiodorus, who quotes Tacitus to the iEstians, the unlettered savages of the Baltic (Var. v. 2), describes the amber for which their shores have ever been famous, as the gum of a tree, hardened by the sun, and purified and wafted by the waves. When that singular substance is analyzed by the chemists, it yields a vegetable oil and a mineral acid. [The combined researches of geology and chemistry have ascertained for us the origin and nature of amber more correctly than they were known in Gibbon's time. See Mantell's Medals of Creation, vol. i, p. 182; edit. 1858. The .dSstii were considered by Cellarius to be the maritime portion of the Venedi of the Vistula. Their name, which seems to be of Latin origin, was probably given to them by the Roman amber-merchants, and willingly adopted by the people to please their customers. After they had fled from, of

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

With the country* from whence the Gothic nation derived their origin, he maintained a frequent and friendly correspondence; the Italians were clothed in the rich sablesf of Sweden, and one of its sovereigns, after a voluntary or reluctant abdication, found a hospitable retreat in the palace of Ravenna. He had reigned over one of the thirteen populous tribes who cultivated a small portion of the great island or peninsula of Scandinavia, to which the vague appellation of Thule has been sometimes applied. That northern region was peopled, or had been explored, as high as the sixty-eighth degree of latitude, where the natives of the polar circle enjoy and lose the presence of the sun at each summer and winter solstice during an equal period of forty days.J The long night of his absence or death was the mournful season of distress

associated with, their Slavonic conquerors, it still attached to the territory in the form of Esthen or Esthonia, long one of the ultramarine appendages of Sweden, but afterwards acquired by Russia. The ^Estii were the only possessors of amber, which afforded them the means of a profitable traffic. Their mission to Rome, in the time of Theodoric, was probably more mercantile than political, and designed to revive a commercial intercourse, which the dismantled state of the empire had interrupted. This alone can explain an act of homage which appears to have surprised its object, coming from so distant a people.—Ed.] * Scanzia, or Thule, is described

by Jomandes (c. 3, p. 610—613) and Procopius (Goth. 1. 2, c. 15). Neither the Goth nor the Greek had visited the country; both had conversed with the natives in their exile at Ravenna or Constantinople. [The ancients were so profoundly ignorant of the northern part of Europe, that we are compelled to despair of obtaining information from them on the subject. Pytheas mystified them so much by his tales about Thule, that Polybius, one of the most sagacious of their writers, treated his fables with unqualified scorn aud derision (1 . 34, c. 5). Yet moderns have wasted their time in fruitless endeavours to discover its real situation. Those who supposed Scanzia to be an island, could never have penetrated to the latitude where the suu is hidden for forty days at the winter solstice. The opinion that Scandinavia was the Thule of Pytheas, cannot be maintained.— Ed.] + Saphei-inas pellet. In the time of Jornandes, they

inhabited Suelham, the proper Sweden; but that beautiful race of animals has gradually been driven into the eastern parts of Siberia. See Buffon, (Hist. Nat. tom. xiii, p. 309—313, quarto edition) Pennant, (System of Quadrupeds, vol. i, p. 322—328) Gmelin, (Hist. Gen. des Voyages, tom, xviii, p. 257, 258) and Levesque, (Hist, de Russie, tom. v, p. 165, 166. 514, 515.) [The skins of the sables were not offered as a tribute to Theodoric, like the succinum of the .lEstii. They are now monopolized by the sovereign of Russia, who derives from them a large revenue.—Ed.] J In the system or

romance of M. Bailly, (Lettres sur les Sciences et sur l'Atlantide, A.D. 493-526.] Theodoric's Defensive Waes. 261

and arixiety, till the messengers who had been sent to the mountain-tops, descried the first rays of returning light, and proclaimed to the plain below the festival of his resurrection.* The life of Theodoric represents the rare and meritorious example of a barbarian, who sheathed his sword in the pride of victory and the vigour of his age. A reign of three-andthirty years was consecrated to the duties of civil government, and the hostilities in which he was sometimes involved, were speedily terminated by the conduct of his lieutenants, the discipline of his troops, the arms of hia allies, and even by the terror of his name. He reduced, under a strong and regular government, the unprofitable countries of Bhsetia, Noricum, Dalmatia, and Pannonia, from the source of the Danube and the territory of the Bavarians,t to the petty kingdom erected by the Gepidae on the ruins of Sirmium. His prudence could not safely intrust the bulwark of Italy to such feeble and turbulent neighbours; and his justice might claim the lands which they oppressed, either as a part of his kingdom, or as the inheritance of his father. The greatness of a servant, who was named perfidious because he was successful, awakened the jealousy of the emperor Anastasius; and a war was kindled on the Dacian frontier, by the protection which the Gothic king, in the vicissitude of human affairs, had granted to one of the descendants of Attila. Sabinian, a general illustrious by his own and fathe/'s merit, advanced at the head of ten thousand Eomans; and the provisions and arms, which filled a long train of wagons, were distributed to the fiercest of the Bulgarian tribes. But, in the fields of

tom, i, p. 249—256; tom, ii, p. 114—139) the phoenix of the Edda, and the annual death and revival of Adonis and Osiris, are the allegorical symbols of the absence and return of the sun in the arctic regions. This ingenious writer is a worthy disciple of the great Bufion: nor is it easy for the coldest reason to withstand the magic of their philosophy. * AvrrI rt GoiAtrtuc tI fityiffrtI Twv kopr&v tart,

says Procopius. At present a rude Manicheism (generous enough) prevails among the Samoyedes in Greenland and in Lapland; (Hist, des Voyages, tom. xviii, p. 508, 509; tom. xix, p. 105, 106. 527, 528) yet, according to Grotius, SamojutEe cselum atque astra adorant, numina haud aliis iniquiora (de Rebus Belgicis, 1 . 4, p. 338, folio edition); a sentence which Tacitus would not have disowned.

