Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

[278-281 AJ>.]

reduced the people named Blemyes,1 who had taken the cities of Coptos and Ptolemais. He concluded a peace with the king of Persia, and on his return through Thrace he bestowed lands on a body of two hundred thousand Bastarnae, and on some of the Gepidae, Vandals, and other tribes. He triumphed for the Germans and Blemyes on his return to Rome.

A prince so just and upright, and at the same time so warlike as Probus, might have been expected to have no competitors for empire; yet even he had to take the field against rival emperors. The first of these was Saturninus, whom he himself had made general of the East, a man of both talent and virtue, and for whom he had a most cordial esteem. But the lightminded and turbulent people of Alexandria, on occasion of his entry into their city, saluted him augustus; and though he rejected the title and retired to Palestine, he yet, not reflecting on the generous nature of Probus, deemed that he could no longer live in a private station. He therefore assumed the purple, saying with tears to his friends that the republic had lost a useful man, and that his own ruin and that of many others was inevitable. Probus tried in vain to induce him to trust to his clemency. A part of his troops joined those sent against him by the emperor; he was besieged in the castle of Apamea, and taken and slain.

After the defeat of Saturninus, two officers, named Proculus and Bonosus, assumed the purple in Germany. They were both men of ability, and the emperor found it necessary to take the field against them in person. Proculus being defeated fled for succour to the Franks, by whom he was betrayed, and he fell in battle against the imperial troops. Bonosus held out for some time, but having received a decisive overthrow, he hanged himself. As he had been remarkable for his drinking powers, one who saw him hanging cried, "There hangs a jar, not a man." Probus treated the families of both with great humanity.o

THE ISAURIAN ROBBERS

In the year 278 the Isaurian marauders were reduced to submission. Zosimus gives us an account of the incident that led up to the capture of their city of Crymna. "There was an Isaurian named Lydius," he says, "who had been, a robber from his youth, and with a gang like himself had committed depredations throughout Pamphylia and Lycia. This gang being attacked by the soldiers, Lydius, not being able to oppose the whole Roman army, retreated to a place in Lycia called Crymna, which stands on a precipice and is secured on one side by large and deep ditches. Finding many who had fled there for refuge, and observing that the Romans were very intent on the siege and that they bore the fatigue of it with great resolution, he pulled down the houses, and making the ground fit for tillage, sowed corn for the maintenance of those that were in the town. But the number being so great that they were in need of much more provisions, he turned out of the place all that were of no service, both male and female.

"The enemy, perceiving his design, forced them back again, on which Lydius threw them headlong into the trenches that surrounded the walls, where they died. Having done this, he constructed a mine from the town beyond the enemy's camp, through which he sent persons to steal cattle and other provisions. By these means he provided for the besieged a considerable time, until the affair was discovered to the enemy by a woman.

i This people inhabited the mountains between Upper Egypt and the Red Sea.

[278-283 A.D.] Lydius, however, still did not despond, but gradually retrenched his men in their wine, and gave them a smaller allowance of corn. But this not answering the end, he was at length driven to such straits that he killed all that were in the town, except a few of his adherents sufficient as he thought to defend it, and some women, whom he ordered to be in common among them all. But when he had resolved to persevere against all dangers, there happened at length this accident. There was with him in the town a man who was expert in making engines, and in using them with such dexterity that when Lydius ordered him to shoot a dart at any of the enemy, he never missed his aim. It happened that Lydius had ordered him to hit a particular person, whom either accidentally or on purpose he missed, for which he stripped and scourged him severely, and moreover threatened him with death."The man was so exasperated on account of the blows he had received, and so affrighted at the menaces, that he took an opportunity to steal out of the town; and falling in with some soldiers to whom he gave an account of his actions and sufferings, he showed them an aperture in the wall through which Lydius used to inspect all that was done in their camp, and promised them to shoot him as he was looking through it in his usual manner. The commander of the expedition on this took the man into favour, who, having planted his engine, and placed some men before him that he might not be discovered by the enemy, took aim at Lydius as he looked through the aperture, and with a dart shot him and gave him a mortal wound. He had no sooner received this wound than he became still more strict with some of his own men. Having enjoined them upon oath never to surrender the place, he expired with much struggling. "«* Notwithstanding the admonition of the dying chief, the city capitulated presently to Probus. In the same year the Blemyes of Nubia were expelled from Upper Egypt. And, as the wars on the Rhine had been followed by the settlement of numbers of captive Germani in Gaul and Britain, so in the year 279 large bodies of Bastarme, a Germanic tribe which was giving ground before the advancing Goths, were transplanted to Moesia and Thrace, with a view to the romanisation of those provinces. But gradually the disgust of the soldiers at the laborious tasks to which they were set, such as agriculture, the draining of swamps, and the laying out of vineyards, objects which the excellent emperor pursued with the utmost zeal, grew to be a menace to his personal safety. As early as the summer of 282, mutinous troops in Raetia and Noricum had forced M. Aurelius Carus, a Dalmatian general and a native of Narona, who had always been on friendly terms with Probus, to come forward as a rival emperor; and in the October of the same year Probus himself was slain by his own soldiers, in a revolt that broke out suddenly, after the fashion common in this century, among the men employed in digging a canal at Sirmium.

