« ForrigeFortsett »
of deference, till it became at length the peculiar and appropriated title of all who were members of the senate,' and consequently of all who, from that venerable body, were selected to govern the provinces. The vanity of those who, from their rank and office, might claim a superior distinction above the rest of the senatorial order, was long afterward indulged with the new appellation of Respectable: but the title of Illustrious was always reserved to some eminent personages, who were obeyed or reverenced by the two subordinate classes. It was communicated only, I. To the consuls and patricians; II. To the praetorian prefects, with the prefects of Rome and Constantinople; III. To the masters-general of the cavalry and the infantry; and, IV. To the seven ministers of the palace, who exercised their sacred functions about the person of the emperor.h Among those illustrious magistrates who were esteemed co-ordinate with each other, the seniority of appointment gave place to the union of dignities,1 By the expedient of honorary codicils, the emperors, who were fond of multiplying their favours, might sometimes gratify the vanity, though not the ambition, of impatient courtiers.k
The I. As long as the Roman consuls were the first
c<m§nis. magistrates of a free state, they derived their right to power from the choice of the people. As long as the emperors condescended to disguise the servitude which they imposed, the consuls were still elected by the real or apparent suffrage of the senate. From the reign of Diocletian even these vestiges of liberty were abolished, and the successful candidates who were invested with the annual honours of the consulship, affected to deplore the
* In the Pandect*, which may be referred to the reigns of the Autonines, ClariHimu* is the ordinary and legal title of a senator.
b Pancirol. p. 12—-17. I have not taken any notice of the two inferior ranks, Perfectiaamui and Egregiui, which were given to many persons who were not raised to the senatorial dignity.
1 Cod. Theodos. lib. 6. tit. 6. The rules of precedency are ascertained with the most minute accuracy by the emperors, and illustrated with equal prorility by their learned interpreter.
k Cod. Theodos. lib. 6. tit. 8?.
humiliating condition of their predecessors. The Scipios and the Catos had been reduced to solicit the votes of plebeians, to pass through the tedious and expensive forms of a popular election, and to expose their dignity to the shame of a public refusal; while their own happier fate had reserved them for an age and government in which the rewards of virtue were assigned by the unerring wisdom of a gracious sovereign.1 In the epistles which the emperor addressed to the two consuls elect, it was declared, that they were created by his sole authority.TM Their names and portraits, engraved on gilt tablets of ivory, were dispersed over the empire as presents to the provinces, the cities, the magistrates, the senate and the people." Their solemn inauguration was performed at the place of the imperial residence; and during a period of one hundred and twenty years, Rome was constantly deprived of the presence of her ancient magistrates.0 On the morning of the 1st of January, the consuls assumed the ensigns of their dignity. Their dress was a robe of purple embroidered in silk and gold, and sometimes ornamented with costly gems.p On this solemn occasion they were attended by the most eminent officers of the state and army, in the habit of senators; and the useless fasces, armed with the once formidable axes, were borne before them by the lictors.q The procession moved from the palacer to the forum, or principal square of the city; where the consuls ascended their tribunal, and seated themselves in the curule chairs, which were framed after the fashion of ancient times. They immediately exercised an act of jurisdiction, by the manumission of a slave, who was brought before them for that purpose; and the ceremony was intended to represent the celebrated action of the elder Brutus, the author of liberty and of the consulship, when he admitted among his fellow-citizens the faithful Vindix, who had revealed the conspiracy of the Tarquins.' The public festival was continued during several days in all the principal cities; in Rome, from custom; in Constantinople; in Carthage, Antioch, and Alexandria, from the love of pleasure and the superfluity of wealth.' In the two capitals of the empire the annual games of the theatre, the circus, and the amphitheatre," cost four thousand pounds of gold (about), one hundred and sixty thousand pounds sterling: and if so heavy an expense surpassed the faculties or the inclination of the magistrates themselves, the sum was supplied from the imperial treasury.11 As soon as the consuls had discharged these customary duties, they were at liberty to retire into the shade of private life, and to enjoy, during the remainder of the year, the undisturbed contemplation of their own greatness. They no longer presided in the national councils; they no longer executed the resolutions of peace or war. Their abilities (unless they were employed in more effective offices) were of little moment; and their names served only as the legal date of the year in which they had filled the chair of Marius and of Cicero. Yet it was still felt and acknowledged, in the last period of Roman servitude, that this empty name might be compared and even preferred, to the possession of substantial power. The title of consul was still the most splendid object of ambition, the noblest reward of virtue and loyalty. The emperors themselves, who disdained the faint shadow of the republic, were conscious that they acquired an additional splendour and majesty as often as they assumed the annual honours of the consular dignity." The patri- The proudest and most perfect separation which cians- can be found in any age or country, between the nobles and the people, is perhaps that of the patricians and the plebeians, as it was established in the first age of the Roman republic. Wealth and honours, the offices of the state, and the ceremonies of religion, were almost exclusively possessed by the former; who preserving the purity of their blood with the most insulting jealousy/ held their clients in a condition of specious vassalage. But these distinctions, so incompatible with the spirit of a free people, were removed, after a long struggle, by the persevering efforts of the tribunes. The most active and successful of the plebeians, accumulated wealth, aspired to honours, deserved triumphs, contracted alliances, and, after some generations, assumed the pride of ancient nobility/ The patrician families, on the other hand, whose original number was never recruited till the end of the commonwealth, either failed in the ordinary course of nature, or were extinguished in so many foreign and domestic wars, or, through a want of merit or fortune, insensibly mingled with the mass of the people." Very few remained who could derive their pure and genuine origin from the infancy of the city, or even from that of the republic, when Caesar and Augustus, Claudius and Vespasian, created from the body of the senate a competent number of new patrician families, in the hope of perpetuating an order which was still considered as honourable and sacred.b But these artificial supplies (in which the reigning house was always included) were rapidly swept away by the rage of tyrants, by frequent revolutions, by the change of manners, and by the intermixture of nations.0 Little more was left, when Constantine ascended the throne, than a vague and imperfect tradition, that the patricians had once been the first of the Romans. To form a body of nobles, whose influ
1 A u si m ins (inGratiarum Actions) basely expatiates on this unworthy topic.which is managed by Mamertinus (Panegyr. vet. 11.16—19.) with somewhat more freedom and ingenuity.
