Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

A.D. 353. HIS DEATH. 383

In the mean time the Imperial troops forced the passages of the Cottian Alps, and in the bloody combat of Mount Seleucus irrevocably fixed the title of rebels on the party of Magnentius.97 He was unable to bring another army into the field; the fidelity of his guards was corrupted; and when he appeared in public to animate them by his exhortations, he .was saluted with an unanimous shout of "Long live the emperor Constantius!" The tyrant, who perceived that they were preparing to deserve pardon and rewards by the sacrifice of the most obnoxious criminal, prevented their design by falling on his sword ;98 a death more easy and more honourable than he could hope to obtain from the hands of an enemy whose revenge would have been coloured with the specious pretence of justice and fraternal piety. The example of suicide was imitated by Decentius, who strangled himself on the news of his brother's death. The author of the conspiracy, Marcellinus, had long since disappeared in the battle of Mursa," and the public tranquillity was confirmed by the execution of the surviving leaders of a guilty and unsuccessful faction. A severe inquisition was extended over all who, either from choice or from compulsion, had been involved in the cause of rebellion. Paul, sumamed Catena from his superior skill in the judicial exercise of tyranny,* was sent to explore the latent remains of the conspiracy in the remote province of Britain. The honest indignation expressed by Martin, vice-praefect of the island, was interpreted as an evidence of his own guilt; and the governor was urged to the necessity of turning against his breast the sword with which he had been provoked to wound the Imperial minister. The most innocent subjects of the West were exposed to exile and confiscation, to death and torture; and as the timid are always cruel, the mind of Constantius was inaccessible to mercy.100

« Zoeimus, 1. ii. [c. 53] p. 134. Liban. Orat. x. p. 268, 269. The latter most vehemently arraigns this cruel and selfish policy of Constantius.

** Julian. Orat. i. p. 40. Zosimus, 1. ii. [c. 53] p. 134. Socrates, 1. ii. c. 32. Sozomen, 1. iv. c. 7. The younger Victor describes his death with some horrid circumstances: Transfosso latere, ut erat vasti corporis, vulnere nnribusque et ore cruorem effundens, exspiravit. [Epit. c. 42.] If we can give credit to Zonaras, the tyrant, before he expired, had the pleasure of murdering with his own hands his mother and his brother Desiderius.

** Julian (Orat. ii. p. 58, 59) seems at a loss to determine whether he inflicted on himself the punishment of his crimes, whether he was drowned in the Drave, or whether he was carried by the avenging daemons from the field of battle to his destined place of eternal tortures. lc0 Ammian. xiv. 5, xxi. 16.

* This is scarcely correct, ut erat in ci Catenae inditum est cognomentuui. complicandis negotus artifex dirus, unde A mm. Marc. loc. cit.— M.

VOL. II. 2 c

386 POWER OF THE EUNUCHS. Chap. XIX.

CHAPTER XIX.

CoNBTANTIUS SOLE Empebor. ELEVATION AND DEATH OP GAI.LUS. DANGER

And Elevation Of Julian.Sabmatian And Persian Wars.Victories Of Julian In Gaul.

The divided provinces of the empire were again united by the victory Power of the of Constantius; but as that feeble prince was destitute of eunuchs. personal merit either in peace or war; as he feared bis generals, and distrusted his ministers; the triumph of his arms served only to establish the reign of the eunuchs over the Roman world. Those unhappy beings, the ancient production of Oriental jealousy and despotism,1 were introduced into Greece and Rome by the contagion of Asiatic luxury.* Their progress was rapid; and the eunuchs, who, in the time of Augustus, had been abhorred, as the monstrous retinue of an Egyptian queen,3 were gradually admitted into the families of matrons, of senators, and of the emperors themselves.'' Restrained by the severe edicts of Domitian and Nerva,5 cherished by the pride of Diocletian, reduced to an humble station by the prudence of Constantine,6 they multiplied in the palaces of

1 Ammianua (1. xiv. c. 6) imputes the first practice of castration to the cruel ingenuity of Semiramis, who is supposed to have reigned above nineteen hundred years before Christ. The use of eunuchs is of high antiquity, both in Asia and Egypt. They are mentioned in the law of Moses, Deuteron. xziii. 1. See Goguet, Origines des I.oix, Ac, Part i. 1. i. c. 3.

2 Eunuchum dixti velle te;

Quia sola: utuntur his regina;

Terent. Eunuch, act i. scene 8. This play is translated from Menander, and the original must have appeared soon after the eastern conquests of Alexander.

* Miles . . spadonibus

Servire rugosis potest.

Horat. Carm. v. 9 [Epod. ix. 13], and Dacier ad loc By the word spado the Romans very forcibly expressed their abhorrence of this mutilated condition. The Greek appellation of eunuchs, wliich insensibly prevailed, had a milder sound and a more ambiguous sense.

