Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Part 5 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download - Full Text Free Book (Part 5/8) pdf
File size: 1.0 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

are useless to a God who neither eats nor drinks, the generous prelate
sold the plate of the church of Amida; employed the price in the
redemption of seven thousand Persian captives; supplied their wants
with affectionate liberality; and dismissed them to their native
country, to inform their king of the true spirit of the religion which
he persecuted. The practice of benevolence in the midst of war must
always tend to assuage the animosity of contending nations; and I wish
to persuade myself, that Acacius contributed to the restoration of
peace. In the conference which was held on the limits of the two
empires, the Roman ambassadors degraded the personal character of
their sovereign, by a vain attempt to magnify the extent of his power;
when they seriously advised the Persians to prevent, by a timely
accommodation, the wrath of a monarch, who was yet ignorant of this
distant war. A truce of one hundred years was solemnly ratified; and
although the revolutions of Armenia might threaten the public
tranquillity, the essential conditions of this treaty were respected
near fourscore years by the successors of Constantine and Artaxerxes.

Since the Roman and Parthian standards first encountered on the banks
of the Euphrates, the kingdom of Armenia was alternately oppressed by
its formidable protectors; and in the course of this History, several
events, which inclined the balance of peace and war, have been already
related. A disgraceful treaty had resigned Armenia to the ambition of
Sapor; and the scale of Persia appeared to preponderate. But the royal
race of Arsaces impatiently submitted to the house of Sassan; the
turbulent nobles asserted, or betrayed, their hereditary independence;
and the nation was still attached to the Christian
princes of Constantinople. In the beginning of the fifth century,
Armenia was divided by the progress of war and faction; and the
unnatural division precipitated the downfall of that ancient monarchy.
Chosroes, the Persian vassal, reigned over the Eastern and most
extensive portion of the country; while the Western province
acknowledged the jurisdiction of Arsaces, and the supremacy of the
emperor Arcadius. * After the death of Arsaces, the Romans suppressed
the regal government, and imposed on their allies the condition of
subjects. The military command was delegated to the count of the
Armenian frontier; the city of Theodosiopolis was built and fortified
in a strong situation, on a fertile and lofty ground, near the sources
of the Euphrates; and the dependent territories were ruled by five
satraps, whose dignity was marked by a peculiar habit of gold and
purple. The less fortunate nobles, who lamented the loss of their
king, and envied the honors of their equals, were provoked to
negotiate their peace and pardon at the Persian court; and returning,
with their followers, to the palace of Artaxata, acknowledged Chosroes
for their lawful sovereign. About thirty years afterwards, Artasires,
the nephew and successor of Chosroes, fell under the displeasure of
the haughty and capricious nobles of Armenia; and they unanimously
desired a Persian governor in the room of an unworthy king. The answer
of the archbishop Isaac, whose sanction they earnestly solicited, is
expressive of the character of a superstitious people. He deplored the
manifest and inexcusable vices of Artasires; and declared, that he
should not hesitate to accuse him before the tribunal of a Christian
emperor, who would punish, without destroying, the sinner. "Our king,"
continued Isaac, "is too much addicted to licentious pleasures, but he
has been purified in the holy waters of baptism. He is a lover of
women, but he does not adore the fire or the elements. He may deserve
the reproach of lewdness, but he is an undoubted Catholic; and his
faith is pure, though his manners are flagitious. I will never consent
to abandon my sheep to the rage of devouring wolves; and you would
soon repent your rash exchange of the infirmities of a believer, for
the specious virtues of a heathen." Exasperated by the firmness of
Isaac, the factious nobles accused both the king and the archbishop as
the secret adherents of the emperor; and absurdly rejoiced in the
sentence of condemnation, which, after a partial hearing, was solemnly
pronounced by Bahram himself. The descendants of Arsaces were degraded
from the royal dignity, which they had possessed above five hundred
and sixty years; and the dominions of the unfortunate Artasires, *
under the new and significant appellation of Persarmenia, were reduced
into the form of a province. This usurpation excited the jealousy of
the Roman government; but the rising disputes were soon terminated by
an amicable, though unequal, partition of the ancient kingdom of
Armenia: and a territorial acquisition, which Augustus might have
despised, reflected some lustre on the declining empire of the younger

Chapter XXXIII: Conquest Of Africa By The Vandals.

Part I.

Death Of Honorius. -- Valentinian III. -- Emperor Of The East. --
Administration Of His Mother Placidia -- Ætius And Boniface. --
Conquest Of Africa By The Vandals.

During a long and disgraceful reign of twenty-eight years, Honorius,
emperor of the West, was separated from the friendship of his brother,
and afterwards of his nephew, who reigned over the East; and
Constantinople beheld, with apparent indifference and secret joy, the
calamities of Rome. The strange adventures of Placidia gradually
renewed and cemented the alliance of the two empires. The daughter of
the great Theodosius had been the captive, and the queen, of the
Goths; she lost an affectionate husband; she was dragged in chains by
his insulting assassin; she tasted the pleasure of revenge, and was
exchanged, in the treaty of peace, for six hundred thousand measures
of wheat. After her return from Spain to Italy, Placidia experienced a
new persecution in the bosom of her family. She was averse to a
marriage, which had been stipulated without her consent; and the brave
Constantius, as a noble reward for the tyrants whom he had vanquished,
received, from the hand of Honorius himself, the struggling and the
reluctant hand of the widow of Adolphus. But her resistance ended with
the ceremony of the nuptials: nor did Placidia refuse to become the
mother of Honoria and Valentinian the Third, or to assume and exercise
an absolute dominion over the mind of her grateful husband. The
generous soldier, whose time had hitherto been divided between social
pleasure and military service, was taught new lessons of avarice and
ambition: he extorted the title of Augustus: and the servant of
Honorius was associated to the empire of the West. The death of
Constantius, in the seventh month of his reign, instead of
diminishing, seemed to increase the power of Placidia; and the
indecent familiarity of her brother, which might be no more than the
symptoms of a childish affection, were universally attributed to
incestuous love. On a sudden, by some base intrigues of a steward and
a nurse, this excessive fondness was converted into an irreconcilable
quarrel: the debates of the emperor and his sister were not long
confined within the walls of the palace; and as the Gothic soldiers
adhered to their queen, the city of Ravenna was agitated with bloody
and dangerous tumults, which could only be appeased by the forced or
voluntary retreat of Placidia and her children. The royal exiles
landed at Constantinople, soon after the marriage of Theodosius,
during the festival of the Persian victories. They were treated with
kindness and magnificence; but as the statues of the emperor
Constantius had been rejected by the Eastern court, the title of
Augusta could not decently be allowed to his widow. Within a few
months after the arrival of Placidia, a swift messenger announced the
death of Honorius, the consequence of a dropsy; but the important
secret was not divulged, till the necessary orders had been despatched
for the march of a large body of troops to the `-coast of Dalmatia.
The shops and the gates of Constantinople remained shut during seven
days; and the loss of a foreign prince, who could neither be esteemed
nor regretted, was celebrated with loud and affected demonstrations of
the public grief.

While the ministers of Constantinople deliberated, the vacant throne
of Honorius was usurped by the ambition of a stranger. The name of the
rebel was John; he filled the confidential office of Primicerius
, or principal secretary, and history has attributed to his character
more virtues, than can easily be reconciled with the violation of the
most sacred duty. Elated by the submission of Italy, and the hope of
an alliance with the Huns, John presumed to insult, by an embassy, the
majesty of the Eastern emperor; but when he understood that his agents
had been banished, imprisoned, and at length chased away with deserved
ignominy, John prepared to assert, by arms, the injustice of his
claims. In such a cause, the grandson of the great Theodosius should
have marched in person: but the young emperor was easily diverted, by
his physicians, from so rash and hazardous a design; and the conduct
of the Italian expedition was prudently intrusted to Ardaburius, and
his son Aspar, who had already signalized their valor against the
Persians. It was resolved, that Ardaburius should embark with the
infantry; whilst Aspar, at the head of the cavalry, conducted Placidia
and her son Valentinian along the sea-coast of the Adriatic. The march
of the cavalry was performed with such active diligence, that they
surprised, without resistance, the important city of Aquileia: when
the hopes of Aspar were unexpectedly confounded by the intelligence,
that a storm had dispersed the Imperial fleet; and that his father,
with only two galleys, was taken and carried a prisoner into the port
of Ravenna. Yet this incident, unfortunate as it might seem,
facilitated the conquest of Italy. Ardaburius employed, or abused, the
courteous freedom which he was permitted to enjoy, to revive among the
troops a sense of loyalty and gratitude; and as soon as the conspiracy
was ripe for execution, he invited, by private messages, and pressed
the approach of, Aspar. A shepherd, whom the popular credulity
transformed into an angel, guided the eastern cavalry by a secret,
and, it was thought, an impassable road, through the morasses of the
Po: the gates of Ravenna, after a short struggle, were thrown open;
and the defenceless tyrant was delivered to the mercy, or rather to
the cruelty, of the conquerors. His right hand was first cut off; and,
after he had been exposed, mounted on an ass, to the public derision,
John was beheaded in the circus of Aquileia. The emperor Theodosius,
when he received the news of the victory, interrupted the horse-races;
and singing, as he marched through the streets, a suitable psalm,
conducted his people from the Hippodrome to the church, where he spent
the remainder of the day in grateful devotion.

In a monarchy, which, according to various precedents, might be
considered as elective, or hereditary, or patrimonial, it was
impossible that the intricate claims of female and collateral
succession should be clearly defined; and Theodosius, by the right of
consanguinity or conquest, might have reigned the sole legitimate
emperor of the Romans. For a moment, perhaps, his eyes were dazzled by
the prospect of unbounded sway; but his indolent temper gradually
acquiesced in the dictates of sound policy. He contented himself with
the possession of the East; and wisely relinquished the laborious task
of waging a distant and doubtful war against the Barbarians beyond the
Alps; or of securing the obedience of the Italians and Africans, whose
minds were alienated by the irreconcilable difference of language and
interest. Instead of listening to the voice of ambition, Theodosius
resolved to imitate the moderation of his grandfather, and to seat his
cousin Valentinian on the throne of the West. The royal infant was
distinguished at Constantinople by the title of Nobilissimus
: he was promoted, before his departure from Thessalonica, to the rank
and dignity of Cæsar; and after the conquest of Italy, the patrician
Helion, by the authority of Theodosius, and in the presence of the
senate, saluted Valentinian the Third by the name of Augustus, and
solemnly invested him with the diadem and the Imperial purple. By the
agreement of the three females who governed the Roman world, the son
of Placidia was betrothed to Eudoxia, the daughter of Theodosius and
Athenais; and as soon as the lover and his bride had attained the age
of puberty, this honorable alliance was faithfully accomplished. At
the same time, as a compensation, perhaps, for the expenses of the
war, the Western Illyricum was detached from the Italian dominions,
and yielded to the throne of Constantinople. The emperor of the East
acquired the useful dominion of the rich and maritime province of
Dalmatia, and the dangerous sovereignty of Pannonia and Noricum, which
had been filled and ravaged above twenty years by a promiscuous crowd
of Huns, Ostrogoths, Vandals, and Bavarians. Theodosius and
Valentinian continued to respect the obligations of their public and
domestic alliance; but the unity of the Roman government was finally
dissolved. By a positive declaration, the validity of all future laws
was limited to the dominions of their peculiar author; unless he
should think proper to communicate them, subscribed with his own hand,
for the approbation of his independent colleague.

Valentinian, when he received the title of Augustus, was no more than
six years of age; and his long minority was intrusted to the guardian
care of a mother, who might assert a female claim to the succession of
the Western empire. Placidia envied, but she could not equal, the
reputation and virtues of the wife and sister of Theodosius, the
elegant genius of Eudocia, the wise and successful policy of
Pulcheria. The mother of Valentinian was jealous of the power which
she was incapable of exercising; she reigned twenty-five years, in the
name of her son; and the character of that unworthy emperor gradually
countenanced the suspicion that Placidia had enervated his youth by a
dissolute education, and studiously diverted his attention from every
manly and honorable pursuit. Amidst the decay of military spirit, her
armies were commanded by two generals, Ætius and Boniface, who may be
deservedly named as the last of the Romans. Their union might have
supported a sinking empire; their discord was the fatal and immediate
cause of the loss of Africa. The invasion and defeat of Attila have
immortalized the fame of Ætius; and though time has thrown a shade
over the exploits of his rival, the defence of Marseilles, and the
deliverance of Africa, attest the military talents of Count Boniface.
In the field of battle, in partial encounters, in single combats, he
was still the terror of the Barbarians: the clergy, and particularly
his friend Augustin, were edified by the Christian piety which had
once tempted him to retire from the world; the people applauded his
spotless integrity; the army dreaded his equal and inexorable justice,
which may be displayed in a very singular example. A peasant, who
complained of the criminal intimacy between his wife and a Gothic
soldier, was directed to attend his tribunal the following day: in the
evening the count, who had diligently informed himself of the time and
place of the assignation, mounted his horse, rode ten miles into the
country, surprised the guilty couple, punished the soldier with
instant death, and silenced the complaints of the husband by
presenting him, the next morning, with the head of the adulterer. The
abilities of Ætius and Boniface might have been usefully employed
against the public enemies, in separate and important commands; but
the experience of their past conduct should have decided the real
favor and confidence of the empress Placidia. In the melancholy season
of her exile and distress, Boniface alone had maintained her cause
with unshaken fidelity: and the troops and treasures of Africa had
essentially contributed to extinguish the rebellion. The same
rebellion had been supported by the zeal and activity of Ætius, who
brought an army of sixty thousand Huns from the Danube to the confines
of Italy, for the service of the usurper. The untimely death of John
compelled him to accept an advantageous treaty; but he still
continued, the subject and the soldier of Valentinian, to entertain a
secret, perhaps a treasonable, correspondence with his Barbarian
allies, whose retreat had been purchased by liberal gifts, and more
liberal promises. But Ætius possessed an advantage of singular moment
in a female reign; he was present: he besieged, with artful and
assiduous flattery, the palace of Ravenna; disguised his dark designs
with the mask of loyalty and friendship; and at length deceived both
his mistress and his absent rival, by a subtle conspiracy, which a
weak woman and a brave man could not easily suspect. He had secretly
persuaded Placidia to recall Boniface from the government of Africa;
he secretly advised Boniface to disobey the Imperial summons: to the
one, he represented the order as a sentence of death; to the other, he
stated the refusal as a signal of revolt; and when the credulous and
unsuspectful count had armed the province in his defence, Ætius
applauded his sagacity in foreseeing the rebellion, which his own
perfidy had excited. A temperate inquiry into the real motives of
Boniface would have restored a faithful servant to his duty and to the
republic; but the arts of Ætius still continued to betray and to
inflame, and the count was urged, by persecution, to embrace the most
desperate counsels. The success with which he eluded or repelled the
first attacks, could not inspire a vain confidence, that at the head
of some loose, disorderly Africans, he should be able to withstand the
regular forces of the West, commanded by a rival, whose military
character it was impossible for him to despise. After some hesitation,
the last struggles of prudence and loyalty, Boniface despatched a
trusty friend to the court, or rather to the camp, of Gonderic, king
of the Vandals, with the proposal of a strict alliance, and the offer
of an advantageous and perpetual settlement.

