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industry, and the populace, who were supported by the public
liberality, filled the churches of the Lateran, and Vatican, with an
incessant throng of devout proselytes. The decrees of the senate,
which proscribed the worship of idols, were ratified by the general
consent of the Romans; the splendor of the Capitol was defaced, and
the solitary temples were abandoned to ruin and contempt. Rome
submitted to the yoke of the Gospel; and the vanquished provinces had
not yet lost their reverence for the name and authority of Rome. *

Chapter XXVIII: Destruction Of Paganism. -- Part II.

The filial piety of the emperors themselves engaged them to proceed,
with some caution and tenderness, in the reformation of the eternal
city. Those absolute monarchs acted with less regard to the prejudices
of the provincials. The pious labor which had been suspended near
twenty years since the death of Constantius, was vigorously resumed,
and finally accomplished, by the zeal of Theodosius. Whilst that
warlike prince yet struggled with the Goths, not for the glory, but
for the safety, of the republic, he ventured to offend a considerable
party of his subjects, by some acts which might perhaps secure the
protection of Heaven, but which must seem rash and unseasonable in the
eye of human prudence. The success of his first experiments against
the Pagans encouraged the pious emperor to reiterate and enforce his
edicts of proscription: the same laws which had been originally
published in the provinces of the East, were applied, after the defeat
of Maximus, to the whole extent of the Western empire; and every
victory of the orthodox Theodosius contributed to the triumph of the
Christian and Catholic faith. He attacked superstition in her most
vital part, by prohibiting the use of sacrifices, which he declared to
be criminal as well as infamous; and if the terms of his edicts more
strictly condemned the impious curiosity which examined the entrails
of the victim, every subsequent explanation tended to involve in the
same guilt the general practice of immolation
, which essentially constituted the religion of the Pagans. As the
temples had been erected for the purpose of sacrifice, it was the duty
of a benevolent prince to remove from his subjects the dangerous
temptation of offending against the laws which he had enacted. A
special commission was granted to Cynegius, the Prætorian præfect of
the East, and afterwards to the counts Jovius and Gaudentius, two
officers of distinguished rank in the West; by which they were
directed to shut the temples, to seize or destroy the instruments of
idolatry, to abolish the privileges of the priests, and to confiscate
the consecrated property for the benefit of the emperor, of the
church, or of the army. Here the desolation might have stopped: and
the naked edifices, which were no longer employed in the service of
idolatry, might have been protected from the destructive rage of
fanaticism. Many of those temples were the most splendid and beautiful
monuments of Grecian architecture; and the emperor himself was
interested not to deface the splendor of his own cities, or to
diminish the value of his own possessions. Those stately edifices
might be suffered to remain, as so many lasting trophies of the
victory of Christ. In the decline of the arts they might be usefully
converted into magazines, manufactures, or places of public assembly:
and perhaps, when the walls of the temple had been sufficiently
purified by holy rites, the worship of the true Deity might be allowed
to expiate the ancient guilt of idolatry. But as long as they
subsisted, the Pagans fondly cherished the secret hope, that an
auspicious revolution, a second Julian, might again restore the altars
of the gods: and the earnestness with which they addressed their
unavailing prayers to the throne, increased the zeal of the Christian
reformers to extirpate, without mercy, the root of superstition. The
laws of the emperors exhibit some symptoms of a milder disposition:
but their cold and languid efforts were insufficient to stem the
torrent of enthusiasm and rapine, which was conducted, or rather
impelled, by the spiritual rulers of the church. In Gaul, the holy
Martin, bishop of Tours, marched at the head of his faithful monks to
destroy the idols, the temples, and the consecrated trees of his
extensive diocese; and, in the execution of this arduous task, the
prudent reader will judge whether Martin was supported by the aid of
miraculous powers, or of carnal weapons. In Syria, the divine and
excellent Marcellus, as he is styled by Theodoret, a bishop animated
with apostolic fervor, resolved to level with the ground the stately
temples within the diocese of Apamea. His attack was resisted by the
skill and solidity with which the temple of Jupiter had been
constructed. The building was seated on an eminence: on each of the
four sides, the lofty roof was supported by fifteen massy columns,
sixteen feet in circumference; and the large stone, of which they were
composed, were firmly cemented with lead and iron. The force of the
strongest and sharpest tools had been tried without effect. It was
found necessary to undermine the foundations of the columns, which
fell down as soon as the temporary wooden props had been consumed with
fire; and the difficulties of the enterprise are described under the
allegory of a black dæmon, who retarded, though he could not defeat,
the operations of the Christian engineers. Elated with victory,
Marcellus took the field in person against the powers of darkness; a
numerous troop of soldiers and gladiators marched under the episcopal
banner, and he successively attacked the villages and country temples
of the diocese of Apamea. Whenever any resistance or danger was
apprehended, the champion of the faith, whose lameness would not allow
him either to fight or fly, placed himself at a convenient distance,
beyond the reach of darts. But this prudence was the occasion of his
death: he was surprised and slain by a body of exasperated rustics;
and the synod of the province pronounced, without hesitation, that the
holy Marcellus had sacrificed his life in the cause of God. In the
support of this cause, the monks, who rushed with tumultuous fury from
the desert, distinguished themselves by their zeal and diligence. They
deserved the enmity of the Pagans; and some of them might deserve the
reproaches of avarice and intemperance; of avarice, which they
gratified with holy plunder, and of intemperance, which they indulged
at the expense of the people, who foolishly admired their tattered
garments, loud psalmody, and artificial paleness. A small number of
temples was protected by the fears, the venality, the taste, or the
prudence, of the civil and ecclesiastical governors. The temple of the
Celestial Venus at Carthage, whose sacred precincts formed a
circumference of two miles, was judiciously converted into a Christian
church; and a similar consecration has preserved inviolate the
majestic dome of the Pantheon at Rome. But in almost every province of
the Roman world, an army of fanatics, without authority, and without
discipline, invaded the peaceful inhabitants; and the ruin of the
fairest structures of antiquity still displays the ravages of those
Barbarians, who alone had time and inclination to execute such
laborious destruction.

In this wide and various prospect of devastation, the spectator may
distinguish the ruins of the temple of Serapis, at Alexandria. Serapis
does not appear to have been one of the native gods, or monsters, who
sprung from the fruitful soil of superstitious Egypt. The first of the
Ptolemies had been commanded, by a dream, to import the mysterious
stranger from the coast of Pontus, where he had been long adored by
the inhabitants of Sinope; but his attributes and his reign were so
imperfectly understood, that it became a subject of dispute, whether
he represented the bright orb of day, or the gloomy monarch of the
subterraneous regions. The Egyptians, who were obstinately devoted to
the religion of their fathers, refused to admit this foreign deity
within the walls of their cities. But the obsequious priests, who were
seduced by the liberality of the Ptolemies, submitted, without
resistance, to the power of the god of Pontus: an honorable and
domestic genealogy was provided; and this fortunate usurper was
introduced into the throne and bed of Osiris, the husband of Isis, and
the celestial monarch of Egypt. Alexandria, which claimed his peculiar
protection, gloried in the name of the city of Serapis. His temple,
which rivalled the pride and magnificence of the Capitol, was erected
on the spacious summit of an artificial mount, raised one hundred
steps above the level of the adjacent parts of the city; and the
interior cavity was strongly supported by arches, and distributed into
vaults and subterraneous apartments. The consecrated buildings were
surrounded by a quadrangular portico; the stately halls, and exquisite
statues, displayed the triumph of the arts; and the treasures of
ancient learning were preserved in the famous Alexandrian library,
which had arisen with new splendor from its ashes. After the edicts of
Theodosius had severely prohibited the sacrifices of the Pagans, they
were still tolerated in the city and temple of Serapis; and this
singular indulgence was imprudently ascribed to the superstitious
terrors of the Christians themselves; as if they had feared to abolish
those ancient rites, which could alone secure the inundations of the
Nile, the harvests of Egypt, and the subsistence of Constantinople.

At that time the archiepiscopal throne of Alexandria was filled by
Theophilus, the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue; a bold, bad man,
whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and with blood. His
pious indignation was excited by the honors of Serapis; and the
insults which he offered to an ancient temple of Bacchus, * convinced
the Pagans that he meditated a more important and dangerous
enterprise. In the tumultuous capital of Egypt, the slightest
provocation was sufficient to inflame a civil war. The votaries of
Serapis, whose strength and numbers were much inferior to those of
their antagonists, rose in arms at the instigation of the philosopher
Olympius, who exhorted them to die in the defence of the altars of the
gods. These Pagan fanatics fortified themselves in the temple, or
rather fortress, of Serapis; repelled the besiegers by daring sallies,
and a resolute defence; and, by the inhuman cruelties which they
exercised on their Christian prisoners, obtained the last consolation
of despair. The efforts of the prudent magistrate were usefully
exerted for the establishment of a truce, till the answer of
Theodosius should determine the fate of Serapis. The two parties
assembled, without arms, in the principal square; and the Imperial
rescript was publicly read. But when a sentence of destruction against
the idols of Alexandria was pronounced, the Christians set up a shout
of joy and exultation, whilst the unfortunate Pagans, whose fury had
given way to consternation, retired with hasty and silent steps, and
eluded, by their flight or obscurity, the resentment of their enemies.
Theophilus proceeded to demolish the temple of Serapis, without any
other difficulties, than those which he found in the weight and
solidity of the materials: but these obstacles proved so insuperable,
that he was obliged to leave the foundations; and to content himself
with reducing the edifice itself to a heap of rubbish, a part of which
was soon afterwards cleared away, to make room for a church, erected
in honor of the Christian martyrs. The valuable library of Alexandria
was pillaged or destroyed; and near twenty years afterwards, the
appearance of the empty shelves excited the regret and indignation of
every spectator, whose mind was not totally darkened by religious
prejudice. The compositions of ancient genius, so many of which have
irretrievably perished, might surely have been excepted from the wreck
of idolatry, for the amusement and instruction of succeeding ages; and
either the zeal or the avarice of the archbishop, might have been
satiated with the rich spoils, which were the reward of his victory.
While the images and vases of gold and silver were carefully melted,
and those of a less valuable metal were contemptuously broken, and
cast into the streets, Theophilus labored to expose the frauds and
vices of the ministers of the idols; their dexterity in the management
of the loadstone; their secret methods of introducing a human actor
into a hollow statue; * and their scandalous abuse of the confidence
of devout husbands and unsuspecting females. Charges like these may
seem to deserve some degree of credit, as they are not repugnant to
the crafty and interested spirit of superstition. But the same spirit
is equally prone to the base practice of insulting and calumniating a
fallen enemy; and our belief is naturally checked by the reflection,
that it is much less difficult to invent a fictitious story, than to
support a practical fraud. The colossal statue of Serapis was involved
in the ruin of his temple and religion. A great number of plates of
different metals, artificially joined together, composed the majestic
figure of the deity, who touched on either side the walls of the
sanctuary. The aspect of Serapis, his sitting posture, and the
sceptre, which he bore in his left hand, were extremely similar to the
ordinary representations of Jupiter. He was distinguished from Jupiter
by the basket, or bushel, which was placed on his head; and by the
emblematic monster which he held in his right hand; the head and body
of a serpent branching into three tails, which were again terminated
by the triple heads of a dog, a lion, and a wolf. It was confidently
affirmed, that if any impious hand should dare to violate the majesty
of the god, the heavens and the earth would instantly return to their
original chaos. An intrepid soldier, animated by zeal, and armed with
a weighty battle-axe, ascended the ladder; and even the Christian
multitude expected, with some anxiety, the event of the combat. He
aimed a vigorous stroke against the cheek of Serapis; the cheek fell
to the ground; the thunder was still silent, and both the heavens and
the earth continued to preserve their accustomed order and
tranquillity. The victorious soldier repeated his blows: the huge idol
was overthrown, and broken in pieces; and the limbs of Serapis were
ignominiously dragged through the streets of Alexandria. His mangled
carcass was burnt in the Amphitheatre, amidst the shouts of the
populace; and many persons attributed their conversion to this
discovery of the impotence of their tutelar deity. The popular modes
of religion, that propose any visible and material objects of worship,
have the advantage of adapting and familiarizing themselves to the
senses of mankind: but this advantage is counterbalanced by the
various and inevitable accidents to which the faith of the idolater is
exposed. It is scarcely possible, that, in every disposition of mind,
he should preserve his implicit reverence for the idols, or the
relics, which the naked eye, and the profane hand, are unable to
distinguish from the most common productions of art or nature; and if,
in the hour of danger, their secret and miraculous virtue does not
operate for their own preservation, he scorns the vain apologies of
his priests, and justly derides the object, and the folly, of his
superstitious attachment. After the fall of Serapis, some hopes were
still entertained by the Pagans, that the Nile would refuse his annual
supply to the impious masters of Egypt; and the extraordinary delay of
the inundation seemed to announce the displeasure of the river-god.
But this delay was soon compensated by the rapid swell of the waters.
They suddenly rose to such an unusual height, as to comfort the
discontented party with the pleasing expectation of a deluge; till the
peaceful river again subsided to the well-known and fertilizing level
of sixteen cubits, or about thirty English feet.

