The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire: By Edward Gibbon, Esq; ... [pt.6]
CHAP. XXXIII. Death of Honorius.—Valentinian III. Emperor of the Eaſt.—Adminiſtration of his Mother Placidia.—Aetius and Boniface.—Conqueſt of Africa by the Vandals.
- A. D. 423 LAST Years and Death of Honorius Page 1
- A. D. 423—425. Elevation and Fall of the Uſurper John Page 4
- A. D. 425—455. Valentinian III. Emperor of the Weſt Page 6
- A. D. 425—450. Adminiſtration of his Mother Placidia Page 8
- Her two Generals, Aetius and Boniface Page ib.
- A. D. 427 Error and Revolt of Boniface in Africa Page 11
- A. D. 428 He invites the Vandals Page 12
- Genſeric king of the Vandals Page 13
- A. D. 429 He lands in Africa Page 14
- Reviews his Army Page ib.
- The Moors Page 15
- The Donatiſts Page 16
- A. D. 430 Tardy Repentance of Boniface Page 18
- Deſolation of Africa Page 20
- A. D. 430 Siege of Hippo Page 21
- A. D. 430 Death of St. Auguſtin Page 22
- A. D. 431 Defeat and Retreat of Boniface Page 24
- A. D. 432 His Death Page 25
- A. D. 431—439. Progreſs of the Vandals in Africa Page 26
- A. D. 439 They ſurpriſe Carthage Page 28
- African Exiles and Captives Page 30
- Fable of the Seven Sleepers Page 32
CHAP. XXXIV. The Character, Conqueſts, and Court of Attila, King of the Huns.—Death of Theodoſius the Younger.—Elevation of Marcian to the Empire of the Eaſt.
- A. D. 376—433. The Huns Page 37
- Their Eſtabliſhment in modern Hungary Page 38
- A. D. 433—453. Reign of Attila Page 40
- His Figure and Character Page 41
- He diſcovers the Sword of Mars Page 43
- Acquires the Empire of Scythia and Germany Page 45
- A. D. 430—440. The Huns invade Perſia Page 47
- A. D. 441, &c. They attack the Eaſtern Empire Page 49
- Ravage Europe, as far as Conſtantinople Page 52
- The Scythian or Tartar Wars Page 53
- State of the Captives Page 57
- A. D. 446 Treaty of Peace between Attila, and the Eaſtern Empire Page 60
- Spirit of the Azimuntines Page 63
- Embaſſies from Attila to Conſtantinople Page 65
- A. D. 448 The Embaſſy of Maximin to Attila Page 68
- The royal Village and Palace Page 72
- The Behaviour of Attila to the Roman Ambaſſadors Page 75
- The royal Feaſt Page 77
- Conſpiracy of the Romans againſt the Life of Attila Page 80
- He reprimands, and forgives the Emperor Page 82
- A. D. 450 Theodoſius the Younger dies Page 84
- Is ſucceeded by Marcian Page 85
CHAP. XXXV. Invaſion of Gaul by Attila.—He is repulſed by Aetius and the Viſigoths.—Attila invades and evacuates Italy.—The Deaths of Attila, Aetius, and Valentinian the Third.
- A. D. 450 Attila threatens both Empires, and prepares to invade Gaul Page 87
- A. D. 433—454. Character and Aminiſtration of Aetius Page 88
- His Connection with the Huns and Alani Page 91
- A. D. 419—451. The Viſigoths in Gaul under the Reign of Theodoric Page 93
- A. D. 435—439. The Goths beſiege' Narbonne, &c. Page 94
- A. D. 420—451. The Franks in Gaul under the Merovingian Kings Page 98
- The Adventures of the Princeſs Honoria Page 103
- A. D. 451 Attila invades Gaul and beſieges Orleans Page 105
- Alliance of the Romans and Viſigoths Page 109
- Attila retires to the Plains of Champagne Page 112
- Battle of Châlons Page 116
- Retreat of Attila Page 119
- A. D. 452 Invaſion of Italy by Attila Page 122
- Foundation of the Republic of Venice Page 126
- Attila gives Peace to the Romans Page 129
- A. D. 453 The Death of Attila Page 133
- Deſtruction of his Empire Page 135
- A. D. 454 Valentinian murders the Patrician Aetius Page 137
- —raviſhes the Wife of Maximus Page 140
- A. D. 455 Death of Valentinian Page 141
- Symptoms of the Decay and Ruin of the Roman Government Page 142
CHAP. XXXVI. Sack of Rome by Genſeric, King of the Vandals.—His naval Depredations.—Succeſſion of the laſt Emperors of the Weſt, Maximus, Avitus, Majorian, Severus, Anthemius, Olybrius, Glycerius, Nepos, Auguſtulus.—Total Extinction of the Weſtern Empire.—Reign of Odoacer, the firſt Barbarian King of Italy.
- A. D. 439—445. Naval Powers of the Vandals Page 145
- A. D. 455. The Character and Reign of the Emperor Maximus Page 147
- A. D. 455 His Death Page 149
- A. D. 455 Sack of Rome by the Vandals Page 151
- The Emperor Avitus Page 155
- A. D. 453—466. Character of Theodoric, King of the Viſigoths Page 158
- A. D. 456 His Expedition into Spain Page 161
- A. D. 456 Avitus is depoſed Page 164
- A. D. 457 Character and Elevation of Majorian Page 167
- A. D. 457—461. His Salutary Laws Page 171
- The Edifices of Rome Page 174
- A. D. 457 Majorian prepares to invade Africa Page 177
- The Loſs of his Fleet Page 181
- A. D. 461 His Death Page 183
- A. D. 461—467. Ricimer reigns under the Name of Severus Page ib.
- Revolt of Marcellinus in Dalmatia Page 184
- —of Aegidius, in Gaul Page 185
- A. D. 561—467. Naval War of the Vandals Page 186
- A. D. 462, &c. Negociations with the Eaſtern Empire Page 189
- A. D. 457—474. Leo, Emperor of the Eaſt Page 190
- A. D. 467—472. Anthemius, Emperor of the Weſt Page 193
- The Feſtival of the Lupercalia Page 196
- A. D. 468 Preparations againſt the Vandals of Africa Page 199
- Failure of the Expedition Page 202
- A. D. 462—472 Conqueſts of the Viſigoths in Spain and Gaul Page 205
- A. D. 468 Trial of Arvandus Page 208
- A. D. 471 Diſcord of Anthemius and Ricimer Page 212
- A. D. 472 Olybrius, Emperor of the Weſt Page 215
- A. D. 472 Sack of Rome, and Death of Anthemius Page 217
- Death of Ricimer Page 218
- —of Olybrius Page ib.
- A. D. 472—475. Julius Nepos and Glycerius, Emperors of the Weſt Page 219
- A. D. 475 The Patrician Oreſtes Page 221
- A. D. 476 His Son Auguſtulus, the laſt Emperor of the Weſt Page 222
- A. D. 476—490. Odoacer, King of Italy Page 224
- A. D. 476 or 479. Extinction of the Weſtern Empire Page 226
- Auguſtulus is baniſhed to the Lucullan Villa Page 228
- Decay of the Roman Spirit Page 231
- A. D. 476—490. Character and Reign of Odoacer Page 232
- Miſerable State of Italy Page 234
CHAP. XXXVII. Origin, Progreſs, and Effects of the monaſtic Life.—Converſion of the Barbarians to Chriſtianity and Arianiſm.—Perſecution of the Vandals in Africa.—Extinction of Arianiſm among the Barbarians.
- I. INSTITUTION OF THE MONASTIC LIFE Page 238
- Origin of the Monks Page ib.
- A. D. 305 Antony, and the Monks of Egypt Page 241
- A. D. 341 Propagation of the monaſtic Life at Rome Page 244
- A. D. 328 Hilarion in Paleſtine Page ib.
- A. D. 360 Baſil in Pontus Page ib.
- A. D. 370 Martin in Gaul Page 245
- Cauſes of the rapid Progreſs of the monaſtic Life Page 247
- Obedience of the Monks Page 250
- Their Dreſs and Habitations Page 253
- Their Diet Page 254
- Their manual Labour Page 256
- Their Riches Page 258
- Their Solitude Page 260
- Their Devotion and Viſions Page 261
- The Coenobites and Anachorets Page 263
- A. D. 395—451. Simeon Stylites Page 265
- Miracles and Worſhip of the Monks Page 266
- Superſtition of the Age Page 268
- II. CONVERSION OF THE BARBARIANS Page ib.
- A. D. 360, &c. Ulphilas, Apoſtle of the Goths Page 269
- A. D. 400, &c. The Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, &c. embrace Chriſtianity Page 271
- Motives of their Faith Page 272
- Effects of their Converſion Page 275
- They are involved in the Arian Hereſy Page 277
- General Toleration Page 279
- Arian Perſecution of the Vandals Page ib.
- A. D. 429—477. Genſeric Page 280
- A. D. 477 Hunneric Page ib.
- A. D. 484 Gundamund Page 281
- A. D. 496 Thoriſmund Page ib.
- A. D. 523 Hilderic Page 282
- A. D. 530 Gelimer Page ib.
- A general View of the Perſecution in Africa Page ib.
- Catholic Frauds Page 290
- Miracles Page 293
- A. D. 500—700. The Ruin of Arianiſm among the Barbarians Page 295
- A. D. 577—584. Revolt and Martyrdom of Hermenegild in Spain Page 296
- A. D. 586—589. Converſion of Recared and the Viſigoths of Spain Page 298
- A. D. 600, &c. Converſion of the Lombards of Italy Page 301
- A. D. 612—712. Perſecution of the Jews in Spain Page 302
- Concluſion Page 304
CHAP. XXXVIII. Reign and Converſion of Clovis.—His Victories over the Alemanni, Burgundians, and Viſigoths.—Eſtabliſhment of the French Monarchy in Gaul.—Laws of the Barbarians.—State of the Romans.—The Viſigoths of Spain.—Conqueſt of Britain by the Saxons.
- The Revolution of Gaul Page 306
- A. D. 476—485. Euric, King of the Viſigoths Page 308
- A. D. 481—511. Clovis, King of the Franks Page 310
- A. D. 486 His Victory over Syagrius Page 312
- A. D. 496 Defeat and Submiſſion of the Alemanni Page 315
- A. D. 496 Converſion of Clovis Page 317
- A. D. 497, &c. Submiſſion of the Armoricans and the Roman Troops Page 322
- A. D. 499 The Burgundian War Page 324
- A. D. 500 Victory of Clovis Page 326
- A. D. 532 Final Conqueſt of Burgundy by the Franks Page 328
- A. D. 507 The Gothic War Page 330
- Victory of Clovis Page 333
- A. D. 508 Conqueſt of Aquitain by the Franks Page 335
- A. D. 510 Conſulſhip of Clovis Page 338
- A. D. 536 Final Eſtabliſhment of the French Monarchy in Gaul Page 339
- Political Controverſy Page 341
- Laws of the Barbarians Page 343
- Pecuniary Fines for Homicide Page 346
- Judgments of God Page 349
- Judicial Combats Page 351
- Diviſion of Land by the Barbarians Page 353
- Domain and Benefices of the Merovingians Page 356
- Private Uſurpations Page 358
- Perſonal Servitude Page 359
- Example of Auvergne Page 362
- Story of Attalus Page 365
- Privileges of the Romans of Gaul Page 369
- Anarchy of the Franks Page 372
- The Viſigoths of Spain Page 375
- Legiſlative Aſſemblies of Spain Page ib.
- Code of the Viſigoths Page 378
- Revolution of Britain Page 379
- A. D. 449 Deſcent of the Saxons Page 381
- A. D. 455—582. Eſtabliſhment of the Saxon Heptarchy Page 383
- State of the Britons Page 385
- Their Reſiſtance Page 386
- Their Flight Page 388
- The Fame of Arthur Page 390
- Deſolation of Britain Page 392
- Servitude of the Britons Page 395
- Manners of the Britons Page 398
- Obſcure or fabulous State of Britain Page 400
- Fall of the Roman Empire in the Weſt Page 403
- General Obſervations of the Fall of the Roman Empire in the Weſt Page 405
THE HISTORY OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
1. CHAP. XXXIII. Death of Honorius.—Valentinian III. Emperor of the Eaſt.—Adminiſtration of his Mother Placidia.—Aetius and Boniface.—Conqueſt of Africa by the Vandals.
DURING a long and diſgraceful reign of of twenty-eight years, Honorius, emperor of the Weſt, was ſeparated from the friendſhip [Note: Laſt years and death of Honorius, A. D. 423, Aug. 27.] of his brother, and afterwards of his nephew, who reigned over the Eaſt; and Conſtantinople beheld, with apparent indifference and ſecret joy, the calamities of Rome. The ſtrange adventures of Placidia 1 gradually renewed, and cemented, the alliance of the two empires. The daughter [Page 2] of the great Theodoſius had been the captive and the queen of the Goths: ſhe loſt an affectionate huſband; ſhe was dragged in chains by his inſulting aſſaſſin; ſhe taſted the pleaſure of revenge, and was exchanged, in the treaty of peace, for ſix hundred thouſand meaſures of wheat. After her return from Spain to Italy, Placidia experienced a new perſecution in the boſom of her family. She was averſe to a marriage, which had been ſtipulated without her conſent; and the brave Conſtantius, as a noble reward for the tyrants whom he had vanquiſhed, received, from the hand of Honorius himſelf, the ſtruggling and reluctant hand of the widow of Adolphus. But her reſiſtance ended with the ceremony of the nuptials; nor did Placidia refuſe to become the mother of Honoria and Valentinian the third, or to aſſume and exerciſe an abſolute dominion over the mind of her grateful huſband. The generous ſoldier, whoſe time had hitherto been divided between ſocial pleaſure and military ſervice, was taught new leſſons of avarice and ambition: he extorted the title of Auguſtus; and the ſervant of Honorius was aſſociated to the empire of the Weſt. The death of Conſtantius, in the ſeventh month of his reign, inſtead of diminiſhing, ſeemed to increaſe, the power of Placidia; and the indecent familiarity 2 of her [Page 3] brother, which might be no more than the ſymptoms of a childiſh affection, were univerſally attributed to inceſtuous love. On a ſudden, by ſome baſe intrigues of a ſteward and a nurſe, this exceſſive fondneſs was converted into an irreconcileable quarrel: the debates of the emperor and his ſiſter were not long confined within the walls of the palace; and as the Gothic ſoldiers adhered to their queen, the city of Ravenna was agitated with bloody and dangerous tumults, which could only be appeaſed by the forced or voluntary retreat of Placidia and her children. The royal exiles landed at Conſtantinople, ſoon after the marriage of Theodoſius, during the feſtival of the Perſian victories. They were treated with kindneſs and magnificence; but as the ſtatues of the emperor Conſtantius had been rejected by the Eaſtern court, the title of Auguſta could not decently be allowed to his widow. Within a few months after the arrival of Placidia, a ſwift meſſenger announced the death of Honorius, the conſequence of a dropſy; but the important ſecret was not divulged, till the neceſſary orders had been diſpatched for the march of a large body of troops to the ſea-coaſt of Dalmatia. The ſhops and the gates of Conſtantinople remained ſhut during ſeven days; and the loſs of a foreign prince, who could neither be eſteemed nor regretted, [Page 4] was celebrated with loud and affected demonſtrations of the public grief.
While the miniſters of Conſtantinople deliberated, [Note: Elevation and fall of the uſurper John, A. D. 423—425.] the vacant throne of Honorius was uſurped by the ambition of a ſtranger. The name of the rebel was John: he filled the confidential office of Primicerius, or principal ſecretary; and hiſtory has attributed to his character more virtues, than can eaſily be reconciled with the violation of the moſt ſacred duty. Elated by the ſubmiſſion of Italy, and the hope of an alliance with the Huns, John preſumed to inſult, by an embaſſy, the majeſty of the Eaſtern emperor; but when he underſtood that his agents had been baniſhed, impriſoned, and at length chaced away with deſerved ignominy, John prepared to aſſert, by arms, the injuſtice of his claims. In ſuch a cauſe, the grandſon of the great Theodoſius ſhould have marched in perſon: but the young emperor was eaſily diverted, by his phyſicians, from ſo raſh and hazardous a deſign; and the conduct of the Italian expedition was prudently entruſted to Ardaburius, and his ſon Aſpar, who had already ſignaliſed their valour againſt the Perſians. It was reſolved, that Ardaburius ſhould embark with the infantry; whilſt Aſpar, at the head of the cavalry, conducted Placidia, and her ſon Valentinian, along the ſea-coaſt of the Hadriatic. The march of the cavalry was performed with ſuch active diligence, that they ſurpriſed, without reſiſtance, the important city of Aquileia; when the hopes of Aſpar were unexpectedly confounded [Page 5] by the intelligence, that a ſtorm had diſperſed the Imperial fleet; and that his father, with only two gallies, was taken and carried a priſoner into the port of Ravenna. Yet this incident, unfortunate as it might ſeem, facilitated the conqueſt of Italy. Ardaburius employed, or abuſed, the courteous freedom, which he was permitted to enjoy, to revive among the troops a ſenſe of loyalty and gratitude; and, as ſoon as the conſpiracy was ripe for execution, he invited by private meſſages, and preſſed the approach of, Aſpar. A ſhepherd, whom the popular credulity transformed into an angel, guided the Eaſtern cavalry, by a ſecret, and, it was thought, an impaſſable road, through the moraſſes of the Po: the gates of Ravenna, after a ſhort ſtruggle, were thrown open; and the defenceleſs tyrant was delivered to the mercy, or rather to the cruelty, of the conquerors. His right hand was firſt cut off; and, after he had been expoſed, mounted on an aſs, to the public deriſion, John was beheaded in the Circus of Aquileia. The emperor Theodoſius, when he received the news of the victory, interrupted the horſe-races; and ſinging, as he marched through the ſtreets, a ſuitable pſalm, conducted his people from the Hippodrome to the church, where he ſpent the remainder of the day in grateful devotion 3.
[Page 6] In a monarchy, which, according to various precedents, might be conſidered as elective, or hereditary, or patrimonial, it was impoſſible that [Note: Valentinian III. emperor of the Weſt, A. D. 425-455.] the intricate claims of female and collateral ſucceſſion ſhould be clearly defined 4; and Theodoſius, by the right of conſanguinity or conqueſt, might have reigned the ſole legitimate emperor of the Romans. For a moment, perhaps, his eyes were dazzled by the proſpect of unbounded ſway; but his indolent temper gradually acquieſced in the dictates of ſound policy. He contented himſelf with the poſſeſſion of the Eaſt; and wiſely relinquiſhed the laborious taſk, of waging a diſtant and doubtful war againſt the Barbarians beyond the Alps; or of ſecuring the obedience of the Italians and Africans, whoſe minds were alienated by the irreconcileable difference of language and intereſt. Inſtead of liſtening to the voice of ambition, Theodoſius reſolved to imitate the moderation of his grandfather, and to ſeat his couſin Valentinian on the throne of the Weſt. The royal infant was diſtinguiſhed at Conſtantinople by the title of Nobiliſſimus: he was promoted, before his departure from Theſſalonica, to the rank and dignity of Caeſar; and, after the conqueſt of Italy, the patrician Helion, by the authority of Theodoſius, and in the preſence of the ſenate, ſaluted Valentinian [Page 7] the third by the name of Auguſtus, and ſolemnly inveſted him with the diadem, and the Imperial purple 5. By the agreement of the three females who governed the Roman world, the ſon of Placidia was betrothed to Eudoxia, the daughter of Theodoſius and Athenais; and, as ſoon as the lover and his bride had attained the age of puberty, this honourable alliance was faithfully accompliſhed. At the ſame time, as a compenſation, perhaps, for the expences of the war, the Weſtern Illyricum was detached from the Italian dominions, and yielded to the throne, of Conſtantinople 6. The emperor of the Eaſt acquired the uſeful dominion of the rich and maritime province of Dalmatia, and the dangerous ſovereignty of Pannonia and Noricum, which had been filled and ravaged above twenty years, by a promiſcuous crowd of Huns, Oſtrogoths, Vandals, and Bavarians. Theodoſius and Valentinian continued to reſpect the obligations of their public and domeſtic alliance; but the unity of the Roman government was finally diſſolved. By a poſitive declaration, the validity of all future laws was limited to the dominions of their peculiar author; unleſs he ſhould think proper to communicate them, ſubſcribed, with his own [Page 8] hand, for the approbation of his independent colleague 7.
Valentinian, when he received the title of Auguſtus, [Note: Adminiſtration of his mother Placidia, A. D. 425—450.] was no more than ſix years of age: and his long minority was entruſted to the guardian care of a mother, who might aſſert a female claim to the ſucceſſion of the Weſtern empire. Placidia envied, but ſhe could not equal, the reputation and virtues of the wife and ſiſter of Theodoſius; the elegant genius of Eudocia, the wiſe and ſucceſsful policy of Pulcheria. The mother of Valentinian was jealous of the power, which ſhe was incapable of exerciſing 8: ſhe reigned twenty-five years, in the name of her ſon; and the character of that unworthy emperor gradually countenanced the ſuſpicion, that Placidia had enervated his youth by a diſſolute education, and ſtudiouſly diverted his attention from every manly and honourable purſuit. Amidſt the decay [Note: Her two generals, Aetius and Boniface.] of military ſpirit, her armies were commanded [Page 9] by two generals, Aetius 9 and Boniface 10, who may be deſervedly named as the laſt of the Romans. Their union might have ſupported a ſinking empire; their diſcord was the fatal and immediate cauſe of the loſs of Africa. The invaſion and defeat of Attila has immortalized the fame of Aetius; and though time has thrown a ſhade over the exploits of his rival, the defence of Marſcelles, and the deliverance of Africa, atteſt the military talents of count Boniface. In the field of battle, in partial encounters, in ſingle combats, he was ſtill the terror of the Barbarians: the clergy, and particularly his friend Auguſtin, were edified by the Chriſtian piety, which had once tempted him to retire from the world; the people applauded his ſpotleſs integrity; the army dreaded his equal and inexorable juſtice, which may be diſplayed in a very ſingular example. A peaſant, who complained of the criminal intimacy between his wife and a Gothic ſoldier, was directed to attend his tribunal the following day: in the evening the count, who had diligently [Page 10] informed himſelf of the time and place of the aſſignation, mounted his horſe, rode ten miles into the country, ſurpriſed the guilty couple, puniſhed the ſoldier with inſtant death, and ſilenced the complaints of the huſband, by preſenting him, the next morning, with the head of the adulterer. The abilities of Aetius and Boniface might have been uſefully employed againſt the public enemies, in ſeparate and important commands; but the experience of their paſt conduct ſhould have decided the real favour and confidence of the empreſs Placidia. In the melancholy ſeaſon of her exile and diſtreſs, Boniface alone had maintained her cauſe with unſhaken fidelity; and the troops and treaſures of Africa had eſſentially contributed to extinguiſh the rebellion. The ſame rebellion had been ſupported by the zeal and activity of Aetius, who brought an army of ſixty thouſand Huns from the Danube to the confines of Italy, for the ſervice of the uſurper. The untimely death of John, compelled him to accept an advantageous treaty; but he ſtill continued, the ſubject and the ſoldier of Valentinian, to entertain a ſecret, perhaps a treaſonable, correſpondence with his Barbarian allies, whoſe retreat had been purchaſed by liberal gifts, and more liberal promiſes. But Aetius poſſeſſed an advantage of ſingular moment in a female reign: he was preſent: he beſieged, with artful and aſſiduous flattery, the palace of Ravenna; diſguiſed his dark deſigns with the maſk of loyalty and friendſhip; and at length [Page 11] deceived both his miſtreſs and his abſent rival, by a ſubtle conſpiracy, which a weak woman, and a brave man, could not eaſily ſuſpect. He [Note: Error and revolt of Boniface in Africa, A. D. 427.] ſecretly perſuaded 11 Placidia to recal Boniface from the government of Africa; he ſecretly adviſed Boniface to diſobey the Imperial ſummons: to the one, he repreſented the order as a ſentence of death; to the other, he ſtated the refuſal as a ſignal of revolt; and when the credulous and unſuſpectful count had armed the province in his defence, Aetius applauded his ſagacity in foreſeeing the rebellion, which his own perfidy had excited. A temperate enquiry into the real motives of Boniface, would have reſtored a faithful ſervant to his duty and to the republic; but the arts of Aetius ſtill continued to betray and to inflame, and the count was urged, by perſecution, to embrace the moſt deſperate counſels. The ſucceſs with which he eluded or repelled the firſt attacks, could not inſpire a vain confidence, that, at the head of ſome looſe, diſorderly Africans, he ſhould be able to withſtand the regular forces of the Weſt, commanded by a rival, whoſe military character it was impoſſible for him to deſpiſe. After ſome heſitation, the laſt ſtruggles of prudence and loyalty, Boniface diſpatched a truſty friend to the court, or rather to the camp, of Gonderic, king of the Vandals, with the propoſal [Page 12] of a ſtrict alliance, and the offer of an advantageous and perpetual ſettlement.
After the retreat of the Goths, the authority of [Note: He invites the Vandals, A. D. 428.] Honorius had obtained a precarious eſtabliſhment in Spain; except only in the province of Gallicia, where the Suevi and the Vandals had fortified their camps, in mutual diſcord, and hoſtile independence. The Vandals prevailed; and their adverſaries were beſieged in the Nervaſian hills, between Leon and Oviedo, till the approach of Count Aſterius compelled, or rather provoked, the victorious Barbarians to remove the ſcene of the war to the plains of Boetica. The rapid progreſs of the Vandals ſoon required a more effectual oppoſition; and the maſter-general Caſtinus marched againſt them with a numerous army of Romans and Goths. Vanquiſhed in battle by an inferior enemy, Caſtinus fled with diſhonour to Tarragona; and this memorable defeat, which has been repreſented as the puniſhment, was moſt probably the effect, of his raſh preſumption 12. Seville and Carthagena became the reward, or rather the prey, of the ferocious conquerors; and the veſſels which they found in the harbour of Carthagena, might eaſily tranſport them to the iſles of Majorca and Minorca, where the Spaniſh fugitives, as in a ſecure receſs, had vainly concealed their families and their fortunes. The [Page 13] experience of navigation, and perhaps the proſpect of Africa, encouraged the Vandals to accept the invitation which they received from Count Boniface; and the death of Gonderic ſerved only to forward and animate the bold enterpriſe. In the room of a prince, not conſpicuous for any ſuperior powers of the mind or body, they acquired his baſtard brother, the terrible Genſeric 13; a name, [Note: Genſeric king of the Vandals.] which, in the deſtruction of the Roman empire, has deſerved an equal rank with the names of Alaric and Attila. The king of the Vandals is deſcribed to have been of a middle ſtature, with a lameneſs in one leg, which he had contracted by an accidental fall from his horſe. His ſlow and cautious ſpeech ſeldom declared the deep purpoſes of his ſoul: he diſdained to imitate the luxury of the vanquiſhed; but he indulged the ſterner paſſions of anger and revenge. The ambition of Genſeric was without bounds, and without ſcruples; and the warrior could dexterouſly employ the dark engines of policy of ſolicit the allies who might be uſeful to his ſucceſs, or to ſcatter among his enemies the ſeeds of hatred and contention. Almoſt in the moment of his departure he was informed, that Hermanric, king of the Suevi, had preſumed to ravage the Spaniſh [Page 14] territories, which he was reſolved to abandon. Impatient of the inſult, Genſeric purſued the haſty retreat of the Suevi as far as Merida; precipitated the king and his army into the river Anas, and calmly returned to the ſea-ſhore, to embark his victorious troops. The veſſels which tranſported the Vandals over the modern Streights [Note: He lands in Africa, A. D. 429. May.] of Gibraltar, a channel only twelve miles in breadth, were furniſhed by the Spaniards, who anxiouſly wiſhed their departure; and by the African general, who had implored their formidable aſſiſtance. 14
Our fancy, ſo long accuſtomed to exaggerate [Note: and reviews his army, A. D. 429.] and multiply the martial ſwarms of Barbarians that ſeemed to iſſue from the North, will perhaps be ſurpriſed by the account of the army which Genſeric muſtered on the coaſt of Mauritania. The Vandals, who in twenty years had penetrated from the Elbe to Mount Atlas, were united under the command of their warlike king; and he reigned with equal authority over the Alani, who had paſſed, within the term of human life, from the cold of Scythia to the exceſſive heat of an African climate. The hopes of the bold enterpriſe had excited many brave adventurers of the Gothic nation; and many deſperate provincials were tempted to repair their fortunes [Page 15] by the ſame means which had occaſioned their ruin. Yet this various multitude amounted only to fifty thouſand effective men; and though Genſeric artfully magnified his apparent ſtrength, by appointing eighty chiliarchs, or commanders of thouſands, the fallacious increaſe of old men, of children, and of ſlaves, would ſcarcely have ſwelled his army to the number of fourſcore thouſand perſons 15. But his own dexterity, and the diſcontents of Africa, ſoon fortified the Vandal powers, by the acceſſion of numerous and active allies. The parts of Mauritania, which [Note: The Moors.] border on the great deſert, and the Atlantic ocean, were filled with a fierce and untractable race of men, whoſe ſavage temper had been exaſperated, rather than reclaimed, by their dread of the Roman arms. The wandering Moors 16, as they gradually ventured to approach the ſeaſhore, and the camp of the Vandals, muſt have viewed with terror and aſtoniſhment the dreſs, the armour, the martial pride and diſcipline of the unknown ſtrangers, who had landed on their [Page 16] coaſt; and the fair complexions of the blue-eyed warriors of Germany, formed a very ſingular contraſt with the ſwarthy or olive hue, which is derived from the neighbourhood of the torrid zone. After the firſt difficulties had in ſome meaſure been removed, which aroſe from the mutual ignorance of their reſpective language, the Moors, regardleſs of any future conſequence, embraced the alliance of the enemies of Rome; and a crowd of naked ſavages ruſhed from the woods and vallies of Mount Atlas, to ſatiate their revenge on the poliſhed tyrants, who had injuriouſly expelled them from the native ſovereignty of the land.
The perſecution of the Donatiſts 17 was an [Note: The Donatiſts.] event not leſs favourable to the deſigns of Genſeric. Seventeen years before he landed in Africa, a public conference was held at Carthage, by the order of the magiſtrate. The Catholics were ſatisfied, that, after the invincible reaſons which they had alleged, the obſtinacy of the ſchiſmatics muſt be inexcuſable and voluntary; and the emperor Honorius was perſuaded to inflict the moſt rigorous penalties on a faction, which had ſo long abuſed his patience and clemency. Three hundred biſhops 18, with many thouſands of the inferior clergy, were torn from their churches, [Page 17] ſtripped of their eccleſiaſtical poſſeſſions, baniſhed to the iſlands, and proſcribed by the laws, if they preſumed to conceal themſelves in the provinces of Africa. Their numerous congregations, both in cities and in the country, were deprived of the rights of citizens, and of the exerciſe of religious worſhip. A regular ſcale of fines, from ten to two hundred pounds of ſilver, was curiouſly aſcertained, according to the diſtinctions of rank and fortune, to puniſh the crime of aſſiſting at a ſchiſmatic conventicle; and if the fine had been levied five times, without ſubduing the obſtinacy of the offender, his future puniſhment was referred to the diſcretion of the Imperial court 19. By theſe ſeverities, which obtained the warmeſt approbation of St. Auguſtin 20, great numbers of Donatiſts were reconciled to the Catholic church: but the fanatics, who ſtill perſevered in their oppoſition, were provoked to madneſs and deſpair; the diſtracted country was filled with tumult and bloodſhed; the armed troops of Circumcellions alternately pointed their rage againſt themſelves, or againſt their adverſaries; and the calendar [Page 18] of martyrs received on both ſides a conſiderable augmentation 21. Under theſe circumſtances, Genſeric, a Chriſtian, but an enemy of the orthodox communion, ſhewed himſelf to the Donatiſts as a powerful deliverer, from whom they might reaſonably expect the repeal of the odious and oppreſſive edicts of the Roman emperors 22. The conqueſt of Africa was facilitated by the active zeal, or the ſecret favour, of a domeſtic faction; the wanton outrages againſt the churches, and the clergy, of which the Vandals are accuſed, may be fairly imputed to the fanaticiſm of their allies; and the intolerant ſpirit, which diſgraced the triumph of Chriſtianity, contributed to the loſs of the moſt important province of the Weſt 23.
The court and the people were aſtoniſhed by [Note: Tardy repentance of Boniface, A. D. 430.] the ſtrange intelligence, that a virtuous hero, after ſo many favours, and ſo many ſervices, had renounced his allegiance, and invited the Barbarians [Page 19] to deſtroy the province entruſted to his command. The friends of Boniface, who ſtill believed that his criminal behaviour might be excuſed by ſome honourable motive, ſolicited, during the abſence of Aetius, a free conference with the Count of Africa; and Darius, an officer of high diſtinction, was named for the important embaſſy 24. In their firſt interview at Carthage, the imaginary provocations were mutually explained; the oppoſite letters of Aetius were produced and compared; and the fraud was eaſily detected. Placidia and Boniface lamented their fatal error; and the Count had ſufficient magnanimity to confide in the forgiveneſs of his ſovereign, or to expoſe his head to her future reſentment. His repentance was fervent and ſincere; but he ſoon diſcovered, that it was no longer in his power to reſtore the edifice which he had ſhaken to its foundations. Carthage, and the Roman garriſons, returned with their general to the allegiance of Valentinian; but the reſt of Africa was ſtill diſtracted with war and faction; and the inexorable king of the Vandals, diſdaining all terms of accommodation, ſternly refuſed to relinquiſh the poſſeſſion of his prey. The band of veterans, who marched under the ſtandard [Page 20] of Boniface, and his haſty levies of provincial troops, were defeated with conſiderable loſs: the victorious Barbarians inſulted the open country; and Carthage, Cirta, and Hippo Regius, were the only cities that appeared to riſe above the general inundation.
The long and narrow tract of the African coaſt [Note: Deſolation of Africa.] was filled with frequent monuments of Roman art and magnificence; and the reſpective degrees of improvement might be accurately meaſured by the diſtance from Carthage and the Mediterranean. A ſimple reflection will impreſs every thinking mind with the cleareſt idea of fertility and cultivation: the country was extremely populous; the inhabitants reſerved a liberal ſubſiſtence for their own uſe; and the annual exportation, particularly of wheat, was ſo regular and plentiful, that Africa deſerved the name of the common granary of Rome and of mankind. On a ſudden, the ſeven fruitful provinces, from Tangier to Tripoli, were overwhelmed by the invaſion of the Vandals; whoſe deſtructive rage has perhaps been exaggerated by popular animoſity, religious zeal, and extravagant declamation. War, in its faireſt form, implies a perpetual violation of humanity and juſtice; and the hoſtilities of Barbarians are inflamed by the fierce and lawleſs ſpirit which inceſſantly diſturbs their peaceful and domeſtic ſociety. The Vandals, where they found reſiſtance, ſeldom gave quarter; and the deaths of their valiant countrymen were expiated by the ruin of the cities under whoſe walls they had fallen. Careleſs of the diſtinctions [Page 21] of age, or ſex, or rank, they employed every ſpecies of indignity and torture, to force from the captives a diſcovery of their hidden wealth. The ſtern policy of Genſeric juſtified his frequent examples of military execution: he was not always the maſter of his own paſſions, or of thoſe of his followers; and the calamities of war were aggravated by the licentiouſneſs of the Moors, and the fanaticiſm of the Donatiſts. Yet I ſhall not eaſily be perſuaded, that it was the common practice of the Vandals to extirpate the olives, and other fruit-trees, of a country where they intended to ſettle: nor can I believe that it was a uſual ſtratagem to ſlaughter great numbers of their priſoners before the walls of a beſieged city, for the ſole purpoſe of infecting the air, and producing a peſtilence, of which they themſelves muſt have been the firſt victims 25.
The generous mind of Count Boniface was [Note: Siege of Hippo, A. D. 430, May.] tortured by the exquiſite diſtreſs of beholding the ruin, which he had occaſioned, and whoſe rapid progreſs he was unable to check. After the loſs of a battle, he retired into Hippo Regius; where he was immediately beſieged by an enemy, who conſidered him as the real bulwark of Africa. [Page 22] The maritime colony of Hippo 26, about two hundred miles weſtward of Carthage, had formerly acquired the diſtinguiſhing epithet of Regius, from the reſidence of Numidian kings; and ſome remains of trade and populouſneſs ſtill adhere to the modern city, which is known in Europe by the corrupted name of Bona. The military labours, and anxious reflexions, of Count Boniface, were alleviated by the edifying converſation of his friend St. Auguſtin 27; till that biſhop, the light and pillar of the Catholic church, was gently releaſed, in the third month of the ſiege, [Note: Death of St. Auguſtine, A. D. 430, Aug. 28.] and in the ſeventy-ſixth year of his age, from the actual and the impending calamities of his country. The youth of Auguſtin had been ſtained by the vices and errors, which he ſo ingenuouſly confeſſes; but from the moment of his converſion, to that of his death, the manners of the biſhop of Hippo were pure and auſtere; and the moſt conſpicuous of his virtues was an ardent zeal againſt heretics of every denomination; the Manichaeans, the Donatiſts, and the Pelagians, againſt whom he waged a perpetual controverſy. [Page 23] When the city, ſome months after his death, was burnt by the Vandals, the library was fortunately ſaved, which contained his voluminous writings; two hundred and thirty-two ſeparate books or treatiſes on theological ſubjects, beſides a complete expoſition of the pſalter and the goſpel, and a copious magazine of epiſtles and homilies 28. According to the judgment of the moſt impartial critics, the ſuperficial learning of Auguſtin was confined to the Latin language 29; and his ſtyle, though ſometimes animated by the eloquence of paſſion, is uſually clouded by falſe and affected rhetoric. But he poſſeſſed a ſtrong, capacious, argumentative mind; he boldly ſounded the dark abyſs of grace, predeſtination, free-will, and original ſin; and the rigid ſyſtem of Chriſtianity which he framed or reſtored 30, has been entertained, [Page 24] with public applauſe, and ſecret reluctance, by the Latin church 31.
By the ſkill of Boniface, and perhaps by the ignorance of the Vandals, the ſiege of Hippo [Note: Death and retreat of Boniface, A. D. 431.] was protracted above fourteen months: the ſea was continually open; and when the adjacent country had been exhauſted by irregular rapine, the beſiegers themſelves were compelled by famine to relinquiſh their enterpriſe. The importance and danger of Africa were deeply felt by the regent of the Weſt. Placidia implored the aſſiſtance of her eaſtern ally; and the Italian fleet and army were reinforced by Aſpar, who failed from Conſtantinople with a powerful armament. As ſoon as the force of the two empires was united under the command of Boniface, he boldly marched againſt the Vandals; and the loſs of a ſecond battle irretrievably decided the fate of Africa. He embarked with the precipitation of deſpair; and the people of Hippo were permitted, with their families and effects, to occupy the vacant place of the ſoldiers, the greateſt part of whom were either ſlain or made priſoners by the Vandals. The Count, whoſe fatal [Page 25] credulity had wounded the vitals of the republic, might enter the palace of Ravenna with ſome anxiety, which was ſoon removed by the ſmiles of Placidia. Boniface accepted with gratitude the rank of patrician, and the dignity of maſtergeneral of the Roman armies; but he muſt have bluſhed at the ſight of thoſe medals, in which he was repreſented with the name and attributes of victory 32. The diſcovery of his fraud, the diſpleaſure of the empreſs, and the diſtinguiſhed favour of his rival, exaſperated the haughty and perfidious ſoul of Aetius. He haſtily returned from Gaul to Italy, with a retinue, or rather with an army, of Barbarian followers; and ſuch was the weakneſs of the government, that the two generals decided their private quarrel in a bloody battle. Boniface was ſucceſsful; but he [Note: His death, A. D. 432.] received in the conflict a mortal wound from the ſpear of his adverſary, of which he expired within a few days, in ſuch Chriſtian and charitable ſentiments, that he exhorted his wife, a rich heireſs of Spain, to accept Aetius for her ſecond huſband. But Aetius could not derive any immediate advantage from the generoſity of his dying enemy: he was proclaimed a rebel by the juſtice of Placidia; and though he attempted to defend [Page 26] ſome ſtrong fortreſſes erected on his patrimonial eſtate, the Imperial power ſoon compelled him to retire into Pannonia, to the tents of his faithful Huns. The republic was deprived, by their mutual diſcord, of the ſervice of her two moſt illuſtrious champions 33.
It might naturally be expected, after the retreat [Note: Progreſs of the Vandals in Africa, A. D. 431—439.] of Boniface, that the Vandals would atchieve, without reſiſtance or delay, the conqueſt of Africa. Eight years however elapſed, from the evacuation of Hippo to the reduction of Carthage. In the midſt of that interval, the ambitious Genſeric, in the full tide of apparent proſperity, negociated a treaty of peace, by which he gave his ſon Hunneric for an hoſtage; and conſented to leave the Weſtern emperor in the undiſturbed poſſeſſion of the three Mauritanias 34. This moderation, which cannot be imputed to the juſtice, muſt be aſcribed to the policy, of the conqueror. His throne was encompaſſed with domeſtic enemies; who accuſed the baſeneſs of his birth, and aſſerted the legitimate claims of his nephews, the ſons of Gonderic. Thoſe nephews, indeed, he [Page 27] ſacrificed to his ſafety; and their mother, the widow of the deceaſed king, was precipitated, by his order, into the river Ampſaga. But the public diſcontent burſt forth in dangerous and frequent conſpiracies; and the warlike tyrant is ſuppoſed to have ſhed more Vandal blood by the hand of the executioner, than in the field of battle 35. The convulſions of Africa, which had favoured his attack, oppoſed the firm eſtabliſhment of his power; and the various ſeditions of the Moors and Germans, the Donatiſts and Catholics, continually diſturbed, or threatened, the unſettled reign of the conqueror. As he advanced towards Carthage, he was forced to withdraw his troops from the Weſtern provinces; the ſea-coaſt was expoſed to the naval enterpriſes of the Romans of Spain and Italy; and, in the heart of Numidia, the ſtrong inland city of Corta ſtill perſiſted in obſtinate independence 36. Theſe difficulties were gradually ſubdued by the ſpirit, the perſeverance, and the cruelty of Genſeric; who alternately applied the arts of peace and war to the eſtabliſhment of his African kingdom. He ſubſcribed a ſolemn treaty, with the hope of deriving ſome advantage from the term of its continuance, and the moment of its violation. The vigilance of his enemies was relaxed by the proteſtations of friendſhip, which concealed his hoſtile approach; and Carthage was at [Page 28] length ſurpriſed by the Vandals, five hundred and eighty-five years after the deſtruction of the city and republic by the younger Scipio 37.
A new city had ariſen from its ruins, with the [Note: They ſurpriſe Carthage, A. D. 439, October 9.] title of a colony; and though Carthage might yield to the royal prerogatives of Conſtantinople, and perhaps to the trade of Alexandria, or the ſplendor of Antioch, ſhe ſtill maintained the ſecond rank in the Weſt; as the Rome (if we may uſe the ſtyle of contemporaries) of the African world. That wealthy and opulent metropolis 38 diſplayed, in a dependent condition, the image of a flouriſhing republic. Carthage contained the manufactures, the arms, and the treaſures of the ſix provinces. A regular ſubordination of civil honours, gradually aſcended from the procurators of the ſtreets and quarters of the city, to the tribunal of the ſupreme magiſtrate, who, with the title of proconſul, repreſented the ſtate and dignity of a conſul of ancient Rome. Schools and gymnaſia were inſtituted for the education of the African youth; and the liberal arts and manners, grammar, rhetoric, and philoſophy, were publicly taught in the Greek and Latin languages. [Page 29] The buildings of Carthage were uniform and magnificent: a ſhady grove was planted in the midſt of the capital; the new port, a ſecure and capacious harbour, was ſubſervient to the commercial induſtry of citizens and ſtrangers; and the ſplendid games of the circus and theatre were exhibited almoſt in the preſence of the Barbarians. The reputation of the Carthaginians was not equal to that of their country, and the reproach of Punic faith ſtill adhered to their ſubtle and faithleſs character 39. The habits of trade, and the abuſe of luxury, had corrupted their manners; but their impious contempt of monks, and the ſhameleſs practice of unnatural luſts, are the two abominations which excite the pious vehemence of Salvian, the preacher of the age 40. The king of the Vandals ſeverely reformed the vices of a voluptuous people; and the ancient, noble, ingenuous, freedom of Carthage (theſe expreſſions of Victor are not without energy), was reduced by Genſeric into a ſtate of [Page 30] ignominious ſervitude. After he had permitted his licentious troops to ſatiate their rage and avarice, he inſtituted a more regular ſyſtem of rapine and oppreſſion. An edict was promulgated, which enjoined all perſons, without fraud or delay, to deliver their gold, ſilver, jewels, and valuable furniture or apparel, to the royal officers; and the attempt to ſecrete any part of their patrimony, was inexorably puniſhed with death and torture, as an act of treaſon againſt the ſtate. The lands of the proconſular province, which formed the immediate diſtrict of Carthage, were accurately meaſured, and divided among the Barbarians; and the conqueror reſerved for his peculiar domain, the fertile territory of Byzacium, and the adjacent parts of Numidia and Getulia 41.
It was natural enough that Genſeric ſhould hate [Note: African exiles and captives.] thoſe whom he had injured: the nobility and ſenators of Carthage were expoſed to his jealouſy and reſentment; and all thoſe who refuſed the ignominious terms, which their honour and religion forbade them to accept, were compelled by the Arian tyrant to embrace the condition of perpetual baniſhment. Rome, Italy, and the provinces of the Eaſt, were filled with a crowd of exiles, of fugitives, and of ingenuous captives, who ſolicited the public compaſſion: and the benevolent epiſtles of Theodoret, ſtill preſerve the names and misfortunes of Caeleſtian and [Page 31] Maria 42. The Syrian biſhop deplores the misfortunes of Caeleſtian, who, from the ſtate of a noble and opulent ſenator of Carthage, was reduced, with his wife and family, and ſervants, to beg his bread in a foreign country; but he applauds the reſignation of the Chriſtian exile, and the philoſophic temper, which, under the preſſure of ſuch calamities, could enjoy more real happineſs, than was the ordinary lot of wealth and proſperity. The ſtory of Maria, the daughter of the magnificent Eudaemon, is ſingular and intereſting. In the ſack of Carthage, ſhe was purchaſed from the Vandals by ſome merchants of Syria, who afterwards ſold her as a ſlave in their native country. A female attendant, tranſported in the ſame ſhip, and ſold in the ſame family, ſtill continued to reſpect a miſtreſs whom fortune had reduced to the common level of ſervitude; and the daughter of Eudaemon received from her grateful affection the domeſtic ſervices, which ſhe had once required from her obedience. This remarkable behaviour divulged the real condition of Maria; who, in the abſence of the biſhop of Cyrrhus, was redeemed from ſlavery by the generoſity of ſome ſoldiers of the garriſon. The liberality of Theodoret provided for her decent maintenance; and ſhe paſſed ten months among the deaconeſſes of the church; till ſhe was unexpectedly informed, that her father, who had eſcaped from the ruin of [Page 32] Carthage, exerciſed an honourable office in one of the Weſtern provinces. Her filial impatience was ſeconded by the pious biſhop: Theodoret, in a letter ſtill extant, recommends Maria to the biſhop of Aegae, a maritime city of Cilicia, which was frequented, during the annual fair, by the veſſels of the Weſt; moſt earneſtly requeſting, that his colleague would uſe the maiden with a tenderneſs ſuitable to her birth; and that he would entruſt her to the care of ſuch faithful merchants, as would eſteem it a ſufficient gain, if they reſtored a daughter, loſt beyond all human hope, to the arms of her afflicted parent.
Among the inſipid legends of eccleſiaſtical [Note: Fable of the ſeven ſleepers.] hiſtory, I am tempted to diſtinguiſh the memorable fable of the SEVEN SLEEPERS 43: whoſe imaginary date correſponds with the reign of the younger Theodoſius, and the conqueſt of Africa by the Vandals 44. When the emperor Decius perſecuted the Chriſtians, ſeven noble youths of [Page 33] Epheſus concealed themſelves in a ſpacious cavern in the ſide of an adjacent mountain; where they were doomed to periſh by the tyrant, who gave orders that the entrance ſhould be firmly ſecured with a pile of huge ſtones. They immediately fell into a deep ſlumber, which was miraculouſly prolonged, without injuring the powers of life, during a period of one hundred and eighty-ſeven years. At the end of that time, the ſlaves of Adolius, to whom the inheritance of the mountain had deſcended, removed the ſtones, to ſupply materials for ſome ruſtic edifice: the light of the ſun darted into the cavern; and the ſeven ſleepers were permitted to awake. After a ſlumber, as they thought, of a few hours, they were preſſed by the calls of hunger; and reſolved that Jamblichus, one of their number, ſhould ſecretly return to the city, to purchaſe bread for the uſe of his companions. The youth (if we may ſtill employ that appellation) could no longer recogniſe the once familiar aſpect of his native country; and his ſurpriſe was increaſed by the appearance of a large croſs, triumphantly erected over the principal gate of Epheſus. His ſingular dreſs, and obſolete language, confounded the baker, to whom he offered an ancient medal of Decius as the current coin of the empire; and Jamblichus, on the ſuſpicion of a ſecret treaſure, was dragged before the judge. Their mutual enquiries produced the amazing diſcovery, that two centuries were almoſt elapſed ſince Jamblichus, and his friends, had eſcaped from the rage of a Pagan tyrant. The biſhop of Epheſus, [Page 34] the clergy, the magiſtrates, the people, and as it is ſaid the emperor Theodoſius himſelf, haſtened to viſit the cavern of the Seven Sleepers; who beſtowed their benediction, related their ſtory, and at the ſame inſtant peaceably expired. The origin of this marvellous fable cannot be aſcribed to the pious fraud and credulity of the modern Greeks, ſince the authentic tradition may be traced within half a century of the ſuppoſed miracle. James of Sarug, a Syrian biſhop, who was born only two years after the death of the younger Theodoſius, has devoted one of his two hundred and thirty homilies to the praiſe of the young men of Epheſus 45. Their legend, before the end of the ſixth century, was tranſlated from the Syriac, into the Latin, language, by the care of Gregory of Tours. The hoſtile communions of the Eaſt preſerve their memory with equal reverence; and their names are honourably inſcribed in the Roman, the Habyſſinian, and the Ruſſian calendar 46. Nor has their reputation been confined to the Chriſtian world. This popular [Page 35] tale, which Mahomet might learn when he drove his camels to the fairs of Syria, is introduced, as a divine revelation, into the Koran 47. The ſtory of the Seven Sleepers has been adopted, and adorned by the nations, from Bengal to Africa, who profeſs the Mahometan religion 48; and ſome veſtiges of a ſimilar tradition have been diſcovered in the remote extremities of Scandinavia 49. This eaſy and univerſal belief, ſo expreſſive of the ſenſe of mankind, may be aſcribed to the genuine merit of the fable itſelf. We imperceptibly advance from youth to age, without obſerving the gradual, but inceſſant, change of human affairs; and even in our larger experience of hiſtory, the imagination is accuſtomed, by a perpetual ſeries of cauſes and effects, to unite the moſt diſtant revolutions. But if the interval between two memorable aeras could be inſtantly annihilated; if it were poſſible, after a momentary ſlumber of two hundred years, to diſplay the new world to the eyes of a ſpectator, [Page 36] who ſtill retained a lively and recent impreſſion of the old, his ſurpriſe and his reflections would furniſh the pleaſing ſubject of a philoſophical romance. The ſcene could not be more advantageouſly placed, than in the two centuries which elapſed between the reigns of Decius and of Theodoſius the Younger. During this period, the ſeat of government had been tranſported from Rome to a new city on the banks of the Thracian Boſphorus; and the abuſe of military ſpirit had been ſuppreſſed, by an artificial ſyſtem of tame and ceremonious ſervitude. The throne of the perſecuting Decius was filled by a ſucceſſion of Chriſtian and orthodox princes, who had extirpated the fabulous gods of antiquity: and the public devotion of the age was impatient to exalt the ſaints and martyrs of the Catholic church, on the altars of Diana and Hercules. The union of the Roman empire was diſſolved: its genius was humbled in the duſt; and armies of unknown Barbarians, iſſuing from the frozen regions of the North, had eſtabliſhed their victorious reign over the faireſt provinces of Europe and Africa.
2. CHAP. XXXIV. The Character, Conqueſts, and Court of Attila, King of the Huns.—Death of Theodoſius the Younger.—Elevation of Marcian to the Empire of the Eaſt.[Page 37]
THE weſtern world was oppreſſed by the Goths and Vandals, who fled before the Huns; but the atchievements of the Huns themſelves [Note: The Huns, A. D. 376—433.] were not adequate to their power and proſperity. Their victorious hords had ſpread from the Volga to the Danube; but the public force was exhauſted by the diſcord of independent chieftains; their valour was idly conſumed in obſcure and predatory excurſions; and they often degraded their national dignity by condeſcending, for the hopes of ſpoil, to enliſt under the banners of their fugitive enemies. In the reign of ATTILA [Note: The authentic materials for the hiſtory of Attila may be found in Jornandes (de Rebus Geticis, c. 34—50. p. 660—688. edit. Grot.) and Priſcus (Excerpta de Legationibus, p. 33—76. Paris, 1648.). I have not ſeen the lives of Attila, compoſed by Juvencus Caelius Calanus Dalmatinus, in the twelfth century, or by Nicholas Olahus, archbiſhop of Gran, in the ſixteenth. See Maſcou's Hiſtory of the Germans, ix. 23. and Maffei Oſſervazioni Litteraric, tom. i. p. 88, 89. Whatever the modern Hungarians have added, muſt be ſabulous; and they do not ſeem to have excelled in the art of fiction. They ſuppoſe, that when Attila invaded Gaul and Italy, married innumerable wives, &c. he was one hundred and twenty years of age. Thwrocz Chron. p. i. c. 22. in Script. Hungar. tom. i. p. 76.], the Huns again became the terror of [Page 38] the world; and I ſhall now deſcribe the character and actions of that formidable Barbarian; who alternately inſulted and invaded the Eaſt and the Weſt, and urged the rapid downfal of the Roman empire.
In the tide of emigration, which impetuouſly [Note: Their eſtabliſhment in modern Hungary.] rolled from the confines of China to thoſe of Germany, the moſt powerful and populous tribes may commonly be found on the verge of the Roman provinces. The accumulated weight was ſuſtained for a while by artificial barriers; and the eaſy condeſcenſion of the emperors invited, without ſatisfying, the inſolent demands of the Barbarians, who had acquired an eager appetite for the luxuries of civilized life. The Hungarians, who ambitiouſly inſert the name of Attila among their native kings, may affirm with truth, that the hords, which were ſubject to his uncle Roas, or Rugilas, had formed their encampments within the limits of modern Hungary [Note: Hungary has been ſucceſſively occupied by three Scythian colonies. 1. The Huns of Attila; 2. the Abares, in the ſixth century; and, 3. the Turks, or Magiars, A. D. 889.; the immediate and genuine anceſtors of the modern Hungarians, whoſe connection with the two former is extremely faint and remote. The Prodromus and Notitia of Matthew Belius, appear to contain a rich fund of information concerning ancient and modern Hungary. I have ſeen the extracts in Bibliotheque Ancienne et Moderne, tom. xxii. p. 1—51. and Bibliotheque Raiſonnée, tom. xvi. p. 127—175.], in a fertile country, which liberally ſupplied the wants of a nation of hunters and ſhepherds. In this advantageous ſituation, Rugilas, and his valiant brothers, who continually added to their power and reputation, commanded the alternative of [Page 39] peace or war with the two empires. His alliance with the Romans of the Weſt was cemented by his perſonal friendſhip for the great Aetius; who was always ſecure of finding, in the Barbarian camp, a hoſpitable reception, and a powerful ſupport. At his ſolicitation, and in the name of John the uſurper, ſixty thouſand Huns advanced to the confines of Italy; their march and their retreat were alike expenſive to the ſtate; and the grateful policy of Aetius abandoned the poſſeſſion of Pannonia to his faithful confederates. The Romans of the Eaſt were not leſs apprehenſive of the arms of Rugilas, which threatened the provinces, or even the capital. Some eccleſiaſtical hiſtorians have deſtroyed the Barbarians with lightning and peſtilence [Note: Socrates, l. vii. c. 43. Theodoret, l. v. c. 36. Tillemont, who always depends on the faith of his eccleſiaſtical authors, ſtrenuouſly contends (Hiſt. des Emp. tom. vi. p. 136. 607.), that the wars and perſonages were not the ſame.]; but Theodoſius was reduced to the more humble expedient of ſtipulating an annual payment of three hundred and fifty pounds of gold, and of diſguiſing this diſhonourable tribute by the title of general, which the king of the Huns condeſcended to accept. The public tranquillity was frequently interrupted by the fierce impatience of the Barbarians, and the perfidious intrigues of the Byzantine court. Four dependent nations, among whom we may diſtinguiſh the Bavarians, diſclaimed the ſovereignty of the Huns; and their revolt was encouraged and protected by a Roman alliance; till the juſt claims, and formidable [Page 40] power, of Rugilas, were effectually urged by the voice of Eſlaw his ambaſſador. Peace was the unanimous wiſh of the ſenate: their decree was ratified by the emperor; and two ambaſſadors were named, Plinthas, a general of Scythian extraction, but of conſular rank; and the quaeſtor Epigenes, a wiſe and experienced ſtateſman, who was recommended to that office by his ambitious colleague.
The death of Rugilas ſuſpended the progreſs [Note: Reign of Attila, A. D. 433—453.] of the treaty. His two nephews, Attila and Bleda, who ſucceeded to the throne of their uncle, conſented to a perſonal interview with the ambaſſadors of Conſtantinople; but as they proudly refuſed to diſmount, the buſineſs was tranſacted on horſeback, in a ſpacious plain near the city of Margus, in the Upper Maeſia. The kings of the Huns aſſumed the ſolid benefits, as well as the vain honours, of the negociation. They dictated the conditions of peace, and each condition was an inſult on the majeſty of the empire. Beſides the freedom of a ſafe and plentiful market on the banks of the Danube, they required that the annual contribution ſhould be augmented from three hundred and fifty, to ſeven hundred, pounds of gold; that a fine, or ranſom, of eight pieces of gold, ſhould be paid for every Roman captive, who had eſcaped from his Barbarian maſter; that the emperor ſhould renounce all treaties and engagements with the enemies of the Huns; and that all the fugitives, who had taken refuge in the court, or provinces, of Theodofius, [Page 41] ſhould be delivered to the juſtice of their offended ſovereign. This juſtice was rigorouſly inflicted on ſome unfortunate youths of a royal race. They were crucified on the territories of the empire, by the command of Attila: and, as ſoon as the king of the Huns had impreſſed the Romans with the terror of his name, he indulged them in a ſhort and arbitrary reſpite, whilſt he ſubdued the rebellious or independent nations of Scythia and Germany 4.
