by the pious care of his tutor Arsenius,” eagerly listened to the artful and flattering descriptions of the charms of Eudoxia: he gazed with impatient ardour on her picture, and he understood the necessity of concealing his amorous designs from the knowledge of a minister, who was so deeply interested to oppose the consummation of his happiness. Soon after the return of Rufinus, the approaching ceremony of the royal nuptials was announced to the people of Constantinople, who prepared to celebrate, with false and hollow acclamations, the fortune of his daughter. A splendid train of eunuchs and officers issued, in hymeneal pomp, from the gates of the palace; bearing aloft the diadem, the robes, and the inestimable ornaments, of the future empress. The solemn procession passed through the streets of the city, which were adorned with garlands, and filled with spectators; but, when it reached the house of the sons of Promotus, the principal eunuch respectfully entered the mansion, invested the fair Eudoxia with the imperial robes, and conducted her in triumph to the palace and bed of Arcadius.” The secrecy, and success, with which this conspiracy against Rufinus had been conducted, imprinted a mark of indelible ridicule on the character of a minister, who had suffered himself to be deceived, in a post where the arts of deceit and dissimulation constitute the most distinguished merit. He considered, with a mixture of indignation and fear, the victory of an aspiring eunuch, who had secretly captivated the favour of his sovereign; and the disgrace of his daughter, whose interest was inseparably connected with his own, wounded the tenderness, or, at least, the pride, of Ru

• Arsenius escaped from the palace of Constantinople, and passed fifty-five years in rigid penance in the monasteries of Egypt. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles, tom. 14. p. 676–702. and Fleury, Hist. Eccles. tom. 5. p. 1, &c. but the latter, for want of authentic materials, has given too much credit to the legend of Metaphrastes.

P This story (Zosimus, lib. 5. p. 290.) proves that the hymeneal rites of antiquity were still practised, without idolatry, by the Christians of the east; and the bride was forcibly conducted from the house of her parents to that of her husband. Our form of marriage requires, with less delicacy, the express and public consent of a virgin.

finus. At the moment when he flattered himself that he should become the father of a line of kings, a foreign maid, who had been educated in the house of his implacable enemies, was introduced into the imperial bed; and Eudoxia soon displayed a superiority of sense and spirit; to improve the ascendant which her beauty must acquire over the mind of a fond and youthful husband. The emperor would soon be instructed to hate, to fear, and to destroy, the powerful subject, whom he had injured; and the consciousness of guilt deprived Rufinus of every hope, either of safety or comfort, in the retirement of a private life. But he still possessed the most effectual means of defending his dignity, and perhaps of oppressing his enemies. The prefect still exercised an uncontrolled authority over the civil and military government of the east: and his treasures, if he could resolve to use them, might be employed to procure proper instruments, for the execution of the blackest designs, that pride, ambition, and revenge, could suggest to a desperate statesman. The character of Rufinus seemed to justify the accusations, that he conspired against the person of his sovereign, to seat himself on the vacant throne; and that he had secretly invited the Huns, and the Goths, to invade the provinces of the empire, and to increase the public confusion. The subtle prefect, whose life had been spent in the intrigues of the palace, opposed, with equal arms, the artful measures of the eunuch Eutropius; but the timid soul of Rufinus was astonished by the hostile approach of a more formidable rival, of the great Stilicho, the general, or rather the master, of the empire of the west.9 Character The celestial gift which Achilles obtained, of Stilicho, and Alexander envied, of a poet worthy to cethe minister and lebrate the actions of heroes, has been enjoyed of the by Stilicho, in a much higher degree than

[ocr errors]

1 Zosimus, (lib. 5. p. 290.) Orosius, (lib. 7. c. 37.) and the Chronicle of Marcellinus. Claudian (in Rufin. 2.7--100.) paints in lively colours, the distress and guilt of the prefect.


