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Chapter 24




O name of country, once how sacred deem'd! O sad reverse of manners, once esteem'd! While Rome her ancient majesty maintain'd, And in his capitol while Jove imperial reign'd.--Horace.


1. The merits of Aurelius procured Commodus an easy accession to the throne.[1] He was acknowledged emperor by the army, by the senate and people, and afterwards by all the provinces.

2. But his whole reign was a tissue of wantonness and folly, cruelty and injustice, rapacity and corruption. So strong a similitude was there between his conduct and that of Domi'tian, that a reader might imagine he was going over the history of the same reign. 3. He spent the day in feasting, and the night in the most abominable wickedness. He would sometimes go about the markets in a frolic, with small wares, as a petty chapman; sometimes he affected to be a horse-courser; at other times he drove his own chariot, in a slave's habit. Those he promoted resembled himself, being the companions of his pleasures, or the ministers of his cruelties.

4. If any person desired to be revenged on an enemy, by bargaining with Com'modus for a sum of money, he was permitted to destroy him in any manner he thought proper. He commanded a person to be cast to the wild beasts for reading the life of Calig'ula in Sueto'nius. He ordered another to be thrown into a burning furnace, for accidentally overheating his bath. He would sometimes, when he was in a pleasant humour, cut off men's noses, under pretence of shaving their beards; and yet he was himself so jealous of all mankind, that he thought it necessary to be his own barber.

5. At length, upon the feast of Janus, resolving to fence before the people, as a common gladiator, three of his friends remonstrated with him upon the indecency of such behaviour: these were Læ'tus, his general; Elec'tus, his chamberlain; and Mar'cia, of whom he always appeared excessively fond. 6. Their advice was attended with no other effect than that of exciting him to resolve upon their destruction. 7. It was his method, like that of Domi'tian, to set down the names of all such as he intended to put to death in a roll, which he carefully kept by him. However, at this time, happening to lay the roll on his bed, while he was bathing a another room, it was taken up by a little boy whom he passionately loved. The child, after playing with it some time brought it to Mar'cia, who was instantly alarmed at the contents. 8. She immediately discovered her terror to Læ'tus and Elec'tus, who, perceiving their dangerous situation, instantly resolved upon the tyrant's death. 9. After some deliberation, it was agreed to dispatch him by poison; but this not succeeding, Mar'cia hastily introduced a young man, called Narcis'sus, whom she prevailed upon to assist in strangling the tyrant. Com'modus died in the thirty-first year of his age, after an impious reign of twelve years and nine months.

[Sidenote: U.C. 945. A.D. 192.]

10. Such were the secrecy and expedition with which Com'modus was assassinated, that few were acquainted with the real circumstances of his death. His body was wrapt up as a bale of useless furniture, and carried through the guards, most of whom were either drunk or asleep.

11. Hel'vius Per'tinax, whose virtues and courage rendered him worthy of the most exalted station, and who had passed through many changes of fortune, had been previously fixed upon to succeed him. When, therefore, the conspirators repaired to his house, to salute him emperor, he considered it as a command from the emperor Com'modus for his death. 12. Upon Læ'tus entering his apartment, Per'tinax, without any show of fear, cried out, that for many days he had expected to end his life in that manner, wondering that the emperor had deferred it so long. He was not a little surprised when informed of the real cause of their visit; and being strongly urged to accept of the empire, he at last complied. 13. Being carried to the camp, Per'tinax was proclaimed emperor, and soon after was acknowledged by the senate and citizens. They then pronounced Com'modus a parricide, an enemy to the gods, his country, and all mankind; and commanded that his corpse should rot upon a heap of dirt. 14. In the mean time they saluted Per'tinax as emperor and Cæsar, with numerous acclamations, and cheerfully took the oaths of obedience. The provinces soon after followed the example of Rome; so that he began his reign with universal satisfaction to the whole empire, in the sixty-eighth year of his age.

15. Nothing could exceed the justice and wisdom of this monarch's reign, during the short time it continued. But the prætorian soldiers, whose manners he attempted to reform, having been long corrupted by the indulgence and profusion of their former monarch, began to hate him for his parsimony, and the discipline he had introduced among them. 16. They therefore resolved to dethrone him; and accordingly, in a tumultuous manner, marched through the streets of Rome, entered his palace without opposition, where a Tungrian soldier struck him dead with a blow of his lance. 17. From the number of his adventures he was called the tennis-ball of fortune; and certainly no man ever went through such a variety of situations with so blameless a character. He reigned but three months.

