his dominions; and that the ambitious minister suffered him to attain the age of manhood, without attempting to excite his courage, or to enlighten his understanding." The predecessors of Honorius were accustomed to animate, by their example, or at least by their presence, the valour of the legions; and the dates of their laws attest the perpetual activity of their motions through the provinces of the Roman world. But the son of Theodosius passed the slumber of his life, a captive in his palace, a stranger in his country, and the patient, almost the indifferent, spectator of the ruin of the western empire, which was repeatedly attacked, and finally subverted, by the arms of the barbarians. In the eventful history of a reign of twenty-eight-years, it will seldom be necessary to mention the name of the emperor Honorius.


Revolt of the Goths.—They plunder Greece.-Two great invasions of Italy by Alaric and Radagaisus.-They are repulsed by Stilicho.—The Germans overrun Gaul.—Usurpation of Constantine in the west.—Disgrace and death of Stilicho.

Real of IF the subjects of Rome could be ignorant of * Goo their obligations to the great Theodosius, they A.D. 395. - were too soon convinced, how painfully the spirit and abilities of their deceased emperor had supported the frail and mouldering edifice of the republic. He died in the month of January; and before the end of the winter of the same year, the Gothic nation was in arms." The barbarian auxiliaries erected their independent standard; and boldly avowed the hostile

4 The lessons of Theodosius, or rather Claudian, (4 Cons. Honor. 214—418.) might compose a fine institution for the future prince of a great and free nation. It was far above Honorius, and his degenerate subjects.

* The revolt of the Goths, and the blockade of Constantinople, are distinctly mentioned by Claudian, (in Rufin. lib. 2, 7–100.) Zosimus, (lib. 5, p. 292.) and Jornandes, (de Rebus Geticis, c. 29.)

designs which they had long cherished in their fero

cious minds. Their countrymen, who had been condemned, by the conditions of the last treaty, to a life of tranquillity and labour, deserted their farms at the first sound of the trumpet; and eagerly resumed the weapons which they had reluctantly laid down. The barriers of the Danube were thrown, open; the savage warriors of Scythia issued from their forests; and the uncommon severity of the winter allowed the poet to remark, that they rolled their ponderous waggons over the broad and icy bank of the indignant river." The unhappy natives of the provinces to the south of the Danube, submitted to the calamities, which in the course of twenty years were almost grown familiar to their imagination; and the various troops of barbarians, who gloried in the Gothic name, were irregularly spread from the woody shores of Dalmatia, to the walls of Constantinople.* The interruption, or at least the diminution, of the subsidy, which the Goths had received from the prudent liberality of Theodosius, was the specious pretence of their revolt: the affront was imbittered by their contempt of the unwarlike sons of Theodosius; and their resentment was inflamed by the weakness, or treachery, of the minister of Arcadius. The frequent visits of Rufinus to the camp of the barbarians, whose arms and apparel he affected to imitate, were considered as a sufficient evidence of his guilty correspondence: and the public enemy, from a motive either of gratitude or of policy, was attentive, amidst the general devastation, to spare the private estates of the unpopular prefect. The Goths, instead of being impelled by the blind and headstrong passions of their chiefs, were now directed by the bold and artful genius of Alaric. That renowned leader was descended from the noble race of the Balti;" which yielded only to the royal dignity of the Amali: he had solicited the command of the Roman armies; and the imperial court provoked him to demonstrate the folly of their refusal, and the importance of their loss. Whatever hopes might be entertained of the conquest of Constantinople, the judicious general soon abandoned an impracticable enterprise. In the midst of a divided court, and a discontented people, the emperor Arcadius was terrified by the aspect of the Gothic arms: but the want of wisdom and valour was supplied by the strength of the city; and the fortifications, both of the sea and land, might securely brave the impotent and random darts of the barbarians. Alaric disdained to trample any longer on the prostrate and ruined countries of Thrace and Dacia, and he resolved to seek a plentiful harvest of fame and riches in a province which had hitherto escaped the ravages of war."

b Alii per terga ferocis

Danubii solidata ruunt; expertaque remis

Frangunt stagna rotis. Claudian and Ovid often amuse their fancy by interchanging the metaphors and properties of liquid water, and solid ice. Much false wit has been expended in this easy exercise.

* Jerome, tom. 1. p. 26. He endeavours to comfort his friend Heliodorus, bishop

of Altinum, for the loss of his nephew Nepotian, by a curious recapitulation of all the public and private misfortunes of the times. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. 12, p. 200, &c.