After the retreat of the Goths, the authority of Honorius had obtained
a precarious establishment in Spain; except only in the province of
Gallicia, where the Suevi and the Vandals had fortified their camps,
in mutual discord and hostile independence. The Vandals prevailed; and
their adversaries were besieged in the Nervasian hills, between Leon
and Oviedo, till the approach of Count Asterius compelled, or rather
provoked, the victorious Barbarians to remove the scene of the war to
the plains of Btica. The rapid progress of the Vandals soon acquired a
more effectual opposition; and the master-general Castinus marched
against them with a numerous army of Romans and Goths. Vanquished in
battle by an inferior army, Castinus fled with dishonor to Tarragona;
and this memorable defeat, which has been represented as the
punishment, was most probably the effect, of his rash presumption.
Seville and Carthagena became the reward, or rather the prey, of the
ferocious conquerors; and the vessels which they found in the harbor
of Carthagena might easily transport them to the Isles of Majorca and
Minorca, where the Spanish fugitives, as in a secure recess, had
vainly concealed their families and their fortunes. The experience of
navigation, and perhaps the prospect of Africa, encouraged the Vandals
to accept the invitation which they received from Count Boniface; and
the death of Gonderic served only to forward and animate the bold
enterprise. In the room of a prince not conspicuous for any superior
powers of the mind or body, they acquired his bastard brother, the
terrible Genseric; a name, which, in the destruction of the Roman
empire, has deserved an equal rank with the names of Alaric and
Attila. The king of the Vandals is described to have been of a middle
stature, with a lameness in one leg, which he had contracted by an
accidental fall from his horse. His slow and cautious speech seldom
declared the deep purposes of his soul; he disdained to imitate the
luxury of the vanquished; but he indulged the sterner passions of
anger and revenge. The ambition of Genseric was without bounds and
without scruples; and the warrior could dexterously employ the dark
engines of policy to solicit the allies who might be useful to his
success, or to scatter among his enemies the seeds of hatred and
contention. Almost in the moment of his departure he was informed that
Hermanric, king of the Suevi, had presumed to ravage the Spanish
territories, which he was resolved to abandon. Impatient of the
insult, Genseric pursued the hasty retreat of the Suevi as far as
Merida; precipitated the king and his army into the River Anas, and
calmly returned to the sea-shore to embark his victorious troops. The
vessels which transported the Vandals over the modern Straits of
Gibraltar, a channel only twelve miles in breadth, were furnished by
the Spaniards, who anxiously wished their departure; and by the
African general, who had implored their formidable assistance.

Our fancy, so long accustomed to exaggerate and multiply the martial
swarms of Barbarians that seemed to issue from the North, will perhaps
be surprised by the account of the army which Genseric mustered on the
coast of Mauritania. The Vandals, who in twenty years had penetrated
from the Elbe to Mount Atlas, were united under the command of their
warlike king; and he reigned with equal authority over the Alani, who
had passed, within the term of human life, from the cold of Scythia to
the excessive heat of an African climate. The hopes of the bold
enterprise had excited many brave adventurers of the Gothic nation;
and many desperate provincials were tempted to repair their fortunes
by the same means which had occasioned their ruin. Yet this various
multitude amounted only to fifty thousand effective men; and though
Genseric artfully magnified his apparent strength, by appointing
eighty chiliarchs
, or commanders of thousands, the fallacious increase of old men, of
children, and of slaves, would scarcely have swelled his army to the
number of four-score thousand persons. But his own dexterity, and the
discontents of Africa, soon fortified the Vandal powers, by the
accession of numerous and active allies. The parts of Mauritania which
border on the Great Desert and the Atlantic Ocean, were filled with a
fierce and untractable race of men, whose savage temper had been
exasperated, rather than reclaimed, by their dread of the Roman arms.
The wandering Moors, as they gradually ventured to approach the
seashore, and the camp of the Vandals, must have viewed with terror
and astonishment the dress, the armor, the martial pride and
discipline of the unknown strangers who had landed on their coast; and
the fair complexions of the blue-eyed warriors of Germany formed a
very singular contrast with the swarthy or olive hue which is derived
from the neighborhood of the torrid zone. After the first difficulties
had in some measure been removed, which arose from the mutual
ignorance of their respective language, the Moors, regardless of any
future consequence, embraced the alliance of the enemies of Rome; and
a crowd of naked savages rushed from the woods and valleys of Mount
Atlas, to satiate their revenge on the polished tyrants, who had
injuriously expelled them from the native sovereignty of the land.

The persecution of the Donatists was an event not less favorable to
the designs of Genseric. Seventeen years before he landed in Africa, a
public conference was held at Carthage, by the order of the
magistrate. The Catholics were satisfied, that, after the invincible
reasons which they had alleged, the obstinacy of the schismatics must
be inexcusable and voluntary; and the emperor Honorius was persuaded
to inflict the most rigorous penalties on a faction which had so long
abused his patience and clemency. Three hundred bishops, with many
thousands of the inferior clergy, were torn from their churches,
stripped of their ecclesiastical possessions, banished to the islands,
and proscribed by the laws, if they presumed to conceal themselves in
the provinces of Africa. Their numerous congregations, both in cities
and in the country, were deprived of the rights of citizens, and of
the exercise of religious worship. A regular scale of fines, from ten
to two hundred pounds of silver, was curiously ascertained, according
to the distinction of rank and fortune, to punish the crime of
assisting at a schismatic conventicle; and if the fine had been levied
five times, without subduing the obstinacy of the offender, his future
punishment was referred to the discretion of the Imperial court. By
these severities, which obtained the warmest approbation of St.
Augustin, great numbers of Donatists were reconciled to the Catholic
Church; but the fanatics, who still persevered in their opposition,
were provoked to madness and despair; the distracted country was
filled with tumult and bloodshed; the armed troops of Circumcellions
alternately pointed their rage against themselves, or against their
adversaries; and the calendar of martyrs received on both sides a
considerable augmentation. Under these circumstances, Genseric, a
Christian, but an enemy of the orthodox communion, showed himself to
the Donatists as a powerful deliverer, from whom they might reasonably
expect the repeal of the odious and oppressive edicts of the Roman
emperors. The conquest of Africa was facilitated by the active zeal,
or the secret favor, of a domestic faction; the wanton outrages
against the churches and the clergy of which the Vandals are accused,
may be fairly imputed to the fanaticism of their allies; and the
intolerant spirit which disgraced the triumph of Christianity,
contributed to the loss of the most important province of the West.

The court and the people were astonished by the strange intelligence,
that a virtuous hero, after so many favors, and so many services, had
renounced his allegiance, and invited the Barbarians to destroy the
province intrusted to his command. The friends of Boniface, who still
believed that his criminal behavior might be excused by some honorable
motive, solicited, during the absence of Ætius, a free conference with
the Count of Africa; and Darius, an officer of high distinction, was
named for the important embassy. In their first interview at Carthage,
the imaginary provocations were mutually explained; the opposite
letters of Ætius were produced and compared; and the fraud was easily
detected. Placidia and Boniface lamented their fatal error; and the
count had sufficient magnanimity to confide in the forgiveness of his
sovereign, or to expose his head to her future resentment. His
repentance was fervent and sincere; but he soon discovered that it was
no longer in his power to restore the edifice which he had shaken to
its foundations. Carthage and the Roman garrisons returned with their
general to the allegiance of Valentinian; but the rest of Africa was
still distracted with war and faction; and the inexorable king of the
Vandals, disdaining all terms of accommodation, sternly refused to
relinquish the possession of his prey. The band of veterans who
marched under the standard of Boniface, and his hasty levies of
provincial troops, were defeated with considerable loss; the
victorious Barbarians insulted the open country; and Carthage, Cirta,
and Hippo Regius, were the only cities that appeared to rise above the
general inundation.

The long and narrow tract of the African coast was filled with
frequent monuments of Roman art and magnificence; and the respective
degrees of improvement might be accurately measured by the distance
from Carthage and the Mediterranean. A simple reflection will impress
every thinking mind with the clearest idea of fertility and
cultivation: the country was extremely populous; the inhabitants
reserved a liberal subsistence for their own use; and the annual
exportation, particularly of wheat, was so regular and plentiful, that
Africa deserved the name of the common granary of Rome and of mankind.
On a sudden the seven fruitful provinces, from Tangier to Tripoli,
were overwhelmed by the invasion of the Vandals; whose destructive
rage has perhaps been exaggerated by popular animosity, religious
zeal, and extravagant declamation. War, in its fairest form, implies a
perpetual violation of humanity and justice; and the hostilities of
Barbarians are inflamed by the fierce and lawless spirit which
incessantly disturbs their peaceful and domestic society. The Vandals,
where they found resistance, seldom gave quarter; and the deaths of
their valiant countrymen were expiated by the ruin of the cities under
whose walls they had fallen. Careless of the distinctions of age, or
sex, or rank, they employed every species of indignity and torture, to
force from the captives a discovery of their hidden wealth. The stern
policy of Genseric justified his frequent examples of military
execution: he was not always the master of his own passions, or of
those of his followers; and the calamities of war were aggravated by
the licentiousness of the Moors, and the fanaticism of the Donatists.
Yet I shall not easily be persuaded, that it was the common practice
of the Vandals to extirpate the olives, and other fruit trees, of a
country where they intended to settle: nor can I believe that it was a
usual stratagem to slaughter great numbers of their prisoners before
the walls of a besieged city, for the sole purpose of infecting the
air, and producing a pestilence, of which they themselves must have
been the first victims.

The generous mind of Count Boniface was tortured by the exquisite
distress of beholding the ruin which he had occasioned, and whose
rapid progress he was unable to check. After the loss of a battle he
retired into Hippo Regius; where he was immediately besieged by an
enemy, who considered him as the real bulwark of Africa. The maritime
colony of Hippo
, about two hundred miles westward of Carthage, had formerly acquired
the distinguishing epithet of Regius, from the residence of Numidian
kings; and some remains of trade and populousness still adhere to the
modern city, which is known in Europe by the corrupted name of Bona.
The military labors, and anxious reflections, of Count Boniface, were
alleviated by the edifying conversation of his friend St. Augustin;
till that bishop, the light and pillar of the Catholic church, was
gently released, in the third month of the siege, and in the
seventy-sixth year of his age, from the actual and the impending
calamities of his country. The youth of Augustin had been stained by
the vices and errors which he so ingenuously confesses; but from the
moment of his conversion to that of his death, the manners of the
bishop of Hippo were pure and austere: and the most conspicuous of his
virtues was an ardent zeal against heretics of every denomination; the
Manichæans, the Donatists, and the Pelagians, against whom he waged a
perpetual controversy. When the city, some months after his death, was
burnt by the Vandals, the library was fortunately saved, which
contained his voluminous writings; two hundred and thirty-two separate
books or treatises on theological subjects, besides a complete
exposition of the psalter and the gospel, and a copious magazine of
epistles and homilies. According to the judgment of the most impartial
critics, the superficial learning of Augustin was confined to the
Latin language; and his style, though sometimes animated by the
eloquence of passion, is usually clouded by false and affected
rhetoric. But he possessed a strong, capacious, argumentative mind; he
boldly sounded the dark abyss of grace, predestination, free will, and
original sin; and the rigid system of Christianity which he framed or
restored, has been entertained, with public applause, and secret
reluctance, by the Latin church.

Chapter XXXIII: Conquest Of Africa By The Vandals. -- Part II.