The temples of the Roman empire were deserted, or destroyed; but the
ingenious superstition of the Pagans still attempted to elude the laws
of Theodosius, by which all sacrifices had been severely prohibited.
The inhabitants of the country, whose conduct was less opposed to the
eye of malicious curiosity, disguised their religious
, under the appearance of convivial, meetings. On the days of solemn
festivals, they assembled in great numbers under the spreading shade
of some consecrated trees; sheep and oxen were slaughtered and
roasted; and this rural entertainment was sanctified by the use of
incense, and by the hymns which were sung in honor of the gods. But it
was alleged, that, as no part of the animal was made a burnt-offering,
as no altar was provided to receive the blood, and as the previous
oblation of salt cakes, and the concluding ceremony of libations, were
carefully omitted, these festal meetings did not involve the guests in
the guilt, or penalty, of an illegal sacrifice. Whatever might be the
truth of the facts, or the merit of the distinction, these vain
pretences were swept away by the last edict of Theodosius, which
inflicted a deadly wound on the superstition of the Pagans. * This
prohibitory law is expressed in the most absolute and comprehensive
terms. "It is our will and pleasure," says the emperor, "that none of
our subjects, whether magistrates or private citizens, however exalted
or however humble may be their rank and condition, shall presume, in
any city or in any place, to worship an inanimate idol, by the
sacrifice of a guiltless victim." The act of sacrificing, and the
practice of divination by the entrails of the victim, are declared
(without any regard to the object of the inquiry) a crime of high
treason against the state, which can be expiated only by the death of
the guilty. The rites of Pagan superstition, which might seem less
bloody and atrocious, are abolished, as highly injurious to the truth
and honor of religion; luminaries, garlands, frankincense, and
libations of wine, are specially enumerated and condemned; and the
harmless claims of the domestic genius, of the household gods, are
included in this rigorous proscription. The use of any of these
profane and illegal ceremonies, subjects the offender to the
forfeiture of the house or estate, where they have been performed; and
if he has artfully chosen the property of another for the scene of his
impiety, he is compelled to discharge, without delay, a heavy fine of
twenty-five pounds of gold, or more than one thousand pounds sterling.
A fine, not less considerable, is imposed on the connivance of the
secret enemies of religion, who shall neglect the duty of their
respective stations, either to reveal, or to punish, the guilt of
idolatry. Such was the persecuting spirit of the laws of Theodosius,
which were repeatedly enforced by his sons and grandsons, with the
loud and unanimous applause of the Christian world.

Chapter XXVIII: Destruction Of Paganism. -- Part III.

In the cruel reigns of Decius and Dioclesian, Christianity had been
proscribed, as a revolt from the ancient and hereditary religion of
the empire; and the unjust suspicions which were entertained of a dark
and dangerous faction, were, in some measure, countenanced by the
inseparable union and rapid conquests of the Catholic church. But the
same excuses of fear and ignorance cannot be applied to the Christian
emperors who violated the precepts of humanity and of the Gospel. The
experience of ages had betrayed the weakness, as well as folly, of
Paganism; the light of reason and of faith had already exposed, to the
greatest part of mankind, the vanity of idols; and the declining sect,
which still adhered to their worship, might have been permitted to
enjoy, in peace and obscurity, the religious costumes of their
ancestors. Had the Pagans been animated by the undaunted zeal which
possessed the minds of the primitive believers, the triumph of the
Church must have been stained with blood; and the martyrs of Jupiter
and Apollo might have embraced the glorious opportunity of devoting
their lives and fortunes at the foot of their altars. But such
obstinate zeal was not congenial to the loose and careless temper of
Polytheism. The violent and repeated strokes of the orthodox princes
were broken by the soft and yielding substance against which they were
directed; and the ready obedience of the Pagans protected them from
the pains and penalties of the Theodosian Code. Instead of asserting,
that the authority of the gods was superior to that of the emperor,
they desisted, with a plaintive murmur, from the use of those sacred
rites which their sovereign had condemned. If they were sometimes
tempted by a sally of passion, or by the hopes of concealment, to
indulge their favorite superstition, their humble repentance disarmed
the severity of the Christian magistrate, and they seldom refused to
atone for their rashness, by submitting, with some secret reluctance,
to the yoke of the Gospel. The churches were filled with the
increasing multitude of these unworthy proselytes, who had conformed,
from temporal motives, to the reigning religion; and whilst they
devoutly imitated the postures, and recited the prayers, of the
faithful, they satisfied their conscience by the silent and sincere
invocation of the gods of antiquity. If the Pagans wanted patience to
suffer they wanted spirit to resist; and the scattered myriads, who
deplored the ruin of the temples, yielded, without a contest, to the
fortune of their adversaries. The disorderly opposition of the
peasants of Syria, and the populace of Alexandria, to the rage of
private fanaticism, was silenced by the name and authority of the
emperor. The Pagans of the West, without contributing to the elevation
of Eugenius, disgraced, by their partial attachment, the cause and
character of the usurper. The clergy vehemently exclaimed, that he
aggravated the crime of rebellion by the guilt of apostasy; that, by
his permission, the altar of victory was again restored; and that the
idolatrous symbols of Jupiter and Hercules were displayed in the
field, against the invincible standard of the cross. But the vain
hopes of the Pagans were soon annihilated by the defeat of Eugenius;
and they were left exposed to the resentment of the conqueror, who
labored to deserve the favor of Heaven by the extirpation of idolatry.

A nation of slaves is always prepared to applaud the clemency of their
master, who, in the abuse of absolute power, does not proceed to the
last extremes of injustice and oppression. Theodosius might
undoubtedly have proposed to his Pagan subjects the alternative of
baptism or of death; and the eloquent Libanius has praised the
moderation of a prince, who never enacted, by any positive law, that
all his subjects should immediately embrace and practise the religion
of their sovereign. The profession of Christianity was not made an
essential qualification for the enjoyment of the civil rights of
society, nor were any peculiar hardships imposed on the sectaries, who
credulously received the fables of Ovid, and obstinately rejected the
miracles of the Gospel. The palace, the schools, the army, and the
senate, were filled with declared and devout Pagans; they obtained,
without distinction, the civil and military honors of the empire. *
Theodosius distinguished his liberal regard for virtue and genius by
the consular dignity, which he bestowed on Symmachus; and by the
personal friendship which he expressed to Libanius; and the two
eloquent apologists of Paganism were never required either to change
or to dissemble their religious opinions. The Pagans were indulged in
the most licentious freedom of speech and writing; the historical and
philosophic remains of Eunapius, Zosimus, and the fanatic teachers of
the school of Plato, betray the most furious animosity, and contain
the sharpest invectives, against the sentiments and conduct of their
victorious adversaries. If these audacious libels were publicly known,
we must applaud the good sense of the Christian princes, who viewed,
with a smile of contempt, the last struggles of superstition and
despair. But the Imperial laws, which prohibited the sacrifices and
ceremonies of Paganism, were rigidly executed; and every hour
contributed to destroy the influence of a religion, which was
supported by custom, rather than by argument. The devotion or the
poet, or the philosopher, may be secretly nourished by prayer,
meditation, and study; but the exercise of public worship appears to
be the only solid foundation of the religious sentiments of the
people, which derive their force from imitation and habit. The
interruption of that public exercise may consummate, in the period of
a few years, the important work of a national revolution. The memory
of theological opinions cannot long be preserved, without the
artificial helps of priests, of temples, and of books. The ignorant
vulgar, whose minds are still agitated by the blind hopes and terrors
of superstition, will be soon persuaded by their superiors to direct
their vows to the reigning deities of the age; and will insensibly
imbibe an ardent zeal for the support and propagation of the new
doctrine, which spiritual hunger at first compelled them to accept.
The generation that arose in the world after the promulgation of the
Imperial laws, was attracted within the pale of the Catholic church:
and so rapid, yet so gentle, was the fall of Paganism, that only
twenty-eight years after the death of Theodosius, the faint and minute
vestiges were no longer visible to the eye of the legislator.

The ruin of the Pagan religion is described by the sophists as a
dreadful and amazing prodigy, which covered the earth with darkness,
and restored the ancient dominion of chaos and of night. They relate,
in solemn and pathetic strains, that the temples were converted into
sepulchres, and that the holy places, which had been adorned by the
statues of the gods, were basely polluted by the relics of Christian
martyrs. "The monks" (a race of filthy animals, to whom Eunapius is
tempted to refuse the name of men) "are the authors of the new
worship, which, in the place of those deities who are conceived by the
understanding, has substituted the meanest and most contemptible
slaves. The heads, salted and pickled, of those infamous malefactors,
who for the multitude of their crimes have suffered a just and
ignominious death; their bodies still marked by the impression of the
lash, and the scars of those tortures which were inflicted by the
sentence of the magistrate; such" (continues Eunapius) 'are the gods
which the earth produces in our days; such are the martyrs, the
supreme arbitrators of our prayers and petitions to the Deity, whose
tombs are now consecrated as the objects of the veneration of the
people." Without approving the malice, it is natural enough to share
the surprise of the sophist, the spectator of a revolution, which
raised those obscure victims of the laws of Rome to the rank of
celestial and invisible protectors of the Roman empire. The grateful
respect of the Christians for the martyrs of the faith, was exalted,
by time and victory, into religious adoration; and the most
illustrious of the saints and prophets were deservedly associated to
the honors of the martyrs. One hundred and fifty years after the
glorious deaths of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Vatican and the Ostian
road were distinguished by the tombs, or rather by the trophies, of
those spiritual heroes. In the age which followed the conversion of
Constantine, the emperors, the consuls, and the generals of armies,
devoutly visited the sepulchres of a tentmaker and a fisherman; and
their venerable bones were deposited under the altars of Christ, on
which the bishops of the royal city continually offered the unbloody
sacrifice. The new capital of the Eastern world, unable to produce any
ancient and domestic trophies, was enriched by the spoils of dependent
provinces. The bodies of St. Andrew, St. Luke, and St. Timothy, had
reposed near three hundred years in the obscure graves, from whence
they were transported, in solemn pomp, to the church of the apostles,
which the magnificence of Constantine had founded on the banks of the
Thracian Bosphorus. About fifty years afterwards, the same banks were
honored by the presence of Samuel, the judge and prophet of the people
of Israel. His ashes, deposited in a golden vase, and covered with a
silken veil, were delivered by the bishops into each other's hands.
The relics of Samuel were received by the people with the same joy and
reverence which they would have shown to the living prophet; the
highways, from Palestine to the gates of Constantinople, were filled
with an uninterrupted procession; and the emperor Arcadius himself, at
the head of the most illustrious members of the clergy and senate,
advanced to meet his extraordinary guest, who had always deserved and
claimed the homage of kings. The example of Rome and Constantinople
confirmed the faith and discipline of the Catholic world. The honors
of the saints and martyrs, after a feeble and ineffectual murmur of
profane reason, were universally established; and in the age of
Ambrose and Jerom, something was still deemed wanting to the sanctity
of a Christian church, till it had been consecrated by some portion of
holy relics, which fixed and inflamed the devotion of the faithful.

In the long period of twelve hundred years, which elapsed between the
reign of Constantine and the reformation of Luther, the worship of
saints and relics corrupted the pure and perfect simplicity of the
Christian model: and some symptoms of degeneracy may be observed even
in the first generations which adopted and cherished this pernicious

I. The satisfactory experience, that the relics of saints were more
valuable than gold or precious stones, stimulated the clergy to
multiply the treasures of the church. Without much regard for truth or
probability, they invented names for skeletons, and actions for names.
The fame of the apostles, and of the holy men who had imitated their
virtues, was darkened by religious fiction. To the invincible band of
genuine and primitive martyrs, they added myriads of imaginary heroes,
who had never existed, except in the fancy of crafty or credulous
legendaries; and there is reason to suspect, that Tours might not be
the only diocese in which the bones of a malefactor were adored,
instead of those of a saint. A superstitious practice, which tended to
increase the temptations of fraud, and credulity, insensibly
extinguished the light of history, and of reason, in the Christian

II. But the progress of superstition would have been much less rapid
and victorious, if the faith of the people had not been assisted by
the seasonable aid of visions and miracles, to ascertain the
authenticity and virtue of the most suspicious relics. In the reign of
the younger Theodosius, Lucian, a presbyter of Jerusalem, and the
ecclesiastical minister of the village of Caphargamala, about twenty
miles from the city, related a very singular dream, which, to remove
his doubts, had been repeated on three successive Saturdays. A
venerable figure stood before him, in the silence of the night, with a
long beard, a white robe, and a gold rod; announced himself by the
name of Gamaliel, and revealed to the astonished presbyter, that his
own corpse, with the bodies of his son Abibas, his friend Nicodemus,
and the illustrious Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith,
were secretly buried in the adjacent field. He added, with some
impatience, that it was time to release himself and his companions
from their obscure prison; that their appearance would be salutary to
a distressed world; and that they had made choice of Lucian to inform
the bishop of Jerusalem of their situation and their wishes. The
doubts and difficulties which still retarded this important discovery
were successively removed by new visions; and the ground was opened by
the bishop, in the presence of an innumerable multitude. The coffins
of Gamaliel, of his son, and of his friend, were found in regular
order; but when the fourth coffin, which contained the remains of
Stephen, was shown to the light, the earth trembled, and an odor, such
as that of paradise, was smelt, which instantly cured the various
diseases of seventy-three of the assistants. The companions of Stephen
were left in their peaceful residence of Caphargamala: but the relics
of the first martyr were transported, in solemn procession, to a
church constructed in their honor on Mount Sion; and the minute
particles of those relics, a drop of blood, or the scrapings of a
bone, were acknowledged, in almost every province of the Roman world,
to possess a divine and miraculous virtue. The grave and learned
Augustin, whose understanding scarcely admits the excuse of credulity,
has attested the innumerable prodigies which were performed in Africa
by the relics of St. Stephen; and this marvellous narrative is
inserted in the elaborate work of the City of God, which the bishop of
Hippo designed as a solid and immortal proof of the truth of
Christianity. Augustin solemnly declares, that he has selected those
miracles only which were publicly certified by the persons who were
either the objects, or the spectators, of the power of the martyr.
Many prodigies were omitted, or forgotten; and Hippo had been less
favorably treated than the other cities of the province. And yet the
bishop enumerates above seventy miracles, of which three were
resurrections from the dead, in the space of two years, and within the
limits of his own diocese. If we enlarge our view to all the dioceses,
and all the saints, of the Christian world, it will not be easy to
calculate the fables, and the errors, which issued from this
inexhaustible source. But we may surely be allowed to observe, that a
miracle, in that age of superstition and credulity, lost its name and
its merit, since it could scarcely be considered as a deviation from
the ordinary and established laws of nature.

