Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Caesars was in some measure imitated by the founder of Constantinople:1 but his liberality, however it might excite the applause of the people, has incurred the censure of posterity. A nation of legislators and conquerors might assert their claim to the harvests of Africa, which had been purchased with their blood; and it was artfully contrived by Augustus, that, in the enjoyment of plenty, the Romans should lose the memory of freedom. But the prodigality of Constantine could not be excused by any consideration either of public or private interest; and the annual tribute of corn imposed upon Egypt for the benefit of his new capital, was applied to feed a lazy and indolent populace, at the expense of the husbandmen of an industrious province.TM Some other regulations of this emperor are less liable to blame, but they are less deserving of notice. He divided Constantinople into fourteen regions or quarters," dignified the public council with the appellation of Senate," communicated to the citizens the privileges of Italy,p and bestowed on the rising city the title of Colony, the first and most favoured daughter of ancient Rome. The ve

'Sozomeo, lib. 2. c. 3. Philostorg. lib. 2. C. 9. Codin. Antiquitat. Const p. 8. It appears by Socrates, lib. 2. c. 13. that the daily allowances of the city consisted of eight myriads of wrw, which we may either translate with Valesius by the words modii of corn, or consider as expressive of the number of loaves of bread.

"' See Cod. Theodos. lib. 13. and 14. and Cod. Justinian. Edict. 12. tom. 2. p. 648. edit. Genev. See the beautiful complaint of Rome in the poem of Claudian is Bell. Gildonico, ver. 46—64.

Cum subiit par Roma mihi, divisaque sumsit
.']•-.1 iualTM aurora togas; JEgypti* turn
In partem cessere novam.

n The regions of Constantinople are mentioned in the code of Justinian, and particularly described in the Notitia of the younger Theodosius; but as the four fast of them are not included within the wall of Constantine, it may be doubted whether this division of the city should be referred to the founder.

0 Senatum constituit secundi ordinis; claros vocavit. Anonym. Valesian, p. 715. The senators of old Rome were styled Clarissimi. See a curious note of Valesius, and Ammian. Marcellin. 1t. 9. From the eleventh epistle of Julian, it should seem that the place of senator was considered as a burden, rather than as an honour; but the Abbe de la Bleterie (Vie de Jovien, tom. 2. p. 37l.) has shown that this epistle could not relate to Constantinople. Might we not read, instead of the celebrated name of Bu£«tioic, the obscure but more probable word Bio-av&nxc? Biaanthe or Rhoedestus, now Rhodosto, was a small maritime city of Thrace. See Stephan. Byz. de Urbibus, p. 225. and Cellar. Geograph. tom. 1. p. 849.

i Cod. Theodos. lib. 14. 13. The commentary of Godefroy (tom. 5. p. S20.) is long, but perplexed; nor indeed is it easy to ascertain in what the Jus Italicum could consist, after the freedom of the city had been communicated to the whole empire.

