« ForrigeFortsett »
212 INCREASE OF TAXATION | CH. VI.
of the revenue.” For it is somewhat singular that, in every age, the best and wisest of the Roman governors persevered in this pernicious method of collecting the principa branches at least of the excise and customs.t
The sentiments, and indeed the situation of Caracalla, were very different from those of the Antonines. Inatten tive, or rather averse, to the wellare of his people, he found ...self under the necessity of gratifying , oo, insatiate avarice which he had excited in the army. Of the several impositions introduced by Augustus, the twentieth on inheritances and legacies was the most fruitful as well as the most comprehenso. As its influence was not confined to i.e. or Italy, the produce continually increased with the gradual extens.” of the Roman City. The new citizens, though charged on equal terms; with the payment of new taxes, whic not affected them as subjects, derived an ample compensation from the rank they obtained, the privileges they acquired, and the fair prospect of honours and fortune that W* thrown open to their ambition. But the favour which implied a distinction was lost in the prodigality of Caracalla, and the reluctant provincials were ... to assume the vain title, and the real obligations, of Roman citizens. Nor was the rapacious son of Severus contented with such a measure of taxation as had appeared sufficient to his moderate predecessors. Instead of a twentieth, he exacted a tenth of all legacies and inheritances: and during his reign (for the ancient proportion was restore d after his death) he crushed alike every part of the empire under the weight of his iron sceptre. §
3, 50. Esprit des Loix, l. 12, c. 19. . * See Pliny's Panegyric ** #. and Burmann, de Vectigal passim, t #. (properly so called) were not farmed, since the good Princes often rej ñany millions of area. 4 The situation of the new citi zens is minutely described by Pliny. (Panegyric. c. 37, 38.) rai published a law very much in their favour. § Dion, l. 77, p. 12 o (Gibbon has here adopted the opinion, generally received on the auth rity of spanheim and Burmann, who attribute to Caracalla the . by which all the inhabitants of the provinces were made citize ot Iome. This, however, is not an undisputed point. The p ns of Dion, on which it rests, is very suspicious. His epitomizers ‘. ...?...aras, knew it not. We have it only . * detached o: ln to. Excerpta of the emperor Constantinuo Porphyrogenitus, to o. we cannot give implicit faith. In many P*8* of Sparti us, *::
, When to the provincials became liable to the peculiar impositions of Roman citizens, they seemed to acquire a legal exemption from the tributes which they had paid in their former condition of subjects. Such were not the maxims of government adopted by Caracalla and his pretended son. The old as well as the new taxes were, at the same time, levied in the provinces. It was reserved for the Virtue of Alexander to relieve them, in a great measure, from this intolerable grievance, by reducing the tributes to a thirtieth part of the sum exacted at the time of his accesSion.* . It is impossible to conjecture the motives that engaged him to spare so trifling a remnant of the public evil; but the noxious weed, which had not been totally eradicated, again o up with the most luxuriant growth, and, in the succeeding age, darkened the Roman world with its deadly shade. In the course of this history, we shall be too often summoned to explain the land-tax, the capitation, and the heavy contributions of corn, wine, oil, and meat, which were extracted from the provinces for the use of the army and the capital. As long as Rome and Italy were respected as the centre of government, a national spirit was preserved by the ancient, and insensibly imbibed by the adopted, citizens. The principal commands of the army were filled by men who had received a liberal education, were well instructed in the advantages of laws and letters, and who had risen, by equal steps, through the regular succession of civil and military honours.t. To their influence and example we may
lius Victor, and Aristides, the edict is said to have been issued by Marcus Antoninus the philosopher. I refer those who are curious on this subject to a learned dissertation, in very bad Latin, but prepared with great industry, entitled “Joh. P. Mahneri Commentatio de Marco Aurelio Antonino, constitutionis de civitate universo orbi Romano data auctore. Halae, 8vo. 1772." It appears that Marcus Aurelius introduced into his edict clauses which relieved the provincials from some of the burdens imposed on them by the freedom of the city, and withheld from them some of the advantages which it conferred. These clauses Caracalla repealed, and so converted the privilege into an injury-WENck.] * He who paid ten aurei, the usual tribute, was charged with no more than the third part of an aureus, and proportional pieces of gold were coined by Alexander's order. Hist. August. p. 127, with the commentary of Salmasius. + See the lives of Agricola, Vespasian, Trajan, Severus, and his three competitors, and of all the eminent men of those times.
214 ALTERATION IN THE [CH. v11.
partly ascribe the modest obedience of the legions during the two first centuries of the imperial history. But when the last enclosure of the Roman constitution was trampled down by Caracalla, the separation of professions gradually succeeded to the distinction of ranks. The Imore polished citizens of the internal province were alone qualified to act as lawyers and magistrates. The rougher je of arms was abandoned to the peasants and barbarians of the frontiers, who knew no country but their camp, no ..ience but that of war, no civil laws, and scarcely those of military discipline. . With bloody hands, savage manners, and desperate resolutions, they sometimes guarded, but much oftener subverted, the throne of the emperors.
cHAprior v1.1—the ovation AND Tyranny or Maxo~RebelLIoN IN AFRICA AND ITALY, UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE SENATE. —CIVIL WARS AND SEDITIONS.—violeNT DEATHs of MAXIMIN AND HIS son, OF MAXIMUS AND BALBINUs, AND of THE THREE GORDIANs.— Usurp ATION ANP SECULAR GAMES OF PHILIP.
