Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

was yet unexhausted; and, though the flower of his veterans had fallen in the late action, he had still power, if he could obtain time, to draw very numerous levies from and death Syria and Egypt. But he survived his misfortune former, only three or four months. His death, which August, happened at Tarsus, was variously ascribed to despair, to poison, and to the divine justice. As Maximin was alike destitute of abilities and of virtue, he was lamented neither by the people nor by the soldiers. The provinces of the east, delivered from the terrors of civil war, cheerfully acknowledged the authority of Licinius.k Cruelty ^Qe vanquiSQed emperor left behind him two of lici- children, a boy of about eight, and a girl of about seven, years old. Their inoffensive age might have excited compassion; but the compassion ofLicinius was a very feeble resource, nor did it restrain him from extinguishing the name and memory of his adversary. The death of Severianus will admit of less excuse, as it was dictated neither by revenge nor by policy. The conqueror had never received any injury from the father of that unhappy youth, and the short and obscure reign of Severus in a distant part of the empire was already forgotten. But the execution of Candidianus was an act of the blackest cruelty and ingratitude. He was the natural son of Galerius, the friend and benefactor of Licinius. The prudent father had judged him too young to sustain the weight of a diadem; but he hoped that under the protection of princes, who were indebted to his favour for the imperial purple, Candidianus might pass a secure and honourable life. He was now advancing towards the twentieth year of his age; and the royalty of his birth, though unsupported either by merit or ambition, was sufficient to exasperate the jealous mind of Licinius.1 To these innocent and illustrious victims of his tyranny, we must add the wife and daughter of the emperor Diocletian. When that prince conferred on Galerius the Unfortn- ^^e of Caesar, he had given him in marriage his nate fate daughter Valeria, whose melancholy adventures

k Zosimus mentions the defeat and death of Maximin as ordinary events ; but Lactantius expatiates on them, (de M. P. c. 45—50.) ascribing them to the miraculous interposition of Heaven. Licinius at that time was one of the protectors of the church.

'Lactantius de M. P. c. 50. Aurelius Victor touches on the different conduct of Licinios, and of Constantine, in the use of victory.

of the em- ° *

Va- might furnish a very singular subject for tragedy. She had fulfilled and even surpassed the duties ther< of a wife. As she had not any children herself, she condescended to adopt the illegitimate son of her husband; and invariably displayed towards the unhappy Candidianus the tenderness and anxiety of a real mother. After the death of Galerius, her ample possessions provoked the avarice, and her personal attractions excited the desires, of his successor Maximin.m He had a wife still alive, but divorce was permitted by the Roman law, and the fierce passions of the tyrant demanded an immediate gratification. The answer of Valeria was such as became the daughter and widow of emperors; but it was tempered by the prudence which her defenceless condition compelled her to observe. She represented to the persons whom Maximin had employed on this occasion, that even if honour could permit a woman of her character and dignity to entertain a thought of second nuptials, decency at least must forbid her to listen to his addresses at a time when the ashes of her husband and his benefactor were still warm, and while the sorrows of her mind were still expressed by her mourning garments. She eventured to declare, that she could place very little confidence in the professions of a man, whose cruel inconstancy was capable of repudiating a faithful and affectionate wife." On this repulse, the love of Maximin was converted into fury; and as witnesses and judges were always at his disposal, it was easy for him to cover his fury with an appearance of legal proceedings, and to assault the reputation as well as the happiness of Valeria. Her estates were confiscated, her eunuchs and domestics devoted to the most inhuman tortures, and several innocent and respectable matrons, who were honoured with her friendship, suffered death on a false accusation of adultery. The empress herself, together with her mother Prisca, was condemned .to exile; and as they were ignominiously hurried from place to place before they were confined to a sequestered village in the deserts of Syria, they exposed their shame and distress to the provinces of the east, which, during thirty years, had respected their august dignity. Diocletian made several ineffectual efforts to alleviate the misfortunes of his daughter; and, as the last return that he expected for the imperial purple, which he had conferred on Maximin, he entreated that Valeria might be permitted to share his retirement of Salona, and to close the eyes of her afflicted father.0 He entreated, but as he could no longer threaten, his prayers were received with coldness and disdain; and the pride of Maximin was gratified in treating Diocletian as a suppliant, and his daughter as a criminal. The death of Maximin seemed to assure the empresses of a favourable alteration in their fortune. The public disorders relaxed the vigilance of their guard, and they easily found means to escape from the place of their exile, and to repair, though with some precaution, and in disguise, to the court of Licinius. His behavour, in the first days of his reign, and the honourable reception which he gave to young Candidianus, inspired Valeria with a secret satisfaction, both on her own account, and on that of her adopted son. But these grateful prospects were soon succeeded by horror and astonishment; and the bloody executions

m The sensual appetites of Maximin were gratified at the expense of his subjects. Bin eunuchs, who forced away wives and virgins, examined their naked charms with anxious curiosity, Jest any part of their bodies should be found unworthy of the royal embraces. Coyness and disdain were considered as treason, and the obstinate fair one was condemned to be drowned. A custom was gradually introduced, that no person should marry a wife without the permission of the emperor, " at in-"1 in omnibus nuptiis praegustator eaiet." Lactantius de M. P. c 38. 0 Lactantius de M. P. c. 39.

