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354 PBOCLTJS AND HIS 8TICCESS0ES. [OH. XX.
to eternal flames.* In many a volume of laborious controversy, they exposed the weakness of the understanding and the corruption of the heart, insulted human nature in the sages of antiquity, and proscribed the spirit of philosophical inquiry, so repugnant to the doctrine, or at least to the temper, of an humble believer. The surviving sect of the Platonists, whom Plato would have blushed to acknowledge, extravagantly mingled a sublime theory with the practice of superstition and magic; and, as they remained alone in the midst of a Christian world, they indulged a secret rancour against the government of the church and state; whose severity was still suspended over their heads. About a century after the reign of Julian,f Proclus J was permitted to teach in the philosophic chair of the academy; and such was his industry, that he frequently, in the same day, pronounced five lessons, and composed seven hundred lines. His sagacious mind explored the deepest questions of morals and metaphysics, and he ventured to urge eighteen arguments against the Christian doctrine of the creation of the world. But, in the intervals of study, he personally conversed with Pan, -lEsculapius, and Minerva, in whose mysteries he was secretly initiated, and whose prostrate statues he adored, in the devout persuasion that the philosopher, who is a citizen of the universe, should be the priest of its various deities. An eclipse of the sun announced his approaching end; and his life, with that of his scholar Isidore§, compiled by two of their most learned disciples,
Athens. See Clinton, F. H., ii. 169. Theophrastus succeeded Aristotle B.O. 322, and held his chair till 287— Ed.]
* [The Gothic arms were in no way fatal to the schools of Athens. We have seen (eh. 30) how they were respected by Alaric, when he was master of Greece. Nor was it by religion that they were depressed and now finally crushed. Enough has been said in former pages to show that Christianity in its early progress had philosophy for its ally and coadjutor, and that the reason which overthrew Paganism, pioneered the way for a spiritual belief.—-ed.]
+ This is no fanciful era; the Pagans reckoned their calamities from the reign of their hero. Proclus, whose nativity is marked by his horoscope, (a.d. 412, February 8, at C. P.) died one hundred and twenty-four years airb 'lovXiavov BamXe<ng, A.d. 485. (Marin. iu Vita Procli, c. 36.) X The life of Proclus, by Harinus, was
published by Fabricius. (Hamburgh, 1700, et ad calcem Bibliot. Latin. Lond. 1703.) See Suidas (tom, iii, p. 185, 186), Fabricius (Bibliot. Graec. 1. 5, c. 26, p. 449—552), and Brucker (Hist. Crit , Philosoph. tom, ii, p. 319—326). § The life of Isidore
exhibits a deplorable picture of the second childhood of human reason. Yet the golden chain, as it was fondly styled, of the Platonic succession, continued forty-four years from the death of Proclus, to the edict of Justinian,* which imposed a perpetual silence on the schools of Athens, and excited the grief and indignation of the few remaining votaries of Grecian science and superstition. Seven friends and philosophers, Diogenes and Hermias, Eulalius and Priscian, Damascius, Isidore, and Simplicius, who dissented from the religion of their sovereign, embraced the resolution of seeking in a foreign land the freedom which was denied in their native country. They had heard, and they credulously believed, that the republic of Plato was realized in the despotic government of Persia, and that a patriot king reigned over the happiest and most virtuous of nations. They were soon astonished by the natural discovery that Persia resembled the other countries of the globe; that Chosroes, who affected the name of a philosopher, was vain, cruel, and ambitious; that bigotry and a spirit of intolerance prevailed among the Magi; that the nobles were haughty, the courtiers servile, and the magistrates unjust; that the guilty sometimes escaped, and that the innocent were often oppressed. The disappointment of the philosophers provoked them to overlook the real virtues of the Persians; and they were scandalized, more deeply perhaps than became their profession, with the plurality of wives and concubines, the incestuous marriages, and the custom of exposing dead bodies to the dogs and vultures, instead of hiding them in the earth, or consuming them with fire. Their repentance was expressed by a precipitate return, and they loudly declared, that they had rather die on the borders of the empire, than enjoy the wealth and favour of the barbarian. From this journey, however, they derived a benefit which reflects the purest lustre on the character of Chosroes. He required
was composed by Damascius (apud Photium, cod. 242, p. 1028—1076). See the last age of the Pagan philosophers in Brucker (tom, ii, p. 341— 351). [This biography is part of a general history of philosophy and philosophers, written by Damascius before A.d. 526. Besides his collection of preternatural stories referred to by Gibbon in ch. 36, he also produced commentaries on Plato and Aristotle. (Clinton, F. B. i, 743; ii, 327.)—Ed.] * The suppression of the schools of Athens
is recorded by John Malalas (tom, ii, p. 187, sub Decio Cos. So1.) and an anonymous Chronicle in the Vatican library (apud. Aleman. p. 106).
