« ForrigeFortsett »
nean to the ocean. The oppressed provincials might exclaim, that the miserable remnant, which the enemy Lad spared, was cruelly ravished by their pretended allies; yet some specious colours were not wanting to palliate, or justify, the violence of the Goths. The cities of Gaul, which they attacked, might perhaps be considered as in a state of rebellion against the government of Honorius; the articles of the treaty, or the secret instructions of the court, might sometimes be alleged in favour of the seeming usurpations of Adolphus; and the guilt of any irregular, unsuccessful act of hostility, might always be imputed, with an appearance of truth, to the ungovernable spirit of a barbarian host, impatient of peace or discipline. The luxury of Italy had been less effectual to soften the temper, than to relax the courage, of the Goths; and they had imbibed the vices, without imitating the arts and institutions, of civilized society/
His mar- The professions of Adolphus were probably ... sincere, and his attachment to the cause of the A.d. «*• republic was secured by the ascendant which a Roman princess had acquired over the heart and understanding of the barbarian king. Placidia," the daughter of the great Theodosius, and of Galla, his second wife, had received a royal education in the palace of Constantinople; but the eventful story of her life is connected with the revolutions which agitated the western empire under the reign of her brother Honorius. When Rome was first invested by the arms of Alaric, Placidia, who was then about twenty years of age, resided in the city; and her ready consent to the death of her cousin Serena has a cruel and ungrateful appearance, which, according to the circumstances of the action, may be aggravated, or excused by the consideration of her tender age.' The victorious barbarians detained, either as a hostage or a captive," the sister of Honorius; but, while she was exposed to the disgrace of following round Italy the motions of a Gothic camp, she experienced, however, a decent and respectful treatment. The authority of Jornandes, who praises the beauty of Placid ia, may perhaps be counterbalanced by the silence, the expressive silence, of her flatterers; yet the splendour of her birth, the bloom of youth, the elegance of manners, and the dexterous insinuation which she condescended to employ, made a deep impression on the mind of Adolphus; and the Gothic king aspired to call himself the brother of the emperor. The ministers of Honorius rejected with disdain the proposal of an alliance, so injurious to every sentiment of Roman pride; and repeatedly urged the restitution of Placidia, as an indispensable condition of the treaty of peace. But the daughter of Theodosius submitted, without reluctance, to the desires of the conqueror, a young and valiant prince, who yielded to Alaric in loftiness of stature, but who excelled in the more attractive qualities of grace and beauty. The marriage of Adolphus and Placidia* was consummated before the Goths retired from Italy; and the solemn, perhaps the anniversary, day of their nuptials was afterward celebrated in the house of Ingenuus, one of the most illustrious citizens of Narbonne in Gaul. The bride, attired and adorned like a Roman empress, was placed on a throne of state; and the king of the Goths, who assumed, on this occasion, the Roman habit, contented himself with a less honourable seat by her side. The nuptial gift, which, according to the custom of his nation/ was offered to Placidia, consisted of the rare and magnificent spoils of her country. Fifty beautiful youths, in silken robes, carried a basin in each hand; and one of these basins was filled with pieces of gold, the other with precious stones of an inestimable value. Attalus, so long the sport of fortune, and of the Goths, was appointed to lead the chorus of the Hymeneal song; and the degraded emperor might aspire to the praise of a skilful musician. The barbarians enjoyed the insolence of their triumph; and the provincials rejoiced in this alliance, which tempered, by the mild influence of love and reason, the fierce spirit of their Gothic lord.2
'The retreat of the Goths from Italy, and their first transactions in Gaul, are dark and donbtfol. 1 have derived much assistance from Mascon, (Hist. of the Ancient Germans, lib. 7. c. 29. 35—37.) who has illustrated, and connected, the broken chronicles and fragments of the times.
• See an account of Placidia in Ducange, Kara. Byzant. p. 72. and Tillemom Hist, dec Empereurs, tom. 1. p. 260. 386, &c. tom. 6. p. 240.
VOL. IV. L
'/(Him. lib. 5. p. 350.
• Zoum. ill.- (i. p. 383. Orosiii s (lib. 7. c. 40. p. 576.) and the Chronicles of Marcelrinus and Idatius, seem to suppose, that the Goths did not carry away 1'laciilia till after the last siege of Rome.
1 See the pictures of Adolphus and Placidia, and the account of their marriage in Jomandes, de Reb. Geticis, c. 31. p. 654,655. With regard to the place where the nuptials were stipulated, or consummated, or celebrated, the MSS. of Jomandes vary between two neighbouring cities, Forli and Imola. (Forum Uv ii and Forum Comelii.) It is fair and easy to reconcile the Gothic historian with Olympiodorus (see Mascon, lib. 8. c. 46.) but Tillemont grows peevish, and swears, that it is not worth while to try to conciliate Jomandes with any good authors.
