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

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[Footnote 75: Joseph. de Bell. Jud. ii. 16. The number, however,
is mentioned, and should be received with a degree of latitude.
Note: Without doubt no reliance can be placed on this
passage of Josephus. The historian makes Agrippa give advice to
the Jews, as to the power of the Romans; and the speech is full
of declamation which can furnish no conclusions to history.
While enumerating the nations subject to the Romans, he speaks of
the Gauls as submitting to 1200 soldiers, (which is false, as
there were eight legions in Gaul, Tac. iv. 5,) while there are
nearly twelve hundred cities. - G. Josephus (infra) places these
eight legions on the Rhine, as Tacitus does. - M.]

[Footnote 76: Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 5.]

[Footnote 77: Plin. Hist. Natur. iii. 3, 4, iv. 35. The list
seems authentic and accurate; the division of the provinces, and
the different condition of the cities, are minutely

[Footnote 78: Strabon. Geograph. l. xvii. p. 1189.]

[Footnote 79: Joseph. de Bell. Jud. ii. 16. Philostrat. in Vit.
Sophist. l. ii. p. 548, edit. Olear.]

[Footnote 80: Tacit. Annal. iv. 55. I have taken some pains in
consulting and comparing modern travellers, with regard to the
fate of those eleven cities of Asia. Seven or eight are totally
destroyed: Hypaepe, Tralles, Laodicea, Hium, Halicarnassus,
Miletus, Ephesus, and we may add Sardes. Of the remaining three,
Pergamus is a straggling village of two or three thousand
inhabitants; Magnesia, under the name of Guzelhissar, a town of
some consequence; and Smyrna, a great city, peopled by a hundred
thousand souls. But even at Smyrna, while the Franks have
maintained a commerce, the Turks have ruined the arts.]

[Footnote 81: See a very exact and pleasing description of the
ruins of Laodicea, in Chandler's Travels through Asia Minor, p.
225, &c.]

[Footnote 82: Strabo, l. xii. p. 866. He had studied at

[Footnote 83: See a Dissertation of M. de Boze, Mem. de
l'Academie, tom. xviii. Aristides pronounced an oration, which
is still extant, to recommend concord to the rival cities.]
[Footnote 84: The inhabitants of Egypt, exclusive of Alexandria,
amounted to seven millions and a half, (Joseph. de Bell. Jud.
ii. 16.) Under the military government of the Mamelukes, Syria
was supposed to contain sixty thousand villages, (Histoire de
Timur Bec, l. v. c. 20.)]

Chapter II: The Internal Prosperity In The Age Of The Antonines.
Part IV.

All these cities were connected with each other, and with
the capital, by the public highways, which, issuing from the
Forum of Rome, traversed Italy, pervaded the provinces, and were
terminated only by the frontiers of the empire. If we carefully
trace the distance from the wall of Antoninus to Rome, and from
thence to Jerusalem, it will be found that the great chain of
communication, from the north-west to the south-east point of the
empire, was drawn out to the length if four thousand and eighty
Roman miles. ^85 The public roads were accurately divided by
mile-stones, and ran in a direct line from one city to another,
with very little respect for the obstacles either of nature or
private property. Mountains were perforated, and bold arches
thrown over the broadest and most rapid streams. ^86 The middle
part of the road was raised into a terrace which commanded the
adjacent country, consisted of several strata of sand, gravel,
and cement, and was paved with large stones, or, in some places
near the capital, with granite. ^87 Such was the solid
construction of the Roman highways, whose firmness has not
entirely yielded to the effort of fifteen centuries. They united
the subjects of the most distant provinces by an easy and
familiar intercourse; out their primary object had been to
facilitate the marches of the legions; nor was any country
considered as completely subdued, till it had been rendered, in
all its parts, pervious to the arms and authority of the
conqueror. The advantage of receiving the earliest intelligence,
and of conveying their orders with celerity, induced the emperors
to establish, throughout their extensive dominions, the regular
institution of posts. ^88 Houses were every where erected at the
distance only of five or six miles; each of them was constantly
provided with forty horses, and by the help of these relays, it
was easy to travel a hundred miles in a day along the Roman
roads. ^89 ^* The use of posts was allowed to those who claimed
it by an Imperial mandate; but though originally intended for the
public service, it was sometimes indulged to the business or
conveniency of private citizens. ^90 Nor was the communication of
the Roman empire less free and open by sea than it was by land.
The provinces surrounded and enclosed the Mediterranean: and
Italy, in the shape of an immense promontory, advanced into the
midst of that great lake. The coasts of Italy are, in general,
destitute of safe harbors; but human industry had corrected the
deficiencies of nature; and the artificial port of Ostia, in
particular, situate at the mouth of the Tyber, and formed by the
emperor Claudius, was a useful monument of Roman greatness. ^91
From this port, which was only sixteen miles from the capital, a
favorable breeze frequently carried vessels in seven days to the
columns of Hercules, and in nine or ten, to Alexandria in Egypt.

[See Remains Of Claudian Aquaduct]

[Footnote 85: The following Itinerary may serve to convey some
idea of the direction of the road, and of the distance between
the principal towns. I. From the wall of Antoninus to York, 222
Roman miles. II. London, 227. III. Rhutupiae or Sandwich, 67.
IV. The navigation to Boulogne, 45. V. Rheims, 174. VI.
Lyons, 330. VII. Milan, 324. VIII. Rome, 426. IX.
Brundusium, 360. X. The navigation to Dyrrachium, 40. XI.
Byzantium, 711. XII. Ancyra, 283. XIII. Tarsus, 301. XIV.
Antioch, 141. XV. Tyre, 252. XVI. Jerusalem, 168. In all 4080
Roman, or 3740 English miles. See the Itineraries published by
Wesseling, his annotations; Gale and Stukeley for Britain, and M.
d'Anville for Gaul and Italy.]

[Footnote 86: Montfaucon, l'Antiquite Expliquee, (tom. 4, p. 2,
l. i. c. 5,) has described the bridges of Narni, Alcantara,
Nismes, &c.]
[Footnote 87: Bergier, Histoire des grands Chemins de l'Empire
Romain, l. ii. c. l. l - 28.]

[Footnote 88: Procopius in Hist. Arcana, c. 30. Bergier, Hist.
des grands Chemins, l. iv. Codex Theodosian. l. viii. tit. v.
vol. ii. p. 506 - 563 with Godefroy's learned commentary.]

[Footnote 89: In the time of Theodosius, Caesarius, a magistrate
of high rank, went post from Antioch to Constantinople. He began
his journey at night, was in Cappadocia (165 miles from Antioch)
the ensuing evening, and arrived at Constantinople the sixth day
about noon. The whole distance was 725 Roman, or 665 English
miles. See Libanius, Orat. xxii., and the Itineria, p. 572 -
Note: A courier is mentioned in Walpole's Travels, ii. 335,
who was to travel from Aleppo to Constantinople, more than 700
miles, in eight days, an unusually short journey. - M.]

[Footnote *: Posts for the conveyance of intelligence were
established by Augustus. Suet. Aug. 49. The couriers travelled
with amazing speed. Blair on Roman Slavery, note, p. 261. It is
probable that the posts, from the time of Augustus, were confined
to the public service, and supplied by impressment Nerva, as it
appears from a coin of his reign, made an important change; "he
established posts upon all the public roads of Italy, and made
the service chargeable upon his own exchequer. * * Hadrian,
perceiving the advantage of this improvement, extended it to all
the provinces of the empire." Cardwell on Coins, p. 220. - M.]

[Footnote 90: Pliny, though a favorite and a minister, made an
apology for granting post-horses to his wife on the most urgent
business. Epist. x. 121, 122.]

[Footnote 91: Bergier, Hist. des grands Chemins, l. iv. c. 49.]
[Footnote 92: Plin. Hist. Natur. xix. i. [In Prooem.]

Note: Pliny says Puteoli, which seems to have been the usual
landing place from the East. See the voyages of St. Paul, Acts
xxviii. 13, and of Josephus, Vita, c. 3 - M.]

Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to
extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with some
beneficial consequences to mankind; and the same freedom of
intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise the
improvements, of social life. In the more remote ages of
antiquity, the world was unequally divided. The East was in the
immemorial possession of arts and luxury; whilst the West was
inhabited by rude and warlike barbarians, who either disdained
agriculture, or to whom it was totally unknown. Under the
protection of an established government, the productions of
happier climates, and the industry of more civilized nations,
were gradually introduced into the western countries of Europe;
and the natives were encouraged, by an open and profitable
commerce, to multiply the former, as well as to improve the
latter. It would be almost impossible to enumerate all the
articles, either of the animal or the vegetable reign, which were
successively imported into Europe from Asia and Egypt: ^93 but it
will not be unworthy of the dignity, and much less of the
utility, of an historical work, slightly to touch on a few of the
principal heads. 1. Almost all the flowers, the herbs, and the
fruits, that grow in our European gardens, are of foreign
extraction, which, in many cases, is betrayed even by their
names: the apple was a native of Italy, and when the Romans had
tasted the richer flavor of the apricot, the peach, the
pomegranate, the citron, and the orange, they contented
themselves with applying to all these new fruits the common
denomination of apple, discriminating them from each other by the
additional epithet of their country. 2. In the time of Homer,
the vine grew wild in the island of Sicily, and most probably in
the adjacent continent; but it was not improved by the skill, nor
did it afford a liquor grateful to the taste, of the savage
inhabitants. ^94 A thousand years afterwards, Italy could boast,
that of the fourscore most generous and celebrated wines, more
than two thirds were produced from her soil. ^95 The blessing was
soon communicated to the Narbonnese province of Gaul; but so
intense was the cold to the north of the Cevennes, that, in the
time of Strabo, it was thought impossible to ripen the grapes in
those parts of Gaul. ^96 This difficulty, however, was gradually
vanquished; and there is some reason to believe, that the
vineyards of Burgundy are as old as the age of the Antonines. ^97
3. The olive, in the western world, followed the progress of
peace, of which it was considered as the symbol. Two centuries
after the foundation of Rome, both Italy and Africa were
strangers to that useful plant: it was naturalized in those
countries; and at length carried into the heart of Spain and
Gaul. The timid errors of the ancients, that it required a
certain degree of heat, and could only flourish in the
neighborhood of the sea, were insensibly exploded by industry and
experience. ^98 4. The cultivation of flax was transported from
Egypt to Gaul, and enriched the whole country, however it might
impoverish the particular lands on which it was sown. ^99 5. The
use of artificial grasses became familiar to the farmers both of
Italy and the provinces, particularly the Lucerne, which derived
its name and origin from Media. ^100 The assured supply of
wholesome and plentiful food for the cattle during winter,
multiplied the number of the docks and herds, which in their turn
contributed to the fertility of the soil. To all these
improvements may be added an assiduous attention to mines and
fisheries, which, by employing a multitude of laborious hands,
serve to increase the pleasures of the rich and the subsistence
of the poor. The elegant treatise of Columella describes the
advanced state of the Spanish husbandry under the reign of
Tiberius; and it may be observed, that those famines, which so
frequently afflicted the infant republic, were seldom or never
experienced by the extensive empire of Rome. The accidental
scarcity, in any single province, was immediately relieved by the
plenty of its more fortunate neighbors.

[Footnote 93: It is not improbable that the Greeks and
Phoenicians introduced some new arts and productions into the
neighborhood of Marseilles and Gades.]
[Footnote 94: See Homer, Odyss. l. ix. v. 358.]

[Footnote 95: Plin. Hist. Natur. l. xiv.]

[Footnote 96: Strab. Geograph. l. iv. p. 269. The intense cold
of a Gallic winter was almost proverbial among the ancients.

