Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

[268-270 AJ>.]

general without crime, maintained its dignity, and checked or punished the inroads of the barbarians. This series commences with the death of Gallienus and terminates with that of Licinius, embracing a period of somewhat more than half a century, and marked, as we shall find, by most important changes in the Roman Empire. [Thus the military revolution now begins to bear good fruit.]

Claudius (M. Aurelius Claudius), 268-270 A.d.

The murmurs of the soldiers on the death of Gallienus were easily stilled by the promise of a donative of twenty pieces of gold a man. To justify themselves in the eyes of the world, the conspirators resolved to bestow the empire on one who should form an advantageous contrast to its late unworthy possessor, and they fixed on M. Aurelius Claudius, who commanded a division of the army at Ticinum (modern Pavia). The soldiers, the senate, and the people alike approved their choice, and Claudius assumed the purple with universal approbation.

This excellent man, in whose praise writers of all parties are agreed, was a native of Illyricum, born apparently in humble circumstances. His merit raised him through the inferior gradations of the army; he attracted the notice of the emperor Decius, and the discerning Valerian made him general of the Illyrian frontier, with an assurance of the consulate.

Aureolus was soon obliged to surrender, and he was put to death by the soldiers. An army of Alamanni, coming perhaps to his aid, was then, it is said, defeated by Claudius near Verona. After his victory the emperor proceeded to Rome, where during the remainder of the year he devoted his time and thoughts to the reformation of abuses in the state. Among other just and prudent regulations, he directed that the properties confiscated by Gallienus should be restored to their original owners. A woman, it is said, came on this occasion to the emperor and claimed her land, which she said had been given to Claudius, the commander of the cavalry. This officer was the emperor himself, and he replied that the emperor Claudius must restore what he took when he was a private man and less bound to obey the laws.

The following year (269) the Goths and their allies embarked, we are told, to the number of 320,000 warriors, with their wives, children, and slaves, in two or, as some say, six thousand vessels, and directed their course to the Bosporus. In passing that narrow channel the number of their vessels and the rapidity of the current caused them to suffer considerable loss. Their attempts on Byzantium and Cyzicus having failed, they proceeded along the northern coast of the ^Egean, and laid siege to the cities of Cassandrea and Thessalonica. While thus engaged they learned that the emperor was on his march to oppose them, and breaking up they advanced into the interior, wasting and plundering the country on their way. Near the town of Naisus, in Dardania, they encountered the Roman legions. The battle was long and bloody, and the Romans were at one time on the verge of defeat; but the skill of Claudius turned the beam, and the Goths were finally routed with a loss of fifty thousand men. During the remainder of the year numerous desultory actions occurred, in which the Goths sustained great losses; and being finally hemmed in on all sides by the Roman troops, they were forced to seek refuge in Mount Haemus, and pass the winter amidst its snows. Famine and pestilence alike preyed on them, and when on the return of spring (270) the emperor took the field against them, they [270 A.D.] were obliged to surrender at discretion. A portion of their youth were enrolled in the imperial troops; vast numbers both of men and women were reduced to slavery; on some lands were bestowed in the provinces; few returned to their seats on the Euxine. The pestilence which had afflicted the Goths proved also fatal to the emperor. He was attacked and carried off by it at Sirmium in the fiftyseventh year of his age. In the presence of his principal officers he named, it is said, Aurelian, one of his generals, as the fittest person to succeed him; but his brother Quintilius, when he heard of his death, assumed the purple at Aquileia, and was acknowledged by the senate. Hearing, however, that Aurelian was on his march against him, he gave up all hopes of success, and opening his veins died after a reign of seventeen days. Aurelian (L. Domititjs Aurelianus), 270-275 A.d.

Aurelian, like his able predecessor, was a man of humble birth. His father is said to have been a small farmer, and his mother a priestess of the Sun, in a village near Sirmium. He entered the army as a common soldier, and rose through the successive gradations of the service to the rank of general of a frontier. He was adopted in the presence of Valerian (some said at his request) by Ulpius Crinitus, a senator of the same family with the emperor Trajan, who gave him his daughter in marriage, and Valerian bestowed on him the office of consul. In the Gothic War Claudius had committed to him the command of the cavalry. Immediately on his election Aurelian hastened to Rome, whence he was speedily recalled to Pannonia by the intelligence of an irruption of the Goths. A great battle was fought, which was terminated by night without any decisive advantage on either side. Next day the Goths retired over the river and sent proposals of peace, which was cheerfully accorded, and for many years no hostilities of any account occurred between the Goths and Romans. But while Aurelian was thus occupied in Pannonia, the Alamanni, with a force of forty thousand horse and eighty thousand foot, had passed the Alps and spread their ravages to the Po. Instead of following them into Italy, Aurelian, learning that they were on their return home with their booty, marched along the Danube to intercept their retreat, and attacking them unawares, he reduced them to such straits that they sent to sue for peace. The emperor received the envoys at the head of his legions, surrounded by his principal officers. After a silence of some moments they spoke by their interpreter, saying that it was the desire of peace and not the fear of war that had brought them thither. They spoke of the uncertainty of war, and enlarged on the number of their forces. As a condition of peace they required the usual presents, and the same annual payments in silver and gold that they had had before the war. Aurelian replied in a long speech, the sum of which was that nothing short of unconditional surrender would be accepted. The envoys returning to their countrymen reported the ill success of their embassy, and forthwith the army turned back and re-entered Italy. Aurelian followed and came up with them at Placentia. The Alamanni, who had stationed themselves in the woods, fell suddenly on the legions in the dusk of the evening, and nothing but the firmness and skill of the emperor saved the Romans from a total overthrow. A second battle was fought near Fanum in Umbria, on the spot where Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal was defeated and slain five hundred years before. The Alamanni [267-271 A j>.] were totally routed, and a concluding victory at Ticinum delivered Italy from their ravages. Aurelian pursued the barbarians beyond the Alps, and then turned to Pannonia, which the Vandals had invaded. He engaged and defeated them (271). They sent to sue for peace, and he referred the matter to his soldiers, who loudly expressed their desire for an accommodation. The Vandals gave the children of their two kings and of their principal nobles for hostages, and Aurelian took two thousand of them into his service. AURELIAN WALLS ROME AND INVADES THE EAST There had been some seditions at Rome during the time of the Alamannian War, and Aurelian on his return to the capital acted with great severity, and even cruelty, in punishing those engaged in them. He is accused of having put to death senators of high rank on the slightest evidence, and for the most trifling offences. Aware, too, that neither Alps nor Apennines could now check the barbarians, he resolved to put Rome into a posture to stand a siege, and he commenced the erection of massive walls around it, which, when completed by his successors, formed a circuit of twenty-one miles, and yielded a striking proof of the declining strength of the empire. Aurelian, victorious against the barbarians, had still two rivals to subdue before he could be regarded as perfect master of the empire. Tetricus was acknowledged in Gaul, Spain, and Britain; Zenobia, the widow of Odenathus, ruled the East. It is uncertain against which he first turned his arms, but as the greater number of writers give the priority to the Syrian War, we will here follow their example. Odenathus and his eldest son Herod were treacherously slain by his nephew Maeonius; but Zenobia, the widow of the murdered prince, speedily punished the traitor, and then held the government in the name of her remaining sons. This extraordinary woman claimed a descent from the Ptolemies of Egypt. In her person she displayed the beauty of the East, being of a clear dark complexion, with pearly white teeth and brilliant black eyes. Her voice was strong and harmonious; she spoke the Greek, Syrian, and Egyptian languages, and understood the Latin. She was fond of study, but at the same time she loved vigorous exercises; and she accompanied her husband to the chase of the lion, the panther, and the other wild beasts of the wood and desert, and by her counsels and her vigour of mind she greatly contributed to his success in war. To these manly qualities was united a chastity rarely to be found in the East. Viewing the union of the sexes as the appointed means of continuing the species, Zenobia would admit the embraces of her husband only in order to have offspring. She was temperate and sober, yet when needful she could quaff wine with her generals, and even vanquish in the combats of the table the wine-loving Persians and Armenians. As a sovereign Zenobia was severe or clement as the occasion required; she was frugal of her treasure beyond what was ordinary with a woman, but when her affairs called for liberality no one dispensed them more freely. After the death of Odenathus, which occurred in the year 267, Zenobia styled her three sons Augusti, but she held the government in her own hands; she bore the title of Queen of the East, wore royal robes and the diadem, caused herself to be adored in the oriental fashion, and put the years of her reign on her coins. She defeated an army sent against her by Gallienus; she made herself mistress of Egypt, and her rule extended northwards as far as the confines of Bithynia.

[271-272 A.D.]