[Sidenote: U.C. 954. A.D. 201]

18. The soldiers having committed this outrage, made proclamation, that they would sell the empire to whoever would purchase it at the highest price. 19. In consequence of this proclamation, two bidders were found, namely, Sulpicia'nus and Did'ius. The former a consular person, prefect of the city, and son-in-law to the late emperor Per'tinax. The latter a consular person likewise, a great lawyer, and the wealthiest man in the city. 20. Sulpicia'nus had rather promises than treasure to bestow. The offers of Did'ius, who produced immense sums of ready money, prevailed. He was received into the camp, and the soldiers instantly swore to obey him as emperor. 21. Upon being conducted to the senate-house, he addressed the few that were present in a laconic speech, "Fathers, you want an emperor, and I am the fittest person you can choose." The choice of the soldiers was confirmed by the senate, and Did'ius was acknowledged emperor, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. 22. It should seem, by this weak monarch's conduct when seated on the throne, that he thought the government of an empire rather a pleasure than a toil. Instead of attempting to gain the hearts of his subjects, he gave himself up to ease and inactivity, utterly regardless of the duties of his station. He was mild and gentle indeed, neither injuring any, nor expecting to be injured. 23. But that avarice by which he became opulent, still followed him in his exaltation; so that the very soldiers who elected him soon began to detest him, for qualities so opposite to a military character. 24. The people also, against whose consent he was chosen, were not less his enemies. Whenever he issued from his palace, they openly poured forth their imprecations against him, crying out, that he was a thief, and had stolen the empire. 25. Did'ius, however, patiently bore all their reproach, and testified his regard by every kind of submission. 26. Soon after Seve'rus, an African by birth, being proclaimed by his army, began his reign by promising to revenge the death of Per'tinax.

27. Did'ius upon being informed of his approach towards Rome, obtained the consent of the senate to send him ambassadors, offering to make him a partner in the empire. 28. But Seve'rus rejected this offer, conscious of his own strength, and of the weakness of the proposer. The senate appeared to be of the same sentiment; and perceiving the timidity and weakness of their present master, abandoned him. 29. Being called together, as was formerly practised in the times of the commonwealth, by the consuls, they unanimously decreed, that Did'ius should be deprived of the empire, and that Severus should be proclaimed in his stead. They then commanded Did'ius to be slain, and sent messengers for this purpose to the palace, who, having found him, with a few friends that still adhered to his interest, they struck off his head.


Questions for Examination.

1. Did Commodus succeed peaceably?

2. Did he imitate his father's virtues?

3. Mention some of his follies?

4. Mention some of his wanton cruelties?

5. Who remonstrated with him on this conduct?

6. What effect did this remonstrance produce?

7. How was this discovered?

8. What was the consequence?

9. How was it affected?

10. Were the circumstances of his death generally known?

11. Who succeeded him?

12. Did Pertinax discover any signs of fear?

13. What ensued on his compliance?

14. Was he acceptable to the Roman people?

15. How did he govern?

16. What was the consequence?

17. By what appellation was he distinguished, and why?

18. How was the imperial purple next disposed of?

19. Who were the candidates?

20. Who was the successful candidate?

21. Was he acknowledged by the senate?

22. What was his conduct as emperor?

23. What gained him the hatred of the soldiers?

24. Was he a favourite of the people?

25. How did Didius bear this?

26. What new competitor for the throne appeared?

27. How did Didius act on this occasion?

28. Was his offer accepted?

29. What was the event?




There's nought so monstrous but the mind of man, In some conditions, may be brought to approve; Theft, sacrilege, treason, and parricide, When flattering opportunity enticed, And desperation drove, have been committed By those who once would start to hear them named.--Lillo.


