« ForrigeFortsett »
402 THE WALL OF PROBUS, scH. xII.
inroads. The country which now forms the circle of Swabia, had been left desert in the age of Augustus by the emigration of its ancient inhsbitants.” The fertility of the soil soon attracted a new colony from the adjacent provinces of Gaul. Crowds of adventurers, of a roving temper and of desperate fortunes, occupied the doubtful possession, and acknowledged, by the payment of tithes, the majesty of the empire.t. To protect these new subjects, a line of frontier garrisons was gradually extended from the Rhine to the Danube. About the reign of Hadrian, when that mode of defence began to be practised, these garrisons were connected and covered by a strong intrenchment of trees and palisades. In the place of so rude a bulwark, the emperor Probus constructed a stone wall of a considerable height, and strengthened it by towers at convenient distances. From the neighbourhood of Neustadt and Ratisbon on the Danube, it stretched across hills, valleys, rivers, and morasses, as far as Wimpfen on the Neckar, and at length terminated on the banks of the Rhine, after a winding course of near two hundred miles. This important barrier, uniting the two mighty streams that protected the provinces of Europe, seemed to fill up the vacant space through which the barbarians, and particularly the Allemanni, could penetrate with the greatest facility into the heart of the empire. But the experience of the world, from China fo Britain, has exposed the vain attempt of fortifying an extensive tract of country.S. An active enemy, who can select and vary his points of attack, must, in the end, discover some feeble spot, or some unguarded moment. The strength as well as the attention of the defenders is divided; and such are the blind effects of terror on the firmest troops, that a line broken in a single place is almost instantly deserted. The fate of the wall which Probus erected may confirm the general observation. Within a few years after his death, it was overthrown by the Allemanni. Its scattered ruins, universally ascribed to the power of the daemon, now serve only to excite the wonder of the Swabian peasant.
of reducing Germany into a province. * Strabo, lib 7. According to Welleius Paterculus (2, 208) Maroboduus led his Marcomanni into Bohemia: Cluverius (German. Antiq. 3, 8) proves that it was from Swabia. t These settlers, from the payment of tithes, were denominaied Decumates. Tacit. Germania, c. 29. It See notes de l'abbé de la Bleterie à la Germanie de Tacite, p. 183. His account of the wall is chiefly borrowed (as he says himself) from the Alsatia Illustrata of Schoepflin. § See Recherches sur les Chinois et les Egyptiens, tom. ii, p. 81—102. The anonymous author is well acquainted with the
lobe in general, and with Germany in particular: with regard to thu
tter, he quotes a work of M. Hanselman; but he seems to confound the wall of Probus, designed against the Allemanni, with the fortification of the Mattiaci, constructed in the neighbourhood of Frankfort, against the Catti. * He distributed about fifty or sixty barbarians to a numerus, as it was then called; a corps with whose established number we are not exactly acquainted. t Camden's Britannia, Introduction, p. 136; but he speaks from a very doubtful conjecture. $ Zosimus, lib. 1, p. 62. According to Vopiscus, "...a body of 2 D
Among the useful conditions of peace imposed by Probus on the vanquished nations of Germany, was the obligation of supplying the Roman army with sixteen thousand recruits, the bravest and most robust of their youth. The emperor dispersed them through all the provinces, and distributed this dangerous reinforcement in small bands of fifty or sixty each, among the national troops; judiciously observing, that the aid which the public derived from the barbarians should be felt, but not seen.” Their aid was now become necessary. The feeble elegance of Italy and the internal provinces could no longer support the weight of arms. The hardy frontiers of the Rhine and Danube still produced minds and bodies equal to the labours of the camp; but a perpetual series of wars had gradually diminished their numbers. The infrequency of marriage, and the ruin of agriculture, affected the principles of population, and not only destroyed the strength of the present, but intercepted the hope of future, generations. The wisdom of Probus of a great and beneficial plan of replenishing the exhausted frontiers, by new colonies of captive or fugitive barbarians, on whom he bestowed iands, cattle, instruments of husbandry, and every encouragement that might engage them to educate a race of soldiers for the service of the republic. Into Britain, and most probably into Cambridgeshire,t he transported a considerable body of Vandals. The impossibility of an escape reconciled them to their situation; and, in the subsequent troubles of that island, they approved themselves the most faithful servants of the state.f Great numbers of Franks and Gepidae were
404 - BARBARIAN INROADS. [Ch. xIl
settled on the banks of the Danube and the Rhine. A hundred thousand Bastarnae, expelled from their own country, cheerfully accepted an establishment in Thrace, and soon imbibed the manners and sentiments of Roman subjects.” But the expectations of Probus were too often disappointed. The impatience and idleness of the barbarians could ill brook the slow labours of agriculture. Their unconquerable love of freedom rising against despotism, provoked them into hasty rebellions, alike fatal to themselves and to the provinces;f nor could these artificial supplies, however repeated by succeeding emperors, restore the important limit of Gaul and Illyricum to its ancient and native vigour. Of all the barbarians who abandoned their new settlements, and disturbed the public tranquillity, a very small number returned to their own country. For a short season they might wander in arms through the empire; but in the end they were surely destroyed by the power of a warlike emperor. The successful rashness of a party of Franks was attended, however, with such memorable consequences, that it ought not to be passed unnoticed. They had been established by Probus on the sea-coast of Pontus, with a view of strengthening the frontier against the inroads of the Alani. A fleet, stationed in one of the harbours of the Euxine, fell into the hands of the Franks; and they resolved, through unknown seas, to explore their way from the mouth of the Phasis to that of the Rhine. They easily escaped through the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, and cruising along the Mediterranean, indulged their appetite for revenge and plunder by frequent descents on the unsuspecting shores of Asia, Greece, and Africa. The opulent city of Syracuse, in whose port the navies of Athens and Carthage had formerly been sunk, was sacked by a handful of barbarians, who massacred the greatest part of the trembling inhabitants. From the island of Sicily, the Franks proceeded to the columns of IHercules, trusted themselves to the ocean, coasted round Spain and Gaul, and steering their triumphant course through the British channel, at length finished their sur
Vandals was less faithful. * Hist. August. p. 240. They were probably expelled by the Goths. Zosim. lib. 1, p. 66. + Hist. August, p. 240.
