« ForrigeFortsett »
Gothic invasion were almost obliterated; and the city appeared to resume its former splendour and tranquillity. The venerable matron replaced her crown of laurel, which had been ruffled by the storms of war; and was still amused, in the last moment of her decay, with the prophecies of revenge, of victory, and of eternal dominion.* Revolt and This apparent tranquillity was soon dis#., turbed by the approach of a hostile armament
** from the country which afforded the daily subA.D.413, sistence of the Roman people. Heraclian, count of Africa, who, under the most difficult and distressful circumstances, had supported, with active loyalty, the cause of Honorius, was tempted, in the year of his consulship, to assume the character of a rebel, and the title of emperor. The ports of Africa were immediately filled with the naval forces, at the head of which he prepared to invade Italy: and his fleet, when it cast anchor at the mouth of the Tyber, indeed surpassed the fleets of Xerxes and Alexander, if all the vessels, including the royal galley, and the smallest boat, did actually amount to the incredible number of three thousand two hundred." Yet with such an armament, which might have subverted, or restored, the greatest empire of the earth, the African usurper made a very faint and feeble impression on the provinces of his rival. As he marched from the port, along the road which leads to the gates of Rome, he was encountered, terrified, and routed, by one of the imperial captains; and the lord of
s The date of the voyage of Claudius Rutilius Numatianus, is clogged with some difficulties; but Scaliger has deduced from astronomical characters, that he left Rome the 24th of September, and embarked at Porto the 9th of October, A.D.416.
See Tillemont, Hist, des Empereurs, tom. 5. p. 820. In his poetical Itinerary, Rutilius (lib. 1. 115, &c.) addresses Rome in a high strain of congratulation:—
Erige crinales lauros, seniumque sacrati
Verticis in virides Roma recinge comas, &c.
* Orosius composed his history in Africa, only two years after the events; yet
his authority seems to be overbalanced by the improbability of the fact. The Chronicle of Marcellinus gives Heraclian seven hundred ships and three thousand men; the latter of these numbers is ridiculously corrupt; but the former would please me very much.
this mighty host, deserting his fortune and his friends, ignominiously fled with a single ship. When Hera- . clian landed in the harbour of Carthage, he found that the whole province, disdaining such an unworthy ruler, had returned to their allegiance. The rebel was beheaded in the ancient temple of Memory; his consulship was abolished;" and the remains of his private fortune, not exceeding the moderate sum of four thousand pounds of gold, were granted to the brave Constantius, who had already defended the throne, which he afterward shared with his feeble sovereign. Honorius viewed, with supine indifference, the calamities of Rome and Italy; but the rebellious attempts of Attalus and Heraclian, against his personal safety, awakened, for a moment, the torpid instinct of his nature. He was probably ignorant of the causes and events which preserved him from these impending dangers; and as Italy was no longer invaded by any foreign or domestic enemies, he peaceably existed in the palace of Ravenna, while the tyrants beyond the Alps were repeatedly vanquished in the name, and by the lieutenants, of the son of Theodosius. In the course of a busy and interesting narrative, I might possibly forget to mention the death of such a prince; and I shall therefore take the precaution of observing, in this place,
i The Chronicle of Idatius affirms, without the least appearance of truth, that he advanced as far as Otriculum, in Umbria, where he was overthrown in a great battle, with the loss of fifty thousand men.
* See Cod. Theod. lib. 15. tit. 14. leg. 13. The legal acts performed in his name, eren the manumission of slaves, were declared invalid, till they had been formally repealed.
I have disdained to mention a very foolish, and probably a false, report, (Procop. de Bell. Vandal. lib. 1. c. 2.) that Honorius was alarmed by the loss of Rome, till he understood that it was not a favourite chicken of that name, but only the capital of the world, which had been lost. Yet even this story is some evidence of the public opinion.
The materials for the lives of all these tyrants are taken from six contemporary historians, two Latins, and four Greeks; Orosius, lib. 7. c. 42. p. 581-583. Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus, apud Gregor. Taron. lib. 2. c. 9. in the historians of France, tom. 2. p. 165, 166. Zosimus, lib. 6. p. 370, 371. Olympiodorus, apud Phot. p. 180, 181. 184, 185. Sozomen, lib. 9. c. 1915. and Pbilostorgius, lib. 11. c. 5, 6. with Godefroy's Dissertations, p. 447-481. besides the four Chronicles of Prosper Tyro, Prosper of Aquitain, Idatius, and Marcellinus.
that he survived the last siege of Rome about thirteen years.
