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DEATHS OF TACITUS AND FLORIANUS.
But the glory and life of Tacitus were of short duration. Trans
ported in the depth of winter from the soft retirement of Death of the
Campania to the foot of Mount Caucasus, he sunk under
the unaccustomed hardships of a military life. The fatigues of the body were aggravated by the cares of the mind. For a while the angry and selfish passions of the soldiers had been suspended by the enthusiasm of public virtue. They soon broke out with redoubled violence, and raged in the camp, and even in the tent of the aged emperor. His mild and amiable character served only to inspire contempt, and he was incessantly tormented with factions which he could not assuage, and by demands which it was impossible to satisfy. Whatever flattering expectations he had conceived of reconciling the public disorders, Tacitus soon was convinced that the licentiousness of the army disdained the feeble restraint of laws, and his last hour was hastened by anguish and disappointment. It may be doubtful whether the soldiers imbrued their hands in the blood of this innocent A.D. 276. prince. It is certain that their insolence was the cause April 12. of his death. He expired at Tyana in Cappadocia, after a reign of only six months and about twenty days.''
The eyes of Tacitus were scarcely closed before his brother Usurpation Florianus showed himself unworthy to reign by the hasty his brother" usurpation of the purple, without expecting the approbation Florianus. of the senate. The reverence for the Roman constitution, which yet influenced the camp and the provinces, was sufficiently strong to dispose them to censure, but not to provoke them to oppose, the precipitate ambition of Florianus. The discontent would have evaporated in idle murmurs, had not the general of the East, the heroic Probus, boldly declared himself the avenger of the senate. The contest, however, was still unequal; nor could the most able leader, at the head of the effeminate troops of Egypt and Syria, encounter, with any hopes of victory, the legions of Europe, whose irresistible strength appeared to support the brother of Tacitus. But the fortune and activity of Probus triumphed over every obstacle. The hardy veterans of his rival, accustomed to cold climates, sickened and consumed away in the sultry heats of Cilicia, where the summer proved remarkably unwholesome. Their numbers were diminished by frequent desertion, the passes of the mountains were feebly defended; Tarsus opened its gates; and the soldiers of Florianus,
when they had permitted him to enjoy the Imperial title
Usurpation and death of his brother
ced the campexerence for the Romahe approbation
16 Eutropius (9, c. 10) and Aurelius Victor [c. 36) only say that he died; Victor Junior adds, that it was of a fever. Zosimus [i. 63, p. 55] and Zonaras (xii. c. 28] affirm that he was killed by the soldiers. Vopiscus [Tacit. c. 13] mentions both accounts, and seems to hesitate. Yet surely these jarring opinions are easily reconciled.
19 According to the two Victors, he reigned exactly two hundred days.
about three months, delivered the empire from civil war by the easy sacrifice of a prince whom they despised. 20
The perpetual revolutions of the throne had so perfectly erased every notion of hereditary right, that the family of an unfor- tunate emperor was incapable of exciting the jealousy of subsists in his successors. The children of Tacitus and Florianus osci were permitted to descend into a private station, and to mingle with the general mass of the people. Their poverty indeed became an additional safeguard to their innocence. When Tacitus was elected by the senate he resigned his ample patrimony to the public service, 21 an act of generosity specious in appearance, but which evidently disclosed his intention of transmitting the empire to his descendants. The only consolation of their fallen state was the remembrance of transient greatness, and a distant hope, the child of a flattering prophecy, that, at the end of a thousand years, a monarch of the race of Tacitus should arise, the protector of the senate, the restorer of Rome, and the conqueror of the whole earth.22
The peasants of Illyricuin, who had already given Claudius and Aurelian to the sinking empire, had an equal right to Character glory in the elevation of Probus. 23 Above twenty years tion of the before, the emperor Valerian, with his usual penetration, had f'robus. discovered the rising merit of the young soldier, on whom he conferred the rank of tribune long before the age prescribed by the military regulations. The tribune soon justified his choice by a victory over a great body of Sarmatians, in which he saved the life of a near relation of Valerian; and deserved to receive from the emperor's hand the collars, bracelets, spears, and banners, the mural and the civic crown, and all the honourable rewards reserved by ancient Rome for successful valour. The third, and afterwards the tenth, legion were intrusted to the command of Probus, who, in every step of his promotion, showed himself superior to the station which he filled. Africa and Pontus, the Rhine, the Danube, the Euphrates, and the Nile by turns afforded him the most splendid occasions of displaying his personal prowess and his conduct in war. Aurelian was indebted to him for the conquest of Egypt, and still
*** Hist. August. p. 231. [Vopiscus, Florian. c. 1.] Zosimus, l. i. (c. 64, p. 56) p. 58, 59. Zonaras, 1. xii. (c. 29, p. 609) p. 637. Aurelius Victor (de Cæsar. c. 371 says that Probus assumed the empire in Illyricum; an opinion which (though adopted by a very learned man) would throw that period of history into inextricable confusion.
u Hist. August. p. 229. (Vopisc. Tacit. c. 10.)