Attila, the ſon of Mundzuk, deduced his noble, [Note: His figure and character;] perhaps his regal, deſcent 5 from the ancient Huns, who had formerly contended with the monarchs of China. His features, according to the obſervation of a Gothic hiſtorian, bore the ſtamp of his national origin; and the portrait of Attila exhibits the genuine deformity of a modern Calmuck 6; a large head, a ſwarthy complexion, ſmall deep-ſeated eyes, a flat noſe, a few hairs in the place of a beard, broad ſhoulders, and a ſhort ſquare body, of nervous ſtrength, though of a diſproportioned form. The haughty ſtep and demeanor of the king of the Huns expreſſed the conſciouſneſs of his ſuperiority above the reſt of mankind; and he had a cuſtom of [Page 42] fiercely rolling his eyes, as if he wiſhed to enjoy the terror which he inſpired. Yet this ſavage hero was not inacceſſible to pity: his ſuppliant enemies might confide in the aſſurance of peace or pardon; and Attila was conſidered by his ſubjects as a juſt and indulgent maſter. He delighted in war; but, after he had aſcended the throne in a mature age, his head, rather than his hand, atchieved the conqueſt of the North; and the fame of an adventurous ſoldier was uſefully exchanged for that of a prudent and ſucceſsful general. The effects of perſonal valour are ſo incoſiderable, except in poetry or romance, that victory, even among Barbarians, muſt depend on the degree of ſkill, with which the paſſions of the multitude are combined and guided for the ſervice of a ſingle man. The Scythian conquerors, Attila and Zingis, ſurpaſſed their rude countrymen in art, rather than in courage; and it may be obſerved, that the monarchies, both of the Huns, and of the Moguls, were erected by their founders on the baſis of popular ſuperſtition. The miraculous conception, which fraud and credulity aſcribed to the virgin-mother of Zingis, raiſed him above the level of human nature; and the naked prophet, who, in the name of the Deity, inveſted him with the empire of the earth, pointed the valour of the Moguls with irreſiſtible enthuſiaſm 7. The religious arts of [Page 43] Attila were not leſs ſkilfully adapted to the character of his age and country. It was natural enough, that the Scythians ſhould adore, with peculiar devotion, the god of war; but as they were incapable of forming either an abſtract idea, or a corporeal repreſentation, they worſhipped their tutelar deity under the ſymbol of an iron cimeter 8. One of the ſhepherds of the Huns [Note: he diſcovers the ſword of Mars,] perceived, that a heifer, who was grazing, had wounded herſelf in the foot, and curiouſly followed the track of the blood, till he diſcovered, among the long graſs, the point of an ancient ſword; which he dug out of the ground, and preſented to Attila. That magnanimous, or rather that artful, prince accepted, with pious gratitude, this celeſtial favour; and, as the rightful poſſeſſor of the ſword of Mars, aſſerted his divine and indefeaſible claim to the dominion of the earth 9. If the rites of Scythia were practiſed on this ſolemn occaſion, a lofty altar, or rather pile of faggots, three hundred yards in length and in [Page 44] breadth, was raiſed in a ſpacious plain; and the ſword of Mars was placed erect on the ſummit of this ruſtic altar, which was annually conſecrated by the blood of ſheep, horſes, and of the hundredth captive 10. Whether human ſacrifices formed any part of the worſhip of Attila, or whether he propitiated the god of war with the victims which he continually offered in the field of battle, the favourite of Mars ſoon acquired a ſacred character, which rendered his conqueſts more eaſy, and more permanent; and the Barbarian princes confeſſed, in the language of devotion or flattery, that they could not preſume to gaze, with a ſteady eye, on the divine majeſty of the king of the Huns 11. His brother Bleda, who reigned over a conſiderable part of the nation, was compelled to reſign his ſceptre, and his life. Yet even this cruel act was attributed to a ſupernatural impulſe; and the vigour with which Attila wielded the ſword of Mars, convinced the world, that it had been reſerved alone for his invincible arm 12. But the extent of his empire affords the only remaining evidence of the number, [Page 45] and importance, of his victories; and the Scythian monarch, however ignorant of the value of ſcience and philoſophy, might, perhaps, lament, that his illiterate ſubjects were deſtitute of the art which could perpetuate the memory of his exploits.
If a line of ſeparation were drawn between the [Note: and acquires the empire of Scythia and Germany.] civilized and the ſavage climates of the globe; between the inhabitants of cities, who cultivated the earth, and the hunters and ſhepherds, who dwelt in tents, Attila might aſpire to the title of ſupreme and ſole monarch of the Barbarians 13. He alone, among the conquerors of ancient and modern times, united the two mighty kingdoms of Germany and Scythia; and thoſe vague appellations, when they are applied to his reign, may be underſtood with an ample latitude. Thuringia, which ſtretched beyond its actual limits as far as the Danube, was in the number of his provinces: he interpoſed, with the weight of a powerful neighbour, in the domeſtic affairs of the Franks; and one of his lieutenants chaſtiſed, and almoſt exterminated, the Burgundians of the Rhine. He ſubdued the iſlands of the ocean, the kingdoms of Scandinavia, encompaſſed and divided by the waters of the Baltic; and the Huns might derive a tribute of furs from that northern region, which has been protected from all other [Page 46] conquerors by the ſeverity of the climate, and the courage of the natives. Towards the Eaſt, it is difficult to circumſcribe the dominion of Attila over the Scythian deſerts; yet we may be aſſured, that he reigned on the banks of the Volga; that the king of the Huns was dreaded, not only as a warrior, but as a magician 14; that he inſulted and vanquiſhed the Khan of the formidable Geougen; and that he ſent ambaſſadors to negociate an equal alliance with the empire of China. In the proud review of the nations who acknowledged the ſovereignty of Attila, and who never entertained, during his lifetime, the thought of a revolt, the Gepidae and the Oſtrogoths were diſtinguiſhed by their numbers, their bravery, and the perſonal merit of their chiefs. The renowned Ardaric, king of the Gepidae, was the faithful and ſagacious counſellor of the monarch; who eſteemed his intrepid genius, whilſt he loved the mild and diſcreet virtues of the noble Walamir, king of the Oſtrogoths. The crowd of vulgar kings, the leaders of ſo many martial tribes, who ſerved under the ſtandard of Attila, were ranged in the ſubmiſſive order of guards and domeſtics, round the perſon of their maſter. They watched his nod; they trembled at his frown; and, at the firſt ſignal of his will, [Page 47] they executed, without murmur or heſitation, his ſtern and abſolute commands. In time of peace, the dependent princes, with their national troops, attended the royal camp in regular ſucceſſion; but when Attila collected his military force, he was able to bring into the field an army of five, or, according to another account, of ſeven hundred thouſand Barbarians 15.
The ambaſſadors of the Huns might awaken [Note: The Huns invade Perſia, A. D. 430—440.] the attention of Theodoſius, by reminding him, that they were his neighbours both in Europe and Aſia; ſince they touched the Danube on one hand, and reached, with the other, as far as the Tanais. In the reign of his father Arcadius, a band of adventurous Huns had ravaged the provinces of the Eaſt; from whence they brought away rich ſpoils and innumerable captives 16. [Page 48] They advanced, by a ſecret path, along the ſhores of the Caſpian ſea; traverſed the ſnowy mountains of Armenia; paſſed the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Halys; recruited their weary cavalry with the generous breed of Cappadocian horſes; occupied the hilly country of Cilicia, and diſturbed the feſtal ſongs, and dances, of the citizens of Antioch. Egypt trembled at their approach; and the monks and pilgrims of the Holy Land prepared to eſcape their fury by a ſpeedy embarkation. The memory of this invaſion was ſtill recent in the minds of the Orientals. The ſubjects of Attila might execute, with ſuperior forces, the deſign which theſe adventurers had ſo boldly attempted; and it ſoon became the ſubject of anxious conjecture, whether the tempeſt would fall on the dominions of Rome, or of Perſia. Some of the great vaſſals of the king of the Huns, who were themſelves in the rank of powerful princes, had been ſent to ratify an alliance and ſociety of arms with the emperor, or rather with the general, of the Weſt. They related, during their reſidence at Rome, the circumſtances of an expedition, which they had lately made into the Eaſt. After paſſing a deſert and a moraſs, ſuppoſed by the Romans to be the lake Moeotis, they penetrated through the mountains, and arrived, at the end of fifteen days march, on the confines of Media; where they advanced as far as the unknown cities of Baſic and Curſic. They encountered the Perſian army in the plains of Media; and the air, according to their own expreſſion, [Page 49] was darkened by a cloud of arrows. But the Huns were obliged to retire, before the numbers of the enemy. Their laborious retreat was effected by a different road; they loſt the greateſt part of their booty; and at length returned to the royal camp, with ſome knowledge of the country, and an impatient deſire of revenge. In the free converſation of the Imperial ambaſſadors, who diſcuſſed, at the court of Attila, the character and deſigns of their formidable enemy, the miniſters of Conſtantinople expreſſed their hope, that his ſtrength might be diverted and employed in a long and doubtful conteſt with the princes of the houſe of Saſſan. The more ſagacious Italians admoniſhed their Eaſtern brethren of the folly and danger of ſuch a hope; and convinced them, that the Medes and Perſians were incapable of reſiſting the arms of the Huns; and, that the eaſy and important acquiſition would exalt the pride, as well as power, of the conqueror. Inſtead of contenting himſelf with a moderate contribution, and a military title, which equalled him only to the generals of Theodoſius, Attila would proceed to impoſe a diſgraceful and intolerable yoke on the necks of the proſtrate and captive Romans, who would then be encompaſſed, on all ſides, by the empire of the Huns 17.
While the powers of Europe and Aſia were [Note: They attack the Eaſtern empire, A. D. 441, &c.] ſolicitous to avert the impending danger, the alliance of Attila maintained the Vandals in the [Page 50] poſſeſſion of Africa. An enterpriſe had been concerted between the courts of Ravenna and Conſtantinople, for the recovery of that valuable province; and the ports of Sicily were already filled with the military and naval forces of Theodoſius. But the ſubtle Genſeric, who ſpread his negociations round the world, prevented their deſigns, by exciting the king of the Huns to invade the Eaſtern empire; and a trifling incident ſoon became the motive, or pretence, of a deſtructive war 18. Under the faith of the treaty of Margus, a free market was held on the northern ſide of the Danube, which was protected by a Roman fortreſs, ſurnamed Conſtantia. A troop of Barbarians violated the commercial ſecurity: killed, or diſperſed, the unſuſpecting traders; and levelled the fortreſs with the ground. The Huns juſtified this outrage as an act of repriſal; alleged, that the biſhop of Margus had entered their territories, to diſcover and ſteal a ſecret treaſure of their kings; and ſternly demanded the guilty prelate, the ſacrilegious ſpoil, and the fugitive ſubjects, who had eſcaped from the juſtice of Attila. The refuſal of the Byzantine [Page 51] court was the ſignal of war; and the Maeſians at firſt applauded the generous firmneſs of their ſovereign. But they were ſoon intimidated by the deſtruction of Viminiacum and the adjacent towns; and the people was perſuaded to adopt the convenient maxim, that a private citizen, however innocent or reſpectable, may be juſtly ſacrificed to the ſafety of his country. The biſhop of Margus, who did not poſſeſs the ſpirit of a martyr, reſolved to prevent the deſigns which he ſuſpected. He boldly treated with the princes of the Huns; ſecured, by ſolemn oaths, his pardon and reward; poſted a numerous detachment of Barbarians, in ſilent ambuſh, on the banks of the Danube; and, at the appointed hour, opened, with his own hand, the gates of his epiſcopal city. This advantage, which had been obtained by treachery, ſerved as a prelude to more honourable and deciſive victories. The Illyrian frontier was covered by a line of caſtles and fortreſſes; and though the greateſt part of them conſiſted only of a ſingle tower, with a ſmall garriſon, they were commonly ſufficient to repel, or to intercept, the inroads of an enemy, who was ignorant of the art, and impatient of the delay, of a regular ſiege. But theſe ſlight obſtacles were inſtantly ſwept away by the inundation of the Huns 19. They deſtroyed, with fire and ſword, the populous cities of Sirmium and Singidunum, [Page 52] of Ratiaria and Marcianapolis, of Naiſſus and Sardica; where every circumſtance, in the diſcipline of the people, and the conſtruction of the buildings, had been gradually adapted to the ſole purpoſe of defence. The whole breadth [Note: and ravage Europe as far as Conſtantinople.] of Europe, as it extends above five hundred miles from the Euxine to the Hadriatic, was at once invaded, and occupied, and deſolated, by the myriads of Barbarians whom Attila led into the field. The public danger and diſtreſs could not, however, provoke Theodoſius to interrupt his amuſements and devotion, or to appear in perſon at the head of the Roman legions. But the troops, which had been ſent againſt Genſeric, were haſtily recalled from Sicily; the garriſons, on the ſide of Perſia, were exhauſted; and a military force was collected in Europe, formidable by their arms and numbers, if the generals had underſtood the ſcience of command, and their ſoldiers the duty of obedience. The armies of the Eaſtern empire were vanquiſhed in three ſucceſſive engagements; and the progreſs of Attila may be traced by the fields of battle. The two former, on the banks of the Utus, and under the walls of Marcianapolis, were fought in the extenſive plains between the Danube and Mount Haemus. As the Romans were preſſed by a victorious enemy, they gradually, and unſkilfully, retired towards the Cherſoneſus of Thrace; and that narrow peninſula, the laſt extremity of the land, was marked by their third, and irreparable, defeat. By the deſtruction of [Page 53] this army, Attila acquired the indiſputable poſſeſſion of the field. From the Helleſpont to Thermopylae, and the ſuburbs of Conſtantinople, he ravaged, without reſiſtance, and without mercy, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia. Heraclea and Hadrianople might, perhaps, eſcape this dreadful irruption of the Huns; but the words, the moſt expreſſive of total extirpation and eraſure, are applied to the calamities which they inflicted on ſeventy cities of the Eaſtern empire 20. Theodoſius, his court, and the unwarlike people, were protected by the walls of Conſtantinople; but thoſe walls had been ſhaken by a recent earthquake, and the fall of fifty-eight towers had opened a large and tremendous breach. The damage indeed was ſpeedily repaired; but this accident was aggravated by a ſuperſtitious fear, that Heaven itſelf had delivered the Imperial city to the ſhepherds of Scythia, who were ſtrangers to the laws, the language, and the religion, of the Romans 21.
In all their invaſions of the civilized empires [Note: The Scythian, or Tartar, wars.] of the South, the Scythian ſhepherds have been uniformly actuated by a ſavage and deſtructive ſpirit. The laws of war, that reſtrain the exerciſe [Page 54] of national rapine and murder, are founded on two principles of ſubſtantial intereſt: the knowledge of the permanent benefits which may be obtained by a moderate uſe of conqueſt; and a juſt apprehenſion, leſt the deſolation which we inflict on the enemy's country, may be retaliated on our own. But theſe conſiderations of hope and fear are almoſt unknown in the paſtoral ſtate of nations. The Huns of Attila may, without injuſtice, be compared to the Moguls and Tartars, before their primitive manners were changed by religion and luxury; and the evidence of Oriental hiſtory may reflect ſome light on the ſhort and imperfect annals of Rome. After the Moguls had ſubdued the northern provinces of China, it was ſeriouſly propoſed, not in the hour of victory and paſſion, but in calm deliberate council, to exterminate all the inhabitants of that populous country, that the vacant land might be converted to the paſture of cattle. The firmneſs of a Chineſe mandarin 22, who inſinuated ſome principles of rational policy into the mind of Zingis, diverted him from the execution of this horrid deſign. But in the cities of Aſia, which yielded to the Moguls, the inhuman abuſe of the rights of war was exerciſed, with a regular [Page 55] form of diſcipline, which may, with equal reaſon, though not with equal authority, be imputed to the victorious Huns. The inhabitants, who had ſubmitted to their diſcretion, were ordered to evacuate their houſes, and to aſſemble in ſome plain adjacent to the city; where a diviſion was made of the vanquiſhed into three parts. The firſt claſs conſiſted of the ſoldiers of the garriſon, and of the young men capable of bearing arms; and their fate was inſtantly decided: they were either inliſted among the Moguls, or they were maſſacred on the ſpot by the troops, who, with pointed ſpears and bended bows, had formed a circle round the captive multitude. The ſecond claſs, compoſed of the young and beautiful women, of the artificers of every rank and profeſſion, and of the more wealthy or honourable citizens, from whom a private ranſom might be expected, was diſtributed in equal or proportionable lots. The remainder, whoſe life or death was alike uſeleſs to the conquerors, were permitted to return to the city; which, in the mean while, had been ſtripped of its valuable furniture; and a tax was impoſed on thoſe wretched inhabitants for the indulgence of breathing their native air. Such was the behaviour of the Moguls, when they were not conſcious of any extraordinary rigour 23. But the moſt caſual provocation, the ſlighteſt motive, of caprice or convenience, often provoked them to involve a whole people in [Page 56] an indiſcriminate maſſacre: and the ruin of ſome flouriſhing cities was executed with ſuch unrelenting perſeverance, that, according to their own expreſſion, horſes might run, without ſtumbling, over the ground where they had once ſtood. The three great capitals of Khoraſan, Maru, Neiſabour, and Herat, were deſtroyed by the armies of Zingis; and the exact account, which was taken of the ſlain, amounted to four millions three hundred and forty-ſeven thouſand perſons 24. Timur, or Tamerlane, was educated in a leſs barbarous age; and in the profeſſion of the Mahometan religion: yet, if Attila equalled the hoſtile ravages of Tamerlane 25, either the Tartar or the Hun might deſerve the epithet of the SCOURGE OF GOD 26.
[Page 57] It may be affirmed, with bolder aſſurance, that the Huns depopulated the provinces of the empire, by the number of Roman ſubjects whom [Note: State of the captives.] they led away into captivity. In the hands of a wiſe legiſlator, ſuch an induſtrious colony might have contributed to diffuſe, through the deſerts of Scythia, the rudiments of the uſeful and ornamental arts; but theſe captives, who had been taken in war, were accidentally diſperſed among the hords, that obeyed the empire, of Attila. The eſtimate of their reſpective value was formed by the ſimple judgment of unenlightened, and unprejudiced, Barbarians. Perhaps they might not underſtand the merit of a theologian, profoundly ſkilled in the controverſies of the Trinity and the Incarnation: yet they reſpected the miniſters of every religion; and the active zeal of the Chriſtian miſſionaries, without approaching the perſon, or the palace, of the monarch, ſucceſsfully laboured in the propagation of the goſpel 27. The paſtoral tribes, who were ignorant of the diſtinction of landed property, muſt have diſregarded the uſe, as well as the abuſe, of civil juriſprudence; and the ſkill of an eloquent lawyer could excite only their contempt, or their abhorrence 28. The perpetual [Page 58] intercourſe of the Huns and the Goths had communicated the familiar knowledge of the two national dialects; and the Barbarians were ambitious of converſing in Latin, the military idiom, even of the Eaſtern empire 29. But they diſdained the language, and the ſciences, of the Greeks; and the vain ſophiſt, or grave philoſopher, who had enjoyed the flattering applauſe of the ſchools, was mortified to find, that his robuſt ſervant was a captive of more value and importance than himſelf. The mechanic arts were encouraged and eſteemed, as they tended to ſatisfy the wants of the Huns. An architect, in the ſervice of Onegeſius, one of the favourites of Attila, was employed to conſtruct a bath; but this work was a rare example of private luxury; and the trades of the ſmith, the carpenter, the armourer, were much more adapted to ſupply a wandering people with the uſeful inſtruments of peace and war. But the merit of the phyſician was received with univerſal favour and reſpect; the Barbarians, who deſpiſed death, might be apprehenſive of diſeaſe; and the haughty conqueror trembled in the preſence of a captive, to whom he aſcribed, perhaps, an imaginary power, of prolonging, or [Page 59] preſerving, his life 30. The Huns might be provoked to inſult the miſery of their ſlaves, over whom they exerciſed a deſpotic command 31; but their manners were not ſuſceptible of a refined ſyſtem of oppreſſion; and the efforts of courage and diligence were often recompenſed by the gift of freedom. The hiſtorian Priſcus, whoſe embaſſy is a ſource of curious inſtruction, was accoſted, in the camp of Attila, by a ſtranger, who ſaluted him in the Greek language, but whoſe dreſs and figure diſplayed the appearance of a wealthy Scythian. In the ſiege of Viminiacum, he had loſt, according to his own account, his fortune and liberty: he became the ſlave of Onegeſius; but his faithful ſervices, againſt the Romans and the Acatzires, had gradually raiſed him to the rank of the native Huns; to whom he was attached by the domeſtic pledges of a new wife and ſeveral children. The ſpoils of war had reſtored and improved his private property; he was admitted to the table of his former lord; and the apoſtate Greek bleſſed the hour of his captivity, ſince it had been the introduction to [Page 60] an happy and independent ſtate; which he held by the honourable tenure of military ſervice. This reflection naturally produced a diſpute on the advantages, and defects, of the Roman government, which was ſeverely arraigned by the apoſtate, and defended by Priſcus in a prolix and feeble declamation. The freedman of Onegeſius expoſed, in true and lively colours, the vices of a declining empire, of which he had ſo long been the victim; the cruel abſurdity of the Roman princes, unable to protect their ſubjects againſt the public enemy, unwilling to truſt them with arms for their own defence; the intolerable weight of taxes, rendered ſtill more oppreſſive by the intricate or arbitrary modes of collection; the obſcurity of numerous and contradictory laws; the tedious and expenſive forms of judicial proceedings; the partial adminiſtration of juſtice; and the univerſal corruption, which increaſed the influence of the rich, and aggravated the misfortunes of the poor. A ſentiment of patriotic ſympathy was at length revived in the breaſt of the fortunate exile; and he lamented, with a flood of tears, the guilt or weakneſs of thoſe magiſtrates, who had perverted the wiſeſt and moſt ſalutary inſtitutions 32.
The timid, or ſelfiſh, policy of the weſtern [Note: Treaty of peace between Attila and the Eaſtern empire, A. D. 446.] Romans had abandoned the Eaſtern empire to the Huns 33. The loſs of armies, and the want of [Page 61] diſcipline, or virtue, were not ſupplied by the perſonal character of the monarch. Theodoſius might ſtill affect the ſtyle, as well as the title, of Invincible Auguſtus; but he was reduced to ſolicit the clemency of Attila, who imperiouſly dictated theſe harſh and humiliating conditions of peace. I. The emperor of the Eaſt reſigned, by an expreſs or tacit convention, an extenſive and important territory, which ſtretched along the ſouthern banks of the Danube, from Singidunum or Belgrade, as far as Novae, in the dioceſe of Thrace. The breadth was defined by the vague computation of fifteen days journey; but, from the propoſal of Attila, to remove the ſituation of the national market, it ſoon appeared, that he comprehended the ruined city of Naiſſus within the limits of his dominions. II. The king of the Huns required, and obtained, that his tribute or ſubſidy ſhould be augmented from ſeven hundred pounds of gold to the annual ſum of two thouſand one hundred; and he ſtipulated the immediate payment of ſix thouſand pounds of gold to defray the expences, or to expiate the guilt, of the war. One might imagine, that ſuch a demand, which ſcarcely equalled the meaſure of private wealth, would have been readily diſcharged by the opulent empire of the Eaſt; and the public diſtreſs affords a remarkable proof of the impoveriſhed, or at leaſt of the diſorderly, ſtate of the finances. A large proportion of the taxes, extorted from the people, was detained and intercepted in their paſſage, through the fouleſt [Page 62] channels, to the treaſury of Conſtantinople. The revenue was diſſipated by Theodoſius, and his favourites, in waſteful and profuſe luxury; which was diſguiſed by the names of Imperial magnificence, or Chriſtian charity. The immediate ſupplies had been exhauſted by the unforeſeen neceſſity of military preparations. A perſonal contribution, rigorouſly, but capriciouſly, impoſed on the members of the ſenatorian order, was the only expedient that could diſarm, without loſs of time, the impatient avarice of Attila: and the poverty of the nobles compelled them to adopt the ſcandalous reſource of expoſing to public auction the jewels of their wives, and the hereditary ornaments of their palaces 34. III. The king of the Huns appears to have eſtabliſhed, as a principle of national juriſprudence, that he could never loſe the property, which he had once acquired, in the perſons, who had yielded either a voluntary, or reluctant, ſubmiſſion to his authority. From this principle he concluded, and the concluſions of Attila were irrevocable laws, that the Huns, who had been taken priſoners in war, ſhould be releaſed without delay, and without ranſom; that every Roman captive, who had preſumed to eſcape, ſhould purchaſe his right to freedom at the price of twelve pieces of gold; and that all the Barbarians, [Page 63] who had deſerted the ſtandard of Attila, ſhould be reſtored, without any promiſe, or ſtipulation, of pardon. In the execution of this cruel and ignominious treaty, the Imperial officers were forced to maſſacre ſeveral loyal and noble deſerters, who refuſed to devote themſelves to certain death; and the Romans forfeited all reaſonable claims to the friendſhip of any Scythian people, by this public confeſſion, that they were deſtitute either of faith, or power, to protect the ſuppliants, who had embraced the throne of Theodoſius 35.
The firmneſs of a ſingle town, ſo obſcure, [Note: Spirit of the Azimuntines.] that, except on this occaſion, it has never been mentioned by any hiſtorian or geographer, expoſed the diſgrace of the emperor and empire. Azimus, or Azimuntium, a ſmall city of Thrace on the Illyrian borders 36, had been diſtinguiſhed by the martial ſpirit of its youth, the ſkill and reputation of the leaders whom they had choſen, and their daring exploits againſt the innumerable hoſt of the Barbarians. Inſtead of tamely expecting [Page 64] their approach, the Azimuntines attacked, in frequent and ſucceſsful ſallies, the troops of the Huns, who gradually declined the dangerous neighbourhood; reſcued from their hands the ſpoil and the captives, and recruited their domeſtic force by the voluntary aſſociation of fugitives and deſerters. After the concluſion of the treaty, Attila ſtill menaced the empire with implacable war, unleſs the Azimuntines were perſuaded, or compelled, to comply with the conditions which their ſovereign had accepted. The miniſters of Theodoſius confeſſed with ſhame, and with truth, that they no longer poſſeſſed any authority over a ſociety of men, who ſo bravely aſſerted their natural independence; and the king of the Huns condeſcended to negociate an equal exchange with the citizens of Azimus. They demanded the reſtitution of ſome ſhepherds, who, with their cattle, had been accidentally ſurpriſed. A ſtrict, though fruitleſs inquiry, was allowed: but the Huns were obliged to ſwear, that they did not detain any priſoners belonging to the city, before they could recover two ſurviving countrymen, whom the Azimuntines had reſerved as pledges for the ſafety of their loſt companions. Attila, on his ſide, was ſatisfied, and deceived, by their ſolemn aſſeveration, that the reſt of the captives had been put to the ſword; and that it was their conſtant practice, immediately to diſmiſs the Romans and the deſerters, who had obtained the ſecurity of the public faith. This prudent and officious diſſimulation may be condemned, or excuſed, by the caſuiſts, as they incline to the [Page 65] rigid decree of St. Auguſtin, or to the milder ſentiment of St. Jerom and St. Chryſoſtom: but every ſoldier, every ſtateſman, muſt acknowledge, that, if the race of the Azimuntines had been encouraged and multiplied, the Barbarians would have ceaſed to trample on the majeſty of the empire 37.
It would have been ſtrange, indeed, if Theodoſius [Note: Embaſſies from Attila to Conſtantinople.] had purchaſed, by the loſs of honour, a ſecure and ſolid tranquillity; or if his tameneſs had not invited the repetition of injuries. The Byzantine court was inſulted by five or ſix ſucceſſive embaſſies 38; and the miniſters of Attila were uniformly inſtructed to preſs the tardy or imperfect execution of the laſt treaty; to produce the names of fugitives and deſerters, who were ſtill protected by the empire; and to declare, with ſeeming moderation, that unleſs their ſovereign obtained complete and immediate ſatisfaction, it would be impoſſible for him, were it even his wiſh, to check the reſentment of his warlike tribes. Beſides the motives of pride and intereſt, which might prompt the king of the Huns to continue this train of negociation, he [Page 66] was influenced by the leſs honourable view of enriching his favourites at the expence of his enemies. The Imperial treaſury was exhauſted, to procure the friendly offices of the ambaſſadors, and their principal attendants, whoſe favourable report might conduce to the maintenance of peace. The Barbarian monarch was flattered by the liberal reception of his miniſters; he computed with pleaſure the value and ſplendour of their gifts, rigorouſly exacted the performance of every promiſe, which would contribute to their private emolument, and treated as an important buſineſs of ſtate, the marriage of his ſecretary Conſtantius 39. That Gallic adventurer, who was recommended by Aetius to the king of the Huns, had engaged his ſervice to the miniſters of Conſtantinople, for the ſtipulated reward of a wealthy and noble wife; and the daughter of count Saturninus was choſen to diſcharge the obligations of her country. The reluctance of the victim, ſome domeſtic troubles, and the unjuſt confiſcation of her fortune, cooled the ardour of her intereſted lover; but he ſtill demanded, in the name of Attila, an equivalent alliance; and, after many ambiguous delays and excuſes, the Byzantine court was compelled to ſacrifice to this inſolent ſtranger the widow of Armatius, whoſe birth, opulence, and beauty, placed her in the moſt [Page 67] illuſtrious rank of the Roman matrons. For theſe importunate and oppreſſive embaſſies, Attila claimed a ſuitable return: he weighed, with ſuſpicious pride, the character and ſtation of the Imperial envoys; but he condeſcended to promiſe, that he would advance as far as Sardica, to receive any miniſters who had been inveſted with the conſular dignity. The council of Theodoſius eluded this propoſal, by repreſenting the deſolate and ruined condition of Sardica; and even ventured to inſinuate, that every officer of the army or houſehold was qualified to treat with the moſt powerful princes of Scythia. Maximin 40, a reſpectable courtier, whoſe abilities had been long exerciſed in civil and military employments, accepted with reluctance the troubleſome, and, perhaps, dangerous commiſſion, of reconciling the angry ſpirit of the king of the Huns. His friend, the hiſtorian Priſcus 41, embraced the opportunity of obſerving the Barbarian hero in the peaceful and domeſtic ſcenes of life: but the ſecret of the [Page 68] embaſſy, a fatal and guilty ſecret, was entruſted only to the interpreter Vigilius. The two laſt ambaſſadors of the Huns, Oreſtes, a noble ſubject of the Pannonian province, and Edecon, a valiant chieftain of the tribe of the Scyrri, returned at the ſame time from Conſtantinople to the royal camp. Their obſcure names were afterwards illuſtrated by the extraordinary fortune and the contraſt of their ſons: the two ſervants of Attila became the fathers of the laſt Roman emperor of the Weſt, and of the firſt Barbarian king of Italy.
The ambaſſadors, who were followed by a numerous [Note: The embaſſy of Maximin to Attila, A. D. 448.] train of men and horſes, made their firſt halt at Sardica, at the diſtance of three hundred and fifty miles, or thirteen days journey, from Conſtantinople. As the remains of Sardica were ſtill included within the limits of the empire, it was incumbent on the Romans to exerciſe the duties of hoſpitality. They provided, with the aſſiſtance of the provincials, a ſufficient number of ſheep and oxen; and invited the Huns to a ſplendid, or at leaſt, a plentiful, ſupper. But the harmony of the entertainment was ſoon diſturbed by mutual prejudice and indiſcretion. The greatneſs of the emperor and the empire was warmly maintained by their miniſters; the Huns, with equal ardour, aſſerted the ſuperiority of their victorious monarch: the diſpute was inflamed by the raſh and unſeaſonable flattery of Vigilius, who paſſionately rejected the compariſon of a mere mortal with the divine Theodoſius; and it was with extreme difficulty that Maximin and Priſcus [Page 69] were able to divert the converſation, or to ſoothe the angry minds of the Barbarians. When they roſe from table, the Imperial ambaſſador preſented Edecon and Oreſtes with rich gifts of ſilk robes and Indian pearls, which they thankfully accepted. Yet Oreſtes could not forbear inſinuating, that he had not always been treated with ſuch reſpect and liberality: and the offenſive diſtinction, which was implied, between his civil office and the hereditary rank of his colleague, ſeems to have made Edecon a doubtful friend, and Oreſtes an irreconcileable enemy. After this entertainment, they travelled about one hundred miles from Sardica to Naiſſus. That flouriſhing city, which had given birth to the great Conſtantine, was levelled with the ground: the inhabitants were deſtroyed, or diſperſed; and the appearance of ſome ſick perſons, who were ſtill permitted to exiſt among the ruins of the churches, ſerved only to increaſe the horror of the proſpect. The ſurface of the country was covered with the bones of the ſlain; and the ambaſſadors, who directed their courſe to the north-weſt, were obliged to paſs the hills of modern Servia, before they deſcended into the flat and marſhy grounds, which are terminated by the Danube. The Huns were maſters of the great river: their navigation was performed in large canoes, hollowed out of the trunk of a ſingle tree; the miniſters of Theodoſius were ſafely landed on the oppoſite bank; and their Barbarian aſſociates immediately haſtened to the camp of Attila, which was equally prepared for the amuſements of [Page 70] hunting, or of war. No ſooner had Maximin advanced about two miles from the Danube, than he began to experience the faſtidious inſolence of the conqueror. He was ſternly forbid to pitch his tents in a pleaſant valley, leſt he ſhould infringe the diſtant awe that was due to the royal manſion. The miniſters of Attila preſſed him to communicate the buſineſs, and the inſtructions, which he reſerved for the ear of their ſovereign. When Maximin temperately urged the contrary practice of nations, he was ſtill more confounded to find, that the reſolutions of the Sacred Conſiſtory, thoſe ſecrets (ſays Priſcus) which ſhould not be revealed to the gods themſelves, had been treacherouſly diſcloſed to the public enemy. On his refuſal to comply with ſuch ignominious terms, the Imperial envoy was commanded inſtantly to depart: the order was recalled; it was again repeated; and the Huns renewed their ineffectual attempts to ſubdue the patient firmneſs of Maximin. At length, by the interceſſion of Scotta, the brother of Onegeſius, whoſe friendſhip had been purchaſed by a liberal gift, he was admitted to the royal preſence; but, inſtead of obtaining a deciſive anſwer, he was compelled to undertake a remote journey towards the North, that Attila might enjoy the proud ſatisfaction of receiving, in the ſame camp, the ambaſſadors of the Eaſtern and Weſtern empires. His journey was regulated by the guides, who obliged him to halt, to haſten his march, or to deviate from the common road, as it beſt ſuited [Page 71] the convenience of the King. The Romans who traverſed the plains of Hungary, ſuppoſe that they paſſed ſeveral navigable rivers, either in canoes or portable boats; but there is reaſon to ſuſpect, that the winding ſtream of the Teyſs, or Tibiſcus, might preſent itſelf in different places, under different names. From the contiguous villages they received a plentiful and regular ſupply of proviſions; mead inſtead of wine, millet in the place of bread, and a certain liquor named camus, which, according to the report of Priſcus, was diſtilled from barley 42. Such fare might appear coarſe and indelicate to men who had taſted the luxury of Conſtantinople: but, in their accidental diſtreſs, they were relieved by the gentleneſs and hoſpitality of the ſame Barbarians, ſo terrible and ſo mercileſs in war. The ambaſſadors had encamped on the edge of a large moraſs. A violent tempeſt of wind and rain, of thunder and lightning, overturned their tents, immerſed their baggage and furniture in the water, and ſcattered their retinue, who wandered in the darkneſs of the night, uncertain of their road, and apprehenſive of ſome unknown danger, till they awakened by their cries the inhabitants of a neighbouring village, the property of the [Page 72] widow of Bleda. A bright illumination, and, in a few moments, a comfortable fire of reeds, was kindled by their officious benevolence: the wants, and even the deſires, of the Romans were liberally ſatisfied; and they ſeem to have been embarraſſed by the ſingular politeneſs of Bleda's widow, who added to her other favours the gift, or at leaſt the loan, of a ſufficient number of beautiful and obſequious damſels. The ſunſhine of the ſucceeding day was dedicated to repoſe; to collect and dry the baggage, and to the refreſhment of the men and horſes: but, in the evening, before they purſued their journey, the ambaſſadors expreſſed their gratitude to the bounteous lady of the village, by a very acceptable preſent of ſilver cups, red fleeces, dried fruits, and Indian pepper. Soon after this adventure, they rejoined the march of Attila, from whom they had been ſeparated about ſix days; and ſlowly proceeded to the capital of an empire, which did not contain, in the ſpace of ſeveral thouſand miles, a ſingle city.
As far as we may aſcertain the vague and obſcure [Note: The royal village and palace.] geography of Priſcus, this capital appears to have been ſeated between the Danube, the Teyſs, and the Carpathian hills, in the plains of Upper Hungary, and moſt probably in the neighbourhood of Jazberin, Agria, or Tokay 43. In [Page 73] its origin it could be no more than an accidental camp, which, by the long and frequent reſidence of Attila, had inſenſibly ſwelled into a huge village, for the reception of his court, of the troops who followed his perſon, and of the various multitude of idle or induſtrious ſlaves and retainers 44. The baths, conſtructed by Onegeſius, were the only edifice of ſtone; the materials had been tranſported from Pannonia; and ſince the adjacent country was deſtitute even of large timber, it may be preſumed, that the meaner habitations of the royal village conſiſted of ſtraw, of mud, or of canvas. The wooden houſes of the more illuſtrious Huns, were built and adorned with rude magnificence, according to the rank, the fortune, or the taſte of the proprietors. They ſeem to have been diſtributed with ſome degree of order and ſymmetry; and each ſpot became more honourable, as it approached the perſon of the ſovereign. The palace of Attila, which ſurpaſſed all other houſes in his dominions, was built entirely of wood, and covered an ample ſpace of ground. The outward encloſure was a lofty wall, or palliſade, of ſmooth ſquare timber, interſected with high towers, but intended rather for ornament than defence. This wall, which ſeems to [Page 74] have encircled the declivity of a hill, comprehended a great variety of wooden edifices, adapted to the uſes of royalty. A ſeparate houſe was aſſigned to each of the numerous wives of Attila; and, inſtead of the rigid and illiberal confinement impoſed by Aſiatic jealouſy, they politely admitted the Roman ambaſſadors to their preſence, their table, and even to the freedom of an innocent embrace. When Maximin offered his preſents to Cerca, the principal queen, he admired the ſingular architecture of her manſion, the height of the round columns, the ſize and beauty of the wood, which was curiouſly ſhaped or turned, or poliſhed, or carved; and his attentive eye was able to diſcover ſome taſte in the ornaments, and ſome regularity in the proportions. After paſſing through the guards, who watched before the gate, the ambaſſadors were introduced into the private apartment of Cerca. The wife of Attila received their viſit ſitting, or rather lying, on a ſoft couch; the floor was covered with a carpet; the domeſtics formed a circle round the queen; and her damſels, ſeated on the ground, were employed in working the variegated embroidery which adorned the dreſs of the Barbaric warriors. The Huns were ambitious of diſplaying thoſe riches which were the fruit and evidence of their victories: the trappings of their horſes, their ſwords, and even their ſhoes, were ſtudded with gold and precious ſtones; and their tables were profuſely ſpread with plates, and goblets, and vaſes of gold and ſilver, which had [Page 75] been faſhioned by the labour of Grecian artiſts. The monarch alone aſſumed the ſuperior pride of ſtill adhering to the ſimplicity of his Scythian anceſtors 45. The dreſs of Attila, his arms, and the furniture of his horſe, were plain, without ornament, and of a ſingle colour. The royal table was ſerved in wooden cups and platters; fleſh was his only food; and the conqueror of the North never taſted the luxury of bread.
When Attila firſt gave audience to the Roman ambaſſadors on the banks of the Danube, his tent [Note: The behaviour of Attila to the Roman ambaſſadors.] was encompaſſed with a formidable guard. The monarch himſelf was ſeated in a wooden chair. His ſtern countenance, angry geſtures, and impatient tone, aſtoniſhed the firmneſs of Maximin; but Vigilius had more reaſon to tremble, ſince he diſtinctly underſtood the menace, that if Attila did not reſpect the law of nations, he would nail the deceitful interpreter to a croſs, and leave his body to the vultures. The Barbarian condeſcended, by producing an accurate liſt, to expoſe the bold falſehood of Vigilius, who had affirmed that no more than ſeventeen deſerters could be found. But he arrogantly declared, that he apprehended only the diſgrace of contending with his fugitive ſlaves; ſince he deſpiſed their impotent efforts to defend the provinces which Theodofius had entruſted to their arms: [Page 76] ‘"For what fortreſs" (added Attila), "what city, in the wide extent of the Roman empire, can hope to exiſt, ſecure and impregnable, if it is our pleaſure that it ſhould be erazed from the earth?"’ He diſmiſſed, however, the interpreter, who returned to Conſtantinople with his peremptory demand of more complete reſtitution, and a more ſplendid embaſſy. His anger gradually ſubſided, and his domeſtic ſatisfaction, in a marriage which he celebrated on the road with the daughter of Eſlam, might perhaps contribute to mollify the native fierceneſs of his temper. The entrance of Attila into the royal village, was marked by a very ſingular ceremony. A numerous troop of women came out to meet their hero, and their king. They marched before him, diſtributed into long and regular files: the intervals between the files were filled by white veils of thin linen, which the women on either ſide bore aloft in their hands, and which formed a canopy for a chorus of young virgins, who chanted hymns and ſongs in the Scythian language. The wife of his favourite Onegeſius, with a train of female attendants, ſaluted Attila at the door of her own houſe, on his way to the palace; and offered, according to the cuſtom of the country, her reſpectful homage, by intreating him to taſte the wine and meat, which ſhe had prepared for his reception. As ſoon as the monarch had graciouſly accepted her hoſpitable gift, his domeſtics lifted a ſmall ſilver table to a convenient height, as he ſat on horſeback; and Attila, [Page 77] when he had touched the goblet with his lips, again ſaluted the wife of Onegeſius, and continued his march. During his reſidence at the ſeat of empire, his hours were not waſted in the recluſe idleneſs of a ſeraglio; and the king of the Huns could maintain his ſuperior dignity, without concealing his perſon from the public view. He frequently aſſembled his council, and gave audience to the ambaſſadors of the nations; and his people might appeal to the ſupreme tribunal, which he held at ſtated times, and, according to the eaſtern cuſtom, before the principal gate of his wooden palace. The Romans, both of the Eaſt and of the Weſt, were twice invited to the banquets, where Attila feaſted with the princes and nobles of Scythia. Maximin [Note: The royal feaſt.] and his colleagues were ſtopped on the threſhold, till they had made a devout libation to the health and proſperity of the king of the Huns; and were conducted, after this ceremony, to their reſpective ſeats in a ſpacious hall. The royal table and couch, covered with carpets and fine linen, was raiſed by ſeveral ſteps in the midſt of the hall; and a ſon, an uncle, or perhaps a favourite king, were admitted to ſhare the ſimple and homely repaſt of Attila. Two lines of ſmall tables, each of which contained three or four gueſts, were ranged in order on either hand; the right was eſteemed the moſt honourable, but the Romans ingenuouſly confeſs, that they were placed on the left; and that Beric, an unknown chieftain, moſt probably of the Gothic race, preceded [Page 78] the repreſentatives of Theodoſius and Valentinian. The Barbarian monarch received from his cup-bearer a goblet filled with wine, and courteouſly drank to the health of the moſt diſtinguiſhed gueſt; who roſe from his ſeat, and expreſſed, in the ſame manner, his loyal and reſpectful vows. This ceremony was ſucceſſively performed for all, or at leaſt for the illuſtrious perſons of the aſſembly; and a conſiderable time muſt have been conſumed, ſince it was thrice repeated, as each courſe of ſervice was placed on the table. But the wine ſtill remained after the meat had been removed; and the Huns continued to indulge their intemperance long after the ſober and decent ambaſſadors of the two empires had withdrawn themſelves from the nocturnal banquet. Yet before they retired, they enjoyed a ſingular opportunity of obſerving the manners of the nation in their convivial amuſements. Two Scythians ſtood before the couch of Attila, and recited the verſes which they had compoſed, to celebrate his valour and his victories. A profound ſilence prevailed in the hall; and the attention of the gueſts was captivated by the vocal harmony, which revived and perpetuated the memory of their own exploits: a martial ardour flaſhed from the eyes of the warriors, who were impatient for battle; and the tears of the old men expreſſed their generous deſpair, that they could no longer partake the danger and glory of the field 46. This entertainment, which might be [Page 79] conſidered as a ſchool of military virtue, was ſucceeded by a farce, that debaſed the dignity of human nature. A Mooriſh and a Scythian buffoon ſucceſſively excited the mirth of the rude ſpectators, by their deformed figure, ridiculous dreſs, antic geſtures, abſurd ſpeeches, and the ſtrange unintelligible confuſion of the Latin, the Gothic, and the Hunnic languages; and the hall reſounded with loud and licentious peals of laughter. In the midſt of this intemperate riot, Attila alone, without a change of countenance, maintained his ſtedfaſt and inflexible gravity; which was never relaxed, except on the entrance of Irnac, the youngeſt of his ſons: he embraced the boy with a ſmile of paternal tenderneſs, gently pinched him by the cheek, and betrayed a partial affection, which was juſtified by the aſſurance of his prophets, that Irnac would be the future ſupport of his family and empire. Two days afterwards, the ambaſſadors received a ſecond invitation; and they had reaſon to praiſe the politeneſs, as well as the hoſpitality, of Attila. The king of the Huns held a long and familiar converſation with Maximin; but his civility was interrupted by rude expreſſions, and haughty reproaches; and he was provoked, by a motive of intereſt, to ſupport with unbecoming zeal, the private claims of his ſecretary Conſtantius. ‘"The emperor" (ſaid Attila) "has long promiſed him a rich wife: Conſtantius muſt not be diſappointed; nor ſhould a Roman emperor deſerve the name of liar."’ On the third day, the ambaſſadors [Page 80] were diſmiſſed; the freedom of ſeveral captives was granted, for a moderate ranſom, to their preſſing entreaties; and, beſides the royal preſents, they were permitted to accept from each of the Scythian nobles, the honourable and uſeful gift of a horſe. Maximin returned, by the ſame road, to Conſtantinople; and though he was involved in an accidental diſpute with Beric, the new ambaſſador of Attila, he flattered himſelf that he had contributed, by the laborious journey, to confirm the peace and alliance of the two nations 47.
But the Roman ambaſſador was ignorant of the [Note: Conſpiracy of the Romans againſt the life of Attila.] treacherous deſign, which had been concealed under the maſk of the public faith. The ſurpriſe and ſatisfaction of Edecon, when he contemplated the ſplendour of Conſtantinople, had encouraged the interpreter Vigilius to procure for him a ſecret interview with the eunuch Chryſaphius 48, who governed the emperor and the empire. After ſome previous converſation, and a mutual oath of ſecrecy, the eunuch, who had not, from his [Page 81] own feelings or experience, imbibed any exalted notions of miniſterial virtue, ventured to propoſe the death of Attila, as an important ſervice, by which Edecon might deſerve a liberal ſhare of the wealth and luxury which he admired. The ambaſſador of the Huns liſtened to the tempting offer; and profeſſed, with apparent zeal, his ability, as well as readineſs, to execute the bloody deed: the deſign was communicated to the maſter of the offices, and the devout Theodoſius conſented to the aſſaſſination of his invincible enemy. But this perfidious conſpiracy was defeated by the diſſimulation, or the repentance, of Edecon; and, though he might exaggerate his inward abhorrence for the treaſon, which he ſeemed to approve, he dexterouſly aſſumed the merit of an early and voluntary confeſſion. If we now review the embaſſy of Maximin, and the behaviour of Attila, we muſt applaud the Barbarian, who reſpected the laws of hoſpitality, and generouſly entertained and diſmiſſed the miniſter of a prince, who had conſpired againſt his life. But the raſhneſs of Vigilius will appear ſtill more extraordinary, ſince he returned, conſcious of his guilt and danger, to the royal camp; accompanied by his ſon, and carrying with him a weighty purſe of gold, which the favourite eunuch had furniſhed, to ſatisfy the demands of Edecon, and to corrupt the fidelity of the guards. The interpreter was inſtantly ſeized, and dragged before the tribunal of Attila, where he aſſerted his innocence with ſpecious firmneſs, till the [Page 82] threat of inflicting inſtant death on his ſon, extorted from him a ſincere diſcovery of the criminal tranſaction. Under the name of ranſom or confiſcation, the rapacious king of the Huns accepted two hundred pounds of gold for the life of a traitor, whom he diſdained to puniſh. He pointed his juſt indignation againſt a nobler object. His ambaſſadors Eſlaw and Oreſtes were [Note: He reprimands and forgives the Emperor.] immediately diſpatched to Conſtantinople, with a peremptory inſtruction, which it was much ſafer for them to execute than to diſobey. They boldly entered the Imperial preſence, with the fatal purſe hanging down from the neck of Oreſtes; who interrogated the eunuch Chryſaphius, as he ſtood beſide the throne, whether he recogniſed the evidence of his guilt. But the office of reproof was reſerved for the ſuperior dignity of his colleague Eſlaw, who gravely addreſſed the Emperor of the Eaſt in the following words: ‘"Theodoſius is the ſon of an illuſtrious and reſpectable parent: Attila likewiſe is deſcended from a noble race; and he has ſupported, by his actions, the dignity which he inherited from his father Mundzuk. But Theodoſius has forfeited his paternal honours, and, by conſenting to pay tribute, has degraded himſelf to the condition of a ſlave. It is therefore juſt, that he ſhould reverence the man whom fortune and merit have placed above him; inſtead of attempting, like a wicked ſlave, clandeſtinely to conſpire againſt his maſter."’ The ſon of Arcadius, who was accuſtomed only to the voice of flattery, heard [Page 83] with aſtoniſhment the ſevere language of truth: he bluſhed and trembled; nor did he preſume directly to refuſe the head of Chryſaphius, which Eſlaw and Oreſtes were inſtructed to demand. A ſolemn embaſſy, armed with full powers and magnificent gifts, was haſtily ſent to deprecate the wrath of Attila; and his pride was gratified by the choice of Nomius and Anatolius, two miniſters of conſular or patrician rank, of whom the one was great treaſurer, and the other was maſter-general of the armies of the Eaſt. He condeſcended to meet theſe ambaſſadors on the banks of the river Drenco; and though he at firſt affected a ſtern and haughty demeanor, his anger was inſenſibly mollified by their eloquence and liberality. He condeſcended to pardon the emperor, the eunuch, and the interpreter; bound himſelf by an oath to obſerve the conditions of peace; releaſed a great number of captives; abandoned the fugitives and deſerters to their fate; and reſigned a large territory to the ſouth of the Danube, which he had already exhauſted of its wealth and inhabitants. But this treaty was purchaſed at an expence which might have ſupported a vigorous and ſucceſsful war; and the ſubjects of Theodoſius were compelled to redeem the ſafety of a worthleſs favourite by oppreſſive taxes, which they would more cheerfully have paid for his deſtruction 49.
[Page 84] The emperor Theodoſius did not long ſurvive the moſt humiliating circumſtance of an inglorious life. As he was riding, or hunting, in the [Note: Theodoſius the Younger dies, A. D. 450. July 28.] neighbourhood of Conſtantinople, he was thrown from his horſe into the river Lycus: the ſpine of the back was injured by the fall; and he expired ſome days afterwards, in the fiftieth year of his age, and the forty-third of his reign 50. His ſiſter Pulcheria, whoſe authority had been controuled both in civil and eccleſiaſtical affairs by the pernicious influence of the eunuchs, was unanimouſly proclaimed Empreſs of the Eaſt; and the Romans, for the firſt time, ſubmitted to a female reign. No ſooner had Pulcheria aſcended the throne, than ſhe indulged her own, and the public reſentment, by an act of popular juſtice. Without any legal trial, the eunuch Chryſaphius was executed before the gates of the city; and the immenſe riches which had been accumulated by the rapacious favourite, ſerved only to haſten and to juſtify his puniſhment 51. Amidſt the general acclamations of the clergy and people, the empreſs did not forget the prejudice and diſadvantage to which her ſex was expoſed; and ſhe [Page 85] wiſely reſolved to prevent their murmurs by the choice of a colleague, who would always reſpect the ſuperior rank and virgin chaſtity of his wife. She gave her hand to Marcian, a ſenator, about [Note: and is ſucceeded by Marcian, Aug. 25.] ſixty years of age, and the nominal huſband of Pulcheria was ſolemnly inveſted with the Imperial purple. The zeal which he diſplayed for the orthodox creed, as it was eſtabliſhed by the council of Chalcedon, would alone have inſpired the grateful eloquence of the Catholics. But the behaviour of Marcian in a private life, and afterwards on the throne, may ſupport a more rational belief, that he was qualified to reſtore and invigorate an empire, which had been almoſt diſſolved by the ſucceſſive weakneſs of two hereditary monarchs. He was born in Thrace, and educated to the profeſſion of arms; but Marcian's youth had been ſeverely exerciſed by poverty and misfortune, ſince his only reſource, when he firſt arrived at Conſtantinople, conſiſted in two hundred pieces of gold, which he had borrowed of a friend. He paſſed nineteen years in the domeſtic and military ſervice of Aſpar, and his ſon Ardaburius; followed thoſe powerful generals to the Perſian and African wars; and obtained, by their influence, the honourable rank of tribune and ſenator. His mild diſpoſition, and uſeful talents, without alarming the jealouſy, recommended Marcian to the eſteem and favour, of his patrons: he had ſeen, perhaps he had felt, the abuſes of a venal and oppreſſive adminiſtration; and his own example gave weight and [Page 86] energy to the laws, which he promulgated for the reformation of manners 52.
3. CHAP. XXXV. Invaſion of Gaul by Attila.—He is repulſed by Aetius and the Viſigoths.—Attila invades and evacuates Italy.—The Deaths of Attila, Aetius, and Valentinian the Third.[Page 87]
IT was the opinion of Marcian, that war ſhould be avoided, as long as it is poſſible to preſerve a ſecure and honourable peace; but it was [Note: Attila threatens both empires, and prepares to invade Gaul, A. D. 450.] likewiſe his opinion, that peace cannot be honourable or ſecure, if the ſovereign betrays a puſillanimous averſion to war. This temperate courage dictated his reply to the demands of Attila, who inſolently preſſed the payment of the annual tribute. The emperor ſignified to the Barbarians, that they muſt no longer inſult the majeſty of Rome, by the mention of a tribute; that he was diſpoſed to reward, with becoming liberality, the faithful friendſhip of his allies; but that, if they preſumed to violate the public peace, they ſhould feel that he poſſeſſed troops, and arms, and reſolution, to repel their attacks. The ſame language, even in the camp of the Huns, was uſed by his ambaſſador Apollonius, whoſe bold refuſal to deliver the preſents, till he had been admitted to a perſonal interview, diſplayed a ſenſe of dignity, and a contempt of danger, which Attila was not prepared to expect from the [Page 88] degenerate Romans 1. He threatened to chaſtiſe the raſh ſucceſſor of Theodoſius; but he heſitated, whether he ſhould firſt direct his invincible arms againſt the Eaſtern or the Weſtern empire. While mankind awaited his deciſion with awful ſuſpenſe, he ſent an equal defiance to the courts of Ravenna and Conſtantinople; and his miniſters ſaluted the two emperors with the ſame haughty declaration. ‘"Attila, my lord, and thy lord, commands thee to provide a palace for his immediate reception 2."’ But as the Barbarian deſpiſed, or affected to deſpiſe, the Romans of the Eaſt, whom he had ſo often vanquiſhed, he ſoon declared his reſolution of ſuſpending the eaſy conqueſt, till he had atchieved a more glorious and important enterpriſe. In the memorable invaſions of Gaul and Italy, the Huns were naturally attracted by the wealth and fertility of thoſe provinces; but the particular motives and provocations of Attila, can only be explained by the ſtate of the Weſtern empire under the reign of Valentinian, or, to ſpeak more correctly, under the adminiſtration of Aetius 3.
After the death of his rival Boniface, Aetius [Note: Character and adminiſtration of Aetius,] had prudently retired to the tents of the Huns; [Page 89] and he was indebted to their alliance for his ſafety and his reſtoration. Inſtead of the ſuppliant language of a guilty exile, he ſolicited his pardon [Note: A. D. 433—454.] at the head of ſixty thouſand Barbarians; and the empreſs Placidia confeſſed, by a feeble reſiſtance, that the condeſcenſion, which might have been aſcribed to clemency, was the effect of weakneſs or fear. She delivered herſelf, her ſon Valentinian, and the Weſtern empire, into the hands of an inſolent ſubject; nor could Placidia protect the ſon-in-law of Boniface, the virtuous and faithful Sebaſtian 4, from the implacable perſecution, which urged him from one kingdom to another, till he miſerably periſhed in the ſervice of the Vandals. The fortunate Aetius, who was immediately promoted to the rank of patrician, and thrice inveſted with the honours of the confulſhip, aſſumed, with the title of maſter of the cavalry and infantry, the whole military power of the ſtate; and he is ſometimes ſtyled, by contemporary writers, the Duke, or General, of the Romans of the Weſt. His prudence, rather than his virtue, engaged him to leave the grandſon of Theodoſius in the poſſeſſion of the purple; and Valentinian was permitted to enjoy the peace and [Page 90] luxury of Italy, while the patrician appeared in the glorious light of a hero and a patriot, who ſupported near twenty years the ruins of the Weſtern empire. The Gothic hiſtorian ingenuouſly confeſſes, that Aetius was born for the ſalvation of the Roman republic 5; and the following portrait, though it is drawn in the faireſt colours, muſt be allowed to contain a much larger proportion of truth than of flattery. ‘"His mother was a wealthy and noble Italian, and his father Gaudentius, who held a diſtinguiſhed rank in the province of Scythia, gradually roſe from the ſtation of a military domeſtic, to the dignity of maſter of the cavalry. Their ſon, who was enrolled almoſt in his infancy in the guards, was given as a hoſtage, firſt to Alaric, and afterwards to the Huns; and he ſucceſſively obtained the civil and military honours of the palace, for which he was equally qualified by ſuperior merit. The graceful figure of Aetius was not above the middle ſtature; but his manly limbs were admirably formed for ſtrength, beauty, and agility; and he excelled in the martial exerciſes of managing a horſe, drawing the bow, and darting the javelin. He could patiently endure the want of food or of ſleep; and his mind and body were alike capable of the moſt laborious efforts. He poſſeſſed the genuine courage, that can deſpiſe not only dangers but injuries; and it [Page 91] was impoſſible either to corrupt, or deceive, or intimidate, the firm integrity of his ſoul 6."’ The Barbarians, who had ſeated themſelves in the Weſtern provinces, were inſenſibly taught to reſpect the faith and valour of the patrician Aetius. He ſoothed their paſſions, conſulted their prejudices, balanced their intereſts, and checked their ambition. A ſeaſonable treaty, which he concluded with Genſeric, protected Italy from the depredations of the Vandals; the independent Britons implored and acknowledged his ſalutary aid; the Imperial authority was reſtored and maintained in Gaul and Spain; and he compelled the Franks and the Suevi, whom he had vanquiſhed in the field, to become the uſeful confederates of the republic.
From a principle of intereſt, as well as gratitude, [Note: His connection with the Huns and Alani.] Aetius aſſiduouſly cultivated the alliance of the Huns. While he reſided in their tents as a hoſtage, or an exile, he had familiarly converſed with Attila himſelf, the nephew of his benefactor; and the two famous antagoniſts appear to have been connected by a perſonal and military friendſhip, which they afterwards confirmed by mutual gifts, frequent embaſſies, and the education of Carpilio, the ſon of Aetius, in the camp of Attila. By the ſpecious profeſſions of gratitude [Page 92] and voluntary attachment, the patrician might diſguiſe his apprehenſions of the Scythian conqueror, who preſſed the two empires with his innumerable armies. His demands were obeyed or eluded. When he claimed the ſpoils of a vanquiſhed city, ſome vaſes of gold, which had been fraudulently embezzled; the civil and military governors of Noricum were immediately diſpatched to ſatisfy his complaints 7: and it is evident, from their converſation with Maximin and Priſcus, in the royal village, that the valour and prudence of Aetius had not ſaved the Weſtern Romans from the common ignominy of tribute. Yet his dexterous policy prolonged the advantages of a ſalutary peace; and a numerous army of Huns and Alani, whom he had attached to his perſon, was employed in the defence of Gaul. Two colonies of theſe Barbarians were judiciouſly fixed in the territories of Valens and Orleans 8: and their active cavalry ſecured the important [Page 93] paſſages of the Rhone and of the Loire. Theſe ſavage allies were not indeed leſs formidable to the ſubjects than to the enemies of Rome. Their original ſettlement was enforced with the licentious violence of conqueſt; and the province through which they marched, was expoſed to all the calamities of an hoſtile invaſion 9. Strangers to the emperor or the republic, the Alani of Gaul were devoted to the ambition of Aetius; and though he might ſuſpect, that, in a conteſt with Attila himſelf, they would revolt to the ſtandard of their national king, the patrician laboured to reſtrain, rather than to excite, their zeal and reſentment againſt the Goths, the Burgundians, and the Franks.
