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104 DECLDJE OF LETTERS. Chap. XIH.
it is animated by fancy and guided by the most correct taste and observation.
It is almost unnecessary to remark that the civil distractions of the empire, the licence of the soldiers, the inroads 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 the 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 the defence of their power.1!S
The declining age of learning and of mankind is marked, however, •n* new by the rise and rapid progress of the new Platonists. The PLatoniDts. 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 Porphyry124—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 knowledge that is suited to our situation and powers, the whole compass of moral, natural, and mathematical science, was neglected by the new Platonists; whilst they exhausted their strength in the verbal disputes of metaphysics, attempted to explore the secrets of the invisible world,
10 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 three thousand pounds a-year. He generously requested the permission of employing it in rebuilding the college. See his Oration De Itestaurandis Scholis [c. 11]; 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, Bibliotheca Graca, torn. iv. p. 88-148.
AD. 313. THE NEW PLATOXISTS. 105
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 daemons and spirits; and, by a very singular revolution, converted the study of philosophy into that of magic. The ancient sages had 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.
106 ACCESSION OK CONSTANTIUS AND GALERIUS. ClIAP. XIV.
Troubles After The Abdication Of Diocletian — Death Of Constantius — Elevation Of Constantinb And Maxentius — Six Emperors At The Same Time — Death Of Maximian And Galerius — Victories Of ConBtantine Over Maxentius And Licinius — Reunion Of The Empire Under The Authority Of Constantine.
The balance of power established by Diocletian subsisted no longer Period of than while it was sustained by the firm and dexterous hand «nd con- of the founder. It required such a fortunate mixture of A.d. 305-323. 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 character station, according to the rules of the new constitution, was of co8nXJ-011 filled by the two Caesars, Constantius and Galerius, who tius- immediately assumed the title of Augustus.1 The honours A.D. 305-323. THEIR CHARACTERS. 107
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 distinguished 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.2 Instead of imitating their eastern pride and magnificence, Constantius preserved the modesty of a Roman prince. He declared, with unaffected sincerity, that his most valued treasure was
1 M. de Montesquieu (Considerations gur la Grandeur et la Decadence 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.
* Hie non modo amabilis, sed etiam venerabilis Gallia fuit; pracipue quod Diocletiani suspectam prudentiam, et Maximiani Hanguinariani violentiam imperio ejus evaserant. Eutrop. Breviar. X. i.
in the hearts of his people; and that, whenever the dignity of the throne or the danger of the state required any extraordinary supply, he could depend with confidence on their gratitude and liberality.3 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 fame 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.4 But these obscure anecdotes are sufficiently refuted by an impartial view of the character and conduct of Diocletian. Whatever might 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.
* Divitiia Provincialium (mel. provincianim) ac privatorum Btudens, fisci commoda non admodum afTectans; 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.
4 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 i * But there are many historians who put us in mind of the admirable Baying of the great Conde to Cardinal de Retz: "Ces coquina nous font parler et agir comme ils auroient fait eux-memes a notre place."
* This attack upon Lactantius is un- luze entertained no doubt that he had disfounded. Lactantius was so far from covered the tract of Lactantius, quoted by having been an obscure rhetorician, that Hieronymus as "De Persecutione Liber he had taught rhetoric publicly, and with unus," an opinion corroborated by the the greatest success, first in Africa, and fact that Ca?cilius was one of the names afterwards in Nicomedia. His reputation of Lactantius, by the date, by the dediobtaincd him the esteem of Constantine, cation to Donatus—apparently the same who invited him to his court, and intrusted person with the Donatus addressed in the to him the education of his son Crispus. discourse De Ira Dei—and by the general —G. resemblance in style and expression; but
But it should be borne in mind that these arguments are not conclusive, and
the authorship of the treatise De Mortibus most impartial critics will admit the jus
Persecutorum is uncertain. The piece is tice of Dean Milinan's opinion, that "the
wanting in the earlier editions of Lactan- fame of Lactantius for eloquence, as well
tius, and was first brought to light by as for truth, would suffer no loss if it
Stephen Baluze, who printed it at Paris should be adjudged to some more * ob
in his Miseellanea (vol. ii. 1679), from an scure rhetorician.'" On the authorship
ancient MS. bearing the inscription " Lucii of the treatise, see Smith's Diet, of Greek
Cecilii incipit liber ad Donatum Confea- and Roman Biog. vol. i. p. 520.—S. sorem de Mortibus Persecutoruui." Ba
103 SEVERUS AND MAXIMIN C.ESARS. CllAP. XIV.
After the elevation of Constantius and Galerius to the rank of Tho two Auffusti, two new Cwsars were required to supply their sT"TM and place, and to complete the system of the Imperial governMaximin. ment. 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 he 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 afterwards 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 intrusted with the sovereign command of Egypt and Syria.1 At the same time Severus, a faithful servant, addicted to pleasure, but not incapable of business, was sent to Milan to receive from the reluctant hands of Maximian the Caesarian ornaments and the possession of Italy and Africa.6 According to the forms of the constitution, Severus acknowledged the supremacy of the western emperor; but he was absolutely devoted to the commands of his benefactor Galerius, who, reserving to himself the intermediate countries from the confines of Italy to those of Syria, firmly established his power over three-fourths of the monarchy. In the full confidence that the approaching death
5 Sublatus nuper a pecoribus et silvis (says Lactantius de M. P. c. 19) statim Scutarius, continuo Protector, mox Tribunus, postridie Ca?sar, accepit Orientein. AurelkiB Victor is too liberal in giving him the whole portion of Diocletian.
"His diligence and fidelity are acknowledged even by Lactantius, de M. P. c. 18.
See Clinton, Fast. Horn. vol. ii. p. 72.—S.