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Another feature of this work is, the sketch of the history of the Church, its persecutions, sects, and heresies, during the first four centuries, with brief notices of the principal Fathers and their writings. To write a history of the Roman Empire without including that of the Church, would have been absurd; but as readers might not have sufficient con-. fidence in me as an ecclesiastical guide, and as my works are chiefly designed for youth, I have deemed it the safer course to take as my usual authority the learned and candid Mosheim, whose works have stood the test of nearly a century, and are always included in the list of those recommended to students in divinity. It is the work De rebus Christianis ante Constantinum, in the excellent translation of Mr. Vidal, that I have chiefly used. At the same time I must declare that I am by no means a stranger to the Fathers. Many years ago I had occasion to read them a good deal, and the opinions which I then formed of them as writers and teachers have been confirmed by my renewed acquaintance with their works.
The advantages, therefore, to be derived by students from this volume are, illustrations of the Latin poets, some knowledge of the early history of the Church, and tolerably correct ideas of the causes and course of the decline and fall of the mighty empire whose rise and progress have been traced in the History of Rome. Nearly one half of it, it will be observed, is devoted to the history anterior to the commencement of Gib. bon's work, which begins with the reign of Commodus. As I have already said, that part of the history is not generally accessible; and with respect to the remainder, few, I believe, would willingly put Gibbon into the hands of youth.
As this work concludes the series of my histories, the fol. lowing remarks may perhaps be made without incurring the imputation of vanity or presumption.
Μόνη θυτέον τη 'Αληθεία has been my maxim in all my his- . torical writings. Any departure from the truth is at best mere folly, for it is sure to be sooner or later detected and exposed. To adhere to this rule, however, in writing a History of England, for example, was no easy task, yet I am convinced that my impartiality in even the most trying portions of that history will be at length generally acknowledged. There is no doubt less merit in being an impartial narrator of the history of Greece and Rome; still experience shows that even there passion and prejudice have ample room for display. By some I am accused of illiberality on account of my
hostility to democracy and to the church of Rome: my reply is, I detest despotism under all its forms, and I view these as unmitigated tyrannies, and as those from which the world has most danger at present to apprehend. That I am no admirer of monarchic despotism, the following pages will sufficiently prove.
Readers will perhaps discern that events in the latter part of this volume are not always related in strict accordance with the corresponding part of my Outlines of History. The very extensive sale which that work has had, will perhaps testify for its general correctness. I am, therefore, not ashamed to confess that it is not free from imperfection, and the most incorrect part happens to be that just now alluded to, owing to my having in it incautiously followed the guidance of the celebrated Müller. The errors, however, are not of any very great magnitude; and I believe I have only shared the general fate of those who compile history-a fate from which Gibbon himself was not exempt. It is most unfortunate that that work was stereotyped in the first impression (a thing that never should be done), and thus improvement and correction were almost totally precluded. Let it also be recollected that it was the rapid product of eleven weeks' labour.
The same attention has been directed to chronology and geography as in my other histories. The Roman proper names had become so confused in this period, that it was not possible for me to mark the prænomina and arrange names under their gentes, as I have so carefully done in the History of Rome. I have further employed the modern forms of the names, as it would have seemed mere affectation to use Ves. pasianus, Constantinus, etc.
August 26, 1840.
The present edition has been corrected throughout, and a few notes have been added. Were I called upon to say which of my histories makes the nearest approach to my own idea of perfection, I should be tempted to say that of the Roman Empire; yet it has been by far the least successful. This however will not surprise any one who reflects how much variance its accounts of the early Church, drawn from testimony and documents, not from imagination, are with the notions respecting it now so prevalent. Time will prove that truth alone has been my guide.
My History of England has had the same kind of erroneous views to contend with; but every day is showing more and more its correctness and impartiality. I am told that copies of the Svo edition (which is now out of print) will fetch any price the seller may demand ; and I have had the gratification of seeing it translated into German on the recommendation of Dr. Lappenberg the learned author of the History of the Anglo-Saxons, the best authority perhaps on the subject on the Continent. I have, since the publication of this work, written a History of India, and with it, as far as I can see, my labours, not useless ones I trust, in this department of literature, have terminated.
January 10, 1850.
THE CAESARIAN FAMILY.
A.U. 746–767. B.C. 8-A.D. 14.
TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS NERO CÆSAR.
A.U. 767-790. A.D. 14-37.
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
EMPERORS CHOSEN BY THE ARMY.
A.U. 821–823. A.D. 68-70.
A.U. 823-849. A.D. 70-96.