[ocr errors][merged small]

stantine, or Valens, or Theodosius, for the object of his invectives; but they unanimously agree in representing the burden of the public impositions, and particularly the land-tax and capitation, as the intolerable and increasing grievance of their own times. From such a concurrence, an impartial historian, who is obliged to extract truth from satire, as well as from panegyric, will be inclined to divide the blame among the princes whom they accuse, and to ascribe their exactions much less to their personal vices than to the uniform system of their administration. The emperor Diocletian was indeed the author of that system ; but during his reign the growing evil was confined within the bounds of modesty and discretion, and he deserves the reproach of establishing pernicious precedents, rather than of exercising actual oppression.105 It may be added, that his revenues were managed with prudent economy; and that, after all the current expenses were discharged, there still remained in the Imperial treasury an ample provision either for judicious liberality or for any emergency of the state.

105 Indicta lex nova quæ sane illorum temporum modestiâ tolerabilis, in perniciem processit. Aurel. Victor [de Cæsar, c. 39]; who has treated the character of Diocletian with good sense, though in bad Latin.

* The most curious document which tion in the value of money, or the rise in has come to light since the publication of the price of commodities, had been so Gibbon's History is the edict of Dio- great during the last century, that cletian published from an inscription butchers' meat, which in the second cenfound at Eskihissar (Stratoniceia), by Col. tury of the empire was in Rome about two Leake. This inscription was first copied denarii the pound, was now fixed at a by Sherard, afterwards much inore com- maximum of eight: Col. Leake supposes pletely by Mr. Bankes. It is confirmed the average price could not be less than and illustrated by a more imperfect copy four: at the same time the maximum of of the same edict, found in the Levant by the wages of the agricultural labourers was a gentleman of Aix, and brought to this twenty-five. The whole edict is, perhaps, country by M. Vescovali. This edict was the most gigantic effort of a blind though issued in the name of the four Cæsars, well-intentioned despotism to control that Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius, and which is, and ought to be, beyond the Galerius. It fixed a maximum of prices regulation of the government. See an throughout the empire for all the neces- Edict of Diocletian, by Col. Leake, Lonsaries and commodities of life. The pre- don, 1826. amble insists, with great vehemence, on the Col. Leake has not observed that this extortion and inhumanity of the venders edict is expressly named in the treatise de and merchants. Quis enim adeo optumsi Mort. Persecut. ch. 7. Idem cum variis (obtusi) pectoris et a sensu inhumanitatis iniquitatibus immensam faceret caritatem, extorris est, qui ignorare potest immo non legem pretiis rerum venalium statuere cosenserit in venalibus rebus, quæ vel in natus est.-M. mercimoniis aguntur vel diurnâ urbium A n excellent edition of this edict has conversatione tractantur, in tantum se been published, with a commentary, by licentiam difusisse, ut effrenata libido Mommsen, who shows that it was issued rapien(tium nec rerum copia nec anno- in A.D. 301. The price of all commodities rum ubertatibus mitigaretur ? Among the is given in denarii, but unfortunately it is articles of which the maximum value is impossible to determine the value of this assessed, are oil, salt, honey, butchers' denarius: it was not the well-known silver meat, poultry, game, fish, vegetables, coin, but a copper coin of much inferior fruit, the wages of labourers and artisans, value. See Das Edict Diocletians De schoolmasters and orators, clothes, skins, Pretiis Rerum Venalium, herausgegeben boots and shoes, harness, timber, corn, von Theodor Mommsen, Leipzig, 1851.-S. wine, and beer (zythus). The deprecia





Resemblance to Charles the Fifth,

It was in the twenty-first year of his reign that Diocletian executed Abdication his memorable resolution of abdicating the empire; an of Diocle action more naturally to have been expected from the elder Maximian. or the younger Antoninus than from a prince who had never practised the lessons of philosophy either in the attainment or in the use of supreme power. Diocletian acquired the glory of giving to the world the first example of a resignation 06 which has not been very frequently imitated by succeeding monarchs. The

parallel of Charles the Fifth, however, will naturally offer to Charles itself to our mind, not only since the eloquence of a modern

historian has rendered that name so familiar to an English reader, but from the very striking resemblance between the characters of the two emperors, whose political abilities were superior to their military genius, and whose specious virtues were much less the effect of nature than of art. The abdication of Charles appears to have been hastened by the vicissitude of fortune ; and the disappointment of his favourite schemes urged him to relinquish a power which he found inadequate to his ambition. But the reign of Diocletian had flowed with a tide of uninterrupted success; nor was it till after he had vanquished all his enemies, and accomplished all his designs, that he seems to have entertained any serious thoughts of resigning the empire. Neither Charles nor Diocletian were arrived at a very advanced period of life; since the one was only fifty-five, and the other was no more than fifty-nine years of age; but the active life of those princes, their wars and journeys, the cares of royalty, and their application to business, had already impaired their constitution, and brought on the infirmities of a premature old age.107 Notwithstanding the severity of a very cold and rainy winter,

