Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

state were dissipated in private quarrels, the defenceless provinces lay exposed to every invader. The bravest usurpers were compelled, by the perplexity of their situation, to conclude ignominious treaties with the common enemy, to urchase with oppressive tributes the neutrality or services of the barbarians, and to introduce hostile and independent nations into the heart of the Roman monarchy.” Such were the barbarians, and such the tyrants, who, under the reigns of Valerian and Gallienus, dismembered the provinces, and reduced the empire to the lowest pitch of disgrace and ruin, from whence it seemed impossible that it should ever emerge. As far as the barrenness of materials would permit, we have attempted to trace, with order and erspicuity, the general events of that calamitious period. here still remain some particular facts:—I. The disorders of Sicily; II. The tumults of Alexandria; and, III. The rebellion of the Isaurians, which may serve to reflect a strong light on the horrid picture. I. Whenever numerous troops of banditti, multiplied by success and impunity, publicly defy, instead of eluding, the justice of their country, we may safely infer that the excessive weakness of the government is felt and abused by the lowest ranks of the community. The situation of Sicily preserved it from the barbarians; nor could the disarmed province have supported a usurper. The sufferings of that once flourishing and still fertile island were inflicted by baser hands. A licentious crowd of slaves and peasants reigned for a while over the plundered country, and renewed the memory of the servile wars of more ancient times.t Devastations, of which the husbandman was either the victim or the accomplice, must have ruined the agriculture of Sicily; and as the principal estates were the property of the opulent senators of Rome, who often o within a farm the territory of an old republic, it is not improbable that this private injury might affect the capital more deeply than all the conquests of the Goths or the Persians. II. The foundation of Alexandria was a noble design, at once conceived and executed by the son of Philip. The

* Regillianus had some bands of Roxolani in his service; Posthumus a body of Franks. It was perhaps in the character of auxiliaries that the latter introduced themselves into Spain. + The August. I list. (p. 177), calls it servile bellum. See Diodor. Sicul, lib. 34.

848 TU MULT8 AT ALEXANDRIA, [CH. x.

beautful and regular form of that great city, second only to Rome itself, comprehended a circumference of fifteen miles;” it was peopled by three hundred thousand free inhabitants, besides at least an equal number of slaves.t. The lucrative trade of Arabia and India flowed through the port of Alexandria to the capital and provinces of the empire. Idleness was unknown. Some were employed in blowing of glass, others in weaving of linen, others again in manufacturing the papyrus. Either sex, and every age, was engaged in the pursuits of industry; nor did even the blind or the lame want occupations suited to their condition. But the people of Alexandria, a various mixture of nations, united the vanity and inconstancy of the Greeks, with the superstition and obstinacy of the Egyptians. The most trifling occasion, a transient scarcity of flesh or lentils, the neglect of an accustomed salutation, a mistake of precedency in the public baths, or even a religious dispute, $ were at any time sufficient to kindle a sedition among that vast multitude, whose resentments were furious and implacable." After the captivity of Valerian and the insolence of his son had relaxed the authority of the laws, the Alexandrians abandoned themselves to the ungoverned rage of their passions, and their unhappy country was the theatre of a civil war, which continued (with a few short and suspicious truces) above twelve years.” All intercourse was cut off between the several quarters of the afflicted city. Every street was olluted with blood, every building of strength converted into a citadel; nor did the tumults subside, till a considerable part of Alexandria was irretrievably ruined. The spacious and magnificent district of Bruchion, with its palaces and museum, the residence of the kings and philosophers, is described above a century afterwards, as already reduced to its present state of dreary solitude.tt

• Plin. Hist. Natur. 5, 10. + Diodor. Sicul, lib. 17, p. 590. edit. Wesseling. f See a very curious letter of Hadrian in the Augustan History, p. 245. § Such as the sacrilegious murder of a divine cat. See Diodor. Sicul, lib. 1. * Hist. August. p. 195. This long and terrible sedition was first occasioned by a dispute between a soldier and a townsman about a pair of shoes. ** Dionysius, apud Euseb. Hist. Eccles. vol. vii. p. 21. Ammian. 22, 16. H. Scaliger, Arimadver. ad. Euseb. Chron. p. 258. Three dissertations of M. Bonamy, in the Mém. de l'Académie, tom. ix. [The Bruchion was one of the quarters of Alexandria, extending along the largest of the two harbours, and

III. The obscure rebellion of Trebellianus, who assumed the purple in Isauria, a petty province of Asia Minor, was attended with strange and memorable consequences. The

ageant of royalty was soon destroyed by an officer of Gal#. but his followers, despairing of mercy, resolved to shake off their allegiance, not only to the emperor, but to the empire, and suddenly returned to the savage manners from which they had never perfectly been reclaimed. Their craggy rocks, a branch of the wide-extended Taurus, protected their inaccessible retreat. The tillage of some fertile valleys” supplied them with necessaries, and a habit of rapine with the luxuries of life. In the heart of the Roman monarchy, the Isaurians long continued a nation of wild barbarians. Succeeding princes, unable to reduce them to obedience either by arms or policy, were compelled to acknowledge their weakness, by surrounding the hostile and independent spot with a strong chain of fortifications,t which often proved insufficient to restrain the incursions of these domestic foes. The Isaurians, gradually extending their territory to the sea-coast, subdued the western and mountainous part of Cilicia, formerly the nest of those daring pirates, against whom the republic had once been obliged to exert its utmost force, under the conduct of the great Pompey.f

