Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

the deplorable weakness of the government, that the emperor was unable to revenge his murdered friend and his insulted dignity, without stooping to the arts of o and dissimulation. Epagathus, the principal leader of the mutiny, was removed from Rome, by the honourable employment of prefect of Egypt; from that high rank he was gently degraded to the government of Crete; and when, at length, his popularity among the guards was effaced by time and absence, Alexander ventured to inflict the tardy, but deserved punishment of his crimes.” Under the reign of a just and virtuous prince, the tyranny of the army threatened with instant death his most faithful ministers who were susected of an intention to correct their intolerable disorders. he historian Dion Cassius had commanded the Pannonian legions with the spirit of ancient discipline. Their brethren of Rome, embracing the common cause of military license, demanded the head of the reformer. Alexander, however, instead of yielding to their seditious clamours, showed a just sense of his merit and services, by appointing him his colleague in the consulship, and defraying from his own treasury the expense of that vain dignity; but as it was justly Fo that if the soldiers beheld him with the ensigns of his office, they would revenge the insult in his blood, the nominal first magistrate in the state retired, by the emperor's advice, from the city, and spent the greatest part of his consulship at his villas in Campania.t trace results, than minutely to specify and unnecessarily divide details. —ED.] * Though the author of the life of Alexander (Hist. August. p. 132) mentions the sedition raised against Ulpian by the soldiers, he conceals the catastrophe, as it might discover a weakness in the administration of his hero. From this designed omission, we may judge of the weight and candour of that author. [Gibbon here knew more than his authority substantiates. Dion is the only writer who mentions the punishment of Epagathus; and says no more, than that he was appointed governor of Egypt, ostensibly as an honour, but in fact to remove him to a distance, where he might be safely executed. From that country he was taken to Crete, and there put to death. It is not stated that he was made governor of that island.—WENck.] + For an account of Ulpian's fate, and his own danger, see the mutilated conclusion of Dion's History, l. 80, p. 1371. , [Dion had no estates in Campania, and *** not rich. He says only, that the emperor recommended him to *ide somewhere out of Rome during his consulship; that he returned to the city when his year of , office expired; and that he had some *mmunication with his sovereign in Campania. He then requested

198 DANGEROUS revolt [cH. vi.

The lenity of the emperor confirmed the insolence of the troops; the legions imitated the example of the guards, and defended their prerogative of licentiousness with the same furious obstinacy. The administration of Alexander was an unavailing struggle against the corruption of his age. In Illyricum, in Mauritania, in Armenia, in Mesopotamia, in Germany, fresh mutinies perpetually broke out ; his officers were murdered, his authority was insulted, and his life at last sacrificed to the fierce discontents of the army.*

One particular fact well deserves to be recorded, as it illustrates the manners of the troops, and exhibits a singular instance of their return to a sense of duty and obedience. Whilst the emperor lay at Antioch, in his Persian expedition, the particulars of which we shall hereafter relate, the punishment of some soldiers, who had been discovered in the baths of the women, excited a sedition in the legion to which they belonged. Alexander ascended his tribunal, and with a modest firmness, represented to the armed multitude the absolute necessity, as well as his inflexible resolution, of correcting the vices introduced by his impure predecessor, and of maintaining the discipline, which could not be relaxed without the ruin of the Roman name and empire. Their clamours interrupted his mild expostulation. “Reserve your shouts,” said the undaunted emperor, “till you take the field against the Persians, the Germans, and the Sarmatians. Be silent in the presence of your sovereign and benefactor, who bestows upon you the corn, the clothing, and the money, of the provinces. Be silent, or I shall no longer style you soldiers, but citizens,t if those indeed, who disclaim the laws of Rome, deserve to be ranked among the meanest of the people.” His menaces inflamed the fury of the legion, and their brandished arms already threatened his person. “Your courage,” resumed the intrepid Alexander, “would be more nobly displayed in the field of battle; me you may destroy, you cannot intimidate; and the severe justice of the republic would punish your crime, and revenge my death.” . The legion still persisted in clamorous sedition, when the emperor pronounced with a loud voice, the decisive sentence: “Citizens! lay down your arms, and depart in peace to your respective habitations.” The tempest was instantly appeased; the soldiers, filled with grief and shame, silently confessed the justice of their punishment, and the power of discipline, yielded up their arms and military ensigns, and retired in confusion, not to their camp, but to the several inns of the city. Alexander enjoyed, during thirty days, the edifying spectacle of their repentance; nor did he restore them to their former rank in the army, till he had punished with death those tribunes whose connivance had occasioned the mutiny. The grateful legion served the emperor whilst living, and revenged him when dead.* The resolutions of the multitude generally depend on a moment; and the caprice of passion might equally determine the seditious legion to ". down their arms at the emperor's feet, or to plunge them into his breast. Perhaps, if the singular transaction had been investigated ..". penetration of a philosopher, we should discover the secret causes which, on that occasion, authorized the boldness of the prince, and commanded the obedience of the troops; and perhaps, if it had been related by a judicious historian, we should find this action, worthy of Caesar himself, reduced nearer to the level of probability, and the common standard of the character of Alexander Severus. The abilities of that amiable prince seem to have been inadequate to the difficulties of his situation, the firmness of his conduct inferior to the purity of his intentions. . His virtues, as well as the vices of Elagabalus, contracted a tincture of weakness and effeminacy from the soft climate of Syria, of which he was a native, though he blushed at his foreign origin, and listened with a vain complacency to the flattering genealogists, who derived his race from the ancient stock of Roman nobility.t The pride and avarice of his mother cast a shade on the glories of his

and obtained permission to pass the rest of his life in his native place, Nice, in Bithynia, where he completed his history to the end of his second consulship. As we advance beyond that point, we miss the assistance of that industrious writer.—WENCK.] * Annot. Reimar. ad Dion Cass., l. 80, p. 1369. + Julius Caesar had appeased a sedition with the same word quirites, which, thus opposed to soldiers,

was used in a sense of contempt, and reduced the offenders to the less honourable condition of mere citizens. Tacit. Annal. 1. 48. * Hist. August. p. 132. + From the Metelli. Hist. August, p. 119. The choice was judicious. In one short period of twelve years, the Metelli could reckon seven consulships and five triumphs. See Welleius

