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tions with which the emperor encompassed his camp,
he appeared to decline, rather than to invite, a general engagement. It was the object of Magnentius to tempt or to compel his adversary to relinquish this advantageous position; and he employed, with that view, the various marches, evolutions, and stratagems, which the knowledge of the art of war could suggest to an experienced officer. He carried by assault the important town of Siscia; made an attack on the city of Sirmium, which lay in the rear of the imperial camp; attempted to force a passage over the Save into the eastern provinces of Illyricum; and cut in pieces a numerous detachment, which he had allured into the narrow passes of Adarne. During the greater part of the summer, the tyrant of Gaul shewed himself master of the field. The troops of Constantius were harassed and dispirited; his reputation declined in the eye of the world; and his pride condescended to solicit a treaty of peace, which would have resigned to the assassin of Constans the sovereignty of the provinces beyond the Alps. These offers were enforced by the eloquence of Philip, the imperial ambassador; and the council as well as the army of Magnentius were disposed to accept them. But the haughty usurper, careless of the remonstrances of his friends, gave orders that Philip should be detained as a captive, or at least as a hostage, while he dispatched an officer to reproach Constantius with the weakness of his reign, and to insult him by the promise of a pardon, if he would instantly abdicate the purple. “That he should confide in the justice of his cause, and the protection of an avenging Deity,” was the only answer which honour permitted the emperor to return. But he was so sensible of the difficulties of his situation, that he no longer dared to retaliate the indignity which had been offered to his representative. The negotiation of Philip was not, however, ineffectual, since he determined Sylvanus the Frank, a general of merit and reputation,
to desert with a considerable body of cavalry, a few days before the battle of Mursa.
The city of Mursa, or Essek, celebrated in
modern times for a bridge of boats five miles in Sept. 28. length, over the river Drave, and the adjacent morasses, has been always considered as a place of importance in the wars of Hungary. Magnentius directing his march towards Mursa, set fire to the gates, and by a sudden assault, had almost scaled the walls of the town. The vigilance of the garrison extinguished the flames; the approach of Constantius left him no time to continue the operations of the siege; and the emperor soon removed the only obstacle that could embarrass his motions, by forcing a body of troops which had taken post in an adjoining amphitheatre. The field of battle round Mursa was a naked and level plain: on this ground the army of Constantius formed, with the Drave on their right, while their left, either from the nature of their disposition, or from the superiority of their cavalry, extended far beyond the right flank of Magnentius. The troops on both sides remained under arms, in anxious expectation, during the greatest part of the morning; and the son of Constantine, after animating his soldiers by an eloquent speech, retired into a church at some distance from the field of battle, and committed to his generals the conduct of this decisive day. They deserved his confidence by the valour and military skill which they exerted. They wisely began the action upon the left; and advancing their whole wing of cavalry in an oblique line, they sud
• This remarkable bridge, which is Aanked with towers, and supported on large wooden piles, was constructed, A.D. 1566, by sultan Soliman, to facilitate the march of his armies into Hungary. See Browne's Travels, and Busching's System of Geography, vol. 2. p. 90.
p This position, and the subsequent evolutions, are clearly, though concisely, described by Julian, Orat. 1. p. 36.
9 Sulpicius Severus, lib. 2. p. 405. The emperor passed the day in prayer with Valens, the Arian bishop of Mursa, who gained his confidence by announcing the success of the battle. M. de Tillemont (Hist. des Empereurs, tom. 2. p. 1110.) very properly remarks the silence of Julian with regard to the personal prowess of Constantius in the battle of Mursa. The silence of flattery is sometimes equal to the most positive and authentic evidence.
denly wheeled it on the right flank of the enemy, which was unprepared to resist the impetuosity of their charge. But the Romans of the west soon rallied, by the habits of discipline; and the barbarians of Germany supported the renown of their national bravery. The engagement soon became general; was maintained with various and singular turns of fortune; and scarcely ended with the darkness of the night. The signal victory which Constantius obtained is attributed to the arms of his cavalry.
His cuirassiers are described as so many massy statues of steel, glittering with their scaly armour, and breaking with their ponderous lances the firm array of the Gallic legions. As soon as the legions gave way, the lighter and more active squadrons of the second line rode sword in hand into the intervals, and completed the disorder. In the meanwhile the huge bodies of the Germans were exposed almost naked to the dexterity of the oriental archers; and whole troops of those barbarians were urged by anguish and despair to precipitate themselves into the broad and rapid stream of the Drave." The number of the slain was computed at fifty-four thousand men, and the slaughter of the conquerors was more considerable than that of the vanquished ; a circumstance which proves the obstinacy of the contest, and justifies the observation of an ancient writer, that the forces of the empire were consumed in the fatal battle of Mursa, by the loss of a veteran army sufficient to defend the frontiers, or to add new triumphs to the glory of Rome. Not
Julian. Orat. 1. p. 36, 37. and Orat. 2. p. 59, 60. Zonaras, tom. 2. lib. 13. p. 17. Zosimus, lib. 2. p. 130– 133. The last of these celebrates the dexterity of the archer Menelaus, who could discharge three arrows at the same time; an advantage which, according to his apprehension of military affairs, materially contributed to the victory of Constantius.
