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SEDITION AT ROME SUPI'RESSED. Cuap. XI. government, were eradicated throughout the Roman world.87 But if we attentively reflect how much swifter is the progress of corruption than its cure, and if we remember that the years abandoned to public disorders exceeded the months allotted to the martial reign of Aurelian, we must confess that a few short intervals of peace were insufficient for the arduous work of reformation. Even his attempt to restore the integrity of the coin was opposed by a formidable insurrection. The emperor's vexation breaks out in one of his private letters: “Surely,” says he, “the gods have decreed that my life “ should be a perpetual warfare. A sedition within the walls has just “ now given birth to a very serious civil war. The workmen of the “mint, at the instigation of Felicissimus, a slave to whom I had “ intrusted an employment in the finances, have risen in rebellion. ". They are at length suppressed ; but seven thousand of my soldiers “ have been slain in the contest, of those troops whose ordinary 6 station is in Dacia and the camps along the Danube."$8 Other writers, who confirm the same fact, add likewise, that it happened soon after Aureliau's triumph; that the decisive engagement was fought on the Cælian hill; that the workmen of the mint had adulterated the coin; and that the emperor restored the public credit, by delivering out good money in exchange for the bad, which the people was commanded to bring into the treasury. 89
We might content ourselves with relating this extraordinary transObservations action, but we cannot dissemble how much, in its present upon it. form, it appears to us inconsistent and incredible. The debasement of the coin is indeed well suited to the administration of Gallienus ; nor is it unlikely that the instruments of the corruption might dread the inflexible justice of Aurelian. But the guilt, as well as the profit, must have been confined to a few; nor is it easy to conceive by what arts they could arm a people whom they had injured against a monarch whom they had betrayed. We might naturally expect that such miscreants should have shared the public detestation with the informers and the other ministers of oppression ; and that the reformation of the coin should have been an action equally popular with the destruction of those obsolete accounts which, by the emperor's order, were burnt in the forum of Trajan.9 In an age when the principles of commerce were so imperfectly understood, the most desirable end might perhaps be effected by harsh and injudicious means; but a temporary grievance of such a nature can
87 Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 221. [Aurel, c. 57.]
88 Hist. August. p. 222. TVopisc. Aurel, c. 38.] Aurelian calls these soldiers Hiberi, Riparienses, Castriani, and Dacisci.
89 Zosimus, l. i. (c. 61, p. 53] p. 56. Eutropius, ix. 14 . Aurel. Victor. [do Cæsar. 35.)
90 Hist. August. p. 222. (Vopisc. Aurel. c. 39.] Aurel. Victor. [de Cæsar. 35.]
scarcely excite and support a serious civil war. The repetition of intolerable taxes, imposed either on the land or on the necessaries of life, may at last provoke those who will not, or who cannot, relinquish their country. But the case is far otherwise in every operation which, by whatsoever expedients, restores the just value of money. The transient evil is soon obliterated by the permanent benefit, the .oss is divided among multitudes; and if a few wealthy individuals experience a sensible diminution of treasure, with their riches they at the same time lose the degree of weight and importance which they derived from the possession of them. However Aurelian might choose to disguise the real cause of the insurrection, his reformation of the coin could furnish only a faint pretence to a party already powerful and discontented. Rome, though deprived of freedom, was distracted by faction. The people, towards whom the emperor, himself a plebeian, always expressed a peculiar fondness, lived in perpetual dissension with the senate, the equestrian order, and the Prætorian guards.” Nothing less than the firm though secret conspiracy of those orders, of the authority of the first, the wealth of the second, and the arms of the third, could have displayed a strength capable of contending in battle with the veteran legions of the Danube, which, under the conduct of a martial sovereign, had achieved the conquest of the West and of the East.
