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him as the principal author of the decline of the Roman empire.*

CHAPTER WI.--THE DEATH OF SEVERUs.—TYRANNY of CARAcALLA.— USURPATION OF MACRINU.S. – FOLLIES OF ELAGABALUS.--VIRTUES OF ALEXANDER SEVERUS.– LICENTIOUSNESS OF THE ARMY. —GENERAL STATE OF THE ROMAN FINANCES.

THE ascent to greatness, however steep and dangerous, may entertain an active spirit with the consciousness and exercise of its own powers; but the possession of a throne could never yet afford lasting o to an ambitious mind. This melancholy truth was felt and acknowledged by Severus. Fortune and merit had, from an humble station, elevated him to the first place among mankind. . He had been all things, as he said himself, and all was of little value.t Distracted with the care, not of acquiring, but of preserving an empire, oppressed with age and infirmities, careless of fame, and satiated with power, all his prospects of life were closed. The desire of perpetuating the greatness of his family, was the only remaining wish of his ambition and paternal tenderness.

Like most of the Africans, Severus was passionately addicted to the vain studies of magic and divination, deeply versed in the interpretation of dreams and omens, and perfectly acquainted with the science of judicial astrology, which, in almost every age except the present, has maintained its dominion over the mind of man. He had lost his first wife whilst he was governor of Lyonnese Gaul.” In the choice of a second, he sought only to connect himself with some favourite of fortune; and as soon as he had discovered that a young lady of Emesa in Syria had a royal nativity, he soli, cited and obtained her hand.t Julia Domna (for that was her name) deserved all that the stars could promise her. She possessed, even in an advanced age, the attractions of beauty, and united to alively imagination a firmness of mind, and strength of judgment, seldom bestowed on her sex. Her amiable qualities never made any deep impression on the dark and jealous temper of her husband; but in her son's reign, she administered the principal affairs of the empire, with a prudence that supported his authority, and with a moderation that sometimes corrected his wild extravagances.S Julia applied herself to letters and philosophy with somé success, and with the most splendid reputation. She was the patroness of every art, and the friend of every man of genius." The grateful flattery of the learned has celebrated her virtue; but, if we may credit the scandal of ancient history, chastity was very far from being the most conspicuous virtue of the empress Julia.” Two sons, Caracallaff and Geta, were the fruit of this

* Still the ministerial activity, the wise regulations, and the very severity of Severus (Imperator sui nominis), reorganized the strength and power of the empire. Even the system which our author has shown to have been introduced, would have had no pernicious influence, if his immediate successors had been like him. They were unfortunately the most incapable and worthless of mankind. Severus predicted what actually ensued: “Firmum imperium Antoninis meis relinquo, si boni erunt; imbecillum, si mali.” (Spartian. c. 23). The later Romans, while they admired the father, ascribed to the sons and their successors, the fall of the empire.—WENCK. It is not inappropriate to remark here, that the insubordination of Praetorian guards, the vices and tyranny of emperors, the luxury and effeminacy of courtiers, and the impoverishment of the people by military rapine and imperial exactions, were the symptoms, not the causes of the disease. A robust, vigorous frame would have shaken off these chronic disorders. There was a more deeply seated malady, of which the reflective reader should seek and watch the progress. The whole system was pervaded by a languor and decrepitude, that impaired every faculty for resistance, and obstructed every chance of proximate recovery.—ED.] t Hist. August. p. 71. “Omnia fui et nihil expedit." : Dion Cassius, l. 77, p. 1284.

* About the year 186, M. de Tillemont is miserably embarrassed with a passage of Dion, in which the empress Faustina, who died in the year 175, is introduced as having contributed to the marriage of Severus and Julia (l. 74, p. 1243). The learned compiler forgot that Dion is relating, not a reai fact, but a dream of Severus; and dreams are circumscribed to no limits of time or space. Did M. de Tillemont imagine that marriages were consummated in the temple of Venus at Rome? Hist, des Empereurs, tom. iii, p. 389, note 6. + Hist. August. p. 65. 3: Ibid. p. 85. § Dion Cassius, 1.77, p. 1304, 1314. "I See a Dissertation of Menage, at the end of his edition of Diogene. Laertius, de Foeminis Philosophis. ** Dion, 1.76, p. 12S5. Aurelius Victor. tt Bassianus was his first name, as it had been that of his maternal grandfather. During his reign, he assumed the appellation of Antoninus, which is employed by lawyers and ancient historians. After his death, the public indignation loaded him with the nicknames of Tarantuš Caracalla. The first was borrowed from a celebrated o, the M :

164 QUARRELS OF THE sons [CH. vi.

marriage, and to destined heirs of the empire. The fond hopes of the father, and of the Roman world, were soon disappointed by these vain youths, who displayed the indolent security of hereditary pringes, and a presumption that fortune would supply the place of merit and application. Without an emulation of virtue or talents, they discovered, almost from their infancy, a fixed and implacable antipathy for each .." This aversion, confirmed by year. and fomented b the arts of theo" interested favourites, broke ‘...." childish, radually in more serious com etitions; and, at length the joire, the circus, ..". court, into two ; tions, actuated by the hopes and fears of their respective leaders. The prudent emperor endeavoured, by every expedient of advice and authority, to allay this growing animosity. The unhappy discord of his sons clouded all his prospects, and i.eatened to overturn a throne, raised with so much labour, ... ented with so much blood, and guarded with eve defence of aro and treasure. With an impartial hand he maintained boo”. them, an exact balance of favour, confired on both the rank of Augustus, with the revered name of Antoninus; and, for the first time, the Roman world beheld three ...rors.” Yet even this equal conduct served only to inflame the contest, whilst the fierce Caracalla asserted the right of primogeniture, and the milder Geta courted the affections of the people and the soldiers. ... In the anguish of a. disappointed father, Severus foretold that the weaker of his sons would fall a sacrifice to the stronger, who, in his turn, would be ruined by his own vicest In these circumstances, the intelligence of a war in Britain, and of an invasion of the province by the barbarians of the ...th, was received with pleasure by Severus. Though the vigilance of his lieutenants might have been sufficient to rej'the distant enemy, he resolved to emorate the honourable ...text of withdrawing his sons from the luxury of Rome, {jon enervated their minds and irritoed their passions, and joinuring their youth to the toilo of war and government. Notwithstanding his advanced go (for he was above threescore) and his gout, which obliged him to be carried in a

