Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Part 3 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.0 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

The extensive territory to the north of the great wall was possessed,
after the flight of the Huns, by the victorious Sienpi, who were
sometimes broken into independent tribes, and sometimes reunited under
a supreme chief; till at length, styling themselves Topa
, or masters of the earth, they acquired a more solid consistence, and
a more formidable power. The Topa soon compelled the pastoral nations
of the eastern desert to acknowledge the superiority of their arms;
they invaded China in a period of weakness and intestine discord; and
these fortunate Tartars, adopting the laws and manners of the
vanquished people, founded an Imperial dynasty, which reigned near one
hundred and sixty years over the northern provinces of the monarchy.
Some generations before they ascended the throne of China, one of the
Topa princes had enlisted in his cavalry a slave of the name of Moko,
renowned for his valor, but who was tempted, by the fear of
punishment, to desert his standard, and to range the desert at the
head of a hundred followers. This gang of robbers and outlaws swelled
into a camp, a tribe, a numerous people, distinguished by the
appellation of Geougen; and their hereditary chieftains, the posterity
of Moko the slave, assumed their rank among the Scythian monarchs. The
youth of Toulun, the greatest of his descendants, was exercised by
those misfortunes which are the school of heroes. He bravely struggled
with adversity, broke the imperious yoke of the Topa, and became the
legislator of his nation, and the conqueror of Tartary. His troops
were distributed into regular bands of a hundred and of a thousand
men; cowards were stoned to death; the most splendid honors were
proposed as the reward of valor; and Toulun, who had knowledge enough
to despise the learning of China, adopted only such arts and
institutions as were favorable to the military spirit of his
government. His tents, which he removed in the winter season to a more
southern latitude, were pitched, during the summer, on the fruitful
banks of the Selinga. His conquests stretched from Corea far beyond
the River Irtish. He vanquished, in the country to the north of the
Caspian Sea, the nation of the Huns; and the new title of Khan, or
Cagan, expressed the fame and power which he derived from this
memorable victory.

The chain of events is interrupted, or rather is concealed, as it
passes from the Volga to the Vistula, through the dark interval which
separates the extreme limits of the Chinese, and of the Roman,
geography. Yet the temper of the Barbarians, and the experience of
successive emigrations, sufficiently declare, that the Huns, who were
oppressed by the arms of the Geougen, soon withdrew from the presence
of an insulting victor. The countries towards the Euxine were already
occupied by their kindred tribes; and their hasty flight, which they
soon converted into a bold attack, would more naturally be directed
towards the rich and level plains, through which the Vistula gently
flows into the Baltic Sea. The North must again have been alarmed, and
agitated, by the invasion of the Huns; * and the nations who retreated
before them must have pressed with incumbent weight on the confines of
Germany. The inhabitants of those regions, which the ancients have
assigned to the Suevi, the Vandals, and the Burgundians, might embrace
the resolution of abandoning to the fugitives of Sarmatia their woods
and morasses; or at least of discharging their superfluous numbers on
the provinces of the Roman empire. About four years after the
victorious Toulun had assumed the title of Khan of the Geougen,
another Barbarian, the haughty Rhodogast, or Radagaisus, marched from
the northern extremities of Germany almost to the gates of Rome, and
left the remains of his army to achieve the destruction of the West.
The Vandals, the Suevi, and the Burgundians, formed the strength of
this mighty host; but the Alani, who had found a hospitable reception
in their new seats, added their active cavalry to the heavy infantry
of the Germans; and the Gothic adventurers crowded so eagerly to the
standard of Radagaisus, that by some historians, he has been styled
the King of the Goths. Twelve thousand warriors, distinguished above
the vulgar by their noble birth, or their valiant deeds, glittered in
the van; and the whole multitude, which was not less than two hundred
thousand fighting men, might be increased, by the accession of women,
of children, and of slaves, to the amount of four hundred thousand
persons. This formidable emigration issued from the same coast of the
Baltic, which had poured forth the myriads of the Cimbri and Teutones,
to assault Rome and Italy in the vigor of the republic. After the
departure of those Barbarians, their native country, which was marked
by the vestiges of their greatness, long ramparts, and gigantic moles,
remained, during some ages, a vast and dreary solitude; till the human
species was renewed by the powers of generation, and the vacancy was
filled by the influx of new inhabitants. The nations who now usurp an
extent of land which they are unable to cultivate, would soon be
assisted by the industrious poverty of their neighbors, if the
government of Europe did not protect the claims of dominion and
property.

Chapter XXX: Revolt Of The Goths. -- Part IV.

The correspondence of nations was, in that age, so imperfect and
precarious, that the revolutions of the North might escape the
knowledge of the court of Ravenna; till the dark cloud, which was
collected along the coast of the Baltic, burst in thunder upon the
banks of the Upper Danube. The emperor of the West, if his ministers
disturbed his amusements by the news of the impending danger, was
satisfied with being the occasion, and the spectator, of the war. The
safety of Rome was intrusted to the counsels, and the sword, of
Stilicho; but such was the feeble and exhausted state of the empire,
that it was impossible to restore the fortifications of the Danube, or
to prevent, by a vigorous effort, the invasion of the Germans. The
hopes of the vigilant minister of Honorius were confined to the
defence of Italy. He once more abandoned the provinces, recalled the
troops, pressed the new levies, which were rigorously exacted, and
pusillanimously eluded; employed the most efficacious means to arrest,
or allure, the deserters; and offered the gift of freedom, and of two
pieces of gold, to all the slaves who would enlist. By these efforts
he painfully collected, from the subjects of a great empire, an army
of thirty or forty thousand men, which, in the days of Scipio or
Camillus, would have been instantly furnished by the free citizens of
the territory of Rome. The thirty legions of Stilicho were reënforced
by a large body of Barbarian auxiliaries; the faithful Alani were
personally attached to his service; and the troops of Huns and of
Goths, who marched under the banners of their native princes, Huldin
and Sarus, were animated by interest and resentment to oppose the
ambition of Radagaisus. The king of the confederate Germans passed,
without resistance, the Alps, the Po, and the Apennine; leaving on one
hand the inaccessible palace of Honorius, securely buried among the
marshes of Ravenna; and, on the other, the camp of Stilicho, who had
fixed his head-quarters at Ticinum, or Pavia, but who seems to have
avoided a decisive battle, till he had assembled his distant forces.
Many cities of Italy were pillaged, or destroyed; and the siege of
Florence, by Radagaisus, is one of the earliest events in the history
of that celebrated republic; whose firmness checked and delayed the
unskillful fury of the Barbarians. The senate and people trembled at
their approached within a hundred and eighty miles of Rome; and
anxiously compared the danger which they had escaped, with the new
perils to which they were exposed. Alaric was a Christian and a
soldier, the leader of a disciplined army; who understood the laws of
war, who respected the sanctity of treaties, and who had familiarly
conversed with the subjects of the empire in the same camps, and the
same churches. The savage Radagaisus was a stranger to the manners,
the religion, and even the language, of the civilized nations of the
South. The fierceness of his temper was exasperated by cruel
superstition; and it was universally believed, that he had bound
himself, by a solemn vow, to reduce the city into a heap of stones and
ashes, and to sacrifice the most illustrious of the Roman senators on
the altars of those gods who were appeased by human blood. The public
danger, which should have reconciled all domestic animosities,
displayed the incurable madness of religious faction. The oppressed
votaries of Jupiter and Mercury respected, in the implacable enemy of
Rome, the character of a devout Pagan; loudly declared, that they were
more apprehensive of the sacrifices, than of the arms, of Radagaisus;
and secretly rejoiced in the calamities of their country, which
condemned the faith of their Christian adversaries. *

Florence was reduced to the last extremity; and the fainting courage
of the citizens was supported only by the authority of St. Ambrose;
who had communicated, in a dream, the promise of a speedy deliverance.
On a sudden, they beheld, from their walls, the banners of Stilicho,
who advanced, with his united force, to the relief of the faithful
city; and who soon marked that fatal spot for the grave of the
Barbarian host. The apparent contradictions of those writers who
variously relate the defeat of Radagaisus, may be reconciled without
offering much violence to their respective testimonies. Orosius and
Augustin, who were intimately connected by friendship and religion,
ascribed this miraculous victory to the providence of God, rather than
to the valor of man. They strictly exclude every idea of chance, or
even of bloodshed; and positively affirm, that the Romans, whose camp
was the scene of plenty and idleness, enjoyed the distress of the
Barbarians, slowly expiring on the sharp and barren ridge of the hills
of Fæsulæ, which rise above the city of Florence. Their extravagant
assertion that not a single soldier of the Christian army was killed,
or even wounded, may be dismissed with silent contempt; but the rest
of the narrative of Augustin and Orosius is consistent with the state
of the war, and the character of Stilicho. Conscious that he commanded
the last army of the republic, his prudence would not expose it, in
the open field, to the headstrong fury of the Germans. The method of
surrounding the enemy with strong lines of circumvallation, which he
had twice employed against the Gothic king, was repeated on a larger
scale, and with more considerable effect. The examples of Cæsar must
have been familiar to the most illiterate of the Roman warriors; and
the fortifications of Dyrrachium, which connected twenty-four castles,
by a perpetual ditch and rampart of fifteen miles, afforded the model
of an intrenchment which might confine, and starve, the most numerous
host of Barbarians. The Roman troops had less degenerated from the
industry, than from the valor, of their ancestors; and if their
servile and laborious work offended the pride of the soldiers, Tuscany
could supply many thousand peasants, who would labor, though, perhaps,
they would not fight, for the salvation of their native country. The
imprisoned multitude of horses and men was gradually destroyed, by
famine rather than by the sword; but the Romans were exposed, during
the progress of such an extensive work, to the frequent attacks of an
impatient enemy. The despair of the hungry Barbarians would
precipitate them against the fortifications of Stilicho; the general
might sometimes indulge the ardor of his brave auxiliaries, who
eagerly pressed to assault the camp of the Germans; and these various
incidents might produce the sharp and bloody conflicts which dignify
the narrative of Zosimus, and the Chronicles of Prosper and
Marcellinus. A seasonable supply of men and provisions had been
introduced into the walls of Florence, and the famished host of
Radagaisus was in its turn besieged. The proud monarch of so many
warlike nations, after the loss of his bravest warriors, was reduced
to confide either in the faith of a capitulation, or in the clemency
of Stilicho. But the death of the royal captive, who was ignominiously
beheaded, disgraced the triumph of Rome and of Christianity; and the
short delay of his execution was sufficient to brand the conqueror
with the guilt of cool and deliberate cruelty. The famished Germans,
who escaped the fury of the auxiliaries, were sold as slaves, at the
contemptible price of as many single pieces of gold; but the
difference of food and climate swept away great numbers of those
unhappy strangers; and it was observed, that the inhuman purchasers,
instead of reaping the fruits of their labor were soon obliged to
provide the expense of their interment Stilicho informed the emperor
and the senate of his success; and deserved, a second time, the
glorious title of Deliverer of Italy.

The fame of the victory, and more especially of the miracle, has
encouraged a vain persuasion, that the whole army, or rather nation,
of Germans, who migrated from the shores of the Baltic, miserably
perished under the walls of Florence. Such indeed was the fate of
Radagaisus himself, of his brave and faithful companions, and of more
than one third of the various multitude of Sueves and Vandals, of
Alani and Burgundians, who adhered to the standard of their general.
The union of such an army might excite our surprise, but the causes of
separation are obvious and forcible; the pride of birth, the insolence
of valor, the jealousy of command, the impatience of subordination,
and the obstinate conflict of opinions, of interests, and of passions,
among so many kings and warriors, who were untaught to yield, or to
obey. After the defeat of Radagaisus, two parts of the German host,
which must have exceeded the number of one hundred thousand men, still
remained in arms, between the Apennine and the Alps, or between the
Alps and the Danube. It is uncertain whether they attempted to revenge
the death of their general; but their irregular fury was soon diverted
by the prudence and firmness of Stilicho, who opposed their march, and
facilitated their retreat; who considered the safety of Rome and Italy
as the great object of his care, and who sacrificed, with too much
indifference, the wealth and tranquillity of the distant provinces.
The Barbarians acquired, from the junction of some Pannonian
deserters, the knowledge of the country, and of the roads; and the
invasion of Gaul, which Alaric had designed, was executed by the
remains of the great army of Radagaisus.

Yet if they expected to derive any assistance from the tribes of
Germany, who inhabited the banks of the Rhine, their hopes were
disappointed. The Alemanni preserved a state of inactive neutrality;
and the Franks distinguished their zeal and courage in the defence of
the of the empire. In the rapid progress down the Rhine, which was the
first act of the administration of Stilicho, he had applied himself,
with peculiar attention, to secure the alliance of the warlike Franks,
and to remove the irreconcilable enemies of peace and of the republic.
Marcomir, one of their kings, was publicly convicted, before the
tribunal of the Roman magistrate, of violating the faith of treaties.
He was sentenced to a mild, but distant exile, in the province of
Tuscany; and this degradation of the regal dignity was so far from
exciting the resentment of his subjects, that they punished with death
the turbulent Sunno, who attempted to revenge his brother; and
maintained a dutiful allegiance to the princes, who were established
on the throne by the choice of Stilicho. When the limits of Gaul and
Germany were shaken by the northern emigration, the Franks bravely
encountered the single force of the Vandals; who, regardless of the
lessons of adversity, had again separated their troops from the
standard of their Barbarian allies. They paid the penalty of their
rashness; and twenty thousand Vandals, with their king Godigisclus,
were slain in the field of battle. The whole people must have been
extirpated, if the squadrons of the Alani, advancing to their relief,
had not trampled down the infantry of the Franks; who, after an
honorable resistance, were compelled to relinquish the unequal
contest. The victorious confederates pursued their march, and on the
last day of the year, in a season when the waters of the Rhine were
most probably frozen, they entered, without opposition, the
defenceless provinces of Gaul. This memorable passage of the Suevi,
the Vandals, the Alani, and the Burgundians, who never afterwards
retreated, may be considered as the fall of the Roman empire in the
countries beyond the Alps; and the barriers, which had so long
separated the savage and the civilized nations of the earth, were from
that fatal moment levelled with the ground.

