between miles from Sirmiura.1 From the inconsiderable Battle of forces which in this important contest two such

A1im'1s Powerful monarchs brought into the field, it may eth Oct. be inferred that the one was suddenly provoked and that the other was unexpectedly surprised. The emperor of the west had only twenty thousand, and the sovereign of the east no more than five-and -thirty thousand, men. The inferiority of number was, however, compensated by the advantage of the ground. Constantine had taken post in a defile about half a mile in breadth, between a steep hill and a deep morass, and in that situation he steadily expected and repulsed the first attack of the enemy. He pursued his success, and advanced into the plain. But the veteran legions of Illyricum rallied under the standard of a leader who had been trained to arms in the school of Probus and Diocletian. The missile weapons on both sides were soon exhausted; the two armies, with equal valour, rushed to a closer engagement of swords and spears, and the doubtful contest had already lasted from the dawn of the day to a late hour of the evening, when the right wing, which Constantine led in person, made a vigorous and decisive charge. The judicious retreat of Licinius saved the remainder of his troops from a total defeat; but when he computed his loss, which amounted to more than twenty thousand men, he though it unsafe to pass the night in the presence of an active and victorious enemy. Abandoning his camp and magazines, he marched away with secrecy and diligence at the head of the greatest part of his cavalry, and was soon removed beyond the danger of a pursuit. His diligence preserved his wife, his son, and his treasures, which he had deposited at Sirmium. Licinius passed through that city, and breaking down the bridge on the Save, hastened to collect a new army in Dacia and Thrace. In his flight he bestowed the precarious title of Caesar on Valens, his general of the Illyrian frontier." Battle of The plain of Mardia in Thrace was the theatre Manila. of a second battle, no less obstinate and bloody than the former. The troops on both sides displayed the same valour and discipline; and the victory was once more decided by the superior abilities of Constantine, who directed a body of five thousand men to gain an advantageous height, from whence, during the heat of the action, they attacked the rear of the enemy, and made a very considerable slaughter. The troops of Licinius, however, presenting a double front, still maintained their ground, till the approach of night put an end . to the combat, and secured their retreat towards the mountains of Macedonia." The loss of two battles, and of his bravest veterans, reduced the fierce spirit of Licinius to sue for peace. His ambassador Mistrianus was admitted to the audience of Constantine; he expatiated on thecommon topics of moderation and humanity, which are so familiar to the eloquence of the vanquished; represented, in the most insinuating language, that the event of the war was still doubtful, whilst its inevitable calamities were alike pernicious to both the contending parties; and declared, that he was authorized to propose a lasting and honourable peace in the name of the two emperors, his masters. Constantine received the mention of Valens with indignation and contempt. It was not for such a purpose (he sternly replied), that we have advanced from the shores of the western ocean in an uninterrupted course of combats and victories, that, after rejecting an ungrateful kinsman, we should accept for our colleague a contemptible slave. The abdication of Valens

1 Cibalis or Cibalae (whose name is still preserved in the obscure ruins of SwiJei) was situated about fifty miles from Sirmium, the capital of Illyricum, and about one hundred from Tauranum, or Belgrade, and the conflux of the Danube and the Save. The Roman garrisons and cities on those rivers are finely illustrated by M, d'Anvillr, in a memoir inserted in 1'Academie dot Inscriptions, torn. t8.

"Zosimus (lib. 2. p. 90, 91.) gives a very particular account of this battle; but the descriptions of Zosimus are rhetorical rather than militarv.

1 Zoftimus, lib. 2. p. 92, 93. Anonym. Valesian, p. 715. The epitomes furnish some circumstances: but they frequently confound the two wars between Licinius

and (lull-tan t inn.

. ^(*

is the first article of the treaty. J It was necessary to accept this humiliating condition; and the unhappy Valens, after a reign of a few days, was deprived of the purple and of his life. As soon as this obstacle was removed, the tranquillity of the Roman world was easily restored. The successive defeats of Licinius had ruined his forces, but they had displayed his courage and abilities. His situation was almost desperate, but the efforts of despair are sometimes formidable; and the good sense of Constantine preferred a great and certain advantage Treat of to a third trial of the chance of arms. He conpeace. sented to leave his rival, or, as he again styled

December. , . . . , . . . , , , , . , .