Carus, Numerianus, And Carinus (282-285 A.d.) Carus, the new emperor, an old man of stern temper, set about the war with Persia in earnest. The elder of his sons, the caesar M. Aurelius Carinus, managed the affairs of Rome and Gaul, and the emperor, accompanied by M. Aurelius Numerianus, the other caesar, set out before the end of 282 for Asia, where he gained some considerable successes. Favoured by the internecine disorders of the Persian Empire, he first brought Armenia

[ocr errors]

once more under the dominion of Rome, in the year 283; and then proceeded to reconquer Mesopotamia. At length Ctesiphon itself fell into the hands of the Romans. But the army had no desire to follow the emperor into the interior of Iran, and Carus perished, apparently by a conspiracy among the officers of high rank, in December, 283. His son Numerianus fell ill during the retreat of the army to the Bosporus (284); and when, at the beginning of September, one part of the force reached Chalcedon and the other Perinthus, the soldiers discovered that the young emperor, who had accompanied the latter body, was dead. His father-in-law, Arrius Aper, praetorian prefect, who then tried to win the people for himself, was arrested on a strong suspicion of having murdered him. Meanwhile the officers at Chalcedon, taking into consideration the profligate and disgraceful conduct of the youthful caesar, Carinus, at Rome, proclaimed Diocles, the commander of the imperial body-guard, emperor on September 17th, 284. This general, who was at that time thirty-nine years of age, was born in 245, at Doclea or Dioclea, near Scodra, in Dalmatia, of humble parents. He owed his promotion to his extraordinary ability and exceptional intellectual gifts. Though addicted, like all his comrades, to the superstition of the age, he was superior to them all in administrative capacity, as in penetration, discretion, and resolution. Having slain Aper before his tribunal — whether from motives purely superstitious or, as the pessimistic criticism of our day would have it, as an accomplice in his own designs, he took up the dynastic war against Carinus, under the name of Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus. It ended in favour of Diocletian, after a somewhat protracted struggle, by a battle on the lower Margus (Morava), in which, while the fortune of the day hung yet undecided, an officer whose wife had been seduced by the Roman debauche, struck Carinus down in the thick of the fray (summer of 285).*

[graphic][ocr errors]
[graphic]

CHAPTER XLI. NEW HOPE FOR THE EMPIRE: THE AGE OF DIOCLETIAN AND CONSTANTINE "Diocletian inaugurated . . . the period of the Partnership Emperors. Himself borne to power by something not very unlike a mutiny of the troops on the Persian frontier, he nevertheless represented and gave voice to the passionate longing of the world that the age of mutinies might cease. With this intention he remodelled the internal constitution of the state and moulded it into a bureaucracy so strong, so stable, so wisely organised, that it subsisted virtually the same for more than a thousand years, and by its endurance prolonged for many ages the duration of the Byzantine Empire."