While the peace of Germany was secured by the attachment of the
Franks, and the neutrality of the Alemanni, the subjects of Rome,
unconscious of their approaching calamities, enjoyed the state of
quiet and prosperity, which had seldom blessed the frontiers of Gaul.
Their flocks and herds were permitted to graze in the pastures of the
Barbarians; their huntsmen penetrated, without fear or danger, into
the darkest recesses of the Hercynian wood. The banks of the Rhine
were crowned, like those of the Tyber, with elegant houses, and
well-cultivated farms; and if a poet descended the river, he might
express his doubt, on which side was situated the territory of the
Romans. This scene of peace and plenty was suddenly changed into a
desert; and the prospect of the smoking ruins could alone distinguish
the solitude of nature from the desolation of man. The flourishing
city of Mentz was surprised and destroyed; and many thousand
Christians were inhumanly massacred in the church. Worms perished
after a long and obstinate siege; Strasburgh, Spires, Rheims, Tournay,
Arras, Amiens, experienced the cruel oppression of the German yoke;
and the consuming flames of war spread from the banks of the Rhine
over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul. That rich
and extensive country, as far as the ocean, the Alps, and the
Pyrenees, was delivered to the Barbarians, who drove before them, in a
promiscuous crowd, the bishop, the senator, and the virgin, laden with
the spoils of their houses and altars. The ecclesiastics, to whom we
are indebted for this vague description of the public calamities,
embraced the opportunity of exhorting the Christians to repent of the
sins which had provoked the Divine Justice, and to renounce the
perishable goods of a wretched and deceitful world. But as the
Pelagian controversy, which attempts to sound the abyss of grace and
predestination, soon became the serious employment of the Latin
clergy, the Providence which had decreed, or foreseen, or permitted,
such a train of moral and natural evils, was rashly weighed in the
imperfect and fallacious balance of reason. The crimes, and the
misfortunes, of the suffering people, were presumptuously compared
with those of their ancestors; and they arraigned the Divine Justice,
which did not exempt from the common destruction the feeble, the
guiltless, the infant portion of the human species. These idle
disputants overlooked the invariable laws of nature, which have
connected peace with innocence, plenty with industry, and safety with
valor. The timid and selfish policy of the court of Ravenna might
recall the Palatine legions for the protection of Italy; the remains
of the stationary troops might be unequal to the arduous task; and the
Barbarian auxiliaries might prefer the unbounded license of spoil to
the benefits of a moderate and regular stipend. But the provinces of
Gaul were filled with a numerous race of hardy and robust youth, who,
in the defence of their houses, their families, and their altars, if
they had dared to die, would have deserved to vanquish. The knowledge
of their native country would have enabled them to oppose continual
and insuperable obstacles to the progress of an invader; and the
deficiency of the Barbarians, in arms, as well as in discipline,
removed the only pretence which excuses the submission of a populous
country to the inferior numbers of a veteran army. When France was
invaded by Charles V., he inquired of a prisoner, how many days
Paris might be distant from the frontier; "Perhaps twelve, but they
will be days of battle:" such was the gallant answer which checked the
arrogance of that ambitious prince. The subjects of Honorius, and
those of Francis I., were animated by a very different spirit; and in
less than two years, the divided troops of the savages of the Baltic,
whose numbers, were they fairly stated, would appear contemptible,
advanced, without a combat, to the foot of the Pyrenean Mountains.

In the early part of the reign of Honorius, the vigilance of Stilicho
had successfully guarded the remote island of Britain from her
incessant enemies of the ocean, the mountains, and the Irish coast.
But those restless Barbarians could not neglect the fair opportunity
of the Gothic war, when the walls and stations of the province were
stripped of the Roman troops. If any of the legionaries were permitted
to return from the Italian expedition, their faithful report of the
court and character of Honorius must have tended to dissolve the bonds
of allegiance, and to exasperate the seditious temper of the British
army. The spirit of revolt, which had formerly disturbed the age of
Gallienus, was revived by the capricious violence of the soldiers; and
the unfortunate, perhaps the ambitious, candidates, who were the
objects of their choice, were the instruments, and at length the
victims, of their passion. Marcus was the first whom they placed on
the throne, as the lawful emperor of Britain and of the West. They
violated, by the hasty murder of Marcus, the oath of fidelity which
they had imposed on themselves; and their
disapprobation of his manners may seem to inscribe an honorable
epitaph on his tomb. Gratian was the next whom they adorned with the
diadem and the purple; and, at the end of four months, Gratian
experienced the fate of his predecessor. The memory of the great
Constantine, whom the British legions had given to the church and to
the empire, suggested the singular motive of their third choice. They
discovered in the ranks a private soldier of the name of Constantine,
and their impetuous levity had already seated him on the throne,
before they perceived his incapacity to sustain the weight of that
glorious appellation. Yet the authority of Constantine was less
precarious, and his government was more successful, than the transient
reigns of Marcus and of Gratian. The danger of leaving his inactive
troops in those camps, which had been twice polluted with blood and
sedition, urged him to attempt the reduction of the Western provinces.
He landed at Boulogne with an inconsiderable force; and after he had
reposed himself some days, he summoned the cities of Gaul, which had
escaped the yoke of the Barbarians, to acknowledge their lawful
sovereign. They obeyed the summons without reluctance. The neglect of
the court of Ravenna had absolved a deserted people from the duty of
allegiance; their actual distress encouraged them to accept any
circumstances of change, without apprehension, and, perhaps, with some
degree of hope; and they might flatter themselves, that the troops,
the authority, and even the name of a Roman emperor, who fixed his
residence in Gaul, would protect the unhappy country from the rage of
the Barbarians. The first successes of Constantine against the
detached parties of the Germans, were magnified by the voice of
adulation into splendid and decisive victories; which the reunion and
insolence of the enemy soon reduced to their just value. His
negotiations procured a short and precarious truce; and if some tribes
of the Barbarians were engaged, by the liberality of his gifts and
promises, to undertake the defence of the Rhine, these expensive and
uncertain treaties, instead of restoring the pristine vigor of the
Gallic frontier, served only to disgrace the majesty of the prince,
and to exhaust what yet remained of the treasures of the republic.
Elated, however, with this imaginary triumph, the vain deliverer of
Gaul advanced into the provinces of the South, to encounter a more
pressing and personal danger. Sarus the Goth was ordered to lay the
head of the rebel at the feet of the emperor Honorius; and the forces
of Britain and Italy were unworthily consumed in this domestic
quarrel. After the loss of his two bravest generals, Justinian and
Nevigastes, the former of whom was slain in the field of battle, the
latter in a peaceful but treacherous interview, Constantine fortified
himself within the walls of Vienna. The place was ineffectually
attacked seven days; and the Imperial army supported, in a precipitate
retreat, the ignominy of purchasing a secure passage from the
freebooters and outlaws of the Alps. Those mountains now separated the
dominions of two rival monarchs; and the fortifications of the double
frontier were guarded by the troops of the empire, whose arms would
have been more usefully employed to maintain the Roman limits against
the Barbarians of Germany and Scythia.

Chapter XXX: Revolt Of The Goths. -- Part V.

On the side of the Pyrenees, the ambition of Constantine might be
justified by the proximity of danger; but his throne was soon
established by the conquest, or rather submission, of Spain; which
yielded to the influence of regular and habitual subordination, and
received the laws and magistrates of the Gallic præfecture. The only
opposition which was made to the authority of Constantine proceeded
not so much from the powers of government, or the spirit of the
people, as from the private zeal and interest of the family of
Theodosius. Four brothers had obtained, by the favor of their kinsman,
the deceased emperor, an honorable rank and ample possessions in their
native country; and the grateful youths resolved to risk those
advantages in the service of his son. After an unsuccessful effort to
maintain their ground at the head of the stationary troops of
Lusitania, they retired to their estates; where they armed and levied,
at their own expense, a considerable body of slaves and dependants,
and boldly marched to occupy the strong posts of the Pyrenean
Mountains. This domestic insurrection alarmed and perplexed the
sovereign of Gaul and Britain; and he was compelled to negotiate with
some troops of Barbarian auxiliaries, for the service of the Spanish
war. They were distinguished by the title of Honorians
; a name which might have reminded them of their fidelity to their
lawful sovereign; and if it should candidly be allowed that the Scots
were influenced by any partial affection for a British prince, the
Moors and the Marcomanni could be tempted only by the profuse
liberality of the usurper, who distributed among the Barbarians the
military, and even the civil, honors of Spain. The nine bands of
Honorians, which may be easily traced on the establishment of the
Western empire, could not exceed the number of five thousand men: yet
this inconsiderable force was sufficient to terminate a war, which had
threatened the power and safety of Constantine. The rustic army of the
Theodosian family was surrounded and destroyed in the Pyrenees: two of
the brothers had the good fortune to escape by sea to Italy, or the
East; the other two, after an interval of suspense, were executed at
Arles; and if Honorius could remain insensible of the public disgrace,
he might perhaps be affected by the personal misfortunes of his
generous kinsmen. Such were the feeble arms which decided the
possession of the Western provinces of Europe, from the wall of
Antoninus to the columns of Hercules. The events of peace and war have
undoubtedly been diminished by the narrow and imperfect view of the
historians of the times, who were equally ignorant of the causes, and
of the effects, of the most important revolutions. But the total decay
of the national strength had annihilated even the last resource of a
despotic government; and the revenue of exhausted provinces could no
longer purchase the military service of a discontented and
pusillanimous people.

The poet, whose flattery has ascribed to the Roman eagle the victories
of Pollentia and Verona, pursues the hasty retreat of Alaric, from the
confines of Italy, with a horrid train of imaginary spectres, such as
might hover over an army of Barbarians, which was almost exterminated
by war, famine, and disease. In the course of this unfortunate
expedition, the king of the Goths must indeed have sustained a
considerable loss; and his harassed forces required an interval of
repose, to recruit their numbers and revive their confidence.
Adversity had exercised and displayed the genius of Alaric; and the
fame of his valor invited to the Gothic standard the bravest of the
Barbarian warriors; who, from the Euxine to the Rhine, were agitated
by the desire of rapine and conquest. He had deserved the esteem, and
he soon accepted the friendship, of Stilicho himself. Renouncing the
service of the emperor of the East, Alaric concluded, with the court
of Ravenna, a treaty of peace and alliance, by which he was declared
master-general of the Roman armies throughout the præfecture of
Illyricum; as it was claimed, according to the true and ancient
limits, by the minister of Honorius. The execution of the ambitious
design, which was either stipulated, or implied, in the articles of
the treaty, appears to have been suspended by the formidable irruption
of Radagaisus; and the neutrality of the Gothic king may perhaps be
compared to the indifference of Cæsar, who, in the conspiracy of
Catiline, refused either to assist, or to oppose, the enemy of the
republic. After the defeat of the Vandals, Stilicho resumed his
pretensions to the provinces of the East; appointed civil magistrates
for the administration of justice, and of the finances; and declared
his impatience to lead to the gates of Constantinople the united
armies of the Romans and of the Goths. The prudence, however, of
Stilicho, his aversion to civil war, and his perfect knowledge of the
weakness of the state, may countenance the suspicion, that domestic
peace, rather than foreign conquest, was the object of his policy; and
that his principal care was to employ the forces of Alaric at a
distance from Italy. This design could not long escape the penetration
of the Gothic king, who continued to hold a doubtful, and perhaps a
treacherous, correspondence with the rival courts; who protracted,
like a dissatisfied mercenary, his languid operations in Thessaly and
Epirus, and who soon returned to claim the extravagant reward of his
ineffectual services. From his camp near Æmona, on the confines of
Italy, he transmitted to the emperor of the West a long account of
promises, of expenses, and of demands; called for immediate
satisfaction, and clearly intimated the consequences of a refusal. Yet
if his conduct was hostile, his language was decent and dutiful. He
humbly professed himself the friend of Stilicho, and the soldier of
Honorius; offered his person and his troops to march, without delay,
against the usurper of Gaul; and solicited, as a permanent retreat for
the Gothic nation, the possession of some vacant province of the
Western empire.

