« ForrigeFortsett »
thought and intense application; but, by mistaking the true object of philosophy, their labours contributed much less to improve, than to corrupt, the human understanding. The knowledge that is suited to our situation and powers, the whole compass of moral, natural, and mathematical science, was neglected by the new Platonists; while they exhausted their strength in the verbal disputes of metaphysics, attempted to explore the secrets of the invisible world, and studied to reconcile Aristotle with Plato, on subjects of which both these philosophers were as ignorant as the rest of mankind. Consuming their reason in these deep but unsubstantial meditations, their minds were exposed to illusions of fancy. They flattered themselves that they possessed the secret of disengaging the soul from its corporeal prison; claimed a familiar intercourse with demons and spirits; and, by a very singular revolution, converted the study of philosophy into that of magic. The ancient sages had derided the popular superstition; after disguising its extravagance by the thin pretence of allegory, the disciples of Plotinus and Porphyry became its most zealous defenders. As they agreed with the Christians in a few mysterious points of faith, they attacked the remainder of their theological system with all the fury of civil war. The new Platonists would scarcely deserve a place in the history of science, but in that of the church the mention of them will very frequently occur.
Troubles after the abdication of Diocletian. Death of Constantius. Elevation of Constantine and Maxentius. Six emperors at the same time. Death of Maximian and Galerius. Victories of Constantine over Maxentius and Licinius. Reunion of the empire under the authority of Constantine.
The balance of power established by Diocletian subsisted no longer than while it was sustained by the firm
and dexterous hand of the founder. It required civil war» such a fortunate mixture of different tempers
and abilities, as could scarcely be found or even trees, exPected a second time; two emperors without
jealousy, two Caesars without ambition, and the same general interest invariably pursued by four independent princes. The abdication of Diocletian and Maximian was succeeded by eighteen years of discord and confusion; the empire was afflicted by five civil wars; and the remainder of the time was not so much a state of tranquillity as a suspension of arms between several hostile monarchs, who, viewing each other with an eye of fear and hatred, strove to increase their respective forces at the expense of their subjects. Character As soon as Diocletian and Maximian had reUou of"1" signed the purple, their station, according to the Constan- rules of the .new constitution, was filled by the
two Caesars, Constantius and Galerius, who immediately assumed the title of Augustus." The honours of seniority and precedence were allowed to the former of those princes, and he continued, under a new appellation, to administer his ancient department of Gaul, Spain, and Britain. The government of those ample provinces was sufficient to exercise his talents, and to satisfy his ambition. Clemency, temperance, and moderation, distinguished the amiable character of Constantius; and his fortunate subjects had frequently occasion to compare the virtues of their sovereign with the passions of Maximian, and even with the arts of Diocletian.1' Instead of imitating their eastern pride and magnificence, Constantius preserved the modesty of a Roman prince. He declared, with unaffected sincerity, that his most valued treasure was in the hearts of his people; and that, whenever the dignity of the throne, or the danger of the state, required any extraordinary supply, he could depend with confidence on their gratitude and liberality/ The provincials of Gaul, Spain, and Britain, sensible of his worth, and of their own happiness, reflected with anxiety on the declining health df the emperor Constantius, and the tender age of his numerous family, the issue of his second marriage with the daughter of Maximian.
3 M. de Montesquieu (Considerations Sur la Grandeur et la Decadence des Remains, c. 17.) supposes, on the authority of Orosius and Eusebius, that, on this occasion, the empire, for the first time, was really divided into two parts. It is difficult, however, to discover in what respect the plan of Galenas differed from that of Diocletian.
1• Hie non modo amabilis, sed etiam vencrabilis Gallis fuit; pnecipue quod Diocletiani suspectam prudentiam, ex Maiiniiani eanguinariam violcntiom imperio ejus evaserant. Eutrop. Breviar. 10. 1.
of Gale- The stern temper of Galerius was cast in a rius> very different mould; and, while he commanded the esteem of his subjects, he seldom condescended to solicit their affections. His fame in arms, and, above all, the success of the Persian war, had elated his haughty mind, which was naturally impatient of a superior, or even of an equal. If it were possible to rely on the partial testimony of an injudicious writer, we might ascribe the abdication of Diocletian to the menaces of Galerius, and relate the particulars of a private conversation between the two princes, in which the former discovered as much pusillanimity as the latter displayed ingratitude and arrogance/ But these obscure anecdotes are sufficiently refuted by an impartial view of the character and conduct of Diocletian. Whatever might otherwise have been his intentions, if he had apprehended any danger from the violence of Galerius, his good sense would have instructed him to prevent the ignominious contest; and as he had held the sceptre with glory, he would have resigned it without disgrace.