III. The innumerable miracles, of which the tombs of the martyrs were
the perpetual theatre, revealed to the pious believer the actual state
and constitution of the invisible world; and his religious
speculations appeared to be founded on the firm basis of fact and
experience. Whatever might be the condition of vulgar souls, in the
long interval between the dissolution and the resurrection of their
bodies, it was evident that the superior spirits of the saints and
martyrs did not consume that portion of their existence in silent and
inglorious sleep. It was evident (without presuming to determine the
place of their habitation, or the nature of their felicity) that they
enjoyed the lively and active consciousness of their happiness, their
virtue, and their powers; and that they had already secured the
possession of their eternal reward. The enlargement of their
intellectual faculties surpassed the measure of the human imagination;
since it was proved by experience, that they were capable of hearing
and understanding the various petitions of their numerous votaries;
who, in the same moment of time, but in the most distant parts of the
world, invoked the name and assistance of Stephen or of Martin. The
confidence of their petitioners was founded on the persuasion, that
the saints, who reigned with Christ, cast an eye of pity upon earth;
that they were warmly interested in the prosperity of the Catholic
Church; and that the individuals, who imitated the example of their
faith and piety, were the peculiar and favorite objects of their most
tender regard. Sometimes, indeed, their friendship might be influenced
by considerations of a less exalted kind: they viewed with partial
affection the places which had been consecrated by their birth, their
residence, their death, their burial, or the possession of their
relics. The meaner passions of pride, avarice, and revenge, may be
deemed unworthy of a celestial breast; yet the saints themselves
condescended to testify their grateful approbation of the liberality
of their votaries; and the sharpest bolts of punishment were hurled
against those impious wretches, who violated their magnificent
shrines, or disbelieved their supernatural power. Atrocious, indeed,
must have been the guilt, and strange would have been the scepticism,
of those men, if they had obstinately resisted the proofs of a divine
agency, which the elements, the whole range of the animal creation,
and even the subtle and invisible operations of the human mind, were
compelled to obey. The immediate, and almost instantaneous, effects
that were supposed to follow the prayer, or the offence, satisfied the
Christians of the ample measure of favor and authority which the
saints enjoyed in the presence of the Supreme God; and it seemed
almost superfluous to inquire whether they were continually obliged to
intercede before the throne of grace; or whether they might not be
permitted to exercise, according to the dictates of their benevolence
and justice, the delegated powers of their subordinate ministry. The
imagination, which had been raised by a painful effort to the
contemplation and worship of the Universal Cause, eagerly embraced
such inferior objects of adoration as were more proportioned to its
gross conceptions and imperfect faculties. The sublime and simple
theology of the primitive Christians was gradually corrupted; and the
Monarchy of heaven, already clouded by metaphysical subtleties, was
degraded by the introduction of a popular mythology, which tended to
restore the reign of polytheism.

IV. As the objects of religion were gradually reduced to the standard
of the imagination, the rites and ceremonies were introduced that
seemed most powerfully to affect the senses of the vulgar. If, in the
beginning of the fifth century, Tertullian, or Lactantius, had been
suddenly raised from the dead, to assist at the festival of some
popular saint, or martyr, they would have gazed with astonishment, and
indignation, on the profane spectacle, which had succeeded to the pure
and spiritual worship of a Christian congregation. As soon as the
doors of the church were thrown open, they must have been offended by
the smoke of incense, the perfume of flowers, and the glare of lamps
and tapers, which diffused, at noonday, a gaudy, superfluous, and, in
their opinion, a sacrilegious light. If they approached the balustrade
of the altar, they made their way through the prostrate crowd,
consisting, for the most part, of strangers and pilgrims, who resorted
to the city on the vigil of the feast; and who already felt the strong
intoxication of fanaticism, and, perhaps, of wine. Their devout kisses
were imprinted on the walls and pavement of the sacred edifice; and
their fervent prayers were directed, whatever might be the language of
their church, to the bones, the blood, or the ashes of the saint,
which were usually concealed, by a linen or silken veil, from the eyes
of the vulgar. The Christians frequented the tombs of the martyrs, in
the hope of obtaining, from their powerful intercession, every sort of
spiritual, but more especially of temporal, blessings. They implored
the preservation of their health, or the cure of their infirmities;
the fruitfulness of their barren wives, or the safety and happiness of
their children. Whenever they undertook any distant or dangerous
journey, they requested, that the holy martyrs would be their guides
and protectors on the road; and if they returned without having
experienced any misfortune, they again hastened to the tombs of the
martyrs, to celebrate, with grateful thanksgivings, their obligations
to the memory and relics of those heavenly patrons. The walls were
hung round with symbols of the favors which they had received; eyes,
and hands, and feet, of gold and silver: and edifying pictures, which
could not long escape the abuse of indiscreet or idolatrous devotion,
represented the image, the attributes, and the miracles of the tutelar
saint. The same uniform original spirit of superstition might suggest,
in the most distant ages and countries, the same methods of deceiving
the credulity, and of affecting the senses of mankind: but it must
ingenuously be confessed, that the ministers of the Catholic church
imitated the profane model, which they were impatient to destroy. The
most respectable bishops had persuaded themselves that the ignorant
rustics would more cheerfully renounce the superstitions of Paganism,
if they found some resemblance, some compensation, in the bosom of
Christianity. The religion of Constantine achieved, in less than a
century, the final conquest of the Roman empire: but the victors
themselves were insensibly subdued by the arts of their vanquished
rivals. *

Chapter XXIX: Division Of Roman Empire Between Sons Of Theodosius.

Part I.

Final Division Of The Roman Empire Between The Sons Of Theodosius. --
Reign Of Arcadius And Honorius -- Administration Of Rufinus And
Stilicho. -- Revolt And Defeat Of Gildo In Africa.

The genius of Rome expired with Theodosius; the last of the successors
of Augustus and Constantine, who appeared in the field at the head of
their armies, and whose authority was universally acknowledged
throughout the whole extent of the empire. The memory of his virtues
still continued, however, to protect the feeble and inexperienced
youth of his two sons. After the death of their father, Arcadius and
Honorius were saluted, by the unanimous consent of mankind, as the
lawful emperors of the East, and of the West; and the oath of fidelity
was eagerly taken by every order of the state; the senates of old and
new Rome, the clergy, the magistrates, the soldiers, and the people.
Arcadius, who was then about eighteen years of age, was born in Spain,
in the humble habitation of a private family. But he received a
princely education in the palace of Constantinople; and his inglorious
life was spent in that peaceful and splendid seat of royalty, from
whence he appeared to reign over the provinces of Thrace, Asia Minor,
Syria, and Egypt, from the Lower Danube to the confines of Persia and
Æthiopia. His younger brother Honorius, assumed, in the eleventh year
of his age, the nominal government of Italy, Africa, Gaul, Spain, and
Britain; and the troops, which guarded the frontiers of his kingdom,
were opposed, on one side, to the Caledonians, and on the other, to
the Moors. The great and martial præfecture of Illyricum was divided
between the two princes: the defence and possession of the provinces
of Noricum, Pannonia, and Dalmatia still belonged to the Western
empire; but the two large dioceses of Dacia and Macedonia, which
Gratian had intrusted to the valor of Theodosius, were forever united
to the empire of the East. The boundary in Europe was not very
different from the line which now separates the Germans and the Turks;
and the respective advantages of territory, riches, populousness, and
military strength, were fairly balanced and compensated, in this final
and permanent division of the Roman empire. The hereditary sceptre of
the sons of Theodosius appeared to be the gift of nature, and of their
father; the generals and ministers had been accustomed to adore the
majesty of the royal infants; and the army and people were not
admonished of their rights, and of their power, by the dangerous
example of a recent election. The gradual discovery of the weakness of
Arcadius and Honorius, and the repeated calamities of their reign,
were not sufficient to obliterate the deep and early impressions of
loyalty. The subjects of Rome, who still reverenced the persons, or
rather the names, of their sovereigns, beheld, with equal abhorrence,
the rebels who opposed, and the ministers who abused, the authority of
the throne.

Theodosius had tarnished the glory of his reign by the elevation of
Rufinus; an odious favorite, who, in an age of civil and religious
faction, has deserved, from every party, the imputation of every
crime. The strong impulse of ambition and avarice had urged Rufinus to
abandon his native country, an obscure corner of Gaul, to advance his
fortune in the capital of the East: the talent of bold and ready
elocution, qualified him to succeed in the lucrative profession of the
law; and his success in that profession was a regular step to the most
honorable and important employments of the state. He was raised, by
just degrees, to the station of master of the offices. In the exercise
of his various functions, so essentially connected with the whole
system of civil government, he acquired the confidence of a monarch,
who soon discovered his diligence and capacity in business, and who
long remained ignorant of the pride, the malice, and the covetousness
of his disposition. These vices were concealed beneath the mask of
profound dissimulation; his passions were subservient only to the
passions of his master; yet in the horrid massacre of Thessalonica,
the cruel Rufinus inflamed the fury, without imitating the repentance,
of Theodosius. The minister, who viewed with proud indifference the
rest of mankind, never forgave the appearance of an injury; and his
personal enemies had forfeited, in his opinion, the merit of all
public services. Promotus, the master-general of the infantry, had
saved the empire from the invasion of the Ostrogoths; but he
indignantly supported the preeminence of a rival, whose character and
profession he despised; and in the midst of a public council, the
impatient soldier was provoked to chastise with a blow the indecent
pride of the favorite. This act of violence was represented to the
emperor as an insult, which it was incumbent on his dignity to resent.
The disgrace and exile of Promotus were signified by a peremptory
order, to repair, without delay, to a military station on the banks of
the Danube; and the death of that general (though he was slain in a
skirmish with the Barbarians) was imputed to the perfidious arts of
Rufinus. The sacrifice of a hero gratified his revenge; the honors of
the consulship elated his vanity; but his power was still imperfect
and precarious, as long as the important posts of præfect of the East,
and of præfect of Constantinople, were filled by Tatian, and his son
Proculus; whose united authority balanced, for some time, the ambition
and favor of the master of the offices. The two præfects were accused
of rapine and corruption in the administration of the laws and
finances. For the trial of these illustrious offenders, the emperor
constituted a special commission: several judges were named to share
the guilt and reproach of injustice; but the right of pronouncing
sentence was reserved to the president alone, and that president was
Rufinus himself. The father, stripped of the præfecture of the East,
was thrown into a dungeon; but the son, conscious that few ministers
can be found innocent, where an enemy is their judge, had secretly
escaped; and Rufinus must have been satisfied with the least obnoxious
victim, if despotism had not condescended to employ the basest and
most ungenerous artifice. The prosecution was conducted with an
appearance of equity and moderation, which flattered Tatian with the
hope of a favorable event: his confidence was fortified by the solemn
assurances, and perfidious oaths, of the president, who presumed to
interpose the sacred name of Theodosius himself; and the unhappy
father was at last persuaded to recall, by a private letter, the
fugitive Proculus. He was instantly seized, examined, condemned, and
beheaded, in one of the suburbs of Constantinople, with a
precipitation which disappointed the clemency of the emperor. Without
respecting the misfortunes of a consular senator, the cruel judges of
Tatian compelled him to behold the execution of his son: the fatal
cord was fastened round his own neck; but in the moment when he
expected. and perhaps desired, the relief of a speedy death, he was
permitted to consume the miserable remnant of his old age in poverty
and exile. The punishment of the two præfects might, perhaps, be
excused by the exceptionable parts of their own conduct; the enmity of
Rufinus might be palliated by the jealous and unsociable nature of
ambition. But he indulged a spirit of revenge equally repugnant to
prudence and to justice, when he degraded their native country of
Lycia from the rank of Roman provinces; stigmatized a guiltless people
with a mark of ignominy; and declared, that the countrymen of Tatian
and Proculus should forever remain incapable of holding any employment
of honor or advantage under the Imperial government. The new præfect
of the East (for Rufinus instantly succeeded to the vacant honors of
his adversary) was not diverted, however, by the most criminal
pursuits, from the performance of the religious duties, which in that
age were considered as the most essential to salvation. In the suburb
of Chalcedon, surnamed the Oak, he had built a magnificent villa; to
which he devoutly added a stately church, consecrated to the apostles
St. Peter and St. Paul, and continually sanctified by the prayers and
penance of a regular society of monks. A numerous, and almost general,
synod of the bishops of the Eastern empire, was summoned to celebrate,
at the same time, the dedication of the church, and the baptism of the
founder. This double ceremony was performed with extraordinary pomp;
and when Rufinus was purified, in the holy font, from all the sins
that he had hitherto committed, a venerable hermit of Egypt rashly
proposed himself as the sponsor of a proud and ambitious statesman.

