respected the prejudices of the Roman people, were, in some measure, obliged to assume the language and behaviour suitable to the general and first magistrate of the republic. In the armies and in the provinces, they displayed the dignity of monarchs; and when they fixed their residence at a distance from the capital, they for ever laid aside the dissimulation which Augustus had recommended to his successors. In the exercise of the legislative as well as the executive power, the sovereign advised with his ministers, instead of consulting the great council of the nation. The name of the senate was mentioned with honour till the last period of the empire; the vanity of its members was still flattered with honorary distinctions ;" but the assembly which had so long been the source, and so long the instrument of power, was respectfully suffered to sink into oblivion. The senate of Rome, losing all connexion with the imperial court, and the actual constitution, was left a venerable but useless monument of antiquity on the Capitoline-hill.

When the Roman princes had lost sight of the gistracies senate and of their ancient chapel, they easily

forgot the origin and nature of their legal power. The civil offices of consul, of proconsul, of censor, and of tribune, by the union of which it had been formed, betrayed to the people its republican extraction. Those modest titles were laid aside;o and if they still distinguished their high station by the appellation of emperor, or imperator, that word was understood in a new and more dignified sense, and no longer denoted the general Imperial of the Roman armies, but the sovereign of the dignity

Roman world. The name of emperor, which was

at first of a military nature, was associated with another of a more servile kind. The epithet of dominus, or lord, in its primitive signification, was expressive, not

See the Theodosian code, lib. 6. tit. 2. with Godefroy's commentary. e See the twelfth dissertation in Spanheim's excellent work, de Usu Numismatum. From medals, inscriptions, and historians, he examines every title separately, and traces it from Augustus to the moment of its disappearing.

Civil ma

laid aside.

and titles.

of the authority of a prince over his subjects, or of a commander over his soldiers, but of the despotic power of a master over his domestic slaves. Viewing it in that odious light, it had been rejected with abhorrence by the first Cæsars. Their resistance insensibly became more feeble, and the name less odious ; till at length the style of our lord and emperor was not only bestowed by flattery, but was regularly admitted into the laws and public monuments. Such lofty epithets were sufficient to elate and satisfy the most excessive vanity; and if the successors of Diocletian still declined the title of king, it seems to have been the effect, not so much of their moderation, as of their delicacy. Wherever the Latin tongue was in use (and it was the language of government throughout the empire), the imperial title, as it was peculiar to themselves, conveyed a more respectable idea than the name of king, which they must have shared with a hundred barbarian chieftains ; or which, at the best, they could derive only from Romulus or from Tarquin. But the sentiments of the east were very different from those of the west. From the earliest period of history, the sovereigns of Asia had been celebrated in the Greek language by the title of basileus, or king; and since it was considered as the first distinction among men, it was soon employed by the servile provincials of the east, in their humble addresses to the Roman throne. Even the attributes, or at least the titles, of the divinity were usurped by Diocletian and Maximian, who transmitted them to a succession of Christian emperors. Such extravagant

+ Pliny (in Panegyr. c. 3. 53, &c.) speaks of dominus with execration as synoDymous to tyrant, and opposite to prince. And the same Pliny regularly gives that title (in the tenth book of the epistles) to his friend rather than master, the virtuous Trajan. This strange contradiction puzzles the commentators, who think, and the translators, who can write.

6 Synesius de Regno, edit. Petav. p. 15. I am indebted for this quotation to the abbé de la Bleterie.

1. See Vendale de Consecratione, p. 354, &c. It was customary for the emperors to mention (in the preamble of laws) their numen, sacred majesty, divine oracles, sc. According to Tillemont, Gregory of Nazianzen complains most bitterly of the profanation, especially when it was practised by an Arian emperor.


sumes the

Persian ceremonial.

compliments, however, soon lose their impiety by losing their meaning; and when the ear is once accustomed to the sound, they are heard with indifference, as vague, though excessive, professions of respect.