Diocletian left Italy soon after the ceremony of his triumph, Long illness and began his progress towards the East round the circuit

cletian. of the Illyrian provinces. From the inclemency of the weather and the fatigue of the journey, he soon contracted a slow illness; and though he made easy marches, and was generally carried in a close litter, his disorder, before he arrived at Nicomedia, about the end of the summer, was become very serious and alarming. During the whole winter he was confined to his palace; his danger inspired a general and unaffected concern ; but the people could only judge of the various alterations of his health from the joy or consternation which they discovered in the countenances and behaviour

[ocr errors]

of Diocletian.

106 Solus omnium, post conditum Romanum Imperium, qui ex tanto fastigio sponte ad privatæ vitæ statum civilitatemque remearet. Eutrop. ix. 28 (16).

107 The particulars of the journey and illness are taken from Lactantius (c. 17), who may sometimes be admitted as an evidence of public facts, though very seldom of private anecdotes.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

of his attendants. The rumour of his death was for some time universally believed, and it was supposed to be concealed with a view to prevent the troubles that might have happened during the absence of the Cæsar Galerius. At length, however, on the first of March, Diocletian once more appeared in public, but so pale and emaciated, that he could scarcely have been recognised by those to whom his person was the most familiar. It was time to His pruput an end to the painful struggle, which he had sustained dence. during more than a year, between the care of his health and that of his dignity. The former required indulgence and relaxation, the latter compelled him to direct, from the bed of sickness, the administration of a great empire. He resolved to pass the remainder of his days in honourable repose, to place his glory beyond the reach of fortune, and to relinquish the theatre of the world to his younger and more active associates. 108

The ceremony of his abdication was performed in a spacious plain, about three miles from Nicomedia. The emperor ascended a lofty throne, and, in a speech full of reason and dignity, declared his intention, both to the people and to the soldiers who were assembled on this extraordinary occasion. As soon as he had divested 1.D. 305. himself of the purple, he withdrew from the gazing multi- May 1. tude, and, traversing the city in a covered chariot, proceeded without delay to the favourite retirement which he had chosen in his native country of Dalmatia. On the same day, which was the Compliance first of May, 109 Maximian, as it had been previously con- of Maximian, certed, made his resignation of the Imperial dignity at Milan. Even in the splendour of the Roman triumph, Diocletian had meditated his design of abdicating the government. As he wished to secure the obedience of Maximian, he exacted from him either a general assurance that he would submit his actions to the authority of his benefactor, or a particular promise that he would descend from the throne whenever he should receive the advice and the example.

106 Aurelius Victor [de Cæsar. c. 39] ascribes the abdication, which had been so variously accounted for, to two causes: 1st, Diocletian's contempt of ambition; and 2ndly, His apprehension of impending troubles. One of the panegyrists (vi. [v.] 9) mentions the age and infirmities of Diocletian as a very natural reason for his retirement, a

109 The difficulties as well as mistakes attending the dates both of the year and of the day of Diocletian's abdication are perfectly cleared up by Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 525, note 19, and by Pagi ad annum.

a Constantine (Orat. ad Sanct. c. 401) passage, while he admits that his long illmore than insinuated that derangement ness might produce a temporary depression of mind, connected with the conflagration of spirits, triumphantly appeals to the phiof the palace at Nicomedia by lightning, losophical conduct of Diocletian in his was the cause of his abdication. But retreat, and the influence which he still Heinichen, in a very sensible note on this retained on public affairs.-M.