western might have been expected from the declining ** state of genius, and of art. The muse of Claudian, devoted to his service, was always prepared to stigmatize his adversaries, Rufinus, or Eutropius, with eternal infamy; or to paint, in the most splendid colours, the victories and virtues of a powerful benefactor. In the review of a period indifferently supplied with authentic materials, we cannot refuse to illustrate the annals of Honorius, from the invectives, or the panegyrics, of a contemporary writer; but as Claudian appears to have indulged the most ample privilege of a poet and a courtier, some criticism will be requisite to translate the language of fiction, or exaggeration, into the truth and simplicity of historic prose. His silence concerning the family of Stilicho may be admitted as a proof, that his patron was neither able, nor desirous, to boast of a long series of illustrious progenitors; and the slight mention of his father, an officer of barbarian cavalry, in the service of Valens, seems to countenance the assertion, that the general, who so long commanded the armies of Rome, was descended from the savage and perfidious race of the Wandals.” If Stilicho had not possessed the external advantages of strength and stature, the most flattering bard, in the presence of so many thousand spectators, would have hesitated to affirm, that he surpassed the measure of the demi-gods of antiquity; and, that, whenever he moved, with lofty steps, through the streets of the capital, the astonished crowd made room for the stranger, who displayed, in a private condition, the awful majesty of a hero. From his earliest youth he embraced the profession of arms; his prudence and valour were soon distinguished in the field; the horsemen and archers of the east admired his superior r Stilicho, directly or indirectly, is the perpetual theme of Claudian. The youth, and private life of the hero, are vaguely expressed in the poem on his first consulship, 35–140. • Vandalorum, imbellis, avarae, perfidae, et dolosae, gentis, genere editus. Orodexterity; and in each degree of his military promotions, the public judgment always prevented and approved the choice of the sovereign. He was named by Theodosius, to ratify a solemn treaty with the monarch of Persia: he supported during that important embassy, the dignity of the Roman name; and after his return to Constantinople, his merit was rewarded by an intimate and honourable alliance with the imperial family. Theodosius had been prompted, by a pious motive of fraternal affection, to adopt, for his own, the daughter of his brother Honorius; the beauty and accomplishments of Serena' were universally admired by the obsequious court; and Stilicho obtained the preference over a crowd of rivals, who ambitiously disputed the hand of the princess, and the favour of her adopted father." The assurance that the husband of Serena would be faithful to the throne, which he was permitted to approach, engaged the emperor to exalt the fortunes and to employ the abilities, of the sagacious and intrepid Stilicho. He rose through the successive steps of master of the horse, His milie and count of the domestics, to the supreme rank tary com- of master-general of the cavalry and infantry of A. D. 385 the Roman, or at least of the western, empire;"

to: lib. 7, c. 38. Jerome (tom. 1. ad Gerontiam, p. 93.) calls him a semi-bararlan,

408. and his enemies confessed, that he invariably disdained to barter for gold the rewards of merit, or to defraud the soldiers of the pay and gratifications, which they deserved, or claimed, from the liberality of the state. The valour and conduct which he afterward displayed, in the defence of Italy, against the arms of

Claudian, in an imperfect poem, has drawn a fair, perhaps a flattering, portrait of Serena. That favourite niece of Theodosius was born, as well as her sister Thermantia, in Spain; from whence, in their earliest youth, they were honourably conducted to the palace of Constantinople.

Some doubt may be entertained, whether this adoption was legal, or only metaphorical. (see Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 75.) An old inscription gives Stilicho the singular title of Pro gener Divi Theodosii.

* Claudian (Laus Serenæ, 190, 193,) expresses in poetic language, the “dilectus equorum," and the “gemino mox idem culmine duxit agmina.” The inscription adds, “count of the domestics," an important command, which Stilicho, in he height of his grandeur, might prudently retain.

The beautiful lines of Claudian (in 1. Cons. Stilich. 2. 113.) display his genius; but the integrity of Stilicho (in the military administration) is much more firmly established by the unwilling evidence of Zosimus, (lib. 5. p. 345.)


[ocr errors]

Alaric and Radagaisus, may justify the fame of his early achievements; and in an age less attentive to the laws of honour, or of pride, the Roman generals might yield the pre-eminence of rank, to the ascendant of superior genius." He lamented, and revenged, the murder of Promotus, his rival and his friend; and the massacre of many thousands of the flying Bastarnæ is represented by the poet, as a bloody sacrifice, which the Roman Achilles offered to the manes of another Patroclus. The virtues and victories of Stilicho.deserved the hatred of Rufinus; and the arts of calumny might have been successful, if the tender and vigilant Serena had not protected her husband against his domestic foes, whilst he vanquished in the field the enemies of the empire. Theodosius continued to support an unworthy minister, to whose diligence he delegated the government of the palace and of the east; but when he marched against the tyrant Eugenius, he associated his faithful general to the labours and glories of the civil war; and, in the last moments of his life, the dying monarch recommended to Stilicho the care of his sons, and of the republic. The ambition and the abilities of Stilicho were not unequal to the important trust; and he claimed the guardianship of the two empires, during the minority of Arcadius and Honorius. The first measure of his administration, or rather of his reign, displayed to

: - Si bellica moles
Ingrueret, quamvis annis et jure minori,
Cedere grandævos equitum peditumque magistros

Claudian, Laus Šeren. p. 196, &c. A modern general would deem their submission, either heroic patriotism, or abject servility.

a Compare the poem on the first consulship, (1. 95—115.) with the Laus Serena (227-237. where it unfortunately breaks off.) We may perceive the deep inveterate malice of Rufinus.

b Quem fratribus ipse

Discedens, clypeumque defensoremque dedisti. Yet the nomination (4. Cons. Hon. 432.) was private, (S. Cons. Hon. 142.) cunctos discedere ... jubet; and may, therefore, be suspected. Zosimus and Suidas, apply to Stilicho and Rufinus, the same equal title of ETIT POWol, guardians or procurators.

• The Roman law distinguishes two sorts of minority, which expired at the age of fourteen, and of twenty-five. The one was subject to the tutor, or guardian, of the person ; the other to the curator, or trustee of the estate, (Heineccius, Antiquitat. Rom. ad Jurisprudent. pertinent. lib. 1. tit. 22, 23. p. 218–232.) But these legal ideas were never accurately transferred into the constitution of an elective monarchy.

« ForrigeFortsett »