The character of Theodosius imposed on his minister the task of
hypocrisy, which disguised, and sometimes restrained, the abuse of
power; and Rufinus was apprehensive of disturbing the indolent slumber
of a prince still capable of exerting the abilities and the virtue,
which had raised him to the throne. But the absence, and, soon
afterwards, the death, of the emperor, confirmed the absolute
authority of Rufinus over the person and dominions of Arcadius; a
feeble youth, whom the imperious præfect considered as his pupil,
rather than his sovereign. Regardless of the public opinion, he
indulged his passions without remorse, and without resistance; and his
malignant and rapacious spirit rejected every passion that might have
contributed to his own glory, or the happiness of the people. His
avarice, which seems to have prevailed, in his corrupt mind, over
every other sentiment, attracted the wealth of the East, by the
various arts of partial and general extortion; oppressive taxes,
scandalous bribery, immoderate fines, unjust confiscations, forced or
fictitious testaments, by which the tyrant despoiled of their lawful
inheritance the children of strangers, or enemies; and the public sale
of justice, as well as of favor, which he instituted in the palace of
Constantinople. The ambitious candidate eagerly solicited, at the
expense of the fairest part of his patrimony, the honors and
emoluments of some provincial government; the lives and fortunes of
the unhappy people were abandoned to the most liberal purchaser; and
the public discontent was sometimes appeased by the sacrifice of an
unpopular criminal, whose punishment was profitable only to the
præfect of the East, his accomplice and his judge. If avarice were not
the blindest of the human passions, the motives of Rufinus might
excite our curiosity; and we might be tempted to inquire with what
view he violated every principle of humanity and justice, to
accumulate those immense treasures, which he could not spend without
folly, nor possess without danger. Perhaps he vainly imagined, that he
labored for the interest of an only daughter, on whom he intended to
bestow his royal pupil, and the august rank of Empress of the East.
Perhaps he deceived himself by the opinion, that his avarice was the
instrument of his ambition. He aspired to place his fortune on a
secure and independent basis, which should no longer depend on the
caprice of the young emperor; yet he neglected to conciliate the
hearts of the soldiers and people, by the liberal distribution of
those riches, which he had acquired with so much toil, and with so
much guilt. The extreme parsimony of Rufinus left him only the
reproach and envy of ill-gotten wealth; his dependants served him
without attachment; the universal hatred of mankind was repressed only
by the influence of servile fear. The fate of Lucian proclaimed to the
East, that the præfect, whose industry was much abated in the despatch
of ordinary business, was active and indefatigable in the pursuit of
revenge. Lucian, the son of the præfect Florentius, the oppressor of
Gaul, and the enemy of Julian, had employed a considerable part of his
inheritance, the fruit of rapine and corruption, to purchase the
friendship of Rufinus, and the high office of Count of the East. But
the new magistrate imprudently departed from the maxims of the court,
and of the times; disgraced his benefactor by the contrast of a
virtuous and temperate administration; and presumed to refuse an act
of injustice, which might have tended to the profit of the emperor's
uncle. Arcadius was easily persuaded to resent the supposed insult;
and the præfect of the East resolved to execute in person the cruel
vengeance, which he meditated against this ungrateful delegate of his
power. He performed with incessant speed the journey of seven or eight
hundred miles, from Constantinople to Antioch, entered the capital of
Syria at the dead of night, and spread universal consternation among a
people ignorant of his design, but not ignorant of his character. The
Count of the fifteen provinces of the East was dragged, like the
vilest malefactor, before the arbitrary tribunal of Rufinus.
Notwithstanding the clearest evidence of his integrity, which was not
impeached even by the voice of an accuser, Lucian was condemned,
almost with out a trial, to suffer a cruel and ignominious punishment.
The ministers of the tyrant, by the orders, and in the presence, of
their master, beat him on the neck with leather thongs armed at the
extremities with lead; and when he fainted under the violence of the
pain, he was removed in a close litter, to conceal his dying agonies
from the eyes of the indignant city. No sooner had Rufinus perpetrated
this inhuman act, the sole object of his expedition, than he returned,
amidst the deep and silent curses of a trembling people, from Antioch
to Constantinople; and his diligence was accelerated by the hope of
accomplishing, without delay, the nuptials of his daughter with the
emperor of the East.

But Rufinus soon experienced, that a prudent minister should
constantly secure his royal captive by the strong, though invisible
chain of habit; and that the merit, and much more easily the favor, of
the absent, are obliterated in a short time from the mind of a weak
and capricious sovereign. While the præfect satiated his revenge at
Antioch, a secret conspiracy of the favorite eunuchs, directed by the
great chamberlain Eutropius, undermined his power in the palace of
Constantinople. They discovered that Arcadius was not inclined to love
the daughter of Rufinus, who had been chosen, without his consent, for
his bride; and they contrived to substitute in her place the fair
Eudoxia, the daughter of Bauto, a general of the Franks in the service
of Rome; and who was educated, since the death of her father, in the
family of the sons of Promotus. The young emperor, whose chastity had
been strictly guarded by the pious care of his tutor Arsenius, eagerly
listened to the artful and flattering descriptions of the charms of
Eudoxia: he gazed with impatient ardor on her picture, and he
understood the necessity of concealing his amorous designs from the
knowledge of a minister who was so deeply interested to oppose the
consummation of his happiness. Soon after the return of Rufinus, the
approaching ceremony of the royal nuptials was announced to the people
of Constantinople, who prepared to celebrate, with false and hollow
acclamations, the fortune of his daughter. A splendid train of eunuchs
and officers issued, in hymeneal pomp, from the gates of the palace;
bearing aloft the diadem, the robes, and the inestimable ornaments, of
the future empress. The solemn procession passed through the streets
of the city, which were adorned with garlands, and filled with
spectators; but when it reached the house of the sons of Promotus, the
principal eunuch respectfully entered the mansion, invested the fair
Eudoxia with the Imperial robes, and conducted her in triumph to the
palace and bed of Arcadius. The secrecy and success with which this
conspiracy against Rufinus had been conducted, imprinted a mark of
indelible ridicule on the character of a minister, who had suffered
himself to be deceived, in a post where the arts of deceit and
dissimulation constitute the most distinguished merit. He considered,
with a mixture of indignation and fear, the victory of an aspiring
eunuch, who had secretly captivated the favor of his sovereign; and
the disgrace of his daughter, whose interest was inseparably connected
with his own, wounded the tenderness, or, at least, the pride of
Rufinus. At the moment when he flattered himself that he should become
the father of a line of kings, a foreign maid, who had been educated
in the house of his implacable enemies, was introduced into the
Imperial bed; and Eudoxia soon displayed a superiority of sense and
spirit, to improve the ascendant which her beauty must acquire over
the mind of a fond and youthful husband. The emperor would soon be
instructed to hate, to fear, and to destroy the powerful subject, whom
he had injured; and the consciousness of guilt deprived Rufinus of
every hope, either of safety or comfort, in the retirement of a
private life. But he still possessed the most effectual means of
defending his dignity, and perhaps of oppressing his enemies. The
præfect still exercised an uncontrolled authority over the civil and
military government of the East; and his treasures, if he could
resolve to use them, might be employed to procure proper instruments
for the execution of the blackest designs, that pride, ambition, and
revenge could suggest to a desperate statesman. The character of
Rufinus seemed to justify the accusations that he conspired against
the person of his sovereign, to seat himself on the vacant throne; and
that he had secretly invited the Huns and the Goths to invade the
provinces of the empire, and to increase the public confusion. The
subtle præfect, whose life had been spent in the intrigues of the
palace, opposed, with equal arms, the artful measures of the eunuch
Eutropius; but the timid soul of Rufinus was astonished by the hostile
approach of a more formidable rival, of the great Stilicho, the
general, or rather the master, of the empire of the West.

The celestial gift, which Achilles obtained, and Alexander envied, of
a poet worthy to celebrate the actions of heroes has been enjoyed by
Stilicho, in a much higher degree than might have been expected from
the declining state of genius, and of art. The muse of Claudian,
devoted to his service, was always prepared to stigmatize his
adversaries, Rufinus, or Eutropius, with eternal infamy; or to paint,
in the most splendid colors, the victories and virtues of a powerful
benefactor. In the review of a period indifferently supplied with
authentic materials, we cannot refuse to illustrate the annals of
Honorius, from the invectives, or the panegyrics, of a contemporary
writer; but as Claudian appears to have indulged the most ample
privilege of a poet and a courtier, some criticism will be requisite
to translate the language of fiction or exaggeration, into the truth
and simplicity of historic prose. His silence concerning the family of
Stilicho may be admitted as a proof, that his patron was neither able,
nor desirous, to boast of a long series of illustrious progenitors;
and the slight mention of his father, an officer of Barbarian cavalry
in the service of Valens, seems to countenance the assertion, that the
general, who so long commanded the armies of Rome, was descended from
the savage and perfidious race of the Vandals. If Stilicho had not
possessed the external advantages of strength and stature, the most
flattering bard, in the presence of so many thousand spectators, would
have hesitated to affirm, that he surpassed the measure of the
demi-gods of antiquity; and that whenever he moved, with lofty steps,
through the streets of the capital, the astonished crowd made room for
the stranger, who displayed, in a private condition, the awful majesty
of a hero. From his earliest youth he embraced the profession of arms;
his prudence and valor were soon distinguished in the field; the
horsemen and archers of the East admired his superior dexterity; and
in each degree of his military promotions, the public judgment always
prevented and approved the choice of the sovereign. He was named, by
Theodosius, to ratify a solemn treaty with the monarch of Persia; he
supported, during that important embassy, the dignity of the Roman
name; and after he return to Constantinople, his merit was rewarded by
an intimate and honorable alliance with the Imperial family.
Theodosius had been prompted, by a pious motive of fraternal
affection, to adopt, for his own, the daughter of his brother
Honorius; the beauty and accomplishments of Serena were universally
admired by the obsequious court; and Stilicho obtained the preference
over a crowd of rivals, who ambitiously disputed the hand of the
princess, and the favor of her adopted father. The assurance that the
husband of Serena would be faithful to the throne, which he was
permitted to approach, engaged the emperor to exalt the fortunes, and
to employ the abilities, of the sagacious and intrepid Stilicho. He
rose, through the successive steps of master of the horse, and count
of the domestics, to the supreme rank of master-general of all the
cavalry and infantry of the Roman, or at least of the Western, empire;
and his enemies confessed, that he invariably disdained to barter for
gold the rewards of merit, or to defraud the soldiers of the pay and
gratifications which they deserved or claimed, from the liberality of
the state. The valor and conduct which he afterwards displayed, in the
defence of Italy, against the arms of Alaric and Radagaisus, may
justify the fame of his early achievements and in an age less
attentive to the laws of honor, or of pride, the Roman generals might
yield the preeminence of rank, to the ascendant of superior genius. He
lamented, and revenged, the murder of Promotus, his rival and his
friend; and the massacre of many thousands of the flying Bastarnæ is
represented by the poet as a bloody sacrifice, which the Roman
Achilles offered to the manes of another Patroclus. The virtues and
victories of Stilicho deserved the hatred of Rufinus: and the arts of
calumny might have been successful if the tender and vigilant Serena
had not protected her husband against his domestic foes, whilst he
vanquished in the field the enemies of the empire. Theodosius
continued to support an unworthy minister, to whose diligence he
delegated the government of the palace, and of the East; but when he
marched against the tyrant Eugenius, he associated his faithful
general to the labors and glories of the civil war; and in the last
moments of his life, the dying monarch recommended to Stilicho the
care of his sons, and of the republic. The ambition and the abilities
of Stilicho were not unequal to the important trust; and he claimed
the guardianship of the two empires, during the minority of Arcadius
and Honorius. The first measure of his administration, or rather of
his reign, displayed to the nations the vigor and activity of a spirit
worthy to command. He passed the Alps in the depth of winter;
descended the stream of the Rhine, from the fortress of Basil to the
marshes of Batavia; reviewed the state of the garrisons; repressed the
enterprises of the Germans; and, after establishing along the banks a
firm and honorable peace, returned, with incredible speed, to the
palace of Milan. The person and court of Honorius were subject to the
master-general of the West; and the armies and provinces of Europe
obeyed, without hesitation, a regular authority, which was exercised
in the name of their young sovereign. Two rivals only remained to
dispute the claims, and to provoke the vengeance, of Stilicho. Within
the limits of Africa, Gildo, the Moor, maintained a proud and
dangerous independence; and the minister of Constantinople asserted
his equal reign over the emperor, and the empire, of the East.

Chapter XXIX: Division Of Roman Empire Between Sons Of Theodosius. --
Part II.

