Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

from the Sarmatic, as well as from the Slavic nations, and indeed from all those other races to whom the Greeks and Romans gave the designation of barbarians. I allude to their personal freedom and regard for the rights of men; secondly, to the respect paid by them to the female sex, and the chastity for which the latter were celebrated among the people of the North. These were the foundations of that probity of character, self-respect, and purity of manners, which may be traced among the Germans and Goths even during Pagan times, and which, when their sentiments were enlightened by Christianity, brought out those splendid traits of character which distinguish the age of chivalry and romance."* •

The splendid inheritance secured by one branch of the Gothic race was gathered in by the other: the Ostrogoths, who were defeated by the Visigoths at Chalons, founded the Gothic kingdom of Italy, after putting down the obscure German chief, who deposed the last Roman emperor of the West just a quarter of a century after the battle. The very year after the death of Attila, the sole defender of the empire fell a victim to the jealousy of Valentinian; and the first time that feeble hand had ever drawn a sword, it was to plunge it in the breast of Aetius (a.d. 454). Within another year, the emperor himself suffered the vengeance of an outraged husband, Maxlmus, who was proclaimed his successor (March 16, A.d. 455). The wife, for whose sake Maximus had assassinated his master, dying soon afterwards, he compelled the widow of Valentinian to marry him; but Eudoxia avenged her enforced consent by calling in the Vandals, who disembarked at Ostia. Maximus was torn to pieces by the enraged populace as he was attempting to escape; and, though Genseric professed to grant the lives of the inhabitants to the bold intercession of Pope Leo, he gave Rome up to pillage for fourteen days (June 15—29, A.d. 455); and carried back to Africa, among his prisoners, the empress Eudoxia and her two daughters. M. Maicilius Avitus, the commander of the army of Gaul, was now proclaimed emperor by Theodoric II., king of the Visigoths, who was at this time engaged in the conquest of the Suevi in Spain (Aug. 15, A.d. 455). But the defeat and death of their king Rechiarius was avenged by count RiciMER,f the "king-maker" of the last age of Rome, who was

• Prichard, Researches into the Physical History of Man, vol. iii. p. 423.

+ '' All the barbarians, who acted a prominent part at Rome, must not be looked upon as savages : they were Christians, and spoke and understood the lingua vulgaris, which already resuiublud the Italian more than tho Latin: they were just as civilized A.D. 455.] ASCENDANCY OF RICIMER. 745

the son of a Suevian chief, and of the daughter of king Wallia. He had served with distinction under Aetius, and was now in command of the Roman fleet Fresh from a naval victory over the Vandals, he returned to Rome and deposed Avitus (Oct. 16, A.d. 456), and four months later he conferred the purple on Majorian, one of the worthiest comrades of Aetius (a.d. 457). Just at the same time, the eastern emperor Marcian died, and a simple military tribune, Leo I. the Thracian, also surnamed the Great, was placed on the throne by the patrician Aspar. Once more, both divisions of the empire were ruled by soldiers worthy of the olden times. Majorian has obtained just fame by the reforming laws which he enacted amidst his efforts to recover the empire of the West from the barbarians. After repulsing a descent of the Vandals upon Italy, he prepared a fleet to attack them in Africa, while he led his army across the Alps. A great victory over Theodoric II. was followed by a peace with the Gothic king (a.d. 459), and Majorian crossed the Pyrenees on his way to Africa. But treacherous information (probably from Ricimcr himself) enabled Genseric to burn the Roman fleet in the harbour of Carthagena (a.d. 460); and the faithless Ricimer soon afterwards deposed and probably slew Majorian (Aug. 7, A.d. 461); and himself reigned for seven years in the name of Libius Severus, an emperor so obscure, that "history has scarcely deigned to notice his birth, his elevation, his character, or his death." His authority was rejected by Marcellinus, the "patrician of the West" in Dalmatia; and by .^Egiuius, the master-general of Gaul, who after carrying on a successful war against Theodoric II., died in A.d. 464.

Italy itself was subject to such incessant depredations by the Vandals, that Ricimer was fain to seek aid from Leo, who appointed Anthemius, the son-in-law of Marcian, to the vacant throne of the West, and Anthemius gave his daughter in marriage to Ricimer (a.d. 467). A great combined attack was now made upon Africa. Basiliscus, the general of Leo, disembarked at Bona, defeated the Vandals by sea and land, and had Carthage at his mercy, when he granted a truce for seven days, during which Genseric burned the Roman fleet by fire-ships (ad. 468). Ricimer,

as our ancestors in the middle ages. A few of them had a shadow of classical education, as Theodoric the Visigoth, and the younger Alaric; hut the case was quite different with Ricimer and his equals, who no doubt heartily despised the culture of the Romans. Those Germans, unfortunately, were not one shade bettor than the effeminate Italians; they were just as faithless and cruel." (Niebuhr.;

who is suspected of being the author of the treachery of Basiliscus, now quarrelled with Anthemius, and set up his court at Milan. A civil war ensued; Ricimer proclaimed Anicius Olybrius, the sonin-law of Valentinian IIL: took and sacked Rome, with greater horrors than it had suffered from Goths or Vandals;' and put Anthemius to death: but both himself and his puppet emperor died in the same year.

