the legions of Vetranio were seduced rather than pro- CHAP. Evoked by the example of rebellion; their leader soon i betrayed a want of firmness, or a want of sincerity;

and his ambition derived a specious pretence from the

approbation of the princess Constantina. That cruel i and'aspiring woman, who had obtained from the great

Constantine her father the rank of Augusta, placed the diadem with her own hands on the head of the Illyrian general; and seemed to expect from his victory, the accomplishment of those unbounded hopes, of which she had been disappointed by the death of her husband Hannibalianus. Perhaps it was without the consent of Constantina, that the new emperor formed

a necessary, though dishonourable, alliance with the e usurper of the west, whose purple was so recently

stained with her brother's blood. . The intelligence of these important events, which so Constandeeply affected the honour and safety of the Imperial tius re

fuses to house, recalled the arms of Constantius from the in-treat. & glorious prosecution of the Persian war. He recom- A. D. 350.

mended the care of the East to his lieutenants, and afterwards to his cousin Gallus, whom he raised from a prison to a throne; and marched towards Europe, with

a mind agitated by the conflict of hope and fear, of s grief and indignation. On his arrival at Heraclea in

'T'hrace, the emperor gave audience to the ambassadors
of Magnentius and Vetranio. The first author of the
conspiracy, Marcellinus, who in some measure had
bestowed the purple on his new master, boldly accept-
ed this dangerous commission; and his three col-
leagues were selected from the illustrious personages
of the state and army. These deputies were instruct-
ed to soothe the resentment, and to alarm the fears, of
Constantius. They were empowered to offer him the
friendship and alliance of the western princes, to ce-
ment their union by a double marriage; of Constantius
with the daughter of Magnentius, and of Magnentius,
himself with the ambitious Constantina; and to ac-

[ocr errors]

74 The doubtful, fluctuating conduct of Vetranio is described by Julian in his first oration, and accurately explained by Spanheim, who discusses the situation and behaviour of Constantina.


CHAP. knowledge in the treaty the pre-eminence of rank,

which might justly be claimed by the emperor of the east. Should pride and mistaken piety urge him to refuse these equitable conditions, the ambassadors were ordered to expatiate on the inevitable ruin which must attend his rashness, if he ventured to provoke the sovereigns of the west to exert their superior strength; and to employ against him that valour, those abilities, and those legions, to which the house of Constantine had been indebted for so many triumphs. Such proposi. tions and such arguments appeared to deserve the most serious attention; the answer of Constantias was deferred till the next day; and as he had reflected on the importance of justifying a civil war in the opinion of the people, he thus addressed his council, who list. ened with real or affected credulity: 6 Last night," said he, " after I retired to rest, the shade of the great 6 Constantine, embracing the corpse of my murdered “ brother, rose before my eyes; his well-known voice “ awakened me to revenge, forbad me to despair of 66 the republic; and assured me of the success and im“ mortal glory which would crown the justice of my 66 arms." The authority of such a vision, or rather of the prince who alleged it, silenced every doubt and excluded all negotiation. The ignominious terms of peace were rejected with disdain. One of the ambassadors of the tyrant was dismissed with the baughty answer of Coustantius; his colleagues, as unworthy of the privileges of the law of nations, were put in irons; and the contending powers prepared to wage an im

placable war?s. Deposes Such was the conduct, and such perhaps was the

duty, of the brother of Constans towards the perfidious A. D. 350. Dec. 25. usurper of Gaul. The situation and character of Ve

tranio admitted of milder measures; and the policy of the eastern emperor was directed to disunite his antagonists, and to separate the forces of Illyricum from the cause of rebellion. It was an easy task to deceive the frankness and simplicity of Vetranio, who, fluctuating


15 See Peter the Patrician, in the Excerpta Legationum, p. 27.


some time between the opposite views of honour and CHAP. interest, displayed to the world the insincerity of his temper, and was insensibly engaged in the snares of an artful negotiation. Constantius acknowledged him as a legitimate and equal colleague in the empire, on condition that he would renounce his disgraceful alliance with Magnentius, and appoint a place of inter: view on the frontiers of their respective provinces, where they might pledge their friendship by mutual vows of fidelity, and regulate by common consent the future operations of the civil war. In consequence of this agreement, Vetranio advanced to the city of Sardica, at the head of twenty thousand horse, and of a more numerous body of infantry; a power so far su

perior to the forces of Constantius, that the Illyrian - emperor appeared to command the life and fortunes of

his rival, who, depending on the success of his pri

vate negotiations, had seduced the troops, and underEmined the throne of Vetranio. The chiefs, who had

secretly embraced the party of Constantius, prepared in his favour a public spectacle, calculated to discover and inflame the passions of the multitude. The unit

ed, armies were commanded to assemble in a large E' plain near the city. In the centre, according to the

rules of ancient discipline, a military tribunal, or rather scaffold, was erected, from whence the emperors were accustomed, on solemn and important occasions, to harangue the troops. The well-ordered ranks of Romans and Barbarians, with drawn swords, or with

erected spears, the squadrons of cavalry, and the co; horts of infantry, distinguished by the variety of their

arms and ensigns, formed an immense circle round the tribunal; and the attentive silence which they preseryed was sometimes interrupted by loud bursts of clamour or of applause. In the presence of this formida

76 Zonaras, tom. ii. 1. xiii. p. 16. The position of Sardica, near the mo. dern city of Sophia, appears better suited to this interview than the situa. tion of either Naissus or Sirmium, where it is placed by Jerom, Socrates, and Sozomen.

77 See the two first orations of Julian, particularly p. 31.; and Zosimus, 1. ii. p. 122. The distinct narrative of the historian serves to illustrate the diffuse, but vague, descriptions of the orator.


CHAP. ble assembly, the two emperors were called upon to

explain the situation of public affairs : the precedeney of rank was yielded to the royal birth of Constantius; and though he was indifferently skilled in the arts of rhetoric, he acquitted himself, under these difficoli circumstances, with firmness, dexterity, and eloquence. The first part of his oration seemed to be pointed only against the tyrant of Gaul; but while he tragically lamented the cruel murder of Constans, he insinuated, that none except a brother could claim a right to the succession of his brother. He displayed, with some complacency, the glories of his Imperial race; and recalled to the memory of the troops, the valour, the triumphs, the liberality of the great Constantine, to whose sons they had engaged their allegiance by an oath of fidelity, which the ingratitude of his most favoured servants had tempted them to violate. The officers who surrounded the tribunal, and were instructed to act their parts in this extraordinary scene, confessed the irresistible power of reason and eloquence, by saluting the emperor Constantius as their lawful sovereign. The contagion of loyalty and repentance was communicated from rank to rank; till the plain of Sardica resounded with the universal acclamation of “ Away with these upstart usurpers! 66 Long life and victory to the son of Constantine ! 6 Under his banners alone we will fight and conquer." The shout of thousands, their menacing gestures, the fierce clashing of their arms, astonished and subdued the courage of Vetranio, who stood amidst the defection of his followers, in anxious and silent suspense. Instead of embracing the last refuge of generous despair, he tamely submitted to his fate; and taking the diadem from his head, in the view of both armies, fell prostrate at the feet of his conqueror. Constantius used his victory with prudence and moderation; and raising from the ground the aged suppliant, whom he affected to style by the endearing name of Father, he gave him his band to descend from the throne. The city of Prusa was assigned for the exile or retirement of the abdicated monarch, who lived six years in the enjoyment of ease and affluence. He often expressed


his grateful sense of the goodness of Constantius, and, CHAP. with a very amiable simplicity, advised his benefactor to resign the sceptre of the world, and to seek for content (where alone it could be found) in the peaceful obscurity of a private condition?

The behaviour of Constantius on this memorable Makes occasion was celebrated with some appearance of jus- War:

against tice; and his courtiers compared the studied orations Magnenwhich a Pericles or a Demosthenes addressed to the tius.

A. D. 351. populace of Athens, with the victorious eloquence which had persuaded an armed multitude to desert and depose the object of their partial choice. The approaching contest with Magnentius was of a more serious and bloody kind. The tyrant advanced by rapid marches to encounter Constantius, at the head of a numerous army, composed of Gauls and Spaniards, of Franks and Saxons; of those provincials who supplied the strength of the legions, and of those barbarians who were dreaded as the most formidable enemies of the republic. The fertile plains of the Lower Pannonia, between the Drave, the Save, and the Danube, presented a spacious theatre; and the operations of the civil war were protracted during the summer months by the skill or timidity of the combatants'. Constantius had declared his intention of deçiding the quarrel in the fields of Cibalis, a name that

78 The younger Victor assigns to his exile the emphatical appellation of “ Voluptarium otium.” Socrates (1. ii. c. 28.) is the voucher for the correspondence with the emperor, which would seem to prove, that Vetranio was, indeed, prope ad stultitiam simplicissimus.

79 Eum Constantius ..... facundiæ vi dejectum Imperio in privatum otium removit. Quæ gloria post natum Imperium soli processit eloquio clementiâque, &c. Aurelius Victor. Julian, and Themistius (Orat. ii. and iv.), adorn this exploit with all the artificial and gaudy colouring of their rhetoric.

80 Busbequius (p. 112.) traversed the Lower Ilungary and Sclavonia at a time when they were reduced almost to a desert, by the reciprocal hostilities of the Turks and Christians. Yet he mentions with admiration the unconquerable fertility of the soil; and observes that the height of the grass was sufficient to conceal a loaded wagon from his sight. See likewise Browne's Travels, in Harris's Collection, vol. i. p. 762, &c.

81 Zosimus gives a very large account of the war, and the negociation (1.ii. p. 123-130.) But as he neither shews bimself a soldier nor a polirician, his narrative must be weighed with attention, and received with caution. VOL 11.

U u

« ForrigeFortsett »