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The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

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The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

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David Reed

History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

Edward Gibbon, Esq.

With notes by the Rev. H. H. Milman

Vol. 1


Preface By The Editor.

The great work of Gibbon is indispensable to the student of
history. The literature of Europe offers no substitute for "The
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." It has obtained undisputed
possession, as rightful occupant, of the vast period which it
comprehends. However some subjects, which it embraces, may have
undergone more complete investigation, on the general view of the
whole period, this history is the sole undisputed authority to
which all defer, and from which few appeal to the original
writers, or to more modern compilers. The inherent interest of
the subject, the inexhaustible labor employed upon it; the
immense condensation of matter; the luminous arrangement; the
general accuracy; the style, which, however monotonous from its
uniform stateliness, and sometimes wearisome from its elaborate
ar., is throughout vigorous, animated, often picturesque always
commands attention, always conveys its meaning with emphatic
energy, describes with singular breadth and fidelity, and
generalizes with unrivalled felicity of expression; all these
high qualifications have secured, and seem likely to secure, its
permanent place in historic literature.

This vast design of Gibbon, the magnificent whole into which
he has cast the decay and ruin of the ancient civilization, the
formation and birth of the new order of things, will of itself,
independent of the laborious execution of his immense plan,
render "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" an
unapproachable subject to the future historian: ^* in the
eloquent language of his recent French editor, M. Guizot: -
[Footnote * A considerable portion of this preface has already
appeared before us public in the Quarterly Review.]

"The gradual decline of the most extraordinary dominion
which has ever invaded and oppressed the world; the fall of that
immense empire, erected on the ruins of so many kingdoms,
republics, and states both barbarous and civilized; and forming
in its turn, by its dismemberment, a multitude of states,
republics, and kingdoms; the annihilation of the religion of
Greece and Rome; the birth and the progress of the two new
religions which have shared the most beautiful regions of the
earth; the decrepitude of the ancient world, the spectacle of its
expiring glory and degenerate manners; the infancy of the modern
world, the picture of its first progress, of the new direction
given to the mind and character of man - such a subject must
necessarily fix the attention and excite the interest of men, who
cannot behold with indifference those memorable epochs, during
which, in the fine language of Corneille -

'Un grand destin commence, un grand destin s'acheve.'"
This extent and harmony of design is unquestionably that which
distinguishes the work of Gibbon from all other great historical
compositions. He has first bridged the abyss between ancient and
modern times, and connected together the two great worlds of
history. The great advantage which the classical historians
possess over those of modern times is in unity of plan, of course
greatly facilitated by the narrower sphere to which their
researches were confined. Except Herodotus, the great historians
of Greece - we exclude the more modern compilers, like Diodorus
Siculus - limited themselves to a single period, or at 'east to
the contracted sphere of Grecian affairs. As far as the
Barbarians trespassed within the Grecian boundary, or were
necessarily mingled up with Grecian politics, they were admitted
into the pale of Grecian history; but to Thucydides and to
Xenophon, excepting in the Persian inroad of the latter, Greece
was the world. Natural unity confined their narrative almost to
chronological order, the episodes were of rare occurrence and
extremely brief. To the Roman historians the course was equally
clear and defined. Rome was their centre of unity; and the
uniformity with which the circle of the Roman dominion spread
around, the regularity with which their civil polity expanded,
forced, as it were, upon the Roman historian that plan which
Polybius announces as the subject of his history, the means and
the manner by which the whole world became subject to the Roman
sway. How different the complicated politics of the European
kingdoms! Every national history, to be complete, must, in a
certain sense, be the history of Europe; there is no knowing to
how remote a quarter it may be necessary to trace our most
domestic events; from a country, how apparently disconnected, may
originate the impulse which gives its direction to the whole
course of affairs.

In imitation of his classical models, Gibbon places Rome as
the cardinal point from which his inquiries diverge, and to which
they bear constant reference; yet how immeasurable the space over
which those inquiries range; how complicated, how confused, how
apparently inextricable the causes which tend to the decline of
the Roman empire! how countless the nations which swarm forth,
in mingling and indistinct hordes, constantly changing the
geographical limits - incessantly confounding the natural
boundaries! At first sight, the whole period, the whole state of
the world, seems to offer no more secure footing to an historical
adventurer than the chaos of Milton - to be in a state of
irreclaimable disorder, best described in the language of the
poet: -

- "A dark
Illimitable ocean, without bound,
Without dimension, where length, breadth, and height,

And time, and place, are lost: where eldest Night
And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold
Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise
Of endless wars, and by confusion stand."

We feel that the unity and harmony of narrative, which shall
comprehend this period of social disorganization, must be
ascribed entirely to the skill and luminous disposition of the
historian. It is in this sublime Gothic architecture of his
work, in which the boundless range, the infinite variety, the, at
first sight, incongruous gorgeousness of the separate parts,
nevertheless are all subordinate to one main and predominant
idea, that Gibbon is unrivalled. We cannot but admire the manner
in which he masses his materials, and arranges his facts in
successive groups, not according to chronological order, but to
their moral or political connection; the distinctness with which
he marks his periods of gradually increasing decay; and the skill
with which, though advancing on separate parallels of history, he
shows the common tendency of the slower or more rapid religious
or civil innovations. However these principles of composition
may demand more than ordinary attention on the part of the
reader, they can alone impress upon the memory the real course,
and the relative importance of the events. Whoever would justly
appreciate the superiority of Gibbon's lucid arrangement, should
attempt to make his way through the regular but wearisome annals
of Tillemont, or even the less ponderous volumes of Le Beau.
Both these writers adhere, almost entirely, to chronological
order; the consequence is, that we are twenty times called upon
to break off, and resume the thread of six or eight wars in
different parts of the empire; to suspend the operations of a
military expedition for a court intrigue; to hurry away from a
siege to a council; and the same page places us in the middle of
a campaign against the barbarians, and in the depths of the
Monophysite controversy. In Gibbon it is not always easy to bear
in mind the exact dates but the course of events is ever clear
and distinct; like a skilful general, though his troops advance
from the most remote and opposite quarters, they are constantly
bearing down and concentrating themselves on one point - that
which is still occupied by the name, and by the waning power of
Rome. Whether he traces the progress of hostile religions, or
leads from the shores of the Baltic, or the verge of the Chinese
empire, the successive hosts of barbarians - though one wave has
hardly burst and discharged itself, before another swells up and
approaches - all is made to flow in the same direction, and the
impression which each makes upon the tottering fabric of the
Roman greatness, connects their distant movements, and measures
the relative importance assigned to them in the panoramic
history. The more peaceful and didactic episodes on the
development of the Roman law, or even on the details of
ecclesiastical history, interpose themselves as resting-places or
divisions between the periods of barbaric invasion. In short,
though distracted first by the two capitals, and afterwards by
the formal partition of the empire, the extraordinary felicity of
arrangement maintains an order and a regular progression. As our
horizon expands to reveal to us the gathering tempests which are
forming far beyond the boundaries of the civilized world - as we
follow their successive approach to the trembling frontier - the
compressed and receding line is still distinctly visible; though
gradually dismembered and the broken fragments assuming the form
of regular states and kingdoms, the real relation of those
kingdoms to the empire is maintained and defined; and even when
the Roman dominion has shrunk into little more than the province
of Thrace - when the name of Rome, confined, in Italy, to the
walls of the city - yet it is still the memory, the shade of the
Roman greatness, which extends over the wide sphere into which
the historian expands his later narrative; the whole blends into
the unity, and is manifestly essential to the double catastrophe
of his tragic drama.

But the amplitude, the magnificence, or the harmony of
design, are, though imposing, yet unworthy claims on our
admiration, unless the details are filled up with correctness and
accuracy. No writer has been more severely tried on this point
than Gibbon. He has undergone the triple scrutiny of theological
zeal quickened by just resentment, of literary emulation, and of
that mean and invidious vanity which delights in detecting errors
in writers of established fame. On the result of the trial, we
may be permitted to summon competent witnesses before we deliver
our own judgment.

M. Guizot, in his preface, after stating that in France and
Germany, as well as in England, in the most enlightened countries
of Europe, Gibbon is constantly cited as an authority, thus
proceeds: -

"I have had occasion, during my labors, to consult the
writings of philosophers, who have treated on the finances of the
Roman empire; of scholars, who have investigated the chronology;
of theologians, who have searched the depths of ecclesiastical
history; of writers on law, who have studied with care the Roman
jurisprudence; of Orientalists, who have occupied themselves with
the Arabians and the Koran; of modern historians, who have
entered upon extensive researches touching the crusades and their
influence; each of these writers has remarked and pointed out, in
the 'History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,' some
negligences, some false or imperfect views some omissions, which
it is impossible not to suppose voluntary; they have rectified
some facts combated with advantage some assertions; but in
general they have taken the researches and the ideas of Gibbon,
as points of departure, or as proofs of the researches or of the
new opinions which they have advanced."

M. Guizot goes on to state his own impressions on reading
Gibbon's history, and no authority will have greater weight with
those to whom the extent and accuracy of his historical
researches are known: -

"After a first rapid perusal, which allowed me to feel
nothing but the interest of a narrative, always animated, and,
notwithstanding its extent and the variety of objects which it
makes to pass before the view, always perspicuous, I entered upon
a minute examination of the details of which it was composed; and
the opinion which I then formed was, I confess, singularly
severe. I discovered, in certain chapters, errors which appeared
to me sufficiently important and numerous to make me believe that
they had been written with extreme negligence; in others, I was
struck with a certain tinge of partiality and prejudice, which
imparted to the exposition of the facts that want of truth and
justice, which the English express by their happy term
misrepresentation. Some imperfect (tronquees) quotations; some
passages, omitted unintentionally or designedly cast a suspicion
on the honesty (bonne foi) of the author; and his violation of
the first law of history - increased to my eye by the prolonged
attention with which I occupied myself with every phrase, every
note, every reflection - caused me to form upon the whole work, a
judgment far too rigorous. After having finished my labors, I
allowed some time to elapse before I reviewed the whole. A
second attentive and regular perusal of the entire work, of the
notes of the author, and of those which I had thought it right to
subjoin, showed me how much I had exaggerated the importance of
the reproaches which Gibbon really deserved; I was struck with
the same errors, the same partiality on certain subjects; but I
had been far from doing adequate justice to the immensity of his
researches, the variety of his knowledge, and above all, to that
truly philosophical discrimination (justesse d'esprit) which
judges the past as it would judge the present; which does not
permit itself to be blinded by the clouds which time gathers
around the dead, and which prevent us from seeing that, under the
toga, as under the modern dress, in the senate as in our
councils, men were what they still are, and that events took
place eighteen centuries ago, as they take place in our days. I
then felt that his book, in spite of its faults, will always be a
noble work - and that we may correct his errors and combat his
prejudices, without ceasing to admit that few men have combined,
if we are not to say in so high a degree, at least in a manner so
complete, and so well regulated, the necessary qualifications for
a writer of history."