Note: Strabo only says that the grape does not ripen.
Attempts had been made in the time of Augustus to naturalize the
vine in the north of Gaul; but the cold was too great. Diod.
Sic. edit. Rhodom. p. 304. - W. Diodorus (lib. v. 26) gives a
curious picture of the Italian traders bartering, with the
savages of Gaul, a cask of wine for a slave. - M.

It appears from the newly discovered treatise of Cicero de
Republica, that there was a law of the republic prohibiting the
culture of the vine and olive beyond the Alps, in order to keep
up the value of those in Italy. Nos justissimi homines, qui
transalpinas gentes oleam et vitem serere non sinimus, quo pluris
sint nostra oliveta nostraeque vineae. Lib. iii. 9. The
restrictive law of Domitian was veiled under the decent pretext
of encouraging the cultivation of grain. Suet. Dom. vii. It was
repealed by Probus Vopis Strobus, 18. - M.]

[Footnote 97: In the beginning of the fourth century, the orator
Eumenius (Panegyr. Veter. viii. 6, edit. Delphin.) speaks of the
vines in the territory of Autun, which were decayed through age,
and the first plantation of which was totally unknown. The Pagus
Arebrignus is supposed by M. d'Anville to be the district of
Beaune, celebrated, even at present for one of the first growths
of Burgundy.

Note: This is proved by a passage of Pliny the Elder, where
he speaks of a certain kind of grape (vitis picata. vinum
picatum) which grows naturally to the district of Vienne, and had
recently been transplanted into the country of the Arverni,
(Auvergne,) of the Helvii, (the Vivarias.) and the Burgundy and
Franche Compte. Pliny wrote A.D. 77. Hist. Nat. xiv. 1. - W.]
[Footnote 98: Plin. Hist. Natur. l. xv.]

[Footnote 99: Plin. Hist. Natur. l. xix.]

[Footnote 100: See the agreeable Essays on Agriculture by Mr.
Harte, in which he has collected all that the ancients and
moderns have said of Lucerne.]
Agriculture is the foundation of manufactures; since the
productions of nature are the materials of art. Under the Roman
empire, the labor of an industrious and ingenious people was
variously, but incessantly, employed in the service of the rich.
In their dress, their table, their houses, and their furniture,
the favorites of fortune united every refinement of conveniency,
of elegance, and of splendor, whatever could soothe their pride
or gratify their sensuality. Such refinements, under the odious
name of luxury, have been severely arraigned by the moralists of
every age; and it might perhaps be more conducive to the virtue,
as well as happiness, of mankind, if all possessed the
necessaries, and none the superfluities, of life. But in the
present imperfect condition of society, luxury, though it may
proceed from vice or folly, seems to be the only means that can
correct the unequal distribution of property. The diligent
mechanic, and the skilful artist, who have obtained no share in
the division of the earth, receive a voluntary tax from the
possessors of land; and the latter are prompted, by a sense of
interest, to improve those estates, with whose produce they may
purchase additional pleasures. This operation, the particular
effects of which are felt in every society, acted with much more
diffusive energy in the Roman world. The provinces would soon
have been exhausted of their wealth, if the manufactures and
commerce of luxury had not insensibly restored to the industrious
subjects the sums which were exacted from them by the arms and
authority of Rome. As long as the circulation was confined
within the bounds of the empire, it impressed the political
machine with a new degree of activity, and its consequences,
sometimes beneficial, could never become pernicious.

But it is no easy task to confine luxury within the limits
of an empire. The most remote countries of the ancient world were
ransacked to supply the pomp and delicacy of Rome. The forests
of Scythia afforded some valuable furs. Amber was brought over
land from the shores of the Baltic to the Danube; and the
barbarians were astonished at the price which they received in
exchange for so useless a commodity. ^101 There was a
considerable demand for Babylonian carpets, and other
manufactures of the East; but the most important and unpopular
branch of foreign trade was carried on with Arabia and India.
Every year, about the time of the summer solstice, a fleet of a
hundred and twenty vessels sailed from Myos-hormos, a port of
Egypt, on the Red Sea. By the periodical assistance of the
monsoons, they traversed the ocean in about forty days. The
coast of Malabar, or the island of Ceylon, ^102 was the usual
term of their navigation, and it was in those markets that the
merchants from the more remote countries of Asia expected their
arrival. The return of the fleet of Egypt was fixed to the months
of December or January; and as soon as their rich cargo had been
transported on the backs of camels, from the Red Sea to the Nile,
and had descended that river as far as Alexandria, it was poured,
without delay, into the capital of the empire. ^103 The objects
of oriental traffic were splendid and trifling; silk, a pound of
which was esteemed not inferior in value to a pound of gold; ^104
precious stones, among which the pearl claimed the first rank
after the diamond; ^105 and a variety of aromatics, that were
consumed in religious worship and the pomp of funerals. The
labor and risk of the voyage was rewarded with almost incredible
profit; but the profit was made upon Roman subjects, and a few
individuals were enriched at the expense of the public. As the
natives of Arabia and India were contented with the productions
and manufactures of their own country, silver, on the side of the
Romans, was the principal, if not the only ^* instrument of
commerce. It was a complaint worthy of the gravity of the
senate, that, in the purchase of female ornaments, the wealth of
the state was irrecoverably given away to foreign and hostile
nations. ^106 The annual loss is computed, by a writer of an
inquisitive but censorious temper, at upwards of eight hundred
thousand pounds sterling. ^107 Such was the style of discontent,
brooding over the dark prospect of approaching poverty. And yet,
if we compare the proportion between gold and silver, as it stood
in the time of Pliny, and as it was fixed in the reign of
Constantine, we shall discover within that period a very
considerable increase. ^108 There is not the least reason to
suppose that gold was become more scarce; it is therefore evident
that silver was grown more common; that whatever might be the
amount of the Indian and Arabian exports, they were far from
exhausting the wealth of the Roman world; and that the produce of
the mines abundantly supplied the demands of commerce.

[Footnote 101: Tacit. Germania, c. 45. Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxvii.
13. The latter observed, with some humor, that even fashion had
not yet found out the use of amber. Nero sent a Roman knight to
purchase great quantities on the spot where it was produced, the
coast of modern Prussia.]

[Footnote 102: Called Taprobana by the Romans, and Serindib by
the Arabs. It was discovered under the reign of Claudius, and
gradually became the principal mart of the East.]

[Footnote 103: Plin. Hist. Natur. l. vi. Strabo, l. xvii.]
[Footnote 104: Hist. August. p. 224. A silk garment was
considered as an ornament to a woman, but as a disgrace to a

[Footnote 105: The two great pearl fisheries were the same as at
present, Ormuz and Cape Comorin. As well as we can compare
ancient with modern geography, Rome was supplied with diamonds
from the mine of Jumelpur, in Bengal, which is described in the
Voyages de Tavernier, tom. ii. p. 281.]
[Footnote *: Certainly not the only one. The Indians were not so
contented with regard to foreign productions. Arrian has a long
list of European wares, which they received in exchange for their
own; Italian and other wines, brass, tin, lead, coral,
chrysolith, storax, glass, dresses of one or many colors, zones,
&c. See Periplus Maris Erythraei in Hudson, Geogr. Min. i. p.
27. - W. The German translator observes that Gibbon has confined
the use of aromatics to religious worship and funerals. His
error seems the omission of other spices, of which the Romans
must have consumed great quantities in their cookery. Wenck,
however, admits that silver was the chief article of exchange. -

In 1787, a peasant (near Nellore in the Carnatic) struck, in
digging, on the remains of a Hindu temple; he found, also, a pot
which contained Roman coins and medals of the second century,
mostly Trajans, Adrians, and Faustinas, all of gold, many of them
fresh and beautiful, others defaced or perforated, as if they had
been worn as ornaments. (Asiatic Researches, ii. 19.) - M.]

[Footnote 106: Tacit. Annal. iii. 53. In a speech of Tiberius.]
[Footnote 107: Plin. Hist. Natur. xii. 18. In another place he
computes half that sum; Quingenties H. S. for India exclusive of
[Footnote 108: The proportion, which was 1 to 10, and 12 1/2,
rose to 14 2/5, the legal regulation of Constantine. See
Arbuthnot's Tables of ancient Coins, c. 5.]

Notwithstanding the propensity of mankind to exalt the past,
and to depreciate the present, the tranquil and prosperous state
of the empire was warmly felt, and honestly confessed, by the
provincials as well as Romans. "They acknowledged that the true
principles of social life, laws, agriculture, and science, which
had been first invented by the wisdom of Athens, were now firmly
established by the power of Rome, under whose auspicious
influence the fiercest barbarians were united by an equal
government and common language. They affirm, that with the
improvement of arts, the human species were visibly multiplied.
They celebrate the increasing splendor of the cities, the
beautiful face of the country, cultivated and adorned like an
immense garden; and the long festival of peace which was enjoyed
by so many nations, forgetful of the ancient animosities, and
delivered from the apprehension of future danger." ^109 Whatever
suspicions may be suggested by the air of rhetoric and
declamation, which seems to prevail in these passages, the
substance of them is perfectly agreeable to historic truth.

[Footnote 109: Among many other passages, see Pliny, (Hist.
Natur. iii. 5.) Aristides, (de Urbe Roma,) and Tertullian, (de
Anima, c. 30.)]
It was scarcely possible that the eyes of contemporaries
should discover in the public felicity the latent causes of decay
and corruption. This long peace, and the uniform government of
the Romans, introduced a slow and secret poison into the vitals
of the empire. The minds of men were gradually reduced to the
same level, the fire of genius was extinguished, and even the
military spirit evaporated. The natives of Europe were brave and
robust. Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Illyricum supplied the legions
with excellent soldiers, and constituted the real strength of the
monarchy. Their personal valor remained, but they no longer
possessed that public courage which is nourished by the love of
independence, the sense of national honor, the presence of
danger, and the habit of command. They received laws and
governors from the will of their sovereign, and trusted for their
defence to a mercenary army. The posterity of their boldest
leaders was contented with the rank of citizens and subjects.
The most aspiring spirits resorted to the court or standard of
the emperors; and the deserted provinces, deprived of political
strength or union, insensibly sunk into the languid indifference
of private life.

The love of letters, almost inseparable from peace and
refinement, was fashionable among the subjects of Hadrian and the
Antonines, who were themselves men of learning and curiosity. It
was diffused over the whole extent of their empire; the most
northern tribes of Britons had acquired a taste for rhetoric;
Homer as well as Virgil were transcribed and studied on the banks
of the Rhine and Danube; and the most liberal rewards sought out
the faintest glimmerings of literary merit. ^110 The sciences of
physic and astronomy were successfully cultivated by the Greeks;
the observations of Ptolemy and the writings of Galen are studied
by those who have improved their discoveries and corrected their
errors; but if we except the inimitable Lucian, this age of
indolence passed away without having produced a single writer of
original genius, or who excelled in the arts of elegant
composition. ^! The authority of Plato and Aristotle, of Zeno and
Epicurus, still reigned in the schools; and their systems,
transmitted with blind deference from one generation of disciples
to another, precluded every generous attempt to exercise the
powers, or enlarge the limits, of the human mind. The beauties
of the poets and orators, instead of kindling a fire like their
own, inspired only cold and servile mitations: or if any ventured
to deviate from those models, they deviated at the same time from
good sense and propriety. On the revival of letters, the
youthful vigor of the imagination, after a long repose, national
emulation, a new religion, new languages, and a new world, called
forth the genius of Europe. But the provincials of Rome, trained
by a uniform artificial foreign education, were engaged in a very
unequal competition with those bold ancients, who, by expressing
their genuine feelings in their native tongue, had already
occupied every place of honor. The name of Poet was almost
forgotten; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud
of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of
learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the
corruption of taste.

