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of the barbarians, and the progress of despotism, had proved very unfavourable to genius, and even to learning. The succession of Illyrian princes restored the empire without restoring the sciences. Their military education was not calculated to inspire them with a love of letters; and even the mind of Diocletian, however active and capacious in business, was totally uninformed by study or speculation. The professions of law and physic are of such common use and certain profit, that they will always secure a sufficient number of practitioners, endowed with a reasonable degree of abilities and knowledge; but it does not appear that the students in those two faculties appeal to any celebrated masters who have flourished within that period. The voice of poetry was silent. History was reduced to dry and confused abridgments, alike destitute of amusement and instruction. A languid and affected eloquence was still retained in the pay and service of the emperors, who encouraged not any arts except those which contributed to the gratification of their pride, or defence of their power.” The declining age of learning and of mankind is marked, however, by the rise and happy progress of the New Platonists. The school of Alexandria silenced those of Athens: and the ancient sects enrolled themselves under the banners of the more fashionable teachers, who recommended their system by the novelty of their method, and the austerity of their manners. Several of these masters, Ammonius, Plotinus, Amelius, and Porphyry,t were men of profound thought and intense application; but, by mistaking the true object of philosophy, their labours contributed much less to improve, than to corrupt, the human understanding.
* The orator Eumenius was secretary to the emperors Maximian and Constantius, and professor of rhetoric in the college of Autun. His salary was six hundred thousand sesterces, which, according to the lowest computation of that age, must have exceeded 3000l. a year. He generously requested the permission of employing it in rebuilding the college. See his Oration de Restaurandis Scholis; which, though not exempt from vanity, may atone for his panegyrics.
+ Porphyry died about the time of Diocletian's abdication. The life of his master Plotinus, which he composed, will give us the most complete idea of the genius of the sect and the manners of its professors. This very curious piece is inserted in Fabricius, Bibliotheco Grooca, tom. iv. p. 88–148.
468 THE NEW PLATONISTS. [Ch. XIII.
The knowledge that is suited to our situation and powers, the whole compass of moral, natural, and mathematical science, was neglected by the New Platonists; while they exhausted their strength in the verbal disputes of metaphysics, attempted to explore the secrets of the invisible world, and studied to reconcile Aristotle with Plato, on subjects of which both these philosophers were as ignorant as the rest of mankind. Consuming their reason in these deep but unsubstantial meditations, their minds were exposed to illusions of fancy. They flattered themselves that they possessed the secret of disengaging the soul from its corporeal prison; claimed a familiar intercourse with demons and spirits; and, by a very singular revolution, converted the study of philosophy into that of magic. The ancient sages j derided the popular superstition; after disguising its extravagance by the thin pretence of allegory, the disciples of Plotinus and Porphyry became its most zealous defenders. As they agreed with the Christians in a few mysterious points of faith, they attacked the remainder of their theological system with all the fury of civil war.” The New Platonists would scarcely deserve a place in the history of science, but in that of the church the mention of them will very frequently occur.
* After the publication of Mosheim's treatise, De turbata per recentiores Platonicos Ecclesia, there was a prevailing notion, that the Christian religion was an object of hatred to the New Platonists. This opinion has here been followed by Gibbon. Many learned Germans have shown how one-sided and exaggerated it is; among these are Semmler and Schrökh, who have thrown so much light on ecclesiastical history. On this subject readers may also consult with advantage, Prof. Keil's treatise, De causis alieni Platonicorum a religione Christiana animi (Lips. 1785), in which penetration and impartiality are equally displayed. Further valuable observations on the New Platonic philosophy, to which our author has assigned a too degraded position, may be found in Prof. Meiners's Beytrag zur Geschichte der Denkart der ersten Jahrhunderte nach Christi Geburt. —Schreiter. [Gibbon's error in this passage has been overlooked by his other translators and commentators. Like many men of vast erudition, he was too apt to infer general characteristics from individual examples. Warburton did the same. Platonism, under every form, was friendly to Christianity, as may be seen in such men as Justin Martyr, Clemens Alexandrinus, Athenagoras, &c., down to the times of Origen and Synesius. To counteract this, a corrupted New Platonism was afterwards used, and an attempt made to philosophize Paganism. In his twenty-first chapter, which was not written till some time after this part of his work had been published, Gibbon dwells largely on the connection betweeen Christianity and Platonism.–ED.]
CHAPTER XIV.-TROUBLEs AFTER THE ABDICATION OF DIOCLETIAN.— DEATH OF CONSTANTIUS.–ELEVATION OF CONSTANTINE AND MAXENTIUS.–SIX EMPERORS AT The SAMe TIME.-DEATH OF MAXIMIAN AND Galerius.-VICTORIES OF CONSTANTINE OVER MAxenTIUS AND LICiNIUS.—Reunion of THE EMPIRE UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF CONSTANTINE.
THE balance of power established by Diocletian subsisted no longer than while it was sustained by the firm and dexterous hand of the founder. It required such a fortunate mixture of different tempers and abilities, as could scarcely be found or even expected a second time; two emperors without jealousy, two Caesars without ambition, and the same general interest invariably pursued by four independent princes. The abdication of Diocletian and Maximian was succeeded by eighteen years of discord and confusion: the empire was afflicted by five civil wars; and the remainder of the time was not so much a state of tranquillity as a suspension of arms between several hostile monarchs, who, viewing each other with an eye of fear and hatred, strove to increase their respective forces at the expense of their subjects.
