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

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lively picture of the actual misery of Gyarus.]

From the faint glimmerings of such doubtful and scattered
lights, we should be inclined to believe, 1st, That (with every
fair allowance for the differences of times and circumstances)
the general income of the Roman provinces could seldom amount to
less than fifteen or twenty millions of our money; ^96 and, 2dly,
That so ample a revenue must have been fully adequate to all the
expenses of the moderate government instituted by Augustus, whose
court was the modest family of a private senator, and whose
military establishment was calculated for the defence of the
frontiers, without any aspiring views of conquest, or any serious
apprehension of a foreign invasion.

[Footnote 96: Lipsius de magnitudine Romana (l. ii. c. 3)
computes the revenue at one hundred and fifty millions of gold
crowns; but his whole book, though learned and ingenious, betrays
a very heated imagination.
Note: If Justus Lipsius has exaggerated the revenue of the
Roman empire Gibbon, on the other hand, has underrated it. He
fixes it at fifteen or twenty millions of our money. But if we
take only, on a moderate calculation, the taxes in the provinces
which he has already cited, they will amount, considering the
augmentations made by Augustus, to nearly that sum. There remain
also the provinces of Italy, of Rhaetia, of Noricum, Pannonia,
and Greece, &c., &c. Let us pay attention, besides, to the
prodigious expenditure of some emperors, (Suet. Vesp. 16;) we
shall see that such a revenue could not be sufficient. The
authors of the Universal History, part xii., assign forty
millions sterling as the sum to about which the public revenue
might amount. - G. from W.]

Notwithstanding the seeming probability of both these
conclusions, the latter of them at least is positively disowned
by the language and conduct of Augustus. It is not easy to
determine whether, on this occasion, he acted as the common
father of the Roman world, or as the oppressor of liberty;
whether he wished to relieve the provinces, or to impoverish the
senate and the equestrian order. But no sooner had he assumed
the reins of government, than he frequently intimated the
insufficiency of the tributes, and the necessity of throwing an
equitable proportion of the public burden upon Rome and Italy. ^!
In the prosecution of this unpopular design, he advanced,
however, by cautious and well-weighed steps. The introduction of
customs was followed by the establishment of an excise, and the
scheme of taxation was completed by an artful assessment on the
real and personal property of the Roman citizens, who had been
exempted from any kind of contribution above a century and a
[Footnote !: It is not astonishing that Augustus held this
language. The senate declared also under Nero, that the state
could not exist without the imposts as well augmented as founded
by Augustus. Tac. Ann. xiii. 50. After the abolition of the
different tributes paid by Italy, an abolition which took place
A. U. 646, 694, and 695, the state derived no revenues from that
great country, but the twentieth part of the manumissions,
(vicesima manumissionum,) and Ciero laments this in many places,
particularly in his epistles to ii. 15. - G. from W.]

I. In a great empire like that of Rome, a natural balance
of money must have gradually established itself. It has been
already observed, that as the wealth of the provinces was
attracted to the capital by the strong hand of conquest and
power, so a considerable part of it was restored to the
industrious provinces by the gentle influence of commerce and
arts. In the reign of Augustus and his successors, duties were
imposed on every kind of merchandise, which through a thousand
channels flowed to the great centre of opulence and luxury; and
in whatsoever manner the law was expressed, it was the Roman
purchaser, and not the provincial merchant, who paid the tax. ^97
The rate of the customs varied from the eighth to the fortieth
part of the value of the commodity; and we have a right to
suppose that the variation was directed by the unalterable maxims
of policy; that a higher duty was fixed on the articles of luxury
than on those of necessity, and that the productions raised or
manufactured by the labor of the subjects of the empire were
treated with more indulgence than was shown to the pernicious, or
at least the unpopular commerce of Arabia and India. ^98 There is
still extant a long but imperfect catalogue of eastern
commodities, which about the time of Alexander Severus were
subject to the payment of duties; cinnamon, myrrh, pepper,
ginger, and the whole tribe of aromatics a great variety of
precious stones, among which the diamond was the most remarkable
for its price, and the emerald for its beauty; ^99 Parthian and
Babylonian leather, cottons, silks, both raw and manufactured,
ebony ivory, and eunuchs. ^100 We may observe that the use and
value of those effeminate slaves gradually rose with the decline
of the empire.

[Footnote 97: Tacit. Annal. xiii. 31.

Note: The customs (portoria) existed in the times of the
ancient kings of Rome. They were suppressed in Italy, A. U. 694,
by the Praetor, Cecilius Matellus Nepos. Augustus only
reestablished them. See note above. - W.]
[Footnote 98: See Pliny, (Hist. Natur. l. vi. c. 23, lxii. c.
18.) His observation that the Indian commodities were sold at
Rome at a hundred times their original price, may give us some
notion of the produce of the customs, since that original price
amounted to more than eight hundred thousand pounds.]

[Footnote 99: The ancients were unacquainted with the art of
cutting diamonds.]

[Footnote 100: M. Bouchaud, in his treatise de l'Impot chez les
Romains, has transcribed this catalogue from the Digest, and
attempts to illustrate it by a very prolix commentary.

Note: In the Pandects, l. 39, t. 14, de Publican. Compare
Cicero in Verrem. c. 72 - 74. - W.]

II. The excise, introduced by Augustus after the civil
wars, was extremely moderate, but it was general. It seldom
exceeded one per cent.; but it comprehended whatever was sold in
the markets or by public auction, from the most considerable
purchases of lands and houses, to those minute objects which can
only derive a value from their infinite multitude and daily
consumption. Such a tax, as it affects the body of the people,
has ever been the occasion of clamor and discontent. An emperor
well acquainted with the wants and resources of the state was
obliged to declare, by a public edict, that the support of the
army depended in a great measure on the produce of the excise.

[Footnote 101: Tacit. Annal. i. 78. Two years afterwards, the
reduction of the poor kingdom of Cappadocia gave Tiberius a
pretence for diminishing the excise of one half, but the relief
was of very short duration.]
III. When Augustus resolved to establish a permanent
military force for the defence of his government against foreign
and domestic enemies, he instituted a peculiar treasury for the
pay of the soldiers, the rewards of the veterans, and the
extra-ordinary expenses of war. The ample revenue of the excise,
though peculiarly appropriated to those uses, was found
inadequate. To supply the deficiency, the emperor suggested a
new tax of five per cent. on all legacies and inheritances. But
the nobles of Rome were more tenacious of property than of
freedom. Their indignant murmurs were received by Augustus with
his usual temper. He candidly referred the whole business to the
senate, and exhorted them to provide for the public service by
some other expedient of a less odious nature. They were divided
and perplexed. He insinuated to them, that their obstinacy would
oblige him to propose a general land tax and capitation. They
acquiesced in silence. ^102. The new imposition on legacies and
inheritances was, however, mitigated by some restrictions. It
did not take place unless the object was of a certain value, most
probably of fifty or a hundred pieces of gold; ^103 nor could it
be exacted from the nearest of kin on the father's side. ^104
When the rights of nature and poverty were thus secured, it
seemed reasonable, that a stranger, or a distant relation, who
acquired an unexpected accession of fortune, should cheerfully
resign a twentieth part of it, for the benefit of the state. ^105

[Footnote 102: Dion Cassius, l. lv. p. 794, l. lvi. p. 825.
Note: Dion neither mentions this proposition nor the
capitation. He only says that the emperor imposed a tax upon
landed property, and sent every where men employed to make a
survey, without fixing how much, and for how much each was to
pay. The senators then preferred giving the tax on legacies and
inheritances. - W.]

[Footnote 103: The sum is only fixed by conjecture.]

[Footnote 104: As the Roman law subsisted for many ages, the
Cognati, or relations on the mother's side, were not called to
the succession. This harsh institution was gradually undermined
by humanity, and finally abolished by Justinian.]

[Footnote 105: Plin. Panegyric. c. 37.]

Such a tax, plentiful as it must prove in every wealthy
community, was most happily suited to the situation of the
Romans, who could frame their arbitrary wills, according to the
dictates of reason or caprice, without any restraint from the
modern fetters of entails and settlements. From various causes,
the partiality of paternal affection often lost its influence
over the stern patriots of the commonwealth, and the dissolute
nobles of the empire; and if the father bequeathed to his son the
fourth part of his estate, he removed all ground of legal
complaint. ^106 But a rich childish old man was a domestic
tyrant, and his power increased with his years and infirmities.
A servile crowd, in which he frequently reckoned praetors and
consuls, courted his smiles, pampered his avarice, applauded his
follies, served his passions, and waited with impatience for his
death. The arts of attendance and flattery were formed into a
most lucrative science; those who professed it acquired a
peculiar appellation; and the whole city, according to the lively
descriptions of satire, was divided between two parties, the
hunters and their game. ^107 Yet, while so many unjust and
extravagant wills were every day dictated by cunning and
subscribed by folly, a few were the result of rational esteem and
virtuous gratitude. Cicero, who had so often defended the lives
and fortunes of his fellow-citizens, was rewarded with legacies
to the amount of a hundred and seventy thousand pounds; ^108 nor
do the friends of the younger Pliny seem to have been less
generous to that amiable orator. ^109 Whatever was the motive of
the testator, the treasury claimed, without distinction, the
twentieth part of his estate: and in the course of two or three
generations, the whole property of the subject must have
gradually passed through the coffers of the state.

[Footnote 106: See Heineccius in the Antiquit. Juris Romani, l.
[Footnote 107: Horat. l. ii. Sat. v. Potron. c. 116, &c. Plin.
l. ii. Epist. 20.]

[Footnote 108: Cicero in Philip. ii. c. 16.]

[Footnote 109: See his epistles. Every such will gave him an
occasion of displaying his reverence to the dead, and his justice
to the living. He reconciled both in his behavior to a son who
had been disinherited by his mother, (v.l.)]

In the first and golden years of the reign of Nero, that
prince, from a desire of popularity, and perhaps from a blind
impulse of benevolence, conceived a wish of abolishing the
oppression of the customs and excise. The wisest senators
applauded his magnanimity: but they diverted him from the
execution of a design which would have dissolved the strength and
resources of the republic. ^110 Had it indeed been possible to
realize this dream of fancy, such princes as Trajan and the
Antonines would surely have embraced with ardor the glorious
opportunity of conferring so signal an obligation on mankind.
Satisfied, however, with alleviating the public burden, they
attempted not to remove it. The mildness and precision of their
laws ascertained the rule and measure of taxation, and protected
the subject of every rank against arbitrary interpretations,
antiquated claims, and the insolent vexation of the farmers of
the revenue. ^111 For it is somewhat singular, that, in every
age, the best and wisest of the Roman governors persevered in
this pernicious method of collecting the principal branches at
least of the excise and customs. ^112

[Footnote 110: Tacit. Annal. xiii. 50. Esprit des Loix, l. xii.
c. 19.]
[Footnote 111: See Pliny's Panegyric, the Augustan History, and
Burman de Vectigal. passim.]

[Footnote 112: The tributes (properly so called) were not farmed;
since the good princes often remitted many millions of arrears.]

The sentiments, and, indeed, the situation, of Caracalla
were very different from those of the Antonines. Inattentive, or
rather averse, to the welfare of his people, he found himself
under the necessity of gratifying the insatiate avarice which he
had excited in the army. Of the several impositions introduced
by Augustus, the twentieth on inheritances and legacies was the
most fruitful, as well as the most comprehensive. As its
influence was not confined to Rome or Italy, the produce
continually increased with the gradual extension of the Roman
City. The new citizens, though charged, on equal terms, ^113
with the payment of new taxes, which had not affected them as
subjects, derived an ample compensation from the rank they
obtained, the privileges they acquired, and the fair prospect of
honors and fortune that was thrown open to their ambition. But
the favor which implied a distinction was lost in the prodigality
of Caracalla, and the reluctant provincials were compelled to
assume the vain title, and the real obligations, of Roman
citizens. ^* Nor was the rapacious son of Severus contented with
such a measure of taxation as had appeared sufficient to his
moderate predecessors. Instead of a twentieth, he exacted a
tenth of all legacies and inheritances; and during his reign (for
the ancient proportion was restored after his death) he crushed
alike every part of the empire under the weight of his iron
sceptre. ^114

[Footnote 113: The situation of the new citizens is minutely
described by Pliny, (Panegyric, c. 37, 38, 39). Trajan published
a law very much in their favor.]