From the time of Augustus to that of Diocletian as tian, the Roman princes, conversing in a familiar diadem, manner among their fellow-citizens, were saluted duces the only with the same respect that was usually paid

to senators and magistrates. Their principal dis

tinction was the imperial or military robe of purple, whilst the senatorial garment was marked by a broad, and the equestrian by a narrow, band or stripe of the same honourable colour. The pride, or rather the policy, of Diocletian, engaged that artful prince to introduce the stately magnificence of the court of Persia.' He ventured to assume the diadem, an ornament detested by the Romans as the odious ensign of royalty, and the use of which had been considered as the most desperate act of the madness of Caligula. It was no more than a broad white fillet set with pearls, which encircled the emperor's head. The sumptuous robes of Diocletian and his successors were of silk and gold; and it is remarked with indignation, that even their shoes were studded with the most precious gems. The access to their sacred person was every day rendered more difficult, by the institution of new forms and ceremonies. The avenues of the palaces were strictly guarded by the various schools, as they began to be called, of domestic officers. The interior apartments were intrusted to the jealous vigilance of the eunuchs; the increase of whose numbers and influence was the most infallible symptom of the progress of despotism. When a subject was at length admitted to the imperial presence, he was obliged, whatever might be his rank, to fall prostrate on the ground, and to adore, according to the eastern fashion, the divinity of his lord

See Spanheim de Usu Numismat. Dissertat. 12.

and master. Diocletian was a man of sense, whoʻin the course of private as well as public life, had formed a just estimate both of himself and of mankind; nor is it easy to conceive, that in substituting the manners of Persia to those of Rome, he was seriously actuated by so mean a principal as that of vanity. He flattered himself, that an ostentation of splendour and luxury would subdue the imagination of the multitude; that the monarch would be less exposed to the rude licence of the people and the soldiers, as his person was secluded from the public view; and that habits of submission would insensibly be productive of sentiments of veneration. Like the modesty affected by Augustus, the state maintained by Diocletian was a theatrical representation; but it must be confessed, that, of the two comedies, the former was of a much more liberal and manly character than the latter. It was the aim of the one to disguise, and the object of the other to display, the unbounded power which the emperors possessed over the Roman world. New form

Ostentation was the first principle of the new of admi- system instituted by Diocletian. The second was tion, two division. He divided the empire, the provinces, Augusti,

and every branch of the civil as well as mili

tary administration. He multiplied the wheels of the machine of government, and rendered its operations less rapid but more secure. Whatever advantages and whatever defects might attend these innovations, they must be ascribed in a very great degree to the first inventor; but as the new frame of policy was gradually improved and completed by succeeding princes, it will be more satisfactory to delay the consideration of it till the season of its full maturity and perfection.' Reserving, therefore, for the reign of Constantine a more exact

Aurelius Victor. Eutropius, 9. 26. It appears by the panegyrists, that the Romans were soon reconciled to the name and ceremony of adoration.

· The innovations introduced by Diocletian are chiefly deduced, 1st, from some very strong passages in Lactantius; and 2ndly, from the new and various offices, which, in the Theodosian code, appear already established in the beginning of the reign of Constantine.

and two Cæsars.

picture of the new empire, we shall content ourselves with describing the principal and decisive outline, as it was traced by the hand of Diocletian. He had associated three colleagues in the exercise of the supreme power ; and as he was convinced that the abilities of a single man were inadequate to the public defence, he considered the joint administration of four princes, not as a temporary expedient, but as a fundamental law of the constitution. It was his intention, that the two elder princes should be distinguished by the use of the diadem, and the title of Augusti; that, as affection or esteem might direct their choice, they should regularly call to their assistance two subordinate colleagues; and that the Cæsars, rising in their turn to the first rank, should supply an uninterrupted succession of emperors. The empire was divided into four parts. The east and Italy were the most honourable, the Danube and the Rhine the most laborious, stations. The former claimed the presence of the Augusti, the latter were intrusted to the administration of the Cæsars. The strength of the legions was in the hands of the four partners of sovereignty; and the despair of successively vanquishing four formidable rivals might intimidate the ambition of an aspiring general. In their civil government the emperors were supposed to exercise the undivided power of the monarch, and their edicts, inscribed with their joint names, were received in all the provinces, as promulgated by their mutual councils and authority. Notwithstanding these precautions, the political union of the Roman world was gradually dissolved, and a principle of division was introduced, which, in the course of a few years, occasioned the perpetual separation of the eastern and western empires.

The system of Diocletian was accompanied of taxes. with another very material disadvantage, which cannot even at present be totally overlooked; a more expensive establishment, and consequently an increase of taxes, and the oppression of the people. Instead of a


« ForrigeFortsett »