The kingdom eſtabliſhed by the Viſigoths in [Note: The Viſigoths in Gaul under the reign of Theodoric, A. D. 419—451.] the ſouthern provinces of Gaul, had gradually acquired ſtrength and maturity; and the conduct of thoſe ambitious Barbarians, either in peace or war, engaged the perpetual vigilance of Aetius. After the death of Wallia, the Gothic ſceptre devolved to Theodoric, the ſon of the great [Page 94] Alaric 10; and his proſperous reign, of more than thirty years, over a turbulent people, may be allowed to prove, that his prudence was ſupported by uncommon vigour, both of mind and body. Impatient of his narrow limits, Theodoric aſpired to the poſſeſſion of Arles, the wealthy ſeat of government and commerce; but the city was ſaved by the timely approach of Aetius; and the Gothic king, who had raiſed the ſiege with ſome loſs and diſgrace, was perſuaded, for an adequate ſubſidy, to divert the martial valour of his ſubjects in a Spaniſh war. Yet Theodoric ſtill watched, and eagerly ſeized, the favourable moment of renewing his hoſtile attempts. The Goths [Note: A. D. 435—439.] beſieged Narbonne, while the Belgic provinces were invaded by the Burgundians; and the public ſafety was threatened on every ſide by the apparent union of the enemies of Rome. On every ſide, the activity of Aetius, and his Scythian cavalry, oppoſed a firm and ſucceſsful reſiſtance. Twenty thouſand Burgundians were ſlain in battle; and the remains of the nation humbly accepted a dependent ſeat in the mountains [Page 95] of Savoy 11. The walls of Narbonne had been ſhaken by the battering engines, and the inhabitants had endured the laſt extremities of famine, when count Litorius, approaching in ſilence, and directing each horſeman to carry behind him two ſacks of flour, cut his way through the intrenchments of the beſiegers. The ſiege was immediately raiſed; and the more deciſive victory, which is aſcribed to the perſonal conduct of Aetius himſelf, was marked with the blood of eight thouſand Goths. But in the abſence of the patrician, who was haſtily ſummoned to Italy by ſome public or private intereſt, count Litorius ſucceeded to the command; and his preſumption ſoon diſcovered, that far different talents are required to lead a wing of cavalry, or to direct the operations of an important war. At the head of an army of Huns, he raſhly advanced to the gates of Thoulouſe, full of careleſs contempt for an enemy, whom his misfortunes had rendered prudent, and his ſituation made deſperate. The predictions of the Augurs had inſpired Litorius with the profane confidence, that he ſhould enter the Gothic capital in triumph; and the truſt which he repoſed in his Pagan allies, encouraged him to reject the fair conditions of peace, which [Page 96] were repeatedly propoſed by the biſhops in the name of Theodoric. The king of the Goths exhibited in his diſtreſs the edifying contraſt of Chriſtian piety and moderation; nor did he lay aſide his ſackcloth and aſhes till he was prepared to arm for the combat. His ſoldiers, animated with martial and religious enthuſiaſm, aſſaulted the camp of Litorius. The conflict was obſtinate; the ſlaughter was mutual. The Roman general, after a total defeat, which could be imputed only to his unſkilful raſhneſs, was actually led through the ſtreets of Thoulouſe, not in his own, but in a hoſtile, triumph; and the miſery which he experienced, in a long and ignominious captivity, excited the compaſſion of the Barbarians themſelves 12. Such a loſs, in a country whoſe ſpirit and finances were long ſince exhauſted, could not eaſily be repaired; and the Goths, aſſuming, in their turn, the ſentiments of ambition and revenge, would have planted their victorious ſtandards on the banks of the Rhone, if the preſence of Aetius had not reſtored ſtrength and diſcipline to the Romans 13. The two armies expected the [Page 97] ſignal of a deciſive action; but the generals, who were conſcious of each other's force, and doubtful of their own ſuperiority, prudently ſheathed their ſwords in the field of battle; and their reconciliation was permanent and ſincere. Theodoric, king of the Viſigoths, appears to have deſerved the love of his ſubjects, the confidence of his allies, and the eſteem of mankind. His throne was ſurrounded by ſix valiant ſons, who were educated with equal care in the exerciſes of the Barbarian camp, and in thoſe of the Gallic ſchools: from the ſtudy of the Roman juriſprudence, they acquired the theory, at leaſt, of law and juſtice; and the harmonious ſenſe of Virgil contributed to ſoften the aſperity of their native manners 14. The two daughters of the Gothic king were given in marriage to the eldeſt ſons of the kings of the Suevi and of the Vandals, who reigned in Spain and Africa; but theſe illuſtrious alliances were pregnant with guilt and diſcord. The queen of the Suevi bewailed the death of an huſband, inhumanly maſſacred by her brother. The princeſs of the Vandals was the victim of a jealous tyrant, whom ſhe called her father. The cruel Genſeric ſuſpected, that his [Page 98] ſon's wife had conſpired to poiſon him; the ſuppoſed crime was puniſhed by the amputation of her noſe and ears; and the unhappy daughter of Theodoric was ignominiouſly returned to the court of Thoulouſe in that deformed and mutilated condition. This horrid act, which muſt ſeem incredible to a civilized age, drew tears from every ſpectator; but Theodoric was urged, by the feelings of a parent and a king, to revenge ſuch irreparable injuries. The Imperial miniſters, who always cheriſhed the diſcord of the Barbarians, would have ſupplied the Goths with arms, and ſhips, and treaſures, for the African war; and the cruelty of Genſeric might have been fatal to himſelf, if the artful Vandal had not armed, in his cauſe, the formidable power of the Huns. His rich gifts and preſſing ſolicitations inflamed the ambition of Attila; and the deſigns of Aetius and Theodoric were prevented by the invaſion of Gaul 15.
The Franks, whoſe monarchy was ſtill confined [Note: The Franks in Gaul, under the Merovingian kings,] to the neighbourhood of the Lower Rhine, had wiſely eſtabliſhed the right of hereditary ſucceſſion in the noble family of the Merovingians 16. [Page 99] Theſe princes were elevated on a buckler, the ſymbol of military command 17; and the royal faſhion of long hair was the enſign of their birth [Note: A. D. 420—451.] and dignity. Their flaxen locks, which they combed and dreſſed with ſingular care, hung down in flowing ringlets on their back and ſhoulders; while the reſt of their nation were obliged, either by law or cuſtom, to ſhave the hinder part of their head; to comb their hair over the forehead, and to content themſelves with the ornament of two ſmall whiſkers 18. The lofty ſtature of the Franks, and their blue eyes, denoted a Germanic origin; their cloſe apparel accurately expreſſed the figure of their limbs; a weighty ſword was ſuſpended from a broad belt; their bodies were protected by a large ſhield: and theſe warlike Barbarians were trained, from their earlieſt [Page 100] youth, to run, to leap, to ſwim; to dart the javelin, or battle-axe, with unerring aim; to advance, without heſitation, againſt a ſuperior enemy; and to maintain, either in life or death, the invincible reputation of their anceſtors 19. Clodion, the firſt of their long-haired kings, whoſe name and actions are mentioned in authentic hiſtory, held his reſidence at Diſpargum 20, a village, or fortreſs, whoſe place may be aſſigned between Louvain and Bruſſels. From the report of his ſpies, the king of the Franks was informed, that the defenceleſs ſtate of the ſecond Belgic muſt yield, on the ſlighteſt attack, to the valour of his ſubjects. He boldly penetrated through the thickets and moraſſes of the Carbonarian foreſt 21; occupied Tournay and Cambray, the only cities which exiſted in the fifth century, and extended his conqueſts as far as the river Somme, over a deſolate country, whoſe cultivation and populouſneſs are the effects of more recent induſtry 22. While Clodion lay encamped in the [Page 101] plains of Artois 23, and celebrated, with vain and oſtentatious ſecurity, the marriage, perhaps, of his ſon, the nuptial feaſt was interrupted by the unexpected and unwelcome preſence of Aetius, who had paſſed the Somme at the head of his light cavalry. The tables, which had been ſpread under the ſhelter of a hill, along the banks of a pleaſant ſtream, were rudely overturned; the Franks were oppreſſed before they could recover their arms, or their ranks; and their unavailing valour was fatal only to themſelves. The loaded waggons, which had followed their march, afforded a rich booty; and the virgin-bride, with her female attendants, ſubmitted to the new lovers, who were impoſed on them by the chance of war. This advantage, which had been obtained by the ſkill and activity of Aetius, might reflect ſome diſgrace on the military prudence of Clodion; but the king of the Franks ſoon regained his ſtrength and reputation, and ſtill maintained the poſſeſſion of his Gallic kingdom from the Rhine to the Somme 24. Under his [Page 102] reign, and moſt probably from the enterpriſing ſpirit of his ſubjects, the three capitals, Mentz, Treves, and Cologne, experienced the effects of hoſtile cruelty and avarice. The diſtreſs of Cologne was prolonged by the perpetual dominion of the ſame Barbarians, who evacuated the ruins of Treves; and Treves, which, in the ſpace of forty years, had been four times beſieged and pillaged, was diſpoſed to loſe the memory of her afflictions in the vain amuſements of the circus 25. The death of Clodion, after a reign of twenty years, expoſed his kingdom to the diſcord and ambition of his two ſons. Meroveus, the younger 26, was perſuaded to implore the protection of Rome; he was received at the Imperial court, as the ally of Valentinian, and the adopted ſon of the patrician Aetius; and diſmiſſed, to his native country, with ſplendid gifts, and the ſtrongeſt aſſurances of friendſhip and ſupport. During his abſence, his elder brother had ſolicited, with equal ardour, the formidable aid of Attila; and the king of the Huns embraced an alliance, which [Page 103] facilitated the paſſage of the Rhine, and juſtified, by a ſpecious and honourable pretence, the invaſion of Gaul 27.
When Attila declared his reſolution of ſupporting [Note: The adventures of the princeſs Honoria.] the cauſe of his allies, the Vandals and the Franks, at the ſame time, and almoſt in the ſpirit of romantic chivalry, the ſavage monarch profeſſed himſelf the lover and the champion of the princeſs Honoria. The ſiſter of Valentinian was educated in the palace of Ravenna; and as her marriage might be productive of ſome danger to the ſtate, ſhe was raiſed, by the title of Auguſta 28, above the hopes of the moſt preſumptuous ſubject. But the fair Honoria had no ſooner attained the ſixteenth year of her age, than ſhe deteſted the importunate greatneſs, which muſt for ever exclude her from the comforts of honourable love: in the midſt of vain and unſatisfactory pomp, Honoria ſighed, yielded to the impulſe of nature, and threw herſelf into the arms of her chamberlain Eugenius. Her guilt and ſhame (ſuch is the abſurd language of imperious man) were ſoon betrayed by the apperances of pregnancy: but the diſgrace of the royal family was publiſhed to the world by the [Page 104] imprudence of the empreſs Placidia; who diſmiſſed her daughter, after a ſtrict and ſhameful confinement, to a remote exile at Conſtantinople. The unhappy princeſs paſſed twelve or fourteen years in the irkſome ſociety of the ſiſters of Theodoſius, and their choſen virgins; to whoſe crown Honoria could no longer aſpire, and whoſe monaſtic aſſiduity of prayer, faſting, and vigils, ſhe reluctantly imitated. Her impatience of long and hopeleſs celibacy, urged her to embrace a ſtrange and deſperate reſolution. The name of Attila was familiar and formidable at Conſtantinople; and his frequent embaſſies entertained a perpetual intercourſe between his camp and the Imperial palace. In the purſuit of love, or rather of revenge, the daughter of Placidia ſacrificed every duty, and every prejudice; and offered to deliver her perſon into the arms of a Barbarian, of whoſe language ſhe was ignorant, whoſe figure was ſcarcely human, and whoſe religion and manners ſhe abhorred. By the miniſtry of a faithful eunuch, ſhe tranſmitted to Attila a ring, the pledge of her affection; and earneſtly conjured him to claim her as a lawful ſpouſe, to whom he had been ſecretly betrothed. Theſe indecent advances were received, however, with coldneſs and diſdain; and the king of the Huns continued to multiply the number of his wives, till his love was awakened by the more forcible paſſions of ambition and avarice. The invaſion of Gaul was preceded, and juſtified, by a formal demand of the princeſs Honoria, with a juſt and [Page 105] equal ſhare of the Imperial patrimony. His predeceſſors, the ancient Tanjous, had often addreſſed, in the ſame hoſtile and peremptory manner, the daughters of China; and the pretenſions of Attila were not leſs offenſive to the majeſty of Rome. A firm, but temperate, refuſal was communicated to his ambaſſadors. The right of female ſucceſſion, though it might derive a ſpecious argument from the recent examples of Placidia and Pulcheria, was ſtrenuouſly denied; and the indiſſoluble engagements of Honoria were oppoſed to the claims of her Scythian lover 29. On the diſcovery of her connexion with the king of the Huns, the guilty princeſs had been ſent away, as an object of horror, from Conſtantinople to Italy: her life was ſpared; but the ceremony of her marriage was performed with ſome obſcure and nominal huſband, before ſhe was immured in a perpetual priſon, to bewail thoſe crimes and misfortunes, which Honoria might have eſcaped, had ſhe not been born the daughter of an emperor 30.
A native of Gaul, and a contemporary, the [Note: Attila invades Gaul, and beſieges Orleans.] learned and eloquent Sidonius, who was afterwards [Page 106] biſhop of Clermont, had made a promiſe to one of his friends, that he would compoſe a regular hiſtory of the war of Attila. If the modeſty [Note: A. D. 451.] of Sidonius had not diſcouraged him from the proſecution of this intereſting work 31, the hiſtorian would have related, with the ſimplicity of truth, thoſe memorable events, to which the poet, in vague and doubtful metaphors, has conciſely alluded 32. The kings and nations of Germany and Scythia, from the Volga perhaps to the Danube, obeyed the warlike ſummons of Attila. From the royal village, in the plains of Hungary, his ſtandard moved towards the Weſt; and, after a march of ſeven or eight hundred miles, he reached the conflux of the Rhine and the Necker; where he was joined by the Franks, who adhered to his ally, the elder of the ſons of Clodion. A troop of light Barbarians, who roamed in queſt of plunder, might chuſe the winter for the convenience of paſſing the river [Page 107] on the ice; but the innumerable cavalry of the Huns required ſuch plenty of forage and proviſions, as could be procured only in a milder ſeaſon; the Hercynian foreſt ſupplied materials for a bridge of boats; and the hoſtile myriads were poured, with reſiſtleſs violence, into the Belgic provinces 33. The conſternation of Gaul was univerſal; and the various fortunes of its cities have been adorned by tradition with martyrdoms and miracles 34. Troyes was ſaved by the merits of St. Lupus; St. Servatius was removed from the world, that he might not behold the ruin of Tongres; and the prayers of St. Genevieve diverted the march of Attila from the neighbourhood of Paris. But as the greateſt part of the Gallic cities were alike deſtitute of ſaints and ſoldiers, they were beſieged and ſtormed by the Huns; who practiſed, in the example of [Page 108] Metz 35, their cuſtomary maxims of war. They involved, in a promiſcuous maſſacre, the prieſts who ſerved at the altar, and the infants, who, in the hour of danger, had been providently baptized by the biſhop; the flouriſhing city was delivered to the flames, and a ſolitary chapel of St. Stephen marked the place where it formerly ſtood. From the Rhine and the Moſelle, Attila advanced into the heart of Gaul; croſſed the Seine at Auxerre; and, after a long and laborious march, fixed his camp under the walls of Orleans. He was deſirous of ſecuring his conqueſts by the poſſeſſion of an advantageous poſt, which commanded the paſſage of the Loire; and he depended on the ſecret invitation of Sangiban, king of the Alani, who had promiſed to betray the city, and to revolt from the ſervice of the empire. But this treacherous conſpiracy was detected and diſappointed: Orleans had been ſtrengthened with recent fortifications; and the aſſaults of the Huns were vigorouſly repelled by the faithful valour of the ſoldiers, or citizens, who defended the place. The paſtoral diligence of Anianus, a biſhop of primitive ſanctity and conſummate [Page 109] prudence, exhauſted every art of religious policy to ſupport their courage, till the arrival of the expected ſuccours. After an obſtinate ſiege, the walls were ſhaken by the battering rams; the Huns had already occupied the ſuburbs; and the people, who were incapable of bearing arms, lay proſtrate in prayer. Anianus, who anxiouſly counted the days and hours, diſpatched a truſty meſſenger to obſerve, from the rampart, the face of the diſtant country. He returned twice, without any intelligence, that could inſpire hope or comfort; but, in his third report, he mentioned a ſmall cloud, which he had faintly deſcried at the extremity of the horizon. "It is the aid of God," exclaimed the biſhop, in a tone of pious confidence; and the whole multitude repeated after him, "It is the aid of God." The remote object, on which every eye was fixed, became each moment larger, and more diſtinct; the Roman and Gothic banners were gradually perceived; and a favourable wind blowing aſide the duſt, diſcovered, in deep array, the impatient ſquadrons of Aetius and Theodoric, who preſſed forwards to the relief of Orleans.
The facility with which Attila had penetrated [Note: Alliance of the Romans and Viſigoths.] into the heart of Gaul, may be aſcribed to his inſidious policy, as well as to the terror of his arms. His public declarations were ſkilfully mitigated by his private aſſurances; he alternately ſoothed and threatened the Romans and the Goths; and the courts of Ravenna and Thoulouſe, mutually ſuſpicious of each other's intentions, [Page 110] beheld, with ſupine indifference, the approach of their common enemy. Aetius was the ſole guardian of the public ſafety; but his wiſeſt meaſures were embarraſſed by a faction, which, ſince the death of Placidia, infeſted the Imperial palace: the youth of Italy trembled at the ſound of the trumpet; and the Barbarians, who, from fear or affection, were inclined to the cauſe of Attila, awaited, with doubtful and venal faith, the event of the war. The patrician paſſed the Alps at the head of ſome troops, whoſe ſtrength and numbers ſcarcely deſerved the name of an army 36. But on his arrival at Arles, or Lyons, he was confounded by the intelligence, that the Viſigoths, refuſing to embrace the defence of Gaul, had determined to expect, within their own territories, the formidable invader, whom they profeſſed to deſpiſe. The ſenator Avitus, who, after the honourable exerciſe of the praetorian Praefecture, had retired to his eſtate in Auvergne, was perſuaded to accept the important embaſſy, which he executed with ability and ſucceſs. He repreſented to Theodoric, that an ambitious conqueror, who aſpired to the dominion of the earth, could be reſiſted only by the firm and unanimous alliance of the powers whom he laboured to oppreſs. The lively eloquence of Avitus inflamed the Gothic warriors, by the deſcription of the [Page 111] injuries which their anceſtors had ſuffered from the Huns; whoſe implacable fury ſtill purſued them from the Danube to the foot of the Pyrenees. He ſtrenuouſly urged, that it was the duty of every Chriſtian to ſave, from ſacrilegious violation, the churches of God, and the relics of the ſaints: that it was the intereſt of every Barbarian, who had acquired a ſettlement in Gaul, to defend the fields and vineyards, which were cultivated for his uſe, againſt the deſolation of the Scythian ſhepherds. Theodoric yielded to the evidence of truth; adopted the meaſure at once the moſt prudent and the moſt honourable; and declared, that as the faithful ally of Aetius and the Romans, he was ready to expoſe his life and kingdom for the common ſafety of Gaul 37. The Viſigoths, who, at that time, were in the mature vigour of their fame and power, obeyed with alacrity the ſignal of war; prepared their arms and horſes, and aſſembled under the ſtandard of their aged king, who was reſolved, with his two eldeſt ſons, Toriſmond and Theodoric, to command in perſon his numerous and valiant people. The example of the Goths determined ſeveral tribes or nations, that ſeemed to fluctuate between the Huns and the Romans. The indefatigable diligence of the patrician gradually collected [Page 112] the troops of Gaul and Germany, who had formerly acknowledged themſelves the ſubjects, or ſoldiers, of the republic, but who now claimed the rewards of voluntary ſervice, and the rank of independent allies; the Laeti, the Armoricans, the Breones, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Sarmatians, or Alani, the Ripuarians, and the Franks who followed Meroveus as their lawful prince. Such was the various army, which, under the conduct of Aetius and Theodoric, advanced, by rapid marches, to relieve Orleans, and to give battle to the innumerable hoſt of Attila 38.
On their approach, the king of the Huns immediately [Note: Attila retires to the plains of Champagne.] raiſed the ſiege, and ſounded a retreat to recal the foremoſt of his troops from the pillage of a city which they had already entered 39. The valour of Attila was always guided by his prudence; and as he foreſaw the fatal conſequences of a defeat in the heart of Gaul, he repaſſed the Seine, and expected the enemy in the plains of Châlons, whoſe ſmooth and level [Page 113] ſurface was adapted to the operations of his Scythian cavalry. But in this tumultuary retreat, the vanguard of the Romans, and their allies, continually preſſed, and ſometimes engaged, the troops whom Attila had poſted in the rear; the hoſtile columns, in the darkneſs of the night, and the perplexity of the roads, might encounter each other without deſign; and the bloody conflict of the Franks and Gepidae, in which fifteen thouſand 40 Barbarians were ſlain, was a prelude to a more general and deciſive action. The Catalaunian fields 41 ſpread themſelves round Châlons, and extend, according to the vague meaſurement of Jornandes, to the length of one hundred and fifty, and the breadth of one hundred, miles, over the whole province, which is intitled to the appellation of a champaign country 42. This ſpacious plain was diſtinguiſhed, however, by ſome inequalities of ground; and the importance of an height, which commanded the camp of Attila, was underſtood, and diſputed, by the two generals. The young and valiant Toriſmond firſt occupied the ſummit; the Goths ruſhed with irreſiſtible weight on the Huns, who [Page 114] laboured to aſcend from the oppoſite ſide; and the poſſeſſion of this advantageous poſt inſpired both the troops and their leaders with a fair aſſurance of victory. The anxiety of Attila prompted him to conſult his prieſts and haruſpices. It was reported, that, after ſcrutinizing the entrails of victims, and ſcraping their bones, they revealed, in myſterious language, his own defeat, with the death of his principal adverſary; and that the Barbarian, by accepting the equivalent, expreſſed his involuntary eſteem for the ſuperior merit of Aetius. But the unuſual deſpondency, which ſeemed to prevail among the Huns, engaged Attila to uſe the expedient, ſo familiar to the generals of antiquity, of animating his troops by a military oration; and his language was that of a king, who had often fought and conquered at their head 43. He preſſed them to conſider their paſt glory, their actual danger, and their future hopes. The ſame fortune, which opened the deſerts and moraſſes of Scythia to their unarmed valour, which had laid ſo many warlike nations proſtrate at their feet, had reſerved the joys of this memorable field for the conſummation of their victories. The cautious ſteps of their enemies, their ſtrict alliance, and their advantageous poſts he artfully repreſented as the effects, not of prudence, but [Page 115] of fear. The Viſigoths alone were the ſtrength and nerves of the oppoſite army; and the Huns might ſecurely trample on the degenerate Romans, whoſe cloſe and compact order betrayed their apprehenſions, and who were equally incapable of ſupporting the dangers, or the fatigues, of a day of battle. The doctrine of predeſtination, ſo favourable to martial virtue, was carefully inculcated by the king of the Huns; who aſſured his ſubjects, that the warriors, protected by Heaven, were ſafe and invulnerable amidſt the darts of the enemy; but that the unerring Fates would ſtrike their victims in the boſom of inglorious peace. ‘"I myſelf," continued Attila, "will throw the firſt javelin, and the wretch who refuſes to imitate the example of his ſovereign, is devoted to inevitable death."’ The ſpirit of the Barbarians was rekindled by the preſence, the voice, and the example of their intrepid leader; and Attila, yielding to their impatience, immediately formed his order of battle. At the head of his brave and faithful Huns, he occupied, in perſon, the centre of the line. The nations, ſubject to his empire, the Rugians, the Heruli, the Thuringians, the Franks, the Burgundians, were extended, on either hand, over the ample ſpace of the Catalaunian fields; the right wing was commanded by Ardaric, king of the Gepidae; and the three valiant brothers, who reigned over the Oſtrogoths, were poſted on the left to oppoſe the kindred tribes of the Viſigoths. The diſpoſition of the allies was regulated by a different principle. Sangiban, the faithleſs king of the Alani, [Page 116] was placed in the centre; where his motions might be ſtrictly watched, and his treachery might be inſtantly puniſhed. Aetius aſſumed the command of the left, and Theodoric of the right, wing; while Toriſmond ſtill continued to occupy the heights which appear to have ſtretched on the flank, and perhaps the rear, of the Scythian army. The nations from the Volga to the Atlantic were aſſembled on the plain of Châlons; but many of theſe nations had been divided by faction, or conqueſt, or emigration; and the appearance of ſimilar arms and enſigns, which threatened each other, preſented the image of a civil war.
The diſcipline and tactics of the Greeks and Romans form an intereſting part of their national [Note: Battle of Châlons.] manners. The attentive ſtudy of the military operations of Xenophon, or Caeſar, or Frederic, when they are deſcribed by the ſame genius which conceived and executed them, may tend to improve (if ſuch improvement can be wiſhed) the art of deſtroying the human ſpecies. But the battle of Châlons can only excite our curioſity, by the magnitude of the object; ſince it was decided by the blind impetuoſity of Barbarians, and has been related by partial writers, whoſe civil or eccleſiaſtical profeſſion ſecluded them from the knowledge of military affairs. Caſſiodorius, however, had familiarly converſed with many Gothic warriors, who ſerved in that memorable engagement; ‘"a conflict," as they informed him, "fierce, various, obſtinate, and bloody; ſuch as could not be paralleled, either in the preſent, [Page 117] or in paſt ages."’ The number of the ſlain amounted to one hundred and ſixty-two thouſand, or, according to another account, three hundred thouſand perſons 44; and theſe incredible exaggerations ſuppoſe a real and effective loſs, ſufficient to juſtify the hiſtorian's remark, that whole generations may be ſwept away, by the madneſs of kings, in the ſpace of a ſingle hour. After the mutual and repeated diſcharge of miſſile weapons, in which the archers of Scythia might ſignalize their ſuperior dexterity, the cavalry and infantry of the two armies were furiouſly mingled in cloſer combat. The Huns, who fought under the eyes of their king, pierced through the feeble and doubtful centre of the allies, ſeparated their wings from each other, and wheeling, with a rapid effort, to the left, directed their whole force againſt the Viſigoths. As Theodoric rode along the ranks, to animate his troops, he received a mortal ſtroke from the javelin of Andages, a noble Oſtrogoth, and immediately fell from his horſe. The wounded king was oppreſſed in the general diſorder, and trampled under the feet of his own cavalry; and this important death ſerved to explain the ambiguous prophecy of the Haruſpices. Attila already exulted [Page 118] in the confidence of victory, when the valiant Toriſmond deſcended from the hills, and verified the remainder of the prediction. The Viſigoths, who had been thrown into confuſion by the flight, or defection, of the Alani, gradually reſtored their order of battle; and the Huns were undoubtedly vanquiſhed, ſince Attila was compelled to retreat. He had expoſed his perſon with the raſhneſs of a private ſoldier; but the intrepid troops of the centre had puſhed forwards beyond the reſt of the line: their attack was faintly ſupported; their flanks were unguarded; and the conquerors of Scythia and Germany were ſaved by the approach of the night from a total defeat. They retired within the circle of waggons that fortified their camp; and the diſmounted ſquadrons prepared themſelves for a defence, to which neither their arms, nor their temper, were adapted. The event was doubtful: but Attila had ſecured a laſt and honourable reſource. The ſaddles and rich furniture of the cavalry were collected, by his order, into a funeral pile; and the magnanimous Barbarian had reſolved, if his intrenchments ſhould be forced, to ruſh headlong into the flames, and to deprive his enemies of the glory which they might have acquired, by the death or captivity of Attila 45.
[Page 119] But his enemies had paſſed the night in equal diſorder and anxiety. The inconſiderate courage of Toriſmond was tempted to urge the purſuit, [Note: Retreat of Attila.] till he unexpectedly found himſelf, with a few followers, in the midſt of the Scythian waggons. In the confuſion of a nocturnal combat, he was thrown from his horſe; and the Gothic prince muſt have periſhed like his father, if his youthful ſtrength, and the intrepid zeal of his companions, had not reſcued him from this dangerous ſituation. In the ſame manner, but on the left of the line, Aetius himſelf, ſeparated from his allies, ignorant of their victory, and anxious for their fate, encountered and eſcaped the hoſtile troops, that were ſcattered over the plains of Châlons; and at length reached the camp of the Goths, which he could only fortify with a ſlight rampart of ſhields, till the dawn of day. The Imperial general was ſoon ſatisfied of the defeat of Attila, who ſtill remained inactive within his intrenchments; and when he contemplated the bloody ſcene, he obſerved, with ſecret ſatisfaction, that the loſs had principally fallen on the Barbarians. The body of Theodoric, pierced with honourable wounds, was diſcovered under a heap of the ſlain: his ſubjects bewailed the death of their king and father; but their tears were mingled with ſongs and acclamations, and his funeral rites were performed in the face of a vanquiſhed enemy. The Goths, claſhing their arms, elevated on a buckler his eldeſt ſon Toriſmond, to whom they juſtly aſcribed the glory of their ſucceſs; and the new king accepted the obligation of revenge, [Page 120] as a ſacred portion of his paternal inheritance. Yet the Goths themſelves were aſtoniſhed by the fierce and undaunted aſpect of their formidable antagoniſt; and their hiſtorian has compared Attila to a lion encompaſſed in his den, and threatening his hunters with redoubled fury. The kings and nations, who might have deſerted his ſtandard in the hour of diſtreſs, were made ſenſible, that the diſpleaſure of their monarch was the moſt imminent and inevitable danger. All his inſtruments of martial muſic inceſſantly ſounded a loud and animating ſtrain of defiance; and the foremoſt troops who advanced to the aſſault, were checked, or deſtroyed, by ſhowers of arrows from every ſide of the intrenchments. It was determined in a general council of war, to beſiege the king of the Huns in his camp, to intercept his proviſions, and to reduce him to the alternative of a diſgraceful treaty, or an unequal combat. But the impatience of the Barbarians ſoon diſdained theſe cautious and dilatory meaſures: and the mature policy of Aetius was apprehenſive, that, after the extirpation of the Huns, the republic would be oppreſſed by the pride and power of the Gothic nation. The patrician exerted the ſuperior aſcendant of authority and reaſon, to calm the paſſions, which the ſon of Theodoric conſidered as a duty; repreſented, with ſeeming affection, and real truth, the dangers of abſence and delay; and perſuaded Toriſmond to diſappoint, by his ſpeedy return, the ambitious deſigns of his brothers, who might occupy the throne and treaſures of Thoulouſe 46. [Page 121] After the departure of the Goths, and the ſeparation of the allied army, Attila was ſurpriſed at the vaſt ſilence that reigned over the plains of Châlons: the ſuſpicion of ſome hoſtile ſtratagem detained him ſeveral days within the circle of his waggons; and his retreat beyond the Rhine confeſſed the laſt victory which was attchieved in the name of the Weſtern empire. Meroveus and his Franks, obſerving a prudent diſtance, and magnifying the opinion of their ſtrength, by the numerous fires which they kindled every night, continued to follow the rear of the Huns, till they reached the confines of Thuringia. The Thuringians ſerved in the army of Attila: they traverſed, both in their march and in their return, the territories of the Franks; and it was perhaps in this war that they exerciſed the cruelties, which, about fourſcore years afterwards, were revenged by the ſon of Clovis. They maſſacred their hoſtages, as well as their captives: two hundred young maidens were tortured with exquiſite and unrelenting rage; their bodies were torn aſunder by wild horſes, or their bones were cruſhed under the weight of rolling waggons; and their unburied limbs were abandoned on the public roads, as a prey to dogs and vultures. [Page 122] Such were thoſe ſavage anceſtors, whoſe imaginary virtues have ſometimes excited the praiſe and envy of civilized ages 47!
Neither the ſpirit, nor the forces, nor the [Note: Invaſion of Italy by Attila, A. D. 452.] reputation of Attila, were impaired by the failure of the Gallic expedition. In the enſuing ſpring, he repeated his demand, of the princeſs Honoria, and her patrimonial treaſures. The demand was again rejected, or eluded; and the indignant lover immediately took the field, paſſed the Alps, invaded Italy, and beſieged Aquileia with an innumerable hoſt of Barbarians. Thoſe Barbarians were unſkilled in the methods of conducting a regular ſiege, which, even among the ancients, required ſome knowledge, or at leaſt ſome practice, of the mechanic arts. But the labour of many thouſand provincials and captives, whoſe lives were ſacrificed without pity, might execute the moſt painful and dangerous work. The ſkill of the Roman artiſts might be corrupted to the deſtruction of their country. The walls of Aquileia were aſſaulted by a formidable train of battering rams, moveable turrets, and engines, that threw ſtones, darts, and fire 48; and [Page 123] the monarch of the Huns employed the forcible impulſe of hope, fear, emulation, and intereſt, to ſubvert the only barrier which delayed the conqueſt of Italy. Aquileia was at that period one of the richeſt, the moſt populous, and the ſtrongeſt of the maritime cities of the Hadriatic coaſt. The Gothic auxiliaries, who appear to have ſerved under their native princes Alaric and Antala, communicated their intrepid ſpirit; and the citizens ſtill remembered the glorious and ſucceſsful reſiſtance, which their anceſtors had oppoſed to a fierce, inexorable Barbarian, who diſgraced the majeſty of the Roman purple. Three months were conſumed without effect in the ſiege of Aquileia; till the want of proviſions, and the clamours of his army, compelled Attila to relinquiſh the enterpriſe; and reluctantly to iſſue his orders, that the troops ſhould ſtrike their tents the next morning, and begin their retreat. But as he rode round the walls, penſive, angry, and diſappointed, he obſerved a ſtork, preparing to leave her neſt, in one of the towers, and to fly with her infant family towards the country. He ſeized, with the ready penetration of a ſtateſman, this trifling incident, which chance had offered to ſuperſtition; and exclaimed, in a [Page 124] loud and cheerful tone, that ſuch a domeſtic bird, ſo conſtantly attached to human ſociety, would never have abandoned her ancient ſeats, unleſs thoſe towers had been devoted to impending ruin and ſolitude 49. The favourable omen inſpired an aſſurance of victory; the ſiege was renewed, and proſecuted with freſh vigour; a large breach was made in the part of the wall from whence the ſtork had taken her flight; the Huns mounted to the aſſault with irreſiſtible fury; and the ſucceeding generation could ſcarcely diſcover the ruins of Aquileia 50. After this dreadful chaſtiſement, Attila purſued his march; and as he paſſed, the cities of Altinum, Concordia, and Padua, were reduced into heaps of ſtones and aſhes. The inland towns, Vicenza, Verona, and Bergamo, were expoſed to the rapacious cruelty of the Huns. Milan and Pavia ſubmitted, without reſiſtance, to the loſs of their wealth; and applauded the unuſual clemency, which preſerved from the flames the public, as well as private, buildings; and ſpared the lives of the captive multitude. The popular traditions of Comum, Turin, or Modena, may juſtly be ſuſpected; yet [Page 125] they concur with more authentic evidence to prove, that Attila ſpread his ravages over the rich plains of modern Lombardy; which are divided by the Po, and bounded by the Alps and Apennine 51. When he took poſſeſſion of the royal palace of Milan, he was ſurpriſed, and offended, at the ſight of a picture, which repreſented the Caeſars ſeated on their throne, and the princes of Scythia proſtrate at their feet. The revenge which Attila inflicted on this monument of Roman vanity, was harmleſs and ingenious. He commanded a painter to reverſe the figures, and the attitudes; and the emperors were delineated on the ſame canvaſs, approaching in a ſuppliant poſture to empty their bags of tributary gold before the throne of the Scythian monarch 52. The ſpectators muſt have confeſſed the truth and propriety of the alteration; and were perhaps tempted to apply, on this ſingular occaſion, the well-known fable of the diſpute between the lion and the man 53.
[Page 126] It is a ſaying worthy of the ferocious pride of Attila, that the graſs never grew on the ſpot where his horſe had trod. Yet the ſavage deſtroyer [Note: Foundation of the republic of Venice.] undeſignedly laid the foundations of a republic, which revived, in the feudal ſtate of Europe, the art and ſpirit of commercial induſtry. The celebrated name of Venice, or Venetia 54, was formerly diffuſed over a large and fertile province of Italy, from the confines of Pannonia to the river Addua, and from the Po to the Rhaetian and Julian Alps. Before the irruption of the Barbarians, fifty Venetian cities flouriſhed in peace and proſperity: Aquileia was placed in the moſt conſpicuous ſtation: but the ancient dignity of Padua was ſupported by agriculture and manufactures; and the property of five hundred citizens, who were entitled to the equeſtrian rank, muſt have amounted, at the ſtricteſt computation, to one million ſeven hundred thouſand pounds. Many families of Aquileia, Padua, and the adjacent towns, who fled from the ſword of the Huns, found a ſafe, though obſcure, refuge in the neighbouring iſlands 55. At the extremity of the Gulf, [Page 127] where the Hadriatic feebly imitates the tides of the ocean, near an hundred ſmall iſlands are ſeparated by ſhallow water from the continent, and protected from the waves by ſeveral long ſlips of land, which admit the entrance of veſſels through ſome ſecret and narrow channels 56. Till the middle of the fifth century, theſe remote and ſequeſtered ſpots remained without cultivation, with few inhabitants, and almoſt without a name. But the manners of the Venetian fugitives, their arts and their government, were gradually formed by their new ſituation; and one of the epiſtles of Caſſiodorius 57, which deſcribes their condition about ſeventy years afterwards, may be conſidered as the primitive monument of the republic. The miniſter of Theodoric compares them, in his quaint declamatory ſtyle, to water-fowl, who had fixed their neſts on the boſom of the waves; and though he allows, that the Venetian provinces had formerly contained many noble families, he inſinuates, that they were now reduced by misfortune to the ſame level of humble poverty. Fiſh was the common, and almoſt the univerſal, [Page 128] food of every rank: their only treaſure conſiſted in the plenty of ſalt, which they extracted from the ſea: and the exchange of that commodity, ſo eſſential to human life, was ſubſtituted in the neighbouring markets to the currency of gold and ſilver. A people, whoſe habitations might be doubtfully aſſigned to the earth or water, ſoon became alike familiar with the two elements; and the demands of avarice ſucceeded to thoſe of neceſſity. The iſlanders, who, from Grado to Chiozza, were intimately connected with each other, penetrated into the heart of Italy, by the ſecure, though laborious, navigation of the rivers and inland canals. Their veſſels, which were continually increaſing in ſize and number, viſited all the harbours of the Gulf; and the marriage, which Venice annually celebrates with the Hadriatic, was contracted in her early infancy. The epiſtle of Caſſiodorius, the Praetorian praefect, is addreſſed to the maritime tribunes: and he exhorts them, in a mild tone of authority, to animate the zeal of their countrymen for the public ſervice, which required their aſſiſtance to tranſport the magazines of wine and oil from the province of Iſtria to the royal city of Ravenna. The ambiguous office of theſe magiſtrates is explained by the tradition, that, in the twelve principal iſlands, twelve tribunes, or judges, were created by an annual and popular election. The exiſtence of the Venetian republic under the Gothic kingdom of Italy, is atteſted by the ſame authentic record, which annihilates their lofty [Page 129] claim of original and perpetual independence 58.
The Italians, who had long ſince renounced [Note: Attila gives peace to the Romans.] the exerciſe of arms, were ſurpriſed, after forty years peace, by the approach of a formidable Barbarian, whom they abhorred, as the enemy of their religion, as well as of their republic. Amidſt the general conſternation, Aetius alone was incapable of fear; but it was impoſſible that he ſhould atchieve, alone, and unaſſiſted, any military exploits worthy of his former renown. The Barbarians who had defended Gaul, refuſed to march to the relief of Italy; and the ſuccours promiſed by the Eaſtern emperor were diſtant and doubtful. Since Aetius, at the head of his domeſtic troops, ſtill maintained the field, and haraſſed or retarded the march of Attila, he never ſhewed himſelf more truly great, than at the time when his conduct was blamed by an ignorant and ungrateful people 59. If the mind of Valentinian had been ſuſceptible of any generous ſentiments, he would have choſen ſuch a general for his example and his guide. But the timid grandſon of [Page 130] Theodoſius, inſtead of ſharing the dangers, eſcaped from the ſound of war; and his haſty retreat from Ravenna to Rome, from an impregnable fortreſs to an open capital, betrayed his ſecret intention of abandoning Italy, as ſoon as the danger ſhould approach his Imperial perſon. This ſhameful abdication was ſuſpended, however, by the ſpirit of doubt and delay, which commonly adheres to puſillanimous counſels, and ſometimes corrects their pernicious tendency. The Weſtern emperor, with the ſenate and people of Rome, embraced the more ſalutary reſolution of deprecating, by a ſolemn and ſuppliant embaſſy, the wrath of Attila. This important commiſſion was accepted by Avienus, who, from his birth and riches, his conſular dignity, the numerous train of his clients, and his perſonal abilities, held the firſt rank in the Roman ſenate. The ſpecious and artful character of Avienus 60, was admirably qualified to conduct a negociation, either of public or private intereſt: his colleague Trigetius had exerciſed the Praetorian praefecture of Italy; and Leo, biſhop of Rome, conſented to expoſe his life for the ſafety of his flock. The genius of Leo 61 was exerciſed and diſplayed [Page 131] in the public misfortunes; and he has deſerved the appellation of Great, by the ſucceſsful zeal, with which he laboured to eſtabliſh his opinions, and his authority, under the venerable names of orthodox faith, and eccleſiaſtical diſcipline. The Roman ambaſſadors were introduced to the tent of Attila, as he lay encamped at the place where the ſlow-winding Mincius is loſt in the foaming waves of the lake Benacus 62, and trampled with his Scythian cavalry the farms of Catullus and Virgil 63. The Barbarian monarch liſtened with favourable, and even reſpectful, attention; and the deliverance of Italy was purchaſed by the immenſe ranſom, or dowry, of the princeſs Honoria. The ſtate of his army might facilitate the treaty, and haſten his retreat. Their martial ſpirit was relaxed by the wealth and indolence of a warm climate. The ſhepherds of the North, whoſe ordinary food conſiſted of milk and raw fleſh, indulged themſelves too freely in the uſe of bread, of wine, and of meat, prepared and ſeaſoned by the arts of cookery; and the progreſs of diſeaſe [Page 132] revenged in ſome meaſure the injuries of the Italians 64. When Attila declared his reſolution of carrying his victorious arms to the gates of Rome, he was admoniſhed by his friends, as well as by his enemies, that Alaric had not long ſurvived the conqueſt of the eternal city. His mind, ſuperior to real danger, was aſſaulted by imaginary terrors; nor could he eſcape the influence of ſuperſtition, which had ſo often been ſubſervient to his deſigns 65. The preſſing eloquence of Leo, his majeſtic aſpect, and ſacerdotal robes, excited the veneration of Attila for the ſpiritual father of the Chriſtians. The apparition of the two apoſtles, St. Peter and St. Paul, who menaced the Barbarian with inſtant death, if he rejected the prayer of their ſucceſſor, is one of the nobleſt legends of eccleſiaſtical tradition. The ſafety of Rome might deſerve the interpoſition of celeſtial beings; and ſome indulgence is due to a fable, which has been repreſented by the pencil of Raphael, and the chiſſel of Algardi 66.
[Page 133] Before the king of the Huns evacuated Italy, he threatened to return more dreadful, and more implacable, if his bride, the princeſs Honoria, [Note: The death of Attila, A. D. 453.] were not delivered to his ambaſſadors within the term ſtipulated by the treaty. Yet, in the mean while, Attila relieved his tender anxiety, by adding a beautiful maid, whoſe name was Ildico, to the liſt of his innumerable wives 67. Their marriage was celebrated with barbaric pomp and feſtivity, at his wooden palace beyond the Danube; and the monarch, oppreſſed with wine and ſleep, retired, at a late hour, from the banquet to the nuptial bed. His attendants continued to reſpect his pleaſures, or his repoſe, the greateſt part of the enſuing day, till the unuſual ſilence alarmed their fears and ſuſpicions; and, after attempting to awaken Attila by loud and repeated cries, they at length broke into the royal apartment. They found the trembling bride ſitting by the bedſide, hiding her face with her veil, and lamenting her own danger, as well as the death of the king, who had expired during [Page 134] the night 68. An artery had ſuddenly burſt; and as Attila lay in a ſupine poſture, he was ſuffocated by a torrent of blood, which, inſtead of finding a paſſage through the noſtrils, regurgitated into the lungs and ſtomach. His body was ſolemnly expoſed in the midſt of the plain, under a ſilken pavilion; and the choſen ſquadrons of the Huns, wheeling round in meaſured evolutions, chaunted a funeral ſong to the memory of a hero, glorious in his life, invincible in his death, the father of his people, the ſcourge of his enemies, and the terror of the world. According to their national cuſtom, the Barbarians cut off a part of their hair, gaſhed their faces with unſeemly wounds, and bewailed their valiant leader as he deſerved, not with the tears of women, but with the blood of warriors. The remains of Attila were incloſed within three coffins, of gold, of ſilver, and of iron, and privately buried in the night: the ſpoils of nations were thrown into his grave; the captives who had opened the ground were inhumanly maſſacred; and the ſame Huns, who had indulged ſuch exceſſive grief, feaſted, with diſſolute and intemperate mirth, about the recent ſepulchre of their king. It was reported at Conſtantinople, that on [Page 135] the fortunate night in which he expired, Marcian beheld in a dream the bow of Attila broken aſunder: and the report may be allowed to prove, how ſeldom the image of that formidable Barbarian was abſent from the mind of a Roman emperor 69.
The revolution which ſubverted the empire of [Note: Deſtruction of his empire.] the Huns, eſtabliſhed the fame of Attila, whoſe genius alone had ſuſtained the huge and disjointed fabric. After his death, the boldeſt chieftains aſpired to the rank of kings; the moſt powerful kings refuſed to acknowledge a ſuperior; and the numerous ſons, whom ſo many various mothers bore to the deceaſed monarch, divided and diſputed, like a private inheritance, the ſovereign command of the nations of Germany and Scythia. The bold Ardaric felt and repreſented the diſgrace of this ſervile partition; and his ſubjects, the warlike Gepidae, with the Oſtrogoths, under the conduct of three valiant brothers, encouraged their allies to vindicate the rights of freedom and royalty. In a bloody and deciſive conflict on the banks of the river Netad, in Pannonia, the lance of the Gepidae, the ſword of the Goths, the arrows of the Huns, the Suevic infantry, the light arms of the Heruli, and the heavy weapons of the Alani, encountered or ſupported each other; and the victory of Ardaric was accompanied with the ſlaughter of thirty [Page 136] thouſand of his enemies. Ellac, the eldeſt ſon of Attila, loſt his life and crown in the memorable battle of Netad: his early valour had raiſed him to the throne of the Acatzires, a Scythian people, whom he ſubdued; and his father, who loved the ſuperior merit, would have envied the death, of Ellac 70. His brother Dengiſich, with an army of Huns, ſtill formidable in their flight and ruin, maintained his ground above fifteen years on the banks of the Danube. The palace of Attila, with the old country of Dacia, from the Carpathian hills to the Euxine, became the ſeat of a new power, which was erected by Ardaric, king of the Gepidae. The Pannonian conqueſts, from Vienna to Sirmium, were occupied by the Oſtrogoths; and the ſettlements of the tribes, who had ſo bravely aſſerted their native freedom, were irregularly diſtributed, according to the meaſure of their reſpective ſtrength. Surrounded and oppreſſed by the multitude of his father's ſlaves, the kingdom of Dengiſich was confined to the circle of his waggons; his deſperate courage urged him to invade the Eaſtern empire; he fell in battle; and his head, ignominiouſly expoſed in the Hippodrome, exhibited a grateful ſpectacle to the people of Conſtantinople. Attila had fondly or ſuperſtitiouſly believed, [Page 137] that Irnac, the youngeſt of his ſons, was deſtined to perpetuate the glories of his race. The character of that prince, who attempted to moderate the raſhneſs of his brother Dengiſich, was more ſuitable to the declining condition of the Huns; and Irnac, with his ſubject hords, retired into the heart of the Leſſer Scythia. They were ſoon overwhelmed by a torrent of new Barbarians, who followed the ſame road which their own anceſtors had formerly diſcovered. The Geougen, or Avares, whoſe reſidence is aſſigned by the Greek writers to the ſhores of the ocean, impelled the adjacent tribes; till at length the Igours of the North, iſſuing from the cold Siberian regions, which produce the moſt valuable furs, ſpread themſelves over the deſert, as far as the Boriſthenes and Caſpian gates; and finally extinguiſhed the empire of the Huns 71.
Such an event might contribute to the ſafety [Note: Valentinian murders the patrician Aetius, A. D. 454.] of the Eaſtern empire, under the reign of a prince, who conciliated the friendſhip, without forfeiting the eſteem, of the Barbarians. But the emperor of the Weſt, the feeble and diſſolute Valentinian, who had reached his thirty-fifth year without attaining the age of reaſon or courage, abuſed this apparent ſecurity, to undermine the foundations of his own throne, by the murder of the patrician Aetius. From the inſtinct [Page 138] of a baſe and jealous mind, he hated the man who was univerſally celebrated as the terror of the barbarians, and the ſupport of the republic; and his new favourite, the eunuch Heraclius, awakened the emperor from the ſupine lethargy, which might be diſguiſed, during the life of Placidia 72, by the excuſe of filial piety. The fame of Aetius, his wealth and dignity, the numerous and martial train of Barbarian followers, his powerful dependents, who filled the civil offices of the ſtate, and the hopes of his ſon Gaudentius, who was already contracted to Eudoxia, the emperor's daughter, had raiſed him above the rank of a ſubject. The ambitious deſigns, of which he was ſecretly accuſed, excited the fears, as well as the reſentment, of Valentinian. Aetius himſelf, ſupported by the conſciouſneſs of his merit, his ſervices, and perhaps his innocence, ſeems to have maintained a haughty and indiſcreet behaviour. The patrician offended his ſovereign by an hoſtile declaration; he aggravated the offence, by compelling him to ratify, with a ſolemn oath, a treaty of reconciliation and alliance; he proclaimed his ſuſpicions; he neglected his ſafety; and from a vain confidence that the enemy, whom he deſpiſed, was incapable [Page 139] even of a manly crime, he raſhly ventured his perſon in the palace of Rome. Whilſt he urged, perhaps with intemperate vehemence, the marriage of his ſon; Valentinian, drawing his ſword, the firſt ſword he had ever drawn, plunged it in the breaſt of a general who had ſaved his empire: his courtiers and eunuchs ambitiouſly ſtruggled to imitate their maſter; and Aetius, pierced with an hundred wounds, fell dead in the royal preſence. Boethius, the Praetorian praefect, was killed at the ſame moment; and before the event could be divulged, the principal friends of the patrician were ſummoned to the palace, and ſeparately murdered. The horrid deed, palliated by the ſpecious names of juſtice and neceſſity, was immediately communicated by the emperor to his ſoldiers, his ſubjects, and his allies. The nations, who were ſtrangers or enemies to Aetius, generouſly deplored the unworthy fate of a hero: the Barbarians, who had been attached to his ſervice, diſſembled their grief and reſentment; and the public contempt, which had been ſo long entertained for Valentinian, was at once converted into deep and univerſal abhorrence. Such ſentiments ſeldom pervade the walls of a palace; yet the emperor was confounded by the honeſt reply of a Roman, whoſe approbation he had not diſdained to ſolicit. ‘"I am ignorant, Sir, of your motives or provocations; I only know, that you have acted like a man who cuts off his right hand with his left 73."’
[Page 140] The luxury of Rome ſeems to have attracted the long and frequent viſits of Valentinian; who was conſequently more deſpiſed at Rome, than in [Note: and raviſhes the wife of Maximus.] any other part of his dominions. A republican ſpirit was inſenſibly revived in the ſenate, as their authority, and even their ſupplies, became neceſſary for the ſupport of his feeble government. The ſtately demeanour of an hereditary monarch offended their pride; and the pleaſures of Valentinian were injurious to the peace and honour of noble families. The birth of the empreſs Eudoxia was equal to his own, and her charms and tender affection deſerved thoſe teſtimonies of love, which her inconſtant huſband diſſipated in vague and unlawful amours. Petronius Maximus, a wealthy ſenator of the Anician family, who had been twice conſul, was poſſeſſed of a chaſte and beautiful wife: her obſtinate reſiſtance ſerved only to irritate the deſires of Valentinian; and he reſolved to accompliſh them either by ſtratagem or force. Deep gaming was one of the vices of the court: the emperor, who, by chance or contrivance, had gained from Maximus a conſiderable ſum, uncourteouſly exacted his ring as a ſecurity for the debt; and ſent it by a truſty meſſenger to his wife, with an order, in her huſband's name, that ſhe ſhould immediately attend the empreſs Eudoxia. The unſuſpecting wife of Maximus was conveyed in her litter to the Imperial palace; the emiſſaries of her impatient lover conducted her to a remote and ſilent [Page 141] bed-chamber; and Valentinian violated, without remorſe, the laws of hoſpitality. Her tears, when ſhe returned home; her deep affliction; and her bitter reproaches againſt her huſband, whom ſhe conſidered as the accomplice of his own ſhame, excited Maximus to a juſt revenge; the deſire of revenge was ſtimulated by ambition; and he might reaſonably aſpire, by the free ſuffrage of the Roman ſenate, to the throne of a deteſted and deſpicable rival. Valentinian, who ſuppoſed that every human breaſt was devoid, like his own, of friendſhip and gratitude, had imprudently admitted among his guards ſeveral domeſtics and followers of Aetius. Two of theſe, of Barbarian race, were perſuaded to execute a ſacred and honourable duty, by puniſhing with death the aſſaſſin of their patron; and their intrepid courage did not long expect a favourable moment. Whilſt Valentinian amuſed himſelf in the field of Mars with the ſpectacle of ſome military ſports, they ſuddenly ruſhed upon him with drawn weapons, diſpatched the guilty Heraclius, and ſtabbed the emperor to the heart, without the [Note: Death of Valentinian, A. D. 455, March 16.] leaſt oppoſition from his numerous train, who ſeemed to rejoice in the tyrant's death. Such was the fate of Valentinian the Third 74, the laſt [Page 142] Roman emperor of the family of Theodoſius. He faithfully imitated the hereditary weakneſs of of his couſin and his two uncles, without inheriting the gentleneſs, the purity, the innocence, which alleviate, in their characters, the want of ſpirit and ability. Valentinian was leſs excuſable, ſince he had paſſions, without virtues: even his religion was queſtionable; and though he never deviated into the paths of hereſy, he ſcandalized the pious Chriſtians by his attachment to the profane arts of magic and divination.
As early as the time of Cicero and Varro, it [Note: Symptoms of decay and ruin.] was the opinion of the Roman augurs, that the twelve vultures, which Romulus had ſeen, repreſented the twelve centuries, aſſigned for the fatal period of his city 75. This prophecy, diſregarded perhaps in the ſeaſon of health and proſperity, inſpired the people with gloomy apprehenſions, when the twelfth century, clouded with diſgrace and misfortune, was almoſt elapſed 76; and even poſterity muſt acknowledge with ſome ſurpriſe, that the arbitrary interpretation of an accidental [Page 143] or fabulous circumſtance, has been ſeriouſly verified in the downfall of the Weſtern empire. But its fall was announced by a clearer omen than the flight of vultures: the Roman government appeared every day leſs formidable to its enemies, more odious and oppreſſive to its ſubjects 77. The taxes were multiplied with the public diſtreſs; oeconomy was neglected in proportion as it became neceſſary; and the injuſtice of the rich ſhifted the unequal burden from themſelves to the people, whom they defrauded of the indulgencies that might ſometimes have alleviated their miſery. The ſevere inquiſition, which confiſcated their goods, and tortured their perſons, compelled the ſubjects of Valentinian to prefer the more ſimple tyranny of the Barbarians, to fly to the woods and mountains, or to embrace the vile and abject condition of mercenary ſervants. They abjured and abhorred the name of Roman citizens, which had formerly excited the ambition of mankind. The Armorican provinces of Gaul, and the greateſt part of Spain, were thrown into a ſtate of diſorderly independence, by the confederations of the Bagaudae; and the Imperial miniſters purſued with proſcriptive laws, and ineffectual arms, the rebels whom they had made 78. If all the Barbarian conquerors had [Page 144] been annihilated in the ſame hour, their total deſtruction would not have reſtored the empire of the Weſt: and if Rome ſtill ſurvived, ſhe ſurvived the loſs of freedom, of virtue, and of honour.
4. CHAP. XXXVI. Sack of Rome by Genſeric, King of the Vandals.—His naval Depredations.—Succeſſion of the laſt Emperors of the Weſt, Maximus, Avitus, Majorian, Severus, Anthemius, Olybrius, Glycerius, Nepos, Auguſtulus.—Total Extinction of the Weſtern Empire.—Reign of Odoacer, the firſt Barbarian King of Italy.[Page 145]
THE loſs or deſolation of the provinces, from the ocean to the Alps, impaired the glory and greatneſs of Rome: her internal proſperity was irretrievably [Note: Naval power of the Vandals. A. D. 439—455.] deſtroyed by the ſeparation of Africa. The rapacious Vandals confiſcated the patrimonial eſtates of the ſenators, and intercepted the regular ſubſidies, which relieved the poverty, and encouraged the idleneſs, of the plebeians. The diſtreſs of the Romans was ſoon aggravated by an unexpected attack; and the province, ſo long cultivated for their uſe by induſtrious and obedient ſubjects, was armed againſt them by an ambitious Barbarian. The Vandals and Alani, who followed the ſucceſsful ſtandard of Genſeric, had acquired a rich and fertile territory, which ſtretched along the coaſt above ninety days journey from Tangier to Tripoli; but their narrow limits were preſſed and confined, on either ſide, by the ſandy deſert and the Mediterranean. The diſcovery and conqueſt of the Black nations, that might dwell beneath the torrid zone, could not [Page 146] tempt the rational ambition of Genſeric: but he caſt his eyes towards the ſea; he reſolved to create a naval power, and his bold reſolution was executed with ſteady and active perſeverance. The woods of mount Atlas afforded an inexhauſtible nurſery of timber; his new ſubjects were ſkilled in the arts of navigation and ſhip-building; he animated his daring Vandals to embrace a mode of warfare which would render every maritime country acceſſible to their arms; the Moors and Africans were allured by the hopes of plunder; and, after an interval of ſix centuries, the fleets that iſſued from the port of Carthage again claimed the empire of the Mediterranean. The ſucceſs of the Vandals, the conqueſt of Sicily, the ſack of Palermo, and the frequent deſcents on the coaſt of Lucania, awakened and alarmed the mother of Valentinian, and the ſiſter of Theodoſius. Alliances were formed; and armaments, expenſive and ineffectual, were prepared, for the deſtruction of the common enemy; who reſerved his courage to encounter thoſe dangers which his policy could not prevent or elude. The deſigns of the Roman government were repeatedly baffled by his artful delays, ambiguous promiſes, and apparent conceſſions; and the interpoſition of his formidable confederate the king of the Huns, recalled the emperors from the conqueſt of Africa to the care of their domeſtic ſafety. The revolutions of the palace, which left the Weſtern empire without a defender, and without a lawful prince, diſpelled the apprehenſions, and ſtimulated the avarice, [Page 147] of Genſeric. He immediately equipped a numerous fleet of Vandals and Moors, and caſt anchor at the mouth of the Tyber, about three months after the death of Valentinian, and the elevation of Maximus to the Imperial throne.
The private life of the ſenator Petronius Maximus 1, [Note: The character and reign of the emperor Maximus, A. D. 455, March 17.] was often alleged as a rare example of human felicity. His birth was noble and illuſtrious, ſince he deſcended from the Anician family; his dignity was ſupported by an adequate patrimony in land and money: and theſe advantages of fortune were accompanied with liberal arts, and decent manners, which adorn or imitate the ineſtimable gifts of genius and virtue. The luxury of his palace and table was hoſpitable and elegant. Whenever Maximus appeared in public, he was ſurrounded by a train of grateful and obſequious clients 2; and it is poſſible that among theſe clients, he might deſerve and poſſeſs ſome real friends. His merit was rewarded by the favour of the prince and ſenate: he thrice exerciſed the office of Praetorian praefect of Italy; he was twice inveſted with the conſulſhip, and he obtained the rank of patrician. Theſe civil honours were not incompatible with the enjoyment [Page 148] of leiſure and tranquillity; his hours, according to the demands of pleaſure or reaſon, were accurately diſtributed by a water-clock; and this avarice of time may be allowed to prove the ſenſe which Maximus entertained of his own happineſs. The injury which he received from the emperor Valentinian, appears to excuſe the moſt bloody revenge. Yet a philoſopher might have reflected, that, if the reſiſtance of his wife had been ſincere, her chaſtity was ſtill inviolate, and that it could never be reſtored if ſhe had conſented to the will of the adulterer. A patriot would have heſitated, before he plunged himſelf and his country into thoſe inevitable calamities, which muſt follow the extinction of the royal houſe of Theodoſius. The imprudent Maximus diſregarded theſe ſalutary conſiderations: he gratified his reſentment and ambition; he ſaw the bleeding corpſe of Valentinian at his feet; and he heard himſelf ſaluted emperor by the unanimous voice of the ſenate and people. But the day of his inauguration was the laſt day of his happineſs. He was impriſoned (ſuch is the lively expreſſion of Sidonius) in the palace; and after paſſing a ſleepleſs night he ſighed, that he had attained the ſummit of his wiſhes, and aſpired only to deſcend from the dangerous elevation. Oppreſſed by the weight of the diadem, he communicated his anxious thoughts to his friend and quaeſtor Fulgentius; and when he looked back with unavailing regret on the ſecure pleaſures of his former life, the emperor exclaimed, ‘"O fortunate Damocles 3, [Page 149] thy reign began and ended with the ſame dinner:"’ a well-known alluſion, which Fulgentius afterwards repeated as an inſtructive leſſon for princes and ſubjects.