The present editor has followed the track of Gibbon through
many parts of his work; he has read his authorities with constant
reference to his pages, and must pronounce his deliberate
judgment, in terms of the highest admiration as to his general
accuracy. Many of his seeming errors are almost inevitable from
the close condensation of his matter. From the immense range of
his history, it was sometimes necessary to compress into a single
sentence, a whole vague and diffuse page of a Byzantine
chronicler. Perhaps something of importance may have thus
escaped, and his expressions may not quite contain the whole
substance of the passage from which they are taken. His limits,
at times, compel him to sketch; where that is the case, it is not
fair to expect the full details of the finished picture. At
times he can only deal with important results; and in his account
of a war, it sometimes requires great attention to discover that
the events which seem to be comprehended in a single campaign,
occupy several years. But this admirable skill in selecting and
giving prominence to the points which are of real weight and
importance - this distribution of light and shade - though
perhaps it may occasionally betray him into vague and imperfect
statements, is one of the highest excellencies of Gibbon's
historic manner. It is the more striking, when we pass from the
works of his chief authorities, where, after laboring through
long, minute, and wearisome descriptions of the accessary and
subordinate circumstances, a single unmarked and undistinguished
sentence, which we may overlook from the inattention of fatigue,
contains the great moral and political result.

Gibbon's method of arrangement, though on the whole most
favorable to the clear comprehension of the events, leads
likewise to apparent inaccuracy. That which we expect to find in
one part is reserved for another. The estimate which we are to
form, depends on the accurate balance of statements in remote
parts of the work; and we have sometimes to correct and modify
opinions, formed from one chapter by those of another. Yet, on
the other hand, it is astonishing how rarely we detect
contradiction; the mind of the author has already harmonized the
whole result to truth and probability; the general impression is
almost invariably the same. The quotations of Gibbon have
likewise been called in question; - I have, in general, been more
inclined to admire their exactitude, than to complain of their
indistinctness, or incompleteness. Where they are imperfect, it
is commonly from the study of brevity, and rather from the desire
of compressing the substance of his notes into pointed and
emphatic sentences, than from dishonesty, or uncandid suppression
of truth.

These observations apply more particularly to the accuracy
and fidelity of the historian as to his facts; his inferences, of
course, are more liable to exception. It is almost impossible to
trace the line between unfairness and unfaithfulness; between
intentional misrepresentation and undesigned false coloring. The
relative magnitude and importance of events must, in some
respect, depend upon the mind before which they are presented;
the estimate of character, on the habits and feelings of the
reader. Christians, like M. Guizot and ourselves, will see some
things, and some persons, in a different light from the historian
of the Decline and Fall. We may deplore the bias of his mind; we
may ourselves be on our guard against the danger of being misled,
and be anxious to warn less wary readers against the same perils;
but we must not confound this secret and unconscious departure
from truth, with the deliberate violation of that veracity which
is the only title of an historian to our confidence. Gibbon, it
may be fearlessly asserted, is rarely chargeable even with the
suppression of any material fact, which bears upon individual
character; he may, with apparently invidious hostility, enhance
the errors and crimes, and disparage the virtues of certain
persons; yet, in general, he leaves us the materials for forming
a fairer judgment; and if he is not exempt from his own
prejudices, perhaps we might write passions, yet it must be
candidly acknowledged, that his philosophical bigotry is not more
unjust than the theological partialities of those ecclesiastical
writers who were before in undisputed possession of this province
of history.

We are thus naturally led to that great misrepresentation
which pervades his history - his false estimate of the nature and
influence of Christianity.

But on this subject some preliminary caution is necessary,
lest that should be expected from a new edition, which it is
impossible that it should completely accomplish. We must first
be prepared with the only sound preservative against the false
impression likely to be produced by the perusal of Gibbon; and we
must see clearly the real cause of that false impression. The
former of these cautions will be briefly suggested in its proper
place, but it may be as well to state it, here, somewhat more at
length. The art of Gibbon, or at least the unfair impression
produced by his two memorable chapters, consists in his
confounding together, in one indistinguishable mass, the origin
and apostolic propagation of the new religion, with its later
progress. No argument for the divine authority of Christianity
has been urged with greater force, or traced with higher
eloquence, than that deduced from its primary development,
explicable on no other hypothesis than a heavenly origin, and
from its rapid extension through great part of the Roman empire.
But this argument - one, when confined within reasonable limits,
of unanswerable force - becomes more feeble and disputable in
proportion as it recedes from the birthplace, as it were, of the
religion. The further Christianity advanced, the more causes
purely human were enlisted in its favor; nor can it be doubted
that those developed with such artful exclusiveness by Gibbon did
concur most essentially to its establishment. It is in the
Christian dispensation, as in the material world. In both it is
as the great First Cause, that the Deity is most undeniably
manifest. When once launched in regular motion upon the bosom of
space, and endowed with all their properties and relations of
weight and mutual attraction, the heavenly bodies appear to
pursue their courses according to secondary laws, which account
for all their sublime regularity. So Christianity proclaims its
Divine Author chiefly in its first origin and development. When
it had once received its impulse from above - when it had once
been infused into the minds of its first teachers - when it had
gained full possession of the reason and affections of the
favored few - it might be - and to the Protestant, the rationa
Christian, it is impossible to define when it really was - left
to make its way by its native force, under the ordinary secret
agencies of all-ruling Providence. The main question, the divine
origin of the religion, was dexterously eluded, or speciously
conceded by Gibbon; his plan enabled him to commence his account,
in most parts, below the apostolic times; and it was only by the
strength of the dark coloring with which he brought out the
failings and the follies of the succeeding ages, that a shadow of
doubt and suspicion was thrown back upon the primitive period of

"The theologian," says Gibbon, "may indulge the pleasing
task of describing religion as she descended from heaven, arrayed
in her native purity; a more melancholy duty is imposed upon the
historian: - he must discover the inevitable mixture of error and
corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth
among a weak and degenerate race of beings." Divest this passage
of the latent sarcasm betrayed by the subsequent tone of the
whole disquisition, and it might commence a Christian history
written in the most Christian spirit of candor. But as the
historian, by seeming to respect, yet by dexterously confounding
the limits of the sacred land, contrived to insinuate that it was
an Utopia which had no existence but in the imagination of the
theologian - as he suggested rather than affirmed that the days
of Christian purity were a kind of poetic golden age; - so the
theologian, by venturing too far into the domain of the
historian, has been perpetually obliged to contest points on
which he had little chance of victory - to deny facts established
on unshaken evidence - and thence, to retire, if not with the
shame of defeat, yet with but doubtful and imperfect success.
Paley, with his intuitive sagacity, saw through the
difficulty of answering Gibbon by the ordinary arts of
controversy; his emphatic sentence, "Who can refute a sneer?"
contains as much truth as point. But full and pregnant as this
phrase is, it is not quite the whole truth; it is the tone in
which the progress of Christianity is traced, in comparison with
the rest of the splendid and prodigally ornamented work, which is
the radical defect in the "Decline and Fall." Christianity alone
receives no embellishment from the magic of Gibbon's language;
his imagination is dead to its moral dignity; it is kept down by
a general zone of jealous disparagement, or neutralized by a
painfully elaborate exposition of its darker and degenerate
periods. There are occasions, indeed, when its pure and exalted
humanity, when its manifestly beneficial influence, can compel
even him, as it were, to fairness, and kindle his unguarded
eloquence to its usual fervor; but, in general, he soon relapses
into a frigid apathy; affects an ostentatiously severe
impartiality; notes all the faults of Christians in every age
with bitter and almost malignant sarcasm; reluctantly, and with
exception and reservation, admits their claim to admiration.
This inextricable bias appears even to influence his manner of
composition. While all the other assailants of the Roman empire,
whether warlike or religious, the Goth, the Hun, the Arab, the
Tartar, Alaric and Attila, Mahomet, and Zengis, and Tamerlane,
are each introduced upon the scene almost with dramatic animation
- their progress related in a full, complete, and unbroken
narrative - the triumph of Christianity alone takes the form of a
cold and critical disquisition. The successes of barbarous
energy and brute force call forth all the consummate skill of
composition; while the moral triumphs of Christian benevolence -
the tranquil heroism of endurance, the blameless purity, the
contempt of guilty fame and of honors destructive to the human
race, which, had they assumed the proud name of philosophy, would
have been blazoned in his brightest words, because they own
religion as their principle - sink into narrow asceticism. The
glories of Christianity, in short, touch on no chord in the heart
of the writer; his imagination remains unkindled; his words,
though they maintain their stately and measured march, have
become cool, argumentative, and inanimate. Who would obscure one
hue of that gorgeous coloring in which Gibbon has invested the
dying forms of Paganism, or darken one paragraph in his splendid
view of the rise and progress of Mahometanism? But who would not
have wished that the same equal justice had been done to
Christianity; that its real character and deeply penetrating
influence had been traced with the same philosophical sagacity,
and represented with more sober, as would become its quiet
course, and perhaps less picturesque, but still with lively and
attractive, descriptiveness? He might have thrown aside, with
the same scorn, the mass of ecclesiastical fiction which envelops
the early history of the church, stripped off the legendary
romance, and brought out the facts in their primitive nakedness
and simplicity - if he had but allowed those facts the benefit of
the glowing eloquence which he denied to them alone. He might
have annihilated the whole fabric of post-apostolic miracles, if
he had left uninjured by sarcastic insinuation those of the New
Testament; he might have cashiered, with Dodwell, the whole host
of martyrs, which owe their existence to the prodigal invention
of later days, had he but bestowed fair room, and dwelt with his
ordinary energy on the sufferings of the genuine witnesses to the
truth of Christianity, the Polycarps, or the martyrs of Vienne.
And indeed, if, after all, the view of the early progress of
Christianity be melancholy and humiliating we must beware lest we
charge the whole of this on the infidelity of the historian. It
is idle, it is disingenuous, to deny or to dissemble the early
depravations of Christianity, its gradual but rapid departure
from its primitive simplicity and purity, still more, from its
spirit of universal love. It may be no unsalutary lesson to the
Christian world, that this silent, this unavoidable, perhaps, yet
fatal change shall have been drawn by an impartial, or even an
hostile hand. The Christianity of every age may take warning,
lest by its own narrow views, its want of wisdom, and its want of
charity, it give the same advantage to the future unfriendly
historian, and disparage the cause of true religion.

The design of the present edition is partly corrective,
partly supplementary: corrective, by notes, which point out (it
is hoped, in a perfectly candid and dispassionate spirit with no
desire but to establish the truth) such inaccuracies or
misstatements as may have been detected, particularly with regard
to Christianity; and which thus, with the previous caution, may
counteract to a considerable extent the unfair and unfavorable
impression created against rational religion: supplementary, by
adding such additional information as the editor's reading may
have been able to furnish, from original documents or books, not
accessible at the time when Gibbon wrote.