4 We need only mention Posides, a freedman and eunuch of Claudius, in whose favour the emperor prostituted some of the most honourable rewards of military valour. See Sueton. in Claudio, c. 28. Posides employed a great part of his wealth in building.

Ut spado vincebat Capitolia nostra Posides.

Juvenal. Sat. xiv. [91.] * Castrari mares vetuit. Sueton. in Domitian. c. 7. See Dion Cassius, 1. Ixvii.

[c. 2] p. 1101 ; 1. lxviii. [e. 2] p. 1119. 6 There is a pas

i passage in the Augustan History, p. 137, in which Lampridins, whilst he praises Alexander Severus and Constantine for restraining the tyranny of the eunuchs, deplores the mischiefs which they occasioned in other reigns. Hue accedit, quod eunuchos nee in consiliis nee in ministcriis habuit; qui soli principes perdunt, dum eos more gentium aut regum Persarum volunt vivere; qui a populo etiara amicissimura eemovent; qui internuntii sunt, aliud quam respondetur, [ssepe] refereutes; claudentes principem suum, et agentea ante omnia ne quid sciat. [Lampr. Alex. Sev. c. 60.1

[graphic]

A.d. 353. POWER OF THE EUNUCHS. 337

his degenerate sons, and insensibly acquired the knowledge, and at length the direction, of the secret councils of Constantius. The aversion and contempt which mankind has so uniformly entertained for that imperfect species appears to have degraded their character, and to have rendered them almost as incapable as they were supposed to be of conceiving any generous sentiment, or of performing any worthy action.' But the eunuchs were skilled in the arts of flattery and intrigue; and they alternately governed the mind of Constantius by his fears, his indolence, and his vanity.8 Whilst he viewed in a deceitful mirror the fair appearance of public prosperity, he supinely permitted them to intercept the complaints of the injured provinces; to accumulate immense treasures by the sale of justice and of honours; to disgrace the most important dignities by the promotion of those who had purchased at their hands the powers of oppression ;9 and to gratify their resentment against the few independent spirits who arrogantly refused to solicit the protection of slaves. Of these slaves the most distinguished was the chamberlain Eusebius, who ruled the monarch and the palace with such absolute sway, that Constantius, according to the sarcasm of an impartial historian, possessed some credit with this haughty favourite.10 By his artful suggestions, the emperor was persuaded to subscribe the condemnation of the unfortunate Gallus, and to add a new crime to the long list of unnatural murders which pollute the honour of the house of Constantine.

When the two nephews of Constantine, Gallus and Julian, were saved from the fury of the soldiers, the former was about Education of twelve, and the latter about six, years of age; and, as the juiuS.and

7 Xenophon (Cyropaxlia, 1. vii. [5. § 60] p. 540) had stated the specious reasons which engaged Cyrus to intrust his person to the guard of eunuchs. He had observed in animals, that, although the practice of castration might tame their ungovernable fierceness, it did not diminish their strength or spirit; and he persuaded himself that those who were separated from the rest of human kind would be more firmly attached to the person of their benefactor. But a long experience has contradicted the judgment of Cyrus. Some particular instances may occur of euuuchs distinguished by their fidelity, their valour, and their abilities; but if we examine the general history of Persia, India, and China, we shall find that the power of the eunuchs has uniformly marked the decline and fall of every dynasty.

8 See Ammianus Marcellinus, 1. xxi. c. 16; 1. xxii c. 4. The whole tenor of his impartial history serves to justify the invectives of Mamertinus, of Libanius, and of Julian himself, who have insulted the vices of the court of Constantius.

'AureliuB Victor censures the negligence of his sovereign in choosing the governors of the provinces and the generals of the army, and concludes his history with a very bold observation, as it is much more dangerous under a feeble reign to attack the ministers than the master himself. "Uti verum absolvam brevi, ut Imperatore ipso clarius, ita apparitorum plerisque magis atrox nihil." [De Crcsar. c. 42.]

10 Apud quern (si vere dici debeat) multum Constantius potuit. Ammion. 1. xviii. c. 4.

388 GALLUS DECLARED Cjesab. Chap. XIX.

eldest was thought to be of a sickly constitution, they obtained with the less difficulty a precarious and dependent life from the affected pity of Constantius, who was sensible that the execution of these helpless orphans would have been esteemed, by all mankind, an act of the most deliberate cruelty.11* Different cities of Ionia and Bithynia were assigned for the places of their exile and education; but as soon as their growing years excited the jealousy of the emperor, he judged it more prudent to secure those unhappy youths in the strong castle of Macellum, near Casarea. The treatment which they experienced during a six years' confinement was partly such as they could hope from a careful guardian, and partly such as they might dread from a suspicious tyrant.18 Their prison was an ancient palace, the residence of the kings of Cappadocia ; the situation was pleasant, the building stately, the enclosure spacious. They pursued their studies, and practised their exercises, under the tuition of die most skilful masters; and the numerous household appointed to attend, or rather to guard, the nephews of Constantine, was not unworthy of the dignity of their birth. But they could not disguise to themselves that they were deprived of fortune, of freedom, and of safety; secluded from the society of all whom they could trust or esteem, and condemned to pass their melancholy hours in the company of slaves devoted to the commands of a tyrant who had already "a".0* injured them beyond the hope of reconciliation. At length, ca'sar, however, the emergencies of the state compelled the emperor, March s. or rather his eunuchs, to invest Gallus, in the twenty-fifth year of his age, with the title of Caesar, and to cement this political connection by his marriage with the princess Constantina. After a formal interview, in which the two princes mutually engaged their faith never to undertake anything to the prejudice of each other, they repaired without delay to their respective stations. Constantius continued his march towards the West, and Gallus fixed his residence at Antioch; from whence, with a delegated authority, he administered the five great dioceses of the eastern prefecture.13 In this

