[ocr errors][ocr errors]

It was not perhaps without some regret, that Ricimer

sacrificed his friend to the interest of his ambition; but ho resolved in a second choice, to avoid the imprudent preference of superior virtue and merit. At his command, the obsequious senate of Bome bestowed the imperial title on Libius Severus, who ascended the throne of the West, without emerging from the obscurity of a private condition. History has scarcely deigned to notice his birth, his elevation, his character, or his death. Severus expired, as soon as his life became inconvenient to his patron,* and it would be useless to discriminate his nominal reign in the vacant interval of six years, between the death of Majorian and the elevation of Anthemius. During that period, the government was in the hands of Ricimer alone; and although the modest barbarian disclaimed the name of king, he accumulated treasures, formed a separate army, negotiated private alliances, and ruled Italy with the same independent and despotic authority which was afterwards exercised by Odoacer and Theodoric. But his dominions were bounded by the Alps; and two Roman generals, Marcellinus and jEgidius, maintained their allegiance to the republic, by rejecting, with disdain, the phantom which he styled an emperor. Marcellinus still adhered to the old religion; and the devout Pagans, who secretly disobeyed the laws of the church and state, applauded his profound skill in the science of divination. But he possessed the more valuable qualifications of learning, virtue, and courage ;t the study of the Latin literature had improved his taste; and his military talents had recommended him to tlie esteem

p. 25—31) of a supper at Aries, to which he was invited by Majoriau
a short time before his death. He had no intention of praising
a deceased emperor; but a casual disinterested remark :—
Augustus; ut erat, auctoritate servatd, cum se communioni dedisset,
joci plenus," outweighs the six hundred lines of his venal panegyric.
* Sidonius (Panegyr. Antheui. 317) dismisses him to heaven.

Auxerat Augustus natures lege Severus
Divorum numerum.

And an old list of the emperors, composed about the time of Justinian, praises his piety, and fixes his residence at Home. (Sirmond. Not. ad Sidon. p. Ill, 112.) + Tillemont, who is always scandalized

by the virtues of infidels, attributes this advantageous portrait of Marcellinus (which Suidas has preserved) to the partial zeal ot some Pagan historian. Hist. des Empereurs, tom. vi, p. 330.

[ocr errors]

and confidence of the great ^Etius, in whose ruin he was involved. By a timely flight, Marcellinus escaped the rage of Valentinian, and boldly asserted his liberty amidst the convulsions of the Western empire. His voluntary or reluctant submission to the authority of Majorian, was rewarded by the government of Sicily, and the command of an army stationed in that island, to oppose or to attack the Vandals: but his barbarian mercenaries, after the emperor's death, were tempted to revolt by the artful liberality of Bicimer. At the head of a band of faithful followers, the intrepid Marcellinus occupied the province of Dalmatia, assumed the title of patrician of the AVest, secured the love of his subjects by a mild and equitable reign, built a fleet, which claimed the dominion of the Hadriatic, and alternately alarmed the coasts of Italy and of Africa.* ./Egidius, the master-general of Gaul, who equalled, or at least who imitated, the heroes of ancient Rome,t proclaimed his immortal resentment against the assassins of his beloved master. A brave and numerous army was attached to his standard; and though he was prevented by the arts of Ricimer, and the arms of the Visigoths, from marching to the gates of Rome, he maintained his independent sovereignty beyond the Alps, and rendered the name of ^Egidius respectable both in peace and war. The Franks, who had punished with exile the youthful follies of Childeric, elected the Roman general for their king; his vanity, rather than his ambition, was gratified by that singular honour; and when the nation, at the end of four years, repented of the injury which they had offered to the Merovingian family, he patiently acquiesced in the restoration of the lawful prince. The authority of iEgidius ended only with his life; and the suspicions of poison and secret violence, which derived some countenance from the character of Ricimer, were eagerly entertained by the passionate credulity of the Gauls.J

* Procopius de Bell. Vandal. 1. 1, c. 6, p. 191. In various circumstances of the life of Marcellinus, it is not easy to reconcile the Greek historian with the Latin Chronicles of the times.

+ I must ipply to ^Egidius the praises which Sidonius (Panegyr. Majorian. 553) bestows on a nameless master-general, who commanded the rear-guard of Majorian. Idatius, from public report, commends his Christian piety; and Priscus mentions (p. 42) his military virtues.

$ Greg. Turon. 1. 2, c. 12, in tom, ii, p. 168. The Pere Daniel, whose ideas were superficial and modern, has started some objections

[merged small][ocr errors]

The kingdom of Italy, a name to which theWestern empire was gradually reduced, was afflicted, under the reign ot Eicimer, by the incessant depredations of the Vandal pirates.* In the spring of each year they equipped a formidable navy in the port of Carthage; and Genseric himself, though in a very advanced age, still commanded in person the most important expeditions. His designs were concealed with impenetrable secrecy, till the moment that he hoisted sail. When lie was asked by his pilot, what course he should steer; "Leave the determination to the winds," replied the barbarian, with pious arrogance; "they will transport us to the guilty coast, whose inhabitants have provoked the divine justice." But if Genseric himself deigned to issue more precise orders, he judged the most wealthy to be the most criminal. The Vandals repeatedly visited the coasts of Spain, Liguria, Tuscany, Campania, Lucania, Bruttium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia, Dalmatia, Epirus, Greece, and Sicily: they were tempted to subdue the island of Sardinia, so advantageously placed in the centre of the Mediterranean; and their arms spread desolation, or terror, from the columns of Hercules to the mouth of the Nile. As they were more ambitious of spoil than of glory, they seldom attacked any fortified cities, or engaged any regular troops in the open field. But the celerity of their motions enabled them, almost at the same time, to threaten