[Footnote *: Gibbon has adopted the opinion of Spanheim and of
Burman, which attributes to Caracalla this edict, which gave the
right of the city to all the inhabitants of the provinces. This
opinion may be disputed. Several passages of Spartianus, of
Aurelius Victor, and of Aristides, attribute this edict to Marc.
Aurelius. See a learned essay, entitled Joh. P. Mahneri Comm. de
Marc. Aur. Antonino Constitutionis de Civitate Universo Orbi
Romano data auctore. Halae, 1772, 8vo. It appears that Marc.
Aurelius made some modifications of this edict, which released
the provincials from some of the charges imposed by the right of
the city, and deprived them of some of the advantages which it
conferred. Caracalla annulled these modifications. - W.]
[Footnote 114: Dion, l. lxxvii. p. 1295.]

When all the provincials became liable to the peculiar
impositions of Roman citizens, they seemed to acquire a legal
exemption from the tributes which they had paid in their former
condition of subjects. Such were not the maxims of government
adopted by Caracalla and his pretended son. The old as well as
the new taxes were, at the same time, levied in the provinces.
It was reserved for the virtue of Alexander to relieve them in a
great measure from this intolerable grievance, by reducing the
tributes to a thirteenth part of the sum exacted at the time of
his accession. ^115 It is impossible to conjecture the motive
that engaged him to spare so trifling a remnant of the public
evil; but the noxious weed, which had not been totally
eradicated, again sprang up with the most luxuriant growth, and
in the succeeding age darkened the Roman world with its deadly
shade. In the course of this history, we shall be too often
summoned to explain the land tax, the capitation, and the heavy
contributions of corn, wine, oil, and meat, which were exacted
from the provinces for the use of the court, the army, and the

[Footnote 115: He who paid ten aurei, the usual tribute, was
charged with no more than the third part of an aureus, and
proportional pieces of gold were coined by Alexander's order.
Hist. August. p. 127, with the commentary of Salmasius.]

As long as Rome and Italy were respected as the centre of
government, a national spirit was preserved by the ancient, and
insensibly imbibed by the adopted, citizens. The principal
commands of the army were filled by men who had received a
liberal education, were well instructed in the advantages of laws
and letters, and who had risen, by equal steps, through the
regular succession of civil and military honors. ^116 To their
influence and example we may partly ascribe the modest obedience
of the legions during the two first centuries of the Imperial

[Footnote 116: See the lives of Agricola, Vespasian, Trajan,
Severus, and his three competitors; and indeed of all the eminent
men of those times.]
But when the last enclosure of the Roman constitution was
trampled down by Caracalla, the separation of professions
gradually succeeded to the distinction of ranks. The more
polished citizens of the internal provinces were alone qualified
to act as lawyers and magistrates. The rougher trade of arms was
abandoned to the peasants and barbarians of the frontiers, who
knew no country but their camp, no science but that of war no
civil laws, and scarcely those of military discipline. With
bloody hands, savage manners, and desperate resolutions, they
sometimes guarded, but much oftener subverted, the throne of the

Chapter VII: Tyranny Of Maximin, Rebellion, Civil Wars, Death Of

Part I.

The Elevation And Tyranny Of Maximin. - Rebellion In Africa And
Italy, Under The Authority Of The Senate. - Civil Wars And
Seditions. - Violent Deaths Of Maximin And His Son, Of Maximus
And Balbinus, And Of The Three Gordians. - Usurpation And Secular
Games Of Philip.

Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in
the world, an hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest
scope for ridicule. Is it possible to relate without an
indignant smile, that, on the father's decease, the property of a
nation, like that of a drove of oxen, descends to his infant son,
as yet unknown to mankind and to himself; and that the bravest
warriors and the wisest statesmen, relinquishing their natural
right to empire, approach the royal cradle with bended knees and
protestations of inviolable fidelity? Satire and declamation may
paint these obvious topics in the most dazzling colors, but our
more serious thoughts will respect a useful prejudice, that
establishes a rule of succession, independent of the passions of
mankind; and we shall cheerfully acquiesce in any expedient which
deprives the multitude of the dangerous, and indeed the ideal,
power of giving themselves a master.

In the cool shade of retirement, we may easily devise
imaginary forms of government, in which the sceptre shall be
constantly bestowed on the most worthy, by the free and incorrupt
suffrage of the whole community. Experience overturns these airy
fabrics, and teaches us, that in a large society, the election of
a monarch can never devolve to the wisest, or to the most
numerous part of the people. The army is the only order of men
sufficiently united to concur in the same sentiments, and
powerful enough to impose them on the rest of their
fellow-citizens; but the temper of soldiers, habituated at once
to violence and to slavery, renders them very unfit guardians of
a legal, or even a civil constitution. Justice, humanity, or
political wisdom, are qualities they are too little acquainted
with in themselves, to appreciate them in others. Valor will
acquire their esteem, and liberality will purchase their
suffrage; but the first of these merits is often lodged in the
most savage breasts; the latter can only exert itself at the
expense of the public; and both may be turned against the
possessor of the throne, by the ambition of a daring rival.

The superior prerogative of birth, when it has obtained the
sanction of time and popular opinion, is the plainest and least
invidious of all distinctions among mankind. The acknowledged
right extinguishes the hopes of faction, and the conscious
security disarms the cruelty of the monarch. To the firm
establishment of this idea we owe the peaceful succession and
mild administration of European monarchies. To the defect of it
we must attribute the frequent civil wars, through which an
Asiatic despot is obliged to cut his way to the throne of his
fathers. Yet, even in the East, the sphere of contention is
usually limited to the princes of the reigning house, and as soon
as the more fortunate competitor has removed his brethren by the
sword and the bowstring, he no longer entertains any jealousy of
his meaner subjects. But the Roman empire, after the authority
of the senate had sunk into contempt, was a vast scene of
confusion. The royal, and even noble, families of the provinces
had long since been led in triumph before the car of the haughty
republicans. The ancient families of Rome had successively
fallen beneath the tyranny of the Caesars; and whilst those
princes were shackled by the forms of a commonwealth, and
disappointed by the repeated failure of their posterity, ^1 it
was impossible that any idea of hereditary succession should have
taken root in the minds of their subjects. The right to the
throne, which none could claim from birth, every one assumed from
merit. The daring hopes of ambition were set loose from the
salutary restraints of law and prejudice; and the meanest of
mankind might, without folly, entertain a hope of being raised by
valor and fortune to a rank in the army, in which a single crime
would enable him to wrest the sceptre of the world from his
feeble and unpopular master. After the murder of Alexander
Severus, and the elevation of Maximin, no emperor could think
himself safe upon the throne, and every barbarian peasant of the
frontier might aspire to that august, but dangerous station.

[Footnote 1: There had been no example of three successive
generations on the throne; only three instances of sons who
succeeded their fathers. The marriages of the Caesars
(notwithstanding the permission, and the frequent practice of
divorces) were generally unfruitful.]

About thirty-two years before that event, the emperor
Severus, returning from an eastern expedition, halted in Thrace,
to celebrate, with military games, the birthday of his younger
son, Geta. The country flocked in crowds to behold their
sovereign, and a young barbarian of gigantic stature earnestly
solicited, in his rude dialect, that he might be allowed to
contend for the prize of wrestling. As the pride of discipline
would have been disgraced in the overthrow of a Roman soldier by
a Thracian peasant, he was matched with the stoutest followers of
the camp, sixteen of whom he successively laid on the ground.
His victory was rewarded by some trifling gifts, and a permission
to enlist in the troops. The next day, the happy barbarian was
distinguished above a crowd of recruits, dancing and exulting
after the fashion of his country. As soon as he perceived that
he had attracted the emperor's notice, he instantly ran up to his
horse, and followed him on foot, without the least appearance of
fatigue, in a long and rapid career. "Thracian," said Severus
with astonishment, "art thou disposed to wrestle after thy race?"
"Most willingly, sir," replied the unwearied youth; and, almost
in a breath, overthrew seven of the strongest soldiers in the
army. A gold collar was the prize of his matchless vigor and
activity, and he was immediately appointed to serve in the
horseguards who always attended on the person of the sovereign.

[Footnote 2: Hist. August p. 138.]

Maximin, for that was his name, though born on the
territories of the empire, descended from a mixed race of
barbarians. His father was a Goth, and his mother of the nation
of the Alani. He displayed on every occasion a valor equal to
his strength; and his native fierceness was soon tempered or
disguised by the knowledge of the world. Under the reign of
Severus and his son, he obtained the rank of centurion, with the
favor and esteem of both those princes, the former of whom was an
excellent judge of merit. Gratitude forbade Maximin to serve
under the assassin of Caracalla. Honor taught him to decline the
effeminate insults of Elagabalus. On the accession of Alexander
he returned to court, and was placed by that prince in a station
useful to the service, and honorable to himself. The fourth
legion, to which he was appointed tribune, soon became, under his
care, the best disciplined of the whole army. With the general
applause of the soldiers, who bestowed on their favorite hero the
names of Ajax and Hercules, he was successively promoted to the
first military command; ^3 and had not he still retained too much
of his savage origin, the emperor might perhaps have given his
own sister in marriage to the son of Maximin. ^4

[Footnote 3: Hist. August. p. 140. Herodian, l. vi. p. 223.
Aurelius Victor. By comparing these authors, it should seem that
Maximin had the particular command of the Tribellian horse, with
the general commission of disciplining the recruits of the whole
army. His biographer ought to have marked, with more care, his
exploits, and the successive steps of his military promotions.]

[Footnote 4: See the original letter of Alexander Severus, Hist.
August. p. 149.]

Instead of securing his fidelity, these favors served only
to inflame the ambition of the Thracian peasant, who deemed his
fortune inadequate to his merit, as long as he was constrained to
acknowledge a superior. Though a stranger to rea wisdom, he was
not devoid of a selfish cunning, which showed him that the
emperor had lost the affection of the army, and taught him to
improve their discontent to his own advantage. It is easy for
faction and calumny to shed their poison on the administration of
the best of princes, and to accuse even their virtues by artfully
confounding them with those vices to which they bear the nearest
affinity. The troops listened with pleasure to the emissaries of
Maximin. They blushed at their own ignominious patience, which,
during thirteen years, had supported the vexatious discipline
imposed by an effeminate Syrian, the timid slave of his mother
and of the senate. It was time, they cried, to cast away that
useless phantom of the civil power, and to elect for their prince
and general a real soldier, educated in camps, exercised in war,
who would assert the glory, and distribute among his companions
the treasures, of the empire. A great army was at that time
assembled on the banks of the Rhine, under the command of the
emperor himself, who, almost immediately after his return from
the Persian war, had been obliged to march against the barbarians
of Germany. The important care of training and reviewing the new
levies was intrusted to Maximin. One day, as he entered the
field of exercise, the troops either from a sudden impulse, or a
formed conspiracy, saluted him emperor, silenced by their loud
acclamations his obstinate refusal, and hastened to consummate
their rebellion by the murder of Alexander Severus.