The reign of Maximus continued about three [Note: His death, A. D. 455. June 12.] months. His hours, of which he had loſt the command, were diſturbed by remorſe, or guilt, or terror, and his throne was ſhaken by the ſeditions of the ſoldiers, the people, and the confederate Barbarians. The marriage of his ſon Palladius with the eldeſt daughter of the late emperor, might tend to eſtabliſh the hereditary ſucceſſion of his family; but the violence which he offered to the empreſs Eudoxia, could proceed only from the blind impulſe of luſt or revenge. His own wife, the cauſe of theſe tragic events, had been ſeaſonably removed by death; and the widow of Valentinian was compelled to violate her decent mourning, perhaps her real grief, and to ſubmit to the embraces of a preſumptuous uſurper, whom ſhe ſuſpected as the aſſaſſin of her deceaſed huſband. Theſe ſuſpicions were ſoon juſtified by the indiſcreet confeſſion of Maximus himſelf; and he wantonly provoked the hatred of his reluctant bride, who was ſtill conſcious that ſhe deſcended from a line of emperors. From [Page 150] the Eaſt, however, Eudoxia could not hope to obtain any effectual aſſiſtance: her father and her aunt Pulcheria were dead; her mother languiſhed at Jeruſalem in diſgrace and exile; and the ſceptre of Conſtantinople was in the hands of a ſtranger. She directed her eyes towards Carthage; ſecretly implored the aid of the king of the Vandals; and perſuaded Genſeric to improve the fair opportunity of diſguiſing his rapacious deſigns by the ſpecious names of honour, juſtice, and compaſſion 4. Whatever abilities Maximus might have ſhewn in a ſubordinate ſtation, he was found incapable of adminiſtering an empire; and though he might eaſily have been informed of the naval preparations, which were made on the oppoſite ſhores of Africa, he expected with ſupine indifference the approach of the enemy, without adopting any meaſures of defence, of negociation, or of a timely retreat. When the Vandals diſembarked at the mouth of the Tyber, the emperor was ſuddenly rouſed from his lethargy by the clamours of a trembling and exaſperated multitude. The only hope which preſented itſelf to his aſtoniſhed mind was that of a precipitate flight, and he exhorted the ſenators to imitate the example of their prince. But no [Page 151] ſooner did Maximus appear in the ſtreets, than he was aſſaulted by a ſhower of ſtones: a Roman, or a Burgundian, ſoldier claimed the honour of the firſt wound; his mangled body was ignominiouſly caſt into the Tyber; the Roman people rejoiced in the puniſhment which they had inflicted on the author of the public calamities; and the domeſtics of Eudoxia ſignalized their zeal in the ſervice of their miſtreſs 5.
On the third day after the tumult, Genſeric [Note: Sack of Rome by the Vandals, A. D. 455. June 15—29.] boldly advanced from the port of Oſtia to the gates of the defenceleſs city. Inſtead of a ſally of the Roman youth, there iſſued from the gates an unarmed and venerable proceſſion of the biſhop at the head of his clergy 6. The fearleſs ſpirit of Leo, his authority and eloquence, again mitigated the fierceneſs of a Barbarian conqueror: the king of the Vandals promiſed to ſpare the unreſiſting multitude, to protect the buildings from fire, and to exempt the captives from torture; and although ſuch orders were neither ſeriouſly given, nor ſtrictly obeyed, the mediation of Leo was glorious to himſelf, and in ſome degree beneficial to his country. But Rome, and its inhabitants, were [Page 152] delivered to the licentiouſneſs of the Vandals and Moors, whoſe blind paſſions revenged the injuries of Carthage. The pillage laſted fourteen days and nights; and all that yet remained of public or private wealth, of ſacred or profane treaſure, was diligently tranſported to the veſſels of Genſeric. Among the ſpoils, the ſplendid relics of two temples, or rather of two religions, exhibited a memorable example of the viciſſitude of human and divine things. Since the abolition of Paganiſm, the Capitol had been violated and abandoned; yet the ſtatues of the gods and heroes were ſtill reſpected, and the curious roof of gilt bronze was reſerved for the rapacious hands of Genſeric 7. The holy inſtruments of the Jewiſh worſhip 8, the gold table, and the gold candleſtick with ſeven branches, originally framed according to the particular inſtructions of God himſelf, and which were placed in the ſanctuary of his temple, had been oſtentatiouſly diſplayed to the Roman people in the triumph of Titus. They were afterwards depoſited in the temple of Peace; [Page 153] and at the end of four hundred years, the ſpoils of Jeruſalem were transferred from Rome to Carthage, by a Barbarian who derived his origin from the ſhores of the Baltic. Theſe ancient monuments might attract the notice of curioſity, as well as of avarice. But the Chriſtian churches, enriched and adorned by the prevailing ſuperſtition of the times, afforded more plentiful materials for ſacrilege; and the pious liberality of pope Leo, who melted ſix ſilver vaſes, the gift of Conſtantine, each of an hundred pounds weight, is an evidence of the damage which he attempted to repair. In the forty-five years, that had elapſed ſince the Gothic invaſion, the pomp and luxury of Rome were in ſome meaſure reſtored; and it was difficult either to eſcape, or to ſatisfy, the avarice of a conqueror, who poſſeſſed leiſure to collect, and ſhips to tranſport, the wealth of the capital. The imperial ornaments of the palace, the magnificent furniture and wardrobe, the ſideboards of maſſy plate, were accumulated with diſorderly rapine: the gold and ſilver amounted to ſeveral thouſand talents; yet even the braſs and copper were laboriouſly removed. Eudoxia herſelf, who advanced to meet her friend and deliverer, ſoon bewailed the imprudence of her own conduct. She was rudely ſtripped of her jewels; and the unfortunate empreſs, with her two daughters, the only ſurviving remains of the great Theodoſius, was compelled, as a captive, to follow the haughty Vandal; who immediately hoiſted ſail, and returned with a proſperous navigation to the port [Page 154] of Carthage 9. Many thouſand Romans of both ſexes, choſen for ſome uſeful or agreeable qualifications, reluctantly embarked on board the fleet of Genſeric; and their diſtreſs was aggravated by the unfeeling Barbarians, who, in the diviſion of the booty, ſeparated the wives from their huſbands, and the children from their parents. The charity of Deogratias, biſhop of Carthage 10, was their only conſolation and ſupport. He generouſly ſold the gold and ſilver plate of the church to purchaſe the freedom of ſome, to alleviate the ſlavery of others, and to aſſiſt the wants and infirmities of a captive multitude, whoſe health was impaired by the hardſhips which they had ſuffered in the paſſage from Italy to Africa. By his order, two ſpacious churches were converted into hoſpitals: the ſick were diſtributed in convenient beds, and liberally ſupplied with food and medicines; and the aged prelate repeated his viſits both in the day and night, with an aſſiduity that ſurpaſſed his ſtrength, and a tender ſympathy which enhanced the value of his ſervices. Compare this ſcene with the field of Cannae; and judge between Hannibal and the ſucceſſor of St. Cyprian 11.
[Page 155] The deaths of Aetius and Valentinian had relaxed the ties which held the Barbarians of Gaul in peace and ſubordination. The ſeacoaſt was [Note: The emperor Avitus, A. D. 455. July 10.] infeſted by the Saxons; the Alemanni and the Franks advanced from the Rhine to the Seine; and the ambition of the Goths ſeemed to meditate more extenſive and permanent conqueſts. The emperor Maximus relieved himſelf, by a judicious choice, from the weight of theſe diſtant cares; he ſilenced the ſolicitations of his friends, liſtened to the voice of fame, and promoted a ſtranger to the general command of the forces in Gaul. Avitus 12, the ſtranger, whoſe merit was ſo nobly rewarded, deſcended from a wealthy and honourable family in the dioceſe of Auvergne. The convulſions of the times urged him to embrace, with the ſame ardour, the civil and military profeſſions; and the indefatigable youth blended the ſtudies of literature and juriſprudence with the exerciſe of arms and hunting. Thirty years of his life were laudably ſpent in the public ſervice; he alternately diſplayed his talents in war and negociation; and the ſoldier of Aetius, after executing the moſt important embaſſies, was raiſed to the ſtation of Praetorian praefect of Gaul. Either the merit of Avitus excited envy, or his moderation was deſirous of repoſe, ſince he calmly retired to an eſtate, [Page 156] which he poſſeſſed in the neighbourhood of Clermont. A copious ſtream, iſſuing from the mountain, and falling headlong in many a loud and foaming caſcade, diſcharged its waters into a lake about two miles in length, and the villa was pleaſantly ſeated on the margin of the lake. The baths, the porticoes, the ſummer and winter apartments, were adapted to the purpoſes of luxury and uſe; and the adjacent country afforded the various proſpects of woods, paſtures, and meadows 13. In this retreat, where Avitus amuſed his leiſure with books, rural ſports, the practice of huſbandry, and the ſociety of his friends 14, he received the Imperial diploma, which conſtituted him maſter-general of the cavalry and infantry of Gaul. He aſſumed the military command; the Barbarians ſuſpended their fury; and whatever means he might employ, whatever conceſſions he might be forced to make, the people enjoyed the benefits of actual tranquillity. But the fate of Gaul depended on the Viſigoths; and the Roman [Page 157] general, leſs attentive to his dignity than to the public intereſt, did not diſdain to viſit Thoulouſe in the character of an ambaſſador. He was received with courteous hoſpitality by Theodoric, the king of the Goths; but while Avitus laid the foundations of a ſolid alliance with that powerful nation, he was aſtoniſhed by the intelligence, that the emperor Maximus was ſlain, and that Rome had been pillaged by the Vandals. A vacant throne, which he might aſcend without guilt or danger, tempted his ambition 15; and the Viſigoths were eaſily perſuaded to ſupport his claim by their irreſiſtible ſuffrage. They loved the perſon of Avitus; they reſpected his virtues; and they were not inſenſible of the advantage, as well [Note: A. D. 455. Auguſt 15.] as honour, of giving an emperor to the Weſt. The ſeaſon was now approaching, in which the annual aſſembly of the ſeven provinces was held at Arles; their deliberations might perhaps be influenced by the preſence of Theodoric, and his martial brothers; but their choice would naturally incline to the moſt illuſtrious of their countrymen. Avitus, after a decent reſiſtance, accepted the Imperial diadem from the repreſentatives of Gaul; and his election was ratified by the acclamations of the Barbarians and provincials. The formal conſent of Marcian, emperor of the Eaſt, was ſolicited and obtained: but the ſenate, Rome, and [Page 158] Italy, though humbled by their recent calamities, ſubmitted with a ſecret murmur to the preſumption of the Gallic uſurper.
Theodoric, to whom Avitus was indebted for the purple, had acquired the Gothic ſceptre by [Note: Character of Theodoric, king of the Viſigoths, A. D. 453—466.] the murder of his elder brother Toriſmond; and he juſtified this atrocious deed by the deſign which his predeceſſor had formed of violating his alliance with the empire 16. Such a crime might not be incompatible with the virtues of a Barbarian; but the manners of Theodoric were gentle and humane; and poſterity may contemplate without terror the original picture of a Gothic king, whom Sidonius had intimately obſerved, in the hours of peace and of ſocial intercourſe. In an epiſtle, dated from the court of Thoulouſe, the orator ſatisfies the curioſity of one of his friends, in the following deſcription 17: ‘"By the majeſty of his appearance, Theodoric would command the reſpect of thoſe who are ignorant of his merit; and although he is born a prince, his merit would dignify a private ſtation. He is of a middle ſtature, his body appears rather plump than fat, and in his well-proportioned [Page 159] limbs agility is united with muſcular ſtrength 18. If you examine his countenance, you will diſtinguiſh a high forehead, large ſhaggy eyebrows, an aquiline noſe, thin lips, a regular ſet of white teeth, and a fair complexion, that bluſhes more frequently from modeſty than from anger. The ordinary diſtribution of his time, as far as it is expoſed to the public view, may be conciſely repreſented. Before daybreak, he repairs, with a ſmall train, to his domeſtic chapel, where the ſervice is performed by the Arian clergy; but thoſe who preſume to interpret his ſecret ſentiments, conſider this aſſiduous devotion as the effect of habit and policy. The reſt of the morning is employed in the adminiſtration of his kingdom. His chair is ſurrounded by ſome military officers of decent aſpect and behaviour: the noiſy crowd of his Barbarian guards occupies the hall of audience; but they are not permitted to ſtand within the veils or curtains, that conceal the councilchamber from vulgar eyes. The ambaſſadors of the nations are ſucceſſively introduced: Theodoric liſtens with attention, anſwers them with diſcreet brevity, and either announces or delays, according to the nature of their buſineſs, his final reſolution. About eight (the ſecond hour) he riſes from his throne, and viſits, [Page 160] either his treaſury, or his ſtables. If he chuſes to hunt, or at leaſt to exerciſe himſelf on horſeback, his bow is carried by a favourite youth; but when the game is marked, he bends it with his own hand, and ſeldom miſſes the object of his aim: as a king, he diſdains to bear arms in ſuch ignoble warfare; but as a ſoldier, he would bluſh to accept any military ſervice which he could perform himſelf. On common days, his dinner is not different from the repaſt of a private citizen; but every Saturday many honourable gueſts are invited to the royal table, which, on theſe occaſions, is ſerved with the elegance of Greece, the plenty of Gaul, and the order and diligence of Italy 19. The gold or ſilver plate is leſs remarkable for its weight, than for the brightneſs and curious workmanſhip: the taſte is gratified without the help of foreign and coſtly luxury; the ſize and number of the cups of wine are regulated with a ſtrict regard to the laws of temperance; and the reſpectful ſilence that prevails, is interrupted only by grave and inſtructive converſation. After dinner, Theodoric ſometimes indulges himſelf in a ſhort ſlumber; and as ſoon as he wakes, he calls for the dice and tables, encourages his friends to forget the royal majeſty, and is delighted when they freely expreſs the paſſions, which are excited by the incidents of play. At this game, which he loves as the image of war, [Page 161] he alternately diſplays his eagerneſs, his ſkill, his patience, and his cheerful temper. If he loſes, he laughs; he is modeſt and ſilent, if he wins. Yet, notwithſtanding this ſeeming indifference, his courtiers chuſe to ſolicit any favour in the moments of victory; and I myſelf, in my applications to the king, have derived ſome benefit from my loſſes 20. About the ninth hour (three o'clock) the tide of buſineſs again returns, and flows inceſſantly till after ſun-ſet, when the ſignal of the royal ſupper diſmiſſes the weary crowd of ſuppliants and pleaders. At the ſupper, a more familiar repaſt, buffoons and pantomimes are ſometimes introduced, to divert, not to offend, the company, by their ridiculous wit: but female ſingers, and the ſoft effeminate modes of muſic, are ſeverely baniſhed, and ſuch martial tunes as animate the ſoul to deeds of valour are alone grateful to the ear of Theodoric. He retires from table; and the nocturnal guards are immediately poſted at the entrance of the treaſury, the palace, and the private apartments."’
When the king of the Viſigoths encouraged Avitus to aſſume the purple, he offered his perſon [Note: His expedition into Spain, A. D. 456.] and his forces, as a faithful ſoldier of the republic 21. [Page 162] The exploits of Theodoric ſoon convinced the world, that he had not degenerated from the warlike virtues of his anceſtors. After the eſtabliſhment of the Goths in Aquitain, and the paſſage of the Vandals into Africa, the Suevi, who had fixed their kingdom in Gallicia, aſpired to the conqueſt of Spain, and threatened to extinguiſh the feeble remains of the Roman dominion. The provincials of Carthagena and Tarragona, afflicted by an hoſtile invaſion, repreſented their injuries and their apprehenſions. Count Fronto was diſpatched, in the name of the emperor Avitus, with advantageous offers of peace and alliance; and Theodoric interpoſed his weighty mediation, to declare, that, unleſs his brother-in-law, the king of the Suevi, immediately retired, he ſhould be obliged to arm in the cauſe of juſtice and of Rome. ‘"Tell him," replied the haughty Rechiarius, "that I deſpiſe his friendſhip and his arms; but that I ſhall ſoon try, whether he will dare to expect my arrival under the walls of Thoulouſe."’ Such a challenge urged Theodoric to prevent the bold deſigns of his enemy: he paſſed the Pyrenees at the head of the Viſigoths: the Franks and Burgundians ſerved under his ſtandard; and though he profeſſed himſelf the dutiful ſervant of Avitus, he privately ſtipulated, for himſelf and his ſucceſſors, the abſolute [Page 163] poſſeſſion of his Spaniſh conqueſts. The two armies, or rather the two nations, encountered each other on the banks of the river Urbicus, about twelve miles from Aſtorga; and the deciſive victory of the Goths appeared for a while to have extirpated the name and kingdom of the Suevi. From the field of battle Theodoric advanced to Braga, their metropolis, which ſtill retained the ſplendid veſtiges of its ancient commerce and dignity 22. His entrance was not polluted with blood, and the Goths reſpected the chaſtity of their female captives, more eſpecially of the conſecrated virgins: but the greateſt part of the clergy and people were made ſlaves, and even the churches and altars were confounded in the univerſal pillage. The unfortunate king of the Suevi had eſcaped to one of the ports of the ocean; but the obſtinacy of the winds oppoſed his flight; he was delivered to his implacable rival; and Rechiarius, who neither deſired nor expected mercy, received, with manly conſtancy, the death which he would probably have inflicted. After this bloody ſacrifice to policy or reſentment, Theodoric carried his victorious arms as far as Merida, the principal town of Luſitania, without meeting any reſiſtance, except from the miraculous powers of St. Eulalia; but he was ſtopped in [Page 164] the full career of ſucceſs, and recalled from Spain, before he could provide for the ſecurity of his conqueſts. In his retreat towards the Pyrenees, he revenged his diſappointment on the country through which he paſſed, and in the ſack of Pollentia and Aſtorga, he ſhewed himſelf a faithleſs ally, as well as a cruel enemy. Whilſt the king of the Viſigoths fought and vanquiſhed in the name of Avitus, the reign of Avitus had expired; and both the honour and the intereſt of Theodoric were deeply wounded by the diſgrace of a friend, whom he had ſeated on the throne of the Weſtern empire 23.
The preſſing ſolicitations of the ſenate and people, [Note: Avitus is depoſed, A. D. 456, Oct. 16.] perſuaded the emperor Avitus to fix his reſidence at Rome, and to accept the conſulſhip for the enſuing year. On the firſt day of January, his ſon-in-law, Sidonius Apollinaris, celebrated his praiſes in a panegyric of ſix hundred verſes; but this compoſition, though it was rewarded with a braſs ſtatue 24, ſeems to contain a very moderate proportion, either of genius or of truth. The poet, if we may degrade that ſacred name, exaggerates the merit of a ſovereign and a father; and his prophecy of a long and glorious reign was [Page 165] ſoon contradicted by the event. Avitus, at a time when the Imperial dignity was reduced to a preeminence of toil and danger, indulged himſelf in the pleaſures of Italian luxury: age had not extinguiſhed his amorous inclinations; and he is accuſed of inſulting, with indiſcreet and ungenerous raillery, the huſbands whoſe wives he had ſeduced or violated 25. But the Romans were not inclined, either to excuſe his faults, or to acknowledge his virtues. The ſeveral parts of the empire became every day more alienated from each other; and the ſtranger of Gaul was the object of popular hatred and contempt. The ſenate aſſerted their legitimate claim in the election of an emperor; and their authority, which had been originally derived from the old conſtitution, was again fortified by the actual weakneſs of a declining monarchy. Yet even ſuch a monarchy might have reſiſted the votes of an unarmed ſenate, if their diſcontent had not been ſupported, or perhaps inflamed, by Count Ricimer, one of the principal commanders of the Barbarian troops, who formed the military defence of Italy. The daughter of Wallia, king of the Viſigoths, was the mother of Ricimer; but he was deſcended, on the father's ſide, from the nation of the Suevi 26: [Page 166] his pride, or patriotiſm, might be exaſperated by the misfortunes of his countrymen; and he obeyed, with reluctance, an emperor, in whoſe elevation he had not been conſulted. His faithful and important ſervices againſt the common enemy, rendered him ſtill more formidable 27; and, after deſtroying, on the coaſt of Corſica, a fleet of Vandals, which conſiſted of ſixty gallies, Ricimer returned in triumph with the appellation of the Deliverer of Italy. He choſe that moment to ſignify to Avitus, that his reign was at an end; and the feeble emperor, at a diſtance from his Gothic allies, was compelled, after a ſhort and unavailing ſtruggle, to abdicate the purple. By the clemency, however, or the contempt, of Ricimer 28, he was permitted to deſcend from the throne, to the more deſirable ſtation of biſhop of Placentia: but the reſentment of the ſenate was ſtill unſatiſfied; and their inflexible ſeverity pronounced the ſentence of his death. He fled towards the Alps, with the humble hope, not of arming the Viſigoths in his cauſe, but of ſecuring his perſon and treaſures in the ſanctuary of Julian, one of the tutelar ſaints of Auvergne 29. Diſeaſe, or the [Page 167] hand of the executioner, arreſted him on the road; yet his remains were decently tranſported to Brivas, or Brioude, in his native province, and he repoſed at the feet of his holy patron 30. Avitus left only one daughter, the wife of Sidonius Apollinaris, who inherited the patrimony of his father-in-law; lamenting, at the ſame time, the diſappointment of his public and private expectations. His reſentment prompted him to join, or at leaſt to countenance, the meaſures of a rebellious faction in Gaul; and the poet had contracted ſome guilt, which it was incumbent on him to expiate, by a new tribute of flattery to the ſucceeding emperor 31.
The ſucceſſor of Avitus preſents the welcome [Note: Character and elevation of Majorian, A. D. 457.] diſcovery of a great and heroic character, ſuch as ſometimes ariſe in a degenerate age, to vindicate the honour of the human ſpecies. The emperor Majorian has deſerved the praiſes of his contemporaries, [Page 168] and of poſterity; and theſe praiſes may be ſtrongly expreſſed in the words of a judicious and diſintereſted hiſtorian: ‘"That he was gentle to his ſubjects; that he was terrible to his enemies; and that he excelled in every virtue, all his predeceſſors who had reigned over the Romans 32."’ Such a teſtimony may juſtify at leaſt the panegyric of Sidonius; and we may acquieſce in the aſſurance, that, although the obſequious orator would have flattered, with equal zeal, the moſt worthleſs of princes, the extraordinary merit of his object confined him, on this occaſion, within the bounds of truth 33. Majorian derived his name from his maternal grandfather, who, in the reign of the great Theodoſius, had commanded the troops of the Illyrian frontier. He gave his daughter in marriage to the father of Majorian, a reſpectable officer, who adminiſtered the revenues of Gaul with ſkill and integrity; and generouſly preferred the friendſhip of Aetius, to the tempting offers of an inſidious court. His ſon, the future emperor, who was educated in the profeſſion of arms, diſplayed, from his early youth, intrepid courage, premature [Page 169] wiſdom, and unbounded liberality in a ſcanty fortune. He followed the ſtandard of Aetius, contributed to his ſucceſs, ſhared, and ſometimes eclipſed, his glory, and at laſt excited the jealouſy of the patrician, or rather of his wife, who forced him to retire from the ſervice 34. Majorian, after the death of Aetius, was recalled, and promoted; and his intimate connection with count Ricimer, was the immediate ſtep by which he aſcended the throne of the Weſtern empire. During the vacancy that ſucceeded the abdication of Avitus, the ambitious Barbarian, whoſe birth excluded him from the Imperial dignity, governed Italy, with the title of Patrician; reſigned, to his friend, the conſpicuous ſtation of maſtergeneral of the cavalry and infantry; and, after an interval of ſome months, conſented to the unanimous wiſh of the Romans, whoſe favour Majorian had ſolicited by a recent victory over the Alemanni 35. He was inveſted with the purple at Ravenna; and the epiſtle which he addreſſed to the ſenate, will beſt deſcribe his ſituation and his ſentiments. ‘"Your election, Conſcript Fathers! and the ordinance of the moſt [Page 170] valiant army, have made me your emperor 36. May the propitious Deity direct and proſper the counſels and events of my adminiſtration, to your advantage, and to the public welfare! For my own part, I did not aſpire, I have ſubmitted, to reign; nor ſhould I have diſcharged the obligations of a citizen, if I had refuſed, with baſe and ſelfiſh ingratitude, to ſupport the weight of thoſe labours, which were impoſed by the republic. Aſſiſt, therefore, the prince whom you have made; partake the duties which you have enjoined; and may our common endeavours promote the happineſs of an empire, which I have accepted from your hands. Be aſſured, that, in our times, juſtice ſhall reſume her ancient vigour, and that virtue ſhall become not only innocent, but meritorious. Let none, except the authors themſelves, be apprehenſive of delations 37, which, as a ſubject, I have always condemned, and, as a prince, will ſeverely puniſh. Our own vigilance, and that of our father, the patrician Ricimer, ſhall regulate all military affairs, and [Page 171] provide for the ſafety of the Roman world, which we have ſaved from foreign and domeſtic enemies 38. You now underſtand the maxims of my government: you may confide in the faithful love and ſincere aſſurances of a prince, who has formerly been the companion of your life and dangers; who ſtill glories in the name of ſenator, and who is anxious, that you ſhould never repent of the judgment which you have pronounced in his favour."’ The emperor, who, amidſt the ruins of the Roman world, revived the ancient language of law and liberty, which Trajan would not have diſclaimed, muſt have derived thoſe generous ſentiments from his own heart; ſince they were not ſuggeſted to his imitation by the cuſtoms of his age, or the example of his predeceſſors 39.
The private and public actions of Majorian [Note: His ſalutary laws, A. D. 457—461.] are very imperfectly known: but his laws, remarkable for an original caſt of thought and expreſſion, faithfully repreſent the character of a ſovereign, who loved his people, who ſympathized in their diſtreſs, who had ſtudied the cauſes of the decline of the empire, and who was capable of applying, (as far as ſuch reformation was [Page 172] practicable) judicious and effectual remedies to the public diſorders 40. His regulations concerning the finances manifeſtly tended to remove, or at leaſt to mitigate, the moſt intolerable grievances. I. From the firſt hour of his reign, he was ſolicitous. (I tranſlate his own words) to relieve the weary fortunes of the provincials, oppreſſed by the accumulated weight of indictions and ſuperindictions 41. With this view, he granted an univerſal amneſty, a final and abſolute diſcharge of all arrears of tribute, of all debts, which, under any pretence, the fiſcal officers might demand from the people. This wiſe dereliction of obſolete, vexatious, and unprofitable claims, improved and purified the ſources of the public revenue; and the ſubject, who could now look back without deſpair, might labour with hope and gratitude for himſelf and for his country. II. In the aſſeſſment and collection of taxes Majorian reſtored the ordinary juriſdiction of the provincial magiſtrates; and ſuppreſſed the extraordinary commiſſions which had been introduced, in the name of the emperor himſelf, or of the Praetorian praefects. The favourite ſervants, who obtained ſuch irregular powers, were inſolent in their behaviour, and arbitrary in their demands: they affected to deſpiſe the ſubordinate tribunals, [Page 173] and they were diſcontented, if their fees and profits did not twice exceed the ſum which they condeſcended to pay into the treaſury. One inſtance of their extortion would appear incredible, were it not authenticated by the legiſlator himſelf. They exacted the whole payment in gold: but they refuſed the current coin of the empire, and would accept only ſuch ancient pieces as were ſtamped with the names of Fauſtina or the Antonines. The ſubject, who was unprovided with theſe curious medals, had recourſe to the expedient of compounding with their rapacious demands; or, if he ſucceeded in the reſearch, his impoſition was doubled, according to the weight and value of the money of former times 42. III. ‘"The municipal corporations (ſays the emperor), the leſſer ſenates (ſo antiquity has juſtly ſtyled them), deſerve to be conſidered as the heart of the cities, and the ſinews of the republic. And yet ſo low are they now reduced, by the injuſtice of magiſtrates, and the venality of collectors, that many of their members, renouncing their dignity and their country, have taken refuge in diſtant and obſcure exile."’ He urges, and even compels, their return to their reſpective cities; but he removes the grievance which had forced them to deſert the exerciſe [Page 174] of their municipal functions. They are directed, under the authority of the provincial magiſtrates, to reſume their office of levying the tribute; but, inſtead of being made reſponſible for the whole ſum aſſeſſed on their diſtrict, they are only required to produce a regular account of the payments which they have actually received, and of the defaulters who are ſtill indebted to the public. IV. But Majorian was not ignorant, that theſe corporate bodies were too much inclined to retaliate the injuſtice and oppreſſion which they had ſuffered; and he therefore revives the uſeful office of the defenders of cities. He exhorts the people to elect, in a full and free aſſembly, ſome man of diſcretion and integrity, who would dare to aſſert their privileges, to repreſent their grievances, to protect the poor from the tyranny of the rich, and to inform the emperor of the abuſes that were committed under the ſanction of his name and authority.
The ſpectator, who caſts a mournful view over [Note: The edifices of Rome.] the ruins of ancient Rome, is tempted to accuſe the memory of the Goths and Vandals, for the miſchief which they had neither leiſure, nor power, nor perhaps inclination, to perpetrate. The tempeſt of war might ſtrike ſome lofty turrets to the ground; but the deſtruction which undermined the foundations of thoſe maſſy fabrics, was proſecuted, ſlowly and ſilently, during a period of ten centuries; and the motives of intereſt, that afterwards operated without ſhame or controul, were ſeverely checked by the taſte and ſpirit of the emperor Majorian. The decay of [Page 175] the city had gradually impaired the value of the public works. The circus and theatres might ſtill excite, but they ſeldom gratified, the deſires of the people: the temples, which had eſcaped the zeal of the Chriſtians, were no longer inhabited either by gods or men; the diminiſhed crowds of the Romans were loſt in the immenſe ſpace of their baths and porticoes; and the ſtately libraries and halls of juſtice became uſeleſs to an indolent generation, whoſe repoſe was ſeldom diſturbed, either by ſtudy, or buſineſs. The monuments of conſular, or Imperial, greatneſs were no longer revered, as the immortal glory of the capital; they were only eſteemed as an inexhauſtible mine of materials, cheaper, and more convenient, than the diſtant quarry. Specious petitions were continually addreſſed to the eaſy magiſtrates of Rome, which ſtated the want of ſtones or bricks for ſome neceſſary ſervice: the faireſt forms of architecture were rudely defaced for the ſake of ſome paltry, or pretended, repairs; and the degenerate Romans, who converted the ſpoil to their own emolument, demoliſhed, with ſacrilegious hands, the labours of their anceſtors. Majorian, who had often ſighed over the deſolation of the city, applied a ſevere remedy to the growing evil 43 He reſerved to [Page 176] the prince and ſenate the ſole congniſance of the extreme caſes which might juſtify the deſtruction of an ancient edifice; impoſed a fine of fifty pounds of gold (two thouſand pounds ſterling), on every magiſtrate, who ſhould preſume to grant ſuch illegal and ſcandalous licence; and threatened to chaſtiſe the criminal obedience of their ſubordinate officers, by a ſevere whipping, and the amputation of both their hands. In the laſt inſtance, the legiſlator might ſeem to forget the proportion of guilt and puniſhment; but his zeal aroſe from a generous principle, and Majorian was anxious to protect the monuments of thoſe ages, in which he would have deſired and deſerved to live. The emperor conceived, that it was his intereſt to increaſe the number of his ſubjects; that it was his duty to guard the purity of the marriage-bed: but the means which he employed to accompliſh theſe ſalutary purpoſes, are of an ambiguous, and perhaps exceptionable, kind. The pious maids, who conſecrated their virginity to Chriſt, were reſtrained from taking the veil, till they had reached their fortieth year. Windows under that age were compelled to form a ſecond alliance within the term of five years, by the forfeiture of half their wealth to their neareſt relations, or to the ſtate. Unequal marriages were condemned or annulled. The puniſhment of confiſcation and exile was deemed ſo inadequate [Page 177] to the guilt of adultery, that, if the criminal returned to Italy, he might, by the expreſs declaration of Majorian, be ſlain with impunity 44.
While the emperor Majorian aſſiduouſly laboured [Note: Majorian prepares to invade Africa, A. D. 457.] to reſtore the happineſs and virtue of the Romans, he encountered the arms of Genſeric, from his character and ſituation, their moſt formidable enemy. A fleet of Vandals and Moors landed at the mouth of the Liris, or Garigliano: but the Imperial troops ſurpriſed and attacked the diſorderly Barbarians, who were encumbered with the ſpoils of Campania; they were chaced with ſlaughter to their ſhips, and their leader, the king's brother-in-law, was found in the number of the ſlain 45. Such vigilance might announce the character of the new reign; but the ſtricteſt vigilance, and the moſt numerous forces, were inſufficient to protect the long-extended coaſt of Italy, from the depredations of a naval war. The public opinion had impoſed a nobler and more arduous taſk on the genius of Majorian. Rome expected from him alone the reſtitution of Africa; and the deſign, which he formed, of attacking the Vandals in their new ſettlements, was the reſult of bold and judicious policy. If the intrepid emperor could have infuſed his own ſpirit into the youth of Italy; if he could [Page 178] have revived, in the field of Mars, the manly exerciſes in which he had always ſurpaſſed his equals; he might have marched againſt Genſeric at the head of a Roman army. Such a reformation of national manners might be embraced by the riſing generation; but it is the misfortune of thoſe princes who laboriouſly ſuſtain a declining monarchy, that, to obtain ſome immediate advantage, or to avert ſome impending danger, they are forced to countenance, and even to multiply, the moſt pernicious abuſes. Majorian, like the weakeſt of his predeceſſors, was reduced to the diſgraceful expedient of ſubſtituting Barbarian auxiliaries in the place of his unwarlike ſubjects: and his ſuperior abilities could only be diſplayed in the vigour and dexterity with which he wielded a dangerous inſtrument, ſo apt to recoil on the hand that uſed it. Beſides the confederates, who were already engaged in the ſervice of the empire, the fame of his liberality and valour attracted the nations of the Danube, the Boryſthenes, and perhaps of the Tanais. Many thouſands of the braveſt ſubjects of Attila, the Gepidae, the Oſtrogoths, the Rugians, the Burgundians, the Suevi, the Alani, aſſembled in the plains of Liguria; and their formidable ſtrength was balanced by their mutual animoſities 46. They paſſed the Alps in a ſevere winter. The emperor led the way, on foot, and in complete armour; [Page 179] ſounding, with his long ſtaff, the depth of the ice, or ſnow, and encouraging the Scythians, who complained of the extreme cold, by the cheerful aſſurance, that they ſhould be ſatisfied with the heat of Africa. The citizens of Lyons had preſumed to ſhut their gates: they ſoon implored, and experienced, the clemency of Majorian. He vanquiſhed Theodoric in the field; and admitted to his friendſhip and alliance, a king whom he had found not unworthy of his arms. The beneficial, though precarious, reunion of the greateſt part of Gaul and Spain, was the effect of perſuaſion, as well as of force 47; and the independent Bagaudae, who had eſcaped, or reſiſted, the oppreſſion of former reigns, were diſpoſed to confide in the virtues of Majorian. His camp was filled with Barbarian allies; his throne was ſupported by the zeal of an affectinate people; but the emperor had foreſeen, that it was impoſſible, without a maritime power, to atchieve the conqueſt of Africa. In the firſt Punic war, the republic had exerted ſuch incredible diligence, that, within ſixty days after the firſt ſtroke of the axe had been given in the foreſt, a fleet of one hundred and ſixty gallies proudly rode at anchor in the ſea 48. Under circumſtances [Page 180] much leſs favourable, Majorian equalled the ſpirit and perſeverance of the ancient Romans. The woods of the Apennine were felled; the arſenals and manufactures of Ravenna and Miſenum were reſtored; Italy and Gaul vied with each other in liberal contributions to the public ſervice; and the Imperial navy of three hundred large gallies, with an adequate proportion of tranſports and ſmaller veſſels, was collected in the ſecure and capacious harbour of Carthagena in Spain 49. The intrepid countenance of Majorian animated his troops with a confidence of victory; and if we might credit the hiſtorian Procopius, his courage ſometimes hurried him beyond the bounds of prudence. Anxious to explore, with his own eyes, the ſtate of the Vandals, he ventured, after diſguiſing the colour of his hair, to viſit Carthage, in the character of his own ambaſſador: and Genſeric was afterwards mortified by the diſcovery, that he had entertained and diſmiſſed the emperor of the Romans. Such an anecdote may be rejected as an improbable fiction; but it is a fiction which would not have been imagined, unleſs in the life of a hero 50.
[Page 181] Without the help of a perſonal interview, Genſeric was ſufficiently acquainted with the genius and deſigns of his adverſary. He practiſed his [Note: The loſs of his fleet.] cuſtomary arts of fraud and delay, but he practiſed them without ſucceſs. His applications for peace became each hour more ſubmiſſive, and perhaps more ſincere; but the inflexible Majorian had adopted the ancient maxim, that Rome could not be ſafe, as long as Carthage exiſted in a hoſtile ſtate. The king of the Vandals diſtruſted the valour of his native ſubjects, who were enervated by the luxury of the South 51; he ſuſpected the fidelity of the vanquiſhed people, who abhorred him as an Arian tyrant; and the deſperate meaſure, which he executed, of reducing Mauritania into a deſert 52, could not defeat the operations of the Roman emperor, who was at liberty to land his troops on any part of the African coaſt. But Genſeric was ſaved from impending and inevitable ruin, by the treachery of ſome powerful ſubjects; envious, or apprehenſive, of their maſter's ſucceſs. Guided by their ſecret intelligence, he ſurpriſed the unguarded [Page 182] fleet in the bay of Carthagena: many of the ſhips were ſunk, or taken, or burnt; and the preparations of three years were deſtroyed in a ſingle day 53. After this event, the behaviour of the two antagoniſts ſhewed them ſuperior to their fortune. The Vandal, inſtead of being elated by this accidental victory, immediately renewed his ſolicitations for peace. The emperor of the Weſt, who was capable of forming great deſigns, and of ſupporting heavy diſappointments, conſented to a treaty, or rather to a ſuſpenſion of arms; in the full aſſurance that, before he could reſtore his navy, he ſhould be ſupplied with provocations to juſtify a ſecond war. Majorian returned to Italy, to proſecute his labours for the public happineſs; and, as he was conſcious of his own integrity, he might long remain ignorant of the dark conſpiracy which threatened his throne and his life. The recent misfortune of Carthagena ſullied the glory which had dazzled the eyes of the multitude; almoſt every deſcription of civil and military officers were exaſperated againſt the Reformer, ſince they all derived ſome advantage from the abuſes which he endeavoured to ſuppreſs; and the patrician Rieimer impelled the inconſtant paſſions of the Barbarians againſt a prince whom he eſteemed and hated. The virtues of Majorian could not protect him from the impetuous ſedition, which broke out in the camp [Page 183] near Tortona, at the foot of the Alps. He was compelled to abdicate the Imperial purple: five days after his abdication, it was reported that he died of a dyſentery 54; and the humble tomb, [Note: His death, A D. 461. Auguſt 7.] which covered his remains, was conſecrated by the reſpect and gratitude of ſucceeding generations 55. The private character of Majorian inſpired love and reſpect. Malicious calumny and ſatire excited his indignation, or, if he himſelf were the object, his contempt: but he protected the freedom of wit, and in the hours which the emperor gave to the familiar ſociety of his friends, he could indulge his taſte for pleaſantry, without degrading the majeſty of his rank 56.
It was not perhaps without ſome regret, that [Note: Ricimer reigns under the name of Severus, A. D. 461—467.] Ricimer ſacrificed his friend to the intereſt of his ambition: but he reſolved, in a ſecond choice, to avoid the imprudent preference of ſuperior virtue and merit. At his command, the obſequious [Page 184] ſenate of Rome beſtowed the Imperial title on Libius Severus, who aſcended the throne of the Weſt without emerging from the obſcurity of a private condition. Hiſtory has ſcarcely deigned to notice his birth, his elevation, his character, or his death. Severus expired, as ſoon as his life became inconvenient to his patron 57; and it would be uſeleſs to diſcriminate his nominal reign in the vacant interval of ſix years, between the death of Majorian, and the elevation of Anthemius. During that period the government was in the hands of Ricimer alone; and although the modeſt Barbarian diſclaimed the name of king, he accumulated treaſures, formed a ſeparate army, negociated private alliances, and ruled Italy with the ſame independent and deſpotic authority, which was afterwards exerciſed by Odoacer and Theodoric. But his dominions were bounded by the Alps; and two Roman generals, Marcellinus and Aegidius, maintained their allegiance to the Republic, by rejecting, with diſdain, the phantom which he ſtyled an emperor. Marcellinus ſtill adhered to the old [Note: Revolt of Marcellinus in Dalmatia,] religion; and the devout Pagans, who ſecretly diſobeyed the laws of the church and ſtate, applauded his profound ſkill in the ſcience of divination. But he poſſeſſed the more valuable [Page 185] qualifications of learning, virtue, and courage 58; the ſtudy of the Latin literature had improved his taſte; and his military talents had recommended him to the eſteem and confidence of the great Aetius, in whoſe ruin he was involved. By a timely flight, Marcellinus eſcaped the rage of Valentinian, and boldly aſſerted his liberty amidſt the convulſions of the Weſtern empire. His voluntary, or reluctant, ſubmiſſion, to the authority of Majorian, was rewarded by the government of Sicily, and the command of an army, ſtationed in that iſland to oppoſe, or to attack, the Vandals; but his Barbarian mercenaries, after the emperor's death, were tempted to revolt by the artful liberality of Ricimer. At the head of a band of faithful followers, the intrepid Marcellinus occupied the province of Dalmatia, aſſumed the title of patrician of the Weſt, ſecured the love of his ſubjects by a mild and equitable reign, built a fleet, which claimed the dominion of the Hadriatic, and alternately alarmed the coaſts of Italy and of Africa 59. Aegidius, the maſter-general of Gaul, who equalled, or at leaſt who imitated, the heroes [Note: and of Aegidius in Gaul.] of ancient Rome 60, proclaimed his immortal [Page 186] reſentment againſt the aſſaſſins of his beloved maſter. A brave and numerous army was attached to his ſtandard; and, though he was prevented by the arts of Ricimer, and the arms of the Viſigoths, from marching to the gates of Rome, he maintained his independent ſovereignty beyond the Alps, and rendered the name of Aegidius reſpectable both in peace and war. The Franks, who had puniſhed with exile the youthful follies of Childeric, elected the Roman general for their king; his vanity, rather than his ambition, was gratified by that ſingular honour; and when the nation, at the end of four years, repented of the injury which they had offered to the Merovingian family, he patiently acquieſced in the reſtoration of the lawful prince. The authority of Aegidius ended only with his life; and the ſuſpicions of poiſon and ſecret violence, which derived ſome countenance from the character of Ricimer, were eagerly entertained by the paſſionate credulity of the Gauls 61.
The kingdom of Italy, a name to which the [Note: Naval war of the Vandals, A. D. 361—467.] Weſtern empire was gradually reduced, was [Page 187] afflicted, under the reign of Ricimer, by the inceſſant depredations of the Vandal pirates 62. In the ſpring of each year, they equipped a formidable navy in the port of Carthage; and Genſeric himſelf, though in a very advanced age, ſtill commanded in perſon the moſt important expeditions. His deſigns were concealed with impenetrable ſecrecy, till the moment that he hoiſted ſail. When he was aſked by his pilot, what courſe he ſhould ſteer; ‘"Leave the determination to the winds (replied the Barbarian, with pious arrogance); they will tranſport us to the guilty coaſt, whoſe inhabitants have provoked the divine juſtice:"’ but if Genſeric himſelf deigned to iſſue more preciſe orders, he judged the moſt wealthy to be the moſt criminal. The Vandals repeatedly viſited the coaſts of Spain, Liguria, Tuſcany, Campania, Lucania, Bruttium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia, Dalmatia, Epirus, Greece, and Sicily: they were tempted to ſubdue the iſland of Sardinia, ſo advantageouſly placed in the centre of the Mediterranean; [Page 188] and their arms ſpread deſolation, or terror, from the columns of Hercules to the mouth of the Nile. As they were more ambitious of ſpoil than of glory, they ſeldom attacked any fortified cities, or engaged any regular troops in the open field. But the celerity of their motions enabled them, almoſt at the ſame time, to threaten and to attack the moſt diſtant objects, which attracted their deſires; and as they always embarked a ſufficient number of horſes, they had no ſooner landed, than they ſwept the diſmayed country with a body of light cavalry. Yet, notwithſtanding the example of their king, the native Vandals and Alani inſenſibly declined this toilſome and perilous warfare; the hardy generation of the firſt conquerors was almoſt extinguiſhed, and their ſons, who were born in Africa, enjoyed the delicious baths and gardens which had been acquired by the valour of their fathers. Their place was readily ſupplied by a various multitude of Moors and Romans, of captives and outlaws; and thoſe deſperate wretches, who had already violated the laws of their country, were the moſt eager to promote the atrocious acts which diſgrace the victories of Genſeric. In the treatment of his unhappy priſoners, he ſometimes conſulted his avarice, and ſometimes indulged his cruelty; and the maſſacre of five hundred noble citizens of Zant or Zacynthus, whoſe mangled bodies he caſt into the Ionian ſea, was imputed, by the public indignation, to his lateſt poſterity.
[Page 189] Such crimes could not be excuſed by any provocations; but the war, which the king of the Vandals proſecuted againſt the Roman empire, [Note: Negociations with the Eaſtern empire, A. D. 462, &c.] was juſtified by a ſpecious and reaſonable motive. The widow of Valentinian, Eudoxia, whom he had led captive from Rome to Carthage, was the ſole heireſs of the Theodoſian houſe; her elder daughter, Eudocia, became the reluctant wife of Hunneric, his eldeſt ſon; and the ſtern father, aſſerting a legal claim, which could not eaſily be refuted or ſatisfied, demanded a juſt proportion of the Imperial patrimony. An adequate, or at leaſt a valuable, compenſation, was offered by the Eaſtern emperor, to purchaſe a neceſſary peace. Eudoxia and her younger daughter, Placidia, were honourably reſtored, and the fury of the Vandals was confined to the limits of the Weſtern empire. The Italians, deſtitute of a naval force, which alone was capable of protecting their coaſts, implored the aid of the more fortunate nations of the Eaſt; who had formerly acknowledged, in peace and war, the ſupremacy of Rome. But the perpetual diviſion of the two empires had alienated their intereſt and their inclinations; the faith of a recent treaty was alleged; and the Weſtern Romans, inſtead of arms and ſhips, could only obtain the aſſiſtance of a cold and ineffectual mediation. The haughty Ricimer, who had long ſtruggled with the difficulties of his ſituation, was at length reduced to addreſs the throne of Conſtantinople, in the humble language of a ſubject; and Italy ſubmitted, [Page 190] as the price and ſecurity of the alliance, to accept a maſter from the choice of the emperor of the Eaſt 63. It is not the purpoſe of the preſent chapter, or even of the preſent volume, to continue the diſtinct ſeries of the Byzantine hiſtory; but a conciſe view of the reign and character of the emperor Leo, may explain the laſt efforts that were attempted to ſave the falling empire of the Weſt 64.
Since the death of the younger Theodoſius, the domeſtic repoſe of Conſtantinople had never been [Note: Leo, emperor of the Eaſt, A. D. 457—474.] interrupted by war or faction. Pulcheria had beſtowed her hand, and the ſceptre of the Eaſt, on the modeſt virtue of Marcian: he gratefully reverenced her auguſt rank and virgin chaſtity; and, after her death, he gave his people the example of the religious worſhip, that was due to the memory of the Imperial ſaint 65. Attentive [Page 191] to the proſperity of his own dominions, Marcian ſeemed to behold, with indifference, the misfortunes of Rome; and the obſtinate refuſal of a a brave and active prince, to draw his ſword againſt the Vandals, was aſcribed to a ſecret promiſe, which had formerly been exacted from him when he was a captive in the power of Genſeric 66. The death of Marcian, after a reign of ſeven years, would have expoſed the Eaſt to the danger of a popular election; if the ſuperior weight of a ſingle family, had not been able to incline the balance in favour of the candidate whoſe intereſt they ſupported. The patrician Aſpar might have placed the diadem on his own head; if he would have ſubſcribed the Nicene creed 67. During three generations, the armies of the Eaſt were ſucceſſively commanded by his father, by himſelf, and by his ſon Ardaburius: his Barbarian guards formed a military force that overawed the palace and the capital; and the liberal diſtribution of his immenſe treaſures, rendered Aſpar as popular, as he was powerful. He recommended the obſcure name of Leo of Thrace, a military tribune, and the principal ſteward of his houſehold. His nomination was unanimouſly ratified by the ſenate; and the ſervant of Aſpar received the Imperial crown from the hands of the patriarch, or biſhop, who was permitted to expreſs, by this unuſual ceremony, [Page 192] the ſuffrage of the Deity 68. This emperor, the firſt of the name of Leo, has been diſtinguiſhed by the title of the Great; from a ſucceſſion of princes, who gradually fixed, in the opinion of the Greeks, a very humble ſtandard of heroic, or at leaſt of royal, perfection. Yet the temperate firmneſs with which Leo reſiſted the oppreſſion of his benefactor, ſhewed that he was conſcious of his duty and of his prerogative. Aſpar was aſtoniſhed to find that his influence could no longer appoint a praefect of Conſtantinople: he preſumed to reproach his ſovereign with a breach of promiſe, and inſolently ſhaking his purple, ‘"It is not proper (ſaid he), that the man who is inveſted with this garment, ſhould be guilty of lying."’ ‘"Nor is it proper (replied Leo), that a prince ſhould be compelled to reſign his own judgment, and the public intereſt, to the will of a ſubject 69."’ After this extraordinary ſcene, it was impoſſible that the reconciliation of the emperor and the patrician could be ſincere; or, at leaſt, that it could be ſolid and permanent. An army of Iſaurians 70 was ſecretly levied, and introduced into Conſtantinople; and [Page 193] while Leo undermined the authority, and prepared the diſgrace, of the family of Aſpar, his mild and cautious behaviour reſtrained them from any raſh and deſperate attempts, which might have been fatal to themſelves, or their enemies. The meaſures of peace and war were affected by this internal revolution. As long as Aſpar degraded the majeſty of the throne, the ſecret correſpondence of religion and intereſt engaged him to favour the cauſe of Genſeric. When Leo had delivered himſelf from that ignominious ſervitude, he liſtened to the complaints of the Italians; reſolved to extirpate the tyranny of the Vandals; and declared his alliance with his colleague, Anthemius, whom he ſolemnly inveſted with the diadem and purple of the Weſt.
The virtues of Anthemius have perhaps been [Note: Anthemius emperor of the Weſt, A. D. 467—72.] magnified, ſince the Imperial deſcent, which he could only deduce from the uſurper Procopius, has been ſwelled into a line of emperors 71. But the merit of his immediate parents, their honours, and their riches, rendered Anthemius one of the moſt illuſtrious ſubjects of the Eaſt. His father, Procopius, obtained, after his Perſian embaſſy, the rank of general and patrician; and the name of Anthemius was derived from his maternal [Page 194] grandfather, the celebrated praefect, who protected, with ſo much ability and ſucceſs, the infant reign of Theodoſius. The grandſon of the praefect was raiſed above the condition of a private ſubject, by his marriage with Euphemia, the daughter of the emperor Marcian. This ſplendid alliance, which might ſuperſede the neceſſity of merit, haſtened the promotion of Anthemius to the ſucceſſive dignities of count, of maſter-general, of conſul, and of patrician; and his merit or fortune claimed the honours of a victory, which was obtained on the banks of the Danube, over the Huns. Without indulging an extravagant ambition, the ſon-in-law of Marcian might hope to be his ſucceſſor; but Anthemius ſupported the diſappointment with courage and patience; and his ſubſequent elevation was univerſally approved by the public, who eſteemed him worthy to reign, till he aſcended the throne 72. The emperor of the Weſt marched from Conſtantinople, attended by ſeveral counts of high diſtinction, and a body of guards, almoſt equal to the ſtrength and numbers of a regular army: he entered Rome in triumph, and the choice of Leo [Note: A. D. 467, April 12.] was confirmed by the ſenate, the people, and the Barbarian confederates of Italy 73. The ſolemn [Page 195] inauguration of Anthemius was followed by the nuptials of his daughter and the patrician Ricimer; a fortunate event, which was conſidered as the firmeſt ſecurity of the union and happineſs of the ſtate. The wealth of two empires was oſtentatiouſly diſplayed; and many ſenators completed their ruin by an expenſive effort to diſguiſe their poverty. All ſerious buſineſs was ſuſpended during this feſtival; the courts of juſtice were ſhut; the ſtreets of Rome, the theatres, the places of public and private reſort, reſounded with hymenaeal ſongs and dances; and the royal bride, clothed in ſilken robes, with a crown on her head, was conducted to the palace of Ricimer, who had changed his military dreſs for the habit of a conſul and a ſenator. On this memorable occaſion, Sidonius, whoſe early ambition had been ſo fatally blaſted, appeared as the orator of Auvergne, among the provincial deputies who addreſſed the throne with congratulations or complaints 74. The calends of January were now approaching, and the venal poet, who had loved [Note: A. D. 468: January 1.] Avitus, and eſteemed Majorian, was perſuaded by his friends, to celebrate, in heroic verſe, the merit, the felicity, the ſecond conſulſhip, and the future triumphs of the emperor Anthemius. Sidonius pronounced, with aſſurance and ſucceſs, a panegyric which is ſtill extant; and whatever might be the imperfections, either of the ſubject [Page 196] or of the compoſition, the welcome flatterer was immediately rewarded with the praefecture of Rome; a dignity which placed him among the illuſtrious perſonages of the empire, till he wiſely preferred the more reſpectable character of a biſhop and a ſaint 75.
The Greeks ambitiouſly commend the piety [Note: The feſtival of the Lupercalia.] and catholic faith of the emperor whom they gave to the Weſt; nor do they forget to obſerve, that when he left Conſtantinople, he converted his palace into the pious foundation of a public bath, a church, and an hoſpital for old men 76. Yet ſome ſuſpicious appearances are found to ſully the theological fame of Anthemius. From the converſation of Philotheus, a Macedonian ſectary, he had imbibed the ſpirit of religious toleration; and the Heretics of Rome would have aſſembled with impunity, if the bold and vehement cenſure which pope Hilary pronounced in the church of St. Peter, had not obliged him to abjure the unpopular indulgence 77. Even the Pagans, a feeble [Page 197] and obſcure remnant, conceived ſome vain hopes from the indifference, or partiality, of Anthemius; and his ſingular friendſhip for the philoſopher Severus, whom he promoted to the conſulſhip, was aſcribed to a ſecret project, of reviving the ancient worſhip of the Gods 78. Theſe idols were crumbled into duſt: and the mythology which had once been the creed of nations, was ſo univerſally diſbelieved, that it might be employed without ſcandal, or at leaſt without ſuſpicion, by Chriſtian poets 79. Yet the veſtiges of ſuperſtition were not abſolutely obliterated, and the feſtival of the Lupercalia, whoſe origin had preceded the foundation of Rome, was ſtill celebrated under the reign of Anthemius. The ſavage and ſimple rites were expreſſive of an early ſtate of ſociety before the invention of arts and agriculture. The ruſtic deities who preſided over the toils and pleaſures of the paſtoral life, Pan, Faunus, and their train of ſatyrs, were ſuch as the fancy of ſhepherds might create, ſportive, petulant, and laſcivious; whoſe power was limited, and whoſe malice was inoffenſive. A [Page 198] goat was the offering the beſt adapted to their character and attributes; the fleſh of the victim was roaſted on willow ſpits; and the riotous youths, who crowded to the feaſt, ran naked about the fields, with leather thongs in their hands, communicating, as it was ſuppoſed, the bleſſing of fecundity to the women whom they touched 80. The altar of Pan was erected, perhaps by Evander the Arcadian, in a dark receſs in the ſide of the Palatine-hill, watered by a perpetual fountain, and ſhaded by an hanging grove. A tradition, that, in the ſame place, Romulus and Remus were ſuckled by the wolf, rendered it ſtill more ſacred and venerable in the eyes of the Romans; and this ſylvan ſpot was gradually ſurrounded by the ſtately edifices of the Forum 81. After the converſion of the Imperial city, the Chriſtians ſtill continued, in the month of February, the annual celebration of the Lupercalia; to which they aſcribed a ſecret and myſterious influence on the genial powers of the animal and vegetable world. The biſhops of Rome were ſolicitous to aboliſh a profane cuſtom, ſo repugnant to the ſpirit of Chriſtianity; but their zeal was not ſupported by the authority of the civil magiſtrate: the inveterate abuſe ſubſiſted [Page 199] till the end of the fifth century, and pope Gelaſius, who purified the capital from the laſt ſtain of idolatry, appeaſed, by a formal apology, the murmurs of the ſenate and people 82.
In all his public declarations, the emperor Leo [Note: Preparations againſt the Vandals of Africa, A. D. 468.] aſſumes the authority, and profeſſes the affection, of a father, for his ſon Anthemius, with whom he had divided the adminiſtration of the univerſe 83. The ſituation, and perhaps the character, of Leo, diſſuaded him from expoſing his perſon to the toils and dangers of an African war. But the powers of the Eaſtern empire were ſtrenuouſly exerted to deliver Italy and the Mediterranean from the Vandals; and Genſeric, who had ſo long oppreſſed both the land and ſea, was threatened from every ſide with a formidable invaſion. The campaign was opened by a bold and ſucceſsful enterpriſe of the praefect Heraclius 84. The troops of Egypt, [Page 200] Thebais, and Libya, were embarked under his command: and the Arabs, with a train of horſes and camels, opened the roads of the deſert. Heraclius landed on the coaſt of Tripoli, ſurpriſed and ſubdued the cities of that province, and prepared, by a laborious march, which Cato had formerly executed 85, to join the Imperial army under the walls of Carthage. The intelligence of this loſs extorted from Genſeric, ſome inſidious and ineffectual propoſitions of peace: but he was ſtill more ſeriouſly alarmed by the reconciliation of Marcellinus with the two empires. The independent patrician had been perſuaded to acknowledge the legitimate title of Anthemius, whom he accompanied in his journey to Rome; the Dalmatian fleet was received into the harbours of Italy; the active valour of Marcellinus expelled the Vandals from the iſland of Sardinia; and the languid efforts of the Weſt added ſome weight to the immenſe preparations of the Eaſtern Romans. The expence of the naval armament, which Leo ſent againſt the Vandals, has been diſtinctly aſcertained; and the curious and inſtructive account diſplays the wealth of the declining empire. The royal demeſnes, or private patrimony of the prince, ſupplied ſeventeen thouſand pounds of gold; fortyſeven [Page 201] thouſand pounds of gold, and ſeven hundred thouſand of ſilver, were levied and paid into the treaſury by the Praetorian praefects. But the cities were reduced to extreme poverty; and the diligent calculation of fines and forfeitures, as a valuable object of the revenue, does not ſuggeſt the idea of a juſt, or merciful, adminiſtration. The whole expence, by whatſoever means it was defrayed, of the African campaign, amounted to the ſum of one hundred and thirty thouſand pounds of gold, about five millions two hundred thouſand pounds ſterling, at a time when the value of money appears, from the comparative price of corn, to have been ſomewhat higher than in the preſent age 86. The fleet that ſailed from Conſtantinople to Carthage, conſiſted of eleven hundred and thirteen ſhips, and the number of ſoldiers and mariners exceeded one hundred thouſand men. Baſiliſcus, the brother of the empreſs Vorina, was entruſted with this important command. His ſiſter, the wife of Leo, had exaggerated the merit of his former exploits againſt the Scythians. But the diſcovery of his guilt, or incapacity, was reſerved for the African war; and his friends could only ſave his military reputation, by aſſerting, that he had conſpired with Aſpar to ſpare Genſeric, [Page 202] and to betray the laſt hope of the Weſtern empire.