The political and secret transactions of two statesmen, who labored to
deceive each other and the world, must forever have been concealed in
the impenetrable darkness of the cabinet, if the debates of a popular
assembly had not thrown some rays of light on the correspondence of
Alaric and Stilicho. The necessity of finding some artificial support
for a government, which, from a principle, not of moderation, but of
weakness, was reduced to negotiate with its own subjects, had
insensibly revived the authority of the Roman senate; and the minister
of Honorius respectfully consulted the legislative council of the
republic. Stilicho assembled the senate in the palace of the Cæsars;
represented, in a studied oration, the actual state of affairs;
proposed the demands of the Gothic king, and submitted to their
consideration the choice of peace or war. The senators, as if they had
been suddenly awakened from a dream of four hundred years, appeared,
on this important occasion, to be inspired by the courage, rather than
by the wisdom, of their predecessors. They loudly declared, in regular
speeches, or in tumultuary acclamations, that it was unworthy of the
majesty of Rome to purchase a precarious and disgraceful truce from a
Barbarian king; and that, in the judgment of a magnanimous people, the
chance of ruin was always preferable to the certainty of dishonor. The
minister, whose pacific intentions were seconded only by the voice of
a few servile and venal followers, attempted to allay the general
ferment, by an apology for his own conduct, and even for the demands
of the Gothic prince. "The payment of a subsidy, which had excited the
indignation of the Romans, ought not (such was the language of
Stilicho) to be considered in the odious light, either of a tribute,
or of a ransom, extorted by the menaces of a Barbarian enemy. Alaric
had faithfully asserted the just pretensions of the republic to the
provinces which were usurped by the Greeks of Constantinople: he
modestly required the fair and stipulated recompense of his services;
and if he had desisted from the prosecution of his enterprise, he had
obeyed, in his retreat, the peremptory, though private, letters of the
emperor himself. These contradictory orders (he would not dissemble
the errors of his own family) had been procured by the intercession of
Serena. The tender piety of his wife had been too deeply affected by
the discord of the royal brothers, the sons of her adopted father; and
the sentiments of nature had too easily prevailed over the stern
dictates of the public welfare." These ostensible reasons, which
faintly disguise the obscure intrigues of the palace of Ravenna, were
supported by the authority of Stilicho; and obtained, after a warm
debate, the reluctant approbation of the senate. The tumult of virtue
and freedom subsided; and the sum of four thousand pounds of gold was
granted, under the name of a subsidy, to secure the peace of Italy,
and to conciliate the friendship of the king of the Goths. Lampadius
alone, one of the most illustrious members of the assembly, still
persisted in his dissent; exclaimed, with a loud voice, "This is not a
treaty of peace, but of servitude;" and escaped the danger of such
bold opposition by immediately retiring to the sanctuary of a
Christian church.

[See Palace Of The Cæsars]

But the reign of Stilicho drew towards its end; and the proud minister
might perceive the symptoms of his approaching disgrace. The generous
boldness of Lampadius had been applauded; and the senate, so patiently
resigned to a long servitude, rejected with disdain the offer of
invidious and imaginary freedom. The troops, who still assumed the
name and prerogatives of the Roman legions, were exasperated by the
partial affection of Stilicho for the Barbarians: and the people
imputed to the mischievous policy of the minister the public
misfortunes, which were the natural consequence of their own
degeneracy. Yet Stilicho might have continued to brave the clamors of
the people, and even of the soldiers, if he could have maintained his
dominion over the feeble mind of his pupil. But the respectful
attachment of Honorius was converted into fear, suspicion, and hatred.
The crafty Olympius, who concealed his vices under the mask of
Christian piety, had secretly undermined the benefactor, by whose
favor he was promoted to the honorable offices of the Imperial palace.
Olympius revealed to the unsuspecting emperor, who had attained the
twenty-fifth year of his age, that he was without weight, or
authority, in his own government; and artfully alarmed his timid and
indolent disposition by a lively picture of the designs of Stilicho,
who already meditated the death of his sovereign, with the ambitious
hope of placing the diadem on the head of his son Eucherius. The
emperor was instigated, by his new favorite, to assume the tone of
independent dignity; and the minister was astonished to find, that
secret resolutions were formed in the court and council, which were
repugnant to his interest, or to his intentions. Instead of residing
in the palace of Rome, Honorius declared that it was his pleasure to
return to the secure fortress of Ravenna. On the first intelligence of
the death of his brother Arcadius, he prepared to visit
Constantinople, and to regulate, with the authority of a guardian, the
provinces of the infant Theodosius. The representation of the
difficulty and expense of such a distant expedition, checked this
strange and sudden sally of active diligence; but the dangerous
project of showing the emperor to the camp of Pavia, which was
composed of the Roman troops, the enemies of Stilicho, and his
Barbarian auxiliaries, remained fixed and unalterable. The minister
was pressed, by the advice of his confidant, Justinian, a Roman
advocate, of a lively and penetrating genius, to oppose a journey so
prejudicial to his reputation and safety. His strenuous but
ineffectual efforts confirmed the triumph of Olympius; and the prudent
lawyer withdrew himself from the impending ruin of his patron.

In the passage of the emperor through Bologna, a mutiny of the guards
was excited and appeased by the secret policy of Stilicho; who
announced his instructions to decimate the guilty, and ascribed to his
own intercession the merit of their pardon. After this tumult,
Honorius embraced, for the last time, the minister whom he now
considered as a tyrant, and proceeded on his way to the camp of Pavia;
where he was received by the loyal acclamations of the troops who were
assembled for the service of the Gallic war. On the morning of the
fourth day, he pronounced, as he had been taught, a military oration
in the presence of the soldiers, whom the charitable visits, and
artful discourses, of Olympius had prepared to execute a dark and
bloody conspiracy. At the first signal, they massacred the friends of
Stilicho, the most illustrious officers of the empire; two Prætorian
præfects, of Gaul and of Italy; two masters-general of the cavalry and
infantry; the master of the offices; the quæstor, the treasurer, and
the count of the domestics. Many lives were lost; many houses were
plundered; the furious sedition continued to rage till the close of
the evening; and the trembling emperor, who was seen in the streets of
Pavia without his robes or diadem, yielded to the persuasions of his
favorite; condemned the memory of the slain; and solemnly approved the
innocence and fidelity of their assassins. The intelligence of the
massacre of Pavia filled the mind of Stilicho with just and gloomy
apprehensions; and he instantly summoned, in the camp of Bologna, a
council of the confederate leaders, who were attached to his service,
and would be involved in his ruin. The impetuous voice of the assembly
called aloud for arms, and for revenge; to march, without a moment's
delay, under the banners of a hero, whom they had so often followed to
victory; to surprise, to oppress, to extirpate the guilty Olympius,
and his degenerate Romans; and perhaps to fix the diadem on the head
of their injured general. Instead of executing a resolution, which
might have been justified by success, Stilicho hesitated till he was
irrecoverably lost. He was still ignorant of the fate of the emperor;
he distrusted the fidelity of his own party; and he viewed with horror
the fatal consequences of arming a crowd of licentious Barbarians
against the soldiers and people of Italy. The confederates, impatient
of his timorous and doubtful delay, hastily retired, with fear and
indignation. At the hour of midnight, Sarus, a Gothic warrior,
renowned among the Barbarians themselves for his strength and valor,
suddenly invaded the camp of his benefactor, plundered the baggage,
cut in pieces the faithful Huns, who guarded his person, and
penetrated to the tent, where the minister, pensive and sleepless,
meditated on the dangers of his situation. Stilicho escaped with
difficulty from the sword of the Goths and, after issuing a last and
generous admonition to the cities of Italy, to shut their gates
against the Barbarians, his confidence, or his despair, urged him to
throw himself into Ravenna, which was already in the absolute
possession of his enemies. Olympius, who had assumed the dominion of
Honorius, was speedily informed, that his rival had embraced, as a
suppliant the altar of the Christian church. The base and cruel
disposition of the hypocrite was incapable of pity or remorse; but he
piously affected to elude, rather than to violate, the privilege of
the sanctuary. Count Heraclian, with a troop of soldiers, appeared, at
the dawn of day, before the gates of the church of Ravenna. The bishop
was satisfied by a solemn oath, that the Imperial mandate only
directed them to secure the person of Stilicho: but as soon as the
unfortunate minister had been tempted beyond the holy threshold, he
produced the warrant for his instant execution. Stilicho supported,
with calm resignation, the injurious names of traitor and parricide;
repressed the unseasonable zeal of his followers, who were ready to
attempt an ineffectual rescue; and, with a firmness not unworthy of
the last of the Roman generals, submitted his neck to the sword of
Heraclian.

The servile crowd of the palace, who had so long adored the fortune of
Stilicho, affected to insult his fall; and the most distant connection
with the master-general of the West, which had so lately been a title
to wealth and honors, was studiously denied, and rigorously punished.
His family, united by a triple alliance with the family of Theodosius,
might envy the condition of the meanest peasant. The flight of his son
Eucherius was intercepted; and the death of that innocent youth soon
followed the divorce of Thermantia, who filled the place of her sister
Maria; and who, like Maria, had remained a virgin in the Imperial bed.
The friends of Stilicho, who had escaped the massacre of Pavia, were
persecuted by the implacable revenge of Olympius; and the most
exquisite cruelty was employed to extort the confession of a
treasonable and sacrilegious conspiracy. They died in silence: their
firmness justified the choice, and perhaps absolved the innocence of
their patron: and the despotic power, which could take his life
without a trial, and stigmatize his memory without a proof, has no
jurisdiction over the impartial suffrage of posterity. The services of
Stilicho are great and manifest; his crimes, as they are vaguely
stated in the language of flattery and hatred, are obscure at least,
and improbable. About four months after his death, an edict was
published, in the name of Honorius, to restore the free communication
of the two empires, which had been so long interrupted by the public
enemy
. The minister, whose fame and fortune depended on the prosperity of
the state, was accused of betraying Italy to the Barbarians; whom he
repeatedly vanquished at Pollentia, at Verona, and before the walls of
Florence. His pretended design of placing the diadem on the head of
his son Eucherius, could not have been conducted without preparations
or accomplices; and the ambitious father would not surely have left
the future emperor, till the twentieth year of his age, in the humble
station of tribune of the notaries. Even the religion of Stilicho was
arraigned by the malice of his rival. The seasonable, and almost
miraculous, deliverance was devoutly celebrated by the applause of the
clergy; who asserted, that the restoration of idols, and the
persecution of the church, would have been the first measure of the
reign of Eucherius. The son of Stilicho, however, was educated in the
bosom of Christianity, which his father had uniformly professed, and
zealously supported. * Serena had borrowed her magnificent necklace
from the statue of Vesta; and the Pagans execrated the memory of the
sacrilegious minister, by whose order the Sibylline books, the oracles
of Rome, had been committed to the flames. The pride and power of
Stilicho constituted his real guilt. An honorable reluctance to shed
the blood of his countrymen appears to have contributed to the success
of his unworthy rival; and it is the last humiliation of the character
of Honorius, that posterity has not condescended to reproach him with
his base ingratitude to the guardian of his youth, and the support of
his empire.

Among the train of dependants whose wealth and dignity attracted the
notice of their own times, our
curiosity is excited by the celebrated name of the poet Claudian, who
enjoyed the favor of Stilicho, and was overwhelmed in the ruin of his
patron. The titular offices of tribune and notary fixed his rank in
the Imperial court: he was indebted to the powerful intercession of
Serena for his marriage with a very rich heiress of the province of
Africa; and the statute of Claudian, erected in the forum of Trajan,
was a monument of the taste and liberality of the Roman senate. After
the praises of Stilicho became offensive and criminal, Claudian was
exposed to the enmity of a powerful and unforgiving courtier, whom he
had provoked by the insolence of wit. He had compared, in a lively
epigram, the opposite characters of two Prætorian præfects of Italy;
he contrasts the innocent repose of a philosopher, who sometimes
resigned the hours of business to slumber, perhaps to study, with the
interesting diligence of a rapacious minister, indefatigable in the
pursuit of unjust or sacrilegious, gain. "How happy," continues
Claudian, "how happy might it be for the people of Italy, if Mallius
could be constantly awake, and if Hadrian would always sleep!" The
repose of Mallius was not disturbed by this friendly and gentle
admonition; but the cruel vigilance of Hadrian watched the opportunity
of revenge, and easily obtained, from the enemies of Stilicho, the
trifling sacrifice of an obnoxious poet. The poet concealed himself,
however, during the tumult of the revolution; and, consulting the
dictates of prudence rather than of honor, he addressed, in the form
of an epistle, a suppliant and humble recantation to the offended
præfect. He deplores, in mournful strains, the fatal indiscretion into
which he had been hurried by passion and folly; submits to the
imitation of his adversary the generous examples of the clemency of
gods, of heroes, and of lions; and expresses his hope that the
magnanimity of Hadrian will not trample on a defenceless and
contemptible foe, already humbled by disgrace and poverty, and deeply
wounded by the exile, the tortures, and the death of his dearest
friends. Whatever might be the success of his prayer, or the accidents
of his future life, the period of a few years levelled in the grave
the minister and the poet: but the name of Hadrian is almost sunk in
oblivion, while Claudian is read with pleasure in every country which
has retained, or acquired, the knowledge of the Latin language. If we
fairly balance his merits and his defects, we shall acknowledge that
Claudian does not either satisfy, or silence, our reason. It would not
be easy to produce a passage that deserves the epithet of sublime or
pathetic; to select a verse that melts the heart or enlarges the
imagination. We should vainly seek, in the poems of Claudian, the
happy invention, and artificial conduct, of an interesting fable; or
the just and lively representation of the characters and situations of
real life. For the service of his patron, he published occasional
panegyrics and invectives: and the design of these slavish
compositions encouraged his propensity to exceed the limits of truth
and nature. These imperfections, however, are compensated in some
degree by the poetical virtues of Claudian. He was endowed with the
rare and precious talent of raising the meanest, of adorning the most
barren, and of diversifying the most similar, topics: his coloring,
more especially in descriptive poetry, is soft and splendid; and he
seldom fails to display, and even to abuse, the advantages of a
cultivated understanding, a copious fancy, an easy, and sometimes
forcible, expression; and a perpetual flow of harmonious
versification. To these commendations, independent of any accidents of
time and place, we must add the peculiar merit which Claudian derived
from the unfavorable circumstances of his birth. In the decline of
arts, and of empire, a native of Egypt, who had received the education
of a Greek, assumed, in a mature age, the familiar use, and absolute
command, of the Latin language; soared above the heads of his feeble
contemporaries; and placed himself, after an interval of three hundred
years, among the poets of ancient Rome.

