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Attila a ring, the pledge of her affection; and earnestly conjured him
to claim her as a lawful spouse, to whom he had been secretly
betrothed. These indecent advances were received, however, with
coldness and disdain; and the king of the Huns continued to multiply
the number of his wives, till his love was awakened by the more
forcible passions of ambition and avarice. The invasion of Gaul was
preceded, and justified, by a formal demand of the princess Honoria,
with a just and equal share of the Imperial patrimony. His
predecessors, the ancient Tanjous, had often addressed, in the same
hostile and peremptory manner, the daughters of China; and the
pretensions of Attila were not less offensive to the majesty of Rome.
A firm, but temperate, refusal was communicated to his ambassadors.
The right of female succession, though it might derive a specious
argument from the recent examples of Placidia and Pulcheria, was
strenuously denied; and the indissoluble engagements of Honoria were
opposed to the claims of her Scythian lover. On the discovery of her
connection with the king of the Huns, the guilty princess had been
sent away, as an object of horror, from Constantinople to Italy: her
life was spared; but the ceremony of her marriage was performed with
some obscure and nominal husband, before she was immured in a
perpetual prison, to bewail those crimes and misfortunes, which
Honoria might have escaped, had she not been born the daughter of an

A native of Gaul, and a contemporary, the learned and eloquent
Sidonius, who was afterwards bishop of Clermont, had made a promise to
one of his friends, that he would compose a regular history of the war
of Attila. If the modesty of Sidonius had not discouraged him from the
prosecution of this interesting work, the historian would have
related, with the simplicity of truth, those memorable events, to
which the poet, in vague and doubtful metaphors, has concisely
alluded. The kings and nations of Germany and Scythia, from the Volga
perhaps to the Danube, obeyed the warlike summons of Attila. From the
royal village, in the plains of Hungary his standard moved towards the
West; and after a march of seven or eight hundred miles, he reached
the conflux of the Rhine and the Neckar, where he was joined by the
Franks, who adhered to his ally, the elder of the sons of Clodion. A
troop of light Barbarians, who roamed in quest of plunder, might
choose the winter for the convenience of passing the river on the ice;
but the innumerable cavalry of the Huns required such plenty of forage
and provisions, as could be procured only in a milder season; the
Hercynian forest supplied materials for a bridge of boats; and the
hostile myriads were poured, with resistless violence, into the Belgic
provinces. The consternation of Gaul was universal; and the various
fortunes of its cities have been adorned by tradition with martyrdoms
and miracles. Troyes was saved by the merits of St. Lupus; St.
Servatius was removed from the world, that he might not behold the
ruin of Tongres; and the prayers of St. Genevieve diverted the march
of Attila from the neighborhood of Paris. But as the greatest part of
the Gallic cities were alike destitute of saints and soldiers, they
were besieged and stormed by the Huns; who practised, in the example
of Metz, their customary maxims of war. They involved, in a
promiscuous massacre, the priests who served at the altar, and the
infants, who, in the hour of danger, had been providently baptized by
the bishop; the flourishing city was delivered to the flames, and a
solitary chapel of St. Stephen marked the place where it formerly
stood. From the Rhine and the Moselle, Attila advanced into the heart
of Gaul; crossed the Seine at Auxerre; and, after a long and laborious
march, fixed his camp under the walls of Orleans. He was desirous of
securing his conquests by the possession of an advantageous post,
which commanded the passage of the Loire; and he depended on the
secret invitation of Sangiban, king of the Alani, who had promised to
betray the city, and to revolt from the service of the empire. But
this treacherous conspiracy was detected and disappointed: Orleans had
been strengthened with recent fortifications; and the assaults of the
Huns were vigorously repelled by the faithful valor of the soldiers,
or citizens, who defended the place. The pastoral diligence of
Anianus, a bishop of primitive sanctity and consummate prudence,
exhausted every art of religious policy to support their courage, till
the arrival of the expected succors. After an obstinate siege, the
walls were shaken by the battering rams; the Huns had already occupied
the suburbs; and the people, who were incapable of bearing arms, lay
prostrate in prayer. Anianus, who anxiously counted the days and
hours, despatched a trusty messenger to observe, from the rampart, the
face of the distant country. He returned twice, without any
intelligence that could inspire hope or comfort; but, in his third
report, he mentioned a small cloud, which he had faintly descried at
the extremity of the horizon. "It is the aid of God!" exclaimed the
bishop, in a tone of pious confidence; and the whole multitude
repeated after him, "It is the aid of God." The remote object, on
which every eye was fixed, became each moment larger, and more
distinct; the Roman and Gothic banners were gradually perceived; and a
favorable wind blowing aside the dust, discovered, in deep array, the
impatient squadrons of Ætius and Theodoric, who pressed forwards to
the relief of Orleans.

The facility with which Attila had penetrated into the heart of Gaul,
may be ascribed to his insidious policy, as well as to the terror of
his arms. His public declarations were skilfully mitigated by his
private assurances; he alternately soothed and threatened the Romans
and the Goths; and the courts of Ravenna and Thoulouse, mutually
suspicious of each other's intentions, beheld, with supine
indifference, the approach of their common enemy. Ætius was the sole
guardian of the public safety; but his wisest measures were
embarrassed by a faction, which, since the death of Placidia, infested
the Imperial palace: the youth of Italy trembled at the sound of the
trumpet; and the Barbarians, who, from fear or affection, were
inclined to the cause of Attila, awaited with doubtful and venal
faith, the event of the war. The patrician passed the Alps at the head
of some troops, whose strength and numbers scarcely deserved the name
of an army. But on his arrival at Arles, or Lyons, he was confounded
by the intelligence, that the Visigoths, refusing to embrace the
defence of Gaul, had determined to expect, within their own
territories, the formidable invader, whom they professed to despise.
The senator Avitus, who, after the honorable exercise of the Prætorian
præfecture, had retired to his estate in Auvergne, was persuaded to
accept the important embassy, which he executed with ability and
success. He represented to Theodoric, that an ambitious conqueror, who
aspired to the dominion of the earth, could be resisted only by the
firm and unanimous alliance of the powers whom he labored to oppress.
The lively eloquence of Avitus inflamed the Gothic warriors, by the
description of the injuries which their ancestors had suffered from
the Huns; whose implacable fury still pursued them from the Danube to
the foot of the Pyrenees. He strenuously urged, that it was the duty
of every Christian to save, from sacrilegious violation, the churches
of God, and the relics of the saints: that it was the interest of
every Barbarian, who had acquired a settlement in Gaul, to defend the
fields and vineyards, which were cultivated for his use, against the
desolation of the Scythian shepherds. Theodoric yielded to the
evidence of truth; adopted the measure at once the most prudent and
the most honorable; and declared, that, as the faithful ally of Ætius
and the Romans, he was ready to expose his life and kingdom for the
common safety of Gaul. The Visigoths, who, at that time, were in the
mature vigor of their fame and power, obeyed with alacrity the signal
of war; prepared their arms and horses, and assembled under the
standard of their aged king, who was resolved, with his two eldest
sons, Torismond and Theodoric, to command in person his numerous and
valiant people. The example of the Goths determined several tribes or
nations, that seemed to fluctuate between the Huns and the Romans. The
indefatigable diligence of the patrician gradually collected the
troops of Gaul and Germany, who had formerly acknowledged themselves
the subjects, or soldiers, of the republic, but who now claimed the
rewards of voluntary service, and the rank of independent allies; the
Læti, the Armoricans, the Breones the Saxons, the Burgundians, the
Sarmatians, or Alani, the Ripuarians, and the Franks who followed
Meroveus as their lawful prince. Such was the various army, which,
under the conduct of Ætius and Theodoric, advanced, by rapid marches
to relieve Orleans, and to give battle to the innumerable host of

On their approach the king of the Huns immediately raised the siege,
and sounded a retreat to recall the foremost of his troops from the
pillage of a city which they had already entered. The valor of Attila
was always guided by his prudence; and as he foresaw the fatal
consequences of a defeat in the heart of Gaul, he repassed the Seine,
and expected the enemy in the plains of Châlons, whose smooth and
level surface was adapted to the operations of his Scythian cavalry.
But in this tumultuary retreat, the vanguard of the Romans and their
allies continually pressed, and sometimes engaged, the troops whom
Attila had posted in the rear; the hostile columns, in the darkness of
the night and the perplexity of the roads, might encounter each other
without design; and the bloody conflict of the Franks and Gepidæ, in
which fifteen thousand Barbarians were slain, was a prelude to a more
general and decisive action. The Catalaunian fields spread themselves
round Châlons, and extend, according to the vague measurement of
Jornandes, to the length of one hundred and fifty, and the breadth of
one hundred miles, over the whole province, which is entitled to the
appellation of a champaign
country. This spacious plain was distinguished, however, by some
inequalities of ground; and the importance of a height, which
commanded the camp of Attila, was understood and disputed by the two
generals. The young and valiant Torismond first occupied the summit;
the Goths rushed with irresistible weight on the Huns, who labored to
ascend from the opposite side: and the possession of this advantageous
post inspired both the troops and their leaders with a fair assurance
of victory. The anxiety of Attila prompted him to consult his priests
and haruspices. It was reported, that, after scrutinizing the entrails
of victims, and scraping their bones, they revealed, in mysterious
language, his own defeat, with the death of his principal adversary;
and that the Barbarians, by accepting the equivalent, expressed his
involuntary esteem for the superior merit of Ætius. But the unusual
despondency, which seemed to prevail among the Huns, engaged Attila to
use the expedient, so familiar to the generals of antiquity, of
animating his troops by a military oration; and his language was that
of a king, who had often fought and conquered at their head. He
pressed them to consider their past glory, their actual danger, and
their future hopes. The same fortune, which opened the deserts and
morasses of Scythia to their unarmed valor, which had laid so many
warlike nations prostrate at their feet, had reserved the joys of this
memorable field for the consummation of their victories. The cautious
steps of their enemies, their strict alliance, and their advantageous
posts, he artfully represented as the effects, not of prudence, but of
fear. The Visigoths alone were the strength and nerves of the opposite
army; and the Huns might securely trample on the degenerate Romans,
whose close and compact order betrayed their apprehensions, and who
were equally incapable of supporting the dangers or the fatigues of a
day of battle. The doctrine of predestination, so favorable to martial
virtue, was carefully inculcated by the king of the Huns; who assured
his subjects, that the warriors, protected by Heaven, were safe and
invulnerable amidst the darts of the enemy; but that the unerring
Fates would strike their victims in the bosom of inglorious peace. "I
myself," continued Attila, "will throw the first javelin, and the
wretch who refuses to imitate the example of his sovereign, is devoted
to inevitable death." The spirit of the Barbarians was rekindled by
the presence, the voice, and the example of their intrepid leader; and
Attila, yielding to their impatience, immediately formed his order of
battle. At the head of his brave and faithful Huns, he occupied in
person the centre of the line. The nations subject to his empire, the
Rugians, the Heruli, the Thuringians, the Franks, the Burgundians,
were extended on either hand, over the ample space of the Catalaunian
fields; the right wing was commanded by Ardaric, king of the Gepidæ;
and the three valiant brothers, who reigned over the Ostrogoths, were
posted on the left to oppose the kindred tribes of the Visigoths. The
disposition of the allies was regulated by a different principle.
Sangiban, the faithless king of the Alani, was placed in the centre,
where his motions might be strictly watched, and that the treachery
might be instantly punished. Ætius assumed the command of the left,
and Theodoric of the right wing; while Torismond still continued to
occupy the heights which appear to have stretched on the flank, and
perhaps the rear, of the Scythian army. The nations from the Volga to
the Atlantic were assembled on the plain of Châlons; but many of these
nations had been divided by faction, or conquest, or emigration; and
the appearance of similar arms and ensigns, which threatened each
other, presented the image of a civil war.

The discipline and tactics of the Greeks and Romans form an
interesting part of their national manners. The attentive study of the
military operations of Xenophon, or Cæsar, or Frederic, when they are
described by the same genius which conceived and executed them, may
tend to improve (if such improvement can be wished) the art of
destroying the human species. But the battle of Châlons can only
excite our curiosity by the magnitude of the object; since it was
decided by the blind impetuosity of Barbarians, and has been related
by partial writers, whose civil or ecclesiastical profession secluded
them from the knowledge of military affairs. Cassiodorus, however, had
familiarly conversed with many Gothic warriors, who served in that
memorable engagement; "a conflict," as they informed him, "fierce,
various, obstinate, and bloody; such as could not be paralleled either
in the present or in past ages." The number of the slain amounted to
one hundred and sixty-two thousand, or, according to another account,
three hundred thousand persons; and these incredible exaggerations
suppose a real and effective loss sufficient to justify the
historian's remark, that whole generations may be swept away by the
madness of kings, in the space of a single hour. After the mutual and
repeated discharge of missile weapons, in which the archers of Scythia
might signalize their superior dexterity, the cavalry and infantry of
the two armies were furiously mingled in closer combat. The Huns, who
fought under the eyes of their king pierced through the feeble and
doubtful centre of the allies, separated their wings from each other,
and wheeling, with a rapid effort, to the left, directed their whole
force against the Visigoths. As Theodoric rode along the ranks, to
animate his troops, he received a mortal stroke from the javelin of
Andages, a noble Ostrogoth, and immediately fell from his horse. The
wounded king was oppressed in the general disorder, and trampled under
the feet of his own cavalry; and this important death served to
explain the ambiguous prophecy of the haruspices. Attila already
exulted in the confidence of victory, when the valiant Torismond
descended from the hills, and verified the remainder of the
prediction. The Visigoths, who had been thrown into confusion by the
flight or defection of the Alani, gradually restored their order of
battle; and the Huns were undoubtedly vanquished, since Attila was
compelled to retreat. He had exposed his person with the rashness of a
private soldier; but the intrepid troops of the centre had pushed
forwards beyond the rest of the line; their attack was faintly
supported; their flanks were unguarded; and the conquerors of Scythia
and Germany were saved by the approach of the night from a total
defeat. They retired within the circle of wagons that fortified their
camp; and the dismounted squadrons prepared themselves for a defence,
to which neither their arms, nor their temper, were adapted. The event
was doubtful: but Attila had secured a last and honorable resource.
The saddles and rich furniture of the cavalry were collected, by his
order, into a funeral pile; and the magnanimous Barbarian had
resolved, if his intrenchments should be forced, to rush headlong into
the flames, and to deprive his enemies of the glory which they might
have acquired, by the death or captivity of Attila.