second from along Gallic gown which." distributed to the people of

Rørne. . . The elevation of Caracalla is fixed by the accurate §: de

Tilemont to the year 198: the associa". of Geta to the year 208. * Herodian, i. 3. iso. The lives of Caracala and Geta in the litter, he transported himselfin person into that remote island, attended by his two sons, his whole court, and a formidable army. . He immediately passed the walls of Hadrian and Antoninus, and entered the enemy's country, with the design of completing the long-attempted conquest of Britain. He penetrated to the northern extremity of the island, without meeting an enemy. But the concealed ambuscades of the Caledonians, who hung unseen on the rear and flanks of his army, the coldness of the climate, and the severity of a winter march across the hills and morasses of Scotland, are reported to have cost the Romans above fifty thousand men. The

Caledonians at lenght yielded to the powerful and obstinate,

attack, sued for peace, and surrendered a part of their arms, and a large tract of territory. But their apparent submission lasted no longer than the present terror. As soon as the Roman legions had retired, they resumed their hostile independence. Their restless spirit provoked Severus to send a new army into Caledonia, with the most bloody orders, irot to subdue, but to extirpate the natives. They were saved by the death of their haughty enemy.* This Caledonian war, neither marked by decisive events, nor attended with any important consequences, would ill deserve our attention; but, it is supposed, not without a considerable degree of probability,that the invasion of Severus is connected with the most shining periods of the British history or fable. Fingal, whose fame, with that of his heroes and bards, has been revived in our language by a recent publication, is said to have commanded the Calédonians in that memorable juncture, to have eluded the power of Severus, and to have obtained a signal victory on the banks of the Carun, in which the son of the king of the world, Caracul, fled from his arms along the fields of his pride.t Something of a doubtful mist still hangs over these highland traditions; nor can it be entirely dispelled by the most ingenious researches of modern criticism: but if we could, with safety, indulge the pleasing supposition, that Fingal lived, and that Ossian sung, the striking contrast of the situation and man

Augustan History. . * Dion, 1. 76, p. 1280, &c. Herodian, 1.3, p. 132, &c. + Ossian's Poems, vol. i. p. 175. : That the Caracul of Ossian is the Caracalla of the Roman History, is, perhaps, the only point of British antiquity in which Mr. MacPherson and Mr. Whitaker are of the same opinion; and yet the opinion is not without difficulty. In the Caledonian war, the son of Severus was known only by the

166 AMIBITION OF CARACALLA. scB. vi.

ners of the contending nations might amuse a philosophic mind. The arallel would be little to the advantage of the more civilized people, if we compared the unrelenting reven of severus with the generous clemency of Fingali, the timid ind brutal cruelty of Caracalla, with the bravery, the tendermess, the elegant genus of Ossian; the meronary chiefs who, from motives of fear or interest, served under the imperial standard, with the freeborn warriors who started to ... at the voice of the king of Morven; if, in a word, we contemplated the untutored Caledonians, glowing with the jm virtues of naturo and the degenerate Romans, polluted with the mean V** of wealth and slavery. Tijining health and last illness of Severus inflamed the wild ambit” and black passions of Caracalla’s soul. Impatient of any delay or division of empire, he attem ted, ... once, to shorten the small remainder of his father's days, and endeavout without success, to excite a mutiny among the tro. The old emperor had often censured the misguided lenis. of Marcus, who, by a single act of justice, might have saved the Romans from the tyranny of his worthless son. Placed in the same situation, he experienced how easily the rigo". of a judge dissolves away in the tenderness of a parent. He deliberated, he threatened, but he could not punish; and this last and only instance of mercy was more fatal to the empire than a long series of cruelty. The

appellation of Antoninus; and it may seem strange that the Highland tood should describe him by a nickname, invented four years after... carcely used by the Romans till asso the death of that emperor, and seldom employed by the most, ancient, historians. See }. 1.77, p. 1317. Hist, August. R. 89. Aurel. Victor. Euseb. in {...A. ad ann. 214. [The objection here urged to the opinion, that à.jan's Caracul was the Caracalla of Roman history, may be easily ...vered. The latter name was already in use during the lifetime of i. emperor, and he was universally known by it after his death, jch soon followed. Ossian might therefore have learned it, through ii. intercourse between the Caledonians and their neighbours, either i...ons or Britons, and might thus have been acquainted with it soon after the war, if the poems, in which Caracul is named, were written, or. Inore properly, sung, at the time, for, the art of writing had not i., been introduced into Scotland. Bo he composed most of them ... advanced age, after the death of his to Fingal, which, from †† traditions, Macpherson fixes in the Yo so. It was more naturol for a Celtic bard to use a name derived from his language than that of Antoninus, which would not have adopted itself so well to his potry.,.\ock.] * Dion, l. 76, p. 1.23%. , Hist. August. p. 71. Aurel- Victor. + Dion, l, 76, p. 12S3. Hist. August. p. 89.

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