nerable parent still maintained the legal and acknowledged supremacy, which was due to her age, to her dignity, and to the remembrance of her former greatness.1" Dedica- As Constantine urged the progress of the work A/D.33o,wh;h the impatience of a lover, the walls, the or 334. porticos, and the principal edifices, were completed in a few years, or, according to another account, in a few months :r but this extraordinary diligence should excite the less admiration, since many of the buildings were finished in so hasty and imperfect a manner, that under the succeeding reign, they were preserved with difficulty from impending ruin.' But while they displayed the vigour and freshness of youth, the founder prepared to celebrate the dedication of his city.' The games and largesses which crowned the pomp of this memorable festival may easily be supposed; but there is one circumstance of a more singular and permanent nature, which ought not entirely to be overlooked. As often as the birthday of the city returned, the statue of Constantine, framed by his order, of gilt wood, and bearing in his right hand a small image of the genius of the place, was erected on a triumphal car. The guards carrying white tapers, and clothed in their richest apparel, accompanied the solemn procession as it moved through the Hippodrome. When it was opposite to the throne of the reigning emperor, he rose from his seat, and with grateful reverence adored the memory of his predecessor." At the festival of the dedication, an edict, engraved on a column of marble, bestowed the title of Second or New Rome on the city of Constantine.' But the name of Constantinople* has prevailed over that honourable epithet; and after the revolution of fourteen centuries, still perpetuates the fame of the author.2 Form of "^ne foundation of a new capital is naturally govern- connected with the establishment of a new form of civil and military administration. The distinct view of the complicated system of policy, introduced by Diocletian, improved by Constantine, and completed by his immediate successors, may not only amuse the fancy by the singular picture of a great empire, but will tend to illustrate the secret and internal causes of its rapid decay. In the pursuit of any remarkable institution, we may be frequently led into the more early or more recent times of the Roman history; but the proper limits of this inquiry will be included within a period of about one hundred and thirty years, from the accession of Constantine to the publication of the Theodosian Code;" from which, as well as from the Notitia of the east and west,6 we derive the most copious and authentic information of the state of the empire. This variety of objects will suspend, for some time, the course of the narrative; but the interruption will be censured only by those readers who are insensible to the importance of laws and manners, while they peruse, with eager curiosity, the transient intrigues of a court, or the accidental event of a battle. Hierarch ^e manty Pride of the Romans, content with of the substantial power, had left to the vanity of the east the forms and ceremonies of ostentatious greatness.0 But when they lost even the semblance of those virtues which were derived from their ancient freedom, the simplicity of Roman manners was insensibly corrupted by the stately affectation of the courts of AsiaThe distinctions of personal merit and influence, §o conspicuous in a republic, so feeble and obscure under a monarchy, were abolished by the despotism of the emperors; who substituted in their room a severe subordination of rank and office, from the titled slaves who were seated on the steps of the throne, to the meanest instruments of arbitrary power. This multitude of abject dependants was interested in the support of the actual government, from the dread of a revolution, which might at once confound their hopes and intercept the reward of their services. In this divine hierarchy (for such it is frequently styled), every rank was marked with the most scrupulous exactness, and its dignity was displayed in a variety of trifling and solemn ceremonies, which it was a study to learn, and a sacrilege to neglect.d The purity of the Latin language was debased, by adopting, in the intercourse of pride and flattery, a profusion of epithets, which Tully would have scarcely understood, and which Augustus would have rejected with indignation. The principal officers of the empire were saluted, even by the sovereign himself, by the deceitful titles of your Sincerity, your Gravity, your Excellency, your Eminency, your sublime and wonderful Magnitude, your illustrious and magnificent Highness.* The codicils or patents of their office were curiously emblazoned with such emblems as were best adapted to explain its nature and high dignity; the image or portrait of the reigning emperors; a triumphal car; the book of mandates placed on a table covered with a rich carpet, and illuminated by four tapers; the allegorical figures of the provinces which they governed; or the appellations and standards of the troops whom they commanded. Some of these official ensigns were really exhibited in their hall of audience; others preceded their pompous march whenever they appeared in public; and every circumstance of their demeanour, their dress, their ornaments, and their train, was calculated to inspire a deep reverence for the representatives of supreme majesty. By a philosophic observer, the system of the Roman government might have been mistaken for a splendid theatre, filled with players of every character and degree, who repeated the language, and imitated the passions, of their original model/ Three All the magistrates of sufficient importance to

i Julian (Orat. 1. p. 8,) celebrates Constantinople as not lees superior to all other cities, than she was inferior to Rome itself. His learned commentator (Spanheim, p. 75, 76.) justifies this language by several parallel and contemporary instances. Zosimus, as well as Socrates and Sozomen, flourished after the division of the empire between the two sons of Theodosius, which established a perfect equality between the old and the new capital.

r Codinus (Antiquitat. p. 8.) affirms that the foundations of Constantinople were laid in the year of the world 5857, (A. D. 349.) on the twenty sixth of September, and that the city was dedicated the llth of May, 5858, (A. D. 330.) He connects these dates with several characteristic epochs, but they contradict each other; the authority of Codinus is of little weight, and the space which he assigns must appear insufficient. The term often years is given us by Julian, (Orat. 1. p. 8,) and Spanheim labours to establish the truth of it; (p. 69—75.) by the help of two passages from Theraistius (Orat. 4. p. in.) and Philostorgius, (lib. S. c. 9.) which form a period from the year 324 to the year 334. Modern critics are divided conceruing this point of chronology, and their different sentiments are very accurately discussed by Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. 4. p. 619—625.

