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Chapter 23




These slaves, whom I have nurtur'd, pamper'd, fed. And swoln with peace, and gorg'd with plenty, till They reign themselves--all monarchs in their mansions. Now swarm forth in rebellion, and demand His death, who made their lives a jubilee.--Byron.


1. When it was publicly known that Domi'tian[1] was slain, the senate began to load his memory with every reproach. His statues were commanded to be taken down, and a decree was made, that all his inscriptions should be erased, his name struck out of the registers of fame, and his funeral obsequies omitted. 2. The people, who now took but little part in the affairs of government, looked on his death with indifference; the soldiers alone, whom he had loaded with favours, and enriched by largesses, sincerely regretted their benefactor.

3. The senate, therefore, resolved to provide a successor before the army could have an opportunity of taking the appointment upon itself, and Cocce'ius Ner'va was chosen to the empire the same day on which the tyrant was slain. 4. He is said to have been of an illustrious family in Spain, and above sixty-five years old when he was called to the throne, an elevation which he owed solely to his virtues, moderation, respect to the laws, and the blameless tenor of his life.

5. The people, long accustomed to tyranny, regarded Nerva's gentle reign with rapture, and even gave to his imbecility (for his humanity was carried too far for justice) the name of benevolence. 6. Upon coming to the throne he solemnly swore, that no senator of Rome should be put to death by his command during his reign, though guilty of the most heinous crimes. 7. This oath he so religiously observed, that when two senators had conspired his death, he used no kind of severity against them; but, sending for them to let them see he was not ignorant of their designs, he carried them with him to the public theatre; there presenting each a dagger, he desired them to strike, assuring them that he should make no resistance. 8. He had so little regard for money, that when one of his subjects found a large treasure, and wrote to the emperor for instructions how to dispose of it, he received for answer, that he might use it; the finder however replying, that it was a fortune too large for a private person to use, Nerva, admiring his honesty, wrote him word that then he might abuse it.[2]

9. A sovereign of such generosity and mildness was not, however, without his enemies. Vigil'ius Ru'fus, who had opposed his accession, was not only pardoned, but made his colleague in the consulship. Calpur'nius Cras'sus also, with some others, formed a conspiracy to destroy him; but Nerva was satisfied with banishing those who were culpable, though the senate were for inflicting more rigorous punishments. 10. But the most dangerous insurrection was that of the prętorian bands, who, headed by Caspa'rius Olia'nus, insisted upon revenging the late emperor's death, whose memory was still dear to them, from his frequent liberalities. 11. Nerva, whose kindness to good men rendered him more obnoxious to the vicious, did all in his power to stop the progress of this insurrection; he presented himself to the mutinous soldiers, and laying bare his bosom, desired them to strike there rather than be guilty of so much injustice. 12. The soldiers, however, paid no regard to his remonstrances; but seizing upon Petro'nius and Parthe'nius, slew them in the most ignominious manner. Not content with this, they even compelled the emperor to approve of their sedition, and to make a speech to the people, in which he thanked the cohorts for their fidelity.

13. So disagreeable a constraint upon the emperor's inclinations was in the end attended with the most happy effects, as it caused the adoption of Trajan[3] to succeed him; for, perceiving that in the present turbulent disposition of the times, he stood in need of an assistant in the empire, setting aside all his own relations, he fixed upon Ul'pius Tra'jan, an utter stranger to his family, who was then governor in Upper Germany, as his successor. 14. About three months after this, having put himself into a violent passion with one Reg'ulus, a senator, he was seized with a fever of which he died, after a reign of one year, four months, and nine days.

15. He was the first foreigner that ever reigned in Rome, and justly reputed a prince of great generosity and moderation. He is also celebrated for his wisdom, though with less reason; the greatest instance given of it during his reign, being the choice of his successor.

[Sidenote: U.C. 851. A.D. 98.]