But his enemies had passed the night in equal disorder and anxiety.
The inconsiderate courage of Torismond was tempted to urge the
pursuit, till he unexpectedly found himself, with a few followers, in
the midst of the Scythian wagons. In the confusion of a nocturnal
combat, he was thrown from his horse; and the Gothic prince must have
perished like his father, if his youthful strength, and the intrepid
zeal of his companions, had not rescued him from this dangerous
situation. In the same manner, but on the left of the line, Ætius
himself, separated from his allies, ignorant of their victory, and
anxious for their fate, encountered and escaped the hostile troops
that were scattered over the plains of Châlons; and at length reached
the camp of the Goths, which he could only fortify with a slight
rampart of shields, till the dawn of day. The Imperial general was
soon satisfied of the defeat of Attila, who still remained inactive
within his intrenchments; and when he contemplated the bloody scene,
he observed, with secret satisfaction, that the loss had principally
fallen on the Barbarians. The body of Theodoric, pierced with
honorable wounds, was discovered under a heap of the slain: is
subjects bewailed the death of their king and father; but their tears
were mingled with songs and acclamations, and his funeral rites were
performed in the face of a vanquished enemy. The Goths, clashing their
arms, elevated on a buckler his eldest son Torismond, to whom they
justly ascribed the glory of their success; and the new king accepted
the obligation of revenge as a sacred portion of his paternal
inheritance. Yet the Goths themselves were astonished by the fierce
and undaunted aspect of their formidable antagonist; and their
historian has compared Attila to a lion encompassed in his den, and
threatening his hunters with redoubled fury. The kings and nations who
might have deserted his standard in the hour of distress, were made
sensible that the displeasure of their monarch was the most imminent
and inevitable danger. All his instruments of martial music
incessantly sounded a loud and animating strain of defiance; and the
foremost troops who advanced to the assault were checked or destroyed
by showers of arrows from every side of the intrenchments. It was
determined, in a general council of war, to besiege the king of the
Huns in his camp, to intercept his provisions, and to reduce him to
the alternative of a disgraceful treaty or an unequal combat. But the
impatience of the Barbarians soon disdained these cautious and
dilatory measures; and the mature policy of Ætius was apprehensive
that, after the extirpation of the Huns, the republic would be
oppressed by the pride and power of the Gothic nation. The patrician
exerted the superior ascendant of authority and reason to calm the
passions, which the son of Theodoric considered as a duty;
represented, with seeming affection and real truth, the dangers of
absence and delay and persuaded Torismond to disappoint, by his speedy
return, the ambitious designs of his brothers, who might occupy the
throne and treasures of Thoulouse. After the departure of the Goths,
and the separation of the allied army, Attila was surprised at the
vast silence that reigned over the plains of Châlons: the suspicion of
some hostile stratagem detained him several days within the circle of
his wagons, and his retreat beyond the Rhine confessed the last
victory which was achieved in the name of the Western empire. Meroveus
and his Franks, observing a prudent distance, and magnifying the
opinion of their strength by the numerous fires which they kindled
every night, continued to follow the rear of the Huns till they
reached the confines of Thuringia. The Thuringians served in the army
of Attila: they traversed, both in their march and in their return,
the territories of the Franks; and it was perhaps in this war that
they exercised the cruelties which, about fourscore years afterwards,
were revenged by the son of Clovis. They massacred their hostages, as
well as their captives: two hundred young maidens were tortured with
exquisite and unrelenting rage; their bodies were torn asunder by wild
horses, or their bones were crushed under the weight of rolling
wagons; and their unburied limbs were abandoned on the public roads,
as a prey to dogs and vultures. Such were those savage ancestors,
whose imaginary virtues have sometimes excited the praise and envy of
civilized ages.

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

Neither the spirit, nor the forces, nor the reputation, of Attila,
were impaired by the failure of the Gallic expedition In the ensuing
spring he repeated his demand of the princess Honoria, and her
patrimonial treasures. The demand was again rejected, or eluded; and
the indignant lover immediately took the field, passed the Alps,
invaded Italy, and besieged Aquileia with an innumerable host of
Barbarians. Those Barbarians were unskilled in the methods of
conducting a regular siege, which, even among the ancients, required
some knowledge, or at least some practice, of the mechanic arts. But
the labor of many thousand provincials and captives, whose lives were
sacrificed without pity, might execute the most painful and dangerous
work. The skill of the Roman artists might be corrupted to the
destruction of their country. The walls of Aquileia were assaulted by
a formidable train of battering rams, movable turrets, and engines,
that threw stones, darts, and fire; and the monarch of the Huns
employed the forcible impulse of hope, fear, emulation, and interest,
to subvert the only barrier which delayed the conquest of Italy.
Aquileia was at that period one of the richest, the most populous, and
the strongest of the maritime cities of the Adriatic coast. The Gothic
auxiliaries, who appeared to have served under their native princes,
Alaric and Antala, communicated their intrepid spirit; and the
citizens still remembered the glorious and successful resistance which
their ancestors had opposed to a fierce, inexorable Barbarian, who
disgraced the majesty of the Roman purple. Three months were consumed
without effect in the siege of the Aquileia; till the want of
provisions, and the clamors of his army, compelled Attila to
relinquish the enterprise; and reluctantly to issue his orders, that
the troops should strike their tents the next morning, and begin their
retreat. But as he rode round the walls, pensive, angry, and
disappointed, he observed a stork preparing to leave her nest, in one
of the towers, and to fly with her infant family towards the country.
He seized, with the ready penetration of a statesman, this trifling
incident, which chance had offered to superstition; and exclaimed, in
a loud and cheerful tone, that such a domestic bird, so constantly
attached to human society, would never have abandoned her ancient
seats, unless those towers had been devoted to impending ruin and
solitude. The favorable omen inspired an assurance of victory; the
siege was renewed and prosecuted with fresh vigor; a large breach was
made in the part of the wall from whence the stork had taken her
flight; the Huns mounted to the assault with irresistible fury; and
the succeeding generation could scarcely discover the ruins of
Aquileia. After this dreadful chastisement, Attila pursued his march;
and as he passed, the cities of Altinum, Concordia, and Padua, were
reduced into heaps of stones and ashes. The inland towns, Vicenza,
Verona, and Bergamo, were exposed to the rapacious cruelty of the
Huns. Milan and Pavia submitted, without resistance, to the loss of
their wealth; and applauded the unusual clemency which preserved from
the flames the public, as well as private, buildings, and spared the
lives of the captive multitude. The popular traditions of Comum,
Turin, or Modena, may justly be suspected; yet they concur with more
authentic evidence to prove, that Attila spread his ravages over the
rich plains of modern Lombardy; which are divided by the Po, and
bounded by the Alps and Apennine. When he took possession of the royal
palace of Milan, he was surprised and offended at the sight of a
picture which represented the Cæsars seated on their throne, and the
princes of Scythia prostrate at their feet. The revenge which Attila
inflicted on this monument of Roman vanity, was harmless and
ingenious. He commanded a painter to reverse the figures and the
attitudes; and the emperors were delineated on the same canvas,
approaching in a suppliant posture to empty their bags of tributary
gold before the throne of the Scythian monarch. The spectators must
have confessed the truth and propriety of the alteration; and were
perhaps tempted to apply, on this singular occasion, the well-known
fable of the dispute between the lion and the man.

It is a saying worthy of the ferocious pride of Attila, that the grass
never grew on the spot where his horse had trod. Yet the savage
destroyer undesignedly laid the foundation of a republic, which
revived, in the feudal state of Europe, the art and spirit of
commercial industry. The celebrated name of Venice, or Venetia, was
formerly diffused over a large and fertile province of Italy, from the
confines of Pannonia to the River Addua, and from the Po to the
Rhætian and Julian Alps. Before the irruption of the Barbarians, fifty
Venetian cities flourished in peace and prosperity: Aquileia was
placed in the most conspicuous station: but the ancient dignity of
Padua was supported by agriculture and manufactures; and the property
of five hundred citizens, who were entitled to the equestrian rank,
must have amounted, at the strictest computation, to one million seven
hundred thousand pounds. Many families of Aquileia, Padua, and the
adjacent towns, who fled from the sword of the Huns, found a safe,
though obscure, refuge in the neighboring islands. At the extremity of
the Gulf, where the Adriatic feebly imitates the tides of the ocean,
near a hundred small islands are separated by shallow water from the
continent, and protected from the waves by several long slips of land,
which admit the entrance of vessels through some secret and narrow
channels. Till the middle of the fifth century, these remote and
sequestered spots remained without cultivation, with few inhabitants,
and almost without a name. But the manners of the Venetian fugitives,
their arts and their government, were gradually formed by their new
situation; and one of the epistles of Cassiodorus, which describes
their condition about seventy years afterwards, may be considered as
the primitive monument of the republic. * The minister of Theodoric
compares them, in his quaint declamatory style, to water-fowl, who had
fixed their nests on the bosom of the waves; and though he allows,
that the Venetian provinces had formerly contained many noble
families, he insinuates, that they were now reduced by misfortune to
the same level of humble poverty. Fish was the common, and almost the
universal, food of every rank: their only treasure consisted in the
plenty of salt, which they extracted from the sea: and the exchange of
that commodity, so essential to human life, was substituted in the
neighboring markets to the currency of gold and silver. A people,
whose habitations might be doubtfully assigned to the earth or water,
soon became alike familiar with the two elements; and the demands of
avarice succeeded to those of necessity. The islanders, who, from
Grado to Chiozza, were intimately connected with each other,
penetrated into the heart of Italy, by the secure, though laborious,
navigation of the rivers and inland canals. Their vessels, which were
continually increasing in size and number, visited all the harbors of
the Gulf; and the marriage which Venice annually celebrates with the
Adriatic, was contracted in her early infancy. The epistle of
Cassiodorus, the Prætorian præfect, is addressed to the maritime
tribunes; and he exhorts them, in a mild tone of authority, to animate
the zeal of their countrymen for the public service, which required
their assistance to transport the magazines of wine and oil from the
province of Istria to the royal city of Ravenna. The ambiguous office
of these magistrates is explained by the tradition, that, in the
twelve principal islands, twelve tribunes, or judges, were created by
an annual and popular election. The existence of the Venetian republic
under the Gothic kingdom of Italy, is attested by the same authentic
record, which annihilates their lofty claim of original and perpetual

The Italians, who had long since renounced the exercise of arms, were
surprised, after forty years' peace, by the approach of a formidable
Barbarian, whom they abhorred, as the enemy of their religion, as well
as of their republic. Amidst the general consternation, Ætius alone
was incapable of fear; but it was impossible that he should achieve,
alone and unassisted, any military exploits worthy of his former
renown. The Barbarians who had defended Gaul, refused to march to the
relief of Italy; and the succors promised by the Eastern emperor were
distant and doubtful. Since Ætius, at the head of his domestic troops,
still maintained the field, and harassed or retarded the march of
Attila, he never showed himself more truly great, than at the time
when his conduct was blamed by an ignorant and ungrateful people. If
the mind of Valentinian had been susceptible of any generous
sentiments, he would have chosen such a general for his example and
his guide. But the timid grandson of Theodosius, instead of sharing
the dangers, escaped from the sound of war; and his hasty retreat from
Ravenna to Rome, from an impregnable fortress to an open capital,
betrayed his secret intention of abandoning Italy, as soon as the
danger should approach his Imperial person. This shameful abdication
was suspended, however, by the spirit of doubt and delay, which
commonly adheres to pusillanimous counsels, and sometimes corrects
their pernicious tendency. The Western emperor, with the senate and
people of Rome, embraced the more salutary resolution of deprecating,
by a solemn and suppliant embassy, the wrath of Attila. This important
commission was accepted by Avienus, who, from his birth and riches,
his consular dignity, the numerous train of his clients, and his
personal abilities, held the first rank in the Roman senate. The
specious and artful character of Avienus was admirably qualified to
conduct a negotiation either of public or private interest: his
colleague Trigetius had exercised the Prætorian præfecture of Italy;
and Leo, bishop of Rome, consented to expose his life for the safety
of his flock. The genius of Leo was exercised and displayed in the
public misfortunes; and he has deserved the appellation of Great
, by the successful zeal with which he labored to establish his
opinions and his authority, under the venerable names of orthodox
faith and ecclesiastical discipline. The Roman ambassadors were
introduced to the tent of Attila, as he lay encamped at the place
where the slow-winding Mincius is lost in the foaming waves of the
Lake Benacus, and trampled, with his Scythian cavalry, the farms of
Catullus and Virgil. The Barbarian monarch listened with favorable,
and even respectful, attention; and the deliverance of Italy was
purchased by the immense ransom, or dowry, of the princess Honoria.
The state of his army might facilitate the treaty, and hasten his
retreat. Their martial spirit was relaxed by the wealth and indolence
of a warm climate. The shepherds of the North, whose ordinary food
consisted of milk and raw flesh, indulged themselves too freely in the
use of bread, of wine, and of meat, prepared and seasoned by the arts
of cookery; and the progress of disease revenged in some measure the
injuries of the Italians. When Attila declared his resolution of
carrying his victorious arms to the gates of Rome, he was admonished
by his friends, as well as by his enemies, that Alaric had not long
survived the conquest of the eternal city. His mind, superior to real
danger, was assaulted by imaginary terrors; nor could he escape the
influence of superstition, which had so often been subservient to his
designs. The pressing eloquence of Leo, his majestic aspect and
sacerdotal robes, excited the veneration of Attila for the spiritual
father of the Christians. The apparition of the two apostles, St.
Peter and St. Paul, who menaced the Barbarian with instant death, if
he rejected the prayer of their successor, is one of the noblest
legends of ecclesiastical tradition. The safety of Rome might deserve
the interposition of celestial beings; and some indulgence is due to a
fable, which has been represented by the pencil of Raphael, and the
chisel of Algardi.