The circumstances of his death are variously related. The
writers, who suppose that he died in ignorance of the ingratitude
and ambition of Maximin, affirm, that, after taking a frugal
repast in the sight of the army, he retired to sleep, and that,
about the seventh hour of the day, a part of his own guards broke
into the imperial tent, and, with many wounds, assassinated their
virtuous and unsuspecting prince. ^5 If we credit another, and
indeed a more probable account, Maximin was invested with the
purple by a numerous detachment, at the distance of several miles
from the head-quarters; and he trusted for success rather to the
secret wishes than to the public declarations of the great army.
Alexander had sufficient time to awaken a faint sense of loyalty
among the troops; but their reluctant professions of fidelity
quickly vanished on the appearance of Maximin, who declared
himself the friend and advocate of the military order, and was
unanimously acknowledged emperor of the Romans by the applauding
legions. The son of Mamaea, betrayed and deserted, withdrew into
his tent, desirous at least to conceal his approaching fate from
the insults of the multitude. He was soon followed by a tribune
and some centurions, the ministers of death; but instead of
receiving with manly resolution the inevitable stroke, his
unavailing cries and entreaties disgraced the last moments of his
life, and converted into contempt some portion of the just pity
which his innocence and misfortunes must inspire. His mother,
Mamaea, whose pride and avarice he loudly accused as the cause of
his ruin, perished with her son. The most faithful of his
friends were sacrificed to the first fury of the soldiers. Others
were reserved for the more deliberate cruelty of the usurper; and
those who experienced the mildest treatment, were stripped of
their employments, and ignominiously driven from the court and
army. ^6
[Footnote 5: Hist. August. p. 135. I have softened some of the
most improbable circumstances of this wretched biographer. From
his ill-worded narration, it should seem that the prince's
buffoon having accidentally entered the tent, and awakened the
slumbering monarch, the fear of punishment urged him to persuade
the disaffected soldiers to commit the murder.]
[Footnote 6: Herodian, l. vi. 223-227.]

The former tyrants, Caligula and Nero, Commodus, and
Caracalla, were all dissolute and unexperienced youths, ^7
educated in the purple, and corrupted by the pride of empire, the
luxury of Rome, and the perfidious voice of flattery. The
cruelty of Maximin was derived from a different source, the fear
of contempt. Though he depended on the attachment of the
soldiers, who loved him for virtues like their own, he was
conscious that his mean and barbarian origin, his savage
appearance, and his total ignorance of the arts and institutions
of civil life, ^8 formed a very unfavorable contrast with the
amiable manners of the unhappy Alexander. He remembered, that,
in his humbler fortune, he had often waited before the door of
the haughty nobles of Rome, and had been denied admittance by the
insolence of their slaves. He recollected too the friendship of
a few who had relieved his poverty, and assisted his rising
hopes. But those who had spurned, and those who had protected,
the Thracian, were guilty of the same crime, the knowledge of his
original obscurity. For this crime many were put to death; and
by the execution of several of his benefactors, Maximin
published, in characters of blood, the indelible history of his
baseness and ingratitude. ^9
[Footnote 7: Caligula, the eldest of the four, was only
twenty-five years of age when he ascended the throne; Caracalla
was twenty-three, Commodus nineteen, and Nero no more than

[Footnote 8: It appears that he was totally ignorant of the Greek
language; which, from its universal use in conversation and
letters, was an essential part of every liberal education.]

[Footnote 9: Hist. August. p. 141. Herodian, l. vii. p. 237.
The latter of these historians has been most unjustly censured
for sparing the vices of Maximin.]

The dark and sanguinary soul of the tyrant was open to every
suspicion against those among his subjects who were the most
distinguished by their birth or merit. Whenever he was alarmed
with the sound of treason, his cruelty was unbounded and
unrelenting. A conspiracy against his life was either discovered
or imagined, and Magnus, a consular senator, was named as the
principal author of it. Without a witness, without a trial, and
without an opportunity of defence, Magnus, with four thousand of
his supposed accomplices, was put to death. Italy and the whole
empire were infested with innumerable spies and informers. On
the slightest accusation, the first of the Roman nobles, who had
governed provinces, commanded armies, and been adorned with the
consular and triumphal ornaments, were chained on the public
carriages, and hurried away to the emperor's presence.
Confiscation, exile, or simple death, were esteemed uncommon
instances of his lenity. Some of the unfortunate sufferers he
ordered to be sewed up in the hides of slaughtered animals,
others to be exposed to wild beasts, others again to be beaten to
death with clubs. During the three years of his reign, he
disdained to visit either Rome or Italy. His camp, occasionally
removed from the banks of the Rhine to those of the Danube, was
the seat of his stern despotism, which trampled on every
principle of law and justice, and was supported by the avowed
power of the sword. ^10 No man of noble birth, elegant
accomplishments, or knowledge of civil business, was suffered
near his person; and the court of a Roman emperor revived the
idea of those ancient chiefs of slaves and gladiators, whose
savage power had left a deep impression of terror and
detestation. ^11

[Footnote 10: The wife of Maximin, by insinuating wise counsels
with female gentleness, sometimes brought back the tyrant to the
way of truth and humanity. See Ammianus Marcellinus, l. xiv. c.
l, where he alludes to the fact which he had more fully related
under the reign of the Gordians. We may collect from the medals,
that Paullina was the name of this benevolent empress; and from
the title of Diva, that she died before Maximin. (Valesius ad
loc. cit. Ammian.) Spanheim de U. et P. N. tom. ii. p. 300.
Note: If we may believe Syrcellus and Zonaras, in was
Maximin himself who ordered her death - G]

[Footnote 11: He was compared to Spartacus and Athenio. Hist.
August p. 141.]

As long as the cruelty of Maximin was confined to the
illustrious senators, or even to the bold adventurers, who in the
court or army expose themselves to the caprice of fortune, the
body of the people viewed their sufferings with indifference, or
perhaps with pleasure. But the tyrant's avarice, stimulated by
the insatiate desires of the soldiers, at length attacked the
public property. Every city of the empire was possessed of an
independent revenue, destined to purchase corn for the multitude,
and to supply the expenses of the games and entertainments. By a
single act of authority, the whole mass of wealth was at once
confiscated for the use of the Imperial treasury. The temples
were stripped of their most valuable offerings of gold and
silver, and the statues of gods, heroes, and emperors, were
melted down and coined into money. These impious orders could
not be executed without tumults and massacres, as in many places
the people chose rather to die in the defence of their altars,
than to behold in the midst of peace their cities exposed to the
rapine and cruelty of war. The soldiers themselves, among whom
this sacrilegious plunder was distributed, received it with a
blush; and hardened as they were in acts of violence, they
dreaded the just reproaches of their friends and relations.
Throughout the Roman world a general cry of indignation was
heard, imploring vengeance on the common enemy of human kind; and
at length, by an act of private oppression, a peaceful and
unarmed province was driven into rebellion against him. ^12
[Footnote 12: Herodian, l. vii. p. 238. Zosim. l. i. p. 15.]
The procurator of Africa was a servant worthy of such a
master, who considered the fines and confiscations of the rich as
one of the most fruitful branches of the Imperial revenue. An
iniquitous sentence had been pronounced against some opulent
youths of that country, the execution of which would have
stripped them of far the greater part of their patrimony. In this
extremity, a resolution that must either complete or prevent
their ruin, was dictated by despair. A respite of three days,
obtained with difficulty from the rapacious treasurer, was
employed in collecting from their estates a great number of
slaves and peasants blindly devoted to the commands of their
lords, and armed with the rustic weapons of clubs and axes. The
leaders of the conspiracy, as they were admitted to the audience
of the procurator, stabbed him with the daggers concealed under
their garments, and, by the assistance of their tumultuary train,
seized on the little town of Thysdrus, ^13 and erected the
standard of rebellion against the sovereign of the Roman empire.
They rested their hopes on the hatred of mankind against Maximin,
and they judiciously resolved to oppose to that detested tyrant
an emperor whose mild virtues had already acquired the love and
esteem of the Romans, and whose authority over the province would
give weight and stability to the enterprise. Gordianus, their
proconsul, and the object of their choice, refused, with
unfeigned reluctance, the dangerous honor, and begged with tears,
that they would suffer him to terminate in peace a long and
innocent life, without staining his feeble age with civil blood.
Their menaces compelled him to accept the Imperial purple, his
only refuge, indeed, against the jealous cruelty of Maximin;
since, according to the reasoning of tyrants, those who have been
esteemed worthy of the throne deserve death, and those who
deliberate have already rebelled. ^14

[Footnote 13: In the fertile territory of Byzacium, one hundred
and fifty miles to the south of Carthage. This city was
decorated, probably by the Gordians, with the title of colony,
and with a fine amphitheatre, which is still in a very perfect
state. See Intinerar. Wesseling, p. 59; and Shaw's Travels, p.

[Footnote 14: Herodian, l. vii. p. 239. Hist. August. p. 153.]
The family of Gordianus was one of the most illustrious of
the Roman senate. On the father's side he was descended from the
Gracchi; on his mother's, from the emperor Trajan. A great
estate enabled him to support the dignity of his birth, and in
the enjoyment of it, he displayed an elegant taste and beneficent
disposition. The palace in Rome, formerly inhabited by the great
Pompey, had been, during several generations, in the possession
of Gordian's family. ^15 It was distinguished by ancient trophies
of naval victories, and decorated with the works of modern
painting. His villa on the road to Praeneste was celebrated for
baths of singular beauty and extent, for three stately rooms of a
hundred feet in length, and for a magnificent portico, supported
by two hundred columns of the four most curious and costly sorts
of marble. ^16 The public shows exhibited at his expense, and in
which the people were entertained with many hundreds of wild
beasts and gladiators, ^17 seem to surpass the fortune of a
subject; and whilst the liberality of other magistrates was
confined to a few solemn festivals at Rome, the magnificence of
Gordian was repeated, when he was aedile, every month in the
year, and extended, during his consulship, to the principal
cities of Italy. He was twice elevated to the last-mentioned
dignity, by Caracalla and by Alexander; for he possessed the
uncommon talent of acquiring the esteem of virtuous princes,
without alarming the jealousy of tyrants. His long life was
innocently spent in the study of letters and the peaceful honors
of Rome; and, till he was named proconsul of Africa by the voice
of the senate and the approbation of Alexander, ^18 he appears
prudently to have declined the command of armies and the
government of provinces. ^* As long as that emperor lived, Africa
was happy under the administration of his worthy representative:
after the barbarous Maximin had usurped the throne, Gordianus
alleviated the miseries which he was unable to prevent. When he
reluctantly accepted the purple, he was above fourscore years
old; a last and valuable remains of the happy age of the
Antonines, whose virtues he revived in his own conduct, and
celebrated in an elegant poem of thirty books. With the
venerable proconsul, his son, who had accompanied him into Africa
as his lieutenant, was likewise declared emperor. His manners
were less pure, but his character was equally amiable with that
of his father. Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library
of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested the variety of his
inclinations; and from the productions which he left behind him,
it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed
for use rather than for ostentation. ^19 The Roman people
acknowledged in the features of the younger Gordian the
resemblance of Scipio Africanus, ^! recollected with pleasure
that his mother was the granddaughter of Antoninus Pius, and
rested the public hope on those latent virtues which had
hitherto, as they fondly imagined, lain concealed in the
luxurious indolence of private life.

[Footnote 15: Hist. Aug. p. 152. The celebrated house of Pompey
in carinis was usurped by Marc Antony, and consequently became,
after the Triumvir's death, a part of the Imperial domain. The
emperor Trajan allowed, and even encouraged, the rich senators to
purchase those magnificent and useless places, (Plin. Panegyric.
c. 50;) and it may seem probable, that, on this occasion,
Pompey's house came into the possession of Gordian's great-

[Footnote 16: The Claudian, the Numidian, the Carystian, and the
Synnadian. The colors of Roman marbles have been faintly
described and imperfectly distinguished. It appears, however,
that the Carystian was a sea-green, and that the marble of
Synnada was white mixed with oval spots of purple. See Salmasius
ad Hist. August. p. 164.]

[Footnote 17: Hist. August. p. 151, 152. He sometimes gave five
hundred pair of gladiators, never less than one hundred and
fifty. He once gave for the use of the circus one hundred
Sicilian, and as many Cappaecian Cappadecian horses. The animals
designed for hunting were chiefly bears, boars, bulls, stags,
elks, wild asses, &c. Elephants and lions seem to have been
appropriated to Imperial magnificence.]

