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

amphitheatre, and a numerous train of horses, with their rich trappings, was bestowed as an extraordinary gift on the victorious charioteers of the circus. While he indulged the people of Constantinople, and received the addresses of foreign kings, the nephew of Justin assiduously cultivated the friendship of the senate. That venerable name seemed to qualify its members to declare the sense of the nation, and to regulate the succession of the imperial throne: the feeble Anastasius had permitted the vigour of government to degenerate into the form or substance of an aristocracy; and the mititary officers who had obtained the senatorial rank, were followed by their domestic guards, a band of veterans, whose arms or acclamations might fix in a tumultuous moment the diadem of the East. The treasures of the state were lavished to procure the voices of the senators; and their unanimous wish, that he would be pleased to adopt Justinian for his colleague, was communicated to the emperor. But this request, which too clearly admonished him of his approaching end, was unwelcome to the jealous temper of an aged monarch, desirous to retain the power which he was incapable of exercising; and Justin, holding his 'purple with both his hands, advised them to prefer, since an election was so profitable, some older candidate. Notwithstanding this reproach, the senate proceeded to decorate Justinian with the royal epithet of nobilissimus; and their decree was ratified by the affection or the fears of his uncle. After some time the languor of mind and body, to which he was reduced by an incurable wound in his thigh, indispensably required the aid of a guardian. He summoned the patriarch and senators; and in their presence solemnly placed the diadem on the head of his nephew, who was conducted from the palace to the circus, and saluted by the loud and joyful applause of the people. The life of Justin was prolonged about four months, but from the instant of this ceremony, he was considered as dead to the empire, which acknowledged Justinian, in the forty-fifth year of his age, for the lawful sovereign of the East.*

* The reign of the elder Justin may be found in the three Chronicles of Marcellinus, Victor, and John Malalas, (tom. ii, p. 130—150) tha last of whom (in spite of Hody, Prolegom. No. 14. 39, edit . Oxon lived soon after Justinian, (Jorlin's Remarks, &c., vol. iv, p. 383); in the ecclesiastical history of Evagrius (1 . 4, c. 1—3.9), and the Excerpta of Theodoras (Lector. No. £7), and in Cedrenus (p. 362—366), and VOL. IV. U

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

From his elevation to his death, Justinian governed the Soman empire thirty-eight years seven months and thirteen days. The events of his reign, which excite our curious attention by their number, variety, and importance, are diligently related by the secretary of Belisarius, a rhetorician whom eloquence had promoted to the rank of senator and prefect of Constantinople. According to the vicissitudes of courage or servitude, of favour or disgrace, Prccopius * successively composed the history, the panegyric, and the satire, of his own times. The eight books of the Persian, Vandalic, and Gothic wars,f which are continued in the five books of Agathias, deserve our esteem as a laborious and successful imitation of the Attic, or at least of the Asiatic, writers of ancient Greece. His facts are collected from the personal experience and free conversation of a soldier, a statesman, and a traveller; his style continually aspires, and often attains, to the merit of strength and elegance; his reflections, more especially in the speeches, which he too frequently inserts, contain a rich fund of political knowledge; and the historian, excited by the generous ambition of pleasing and instructing posterity, appears to disdain the prejudices of the people, and the flattery of courts. The writings of Procopius % were read and

Zonaras (1. 14, p. 58—61) who may pass for an original. [Clinton (F. R. i. 817) confirms Gibbon's opinion respecting Malalas.—En.]

* See the characters of Procopius and Agathias in La Mothe le Vayer (tom, viii, p. 144—174), Vossius (de Historicis Grsecis, 1 . 2, c. 22), and Fabricius (Bibliot. Grsec. 1. 5, c. 5, tom, vi, p. 248—278.) Their religion, an honourable problem, betrays occasional conformity, with a secret attachment to Paganism and philosophy.

+ In the seven first books, two Persic, two Vandalic, and three Gothic, Procopius has borrowed from Appian the division of provinces and wars: the eighth book, though it bears the name of Gothic, is a miscellaneous and general supplement down to the spring of the year 553, from whence it is continued by Agathias till 559. (Pagi, Critica, A.d. 579, No. 5.) [Joannes Epiphaniensis also continued Procopius to A.d. 592. Clinton, F. R. i. 801. 841, ii. 334.—Ed.]