Experience has ſhewn, that the ſucceſs of an invader moſt commonly depends on the vigour [Note: Failure of the expedition.] and celerity of his operations. The ſtrength and ſharpneſs of the firſt impreſſion are blunted by delay; the health and ſpirit of the troops inſenſibly languiſh in a diſtant climate; the naval and military force, a mighty effort which perhaps can never be repeated, is ſilently conſumed; and every hour that is waſted in negociation, accuſtoms the enemy to contemplate and examine thoſe hoſtile terrors, which, on their firſt appearance, he deemed irreſiſtible. The formidable navy of Baſiliſcus purſued its proſperous navigation from the Thracian Boſphorus to the coaſt of Africa. He landed his troops at Cape Bona, or the promontory of Mercury, about forty miles from Carthage 87. The army of Heraclius, and the fleet of Marcellinus, either joined or ſeconded the Imperial lieutenant; and the Vandals, who oppoſed his progreſs by ſea or land, were ſucceſſively vanquiſhed 88. If Baſiliſcus had ſeized the moment of conſternation, and boldly advanced to the capital, Carthage muſt have ſurrendered, and the [Page 203] kingdom of the Vandals was extinguiſhed. Genſeric beheld the danger with firmneſs, and eluded it with his veteran dexterity. He proteſted, in the moſt reſpectful language, that he was ready to ſubmit his perſon, and his dominions, to the will of the emperor; but he requeſted a truce of five days to regulate the terms of his ſubmiſſion; and it was univerſally believed, that his ſecret liberality contributed to the ſucceſs of this public negociation. Inſtead of obſtinately refuſing whatever indulgence his enemy ſo earneſtly ſolicited, the guilty, or the credulous, Baſiliſcus conſented to the fatal truce; and his imprudent ſecurity ſeemed to proclaim, that he already conſidered himſelf as the conqueror of Africa. During this ſhort interval, the wind became favourable to the deſigns of Genſeric. He manned his largeſt ſhips of war with the braveſt of the Moors and Vandals; and they towed after them many large barks, filled with combuſtible materials. In the obſcurity of the night, theſe deſtructive veſſels were impelled againſt the unguarded and unſuſpecting fleet of the Romans, who were awakened by the ſenſe of their inſtant danger. Their cloſe and crowded order aſſiſted the progreſs of the fire, which was communicated with rapid and irreſiſtible violence; and the noiſe of the wind, the crackling of the flames, the diſſonant cries of the ſoldiers and mariners, who could neither command, nor obey, increaſed the horror of the nocturnal tumult. Whilſt they laboured to extricate themſelves from the fireſhips, and to ſave at leaſt a part of the [Page 204] navy, the gallies of Genſeric aſſaulted them with temperate and diſciplined valour; and many of the Romans, who eſcaped the fury of the flames, were deſtroyed or taken by the victorious Vandals. Among the events of that diſaſtrous night, the heroic, or rather deſperate, courage of John, one of the principal officers of Baſiliſcus, has reſcued his name from oblivion. When the ſhip, which he had bravely defended, was almoſt conſumed, he threw himſelf in his armour into the ſea, diſdainfully rejected the eſteem and pity of Genſo, the ſon of Genſeric, who preſſed him to accept honourable quarter, and ſunk under the waves; exclaiming with his laſt breath, that he would never fall alive into the hands of thoſe impious dogs. Actuated by a far different ſpirit, Baſiliſcus, whoſe ſtation was the moſt remote from danger, diſgracefully fled in the beginning of the engagement, returned to Conſtantinople with the loſs of more than half of his fleet and army, and ſheltered his guilty head in the ſanctuary of St. Sophia, till his ſiſter, by her tears and entreaties, could obtain his pardon from the indignant emperor. Heraclius effected his retreat through the deſert; Marcellinus retired to Sicily, where he was aſſaſſinated, perhaps at the inſtigation of Ricimer, by one of his own captains; and the king of the Vandals expreſſed his ſurpriſe and ſatisfaction, that the Romans themſelves ſhould remove from the world his moſt formidable antagoniſts 89. After the failure [Page 205] of this great expedition, Genſeric again became the tyrant of the ſea: the coaſts of Italy, Greece, and Aſia, were again expoſed to his revenge and avarice; Tripoli and Sardinia returned to his obedience; he added Sicily to the number of his provinces; and, before he died, in the fulneſs of years and of glory, he beheld the final extinction [Note: A. D. 477.] of the empire of the Weſt 90.
During his long and active reign, the African [Note: Conqueſts of the Vſigoths in Spain and Gaul, A. D. 462—472.] monarch had ſtudiouſly cultivated the friendſhip of the Barbarians of Europe, whoſe arms he might employ in a ſeaſonable and effectual diverſion againſt the two empires. After the death of Attila, he renewed his alliance with the Viſigoths of Gaul; and the ſons of the elder Theodoric, who ſucceſſively reigned over that warlike nation, were eaſily perſuaded, by the ſenſe of intereſt, to forget the cruel affront which Genſeric had inflicted on their ſiſter 91. The death of the emperor Majorian delivered Theodoric the ſecond from the reſtraint of fear, and perhaps of honour; he violated his recent treaty with the Romans; and the ample territory of Narbonne, which he firmly united to [Page 206] his dominions, became the immediate reward of his perfidy. The ſelfiſh policy of Ricimer encouraged him to invade the provinces which were in the poſſeſſion of Aegidius, his rival; but the active count, by the defence of Arles, and the victory of Orleans, ſaved Gaul, and checked, during his lifetime, the progreſs of the Viſigoths. Their ambition was ſoon rekindled; and the deſign of extinguiſhing the Roman empire in Spain and Gaul, was conceived, and almoſt completed, in the reign of Euric, who aſſaſſinated his brother Theodoric, and diſplayed, with a more ſavage temper, ſuperior abilities, both in peace and war. He paſſed the Pyrenees at the head of a numerous army, ſubdued the cities of Saragoſſa and Pampeluna, vanquiſhed in battle the martial nobles of the Tarragoneſe province, carried his victorious arms into the heart of Luſitania, and permitted the Suevi to hold the kingdom of Gallicia under the Gothic monarchy of Spain 92. The efforts of Euric were not leſs vigorous, or leſs ſucceſsful in Gaul; and throughout the country that extends from the Pyrenees to the Rhône and the Loire, Berry, and Auvergne, were the only cities, or dioceſes, which refuſed to acknowledge him as their maſter 93. In the defence of Clermont, their principal town, the inhabitants of Auvergne ſuſtained, with inflexible reſolution, the miſeries of [Page 207] war, peſtilence, and famine; and the Viſigoths, relinquiſhing the fruitleſs ſiege, ſuſpended the hopes of that important conqueſt. The youth of the province were animated by the heroic, and almoſt incredible, valour of Ecdicius, the ſon of the emperor Avitus 94, who made a deſperate ſally with only eighteen horſemen, boldly attacked the Gothic army, and, after maintaining a flying ſkirmiſh, retired ſafe and victorious within the walls of Clermont. His charity was equal to his courage: in a time of extreme ſcarcity, four thouſand poor were fed at his expence; and his private influence levied an army of Burgundians for the deliverance of Auvergne. From his virtues alone the faithful citizens of Gaul derived any hopes of ſafety or freedom; and even ſuch virtues were inſufficient to avert the impending ruin of their country, ſince they were anxious to learn from his authority and example, whether they ſhould prefer the alternative of exile, or ſervitude 95. The public confidence was loſt; the reſources of the ſtate were exhauſted; and the Gauls had too much reaſon to believe, that Anthemius, who reigned in Italy, was incapable of protecting his diſtreſſed ſubjects beyond the Alps. The feeble emperor could only procure for their defence the ſervice of [Page 208] twelve thouſand Britiſh auxiliaries. Riothamus, one of the independent kings, or chieftains, of the iſland, was perſuaded to tranſport his troops to the continent of Gaul; he ſailed up the Loire, and eſtabliſhed his quarters in Berry, where the people complained of theſe oppreſſive allies, till they were deſtroyed, or diſperſed, by the arms of the Viſigoths 96.
One of the laſt acts of juriſdiction, which the [Note: Trial of Arvandus, A. D. 468.] Roman ſenate exerciſed over their ſubjects of Gaul, was the trial and condemnation of Arvandus, the Praetorian praefect. Sidonius, who rejoices that he lived under a reign in which he might pity and aſſiſt a ſtate-criminal, has expreſſed, with tenderneſs and freedom, the faults of his indiſcreet and unfortunate friend 97. From the perils which he had eſcaped, Arvandus imbibed confidence rather than wiſdom; and ſuch was the various, though uniform, imprudence of his behaviour, that his proſperity muſt appear much more ſurpriſing than his downfal. The ſecond praefecture, which he obtained within the term of five years, aboliſhed the merit and popularity of his preceding adminiſtration. His eaſy [Page 209] temper was corrupted by flattery, and exaſperated by oppoſition; he was forced to ſatisfy his importunate creditors with the ſpoils of the province; his capricious inſolence offended the nobles of Gaul, and he ſunk under the weight of the public hatred. The mandate of his diſgrace ſummoned him to juſtify his conduct before the ſenate; and he paſſed the ſea of Tuſcany with a favourable wind, the preſage, as he vainly imagined, of his future fortunes. A decent reſpect was ſtill obſerved for the Praefectorian rank; and on his arrival at Rome, Arvandus was committed to the hoſpitality, rather than to the cuſtody, of Flavius Aſellus, the count of the ſacred largeſſes, who reſided in the Capitol 98. He was eagerly purſued by his accuſers, the four deputies of Gaul, who were all diſtinguiſhed by their birth, their dignities, or their eloquence. In the name of a great province, and according to the forms of Roman juriſprudence, they inſtituted a civil and criminal action, requiring ſuch a reſtitution as might compenſate the loſſes of individuals, and ſuch puniſhment as might ſatisfy the juſtice of the ſtate. Their charges of corrupt oppreſſion were numerous and weighty; but they placed their ſecret dependence on a letter, which they had intercepted, and which they could prove, by the evidence of his ſecretary, to have been dictated [Page 210] by Arvandus himſelf. The author of this letter ſeemed to diſſuade the king of the Goths from a peace with the Greek emperor: he ſuggeſted the attack of the Britons on the Loire; and he recommended a diviſion of Gaul, according to the law of nations, between the Viſigoths and the Burgundians 99. Theſe pernicious ſchemes, which a friend could only palliate by the reproaches of vanity and indiſcretion, were ſuſceptible of a treaſonable interpretation; and the deputies had artfully reſolved, not to produce their moſt formidable weapons till the deciſive moment of the conteſt. But their intentions were diſcovered by the zeal of Sidonius. He immediately appriſed the unſuſpecting criminal of his danger; and ſincerely lamented, without any mixture of anger, the haughty preſumption of Arvandus, who rejected, and even reſented, the ſalutary advice of his friends. Ignorant of his real ſituation, Arvandus ſhewed himſelf in the Capitol in the white robe of a candidate, accepted indiſcriminate ſalutations and offers of ſervice, examined the ſhops of the merchants, the ſilks and gems, ſometimes with the indifference of a ſpectator, and ſometimes with the attention of a purchaſer; and complained of the times, of the ſenate, of the prince, and of the delays of juſtice. His complaints were ſoon removed. [Page 211] An early day was fixed for his trial; and Arvandus appeared, with his accuſers, before a numerous aſſembly of the Roman ſenate. The mournful garb, which they affected, excited the compaſſion of the judges, who were ſcandalized by the gay and ſplendid dreſs of their adverſary; and when the praefect Arvandus, with the firſt of the Gallic deputies, were directed to take their places on the ſenatorial benches, the ſame contraſt of pride and modeſty was obſerved in their behaviour. In this memorable judgment, which preſented a lively image of the old republic, the Gauls expoſed, with force and freedom, the grievances of the province; and as ſoon as the minds of the audience were ſufficiently inflamed, they recited the fatal epiſtle. The obſtinacy of Arvandus was founded on the ſtrange ſuppoſition, that a ſubject could not be convicted of treaſon, unleſs he had actually conſpired to aſſume the purple. As the paper was read, he repeatedly, and with a loud voice, acknowledged it for his genuine compoſition; and his aſtoniſhment was equal to his diſmay, when the unanimous voice of the ſenate declared him guilty of a capital offence. By their decree, he was degraded from the rank of a praefect to the obſcure condition of a plebeian, and ignominiouſly dragged by ſervile hands to the public priſon. After a fortnight's adjournment, the ſenate was again convened to pronounce the ſentence of his death: but while he expected, in the iſland of Aeſculapius, the expiration [Page 212] of the thirty days allowed by an ancient law to the vileſt malefactors 100, his friends interpoſed, the emperor Anthemius relented, and the praefect of Gaul obtained the milder puniſhment of exile and confiſcation. The faults of Arvandus might deſerve compaſſion; but the impunity of Seronatus accuſed the juſtice of the republic, till he was condemned, and executed, on the complaint of the people of Auvergne. That flagitious miniſter, the Catiline of his age and country, held a ſecret correſpondence with the Viſigoths, to betray the province which he oppreſſed: his induſtry was continually exerciſed in the diſcovery of new taxes and obſolete offences; and his extravagant vices would have inſpired contempt, if they had not excited fear and abhorrence 101.
Such criminals were not beyond the reach of [Note: Diſcord of Anthemius and Ricimer, A. D. 471.] juſtice; but, whatever might be the guilt of Ricimer, that powerful Barbarian was able to contend or to negociate with the prince, whoſe alliance he had condeſcended to accept. The peaceful and proſperous reign which Anthemius had promiſed to the Weſt, was ſoon clouded by misfortune and diſcord. Ricimer, apprehenſive, or impatient, of a ſuperior, retired from Rome, [Page 213] and fixed his reſidence at Milan; an advantageous ſituation, either to invite, or to repel, the warlike tribes that were ſeated between the Alps and the Danube 102. Italy was gradually divided into two independent and hoſtile kingdoms; and the nobles of Liguria, who trembled at the near approach of a civil war, fell proſtrate at the feet of the patrician, and conjured him to ſpare their unhappy country. ‘"For my own part," replied Ricimer, in a tone of inſolent moderation, "I am ſtill inclined to embrace the friendſhip of the Galatian 103; but who will undertake to appeaſe his anger, or to mitigate the pride, which always riſes in proportion to our ſubmiſſion?"’ They informed him, that Epiphanius, biſhop of Pavia 104, united the wiſdom of the ſerpent with the innocence of the dove; and appeared confident, that the eloquence of ſuch an ambaſſador muſt prevail againſt the ſtrongeſt oppoſition, either of intereſt or paſſion. Their [Page 214] recommendation was approved; and Epiphanius, aſſuming the benevolent office of mediation, proceeded without delay to Rome, where he was received with the honours due to his merit and reputation. The oration of a biſhop in favour of peace, may be eaſily ſuppoſed: he argued, that in all poſſible circumſtances, the forgiveneſs of injuries muſt be an act of mercy, or magnanimity, or prudence; and be ſeriouſly admoniſhed the emperor to avoid a conteſt with a fierce Barbarian, which might be fatal to himſelf, and muſt be ruinous to his dominions. Anthemius acknowledged the truth of his maxims; but he deeply felt, with grief and indignation, the behaviour of Ricimer; and his paſſion gave eloquence and energy to his diſcourſe. ‘"What favours," he warmly exclaimed, "have we refuſed to this ungrateful man? What provocations have we not endured? Regardleſs of the majeſty of the purple, I gave my daughter to a Goth; I ſacrificed my own blood to the ſafety of the republic. The liberality which ought to have ſecured the eternal attachment of Ricimer, has exaſperated him againſt his benefactor. What wars has he not excited againſt the empire? How often has he inſtigated and aſſiſted the fury of hoſtile nations? Shall I now accept his perfidious friendſhip? Can I hope that he will reſpect the engagements of a treaty, who has already violated the duties of a ſon?"’ But the anger of Anthemius evaporated in theſe paſſionate exclamations: he inſenſibly yielded to the propoſals of Epiphanius; [Page 215] and the biſhop returned to his dioceſe with the ſatisfaction of reſtoring the peace of Italy, by a reconciliation 105, of which the ſincerity and continuance might be reaſonably ſuſpected. The clemency of the emperor was extorted from his weakneſs; and Ricimer ſuſpended his ambitious deſigns, till he had ſecretly prepared the engines, with which he reſolved to ſubvert the throne of Anthemius. The maſk of peace and moderation was then thrown aſide. The army of Ricimer was fortified by a numerous reinforcement of Burgundians and Oriental Suevi: he diſclaimed all allegiance to the Greek emperor, marched from Milan to the gates of Rome, and fixing his camp on the banks of the Anio, impatiently expected the arrival of Olybrius, his Imperial candidate.
The ſenator Olybrius, of the Anician family, [Note: Olybrius emperor of the Weſt, A. D. 472, March 23.] might eſteem himſelf the lawful heir of the Weſtern empire. He had married Placidia, the younger daughter of Valentinian, after ſhe was reſtored by Genſeric; who ſtill detained her ſiſter Eudoxia, as the wife, or rather as the captive, of his ſon. The king of the Vandals ſupported, by threats and ſolicitations, the fair pretenſions of his Roman ally; and aſſigned, as one of the motives of the war, the refuſal of the ſenate and people to acknowledge their lawful prince, and the unworthy preference which they had given to [Page 216] a ſtranger 106. The friendſhip of the public enemy might render Olybrius ſtill more unpopular to the Italians; but when Ricimer meditated the ruin of the emperor Anthemius, he tempted with the offer of a diadem the candidate who could juſtify his rebellion by an illuſtrious name, and a royal alliance. The huſband of Placidia, who, like moſt of his anceſtors, had been inveſted with the conſular dignity, might have continued to enjoy a ſecure and ſplendid fortune in the peaceful reſidence of Conſtantinople; nor does he appear to have been tormented by ſuch a genius, as cannot be amuſed or occupied, unleſs by the adminiſtration of an empire. Yet Olybrius yielded to the importunities of his friends, perhaps of his wife; raſhly plunged into the dangers and calamities of a civil war; and, with the ſecret connivance of the emperor Leo, accepted the Italian purple, which was beſtowed, and reſumed, at the capricious will of a Barbarian. He landed without obſtacle (for Genſeric was maſter of the ſea) either at Ravenna or the port of Oſtia, and immediately proceeded to the camp of Ricimer, where he was received as the ſovereign of the Weſtern world 107.
[Page 217] The patrician, who had extended his poſts from the Anio to the Milvian bridge, already poſſeſſed two quarters of Rome, the Vatican and [Note: Sack of Rome, and death of Anthemius, A. D. 472. July 11.] the Janiculum, which are ſeparated by the Tyber from the reſt of the city 108; and it may be conjectured, that an aſſembly of ſeceding ſenators imitated, in the choice of Olybrius, the forms of a legal election. But the body of the ſenate and people firmly adhered to the cauſe of Anthemius; and the more effectual ſupport of a Gothic army enabled him to prolong his reign, and the public diſtreſs, by a reſiſtance of three months, which produced the concomitant evils of famine and peſtilence. At length, Ricimer made a furious aſſault on the bridge of Hadrian, or St. Angelo; and the narrow paſs was defended with equal valour by the Goths, till the death of Gilimer their leader. The victorious troops breaking down every barrier, ruſhed with irreſiſtible violence into the heart of the city, and Rome (if we may uſe the language of a contemporary Pope) was ſubverted by the civil fury of Anthemius and Ricimer 109. The unfortunate Anthemius [Page 218] was dragged from his concealment, and inhumanly maſſacred by the command of his ſon-in-law; who thus added a third, or perhaps a fourth emperor to the number of his victims. The ſoldiers, who united the rage of factious citizens with the ſavage manners of Barbarians, were indulged, without controul, in the licence of rapine and murder: the crowd of ſlaves and plebeians, who were unconcerned in the event, could only gain by the indiſcriminate pillage; and the face of the city exhibited the ſtrange contraſt of ſtern cruelty, and diſſolute intemperance 110. Forty days after this calamitous event, [Note: Death of Ricimer, Aug. 20.] the ſubject, not of glory, but of guilt, Italy was delivered, by a painful diſeaſe, from the tyrant Ricimer, who bequeathed the command of his army. to his nephew Gundobald, one of the princes of the Burgundians. In the ſame year, all the principal actors in this great revolution, were removed from the ſtage; and the whole reign of Olybrius, whoſe death does not betray [Note: and of Olybrius, Oct. 23.] any ſymptoms of violence, is included within the term of ſeven months. He left one daughter, the offspring of his marriage with Placidia; and the family of the great Theodoſius, tranſplanted from [Page 219] Spain to Conſtantinople, was propagated in the female line as far as the eighth generation 111.
Whilſt the vacant throne of Italy was abandoned [Note: Julius Nepos and Glycerius emperors of the Weſt, A. D. 472—475.] to lawleſs Barbarians 112, the election of a new colleague was ſeriouſly agitated in the council of Leo. The empreſs Verina, ſtudious to promote the greatneſs of her own family, had married one of her nieces to Julius Nepos, who ſucceeded his uncle Marcellinus in the ſovereignty of Dalmatia, a more ſolid poſſeſſion than the title which he was perſuaded to accept, of Emperor of the Weſt. But the meaſures of the Byzantine court were ſo languid and irreſolute, that many months elapſed after the death of Anthemius, and even of Olybrius, before their deſtined ſucceſſor could ſhew himſelf, with a reſpectable force, to his Italian ſubjects. During that interval, Glycerius, an obſcure ſoldier, was inveſted with the purple by his patron Gundobald; but the Burgundian prince was unable, or unwilling, to ſupport his nomination by a civil war: the purſuits of domeſtic ambition recalled him beyond the Alps 113, and his client was permitted [Page 220] to exchange the Roman ſceptre for the biſhopric of Salona. After extinguiſhing ſuch a competitor, the emperor Nepos was acknowledged by the ſenate, by the Italians, and by the provincials of Gaul; his moral virtues, and military talents, were loudly celebrated; and thoſe who derived any private benefit from his government, announced, in prophetic ſtrains, the reſtoration of the public felicity 114. Their hopes (if ſuch hopes had been entertained) were confounded within the term of a ſingle year; and the treaty of peace, which ceded Auvergne to the Viſigoths, is the only event of his ſhort and inglorious reign. The moſt faithful ſubjects of Gaul were ſacrificed, by the Italian emperor, to the hope of domeſtic ſecurity 115; but his repoſe was ſoon invaded by a furious ſedition of the Barbarian confederates, who, under the command of Oreſtes, their general, were in full march from Rome to Ravenna. Nepos trembled at their approach; and, inſtead of placing a juſt confidence in the ſtrength of Ravenna, he haſtily eſcaped to his ſhips, and retired to his Dalmatian principality, on the oppoſite coaſt of the Hadriatic. By this ſhameful abdication, he protracted his life about five years, in a very [Page 221] ambiguous ſtate, between an emperor and an exile, till he was aſſaſſinated at Salona by the ungrateful Glycerius, who was tranſlated, perhaps as the reward of his crime, to the archbiſhopric of Milan 116.
The nations, who had aſſerted their independence [Note: The patrician Oreſtes, A. D. 475.] after the death of Attila, were eſtabliſhed, by the right of poſſeſſion or conqueſt, in the boundleſs countries to the north of the Danube; or in the Roman provinces between the river and the Alps. But the braveſt of their youth enliſted in the army of confederates, who formed the defence and the terror of Italy 117; and in this promiſcuous multitude, the names of the Heruli, the Scyrri, the Alani, the Turcilingi, and the Rugians, appear to have predominated. The example of theſe warriors was imitated by Oreſtes 118, the ſon of Tatullus, and the father of the laſt Roman emperor of the Weſt. Oreſtes, who has been already mentioned in this hiſtory, had never deſerted his country. His birth and fortunes rendered him one of the moſt illuſtrious ſubjects of [Page 222] Pannonia. When that province was ceded to the Huns, he entered into the ſervice of Attila, his lawful ſovereign, obtained the office of his ſecretary, and was repeatedly ſent ambaſſador to Conſtantinople, to repreſent the perſon, and ſignify the commands, of the imperious monarch. The death of that conqueror reſtored him to his freedom; and Oreſtes might honourably refuſe either to follow the ſons of Attila into the Scythian deſert, or to obey the Oſtrogoths, who had uſurped the dominion of Pannonia. He preferred the ſervice of the Italian princes, the ſucceſſors of Valentinian; and, as he poſſeſſed the qualifications of courage, induſtry, and experience, he advanced with rapid ſteps in the military profeſſion, till he was elevated, by the favour of Nepos himſelf, to the dignities of patrician, and maſter-general of the troops. Theſe troops had been long accuſtomed to reverence the character and authority of Oreſtes, who affected their manners, converſed with them in their own language, and was intimately connected with their national chieftains, by long habits of familiarity and friendſhip. At his ſolicitation they roſe in arms againſt the obſcure Greek, who preſumed to claim their obedience; and when Oreſtes, from ſome ſecret motive, declined the purple, they conſented, with the ſame facility, to acknowledge his ſon Auguſtulus, as the emperor of the Weſt. By the abdication of Nepos, Oreſtes had now attained the [Note: His ſon Auguſtulus, the laſt emperor of the Weſt, A. D. 476.] ſummit of his ambitious hopes; but he ſoon diſcovered, before the end of the firſt year, that the leſſons of perjury and ingratitude, which a rebel [Page 223] muſt inculcate, will be retorted againſt himſelf; and that the precarious ſovereign of Italy was only permitted to chuſe, whether he would be the ſlave, or the victim, of his Barbarian mercenaries. The dangerous alliance of theſe ſtrangers, had oppreſſed and inſulted the laſt remains of Roman freedom and dignity. At each revolution, their pay and privileges were augmented; but their inſolence increaſed in a ſtill more extravagant degree; they envied the fortune of their brethren in Gaul, Spain, and Africa, whoſe victorious arms had acquired an independent and perpetual inheritance; and they inſiſted on their peremptory demand, that a third part of the lands of Italy ſhould be immediately divided among them. Oreſtes, with a ſpirit which, in another ſituation, might be entitled to our eſteem, choſe rather to encounter the rage of an armed multitude, than to ſubſcribe the ruin of an innocent people. He rejected the audacious demand; and his refuſal was favourable to the ambition of Odoacer; a bold Barbarian, who aſſured his fellow-ſoldiers, that, if they dared to aſſociate under his command, they might ſoon extort the juſtice which had been denied to their dutiful petitions. From all the camps and garriſons of Italy, the confederates, actuated by the ſame reſentment and the ſame hopes, impatiently flocked to the ſtandard of this popular leader; and the unfortunate patrician, overwhelmed by the torrent, haſtily retreated to the ſtrong city of Pavia, the epiſcopal ſeat of the holy Epiphanites. Pavia was immediately beſieged, [Page 224] the fortifications were ſtormed, the town was pillaged; and although the biſhop might labour, with much zeal and ſome ſucceſs, to ſave the property of the church, and the chaſtity of female captives, the tumult could only be appeaſed by the execution of Oreſtes 119. His brother Paul was ſlain in an action near Ravenna; and the helpleſs Auguſtulus, who could no longer command the reſpect, was reduced to implore the clemency, of Odoacer.
That ſucceſsful Barbarian was the ſon of Edecon; [Note: Odoacer king of Italy. A. D. 476—490.] who, in ſome remarkable tranſactions, particularly deſcribed in a preceding chapter, had been the colleague of Oreſtes himſelf. The honour of an ambaſſador ſhould be exempt from ſuſpicion; and Edecon had liſtened to a conſpiracy againſt the life of his ſovereign. But this apparent guilt was expiated by his merit or repentance: his rank was eminent and conſpicuous; he enjoyed the favour of Attila; and the troops under his command, who guarded, in their turn, the royal village, conſiſted in a tribe of Scyrri, his immediate and hereditary ſubjects. In the revolt of the nations, they ſtill adhered to the Huns; and, more than twelve years afterwards, the name of Edecon is honourably mentioned, in their unequal conteſt with the Oſtrogoths; which was terminated, after two bloody battles, by the defeat and [Page 225] diſperſion of the Scyrri 120. Their gallant leader, who did not ſurvive this national calamity, left two ſons, Onulf and Odoacer, to ſtruggle with adverſity, and to maintain as they might, by rapine or ſervice, the faithful followers of their exile. Onulf directed his ſteps towards Conſtantinople, where he ſullied, by the aſſaſſination of a generous benefactor, the fame which he had acquired in arms. His brother Odoacer led a wandering life among the Barbarians of Noricum, with a mind and a fortune ſuited to the moſt deſperate adventures; and when he had fixed his choice, he piouſly viſited the cell of Severinus, the popular ſaint of the country, to ſolicit his approbation and bleſſing. The lowneſs of the door would not admit the lofty ſtature of Odoacer: he was obliged to ſtoop; but in that humble attitude the ſaint could diſcern the ſymptoms of his future greatneſs; and addreſſing him in a prophetic tone, ‘"Purſue" (ſaid he) "your deſign; proceed to Italy; you will ſoon caſt away this coarſe garment of ſkins; and your wealth will be adequate to the liberality of your mind 121."’ [Page 226] The Barbarian, whoſe daring ſpirit accepted and ratified the prediction, was admitted into the ſervice of the Weſtern empire, and ſoon obtained an honourable rank in the guards. His manners were gradually poliſhed, his military ſkill was improved, and the confederates of Italy would not have elected him for their general, unleſs the exploits of Odoacer had eſtabliſhed a high opinion of his courage and capacity 122. Their military acclamations ſaluted him with the title of king: but he abſtained, during his whole reign, from the uſe of the purple and diadem 123, leſt he ſhould offend thoſe princes, whoſe ſubjects, by their accidental mixture, had formed the victorious army, which time and policy might inſenſibly unite into a great nation.
Royalty was familiar to the Barbarians, and the [Note: Extinction of the Weſtern empire, A. D. 476, or A. D. 479.] ſubmiſſive people of Italy was prepared to obey, without a murmur, the authority which he ſhould condeſcend to exerciſe as the vicegerent of the emperor of the Weſt. But Odoacer had reſolved to aboliſh that uſeleſs and expenſive office; and ſuch is the weight of antique prejudice, that it required ſome boldneſs and penetration to diſcover the extreme facility of the enterpriſe. The unfortunate Auguſtulus was made the inſtrument of [Page 227] his own diſgrace; he ſignified his reſignation to the ſenate; and that aſſembly, in their laſt act of obedience to a Roman prince, ſtill affected the ſpirit of freedom, and the forms of the conſtitution. An epiſtle was addreſſed, by their unanimous decree, to the emperor Zeno, the ſon-in-law and ſucceſſor of Leo; who had lately been reſtored, after a ſhort rebellion, to the Byzantine throne. They ſolemnly ‘"diſclaim the neceſſity, or even the wiſh, of continuing any longer the Imperial ſucceſſion in Italy; ſince, in their opinion, the majeſty of a ſole monarch is ſufficient to pervade and protect, at the ſame time, both the Eaſt and the Weſt. In their own name, and in the name of the people, they conſent that the ſeat of univerſal empire ſhall be transferred from Rome to Conſtantinople; and they baſely renounce the right of chuſing their maſter, the only veſtige that yet remained of the authority which had given laws to the world. The republic (they repeat that name without a bluſh) might ſafely confide in the civil and military virtues of Odoacer; and they humbly requeſt, that the emperor would inveſt him with the title of Patrician, and the adminiſtration of the dioceſe of Italy."’ The deputies of the ſenate were received at Conſtantinople with ſome marks of diſpleaſure and indignation; and when they were admitted to the audience of Zeno, he ſternly reproached them with their treatment of the two emperors, Anthemius and Nepos, whom the Eaſt had ſucceſſively granted to the prayers of Italy. [Page 228] ‘"The firſt" (continued he) "you have murdered; the ſecond you have expelled: but the ſecond is ſtill alive, and whilſt he lives he is your lawful ſovereign."’ But the prudent Zeno ſoon deſerted the hopeleſs cauſe of his abdicated colleague. His vanity was gratified by the title of ſole emperor, and by the ſtatues erected to his honour in the ſeveral quarters of Rome; he entertained a friendly, though ambiguous, correſpondence with the patrician Odoacer; and he gratefully accepted the Imperial enſigns, the ſacred ornaments of the throne and palace, which the Barbarian was not unwilling to remove from the ſight of the people 124.
In the ſpace of twenty years ſince the death of [Note: Auguſtulus is baniſhed to the Lucullan villa.] Valentinian, nine emperors had ſucceſſively diſappeared; and the ſon of Oreſtes, a youth recommended only by his beauty, would be the leaſt entitled to the notice of poſterity, if his reign, which was marked by the extinction of the Roman empire in the Weſt, did not leave a memorable Aera in the hiſtory of mankind 125. The patrician Oreſtes had married the daughter of Count Romulus, of Petovio, in Noricum: the [Page 229] name of Auguſtus, notwithſtanding the jealouſy of power, was known at Aquileia as a familiar ſurname; and the appellations of the two great founders, of the city, and, of the monarchy, were thus ſtrangely united in the laſt of their ſucceſſors 126. The ſon of Oreſtes aſſumed and diſgraced the names of Romulus Auguſtus; but the firſt was corrupted into Momyllus, by the Greeks, and the ſecond has been changed by the Latins into the contemptible diminutive Auguſtulus. The life of this inoffenſive youth was ſpared by the generous clemency of Odoacer; who diſmiſſed him, with his whole family, from the Imperial palace, fixed his annual allowance at ſix thouſand pieces of gold, and aſſigned the caſtle of Lucullus, in Campania, for the place of his exile or retirement 127. As ſoon as the Romans breathed from the toils of the Punic war, they were attracted by the beauties and the pleaſures of Campania; and the country-houſe of the elder Scipio at Liternum, exhibited a laſting [Page 230] model of their ruſtic ſimplicity 128. The delicious ſhores of the bay of Naples were crowded with villas; and Sylla applauded the maſterly ſkill of his rival, who had ſeated himſelf on the lofty promontory of Miſenum, that commands, on every ſide, the ſea and land, as far as the boundaries of the horizon 129. The villa of Marius was purchaſed, within a few years, by Lucullus, and the price had increaſed from two thouſand five hundred, to more than fourſcore thouſand, pounds ſterling 130. It was adorned by the new proprietor with Grecian arts, and Aſiatic treaſures; and the houſes and gardens of Lucullus obtained a diſtinguiſhed rank in the liſt of Imperial palaces 131. When the Vandals became [Page 231] formidable to the ſea-coaſt, the Lucullan villa, on the promontory of Miſenum, gradually aſſumed the ſtrength and appellation of a ſtrong caſtle, the obſcure retreat of the laſt emperor of the Weſt. About twenty years after that great revolution, it was converted into a church and monaſtery, to receive the bones of St. Severinus. They ſecurely repoſed, amidſt the broken trophies of Cimbric and Armenian victories, till the beginning of the tenth century; when the fortifications, which might afford a dangerous ſhelter to the Saracens, were demoliſhed by the people of Naples 132.
Odoacer was the firſt Barbarian who reigned in [Note: Decay of the Roman ſpirit.] Italy, over a people who had once aſſerted their juſt ſuperiority above the reſt of mankind. The diſgrace of the Romans ſtill excites our reſpectful compaſſion, and we fondly ſympathiſe with the imaginary grief and indignation of their degenerate poſterity. But the calamities of Italy had gradually ſubdued the proud conſciouſneſs of freedom and glory. In the age of Roman virtue, the provinces were ſubject to the arms, and the citizens to the laws, of the republic; till thoſe laws were ſubverted by civil diſcord, and both [Page 232] the city and the provinces became the ſervile property of a tyrant. The forms of the conſtitution, which alleviated or diſguiſed their abject ſlavery, were aboliſhed by time and violence; the Italians alternately lamented the preſence or the abſence of the ſovereigns, whom they deteſted or deſpiſed; and the ſucceſſion of five centuries inflicted the various evils of military licence, capricious deſpotiſm, and elaborate oppreſſion. During the ſame period, the Barbarians had emerged from obſcurity and contempt, and the warriors of Germany and Scythia were introduced into the provinces, as the ſervants, the allies, and at length the maſters, of the Romans, whom they inſulted or protected. The hatred of the people was ſuppreſſed by fear; they reſpected the ſpirit and ſplendour of the martial chiefs who were inveſted with the honours of the empire; and the fate of Rome had long depended on the ſword of thoſe formidable ſtrangers. The ſtern Ricimer, who trampled on the ruins of Italy, had exerciſed the power, without aſſuming the title, of a king; and the patient Romans were inſenſibly prepared to acknowledge the royalty of Odoacer and his Barbaric ſucceſſors.
The King of Italy was not unworthy of the high ſtation to which his valour and fortune had exalted [Note: Character and reign of Odoacer, A. D. 476—490.] him: his ſavage manners were poliſhed by the habits of converſation; and he reſpected, though a conqueror and a Barbarian, the inſtitutions, and even the prejudices, of his ſubjects. [Page 233] After an interval of ſeven years, Odoacer reſtored the conſulſhip of the Weſt. For himſelf, he modeſtly, or proudly, declined an honour which was ſtill accepted by the emperors of the Eaſt; but the curule chair was ſucceſſively filled by eleven of the moſt illuſtrious ſenators 133; and the liſt is adorned by the reſpectable name of Baſilius, whoſe virtues claimed the friendſhip and grateful applauſe of Sidonius, his client 134. The laws of the emperors were ſtrictly enforced, and the civil adminiſtration of Italy was ſtill exerciſed by the Praetorian praefect, and his ſubordinate officers. Odoacer devolved on the Roman magiſtrates the odious and oppreſſive taſk of collecting the public revenue; but he reſerved for himſelf the merit of ſeaſonable and popular indulgence 135. Like the reſt of the Barbarians, he had been inſtructed in the Arian hereſy; but he revered the monaſtic and epiſcopal characters; and the ſilence of the Catholics atteſts the toleration which they enjoyed. The peace of the [Page 234] city required the interpoſition of his praefect Baſilius, in the choice of a Roman pontiff: the decree which reſtrained the clergy from alienating their lands, was ultimately deſigned for the benefit of the people, whoſe devotion would have been taxed to repair the dilapidations of the church 136. Italy was protected by the arms of its conqueror; and its frontiers were reſpected by the Barbarians of Gaul and Germany, who had ſo long inſulted the feeble race of Theodoſius. Odoacer paſſed the Hadriatic, to chaſtiſe the aſſaſſins of the emperor Nepos, and to acquire the maritime province of Dalmatia. He paſſed the Alps, to reſcue the remains of Noricum from Fava, or Feletheus, king of the Rugians, who held his reſidence beyond the Danube. The king was vanquiſhed in battle, and led away priſoner; a numerous colony of captives and ſubjects was tranſplanted into Italy; and Rome, after a long period of defeat and diſgrace, might claim the triumph of her Barbarian maſter 137.
Notwithſtanding the prudence and ſucceſs of [Note: Miſerable ſtate of Italy.] Odoacer, his kingdom exhibited the ſad proſpect of miſery and deſolation. Since the age of Tiberius, the decay of agriculture had been felt [Page 235] in Italy; and it was a juſt ſubject of complaint, that the life of the Roman people depended on the accidents of the winds and waves 138. In the diviſion and the decline of the empire, the tributary harveſts of Egypt and Africa were withdrawn; the numbers of the inhabitants continually diminiſhed with the means of ſubſiſtence; and the country was exhauſted by the irretrievable loſſes of war, famine 139, and peſtilence. St. Ambroſe has deplored the ruin of a populous diſtrict, which had been once adorned with the flouriſhing cities of Bologna, Modena, Regium, and Placentia 140. Pope Gelaſius was a ſubject of Odoacer; and he affirms, with ſtrong exaggeration, that in Aemilia, Tuſcany, and the adjacent provinces, the human ſpecies was almoſt extirpated 141. The plebeians of Rome, who were fed by the hand of their maſter, periſhed or diſappeared, as ſoon as his liberality was ſuppreſſed; the decline of the arts reduced the induſtrious mechanic to idleneſs and want; and the ſenators, who might ſupport with patience the ruin of their country, [Page 236] bewailed their private loſs of wealth and luxury. One-third of thoſe ample eſtates, to which the ruin of Italy is originally imputed 142, was extorted for the uſe of the conquerors. Injuries were aggravated by inſults; the ſenſe of actual ſufferings was embittered by the fear of more dreadful evils; and as new lands were allotted to new ſwarms of Barbarians, each ſenator was apprehenſive leſt the arbitrary ſurveyors ſhould approach his favourite villa, or his moſt profitable farm. The leaſt unfortunate were thoſe who ſubmitted without a murmur to the power which it was impoſſible to reſiſt. Since they deſired to live, they owed ſome gratitude to the tyrant who had ſpared their lives; and ſince he was the abſolute maſter of their fortunes, the portion which he left muſt be accepted as his pure and voluntary gift 143. The diſtreſs of Italy was mitigated by the prudence and humanity of Odoacer, who had bound himſelf, at the price of his elevation, to ſatisfy the demands of a licentious and turbulent multitude. The kings of the Barbarians were frequently reſiſted, depoſed, or murdered, by their native ſubjects; and the various bands of Italian mercenaries, who aſſociated under the ſtandard of an elective general, claimed a larger [Page 237] privilege of freedom and rapine. A monarchy deſtitute of national union, and hereditary right, haſtened to its diſſolution. After a reign of fourteen years, Odoacer was oppreſſed by the ſuperior genius of Theodoric, king of the Oſtrogoths; a hero alike excellent in the arts of war and of government, who reſtored an age of peace and proſperity, and whoſe name ſtill excites and deſerves the attention of mankind.
5. CHAP. XXXVII. Origin, Progreſs, and Effects of the Monaſtic Life.—Converſion of the Barbarians to Chriſtianity and Arianiſm.—Perſecution of the Vandals in Africa.—Extinction of Arianiſm among the Barbarians.[Page 238]
THE indiſſoluble connection of civil and eccleſiaſtical affairs, has compelled and encouraged me, to relate the progreſs, the perſecutions, the eſtabliſhment, the diviſions, the final triumph, and the gradual corruption of Chriſtianity. I have purpoſely delayed the conſideration of two religious events, intereſting in the ſtudy of human nature, and important in the decline and fall of the Roman empire. I. The inſtitution of the monaſtic life 1; and, II. The converſion of the northern Barbarians.
1. Proſperity and peace introduced the diſtinction of the vulgar and the Aſcetic Chriſtians 2. [Note: I. THE MONASTIC LIFE. Origin of the monks.] The looſe and imperfect practice of religion ſatisfied [Page 239] the conſcience of the multitude. The prince or magiſtrate, the ſoldier or merchant, reconciled their fervent zeal, and implicit faith, with the exerciſe of their profeſſion, the purſuit of their intereſt, and the indulgence of their paſſions: but the Aſcetics who obeyed and abuſed the rigid precepts of the goſpel, were inſpired by the ſavage enthuſiaſm, which repreſents man as a criminal, and God as a tyrant. They ſeriouſly renounced the buſineſs, and the pleaſures, of the age; abjured the uſe of wine, of fleſh, and of marriage; chaſtiſed their body, mortified their affections, and embraced a life of miſery, as the price of eternal happineſs. In the reign of Conſtantine, the Aſcetics fled from a profane and degenerate world, to perpetual ſolitude, or religious ſociety. Like the firſt Chriſtians of Jeruſalem 3, they reſigned the uſe, or the property, of their temporal poſſeſſions; eſtabliſhed regular communities of the ſame ſex, and a ſimilar diſpoſition; and aſſumed the names of Hermits, Monks, and Anachorets, expreſſive of their lonely retreat in a natural or artificial deſert. They ſoon acquired the reſpect of the world, which they deſpiſed; and the loudeſt applauſe was beſtowed on this DIVINE PHILOSOPHY 4, which ſurpaſſed, [Page 240] without the aid of ſcience or reaſon, the laborious virtues of the Grecian ſchools. The monks might indeed contend with the Stoics, in the contempt of fortune, of pain, and of death: the Pythagorean ſilence and ſubmiſſion were revived in their ſervile diſcipline; and they diſdained, as firmly as the Cynics themſelves, all the forms and decencies of civil ſociety. But the votaries of this Divine Philoſophy aſpired to imitate a purer and more perfect model. They trod in the footſteps of the prophets, who had retired to the deſert 5; and they reſtored the devout and contemplative life, which had been inſtituted by the Eſſenians, in Paleſtine and Egypt. The philoſophic eye of Pliny had ſurveyed with aſtoniſhment a ſolitary people, who dwelt among the palm-trees near the Dead Sea; who ſubſiſted without money, who were propagated without women; and who derived from the diſguſt and [Page 241] repentance of mankind, a perpetual ſupply of voluntary aſſociates 6.
Egypt, the fruitful parent of ſuperſtition, afforded [Note: Antony and the monks of Egypt, A. D. 305.] the firſt example of the monaſtic life. Antony 7, an illiterate 8 youth of the lower parts of Thebais, diſtributed his patrimony 9, deſerted his family and native home, and executed his monaſtic penance with original and intrepid fanaticiſm. After a long and painful noviciate, among the tombs, and in a ruined tower, he boldly advanced into the deſert three days journey to the eaſtward of the Nile; diſcovered a [Page 242] lonely ſpot, which poſſeſſed the advantages of ſhade and water, and fixed his laſt reſidence on mount Colzim near the Red Sea; where an ancient monaſtery ſtill preſerves the name and memory of the ſaint 10. The curious devotion of the Chriſtians purſued him to the deſert; and when he was obliged to appear at Alexandria, in the face of mankind, he ſupported his fame with diſcretion and dignity. He enjoyed the friendſhip of Athanaſius, whoſe doctrine he approved; and the Egyptian peaſant reſpectfully declined a reſpectful invitation from the emperor Conſtantine. The venerable patriarch (for Antony attained [Note: A. D. 251—356.] the age of one hundred and five years) beheld the numerous progeny which had been formed by his example and his leſſons. The prolific colonies of monks multiplied with rapid increaſe on the ſands of Libya, upon the rocks of Thebais, and in the cities of the Nile. To the ſouth of Alexandria, the mountain, and adjacent deſert, of Nitria, were peopled by five thouſand anachorets; and the traveller may ſtill inveſtigate the ruins of fifty monaſteries, which were planted in that barren ſoil, by the diſciples of Antony 81. In the Upper Thebais, [Page 243] the vacant Iſland of Tabenne 12 was occupied by Pachomius, and fourteen hundred of his brethren. That holy abbot ſucceſſively founded nine monaſteries of men, and one of women; and the feſtival of Eaſter ſometimes collected fifty thouſand religious perſons, who followed his angelic rule of diſcipline 13. The ſtately and populous city of Oxyrinchus, the ſeat of Chriſtian orthodoxy, had devoted the temples, the public edifices, and even the ramparts, to pious and charitable uſes; and the biſhop, who might preach in twelve churches, computed ten thouſand females, and twenty thouſand males, of the monaſtic profeſſion 14. The Egyptians, who gloried in this marvellous revolution, were diſpoſed to hope, and to believe, that the number of the monks was equal to the remainder of the people 15; and poſterity might repeat the ſaying, which had formerly been applied to the ſacred [Page 244] animals of the ſame country, That, in Egypt, it was leſs difficult to find a god, than a man.
Athanaſius introduced into Rome the knowledge [Note: Propagation of the monaſtic life at Rome, A. D. 341.] and practice of the monaſtic life; and a ſchool of this new philoſophy was opened by the diſciples of Antony, who accompanied their primate to the holy threſhold of the Vatican. The ſtrange and ſavage appearance of theſe Egyptians excited, at firſt, horror and contempt, and, at length, applauſe and zealous imitation. The ſenators, and more eſpecially the matrons, transformed their palaces and villas into religious houſes; and the narrow inſtitution of ſix Veſtals, was eclipſed by the frequent monaſteries, which were ſeated on the ruins of ancient temples, and in the midſt of the Roman Forum 16. Inflamed by the example of Antony, a Syrian youth, whoſe name was Hilarion 17, fixed his dreary abode on a ſandy [Note: Hilarion, in Paleſtine, A. D. 328.] beach, between the ſea and a moraſs, about ſeven miles from Gaza. The auſtere penance, in which he perſiſted forty-eight years, diffuſed a ſimilar enthuſiaſm; and the holy man was followed by a train of two or three thouſand anachorets, whenever he viſited the innumerable monaſteries of Paleſtine. The ſame of Baſil 18 is immortal in the [Note: Baſil in Pontus, A. D. 360.] [Page 245] monaſtic hiſtory of the Eaſt. With a mind, that had taſted the learning and eloquence of Athens; with an ambition, ſcarcely to be ſatisfied by the archbiſhopric of Caeſarea, Baſil retired to a ſavage ſolitude in Pontus; and deigned, for a while, to give laws to the ſpiritual colonies which he profuſely ſcattered along the coaſt of the Black Sea. In the Weſt, Martin of Tours 19, a ſoldier, an [Note: Martin in Gaul, A. D. 370.] hermit, a biſhop, and a ſaint, eſtabliſhed the monaſteries of Gaul; two thouſand of his diſciples followed him to the grave; and his eloquent hiſtorian challenges the deſerts of Thebais, to produce, in a more favourable climate, a champion of equal virtue. The progreſs of the monks was not leſs rapid, or univerſal, than that of Chriſtianity itſelf. Every province, and, at laſt, every city, of the empire, was filled with their increaſing multitudes; and the bleak and barren iſles, from Lerins to Lipari, that ariſe out of the Tuſcan ſea, were choſen by the anachorets, for the place of their voluntary exile. An eaſy and perpetual intercourſe by ſea and land connected the provinces of the Roman world; and the life of Hilarion diſplays the facility with which an indigent hermit of Paleſtine might traverſe [Page 246] Egypt, embark for Sicily, eſcape to Epirus, and finally ſettle in the iſland of Cyprus 20. The Latin Chriſtians embraced the religious inſtitutions of Rome. The pilgrims, who viſited Jeruſalem, eagerly copied, in the moſt diſtant climates of the earth, the faithful model of the monaſtic life. The diſciples of Antony ſpread themſelves beyond the tropic over the Chriſtian empire of Aethiopia 21. The monaſtery of Banchor 22, in Flintſhire, which contained above two thouſand brethren, diſperſed a numerous colony among the Barbarians of Ireland 23; and Iona, one of the Hebrides, which was planted by the Iriſh monks, diffuſed over the northern regions a doubtful ray of ſcience and ſuperſtition 24.
[Page 247] Theſe unhappy exiles from ſocial life, were impelled by the dark and implacable genius of ſuperſtition. Their mutual reſolution was ſupported [Note: Cauſes of its rapid progreſs.] by the example of millions, of either ſex, of every age, and of every rank; and each proſelyte, who entered the gates of a monaſtery, was perſuaded, that he trod the ſteep and thorny path of eternal happineſs 25. But the operation of theſe religious motives was variouſly determined by the temper and ſituation of mankind. Reaſon might ſubdue, or paſſion might ſuſpend, their influence: but they acted moſt forcibly on the infirm minds of children and females; they were ſtrengthened by ſecret remorſe, or accidental miſfortune; and they might derive ſome aid from the temporal conſiderations of vanity or intereſt. It was naturally ſuppoſed, that the pious and humble monks, who had renounced the world, to accompliſh the work of their ſalvation, were the beſt qualified for the ſpiritual government of the Chriſtians. The reluctant hermit was torn from his cell, and ſeated, amidſt the acclamations of the people, on the epiſcopal throne: the monaſteries [Page 248] of Egypt, of Gaul, and of the Eaſt, ſupplied a regular ſucceſſion of ſaints and biſhops; and ambition ſoon diſcovered the ſecret road which led to the poſſeſſion of wealth and honours 26. The popular monks, whoſe reputation was connected with the fame and ſucceſs of the order, aſſiduouſly laboured to multiply the number of their fellow-captives. They inſinuated themſelves into noble and opulent families; and the ſpecious arts of flattery and ſeduction were employed to ſecure thoſe proſelytes, who might beſtow wealth or dignity on the monaſtic profeſſion. The indignant father bewailed the loſs, perhaps of an only ſon 27; the credulous maid was betrayed by vanity to violate the laws of nature; and the matron aſpired to imaginary perfection, by renouncing the virtues of domeſtic life. Paula yielded to the perſuaſive eloquence of Jerom 28; and the profane title of mother-in-law of God 29, tempted that illuſtrious widow, to [Page 249] conſecrate the virginity of her daughter Euſtochium. By the advice, and in the company, of her ſpiritual guide, Paula abandoned Rome and her infant ſon; retired to the holy village of Bethlem; founded an hoſpital and four monaſteries; and acquired, by her alms and pennance, an eminent and conſpicuous ſtation in the catholic church. Such rare and illuſtrious penitents were celebrated as the glory and example of their age; but the monaſteries were filled by a crowd of obſcure and abject plebeians 30, who gained in the cloyſter much more than they had ſacrificed in the world. Peaſants, ſlaves, and mechanics, might eſcape from poverty and contempt, to a ſafe and honourable profeſſion; whoſe apparent hardſhips were mitigated by cuſtom, by popular applauſe, and by the ſecret relaxation of diſcipline 31. The ſubjects of Rome, whoſe perſons and fortunes were made reſponſible for unequal and exorbitant tributes, retired from the oppreſſion of the Imperial government; and the puſillanimous youth preferred the pennance of a monaſtic, to the dangers of a military, life. The [Page 250] affrighted provincials, of every rank, who fled before the Barbarians, found ſhelter and ſubſiſtence; whole legions were buried in theſe religious ſanctuaries; and the ſame cauſe, which relieved the diſtreſs of individuals, impaired the ſtrength and fortitude of the empire 31.
The monaſtic profeſſion of the ancients 32 was [Note: Obedience of the monks.] an act of voluntary devotion. The inconſtant fanatic was threatened with the eternal vengeance of the God whom he deſerted: but the doors of the monaſtery were ſtill open for repentance. Thoſe monks, whoſe conſcience was fortified by reaſon or paſſion, were at liberty to reſume the character of men and citizens; and even the ſpouſes of Chriſt might accept the legal embraces of an earthly lover 33. The examples of ſcandal, and the progreſs of ſuperſtition, ſuggeſted the propriety of more forcible reſtraints. After a ſufficient [Page 251] trial, the fidelity of the novice was ſecured by a ſolemn and perpetual vow; and his irrevocable engagement was ratified by the laws of the church and ſtate. A guilty fugitive was purfued, arreſted, and reſtored to his perpetual priſon; and the interpoſition of the magiſtrate oppreſſed the freedom and merit, which had alleviated, in ſome degree, the abject ſlavery of the monaſtic diſcipline 34. The actions of a monk, his words, and even his thoughts, were determined by an inflexible rule 35, or a capricious ſuperior: the ſlighteſt offences were corrected by diſgrace or confinement, extraordinary faſts or bloody flagellation; and diſobedience, murmur, or delay, were ranked in the catalogue of the moſt heinous ſins 36. A blind ſubmiſſion to the commands of [Page 252] the abbot, however abſurd, or even criminal, they might ſeem, was the ruling principle, the firſt virtue of the Egyptian monks; and their patience was frequently exerciſed by the moſt extravagant trials. They were directed to remove an enormous rock; aſſiduouſly to water a barren ſtaff, that was planted in the ground, till, at the end of three years, it ſhould vegetate and bloſſom like a tree; to walk into a fiery furnace; or to caſt their infant into a deep pond: and ſeveral ſaints, or madmen, have been immortalized in monaſtic ſtory, by their thoughtleſs, and fearleſs, obedience 37. The freedom of the mind, the ſource of every generous and rational ſentiment, was deſtroyed by the habits of credulity and ſubmiſſion; and the monk, contracting the vices of a ſlave, devoutly followed the faith and paſſions of his eccleſiaſtical tyrant. The peace of the eaſtern church was invaded by a ſwarm of fanatics, incapable of fear, or reaſon, or humanity; and the Imperial troops acknowledged, without ſhame, that they were much leſs apprehenſive of an encounter with the fierceſt Barbarians 38.
[Page 253] Superſtition has often framed and conſecrated the fantaſtic garments of the monks 39: but their apparent ſingularity ſometimes proceeds from [Note: Their dreſs and habitations.] their uniform attachment to a ſimple and primitive model, which the revolutions of faſhion have made ridiculous in the eyes of mankind. The father of the Benedictines expreſsly diſclaims all idea of choice, or merit; and ſoberly exhorts his diſciples to adopt the coarſe and convenient dreſs of the countries which they may inhabit 40. The monaſtic habits of the ancients varied with the climate, and their mode of life; and they aſſumed, with the ſame indifference, the ſheepſkin of the Egyptian peaſants, or the cloak of the Grecian philoſophers. They allowed themſelves the uſe of linen in Egypt, where it was a cheap and domeſtic manufacture; but in the Weſt, they rejected ſuch an expenſive article of foreign luxury 41. It was the practice of the monks either to cut or ſhave their hair; they wrapped their heads in a cowl, to eſcape the ſight of profane objects; their legs and feet were naked, except in the extreme cold of winter; and their ſlow and feeble ſteps were ſupported by a long ſtaff. The aſpect of a genuine anachoret was horrid and diſguſting: every ſenſation that [Page 254] is offenſive to man, was thought acceptable to God; and the angelic rule of Tabenne condemned the ſalutary cuſtom of bathing the limbs in water, and of anointing them with oil 42. The auſtere monks ſlept on the ground, on a hard mat, or a rough blanket; and the ſame bundle of palm-leaves ſerved them as a ſeat in the day, and a pillow in the night. Their original cells were low narrow huts, built of the ſlighteſt materials; which formed, by the regular diſtribution of the ſtreets, a large and populous village, incloſing, within the common wall, a church, an hoſpital, perhaps a library, ſome neceſſary offices, a garden, and a fountain or reſervoir of freſh water. Thirty or forty brethren compoſed a family of ſeparate diſcipline and diet; and the great monaſteries of Egypt conſiſted of thirty or forty families.
Pleaſure and guilt are ſynonymous terms in the [Note: Their diet.] language of the monks: and they had diſcovered, by experience, that rigid faſts, and abſtemious diet, are the moſt effectual preſervatives againſt the impure deſires of the fleſh 43. The rules of abſtinence, [Page 255] which they impoſed, or practiſed, were not uniform or perpetual: the cheerful feſtival of the Pentecoſt was balanced by the extraordinary mortification of Lent; the fervour of new monaſteries was inſenſibly relaxed; and the voracious appetite of the Gauls could not imitate the patient, and temperate, virtue of the Egyptians 44. The diſciples of Anthony and Pachomius were ſatisfied with their daily pittance 45, of twelve ounces of bread, or rather biſcuit 46, which they divided into two frugal repaſts, of the afternoon, and of the evening. It was eſteemed a merit, and almoſt a duty, to abſtain from the boiled vegetables, which were provided for the refectory; but the extraordinary bounty of the abbot ſometimes indulged them with the luxury of cheeſe, fruit, ſallad, and the ſmall dried fiſh of the Nile 47. A more ample latitude [Page 256] of ſea and river fiſh was gradually allowed or aſſumed: but the uſe of fleſh was long confined to the ſick or travellers; and when it gradually prevailed in the leſs rigid monaſteries of Europe, a ſingular diſtinction was introduced; as if birds, whether wild or domeſtic, had been leſs profane than the groſſer animals of the field. Water was the pure and innocent beveridge of the primitive monks; and the founder of the Benedictines regrets the daily portion of half a pint of wine, which had been extorted from him by the intemperance of the age 48. Such an allowance might be eaſily ſupplied by the vineyards of Italy; and his victorious diſciples, who paſſed the Alps, the Rhine, and the Baltic, required, in the place of wine, an adequate compenſation of ſtrong beer or cyder.
The candidate who aſpired to the virtue of evangelical poverty, abjured, at his firſt entrance [Note: Their manual labour.] into a regular community, the idea, and even the name, of all ſeparate, or excluſive, poſſeſſion 49. The brethren were ſupported by their manual labour; and the duty of labour was [Page 257] ſtrenuouſly recommended as a pennance, as an exerciſe, and as the moſt laudable means of ſecuring their daily ſubſiſtence 50. The garden, and fields, which the induſtry of the monks had often reſcued from the foreſt or the moraſs, were diligently cultivated by their hands. They performed, without reluctance, the menial offices of ſlaves and domeſtics; and the ſeveral trades that were neceſſary to provide their habits, their utenſils, and their lodging, were exerciſed within the precincts of the great monaſteries. The monaſtic ſtudies have tended, for the moſt part, to darken, rather than to diſpel, the cloud of ſuperſtition. Yet the curioſity or zeal of ſome learned ſolitaries has cultivated the eccleſiaſtical, and even the profane, ſciences: and poſterity muſt gratefully acknowledge, that the monuments of Greek and Roman literature have been preſerved and multiplied by their indefatigable pens 51. But the more humble induſtry of the monks, eſpecially in Egypt, was contented with the ſilent, ſedentary, [Page 258] occupation, of making wooden ſandals, or of twiſting the leaves of the palm-tree into mats and baſkets. The ſuperfluous ſtock, which was not conſumed in domeſtic uſe, ſupplied, by trade, the wants of the community: the boats of Tabenne, and the other monaſteries of Thebais, deſcended the Nile as far as Alexandria; and, in a Chriſtian market, the ſanctity of the workmen might enhance the intrinſic value of the work.
