« ForrigeFortsett »
by a distant and obsequious senate.” Far from being in#. to believe that the arms of Alexander obtained any memorable advantage over the Persians, we are induced to suspect, that all this blaze of imaginary glory was designed to conceal some real disgrace.f Our suspicions are confirmed by the authority of a contemporary historian, who mentions the virtues of Alexander with respect, and his faults with candour. . He describes the judicious plan which had been formed for the conduct of the war. Three Roman armies were destined to invade Persia at the same time, and by different roads. But the operations of the campaign, though wisely concerted, were not executed either with ability or success. The first of these armies, as soon as it had entered the marshy plains of Babylon, towards the artificial conflux of the #. and the Tigris,t was encompassed by the superior numbers, and destroyed by the arrows of the enemy. The alliance of Chosroes, King of Armenia, S and the long tract of mountainous country, in which the Persian cavalry was of little service, opened a secure entrance into the heart of Media to the second of the Roman armies. These brave troops laid waste the adjacent provinces, and by several successful actions against Artaxerxes, gave a faint colour to the emperor's vanity. But the retreat of this victorious army was imprudent, or at least unfortunate. In repassing the mountains, great numbers of soldiers perished by the badness of the roads and the severity of the winter season. It had been resolved, that whilst these two great detachments penetrated into the opposite extremes of the Persian dominions, the main body, under the command of Alexander himself, should support their attack, by invading the centre of the kingdom. But the inexperienced youth, influenced by his mother's counsels, and perhaps by his own fears, deserted the bravest troops and the fairest prospect of victory; and after consuming in Mesopotamia an inactive and inglorious summer, he led back to Antioch an army
hundred and sixty-two elephants of war, may sometimes be doubled. Hist, des Voyages, tom. ix., p. 260. * Hist. August. p. 133. + See in chapter 6, a note on this subject.—GUIzot. : M. de Tillemont has already observed, that Herodian's geography is somewhat confused. $ Moses of Chorene (Hist. Armen. l. 2, c. 71) illustrates this invasion of Media, by asserting that Chosroes, king of Armenia, defeated Arta. xerxes, and pursued him to the confines of Italy. The exploits of Chosroes have been magnified; and he acted as a dependent ally to the Romans. * For the account of this war, see Herodian, 1.6, p. 209, 212. The old abbreviators and modern compilers have blindly followed the Augustan History. + Eutychius, tom. ii., p. 180, vers. Pocock. The great Chosroes Noushirwan sent the code of Artaxerxes to all his satraps, as the invariable rule of their conduct. it D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, au mot Ardshir. We may observe, that after an ancient period of fables, and a long interval of darkness, the modern histories of Persia begin to assume an air of truth with the dynasty of the Sassanides. * Herodian, l. 6, p. 214. Ammianus Marcellinus, l. 23, c. 6. Some differences may be observed between the two historians, the natural effects of the changes produced by a century and a half. + The Persians are still the most skilful horsemen, and their horses the finest in the east.
268 MAXIMS OF ARTAXERXES. LCH. virt.
diminished by sickness and provoked by disappointment. The behaviour of Artaxerxes had been very different. Flyin with rapidity from the hills of Media to the marshes o the Euphrates, he had everywhere opposed the invaders in person; and in either fortune, had united with the ablest conduct the most undaunted resolution. But in several obstinate engagements against the veteran legions of Rome, the Persian monarch had lost the flower of his troops. Even his victories had weakened his power. The favourable opportunities of the absence of Alexander, and of the confusion that followed that emperor's death, presented themselves in vain to his ambition. Instead of expelling the Romans as he pretended, from the continent of Asia, he found himself unable to wrest from their hands the little province of Mesopotamia.” The reign of Artaxerxes, which from the last defeat of the Parthians lasted only fourteen years, forms a memorable era in the history of the east, and even in that of Rome. His character seems to have been marked by those bold and commanding features that generally distinguish the princes who conquer, from those who inherit an empire. Till the last period of the Persian monarchy, his code of laws was respected as the ground-work of their civil and religious policy.t Several of his sayings are preserved. One of them in particular discovers a deep insight into the constitution of government. “The authority of the prince,” said Artaxerxes, “must be defended by a military force: that force can only be maintained by taxes: all taxes must, at last, fall upon agriculture: and agriculture can never flourish except under the protection of justice and moderation.”f Artaxerxes bequeathed his new empire, and his ambitious designs against the Romans, to Sapor, a son not unworthy of his great father; but those designs were too extensive for the power of Persia, and served only to involve both nations in a long series of destructive wars and reciprocal calamities. The Persians, long since civilized and corrupted, were very far from possessing the martial independence, and the intrepid hardiness, both of mind and body, which have rendered the northern barbarians masters of the world. The science of war, that constituted the more rational force of Greece and Rome, as it now does of Europe, never made any considerable progress in the east. Those disciplined evolutions which harmonize and animate a confused multitude, were unknown to the Persians. They were equally unskilled in the arts of constructing, besieging, or defending regular fortifications. They trusted more to their numbers than to their courage; more to their courage than to their discipline. The infantry was a half-armed, spiritless crowd of peasants, levied in haste by the allurements of plunder, and as easily dispersed by a victory as by a defeat. The monarch and his nobles transported into the camp the pride and luxury of the seraglio. Their military operations were impeded by a useless train of women, eunuchs, horses, and camels; , and in the midst of a successful campaign, the Persian host was often separated or destroyed by an unexected famine.* But the nobles of Persia, in the bosom of luxury and despotism, preserved a strong sense of personal gallantry and national honour. From the age of seven years they were taught to speak truth, to shoot with the bow, and to ride; and it was universally confessed, that in the two last of these arts, they had made a more than common proficiency.f . The most distinguished youth were educated under their monarch's eye, practised their exercises in the É. of his palace, and were severely trained up to the abits of temperance and obedience in their so and laborious parties of hunting. In every province the satrap . a like school of military virtue. The Persian nobles (so natural is the idea of feudal tenures) received