against the story of Childeric (Hist. de France, tom. i. Preface Historique, p. 78, &c.), but they have been fairly satisfied by Dubos (Hist. Critique, tom. i, p. 460—510) and by two authors who disputed the prize of the Academy of Soissons (p. 131—177. 310—339). With regard to the term of Childeric's exile, it is necessary either to prolong the life of ^Egidius beyond the date assigned by the Chronicle of Idatius, or to correct the text of Gregory, by reading quarto anno, instead of octavo. * The naval war of Genseric is described

by Priscus (Excerpta Legation. p. 42), Procopius (de Bell. Vandal. 1. 1, 0. 6, p. 189, 190, and c. 22, p. 228), Victor Vitensis (de Persecut. Vandal. 1. 1, c. 17, and Ruinart, p. 467—481), and in the three panegyrics of Sidonius, whose chronological order is absurdly transposed in the editions both of Savaron and Sirmond. (Avit. Carm. 7. 441—451 Majorian. Carm. 5. 327—350. 385. 440. Anthem. Carm. 2. 348. 386.) In one passage the poet seems inspired by his subject, and expresses a strong idea by a lively image:

Hinc Vandalus hostis

Urget; et in nostrum numerosa classe quotannis
Militat excidium; conversoque ordine Fati
Torrida Caucaseos infert mini Byrsa furores

[ocr errors][merged small]

and to attack the most distant objects which attracted their desires; and as they always embarked a sufficient number of horses, they had no sooner landed, than they swept the dismayed country with a body of light cavalry. Yet, notwithstanding the example of their king, the native Vandals and Alani insensibly declined this toilsome and perilous warfare; the hardy generation of the first conquerors was almost extinguished, and their sons, who were born in Africa, enjoyed the delicious baths and gardens which had been acquired by the valour of their fathers. Their place was readily supplied by a various multitude of Moors and Romans, of captives and outlaws; and those desperate wretches who had already violated the laws of their country, were the most eager to promote the atrocious acts which disgrace the victories of Genserie. In the treatment of his unhappy prisoners, he sometimes consulted his avarice, and sometimes indulged his cruelty; and the massacre of five hundred noble citizens of Zant, or Zacynthus, whose mangled bodies he cast into the Ionian sea, was imputed, by the public indignation, to his latest posterity.

Such crimes could not be excused by any provocations; but the war, which the king of the Vandals prosecuted against the Roman empire, was justified by a specious and reasonable motive. The widow of Valentinian, Eudoxia, whom he had led captive from Rome to Carthage, was the sole heiress of the Theodosian house; her elder daughter, Eudocia, became the reluctant wife of Hunneric, his eldest son; and the stern father, asserting a legal claim, which could not easily be refuted or satisfied, demanded a just proportion of the imperial patrimony. An adequate, or at least a valuable compensation, was offered by the Eastern emperor, to purchase a necessary peace. Eudoxia, and her younger daughter, Placidia, were honourably restored, and the fury of tha Vandals was confined to the limits of the "Western empire. The Italians, destitute of a naval force, which alone was capable of protecting their coasts, implored the aid of the more fortunate nations of the East; who had formerly acknowledged, in peace and war, the supremacy of Rome. But the perpetual division of the two empires had alienated their interest and their inclinations; the faith of a recent treaty was alleged; and the western Eomans, instead of arms and ships, could only obtain the assistance

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

of a cold and ineffectual mediation. The naughty Eicimer, who had long struggled with the difficulties of his situation, was a length reduced to address the throne of Constantinople, in the humble language of a subject; and Italy submitted, as the price and security of the alliance, to accept a master from the choice of the emperor of the East.# It is not the purpose of the present chapter, or even of the present volume, to continue the distinct series of the Byzantine history; but a concise view of the reign and character of the emperor Leo, may explain the last efforts that were attempted to save the falling empire of the West, t

Since the death of the younger Theodosius, the domestic repose of Constantinople had never been interrupted by war or faction. Pulcheria had bestowed her hand, and the sceptre of the East, on the modest virtue of Marcian: he gratefully reverenced her august rank and virgin chastity; and, after her death, he gave his people the example of the religious worship, that was due to the memory of tho imperial saint.J Attentive to the prosperity of his own dominions, Marcian seemed to behold, with indifference, the misfortunes of Rome; and the obstinate refusal of a brave and active prince to draw his sword against the "Vandals, was ascribed to a secret promise which had formerly been exacted from him when he was a captive in the power of Genseric.§ The death of Marcian, after a reign of seven

* The poet himself ia compelled to acknowledge the distress of Ricimer—

Prseterea invictus Ricimer, quem publica fata
Respiciunt, proprio solus vix Martt repellit

Piratam per rura vagum

Italy addresses her complaint to the Tiber; and Rome, at the solicitation of the river god, transports herself to Constantinople, renounces her ancient claims, and implores the friendship of Aurora, the goddess of the East. This fabulous machinery, which the genius of Claudian had used and abused, is the constant and miserable resource of the muse of Sidonius. + The original authors of the reigns of

Marcian, Leo, and Zeno, are reduced to some imperfect fragments, whose deficiencies must be supplied from the more recent compilations of Theophanes, Zonaras, and Cedrenus. J St. Pulcheria

died A.d. 453, four years before her nominal husband; and her festival is celebrated on the 10th of September by the modern Greeks: she bequeathed an immense patrimony to pious, or at least to ecclesiastical, uses. See Tillemont, Memoires Eccles. tom, xv, p. 181. 184.

§ See Procopius, de Pell. Vandal. 1. 1, c. 4, p. 185. [There is something truth-like in the story of Marcian'a captivity and promise.

« ForrigeFortsett »