[Footnote 110: Herodes Atticus gave the sophist Polemo above
eight thousand pounds for three declamations. See Philostrat. l.
i. p. 538. The Antonines founded a school at Athens, in which
professors of grammar, rhetoric, politics, and the four great
sects of philosophy were maintained at the public expense for the
instruction of youth. The salary of a philosopher was ten
thousand drachmae, between three and four hundred pounds a year.
Similar establishments were formed in the other great cities of
the empire. See Lucian in Eunuch. tom. ii. p. 352, edit. Reitz.
Philostrat. l. ii. p. 566. Hist. August. p. 21. Dion Cassius,
l. lxxi. p. 1195. Juvenal himself, in a morose satire, which in
every line betrays his own disappointment and envy, is obliged,
however, to say, -

" - O Juvenes, circumspicit et stimulat vos.
Materiamque sibi Ducis indulgentia quaerit." - Satir. vii.
Note: Vespasian first gave a salary to professors: he
assigned to each professor of rhetoric, Greek and Roman, centena
sestertia. (Sueton. in Vesp. 18. Hadrian and the Antonines,
though still liberal, were less profuse. - G. from W. Suetonius
wrote annua centena L. 807, 5, 10. - M.]
[Footnote !: This judgment is rather severe: besides the
physicians, astronomers, and grammarians, among whom there were
some very distinguished men, there were still, under Hadrian,
Suetonius, Florus, Plutarch; under the Antonines, Arrian,
Pausanias, Appian, Marcus Aurelius himself, Sextus Empiricus, &c.

Jurisprudence gained much by the labors of Salvius Julianus,
Julius Celsus, Sex. Pomponius, Caius, and others. - G. from W.
Yet where, among these, is the writer of original genius, unless,
perhaps Plutarch? or even of a style really elegant? - M.]

The sublime Longinus, who, in somewhat a later period, and
in the court of a Syrian queen, preserved the spirit of ancient
Athens, observes and laments this degeneracy of his
contemporaries, which debased their sentiments, enervated their
courage, and depressed their talents. "In the same manner," says
he, "as some children always remain pygmies, whose infant limbs
have been too closely confined, thus our tender minds, fettered
by the prejudices and habits of a just servitude, are unable to
expand themselves, or to attain that well-proportioned greatness
which we admire in the ancients; who, living under a popular
government, wrote with the same freedom as they acted." ^111 This
diminutive stature of mankind, if we pursue the metaphor, was
daily sinking below the old standard, and the Roman world was
indeed peopled by a race of pygmies; when the fierce giants of
the north broke in, and mended the puny breed. They restored a
manly spirit of freedom; and after the revolution of ten
centuries, freedom became the happy parent of taste and science.

[Footnote 111: Longin. de Sublim. c. 44, p. 229, edit. Toll.
Here, too, we may say of Longinus, "his own example strengthens
all his laws." Instead of proposing his sentiments with a manly
boldness, he insinuates them with the most guarded caution; puts
them into the mouth of a friend, and as far as we can collect
from a corrupted text, makes a show of refuting them himself.]

Chapter III: The Constitution In The Age Of The Antonines.

Part I.

Of The Constitution Of The Roman Empire, In The Age Of The

The obvious definition of a monarchy seems to be that of a
state, in which a single person, by whatsoever name he may be
distinguished, is intrusted with the execution of the laws, the
management of the revenue, and the command of the army. But,
unless public liberty is protected by intrepid and vigilant
guardians, the authority of so formidable a magistrate will soon
degenerate into despotism. The influence of the clergy, in an
age of superstition, might be usefully employed to assert the
rights of mankind; but so intimate is the connection between the
throne and the altar, that the banner of the church has very
seldom been seen on the side of the people. ^* A martial nobility
and stubborn commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property,
and collected into constitutional assemblies, form the only
balance capable of preserving a free constitution against
enterprises of an aspiring prince.

[Footnote *: Often enough in the ages of superstition, but not in
the interest of the people or the state, but in that of the
church to which all others were subordinate. Yet the power of
the pope has often been of great service in repressing the
excesses of sovereigns, and in softening manners. - W. The
history of the Italian republics proves the error of Gibbon, and
the justice of his German translator's comment. - M.]

Every barrier of the Roman constitution had been levelled by
the vast ambition of the dictator; every fence had been
extirpated by the cruel hand of the triumvir. After the victory
of Actium, the fate of the Roman world depended on the will of
Octavianus, surnamed Caesar, by his uncle's adoption, and
afterwards Augustus, by the flattery of the senate. The
conqueror was at the head of forty-four veteran legions, ^1
conscious of their own strength, and of the weakness of the
constitution, habituated, during twenty years' civil war, to
every act of blood and violence, and passionately devoted to the
house of Caesar, from whence alone they had received, and
expected the most lavish rewards. The provinces, long oppressed
by the ministers of the republic, sighed for the government of a
single person, who would be the master, not the accomplice, of
those petty tyrants. The people of Rome, viewing, with a secret
pleasure, the humiliation of the aristocracy, demanded only bread
and public shows; and were supplied with both by the liberal hand
of Augustus. The rich and polite Italians, who had almost
universally embraced the philosophy of Epicurus, enjoyed the
present blessings of ease and tranquillity, and suffered not the
pleasing dream to be interrupted by the memory of their old
tumultuous freedom. With its power, the senate had lost its
dignity; many of the most noble families were extinct. The
republicans of spirit and ability had perished in the field of
battle, or in the proscription . The door of the assembly had
been designedly left open, for a mixed multitude of more than a
thousand persons, who reflected disgrace upon their rank, instead
of deriving honor from it. ^2

[Footnote 1: Orosius, vi. 18.

Note: Dion says twenty-five, (or three,) (lv. 23.) The
united triumvirs had but forty-three. (Appian. Bell. Civ. iv.
3.) The testimony of Orosius is of little value when more certain
may be had. - W. But all the legions, doubtless, submitted to
Augustus after the battle of Actium. - M.]
[Footnote 2: Julius Caesar introduced soldiers, strangers, and
half- barbarians into the senate (Sueton. in Caesar. c. 77, 80.)
The abuse became still more scandalous after his death.]

The reformation of the senate was one of the first steps in
which Augustus laid aside the tyrant, and professed himself the
father of his country. He was elected censor; and, in concert
with his faithful Agrippa, he examined the list of the senators,
expelled a few members, ^* whose vices or whose obstinacy
required a public example, persuaded near two hundred to prevent
the shame of an expulsion by a voluntary retreat, raised the
qualification of a senator to about ten thousand pounds, created
a sufficient number of patrician families, and accepted for
himself the honorable title of Prince of the Senate, ^! which had
always been bestowed, by the censors, on the citizen the most
eminent for his honors and services. ^3 But whilst he thus
restored the dignity, he destroyed the independence, of the
senate. The principles of a free constitution are irrecoverably
lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.

[Footnote *: Of these Dion and Suetonius knew nothing. - W. Dion
says the contrary. - M.]

[Footnote !: But Augustus, then Octavius, was censor, and in
virtue of that office, even according to the constitution of the
free republic, could reform the senate, expel unworthy members,
name the Princeps Senatus, &c. That was called, as is well known,
Senatum legere. It was customary, during the free republic, for
the censor to be named Princeps Senatus, (S. Liv. l. xxvii. c.
11, l. xl. c. 51;) and Dion expressly says, that this was done
according to ancient usage. He was empowered by a decree of the
senate to admit a number of families among the patricians.
Finally, the senate was not the legislative power. - W]

[Footnote 3: Dion Cassius, l. liii. p. 693. Suetonius in August.
c. 35.]
Before an assembly thus modelled and prepared, Augustus
pronounced a studied oration, which displayed his patriotism, and
disguised his ambition. "He lamented, yet excused, his past
conduct. Filial piety had required at his hands the revenge of
his father's murder; the humanity of his own nature had sometimes
given way to the stern laws of necessity, and to a forced
connection with two unworthy colleagues: as long as Antony lived,
the republic forbade him to abandon her to a degenerate Roman,
and a barbarian queen. He was now at liberty to satisfy his duty
and his inclination. He solemnly restored the senate and people
to all their ancient rights; and wished only to mingle with the
crowd of his fellow-citizens, and to share the blessings which he
had obtained for his country." ^4

[Footnote 4: Dion (l. liii. p. 698) gives us a prolix and bombast
speech on this great occasion. I have borrowed from Suetonius
and Tacitus the general language of Augustus.]

It would require the pen of Tacitus (if Tacitus had assisted
at this assembly) to describe the various emotions of the senate,
those that were suppressed, and those that were affected. It was
dangerous to trust the sincerity of Augustus; to seem to distrust
it was still more dangerous. The respective advantages of
monarchy and a republic have often divided speculative inquirers;
the present greatness of the Roman state, the corruption of
manners, and the license of the soldiers, supplied new arguments
to the advocates of monarchy; and these general views of
government were again warped by the hopes and fears of each
individual. Amidst this confusion of sentiments, the answer of
the senate was unanimous and decisive. They refused to accept the
resignation of Augustus; they conjured him not to desert the
republic, which he had saved. After a decent resistance, the
crafty tyrant submitted to the orders of the senate; and
consented to receive the government of the provinces, and the
general command of the Roman armies, under the well-known names
of Proconsul and Imperator. ^5 But he would receive them only for
ten years. Even before the expiration of that period, he hope
that the wounds of civil discord would be completely healed, and
that the republic, restored to its pristine health and vigor,
would no longer require the dangerous interposition of so
extraordinary a magistrate. The memory of this comedy, repeated
several times during the life of Augustus, was preserved to the
last ages of the empire, by the peculiar pomp with which the
perpetual monarchs of Rome always solemnized the tenth years of
their reign. ^6

[Footnote 5: Imperator (from which we have derived Emperor)
signified under her republic no more than general, and was
emphatically bestowed by the soldiers, when on the field of
battle they proclaimed their victorious leader worthy of that
title. When the Roman emperors assumed it in that sense, they
placed it after their name, and marked how often they had taken
[Footnote 6: Dion. l. liii. p. 703, &c.]

Without any violation of the principles of the constitution,
the general of the Roman armies might receive and exercise an
authority almost despotic over the soldiers, the enemies, and the
subjects of the republic. With regard to the soldiers, the
jealousy of freedom had, even from the earliest ages of Rome,
given way to the hopes of conquest, and a just sense of military
discipline. The dictator, or consul, had a right to command the
service of the Roman youth; and to punish an obstinate or
cowardly disobedience by the most severe and ignominious
penalties, by striking the offender out of the list of citizens,
by confiscating his property, and by selling his person into
slavery. ^7 The most sacred rights of freedom, confirmed by the
Porcian and Sempronian laws, were suspended by the military
engagement. In his camp the general exercise an absolute power
of life and death; his jurisdiction was not confined by any forms
of trial, or rules of proceeding, and the execution of the
sentence was immediate and without appeal. ^8 The choice of the
enemies of Rome was regularly decided by the legislative
authority. The most important resolutions of peace and war were
seriously debated in the senate, and solemnly ratified by the
people. But when the arms of the legions were carried to a great
distance from Italy, the general assumed the liberty of directing
them against whatever people, and in whatever manner, they judged
most advantageous for the public service. It was from the
success, not from the justice, of their enterprises, that they
expected the honors of a triumph. In the use of victory,
especially after they were no longer controlled by the
commissioners of the senate, they exercised the most unbounded
despotism. When Pompey commanded in the East, he rewarded his
soldiers and allies, dethroned princes, divided kingdoms, founded
colonies, and distributed the treasures of Mithridates. On his
return to Rome, he obtained, by a single act of the senate and
people, the universal ratification of all his proceedings. ^9
Such was the power over the soldiers, and over the enemies of
Rome, which was either granted to, or assumed by, the generals of
the republic. They were, at the same time, the governors, or
rather monarchs, of the conquered provinces, united the civil
with the military character, administered justice as well as the
finances, and exercised both the executive and legislative power
of the state.
[Footnote 7: Livy Epitom. l. xiv. [c. 27.] Valer. Maxim. vi. 3.]
[Footnote 8: See, in the viiith book of Livy, the conduct of
Manlius Torquatus and Papirius Cursor. They violated the laws of
nature and humanity, but they asserted those of military
discipline; and the people, who abhorred the action, was obliged
to respect the principle.]
[Footnote 9: By the lavish but unconstrained suffrages of the
people, Pompey had obtained a military command scarcely inferior
to that of Augustus. Among the extraordinary acts of power
executed by the former we may remark the foundation of
twenty-nine cities, and the distribution of three or four
millions sterling to his troops. The ratification of his acts
met with some opposition and delays in the senate See Plutarch,
Appian, Dion Cassius, and the first book of the epistles to

From what has already been observed in the first chapter of
this work, some notion may be formed of the armies and provinces
thus intrusted to the ruling hand of Augustus. But as it was
impossible that he could personally command the regions of so
many distant frontiers, he was indulged by the senate, as Pompey
had already been, in the permission of devolving the execution of
his great office on a sufficient number of lieutenants. In rank
and authority these officers seemed not inferior to the ancient
proconsuls; but their station was dependent and precarious. They
received and held their commissions at the will of a superior, to
whose auspicious influence the merit of their action was legally
attributed. ^10 They were the representatives of the emperor.
The emperor alone was the general of the republic, and his
jurisdiction, civil as well as military, extended over all the
conquests of Rome. It was some satisfaction, however, to the
senate, that he always delegated his power to the members of
their body. The imperial lieutenants were of consular or
praetorian dignity; the legions were commanded by senators, and
the praefecture of Egypt was the only important trust committed
to a Roman knight.