By the skill of Boniface, and perhaps by the ignorance of the Vandals,
the siege of Hippo was protracted above fourteen months: the sea was
continually open; and when the adjacent country had been exhausted by
irregular rapine, the besiegers themselves were compelled by famine to
relinquish their enterprise. The importance and danger of Africa were
deeply felt by the regent of the West. Placidia implored the
assistance of her eastern ally; and the Italian fleet and army were
reënforced by Asper, who sailed from Constantinople with a powerful
armament. As soon as the force of the two empires was united under the
command of Boniface, he boldly marched against the Vandals; and the
loss of a second battle irretrievably decided the fate of Africa. He
embarked with the precipitation of despair; and the people of Hippo
were permitted, with their families and effects, to occupy the vacant
place of the soldiers, the greatest part of whom were either slain or
made prisoners by the Vandals. The count, whose fatal credulity had
wounded the vitals of the republic, might enter the palace of Ravenna
with some anxiety, which was soon removed by the smiles of Placidia.
Boniface accepted with gratitude the rank of patrician, and the
dignity of master-general of the Roman armies; but he must have
blushed at the sight of those medals, in which he was represented with
the name and attributes of victory. The discovery of his fraud, the
displeasure of the empress, and the distinguished favor of his rival,
exasperated the haughty and perfidious soul of Ætius. He hastily
returned from Gaul to Italy, with a retinue, or rather with an army,
of Barbarian followers; and such was the weakness of the government,
that the two generals decided their private quarrel in a bloody
battle. Boniface was successful; but he received in the conflict a
mortal wound from the spear of his adversary, of which he expired
within a few days, in such Christian and charitable sentiments, that
he exhorted his wife, a rich heiress of Spain, to accept Ætius for her
second husband. But Ætius could not derive any immediate advantage
from the generosity of his dying enemy: he was proclaimed a rebel by
the justice of Placidia; and though he attempted to defend some strong
fortresses, erected on his patrimonial estate, the Imperial power soon
compelled him to retire into Pannonia, to the tents of his faithful
Huns. The republic was deprived, by their mutual discord, of the
service of her two most illustrious champions.

It might naturally be expected, after the retreat of Boniface, that
the Vandals would achieve, without resistance or delay, the conquest
of Africa. Eight years, however, elapsed, from the evacuation of Hippo
to the reduction of Carthage. In the midst of that interval, the
ambitious Genseric, in the full tide of apparent prosperity,
negotiated a treaty of peace, by which he gave his son Hunneric for a
hostage; and consented to leave the Western emperor in the undisturbed
possession of the three Mauritanias. This moderation, which cannot be
imputed to the justice, must be ascribed to the policy, of the
conqueror. His throne was encompassed with domestic enemies, who
accused the baseness of his birth, and asserted the legitimate claims
of his nephews, the sons of Gonderic. Those nephews, indeed, he
sacrificed to his safety; and their mother, the widow of the deceased
king, was precipitated, by his order, into the river Ampsaga. But the
public discontent burst forth in dangerous and frequent conspiracies;
and the warlike tyrant is supposed to have shed more Vandal blood by
the hand of the executioner, than in the field of battle. The
convulsions of Africa, which had favored his attack, opposed the firm
establishment of his power; and the various seditions of the Moors and
Germans, the Donatists and Catholics, continually disturbed, or
threatened, the unsettled reign of the conqueror. As he advanced
towards Carthage, he was forced to withdraw his troops from the
Western provinces; the sea-coast was exposed to the naval enterprises
of the Romans of Spain and Italy; and, in the heart of Numidia, the
strong inland city of Corta still persisted in obstinate independence.
These difficulties were gradually subdued by the spirit, the
perseverance, and the cruelty of Genseric; who alternately applied the
arts of peace and war to the establishment of his African kingdom. He
subscribed a solemn treaty, with the hope of deriving some advantage
from the term of its continuance, and the moment of its violation. The
vigilance of his enemies was relaxed by the protestations of
friendship, which concealed his hostile approach; and Carthage was at
length surprised by the Vandals, five hundred and eighty-five years
after the destruction of the city and republic by the younger Scipio.

A new city had arisen from its ruins, with the title of a colony; and
though Carthage might yield to the royal prerogatives of
Constantinople, and perhaps to the trade of Alexandria, or the
splendor of Antioch, she still maintained the second rank in the West;
as the Rome
(if we may use the style of contemporaries) of the African world. That
wealthy and opulent metropolis displayed, in a dependent condition,
the image of a flourishing republic. Carthage contained the
manufactures, the arms, and the treasures of the six provinces. A
regular subordination of civil honors gradually ascended from the
procurators of the streets and quarters of the city, to the tribunal
of the supreme magistrate, who, with the title of proconsul,
represented the state and dignity of a consul of ancient Rome. Schools
and gymnasia were instituted for the education of the African youth;
and the liberal arts and manners, grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy,
were publicly taught in the Greek and Latin languages. The buildings
of Carthage were uniform and magnificent; a shady grove was planted in
the midst of the capital; the new port, a secure and capacious harbor,
was subservient to the commercial industry of citizens and strangers;
and the splendid games of the circus and theatre were exhibited almost
in the presence of the Barbarians. The reputation of the Carthaginians
was not equal to that of their country, and the reproach of Punic
faith still adhered to their subtle and faithless character. The
habits of trade, and the abuse of luxury, had corrupted their manners;
but their impious contempt of monks, and the shameless practice of
unnatural lusts, are the two abominations which excite the pious
vehemence of Salvian, the preacher of the age. The king of the Vandals
severely reformed the vices of a voluptuous people; and the ancient,
noble, ingenuous freedom of Carthage (these expressions of Victor are
not without energy) was reduced by Genseric into a state of
ignominious servitude. After he had permitted his licentious troops to
satiate their rage and avarice, he instituted a more regular system of
rapine and oppression. An edict was promulgated, which enjoined all
persons, without fraud or delay, to deliver their gold, silver,
jewels, and valuable furniture or apparel, to the royal officers; and
the attempt to secrete any part of their patrimony was inexorably
punished with death and torture, as an act of treason against the
state. The lands of the proconsular province, which formed the
immediate district of Carthage, were accurately measured, and divided
among the Barbarians; and the conqueror reserved for his peculiar
domain the fertile territory of Byzacium, and the adjacent parts of
Numidia and Getulia.

It was natural enough that Genseric should hate those whom he had
injured: the nobility and senators of Carthage were exposed to his
jealousy and resentment; and all those who refused the ignominious
terms, which their honor and religion forbade them to accept, were
compelled by the Arian tyrant to embrace the condition of perpetual
banishment. Rome, Italy, and the provinces of the East, were filled
with a crowd of exiles, of fugitives, and of ingenuous captives, who
solicited the public compassion; and the benevolent epistles of
Theodoret still preserve the names and misfortunes of Cælestian and
Maria. The Syrian bishop deplores the misfortunes of Cælestian, who,
from the state of a noble and opulent senator of Carthage, was
reduced, with his wife and family, and servants, to beg his bread in a
foreign country; but he applauds the resignation of the Christian
exile, and the philosophic temper, which, under the pressure of such
calamities, could enjoy more real happiness than was the ordinary lot
of wealth and prosperity. The story of Maria, the daughter of the
magnificent Eudæmon, is singular and interesting. In the sack of
Carthage, she was purchased from the Vandals by some merchants of
Syria, who afterwards sold her as a slave in their native country. A
female attendant, transported in the same ship, and sold in the same
family, still continued to respect a mistress whom fortune had reduced
to the common level of servitude; and the daughter of Eudæmon received
from her grateful affection the domestic services which she had once
required from her obedience. This remarkable behavior divulged the
real condition of Maria, who, in the absence of the bishop of Cyrrhus,
was redeemed from slavery by the generosity of some soldiers of the
garrison. The liberality of Theodoret provided for her decent
maintenance; and she passed ten months among the deaconesses of the
church; till she was unexpectedly informed, that her father, who had
escaped from the ruin of Carthage, exercised an honorable office in
one of the Western provinces. Her filial impatience was seconded by
the pious bishop: Theodoret, in a letter still extant, recommends
Maria to the bishop of Ægæ, a maritime city of Cilicia, which was
frequented, during the annual fair, by the vessels of the West; most
earnestly requesting, that his colleague would use the maiden with a
tenderness suitable to her birth; and that he would intrust her to the
care of such faithful merchants, as would esteem it a sufficient gain,
if they restored a daughter, lost beyond all human hope, to the arms
of her afflicted parent.

Among the insipid legends of ecclesiastical history, I am tempted to
distinguish the memorable fable of the Seven Sleepers; whose imaginary
date corresponds with the reign of the younger Theodosius, and the
conquest of Africa by the Vandals. When the emperor Decius persecuted
the Christians, seven noble youths of Ephesus concealed themselves in
a spacious cavern in the side of an adjacent mountain; where they were
doomed to perish by the tyrant, who gave orders that the entrance
should be firmly secured by the a pile of huge stones. They
immediately fell into a deep slumber, which was miraculously prolonged
without injuring the powers of life, during a period of one hundred
and eighty-seven years. At the end of that time, the slaves of
Adolius, to whom the inheritance of the mountain had descended,
removed the stones to supply materials for some rustic edifice: the
light of the sun darted into the cavern, and the Seven Sleepers were
permitted to awake. After a slumber, as they thought of a few hours,
they were pressed by the calls of hunger; and resolved that
Jamblichus, one of their number, should secretly return to the city to
purchase bread for the use of his companions. The youth (if we may
still employ that appellation) could no longer recognize the once
familiar aspect of his native country; and his surprise was increased
by the appearance of a large cross, triumphantly erected over the
principal gate of Ephesus. His singular dress, and obsolete language,
confounded the baker, to whom he offered an ancient medal of Decius as
the current coin of the empire; and Jamblichus, on the suspicion of a
secret treasure, was dragged before the judge. Their mutual inquiries
produced the amazing discovery, that two centuries were almost elapsed
since Jamblichus and his friends had escaped from the rage of a Pagan
tyrant. The bishop of Ephesus, the clergy, the magistrates, the
people, and, as it is said, the emperor Theodosius himself, hastened
to visit the cavern of the Seven Sleepers; who bestowed their
benediction, related their story, and at the same instant peaceably
expired. The origin of this marvellous fable cannot be ascribed to the
pious fraud and credulity of the modern
Greeks, since the authentic tradition may be traced within half a
century of the supposed miracle. James of Sarug, a Syrian bishop, who
was born only two years after the death of the younger Theodosius, has
devoted one of his two hundred and thirty homilies to the praise of
the young men of Ephesus. Their legend, before the end of the sixth
century, was translated from the Syriac into the Latin language, by
the care of Gregory of Tours. The hostile communions of the East
preserve their memory with equal reverence; and their names are
honorably inscribed in the Roman, the Abyssinian, and the Russian
calendar. Nor has their reputation been confined to the Christian
world. This popular tale, which Mahomet might learn when he drove his
camels to the fairs of Syria, is introduced as a divine revelation,
into the Koran. The story of the Seven Sleepers has been adopted and
adorned by the nations, from Bengal to Africa, who profess the
Mahometan religion; and some vestiges of a similar tradition have been
discovered in the remote extremities of Scandinavia. This easy and
universal belief, so expressive of the sense of mankind, may be
ascribed to the genuine merit of the fable itself. We imperceptibly
advance from youth to age, without observing the gradual, but
incessant, change of human affairs; and even in our larger experience
of history, the imagination is accustomed, by a perpetual series of
causes and effects, to unite the most distant revolutions. But if the
interval between two memorable æras could be instantly annihilated; if
it were possible, after a momentary slumber of two hundred years, to
display the newworld to the eyes of a spectator, who still retained a
lively and recent impression of the old, his surprise and his
reflections would furnish the pleasing subject of a philosophical
romance. The scene could not be more advantageously placed, than in
the two centuries which elapsed between the reigns of Decius and of
Theodosius the Younger. During this period, the seat of government had
been transported from Rome to a new city on the banks of the Thracian
Bosphorus; and the abuse of military spirit had been suppressed by an
artificial system of tame and ceremonious servitude. The throne of the
persecuting Decius was filled by a succession of Christian and
orthodox princes, who had extirpated the fabulous gods of antiquity:
and the public devotion of the age was impatient to exalt the saints
and martyrs of the Catholic church, on the altars of Diana and
Hercules. The union of the Roman empire was dissolved; its genius was
humbled in the dust; and armies of unknown Barbarians, issuing from
the frozen regions of the North, had established their victorious
reign over the fairest provinces of Europe and Africa.

Chapter XXXIV: Attila.

Part I.

The Character, Conquests, And Court Of Attila, King Of The Huns. --
Death Of Theodosius The Younger. -- Elevation Of Marcian To The Empire
Of The East.

The Western world was oppressed by the Goths and Vandals, who fled
before the Huns; but the achievements of the Huns themselves were not
adequate to their power and prosperity. Their victorious hordes had
spread from the Volga to the Danube; but the public force was
exhausted by the discord of independent chieftains; their valor was
idly consumed in obscure and predatory excursions; and they often
degraded their national dignity, by condescending, for the hopes of
spoil, to enlist under the banners of their fugitive enemies. In the
reign of Attila, the Huns again became the terror of the world; and I
shall now describe the character and actions of that formidable
Barbarian; who alternately insulted and invaded the East and the West,
and urged the rapid downfall of the Roman empire.