The impartiality which Stilicho affected, as the common guardian of
the royal brothers, engaged him to regulate the equal division of the
arms, the jewels, and the magnificent wardrobe and furniture of the
deceased emperor. But the most important object of the inheritance
consisted of the numerous legions, cohorts, and squadrons, of Romans,
or Barbarians, whom the event of the civil war had united under the
standard of Theodosius. The various multitudes of Europe and Asia,
exasperated by recent animosities, were overawed by the authority of a
single man; and the rigid discipline of Stilicho protected the lands
of the citizens from the rapine of the licentious soldier. Anxious,
however, and impatient, to relieve Italy from the presence of this
formidable host, which could be useful only on the frontiers of the
empire, he listened to the just requisition of the minister of
Arcadius, declared his intention of reconducting in person the troops
of the East, and dexterously employed the rumor of a Gothic tumult to
conceal his private designs of ambition and revenge. The guilty soul
of Rufinus was alarmed by the approach of a warrior and a rival, whose
enmity he deserved; he computed, with increasing terror, the narrow
space of his life and greatness; and, as the last hope of safety, he
interposed the authority of the emperor Arcadius. Stilicho, who
appears to have directed his march along the sea-coast of the
Adriatic, was not far distant from the city of Thessalonica, when he
received a peremptory message, to recall the troops of the East, and
to declare, that his nearer approach would be considered, by the
Byzantine court, as an act of hostility. The prompt and unexpected
obedience of the general of the West, convinced the vulgar of his
loyalty and moderation; and, as he had already engaged the affection
of the Eastern troops, he recommended to their zeal the execution of
his bloody design, which might be accomplished in his absence, with
less danger, perhaps, and with less reproach. Stilicho left the
command of the troops of the East to Gainas, the Goth, on whose
fidelity he firmly relied, with an assurance, at least, that the hardy
Barbarians would never be diverted from his purpose by any
consideration of fear or remorse. The soldiers were easily persuaded
to punish the enemy of Stilicho and of Rome; and such was the general
hatred which Rufinus had excited, that the fatal secret, communicated
to thousands, was faithfully preserved during the long march from
Thessalonica to the gates of Constantinople. As soon as they had
resolved his death, they condescended to flatter his pride; the
ambitious præfect was seduced to believe, that those powerful
auxiliaries might be tempted to place the diadem on his head; and the
treasures which he distributed, with a tardy and reluctant hand, were
accepted by the indignant multitude as an insult, rather than as a
gift. At the distance of a mile from the capital, in the field of
Mars, before the palace of Hebdomon, the troops halted: and the
emperor, as well as his minister, advanced, according to ancient
custom, respectfully to salute the power which supported their throne.
As Rufinus passed along the ranks, and disguised, with studied
courtesy, his innate haughtiness, the wings insensibly wheeled from
the right and left, and enclosed the devoted victim within the circle
of their arms. Before he could reflect on the danger of his situation,
Gainas gave the signal of death; a daring and forward soldier plunged
his sword into the breast of the guilty præfect, and Rufinus fell,
groaned, and expired, at the feet of the affrighted emperor. If the
agonies of a moment could expiate the crimes of a whole life, or if
the outrages inflicted on a breathless corpse could be the object of
pity, our humanity might perhaps be affected by the horrid
circumstances which accompanied the murder of Rufinus. His mangled
body was abandoned to the brutal fury of the populace of either sex,
who hastened in crowds, from every quarter of the city, to trample on
the remains of the haughty minister, at whose frown they had so lately
trembled. His right hand was cut off, and carried through the streets
of Constantinople, in cruel mockery, to extort contributions for the
avaricious tyrant, whose head was publicly exposed, borne aloft on the
point of a long lance. According to the savage maxims of the Greek
republics, his innocent family would have shared the punishment of his
crimes. The wife and daughter of Rufinus were indebted for their
safety to the influence of religion. Her
sanctuary protected them from the raging madness of the people; and
they were permitted to spend the remainder of their lives in the
exercise of Christian devotions, in the peaceful retirement of

The servile poet of Stilicho applauds, with ferocious joy, this horrid
deed, which, in the execution, perhaps, of justice, violated every law
of nature and society, profaned the majesty of the prince, and renewed
the dangerous examples of military license. The contemplation of the
universal order and harmony had satisfied Claudian of the existence of
the Deity; but the prosperous impunity of vice appeared to contradict
his moral attributes; and the fate of Rufinus was the only event which
could dispel the religious doubts of the poet. Such an act might
vindicate the honor of Providence, but it did not much contribute to
the happiness of the people. In less than three months they were
informed of the maxims of the new administration, by a singular edict,
which established the exclusive right of the treasury over the spoils
of Rufinus; and silenced, under heavy penalties, the presumptuous
claims of the subjects of the Eastern empire, who had been injured by
his rapacious tyranny. Even Stilicho did not derive from the murder of
his rival the fruit which he had proposed; and though he gratified his
revenge, his ambition was disappointed. Under the name of a favorite,
the weakness of Arcadius required a master, but he naturally preferred
the obsequious arts of the eunuch Eutropius, who had obtained his
domestic confidence: and the emperor contemplated, with terror and
aversion, the stern genius of a foreign warrior. Till they were
divided by the jealousy of power, the sword of Gainas, and the charms
of Eudoxia, supported the favor of the great chamberlain of the
palace: the perfidious Goth, who was appointed master-general of the
East, betrayed, without scruple, the interest of his benefactor; and
the same troops, who had so lately massacred the enemy of Stilicho,
were engaged to support, against him, the independence of the throne
of Constantinople. The favorites of Arcadius fomented a secret and
irreconcilable war against a formidable hero, who aspired to govern,
and to defend, the two empires of Rome, and the two sons of
Theodosius. They incessantly labored, by dark and treacherous
machinations, to deprive him of the esteem of the prince, the respect
of the people, and the friendship of the Barbarians. The life of
Stilicho was repeatedly attempted by the dagger of hired assassins;
and a decree was obtained from the senate of Constantinople, to
declare him an enemy of the republic, and to confiscate his ample
possessions in the provinces of the East. At a time when the only hope
of delaying the ruin of the Roman name depended on the firm union, and
reciprocal aid, of all the nations to whom it had been gradually
communicated, the subjects of Arcadius and Honorius were instructed,
by their respective masters, to view each other in a foreign, and even
hostile, light; to rejoice in their mutual calamities, and to embrace,
as their faithful allies, the Barbarians, whom they excited to invade
the territories of their countrymen. The natives of Italy affected to
despise the servile and effeminate Greeks of Byzantium, who presumed
to imitate the dress, and to usurp the dignity, of Roman senators; and
the Greeks had not yet forgot the sentiments of hatred and contempt,
which their polished ancestors had so long entertained for the rude
inhabitants of the West. The distinction of two governments, which
soon produced the separation of two nations, will justify my design of
suspending the series of the Byzantine history, to prosecute, without
interruption, the disgraceful, but memorable, reign of Honorius.

The prudent Stilicho, instead of persisting to force the inclinations
of a prince, and people, who rejected his government, wisely abandoned
Arcadius to his unworthy favorites; and his reluctance to involve the
two empires in a civil war displayed the moderation of a minister, who
had so often signalized his military spirit and abilities. But if
Stilicho had any longer endured the revolt of Africa, he would have
betrayed the security of the capital, and the majesty of the Western
emperor, to the capricious insolence of a Moorish rebel. Gildo, the
brother of the tyrant Firmus, had preserved and obtained, as the
reward of his apparent fidelity, the immense patrimony which was
forfeited by treason: long and meritorious service, in the armies of
Rome, raised him to the dignity of a military count; the narrow policy
of the court of Theodosius had adopted the mischievous expedient of
supporting a legal government by the interest of a powerful family;
and the brother of Firmus was invested with the command of Africa. His
ambition soon usurped the administration of justice, and of the
finances, without account, and without control; and he maintained,
during a reign of twelve years, the possession of an office, from
which it was impossible to remove him, without the danger of a civil
war. During those twelve years, the provinces of Africa groaned under
the dominion of a tyrant, who seemed to unite the unfeeling temper of
a stranger with the partial resentments of domestic faction. The forms
of law were often superseded by the use of poison; and if the
trembling guests, who were invited to the table of Gildo, presumed to
express fears, the insolent suspicion served only to excite his fury,
and he loudly summoned the ministers of death. Gildo alternately
indulged the passions of avarice and lust; and if his days
were terrible to the rich, his nights were not less dreadful to
husbands and parents. The fairest of their wives and daughters were
prostituted to the embraces of the tyrant; and afterwards abandoned to
a ferocious troop of Barbarians and assassins, the black, or swarthy,
natives of the desert; whom Gildo considered as the only of his
throne. In the civil war between Theodosius and Eugenius, the count,
or rather the sovereign, of Africa, maintained a haughty and
suspicious neutrality; refused to assist either of the contending
parties with troops or vessels, expected the declaration of fortune,
and reserved for the conqueror the vain professions of his allegiance.
Such professions would not have satisfied the master of the Roman
world; but the death of Theodosius, and the weakness and discord of
his sons, confirmed the power of the Moor; who condescended, as a
proof of his moderation, to abstain from the use of the diadem, and to
supply Rome with the customary tribute, or rather subsidy, of corn. In
every division of the empire, the five provinces of Africa were
invariably assigned to the West; and Gildo had to govern that
extensive country in the name of Honorius, but his knowledge of the
character and designs of Stilicho soon engaged him to address his
homage to a more distant and feeble sovereign. The ministers of
Arcadius embraced the cause of a perfidious rebel; and the delusive
hope of adding the numerous cities of Africa to the empire of the
East, tempted them to assert a claim, which they were incapable of
supporting, either by reason or by arms.

When Stilicho had given a firm and decisive answer to the pretensions
of the Byzantine court, he solemnly accused the tyrant of Africa
before the tribunal, which had formerly judged the kings and nations
of the earth; and the image of the republic was revived, after a long
interval, under the reign of Honorius. The emperor transmitted an
accurate and ample detail of the complaints of the provincials, and
the crimes of Gildo, to the Roman senate; and the members of that
venerable assembly were required to pronounce the condemnation of the
rebel. Their unanimous suffrage declared him the enemy of the
republic; and the decree of the senate added a sacred and legitimate
sanction to the Roman arms. A people, who still remembered that their
ancestors had been the masters of the world, would have applauded,
with conscious pride, the representation of ancient freedom; if they
had not since been accustomed to prefer the solid assurance of bread
to the unsubstantial visions of liberty and greatness. The subsistence
of Rome depended on the harvests of Africa; and it was evident, that a
declaration of war would be the signal of famine. The præfect
Symmachus, who presided in the deliberations of the senate, admonished
the minister of his just apprehension, that as soon as the revengeful
Moor should prohibit the exportation of corn, the and perhaps the
safety, of the capital would be threatened by the hungry rage of a
turbulent multitude. The prudence of Stilicho conceived and executed,
without delay, the most effectual measure for the relief of the Roman
people. A large and seasonable supply of corn, collected in the inland
provinces of Gaul, was embarked on the rapid stream of the Rhone, and
transported, by an easy navigation, from the Rhone to the Tyber.
During the whole term of the African war, the granaries of Rome were
continually filled, her dignity was vindicated from the humiliating
dependence, and the minds of an immense people were quieted by the
calm confidence of peace and plenty.

The cause of Rome, and the conduct of the African war, were intrusted
by Stilicho to a general, active and ardent to avenge his private
injuries on the head of the tyrant. The spirit of discord which
prevailed in the house of Nabal, had excited a deadly quarrel between
two of his sons, Gildo and Mascezel. The usurper pursued, with
implacable rage, the life of his younger brother, whose courage and
abilities he feared; and Mascezel, oppressed by superior power, refuge
in the court of Milan, where he soon received the cruel intelligence
that his two innocent and helpless children had been murdered by their
inhuman uncle. The affliction of the father was suspended only by the
desire of revenge. The vigilant Stilicho already prepared to collect
the naval and military force of the Western empire; and he had
resolved, if the tyrant should be able to wage an equal and doubtful
war, to march against him in person. But as Italy required his
presence, and as it might be dangerous to weaken the of the frontier,
he judged it more advisable, that Mascezel should attempt this arduous
adventure at the head of a chosen body of Gallic veterans, who had
lately served exhorted to convince the world that they could subvert,
as well as defend the throne of a usurper, consisted of the Jovian
, the Herculian, and the Augustan legions; of the Nervian auxiliaries;
of the soldiers who displayed in their banners the symbol of a lion,
and of the troops which were distinguished by the auspicious names of
Fortunate, and Invincible. Yet such was the smallness of their
establishments, or the difficulty of recruiting, that these
sevenbands, of high dignity and reputation in the service of Rome,
amounted to no more than five thousand effective men. The fleet of
galleys and transports sailed in tempestuous weather from the port of
Pisa, in Tuscany, and steered their course to the little island of
Capraria; which had borrowed that name from the wild goats, its
original inhabitants, whose place was occupied by a new colony of a
strange and savage appearance. "The whole island (says an ingenious
traveller of those times) is filled, or rather defiled, by men who fly
from the light. They call themselves Monks, or solitaries, because
they choose to live alone, without any witnesses of their actions.
They fear the gifts of fortune, from the apprehension of losing them;
and, lest they should be miserable, they embrace a life of voluntary
wretchedness. How absurd is their choice! how perverse their
understanding! to dread the evils, without being able to support the
blessings, of the human condition. Either this melancholy madness is
the effect of disease, or exercise on their own bodies the tortures
which are inflicted on fugitive slaves by the hand of justice." Such
was the contempt of a profane magistrate for the monks as the chosen
servants of God. Some of them were persuaded, by his entreaties, to
embark on board the fleet; and it is observed, to the praise of the
Roman general, that his days and nights were employed in prayer,
fasting, and the occupation of singing psalms. The devout leader, who,
with such a reenforcement, appeared confident of victory, avoided the
dangerous rocks of Corsica, coasted along the eastern side of
Sardinia, and secured his ships against the violence of the south
wind, by casting anchor in the and capacious harbor of Cagliari, at
the distance of one hundred and forty miles from the African shores.