[Footnote 18: See the original letter, in the Augustan History,
p. 152, which at once shows Alexander's respect for the authority
of the senate, and his esteem for the proconsul appointed by that

[Footnote *: Herodian expressly says that he had administered
many provinces, lib. vii. 10. - W.]

[Footnote 19: By each of his concubines, the younger Gordian left
three or four children. His literary productions, though less
numerous, were by no means contemptible.]

[Footnote !: Not the personal likeness, but the family descent
from the Scipiod. - W.]

As soon as the Gordians had appeased the first tumult of a
popular election, they removed their court to Carthage. They
were received with the acclamations of the Africans, who honored
their virtues, and who, since the visit of Hadrian, had never
beheld the majesty of a Roman emperor. But these vain
acclamations neither strengthened nor confirmed the title of the
Gordians. They were induced by principle, as well as interest,
to solicit the approbation of the senate; and a deputation of the
noblest provincials was sent, without delay, to Rome, to relate
and justify the conduct of their countrymen, who, having long
suffered with patience, were at length resolved to act with
vigor. The letters of the new princes were modest and
respectful, excusing the necessity which had obliged them to
accept the Imperial title; but submitting their election and
their fate to the supreme judgment of the senate. ^20

[Footnote 20: Herodian, l. vii. p. 243. Hist. August. p. 144.]
The inclinations of the senate were neither doubtful nor
divided. The birth and noble alliances of the Gordians had
intimately connected them with the most illustrious houses of
Rome. Their fortune had created many dependants in that
assembly, their merit had acquired many friends. Their mild
administration opened the flattering prospect of the restoration,
not only of the civil but even of the republican government. The
terror of military violence, which had first obliged the senate
to forget the murder of Alexander, and to ratify the election of
a barbarian peasant, ^21 now produced a contrary effect, and
provoked them to assert the injured rights of freedom and
humanity. The hatred of Maximin towards the senate was declared
and implacable; the tamest submission had not appeased his fury,
the most cautious innocence would not remove his suspicions; and
even the care of their own safety urged them to share the fortune
of an enterprise, of which (if unsuccessful) they were sure to be
the first victims. These considerations, and perhaps others of a
more private nature, were debated in a previous conference of the
consuls and the magistrates. As soon as their resolution was
decided, they convoked in the temple of Castor the whole body of
the senate, according to an ancient form of secrecy, ^22
calculated to awaken their attention, and to conceal their
decrees. "Conscript fathers," said the consul Syllanus, "the two
Gordians, both of consular dignity, the one your proconsul, the
other your lieutenant, have been declared emperors by the general
consent of Africa. Let us return thanks," he boldly continued,
"to the youth of Thysdrus; let us return thanks to the faithful
people of Carthage, our generous deliverers from a horrid monster
- Why do you hear me thus coolly, thus timidly? Why do you cast
those anxious looks on each other? Why hesitate? Maximin is a
public enemy! may his enmity soon expire with him, and may we
long enjoy the prudence and felicity of Gordian the father, the
valor and constancy of Gordian the son!" ^23 The noble ardor of
the consul revived the languid spirit of the senate. By a
unanimous decree, the election of the Gordians was ratified,
Maximin, his son, and his adherents, were pronounced enemies of
their country, and liberal rewards were offered to whomsoever had
the courage and good fortune to destroy them.
[See Temple Of Castor and Pollux]

[Footnote 21: Quod. tamen patres dum periculosum existimant;
inermes armato esistere approbaverunt. - Aurelius Victor.]

[Footnote 22: Even the servants of the house, the scribes, &c.,
were excluded, and their office was filled by the senators
themselves. We are obliged to the Augustan History. p. 159, for
preserving this curious example of the old discipline of the

[Footnote 23: This spirited speech, translated from the Augustan
historian, p. 156, seems transcribed by him from the origina
registers of the senate]
During the emperor's absence, a detachment of the Praetorian
guards remained at Rome, to protect, or rather to command, the
capital. The praefect Vitalianus had signalized his fidelity to
Maximin, by the alacrity with which he had obeyed, and even
prevented the cruel mandates of the tyrant. His death alone
could rescue the authority of the senate, and the lives of the
senators from a state of danger and suspense. Before their
resolves had transpired, a quaestor and some tribunes were
commissioned to take his devoted life. They executed the order
with equal boldness and success; and, with their bloody daggers
in their hands, ran through the streets, proclaiming to the
people and the soldiers the news of the happy revolution. The
enthusiasm of liberty was seconded by the promise of a large
donative, in lands and money; the statues of Maximin were thrown
down; the capital of the empire acknowledged, with transport, the
authority of the two Gordians and the senate; ^24 and the example
of Rome was followed by the rest of Italy.

[Footnote 24: Herodian, l. vii. p. 244]

A new spirit had arisen in that assembly, whose long
patience had been insulted by wanton despotism and military
license. The senate assumed the reins of government, and, with a
calm intrepidity, prepared to vindicate by arms the cause of
freedom. Among the consular senators recommended by their merit
and services to the favor of the emperor Alexander, it was easy
to select twenty, not unequal to the command of an army, and the
conduct of a war. To these was the defence of Italy intrusted.
Each was appointed to act in his respective department,
authorized to enroll and discipline the Italian youth; and
instructed to fortify the ports and highways, against the
impending invasion of Maximin. A number of deputies, chosen from
the most illustrious of the senatorian and equestrian orders,
were despatched at the same time to the governors of the several
provinces, earnestly conjuring them to fly to the assistance of
their country, and to remind the nations of their ancient ties of
friendship with the Roman senate and people. The general respect
with which these deputies were received, and the zeal of Italy
and the provinces in favor of the senate, sufficiently prove that
the subjects of Maximin were reduced to that uncommon distress,
in which the body of the people has more to fear from oppression
than from resistance. The consciousness of that melancholy
truth, inspires a degree of persevering fury, seldom to be found
in those civil wars which are artificially supported for the
benefit of a few factious and designing leaders. ^25 [Footnote
25: Herodian, l. vii. p. 247, l. viii. p. 277. Hist. August. p

For while the cause of the Gordians was embraced with such
diffusive ardor, the Gordians themselves were no more. The
feeble court of Carthage was alarmed by the rapid approach of
Capelianus, governor of Mauritania, who, with a small band of
veterans, and a fierce host of barbarians, attacked a faithful,
but unwarlike province. The younger Gordian sallied out to meet
the enemy at the head of a few guards, and a numerous
undisciplined multitude, educated in the peaceful luxury of
Carthage. His useless valor served only to procure him an
honorable death on the field of battle. His aged father, whose
reign had not exceeded thirty-six days, put an end to his life on
the first news of the defeat. Carthage, destitute of defence,
opened her gates to the conqueror, and Africa was exposed to the
rapacious cruelty of a slave, obliged to satisfy his unrelenting
master with a large account of blood and treasure. ^26

[Footnote 26: Herodian, l. vii. p. 254. Hist. August. p.
150-160. We may observe, that one month and six days, for the
reign of Gordian, is a just correction of Casaubon and Panvinius,
instead of the absurd reading of one year and six months. See
Commentar. p. 193. Zosimus relates, l. i. p. 17, that the two
Gordians perished by a tempest in the midst of their navigation.
A strange ignorance of history, or a strange abuse of metaphors!]

The fate of the Gordians filled Rome with just but
unexpected terror. The senate, convoked in the temple of Concord,
affected to transact the common business of the day; and seemed
to decline, with trembling anxiety, the consideration of their
own and the public danger. A silent consternation prevailed in
the assembly, till a senator, of the name and family of Trajan,
awakened his brethren from their fatal lethargy. He represented
to them that the choice of cautious, dilatory measures had been
long since out of their power; that Maximin, implacable by
nature, and exasperated by injuries, was advancing towards Italy,
at the head of the military force of the empire; and that their
only remaining alternative was either to meet him bravely in the
field, or tamely to expect the tortures and ignominious death
reserved for unsuccessful rebellion. "We have lost," continued
he, "two excellent princes; but unless we desert ourselves, the
hopes of the republic have not perished with the Gordians. Many
are the senators whose virtues have deserved, and whose abilities
would sustain, the Imperial dignity. Let us elect two emperors,
one of whom may conduct the war against the public enemy, whilst
his colleague remains at Rome to direct the civil administration.

I cheerfully expose myself to the danger and envy of the
nomination, and give my vote in favor of Maximus and Balbinus.
Ratify my choice, conscript fathers, or appoint in their place,
others more worthy of the empire." The general apprehension
silenced the whispers of jealousy; the merit of the candidates
was universally acknowledged; and the house resounded with the
sincere acclamations of "Long life and victory to the emperors
Maximus and Balbinus. You are happy in the judgment of the
senate; may the republic be happy under your administration!" ^27

[Footnote 27: See the Augustan History, p. 166, from the
registers of the senate; the date is confessedly faulty but the
coincidence of the Apollinatian games enables us to correct it.]

Chapter VII: Tyranny Of Maximin, Rebellion, Civil Wars, Death Of

Part II.

The virtues and the reputation of the new emperors justified
the most sanguine hopes of the Romans. The various nature of
their talents seemed to appropriate to each his peculiar
department of peace and war, without leaving room for jealous
emulation. Balbinus was an admired orator, a poet of
distinguished fame, and a wise magistrate, who had exercised with
innocence and applause the civil jurisdiction in almost all the
interior provinces of the empire. His birth was noble, ^28 his
fortune affluent, his manners liberal and affable. In him the
love of pleasure was corrected by a sense of dignity, nor had the
habits of ease deprived him of a capacity for business. The mind
of Maximus was formed in a rougher mould. By his valor and
abilities he had raised himself from the meanest origin to the
first employments of the state and army. His victories over the
Sarmatians and the Germans, the austerity of his life, and the
rigid impartiality of his justice, while he was a Praefect of the
city, commanded the esteem of a people whose affections were
engaged in favor of the more amiable Balbinus. The two colleagues
had both been consuls, (Balbinus had twice enjoyed that honorable
office,) both had been named among the twenty lieutenants of the
senate; and since the one was sixty and the other seventy-four
years old, ^29 they had both attained the full maturity of age
and experience.
[Footnote 28: He was descended from Cornelius Balbus, a noble
Spaniard, and the adopted son of Theophanes, the Greek historian.

Balbus obtained the freedom of Rome by the favor of Pompey, and
preserved it by the eloquence of Cicero. (See Orat. pro Cornel.
Balbo.) The friendship of Caesar, (to whom he rendered the most
important secret services in the civil war) raised him to the
consulship and the pontificate, honors never yet possessed by a
stranger. The nephew of this Balbus triumphed over the
Garamantes. See Dictionnaire de Bayle, au mot Balbus, where he
distinguishes the several persons of that name, and rectifies,
with his usual accuracy, the mistakes of former writers
concerning them.]

[Footnote 29: Zonaras, l. xii. p. 622. But little dependence is
to be had on the authority of a modern Greek, so grossly ignorant
of the history of the third century, that he creates several
imaginary emperors, and confounds those who really existed.]

After the senate had conferred on Maximus and Balbinus an
equal portion of the consular and tribunitian powers, the title
of Fathers of their country, and the joint office of Supreme
Pontiff, they ascended to the Capitol to return thanks to the
gods, protectors of Rome. ^30 The solemn rites of sacrifice were
disturbed by a sedition of the people. The licentious multitude
neither loved the rigid Maximus, nor did they sufficiently fear
the mild and humane Balbinus. Their increasing numbers
surrounded the temple of Jupiter; with obstinate clamors they
asserted their inherent right of consenting to the election of
their sovereign; and demanded, with an apparent moderation, that,
besides the two emperors, chosen by the senate, a third should be
added of the family of the Gordians, as a just return of
gratitude to those princes who had sacrificed their lives for the
republic. At the head of the city-guards, and the youth of the
equestrian order, Maximus and Balbinus attempted to cut their way
through the seditious multitude. The multitude, armed with
sticks and stones, drove them back into the Capitol. It is
prudent to yield when the contest, whatever may be the issue of
it, must be fatal to both parties. A boy, only thirteen years of
age, the grandson of the elder, and nephew ^* of the younger
Gordian, was produced to the people, invested with the ornaments
and title of Caesar. The tumult was appeased by this easy
condescension; and the two emperors, as soon as they had been
peaceably acknowledged in Rome, prepared to defend Italy against
the common enemy.