1. Seve'rus having overcome Niger, A.D. 194, and Albinus, A.D. 198, who were his competitors for the empire, assumed the reins of government, uniting great vigour with the most refined policy; yet his African cunning was considered as a singular defect in him. 2. He is celebrated for his wit, learning, and prudence; but execrated for his perfidy and cruelty. In short, he seemed equally capable of the greatest acts of virtue, and the most bloody severities. 3. He loaded his soldiers with rewards and honours, giving them such privileges as strengthened his own power, while they destroyed that of the senate; for the soldiers, who had hitherto showed the strongest inclination to an abuse of power, were now made arbiters of the fate of emperors. 4. Being thus secure of his army he resolved to give way to his natural desire of conquest, and to turn his arms against the Parthians, who were then invading the frontiers of the empire. 5. Having, therefore, previously given the government of domestic policy to one Plau'tian, a favourite, to whose daughter he married his son Caracal'la, he set out for the east, and prosecuted the war with his usual expedition and success. 6. He compelled submission from the king of Arme'nia, destroyed several cities of Ara'bia Felix, landed on the Parthian coast, took and plundered the famous city of Ctes'iphon, marched back through Pal'estine and Egypt, and at length returned to Rome in triumph. 7. During this interval, Plau'tian, who was left to direct the affairs of Rome, began to think of aspiring to the empire himself. Upon the emperor's return, he employed a tribune of the prætorian cohorts, of which he was commander, to assassinate him, and his son Caracal'la. 8. The tribune informed Seve'rus of his favourite's treachery. He at first received the intelligence as an improbable story, and as the artifices of one who envied his favourite's fortune. However, he was at last persuaded to permit the tribune to conduct Plau'tian to the emperor's apartments to be a testimony against himself. 9. With this intent the tribune went and amused him with a pretended account of his killing the emperor and his son; desiring him, if he thought fit to see them dead, to go with him to the palace. 10. As Plau'tian ardently desired their death, he readily gave credit to the relation, and, following the tribune, was conducted at midnight into the innermost apartments of the palace. But what must have been his surprise and disappointment, when, instead of finding the emperor lying dead, as he expected, he beheld the room lighted up with torches, and Seve'rus surrounded by his friends, prepared in array to receive him. 11. Being asked by the emperor, with a stern countenance, what had brought him there at that unseasonable time, he ingenuously confessed the whole, entreating forgiveness for what he had intended. 12. The emperor seemed inclined to pardon; but Caracal'la, his son, who from the earliest age showed a disposition to cruelty, ran him through the body with his sword. 13. After this, Seve'rus spent a considerable time in visiting some cities in Italy, permitting none of his officers to sell places of trust or dignity, and distributing justice with the strictest impartiality. He then undertook an expedition into Britain, where the Romans were in danger of being destroyed, or compelled to fly the province. After appointing his two sons, Caracal'la and Ge'ta, joint successors in the empire, and taking them with him, he landed in Britain, A.D. 208, to the great terror of such as had drawn down his resentment. 14. Upon his progress into the country, he left his son Ge'ta in the southern part of the province, which had continued in obedience, and marched, with his son Caracal'la, against the Caledo'nians. 15. In this expedition, his army suffered prodigious hardships in pursuing the enemy; they were obliged to hew their way through intricate forests, to drain extensive marshes, and form bridges over rapid rivers; so that he lost fifty thousand men by fatigue and sickness. 16. However, he surmounted these inconveniences with unremitting bravery, and prosecuted his successes with such vigour, that he compelled the enemy to beg for peace; which they did not obtain without the surrender of a considerable part of their country. 17. It was then that, for its better security, he built the famous wall, which still goes by his name, extending from Solway Frith on the west, to the German Ocean on the east. He did not long survive his successes here, but died at York, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, after an active, though cruel reign of about eighteen years.