The work originated in the editor's habit of noting on the
margin of his copy of Gibbon references to such authors as had
discovered errors, or thrown new light on the subjects treated by
Gibbon. These had grown to some extent, and seemed to him likely
to be of use to others. The annotations of M. Guizot also
appeared to him worthy of being better known to the English
public than they were likely to be, as appended to the French

The chief works from which the editor has derived his
materials are, I. The French translation, with notes by M.
Guizot; 2d edition, Paris, 1828. The editor has translated almost
all the notes of M. Guizot. Where he has not altogether agreed
with him, his respect for the learning and judgment of that
writer has, in general, induced him to retain the statement from
which he has ventured to differ, with the grounds on which he
formed his own opinion. In the notes on Christianity, he has
retained all those of M. Guizot, with his own, from the
conviction, that on such a subject, to many, the authority of a
French statesman, a Protestant, and a rational and sincere
Christian, would appear more independent and unbiassed, and
therefore be more commanding, than that of an English clergyman.

The editor has not scrupled to transfer the notes of M.
Guizot to the present work. The well-known??eal for knowledge,
displayed in all the writings of that distinguished historian,
has led to the natural inference, that he would not be displeased
at the attempt to make them of use to the English readers of
Gibbon. The notes of M. Guizot are signed with the letter G.

II. The German translation, with the notes of Wenck.
Unfortunately this learned translator died, after having
completed only the first volume; the rest of the work was
executed by a very inferior hand.

The notes of Wenck are extremely valuable; many of them have
been adopted by M. Guizot; they are distinguished by the letter
W. ^*

[Footnote *: The editor regrets that he has not been able to find
the Italian translation, mentioned by Gibbon himself with some
respect. It is not in our great libraries, the Museum or the
Bodleian; and he has never found any bookseller in London who has
seen it.]

III. The new edition of Le Beau's "Histoire du Bas Empire,
with notes by M. St. Martin, and M. Brosset." That distinguished
Armenian scholar, M. St. Martin (now, unhappily, deceased) had
added much information from Oriental writers, particularly from
those of Armenia, as well as from more general sources. Many of
his observations have been found as applicable to the work of
Gibbon as to that of Le Beau.

IV. The editor has consulted the various answers made to
Gibbon on the first appearance of his work; he must confess, with
little profit. They were, in general, hastily compiled by
inferior and now forgotten writers, with the exception of Bishop
Watson, whose able apology is rather a general argument, than an
examination of misstatements. The name of Milner stands higher
with a certain class of readers, but will not carry much weight
with the severe investigator of history.

V. Some few classical works and fragments have come to
light, since the appearance of Gibbon's History, and have been
noticed in their respective places; and much use has been made,
in the latter volumes particularly, of the increase to our stores
of Oriental literature. The editor cannot, indeed, pretend to
have followed his author, in these gleanings, over the whole vast
field of his inquiries; he may have overlooked or may not have
been able to command some works, which might have thrown still
further light on these subjects; but he trusts that what he has
adduced will be of use to the student of historic truth.

The editor would further observe, that with regard to some
other objectionable passages, which do not involve misstatement
or inaccuracy, he has intentionally abstained from directing
particular attention towards them by any special protest.

The editor's notes are marked M.

A considerable part of the quotations (some of which in the
later editions had fallen into great confusion) have been
verified, and have been corrected by the latest and best editions
of the authors.

June, 1845.

In this new edition, the text and the notes have been
carefully revised, the latter by the editor.

Some additional notes have been subjoined, distinguished by
the signature M. 1845.

Preface Of The Author.

It is not my intention to detain the reader by expa??iating
on the variety or the importance of the subject, which I have
undertaken to treat; since the merit of the choice would serve to
render the weakness of the execution still more apparent, and
still less excusable. But as I have presumed to lay before the
public a first volume only ^1 of the History of the Decline and
Fall of the Roman Empire, it will, perhaps, be expected that I
should explain, in a few words, the nature and limits of my
general plan.

[Footnote 1: The first volume of the quarto, which contained the
sixteen first chapters.]

The memorable series of revolutions, which in the course of
about thirteen centuries gradually undermined, and at length
destroyed, the solid fabric of human greatness, may, with some
propriety, be divided into the three following periods:

I. The first of these periods may be traced from the age of
Trajan and the Antonines, when the Roman monarchy, having
attained its full strength and maturity, began to verge towards
its decline; and will extend to the subversion of the Western
Empire, by the barbarians of Germany and Scythia, the rude
ancestors of the most polished nations of modern Europe. This
extraordinary revolution, which subjected Rome to the power of a
Gothic conqueror, was completed about the beginning of the sixth

II. The second period of the Decline and Fall of Rome may
be supposed to commence with the reign of Justinian, who, by his
laws, as well as by his victories, restored a transient splendor
to the Eastern Empire. It will comprehend the invasion of Italy
by the Lombards; the conquest of the Asiatic and African
provinces by the Arabs, who embraced the religion of Mahomet; the
revolt of the Roman people against the feeble princes of
Constantinople; and the elevation of Charlemagne, who, in the
year eight hundred, established the second, or German Empire of
the West

III. The last and longest of these periods includes about
six centuries and a half; from the revival of the Western Empire,
till the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, and the
extinction of a degenerate race of princes, who continued to
assume the titles of Caesar and Augustus, after their dominions
were contracted to the limits of a single city; in which the
language, as well as manners, of the ancient Romans, had been
long since forgotten. The writer who should undertake to relate
the events of this period, would find himself obliged to enter
into the general history of the Crusades, as far as they
contributed to the ruin of the Greek Empire; and he would
scarcely be able to restrain his curiosity from making some
inquiry into the state of the city of Rome, during the darkness
and confusion of the middle ages.

As I have ventured, perhaps too hastily, to commit to the
press a work which in every sense of the word, deserves the
epithet of imperfect. I consider myself as contracting an
engagement to finish, most probably in a second volume, ^2 the
first of these memorable periods; and to deliver to the Public
the complete History of the Decline and Fall of Rome, from the
age of the Antonines to the subversion of the Western Empire.
With regard to the subsequent periods, though I may entertain
some hopes, I dare not presume to give any assurances. The
execution of the extensive plan which I have described, would
connect the ancient and modern history of the world; but it would
require many years of health, of leisure, and of perseverance.
[Footnote 2: The Author, as it frequently happens, took an
inadequate measure of his growing work. The remainder of the
first period has filled two volumes in quarto, being the third,
fourth, fifth, and sixth volumes of the octavo edition.]

Bentinck Street, February 1, 1776.

P. S. The entire History, which is now published, of the
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West, abundantly
discharges my engagements with the Public. Perhaps their
favorable opinion may encourage me to prosecute a work, which,
however laborious it may seem, is the most agreeable occupation
of my leisure hours.

Bentinck Street, March 1, 1781.

An Author easily persuades himself that the public opinion
is still favorable to his labors; and I have now embraced the
serious resolution of proceeding to the last period of my
original design, and of the Roman Empire, the taking of
Constantinople by the Turks, in the year one thousand four
hundred and fifty-three. The most patient Reader, who computes
that three ponderous ^3 volumes have been already employed on the
events of four centuries, may, perhaps, be alarmed at the long
prospect of nine hundred years. But it is not my intention to
expatiate with the same minuteness on the whole series of the
Byzantine history. At our entrance into this period, the reign
of Justinian, and the conquests of the Mahometans, will deserve
and detain our attention, and the last age of Constantinople (the
Crusades and the Turks) is connected with the revolutions of
Modern Europe. From the seventh to the eleventh century, the
obscure interval will be supplied by a concise narrative of such
facts as may still appear either interesting or important.
[Footnote 3: The first six volumes of the octavo edition.]
Bentinck Street, March 1, 1782.

Preface To The First Volume.

Diligence and accuracy are the only merits which an
historical writer may ascribe to himself; if any merit, indeed,
can be assumed from the performance of an indispensable duty. I
may therefore be allowed to say, that I have carefully examined
all the original materials that could illustrate the subject
which I had undertaken to treat. Should I ever complete the
extensive design which has been sketched out in the Preface, I
might perhaps conclude it with a critical account of the authors
consulted during the progress of the whole work; and however such
an attempt might incur the censure of ostentation, I am persuaded
that it would be susceptible of entertainment, as well as

At present I shall content myself with a single observation.

The biographers, who, under the reigns of Diocletian and
Constantine, composed, or rather compiled, the lives of the
Emperors, from Hadrian to the sons of Carus, are usually
mentioned under the names of Aelius Spartianus, Julius
Capitolinus, Aelius Lampridius, Vulcatius Gallicanus, Trebellius
Pollio and Flavius Vopiscus. But there is so much perplexity in
the titles of the MSS., and so many disputes have arisen among
the critics (see Fabricius, Biblioth. Latin. l. iii. c. 6)
concerning their number, their names, and their respective
property, that for the most part I have quoted them without
distinction, under the general and well-known title of the
Augustan History.

Preface To The Fourth Volume Of The Original Quarto Edition.

I now discharge my promise, and complete my design, of writing
the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, both in
the West and the East. The whole period extends from the age of
Trajan and the Antonines, to the taking of Constantinople by
Mahomet the Second; and includes a review of the Crusades, and
the state of Rome during the middle ages. Since the publication
of the first volume, twelve years have elapsed; twelve years,
according to my wish, "of health, of leisure, and of
perseverance." I may now congratulate my deliverance from a long
and laborious service, and my satisfaction will be pure and
perfect, if the public favor should be extended to the conclusion
of my work.

It was my first intention to have collected, under one view,
the numerous authors, of every age and language, from whom I have
derived the materials of this history; and I am still convinced
that the apparent ostentation would be more than compensated by
real use. If I have renounced this idea, if I have declined an
undertaking which had obtained the approbation of a
master-artist, ^* my excuse may be found in the extreme
difficulty of assigning a proper measure to such a catalogue. A
naked list of names and editions would not be satisfactory either
to myself or my readers: the characters of the principal Authors
of the Roman and Byzantine History have been occasionally
connected with the events which they describe; a more copious and
critical inquiry might indeed deserve, but it would demand, an
elaborate volume, which might swell by degrees into a general
library of historical writers. For the present, I shall content
myself with renewing my serious protestation, that I have always
endeavored to draw from the fountain-head; that my curiosity, as
well as a sense of duty, has always urged me to study the
originals; and that, if they have sometimes eluded my search, I
have carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose faith a
passage or a fact were reduced to depend.

[Footnote *: See Dr. Robertson's Preface to his History of

I shall soon revisit the banks of the Lake of Lausanne, a
country which I have known and loved from my early youth. Under
a mild government, amidst a beauteous landscape, in a life of
leisure and independence, and among a people of easy and elegant
manners, I have enjoyed, and may again hope to enjoy, the varied
pleasures of retirement and society. But I shall ever glory in
the name and character of an Englishman: I am proud of my birth
in a free and enlightened country; and the approbation of that
country is the best and most honorable reward of my labors. Were
I ambitious of any other Patron than the Public, I would inscribe
this work to a Statesman, who, in a long, a stormy, and at length
an unfortunate administration, had many political opponents,
almost without a personal enemy; who has retained, in his fall
from power, many faithful and disinterested friends; and who,
under the pressure of severe infirmity, enjoys the lively vigor
of his mind, and the felicity of his incomparable temper. Lord
North will permit me to express the feelings of friendship in the
language of truth: but even truth and friendship should be
silent, if he still dispensed the favors of the crown.

