Sidebilder
PDF
[graphic]

■"cjmK'18 an<* though Carthage might yield to the royal prerogatives of ConAaD.439, stantinople, and perhaps to the trade of Alexandria, or the splendor 00" of Antioch, she still maintained the second rank in the West; as the Rome (if we may use the style of contemporaries) of the African world. That wealthy and opulent metropolis (38) displayed, in a dependent condition, the image of a flourishing republic. Carthage contained the manufactures, the arms, and the treasures of the six provinces. A regular subordination of civil honours, gradually ascended from the procurators of the streets and quarters of the city, to the tribunal of the supreme magistrate, who, with the title of proconsul, represented the state and dignity of a consul of ancient Rome. Schools and gymnasia were instituted for the education of the African youth; and the liberal arts and manners, grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy, were publicly taught in the Greek and Latin languages. The buildings of Carthage were uniform and magnificent: a shady grove was planted in the midst of the capital; the new port, a secure and capacious harbour, was subservient to the commercial industry of citizens and strangers; and the splendid games of the circus and theatre were exhibited almost in the presence of the Barbarians. The reputation of the Carthaginians was not equal to that of their country, and the reproach of Punic faith still adhered to their subtle and faithless character (39). The habits of trade, and the abuse of luxury, had corrupted their manners; but their impious contempt of monks, and the shameless practice of unnatural lusts, are the two abominations which excite the pious vehemence of Salvian, the preacher of the age (40). The king of the Vandals severely reformed the vices of a voluptuous people; and the ancient, noble, ingenuous, freedom of Carthage (these expressions of Victor are not without energy), was reduced by Genseric into a state of ignominious servitude. After he had permitted his licentious troops to satiate their rage and avarice, he instituted a more regular system of rapine and oppression. An edict was promulgated, which enjoined all persons, without fraud or delay, to deliver their gold, silver, jewels, and valuable furniture or apparel, to the royal officers; and the attempt to secrete any part of their patrimony, was inexorably punished with death and

(38) The picture of Carthage, as it flourished in the fourth and fifth centuries, is taken from the Expositio totius Mundi, p. 17, 18. in the third volume of Hudson's Minor Geographers, from Ausonius de Claris Urbibus, p. 228, 229.; and principally from Salvian, de Gubernatione Dei, 1. vii. p. 257, 258. I am surprised that the Notitia should not place either a mint, or an arsenal, at Carthage ; but only a gynecaeum, or female manufacture.

(39) The anonymous author of the Expositio totius mundi, compares, in his barbarous Latin, the country and the inhabitants ; and, after stigmatising their want of faith, he coolly concludes, Difficile autem inter eos invenitur bonus, tamen in multis pauci boni esse possunt. P. 18.

(40) He declares, that the peculiar vices of each country were collected in the sink of Carthage" (1. Vi.*' P, 257.). In the indulgence of vice, the Africans applauded their manly virtue. Etilli se magis virilis fortitudinis esse crederent, qui maxime vires fceminei usus probrositate fregissent (p. 268.). streets of Carthage were polluted by effeminate wretehes, who publicly assumed the countenance, the dress, and the character, of women (p. 264.). If a monk appeared in the city, the holy man was pursued with impious scorn and ridicule; detestantibus rideotlum cachinnis (p. 289.) torture as an act of treason against the state. The lands of the proconsular province, which formed the immediate district of Carthage, were accurately measured, and divided among the Barbarians; and the conqueror reserved for his peculiar domain, the fertile territory of Byzacium, and the adjacent parts of Numidia and Getulia (41).

It was natural enough that Genseric should hate those whom he African had injured: the nobility and senators of Carthage were exposed to "^41.' his jealousy and resentment; and all those who refused the ignominious terms, which their honour and religion forbade them to accept, were compelled by the Arian tyrant to embrace the condition of perpetual banishment. Rome, Italy, and the provinces of the East, were filled with a crowd of exiles, of fugitives, and of ingenuous captives, who solicited the public compassion: and the benevolent epistles of Theodoret, still preserve the names and misfortunes of Caelestian and Maria (42). The Syrian bishop deplores the misfortunes of Caelestian, who, from the state of a noble and opulent senator of Carthage, was reduced, with his wife and family, and servants, to beg his bread in a foreign country; but he applauds the resignation of the Christian exile, and the philosophic temper, which, under the pressure of such calamities, could enjoy more real happiness than was the ordinary lot of wealth and prosperity. The story of Maria, the daughter of the magnificent Eudaemon, is singular and interesting. In the sack of Carthage, she was purchased from the Vandals by some merchants of Syria, who afterwards sold her as a slavein their native country. A female attendant, transported in the same ship, and sold in the same family, still continued to respect a mistress whom fortune had reduced to the common level of servitude; and the daughter of Eudaemon received from her grateful affection the domestic services which she had once required from her obedience. This remarkable behaviour divulged the real condition of Maria, who, in the absence of the bishop of Cyrrhus, was redeemed from slavery by the generosity of some soldiers of the garrison. The liberality of Theodoret provided for her decent maintenance; and she passed ten months among the deaconesses of the church; till she was unexpectedly informed, that her father, who had escaped from the ruin of Carthage, exercised an honourable office in one of the Western provinces. Her filial impatience was seconded by the pious bishop: Theodoret, in a letter still extant, recommends Maria to the bishop of jEgae, a maritime city of Cilicia, which was frequented, during the annual fair, by the vessels of the West; most earnestly requesting, that his colleague

(41) Compare Procopius, de Bel1. Vanda1. 1. i. c. 5. p. 189, 190.; and Victor Vitensis, de Persccut. Vanda1. 1. i. c. 4.

