Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

restored order along the whole frontier of the Rhine and Danube, bat had subdued the rebels of Isauria in Asia Minor, and the ^Ethiopian tribe of Blemmyes, whose incursions had repeatedly extended from Upper Egypt even as far as Alexandria, when he was called to resist new attempts to set up rival monarchies in the East and the West Saturninus, whom he had appointed governor of all the Oriental provinces, while he himself was occupied in Gaul and Germany and Illyricum, was incited to rebellion by his friends and by the turbulent Alexandrians. Once committed to the attempt, he refused all offers of pardon from the emperor, by whom he was easily defeated and slain (a.d. 280). Scarcely had Probus returned to Rome, when he had to march westward to quell the insurrection of Bonosus and Proculus in Gaul; and this time also his success was unstained by cruelty (a.d. 280 or 281). The splendid triumph which he celebrated after these successes was the only one for which he found leisure amidst his untiring activity. But the very completeness of his victories over domestic and foreign enemies caused his destruction. So long as he led the licentious soldiers to victor}-, he was able to keep them under restraint; but when he attempted to employ their labour in useful works, they rebelled against him as a taskmaster. With the view of keeping the troops from the dangers of idleness, and of restoring his native region to fertility, he set the legions to drain the lands round Sirmium. Suffering probably from fever, as well as disgusted with labour such as the soldiers of the olden time had borne with patience, on one of the hottest days of summer the men threw down their tools, took up their swords, and by a sudden impulse put the emperor to death. Repenting of the deed as soon as it was done, they raised a monument to "Probus, the model of probity; the conqueror of all the barbarian tribes; the conqueror also of the tyrants" (Aug.-Sep. A.d. 282). Gibbon has pointed out that " the authority of the Senate expired with Probus; nor was the repentance of the soldiers displayed by the same dutiful regard to the civil power which they had testified after the unfortunate death of Aurelian." They at once conferred the purple on M. Aurelius Carus, the praetorian prefect, who notified his election to the Senate without even asking for their sanction.

Carus, who was sixty years of age, began his reign by conferring the title of Caasar upon his two sons, Carinus and Numerianus. Leaving the former to govern the West, he marched with the latter against the Sarmatians, who had overrun Illyricum. A.D. 282.] CARL'S, CARINUS, AND NUMERIAN. 645

Success inflamed his desire of conquest, and in the depth of winter he advanced through Thrace and Asia Minor to the confines of Persia. Bahrain, the degenerate successor of Artaxerxes and Sapor, endeavoured to avert the storm by negociation; and the account of the audience given by Carus to his envoys forms a striking picture of the soldierlike simplicity restored by a succession of martial princes. "The ambassadors entered the camp about sunset, at the time when the troops were satisfying their hunger with a frugal repast. The Persians expressed their desire of being introduced to the presence of the Roman emperor. They were at length conducted to a soldier who was seated on the grass. A piece of stale bacon and a few hard peas composed his supper. A coarse woollen garment of purple was the only circumstance that announced his dignity. The conference was conducted with the same disregard of courtly elegance. Carus, taking of! a cap which he wore to conceal his baldness, assured the ambassadors that unless their master acknowledged the superiority of Rome, he would speedily render Persia as naked of trees as his own head "was destitute of hair." So far did he keep his word, that he is said to have taken both Seleucia and Ctesiphon, when a terrible portent cut short his career. On Christmas-day, A.d. 283, a tremendous storm burst over the camp; and, amidst the darkness and confusion, a cry was raised that the emperor was dead, and his tent was seen to be in flames. The manner of his death remained a mystery, but the ancient superstition, that when the praetorium was struck by lightning, the army was doomed to destruction, caused the soldiers to demand that Numerian would lead them back again. Meanwhile Carinus had disgraced his trust by indolence and vices more shameless than those of Commodus, to which, now that his father's restraint was removed, he added the cruelties of a Domitian. The gentle and virtuous Numerian seemed as unfit to control the turbulent soldiers, as Carinus was to win the respect of the citizens; and their joint empire was doomed to speedy dissolution. But before they even met, Numerian, whom weak health had kept for some time invisible in the prastorium, was found dead by the troops, who at length broke into the tent; and his murder was imputed to his father-in-law, the praetorian prefect Aper, who, guilty or not, had concealed the death, while he concerted measures for his own succession. This event took place at Perinthus, on the very day on which Carinus held a magnificent celebration of the great Roman games at Rome (Sept. 12, A.d. 284). Aper was carried in chains to Chalcedon, where a solemn assembly of the army conferred the purple on C. Valerius Diocletianus. The new emperor's first act was to sit in judgment on Aper, who no sooner appeared before the tribunal, than Diocletian pronounced him the murderer of Numerian, and prevented a defence which might have been compromising to others by plunging his sword into his breast (Sept 17). Like most of the soldiers of fortune who attained the honours of the purple, Diocletian was believed to have been long since designated by prophecies and omens; and his motive for killing Aper with his own hand is said by some authorities to have been the hope of thus fulfilling a prediction made to him in his youth by a Gaulish druidess, that he should mount the throne as soon as he had slain the wild boar.

The ensuing winter was spent in preparing for the struggle with Carinus, who was still supported by the legions of the West, though hated by the Senate and the people.* The armies met in the spring upon the plains of Margus in Moesia; and the troops of Diocletian, enfeebled by the Eastern climate, were already broken by the fresh legions of the West, when Carinus was slain by a tribune whose wife he had dishonoured, and his fall gave the victory to his rival. The battle was fought early in A.d. 285; and Diocletian was at once acknowledged by the reunited legions, and soon after by the Senate. The years of his reign were dated from his proclamation in September, 284.

