Page images
[ocr errors]

and received the submissions of such as had inconsiderately
joined in the invasion. The detail of his campaigns is but
confufcdly related by historians; one battle in particular is
mentioned, which might have proved fatal, had not some
most surpriting accidents interposed. This engagement
was begun by the enemy's slingers across a river ; which in-
duced the Romans to fórd it, and make a great slaughter of
those who attempted to defend its banks on the uppolite side.
The enemy judging they should be pursued, retired, having
previously left some bodies of archers, covered by a squadron
of horse, to skirinish with the Romans, as if they deligned
to stop their progress. The Romans, with inconsiderate va-
lour, attacking this forlorn hoft, pursued them among a
chain of barren mountains; where they found themselves
unexpectedly blocked up on every side. However, they con-
tinued fighting, notwithstanding the disadvantage of the
place; but the enemy, prudently declined engaging, not wil-
ling to leave that victory to chance, which they expected
from delay. At length, the excessive heat of the inclosed
situation, the fatigues of long employment, together with a
violent thirst, totally disheartened the Roman legions. They
now found, that they could neither fight nor retreat ; and that
they must run upon certain danger, or become a prey to
their barbarous enemies. In this deplorable exigence, while
sorrow and despair were their only companions, Aurelius ran
through the ranks, and in vain endeavoured to re-kindle their
hopes. Nothing was to be heard but cries and lamentarions;
nothing seen but marks of terror and desolation. At this
dreadful juncture, and just as the barbarians were ready to ,
fall upon them, we are assured, by some writers, that the
folemn prayers of a Christian legion which was among them,
produced such a fall of rain, as instantly refreshed the fainting
army. The soldiers were seen holding their mouths and
their helmets up to Heaven, and receiving the showers which
came so wonder fully to their relief. The same clouds also
which served for their rescue, at the same time discharged such
a terrible storm of hail, accompanied with thunder, against
the enemy, as astonished and confounded them. By this un-
looked for aid, the Romans recovering their strength and
courage, once more turned upon their pursuers, and cut them

Such are the circumstances of an engagement, acknowledged by Pagan, as well as Christian writers, only with this difference, that the latter ascribe the victory to their own, the former to the prayers of their emperor. However his be, Aurelius feemed so Tensible of miraculous aslistance, that he immediately relaxed the persecutions against the Christians, and wrote to the senate in favour of their re


in pieces.

R 2


Death of Marcus Aurelius. ligion. Notwithstanding this victory the war continued for some months longer; but after many violent conflicts, the barbarians sent to sue for peace. The Emperor imposed conditions upon them, more or less severe, as he found them more or less disposed to revolt.

He afterwards retired for some time to a country seat, where, by the study of philosophy, he delighted his mind, and regulated his conduct. He usually called it his mother, in opposition to the court, which he considered as his step-mother. He was also frequently heard to fay, “ That the people were happy, whose philosophers were

kings, or whose kings were philofophers."

Aurelius was one of the most considerable men of the age, in which he lived. His meditations, which have reached our times, are highly commended by the ancients, and much approved by the moderns, as an epitome of the best rules that human reason or philosophy can suggest, for the conduct of a virtuous life.

As this emperor was a great encourager of learning, many eminent writers flourished in his reign; among whom were Justin, Appian, and Lucian.

Before his Scythian expedition, the people, whose love to the emperor daily increased, finding him making preparations to leave them, and resolved to expose himself in a dangerous war, assembled before his palace, beseeching him not to depart, till he had given them instructions for their future conduct; so that if it should please Heaven to deprive them of his presence, they might, by his assistance, continue in the fame paths of virtue, into which he had led them by his example. This was a request, which this truly great emperor was highly pleased in obeying. He spent three whole days in giving them short maxims, by which they might regulate their lives; and, having finished his lectures, departed upon his expedition, amidst the prayers and lamentations of all his subjects.

Not long after, he was seized with the plague at Vienna, which stopped the progress of his arms. Nothing, however, could abate his desire of being beneficial to mankind; for tho his submission to the will of Providence made him meet the approaches of death with tranquillity, his fears for the youth and unpromising difpofition of Commodus, his fon and succellor, seemed to give him great uneasiness, and aggravated the pangs of his dissolution. Struggling with this apprehension, and Auctuating between hope and fear, he addressed his friends and the principal officers that were gathered round his będ; telling them, " That as his son was going to lose

" a father,

[ocr errors]

« a father, he hoped he would find many fathers in-them; " that they would direct his youth, and give him proper in“ structions for the public benefit, as well as his own. He died in the fifty-ninth year of his age, having reigned nineteen years and some days.

All the glory and prosperity of the Roman empire seemed to die with Aurelius. We are now to behold a train of emperors either vicious or impotent, either wilfully guilty, or unable to affert the dignity of their station. We are to behold an empire grown too great, sinking by its own weight, furrounded by barbarous and successful enemies without, and torn by ambitious and cruel factions within ; the principles of the times wholly corrupted; philofophy at te apting to regulate the minds of men without the aid of religion; and the warmth of patriotism entirely evaporated, by being diffused in too wide a circle. We ihall still furá ther find the people becoming dull, as they grow impotent their historians cool and lifeless in the moft interesting nara rations; and the convulsions of the greatest empire upon carth, described in childish points, or languid prolixity.