(42) Ruinart (p. 444—457.) has collected from Theodoret, and other authors, the misfortunes, real and fabulous, of the inhabitants of Carthage.

[graphic]

would use the maiden with a tenderness suitable to her birth; and that he would entrust her to the care of such faithful merchants, as would esteem it a sufficient gain, if they restored a daughter, lost beyond all human hope, to the arms of her afflicted parent. Fable of the Among the insipid legends of ecclesiastical history, I am tempted sleepers, to distinguish the memorable fable of the Seven Sleepers (43); whose imaginary date corresponds with the reign of the younger Theodosius, and the conquest of Africa by the Vandals (44). When the emperor Decius persecuted the Christians, seven noble youths of Ephesus concealed themselves in a spacious cavern in the side of an adjacent mountain; where they were doomed to perish by the tyrant, who gave orders that the entrance should be firmly secured with a pile of huge stones. They immediately fell into a deep slumber, which was miraculously prolonged, without injuring the powers of life, during a period of one hundred and eighty-seven years. At the end of that time, the slaves of Adolius, to whom the inheritance of the mountain had descended, removed the stones, to supply materials for some rustic edifice : the light of the sun darted into the cavern, and the seven sleepers were permitted to awake. After a slumber, as they thought of a few hours, they were pressed by the calls of hunger; and resolved that Jamblichus, one of their number, should secretly return to the city, to purchase bread for the use of his companions. The youth (if we may still employ that appellation) could no longer recognise the once familiar aspect of his native country; and his surprise was increased by the appearance of a large cross, triumphantly erected over the principal gate of Ephesus. His singular dress, and obsolete language, confounded the baker, to whom he offered an ancient medal of Decius as the current coin of the empire; and Jamblichus, on the suspicion of a secret treasure, was dragged before the judge. Their mutual inquiries produced the amazing discovery, that two centuries were almost elapsed since Jamblichus and his friends had escaped from the rage of a Pagan tyrant. The bishop of Ephesus, the clergy, the magistrates, the people, and, as it is said, the emperor Theodosius himself, hastened to visit the cavern of the Seven Sleepers; who bestowed their benediction, related their story, and at the same instant peaceably expired. The origin of this marvellous

(43) The choice of fahulous circumstances is of small importance; yet I have confined myself to the narrative which was translated from the Syriac by the care of Gregory of Tours (de Gloria Martyrum, 1. i. c. 95. in Max. Bibliotheca Patnun, tom. xi. p. 856.), to the Greek acts of their martyrdom (apud Photium, p. 1400, 1401.), and to the Annals of the Patriarch Eutychins (tom. i. p. 391. 531, 532. 535. Vers. Pocock.). .

(44) Two Syriac writers, as they are quoted by Assemanni (Bibliot. Orienta1. tom. i. p. 336. 338.), place the resurrection of the Seven Sleepers in the year 736 (A. D. 425.), or 748 (A. D. 437), of the aera of the Seleucides. Their Greek acts, which Photins had read, assign the date of the thirtyeighth year of the reign of Theodosius, which may coincide either with A. D. 439, or 446. The period which had elapsed since the persecution of Decius is easily ascertained; and nothing less than the ignorance of Mahomet, or the legendaries, could suppose an interval of three or four hundred years.

fable cannot be ascribed to the pious fraud and credulity of the modern Greeks, since the authentic tradition may be traced within half a century of the supposed miracle. James of Sarug, a Syrian bishop, who was born only two years after the death of the younger Theodosius, has devoted one of his two hundred and thirty homilies to the praise of the young men of Ephesus (45). Their legend, before the end of the sixth century, was translated from the Syriac into the Latin language, by the care of Gregory of Tours. The hostile communions of the East preserve their memory with ecpjal reverence; and their names are honourably inscribed in the Roman, the Habyssinian, and the Russian calendar (4,6). .Nor has their reputation been confined to the Christian world. This popular tale, which Mabomet might learn when he drove his camels to the fairs of Syria, is introduced, as a divine revelation, into the Koran (47). The story of the Seven Sleepers has been adopted, and adorned, by the nations, from Bengal to Africa, who profess the Mabometan religion (48); and some vestiges of a similar tradition have been discovered in the remote extremities of Scandinavia (49). This easy and universal belief, so expressive of the sense of mankind, may be ascribed to the genuine merit of the fable itself. We imperceptibly advance from youth to age, without observing the gradual, but incessant, change of human affairs; and even in our larger experience of history, the imagination is accustomed, by a perpetual series of causes and effects, to unite the most distant revolutions. But if the interval between two memorable aeras could be instantly annihilated; if it were possible, after a momentary slumber of two hundred years, to display the new world to the eyes of a spectator, who still retained a lively and recent impression of the old, his surprise and his reflections would furnish the pleasing

[graphic]

*

(45) James, one of the orthodox fathers of the Syrian church, was born A. D. 452; he began to compose his sermons A. D. 474 ; he was made bishop of Batuae, in the district of Sarug, and province of Mesopotamia, A. D. 519, anddiedA. D. 521. (Assemanni, tom. i. p. 288, 288.). For the homily de Pueris Ephesinis, see p. 335—339. : though 1 could wish that Assemanni had translated the text of James of Sarug, instead of answering the objections of Baronius.

(46) Seethe Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists (Mensis Julii, tom. vi. p. 375—397.). This immense calendar of Saints, in one hundred and twenty-six years ^1644—1770.), and in lifty volumes in folio, has advanced no farther than the 7th day of October. The suppression of the Jesuits has most probably checked an undertaking, which, through the medium of fable and superstition, communicates much historical and philosophical instruction.

(47) See Maracci Aleoran. Sura xviii. tom. ii. p. 420—427., and tom. i. part iv. p. 103. 'With such an ample privilege, Mabomet has not shewn much taste or ingenuity. He has invented the' dog (Al Rakim) of the Seven Sleepers; the respect of the sun, who altered his course twice a day, that he might not shine into the cavern ; and the care of God himself, who preserved their bodies from putrefaction, by turning them to the right and left.

(48) See D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 139.; and Renaudot, Hist. Patriarch. Alexandria. p. 39, 40.

(49) Paul, the deacon of Aquileia (de Gestis Langobardorum, 1. i. c. 4. p. 745, 746., edit. Grot.), who lived towards the end of the eighth century, has placed in a cavern, under a rock, on the shore of the ocean, the Seven Sleepers of the North, whose long repose was respected by the Their dress declared them to be Romans ; and the deacon conjectures, that they were Providence as the future apostles of those unbelieving countries.

advantageously placed, than in the two centuries which elapsed between the reigns of Decius and of Theodosius the Younger. During this period, the seat of government had been transported from Rome to a new city on the banks of the Thracian Bosphorus; and the abuse of military spirit had been suppressed by an artificial system of tame and ceremonious servitude. The throne of the persecuting Decius was filled by a succession of Christian and orthodox princes, who had extirpated the fabulous gods of antiquity: and the public devotion of the age was impatient to exalt the saints and martyrs of the Catholic church, on the altars of Diana and Hercules. The union of the Roman empire was dissolved: its genius was humbled in the dust; and armies of unknown Barbarians, issuing from the frozen regions of the North, had established their victorious reign over the fairest provinces of Europe and Africa.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

The Character, Conquests, and Court of Attila, King of the Huns. — Death of Theodosius the Younger. — Elevation of Marcian to the Empire of the East.

ihe Huns, The Western world was oppressed by the Goths and Vandals, 376^33. who before the Huns; but the achievements of the Huns themselves were not adequate to their power and prosperity. Their victorious hordes had spread from the Volga to the Danube; but the public force was exhausted by the discord of independent chieftains; their valour was idly consumed in obscure and predatory excursions; and they often degraded their national dignity, by condescending, for the hopes of spoil, to enlist under the banners of their fugitive enemies. In the reign of Attila (1), the Huns again became the terror of the world; and I shall now describe the character and actions of that formidable Barbarian; who alternately insulted and invaded the East and the West, and urged the rapid downfal of the Roman empire, thaT In the tide of emigration, which impetuously rolled from the cons'n modem* f,nes 0^ China to those of Germany, the most powerful and popuiiungary. ]0us tribes may commonly be found on the verge of the Roman provinces. The accumulated weight was sustained for a while by

(i) The authentic materials for the history of Attila may be found in Jornandes (de Rebus Geticis, c. 34—50. p. 660—688. edit. Grot.) and Priscus (Excerpta de Legationibus, p. 33—76. Paris, 1648). I have not seen the Lives of Attila, composed by Juvencus Gaelius Calanus Dalmatinus, in the twelfth century, or by Nicholas Olahus, archbishop of Gran, in the sixteenth. See Mascou's History of the Germans, ix. 23. and Mallei Osservazioni Litterarie, tom. i. p. 88, 89. Whatever the modern Hungarians have added must be fabulous; and they do not seem to have excelled in the art of fiction. They suppose, that when Attila invaded Gaul and Italy, married innumerable wives, &c. he was one hundred and twenty years of age. Thwrocz Chron. p. i. c. 22. iu Script. Uungar. tom. i. p. 76.

« ForrigeFortsett »