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unbounded liberality in a scanty fortune. He followed the standard of iEtius, contributed to his success, shared, and sometimes eclipsed, his glory, and at last excited the jealousy of the patrician, or rather of his wife, who forced him to retire from the service.* Majorian, after the death of .iEtius, was recalled and promoted; and his intimate connection with count Ricimer was the immediate step by which he ascended the throne of the western empire. During the vacancy that succeeded the abdication of Avitus, the ambitious barbarian, whose birth excluded him from the imperial dignity, governed Italy, with the title of patrician; resigned to his friend the conspicuous station of mastergeneral of the cavalry and infantry; and, after an interval of some months, consented to the unanimous wish of the Romans, whose favour Majorian had solicited by a recent victory over the Allemanni.f He was invested with the purple at Ravenna; and the epistle which he addressed to the senate will best describe his situation and his sentiments. "Your election, conscript fathers! and the ordinance of the most valiant army, have made me your emperor.J May tho
* She pressed his immediate death, and was scarcely satisfied with his disgrace. It should seem, that iEtius, like Bolisarius and Marlborough, was governed by his wife; whose fervent piety, though it might work miracles (Gregor. Turon. lib. 2, c. 7, p. 162) was not incompatible with base and sanguinary counsels.
+ The Allemanni had passed the Rhretian Alps, and were defeated in the Campi Canini, or Valley of Bellinzone, through which the Tesin flows, in its descent from Mount Adula, to the Lago Maggiore. (Cluver. Italia Antiq. tom, i, p. 100, 101.) This boasted victory over nine hundred barbarians (Panegyr. Majorian. 373, &c.) betrays the extreme weakness of Italy.
J Imperatorem me factum P. C. electionis vestrae arbitrio, et fortis8imi exercitus ordinatione agnoscite. (Novell. Majorian. tit. 3, p. 34, ad calcem Cod. Theodos.) Sidonius proclaims the unanimous voice of the empire.
Postquam ordine vobis
Ordo omnis regnum dederat; plebs, curia, miles,
Et coUega simul. 3S6.
This language is ancient and constitutional; and we may observe, that the clergy were not yet considered as a distinct order of the state. [The loose expressions of a poet do not warrant an inference so strong as this. In the common acceptation of the phrase, the Christian priesthood had long constituted a " distinct order of the state." This is amply proved by Neander (Hist. of Chris, vol. iii, 195, 197, 207). Nor is the language of Sidonius here "constitutional." The constitution of imperial Rome never gave either the people or the army a voice in the election of an emperor; this was left to the senate, whose voice, although CO EPISTLE OF MAJOEIAN TO THE SENATE. [CH. XXXVI.
propitious Deity direct and prosper the counsels and events of my administration to your advantage, and to the public welfare! For my own part, I did not aspire, I have submitted, to reign; nor should I have discharged the obligations of a citizen, if I had refused, with base and selfish ingratitude, to support the weight of those labours which were imposed by the republic. Assist, therefore, the prince whom you have made; partake the duties which you have enjoined; and may our common endeavours promote the , happiness of an empire, which I have accepted from your hands. Be assured, that, in our times, justice shall resume her ancient vigour, and that virtue shall become not only innocent, but meritorious. Let none, except the authors themselves, be apprehensive of delations,* which, as a subject, I have always condemned, and, as a prince, will severely punish. Our own vigilance, and that of our father, the patrician Richner, shall regulate all military affairs, and provide for the safety of the Roman world, which we have saved from foreign and domestic enemies.f You now understand the maxims of my government; you may confide in the faithful love and sincere assurances of a prince, who has formerly been the companion of your life and dangers; who still glories in the name of senator, and who is anxious that you should never repent of the judgment which you have pronounced in his favour." The emperor, who, amidst the ruins of the Roman world, revived the ancient language of law and liberty, which Trajan would not have disclaimed, must have derived those generous sentiments from his own heart, since they were not suggested to his imitation by the customs of his age, or the t example of his predecessors.J
soon virtually nullified, was to th.e last formally respected. In the case of Avitus, the miles, to whom he owed his elevation, was the Gothic warrior of Theodoric, and in that of Marjorian, the foreign mercenary, whose interference no constitutional provisions could have authorized.—Ed.] * Either dilationes,
.or delationes, would afford a tolerable reading; hut there is much more sense and spirit in the latter, to which I have therefore given the preference. + Ab externo hoste et a domestica clado
liberavimus: by the latter, Majorian must understand the tyranny of Avitus; whose death he consequently avowed as a meritorious act. On this occasion, Sidonius is fearful and obscure; he describes the twelve Csesars, the nations of Africa, &c., that he may escape the dangerous name of Avitus. (305—369.) J See the whole edict
or epistle of Majorian to the senate. (Novell, tit. i, p. 84.) Yet the
The private and public actions of Majorian are very imperfectly known; but his laws, remarkable for an original cast of thought and expression, faithfully represent the character of a sovereign who loved his people, who sympathized in their distress, who had studied the causes of the decline of the empire, and who was capable of applying (as lar as such reformation was practicable) judicious and effectual remedies to the public disorders.* His regulations concerning the finances manifestly tended to remove, or at least to mitigate, the most intolerable grievances. I. From the first hour of his reign, he was solicitous (I translate his own words) to relieve the weary fortunes of the provincials, oppressed by the accumulated weight of indictions and superindictions.f With this view, he granted a universal amnesty, a final and absolute discharge of all arrears of tribute, of all debts, which, under any pretence, the fiscal officers might demand from the people. This wise dereliction of obsolete, vexatious, and unprofitable claims, improved and purified the sources of the public revenue; and the subject, who could now look back without despair, might labour with hope and gratitude for himself and for his country. II. In the assessment and collection of taxes, Majorian restored the ordinary jurisdiction of the provincial magistrates; and suppressed the extraordinary commissions which hadbeen introduced, in the name of the emperor himself, or of the prsetorian prefects. The favourite servants, who obtained such irregular powers, were insolent in their behaviour, and arbitrary in f&eir demands: they affected to despise the subordinate tribunals, and they were discontented if their fees and profits did not twice exceed the sum which they condescended to pay into the treasury. One instance of their extortion would appear incredible, were it not authenticated by the legislator himself. They exacted the whole payment in gold: but they refused the current coin of the empire, and would accept only such ancient
expression, rerjnwm nostrum, bears some taint of the age, and does not mix kindly with the word respublicd, which he frequently repeats.