As soon as Diocletian and Maximian had resigned the purple, their station, according to the rules of the new constitution, was filled by the two Caesars, Constantius and Galerius, who immediately assumed the title of Augustus.* The honours of seniority and precedence were allowed to the former of those princes, and he continued, under a new appellation, to administer his ancient department of Gaul, Spain, and Britain. The government of those ample provinces was sufficient to exercise his talents, and to satisfy his ambition. Clemency, temperance, and moderation, dis
* M. de Montesquieu (Considérations sur la Grandeur et la Décadence des Romains, c. 17) supposes, on the authority of Orosius and Eusebius, that, on this occasion, the empire, for the first time, was really divided into two parts. It is difficult, however, to discover in what respect the plan of Galerius differed from that of Diocletian.
470 CONSTANTIUS AND GALERIUS. sch. xrv.
tinguished the amiable character of Constantius; and his fortunate subjects had frequently occasion to compare the virtues of their sovereign with the passions of Maximian, and even with the arts of Diocletian.* Instead of imitating their eastern pride and magnificence, Constantius preserved the modesty of a Roman prince. He declared, with unaf. fected sincerity, that his most valued treasure was in the hearts of his people; and that, whenever the dignity of the throne, or the danger of the state, required any extraordinary .."; he could depend with confidence on their gratitude and liberality. The provincials of Gaul, Spain, and Britain, sensible of his worth, and of their own happiness, reflected with anxiety on the declining health of the emperor Constantius, and the tender age of his numerous family, the issue of his second marriage with the daughter of Maximian. The stern temper of Galerius was cast in a very different mould ; and, while he commanded the esteem of his subjects, he seldom condescended to solicit their affections. His same in arms, and, above all, the success of the Persian war, had elated his haughty mind, which was naturally impatient of a superior, or even of an equal. If it were possible to rely on the partial testimony of an injudicious writer, we might ascribe the abdication of Diocletian to the menaces of Galerius, and relate the particulars of a private conversation between the two princes, in which the former discovered as much pusillanimity as the latter displayed ingratitude and arrogance. But these obscure anecdotes are sufficiently refuted by an impartial view of the character and conduct of Diocletian. Whatever Inight otherwise have been his intentions, if he had apprehended any danger from the violence of Galerius,his good sense would have instructed him to prevent the ignominious contest; and as he had held the sceptre with glory, he would have resigned it without disgrace.
* Hic non modo amabilis, sed etiam venerabilis Gallis fuit; precipue quod Diocletiani suspectam prudentiam, et Maximiani sanguinariam violentiam imperio ejus evaserant. Eutrop. Breviar. 10, 1.
+ Divitiis Provincialium (mel. provinciarum) ac privatorum studens, fisci commoda non admodum affectans; ducensque melius publicas opes a privatis haberi, quam intra unum claustrum reservari. Id. Ibid. He carried this maxim so far, that whenever he gave an entertainment, he was obliged to borrow a service of plate. † Lactantius de Mort. Persecutor. c. 18. Were the particulars of this conference more consistent with truth and decency, we might still ask, how they came to the knowledge of an obscure rhetorician. But there are many historians who put us in mind of the admirable saying of the great Condé to cardinal de Retz: “Ces coquins nous font parler et agir, comme ils auroient fait eux-mêmes a notre place.” [This sneer at Lactantius cannot be justified. So far was he from being “an obscure rheto. vician,” that he had taught rhetoric publicly, and with distinguished success, first in Africa and afterwards at Nicomedia. His reputation gained him the esteem of Constantine, who attached him to his court, and intrusted him with the education of his son Crispus. All that he relates in his works occurred in his time, nor can any fraud or imposture be laid to his charge.—GUIzot.] [Lactantius, however, did not attain to such eminence till late in life. At the time when the conversation related by him was supposed to have been held, he was no more than what Gibbon describes him, and not likely to have been acquainted with court secrets. Nor would his altered position, at a later period, have afforded him opportunities of knowing what had passed "wenty years before in a private conference between two emperors,
At the elevation of Constantius and Galerius to the rank of Augusti, two new Caesars were required to supply their place, and to complete the system of the imperial government. Diocletian was sincerely desirous of withdrawing himself from the world; he considered Galerius, who had married his daughter, as the firmest support of his family and of the empire; and he consented, without reluctance, that his successor should assume the merit as well as the envy of the important nomination. It was fixed without consulting the interest or inclination of the princes of the west. Each of them had a son who was arrived at the age of manhood, and who might have been deemed the most natural candidates for the vacant honour. But the impotent resentment of Maximian was no longer to be dreaded; and the moderate Constantius, though he might despise the dangers, was humanely apprehensive of the calamities, of civil war. The two persons whom Galerius promoted to the rank of Caesar were much better suited to serve the views of his ambition; and their principal recommendation seems to have consisted in the want of merit or personal consequence. The first of these was Daza, or, as he was afterward called, Maximin, whose mother was the sister of Galerius. The unexperienced youth still betrayed by his manners and language his rustic education, when, to his own astonishment as well as that of the world, he was invested by Diocletian with the purple, exalted to the dignity of Caesar, and in