Our habits of thinking so fondly connect the order of the universe with the fate of man, that this gloomy period of history has been decorated with inundations, earthquakes, uncommon meteors, preternatural darkness, and a crowd of

containing many palaces, in which the Ptolemies had resided. D'An. ville, tom. i. p. 308.-GUIzot.] [Prof. Heyne, with his well-known spirit of investigation, has collected excellent notices and illustrations of the Musæum, in his Treatise De Genio Saeculi Ptolemaeorum, p. 119. Opusc. Acad. vol. i.-Schreiter.] [The Ptolemies are entitled to a more prominent place than they at present occupy in the history of the world. The two first of them, especially, exercised an influence on its destinies which is very imperfectly understood. They were the true pioneers of Christianity. The institutions which they founded, and the philosophical spirit which they encouraged, not only prepared the way for it in the East, but actually provided the very teachers who first made it an object of attention and inquiry to the Greeks, gained its first converts, and founded its first Greek church. Acts xi. 20. —Ed.] * Strabo, lib. 13, p. 569. t Hist. August. p. 197. t See Cellarius. Geog. Antiq. tom. ii. p. 137, upon the limits of Isauria.

850 GREAT FAMINE. [CH. x1.

prodigies, fictitious or exaggerated.” But a long and general famine was a calamity of a more serious kind. It was the inevitable consequence of rapine and oppression, which extirpated the produce of the present, and the hope of future harvests. Famine is almost always followed by epidemical diseases, the effect of scanty and unwholesome food. Other causes must, however, have contributed to the furious plague, which, from the year 250 to the year 265, raged without interruption in every province, every city, and almost every family, of the Roman empire. During some time five thousand persons died daily in Rome; and many towns that had escaped the hands of the barbarians, were entirely depopulated.t We have the knowledge of a very curious circumstance, of some use perhaps in the melancholy calculation of human calamities. An exact register was kept at Alexandria of all the citizens entitled to receive the distribution of corn. It was found that the ancient number of those comprised between the ages of forty and seventy had been equal to the whole sum of claimants, from fourteen to fourscore years of age, who remained alive after the reign of Gallienus. Applying this authentic fact to the most correct tables of mortality, it evidently proves, that above half the people of Alexandria had perished: and, could we venture to extend the analogy to the other provinces, we might suspect that war, pestilence, and famine, had consumed, in a few years, the moiety of the human species.S

CHAPTER XI.-REIGN of CLAUDIUs.—DEFEAT of THE GurES.– VICTORIES, TRIUMPH, AND DEATH OF AURELIAN.

UNDER the deplorable reigns of Walerian and Gallienus, the empire was oppressed and almost destroyed by the soldiers, the tyrants, and the barbarians. It was saved by a series of great princes, who derived their obscure origin from the martial provinces of Illyricum. Within a period of about thirty years, Claudius, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian and his colleagues, triumphed over the foreign and domestic enemies of the state, re-established with the military discipline, the strength of the frontiers, and deserved the glorious title of restorers of the Roman world. The removal of an effeminate tyrant made way for a succession of heroes. The indignation of the people imputed all their calamities to Gallienus, and the far greater part were, indeed, the consequence of his dissolute manners and careless administration. He was even destitute of a sense of honour, which so frequently supplies the absence of public virtue; and as long as he was permitted to enjoy the possession of Italy, a victory of the barbarians, the loss of a province, or the rebellion of a general, seldom disturbed the tranquil course of his pleasures. At length, a considerable army, stationed on the Upper Danube, invested with the imperial purple their leader Aureolus; who, disdaining a confined and barren reign over the mountains of Rhaetia, passed the Alps, occupied Milan, threatened Rome, and challenged Gallienus to dispute in the field the sovereignty of Italy. The emperor, provoked by the insult, and alarmed by the instant danger, suddenly exerted that latent vigour which sometimes broke through the indolence of his temper. Forcing himself from the luxury of the palace, he appeared in arms at the head of his legions, and advanced beyond the Po to encounter his competitor. The corrupted name of Pontirolo still preserves the memory of a bridge over the Adda, which, during the action, must have proved an object of the utmost importance to both armies. The Rhaetian usurper, after receiving a total defeat and a dangerous wound, retired into Milan. The siege of that great city was immediately formed; the walls were battered with every engine in use among the ancients; and Aureolus, doubtful of his internal strength, and hopeless of foreign

* Hist. August. p. 177. + Hist. August. p. 177. Zosimus, lib. 1, & 24. Zonaras, lib. 1, p. 623. Euseb. Chronicon. Victor in Epitom.

ictor in Caesar. Eutropius, 9, 5. Orosius, 7, 21. + Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 7, 21. The fact is taken from the Letters of Dionysius, who, in the time of those troubles, was bishop of Alexandria. § In a great

number of parishes eleven thousand persons were found between fourteen and eighty: five thousand three hundred and sixty-five between forty and seventy. See Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, tom. ii. p. 590.

* Pons Aureoli, thirteen miles from Bergamo, and thirty-two from Milan. See Cluver. Italia Antiq, tom. i. p. 245. Near this place, in the year 1703, the obstinate battle of Cassano was fought between the French and Austrians. The excellent relation of the Chevalier de Folard, who was present, gives a very distinct idea of the ground. See Polybe de Folard, tom. iii. p. 223–248.

« ForrigeFortsett »