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sewed up in the hides of slaughtered animals, others to be exposed to wild beasts, others again to be beaten to death with clubs. During the three years of his reign, he disdained to visit either Rome or Italy. His camp, occasionally removed from the banks of the Rhine to those of the Danube, was the 6e.'it of his stern despotism, which trampled on every principle of law and justice, and was supported by the avowed power of the sword.10 No man of noble birth, elegant accomplishments, or knowledge of civil business, was suffered near his person; and the court of a Roman emperor revived the idea of tnose ancient chiefs of slaves and gladiators, whose savagn power had left a deep impression of terror and detestation.11
As long as the cruelty of Maximin was confined to the illustrious senators, or even to the bold adventurers, who in the court or army expose themselves to the caprice of fortune, the body of the people viewed their sufferings with indiffeience, or perhaps with pleasure. But the tyrant's avarice, stimulated by the insatiate desires of the soldiers, at 1ength attacked the public property. Every city of the empire was possessed of an independent revenue, destined to purchase corn for the multitude, and to supply the expenses of the games and entertainments. By a single act of authority, the whole mass of wealth was at once confiscated for the use of the Imperial treasury. The temples were stripj>ed of their most valuable offerings of gold and silver, and the statues of gods, heroes, and emperors, were melted down and coined into money. These impious orders could not be executed without tumults and massacres, as in many places the people chose rather to die in the defence of their altars, than to behold in the midst of peace their cities exposed to the rapine and cruelty of war. The soldiers themselves, among
The wife of Maximin, by insinuating wise counsels with femalo gentleness, sometimes brought back the tyrant to the way of truth and humanity. See Amrmanus Marcellinus, 1. xiv. c. 1, where he alludes to the fact which he had more fully related under the reign of tho Gordian.i. We may collect from the medals, that Paullina was the name of this benevolent empress; and from the title of Diva, that she died before Maximin. (Valesius ad loc. cit. Ammian.) Spanheim de U. et P. N. torn. ii. p. 300.*
11 He was compared to Spartacus and Athenio. Hist. August, p. Ul
* If we may believe Syncellus ind Zonaras, it was Maximin himself wUo jrdered her death — Q
whom this sacrilegious plunder was distributed, received it with a blush ; and hardened as they were in acts of violence, they dreaded the just reproaches of their friends and relations. Throughout the Roman world a general cry ot* indignation was heard, imploring vengeance on the common enemy of human kind ; and at length, by an act of private oppression, a peaceful and unarmed province was driven into rebellion against him.19
The procurator of Africa was a servant worthy of such a * master, who considered the fines- and confiscations of the rich as one of tne most fruitful branches of the Imperial revenue. An iniquitous sentence had been pronounced against some opulent youths of that country, the execution of which would have stripped them of far the greater part of their patrimony. In this extremity, a resolution that must either complete or prevent their ruin, was dictated by despair. A respite of three days, obtained with difficulty from the rapacious treasurer, was employed in collecting from their estates a great number of slaves and peasants blindly devoted to the commands of their lords, and armed with the rustic weapons of clubs and axes. The leaders of the conspiracy, as they were admitted to the audience of the procurator, stabbed him with the daggers concealed under their garments, and, by the assistance of their tumultuary train, seized on the little town of Thysdrus,13 and erected the standard of rebellion against the sovereign of the Roman empire. They rested their hopes on the hatred of mankind against Maximin, and they judiciously resolved to oppose to that detested tyrant an emperor whose mild virtues had already acquired the love and esteem of the Romans, and whose authority over the province would give weight and stability to the enterprise. Gordianus, their proconsul, and the object of their choice, refused, with unfeigned reluctance, the dangerous honor, and begged with tears, that they would suffer him to terminate in peace a long and innocent life, without staining his feeble age with civil blood. Their menaces compelled him to accept the Imperial purple, his only refuge, indeed, against the jealous cruelty of Max
"Herodian, 1. vii. p. 238. Zosira. 1. i. p. 15.
"In the fertile territory of Byzacium, one hundred and fifty miles to the south of Carthage. This city was docorated, probably by the Gordiana, with the title of colony, and with a fine amphitheatre, which is still in a very perfect state. See Itinerar. Wesseling, p. Sri; and Shaw's Travels. n. 117.
imin; since, according to tne reasoning of tyrants, those who have been esteemed worthy of the throne deserve death, and those who deliberate have already rebelled.14
The family of Gordianus was one of the most illustrious of the Roman senate. On the father's side he was descended from the Gracchi; on his mother's, from the emperor Trajan. A great estate enabled him to support the dignity of his birth, and in the enjoyment of it, he displayed an elegant taste and beneficent disposition. The palace in Rome, formerly inhabited by the great Pompey, had been, during several generations, in the possession of Gordian's family.15 It was distinguished by ancient trophies of naval victories, and decorated with the works of modern painting. His villa on the road to Praeneste was celebrated for baths of singular beauty and extent, for three stately rooms of a hundred feet in length, and for a magnificent portico, supported by two hundred columns of the four most curious and costly sorts of marble.16 The public shows exhibited at his expense, and in which the people were entertained with many hundreds of wild beasts and gladiators,17 seem to surpass the fortune of a subject; and whilst the liberality of other magistrates was confined to a few solemn festivals in Rome, the magnificence of Gordian was repeated, when he was sedile, every month in the year, and extended, during his consulship, to the principal cities of Italy. He was twice elevated to the last-mentioned dignity, by Caracalla and by Alexander; for he possessed the uncommon
14 Herodian, 1. vii. p. 239. Hist. August, p. 153.
15 Hist. Aug. p. 152. The celebrated house of Pompey in earinis was usurped by Marc Antony, and consequently became, after the Triumvir's death, a part of the Imperial domain. The emperor Trajan allowed, and even encouraged, the rich senators to purchase those magnificent and useless places, (Plin. Panegyric c. 50 ;) and it may seem probable, that, on this occasion, Pompey's house came into the possession of Gordian's great-grandfather.