^ _ The hundred basins of gold and gems, prethic trea- sented to Placidia, at her nuptial feast, formed an inconsiderable portion of the Gothic treasures; of which some extraordinary specimens may be selected from the history of the successors of Adolphus. Many curious and costly ornaments of pure gold, enriched with jewels, were found in their palace of Narbonne, when it was pillaged, in the sixth century, by the Franks: sixty cups, or chalices; fifteen patens, or plates for the use of the communion; twenty boxes, or cases, to hold the books of the Gospels: this consecrated wealth" was distributed by the son of Clovis among the churches of his dominions, and his pious liberality seems to upbraid some former sacrilege of the Goths. They possessed, with more security of conscience, the famous missorium, or great dish, for the service of the table, of massy gold, of the weight of five hundred pounds, and of far superior value, from the precious stones, the exquisite workmanship, and the tradition that it had been presented by jEtius the patrician, to Torismond king of the Goths. One of the successors of Torismond purchased the aid of the French monarch by the promise of this magnificent gift. When he was seated on the throne of Spain, he delivered it with reluctance to the ambassadors of Dagobert; despoiled them on the road; stipulated, after a long negotiation, the inadequate ransom of two hundred thousand pieces of gold; and preserved the missorium, as the pride of the Gothic treasury.*1 When that treasury, after the conquest of Spain, was plundered by the Arabs, they admired, and they have celebrated, another object still more remarkable; a table of considerable size, of one single piece of solid emerald,0 encircled with three rows of fine pearls, supported by three hundred and sixty five-feet of gems and massy gold, and estimated at the price of five hundred thousand pieces of gold.11 Some portion of the Gothic treasures might be the gift of friendship, or the tribute of obedience; but the far greater part had been the fruits of war and rapine, the spoils of the empire, and perhaps of Rome.
i The Visigoths (th« subjects of Adolphus) restrained, by subsequent laws, the prodigality oi conjugal love. It was illegal for a husband to make any gift or setUement for the benefit of his wife during the first year of their marriage; and his liberality could not at any time exceed the tenth part of his property. The Lombards were somewhat more indulgent: they allowed the margingcap immediately after the wedding night; and this famous gift, the reward of virginity, might equal the fourth pan of the husband's substance. Some cautious maidens, indeed, were vise enough to stipulate beforehand a present, which they were too sure of not deserving. See Montesquieu, Esprit des Loix, lib. 19. c. 25. Muratori, delle Antirhita Italiane, tom. 1. Dissertation 20. p. 243.
* We owe the curious detail of this nuptial feast to the historian Olympiodorus, »p. Pbotium, p. 185. 188.
1 See in the great collection of the historians of France by Dom. Bouquet, tom. 2- Greg. Turonens. lib. 3. c. 10. p. 191. Gesta Regum Francorum, c. 23. p. 557. The anonymous writer, with an ignorance worthy of his times, supposes that these instruments of Christian worship had belonged to the temple of Solomon. If he has any meaning, it must be, that they were found in the sack of Rome.
b Consult the following original testimonies in the historians of France, tom, f. Fredegarii Scholastici Cbron. c. 73. p. 441. Fredegar. Fragment. 3. p. 463. Gesta Regis Dagobert, c. 29. p. 587. The accession of Sisenand, to the throne of Spain, happened A. D. 631. The two hundred thousand pieces of gold were appropriated by Dagobert to the foundation of the church of St. Den vs.
c The president Gognet (Origine des Loix, &c. tom. 2. p. 239.) is of opinion, that the stupendous pieces of emerald, the statues, and columns, which antiquity has placed in Egypt, at Gades, at Constantinople, were in reality artificial compositions of coloured glass. The famous emerald dish, which is shewn at Genoa, is supposed to countenance the suspicion.
a Elmacin. Hist. Saracenica, lib. 1. p. 85. Roderic. Tolet. Hist . Arab. c. 9. Cardonne, Hist. de 1'Afrique et de 1'Espagne sous lea Arabes, tom. 1. p. 83. It was called the table of Solomon, according to the custom of the orientals, who ascribe to that prince every ancient work of knowledge or magnificence.
Laws for After the deliverance of Italy from the opitai^and0 pression of the Goths, some secret counsellor A°D?4io was permitted, amidst the factions of the palace, -«*". to heal the wounds of that afflicted country.* By a wise and humane regulation, the eight provinces which had been the most deeply injured, Campania, Tuscany, Picenum, Samnium, Apulia, Calabria, Bruttiuna, and Lucania, obtained an indulgence of five years: the ordinary tribute was reduced to one fifth, and even that fifth was destined to restore, and support, the useful institution of the public posts. By another law, the lands, which had been left without inhabitants or cultivation, were granted, with some diminution of taxes, to the neighbours who should occupy, or the strangers who should solicit them; and the new possessors were secured against the future claims of the fugitive proprietors. About the same time a general amnesty was published in the name ofHonorius, to abolish the guilt and memory of all the involuntary offences, which had been committed by his unhappy subjects, during the term of the 'public disorder and calamity. A decent and respectful attention was paid to the restoration of the capital; the citizens were encouraged to rebuild the edifices which had been destroyed or damaged by hostile fire; and extraordinary supplies of corn were imported from the coast of Africa. The crowds that so lately fled before the sword of the barbarians, were soon recalled by the hopes of plenty and pleasure; and Albinus, prefect of Rome, informed the court, with some anxiety and surprise, that in a single day, he had taken an account of the arrival of fourteen thousand strangers/ In less than seven years, the vestiges of the
• His three laws were inserted in the Theodosian Code, lib. 11. tit. 28. leg. 7. lib. 13. tit. 11. leg. 12. lib. 15. tit. 14. leg. 14. The expressions of the last are very remarkable; since they contain not only a pardon, but an apology.
'Olympiodorus ap. Phot. p. 188. Philostorgius (lib. 12. c. 5.) observes that when Honorius made his triumphal entry, he encouraged the Romans, with his hand and voice (x"f' *" yksrrvi), to rebuild their city; and the Chronicle of Prosper commends Heraclian, qui in Romans urbis reparationem strenuum exhibuerat mi niMerium.