0 Diocletian at last sent cognatam sunm, quondam militarem ac potentem nrum, to intercede in favour of his daughter, (Lactantius de M. P. c. 41.) We are cot sufficiently acquainted with the history of these times to point out the person who was employed.

which stained the palace of Nicomedia, sufficiently convinced her, that the throne of Maximin was filled by a tyrant more inhuman than himself. Valeria consulted her safety by a hasty flight, and, still accompanied by her mother Prisca, they wandered about fifteen monthsp through the provinces, concealed in the diguise of plebeian habits. They were at length discovered at Thessalonica; and as the sentence of their death was already pronounced, they were immediately beheaded, and their bodies thrown into the sea. The people gazed on the melancholy spectacle; but their grief and indignation were suppressed by the terrors of a military guard. Such was the unworthy fate of the wife and daughter of Diocletian. We lament their misfortunes; we cannot discover their crimes; and whatever idea we may justly entertain of the cruelty of Licinius, it remains a matter of surprise, that he was not contented with some more secret and decent method of revenge.q

The Roman world was now divided between

Comma- Constantine and Licinius, the former of whom tine and was master of the west, and the latter of the east.

Licrnius.'

A.D.314. It might perhaps have been expected that the conquerors, fatigued with civil war, and connected by a private as well as public alliance, would have renounced, or at least would have suspended, any farther designs of ambition; and yet a year had scarcely elapsed after the death of Maximin, before the victorious emperors turned their arms against each other. The genius, the success, and the aspiring temper, of Constantine, may seem to mark him out as the aggressor; but the perfidious character of Licinius justifies the most unfavourable suspi

P Valeria quoque per varias provincias quindecim mensibus plebeio culm pervagata. Lactantius de M. P. c. 51. There is some doubt whether we should compute the fifteen months from the moment of her exile, or from that of her escape. The expression of percagata seems to denote the latter; but in that case we must suppose that the treatise of Lactantius was written after the first civil war between Licinius and Constantine. See Caper, p. 254.

i Iia illis pudicitia et conditio exitio inn. Lactantius de M. P. c. 51. He relates the misfortunes of the innocent wife and daughter of Diocletian, with a very natural mixture of pity and exultation.

cions, and by the faint light which history reflects on this transaction/ we may discover a conspiracy fomented by his arts against the authority of his colleague. Constantine had lately given his sister Anastasia in marriage to Bassianus, a man of a considerable family and fortune, and had elevated his new kinsman to the rank of Caesar. According to the system of government instituted by Diocletian, Italy, and perhaps Africa, were designed for his departments in the empire. But the performance of the promised favour was either attended with so much delay, or accompanied with so many unequal conditions, that the fidelity of Bassianus was alienated rather than secured by the honourable distinction which he had obtained. His nomination had been ratified by the consent of Licinius; and that artful prince, by the means of his emissaries, soon contrived to enter into a secret and dangerous correspondence with the new Caesar, to irritate his discontents, and to urge him to the rash enterprise of extorting by violence what he might in vain solicit from the justice of Constantine. But the vigilant emperor discovered the conspiracy before it was ripe for execution; and after solemnly renouncing the alliance of Bassianus, despoiled him of the purple, and inflicted the deserved punishment on his treason and ingratitude. The haughty refusal of Licinius, when he was required to deliver up the criminals, who had taken refuge in his dominions, confirmed the suspicions already entertained of his perfidy; and the indignities offered at JEmona, on the frontiers of Italy, to the statues of Constantine, became the signal of discord between the two princes.8 Kntci- The first battle was fought near Cibalis, a city ni war Q£ pannoniaj situated on the river Save, about fifty

'The curious reader, who consults the Valesian Fragment, p. 713, will perhaps accuse me of giving a bold and licentious paraphrase; but if he considers it with attention, he will acknowledge that my interpretation is probable and consistent.

* The situation of /Emona, or, as it is now called, Laybach, in Carniola, (d'Anville Geographie Ancienne, torn. 1. p. 187.) may suggest a conjecture. As it lay to the north-east of the Julian Alps, that important territory became a natural object of dispute between the sovereigns of Italy and of Illyricurn.

VOL. II. H

« ForrigeFortsett »