Before the king of the Huns evacuated Italy, he threatened to return
more dreadful, and more implacable, if his bride, the princess
Honoria, were not delivered to his ambassadors within the term
stipulated by the treaty. Yet, in the mean while, Attila relieved his
tender anxiety, by adding a beautiful maid, whose name was Ildico, to
the list of his innumerable wives. Their marriage was celebrated with
barbaric pomp and festivity, at his wooden palace beyond the Danube;
and the monarch, oppressed with wine and sleep, retired at a late hour
from the banquet to the nuptial bed. His attendants continued to
respect his pleasures, or his repose, the greatest part of the ensuing
day, till the unusual silence alarmed their fears and suspicions; and,
after attempting to awaken Attila by loud and repeated cries, they at
length broke into the royal apartment. They found the trembling bride
sitting by the bedside, hiding her face with her veil, and lamenting
her own danger, as well as the death of the king, who had expired
during the night. An artery had suddenly burst: and as Attila lay in a
supine posture, he was suffocated by a torrent of blood, which,
instead of finding a passage through the nostrils, regurgitated into
the lungs and stomach. His body was solemnly exposed in the midst of
the plain, under a silken pavilion; and the chosen squadrons of the
Huns, wheeling round in measured evolutions, chanted a funeral song to
the memory of a hero, glorious in his life, invincible in his death,
the father of his people, the scourge of his enemies, and the terror
of the world. According to their national custom, the Barbarians cut
off a part of their hair, gashed their faces with unseemly wounds, and
bewailed their valiant leader as he deserved, not with the tears of
women, but with the blood of warriors. The remains of Attila were
enclosed within three coffins, of gold, of silver, and of iron, and
privately buried in the night: the spoils of nations were thrown into
his grave; the captives who had opened the ground were inhumanly
massacred; and the same Huns, who had indulged such excessive grief,
feasted, with dissolute and intemperate mirth, about the recent
sepulchre of their king. It was reported at Constantinople, that on
the fortunate night on which he expired, Marcian beheld in a dream the
bow of Attila broken asunder: and the report may be allowed to prove,
how seldom the image of that formidable Barbarian was absent from the
mind of a Roman emperor.

The revolution which subverted the empire of the Huns, established the
fame of Attila, whose genius alone had sustained the huge and
disjointed fabric. After his death, the boldest chieftains aspired to
the rank of kings; the most powerful kings refused to acknowledge a
superior; and the numerous sons, whom so many various mothers bore to
the deceased monarch, divided and disputed, like a private
inheritance, the sovereign command of the nations of Germany and
Scythia. The bold Ardaric felt and represented the disgrace of this
servile partition; and his subjects, the warlike Gepidæ, with the
Ostrogoths, under the conduct of three valiant brothers, encouraged
their allies to vindicate the rights of freedom and royalty. In a
bloody and decisive conflict on the banks of the River Netad, in
Pannonia, the lance of the Gepidæ, the sword of the Goths, the arrows
of the Huns, the Suevic infantry, the light arms of the Heruli, and
the heavy weapons of the Alani, encountered or supported each other;
and the victory of the Ardaric was accompanied with the slaughter of
thirty thousand of his enemies. Ellac, the eldest son of Attila, lost
his life and crown in the memorable battle of Netad: his early valor
had raised him to the throne of the Acatzires, a Scythian people, whom
he subdued; and his father, who loved the superior merit, would have
envied the death of Ellac. His brother, Dengisich, with an army of
Huns, still formidable in their flight and ruin, maintained his ground
above fifteen years on the banks of the Danube. The palace of Attila,
with the old country of Dacia, from the Carpathian hills to the
Euxine, became the seat of a new power, which was erected by Ardaric,
king of the Gepidæ. The Pannonian conquests from Vienna to Sirmium,
were occupied by the Ostrogoths; and the settlements of the tribes,
who had so bravely asserted their native freedom, were irregularly
distributed, according to the measure of their respective strength.
Surrounded and oppressed by the multitude of his father's slaves, the
kingdom of Dengisich was confined to the circle of his wagons; his
desperate courage urged him to invade the Eastern empire: he fell in
battle; and his head ignominiously exposed in the Hippodrome,
exhibited a grateful spectacle to the people of Constantinople. Attila
had fondly or superstitiously believed, that Irnac, the youngest of
his sons, was destined to perpetuate the glories of his race. The
character of that prince, who attempted to moderate the rashness of
his brother Dengisich, was more suitable to the declining condition of
the Huns; and Irnac, with his subject hordes, retired into the heart
of the Lesser Scythia. They were soon overwhelmed by a torrent of new
Barbarians, who followed the same road which their own ancestors had
formerly discovered. The Geougen
, or Avares, whose residence is assigned by the Greek writers to the
shores of the ocean, impelled the adjacent tribes; till at length the
Igours of the North, issuing from the cold Siberian regions, which
produce the most valuable furs, spread themselves over the desert, as
far as the Borysthenes and the Caspian gates; and finally extinguished
the empire of the Huns.

Such an event might contribute to the safety of the Eastern empire,
under the reign of a prince who conciliated the friendship, without
forfeiting the esteem, of the Barbarians. But the emperor of the West,
the feeble and dissolute Valentinian, who had reached his thirty-fifth
year without attaining the age of reason or courage, abused this
apparent security, to undermine the foundations of his own throne, by
the murder of the patrician Ætius. From the instinct of a base and
jealous mind, he hated the man who was universally celebrated as the
terror of the Barbarians, and the support of the republic; * and his
new favorite, the eunuch Heraclius, awakened the emperor from the
supine lethargy, which might be disguised, during the life of
Placidia, by the excuse of filial piety. The fame of Ætius, his wealth
and dignity, the numerous and martial train of Barbarian followers,
his powerful dependants, who filled the civil offices of the state,
and the hopes of his son Gaudentius, who was already contracted to
Eudoxia, the emperor's daughter, had raised him above the rank of a
subject. The ambitious designs, of which he was secretly accused,
excited the fears, as well as the resentment, of Valentinian. Ætius
himself, supported by the consciousness of his merit, his services,
and perhaps his innocence, seems to have maintained a haughty and
indiscreet behavior. The patrician offended his sovereign by a hostile
declaration; he aggravated the offence, by compelling him to ratify,
with a solemn oath, a treaty of reconciliation and alliance; he
proclaimed his suspicions, he neglected his safety; and from a vain
confidence that the enemy, whom he despised, was incapable even of a
manly crime, he rashly ventured his person in the palace of Rome.
Whilst he urged, perhaps with intemperate vehemence, the marriage of
his son; Valentinian, drawing his sword, the first sword he had ever
drawn, plunged it in the breast of a general who had saved his empire:
his courtiers and eunuchs ambitiously struggled to imitate their
master; and Ætius, pierced with a hundred wounds, fell dead in the
royal presence. Boethius, the Prætorian præfect, was killed at the
same moment, and before the event could be divulged, the principal
friends of the patrician were summoned to the palace, and separately
murdered. The horrid deed, palliated by the specious names of justice
and necessity, was immediately communicated by the emperor to his
soldiers, his subjects, and his allies. The nations, who were
strangers or enemies to Ætius, generously deplored the unworthy fate
of a hero: the Barbarians, who had been attached to his service,
dissembled their grief and resentment: and the public contempt, which
had been so long entertained for Valentinian, was at once converted
into deep and universal abhorrence. Such sentiments seldom pervade the
walls of a palace; yet the emperor was confounded by the honest reply
of a Roman, whose approbation he had not disdained to solicit. "I am
ignorant, sir, of your motives or provocations; I only know, that you
have acted like a man who cuts off his right hand with his left."

The luxury of Rome seems to have attracted the long and frequent
visits of Valentinian; who was consequently more despised at Rome than
in any other part of his dominions. A republican spirit was insensibly
revived in the senate, as their authority, and even their supplies,
became necessary for the support of his feeble government. The stately
demeanor of an hereditary monarch offended their pride; and the
pleasures of Valentinian were injurious to the peace and honor of
noble families. The birth of the empress Eudoxia was equal to his own,
and her charms and tender affection deserved those testimonies of love
which her inconstant husband dissipated in vague and unlawful amours.
Petronius Maximus, a wealthy senator of the Anician family, who had
been twice consul, was possessed of a chaste and beautiful wife: her
obstinate resistance served only to irritate the desires of
Valentinian; and he resolved to accomplish them, either by stratagem
or force. Deep gaming was one of the vices of the court: the emperor,
who, by chance or contrivance, had gained from Maximus a considerable
sum, uncourteously exacted his ring as a security for the debt; and
sent it by a trusty messenger to his wife, with an order, in her
husband's name, that she should immediately attend the empress
Eudoxia. The unsuspecting wife of Maximus was conveyed in her litter
to the Imperial palace; the emissaries of her impatient lover
conducted her to a remote and silent bed-chamber; and Valentinian
violated, without remorse, the laws of hospitality. Her tears, when
she returned home, her deep affliction, and her bitter reproaches
against a husband whom she considered as the accomplice of his own
shame, excited Maximus to a just revenge; the desire of revenge was
stimulated by ambition; and he might reasonably aspire, by the free
suffrage of the Roman senate, to the throne of a detested and
despicable rival. Valentinian, who supposed that every human breast
was devoid, like his own, of friendship and gratitude, had imprudently
admitted among his guards several domestics and followers of Ætius.
Two of these, of Barbarian race were persuaded to execute a sacred and
honorable duty, by punishing with death the assassin of their patron;
and their intrepid courage did not long expect a favorable moment.
Whilst Valentinian amused himself, in the field of Mars, with the
spectacle of some military sports, they suddenly rushed upon him with
drawn weapons, despatched the guilty Heraclius, and stabbed the
emperor to the heart, without the least opposition from his numerous
train, who seemed to rejoice in the tyrant's death. Such was the fate
of Valentinian the Third, the last Roman emperor of the family of
Theodosius. He faithfully imitated the hereditary weakness of his
cousin and his two uncles, without inheriting the gentleness, the
purity, the innocence, which alleviate, in their characters, the want
of spirit and ability. Valentinian was less excusable, since he had
passions, without virtues: even his religion was questionable; and
though he never deviated into the paths of heresy, he scandalized the
pious Christians by his attachment to the profane arts of magic and

As early as the time of Cicero and Varro, it was the opinion of the
Roman augurs, that the twelve vultures
which Romulus had seen, represented the twelve centuries, assigned for
the fatal period of his city. This prophecy, disregarded perhaps in
the season of health and prosperity, inspired the people with gloomy
apprehensions, when the twelfth century, clouded with disgrace and
misfortune, was almost elapsed; and even posterity must acknowledge
with some surprise, that the arbitrary interpretation of an accidental
or fabulous circumstance has been seriously verified in the downfall
of the Western empire. But its fall was announced by a clearer omen
than the flight of vultures: the Roman government appeared every day
less formidable to its enemies, more odious and oppressive to its
subjects. The taxes were multiplied with the public distress; economy
was neglected in proportion as it became necessary; and the injustice
of the rich shifted the unequal burden from themselves to the people,
whom they defrauded of the indulgences that might sometimes have
alleviated their misery. The severe inquisition which confiscated
their goods, and tortured their persons, compelled the subjects of
Valentinian to prefer the more simple tyranny of the Barbarians, to
fly to the woods and mountains, or to embrace the vile and abject
condition of mercenary servants. They abjured and abhorred the name of
Roman citizens, which had formerly excited the ambition of mankind.
The Armorican provinces of Gaul, and the greatest part of Spain,
were-thrown into a state of disorderly independence, by the
confederations of the Bagaudæ; and the Imperial ministers pursued with
proscriptive laws, and ineffectual arms, the rebels whom they had
made. If all the Barbarian conquerors had been annihilated in the same
hour, their total destruction would not have restored the empire of
the West: and if Rome still survived, she survived the loss of
freedom, of virtue, and of honor.

Chapter XXXVI: Total Extinction Of The Western Empire.

Part I.

Sack Of Rome By Genseric, King Of The Vandals. -- His Naval
Depredations. -- Succession Of The Last Emperors Of The West, Maximus,
Avitus, Majorian, Severus, Anthemius, Olybrius, Glycerius, Nepos,
Augustulus. -- Total Extinction Of The Western Empire. -- Reign Of
Odoacer, The First Barbarian King Of Italy.