[Footnote 30: Herodian, l. vii. p. 256, supposes that the senate
was at first convoked in the Capitol, and is very eloquent on the
occasion. The Augustar History p. 116, seems much more

[Footnote *: According to some, the son. - G.]

Whilst in Rome and Africa, revolutions succeeded each other
with such amazing rapidity, that the mind of Maximin was agitated
by the most furious passions. He is said to have received the
news of the rebellion of the Gordians, and of the decree of the
senate against him, not with the temper of a man, but the rage of
a wild beast; which, as it could not discharge itself on the
distant senate, threatened the life of his son, of his friends,
and of all who ventured to approach his person. The grateful
intelligence of the death of the Gordians was quickly followed by
the assurance that the senate, laying aside all hopes of pardon
or accommodation, had substituted in their room two emperors,
with whose merit he could not be unacquainted. Revenge was the
only consolation left to Maximin, and revenge could only be
obtained by arms. The strength of the legions had been assembled
by Alexander from all parts of the empire. Three successful
campaigns against the Germans and the Sarmatians, had raised
their fame, confirmed their discipline, and even increased their
numbers, by filling the ranks with the flower of the barbarian
youth. The life of Maximin had been spent in war, and the candid
severity of history cannot refuse him the valor of a soldier, or
even the abilities of an experienced general. ^31 It might
naturally be expected, that a prince of such a character, instead
of suffering the rebellion to gain stability by delay, should
immediately have marched from the banks of the Danube to those of
the Tyber, and that his victorious army, instigated by contempt
for the senate, and eager to gather the spoils of Italy, should
have burned with impatience to finish the easy and lucrative
conquest. Yet as far as we can trust to the obscure chronology
of that period, ^32 it appears that the operations of some
foreign war deferred the Italian expedition till the ensuing
spring. From the prudent conduct of Maximin, we may learn that
the savage features of his character have been exaggerated by the
pencil of party, that his passions, however impetuous, submitted
to the force of reason, and that the barbarian possessed
something of the generous spirit of Sylla, who subdued the
enemies of Rome before he suffered himself to revenge his private
injuries. ^33

[Footnote 31: In Herodian, l. vii. p. 249, and in the Augustan
History, we have three several orations of Maximin to his army,
on the rebellion of Africa and Rome: M. de Tillemont has very
justly observed that they neither agree with each other nor with
truth. Histoire des Empereurs, tom. iii. p. 799.]

[Footnote 32: The carelessness of the writers of that age, leaves
us in a singular perplexity. 1. We know that Maximus and
Balbinus were killed during the Capitoline games. Herodian, l.
viii. p. 285. The authority of Censorinus (de Die Natali, c. 18)
enables us to fix those games with certainty to the year 238, but
leaves us in ignorance of the month or day. 2. The election of
Gordian by the senate is fixed with equal certainty to the 27th
of May; but we are at a loss to discover whether it was in the
same or the preceding year. Tillemont and Muratori, who maintain
the two opposite opinions, bring into the field a desultory troop
of authorities, conjectures and probabilities. The one seems to
draw out, the other to contract the series of events between
those periods, more than can be well reconciled to reason and
history. Yet it is necessary to choose between them.
Note: Eckhel has more recently treated these chronological
questions with a perspicuity which gives great probability to his
conclusions. Setting aside all the historians, whose
contradictions are irreconcilable, he has only consulted the
medals, and has arranged the events before us in the following
order: -

Maximin, A. U. 990, after having conquered the Germans,
reenters Pannonia, establishes his winter quarters at Sirmium,
and prepares himself to make war against the people of the North.

In the year 991, in the cal ends of January, commences his fourth
tribunate. The Gordians are chosen emperors in Africa, probably
at the beginning of the month of March. The senate confirms this
election with joy, and declares Maximin the enemy of Rome. Five
days after he had heard of this revolt, Maximin sets out from
Sirmium on his march to Italy. These events took place about the
beginning of April; a little after, the Gordians are slain in
Africa by Capellianus, procurator of Mauritania. The senate, in
its alarm, names as emperors Balbus and Maximus Pupianus, and
intrusts the latter with the war against Maximin. Maximin is
stopped on his road near Aquileia, by the want of provisions, and
by the melting of the snows: he begins the siege of Aquileia at
the end of April. Pupianus assembles his army at Ravenna.
Maximin and his son are assassinated by the soldiers enraged at
the resistance of Aquileia: and this was probably in the middle
of May. Pupianus returns to Rome, and assumes the government
with Balbinus; they are assassinated towards the end of July
Gordian the younger ascends the throne. Eckhel de Doct. Vol vii
295. - G.]
[Footnote 33: Velleius Paterculus, l. ii. c. 24. The president
de Montesquieu (in his dialogue between Sylla and Eucrates)
expresses the sentiments of the dictator in a spirited, and even
a sublime manner.]

When the troops of Maximin, advancing in excellent order,
arrived at the foot of the Julian Alps, they were terrified by
the silence and desolation that reigned on the frontiers of
Italy. The villages and open towns had been abandoned on their
approach by the inhabitants, the cattle was driven away, the
provisions removed or destroyed, the bridges broken down, nor was
any thing left which could afford either shelter or subsistence
to an invader. Such had been the wise orders of the generals of
the senate: whose design was to protract the war, to ruin the
army of Maximin by the slow operation of famine, and to consume
his strength in the sieges of the principal cities of Italy,
which they had plentifully stored with men and provisions from
the deserted country. Aquileia received and withstood the first
shock of the invasion. The streams that issue from the head of
the Hadriatic Gulf, swelled by the melting of the winter snows,
^34 opposed an unexpected obstacle to the arms of Maximin. At
length, on a singular bridge, constructed with art and
difficulty, of large hogsheads, he transported his army to the
opposite bank, rooted up the beautiful vineyards in the
neighborhood of Aquileia, demolished the suburbs, and employed
the timber of the buildings in the engines and towers, with which
on every side he attacked the city. The walls, fallen to decay
during the security of a long peace, had been hastily repaired on
this sudden emergency: but the firmest defence of Aquileia
consisted in the constancy of the citizens; all ranks of whom,
instead of being dismayed, were animated by the extreme danger,
and their knowledge of the tyrant's unrelenting temper. Their
courage was supported and directed by Crispinus and Menophilus,
two of the twenty lieutenants of the senate, who, with a small
body of regular troops, had thrown themselves into the besieged
place. The army of Maximin was repulsed in repeated attacks, his
machines destroyed by showers of artificial fire; and the
generous enthusiasm of the Aquileians was exalted into a
confidence of success, by the opinion that Belenus, their tutelar
deity, combated in person in the defence of his distressed
worshippers. ^35

[Footnote 34: Muratori (Annali d' Italia, tom. ii. p. 294) thinks
the melting of the snows suits better with the months of June or
July, than with those of February. The opinion of a man who
passed his life between the Alps and the Apennines, is
undoubtedly of great weight; yet I observe, 1. That the long
winter, of which Muratori takes advantage, is to be found only in
the Latin version, and not in the Greek text of Herodian. 2.
That the vicissitudes of suns and rains, to which the soldiers of
Maximin were exposed, (Herodian, l. viii. p. 277,) denote the
spring rather than the summer. We may observe, likewise, that
these several streams, as they melted into one, composed the
Timavus, so poetically (in every sense of the word) described by
Virgil. They are about twelve miles to the east of Aquileia. See
Cluver. Italia Antiqua, tom. i. p. 189, &c.]

[Footnote 35: Herodian, l. viii. p. 272. The Celtic deity was
supposed to be Apollo, and received under that name the thanks of
the senate. A temple was likewise built to Venus the Bald, in
honor of the women of Aquileia, who had given up their hair to
make ropes for the military engines.]
The emperor Maximus, who had advanced as far as Ravenna, to
secure that important place, and to hasten the military
preparations, beheld the event of the war in the more faithful
mirror of reason and policy. He was too sensible, that a single
town could not resist the persevering efforts of a great army;
and he dreaded, lest the enemy, tired with the obstinate
resistance of Aquileia, should on a sudden relinquish the
fruitless siege, and march directly towards Rome. The fate of
the empire and the cause of freedom must then be committed to the
chance of a battle; and what arms could he oppose to the veteran
legions of the Rhine and Danube? Some troops newly levied among
the generous but enervated youth of Italy; and a body of German
auxiliaries, on whose firmness, in the hour of trial, it was
dangerous to depend. In the midst of these just alarms, the
stroke of domestic conspiracy punished the crimes of Maximin, and
delivered Rome and the senate from the calamities that would
surely have attended the victory of an enraged barbarian.

The people of Aquileia had scarcely experienced any of the
common miseries of a siege; their magazines were plentifully
supplied, and several fountains within the walls assured them of
an inexhaustible resource of fresh water. The soldiers of
Maximin were, on the contrary, exposed to the inclemency of the
season, the contagion of disease, and the horrors of famine. The
open country was ruined, the rivers filled with the slain, and
polluted with blood. A spirit of despair and disaffection began
to diffuse itself among the troops; and as they were cut off from
all intelligence, they easily believed that the whole empire had
embraced the cause of the senate, and that they were left as
devoted victims to perish under the impregnable walls of
Aquileia. The fierce temper of the tyrant was exasperated by
disappointments, which he imputed to the cowardice of his army;
and his wanton and ill-timed cruelty, instead of striking terror,
inspired hatred, and a just desire of revenge. A party of
Praetorian guards, who trembled for their wives and children in
the camp of Alba, near Rome, executed the sentence of the senate.

Maximin, abandoned by his guards, was slain in his tent, with his
son, (whom he had associated to the honors of the purple,)
Anulinus the praefect, and the principal ministers of his
tyranny. ^36 The sight of their heads, borne on the point of
spears, convinced the citizens of Aquileia that the siege was at
an end; the gates of the city were thrown open, a liberal market
was provided for the hungry troops of Maximin, and the whole army
joined in solemn protestations of fidelity to the senate and the
people of Rome, and to their lawful emperors Maximus and
Balbinus. Such was the deserved fate of a brutal savage,
destitute, as he has generally been represented, of every
sentiment that distinguishes a civilized, or even a human being.
The body was suited to the soul. The stature of Maximin exceeded
the measure of eight feet, and circumstances almost incredible
are related of his matchless strength and appetite. ^37 Had he
lived in a less enlightened age, tradition and poetry might well
have described him as one of those monstrous giants, whose
supernatural power was constantly exerted for the destruction of

[Footnote 36: Herodian, l. viii. p. 279. Hist. August. p. 146.
The duration of Maximin's reign has not been defined with much
accuracy, except by Eutropius, who allows him three years and a
few days, (l. ix. 1;) we may depend on the integrity of the text,
as the Latin original is checked by the Greek version of

[Footnote 37: Eight Roman feet and one third, which are equal to
above eight English feet, as the two measures are to each other
in the proportion of 967 to 1000. See Graves's discourse on the
Roman foot. We are told that Maximin could drink in a day an
amphora (or about seven gallons) of wine, and eat thirty or forty
pounds of meat. He could move a loaded wagon, break a horse's
leg with his fist, crumble stones in his hand, and tear up small
trees by the roots. See his life in the Augustan History.]
It is easier to conceive than to describe the universal joy
of the Roman world on the fall of the tyrant, the news of which
is said to have been carried in four days from Aquileia to Rome.
The return of Maximus was a triumphal procession; his colleague
and young Gordian went out to meet him, and the three princes
made their entry into the capital, attended by the ambassadors of
almost all the cities of Italy, saluted with the splendid
offerings of gratitude and superstition, and received with the
unfeigned acclamations of the senate and people, who persuaded
themselves that a golden age would succeed to an age of iron. ^38
The conduct of the two emperors corresponded with these
expectations. They administered justice in person; and the rigor
of the one was tempered by the other's clemency. The oppressive
taxes with which Maximin had loaded the rights of inheritance and
succession, were repealed, or at least moderated. Discipline was
revived, and with the advice of the senate many wise laws were
enacted by their imperial ministers, who endeavored to restore a
civil constitution on the ruins of military tyranny. "What
reward may we expect for delivering Rome from a monster?" was the
question asked by Maximus, in a moment of freedom and confidence.