"The Claudian, the Numidian, the Carystian, and the Synnadian. The colors of lioman marbles have been faintly described and imperfectly distinguished. It appears, however, that the Caiystian was a sea-green, and that the marble of Synnada was white mixed with oval spots of purple. See Salmasius ad Hist. August, p. 164.
pair of gladiators, never less than one hundred and fifty. He once gave for the use of the circus one hundred Sicilian and as many Cappadecian horses. The animals designed for hunting were chiefly bears, boars, bulls, stags, elks, wild asses, &c. Elephants aud lion* ieem to have been appropriated to Imperial magniflcencn.
talent of acquiring the esteem of virtuous princes, without alarming the jealousy of tyrants. His long life was innocently spent in the study of letters and the peaceful honors of Rome; and, till he was named proconsul of Africa by the voice of the senate and the approbation of Alexander,18 he appears prudently to have declined the command of armies and the government of provinces.* As long as that emperor lived, Africa was happy under the administration of his worthy representative: after the barbarous Maximin had usurped the throne, Gordianus alleviated the miseries which he was unable to prevent. When he reluctantly accepted the purple, he was above fourscore years old; a last and valuable remains of the happy age of the Antonines, whose virtues he revived in his own conduct, and celebrated in an elegant poem of thirty books. With the venerable proconsul, his son, who had accompanied him into Africa as his lieutenint, was likewise declared emperor. His manners wen less oure, but his character was equally amiable with that of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested the variety of his inclinations; and from the productions which he left behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed for use rather than for ostentation.1* The Roman people acknowledged in the features of the younger Gordian the resemblance of Scipio Africanus,t recollected with pleasure that his mother was the granddaughter of Antoninus Pius, and tested the public hope on those latent virtues which had hitherto, as they fondly imagined, lain concealed in the luxurious indolence of private life.
As soon as the Gordians had appeased the first tumult of a popular election, they removed their court to Carthage. They were received with the acclamations of the Africans, who honored their virtues, and who, since the visit of Hadrian, had
a See the original letter, in the Augustan History, p. 152, which at once shows Alexander's respect for the authority of the senato, and his esteem for the proconsul appointed by that assembly.
u By each of his concubines, the younger Gordian left three 01 four childrer.. His literary productions, though less numerous, wera by no means contemptible.
• Herodian expressly says that he had administered many provinces, lib vii. 10. —W.
t Not tbe personal likeness, but the family descent from the'Scip. os. —W.
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never beheld the majesty of a Roman emperoi. But these vain acclamations neither strengthened nor confirmed the title of the Gordians. They were induced by principle, as well as interest, to solicit the approbation of the senate; and a deputation of the noblest provincials was sent, without delay, to Rome, to relate and justify the conduct of their countrymen, who, having long suffered with patience, were at length resolved to act with vigor. The letters of the new princes were modest and respectful, excusing the necessity which had obliged them to accept the Imperial title; but submitting their election and their fate to the supreme judgment of the senate.9" The inclinations of the senate were neither doubtful nor divided. The birth and noble alliances of the Gordians had intimately connected them with the most illustrious houses of Rome. Their fortune had created many dependants in that assembly, their merit had acquired many friends. Their mild administration opened the flattering prospect of the restoration, not only of the civil but even of the republican government. The terror of military violence, which had first obliged the senate to forget the murder of Alexander, and to ratify the election of a barbarian peasant,91 now produced a contrary effect, and provoked them to assert the injured rights of freedom and humanity. The hatred of Maximal towards the senate was declared and implacable; the tamest submission had not appeased his fury, the most cautious innocence would not remove his suspicions; and even the care of their own safety urged them to share the fortune of an enterprise, of which (if unsuccessful) they were sure to be the first victims. These considerations, and perhaps others of a more private nature, were debated in a previous conference of the consuls and the magistrates. As soon as their resolution was decided, ney convoked in the temple of Castor the whole body of the senate, according to an ancient form of secrecy,99 calculated to awaken their attention, and to conceal their decrees. "Conscript fathers," said the consul Syllanus, "the two Gordians, both of consular dignity, the one your proconsul,
m Hcrodian, 1 . vii. p. 243. Hist. August, p. Hi.
*1 Quod tamcn patrcs dum periculosum cxistimant ; inermes armato resistere approbaverunt. — Aurclius Victor.
M Even the servants of the house, the scribes, &c, were excluded, and their office was filled by the senators themselves. We are obliged to the Augustan History, p. 159, for preserving this curio'is exami ie of the old discipline of the commonwealth.