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prided himself on restoring. But the impolitic cruelty by which the semi-barbarian emperor had sacrificed to his resentment the best eastern bulwark of his empire, was irreparable. The City of Palms dwindled into a petty Arab town, though inscriptions testify that Diocletian repaired some of its buildings, and Procopius tells us that it was fortified by Justinian. A wretched Arab village is now almost lost amidst the columns, the Roman origin of which is forgotten in the restored name of Tadmor.
Having completed the settlement of the East by the defeat and punishment of the rebel Firmus, an Egyptian merchant, who, at the head of a band of Arabs and Ethiopians, the agents of his trade with India, had seized Alexandria and assumed the purple, Aurelian turned to the work awaiting him in the West. This war is wanting in all the romantic interest that centres round the names of Palmyra and Zenobia. Tetricus, who had reigned for seven years by the sufferance of his licentious troops, is said to have had a secret understanding with Aurelian, and to have betrayed his own army, who, after a desperate resistance, were cut to pieces on the field of Châlons on the Marne. * The conqueror induced the Frank and Batavian invaders to recross the Rhine ; and returned to Rome, to celebrate a triumph never surpassed for splendour in her palmiest days. The strange animals and gorgeous riches of the East were followed by envoys and presents from Ethiopia and Arabia, Persia and Bactria, India and China ; and the long train of captive Goths, Vandals, Sarmatians, Alemanni, Franks, Gauls, Syrians, and Egyptians—in which even the fabled Amazons were represented by a small band of Gothic heroineswas closed by the forms of Tetricus and Zenobia, arrayed in the dress and insignia of their former empires. Both were of course fettered, but the chains of Zenobia were of gold, and their weight was supported by an attendant slave. But instead of being led aside to death at the foot of the Capitoline ascent, both were permitted to reside at Rome in the state of princes. The triumph was followed by the dedication of a splendid temple to the Sun, which Aurelian had built on the side of the Quirinal; so completely had this oriental worship become naturalized at Rome.
* Niebuhr interprets the valour with which the Gauls fought as proving the national desire for independence of Rome. “The French look upon the ancient history of their country as if there had existed no nationality at all in the times of the Romans; and it is quite surprising that no French historian has either perceived or described that national feeling, which was continually manifested in Gaul after the time of Cæsar, and which broke forth in several insurrections." He could hardly anticipate that, in the generation next his own, a French ruler and historian would celebrate a new apotheosis of the conqueror of Gaul.
The same vigour, by which the empire was reunited, characterized the domestic government of Aurelian. But the disorders of a century were not to be repaired within a lustre, even had the emperor known any better policy than the sternness of the Illyrian soldier. In one case the opposition to his reforms led to a sedition in the city which cost-if his own letter be genuine—the lives of 7000 soldiers; and the deep-seated conspiracy wbich Aurelian appears to have suspected beneath this commotion inflamed his native cruelty. “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 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. 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.” Such a ruler was only at home in the camp; and he felt in its full force the imperial necessity ex bellis bella serendi. A few months after his triumph, he left Rome for the East, where the progress of Persia was beginning to avenge the destruction of Palmyra. He had crossed the Bosporus, when he was murdered by his own chief officers, instigated (it was said) by his secretary, whom he had threatened with punishment for unfaithfulness, or, as seems probable, in revenge for his severities at Rome (March, A.D. 275). “He 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. Such was the unhappy condition of the emperors, that, whatever might be their conduct, their fate was commonly the same. A life of pleasure or virtue, of severity or mildness, of indolence or glory, alike led to an untimely grave; and almost every reign is closed by the same disgusting repetition of treason and murder."
The Senate of Rome were surprised, therefore, not at hearing that another prince had been cut off by a conspiracy, but at receiving a dutiful epistle from the army, praying them to appoint a successor to the emperor, none of whose murderers, the soldiers had resolved, should reap the profit of their crime. But the fathers knew that their voice could only be heard, if it echoed the soldiers' will ; and they referred back the decision to the army. The con
tention that ensued is described by Gibbon as “one of the best attested, but most improbable events in the history of mankind.”
Thrice did each body press the choice upon the other; and it was not till after an interregnum of six months, * that the Senate bestowed the titles and powers of Imperator upon the chief of the order, M. Claudius Tacitus, whose character added lustre to the descent he claimed from the historian of the Cæsars. “Tacitus,” says Niebuhr, “ was great in everything that could distinguish a senator : he possessed immense property, of which he made a brilliant use; he was a man of unblemished character; he possessed the knowledge of a statesman, and had in his youth shown great military skill. On his election he promised the Senate that he would always look upon himself as their servant; and the senators already abandoned themselves to dreams of a restoration of the Republic and its freedom, and of the emperor being only the chief agent of the Senate, which was to be all-powerful. What was to become of the people, was a question which never entered their heads : they looked upon themselves as the Senate of Venice used to do. But that dream was of short duration." It was upon the 25th of September, A.D. 275, that Tacitus was saluted as emperor by the impulse of his colleagues, on his rising first, as Princeps Senatus, to speak to the question which the Consul had at length proposed; and he reluctantly accepted the purple, at the age of seventy-five, say the Greek writers, though Niebuhr denies that the Senate could have been guilty of the folly of an election only suited to an ecclesiastical state. Acknowledged joyfully by the provinces and the army, Tacitus at least felt himself vigorous enough to march against the Scythian Alani, who, having been invited by Aurelian from their tents about the Sea of Azov to invade Persia with their cavalry, and finding on their arrival that the scheme was broken off by his death, had overrun the eastern provinces of Asia Minor. The honourable discharge of their claims by Tacitus induced most of them to return home; and he had nearly cleared Asia Minor of the rest, when he died at Tarsus, on April 12, A.D. 276. His last days were embittered by the growing insubordination of the soldiers, to whose violence some of the historians impute his death.