Gildo was prepared to resist the invasion with all the forces of
Africa. By the liberality of his gifts and promises, he endeavored to
secure the doubtful allegiance of the Roman soldiers, whilst he
attracted to his standard the distant tribes of Gætulia and Æthiopia.
He proudly reviewed an army of seventy thousand men, and boasted, with
the rash presumption which is the forerunner of disgrace, that his
numerous cavalry would trample under their horses' feet the troops of
Mascezel, and involve, in a cloud of burning sand, the natives of the
cold regions of Gaul and Germany. But the Moor, who commanded the
legions of Honorius, was too well acquainted with the manners of his
countrymen, to entertain any serious apprehension of a naked and
disorderly host of Barbarians; whose left arm, instead of a shield,
was protected only by mantle; who were totally disarmed as soon as
they had darted their javelin from their right hand; and whose horses
had never He fixed his camp of five thousand veterans in the face of a
superior enemy, and, after the delay of three days, gave the signal of
a general engagement. As Mascezel advanced before the front with fair
offers of peace and pardon, he encountered one of the foremost
standard-bearers of the Africans, and, on his refusal to yield, struck
him on the arm with his sword. The arm, and the standard, sunk under
the weight of the blow; and the imaginary act of submission was
hastily repeated by all the standards of the line. At this the
disaffected cohorts proclaimed the name of their lawful sovereign; the
Barbarians, astonished by the defection of their Roman allies,
dispersed, according to their custom, in tumultuary flight; and
Mascezel obtained the of an easy, and almost bloodless, victory. The
tyrant escaped from the field of battle to the sea-shore; and threw
himself into a small vessel, with the hope of reaching in safety some
friendly port of the empire of the East; but the obstinacy of the wind
drove him back into the harbor of Tabraca, which had acknowledged,
with the rest of the province, the dominion of Honorius, and the
authority of his lieutenant. The inhabitants, as a proof of their
repentance and loyalty, seized and confined the person of Gildo in a
dungeon; and his own despair saved him from the intolerable torture of
supporting the presence of an injured and victorious brother. The
captives and the spoils of Africa were laid at the feet of the
emperor; but more sincere, in the midst of prosperity, still affected
to consult the laws of the republic; and referred to the senate and
people of Rome the judgment of the most illustrious criminals. Their
trial was public and solemn; but the judges, in the exercise of this
obsolete and precarious jurisdiction, were impatient to punish the
African magistrates, who had intercepted the subsistence of the Roman
people. The rich and guilty province was oppressed by the Imperial
ministers, who had a visible interest to multiply the number of the
accomplices of Gildo; and if an edict of Honorius seems to check the
malicious industry of informers, a subsequent edict, at the distance
of ten years, continues and renews the prosecution of the which had
been committed in the time of the general rebellion. The adherents of
the tyrant who escaped the first fury of the soldiers, and the judges,
might derive some consolation from the tragic fate of his brother, who
could never obtain his pardon for the extraordinary services which he
had performed. After he had finished an important war in the space of
a single winter, Mascezel was received at the court of Milan with loud
applause, affected gratitude, and secret jealousy; and his death,
which, perhaps, was the effect of passage of a bridge, the Moorish
prince, who accompanied the master-general of the West, was suddenly
thrown from his horse into the river; the officious haste of the
attendants was on the countenance of Stilicho; and while they delayed
the necessary assistance, the unfortunate Mascezel was irrecoverably

The joy of the African triumph was happily connected with the nuptials
of the emperor Honorius, and of his cousin Maria, the daughter of
Stilicho: and this equal and honorable alliance seemed to invest the
powerful minister with the authority of a parent over his submissive
pupil. The muse of Claudian was not silent on this propitious day; he
sung, in various and lively strains, the happiness of the royal pair;
and the glory of the hero, who confirmed their union, and supported
their throne. The ancient fables of Greece, which had almost ceased to
be the object of religious faith, were saved from oblivion by the
genius of poetry. The picture of the Cyprian grove, the seat of
harmony and love; the triumphant progress of Venus over her native
seas, and the mild influence which her presence diffused in the palace
of Milan, express to every age the natural sentiments of the heart, in
the just and pleasing language of allegorical fiction. But the amorous
impatience which Claudian attributes to the young prince, must excite
the smiles of the court; and his beauteous spouse (if she deserved the
praise of beauty) had not much to fear or to hope from the passions of
her lover. Honorius was only in the fourteenth year of his age;
Serena, the mother of his bride, deferred, by art of persuasion, the
consummation of the royal nuptials; Maria died a virgin, after she had
been ten years a wife; and the chastity of the emperor was secured by
the coldness, perhaps, the debility, of his constitution. His
subjects, who attentively studied the character of their young
sovereign, discovered that Honorius was without passions, and
consequently without talents; and that his feeble and languid
disposition was alike incapable of discharging the duties of his rank,
or of enjoying the pleasures of his age. In his early youth he made
some progress in the exercises of riding and drawing the bow: but he
soon relinquished these fatiguing occupations, and the amusement of
feeding poultry became the serious and daily care of the monarch of
the West, who resigned the reins of empire to the firm and skilful
hand of his guardian Stilicho. The experience of history will
countenance the suspicion that a prince who was born in the purple,
received a worse education than the meanest peasant of his dominions;
and that the ambitious minister suffered him to attain the age of
manhood, without attempting to excite his courage, or to enlighten his
under standing. The predecessors of Honorius were accustomed to
animate by their example, or at least by their presence, the valor of
the legions; and the dates of their laws attest the perpetual activity
of their motions through the provinces of the Roman world. But the son
of Theodosius passed the slumber of his life, a captive in his palace,
a stranger in his country, and the patient, almost the indifferent,
spectator of the ruin of the Western empire, which was repeatedly
attacked, and finally subverted, by the arms of the Barbarians. In the
eventful history of a reign of twenty-eight years, it will seldom be
necessary to mention the name of the emperor Honorius.

Chapter XXX: Revolt Of The Goths.

Part I.

Revolt Of The Goths. -- They Plunder Greece. -- Two Great Invasions Of
Italy By Alaric And Radagaisus. -- They Are Repulsed By Stilicho. --
The Germans Overrun Gaul. -- Usurpation Of Constantine In The West. --
Disgrace And Death Of Stilicho.

If the subjects of Rome could be ignorant of their obligations to the
great Theodosius, they were too soon convinced, how painfully the
spirit and abilities of their deceased emperor had supported the frail
and mouldering edifice of the republic. He died in the month of
January; and before the end of the winter of the same year, the Gothic
nation was in arms. The Barbarian auxiliaries erected their
independent standard; and boldly avowed the hostile designs, which
they had long cherished in their ferocious minds. Their countrymen,
who had been condemned, by the conditions of the last treaty, to a
life of tranquility and labor, deserted their farms at the first sound
of the trumpet; and eagerly resumed the weapons which they had
reluctantly laid down. The barriers of the Danube were thrown open;
the savage warriors of Scythia issued from their forests; and the
uncommon severity of the winter allowed the poet to remark, "that they
rolled their ponderous wagons over the broad and icy back of the
indignant river." The unhappy natives of the provinces to the south of
the Danube submitted to the calamities, which, in the course of twenty
years, were almost grown familiar to their imagination; and the
various troops of Barbarians, who gloried in the Gothic name, were
irregularly spread from woody shores of Dalmatia, to the walls of
Constantinople. The interruption, or at least the diminution, of the
subsidy, which the Goths had received from the prudent liberality of
Theodosius, was the specious pretence of their revolt: the affront was
imbittered by their contempt for the unwarlike sons of Theodosius; and
their resentment was inflamed by the weakness, or treachery, of the
minister of Arcadius. The frequent visits of Rufinus to the camp of
the Barbarians whose arms and apparel he affected to imitate, were
considered as a sufficient evidence of his guilty correspondence, and
the public enemy, from a motive either of gratitude or of policy, was
attentive, amidst the general devastation, to spare the private
estates of the unpopular præfect. The Goths, instead of being impelled
by the blind and headstrong passions of their chiefs, were now
directed by the bold and artful genius of Alaric. That renowned leader
was descended from the noble race of the Balti; which yielded only to
the royal dignity of the Amali: he had solicited the command of the
Roman armies; and the Imperial court provoked him to demonstrate the
folly of their refusal, and the importance of their loss. Whatever
hopes might be entertained of the conquest of Constantinople, the
judicious general soon abandoned an impracticable enterprise. In the
midst of a divided court and a discontented people, the emperor
Arcadius was terrified by the aspect of the Gothic arms; but the want
of wisdom and valor was supplied by the strength of the city; and the
fortifications, both of the sea and land, might securely brave the
impotent and random darts of the Barbarians. Alaric disdained to
trample any longer on the prostrate and ruined countries of Thrace and
Dacia, and he resolved to seek a plentiful harvest of fame and riches
in a province which had hitherto escaped the ravages of war.

The character of the civil and military officers, on whom Rufinus had
devolved the government of Greece, confirmed the public suspicion,
that he had betrayed the ancient seat of freedom and learning to the
Gothic invader. The proconsul Antiochus was the unworthy son of a
respectable father; and Gerontius, who commanded the provincial
troops, was much better qualified to execute the oppressive orders of
a tyrant, than to defend, with courage and ability, a country most
remarkably fortified by the hand of nature. Alaric had traversed,
without resistance, the plains of Macedonia and Thessaly, as far as
the foot of Mount Oeta, a steep and woody range of hills, almost
impervious to his cavalry. They stretched from east to west, to the
edge of the sea-shore; and left, between the precipice and the Malian
Gulf, an interval of three hundred feet, which, in some places, was
contracted to a road capable of admitting only a single carriage. In
this narrow pass of Thermopylæ, where Leonidas and the three hundred
Spartans had gloriously devoted their lives, the Goths might have been
stopped, or destroyed, by a skilful general; and perhaps the view of
that sacred spot might have kindled some sparks of military ardor in
the breasts of the degenerate Greeks. The troops which had been posted
to defend the Straits of Thermopylæ, retired, as they were directed,
without attempting to disturb the secure and rapid passage of Alaric;
and the fertile fields of Phocis and Botia were instantly covered by a
deluge of Barbarians who massacred the males of an age to bear arms,
and drove away the beautiful females, with the spoil and cattle of the
flaming villages. The travellers, who visited Greece several years
afterwards, could easily discover the deep and bloody traces of the
march of the Goths; and Thebes was less indebted for her preservation
to the strength of her seven gates, than to the eager haste of Alaric,
who advanced to occupy the city of Athens, and the important harbor of
the Piræus. The same impatience urged him to prevent the delay and
danger of a siege, by the offer of a capitulation; and as soon as the
Athenians heard the voice of the Gothic herald, they were easily
persuaded to deliver the greatest part of their wealth, as the ransom
of the city of Minerva and its inhabitants. The treaty was ratified by
solemn oaths, and observed with mutual fidelity. The Gothic prince,
with a small and select train, was admitted within the walls; he
indulged himself in the refreshment of the bath, accepted a splendid
banquet, which was provided by the magistrate, and affected to show
that he was not ignorant of the manners of civilized nations. But the
whole territory of Attica, from the promontory of Sunium to the town
of Megara, was blasted by his baleful presence; and, if we may use the
comparison of a contemporary philosopher, Athens itself resembled the
bleeding and empty skin of a slaughtered victim. The distance between
Megara and Corinth could not much exceed thirty miles; but the bad
, an expressive name, which it still bears among the Greeks, was, or
might easily have been made, impassable for the march of an enemy. The
thick and gloomy woods of Mount Cithæron covered the inland country;
the Scironian rocks approached the water's edge, and hung over the
narrow and winding path, which was confined above six miles along the
sea-shore. The passage of those rocks, so infamous in every age, was
terminated by the Isthmus of Corinth; and a small a body of firm and
intrepid soldiers might have successfully defended a temporary
intrenchment of five or six miles from the Ionian to the Ægean Sea.
The confidence of the cities of Peloponnesus in their natural rampart,
had tempted them to neglect the care of their antique walls; and the
avarice of the Roman governors had exhausted and betrayed the unhappy
province. Corinth, Argos, Sparta, yielded without resistance to the
arms of the Goths; and the most fortunate of the inhabitants were
saved, by death, from beholding the slavery of their families and the
conflagration of their cities. The vases and statues were distributed
among the Barbarians, with more regard to the value of the materials,
than to the elegance of the workmanship; the female captives submitted
to the laws of war; the enjoyment of beauty was the reward of valor;
and the Greeks could not reasonably complain of an abuse which was
justified by the example of the heroic times. The descendants of that
extraordinary people, who had considered valor and discipline as the
walls of Sparta, no longer remembered the generous reply of their
ancestors to an invader more formidable than Alaric. "If thou art a
god, thou wilt not hurt those who have never injured thee; if thou art
a man, advance: -- and thou wilt find men equal to thyself." From
Thermopylæ to Sparta, the leader of the Goths pursued his victorious
march without encountering any mortal antagonists: but one of the
advocates of expiring Paganism has confidently asserted, that the
walls of Athens were guarded by the goddess Minerva, with her
formidable Ægis, and by the angry phantom of Achilles; and that the
conqueror was dismayed by the presence of the hostile deities of
Greece. In an age of miracles, it would perhaps be unjust to dispute
the claim of the historian Zosimus to the common benefit: yet it
cannot be dissembled, that the mind of Alaric was ill prepared to
receive, either in sleeping or waking visions, the impressions of
Greek superstition. The songs of Homer, and the fame of Achilles, had
probably never reached the ear of the illiterate Barbarian; and the
Christian faith, which he had devoutly embraced, taught him to despise
the imaginary deities of Rome and Athens. The invasion of the Goths,
instead of vindicating the honor, contributed, at least accidentally,
to extirpate the last remains of Paganism: and the mysteries of Ceres,
which had subsisted eighteen hundred years, did not survive the
destruction of Eleusis, and the calamities of Greece.