Or the various forms of government which have prevailed in the oria, an hereditary monarchy, seems to present the fi... .ope for ridicule: Is it possible to relate, without an indignant smilo that on the father's decease, the proerty of a nation, like that of a drove of oxen, descends to is infant son, as yet unknown to mankind and to himself. j"... the bravest warriors and the wisest statesmen. relinquishing their natural, right to empire, opproach the royal cradle with bended knees and protestations of in. Vijable fidelity ? Satire and declamation may paint these obvious topics in the most dazzling colours, but our more serious thoughts will respect a useful prejudice, that esta. blishes a rule of succession, independent of the passions of mankind; and we shall cheerfully, acquiesce, in any expe jwhich deprives the multitude of the dangerous, od i.i.d the ideal, power of giving themselves a master. In the cool shade of retirement, We may easily devise imaginary forms of government, in which the sceptre shall
be constantly bestowed on the most worthy, '. the free and incorrupt suffrage of the whole community. Experience overturns these airy fabrics, and teaches us, that in a large society, the election of a monarch can never devolve to the wisest or to the most numerous part of the people. The army is the only order of men sufficiently united to concur in the same sentiments, and powerful enough to impose them on the rest of their fellow-citizens; but the temper of soldiers, habituated at once to violence and to slavery, renders them very unfit guardians of a legal, or even a civil, constitution. Justice, humanity, or political wisdom. are qualities they are too little acquainted with in themselves, to appreciate them in others. Valour will acquire their esteem, and liberality will purchase their suffrage; but the first of these merits is often lodged in the most savage breasts; the latter can only exert itself at the expense of the public; and both may be turned against the possessor of the throne, by the ambition of a daring rival. The superior prerogative of birth, when it has obtained the sanction of time and popular opinion, is the plainest and least invidious of all distinctions among mankind. The acknowledged right extinguishes the hopes of faction, and the conscious security disarms the cruelty of the monarch. To the firm establishment of this idea, we owe the peaceful succession and mild administration of European monarchies. To the defect of it, we must attribute the frequent civil wars, through which an Asiatic despot is obliged to cut his way to the throne of his fathers. Yet even in the east, the sphere of contention is usually limited to the princes of the reigning house; and as soon as the more fortunate comF. has removed his brethren by the sword and the owstring, he no longer entertains any jealousy of his meaner subjects. But the Roman empire, after the authority of the senate had sunk into contempt, was a vast scene of confusion. The royal, and even noble families of the provinces, had long since been led in triumph before the ear of the haughty republicans. The ancient families of Rome had successively fallen beneath the tyranny of the Caesars; and whilst those princes were shackled by the forms of a commonwealth, and disappointed by the repeated
failure of their posterity,” it was impossible that any idea of hereditary succession should have taken, root in the minds of their subjects. The right to the throne, which mone could claim from birth, every one assumed from jt. The daring hopes of ambition were set, loose from the salutary restraints of law and prejudice, and the meanest of mankind might, without folly, entertain a hope of being raised, by valour. and fortune, to a rank in the army, in ja ingle crime would enable him to wrest the sceptre of the world from his feeble and unpopular master... After the murder of Alexander Severus, and the elevation of Maximin, no empo”. could think himself safe upon the throne, and every barbarian peasant of the frontier might aspire to that august but dangerous station. About thirty-two years before that event, the Emperor Severus, returning from an eastern expedition, halted in Th. to celebrate, with, military games, the birth-day of his younger son Geta. The country flocked in crowds to behold their sovere 8.3 and a young barbarian of gigantic stature earnestly solicited, in his rude dialect, that he might ... to contend for, the prize of wrestling. As the pride of discipline would have been disgraced in the overthrow of a Roman soldier by a Thracian peasant, he was ...hed with the stoulos followers of the camp, sixteen of whom he successively laid on the ground. His victory was rewarded by Some trifling gifts, and a permission to enlist in the troops. The no day the happy barbarian was dis. tinguished above a crowd of recruits, dancing and exultin ... fashion of his country. As soon is he pooj that he had attracted the emperor's notice, he instantly ran up to his horse, and followed him on foot, without the least appearance of fatigue, in a long and rapid career * Tirian.” said Severus, with astonishment, “art thou dis. posed to wrestle after thy, race?”, “Most willingly, sir.” replied the unwearied youth; and, almost II] a breath, over. threw seven of the strongest soldiers in the army. A gold collar was the prize of his matchless vigour and activity, and he was immediately appointed to serve in + had been no example of three successive generati as:... three instances . sons who succeeded too marrieges of the Caesars (notwithstanding the permission, and i.