[Footnote 10: Under the commonwealth, a triumph could only be
claimed by the general, who was authorized to take the Auspices
in the name of the people. By an exact consequence, drawn from
this principle of policy and religion, the triumph was reserved
to the emperor; and his most successful lieutenants were
satisfied with some marks of distinction, which, under the name
of triumphal honors, were invented in their favor.]

Within six days after Augustus had been compelled to accept
so very liberal a grant, he resolved to gratify the pride of the
senate by an easy sacrifice. He represented to them, that they
had enlarged his powers, even beyond that degree which might be
required by the melancholy condition of the times. They had not
permitted him to refuse the laborious command of the armies and
the frontiers; but he must insist on being allowed to restore the
more peaceful and secure provinces to the mild administration of
the civil magistrate. In the division of the provinces, Augustus
provided for his own power and for the dignity of the republic.
The proconsuls of the senate, particularly those of Asia, Greece,
and Africa, enjoyed a more honorable character than the
lieutenants of the emperor, who commanded in Gaul or Syria. The
former were attended by lictors, the latter by soldiers. ^* A law
was passed, that wherever the emperor was present, his
extraordinary commission should supersede the ordinary
jurisdiction of the governor; a custom was introduced, that the
new conquests belonged to the imperial portion; and it was soon
discovered that the authority of the Prtnce, the favorite epithet
of Augustus, was the same in every part of the empire.
[Footnote *: This distinction is without foundation. The
lieutenants of the emperor, who were called Propraetors, whether
they had been praetors or consuls, were attended by six lictors;
those who had the right of the sword, (of life and death over the
soldiers. - M.) bore the military habit (paludamentum) and the
sword. The provincial governors commissioned by the senate, who,
whether they had been consuls or not, were called Pronconsuls,
had twelve lictors when they had been consuls, and six only when
they had but been praetors. The provinces of Africa and Asia
were only given to ex- consuls. See, on the Organization of the
Provinces, Dion, liii. 12, 16 Strabo, xvii 840.- W]

In return for this imaginary concession, Augustus obtained
an important privilege, which rendered him master of Rome and
Italy. By a dangerous exception to the ancient maxims, he was
authorized to preserve his military command, supported by a
numerous body of guards, even in time of peace, and in the heart
of the capital. His command, indeed, was confined to those
citizens who were engaged in the service by the military oath;
but such was the propensity of the Romans to servitude, that the
oath was voluntarily taken by the magistrates, the senators, and
the equestrian order, till the homage of flattery was insensibly
converted into an annual and solemn protestation of fidelity.

Although Augustus considered a military force as the firmest
foundation, he wisely rejected it, as a very odious instrument of
government. It was more agreeable to his temper, as well as to
his policy, to reign under the venerable names of ancient
magistracy, and artfully to collect, in his own person, all the
scattered rays of civil jurisdiction. With this view, he
permitted the senate to confer upon him, for his life, the powers
of the consular ^11 and tribunitian offices, ^12 which were, in
the same manner, continued to all his successors. The consuls
had succeeded to the kings of Rome, and represented the dignity
of the state. They superintended the ceremonies of religion,
levied and commanded the legions, gave audience to foreign
ambassadors, and presided in the assemblies both of the senate
and people. The general control of the finances was intrusted to
their care; and though they seldom had leisure to administer
justice in person, they were considered as the supreme guardians
of law, equity, and the public peace. Such was their ordinary
jurisdiction; but whenever the senate empowered the first
magistrate to consult the safety of the commonwealth, he was
raised by that decree above the laws, and exercised, in the
defence of liberty, a temporary despotism. ^13 The character of
the tribunes was, in every respect, different from that of the
consuls. The appearance of the former was modest and humble; but
their persons were sacred and inviolable. Their force was suited
rather for opposition than for action. They were instituted to
defend the oppressed, to pardon offences, to arraign the enemies
of the people, and, when they judged it necessary, to stop, by a
single word, the whole machine of government. As long as the
republic subsisted, the dangerous influence, which either the
consul or the tribune might derive from their respective
jurisdiction, was diminished by several important restrictions.
Their authority expired with the year in which they were elected;
the former office was divided between two, the latter among ten
persons; and, as both in their private and public interest they
were averse to each other, their mutual conflicts contributed,
for the most part, to strengthen rather than to destroy the
balance of the constitution. ^* But when the consular and
tribunitian powers were united, when they were vested for life in
a single person, when the general of the army was, at the same
time, the minister of the senate and the representative of the
Roman people, it was impossible to resist the exercise, nor was
it easy to define the limits, of his imperial prerogative.

[Footnote 11: Cicero (de Legibus, iii. 3) gives the consular
office the name of egia potestas; and Polybius (l. vi. c. 3)
observes three powers in the Roman constitution. The monarchical
was represented and exercised by the consuls.]

[Footnote 12: As the tribunitian power (distinct from the annual
office) was first invented by the dictator Caesar, (Dion, l.
xliv. p. 384,) we may easily conceive, that it was given as a
reward for having so nobly asserted, by arms, the sacred rights
of the tribunes and people. See his own Commentaries, de Bell.
Civil. l. i.]

[Footnote 13: Augustus exercised nine annual consulships without
interruption. He then most artfully refused the magistracy, as
well as the dictatorship, absented himself from Rome, and waited
till the fatal effects of tumult and faction forced the senate to
invest him with a perpetual consulship. Augustus, as well as his
successors, affected, however, to conceal so invidious a title.]

[Footnote *: The note of M. Guizot on the tribunitian power
applies to the French translation rather than to the original.
The former has, maintenir la balance toujours egale, which
implies much more than Gibbon's general expression. The note
belongs rather to the history of the Republic than that of the
Empire. - M]

To these accumulated honors, the policy of Augustus soon
added the splendid as well as important dignities of supreme
pontiff, and of censor. By the former he acquired the management
of the religion, and by the latter a legal inspection over the
manners and fortunes, of the Roman people. If so many distinct
and independent powers did not exactly unite with each other, the
complaisance of the senate was prepared to supply every
deficiency by the most ample and extraordinary concessions. The
emperors, as the first ministers of the republic, were exempted
from the obligation and penalty of many inconvenient laws: they
were authorized to convoke the senate, to make several motions in
the same day, to recommend candidates for the honors of the
state, to enlarge the bounds of the city, to employ the revenue
at their discretion, to declare peace and war, to ratify
treaties; and by a most comprehensive clause, they were empowered
to execute whatsoever they should judge advantageous to the
empire, and agreeable to the majesty of things private or public,
human of divine. ^14

[Footnote 14: See a fragment of a Decree of the Senate,
conferring on the emperor Vespasian all the powers granted to his
predecessors, Augustus, Tiberius, and Claudius. This curious and
important monument is published in Gruter's Inscriptions, No.

Note: It is also in the editions of Tacitus by Ryck, (Annal.
p. 420, 421,) and Ernesti, (Excurs. ad lib. iv. 6;) but this
fragment contains so many inconsistencies, both in matter and
form, that its authenticity may be doubted - W.]

When all the various powers of executive government were
committed to the Imperial magistrate, the ordinary magistrates of
the commonwealth languished in obscurity, without vigor, and
almost without business. The names and forms of the ancient
administration were preserved by Augustus with the most anxious
care. The usual number of consuls, praetors, and tribunes, ^15
were annually invested with their respective ensigns of office,
and continued to discharge some of their least important
functions. Those honors still attracted the vain ambition of the
Romans; and the emperors themselves, though invested for life
with the powers of the consul ship, frequently aspired to the
title of that annual dignity, which they condescended to share
with the most illustrious of their fellow-citizens. ^16 In the
election of these magistrates, the people, during the reign of
Augustus, were permitted to expose all the inconveniences of a
wild democracy. That artful prince, instead of discovering the
least symptom of impatience, humbly solicited their suffrages for
himself or his friends, and scrupulously practised all the duties
of an ordinary candidate. ^17 But we may venture to ascribe to
his councils the first measure of the succeeding reign, by which
the elections were transferred to the senate. ^18 The assemblies
of the people were forever abolished, and the emperors were
delivered from a dangerous multitude, who, without restoring
liberty, might have disturbed, and perhaps endangered, the
established government.

[Footnote 15: Two consuls were created on the Calends of January;
but in the course of the year others were substituted in their
places, till the annual number seems to have amounted to no less
than twelve. The praetors were usually sixteen or eighteen,
(Lipsius in Excurs. D. ad Tacit. Annal. l. i.) I have not
mentioned the Aediles or Quaestors Officers of the police or
revenue easily adapt themselves to any form of government. In
the time of Nero, the tribunes legally possessed the right of
intercession, though it might be dangerous to exercise it (Tacit.
Annal. xvi. 26.) In the time of Trajan, it was doubtful whether
the tribuneship was an office or a name, (Plin. Epist. i. 23.)]

[Footnote 16: The tyrants themselves were ambitious of the
consulship. The virtuous princes were moderate in the pursuit,
and exact in the discharge of it. Trajan revived the ancient
oath, and swore before the consul's tribunal that he would
observe the laws, (Plin. Panegyric c. 64.)]

[Footnote 17: Quoties Magistratuum Comitiis interesset. Tribus
cum candidatis suis circunbat: supplicabatque more solemni.
Ferebat et ipse suffragium in tribubus, ut unus e populo.
Suetonius in August c. 56.]
[Footnote 18: Tum primum Comitia e campo ad patres translata
sunt. Tacit. Annal. i. 15. The word primum seems to allude to
some faint and unsuccessful efforts which were made towards
restoring them to the people.
Note: The emperor Caligula made the attempt: he rest red the
Comitia to the people, but, in a short time, took them away
again. Suet. in Caio. c. 16. Dion. lix. 9, 20. Nevertheless, at
the time of Dion, they preserved still the form of the Comitia.
Dion. lviii. 20. - W.]