The last hope of a people who could no longer depend on their arms,
their gods, or their sovereign, was placed in the powerful assistance
of the general of the West; and Stilicho, who had not been permitted
to repulse, advanced to chastise, the invaders of Greece. A numerous
fleet was equipped in the ports of Italy; and the troops, after a
short and prosperous navigation over the Ionian Sea, were safely
disembarked on the isthmus, near the ruins of Corinth. The woody and
mountainous country of Arcadia, the fabulous residence of Pan and the
Dryads, became the scene of a long and doubtful conflict between the
two generals not unworthy of each other. The skill and perseverance of
the Roman at length prevailed; and the Goths, after sustaining a
considerable loss from disease and desertion, gradually retreated to
the lofty mountain of Pholoe, near the sources of the Peneus, and on
the frontiers of Elis; a sacred country, which had formerly been
exempted from the calamities of war. The camp of the Barbarians was
immediately besieged; the waters of the river were diverted into
another channel; and while they labored under the intolerable pressure
of thirst and hunger, a strong line of circumvallation was formed to
prevent their escape. After these precautions, Stilicho, too confident
of victory, retired to enjoy his triumph, in the theatrical games, and
lascivious dances, of the Greeks; his soldiers, deserting their
standards, spread themselves over the country of their allies, which
they stripped of all that had been saved from the rapacious hands of
the enemy. Alaric appears to have seized the favorable moment to
execute one of those hardy enterprises, in which the abilities of a
general are displayed with more genuine lustre, than in the tumult of
a day of battle. To extricate himself from the prison of Peloponnesus,
it was necessary that he should pierce the intrenchments which
surrounded his camp; that he should perform a difficult and dangerous
march of thirty miles, as far as the Gulf of Corinth; and that he
should transport his troops, his captives, and his spoil, over an arm
of the sea, which, in the narrow interval between Rhium and the
opposite shore, is at least half a mile in breadth. The operations of
Alaric must have been secret, prudent, and rapid; since the Roman
general was confounded by the intelligence, that the Goths, who had
eluded his efforts, were in full possession of the important province
of Epirus. This unfortunate delay allowed Alaric sufficient time to
conclude the treaty, which he secretly negotiated, with the ministers
of Constantinople. The apprehension of a civil war compelled Stilicho
to retire, at the haughty mandate of his rivals, from the dominions of
Arcadius; and he respected, in the enemy of Rome, the honorable
character of the ally and servant of the emperor of the East.

A Grecian philosopher, who visited Constantinople soon after the death
of Theodosius, published his liberal opinions concerning the duties of
kings, and the state of the Roman republic. Synesius observes, and
deplores, the fatal abuse, which the imprudent bounty of the late
emperor had introduced into the military service. The citizens and
subjects had purchased an exemption from the indispensable duty of
defending their country; which was supported by the arms of Barbarian
mercenaries. The fugitives of Scythia were permitted to disgrace the
illustrious dignities of the empire; their ferocious youth, who
disdained the salutary restraint of laws, were more anxious to acquire
the riches, than to imitate the arts, of a people, the object of their
contempt and hatred; and the power of the Goths was the stone of
Tantalus, perpetually suspended over the peace and safety of the
devoted state. The measures which Synesius recommends, are the
dictates of a bold and generous patriot. He exhorts the emperor to
revive the courage of his subjects, by the example of manly virtue; to
banish luxury from the court and from the camp; to substitute, in the
place of the Barbarian mercenaries, an army of men, interested in the
defence of their laws and of their property; to force, in such a
moment of public danger, the mechanic from his shop, and the
philosopher from his school; to rouse the indolent citizen from his
dream of pleasure, and to arm, for the protection of agriculture, the
hands of the laborious husbandman. At the head of such troops, who
might deserve the name, and would display the spirit, of Romans, he
animates the son of Theodosius to encounter a race of Barbarians, who
were destitute of any real courage; and never to lay down his arms,
till he had chased them far away into the solitudes of Scythia; or had
reduced them to the state of ignominious servitude, which the
Lacedæmonians formerly imposed on the captive Helots. The court of
Arcadius indulged the zeal, applauded the eloquence, and neglected the
advice, of Synesius. Perhaps the philosopher who addresses the emperor
of the East in the language of reason and virtue, which he might have
used to a Spartan king, had not condescended to form a practicable
scheme, consistent with the temper, and circumstances, of a degenerate
age. Perhaps the pride of the ministers, whose business was seldom
interrupted by reflection, might reject, as wild and visionary, every
proposal, which exceeded the measure of their capacity, and deviated
from the forms and precedents of office. While the oration of
Synesius, and the downfall of the Barbarians, were the topics of
popular conversation, an edict was published at Constantinople, which
declared the promotion of Alaric to the rank of master-general of the
Eastern Illyricum. The Roman provincials, and the allies, who had
respected the faith of treaties, were justly indignant, that the ruin
of Greece and Epirus should be so liberally rewarded. The Gothic
conqueror was received as a lawful magistrate, in the cities which he
had so lately besieged. The fathers, whose sons he had massacred, the
husbands, whose wives he had violated, were subject to his authority;
and the success of his rebellion encouraged the ambition of every
leader of the foreign mercenaries. The use to which Alaric applied his
new command, distinguishes the firm and judicious character of his
policy. He issued his orders to the four magazines and manufactures of
offensive and defensive arms, Margus, Ratiaria, Naissus, and
Thessalonica, to provide his troops with an extraordinary supply of
shields, helmets, swords, and spears; the unhappy provincials were
compelled to forge the instruments of their own destruction; and the
Barbarians removed the only defect which had sometimes disappointed
the efforts of their courage. The birth of Alaric, the glory of his
past exploits, and the confidence in his future designs, insensibly
united the body of the nation under his victorious standard; and, with
the unanimous consent of the Barbarian chieftains, the master-general
of Illyricum was elevated, according to ancient custom, on a shield,
and solemnly proclaimed king of the Visigoths. Armed with this double
power, seated on the verge of the two empires, he alternately sold his
deceitful promises to the courts of Arcadius and Honorius; till he
declared and executed his resolution of invading the dominions of the
West. The provinces of Europe which belonged to the Eastern emperor,
were already exhausted; those of Asia were inaccessible; and the
strength of Constantinople had resisted his attack. But he was tempted
by the fame, the beauty, the wealth of Italy, which he had twice
visited; and he secretly aspired to plant the Gothic standard on the
walls of Rome, and to enrich his army with the accumulated spoils of
three hundred triumphs.

The scarcity of facts, and the uncertainty of dates, oppose our
attempts to describe the circumstances of the first invasion of Italy
by the arms of Alaric. His march, perhaps from Thessalonica, through
the warlike and hostile country of Pannonia, as far as the foot of the
Julian Alps; his passage of those mountains, which were strongly
guarded by troops and intrenchments; the siege of Aquileia, and the
conquest of the provinces of Istria and Venetia, appear to have
employed a considerable time. Unless his operations were extremely
cautious and slow, the length of the interval would suggest a probable
suspicion, that the Gothic king retreated towards the banks of the
Danube; and reënforced his army with fresh swarms of Barbarians,
before he again attempted to penetrate into the heart of Italy. Since
the public and important events escape the diligence of the historian,
he may amuse himself with contemplating, for a moment, the influence
of the arms of Alaric on the fortunes of two obscure individuals, a
presbyter of Aquileia and a husbandman of Verona. The learned Rufinus,
who was summoned by his enemies to appear before a Roman synod, wisely
preferred the dangers of a besieged city; and the Barbarians, who
furiously shook the walls of Aquileia, might save him from the cruel
sentence of another heretic, who, at the request of the same bishops,
was severely whipped, and condemned to perpetual exile on a desert
island. The old man
, who had passed his simple and innocent life in the neighborhood of
Verona, was a stranger to the quarrels both of kings and of bishops;
hispleasures, his desires, his knowledge, were confined within the
little circle of his paternal farm; and a staff supported his aged
steps, on the same ground where he had sported in his infancy. Yet
even this humble and rustic felicity (which Claudian describes with so
much truth and feeling) was still exposed to the undistinguishing rage
of war. His trees, his old contemporary trees, must blaze in the
conflagration of the whole country; a detachment of Gothic cavalry
might sweep away his cottage and his family; and the power of Alaric
could destroy this happiness, which he was not able either to taste or
to bestow. "Fame," says the poet, "encircling with terror her gloomy
wings, proclaimed the march of the Barbarian army, and filled Italy
with consternation:" the apprehensions of each individual were
increased in just proportion to the measure of his fortune: and the
most timid, who had already embarked their valuable effects, meditated
their escape to the Island of Sicily, or the African coast. The public
distress was aggravated by the fears and reproaches of superstition.
Every hour produced some horrid tale of strange and portentous
accidents; the Pagans deplored the neglect of omens, and the
interruption of sacrifices; but the Christians still derived some
comfort from the powerful intercession of the saints and martyrs.

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

The emperor Honorius was distinguished, above his subjects, by the
preeminence of fear, as well as of rank. The pride and luxury in which
he was educated, had not allowed him to suspect, that there existed on
the earth any power presumptuous enough to invade the repose of the
successor of Augustus. The arts of flattery concealed the impending
danger, till Alaric approached the palace of Milan. But when the sound
of war had awakened the young emperor, instead of flying to arms with
the spirit, or even the rashness, of his age, he eagerly listened to
those timid counsellors, who proposed to convey his sacred person, and
his faithful attendants, to some secure and distant station in the
provinces of Gaul. Stilicho alone had courage and authority to resist
his disgraceful measure, which would have abandoned Rome and Italy to
the Barbarians; but as the troops of the palace had been lately
detached to the Rhætian frontier, and as the resource of new levies
was slow and precarious, the general of the West could only promise,
that if the court of Milan would maintain their ground during his
absence, he would soon return with an army equal to the encounter of
the Gothic king. Without losing a moment, (while each moment was so
important to the public safety,) Stilicho hastily embarked on the
Larian Lake, ascended the mountains of ice and snow, amidst the
severity of an Alpine winter, and suddenly repressed, by his
unexpected presence, the enemy, who had disturbed the tranquillity of
Rhætia. The Barbarians, perhaps some tribes of the Alemanni, respected
the firmness of a chief, who still assumed the language of command;
and the choice which he condescended to make, of a select number of
their bravest youth, was considered as a mark of his esteem and favor.
The cohorts, who were delivered from the neighboring foe, diligently
repaired to the Imperial standard; and Stilicho issued his orders to
the most remote troops of the West, to advance, by rapid marches, to
the defence of Honorius and of Italy. The fortresses of the Rhine were
abandoned; and the safety of Gaul was protected only by the faith of
the Germans, and the ancient terror of the Roman name. Even the
legion, which had been stationed to guard the wall of Britain against
the Caledonians of the North, was hastily recalled; and a numerous
body of the cavalry of the Alani was persuaded to engage in the
service of the emperor, who anxiously expected the return of his
general. The prudence and vigor of Stilicho were conspicuous on this
occasion, which revealed, at the same time, the weakness of the
falling empire. The legions of Rome, which had long since languished
in the gradual decay of discipline and courage, were exterminated by
the Gothic and civil wars; and it was found impossible, without
exhausting and exposing the provinces, to assemble an army for the
defence of Italy.

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

When Stilicho seemed to abandon his sovereign in the unguarded palace
of Milan, he had probably calculated the term of his absence, the
distance of the enemy, and the obstacles that might retard their
march. He principally depended on the rivers of Italy, the Adige, the
Mincius, the Oglio, and the Addua, which, in the winter or spring, by
the fall of rains, or by the melting of the snows, are commonly
swelled into broad and impetuous torrents. But the season happened to
be remarkably dry: and the Goths could traverse, without impediment,
the wide and stony beds, whose centre was faintly marked by the course
of a shallow stream. The bridge and passage of the Addua were secured
by a strong detachment of the Gothic army; and as Alaric approached
the walls, or rather the suburbs, of Milan, he enjoyed the proud
satisfaction of seeing the emperor of the Romans fly before him.
Honorius, accompanied by a feeble train of statesmen and eunuchs,
hastily retreated towards the Alps, with a design of securing his
person in the city of Arles, which had often been the royal residence
of his predecessors. * But Honorius had scarcely passed the Po, before
he was overtaken by the speed of the Gothic cavalry; since the urgency
of the danger compelled him to seek a temporary shelter within the
fortifications of Asta, a town of Liguria or Piemont, situate on the
banks of the Tanarus. The siege of an obscure place, which contained
so rich a prize, and seemed incapable of a long resistance, was
instantly formed, and indefatigably pressed, by the king of the Goths;
and the bold declaration, which the emperor might afterwards make,
that his breast had never been susceptible of fear, did not probably
obtain much credit, even in his own court. In the last, and almost
hopeless extremity, after the Barbarians had already proposed the
indignity of a capitulation, the Imperial captive was suddenly
relieved by the fame, the approach, and at length the presence, of the
hero, whom he had so long expected. At the head of a chosen and
intrepid vanguard, Stilicho swam the stream of the Addua, to gain the
time which he must have lost in the attack of the bridge; the passage
of the Po was an enterprise of much less hazard and difficulty; and
the successful action, in which he cut his way through the Gothic camp
under the walls of Asta, revived the hopes, and vindicated the honor,
of Rome. Instead of grasping the fruit of his victory, the Barbarian
was gradually invested, on every side, by the troops of the West, who
successively issued through all the passes of the Alps; his quarters
were straitened; his convoys were intercepted; and the vigilance of
the Romans prepared to form a chain of fortifications, and to besiege
the lines of the besiegers. A military council was assembled of the
long-haired chiefs of the Gothic nation; of aged warriors, whose
bodies were wrapped in furs, and whose stern countenances were marked
with honorable wounds. They weighed the glory of persisting in their
attempt against the advantage of securing their plunder; and they
recommended the prudent measure of a seasonable retreat. In this
important debate, Alaric displayed the spirit of the conqueror of
Rome; and after he had reminded his countrymen of their achievements
and of their designs, he concluded his animating speech by the solemn
and positive assurance that he was resolved to find in Italy either a
kingdom or a grave.