m Cum de consulibus in annum creandis, solua mecum volutarem . . . . te consolem et designavi, et declaravi, et priorem nuncupavi; are some of the expressions employed by the emperor Gratian to his preceptor the poet Ausonius. « Immanesque .... dentes
Qui secti ferro in tabulus auroque micantes,
Inscripti rutilum coelato consule nomen
Per proceres et vulgus eant. Claud, in 2 Cons. Stilichon. 456.
Montfaucon has represented some or these tablets o: dyptics; seejSupplement a 1'Antiquite expliqu£e, torn. 3. p. 220.
"Consule het atur post plurima saecula viso
Pallanteus apex: agnoscunt rostra curules
Auditas quondam proavis: desuetaque cingit
Regius auralis Fora fascibus Ulpia lictor. Claudian in 6 Cons. Honori,64S. From the reign of Cams to the sixth consulship of Honorius, there was an interval of one hundred and twenty years, during which the emperors were always absent from Rome on the first day of January. See the Chronologic de Tillemont, tom. S, 4, and 5.
f See Claudian in Cons. Prob. et Olybrii 178, &C. ; and in 4 Cons. Honorii, 585, &c.; though in the latter it is not easy to separate the ornaments of the emperor from those of the consul. Ausonius received, from the liberality of Gratiun. a ro1is palntata, or robe of state, in which the figure of the emperor Constantius was embroidered.
* Cerais et armorum procedures legumque potentes:
Claud, in 4 Cons. Honorii, 5. In Con*. Prob. 919. 'See Valerius ad Ammian. Marcellin, lib. 28. r. 7.
• Auspice mox Iaeto somiit clamore tribunal;
Ducitur, et grato remeat securior ictu.—Claudian in 4 Cons. Honorii, 611.
* Celebrant quidem solemnes istos dies, omnes ubique urbes quae sub legibus aguot; et Roma de more, et Constaitinopolis de imitation?, et Antiochiapro luxu, et discincta Carthago, et domus flnminis Alexandria, sed Treviri Principis beneficio. Ausonius in Oral. Actione.
• Claudian (in Cons. Mall. Theodori. 279—331.) describes in a lively and fanciful manner, the various games of the circus, the theatre, and the amphitheatre, exhibited by the new consul. The sanguinary combats of gladiators had already been prohibited. » Procopius in Hiit. Arcana, c. 96.
VOL. II. X
* In consulstu honos sine labore suscipitur. (Mamertin in Panegyr. Vet . 11. 0.) This exalted idea of the consulship is borrowed from an oration (3. p. 107.) pronounced by Julian in the servile court of Constantius. See the abbe de la Bleterie, (Memoires de 1'Academie, tom. 24. p. 289.) who delights to pursue the vestiges of the old constitution, and who sometimes finds them in his copious fancy.
. >' Intermarriages between the patricians and plebeians were prohibited by the Jaws of the twelve tables ; and the uniform operations of human nature may attest that the custom survived the law. See in Livy (4.1—6.) the pride of family urged by the consul, and the rights of mankind asserted by the tribune Canuieim.
» See the animated pictures drawn by Sallust, in the Jugurthine war, of the pride of the nobles, and even of the virtuous Metellus, who was unable to brook the idea that the honour of the consulship should be bestowed on the obscure merit of his lieutenant Marios, (c. 64.) Two hundred years before, the race of the Metelli themselves were confounded among the plebeians of Rome; and from the etymology of their name of Caeilius, there is reason to believe that those haughty nobles derived their origin from a sutler."
• In the year of Rome 800, very few remained, not only of the old patrician families, but even of those which had been created by Caesar and Augustus. (Tacit. Anul.il. 25.) The family ofScaurus (a branch of the patrician .iEmffii) was degraded so low, that his father," who exercised the trade of a charcoal merchant, left him only ten slaves, and somewhat less than soot. sterlin". (Valerias Maximus, lib. 4. c. 4. n. 11. Aurel. Victor in Scauro.) The family was saved from oblivion by the merit of the son.
» Tacit. Annal. 1J. 25. Dion Cassius, lib. 3. p. 693. The virtues of Agricola, who was created a patrician by the emperor Vespasian, reflected honour on that ancient order; but his ancestors had not any claim beyond an equestrian nobility.
c This failure would have been almost impossible, if it were true, as Casaubon compels Aurehas Victor to affirm, (ad Sueton, in Caesar, c. 4«. See Hist. August, p. 203. and Casaubou. Comment. p. 220.) that Vespasian created at once a thousand patrician families. But this extravagant number is too much even for the whole senatorial order, unless we should include all the Roman knights who were distinguished by permission of wearing the laticlave.