But the neceſſity of manual labour was inſenſibly [Note: Their riches.] ſuperſeded. The novice was tempted to beſtow his fortune on the ſaints, in whoſe ſociety he was reſolved to ſpend the remainder of his life; and the pernicious indulgence of the laws permitted him to receive, for their uſe, any future acceſſions of legacy or inheritance 52. Melania contributed her plate, three hundred pounds weight of ſilver; and Paula contracted an immenſe debt, for the relief of their favourite monks; who kindly imparted the merits of their prayers and pennance to a rich and liberal ſinner 53. Time continually increaſed, and accidents could ſeldom diminiſh, the eſtates of the popular monaſteries, which ſpread over the adjacent [Page 259] country and cities: and, in the firſt century of their inſtitution, the infidel Zoſimus has maliciouſly obſerved, that, for the benefit of the poor, the Chriſtian monks had reduced a great part of mankind to a ſtate of beggary 54. As long as they maintained their original fervour, they approved themſelves, however, the faithful and benevolent ſtewards of the charity, which was entruſted to their care. But their diſcipline was corrupted by proſperity: they gradually aſſumed the pride of wealth, and at laſt indulged the luxury of expence. Their public luxury might be excuſed by the magnificence of religious worſhip, and the decent motive of erecting durable habitations for an immortal ſociety. But every age of the church has accuſed the licentiouſneſs of the degenerate monks; who no longer remembered the object of their inſtitution, embraced the vain and ſenſual pleaſures of the world, which they had renounced 55, and ſcandalouſly abuſed the riches which had been acquired by the auſtere virtues of their founders 56. [Page 260] Their natural deſcent, from ſuch painful and dangerous virtue, to the common vices of humanity, will not, perhaps, excite much grief or indignation in the mind of a philoſopher.
The lives of the primitive monks were conſumed [Note: Their ſolitude.] in pennance and ſolitude; undiſturbed by the various occupations which fill the time, and exerciſe the faculties, of reaſonable, active, and ſocial beings. Whenever they were permitted to ſtep beyond the precincts of the monaſtery, two jealous companions were the mutual guards and ſpies of each other's actions; and, after their return, they were condemned to forget, or, at leaſt, to ſuppreſs, whatever they had ſeen or heard in the world. Strangers, who profeſſed the orthodox faith, were hoſpitably entertained in a ſeparate apartment; but their dangerous converſation was reſtricted to ſome choſen elders of approved diſcretion and fidelity. Except in their preſence, the monaſtic ſlave might not receive the viſits of his friends or kindred; and it was deemed highly meritorious, if he afflicted a tender ſiſter, or an aged parent, by the obſtinate refuſal of a word or look 57. The monks themſelves paſſed their lives, without perſonal [Page 261] attachments, among a crowd, which had been formed by accident, and was detained, in the ſame priſon, by force or prejudice. Recluſe fanatics have few ideas or ſentiments to communicate: a ſpecial licence of the abbot regulated the time and duration of their familiar viſits; and, at their ſilent meals, they were enveloped in their cowls, inacceſſible, and almoſt inviſible, to each other 58. Study is the reſource of ſolitude: but education had not prepared and qualified for any liberal ſtudies the mechanics and peaſants, who filled the monaſtic communities. They might work: but the vanity of ſpiritual perfection was tempted to diſdain the exerciſe of manual labour; and the induſtry muſt be faint and languid, which is not excited by the ſenſe of perſonal intereſt.
According to their faith and zeal, they might [Note: Their devotion and viſions.] employ the day, which they paſſed in their cells, either in vocal or mental prayer: they aſſembled in the evening, and they were awakened in the night, for the public worſhip of the monaſtery. The preciſe moment was determined by the ſtars, which are ſeldom clouded in the ſerene ſky of Egypt; and a ruſtic horn, or trumpet, the ſignal of devotion, twice interrupted the vaſt ſilence of the deſert 59. Even ſleep, the laſt refuge of [Page 262] the unhappy, was rigorouſly meaſured: the vacant hours of the monk heavily rolled along, without buſineſs or pleaſure; and, before the cloſe of each day, he had repeatedly accuſed the tedious progreſs of the Sun 60. In this comfortleſs ſtate, ſuperſtition ſtill purſued and tormented her wretched votaries 61. The repoſe which they had ſought in the cloiſter was diſturbed by tardy repentance, profane doubts, and guilty deſires; and, while they conſidered each natural impulſe as an unpardonable ſin, they perpetually trembled on the edge of a flaming and bottomleſs abyſs. From the painful ſtruggles of diſeaſe and deſpair, theſe unhappy victims were ſometimes relieved by madneſs or death; and, in the ſixth century, an hoſpital was founded at Jeruſalem for a ſmall portion of the auſtere penitents, who were deprived of their ſenſes 62. Their viſions, before they attained this extreme and acknowledged term of frenzy, have afforded ample materials of ſupernatural hiſtory. It was their firm perſuaſion, [Page 263] that the air, which they breathed, was peopled with inviſible enemies; with innumerable daemons, who watched every occaſion, and aſſumed every form, to terrify, and above all to tempt, their unguarded virtue. The imagination, and even the ſenſes, were deceived by the illuſions of diſtempered fanaticiſm; and the hermit, whoſe midnight prayer was oppreſſed by involuntary ſlumber, might eaſily confound the phantoms of horror or delight, which had occupied his ſleeping, and his waking dreams 63.
The monks were divided into two claſſes: the [Note: The Coenobites and Anachorets.] Coenobites, who lived under a common, and regular, diſcipline; and the Anachorets, who indulged their unſocial, independent, fanaticiſm 64. The moſt devout, or the moſt ambitious, of the ſpiritual brethren, renounced the convent, as they had renounced the world. The fervent monaſteries of Egypt, Paleſtine, and Syria, were ſurrounded by a Laura 65, a diſtant circle of ſolitary cells; and [Page 264] the extravagant pennance of the Hermits was ſtimulated by applauſe and emulation 66. They ſunk under the painful weight of croſſes and chains; and their emaciated limbs were confined by collars, bracelets, gauntlets, and greaves, of maſſy, and rigid, iron. All ſuperfluous incumbrance of dreſs they contemptuouſly caſt away; and ſome ſavage ſaints of both ſexes have been admired, whoſe naked bodies were only covered by their long hair. They aſpired to reduce themſelves to the rude and miſerable ſtate in which the human brute is ſcarcely diſtinguiſhed above his kindred animals: and a numerous ſect of Anachorets derived their name from their humble practice of grazing in the fields of Meſopotamia with the common herd 67. They often uſurped the den of ſome wild beaſt whom they affected to reſemble; they buried themſelves in ſome gloomy cavern, which art or nature had ſcooped out of the rock; and the marble quarries of Thebais are ſtill inſcribed with the monuments of their pennance 68. The moſt perfect Hermits are ſuppoſed to have paſſed many days without food, many nights without ſleep, and many years without ſpeaking; [Page 265] and glorious was the man (I abuſe that name) who contrived any cell, or ſeat, of a peculiar conſtruction, which might expoſe him, in the moſt inconvenient poſture, to the inclemency of the ſeaſons.
Among theſe heroes of the monaſtic life, the [Note: Simeon Stylites. A. D. 395—451.] name and genius of Simeon Stylites 69 have been immortalized by the ſingular invention of an aerial pennance. At the age of thirteen, the young Syrian deſerted the profeſſion of a ſhepherd, and threw himſelf into an auſtere monaſtery. After a long and painful noviciate, in which Simeon was repeatedly ſaved from pious ſuicide, he eſtabliſhed his reſidence on a mountain, about thirty or forty miles to the Eaſt of Antioch. Within the ſpace of a mandra, or circle of ſtones, to which he had attached himſelf by a ponderous chain, he aſcended a column, which was ſucceſſively raiſed from the height of nine, to that of ſixty, feet, from the ground 70. In this laſt, and lofty, ſtation, the Syrian Anachoret reſiſted the heat of thirty ſummers, and the cold of as many winters. Habit and exerciſe inſtructed him to maintain his dangerous ſituation without fear or giddineſs, and ſucceſſively to aſſume the different poſtures of devotion. He ſometimes prayed in an erect attitude, [Page 266] with his out-ſtretched arms, in the figure of a croſs; but his moſt familiar practice was that of bending his meagre ſkeleton from the forehead to the feet: and a curious ſpectator, after numbering twelve hundred and forty-four repetitions, at length deſiſted from the endleſs account. The progreſs of an ulcer in his thigh 71 might ſhorten, but it could not diſturb, this celeſtial life; and the patient Hermit expired, without deſcending from his column. A prince, who ſhould capriciouſly inflict ſuch tortures, would be deemed a tyrant; but it would ſurpaſs the power of a tyrant, to impoſe a long and miſerable exiſtence on the reluctant victims of his cruelty. This voluntary martyrdom muſt have gradually deſtroyed the ſenſibility both of the mind and body; nor can it be preſumed that the fanatics, who torment themſelves, are ſuſceptible of any lively affection for the reſt of mankind. A cruel unfeeling temper has diſtinguiſhed the monks of every age and country: their ſtern indifference, which is ſeldom mollified by perſonal friendſhip, is inflamed by religious hatred; and their mercileſs zeal has ſtrenuouſly adminiſtered the holy office of the Inquiſition.
The monaſtic ſaints, who excite only the contempt and pity of a philoſopher, were reſpected, [Note: Miracles and worſhip of the monks.] and almoſt adored, by the prince and people. [Page 267] Succeſſive crowds of pilgrims from Gaul and India ſaluted the divine pillar of Simeon: the tribes of Saracens diſputed in arms the honour of his benediction; the queens of Arabia and Perſia gratefully confeſſed his ſupernatural virtue; and the angelic Hermit was conſulted by the younger Theodoſius, in the moſt important concerns of the church and ſtate. His remains were tranſported from the mountain of Teleniſſa, by a ſolemn proceſſion of the patriarch, the maſter-general of the Eaſt, ſix biſhops, twenty-one counts or tribunes, and ſix thouſand ſoldiers; and Antioch revered his bones, as her glorious ornament and impregnable defence. The fame of the apoſtles and martyrs was gradually eclipſed by theſe recent and popular Anachorets; the Chriſtian world fell proſtrate before their ſhrines; and the miracles aſcribed to their relics exceeded, at leaſt in number and duration, the ſpiritual exploits of their lives. But the golden legend of their lives 72 was embelliſhed by the artful credulity of their intereſted brethren; and a believing age was eaſily perſuaded, that the ſlighteſt caprice of an Egyptian or a Syrian monk, had been ſufficient to interrupt the eternal laws of the univerſe. The favourites of Heaven were accuſtomed to cure inveterate diſeaſes with a touch, a word, or a diſtant [Page 268] meſſage; and to expel the moſt obſtinate daemons from the ſouls, or bodies, which they poſſeſſed. They familiarly accoſted, or imperiouſly commanded, the lions and ſerpents of the deſert; infuſed vegetation into a ſapleſs trunk; ſuſpended iron on the ſurface of the water; paſſed the Nile on the back of a crocodile, and refreſhed themſelves in a fiery furnace. Theſe extravagant tales, which diſplay the fiction, without the genius, of poetry, have ſeriouſly affected the reaſon, the faith, and the morals, of the Chriſtians. Their [Note: Superſtition of the age.] credulity debaſed and vitiated the faculties of the mind: they corrupted the evidence of hiſtory; and ſuperſtition gradually extinguiſhed the hoſtile light of philoſophy and ſcience. Every mode of religious worſhip which had been practiſed by the ſaints, every myſterious doctrine which they believed, was fortified by the ſanction of divine revelation, and all the manly virtues were oppreſſed by the ſervile and puſillanimous reign of the monks. If it be poſſible to meaſure the interval, between the philoſophic writings of Cicero and the ſacred legend of Theodoret, between the character of Cato and that of Simeon, we may appreciate the memorable revolution which was accompliſhed in the Roman empire within a period of five hundred years.
II. The progreſs of Chriſtianity has been [Note: II. CONVERSION OF THE BARBARIANS.] marked by two glorious and deciſive victories; over the learned and luxurious citizens of the Roman empire; and over the warlike Barbarians of Scythia and Germany, who ſubverted the empire, and embraced the religion, of the Romans. The [Page 269] Goths were the foremoſt of theſe ſavage proſelytes; and the nation was indebted for its converſion to a countryman, or, at leaſt, to a ſubject, worthy to be ranked among the inventors of uſeful arts, who have deſerved the remembrance and gratitude of poſterity. A great number of Roman provincials had been led away into captivity by the Gothic bands, who ravaged Aſia in the time of Gallienus: and of theſe captives, many were Chriſtians, and ſeveral belonged to the eccleſiaſtical order. Thoſe involuntary miſſionaries, diſperſed as ſlaves in the villages of Dacia, ſucceſſively laboured for the ſalvation of their maſters. The ſeeds, which they planted of the evangelic doctrine, were gradually propagated; and, before the end of a century, the pious work was atchieved by the labours of Ulphilas, whoſe anceſtors had been tranſported beyond the Danube from a ſmall town of Cappadocia.
Ulphilas, the biſhop and apoſtle of the Goths 73, [Note: Ulphilas, apoſtle of the Goths, A. D. 360, &c.] acquired their love and reverence by his blameleſs life and indefatigable zeal; and they received, with implicit confidence, the doctrines of truth and virtue, which he preached and practiſed. He executed the arduous taſk of tranſlating the Scriptures into their native tongue, a dialect of the German, or Teutonic, language; but he prudently ſuppreſſed the four books of Kings, as they might tend to irritate the fierce and ſanguinary [Page 270] ſpirit of the Barbarians. The rude, imperfect, idiom of ſoldiers and ſhepherds, ſo ill-qualified to communicate any ſpiritual ideas, was improved and modulated by his genius; and Ulphilas, before he could frame his verſion, was obliged to compoſe a new alphabet of twenty-four letters; four of which he invented, to expreſs the peculiar ſounds that were unknown to the Greek, and Latin, pronunciation 74. But the proſperous ſtate of the Gothic church was ſoon afflicted by war and inteſtine diſcord, and the chieftains were divided by religion as well as by intereſt. Fritigern, the friend of the Romans, became the proſelyte of Ulphilas; while the haughty ſoul of Athanaric diſdained the yoke of the empire, and of the Goſpel. The faith of the new converts was tried by the perſecution which he excited. A waggon, bearing aloft the ſhapeleſs image, of Thor, perhaps, or of Woden, was conducted in ſolemn proceſſion through the ſtreets of the camp; and the rebels, who refuſed to worſhip the God of their fathers, were immediately burnt, with their tents and families. The character of Ulphilas recommended him to the eſteem of the Eaſtern court, where he twice appeared as the miniſter of peace; [Page 271] he pleaded the cauſe of the diſtreſſed Goths, who implored the protection of Valens; and the name of Moſes was applied to this ſpiritual guide, who conducted his people, through the deep waters of the Danube, to the Land of Promiſe 75. The devout ſhepherds, who were attached to his perſon, and tractable to his voice, acquieſced in their ſettlement, at the foot of the Maeſian mountains, in a country of woodlands and paſtures, which ſupported their flocks and herds, and enabled them to purchaſe the corn and wine of the more plentiful provinces. Theſe harmleſs Barbarians multiplied, in obſcure peace, and the profeſſion of Chriſtianity 76.
Their fiercer brethren, the formidable Viſigoths, [Note: The Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, &c. embrace Chriſtianity, A. D. 400, &c.] univerſally adopted the religion of the Romans, with whom they maintained a perpetual intercourſe, of war, of friendſhip, or of conqueſt. In their long and victorious march from the Danube to the Atlantic ocean, they converted their allies; they educated the riſing generation; and the devotion which reigned in the camp of Alaric, or the court of Thoulouſe, might edify, or diſgrace, the palaces of Rome and Conſtantinople 77. [Page 272] During the ſame period, Chriſtianity was embraced by almoſt all the Barbarians, who eſtabliſhed their kingdoms on the ruins of the Weſtern empire; the Burgundians in Gaul, the Suevi in Spain, the Vandals in Africa, the Oſtrogoths in Pannonia, and the various bands of Mercenaries, that raiſed Odoacer to the throne of Italy. The Franks and the Saxons ſtill perſevered in the errors of Paganiſm; but the Franks obtained the monarchy of Gaul by their ſubmiſſion to the example of Clovis; and the Saxon conquerors of Britain were reclaimed from their ſavage ſuperſtition by the miſſionaries of Rome. Theſe Barbarian profelytes diſplayed an ardent and ſucceſsful zeal in the propagation of the faith. The Merovingian kings, and their ſucceſſors, Charlemagne and the Othos, extended by their laws and victories, the dominion of the croſs. England produced the apoſtle of Germany; and the evangelic light was gradually diffuſed from the neighbourhood of the Rhine, to the nations of the Elbe, the Viſtula, and the Baltic. 78.
The different motives which influenced the [Note: Motives of their faith.] reaſon, or the paſſions, of the Barbarian converts, cannot eaſily be aſcertained. They were often capricious and accidental; a dream, an omen, the report of a miracle, the example of ſome prieſt, or hero, the charms of a believing wife, and above all, the fortunate event of a prayer, or vow, [Page 273] which, in a moment of danger, they had addreſſed to the God of the Chriſtians 79. The early prejudices of education were inſenſibly erazed by the habits of frequent and familiar ſociety; the moral precepts of the Goſpel were protected by the extravagant virtues of the monks; and a ſpiritual theology was ſupported by the viſible power of relics, and the pomp of religious worſhip. But the rational and ingenious mode of perſuaſion, which a Saxon biſhop 80 ſuggeſted to a popular ſaint, might ſometimes be employed by the miſſionaries, who laboured for the converſion of infidels. ‘"Admit," ſays the ſagacious diſputant, "whatever they are pleaſed to aſſert of the fabulous, and carnal, genealogy of their gods and gooddeſſes, who are propagated from each other. From this principle deduce their imperfect nature, and human infirmities, the aſſurance they were born, and the probability that they will die. At what time, by what means, from what cauſe, were the eldeſt of the gods or goddeſſes produced? Do they ſtill continue, or have they ceaſed, to propagate? If they have ceaſed, ſummon your antagoniſts to declare the reaſon of this ſtrange alteration. If they ſtill continue, the number of the gods muſt [Page 274] become infinite; and ſhall we not riſk, by the indiſcreet worſhip of ſome impotent deity, to excite the reſentment of his jealous ſuperior? The viſible heavens and earth, the whole ſyſtem of the univerſe, which may be conceived by the mind, is it created or eternal? If created, how, or where, could the gods themſelves exiſt before the creation? If eternal, how could they aſſume the empire of an independent and preexiſting world? Urge theſe arguments with temper and moderation; inſinuate, at ſeaſonable intervals, the truth, and beauty, of the Chriſtian revelation; and endeavour to make the unbelievers aſhamed, without making them angry."’ This metaphyſical reaſoning, too refined perhaps for the Barbarians of Germany, was fortified by the groſſer weight of authority and popular conſent. The advantage of temporal proſperity had deſerted the Pagan cauſe, and paſſed over to the ſervice of Chriſtianity. The Romans themſelves, the moſt powerful and enlightened nation of the globe, had renounced their ancient ſuperſtition; and, if the ruin of their empire ſeemed to accuſe the efficacy of the new faith, the diſgrace was already retrieved by the converſion of the victorious Goths. The valiant and fortunate Barbarians, who ſubdued the provinces of the Weſt, ſucceſſively received, and reflected, the ſame edifying example. Before the age of Charlemagne, the Chriſtian nations of Europe might exult in the excluſive poſſeſſion of the temperate climates, of the fertile lands, which produced [Page 275] corn, wine, and oil; while the ſavage idolaters, and their helpleſs idols, were confined to the extremities of the earth, the dark and frozen regions of the North 81.
Chriſtianity, which opened the gates of Heaven [Note: Effects of their converſion.] to the Barbarians, introduced an important change in their moral and political condition. They received, at the ſame time, the uſe of letters, ſo eſſential to a religion whoſe doctrines are contained in a ſacred book; and while they ſtudied the divine truth, their minds were inſenſibly enlarged by the diſtant view of hiſtory, of nature, of the arts, and of ſociety. The verſion of the Scriptures into their native tongue, which had facilitated their converſion, muſt excite, among their clergy, ſome curioſity to read the original text, to underſtand the ſacred liturgy of the church, and to examine, in the writings of the fathers, the chain of eccleſiaſtical tradition. Theſe ſpiritual gifts were preſerved in the Greek and Latin languages, which concealed the ineſtimable monuments of ancient learning. The immortal productions of Virgil, Cicero, and Livy, which were acceſſible to the Chriſtian Barbarians, maintained a ſilent intercourſe between the reign of Auguſtus, and the times of Clovis and Charlemagne, The emulation of mankind was encouraged by the remembrance of a more perfect ſtate; and the flame of ſcience was ſecretly kept alive, to warm and [Page 276] enlighten the mature age of the Weſtern world. In the moſt corrupt ſtate of Chriſtianity, the Barbarians might learn juſtice from the law, and mercy from the goſpel: and if the knowledge of their duty was inſufficient to guide their actions, or to regulate their paſſions; they were ſometimes reſtrained by conſcience, and frequently puniſhed by remorſe. But the direct authority of religion was leſs effectual, than the holy communion which united them with their Chriſtian brethren in ſpiritual friendſhip. The influence of theſe ſentiments contributed to ſecure their fidelity in the ſervice, or the alliance, of the Romans, to alleviate the horrors of war, to moderate the inſolence of conqueſt, and to preſerve, in the downfall of the empire, a permanent reſpect for the name and inſtitutions of Rome. In the days of Paganiſm, the prieſts of Gaul and Germany reigned over the people, and controuled the juriſdiction of the magiſtrates; and the zealous proſelytes transferred an equal, or more ample, meaſure of devout obedience, to the pontiffs of the Chriſtian faith. The ſacred character of the biſhops was ſupported by their temporal poſſeſſions; they obtained an honourable ſeat in the legiſlative aſſemblies of ſoldiers and freemen; and it was their intereſt, as well as their duty, to mollify, by peaceful counſels, the fierce ſpirit of the Barbarians. The perpetual correſpondence of the Latin clergy, the frequent pilgrimages to Rome and Jeruſalem, and the growing authority of the Popes, cemented the union of the Chriſtian republic: and gradually produced the ſimilar manners, and common juriſprudence, [Page 277] which have diſtinguiſhed, from the reſt of mankind, the independent, and even hoſtile, nations of modern Europe.
But the operation of theſe cauſes was checked [Note: They are involved in the Arian hereſy.] and retarded by the unfortunate accident, which infuſed a deadly poiſon into the cup of Salvation. Whatever might be the early ſentiments of Ulphilas, his connections with the empire and the church were formed during the reign of Arianiſm. The apoſtle of the Goths ſubſcribed the creed of Rimini; profeſſed with freedom, and perhaps with ſincerity, that the SON was not equal, or conſubſtantial to the FATHER 82; communicated theſe errors to the clergy and people; and infected the Barbaric world with an hereſy 83, which the great Theodoſius proſcribed and extinguiſhed among the Romans. The temper and underſtanding of the new proſelytes were not adapted to metaphyſical ſubtleties; but they ſtrenuouſly maintained, what they had piouſly received, as the pure and genuine doctrines of Chriſtianity. The advantage [Page 278] of preaching and expounding the Scriptures in the Teutonic language, promoted the apoſtolic labours of Ulphilas, and his ſucceſſors; and they ordained a competent number of biſhops and preſbyters, for the inſtruction of the kindred tribes. The Oſtrogoths, the Burgundians, the Suevi, and the Vandals, who had liſtened to the eloquence of the Latin clergy 84, preferred the more intelligible leſſons of their domeſtic teachers; and Arianiſm was adopted as the national faith of the warlike converts, who were ſeated on the ruins of the Weſtern empire. This irreconcilable difference of religion was a perpetual ſource of jealouſy and hatred; and the reproach of Barbarian was embittered by the more odious epithet of Heretic. The heroes of the North, who had ſubmitted, with ſome reluctance, to believe that all their anceſtors were in hell 85; were aſtoniſhed and exaſperated to learn, that they themſelves had only changed the mode of their eternal condemnation. Inſtead of the ſmooth applauſe, which Chriſtian kings are accuſtomed to expect from their loyal prelates, the orthodox biſhops and their clergy were in a ſtate of oppoſition to the Arian courts; and their indiſcreet oppoſition frequently became criminal, and might ſometimes be dangerous 86. The pulpit, [Page 279] that ſafe and ſacred organ of ſedition, reſounded with the names of Pharaoh and Holofernes 87; the public diſcontent was inflamed by the hope or promiſe of a glorious deliverance; and the ſeditious ſaints were tempted to promote the accompliſhment of their own predictions. Notwithſtanding theſe provocations, the Catholics of Gaul, [Note: General toleration.] Spain, and Italy, enjoyed, under the reign of the Arians, the free, and peaceful, exerciſe of their religion. Their haughty maſters reſpected the zeal of a numerous people, reſolved to die at the foot of their altars; and the example of their devout conſtancy was admired and imitated by the Barbarians themſelves. The conquerors evaded, however, the diſgraceful reproach, or confeſſion, of fear, by attributing their toleration to the liberal motives of reaſon and humanity; and while they affected the language, they imperceptibly imbibed the ſpirit, of genuine Chriſtianity.
The peace of the church was ſometimes interrupted. [Note: Arian perſecution of the Vandals.] The Catholics were indiſcreet, the Barbarians were impatient; and the partial acts of ſeverity or injuſtice which had been recommended by the Arian clergy, were exaggerated by the orthodox writers. The guilt of perſecution may be imputed to Euric, king of the Viſigoths; who ſuſpended the exerciſe of eccleſiaſtical, or at leaſt, of epiſcopal, functions; and puniſhed the popular [Page 280] biſhops of Aquitain with impriſonment, exile, and confiſcation 88. But the cruel and abſurd enterpriſe of ſubduing the minds of a whole people, was undertaken by the Vandals alone. Genſeric [Note: Genſeric, A. D. 429—477.] himſelf, in his early youth, had renounced the orthodox communion; and the apoſtate could neither grant, nor expect, a ſincere forgiveneſs. He was exaſperated to find, that the Africans, who had fled before him in the field, ſtill preſumed to diſpute his will in ſynods and churches; and his ferocious mind was incapable of fear, or of compaſſion. His Catholic ſubjects were oppreſſed by intolerant laws, and arbitrary puniſhments. The language of Genſeric was furious, and formidable; the knowledge of his intentions might juſtify the moſt unfavourable interpretation of his actions; and the Arians were reproached with the frequent executions, which ſtained the palace, and the dominions, of the tyrant. Arms and ambition were, however, the ruling paſſions of the monarch of the ſea. But Hunneric, his inglorious [Note: Hunneric. A. D. 477.] ſon, who ſeemed to inherit only his vices, tormented the Catholics with the ſame unrelenting fury, which had been fatal to his brother, his nephews, and the friends and favourites of his father: and, even to the Arian patriarch, who was inhumanly burnt alive in the midſt of Carthage. [Page 281] The religious war was preceded and prepared by an inſidious truce; perſecution was made the ſerious and important buſineſs of the Vandal court; and the loathſome diſeaſe, which haſtened the death of Hunneric, revenged the injuries, without contributing to the deliverance, of the church. The throne of Africa was ſucceſſively filled by the two nephews of Hunneric; by Gundamund, who reigned about twelve, and by [Note: Gundamund, A. D. 484.] Thraſimund, who governed the nation above twenty-ſeven years. Their adminiſtration was hoſtile and oppreſſive to the orthodox party. Gundamund appeared to emulate, or even to ſurpaſs, the cruelty of his uncle; and, if at length he relented, if he recalled the biſhops, and reſtored the freedom of Athanaſian worſhip, a premature death intercepted the benefits of his tardy clemency. His brother, Thraſimund, was the greateſt and moſt accompliſhed of the Vandal [Note: Thraſimund, A. D. 496.] kings, whom he excelled in beauty, prudence, and magnanimity of ſoul. But this magnanimous character was degraded by his intolerant zeal and deceitful clemency. Inſtead of threats and tortures, he employed the gentle, but efficacious, powers of ſeduction. Wealth, dignity, and the royal favour, were the liberal rewards of apoſtacy; the Catholics, who had violated the laws, might purchaſe their pardon by the renunciation of their faith; and whenever Thraſimund meditated any rigorous meaſure, he patiently waited till the indiſcretion of his adverſaries furniſhed him with a ſpecious opportunity. Bigotry was his laſt ſentiment in the hour of death: and he [Page 282] exacted from his ſucceſſor a ſolemn oath, that he would never tolerate the ſectaries of Athanaſius. But his ſucceſſor, Hilderic, the gentle ſon of the ſavage Hunneric, preferred the duties of [Note: Hilderic, A. D. 523.] humanity and juſtice, to the vain obligation of an impious oath; and his acceſſion was gloriouſly marked by the reſtoration of peace and univerſal freedom. The throne of that virtuous, though feeble monarch, was uſurped by his couſin Gelimer, a zealous Arian: but the Vandal kingdom, [Note: Gelimer, A. D. 530.] before he could enjoy or abuſe his power, was ſubverted by the arms of Beliſarius; and the orthodox party retaliated the injuries which they had endured 89.
The paſſionate declamations of the Catholics, [Note: A general view of the perſecution in Africa.] the ſole hiſtorians of this perſecution, cannot afford any diſtinct ſeries of cauſes and events; any impartial view of characters, or counſels; but the moſt remarkable circumſtances, that deſerve either credit or notice, may be referred to the following heads: I. In the original law, which is ſtill extant 90, Hunneric expreſsly declares, [Page 283] and the declaration appears to be correct, that he had faithfully tranſcribed the regulations and penalties of the Imperial edicts; againſt the heretical congregations, the clergy, and the people, who diſſented from the eſtabliſhed religion. If the rights of conſcience had been underſtood, the Catholics muſt have condemned their paſt conduct, or acquieſced in their actual ſufferings. But they ſtill perſiſted to refuſe the indulgence which they claimed. While they trembled under the laſh of perſecution, they praiſed the laudable ſeverity of Hunneric himſelf, who burnt or baniſhed great numbers of Manichaeans 91; and they rejected, with horror, the ignominious compromiſe, that the diſciples of Arius, and of Athanaſius, ſhould enjoy a reciprocal and ſimilar toleration in the territories of the Romans, and in thoſe of the Vandals 92. II. The practice of a conference, which the Catholics had ſo frequently uſed to inſult and puniſh their obſtinate antagoniſts, was retorted againſt themſelves 93. At the command of Hunneric, four hundred and ſixty-ſix orthodox biſhops aſſembled at Carthage; but when they were admitted [Page 284] into the hall of audience, they had the mortification of beholding the Arian Cirila exalted on the patriarchal throne. The diſputants were ſeparated, after the mutual and ordinary reproaches of noiſe and ſilence, of delay and precipitation, of military force and of popular clamour. One martyr and one confeſſor were ſelected among the Catholic biſhops; twenty-eight eſcaped by flight, and eighty-eight by conformity; forty-ſix were ſent into Corſica to cut timber for the royal navy; and three hundred and two were baniſhed to the different parts of Africa, expoſed to the inſults of their enemies, and carefully deprived of all the temporal and ſpiritual comforts of life 94. The hardſhips of ten years exile muſt have reduced their numbers; and if they had complied with the law of Thraſimund, which prohibited any epiſcopal conſecrations, the orthodox church of Africa muſt have expired with the lives of its actual members. They diſobeyed; and their diſobedience was puniſhed by a ſecond exile of two hundred and twenty biſhops into Sardinia; where they languiſhed fifteen years, till the acceſſion of the gracious Hilderic 95. The two iſlands were judiciouſly [Page 285] choſen by the malice of their Arian tyrants. Seneca, from his own experience, has deplored and exaggerated the miſerable ſtate of Corſica 96, and the plenty of Sardinia was overbalanced by the unwholeſome quality of the air 97. III. The zeal of Genſeric, and his ſucceſſors, for the converſion of the Catholics, muſt have rendered them ſtill more jealous to guard the purity of the Vandal faith. Before the churches were finally ſhut, it was a crime to appear in a Barbarian dreſs; and thoſe who preſumed to neglect the royal mandate, were rudely dragged backwards by their long hair 98. The Palatine officers, who refuſed to profeſs the religion of their prince, were ignominiouſly ſtripped of their honours, and employments; baniſhed to Sardinia and Sicily; or condemned to the ſervile labours of ſlaves and peaſants in the fields of Utica. In the diſtricts which had been peculiarly allotted to the Vandals, the exerciſe of the Catholic worſhip was more ſtrictly prohibited; and ſevere penalties [Page 286] were denounced againſt the guilt, both of the miſſionary, and the proſelyte. By theſe arts, the faith of the Barbarians was preſerved, and their zeal was inflamed: they diſcharged, with devout fury, the office of ſpies, informers, or executioners; and whenever their cavalry took the field, it was the favourite amuſement of the march, to defile the churches, and to inſult the clergy of the adverſe faction 99. IV. The citizens who had been educated in the luxury of the Roman province, were delivered, with exquiſite cruelty, to the Moors of the deſert. A venerable train of biſhops, preſbyters, and deacons, with a faithful crowd of four thouſand and ninety-ſix perſons, whoſe guilt is not preciſely aſcertained, were torn from their native homes, by the command of Hunneric. During the night they were confined, like a herd of cattle, amidſt their own ordure: during the day they purſued their march over the burning ſands; and if they fainted under the heat and fatigue, they were goaded, or dragged along, till they expired in the hands of their tormentors 100. Theſe unhappy exiles, when they reached the Mooriſh huts, might excite the compaſſion of a people, whoſe native humanity was neither improved by reaſon, nor corrupted by fanaticiſm: but if they eſcaped the dangers, they were condemned to [Page 287] ſhare the diſtreſs, of a ſavage life. V. It is incumbent on the authors of perſecution previouſly to reflect, whether they are determined to ſupport it in the laſt extreme. They excite the flame which they ſtrive to extinguiſh; and it ſoon becomes neceſſary to chaſtiſe the contumacy, as well as the crime, of the offender. The fine, which he is unable or unwilling to diſcharge, expoſes his perſon to the ſeverity of the law; and his contempt of lighter penalties ſuggeſts the uſe and propriety of capital puniſhment. Through the veil of fiction and declamation, we may clearly perceive, that the Catholics, more eſpecially under the reign of Hunneric, endured the moſt cruel and ignominious treatment 101. Reſpectable citizens, noble matrons, and conſecrated virgins, were ſtripped naked, and raiſed in the air by pullies, with a weight ſuſpended at their feet. In this painful attitude their naked bodies were torn with ſcourges, or burnt in the moſt tender parts with red-hot plates of iron. The amputation of the ears, the noſe, the tongue, and the right-hand, was inflicted by the Arians; and although the preciſe number cannot be defined, it is evident that many perſons, among whom a biſhop 102 and a proconſul 103 may be named, [Page 288] were entitled to the crown of martyrdom. The ſame honour has been aſcribed to the memory of count Sebaſtian, who profeſſed the Nicene creed with unſhaken conſtancy; and Genſeric might deteſt, as an heretic, the brave and ambitious fugitive whom he dreaded as a rival 104. VI. A new mode of converſion, which might ſubdue the feeble, and alarm the timorous, was employed by the Arian miniſters. They impoſed, by fraud or violence, the rites of baptiſm; and puniſhed the apoſtacy of the Catholics, if they diſclaimed this odious and profane ceremony, which ſcandalouſly violated the freedom of the will, and the unity of the ſacrament 105. The hoſtile ſects had formerly allowed the validity of each other's baptiſm; and the innovation, ſo fiercely maintained by the Vandals, can be imputed only to the example and advice of the Donatiſts. VII. The Arian clergy ſurpaſſed, in religious cruelty, the king and his Vandals; but they were incapable of cultivating the ſpiritual vineyard, which they were ſo deſirous to poſſeſs. A patriarch 106 might ſeat himſelf on the throne of Carthage; ſome biſhops, in the principal cities, might uſurp the place of their rivals; but [Page 289] the ſmallneſs of their numbers, and their ignorance of the Latin language 107, diſqualified the Barbarians for the eccleſiaſtical miniſtry of a great church; and the Africans, after the loſs of their orthodox paſtors, were deprived of the public exerciſe of Chriſtianity. VIII. The emperors were the natural protectors of the Homoouſian doctrine: and the faithful people of Africa, both as Romans and as Catholics, preferred their lawful ſovereignty to the uſurpation of the Barbarous heretics. During an interval of peace and friendſhip, Hunneric reſtored the cathedral of Carthage; at the interceſſion of Zeno, who reigned in the Eaſt, and of Placidia, the daughter and relict of emperors, and the ſiſter of the queen of the Vandals 108. But this decent regard was of ſhort duration; and the haughty tyrant diſplayed his contempt for the religion of the Empire, by ſtudiouſly arranging the bloody images of perſecution, in all the principal ſtreets through which the Roman ambaſſador muſt paſs in his way to the palace 109. An oath was required from the biſhops, who were aſſembled at Carthage, that they would ſupport the ſucceſſion of his ſon Hilderic, and [Page 290] that they would renounce all foreign or tranſmarine correſpondence. This engagement, conſiſtent as it ſhould ſeem with their moral and religious duties, was refuſed by the more ſagacious members 110 of the aſſembly. Their refuſal, faintly coloured by the pretence that it is unlawful for a Chriſtian to ſwear, muſt provoke the ſuſpicious of a jealous tyrant.
The Catholics, oppreſſed by royal and military [Note: Catholic frauds,] force, were far ſuperior to their adverſaries in numbers and learning. With the ſame weapons which the Greek 111 and Latin fathers had already provided for the Arian controverſy, they repeatedly ſilenced, or vanquiſhed, the fierce and illiterate ſucceſſors of Ulphilas. The conſciouſneſs of their own ſuperiority might have raiſed them above the arts, and paſſions, of religious warfare. Yet, inſtead of aſſuming ſuch honourable pride, the orthodox theologians were tempted, by the aſſurance of impunity, to compoſe fictions, which muſt be ſtigmatized with the epithets of fraud and forgery. They aſcribed their own polemical works to the moſt venerable names of Chriſtian antiquity: the characters of Athanaſius [Page 291] and Auguſtin were aukwardly perſonated by Vigilius and his diſciples 112; and the famous creed, which ſo clearly expounds the myſteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, is deduced, with ſtrong probability, from this African ſchool 113. Even the Scriptures themſelves were profaned by their raſh and ſacrilegious hands. The memorable text, which aſſerts the unity of the THREE who bear witneſs in heaven 114, is condemned by the univerſal ſilence of the orthodox fathers, ancient verſions, and authentic manuſcripts 115. [Page 292] It was firſt alleged by the Catholic biſhops whom Hunneric ſummoned to the conference of Carthage 116. An allegorical interpretation, in the form, perhaps, of a marginal note, invaded the text of the Latin Bibles, which were renewed and corrected in a dark period of ten centuries 117. After the invention of printing 118, the editors of the Greek Teſtament yielded to their own prejudices, or thoſe of the times 119; and the pious fraud, which was embraced with equal zeal at Rome and at Geneva, has been infinitely multiplied [Page 293] in every country and every language of modern Europe.
The example of fraud muſt excite ſuſpicion; [Note: and miracles.] and the ſpecious miracles by which the African Catholics have defended the truth and juſtice of their cauſe, may be aſcribed, with more reaſon, to their own induſtry, than to the viſible protection of Heaven. Yet the hiſtorian, who views this religious conflict with an impartial eye, may condeſcend to mention one preternatural event, which will edify the devout, and ſurpriſe the incredulous. Tipaſa 120, a maritime colony of Mauritania, ſixteen miles to the eaſt of Caeſarea, had been diſtinguiſhed, in every age, by the orthodox zeal of its inhabitants. They had braved the fury of the Donatiſts 121; they reſiſted, or eluded, the tyranny of the Arians. The town was deſerted on the approach of an heretical biſhop: moſt of the inhabitants who could procure ſhips paſſed over to the coaſt of Spain; and the unhappy remnant, refuſing all communion with the uſurper, ſtill preſumed to hold their pious, but illegal, aſſemblies. Their diſobedience exaſperated the cruelty of Hunneric. A military count was diſpatched from Carthage to Tipaſa: he collected the Catholics in the Forum, and, in the preſence of the whole province, deprived [Page 294] the guilty of their right-hands and their tongues. But the holy confeſſors continued to ſpeak without tongues; and this miracle is atteſted by Victor, an African biſhop, who publiſhed an hiſtory of the perſecution within two years after the event 122. ‘"If any one," ſays Victor, "ſhould doubt of the truth, let him repair to Conſtantinople, and liſten to the clear and perfect language of Reſtitutus, the ſubdeacon, one of theſe glorious ſufferers, who is now lodged in the palace of the emperor Zeno, and is reſpected by the devout empreſs."’ At Conſtantinople we are aſtoniſhed to find a cool, a learned, an unexceptionable witneſs, without intereſt, and without paſſion. Aeneas of Gaza, a Platonic philoſopher, has accurately deſcribed his own obſervations on theſe African ſufferers. ‘"I ſaw them myſelf: I heard them ſpeak: I diligently enquired by what means ſuch an articulate voice could be formed without any organ of ſpeech: I uſed my eyes to examine the report of my ears: I opened their mouth, and ſaw that the whole tongue had been completely torn away by the roots; an operation which the phyſicians generally ſuppoſe to be mortal 123."’ The teſtimony of Aeneas of Gaza [Page 295] might be confirmed by the ſuperfluous evidence of the emperor Juſtinian, in a perpetual edict; of count Marcellinus, in his Chronicle of the times; and of Pope Gregory the Firſt, who had reſided at Conſtantinople, as the miniſter of the Roman pontiff 124. They all lived within the compaſs of a century; and they all appeal to their perſonal knowledge, or the public notoriety, for the truth of a miracle, which was repeated in ſeveral inſtances, diſplayed on the greateſt theatre of the world, and ſubmitted, during a ſeries of years, to the calm examination of the ſenſes. This ſupernatural gift of the African confeſſors, who ſpoke without tongues, will command the aſſent of thoſe, and of thoſe only, who already believe, that their language was pure and orthodox. But the ſtubborn mind of an infidel is guarded by ſecret, incurable, ſuſpicion; and the Arian, or Socinian, who has ſeriouſly rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, will not be ſhaken by the moſt plauſible evidence of an Athanaſian miracle.
The Vandals and the Oſtrogoths perſevered in [Note: The ruin of Arianiſm among the Barbarians, A. D. 500—700.] the profeſſion of Arianiſm till the final ruin of the kingdoms which they had founded in Africa and Italy. The Barbarians of Gaul ſubmitted to [Page 296] the orthodox dominion of the Franks; and Spain was reſtored to the Catholic church by the voluntary converſion of the Viſigoths.
This ſalutary revolution 125 was haſtened by the [Note: Revolt and martyrdom of Hermenegild in Spain, A. D. 577—584.] example of a royal martyr, whom our calmer reaſon may ſtyle an ungrateful rebel. Leovigild, the Gothic monarch of Spain, deſerved the reſpect of his enemies, and the love of his ſubjects: the Catholics enjoyed a free toleration, and his Arian ſynods attempted, without much ſucceſs, to reconcile their ſcruples by aboliſhing the unpopular rite of a ſecond baptiſm. His eldeſt ſon Hermenegild, who was inveſted by his father with the royal diadem, and the fair principality of Boetica, contracted an honourable and orthodox alliance with a Merovingian princeſs, the daughter of Sigibert king of Auſtraſia, and of the famous Brunechild. The beauteous Ingundis, who was no more than thirteen years of age, was received, beloved, and perſecuted, in the Arian court of Toledo; and her religious conſtancy was alternately aſſaulted with blandiſhments and violence by Goiſvintha, the Gothic queen, who abuſed the double claim of maternal authority 126. Incenſed by her reſiſtance, Goiſvintha [Page 297] ſeized the Catholic princeſs by her long hair, inhumanly daſhed her againſt the ground, kicked her till ſhe was covered with blood, and at laſt gave orders that ſhe ſhould be ſtripped, and thrown into a baſon, or fiſh-pond 127. Love and honour might excite Hermenegild to reſent this injurious treatment of his bride; and he was gradually perſuaded, that Ingundis ſuffered for the cauſe of divine truth. Her tender complaints, and the weighty arguments of Leander, archbiſhop of Seville, accompliſhed his converſion; and the heir of the Gothic monarchy was initiated in the Nicene faith by the ſolemn rites of confirmation 128. The raſh youth, inflamed by zeal, and perhaps by ambition, was tempted to violate the duties of a ſon, and a ſubject; and the Catholics of Spain, although they could not complain of perſecution, applauded his pious rebellion againſt an heretical father. The civil war was protracted by the long and obſtinate ſieges of Merida, Cordova, and Seville, which had ſtrenuouſly eſpouſed the party of Hermenegild. He invited the orthodox Barbarians, the Suevi, and [Page 298] the Franks, to the deſtruction of his native land: he folicited the dangerous aid of the Romans, who poſſeſſed Africa, and a part of the Spaniſh coaſt; and his holy ambaſſador, the archbiſhop Leander, effectually negociated in perſon with the Byzantine court. But the hopes of the Catholics were cruſhed by the active diligence of a monarch who commanded the troops and treaſures of Spain; and the guilty Hermenegild, after his vain attempts to reſiſt or to eſcape, was compelled to ſurrender himſelf into the hands of an incenſed father. Leovigild was ſtill mindful of that ſacred character; and the rebel, deſpoiled of the regal ornaments, was ſtill permitted, in a decent exile, to profeſs the Catholic religion. His repeated and unſucceſsful treaſons at length provoked the indignation of the Gothic king; and the ſentence of death, which he pronounced with apparent reluctance, was privately executed in the tower of Seville. The inflexible conſtancy with which he refuſed to accept the Arian communion, as the price of his ſafety, may excuſe the honours that have been paid to the memory of St. Hermenegild. His wife and infant ſon were detained by the Romans in ignominious captivity: and this domeſtic misfortune tarniſhed the glories of Leovigild, and embittered the laſt moments of his life.
His ſon and ſucceſſor, Recared, the firſt Catholic king of Spain, had imbibed the faith of [Note: Converſion of Recared and the Viſigoths of Spain, A. D. 586—589.] his unfortunate brother, which he ſupported with more prudence and ſucceſs. Inſtead of revolting [Page 299] againſt his father, Recared patiently expected the hour of his death. Inſtead of condemning his memory, he piouſly ſuppoſed, that the dying monarch had abjured the errors of Arianiſm, and recommended to his ſon the converſion of the Gothic nation. To accompliſh that ſalutary end, Recared convened an aſſembly of the Arian clergy and nobles, declared himſelf a Catholic, and exhorted them to imitate the example of their prince. The laborious interpretation of doubtful texts, or the curious purſuit of metaphyſical arguments, would have excited an endleſs controverſy; and the monarch diſcreetly propoſed to his illiterate audience, two ſubſtantial and viſible arguments, the teſtimony of Earth, and of Heaven. The Earth had ſubmitted to the Nicene ſynod: the Romans, the Barbarians, and the inhabitants of Spain, unanimouſly profeſſed the ſame orthodox creed; and the Viſigoths reſiſted, almoſt alone, the conſent of the Chriſtian world. A ſuperſtitious age was prepared to reverence, as the teſtimony of Heaven, the preternatural cures, which were performed by the ſkill or virtue of the Catholic clergy; the baptiſmal fonts of Oſſet in Boetica 129, which were ſpontaneouſly repleniſhed [Page 300] each year, on the vigil of Eaſter 130; and the miraculous ſhrine of St. Martin of Tours, which had already converted the Suevic prince and people of Gallicia 131. The Catholic king encountered ſome difficulties on this important change of the national religion. A conſpiracy, ſecretly fomented by the queen-dowager, was formed againſt his life; and two counts excited a dangerous revolt in the Narbonneſe Gaul. But Recared diſarmed the conſpirators, defeated the rebels, and executed ſevere juſtice; which the Arians, in their turn, might brand with the reproach of perſecution. Eight biſhops, whoſe names betray their Barbaric origin, abjured their errors; and all the books of Arian theology were reduced to aſhes, with the houſe in which they had been purpoſely collected. The whole body of the Viſigoths and Suevi were allured or driven into the pale of the Catholic communion; the faith, at leaſt of the riſing generation, was fervent and ſincere; and the devout liberality of the Barbarians enriched the churches and monaſteries of Spain. Seventy biſhops, aſſembled in the council of Toledo, received the ſubmiſſion of their conquerors; and the zeal of the Spaniards improved the Nicene creed, by declaring the proceſſion [Page 301] of the Holy Ghoſt, from the Son, as well as from the Father; a weighty point of doctrine, which produced, long afterwards, the ſchiſm of the Greek and Latin churches 132. The royal proſelyte immediately ſaluted and conſulted pope Gregory, ſurnamed the Great, a learned and holy prelate, whoſe reign was diſtinguiſhed by the converſion of heretics and infidels. The ambaſſadors of Recared reſpectfully offered on the threſhold of the Vatican his rich preſents of gold and gems: they accepted, as a lucrative exchange, the hairs of St. John the Baptiſt; a croſs, which incloſed a ſmall piece of the true wood; and a key, that contained ſome particles of iron which had been ſcraped from the chains of St. Peter 133.
The ſame Gregory, the ſpiritual conqueror of [Note: Converſion of the Lombards of Italy, A. D. 600, &c.] Britain, encouraged the pious Theodelinda, queen of the Lombards, to propagate the Nicene faith among the victorious ſavages, whoſe recent Chriſtianity was polluted by the Arian hereſy. Her devout labours ſtill left room for the induſtry and ſucceſs of future miſſionaries; and many cities of Italy were ſtill diſputed by hoſtile biſhops. But the cauſe of Arianiſm was gradually ſuppreſſed by the weight of truth, of intereſt, and of example; and the controverſy, which Egypt had [Page 302] derived from the Platonic ſchool, was terminated, after a war of three hundred years, by the final converſion of the Lombards of Italy 134.
The firſt miſſionaries who preached the goſpel [Note: Perſecution of the Jews in Spain, A. D. 612—712.] to the Barbarians, appealed to the evidence of reaſon, and claimed the benefit of toleration 135. But no ſooner had they eſtabliſhed their ſpiritual dominion, than they exhorted the Chriſtian kings to extirpate, without mercy, the remains of Roman or Barbaric ſuperſtition. The ſucceſſors of Clovis inflicted one hundred laſhes on the peaſants who refuſed to deſtroy their idols; the crime of ſacrificing to the daemons was puniſhed by the Anglo-Saxon laws with the heavier penalties of impriſonment and confiſcation; and even the wiſe Alfred adopted, as an indiſpenſable duty, the extreme rigour of the Moſaic inſtitutions 136. But the puniſhment, and the crime, were gradually aboliſhed among a Chriſtian people: the theological diſputes of the ſchools were ſuſpended by propitious ignorance; and the intolerant ſpirit, which could find neither idolaters nor heretics, [Page 303] was reduced to the perſecution of the Jews. That exiled nation had founded ſome ſynagogues in the cities of Gaul; but Spain, ſince the time of Hadrian, was filled with their numerous colonies 137. The wealth which they accumulated by trade, and the management of the finances, invited the pious avarice of their maſters; and they might be oppreſſed without danger, as they had loſt the uſe, and even the remembrance, of arms. Siſebut, a Gothic king, who reigned in the beginning of the ſeventh century, proceeded at once to the laſt extremes of perſecution 138. Ninety thouſand Jews were compelled to receive the ſacrament of baptiſm; the fortunes of the obſtinate infidels were confiſcated, their bodies were tortured; and it ſeems doubtful whether they were permitted to abandon their native country. The exceſſive zeal of the Catholic king was moderated, even by the clergy of Spain, who ſolemnly pronounced an inconſiſtent ſentence: that the ſacraments ſhould not be forcibly impoſed; but that the Jews who had been baptized ſhould be conſtrained, for the honour of the church, to perſevere in the external practice [Page 304] of a religion which they diſbelieved, and deteſted. Their frequent relapſes provoked one of the ſucceſſors of Siſebut to baniſh the whole nation from his dominions; and a council of Toledo publiſhed a decree, that every Gothic king ſhould ſwear to maintain this ſalutary edict. But the tyrants were unwilling to diſmiſs the victims, whom they delighted to torture, or to deprive themſelves of the induſtrious ſlaves, over whom they might exerciſe a lucrative oppreſſion. The Jews ſtill continued in Spain, under the weight of the civil and eccleſiaſtical laws, which in the ſame country have been faithfully tranſcribed in the Code of the Inquiſition. The Gothic kings and biſhops at length diſcovered, that injuries will produce hatred, and that hatred will find the opportunity of revenge. A nation, the ſecret or profeſſed enemies of Chriſtianity, ſtill multiplied in ſervitude, and diſtreſs; and the intrigues of the Jews promoted the rapid ſucceſs of the Arabian conquerors 139.
As ſoon as the Barbarians withdrew their [Note: Concluſion.] powerful ſupport, the unpopular hereſy of Arius ſunk into contempt and oblivion. But the Greeks ſtill retained their ſubtle and loquacious diſpoſition: the eſtabliſhment of an obſcure doctrine ſuggeſted new queſtions, and new diſputes; and it was always in the power of an ambitious prelate, or a fanatic monk, to violate the peace of [Page 305] the church, and, perhaps, of the empire. The hiſtorian of the empire may overlook thoſe diſputes which were confined to the obſcurity of ſchools and ſynods. The Manichaeans, who laboured to reconcile the religions of Chriſt and of Zoroaſter, had ſecretly introduced themſelves into the provinces: but theſe foreign ſectaries were involved in the common diſgrace of the Gnoſtics, and the Imperial laws were executed by the public hatred. The rational opinions of the Pelagians were propagated from Britain to Rome, Africa, and Paleſtine, and ſilently expired in a ſuperſtitious age. But the Eaſt was diſtracted by the Neſtorian and Eutychian controverſies; which attempted to explain the myſtery of the incarnation, and haſtened the ruin of Chriſtianity in her native land. Theſe controverſies were firſt agitated under the reign of the younger Theodoſius: but their important conſequences extend far beyond the limits of the preſent volume. The metaphyſical chain of argument, the conteſts of eccleſiaſtical ambition, and their political influence on the decline of the Byzantine empire, may afford an intereſting and inſtructive ſeries of hiſtory, from the general councils of Epheſus and Chalcedon, to the conqueſt of the Eaſt by the ſucceſſors of Mahomet.
6. CHAP. XXXVIII. Reign and Converſion of Clovis.—His Victories over the Alemanni, Burgundians, and Viſigoths.—Eſtabliſhment of the French Monarchy in Gaul.—Laws of the Barbarians.—State of the Romans.—The Viſigoths of Spain.—Conqueſt of Britain by the Saxons.[Page 306]
THE Gauls 1, who impatiently ſupported the Roman yoke, received a memorable leſſon from one of the lieutenants of Veſpaſian, [Note: The revolution of Gaul.] whoſe weighty ſenſe has been refined and expreſſed by the genius of Tacitus 2. ‘"The protection of the republic has delivered Gaul from internal diſcord, and foreign invaſions. By the loſs of national independence, you have acquired the name and privileges of Roman citizens. You enjoy, in common with ourſelves, the permanent benefits of civil government; and your remote ſituation is leſs expoſed to the accidental miſchiefs of tyranny. Inſtead of [Page 307] exerciſing the rights of conqueſt, we have been contented to impoſe ſuch tributes as are requiſite for your own preſervation. Peace cannot be ſecured without armies; and armies muſt be ſupported at the expence of the people. It is for your ſake, not for our own, that we guard the barrier of the Rhine againſt the ferocious Germans, who have ſo often attempted, and who will always deſire, to exchange the ſolitude of their woods and moraſſes for the wealth and fertility of Gaul. The fall of Rome would be fatal to the provinces; and you would be buried in the ruins of that mighty fabric, which has been raiſed by the valour and wiſdom of eight hundred years. Your imaginary freedom would be inſulted and oppreſſed by a ſavage maſter; and the expulſion of the Romans would be ſucceeded by the eternal hoſtilities of the Barbarian conquerors 3."’ This ſalutary advice was accepted, and this ſtrange prediction was accompliſhed. In the ſpace of four hundred years, the hardy Gauls, who had encountered the arms of Caeſar, were imperceptibly melted into the general maſs of citizens and ſubjects: the Weſtern empire was diſſolved; and the Germans, who had paſſed the Rhine, fiercely contended for the poſſeſſion of Gaul, and excited the contempt, or abhorrence, of its peaceful and poliſhed inhabitants. With that conſcious pride [Page 308] which the pre-eminence of knowledge and luxury ſeldom fails to inſpire, they derided the hairy and gigantic ſavages of the North; their ruſtic manners, diſſonant joy, voracious appetite, and their horrid appearance, equally diſguſting to the ſight and to the ſmell. The liberal ſtudies were ſtill cultivated in the ſchools of Autun and Bordeaux; and the language of Cicero and Virgil was familiar to the Gallic youth. Their ears were aſtoniſhed by the harſh and unknown ſounds of the Germanic dialect, and they ingeniouſly lamented that the trembling muſes fled from the harmony of a Burgundian lyre. The Gauls were endowed with all the advantages of art and nature; but as they wanted courage to defend them, they were juſtly condemned to obey, and even to flatter, the victorious Barbarians, by whoſe clemency they held their precarious fortunes and their lives 4.
As ſoon as Odoacer had extinguiſhed the Weſtern [Note: Euric, king of the Viſigoths, A. D. 476—485.] empire, he ſought the friendſhip of the moſt powerful of the Barbarians. The new ſovereign of Italy reſigned to Euric, king of the Viſigoths, all the Roman conqueſts beyond the Alps, as far as the Rhine and the Ocean 5: and the ſenate might confirm this liberal gift with ſome oſtentation of power, and without any real loſs of revenue [Page 309] or dominion. The lawful pretenſions of Euric were juſtified by ambition and ſucceſs; and the Gothic nation might aſpire, under his command, to the monarchy of Spain and Gaul. Arles and Marſeilles ſurrendered to his arms: he oppreſſed the freedom of Auvergne; and the biſhop condeſcended to purchaſe his recal from exile by a tribute of juſt, but reluctant, praiſe. Sidonius waited before the gates of the palace among a crowd of ambaſſadors and ſuppliants; and their various buſineſs at the court of Bordeaux atteſted the power, and the renown, of the king of the Viſigoths. The Heruli of the diſtant ocean, who painted their naked bodies, with its caerulean colour, implored his protection; and the Saxons reſpected the maritime provinces of a prince, who was deſtitute of any naval force. The tall Burgundians ſubmitted to his authority; nor did he reſtore the captive Franks, till he had impoſed on that fierce nation the terms of an unequal peace. The Vandals of Africa cultivated his uſeful friendſhip; and the Oſtrogoths of Pannonia were ſupported by his powerful aid againſt the oppreſſion of the neighbouring Huns. The North (ſuch are the lofty ſtrains of the poet) was agitated, or appeaſed, by the nod of Euric; the great king of Perſia conſulted the oracle of the Weſt; and the aged god of the Tyber was protected by the ſwelling genius of the Garonne 6. The fortune of nations has often depended on accidents; and [Page 310] France may aſcribe her greatneſs to the premature death of the Gothic king, at a time when his ſon Alaric was an helpleſs infant, and his adverſary Clovis 7 an ambitious and valiant youth.
While Childeric, the father of Clovis, lived an [Note: Clovis, king of the Franks, A. D. 481—511.] exile in Germany, he was hoſpitably entertained by the queen as well as by the king, of the Thuringians. After his reſtoration, Baſina eſcaped from her huſband's bed to the arms of her lover; freely declaring, that if ſhe had known a man wiſer, ſtronger, or more beautiful, than Childeric, that man ſhould have been the object or her preference 8. Clovis was the offspring of this voluntary union; and, when he was no more than fifteen years of age, he ſucceeded, by his father's death, to the command of the Salian tribe. The narrow limits of his kingdom 9 were confined to the iſland of the Batavians, with the ancient dioceſes of Tournay and Arras 10; and at the baptiſm [Page 311] of Clovis, the number of his warriors could not exceed five thouſand. The kindred tribes of the Franks, who had ſeated themſelves along the Belgic rivers, the Scheld, the Meuſe, the Moſelle, and the Rhine, were governed by their independent kings, of the Merovingian race; the equals, the allies, and ſometimes the enemies, of the Salic prince. But the Germans, who obeyed, in peace, the hereditary juriſdiction of their chiefs, were free to follow the ſtandard of a popular and victorious general; and the ſuperior merit of Clovis attracted the reſpect and allegiance of the national confederacy. When he firſt took the field, he had neither gold and ſilver in his coffers, nor wine and corn in his magazines 11: but he imitated the example of Caeſar, who, in the ſame country, had acquired wealth by the ſword, and purchaſed ſoldiers with the fruits of conqueſt. After each ſucceſsful battle or expedition, the ſpoils were accumulated in one common maſs; every warrior received his proportionable ſhare, and the royal prerogative ſubmitted to the equal regulations of military law. The untamed ſpirit of the Barbarians was taught to acknowledge the advantages of regular diſcipline 12. At the annual review [Page 312] of the month of March, their arms were diligently inſpected; and when they traverſed a peaceful territory, they were prohibited from touching a blade of graſs. The juſtice of Clovis was inexorable; and his careleſs or diſobedient ſoldiers were puniſhed with inſtant death. It would be ſuperfluous to praiſe the valour of a Frank: but the valour of Clovis was directed by cool and conſummate prudence 13. In all his tranſactions with mankind, he calculated the weight of intereſt, of paſſion, and of opinion; and his meaſures were ſometimes adapted to the ſanguinary manners of the Germans, and ſometimes moderated by the milder genius of Rome, and Chriſtianity. He was intercepted in the career of victory, ſince he died in the forty-fifth year of his age: but he had already accompliſhed, in a reign of thirty years, the eſtabliſhment of the French monarchy in Gaul.