Aurelian on passing over to Asia reduced to order the province of Bithynia. The city of Tyana in Cappadocia resisted him, but the treachery of one of its inhabitants put it into his hands. He pardoned the people, and he abandoned the traitor to the just indignation of the soldiers. On the banks of the Orontes he encountered the troops of the Queen of the East.c Let us turn to Zosimus for an account of what then took place:ZOSIMUS DESCRIBES THE DEFEAT OF ZENOBIA Aurelian observing that the Palmyrenian cavalry placed great confidence in their armour, which was very strong and secure, and that they were much better horsemen than his soldiers, he planted his infantry by themselves on the other side the Orontes. He charged the cavalry not to engage immediately with the vigorous cavalry of the Palmyrenians, but to wait for their attack, and then, pretending to fly, to continue so doing until they had wearied both the men and their horses through excess of heat and the weight of their armour; so that they could pursue them no longer. This project succeeded, and as soon as the cavalry of the emperor saw their enemy tired and their horses scarcely able to stand under them, or themselves to move, they drew up the reins of their horses, and, wheeling round, charged them, and trod them under foot as they fell from their horses. By which means the slaughter was promiscuous, some falling by the sword and others by their own and the enemy's horses. After this defeat, the remains of the enemy fled into Antioch. Labdas, the general of Zenobia, fearing that the Antiochians on hearing of it should mutiny, chose a man resembling the emperor, and clothing him in a dress such as Aurelian was accustomed to wear, led him through the city as if he had taken the emperor prisoner. By this contrivance he imposed on the Antiochians, stole out of the city by night, and took with him Zenobia with the remainder of the army to Emesa. In the meantime the emperor was intent on his affairs, and as soon as it was day called the foot soldiers around him, intending to attack the defeated enemy on both sides; but, hearing of the escape of Zenobia, he entered Antioch, where he was joyfully received by the citizens. Finding that many had left the city, under apprehensions that they should suffer for having espoused the party of Zenobia, he published edicts in every place to recall them, and told them that such events had happened more through necessity than of his own inclination. When this was known to the fugitives they returned in crowds and were kindly received by the emperor, who, having arranged affairs in that city, proceeded to Emesa. Finding that a party of the Palmyrenians had got possession of a hill above the suburbs of Daphne, thinking that its steepness would enable them to obstruct the enemy's passage, he commanded his soldiers to march with their bucklers so near to each other, and in so compact a form, as to keep off any darts and stones that might be thrown at them. This being observed, as soon as they ascended the hill, being in all points equal to their adversaries, they put them to flight in such disorder that some of them were dashed in pieces from the precipices, and others slaughtered in the pursuit by those that were on the hill and those that were mounting it. Having gained the victory, they marched on with great satisfaction at the success of the emperor, who was liberally entertained at Apamea, Larissa, and Arethusa. Finding the Palmyrenian army drawn up before Emesa, amounting to seventy thousand men, consisting of Palmyrenians and their allies, he opposed to them the [272-273 A.D.]

Dalmatian cavalry, the Moesians and Pannonians, and the Celtic legions of Noricum and Raetia, and besides these the choicest of the imperial regiment selected man by man, the Mauretanian horse, the Tyanaeans, the Mesopotamians, the Syrians, the Phoenicians, and the Palestinians, all men of acknowledged valour; the Palestinians besides other arms wielding clubs and staves.

At the commencement of the engagement the Roman cavalry receded, lest the Palmyrenians, who exceeded them in number and were bett#r horsemen, should by some stratagem surround the Roman army. But the Palmyrenian cavalry pursued them so fiercely, though their ranks were broken, that the event was quite contrary to the expectation of the Roman cavalry. For they were pursued by an enemy much their superior in strength, and therefore most of them fell. The foot had to bear the brunt of the action. Observing that the Palmyrenians had broken their ranks when the horse commenced their pursuit, they wheeled about, and attacked them while they were scattered and out of order. Upon which many were killed, because the one side fought with the usual weapons, while those of Palestine brought clubs and staves against coats of mail made of iron and brass. The Palmyrenians therefore ran away with the utmost precipitation, and in their flight trod each other to pieces, as if the enemy did not make sufficient slaughter; the field was filled with dead men and horses, whilst the few that could escape took refuge in the city.

Zenobia was not a little disturbed by this defeat, and therefore consulted on what measures to adopt. It was the opinion of all her friends that it would be prudent to relinquish all pretensions to Emesa, because the Emesenians were disaffected towards her and friendly to the Romans. They advised her to remain within Palmyra, and when they were in security in that strong city, they would deliberate at leisure on their important affairs. This was no sooner proposed than done, with the concurrence of the whole assembly. Aurelian, upon hearing of the flight of Zenobia, entered Emesa, where he was cordially welcomed by the citizens, and found a treasure which Zenobia could not carry along with her. He then marched immediately to Palmyra, which he invested on every side, while his troops were supplied with provisions of every kind by the neighbouring country.

THE FALL OP PALMYRA

Meantime [continues Zosimus] the Palmyrenians only derided the Romans, as if they thought it impossible for them to take the city; and one man spoke in very indecent terms of the emperor's own person. Upon this, a Persian who stood by the emperor said, " If you will allow me, sir, you shall see me kill that insolent soldier," to which the emperor consented, and the Persian, placing himself behind some other men that he might not be seen, shot at the man while in the act of looking over the battlements, and hit him whilst still uttering his insulting language, so that he fell down from the wall before the soldiers and the emperor. The besieged however still held out, in hopes that the enemy would withdraw for want of provisions, and persisted in their resolution, until they were themselves without necessaries. They then called a council, in which it was determined to fly to the Euphrates, and request aid of the Persians against the Romans. Having thus determined, they set Zenobia on a female camel, which is the swiftest of that kind of animals, and much more swift than horses, and conveyed her out of the city.

« ForrigeFortsett »