The usurpation of Constantine, who received Revolutions of the purple from the legions of Britain, had been
d successful; and seemed to be secure. His title A.D. 409. was acknowledged, from the wall of Antoninus –413.
to the columns of Hercules; and in the midst of the public disorder, he shared the dominion and the plunder of Gaul and Spain, with the tribes of barbarians, whose destructive progress was no longer checked by the Rhine or Pyrenees.' Stained with the blood of the kinsmen of Honorius, he extorted, from the court of Ravenna, with which he secretly corresponded, the ratification of his rebellious claims. Constantine engaged himself, by a solemn promise, to deliver Italy from the Goths; advanced as far as the banks of the Po; and after alarming, rather than assisting, his pusillanimous ally, hastily returned to the palace of Arles, to celebrate, with intemperate luxury, his vain and ostentatious tri- · umph. But this transient prosperity was soon interrupted and destroyed by the revolt of count Gerontius, the bravest of his generals; who during the absence of his son Constans, a prince already invested with the imperial purple, had been left to command in the provinces of Spain. For some reason, of which we are ignorant, Gerontius, instead of assuming the diadem, placed it on the head of his friend Maximus, who fixed his residence at Tarragona, while the active count pressed forwards through the Pyrenees, to surprise the two emperors, Constantine and Constans, before they could prepare for their defence. The son was made prisoner at Vienna, and immediately put to death; and the unfortunate youth had scarcely leisure to deplore the elevation of his family; which had tempted, or compelled, him sacrilegiously to desert the peaceful obscurity of the monastic life. The father maintained a siege
within the walls of Arles; but those walls must have yielded to the assailants, had not the city been unexpectedly relieved by the approach of an Italian army. The name of Honorius, the proclamation of a lawful emperor, astonished the contending parties of the rebels. Gerontius, abandoned by his own troops, escaped to the confines of Spain; and rescued his name from oblivion, by the Roman courage which appeared to animate the last moments of his life. In the middle of the night, a great body of his perfidious soldiers surrounded and attacked his house, which he had strongly barricaded. His wife, a valiant friend of the nation of the Alani, and some faithful slaves, were still attached to his person; and he used, with so much skill and resolution, a large magazine of darts and arrows, that above three hundred of the assailants lost their lives in the attempt. His slaves, when all the missile weapons were spent, fled at the dawn of day; and Gerontius, if he had not been restrained by conjugal tenderness, might have imitated their example; till the soldiers, provoked by such obstinate resistance, applied fire on all sides to the house. In this fatal extremity he complied with the request of his barbarian friend, and cut off his head. The wife of Gerontius, who conjured him not to abandon her to a life of misery and disgrace, eagerly presented her neck to the sword; and the tragic scene was terminated by the death of the count himself, who, after three ineffectual strokes, drew a short dagger, and sheathed it in his heart. The unprotected Maximus, whom he had invested with the purple, was indebted for his life to the contempt that was entertained of his power and abilities. The caprice of the barbarians who ravaged Spain, once more seated this imperial phantom on the throne: but they soon resigned him to the justice of Honorius; and
The praises which Sozomen bas bestowed on this act of despair, appear strange and scandalous in the mouth of an ecclesiastical bistorian. He observes (p. 379.) that the wife of Gerontius was a Christian; and that her death was worthy of her religion, and of immortal fame.
the tyrant Maximus, after he had been shewn to the people of Ravenna and of Rome, was publicly executed.
The general, Constantius was his name, who and victor raised by his approach the siege of Arles, and ries of the dissipated the troops of Gerontius, was born general Constan- a Roman; and this remarkable distinction is
strongly expressive of the decay of military spirit among the subjects of the empire. The strength and majesty which were conspicuous in the person of that general, marked him, in the popular opinion, as a candidate worthy of the throne, which he afterward ascended. In the familiar intercourse of private life, his manners were cheerful and engaging: nor would he sometimes disdain, in the licence of convivial mirth, to vie with the pantomimes themselves, in the exercises of their ridiculous profession. But when the trumpet summoned him to arms; when he mounted his horse, and bending down (for such was his singular practice) almost upon the neck, fiercely rolled his large animated eyes round the field, Constantius then struck terror into his foes, and inspired his soldiers with the assurance of victory. He had received from the court of Ravenna the important commission of extirpating rebellion in the provinces of the west; and the pretended emperor, Constantine, after enjoying a short and anxious respite, was again besieged in his capital by the arms of a more formidable enemy. Yet this interval allowed time for a successful negotiation with the Franks and Alemanni; and his ambassador, Edobic, soon returned, at the head of an army, to disturb the operations of the siege of Arles. The Roman general, instead of expecting the attack in his lines, boldly, and perhaps wisely, resolved to pass the Rhone, and to meet the barbarians. His
• Eidos abloy qaugavidos, is the expression of Olympiodorus, which he seems to have borrowed from Æolus, a tragedy of Euripides, of which'some fragments only are now extant. (Euripid. Barnes, tom. 2. p. 433. ver. 38.) This allusion may prove, that the ancient tragic poets were still familiar to the Greeks of the fifth century.