The firſt exploit of Clovis was the defeat of [Note: His victory over Syagrius, A. D. 486.] Syagrius, the ſon of Aegidius; and the public quarrel might, on this occaſion, be inflamed by private reſentment. The glory of the father ſtill inſulted the Merovingian race; the power of the ſon might excite the jealous ambition of the king of the Franks. Syagrius inherited, as a patrimonial eſtate, the city and dioceſe of Soiſſons: the deſolate remnant of the ſecond Belgic, Rheims and Troyes, Beauvais and Amiens, would naturally [Page 313] ſubmit to the count or patrician 14; and after the diſſolution of the Weſtern empire, he might reign with the title, or at leaſt with the authority, of king of the Romans 15. As a Roman, he had been educated in the liberal ſtudies of rhetoric and juriſprudence; but he was engaged by accident and policy in the familiar uſe of the Germanic idiom. The independent Barbarians reſorted to the tribunal of a ſtranger, who poſſeſſed the ſingular talent of explaining, in their native tongue, the dictates of reaſon and equity. The diligence and affability of their judge rendered him popular, the impartial wiſdom of his decrees obtained their voluntary obedience, and the reign of Syagrius over the Franks and Burgundians, ſeemed to revive the original inſtitution of civil ſociety 16. In the midſt of theſe peaceful occupations, Syagrius received, and boldly accepted, the hoſtile defiance of Clovis; who challenged his rival, in the ſpirit, and almoſt in the language, of chivalry, to appoint the [Page 314] day, and the field 17, of battle. In the time of Caeſar, Soiſſons would have poured forth a body of fifty thouſand horſe; and ſuch an army might have been plentifully ſupplied with ſhields, cuiraſſes, and military engines, from the three arſenals, or manufactures, of the city 18. But the courage and numbers of the Gallic youth were long ſince exhauſted; and the looſe bands of volunteers, or mercenaries, who marched under the ſtandard of Syagrius, were incapable of contending with the national valour of the Franks. It would be ungenerous, without ſome more accurate knowledge of his ſtrength and reſources, to condemn the rapid flight of Syagrius, who eſcaped, after the loſs of a battle, to the diſtant court of Thoulouſe. The feeble minority of Alaric could not aſſiſt, or protect, an unfortunate fugitive; the puſillanimous 19 Goths were intimidated by the menaces of Clovis; and the Roman king, after a ſhort confinement, was delivered into the hands of the executioner. The Belgic cities ſurrendered to the king of the Franks; and his dominions [Page 315] were enlarged towards the Eaſt by the ample dioceſe of Tongres 20, which Clovis ſubdued in the tenth year of his reign.
The name of the Alemanni has been abſurdly [Note: Defeat and ſubmiſſion of the Alemanni, A. D. 496.] derived from their imaginary ſettlement on the banks of the Leman lake 21. That fortunate diſtrict, from the lake to Avenche, and Mount Jura, was occupied by the Burgundians 22. The northern parts of Helvetia had indeed been ſubdued by the ferocious Alemanni, who deſtroyed with their own hands the fruits of their conqueſt. A province, improved and adorned by the arts of Rome, was again reduced to a ſavage wilderneſs; and ſome veſtige of the ſtately Vindoniſſa may ſtill be diſcovered in the fertile and populous valley of the Aar 23. From the ſource of the Rhine, [Page 316] to its conflux with the Mein and the Moſelle, the formidable ſwarms of the Alemanni commanded either ſide of the river, by the right of ancient poſſeſſion, or recent victory. They had ſpread themſelves into Gaul, over the modern provinces of Alſace and Lorraine; and their bold invaſion of the kingdom of Cologne ſummoned the Salic prince to the defence of his Ripuarian allies. Clovis encountered the invaders of Gaul in the plain of Tolbiac, about twenty-four miles from Cologne; and the two fierceſt nations of Germany were mutually animated by the memory of paſt exploits, and the proſpect of future greatneſs. The Franks, after an obſtinate ſtruggle, gave way; and the Alemanni, raiſing a ſhout of victory, impetuouſly preſſed their retreat. But the battle was reſtored by the valour, the conduct, and perhaps by the piety, of Clovis; and the event of the bloody day decided for ever the alternative of empire or ſervitude. The laſt king of the Alemanni was ſlain in the field, and his people was ſlaughtered and purſued, till they threw down their arms, and yielded to the mercy of the conqueror. Without diſcipline it was impoſſible for them to rally; they had contemptuouſly demoliſhed the walls and fortifications which might have protected their diſtreſs; and they were followed into the heart of their foreſts, by an enemy, [Page 317] not leſs active, or intrepid, than themſelves. The great Theodoric congratulated the victory of Clovis, whoſe ſiſter Albofleda the king of Italy had lately married; but he mildly interceded with his brother in favour of the ſuppliants and fugitives, who had implored his protection. The Gallic territories, which were poſſeſſed by the Alemanni, became the prize of their conqueror; and the haughty nation, invincible, or rebellious, to the arms of Rome, acknowledged the ſovereignty of the Merovingian kings, who graciouſly permitted them to enjoy their peculiar manners and inſtitutions, under the government of official, and, at length, of hereditary, dukes. After the conqueſt of the Weſtern provinces, the Franks alone maintained their ancient habitations beyond the Rhine. They gradually ſubdued, and civiliſed, the exhauſted countries, as far as the Elbe, and the mountains of Bohemia; and the peace of Europe was ſecured by the obedience of Germany 24.
Till the thirtieth year of his age, Clovis continued [Note: Converſion of Clovis, A. D. 496.] to worſhip the gods of his anceſtors 25. [Page 318] His diſbelief, or rather diſregard, of Chriſtianity, might encourage him to pillage with leſs remorſe the churches of an hoſtile territory: but his ſubjects of Gaul enjoyed the free exerciſe of religious worſhip; and the biſhops entertained a more favourable hope of the idolater, than of the heretics. The Merovingian prince had contracted a fortunate alliance with the fair Clotilda, the niece of the king of Burgundy, who, in the midſt of an Arian court, was educated in the profeſſion of the Catholic faith. It was her intereſt, as well as her duty, to atchieve the converſion 26 of a Pagan huſband; and Clovis inſenſibly liſtened to the voice of love and religion. He conſented (perhaps ſuch terms had been previouſly ſtipulated) to the baptiſm of his eldeſt ſon; and though the ſudden death of the infant excited ſome ſuperſtitious fears, he was perſuaded, a ſecond time, to repeat the dangerous experiment. In the diſtreſs of the battle of Tolbiac, Clovis loudly invoked the god of Clotilda and the Chriſtians; and victory diſpoſed him to hear, with reſpectful gratitude, [Page 319] the eloquent 27 Remigius 28, biſhop of Rheims, who forcibly diſplayed the temporal and ſpiritual advantages of his converſion. The king declared himſelf ſatisfied of the truth of the Catholic faith; and the political reaſons which might have ſuſpended his public profeſſion, were removed by the devout or loyal acclamations of the Franks, who ſhewed themſelves alike prepared to follow their heroic leader, to the field of battle, or to the baptiſmal font. The important ceremony was performed in the cathedral of Rheims, with every circumſtance of magnificence and ſolemnity, that could impreſs an awful ſenſe of religion on the minds of its rude proſelytes 29. The new Conſtantine was immediately baptiſed, with three thouſand of his warlike ſubjects; and their example [Page 320] was imitated by the remainder of the gentle Barbarians, who, in obedience to the victorious prelate, adored the croſs which they had burnt, and burnt the idols which they had formerly adored 30. The mind of Clovis was ſuſceptible of tranſient fervour: he was exaſperated by the pathetic tale of the paſſion and death of Chriſt; and, inſtead of weighing the ſalutary conſequences of that myſterious ſacrifice, he exclaimed with indiſcreet fury, ‘"Had I been preſent at the head of my valiant Franks, I would have revenged his injuries 31."’ But the ſavage conqueror of Gaul was incapable of examining the proofs of a religion, which depends on the laborious inveſtigation of hiſtoric evidence, and ſpeculative theology. He was ſtill more incapable of feeling the mild influence of the goſpel, which perſuades and purifies the heart of a genuine convert. His ambitious reign was a perpetual violation of moral and Chriſtian duties; his hands were ſtained with blood, in peace as well as in war; and, as ſoon as Clovis had diſmiſſed a ſynod of the Gallican church, he calmly aſſaſſinated all the princes of the Merovingian race 32. Yet the king of the [Page 321] Franks might ſincerely worſhip the Chriſtian God, as a Being more excellent and powerful than his national deities; and the ſignal deliverance and victory of Tolbiac encouraged Clovis to confide in the future protection of the Lord of Hoſts. Martin, the moſt popular of the ſaints, had filled the Weſtern world with the fame of thoſe miracles, which were inceſſantly performed at his holy ſepulchre of Tours. His viſible or inviſible aid promoted the cauſe of a liberal and orthodox prince; and the profane remark of Clovis himſelf, that St. Martin was an expenſive friend 33, need not be interpreted as the ſymptom of any permanent, or rational, ſcepticiſm. But earth, as well as heaven, rejoiced in the converſion of the Franks. On the memorable day, when Clovis aſcended from the baptiſmal font, he alone, in the Chriſtian world, deſerved the name and prerogatives of a Catholic king. The emperor Anaſtaſius entertained ſome dangerous errors concerning the nature of the divine incarnation; and the Barbarians of Italy, Africa, Spain, and Gaul were involved in the Arian hereſy. The eldeſt, or rather the only, ſon of the church, was acknowledged by the clergy as their lawful ſovereign, [Page 322] or glorious deliverer; and the arms of Clovis were ſtrenuouſly ſupported by the zeal and favour of the Catholic faction 34.
Under the Roman empire, the wealth and juriſdiction [Note: Submiſſion of the Armoricans and the Roman troops, A. D. 497, &c.] of the biſhops, their ſacred character, and perpetual office, their numerous dependents, popular eloquence, and provincial aſſemblies, had rendered them always reſpectable, and ſometimes dangerous. Their influence was augmented with the progreſs of ſuperſtition, and the eſtabliſhment of the French monarchy may, in ſome degree, be aſcribed to the firm alliance of an hundred prelates, who reigned in the diſcontented, or independent, cities of Gaul. The ſlight foundations of the Armorican republic had been repeatedly ſhaken, or overthrown; but the ſame people ſtill guarded their domeſtic freedom; aſſerted the dignity of the Roman name; and bravely reſiſted the predatory inroads, and regular attacks, of Clovis, who laboured to extend his conqueſts from the Seine to the Loire. Their ſucceſsful oppoſition introduced an equal and honourable union. The Franks eſteemed the valour of the Armoricans 35, and the Armoricans [Page 323] were reconciled by the religion of the Franks. The military force, which had been ſtationed for the defence of Gaul, conſiſted of one hundred different bands of cavalry or infantry; and theſe troops, while they aſſumed the title and privileges of Roman ſoldiers, were renewed by an inceſſant ſupply of the Barbarian youth. The extreme fortifications, and ſcattered fragments, of the empire, were ſtill defended by their hopeleſs courage. But their retreat was intercepted, and their communication was impracticable: they were abandoned by the Greek princes of Conſtantinople, and they piouſly diſclaimed all connection with the Arian uſurpers of Gaul. They accepted, without ſhame or reluctance, the generous capitulation, which was propoſed by a Catholic hero; and this ſpurious, or legitimate, progeny of the Roman legions, was diſtinguiſhed in the ſucceeding age by their arms, their enſigns, and their peculiar dreſs and inſtitutions. But the national ſtrength was increaſed by theſe powerful and voluntary acceſſions; and the neighbouring kingdoms dreaded the numbers, as well as the ſpirit, of the Franks. The reduction of the Northern provinces of Gaul, inſtead of being decided by the chance of a ſingle battle, appears to have been ſlowly effected by the gradual operation of war and treaty; and Clovis acquired each object of his ambition, by ſuch efforts, or ſuch conceſſions, as were adequate to its real value. His ſavage character, and the virtues of Henry IV. ſuggeſt the moſt oppoſite ideas of human nature: yet ſome reſemblance may be found in the ſituation [Page 324] of two princes, who conquered France by their valour, their policy, and the merits of a ſeaſonable converſion 36.
The kingdom of the Burgundians, which was defined by the courſe of two Gallic rivers, the [Note: The Burgundian war, A. D. 499.] Saone and the Rhône, extended from the foreſt of Voſges to the Alps and the ſea of Marſeilles 37. The ſceptre was in the hands of Gundobald. That valiant and ambitious prince had reduced the number of royal candidates by the death of two brothers, one of whom was the father of Clotilda 38; but his imperfect prudence ſtill permitted Godegeſil, the youngeſt of his brothers, to poſſeſs the dependent principality of Geneva. The Arian monarch was juſtly alarmed by the ſatisfaction, and the hopes, which ſeemed to animate his [Page 325] clergy and people, after the converſion of Clovis; and Gundobald convened at Lyons an aſſembly of his biſhops, to reconcile, if it were poſſible, their religious and political diſcontents. A vain conference was agitated between the two factions. The Arians upbraided the Catholics with the worſhip of three Gods: the Catholics defended their cauſe by theological diſtinctions; and the uſual arguments, objections, and replies, were reverberated with obſtinate clamour; till the king revealed his ſecret apprehenſions, by an abrupt but deciſive queſtion, which he addreſſed to the orthodox biſhops. ‘"If you truly profeſs the Chriſtian religion, why do you not reſtrain the king of the Franks? He has declared war againſt me, and forms alliances with my enemies for my deſtruction. A ſanguinary and covetous mind is not the ſymptom of a ſincere converſion: let him ſhew his faith by his works."’ The anſwer of Avitus, biſhop of Vienna, who ſpoke in the name of his brethren, was delivered with the voice and countenance of an angel. ‘"We are ignorant of the motives and intentions of the king of the Franks: but we are taught by ſcripture, that the kingdoms which abandon the divine law, are frequently ſubverted; and that enemies will ariſe on every ſide againſt thoſe who have made God their enemy. Return, with thy people, to the law of God, and he will give peace and ſecurity to thy dominions."’ The king of Burgundy, who was not prepared to accept the condition, which the Catholics conſidered as eſſential to the treaty, [Page 326] delayed and diſmiſſed the eccleſiaſtical conference; after reproaching his biſhops, that Clovis, their friend and proſelyte, had privately tempted the allegiance of his brother 39.
The allegiance of his brother was already ſeduced; [Note: Victory of Clovis, A. D. 500.] and the obedience of Godegeſil, who joined the royal ſtandard with the troops of Geneva, more effectually promoted the ſucceſs of the conſpiracy. While the Franks and Burgundians contended with equal valour, his ſeaſonable deſertion decided the event of the battle; and as Gundobald was faintly ſupported by the diſaffected Gauls, he yielded to the arms of Clovis, and haſtily retreated from the field, which appears to have been ſituate between Langres and Dijon. He diſtruſted the ſtrength of Dijon, a quadrangular fortreſs, encompaſſed by two rivers, and by a wall thirty feet high, and fifteen thick, with four gates, and thirty-three towers 40: he abandoned to the purſuit of Clovis the important cities of Lyons and Vienna; and Gundobald ſtill fled with precipitation, till he had reached Avignon, at the diſtance of two hundred and fifty miles from the field of battle. A long [Page 327] ſiege, and an artful negociation, admoniſhed the king of the Franks of the danger and difficulty of his enterpriſe. He impoſed a tribute on the Burgundian prince, compelled him to pardon and reward his brother's treachery, and proudly returned to his own dominions, with the ſpoils and captives of the ſouthern provinces. This ſplendid triumph was ſoon clouded by the intelligence, that Gundobald had violated his recent obligations, and that the unfortunate Godegeſil, who was left at Vienna with a garriſon of five thouſand Franks 41, had been beſieged, ſurpriſed, and maſſacred, by his inhuman brother. Such an outrage might have exaſperated the patience of the moſt peaceful ſovereign; yet the conqueror of Gaul diſſembled the injury, releaſed the tribute, and accepted the alliance, and military ſervice, of the king of Burgundy. Clovis no longer poſſeſſed thoſe advantages which had aſſured the ſucceſs of the preceding war; and his rival, inſtructed by adverſity, had found new reſources in the affections of his people. The Gauls or Romans applauded the mild and impartial laws of Gundobald, which almoſt raiſed them to the ſame level with their conquerors. The biſhops were reconciled, and flattered, by the hopes, which he artfully ſuggeſted, of his approaching converſion; and though he eluded their [Page 328] accompliſhment to the laſt moment of his life; his moderation ſecured the peace, and ſuſpended the ruin, of the kingdom of Burgundy 42.
I am impatient to purſue the final ruin of that [Note: Final conqueſt of Burgundy by the Franks, A. D. 532.] kingdom, which was accompliſhed under the reign of Sigiſmond, the ſon of Gundobald. The Catholic Sigiſmond has acquired the honours of a ſaint and martyr 43; but the hands of the royal ſaint were ſtained with the blood of his innocent ſon, whom he inhumanly ſacrificed to the pride and reſentment of a ſtepmother. He ſoon diſcovered his error, and bewailed the irreparable loſs. While Sigiſmond embraced the corpſe of the unfortunate youth, he received a ſevere admonition from one of his attendants: ‘"It is not his ſituation, O king! it is thine which deſerves pity and lamentation."’ The reproaches of a guilty conſcience were alleviated, however, by his liberal donations to the monaſtery of Agaunum, or St. Maurice, in Vallais; which he himſelf had founded in honour of the imaginary martyrs of the Thebaean legion 44. A full chorus of [Page 329] perpetual pſalmody was inſtituted by the pious king; he aſſiduouſly practiſed the auſtere devotion of the monks; and it was his humble prayer, that heaven would inflict in this world the puniſhment of his ſins. His prayer was heard: the avengers were at hand; and the provinces of Burgundy were overwhelmed by an army of victorious Franks. After the event of an unſucceſsful battle, Sigiſmond, who wiſhed to protract his life that he might prolong his pennance, concealed himſelf in the deſert in a religious habit, till he was diſcovered and betrayed by his ſubjects, who ſolicited the favour of their new maſters. The captive monarch, with his wife and two children, was tranſported to Orleans, and buried alive in a deep well, by the ſtern command of the ſons of Clovis; whoſe cruelty might derive ſome excuſe from the maxims and examples of their barbarous age. Their ambition, which urged them to atchieve the conqueſt of Burgundy, was inflamed, or diſguiſed, by filial piety: and Clotilda, whoſe ſanctity did not conſiſt in the forgiveneſs of injuries, preſſed them to revenge her father's death on the family of his aſſaſſin. The rebellious Burgundians, for they attempted to break their chains, were ſtill permitted to enjoy their national laws under the obligation of tribute and military ſervice; and the Merovingian [Page 330] princes peaceably reigned over a kingdom, whoſe glory and greatneſs had been firſt overthrown by the arms of Clovis 45.
The firſt victory of Clovis had inſulted the honour of the Goths. They viewed his rapid progreſs [Note: The Gothic war, A. D. 507.] with jealouſy and terror; and the youthful fame of Alaric was oppreſſed by the more potent genius of his rival. Some diſputes inevitably aroſe on the edge of their contiguous dominions; and after the delays of fruitleſs negociation, a perſonal interview of the two kings was propoſed and accepted. This conference of Clovis and Alaric was held in a ſmall iſland of the Loire, near Amboiſe. They embraced, familiarly converſed, and feaſted together; and ſeparated with the warmeſt profeſſions of peace, and brotherly love. But their apparent confidence concealed a dark ſuſpicion of hoſtile and treacherous deſigns; and their mutual complaints ſolicited, eluded, and diſclaimed, a final arbitration. At Paris, which he already conſidered as his royal ſeat, Clovis declared to an aſſembly of the princes and warriors, the pretence, and the motive, of a Gothic war. ‘"It grieves me to ſee that the Arians ſtill poſſeſs the faireſt portion of Gaul. Let us march againſt them with the aid of God; and, having vanquiſhed the heretics, we will poſſeſs, and divide, their fertile provinces 46."’ [Page 331] The Franks, who were inſpired by hereditary valour and recent zeal, applauded the generous deſign of their monarch; expreſſed their reſolution to conquer or die, ſince death and conqueſt would be equally profitable; and ſolemnly proteſted that they would never ſhave their beards, till victory ſhould abſolve them from that inconvenient vow. The enterpriſe was promoted by the public, or private, exhortations of Clotilda. She reminded her huſband, how effectually ſome pious foundation would propitiate the Deity, and his ſervants: and the Chriſtian hero, darting his battle axe with a ſkilful and nervous hand, ‘"There (ſaid he), on that ſpot where my Franciſca 47 ſhall fall, will I erect a church in honour of the holy apoſtles."’ This oſtentatious piety confirmed and juſtified the attachment of the Catholics, with whom he ſecretly correſponded; and their devout wiſhes were gradually ripened into a formidable conſpiracy. The people of Aquitain was alarmed by the indiſcreet reproaches of their Gothic tyrants, who juſtly accuſed them of preferring the dominion of the [Page 332] Franks; and their zealous adherent Quintianus, biſhop of Rodez 48, preached more forcibly in his exile than in his dioceſe. To reſiſt theſe foreign and domeſtic enemies, who were fortified by the alliance of the Burgundians, Alaric collected his troops, far more numerous than the military powers of Clovis. The Viſigoths reſumed the exerciſe of arms, which they had neglected in a long and luxurious peace 49: a ſelect band of valiant and robuſt ſlaves attended their maſters to the field 50; and the cities of Gaul were compelled to furniſh their doubtful and reluctant aid. Theodoric, king of the Oſtrogoths, who reigned in Italy, had laboured to maintain the tranquillity of Gaul; and he aſſumed, or affected for that purpoſe, the impartial character of a mediator. But the ſagacious monarch dreaded the riſing empire of Clovis, and he was firmly engaged to ſupport the national and religious cauſe of the Goths.
[Page 333] The accidental, or artificial, prodigies which adorned the expedition of Clovis, were accepted by a ſuperſtitious age, as the manifeſt declaration [Note: Victory of Clovis, A. D. 507.] of the Divine favour. He marched from Paris; and as he proceeded with decent reverence through the holy dioceſe of Tours, his anxiety tempted him to conſult the ſhrine of St. Martin, the ſanctuary, and the oracle of Gaul. His meſſengers were inſtructed to remark the words of the Pſalm, which ſhould happen to be chaunted at the preciſe moment when they entered the church. Thoſe words moſt fortunately expreſſed the valour and victory of the champions of Heaven, and the application was eaſily transferred to the new Joſhua, the new Gideon, who went forth to battle againſt the enemies of the Lord 51. Orleans ſecured to the Franks a bridge on the Loire; but, at the diſtance of forty miles from Poitiers, their progreſs was intercepted by an extraordinary ſwell of the river Vigenna, or Vienne; and the oppoſite banks were covered by the encampment of the Viſigoths. Delay muſt be always dangerous to Barbarians, who conſume the country through which they march; and had Clovis poſſeſſed leiſure and materials, it might [Page 334] have been impracticable to conſtruct a bridge, or to force a paſſage, in the face of a ſuperior enemy. But the affectionate peaſants, who were impatient to welcome their deliverer, could eaſily betray ſome unknown, or unguarded, ford: the merit of the diſcovery was enhanced by the uſeful interpoſition of fraud or fiction; and a white hart, of ſingular ſize and beauty, appeared to guide and animate the march of the Catholic army. The counſels of the Viſigoths were irreſolute and diſtracted. A crowd of impatient warriors, preſumptuous in their ſtrength, and diſdaining to ſly before the robbers of Germany, excited Alaric to aſſert in arms the name and blood of the conqueror of Rome. The advice of the graver chieftains preſſed him to elude the firſt ardour of the Franks; and to expect, in the ſouthern provinces of Gaul, the veteran and victorious Oſtrogoths, whom the king of Italy had already ſent to his aſſiſtance. The deciſive moments were waſted in idle deliberation; the Goths too haſtily abandoned, perhaps, an advantageous poſt; and the opportunity of a ſecure retreat was loſt by their ſlow and diſorderly motions. After Clovis had paſſed the ford, as it is ſtill named, of the Hart, he advanced with bold and haſty ſteps to prevent the eſcape of the enemy. His nocturnal march was directed by a flaming meteor, ſuſpended in the air above the cathedral of Poitiers; and this ſignal, which might be previouſly concerted with the orthodox ſucceſſor of St. Hilary, was compared to the column of fire that guided the [Page 335] Iſraelites in the deſert. At the third hour of the day, about ten miles beyond Poitiers, Clovis overtook, and inſtantly attacked, the Gothic army; whoſe defeat was already prepared by terror and confuſion. Yet they rallied in their extreme diſtreſs, and the martial youths, who had clamorouſly demanded the battle, refuſed to ſurvive the ignominy of flight. The two kings encountered each other in ſingle combat. Alaric fell by the hand of his rival; and the victorious Frank was ſaved by the goodneſs of his cuiraſs, and the vigour of his horſe, from the ſpears of two deſperate Goths, who furiouſly rode againſt him, to revenge the death of their ſovereign. The vague expreſſion of a mountain of the ſlain, ſerves to indicate a cruel, though indefinite, ſlaughter; but Gregory has carefully obſerved, that his valiant countryman Apollinaris, the ſon of Sidonius, loſt his life at the head of the nobles of Auvergne. Perhaps theſe ſuſpected Catholics had been maliciouſly expoſed to the blind aſſault of the enemy; and perhaps the influence of religion was ſuperſeded by perſonal attachment, or military honour 52.
Such is the empire of Fortune (if we may ſtill [Note: Conqueſt of Aquitain by the Franks, A. D. 508.] diſguiſe our ignorance under that popular name), [Page 336] that it is almoſt equally difficult to foreſee the events of war, or to explain their various conſequences. A bloody and complete victory has ſometimes yielded no more than the poſſeſſion of the field; and the loſs of ten thouſand men has ſometimes been ſufficient to deſtroy, in a ſingle day, the work of ages. The deciſive battle of Poitiers was followed by the conqueſt of Aquitain. Alaric had left behind him an infant ſon, a baſtard competitor, factious nobles, and a diſloyal people; and the remaining forces of the Goths were oppreſſed by the general conſternation, or oppoſed to each other in civil diſcord. The victorious king of the Franks proceeded without delay to the ſiege of Angoulême. At the ſound of his trumpets the walls of the city imitated the example of Jericho, and inſtantly fell to the ground; a ſplendid miracle, which may be reduced to the ſuppoſition, that ſome clerical engineers had ſecretly undermined the foundations of the rampart 53. At Bordeaux, which had ſubmitted without reſiſtance, Clovis eſtabliſhed his winter-quarters; and his prudent oeconomy tranſported from Thoulouſe the royal treaſures, which were depoſited in the capital of the monarchy. The conqueror penetrated as far as the confines of Spain 54; reſtored the honours [Page 337] of the Catholic church; fixed in Aquitain a colony of Franks 55; and delegated to his lieutenants the eaſy taſk of ſubduing, or extirpating, the nation of the Viſigoths. But the Viſigoths were protected by the wiſe and powerful monarch of Italy. While the balance was ſtill equal, Theodoric had perhaps delayed the march of the Oſtrogoths; but their ſtrenuous efforts ſucceſsfully reſiſted the ambition of Clovis; and the army of the Franks, and their Burgundian allies, was compelled to raiſe the ſiege of Arles, with the loſs, as it is ſaid, of thirty thouſand men. Theſe viciſſitudes inclined the fierce ſpirit of Clovis to acquieſce in an advantageous treaty of peace. The Viſigoths were ſuffered to retain the poſſeſſion of Septimania, a narrow tract of ſea-coaſt, from the Rhone to the Pyrenees; but the ample province of Aquitain, from thoſe mountains to the Loire, was indiſſolubly united to the kingdom of France 56.
[Page 338] After the ſucceſs of the Gothic war, Clovic accepted the honours of the Roman conſulſhip. The emperor Anaſtaſius ambitiouſly beſtowed on [Note: Conſulſhip of Clovis, A. D. 510.] the moſt powerful rival of Theodoric, the title and enſigns of that eminent dignity; yet, from ſome unknown cauſe, the name of Clovis has not been inſcribed in the Faſti either of the Eaſt or Weſt 57. On the ſolemn day, the monarch of Gaul, placing a diadem on his head, was inveſted, in the church of St. Martin, with a purple tunic and mantle. From thence he proceeded on horſeback to the cathedral of Tours; and, as he paſſed through the ſtreets, profuſely ſcattered, with his own hand, a donative of gold and ſilver to the joyful multitude, who inceſſantly repeated their acclamations of Conſul and Auguſtus. The actual, or legal authority of Clovis, could not receive any new acceſſions from the conſular dignity. It was a name, a ſhadow, an empty pageant; and, if the conqueror had been inſtructed [Page 339] to claim the ancient prerogatives of that high office, they muſt have expired with the period of its annual duration. But the Romans were diſpoſed to revere, in the perſon of their maſter, that antique title, which the emperors condeſcended to aſſume: the Barbarian himſelf ſeemed to contract a ſacred obligation to reſpect the majeſty of the republic; and the ſucceſſors of Theodoſius, by ſoliciting his friendſhip, tacitly forgave, and almoſt ratified, the uſurpation of Gaul.
Twenty-five years after the death of Clovis, [Note: Final eſtabliſhment of the French monarchy in Gaul, A. D. 536.] this important conceſſion was more formally declared, in a treaty between his ſons and the emperor Juſtinian. The Oſtrogoths of Italy, unable to defend their diſtant acquiſitions, had reſigned to the Franks the cities of Arles and Marſeilles: of Arles, ſtill adorned with the ſeat of a Praetorian praefect; and of Marſeilles, enriched by the advantages of trade and navigation 58. This tranſaction was confirmed by the Imperial authority; and Juſtinian, generouſly yielding to the Franks the ſovereignty of the countries beyond the Alps, which they already poſſeſſed, abſolved the provincials from their allegiance; and eſtabliſhed on a more lawful, though not more ſolid, foundation, the throne of the Merovingians 59. [Page 340] From that aera, they enjoyed the right of celebrating at Arles, the games of the Circus; and by a ſingular privilege, which was denied even to the Perſian monarch, the gold coin, impreſſed with their name and image, obtained a legal currency in the empire 60. A Greek hiſtorian of that age has praiſed the private and public virtues of the Franks, with a partial enthuſiaſm, which cannot be ſufficiently juſtified by their domeſtic annals 61. He celebrates their politeneſs and urbanity, their regular government, and orthodox religion; and boldly aſſerts, that theſe Barbarians could be diſtinguiſhed only by their dreſs and language from the ſubjects of Rome. Perhaps the Franks already diſplayed the ſocial diſpoſition, and lively graces, which in every age have diſguiſed their vices, and ſometimes concealed their intrinſic merit. Perhaps Agathias, and the Greeks, were dazzled by the rapid [Page 341] progreſs of their arms, and the ſplendour of their empire. Since the conqueſt of Burgundy, Gaul, except the Gothic province of Septimania, was ſubject, in its whole extent, to the ſons of Clovis. They had extinguiſhed the German kingdom of Thuringia, and their vague dominion penetrated beyond the Rhine, into the heart of their native foreſts. The Alemanni, and Bavarians, who had occupied the Roman provinces of Rhaetia and Noricum, to the ſouth of the Danube, confeſſed themſelves the humble vaſſals of the Franks; and the feeble barrier of the Alps was incapable of reſiſting their ambition. When the laſt ſurvivor of the ſons of Clovis united the inheritance and conqueſts of the Merovingians, his kingdom extended far beyond the limits of modern France. Yet modern France, ſuch has been the progreſs of arts and policy, far ſurpaſſes in wealth, populouſneſs, and power, the ſpacious but ſavage realms of Clotaire or Dagobert 62.
The Franks, or French, are the only people of [Note: Political controverſy.] Europe, who can deduce a perpetual ſucceſſion from the conquerors of the Weſtern empire. But their conqueſt of Gaul was followed by ten centuries of anarchy, and ignorance. On the revival of learning, the ſtudents who had been formed in the ſchools of Athens and Rome, diſdained their Barbarian anceſtors; and a long [Page 342] period elapſed before patient labour could provide the requiſite materials to ſatisfy, or rather to excite, the curioſity of more enlightened times 63. At length the eye of criticiſm and philoſophy was directed to the antiquities of France: but even philoſophers have been tainted by the contagion of prejudice and paſſion. The moſt extreme and excluſive ſyſtems, of the perſonal ſervitude of the Gauls, or of their voluntary and equal alliance with the Franks, have been raſhly conceived, and obſtinately defended: and the intemperate diſputants have accuſed each other of conſpiring againſt the prerogative of the crown, the dignity of the nobles, or the freedom of the people. Yet the ſharp conflict has uſefully exerciſed the adverſe powers of learning and genius; and each antagoniſt, alternately vanquiſhed and victorious, has extirpated ſome ancient errors, and eſtabliſhed ſome intereſting truths. An impartial ſtranger, inſtructed by their diſcoveries, their diſputes, and even their faults, may deſcribe, from the ſame original materials, the ſtate of the Roman provincials, after Gaul had ſubmitted [Page 343] to the arms and laws of the Merovingian kings 64.
The rudeſt, or the moſt ſervile condition of [Note: Laws of the Barbarians.] human ſociety, is regulated however by ſome fixed and general rules. When Tacitus ſurveyed the primitive ſimplicity of the Germans, he diſcovered ſome permanent maxims, or cuſtoms, of public and private life, which were preſerved by faithful tradition, till the introduction of the art of writing, and of the Latin tongue 65. Before the election of the Merovingian kings, the moſt powerful tribe, or nation, of the Franks, appointed four venerable chieftains to compoſe the Salic laws 66; and their labours were examined and approved in three ſucceſſive aſſemblies of the people. After the baptiſm of Clovis, he reformed [Page 344] ſeveral articles that appeared incompatible with Chriſtianity: the Salic law was again amended by his ſons; and at length, under the reign of Dagobert, the code was reviſed and promulgated in its actual form, one hundred years after the eſtabliſhment of the French monarchy. Within the ſame period, the cuſtoms of the Ripuarians were tranſcribed and publiſhed; and Charlemagne himſelf, the legiſlator of his age and country, had accurately ſtudied the two national laws, which ſtill prevailed among the Franks 67. The ſame care was extended to their vaſſals; and the rude inſtitutions of the Alemanni and Bavarians were diligently compiled and ratified by the ſupreme authority of the Merovingian kings. The Viſigoths and Burgundians, whoſe conqueſts in Gaul preceded thoſe of the Franks, ſhewed leſs impatience to attain one of the principal benefits of civiliſed ſociety. Euric was the firſt of the Gothic princes, who expreſſed in writing the manners and cuſtoms of his people; and the compoſition of the Burgundian laws was a meaſure of policy rather than of juſtice; to alleviate the yoke, and regain the affections, of their Gallic ſubjects 68. Thus, by a ſingular coincidence, the [Page 345] Germans framed their artleſs inſtitutions, at a time when the elaborate ſyſtem of Roman juriſprudence was finally conſummated. In the Salic laws, and the Pandects of Juſtinian, we may compare the firſt rudiments, and the full maturity, of civil wiſdom; and whatever prejudices may be ſuggeſted in favour of Barbariſm, our calmer reflections will aſcribe to the Romans the ſuperior advantages, not only of ſcience and reaſon, but of humanity and juſtice. Yet the laws of the Barbarians were adapted to their wants and deſires, their occupations and their capacity; and they all contributed to preſerve the peace, and promote the improvements, of the ſociety for whoſe uſe they were originally eſtabliſhed. The Merovingians, inſtead of impoſing an uniform rule of conduct on their various ſubjects, permitted each people, and each family of their empire, freely to enjoy their domeſtic inſtitutions 69; nor were the Romans excluded from the common benefits of this legal toleration 70. The [Page 346] children embraced the law of their parents, the wife that of her huſband, the freedman that of his patron; and, in all cauſes, where the parties were of different nations, the plaintiff, or accuſer, was obliged to follow the tribunal of the defendant, who may always plead a judicial preſumption of right, or innocence. A more ample latitude was allowed, if every citizen, in the preſence of the judge, might declare the law under which he deſired to live, and the national ſociety to which he choſe to belong. Such an indulgence would aboliſh the partial diſtinctions of victory; and the Roman provincials might patiently acquieſce in the hardſhips of their condition; ſince it depended on themſelves to aſſume the privilege, if they dared to aſſert the character, of free and warlike Barbarians 71.
When juſtice inexorably requires the death of [Note: Pecuniary fines for homicide.] a murderer, each private citizen is fortified by the aſſurance, that the laws, the magiſtrate, and [Page 347] the whole community, are the guardians of his perſonal ſafety. But in the looſe ſociety of the Germans, revenge was always honourable, and often meritorious: the independent warrior chaſtiſed, or vindicated, with his own hand, the injuries which he had offered, or received; and he had only to dread the reſentment of the ſons, and kinſmen, of the enemy whom he had ſacrificed to his ſelfiſh or angry paſſions. The magiſtrate, conſcious of his weakneſs, interpoſed, not to puniſh, but to reconcile; and he was ſatisfied if he could perſuade, or compel, the contending parties to pay, and to accept, the moderate fine which had been aſcertained as the price of blood 72. The fierce ſpirit of the Franks would have oppoſed a more rigorous ſentence; the ſame fierceneſs deſpiſed theſe ineffectual reſtraints: and, when their ſimple manners had been corrupted by the wealth of Gaul, the public peace was continually violated by acts of haſty or deliberate guilt. In every juſt government, the ſame penalty is inflicted, or at leaſt is impoſed, for the murder of a peaſant, or a prince. But the national inequality eſtabliſhed by the Franks, in their criminal proceedings, was the laſt inſult [Page 348] and abuſe of conqueſt 73. In the calm moments of legiſlation, they ſolemnly pronounced, that the life of a Roman was of ſmaller value than that of a Barbarian. The Antruſtion 74, a name expreſſive of the moſt illuſtrious birth or dignity among the Franks, was appreciated at the ſum of ſix hundred pieces of gold; while the noble provincial, who was admitted to the king's table, might be legally murdered at the expence of three hundred pieces. Two hundred were deemed ſufficient for a Frank of ordinary condition; but the meaner Romans were expoſed to diſgrace and danger by a trifling compenſation of one hundred, or even fifty, pieces of gold. Had theſe laws been regulated by any principle of equity or reaſon, the public protection ſhould have ſupplied in juſt proportion the want of perſonal ſtrength. But the legiſlator had weighed in the ſcale, not of juſtice, but of policy, the loſs of a ſoldier againſt that of a ſlave: the head of an inſolent and rapacious Barbarian was guarded by an heavy fine; and the ſlighteſt aid was afforded to [Page 349] the moſt defenceleſs ſubjects. Time inſenſibly abated the pride of the conquerors, and the patience of the vanquiſhed; and the boldeſt citizen was taught by experience, that he might ſuffer more injuries than he could inflict. As the manners of the Franks became leſs ferocious, their laws were rendered more ſevere; and the Merovingian kings attempted to imitate the impartial rigour of the Viſigoths and Burgundians 75. Under the empire of Charlemagne, murder was univerſally puniſhed with death; and the uſe of capital puniſhments has been liberally multiplied in the juriſprudence of modern Europe 76.
The civil and military profeſſions, which had [Note: Judgments of God.] been ſeparated by Conſtantine, were again united by the Barbarians. The harſh ſound of the Teutonic appellations was mollified into the Latin titles of Duke, of Count, or of Praefect; and the ſame officer aſſumed, within his diſtrict, the command of the troops, and the adminiſtration of [Page 350] juſtice 77. But the fierce and illiterate chieftain was ſeldom qualified to diſcharge the duties of a judge, which require all the faculties of a philolophic mind, laboriouſly cultivated by experience and ſtudy; and his rude ignorance was compelled to embrace ſome ſimple, and viſible, methods of aſcertaining the cauſe of juſtice. In every religion, the Deity has been invoked to confirm the truth, or to puniſh the falſehood, of human teſtimony; but this powerful inſtrument was miſapplied, and abuſed, by the ſimplicity of the German legiſlators. The party accuſed might juſtify his innocence, by producing before their tribunal a number of friendly witneſſes, who ſolemnly declared their belief or aſſurance, that he was not guilty. According to the weight of the charge, this legal number of compurgators was multiplied; ſeventy-two voices were required to abſolve an incendiary, or aſſaſſin: and when the chaſtity of a queen of France was ſuſpected, three hundred gallant nobles ſwore, without heſitation, that the infant prince had been actually begotten by her deceaſed huſband 78. The ſin, and ſcandal, of manifeſt and frequent perjuries engaged [Page 351] the magiſtrates to remove theſe dangerous temptations; and to ſupply the defects of human teſtimony, by the famous experiments of fire and water. Theſe extraordinary trials were ſo capriciouſly contrived, that, in ſome caſes, guilt, and innocence in others, could not be proved without the interpoſition of a miracle. Such miracles were readily provided by fraud and credulity; the moſt intricate cauſes were determined by this eaſy and infallible method; and the turbulent Barbarians, who might have diſdained the ſentence of the magiſtrate, ſubmiſſively acquieſced in the judgment of God 79.
But the trials by ſingle combat gradually obtained [Note: Judicial combats.] ſuperior credit and authority, among a warlike people, who could not believe, that a brave man deſerved to ſuffer, or that a coward deſerved to live 80. Both in civil and criminal proceedings, the plaintiff, or accuſer, the defendant, or even the witneſs, were expoſed to mortal challenge from the antagoniſt who was deſtitute of legal proofs; and it was incumbent on them, either to deſert their cauſe, or publicly to maintain their honour in the liſts of battle. They fought either on foot or on horſeback, according [Page 352] to the cuſtom of their nation 81; and the deciſion of the ſword, or lance, was ratified by the ſanction of Heaven, of the judge, and of the people. This ſanguinary law was introduced into Gaul by the Burgundians; and their legiſlator Gundobald 82 condeſcended to anſwer the complaints and objections of his ſubject Avitus. ‘"Is it not true," ſaid the king of Burgundy to the biſhop, "that the event of national wars, and private combats, is directed by the judgment of God; and that his providence awards the victory to the juſter cauſe?"’ By ſuch prevailing arguments, the abſurd and cruel practice of judicial duels, which had been peculiar to ſome tribes of Germany, was propagated and eſtabliſhed in all the monarchies of Europe, from Sicily to the Baltic. At the end of ten centuries, the reign of legal violence was not totally extinguiſhed; and the ineffectual cenſures of ſaints, of popes, and of ſynods, may ſeem to prove, that the influence of ſuperſtition is weakened by its unnatural alliance with reaſon and [Page 353] humanity. The tribunals were ſtained with the blood, perhaps, of innocent and reſpectable citizens; the law, which now favours the rich, then yielded to the ſtrong; and the old, the feeble, and the infirm, were condemned, either to renounce their faireſt claims and poſſeſſions, to ſuſtain the dangers of an unequal conflict 83, or to truſt the doubtful aid of a mercenary champion. This oppreſſive juriſprudence was impoſed on the provincials of Gaul, who complained of any injuries in their perſons and property. Whatever might be the ſtrength, or courage, of individuals, the victorious Barbarians excelled in the love and exerciſe of arms; and the vanquiſhed Roman was unjuſtly ſummoned to repeat, in his own perſon, the bloody conteſt, which had been already decided againſt his country 84.
A devouring hoſt of one hundred and twenty thouſand Germans had formerly paſſed the Rhine [Note: Diviſion of lands by the Barbarians.] under the command of Arioviſtus. One third [Page 354] part of the fertile lands of the Sequani was appropriated to their uſe; and the conqueror ſoon repeated his oppreſſive demand of another third, for the accommodation of a new colony of twentyfour thouſand Barbarians, whom he had invited to ſhare the rich harveſt of Gaul 85. At the diſtance of five hundred years, the Viſigoths and Burgundians, who revenged the defeat of Arioviſtus, uſurped the ſame unequal proportion of two thirds of the ſubject lands. But this diſtribution, inſtead of ſpreading over the province, may be reaſonably confined to the peculiar diſtricts where the victorious people had been planted, by their own choice, or by the policy of their leader. In theſe diſtricts, each Barbarian was connected by the ties of hoſpitality with ſome Roman provincial. To this unwelcome gueſt, the proprietor was compelled to abandon two-thirds of his patrimony: but the German, a ſhepherd, and a hunter, might ſometimes content himſelf with a ſpacious range of wood and paſture, and reſign the ſmalleſt, though moſt valuable, portion, to the toil of the induſtrious huſbandman 86. The ſilence of ancient and authentic [Page 335] teſtimony has encouraged an opinion, that the rapine of the Franks was not moderated, or diſguiſed, by the forms of a legal diviſion; that they diſperſed themſelves over the provinces of Gaul, without order or controul; and that each victorious robber, according to his wants, his avarice, and his ſtrength, meaſured, with his ſword, the extent of his new inheritance. At a diſtance from their ſovereign, the Barbarians might indeed be tempted to exerciſe ſuch arbitrary depredation; but the firm and artful policy of Clovis muſt curb a licentious ſpirit, which would aggravate the miſery of the vanquiſhed, whilſt it corrupted the union and diſcipline of the conquerors. The memorable vaſe of Soiſſons is a monument, and a pledge, of the regular diſtribution of the Gallic ſpoils. It was the duty, and the intereſt, of Clovis, to provide rewards for a ſucceſsful army, and ſettlements for a numerous people; without inflicting any wanton, or ſuperfluous injuries, on the loyal catholics of Gaul. The ample fund, which he might lawfully acquire, of the Imperial patrimony, vacant lands, and Gothic uſurpations, would diminiſh the cruel neceſſity of ſeizure and confiſcation; and the humble provincials would more patiently acquieſce in the equal and regular diſtribution of their loſs 87.
[Page 356] The wealth of the Merovingian princes conſiſted in their extenſive domain. After the conqueſt of Gaul, they ſtill delighted in the ruſtic [Note: Domain and benefices of the Merovingians.] ſimplicity of their anceſtors: the cities were abandoned to ſolitude and decay; and their coins, their charters, and their ſynods, are ſtill inſcribed with the names of the villas, or rural palaces, in which they ſucceſſively reſided. One hundred and ſixty of theſe palaces, a title which need not excite any unſeaſonable ideas of art or luxury, were ſcattered through the provinces of their kingdom; and if ſome might claim the honours of a fortreſs, the far greater part could be eſteemed only in the light of profitable farms. The manſion of the long-haired kings was ſurrounded with convenient yards, and ſtables, for the cattle and the poultry; the garden was planted with uſeful vegetables; the various trades, the labours of agriculture, and even the arts of hunting and fiſhing, were exerciſed by ſervile hands for the emolument of the ſovereign; his magazines were filled with corn and wine, either for ſale or conſumption; and the whole adminiſtration was conducted by the ſtricteſt maxims of private oeconomy 88. This ample patrimony [Page 357] was appropriated to ſupply the hoſpitable plenty of Clovis, and his ſucceſſors; and to reward the fidelity of their brave companions, who, both in peace and war, were devoted to their perſonal ſervice. Inſtead of an horſe, or a ſuit of armour, each companion, according to his rank, or merit, or favour, was inveſted with a benefice, the primitive name, and moſt ſimple form of the feudal poſſeſſions. Theſe gifts might be reſumed at the pleaſure of the ſovereign; and his feeble prerogative derived ſome ſupport from the influence of his liberality. But this dependent tenure was gradually aboliſhed 89 by the independent and rapacious nobles of France, who eſtabliſhed the perpetual property, and hereditary ſucceſſion, of their benefices: a revolution ſalutary to the earth, which had been injured, or neglected, by its precarious maſters 90. Beſides theſe royal and beneficiary eſtates, a large proportion had been aſſigned, in the diviſion of Gaul, of allodial and Salic lands: they were exempt from tribute, and the Salic lands were equally ſhared among the male deſcendants of the Franks 91.
[Page 358] In the bloody diſcord, and ſilent decay of the Merovingian line, a new order of tyrants aroſe in the provinces, who, under the appellation of Seniors, [Note: Private uſurpations.] or Lords, uſurped a right to govern, and a licence to oppreſs, the ſubjects of their peculiar territory. Their ambition might be checked by the hoſtile reſiſtance of an equal: but the laws were extinguiſhed; and the ſacrilegious Barbarians, who dared to provoke the vengeance of a ſaint or biſhop 92, would ſeldom reſpect the landmarks of a profane and defenceleſs neighbour. The common, or public, rights of nature, ſuch as they had always been deemed by the Roman juriſprudence 93, were ſeverely reſtrained by the German conquerors, whoſe amuſement, or rather paſſion, was the exerciſe of hunting. The vague dominion, which MAN has aſſumed over the wild inhabitants of the earth, the air, and the waters, was confined to ſome fortunate individuals of the human ſpecies. Gaul was again overſpread with woods; and the animals, who were reſerved for the uſe, or pleaſure, of the lord, might ravage, with impunity, the fields of his induſtrious vaſſals. The chace was the ſacred privilege of the nobles, and their domeſtic ſervants. Plebeian tranſgreſſors were legally chaſtiſed with ſtripes and impriſonment 94; [Page 359] but in an age which admitted a ſlight compoſition for the life of a citizen, it was a capital crime to deſtroy a ſtag or a wild bull within the precincts of the royal foreſts 95.
According to the maxims of ancient war, the [Note: Perſonal ſervitude.] conqueror became the lawful maſter of the enemy whom he had ſubdued and ſpared 96: and the fruitful cauſe of perſonal ſlavery, which had been almoſt ſuppreſſed by the peaceful ſovereignty of Rome, was again revived and multiplied by the perpetual hoſtilities of the independent Barbarians. The Goth, the Burgundian, or the Frank, who returned from a ſucceſsful expedition, dragged after him a long train of ſheep, of oxen, and of human captives, whom he treated with the ſame brutal contempt. The youths of an elegant form [Page 360] and ingenuous aſpect, were ſet apart for the domeſtic ſervice; a doubtful ſituation, which alternately expoſed them to the favourable, or cruel, impulſe of paſſion. The uſeful mechanics and ſervants (ſmiths, carpenters, taylors, ſhoemakers, cooks, gardeners, dyers, and workmen in gold and ſilver, &c.) employed their ſkill for the uſe, or profit, of their maſter. But the Roman captives who were deſtitute of art, but capable of labour, were condemned, without regard to their former rank, to tend the cattle, and cultivate the lands of the Barbarians. The number of the hereditary bondſmen, who were attached to the Gallic eſtates, was continually increaſed by new ſupplies; and the ſervile people, according to the ſituation and temper of their lords, was ſometimes raiſed by precarious indulgence, and more frequently depreſſed by capricious deſpotiſm 97. An abſolute power of life and death was exerciſed by theſe lords; and when they married their daughters, a train of uſeful ſervants, chained on the waggons to prevent their eſcape, was ſent as a nuptial preſent into a diſtant country 98. The majeſty of the Roman laws protected the liberty of each citizen, againſt the raſh effects of his own diſtreſs, or deſpair. [Page 361] But the ſubjects of the Merovingian kings might alienate their perſonal freedom; and this act of legal ſuicide, which was familiarly practiſed, is expreſſed in terms moſt diſgraceful and afflicting to the dignity of human nature 99. The example of the poor, who purchaſed life by the ſacrifice of all that can render life deſirable, was gradually imitated by the feeble and the devout, who, in times of public diſorder, puſillanimouſly crowded to ſhelter themſelves under the battlements of a powerful chief, and around the ſhrine of a popular ſaint. Their ſubmiſſion was accepted by theſe temporal, or ſpiritual, patrons; and the haſty tranſaction irrecoverably fixed their own condition, and that of their lateſt poſterity. From the reign of Clovis, during five ſucceſſive centuries, the laws and manners of Gaul uniformly tended to promote the increaſe, and to confirm the duration, of perſonal ſervitude. Time and violence almoſt obliterated the intermediate ranks of ſociety; and left an obſcure and narrow interval between the noble and the ſlave. This arbitrary and recent diviſion has been transformed by pride and prejudice into a national diſtinction, univerſally eſtabliſhed by the arms and the laws of the Merovingians. The nobles, who claimed their genuine, or fabulous, deſcent, from the independent [Page 362] and victorious Franks, have aſſerted, and abuſed, the indefeaſible right of conqueſt, over a proſtrate crowd of ſlaves and plebeians, to whom they imputed the imaginary diſgrace of a Gallic, or Roman, extraction.
The general ſtate and revolutions of France, a name which was impoſed by the conquerors, may [Note: Example of Auvergne.] be illuſtrated by the particular example of a province, a dioceſe, or a ſenatorial family. Auvergne had formerly maintained a juſt pre-eminence among the independent ſtates and cities of Gaul. The brave and numerous inhabitants diſplayed a ſingular trophy; the ſword of Caeſar himſelf, which he had loſt when he was repulſed before the walls of Gergovia 100. As the common offspring of Troy, they claimed a fraternal alliance with the the Romans 101; and if each province had imitated the courage and loyalty of Auvergne, the fall of the Weſtern empire might have been prevented, or delayed. They firmly maintained the fidelity which they had reluctantly ſworn to the Viſigoths; but when their braveſt nobles had fallen in the battle of Poitiers, they accepted, without reſiſtance, a victorious and catholic ſovereign. This [Page 363] eaſy and valuable conqueſt was atchieved, and poſſeſſed, by Theodoric, the eldeſt ſon of Clovis: but the remote province was ſeparated from his Auſtraſian dominions, by the intermediate kingdoms of Soiſſons, Paris, and Orleans, which formed, after their father's death, the inheritance of his three brothers. The king of Paris, Childebert, was tempted by the neighbourhood and beauty of Auvergne 102. The Upper country, which riſes towards the ſouth into the mountains of the Cevennes, preſented a rich and various proſpect of woods and paſtures; the ſides of the hills were clothed with vines; and each eminence was crowned with a villa or caſtle. In the Lower Auvergne, the river Allier flows through the fair and ſpacious plain of Limagne; and the inexhauſtible fertility of the ſoil ſupplied, and ſtill ſupplies, without any interval of repoſe, the conſtant repetition of the ſame harveſts 103. On the falſe report, that their lawful ſovereign had been ſlain in Germany, the city and dioceſe of Auvergne were betrayed by the grandſon of Sidonius Apollinaris. Childebert enjoyed this clandeſtine victory; and [Page 364] the free ſubjects of Theodoric threatened to deſert his ſtandard, if he indulged his private reſentment, while the nation was engaged in the Burgundian war. But the Franks of Auſtraſia ſoon yielded to the perſuaſive eloquence of their king. ‘"Follow me," ſaid Thedoric, "into Auvergne: I will lead you into a province, where you may acquire gold, ſilver, ſlaves, cattle, and precious apparel, to the full extent of your wiſhes. I repeat my promiſe; I give you the people, and their wealth, as your prey; and you may tranſport them at pleaſure into your own country."’ By the execution of this promiſe, Theodoric juſtly forfeited the allegiance of a people, whom he devoted to deſtruction. His troops, reinforced by the fierceſt Barbarians of Germany 104, ſpread deſolation over the fruitful face of Auvergne; and two places only, a ſtrong caſtle, and a holy ſhrine, were ſaved, or redeemed, from their licentious fury. The caſtle of Meroliac 105 was ſeated on a lofty rock, which roſe an hundred feet above the ſurface of the plain; and a large reſervoir of freſh water was incloſed, with ſome arable lands, within [Page 365] the circle of its fortifications. The Franks beheld with envy and deſpair this impregnable fortreſs: but they ſurpriſed a party of fifty ſtragglers; and, as they were oppreſſed by the number of their captives, they fixed, at a trifling ranſom, the alternative of life or death for theſe wretched victims, whom the cruel Barbarians were prepared to maſſacre on the refuſal of the garriſon. Another detachment penetrated as far as Brivas, or Brioude, where the inhabitants, with their valuable effects, had taken refuge in the ſanctuary of St. Julian. The doors of the church reſiſted the aſſault; but a daring ſoldier entered through a window of the choir, and opened a paſſage to his companions. The clergy and people, the ſacred and the profane ſpoils, were rudely torn from the altar; and the ſacrilegious diviſion was made at a ſmall diſtance from the town of Brioude. But this act of impiety was ſeverely chaſtiſed by the devout ſon of Clovis. He puniſhed with death the moſt atrocious offenders; left their ſecret accomplices to the vengeance of St. Julian, releaſed the captives; reſtored the plunder; and extended the rights of ſanctuary, five miles round the ſepulchre of the holy martyr 106.
Before the Auſtraſian army retreated from Auvergne, [Note: Story of Attalus.] Theodoric exacted ſome pledges of the [Page 366] future loyalty of a people, whoſe juſt hatred could be reſtrained only by their fear. A ſelect band of noble youths, the ſons of the principal ſenators, was delivered to the conqueror, as the hoſtages of the faith of Childebert, and of their countrymen. On the firſt rumour of war, or conſpiracy, theſe guiltleſs youths were reduced to a ſtate of ſervitude; and one of them, Attalus 107, whoſe adventures are more particularly related, kept his maſter's horſes in the dioceſe of Treves. After a painful ſearch, he was diſcovered, in this unworthy occupation, by the emiſſaries of his grandfather, Gregory biſhop of Langres; but his offers of ranſom were ſternly rejected by the avarice of the Barbarian, who required an exorbitant ſum of ten pounds of gold for the freedom of his noble captive. His deliverance was effected by the hardy ſtratagem of Leo, a ſlave belonging to the kitchens of the biſhop of Langres 108. An unknown agent eaſily [Page 367] introduced him into the ſame family. The Barbarian purchaſed Leo for the price of twelve pieces of gold; and was pleaſed to learn, that he was deeply ſkilled in the luxury of an epiſcopal table: ‘"Next Sunday," ſaid the Frank, "I ſhall invite my neighbours, and kinſmen. Exert thy art, and force them to confeſs, that they have never ſeen, or taſted, ſuch an entertainment, even in the king's houſe."’ Leo aſſured him, that, if he would provide a ſufficient quantity of poultry, his wiſhes ſhould be ſatisfied. The maſter, who already aſpired to the merit of elegant hoſpitality, aſſumed, as his own, the praiſe which the voracious gueſts unanimouſly beſtowed on his cook; and the dextrous Leo inſenſibly acquired the truſt and management of his houſehold. After the patient expectation of a whole year, he cautiouſly whiſpered his deſign to Attalus, and exhorted him to prepare for flight in the enſuing night. At the hour of midnight, the intemperate gueſts retired from table; and the Frank's ſon-in-law, whom Leo attended to his apartment with a nocturnal potation, condeſcended to jeſt on the facility with which he might betray his truſt. The intrepid ſlave, after ſuſtaining this dangerous raillery; entered his maſter's bed-chamber; removed his ſpear and ſhield; ſilently drew the fleeteſt horſes from the ſtable; unbarred the ponderous gates; and excited Attalus to ſave his life and liberty by inceſſant diligence. Their apprehenſions urged them to leave their horſes on the banks of the [Page 368] Meuſe 109; they ſwam the river, wandered three days in the adjacent foreſt, and ſubſiſted only by the accidental diſcovery of a wild plum-tree. As they lay concealed in a dark thicket, they heard the noiſe of horſes; they were terrified by the angry countenance of their maſter, and they anxiouſly liſtened to his declaration, that, if he could ſeize the guilty fugitives, one of them he would cut in pieces with his ſword, and would expoſe the other on a gibbet. At length, Attalus, and his faithful Leo, reached the friendly habitation of a preſbyter of Rheims, who recruited their fainting ſtrength with bread and wine, concealed them from the ſearch of their enemy, and ſafely conducted them, beyond the limits of the Auſtraſian kingdom, to the epiſcopal palace of Langres. Gregory embraced his grandſon with tears of joy, gratefully delivered Leo, with his whole family, from the yoke of ſervitude, and beſtowed on him the property of a farm, where he might end his days in happineſs and freedom. Perhaps this ſingular adventure, which is marked with ſo many circumſtances of truth and nature, was related by Attalus himſelf, to his couſin, or nephew, the firſt hiſtorian of the Franks. Gregory of Tours 110 was born [Page 369] about ſixty years after the death of Sidonius Apollinaris; and their ſituation was almoſt ſimilar, ſince each of them was a native of Auvergne, a ſenator, and a biſhop. The difference of their ſtyle and ſentiments may, therefore, expreſs the decay of Gaul; and clearly aſcertain how much, in ſo ſhort a ſpace, the human mind had loſt of its energy and refinement 111.