Hodokin, Italy and her Invaders. DIOCLETIAN APPOINTS MAXIMIAN CO-REGENT

From what we know of Diocletian, he had aspired to the throne long before his accession, and maintained the power he had won by military force. Soon after the death of Carinus, he appointed his colleague Maximian as caesar or assistant in the government (286), either because the latter had been initiated into his ambitious plans, or perhaps because Diocletian, on account of the almost uninterrupted war carried on in the remote parts of the kingdom, saw the necessity of a divided rule and of a second seat of government in the neighbourhood of the threatened provinces. Maximian, whom the emperor shortly afterwards invested with the title of augustus and charged with the government of the West of the empire, generally lived in Augusta Trevirorum (Treves) or in the town of Arelate (Arles) in the south of France; whilst Diocletian raised Nicomedia in Bithynia to be the capital of the East, and, as often as circumstances allowed, took up his residence there. Maximian was, like Diocletian, a good general and a brave soldier, but differed from him essentially in his want of education and refinement. As he felt the superiority of Diocletian and was led by him, the results of a divided government were not very perceptible in the first years. At first Diocletian was principally engaged in war with the Persians, who had again invaded the kingdom; Maximian found sufficient occupation for his martial activity in Gaul and Britain. In the first-named country, Maximian had at the very beginning to suppress a terrible insurrection of the peasants, occasioned by the internal condition of the province. In Gaul, even in Caesar's time, the same oppressive conditions existed amongst the inhabitants, which afterwards were to be found in all the states of Europe during the Middle Ages, and these conditions became still more burdensome under the Roman Empire.

H. w. — Vol. vi. 2f 433

[286-293 A.d.]

The entire nation was split up into three classes: a landed nobility which had usurped the government; a clergy who formed a caste and compelled the poor to contribute to their maintenance and comfort; and the townspeople and peasants who, as the two other classes managed to avoid public burdens, had to meet all the expenses of the administration unaided and were also exposed to the harshest despotism and exaction. Want and misery finally drove the peasants to despair, and under the name of Bagaudae, or banditti, they began an insurrection which may be placed on a level with the most terrible peasant wars which find a place in history. They assembled and gathered round them all manner of slaves and rabble, and roamed about in great hordes, ravaging and plundering. Soon all the roads were unsafe, commerce ceased, and even the large towns were destroyed or pillaged by the enraged hordes. Maximian had to wage a regular war with the Bagaudae, and cut down whole troops of them. In this manner he restored peace, but only for a short time; for the cause of the misery of the unfortunate peasants was not removed, and the insurrection and devastations of the Bagaudae lasted until the fall of the Roman dominion in Gaul. Maximian had to hasten the suppression of internal disturbances for he needed his army to fight the barbarians. At that time the Franks and Saxons, who lived on the North Sea, and had learned shipbuilding from the Romans, began their piratical expeditions into Gaul and Britain, whilst their predatory excursions continued on land. In order to meet this new evil, Maximian prepared a fleet for the guarding of the channel, and gave it into the hands of a capable seaman, the Netherlander Carausius. The latter made use of the command entrusted to him to make friends for himself in Britain by means of the booty seized from the barbarians, to excite the troops there to rebellion and set up himself as emperor. Maximian marched against him, failed in his enterprise, and had to concede to the usurper the title he had assumed, as well as the government of Britain (289). Carausius remained in undisturbed possession of the island, until one of his generals, Allectus, murdered him and seized the government (293). THE FOURFOLD DIVISION OF POWER The situation of the empire in the East was also very critical. Diocletian not only had to make war against the Persians but also to fight the people of the Danube; and as in Britain, a usurper also arose in Egypt, Achilleus by name. This state of affairs compelled the emperor Diocletian to alter the entire organisation of the empire (292). He consulted his colleague Maximian about this important step, but in taking it showed not the slightest regard for the Roman senate, which he never thought worthy of attention. In his new organisation, Diocletian endeavoured to further the prompt introduction of necessary measures and thereby to anticipate all disturbances and insurrections, and carried still further the division of the imperial power begun at the appointment of Maximian. But as he was not in the least inclined to lessen his own authority, he only appointed as his co-rulers men on whose respect and obedience he could rely. The change which he undertook to introduce into the government of the empire was therefore entirely based on his personal relations with his co-rulers. For this reason alone it could not possibly have been of any duration, even if it had not stood in direct opposition to the prejudices of the Romans [which latter, indeed, now had but slight influence]. The newly

« ForrigeFortsett »