Page images

In regard to the populoufnefs of Rome at this period, Mr. Gibbon tells us, that the total number of houfes in the fourteen regions of the city, is accurately ftated in the defcription of Rome, compofed under the reign of Theodofius, and that they amount to forty-eight thousand three hundred and eighty-two. The two claffes of domus and of infula, into which they are divided, include all the habitations of the capital, of every rank and condition, from the marble palace of the Anifii, with a numerous establishment of freedmen and flaves, to the lofty and narrow lodging-house where the poet Codrus and his wife were permitted to hire a wretched garret immediately under the tiles. If we adopt the fame average, which, under fimilar circumftances, has been found applicable to Paris, and indifferently allow about twenty-five perfons for each houfe, of every degree; we may fairly eftimate the inhabitants of Rome, Mr. Gibbon fays, at twelve hundred thoufand: a number which cannot be thought exceffive for the capital of a mighty empire, though it exceeds the populoufnefs of the greateft cities of modern Europe.

Having given a diftinct and accurate view of the state of Rome under the reign of Honorius; our Hiftorian proceeds, in the fame chapter, to give an account of the firft, fecond, and third fiege of Rome by the Goths; part of what he says concerning the third fiege we fhall before our Readers.

The king of the Goths, who no longer diffembled his appetite for plunder and revenge, appeared in arms under the walls of the capital; and the trembling fenate, without any hopes of relief, prepared, by a defperate refiftance, to delay the ruin of their country. But they were unable to guard against the fecret confpiracy of their flaves and domeftics; who, either from birth or intereft, were attached to the cause of the enemy. At the hour of midnight, the Salarian gate was filently opened, and the inhabitants were awakened by the tremendous found of the Gothic trumpet. Eleven hundred and fixty-three years after the foundation of Rome, the Imperial city, which had fubdued and civilifed fo confiderable a part of mankind, was delivered to the licentious fury of the tribes of Germany and Scythia.

The proclamation of Alaric, when he forced his entrance into a vanquished city, difcovered, however, fome regard for the laws of humanity and religion. He encouraged his troops boldly to feize the rewards of valour, and to enrich themselves with the fpoils of a wealthy and effeminate people: but he exhorted them, at the fame time, to fpare the lives of the unrefifting citizens, and to respect the churches of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, as holy and inviolable fan&tuaries.. Amidst the horrors of a nocturnal tumult, feveral of the Chriftian Goths difplayed the fervour of a recent converfion; and fome inftances of their uncommon piety and moderation are related, and perhaps adorned, by the zeal of ecclefiaftical writers. While the Barbarians roamed through the city in queft of prey, the Rev. July, 1781. D humble


humble dwelling of an aged virgin, who had devoted her life to the service of the altar, was forced open by one of the powerful Goths. He immediately demanded, though in civil language, all the gold and filver in her poffeffion; and was aftenifhed at the readiness with which the conducted him to a fplendid hoard of maffy plate, of the richest materiais, and the most curious workmanship. The Barbarian viewed with wonder and delight this valuable acquifition, till he was interrupted by a ferious admonition, addreffed to him in the following words: Thefe, faid fhe, are the confecrated veffels be"longing to St. Peter; if you prefume to touch them, the facrile"gious deed will remain on your confcience. For my part, I dare "not keep what I am unable to defend." The Gothic captain, ftruck with reverential awe, dispatched a meffenger to inform the king of the treasure which he had discovered; and received a peremptory order from Alaric, that all the confecrated plate and ornaments fhould be tranfported, without damage or delay, to the church of the apostle. From the extremity, perhaps, of the Quirinal hill, to the diftant quarter of the Vatican, a numerous detachment of Goths, marching in order of battle through the principal streets, protected, with glittering arms, the long train of their devout companions, who bore aloft on their heads, the facred veffels of gold and filver; and the martial fhouts of the Barbarians were mingled with the found of religious pfalmody. From all the adjacent houses, a crowd of Chriftians haftened to join this edifying proceffion; and a multitude of fugitives, without diftinction of age, or rank, or even of fect, had the good fortune to escape to the fecure and hospitable fanctuary of the Vatican. The learned work, concerning the City of God, was profeffedly compofed by St. Auguftin, to justify the ways of Providence in the destruction of the Roman greatness. celebrates, with peculiar fatisfaction, this memorable triumph of Christ; and infults his adverfaries, by challenging them to produce fome fimilar example, of a town taken by ftorm, in which the fabulous gods of antiquity had been able to protect either themselves, or their deluded votaries.