[Sidenote: U.C.964 A.D.211]

18. Caracal'la and Ge'ta, his sons, being acknowledged as emperors by the army, began to show a mutual hatred to each other, even before their arrival at Rome. But this opposition was of no long continuance; for Caracal'la, being resolved to govern alone, furiously entered Ge'ta's apartment, and, followed by ruffians, slew him in his mother's arms. 19. Being thus sole emperor, he went on to mark his course with blood. Whatever was done by Domi'tian or Ne'ro, fell short of this monster's barbarities.[2]

20. His tyrannies at length excited the resentment of Macri'nus, the commander of the forces in Mesopota'mia who employed one Mar'tial, a man of great strength, and a centurion of the guards, to dispatch him. 21. Accordingly, as the emperor was riding out one day, near a little city called Carræ, he happened to withdraw himself privately, upon a natural occasion, with only one page to hold his horse. This was the opportunity Mar'tial had so long and ardently desired: when, running to him hastily, as if he had been called, he stabbed the emperor in the back, and killed him instantly. 22. Having performed this hardy attempt, he, with apparent unconcern, returned to his troop; but, retiring by insensible degrees, he endeavoured to secure himself by flight. His companions, however, soon missing him, and the page giving information of what had been done, he was pursued by the German horse, and cut in pieces.

23. During the reign of this execrable tyrant, which continued six years, the empire was every day declining; the soldiers were entirely masters of every election; and as there were various armies in different parts, so there were as many interests opposed to each other.

[Sidenote: U.C.970 A.D.217]

24. The soldiers, after remaining without an emperor two days, fixed upon Macri'nus, who took all possible methods to conceal his being privy to Caracal'la's murder. The senate confirmed their choice shortly after; and likewise that of his son, Diadumenia'nus, whom he took as partner in the empire. 25. Macri'nus was fifty-three years old when he entered upon the government. He was of obscure parentage; some say by birth a Moor, who, by the mere gradation of office, being made first prefect of the prætorian bands, was now, by treason and accident, called to fill the throne.

26. He was opposed by the intrigues of Mosa, and her grandson Heliogaba'lus; and being conquered by some seditious legions of his own army, he fled to Chalcedon,[3] where those who were sent in pursuit overtook him, and put him to death, together with his son Diadumenia'nus, after a short reign of one year and two months.

[Sidenote: U.C.971 A.D.218]

27. The senate and citizens of Rome being obliged to submit, as usual, to the appointment of the army, Heliogaba'lus ascended the throne at the age of fourteen. His short life was a mixture of effeminacy, lust, and extravagance. 28. He married six wives in the short space of four years, and divorced them all. He was so fond of the sex, that he carried his mother with him to the senate-house, and demanded that she should always be present when matters of importance were debated. He even went so far as to build a senate-house for women, appointing them suitable orders, habits and distinctions, of which his mother was made president. 29. They met several times; all their debates turned upon the fashions of the day, and the different formalities to be used at giving and receiving visits. To these follies he added cruelty and boundless prodigality; he used to say, that such dishes as were cheaply obtained were scarcely worth eating.

30. However, his soldiers mutinying, as was now usual with them, they followed him to his palace, pursuing him from apartment to apartment, till at last he was found concealed in a closet. Having dragged him from thence through the streets, with the most bitter invectives, and dispatched him, they attempted once more to squeeze his pampered body into a closet; but not easily effecting this, they threw it into the Tiber, with heavy weights, that none might afterwards find it, or give it burial. This was the ignominious death of Heliogaba'lus, in the eighteenth year of his age, after a detestable reign of four years.


Questions for Examination.

1. Who succeeded Didius Julianus?

2. What was the character of Severus?

3. By what means did he strengthen his power?

4. What were his first acts?

5. To whom did he commit the government in his absence?

6. What were his exploits?

7. How did Plautian conduct himself in this important post?

8. How was this treachery discovered?

9. How was this effected?

10. Did Plautian fall into the snare?

11. How did he act on the occasion?

12. Was he pardoned?

13. How did Severus next employ himself?

14. What were his first measures in Britain?

15. Was it a difficult campaign?

16. Did he overcome these difficulties?

17. What famous work did he execute, and where did he die?

18. Who succeeded him, and how did the two emperors regard each other?

19. What was the conduct of Caracalla on thus becoming sole emperor?

20. Were these cruelties tamely suffered?

21. How was this effected?

22. Did the assassin escape?

23. What was the state of the empire during this reign?

24. Who succeeded Caracalla?

25. Who was Macrinus?

26. By whom was he opposed, and what was his fate?

27. How did Heliogabalus govern?

28. Give a few instances of his folly?

29. Did they enter into his views, and of what farther follies and vices was he guilty?

30. What was his end?




I know that there are angry spirits And turbulent mutterers of stifled treason, Who lurk in narrow places, and walk out Muffled, to whisper curses in the night; Disbanded soldiers, discontented ruffians, And desperate libertines who brawl in taverns.--Byron.