* On his march to meet Diocletian, Carinas defeated a pretender to the empire, Sabinus Julianus, in lllyricum.

A.D. 285.] EPOCH OF DIOCLETIAN. 647

CHAPTER XLIII.

PERIOD OF REVIVAL. DIOCLETIAN AND HIS COLLEAGUES. A.D. 285 TO A.D. 305.

'' When Persecution's torrent blaze

Wraps the unshrinking Martyr's head,
When fade all earthly flowers and bays,

When summer friends are gone and fled,
Is he alone in that dark hour,
Who owns the Lord of love and power t

"Or waves there not around his brow
A wand no human arm may wield,
Fraught with a spell no angels know,

His steps to guide, his soul to shield?
Thou, Saviour, art his charmed bower,
His magic ring, bis rock, his tower."—Keble.

EPOCH FORMED BY DIOCLSTIAK S ACCESSION—THE REVIVED EMPIRE BECOMES AN ORIRNTAL MONARCHY—ORIGIN AND CHARACTER OP DIOCLETIAN—HIS ASSOCIATION OP MAXIMAN AS HIS COLLEAGUE—THE TWO AUGUSTI — REVOLT OP THE PEASANTS IN GAUL, PUT DOWN BY MAXIMIAN—USURPATION OP CARAUSIUS IN BRITAIN—HE DEPEATS MAXIMIAN, AND IS AC'KNOWLEDOED BY DIOCLETIAN — APPOINTMENT OP TWO CAESARS, OALERIVS AND C0N3TAXTIUS—QUADRUPLE DIVISION OF THE EMPIRE —I. DIOCLETIAN IN THE EAST—HIS COURT AT NICOMEDIA—ITS ORIENTAL CHARACTER

II. ITALY AND AFRICA UNDER MAXIMIAN—DEGRADATION OF ROME AND THE SENATE

— NEW IMPERIAL GUARDS—TIIE CAPITAL FIXED AT MILAN—III. OALERIUS IN ILI.YKICCM—IV. CONSTANTIUS IN TIIE WEST—HE RECOVERS BRITAIN AND DEPEATS THE GERMANS— WARS OF GALERIUS AND MAXIMIAN ON THE DANUBE AND IN AFRICA— REBELLION OF EGYPT UNDER AOHILLEUS, SUPPRESSED BY DIOCLETIAN—HIS MEASURES A0AIN3T ALCHEMY—WAR WITH NARSE3, KING OF PERSIA—A GLIMPSE OF CHINA: PRINCE MAMOO IN ARMENIA—DEFEAT OF OALERIUS —HIS SECOND CAMPAIGN AND DECISIVE VICTORY—rEACE GRANTED TO NARSES —EXTENSION OP THE EMPIRE—TRIUMPH OF TnB EMPERORS—GREAT PERSECUTION OF THE CHRISTIANS—ABDICATION OF DIOCLETIAN AND MAXIMIAN— PARALLEL OF DIOCLETIAN AND CHARLES V.

Rome still stood erect and apparently victorious, after undergoing every possible form of calamity during the century that followed the death of Marcus Aurelius. Having survived the inroads of barbarians from without, and the cruelties of tyranny and civil war within, the ravages of pestilence and the diminution of population, it was still her destiny to enjoy a time of restoration for nearly another century, from the accession of Diocletian to the decisive victory of the Goths at Adrianople (a.d. 378). That century is mainly occupied with two great experiments, whether the empire could be better and more safely governed from two centres, in the East and West, than from Rome alone; and whether it might even yet recruit its own exhausted vigour, and fulfil the higher purposes of the Divine will, by placing the power of the Caesars beneath the banner of the Cross. Meanwhile the accession of Diocletian formed a new and important epoch in the development of the imperial system. The restoration of Roman greatness for a time was purchased at the cost of the last semblance of liberty; aDd the government, originally modelled on the forms of the Republic, assumed the undisguised character of an Eastern monarchy.

The period of revival had begun from the accession of Claudius; and the sixteen years spent in reuniting the severed empire, and repelling the attacks of Goths and Sarmatians, Franks and Alemanni, had been fruitful in military experience. "Carus, Diocletian, Maxiruian, Constantius, Galerius, 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." Constantius, who was destined to found the dynasty under which the revived empire reached its highest pitch of greatness, is said to have been already chosen for an associate by Carus, when that emperor's sudden death prevented the fulfilment of his design; and the accident of Diocletian's presence with the army, at the death of Numerian, caused the preference to be given to him, of whom the historian says that," as his reign was more illustrious than that of any of his predecessors, so was his birth more abject and obscure." That he was not himself a slave, as is often asserted,* may be inferred from his enlistment in a legion; and Niebuhr inclines to interpret the statement, that his father was a slave or a freedman, as signifying a colonics or serf on the Dalmatian frontier. At all events, the serf does not even appear to have had a client's title to the proud patrician name of Valerius, which he assumed as emperor, at the same time that he Romanized into Diocletianus the altogether foreign name of Diodes. Nor had even this name any connection with the Greeks among whom it had become illustrious ; f for it was probably derived from his native village of Doclea or Dioclea, in Dalmatia, near the capital Salona, which was afterwards honoured with the emperor's residence.

We need not trace the steps through which the soldier of fortune rose by his own merit, and encouraged by favourable oracles, to the eminence which caused him to be unanimously hailed as the

• Gibbon, just after stating that tlie father was probably a freedman, proceed,", for the sake of rhetoric, to call the son a slave.

t Among the famous Greeks who bore it, was the Attic exile Diocles, who was honoured as a hero at Megara, in the feast of the Diocleia ; and the popular leader and legislator of Syracuse, in B.C. 412.

« ForrigeFortsett »