By declaring themselves the protectors of the people, Marius
and Caesar had subverted the constitution of their country. But
as soon as the senate had been humbled and disarmed, such an
assembly, consisting of five or six hundred persons, was found a
much more tractable and useful instrument of dominion. It was on
the dignity of the senate that Augustus and his successors
founded their new empire; and they affected, on every occasion,
to adopt the language and principles of Patricians. In the
administration of their own powers, they frequently consulted the
great national council, and seemed to refer to its decision the
most important concerns of peace and war. Rome, Italy, and the
internal provinces, were subject to the immediate jurisdiction of
the senate. With regard to civil objects, it was the supreme
court of appeal; with regard to criminal matters, a tribunal,
constituted for the trial of all offences that were committed by
men in any public station, or that affected the peace and majesty
of the Roman people. The exercise of the judicial power became
the most frequent and serious occupation of the senate; and the
important causes that were pleaded before them afforded a last
refuge to the spirit of ancient eloquence. As a council of
state, and as a court of justice, the senate possessed very
considerable prerogatives; but in its legislative capacity, in
which it was supposed virtually to represent the people, the
rights of sovereignty were acknowledged to reside in that
assembly. Every power was derived from their authority, every
law was ratified by their sanction. Their regular meetings were
held on three stated days in every month, the Calends, the Nones,
and the Ides. The debates were conducted with decent freedom;
and the emperors themselves, who gloried in the name of senators,
sat, voted, and divided with their equals.
To resume, in a few words, the system of the Imperial
government; as it was instituted by Augustus, and maintained by
those princes who understood their own interest and that of the
people, it may be defined an absolute monarchy disguised by the
forms of a commonwealth. The masters of the Roman world
surrounded their throne with darkness, concealed their
irresistible strength, and humbly professed themselves the
accountable ministers of the senate, whose supreme decrees they
dictated and obeyed. ^19
[Footnote 19: Dion Cassius (l. liii. p. 703 - 714) has given a
very loose and partial sketch of the Imperial system. To
illustrate and often to correct him, I have meditated Tacitus,
examined Suetonius, and consulted the following moderns: the Abbe
de la Bleterie, in the Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions,
tom. xix. xxi. xxiv. xxv. xxvii. Beaufort Republique Romaine,
tom. i. p. 255 - 275. The Dissertations of Noodt aad Gronovius
de lege Regia, printed at Leyden, in the year 1731 Gravina de
Imperio Romano, p. 479 - 544 of his Opuscula. Maffei, Verona
Illustrata, p. i. p. 245, &c.]
The face of the court corresponded with the forms of the
administration. The emperors, if we except those tyrants whose
capricious folly violated every law of nature and decency,
disdained that pomp and ceremony which might offend their
countrymen, but could add nothing to their real power. In all
the offices of life, they affected to confound themselves with
their subjects, and maintained with them an equal intercourse of
visits and entertainments. Their habit, their palace, their
table, were suited only to the rank of an opulent senator. Their
family, however numerous or splendid, was composed entirely of
their domestic slaves and freedmen. ^20 Augustus or Trajan would
have blushed at employing the meanest of the Romans in those
menial offices, which, in the household and bedchamber of a
limited monarch, are so eagerly solicited by the proudest nobles
of Britain.
[Footnote 20: A weak prince will always be governed by his
domestics. The power of slaves aggravated the shame of the
Romans; and the senate paid court to a Pallas or a Narcissus.
There is a chance that a modern favorite may be a gentleman.]

The deification of the emperors ^21 is the only instance in
which they departed from their accustomed prudence and modesty.
The Asiatic Greeks were the first inventors, the successors of
Alexander the first objects, of this servile and impious mode of
adulation. ^* It was easily transferred from the kings to the
governors of Asia; and the Roman magistrates very frequently were
adored as provincial deities, with the pomp of altars and
temples, of festivals and sacrifices. ^22 It was natural that the
emperors should not refuse what the proconsuls had accepted; and
the divine honors which both the one and the other received from
the provinces, attested rather the despotism than the servitude
of Rome. But the conquerors soon imitated the vanquished nations
in the arts of flattery; and the imperious spirit of the first
Caesar too easily consented to assume, during his lifetime, a
place among the tutelar deities of Rome. The milder temper of
his successor declined so dangerous an ambition, which was never
afterwards revived, except by the madness of Caligula and
Domitian. Augustus permitted indeed some of the provincial
cities to erect temples to his honor, on condition that they
should associate the worship of Rome with that of the sovereign;
he tolerated private superstition, of which he might be the
object; ^23 but he contented himself with being revered by the
senate and the people in his human character, and wisely left to
his successor the care of his public deification. A regular
custom was introduced, that on the decease of every emperor who
had neither lived nor died like a tyrant, the senate by a solemn
decree should place him in the number of the gods: and the
ceremonies of his apotheosis were blended with those of his
funeral. ^! This legal, and, as it should seem, injudicious
profanation, so abhorrent to our stricter principles, was
received with a very faint murmur, ^24 by the easy nature of
Polytheism; but it was received as an institution, not of
religion, but of policy. We should disgrace the virtues of the
Antonines by comparing them with the vices of Hercules or
Jupiter. Even the characters of Caesar or Augustus were far
superior to those of the popular deities. But it was the
misfortune of the former to live in an enlightened age, and their
actions were too faithfully recorded to admit of such a mixture
of fable and mystery, as the devotion of the vulgar requires. As
soon as their divinity was established by law, it sunk into
oblivion, without contributing either to their own fame, or to
the dignity of succeeding princes.

[Footnote 21: See a treatise of Vandale de Consecratione
Principium. It would be easier for me to copy, than it has been
to verify, the quotations of that learned Dutchman.]

[Footnote *: This is inaccurate. The successors of Alexander
were not the first deified sovereigns; the Egyptians had deified
and worshipped many of their kings; the Olympus of the Greeks was
peopled with divinities who had reigned on earth; finally,
Romulus himself had received the honors of an apotheosis (Tit.
Liv. i. 16) a long time before Alexander and his successors. It
is also an inaccuracy to confound the honors offered in the
provinces to the Roman governors, by temples and altars, with the
true apotheosis of the emperors; it was not a religious worship,
for it had neither priests nor sacrifices. Augustus was severely
blamed for having permitted himself to be worshipped as a god in
the provinces, (Tac. Ann. i. 10: ) he would not have incurred
that blame if he had only done what the governors were accustomed
to do. - G. from W. M. Guizot has been guilty of a still greater
inaccuracy in confounding the deification of the living with the
apotheosis of the dead emperors. The nature of the king-worship
of Egypt is still very obscure; the hero-worship of the Greeks
very different from the adoration of the "praesens numen" in the
reigning sovereign. - M.]

[Footnote 22: See a dissertation of the Abbe Mongault in the
first volume of the Academy of Inscriptions.]

[Footnote 23: Jurandasque tuum per nomen ponimus aras, says
Horace to the emperor himself, and Horace was well acquainted
with the court of Augustus.
Note: The good princes were not those who alone obtained the
honors of an apotheosis: it was conferred on many tyrants. See
an excellent treatise of Schaepflin, de Consecratione Imperatorum
Romanorum, in his Commentationes historicae et criticae. Bale,
1741, p. 184. - W.]

[Footnote !: The curious satire in the works of Seneca, is the
strongest remonstrance of profaned religion. - M.]

[Footnote 24: See Cicero in Philippic. i. 6. Julian in
Caesaribus. Inque Deum templis jurabit Roma per umbras, is the
indignant expression of Lucan; but it is a patriotic rather than
a devout indignation.]

In the consideration of the Imperial government, we have
frequently mentioned the artful founder, under his well-known
title of Augustus, which was not, however, conferred upon him
till the edifice was almost completed. The obscure name of
Octavianus he derived from a mean family, in the little town of
Aricia. ^! It was stained with the blood of the proscription; and
he was desirous, had it been possible, to erase all memory of his
former life. The illustrious surname of Caesar he had assumed, as
the adopted son of the dictator: but he had too much good sense,
either to hope to be confounded, or to wish to be compared with
that extraordinary man. It was proposed in the senate to dignify
their minister with a new appellation; and after a serious
discussion, that of Augustus was chosen, among several others, as
being the most expressive of the character of peace and sanctity,
which he uniformly affected. ^25 Augustus was therefore a
personal, Caesar a family distinction. The former should
naturally have expired with the prince on whom it was bestowed;
and however the latter was diffused by adoption and female
alliance, Nero was the last prince who could allege any
hereditary claim to the honors of the Julian line. But, at the
time of his death, the practice of a century had inseparably
connected those appellations with the Imperial dignity, and they
have been preserved by a long succession of emperors, Romans,
Greeks, Franks, and Germans, from the fall of the republic to the
present time. A distinction was, however, soon introduced. The
sacred title of Augustus was always reserved for the monarch,
whilst the name of Caesar was more freely communicated to his
relations; and, from the reign of Hadrian, at least, was
appropriated to the second person in the state, who was
considered as the presumptive heir of the empire. ^*

[Footnote !: Octavius was not of an obscure family, but of a
considerable one of the equestrian order. His father, C.
Octavius, who possessed great property, had been praetor,
governor of Macedonia, adorned with the title of Imperator, and
was on the point of becoming consul when he died. His mother
Attia, was daughter of M. Attius Balbus, who had also been
praetor. M. Anthony reproached Octavius with having been born in
Aricia, which, nevertheless, was a considerable municipal city:
he was vigorously refuted by Cicero. Philip. iii. c. 6. - W.
Gibbon probably meant that the family had but recently emerged
into notice. - M.]

[Footnote 25: Dion. Cassius, l. liii. p. 710, with the curious
Annotations of Reimar.]

[Footnote *: The princes who by their birth or their adoption
belonged to the family of the Caesars, took the name of Caesar.
After the death of Nero, this name designated the Imperial
dignity itself, and afterwards the appointed successor. The time
at which it was employed in the latter sense, cannot be fixed
with certainty. Bach (Hist. Jurisprud. Rom. 304) affirms from
Tacitus, H. i. 15, and Suetonius, Galba, 17, that Galba conferred
on Piso Lucinianus the title of Caesar, and from that time the
term had this meaning: but these two historians simply say that
he appointed Piso his successor, and do not mention the word
Caesar. Aurelius Victor (in Traj. 348, ed. Artzen) says that
Hadrian first received this title on his adoption; but as the
adoption of Hadrian is still doubtful, and besides this, as
Trajan, on his death-bed, was not likely to have created a new
title for his successor, it is more probable that Aelius Verus
was the first who was called Caesar when adopted by Hadrian.
Spart. in Aelio Vero, 102.- W.]

Chapter III: The Constitution In The Age Of The Antonines.

Part II.

The tender respect of Augustus for a free constitution which
he had destroyed, can only be explained by an attentive
consideration of the character of that subtle tyrant. A cool
head, an unfeeling heart, and a cowardly disposition, prompted
him at the age of nineteen to assume the mask of hypocrisy, which
he never afterwards laid aside. With the same hand, and probably
with the same temper, he signed the proscription of Cicero, and
the pardon of Cinna. His virtues, and even his vices, were
artificial; and according to the various dictates of his
interest, he was at first the enemy, and at last the father, of
the Roman world. ^26 When he framed the artful system of the
Imperial authority, his moderation was inspired by his fears. He
wished to deceive the people by an image of civil liberty, and
the armies by an image of civil government.

[Footnote 26: As Octavianus advanced to the banquet of the
Caesars, his color changed like that of the chameleon; pale at
first, then red, afterwards black, he at last assumed the mild
livery of Venus and the Graces, (Caesars, p. 309.) This image,
employed by Julian in his ingenious fiction, is just and elegant;
but when he considers this change of character as real and
ascribes it to the power of philosophy, he does too much honor to
philosophy and to Octavianus.]

