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and luxury was disturbed by the impatient murmurs of the Romans; and a report was insensibly circulated, that the sums expended in erecting those buildings, would soon be required at their hands. About that time the avarice of Galerius, or perhaps the exigencies of the state, had induced him to make a very strict and rigorous inquisition into the property of his subjects, for the purpose of a general taxation, both on their lands and on their persons. A very minute survey appears to have been taken of their real estates; and wherever there was the slightest suspicion of concealment, torture was very freely employed to obtain a sincere declaration of their personal wealth." The privileges which had exalted Italy above the rank of the provinces, were no longer regarded; and the officers of the revenue already began to number the Roman people, and to settle the proportion of the new taxes. Even when the spirit of freedom had been utterly extinguished, the tamest subjects have sometimes ventured to resist an unprecedented invasion of their property; but on this occasion the injury was aggravated by the insult, and the sense of private interest was quickened by that of national honour. The conquest of Macedonia, as we have already observed, had delivered the Roman people from the weight of personal taxes. Though they had experienced every form of despotism, they had now enjoyed that exemption near five hundred years; nor could they patiently brook the insolence of an Illyrian peasant, who, from his distant residence in Asia, presumed to number Rome among the tributary cities of his empire. The rising fury of the people was encouraged by the authority, or at least the connivance, of the senate; and the feeble remains of the praetorian guards, who had reason to apprehend their own dissolution, embraced so honourable a pretence, and declared their readiness to draw their swords in the service of their oppressed country. It was the wish, and it soon became the hope, of every citizen, that after expelling from Italy their foreign tyrants, they should elect a prince who, by the place of his residence, and by his maxims of government, might once more deserve the title of Roman emperor. The name, as well as the situation, of Maxentius, determined in his favour the popular enthusiasm.
* See Lactantius de M. P. c. 26. 31.
Maxentius was the son of the emperor Maximian, and he had married the daughter of Gale
t rms- His birth and alliance seemed to offer him 'the fairest promise of succeeding to the empire; but his vices and incapacity procured him the same exclusion from the dignity of Caesar, which Constantine had deserved by a dangerous superiority of merit. The policy of Galerius preferred such associates as would never disgrace the choice, nor dispute the commands, of their benefactor. An obscure stranger was therefore raised to the throne of Italy; and the son of the late emperor of the west was left to enjoy the luxury of a private fortune in a villa a few miles distant from the capital. The gloomy passions of his soul, shame, vexation, and rage, were inflamed by envy on the news of Constantine's success: but the hopes of Maxentius revived with the public discontent, and he was easily persuaded to unite his personal injury and pretensions with the cause of the Roman people. Two praetorian tribunes and a commissary of provisions undertook the management of the conspiracy: and, as every order of men was actuated by the same spirit, the immediate event was neither doubtful nor difficult. The prefect of the city and a few magistrates, who maintained their fidelity to Severus, were massacred by the guards; and Maxentius, invested with the imperial ornaments, was acknowledged by the applauding senate and people as the protector of the Roman freedom and dignity. It is uncertain whe
ther Maximum was previously acquainted with the conMa«mian spiracy; but as soon as the standard of rebellion reassumes was erected at Rome, the old emperor broke from
the purple. , i i i •
the retirement where the authority of Diocletian had condemned him to pass a life of melancholy solitude, and concealed his returning ambition under the disguise of paternal tenderness. At the request of his son and of the senate, he condescended to reassume the purple. His ancientdignity,his experience,and his fame inarms, added strength as well as reputation to the party of Maxentius.y Defeat and According to the advice, or rather the orders death of of his colleague, the emperor Severus immediately hastened to Rome, in the full confidence that, by his unexpected celerity, he should easily suppress the tumult of an unwarlike populace, commanded by a licentious youth. But he found, on his arrival, the gates of the city shut against him, the walls filled with men and arms, an experienced general at the head of the rebels, and his own troops without spirit or affection. A large body of Moors deserted to the enemy, allured by the promise of a large donative; and, if it be true, that they had been levied by Maximian in his African war, preferring the natural feelings of gratitude to the artificial ties of allegiance. Anulinus, the praetorian prefect, declared himself in favour of Maxentius, and drew after him the most considerable part of the troops accustomed to obey his commands. Rome, according to the expression of an orator, recalled her armies; and the unfortunate Severus, destitute of force and of counsel, retired, or rather fled, with precipitation to Ravenna. Here he might for some time have been safe. The fortifications of Ravenna were able to resist the attempts, and the morasses that surrounded the town were sufficient to prevent the approach, of the Italian army. The sea, which
? The sixth panegyric represents the conduct of Maximian in the most favourable light; and the ambiguous expression of Aurelius Victor, " retractante din," may signify. either that he contrived, or that he opposed, the conspiracy. See Zosimas, lib. 2. p. 79, and Lactantius de M. P. c. 26.