* He was to send judges to the Parthians, Persians, and Sarmatians, a president to Taprobana, and a proconsul to the Roman island (supposed by Casaubon and Salmasiis to mean Britain). Such a history as mine (says Vopiscus with proper modesty) will not subsist a thousand years to expose or justify the prediction."
* For the private life of Probus, see Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 234-237. [Probus, c. 3, segg.
CONDUCT OF PROBUS TO THE SENATE.
more indebted for the bonest courage with which he often checked the cruelty of his master. Tacitus, who desired by the abilities of his generals to supply his own deficiency of military talents, named him commander-in-chief of all the eastern provinces, with five times the usual salary, the promise of the consulship, and the hope of a triumph. When Probus ascended the Imperial throne he was about forty-four years of age ;24 in the full possession of his fame, of the love of the army, and of a mature vigour of mind and body. His acknowledged merit, and the success of his arms against
ct Florianus, left him without an enemy or a competitor. Yet,
see if we may credit his own professions, very far from being senate. desirous of the empire, he had accepted it with the most sincere reluctance. “But it is no longer in my power,” says Probus in a private letter, “ to lay down a title so full of envy and of danger. “I must continue to personate the character which the soldiers have “ imposed upon me.”25 His dutiful address to the senate displayed the sentiments, or at least the language, of a Roman patriot : “When “ you elected one of your order, conscript fathers ! to succeed the “ emperor Aurelian, you acted in a manner suitable to your justice " and wisdom. For you are the legal sovereigns of the world, and " the power which you derive from your ancestors will descend to “ your posterity. Happy would it have been if Florianus, instead of “ usurping the purple of his brother, like a private inheritance, bad “ expected what your majesty night determine, either in his favour, “ or in that of any other person. The prudent soldiers have punished “ his rashness. To me they have offered the title of Augustus; but “I submit to your clemency my pretensions and my merits.”26 When A.D. 276. this respectful epistle was read by the consul, the senators August 3. were unable to disguise their satisfaction that Probus should condescend thus humbly to solicit a sceptre which he already possessed. They celebrated with the warmest gratitude his virtues, his exploits, and above all his moderation. A decree immediately passed, without a dissenting voice, to ratify the election of the eastern armies, and to confer on their chief all the several branches of the Imperial dignity: the names of Cæsar and Augustus, the title of Father of his country, the right of making in the same day three motions in the senate, 27 the office of Pontifex Maximus, the tribunitian power, and
towards the senate.
24 According to the Alexandrian chronicle, he was fifty at the time of his death.
25 The letter was addressed to the Prætorian præfect, whom (on condition of his good behaviour) he promised to continue in his great office. See Hist. August. p. 237. [Vopisc. Probus, c. 10.]
26* Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 237 [in Probo, c. 11). The date of the letter is assuredly faulty. Instead of Non. Februar, we may read Non. August.
37 Hist. August. p. 238. [Vopisc. io. c. 12.] It is odd that the senate should treat Probus less favourably than Marcus Antoninus. That prince had received, evod
the proconsular command; a mode of investiture which, though it seemed to multiply the authority of the emperor, expressed the constitution of the ancient republic. The reign of Probus corresponded with this fair beginning. The senate was permitted to direct the civil administration of the empire. Their faithful general asserted the honour of the Roman arms, and often laid at their feet crowns of gold and barbaric trophies, the fruits of his numerous victories.28 Yet, whilst he gratified their vanity, he must secretly have despised their indolence and weakness. Though it was every moment in their power to repeal the disgraceful edict of Gallienus, the proud successors of the Scipios patiently acquiesced in their exclusion from all military employments. They soon experienced that those who refuse the sword must renounce the sceptre.
The strength of Aurelian had crushed on every side the enemies of Rome. After his death they seemed to revive with an Vic increase of fury and of numbers. They were again van- of quished by the active vigour of Prubus, who, in a short barbarians. reign of about six years, 24 equalled the fame of ancient herves, and restored peace and order to every province of the Roman world. The dangerous frontier of Rhætia he so firmly secured, that he left it without the suspicion of an enemy. He broke the wandering power of the Sarmatian tribes, and by the terror of his arms compelled those barbarians to relinquish their spoil. The Gothic nation courted the alliance of so warlike an emperor.30 He attacked the Isaurians in their mountains, besieged and took several of their strongest castles, 31 and flattered himself that he had for ever suppressed a domestic foe whose independence so deeply wounded the majesty of the empire. The troubles excited by the usurper Firmus in the Upper Egypt had never been perfectly appeased, and the cities of Ptolemais and Coptos, fortified by the alliance of the Blemmyes, still maintained an obscure rebellion. The chastisement of those cities, and of their auxiliaries the savages of the South, is said to have alarmed the court of Persia, 32 and the Great King sued in vain for the friendship of Probus. Most 14
of Probus over the
before the death of Pius, Jus quintæ rclationis. See Capitolin. in Hist. August. p. 24 (in M. Anton. c. 6].
* See the dutiful letter of Probus to the senate after his German victories. Hist. August. p. 239. (Vopisc. Prob. c. 15.]
» The date and duration of the reign of Probus are very correctly ascertained by Cardinal Noris in his learned work, De Epochis Syro-Macedonum, p. 96-105. A passage of Eusebius connects the second year of Probus with the æras of several of the Syrian cities.
>> Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 239. [Prob. c. 16.]
31 Zosimus" (1. i. (c. 69 89.] P. 62-65) tells us a very long and trifling story of Lydius the Isaurian robber.
* Zosim. 1. i. (c. 77 p. 65. Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 239, 240. (Prob. c. 17.7 But it seems incredible that the defeat of the savages of Æthiopia could affect the Persian monarch.
PROBUS DRIVES THE GERMANS FROM GAUL;
He delivers Gaul from the invasion of the
of the exploits which distinguished his reign were achieved by the personal valour and conduct of the emperor, insomuch that the writer of his Life expresses some amazement how, in so short a time, a single man could be present in so many distant wars. The remaining actions he intrusted to the care of his lieutenants, the judicious choice of whom forms no inconsiderable part of his glory. Carus, Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius, Galerius, Asclepiodatus, Annibalianus, and a crowd of other chiefs, who afterwards ascended or supported the throne, were trained to arms in the severe school of Aurelian and Probus. 33 · But the most important service which Probus rendered to the A.D. 277. republic was the deliverance of Gaul, and the recovery of
seventy flourishing cities oppressed by the barbarians of
on Germany, who, since the death of Aurelian, bad ravaged Germans; that great province with impunity:34 Among the various multitude of those fierce invaders, we may distinguish, with some degree of clearness, three great armies, or rather nations, successively vanquished by the valour of Probus. He drove back the Franks into their morasses ; a descriptive circumstance from whence we may infer that the confederacy known by the manly appellation of Free already occupied the flat maritime country, intersected and almost overflown by the stagnating waters of the Rhine, and that several tribes of the Frisians and Batavians had acceded to their alliance. He vanquished the Burgundians, a considerable people of the Vandalic race. They had wandered in quest of booty from the banks of the Oder to those of the Seine. They esteemed themselves sufficiently fortunate to purchase, by the restitution of all their booty, the permission of an undisturbed retreat. They attempted to elude that article of the treaty. Their punishment was immediate and terrible.35 But of all the invaders of Gaul, the most formidable were the Lygians, a distant people who reigned over a wide domain on the frontiers of Poland and Silesia. 36 In the Lygian nation the Arii held the first rank by
33 Besides these well-known chiefs, several others are named by Vopiscus (Hist. August. p. 241 [Prob. c. 221), whose actions have not reached our knowledge.
34 See the Cæsars of Julian (p. 314], and Hist. August. p. 238, 240, 241. (Vopisc. Prob. c. 13, c. 18, 899.]
35 Zosimus, l. i. [c. 68] p. 62. Hist. August. p. 238. [Vopisc. Probus, c. 13, 14.] But the latter supposes the punishment inflicted with the consent of their kings: it so, it was partial, like the offence.
See Ciuver. Germania Antiqua, 1. iji. Ptolemy places in their country the city of Calisia, probably Calish in Silesia.
a There is no doubt that the Burgun. They are the same people as those called dians were a German people; whereas the Lekhs by Nestor, the Russian chronicler Vandals were probably a Slavonic race. of the 12th century. These Lekhs are the See vol. i. p. 378.-S.
ancestors of the Poles. See Latham, The Lygii appears to have been the generic Germania of Tacitus, p. 158. -S. Name of the Slavonians on the Vistula.