+ See the Hist. des Peuples Anciens, &c. tom. ix, p. 255—273. 396— 601. The count de Buat was French minister at the court of Bavaria: a liberal curiosity prompted his inquiries into the antiquities of the pountry, and that curiosity was the germ of twelve respectable volumes.

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

Margus, the eastern powers were defeated by the inferior forces of the Goths and Huns; the flower and even the hope of the Roman armies was irretrievably destroyed; and such was the temperance with which Theodoric had inspired his victorious troops, that as their leader had not given the signal of pillage, the rich spoils of the enemy lay untouched at their feet.* Exasperated by this disgrace, the Byzantine court dispatched two hundred ships and eight thousand men to plunder the sea-coast of Calabria and Apulia; they assaulted the ancient city of Tarentum, interrupted the trade and agriculture of a happy country, and sailed back to the Hellespont, proud of their piratical victory over a people whom they still presumed to consider as their Soman brethren.f Their retreat was possibly hastened by the activity of Theodoric; Italy was covered by a fleet of a thousand light vessels,! which he constructed with incredible dispatch; and his firm moderation was soon rewarded by a solid and honourable peace. He maintained with a powerful hand the balance of the West, till it was at length overthrown by the ambition of Clovis; and although unable to assist his rash and unfortunate kinsman the king of the Visigoths, he saved the remains of his family and people, and checked the Franks in the midst of their victorious career. I am not desirous to prolong or repeat§ this narrative of military events, the least interesting of the reign of Theodoric; and shall be content to add, that the Allemanni were protected,^ that an inroad of the Burgundians** was

* See the Gothic transactions on the Danube and in Illyrieum, in Jornandes (o. 58, p. 699), Ennodius (p. 1607—1610), Marcellinus (in Chron. p. 44. 47, 48), and Cassiodorus (in Chron. and Var. iii. 23. 50. iv. 13. vii. 4. 24. viii. 9—11. 21. ix. 8, 9).

+ I cannot iorbear transcribing the liberal and classio style of count Marcellinus. Romanus comes domesticorum, et Rusticus comes Bcholariorum oum centum armatis navibus, totidemque dromonibus, octo millia militum armatorum secum ferentibus, ad devastanda Italise littora processerunt, et usque ad Tarentum antiquissimam civitatem aggressi sunt; remensoque mari inhonestam victoriam quam piratico ausu Romani ex Romania rapuerunt, Anastasio Cscsari reportarunt (in Chron. p. 48). See Variar. i 16. ii. 38.

J See the royal orders and instructions. (Var. iv. 15. v. 16—20.) These armed boats should be still smaller than the thousand vessels of Agamemnon at the siege of Troy. § Vol. iv. p. 174—177.

If Ennodius (p. 1610) and Cassiodorus, in the royal name, (Var. ii. 41) record his salutary protection of the Allemanni.

** [It is scarcely probable that the Burgundians, long engaged in an arduous struggle with their powerful neighbours, the Franks, should AD. 509.] GOTHIC SOVEEEIGNTT ESTABLISHED. 263

severely chastised, and that the conquest of Aries and Marseilles opened a free communication with the Visigoths, who revered him both as their national protector, and as the guardian of his grandchild, the infant son of Alaric. Under this respectable character, the king of Italy restored the prsetorian prefecture of the Gauls, reformed some abuses in the civil government of Spain, and accepted the annual tribute and apparent submission of its military governor, who wisely refused to trust his person in the palace ot Ravenna.* The Gothic sovereignty was established from Sicily to the Danube, from Sirmium or Belgrade to the Atlantic ocean; and the Greeks themselves have acknowledged that Theodoric reigned over the fairest portion of the Western empire.f

The union of the Goths and Romans might have fixed for ages the transient happiness of Italy; and the first of nations, a new people of free subjects and enlightened soldiers, might have gradually arisen from the mutual emulation of their respective virtues. But the sublime merit of guiding or seconding such a revolution, was not reserved for the reign of Theodoric: he wanted either the genius or the opportunities of a legislator ;J and while he indulged the Goths in the enjoyment of rude liberty, he servilely copied the institutions, and even the abuses, of the political system which had been framed by Constantine and his successors. From a tender regard to the expiring prejudices of Eome, the barbarian declined the name, the purple, and the diadem, of the emperors; but he assumed, under the hereditary title of king, the whole substance and plenitude of imperial prerogative.§ His addresses to the Eastern throne were

have invaded the territories of their king's father-in-law. Zedler represents the affair more correctly, when he says that Theodoric, seeing them about to succumb to their assailants, secured a portion of their lands for himself. (Lexicon. 43. 763.)—Ed.]

* The Gothic transactions in Gaul and Spain are represented with gome perplexity in Cassiodoi'us (Var. iii. 32. 38. 41. 43, 44. v. 39), Jornandes (c. 58, p. 698, 699), and Procopius (Goth. 1 . 1, c. 12). I will neither hear nor reconcile the long and contradictory arguments of the Abbe1 Dubos and the count de Buat about the wars of Burgundy.

+ Theophanes, p. 113. J Procopius affirms that no

laws whatsoever were promulgated by Theodoric, and the succeeding kings of Italy. (Goth. 1. 2, c. 6.) He must mean in the Gothic language. A Latin edict of Theodoric is still extant, in one hundred and fifty-four articles. § The image of Theodoric is

engraved on his coins: his modest successors were satisfied with

« ForrigeFortsett »