200 FRESH DIFFICULTIES. [CH. VI.

reign, and, by exacting from his riper years the same dutiful obedience which she had justly claimed from his inexo youth, Mamaea exposed to public ridicule both er son's character and her own.* The fatigues of the Persian war irritated the military discontent; the unsuccessful event degraded the reputation of the emperor as a general, and even as a soldier.f Every cause prepared, and every circumstance hastened, a revolution, V, hich distracted the Roman empire with a long series of intestine calamities.

The dissolute tyranny of Commodus, the civil wars occasioned by his death, and the new maxims of policy introduced by the house of Severus, had all contributed to increase the dangerous power of the army, and to obliterate

Taterculus, 2, 11, and the Fasti. * The life of Alexander, in the Augustan History, is the mere idea of a perfect prince, an awkward imitation of the Cyropaedia. The account of his reign, as given by Herodian, is rational and moderate, consistent with the general history of the age, and, in some of the most invidious particulars, confirmed by the decisive fragments of Dion. Yet, from a very paltry prejudice, the greater number of our modern writers abuse Herodian, and copy the Augustan History. See Messrs. de Tillemont and Wotton. From the opposite prejudice, the Emperor Julian (in Caesarib. p. 315) dwells with a visible satisfaction on the effeminate weakness of the Syrian, and the ridiculous avarice of his mother. + The result of this Persian war is variously represented by historians. Herodian alone speaks of it as unsuccessful. Lampridius, Eutropius, Victor, and others, say that it was very glorious for Alexander; that Artaxerxes was defeated in an important battle and driven back from the frontiers of the empire. It is certain that the emperor, on his return to Rome, had the honour of a triumph (Lamprid. Hist. Aug. c. 56, pp. 133, 134), and that, haranguing the people, he said : “Quirites, vicinus Persas; milites divites reduximus; vobis congiarium pollicemur; cras ludos circenses persicos dabimus.” (Romans, we have conquered the Persians. Our soldiers are come home enriched by spoil. You, too, shall receive a distribution of money. To-morrow Persian games shall be given in the circus.) “Alexander,” says Eckhel, “was too modest, too prudent, to allow honours to be paid him, as the reward of victories which he had not gained. If he had been unfortunate, he might have remained silent and concealed his losses; but he would not have accepted an unmerited homage.” (Eckhel, Doct. Num. Vet. tom. vii. p. 176.) On medals he appears as the triumphant conqueror. One, among others, represents him as crowned by Victory, between two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tiber, with the inscription “P. M. TR. P. xii. Cos. Xiii. P. P.” In the Mus. Reg. Gail. it stands thus: “Imperator paludatus. d. hastain s, parazonium, stat inter duos fluvios humi jacentes, et ab accedente retro Victoria coronatur. -E. max. mod.” Gibbon will be found entering inore minutely into this

the faint image of laws and liberty that was still impressed on the minds of the Romans. This internal change, which undermined the foundations of the empire, we have endeayoured to explain with some degree of order and perspicuity. The personal characters of the emperors, their victories, Jaws, follies, and fortunes, can interest us no farther than as they are connected with the general history of the decline and fall of the monarchy. Our constant attention to that great object will not suffer us to overlook a most important edict of Antoninus Caracalla, which communicated to all the free inhabitants of the empire the name and privileges of Roman citizens. His unbounded liberality flowed not, however, from the sentiments of a generous mind; it was the sordid result of avarice, and will naturally be illustrated by some observations on the finances of that state, from the victorious ages of the commonwealth to the reign of Alexander Severus.* The siege of Veii in Tuscany, the first considerable enterPio of the Romans, was protracted to the tenth year, much ess by the strength of the place than by the unskilfulness of the besiegers.f The unaccustomed hardships of so many winter campaigns, at the distance of near twenty miles from home,t required more than common encouragements; and the senate wisely prevented the clamours of the people by the institution of a regular pay for the soldiers, which was levied by a general tribute, assessed according to an equitable proportion on the property of the citizens.S During more than two so years after the conquest of Veii,

guestion, when he treats of the Persian monarchy; but I have thought it right to introduce here what appears to controvert his opinion.— GUIzot. * Some may think that this digression on Roman finance might have been more fitly introduced in the third chapter, or in the history of Caracalla, than here, in the reign of Alexander Severus, where it has no connection with what either precedes or follows.-WExck. t Unacquainted with the destructive missiles projected by fire or gunpowder, ancient besiegers reduced towns by blockade and famine, or employed stratagem, where force could not prevail.—WENck. : According to the more accurate Dionysius, the city itself was only a hundred stadia, or twelve miles and a half, from Rome, though some outposts might be advanced farther on the side of Etruria. Nardini, in a professed treatise, has combated the popular opinion and the authority of two popes, and has removed Veii from Civita Castellana to a little spot called'Isola, in the midway between Rome and the lake Bracciano. s see the fourth and fifth books of Livy. In the Roman

« ForrigeFortsett »