The Burgundian Gundobald (a.d. 472), who succeeded to the command of Ricimer, withdrew his nominee, Glycerius, in favour of Julius Nepos, who was appointed by the eastern emperor (a.d. 474). Nepos abdicated and retired to Dalmatia, on the revolt of Orestes, a native of Pannonia, who had been the fellowsoldier and secretary of Attila, and whom Nepos himself had made master-general of the troops (a.d. 475). The purple which Orestes declined for himself was conferred by the army upon his son, who mocked the close of the long line of kings, consuls, and emperors, by the titles of Romulus Augustulus, a coincidence the more striking as they happened to be simply his family names.* But the refusal of Orestes to grant the demands of the barbarian troops, who, besides enormous pay, claimed a third part of the land of Italy, led to a new military revolution. The barbarians throughout Italy gathered their forces, and found a leader in OdoaCer, who is commonly called king of the Heruli. Of his real origin we only know that he was the son of Edecon (the chief of a tribe called Sciri) who had fallen in battle with the Ostrogoths; and that his merit had raised him to high military rank. Orestes fled to Pavia, and was killed in the storm of the city. On the approach of Odoacer to Ravenna, he received the submission of Augustulus, who wrote a letter of formal abdication to the Senate, and was permitted to retire, with an ample revenue, to the luxurious villa of Lucullus in Campania. The fall of the Western Empire under Augustulus was veiled, like its rise under Augustus, by constitutional forms. The Senate represented to Zeno that Rome no longer needed a separate emperor, and the monarch of the East entrusted the administration of the diocese of Italy to the " patrician" Odoacer, whom his troops had already saluted as the first barbarian King of Italy (a.d. 476). It belongs to medieval history to relate how, after a reign of fourteen years, he was compelled to yield his life and throne to the great Theodoric, who founded the Kingdom Of The Ostrogoths In Italy.

* Ho was called Romtilus from his maternal grandfather, a Count Romulus of Nuricum, while Augustus is known to have been a surname at Aquileia.

A.D. 47G.J THE WORK OF ROME DONE. 74?

When the city of Rome became the capital of a Gothic kingdom, all that was Roman in her polity and civilization ended with her; for the Eastern empire was essentially oriental. But, like every being, which the Creator has made, or permitted- to constitute itself, Rome only ceased to exist when her work was done—the last work of ancient civilization. As the states which have successively occupied the foremost place in the annals of the ancient world were all grouped round one common centre—the great inland sea, which was the pathway of their commerce—so had they all the one central aim of unity: each, animated by one predominant principle, strove to build upon it one supreme empire.

While one people was chosen for the purpose—however they fell short of it—of holding forth the single right principle of unity, the government of God as the basis of a spiritual empire, —for this is the only proper meaning of a Theocracy,—all the rest, having broken away from it, tried to replace it by systems more or less selfish and impure. In the great monarchies of Egypt and Western Asia—as well as in India, which has not yet taken its place as an active power in the world's history—we see the assumed prerogative of conquering castes, developed into Despotism and Priestcraft, claiming as a divine right to dispose of the bodies and the souls of men. The Greek states exhibit the nobler energy of personal liberty, developed in the highest activities of bodily and mental power, arms and manly exercises, art, philosophy, and literature; but still in that exclusive form, which only jjermitted its full enjoyment by one class alone, the Few excluding the Many, or the Many dominating over the Few. In the Phoenician Republics, and in Carthage as their highest type, we behold a commercial city establishing and exercising her rule over subject states, for the sake of the wealth, the resources of luxury, and the means of defence, which they supplied. But, under whatever variety of form, all were marked by the tyrannical assertion of the one principle which had the dominion for the time in each; and the opposition, which forms one of the mainsprings of modern civilization, was crushed and banished, whereever it failed to triumph. Above all, this tyranny was upheld by slavery, which, besides all the wrongs it inflicted on the oppressed class, deprived their oppressors of the blessings that spring from industry and mutual help.

While each form of polity had its special work to do—works which we have endeavoured to trace step by step in the foregoing pages—Rome arose in the midst of all, to gather up the results which they had separately achieved around the centre of a municipal unity. With the institutions of a people at first shut tap in a single t&wn, and environed by similar communities, the necessity of self-defence launched her on that career of conquest, which collected about the Capitol, as a ruling centre, the force of the East, the free life and refinement of Hellas, the commercial resources and pride of Carthage; till the peoples gathered beneath the wings of the imperial eagle, that it might yield them up as a prize to the Prince of Peace. The conquests made by the force of Rome, as a city, over the nationalities whose narrow boundaries she broke down, required the Empire to preserve them and weld them together by common laws, government, and institutions; and the penetration of the whole world by the imperial power prepared the path of Christianity. When that work was done, and the true religion had triumphed—though as yet, for the most part, but outwardly and nominally—alike over the conquered Empire and her barbarian conquerors, then only did this last power of the ancient world give way to the new forces, in which diversity and antagonism are as conspicuous as unity among the ancient states; and its fall is the epoch which is usually regarded as the close of Ancient History.

« ForrigeFortsett »