In the tide of emigration which impetuously rolled from the confines
of China to those of Germany, the most powerful and populous tribes
may commonly be found on the verge of the Roman provinces. The
accumulated weight was sustained for a while by artificial barriers;
and the easy condescension of the emperors invited, without
satisfying, the insolent demands of the Barbarians, who had acquired
an eager appetite for the luxuries of civilized life. The Hungarians,
who ambitiously insert the name of Attila among their native kings,
may affirm with truth that the hordes, which were subject to his uncle
Roas, or Rugilas, had formed their encampments within the limits of
modern Hungary, in a fertile country, which liberally supplied the
wants of a nation of hunters and shepherds. In this advantageous
situation, Rugilas, and his valiant brothers, who continually added to
their power and reputation, commanded the alternative of peace or war
with the two empires. His alliance with the Romans of the West was
cemented by his personal friendship for the great Ætius; who was
always secure of finding, in the Barbarian camp, a hospitable
reception and a powerful support. At his solicitation, and in the name
of John the usurper, sixty thousand Huns advanced to the confines of
Italy; their march and their retreat were alike expensive to the
state; and the grateful policy of Ætius abandoned the possession of
Pannonia to his faithful confederates. The Romans of the East were not
less apprehensive of the arms of Rugilas, which threatened the
provinces, or even the capital. Some ecclesiastical historians have
destroyed the Barbarians with lightning and pestilence; but Theodosius
was reduced to the more humble expedient of stipulating an annual
payment of three hundred and fifty pounds of gold, and of disguising
this dishonorable tribute by the title of general, which the king of
the Huns condescended to accept. The public tranquillity was
frequently interrupted by the fierce impatience of the Barbarians, and
the perfidious intrigues of the Byzantine court. Four dependent
nations, among whom we may distinguish the Barbarians, disclaimed the
sovereignty of the Huns; and their revolt was encouraged and protected
by a Roman alliance; till the just claims, and formidable power, of
Rugilas, were effectually urged by the voice of Eslaw his ambassador.
Peace was the unanimous wish of the senate: their decree was ratified
by the emperor; and two ambassadors were named, Plinthas, a general of
Scythian extraction, but of consular rank; and the quæstor Epigenes, a
wise and experienced statesman, who was recommended to that office by
his ambitious colleague.

The death of Rugilas suspended the progress of the treaty. His two
nephews, Attila and Bleda, who succeeded to the throne of their uncle,
consented to a personal interview with the ambassadors of
Constantinople; but as they proudly refused to dismount, the business
was transacted on horseback, in a spacious plain near the city of
Margus, in the Upper Mæsia. The kings of the Huns assumed the solid
benefits, as well as the vain honors, of the negotiation. They
dictated the conditions of peace, and each condition was an insult on
the majesty of the empire. Besides the freedom of a safe and plentiful
market on the banks of the Danube, they required that the annual
contribution should be augmented from three hundred and fifty to seven
hundred pounds of gold; that a fine or ransom of eight pieces of gold
should be paid for every Roman captive who had escaped from his
Barbarian master; that the emperor should renounce all treaties and
engagements with the enemies of the Huns; and that all the fugitives
who had taken refuge in the court or provinces of Theodosius, should
be delivered to the justice of their offended sovereign. This justice
was rigorously inflicted on some unfortunate youths of a royal race.
They were crucified on the territories of the empire, by the command
of Attila: and as soon as the king of the Huns had impressed the
Romans with the terror of his name, he indulged them in a short and
arbitrary respite, whilst he subdued the rebellious or independent
nations of Scythia and Germany.

Attila, the son of Mundzuk, deduced his noble, perhaps his regal,
descent from the ancient Huns, who had formerly contended with the
monarchs of China. His features, according to the observation of a
Gothic historian, bore the stamp of his national origin; and the
portrait of Attila exhibits the genuine deformity of a modern Calmuk;
a large head, a swarthy complexion, small, deep-seated eyes, a flat
nose, a few hairs in the place of a beard, broad shoulders, and a
short square body, of nervous strength, though of a disproportioned
form. The haughty step and demeanor of the king of the Huns expressed
the consciousness of his superiority above the rest of mankind; and he
had a custom of fiercely rolling his eyes, as if he wished to enjoy
the terror which he inspired. Yet this savage hero was not
inaccessible to pity; his suppliant enemies might confide in the
assurance of peace or pardon; and Attila was considered by his
subjects as a just and indulgent master. He delighted in war; but,
after he had ascended the throne in a mature age, his head, rather
than his hand, achieved the conquest of the North; and the fame of an
adventurous soldier was usefully exchanged for that of a prudent and
successful general. The effects of personal valor are so
inconsiderable, except in poetry or romance, that victory, even among
Barbarians, must depend on the degree of skill with which the passions
of the multitude are combined and guided for the service of a single
man. The Scythian conquerors, Attila and Zingis, surpassed their rude
countrymen in art rather than in courage; and it may be observed that
the monarchies, both of the Huns and of the Moguls, were erected by
their founders on the basis of popular superstition The miraculous
conception, which fraud and credulity ascribed to the virgin-mother of
Zingis, raised him above the level of human nature; and the naked
prophet, who in the name of the Deity invested him with the empire of
the earth, pointed the valor of the Moguls with irresistible
enthusiasm. The religious arts of Attila were not less skillfully
adapted to the character of his age and country. It was natural enough
that the Scythians should adore, with peculiar devotion, the god of
war; but as they were incapable of forming either an abstract idea, or
a corporeal representation, they worshipped their tutelar deity under
the symbol of an iron cimeter. One of the shepherds of the Huns
perceived, that a heifer, who was grazing, had wounded herself in the
foot, and curiously followed the track of the blood, till he
discovered, among the long grass, the point of an ancient sword, which
he dug out of the ground and presented to Attila. That magnanimous, or
rather that artful, prince accepted, with pious gratitude, this
celestial favor; and, as the rightful possessor of the sword of Mars
, asserted his divine and indefeasible claim to the dominion of the
earth. If the rites of Scythia were practised on this solemn occasion,
a lofty altar, or rather pile of fagots, three hundred yards in length
and in breadth, was raised in a spacious plain; and the sword of Mars
was placed erect on the summit of this rustic altar, which was
annually consecrated by the blood of sheep, horses, and of the
hundredth captive. Whether human sacrifices formed any part of the
worship of Attila, or whether he propitiated the god of war with the
victims which he continually offered in the field of battle, the
favorite of Mars soon acquired a sacred character, which rendered his
conquests more easy and more permanent; and the Barbarian princes
confessed, in the language of devotion or flattery, that they could
not presume to gaze, with a steady eye, on the divine majesty of the
king of the Huns. His brother Bleda, who reigned over a considerable
part of the nation, was compelled to resign his sceptre and his life.
Yet even this cruel act was attributed to a supernatural impulse; and
the vigor with which Attila wielded the sword of Mars, convinced the
world that it had been reserved alone for his invincible arm. But the
extent of his empire affords the only remaining evidence of the number
and importance of his victories; and the Scythian monarch, however
ignorant of the value of science and philosophy, might perhaps lament
that his illiterate subjects were destitute of the art which could
perpetuate the memory of his exploits.

If a line of separation were drawn between the civilized and the
savage climates of the globe; between the inhabitants of cities, who
cultivated the earth, and the hunters and shepherds, who dwelt in
tents, Attila might aspire to the title of supreme and sole monarch of
the Barbarians. He alone, among the conquerors of ancient and modern
times, united the two mighty kingdoms of Germany and Scythia; and
those vague appellations, when they are applied to his reign, may be
understood with an ample latitude. Thuringia, which stretched beyond
its actual limits as far as the Danube, was in the number of his
provinces; he interposed, with the weight of a powerful neighbor, in
the domestic affairs of the Franks; and one of his lieutenants
chastised, and almost exterminated, the Burgundians of the Rhine. He
subdued the islands of the ocean, the kingdoms of Scandinavia,
encompassed and divided by the waters of the Baltic; and the Huns
might derive a tribute of furs from that northern region, which has
been protected from all other conquerors by the severity of the
climate, and the courage of the natives. Towards the East, it is
difficult to circumscribe the dominion of Attila over the Scythian
deserts; yet we may be assured, that he reigned on the banks of the
Volga; that the king of the Huns was dreaded, not only as a warrior,
but as a magician; that he insulted and vanquished the khan of the
formidable Geougen; and that he sent ambassadors to negotiate an equal
alliance with the empire of China. In the proud review of the nations
who acknowledged the sovereignty of Attila, and who never entertained,
during his lifetime, the thought of a revolt, the Gepidæ and the
Ostrogoths were distinguished by their numbers, their bravery, and the
personal merits of their chiefs. The renowned Ardaric, king of the
Gepidæ, was the faithful and sagacious counsellor of the monarch, who
esteemed his intrepid genius, whilst he loved the mild and discreet
virtues of the noble Walamir, king of the Ostrogoths. The crowd of
vulgar kings, the leaders of so many martial tribes, who served under
the standard of Attila, were ranged in the submissive order of guards
and domestics round the person of their master. They watched his nod;
they trembled at his frown; and at the first signal of his will, they
executed, without murmur or hesitation, his stern and absolute
commands. In time of peace, the dependent princes, with their national
troops, attended the royal camp in regular succession; but when Attila
collected his military force, he was able to bring into the field an
army of five, or, according to another account, of seven hundred
thousand Barbarians.

The ambassadors of the Huns might awaken the attention of Theodosius,
by reminding him that they were his neighbors both in Europe and Asia;
since they touched the Danube on one hand, and reached, with the
other, as far as the Tanais. In the reign of his father Arcadius, a
band of adventurous Huns had ravaged the provinces of the East; from
whence they brought away rich spoils and innumerable captives. They
advanced, by a secret path, along the shores of the Caspian Sea;
traversed the snowy mountains of Armenia; passed the Tigris, the
Euphrates, and the Halys; recruited their weary cavalry with the
generous breed of Cappadocian horses; occupied the hilly country of
Cilicia, and disturbed the festal songs and dances of the citizens of
Antioch. Egypt trembled at their approach; and the monks and pilgrims
of the Holy Land prepared to escaped their fury by a speedy
embarkation. The memory of this invasion was still recent in the minds
of the Orientals. The subjects of Attila might execute, with superior
forces, the design which these adventurers had so boldly attempted;
and it soon became the subject of anxious conjecture, whether the
tempest would fall on the dominions of Rome, or of Persia. Some of the
great vassals of the king of the Huns, who were themselves in the rank
of powerful princes, had been sent to ratify an alliance and society
of arms with the emperor, or rather with the general of the West. They
related, during their residence at Rome, the circumstances of an
expedition, which they had lately made into the East. After passing a
desert and a morass, supposed by the Romans to be the Lake Mæotis,
they penetrated through the mountains, and arrived, at the end of
fifteen days' march, on the confines of Media; where they advanced as
far as the unknown cities of Basic and Cursic. * They encountered the
Persian army in the plains of Media and the air, according to their
own expression, was darkened by a cloud of arrows. But the Huns were
obliged to retire before the numbers of the enemy. Their laborious
retreat was effected by a different road; they lost the greatest part
of their booty; and at length returned to the royal camp, with some
knowledge of the country, and an impatient desire of revenge. In the
free conversation of the Imperial ambassadors, who discussed, at the
court of Attila, the character and designs of their formidable enemy,
the ministers of Constantinople expressed their hope, that his
strength might be diverted and employed in a long and doubtful contest
with the princes of the house of Sassan. The more sagacious Italians
admonished their Eastern brethren of the folly and danger of such a
hope; and convinced them, that
the Medes and Persians were incapable of resisting the arms of the
Huns; and that the easy and important acquisition would exalt the
pride, as well as power, of the conqueror. Instead of contenting
himself with a moderate contribution, and a military title, which
equalled him only to the generals of Theodosius, Attila would proceed
to impose a disgraceful and intolerable yoke on the necks of the
prostrate and captive Romans, who would then be encompassed, on all
sides, by the empire of the Huns.