prising voyage by landing in safety on the Batavian or Frisian shores.” The example of their success, instructing their countrymen to conceive the advantages, and to despise the dangers of the sea, pointed out to their enterprising spirit a new road to wealth and glory. Notwithstanding the vigilance and activity of Probus, it was almost impossible that he could at once contain in obedience every part of his wide-extended dominions. The barbarians who broke their chains, had seized the favourable opportunity of a domestic war. When the emperor marched to the relief of Gaul, he devolved the command of the east on Saturninus. That general, a man of merit and experience, was driven into rebellion by the absence of his sovereign, the levity of the Alexandrian people, the pressing instances of his friends, and his own fears; but from the moment of his elevation he never entertained a hope of emF. or even of life. “Alas!” he said, “the republic has ost a useful servant, and the rashness of an hour has destroyed the services of many years. You know not,” continued he, “the misery of sovereign power; a sword is perpetually suspended over our head. We dread our very guards, we distrust our companions. The choice of action or of repose is no longer in our disposition, nor is there any age, or character, or conduct, that can protect us from the censure of envy. In thus exalting me to the throne, you have doomed me to a life of cares, and to an untimely fate. The only consolation which remains is the assurance that I shall not fall alone.”f But as the former part of his prediction was verified by the victory, so the latter was disappointed by the clemency of Probus. That amiable prince attempted even to save the unhappy Saturninus from the fury of the soldiers. He had more than once solicited the usurper himself to place some confidence in the mercy of a sovereign who so highly esteemed his character, that he had punished, as a malicious informer, the first who related the improbable news of his defection.f Saturninus might, perhaps, have embraced the generous offer, had he not been restrained by the obstinate distrust of his adhe
* Panegyr. Wet. 5, 18. Zosimus, lib. 1, p. 66. + Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 245, 246. The unfortunate orator had studied rhetori; at Carthage, and was therefore more probably a Moor (Zosim. lib. 1 p. 60) than a Gaul, as Wopiscos calls him. # Zonaras, lib. 12, p. 638 * A very surprising instance is recorded of the prowess of Proculus. He had taken one hundred Sarmatian virgins. The rest of the story he must relate in his own language: Ex his una nocte decem inivi; omnes tamen, quod in me erat, mulieres intra dies quindecim reddidi. Vopiscus in Hist. August. p. 246.
rents. Their guilt was deeper, and their hopes more sanguine than those of their experienced leader. The revolt of Saturninus was scarcely extinguished in the east, before new troubles were excited in the west, by the rebellion of Bonosus and Proculus in Gaul. The most distinguished merit of those two officers was their respective prowess: of the one in the combats of Bacchus, of the other in those of Venus;* yet neither of them was destitute of courage and capacity, and both sustained with honour the august character which the fear of punishment had engaged them to assume, till they sunk at length beneath the superior genius of Probus. He used the victory with his accustomed moderation, and spared the fortunes as well as the lives of their innocent families.t The arms of Probus had now suppressed all the foreign and domestic enemies of the state. His mild but steady administration confirmed the re-establishment of the public tranquillity; nor was there left in the provinces a hostile barbarian, a tyrant, or even a robber, to revive the memory of past disorders. It was time that the emperor should revisit Rome, and celebrate his own glory and the general happiness. The triumph due to the valour of Probus was conducted with a magnificence suited to his fortune; and the people who had so lately admired the trophies of Aurelian, gazed with equal pleasure on those of his heroic successor. We cannot on this occasion, forget the desperate courage of about fourscore gladiators, reserved, with near six hundred others, for the inhuman sports of the amphitheatre. Disdaining to shed their blood for the amusement of the populace, they killed their keepers, broke from the place of their confinement, and filled the streets of Rome with blood and confusion. After an obstinate resistance, they were overpowered and cut in pieces by the regular
+ Proculus, who was a native of Albengue on the Genoese coast, armed two thousand of his own slaves. His riches were great, but they were acquired by robbery. It was afterwards a saying of his family, Nec latrones esse, nec principes sibi placere. Vopiscus in Hist, August. p. 247. + Hist. August. p. 240,