356 EOMAN CONSULSHIP EXTINGUISHED [cH. XL.
that the seven sages, who had visited the court of Persia, should be exempted from the penal laws which Justinian enacted against his Pagan subjects; and this privilege, expressly stipulated in a treaty of peace, was guarded by the vigilance of a powerful mediator.* Bimplicius and his companions ended their lives in peace and obscurity; and as they left no disciples, they terminate the long list of Grecian philosophers, who may be justly praised, notwithstanding their defects, as the wisest and most virtuous of their contemporaries. The writings of Simplicius are now extant. His physical and metaphysical commentaries on Aristotle have passed away with the fashion of the times; but his moral interpretation of Epictetus is preserved in the library of nations, as a classic book, most excellently adapted to direct the will, to purify the heart, and to confirm the understanding, by a just confidence in the nature both of G-od and man.
About the same time that Pythagoras first invented the appellation of philosopher, liberty and the consulship were founded at Rome by the elder Brutus. The revolutions of the consular office, which may be viewed in the successive lights of a substance, a shadow, and a name, have been occasionally mentioned in the present history. The first magistrates of the republic had been chosen by the people, to exercise, in the senate and in the camp, the powers of peace and war, which were afterwards translated to the emperors. But the tradition of ancient dignity was long revered by the Eomans and barbarians. A Gothic historian applauds the consulship of Theodoric as the height of all temporal glory and greatness ;t the king of Italy himself congratulates those annual favourites of fortune, who, without the cares, enjoyed the splendour of the throne; and at the end of a thousand years, two consuls were created by the sovereigns of Eome and Constantinople, for the sole purpose of giving a date to the year, and a festival to the people. But the expenses of this festival, in which the
* Agathias (1 . 2, p. 69—71 Velates this curious story. Chosroes ascended the throne in the year 531, and made his first peace with the Romans in the beginning of 533, a date moat compatible with his young fame and the old age of Isidore. (Asseman. Bibliot. Orient, tom. iii, p. 404. Pagi, tom. i:, p. 543. 550.)
+ Cassiodor. Variarum Epist. 6. 1. Jornandes, c. 57, p. 696, edit. Grot. Quod summum bonum primumque in mundo decus edicitur.
wealthy and the vain aspired to surpass their predecessors, insensibly arose to the enormous sum of four - score thousand pounds; the wisest senators declined a useless honour, which involved the certain ruin of their families; and to this reluctance I should impute the frequent chasms in the last age of the consular Basti. The predecessors of Justinian had assisted from the public treasures the dignity of the less opulent candidates; the avarice of that prince preferred the cheaper and more convenient method of advice and regulation.* Seven processions or spectacles were the number to which his edict confined the horse and chariot-races, the athletic sports, the music, and pantomimes of the theatre, and the hunting of wild beasts; and small pieces of silver were discreetly substituted to the gold medals, which had always excited tumult and drunkenness, when they were scattered with a profuse hand among the populace. Notwithstanding these precautions and his own example, the succession of consuls finally ceased in the thirteenth year of Justinian, whose despotic temper might be gratified by the silent extinction of a title which admonished the Romans of their ancient freedom.f Yet the annual consulship still lived in the minds of the people: they fondly expected its speedy restoration; they applauded the gracious condescension of successive princes, by whom it was assumed in the first year of their reign; and three centuries elapsed, after the death of Justinian, before that obsolete dignity, which had been suppressed by custom, could be abolished by law.J The imperfect mode of distinguishing each year by the name of a magistrate, was usefully supplied by the date of a permanent era: the creation of the world, according to the Septuagint version, was adopted by the Greeks ;§ and the Latins, since the ago
* See the regulations of Justinian (Novell. 105), dated at Constantinople, July 5, and addressed to Strategius, treasurer of the empire.