I. The death of Caesar was ever before his eyes. He had
lavished wealth and honors on his adherents; but the most favored
friends of his uncle were in the number of the conspirators. The
fidelity of the legions might defend his authority against open
rebellion; but their vigilance could not secure his person from
the dagger of a determined republican; and the Romans, who
revered the memory of Brutus, ^27 would applaud the imitation of
his virtue. Caesar had provoked his fate, as much as by the
ostentation of his power, as by his power itself. The consul or
the tribune might have reigned in peace. The title of king had
armed the Romans against his life. Augustus was sensible that
mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery,
provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed
their ancient freedom. A feeble senate and enervated people
cheerfully acquiesced in the pleasing illusion, as long as it was
supported by the virtue, or even by the prudence, of the
successors of Augustus. It was a motive of self-preservation,
not a principle of liberty, that animated the conspirators
against Caligula, Nero, and Domitian. They attacked the person
of the tyrant, without aiming their blow at the authority of the

[Footnote 27: Two centuries after the establishment of monarchy,
the emperor Marcus Antoninus recommends the character of Brutus
as a perfect model of Roman virtue.

Note: In a very ingenious essay, Gibbon has ventured to call
in question the preeminent virtue of Brutus. Misc Works, iv. 95.
- M.]
There appears, indeed, one memorable occasion, in which the
senate, after seventy years of patience, made an ineffectual
attempt to re-assume its long-forgotten rights. When the throne
was vacant by the murder of Caligula, the consuls convoked that
assembly in the Capitol, condemned the memory of the Caesars,
gave the watchword liberty to the few cohorts who faintly adhered
to their standard, and during eight-and-forty hours acted as the
independent chiefs of a free commonwealth. But while they
deliberated, the praetorian guards had resolved. The stupid
Claudius, brother of Germanicus, was already in their camp,
invested with the Imperial purple, and prepared to support his
election by arms. The dream of liberty was at an end; and the
senate awoke to all the horrors of inevitable servitude.
Deserted by the people, and threatened by a military force, that
feeble assembly was compelled to ratify the choice of the
praetorians, and to embrace the benefit of an amnesty, which
Claudius had the prudence to offer, and the generosity to
observe. ^28

[See The Capitol: When the throne was vacant by the murder of
Caligula, the consuls convoked that assembly in the Capitol.]

[Footnote 28: It is much to be regretted that we have lost the
part of Tacitus which treated of that transaction. We are forced
to content ourselves with the popular rumors of Josephus, and the
imperfect hints of Dion and Suetonius.]

II. The insolence of the armies inspired Augustus with
fears of a still more alarming nature. The despair of the
citizens could only attempt, what the power of the soldiers was,
at any time, able to execute. How precarious was his own
authority over men whom he had taught to violate every social
duty! He had heard their seditious clamors; he dreaded their
calmer moments of reflection. One revolution had been purchased
by immense rewards; but a second revolution might double those
rewards. The troops professed the fondest attachment to the
house of Caesar; but the attachments of the multitude are
capricious and inconstant. Augustus summoned to his aid whatever
remained in those fierce minds of Roman prejudices; enforced the
rigor of discipline by the sanction of law; and, interposing the
majesty of the senate between the emperor and the army, boldly
claimed their allegiance, as the first magistrate of the

During a long period of two hundred and twenty years from
the establishment of this artful system to the death of Commodus,
the dangers inherent to a military government were, in a great
measure, suspended. The soldiers were seldom roused to that
fatal sense of their own strength, and of the weakness of the
civil authority, which was, before and afterwards, productive of
such dreadful calamities. Caligula and Domitian were
assassinated in their palace by their own domestics: ^* the
convulsions which agitated Rome on the death of the former, were
confined to the walls of the city. But Nero involved the whole
empire in his ruin. In the space of eighteen months, four
princes perished by the sword; and the Roman world was shaken by
the fury of the contending armies. Excepting only this short,
though violent eruption of military license, the two centuries
from Augustus ^29 to Commodus passed away unstained with civil
blood, and undisturbed by revolutions. The emperor was elected
by the authority of the senate, and the consent of the soldiers.
^30 The legions respected their oath of fidelity; and it requires
a minute inspection of the Roman annals to discover three
inconsiderable rebellions, which were all suppressed in a few
months, and without even the hazard of a battle. ^31

[Footnote *: Caligula perished by a conspiracy formed by the
officers of the praetorian troops, and Domitian would not,
perhaps, have been assassinated without the participation of the
two chiefs of that guard in his death. - W.]
[Footnote 29: Augustus restored the ancient severity of
discipline. After the civil wars, he dropped the endearing name
of Fellow-Soldiers, and called them only Soldiers, (Sueton. in
August. c. 25.) See the use Tiberius made of the Senate in the
mutiny of the Pannonian legions, (Tacit. Annal. i.)]
[Footnote 30: These words seem to have been the constitutional
language. See Tacit. Annal. xiii. 4.

Note: This panegyric on the soldiery is rather too liberal.
Claudius was obliged to purchase their consent to his coronation:
the presents which he made, and those which the praetorians
received on other occasions, considerably embarrassed the
finances. Moreover, this formidable guard favored, in general,
the cruelties of the tyrants. The distant revolts were more
frequent than Gibbon thinks: already, under Tiberius, the legions
of Germany would have seditiously constrained Germanicus to
assume the Imperial purple. On the revolt of Claudius Civilis,
under Vespasian, the legions of Gaul murdered their general, and
offered their assistance to the Gauls who were in insurrection.
Julius Sabinus made himself be proclaimed emperor, &c. The wars,
the merit, and the severe discipline of Trajan, Hadrian, and the
two Antonines, established, for some time, a greater degree of
subordination. - W]
[Footnote 31: The first was Camillus Scribonianus, who took up
arms in Dalmatia against Claudius, and was deserted by his own
troops in five days, the second, L. Antonius, in Germany, who
rebelled against Domitian; and the third, Avidius Cassius, in the
reign of M. Antoninus. The two last reigned but a few months,
and were cut off by their own adherents. We may observe, that
both Camillus and Cassius colored their ambition with the design
of restoring the republic; a task, said Cassius peculiarly
reserved for his name and family.]

In elective monarchies, the vacancy of the throne is a
moment big with danger and mischief. The Roman emperors,
desirous to spare the legions that interval of suspense, and the
temptation of an irregular choice, invested their designed
successor with so large a share of present power, as should
enable him, after their decease, to assume the remainder, without
suffering the empire to perceive the change of masters. Thus
Augustus, after all his fairer prospects had been snatched from
him by untimely deaths, rested his last hopes on Tiberius,
obtained for his adopted son the censorial and tribunitian
powers, and dictated a law, by which the future prince was
invested with an authority equal to his own, over the provinces
and the armies. ^32 Thus Vespasian subdued the generous mind of
his eldest son. Titus was adored by the eastern legions, which,
under his command, had recently achieved the conquest of Judaea.
His power was dreaded, and, as his virtues were clouded by the
intemperance of youth, his designs were suspected. Instead of
listening to such unworthy suspicions, the prudent monarch
associated Titus to the full powers of the Imperial dignity; and
the grateful son ever approved himself the humble and faithful
minister of so indulgent a father. ^33

[Footnote 32: Velleius Paterculus, l. ii. c. 121. Sueton. in
Tiber. c. 26.]
[Footnote 33: Sueton. in Tit. c. 6. Plin. in Praefat. Hist.
The good sense of Vespasian engaged him indeed to embrace
every measure that might confirm his recent and precarious
elevation. The military oath, and the fidelity of the troops,
had been consecrated, by the habits of a hundred years, to the
name and family of the Caesars; and although that family had been
continued only by the fictitious rite of adoption, the Romans
still revered, in the person of Nero, the grandson of Germanicus,
and the lineal successor of Augustus. It was not without
reluctance and remorse, that the praetorian guards had been
persuaded to abandon the cause of the tyrant. ^34 The rapid
downfall of Galba, Otho, and Vitellus, taught the armies to
consider the emperors as the creatures of their will, and the
instruments of their license. The birth of Vespasian was mean:
his grandfather had been a private soldier, his father a petty
officer of the revenue; ^35 his own merit had raised him, in an
advanced age, to the empire; but his merit was rather useful than
shining, and his virtues were disgraced by a strict and even
sordid parsimony. Such a prince consulted his true interest by
the association of a son, whose more splendid and amiable
character might turn the public attention from the obscure
origin, to the future glories, of the Flavian house. Under the
mild administration of Titus, the Roman world enjoyed a transient
felicity, and his beloved memory served to protect, above fifteen
years, the vices of his brother Domitian.
[Footnote 34: This idea is frequently and strongly inculcated by
Tacitus. See Hist. i. 5, 16, ii. 76.]

[Footnote 35: The emperor Vespasian, with his usual good sense,
laughed at the genealogists, who deduced his family from Flavius,
the founder of Reate, (his native country,) and one of the
companions of Hercules Suet in Vespasian, c. 12.]

Nerva had scarcely accepted the purple from the assassins of
Domitian, before he discovered that his feeble age was unable to
stem the torrent of public disorders, which had multiplied under
the long tyranny of his predecessor. His mild disposition was
respected by the good; but the degenerate Romans required a more
vigorous character, whose justice should strike terror into the
guilty. Though he had several relations, he fixed his choice on
a stranger. He adopted Trajan, then about forty years of age,
and who commanded a powerful army in the Lower Germany; and
immediately, by a decree of the senate, declared him his
colleague and successor in the empire. ^36 It is sincerely to be
lamented, that whilst we are fatigued with the disgustful
relation of Nero's crimes and follies, we are reduced to collect
the actions of Trajan from the glimmerings of an abridgment, or
the doubtful light of a panegyric. There remains, however, one
panegyric far removed beyond the suspicion of flattery. Above
two hundred and fifty years after the death of Trajan, the
senate, in pouring out the customary acclamations on the
accession of a new emperor, wished that he might surpass the
felicity of Augustus, and the virtue of Trajan. ^37

[Footnote 36: Dion, l. lxviii. p. 1121. Plin. Secund. in
[Footnote 37: Felicior Augusto, Melior Trajano. Eutrop. viii.
We may readily believe, that the father of his country
hesitated whether he ought to intrust the various and doubtful
character of his kinsman Hadrian with sovereign power. In his
last moments the arts of the empress Plotina either fixed the
irresolution of Trajan, or boldly supposed a fictitious adoption;
^38 the truth of which could not be safely disputed, and Hadrian
was peaceably acknowledged as his lawful successor. Under his
reign, as has been already mentioned, the empire flourished in
peace and prosperity. He encouraged the arts, reformed the laws,
asserted military discipline, and visited all his provinces in
person. His vast and active genius was equally suited to the
most enlarged views, and the minute details of civil policy. But
the ruling passions of his soul were curiosity and vanity. As
they prevailed, and as they were attracted by different objects,
Hadrian was, by turns, an excellent prince, a ridiculous sophist,
and a jealous tyrant. The general tenor of his conduct deserved
praise for its equity and moderation. Yet in the first days of
his reign, he put to death four consular senators, his personal
enemies, and men who had been judged worthy of empire; and the
tediousness of a painful illness rendered him, at last, peevish
and cruel. The senate doubted whether they should pronounce him a
god or a tyrant; and the honors decreed to his memory were
granted to the prayers of the pious Antoninus. ^39

[Footnote 38: Dion (l. lxix. p. 1249) affirms the whole to have
been a fiction, on the authority of his father, who, being
governor of the province where Trajan died, had very good
opportunities of sifting this mysterious transaction. Yet
Dodwell (Praelect. Camden. xvii.) has maintained that Hadrian was
called to the certain hope of the empire, during the lifetime of

[Footnote 39: Dion, (l. lxx. p. 1171.) Aurel. Victor.]

The caprice of Hadrian influenced his choice of a successor.