While the powers of Europe and Asia were solicitous to avert the
impending danger, the alliance of Attila maintained the Vandals in the
possession of Africa. An enterprise had been concerted between the
courts of Ravenna and Constantinople, for the recovery of that
valuable province; and the ports of Sicily were already filled with
the military and naval forces of Theodosius. But the subtle Genseric,
who spread his negotiations round the world, prevented their designs,
by exciting the king of the Huns to invade the Eastern empire; and a
trifling incident soon became the motive, or pretence, of a
destructive war. Under the faith of the treaty of Margus, a free
market was held on the Northern side of the Danube, which was
protected by a Roman fortress surnamed Constantia. A troop of
Barbarians violated the commercial security; killed, or dispersed, the
unsuspecting traders; and levelled the fortress with the ground. The
Huns justified this outrage as an act of reprisal; alleged, that the
bishop of Margus had entered their territories, to discover and steal
a secret treasure of their kings; and sternly demanded the guilty
prelate, the sacrilegious spoil, and the fugitive subjects, who had
escaped from the justice of Attila. The refusal of the Byzantine court
was the signal of war; and the Mæsians at first applauded the generous
firmness of their sovereign. But they were soon intimidated by the
destruction of Viminiacum and the adjacent towns; and the people was
persuaded to adopt the convenient maxim, that a private citizen,
however innocent or respectable, may be justly sacrificed to the
safety of his country. The bishop of Margus, who did not possess the
spirit of a martyr, resolved to prevent the designs which he
suspected. He boldly treated with the princes of the Huns: secured, by
solemn oaths, his pardon and reward; posted a numerous detachment of
Barbarians, in silent ambush, on the banks of the Danube; and, at the
appointed hour, opened, with his own hand, the gates of his episcopal
city. This advantage, which had been obtained by treachery, served as
a prelude to more honorable and decisive victories. The Illyrian
frontier was covered by a line of castles and fortresses; and though
the greatest part of them consisted only of a single tower, with a
small garrison, they were commonly sufficient to repel, or to
intercept, the inroads of an enemy, who was ignorant of the art, and
impatient of the delay, of a regular siege. But these slight obstacles
were instantly swept away by the inundation of the Huns. They
destroyed, with fire and sword, the populous cities of Sirmium and
Singidunum, of Ratiaria and Marcianopolis, of Naissus and Sardica;
where every circumstance of the discipline of the people, and the
construction of the buildings, had been gradually adapted to the sole
purpose of defence. The whole breadth of Europe, as it extends above
five hundred miles from the Euxine to the Hadriatic, was at once
invaded, and occupied, and desolated, by the myriads of Barbarians
whom Attila led into the field. The public danger and distress could
not, however, provoke Theodosius to interrupt his amusements and
devotion, or to appear in person at the head of the Roman legions. But
the troops, which had been sent against Genseric, were hastily
recalled from Sicily; the garrisons, on the side of Persia, were
exhausted; and a military force was collected in Europe, formidable by
their arms and numbers, if the generals had understood the science of
command, and the soldiers the duty of obedience. The armies of the
Eastern empire were vanquished in three successive engagements; and
the progress of Attila may be traced by the fields of battle. The two
former, on the banks of the Utus, and under the walls of
Marcianopolis, were fought in the extensive plains between the Danube
and Mount Hæmus. As the Romans were pressed by a victorious enemy,
they gradually, and unskilfully, retired towards the Chersonesus of
Thrace; and that narrow peninsula, the last extremity of the land, was
marked by their third, and irreparable, defeat. By the destruction of
this army, Attila acquired the indisputable possession of the field.
From the Hellespont to Thermopylæ, and the suburbs of Constantinople,
he ravaged, without resistance, and without mercy, the provinces of
Thrace and Macedonia. Heraclea and Hadrianople might, perhaps, escape
this dreadful irruption of the Huns; but the words, the most
expressive of total extirpation and erasure, are applied to the
calamities which they inflicted on seventy cities of the Eastern
empire. Theodosius, his court, and the unwarlike people, were
protected by the walls of Constantinople; but those walls had been
shaken by a recent earthquake, and the fall of fifty-eight towers had
opened a large and tremendous breach. The damage indeed was speedily
repaired; but this accident was aggravated by a superstitious fear,
that Heaven itself had delivered the Imperial city to the shepherds of
Scythia, who were strangers to the laws, the language, and the
religion, of the Romans.

In all their invasions of the civilized empires of the South, the
Scythian shepherds have been uniformly actuated by a savage and
destructive spirit. The laws of war, that restrain the exercise of
national rapine and murder, are founded on two principles of
substantial interest: the knowledge of the permanent benefits which
may be obtained by a moderate use of conquest; and a just
apprehension, lest the desolation which we inflict on the enemy's
country may be retaliated on our own. But these considerations of hope
and fear are almost unknown in the pastoral state of nations. The Huns
of Attila may, without injustice, be compared to the Moguls and
Tartars, before their primitive manners were changed by religion and
luxury; and the evidence of Oriental history may reflect some light on
the short and imperfect annals of Rome. After the Moguls had subdued
the northern provinces of China, it was seriously proposed, not in the
hour of victory and passion, but in calm deliberate council, to
exterminate all the inhabitants of that populous country, that the
vacant land might be converted to the pasture of cattle. The firmness
of a Chinese mandarin, who insinuated some principles of rational
policy into the mind of Zingis, diverted him from the execution of
this horrid design. But in the cities of Asia, which yielded to the
Moguls, the inhuman abuse of the rights of war was exercised with a
regular form of discipline, which may, with equal reason, though not
with equal authority, be imputed to the victorious Huns. The
inhabitants, who had submitted to their discretion, were ordered to
evacuate their houses, and to assemble in some plain adjacent to the
city; where a division was made of the vanquished into three parts.
The first class consisted of the soldiers of the garrison, and of the
young men capable of bearing arms; and their fate was instantly
decided they were either enlisted among the Moguls, or they were
massacred on the spot by the troops, who, with pointed spears and
bended bows, had formed a circle round the captive multitude. The
second class, composed of the young and beautiful women, of the
artificers of every rank and profession, and of the more wealthy or
honorable citizens, from whom a private ransom might be expected, was
distributed in equal or proportionable lots. The remainder, whose life
or death was alike useless to the conquerors, were permitted to return
to the city; which, in the mean while, had been stripped of its
valuable furniture; and a tax was imposed on those wretched
inhabitants for the indulgence of breathing their native air. Such was
the behavior of the Moguls, when they were not conscious of any
extraordinary rigor. But the most casual provocation, the slightest
motive of caprice or convenience, often provoked them to involve a
whole people in an indiscriminate massacre; and the ruin of some
flourishing cities was executed with such unrelenting perseverance,
that, according to their own expression, horses might run, without
stumbling, over the ground where they had once stood. The three great
capitals of Khorasan, Maru, Neisabour, and Herat, were destroyed by
the armies of Zingis; and the exact account which was taken of the
slain amounted to four millions three hundred and forty-seven thousand
persons. Timur, or Tamerlane, was educated in a less barbarous age,
and in the profession of the Mahometan religion; yet, if Attila
equalled the hostile ravages of Tamerlane, either the Tartar or the
Hun might deserve the epithet of the Scourge of God.

Chapter XXXIV: Attila. -- Part II.

It may be affirmed, with bolder assurance, that the Huns depopulated
the provinces of the empire, by the number of Roman subjects whom they
led away into captivity. In the hands of a wise legislator, such an
industrious colony might have contributed to diffuse through the
deserts of Scythia the rudiments of the useful and ornamental arts;
but these captives, who had been taken in war, were accidentally
dispersed among the hordes that obeyed the empire of Attila. The
estimate of their respective value was formed by the simple judgment
of unenlightened and unprejudiced Barbarians. Perhaps they might not
understand the merit of a theologian, profoundly skilled in the
controversies of the Trinity and the Incarnation; yet they respected
the ministers of every religion and the active zeal of the Christian
missionaries, without approaching the person or the palace of the
monarch, successfully labored in the propagation of the gospel. The
pastoral tribes, who were ignorant of the distinction of landed
property, must have disregarded the use, as well as the abuse, of
civil jurisprudence; and the skill of an eloquent lawyer could excite
only their contempt or their abhorrence. The perpetual intercourse of
the Huns and the Goths had communicated the familiar knowledge of the
two national dialects; and the Barbarians were ambitious of conversing
in Latin, the military idiom even of the Eastern empire. But they
disdained the language and the sciences of the Greeks; and the vain
sophist, or grave philosopher, who had enjoyed the flattering applause
of the schools, was mortified to find that his robust servant was a
captive of more value and importance than himself. The mechanic arts
were encouraged and esteemed, as they tended to satisfy the wants of
the Huns. An architect in the service of Onegesius, one of the
favorites of Attila, was employed to construct a bath; but this work
was a rare example of private luxury; and the trades of the smith, the
carpenter, the armorer, were much more adapted to supply a wandering
people with the useful instruments of peace and war. But the merit of
the physician was received with universal favor and respect: the
Barbarians, who despised death, might be apprehensive of disease; and
the haughty conqueror trembled in the presence of a captive, to whom
he ascribed, perhaps, an imaginary power of prolonging or preserving
his life. The Huns might be provoked to insult the misery of their
slaves, over whom they exercised a despotic command; but their manners
were not susceptible of a refined system of oppression; and the
efforts of courage and diligence were often recompensed by the gift of
freedom. The historian Priscus, whose embassy is a source of curious
instruction, was accosted in the camp of Attila by a stranger, who
saluted him in the Greek language, but whose dress and figure
displayed the appearance of a wealthy Scythian. In the siege of
Viminiacum, he had lost, according to his own account, his fortune and
liberty; he became the slave of Onegesius; but his faithful services,
against the Romans and the Acatzires, had gradually raised him to the
rank of the native Huns; to whom he was attached by the domestic
pledges of a new wife and several children. The spoils of war had
restored and improved his private property; he was admitted to the
table of his former lord; and the apostate Greek blessed the hour of
his captivity, since it had been the introduction to a happy and
independent state; which he held by the honorable tenure of military
service. This reflection naturally produced a dispute on the
advantages and defects of the Roman government, which was severely
arraigned by the apostate, and defended by Priscus in a prolix and
feeble declamation. The freedman of Onegesius exposed, in true and
lively colors, the vices of a declining empire, of which he had so
long been the victim; the cruel absurdity of the Roman princes, unable
to protect their subjects against the public enemy, unwilling to trust
them with arms for their own defence; the intolerable weight of taxes,
rendered still more oppressive by the intricate or arbitrary modes of
collection; the obscurity of numerous and contradictory laws; the
tedious and expensive forms of judicial proceedings; the partial
administration of justice; and the universal corruption, which
increased the influence of the rich, and aggravated the misfortunes of
the poor. A sentiment of patriotic sympathy was at length revived in
the breast of the fortunate exile; and he lamented, with a flood of
tears, the guilt or weakness of those magistrates who had perverted
the wisest and most salutary institutions.

The timid or selfish policy of the Western Romans had abandoned the
Eastern empire to the Huns. The loss of armies, and the want of
discipline or virtue, were not supplied by the personal character of
the monarch. Theodosius might still affect the style, as well as the
title, of Invincible Augustus
; but he was reduced to solicit the clemency of Attila, who
imperiously dictated these harsh and humiliating conditions of peace.
I. The emperor of the East resigned, by an express or tacit
convention, an extensive and important territory, which stretched
along the southern banks of the Danube, from Singidunum, or Belgrade,
as far as Novæ, in the diocese of Thrace. The breadth was defined by
the vague computation of fifteen * days' journey; but, from the
proposal of Attila to remove the situation of the national market, it
soon appeared, that he comprehended the ruined city of Naissus within
the limits of his dominions. II. The king of the Huns required and
obtained, that his tribute or subsidy should be augmented from seven
hundred pounds of gold to the annual sum of two thousand one hundred;
and he stipulated the immediate payment of six thousand pounds of
gold, to defray the expenses, or to expiate the guilt, of the war. One
might imagine, that such a demand, which scarcely equalled the measure
of private wealth, would have been readily discharged by the opulent
empire of the East; and the public distress affords a remarkable proof
of the impoverished, or at least of the disorderly, state of the
finances. A large proportion of the taxes extorted from the people was
detained and intercepted in their passage, though the foulest
channels, to the treasury of Constantinople. The revenue was
dissipated by Theodosius and his favorites in wasteful and profuse
luxury; which was disguised by the names of Imperial magnificence, or
Christian charity. The immediate supplies had been exhausted by the
unforeseen necessity of military preparations. A personal
contribution, rigorously, but capriciously, imposed on the members of
the senatorian order, was the only expedient that could disarm,
without loss of time, the impatient avarice of Attila; and the poverty
of the nobles compelled them to adopt the scandalous resource of
exposing to public auction the jewels of their wives, and the
hereditary ornaments of their palaces. III. The king of the Huns
appears to have established, as a principle of national jurisprudence,
that he could never lose the property, which he had once acquired, in
the persons who had yielded either a voluntary, or reluctant,
submission to his authority. From this principle he concluded, and the
conclusions of Attila were irrevocable laws, that the Huns, who had
been taken prisoner in war, should be released without delay, and
without ransom; that every Roman captive, who had presumed to escape,
should purchase his right to freedom at the price of twelve pieces of
gold; and that all the Barbarians, who had deserted the standard of
Attila, should be restored, without any promise or stipulation of
pardon. In the execution of this cruel and ignominious treaty, the
Imperial officers were forced to massacre several loyal and noble
deserters, who refused to devote themselves to certain death; and the
Romans forfeited all reasonable claims to the friendship of any
Scythian people, by this public confession, that they were destitute
either of faith, or power, to protect the suppliant, who had embraced
the throne of Theodosius.

The firmness of a single town, so obscure, that, except on this
occasion, it has never been mentioned by any historian or geographer,
exposed the disgrace of the emperor and empire. Azimus, or Azimuntium,
a small city of Thrace on the Illyrian borders, had been distinguished
by the martial spirit of its youth, the skill and reputation of the
leaders whom they had chosen, and their daring exploits against the
innumerable host of the Barbarians. Instead of tamely expecting their
approach, the Azimuntines attacked, in frequent and successful
sallies, the troops of the Huns, who gradually declined the dangerous
neighborhood, rescued from their hands the spoil and the captives, and
recruited their domestic force by the voluntary association of
fugitives and deserters. After the conclusion of the treaty, Attila
still menaced the empire with implacable war, unless the Azimuntines
were persuaded, or compelled, to comply with the conditions which
their sovereign had accepted. The ministers of Theodosius confessed
with shame, and with truth, that they no longer possessed any
authority over a society of men, who so bravely asserted their natural
independence; and the king of the Huns condescended to negotiate an
equal exchange with the citizens of Azimus. They demanded the
restitution of some shepherds, who, with their cattle, had been
accidentally surprised. A strict, though fruitless, inquiry was
allowed: but the Huns were obliged to swear, that they did not detain
any prisoners belonging to the city, before they could recover two
surviving countrymen, whom the Azimuntines had reserved as pledges for
the safety of their lost companions. Attila, on his side, was
satisfied, and deceived, by their solemn asseveration, that the rest
of the captives had been put to the sword; and that it was their
constant practice, immediately to dismiss the Romans and the
deserters, who had obtained the security of the public faith. This
prudent and officious dissimulation may be condemned, or excused, by
the casuists, as they incline to the rigid decree of St. Augustin, or
to the milder sentiment of St. Jerom and St. Chrysostom: but every
soldier, every statesman, must acknowledge, that, if the race of the
Azimuntines had been encouraged and multiplied, the Barbarians would
have ceased to trample on the majesty of the empire.

