Page images
[ocr errors]

Emperor in these works did not fufficiently consult the fierce dispositions of the legionaries, and an unguarded expression, that on the establifhinent of a universal peace, he might abolish the necessity of a standing army, proved fatal to him. In one of the hottest days of fumıner, as he severely urged their soil, the soldiers threw down their tools, grasped their arms, and broke out into a furious mutiny. The Emperor vainly fought refuge in a lofty tower ; the doors were forced, and a thousand swords were plunged into the body of the prince. The rage of the troops was extinguished with his life; they lamented their rashness, and by an honourable monument they erected, perpetuated the fame of his victories. The following epitaph was inscribed on his tomb: " Here lies " the Emperor Probus, truly deserving the name, a sub

duer of barbarians, and a conqueror of ufurpers.”

Upon the death of Probus, Carus, then captain of the guards, was proclaimed Emperor by the army, who, in order to strengthen his authority, united his two fons, Carinus and Numerian, with him in coinmand; the former of whom was as much sullied by his vices, as the younger was remarkable for his virtues, modesty, and courage.

The new Emperor had scarce time to punish the inurderers of the late monarch, when he was alarmed by a fresh irruption of the Sarmatians, over whom he gained a signal victory. The Persian monarch also made fome attempts upon the einpire; but Carus assured his ambassadors, that if their inafter perfifted in his obstinacy, all his fields should soon be as bare as his own bald head; which he shewed them. In consequence of this threat he marched to the walls of Ctesiphon; and a dreadful battle ensuing, he once more gained a compleat victory. What the result of this success might have been, is not known, for he was shortly after ftruck dead, by lightning, in his tent, with many others who were round himn.

Numerian, the youngest son, who accompanied his father in this expedition, was inconsolable for his death, and brought such a disorder upon his eyes, with weeping, that he was obliged to be carried along with the arıny, 1hut up in a close litter. The peculiarity of his situation, after some time, excited the ambition of Aper, his father-in-law, who supposed that he could now, without any great danger, aiin at the empire himself. He, therefore, hired a mercenary villain to murder the Emperor in his litter; and, the better to conceal the fact, reported that he was still alive, but unable to endure the light. In this manner was the dead body carried about for some days, Aper continuing to attend it with the utmost appearance of respect, and seeining to take

$ 4


[ocr errors]


Partition of the Empire under Diocletian. orders as usual. The offensiveness, however, of its smell, at length discovered the treachery, and excited an universal uproar throughout the army. In the inidst of this tumult

, Diocletian one of the inoit noted commanders of his time, was chosen Emperor, and with his own hand flew Aper having thus, as it is said, fulfilled a prophecy, which declared, that Diocletian should be Emperor after he had slain a boar.

Carinus, the remaining fon, did not long survive his father and brother; for giving himself up to his vices, and yet, at the same time, opposing the new-made Emperor, the competitors led their forces into Mäsia, where Diocletian being victorious, Carinus was flain by a tribune of his own arıny, whose wife he had formerly insulted.

CH A P. L.

Partition of the Empire under Diocletian. - Resignation of

L'iocletian and Maximian.-Philosophical Turn of Diocles tian. Death of Maximian.-Character of Conftantius.

IOCLETIAN, like Auguftus, may be considered

as the founder of a more illustrious than that of any of his predecessors, fo was his birth more abject and obscure. His parents had been flaves; nor was he himseif distinguished by any other name, than that which he derived from a small town in Dalmatia,

froin whence his mother deduced her origin. A. D. 284.

The firong claims of merit procured his eleva,

tion. Conscious that the weight of the empire was too heavy for a single perton to sustain, Diocletian took in Maximian, his general, as a partner in the fatigues of duty, inaking him his equal and companion on the throne. Thus mutually aslifting each other, they concurred in promoting the general goud and humbling their enemies. And it must be observed, that there never was a period, in which there were more nume ous or formidable en mies to oppose.

Dangerous insurrections, being inade in Gaul, Egypt, Africa, and Britain, Diocletian was of opinion, that the Empire, assailed on every side, required on every fide the presence of an Einperor. He, therefore, resolved again to divide his power, and with the inferior title of Cæjar, to



confer on two generals, of approved merit, an equal share of the sovereign authority. Galerius and Constantius were the two persons invested with the second honours of the impcrial purple. The manners, country and extraction of Galerius were the same as those of Maximian: the birth of Conftantius excelled that of his colleagues ; his father was a considerable noble of Dardania, and his mother a niece of the Einperor Claudius. A youth spent in arms, had not changed a disposition naturally mild and amiable. itrengthen the bonds of this union, each of the Einperors assumed the character of a father to one of the Cæfars; Diocletian to Galerius, Maximian to Constantius; and each, obliging them to repudiate their former wives, bestowed his daughter in marriage on his adopted fon. The defence of Gaul, Spain, and Britain, was entrusted to Constantius; the banks of the Danube to Galerius; Italy and Africa to Maximian; and Thrace, Egypt, and the rich countries of Asia were reserved to Diocletian. Each was sovereign within his own jurisdiction, and their united authority extended over the whole monarchy. This was a ruinous plan of policy; but such was the disordered state of the empire, that no abilities could apply a proper remedy:

The Persians, having invaded Mesopotamia, were overcome in a decisive engagement, their camp plundered and taken, and the king's wives and children made priloners of war.

The northern Germanic nations still remained unsubdued. These were utterly unconquerable, as well upon account of their savage fierceness, as the inhospitable feverity of the climate and foil froin whence they issued. Constantly at war with the Romans, they made irruptions, when the armies, sent to repress their invasions, were called away; and upon their return, they as suddenly withdrew into their cold, barren, and inacceflible retreats, which only themselves could endure. In this manner the Scythians, Goths, Sarınatians, Alari, Carlir, and Quadi, poured down in incredible numbers; while every defeat seemned but to increase their strength and perseverance. Of these, multitudes were taken prisoners, and sent to people the more fouthern parts of the einpire: still greater numbers were destroyed; and though the rest were driven back to their native forests, yet they continued ever mindful of their inveterate enmity, and like sayage beasts, only remained inactive, till they had licked their wounds for a new encounter.

During this interval, as if the external iniseries of the empire were not sufficient, the tenth and last perfecution was Tepewed against the Christians. This is said to have ex.



Resignation of Diocletian. ceeded all the former in severity; and such was the zeal with which it was pursued, that in an ancient infcription, we are informed, that the government had effaced the name and superstition of the Christians, and had restored and propagated the worship of the Gods. Their attempts however, were but the malicious efforts of an expiring party; for Christianity foon after was established by law, and triumphed over the malice of all its enemies.

In the midst of the trouble, raised by this persecntion, and of the contests that struck at the external parts of the state, Diocletian and Maximian surprised the world by resigning their dignities on the same day, and bo'h retiring into private stations. Historians are much divided concerning the motives that thus induced them to give up those honours which they had purchased with so much danger. Some ascribe it to the philosophical turn of Diocletian; and others, to his being disgusted with the obstinacy of his Christian subjects; but a judicious writer * fays he was compelled to it, as well as his partner, by Galerius, who coming to Nicoinedia upon the Emperor's recovery from a great sickness, threatened him with a civil war, in cafe he refused to resign. Of this, however, we are well assured, that he still preserved a dignity of sentiment in his retirement, that might induce us to believe he had no other motive but virtue for his resignation. Having retired to his birth-place, he spent his time in cultivating his garden, assuring his visitors that then only he began to enjoy the world, when he was thought by the rest of mankind to have forsaken it. Some of his friends attempting to permade him to resume the empire; he replied, that if they knew his present happiness, they would rather endeavour to imitate than disturb it. In this contented manner he lived for some tiine, and at last died either by poison or madness; but this is uncertain. His reign, which contined twenty years, was active and useful. His authority, being tinctured with severity, was well. adapted to the depraved state of morals at that time.

Maximian, his partner in the empire, and in resignation, was by no means so well contented with his situation. He longed once more for power, and disturbed the two succeed, ing reigns with vain efforts to resume it; attempting to engage

Diocletian in the same design. Being obliged to leave Rome, where he had occafioned great confusion, he went over into Gaul, where he was kindly received by Constantine, then acknowledged Emperor of the west. But there also continuing his intrigues, and endeavouring to force his

* Lactantius,



[ocr errors]

own daughter to destroy her husband, he was detected, and condemned to die by whatever death he should think proper. Lactantius tells us, that he chose to die by hanging.

As foon as Diocletian and Maximian had seligned the purple, their station was filled--by A. D.

9: 304. the two Cæsars, Galerius and Contantius, who immediately assumed the title of Au juftus.

The character of Constantius was truly amiable. He was frugal, chatte, and temperate. Being one day reproached by Diocletian's ambassadors, for his poverty, he only intimated his wants to the people, and, in a few hours, the fums pieiented him amazed the beh Iders, and exceeded their higheit expectations. " Learn from hence,” said he then to the ambassadors, “ that the love of the people is the rich" ett treasure; and that a prince's wealth is never so safe, as “ when his people are the guardians of his exchequer."

In th: fecond year of his reign, he went over into Britain, and leaving his son Constantine as a kind of hostage, in the court of his partner in the empire, he took up his refidence at York. He there continued in the pra Nice of his usual virtues, till falling fick, he began to think of a succesfor. Though his son was immediately fent for, Conftantius was past recovery before his arrival. He received him, however, with marks of the utmost affection, and, raising himself in his bed, gave himn several instru&lions, particularly recommending the Christians to his protection. He then bequeathed the empire to his care, and crying out, “ That none but the pious Constantine pould succeed him," he expired in his arms.


Conftantine establishes Christianity.

Causes of its Success. Scat of Empire transferred from Rome to Byzantium.


THEN Constantine was proclaimed in Britain, his

partner, in the einpire was so much enraged at his advaliceinent, that he was going to condemn the messenger who brought him the account; but being dissuaded, he seemed to acquiesce in what he could not prevent, and sent bin the ensigns of royalty,


« PreviousContinue »