270 ANCIENT GERMANY scH. Tr.
from the king's bounty lands and houses, on the condition of their service in war. They were ready on the first summons to mount on horseback, with a martial and splendid train of followers, and to join the numerous bodies of guards, who were carefully selected from amongst the most robust slaves and the bravest adventurers of Asia. These armies, both of light and heavy cavalry, equally formidable by the impetuosity of their charge and the rapidity of their motions, threatened, as an impending cloud, the eastern provinces of the declining empire of Rome.*
CHAPTER IX.--THE STATE of GERMANY TILL THE INvAston of THE BARBARIANs, IN THE TrME OF THE EMPEROR DECIUS.
THE government and religion of Persia have deserved some notice from their connexion with the decline and fall of the Roman empire. We shall occasionally mention the Scythian, or Sarmatian tribes, which, with their arms and horses, their flocks and herds, their wives and families, wandered over the immense plains which spread themselves from the Caspian sea to the Vistula, from the confines of Persia to those of Germany.t But the warlike Germans, who first resisted, then invaded, and at length overturned, the western monarchy of Rome, will occupy a much more important place in this history, and possess a stronger, and if we may use the expression, a more domestic claim to our
* From Herodotus, Xenophon, Herodian, Ammianus, Chardin, &c., I have extracted such probable accounts of the Persian nobility, as seem either common to every age, or particular to that of the Sassanides. + It is admitted by the ancients themselves that the Scythians were not Sarmatians. The Greeks, styling all the nations of the earth, except themselves, barbarians, divided these into four great classes, the Celts, the Scythians, the Indians, and Ethiopians. They called all the inhabitants of Gaul Celts. Scythia extended from the Baltic Sea to Lake Aral. In the north-western angle, between the Celtic and Scythian tribes, there was a race named by them Celto-Scythians, and in the southern part of this angle they placed the Sarmatians. But according to Schlözer, these names of Celts, Scythians, Celto-Scythians, and Sarmatians, were invented by the Greeks, in their profound ignorance of cosmography, and had no proper reality; they merely mark geographical divisions, without any regard to the cognate relations of tribes. So all the inhabitants of Gaul were known to most of the ancients by the common name of Celts. Yet they were composed of three totally distinct nations, the Belgian, Aquitanian, and Gallic, properly so called, “all differing from each other,” as Caesar says (Comm. c. i.), “in language, institutions, and laws.” . So, too, all Europeans are called Franks by the Turks. (Schlözer, Allgemeine Nordische Geschichte, p. 289, 1771.) Bayer
says (De origine et priscis sedibus Scytharum, in Opusc. p. 64), “Ephorus, in the 4th book of his History, was the first who divided the earth among four races, the Scythian, Indian, Sarmatian, and Celtic. This fragment was preserved by Cosmas Indicopleustes in his Topographia Christiana. Ephorus, therefore, to designate particular regions, denominated extensive countries after the most remarkable people that dwelt in them. He has thus, unintentionally, but unfortunately, misled us. The Greeks and Romans believing that what he related had been satisfactorily ascertained, transmitted his error to after times; and thus, not only have many nations different in their origin been blended together under the common name of Scythians, but that name has also been given to a large tract of country. So too, the Cimmerians have been confounded with the Scythians, and the Scythians with Sarmatians, Huns, and Tartars.” —GUIzoT. [This note is useful, although Gibbon did not commit the error which it imputes to him. It shews, by a preserved fragment of what was written by Ephorus, 350 years before the Christian era, how confused the Greek notions of geography then were. Modern Europeans have a natural curiosity to know what they can ascertain respecting their earliest progenitors. In the pursuit of such inquiries, they have often been misled by the false lights of antiquity. The contempt in which Greeks and Romans held barbarian languages, excluded them from every source of correct information, and makes all that has been said on this subject, even by their ablest writers, unintelligible and suspicious. When Caesar tells us, that three different languages were spoken in Gaul, we may doubt whether they were more than provincial dialects of one Celtic tongue, to which ages of non-intercourse had given various and discordant intonations, like those of Welch, Gaelic, and Irish. Suppose, even in these times, a Frenchman, as totally unacquainted with England as Caesar was with Gaul, to hear the patois of our rustics, first in Somersetshire, then in Norfolk, and afterwards in Yorkshire, he would imagine that three different languages were in use among us. Not only, too, did the ancients, after giving a name to an extensive region, apply it to all the tribes that dwelt there, but they also disregarded the changes of inhabitants that were constantly in progress; and thus, at distant periods, gave the same appellations to distinct races, merely because they found them in the same quarter. Those who take an interest in such inquiries, must never lose sight of the leading fact, that the tide of European population has always been setting from east to west; that the Celtic stream first covered the land; that in the earliest periods of our history, the stronger Gothic flood was ever pressing upon this and driving it onward, and was then succeeded by the Slavonic, wherever it afforded room. Steering along this current, by the aid of a critical philology, they may pursue a safe and successful course.-ED.]