It would have been strange, indeed, if Theodosius had purchased, by
the loss of honor, a secure and solid tranquillity, or if his tameness
had not invited the repetition of injuries. The Byzantine court was
insulted by five or six successive embassies; and the ministers of
Attila were uniformly instructed to press the tardy or imperfect
execution of the last treaty; to produce the names of fugitives and
deserters, who were still protected by the empire; and to declare,
with seeming moderation, that, unless their sovereign obtained
complete and immediate satisfaction, it would be impossible for him,
were it even his wish, to check the resentment of his warlike tribes.
Besides the motives of pride and interest, which might prompt the king
of the Huns to continue this train of negotiation, he was influenced
by the less honorable view of enriching his favorites at the expense
of his enemies. The Imperial treasury was exhausted, to procure the
friendly offices of the ambassadors and their principal attendants,
whose favorable report might conduce to the maintenance of peace. The
Barbarian monarch was flattered by the liberal reception of his
ministers; he computed, with pleasure, the value and splendor of their
gifts, rigorously exacted the performance of every promise which would
contribute to their private emolument, and treated as an important
business of state the marriage of his secretary Constantius. That
Gallic adventurer, who was recommended by Ætius to the king of the
Huns, had engaged his service to the ministers of Constantinople, for
the stipulated reward of a wealthy and noble wife; and the daughter of
Count Saturninus was chosen to discharge the obligations of her
country. The reluctance of the victim, some domestic troubles, and the
unjust confiscation of her fortune, cooled the ardor of her interested
lover; but he still demanded, in the name of Attila, an equivalent
alliance; and, after many ambiguous delays and excuses, the Byzantine
court was compelled to sacrifice to this insolent stranger the widow
of Armatius, whose birth, opulence, and beauty, placed her in the most
illustrious rank of the Roman matrons. For these importunate and
oppressive embassies, Attila claimed a suitable return: he weighed,
with suspicious pride, the character and station of the Imperial
envoys; but he condescended to promise that he would advance as far as
Sardica to receive any ministers who had been invested with the
consular dignity. The council of Theodosius eluded this proposal, by
representing the desolate and ruined condition of Sardica, and even
ventured to insinuate that every officer of the army or household was
qualified to treat with the most powerful princes of Scythia. Maximin,
a respectable courtier, whose abilities had been long exercised in
civil and military employments, accepted, with reluctance, the
troublesome, and perhaps dangerous, commission of reconciling the
angry spirit of the king of the Huns. His friend, the historian
Priscus, embraced the opportunity of observing the Barbarian hero in
the peaceful and domestic scenes of life: but the secret of the
embassy, a fatal and guilty secret, was intrusted only to the
interpreter Vigilius. The two last ambassadors of the Huns, Orestes, a
noble subject of the Pannonian province, and Edecon, a valiant
chieftain of the tribe of the Scyrri, returned at the same time from
Constantinople to the royal camp. Their obscure names were afterwards
illustrated by the extraordinary fortune and the contrast of their
sons: the two servants of Attila became the fathers of the last Roman
emperor of the West, and of the first Barbarian king of Italy.

The ambassadors, who were followed by a numerous train of men and
horses, made their first halt at Sardica, at the distance of three
hundred and fifty miles, or thirteen days' journey, from
Constantinople. As the remains of Sardica were still included within
the limits of the empire, it was incumbent on the Romans to exercise
the duties of hospitality. They provided, with the assistance of the
provincials, a sufficient number of sheep and oxen, and invited the
Huns to a splendid, or at least, a plentiful supper. But the harmony
of the entertainment was soon disturbed by mutual prejudice and
indiscretion. The greatness of the emperor and the empire was warmly
maintained by their ministers; the Huns, with equal ardor, asserted
the superiority of their victorious monarch: the dispute was inflamed
by the rash and unseasonable flattery of Vigilius, who passionately
rejected the comparison of a mere mortal with the divine Theodosius;
and it was with extreme difficulty that Maximin and Priscus were able
to divert the conversation, or to soothe the angry minds, of the
Barbarians. When they rose from table, the Imperial ambassador
presented Edecon and Orestes with rich gifts of silk robes and Indian
pearls, which they thankfully accepted. Yet Orestes could not forbear
insinuating that he had not always been treated with such respect and
liberality: and the offensive distinction which was implied, between
his civil office and the hereditary rank of his colleague seems to
have made Edecon a doubtful friend, and Orestes an irreconcilable
enemy. After this entertainment, they travelled about one hundred
miles from Sardica to Naissus. That flourishing city, which has given
birth to the great Constantine, was levelled with the ground: the
inhabitants were destroyed or dispersed; and the appearance of some
sick persons, who were still permitted to exist among the ruins of the
churches, served only to increase the horror of the prospect. The
surface of the country was covered with the bones of the slain; and
the ambassadors, who directed their course to the north-west, were
obliged to pass the hills of modern Servia, before they descended into
the flat and marshy grounds which are terminated by the Danube. The
Huns were masters of the great river: their navigation was performed
in large canoes, hollowed out of the trunk of a single tree; the
ministers of Theodosius were safely landed on the opposite bank; and
their Barbarian associates immediately hastened to the camp of Attila,
which was equally prepared for the amusements of hunting or of war. No
sooner had Maximin advanced about two miles * from the Danube, than he
began to experience the fastidious insolence of the conqueror. He was
sternly forbid to pitch his tents in a pleasant valley, lest he should
infringe the distant awe that was due to the royal mansion. The
ministers of Attila pressed them to communicate the business, and the
instructions, which he reserved for the ear of their sovereign When
Maximin temperately urged the contrary practice of nations, he was
still more confounded to find that the resolutions of the Sacred
Consistory, those secrets (says Priscus) which should not be revealed
to the gods themselves, had been treacherously disclosed to the public
enemy. On his refusal to comply with such ignominious terms, the
Imperial envoy was commanded instantly to depart; the order was
recalled; it was again repeated; and the Huns renewed their
ineffectual attempts to subdue the patient firmness of Maximin. At
length, by the intercession of Scotta, the brother of Onegesius, whose
friendship had been purchased by a liberal gift, he was admitted to
the royal presence; but, in stead of obtaining a decisive answer, he
was compelled to undertake a remote journey towards the north, that
Attila might enjoy the proud satisfaction of receiving, in the same
camp, the ambassadors of the Eastern and Western empires. His journey
was regulated by the guides, who obliged him to halt, to hasten his
march, or to deviate from the common road, as it best suited the
convenience of the king. The Romans, who traversed the plains of
Hungary, suppose that they passed several
navigable rivers, either in canoes or portable boats; but there is
reason to suspect that the winding stream of the Teyss, or Tibiscus,
might present itself in different places under different names. From
the contiguous villages they received a plentiful and regular supply
of provisions; mead instead of wine, millet in the place of bread, and
a certain liquor named camus, which according to the report of
Priscus, was distilled from barley. Such fare might appear coarse and
indelicate to men who had tasted the luxury of Constantinople; but, in
their accidental distress, they were relieved by the gentleness and
hospitality of the same Barbarians, so terrible and so merciless in
war. The ambassadors had encamped on the edge of a large morass. A
violent tempest of wind and rain, of thunder and lightning, overturned
their tents, immersed their baggage and furniture in the water, and
scattered their retinue, who wandered in the darkness of the night,
uncertain of their road, and apprehensive of some unknown danger, till
they awakened by their cries the inhabitants of a neighboring village,
the property of the widow of Bleda. A bright illumination, and, in a
few moments, a comfortable fire of reeds, was kindled by their
officious benevolence; the wants, and even the desires, of the Romans
were liberally satisfied; and they seem to have been embarrassed by
the singular politeness of Bleda's widow, who added to her other
favors the gift, or at least the loan, of a sufficient number of
beautiful and obsequious damsels. The sunshine of the succeeding day
was dedicated to repose, to collect and dry the baggage, and to the
refreshment of the men and horses: but, in the evening, before they
pursued their journey, the ambassadors expressed their gratitude to
the bounteous lady of the village, by a very acceptable present of
silver cups, red fleeces, dried fruits, and Indian pepper. Soon after
this adventure, they rejoined the march of Attila, from whom they had
been separated about six days, and slowly proceeded to the capital of
an empire, which did not contain, in the space of several thousand
miles, a single city.

As far as we may ascertain the vague and obscure geography of Priscus,
this capital appears to have been seated between the Danube, the
Teyss, and the Carpathian hills, in the plains of Upper Hungary, and
most probably in the neighborhood of Jezberin, Agria, or Tokay. In its
origin it could be no more than an accidental camp, which, by the long
and frequent residence of Attila, had insensibly swelled into a huge
village, for the reception of his court, of the troops who followed
his person, and of the various multitude of idle or industrious slaves
and retainers. The baths, constructed by Onegesius, were the only
edifice of stone; the materials had been transported from Pannonia;
and since the adjacent country was destitute even of large timber, it
may be presumed, that the meaner habitations of the royal village
consisted of straw, or mud, or of canvass. The wooden houses of the
more illustrious Huns were built and adorned with rude magnificence,
according to the rank, the fortune, or the taste of the proprietors.
They seem to have been distributed with some degree of order and
symmetry; and each spot became more honorable as it approached the
person of the sovereign. The palace of Attila, which surpassed all
other houses in his dominions, was built entirely of wood, and covered
an ample space of ground. The outward enclosure was a lofty wall, or
palisade, of smooth square timber, intersected with high towers, but
intended rather for ornament than defence. This wall, which seems to
have encircled the declivity of a hill, comprehended a great variety
of wooden edifices, adapted to the uses of royalty. A separate house
was assigned to each of the numerous wives of Attila; and, instead of
the rigid and illiberal confinement imposed by Asiatic jealousy they
politely admitted the Roman ambassadors to their presence, their
table, and even to the freedom of an innocent embrace. When Maximin
offered his presents to Cerca, * the principal queen, he admired the
singular architecture on her mansion, the height of the round columns,
the size and beauty of the wood, which was curiously shaped or turned
or polished or carved; and his attentive eye was able to discover some
taste in the ornaments and some regularity in the proportions. After
passing through the guards, who watched before the gate, the
ambassadors were introduced into the private apartment of Cerca. The
wife of Attila received their visit sitting, or rather lying, on a
soft couch; the floor was covered with a carpet; the domestics formed
a circle round the queen; and her damsels, seated on the ground, were
employed in working the variegated embroidery which adorned the dress
of the Barbaric warriors. The Huns were ambitious of displaying those
riches which were the fruit and evidence of their victories: the
trappings of their horses, their swords, and even their shoes, were
studded with gold and precious stones; and their tables were profusely
spread with plates, and goblets, and vases of gold and silver, which
had been fashioned by the labor of Grecian artists. The monarch alone
assumed the superior pride of still adhering to the simplicity of his
Scythian ancestors. The dress of Attila, his arms, and the furniture
of his horse, were plain, without ornament, and of a single color. The
royal table was served in wooden cups and platters; flesh was his only
food; and the conqueror of the North never tasted the luxury of bread.