f Proeopius, in Anecdot. a 26. Aleraan. p. 106. In the eighteenth year after the consulship of Basilius, according to the reckoning of Marcellinus, Victor, Marius, &c. the secret history was composed, and, in the eyes of Proeopius, the consulship was finally abolished.
J By Leo the philosopher. (Novell. 94, A.d. 886—911.) See Pagi (Dissertat. Hypatica, p. 325—362) and Ducange (Gloss. Graec. p. 1635, 1636). Even the title was vilified; consulatus codicilli . . . vilescunt, says the emperor himself. § According to Julius Afrieanus,
&c. the world was created the first of September, five thousand five 358 JUSTINIAN EESOLVES TO [CH. XLI.
of Charlemagne, have computed their time from the birth of Christ*
CHAPTER XLI.—Conquests Of Justinian In The West.—Character
AND FIRST CAMPAIGNS OF BELISARIUS.—HE INVADES AND SUBDUES
THE VANDAL KINGDOM OF AFRICA. HIS TRIUMPH. THE GOTHIC
WAR.—HE RECOVERS SICILY, NAPLES, AND ROME.—SIEGE OF ROME BY THE GOTHS. — THEIR RETREAT AND LOSSES. — SURRENDER OF RAVENNA.—GLORY OF BELISAEIUS.—HIS DOMESTIC SHAME AND MISFORTUNES.
"when Justinian ascended the throne, about fifty years after the fall of the Western empire, the kingdoms of the Goths and Vandals had obtained a solid, and, as it might seem, a legal establishment, both in Europe and Africa. The titles which Roman victories had inscribed, were erased with equal justice by the sword of the barbarians; and their successful rapine derived a more venerable sanction from time, from treaties, and from the oaths of fidelity, already repeated by a second or third generation of obedient subjects. Experience and Christianity had refuted the superhundred and eight years, three months, and twenty-five days before the birth of Christ; (see Pezron, Antiquity des Tems defendue, p. 20— 28) and this era has been used by the Greeks, the Oriental Christians, and even by the Russians, till the reign of Peter I. The period, however arbitrary, is clear and convenient. Of the seven thousand two hundred and ninety-six years which are supposed to elapse since the creation, we shall find three thousand of ignorance and darkness; two thousand either fabulous or doubtful; one thousand of ancient history, commencing with the Persian empire, and the republics of Rome and Athens; one thousand from the fall ol the Roman empire in the west to the discovery of America; and the remaining two hundred and ninety-six will almost complete three centuries of the modern state of Europe and mankind. I regret this chronology, so far preferable to our double and perplexed method of counting backwards and forwards the years before and after the Christian era. [The chronology of archbishop Usher (Annales Vet. Test. p. l)fixes the day of creation on Sunday, the 23rd October, 4004 years before the commencement of the Christian era. The early state of our race must necessarily be hidden in impenetrable darkness. What we can discover, may be divided into two thousand years of progress, beginning in fable, brightening into tradition, and clearing up into history; next twelve hundred years of retrogression into an almost pristine barbarism, and then about five hundred of renewed progress.—Ed.] * The era of the
world has prevailed in the East since the sixth general council (ad.