Balbinus answered it without hesitation - "The love of the
senate, of the people, and of all mankind." "Alas!" replied his
more penetrating colleague - "alas! I dread the hatred of the
soldiers, and the fatal effects of their resentment." ^39 His
apprehensions were but too well justified by the event.

[Footnote 38: See the congratulatory letter of Claudius Julianus,
the consul to the two emperors, in the Augustan History.]

[Footnote 39: Hist. August. p. 171.]

Whilst Maximus was preparing to defend Italy against the
common foe, Balbinus, who remained at Rome, had been engaged in
scenes of blood and intestine discord. Distrust and jealousy
reigned in the senate; and even in the temples where they
assembled, every senator carried either open or concealed arms.
In the midst of their deliberations, two veterans of the guards,
actuated either by curiosity or a sinister motive, audaciously
thrust themselves into the house, and advanced by degrees beyond
the altar of Victory. Gallicanus, a consular, and Maecenas, a
Praetorian senator, viewed with indignation their insolent
intrusion: drawing their daggers, they laid the spies (for such
they deemed them) dead at the foot of the altar, and then,
advancing to the door of the senate, imprudently exhorted the
multitude to massacre the Praetorians, as the secret adherents of
the tyrant. Those who escaped the first fury of the tumult took
refuge in the camp, which they defended with superior advantage
against the reiterated attacks of the people, assisted by the
numerous bands of gladiators, the property of opulent nobles.
The civil war lasted many days, with infinite loss and confusion
on both sides. When the pipes were broken that supplied the camp
with water, the Praetorians were reduced to intolerable distress;
but in their turn they made desperate sallies into the city, set
fire to a great number of houses, and filled the streets with the
blood of the inhabitants. The emperor Balbinus attempted, by
ineffectual edicts and precarious truces, to reconcile the
factions at Rome. But their animosity, though smothered for a
while, burnt with redoubled violence. The soldiers, detesting
the senate and the people, despised the weakness of a prince, who
wanted either the spirit or the power to command the obedience of
his subjects. ^40

[Footnote 40: Herodian, l. viii. p. 258.]

After the tyrant's death, his formidable army had
acknowledged, from necessity rather than from choice, the
authority of Maximus, who transported himself without delay to
the camp before Aquileia. As soon as he had received their oath
of fidelity, he addressed them in terms full of mildness and
moderation; lamented, rather than arraigned the wild disorders of
the times, and assured the soldiers, that of all their past
conduct the senate would remember only their generous desertion
of the tyrant, and their voluntary return to their duty. Maximus
enforced his exhortations by a liberal donative, purified the
camp by a solemn sacrifice of expiation, and then dismissed the
legions to their several provinces, impressed, as he hoped, with
a lively sense of gratitude and obedience. ^41 But nothing could
reconcile the haughty spirit of the Praetorians. They attended
the emperors on the memorable day of their public entry into
Rome; but amidst the general acclamations, the sullen, dejected
countenance of the guards sufficiently declared that they
considered themselves as the object, rather than the partners, of
the triumph. When the whole body was united in their camp, those
who had served under Maximin, and those who had remained at Rome,
insensibly communicated to each other their complaints and
apprehensions. The emperors chosen by the army had perished with
ignominy; those elected by the senate were seated on the throne.
^42 The long discord between the civil and military powers was
decided by a war, in which the former had obtained a complete
victory. The soldiers must now learn a new doctrine of
submission to the senate; and whatever clemency was affected by
that politic assembly, they dreaded a slow revenge, colored by
the name of discipline, and justified by fair pretences of the
public good. But their fate was still in their own hands; and if
they had courage to despise the vain terrors of an impotent
republic, it was easy to convince the world, that those who were
masters of the arms, were masters of the authority, of the state.

[Footnote 41: Herodian, l. viii. p. 213.]

[Footnote 42: The observation had been made imprudently enough in
the acclamations of the senate, and with regard to the soldiers
it carried the appearance of a wanton insult. Hist. August. p.

When the senate elected two princes, it is probable that,
besides the declared reason of providing for the various
emergencies of peace and war, they were actuated by the secret
desire of weakening by division the despotism of the supreme
magistrate. Their policy was effectual, but it proved fatal both
to their emperors and to themselves. The jealousy of power was
soon exasperated by the difference of character. Maximus
despised Balbinus as a luxurious noble, and was in his turn
disdained by his colleague as an obscure soldier. Their silent
discord was understood rather than seen; ^43 but the mutual
consciousness prevented them from uniting in any vigorous
measures of defence against their common enemies of the
Praetorian camp. The whole city was employed in the Capitoline
games, and the emperors were left almost alone in the palace. On
a sudden, they were alarmed by the approach of a troop of
desperate assassins. Ignorant of each other's situation or
designs, (for they already occupied very distant apartments,)
afraid to give or to receive assistance, they wasted the
important moments in idle debates and fruitless recriminations.
The arrival of the guards put an end to the vain strife. They
seized on these emperors of the senate, for such they called them
with malicious contempt, stripped them of their garments, and
dragged them in insolent triumph through the streets of Rome,
with the design of inflicting a slow and cruel death on these
unfortunate princes. The fear of a rescue from the faithful
Germans of the Imperial guards, shortened their tortures; and
their bodies, mangled with a thousand wounds, were left exposed
to the insults or to the pity of the populace. ^44

[Footnote 43: Discordiae tacitae, et quae intelligerentur potius
quam viderentur. Hist. August. p. 170. This well-chosen
expression is probably stolen from some better writer.]

[Footnote 44: Herodian, l. viii. p. 287, 288.]

In the space of a few months, six princes had been cut off
by the sword. Gordian, who had already received the title of
Caesar, was the only person that occurred to the soldiers as
proper to fill the vacant throne. ^45 They carried him to the
camp, and unanimously saluted him Augustus and Emperor. His name
was dear to the senate and people; his tender age promised a long
impunity of military license; and the submission of Rome and the
provinces to the choice of the Praetorian guards, saved the
republic, at the expense indeed of its freedom and dignity, from
the horrors of a new civil war in the heart of the capital. ^46

[Footnote 45: Quia non alius erat in praesenti, is the expression
of the Augustan History.]

[Footnote 46: Quintus Curtius (l. x. c. 9,) pays an elegant
compliment to the emperor of the day, for having, by his happy
accession, extinguished so many firebrands, sheathed so many
swords, and put an end to the evils of a divided government.
After weighing with attention every word of the passage, I am of
opinion, that it suits better with the elevation of Gordian, than
with any other period of the Roman history. In that case, it may
serve to decide the age of Quintus Curtius. Those who place him
under the first Caesars, argue from the purity of his style but
are embarrassed by the silence of Quintilian, in his accurate
list of Roman historians.

Note: This conjecture of Gibbon is without foundation. Many
passages in the work of Quintus Curtius clearly place him at an
earlier period. Thus, in speaking of the Parthians, he says,
Hinc in Parthicum perventum est, tunc ignobilem gentem: nunc
caput omnium qui post Euphratem et Tigrim amnes siti Rubro mari
terminantur. The Parthian empire had this extent only in the
first age of the vulgar aera: to that age, therefore, must be
assigned the date of Quintus Curtius. Although the critics (says
M. de Sainte Croix) have multiplied conjectures on this subject,
most of them have ended by adopting the opinion which places
Quintus Curtius under the reign of Claudius. See Just. Lips. ad
Ann. Tac. ii. 20. Michel le Tellier Praef. in Curt. Tillemont
Hist. des Emp. i. p. 251. Du Bos Reflections sur la Poesie, 2d
Partie. Tiraboschi Storia della, Lett. Ital. ii. 149. Examen.
crit. des Historiens d'Alexandre, 2d ed. p. 104, 849, 850. - G.

This interminable question seems as much perplexed as ever.
The first argument of M. Guizot is a strong one, except that
Parthian is often used by later writers for Persian. Cunzius, in
his preface to an edition published at Helmstadt, (1802,)
maintains the opinion of Bagnolo, which assigns Q. Curtius to the
time of Constantine the Great. Schmieder, in his edit. Gotting.
1803, sums up in this sentence, aetatem Curtii ignorari pala
mest. - M.]
As the third Gordian was only nineteen years of age at the
time of his death, the history of his life, were it known to us
with greater accuracy than it really is, would contain little
more than the account of his education, and the conduct of the
ministers, who by turns abused or guided the simplicity of his
unexperienced youth. Immediately after his accession, he fell
into the hands of his mother's eunuchs, that pernicious vermin of
the East, who, since the days of Elagabalus, had infested the
Roman palace. By the artful conspiracy of these wretches, an
impenetrable veil was drawn between an innocent prince and his
oppressed subjects, the virtuous disposition of Gordian was
deceived, and the honors of the empire sold without his
knowledge, though in a very public manner, to the most worthless
of mankind. We are ignorant by what fortunate accident the
emperor escaped from this ignominious slavery, and devolved his
confidence on a minister, whose wise counsels had no object
except the glory of his sovereign and the happiness of the
people. It should seem that love and learning introduced
Misitheus to the favor of Gordian. The young prince married the
daughter of his master of rhetoric, and promoted his
father-in-law to the first offices of the empire. Two admirable
letters that passed between them are still extant. The minister,
with the conscious dignity of virtue, congratulates Gordian that
he is delivered from the tyranny of the eunuchs, ^47 and still
more that he is sensible of his deliverance. The emperor
acknowledges, with an amiable confusion, the errors of his past
conduct; and laments, with singular propriety, the misfortune of
a monarch, from whom a venal tribe of courtiers perpetually labor
to conceal the truth. ^48

[Footnote 47: Hist. August. p. 161. From some hints in the two
letters, I should expect that the eunuchs were not expelled the
palace without some degree of gentle violence, and that the young
Gordian rather approved of, than consented to, their disgrace.]

[Footnote 48: Duxit uxorem filiam Misithei, quem causa
eloquentiae dignum parentela sua putavit; et praefectum statim
fecit; post quod, non puerile jam et contemptibile videbatur

The life of Misitheus had been spent in the profession of
letters, not of arms; yet such was the versatile genius of that
great man, that, when he was appointed Praetorian Praefect, he
discharged the military duties of his place with vigor and
ability. The Persians had invaded Mesopotamia, and threatened
Antioch. By the persuasion of his father-in-law, the young
emperor quitted the luxury of Rome, opened, for the last time
recorded in history, the temple of Janus, and marched in person
into the East. On his approach, with a great army, the Persians
withdrew their garrisons from the cities which they had already
taken, and retired from the Euphrates to the Tigris. Gordian
enjoyed the pleasure of announcing to the senate the first
success of his arms, which he ascribed, with a becoming modesty
and gratitude, to the wisdom of his father and Praefect. During
the whole expedition, Misitheus watched over the safety and
discipline of the army; whilst he prevented their dangerous
murmurs by maintaining a regular plenty in the camp, and by
establishing ample magazines of vinegar, bacon, straw, barley,
and wheat in all the cities of the frontier. ^49 But the
prosperity of Gordian expired with Misitheus, who died of a flux,
not with out very strong suspicions of poison. Philip, his
successor in the praefecture, was an Arab by birth, and
consequently, in the earlier part of his life, a robber by
profession. His rise from so obscure a station to the first
dignities of the empire, seems to prove that he was a bold and
able leader. But his boldness prompted him to aspire to the
throne, and his abilities were employed to supplant, not to
serve, his indulgent master. The minds of the soldiers were
irritated by an artificial scarcity, created by his contrivance
in the camp; and the distress of the army was attributed to the
youth and incapacity of the prince. It is not in our power to
trace the successive steps of the secret conspiracy and open
sedition, which were at length fatal to Gordian. A sepulchral
monument was erected to his memory on the spot ^50 where he was
killed, near the conflux of the Euphrates with the little river
Aboras. ^51 The fortunate Philip, raised to the empire by the
votes of the soldiers, found a ready obedience from the senate
and the provinces. ^52
[Footnote 49: Hist. August. p. 162. Aurelius Victor. Porphyrius
in Vit Plotin. ap. Fabricium, Biblioth. Graec. l. iv. c. 36.
The philosopher Plotinus accompanied the army, prompted by the
love of knowledge, and by the hope of penetrating as far as

[Footnote 50: About twenty miles from the little town of
Circesium, on the frontier of the two empires.