Lie in His, his friend and brother, in the possession of Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt; but the provinces of Pannonia, Dalmatia, Dacia, Macedonia, and Greece, were yielded to the western empire; and the dominions of Constantine now extended from the confines of Caledonia to the extremity of Peloponnesus. It was stipulated by the same treaty, that three royal youths, the sons of the emperors, should be called to the hopes of the succession. Crispus and the young Constantine were soon afterward declared Caesars in the west, while the younger Licinius was invested with the same dignity in the east. In this double proportion of honours, the conqueror asserted the superiority of his arms and power.2 General The reconciliation of Constantine and Licinius, Ewraof'' though it was imbittered by resentment and jeaCoustan- \OUSy} by the remembrance of recent injuries, and A. D. sis by the apprehension of future dangers, main~Si3' tained, however, above eight years, the tranquillity of the Roman world. As a very regular series of the imperial laws commences about this period, it would not be difficult to transcribe the civil regulations which employed the leisure of Constantine. But the most important of his institutions are intimately connected with the new system of policy and religion, which was not perfectly established till the last and peaceful years of his reign. There are many of his laws, which, as far as they concern the rights and property of individuals, and the practice of the bar, are more properly referred to the private than to the public jurisprudence of the empire; and he published many edicts of so local and temporary a nature, that they would ill deserve the notice of a general history. Two laws, however, may be selected from the crowd; the one for its importance, the other for its singularity; the former for its remarkable benevolence, the latter for its excessive severity. 1. The horrid practice, so familiar to the ancients, of exposing or murdering their new-born infants, was become every day more frequent in the provinces, and especially in Italy. It was the effect of distress; and the distress was principally occasioned by the intolerable burden of taxes, and by the vexatious as well as cruel prosecutions of the officers of the revenue against their insolvent debtors. The less opulent or less industrious part of mankind, instead of rejoicing in an increase of family, deemed it an act of paternal tenderness to release their children from the impending miseries of a life which they themselves were unable to support. The humanity of Constantine, moved, perhaps, by some recent and extraordinary instances of despair, engaged him to address an edict to all the cities of Italy, and afterward of Africa, directing immediate and sufficient relief to be given to those parents who should produce before the magistrates the children whom their own poverty would not allow them to educate. But the promise was too liberal, and the provision too vague, to effect any general or permanent benefit." The law, though it may merit some praise, served rather to display than to alleviate the public distress. It still remains an authentic monument to contradict and confound those venal orators, who were too well satisfied with their own situation to discover either vice or misery under the government of a generous sovereign.1' 2. The laws of Constantine against rapes were dictated with very little indulgence for the most amiable weaknesses of human nature; since the description of that crime was applied not only to the brutal violence which compelled, but even to the gentle seduction which might persuade, an unmarried woman, under the age of twenty-five, to leave the house of her parents. The successful ravisher was punished with death; and, as if simple death was inadequate to the enormity of his guilt, he was either burnt alive, or torn in pieces by wild beasts in the amphitheatre. The virgin's declaration that she had been carried away with her own consent, instead of saving her lover, exposed her to share his fate. The duty of a public prosecution was intrusted to the parents of the guilty or unfortunate maid; and if the sentiments of nature prevailed on them to dissemble the injury, and to repair by a subsequent marriage the honour of their family, they were themselves punished by exile and confiscation. The slaves, whether male or female, who were convicted of having been accessory to the rape or seduction, were burnt alive, or put to death by the ingenious torture of pouring down I heir throats a quantity of melted lead. As the crime was of a public kind, the accusation was permitted even to strangers. The commencement of the action was not limited to any term of years, and the consequences of the sentence were extended to the innocent offspring of such an irregular

v Petrus Patricius in Excerpt. Legat. p. 27. If it should be thought that signifies more properly a son-in-law, we might conjecture that Constantine, assuming the name as well as the duties of a father, had adopted his younger brothers and sisters, the children of Theodora. But in the best authors yifxCp; sometimes signifies a husband, sometimes a father-in-law, and sometimes a kinsman in general. See Spanheim Observat. ad Julian. 1. p. 72.

1 Zosimus, lib. 2. p. 93. Anonym. Valesian, p. 713. Eutropius, 10. 5. Aurelius Victor. Euseb. in Chron. Sozomen, lib. 1. c. 2. Four of these writers affirm that the promotion of the Caesars was an article of the treaty. It is, however, certain, that the younger Constantine and Licinius were not yet born ; and it is highly probable that the promotion was made the 1st of March, A.D. 317. The treaty had probably stipulated that two Caesars might be created by the western, and one only by the eastern emperor; but each of them reserved to himself the choice of the persons.

» Codex Theodosian, lib, 11. tit. 27. torn. 4. p. 188. with Godefro/i observations. See likewise lib. 5. tit. 7, 8.

* Omnia foria placata, domi proapera, annonae ubertate, fructuum copi&, &c. Panegyr. Vet. 10. 38. This oration of Nazarins was pronounced on the day of the quinquennalia of the Caesars, the lat of March, A.D. 321.

« ForrigeFortsett »