[Sidenote: U.C. 975 A.D. 222]

1. Heliogaba'lus was succeeded by Alexander, his cousin-german,[4] who, being declared emperor without opposition, the senate, with their usual adulation, were for conferring new titles upon him; but he modestly declined them all. 2. To the most rigid justice he added the greatest humanity. He loved the good, and was a severe reprover of the lewd and infamous. His accomplishments were equal to his virtues. He was an excellent mathematician, geometrician, and musician; he was equally skilful in painting and sculpture; and in poetry few of his time could equal him. In short, such were his talents, and such the solidity of his judgment, that though but sixteen years of age, he was considered equal in wisdom to a sage old man.

3. About the thirteenth year of his reign the Upper Germans, and other northern nations, began to pour down in immense swarms upon the more southern parts of the empire. They passed the Rhine and the Danube with such fury, that all Italy was thrown into the most extreme consternation. 4. The emperor, ever ready to expose his person for the safety of his people, made what levies he could, and went in person to stem the torrent, which he speedily effected. It was in the course of his successes against the enemy that he was cut off by a mutiny among his own soldiers. He died in the twenty-ninth year of his age, after a prosperous reign of thirteen years and nine days.

[Sidenote: U.C.988 A.D.235]

5. The tumults occasioned by the death of Alexander being appeased, Max'imin, who had been the chief promoter of the sedition, was chosen emperor. 6. This extraordinary man, whose character deserves a particular attention, was born of very obscure parentage, being the son of a poor herdsman of Thrace. He followed his father's humble profession, and had exercised his personal courage against the robbers who infested that part of the country in which he lived. Soon after, his ambition increasing, he left his poor employment and enlisted in the Roman army, where he soon became remarkable for his great strength, discipline, and courage. 7. This gigantic man, we are told, was eight feet and a half high; he had strength corresponding to his size, being not more remarkable for the magnitude than the symmetry of his person. His wife's bracelet usually served him for a thumb ring, and his strength was so great that he was able to draw a carriage which two oxen could not move. He could strike out the teeth of a horse with a blow of his fist, and break its thigh with a kick. 8. His diet was as extraordinary as his endowments: he generally ate forty pounds weight of flesh every day, and drank six gallons of wine, without committing any debauch in either. 9. With a frame so athletic, he was possessed of a mind undaunted in danger, neither fearing nor regarding any man. 10. The first time he was made known to the emperor Seve'rus, was while he was celebrating games on the birth day of his son Ge'ta. He overcame sixteen in running, one after the other; he then kept up with the emperor on horseback, and having fatigued him in the course, he was opposed to seven of the most active soldiers, and overcame them with the greatest ease. 11. These extraordinary exploits caused him to be particularly noticed; he had been taken into the emperor's body guard, and by the usual gradation of preferment came to be chief commander. In this situation he had been equally remarkable for his simplicity, discipline, and virtue; but, upon coming to the empire, he was found to be one of the greatest monsters of cruelty that had ever disgraced power; fearful of nothing himself, he seemed to sport with the terrors of all mankind.

12. However, his cruelties did not retard his military operations, which were carried on with a spirit becoming a better monarch. He overthrew the Germans in several battles, wasted all their country with fire and sword for four hundred miles together, and formed a resolution of subduing all the northern nations, as far as the ocean. 13. In these expeditions, in order to attach the soldiers more firmly to him, he increased their pay; and in every duty of the camp he himself took as much pains as the meanest sentinel in his army, showing incredible courage and assiduity. In every engagement, where the conflict was hottest, Max'imin was seen fighting in person, and destroying all before him; for, being bred a barbarian, he considered it his duty to combat as a common soldier, while he commanded as a general.

14. In the mean time his cruelties had so alienated the minds of his subjects, that secret conspiracies were secretly aimed against him. None of them, however, succeeded, till at last his own soldiers, long harassed by famine and fatigue, and hearing of revolts on every side, resolved to terminate their calamities by the tyrant's death. 15. His great strength, and his being always armed, at first deterred them from assassinating him; but at length the soldiers, having made his guards accomplices in their designs, set upon him while he slept at noon in his tent, and without opposition slew both him and his son, whom he had made his partner in the empire. 16. Thus died this most remarkable man, after an usurpation of about three years, in the sixty-fifth year of his age. His assiduity when in a humble station, and his cruelty when in power, serve to evince, that there are some men whose virtues are fitted for obscurity, as there are others who only show themselves great when placed in an exalted station.