Chapter XXXI: Invasion Of Italy, Occupation Of Territories By
Barbarians.

Part I.

Invasion Of Italy By Alaric. -- Manners Of The Roman Senate And
People. -- Rome Is Thrice Besieged, And At Length Pillaged, By The
Goths. -- Death Of Alaric. -- The Goths Evacuate Italy. -- Fall Of
Constantine. -- Gaul And Spain Are Occupied By The Barbarians. --
Independence Of Britain.

The incapacity of a weak and distracted government may often assume
the appearance, and produce the effects, of a treasonable
correspondence with the public enemy. If Alaric himself had been
introduced into the council of Ravenna, he would probably have advised
the same measures which were actually pursued by the ministers of
Honorius. The king of the Goths would have conspired, perhaps with
some reluctance, to destroy the formidable adversary, by whose arms,
in Italy, as well as in Greece, he had been twice overthrown. Their
active and interested hatred laboriously accomplished the disgrace and
ruin of the great Stilicho. The valor of Sarus, his fame in arms, and
his personal, or hereditary, influence over the confederate
Barbarians, could recommend him only to the friends of their country,
who despised, or detested, the worthless characters of Turpilio,
Varanes, and Vigilantius. By the pressing instances of the new
favorites, these generals, unworthy as they had shown themselves of
the names of soldiers, were promoted to the command of the cavalry, of
the infantry, and of the domestic troops. The Gothic prince would have
subscribed with pleasure the edict which the fanaticism of Olympius
dictated to the simple and devout emperor. Honorius excluded all
persons, who were adverse to the Catholic church, from holding any
office in the state; obstinately rejected the service of all those who
dissented from his religion; and rashly disqualified many of his
bravest and most skilful officers, who adhered to the Pagan worship,
or who had imbibed the opinions of Arianism. These measures, so
advantageous to an enemy, Alaric would have approved, and might
perhaps have suggested; but it may seem doubtful, whether the
Barbarian would have promoted his interest at the expense of the
inhuman and absurd cruelty which was perpetrated by the direction, or
at least with the connivance of the Imperial ministers. The foreign
auxiliaries, who had been attached to the person of Stilicho, lamented
his death; but the desire of revenge was checked by a natural
apprehension for the safety of their wives and children; who were
detained as hostages in the strong cities of Italy, where they had
likewise deposited their most valuable effects. At the same hour, and
as if by a common signal, the cities of Italy were polluted by the
same horrid scenes of universal massacre and pillage, which involved,
in promiscuous destruction, the families and fortunes of the
Barbarians. Exasperated by such an injury, which might have awakened
the tamest and most servile spirit, they cast a look of indignation
and hope towards the camp of Alaric, and unanimously swore to pursue,
with just and implacable war, the perfidious nation who had so basely
violated the laws of hospitality. By the imprudent conduct of the
ministers of Honorius, the republic lost the assistance, and deserved
the enmity, of thirty thousand of her bravest soldiers; and the weight
of that formidable army, which alone might have determined the event
of the war, was transferred from the scale of the Romans into that of
the Goths.

In the arts of negotiation, as well as in those of war, the Gothic
king maintained his superior ascendant over an enemy, whose seeming
changes proceeded from the total want of counsel and design. From his
camp, on the confines of Italy, Alaric attentively observed the
revolutions of the palace, watched the progress of faction and
discontent, disguised the hostile aspect of a Barbarian invader, and
assumed the more popular appearance of the friend and ally of the
great Stilicho: to whose virtues, when they were no longer formidable,
he could pay a just tribute of sincere praise and regret. The pressing
invitation of the malecontents, who urged the king of the Goths to
invade Italy, was enforced by a lively sense of his personal injuries;
and he might especially complain, that the Imperial ministers still
delayed and eluded the payment of the four thousand pounds of gold
which had been granted by the Roman senate, either to reward his
services, or to appease his fury. His decent firmness was supported by
an artful moderation, which contributed to the success of his designs.
He required a fair and reasonable satisfaction; but he gave the
strongest assurances, that, as soon as he had obtained it, he would
immediately retire. He refused to trust the faith of the Romans,
unless Ætius and Jason, the sons of two great officers of state, were
sent as hostages to his camp; but he offered to deliver, in exchange,
several of the noblest youths of the Gothic nation. The modesty of
Alaric was interpreted, by the ministers of Ravenna, as a sure
evidence of his weakness and fear. They disdained either to negotiate
a treaty, or to assemble an army; and with a rash confidence, derived
only from their ignorance of the extreme danger, irretrievably wasted
the decisive moments of peace and war. While they expected, in sullen
silence, that the Barbarians would evacuate the confines of Italy,
Alaric, with bold and rapid marches, passed the Alps and the Po;
hastily pillaged the cities of Aquileia, Altinum, Concordia, and
Cremona, which yielded to his arms; increased his forces by the
accession of thirty thousand auxiliaries; and, without meeting a
single enemy in the field, advanced as far as the edge of the morass
which protected the impregnable residence of the emperor of the West.
Instead of attempting the hopeless siege of Ravenna, the prudent
leader of the Goths proceeded to Rimini, stretched his ravages along
the sea-coast of the Hadriatic, and meditated the conquest of the
ancient mistress of the world. An Italian hermit, whose zeal and
sanctity were respected by the Barbarians themselves, encountered the
victorious monarch, and boldly denounced the indignation of Heaven
against the oppressors of the earth; but the saint himself was
confounded by the solemn asseveration of Alaric, that he felt a secret
and præternatural impulse, which directed, and even compelled, his
march to the gates of Rome. He felt, that his genius and his fortune
were equal to the most arduous enterprises; and the enthusiasm which
he communicated to the Goths, insensibly removed the popular, and
almost superstitious, reverence of the nations for the majesty of the
Roman name. His troops, animated by the hopes of spoil, followed the
course of the Flaminian way, occupied the unguarded passes of the
Apennine, descended into the rich plains of Umbria; and, as they lay
encamped on the banks of the Clitumnus, might wantonly slaughter and
devour the milk-white oxen, which had been so long reserved for the
use of Roman triumphs. A lofty situation, and a seasonable tempest of
thunder and lightning, preserved the little city of Narni; but the
king of the Goths, despising the ignoble prey, still advanced with
unabated vigor; and after he had passed through the stately arches,
adorned with the spoils of Barbaric victories, he pitched his camp
under the walls of Rome.

During a period of six hundred and nineteen years, the seat of empire
had never been violated by the presence of a foreign enemy. The
unsuccessful expedition of Hannibal served only to display the
character of the senate and people; of a senate degraded, rather than
ennobled, by the comparison of an assembly of kings; and of a people,
to whom the ambassador of Pyrrhus ascribed the inexhaustible resources
of the Hydra. Each of the senators, in the time of the Punic war, had
accomplished his term of the military service, either in a subordinate
or a superior station; and the decree, which invested with temporary
command all those who had been consuls, or censors, or dictators, gave
the republic the immediate assistance of many brave and experienced
generals. In the beginning of the war, the Roman people consisted of
two hundred and fifty thousand citizens of an age to bear arms. Fifty
thousand had already died in the defence of their country; and the
twenty-three legions which were employed in the different camps of
Italy, Greece, Sardinia, Sicily, and Spain, required about one hundred
thousand men. But there still remained an equal number in Rome, and
the adjacent territory, who were animated by the same intrepid
courage; and every citizen was trained, from his earliest youth, in
the discipline and exercises of a soldier. Hannibal was astonished by
the constancy of the senate, who, without raising the siege of Capua,
or recalling their scattered forces, expected his approach. He
encamped on the banks of the Anio, at the distance of three miles from
the city; and he was soon informed, that the ground on which he had
pitched his tent, was sold for an adequate price at a public auction;
* and that a body of troops was dismissed by an opposite road, to
reënforce the legions of Spain. He led his Africans to the gates of
Rome, where he found three armies in order of battle, prepared to
receive him; but Hannibal dreaded the event of a combat, from which he
could not hope to escape, unless he destroyed the last of his enemies;
and his speedy retreat confessed the invincible courage of the Romans.

From the time of the Punic war, the uninterrupted succession of
senators had preserved the name and image of the republic; and the
degenerate subjects of Honorius ambitiously derived their descent from
the heroes who had repulsed the arms of Hannibal, and subdued the
nations of the earth. The temporal honors which the devout Paula
inherited and despised, are carefully recapitulated by Jerom, the
guide of her conscience, and the historian of her life. The genealogy
of her father, Rogatus, which ascended as high as Agamemnon, might
seem to betray a Grecian origin; but her mother, Blæsilla, numbered
the Scipios, Æmilius Paulus, and the Gracchi, in the list of her
ancestors; and Toxotius, the husband of Paula, deduced his royal
lineage from Æneas, the father of the Julian line. The vanity of the
rich, who desired to be noble, was gratified by these lofty
pretensions. Encouraged by the applause of their parasites, they
easily imposed on the credulity of the vulgar; and were countenanced,
in some measure, by the custom of adopting the name of their patron,
which had always prevailed among the freedmen and clients of
illustrious families. Most of those families, however, attacked by so
many causes of external violence or internal decay, were gradually
extirpated; and it would be more reasonable to seek for a lineal
descent of twenty generations, among the mountains of the Alps, or in
the peaceful solitude of Apulia, than on the theatre of Rome, the seat
of fortune, of danger, and of perpetual revolutions. Under each
successive reign, and from every province of the empire, a crowd of
hardy adventurers, rising to eminence by their talents or their vices,
usurped the wealth, the honors, and the palaces of Rome; and
oppressed, or protected, the poor and humble remains of consular
families; who were ignorant, perhaps, of the glory of their ancestors.

In the time of Jerom and Claudian, the senators unanimously yielded
the preeminence to the Anician line; and a slight view of their
history will serve to appreciate the rank and antiquity of the noble
families, which contended only for the second place. During the five
first ages of the city, the name of the Anicians was unknown; they
appear to have derived their origin from Præneste; and the ambition of
those new citizens was long satisfied with the Plebeian honors of
tribunes of the people. One hundred and sixty-eight years before the
Christian æra, the family was ennobled by the Prætorship of Anicius,
who gloriously terminated the Illyrian war, by the conquest of the
nation, and the captivity of their king. From the triumph of that
general, three consulships, in distant periods, mark the succession of
the Anician name. From the reign of Diocletian to the final extinction
of the Western empire, that name shone with a lustre which was not
eclipsed, in the public estimation, by the majesty of the Imperial
purple. The several branches, to whom it was communicated, united, by
marriage or inheritance, the wealth and titles of the Annian, the
Petronian, and the Olybrian houses; and in each generation the number
of consulships was multiplied by an hereditary claim. The Anician
family excelled in faith and in riches: they were the first of the
Roman senate who embraced Christianity; and it is probable that
Anicius Julian, who was afterwards consul and præfect of the city,
atoned for his attachment to the party of Maxentius, by the readiness
with which he accepted the religion of Constantine. Their ample
patrimony was increased by the industry of Probus, the chief of the
Anician family; who shared with Gratian the honors of the consulship,
and exercised, four times, the high office of Prætorian præfect. His
immense estates were scattered over the wide extent of the Roman
world; and though the public might suspect or disapprove the methods
by which they had been acquired, the generosity and magnificence of
that fortunate statesman deserved the gratitude of his clients, and
the admiration of strangers. Such was the respect entertained for his
memory, that the two sons of Probus, in their earliest youth, and at
the request of the senate, were associated in the consular dignity; a
memorable distinction, without example, in the annals of Rome.

Chapter XXXI: Invasion Of Italy, Occupation Of Territories By
Barbarians. -- Part II.