Note: Now Kerkesia; placed in the angle formed by the
juncture of the Chaboras, or al Khabour, with the Euphrates.
This situation appeared advantageous to Diocletian, that he
raised fortifications to make it the but wark of the empire on
the side of Mesopotamia. D'Anville. Geog. Anc. ii. 196. - G. It
is the Carchemish of the Old Testament, 2 Chron. xxxv. 20. ler.
xlvi. 2. - M.]

[Footnote 51: The inscription (which contained a very singular
pun) was erased by the order of Licinius, who claimed some degree
of relationship to Philip, (Hist. August. p. 166;) but the
tumulus, or mound of earth which formed the sepulchre, still
subsisted in the time of Julian. See Ammian Marcellin. xxiii.

[Footnote 52: Aurelius Victor. Eutrop. ix. 2. Orosius, vii. 20.

Ammianus Marcellinus, xxiii. 5. Zosimus, l. i. p. 19. Philip,
who was a native of Bostra, was about forty years of age.

Note: Now Bosra. It was once the metropolis of a province
named Arabia, and the chief city of Auranitis, of which the name
is preserved in Beled Hauran, the limits of which meet the
desert. D'Anville. Geog. Anc. ii. 188. According to Victor, (in
Caesar.,) Philip was a native of Tracbonitis another province of
Arabia. - G.]

We cannot forbear transcribing the ingenious, though
somewhat fanciful description, which a celebrated writer of our
own times has traced of the military government of the Roman
empire. "What in that age was called the Roman empire, was only
an irregular republic, not unlike the aristocracy ^53 of Algiers,
^54 where the militia, possessed of the sovereignty, creates and
deposes a magistrate, who is styled a Dey. Perhaps, indeed, it
may be laid down as a general rule, that a military government
is, in some respects, more republican than monarchical. Nor can
it be said that the soldiers only partook of the government by
their disobedience and rebellions. The speeches made to them by
the emperors, were they not at length of the same nature as those
formerly pronounced to the people by the consuls and the
tribunes? And although the armies had no regular place or forms
of assembly; though their debates were short, their action
sudden, and their resolves seldom the result of cool reflection,
did they not dispose, with absolute sway, of the public fortune?
What was the emperor, except the minister of a violent
government, elected for the private benefit of the soldiers?

[Footnote 53: Can the epithet of Aristocracy be applied, with any
propriety, to the government of Algiers? Every military
government floats between two extremes of absolute monarchy and
wild democracy.]

[Footnote 54: The military republic of the Mamelukes in Egypt
would have afforded M. de Montesquieu (see Considerations sur la
Grandeur et la Decadence des Romains, c. 16) a juster and more
noble parallel.]
"When the army had elected Philip, who was Praetorian
praefect to the third Gordian, the latter demanded that he might
remain sole emperor; he was unable to obtain it. He requested
that the power might be equally divided between them; the army
would not listen to his speech. He consented to be degraded to
the rank of Caesar; the favor was refused him. He desired, at
least, he might be appointed Praetorian praefect; his prayer was
rejected. Finally, he pleaded for his life. The army, in these
several judgments, exercised the supreme magistracy." According
to the historian, whose doubtful narrative the President De
Montesquieu has adopted, Philip, who, during the whole
transaction, had preserved a sullen silence, was inclined to
spare the innocent life of his benefactor; till, recollecting
that his innocence might excite a dangerous compassion in the
Roman world, he commanded, without regard to his suppliant cries,
that he should be seized, stripped, and led away to instant
death. After a moment's pause, the inhuman sentence was
executed. ^55

[Footnote 55: The Augustan History (p. 163, 164) cannot, in this
instance, be reconciled with itself or with probability. How
could Philip condemn his predecessor, and yet consecrate his
memory? How could he order his public execution, and yet, in his
letters to the senate, exculpate himself from the guilt of his
death? Philip, though an ambitious usurper, was by no means a
mad tyrant. Some chronological difficulties have likewise been
discovered by the nice eyes of Tillemont and Muratori, in this
supposed association of Philip to the empire.

Note: Wenck endeavors to reconcile these discrepancies. He
supposes that Gordian was led away, and died a natural death in
prison. This is directly contrary to the statement of
Capitolinus and of Zosimus, whom he adduces in support of his
theory. He is more successful in his precedents of usurpers
deifying the victims of their ambition. Sit divus, dummodo non
sit vivus. - M.]

Chapter VII: Tyranny Of Maximin, Rebellion, Civil Wars, Death Of

Part III.

On his return from the East to Rome, Philip, desirous of
obliterating the memory of his crimes, and of captivating the
affections of the people, solemnized the secular games with
infinite pomp and magnificence. Since their institution or
revival by Augustus, ^56 they had been celebrated by Claudius, by
Domitian, and by Severus, and were now renewed the fifth time, on
the accomplishment of the full period of a thousand years from
the foundation of Rome. Every circumstance of the secular games
was skillfully adapted to inspire the superstitious mind with
deep and solemn reverence. The long interval between them ^57
exceeded the term of human life; and as none of the spectators
had already seen them, none could flatter themselves with the
expectation of beholding them a second time. The mystic
sacrifices were performed, during three nights, on the banks of
the Tyber; and the Campus Martius resounded with music and
dances, and was illuminated with innumerable lamps and torches.
Slaves and strangers were excluded from any participation in
these national ceremonies. A chorus of twenty-seven youths, and
as many virgins, of noble families, and whose parents were both
alive, implored the propitious gods in favor of the present, and
for the hope of the rising generation; requesting, in religious
hymns, that according to the faith of their ancient oracles, they
would still maintain the virtue, the felicity, and the empire of
the Roman people. ^58 The magnificence of Philip's shows and
entertainments dazzled the eyes of the multitude. The devout
were employed in the rites of superstition, whilst the reflecting
few revolved in their anxious minds the past history and the
future fate of the empire.

[Footnote 56: The account of the last supposed celebration,
though in an enlightened period of history, was so very doubtful
and obscure, that the alternative seems not doubtful. When the
popish jubilees, the copy of the secular games, were invented by
Boniface VII., the crafty pope pretended that he only revived an
ancient institution. See M. le Chais, Lettres sur les Jubiles.]

[Footnote 57: Either of a hundred or a hundred and ten years.
Varro and Livy adopted the former opinion, but the infallible
authority of the Sybil consecrated the latter, (Censorinus de Die
Natal. c. 17.) The emperors Claudius and Philip, however, did not
treat the oracle with implicit respect.]

[Footnote 58: The idea of the secular games is best understood
from the poem of Horace, and the description of Zosimus, 1. l.
ii. p. 167, &c.]
Since Romulus, with a small band of shepherds and outlaws,
fortified himself on the hills near the Tyber, ten centuries had
already elapsed. ^59 During the four first ages, the Romans, in
the laborious school of poverty, had acquired the virtues of war
and government: by the vigorous exertion of those virtues, and by
the assistance of fortune, they had obtained, in the course of
the three succeeding centuries, an absolute empire over many
countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The last three hundred
years had been consumed in apparent prosperity and internal
decline. The nation of soldiers, magistrates, and legislators,
who composed the thirty-five tribes of the Roman people, were
dissolved into the common mass of mankind, and confounded with
the millions of servile provincials, who had received the name,
without adopting the spirit, of Romans. A mercenary army, levied
among the subjects and barbarians of the frontier, was the only
order of men who preserved and abused their independence. By
their tumultuary election, a Syrian, a Goth, or an Arab, was
exalted to the throne of Rome, and invested with despotic power
over the conquests and over the country of the Scipios.
[Footnote 59: The received calculation of Varro assigns to the
foundation of Rome an aera that corresponds with the 754th year
before Christ. But so little is the chronology of Rome to be
depended on, in the more early ages, that Sir Isaac Newton has
brought the same event as low as the year 627 (Compare Niebuhr
vol. i. p. 271. - M.)]

The limits of the Roman empire still extended from the
Western Ocean to the Tigris, and from Mount Atlas to the Rhine
and the Danube. To the undiscerning eye of the vulgar, Philip
appeared a monarch no less powerful than Hadrian or Augustus had
formerly been. The form was still the same, but the animating
health and vigor were fled. The industry of the people was
discouraged and exhausted by a long series of oppression. The
discipline of the legions, which alone, after the extinction of
every other virtue, had propped the greatness of the state, was
corrupted by the ambition, or relaxed by the weakness, of the
emperors. The strength of the frontiers, which had always
consisted in arms rather than in fortifications, was insensibly
undermined; and the fairest provinces were left exposed to the
rapaciousness or ambition of the barbarians, who soon discovered
the decline of the Roman empire.

Chapter VIII: State Of Persion And Restoration Of The Monarchy.

Part I.

Of The State Of Persia After The Restoration Of The Monarchy By

Whenever Tacitus indulges himself in those beautiful
episodes, in which he relates some domestic transaction of the
Germans or of the Parthians, his principal object is to relieve
the attention of the reader from a uniform scene of vice and
misery. From the reign of Augustus to the time of Alexander
Severus, the enemies of Rome were in her bosom - the tyrants and
the soldiers; and her prosperity had a very distant and feeble
interest in the revolutions that might happen beyond the Rhine
and the Euphrates. But when the military order had levelled, in
wild anarchy, the power of the prince, the laws of the senate,
and even the discipline of the camp, the barbarians of the North
and of the East, who had long hovered on the frontier, boldly
attacked the provinces of a declining monarchy. Their vexatious
inroads were changed into formidable irruptions, and, after a
long vicissitude of mutual calamities, many tribes of the
victorious invaders established themselves in the provinces of
the Roman Empire. To obtain a clearer knowledge of these great
events, we shall endeavor to form a previous idea of the
character, forces, and designs of those nations who avenged the
cause of Hannibal and Mithridates.

In the more early ages of the world, whilst the forest that
covered Europe afforded a retreat to a few wandering savages, the
inhabitants of Asia were already collected into populous cities,
and reduced under extensive empires, the seat of the arts, of
luxury, and of despotism. The Assyrians reigned over the East,
^1 till the sceptre of Ninus and Semiramis dropped from the hands
of their enervated successors. The Medes and the Babylonians
divided their power, and were themselves swallowed up in the
monarchy of the Persians, whose arms could not be confined within
the narrow limits of Asia. Followed, as it is said, by two
millions of men, Xerxes, the descendant of Cyrus, invaded Greece.