16. On hearing of the death of Nerva, Trajan prepared to come to Rome from Germany, where he was governor. He received upon his arrival a letter from Plu'tarch, the philosopher, who had the honour of being his master, to the following purport:--"Since your merits and not your importunities, have advanced you to the empire, permit me to congratulate you on your virtues, and my own good fortune. If your future government proves answerable to your former worth, I shall be happy; but if you become worse for power, yours will be the danger, and mine the ignominy of your conduct. The errors of the pupil will be charged upon his instructor. Sen'eca is reproached for the enormities of Nero; and Soc'rates and Quintil'ian have not escaped censure for the misconduct of their respective scholars. But you have it in your power to make me the most honoured of men, by continuing what you are. Retain the command of your passions; and make virtue the rule of all your actions. If you follow these instructions, then will I glory in having presumed to give them: if you neglect what I advise, then will this letter be my testimony that you have not erred through the counsel and authority of Plu'tarch." I insert this letter, because it is a striking picture of this great philosopher's manner of addressing the best of princes.

17. This good monarch's application to business, his moderation towards his enemies, his modesty in exaltation, his liberality to the deserving, and his frugal management of the resources of the state, were the subjects of panegyric among his contemporaries, and continue to be the admiration of posterity.

18. The first war he was engaged in after his coming to the throne was with the Da'cians, who, during the reign of Domi'tian, had committed numberless ravages upon the provinces of the empire. To revenge these, he raised a powerful army, and with great expedition marched into those barbarous countries, where he was vigorously opposed by Deceb'alus, the Da'cian king, who for some time withstood his boldest efforts. 19. At length, however, this monarch being constrained to come to a general battle, and no longer able to protract the war, was routed with great slaughter. The Roman soldiers upon this occasion wanting linen to bind up their wounds, the emperor tore his own robes to supply them. 20. This victory compelled the enemy to sue for peace, which they obtained upon very disadvantageous terms; their king coming into the Roman camp, and acknowledging himself a vassal of the Roman empire.

21. Upon Trajan's return, after the usual triumphs and rejoicings, he was surprised with an account that the Da'cians had renewed hostilities. Deceb'alus, their king, was a second time adjudged an enemy to the Roman state, and Tra'jan again entered his dominions. 22. In order to be enabled to invade the enemy's territories at pleasure, he undertook a most stupendous work, which was no less than building a bridge across the Dan'ube. 23. This amazing structure, which was built over a deep, broad, and rapid river, consisted of more than twenty-two arches; the ruins, which remain to this day, show modern architects how far they were surpassed by the ancients, both in the greatness and boldness of their designs. 24. Upon finishing this work, Tra'jan continued the war with great vigour, sharing with the meanest of his soldiers the fatigues of the campaign, and continually encouraging them to their duty by his own example. 25. By these means, notwithstanding the country was spacious and uncultivated, and the inhabitants brave and hardy, he subdued the whole, and added the kingdom of Da'cia as a province to the Roman empire. Deceb'alus made some attempts to escape; but being surrounded, he slew himself. 26. These successes seemed to advance the empire to a greater degree of splendor than it had hitherto acquired. Ambassadors came from the interior parts of India, to congratulate Trajan on his successes, and solicit his friendship. On his return, he entered Rome in triumph, and the rejoicings for his victories lasted a hundred and twenty days.

27. Having given peace and prosperity to the empire, he was loved, honoured, and almost adored. He adorned the city with public buildings; he freed it from such men as lived by their vices; he entertained persons of merit with familiarity; and so little did he fear his enemies, that he could scarcely be induced to suppose he had any.


Questions for Examination.

1. How was the account of Domitian's death received?

2. Was he regretted by any description of his subjects?

3. What consequences ensued from this regret?

4. Who was Cocceius Nerva?

5. Was his government acceptable to the people?

6. What afforded a presage of his future mild administration?

7. Did he keep this oath inviolate?

8. Was Nerva avaricious?

9. Was his reign free from disturbances?

10. Were all conspiracies repressed from this time?

11. Did Nerva exert himself to quell it?

12. Were his endeavours successful?

13. What important consequences ensued from these commotions?

14. What occasioned his death?

15. What was his character?

16. How did Trajan act on his accession, and what advice did he receive?

17. What sentiments did his subjects entertain of their new emperor?

18. With whom did he commence hostilities?

19. What was the event of the campaign?

20. What was the consequence of this victory?

21. Did peace continue long?

22. What great undertaking did he accomplish in this expedition?

23. Was it a difficult work?

24. What followed the building of the bridge?

25. What was the event of this second campaign?

26. What advantages arose from this conquest?

27. Did Trajan suffer prosperity to make him neglectful of his duties?




With fatal heat impetuous courage glows.--Johnson.