- Di vi t i is Provincialum (mel. jmroinciarum) nc privatorum etudens, fisci commoda arm aJmotlnm nffectam ; ducensque niplius publicas opes a privatis haberi, quam intra nnum claustrum reservari. Id. Ibid. He carried this maxim so far, that whenever he gave an entertainment, he was obliged to borrow a service of plate.
t Laetarttius de Mort. Persecutor, c. 18. Were the particulars of this conference more consistent with truth and decency, we might still ask, how they came to the Knowledge df an obscure rhetorician? But there arc many historians who put us in mind of tlu; admirable saying of the great Condi1 to cardinal de Rctz: "Cos coquiua nous font parler et agir.commo Us auroient 'sit eux-mcmes a notre
The two At the elevation of Constantius and Galerius
Severus to ^e ran'c of Augusti,two new Caesars were reand Mail- quired to supply their place, and to complete the system of the imperial government. Diocletian was sincerely desirous of withdrawing himself from the world; he considered Galerius, who had married his daughter, as the firmest support of his family and of the empire; and he consented, without reluctance, that his successor should assume the merit as well as the envy of the important nomination. It was fixed without consulting the interest or inclination of the princes of the west. Each of them had a son who was arrived at the age of manhood, and who might have been deemed the most natural candidates for the vacant honour. But the impotent resentment of Maximian was no longer to be dreaded; and the moderate Constantius, though he might despise the dangers, was humanely apprehensive of the calamities, of civil war. The two persons whom Galerius promoted to the rank of Caesar were much better suited to serve the views of his ambition; and their principal recommendation seems to have consisted in the want of merit or personal consequence. The first of these was Daza, or, as he was afterward called, Maximin, whose mother was the sister of Galerius. The unexperienced youth still betrayed by his manners and language his rustic education, when, to his own astonishment as well as that of the world, he was invested by Diocletian with the purple, exalted to the dignity of Caesar, and intrusted with the sovereign command of Egypt and Syria.0 At the same time Severus, a faithful servant, addicted to pleasure, but not incapable of business, was sent to Milan, to receive from the reluctant hands of Maximian the Caesarean ornaments, and the possession of Italy and Africa/ Accord
» Sublatus nuper a pecoribus et silvis (says Lactantius de M. P. c. 19.) stalim Soitarius, continuo protector, mox trilmnus, postridie Caesar, accepit Orientem. Aurelius Victor is too liberal in giving him the whole portion of Diocletian.
• His diligence and fidelity are acknowledged even by tactantius, de M . P. c. 1%
ing to the forms of the constitution, Severus acknowledged the supremacy of the western empire; but he was absolutely devoted to the commands of his benefactor Galerius, who, reserving to himself the intermediate countries from the confines of Italy to those of Syria, firmly established his power over three-fourths of the monarchy. In the full confidence, that the approaching death of Constantius would leave him sole master of the Roman world, we are assured that he had arranged in his mind a long succession of future princes, and that he meditated his own retreat from public life, after he should have accomplished a glorious reign of about twenty years.8
But within less than eighteen months, two unofGaie0-U expected revolutions overturned the ambitious aUs<f%d sc^emes of Galerius. The hopes of uniting the by two re- western provinces to his empire were disappointed by the elevation of Constantine, whilst Italy and Africa were lost by the successful revolt of Maxentius.
I. The fame of Constantine has rendered pos
Birth.edu- . .
cation, and ten ty attentive to the most minute circumstances - of his life and actions. The place of his birth,
Jld 27 ^ we^ ^ ^e condition of his mother Helena, have been the subject not only of literary but of national disputes. Notwithstanding the recent tradition, which assigns for her father a British king, we are obliged to confess, that Helena was the daughter of an innkeeper ;h but at the same time we may defend the legality of her marriage against those who have represented her as the concubine of Constantius.1 The great
f These schemes, however, rest only on the very doubtful authority of Lactantius, de M. P. c. 20.
k This tradition, unknown to the contemporaries of Constantine, was invented in the darkness of monasteries, was embellished by Jeffrey of Monmouth, and the writers of the twelfth century, has been defended by our antiquarians of the last age, and is seriously related in the ponderous history of England, compiled by Mr. Carte, (vol.- 1. p. 147.) He transports, however, the kingdom of Coil, the imaginary father of Helena, from Essex to the wall of Antoninus.
1 Entropius ( 10. 2.) expresses, in a few words, the real truth, and the occasion of the error, " ex oiuniriori matrimonio ejus films." Zosimus (lib. 2. p. 78.) eagerly seized the most unfavourable report, and is followed by Orosius (7. 95.), whose