In a remote solitude, vanity may still whisper in my ear,
that my readers, perhaps, may inquire whether, in the conclusion
of the present work, I am now taking an everlasting farewell.
They shall hear all that I know myself, and all that I could
reveal to the most intimate friend. The motives of action or
silence are now equally balanced; nor can I pronounce, in my most
secret thoughts, on which side the scale will preponderate. I
cannot dissemble that six quartos must have tried, and may have
exhausted, the indulgence of the Public; that, in the repetition
of similar attempts, a successful Author has much more to lose
than he can hope to gain; that I am now descending into the vale
of years; and that the most respectable of my countrymen, the men
whom I aspire to imitate, have resigned the pen of history about
the same period of their lives. Yet I consider that the annals
of ancient and modern times may afford many rich and interesting
subjects; that I am still possessed of health and leisure; that
by the practice of writing, some skill and facility must be
acquired; and that, in the ardent pursuit of truth and knowledge,
I am not conscious of decay. To an active mind, indolence is
more painful than labor; and the first months of my liberty will
be occupied and amused in the excursions of curiosity and taste.
By such temptations, I have been sometimes seduced from the rigid
duty even of a pleasing and voluntary task: but my time will now
be my own; and in the use or abuse of independence, I shall no
longer fear my own reproaches or those of my friends. I am
fairly entitled to a year of jubilee: next summer and the
following winter will rapidly pass away; and experience only can
determine whether I shall still prefer the freedom and variety of
study to the design and composition of a regular work, which
animates, while it confines, the daily application of the Author.

Caprice and accident may influence my choice; but the dexterity
of self-love will contrive to applaud either active industry or
philosophic repose.

Downing Street, May 1, 1788.

P. S. I shall embrace this opportunity of introducing two
verbal remarks, which have not conveniently offered themselves to
my notice. 1. As often as I use the definitions of beyond the
Alps, the Rhine, the Danube, &c., I generally suppose myself at
Rome, and afterwards at Constantinople; without observing whether
this relative geography may agree with the local, but variable,
situation of the reader, or the historian. 2. In proper names
of foreign, and especially of Oriental origin, it should be
always our aim to express, in our English version, a faithful
copy of the original. But this rule, which is founded on a just
regard to uniformity and truth, must often be relaxed; and the
exceptions will be limited or enlarged by the custom of the
language and the taste of the interpreter. Our alphabets may be
often defective; a harsh sound, an uncouth spelling, might offend
the ear or the eye of our countrymen; and some words, notoriously
corrupt, are fixed, and, as it were, naturalized in the vulgar
tongue. The prophet Mohammed can no longer be stripped of the
famous, though improper, appellation of Mahomet: the well-known
cities of Aleppo, Damascus, and Cairo, would almost be lost in
the strange descriptions of Haleb, Demashk, and Al Cahira: the
titles and offices of the Ottoman empire are fashioned by the
practice of three hundred years; and we are pleased to blend the
three Chinese monosyllables, Con-fu- tzee, in the respectable
name of Confucius, or even to adopt the Portuguese corruption of
Mandarin. But I would vary the use of Zoroaster and Zerdusht, as
I drew my information from Greece or Persia: since our connection
with India, the genuine Timour is restored to the throne of
Tamerlane: our most correct writers have retrenched the Al, the
superfluous article, from the Koran; and we escape an ambiguous
termination, by adopting Moslem instead of Musulman, in the
plural number. In these, and in a thousand examples, the shades
of distinction are often minute; and I can feel, where I cannot
explain, the motives of my choice.

Chapter I: The Extent Of The Empire In The Age Of The Antonines.

Part I.


The Extent And Military Force Of The Empire In The Age Of The

In the second century of the Christian Aera, the empire of
Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most
civilized portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive
monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valor.
The gentle but powerful influence of laws and manners had
gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful
inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and
luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved with
decent reverence: the Roman senate appeared to possess the
sovereign authority, and devolved on the emperors all the
executive powers of government. During a happy period of more
than fourscore years, the public administration was conducted by
the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two
Antonines. It is the design of this, and of the two succeeding
chapters, to describe the prosperous condition of their empire;
and after wards, from the death of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce
the most important circumstances of its decline and fall; a
revolution which will ever be remembered, and is still felt by
the nations of the earth.

The principal conquests of the Romans were achieved under
the republic; and the emperors, for the most part, were satisfied
with preserving those dominions which had been acquired by the
policy of the senate, the active emulations of the consuls, and
the martial enthusiasm of the people. The seven first centuries
were filled with a rapid succession of triumphs; but it was
reserved for Augustus to relinquish the ambitious design of
subduing the whole earth, and to introduce a spirit of moderation
into the public councils. Inclined to peace by his temper and
situation, it was easy for him to discover that Rome, in her
present exalted situation, had much less to hope than to fear
from the chance of arms; and that, in the prosecution of remote
wars, the undertaking became every day more difficult, the event
more doubtful, and the possession more precarious, and less
beneficial. The experience of Augustus added weight to these
salutary reflections, and effectually convinced him that, by the
prudent vigor of his counsels, it would be easy to secure every
concession which the safety or the dignity of Rome might require
from the most formidable barbarians. Instead of exposing his
person and his legions to the arrows of the Parthians, he
obtained, by an honorable treaty, the restitution of the
standards and prisoners which had been taken in the defeat of
Crassus. ^1

[Footnote 1: Dion Cassius, (l. liv. p. 736,) with the annotations
of Reimar, who has collected all that Roman vanity has left upon
the subject. The marble of Ancyra, on which Augustus recorded
his own exploits, asserted that he compelled the Parthians to
restore the ensigns of Crassus.]

His generals, in the early part of his reign, attempted the
reduction of Ethiopia and Arabia Felix. They marched near a
thousand miles to the south of the tropic; but the heat of the
climate soon repelled the invaders, and protected the un-warlike
natives of those sequestered regions. ^2 The northern countries
of Europe scarcely deserved the expense and labor of conquest.
The forests and morasses of Germany were filled with a hardy race
of barbarians, who despised life when it was separated from
freedom; and though, on the first attack, they seemed to yield to
the weight of the Roman power, they soon, by a signal act of
despair, regained their independence, and reminded Augustus of
the vicissitude of fortune. ^3 On the death of that emperor, his
testament was publicly read in the senate. He bequeathed, as a
valuable legacy to his successors, the advice of confining the
empire within those limits which nature seemed to have placed as
its permanent bulwarks and boundaries: on the west, the Atlantic
Ocean; the Rhine and Danube on the north; the Euphrates on the
east; and towards the south, the sandy deserts of Arabia and
Africa. ^4

[Footnote 2: Strabo, (l. xvi. p. 780,) Pliny the elder, (Hist.
Natur. l. vi. c. 32, 35, [28, 29,] and Dion Cassius, (l. liii. p.
723, and l. liv. p. 734,) have left us very curious details
concerning these wars. The Romans made themselves masters of
Mariaba, or Merab, a city of Arabia Felix, well known to the
Orientals. (See Abulfeda and the Nubian geography, p. 52) They
were arrived within three days' journey of the spice country, the
rich object of their invasion.

Note: It is the city of Merab that the Arabs say was the
residence of Belkis, queen of Saba, who desired to see Solomon.
A dam, by which the waters collected in its neighborhood were
kept back, having been swept away, the sudden inundation
destroyed this city, of which, nevertheless, vestiges remain. It
bordered on a country called Adramout, where a particular
aromatic plant grows: it is for this reason that we real in the
history of the Roman expedition, that they were arrived within
three days' journey of the spice country. - G. Compare
Malte-Brun, Geogr. Eng. trans. vol. ii. p. 215. The period of
this flood has been copiously discussed by Reiske, (Program. de
vetusta Epocha Arabum, ruptura cataractae Merabensis.) Add.
Johannsen, Hist. Yemanae, p. 282. Bonn, 1828; and see Gibbon,
note 16. to Chap. L. - M.

Note: Two, according to Strabo. The detailed account of
Strabo makes the invaders fail before Marsuabae: this cannot be
the same place as Mariaba. Ukert observes, that Aelius Gallus
would not have failed for want of water before Mariaba. (See M.
Guizot's note above.) "Either, therefore, they were different
places, or Strabo is mistaken." (Ukert, Geographic der Griechen
und Romer, vol. i. p. 181.) Strabo, indeed, mentions Mariaba
distinct from Marsuabae. Gibbon has followed Pliny in reckoning
Mariaba among the conquests of Gallus. There can be little doubt
that he is wrong, as Gallus did not approach the capital of
Sabaea. Compare the note of the Oxford editor of Strabo. - M.]
[Footnote 3: By the slaughter of Varus and his three legions.
See the first book of the Annals of Tacitus. Sueton. in August.
c. 23, and Velleius Paterculus, l. ii. c. 117, &c. Augustus did
not receive the melancholy news with all the temper and firmness
that might have been expected from his character.]

[Footnote 4: Tacit. Annal. l. ii. Dion Cassius, l. lvi. p. 833,
and the speech of Augustus himself, in Julian's Caesars. It
receives great light from the learned notes of his French
translator, M. Spanheim.]

Happily for the repose of mankind, the moderate system
recommended by the wisdom of Augustus, was adopted by the fears
and vices of his immediate successors. Engaged in the pursuit of
pleasure, or in the exercise of tyranny, the first Caesars seldom
showed themselves to the armies, or to the provinces; nor were
they disposed to suffer, that those triumphs which their
indolence neglected, should be usurped by the conduct and valor
of their lieutenants. The military fame of a subject was
considered as an insolent invasion of the Imperial prerogative;
and it became the duty, as well as interest, of every Roman
general, to guard the frontiers intrusted to his care, without
aspiring to conquests which might have proved no less fatal to
himself than to the vanquished barbarians. ^5

[Footnote 5: Germanicus, Suetonius Paulinus, and Agricola were
checked and recalled in the course of their victories. Corbulo
was put to death. Military merit, as it is admirably expressed by
Tacitus, was, in the strictest sense of the word, imperatoria

The only accession which the Roman empire received, during
the first century of the Christian Aera, was the province of
Britain. In this single instance, the successors of Caesar and
Augustus were persuaded to follow the example of the former,
rather than the precept of the latter. The proximity of its
situation to the coast of Gaul seemed to invite their arms; the
pleasing though doubtful intelligence of a pearl fishery,
attracted their avarice; ^6 and as Britain was viewed in the
light of a distinct and insulated world, the conquest scarcely
formed any exception to the general system of continental
measures. After a war of about forty years, undertaken by the
most stupid, ^7 maintained by the most dissolute, and terminated
by the most timid of all the emperors, the far greater part of
the island submitted to the Roman yoke. ^8 The various tribes of
Britain possessed valor without conduct, and the love of freedom
without the spirit of union. They took up arms with savage
fierceness; they laid them down, or turned them against each
other, with wild inconsistency; and while they fought singly,
they were successively subdued. Neither the fortitude of
Caractacus, nor the despair of Boadicea, nor the fanaticism of
the Druids, could avert the slavery of their country, or resist
the steady progress of the Imperial generals, who maintained the
national glory, when the throne was disgraced by the weakest, or
the most vicious of mankind. At the very time when Domitian,
confined to his palace, felt the terrors which he inspired, his
legions, under the command of the virtuous Agricola, defeated the
collected force of the Caledonians, at the foot of the Grampian
Hills; and his fleets, venturing to explore an unknown and
dangerous navigation, displayed the Roman arms round every part
of the island. The conquest of Britain was considered as already
achieved; and it was the design of Agricola to complete and
insure his success, by the easy reduction of Ireland, for which,
in his opinion, one legion and a few auxiliaries were sufficient.
^9 The western isle might be improved into a valuable possession,
and the Britons would wear their chains with the less reluctance,
if the prospect and example of freedom were on every side removed
from before their eyes.

[Footnote 6: Caesar himself conceals that ignoble motive; but it
is mentioned by Suetonius, c. 47. The British pearls proved,
however, of little value, on account of their dark and livid
color. Tacitus observes, with reason, (in Agricola, c. 12,) that
it was an inherent defect. "Ego facilius crediderim, naturam
margaritis deesse quam nobis avaritiam."]

[Footnote 7: Claudius, Nero, and Domitian. A hope is expressed
by Pomponius Mela, l. iii. c. 6, (he wrote under Claudius,) that,
by the success of the Roman arms, the island and its savage
inhabitants would soon be better known. It is amusing enough to
peruse such passages in the midst of London.]
[Footnote 8: See the admirable abridgment given by Tacitus, in
the life of Agricola, and copiously, though perhaps not
completely, illustrated by our own antiquarians, Camden and

[Footnote 9: The Irish writers, jealous of their national honor,
are extremely provoked on this occasion, both with Tacitus and
with Agricola.]

But the superior merit of Agricola soon occasioned his
removal from the government of Britain; and forever disappointed
this rational, though extensive scheme of conquest. Before his
departure, the prudent general had provided for security as well
as for dominion. He had observed, that the island is almost
divided into two unequal parts by the opposite gulfs, or, as they
are now called, the Friths of Scotland. Across the narrow
interval of about forty miles, he had drawn a line of military
stations, which was afterwards fortified, in the reign of
Antoninus Pius, by a turf rampart, erected on foundations of
stone. ^10 This wall of Antoninus, at a small distance beyond the
modern cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, was fixed as the limit of
the Roman province. The native Caledonians preserved, in the
northern extremity of the island, their wild independence, for
which they were not less indebted to their poverty than to their
valor. Their incursions were frequently repelled and chastised;
but their country was never subdued. ^11 The masters of the
fairest and most wealthy climates of the globe turned with
contempt from gloomy hills, assailed by the winter tempest, from
lakes concealed in a blue mist, and from cold and lonely heaths,
over which the deer of the forest were chased by a troop of naked
barbarians. ^12

[Footnote 10: See Horsley's Britannia Romana, l. i. c. 10.
Note: Agricola fortified the line from Dumbarton to
Edinburgh, consequently within Scotland. The emperor Hadrian,
during his residence in Britain, about the year 121, caused a
rampart of earth to be raised between Newcastle and Carlisle.
Antoninus Pius, having gained new victories over the Caledonians,
by the ability of his general, Lollius, Urbicus, caused a new
rampart of earth to be constructed between Edinburgh and
Dumbarton. Lastly, Septimius Severus caused a wall of stone to
be built parallel to the rampart of Hadrian, and on the same
locality. See John Warburton's Vallum Romanum, or the History
and Antiquities of the Roman Wall. London, 1754, 4to. - W. See
likewise a good note on the Roman wall in Lingard's History of
England, vol. i. p. 40, 4to edit - M.]

[Footnote 11: The poet Buchanan celebrates with elegance and
spirit (see his Sylvae, v.) the unviolated independence of his
native country. But, if the single testimony of Richard of
Cirencester was sufficient to create a Roman province of
Vespasiana to the north of the wall, that independence would be
reduced within very narrow limits.]

[Footnote 12: See Appian (in Prooem.) and the uniform imagery of
Ossian's Poems, which, according to every hypothesis, were
composed by a native Caledonian.]

Such was the state of the Roman frontiers, and such the
maxims of Imperial policy, from the death of Augustus to the
accession of Trajan. That virtuous and active prince had
received the education of a soldier, and possessed the talents of
a general. ^13 The peaceful system of his predecessors was
interrupted by scenes of war and conquest; and the legions, after
a long interval, beheld a military emperor at their head. The
first exploits of Trajan were against the Dacians, the most
warlike of men, who dwelt beyond the Danube, and who, during the
reign of Domitian, had insulted, with impunity, the Majesty of
Rome. ^14 To the strength and fierceness of barbarians they added
a contempt for life, which was derived from a warm persuasion of
the immortality and transmigration of the soul. ^15 Decebalus,
the Dacian king, approved himself a rival not unworthy of Trajan;
nor did he despair of his own and the public fortune, till, by
the confession of his enemies, he had exhausted every resource
both of valor and policy. ^16 This memorable war, with a very
short suspension of hostilities, lasted five years; and as the
emperor could exert, without control, the whole force of the
state, it was terminated by an absolute submission of the
barbarians. ^17 The new province of Dacia, which formed a second
exception to the precept of Augustus, was about thirteen hundred
miles in circumference. Its natural boundaries were the Niester,
the Teyss or Tibiscus, the Lower Danube, and the Euxine Sea. The
vestiges of a military road may still be traced from the banks of
the Danube to the neighborhood of Bender, a place famous in
modern history, and the actual frontier of the Turkish and
Russian empires. ^18

[Footnote 13: See Pliny's Panegyric, which seems founded on

[Footnote 14: Dion Cassius, l. lxvii.]

[Footnote 15: Herodotus, l. iv. c. 94. Julian in the Caesars,
with Spanheims observations.]

[Footnote 16: Plin. Epist. viii. 9.]

[Footnote 17: Dion Cassius, l. lxviii. p. 1123, 1131. Julian in
Caesaribus Eutropius, viii. 2, 6. Aurelius Victor in Epitome.]
[Footnote 18: See a Memoir of M. d'Anville, on the Province of
Dacia, in the Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xxviii. p. 444 -

Trajan was ambitious of fame; and as long as mankind shall
continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than
on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be
the vice of the most exalted characters. The praises of
Alexander, transmitted by a succession of poets and historians,
had kindled a dangerous emulation in the mind of Trajan. Like
him, the Roman emperor undertook an expedition against the
nations of the East; but he lamented with a sigh, that his
advanced age scarcely left him any hopes of equalling the renown
of the son of Philip. ^19 Yet the success of Trajan, however
transient, was rapid and specious. The degenerate Parthians,
broken by intestine discord, fled before his arms. He descended
the River Tigris in triumph, from the mountains of Armenia to the
Persian Gulf. He enjoyed the honor of being the first, as he was
the last, of the Roman generals, who ever navigated that remote
sea. His fleets ravaged the coast of Arabia; and Trajan vainly
flattered himself that he was approaching towards the confines of
India. ^20 Every day the astonished senate received the
intelligence of new names and new nations, that acknowledged his
sway. They were informed that the kings of Bosphorus, Colchos,
Iberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and even the Parthian monarch himself,
had accepted their diadems from the hands of the emperor; that
the independent tribes of the Median and Carduchian hills had
implored his protection; and that the rich countries of Armenia,
Mesopotamia, and Assyria, were reduced into the state of
provinces. ^21 But the death of Trajan soon clouded the splendid
prospect; and it was justly to be dreaded, that so many distant
nations would throw off the unaccustomed yoke, when they were no
longer restrained by the powerful hand which had imposed it.
[Footnote 19: Trajan's sentiments are represented in a very just
and lively manner in the Caesars of Julian.]

[Footnote 20: Eutropius and Sextus Rufus have endeavored to
perpetuate the illusion. See a very sensible dissertation of M.
Freret in the Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xxi. p. 55.]
[Footnote 21: Dion Cassius, l. lxviii.; and the Abbreviators.]

Chapter I: The Extent Of The Empire In The Age Of The Antonines.

Part II.

It was an ancient tradition, that when the Capitol was
founded by one of the Roman kings, the god Terminus (who presided
over boundaries, and was represented, according to the fashion of
that age, by a large stone) alone, among all the inferior
deities, refused to yield his place to Jupiter himself. A
favorable inference was drawn from his obstinacy, which was
interpreted by the augurs as a sure presage that the boundaries
of the Roman power would never recede. ^22 During many ages, the
prediction, as it is usual, contributed to its own
accomplishment. But though Terminus had resisted the Majesty of
Jupiter, he submitted to the authority of the emperor Hadrian.
^23 The resignation of all the eastern conquests of Trajan was
the first measure of his reign. He restored to the Parthians the
election of an independent sovereign; withdrew the Roman
garrisons from the provinces of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and
Assyria; and, in compliance with the precept of Augustus, once
more established the Euphrates as the frontier of the empire. ^24
Censure, which arraigns the public actions and the private
motives of princes, has ascribed to envy, a conduct which might
be attributed to the prudence and moderation of Hadrian. The
various character of that emperor, capable, by turns, of the
meanest and the most generous sentiments, may afford some color
to the suspicion. It was, however, scarcely in his power to
place the superiority of his predecessor in a more conspicuous
light, than by thus confessing himself unequal to the task of
defending the conquests of Trajan.

[Footnote 22: Ovid. Fast. l. ii. ver. 667. See Livy, and
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, under the reign of Tarquin.]

[Footnote 23: St. Augustin is highly delighted with the proof of
the weakness of Terminus, and the vanity of the Augurs. See De
Civitate Dei, iv. 29.

Note *: The turn of Gibbon's sentence is Augustin's: "Plus
Hadrianum regem bominum, quam regem Deorum timuisse videatur." -

[Footnote 24: See the Augustan History, p. 5, Jerome's Chronicle,
and all the Epitomizers. It is somewhat surprising, that this
memorable event should be omitted by Dion, or rather by

The martial and ambitious of spirit Trajan formed a very
singular contrast with the moderation of his successor. The
restless activity of Hadrian was not less remarkable when
compared with the gentle repose of Antoninus Pius. The life of
the former was almost a perpetual journey; and as he possessed
the various talents of the soldier, the statesman, and the
scholar, he gratified his curiosity in the discharge of his duty.

Careless of the difference of seasons and of climates, he marched
on foot, and bare- headed, over the snows of Caledonia, and the
sultry plains of the Upper Egypt; nor was there a province of the
empire which, in the course of his reign, was not honored with
the presence of the monarch. ^25 But the tranquil life of
Antoninus Pius was spent in the bosom of Italy, and, during the
twenty-three years that he directed the public administration,
the longest journeys of that amiable prince extended no farther
than from his palace in Rome to the retirement of his Lanuvian
villa. ^26

[Footnote 25: Dion, l. lxix. p. 1158. Hist. August. p. 5, 8. If
all our historians were lost, medals, inscriptions, and other
monuments, would be sufficient to record the travels of Hadrian.
Note: The journeys of Hadrian are traced in a note on
Solvet's translation of Hegewisch, Essai sur l'Epoque de Histoire
Romaine la plus heureuse pour Genre Humain Paris, 1834, p. 123. -

[Footnote 26: See the Augustan History and the Epitomes.]

Notwithstanding this difference in their personal conduct,
the general system of Augustus was equally adopted and uniformly
pursued by Hadrian and by the two Antonines. They persisted in
the design of maintaining the dignity of the empire, without
attempting to enlarge its limits. By every honorable expedient
they invited the friendship of the barbarians; and endeavored to
convince mankind that the Roman power, raised above the
temptation of conquest, was actuated only by the love of order
and justice. During a long period of forty-three years, their
virtuous labors were crowned with success; and if we except a few
slight hostilities, that served to exercise the legions of the
frontier, the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius offer the fair
prospect of universal peace. ^27 The Roman name was revered among
the most remote nations of the earth. The fiercest barbarians
frequently submitted their differences to the arbitration of the
emperor; and we are informed by a contemporary historian that he
had seen ambassadors who were refused the honor which they came
to solicit of being admitted into the rank of subjects. ^28
[Footnote 27: We must, however, remember, that in the time of
Hadrian, a rebellion of the Jews raged with religious fury,
though only in a single province. Pausanias (l. viii. c. 43)
mentions two necessary and successful wars, conducted by the
generals of Pius: 1st. Against the wandering Moors, who were
driven into the solitudes of Atlas. 2d. Against the Brigantes
of Britain, who had invaded the Roman province. Both these wars
(with several other hostilities) are mentioned in the Augustan
History, p. 19.]

[Footnote 28: Appian of Alexandria, in the preface to his History
of the Roman Wars.]

Part II.

The terror of the Roman arms added weight and dignity to the
moderation of the emperors. They preserved peace by a constant
preparation for war; and while justice regulated their conduct,
they announced to the nations on their confines, that they were
as little disposed to endure, as to offer an injury. The military
strength, which it had been sufficient for Hadrian and the elder
Antoninus to display, was exerted against the Parthians and the
Germans by the emperor Marcus. The hostilities of the barbarians
provoked the resentment of that philosophic monarch, and, in the
prosecution of a just defence, Marcus and his generals obtained
many signal victories, both on the Euphrates and on the Danube.
^29 The military establishment of the Roman empire, which thus
assured either its tranquillity or success, will now become the
proper and important object of our attention.

[Footnote 29: Dion, l. lxxi. Hist. August. in Marco. The
Parthian victories gave birth to a crowd of contemptible
historians, whose memory has been rescued from oblivion and
exposed to ridicule, in a very lively piece of criticism of

In the purer ages of the commonwealth, the use of arms was
reserved for those ranks of citizens who had a country to love, a
property to defend, and some share in enacting those laws, which
it was their interest as well as duty to maintain. But in
proportion as the public freedom was lost in extent of conquest,
war was gradually improved into an art, and degraded into a
trade. ^30 The legions themselves, even at the time when they
were recruited in the most distant provinces, were supposed to
consist of Roman citizens. That distinction was generally
considered, either as a legal qualification or as a proper
recompense for the soldier; but a more serious regard was paid to
the essential merit of age, strength, and military stature. ^31
In all levies, a just preference was given to the climates of the
North over those of the South: the race of men born to the
exercise of arms was sought for in the country rather than in
cities; and it was very reasonably presumed, that the hardy
occupations of smiths, carpenters, and huntsmen, would supply
more vigor and resolution than the sedentary trades which are
employed in the service of luxury. ^32 After every qualification
of property had been laid aside, the armies of the Roman emperors
were still commanded, for the most part, by officers of liberal
birth and education; but the common soldiers, like the mercenary
troops of modern Europe, were drawn from the meanest, and very
frequently from the most profligate, of mankind.

[Footnote 30: The poorest rank of soldiers possessed above forty
pounds sterling, (Dionys. Halicarn. iv. 17,) a very high
qualification at a time when money was so scarce, that an ounce
of silver was equivalent to seventy pounds weight of brass. The
populace, excluded by the ancient constitution, were
indiscriminately admitted by Marius. See Sallust. de Bell.
Jugurth. c. 91.

Note: On the uncertainty of all these estimates, and the
difficulty of fixing the relative value of brass and silver,
compare Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 473, &c. Eng. trans. p. 452.
According to Niebuhr, the relative disproportion in value,
between the two metals, arose, in a great degree from the
abundance of brass or copper. - M. Compare also Dureau 'de la
Malle Economie Politique des Romains especially L. l. c. ix. - M.

[Footnote 31: Caesar formed his legion Alauda of Gauls and
strangers; but it was during the license of civil war; and after
the victory, he gave them the freedom of the city for their

[Footnote 32: See Vegetius, de Re Militari, l. i. c. 2 - 7.]
That public virtue, which among the ancients was denominated
patriotism, is derived from a strong sense of our own interest in
the preservation and prosperity of the free government of which
we are members. Such a sentiment, which had rendered the legions
of the republic almost invincible, could make but a very feeble
impression on the mercenary servants of a despotic prince; and it
became necessary to supply that defect by other motives, of a
different, but not less forcible nature - honor and religion.
The peasant, or mechanic, imbibed the useful prejudice that he
was advanced to the more dignified profession of arms, in which
his rank and reputation would depend on his own valor; and that,
although the prowess of a private soldier must often escape the
notice of fame, his own behavior might sometimes confer glory or
disgrace on the company, the legion, or even the army, to whose
honors he was associated. On his first entrance into the
service, an oath was administered to him with every circumstance
of solemnity. He promised never to desert his standard, to
submit his own will to the commands of his leaders, and to
sacrifice his life for the safety of the emperor and the empire.
^33 The attachment of the Roman troops to their standards was
inspired by the united influence of religion and of honor. The
golden eagle, which glittered in the front of the legion, was the
object of their fondest devotion; nor was it esteemed less
impious than it was ignominious, to abandon that sacred ensign in
the hour of danger. ^34 These motives, which derived their
strength from the imagination, were enforced by fears and hopes
of a more substantial kind. Regular pay, occasional donatives,
and a stated recompense, after the appointed time of service,
alleviated the hardships of the military life, ^35 whilst, on the
other hand, it was impossible for cowardice or disobedience to
escape the severest punishment. The centurions were authorized
to chastise with blows, the generals had a right to punish with
death; and it was an inflexible maxim of Roman discipline, that a
good soldier should dread his officers far more than the enemy.
From such laudable arts did the valor of the Imperial troops
receive a degree of firmness and docility unattainable by the
impetuous and irregular passions of barbarians.

[Footnote 33: The oath of service and fidelity to the emperor was
annually renewed by the troops on the first of January.]

[Footnote 34: Tacitus calls the Roman eagles, Bellorum Deos.
They were placed in a chapel in the camp, and with the other
deities received the religious worship of the troops.

Note: See also Dio. Cass. xl. c. 18. - M.]

[Footnote 35: See Gronovius de Pecunia vetere, l. iii. p. 120,
&c. The emperor Domitian raised the annual stipend of the
legionaries to twelve pieces of gold, which, in his time, was
equivalent to about ten of our guineas. This pay, somewhat
higher than our own, had been, and was afterwards, gradually
increased, according to the progress of wealth and military
government. After twenty years' service, the veteran received
three thousand denarii, (about one hundred pounds sterling,) or a
proportionable allowance of land. The pay and advantages of the
guards were, in general, about double those of the legions.]
And yet so sensible were the Romans of the imperfection of
valor without skill and practice, that, in their language, the
name of an army was borrowed from the word which signified
exercise. ^36 Military exercises were the important and
unremitted object of their discipline. The recruits and young
soldiers were constantly trained, both in the morning and in the
evening, nor was age or knowledge allowed to excuse the veterans
from the daily repetition of what they had completely learnt.
Large sheds were erected in the winter- quarters of the troops,
that their useful labors might not receive any interruption from
the most tempestuous weather; and it was carefully observed, that
the arms destined to this imitation of war, should be of double
the weight which was required in real action. ^37 It is not the
purpose of this work to enter into any minute description of the
Roman exercises. We shall only remark, that they comprehended
whatever could add strength to the body, activity to the limbs,
or grace to the motions. The soldiers were diligently instructed
to march, to run, to leap, to swim, to carry heavy burdens, to
handle every species of arms that was used either for offence or
for defence, either in distant engagement or in a closer onset;
to form a variety of evolutions; and to move to the sound of
flutes in the Pyrrhic or martial dance. ^38 In the midst of
peace, the Roman troops familiarized themselves with the practice
of war; and it is prettily remarked by an ancient historian who
had fought against them, that the effusion of blood was the only
circumstance which distinguished a field of battle from a field
of exercise. ^39 It was the policy of the ablest generals, and
even of the emperors themselves, to encourage these military
studies by their presence and example; and we are informed that
Hadrian, as well as Trajan, frequently condescended to instruct
the unexperienced soldiers, to reward the diligent, and sometimes
to dispute with them the prize of superior strength or dexterity.
^40 Under the reigns of those princes, the science of tactics was
cultivated with success; and as long as the empire retained any
vigor, their military instructions were respected as the most
perfect model of Roman discipline.

[Footnote 36: Exercitus ab exercitando, Varro de Lingua Latina,
l. iv. Cicero in Tusculan. l. ii. 37. [15.] There is room for a
very interesting work, which should lay open the connection
between the languages and manners of nations.

Note I am not aware of the existence, at present, of such a
work; but the profound observations of the late William von
Humboldt, in the introduction to his posthumously published Essay
on the Language of the Island of Java, (uber die Kawi-sprache,
Berlin, 1836,) may cause regret that this task was not completed
by that accomplished and universal scholar. - M.]

[Footnote 37: Vegatius, l. ii. and the rest of his first book.]
[Footnote 38: The Pyrrhic dance is extremely well illustrated by
M. le Beau, in the Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xxxv. p. 262,
&c. That learned academician, in a series of memoirs, has
collected all the passages of the ancients that relate to the
Roman legion.]

[Footnote 39: Joseph. de Bell. Judaico, l. iii. c. 5. We are
indebted to this Jew for some very curious details of Roman

[Footnote 40: Plin. Panegyr. c. 13. Life of Hadrian, in the
Augustan History.]

Nine centuries of war had gradually introduced into the
service many alterations and improvements. The legions, as they
are described by Polybius, ^41 in the time of the Punic wars,
differed very materially from those which achieved the victories
of Caesar, or defended the monarchy of Hadrian and the Antonines.

The constitution of the Imperial legion may be described in a few
words. ^42 The heavy-armed infantry, which composed its principal
strength, ^43 was divided into ten cohorts, and fifty-five
companies, under the orders of a correspondent number of tribunes
and centurions. The first cohort, which always claimed the post
of honor and the custody of the eagle, was formed of eleven
hundred and five soldiers, the most approved for valor and
fidelity. The remaining nine cohorts consisted each of five
hundred and fifty-five; and the whole body of legionary infantry
amounted to six thousand one hundred men. Their arms were
uniform, and admirably adapted to the nature of their service: an
open helmet, with a lofty crest; a breastplate, or coat of mail;
greaves on their legs, and an ample buckler on their left arm.
The buckler was of an oblong and concave figure, four feet in
length, and two and a half in breadth, framed of a light wood,
covered with a bull's hide, and strongly guarded with plates of
brass. Besides a lighter spear, the legionary soldier grasped in
his right hand the formidable pilum, a ponderous javelin, whose
utmost length was about six feet, and which was terminated by a
massy triangular point of steel of eighteen inches. ^44 This
instrument was indeed much inferior to our modern fire-arms;
since it was exhausted by a single discharge, at the distance of
only ten or twelve paces. Yet when it was launched by a firm and
skilful hand, there was not any cavalry that durst venture within
its reach, nor any shield or corselet that could sustain the
impetuosity of its weight. As soon as the Roman had darted his
pilum, he drew his sword, and rushed forwards to close with the
enemy. His sword was a short well-tempered Spanish blade, that
carried a double edge, and was alike suited to the purpose of
striking or of pushing; but the soldier was always instructed to
prefer the latter use of his weapon, as his own body remained
less exposed, whilst he inflicted a more dangerous wound on his
adversary. ^45 The legion was usually drawn up eight deep; and
the regular distance of three feet was left between the files as
well as ranks. ^46 A body of troops, habituated to preserve this
open order, in a long front and a rapid charge, found themselves
prepared to execute every disposition which the circumstances of
war, or the skill of their leader, might suggest. The soldier
possessed a free space for his arms and motions, and sufficient
intervals were allowed, through which seasonable reenforcements
might be introduced to the relief of the exhausted combatants.
^47 The tactics of the Greeks and Macedonians were formed on very
different principles. The strength of the phalanx depended on
sixteen ranks of long pikes, wedged together in the closest
array. ^48 But it was soon discovered by reflection, as well as
by the event, that the strength of the phalanx was unable to
contend with the activity of the legion. ^49

[Footnote 41: See an admirable digression on the Roman
discipline, in the sixth book of his History.]

[Footnote 42: Vegetius de Re Militari, l. ii. c. 4, &c.

Considerable part of his very perplexed abridgment was taken from
the regulations of Trajan and Hadrian; and the legion, as he
describes it, cannot suit any other age of the Roman empire.]
[Footnote 43: Vegetius de Re Militari, l. ii. c. 1. In the purer
age of Caesar and Cicero, the word miles was almost confined to
the infantry. Under the lower empire, and the times of chivalry,
it was appropriated almost as exclusively to the men at arms, who
fought on horseback.]

[Footnote 44: In the time of Polybius and Dionysius of
Halicarnassus, (l. v. c. 45,) the steel point of the pilum seems
to have been much longer. In the time of Vegetius, it was
reduced to a foot, or even nine inches. I have chosen a medium.]

[Footnote 45: For the legionary arms, see Lipsius de Militia
Romana, l. iii. c. 2 - 7.]

[Footnote 46: See the beautiful comparison of Virgil, Georgic ii.
v. 279.]

[Footnote 47: M. Guichard, Memoires Militaires, tom. i. c. 4, and
Nouveaux Memoires, tom. i. p. 293 - 311, has treated the subject
like a scholar and an officer.]

[Footnote 48: See Arrian's Tactics. With the true partiality of
a Greek, Arrian rather chose to describe the phalanx, of which he
had read, than the legions which he had commanded.]

[Footnote 49: Polyb. l. xvii. (xviii. 9.)]

The cavalry, without which the force of the legion would
have remained imperfect, was divided into ten troops or
squadrons; the first, as the companion of the first cohort,
consisted of a hundred and thirty-two men; whilst each of the
other nine amounted only to sixty-six. The entire establishment
formed a regiment, if we may use the modern expression, of seven
hundred and twenty-six horse, naturally connected with its
respective legion, but occasionally separated to act in the line,
and to compose a part of the wings of the army. ^50 The cavalry
of the emperors was no longer composed, like that of the ancient
republic, of the noblest youths of Rome and Italy, who, by
performing their military service on horseback, prepared
themselves for the offices of senator and consul; and solicited,
by deeds of valor, the future suffrages of their countrymen. ^51
Since the alteration of manners and government, the most wealthy
of the equestrian order were engaged in the administration of
justice, and of the revenue; ^52 and whenever they embraced the
profession of arms, they were immediately intrusted with a troop
of horse, or a cohort of foot. ^53 Trajan and Hadrian formed
their cavalry from the same provinces, and the same class of
their subjects, which recruited the ranks of the legion. The
horses were bred, for the most part, in Spain or Cappadocia. The
Roman troopers despised the complete armor with which the cavalry
of the East was encumbered. Their more useful arms consisted in
a helmet, an oblong shield, light boots, and a coat of mail. A
javelin, and a long broad sword, were their principal weapons of
offence. The use of lances and of iron maces they seem to have
borrowed from the barbarians. ^54

[Footnote 50: Veget. de Re Militari, l. ii. c. 6. His positive
testimony, which might be supported by circumstantial evidence,
ought surely to silence those critics who refuse the Imperial
legion its proper body of cavalry.
Note: See also Joseph. B. J. iii. vi. 2. - M.]

[Footnote 51: See Livy almost throughout, particularly xlii. 61.]

[Footnote 52: Plin. Hist. Natur. xxxiii. 2. The true sense of
that very curious passage was first discovered and illustrated by
M. de Beaufort, Republique Romaine, l. ii. c. 2.]

[Footnote 53: As in the instance of Horace and Agricola. This
appears to have been a defect in the Roman discipline; which
Hadrian endeavored to remedy by ascertaining the legal age of a

Note: These details are not altogether accurate. Although,
in the latter days of the republic, and under the first emperors,
the young Roman nobles obtained the command of a squadron or a
cohort with greater facility than in the former times, they never
obtained it without passing through a tolerably long military
service. Usually they served first in the praetorian cohort,
which was intrusted with the guard of the general: they were
received into the companionship (contubernium) of some superior
officer, and were there formed for duty. Thus Julius Caesar,
though sprung from a great family, served first as contubernalis
under the praetor, M. Thermus, and later under Servilius the
Isaurian. (Suet. Jul. 2, 5. Plut. in Par. p. 516. Ed. Froben.)
The example of Horace, which Gibbon adduces to prove that young
knights were made tribunes immediately on entering the service,
proves nothing. In the first place, Horace was not a knight; he
was the son of a freedman of Venusia, in Apulia, who exercised
the humble office of coactor exauctionum, (collector of payments
at auctions.) (Sat. i. vi. 45, or 86.) Moreover, when the poet
was made tribune, Brutus, whose army was nearly entirely composed
of Orientals, gave this title to all the Romans of consideration
who joined him. The emperors were still less difficult in their
choice; the number of tribunes was augmented; the title and
honors were conferred on persons whom they wished to attack to
the court. Augustus conferred on the sons of senators, sometimes
the tribunate, sometimes the command of a squadron. Claudius
gave to the knights who entered into the service, first the
command of a cohort of auxiliaries, later that of a squadron, and
at length, for the first time, the tribunate. (Suet in Claud.
with the notes of Ernesti.) The abuses that arose caused by the
edict of Hadrian, which fixed the age at which that honor could
be attained. (Spart. in Had. &c.) This edict was subsequently
obeyed; for the emperor Valerian, in a letter addressed to
Mulvius Gallinnus, praetorian praefect, excuses himself for
having violated it in favor of the young Probus afterwards
emperor, on whom he had conferred the tribunate at an earlier age
on account of his rare talents. (Vopisc. in Prob. iv.) - W. and
G. Agricola, though already invested with the title of tribune,
was contubernalis in Britain with Suetonius Paulinus. Tac. Agr.
v. - M.]

[Footnote 54: See Arrian's Tactics.]

The safety and honor of the empire was principally intrusted
to the legions, but the policy of Rome condescended to adopt
every useful instrument of war. Considerable levies were
regularly made among the provincials, who had not yet deserved
the honorable distinction of Romans. Many dependent princes and
communities, dispersed round the frontiers, were permitted, for a
while, to hold their freedom and security by the tenure of
military service. ^55 Even select troops of hostile barbarians
were frequently compelled or persuaded to consume their dangerous
valor in remote climates, and for the benefit of the state. ^56
All these were included under the general name of auxiliaries;
and howsoever they might vary according to the difference of
times and circumstances, their numbers were seldom much inferior
to those of the legions themselves. ^57 Among the auxiliaries,
the bravest and most faithful bands were placed under the command
of praefects and centurions, and severely trained in the arts of
Roman discipline; but the far greater part retained those arms,
to which the nature of their country, or their early habits of
life, more peculiarly adapted them. By this institution, each
legion, to whom a certain proportion of auxiliaries was allotted,
contained within itself every species of lighter troops, and of
missile weapons; and was capable of encountering every nation,
with the advantages of its respective arms and discipline. ^58
Nor was the legion destitute of what, in modern language, would
be styled a train of artillery. It consisted in ten military
engines of the largest, and fifty-five of a smaller size; but all
of which, either in an oblique or horizontal manner, discharged
stones and darts with irresistible violence. ^59
[Footnote 55: Such, in particular, was the state of the
Batavians. Tacit. Germania, c. 29.]

[Footnote 56: Marcus Antoninus obliged the vanquished Quadi and
Marcomanni to supply him with a large body of troops, which he
immediately sent into Britain. Dion Cassius, l. lxxi. (c. 16.)]
[Footnote 57: Tacit. Annal. iv. 5. Those who fix a regular
proportion of as many foot, and twice as many horse, confound the
auxiliaries of the emperors with the Italian allies of the

[Footnote 58: Vegetius, ii. 2. Arrian, in his order of march and
battle against the Alani.]

[Footnote 59: The subject of the ancient machines is treated with
great knowledge and ingenuity by the Chevalier Folard, (Polybe,
tom. ii. p. 233- 290.) He prefers them in many respects to our
modern cannon and mortars. We may observe, that the use of them
in the field gradually became more prevalent, in proportion as
personal valor and military skill declined with the Roman empire.

When men were no longer found, their place was supplied by
machines. See Vegetius, ii. 25. Arrian.]

Chapter I: The Extent Of The Empire In The Age Of The Antonines.

Part III.

The camp of a Roman legion presented the appearance of a
fortified city. ^60 As soon as the space was marked out, the
pioneers carefully levelled the ground, and removed every
impediment that might interrupt its perfect regularity. Its form
was an exact quadrangle; and we may calculate, that a square of
about seven hundred yards was sufficient for the encampment of
twenty thousand Romans; though a similar number of our own troops
would expose to the enemy a front of more than treble that
extent. In the midst of the camp, the praetorium, or general's
quarters, rose above the others; the cavalry, the infantry, and
the auxiliaries occupied their respective stations; the streets
were broad and perfectly straight, and a vacant space of two
hundred feet was left on all sides between the tents and the
rampart. The rampart itself was usually twelve feet high, armed
with a line of strong and intricate palisades, and defended by a
ditch of twelve feet in depth as well as in breadth. This
important labor was performed by the hands of the legionaries
themselves; to whom the use of the spade and the pickaxe was no
less familiar than that of the sword or pilum. Active valor may
often be the present of nature; but such patient diligence can be
the fruit only of habit and discipline. ^61

[Footnote 60: Vegetius finishes his second book, and the
description of the legion, with the following emphatic words: -
"Universa quae ix quoque belli genere necessaria esse creduntur,
secum Jegio debet ubique portare, ut in quovis loco fixerit
castra, arma'am faciat civitatem."]

[Footnote 61: For the Roman Castrametation, see Polybius, l. vi.
with Lipsius de Militia Romana, Joseph. de Bell. Jud. l. iii. c.
5. Vegetius, i. 21 - 25, iii. 9, and Memoires de Guichard, tom.
i. c. 1.]

Whenever the trumpet gave the signal of departure, the camp
was almost instantly broke up, and the troops fell into their
ranks without delay or confusion. Besides their arms, which the
legendaries scarcely considered as an encumbrance, they were
laden with their kitchen furniture, the instruments of
fortification, and the provision of many days. ^62 Under this
weight, which would oppress the delicacy of a modern soldier,
they were trained by a regular step to advance, in about six
hours, near twenty miles. ^63 On the appearance of an enemy, they
threw aside their baggage, and by easy and rapid evolutions
converted the column of march into an order of battle. ^64 The
slingers and archers skirmished in the front; the auxiliaries
formed the first line, and were seconded or sustained by the
strength of the legions; the cavalry covered the flanks, and the
military engines were placed in the rear.

[Footnote 62: Cicero in Tusculan. ii. 37, [15.] - Joseph. de
Bell. Jud. l. iii. 5, Frontinus, iv. 1.]

[Footnote 63: Vegetius, i. 9. See Memoires de l'Academie des
Inscriptions, tom. xxv. p. 187.]

[Footnote 64: See those evolutions admirably well explained by M.
Guichard Nouveaux Memoires, tom. i. p. 141 - 234.]

Such were the arts of war, by which the Roman emperors
defended their extensive conquests, and preserved a military
spirit, at a time when every other virtue was oppressed by luxury
and despotism. If, in the consideration of their armies, we pass
from their discipline to their numbers, we shall not find it easy
to define them with any tolerable accuracy. We may compute,
however, that the legion, which was itself a body of six thousand
eight hundred and thirty-one Romans, might, with its attendant
auxiliaries, amount to about twelve thousand five hundred men.
The peace establishment of Hadrian and his successors was
composed of no less than thirty of these formidable brigades; and
most probably formed a standing force of three hundred and
seventy-five thousand men. Instead of being confined within the
walls of fortified cities, which the Romans considered as the
refuge of weakness or pusillanimity, the legions were encamped on
the banks of the great rivers, and along the frontiers of the
barbarians. As their stations, for the most part, remained fixed
and permanent, we may venture to describe the distribution of the
troops. Three legions were sufficient for Britain. The principal
strength lay upon the Rhine and Danube, and consisted of sixteen
legions, in the following proportions: two in the Lower, and
three in the Upper Germany; one in Rhaetia, one in Noricum, four
in Pannonia, three in Maesia, and two in Dacia. The defence of
the Euphrates was intrusted to eight legions, six of whom were
planted in Syria, and the other two in Cappadocia. With regard
to Egypt, Africa, and Spain, as they were far removed from any
important scene of war, a single legion maintained the domestic
tranquillity of each of those great provinces. Even Italy was
not left destitute of a military force. Above twenty thousand
chosen soldiers, distinguished by the titles of City Cohorts and
Praetorian Guards, watched over the safety of the monarch and the
capital. As the authors of almost every revolution that
distracted the empire, the Praetorians will, very soon, and very
loudly, demand our attention; but, in their arms and
institutions, we cannot find any circumstance which discriminated
them from the legions, unless it were a more splendid appearance,
and a less rigid discipline. ^65

[Footnote 65: Tacitus (Annal. iv. 5) has given us a state of the
legions under Tiberius; and Dion Cassius (l. lv. p. 794) under
Alexander Severus. I have endeavored to fix on the proper medium
between these two periods. See likewise Lipsius de Magnitudine
Romana, l. i. c. 4, 5.]

The navy maintained by the emperors might seem inadequate to
their greatness; but it was fully sufficient for every useful
purpose of government. The ambition of the Romans was confined
to the land; nor was that warlike people ever actuated by the
enterprising spirit which had prompted the navigators of Tyre, of
Carthage, and even of Marseilles, to enlarge the bounds of the
world, and to explore the most remote coasts of the ocean. To
the Romans the ocean remained an object of terror rather than of
curiosity; ^66 the whole extent of the Mediterranean, after the
destruction of Carthage, and the extirpation of the pirates, was
included within their provinces. The policy of the emperors was
directed only to preserve the peaceful dominion of that sea, and
to protect the commerce of their subjects. With these moderate
views, Augustus stationed two permanent fleets in the most
convenient ports of Italy, the one at Ravenna, on the Adriatic,
the other at Misenum, in the Bay of Naples. Experience seems at
length to have convinced the ancients, that as soon as their
galleys exceeded two, or at the most three ranks of oars, they
were suited rather for vain pomp than for real service. Augustus
himself, in the victory of Actium, had seen the superiority of
his own light frigates (they were called Liburnians) over the
lofty but unwieldy castles of his rival. ^67 Of these Liburnians
he composed the two fleets of Ravenna and Misenum, destined to
command, the one the eastern, the other the western division of
the Mediterranean; and to each of the squadrons he attached a
body of several thousand marines. Besides these two ports, which
may be considered as the principal seats of the Roman navy, a
very considerable force was stationed at Frejus, on the coast of
Provence, and the Euxine was guarded by forty ships, and three
thousand soldiers. To all these we add the fleet which preserved
the communication between Gaul and Britain, and a great number of
vessels constantly maintained on the Rhine and Danube, to harass
the country, or to intercept the passage of the barbarians. ^68
If we review this general state of the Imperial forces; of the
cavalry as well as infantry; of the legions, the auxiliaries, the
guards, and the navy; the most liberal computation will not allow
us to fix the entire establishment by sea and by land at more
than four hundred and fifty thousand men: a military power,
which, however formidable it may seem, was equalled by a monarch
of the last century, whose kingdom was confined within a single
province of the Roman empire. ^69

[Footnote 66: The Romans tried to disguise, by the pretence of
religious awe their ignorance and terror. See Tacit. Germania,
c. 34.]

[Footnote 67: Plutarch, in Marc. Anton. [c. 67.] And yet, if we
may credit Orosius, these monstrous castles were no more than ten
feet above the water, vi. 19.]

[Footnote 68: See Lipsius, de Magnitud. Rom. l. i. c. 5. The
sixteen last chapters of Vegetius relate to naval affairs.]
[Footnote 69: Voltaire, Siecle de Louis XIV. c. 29. It must,
however, be remembered, that France still feels that
extraordinary effort.]

We have attempted to explain the spirit which moderated, and
the strength which supported, the power of Hadrian and the
Antonines. We shall now endeavor, with clearness and precision,
to describe the provinces once united under their sway, but, at
present, divided into so many independent and hostile states.
Spain, the western extremity of the empire, of Europe, and
of the ancient world, has, in every age, invariably preserved the
same natural limits; the Pyrenaean Mountains, the Mediterranean,
and the Atlantic Ocean. That great peninsula, at present so
unequally divided between two sovereigns, was distributed by
Augustus into three provinces, Lusitania, Baetica, and
Tarraconensis. The kingdom of Portugal now fills the place of
the warlike country of the Lusitanians; and the loss sustained by
the former on the side of the East, is compensated by an
accession of territory towards the North. The confines of Grenada
and Andalusia correspond with those of ancient Baetica. The
remainder of Spain, Gallicia, and the Asturias, Biscay, and
Navarre, Leon, and the two Castiles, Murcia, Valencia, Catalonia,
and Arragon, all contributed to form the third and most
considerable of the Roman governments, which, from the name of
its capital, was styled the province of Tarragona. ^70 Of the
native barbarians, the Celtiberians were the most powerful, as
the Cantabrians and Asturians proved the most obstinate.
Confident in the strength of their mountains, they were the last
who submitted to the arms of Rome, and the first who threw off
the yoke of the Arabs.

[Footnote 70: See Strabo, l. ii. It is natural enough to
suppose, that Arragon is derived from Tarraconensis, and several
moderns who have written in Latin use those words as synonymous.
It is, however, certain, that the Arragon, a little stream which
falls from the Pyrenees into the Ebro, first gave its name to a
country, and gradually to a kingdom. See d'Anville, Geographie
du Moyen Age, p. 181.]

Ancient Gaul, as it contained the whole country between the
Pyrenees, the Alps, the Rhine, and the Ocean, was of greater
extent than modern France. To the dominions of that powerful
monarchy, with its recent acquisitions of Alsace and Lorraine, we
must add the duchy of Savoy, the cantons of Switzerland, the four
electorates of the Rhine, and the territories of Liege,
Luxemburgh, Hainault, Flanders, and Brabant. When Augustus gave
laws to the conquests of his father, he introduced a division of
Gaul, equally adapted to the progress of the legions, to the
course of the rivers, and to the principal national distinctions,
which had comprehended above a hundred independent states. ^71
The sea-coast of the Mediterranean, Languedoc, Provence, and
Dauphine, received their provincial appellation from the colony
of Narbonne. The government of Aquitaine was extended from the
Pyrenees to the Loire. The country between the Loire and the
Seine was styled the Celtic Gaul, and soon borrowed a new
denomination from the celebrated colony of Lugdunum, or Lyons.
The Belgic lay beyond the Seine, and in more ancient times had
been bounded only by the Rhine; but a little before the age of
Caesar, the Germans, abusing their superiority of valor, had
occupied a considerable portion of the Belgic territory. The
Roman conquerors very eagerly embraced so flattering a
circumstance, and the Gallic frontier of the Rhine, from Basil to
Leyden, received the pompous names of the Upper and the Lower
Germany. ^72 Such, under the reign of the Antonines, were the six
provinces of Gaul; the Narbonnese, Aquitaine, the Celtic, or
Lyonnese, the Belgic, and the two Germanies.

[Footnote 71: One hundred and fifteen cities appear in the
Notitia of Gaul; and it is well known that this appellation was
applied not only to the capital town, but to the whole territory
of each state. But Plutarch and Appian increase the number of
tribes to three or four hundred.]
[Footnote 72: D'Anville. Notice de l'Ancienne Gaule.]

We have already had occasion to mention the conquest of
Britain, and to fix the boundary of the Roman Province in this
island. It comprehended all England, Wales, and the Lowlands of
Scotland, as far as the Friths of Dumbarton and Edinburgh.
Before Britain lost her freedom, the country was irregularly
divided between thirty tribes of barbarians, of whom the most
considerable were the Belgae in the West, the Brigantes in the
North, the Silures in South Wales, and the Iceni in Norfolk and
Suffolk. ^73 As far as we can either trace or credit the
resemblance of manners and language, Spain, Gaul, and Britain
were peopled by the same hardy race of savages. Before they
yielded to the Roman arms, they often disputed the field, and
often renewed the contest. After their submission, they
constituted the western division of the European provinces, which
extended from the columns of Hercules to the wall of Antoninus,
and from the mouth of the Tagus to the sources of the Rhine and

[Footnote 73: Whittaker's History of Manchester, vol. i. c. 3.]
Before the Roman conquest, the country which is now called
Lombardy, was not considered as a part of Italy. It had been

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