When Attila first gave audience to the Roman ambassadors on the banks
of the Danube, his tent was encompassed with a formidable guard. The
monarch himself was seated in a wooden chair. His stern countenance,
angry gestures, and impatient tone, astonished the firmness of
Maximin; but Vigilius had more reason to tremble, since he distinctly
understood the menace, that if Attila did not respect the law of
nations, he would nail the deceitful interpreter to the cross. and
leave his body to the vultures. The Barbarian condescended, by
producing an accurate list, to expose the bold falsehood of Vigilius,
who had affirmed that no more than seventeen deserters could be found.
But he arrogantly declared, that he apprehended only the disgrace of
contending with his fugitive slaves; since he despised their impotent
efforts to defend the provinces which Theodosius had intrusted to
their arms: "For what fortress," (added Attila,) "what city, in the
wide extent of the Roman empire, can hope to exist, secure and
impregnable, if it is our pleasure that it should be erased from the
earth?" He dismissed, however, the interpreter, who returned to
Constantinople with his peremptory demand of more complete
restitution, and a more splendid embassy. His anger gradually
subsided, and his domestic satisfaction in a marriage which he
celebrated on the road with the daughter of Eslam, * might perhaps
contribute to mollify the native fierceness of his temper. The
entrance of Attila into the royal village was marked by a very
singular ceremony. A numerous troop of women came out to meet their
hero and their king. They marched before him, distributed into long
and regular files; the intervals between the files were filled by
white veils of thin linen, which the women on either side bore aloft
in their hands, and which formed a canopy for a chorus of young
virgins, who chanted hymns and songs in the Scythian language. The
wife of his favorite Onegesius, with a train of female attendants,
saluted Attila at the door of her own house, on his way to the palace;
and offered, according to the custom of the country, her respectful
homage, by entreating him to taste the wine and meat which she had
prepared for his reception. As soon as the monarch had graciously
accepted her hospitable gift, his domestics lifted a small silver
table to a convenient height, as he sat on horseback; and Attila, when
he had touched the goblet with his lips, again saluted the wife of
Onegesius, and continued his march. During his residence at the seat
of empire, his hours were not wasted in the recluse idleness of a
seraglio; and the king of the Huns could maintain his superior
dignity, without concealing his person from the public view. He
frequently assembled his council, and gave audience to the ambassadors
of the nations; and his people might appeal to the supreme tribunal,
which he held at stated times, and, according to the Eastern custom,
before the principal gate of his wooden palace. The Romans, both of
the East and of the West, were twice invited to the banquets, where
Attila feasted with the princes and nobles of Scythia. Maximin and his
colleagues were stopped on the threshold, till they had made a devout
libation to the health and prosperity of the king of the Huns; and
were conducted, after this ceremony, to their respective seats in a
spacious hall. The royal table and couch, covered with carpets and
fine linen, was raised by several steps in the midst of the hall; and
a son, an uncle, or perhaps a favorite king, were admitted to share
the simple and homely repast of Attila. Two lines of small tables,
each of which contained three or four guests, were ranged in order on
either hand; the right was esteemed the most honorable, but the Romans
ingenuously confess, that they were placed on the left; and that
Beric, an unknown chieftain, most probably of the Gothic race,
preceded the representatives of Theodosius and Valentinian. The
Barbarian monarch received from his cup-bearer a goblet filled with
wine, and courteously drank to the health of the most distinguished
guest; who rose from his seat, and expressed, in the same manner, his
loyal and respectful vows. This ceremony was successively performed
for all, or at least for the illustrious persons of the assembly; and
a considerable time must have been consumed, since it was thrice
repeated as each course or service was placed on the table. But the
wine still remained after the meat had been removed; and the Huns
continued to indulge their intemperance long after the sober and
decent ambassadors of the two empires had withdrawn themselves from
the nocturnal banquet. Yet before they retired, they enjoyed a
singular opportunity of observing the manners of the nation in their
convivial amusements. Two Scythians stood before the couch of Attila,
and recited the verses which they had composed, to celebrate his valor
and his victories. * A profound silence prevailed in the hall; and the
attention of the guests was captivated by the vocal harmony, which
revived and perpetuated the memory of their own exploits; a martial
ardor flashed from the eyes of the warriors, who were impatient for
battle; and the tears of the old men expressed their generous despair,
that they could no longer partake the danger and glory of the field.
This entertainment, which might be considered as a school of military
virtue, was succeeded by a farce, that debased the dignity of human
nature. A Moorish and a Scythian buffoon * successively excited the
mirth of the rude spectators, by their deformed figure, ridiculous
dress, antic gestures, absurd speeches, and the strange,
unintelligible confusion of the Latin, the Gothic, and the Hunnic
languages; and the hall resounded with loud and licentious peals of
laughter. In the midst of this intemperate riot, Attila alone, without
a change of countenance, maintained his steadfast and inflexible
gravity; which was never relaxed, except on the entrance of Irnac, the
youngest of his sons: he embraced the boy with a smile of paternal
tenderness, gently pinched him by the cheek, and betrayed a partial
affection, which was justified by the assurance of his prophets, that
Irnac would be the future support of his family and empire. Two days
afterwards, the ambassadors received a second invitation; and they had
reason to praise the politeness, as well as the hospitality, of
Attila. The king of the Huns held a long and familiar conversation
with Maximin; but his civility was interrupted by rude expressions and
haughty reproaches; and he was provoked, by a motive of interest, to
support, with unbecoming zeal, the private claims of his secretary
Constantius. "The emperor" (said Attila) "has long promised him a rich
wife: Constantius must not be disappointed; nor should a Roman emperor
deserve the name of liar." On the third day, the ambassadors were
dismissed; the freedom of several captives was granted, for a moderate
ransom, to their pressing entreaties; and, besides the royal presents,
they were permitted to accept from each of the Scythian nobles the
honorable and useful gift of a horse. Maximin returned, by the same
road, to Constantinople; and though he was involved in an accidental
dispute with Beric, the new ambassador of Attila, he flattered himself
that he had contributed, by the laborious journey, to confirm the
peace and alliance of the two nations.

Chapter XXXIV: Attila. -- Part III.

But the Roman ambassador was ignorant of the treacherous design, which
had been concealed under the mask of the public faith. The surprise
and satisfaction of Edecon, when he contemplated the splendor of
Constantinople, had encouraged the interpreter Vigilius to procure for
him a secret interview with the eunuch Chrysaphius, who governed the
emperor and the empire. After some previous conversation, and a mutual
oath of secrecy, the eunuch, who had not, from his own feelings or
experience, imbibed any exalted notions of ministerial virtue,
ventured to propose the death of Attila, as an important service, by
which Edecon might deserve a liberal share of the wealth and luxury
which he admired. The ambassador of the Huns listened to the tempting
offer; and professed, with apparent zeal, his ability, as well as
readiness, to execute the bloody deed; the design was communicated to
the master of the offices, and the devout Theodosius consented to the
assassination of his invincible enemy. But this perfidious conspiracy
was defeated by the dissimulation, or the repentance, of Edecon; and
though he might exaggerate his inward abhorrence for the treason,
which he seemed to approve, he dexterously assumed the merit of an
early and voluntary confession. If we now
review the embassy of Maximin, and the behavior of Attila, we must
applaud the Barbarian, who respected the laws of hospitality, and
generously entertained and dismissed the minister of a prince who had
conspired against his life. But the rashness of Vigilius will appear
still more extraordinary, since he returned, conscious of his guilt
and danger, to the royal camp, accompanied by his son, and carrying
with him a weighty purse of gold, which the favorite eunuch had
furnished, to satisfy the demands of Edecon, and to corrupt the
fidelity of the guards. The interpreter was instantly seized, and
dragged before the tribunal of Attila, where he asserted his innocence
with specious firmness, till the threat of inflicting instant death on
his son extorted from him a sincere discovery of the criminal
transaction. Under the name of ransom, or confiscation, the rapacious
king of the Huns accepted two hundred pounds of gold for the life of a
traitor, whom he disdained to punish. He pointed his just indignation
against a nobler object. His ambassadors, Eslaw and Orestes, were
immediately despatched to Constantinople, with a peremptory
instruction, which it was much safer for them to execute than to
disobey. They boldly entered the Imperial presence, with the fatal
purse hanging down from the neck of Orestes; who interrogated the
eunuch Chrysaphius, as he stood beside the throne, whether he
recognized the evidence of his guilt. But the office of reproof was
reserved for the superior dignity of his colleague Eslaw, who gravely
addressed the emperor of the East in the following words: "Theodosius
is the son of an illustrious and respectable parent: Attila likewise
is descended from a noble race; and he has supported, by his actions,
the dignity which he inherited from his father Mundzuk. But Theodosius
has forfeited his paternal honors, and, by consenting to pay tribute
has degraded himself to the condition of a slave. It is therefore
just, that he should reverence the man whom fortune and merit have
placed above him; instead of attempting, like a wicked slave,
clandestinely to conspire against his master." The son of Arcadius,
who was accustomed only to the voice of flattery, heard with
astonishment the severe language of truth: he blushed and trembled;
nor did he presume directly to refuse the head of Chrysaphius, which
Eslaw and Orestes were instructed to demand. A solemn embassy, armed
with full powers and magnificent gifts, was hastily sent to deprecate
the wrath of Attila; and his pride was gratified by the choice of
Nomius and Anatolius, two ministers of consular or patrician rank, of
whom the one was great treasurer, and the other was master-general of
the armies of the East. He condescended to meet these ambassadors on
the banks of the River Drenco; and though he at first affected a stern
and haughty demeanor, his anger was insensibly mollified by their
eloquence and liberality. He condescended to pardon the emperor, the
eunuch, and the interpreter; bound himself by an oath to observe the
conditions of peace; released a great number of captives; abandoned
the fugitives and deserters to their fate; and resigned a large
territory, to the south of the Danube, which he had already exhausted
of its wealth and inhabitants. But this treaty was purchased at an
expense which might have supported a vigorous and successful war; and
the subjects of Theodosius were compelled to redeem the safety of a
worthless favorite by oppressive taxes, which they would more
cheerfully have paid for his destruction.

The emperor Theodosius did not long survive the most humiliating
circumstance of an inglorious life. As he was riding, or hunting, in
the neighborhood of Constantinople, he was thrown from his horse into
the River Lycus: the spine of the back was injured by the fall; and he
expired some days afterwards, in the fiftieth year of his age, and the
forty-third of his reign. His sister Pulcheria, whose authority had
been controlled both in civil and ecclesiastical affairs by the
pernicious influence of the eunuchs, was unanimously proclaimed
Empress of the East; and the Romans, for the first time, submitted to
a female reign. No sooner had Pulcheria ascended the throne, than she
indulged her own and the public resentment, by an act of popular
justice. Without any legal trial, the eunuch Chrysaphius was executed
before the gates of the city; and the immense riches which had been
accumulated by the rapacious favorite, served only to hasten and to
justify his punishment. Amidst the general acclamations of the clergy
and people, the empress did not forget the prejudice and disadvantage
to which her sex was exposed; and she wisely resolved to prevent their
murmurs by the choice of a colleague, who would always respect the
superior rank and virgin chastity of his wife. She gave her hand to
Marcian, a senator, about sixty years of age; and the nominal husband
of Pulcheria was solemnly invested with the Imperial purple. The zeal
which he displayed for the orthodox creed, as it was established by
the council of Chalcedon, would alone have inspired the grateful
eloquence of the Catholics. But the behavior of Marcian in a private
life, and afterwards on the throne, may support a more rational
belief, that he was qualified to restore and invigorate an empire,
which had been almost dissolved by the successive weakness of two
hereditary monarchs. He was born in Thrace, and educated to the
profession of arms; but Marcian's youth had been severely exercised by
poverty and misfortune, since his only resource, when he first arrived
at Constantinople, consisted in two hundred pieces of gold, which he
had borrowed of a friend. He passed nineteen years in the domestic and
military service of Aspar, and his son Ardaburius; followed those
powerful generals to the Persian and African wars; and obtained, by
their influence, the honorable rank of tribune and senator. His mild
disposition, and useful talents, without alarming the jealousy,
recommended Marcian to the esteem and favor of his patrons; he had
seen, perhaps he had felt, the abuses of a venal and oppressive
administration; and his own example gave weight and energy to the
laws, which he promulgated for the reformation of manners.

Chapter XXXV: Invasion By Attila.

Part I.

Invasion Of Gaul By Attila. -- He Is Repulsed By Ætius And The
Visigoths. -- Attila Invades And Evacuates Italy. -- The Deaths Of
Attila, Ætius, And Valentinian The Third.

It was the opinion of Marcian, that war should be avoided, as long as
it is possible to preserve a secure and honorable peace; but it was
likewise his opinion, that peace cannot be honorable or secure, if the
sovereign betrays a pusillanimous aversion to war. This temperate
courage dictated his reply to the demands of Attila, who insolently
pressed the payment of the annual tribute. The emperor signified to
the Barbarians, that they must no longer insult the majesty of Rome by
the mention of a tribute; that he was disposed to reward, with
becoming liberality, the faithful friendship of his allies; but that,
if they presumed to violate the public peace, they should feel that he
possessed troops, and arms, and resolution, to repel their attacks.
The same language, even in the camp of the Huns, was used by his
ambassador Apollonius, whose bold refusal to deliver the presents,
till he had been admitted to a personal interview, displayed a sense
of dignity, and a contempt of danger, which Attila was not prepared to
expect from the degenerate Romans. He threatened to chastise the rash
successor of Theodosius; but he hesitated whether he should first
direct his invincible arms against the Eastern or the Western empire.
While mankind awaited his decision with awful suspense, he sent an
equal defiance to the courts of Ravenna and Constantinople; and his
ministers saluted the two emperors with the same haughty declaration.
"Attila, my
lord, and thy lord, commands thee to provide a palace for his
immediate reception." But as the Barbarian despised, or affected to
despise, the Romans of the East, whom he had so often vanquished, he
soon declared his resolution of suspending the easy conquest, till he
had achieved a more glorious and important enterprise. In the
memorable invasions of Gaul and Italy, the Huns were naturally
attracted by the wealth and fertility of those provinces; but the
particular motives and provocations of Attila can only be explained by
the state of the Western empire under the reign of Valentinian, or, to
speak more correctly, under the administration of Ætius.