» Themistius, Orat. 3. p. 47. Zosim. lib. 2. p. 108. Constantine himself, in one of his laws, (Cod.Theod. lib. 15. tit. 1.) betrays his impatience.

i Cedrenus and Zonaras, faithful to the mode of superstition which prevailed in their own times, assure us that Constantinople was consecrated to the Virgin Mother of God.

"The earliest and most complete account of this extraordinary ceremony may be found in the Alexandrian Chronicle, p. 285. Tillemont and the other friends of Constantine, who are offended with the air of Paganism, which seems unworthy of a Christian prince, had a right to consider it as doubtful; but they were not auhorized to omit the mention of it.

* Sozomen,lib. 2. c. 2. Ducange C. P. lib. 1. c. 6. Velut ipsius Roms; filiam, is the expression of Augustin de Civitat. Dei, lib. 5. c. 25.

i Eutropius, lib. 10. c. 8. Julian Drat. 1. p. 8. Ducange C. P. lib. 1. c. 5. The name of Constantinople is extant on the medals of Constantine.

* The lively Fontenelle (Dialogues des Morts, 12.) affects to deride the vanity of human ambition, and seems to triumph in the disappointment of Constantine, whose immortal name is now lost in the vulgar appellation of Istambol, a Turkish corruption of ncrn* m\n. Yet the original name is still preserved, 1. By the nations of Europe. 2. By the modern Greeks. 3. By the Arabs, whose writings are diffused over the wide extent of their conquests in Asia and Africa. See d'Her* belot Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 275. 4. By the more learned Turks, and by the emperor himself in his public mandates. Cantemir's History of the Othman Empire,p. 51.

* The Theodosian code was promulgated A. D. 4S8. See the Prolegomena of Godefroy, c. 1. p. 185.

b Pancirolus, in his elaborate commentary, assigns to the Notitia, a date almost similar to that of the Theodosian code - but his proofs, or rather conjectures, are extremely feeble. I should be rather inclined to place this useful work between the final division of the empire, (A. D. 595.) and the successful invasion of Gaul by the barbarians. (A. D. 407.) See Histoire des Anciens Peuples de 1'Europe, torn. 7. p. 40.

•' Scilicet externae superbiae sneto,non inerat notitianostri (perhaps nottnc); apud quos visimperii valet,inania transmittuntur. Tacit. Anna!- 15. 31. The gradation from the style of freedom and simplicity, to that of form and servitude, may be traced in the epistles of Cicero, of Pliny, and of Symmachus.

d The emperor Gratian, after confirming a law of precedency published by Valentinian, the father ofhis divinity, thus continues: Siquis igitur indebitum sibi locum usurpaverit, nulla se ignoratione defendant ; sitque plane sacrilegii reus, qui divina praecepta negleierit. Cod. Theodos. lib. 6. tit, 5. leg. 2.

ia»ks of find a place in the general state of the empire,

honour. It-ii- i i i i

were accurately divided into three classes: 1. the Illustrious; 2. the Spectabiks, or Respectable; and, 3. the Cfarissimi, whom we may translate by the word honourable. In the times of Roman simplicity, the lastmentioned epithet was used only as a vague expression

* Consult tfotitia Di^nitatum, at the end of the Theodosian code, tom. 6. p. 316.

'Pancirotua ad Notitiarn utrnisque Imperil, p. 39. But his explanationc are obscure, and he does not sufficiently distinguish the painted emblems from the effective ensigns of office.

« ForrigeFortsett »