VOL. II. F
Severus commanded with a powerful fleet, secured him an inexhaustible supply of provisions, and gave a free entrance to the legions, which, on the return of spring, would advance to his assistance from Illyricum and the east. Maximian, who conducted the siege in person, was soon convinced that he might waste his time and his army in the fruitless enterprise, and that he had nothing to hope either from force or famine. With an art more suitable to the character of Diocletian than to his own, he directed his attack, not so much against the walls of Ravenna, as against the mind of Severus. The treachery which he had experienced, disposed that unhappy prince to distrust the most sincere of his friends and adherents. The emissaries of Maximian easily persuaded his credulity, that a conspiracy was formed to betray the town; and prevailed upon his fears not to expose himself to the discretion of an irritated conqueror, but to'accept the faith of an honourable capitulation. He was at first received with humanity and treated with respect. Maximian conducted the captive emperor to Rome, and gave him the most solemn assurances that he had secured his life by the resignation of the purple. But Severus could obtain only an easy death and an imA. b. sor perial funeral. When the sentence was signified February, to him, the manner of executing it was left to his own choice: he preferred the favourite mode of the ancients, that of opening his veins; and, as soon as he expired, his body was carried to the sepulchre which had been constructed for the family of Gallienus.1' Maximian Though the characters of Constantine and rive jus Maxentius had very little affinity with each other,
daughter , . . • •'
Fansta, their situation and interest were the same; and title of prudence seemed to require that they should unite Augustus, tneir forees against the common enemy. Not
1 The circumstances of this war, and the death of Severus, are very doubtfully and variously told in our ancient fragments (See Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. 4. part 1. p. ji$5.) I have endeavoured to extract from them a consistent and probable narration.
to Con- withstanding the superiority of his age and digAar>U307, nity> the indefatigable Maximian passed the Alps, March 3i. an^ courting a personal interview with the sovereign of Gaul, carried with him his daughter Faustaasthe pledge of the new alliance. The marriage was celebrated at Arles with every circumstance of magnificence; and the ancient colleague of Diocletian, who again asserted his claim to the western empire, conferred on his son-in-law and ally the title of Augustus. By consenting to receive that honour from Maximian, Constantine seemed to embrace the cause of Rome and of the senate; but his professions were ambiguous, and his assistance slow and ineffectual. He considered with attention the approaching contest between the masters of Italy and the emperor of the east, and was prepared to consult his own safety or ambition in the event of the war."
The importance of the occasion called for the
Galenus i i • i • • c r^ i •
invades presence and abilities ot Galenus. At the head ^ of a powerful army, collected from Illyricum and the east, he entered Italy, resolved to revenge the death of Severus, and to chastise the rebellious Romans; or, as he expressed his intentions, in the furious language of a barbarian, to extirpate the senate, and to destroy the people by the sword. But the skill of Maximian had concerted a prudent system of defence. The invader found every place hostile, fortified, and inaccessible; and though he forced his way as far as Narni, within sixty miles of Rome, his dominion in Italy was confined to the narrow limits of his camp. Sensible of the increasing difficulties of his enterprise, the haughty Galerius made the first advances towards a reconciliation; and dispatched two of his most considerable officers to tempt the Roman princes by the offer of a conference, and the declaration of his paternal regard for Maxentius, who might obtain much more from his liberality than he could
* The sixth panegyric was pronounced to celebrate the elevation of Constantine ; bat the prudent orator avoids the mention either of Galenas ot'jof Maxentius. He introduces only one slight allusion to the actual troubles, and to the majesty of Rome.