[Sidenote: U.C. 991. A.D. 238.]

17. The tyrant being dead, and his body thrown to dogs and birds of prey, Pupie'nus and Balbie'nus, who had usurped the imperial purple, continued for some time emperors, without opposition. 18. But, differing between themselves, the prætorian soldiers, who were the enemies of both, set upon them in their palace, at a time when their guards were amused with seeing the Capit'oline games; and dragging them from the palace towards the camp, slew them both, leaving their dead bodies in the street, as a dreadful instance of unsuccessful ambition.

[Sidenote: U.C. 991. A.D. 238.]

19. In the midst of this sedition, as the mutineers were proceeding along, they by accident met Gor'dian, the grandson of him who was slain in Africa: him they declared emperor on the spot. 20. This prince was but sixteen years old when he began to reign, but his virtues seemed to compensate for his want of experience. His principal aims were to unite the opposing members of government, and to reconcile the soldiers and citizens to each other. 21. The army, however, began as usual to murmur; and their complaints were artfully fomented by Philip, an Arabian, who was prætorian prefect, and aspired to the sovereignty. Things thus proceeded from bad to worse. 22. Philip was at first made equal to Gor'dian in the command of the empire; shortly after he was invested with the sole power; and at length, finding himself capable of perpetrating his long meditated cruelty, Gor'dian was by his order slain, in the twenty-second year of his age, after a successful reign of nearly six years.


Questions for Examination.

1. Who succeeded Heliogabalus?

2. What was his character?

3. Was his reign peaceable?

4. How did Alexander act on the occasion?

5. Who succeeded Alexander?

6. Who was Maximin?

7. Describe his person.

8. What farther distinguished him?

9. Was his mind proportioned to his body?

10. How did he attract the notice of Severus?

11. By what means did he attain rank in the army?

12. Was he equally a terror to his foreign enemies?

13. By what means did he gain the confidence of his soldiers?

14. What effect had his cruelties on the minds of his subjects?

15. How did they accomplish their purpose?

16. How long did he reign, and what inference may be drawn from his conduct?

17. Who next mounted the imperial throne?

18. What was their end?

19. Who succeeded Pupienus and Balbienus?

20. What were the character and views of this prince?

21. Was his administration approved of by all?

22. Did Philip accomplish his ambitious design?


SECTION IV. U.C. 996.--A.D. 243.


What rein can hold licentious wickedness, When down the hill he holds his fierce career--Shakspeare.


1. Philip having thus murdered his benefactor, was so fortunate as to be immediately acknowledged emperor by the army. Upon his exaltation he associated his son, a boy of six years of age, as his partner in the empire; and, in order to secure his power at home, made peace with the Persians, and marched his army towards Rome. 2. However, the army revolting in favour of De'cius, his general, and setting violently upon him, one of his sentinels at a blow cut off his head, or rather cleft it asunder, separating the under jaw from the upper. He died in the forty-fifth year of his age, after a short reign of about five years.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1001. A.D. 248.]

3. De'cius was universally acknowledged as his successor. His activity and wisdom seemed, in some measure, to stop the hastening decline of the Roman empire. The senate seemed to think so highly of his merits, that they voted him not inferior to Tra'jan; and indeed he appeared in every instance to consult their dignity, and the welfare of all the inferior ranks of people. 4. But no virtues could now prevent the approaching downfall of the state; the obstinate disputes between the Pagans and the Christians within the empire, and the unceasing irruptions of barbarous nations from without, enfeebled it beyond the power of remedy. 5. He was killed in an ambuscade of the enemy, in the fiftieth year of his age, after a short reign of two years and six months.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1004. A.D. 251.]