Alaric The character of the civil and military of :* ficers, on whom Rufinus had devolved the goGreece... vernment of Greece, confirmed the public susA.D. 396. picion, that he had betrayed the ancient seat of freedom and learning to the Gothic invader. The proconsul Antiochus was the unworthy son of a respectable father; and Gerontius, who commanded the provincial troops, was much better qualified to execute the oppressive orders of a tyrant, than to defend with courage and ability, a country most remarkably fortified by the hand of nature. Alaric had traversed, without resistance, the plains of Macedonia and Thessaly, as far as the foot of mount Oeta, a steep and woody range of hills, almost impervious to his cavalry. They stretched from east to west, to the edge of the sea-shore; and left between the precipice and the Malian gulf, an interval of three hundred feet, which, in some places, was contracted to a road capable of admitting only a single carriage. In this narrow pass of Thermopylæ, where Leonidas and the three hundred Spartans had gloriously, devoted their lives, the Goths might have been stopped, or destroyed, by a skilful general; and perhaps the view of that sacred spot might have kindled some sparks of military ardour in the breasts of the degenerate Greeks. The troops which had been posted to defend the straits of Thermopylæ, retired, as they were directed, without attempting to disturb the secure and rapid passage of Alaric;% and the fertile fields of Phocis and Boeotia were instantly covered by a deluge of barbarians; who massacred the males of an age to bear arms, and drove away the beautiful females, with the spoil, and cattle, of the flaming villages. The travellers, who visited Greece several years afterward, could easily discover the deep and bloody traces of the march of the Goths; and Thebes was less indebted for her preservation to the strength of her seven gates, than to the eager haste of Alaric, who advanced to occupy the cities of Athens, and the important harbour of the Piræus. The same impatience urged him to prevent the delay and danger of a siege, by the offer of a capitulation; and as soon as the Athenians heard the voice of the Gothic herald, they were easily persuaded to deliver the greatest part of their wealth, as the ransom of the city of Minerva, and its in

a Baltha, or bold; origo mirifica, says Jornandes, (c. 29.) This illustrious race long continued to flourish in France, in the Gothic province of Septimania, or Languedoc; under the corrupted appellation of Baur: and a branch of that family afterward settled in the kingdom of Naples. (Grotius in Prolegom, ad Hist. Gothic. p. 53.) The lords of Baux, near Arles, and of seventy-nine subordinate places, were independent of the counts of Provence. (Longuerue, Description de la France, tom. 1. p. 357.) Zosimus (lib. 5. p. 293–295.) is our best guide for the conquest of Greece; but the hints and allusions of Claudian are so many rays of historic light.


[ocr errors]


habitants. The treaty was ratified by solemn oaths, and observed with mutual fidelity. The Gothic prince, with a small and select train, was admitted within the walls; he indulged himself in the refreshment of the bath, accepted a splendid banquet which was provided by the magistrate, and affected to shew that he was not ignorant of the manners of civilized nations. But the whole territory of Attica, from the promontory of Sunium to the town of Megara, was blasted by his baleful presence; and if we may use the comparison of a contemporary philosopher, Athens itself resembled the bleeding and empty skin of a slaughtered victim. The distance between Megara and Corinth could not much exceed thirty miles; but the bad road, an expressive name, which it still bears among the Greeks, was, or might easily have been made, impassable for the march of an enemy. The thick and gloomy woods of mount Cithæron covered the inland country; the Scironian rocks approached the water's edge, and hung over the narrow and winding path, which was confined above six miles along the sea-shore. The passage of those rocks, so infamous in every age, was terminated by the isthmus of Corinth; and a small body of firm and intrepid soldiers might have successfully defended a temporary intrenchment of five or six miles from the Ionian to the Ægean sea. The confidence of the cities of Peloponnesus in their natural rampart, had tempted them to neglect the care of their antique walls; and the avarice of the Roman governors had exhausted

h In obedience to Jerome and Claudian, (in Rufin. lib. 2. 191.) I have mixed some darker colours in the mild representation of Zosimus, who wished to soften the calamities of Athens.

Nec fera Cecropias traxissent vincula matres. Synesius (epist. 156. p. 272. edit. Petav.) observes, that Athens, whose sufferings he imputes to the proconsul's avarice, was at that time less famous for her schools of philosophy than for her trade of honey.

1- Vallata mari Scironia rupes, Et duo continuo connectens æquora muro Isthmos

Claudian de Bell. Getico, 188. The Scironian rocks are described by Pausanias, (lib. 1. c. 44. p. 107. edit. Kuhn) and our modern travellers, Wheler (p. 436.) and Chandler. (p. 298.) Hadrian

made the road passable for two carriages.

« ForrigeFortsett »