After revolving in his mind several men of distinguished merit,
whom he esteemed and hated, he adopted Aelius Verus a gay and
voluptuous nobleman, recommended by uncommon beauty to the lover
of Antinous. ^40 But whilst Hadrian was delighting himself with
his own applause, and the acclamations of the soldiers, whose
consent had been secured by an immense donative, the new Caesar
^41 was ravished from his embraces by an untimely death. He left
only one son. Hadrian commended the boy to the gratitude of the
Antonines. He was adopted by Pius; and, on the accession of
Marcus, was invested with an equal share of sovereign power.
Among the many vices of this younger Verus, he possessed one
virtue; a dutiful reverence for his wiser colleague, to whom he
willingly abandoned the ruder cares of empire. The philosophic
emperor dissembled his follies, lamented his early death, and
cast a decent veil over his memory.

[Footnote 40: The deification of Antinous, his medals, his
statues, temples, city, oracles, and constellation, are well
known, and still dishonor the memory of Hadrian. Yet we may
remark, that of the first fifteen emperors, Claudius was the only
one whose taste in love was entirely correct. For the honors of
Antinous, see Spanheim, Commentaire sui les Caesars de Julien, p.

[Footnote 41: Hist. August. p. 13. Aurelius Victor in Epitom.]
As soon as Hadrian's passion was either gratified or
disappointed, he resolved to deserve the thanks of posterity, by
placing the most exalted merit on the Roman throne. His
discerning eye easily discovered a senator about fifty years of
age, clameless in all the offices of life; and a youth of about
seventeen, whose riper years opened a fair prospect of every
virtue: the elder of these was declared the son and successor of
Hadrian, on condition, however, that he himself should
immediately adopt the younger. The two Antonines (for it is of
them that we are now peaking,) governed the Roman world forty-two
years, with the same invariable spirit of wisdom and virtue.
Although Pius had two sons, ^42 he preferred the welfare of Rome
to the interest of his family, gave his daughter Faustina, in
marriage to young Marcus, obtained from the senate the
tribunitian and proconsular powers, and, with a noble disdain, or
rather ignorance of jealousy, associated him to all the labors of
government. Marcus, on the other hand, revered the character of
his benefactor, loved him as a parent, obeyed him as his
sovereign, ^43 and, after he was no more, regulated his own
administration by the example and maxims of his predecessor.
Their united reigns are possibly the only period of history in
which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of

[Footnote 42: Without the help of medals and inscriptions, we
should be ignorant of this fact, so honorable to the memory of
Note: Gibbon attributes to Antoninus Pius a merit which he
either did not possess, or was not in a situation to display.

1. He was adopted only on the condition that he would adopt, in
his turn, Marcus Aurelius and L. Verus.

2. His two sons died children, and one of them, M. Galerius,
alone, appears to have survived, for a few years, his father's
coronation. Gibbon is also mistaken when he says (note 42) that
"without the help of medals and inscriptions, we should be
ignorant that Antoninus had two sons."
Capitolinus says expressly, (c. 1,) Filii mares duo,
duae-foeminae; we only owe their names to he medals. Pagi. Cont.
Baron, i. 33, edit Paris. - W.]
[Footnote 43: During the twenty-three years of Pius's reign,
Marcus was only two nights absent from the palace, and even those
were at different times. Hist. August. p. 25.]

Titus Antoninus Pius has been justly denominated a second
Numa. The same love of religion, justice, and peace, was the
distinguishing characteristic of both princes. But the situation
of the latter opened a much larger field for the exercise of
those virtues. Numa could only prevent a few neighboring
villages from plundering each other's harvests. Antoninus
diffused order and tranquillity over the greatest part of the
earth. His reign is marked by the rare advantage of furnishing
very few materials for history; which is, indeed, little more
than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of
mankind. In private life, he was an amiable, as well as a good
man. The native simplicity of his virtue was a stranger to
vanity or affectation. He enjoyed with moderation the
conveniences of his fortune, and the innocent pleasures of
society; ^44 and the benevolence of his soul displayed itself in
a cheerful serenity of temper.
[Footnote 44: He was fond of the theatre, and not insensible to
the charms of the fair sex. Marcus Antoninus, i. 16. Hist.
August. p. 20, 21. Julian in Caesar.]

The virtue of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was of severer and
more laborious kind. ^45 It was the well-earned harvest of many a
learned conference, of many a patient lecture, and many a
midnight lucubration. At the age of twelve years he embraced the
rigid system of the Stoics, which taught him to submit his body
to his mind, his passions to his reason; to consider virtue as
the only good, vice as the only evil, all things external as
things indifferent. ^46 His meditations, composed in the tumult
of the camp, are still extant; and he even condescended to give
lessons of philosophy, in a more public manner than was perhaps
consistent with the modesty of sage, or the dignity of an
emperor. ^47 But his life was the noblest commentary on the
precepts of Zeno. He was severe to himself, indulgent to the
imperfections of others, just and beneficent to all mankind. He
regretted that Avidius Cassius, who excited a rebellion in Syria,
had disappointed him, by a voluntary death, ^* of the pleasure of
converting an enemy into a friend;; and he justified the
sincerity of that sentiment, by moderating the zeal of the senate
against the adherents of the traitor. ^48 War he detested, as the
disgrace and calamity of human nature; ^!! but when the necessity
of a just defence called upon him to take up arms, he readily
exposed his person to eight winter campaigns, on the frozen banks
of the Danube, the severity of which was at last fatal to the
weakness of his constitution. His memory was revered by a
grateful posterity, and above a century after his death, many
persons preserved the image of Marcus Antoninus among those of
their household gods. ^49

[Footnote 45: The enemies of Marcus charged him with hypocrisy,
and with a want of that simplicity which distinguished Pius and
even Verus. (Hist. August. 6, 34.) This suspicions, unjust as it
was, may serve to account for the superior applause bestowed upon
personal qualifications, in preference to the social virtues.
Even Marcus Antoninus has been called a hypocrite; but the
wildest scepticism never insinuated that Caesar might probably be
a coward, or Tully a fool. Wit and valor are qualifications more
easily ascertained than humanity or the love of justice.]

[Footnote 46: Tacitus has characterized, in a few words, the
principles of the portico: Doctores sapientiae secutus est, qui
sola bona quae honesta, main tantum quae turpia; potentiam,
nobilitatem, aeteraque extra... bonis neque malis adnumerant.
Tacit. Hist. iv. 5.]

[Footnote 47: Before he went on the second expedition against the
Germans, he read lectures of philosophy to the Roman people,
during three days. He had already done the same in the cities of
Greece and Asia. Hist. August. in Cassio, c. 3.]

[Footnote *: Cassius was murdered by his own partisans. Vulcat.
Gallic. in Cassio, c. 7. Dion, lxxi. c. 27. - W.]

[Footnote 48: Dion, l. lxxi. p. 1190. Hist. August. in Avid.
Note: See one of the newly discovered passages of Dion
Cassius. Marcus wrote to the senate, who urged the execution of
the partisans of Cassius, in these words: "I entreat and beseech
you to preserve my reign unstained by senatorial blood. None of
your order must perish either by your desire or mine." Mai.
Fragm. Vatican. ii. p. 224. - M.]

[Footnote !!: Marcus would not accept the services of any of the
barbarian allies who crowded to his standard in the war against
Avidius Cassius. "Barbarians," he said, with wise but vain
sagacity, "must not become acquainted with the dissensions of the
Roman people." Mai. Fragm Vatican l. 224. - M.]

[Footnote 49: Hist. August. in Marc. Antonin. c. 18.]

If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the
world, during which the condition of the human race was most
happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that
which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of
Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by
absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The
armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four
successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded
involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were
carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines,
who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with
considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws.
Such princes deserved the honor of restoring the republic, had
the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational

The labors of these monarchs were overpaid by the immense
reward that inseparably waited on their success; by the honest
pride of virtue, and by the exquisite delight of beholding the
general happiness of which they were the authors. A just but
melancholy reflection imbittered, however, the noblest of human
enjoyments. They must often have recollected the instability of
a happiness which depended on the character of single man. The
fatal moment was perhaps approaching, when some licentious youth,
or some jealous tyrant, would abuse, to the destruction, that
absolute power, which they had exerted for the benefit of their
people. The ideal restraints of the senate and the laws might
serve to display the virtues, but could never correct the vices,
of the emperor. The military force was a blind and irresistible
instrument of oppression; and the corruption of Roman manners
would always supply flatterers eager to applaud, and ministers
prepared to serve, the fear or the avarice, the lust or the
cruelty, of their master.
These gloomy apprehensions had been already justified by the
experience of the Romans. The annals of the emperors exhibit a
strong and various picture of human nature, which we should
vainly seek among the mixed and doubtful characters of modern
history. In the conduct of those monarchs we may trace the
utmost lines of vice and virtue; the most exalted perfection, and
the meanest degeneracy of our own species. The golden age of
Trajan and the Antonines had been preceded by an age of iron. It
is almost superfluous to enumerate the unworthy successors of
Augustus. Their unparalleled vices, and the splendid theatre on
which they were acted, have saved them from oblivion. The dark,
unrelenting Tiberius, the furious Caligula, the feeble Claudius,
the profligate and cruel Nero, the beastly Vitellius, ^50 and the
timid, inhuman Domitian, are condemned to everlasting infamy.
During fourscore years (excepting only the short and doubtful
respite of Vespasian's reign) ^51 Rome groaned beneath an
unremitting tyranny, which exterminated the ancient families of
the republic, and was fatal to almost every virtue and every
talent that arose in that unhappy period.

[Footnote 50: Vitellius consumed in mere eating at least six
millions of our money in about seven months. It is not easy to
express his vices with dignity, or even decency. Tacitus fairly
calls him a hog, but it is by substituting for a coarse word a
very fine image. "At Vitellius, umbraculis hortorum abditus, ut
ignava animalia, quibus si cibum suggeras, jacent torpentque,
praeterita, instantia, futura, pari oblivione dimiserat. Atque
illum nemore Aricino desidem et marcentum," &c. Tacit. Hist.
iii. 36, ii. 95. Sueton. in Vitell. c. 13. Dion. Cassius, l xv.
p. 1062.]
[Footnote 51: The execution of Helvidius Priscus, and of the
virtuous Eponina, disgraced the reign of Vespasian.]

Under the reign of these monsters, the slavery of the Romans
was accompanied with two peculiar circumstances, the one
occasioned by their former liberty, the other by their extensive
conquests, which rendered their condition more completely
wretched than that of the victims of tyranny in any other age or
country. From these causes were derived, 1. The exquisite
sensibility of the sufferers; and, 2. The impossibility of
escaping from the hand of the oppressor.

I. When Persia was governed by the descendants of Sefi, a
race of princes whose wanton cruelty often stained their divan,
their table, and their bed, with the blood of their favorites,
there is a saying recorded of a young nobleman, that he never
departed from the sultan's presence, without satisfying himself
whether his head was still on his shoulders. The experience of
every day might almost justify the scepticism of Rustan. ^52 Yet
the fatal sword, suspended above him by a single thread, seems
not to have disturbed the slumbers, or interrupted the
tranquillity, of the Persian. The monarch's frown, he well knew,
could level him with the dust; but the stroke of lightning or
apoplexy might be equally fatal; and it was the part of a wise
man to forget the inevitable calamities of human life in the
enjoyment of the fleeting hour. He was dignified with the
appellation of the king's slave; had, perhaps, been purchased
from obscure parents, in a country which he had never known; and
was trained up from his infancy in the severe discipline of the
seraglio. ^53 His name, his wealth,his honors, were the gift of a
master, who might, without injustice, resume what he had
bestowed. Rustan's knowledge, if he possessed any, could only
serve to confirm his habits by prejudices. His language afforded
not words for any form of government, except absolute monarchy.
The history of the East informed him, that such had ever been the
condition of mankind. ^54 The Koran, and the interpreters of that
divine book, inculcated to him, that the sultan was the
descendant of the prophet, and the vicegerent of heaven; that
patience was the first virtue of a Mussulman, and unlimited
obedience the great duty of a subject.

