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350 VIRTUES OF CRISPUS. Chap. XVIII.
and Eutropia, were bestowed on Optatus and Nepotianus, two senators of noble birth and of consular dignity. His third sister, Constantia, was distinguished by her pre-eminence of greatness and of misery. She remained the widow of the vanquished Licinius; and it was by her entreaties that an innocent boy, the offspring of their marriage, preserved, for some time, his life, the title of Caesar, and a precarious hope of the succession. Besides the females and the allies of the Flavian house, ten or twelve males, to whom the language of modern courts would apply the title of princes of the blood, seemed, according to the order of their birth, to be destined either to inherit or to support the throne of Constantine. But in less than thirty years this numerous and increasing family was reduced to the persons of Constantius and Julian, who alone had survived a series of crimes and calamities such as the tragic poets have deplored in the devoted lines of Pelops and of Cadmus.
Crispus, the eldest son of Constantine, and the presumptive heir virtues of °f tnc empire, is represented by impartial historians as an CTtopus. amiable and accomplished youth. The care of his educa • tion, or at least of his studies, was intrusted to Lactantius, the most eloquent of the Christians; a preceptor admirably qualified to fonn the taste and to excite the virtues of his illustrious disciple.9 At the age of seventeen Crispus was invested with the title of Caesar, and the administration of the Gallic provinces, where the inroads of the Germans gave him an early occasion of signalising his military prowess. In the civil war which broke out soon afterwards, the father and son divided their powers; and this history has already celebrated the valour as well as conduct displayed by the latter in forcing the straits of the Hellespont, so obstinately defended by the superior fleet of Licinius. This naval victory contributed to determine the event of the war, and the names of Constantine and of Crispus were united in the joyful acclamations of their eastern subjects, who loudly proclaimed that the world had been subdued, and was now governed, by an emperor endowed with every virtue, and by his illustrious son, a prince beloved of Heaven, and the lively image of his father's perfections. The public favour, which seldom accompanies old age, diffused its lustre over the youth of Crispus. He deserved the esteem and he engaged the affections of the court, the army, and the people. The experienced merit of a reigning monarch is acknowledged by his subjects with reluctance, and frequently denied with partial and discontented murmurs; while, from
* Jerom. in Chron. Tlio poverty of Lactantius may be applied either to the praiso of the disinterested philosopher, or to the shame of the unfeeling patron. See Tilleiiiont, Mem. Eculrsiast. torn. vi. part i. p. y+5. Dupin, Bibliotheque Eccleaiast. torn. i. p. 205. Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel History, part ii. vol. vii. p. 6(i.
A.d. 320. JEALOUSY OF CONSTANTINE. 351
the opening virtues of his successor, they fondly conceive the most unbounded hopes of private as well as public felicity.10
This dangerous popularity soon excited the attention of Constantine, who, both as a father and as a king, was impatient jealousy of of an equal. Instead of attempting to secure the allegiance S18^''116' of his son by the generous ties of confidence and gratitude, Octobcr 10he resolved to prevent the mischiefs which might be apprehended from dissatisfied ambition. Crispus soon had reason to complain that, while his infant brother Constantius was sent with the title of Caesar to reign over his peculiar department of the Gallic provinces," he, a prince of mature years, who had performed such recent and signal services, instead of being raised to the superior rank of Augustus, was confined almost a prisoner to his father's court, and exposed, without power or defence, to every calumny which the malice of his enemies could suggest. Under such painful circumstances the royal youth might not always be able to compose his behaviour or suppress his discontent; and we may be assured that he was encompassed by a train of indiscreet or perfidious followers, who assiduously studied to inflame, and who were perhaps instructed to betray, the unguarded warmth of his resentment. An edict A „ M5 of Constantine, published about this time, manifestly indi- 0cU,bcr lcates his real or affected suspicions that a secret conspiracy had been formed against his person and government. By all the allurements of honours and rewards he invites informers of every degree to accuse, without exception, his magistrates or ministers, his friends or his most intimate favourites, protesting, with a solemn asseveration, that he himself will listen to the charge, that he himself will revenge his injuries; and concluding with a prayer, which discovers some apprehension of danger, that the providence of the Supreme Being may still continue to protect the safety of the emperor and of the empire.'*
The informers who complied with so liberal an invitation were sufficiently versed in the arts of courts to select the friends nisp-ace ana and adherents of Crispus as the guilty persons; nor is there cr?»pu", any reason to distrust the veracity of the emperor, who had ju"y.
10 Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. 1. x. c. 9. Eutropius (x. 4) styles him "egregiura vinim;" and Julian (Orat. i.) very plainly alludes to the exploits of Crispus in the civil war. See Spanheim, Comment, p. 92.