Thirty thousand soldiers, under the command of Alexander, the son
of Philip, who was intrusted by the Greeks with their glory and
revenge, were sufficient to subdue Persia. The princes of the
house of Seleucus usurped and lost the Macedonian command over
the East. About the same time, that, by an ignominious treaty,
they resigned to the Romans the country on this side Mount Tarus,
they were driven by the Parthians, ^* an obscure horde of
Scythian origin, from all the provinces of Upper Asia. The
formidable power of the Parthians, which spread from India to the
frontiers of Syria, was in its turn subverted by Ardshir, or
Artaxerxes; the founder of a new dynasty, which, under the name
of Sassanides, governed Persia till the invasion of the Arabs.
This great revolution, whose fatal influence was soon experienced
by the Romans, happened in the fourth year of Alexander Severus,
two hundred and twenty-six years after the Christian era. ^2 ^!
[Footnote 1: An ancient chronologist, quoted by Valleius
Paterculus, (l. i. c. 6,) observes, that the Assyrians, the
Medes, the Persians, and the Macedonians, reigned over Asia one
thousand nine hundred and ninety-five years, from the accession
of Ninus to the defeat of Antiochus by the Romans. As the latter
of these great events happened 289 years before Christ, the
former may be placed 2184 years before the same aera. The
Astronomical Observations, found at Babylon, by Alexander, went
fifty years higher.]
[Footnote *: The Parthians were a tribe of the Indo-Germanic
branch which dwelt on the south-east of the Caspian, and belonged
to the same race as the Getae, the Massagetae, and other nations,
confounded by the ancients under the vague denomination of
Scythians. Klaproth, Tableaux Hist. d l'Asie, p. 40. Strabo (p.
747) calls the Parthians Carduchi, i.e., the inhabitants of
Curdistan. - M.]

[Footnote 2: In the five hundred and thirty-eighth year of the
aera of Seleucus. See Agathias, l. ii. p. 63. This great event
(such is the carelessness of the Orientals) is placed by
Eutychius as high as the tenth year of Commodus, and by Moses of
Chorene as low as the reign of Philip. Ammianus Marcellinus has
so servilely copied (xxiii. 6) his ancient materials, which are
indeed very good, that he describes the family of the Arsacides
as still seated on the Persian throne in the middle of the fourth

[Footnote !: The Persian History, if the poetry of the Shah
Nameh, the Book of Kings, may deserve that name mentions four
dynasties from the earliest ages to the invasion of the Saracens.

The Shah Nameh was composed with the view of perpetuating the
remains of the original Persian records or traditions which had
survived the Saracenic invasion. The task was undertaken by the
poet Dukiki, and afterwards, under the patronage of Mahmood of
Ghazni, completed by Ferdusi. The first of these dynasties is
that of Kaiomors, as Sir W. Jones observes, the dark and fabulous
period; the second, that of the Kaianian, the heroic and
poetical, in which the earned have discovered some curious, and
imagined some fanciful, analogies with the Jewish, the Greek, and
the Roman accounts of the eastern world. See, on the Shah Nameh,
Translation by Goerres, with Von Hammer's Review, Vienna Jahrbuch
von Lit. 17, 75, 77. Malcolm's Persia, 8vo. ed. i. 503. Macan's
Preface to his Critical Edition of the Shah Nameh. On the early
Persian History, a very sensible abstract of various opinions in
Malcolm's Hist. of Persian. - M.]

Artaxerxes had served with great reputation in the armies of
Artaban, the last king of the Parthians, and it appears that he
was driven into exile and rebellion by royal ingratitude, the
customary reward for superior merit. His birth was obscure, and
the obscurity equally gave room to the aspersions of his enemies,
and the flattery of his adherents. If we credit the scandal of
the former, Artaxerxes sprang from the illegitimate commerce of a
tanner's wife with a common soldier. ^3 The latter represent him
as descended from a branch of the ancient kings of Persian,
though time and misfortune had gradually reduced his ancestors to
the humble station of private citizens. ^4 As the lineal heir of
the monarchy, he asserted his right to the throne, and challenged
the noble task of delivering the Persians from the oppression
under which they groaned above five centuries since the death of
Darius. The Parthians were defeated in three great battles. ^*
In the last of these their king Artaban was slain, and the spirit
of the nation was forever broken. ^5 The authority of Artaxerxes
was solemnly acknowledged in a great assembly held at Balch in
Khorasan. ^! Two younger branches of the royal house of Arsaces
were confounded among the prostrate satraps. A third, more
mindful of ancient grandeur than of present necessity, attempted
to retire, with a numerous train of vessels, towards their
kinsman, the king of Armenia; but this little army of deserters
was intercepted, and cut off, by the vigilance of the conqueror,
^6 who boldly assumed the double diadem, and the title of King of
Kings, which had been enjoyed by his predecessor. But these
pompous titles, instead of gratifying the vanity of the Persian,
served only to admonish him of his duty, and to inflame in his
soul and should the ambition of restoring in their full splendor,
the religion and empire of Cyrus.

[Footnote 3: The tanner's name was Babec; the soldier's, Sassan:
from the former Artaxerxes obtained the surname of Babegan, from
the latter all his descendants have been styled Sassanides.]

[Footnote 4: D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, Ardshir.]
[Footnote *: In the plain of Hoormuz, the son of Babek was hailed
in the field with the proud title of Shahan Shah, king of kings -
a name ever since assumed by the sovereigns of Persia. Malcolm,
i. 71. - M.]
[Footnote 5: Dion Cassius, l. lxxx. Herodian, l. vi. p. 207.
Abulpharagins Dynast. p. 80.]

[Footnote !: See the Persian account of the rise of Ardeschir
Babegan in Malcolm l 69. - M.]

[Footnote 6: See Moses Chorenensis, l. ii. c. 65 - 71.]

I. During the long servitude of Persia under the Macedonian
and the Parthian yoke, the nations of Europe and Asia had
mutually adopted and corrupted each other's superstitions. The
Arsacides, indeed, practised the worship of the Magi; but they
disgraced and polluted it with a various mixture of foreign
idolatry. ^* The memory of Zoroaster, the ancient prophet and
philosopher of the Persians, ^7 was still revered in the East;
but the obsolete and mysterious language, in which the Zendavesta
was composed, ^8 opened a field of dispute to seventy sects, who
variously explained the fundamental doctrines of their religion,
and were all indifferently devided by a crowd of infidels, who
rejected the divine mission and miracles of the prophet. To
suppress the idolaters, reunite the schismatics, and confute the
unbelievers, by the infallible decision of a general council, the
pious Artaxerxes summoned the Magi from all parts of his
dominions. These priests, who had so long sighed in contempt and
obscurity obeyed the welcome summons; and, on the appointed day,
appeared, to the number of about eighty thousand. But as the
debates of so tumultuous an assembly could not have been directed
by the authority of reason, or influenced by the art of policy,
the Persian synod was reduced, by successive operations, to forty
thousand, to four thousand, to four hundred, to forty, and at
last to seven Magi, the most respected for their learning and
piety. One of these, Erdaviraph, a young but holy prelate,
received from the hands of his brethren three cups of
soporiferous wine. He drank them off, and instantly fell into a
long and profound sleep. As soon as he waked, he related to the
king and to the believing multitude, his journey to heaven, and
his intimate conferences with the Deity. Every doubt was
silenced by this supernatural evidence; and the articles of the
faith of Zoroaster were fixed with equal authority and precision.
^9 A short delineation of that celebrated system will be found
useful, not only to display the character of the Persian nation,
but to illustrate many of their most important transactions, both
in peace and war, with the Roman empire. ^10

[Footnote *: Silvestre de Sacy (Antiquites de la Perse) had
proved the neglect of the Zoroastrian religion under the Parthian
kings. - M.]
[Footnote 7: Hyde and Prideaux, working up the Persian legends
and their own conjectures into a very agreeable story, represent
Zoroaster as a contemporary of Darius Hystaspes. But it is
sufficient to observe, that the Greek writers, who lived almost
in the age of Darius, agree in placing the aera of Zoroaster many
hundred, or even thousand, years before their own time. The
judicious criticisms of Mr. Moyle perceived, and maintained
against his uncle, Dr. Prideaux, the antiquity of the Persian
prophet. See his work, vol. ii.

Note: There are three leading theories concerning the age of
Zoroaster: 1. That which assigns him to an age of great and
almost indefinite antiquity - it is that of Moyle, adopted by
Gibbon, Volney, Recherches sur l'Histoire, ii. 2. Rhode, also,
(die Heilige Sage, &c.,) in a very ingenious and ably-developed
theory, throws the Bactrian prophet far back into antiquity 2.
Foucher, (Mem. de l'Acad. xxvii. 253,) Tychsen, (in Com. Soc.
Gott. ii. 112), Heeren, (ldeen. i. 459,) and recently Holty,
identify the Gushtasp of the Persian mythological history with
Cyaxares the First, the king of the Medes, and consider the
religion to be Median in its origin. M. Guizot considers this
opinion most probable, note in loc. 3. Hyde, Prideaux, Anquetil
du Perron, Kleuker, Herder, Goerres, (Mythen-Geschichte,) Von
Hammer. (Wien. Jahrbuch, vol. ix.,) Malcolm, (i. 528,) De
Guigniaut, (Relig. de l'Antiq. 2d part, vol. iii.,) Klaproth,
(Tableaux de l'Asie, p. 21,) make Gushtasp Darius Hystaspes, and
Zoroaster his contemporary. The silence of Herodotus appears the
great objection to this theory. Some writers, as M. Foucher
(resting, as M. Guizot observes, on the doubtful authority of
Pliny,) make more than one Zoroaster, and so attempt to reconcile
the conflicting theories. - M.]
[Footnote 8: That ancient idiom was called the Zend. The
language of the commentary, the Pehlvi, though much more modern,
has ceased many ages ago to be a living tongue. This fact alone
(if it is allowed as authentic) sufficiently warrants the
antiquity of those writings which M d'Anquetil has brought into
Europe, and translated into French.

Note: Zend signifies life, living. The word means, either
the collection of the canonical books of the followers of
Zoroaster, or the language itself in which they are written.
They are the books that contain the word of life whether the
language was originally called Zend, or whether it was so called
from the contents of the books. Avesta means word, oracle,
revelation: this term is not the title of a particular work, but
of the collection of the books of Zoroaster, as the revelation of
Ormuzd. This collection is sometimes called Zendavesta,
sometimes briefly Zend.

The Zend was the ancient language of Media, as is proved by
its affinity with the dialects of Armenia and Georgia; it was
already a dead language under the Arsacides in the country which
was the scene of the events recorded in the Zendavesta. Some
critics, among others Richardson and Sir W. Jones, have called in
question the antiquity of these books. The former pretended that
Zend had never been a written or spoken language, but had been
invented in the later times by the Magi, for the purposes of
their art; but Kleuker, in the dissertations which he added to
those of Anquetil and the Abbe Foucher, has proved that the Zend
was a living and spoken language. - G. Sir W. Jones appears to
have abandoned his doubts, on discovering the affinity between
the Zend and the Sanskrit. Since the time of Kleuker, this
question has been investigated by many learned scholars. Sir W.
Jones, Leyden, (Asiat. Research. x. 283,) and Mr. Erskine,
(Bombay Trans. ii. 299,) consider it a derivative from the
Sanskrit. The antiquity of the Zendavesta has likewise been
asserted by Rask, the great Danish linguist, who, according to
Malcolm, brought back from the East fresh transcripts and
additions to those published by Anquetil. According to Rask, the
Zend and Sanskrit are sister dialects; the one the parent of the
Persian, the other of the Indian family of languages. - G. and M.

But the subject is more satisfactorily illustrated in Bopp's
comparative Grammar of the Sanscrit, Zend, Greek, Latin,
Lithuanian, Gothic, and German languages. Berlin. 1833-5.
According to Bopp, the Zend is, in some respects, of a more
remarkable structure than the Sanskrit. Parts of the Zendavesta
have been published in the original, by M. Bournouf, at Paris,
and M. Ol. shausen, in Hamburg. - M.

The Pehlvi was the language of the countries bordering on
Assyria, and probably of Assyria itself. Pehlvi signifies valor,
heroism; the Pehlvi, therefore, was the language of the ancient
heroes and kings of Persia, the valiant. (Mr. Erskine prefers
the derivation from Pehla, a border. - M.) It contains a number
of Aramaic roots. Anquetil considered it formed from the Zend.
Kleuker does not adopt this opinion. The Pehlvi, he says, is

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