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A. D. 311,
Of Constantine. After the death of Gale-its, and the defeat of several competitors for the throne, Constans
tine became folc master of the Roman would, when he honoured the senate with his prefence, and assured that illustrious order of his fincere regard. Games and festivals were instituted to perpetuate the fame of his vic's tory; but the triumphal arch of the victor still remains a melancholy proof of the decline of the aris. No fculptor was found in the capital, capable of adorning that puhlic monument.
The arch of Trajan was stripped of its ornaments ; and Parthian figures appear proftrate at the fect of a prince, who never carried his arms beyond the Euphrates.
The final abolition of the prætorian guards succeeded the triumph of Constantine; their fortified camp was deItroyed, and the few who had escaped the sword, were disperfed among the legions, and banished to the frontiers.
Conftantine, who, fome time before, had made a public profeifion of the Christian religion, now resolved to extablith it on so sure a bafis, that no revolution should shake it. Edicts were issued, declaring that the Christians should b. cafed of all their grievances, and received into places of trust and authority; and it was ordained that no criminal Should for the future, fufier death by the cross, which had formerly been the usual way of punishing Alaves convicted of capital offences. The progress and establishment of the Christian religion was favoured and artisted by several causes. The zeal and virtues of the first Christians, which corresponded with the purity of their do&rines, could not fail to comınand the veneration of the people, and incr aie the number of their followers. The doctrine of a future life, and the immortality of the foul, though generally rejected, impressed the minds of the more exalied sages of Grzece and Rome. Philofophy pointed out the hope, but divine revelation alone can ascertain the existence of a future state. Eternal happiness, therefore, on evangelical conditions, was accepted by great numbers of every religion, of every rark, and of every province, in the Roman empire.
The activity of the Christians, also, in the government of the church, was marked by a spirit of patriotism, such as had characterised the firit of the Romans in the aggran . disement of the republic. The ecclesiastical governors of the christians were taught to unite the wisdom of the serpent with the innocence of the dove. In the churth, as well as in the world, the persone placed in any public station rendered themselves considerable by their eloquence and
firmness, by their knowledge of mankind, and by their dexterity in business; and the exertion of these qualifications was advantageously contrasted with the cool' indifference of the ministers of Polytheism.
Constantine declared it to be his pleasure, that in all the provinces of the empire the orders of the bishops should be exactly obeyed; a privilege of which, in succecding times, these fathers made but a very indifferent ufe. He called also a general council of them, in order to repress the heresies that had already crept into the churchi, particularly that of Arius. To this place repaired about three hundred and eighteen bishops, besides a multitude of presbyters and delcons, together with the Empros himself; who all, except seventeen, concurred in conde:nning the tenets of Arius; who, with his associates was banished into a reinote part of
Having now restored peace through all his imperial dominions, Conftantine resolved to transfer the feat of empire from Rome to Byzantion, or Contantinople, as it was afterwards called. Whatever miglit A. D. 330. have been the reasons which induced hiin to this undertaking; whether it was b cause he was ofended at some affronts he had received at Rome, or that he supposed Constantinople more in the centre of the empire; or that he thought the caitein paris more required his presence, experience has shown that they were all weak and groundle's. The empire had long before been in a most declining state; but this, in a great measure, gave precipitation to its down, fall. After this it never rcfumed its former fplendour, but, like a flower transplanted into a foreign clime, languished by degrees, and at length funk into nothing.
His design was to build a city, which he might make the capital of the world; and for this purpose, he made choice of a situation at Chalcedon in Asia Minor ; but we are told, that in laying out the ground-plan, an eagle caught up the line, and few with it over to Byzantium, a city which lay upon the opposite side of the Bosphorus, Here, therefore, it was thought expedient to fix the feat of empire ; and, indeed nature seemned to have formed it with all the conveniences, and all the beauties, which might induce power to make it the fezt of residence. It was fituated on a plain, which role gently from the water, and commanded that ftraight which unites the Mediterranean with the Euxine sea. The clinate was healthy, the foil fertile; the harbour was secure and capacious, and the approach on the side of the continent was of finall extent, and easy defence.
270 Of Byzantium, or Constantinople.
Five of the seven hills, which, on the approach to Cons ftantinople, appear to rise above each other, were enclosed within the walls of Constantine. The new buildings, about a century after the death of the founder, covered the narrow ridge of the sixth, and the broad fummit of the seventh hill ; and the younger Theodosius, to protect these suburbs from the inroads of the barbarians, surrounded the whole with adequate walls: yet even including the suburbs of Pera and Galata, which are situated beyond the harbour, the circumference of Conftantinople cannot exceed fourteen Roman miles.
To erect an eternal monument to his glories, the Emperor employed the wealth and labour of the Roman world, for the construclion of the walls alone were allowed two millions five hundred thousand pounds. But the decline of arts coinpelled him to adorn his capital with the works of remoter periods ; and to gratify his vanity, the cities of Greece and Asia were dispoiled of their most valuable ornaments. Whatever could exalt the dignity of a grcat city, or contribute to the benefit or pleature of its numerous inhabitants, was to be found within the walls of Constantinople. A particular description, composed about a century after its foundation, enumerates a capital or school of learning, a circus, two theatres, eight public, and one hundred an fifty-three private baths, fifty-two porticoes, five granaries, eight aqueducts of water, four spacious halls of justice, fourteen churches, foui teen palaces, and four thousand three hundred and eighty eight houses, which for their size or beauty, deserved to be distinguished from the inultitude of plebeian habitations.
The population of his favoured city was the next and most serious object of the attention of its founder. The inhabitants of Rome and the more ancient citi s of the empire were at first allured or compelled to relinquish their residence; but encouragements and obligations foon became unnecessary; the subjects of the empire were attracted by the seat of government, and Constantinople, in less than a century, was superior to Rome.
Italy indeed was desolated by the change. Robbed of its wealth and inhabitants, it funk into a state of the most annihilating languor. Changed into a garden by Afiatic pomp, and crowded with villas, now deserted by their voluptuous owners, this once fertile country was unable to maintain itself.
This removal produced no immediate alteration in the government of the empire; the inhabitants of Rome, though with reluctance, submitted to the change; nor was there
for two or three years any disturbance in the state, until, at length, the Goths finding that the Romans had withdrawn all their garrisons along the Danube, renewed their inroads, and ravag d the country with unheard-of cruelty. Constantine however soon repressed their incursions, and so straitened thein, that near an hundred thousand of their num.'' ber perished by cold and hunger. These, and some other insurrections, being happily suppressed, the government of the empire was divided as follows: Constantine, the Emperor's eldest son, commanded in Gaul and the western provinces ; Conftantius, his second, governed Africa and Illyricum; and Conftans, the youngest, ruled in Italy. Dalmatius the Emperor's brother, was sent to defend those parts that bordered upon the Goths; and Anmibalianus, his nephew, had the charge of Cappadocia and Armenia Minor. This division of the empire still further contributed to its downfall; for the united itrength of the state bein, no longer brought to repreis invasions, the barbarians fought with superior numbers, and conquered at last, though often defeated. Constantine, however, did not live to feel these calamities. The latter part of his reign was peaceful and plendid; ambassadors from the remotest Indies came to acknowledge his authority; the Persians, who were ready for fresh inroads, upon finding him prepared to oppose them, fent hunbly_to defire his friendihip and forgiveness.
Thus he enjoyed an uninterrupted flow of private as well as public felicity, till the 30th year of his reign, when he ended his inemorable life at the palace of Aquyron, in the suburbs of Nicomedia, whither he had retired for the benefit of the air.
This monarch's character is represented to us in very different lights. The Christian writers of that time adorn it with every strain of panegyric; the heathens on the contrary load it with all the virulence of invective. Nature had been favourable to him both with regard to body and mind. His ftature was lofty, his countenance majestic, and his deporta ment graceful; whilst his adherence to chastity and temperance preserved his conftitution to a very late period of life. In dispatch of business he was indefatigable; in the field he was an intrepid soldier and consummate general. He established a religion that continues to be the bleiling of mankind, but pursued a scheme of politics that destroyed the empire.
Causes of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. THE
"HE power of the prætorian bands increased to such a
degree, as to endanger the state. They were instituted by Auguftus, as already observed, to guard his person and maintain his usurped dominion. That such a forinidable body might not alarm the Roman people, three cohorts only were stationed in the capital, while the rest was dispersed in the adjacent towns of Italy. After the Romans had been accustomed to fubjection, Tiberius, under the pretence of relieving Italy from a heavy burthen, and improving the military discipline, assembled them in the city, in a permanent camp.
The armed ministers of de'potism frequently overturni that throne which they were intended to support. Introduced into the palace and the Senate, the prætorian bands began to perceive their own strength, and the weakness of the civil government.
A fucceffion of emperors, whom they created or dethroned, convinced them, that the fupremo power was at their disposal.
To curb the infolence, and balance the power of the e formidable bands, Titus, Trajan, and the Antonines, hy restoring the influence of the Senate, preserved an intermediate power between thein and the army. The image of their ancient freedom was even held up to the people. But Severus, educated in camps, had been accustomed to the depotism of military command. He annihilated the authority of the Senate, and governed by the army. He augmented the guards to four times the ancient number, and recruited them indiscriminately from all the provinces of the empire.
The captain of thesc troops, announting to fifty thousand men, was, under the name of Prætorian Præfect, at the head of the arıny, of the finances, and of the law,
A military governinent was now established; and every inilitary government fluctuates between the cxtremes of ab solute monarchy and wild democracy.
The emperors now depended on the legions, whose favour they had to secure, and whose avarice they had to gratify by donations and bribes. Oppreffion and tyranny,