mate the soul to deeds of valour are alone grateful to the ear of Theodoric. He retires from table; and the nocturnal guards are immediately posted at the entrance of the treasury, the palace, and the private apartments." Huexpedi- When the king of the Visigoths encouraged Spain**" Avitus to assume the purple, he offered his A. D.456. person and his forces as a faithful soldier of the republic." The exploits of Theodoric soon convinced the world, that he had not degenerated from the warlike virtues of his ancestors. After the establishment of the Goths in Aquitain, and the passage of the Vandals into Africa, the Suevi, who had fixed their kingdom in Gallicia, aspired to the conquest of Spain, and threatened to extinguish the feeble remains of the Roman dominion. The provincials of Carthagena and Tarragona, afflicted by a hostile invasion, represented their injuries and their apprehensions. Count Pronto was dispatched, in the name of the emperor Avitus, with advantageous offers of peace and alliance; and Theodoric interposed his weighty meditaion, to declare that, unless his brother-in-law, the king of the Suevi, immediately retired, he should be obliged to arm in the cause of justice and of Rome. Tell him, replied the haughty Rechiarius, that I despise his friendship and his arms: but that I shall soon try, whether he will dare to expect my arrival under the walls of Thoulouse. Such a challenge urged Theodoric to prevent the bold designs of his enemy: he passed the Pyrenees at the head of the Visigoths: the Franks and Burgundians served under his standard; and though he professed himself the dutiful servant of Avitus, he privately stipulated, for himself and his successors, the absolute possession of the Spanish conquests. The two armies, or rather the two nations, encountered each other on the banks of the river Urbicus, about twelve miles from Astorga; and the decisive victory of the Goths appeared for a while to have extirpated the name and kingdom of the Suevi. From the field of battle Theodoric advanced to Braga, their metropolis, which still retained the splendid vestiges of its ancient 'commerce and dignity.7 His entrance was not polluted with blood, and the Goths respected the chastity of their female captives, more especially of the consecrated virgins; but the greatest part of the clergy and people were made slaves, and even the churches and altars were confounded in the universal pillage. The unfortunate king of the Suevi had escaped to one of the ports of the ocean; but the obstinacy of the winds opposed his flight; he was delivered to his implacable rival; and Rechiarius, who neither desired nor expected mercy, received, with manly constancy, the death which he would probably have inflicted. After this bloody sacrifice to policy or resentment, Theodoric carried his victorious arms as far as Merida, the principal town of Lusitania, without meeting any resistance, except from the miraculous powers of St. Eulalia; but he was stopped in the full career of success, and recalled from Spain, before he could provide for the security of his conquests. In the retreat towards the Pyrenees, he revenged his disappointment on the country through which he passed; and in the sack of Pollentiaand Astorga, he shewed himself a faithless ally, as. well as a cruel enemy. Whilst the king of the Visigoths fought and vanquished in the name of Avitus, the reign of Avitus had expired, and both the honour and the interest of Theodoric were deeply wounded by the disgrace of a friend, whom he had seated on the throne of the western empire.*

* Theodoric himself had given a solemn and voluntary promise of fidelity, which was understood both in Gaol and Spain.

Komn: sum, te duce, Amicus,

Principe te, Miles. Sidon. Panegyr. Avit. 511.

y Quaeque sinfl pelagi jactat se Bracara dive.—Auson. de Claris ITrbibus, p. 245. From the design of the king of the Suevi, it is evident that the navigation from the ports of Gallicia to the Mediterranean was known and practised. The ships of Bracara, or Braga, cautiously steered along the coast, without daring to lose themselves in the Atlantic.

z This Suevic war is the most authentic part of the Chronicle of Idatius, who,

The pressing solicitations of the senate and ... people, persuaded the emperor Avitus to fix Oct . 16. nis residence at Rome, and to accept the consulship for the ensuing year. On the first day of January, his son-in-law, Sidonius Apollinaris, celebrated his praises in a panegyric of six hundred verses; but this composition, though it was rewarded with a brass statue," seems to contain a very moderate proportion, either of genius or of truth. The poet, if we may degrade that sacred name, exaggerates the merit of a sovereign and a father; and his prophecy of a long and glorious reign was soon contradicted by the event. Avitus, at a time when the imperial dignity was reduced to a pre-eminence of toil and danger, indulged himself in the pleasures of Italian luxury; age had not extinguished his amorous inclinations; and he is accused of insulting, with indiscreet and ungenerous raillery, the husbands whose wives he had seduced or violated.1" But the Romans were not inclined, either to excuse hid faults, or to acknowledge his virtues. The several parts of the empire became every day more alienated from each other; and the stranger of the Gaul was the object of popular hatred and contempt. The senate asserted their legitimate claim in the election of an emperor; and their authority, which had been originally derived from the old constitution, was again fortified by the actual weakness of a declining monarchy. Yet even such a monarchy might have resisted the votes of an unarmed senate, if their discontent had not been supported, or perhaps inflamed, by Count Ricimer, one of the principal commanders of the barbarian troops, who formed the military defence of Italy. The daughter of Wallia, king of the Visigoths, was the mother of Ricimer; but he was descended, on the father's side, from the nation of the Suevi:0 his pride, or patriotism, might be exasperated by the misfortunes of his countrymen: and he obeyed, with reluctance, an emperor, in whose elevation he had not been consulted. His faithful and important services against the common enemy, rendered him still more formidable;*1 and after destroying, on the coast of Corsica, a fleet of Vandals, which consisted of sixty galleys, Ricimer returned in triumph with the-appellation of the Deliverer of Italy. He chose that moment to signify to Avitus, that his reign was at an end; and the feeble emperor, at a distance from his Gothic allies, was compelled, after a short and unavailing struggle, to abdicate the purple. By the clemency, however, or the contempt, of Ricimer,' he was permitted to descend from the throne, to the more desirable station of bishop of Placentia: but the resentment of the senate was still unsatisfied; and their inflexible severity pronounced the sentence of his death. He fled towards the Alps, with the humble hope, not of arming the Visigoths in his cause, but of securing his person and treasures in the sanctuary of Julian, one of the tutelar saints of Auvergne/ Disease, or the hand of the executioner, arrested him on the road; yet his remains were decently transported to Brivas, or Brioude, in his native province, and he reposed at the feet of his holy