6. Gal'lus, who had betrayed the Roman army, had address enough to get himself declared emperor by that part of it which survived the defeat; he was forty-five years old when he began to reign, and was descended from an honourable family in Rome. 7. He was the first who bought a dishonourable peace from the enemies of the state, agreeing to pay a considerable annual tribute to the Goths, whom it was his duty to repress. He was regardless of every national calamity, and was lost in debauchery and sensuality. The Pagans were allowed a power of persecuting the Christians through all parts of the state. 8. These calamities were succeeded by a pestilence from heaven, that seemed to have spread over every part of the earth, and continued raging for several years, in an unheard-of manner; as well as by a civil war, which followed shortly after between Gallus and his general Æmilia'nus, who, having gained a victory over the Goths, was proclaimed emperor by his conquering army. 9. Gallus hearing this, soon roused from the intoxications of pleasure, and prepared to oppose his dangerous rival: but both he and his son were slain by Æmilia'nus, in a battle fought in Mossia. His death was merited, and his vices were such as to deserve the detestation of posterity. He died in the forty-seventh year of his age, after an unhappy reign of two years and four months, in which the empire suffered inexpressible calamities.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1006. A.D. 253.]

10. The senate refused to acknowledge the claims of Æmilia'nus; and an army that was stationed near the Alps chose Vale'rian, who was their commander, to succeed to the throne. 11. He set about reforming the state with a spirit that seemed to mark a good and vigorous mind. But reformation was now grown almost impracticable. 12. The Persians under their king Sapor, invading Syr'ia, took the unfortunate Vale'rian prisoner, as he was making preparations to oppose them; and the indignities as well as the cruelties, which were practised upon this unhappy monarch, thus fallen into the hands of his enemies, are almost incredible. 13. Sapor, we are told, used him as a footstool for mounting his horse; he added the bitterness of ridicule to his insults, and usually observed, that an attitude like that to which Vale'rian was reduced, was the best statue that could be erected in honour of his victory. 14. This horrid life of insult and sufferance continued for seven years; and was at length terminated by the cruel Persian commanding his prisoner's eyes to be plucked out, and afterwards causing him to be flayed alive.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1012. A.D. 259.]

15. When Vale'rian was taken prisoner, Galie'nus, his son, promising to revenge the insult, was chosen emperor, being then about forty-one years old. However, it was soon discovered that he sought rather the splendours than the toils of empire; for, after having overthrown Ingen'uus, who had assumed the title of emperor, he sat down, as if fatigued with conquest, and gave himself up to ease and luxury. 16. At this time, no less than thirty pretenders were seen contending with each other for the dominion of the state, and adding the calamities of civil war to the rest of the misfortunes of this devoted empire. These are usually mentioned in history by the name of the thirty tyrants. 17. In this general calamity, Galie'nus, though at first seemingly insensible, was at length obliged for his own security to take the field, and led an army to besiege the city of Milan, which had been taken by one of the thirty usurping tyrants. In this expedition he was slain by his own soldiers: Mar'tian, one of his generals, having conspired against him.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1021. A.D. 268.]

18. Fla'vius Clau'dius being nominated to succeed, was joyfully accepted by all orders of the state, and his title confirmed by the senate and the people. 19. He was a man of great valour and conduct, having performed the most excellent services against the Goths, who had long continued to make irruptions into the empire; but, after a great victory over that barbarous people, he was seized with a pestilential fever at Ser'mium in Panno'nia, of which he died, to the great regret of his subjects, and the irreparable loss of the Roman empire.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1023. A.D. 270.]

20. Upon the death of Clau'dius, Aure'lian was acknowledged by all the states of the empire, and assumed the command with a greater share of power than his predecessors had enjoyed for a long time before. 21. This active monarch was of mean and obscure parentage in Da'cia, and about fifty-five years old at the time of his coming to the throne. He had spent the early part of his life in the army, and had risen through all the gradations of military rank. He was of unshaken courage and amazing strength. He, in one engagement, killed forty of the enemy with his own hand; and at different times above nine hundred. In short, his valour and expedition were such, that he was compared to Julius Cæsar; and, in fact, only wanted mildness and clemency to be every way his equal. 22. Among those who were compelled to submit to his power, was the famous Zeno'bia, queen of Palmy'ra. He subdued her country, destroyed her city, and took her prisoner. Longi'nus, the celebrated critic, who was secretary to the queen, was by Aure'lian's order put to death. Zeno'bia was reserved to grace his triumph; and afterwards was allotted such lands, and such an income, as served to maintain her in almost her former splendour. 23. But the emperor's severities were at last the cause of his own destruction. Mnes'theus, his principal secretary, having been threatened by him for some fault which he had committed, formed a conspiracy against him, and as the emperor passed, with a small guard, from Ura'clea, in Thrace, towards Byzan'tium, the conspirators set upon him at once and slew him, in the sixtieth year of his age, after a very active reign of almost five years.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1028. A.D. 275.]