[Footnote 52: Voyage de Chardin en Perse, vol. iii. p. 293.]
[Footnote 53: The practice of raising slaves to the great offices
of state is still more common among the Turks than among the
Persians. The miserable countries of Georgia and Circassia
supply rulers to the greatest part of the East.]

[Footnote 54: Chardin says, that European travellers have
diffused among the Persians some ideas of the freedom and
mildness of our governments. They have done them a very ill

The minds of the Romans were very differently prepared for
slavery. Oppressed beneath the weight of their own corruption and
of military violence, they for a long while preserved the
sentiments, or at least the ideas, of their free-born ancestors.
The education of Helvidius and Thrasea, of Tacitus and Pliny, was
the same as that of Cato and Cicero. From Grecian philosophy,
they had imbibed the justest and most liberal notions of the
dignity of human nature, and the origin of civil society. The
history of their own country had taught them to revere a free, a
virtuous, and a victorious commonwealth; to abhor the successful
crimes of Caesar and Augustus; and inwardly to despise those
tyrants whom they adored with the most abject flattery. As
magistrates and senators they were admitted into the great
council, which had once dictated laws to the earth, whose
authority was so often prostituted to the vilest purposes of
tyranny. Tiberius, and those emperors who adopted his maxims,
attempted to disguise their murders by the formalities of
justice, and perhaps enjoyed a secret pleasure in rendering the
senate their accomplice as well as their victim. By this
assembly, the last of the Romans were condemned for imaginary
crimes and real virtues. Their infamous accusers assumed the
language of independent patriots, who arraigned a dangerous
citizen before the tribunal of his country; and the public
service was rewarded by riches and honors. ^55 The servile judges
professed to assert the majesty of the commonwealth, violated in
the person of its first magistrate, ^56 whose clemency they most
applauded when they trembled the most at his inexorable and
impending cruelty. ^57 The tyrant beheld their baseness with just
contempt, and encountered their secret sentiments of detestation
with sincere and avowed hatred for the whole body of the senate.

[Footnote 55: They alleged the example of Scipio and Cato,
(Tacit. Annal. iii. 66.) Marcellus Epirus and Crispus Vibius had
acquired two millions and a half under Nero. Their wealth, which
aggravated their crimes, protected them under Vespasian. See
Tacit. Hist. iv. 43. Dialog. de Orator. c. 8. For one
accusation, Regulus, the just object of Pliny's satire, received
from the senate the consular ornaments, and a present of sixty
thousand pounds.]
[Footnote 56: The crime of majesty was formerly a treasonable
offence against the Roman people. As tribunes of the people,
Augustus and Tiberius applied tit to their own persons, and
extended it to an infinite latitude.
Note: It was Tiberius, not Augustus, who first took in this
sense the words crimen laesae majestatis. Bachii Trajanus, 27. -
[Footnote 57: After the virtuous and unfortunate widow of
Germanicus had been put to death, Tiberius received the thanks of
the senate for his clemency. she had not been publicly strangled;
nor was the body drawn with a hook to the Gemoniae, where those
of common male factors were exposed. See Tacit. Annal. vi. 25.
Sueton. in Tiberio c. 53.]

II. The division of Europe into a number of independent
states, connected, however, with each other by the general
resemblance of religion, language, and manners, is productive of
the most beneficial consequences to the liberty of mankind. A
modern tyrant, who should find no resistance either in his own
breast, or in his people, would soon experience a gentle restrain
form the example of his equals, the dread of present censure,d
the advice of his allies, and the apprehension of his enemies.
The object of his displeasure, escaping from the narrow limits of
his dominions, would easily obtain, in a happier climate, a
secure refuge, a new fortune adequate to his merit, the freedom
of complaint, and perhaps the means of revenge. But the empire
of the Romans filled the world, and when the empire fell into the
hands of a single person, he wold became a safe and dreary prison
for his enemies. The slave of Imperial despotism, whether he was
condemned to drags his gilded chain in rome and the senate, or to
were out a life of exile on the barren rock of Seriphus, or the
frozen bank of the Danube, expected his fate in silent despair.
^58 To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly. On every
side he was encompassed with a vast extent of sea and land, which
he could never hope to traverse without being discovered, seized,
and restored to his irritated master. Beyond the frontiers, his
anxious view could discover nothing, except the ocean,
inhospitable deserts, hostile tribes of barbarians, of fierce
manners and unknown language, or dependent kings, who would
gladly purchase the emperor's protection by the sacrifice of an
obnoxious fugitive. ^59 "Wherever you are," said Cicero to the
exiled Marcellus, "remember that you are equally within the power
of the conqueror." ^60

[Footnote 58: Seriphus was a small rocky island in the Aegean
Sea, the inhabitants of which were despised for their ignorance
and obscurity. The place of Ovid's exile is well known, by his
just, but unmanly lamentations. It should seem, that he only
received an order to leave rome in so many days, and to transport
himself to Tomi. Guards and jailers were unnecessary.]
[Footnote 59: Under Tiberius, a Roman knight attempted to fly to
the Parthians. He was stopped in the straits of Sicily; but so
little danger did there appear in the example, that the most
jealous of tyrants disdained to punish it. Tacit. Annal. vi.

[Footnote 60: Cicero ad Familiares, iv. 7.]

Chapter IV: The Cruelty, Follies And Murder Of Commodus.

Part I.

The Cruelty, Follies, And Murder Of Commodus - Election Of
Pertinax - His Attempts To Reform The State - His Assassination
By The Praetorian Guards.

The mildness of Marcus, which the rigid discipline of the
Stoics was unable to eradicate, formed, at the same time, the
most amiable, and the only defective part of his character. His
excellent understanding was often deceived by the unsuspecting
goodness of his heart. Artful men, who study the passions of
princes, and conceal their own, approached his person in the
disguise of philosophic sanctity, and acquired riches and honors
by affecting to despise them. ^1 His excessive indulgence to his
brother, ^* his wife, and his son, exceeded the bounds of private
virtue, and became a public injury, by the example and
consequences of their vices.

[Footnote 1: See the complaints of Avidius Cassius, Hist. August.
p. 45. These are, it is true, the complaints of faction; but even
faction exaggerates, rather than invents.]

[Footnote *: His brother by adoption, and his colleague, L.
Verus. Marcus Aurelius had no other brother. - W.]

Faustina, the daughter of Pius and the wife of Marcus, has
been as much celebrated for her gallantries as for her beauty.
The grave simplicity of the philosopher was ill calculated to
engage her wanton levity, or to fix that unbounded passion for
variety, which often discovered personal merit in the meanest of
mankind. ^2 The Cupid of the ancients was, in general, a very
sensual deity; and the amours of an empress, as they exact on her
side the plainest advances, are seldom susceptible of much
sentimental delicacy. Marcus was the only man in the empire who
seemed ignorant or insensible of the irregularities of Faustina;
which, according to the prejudices of every age, reflected some
disgrace on the injured husband. He promoted several of her
lovers to posts of honor and profit, ^3 and during a connection
of thirty years, invariably gave her proofs of the most tender
confidence, and of a respect which ended not with her life. In
his Meditations, he thanks the gods, who had bestowed on him a
wife so faithful, so gentle, and of such a wonderful simplicity
of manners. ^4 The obsequious senate, at his earnest request,
declared her a goddess. She was represented in her temples, with
the attributes of Juno, Venus, and Ceres; and it was decreed,
that, on the day of their nuptials, the youth of either sex
should pay their vows before the altar of their chaste patroness.

[Footnote 2: Faustinam satis constat apud Cajetam conditiones
sibi et nauticas et gladiatorias, elegisse. Hist. August. p. 30.

Lampridius explains the sort of merit which Faustina chose, and
the conditions which she exacted. Hist. August. p. 102.]

[Footnote 3: Hist. August. p. 34.]

[Footnote 4: Meditat. l. i. The world has laughed at the
credulity of Marcus but Madam Dacier assures us, (and we may
credit a lady,) that the husband will always be deceived, if the
wife condescends to dissemble.]
[Footnote 5: Dion Cassius, l. lxxi. [c. 31,] p. 1195. Hist.
August. p. 33. Commentaire de Spanheim sur les Caesars de Julien,
p. 289. The deification of Faustina is the only defect which
Julian's criticism is able to discover in the all-accomplished
character of Marcus.]

The monstrous vices of the son have cast a shade on the
purity of the father's virtues. It has been objected to Marcus,
that he sacrificed the happiness of millions to a fond partiality
for a worthless boy; and that he chose a successor in his own
family, rather than in the republic. Nothing however, was
neglected by the anxious father, and by the men of virtue and
learning whom he summoned to his assistance, to expand the narrow
mind of young Commodus, to correct his growing vices, and to
render him worthy of the throne for which he was designed. But
the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in
those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous. The
distasteful lesson of a grave philosopher was, in a moment,
obliterated by the whisper of a profligate favorite; and Marcus
himself blasted the fruits of this labored education, by
admitting his son, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, to a full
participation of the Imperial power. He lived but four years
afterwards: but he lived long enough to repent a rash measure,
which raised the impetuous youth above the restraint of reason
and authority.

Most of the crimes which disturb the internal peace of
society, are produced by the restraints which the necessary but
unequal laws of property have imposed on the appetites of
mankind, by confining to a few the possession of those objects
that are coveted by many. Of all our passions and appetites, the
love of power is of the most imperious and unsociable nature,
since the pride of one man requires the submission of the
multitude. In the tumult of civil discord, the laws of society
lose their force, and their place is seldom supplied by those of
humanity. The ardor of contention, the pride of victory, the
despair of success, the memory of past injuries, and the fear of
future dangers, all contribute to inflame the mind, and to
silence the voice of pity. From such motives almost every page
of history has been stained with civil blood; but these motives
will not account for the unprovoked cruelties of Commodus, who
had nothing to wish and every thing to enjoy. The beloved son of
Marcus succeeded to his father, amidst the acclamations of the
senate and armies; ^6 and when he ascended the throne, the happy
youth saw round him neither competitor to remove, nor enemies to
punish. In this calm, elevated station, it was surely natural
that he should prefer the love of mankind to their detestation,
the mild glories of his five predecessors to the ignominious fate
of Nero and Domitian.

[Footnote 6: Commodus was the first Porphyrogenitus, (born since
his father's accession to the throne.) By a new strain of
flattery, the Egyptian medals date by the years of his life; as
if they were synonymous to those of his reign. Tillemont, Hist.
des Empereurs, tom. ii. p. 752.]

Yet Commodus was not, as he has been represented, a tiger
born with an insatiate thirst of human blood, and capable, from
his infancy, of the most inhuman actions. ^7 Nature had formed
him of a weak rather than a wicked disposition. His simplicity
and timidity rendered him the slave of his attendants, who
gradually corrupted his mind. His cruelty, which at first obeyed
the dictates of others, degenerated into habit, and at length
became the ruling passion of his soul. ^8

[Footnote 7: Hist. August. p. 46.]

[Footnote 8: Dion Cassius, l. lxxii. p. 1203.]

Upon the death of his father, Commodus found himself
embarrassed with the command of a great army, and the conduct of
a difficult war against the Quadi and Marcomanni. ^9 The servile
and profligate youths whom Marcus had banished, soon regained
their station and influence about the new emperor. They
exaggerated the hardships and dangers of a campaign in the wild
countries beyond the Danube; and they assured the indolent prince
that the terror of his name, and the arms of his lieutenants,
would be sufficient to complete the conquest of the dismayed
barbarians, or to impose such conditions as were more
advantageous than any conquest. By a dexterous application to
his sensual appetites, they compared the tranquillity, the

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