The deceased emperor's brother, M. Annius Florianus, availed himself of his presence with the army to usurp the purple; but, on
* During this interregnum, it appears from the coins that Severina, the widow of Aurelian, was acknowledged as empress at Alexandria. + Or, as others say, at Tyana, in Cappadocia.
the approach of the veteran M. Aurelius Probus, the commander of the eastern provinces, who had been proclaimed by the legions of Syria, Florianus was put to death by his soldiers (July, A.D. 276). Born in the same peasant rank as Aurelian, and at the same place (Sirmium in Pannonia), Probus had risen under Valerian from step to step in the army, had conquered Egypt for Aurelian, and had been appointed by Tacitus to the command of all the East. He united to the military greatness of Aurelian the political prudence which that emperor wanted ; and in every respect he deserves to rank with the best of the Roman emperors. He was forty-four years old, when he submitted his election by his soldiers to the Senate, with a deference that won an unbounded confidence, which was shared by the army and the people (August 3, A.D. 276).
The six years' reign of PROBUS is one succession of untiring activity in driving back the barbarians from the frontiers, and putting down disorders within the Empire. His first great enterprize was the deliverance of Gaul from the hosts of German invaders, Franks, Burgundians, and others, with whom were associated still more formidable Slavonian tribes from the banks of the Vistula.* Not content with driving back the Franks into the marshes of Holland, and the Alemanni, with their allies, into the central and southern forests, Probus crossed the Rhine, recovered Suabia, and is said to have repaired the ancient limes, or border line of defence, from the Rhine to the Danube. “It is believed," observes Niebuhr, “that it was his intention to make Germany a Roman province; and this plan would have been far more practicable then than before, for the southern Germans had made such changes in their mode of living, that they were no longer so foreign to the Romans as they had been two centuries earlier. Had Diocletian taken the same trouble, and established a Roman force in southern Germany, it would not by any means have been impossible to have formed that part of the country into a Roman province ; for we find that the Germans, who had formerly hated living together in towns, began to inhabit regular villages or towns on the river Neckar, as early as the reign of Valentinian. In northern Germany, on the other hand, things were different, for there the people still lived in separate farms as at the present day in Westphalia.” Without, however, going so far as the formation of a German province, Probus made a treaty with nine of the chiefs of tribes between the Neckar and the Elbe, who restored their
+ The Lygii, who are specially distinguished on this occasion, are the Lechs of an old Russian chronicler, and the ancestors of the Poles.
captives and booty, and engaged to furnish corn, cattle, and horses to the Roman garrisons on the frontier.
The emperor carried further than any of his predecessors the system of recruiting the exhausted forces of the empire by the infusion of barbarian vigour. No less than 16,000 recruits were furnished by the Germans for the Roman army, and were distributed cautiously among the legions by bands of fifty or sixty; for, said the emperor, “the aid which the Republic accepted from the barbarians should be felt but not seen.” Settlements of the barbarians were made at various points within the frontier, and they were encouraged to devote themselves to agriculture, that they might rear that hardy race of soldiers which the provinces supplied no longer. But the aversion of the barbarians to habits of settled industry made their assimilation with the provincials all but impossible; and their help was as dangerous for the future as it was useful in the present. The empire was continually disturbed by their rebellions; and many a band had to be exterminated for the safety of those for whose defence they had been called in. One example of their adventures may be related in the words of Gibbon :-" The successful rashness of a party of Franks was attended with such memorable consequences, that it ought not to pass unnoticed. They had been established by Probus on the sea-coast of Pontus, with a view of strengthening the frontier against the inroads of the Alani. A fleet stationed in one of the harbours of the Euxine fell into the hands of the Franks; and they resolved, through unknown seas, to explore their way from the mouth of the Phasis to that of the Rhine. They easily escaped through the Bosporus and the Hellespont, and, cruising along the Mediterranean, indulged their appetite for revenge and plunder by frequent descents on the unsuspecting shores of Asia, Greece, and Africa. The opulent city of Syracuse, in whose port the navies of Athens and Carthage had formerly been sunk, was sacked by a handful of barbarians, who massacred the greatest part of the trembling inhabitants. From the island of Sicily the Franks proceeded to the Columns of Hercules, trusted themselves to the ocean, coasted round Spain and Gaul, and, steering their triumphant course through the British Channel, at length finished their surprising voyage by landing in safety on the Batavian or Frisian shores. The example of their success, instructing their countrymen to conceive the advantages and to despise the dangers of the sea, pointed out to their enterprising spirit a new road to wealth and glory.”
During the first three years of his reign, Probus had not only