Whatever was the cause or the object of this rebellion, imputed with so little probability to the workmen of the mint, Cruelty of Aurelian used his victory with unrelenting rigour. 92 Ile Aurelian. was naturally of a severe disposition. A peasant and a soldier, his nerves yielded not easily to the impressions of sympathy, and he could sustain without emotion the sight of tortures and death. Trained from his earliest youth in the exercise of arms, ne set too small a value on the life of a citizen, chastised by military execution the slightest offences, and transferred the stern discipline of the camp into the civil administration of the laws. His love of justice often became a blind and furious passion; and, whenever he deemed his own or the public safety endangered, he disregarded the rules of evidence and the proportion of punishments. The unprovoked rebellion with which the Romans rewarded his services exasperated his haughty spirit. The noblest families of the capital were involved in the guilt or suspicion of this dark conspiracy. A hasty spirit of revenge urged the bloody prosecution, and it proved fatal to one of the nephews of the emperor. The executioners (if we may use the
* It already raged before Aurelian's return from Egypt. See Vopiscus, who quotes an original letter. Hist. August. p. 244. (Vopisc. Firmus, c. 5. ] ** Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 222. [Aurel, c. 39.] The two Victors. Eutropius, Ix. 14 (9). Zosimus (1. i. p. 43) mentions only three senators, and places their deatb bafnre the eastern war.
e or the old of the Eastial sovereign of the
into the East, and is
expression of a contemporary poet") were fatigued, the prisons were crowded, and the unhappy senate lamented the death or absence of its most illustrious members.93 Nor was the pride of Aurelian less offensive to that assembly than his cruelty. Ignorant or impatient of the restraints of civil institutions, he disdained to hold his power by any other title than that of the sword, and governed by right of conquest an empire which he had saved and subdued.94
It was observed by one of the most sagacious of the Roman He warches princes, that the talents of his predecessor Aurelian were
better suited to the command of an army than to the assassinated. government of an empire.95 Conscious of the character in which nature and experience had enabled him to excel, he again took the field a few months after bis triumph. It was expedient to
exercise the restless temper of the legions in some foreign October. war, and the Persian monarch, exulting in the shame of Valerian, still braved with impunity the offended majesty of Rome. At the head of an army, less formidable by its numbers than by its discipline and valour, the emperor advanced as far as the Streights which divide Europe from Asia. He there experienced that the most absolute power is a weak defence against the effects of despair. He had threatened one of his secretaries who was accused of extortion, and it was known that he seldom threatened in vain. The last hope which remained for the criminal was to involve some of the principal officers of the army in his danger, or at least in his fears. Artfully counterfeiting his master's hand, he showed them, in a long and bloody list, their own names devoted to death. Without suspecting or examining the fraud, they resolved to secure their lives by the murder of the emperor. On his march, between Byzantium and Heraclea, Aurelian was suddenly attacked by the conspirators, whose stations gave them a right to surround his person, and, after a short Ą.D. 275. resistance, fell by the hand of Mucapor, a general whom he Murch had always loved and trusted. lle died regretted by the army, detested by the senate, but universally acknowledged as a warlike and fortunate prince, the useful though severe reformer of a degenerate state. 96
93 Nulla catenati feralis pompa senatas
Carnificum lassabit opus; nec carcere pleno
Infelix raros numerabit curia Patres. Calpurn. Eclog. i. 60. 94 According to the younger Victor [Epitome, c. 35], he sometimes wore the diadem. Deus and Dominus appear on his medals.
98 It was the observation of Diocletian. See Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 224. [Aurel. c. 44.]
90 Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 221. [Aurel. c. 35, seq.] Zosimus, l. i. [c. 62] p. 57. Eutrop. ix. 15 . The two Victors.