[Sidenote: U.C. 860. A.D. 107.]

1. It had been happy for Trajan's memory, had he shown equal clemency to all his subjects; but about the ninth year of his reign, he was persuaded to look upon the Christians with a suspicious eye, and great numbers of them were put to death by popular tumults and judicial proceedings. 2. However, the persecution ceased after some time; for the emperor, finding that the Christians were an innocent and inoffensive people, suspended their punishments.

3. During this emperor's reign there was a dreadful insurrection of the Jews in all parts of the empire. This wretched people, still infatuated, and ever expecting some signal deliverance, took the advantage of Tra'jan's expedition to the east, to massacre all the Greeks and Romans whom they could get into their power. 4. This rebellion first began in Cyre'ne, a Roman province in Africa; from thence the flame extended to Egypt, and next to the island of Cyprus. Dreadful were the devastations committed by these infatuated people, and shocking the barbarities exercised on the unoffending inhabitants. 5. Some were sawn asunder, others cast to wild beasts, or made to kill each other, while the most unheard-of torments were invented and exercised on the unhappy victims of their fury. Nay, to such a pitch was their animosity carried, that they actually ate the flesh of their enemies, and even wore their skins. 6. However, these cruelties were of no long duration: the governors of the respective provinces making head against their tumultuous fury, caused them to experience the horrors of retaliation, and put them to death, not as human beings, but as outrageous pests of society. In Cy'prus it was made capital for any Jew to set foot on the island.

7. During these bloody transactions, Tra'jan was prosecuting his successes in the east, where he carried the Roman arms farther than they had ever before penetrated; but resolving to visit Rome once more, he found himself too weak to proceed in his usual manner. He therefore determined to return by sea; but on reaching the city of Seleu'cia, he died of an apoplexy, in the sixty-third year of his age, after a reign of nineteen years, six months, and fifteen days.

[Sidenote: A.D. 117.]

8. A'drian, the nephew of Trajan, was chosen to succeed him. He began his reign by pursuing a course opposite to that of his predecessor, taking every method of declining war, and promoting the arts of peace. His first care was to make peace with the Par'thians, and to restore Chos'roes, for he was satisfied with preserving the ancient limits of the empire, and seemed no way ambitious of extensive conquest.

9. A'drian was one of the most remarkable of the Roman emperors for the variety of his endowments. He was highly skilled in all the accomplishments both of body and mind. He composed with great beauty, both in prose and verse, he pleaded at the bar, and was one of the best orators of his time. 10. Nor were his virtues fewer than his accomplishments. His moderation and clemency appeared by pardoning the injuries which he had received when he was yet but a private man. One day meeting a person who had formerly been his most inveterate enemy--"My good friend," said he, "you have escaped; for I am made emperor." He was affable to his friends, and gentle to persons of meaner stations; he relieved their wants, and visited them in sickness; it being his constant maxim, that he had been elected emperor, not for his own good, but for the benefit of mankind at large.

11. These virtues were, however, contrasted by vices of considerable magnitude; or rather, he wanted strength of mind to preserve his rectitude of character without deviation.

12. He was scarcely settled on the throne, when several of the northern barbarians began to devastate the frontier provinces of the empire. These hardy nations, who now found the way to conquer by issuing from their forests, and then retiring on the approach of a superior force, began to be truly formidable to Rome. 13. A'drian had thoughts of contracting the limits of the empire, by giving up some of the most remote and least defensible provinces; in this, however, he was overruled by friends, who wrongly imagined that an extensive frontier would intimidate an invading enemy. 14. But though he complied with their remonstrances, he broke down the bridge over the Dan'ube, which his predecessor had built, sensible that the same passage which was open to him, was equally convenient to the incursions of his barbarous neighbours.

15. Having staid a long time at Rome, to see that all things were regulated and established for the safety of the public, he prepared to make a progress through his whole empire. 16. It was one of his maxims, that an emperor ought to imitate the sun, which diffuses warmth and vigour over all parts of the earth. He, therefore, took with him a splendid court, and a considerable force, and entered the province of Gaul, where he caused the inhabitants to be numbered. 17. From Gaul he went into Germany, thence to Holland, and afterwards passed over into Britain; where, reforming many abuses, and reconciling the natives to the Romans, he, for the better security of the southern parts of the kingdom, built a wall of wood and earth, extending from the river E'den, in Cumberland, to the Tyne, in Northumberland, to prevent the incursions of the Picts, and other barbarous nations of the north. 18. From Britain, returning through Gaul, he directed his journey to Spain, his native country, where he was received with great joy. 19. Returning to Rome, he continued there for some time, in order to prepare for his journey into the east, which was hastened by a new invasion of the Par'thians. His approach compelling the enemy to peace, he pursued his travels without molestation. He visited the famous city of Athens; there making a considerable stay, he was initiated into the Eleusin'ian mysteries, which were accounted the most sacred in the Pagan mythology, and took upon him the office of archon or chief magistrate. 20. In this place, also, he remitted the severity of the Christian persecution. He was even so far reconciled to their sect, as to think of introducing Christ among the number of the gods. 21. From thence he crossed over into Africa, and spent much time in reforming abuses, regulating the government, deciding controversies, and erecting magnificent buildings. Among the rest, he ordered Carthage[4] to be rebuilt, calling it after his own name, Adrian'ople.[5] 22. Again he returned to Rome; travelled a second time into Greece; passed over into Asia Minor; from thence into Syr'ia; gave laws and instructions to all the neighbouring kings; entered Pal'estine, Arabia, and Egypt, where he caused Pompey's tomb, that had been long neglected, and almost covered with sand, to be repaired and beautified. 23. He gave orders for the rebuilding of Jerusalem; which was performed with great expedition by the assistance of the Jews, who now began to conceive hopes of being restored to their long lost kingdom. 24. But these expectations only served to aggravate their calamities: for, being incensed at the privileges which were granted the Pagan worshippers in their new city, they fell upon the Romans and Christians that were dispersed throughout Jude'a, and unmercifully put them all to the sword. 25. A'drian, sending a powerful body of men against them, obtained many signal, though bloody victories, over the insurgents. The war was concluded in two years, by the demolition of above one thousand of their best towns, and the destruction of nearly six hundred thousand men in battle.

26. Having thus effectually quelled this dangerous insurrection, he banished all those who remained in Judea; and by a public decree forbade them to come within view of their native soil. But he was soon after alarmed by a dangerous irruption of the barbarous nations to the northward of the empire; who, entering Me'dia with great fury and passing through Arme'nia, carried their devastations as far as Cappado'cia. Preferring peace, however, upon any terms, to an unprofitable war, A'drian bought them off by large sums of money; so that they returned peaceably into their native wilds, to enjoy their plunder, and to meditate fresh invasions.


Questions for Examination.

1. Was Trajan uniformly merciful?

2. Was the persecution of long duration?

3. What remarkable event happened in this reign?

4. Where did the rebellion principally rage?

5. What were these barbarities?

6. Were no steps taken to repress this insurrection?

7. How was Trajan employed at this time, and what was his end?

8. Who succeeded him?

9. What was the character of Adrian?

10. Was he a virtuous character?

11. Were not his virtues counterbalanced?

12. By whom was the empire now invaded?

13. What wise measure did Adrian contemplate?

14. What remarkable edifice did he destroy?

15. Was he attentive to the concerns of the empire?

16. Why did he do this?

17. What places did he next visit?

18. Whither did he next proceed?

19. Mention his further progress, and the incidents that occurred.

20. Was he merciful to the Christians?

21. Whither did he next repair, and how did he employ himself?

22. Proceed in the description of his route.

23. Did he not favour the Jews?

24. Did they profit by this favourable disposition in the emperor?

25. Was this cruelty punished?

26. What followed this dangerous insurrection?




Trajan and he,[6] with the mild sire and son His son of virtue; eased awhile mankind; And arts revived beneath their gentle beam.--Thomson.


1. Having spent thirteen years in travelling and reforming the abuses of the empire, A'drian at last resolved to end his fatigues at Rome. 2. Nothing could be more grateful to the people than his resolution of coming to reside for the rest of his days among them; they received him with the loudest demonstrations of joy; and though he now began to grow old and unwieldy, he remitted not the least of his former assiduity and attention to the public welfare. 3. His chief amusement was in conversing with the most celebrated men in every art and science, frequently asserting, that he thought no kind of knowledge inconsiderable, or to be neglected, either in his private or public capacity. 4. He ordered the knights and senators never to appear in public, but in the proper habits of their orders. He forbade masters to kill their slaves, as had been before allowed; but ordained that they should be tried by the laws. 5. He still further extended the lenity of the laws to those unhappy men, who had long been thought too mean for justice: if a master was found killed in his house, he would not allow all his slaves to be put to the torture as formerly, but only such as might have perceived and prevented the murder.

6. In such employments he spent the greatest part of his time; but at last finding the duties of his station daily increasing, and his own strength proportionally upon the decline, he resolved on adopting a successor, and accordingly chose Antoni'nus to that important station.

7. While he was thus careful in providing for the future welfare of the state, his bodily infirmities became so insupportable, that he vehemently desired some of his attendants to dispatch him. 8. Antoni'nus, however, would by no means permit any of the domestics to be guilty of so great an impiety, but used all the arts in his power to reconcile the emperor to sustain life. 9. His pain daily increasing, he was frequently heard to cry out, "How miserable a thing it is to seek death, and not to find it!" After enduring some time these excruciating tortures, he at last resolved to observe no regimen, saying, that kings sometimes died merely by the multitude of their physicians. 10. This conduct served to hasten that death he seemed so ardently to desire; and it was probably joy upon its approach which dictated the celebrated stanzas that are so well known;[7] and while repeating which he expired, in the sixty-second year of his age, after a prosperous reign of twenty-one years and eleven months.

11. Titus Antoni'nus, his successor, was born at Lavin'ium, near Rome, but his ancestors came originally from Nismes, in Gaul. His father was a nobleman, who had enjoyed the highest honours of the empire.

[Sidenote: U.C. 891]

At the time of his succeeding to the throne he was above fifty years old, and had passed through many of the most important offices of the state with great integrity and application. 12. His virtues in private life were no way impaired by his exaltation, as he showed himself one of the most excellent princes for justice, clemency, and moderation; his morals were so pure, that he was usually compared to Numa, and was surnamed the Pious, both for his tenderness to his predecessor A'drian, when dying, and his particular attachment to the religion of his country.

13. He was an eminent rewarder of learned men, to whom he gave large pensions and great honours, collecting them around him from all parts of the world. 14. Among the rest, he sent for Apollo'nius, the famous stoic philosopher, to instruct his adopted son, Mar'cus Aure'lius. Apollo'nius being arrived, the emperor desired his attendance; but the other arrogantly answered, that it was the scholar's duty to wait upon the master, not the master upon the scholar. 15. To this reply, Antoni'nus only returned with a smile, "That it was surprising how Apollo'nius, who made no difficulty of coming from Greece to Rome, should think it hard to walk from one part of Rome to another;" and immediately sent Mar'cus Aure'lius to him.[8] 16. While the good emperor was thus employed in making mankind happy, in directing their conduct by his own example, or reproving their follies by the keenness of rebuke, he was seized with a violent fever, and ordered his friends and principal officers to attend him. 17. In their presence he confirmed the adoption of Mar'cus Aure'lius; then commanding the golden statue of Fortune, which was always in the chamber of the emperors, to be removed to that of his successor, he expired in the seventy-fourth year of his age, after a prosperous reign of twenty-two years and almost eight months.[9]

[Sidenote: U.C. 914.]

18. Mar'cus Aure'lius, though left sole successor to the throne, took Lu'cius Ve'rus as his associate and equal, in governing the state. 19. Aure'lius was the son of An'nius Ve'rus, of an ancient and illustrious family, which claimed its origin from Nu'ma. Lu'cius Ve'rus was the son of Com'modus, who had been adopted by A'drian, but died before he succeeded to the throne. 20. Aure'lius was as remarkable for his virtues and accomplishments, as his partner in the empire was for his ungovernable passions and debauched morals. The one was an example of the greatest goodness and wisdom; the other of ignorance, sloth, and extravagance.

21. The two emperors were scarcely settled on the throne, when the empire was attacked on every side, from the barbarous nations by which it was surrounded. The Cat'ti invaded Germany and Rhoe'tia, ravaging all with fire and sword; but were repelled by Victori'nus. The Britons likewise revolted, but were repressed by Capur'nius. 22. But the Parthians, under their king Volog'esus, made an irruption still more dreadful than either of the former; destroying the Roman legions in Arme'nia; then entering Syria, they drove out the Roman governor, and filled the whole country with terror and confusion. To repel this barbarous eruption, Ve'rus went in person, being accompanied by Aure'lius part of the way.

23. Ve'rus, however, proceeded no farther than An'tioch, and there gave an indulgence to every appetite, rioting in excesses unknown even to the voluptuous Greeks; leaving all the glory of the field to his lieutenants, who were sent to repress the enemy. 24. These, however, fought with great success; for in the four years that the war lasted, the Romans entered far into the Parthian country, and entirely subdued it; but upon their return their army was wasted to less than half its original number by pestilence and famine. 25. This, however, was no impediment to the vanity of Ve'rus, who resolved to enjoy the honours of a triumph, so hardly earned by others. Having appointed a king over the Arme'nians, and finding the Parthians entirely subdued, he assumed the titles of Arme'nius and Parthi'cus; and on his return to Rome, he partook of a triumph with Aure'lius, which was solemnized with great pomp and splendour.

26. While Ve'rus was engaged in this expedition, Aure'lius was sedulously intent upon distributing justice and happiness to his subjects at home. He first applied himself to the regulation of public affairs, and to the correcting of such faults as he found in the laws and policy of the state. 27. In this endeavour he showed a singular respect for the senate, often permitting them to determine without appeal; so that the commonwealth seemed in a manner once more revived under his equitable administration. 28. Besides, such was his application to business, that he often employed ten days together on the same subject, maturely considering it on all sides, and seldom departing from the senate-house till the assembly was dismissed by the consul. 29. But he was daily mortified with accounts of the enormities of his colleague; being repeatedly assured of his vanity and extravagance. 30. However, feigning himself ignorant of these excesses, he judged marriage to be the best method of reclaiming him; and, therefore, sent him his daughter Lucil'la, a woman of great beauty, whom Ve'rus married at Antioch. 31. But even this was found ineffectual, for Lucil'la proved of a disposition very unlike her father; and, instead of correcting her husband's extravagances only contributed to inflame them. 32. Aure'lius still hoped that, upon the return of Ve'rus to Rome, his presence would keep him in awe, and that happiness would at length be restored to the state. In this he was also disappointed. His return seemed fatal to the empire; for his army carried back the plague from Par'thia, and disseminated the infection into the provinces through which it passed.

33. Nothing could exceed the miserable state of things upon the return of Ve'rus. In this horrid picture were represented an emperor, unawed by example or the calamities surrounding him, giving way to unheard-of crimes; a raging pestilence spreading terror and desolation through all parts of the western world; earthquakes, famines, inundations, almost unexampled in history; the products of the earth through all Italy devoured by locusts; the barbarous nations around the empire taking advantage of its various calamities, and making their irruptions even into Italy itself. 34. The priests doing all they could to put a stop to the miseries of the state, by attempting to appease the gods, vowing and offering numberless sacrifices; celebrating all the sacred rites that had ever been known in Rome. 35. To crown the whole, these enthusiasts, as if the impending calamities had not been sufficient, ascribed the distresses of the state to the impieties of the Christians. A violent persecution ensued in all parts of the empire; and Justin Martyr, Polycarp'us, and a prodigious number of less note, suffered martyrdom.


Questions for Examination.

1. Did Adrian enjoy repose from this time?

2. Was this resolution agreeable to the people?

3. How did he amuse himself?

4. What new edicts did he issue?

5. Did he not ameliorate the condition of slaves?

6. Was he still equal to the fatigues of the empire?

7. Were not his sufferings great?

8. Were his wishes complied with?

9. Were these arts successful?

10. What was the consequence of this conduct?

11. Who was his successor?

12. Did he preserve his virtue on his exaltation?

13. Was he a favourer of learning?

14. What anecdote is related of one of these?

15. What was the emperor's reply?

16. Did he experience a long and prosperous reign?

17. Whom did he appoint as his successor?

18. Was Marcus Aurelius sole emperor?

19. Who were Aurelius and Lucius Verus?

20. Were their characters similar?

21. Was their reign peaceable?

22. Was there not a more formidable invasion still?

23. Did Verus show himself worthy of the trust?

24. Were they successful?

25. Did Verus appear to feel this misfortune?

26. How was Aurelius employed in the mean time?

27. Did he do this solely by his own authority?

28. Was he hasty in his decisions?

29. Was he acquainted with the follies of his colleague?

30. How did he attempt his reformation?

31. Was this effectual?

32. What farther hopes did Aurelius entertain?

33. What was the state of the empire at this period?

34. What were the means made use of to avert these calamities?

35. To whom were they imputed?




And wise Aurelius, in whose well-taught mind, With boundless power unbounded virtue join'd. His own strict judge, and patron of mankind.--Pope.


1. In this scene of universal tumult, desolation and distress, there was nothing left but the virtues and the wisdom of one man to restore tranquillity and happiness to the empire. 2. Aure'lius began his endeavours by marching against the Marcoman'ni and Qua'di, taking Ve'rus with him, who reluctantly left the sensual delights of Rome for the fatigues of a camp. 3. They came up with the Marcoman'ni near the city of Aquile'ia, and after a furious engagement, routed their whole army; then pursuing them across the Alps, overcame them in several contests; and, at last, entirely defeating them, returned into Italy without any considerable loss.

[Sidenote: U.C. 022 A.D. 169.]

4. As the winter was far advanced, Ve'rus was determined on going to Rome, in which journey he was seized with an apoplexy that put an end to his life, at the age of thirty-nine, having reigned in conjunction with Aure'lius nine years.

5. Aure'lius, who had hitherto sustained the fatigues of governing, not only an empire, but his colleague, began to act with greater diligence, and more vigour than ever. After thus subduing the Marcoman'ni, he returned to Rome, where he resumed his attempts to benefit mankind by a farther reformation.

6. But his good endeavours were soon interrupted by a renewal of the former wars. In one of the engagements that ensued, he is said to have been miraculously relieved when his army was perishing with thirst, by the prayers of a Christian legion[10] which had been levied in his service; for we are told, that there fell such a shower of rain, as instantly refreshed the fainting army. The soldiers were seen holding their mouths and their helmets towards heaven, to catch the water which came so wonderfully to their relief. 7. The same clouds which served for their rescue, discharged so terrible a storm of hail, accompanied with thunder, against the enemy, as astonished and confused them. By this unlooked-for aid, the Romans, recovering strength and courage, renewed the engagement with fresh vigour, and cut the enemy to pieces. 8. Such are the circumstances of an event, acknowledged by Pagan as well as Christian writers; only with this difference, that the latter ascribe the miracle to their own, the former to the prayers of their emperor. However this be, Aure'lius seemed so sensible of miraculous assistance, that he immediately relaxed the persecution against the Christians, and wrote to the senate in their favour.

9. Soon after this event, Avid'ius Cas'sius, one of the generals who had fought with such success against the Parthians, assumed the imperial purple, but was shortly after killed in an engagement. When his head was brought to Aure'lius, he expressed great sorrow, turned his eyes away, and caused it to be honourably interred, complaining that he had been robbed of an opportunity of showing mercy. On being blamed for his too great lenity to the relatives and friends of Cas'sius, he sublimely replied, "We have not lived nor served the gods so ill, as to think that they would favour Cas'sius."

10. He usually called philosophy his mother, in opposition to the court, which he considered as his step-mother. He also frequently said, "the people are happy whose kings are philosophers." He was, independent of his dignity, one of the most considerable men then existing; and, though he had been born in the meanest station, his merits as a writer (for his works remain to this day) would have insured him immortality.

11. Having thus restored prosperity to his subjects, and peace to mankind, news was brought him that the Scyth'ians, and other barbarous nations of the north, were up in arms, and invading the empire. 12. He once more, therefore, resolved to expose his aged person in the defence of his country, and made speedy preparations to oppose them.--He went to the senate, and desired to have money out of the public treasury. He then spent three days in giving the people lectures on the regulation of their lives; and, having finished, departed upon his expedition, amidst the prayers and lamentations of his subjects. Upon going to open his third campaign, he was seized at Vienna with the plague, which stopped his farther progress. Nothing, however, could abate his desire of being beneficial to mankind. 14. His fears for the youth and unpromising disposition of Com'modus, his son and successor, seemed to give him great uneasiness. He therefore addressed his friends and the principal officers that were gathered round his bed, expressing his hope, that as his son was now losing his father, he would find many in them. 15. While thus speaking, he was seized with a weakness which stopped his utterance, and brought on death. He died in the fifty-ninth year of his age, having reigned nineteen years. It seemed as if the glory and prosperity of the empire died with this greatest of the Roman emperors.


Questions for Examination.

1. To whom did the Romans look for a restoration of the tranquillity of the empire?

2. Against whom did Aurelius march, and who accompanied him?

3. Where did they come up with the Marcomanni, and what was the result of the engagement?

4. What was the fate of Verus?

5. How did Aurelius act on his return to Rome?

6. What miraculous event was ascribed to the prayers of a Christian legion?

7. How did it operate on the enemy?

8. Did not Aurelius, in consequence, interest himself in favour of the Christians?

9. What reply did Aurelius make to these who blamed him for his lenity to the friends of Cassius?

10. What sayings are recorded of him, and what was his character?

11. What news was brought to Aurelius soon after peace had been restored?

12. In what way did he occupy himself previous to his departure to oppose the enemy?

13. At what place was he seized with the plague?

14. What seemed to give him great uneasiness?

15. How old was Aurelius when he died, and how many years had he reigned?



[1] Domi'tian was the last of those emperors commonly called the Twelve Cęsars.

[2] Nerva, the most remarkable man in Rome for his virtues, recalled all the Christians who had been banished or had emigrated under the persecution of Domi'tian.

[3] It was customary among the Romans, for a person destitute of a son to adopt one from another family; and the son thus adopted became immediately invested with the same rights and privileges as if he had been born to that station; but he had no longer any claim on the family to which he originally belonged.

[4] Car'thage, the celebrated capital of Africa Pro'pria, was built by the Tyr'ians, under Dido. This city, the mistress of Spain, Si'cily, and Sardin'ia, was long the rival of Rome, till it was totally destroyed by Scip'io the Second, surnamed Africa'nus, B.C. 147. In its height of prosperity, it contained upwards of 700,000 inhabitants.

[5] This must be distinguished from Adrian'ople, the second city of European Turkey, which was founded about A.M. 2782, and repaired by the emperor Adrian, A.D. 122. Hence, its name.

[6] The poet here alludes to Titus, whom he has before been commending; his actions are described in Chap. XXII. Sect X.

[7] These stanzas are--

Animula, vagula, blandula, Hospes, comesque corporis Quę nonc abibis in loca, Pallidula, rigida, nudula? Nec, ut soles, dabis jocos.

Thus imitated by Prior:

Poor little pretty fluttering thing, Must we no longer live together? And dost thou prune thy trembling wing To take thy flight thou know'st not whither? Thy hum'rous vein, thy pleasing folly, Lie all neglected, all forgot; And pensive, wav'ring, melancholy, Thou dread'st and hop'st thou know'st not what

[8] Antoni'nus being made a model of wisdom and virtue, he was as much respected by foreigners as by his own people?

[9] This emperor was remarkably favourable to the Christians, and wrote thus to his governors in Asia:--"If any one shall, for the future, molest the Christians, and accuse them merely on account of their religion, let the person who is arraigned be discharged, though he is found to be a Christian, and the accuser be punished according to the rigour of the law."

[10] Legion, a body of soldiers in the Roman army, consisting of 300 horse and 4000 foot. Figuratively, an army, a military force, or a great number.

Oliver Goldsmith