* See the laws of Majorian (they are only nine in number, but very long and various) at the end of the Theodosian Code, Novell, lib. 4. p. 82—37. Godefroy has not given any commentary on these additional pieces. + Fessas provincialium varia atque multiplici tributorum exactions fortunas, et extraordinariis fiscalium solutionum oneribus attritas, &c. Novell. Majorian. tit . 4, p. 34.
62 COEEECTION OF MAGISTERIAL ABUSES. [CH. XXXVI.
pieces as were stamped with the names of Faustina or the Autonines. The subject, who was unprovided with these curious medals, had recourse to the expedient of compounding with their rapacious demands; or, if he succeeded ra the research, his imposition was doubled, according to the weight and value of the money of former times.* III. "The municipal corporations (says the emperor), the lesser senates (so antiquity has justly styled them), deserve to be considered as the heart of the cities, and the sinews of the republic. And yet so low are they now reduced, by the injustice of magistrates and the venality of collectors, that many of their members, renouncing their dignity and their country, have taken refuge in distant and obscure exile." He urges, and even compels, their return to their respective cities; but he removes the grievance which had forced them to desert the exercise of their municipal functions. They are directed, under the authority of the provincial magistrates, to resume their office of levying the tribute; but, instead of being made responsible for the whole sum assessed on their district, they are only required to produce a regular account of the payments which they have actually received, and of the defaulters who are stiil indebted to the public. IV. But Majorian was not ignorant that these corporate bodies were too much inclined to retaliate the injustice and oppression which they had suffered; and he therefore revives the useful office of the defenders of cities. He exhorts the people to elect, in a full and free assembly, some man of discretion and integrity, who would dare to assert their privileges, to represent their grievances, to protect the poor from the tyranny of the rich, and to inform the emperor of the abuses that were committed under the sanction of his name and authority.
The spectator who casts a mournful view over the ruins of ancient Rome, is tempted to accuse the memory of the Goths and Vandals for the mischief which they had neither leisure nor power, nor perhaps inclination to perpetrate. The tempest of war might strike some lofty turrets to the
* The learned Greaves (vol. 1. p. 329—331) has found by a diligent inquiry, that aurei of the Antonines weighed one hundred and eighteen, and those of the fifth century only sixty-eight, English grains. Majorian gives currency to all gold coin, excepting only the Gallic sulidus, from its deficiency, not in the weight, but in the standard.
ground; but the destruction which undermined the foundations of those massy fabrics was prosecuted, slowly and silently, during a period of ten centuries; and the motives of interest that afterwards operated without shame or control, were severely checked by the taste and spirit of the emperor Majorian. The decay of the city had gradually impaired the value of the public works. The circus and theatres might still excite, but they seldom gratified the desires of the people; the temples, which had escaped the zeal of the Christians, were no longer inhabited either by gods or men; the diminished crowds of the Romans wero lost in the immense space of their baths and porticoes; and the stately libraries and halls of justice became useless to an indolent generation, whose repose was seldom disturbed either by study or business. The monuments of consular or imperial greatness were no longer revered, as the immortal glory of the capital: they were only esteemed as an inexhaustible mine of materials, cheaper and more convenient than the distant quarry. Specious petitions were continually addressed to the easy magistrates of Rome, which stated the want of stones or bricks for some necessary service: the fairest forms of architecture were rudely defaced for the sake of some paltry or pretended repairs; and the degenerate Romans, who converted the spoil to their own emolument, demolished with sacrilegious hands the labours of their ancestors. Majorian, who had often sighed over the desolation of the city, applied a severe remedy to the growing evil.* He reserved to the prince and senate the sole cognizance of the extreme cases which might justify the destruction of an ancient edifice; imposed a fine of fifty pounds of gold (two thousand pounds sterling) on every magistrate who should presume to grant
* The whole edict (Novell. Majorian. tit. 6, p. 35) is curious. "Antiquarum sediuni dissipatur speciosa constructio; et ut aliquid reparetur, magna diruuntur. Hinc jam occasio nascitur, ut etiam unusquisque privatum sedificium construens, per gratiam judicum .... prsesumere de publicis locis necessaria, et transferre non dubitet," &c. With equal zeal, but with less power, Petrarch, in the fourteenth century, repeated the same complaints. (Vie de Petrarque, tom. i, p. 326, 327.) If I prosecute this history, I shall not bo unmindful of the decline and fall of the city of Rome; an interesting object, to which my plan was originally confined. [This edict of Majorian is an official contradiction of the indiscriminate havoc, alleged to have been perpetrated by the barbarians, and on the other hand equally exposes the