• According to Zonarus, Constantius, out of eighty thousand men, lost thirty thousand; and Magnentius lost twenty-four thousand out of thirty-six thousand. The other articles of this account seem probable and authentic, but the numbers of the tyrant's army must have been mistaken, either by the author or his transcribers. Magnentius had collected the whole force of the west, Romans and bar. barians, into one formidable body, which cannot fairly be estimated at less than one hundred thousand men. Julian, Orat. 1. p. 34, 35.
1 Ingentes R. I. vires eà dimicatione consumptæ sunt, ad quælibet bella externa idoneæ, quæ multum triumphorum possent securitatisque conferre. Eutropius, 10. 13. The younger Victor expresses himself to the same effect.
A. D. 552.
withstanding the invectives of a servile orator, there is not the least reason to believe that the tyrant deserted his own standard in the beginning of the engagement. He seems to have displayed the virtues of a general and of a soldier till the day was irrecoverably lost, and his camp in the possession of the enemy. Magnentius then consulted his safety, and throwing away the imperial ornaments, escaped with some difficulty from the pursuit of the light horse, who incessantly followed his rapid flight from the banks of the Drave to the foot of the Julian Alps."
The approach of winter supplied the indolence Conquest of Italy; of Constantius with specious reasons for defer
ring the prosecution of the war till the ensuing spring. Magnentius had fixed his residence in the city of Aquileia, and shewed a seeming resolution to dispute the passage of the mountains and morasses which fortified the confines of the Venetian province. The surprisal of a castle in the Alps by the secret march of the imperialists, could scarcely have determined him to relinquish the possession of Italy, if the inclinations of the people had supported the cause of their tyrant. But the memory of the cruelties exercised by his ministers, after the unsuccessful revolt of Nepotian, had lefta deep impression of horror and resentment on the minds of the Romans. That rash youth, the son of the princess Eutropia, and the nephew of Constantine, had seen with indignation the sceptre of the west usurped by a perfidious barbarian. Arming a desperate troop of slaves and gladiators, he overpowered the feeble guard of the domestic tranquillity of Rome, received the homage of the senate, and,
u On this occasion, we must prefer the unsuspected testimony of Zosimus and Zonaras to the flattering assertions of Julian. The younger Victor paints the character of Magnentius in a singular light: “ Sermonis acer, animi tumidi, et im. modice timidus; artifex tamen ad occultandam audaciæ specie formidinem.” Is it most likely that in the battle of Mursa his behaviour was governed by nature or by art? I should incline for the latter.
* Julian, Orat. 1. p. 38, 39. In that place, however, as well as in Oration 2. p. 97. be insinuates the general disposition of the senate, the people, and the soldiers, of Italy, towards the party of the emperor.
assuming the title of Augustus, precariously reigned during a tumult of twenty-eight days. The march of some regular forces put an end to his ambitious hopes: the rebellion was extinguished in the blood of Nepotian, of his mother Eutropia, and of his adherents; and the proscription was extended to all who had contracted a fatal alliance with the name and family of Constantine. But as soon as Constantius, after the battle of Mursa, became master of the sea-coast of Dalmatia, a band of noble exiles, who had ventured to equip a fleet in some harbour of the Hadriatic, sought protection and revenge in his victorious camp. By their secret intelligence with their countrymen, Rome and the Italian cities were persuaded to display the banners of Constantius on their walls. The grateful veterans, enriched by the liberality of the father, signalized their gratitude and loyalty to the son. The cavalry, the legions, and the auxiliaries, of Italy, renewed their oath of allegiance to Constantius; and the usurper, alarmed by the general desertion, was compelled, with the remains of his faithful troops, to retire beyond the Alps into the provinces of Gaul. The detachments, however, which were ordered either to press or to intercept the flight of Magnentius, conducted themselves with the usual imprudence of success; and allowed him, in the plains of Pavia, an opportunity of turning on his pursuers, and of gratifying his despair, by the carnage of a useless victory.”
The pride of Magnentius was reduced, by refeat and peated misfortunes, to sue, and to sue in vain, for Magnen- peace. He first dispatched a senator, in whose A. D. 355, abilities he confided, and afterward several Aug. 10. bishops, whose holy character might obtain a y The elder Victor describes in a pathetic manner the miserable condition of
Cujus stolidium ingenium adeo P. R. patribusque exitio fuit, uti passim domus, fora, viæ, templaque, cruore, cadaveribusque opplerentur bustorum modo." Athanasius (tom. 1. p. 677.) deplores the fate of several illustrious victims; and Julian (Orat. 2. p.58.) execrates the cruelty of Marcellinus, the implacable enemy of the house of Constantine.
2 Zosim. lib. 2. p. 133. Victor in Epitome. The panegyrists of Constantius, with their usual candour, forget to mention this accidental defeat.