We are now qualified to deſpiſe the oppoſite, [Note: Privileges of the Romans of Gaul.] and, perhaps, artful, miſrepreſentations, which have ſoftened, or exaggerated, the oppreſſion of the Romans of Gaul under the reign of the Merovingians. The conquerors never promulgated any univerſal edict of ſervitude, or confiſcation: but a degenerate people, who excuſed their weakneſs by the ſpecious names of politeneſs and peace, was expoſed to the arms and laws of the ferocious Barbarians, who contemptuouſly inſulted their poſſeſſions, their freedom, and their ſafety. Their perſonal injuries were partial and irregular; but the great body of the Romans [Page 370] ſurvived the revolution, and ſtill preſerved the property, and privileges, of citizens. A large portion of their lands was exacted for the uſe of the Franks: but they enjoyed the remainder, exempt from tribute 112; and the ſame irreſiſtible violence which ſwept away the arts and manufactures of Gaul, deſtroyed the elaborate and expenſive ſyſtem of Imperial deſpotiſm. The Provincials muſt frequently deplore the ſavage juriſprudence of the Salic or Ripuarian laws; but their private life, in the important concerns of marriage, teſtaments, or inheritance, was ſtill regulated by the Theodoſian Code; and a diſcontented Roman might freely aſpire, or deſcend, to the title and character of a Barbarian. The honours of the ſtate were acceſſible to his ambition: the education and temper of the Romans more peculiarly qualified them for the offices of civil government; and, as ſoon as emulation had rekindled their military ardour, they were permitted to march in the ranks, or even at the head, of the victorious Germans. I ſhall not attempt to enumerate the generals and magiſtrates, whoſe names 113 atteſt the liberal policy [Page 371] of the Merovingians. The ſupreme command of Burgundy, with the title of patrician, was ſucceſſively entruſted to three Romans; and the laſt, and moſt powerful, Mummolus 114, who alternately ſaved and diſturbed the monarchy, had ſupplanted his father in the ſtation of count of Autun, and left a treaſure of thirty talents of gold, and two hundred and fifty talents of ſilver. The fierce and illiterate Barbarians were excluded, during ſeveral generations, from the dignities, and even from the orders, of the church 115. The clergy of Gaul conſiſted almoſt entirely of native Provincials; the haughty Franks fell proſtrate at the feet of their ſubjects, who were dignified with the epiſcopal character; and the power and riches which had been loſt in war, were inſenſibly recovered by ſuperſtition 116. In all temporal affairs, the Theodoſian Code was the univerſal law of the clergy; but the Barbaric juriſprudence had liberally provided for their perſonal ſafety: a ſub-deacon was equivalent to two Franks; the antruſtion, and prieſt, were held in ſimilar eſtimation; and the life of a biſhop was appreciated far above the common [Page 372] ſtandard, at the price of nine hundred pieces of gold 117. The Romans communicated to their conquerors the uſe of the Chriſtian religion and Latin language 118: but their language and their religion had alike degenerated from the ſimple purity of the Auguſtan, and Apoſtolic, age. The progreſs of ſuperſtition and Barbariſm was rapid and univerſal: the worſhip of the ſaints concealed from vulgar eyes the God of the Chriſtians; and the ruſtic dialect of peaſants and ſoldiers was corrupted by a Teutonic idiom and pronunciation. Yet ſuch intercourſe of ſacred and ſocial communion, eradicated the diſtinctions of birth and victory; and the nations of Gaul were gradually confounded under the name and government of the Franks.
The Franks, after they mingled with their [Note: Anarchy of the Franks.] Gallic ſubjects, might have imparted the moſt valuable of human gifts, a ſpirit, and ſyſtem, of conſtitutional liberty. Under a king, hereditary but limited, the chiefs and counſellors [Page 373] might have debated, at Paris, in the palace of the Caeſars: the adjacent field, where the emperors reviewed their mercenary legions, would have admitted the legiſlative aſſembly of freemen and warriors; and the rude model, which had been ſketched in the woods of Germany 119, might have been poliſhed and improved by the civil wiſdom of the Romans. But the careleſs Barbarians, ſecure of their perſonal independence, diſdained the labour of government: the annual aſſemblies of the month of March were ſilently aboliſhed; and the nation was ſeparated, and almiſt diſſolved, by the conqueſt of Gaul 120. The monarchy was left without any regular eſtabliſhment of juſtice, of arms, or of revenue. The ſucceſſors of Clovis wanted reſolution to aſſume, or ſtrength to exerciſe, the legiſlative and executive powers, which the people had abdicated: the royal prerogative was diſtinguiſhed only by a more ample privilege of rapine and murder; and the love of freedom, ſo often invigorated and diſgraced by private ambition, was reduced, among the licentious Franks, to the contempt of order, and the deſire of impunity. Seventy-five years after the death of Clovis, his grandſon, Gontran, king of Burgundy, ſent an army to invade the Gothic poſſeſſions of Septimania, or [Page 374] Languedoc. The troops of Burgundy, Berry, Auvergne, and the adjacent territories, were excited by the hopes of ſpoil. They marched, without diſcipline, under the banners of German, or Gallic, counts: their attack was feeble and unſucceſsful; but the friendly and hoſtile provinces were deſolated with indiſcriminate rage. The corn-fields, the villages, the churches themſelves, were conſumed by fire; the inhabitants were maſſacred, or dragged into captivity; and, in the diſorderly retreat, five thouſand of theſe inhuman ſavages were deſtroyed by hunger or inteſtine diſcord. When the pious Gontran reproached the guilt, or neglect, of their leaders; and threatened to inflict, not a legal ſentence, but inſtant and arbitrary execution; they accuſed the univerſal and incurable corruption of the people. ‘"No one," they ſaid, "any longer fears or reſpects his king, his duke, or his count. Each man loves to do evil, and freely indulges his criminal inclinations. The moſt gentle correction provokes an immediate tumult; and the raſh magiſtrate, who preſumes to cenſure, or reſtrain, his ſeditious ſubjects, ſeldom eſcapes alive from their revenge 121."’ It has been reſerved for the ſame [Page 375] nation to expoſe, by their intemperate vices, the moſt odious abuſe of freedom; and to ſupply its loſs by the ſpirit of honour and humanity, which now alleviates and dignifies their obedience to an abſolute ſovereign.
The Viſigoths had reſigned to Clovis the [Note: The Viſigoths of Spain.] greateſt part of their Gallic poſſeſſions; but their loſs was amply compenſated by the eaſy conqueſt, and ſecure enjoyment, of the provinces of Spain. From the monarchy of the Goths, which ſoon involved the Suevic kingdom of Galicia, the modern Spaniards ſtill derive ſome national vanity: but the hiſtorian of the Roman Empire is neither invited, nor compelled, to purſue the obſcure and barren ſeries of their annals 122. The Goths of Spain were ſeparated from the reſt of mankind, by the lofty ridge of the Pyrenaean mountains: their manners and inſtitutions, as far as they were common to the Germanic tribes, have been already explained. I have anticipated, in the preceding chapter, the moſt important of their eccleſiaſtical events, the fall of Arianiſm, and the perſecution of the Jews: and it only remains to obſerve ſome intereſting circumſtances, which relate to the civil and eccleſiaſtical conſtitution of the Spaniſh kingdom.
After their converſion from idolatry or hereſy, [Note: Legiſlative aſſemblies of Spain.] the Franks and the Viſigoths were diſpoſed to [Page 376] embrace, with equal ſubmiſſion, the inherent evils, and the accidental benefits, of ſuperſtition. But the prelates of France, long before the extinction of the Merovingian race, had degenerated into fighting and hunting Barbarians. They diſdained the uſe of ſynods; forgot the laws of temperance and chaſtity; and preferred the indulgence of private ambition and luxury, to the general intereſt of the ſacerdotal profeſſion 123. The biſhops of Spain reſpected themſelves, and were reſpected by the public: their indiſſoluble union diſguiſed their vices, and confirmed their authority: and the regular diſcipline of the church introduced peace, order, and ſtability into the government of the ſtate. From the reign of Recared, the firſt Catholic king, to that of Witiza, the immediate predeceſſor of the unfortunate Roderic, ſixteen national councils were ſucceſſively convened. The ſix metropolitans, Toledo, Seville, Merida, Braga, Tarragona, and Narbonne, preſided according to their reſpective ſeniority; the aſſembly was compoſed of their ſuffragan biſhops, who appeared in perſon, or by their proxies; and a place was aſſigned to the moſt holy or opulent of the Spaniſh abbots. During the firſt three days of the convocation, as long as they agitated the eccleſiaſtical queſtions of doctrine and diſcipline, the profane laity was excluded from [Page 377] their debates; which were conducted, however, with decent ſolemnity. But, on the morning of the fourth day, the doors were thrown open for the entrance of the great officers of the palace, the dukes and counts of the provinces, the judges of the cities, and the Gothic nobles: and the decrees of Heaven were ratified by the conſent of the people. The ſame rules were obſerved in the provincial aſſemblies, the annual ſynods which were empowered to hear complaints, and to redreſs grievances; and a legal government was ſupported by the prevailing influence of the Spaniſh clergy. The biſhops, who, in each revolution, were prepared to flatter the victorious, and to inſult the proſtrate, laboured, with diligence and ſucceſs, to kindle the flames of perſecution, and to exalt the mitre above the crown. Yet the national councils of Toledo, in which the free ſpirit of the Barbarians was tempered and guided by epiſcopal policy, have eſtabliſhed ſome prudent laws for the common benefit of the king and people. The vacancy of the throne was ſupplied by the choice of the biſhops and Palatines; and, after the failure of the line of Alaric, the regal dignity was ſtill limited to the pure and noble blood of the Goths. The clergy, who anointed their lawful prince, always recommended, and ſometimes practiſed, the duty of allegiance: and the ſpiritual cenſures were denounced on the heads of the impious ſubjects, who ſhould reſiſt his authority, conſpire againſt his life, or violate, by an indecent union, the chaſtity even of his widow. But the monarch [Page 378] himſelf, when he aſcended the throne, was bound by a reciprocal oath to God and his people, that he would faithfully execute his important truſt. The real or imaginary faults of his adminiſtration were ſubject to the controul of a powerful ariſtocracy; and the biſhops and palatines were guarded by a fundamental privilege, that they ſhould not be degraded, impriſoned, tortured, nor puniſhed with death, exile, or confiſcation, unleſs by the free and public judgment of their peers 124.
One of theſe legiſlative councils of Toledo, [Note: Code of the Viſigoths.] examined and ratified the code of laws which had been compiled by a ſucceſſion of Gothic kings, from the fierce Euric, to the devout Egica. As long as the Viſigoths themſelves were ſatisfied with the rude cuſtoms of their anceſtors, they indulged their ſubjects of Aquitain and Spain in the enjoyment of the Roman law. Their gradual improvement in arts, in policy, and at length in religion, encouraged them to imitate, and to ſuperſede, theſe foreign inſtitutions; and to compoſe a code of civil and criminal juriſprudence, for the uſe of a great and united people. The ſame obligations, and the ſame privileges, were communicated to the nations of the Spaniſh monarchy: and the conquerors, inſenſibly renouncing [Page 379] the Teutonic idiom, ſubmitted to the reſtraints of equity, and exalted the Romans to the participation of freedom. The merit of this impartial policy was enhanced by the ſituation of Spain, under the reign of the Viſigoths. The Provincials were long ſeparated from their Arian maſters, by the irreconcilable difference of religion. After the converſion of Recared had removed the prejudices of the Catholics, the coaſts, both of the Ocean and Mediterranean, were ſtill poſſeſſed by the Eaſtern emperors; who ſecretly excited a diſcontented people, to reject the yoke of the Barbarians, and to aſſert the name and dignity of Roman citizens. The allegiance of doubtful ſubjects is indeed moſt effectually ſecured by their own perſuaſion, that they hazard more in a revolt, than they can hope to obtain by a revolution; but it has appeared ſo natural to oppreſs thoſe whom we hate and fear, that the contrary ſyſtem well deſerves the praiſe of wiſdom and moderation 125.
While the kingdoms of the Franks and Viſigoths [Note: Revolution of Britain.] were eſtabliſhed in Gaul and Spain, the Saxons atchieved the conqueſt of Britain, the third great dioceſe of the Praefecture of the Weſt. Since Britain was already ſeparated from the Roman [Page 380] empire, I might, without reproach, decline a ſtory, familiar to the moſt illiterate, and obſcure to the moſt learned, of my readers. The Saxons, who excelled in the uſe of the oar, or the battle-axe, were ignorant of the art which could alone perpetuate the fame of their exploits: the Provincials, relapſing into Barbariſm, neglected to deſcribe the ruin of their country; and the doubtful tradition was almoſt extinguiſhed, before the miſſionaries of Rome reſtored the light of ſcience and Chriſtianity. The declamations of Gildas, the fragments, or fables, of Nennius, the obſcure hints of the Saxon laws and chronicles, and the eccleſiaſtical tales of the venerable Bede 126, have been illuſtrated by the diligence, and ſometimes embelliſhed by the fancy, of ſucceeding writers, whoſe works I am not ambitious either to cenſure, or to tranſcribe 127. Yet the hiſtorian of the empire may be tempted to purſue the revolutions of a Roman province, till it vaniſhes from his ſight; and an Engliſhman may curiouſly trace the eſtabliſhment of the Barbarians, from whom he derives his name, his laws, and perhaps his origin.
[Page 381] About forty years after the diſſolution of the Roman government, Vortigern appears to have obtained the ſupreme, though precarious, command [Note: Deſcent of the Saxons, A. D. 449.] of the princes and cities of Britain. That unfortunate monarch has been almoſt unanimouſly condemned for the weak and miſchievous policy of inviting 128 a formidable ſtranger, to repel the vexatious inroads of a domeſtic foe. His ambaſſadors are diſpatched, by the graveſt hiſtorians, to the coaſt of Germany; they addreſs a pathetic oration to the general aſſembly of the Saxons, and thoſe warlike Barbarians reſolve to aſſiſt with a fleet and army the ſuppliants of a diſtant and unknown iſland. If Britain had indeed been unknown to the Saxons, the meaſure of its calamities would have been leſs complete. But the ſtrength of the Roman government could not always guard the maritime province againſt the pirates of Germany: the independent and divided ſtates were expoſed to their attacks; and the Saxons might ſometimes join the Scots and the Picts, in a tacit, or expreſs, confederacy of rapine and deſtruction. Vortigern could only balance the various perils, which aſſaulted on every ſide his throne and his people; and his policy may deſerve either praiſe or excuſe, if he preferred the alliance of thoſe Barbarians, whoſe naval [Page 382] power rendered them the moſt dangerous enemies, and the moſt ſerviceable allies. Hengiſt and Horſa, as they ranged along the Eaſtern coaſt with three ſhips, were engaged, by the promiſe of an ample ſtipend, to embrace the defence of Britain; and their intrepid valour ſoon delivered the country from the Caledonian invaders. The iſle of Thanet, a ſecure and fertile diſtrict, was allotted for the reſidence of theſe German auxiliaries, and they were ſupplied, according to the treaty, with a plentiful allowance of clothing and proviſions. This favourable reception encouraged five thouſand warriors to embark with their families in ſeventeen veſſels, and the infant power of Hengiſt was fortified by this ſtrong and ſeaſonable reinforcement. The crafty Barbarian ſuggeſted to Vortigern the obvious advantage of fixing, in the neighbourhood of the Picts, a colony of faithful allies: a third fleet of forty ſhips, under the command of his ſon and nephew, ſailed from Germany, ravaged the Orkneys, and diſembarked a new army on the coaſt of Northumberland, or Lothian, at the oppoſite extremity of the devoted land. It was eaſy to foreſee, but it was impoſſible to prevent, the impending evils. The two nations were ſoon divided and exaſperated by mutual jealouſies. The Saxons magnified all that they had done and ſuffered in the cauſe of an ungrateful people; while the Britons regretted the liberal rewards which could not ſatisfy the avarice of thoſe haughty mercenaries. The cauſes of fear and hatred were inflamed into an irreconcileable quarrel. The Saxons flew to arms; and, [Page 383] if they perpetrated a treacherous maſſacre during the ſecurity of a feaſt, the deſtroyed the reciprocal confidence which ſuſtains the intercourſe of peace and war 129.
Hengiſt, who boldly aſpired to the conqueſt of [Note: Eſtabliſhment of the Saxon heptarchy, A. D. 455—582.] Britain, exhorted his countrymen to embrace the glorious opportunity: he painted in lively colours the fertility of the ſoil, the wealth of the cities, the puſillanimous temper of the natives, and the convenient ſituation of a ſpacious ſolitary iſland, acceſſible on all ſides to the Saxon fleets. The ſucceſſive colonies which iſſued, in the period of a century, from the mouths of the Elbe, the Weſer, and the Rhine, were principally compoſed of three valiant tribes or nations of Germany; the Jutes, the old Saxons, and the Angles. The Jutes, who fought under the peculiar banner of Hengiſt, aſſumed the merit of leading their countrymen in the paths of glory, and of erecting, in Kent, the firſt independent kingdom. The fame of the enterpriſe was attributed to the primitive Saxons; and the common laws and language of the conquerors are deſcribed by the national appellation of a people, which, at the end of four hundred years, produced the firſt monarchs of South Britain. The Angles were diſtinguiſhed by their numbers and their ſucceſs; [Page 384] and they claimed the honour of fixing a perpetual name on the country, of which they occupied the moſt ample portion. The Barbarians, who followed the hopes of rapine either on the land or ſea, were inſenſibly blended with this triple confederacy; the Friſians, who had been tempted by their vicinity to the Britiſh ſhores, might balance, during a ſhort ſpace, the ſtrength and reputation of the native Saxons; the Danes, the Pruſſians, the Rugians are faintly deſcribed; and ſome adventurous Huns, who had wandered as far as the Baltic, might embark on board the German veſſels, for the conqueſt of a new world 130. But this arduous atchievement was not prepared or executed by the union of national powers. Each intrepid chieftain, according to the meaſure of his fame and fortunes, aſſembled his followers; equipped a fleet of three, or perhaps of ſixty, veſſels; choſe the place of the attack; and conducted his ſubſequent operations according to the events of the war and the dictates of his private intereſt. In the invaſion of Britain many heroes vanquiſhed and fell; but only ſeven victorious leaders aſſumed, or at leaſt maintained, the title of kings. Seven independent thrones, the Saxon Heptarchy, were founded by the conquerors, and ſeven families, one of which has been continued, by female ſucceſſion, to our preſent ſovereign, derived their equal and ſacred lineage from [Page 385] Woden, the god of war. It has been pretended, that this republic of kings was moderated by a general council and a ſupreme magiſtrate. But ſuch an artificial ſcheme of policy is repugnant to the rude and turbulent ſpirit of the Saxons: their laws are ſilent; and their imperfect annals afford only a dark and bloody proſpect of inteſtine diſcord 131.
A monk, who, in the profound ignorance of [Note: State of the Britons.] human life, has preſumed to exerciſe the office of hiſtorian, ſtrangely disfigures the ſtate of Britain at the time of its ſeparation from the Weſtern empire. Gildas 132 deſcribes in florid language the improvements of agriculture, the foreign trade which flowed with every tide into the Thames and the Severn, the ſolid and lofty conſtruction of public and private edifices: he accuſes the ſinful luxury of the Britiſh people; of a people, according to the ſame writer, ignorant of the moſt ſimple arts, and incapable, without the aid of the Romans, of providing walls of ſtone, or weapons of iron, for the defence of their native land 133. Under the long dominion of the emperors, Britain [Page 386] had been inſenſibly moulded into the elegant and ſervile form of a Roman province, whoſe ſafety was entruſted to a foreign power. The ſubjects of Honorius contemplated their new freedom with ſurpriſe and terror; they were left deſtitute of any civil or military conſtitution; and their uncertain rulers wanted either ſkill, or courage, or authority, to direct the public force againſt the common enemy. The introduction of the Saxons betrayed their internal weakneſs, and degraded the character both of the prince and people. Their conſternation magnified the danger; the want of union diminiſhed their reſources; and the madneſs of civil factions was more ſolicitous to accuſe, than to remedy, the evils, which they imputed to the miſconduct of their adverſaries. Yet the Britons were not ignorant, they could not be ignorant, of the manufacture or the uſe of arms: the ſucceſſive and diſorderly attacks of the Saxons, allowed them to recover from their amazement, and the proſperous or adverſe events of the war added diſcipline and experience to their native valour.
While the continent of Europe and Africa [Note: Their reſiſtance,] yielded, without reſiſtance, to the Barbarians, the Britiſh iſland, alone and unaided, maintained a long, a vigorous, though an unſucceſsful ſtruggle, againſt the formidable pirates, who, almoſt at the ſame inſtant, aſſaulted the Northern, the Eaſtern, and the Southern coaſts. The cities which had been fortified with ſkill, were defended with reſolution; the advantages of ground, hills, [Page 387] foreſts, and moraſſes, were diligently improved by the inhabitants; the conqueſt of each diſtrict was purchaſed with blood; and the defeats of the Saxons are ſtrongly atteſted by the diſcreet ſilence of their annaliſt. Hengiſt might hope to atchieve the conqueſt of Britain; but his ambition, in an active reign of thirty-five years, was confined to the poſſeſſion of Kent; and the numerous colony which he had planted in the North, was extirpated by the ſword of the Britons. The monarchy of the Weſt-Saxons was laboriouſly founded by the perſevering efforts of three martial generations. The life of Cerdic, one of the braveſt of the children of Woden, was conſumed in the conqueſt of Hampſhire, and the iſle of Wight; and the loſs which he ſuſtained in the battle of Mount Badon, reduced him to a ſtate of inglorious repoſe. Kenric, his valiant ſon, advanced into Wiltſhire; beſieged Saliſbury, at that time ſeated on a commanding eminence; and vanquiſhed an army which advanced to the relief of the city. In the ſubſequent battle of Marlborough 134, his Britiſh enemies diſplayed their military ſcience. Their troops were formed in three lines; each line conſiſted of three diſtinct bodies, and the cavalry, the archers, and the pikemen, were diſtributed [Page 388] according to the principles of Roman tactics. The Saxons charged in one weighty column, boldly encountered with their ſhort ſwords the long lances of the Britons, and maintained an equal conflict till the approach of night. Two deciſive victories, the death of three Britiſh kings, and the reduction of Cirenceſter, Bath, and Glouceſter, eſtabliſhed the fame and power of Ceaulin, the grandſon of Cerdic, who carried his victorious arms to the banks of the Severn.
After a war of an hundred years, the independent [Note: and flight.] Britons ſtill occupied the whole extent of the Weſtern coaſt, from the wall of Antoninus to the extreme promontory of Cornwall; and the principal cities of the inland country ſtill oppoſed the arms of the Barbarians. Reſiſtance became more languid, as the number and boldneſs of the aſſailants continually increaſed. Winning their way by ſlow and painful efforts, the Saxons, the Angles, and their various confederates, advanced from the North, from the Eaſt, and from the South, till their victorious banners were united in the centre of the iſland. Beyond the Severn the Britons ſtill aſſerted their national freedom, which ſurvived the heptarchy, and even the monarchy, of the Saxons. The braveſt warriors, who preferred exile to ſlavery, found a ſecure refuge in the mountains of Wales: the reluctant ſubmiſſion of Cornwall was delayed for ſome ages 135; and a [Page 389] band of fugitives acquired a ſettlement in Gaul, by their own valour, or the liberality of the Merovingian kings 136. The Weſtern angle of Armorica acquired the new appellations of Cornwall, and the Leſſer Britain; and the vacant lands of the Oſiſmii were filled by a ſtrange people, who, under the authority of their counts and biſhops, preſerved the laws and language of their anceſtors. To the feeble deſcendants of Clovis and Charlemagne, the Britons of Armorica refuſed the cuſtomary tribute, ſubdued the neighbouring dioceſes of Vannes, Rennes, and Nantes, and formed a powerful, though vaſſal, ſtate, which has been united to the crown of France 137.
[Page 390] In a century of perpetual, or at leaſt implacable, war, much courage, and ſome ſkill, muſt have been exerted for the defence of Britain. Yet [Note: The fame of Arthur.] if the memory of its champions is almoſt buried in oblivion, we need not repine; ſince every age, however deſtitute of ſcience or virtue, ſufficiently abounds with acts of blood and military renown. The tomb of Vortimer, the ſon of Vortigern, was erected on the margin of the ſea-ſhore, as a landmark formidable to the Saxons, whom he had thrice vanquiſhed in the fields of Kent. Ambroſius Aurelian was deſcended from a noble family of Romans 138; his modeſty was equal to his valour, and his valour, till the laſt fatal action 139, was crowned with ſplendid ſucceſs. But every Britiſh name is effaced by the illuſtrious name of ARTHUR 140, the hereditary prince of the Silures, in South Wales, and the elective king or general of the nation. According to the moſt rational account, [Page 391] he defeated, in twelve ſucceſſive battles, the Angles of the North, and the Saxons of the Weſt; but the declining age of the hero was embittered by popular ingratitude, and domeſtic miſfortunes. The events of his life are leſs intereſting, than the ſingular revolutions of his fame. During a period of five hundred years the tradition of his exploits was preſerved, and rudely embelliſhed, by the obſcure bards of Wales and Armorica, who were odious to the Saxons, and unknown to the reſt of mankind. The pride and curioſity of the Norman conquerors, prompted them to enquire into the ancient hiſtory of Britain: they liſtened with fond credulity to the tale of Arthur, and eagerly applauded the merit of a prince, who had triumphed over the Saxons, their common enemies. His romance, tranſcribed in the Latin of Jeffrey of Monmouth, and afterwards tranſlated into the faſhionable idiom of the times, was enriched with the various, though incoherent, ornaments, which were familiar to the experience, the learning, or the fancy, of the twelfth century. The progreſs of a Phrygian colony, from the Tyber to the Thames, was eaſily engrafted on the fable of the Aeneid; and the royal anceſtors of Arthur derived their origin from Troy, and claimed their alliance with the Caeſars. His trophies were decorated with captive provinces, and Imperial titles; and his Daniſh victories avenged the recent injuries of his country. The gallantry and ſuperſtition of the Britiſh hero, his feaſts and tournaments, and the memorable inſtitution of [Page 392] his Knights of the Round Table, were faithfully copied from the reigning manners of chivalry; and the fabulous exploits of Uther's ſon, appear leſs incredible, than the adventures which were atchieved by the enterpriſing valour of the Normans. Pilgrimage, and the holy wars, introduced into Europe the ſpecious miracles of Arabian magic. Fairies, and giants, flying dragons, and enchanted palaces, were blended with the more ſimple ſictions of the Weſt; and the fate of Britain depended on the art, or the predictions, of Merlin. Every nation embraced and adorned the popular romance of Arthur, and the Knights of the Round Table: their names were celebrated in Greece and Italy; and the voluminous tales of Sir Lancelot and Sir Triſtram were devoutly ſtudied by the princes and nobles, who diſregarded the genuine heroes and hiſtorians of antiquity. At length the light of ſcience and reaſon was rekindled; the taliſman was broken; the viſionary fabric melted into air; and by a natural, though unjuſt, reverſe of the public opinion, the ſeverity of the preſent age is inclined to queſtion the exiſtence of Arthur 140.
Reſiſtance, if it cannot avert, muſt increaſe the [Note: Deſolation of Britain.] miſeries of conqueſt; and conqueſt has never appeared more dreadful and deſtructive than in the hands of the Saxons; who hated the valour of [Page 393] their enemies, diſdained the faith of treaties, and violated, without remorſe, the moſt ſacred objects of the Chriſtian worſhip. The fields of battle might be traced, almoſt in every diſtrict, by monuments of bones; the fragments of falling towers were ſtained with blood; the laſt of the Britons, without diſtinction of age or ſex, was maſſacred 141; in the ruins of Anderida 142; and the repetition of ſuch calamities was frequent and familiar under the Saxon heptarchy. The arts and religion, the laws and language, which the Romans had ſo carefully planted in Britain, were extirpated by their barbarous ſucceſſors. After the deſtruction of the principal churches, the biſhops, who had declined the crown of martyrdom, retired with the holy relics into Wales and Armorica; the remains of their flocks were left deſtitute of any ſpiritual food; the practice, and even the remembrance, of Chriſtianity were aboliſhed; and the Britiſh clergy might obtain ſome comfort from the damnation of the idolatrous ſtrangers. The kings of France maintained the privileges of their Roman ſubjects; but the ferocious Saxons trampled on the laws of Rome, and of the emperors. The proceedings [Page 394] of civil and criminal juriſdiction, the titles of honour, the forms of office, the ranks of ſociety, and even the domeſtic rights of marriage, teſtament, and inheritance, were finally ſuppreſſed; and the indiſcriminate crowd of noble and plebeian ſlaves was governed by the traditionary cuſtoms, which had been coarſely framed for the ſhepherds, and pirates of Germany. The language of ſcience, of buſineſs, and of converſation, which had been introduced by the Romans, was loſt in the general deſolation. A ſufficient number of Latin or Celtic words might be aſſumed by the Germans, to expreſs their new wants and ideas 143; but thoſe illiterate Pagans preſerved and eſtabliſhed the uſe of their national dialect 144. Almoſt every name, conſpicuous either in the church or ſtate, reveals its Teutonic origin 145; and the geography of England was univerſally inſcribed with foreign characters and appellations. The example of a revolution, ſo rapid and ſo complete, may not eaſily be found; but it will excite a probable ſuſpicion, that the arts of Rome were leſs deeply rooted in Britain than in Gaul or Spain; and that the native [Page 395] rudeneſs of the country and its inhabitants, was covered by a thin varniſh of Italian manners.
This ſtrange alteration has perſuaded hiſtorians, [Note: Servitude.] and even philoſophers, that the provincials of Britain were totally exterminated; and that the vacant land was again peopled by the perpetual influx, and rapid increaſe, of the German colonies. Three hundred thouſand Saxons are ſaid to have obeyed the ſummons of Hengiſt 146; the entire emigration of the Angles was atteſted, in the age of Bede, by the ſolitude of their native country 147; and our experience has ſhewn the free propagation of the human race, if they are caſt on a fruitful wilderneſs, where their ſteps are unconfined, and their ſubſiſtence is plentiful. The Saxon kingdoms diſplayed the face of recent diſcovery and cultivation: the towns were ſmall, the villages were diſtant; the huſbandry was languid and unſkilful; four ſheep were equivalent to an acre of the beſt land 148; an ample ſpace of wood and moraſs was reſigned to the vague dominion of nature; and the modern biſhopric of Durham, the whole territory from the Tyne to the Tees, had returned to its primitive ſtate of a ſavage and ſolitary [Page 396] foreſt 149. Such imperfect population might have been ſupplied, in ſome generations, by the Engliſh colonies; but neither reaſon nor facts can juſtify the unnatural ſuppoſition, that the Saxons of Britain remained alone in the deſert which they had ſubdued. After the ſanguinary Barbarians had ſecured their dominion, and gratified their revenge, it was their intereſt to preſerve the peaſants, as well as the cattle, of the unreſiſting country. In each ſucceſſive revolution, the patient herd becomes the property of its new maſters; and the ſalutary compact of food and labour is ſilently ratified by their mutual neceſſities. Wilfrid, the apoſtle of Suſſex 150, accepted from his royal convert the gift of the peninſula of Selſey, near Chicheſter, with the perſons and property of its inhabitants, who then amounted to eighty-ſeven families. He releaſed them at once from ſpiritual and temporal bondage; and two hundred and fifty ſlaves of both ſexes were baptized by their indulgent maſter. The kingdom of Suſſex, which ſpread from the ſea to the Thames, contained ſeven thouſand families; twelve hundred were aſcribed to the Iſle of Wight; and, if we multiply this vague computation, it may [Page 397] ſeem probable, that England was cultivated by a million of ſervants, or villains, who were attached to the eſtates of their arbitrary landlords. The indigent Barbarians were often tempted to ſell their children or themſelves into perpetual, and even foreign, bondage 151; yet the ſpecial exemptions, which were granted to national ſlaves 152, ſufficiently declare, that they were much leſs numerous than the ſtrangers and captives, who had loſt their liberty, or changed their maſters, by the accidents of war. When time and religion had mitigated the fierce ſpirit of the Anglo-Saxons, the laws encouraged the frequent practice of manumiſſion; and their ſubjects, of Welſh or Cambrian extraction, aſſume the reſpectable ſtation of inferior freemen, poſſeſſed of lands, and intitled to the rights of civil ſociety 153. Such gentle treatment might ſecure the allegiance of a fierce people, who had been recently ſubdued on the confines of Wales and Cornwall. The ſage Ina, the legiſlator of Weſſex, united the two nations [Page 398] in the bands of domeſtic alliance; and four Britiſh lords of Somerſetſhire may be honourably diſtinguiſhed in the court of a Saxon monarch 154.
The independent Britons appear to have relapſed [Note: Manners of the Britons.] into the ſtate of original barbariſm, from whence they had been imperfectly reclaimed. Separated by their enemies from the reſt of mankind, they ſoon became an object of ſcandal and abhorrence to the Catholic world 155. Chriſtianity was ſtill profeſſed in the mountains of Wales; but the rude ſchiſmatics, in the form of the clerical tonſure, and in the day of the celebration of Eaſter, obſtinately reſiſted the imperious mandates of the Roman pontiffs. The uſe of the Latin language was inſenſibly aboliſhed, and the Britons were deprived of the arts and learning which Italy communicated to her Saxon proſelytes. In Wales and Armorica, the Celtic tongue, the native idiom of the Weſt, was preſerved and propagated; and the Bards, who had been the companions of the Druids, were ſtill protected, in the ſixteenth century, by the laws of Elizabeth. Their chief, a reſpectable officer of the courts of Pengwern, or Aberfraw, or Caermathaen, accompanied the king's ſervants to war: the monarchy of the Britons, which he ſung in the front of battle, excited their courage, and juſtified their depredations; [Page 399] and the ſongſter claimed for his legitimate prize the faireſt heifer of the ſpoil. His ſubordinate miniſters, the maſters and diſciples of vocal and inſtrumental muſic, viſited, in their reſpective circuits, the royal, the noble, and the plebeian houſes; and the public poverty, almoſt exhauſted by the clergy, was oppreſſed by the importunate demands of the bards. Their rank and merit were aſcertained by ſolemn trials, and the ſtrong belief of ſupernatural inſpiration exalted the fancy of the poet, and of his audience 157. The laſt retreats of Celtic freedom, the extreme territories of Gaul and Britain, were leſs adapted to agriculture than to paſturage: the wealth of the Britons conſiſted in their flocks and herds; milk and fleſh were their ordinary food; and bread was ſometimes eſteemed, or rejected, as a foreign luxury. Liberty had peopled the mountains of Wales and the moraſſes of Armorica: but their populouſneſs has been maliciouſly aſcribed to the looſe practice of polygamy; and the houſes of theſe licentious barbarians have been ſuppoſed to contain ten wives, and perhaps fifty children 158. Their diſpoſition was raſh [Page 400] and choleric: they were bold in action and in ſpeech 159; and as they were ignorant of the arts of peace, they alternately indulged their paſſions in foreign and domeſtic war. The cavalry of Armorica, the ſpearmen of Gwent, and the archers of Merioneth, were equally formidable; but their poverty could ſeldom procure either ſhields or helmets; and the inconvenient weight would have retarded the ſpeed and agility of their deſultory operations. One of the greateſt of the Engliſh monarchs was requeſted to ſatisfy the curioſity of a Greek emperor concerning the ſtate of Britain; and Henry II. could aſſert, from his perſonal experience, that Wales was inhabited by a race of naked warriors, who encountered without fear, the defenſive armour of their enemies 160.
By the revolution of Britain, the limits of ſcience, as well as of empire, were contracted. The [Note: Obſcure or fabulous ſtate of Britain.] dark cloud, which had been cleared by the Phoenician diſcoveries, and finally diſpelled by the arms of Caeſar, again ſettled on the ſhores of the Atlantic, and a Roman province was again loſt among the fabulous iſlands of the Ocean. One hundred and fifty years after the reign of Honorius, [Page 401] the graveſt hiſtorian of the times 161 deſcribes the wonders of a remote iſle, whoſe eaſtern and weſtern parts are divided by an antique wall, the boundary of life and death, or, more properly, of truth and fiction. The eaſt is a fair country, inhabited by a civiliſed people: the air is healthy, the waters are pure and plentiful, and the earth yields her regular and fruitful increaſe. In the weſt, beyond the wall, the air is infectious and mortal; the ground is covered with ſerpents; and this dreary ſolitude is the region of departed ſpirits, who are tranſported from the oppoſite ſhores in ſubſtantial boats, and by living rowers. Some families of fiſhermen, the ſubjects of the Franks, are excuſed from tribute, in conſideration of the myſterious office which is performed by theſe Charons of the ocean. Each in his turn is ſummoned, at the hour of midnight, to hear the voices, and even the names, of the ghoſts: he is ſenſible of their weight, and he feels himſelf impelled by an unknown, but irreſiſtible, power. After this dream of fancy, we read with aſtoniſhment, that the name of this iſland is Brittia; that it lies in the ocean, againſt the mouth of the Rhine, and leſs than thirty miles from the continent; that it is poſſeſſed by three nations, the Friſians, the Angles, and the Britons; and that ſome Angles had appeared at Conſtantinople, in [Page 402] the train of the French ambaſſadors. From theſe ambaſſadors Procopius might be informed of a ſingular, though not improbable, adventure, which announces the ſpirit, rather than the delicacy, of an Engliſh heroine. She had been betrothed to Radiger king of the Varni, a tribe of Germans who touched the ocean and the Rhine; but the perfidious lover was tempted, by motives of policy, to prefer his father's widow, the ſiſter of Theodebert king of the Franks 162. The forſaken princeſs of the Angles, inſtead of bewailing, revenged her diſgrace. Her warlike ſubjects are ſaid to have been ignorant of the uſe, and even of the form, of an horſe; but ſhe boldly ſailed from Britain to the mouth of the Rhine, with a fleet of four hundred ſhips, and an army of one hundred thouſand men. After the loſs of a battle, the captive Radiger implored the mercy of his victorious bride, who generouſly pardoned his offence, diſmiſſed her rival, and compelled the king of the Varni to diſcharge with honour and fidelity the duties of an huſband 163 This gallant exploit appears to be the [Page 403] laſt naval enterpriſe of the Anglo-Saxons. The arts of navigation, by which they had acquired the empire of Britain and of the ſea, were ſoon neglected by the indolent Barbarians, who ſupinely renounced all the commercial advantages of their inſular ſituation. Seven independent kingdoms were agitated by perpetual diſcord; and the Britiſh world was ſeldom connected, either in peace or war, with the nations of the continent 164.
I have now accompliſhed the laborious narrative [Note: Fall of the Roman empire in the Weſt.] of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, from the fortunate age of Trajan and the Antonines, to its total extinction in the Weſt, about five centuries after the Chriſtian aera. At that unhappy period, the Saxons fiercely ſtruggled with the natives for the poſſeſſion of Britain: Gaul and Spain were divided between the powerful monarchies of the Franks and Viſigoths, and the dependent kingdoms of the Suevi and Burgundians: Africa was expoſed to the cruel perſecution of the Vandals, and the ſavage inſults of the Moors: Rome and Italy, as far as the banks [Page 404] of the Danube, were afflicted by an army of Barbarian mercenaries, whoſe lawleſs tyranny was ſucceeded by the reign of Theodoric the Oſtrogoth. All the ſubjects of the empire, who, by the uſe of the Latin language, more particularly deſerved the name and privileges of Romans, were oppreſſed by the diſgrace and calamities of foreign conqueſt; and the victorious nations of Germany eſtabliſhed a new ſyſtem of manners and government in the weſtern countries of Europe. The majeſty of Rome was faintly repreſented by the princes of Conſtantinople, the feeble and imaginary ſucceſſors of Auguſtus. Yet they continued to reign over the Eaſt, from the Danube to the Nile and Tigris; the Gothic and Vandal kingdoms of Italy and Africa were ſubverted by the arms of Juſtinian; and the hiſtory of the Greek emperors may ſtill afford a long ſeries of inſtructive leſſons, and intereſting revolutions.
THE Greeks, after their country had been reduced into a province, imputed the triumphs of Rome, not to the merit, but to the FORTUNE, of the republic. The inconſtant goddeſs, who ſo blindly diſtributes and reſumes her favours, had now conſented (ſuch was the language of envious flattery) to reſign her wings, to deſcend from her globe, and to fix her firm and immutable throne on the banks of the Tyber 1. A wiſer Greek, who has compoſed, with a philoſophic ſpirit, the memorable hiſtory of his own times, deprived his countrymen of this vain and deluſive comfort, by opening to their view the deep foundations of the greatneſs of Rome 2. The fidelity of the citizens to each other, and to the ſtate, was confirmed by the habits of education, and the prejudices of religion. Honour, as well as virtue, was the principle of the republic; the ambitious citizens laboured to deſerve the ſolemn [Page 406] glories of a triumph; and the ardour of the Roman youth was kindled into active emulation, as often as they beheld the domeſtic images of their anceſtors 3. The temperate ſtruggles of the patricians and plebeians had finally eſtabliſhed the firm and equal balance of the conſtitution; which united the freedom of popular aſſemblies, with the authority and wiſdom of a ſenate, and the executive powers of a regal magiſtrate. When the conſul diſplayed the ſtandard of the republic, each citizen bound himſelf, by the obligation of an oath, to draw his ſword in the cauſe of his country, till he had diſcharged the ſacred duty by a military ſervice of ten years. This wiſe inſtitution continually poured into the field the riſing generations of freemen and ſoldiers; and their numbers were reinforced by the warlike and populous ſtates of Italy, who, after a brave reſiſtance, had yielded to the valour, and embraced the alliance, of the Romans. The ſage hiſtorian, who excited the virtue of the younger Scipio, and beheld the ruin of Carthage 4, has accurately deſcribed their military ſyſtem; their levies, arms, exerciſes, ſubordination, marches, encampments; [Page 407] and the invincible legion, ſuperior in active ſtrength to the Macedonian phalanx of Philip and Alexander. From theſe inſtitutions of peace and war, Polybius has deduced the ſpirit and ſucceſs of a people, incapable of fear, and impatient of repoſe. The ambitious deſign of conqueſt, which might have been defeated by the ſeaſonable conſpiracy of mankind, was attempted and atchieved; and the perpetual violation of juſtice was maintained by the political virtues of prudence and courage. The arms of the republic, ſometimes vanquiſhed in battle, always victorious in war, advanced with rapid ſteps to the Euphrates, the Danube, the Rhine, and the Ocean; and the images of gold, or ſilver, or braſs, that might ſerve to repreſent the nations and their kings, were ſucceſſively broken by the iron monarchy of Rome 5.
The riſe of a city, which ſwelled into an empire, may deſerve, as a ſingular prodigy, the reflection of a philoſophic mind. But the decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatneſs. Proſperity ripened the principle of decay; the cauſes of deſtruction multiplied with the extent of conqueſt; and as ſoon as time or accident had removed the artificial [Page 408] ſupports, the ſtupendous fabric yielded to the preſſure of its own weight. The ſtory of its ruin is ſimple and obvious; and inſtead of enquiring why the Roman empire was deſtroyed, we ſhould rather be ſurpriſed that it had ſubſiſted ſo long. The victorious legions, who, in diſtant wars, acquired the vices of ſtrangers and mercenaries, firſt oppreſſed the freedom of the republic, and afterwards violated the majeſty of the purple. The emperors, anxious for their perſonal ſafety and the public peace, were reduced to the baſe expedient of corrupting the diſcipline which rendered them alike formidable to their ſovereign and to the enemy; the vigour of the military government was relaxed, and finally diſſolved, by the partial inſtitutions of Conſtantine; and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of Barbarians.
The decay of Rome has been frequently aſcribed to the tranſlation of the ſeat of empire; but this hiſtory has already ſhewn, that the powers of government were divided, rather than removed. The throne of Conſtantinople was erected in the Eaſt; while the Weſt was ſtill poſſeſſed by a ſeries of emperors who held their reſidence in Italy, and claimed their equal inheritance of the legions and provinces. This dangerous novelty impaired the ſtrength, and fomented the vices, of a double reign: the inſtruments of an oppreſſive and arbitrary ſyſtem were multiplied; and a vain emulation of luxury, not of merit, was introduced and ſupported between the degenerate [Page 409] ſucceſſors of Theodoſius. Extreme diſtreſs, which unites the virtue of a free people, embitters the factions of a declining monarchy. The hoſtile favourites of Arcadius and Honorius betrayed the republic to its common enemies; and the Byzantine court beheld with indifference, perhaps with pleaſure, the diſgrace of Rome, the misfortunes of Italy, and the loſs of the Weſt. Under the ſucceeding reigns, the alliance of the two empires was reſtored; but the aid of the Oriental Romans was tardy, doubtful, and ineffectual; and the national ſchiſm of the Greeks and Latins was enlarged by the perpetual difference of language and manners, of intereſt, and even of religion. Yet the ſalutary event approved in ſome meaſure the judgment of Conſtantine. During a long period of decay, his impregnable city repelled the victorious armies of Barbarians, protected the wealth of Aſia, and commanded, both in peace and war, the important ſtreights which connect the Euxine and Mediterranean ſeas. The foundation of Conſtantinople more eſſentially contributed to the preſervation of the Eaſt, than to the ruin of the Weſt.
As the happineſs of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear without ſurpriſe or ſcandal, that the introduction, or at leaſt the abuſe, of Chriſtianity, had ſome influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy ſucceſsfully preached the doctrines of patience and puſillanimity; the active virtues of ſociety were diſcouraged; and the laſt remains [Page 410] of military ſpirit were buried in the cloyſter: a large portion of public and private wealth was conſecrated to the ſpecious demands of charity and devotion; and the ſoldiers pay was laviſhed on the uſeleſs multitudes of both ſexes, who could only plead the merits of abſtinence and chaſtity. Faith, zeal, curioſity, and the more earthly paſſions of malice and ambition, kindled the flame of theological diſcord; the church, and even the ſtate, were diſtracted by religious factions, whoſe conflicts were ſometimes bloody, and always implacable; the attention of the emperors was diverted from camps to ſynods; the Roman world was oppreſſed by a new ſpecies of tyranny; and the perſecuted ſects became the ſecret enemies of their country. Yet party-ſpirit, however pernicious or abſurd, is a principle of union as well as of diſſention. The biſhops, from eighteen hundred pulpits, inculcated the duty of paſſive obedience to a lawful and orthodox ſovereign; their frequent aſſemblies, and perpetual correſpondence, maintained the communion of diſtant churches; and the benevolent temper of the goſpel was ſtrengthened, though confined, by the ſpiritual alliance of the Catholics. The ſacred indolence of the monks was devoutly embraced by a ſervile and effeminate age; but if ſuperſtition had not afforded a decent retreat, the ſame vices would have tempted the unworthy Romans to deſert, from baſer motives, the ſtandard of the republic. Religious precepts are eaſily obeyed, which indulge and ſanctify the natural inclinations [Page 411] of their votaries; but the pure and genuine influence of Chriſtianity may be traced in its beneficial, though imperfect, effects on the Barbarian proſelytes of the North. If the decline of the Roman empire was haſtened by the converſion of Conſtantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors.
This awful revolution may be uſefully applied to the inſtruction of the preſent age. It is the duty of a patriot to prefer and promote the excluſive intereſt and glory of his native country: but a philoſopher may be permitted to enlarge his views, and to conſider Europe as one great republic, whoſe various inhabitants have attained almoſt the ſame level of politeneſs and cultivation. The balance of power will continue to fluctuate, and the proſperity of our own, or the neighbouring kingdoms, may be alternately exalted or depreſſed; but theſe partial events cannot eſſentially injure our general ſtate of happineſs, the ſyſtem of arts, and laws, and manners, which ſo advantageouſly diſtinguiſh, above the reſt of mankind, the Europeans and their colonies. The ſavage nations of the globe are the common enemies of civiliſed ſociety; and we may inquire with anxious curioſity, whether Europe is ſtill threatened with a repetition of thoſe calamities, which formerly oppreſſed the arms and inſtitutions of Rome. Perhaps the ſame reflections will illuſtrate the fall of that mighty empire, and explain the probable cauſes of our actual ſecurity.
[Page 412] I. The Romans were ignorant of the extent of their danger, and the number of their enemies. Beyond the Rhine and Danube, the northern countries of Europe and Aſia were filled with innumerable tribes of hunters and ſhepherds, poor, voracious, and turbulent; bold in arms, and impatient to raviſh the fruits of induſtry. The Barbarian world was agitated by the rapid impulſe of war; and the peace of Gaul or Italy was ſhaken by the diſtant revolutions of China. The Huns, who fled before a victorious enemy, directed their march towards the Weſt; and the torrent was ſwelled by the gradual acceſſion of captives and allies. The flying tribes who yielded to the Huns, aſſumed in their turn the ſpirit of conqueſt; the endleſs column of Barbarians preſſed on the Roman empire with accumulated weight; and, if the foremoſt were deſtroyed, the vacant ſpace was inſtantly repleniſhed by new aſſailants. Such formidable emigrations can no longer iſſue from the North; and the long repoſe, which has been imputed to the decreaſe of population, is the happy conſequence of the progreſs of arts and agriculture. Inſtead of ſome rude villages, thinly ſcattered among its woods and moraſſes, Germany now produces a liſt of two thouſand three hundred walled towns: the Chriſtian kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Poland have been ſucceſſively eſtabliſhed; and the Hanſe merchants, with the Teutonic knights, have extended their colonies along the coaſt of the Baltic, as far as the Gulf of Finland. From [Page 413] the Gulf of Finland to the Eaſtern Ocean, Ruſſia now aſſumes the form of a powerful and civiliſed empire. The plough, the loom, and the forge are introduced on the banks of the Volga, the Oby, and the Lena; and the fierceſt of the Tartar hords have been taught to tremble and obey. The reign of independent Barbariſm is now contracted to a narrow ſpan; and the remnant of Calmucks or Uzbecks, whoſe forces may be almoſt numbered, cannot ſeriouſly excite the apprehenſions of the great republic of Europe 6. Yet this apparent ſecurity ſhould not tempt us to forget that new enemies, and unknown dangers, may poſſibly ariſe from ſome obſcure people, ſcarcely viſible in the map of the world. The Arabs or Saracens, who ſpread their conqueſts from India to Sapin, had languiſhed in poverty and contempt, till Mahomet breathed into thoſe ſavage bodies the ſoul of enthuſiaſm.
II. The empire of Rome was firmly eſtabliſhed by the ſingular and perfect coalition of its members. The ſubject nations, reſigning the hope, and even the wiſh, of independence, embraced the character of Roman citizens; and the provinces of the Weſt were reluctantly torn by the [Page 414] Barbarians from the boſom of their mothercountry 7. But this union was purchaſed by the loſs of national freedom and military ſpirit; and the ſervile provinces, deſtitute of life and motion, expected their ſafety from the mercenary troops and governors, who were directed by the orders of a diſtant court. The happineſs of an hundred millions depended on the perſonal merit of one, or two, men, perhaps children, whoſe minds were corrupted by education, luxury, and deſpotic power. The deepeſt wounds were inflicted on the empire during the minorities of the ſons and grandſons of Theodoſius; and after thoſe incapable princes ſeemed to attain the age of manhood, they abandoned the church to the biſhops, the ſtate to the eunuchs, and the provinces to the Barbarians. Europe is now divided into twelve powerful, though unequal, kingdoms, three reſpectable commonwealths, and a variety of ſmaller, though independent, ſtates: the chances of royal and miniſterial talents are multiplied, at leaſt, with the number of its rulers; and a Julian, or Semiramis, may reign in the North, while Arcadius and Honorius again ſlumber on the thrones of the South. The abuſes of tyranny are reſtrained by the mutual influence of fear and ſhame; republics have acquired order and ſtability; monarchies have imbibed the principles of freedom, [Page 415] or, at leaſt, of moderation; and ſome ſenſe of honour and juſtice is introduced into the moſt defective conſtitutions by the general manners of the times. In peace, the progreſs of knowledge and induſtry is accelerated by the emulation of ſo many active rivals: in war, the European forces are exerciſed by temperate and undeciſive conteſts. If a ſavage conqueror ſhould iſſue from the deſerts of Tartary, he muſt repeatedly vanquiſh the robuſt peaſants of Ruſſia, the numerous armies of Germany, the gallant nobles of France, and the intrepid freemen of Britain; who, perhaps, might confederate for their common defence. Should the victorious Barbarians carry ſlavery and deſolation as far as the Atlantic Ocean, ten thouſand veſſels would tranſport beyond their purſuit the remains of civiliſed ſociety; and Europe would revive and flouriſh in the American world, which is already filled with her colonies, and inſtitutions 8.
III. Cold, poverty, and a life of danger and fatigue, fortify the ſtrength and courage of Barbarians. In every age they have oppreſſed the polite and peaceful nations of China, India, and Perſia, who neglected, and ſtill neglect, to counterbalance theſe natural powers by the reſources of military art. The warlike ſtates of antiquity, [Page 416] Greece, Macedonia, and Rome, educated a race of ſoldiers; exerciſed their bodies, diſciplined their courage, multiplied their forces by regular evolutions, and converted the iron, which they poſſeſſed, into ſtrong and ſerviceable weapons. But this ſuperiority inſenſibly declined with their laws and manners; and the feeble policy of Conſtantine and his ſucceſſors armed and inſtructed, for the ruin of the empire, the rude valour of the Barbarian mercenaries. The military art has been changed by the invention of gunpowder; which enables man to command the two moſt powerful agents of nature, air and fire. Mathematics, chymiſtry, mechanics, architecture, have been applied to the ſervice of war; and the adverſe parties oppoſe to each other the moſt elaborate modes of attack and of defence. Hiſtorians may indignantly obſerve, that the preparations of a ſiege would found and maintain a flouriſhing colony 9; yet we cannot be diſpleaſed, that the ſubverſion of a city ſhould be a work of coſt and difficulty; or that an induſtrious people ſhould be protected by thoſe arts, which ſurvive [Page 417] and ſupply the decay of military virtue. Cannon and fortifications now form an impregnable barrier againſt the Tartar horſe; and Europe is ſecure from any future irruption of Barbarians; ſince, before they can conquer, they muſt ceaſe to be barbarous. Their gradual advances in the ſcience of war would always be accompanied, as we may learn from the example of Ruſſia, with a proportionable improvement in the arts of peace and civil policy; and they themſelves muſt deſerve a place among the poliſhed nations whom they ſubdue.
Should theſe ſpeculations be found doubtful or fallacious, there ſtill remains a more humble ſource of comfort and hope. The diſcoveries of ancient and modern navigators, and the domeſtic hiſtory, or tradition, of the moſt enlightened nations, repreſent the human ſavage, naked both in mind and body, and deſtitute of laws, of arts, of ideas, and almoſt of language 10. From this abject condition, perhaps the primitive and univerſal ſtate of man, he has gradually ariſen to command the animals, to fertiliſe the earth, to traverſe the ocean, and to meaſure the [Page 418] heavens. His progreſs in the improvement and exerciſe of his mental and corporeal faculties 11 has been irregular and various; infinitely ſlow in the beginning, and increaſing by degrees with redoubled velocity: ages of laborious aſcent have been followed by a moment of rapid downfal; and the ſeveral climates of the globe have felt the viciſſitudes of light and darkneſs. Yet the experience of four thouſand years ſhould enlarge our hopes, and diminiſh our apprehenſions: we cannot determine to what height the human ſpecies may aſpire in their advances towards perfection; but it may ſafely be preſumed, that no people, unleſs the face of nature is changed, will relapſe into their original barbariſm. The improvements of ſociety may be viewed under a threefold aſpect. 1. The poet or philoſopher illuſtrates his age and country by the efforts of a ſingle mind; but theſe ſuperior powers of reaſon or fancy are rare and ſpontaneous productions; and the genius of Homer, or Cicero, or Newton, would excite leſs admiration, if they could be created by the will of a prince, or the leſſons of a preceptor. 2. The benefits of law and policy, of trade and manufactures, of arts and ſciences, are more ſolid and permanent; and many individuals may be qualified, by education and diſcipline, to promote, in their reſpective ſtations, the intereſt of the community. [Page 419] But this general order is the effect of ſkill and labour; and the complex machinery may be decayed by time, or injured by violence. 3. Fortunately for mankind, the more uſeful, or, at leaſt, more neceſſary arts, can be performed without ſuperior talents, or national ſubordination; without the powers of one, or the union of many. Each village, each family, each individual, muſt always poſſeſs both ability and inclination, to perpetuate the uſe of fire 12 and of metals; the propagation and ſervice of domeſtic animals; the methods of hunting and fiſhing; the rudiments of navigation; the imperfect cultivation of corn, or other nutritive grain; and the ſimple practice of the mechanic trades. Private genius and public induſtry may be extirtirpated; but theſe hardy plants ſurvive the tempeſt, and ſtrike an everlaſting root into the moſt unfavourable ſoil. The ſplendid days of Auguſtus and Trajan were eclipſed by a cloud of ignorance; and the Barbarians ſubverted the laws and palaces of Rome. But the ſcythe, the invention or emblem of Saturn 13, ſtill continued annually to mow the harveſts of Italy; [Page 420] and the human feaſts of the Laeſtrigons 14 have never been renewed on the coaſt of Campania.
Since the firſt diſcovery of the arts, war, commerce, and religious zeal have diffuſed, among the ſavages of the Old and New World, theſe ineſtimable gifts: they have been ſucceſſively propagated; they can never be loſt. We may therefore acquieſce in the pleaſing concluſion, that every age of the world has increaſed, and ſtill increaſes, the real wealth, the happineſs, the knowledge, and perhaps the virtue, of the human race 15.
Claudian, in Rufin. l. ii. 28—35. See, likewiſe, in Eutrop. l. i. 243—251. and the ſtrong deſcription of Jerom, who wrote from his feelings, tom. i. p. 26. ad Heliodor. p. 200. ad Ocean. Philoſtorgius (l. ix. c. 8.) mentions this irruption.
Panegyr. Majorian. 212. The preciſe ſpot was a town, or village, called Vicus Helena; and both the name and the place are diſcovered by modern geographers at Lens. See Valeſ. Notit. Gall. p. 246. Longuerue, Deſcription de la France, tom. ii. p. 88.
The lion in Phaedrus very fooliſhly appeals from pictures to the amphitheatre: and I am glad to obſerve, that the native taſte of La Fontaine (l. iii. fable x.) has omitted this moſt lame and impotent concluſion.
The report of her guilt reached Conſtantinople, where it obtained a very different name; and Marcellinus obſerves, that the tyrant of Europe was ſlain in the night by the hand, and the knife, of a woman. Corneille, who has adapted the genuine account to his tragedy, deſcribes the irruption of blood in forty bombaſt lines, and Attila exclaims, with ridiculous fury,
From the deſign of the king of the Suevi, it is evident that the navigation from the ports of Gallicia to the Mediterranean was known and practiſed. The ſhips of Bracara, or Braga, cautiouſly ſteered along the coaſt, without daring to loſe themſelves in the Atlantic.
Imperatorem me factum, P. C. electionis veſtrae arbitrio, et fortiſſimi exercitus ordinatione agnoſcite (Novell. Majorian. tit. iii. p. 34. ad Calcem Cod. Theodoſ.). Sidonius proclaims the unanimous voice of the empire.
Italy addreſſes her complaint to the Tyber, and Rome, at the ſolicitation of the river god, tranſports herſelf to Conſtantinople, renounces her ancient claims, and implores the friendſhip of Aurora, the goddeſs of the Eaſt. This fabulous machinery, which the genius of Claudian had uſed and abuſed, is the conſtant and miſerable reſource of the muſe of Sidonius.
Sylla, in the language of a ſoldier, praiſed his peritia caſtrametandi (Plin. Hiſt. Natur. xviii. 7.). Phaedrus, who makes its ſhady walks (laeta viridia) the ſcene of an inſipid fable (ii. 5.), has thus deſcribed the ſituation: