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know, that you have acted like a man who cuts off his right hand with his left."*
The luxury of Rome seems to have attracted the long and frequent visits of Valentinian; who was consequentlymore despised at Rome, than in any other part of his dominions. A republican spirit was insensibly revived in the senate, as their authority, and even their supplies, became necessary for the support of his feeble government. The stately demeanour of an hereditary monarch offended their pride; and the pleasures of Valentinian were injurious to the peace and honour of noble families. The birth of the empress Eudoxia was equal to his own, and her charms and tender affection deserved those testimonies of love, which her inconstant husband dissipated in vague and unlawful amours. Petronius Maximus, a wealthy senator of the Anician family, who had been twice consul, was possessed of a chaste and beautiful wife: her obstinate resistance served only to irritate the desires of Valentinian; and he resolved to accomplish them either by stratagem or force. Deep gaming was one of the vices of the court; the emperor, who by chance or contrivance, had gained from Maximus a considerable stim, uncourteously exacted his ring as a security for the debt; and sent it by a trusty messenger to his wife, with an order in her husband's name, that she should immediately attend the empress Eudoxia. The unsuspecting wife of Maximus was conveyed in her litter to the imperial palace; the emissaries of her impatient lover conducted her to a remote and silent bedchamber; and Valentinian violated, without remorse, the laws of hospi
august trinity of children. See Tillemont. Hist, des Emp. tom, vi, p. 240. * Aetium Placidus maetavit semivir amens, is the
expression of Sidonius. (Pauegyr. Avit. 359.) The poet knew the world, and was not inclined to flatter a minister who had injured or disgraced Avitus and Jtajorian, the successive heroes of his song. [Niebuhr (Lectures, 3, 324) refers to Merobaudes, the Latin poet of that age, of whose compositions he was so fortunate as to discover an imperfect manuscript at St. Gall. He was an enthusiastic admirer of ^Etius, as his model, Claudian, was of Stilicho, and sang his praises in some animated verse. The education of his hero, as a youthful hostage in the camp of Alaric, points out the school in which his future greatness was prepared. ^Etius was trained far from the fatal influences that deadened the energies of Rome. Learning, of course, was not to be acquired among such teachers ; but there were formed his fearless nature and a mind full of resources. These availed him on 40
DEATH OF VA1ENTIFIAN III. [CH. XXXV.
tality. Her tears when she returned home; her deep affliction; and her bitter reproaches against her husband, whom she considered as the accomplice of his own sbame, excited Maximus to a just revenge; the desire of revenge was stimulated by ambition; and he might reasonably aspire by the free suffrage of the Roman senate, to the throne of a detested and despicable rival. Valentinian, who supposed that every human breast was devoid, like his own, of friendship and gratitude, had imprudently admitted among his guards several domestics and followers of iEtius. Two of these, of barbarian race, were persuaded to execute a sacred and honourable duty, by punishing with death the assassin of their patron; and their intrepid courage did not long expect a favourable moment. Whilst Valentinian amused himself in the field of Mars, with the spectacle of some military sports, they suddenly rushed upon him with drawn weapons, dispatched the guilty Heraclius, and stabbed the emperor to the heart, without the least opposition from his numerous train, who seemed to rejoice in the tyrant's death. Such was the fate of Valentinian III.* the last Soman emperor of the family of Theodosius. He faithfully imitated the hereditary weakness of his cousin and his two uncles, without inheriting the gentleness, the purity, the innocence, which alleviate in their characters, the want of spirit and ability. Valentinian was less excusable, since he had passions without virtues; even his religion was questionable; and though he never deviated into the paths of heresy, he scandalized the pious Christians by his attachment to the profane arts of magic and divination.
As early as the time of Cicero and Varro, it was the opinion of the Roman augurs, that the twelve vultures, which Romulus had seen, represented the twelve centuries, assigned for the fatal period of his city.f This prophecy,
every emergency, and led him to the eminence he afterwards attained. —Ed.] * With regard to the cause and circumstances of
the deaths of iEtius and Valentinian, our information is dark and imperfect. Procopius (de Bell. Vandal. lib. 1, c. 4, p. 186—188) is a fabulous writer for the events which precede his own memory. His narrative must therefore be supplied and corrected by five or sis Chronicles, none of which were composed in Rome or Italy; and which can only express in broken sentences, the popular rumours, as they were conveyed to Gaul, Spain, Africa, Constantinople, or Alexandria. + This interpretation of Yettius, a celebrated
A.D, 454.] SXUPTOMS OF BECAT A>-D UVIS. 41
disregarded, perhaps, in the season of health and prosperity, inspired the people with gloomy apprehensions, when the twelfth century, clouded with disgrace and misfortune, was almost elapsed ;* and even posterity must acknowledge, with some surprise, that the arbitrary interpretation of an accidental or fabulous circumstance, has been seriously verified in the downfal of the "Western empire. But its fail was announced by a clearer omen than the ilight of vultures; the Roman government appeared every day less formidable to its enemies, more odious and oppressive to its subjects.f The taxes were multiplied with the public distress; economy was neglected in proportion as it became necessary; and the injustice of the rich shifted the unequal burden from themselves to the people, whom they defrauded of the indulgences, that might sometimes have alleviated their misery. The severe inquisition, which confiscated their goods and tortured their persons, compelled the subjects of Valentinian
augur, was quoted by Varro, in the eighteenth book of his Antiquities.
Jam prope fata tui bissenas vulturis alas
See Dubos, Hist. Critique, tom, i, p. 340—346.
+ The fifth book of Salvian is filled with pathetic lamentations, and vehement invectives. His immoderate freedom serves to prove the weakness as well as the corruption of the Roman government. His book
to prefer the more simple tyranny of the barbarians, to fly to the woods and mountains, or to embrace the vile and abject condition of mercenary servants. They abjured and abhorred the name of Roman citizens, which had formerly excited the ambition of mankind. The Armorican provinces of Gaul, and the greatest part of Spain, were thrown into a state of disorderly independence, by the confederations of the Bagaudae; and the imperial ministers pursued, with prescriptive laws, and ineffectual arms, the rebels whom they had made.* If all the barbarian conquerors had been annihilated in the same hour, their total destruction would not have restored the empire of the West: and if Rome still survived, she survived the loss of freedom, of virtue, and of honour.f
CHAPTER XXXVI.—Sack Of Romb By Genseric, Kino Of The
VANDALS.—HIS NAVAL DEPREDATIONS.—SUCCESSION OF THE LAST EMPERORS OF THE WEST, MAXIMUS, AVITUS, MAJOBIAN, SEVERUS, ANTIIEMIU3, OLYBRIUS, GLYCERICS, NEPOS, AUGUSTULUS.—TOTAL EXTINCTION OF THE WESTERN EMPIKE.—REIGN OF ODOACEE, THE FIRST BARBARIAN KING OF ITALY.
The loss or desolation of the provinces, from the ocean to the Alps, impaired the glory and greatness of Rome; her internal prosperity was irretrievably destroyed by the separation of Africa. The rapacious Vandals confiscated the patrimonial estates of the senators, and intercepted the regular subsidies, which relieved the poverty, and encouraged
was published after the loss of Africa (a.d. 439) and before Attila's war (a.d. 451). * The Bagaudae of Spain, who fought
pitched battles with the Roman troops, are repeatedly mentioned in the Chronicle of Idatius. Salvian has described their distress and rebellion in very forcible language. Itaque nomen civium Romanorum . . . nunc ultro repudiatur ac fugitur, nec vile tamen sed etiam abominabile pcene habetur . . . . Et hinc est ut etiam hi qui ad barbaros non confugiunt, barbari tamen esse coguntur, scilicet ut est pars magna Hispanorum, et non minima Gallorum . . . . De Bagaudis nunc mihi sermo est, qui per malos judices et cruentos spoliati, afflicti, necati, postquam jus Romana> libertatis amiserant, etiam honorem Romani nominis perdiderunt .... Vocamus rebelles, vocamus perditos, quos esse compulimus criminosos. De Gubernat. Dei, lib. 5, p. 158, 159.
+ [Gibbon has here uttered forcibly a truth, which other historians confirm. See Schmidt (i, 188) and Niebuhr's Lectures (3, 343). —ed.]
A.D. 430-455.] THEIE NAVAL POWEE. 43
the idleness of the plebeians. The distress of tho Bomnns was soon aggravated by an unexpected attack; and the province, so long cultivated for their use by industrious and obedient subjects, was armed against them by an ambitious barbarian. The Vandals and Alani, who followed the successful standard of Genseric, had acquired a rich and fertile territory, which stretched along the coast above ninety days' journey from Tangier to Tripoli; but their narrow limits "were pressed and confined, on either side, by the sandy desert and the Mediterranean. The discovery and conquest of the black nations, that might dwell beneath the torrid zone, could not tempt the rational ambition of Genseric: but he cast his eyes towards the sea; he resolved to create a naval power, and his bold resolution was executed with steady and active perseverance. The woods of mount Atlas afforded an inexhaustible nursery of timber; his new subjects were skilled in the arts of navigation and ship-building; he animated his daring Vandals to embrace a mode of warfare which would render every maritime country accessible to their arms; the Moors and Africans were allured by the hopes of plunder; and, after an interval of six centuries, the fleets that issued from the port of Carthage again claimed the empire of the Mediterranean. The success of the Vandals, the conquest of Sicily, the sack of Palermo, and the frequent descents on the coast of Lucania, awakened and alarmed the mother of Valentinian, and the sister of Theodosius. Alliances were formed; and armaments, expensive and ineffectual, were prepared for the destruction of the common enemy; who reserved his courage to encounter those dangers which his policy could not prevent or elude. The designs of the Roman government were repeatedly baffled by his artful delays, ambiguous promises, and apparent concessions; and the interposition of his formidable confederate, the king of the Huns, recalled the emperors from the conquest of Africa to the care of their domestic safety. The revolutions of the palace, which left the Western empire without a defender, and without a lawful prince, dispelled the apprehensions, and stimulated the avarice of Genseric. He immediately equipped a numerous fleet of Vandals and Moors, and cast anchor at the mouth of the Tiber, about three months after the death of Valentinian, and the elevation of Maximus to the imperial throne.