"The marbles of the Anician palace," were used as a proverbial
expression of opulence and splendor; but the nobles and senators of
Rome aspired, in due gradation, to imitate that illustrious family.
The accurate description of the city, which was composed in the
Theodosian age, enumerates one thousand seven hundred and eighty
houses
, the residence of wealthy and honorable citizens. Many of these
stately mansions might almost excuse the exaggeration of the poet;
that Rome contained a multitude of palaces, and that each palace was
equal to a city: since it included within its own precincts every
thing which could be subservient either to use or luxury; markets,
hippodromes, temples, fountains, baths, porticos, shady groves, and
artificial aviaries. The historian Olympiodorus, who represents the
state of Rome when it was besieged by the Goths, continues to observe,
that several of the richest senators received from their estates an
annual income of four thousand pounds of gold, above one hundred and
sixty thousand pounds sterling; without computing the stated provision
of corn and wine, which, had they been sold, might have equalled in
value one third of the money. Compared to this immoderate wealth, an
ordinary revenue of a thousand or fifteen hundred pounds of gold might
be considered as no more than adequate to the dignity of the
senatorian rank, which required many expenses of a public and
ostentatious kind. Several examples are recorded, in the age of
Honorius, of vain and popular nobles, who celebrated the year of their
prætorship by a festival, which lasted seven days, and cost above one
hundred thousand pounds sterling. The estates of the Roman senators,
which so far exceeded the proportion of modern wealth, were not
confined to the limits of Italy. Their possessions extended far beyond
the Ionian and Ægean Seas, to the most distant provinces: the city of
Nicopolis, which Augustus had founded as an eternal monument of the
Actian victory, was the property of the devout Paula; and it is
observed by Seneca, that the rivers, which had divided hostile
nations, now flowed through the lands of private citizens. According
to their temper and circumstances, the estates of the Romans were
either cultivated by the labor of their slaves, or granted, for a
certain and stipulated rent, to the industrious farmer. The economical
writers of antiquity strenuously recommend the former method, wherever
it may be practicable; but if the object should be removed, by its
distance or magnitude, from the immediate eye of the master, they
prefer the active care of an old hereditary tenant, attached to the
soil, and interested in the produce, to the mercenary administration
of a negligent, perhaps an unfaithful, steward.

The opulent nobles of an immense capital, who were never excited by
the pursuit of military glory, and seldom engaged in the occupations
of civil government, naturally resigned their leisure to the business
and amusements of private life. At Rome, commerce was always held in
contempt: but the senators, from the first age of the republic,
increased their patrimony, and multiplied their clients, by the
lucrative practice of usury; and the obsolete laws were eluded, or
violated, by the mutual inclinations and interest of both parties. A
considerable mass of treasure must always have existed at Rome, either
in the current coin of the empire, or in the form of gold and silver
plate; and there were many sideboards in the time of Pliny which
contained more solid silver, than had been transported by Scipio from
vanquished Carthage. The greater part of the nobles, who dissipated
their fortunes in profuse luxury, found themselves poor in the midst
of wealth, and idle in a constant round of dissipation. Their desires
were continually gratified by the labor of a thousand hands; of the
numerous train of their domestic slaves, who were actuated by the fear
of punishment; and of the various professions of artificers and
merchants, who were more powerfully impelled by the hopes of gain. The
ancients were destitute of many of the conveniences of life, which
have been invented or improved by the progress of industry; and the
plenty of glass and linen has diffused more real comforts among the
modern nations of Europe, than the senators of Rome could derive from
all the refinements of pompous or sensual luxury. Their luxury, and
their manners, have been the subject of minute and laborious
disposition: but as such inquiries would divert me too long from the
design of the present work, I shall produce an authentic state of Rome
and its inhabitants, which is more peculiarly applicable to the period
of the Gothic invasion. Ammianus Marcellinus, who prudently chose the
capital of the empire as the residence the best adapted to the
historian of his own times, has mixed with the narrative of public
events a lively representation of the scenes with which he was
familiarly conversant. The judicious reader will not always approve of
the asperity of censure, the choice of circumstances, or the style of
expression; he will perhaps detect the latent prejudices, and personal
resentments, which soured the temper of Ammianus himself; but he will
surely observe, with philosophic curiosity, the interesting and
original picture of the manners of Rome.

"The greatness of Rome" -- such is the language of the historian --
"was founded on the rare, and almost incredible, alliance of virtue
and of fortune. The long period of her infancy was employed in a
laborious struggle against the tribes of Italy, the neighbors and
enemies of the rising city. In the strength and ardor of youth, she
sustained the storms of war; carried her victorious arms beyond the
seas and the mountains; and brought home triumphal laurels from every
country of the globe. At length, verging towards old age, and
sometimes conquering by the terror only of her name, she sought the
blessings of ease and tranquillity. The venerable city, which had
trampled on the necks of the fiercest nations, and established a
system of laws, the perpetual guardians of justice and freedom, was
content, like a wise and wealthy parent, to devolve on the Cæsars, her
favorite sons, the care of governing her ample patrimony. A secure and
profound peace, such as had been once enjoyed in the reign of Numa,
succeeded to the tumults of a republic; while Rome was still adored as
the queen of the earth; and the subject nations still reverenced the
name of the people, and the majesty of the senate. But this native
splendor," continues Ammianus, "is degraded, and sullied, by the
conduct of some nobles, who, unmindful of their own dignity, and of
that of their country, assume an unbounded license of vice and folly.
They contend with each other in the empty vanity of titles and
surnames; and curiously select, or invent, the most lofty and sonorous
appellations, Reburrus, or Fabunius, Pagonius, or Tarasius, which may
impress the ears of the vulgar with astonishment and respect. From a
vain ambition of perpetuating their memory, they affect to multiply
their likeness, in statues of bronze and marble; nor are they
satisfied, unless those statues are covered with plates of gold; an
honorable distinction, first granted to Acilius the consul, after he
had subdued, by his arms and counsels, the power of King Antiochus.
The ostentation of displaying, of magnifying, perhaps, the rent-roll
of the estates which they possess in all the provinces, from the
rising to the setting sun, provokes the just resentment of every man,
who recollects, that their poor and invincible ancestors were not
distinguished from the meanest of the soldiers, by the delicacy of
their food, or the splendor of their apparel. But the modern nobles
measure their rank and consequence according to the loftiness of their
chariots, and the weighty magnificence of their dress. Their long
robes of silk and purple float in the wind; and as they are agitated,
by art or accident, they occasionally discover the under garments, the
rich tunics, embroidered with the figures of various animals. Followed
by a train of fifty servants, and tearing up the pavement, they move
along the streets with the same impetuous speed as if they travelled
with post-horses; and the example of the senators is boldly imitated
by the matrons and ladies, whose covered carriages are continually
driving round the immense space of the city and suburbs. Whenever
these persons of high distinction condescend to visit the public
baths, they assume, on their entrance, a tone of loud and insolent
command, and appropriate to their own use the conveniences which were
designed for the Roman people. If, in these places of mixed and
general resort, they meet any of the infamous ministers of their
pleasures, they express their affection by a tender embrace; while
they proudly decline the salutations of their fellow-citizens, who are
not permitted to aspire above the honor of kissing their hands, or
their knees. As soon as they have indulged themselves in the
refreshment of the bath, they resume their rings, and the other
ensigns of their dignity, select from their private wardrobe of the
finest linen, such as might suffice for a dozen persons, the garments
the most agreeable to their fancy, and maintain till their departure
the same haughty demeanor; which perhaps might have been excused in
the great Marcellus, after the conquest of Syracuse. Sometimes,
indeed, these heroes undertake more arduous achievements; they visit
their estates in Italy, and procure themselves, by the toil of servile
hands, the amusements of the chase. If at any time, but more
especially on a hot day, they have courage to sail, in their painted
galleys, from the Lucrine Lake to their elegant villas on the seacoast
of Puteoli and Cayeta, they compare their own expeditions to the
marches of Cæsar and Alexander. Yet should a fly presume to settle on
the silken folds of their gilded umbrellas; should a sunbeam penetrate
through some unguarded and imperceptible chink, they deplore their
intolerable hardships, and lament, in affected language, that they
were not born in the land of the Cimmerians, the regions of eternal
darkness. In these journeys into the country, the whole body of the
household marches with their master. In the same manner as the cavalry
and infantry, the heavy and the light armed troops, the advanced guard
and the rear, are marshalled by the skill of their military leaders;
so the domestic officers, who bear a rod, as an ensign of authority,
distribute and arrange the numerous train of slaves and attendants.
The baggage and wardrobe move in the front; and are immediately
followed by a multitude of cooks, and inferior ministers, employed in
the service of the kitchens, and of the table. The main body is
composed of a promiscuous crowd of slaves, increased by the accidental
concourse of idle or dependent plebeians. The rear is closed by the
favorite band of eunuchs, distributed from age to youth, according to
the order of seniority. Their numbers and their deformity excite the
horror of the indignant spectators, who are ready to execrate the
memory of Semiramis, for the cruel art which she invented, of
frustrating the purposes of nature, and of blasting in the bud the
hopes of future generations. In the exercise of domestic jurisdiction,
the nobles of Rome express an exquisite sensibility for any personal
injury, and a contemptuous indifference for the rest of the human
species. When they have called for warm water, if a slave has been
tardy in his obedience, he is instantly chastised with three hundred
lashes: but should the same slave commit a wilful murder, the master
will mildly observe, that he is a worthless fellow; but that, if he
repeats the offence, he shall not escape punishment. Hospitality was
formerly the virtue of the Romans; and every stranger, who could plead
either merit or misfortune, was relieved, or rewarded by their
generosity. At present, if a foreigner, perhaps of no contemptible
rank, is introduced to one of the proud and wealthy senators, he is
welcomed indeed in the first audience, with such warm professions, and
such kind inquiries, that he retires, enchanted with the affability of
his illustrious friend, and full of regret that he had so long delayed
his journey to Rome, the active seat of manners, as well as of empire.
Secure of a favorable reception, he repeats his visit the ensuing day,
and is mortified by the discovery, that his person, his name, and his
country, are already forgotten. If he still has resolution to
persevere, he is gradually numbered in the train of dependants, and
obtains the permission to pay his assiduous and unprofitable court to
a haughty patron, incapable of gratitude or friendship; who scarcely
deigns to remark his presence, his departure, or his return. Whenever
the rich prepare a solemn and popular entertainment; whenever they
celebrate, with profuse and pernicious luxury, their private banquets;
the choice of the guests is the subject of anxious deliberation. The
modest, the sober, and the learned, are seldom preferred; and the
nomenclators, who are commonly swayed by interested motives, have the
address to insert, in the list of invitations, the obscure names of
the most worthless of mankind. But the frequent and familiar
companions of the great, are those parasites, who practise the most
useful of all arts, the art of flattery; who eagerly applaud each
word, and every action, of their immortal patron; gaze with rapture on
his marble columns and variegated pavements; and strenuously praise
the pomp and elegance which he is taught to consider as a part of his
personal merit. At the Roman tables, the birds, the squirrels
,

or the fish, which appear of an uncommon size, are contemplated with
curious attention; a pair of scales is accurately applied, to
ascertain their real weight; and, while the more rational guests are
disgusted by the vain and tedious repetition, notaries are summoned to
attest, by an authentic record, the truth of such a marvelous event.
Another method of introduction into the houses and society of the
great, is derived from the profession of gaming, or, as it is more
politely styled, of play. The confederates are united by a strict and
indissoluble bond of friendship, or rather of conspiracy; a superior
degree of skill in the Tesserarian
art (which may be interpreted the game of dice and tables) is a sure
road to wealth and reputation. A master of that sublime science, who
in a supper, or assembly, is placed below a magistrate, displays in
his countenance the surprise and indignation which Cato might be
supposed to feel, when he was refused the prætorship by the votes of a
capricious people. The acquisition of knowledge seldom engages the
curiosity of nobles, who abhor the fatigue, and disdain the
advantages, of study; and the only books which they peruse are the
Satires of Juvenal, and the verbose and fabulous histories of Marius
Maximus. The libraries, which they have inherited from their fathers,
are secluded, like dreary sepulchres, from the light of day. But the
costly instruments of the theatre, flutes, and enormous lyres, and
hydraulic organs, are constructed for their use; and the harmony of
vocal and instrumental music is incessantly repeated in the palaces of
Rome. In those palaces, sound is preferred to sense, and the care of
the body to that of the mind. It is allowed as a salutary maxim, that
the light and frivolous suspicion of a contagious malady, is of
sufficient weight to excuse the visits of the most intimate friends;
and even the servants, who are despatched to make the decent
inquiries, are not suffered to return home, till they have undergone
the ceremony of a previous ablution. Yet this selfish and unmanly
delicacy occasionally yields to the more imperious passion of avarice.
The prospect of gain will urge a rich and gouty senator as far as
Spoleto; every sentiment of arrogance and dignity is subdued by the
hopes of an inheritance, or even of a legacy; and a wealthy childless
citizen is the most powerful of the Romans. The art of obtaining the
signature of a favorable testament, and sometimes of hastening the
moment of its execution, is perfectly understood; and it has happened,
that in the same house, though in different apartments, a husband and
a wife, with the laudable design of overreaching each other, have
summoned their respective lawyers, to declare, at the same time, their
mutual, but contradictory, intentions. The distress which follows and
chastises extravagant luxury, often reduces the great to the use of
the most humiliating expedients. When they desire to borrow, they
employ the base and supplicating style of the slave in the comedy; but
when they are called upon to pay, they assume the royal and tragic
declamation of the grandsons of Hercules. If the demand is repeated,
they readily procure some trusty sycophant, instructed to maintain a
charge of poison, or magic, against the insolent creditor; who is
seldom released from prison, till he has signed a discharge of the
whole debt. These vices, which degrade the moral character of the
Romans, are mixed with a puerile superstition, that disgraces their
understanding. They listen with confidence to the predictions of
haruspices, who pretend to read, in the entrails of victims, the signs
of future greatness and prosperity; and there are many who do not
presume either to bathe, or to dine, or to appear in public, till they
have diligently consulted, according to the rules of astrology, the
situation of Mercury, and the aspect of the moon. It is singular
enough, that this vain credulity may often be discovered among the
profane sceptics, who impiously doubt, or deny, the existence of a
celestial power."

Chapter XXXI: Invasion Of Italy, Occupation Of Territories By
Barbarians. -- Part III.