"Compare Idatius and the Paschal Chronicle with Ammianus (1. xiv. c. 5). The year in which Constantius was created Caesar seems to be more accurately fixed by the two chronologists; but the historian who lived in his court could not be ignorant of the dny of the anniversary. For the appointment of the new Cffisar to the provinces of Gaul, see Julian, Orat. i. p. 12; Qodefroy, Chronol. Legum, p. 26; and Blondel, de la Primautdde l'Eglise, p. 1183.
"Cod. Thcod. 1. ix. tit. iv. [tit. 1, leg. 4.] Qodefroy suspected the secret motives of this law. Comment, torn. iii. p. 9.
312 MURDER OF CRISPUS AST) LICIXIUS. Chap. XVIII.
promised an ample measure of revenge and punishment. The policy
of Constantine maintained, however, the same appearances of regard
and confidence towards a son whom he began to consider as his most
irreconcileable enemy. Medals were struck with the customary vows
for the long and auspicious reign of the young Caesar ;13 and as the
people, who was not admitted into the secrets of the palace, stiL
loved his virtues and respected his dignity, a poet, who solicits his
rccal from exile, adores with equal devotion the majesty of the father
and that of the son.1* The time was now arrived for celebrating the
august ceremony of the twentieth year of the reign of Constantine,
and the emperor, for that purpose, removed his court from Nicomedia
to Rome, where the most splendid preparations had been made for
his reception. Every eye and every tongue affected to express
their sense of the general happiness, and the veil of ceremony and
dissimulation was drawn for a while over the darkest designs of
revenge and murder.15 In the midst of the festival the unfortunate
Crispus was apprehended by order of the emperor, who laid aside the
tenderness of a father without assuming the equity of a judge. The
examination was short and private;16 and as it was thought decent
to conceal the fate of the young prince from the eyes of the Roman
people, he was sent under a strong guard to Pola, in Istria, where,
soon afterwards, he was put to death, either by the hand of the
executioner or by the more geutle operation of poison.17 The Caesar
Licinius, a youth of amiable manners, was involved in the ruin of
Crispus,18 and the stern jealousy of Constantine was unmoved by the
11 Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 28. Tillemont, torn. iv. p. 610.
14 His name was Porphyrius Optatianus. The date of his panegyric, written according to the taste of the age in vile acrostics, is settled by Scaliger ad Euseb. p. 2o<>; Tillemont, torn. iv. p. 607; and Fabricius, Biblioth. Latin. 1. iv. c. 1.
n Zosim. 1. ii. [c. 29] p. 103. Godefroy, Chronol. Legum, p. 28.
14 'Aiwinw, without a trial, is the strong and most probably the just expression of Suidas. The elder Victor, who wrote under the next reign, Bpeaks with becoming caution. "Natu grandior, incertuni qua causa, patris judicio occidisset." [De Cesar. c. 41.] If we consult the succeeding writers, Eutropius, the younger Victor, Orosius, Jerom, Zosimus, Philostorgius, and Gregory of Tours, their knowledge will appear gradually to increase as their means of information must have diminished, a circumstance which frequently occurs in historical disquisition.
"Ammianus (1. xiv. c. 11) uses the general expression of peremption. Codinus (p. 34) [p. 63, ed. Bonn] beheads the young prince; but Sidonius Apollinaris (Epistol. v. 8), for the sake perhaps of an antithesis to Fausta's tcarm bath, chooses to administer a draught of cold poison.
"Sororis filium, comnioda? indolis juvenem. Eutropius, x. 6 . May I not be liermitted to conjecture that Crispus had married Helena, the daughter of the emperor Licinius, and that on the happy delivery of the princess, in the year 322, a general pardon was granted by Constantine! See Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 47, and the law (1. ix. tit. xxxvii.) of the Theodosian code, which has so much embarrassed the interpreters. Godefroy, torn. iii. p. 267.*
* This conjecture is very doubtful: the can be attributed to a Helena, wife of
obscurity of the law quoted from the Theo- Crispus. See Eckhel, Doct. Num. Vet.