The loss or desolation of the provinces, from the Ocean to the Alps,
impaired the glory and greatness of Rome: her internal prosperity was
irretrievably destroyed by the separation of Africa. The rapacious
Vandals confiscated the patrimonial estates of the senators, and
intercepted the regular subsidies, which relieved the poverty and
encouraged the idleness of the plebeians. The distress of the Romans
was soon aggravated by an unexpected attack; and the province, so long
cultivated for their use by industrious and obedient subjects, was
armed against them by an ambitious Barbarian. The Vandals and Alani,
who followed the successful standard of Genseric, had acquired a rich
and fertile territory, which stretched along the coast above ninety
days' journey from Tangier to Tripoli; but their narrow limits were
pressed and confined, on either side, by the sandy desert and the
Mediterranean. The discovery and conquest of the Black nations, that
might dwell beneath the torrid zone, could not tempt the rational
ambition of Genseric; but he cast his eyes towards the sea; he
resolved to create a naval power, and his bold resolution was executed
with steady and active perseverance. The woods of Mount Atlas afforded
an inexhaustible nursery of timber: his new subjects were skilled in
the arts of navigation and ship-building; he animated his daring
Vandals to embrace a mode of warfare which would render every maritime
country accessible to their arms; the Moors and Africans were allured
by the hopes of plunder; and, after an interval of six centuries, the
fleets that issued from the port of Carthage again claimed the empire
of the Mediterranean. The success of the Vandals, the conquest of
Sicily, the sack of Palermo, and the frequent descents on the coast of
Lucania, awakened and alarmed the mother of Valentinian, and the
sister of Theodosius. Alliances were formed; and armaments, expensive
and ineffectual, were prepared, for the destruction of the common
enemy; who reserved his courage to encounter those dangers which his
policy could not prevent or elude. The designs of the Roman government
were repeatedly baffled by his artful delays, ambiguous promises, and
apparent concessions; and the interposition of his formidable
confederate, the king of the Huns, recalled the emperors from the
conquest of Africa to the care of their domestic safety. The
revolutions of the palace, which left the Western empire without a
defender, and without a lawful prince, dispelled the apprehensions,
and stimulated the avarice, of Genseric. He immediately equipped a
numerous fleet of Vandals and Moors, and cast anchor at the mouth of
the Tyber, about three months after the death of Valentinian, and the
elevation of Maximus to the Imperial throne.

The private life of the senator Petronius Maximus was often alleged as
a rare example of human felicity. His birth was noble and illustrious,
since he descended from the Anician family; his dignity was supported
by an adequate patrimony in land and money; and these advantages of
fortune were accompanied with liberal arts and decent manners, which
adorn or imitate the inestimable gifts of genius and virtue. The
luxury of his palace and table was hospitable and elegant. Whenever
Maximus appeared in public, he was surrounded by a train of grateful
and obsequious clients; and it is possible that among these clients,
he might deserve and possess some real friends. His merit was rewarded
by the favor of the prince and senate: he thrice exercised the office
of Prætorian præfect of Italy; he was twice invested with the
consulship, and he obtained the rank of patrician. These civil honors
were not incompatible with the enjoyment of leisure and tranquillity;
his hours, according to the demands of pleasure or reason, were
accurately distributed by a water-clock; and this avarice of time may
be allowed to prove the sense which Maximus entertained of his own
happiness. The injury which he received from the emperor Valentinian
appears to excuse the most bloody revenge. Yet a philosopher might
have reflected, that, if the resistance of his wife had been sincere,
her chastity was still inviolate, and that it could never be restored
if she had consented to the will of the adulterer. A patriot would
have hesitated before he plunged himself and his country into those
inevitable calamities which must follow the extinction of the royal
house of Theodosius. The imprudent Maximus disregarded these salutary
considerations; he gratified his resentment and ambition; he saw the
bleeding corpse of Valentinian at his feet; and he heard himself
saluted Emperor by the unanimous voice of the senate and people. But
the day of his inauguration was the last day of his happiness. He was
imprisoned (such is the lively expression of Sidonius) in the palace;
and after passing a sleepless night, he sighed that he had attained
the summit of his wishes, and aspired only to descend from the
dangerous elevation. Oppressed by the weight of the diadem, he
communicated his anxious thoughts to his friend and quæstor
Fulgentius; and when he looked back with unavailing regret on the
secure pleasures of his former life, the emperor exclaimed, "O
fortunate Damocles, thy reign began and ended with the same dinner;" a
well-known allusion, which Fulgentius afterwards repeated as an
instructive lesson for princes and subjects.

The reign of Maximus continued about three months. His hours, of which
he had lost the command, were disturbed by remorse, or guilt, or
terror, and his throne was shaken by the seditions of the soldiers,
the people, and the confederate Barbarians. The marriage of his son
Paladius with the eldest daughter of the late emperor, might tend to
establish the hereditary succession of his family; but the violence
which he offered to the empress Eudoxia, could proceed only from the
blind impulse of lust or revenge. His own wife, the cause of these
tragic events, had been seasonably removed by death; and the widow of
Valentinian was compelled to violate her decent mourning, perhaps her
real grief, and to submit to the embraces of a presumptuous usurper,
whom she suspected as the assassin of her deceased husband. These
suspicions were soon justified by the indiscreet confession of Maximus
himself; and he wantonly provoked the hatred of his reluctant bride,
who was still conscious that she was descended from a line of
emperors. From the East, however, Eudoxia could not hope to obtain any
effectual assistance; her father and her aunt Pulcheria were dead; her
mother languished at Jerusalem in disgrace and exile; and the sceptre
of Constantinople was in the hands of a stranger. She directed her
eyes towards Carthage; secretly implored the aid of the king of the
Vandals; and persuaded Genseric to improve the fair opportunity of
disguising his rapacious designs by the specious names of honor,
justice, and compassion. Whatever abilities Maximus might have shown
in a subordinate station, he was found incapable of administering an
empire; and though he might easily have been informed of the naval
preparations which were made on the opposite shores of Africa, he
expected with supine indifference the approach of the enemy, without
adopting any measures of defence, of negotiation, or of a timely
retreat. When the Vandals disembarked at the mouth of the Tyber, the
emperor was suddenly roused from his lethargy by the clamors of a
trembling and exasperated multitude. The only hope which presented
itself to his astonished mind was that of a precipitate flight, and he
exhorted the senators to imitate the example of their prince. But no
sooner did Maximus appear in the streets, than he was assaulted by a
shower of stones; a Roman, or a Burgundian soldier, claimed the honor
of the first wound; his mangled body was ignominiously cast into the
Tyber; the Roman people rejoiced in the punishment which they had
inflicted on the author of the public calamities; and the domestics of
Eudoxia signalized their zeal in the service of their mistress.

On the third day after the tumult, Genseric boldly advanced from the
port of Ostia to the gates of the defenceless city. Instead of a sally
of the Roman youth, there issued from the gates an unarmed and
venerable procession of the bishop at the head of his clergy. The
fearless spirit of Leo, his authority and eloquence, again
mitigated the fierceness of a Barbarian conqueror; the king of the
Vandals promised to spare the unresisting multitude, to protect the
buildings from fire, and to exempt the captives from torture; and
although such orders were neither seriously given, nor strictly
obeyed, the mediation of Leo was glorious to himself, and in some
degree beneficial to his country. But Rome and its inhabitants were
delivered to the licentiousness of the Vandals and Moors, whose blind
passions revenged the injuries of Carthage. The pillage lasted
fourteen days and nights; and all that yet remained of public or
private wealth, of sacred or profane treasure, was diligently
transported to the vessels of Genseric. Among the spoils, the splendid
relics of two temples, or rather of two religions, exhibited a
memorable example of the vicissitudes of human and divine things.
Since the abolition of Paganism, the Capitol had been violated and
abandoned; yet the statues of the gods and heroes were still
respected, and the curious roof of gilt bronze was reserved for the
rapacious hands of Genseric. The holy instruments of the Jewish
worship, the gold table, and the gold candlestick with seven branches,
originally framed according to the particular instructions of God
himself, and which were placed in the sanctuary of his temple, had
been ostentatiously displayed to the Roman people in the triumph of
Titus. They were afterwards deposited in the temple of Peace; and at
the end of four hundred years, the spoils of Jerusalem were
transferred from Rome to Carthage, by a Barbarian who derived his
origin from the shores of the Baltic. These ancient monuments might
attract the notice of curiosity, as well as of avarice. But the
Christian churches, enriched and adorned by the prevailing
superstition of the times, afforded more plentiful materials for
sacrilege; and the pious liberality of Pope Leo, who melted six silver
vases, the gift of Constantine, each of a hundred pounds weight, is an
evidence of the damage which he attempted to repair. In the forty-five
years that had elapsed since the Gothic invasion, the pomp and luxury
of Rome were in some measure restored; and it was difficult either to
escape, or to satisfy, the avarice of a conqueror, who possessed
leisure to collect, and ships to transport, the wealth of the capital.
The Imperial ornaments of the palace, the magnificent furniture and
wardrobe, the sideboards of massy plate, were accumulated with
disorderly rapine; the gold and silver amounted to several thousand
talents; yet even the brass and copper were laboriously removed.
Eudoxia herself, who advanced to meet her friend and deliverer, soon
bewailed the imprudence of her own conduct. She was rudely stripped of
her jewels; and the unfortunate empress, with her two daughters, the
only surviving remains of the great Theodosius, was compelled, as a
captive, to follow the haughty Vandal; who immediately hoisted sail,
and returned with a prosperous navigation to the port of Carthage.
Many thousand Romans of both sexes, chosen for some useful or
agreeable qualifications, reluctantly embarked on board the fleet of
Genseric; and their distress was aggravated by the unfeeling
Barbarians, who, in the division of the booty, separated the wives
from their husbands, and the children from their parents. The charity
of Deogratias, bishop of Carthage, was their only consolation and
support. He generously sold the gold and silver plate of the church to
purchase the freedom of some, to alleviate the slavery of others, and
to assist the wants and infirmities of a captive multitude, whose
health was impaired by the hardships which they had suffered in their
passage from Italy to Africa. By his order, two spacious churches were
converted into hospitals; the sick were distributed into convenient
beds, and liberally supplied with food and medicines; and the aged
prelate repeated his visits both in the day and night, with an
assiduity that surpassed his strength, and a tender sympathy which
enhanced the value of his services. Compare this scene with the field
of Cannæ; and judge between Hannibal and the successor of St. Cyprian.

The deaths of Ætius and Valentinian had relaxed the ties which held
the Barbarians of Gaul in peace and subordination. The sea-coast was
infested by the Saxons; the Alemanni and the Franks advanced from the
Rhine to the Seine; and the ambition of the Goths seemed to meditate
more extensive and permanent conquests. The emperor Maximus relieved
himself, by a judicious choice, from the weight of these distant
cares; he silenced the solicitations of his friends, listened to the
voice of fame, and promoted a stranger to the general command of the
forces of Gaul. Avitus, the stranger, whose merit was so nobly
rewarded, descended from a wealthy and honorable family in the diocese
of Auvergne. The convulsions of the times urged him to embrace, with
the same ardor, the civil and military professions: and the
indefatigable youth blended the studies of literature and
jurisprudence with the exercise of arms and hunting. Thirty years of
his life were laudably spent in the public service; he alternately
displayed his talents in war and negotiation; and the soldier of
Ætius, after executing the most important embassies, was raised to the
station of Prætorian præfect of Gaul. Either the merit of Avitus
excited envy, or his moderation was desirous of repose, since he
calmly retired to an estate, which he possessed in the neighborhood of
Clermont. A copious stream, issuing from the mountain, and falling
headlong in many a loud and foaming cascade, discharged its waters
into a lake about two miles in length, and the villa was pleasantly
seated on the margin of the lake. The baths, the porticos, the summer
and winter apartments, were adapted to the purposes of luxury and use;
and the adjacent country afforded the various prospects of woods,
pastures, and meadows. In this retreat, where Avitus amused his
leisure with books, rural sports, the practice of husbandry, and the
society of his friends, he received the Imperial diploma, which
constituted him master-general of the cavalry and infantry of Gaul. He
assumed the military command; the Barbarians suspended their fury; and
whatever means he might employ, whatever concessions he might be
forced to make, the people enjoyed the benefits of actual
tranquillity. But the fate of Gaul depended on the Visigoths; and the
Roman general, less attentive to his dignity than to the public
interest, did not disdain to visit Thoulouse in the character of an
ambassador. He was received with courteous hospitality by Theodoric,
the king of the Goths; but while Avitus laid the foundations of a
solid alliance with that powerful nation, he was astonished by the
intelligence, that the emperor Maximus was slain, and that Rome had
been pillaged by the Vandals. A vacant throne, which he might ascend
without guilt or danger, tempted his ambition; and the Visigoths were
easily persuaded to support his claim by their irresistible suffrage.
They loved the person of Avitus; they respected his virtues; and they
were not insensible of the advantage, as well as honor, of giving an
emperor to the West. The season was now approaching, in which the
annual assembly of the seven provinces was held at Arles; their
deliberations might perhaps be influenced by the presence of Theodoric
and his martial brothers; but their choice would naturally incline to
the most illustrious of their countrymen. Avitus, after a decent
resistance, accepted the Imperial diadem from the representatives of
Gaul; and his election was ratified by the acclamations of the
Barbarians and provincials. The formal consent of Marcian, emperor of
the East, was solicited and obtained; but the senate, Rome, and Italy,
though humbled by their recent calamities, submitted with a secret
murmur to the presumption of the Gallic usurper.

Theodoric, to whom Avitus was indebted for the purple, had acquired
the Gothic sceptre by the murder of his elder brother Torismond; and
he justified this atrocious deed by the design which his predecessor
had formed of violating his alliance with the empire. Such a crime
might not be incompatible with the virtues of a Barbarian; but the
manners of Theodoric were gentle and humane; and posterity may
contemplate without terror the original picture of a Gothic king, whom
Sidonius had intimately observed, in the hours of peace and of social
intercourse. In an epistle, dated from the court of Thoulouse, the
orator satisfies the curiosity of one of his friends, in the following
description: "By the majesty of his appearance, Theodoric would
command the respect of those who are ignorant of his merit; and
although he is born a prince, his merit would dignify a private
station. He is of a middle stature, his body appears rather plump than
fat, and in his well-proportioned limbs agility is united with
muscular strength. If you examine his countenance, you will
distinguish a high forehead, large shaggy eyebrows, an aquiline nose,
thin lips, a regular set of white teeth, and a fair complexion, that
blushes more frequently from modesty than from anger. The ordinary
distribution of his time, as far as it is exposed to the public view,
may be concisely represented. Before daybreak, he repairs, with a
small train, to his domestic chapel, where the service is performed by
the Arian clergy; but those who presume to interpret his secret
sentiments, consider this assiduous devotion as the effect of habit
and policy. The rest of the morning is employed in the administration
of his kingdom. His chair is surrounded by some military officers of
decent aspect and behavior: the noisy crowd of his Barbarian guards
occupies the hall of audience; but they are not permitted to stand
within the veils or curtains that conceal the council-chamber from
vulgar eyes. The ambassadors of the nations are successively
introduced: Theodoric listens with attention, answers them with
discreet brevity, and either announces or delays, according to the
nature of their business, his final resolution. About eight (the
second hour) he rises from his throne, and visits either his treasury
or his stables. If he chooses to hunt, or at least to exercise himself
on horseback, his bow is carried by a favorite youth; but when the
game is marked, he bends it with his own hand, and seldom misses the
object of his aim: as a king, he disdains to bear arms in such ignoble
warfare; but as a soldier, he would blush to accept any military
service which he could perform himself. On common days, his dinner is
not different from the repast of a private citizen, but every
Saturday, many honorable guests are invited to the royal table, which,
on these occasions, is served with the elegance of Greece, the plenty
of Gaul, and the order and diligence of Italy. The gold or silver
plate is less remarkable for its weight than for the brightness and
curious workmanship: the taste is gratified without the help of
foreign and costly luxury; the size and number of the cups of wine are
regulated with a strict regard to the laws of temperance; and the
respectful silence that prevails, is interrupted only by grave and
instructive conversation. After dinner, Theodoric sometimes indulges
himself in a short slumber; and as soon as he wakes, he calls for the
dice and tables, encourages his friends to forget the royal majesty,
and is delighted when they freely express the passions which are
excited by the incidents of play. At this game, which he loves as the
image of war, he alternately displays his eagerness, his skill, his
patience, and his cheerful temper. If he loses, he laughs; he is
modest and silent if he wins. Yet, notwithstanding this seeming
indifference, his courtiers choose to solicit any favor in the moments
of victory; and I myself, in my applications to the king, have derived
some benefit from my losses. About the ninth hour (three o'clock) the
tide of business again returns, and flows incessantly till after
sunset, when the signal of the royal supper dismisses the weary crowd
of suppliants and pleaders. At the supper, a more familiar repast,
buffoons and pantomimes are sometimes introduced, to divert, not to
offend, the company, by their ridiculous wit: but female singers, and
the soft, effeminate modes of music, are severely banished, and such
martial tunes as animate the soul to deeds of valor are alone grateful
to the ear of Theodoric. He retires from table; and the nocturnal
guards are immediately posted at the entrance of the treasury, the
palace, and the private apartments."

When the king of the Visigoths encouraged Avitus to assume the purple,
he offered his person and his forces, as a faithful soldier of the
republic. The exploits of Theodoric soon convinced the world that he
had not degenerated from the warlike virtues of his ancestors. After
the establishment of the Goths in Aquitain, and the passage of the
Vandals into Africa, the Suevi, who had fixed their kingdom in
Gallicia, aspired to the conquest of Spain, and threatened to
extinguish the feeble remains of the Roman dominion. The provincials
of Carthagena and Tarragona, afflicted by a hostile invasion,
represented their injuries and their apprehensions. Count Fronto was
despatched, in the name of the emperor Avitus, with advantageous
offers of peace and alliance; and Theodoric interposed his weighty
mediation, to declare, that, unless his brother-in-law, the king of
the Suevi, immediately retired, he should be obliged to arm in the
cause of justice and of Rome. "Tell him," replied the haughty
Rechiarius, "that I despise his friendship and his arms; but that I
shall soon try whether he will dare to expect my arrival under the
walls of Thoulouse." Such a challenge urged Theodoric to prevent the
bold designs of his enemy; he passed the Pyrenees at the head of the
Visigoths: the Franks and Burgundians served under his standard; and
though he professed himself the dutiful servant of Avitus, he
privately stipulated, for himself and his successors, the absolute
possession of his Spanish conquests. The two armies, or rather the two
nations, encountered each other on the banks of the River Urbicus,
about twelve miles from Astorga; and the decisive victory of the Goths
appeared for a while to have extirpated the name and kingdom of the
Suevi. From the field of battle Theodoric advanced to Braga, their
metropolis, which still retained the splendid vestiges of its ancient
commerce and dignity. His entrance was not polluted with blood; and
the Goths respected the chastity of their female captives, more
especially of the consecrated virgins: but the greatest part of the
clergy and people were made slaves, and even the churches and altars
were confounded in the universal pillage. The unfortunate king of the
Suevi had escaped to one of the ports of the ocean; but the obstinacy
of the winds opposed his flight: he was delivered to his implacable
rival; and Rechiarius, who neither desired nor expected mercy,
received, with manly constancy, the death which he would probably have
inflicted. After this bloody sacrifice to policy or resentment,
Theodoric carried his victorious arms as far as Merida, the principal
town of Lusitania, without meeting any resistance, except from the
miraculous powers of St. Eulalia; but he was stopped in the full
career of success, and recalled from Spain before he could provide for
the security of his conquests. In his retreat towards the Pyrenees, he
revenged his disappointment on the country through which he passed;
and, in the sack of Pollentia and Astorga, he showed himself a
faithless ally, as well as a cruel enemy. Whilst the king of the
Visigoths fought and vanquished in the name of Avitus, the reign of
Avitus had expired; and both the honor and the interest of Theodoric
were deeply wounded by the disgrace of a friend, whom he had seated on
the throne of the Western empire.

Chapter XXXVI: Total Extinction Of The Western Empire. -- Part II.

The pressing solicitations of the senate and people persuaded the
emperor Avitus to fix his residence at Rome, and to accept the
consulship for the ensuing year. On the first day of January, his
son-in-law, Sidonius Apollinaris, celebrated his praises in a
panegyric of six hundred verses; but this composition, though it was
rewarded with a brass statue, seems to contain a very moderate
proportion, either of genius or of truth. The poet, if we may degrade
that sacred name, exaggerates the merit of a sovereign and a father;
and his prophecy of a long and glorious reign was soon contradicted by
the event. Avitus, at a time when the Imperial dignity was reduced to
a preeminence of toil and danger, indulged himself in the pleasures of
Italian luxury: age had not extinguished his amorous inclinations; and
he is accused of insulting, with indiscreet and ungenerous raillery,
the husbands whose wives he had seduced or violated. But the Romans
were not inclined either to excuse his faults or to acknowledge his
virtues. The several parts of the empire became every day more
alienated from each other; and the stranger of Gaul was the object of
popular hatred and contempt. The senate asserted their legitimate
claim in the election of an emperor; and their authority, which had
been originally derived from the old constitution, was again fortified
by the actual weakness of a declining monarchy. Yet even such a
monarchy might have resisted the votes of an unarmed senate, if their
discontent had not been supported, or perhaps inflamed, by the Count
Ricimer, one of the principal commanders of the Barbarian troops, who
formed the military defence of Italy. The daughter of Wallia, king of
the Visigoths, was the mother of Ricimer; but he was descended, on the
father's side, from the nation of the Suevi; his pride or patriotism
might be exasperated by the misfortunes of his countrymen; and he
obeyed, with reluctance, an emperor in whose elevation he had not been
consulted. His faithful and important services against the common
enemy rendered him still more formidable; and, after destroying on the
coast of Corsica a fleet of Vandals, which consisted of sixty galleys,
Ricimer returned in triumph with the appellation of the Deliverer of
Italy. He chose that moment to signify to Avitus, that his reign was
at an end; and the feeble emperor, at a distance from his Gothic
allies, was compelled, after a short and unavailing struggle to
abdicate the purple. By the clemency, however, or the contempt, of
Ricimer, he was permitted to descend from the throne to the more
desirable station of bishop of Placentia: but the resentment of the
senate was still unsatisfied; and their inflexible severity pronounced
the sentence of his death He fled towards the Alps, with the humble
hope, not of arming the Visigoths in his cause, but of securing his
person and treasures in the sanctuary of Julian, one of the tutelar
saints of Auvergne. Disease, or the hand of the executioner, arrested
him on the road; yet his remains were decently transported to Brivas,
or Brioude, in his native province, and he reposed at the feet of his
holy patron. Avitus left only one daughter, the wife of Sidonius
Apollinaris, who inherited the patrimony of his father-in-law;
lamenting, at the same time, the disappointment of his public and
private expectations. His resentment prompted him to join, or at least
to countenance, the measures of a rebellious faction in Gaul; and the
poet had contracted some guilt, which it was incumbent on him to
expiate, by a new tribute of flattery to the succeeding emperor.

The successor of Avitus presents the welcome discovery of a great and
heroic character, such as sometimes arise, in a degenerate age, to
vindicate the honor of the human species. The emperor Majorian has
deserved the praises of his contemporaries, and of posterity; and
these praises may be strongly expressed in the words of a judicious
and disinterested historian: "That he was gentle to his subjects; that
he was terrible to his enemies; and that he excelled, in every virtue,
his predecessors who had reigned over the Romans." Such a testimony
may justify at least the panegyric of Sidonius; and we may acquiesce
in the assurance, that, although the obsequious orator would have
flattered, with equal zeal, the most worthless of princes, the
extraordinary merit of his object confined him, on this occasion,
within the bounds of truth. Majorian derived his name from his
maternal grandfather, who, in the reign of the great Theodosius, had
commanded the troops of the Illyrian frontier. He gave his daughter in
marriage to the father of Majorian, a respectable officer, who
administered the revenues of Gaul with skill and integrity; and
generously preferred the friendship of Ætius to the tempting offer of
an insidious court. His son, the future emperor, who was educated in
the profession of arms, displayed, from his early youth, intrepid
courage, premature wisdom, and unbounded liberality in a scanty
fortune. He followed the standard of Ætius, contributed to his
success, shared, and sometimes eclipsed, his glory, and at last
excited the jealousy of the patrician, or rather of his wife, who
forced him to retire from the service. Majorian, after the death of
Ætius, was recalled and promoted; and his intimate connection with
Count Ricimer was the immediate step by which he ascended the throne
of the Western empire. During the vacancy that succeeded the
abdication of Avitus, the ambitious Barbarian, whose birth excluded
him from the Imperial dignity, governed Italy with the title of
Patrician; resigned to his friend the conspicuous station of
master-general of the cavalry and infantry; and, after an interval of
some months, consented to the unanimous wish of the Romans, whose
favor Majorian had solicited by a recent victory over the Alemanni. He
was invested with the purple at Ravenna: and the epistle which he
addressed to the senate, will best describe his situation and his
sentiments. "Your election, Conscript Fathers! and the ordinance of
the most valiant army, have made me your emperor. May the propitious
Deity direct and prosper the counsels and events of my administration,
to your advantage and to the public welfare! For my own part, I did
not aspire, I have submitted to reign; nor should I have discharged
the obligations of a citizen if I had refused, with base and selfish
ingratitude, to support the weight of those labors, which were imposed
by the republic. Assist, therefore, the prince whom you have made;
partake the duties which you have enjoined; and may our common
endeavors promote the happiness of an empire, which I have accepted
from your hands. Be assured, that, in our times, justice shall resume
her ancient vigor, and that virtue shall become, not only innocent,
but meritorious. Let none, except the authors themselves, be
apprehensive of delations, which, as a subject, I have always
condemned, and, as a prince, will severely punish. Our own vigilance,
and that of our father, the patrician Ricimer, shall regulate all
military affairs, and provide for the safety of the Roman world, which
we have saved from foreign and domestic enemies. You now understand
the maxims of my government; you may confide in the faithful love and
sincere assurances of a prince who has formerly been the companion of
your life and dangers; who still glories in the name of senator, and
who is anxious that you should never repent the judgment which you
have pronounced in his favor." The emperor, who, amidst the ruins of
the Roman world, revived the ancient language of law and liberty,
which Trajan would not have disclaimed, must have derived those
generous sentiments from his own heart; since they were not suggested
to his imitation by the customs of his age, or the example of his

The private and public actions of Majorian are very imperfectly known:
but his laws, remarkable for an original cast of thought and
expression, faithfully represent the character of a sovereign who
loved his people, who sympathized in their distress, who had studied
the causes of the decline of the empire, and who was capable of
applying (as far as such reformation was practicable) judicious and
effectual remedies to the public disorders. His regulations concerning
the finances manifestly tended to remove, or at least to mitigate, the
most intolerable grievances. I. From the first hour of his reign, he
was solicitous (I translate his own words) to relieve the weary
fortunes of the provincials, oppressed by the accumulated weight of
indictions and superindictions. With this view he granted a universal
amnesty, a final and absolute discharge of all arrears of tribute, of
all debts, which, under any pretence, the fiscal officers might demand
from the people. This wise dereliction of obsolete, vexatious, and
unprofitable claims, improved and purified the sources of the public
revenue; and the subject who could now look back without despair,
might labor with hope and gratitude for himself and for his country.
II. In the assessment and collection of taxes, Majorian restored the
ordinary jurisdiction of the provincial magistrates; and suppressed
the extraordinary commissions which had been introduced, in the name
of the emperor himself, or of the Prætorian præfects. The favorite
servants, who obtained such irregular powers, were insolent in their
behavior, and arbitrary in their demands: they affected to despise the
subordinate tribunals, and they were discontented, if their fees and
profits did not twice exceed the sum which they condescended to pay
into the treasury. One instance of their extortion would appear
incredible, were it not authenticated by the legislator himself. They
exacted the whole payment in gold: but they refused the current coin
of the empire, and would accept only such ancient pieces as were
stamped with the names of Faustina or the Antonines. The subject, who
was unprovided with these curious medals, had recourse to the
expedient of compounding with their rapacious demands; or if he
succeeded in the research, his imposition was doubled, according to
the weight and value of the money of former times. III. "The municipal
corporations, (says the emperor,) the lesser senates, (so antiquity
has justly styled them,) deserve to be considered as the heart of the
cities, and the sinews of the republic. And yet so low are they now
reduced, by the injustice of magistrates and the venality of
collectors, that many of their members, renouncing their dignity and
their country, have taken refuge in distant and obscure exile." He
urges, and even compels, their return to their respective cities; but
he removes the grievance which had forced them to desert the exercise
of their municipal functions. They are directed, under the authority
of the provincial magistrates, to resume their office of levying the
tribute; but, instead of being made responsible for the whole sum
assessed on their district, they are only required to produce a
regular account of the payments which they have actually received, and
of the defaulters who are still indebted to the public. IV. But
Majorian was not ignorant that these corporate bodies were too much
inclined to retaliate the injustice and oppression which they had
suffered; and he therefore revives the useful office of the defenders
of cities. He exhorts the people to elect, in a full and free
assembly, some man of discretion and integrity, who would dare to
assert their privileges, to represent their grievances, to protect the
poor from the tyranny of the rich, and to inform the emperor of the
abuses that were committed under the sanction of his name and

The spectator who casts a mournful view over the ruins of ancient
Rome, is tempted to accuse the memory of the Goths and Vandals, for
the mischief which they had neither leisure, nor power, nor perhaps
inclination, to perpetrate. The tempest of war might strike some lofty
turrets to the ground; but the destruction which undermined the
foundations of those massy fabrics was prosecuted, slowly and
silently, during a period of ten centuries; and the motives of
interest, that afterwards operated without shame or control, were
severely checked by the taste and spirit of the emperor Majorian. The
decay of the city had gradually impaired the value of the public
works. The circus and theatres might still excite, but they seldom
gratified, the desires of the people: the temples, which had escaped
the zeal of the Christians, were no longer inhabited, either by gods
or men; the diminished crowds of the Romans were lost in the immense
space of their baths and porticos; and the stately libraries and halls
of justice became useless to an indolent generation, whose repose was
seldom disturbed, either by study or business. The monuments of
consular, or Imperial, greatness were no longer revered, as the
immortal glory of the capital: they were only esteemed as an
inexhaustible mine of materials, cheaper, and more convenient than the
distant quarry. Specious petitions were continually addressed to the
easy magistrates of Rome, which stated the want of stones or bricks,
for some necessary service: the fairest forms of architecture were
rudely defaced, for the sake of some paltry, or pretended, repairs;
and the degenerate Romans, who converted the spoil to their own
emolument, demolished, with sacrilegious hands, the labors of their
ancestors. Majorian, who had often sighed over the desolation of the
city, applied a severe remedy to the growing evil. He reserved to the
prince and senate the sole cognizance of the extreme cases which might
justify the destruction of an ancient edifice; imposed a fine of fifty
pounds of gold (two thousand pounds sterling) on every magistrate who
should presume to grant such illegal and scandalous license, and
threatened to chastise the criminal obedience of their subordinate
officers, by a severe whipping, and the amputation of both their
hands. In the last instance, the legislator might seem to forget the
proportion of guilt and punishment; but his zeal arose from a generous
principle, and Majorian was anxious to protect the monuments of those
ages, in which he would have desired and deserved to live. The emperor
conceived, that it was his interest to increase the number of his
subjects; and that it was his duty to guard the purity of the
marriage-bed: but the means which he employed to accomplish these
salutary purposes are of an ambiguous, and perhaps exceptionable,
kind. The pious maids, who consecrated their virginity to Christ, were
restrained from taking the veil till they had reached their fortieth
year. Widows under that age were compelled to form a second alliance
within the term of five years, by the forfeiture of half their wealth
to their nearest relations, or to the state. Unequal marriages were
condemned or annulled. The punishment of confiscation and exile was
deemed so inadequate to the guilt of adultery, that, if the criminal
returned to Italy, he might, by the express declaration of Majorian,
be slain with impunity.

While the emperor Majorian assiduously labored to restore the
happiness and virtue of the Romans, he encountered the arms of
Genseric, from his character and situation their most formidable
enemy. A fleet of Vandals and Moors landed at the mouth of the Liris,
or Garigliano; but the Imperial troops surprised and attacked the
disorderly Barbarians, who were encumbered with the spoils of
Campania; they were chased with slaughter to their ships, and their
leader, the king's brother-in-law, was found in the number of the
slain. Such vigilance might announce the character of the new reign;
but the strictest vigilance, and the most numerous forces, were
insufficient to protect the long-extended coast of Italy from the
depredations of a naval war. The public opinion had imposed a nobler
and more arduous task on the genius of Majorian. Rome expected from
him alone the restitution of Africa; and the design, which he formed,
of attacking the Vandals in their new settlements, was the result of
bold and judicious policy. If the intrepid emperor could have infused
his own spirit into the youth of Italy; if he could have revived in
the field of Mars, the manly exercises in which he had always
surpassed his equals; he might have marched against Genseric at the
head of a Roman
army. Such a reformation of national manners might be embraced by the
rising generation; but it is the misfortune of those princes who
laboriously sustain a declining monarchy, that, to obtain some
immediate advantage, or to avert some impending danger, they are
forced to countenance, and even to multiply, the most pernicious
abuses. Majorian, like the weakest of his predecessors, was reduced to
the disgraceful expedient of substituting Barbarian auxiliaries in the
place of his unwarlike subjects: and his superior abilities could only
be displayed in the vigor and dexterity with which he wielded a
dangerous instrument, so apt to recoil on the hand that used it.
Besides the confederates, who were already engaged in the service of
the empire, the fame of his liberality and valor attracted the nations
of the Danube, the Borysthenes, and perhaps of the Tanais. Many
thousands of the bravest subjects of Attila, the Gepidæ, the
Ostrogoths, the Rugians, the Burgundians, the Suevi, the Alani,
assembled in the plains of Liguria; and their formidable strength was
balanced by their mutual animosities. They passed the Alps in a severe
winter. The emperor led the way, on foot, and in complete armor;
sounding, with his long staff, the depth of the ice, or snow, and
encouraging the Scythians, who complained of the extreme cold, by the
cheerful assurance, that they should be satisfied with the heat of
Africa. The citizens of Lyons had presumed to shut their gates; they
soon implored, and experienced, the clemency of Majorian. He
vanquished Theodoric in the field; and admitted to his friendship and
alliance a king whom he had found not unworthy of his arms. The
beneficial, though precarious, reunion of the greater part of Gaul and
Spain, was the effect of persuasion, as well as of force; and the
independent Bagaudæ, who had escaped, or resisted, the oppression, of
former reigns, were disposed to confide in the virtues of Majorian.
His camp was filled with Barbarian allies; his throne was supported by
the zeal of an affectionate people; but the emperor had foreseen, that
it was impossible, without a maritime power, to achieve the conquest
of Africa. In the first Punic war, the republic had exerted such
incredible diligence, that, within sixty days after the first stroke
of the axe had been given in the forest, a fleet of one hundred and
sixty galleys proudly rode at anchor in the sea. Under circumstances
much less favorable, Majorian equalled the spirit and perseverance of
the ancient Romans. The woods of the Apennine were felled; the
arsenals and manufactures of Ravenna and Misenum were restored; Italy
and Gaul vied with each other in liberal contributions to the public
service; and the Imperial navy of three hundred large galleys, with an
adequate proportion of transports and smaller vessels, was collected
in the secure and capacious harbor of Carthagena in Spain. The
intrepid countenance of Majorian animated his troops with a confidence
of victory; and, if we might credit the historian Procopius, his
courage sometimes hurried him beyond the bounds of prudence. Anxious
to explore, with his own eyes, the state of the Vandals, he ventured,
after disguising the color of his hair, to visit Carthage, in the
character of his own ambassador: and Genseric was afterwards mortified
by the discovery, that he had entertained and dismissed the emperor of
the Romans. Such an anecdote may be rejected as an improbable fiction;
but it is a fiction which would not have been imagined, unless in the
life of a hero.

Chapter XXXVI: Total Extinction Of The Western Empire. -- Part III.

Without the help of a personal interview, Genseric was sufficiently
acquainted with the genius and designs of his adversary. He practiced
his customary arts of fraud and delay, but he practiced them without
success. His applications for peace became each hour more submissive,
and perhaps more sincere; but the inflexible Majorian had adopted the
ancient maxim, that Rome could not be safe, as long as Carthage
existed in a hostile state. The king of the Vandals distrusted the
valor of his native subjects, who were enervated by the luxury of the
South; he suspected the fidelity of the vanquished people, who
abhorred him as an Arian tyrant; and the desperate measure, which he
executed, of reducing Mauritania into a desert, could not defeat the
operations of the Roman emperor, who was at liberty to land his troops
on any part of the African coast. But Genseric was saved from
impending and inevitable ruin by the treachery of some powerful
subjects, envious, or apprehensive, of their master's success. Guided
by their secret intelligence, he surprised the unguarded fleet in the
Bay of Carthagena: many of the ships were sunk, or taken, or burnt;
and the preparations of three years were destroyed in a single day.
After this event, the behavior of the two antagonists showed them
superior to their fortune. The Vandal, instead of being elated by this
accidental victory, immediately renewed his solicitations for peace.
The emperor of the West, who was capable of forming great designs, and
of supporting heavy disappointments, consented to a treaty, or rather
to a suspension of arms; in the full assurance that, before he could
restore his navy, he should be supplied with provocations to justify a
second war. Majorian returned to Italy, to prosecute his labors for
the public happiness; and, as he was conscious of his own integrity,
he might long remain ignorant of the dark conspiracy which threatened
his throne and his life. The recent misfortune of Carthagena sullied
the glory which had dazzled the eyes of the multitude; almost every
description of civil and military officers were exasperated against
the Reformer, since they all derived some advantage from the abuses
which he endeavored to suppress; and the patrician Ricimer impelled
the inconstant passions of the Barbarians against a prince whom he
esteemed and hated. The virtues of Majorian could not protect him from
the impetuous sedition, which broke out in the camp near Tortona, at
the foot of the Alps. He was compelled to abdicate the Imperial
purple: five days after his abdication, it was reported that he died
of a dysentery; and the humble tomb, which covered his remains, was
consecrated by the respect and gratitude of succeeding generations.
The private character of Majorian inspired love and respect. Malicious
calumny and satire excited his indignation, or, if he himself were the
object, his contempt; but he protected the freedom of wit, and, in the
hours which the emperor gave to the familiar society of his friends,
he could indulge his taste for pleasantry, without degrading the
majesty of his rank.

It was not, perhaps, without some regret, that Ricimer sacrificed his
friend to the interest of his ambition: but he resolved, in a second
choice, to avoid the imprudent preference of superior virtue and
merit. At his command, the obsequious senate of Rome bestowed the
Imperial title on Libius Severus, who ascended the throne of the West
without emerging from the obscurity of a private condition. History
has scarcely deigned to notice his birth, his elevation, his
character, or his death. Severus expired, as soon as his life became
inconvenient to his patron; and it would be useless to discriminate
his nominal reign in the vacant interval of six years, between the
death of Majorian and the elevation of Anthemius. During that period,
the government was in the hands of Ricimer alone; and, although the
modest Barbarian disclaimed the name of king, he accumulated
treasures, formed a separate army, negotiated private alliances, and
ruled Italy with the same independent and despotic authority, which
was afterwards exercised by Odoacer and Theodoric. But his dominions
were bounded by the Alps; and two Roman generals, Marcellinus and
Ægidius, maintained their allegiance to the republic, by rejecting,
with disdain, the phantom which he styled an emperor. Marcellinus
still adhered to the old religion; and the devout Pagans, who secretly
disobeyed the laws of the church and state, applauded his profound
skill in the science of divination. But he possessed the more valuable
qualifications of learning, virtue, and courage; the study of the
Latin literature had improved his taste; and his military talents had
recommended him to the esteem and confidence of the great Ætius, in
whose ruin he was involved. By a timely flight, Marcellinus escaped
the rage of Valentinian, and boldly asserted his liberty amidst the
convulsions of the Western empire. His voluntary, or reluctant,
submission to the authority of Majorian, was rewarded by the
government of Sicily, and the command of an army, stationed in that
island to oppose, or to attack, the Vandals; but his Barbarian
mercenaries, after the emperor's death, were tempted to revolt by the
artful liberality of Ricimer. At the head of a band of faithful
followers, the intrepid Marcellinus occupied the province of Dalmatia,
assumed the title of patrician of the West, secured the love of his
subjects by a mild and equitable reign, built a fleet which claimed
the dominion of the Adriatic, and alternately alarmed the coasts of
Italy and of Africa. Ægidius, the master-general of Gaul, who
equalled, or at least who imitated, the heroes of ancient Rome,
proclaimed his immortal resentment against the assassins of his
beloved master. A brave and numerous army was attached to his
standard: and, though he was prevented by the arts of Ricimer, and the
arms of the Visigoths, from marching to the gates of Rome, he
maintained his independent sovereignty beyond the Alps, and rendered
the name of Ægidius, respectable both in peace and war. The Franks,
who had punished with exile the youthful follies of Childeric, elected
the Roman general for their king: his vanity, rather than his
ambition, was gratified by that singular honor; and when the nation,
at the end of four years, repented of the injury which they had
offered to the Merovingian family, he patiently acquiesced in the
restoration of the lawful prince. The authority of Ægidius ended only
with his life, and the suspicions of poison and secret violence, which
derived some countenance from the character of Ricimer, were eagerly
entertained by the passionate credulity of the Gauls.

The kingdom of Italy, a name to which the Western empire was gradually
reduced, was afflicted, under the reign of Ricimer, by the incessant
depredations of the Vandal pirates. In the spring of each year, they
equipped a formidable navy in the port of Carthage; and Genseric
himself, though in a very advanced age, still commanded in person the
most important expeditions. His designs were concealed with
impenetrable secrecy, till the moment that he hoisted sail. When he
was asked, by his pilot, what course he should steer, "Leave the
determination to the winds, (replied the Barbarian, with pious
arrogance;) they
will transport us to the guilty coast, whose inhabitants have provoked
the divine justice;" but if Genseric himself deigned to issue more
precise orders, he judged the most wealthy to be the most criminal.
The Vandals repeatedly visited the coasts of Spain, Liguria, Tuscany,
Campania, Lucania, Bruttium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia, Dalmatia,
Epirus, Greece, and Sicily: they were tempted to subdue the Island of
Sardinia, so advantageously placed in the centre of the Mediterranean;
and their arms spread desolation, or terror, from the columns of
Hercules to the mouth of the Nile. As they were more ambitious of
spoil than of glory, they seldom attacked any fortified cities, or
engaged any regular troops in the open field. But the celerity of
their motions enabled them, almost at the same time, to threaten and
to attack the most distant objects, which attracted their desires; and
as they always embarked a sufficient number of horses, they had no
sooner landed, than they swept the dismayed country with a body of
light cavalry. Yet, notwithstanding the example of their king, the
native Vandals and Alani insensibly declined this toilsome and
perilous warfare; the hardy generation of the first conquerors was
almost extinguished, and their sons, who were born in Africa, enjoyed
the delicious baths and gardens which had been acquired by the valor
of their fathers. Their place was readily supplied by a various
multitude of Moors and Romans, of captives and outlaws; and those
desperate wretches, who had already violated the laws of their
country, were the most eager to promote the atrocious acts which
disgrace the victories of Genseric. In the treatment of his unhappy
prisoners, he sometimes consulted his avarice, and sometimes indulged
his cruelty; and the massacre of five hundred noble citizens of Zant
or Zacynthus, whose mangled bodies he cast into the Ionian Sea, was
imputed, by the public indignation, to his latest posterity.

Such crimes could not be excused by any provocations; but the war,
which the king of the Vandals prosecuted against the Roman empire was
justified by a specious and reasonable motive. The widow of
Valentinian, Eudoxia, whom he had led captive from Rome to Carthage,
was the sole heiress of the Theodosian house; her elder daughter,
Eudocia, became the reluctant wife of Hunneric, his eldest son; and
the stern father, asserting a legal claim, which could not easily be
refuted or satisfied, demanded a just proportion of the Imperial
patrimony. An adequate, or at least a valuable, compensation, was
offered by the Eastern emperor, to purchase a necessary peace. Eudoxia
and her younger daughter, Placidia, were honorably restored, and the
fury of the Vandals was confined to the limits of the Western empire.
The Italians, destitute of a naval force, which alone was capable of
protecting their coasts, implored the aid of the more fortunate
nations of the East; who had formerly acknowledged, in peace and war,
the supremacy of Rome. But the perpetual divisions of the two empires
had alienated their interest and their inclinations; the faith of a
recent treaty was alleged; and the Western Romans, instead of arms and
ships, could only obtain the assistance of a cold and ineffectual
mediation. The haughty Ricimer, who had long struggled with the
difficulties of his situation, was at length reduced to address the
throne of Constantinople, in the humble language of a subject; and
Italy submitted, as the price and security to accept a master from the
choice of the emperor of the East. It is not the purpose of the
present chapter, or even of the present volume, to continue the
distinct series of the Byzantine history; but a concise view of the
reign and character of the emperor Leo, may explain the last efforts
that were attempted to save the falling empire of the West.

Since the death of the younger Theodosius, the domestic repose of
Constantinople had never been interrupted by war or faction. Pulcheria
had bestowed her hand, and the sceptre of the East, on the modest
virtue of Marcian: he gratefully reverenced her august rank and virgin
chastity; and, after her death, he gave his people the example of the
religious worship that was due to the memory of the Imperial saint.
Attentive to the prosperity of his own dominions, Marcian seemed to
behold, with indifference, the misfortunes of Rome; and the obstinate
refusal of a brave and active prince, to draw his sword against the
Vandals, was ascribed to a secret promise, which had formerly been
exacted from him when he was a captive in the power of Genseric. The
death of Marcian, after a reign of seven years, would have exposed the
East to the danger of a popular election; if the superior weight of a
single family had not been able to incline the balance in favor of the
candidate whose interest they supported. The patrician Aspar might
have placed the diadem on his own head, if he would have subscribed
the Nicene creed. During three generations, the armies of the East
were successively commanded by his father, by himself, and by his son
Ardaburius; his Barbarian guards formed a military force that overawed
the palace and the capital; and the liberal distribution of his
immense treasures rendered Aspar as popular as he was powerful. He
recommended the obscure name of Leo of Thrace, a military tribune, and
the principal steward of his household. His nomination was unanimously
ratified by the senate; and the servant of Aspar received the Imperial
crown from the hands of the patriarch or bishop, who was permitted to
express, by this unusual ceremony, the suffrage of the Deity. This
emperor, the first of the name of Leo, has been distinguished by the
title of the Great
; from a succession of princes, who gradually fixed in the opinion of
the Greeks a very humble standard of heroic, or at least of royal,
perfection. Yet the temperate firmness with which Leo resisted the
oppression of his benefactor, showed that he was conscious of his duty
and of his prerogative. Aspar was astonished to find that his
influence could no longer appoint a præfect of Constantinople: he
presumed to reproach his sovereign with a breach of promise, and
insolently shaking his purple, "It is not proper, (said he,) that the
man who is invested with this garment, should be guilty of lying."
"Nor is it proper, (replied Leo,) that a prince should be compelled to
resign his own judgment, and the public interest, to the will of a
subject." After this extraordinary scene, it was impossible that the
reconciliation of the emperor and the patrician could be sincere; or,
at least, that it could be solid and permanent. An army of Isaurians
was secretly levied, and introduced into Constantinople; and while Leo
undermined the authority, and prepared the disgrace, of the family of
Aspar, his mild and cautious behavior restrained them from any rash
and desperate attempts, which might have been fatal to themselves, or
their enemies. The measures of peace and war were affected by this
internal revolution. As long as Aspar degraded the majesty of the
throne, the secret correspondence of religion and interest engaged him
to favor the cause of Genseric. When Leo had delivered himself from
that ignominious servitude, he listened to the complaints of the
Italians; resolved to extirpate the tyranny of the Vandals; and
declared his alliance with his colleague, Anthemius, whom he solemnly
invested with the diadem and purple of the West.

The virtues of Anthemius have perhaps been magnified, since the
Imperial descent, which he could only deduce from the usurper
Procopius, has been swelled into a line of emperors. But the merit of
his immediate parents, their honors, and their riches, rendered
Anthemius one of the most illustrious subjects of the East. His
father, Procopius, obtained, after his Persian embassy, the rank of
general and patrician; and the name of Anthemius was derived from his
maternal grandfather, the celebrated præfect, who protected, with so
much ability and success, the infant reign of Theodosius. The grandson
of the præfect was raised above the condition of a private subject, by
his marriage with Euphemia, the daughter of the emperor Marcian. This
splendid alliance, which might supersede the necessity of merit,
hastened the promotion of Anthemius to the successive dignities of
count, of master-general, of consul, and of patrician; and his merit
or fortune claimed the honors of a victory, which was obtained on the
banks of the Danube, over the Huns. Without indulging an extravagant
ambition, the son-in-law of Marcian might hope to be his successor;
but Anthemius supported the disappointment with courage and patience;
and his subsequent elevation was universally approved by the public,
who esteemed him worthy to reign, till he ascended the throne. The
emperor of the West marched from Constantinople, attended by several
counts of high distinction, and a body of guards almost equal to the
strength and numbers of a regular army: he entered Rome in triumph,
and the choice of Leo was confirmed by the senate, the people, and the
Barbarian confederates of Italy. The solemn inauguration of Anthemius
was followed by the nuptials of his daughter and the patrician
Ricimer; a fortunate event, which was considered as the firmest
security of the union and happiness of the state. The wealth of two
empires was ostentatiously displayed; and many senators completed
their ruin, by an expensive effort to disguise their poverty. All
serious business was suspended during this festival; the courts of
justice were shut; the streets of Rome, the theatres, the places of
public and private resort, resounded with hymeneal songs and dances:
and the royal bride, clothed in silken robes, with a crown on her
head, was conducted to the palace of Ricimer, who had changed his
military dress for the habit of a consul and a senator. On this
memorable occasion, Sidonius, whose early ambition had been so fatally
blasted, appeared as the orator of Auvergne, among the provincial
deputies who addressed the throne with congratulations or complaints.
The calends of January were now approaching, and the venal poet, who
had loved Avitus, and esteemed Majorian, was persuaded by his friends
to celebrate, in heroic verse, the merit, the felicity, the second
consulship, and the future triumphs, of the emperor Anthemius.
Sidonius pronounced, with assurance and success, a panegyric which is
still extant; and whatever might be the imperfections, either of the
subject or of the composition, the welcome flatterer was immediately
rewarded with the præfecture of Rome; a dignity which placed him among
the illustrious personages of the empire, till he wisely preferred the
more respectable character of a bishop and a saint.

The Greeks ambitiously commend the piety and catholic faith of the
emperor whom they gave to the West; nor do they forget to observe,
that when he left Constantinople, he converted his palace into the
pious foundation of a public bath, a church, and a hospital for old
men. Yet some suspicious appearances are found to sully the
theological fame of Anthemius. From the conversation of Philotheus, a
Macedonian sectary, he had imbibed the spirit of religious toleration;
and the Heretics of Rome would have assembled with impunity, if the
bold and vehement censure which Pope Hilary pronounced in the church
of St. Peter, had not obliged him to abjure the unpopular indulgence.
Even the Pagans, a feeble and obscure remnant, conceived some vain
hopes, from the indifference, or partiality, of Anthemius; and his
singular friendship for the philosopher Severus, whom he promoted to
the consulship, was ascribed to a secret project, of reviving the
ancient worship of the gods. These idols were crumbled into dust: and
the mythology which had once been the creed of nations, was so
universally disbelieved, that it might be employed without scandal, or
at least without suspicion, by Christian poets. Yet the vestiges of
superstition were not absolutely obliterated, and the festival of the
Lupercalia, whose origin had preceded the foundation of Rome, was
still celebrated under the reign of Anthemius. The savage and simple
rites were expressive of an early state of society before the
invention of arts and agriculture. The rustic deities who presided
over the toils and pleasures of the pastoral life, Pan, Faunus, and
their train of satyrs, were such as the fancy of shepherds might
create, sportive, petulant, and lascivious; whose power was limited,
and whose malice was inoffensive. A goat was the offering the best
adapted to their character and attributes; the flesh of the victim was
roasted on willow spits; and the riotous youths, who crowded to the
feast, ran naked about the fields, with leather thongs in their hands,
communicating, as it was supposed, the blessing of fecundity to the
women whom they touched. The altar of Pan was erected, perhaps by
Evander the Arcadian, in a dark recess in the side of the Palantine
hill, watered by a perpetual fountain, and shaded by a hanging grove.
A tradition, that, in the same place, Romulus and Remus were suckled
by the wolf, rendered it still more sacred and venerable in the eyes
of the Romans; and this sylvan spot was gradually surrounded by the
stately edifices of the Forum. After the conversion of the Imperial
city, the Christians still continued, in the month of February, the
annual celebration of the Lupercalia; to which they ascribed a secret
and mysterious influence on the genial powers of the animal and
vegetable world. The bishops of Rome were solicitous to abolish a
profane custom, so repugnant to the spirit of Christianity; but their
zeal was not supported by the authority of the civil magistrate: the
inveterate abuse subsisted till the end of the fifth century, and Pope
Gelasius, who purified the capital from the last stain of idolatry,
appeased by a formal apology, the murmurs of the senate and people.

Chapter XXXVI: Total Extinction Of The Western Empire. -- Part IV.

In all his public declarations, the emperor Leo assumes the authority,
and professes the affection, of a father, for his son Anthemius, with
whom he had divided the administration of the universe. The situation,
and perhaps the character, of Leo, dissuaded him from exposing his
person to the toils and dangers of an African war. But the powers of
the Eastern empire were strenuously exerted to deliver Italy and the
Mediterranean from the Vandals; and Genseric, who had so long
oppressed both the land and sea, was threatened from every side with a
formidable invasion. The campaign was opened by a bold and successful
enterprise of the præfect Heraclius. The troops of Egypt, Thebais, and
Libya, were embarked, under his command; and the Arabs, with a train
of horses and camels, opened the roads of the desert. Heraclius landed
on the coast of Tripoli, surprised and subdued the cities of that
province, and prepared, by a laborious march, which Cato had formerly
executed, to join the Imperial army under the walls of Carthage. The
intelligence of this loss extorted from Genseric some insidious and
ineffectual propositions of peace; but he was still more seriously
alarmed by the reconciliation of Marcellinus with the two empires. The
independent patrician had been persuaded to acknowledge the legitimate
title of Anthemius, whom he accompanied in his journey to Rome; the
Dalmatian fleet was received into the harbors of Italy; the active
valor of Marcellinus expelled the Vandals from the Island of Sardinia;
and the languid efforts of the West added some weight to the immense
preparations of the Eastern Romans. The expense of the naval armament,
which Leo sent against the Vandals, has been distinctly ascertained;
and the curious and instructive account displays the wealth of the
declining empire. The Royal demesnes, or private patrimony of the
prince, supplied seventeen thousand pounds of gold; forty-seven
thousand pounds of gold, and seven hundred thousand of silver, were
levied and paid into the treasury by the Prætorian præfects. But the
cities were reduced to extreme poverty; and the diligent calculation
of fines and forfeitures, as a valuable object of the revenue, does
not suggest the idea of a just or merciful administration. The whole
expense, by whatsoever means it was defrayed, of the African campaign,
amounted to the sum of one hundred and thirty thousand pounds of gold,
about five millions two hundred thousand pounds sterling, at a time
when the value of money appears, from the comparative price of corn,
to have been somewhat higher than in the present age. The fleet that
sailed from Constantinople to Carthage, consisted of eleven hundred
and thirteen ships, and the number of soldiers and mariners exceeded
one hundred thousand men. Basiliscus, the brother of the empress
Vorina, was intrusted with this important command. His sister, the
wife of Leo, had exaggerated the merit of his former exploits against
the Scythians. But the discovery of his guilt, or incapacity, was
reserved for the African war; and his friends could only save his
military reputation by asserting, that he had conspired with Aspar to
spare Genseric, and to betray the last hope of the Western empire.

Experience has shown, that the success of an invader most commonly
depends on the vigor and celerity of his operations. The strength and
sharpness of the first impression are blunted by delay; the health and
spirit of the troops insensibly languish in a distant climate; the
naval and military force, a mighty effort which perhaps can never be
repeated, is silently consumed; and every hour that is wasted in
negotiation, accustoms the enemy to contemplate and examine those
hostile terrors, which, on their first appearance, he deemed
irresistible. The formidable navy of Basiliscus pursued its prosperous
navigation from the Thracian Bosphorus to the coast of Africa. He
landed his troops at Cape Bona, or the promontory of Mercury, about
forty miles from Carthage. The army of Heraclius, and the fleet of
Marcellinus, either joined or seconded the Imperial lieutenant; and
the Vandals who opposed his progress by sea or land, were successively
vanquished. If Basiliscus had seized the moment of consternation, and
boldly advanced to the capital, Carthage must have surrendered, and
the kingdom of the Vandals was extinguished. Genseric beheld the
danger with firmness, and eluded it with his veteran dexterity. He
protested, in the most respectful language, that he was ready to
submit his person, and his dominions, to the will of the emperor; but
he requested a truce of five days to regulate the terms of his
submission; and it was universally believed, that his secret
liberality contributed to the success of this public negotiation.
Instead of obstinately refusing whatever indulgence his enemy so
earnestly solicited, the guilty, or the credulous, Basiliscus
consented to the fatal truce; and his imprudent security seemed to
proclaim, that he already considered himself as the conqueror of
Africa. During this short interval, the wind became favorable to the
designs of Genseric. He manned his largest ships of war with the
bravest of the Moors and Vandals; and they towed after them many large
barks, filled with combustible materials. In the obscurity of the
night, these destructive vessels were impelled against the unguarded
and unsuspecting fleet of the Romans, who were awakened by the sense
of their instant danger. Their close and crowded order assisted the
progress of the fire, which was communicated with rapid and
irresistible violence; and the noise of the wind, the crackling of the
flames, the dissonant cries of the soldiers and mariners, who could
neither command nor obey, increased the horror of the nocturnal
tumult. Whilst they labored to extricate themselves from the
fire-ships, and to save at least a part of the navy, the galleys of
Genseric assaulted them with temperate and disciplined valor; and many
of the Romans, who escaped the fury of the flames, were destroyed or
taken by the victorious Vandals. Among the events of that disastrous
night, the heroic, or rather desperate, courage of John, one of the
principal officers of Basiliscus, has rescued his name from oblivion.
When the ship, which he had bravely defended, was almost consumed, he
threw himself in his armor into the sea, disdainfully rejected the
esteem and pity of Genso, the son of Genseric, who pressed him to
accept honorable quarter, and sunk under the waves; exclaiming, with
his last breath, that he would never fall alive into the hands of
those impious dogs. Actuated by a far different spirit, Basiliscus,
whose station was the most remote from danger, disgracefully fled in
the beginning of the engagement, returned to Constantinople with the
loss of more than half of his fleet and army, and sheltered his guilty
head in the sanctuary of St. Sophia, till his sister, by her tears and
entreaties, could obtain his pardon from the indignant emperor.
Heraclius effected his retreat through the desert; Marcellinus retired
to Sicily, where he was assassinated, perhaps at the instigation of
Ricimer, by one of his own captains; and the king of the Vandals
expressed his surprise and satisfaction, that the Romans themselves
should remove from the world his most formidable antagonists. After
the failure of this great expedition, * Genseric again became the
tyrant of the sea: the coasts of Italy, Greece, and Asia, were again
exposed to his revenge and avarice; Tripoli and Sardinia returned to
his obedience; he added Sicily to the number of his provinces; and
before he died, in the fulness of years and of glory, he beheld the
final extinction of the empire of the West.

During his long and active reign, the African monarch had studiously
cultivated the friendship of the Barbarians of Europe, whose arms he
might employ in a seasonable and effectual diversion against the two
empires. After the death of Attila, he renewed his alliance with the
Visigoths of Gaul; and the sons of the elder Theodoric, who
successively reigned over that warlike nation, were easily persuaded,
by the sense of interest, to forget the cruel affront which Genseric
had inflicted on their sister. The death of the emperor Majorian
delivered Theodoric the Second from the restraint of fear, and perhaps
of honor; he violated his recent treaty with the Romans; and the ample
territory of Narbonne, which he firmly united to his dominions, became
the immediate reward of his perfidy. The selfish policy of Ricimer
encouraged him to invade the provinces which were in the possession of
Ægidius, his rival; but the active count, by the defence of Arles, and
the victory of Orleans, saved Gaul, and checked, during his lifetime,
the progress of the Visigoths. Their ambition was soon rekindled; and
the design of extinguishing the Roman empire in Spain and Gaul was
conceived, and almost completed, in the reign of Euric, who
assassinated his brother Theodoric, and displayed, with a more savage
temper, superior abilities, both in peace and war. He passed the
Pyrenees at the head of a numerous army, subdued the cities of
Saragossa and Pampeluna, vanquished in battle the martial nobles of
the Tarragonese province, carried his victorious arms into the heart
of Lusitania, and permitted the Suevi to hold the kingdom of Gallicia
under the Gothic monarchy of Spain. The efforts of Euric were not less
vigorous, or less successful, in Gaul; and throughout the country that
extends from the Pyrenees to the Rhone and the Loire, Berry and
Auvergne were the only cities, or dioceses, which refused to
acknowledge him as their master. In the defence of Clermont, their
principal town, the inhabitants of Auvergne sustained, with inflexible
resolution, the miseries of war, pestilence, and famine; and the
Visigoths, relinquishing the fruitless siege, suspended the hopes of
that important conquest. The youth of the province were animated by
the heroic, and almost incredible, valor of Ecdicius, the son of the
emperor Avitus, who made a desperate sally with only eighteen
horsemen, boldly attacked the Gothic army, and, after maintaining a
flying skirmish, retired safe and victorious within the walls of
Clermont. His charity was equal to his courage: in a time of extreme
scarcity, four thousand poor were fed at his expense; and his private
influence levied an army of Burgundians for the deliverance of
Auvergne. From his
virtues alone the faithful citizens of Gaul derived any hopes of
safety or freedom; and even such virtues were insufficient to avert
the impending ruin of their country, since they were anxious to learn,
from his authority and example, whether they should prefer the
alternative of exile or servitude. The public confidence was lost; the
resources of the state were exhausted; and the Gauls had too much
reason to believe, that Anthemius, who reigned in Italy, was incapable
of protecting his distressed subjects beyond the Alps. The feeble
emperor could only procure for their defence the service of twelve
thousand British auxiliaries. Riothamus, one of the independent kings,
or chieftains, of the island, was persuaded to transport his troops to
the continent of Gaul: he sailed up the Loire, and established his
quarters in Berry, where the people complained of these oppressive
allies, till they were destroyed or dispersed by the arms of the

One of the last acts of jurisdiction, which the Roman senate exercised
over their subjects of Gaul, was the trial and condemnation of
Arvandus, the Prætorian præfect. Sidonius, who rejoices that he lived
under a reign in which he might pity and assist a state criminal, has
expressed, with tenderness and freedom, the faults of his indiscreet
and unfortunate friend. From the perils which he had escaped, Arvandus
imbibed confidence rather than wisdom; and such was the various,
though uniform, imprudence of his behavior, that his prosperity must
appear much more surprising than his downfall. The second præfecture,
which he obtained within the term of five years, abolished the merit
and popularity of his preceding administration. His easy temper was
corrupted by flattery, and exasperated by opposition; he was forced to
satisfy his importunate creditors with the spoils of the province; his
capricious insolence offended the nobles of Gaul, and he sunk under
the weight of the public hatred. The mandate of his disgrace summoned
him to justify his conduct before the senate; and he passed the Sea of
Tuscany with a favorable wind, the presage, as he vainly imagined, of
his future fortunes. A decent respect was still observed for the
rank; and on his arrival at Rome, Arvandus was committed to the
hospitality, rather than to the custody, of Flavius Asellus, the count
of the sacred largesses, who resided in the Capitol. He was eagerly
pursued by his accusers, the four deputies of Gaul, who were all
distinguished by their birth, their dignities, or their eloquence. In
the name of a great province, and according to the forms of Roman
jurisprudence, they instituted a civil and criminal action, requiring
such restitution as might compensate the losses of individuals, and
such punishment as might satisfy the justice of the state. Their
charges of corrupt oppression were numerous and weighty; but they
placed their secret dependence on a letter which they had intercepted,
and which they could prove, by the evidence of his secretary, to have
been dictated by Arvandus himself. The author of this letter seemed to
dissuade the king of the Goths from a peace with the Greek emperor: he
suggested the attack of the Britons on the Loire; and he recommended a
division of Gaul, according to the law of nations, between the
Visigoths and the Burgundians. These pernicious schemes, which a
friend could only palliate by the reproaches of vanity and
indiscretion, were susceptible of a treasonable interpretation; and
the deputies had artfully resolved not to produce their most
formidable weapons till the decisive moment of the contest. But their
intentions were discovered by the zeal of Sidonius. He immediately
apprised the unsuspecting criminal of his danger; and sincerely
lamented, without any mixture of anger, the haughty presumption of
Arvandus, who rejected, and even resented, the salutary advice of his
friends. Ignorant of his real situation, Arvandus showed himself in
the Capitol in the white robe of a candidate, accepted indiscriminate
salutations and offers of service, examined the shops of the
merchants, the silks and gems, sometimes with the indifference of a
spectator, and sometimes with the attention of a purchaser; and
complained of the times, of the senate, of the prince, and of the
delays of justice. His complaints were soon removed. An early day was
fixed for his trial; and Arvandus appeared, with his accusers, before
a numerous assembly of the Roman senate. The mournful garb which they
affected, excited the compassion of the judges, who were scandalized
by the gay and splendid dress of their adversary: and when the præfect
Arvandus, with the first of the Gallic deputies, were directed to take
their places on the senatorial benches, the same contrast of pride and
modesty was observed in their behavior. In this memorable judgment,
which presented a lively image of the old republic, the Gauls exposed,
with force and freedom, the grievances of the province; and as soon as
the minds of the audience were sufficiently inflamed, they recited the
fatal epistle. The obstinacy of Arvandus was founded on the strange
supposition, that a subject could not be convicted of treason, unless
he had actually conspired to assume the purple. As the paper was read,
he repeatedly, and with a loud voice, acknowledged it for his genuine
composition; and his astonishment was equal to his dismay, when the
unanimous voice of the senate declared him guilty of a capital
offence. By their decree, he was degraded from the rank of a præfect
to the obscure condition of a plebeian, and ignominiously dragged by
servile hands to the public prison. After a fortnight's adjournment,
the senate was again convened to pronounce the sentence of his death;
but while he expected, in the Island of Æsculapius, the expiration of
the thirty days allowed by an ancient law to the vilest malefactors,
his friends interposed, the emperor Anthemius relented, and the
præfect of Gaul obtained the milder punishment of exile and
confiscation. The faults of Arvandus might deserve compassion; but the
impunity of Seronatus accused the justice of the republic, till he was

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