In populous cities, which are the seat of commerce and manufactures,
the middle ranks of inhabitants, who derive their subsistence from the
dexterity or labor of their hands, are commonly the most prolific, the
most useful, and, in that sense, the most respectable part of the
community. But the plebeians of Rome, who disdained such sedentary and
servile arts, had been oppressed from the earliest times by the weight
of debt and usury; and the husbandman, during the term of his military
service, was obliged to abandon the cultivation of his farm. The lands
of Italy which had been originally divided among the families of free
and indigent proprietors, were insensibly purchased or usurped by the
avarice of the nobles; and in the age which preceded the fall of the
republic, it was computed that only two thousand citizens were
possessed of an independent substance. Yet as long as the people
bestowed, by their suffrages, the honors of the state, the command of
the legions, and the administration of wealthy provinces, their
conscious pride alleviated in some measure, the hardships of poverty;
and their wants were seasonably supplied by the ambitious liberality
of the candidates, who aspired to secure a venal majority in the
thirty-five tribes, or the hundred and ninety-three centuries, of
Rome. But when the prodigal commons had not only imprudently alienated
not only the use
, but the inheritance of power, they sunk, under the reign of the
Cæsars, into a vile and wretched populace, which must, in a few
generations, have been totally extinguished, if it had not been
continually recruited by the manumission of slaves, and the influx of
strangers. As early as the time of Hadrian, it was the just complaint
of the ingenuous natives, that the capital had attracted the vices of
the universe, and the manners of the most opposite nations. The
intemperance of the Gauls, the cunning and levity of the Greeks, the
savage obstinacy of the Egyptians and Jews, the servile temper of the
Asiatics, and the dissolute, effeminate prostitution of the Syrians,
were mingled in the various multitude, which, under the proud and
false denomination of Romans, presumed to despise their fellow-
subjects, and even their sovereigns, who dwelt beyond the precincts of
the Eternal City.

Yet the name of that city was still pronounced with respect: the
frequent and capricious tumults of its inhabitants were indulged with
impunity; and the successors of Constantine, instead of crushing the
last remains of the democracy by the strong arm of military power,
embraced the mild policy of Augustus, and studied to relieve the
poverty, and to amuse the idleness, of an innumerable people. I. For
the convenience of the lazy plebeians, the monthly distributions of
corn were converted into a daily allowance of bread; a great number of
ovens were constructed and maintained at the public expense; and at
the appointed hour, each citizen, who was furnished with a ticket,
ascended the flight of steps, which had been assigned to his peculiar
quarter or division, and received, either as a gift, or at a very low
price, a loaf of bread of the weight of three pounds, for the use of
his family. II. The forest of Lucania, whose acorns fattened large
droves of wild hogs, afforded, as a species of tribute, a plentiful
supply of cheap and wholesome meat. During five months of the year, a
regular allowance of bacon was distributed to the poorer citizens; and
the annual consumption of the capital, at a time when it was much
declined from its former lustre, was ascertained, by an edict from
Valentinian the Third, at three millions six hundred and twenty-eight
thousand pounds. III. In the manners of antiquity, the use of oil was
indispensable for the lamp, as well as for the bath; and the annual
tax, which was imposed on Africa for the benefit of Rome, amounted to
the weight of three millions of pounds, to the measure, perhaps, of
three hundred thousand English gallons. IV. The anxiety of Augustus to
provide the metropolis with sufficient plenty of corn, was not
extended beyond that necessary article of human subsistence; and when
the popular clamor accused the dearness and scarcity of wine, a
proclamation was issued, by the grave reformer, to remind his subjects
that no man could reasonably complain of thirst, since the aqueducts
of Agrippa had introduced into the city so many copious streams of
pure and salubrious water. This rigid sobriety was insensibly relaxed;
and, although the generous design of Aurelian does not appear to have
been executed in its full extent, the use of wine was allowed on very
easy and liberal terms. The administration of the public cellars was
delegated to a magistrate of honorable rank; and a considerable part
of the vintage of Campania was reserved for the fortunate inhabitants
of Rome.

The stupendous aqueducts, so justly celebrated by the praises of
Augustus himself, replenished the Therm
, or baths, which had been constructed in every part of the city, with
Imperial magnificence. The baths of Antoninus Caracalla, which were
open, at stated hours, for the indiscriminate service of the senators
and the people, contained above sixteen hundred seats of marble; and
more than three thousand were reckoned in the baths of Diocletian. The
walls of the lofty apartments were covered with curious mosaics, that
imitated the art of the pencil in the elegance of design, and the
variety of colors. The Egyptian granite was beautifully encrusted with
the precious green marble of Numidia; the perpetual stream of hot
water was poured into the capacious basins, through so many wide
mouths of bright and massy silver; and the meanest Roman could
purchase, with a small copper coin, the daily enjoyment of a scene of
pomp and luxury, which might excite the envy of the kings of Asia.
From these stately palaces issued a swarm of dirty and ragged
plebeians, without shoes and without a mantle; who loitered away whole
days in the street of Forum, to hear news and to hold disputes; who
dissipated in extravagant gaming, the miserable pittance of their
wives and children; and spent the hours of the night in the obscure
taverns, and brothels, in the indulgence of gross and vulgar
sensuality.

But the most lively and splendid amusement of the idle multitude,
depended on the frequent exhibition of public games and spectacles.
The piety of Christian princes had suppressed the inhuman combats of
gladiators; but the Roman people still considered the Circus as their
home, their temple, and the seat of the republic. The impatient crowd
rushed at the dawn of day to secure their places, and there were many
who passed a sleepless and anxious night in the adjacent porticos.
From the morning to the evening, careless of the sun, or of the rain,
the spectators, who sometimes amounted to the number of four hundred
thousand, remained in eager attention; their eyes fixed on the horses
and charioteers, their minds agitated with hope and fear, for the
success of the colors
which they espoused: and the happiness of Rome appeared to hang on the
event of a race. The same immoderate ardor inspired their clamors and
their applause, as often as they were entertained with the hunting of
wild beasts, and the various modes of theatrical representation. These
representations in modern capitals may deserve to be considered as a
pure and elegant school of taste, and perhaps of virtue. But the
Tragic and Comic Muse of the Romans, who seldom aspired beyond the
imitation of Attic genius, had been almost totally silent since the
fall of the republic; and their place was unworthily occupied by
licentious farce, effeminate music, and splendid pageantry. The
pantomimes, who maintained their reputation from the age of Augustus
to the sixth century, expressed, without the use of words, the various
fables of the gods and heroes of antiquity; and the perfection of
their art, which sometimes disarmed the gravity of the philosopher,
always excited the applause and wonder of the people. The vast and
magnificent theatres of Rome were filled by three thousand female
dancers, and by three thousand singers, with the masters of the
respective choruses. Such was the popular favor which they enjoyed,
that, in a time of scarcity, when all strangers were banished from the
city, the merit of contributing to the public pleasures exempted them
from a law, which was strictly executed against the professors of the
liberal arts.

It is said, that the foolish curiosity of Elagabalus attempted to
discover, from the quantity of spiders' webs, the number of the
inhabitants of Rome. A more rational method of inquiry might not have
been undeserving of the attention of the wisest princes, who could
easily have resolved a question so important for the Roman government,
and so interesting to succeeding ages. The births and deaths of the
citizens were duly registered; and if any writer of antiquity had
condescended to mention the annual amount, or the common average, we
might now produce some satisfactory calculation, which would destroy
the extravagant assertions of critics, and perhaps confirm the modest
and probable conjectures of philosophers. The most diligent researches
have collected only the following circumstances; which, slight and
imperfect as they are, may tend, in some degree, to illustrate the
question of the populousness of ancient Rome. I. When the capital of
the empire was besieged by the Goths, the circuit of the walls was
accurately measured, by Ammonius, the mathematician, who found it
equal to twenty-one miles. It should not be forgotten that the form of
the city was almost that of a circle; the geometrical figure which is
known to contain the largest space within any given circumference. II.
The architect Vitruvius, who flourished in the Augustan age, and whose
evidence, on this occasion, has peculiar weight and authority,
observes, that the innumerable habitations of the Roman people would
have spread themselves far beyond the narrow limits of the city; and
that the want of ground, which was probably contracted on every side
by gardens and villas, suggested the common, though inconvenient,
practice of raising the houses to a considerable height in the air.
But the loftiness of these buildings, which often consisted of hasty
work and insufficient materials, was the cause of frequent and fatal
accidents; and it was repeatedly enacted by Augustus, as well as by
Nero, that the height of private edifices within the walls of Rome,
should not exceed the measure of seventy feet from the ground. III.
Juvenal laments, as it should seem from his own experience, the
hardships of the poorer citizens, to whom he addresses the salutary
advice of emigrating, without delay, from the smoke of Rome, since
they might purchase, in the little towns of Italy, a cheerful
commodious dwelling, at the same price which they annually paid for a
dark and miserable lodging. House-rent was therefore immoderately
dear: the rich acquired, at an enormous expense, the ground, which
they covered with palaces and gardens; but the body of the Roman
people was crowded into a narrow space; and the different floors, and
apartments, of the same house, were divided, as it is still the custom
of Paris, and other cities, among several families of plebeians. IV.
The total number of houses in the fourteen regions of the city, is
accurately stated in the description of Rome, composed under the reign
of Theodosius, and they amount to forty-eight thousand three hundred
and eighty-two. The two classes of domus
and of insul, into which they are divided, include all the habitations
of the capital, of every rank and condition from the marble palace of
the Anicii, with a numerous establishment of freedmen and slaves, to
the lofty and narrow lodging-house, where the poet Codrus and his wife
were permitted to hire a wretched garret immediately under the files.
If we adopt the same average, which, under similar circumstances, has
been found applicable to Paris, and indifferently allow about
twenty-five persons for each house, of every degree, we may fairly
estimate the inhabitants of Rome at twelve hundred thousand: a number
which cannot be thought excessive for the capital of a mighty empire,
though it exceeds the populousness of the greatest cities of modern
Europe. *

Such was the state of Rome under the reign of Honorius; at the time
when the Gothic army formed the siege, or rather the blockade, of the
city. By a skilful disposition of his numerous forces, who impatiently
watched the moment of an assault, Alaric encompassed the walls,
commanded the twelve principal gates, intercepted all communication
with the adjacent country, and vigilantly guarded the navigation of
the Tyber, from which the Romans derived the surest and most plentiful
supply of provisions. The first emotions of the nobles, and of the
people, were those of surprise and indignation, that a vile Barbarian
should dare to insult the capital of the world: but their arrogance
was soon humbled by misfortune; and their unmanly rage, instead of
being directed against an enemy in arms, was meanly exercised on a
defenceless and innocent victim. Perhaps in the person of Serena, the
Romans might have respected the niece of Theodosius, the aunt, nay,
even the adoptive mother, of the reigning emperor: but they abhorred
the widow of Stilicho; and they listened with credulous passion to the
tale of calumny, which accused her of maintaining a secret and
criminal correspondence with the Gothic invader. Actuated, or
overawed, by the same popular frenzy, the senate, without requiring
any evidence of his guilt, pronounced the sentence of her death.
Serena was ignominiously strangled; and the infatuated multitude were
astonished to find, that this cruel act of injustice did not
immediately produce the retreat of the Barbarians, and the deliverance
of the city. That unfortunate city gradually experienced the distress
of scarcity, and at length the horrid calamities of famine. The daily
allowance of three pounds of bread was reduced to one half, to one
third, to nothing; and the price of corn still continued to rise in a
rapid and extravagant proportion. The poorer citizens, who were unable
to purchase the necessaries of life, solicited the precarious charity
of the rich; and for a while the public misery was alleviated by the
humanity of Læta, the widow of the emperor Gratian, who had fixed her
residence at Rome, and consecrated to the use of the indigent the
princely revenue which she annually received from the grateful
successors of her husband. But these private and temporary donatives
were insufficient to appease the hunger of a numerous people; and the
progress of famine invaded the marble palaces of the senators
themselves. The persons of both sexes, who had been educated in the
enjoyment of ease and luxury, discovered how little is requisite to
supply the demands of nature; and lavished their unavailing treasures
of gold and silver, to obtain the coarse and scanty sustenance which
they would formerly have rejected with disdain. The food the most
repugnant to sense or imagination, the aliments the most unwholesome
and pernicious to the constitution, were eagerly devoured, and
fiercely disputed, by the rage of hunger. A dark suspicion was
entertained, that some desperate wretches fed on the bodies of their
fellow-creatures, whom they had secretly murdered; and even mothers,
(such was the horrid conflict of the two most powerful instincts
implanted by nature in the human breast,) even mothers are said to
have tasted the flesh of their slaughtered infants! Many thousands of
the inhabitants of Rome expired in their houses, or in the streets,
for want of sustenance; and as the public sepulchres without the walls
were in the power of the enemy the stench, which arose from so many
putrid and unburied carcasses, infected the air; and the miseries of
famine were succeeded and aggravated by the contagion of a
pestilential disease. The assurances of speedy and effectual relief,
which were repeatedly transmitted from the court of Ravenna, supported
for some time, the fainting resolution of the Romans, till at length
the despair of any human aid tempted them to accept the offers of a
præternatural deliverance. Pompeianus, præfect of the city, had been
persuaded, by the art or fanaticism of some Tuscan diviners, that, by
the mysterious force of spells and sacrifices, they could extract the
lightning from the clouds, and point those celestial fires against the
camp of the Barbarians. The important secret was communicated to
Innocent, the bishop of Rome; and the successor of St. Peter is
accused, perhaps without foundation, of preferring the safety of the
republic to the rigid severity of the Christian worship. But when the
question was agitated in the senate; when it was proposed, as an
essential condition, that those sacrifices should be performed in the
Capitol, by the authority, and in the presence, of the magistrates,
the majority of that respectable assembly, apprehensive either of the
Divine or of the Imperial displeasure, refused to join in an act,
which appeared almost equivalent to the public restoration of
Paganism.