In the fack of Rome, fome rare and extraordinary examples of Barbarian virtue have been defervedly applauded. But the holy precincts of the Vatican, and the apoftolic churches, could receive a very fmall proportion of the Roman people: many thousand warriors, more especially of the Huns, who ferved under the standard of Alaric, were ftrangers to the name, or at least to the faith, of Chrift; and we may fufpect, without any breach of charity or candour, that, in the hour of favage licence, when every paffion was inflamed, and every refraint was removed, the precepts of the gospel feldom influenced the behaviour of the Gothic Chriftians. The writers, the bett difpofed to exaggerate their clemency, have freely confeffed, that a cruel flaughter was made of the Romans; and that the streets of the city were filled with dead bodies, which remained without burial during the general confternation. The defpair of the citizens was fometimes converted into fury; and whenever the Barbarians were provoked by oppofition, they extended the promifcuous malfacre, to the feeble, the innocent, and the helpless. The private revenge of forty thousand flaves was exercised without pity


[ocr errors]

or remorfe; and the ignominious lafhes, which they had formerly received, were washed away in the blood of the guilty, or obnoxious, families. The matrons and virgins of Rome were expofed to injuries more dreadful, in the apprehenfion of chastity, than death itself; and the ecclefiaftical hiftorian has felected an example of female virtue, for the admiration of future ages". A Roman lady, of fingular beauty and orthodox faith, had excited the impatient defires of a young Goth, who, according to the fagacious remark of Sozomen, was attached to the Arian herefy. Exafperated by her obftinate refiftance, he drew his fword, and, with the anger of a lover, flightly wounded her neck. The bleeding heroine ftill continued to brave his refentment, and to repel his love, till the ravisher defifted from his unavailing efforts, respectfully conducted her to the fanctuary of the Vatican, and gave fix pieces of gold to the guards of the church, on condition that they fhould reftore her inviolate to the arms of her hufband. Such inftances of courage and generofity were not extremely common. The brutal foldiers fatisfied their fenfual appetites, without confulting either the inclination, or the duties, of their female captives: and a nice question of cafuiftry was feriously agitated, Whether those tender victims, who had inflexibly refused their confent to the violation which they fuftained, had loft, by their misfortune, the glorious crown of virginity †. There were other loffes indeed of a more fubftantial kind, and more general concern. It cannot be prefumed, that all the Barbarians were at all times capable of perpetrating such amorous outrages; and the want of youth, or beauty, or chastity, protected the greatest part of the Roman women from the danger of a rape. But avarice is an infatiate and univerfal paffion; fince the enjoyment of almoft every object that can afford pleasure to the different tastes and tempers of mankind, may be procured by the poffeffion of wealth. In the pillage of Rome, a juft preference was given to gold and jewels, which contain the greatest value in the smallest compass and weight:

Sozomen, 1. ix. c. 10. Auguftin (de Civitat. Dei, 1. i. 17.) intimates, that fome virgins or mat ons actually killed themfelves to escape violation; and though he admires their fpirit, he is obliged, by his theology, to condemn their rafh prefumption. Perhaps the good bishop of Hippo was too eafy in the belief, as well as too rigid in the cenfure, of this act of female heroifm. The twenty maidens (if they ever exifted), who threw themselves into the Elbe, when Magdeburgh was taken by ftorm, have been multiplied to the number of twelve hundred. See Harte's Hiftory of Gustavus Adolphus, vol. i. P. 308.

+ See Auguftin, de Civitat. Dei, l. i. c. 16. 18. He treats the fubject with remarkable accuracy; and after admitting that there cannot be any crime, where there is no confent, he adds, Sed quia non folum quod ad dolorem, verum etiam quod ad libidinem, pertinet, in corpore alieno perpetrari poteft; quicquid tale facum fuerit, etfi retentam conftantiffimo animo pudicitiam non excutit, pudorem tamen incutit, ne credatur factum cum mentis etiam voluntate, quod fieri fortaffe fine carnis aliquâ voluptate non potuit. In c. 18. he makes fome curious diftinctions between moral and phyfical virginity.

D 2


but, after thefe portable riches had been removed by the more diligent robbers, the palaces of Rome were rudely ftripped of their fplendid and coftly furniture. The fide-boards of maffy plate, and the variegated wardrobes of filk and purple, were irregularly piled in the waggons, that always followed the march of a Gothic army. The molt exquifite works of art were roughly handled, or wantonly deftroyed many a flatue was melted for the fake of the precious materials; and many a vafe, in the divifion of the fpoil, was fhivered into fragments by the ftroke of a battle-axe. The acquifition of riches ferved only to ftimulate the avarice of the rapacious Barbarians, who proceeded, by threats, by blows, and by tortures, to force from their prifoners the confeffion of hidden treasure. Visible fplendour and expence were alleged as the proof of a plentiful fortune the appearance of poverty was imputed to a parfimonious difpofition; and the oblinacy of fome mifers, who endured the most cruel torments before they would difcover the fecret object of their affection, was fatal to many unhappy wretches, who expired under the lash, for refufing to reveal their imaginary treafures. The edifices of Rome, though the damage has been much exaggerated, received fome injury from the violence of the Goths. At their entrance through the Salarian gae, they fired the adjacent houses to guide their march, and to diftract the attention of the citizens: the flames, which encountered no obstacle in the diforder of the night, confumed many private and public buildings; and the ruins of the palace of Salluft remained, in the age of Juftinian, a ftately monument of the Gothic conflagration. Yet a contemporary hiftorian has obferved, that fire could fcarcely confume the enormous beams of folid brafs, and that the ftrength of man was infufficient to fubvert the foundations of ancient ftructures. Some truth may poffibly be concealed in his devout affertion, that the wrath of Heaven fupplied the imperfections of hoftile rage; and that the proud Forum of Rome, decorated with the ftatues of fo many gods and heroes, was levelled in the duft by the stroke of lightning.'