X The literary fate of Procopius has been somewhat unlucky. 1. His books de Bello Gothico were stolen by Leonard Aretin, and published (Fulginii, 1470; Venet. 1471, apud Janson; Maittaire, Annal. Typograph. tom, i, edit, posterior, p. 290. 304. 279. 299) in his own name. (See Vossius de Hist. Lat. 1. 3, c. 5, and the feeble defence of the Venice Giornale de Letterati, tom, xix, p. 207.) 2. His works were mutilated by the first Latin translators, Christopher Persona (Giornale, tom, xix, p. 340—348) and Raphael de Volaterra, (Huet de Claris. Interpretibus, p. 166) who did not even consult the MS. of the Vatican library, of which they were prefects. (Aleman. A.d. 527-565.] PEOCOPrus. 291

applauded by his contemporaries ;* but although he respectfully laid them at the foot of the throne, the pride of Justinian must have been wounded by the praise of a hero, who perpetually eclipses the glory of his inactive sovereign. The conscious dignity of independence was subdued by the hopes and fears of a slave; and the secretary of Belisarius laboured for pardon and reward in the six books of the imperial edifices. .He had dexterously chosen a subject of apparent splendour, in which he could loudly celebrate the genius, the magnificence, and the piety of a prince, who, both as a conqueror and legislator, had surpassed the puerile virtues of Themistocles and Cyrus.f Disappointment might urge the flatterer to secret revenge; and the first glance of favour might again tempt him to suspend and suppress a libel,J in which the Koman Cyrus is degraded into an

in Pnefat. Anecdot.) 8. The Greek text was not printed till 1607, by Hoeschelius of Augsburgh. (Dictionnaire de Bayle, tom, ii, p. 782.) 4. The Paris edition was imperfectly executed by Claude Maltret, a Jesuit of Thoulouse, in 1663, far distant from the Louvre press and the Vatican MS. from which, however, he obtained some supplements. His promised commentaries, &c. have never appeared. The Agathias of Leyden (1594) has been wisely reprinted by the Paris editor, with the Latin version of Bonaventura Vulcanius, a learned interpreter. (Huet, p. 176.)

* Agathias in Pracfat. p. 7, 8, 1 . 4, p. 137. Evagrius, 1 . 4, c. 12. See likewise Photius, cod. 63, p. 65.

+ Kipoti iraict'ta. (says he, Praefat. ad 1. de Edificiis ?repi KTia/iaTwv) is no more than Kvpov iratSta—a pun! In these five books, Procopius affects a Christian, as well as a courtly, style.

X Procopius discloses himself (Prsefat. ad Anecdot. c. 1, 2. 5), and the anecdotes are reckoned as the ninth book by Suidas (tom, iii, p. 186, edit. Kusters). The silence of Evagrius is a poor objection. Baronius (a.d. 548, No. 24) regrets the loss of this secret history: it was then in the Vatican library, in his own custody, and was first published sixteen years after his death, with the learned, but partial, notes of Nicholas Alemannus. (Lugd. 1623.) [When Alemannus discovered and published the Anecdota, he gave them the title of Historia Arcana. It had long been known that such a work was written, for the empress Eudocia noticed it in the eleventh century. But it remained hidden from the world till it was published at Lyons in 1623. When it appeared, some questioned its authenticity, others denied the authorship of Procopius. Thomas Rivinus attacked it by his Defensio Justiniani, and was followed by Balthazar Bonifacius and Johann Eichel. After many years of controversy, it seems to be now geLerally admitted that, however discreditable to Procopius, it was his pen that indited all the contradictory narratives, and that Gibbon took the right course in endeavouring to sift truth out of the whole