The last resource of the Romans was in the clemency, or at least in
the moderation, of the king of the Goths. The senate, who in this
emergency assumed the supreme powers of government, appointed two
ambassadors to negotiate with the enemy. This important trust was
delegated to Basilius, a senator, of Spanish extraction, and already
conspicuous in the administration of provinces; and to John, the first
tribune of the notaries, who was peculiarly qualified, by his
dexterity in business, as well as by his former intimacy with the
Gothic prince. When they were introduced into his presence, they
declared, perhaps in a more lofty style than became their abject
condition, that the Romans were resolved to maintain their dignity,
either in peace or war; and that, if Alaric refused them a fair and
honorable capitulation, he might sound his trumpets, and prepare to
give battle to an innumerable people, exercised in arms, and animated
by despair. "The thicker the hay, the easier it is mowed," was the
concise reply of the Barbarian; and this rustic metaphor was
accompanied by a loud and insulting laugh, expressive of his contempt
for the menaces of an unwarlike populace, enervated by luxury before
they were emaciated by famine. He then condescended to fix the ransom,
which he would accept as the price of his retreat from the walls of
Rome: all
the gold and silver in the city, whether it were the property of the
state, or of individuals; all the rich and precious movables; and all
the slaves that could prove their title to the name of Barbarians. The
ministers of the senate presumed to ask, in a modest and suppliant
tone, "If such, O king, are your demands, what do you intend to leave
us?" "Your Lives!" replied the haughty conqueror: they trembled, and
retired. Yet, before they retired, a short suspension of arms was
granted, which allowed some time for a more temperate negotiation. The
stern features of Alaric were insensibly relaxed; he abated much of
the rigor of his terms; and at length consented to raise the siege, on
the immediate payment of five thousand pounds of gold, of thirty
thousand pounds of silver, of four thousand robes of silk, of three
thousand pieces of fine scarlet cloth, and of three thousand pounds
weight of pepper. But the public treasury was exhausted; the annual
rents of the great estates in Italy and the provinces, had been
exchanged, during the famine, for the vilest sustenance; the hoards of
secret wealth were still concealed by the obstinacy of avarice; and
some remains of consecrated spoils afforded the only resource that
could avert the impending ruin of the city. As soon as the Romans had
satisfied the rapacious demands of Alaric, they were restored, in some
measure, to the enjoyment of peace and plenty. Several of the gates
were cautiously opened; the importation of provisions from the river
and the adjacent country was no longer obstructed by the Goths; the
citizens resorted in crowds to the free market, which was held during
three days in the suburbs; and while the merchants who undertook this
gainful trade made a considerable profit, the future subsistence of
the city was secured by the ample magazines which were deposited in
the public and private granaries. A more regular discipline than could
have been expected, was maintained in the camp of Alaric; and the wise
Barbarian justified his regard for the faith of treaties, by the just
severity with which he chastised a party of licentious Goths, who had
insulted some Roman citizens on the road to Ostia. His army, enriched
by the contributions of the capital, slowly advanced into the fair and
fruitful province of Tuscany, where he proposed to establish his
winter quarters; and the Gothic standard became the refuge of forty
thousand Barbarian slaves, who had broke their chains, and aspired,
under the command of their great deliverer, to revenge the injuries
and the disgrace of their cruel servitude. About the same time, he
received a more honorable reenforcement of Goths and Huns, whom
Adolphus, the brother of his wife, had conducted, at his pressing
invitation, from the banks of the Danube to those of the Tyber, and
who had cut their way, with some difficulty and loss, through the
superior number of the Imperial troops. A victorious leader, who
united the daring spirit of a Barbarian with the art and discipline of
a Roman general, was at the head of a hundred thousand fighting men;
and Italy pronounced, with terror and respect, the formidable name of
Alaric.

Chapter XXXI: Invasion Of Italy, Occupation Of Territories By
Barbarians. -- Part IV.

At the distance of fourteen centuries, we may be satisfied with
relating the military exploits of the conquerors of Rome, without
presuming to investigate the motives of their political conduct. In
the midst of his apparent prosperity, Alaric was conscious, perhaps,
of some secret weakness, some internal defect; or perhaps the
moderation which he displayed, was intended only to deceive and disarm
the easy credulity of the ministers of Honorius. The king of the Goths
repeatedly declared, that it was his desire to be considered as the
friend of peace, and of the Romans. Three senators, at his earnest
request, were sent ambassadors to the court of Ravenna, to solicit the
exchange of hostages, and the conclusion of the treaty; and the
proposals, which he more clearly expressed during the course of the
negotiations, could only inspire a doubt of his sincerity, as they
might seem inadequate to the state of his fortune. The Barbarian still
aspired to the rank of master-general of the armies of the West; he
stipulated an annual subsidy of corn and money; and he chose the
provinces of Dalmatia, Noricum, and Venetia, for the seat of his new
kingdom, which would have commanded the important communication
between Italy and the Danube. If these modest terms should be
rejected, Alaric showed a disposition to relinquish his pecuniary
demands, and even to content himself with the possession of Noricum;
an exhausted and impoverished country, perpetually exposed to the
inroads of the Barbarians of Germany. But the hopes of peace were
disappointed by the weak obstinacy, or interested views, of the
minister Olympius. Without listening to the salutary remonstrances of
the senate, he dismissed their ambassadors under the conduct of a
military escort, too numerous for a retinue of honor, and too feeble
for any army of defence. Six thousand Dalmatians, the flower of the
Imperial legions, were ordered to march from Ravenna to Rome, through
an open country which was occupied by the formidable myriads of the
Barbarians. These brave legionaries, encompassed and betrayed, fell a
sacrifice to ministerial folly; their general, Valens, with a hundred
soldiers, escaped from the field of battle; and one of the
ambassadors, who could no longer claim the protection of the law of
nations, was obliged to purchase his freedom with a ransom of thirty
thousand pieces of gold. Yet Alaric, instead of resenting this act of
impotent hostility, immediately renewed his proposals of peace; and
the second embassy of the Roman senate, which derived weight and
dignity from the presence of Innocent, bishop of the city, was guarded
from the dangers of the road by a detachment of Gothic soldiers.

Olympius might have continued to insult the just resentment of a
people who loudly accused him as the author of the public calamities;
but his power was undermined by the secret intrigues of the palace.
The favorite eunuchs transferred the government of Honorius, and the
empire, to Jovius, the Prætorian præfect; an unworthy servant, who did
not atone, by the merit of personal attachment, for the errors and
misfortunes of his administration. The exile, or escape, of the guilty
Olympius, reserved him for more vicissitudes of fortune: he
experienced the adventures of an obscure and wandering life; he again
rose to power; he fell a second time into disgrace; his ears were cut
off; he expired under the lash; and his ignominious death afforded a
grateful spectacle to the friends of Stilicho. After the removal of
Olympius, whose character was deeply tainted with religious
fanaticism, the Pagans and heretics were delivered from the impolitic
proscription, which excluded them from the dignities of the state. The
brave Gennerid, a soldier of Barbarian origin, who still adhered to
the worship of his ancestors, had been obliged to lay aside the
military belt: and though he was repeatedly assured by the emperor
himself, that laws were not made for persons of his rank or merit, he
refused to accept any partial dispensation, and persevered in
honorable disgrace, till he had extorted a general act of justice from
the distress of the Roman government. The conduct of Gennerid in the
important station to which he was promoted or restored, of
master-general of Dalmatia, Pannonia, Noricum, and Rhætia, seemed to
revive the discipline and spirit of the republic. From a life of
idleness and want, his troops were soon habituated to severe exercise
and plentiful subsistence; and his private generosity often supplied
the rewards, which were denied by the avarice, or poverty, of the
court of Ravenna. The valor of Gennerid, formidable to the adjacent
Barbarians, was the firmest bulwark of the Illyrian frontier; and his
vigilant care assisted the empire with a reenforcement of ten thousand
Huns, who arrived on the confines of Italy, attended by such a convoy
of provisions, and such a numerous train of sheep and oxen, as might
have been sufficient, not only for the march of an army, but for the
settlement of a colony. But the court and councils of Honorius still
remained a scene of weakness and distraction, of corruption and
anarchy. Instigated by the præfect Jovius, the guards rose in furious
mutiny, and demanded the heads of two generals, and of the two
principal eunuchs. The generals, under a perfidious promise of safety,
were sent on shipboard, and privately executed; while the favor of the
eunuchs procured them a mild and secure exile at Milan and
Constantinople. Eusebius the eunuch, and the Barbarian Allobich,
succeeded to the command of the bed-chamber and of the guards; and the
mutual jealousy of these subordinate ministers was the cause of their
mutual destruction. By the insolent order of the count of the
domestics, the great chamberlain was shamefully beaten to death with
sticks, before the eyes of the astonished emperor; and the subsequent
assassination of Allobich, in the midst of a public procession, is the
only circumstance of his life, in which Honorius discovered the
faintest symptom of courage or resentment. Yet before they fell,
Eusebius and Allobich had contributed their part to the ruin of the
empire, by opposing the conclusion of a treaty which Jovius, from a
selfish, and perhaps a criminal, motive, had negotiated with Alaric,
in a personal interview under the walls of Rimini. During the absence
of Jovius, the emperor was persuaded to assume a lofty tone of
inflexible dignity, such as neither his situation, nor his character,
could enable him to support; and a letter, signed with the name of
Honorius, was immediately despatched to the Prætorian præfect,
granting him a free permission to dispose of the public money, but
sternly refusing to prostitute the military honors of Rome to the
proud demands of a Barbarian. This letter was imprudently communicated
to Alaric himself; and the Goth, who in the whole transaction had
behaved with temper and decency, expressed, in the most outrageous
language, his lively sense of the insult so wantonly offered to his
person and to his nation. The conference of Rimini was hastily
interrupted; and the præfect Jovius, on his return to Ravenna, was
compelled to adopt, and even to encourage, the fashionable opinions of
the court. By his advice and example, the principal officers of the
state and army were obliged to swear, that, without listening, in any
circumstances, to any conditions of peace, they would still persevere
in perpetual and implacable war against the enemy of the republic.
This rash engagement opposed an insuperable bar to all future
negotiation. The ministers of Honorius were heard to declare, that, if
they had only invoked the name of the Deity, they would consult the
public safety, and trust their souls to the mercy of Heaven: but they
had sworn by the sacred head of the emperor himself; they had sworn by
the sacred head of the emperor himself; they had touched, in solemn
ceremony, that august seat of majesty and wisdom; and the violation of
their oath would expose them to the temporal penalties of sacrilege
and rebellion.

While the emperor and his court enjoyed, with sullen pride, the
security of the marches and fortifications of Ravenna, they abandoned
Rome, almost without defence, to the resentment of Alaric. Yet such
was the moderation which he still preserved, or affected, that, as he
moved with his army along the Flaminian way, he successively
despatched the bishops of the towns of Italy to reiterate his offers
of peace, and to conjure the emperor, that he would save the city and
its inhabitants from hostile fire, and the sword of the Barbarians.
These impending calamities were, however, averted, not indeed by the
wisdom of Honorius, but by the prudence or humanity of the Gothic
king; who employed a milder, though not less effectual, method of
conquest. Instead of assaulting the capital, he successfully directed
his efforts against the Port
of Ostia, one of the boldest and most stupendous works of Roman
magnificence. The accidents to which the precarious subsistence of the
city was continually exposed in a winter navigation, and an open road,
had suggested to the genius of the first Cæsar the useful design,
which was executed under the reign of Claudius. The artificial moles,
which formed the narrow entrance, advanced far into the sea, and
firmly repelled the fury of the waves, while the largest vessels
securely rode at anchor within three deep and capacious basins, which
received the northern branch of the Tyber, about two miles from the
ancient colony of Ostia. The Roman Port insensibly swelled to the size
of an episcopal city, where the corn of Africa was deposited in
spacious granaries for the use of the capital. As soon as Alaric was
in possession of that important place, he summoned the city to
surrender at discretion; and his demands were enforced by the positive
declaration, that a refusal, or even a delay, should be instantly
followed by the destruction of the magazines, on which the life of the
Roman people depended. The clamors of that people, and the terror of
famine, subdued the pride of the senate; they listened, without
reluctance, to the proposal of placing a new emperor on the throne of
the unworthy Honorius; and the suffrage of the Gothic conqueror
bestowed the purple on Attalus, præfect of the city. The grateful
monarch immediately acknowledged his protector as master-general of
the armies of the West; Adolphus, with the rank of count of the
domestics, obtained the custody of the person of Attalus; and the two
hostile nations seemed to be united in the closest bands of friendship
and alliance.