It will probably occur to many Readers of this extract, that chastity, in the opinion of our Hiftorian, is not a very SUBSTANTIAL virtue, nor the violation of it a very SUBSTANTIAL crime. Be this, however, as it may; if the whole of what is advanced upon fuch a fubject had been omitted, the dignity of history would certainly have loft nothing by the omiffion.

We fhall conclude this article with what Mr. Gibbon fays concerning the fack of Rome by the troops of Charles the Fifth.

There exifts in human nature a ftrong propenfity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils, of the prefent times. Yet, when the first emotions had fubfided, and a fair eftimate was made of the real damage, the more learned and judicious contemporaries were forced to confefs, that infant Rome had formerly received more effential injury from the Gauls, than fhe had now fuftained from the Goths in her declining age. The experience of eleven centuries has enabled pofterity to produce a much more fingular parallel; and to affirm with confidence, that the ravages of the Barbarians, whom



[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Alaric had led from the banks of the Danube, were lefs deftructive, than the hoftilities exercifed by the troops of Charles the Fifth, a Catholic prince, who ftyled himself Emperor of the Romans. The Goths evacuated the city at the end of fix days, but Rome remained above nine months in the poffeffion of the Imperialists; and every hour was ftained by fome atrocious act of cruelty, luft, and rapine. The authority of Alaric preferved fome order and moderation among the ferocious multitude, which acknowledged him for their leader and king: but the conftable of Bourbon had gloriously fallen in the attack of the walls; and the death of the general removed every reftraint of discipline, from an army which confifted of three independent nations, the Italians, the Spaniards, and the Germans. In the beginning of the fixteenth century, the manners of Italy exhibited a remarkable fcene of the depravity of mankind. They united the fanguinary crimes that prevail in an unfettled ftate of fociety, with the polished vices which fpring from the abuse of art and luxury and the loofe adventurers, who had violated every prejudice of patriotism and fuperitition to affault the palace of the Roman pontiff, muft deserve to be confidered as the moft profligate of the Italians. At the fame æra, the Spaniards were the terror both of the Old and New World: but their high fpirited valour was difgraced by gloomy pride, rapacious avarice, and unrelenting cruelty. Indefatigable in the purfuit of fame and riches, they had improved, by repeated practice, the moft exquifite and effectual methods of torturing their prifoners: many of the Cattillans, who pillaged Rome, were familiars of the holy inquifition; and fome volunteers, perhaps, were lately returned from the conqueft of Mexico. The Germans were lefs corrupt than the Italians, lefs cruel than the Spaniards; and the ruftic, or even favage, afpect of thofe Tramontane warriors, often difguifed a fimple and merciful difpofition. But they had imbibed, in the first fervour of the reformation, the fpirit, as well as the principles, of Luther. It was their favourite amufement to infult, or destroy, the confecrated objects of Catholic fuperftition: they indulged, without pity or remorse, a devout hatred against the clergy of every denomination and degree, who form fo confiderable a part of the inhabitants of modern Rome; and their fanatic zeal might afpire to fubvert the throne of Antichrift, to purify, with blood and fire, the abominations of the fpiritual Babylon.'


(To be concluded in our next.)

The reader who wishes to inform him felf of the circumitances of this famous event, may perufe an admirable narrative in Dr. Robertfon's Hiftory of Charles V. vol. ii. p. 283; or confult the Annali d'Italia of the learned Muratori, tom. xiv. p. 230-244. octavo edition. If he is defirous of examining the originals, he may have recourfe to the eighteenth book of the great, but unfinished, history of Guicciardini. But the account which most truly deferves the name of authentic and original, is a little book, intitled, Il Sacca de Roma, compofed, within lefs than a month after the affault of the city, by the brother of the hiftorian Guicciardini, who appears to have been an able magiftrate, and a difpaffionate writer,'

D 3


« PreviousContinue »