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

odious and contemptible tyrant, in which both the emperor and his consort Theodora are seriously represented as two dsemons, who had assumed a human form for the destruction of mankind.* Such base inconsistency must doubtless sully the reputation, and detract from the credit, of Procopius: yet, after the venom of his malignity has been suffered to exhale, the residue of the anecdotes, even the most disgraceful facts, some of which had been tenderly hinted in his public history, are established by their internal evidence, or the authentic monuments of the times.f From these various materials, I shall now proceed to describe the reign ot Justinian, which will deserve and occupy an ample space. The present chapter will explain the elevation and character of Theodora, the factions of the circus, and the peaceful administration of the sovereign of the East. In the three succeeding chapters, I shall relate the wars of Justinian which achieved the conquest of Africa and Italy; and I shall follow the victories of Belisarius and Narses, without disguising the vanity of their triumphs, or the hostile virtue of the Persian and Gothic heroes. The series of this and the following volume will embrace the jurisprudence and theology of the emperor; the controversies and sects which still divide the Oriental church; the reformation of the Roman law, which is obeyed or respected by the nations of modern Europe.

I. In the exercise of supreme power, the first act of Justinian was to divide it with the woman whom he loved, the famous Theodora,J whose strange elevation cannot be applauded as the triumph of female virtue. Under the reign

heterogeneous mass, and so trace a correct picture of the times and the principal actors in them.—Ed.] * Justinian an ass—

the perfect likeness of Domitian—(Anecdot. c. 8)—Theodora's lovers driven from her bed by rival dsemons—her marriage foretold with a great dccmon—a monk saw the prince of the dsemons, instead of Justinian. on the throne—the servants who watched, beheld a face without features, a body walking without a head, &c. &c. Procopius declares his own and his friends' belief in these diabolical stories (c. 12). + Montesquieu (Considerations sur la Grandeur

et la Decadence des Romains, c. 20) gives credit to these anecdotes as connected, 1. With the weakness of the empire; and, 2. With the instability of Justinian's laws. J For the life and manners

oi the empress Theodora, see the Anecdotes; more especially c. 1—5. 9—17, with the learned notes of Al em annus—a reference which is always implied. [With no better authority for them than the AneoA.D. 527-565.] THE EMPBESS THEODOBA.

of Anastasius, the care of the wild beasts maintained by the green faction at Constantinople, was intrusted to Acacius, a native of the isle of Cyprus, who, from his employment, was surnamed the master of the bears. This honourable office was given after his death to another candidate, notwithstanding the diligence of his widow, who had already provided a husband and a successor. Acacius had left three daughters, Comito,* Theodoea, and Anastasia, the eldest of whom did not then exceed the age of seven years. On a solemn festival, these helpless orphans were sent by their distressed and indignant mother, in the garb of suppliants, into the midst of the theatre; the green faction received them with contempt, the blues with compassion; and this difference, which sunk deep into the mind of Theodora, was felt long afterwards in the administration of the empire.. As they improved in age and beauty, the three sisters were successively devoted to the public and private pleasures of the Byzantine people; and Theodora, after following Comito on the stage, in the dress of a slave, with a stool on her head, was at length permitted to exercise her independent talents. She neither danced, nor sang, nor played on the flute; her skill was confined to the pantomime arts; she excelled in buffoon characters, and as often as the comedian swelled her cheeks, and complained with a ridiculous tone and gesture of the blows that were inflicted, the whole theatre of Constantinople resounded with laughter and applause. The beauty of Theodoraf was

dota, some of the most flagrant parts of Theodora's early life ought to have been suppressed. Such shameless exhibitions of the lowest depravity are too revolting to be credible; they cannot have been tolerated by the people of Constantinople, however licentious their manners. It is scarcely probable that Justinian, if he bad married, would have so exalted and honoured one who had sunk to the verj lowest depth of public infamy; and although no safe inferences can bj drawn from the complimentary language of diplomacy, still it may be doubted whether Amalasuntha and Gundelinda, but more especially the former, would have subscribed their names to the obsequious and flattering terms in which their minister Cassiodorus addressed Theodora, had she been the notorious monster described by Procopius. See Var. x. 10, 20, 21, and 23.—Ed.]

* Comito was afterwards married to Sittas, duke of Armenia, the father perhaps, at least she might be the mother, of the empress Sophia. Two nephews of Theodora may be the sons of Anastasia. (Aleman. p. 30, 31). + Her statue was raised at Con

stantinople, on a porphyry column. See Procopius (de Edif. 1. 1,

« ForrigeFortsett »