11 Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. iii. p. 90) reproaches the apostate with his ingratitude towards Mark, biBhop of Arethusa, who had contributed to save his life; and we learn, though from a less respectable authority (Tillemont, Hist, des Einpereurs, torn. iv. p. 9 lii), that Julian was coucealed in the sanctuary of a church.

"The most authentic account of the education and adventures of Julian is contained in the epistle or manifesto which he himself addressed to the senate and people of Athens. Libanius (Orat. Parentalis), on the side of the Pagans, and Socrates (1. iii. c. 1), on that of the Christians, have preserved several interesting circumstances.

13 For the promotion of Gallus see Idatius, Zosimus, and the two Victors. Accord

"Gallus and Julian were not sons of of Basilina, whom he had espoused in n

the same mother. Their father, Julius second marriage. Tillemont, Hist, dee

Constantius, had had Gallus by his first Emp. Vie de Coustantin, art. ii.—G. See

wife, named Galla: Julian was the son genealogical table, vol. ii. p. 349.—S.

A.D. 351. HIS CRUELTY AND IMPRUDENCE. 389

fortunate change, the new Caesar was not unmindful of his brother Julian, who obtained the honours of his rank, the appearances of liberty, and the restitution of an ample patrimony.14

The writers the most indulgent to the memory of Gallus, and even Julian himself, though he wished to cast a veil over the frailties of his brother, are obliged to confess that the imprudence Caesar was incapable of reigning. Transported from a prison to a throne, he possessed neither genius nor application, nor docility to compensate for the want of knowledge and experience. A temper naturally morose and violent, instead of being corrected, was soured by solitude and adversity; the remembrance of what he had endured disposed him to retaliation rather than to sympathy; and the ungoverned sallies of his rajje were often fatal to those who approached his person, or were subject to his power.15 Constantina, his wife, is described, not as a woman, but as one of the infernal furies tormented with an insatiate thirst of human blood.16 Instead of employing her influence to insinuate the mild counsels of prudence and humanity, she exasperated the fierce passions of her husband; and as she retained the vanity, though she had renounced the gentleness of her sex, a pearl necklace was esteemed an equivalent price for the murder of an innocent and virtuous nobleman.17 The cruelty of Gallus was sometimes displayed in the undissembled violence of popular or military executions: and was sometimes disguised by the abuse of law and the forms of judicial proceedings. The private houses of Antioch, and the places of public resort, were besieged by spies and informers; and the Caesar himself, concealed in a plebeian habit, very frequently condescended to assume that odious character. Every apartment of the palace was adorned with the instruments of death and torture, and a general consternation was diffused through

ing to Philostorgius (1. iv. c. 1), Theophilus, an Arian bishop, was the witness, and, as it were, the guarantee of this solemn engagement. He supported that character with generous firmness; but M. de Tillemout (Hist, des Empereurs, torn. iv. p. 1120) thinks it very improbable that an heretic should have possessed such virtue.

14 Julian was at first permitted to pursue his studies at Constantinople, but the reputation which he acquired Boon excited the jealousy of Constantius; and the young prince was advised to withdraw himself to the loss conspicuous scenes of Bithynia and Ionia.

'• See Julian ad S. P. Q. A. p. 271. Jerom. in Chron. Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, x. 14 [7]. I shall copy the words of Eutropius, who wrote his abridgment about fifteen years after the death of Gallus, when there was no longer any motive either to flatter or to depreciate his character. "Multis incivilibus gestis Gallus Ca?sar . . . vir Datura ferus et ad tyrannidem pronior, si suo jure iuiperare licuisset."

16 Megocra qusedam inortalis, inflamuiatrix sscvientis assidua, humoni cruoris avida, &c. Ammian. Marcellin. 1. xiv. c. 1. The sincerity of Ammianus would not suffer him to misrepresent facts or characters, but his love of amJ/itious ornaments frequently betrayed him into an unnatural vehemence of expression.

17 His name was Clematius of Alexandria, and his only crime was a refusal to gratify the desires of his mother-in-law; who solicited his death, because she had been disappointed of his love. Ammian. 1. xiv. c. 1.

« ForrigeFortsett »