at Salona,

This engagement, though it was confirmed by the solemnity of an oath before the altar of the Capitoline Jupiter, 110 would have proved a feeble restraint on the fierce temper of Maximian, whose passion was the love of power, and who neither desired present tranquillity nor future reputation. But he yielded, however reluctantly, to the ascendant which his wiser colleague had acquired over him, and retired immediately after his abdication to a villa in Lucania, where it was almost impossible that such an impatient spirit could find any lasting tranquillity. Diocletian, who, from a servile origin, had raised himself to the

throne, passed the nine last years of his life in a private of Diocletian condition. Reason had dictated, and content seems to have

donde accompanied, his retreat, in which he enjoyed for a long time the respect of those princes to whom he had resigned the possession of the world. 11 It is seldom that minds long exercised in business have formed any habits of conversing with themselves, and in the loss of power they principally regret the want of occupation. The amusements of letters and of devotion, which afford so many resources in solitude, were incapable of fixing the attention of Diocletian ; but he had preserved, or at least he soon recovered, a taste for the most innocent as well as natural pleasures, and his leisure hours were sufficiently employed in building, planting, and gardening. His answer to Maximian is deservedly celebrated. He Iis philo was solicited by that restless old man to reassume the reins sopby, of government and the Imperial purple. He rejected the temptation with a smile of pity, calmly observing that, if he could show Maximian the cabbages which he had planted with his own hands at Salona, he should no longer be urged to relinquish the enjoyment of happiness for the pursuit of power. 112 In his conversations with his friends, he frequently acknowledged, that of all arts the most difficult was the art of reigning; and he expressed himself on that favourite topic with a degree of warmth which could be the result only of experience. “How often,” was he accustomed to say, “is it the interest of four or five ministers to combine together to “ deceive their sovereign! Secluded from mankind by his exalted “ dignity, the truth is concealed from his knowledge ; he can see “ only with their eyes, he hears nothing but their misrepresentations.

110 See Panegyr. Veter. vi. [v.] 9. The oration was pronounced after Maximian had reassumed the purple. .

111 Eumenius pays him a very fine compliment: “At enim divinum illum virum, " qui primus imperium et participavit et posuit, consilii et facti sui non pænitet; nec « amisisse se putat quod sponte transcripsit. Felix beatusque vere quem vestra, tan“ torum principum, colunt obsequia privatum." Panegyr. Vet. vii. vi.] 15.

112 We are obliged to the younger Victor [Epit. c. 39] for this celebrated bon mot. Eutropius [1. ix. c. 26] mentions the thing in a more general manner.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

leader character of

“ He confers the most important offices upon vice and weakness, and “ disgraces the most virtuous and deserving among his subjects. By “ such infamous arts,” added Diocletian, “ the best and wisest princes “ are sold to the venal corruption of their courtiers." 113 A just estimate of greatness, and the assurance of immortal fame, improve our relish for the pleasures of retirement; but the Roman emperor had filled too important a character in the world to enjoy without alloy the comforts and security of a private condition. It was impossible that he could remain ignorant of the troubles which afflicted the empire after his abdication. It was impossible that he could be indifferent to their consequences. Fear, sorrow, and discontent sometimes pursued him into the solitude of Salona. His tenderness, or at least his pride, was deeply wounded by the misfortunes of his wife and daughter; and the last moments of Diocletian were embittered by some affronts, which Licinius and Constantine might have spared the father of so many emperors, and the first author of their own fortune. A report, though of a very and death. doubtful nature, has reached our times, that he prudently A.D. 313. withdrew himself from their power by a voluntary death.114

Before we dismiss the consideration of the life and character of Diocletian, we may for a moment direct our view to the place of his retirement. Salona, a principal city of his of Salona native province of Dalmatia, was near two hundred Roman adjacent

country. miles (according to the measurement of the public highways) from Aquileia and the confines of Italy, and about two hundred and seventy from Sirmium, the usual residence of the emperors whenever they visited the Illyrian frontier.115 A miserable village still preserves the name of Salona; but so late as the sixteenth century the remains of a theatre, and a confused prospect of broken arches and marble columns, continued to attest its ancient splendour. 116 About six or seven miles from the city Diocletian constructed a magnificent palace, and we may infer, from the greatness of the work, how long he had meditated his design of abdicating the empire.

The choice of a spot which united all that could contribute either to health or to luxury did not require the partiality of a native. “The “ soil was dry and fertile, the air is pure and wholesome, and, though

113 Hist. August. p. 223, 224. [Vopisc. Aurel. c. 43.] Vopiscus had learned this conversation from his father.

114 The younger Victor [Epit. c. 39] slightly mentions the report. But as Diocletian had disobliged a powerful and successful party, his memory has been loaded with every crime and misfortune. It has been affirmed that he died raving mad, that he was condemned as a criminal by the Roman senate, &c.

115 See the Itiner. p. 269, 272, edit. Wessel.

116 The Abate Fortis, in his Viaggio in Dalmazia, p. 43 (printed at Venice in the year 1774, in two small volumes in quarto), quotes a MS. account of the antiquities of Salona, composed by Giambattista Giustiniani about the middle of the xvith century.

Description of Salona and the

« ForrigeFortsett »