COXDOOT OF THE ARMY AND SENATE AFTER THE DEATH OF AURELLAK.-REIGN
OF Tacitus, PROBUS, CARUS AND HIS Sons. Sucu was the unhappy condition of the Roman emperors, that, whatever might be their conduct, their fate was commonly Extraordithe same A life of pleasure or virtue, of severity or mild- he ness, of indolence or glory, alike led to an untimely grave; die geance and almost every reign is closed by the same disgusting het repetition of treason and murder. The death of Aurelian, emperor. however, is remarkable by its extraordinary consequences. The legions admired, lamented, and revenged their victorious chief. The artifice of his perfidious secretary was discovered and punished. The deluded conspirators attended the funeral of their injured sovereign with sincere or well-feigned contrition, and submitted to the unanimous resolution of the military order, which was signified by the following epistle: “The brave and fortunate armies to the senate and “ people of Rome.—The crime of one man, and the error of many, “ have deprived us of the late emperor Aurelian. May it please you, “ venerable lords and fathers ! to place him in the number of the “ gods, and to appoint a successor whom your judgment shall declare “ worthy of the Imperial purple! None of those whose guilt or “ misfortune have contributed to our loss shall ever reign over us." I The Roman senators heard, without surprise, that another emperor had been assassinated in his camp; they secretly rejoiced in the fall of Aurelian; but the modest and dutiful address of the legions, when it was communicated in full assembly by the consul, diffused the most pleasing astonishment. Such honours as fear and perhaps esteem could extort, they liberally poured forth on the memory of their deceased sovereign. Such acknowledgments as gratitude could inspire they returned to the faithful armies of the republic, who entertained so just a sense of the legal authority of the senate in the choice of an emperor. Yet, notwithstanding this flattering appeal, tne most prudent of the assembly declined exposing their safety and dignity to the caprice of an armed multitude. The strength of the legions was, indeed, a pledge of their sincerity, since those who may command are seldom reduced to the necessity of dissembling; but could it naturally
" Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 222. [Aurel. c. 41.] Aurelius Victor mentiona a formal deputation from the troops to the sepate.
interregnum of eight months.
be expected that a hasty repentance would correct the inveterate habits of fourscore years? Should the soldiers relapse into their accustomed seditions, their insolence migłt disgrace the majesty of the senate and prove fatal to the object of its choice. Motives like these dictated a decree by which the election of a new emperor was referred to the suffrage of the military order. The contention that ensued is one of the best attested but most
improbable events in the history of mankind. The troops, Feb. 3. as if satiated with the exercise of power, again conjured the A peaceful senate to invest one of its own body with the Imperial
w purple. The senate still persisted in its refusal ; the army
in its request. The reciprocal offer was pressed and rejected at least three times, and, whilst the obstinate modesty of either party was resolved to receive a master from the hands of the other, eight months insensibly elapsed; an amazing period of tranquil anarchy, during which the Roman world remained without a sovereign, without an usurper, and without a sedition. The generals and magistrates appointed by Aurelian continued to execute their ordinary functions; and it is observed that a proconsul of Asia was the only considerable person removed from his office in the whole course of the interregnum.
An event somewhat similar but much less authentic is supposed to have happened after the death of Romulus, who, in his life and character, bore some affinity with Aurelian. The throne was vacant during twelve months till the election of a Sabine philosopher, and the public peace was guarded in the same manner by the union of the several orders of the state. But, in the time of Numa and Romulus, the arms of the people were controlled by the authority of the Patricians; and the balance of freedom was easily preserved in a small and virtuous community. The decline of the Roman state,
Vopiscus, our principal authority, wrote at Rome sixteen years only after the death of Aurelian; and, besides the recent notoriety of the facts, constantly draws his materials from the Journals of the Senate and the original papers of the Ulpian library. Zosimus and Zonaras appear as ignorant of this transaction as they were in general of the Roman constitution.
3 Liv, i. 17. Dionys. Halicarn. 1. ii. [c. 57] p. 115. Plutarch in Numa (c. 2), p. 60. The first of these writers relates the story like an orator, the second like a lawyer, and the third like a moralist, and none of them probably without some interunixture of fable.
a This is the date in Vopiscus, “III. end of March. Tacitus was elected the Non. Febr.” (Aurel. c. 41); but as it is 25th of September. During the interin opposition to other authorities, which regnum Severina, the widow of Aurelian, make the interregnum between the death appears to have been acknowledged as of Aurelian and the elevation of Tacitus empress at Alexandria, since her Alexanonly six months (not eight, as Gibbon drian coins bear only the years 6 and 7, says), it is proposed to read “III. Non. and Aurelian died in the sixth year of his Apr." instead of “III. Non. Febr.,” which reign. See Eckhel, vol, vii. p. 488; CEL. will place the death of Aurelian at the ton, Fasti Rom, vol. i. p. 312, 313.-S.