The gates of the city were thrown open, and the new emperor of the
Romans, encompassed on every side by the Gothic arms, was conducted,
in tumultuous procession, to the palace of Augustus and Trajan. After
he had distributed the civil and military dignities among his
favorites and followers, Attalus convened an assembly of the senate;
before whom, in a format and florid speech, he asserted his resolution
of restoring the majesty of the republic, and of uniting to the empire
the provinces of Egypt and the East, which had once acknowledged the
sovereignty of Rome. Such extravagant promises inspired every
reasonable citizen with a just contempt for the character of an
unwarlike usurper, whose elevation was the deepest and most
ignominious wound which the republic had yet sustained from the
insolence of the Barbarians. But the populace, with their usual
levity, applauded the change of masters. The public discontent was
favorable to the rival of Honorius; and the sectaries, oppressed by
his persecuting edicts, expected some degree of countenance, or at
least of toleration, from a prince, who, in his native country of
Ionia, had been educated in the Pagan superstition, and who had since
received the sacrament of baptism from the hands of an Arian bishop.
The first days of the reign of Attalus were fair and prosperous. An
officer of confidence was sent with an inconsiderable body of troops
to secure the obedience of Africa; the greatest part of Italy
submitted to the terror of the Gothic powers; and though the city of
Bologna made a vigorous and effectual resistance, the people of Milan,
dissatisfied perhaps with the absence of Honorius, accepted, with loud
acclamations, the choice of the Roman senate. At the head of a
formidable army, Alaric conducted his royal captive almost to the
gates of Ravenna; and a solemn embassy of the principal ministers, of
Jovius, the Prætorian præfect, of Valens, master of the cavalry and
infantry, of the quæstor Potamius, and of Julian, the first of the
notaries, was introduced, with martial pomp, into the Gothic camp. In
the name of their sovereign, they consented to acknowledge the lawful
election of his competitor, and to divide the provinces of Italy and
the West between the two emperors. Their proposals were rejected with
disdain; and the refusal was aggravated by the insulting clemency of
Attalus, who condescended to promise, that, if Honorius would
instantly resign the purple, he should be permitted to pass the
remainder of his life in the peaceful exile of some remote island. So
desperate indeed did the situation of the son of Theodosius appear, to
those who were the best acquainted with his strength and resources,
that Jovius and Valens, his minister and his general, betrayed their
trust, infamously deserted the sinking cause of their benefactor, and
devoted their treacherous allegiance to the service of his more
fortunate rival. Astonished by such examples of domestic treason,
Honorius trembled at the approach of every servant, at the arrival of
every messenger. He dreaded the secret enemies, who might lurk in his
capital, his palace, his bed-chamber; and some ships lay ready in the
harbor of Ravenna, to transport the abdicated monarch to the dominions
of his infant nephew, the emperor of the East.

But there is a Providence (such at least was the opinion of the
historian Procopius) that watches over innocence and folly; and the
pretensions of Honorius to its peculiar care cannot reasonably be
disputed. At the moment when his despair, incapable of any wise or
manly resolution, meditated a shameful flight, a seasonable
reenforcement of four thousand veterans unexpectedly landed in the
port of Ravenna. To these valiant strangers, whose fidelity had not
been corrupted by the factions of the court, he committed the walls
and gates of the city; and the slumbers of the emperor were no longer
disturbed by the apprehension of imminent and internal danger. The
favorable intelligence which was received from Africa suddenly changed
the opinions of men, and the state of public affairs. The troops and
officers, whom Attalus had sent into that province, were defeated and
slain; and the active zeal of Heraclian maintained his own allegiance,
and that of his people. The faithful count of Africa transmitted a
large sum of money, which fixed the attachment of the Imperial guards;
and his vigilance, in preventing the exportation of corn and oil,
introduced famine, tumult, and discontent, into the walls of Rome. The
failure of the African expedition was the source of mutual complaint
and recrimination in the party of Attalus; and the mind of his
protector was insensibly alienated from the interest of a prince, who
wanted spirit to command, or docility to obey. The most imprudent
measures were adopted, without the knowledge, or against the advice,
of Alaric; and the obstinate refusal of the senate, to allow, in the
embarkation, the mixture even of five hundred Goths, betrayed a
suspicious and distrustful temper, which, in their situation, was
neither generous nor prudent. The resentment of the Gothic king was
exasperated by the malicious arts of Jovius, who had been raised to
the rank of patrician, and who afterwards excused his double perfidy,
by declaring, without a blush, that he had only seemed
to abandon the service of Honorius, more effectually to ruin the cause
of the usurper. In a large plain near Rimini, and in the presence of
an innumerable multitude of Romans and Barbarians, the wretched
Attalus was publicly despoiled of the diadem and purple; and those
ensigns of royalty were sent by Alaric, as the pledge of peace and
friendship, to the son of Theodosius. The officers who returned to
their duty, were reinstated in their employments, and even the merit
of a tardy repentance was graciously allowed; but the degraded emperor
of the Romans, desirous of life, and insensible of disgrace, implored
the permission of following the Gothic camp, in the train of a haughty
and capricious Barbarian.

The degradation of Attalus removed the only real obstacle to the
conclusion of the peace; and Alaric advanced within three miles of
Ravenna, to press the irresolution of the Imperial ministers, whose
insolence soon returned with the return of fortune. His indignation
was kindled by the report, that a rival chieftain, that Sarus, the
personal enemy of Adolphus, and the hereditary foe of the house of
Balti, had been received into the palace. At the head of three hundred
followers, that fearless Barbarian immediately sallied from the gates
of Ravenna; surprised, and cut in pieces, a considerable body of
Goths; reentered the city in triumph; and was permitted to insult his
adversary, by the voice of a herald, who publicly declared that the
guilt of Alaric had forever excluded him from the friendship and
alliance of the emperor. The crime and folly of the court of Ravenna
was expiated, a third time, by the calamities of Rome. The king of the
Goths, who no longer dissembled his appetite for plunder and revenge,
appeared in arms under the walls of the capital; and the trembling
senate, without any hopes of relief, prepared, by a desperate
resistance, to defray the ruin of their country. But they were unable
to guard against the secret conspiracy of their slaves and domestics;
who, either from birth or interest, were attached to the cause of the
enemy. At the hour of midnight, the Salarian gate was silently opened,
and the inhabitants were awakened by the tremendous sound of the
Gothic trumpet. Eleven hundred and sixty-three years after the
foundation of Rome, the Imperial city, which had subdued and civilized
so considerable a part of mankind, was delivered to the licentious
fury of the tribes of Germany and Scythia.

The proclamation of Alaric, when he forced his entrance into a
vanquished city, discovered, however, some regard for the laws of
humanity and religion. He encouraged his troops boldly to seize the
rewards of valor, and to enrich themselves with the spoils of a
wealthy and effeminate people: but he exhorted them, at the same time,
to spare the lives of the unresisting citizens, and to respect the
churches of the apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, as holy and
inviolable sanctuaries. Amidst the horrors of a nocturnal tumult,
several of the Christian Goths displayed the fervor of a recent
conversion; and some instances of their uncommon piety and moderation
are related, and perhaps adorned, by the zeal of ecclesiastical
writers. While the Barbarians roamed through the city in quest of
prey, the humble dwelling of an aged virgin, who had devoted her life
to the service of the altar, was forced open by one of the powerful
Goths. He immediately demanded, though in civil language, all the gold
and silver in her possession; and was astonished at the readiness with
which she conducted him to a splendid hoard of massy plate, of the
richest materials, and the most curious workmanship. The Barbarian
viewed with wonder and delight this valuable acquisition, till he was
interrupted by a serious admonition, addressed to him in the following
words: "These," said she, "are the consecrated vessels belonging to
St. Peter: if you presume to touch them, the sacrilegious deed will
remain on your conscience. For my part, I dare not keep what I am
unable to defend." The Gothic captain, struck with reverential awe,
despatched a messenger to inform the king of the treasure which he had
discovered; and received a peremptory order from Alaric, that all the
consecrated plate and ornaments should be transported, without damage
or delay, to the church of the apostle. From the extremity, perhaps,
of the Quirinal hill, to the distant quarter of the Vatican, a
numerous detachment of Goths, marching in order of battle through the
principal streets, protected, with glittering arms, the long train of
their devout companions, who bore aloft, on their heads, the sacred
vessels of gold and silver; and the martial shouts of the Barbarians
were mingled with the sound of religious psalmody. From all the
adjacent houses, a crowd of Christians hastened to join this edifying
procession; and a multitude of fugitives, without distinction of age,
or rank, or even of sect, had the good fortune to escape to the secure
and hospitable sanctuary of the Vatican. The learned work, concerning
the City of God
, was professedly composed by St. Augustin, to justify the ways of
Providence in the destruction of the Roman greatness. He celebrates,
with peculiar satisfaction, this memorable triumph of Christ; and
insults his adversaries, by challenging them to produce some similar
example of a town taken by storm, in which the fabulous gods of
antiquity had been able to protect either themselves or their deluded
votaries.

In the sack of Rome, some rare and extraordinary examples of Barbarian
virtue have been deservedly applauded. But the holy precincts of the
Vatican, and the apostolic churches, could receive a very small
proportion of the Roman people; many thousand warriors, more
especially of the Huns, who served under the standard of Alaric, were
strangers to the name, or at least to the faith, of Christ; and we may
suspect, without any breach of charity or candor, that in the hour of
savage license, when every passion was inflamed, and every restraint
was removed, the precepts of the Gospel seldom influenced the behavior
of the Gothic Christians. The writers, the best disposed to exaggerate
their clemency, have freely confessed, that a cruel slaughter was made
of the Romans; and that the streets of the city were filled with dead
bodies, which remained without burial during the general
consternation. The despair of the citizens was sometimes converted
into fury: and whenever the Barbarians were provoked by opposition,
they extended the promiscuous massacre to the feeble, the innocent,
and the helpless. The private revenge of forty thousand slaves was
exercised without pity or remorse; and the ignominious lashes, which
they had formerly received, were washed away in the blood of the
guilty, or obnoxious, families. The matrons and virgins of Rome were
exposed to injuries more dreadful, in the apprehension of chastity,
than death itself; and the ecclesiastical historian has selected an
example of female virtue, for the admiration of future ages. A Roman
lady, of singular beauty and orthodox faith, had excited the impatient
desires of a young Goth, who, according to the sagacious remark of
Sozomen, was attached to the Arian heresy. Exasperated by her
obstinate resistance, he drew his sword, and, with the anger of a
lover, slightly wounded her neck. The bleeding heroine still continued
to brave his resentment, and to repel his love, till the ravisher
desisted from his unavailing efforts, respectfully conducted her to
the sanctuary of the Vatican, and gave six pieces of gold to the
guards of the church, on condition that they should restore her
inviolate to the arms of her husband. Such instances of courage and
generosity were not extremely common. The brutal soldiers satisfied
their sensual appetites, without consulting either the inclination or
the duties of their female captives: and a nice question of casuistry
was seriously agitated, Whether those tender victims, who had
inflexibly refused their consent to the violation which they
sustained, had lost, by their misfortune, the glorious crown of
virginity. Their were other losses indeed of a more substantial kind,
and more general concern. It cannot be presumed, that all the
Barbarians were at all times capable of perpetrating such amorous
outrages; and the want of youth, or beauty, or chastity, protected the
greatest part of the Roman women from the danger of a rape. But
avarice is an insatiate and universal passion; since the enjoyment of
almost every object that can afford pleasure to the different tastes
and tempers of mankind may be procured by the possession of wealth. In
the pillage of Rome, a just preference was given to gold and jewels,
which contain the greatest value in the smallest compass and weight:
but, after these portable riches had been removed by the more diligent
robbers, the palaces of Rome were rudely stripped of their splendid
and costly furniture. The sideboards of massy plate, and the
variegated wardrobes of silk and purple, were irregularly piled in the
wagons, that always followed the march of a Gothic army. The most
exquisite works of art were roughly handled, or wantonly destroyed;
many a statue was melted for the sake of the precious materials; and
many a vase, in the division of the spoil, was shivered into fragments
by the stroke of a battle-axe. The acquisition of riches served only
to stimulate the avarice of the rapacious Barbarians, who proceeded,
by threats, by blows, and by tortures, to force from their prisoners
the confession of hidden treasure. Visible splendor and expense were
alleged as the proof of a plentiful fortune; the appearance of poverty
was imputed to a parsimonious disposition; and the obstinacy of some
misers, who endured the most cruel torments before they would discover
the secret object of their affection, was fatal to many unhappy
wretches, who expired under the lash, for refusing to reveal their
imaginary treasures. The edifices of Rome, though the damage has been
much exaggerated, received some injury from the violence of the Goths.
At their entrance through the Salarian gate, they fired the adjacent
houses to guide their march, and to distract the attention of the
citizens; the flames, which encountered no obstacle in the disorder of
the night, consumed many private and public buildings; and the ruins
of the palace of Sallust remained, in the age of Justinian, a stately
monument of the Gothic conflagration. Yet a contemporary historian has
observed, that fire could scarcely consume the enormous beams of solid
brass, and that the strength of man was insufficient to subvert the
foundations of ancient structures. Some truth may possibly be
concealed in his devout assertion, that the wrath of Heaven supplied
the imperfections of hostile rage; and that the proud Forum of Rome,
decorated with the statues of so many gods and heroes, was levelled in
the dust by the stroke of lightning.

Chapter XXXI: Invasion Of Italy, Occupation Of Territories By
Barbarians. -- Part V.

Whatever might be the numbers of equestrian or plebeian rank, who
perished in the massacre of Rome, it is confidently affirmed that only
one senator lost his life by the sword of the enemy. But it was not

Book of the day: