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AD. 87.] WAR WITH DECEBALUS. 477
barbarian enemies of Rome with Arminius, Caractacus, and Civilis. Pouring his hosts, some of whom he had trained in Roman tactics, across the Danube, he routed the legion to which the defence of Moesia was entrusted under Oppius Sabinus, capturing its eagle; and ravaged the province as far as Mount Haemus (a.d. 86). Domitian made great preparations in Italy, Illyricum, and Macedonia; while the barbarian ironically demanded, as the price of peace, a poll-tax to be assessed on every Roman citizen. Domitian affected to take the field in person; but Pliny represents him as enjoying himself on the rivers of Pannonia in his barge, which was towed up and down to avoid the noise of oars. He soon returned to Rome, while his praetorian prefect, Cornelius Fuscus, was enticed by Decebalus across the Danube, and lost his life and an eagle in the defeat of another legion (a.d. 87). The disaster was retrieved in the following year by Julianus, who again crossed the river and defeated the Dacians at Tapae. The indecisive character of the victory is veiled under a fantastic story of the stratagem invented by Decebalus to check the pursuit.* Julianus, however, followed up his success with a vigour which, we are told, led to repeated overtures from Decebalus, before the emperor would grant him terms of peace. But the terms conceded,—leaving Decebalus in possession of unbroken power, and not even requiring his presence to receive the crown of a vassal, which the emperor placed upon his envoy's head,—carry the conviction that the first fair pretext was seized for bringing the war to an end, when the former disasters had been retrieved, and Domitian had himself earned laurels on the Middle Danube. Assuming the character of a sovereign over the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians (in Bohemia, Moravia, and north-western Hungary), he claimed their succours for the Dacian War, and, on their refusal, marched in person to chastise them. His success was satisfactory enough—to himself at least—for him to claim a triumph over Germany as well as Dacia, though he was satisfied with an ovation over the Sarmatians. Such was the official account of these transactions; but a very different version of the whole Danubian war is suggested by the brief words in which Tacitus enumerates the military disgraces which, by calling aloud for such a general as Agricola, would alarm Oomitian's jealousy:—" So many armies lost in Mcesia and Dacia, in Germany and Pannonia, by the rashness or cowardice of their commanders; so many generals defeated and captured with so many cohorts; till the question was no longer one of fixing the boundary of the empire at the river's bank, but about the safety of the winter quarters and holding our own ground. Thus losses were prolonged by losses, and every year was marked by deaths or wholesale massacres."* Eutropius expressly states that a legion was cut off with its commander in Sarmatia. It appears in truth as if there had been a pressure on the whole line of the Lower and Middle Danube, which would have antedated the ruin of the empire, had not another general, as great as Agricola, soon risen to repulse the barbarians. For it was a noteworthy coincidence that Makcus Ulpius TraJanus was the new consul, when Domitian returned to Rome to celebrate his triumph, in January A.d. 91. The people were gratified with a new profusion of games; and, if we may believe the poets of the day, senators, knights, and people all feasted together at Caesar's table and beneath his roof. The soldiers were bribed with a donative, on the pretext of which large sums were extorted from the provinces, under the name of "coronary gold." Monuments were erected: a triumphal arch, which, while it stood, rivalled that of Titus; and an equestrian colossal statue in gilt bronze, which, placed on a lofty pedestal in the centre of the Forum, towered above the surrounding houses, representing the emperor, with his sword sheathed, his right hand stretched out in the attitude of command, and his left supporting a figure of Minerva, while his charger trampled on the forehead of the captive Rhine. The list of honours might be prolonged; but we prefer to adopt the comment which was scrawled upon the innumerable smaller arches erected by the emperor in his own honour: 'Apxei, It is enough. The cost of all these splendours was visited upon the nobility and eminent citizens in confiscations and proscriptions. Asia and Africa likewise furnished pretexts for such triumphs as words could celebrate. The surrender of a counterfeit Nero by Tiridates, not without a threat of war, which is another proof of vigour at Rome, was magnified into the submission of Parthia by the court poets, who glorified at the same time the measures taken to chastise a revolt of the Nasamones of the Numidian desert. "Once more Silius emulated the lofty flights of
name of Decebalus with that of Dizabulus, the first king named in Turkish traditions; and Berginann (Lea Giles, p. 40) derives the name from the Scythian words Dakhivalhus, that is, the Falcon of the Day. See Merivale, vol. vii. p. 103.
* He is said to have cut down a forest to the height of men, and to have placed armour on the stumps. Is it possible to believe that a Roman army could be deceived by such a trick?
A.D. 93.] NEW SERIES OF PROSCRIPTIONS. 479
Virgil, and declared that to his patron, as to Augustus, the tribes of the Ganges tendered their slackened bows, the Bactrians offered their emptied quivers. Again the exploits of a Roman emperor were likened to the triumphant progress of Hercules and Bacchus. The sources of the Nile, the summits of Atlas, were at last surmounted; the sun and stars were left behind in the panting race." In briefer language, the emperor himself repeated the precedent given by a former Caesar for a modern formula of imperialism:— "I have forbidden the Nasamones to exist!"
The complacency of the victor was rudely shaken by the revolt of L. Antonius Saturninus, the commander of the legions in Upper Germany, who appears to have risen as the champion of the oppressed senators. He procured the salutation of Imperator from his two legions, and invited the aid of the Germans beyond the Rhine. But, at the moment when the river was rendered impassable by the breaking up of the ice, Norbanus, the legate of Domitian in Gaul, fell upon Antonius, who was routed and slain, before Domitian, who had promptly taken the field, could reach the Rhine. There was still left for himself the congenial work of vengeance. Whether from generosity or policy, Norbanus had destroyed the papers of Antonius; an act which serves to indicate a widely ramified conspiracy. But the tyrant was not to be thus baulked; nor was it for nothing that he had brought with him a train of senators, whom he was afraid to leave behind at Rome. A new series of proscriptions, but differing from those of Sulla and the triumvirs in the prohibition of any lists of victims, began with the exposure of the head of Antonius on the Rostra. Precautions were at the same time taken against military revolts by removing the military chest from the camp, apparently to some central station, and forbidding two legions to be united in their winter quarters. Domitian had formerly bidden for the support of the soldiers by raising their pay fourfold, to 480 denarii a month; his jealousy now compensated for the extravagance by a dangerous reduction in the army. "These jealous measures," says Mr.Merivale, "show how deep a gloom of distrust was thickening before Domitian's vision. Hitherto he had been content, perhaps, to indicate to the delators a few among the high nobility, who, if condemned with a decent show of judicial process, would be acceptable victims offered to the necessities of the Jiscus. Now, however, a feeling more potent than cupidity seized and mastered him. In dire alarm for his power and life, he saw an enemy in every man of distinction in the city or the camps; and the short career which yet remained to him became one continued paroxysm of terrified ferocity."
Among his chief victims were Arulenus Kusticus and Herennius Senecio, who had dared to write the lives of Paetus Thrasea and Helvidius Priscus, the victim of Vespasian, as his son, the younger Helvidius Priscus, was of Domitian. The books of Rusticus and Senecio were burnt by the executioners in the comitium and forum: "as if they supposed," exclaims the indignant pleader for Rome's ancient liberty, " that those fires could consume the voice of the Roman people and the liberty of the Senate and the sympathies of the human race, especially as they had lately exiled the professors of philosophy, and every good art itself, that nothing honourable might anywhere meet the eye. We gave, in truth, a great example of endurance; and, as the old times saw how far liberty could reach, so did we the lowest depth of slavery, when spies debarred us from the intercourse of speech and hearing. Nay, we should have lost our very memory, with our voice, had it been as much within our power to forget as to be silent!"
The relief which Tacitus declares that the age felt, when it breathed again under Nerva and Trajan, after enduring such a yoke for fifteen years, "a great space of human life," is shared by the historian as he approaches the end of the annals of the Caesars: and we may be excused from recounting all the frivolous pretexts for all the murders, down to that of Flavius Sabinus, the son of Vespasian's elder brother, whom a herald had accidentally addressed as Imperator instead of consul. Nor need we dwell upon the terrors and omens which, during the last eight months, wrapt the tyrant's soul in the gloom of superstition, remorse, and constant fear, while his person was secluded in his Alban villa. The secrets of that abode were kept so well, that conjecture had full scope as to the closing scene. All we know is, that the tyrant fell a victim to a conspiracy of the palace, in which his wife Domitilla is said to have taken part on learning that he had doomed her to death; that the blow was struck by Stephanus, a freedman of the murdered Clemens; and that Domitian, after a frightful struggle with his powerful assailant, was despatched by the other conspirators rushing in. Thus was the earth rid of this monster, at the age of forty-four, when he had reigned just five days more than fifteen years. (September 18th, A.d. 96.)
THE FALL OF DOMITIAN A REVOLUTION. 481
CLIMAX OF THE EMPIRE.—NERVA, TRAJAN, AND THE ANTONINES. A.D. 96 TO A.D. 192.
"And wise Aurelius, in whose well-taught mind
TO! ITBW EMPIRE HAS A CONSTITUTIONAL CHARACTER—HAPPINESS OF THE NEW ERA—UNION OF 1IONAROHT AND LIBERTY—ACCESSION OF NBR VA — HIS CHARACTER AND ORIGIN— CLEMENCY AND GOVERNMENT OF NERVA—DISCONTENT OF THE PRAETORIANS—NERVA ADOPTS TRAJAN—HIS DEATH—ACCESSION OF TRAJAN—HIS EXTRACTION AND CHARACTER—HIS SETTLEMENT OF THE GERMAN FRONTIER —HIS ENTRY INTO ROME—HIS MAGNANIMITY AND FIRMNESS—TITLE OP "OPTIMUS" FIRST DAOIAN WAR, AND SUBMISSION
OF DEOKBALUS—SECOND DACIAN WAR—TRAJAN'S BRIDGE OVER THE DANUBE DEATH OF
DKOBBALCS AND CONQUEST OF DAOIA—THE FORUM AND COLUMN OF TRAJAN—DACIA A
M. ANNIUS VERUS AND L. AURELIUS VERUS—DEATH AND CHARACTER OF HADRIAN
GREAT MERITS OF HIS GOVERNMENT— AOCESSION OF ANTONINUS PIUS—HIS ORIGIN AND
AVIDIC8 CASSIUS—AURELIUS AT ANTIOCH, ALEXANDRIA, AND ATHENS—HIS TRIUMPH
The assassination of Domitian had very different results from the suicide of Nero. The one was followed by a change of dynasty:
VOL. III. ''