as bishop of Ira Flavia, was himself a spectator and a sufferer. Jomandes (c. 44p. 675—677.) has expatiated with pleasure on the Gothic victory.

* In one of the porticos or galleries belonging to Trajan's library, among the statues of famous writers and orators. Sidon. A poll, lib. 9. epist. 16. p. 281. Carm. 8. p. 350.

b Liuuriose agere volens a senatoribus projectus est, ia the concise expression of Gregory of Tours, (lib. 2. c. 11. in tom. 2. p. 168.) An old Chronicle (in tom. 2. p. 649.) mentions an indecent jest of Aritus, which seems more applicable to Home than to Treves.



'" Sidonius (Panegyi. Anthem. 302, &c.) praise^he royal birth of Ricimer, the lawful heii, as he chooses to insinuate, both ofnte Gothic and Suevic kingdoms.

d See the Chronicle of Idatius. Jomandea (c. 44. p. 676.) styles him, with some truth, virum egregium, et pene tune in Italia ad exercitum singularem.

1 Parcens innocentia Ami, is the compasionate, but contemptuous, language of Victor Tunnunensis. (in Chron. Apud Scaliger Euseb.) In another place, he calls him vir totius simplicitatis. This commendation is more humble, but it is more solid and sincere, than the praises of Sidonius.

'He suffered, as it is supposed, in the persecution of Diocletian. (Tillemont,

fifty foolish miracles performed by his relics.


patron.8 Avitus left only one daughter, the wife of Sidonius Apollinaris, who inherited the patrimony of his father-in-law; lamenting, at the same time, the disappointment of his public and private expectations. His resentment prompted him to join, or at least to countenance, the measures of a rebellious faction in Gaul; and the poet had contracted some guilt, which it was incumbent on him to expiate, by a new tribute of flattery to the succeeding emperor.h

character The successor of Avitus presents the welcome ^n of6TM discovery of a great and heroic character, such Majorian. as sometimes arises in a degenerate age, to vin'•'• dicate the honour of the human species. The emperor Majorian has deserved the praises of his contemporaries, and of posterity; and these praises may be strongly expressed in the words of a judicious and disinterested historian—That he was gentle to his subjects; that he was terrible to his enemies; and that he excelled in Every virtue, All his predecessors who had reigned over the Romans.' Such a testimony may justify at least the panegyric of Sidonius; and we may acquiesce in the assurance, that, although the obsequious orator would have flattered, with equal zeal, the most worthless of princes, the extraordinary merit of his object confined him, on this occasion, within the bounds of truth.1

* Gregory of Tours (lib. 2. c. 11. p. 168.) is concise, but correct, in the reign of his countryman. The words of Idatius, "caret imperio, caret et vita," seem to imply, that the death of Avitus was violent; but it must have been secret, since Kvagrius (lib. 2. c. 7.) could suppose that he died of the plague.

b After a modest appeal to the examples of his brethren, Virgil and Horace, Sidonius honestly confesses the debt, and promises payment. Sic mihi diverso nuper sub Marte cadenti Jussisti placido Victor ut essem animo. Serviat ergo tibi servati lingua poetae,

Atque meae vit;« lans tua sit pretium. Sidon. Apoll. cam. 4. p. 308. See Dubos, Hist. Critique, tom. 1. p. 448, &c.

*The words of Procopius deserve to be transcribed; ourot ya.^ o MoiogtTos fcvfnraiiv&( Tftuj Trawore PwjtA»tarv f?t&t0'fXGuxora? isrri^eugw aggrr) vary and afterward, «wp T» fiii ii; in; uirnitcu; /metjis; ytycm-,, <po@!(o; Ji i; -rtvt m\tfitoot: (de Bell. Vandal. lib. 1. c. 7. p. 194.) a concise, but comprehensive, deBnition of royal virtue.

k The Panegyric was pronounced at Lyons before the end of the year 458, while the emperor was still consul. It has more art than genius, and more labour than art. The omaments are false or trivial, the expression is feeble and prolix; and Sidonius wants the skill to exhibit the principal figure in a strong and distinct light. The private life of Majorian occupies about two hundred lines, 107—305.

« ForrigeFortsett »