The loose discipline of the Barbarians always exposed them to the
danger of a surprise; but, instead of choosing the dissolute hours of
riot and intemperance, Stilicho resolved to attack the Christian
Goths, whilst they were devoutly employed in celebrating the festival
of Easter. The execution of the stratagem, or, as it was termed by the
clergy of the sacrilege, was intrusted to Saul, a Barbarian and a
Pagan, who had served, however, with distinguished reputation among
the veteran generals of Theodosius. The camp of the Goths, which
Alaric had pitched in the neighborhood of Pollentia, was thrown into
confusion by the sudden and impetuous charge of the Imperial cavalry;
but, in a few moments, the undaunted genius of their leader gave them
an order, and a field of battle; and, as soon as they had recovered
from their astonishment, the pious confidence, that the God of the
Christians would assert their cause, added new strength to their
native valor. In this engagement, which was long maintained with equal
courage and success, the chief of the Alani, whose diminutive and
savage form concealed a magnanimous soul approved his suspected
loyalty, by the zeal with which he fought, and fell, in the service of
the republic; and the fame of this gallant Barbarian has been
imperfectly preserved in the verses of Claudian, since the poet, who
celebrates his virtue, has omitted the mention of his name. His death
was followed by the flight and dismay of the squadrons which he
commanded; and the defeat of the wing of cavalry might have decided
the victory of Alaric, if Stilicho had not immediately led the Roman
and Barbarian infantry to the attack. The skill of the general, and
the bravery of the soldiers, surmounted every obstacle. In the evening
of the bloody day, the Goths retreated from the field of battle; the
intrenchments of their camp were forced, and the scene of rapine and
slaughter made some atonement for the calamities which they had
inflicted on the subjects of the empire. The magnificent spoils of
Corinth and Argos enriched the veterans of the West; the captive wife
of Alaric, who had impatiently claimed his promise of Roman jewels and
Patrician handmaids, was reduced to implore the mercy of the insulting
foe; and many thousand prisoners, released from the Gothic chains,
dispersed through the provinces of Italy the praises of their heroic
deliverer. The triumph of Stilicho was compared by the poet, and
perhaps by the public, to that of Marius; who, in the same part of
Italy, had encountered and destroyed another army of Northern
Barbarians. The huge bones, and the empty helmets, of the Cimbri and
of the Goths, would easily be confounded by succeeding generations;
and posterity might erect a common trophy to the memory of the two
most illustrious generals, who had vanquished, on the same memorable
ground, the two most formidable enemies of Rome.

The eloquence of Claudian has celebrated, with lavish applause, the
victory of Pollentia, one of the most glorious days in the life of his
patron; but his reluctant and partial muse bestows more genuine praise
on the character of the Gothic king. His name is, indeed, branded with
the reproachful epithets of pirate and robber, to which the conquerors
of every age are so justly entitled; but the poet of Stilicho is
compelled to acknowledge that Alaric possessed the invincible temper
of mind, which rises superior to every misfortune, and derives new
resources from adversity. After the total defeat of his infantry, he
escaped, or rather withdrew, from the field of battle, with the
greatest part of his cavalry entire and unbroken. Without wasting a
moment to lament the irreparable loss of so many brave companions, he
left his victorious enemy to bind in chains the captive images of a
Gothic king; and boldly resolved to break through the unguarded passes
of the Apennine, to spread desolation over the fruitful face of
Tuscany, and to conquer or die before the gates of Rome. The capital
was saved by the active and incessant diligence of Stilicho; but he
respected the despair of his enemy; and, instead of committing the
fate of the republic to the chance of another battle, he proposed to
purchase the absence of the Barbarians. The spirit of Alaric would
have rejected such terms, the permission of a retreat, and the offer
of a pension, with contempt and indignation; but he exercised a
limited and precarious authority over the independent chieftains who
had raised him, for their
service, above the rank of his equals; they were still less disposed
to follow an unsuccessful general, and many of them were tempted to
consult their interest by a private negotiation with the minister of
Honorius. The king submitted to the voice of his people, ratified the
treaty with the empire of the West, and repassed the Po with the
remains of the flourishing army which he had led into Italy. A
considerable part of the Roman forces still continued to attend his
motions; and Stilicho, who maintained a secret correspondence with
some of the Barbarian chiefs, was punctually apprised of the designs
that were formed in the camp and council of Alaric. The king of the
Goths, ambitious to signalize his retreat by some splendid
achievement, had resolved to occupy the important city of Verona,
which commands the principal passage of the Rhætian Alps; and,
directing his march through the territories of those German tribes,
whose alliance would restore his exhausted strength, to invade, on the
side of the Rhine, the wealthy and unsuspecting provinces of Gaul.
Ignorant of the treason which had already betrayed his bold and
judicious enterprise, he advanced towards the passes of the mountains,
already possessed by the Imperial troops; where he was exposed, almost
at the same instant, to a general attack in the front, on his flanks,
and in the rear. In this bloody action, at a small distance from the
walls of Verona, the loss of the Goths was not less heavy than that
which they had sustained in the defeat of Pollentia; and their valiant
king, who escaped by the swiftness of his horse, must either have been
slain or made prisoner, if the hasty rashness of the Alani had not
disappointed the measures of the Roman general. Alaric secured the
remains of his army on the adjacent rocks; and prepared himself, with
undaunted resolution, to maintain a siege against the superior numbers
of the enemy, who invested him on all sides. But he could not oppose
the destructive progress of hunger and disease; nor was it possible
for him to check the continual desertion of his impatient and
capricious Barbarians. In this extremity he still found resources in
his own courage, or in the moderation of his adversary; and the
retreat of the Gothic king was considered as the deliverance of Italy.
Yet the people, and even the clergy, incapable of forming any rational
judgment of the business of peace and war, presumed to arraign the
policy of Stilicho, who so often vanquished, so often surrounded, and
so often dismissed the implacable enemy of the republic. The first
moment of the public safety is devoted to gratitude and joy; but the
second is diligently occupied by envy and calumny.

The citizens of Rome had been astonished by the approach of Alaric;
and the diligence with which they labored to restore the walls of the
capital, confessed their own fears, and the decline of the empire.
After the retreat of the Barbarians, Honorius was directed to accept
the dutiful invitation of the senate, and to celebrate, in the
Imperial city, the auspicious æra of the Gothic victory, and of his
sixth consulship. The suburbs and the streets, from the Milvian bridge
to the Palatine mount, were filled by the Roman people, who, in the
space of a hundred years, had only thrice been honored with the
presence of their sovereigns. While their eyes were fixed on the
chariot where Stilicho was deservedly seated by the side of his royal
pupil, they applauded the pomp of a triumph, which was not stained,
like that of Constantine, or of Theodosius, with civil blood. The
procession passed under a lofty arch, which had been purposely
erected: but in less than seven years, the Gothic conquerors of Rome
might read, if they were able to read, the superb inscription of that
monument, which attested the total defeat and destruction of their
nation. The emperor resided several months in the capital, and every
part of his behavior was regulated with care to conciliate the
affection of the clergy, the senate, and the people of Rome. The
clergy was edified by his frequent visits and liberal gifts to the
shrines of the apostles. The senate, who, in the triumphal procession,
had been excused from the humiliating ceremony of preceding on foot
the Imperial chariot, was treated with the decent reverence which
Stilicho always affected for that assembly. The people was repeatedly
gratified by the attention and courtesy of Honorius in the public
games, which were celebrated on that occasion with a magnificence not
unworthy of the spectator. As soon as the appointed number of chariot-
races was concluded, the decoration of the Circus was suddenly
changed; the hunting of wild beasts afforded a various and splendid
entertainment; and the chase was succeeded by a military dance, which
seems, in the lively description of Claudian, to present the image of
a modern tournament.

In these games of Honorius, the inhuman combats of gladiators
polluted, for the last time, the amphitheater of Rome. The first
Christian emperor may claim the honor of the first edict which
condemned the art and amusement of shedding human blood; but this
benevolent law expressed the wishes of the prince, without reforming
an inveterate abuse, which degraded a civilized nation below the
condition of savage cannibals. Several hundred, perhaps several
thousand, victims were annually slaughtered in the great cities of the
empire; and the month of December, more peculiarly devoted to the
combats of gladiators, still exhibited to the eyes of the Roman people
a grateful spectacle of blood and cruelty. Amidst the general joy of
the victory of Pollentia, a Christian poet exhorted the emperor to
extirpate, by his authority, the horrid custom which had so long
resisted the voice of humanity and religion. The pathetic
representations of Prudentius were less effectual than the generous
boldness of Telemachus, and Asiatic monk, whose death was more useful
to mankind than his life. The Romans were provoked by the interruption
of their pleasures; and the rash monk, who had descended into the
arena to separate the gladiators, was overwhelmed under a shower of
stones. But the madness of the people soon subsided; they respected
the memory of Telemachus, who had deserved the honors of martyrdom;
and they submitted, without a murmur, to the laws of Honorius, which
abolished forever the human sacrifices of the amphitheater. * The
citizens, who adhered to the manners of their ancestors, might perhaps
insinuate that the last remains of a martial spirit were preserved in
this school of fortitude, which accustomed the Romans to the sight of
blood, and to the contempt of death; a vain and cruel prejudice, so
nobly confuted by the valor of ancient Greece, and of modern Europe!

The recent danger, to which the person of the emperor had been exposed
in the defenceless palace of Milan, urged him to seek a retreat in
some inaccessible fortress of Italy, where he might securely remain,
while the open country was covered by a deluge of Barbarians. On the
coast of the Adriatic, about ten or twelve miles from the most
southern of the seven mouths of the Po, the Thessalians had founded
the ancient colony of Ravenna, which they afterwards resigned to the
natives of Umbria. Augustus, who had observed the opportunity of the
place, prepared, at the distance of three miles from the old town, a
capacious harbor, for the reception of two hundred and fifty ships of
war. This naval establishment, which included the arsenals and
magazines, the barracks of the troops, and the houses of the
artificers, derived its origin and name from the permanent station of
the Roman fleet; the intermediate space was soon filled with buildings
and inhabitants, and the three extensive and populous quarters of
Ravenna gradually contributed to form one of the most important cities
of Italy. The principal canal of Augustus poured a copious stream of
the waters of the Po through the midst of the city, to the entrance of
the harbor; the same waters were introduced into the profound ditches
that encompassed the walls; they were distributed by a thousand
subordinate canals, into every part of the city, which they divided
into a variety of small islands; the communication was maintained only
by the use of boats and bridges; and the houses of Ravenna, whose
appearance may be compared to that of Venice, were raised on the
foundation of wooden piles. The adjacent country, to the distance of
many miles, was a deep and impassable morass; and the artificial
causeway, which connected Ravenna with the continent, might be easily
guarded or destroyed, on the approach of a hostile army These morasses
were interspersed, however, with vineyards: and though the soil was
exhausted by four or five crops, the town enjoyed a more plentiful
supply of wine than of fresh water. The air, instead of receiving the
sickly, and almost pestilential, exhalations of low and marshy
grounds, was distinguished, like the neighborhood of Alexandria, as
uncommonly pure and salubrious; and this singular advantage was
ascribed to the regular tides of the Adriatic, which swept the canals,
interrupted the unwholesome stagnation of the waters, and floated,
every day, the vessels of the adjacent country into the heart of
Ravenna. The gradual retreat of the sea has left the modern city at
the distance of four miles from the Adriatic; and as early as the
fifth or sixth century of the Christian æra, the port of Augustus was
converted into pleasant orchards; and a lonely grove of pines covered
the ground where the Roman fleet once rode at anchor. Even this
alteration contributed to increase the natural strength of the place,
and the shallowness of the water was a sufficient barrier against the
large ships of the enemy. This advantageous situation was fortified by
art and labor; and in the twentieth year of his age, the emperor of
the West, anxious only for his personal safety, retired to the
perpetual confinement of the walls and morasses of Ravenna. The
example of Honorius was imitated by his feeble successors, the Gothic
kings, and afterwards the Exarchs, who occupied the throne and palace
of the emperors; and till the middle of the eight century, Ravenna was
considered as the seat of government, and the capital of Italy.

The fears of Honorius were not without foundation, nor were his
precautions without effect. While Italy rejoiced in her deliverance
from the Goths, a furious tempest was excited among the nations of
Germany, who yielded to the irresistible impulse that appears to have
been gradually communicated from the eastern extremity of the
continent of Asia. The Chinese annals, as they have been interpreted
by the earned industry of the present age, may be usefully applied to
reveal the secret and remote causes of the fall of the Roman empire.

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