dosian code scarcely allows any inference, torn. viii. p. 102 and 145.—G. and there is extant but one medal which
A.d. 326. SUPPOSED REPENTANCE OF CONSTANTINE. 353
prayers and tears of his favourite sister, pleading for the life of a son whose rank was his only crime, and whose loss she did not long survive. The story of these unhappy princes, the nature and evidence of their guilt, the forms of their trial, and the circumstances of their death, were buried in mysterious obscurity, and the courtly bishop, who has celebrated in an elaborate work the virtues and piety of his hero, observes a prudent silence on the subject of these tragic events.19 Such haughty contempt for the opinion of mankind, whilst it imprints an indelible stain on the memory of Constantine, must remind us of the very different behaviour of one of the greatest monarchs of the present age. The Czar Peter, in the full possession of despotic power, submitted to the judgment of Russia, of Europe, and of posterity, the reasons which had compelled him to subscribe the condemnation of a criminal, or at least of a degenerate, son.80
The innocence of Crispus was so universally acknowledged that the modern Greeks, who adore the memory of their -n,,, ^pres* founder, are reduced to palliate the guilt of a parricide FaU6tawhich the common feelings of human nature forbade them to justify. They pretend that, as soon as the afflicted father discovered the falsehood of the accusation by which his credulity had been so fatally misled, he published to the world his repentance and remorse; that he mourned forty days, during which he abstained from the use of the bath and all the ordinary comforts of life; and that, for the lasting instruction of posterity, he erected a golden statue of Crispus, with this memorable inscription,—To My Son, Whom I Unjustly Condemned.21 A tale so moral and so interesting would deserve to be supported by less exceptionable authority; but if we consult the more ancient and authentic writers, they will inform us that the repentance of Constantine was manifested only in acts of blood and revenge, and that he atoned for the murder of an innocent son by the execution, perhaps, of a guilty wife. They ascribe the misfortunes of Crispus to the arts of his stepmother Fausta, whose implacable hatred or whose disappointed love renewed in the palace of Constantine the ancient tragedy of Hippolytus and of Phaedra." Like the daughter of Minos, the daughter of Maximian accused her
'• See the Life of Constantine, particularly [Euseb.] 1. ii. c. 19, 20. Two hundred and fifty years afterwards Evagrius (1. iii. c. 41) deduced from the silence of Eusebius a Tain argument against the reality of the fact.
"Histoire de Pierre le Grand, par Voltaire, part ii. c. 10.
"In order to prove that the statue was erected by Constantine, and afterwards concealed by the malice of the A nans, Codinus very readily creates (p. 34 [p. 68, ed. Bonn]) two witnesses, Hippolytus and the younger Herodotus, to whoso imaginary histories he appeals with unblushing confidence.
M Zosimus (1. ii. [c. 29] p. 103) may be considered as our original. The ingenuity of the moderns, assisted by a few hints from the ancients, has illustrated and improved his obscure and imperfect narrative.
vol.. II. 2 A
354 THE EMPRESS FAUSTA. Chap. XVIII.
son-in-law of an incestuous attempt on the chastity of his father's wife, and easily obtained, from the jealousy of the emperor, a sentence of death against a young prince whom she considered with reason as the most formidable rival of her own children. But Helena, the aged mother of Constantine, lamented and revenged the untimely fate of her grandson Crispus; nor was it long before a real or pretended discovery was made that Fausta herself entertained a criminal connection with a slave belonging to the Imperial stables.*5 Her condemnation and punishment were the instant consequences of the charge, and the adulteress was suffocated by the steam of a bath, which, for that purpose, had been heated to an extraordinary degree.*4 By some it will perhaps be thought that the remembrance of a conjugal union of twenty years, and the honour of their common offspring, the destined heirs of the throne, might have softened the obdurate heart of Constantine, and persuaded him to suffer his wife, however guilty she might appear, to expiate her offences in a solitary prison. But it seems a superfluous labour to weigh the propriety, unless we could ascertain the truth, of this singular event, which is attended with some circumstances of doubt and perplexity. Those who have attacked, and those who have defended, the character of Constantine, have alike disregarded two very remarkable passages of two orations pronounced under the succeeding reign. The former celebrates the virtues, the beauty, and the fortune of the empress Fausta, the daughter, wife, sister, and mother of so many princes.25 The latter asserts, in explicit terms, that the mother of the younger Constantine, who was slain three years after his father's death, survived to weep over the fate of her son.20 Notwithstanding the positive testimony of several writers of the Pagan as well as of the Christian religion, there may still remain some reason to believe, or at least to suspect, that Fausta escaped the
"Philoatorgius, 1. ii. c. 4. Zosimus (1. ii. p 104 [c. 29], 110 [c. 39]) imputes to Constantine the death of two wives, of the innocent Fausta, and of an adulteress who was tho mother of his three successors. According to Jerom, three or four years elapsed between the death of Crispus and that of Fausta. The elder Victor is'prudently silent.
"If Fausta was put to deuth, it is reasonable to believe that the private apartments of the palace were tho scene of her execution. The orator Chrysostorn indulges his fancy by exposing the naked empress on a desert mountain to be devoured by wild beasts.
"Julian. Orat. i. [p. 9]. lie seems to call her the mother of Crispus. She might assume that title by adoption. At least, she was not considered as his mortal enemy. Julian compares the fortune of Fausta with that of Porysatis, the Persian queen. A Koman would have more naturally recollected the second Agrippina:—
Et moi, qui sur lc trdne ai suivi mes ancctres:
"Monod. in Coustantin. Jun. c. 4, ad Calcem Eutrop. edit. Haveroamp. The orator styles her the most divine and pious of queens.