After the death of his rival Boniface, Ætius had prudently retired to
the tents of the Huns; and he was indebted to their alliance for his
safety and his restoration. Instead of the suppliant language of a
guilty exile, he solicited his pardon at the head of sixty thousand
Barbarians; and the empress Placidia confessed, by a feeble
resistance, that the condescension, which might have been ascribed to
clemency, was the effect of weakness or fear. She delivered herself,
her son Valentinian, and the Western empire, into the hands of an
insolent subject; nor could Placidia protect the son- in-law of
Boniface, the virtuous and faithful Sebastian, from the implacable
persecution which urged him from one kingdom to another, till he
miserably perished in the service of the Vandals. The fortunate Ætius,
who was immediately promoted to the rank of patrician, and thrice
invested with the honors of the consulship, assumed, with the title of
master of the cavalry and infantry, the whole military power of the
state; and he is sometimes styled, by contemporary writers, the duke,
or general, of the Romans of the West. His prudence, rather than his
virtue, engaged him to leave the grandson of Theodosius in the
possession of the purple; and Valentinian was permitted to enjoy the
peace and luxury of Italy, while the patrician appeared in the
glorious light of a hero and a patriot, who supported near twenty
years the ruins of the Western empire. The Gothic historian
ingenuously confesses, that Ætius was born for the salvation of the
Roman republic; and the following portrait, though it is drawn in the
fairest colors, must be allowed to contain a much larger proportion of
truth than of flattery. * "His mother was a wealthy and noble Italian,
and his father Gaudentius, who held a distinguished rank in the
province of Scythia, gradually rose from the station of a military
domestic, to the dignity of master of the cavalry. Their son, who was
enrolled almost in his infancy in the guards, was given as a hostage,
first to Alaric, and afterwards to the Huns; and he successively
obtained the civil and military honors of the palace, for which he was
equally qualified by superior merit. The graceful figure of Ætius was
not above the middle stature; but his manly limbs were admirably
formed for strength, beauty, and agility; and he excelled in the
martial exercises of managing a horse, drawing the bow, and darting
the javelin. He could patiently endure the want of food, or of sleep;
and his mind and body were alike capable of the most laborious
efforts. He possessed the genuine courage that can despise not only
dangers, but injuries: and it was impossible either to corrupt, or
deceive, or intimidate the firm integrity of his soul." The
Barbarians, who had seated themselves in the Western provinces, were
insensibly taught to respect the faith and valor of the patrician
Ætius. He soothed their passions, consulted their prejudices, balanced
their interests, and checked their ambition. * A seasonable treaty,
which he concluded with Genseric, protected Italy from the
depredations of the Vandals; the independent Britons implored and
acknowledged his salutary aid; the Imperial authority was restored and
maintained in Gaul and Spain; and he compelled the Franks and the
Suevi, whom he had vanquished in the field, to become the useful
confederates of the republic.

From a principle of interest, as well as gratitude, Ætius assiduously
cultivated the alliance of the Huns. While he resided in their tents
as a hostage, or an exile, he had familiarly conversed with Attila
himself, the nephew of his benefactor; and the two famous antagonists
appeared to have been connected by a personal and military friendship,
which they afterwards confirmed by mutual gifts, frequent embassies,
and the education of Carpilio, the son of Ætius, in the camp of
Attila. By the specious professions of gratitude and voluntary
attachment, the patrician might disguise his apprehensions of the
Scythian conqueror, who pressed the two empires with his innumerable
armies. His demands were obeyed or eluded. When he claimed the spoils
of a vanquished city, some vases of gold, which had been fraudulently
embezzled, the civil and military governors of Noricum were
immediately despatched to satisfy his complaints: and it is evident,
from their conversation with Maximin and Priscus, in the royal
village, that the valor and prudence of Ætius had not saved the
Western Romans from the common ignominy of tribute. Yet his dexterous
policy prolonged the advantages of a salutary peace; and a numerous
army of Huns and Alani, whom he had attached to his person, was
employed in the defence of Gaul. Two colonies of these Barbarians were
judiciously fixed in the territories of Valens and Orleans; and their
active cavalry secured the important passages of the Rhone and of the
Loire. These savage allies were not indeed less formidable to the
subjects than to the enemies of Rome. Their original settlement was
enforced with the licentious violence of conquest; and the province
through which they marched was exposed to all the calamities of a
hostile invasion. Strangers to the emperor or the republic, the Alani
of Gaul was devoted to the ambition of Ætius, and though he might
suspect, that, in a contest with Attila himself, they would revolt to
the standard of their national king, the patrician labored to
restrain, rather than to excite, their zeal and resentment against the
Goths, the Burgundians, and the Franks.

The kingdom established by the Visigoths in the southern provinces of
Gaul, had gradually acquired strength and maturity; and the conduct of
those ambitious Barbarians, either in peace or war, engaged the
perpetual vigilance of Ætius. After the death of Wallia, the Gothic
sceptre devolved to Theodoric, the son of the great Alaric; and his
prosperous reign of more than thirty years, over a turbulent people,
may be allowed to prove, that his prudence was supported by uncommon
vigor, both of mind and body. Impatient of his narrow limits,
Theodoric aspired to the possession of Arles, the wealthy seat of
government and commerce; but the city was saved by the timely approach
of Ætius; and the Gothic king, who had raised the siege with some loss
and disgrace, was persuaded, for an adequate subsidy, to divert the
martial valor of his subjects in a Spanish war. Yet Theodoric still
watched, and eagerly seized, the favorable moment of renewing his
hostile attempts. The Goths besieged Narbonne, while the Belgic
provinces were invaded by the Burgundians; and the public safety was
threatened on every side by the apparent union of the enemies of Rome.
On every side, the activity of Ætius, and his Scythian cavalry,
opposed a firm and successful resistance. Twenty thousand Burgundians
were slain in battle; and the remains of the nation humbly accepted a
dependent seat in the mountains of Savoy. The walls of Narbonne had
been shaken by the battering engines, and the inhabitants had endured
the last extremities of famine, when Count Litorius, approaching in
silence, and directing each horseman to carry behind him two sacks of
flour, cut his way through the intrenchments of the besiegers. The
siege was immediately raised; and the more decisive victory, which is
ascribed to the personal conduct of Ætius himself, was marked with the
blood of eight thousand Goths. But in the absence of the patrician,
who was hastily summoned to Italy by some public or private interest,
Count Litorius succeeded to the command; and his presumption soon
discovered that far different talents are required to lead a wing of
cavalry, or to direct the operations of an important war. At the head
of an army of Huns, he rashly advanced to the gates of Thoulouse, full
of careless contempt for an enemy whom his misfortunes had rendered
prudent, and his situation made desperate. The predictions of the
augurs had inspired Litorius with the profane confidence that he
should enter the Gothic capital in triumph; and the trust which he
reposed in his Pagan allies, encouraged him to reject the fair
conditions of peace, which were repeatedly proposed by the bishops in
the name of Theodoric. The king of the Goths exhibited in his distress
the edifying contrast of Christian piety and moderation; nor did he
lay aside his sackcloth and ashes till he was prepared to arm for the
combat. His soldiers, animated with martial and religious enthusiasm,
assaulted the camp of Litorius. The conflict was obstinate; the
slaughter was mutual. The Roman general, after a total defeat, which
could be imputed only to his unskilful rashness, was actually led
through the streets of Thoulouse, not in his own, but in a hostile
triumph; and the misery which he experienced, in a long and
ignominious captivity, excited the compassion of the Barbarians
themselves. Such a loss, in a country whose spirit and finances were
long since exhausted, could not easily be repaired; and the Goths,
assuming, in their turn, the sentiments of ambition and revenge, would
have planted their victorious standards on the banks of the Rhone, if
the presence of Ætius had not restored strength and discipline to the
Romans. The two armies expected the signal of a decisive action; but
the generals, who were conscious of each other's force, and doubtful
of their own superiority, prudently sheathed their swords in the field
of battle; and their reconciliation was permanent and sincere.
Theodoric, king of the Visigoths, appears to have deserved the love of
his subjects, the confidence of his allies, and the esteem of mankind.
His throne was surrounded by six valiant sons, who were educated with
equal care in the exercises of the Barbarian camp, and in those of the
Gallic schools: from the study of the Roman jurisprudence, they
acquired the theory, at least, of law and justice; and the harmonious
sense of Virgil contributed to soften the asperity of their native
manners. The two daughters of the Gothic king were given in marriage
to the eldest sons of the kings of the Suevi and of the Vandals, who
reigned in Spain and Africa: but these illustrious alliances were
pregnant with guilt and discord. The queen of the Suevi bewailed the
death of a husband inhumanly massacred by her brother. The princess of
the Vandals was the victim of a jealous tyrant, whom she called her
father. The cruel Genseric suspected that his son's wife had conspired
to poison him; the supposed crime was punished by the amputation of
her nose and ears; and the unhappy daughter of Theodoric was
ignominiously returned to the court of Thoulouse in that deformed and
mutilated condition. This horrid act, which must seem incredible to a
civilized age drew tears from every spectator; but Theodoric was
urged, by the feelings of a parent and a king, to revenge such
irreparable injuries. The Imperial ministers, who always cherished the
discord of the Barbarians, would have supplied the Goths with arms,
and ships, and treasures, for the African war; and the cruelty of
Genseric might have been fatal to himself, if the artful Vandal had
not armed, in his cause, the formidable power of the Huns. His rich
gifts and pressing solicitations inflamed the ambition of Attila; and
the designs of Ætius and Theodoric were prevented by the invasion of

The Franks, whose monarchy was still confined to the neighborhood of
the Lower Rhine, had wisely established the right of hereditary
succession in the noble family of the Merovingians. These princes were
elevated on a buckler, the symbol of military command; and the royal
fashion of long hair was the ensign of their birth and dignity. Their
flaxen locks, which they combed and dressed with singular care, hung
down in flowing ringlets on their back and shoulders; while the rest
of the nation were obliged, either by law or custom, to shave the
hinder part of their head, to comb their hair over the forehead, and
to content themselves with the ornament of two small whiskers. The
lofty stature of the Franks, and their blue eyes, denoted a Germanic
origin; their close apparel accurately expressed the figure of their
limbs; a weighty sword was suspended from a broad belt; their bodies
were protected by a large shield; and these warlike Barbarians were
trained, from their earliest youth, to run, to leap, to swim; to dart
the javelin, or battle-axe, with unerring aim; to advance, without
hesitation, against a superior enemy; and to maintain, either in life
or death, the invincible reputation of their ancestors. Clodion, the
first of their long-haired kings, whose name and actions are mentioned
in authentic history, held his residence at Dispargum, a village or
fortress, whose place may be assigned between Louvain and Brussels.
From the report of his spies, the king of the Franks was informed,
that the defenceless state of the second Belgic must yield, on the
slightest attack, to the valor of his subjects. He boldly penetrated
through the thickets and morasses of the Carbonarian forest; occupied
Tournay and Cambray, the only cities which existed in the fifth
century, and extended his conquests as far as the River Somme, over a
desolate country, whose cultivation and populousness are the effects
of more recent industry. While Clodion lay encamped in the plains of
Artois, and celebrated, with vain and ostentatious security, the
marriage, perhaps, of his son, the nuptial feast was interrupted by
the unexpected and unwelcome presence of Ætius, who had passed the
Somme at the head of his light cavalry. The tables, which had been
spread under the shelter of a hill, along the banks of a pleasant
stream, were rudely overturned; the Franks were oppressed before they
could recover their arms, or their ranks; and their unavailing valor
was fatal only to themselves. The loaded wagons, which had followed
their march, afforded a rich booty; and the virgin- bride, with her
female attendants, submitted to the new lovers, who were imposed on
them by the chance of war. This advance, which had been obtained by
the skill and activity of Ætius, might reflect some disgrace on the
military prudence of Clodion; but the king of the Franks soon regained
his strength and reputation, and still maintained the possession of
his Gallic kingdom from the Rhine to the Somme. Under his reign, and
most probably from the thee enterprising spirit of his subjects, his
three capitals, Mentz, Treves, and Cologne, experienced the effects of
hostile cruelty and avarice. The distress of Cologne was prolonged by
the perpetual dominion of the same Barbarians, who evacuated the ruins
of Treves; and Treves, which in the space of forty years had been four
times besieged and pillaged, was disposed to lose the memory of her
afflictions in the vain amusements of the Circus. The death of
Clodion, after a reign of twenty years, exposed his kingdom to the
discord and ambition of his two sons. Meroveus, the younger, was
persuaded to implore the protection of Rome; he was received at the
Imperial court, as the ally of Valentinian, and the adopted son of the
patrician Ætius; and dismissed to his native country, with splendid
gifts, and the strongest assurances of friendship and support. During
his absence, his elder brother had solicited, with equal ardor, the
formidable aid of Attila; and the king of the Huns embraced an
alliance, which facilitated the passage of the Rhine, and justified,
by a specious and honorable pretence, the invasion of Gaul.

Chapter XXXV: Invasion By Attila. -- Part II.

When Attila declared his resolution of supporting the cause of his
allies, the Vandals and the Franks, at the same time, and almost in
the spirit of romantic chivalry, the savage monarch professed himself
the lover and the champion of the princess Honoria. The sister of
Valentinian was educated in the palace of Ravenna; and as her marriage
might be productive of some danger to the state, she was raised, by
the title of Augusta
, above the hopes of the most presumptuous subject. But the fair
Honoria had no sooner attained the sixteenth year of her age, than she
detested the importunate greatness which must forever exclude her from
the comforts of honorable love; in the midst of vain and
unsatisfactory pomp, Honoria sighed, yielded to the impulse of nature,
and threw herself into the arms of her chamberlain Eugenius. Her guilt
and shame (such is the absurd language of imperious man) were soon
betrayed by the appearances of pregnancy; but the disgrace of the
royal family was published to the world by the imprudence of the
empress Placidia who dismissed her daughter, after a strict and
shameful confinement, to a remote exile at Constantinople. The unhappy
princess passed twelve or fourteen years in the irksome society of the
sisters of Theodosius, and their chosen virgins; to whose crown
Honoria could no longer aspire, and whose monastic assiduity of
prayer, fasting, and vigils, she reluctantly imitated. Her impatience
of long and hopeless celibacy urged her to embrace a strange and
desperate resolution. The name of Attila was familiar and formidable
at Constantinople; and his frequent embassies entertained a perpetual
intercourse between his camp and the Imperial palace. In the pursuit
of love, or rather of revenge, the daughter of Placidia sacrificed
every duty and every prejudice; and offered to deliver her person into
the arms of a Barbarian, of whose language she was ignorant, whose
figure was scarcely human, and whose religion and manners she
abhorred. By the ministry of a faithful eunuch, she transmitted to

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest