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

Part 12 out of 15

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any serious thoughts of resigning the empire. Neither Charles
nor Diocletian were arrived at a very advanced period of life;
since the one was only fifty- five, and the other was no more
than fifty-nine years of age; but the active life of those
princes, their wars and journeys, the cares of royalty, and their
application to business, had already impaired their constitution,
and brought on the infirmities of a premature old age. ^107

[Footnote 106: Solus omnium post conditum Romanum Imperium, qui
extanto fastigio sponte ad privatae vitae statum civilitatemque
remearet, Eutrop. ix. 28.]

[Footnote 107: The particulars of the journey and illness are
taken from Laclantius, c. 17,) who may sometimes be admitted as
an evidence of public facts, though very seldom of private

Notwithstanding the severity of a very cold and rainy
winter, Diocletian left Italy soon after the ceremony of his
triumph, and began his progress towards the East round the
circuit of the Illyrian provinces. From the inclemency of the
weather, and the fatigue of the journey, he soon contracted a
slow illness; and though he made easy marches, and was generally
carried in a close litter, his disorder, before he arrived at
Nicomedia, about the end of the summer, was become very serious
and alarming. During the whole winter he was confined to his
palace: his danger inspired a general and unaffected concern; but
the people could only judge of the various alterations of his
health, from the joy or consternation which they discovered in
the countenances and behavior of his attendants. The rumor of
his death was for some time universally believed, and it was
supposed to be concealed with a view to prevent the troubles that
might have happened during the absence of the Caesar Galerius.
At length, however, on the first of March, Diocletian once more
appeared in public, but so pale and emaciated, that he could
scarcely have been recognized by those to whom his person was the
most familiar. It was time to put an end to the painful
struggle, which he had sustained during more than a year, between
the care of his health and that of his dignity. The former
required indulgence and relaxation, the latter compelled him to
direct, from the bed of sickness, the administration of a great
empire. He resolved to pass the remainder of his days in
honorable repose, to place his glory beyond the reach of fortune,
and to relinquish the theatre of the world to his younger and
more active associates. ^108
[Footnote 108: Aurelius Victor ascribes the abdication, which had
been so variously accounted for, to two causes: 1st, Diocletian's
contempt of ambition; and 2dly, His apprehension of impending
troubles. One of the panegyrists (vi. 9) mentions the age and
infirmities of Diocletian as a very natural reason for his

Note: Constantine (Orat. ad Sanct. c. 401) more than
insinuated that derangement of mind, connected with the
conflagration of the palace at Nicomedia by lightning, was the
cause of his abdication. But Heinichen. in a very sensible note
on this passage in Eusebius, while he admits that his long
illness might produce a temporary depression of spirits,
triumphantly appeals to the philosophical conduct of Diocletian
in his retreat, and the influence which he still retained on
public affairs. - M.]

The ceremony of his abdication was performed in a spacious
plain, about three miles from Nicomedia. The emperor ascended a
lofty throne, and in a speech, full of reason and dignity,
declared his intention, both to the people and to the soldiers
who were assembled on this extraordinary occasion. As soon as he
had divested himself of his purple, he withdrew from the gazing
multitude; and traversing the city in a covered chariot,
proceeded, without delay, to the favorite retirement which he had
chosen in his native country of Dalmatia. On the same day, which
was the first of May, ^109 Maximian, as it had been previously
concerted, made his resignation of the Imperial dignity at Milan.

Even in the splendor of the Roman triumph, Diocletian had
meditated his design of abdicating the government. As he wished
to secure the obedience of Maximian, he exacted from him either a
general assurance that he would submit his actions to the
authority of his benefactor, or a particular promise that he
would descend from the throne, whenever he should receive the
advice and the example. This engagement, though it was confirmed
by the solemnity of an oath before the altar of the Capitoline
Jupiter, ^110 would have proved a feeble restraint on the fierce
temper of Maximian, whose passion was the love of power, and who
neither desired present tranquility nor future reputation. But
he yielded, however reluctantly, to the ascendant which his wiser
colleague had acquired over him, and retired, immediately after
his abdication, to a villa in Lucania, where it was almost
impossible that such an impatient spirit could find any lasting
[Footnote 109: The difficulties as well as mistakes attending the
dates both of the year and of the day of Diocletian's abdication
are perfectly cleared up by Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom.
iv. p 525, note 19, and by Pagi ad annum.]

[Footnote 110: See Panegyr. Veter. vi. 9. The oration was
pronounced after Maximian had resumed the purple.]

Diocletian, who, from a servile origin, had raised himself
to the throne, passed the nine last years of his life in a
private condition. Reason had dictated, and content seems to have
accompanied, his retreat, in which he enjoyed, for a long time,
the respect of those princes to whom he had resigned the
possession of the world. ^111 It is seldom that minds long
exercised in business have formed the habits of conversing with
themselves, and in the loss of power they principally regret the
want of occupation. The amusements of letters and of devotion,
which afford so many resources in solitude, were incapable of
fixing the attention of Diocletian; but he had preserved, or at
least he soon recovered, a taste for the most innocent as well as
natural pleasures, and his leisure hours were sufficiently
employed in building, planting, and gardening. His answer to
Maximian is deservedly celebrated. He was solicited by that
restless old man to reassume the reins of government, and the
Imperial purple. He rejected the temptation with a smile of
pity, calmly observing, that if he could show Maximian the
cabbages which he had planted with his own hands at Salona, he
should no longer be urged to relinquish the enjoyment of
happiness for the pursuit of power. ^112 In his conversations
with his friends, he frequently acknowledged, that of all arts,
the most difficult was the art of reigning; and he expressed
himself on that favorite topic with a degree of warmth which
could be the result only of experience. "How often," was he
accustomed to say, "is it the interest of four or five ministers
to combine together to deceive their sovereign! Secluded from
mankind by his exalted dignity, the truth is concealed from his
knowledge; he can see only with their eyes, he hears nothing but
their misrepresentations. He confers the most important offices
upon vice and weakness, and disgraces the most virtuous and
deserving among his subjects. By such infamous arts," added
Diocletian, "the best and wisest princes are sold to the venal
corruption of their courtiers." ^113 A just estimate of
greatness, and the assurance of immortal fame, improve our relish
for the pleasures of retirement; but the Roman emperor had filled
too important a character in the world, to enjoy without alloy
the comforts and security of a private condition. It was
impossible that he could remain ignorant of the troubles which
afflicted the empire after his abdication. It was impossible
that he could be indifferent to their consequences. Fear,
sorrow, and discontent, sometimes pursued him into the solitude
of Salona. His tenderness, or at least his pride, was deeply
wounded by the misfortunes of his wife and daughter; and the last
moments of Diocletian were imbittered by some affronts, which
Licinius and Constantine might have spared the father of so many
emperors, and the first author of their own fortune. A report,
though of a very doubtful nature, has reached our times, that he
prudently withdrew himself from their power by a voluntary death.
[Footnote 111: Eumenius pays him a very fine compliment: "At enim
divinum illum virum, qui primus imperium et participavit et
posuit, consilii et fact isui non poenitet; nec amisisse se putat
quod sponte transcripsit. Felix beatusque vere quem vestra,
tantorum principum, colunt privatum." Panegyr. Vet. vii. 15.]

[Footnote 112: We are obliged to the younger Victor for this
celebrated item. Eutropius mentions the thing in a more general

[Footnote 113: Hist. August. p. 223, 224. Vopiscus had learned
this conversation from his father.]

[Footnote 114: The younger Victor slightly mentions the report.
But as Diocletian had disobliged a powerful and successful party,
his memory has been loaded with every crime and misfortune. It
has been affirmed that he died raving mad, that he was condemned
as a criminal by the Roman senate, &c.]

Before we dismiss the consideration of the life and
character of Diocletian, we may, for a moment, direct our view to
the place of his retirement. Salona, a principal city of his
native province of Dalmatia, was near two hundred Roman miles
(according to the measurement of the public highways) from
Aquileia and the confines of Italy, and about two hundred and
seventy from Sirmium, the usual residence of the emperors
whenever they visited the Illyrian frontier. ^115 A miserable
village still preserves the name of Salona; but so late as the
sixteenth century, the remains of a theatre, and a confused
prospect of broken arches and marble columns, continued to attest
its ancient splendor. ^116 About six or seven miles from the
city, Diocletian constructed a magnificent palace, and we may
infer, from the greatness of the work, how long he had meditated
his design of abdicating the empire. The choice of a spot which
united all that could contribute either to health or to luxury,
did not require the partiality of a native. "The soil was dry and
fertile, the air is pure and wholesome, and though extremely hot
during the summer months, this country seldom feels those sultry
and noxious winds, to which the coasts of Istria and some parts
of Italy are exposed. The views from the palace are no less
beautiful than the soil and climate were inviting. Towards the
west lies the fertile shore that stretches along the Adriatic, in
which a number of small islands are scattered in such a manner,
as to give this part of the sea the appearance of a great lake.
On the north side lies the bay, which led to the ancient city of
Salona; and the country beyond it, appearing in sight, forms a
proper contrast to that more extensive prospect of water, which
the Adriatic presents both to the south and to the east. Towards
the north, the view is terminated by high and irregular
mountains, situated at a proper distance, and in many places
covered with villages, woods, and vineyards." ^117
[Footnote 115: See the Itiner. p. 269, 272, edit. Wessel.]
[Footnote 116: The Abate Fortis, in his Viaggio in Dalmazia, p.
43, (printed at Venice in the year 1774, in two small volumes in
quarto,) quotes a Ms account of the antiquities of Salona,
composed by Giambattista Giustiniani about the middle of the
xvith century.]

[Footnote 117: Adam's Antiquities of Diocletian's Palace at
Spalatro, p. 6. We may add a circumstance or two from the Abate
Fortis: the little stream of the Hyader, mentioned by Lucan,
produces most exquisite trout, which a sagacious writer, perhaps
a monk, supposes to have been one of the principal reasons that
determined Diocletian in the choice of his retirement. Fortis,
p. 45. The same author (p. 38) observes, that a taste for
agriculture is reviving at Spalatro; and that an experimental
farm has lately been established near the city, by a society of

Though Constantine, from a very obvious prejudice, affects
to mention the palace of Diocletian with contempt, ^118 yet one
of their successors, who could only see it in a neglected and
mutilated state, celebrates its magnificence in terms of the
highest admiration. ^119 It covered an extent of ground
consisting of between nine and ten English acres. The form was
quadrangular, flanked with sixteen towers. Two of the sides were
near six hundred, and the other two near seven hundred feet in
length. The whole was constructed of a beautiful freestone,
extracted from the neighboring quarries of Trau, or Tragutium,
and very little inferior to marble itself. Four streets,
intersecting each other at right angles, divided the several
parts of this great edifice, and the approach to the principal
apartment was from a very stately entrance, which is still
denominated the Golden Gate. The approach was terminated by a
peristylium of granite columns, on one side of which we discover
the square temple of Aesculapius, on the other the octagon temple
of Jupiter. The latter of those deities Diocletian revered as
the patron of his fortunes, the former as the protector of his
health. By comparing the present remains with the precepts of
Vitruvius, the several parts of the building, the baths,
bed-chamber, the atrium, the basilica, and the Cyzicene,
Corinthian, and Egyptian halls have been described with some
degree of precision, or at least of probability. Their forms
were various, their proportions just; but they all were attended
with two imperfections, very repugnant to our modern notions of
taste and conveniency. These stately rooms had neither windows
nor chimneys. They were lighted from the top, (for the building
seems to have consisted of no more than one story,) and they
received their heat by the help of pipes that were conveyed along
the walls. The range of principal apartments was protected
towards the south-west by a portico five hundred and seventeen
feet long, which must have formed a very noble and delightful
walk, when the beauties of painting and sculpture were added to
those of the prospect.

[Footnote 118: Constantin. Orat. ad Coetum Sanct. c. 25. In this
sermon, the emperor, or the bishop who composed it for him,
affects to relate the miserable end of all the persecutors of the

[Footnote 119: Constantin. Porphyr. de Statu Imper. p. 86.]
Had this magnificent edifice remained in a solitary country,
it would have been exposed to the ravages of time; but it might,
perhaps, have escaped the rapacious industry of man. The village
of Aspalathus, ^120 and, long afterwards, the provincial town of
Spalatro, have grown out of its ruins. The Golden Gate now opens
into the market-place. St. John the Baptist has usurped the
honors of Aesculapius; and the temple of Jupiter, under the
protection of the Virgin, is converted into the cathedral church.

For this account of Diocletian's palace we are principally
indebted to an ingenious artist of our own time and country, whom
a very liberal curiosity carried into the heart of Dalmatia. ^121
But there is room to suspect that the elegance of his designs and
engraving has somewhat flattered the objects which it was their
purpose to represent. We are informed by a more recent and very
judicious traveller, that the awful ruins of Spalatro are not
less expressive of the decline of the art than of the greatness
of the Roman empire in the time of Diocletian. ^122 If such was
indeed the state of architecture, we must naturally believe that
painting and sculpture had experienced a still more sensible
decay. The practice of architecture is directed by a few general
and even mechanical rules. But sculpture, and above all,
painting, propose to themselves the imitation not only of the
forms of nature, but of the characters and passions of the human
soul. In those sublime arts, the dexterity of the hand is of
little avail, unless it is animated by fancy, and guided by the
most correct taste and observation.
[Footnote 120: D'Anville, Geographie Ancienne, tom. i. p. 162.]
[Footnote 121: Messieurs Adam and Clerisseau, attended by two
draughtsmen visited Spalatro in the month of July, 1757. The
magnificent work which their journey produced was published in
London seven years afterwards.]
[Footnote 122: I shall quote the words of the Abate Fortis.
"E'bastevolmente agli amatori dell' Architettura, e dell'
Antichita, l'opera del Signor Adams, che a donato molto a que'
superbi vestigi coll'abituale eleganza del suo toccalapis e del
bulino. In generale la rozzezza del scalpello, e'l cattivo gusto
del secolo vi gareggiano colla magnificenz del fabricato." See
Viaggio in Dalmazia, p. 40.]

It is almost unnecessary to remark, that the civil
distractions of the empire, the license of the soldiers, the
inroads of the barbarians, and the progress of despotism, had
proved very unfavorable to genius, and even to learning. The
succession of Illyrian princes restored the empire without
restoring the sciences. Their military education was not
calculated to inspire them with the love of letters; and even the
mind of Diocletian, however active and capacious in business, was
totally uninformed by study or speculation. The professions of
law and physic are of such common use and certain profit, that
they will always secure a sufficient number of practitioners,
endowed with a reasonable degree of abilities and knowledge; but
it does not appear that the students in those two faculties
appeal to any celebrated masters who have flourished within that
period. The voice of poetry was silent. History was reduced to
dry and confused abridgments, alike destitute of amusement and
instruction. A languid and affected eloquence was still retained
in the pay and service of the emperors, who encouraged not any
arts except those which contributed to the gratification of their
pride, or the defence of their power. ^123

[Footnote 123: The orator Eumenius was secretary to the emperors
Maximian and Constantius, and Professor of Rhetoric in the
college of Autun. His salary was six hundred thousand sesterces,
which, according to the lowest computation of that age, must have
exceeded three thousand pounds a year. He generously requested
the permission of employing it in rebuilding the college. See
his Oration De Restaurandis Scholis; which, though not exempt
from vanity, may atone for his panegyrics.]

The declining age of learning and of mankind is marked,
however, by the rise and rapid progress of the new Platonists.
The school of Alexandria silenced those of Athens; and the
ancient sects enrolled themselves under the banners of the more
fashionable teachers, who recommended their system by the novelty
of their method, and the austerity of their manners. Several of
these masters, Ammonius, Plotinus, Amelius, and Porphyry, ^124
were men of profound thought and intense application; but by
mistaking the true object of philosophy, their labors contributed
much less to improve than to corrupt the human understanding.
The knowledge that is suited to our situation and powers, the
whole compass of moral, natural, and mathematical science, was
neglected by the new Platonists; whilst they exhausted their
strength in the verbal disputes of metaphysics, attempted to
explore the secrets of the invisible world, and studied to
reconcile Aristotle with Plato, on subjects of which both these
philosophers were as ignorant as the rest of mankind. Consuming
their reason in these deep but unsubstantial meditations, their
minds were exposed to illusions of fancy. They flattered
themselves that they possessed the secret of disengaging the soul
from its corporal prison; claimed a familiar intercourse with
demons and spirits; and, by a very singular revolution, converted
the study of philosophy into that of magic. The ancient sages had
derided the popular superstition; after disguising its
extravagance by the thin pretence of allegory, the disciples of
Plotinus and Porphyry became its most zealous defenders. As they
agreed with the Christians in a few mysterious points of faith,
they attacked the remainder of their theological system with all
the fury of civil war. The new Platonists would scarcely deserve
a place in the history of science, but in that of the church the
mention of them will very frequently occur.
[Footnote 124: Porphyry died about the time of Diocletian's
abdication. The life of his master Plotinus, which he composed,
will give us the most complete idea of the genius of the sect,
and the manners of its professors. This very curious piece is
inserted in Fabricius Bibliotheca Graeca tom. iv. p. 88 - 148.]

Chapter XIV: Six Emperors At The Same Time, Reunion Of The

Part I.

Troubles After The Abdication Of Diocletian. - Death Of
Constantius. - Elevation Of Constantine And Maxen Tius. - Six
Emperors At The Same Time. - Death Of Maximian And Galerius. -
Victories Of Constantine Over Maxentius And Licinus. - Reunion Of
The Empire Under The Authority Of Constantine.
The balance of power established by Diocletian subsisted no
longer than while it was sustained by the firm and dexterous hand
of the founder. It required such a fortunate mixture of
different tempers and abilities, as could scarcely be found or
even expected a second time; two emperors without jealousy, two
Caesars without ambition, and the same general interest
invariably pursued by four independent princes. The abdication
of Diocletian and Maximian was succeeded by eighteen years of
discord and confusion. The empire was afflicted by five civil
wars; and the remainder of the time was not so much a state of
tranquillity as a suspension of arms between several hostile
monarchs, who, viewing each other with an eye of fear and hatred,
strove to increase their respective forces at the expense of
their subjects.
As soon as Diocletian and Maximian had resigned the purple,
their station, according to the rules of the new constitution,
was filled by the two Caesars, Constantius and Galerius, who
immediately assumed the title of Augustus. ^1

[Footnote 1: M. de Montesquieu (Considerations sur la Grandeur et
La Decadence des Romains, c. 17) supposes, on the authority of
Orosius and Eusebius, that, on this occasion, the empire, for the
first time, was really divided into two parts. It is difficult,
however, to discover in what respect the plan of Galerius
differed from that of Diocletian.]
The honors of seniority and precedence were allowed to the
former of those princes, and he continued under a new appellation
to administer his ancient department of Gaul, Spain, and Britain.

The government of those ample provinces was sufficient to
exercise his talents and to satisfy his ambition. Clemency,
temperance, and moderation, distinguished the amiable character
of Constantius, and his fortunate subjects had frequently
occasion to compare the virtues of their sovereign with the
passions of Maximian, and even with the arts of Diocletian. ^2
Instead of imitating their eastern pride and magnificence,
Constantius preserved the modesty of a Roman prince. He
declared, with unaffected sincerity, that his most valued
treasure was in the hearts of his people, and that, whenever the
dignity of the throne, or the danger of the state, required any
extraordinary supply, he could depend with confidence on their
gratitude and liberality. ^3 The provincials of Gaul, Spain, and
Britain, sensible of his worth, and of their own happiness,
reflected with anxiety on the declining health of the emperor
Constantius, and the tender age of his numerous family, the issue
of his second marriage with the daughter of Maximian.

[Footnote 2: Hic non modo amabilis, sed etiam venerabilis Gallis
fuit; praecipuc quod Diocletiani suspectam prudentiam, et
Maximiani sanguinariam violentiam imperio ejus evaserant.
Eutrop. Breviar. x. i.]
[Footnote 3: Divitiis Provincialium (mel. provinciarum) ac
privatorum studens, fisci commoda non admodum affectans;
ducensque melius publicas opes a privatis haberi, quam intra unum
claustrum reservari. Id. ibid. He carried this maxim so far,
that whenever he gave an entertainment, he was obliged to borrow
a service of plate.]

The stern temper of Galerius was cast in a very different
mould; and while he commanded the esteem of his subjects, he
seldom condescended to solicit their affections. His fame in
arms, and, above all, the success of the Persian war, had elated
his haughty mind, which was naturally impatient of a superior, or
even of an equal. If it were possible to rely on the partial
testimony of an injudicious writer, we might ascribe the
abdication of Diocletian to the menaces of Galerius, and relate
the particulars of a private conversation between the two
princes, in which the former discovered as much pusillanimity as
the latter displayed ingratitude and arrogance. ^4 But these
obscure anecdotes are sufficiently refuted by an impartia view of
the character and conduct of Diocletian. Whatever might
otherwise have been his intentions, if he had apprehended any
danger from the violence of Galerius, his good sense would have
instructed him to prevent the ignominious contest; and as he had
held the sceptre with glory, he would have resigned it without

[Footnote 4: Lactantius de Mort. Persecutor. c. 18. Were the
particulars of this conference more consistent with truth and
decency, we might still ask how they came to the knowledge of an
obscure rhetorician. But there are many historians who put us in
mind of the admirable saying of the great Conde to Cardinal de
Retz: "Ces coquins nous font parlor et agir, comme ils auroient
fait eux-memes a notre place."

Note: This attack upon Lactantius is unfounded. Lactantius
was so far from having been an obscure rhetorician, that he had
taught rhetoric publicly, and with the greatest success, first in
Africa, and afterwards in Nicomedia. His reputation obtained him
the esteem of Constantine, who invited him to his court, and
intrusted to him the education of his son Crispus. The facts
which he relates took place during his own time; he cannot be
accused of dishonesty or imposture. Satis me vixisse arbitrabor
et officium hominis implesse si labor meus aliquos homines, ab
erroribus iberatos, ad iter coeleste direxerit. De Opif. Dei,
cap. 20. The eloquence of Lactantius has caused him to be called
the Christian Cicero. Annon Gent. - G.

Yet no unprejudiced person can read this coarse and
particular private conversation of the two emperors, without
assenting to the justice of Gibbon's severe sentence. But the
authorship of the treatise is by no means certain. The fame of
Lactantius for eloquence as well as for truth, would suffer no
loss if it should be adjudged to some more "obscure rhetorician."
Manso, in his Leben Constantins des Grossen, concurs on this
point with Gibbon Beylage, iv. - M.]

After the elevation of Constantius and Galerius to the rank
of Augusti, two new Coesars were required to supply their place,
and to complete the system of the Imperial government.
Diocletian, was sincerely desirous of withdrawing himself from
the world; he considered Galerius, who had married his daughter,
as the firmest support of his family and of the empire; and he
consented, without reluctance, that his successor should assume
the merit as well as the envy of the important nomination. It
was fixed without consulting the interest or inclination of the
princes of the West. Each of them had a son who was arrived at
the age of manhood, and who might have been deemed the most
natural candidates for the vacant honor. But the impotent
resentment of Maximian was no longer to be dreaded; and the
moderate Constantius, though he might despise the dangers, was
humanely apprehensive of the calamities, of civil war. The two
persons whom Galerius promoted to the rank of Caesar, were much
better suited to serve the views of his ambition; and their
principal recommendation seems to have consisted in the want of
merit or personal consequence. The first of these was Daza, or,
as he was afterwards called, Maximin, whose mother was the sister
of Galerius. The unexperienced youth still betrayed, by his
manners and language, his rustic education, when, to his own
astonishment, as well as that of the world, he was invested by
Diocletian with the purple, exalted to the dignity of Caesar, and
intrusted with the sovereign command of Egypt and Syria. ^5 At
the same time, Severus, a faithful servant, addicted to pleasure,
but not incapable of business, was sent to Milan, to receive,
from the reluctant hands of Maximian, the Caesarian ornaments,
and the possession of Italy and Africa. According to the forms
of the constitution, Severus acknowledged the supremacy of the
western emperor; but he was absolutely devoted to the commands of
his benefactor Galerius, who, reserving to himself the
intermediate countries from the confines of Italy to those of
Syria, firmly established his power over three fourths of the
monarchy. In the full confidence that the approaching death of
Constantius would leave him sole master of the Roman world, we
are assured that he had arranged in his mind a long succession of
future princes, and that he meditated his own retreat from public
life, after he should have accomplished a glorious reign of about
twenty years. ^7

[Footnote 5: Sublatus nuper a pecoribus et silvis (says
Lactantius de M. P. c. 19) statim Scutarius, continuo Protector,
mox Tribunus, postridie Caesar, accepit Orientem. Aurelius
Victor is too liberal in giving him the whole portion of
[Footnote 6: His diligence and fidelity are acknowledged even by
Lactantius, de M. P. c. 18.]

[Footnote 7: These schemes, however, rest only on the very
doubtful authority of Lactantius de M. P. c. 20.]

But within less than eighteen months, two unexpected
revolutions overturned the ambitious schemes of Galerius. The
hopes of uniting the western provinces to his empire were
disappointed by the elevation of Constantine, whilst Italy and
Africa were lost by the successful revolt of Maxentius.

I. The fame of Constantine has rendered posterity attentive
to the most minute circumstances of his life and actions. The
place of his birth, as well as the condition of his mother
Helena, have been the subject, not only of literary, but of
national disputes. Notwithstanding the recent tradition, which
assigns for her father a British king, ^8 we are obliged to
confess, that Helena was the daughter of an innkeeper; but at the
same time, we may defend the legality of her marriage, against
those who have represented her as the concubine of Constantius.
^9 The great Constantine was most probably born at Naissus, in
Dacia; ^10 and it is not surprising that, in a family and
province distinguished only by the profession of arms, the youth
should discover very little inclination to improve his mind by
the acquisition of knowledge. ^11 He was about eighteen years of
age when his father was promoted to the rank of Caesar; but that
fortunate event was attended with his mother's divorce; and the
splendor of an Imperial alliance reduced the son of Helena to a
state of disgrace and humiliation. Instead of following
Constantius in the West, he remained in the service of
Diocletian, signalized his valor in the wars of Egypt and Persia,
and gradually rose to the honorable station of a tribune of the
first order. The figure of Constantine was tall and majestic; he
was dexterous in all his exercises, intrepid in war, affable in
peace; in his whole conduct, the active spirit of youth was
tempered by habitual prudence; and while his mind was engrossed
by ambition, he appeared cold and insensible to the allurements
of pleasure. The favor of the people and soldiers, who had named
him as a worthy candidate for the rank of Caesar, served only to
exasperate the jealousy of Galerius; and though prudence might
restrain him from exercising any open violence, an absolute
monarch is seldom at a loss now to execute a sure and secret
evenge. ^12 Every hour increased the danger of Constantine, and
the anxiety of his father, who, by repeated letters, expressed
the warmest desire of embracing his son. For some time the
policy of Galerius supplied him with delays and excuses; but it
was impossible long to refuse so natural a request of his
associate, without maintaining his refusal by arms. The
permission of the journey was reluctantly granted, and whatever
precautions the emperor might have taken to intercept a return,
the consequences of which he, with so much reason, apprehended,
they were effectually disappointed by the incredible diligence of
Constantine. ^13 Leaving the palace of Nicomedia in the night, he
travelled post through Bithynia, Thrace, Dacia, Pannonia, Italy,
and Gaul, and, amidst the joyful acclamations of the people,
reached the port of Boulogne in the very moment when his father
was preparing to embark for Britain. ^14

[Footnote 8: This tradition, unknown to the contemporaries of
Constantine was invented in the darkness of monestaries, was
embellished by Jeffrey of Monmouth, and the writers of the xiith
century, has been defended by our antiquarians of the last age,
and is seriously related in the ponderous History of England,
compiled by Mr. Carte, (vol. i. p. 147.) He transports, however,
the kingdom of Coil, the imaginary father of Helena, from Essex
to the wall of Antoninus.]

[Footnote 9: Eutropius (x. 2) expresses, in a few words, the real
truth, and the occasion of the error "ex obscuriori matrimonio
ejus filius." Zosimus (l. ii. p. 78) eagerly seized the most
unfavorable report, and is followed by Orosius, (vii. 25,) whose
authority is oddly enough overlooked by the indefatigable, but
partial Tillemont. By insisting on the divorce of Helena,
Diocletian acknowledged her marriage.]

[Footnote 10: There are three opinions with regard to the place
of Constantine's birth. 1. Our English antiquarians were used to
dwell with rapture on the words of his panegyrist, "Britannias
illic oriendo nobiles fecisti." But this celebrated passage may
be referred with as much propriety to the accession, as to the
nativity of Constantine. 2. Some of the modern Greeks have
ascribed the honor of his birth to Drepanum, a town on the Gulf
of Nicomedia, (Cellarius, tom. ii. p. 174,) which Constantine
dignified with the name of Helenopolis, and Justinian adorned
with many splendid buildings, (Procop. de Edificiis, v. 2.) It is
indeed probable enough, that Helena's father kept an inn at
Drepanum, and that Constantius might lodge there when he returned
from a Persian embassy, in the reign of Aurelian. But in the
wandering life of a soldier, the place of his marriage, and the
places where his children are born, have very little connection
with each other. 3. The claim of Naissus is supported by the
anonymous writer, published at the end of Ammianus, p. 710, and
who in general copied very good materials; and it is confirmed by
Julius Firmicus, (de Astrologia, l. i. c. 4,) who flourished
under the reign of Constantine himself. Some objections have
been raised against the integrity of the text, and the
application of the passage of Firmicus but the former is
established by the best Mss., and the latter is very ably
defended by Lipsius de Magnitudine Romana, l. iv. c. 11, et

[Footnote 11: Literis minus instructus. Anonym. ad Ammian. p.
[Footnote 12: Galerius, or perhaps his own courage, exposed him
to single combat with a Sarmatian, (Anonym. p. 710,) and with a
monstrous lion. See Praxagoras apud Photium, p. 63. Praxagoras,
an Athenian philosopher, had written a life of Constantine in two
books, which are now lost. He was a contemporary.]

[Footnote 13: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 78, 79. Lactantius de M. P. c.
24. The former tells a very foolish story, that Constantine
caused all the post- horses which he had used to be hamstrung.
Such a bloody execution, without preventing a pursuit, would have
scattered suspicions, and might have stopped his journey.

Note: Zosimus is not the only writer who tells this story.
The younger Victor confirms it. Ad frustrandos insequentes,
publica jumenta, quaqua iter ageret, interficiens. Aurelius
Victor de Caesar says the same thing, G. as also the Anonymus
Valesii. - M.

Manso, (Leben Constantins,) p. 18, observes that the story
has been exaggerated; he took this precaution during the first
stage of his journey. - M.]

[Footnote 14: Anonym. p. 710. Panegyr. Veter. vii. 4. But
Zosimus, l. ii. p. 79, Eusebius de Vit. Constant. l. i. c. 21,
and Lactantius de M. P. c. 24. suppose, with less accuracy, that
he found his father on his death-bed.]
The British expedition, and an easy victory over the
barbarians of Caledonia, were the last exploits of the reign of
Constantius. He ended his life in the Imperial palace of York,
fifteen months after he had received the title of Augustus, and
almost fourteen years and a half after he had been promoted to
the rank of Caesar. His death was immediately succeeded by the
elevation of Constantine. The ideas of inheritance and
succession are so very familiar, that the generality of mankind
consider them as founded, not only in reason, but in nature
itself. Our imagination readily transfers the same principles
from private property to public dominion: and whenever a virtuous
father leaves behind him a son whose merit seems to justify the
esteem, or even the hopes, of the people, the joint influence of
prejudice and of affection operates with irresistible weight.
The flower of the western armies had followed Constantius into
Britain, and the national troops were reenforced by a numerous
body of Alemanni, who obeyed the orders of Crocus, one of their
hereditary chieftains. ^15 The opinion of their own importance,
and the assurance that Britain, Gaul, and Spain would acquiesce
in their nomination, were diligently inculcated to the legions by
the adherents of Constantine. The soldiers were asked, whether
they could hesitate a moment between the honor of placing at
their head the worthy son of their beloved emperor, and the
ignominy of tamely expecting the arrival of some obscure
stranger, on whom it might please the sovereign of Asia to bestow
the armies and provinces of the West. It was insinuated to them,
that gratitude and liberality held a distinguished place among
the virtues of Constantine; nor did that artful prince show
himself to the troops, till they were prepared to salute him with
the names of Augustus and Emperor. The throne was the object of
his desires; and had he been less actuated by ambition, it was
his only means of safety. He was well acquainted with the
character and sentiments of Galerius, and sufficiently apprised,
that if he wished to live he must determine to reign. The decent
and even obstinate resistance which he chose to affect, ^16 was
contrived to justify his usurpation; nor did he yield to the
acclamations of the army, till he had provided the proper
materials for a letter, which he immediately despatched to the
emperor of the East. Constantine informed him of the melancholy
event of his father's death, modestly asserted his natural claim
to the succession, and respectfully lamented, that the
affectionate violence of his troops had not permitted him to
solicit the Imperial purple in the regular and constitutional
manner. The first emotions of Galerius were those of surprise,
disappointment, and rage; and as he could seldom restrain his
passions, he loudly threatened, that he would commit to the
flames both the letter and the messenger. But his resentment
insensibly subsided; and when he recollected the doubtful chance
of war, when he had weighed the character and strength of his
adversary, he consented to embrace the honorable accommodation
which the prudence of Constantine had left open to him. Without
either condemning or ratifying the choice of the British army,
Galerius accepted the son of his deceased colleague as the
sovereign of the provinces beyond the Alps; but he gave him only
the title of Caesar, and the fourth rank among the Roman princes,
whilst he conferred the vacant place of Augustus on his favorite
Severus. The apparent harmony of the empire was still preserved,
and Constantine, who already possessed the substance, expected,
without impatience, an opportunity of obtaining the honors, of
supreme power. ^17

[Footnote 15: Cunctis qui aderant, annitentibus, sed praecipue
Croco (alii Eroco) [Erich?] Alamannorum Rege, auxilii gratia
Constantium comitato, imperium capit. Victor Junior, c. 41.
This is perhaps the first instance of a barbarian king, who
assisted the Roman arms with an independent body of his own
subjects. The practice grew familiar and at last became fatal.]
[Footnote 16: His panegyrist Eumenius (vii. 8) ventures to affirm
in the presence of Constantine, that he put spurs to his horse,
and tried, but in vain, to escape from the hands of his

[Footnote 17: Lactantius de M. P. c. 25. Eumenius (vii. 8.)
gives a rhetorical turn to the whole transaction.]

The children of Constantius by his second marriage were six
in number, three of either sex, and whose Imperial descent might
have solicited a preference over the meaner extraction of the son
of Helena. But Constantine was in the thirty-second year of his
age, in the full vigor both of mind and body, at the time when
the eldest of his brothers could not possibly be more than
thirteen years old. His claim of superior merit had been allowed
and ratified by the dying emperor. ^18 In his last moments
Constantius bequeathed to his eldest son the care of the safety
as well as greatness of the family; conjuring him to assume both
the authority and the sentiments of a father with regard to the
children of Theodora. Their liberal education, advantageous
marriages, the secure dignity of their lives, and the first
honors of the state with which they were invested, attest the
fraternal affection of Constantine; and as those princes
possessed a mild and grateful disposition, they submitted without
reluctance to the superiority of his genius and fortune. ^19

[Footnote 18: The choice of Constantine, by his dying father,
which is warranted by reason, and insinuated by Eumenius, seems
to be confirmed by the most unexceptionable authority, the
concurring evidence of Lactantius (de M. P. c. 24) and of
Libanius, (Oratio i.,) of Eusebius (in Vit. Constantin. l. i. c.
18, 21) and of Julian, (Oratio i)]

[Footnote 19: Of the three sisters of Constantine, Constantia
married the emperor Licinius, Anastasia the Caesar Bassianus, and
Eutropia the consul Nepotianus. The three brothers were,
Dalmatius, Julius Constantius, and Annibalianus, of whom we shall
have occasion to speak hereafter.]
II. The ambitious spirit of Galerius was scarcely
reconciled to the disappointment of his views upon the Gallic
provinces, before the unexpected loss of Italy wounded his pride
as well as power in a still more sensible part. The long absence
of the emperors had filled Rome with discontent and indignation;
and the people gradually discovered, that the preference given to
Nicomedia and Milan was not to be ascribed to the particular
inclination of Diocletian, but to the permanent form of
government which he had instituted. It was in vain that, a few
months after his abdication, his successors dedicated, under his
name, those magnificent baths, whose ruins still supply the
ground as well as the materials for so many churches and
convents. ^20 The tranquility of those elegant recesses of ease
and luxury was disturbed by the impatient murmurs of the Romans,
and a report was insensibly circulated, that the sums expended in
erecting those buildings would soon be required at their hands.
About that time the avarice of Galerius, or perhaps the
exigencies of the state, had induced him to make a very strict
and rigorous inquisition into the property of his subjects, for
the purpose of a general taxation, both on their lands and on
their persons. A very minute survey appears to have been taken of
their real estates; and wherever there was the slightest
suspicion of concealment, torture was very freely employed to
obtain a sincere declaration of their personal wealth. ^21 The
privileges which had exalted Italy above the rank of the
provinces were no longer regarded: ^* and the officers of the
revenue already began to number the Roman people, and to settle
the proportion of the new taxes. Even when the spirit of freedom
had been utterly extinguished, the tamest subjects have sometimes
ventured to resist an unprecedented invasion of their property;
but on this occasion the injury was aggravated by the insult, and
the sense of private interest was quickened by that of national
honor. The conquest of Macedonia, as we have already observed,
had delivered the Roman people from the weight of personal taxes.

Though they had experienced every form of despotism, they had now
enjoyed that exemption near five hundred years; nor could they
patiently brook the insolence of an Illyrian peasant, who, from
his distant residence in Asia, presumed to number Rome among the
tributary cities of his empire. The rising fury of the people
was encouraged by the authority, or at least the connivance, of
the senate; and the feeble remains of the Praetorian guards, who
had reason to apprehend their own dissolution, embraced so
honorable a pretence, and declared their readiness to draw their
swords in the service of their oppressed country. It was the
wish, and it soon became the hope, of every citizen, that after
expelling from Italy their foreign tyrants, they should elect a
prince who, by the place of his residence, and by his maxims of
government, might once more deserve the title of Roman emperor.
The name, as well as the situation, of Maxentius determined in
his favor the popular enthusiasm.

[Footnote 20: See Gruter. Inscrip. p. 178. The six princes are
all mentioned, Diocletian and Maximian as the senior Augusti, and
fathers of the emperors. They jointly dedicate, for the use of
their own Romans, this magnificent edifice. The architects have
delineated the ruins of these Thermoe, and the antiquarians,
particularly Donatus and Nardini, have ascertained the ground
which they covered. One of the great rooms is now the Carthusian
church; and even one of the porter's lodges is sufficient to form
another church, which belongs to the Feuillans.]

[Footnote 21: See Lactantius de M. P. c. 26, 31. ]

[Footnote *: Saviguy, in his memoir on Roman taxation, (Mem.
Berl. Academ. 1822, 1823, p. 5,) dates from this period the
abolition of the Jus Italicum. He quotes a remarkable passage of
Aurelius Victor. Hinc denique parti Italiae invec tum tributorum
ingens malum. Aur. Vict. c. 39. It was a necessary consequence
of the division of the empire: it became impossible to maintain a
second court and executive, and leave so large and fruitful a
part of the territory exempt from contribution. - M.]

Maxentius was the son of the emperor Maximian, and he had
married the daughter of Galerius. His birth and alliance seemed
to offer him the fairest promise of succeeding to the empire; but
his vices and incapacity procured him the same exclusion from the
dignity of Caesar, which Constantine had deserved by a dangerous
superiority of merit. The policy of Galerius preferred such
associates as would never disgrace the choice, nor dispute the
commands, of their benefactor. An obscure stranger was therefore
raised to the throne of Italy, and the son of the late emperor of
the West was left to enjoy the luxury of a private fortune in a
villa a few miles distant from the capital. The gloomy passions
of his soul, shame, vexation, and rage, were inflamed by envy on
the news of Constantine's success; but the hopes of Maxentius
revived with the public discontent, and he was easily persuaded
to unite his personal injury and pretensions with the cause of
the Roman people. Two Praetorian tribunes and a commissary of
provisions undertook the management of the conspiracy; and as
every order of men was actuated by the same spirit, the immediate
event was neither doubtful nor difficult. The praefect of the
city, and a few magistrates, who maintained their fidelity to
Severus, were massacred by the guards; and Maxentius, invested
with the Imperial ornaments, was acknowledged by the applauding
senate and people as the protector of the Roman freedom and
dignity. It is uncertain whether Maximian was previously
acquainted with the conspiracy; but as soon as the standard of
rebellion was erected at Rome, the old emperor broke from the
retirement where the authority of Diocletian had condemned him to
pass a life of melancholy and solitude, and concealed his
returning ambition under the disguise of paternal tenderness. At
the request of his son and of the senate, he condescended to
reassume the purple. His ancient dignity, his experience, and
his fame in arms, added strength as well as reputation to the
party of Maxentius. ^22

[Footnote 22: The sixth Panegyric represents the conduct of
Maximian in the most favorable light, and the ambiguous
expression of Aurelius Victor, "retractante diu," may signify
either that he contrived, or that he opposed, the conspiracy.
See Zosimus, l. ii. p. 79, and Lactantius de M. P. c. 26.]
According to the advice, or rather the orders, of his
colleague, the emperor Severus immediately hastened to Rome, in
the full confidence, that, by his unexpected celerity, he should
easily suppress the tumult of an unwarlike populace, commanded by
a licentious youth. But he found on his arrival the gates of the
city shut against him, the walls filled with men and arms, an
experienced general at the head of the rebels, and his own troops
without spirit or affection. A large body of Moors deserted to
the enemy, allured by the promise of a large donative; and, if it
be true that they had been levied by Maximian in his African war,
preferring the natural feelings of gratitude to the artificial
ties of allegiance. Anulinus, the Praetorian praefect, declared
himself in favor of Maxentius, and drew after him the most
considerable part of the troops, accustomed to obey his commands.

Rome, according to the expression of an orator, recalled her
armies; and the unfortunate Severus, destitute of force and of
counsel, retired, or rather fled, with precipitation, to Ravenna.

Here he might for some time have been safe. The fortifications
of Ravenna were able to resist the attempts, and the morasses
that surrounded the town, were sufficient to prevent the
approach, of the Italian army. The sea, which Severus commanded
with a powerful fleet, secured him an inexhaustible supply of
provisions, and gave a free entrance to the legions, which, on
the return of spring, would advance to his assistance from
Illyricum and the East. Maximian, who conducted the siege in
person, was soon convinced that he might waste his time and his
army in the fruitless enterprise, and that he had nothing to hope
either from force or famine. With an art more suitable to the
character of Diocletian than to his own, he directed his attack,
not so much against the walls of Ravenna, as against the mind of
Severus. The treachery which he had experienced disposed that
unhappy prince to distrust the most sincere of his friends and
adherents. The emissaries of Maximian easily persuaded his
credulity, that a conspiracy was formed to betray the town, and
prevailed upon his fears not to expose himself to the discretion
of an irritated conqueror, but to accept the faith of an
honorable capitulation. He was at first received with humanity
and treated with respect. Maximian conducted the captive emperor
to Rome, and gave him the most solemn assurances that he had
secured his life by the resignation of the purple. But Severus,
could obtain only an easy death and an Imperial funeral. When
the sentence was signified to him, the manner of executing it was
left to his own choice; he preferred the favorite mode of the
ancients, that of opening his veins; and as soon as he expired,
his body was carried to the sepulchre which had been constructed
for the family of Gallienus. ^23

[Footnote 23: The circumstances of this war, and the death of
Severus, are very doubtfully and variously told in our ancient
fragments, (see Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. part i.
p. 555.) I have endeavored to extract from them a consistent and
probable narration.

Note: Manso justly observes that two totally different
narratives might be formed, almost upon equal authority.
Beylage, iv. - M.]

Chapter XIV: Six Emperors At The Same Time, Reunion Of The

Part II.

Though the characters of Constantine and Maxentius had very
little affinity with each other, their situation and interest
were the same; and prudence seemed to require that they should
unite their forces against the common enemy. Notwithstanding the
superiority of his age and dignity, the indefatigable Maximian
passed the Alps, and, courting a personal interview with the
sovereign of Gaul, carried with him his daughter Fausta as the
pledge of the new alliance. The marriage was celebrated at Arles
with every circumstance of magnificence; and the ancient
colleague of Diocletian, who again asserted his claim to the
Western empire, conferred on his son-in-law and ally the title of
Augustus. By consenting to receive that honor from Maximian,
Constantine seemed to embrace the cause of Rome and of the
senate; but his professions were ambiguous, and his assistance
slow and ineffectual. He considered with attention the
approaching contest between the masters of Italy and the emperor
of the East, and was prepared to consult his own safety or
ambition in the event of the war. ^24

[Footnote 24: The sixth Panegyric was pronounced to celebrate the
elevation of Constantine; but the prudent orator avoids the
mention either of Galerius or of Maxentius. He introduces only
one slight allusion to the actual troubles, and to the majesty of

Note: Compare Manso, Beylage, iv. p. 302. Gibbon's account
is at least as probable as that of his critic. - M.]

The importance of the occasion called for the presence and
abilities of Galerius. At the head of a powerful army, collected
from Illyricum and the East, he entered Italy, resolved to
revenge the death of Severus, and to chastise the rebellions
Romans; or, as he expressed his intentions, in the furious
language of a barbarian, to extirpate the senate, and to destroy
the people by the sword. But the skill of Maximian had concerted
a prudent system of defence. The invader found every place
hostile, fortified, and inaccessible; and though he forced his
way as far as Narni, within sixty miles of Rome, his dominion in
Italy was confined to the narrow limits of his camp. Sensible of
the increasing difficulties of his enterprise, the haughty
Galerius made the first advances towards a reconciliation, and
despatched two of his most considerable officers to tempt the
Roman princes by the offer of a conference, and the declaration
of his paternal regard for Maxentius, who might obtain much more
from his liberality than he could hope from the doubtful chance
of war. ^25 The offers of Galerius were rejected with firmness,
his perfidious friendship refused with contempt, and it was not
long before he discovered, that, unless he provided for his
safety by a timely retreat, he had some reason to apprehend the
fate of Severus. The wealth which the Romans defended against
his rapacious tyranny, they freely contributed for his
destruction. The name of Maximian, the popular arts of his son,
the secret distribution of large sums, and the promise of still
more liberal rewards, checked the ardor and corrupted the
fidelity of the Illyrian legions; and when Galerius at length
gave the signal of the retreat, it was with some difficulty that
he could prevail on his veterans not to desert a banner which had
so often conducted them to victory and honor. A contemporary
writer assigns two other causes for the failure of the
expedition; but they are both of such a nature, that a cautious
historian will scarcely venture to adopt them. We are told that
Galerius, who had formed a very imperfect notion of the greatness
of Rome by the cities of the East with which he was acquainted,
found his forces inadequate to the siege of that immense capital.

But the extent of a city serves only to render it more accessible
to the enemy: Rome had long since been accustomed to submit on
the approach of a conqueror; nor could the temporary enthusiasm
of the people have long contended against the discipline and
valor of the legions. We are likewise informed that the legions
themselves were struck with horror and remorse, and that those
pious sons of the republic refused to violate the sanctity of
their venerable parent. ^26 But when we recollect with how much
ease, in the more ancient civil wars, the zeal of party and the
habits of military obedience had converted the native citizens of
Rome into her most implacable enemies, we shall be inclined to
distrust this extreme delicacy of strangers and barbarians, who
had never beheld Italy till they entered it in a hostile manner.
Had they not been restrained by motives of a more interested
nature, they would probably have answered Galerius in the words
of Caesar's veterans: "If our general wishes to lead us to the
banks of the Tyber, we are prepared to trace out his camp.
Whatsoever walls he has determined to level with the ground, our
hands are ready to work the engines: nor shall we hesitate,
should the name of the devoted city be Rome itself." These are
indeed the expressions of a poet; but of a poet who has been
distinguished, and even censured, for his strict adherence to the
truth of history. ^27

[Footnote 25: With regard to this negotiation, see the fragments
of an anonymous historian, published by Valesius at the end of
his edition of Ammianus Marcellinus, p. 711. These fragments
have furnished with several curious, and, as it should seem,
authentic anecdotes.]

[Footnote 26: Lactantius de M. P. c. 28. The former of these
reasons is probably taken from Virgil's Shepherd: "Illam * * *
ego huic notra similem, Meliboee, putavi," &c. Lactantius
delights in these poetical illusions.]
[Footnote 27: Castra super Tusci si ponere Tybridis undas;
(jubeus) Hesperios audax veniam metator in agros.
Tu quoscunque voles in planum effundere muros,

His aries actus disperget saxa lacertis;
Illa licet penitus tolli quam jusseris urbem

Roma sit. Lucan. Pharsal. i. 381.]

The legions of Galerius exhibited a very melancholy proof of
their disposition, by the ravages which they committed in their
retreat. They murdered, they ravished, they plundered, they
drove away the flocks and herds of the Italians; they burnt the
villages through which they passed, and they endeavored to
destroy the country which it had not been in their power to
subdue. During the whole march, Maxentius hung on their rear,
but he very prudently declined a general engagement with those
brave and desperate veterans. His father had undertaken a second
journey into Gaul, with the hope of persuading Constantine, who
had assembled an army on the frontier, to join in the pursuit,
and to complete the victory. But the actions of Constantine were
guided by reason, and not by resentment. He persisted in the
wise resolution of maintaining a balance of power in the divided
empire, and he no longer hated Galerius, when that aspiring
prince had ceased to be an object of terror. ^28

[Footnote 28: Lactantius de M. P. c. 27. Zosim. l. ii. p. 82.
The latter, that Constantine, in his interview with Maximian, had
promised to declare war against Galerius.]

The mind of Galerius was the most susceptible of the sterner
passions, but it was not, however, incapable of a sincere and
lasting friendship. Licinius, whose manners as well as character,
were not unlike his own, seems to have engaged both his affection
and esteem. Their intimacy had commenced in the happier period
perhaps of their youth and obscurity. It had been cemented by
the freedom and dangers of a military life; they had advanced
almost by equal steps through the successive honors of the
service; and as soon as Galerius was invested with the Imperial
dignity, he seems to have conceived the design of raising his
companion to the same rank with himself. During the short period
of his prosperity, he considered the rank of Caesar as unworthy
of the age and merit of Licinius, and rather chose to reserve for
him the place of Constantius, and the empire of the West. While
the emperor was employed in the Italian war, he intrusted his
friend with the defence of the Danube; and immediately after his
return from that unfortunate expedition, he invested Licinius
with the vacant purple of Severus, resigning to his immediate
command the provinces of Illyricum. ^29 The news of his promotion
was no sooner carried into the East, than Maximin, who governed,
or rather oppressed, the countries of Egypt and Syria, betrayed
his envy and discontent, disdained the inferior name of Caesar,
and, notwithstanding the prayers as well as arguments of
Galerius, exacted, almost by violence, the equal title of
Augustus. ^30 For the first, and indeed for the last time, the
Roman world was administered by six emperors. In the West,
Constantine and Maxentius affected to reverence their father
Maximian. In the East, Licinius and Maximin honored with more
real consideration their benefactor Galerius. The opposition of
interest, and the memory of a recent war, divided the empire into
two great hostile powers; but their mutual fears produced an
apparent tranquillity, and even a feigned reconciliation, till
the death of the elder princes, of Maximian, and more
particularly of Galerius, gave a new direction to the views and
passions of their surviving associates.
[Footnote 29: M. de Tillemont (Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. part
i. p. 559) has proved that Licinius, without passing through the
intermediate rank of Caesar, was declared Augustus, the 11th of
November, A. D. 307, after the return of Galerius from Italy.]

[Footnote 30: Lactantius de M. P. c. 32. When Galerius declared
Licinius Augustus with himself, he tried to satisfy his younger
associates, by inventing for Constantine and Maximin (not
Maxentius; see Baluze, p. 81) the new title of sons of the
Augusti. But when Maximin acquainted him that he had been
saluted Augustus by the army, Galerius was obliged to acknowledge
him as well as Constantine, as equal associates in the Imperial
When Maximian had reluctantly abdicated the empire, the
venal orators of the times applauded his philosophic moderation.
When his ambition excited, or at least encouraged, a civil war,
they returned thanks to his generous patriotism, and gently
censured that love of ease and retirement which had withdrawn him
from the public service. ^31 But it was impossible that minds
like those of Maximian and his son could long possess in harmony
an undivided power. Maxentius considered himself as the legal
sovereign of Italy, elected by the Roman senate and people; nor
would he endure the control of his father, who arrogantly
declared that by his name and abilities the rash youth had been
established on the throne. The cause was solemnly pleaded before
the Praetorian guards; and those troops, who dreaded the severity
of the old emperor, espoused the party of Maxentius. ^32 The life
and freedom of Maximian were, however, respected, and he retired
from Italy into Illyricum, affecting to lament his past conduct,
and secretly contriving new mischiefs. But Galerius, who was well
acquainted with his character, soon obliged him to leave his
dominions, and the last refuge of the disappointed Maximian was
the court of his son-in-law Constantine. ^33 He was received with
respect by that artful prince, and with the appearance of filial
tenderness by the empress Fausta. That he might remove every
suspicion, he resigned the Imperial purple a second time, ^34
professing himself at length convinced of the vanity of greatness
and ambition. Had he persevered in this resolution, he might
have ended his life with less dignity, indeed, than in his first
retirement, yet, however, with comfort and reputation. But the
near prospect of a throne brought back to his remembrance the
state from whence he was fallen, and he resolved, by a desperate
effort either to reign or to perish. An incursion of the Franks
had summoned Constantine, with a part of his army, to the banks
of the Rhine; the remainder of the troops were stationed in the
southern provinces of Gaul, which lay exposed to the enterprises
of the Italian emperor, and a considerable treasure was deposited
in the city of Arles. Maximian either craftily invented, or
easily credited, a vain report of the death of Constantine.
Without hesitation he ascended the throne, seized the treasure,
and scattering it with his accustomed profusion among the
soldiers, endeavored to awake in their minds the memory of his
ancient dignity and exploits. Before he could establish his
authority, or finish the negotiation which he appears to have
entered into with his son Maxentius, the celerity of Constantine
defeated all his hopes. On the first news of his perfidy and
ingratitude, that prince returned by rapid marches from the Rhine
to the Saone, embarked on the last mentioned river at Chalons,
and at Lyons trusting himself to the rapidity of the Rhone,
arrived at the gates of Arles, with a military force which it was
impossible for Maximian to resist, and which scarcely permitted
him to take refuge in the neighboring city of Marseilles. The
narrow neck of land which joined that place to the continent was
fortified against the besiegers, whilst the sea was open, either
for the escape of Maximian, or for the succor of Maxentius, if
the latter should choose to disguise his invasion of Gaul under
the honorable pretence of defending a distressed, or, as he might
allege, an injured father. Apprehensive of the fatal consequences
of delay, Constantine gave orders for an immediate assault; but
the scaling-ladders were found too short for the height of the
walls, and Marseilles might have sustained as long a siege as it
formerly did against the arms of Caesar, if the garrison,
conscious either of their fault or of their danger, had not
purchased their pardon by delivering up the city and the person
of Maximian. A secret but irrevocable sentence of death was
pronounced against the usurper; he obtained only the same favor
which he had indulged to Severus, and it was published to the
world, that, oppressed by the remorse of his repeated crimes, he
strangled himself with his own hands. After he had lost the
assistance, and disdained the moderate counsels of Diocletian,
the second period of his active life was a series of public
calamities and personal mortifications, which were terminated, in
about three years, by an ignominious death. He deserved his
fate; but we should find more reason to applaud the humanity of
Constantine, if he had spared an old man, the benefactor of his
father, and the father of his wife. During the whole of this
melancholy transaction, it appears that Fausta sacrificed the
sentiments of nature to her conjugal duties. ^35
[Footnote 31: See Panegyr. Vet. vi. 9. Audi doloris nostri
liberam vocem, &c. The whole passage is imagined with artful
flattery, and expressed with an easy flow of eloquence.]

[Footnote 32: Lactantius de M. P. c. 28. Zosim. l. ii. p. 82. A
report was spread, that Maxentius was the son of some obscure
Syrian, and had been substituted by the wife of Maximian as her
own child. See Aurelius Victor, Anonym. Valesian, and Panegyr.
Vet. ix. 3, 4.]

[Footnote 33: Ab urbe pulsum, ab Italia fugatum, ab Illyrico
repudiatum, provinciis, tuis copiis, tuo palatio recepisti.
Eumen. in Panegyr Vet. vii. 14.]

[Footnote 34: Lactantius de M. P. c. 29. Yet, after the
resignation of the purple, Constantine still continued to
Maximian the pomp and honors of the Imperial dignity; and on all
public occasions gave the right hand place to his father-in-law.
Panegyr. Vet. viii. 15.]

[Footnote 35: Zosim. l. ii. p. 82. Eumenius in Panegyr. Vet.
vii. 16 - 21. The latter of these has undoubtedly represented the
whole affair in the most favorable light for his sovereign. Yet
even from this partial narrative we may conclude, that the
repeated clemency of Constantine, and the reiterated treasons of
Maximian, as they are described by Lactantius, (de M. P. c. 29,
30,) and copied by the moderns, are destitute of any historical
Note: Yet some pagan authors relate and confirm them.
Aurelius Victor speaking of Maximin, says, cumque specie officii,
dolis compositis, Constantinum generum tentaret acerbe, jure
tamen interierat. Aur. Vict. de Caesar l. p. 623. Eutropius
also says, inde ad Gallias profectus est (Maximianus) composito
tamquam a filio esset expulsus, ut Constantino genero jun
geretur: moliens tamen Constantinum, reperta occasione,
interficere, dedit justissimo exitu. Eutrop. x. p. 661. (Anon.
Gent.) - G.

These writers hardly confirm more than Gibbon admits; he
denies the repeated clemency of Constantine, and the reiterated
treasons of Maximian Compare Manso, p. 302. - M.]

The last years of Galerius were less shameful and
unfortunate; and though he had filled with more glory the
subordinate station of Caesar than the superior rank of Augustus,
he preserved, till the moment of his death, the first place among
the princes of the Roman world. He survived his retreat from
Italy about four years; and wisely relinquishing his views of
universal empire, he devoted the remainder of his life to the
enjoyment of pleasure, and to the execution of some works of
public utility, among which we may distinguish the discharging
into the Danube the superfluous waters of the Lake Pelso, and the
cutting down the immense forests that encompassed it; an
operation worthy of a monarch, since it gave an extensive country
to the agriculture of his Pannonian subjects. ^36 His death was
occasioned by a very painful and lingering disorder. His body,
swelled by an intemperate course of life to an unwieldy
corpulence, was covered with ulcers, and devoured by innumerable
swarms of those insects which have given their name to a most
loathsome disease; ^37 but as Galerius had offended a very
zealous and powerful party among his subjects, his sufferings,
instead of exciting their compassion, have been celebrated as the
visible effects of divine justice. ^38 He had no sooner expired
in his palace of Nicomedia, than the two emperors who were
indebted for their purple to his favors, began to collect their
forces, with the intention either of disputing, or of dividing,
the dominions which he had left without a master. They were
persuaded, however, to desist from the former design, and to
agree in the latter. The provinces of Asia fell to the share of
Maximin, and those of Europe augmented the portion of Licinius.
The Hellespont and the Thracian Bosphorus formed their mutual
boundary, and the banks of those narrow seas, which flowed in the
midst of the Roman world, were covered with soldiers, with arms,
and with fortifications. The deaths of Maximian and of Galerius
reduced the number of emperors to four. The sense of their true
interest soon connected Licinius and Constantine; a secret
alliance was concluded between Maximin and Maxentius, and their
unhappy subjects expected with terror the bloody consequences of
their inevitable dissensions, which were no longer restrained by
the fear or the respect which they had entertained for Galerius.
[Footnote 36: Aurelius Victor, c. 40. But that lake was situated
on the upper Pannonia, near the borders of Noricum; and the
province of Valeria (a name which the wife of Galerius gave to
the drained country) undoubtedly lay between the Drave and the
Danube, (Sextus Rufus, c. 9.) I should therefore suspect that
Victor has confounded the Lake Pelso with the Volocean marshes,
or, as they are now called, the Lake Sabaton. It is placed in
the heart of Valeria, and its present extent is not less than
twelve Hungarian miles (about seventy English) in length, and two
in breadth. See Severini Pannonia, l. i. c. 9.]

[Footnote 37: Lactantius (de M. P. c. 33) and Eusebius (l. viii.
c. 16) describe the symptoms and progress of his disorder with
singular accuracy and apparent pleasure.]

[Footnote 38: If any (like the late Dr. Jortin, Remarks on
Ecclesiastical History, vol. ii. p. 307 - 356) still delight in
recording the wonderful deaths of the persecutors, I would
recommend to their perusal an admirable passage of Grotius (Hist.
l. vii. p. 332) concerning the last illness of Philip II. of

[Footnote 39: See Eusebius, l. ix. 6, 10. Lactantius de M. P. c.
36. Zosimus is less exact, and evidently confounds Maximian with
Among so many crimes and misfortunes, occasioned by the
passions of the Roman princes, there is some pleasure in
discovering a single action which may be ascribed to their
virtue. In the sixth year of his reign, Constantine visited the
city of Autun, and generously remitted the arrears of tribute,
reducing at the same time the proportion of their assessment from
twenty-five to eighteen thousand heads, subject to the real and
personal capitation. ^40 Yet even this indulgence affords the
most unquestionable proof of the public misery. This tax was so
extremely oppressive, either in itself or in the mode of
collecting it, that whilst the revenue was increased by
extortion, it was diminished by despair: a considerable part of
the territory of Autun was left uncultivated; and great numbers
of the provincials rather chose to live as exiles and outlaws,
than to support the weight of civil society. It is but too
probable, that the bountiful emperor relieved, by a partial act
of liberality, one among the many evils which he had caused by
his general maxims of administration. But even those maxims were
less the effect of choice than of necessity. And if we except
the death of Maximian, the reign of Constantine in Gaul seems to
have been the most innocent and even virtuous period of his life.

The provinces were protected by his presence from the inroads of
the barbarians, who either dreaded or experienced his active
valor. After a signal victory over the Franks and Alemanni,
several of their princes were exposed by his order to the wild
beasts in the amphitheatre of Treves, and the people seem to have
enjoyed the spectacle, without discovering, in such a treatment
of royal captives, any thing that was repugnant to the laws of
nations or of humanity. ^41 ^*

[Footnote 40: See the viiith Panegyr., in which Eumenius
displays, in the presence of Constantine, the misery and the
gratitude of the city of Autun.]
[Footnote 41: Eutropius, x. 3. Panegyr. Veter. vii. 10, 11, 12.
A great number of the French youth were likewise exposed to the
same cruel and ignominious death.]

[Footnote *: Yet the panegyric assumes something of an apologetic
tone. Te vero Constantine, quantumlibet oderint hoses, dum
perhorrescant. Haec est enim vera virtus, ut non ament et
quiescant. The orator appeals to the ancient ideal of the
republic. - M.]

The virtues of Constantine were rendered more illustrious by
the vices of Maxentius. Whilst the Gallic provinces enjoyed as
much happiness as the condition of the times was capable of
receiving, Italy and Africa groaned under the dominion of a
tyrant, as contemptible as he was odious. The zeal of flattery
and faction has indeed too frequently sacrificed the reputation
of the vanquished to the glory of their successful rivals; but
even those writers who have revealed, with the most freedom and
pleasure, the faults of Constantine, unanimously confess that
Maxentius was cruel, rapacious, and profligate. ^42 He had the
good fortune to suppress a slight rebellion in Africa. The
governor and a few adherents had been guilty; the province
suffered for their crime. The flourishing cities of Cirtha and
Carthage, and the whole extent of that fertile country, were
wasted by fire and sword. The abuse of victory was followed by
the abuse of law and justice. A formidable army of sycophants
and delators invaded Africa; the rich and the noble were easily
convicted of a connection with the rebels; and those among them
who experienced the emperor's clemency, were only punished by the
confiscation of their estates. ^43 So signal a victory was
celebrated by a magnificent triumph, and Maxentius exposed to the
eyes of the people the spoils and captives of a Roman province.
The state of the capital was no less deserving of compassion than
that of Africa. The wealth of Rome supplied an inexhaustible
fund for his vain and prodigal expenses, and the ministers of his
revenue were skilled in the arts of rapine. It was under his
reign that the method of exacting a free gift from the senators
was first invented; and as the sum was insensibly increased, the
pretences of levying it, a victory, a birth, a marriage, or an
imperial consulship, were proportionably multiplied. ^44
Maxentius had imbibed the same implacable aversion to the senate,
which had characterized most of the former tyrants of Rome; nor
was it possible for his ungrateful temper to forgive the generous
fidelity which had raised him to the throne, and supported him
against all his enemies. The lives of the senators were exposed
to his jealous suspicions, the dishonor of their wives and
daughters heightened the gratification of his sensual passions.
^45 It may be presumed, that an Imperial lover was seldom reduced
to sigh in vain; but whenever persuasion proved ineffectual, he
had recourse to violence; and there remains one memorable example
of a noble matron, who preserved her chastity by a voluntary
death. The soldiers were the only order of men whom he appeared
to respect, or studied to please. He filled Rome and Italy with
armed troops, connived at their tumults, suffered them with
impunity to plunder, and even to massacre, the defenceless
people; ^46 and indulging them in the same licentiousness which
their emperor enjoyed, Maxentius often bestowed on his military
favorites the splendid villa, or the beautiful wife, of a
senator. A prince of such a character, alike incapable of
governing, either in peace or in war, might purchase the support,
but he could never obtain the esteem, of the army. Yet his pride
was equal to his other vices. Whilst he passed his indolent life
either within the walls of his palace, or in the neighboring
gardens of Sallust, he was repeatedly heard to declare, that he
alone was emperor, and that the other princes were no more than
his lieutenants, on whom he had devolved the defence of the
frontier provinces, that he might enjoy without interruption the
elegant luxury of the capital. Rome, which had so long regretted
the absence, lamented, during the six years of his reign, the
presence of her sovereign. ^47

[Footnote 42: Julian excludes Maxentius from the banquet of the
Caesars with abhorrence and contempt; and Zosimus (l. ii. p. 85)
accuses him of every kind of cruelty and profligacy.]

[Footnote 43: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 83 - 85. Aurelius Victor.]
[Footnote 44: The passage of Aurelius Victor should be read in
the following manner: Primus instituto pessimo, munerum specie,
Patres Oratores que pecuniam conferre prodigenti sibi cogeret.]

[Footnote 45: Panegyr. Vet. ix. 3. Euseb. Hist Eccles. viii. 14,
et in Vit. Constant i. 33, 34. Rufinus, c. 17. The virtuous
matron who stabbed herself to escape the violence of Maxentius,
was a Christian, wife to the praefect of the city, and her name
was Sophronia. It still remains a question among the casuists,
whether, on such occasions, suicide is justifiable.]
[Footnote 46: Praetorianis caedem vulgi quondam annueret, is the
vague expression of Aurelius Victor. See more particular, though
somewhat different, accounts of a tumult and massacre which
happened at Rome, in Eusebius, (l. viii. c. 14,) and in Zosimus,
(l. ii. p. 84.)]
[Footnote 47: See, in the Panegyrics, (ix. 14,) a lively
description of the indolence and vain pride of Maxentius. In
another place the orator observes that the riches which Rome had
accumulated in a period of 1060 years, were lavished by the
tyrant on his mercenary bands; redemptis ad civile latrocinium
manibus in gesserat.]

Though Constantine might view the conduct of Maxentius with
abhorrence, and the situation of the Romans with compassion, we
have no reason to presume that he would have taken up arms to
punish the one or to relieve the other. But the tyrant of Italy
rashly ventured to provoke a formidable enemy, whose ambition had
been hitherto restrained by considerations of prudence, rather
than by principles of justice. ^48 After the death of Maximian,
his titles, according to the established custom, had been erased,
and his statues thrown down with ignominy. His son, who had
persecuted and deserted him when alive, effected to display the
most pious regard for his memory, and gave orders that a similar
treatment should be immediately inflicted on all the statues that
had been erected in Italy and Africa to the honor of Constantine.

That wise prince, who sincerely wished to decline a war, with the
difficulty and importance of which he was sufficiently
acquainted, at first dissembled the insult, and sought for
redress by the milder expedient of negotiation, till he was
convinced that the hostile and ambitious designs of the Italian
emperor made it necessary for him to arm in his own defence.
Maxentius, who openly avowed his pretensions to the whole
monarchy of the West, had already prepared a very considerable
force to invade the Gallic provinces on the side of Rhaetia; and
though he could not expect any assistance from Licinius, he was
flattered with the hope that the legions of Illyricum, allured by
his presents and promises, would desert the standard of that
prince, and unanimously declare themselves his soldiers and
subjects. ^49 Constantine no longer hesitated. He had
deliberated with caution, he acted with vigor. He gave a private
audience to the ambassadors, who, in the name of the senate and
people, conjured him to deliver Rome from a detested tyrant; and
without regarding the timid remonstrances of his council, he
resolved to prevent the enemy, and to carry the war into the
heart of Italy. ^50

[Footnote 48: After the victory of Constantine, it was
universally allowed, that the motive of delivering the republic
from a detested tyrant, would, at any time, have justified his
expedition into Italy. Euseb in Vi'. Constantin. l. i. c. 26.
Panegyr. Vet. ix. 2.]

[Footnote 49: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 84, 85. Nazarius in Panegyr. x.
7 - 13.]
[Footnote 50: See Panegyr. Vet. ix. 2. Omnibus fere tuis
Comitibus et Ducibus non solum tacite mussantibus, sed etiam
aperte timentibus; contra consilia hominum, contra Haruspicum
monita, ipse per temet liberandae arbis tempus venisse sentires.
The embassy of the Romans is mentioned only by Zonaras, (l.
xiii.,) and by Cedrenus, (in Compend. Hist. p. 370;) but those
modern Greeks had the opportunity of consulting many writers
which have since been lost, among which we may reckon the life of
Constantine by Praxagoras. Photius (p. 63) has made a short
extract from that historical work.]
The enterprise was as full of danger as of glory; and the
unsuccessful event of two former invasions was sufficient to
inspire the most serious apprehensions. The veteran troops, who
revered the name of Maximian, had embraced in both those wars the
party of his son, and were now restrained by a sense of honor, as
well as of interest, from entertaining an idea of a second
desertion. Maxentius, who considered the Praetorian guards as
the firmest defence of his throne, had increased them to their
ancient establishment; and they composed, including the rest of
the Italians who were enlisted into his service, a formidable
body of fourscore thousand men. Forty thousand Moors and
Carthaginians had been raised since the reduction of Africa.
Even Sicily furnished its proportion of troops; and the armies of
Maxentius amounted to one hundred and seventy thousand foot and
eighteen thousand horse. The wealth of Italy supplied the
expenses of the war; and the adjacent provinces were exhausted,
to form immense magazines of corn and every other kind of

The whole force of Constantine consisted of ninety thousand
foot and eight thousand horse; ^51 and as the defence of the
Rhine required an extraordinary attention during the absence of
the emperor, it was not in his power to employ above half his
troops in the Italian expedition, unless he sacrificed the public
safety to his private quarrel. ^52 At the head of about forty
thousand soldiers he marched to encounter an enemy whose numbers
were at least four times superior to his own. But the armies of
Rome, placed at a secure distance from danger, were enervated by
indulgence and luxury. Habituated to the baths and theatres of
Rome, they took the field with reluctance, and were chiefly
composed of veterans who had almost forgotten, or of new levies
who had never acquired, the use of arms and the practice of war.
The hardy legions of Gaul had long defended the frontiers of the
empire against the barbarians of the North; and in the
performance of that laborious service, their valor was exercised
and their discipline confirmed. There appeared the same
difference between the leaders as between the armies. Caprice or
flattery had tempted Maxentius with the hopes of conquest; but
these aspiring hopes soon gave way to the habits of pleasure and
the consciousness of his inexperience. The intrepid mind of
Constantine had been trained from his earliest youth to war, to
action, and to military command.
[Footnote 51: Zosimus (l. ii. p. 86) has given us this curious
account of the forces on both sides. He makes no mention of any
naval armaments, though we are assured (Panegyr. Vet. ix. 25)
that the war was carried on by sea as well as by land; and that
the fleet of Constantine took possession of Sardinia, Corsica,
and the ports of Italy.]
[Footnote 52: Panegyr. Vet. ix. 3. It is not surprising that the
orator should diminish the numbers with which his sovereign
achieved the conquest of Italy; but it appears somewhat singular
that he should esteem the tyrant's army at no more than 100,000

Chapter XIV: Six Emperors At The Same Time, Reunion Of The

Part III.

When Hannibal marched from Gaul into Italy, he was obliged,
first to discover, and then to open, a way over mountains, and
through savage nations, that had never yielded a passage to a
regular army. ^53 The Alps were then guarded by nature, they are
now fortified by art. Citadels, constructed with no less skill
than labor and expense, command every avenue into the plain, and
on that side render Italy almost inaccessible to the enemies of
the king of Sardinia. ^54 But in the course of the intermediate
period, the generals, who have attempted the passage, have seldom
experienced any difficulty or resistance. In the age of
Constantine, the peasants of the mountains were civilized and
obedient subjects; the country was plentifully stocked with
provisions, and the stupendous highways, which the Romans had
carried over the Alps, opened several communications between Gaul
and Italy. ^55 Constantine preferred the road of the Cottian
Alps, or, as it is now called, of Mount Cenis, and led his troops
with such active diligence, that he descended into the plain of
Piedmont before the court of Maxentius had received any certain
intelligence of his departure from the banks of the Rhine. The
city of Susa, however, which is situated at the foot of Mount
Cenis, was surrounded with walls, and provided with a garrison
sufficiently numerous to check the progress of an invader; but
the impatience of Constantine's troops disdained the tedious
forms of a siege. The same day that they appeared before Susa,
they applied fire to the gates, and ladders to the walls; and
mounting to the assault amidst a shower of stones and arrows,
they entered the place sword in hand, and cut in pieces the
greatest part of the garrison. The flames were extinguished by
the care of Constantine, and the remains of Susa preserved from
total destruction. About forty miles from thence, a more severe
contest awaited him. A numerous army of Italians was assembled
under the lieutenants of Maxentius, in the plains of Turin. Its
principal strength consisted in a species of heavy cavalry, which
the Romans, since the decline of their discipline, had borrowed
from the nations of the East. The horses, as well as the men,
were clothed in complete armor, the joints of which were artfully
adapted to the motions of their bodies. The aspect of this
cavalry was formidable, their weight almost irresistible; and as,
on this occasion, their generals had drawn them up in a compact
column or wedge, with a sharp point, and with spreading flanks,
they flattered themselves that they could easily break and
trample down the army of Constantine. They might, perhaps, have
succeeded in their design, had not their experienced adversary
embraced the same method of defence, which in similar
circumstances had been practised by Aurelian. The skilful
evolutions of Constantine divided and baffled this massy column
of cavalry. The troops of Maxentius fled in confusion towards
Turin; and as the gates of the city were shut against them, very
few escaped the sword of the victorious pursuers. By this
important service, Turin deserved to experience the clemency and
even favor of the conqueror. He made his entry into the Imperial
palace of Milan, and almost all the cities of Italy between the
Alps and the Po not only acknowledged the power, but embraced
with zeal the party, of Constantine. ^56

[Footnote 53: The three principal passages of the Alps between
Gaul and Italy, are those of Mount St. Bernard, Mount Cenis, and
Mount Genevre. Tradition, and a resemblance of names, (Alpes
Penninoe,) had assigned the first of these for the march of
Hannibal, (see Simler de Alpibus.) The Chevalier de Folard
(Polyp. tom. iv.) and M. d'Anville have led him over Mount
Genevre. But notwithstanding the authority of an experienced
officer and a learned geographer, the pretensions of Mount Cenis
are supported in a specious, not to say a convincing, manner, by
M. Grosley. Observations sur l'Italie, tom. i. p. 40, &c. ^*

[Footnote *: The dissertation of Messrs. Cramer and Wickham
has clearly shown that the Little St. Bernard must claim the
honor of Hannibal's passage. Mr. Long (London, 1831) has added
some sensible corrections re Hannibal's march to the Alps. - M]

[Footnote 54: La Brunette near Suse, Demont, Exiles,
Fenestrelles, Coni, &c.]
[Footnote 55: See Ammian. Marcellin. xv. 10. His description of
the roads over the Alps is clear, lively, and accurate.]

[Footnote 56: Zosimus as well as Eusebius hasten from the passage
of the Alps to the decisive action near Rome. We must apply to
the two Panegyrics for the intermediate actions of Constantine.]

From Milan to Rome, the Aemilian and Flaminian highways
offered an easy march of about four hundred miles; but though
Constantine was impatient to encounter the tyrant, he prudently
directed his operations against another army of Italians, who, by
their strength and position, might either oppose his progress,
or, in case of a misfortune, might intercept his retreat.
Ruricius Pompeianus, a general distinguished by his valor and
ability, had under his command the city of Verona, and all the
troops that were stationed in the province of Venetia. As soon
as he was informed that Constantine was advancing towards him, he
detached a large body of cavalry which was defeated in an
engagement near Brescia, and pursued by the Gallic legions as far
as the gates of Verona. The necessity, the importance, and the
difficulties of the siege of Verona, immediately presented
themselves to the sagacious mind of Constantine. ^57 The city was
accessible only by a narrow peninsula towards the west, as the
other three sides were surrounded by the Adige, a rapid river,
which covered the province of Venetia, from whence the besieged
derived an inexhaustible supply of men and provisions. It was
not without great difficulty, and after several fruitless
attempts, that Constantine found means to pass the river at some
distance above the city, and in a place where the torrent was
less violent. He then encompassed Verona with strong lines,
pushed his attacks with prudent vigor, and repelled a desperate
sally of Pompeianus. That intrepid general, when he had used
every means of defence that the strength of the place or that of
the garrison could afford, secretly escaped from Verona, anxious
not for his own, but for the public safety. With indefatigable
diligence he soon collected an army sufficient either to meet
Constantine in the field, or to attack him if he obstinately
remained within his lines. The emperor, attentive to the
motions, and informed of the approach of so formidable an enemy,
left a part of his legions to continue the operations of the
siege, whilst, at the head of those troops on whose valor and
fidelity he more particularly depended, he advanced in person to
engage the general of Maxentius. The army of Gaul was drawn up
in two lines, according to the usual practice of war; but their
experienced leader, perceiving that the numbers of the Italians
far exceeded his own, suddenly changed his disposition, and,
reducing the second, extended the front of his first line to a
just proportion with that of the enemy. Such evolutions, which
only veteran troops can execute without confusion in a moment of
danger, commonly prove decisive; but as this engagement began
towards the close of the day, and was contested with great
obstinacy during the whole night, there was less room for the
conduct of the generals than for the courage of the soldiers.
The return of light displayed the victory of Constantine, and a
field of carnage covered with many thousands of the vanquished
Italians. Their general, Pompeianus, was found among the slain;
Verona immediately surrendered at discretion, and the garrison
was made prisoners of war. ^58 When the officers of the
victorious army congratulated their master on this important
success, they ventured to add some respectful complaints, of such
a nature, however, as the most jealous monarchs will listen to
without displeasure. They represented to Constantine, that, not
contented with all the duties of a commander, he had exposed his
own person with an excess of valor which almost degenerated into
rashness; and they conjured him for the future to pay more regard
to the preservation of a life in which the safety of Rome and of
the empire was involved. ^59
[Footnote 57: The Marquis Maffei has examined the siege and
battle of Verona with that degree of attention and accuracy which
was due to a memorable action that happened in his native
country. The fortifications of that city, constructed by
Gallienus, were less extensive than the modern walls, and the
amphitheatre was not included within their circumference. See
Verona Illustrata, part i. p. 142 150.]

[Footnote 58: They wanted chains for so great a multitude of
captives; and the whole council was at a loss; but the sagacious
conqueror imagined the happy expedient of converting into fetters
the swords of the vanquished. Panegyr. Vet. ix. 11.]

[Footnote 59: Panegyr. Vet. ix. 11.]

While Constantine signalized his conduct and valor in the
field, the sovereign of Italy appeared insensible of the
calamities and danger of a civil war which reigned in the heart
of his dominions. Pleasure was still the only business of
Maxentius. Concealing, or at least attempting to conceal, from
the public knowledge the misfortunes of his arms, ^60 he indulged
himself in a vain confidence which deferred the remedies of the
approaching evil, without deferring the evil itself. ^61 The
rapid progress of Constantine ^62 was scarcely sufficient to
awaken him from his fatal security; he flattered himself, that
his well-known liberality, and the majesty of the Roman name,
which had already delivered him from two invasions, would
dissipate with the same facility the rebellious army of Gaul.
The officers of experience and ability, who had served under the
banners of Maximian, were at length compelled to inform his
effeminate son of the imminent danger to which he was reduced;
and, with a freedom that at once surprised and convinced him, to
urge the necessity of preventing his ruin, by a vigorous exertion
of his remaining power. The resources of Maxentius, both of men
and money, were still considerable. The Praetorian guards felt
how strongly their own interest and safety were connected with
his cause; and a third army was soon collected, more numerous
than those which had been lost in the battles of Turin and
Verona. It was far from the intention of the emperor to lead his
troops in person. A stranger to the exercises of war, he
trembled at the apprehension of so dangerous a contest; and as
fear is commonly superstitious, he listened with melancholy
attention to the rumors of omens and presages which seemed to
menace his life and empire. Shame at length supplied the place
of courage, and forced him to take the field. He was unable to
sustain the contempt of the Roman people. The circus resounded
with their indignant clamors, and they tumultuously besieged the
gates of the palace, reproaching the pusillanimity of their
indolent sovereign, and celebrating the heroic spirit of
Constantine. ^63 Before Maxentius left Rome, he consulted the
Sibylline books. The guardians of these ancient oracles were as
well versed in the arts of this world as they were ignorant of
the secrets of fate; and they returned him a very prudent answer,
which might adapt itself to the event, and secure their
reputation, whatever should be the chance of arms. ^64

[Footnote 60: Literas calamitatum suarum indices supprimebat.
Panegyr Vet. ix. 15.]

[Footnote 61: Remedia malorum potius quam mala differebat, is the
fine censure which Tacitus passes on the supine indolence of
[Footnote 62: The Marquis Maffei has made it extremely probable
that Constantine was still at Verona, the 1st of September, A.D.
312, and that the memorable aera of the indications was dated
from his conquest of the Cisalpine Gaul.]

[Footnote 63: See Panegyr. Vet. xi. 16. Lactantius de M. P. c.
[Footnote 64: Illo die hostem Romanorum esse periturum. The
vanquished became of course the enemy of Rome.]

The celerity of Constantine's march has been compared to the
rapid conquest of Italy by the first of the Caesars; nor is the
flattering parallel repugnant to the truth of history, since no
more than fifty-eight days elapsed between the surrender of
Verona and the final decision of the war. Constantine had always
apprehended that the tyrant would consult the dictates of fear,
and perhaps of prudence; and that, instead of risking his last
hopes in a general engagement, he would shut himself up within
the walls of Rome. His ample magazines secured him against the
danger of famine; and as the situation of Constantine admitted
not of delay, he might have been reduced to the sad necessity of
destroying with fire and sword the Imperial city, the noblest
reward of his victory, and the deliverance of which had been the
motive, or rather indeed the pretence, of the civil war. ^65 It
was with equal surprise and pleasure, that on his arrival at a
place called Saxa Rubra, about nine miles from Rome, ^66 he
discovered the army of Maxentius prepared to give him battle. ^67
Their long front filled a very spacious plain, and their deep
array reached to the banks of the Tyber, which covered their
rear, and forbade their retreat. We are informed, and we may
believe, that Constantine disposed his troops with consummate
skill, and that he chose for himself the post of honor and
danger. Distinguished by the splendor of his arms, he charged in
person the cavalry of his rival; and his irresistible attack
determined the fortune of the day. The cavalry of Maxentius was
principally composed either of unwieldy cuirassiers, or of light
Moors and Numidians. They yielded to the vigor of the Gallic
horse, which possessed more activity than the one, more firmness
than the other. The defeat of the two wings left the infantry
without any protection on its flanks, and the undisciplined
Italians fled without reluctance from the standard of a tyrant
whom they had always hated, and whom they no longer feared. The
Praetorians, conscious that their offences were beyond the reach
of mercy, were animated by revenge and despair. Notwithstanding
their repeated efforts, those brave veterans were unable to
recover the victory: they obtained, however, an honorable death;
and it was observed that their bodies covered the same ground
which had been occupied by their ranks. ^68 The confusion then
became general, and the dismayed troops of Maxentius, pursued by
an implacable enemy, rushed by thousands into the deep and rapid
stream of the Tyber. The emperor himself attempted to escape
back into the city over the Milvian bridge; but the crowds which
pressed together through that narrow passage forced him into the
river, where he was immediately drowned by the weight of his
armor. ^69 His body, which had sunk very deep into the mud, was
found with some difficulty the next day. The sight of his head,
when it was exposed to the eyes of the people, convinced them of
their deliverance, and admonished them to receive with
acclamations of loyalty and gratitude the fortunate Constantine,
who thus achieved by his valor and ability the most splendid
enterprise of his life. ^70

[Footnote 65: See Panegyr. Vet. ix. 16, x. 27. The former of
these orators magnifies the hoards of corn, which Maxentius had
collected from Africa and the Islands. And yet, if there is any
truth in the scarcity mentioned by Eusebius, (in Vit. Constantin.
l. i. c. 36,) the Imperial granaries must have been open only to
the soldiers.]

[Footnote 66: Maxentius . . . tandem urbe in Saxa Rubra, millia
ferme novem aegerrime progressus. Aurelius Victor. See
Cellarius Geograph. Antiq. tom. i. p. 463. Saxa Rubra was in the
neighborhood of the Cremera, a trifling rivulet, illustrated by
the valor and glorious death of the three hundred Fabii.]

[Footnote 67: The post which Maxentius had taken, with the Tyber
in his rear is very clearly described by the two Panegyrists, ix.
16, x. 28.]
[Footnote 68: Exceptis latrocinii illius primis auctoribus, qui
desperata venia ocum quem pugnae sumpserant texere corporibus.
Panegyr. Vet 17.]
[Footnote 69: A very idle rumor soon prevailed, that Maxentius,
who had not taken any precaution for his own retreat, had
contrived a very artful snare to destroy the army of the
pursuers; but that the wooden bridge, which was to have been
loosened on the approach of Constantine, unluckily broke down
under the weight of the flying Italians. M. de Tillemont (Hist.
des Empereurs, tom. iv. part i. p. 576) very seriously examines
whether, in contradiction to common sense, the testimony of
Eusebius and Zosimus ought to prevail over the silence of
Lactantius, Nazarius, and the anonymous, but contemporary orator,
who composed the ninth Panegyric.

Note: Manso (Beylage, vi.) examines the question, and
adduces two manifest allusions to the bridge, from the Life of
Constantine by Praxagoras, and from Libanius. Is it not very
probable that such a bridge was thrown over the river to
facilitate the advance, and to secure the retreat, of the army of
Maxentius? In case of defeat, orders were given for destroying
it, in order to check the pursuit: it broke down accidentally, or
in the confusion was destroyed, as has not unfrequently been the
case, before the proper time. - M.]

[Footnote 70: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 86-88, and the two Panegyrics,
the former of which was pronounced a few months afterwards,
afford the clearest notion of this great battle. Lactantius,
Eusebius, and even the Epitomes, supply several useful hints.]

In the use of victory, Constantine neither deserved the
praise of clemency, nor incurred the censure of immoderate rigor.
^71 He inflicted the same treatment to which a defeat would have
exposed his own person and family, put to death the two sons of
the tyrant, and carefully extirpated his whole race. The most
distinguished adherents of Maxentius must have expected to share
his fate, as they had shared his prosperity and his crimes; but
when the Roman people loudly demanded a greater number of
victims, the conqueror resisted with firmness and humanity, those
servile clamors, which were dictated by flattery as well as by
resentment. Informers were punished and discouraged; the
innocent, who had suffered under the late tyranny, were recalled
from exile, and restored to their estates. A general act of
oblivion quieted the minds and settled the property of the
people, both in Italy and in Africa. ^72 The first time that
Constantine honored the senate with his presence, he
recapitulated his own services and exploits in a modest oration,
assured that illustrious order of his sincere regard, and
promised to reestablish its ancient dignity and privileges. The
grateful senate repaid these unmeaning professions by the empty
titles of honor, which it was yet in their power to bestow; and
without presuming to ratify the authority of Constantine, they
passed a decree to assign him the first rank among the three
Augusti who governed the Roman world. ^73 Games and festivals
were instituted to preserve the fame of his victory, and several
edifices, raised at the expense of Maxentius, were dedicated to
the honor of his successful rival. The triumphal arch of
Constantine still remains a melancholy proof of the decline of
the arts, and a singular testimony of the meanest vanity. As it
was not possible to find in the capital of the empire a sculptor
who was capable of adorning that public monument, the arch of
Trajan, without any respect either for his memory or for the
rules of propriety, was stripped of its most elegant figures.
The difference of times and persons, of actions and characters,
was totally disregarded. The Parthian captives appear prostrate
at the feet of a prince who never carried his arms beyond the
Euphrates; and curious antiquarians can still discover the head
of Trajan on the trophies of Constantine. The new ornaments
which it was necessary to introduce between the vacancies of
ancient sculpture are executed in the rudest and most unskillful
manner. ^74

[Footnote 71: Zosimus, the enemy of Constantine, allows (l. ii.
p. 88) that only a few of the friends of Maxentius were put to
death; but we may remark the expressive passage of Nazarius,
(Panegyr. Vet. x. 6.) Omnibus qui labefactari statum ejus
poterant cum stirpe deletis. The other orator (Panegyr. Vet. ix.
20, 21) contents himself with observing, that Constantine, when
he entered Rome, did not imitate the cruel massacres of Cinna, of
Marius, or of Sylla.

Note: This may refer to the son or sons of Maxentius. - M.]
[Footnote 72: See the two Panegyrics, and the laws of this and
the ensuing year, in the Theodosian Code.]

[Footnote 73: Panegyr. Vet. ix. 20. Lactantius de M. P. c. 44.
Maximin, who was confessedly the eldest Caesar, claimed, with
some show of reason, the first rank among the Augusti.]

[Footnote 74: Adhuc cuncta opera quae magnifice construxerat,
urbis fanum atque basilicam, Flavii meritis patres sacravere.
Aurelius Victor. With regard to the theft of Trajan's trophies,
consult Flaminius Vacca, apud Montfaucon, Diarium Italicum, p.
250, and l'Antiquite Expliquee of the latter, tom. iv. p. 171.]

The final abolition of the Praetorian guards was a measure
of prudence as well as of revenge. Those haughty troops, whose
numbers and privileges had been restored, and even augmented, by
Maxentius, were forever suppressed by Constantine. Their
fortified camp was destroyed, and the few Praetorians who had
escaped the fury of the sword were dispersed among the legions,
and banished to the frontiers of the empire, where they might be
serviceable without again becoming dangerous. ^75 By suppressing
the troops which were usually stationed in Rome, Constantine gave
the fatal blow to the dignity of the senate and people, and the
disarmed capital was exposed without protection to the insults or
neglect of its distant master. We may observe, that in this last
effort to preserve their expiring freedom, the Romans, from the
apprehension of a tribute, had raised Maxentius to the throne.
He exacted that tribute from the senate under the name of a free
gift. They implored the assistance of Constantine. He
vanquished the tyrant, and converted the free gift into a
perpetual tax. The senators, according to the declaration which
was required of their property, were divided into several
classes. The most opulent paid annually eight pounds of gold,
the next class paid four, the last two, and those whose poverty
might have claimed an exemption, were assessed, however, at seven
pieces of gold. Besides the regular members of the senate, their
sons, their descendants, and even their relations, enjoyed the
vain privileges, and supported the heavy burdens, of the
senatorial order; nor will it any longer excite our surprise,
that Constantine should be attentive to increase the number of
persons who were included under so useful a description. ^76
After the defeat of Maxentius, the victorious emperor passed no
more than two or three months in Rome, which he visited twice
during the remainder of his life, to celebrate the solemn
festivals of the tenth and of the twentieth years of his reign.
Constantine was almost perpetually in motion, to exercise the
legions, or to inspect the state of the provinces. Treves,
Milan, Aquileia, Sirmium, Naissus, and Thessalonica, were the
occasional places of his residence, till he founded a new Rome on
the confines of Europe and Asia. ^77

[Footnote 75: Praetoriae legiones ac subsidia factionibus aptiora
quam urbi Romae, sublata penitus; simul arma atque usus indumenti
militaris Aurelius Victor. Zosimus (l. ii. p. 89) mentions this
fact as an historian, and it is very pompously celebrated in the
ninth Panegyric.]

[Footnote 76: Ex omnibus provinciis optimates viros Curiae tuae
pigneraveris ut Senatus dignitas . . . . ex totius Orbis flore
consisteret. Nazarius in Panegyr. Vet x. 35. The word
pigneraveris might almost seem maliciously chosen. Concerning
the senatorial tax, see Zosimus, l. ii. p. 115, the second title
of the sixth book of the Theodosian Code, with Godefroy's
Commentary, and Memoires de l'Academic des Inscriptions, tom.
xxviii. p. 726.]

[Footnote 77: From the Theodosian Code, we may now begin to trace
the motions of the emperors; but the dates both of time and place
have frequently been altered by the carelessness of

Before Constantine marched into Italy, he had secured the
friendship, or at least the neutrality, of Licinius, the Illyrian
emperor. He had promised his sister Constantia in marriage to
that prince; but the celebration of the nuptials was deferred
till after the conclusion of the war, and the interview of the
two emperors at Milan, which was appointed for that purpose,
appeared to cement the union of their families and interests. ^78
In the midst of the public festivity they were suddenly obliged
to take leave of each other. An inroad of the Franks summoned
Constantine to the Rhime, and the hostile approach of the
sovereign of Asia demanded the immediate presence of Licinius.
Maximin had been the secret ally of Maxentius, and without being
discouraged by his fate, he resolved to try the fortune of a
civil war. He moved out of Syria, towards the frontiers of
Bithynia, in the depth of winter. The season was severe and
tempestuous; great numbers of men as well as horses perished in
the snow; and as the roads were broken up by incessant rains, he
was obliged to leave behind him a considerable part of the heavy
baggage, which was unable to follow the rapidity of his forced
marches. By this extraordinary effort of diligence, he arrived
with a harassed but formidable army, on the banks of the Thracian
Bosphorus before the lieutenants of Licinius were apprised of his
hostile intentions. Byzantium surrendered to the power of
Maximin, after a siege of eleven days. He was detained some days
under the walls of Heraclea; and he had no sooner taken

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