Miscellaneous Remarks.

HE first founder of imperial government had derived

from a mean family in the little town of Aricia, the appellation of Octavius. ' As the adopted son of his uncle he had assumed the furname of Cæfar; but the former was ftained with the fanguinary profcriptions of the triumvirs and the latter too strongly revived the memory of the inor. dinate ambition of the dictator. After a very serious difcusfion in the fenate, the title of Augustus was chosen for, and acknowledged by him ; it was expressive of the character of peace and fanctity which he uniformly affected. But the personal title of Augustus expired not with the prince on whom it was bestowed, or the family name of Cæfar with the line to which it originally belonged. These appellations were foon inseparably connected with the imperial dignity, and preserved by a long succession of emperors; yet á distinction was introduced, and the facred title of Augustus was reserved for the monarch, with the name of Cæfar was




[ocr errors]

Miscellaneous Remarks. more freely communicated to his relations, and generally appropriated to the presu nptive heir of the empire.

Auguftus, cool and unfeeling, had early assumed the malk of hypocrify, which he never after vards laid aside. Equally without resentment or humanity, his virtues and even his vices were artificial. According to the various dictates of his interest he was the enemy or the father of the Roman world. The fame motives which induced him voluntarily to proffer the refignation of his power, prompted him to profess a respect for a free constitution. The people were deceived by the idea of civil government; and his fears persuaded him to conceal beneath the pretended garb of moderation the invidious dig. nity of imperial authority. The fate of Cæfar continually presented itself to his view; the fidelity of the legions might defend him from the open indignation of avowed conspiracy, but no vigilance could protect him against the secret dagger of assassination. The oftentatious display of power bad provoked the destruction of his uncle. The conful or tribune might have exercised his authority in peace, but the title of king insulted the remnant of republican fpirit; and Augustus, whilst he coveted the power, dreaded the fate and avoided the indiscreet arrogance of his kinsman. The illufive representation of freedom fatisfied a feeble senate and enervated people; and the . subsequent deaths of Caligula, Nero, and Domitian were prompted not by a motive of liberty, but a principle of self-preservation. "The execution of Caligula by the manly resolution of Chærea seemed for a moment to revive the dying embers of freedom. The consuls convoked the senate in the capitol; they condemned the memory of the Cæsars, and gave the watch-word liberty to the few cohorts who faintly embraced their caufe. But the ferocious temper of the Pretorian guards soon extinguished the hafty spark of republicanism; and this dream of liberty served only to exercise the moderation of Claudius, who generously pardoned a conduct he was able to punish, but which he was prudent enough to despise.

A greater degree of danger was to be dreaded from the precarious affection and alarning insolence of the armies. In the acquisition of his authority, Augustus had inured them to the violation of ever social duty. The Roman emperors, however, had yet suffered but little from the caprice of the legions. The knowledge of their dispositions induced them to invest their successors with a considerable share of present authority. Augustus rested his last hopes on Tiberius; he adopted him as his son, and procured for him the censorial and tribunitian power. Vespasian associated in the empire, a prince whose amiable character turned the public attention


from the origin to the glory of the Flavian house; the virtues of Titus justified the confidence of the emperor, and secured during his thort reign the transient felicity of the Roman world.

The advanced and feeble age of Nerva promoted the election of Trajan; and the weakness of the emperor was counterbalanced by the vigour of his succeffor. The equitable administration and martial atchievements of Trajan, at this diftant period, excite our reverence and admiration; but no inconsiderable share of praise is due to the patriotism of Nerva, who in calling a stranger to the succeffion, preferred the interests of the empire to the pretensions of confanguinity.. Adrian poffefled himself of that power which the penetration of Trajan must at least have reluctantly be. queathed him. He reformed the laws, supported military discipline, and visited every province in person. The premature death of Ælius Verus soon after he was advanced to the rank of Cæfar, preserved the dignity of the empire, and secured its happiness in the appointment of the Antonines. The son of Verus was adopted by the gratitude of Pius, and on the accession of Marcus invested with an equal share of the imperial power ; but his reverence for the political cao' pacity of his colleague confined him to the indulgence of private vices, and a perseverance in excess terminated the diffolute career of a short life, which though not likely to conduce to, had never been permitted to interrupt the happiness of the Roman world. Antoninus Pius was near fifty, and Marcus about seventeen when first elevated by the difcernment of Adrian above the condition of private life, and though Pius had two sons, he gave his daughter Faustina in marriage to Marcus, obtained for him from the senate the tribunitian and proconfular powers, and associated him to all the labours and honours of empire. Marcus revered the character of his benefactor; he loved him as a parent, he obeyed him as a soveregn; and the forty-two years which comprized the extent of their united reigns, is perhaps the only period in which the welfare of the people was the sole object of government. The love of religion, justice, and peace characterised Titus Pius; in private life he was amiable and unaffected, and the chearful serenity of his temper evinced the benevolence of his foul. The virtues of Marcus Aurelius were of a severer kind; formed in the ria gid school of the Stoics, he assumed a steady controul over his paflions, and considered virtue as the only good, vice as the only evil. , Amidit the tumult of a caip, his mini was exercised in meditation, and he even condescended to impart the philosophy he cultivated; but his life was the noblit comment on the precepts of Zeno; fevere and in



« PreviousContinue »