24. After some time the senate made choice of Ta'citus, a man of great merit, and no way ambitious of the honours that were offered him, being at that time seventy-five years old. 25. A reign begun with much moderation and justice, only wanted continuance to have made his subjects happy: but after enjoying the empire about six months, he died of a fever in his march to oppose the Persians and Scyth'ians, who had invaded the eastern parts of the empire. 26. During this short period the senate seemed to have possessed a large share of authority, and the histories of the times are liberal of their praises to such emperors as were thus willing to divide their power.

27. Upon the death of Ta'citus, his half-brother took upon himself the title of emperor, in Cile'sia: but being twice defeated by Pro'bus, he killed himself in despair, when the whole army, as if by common consent, cried out that Pro'bus should be emperor. 28. He was then forty-four years old; was born of noble parentage, and bred a soldier. He began early to distinguish himself for his discipline and valour: being frequently the first man that scaled the walls, or that burst into the enemy's camp. He was equally remarkable for single combat, and for having saved the lives of many eminent citizens. Nor were his activity and courage when elected to the empire less apparent than in his private station. 29. Every year now produced new calamities to the state; and fresh irruptions on every side threatened universal desolation. Perhaps at this time no abilities, except those of Pro'bus, were capable of opposing such united invasions. 30. However, in the end, his own mutinous soldiers, taking their opportunity, as he was marching into Greece, seized and slew him, after he had reigned six years and four months with general approbation. He was succeeded by Ca'rus.


Questions for Examination.

1. Did Philip succeed without opposition?

2. Was his reign of long duration?

3. What was the character of Decius?

4. Did he restore the empire to its former grandeur?

5. What was his end?

6. Who succeeded him?

7. What was his character?

8. What farther calamities distinguished this reign?

9. What effect had this news on Gallus?

10. Who succeeded Gallus?

11. What were his first acts and their effects?

12. What disaster befel him?

13. How was he treated in captivity?

14. Did he long survive this cruelty?

15. Who succeeded him?

16. Was Galienus the only pretender to the throne?

17. What measures did Galienus adopt on this?

18. Who succeeded Galienus?

19. What were his character and end?

20. Who succeeded Claudius?

21. Who was Aurelian?

22. Over whom did he triumph?

23. What occasioned his destruction?

24. Who succeeded Aurelian?

25. Did he govern well?

26. What distinguished his reign?

27. Who succeeded Tacitus?

28. What were the qualifications of Probus?

29. What was the state of the empire at this time?

30. What was the end of Probus?



U.C. 1035.--A.D. 282.


Forbid it, gods! when barbarous Scythians come From their cold north to prop declining Rome. That I should see her fall, and sit secure at home.--Lucan.


1. Ca'rus, who was prætorian prefect to the deceased emperor, was chosen by the army to succeed him; and he, to strengthen his authority, united his two sons, Cari'nus and Nume'rian, with him in command; the elder of whom was as much sullied by his vices, as the younger was remarkable for his virtues, his modesty, and courage.

2. The next object of Ca'rus was to punish the murderers of Pro'bus, and procure public tranquillity. Several nations of the west having revolted, he sent his son Cari'nus against them, and advanced himself against the Sarma'tians, whom he defeated, with the loss of sixteen thousand men killed, and twenty thousand prisoners. Soon after this he entered Persia, and removed to Mesopota'mia. Vera'nes the second, king of Persia, advancing against him, was defeated, and lost Ctes'iphon, his capital. This conquest gained Ca'rus the surname of Per'sieus; but he had not enjoyed it long, when he was struck dead, by lightning, in his tent, with many of his attendants, after a reign of about sixteen months. Upon the death of Ca'rus, the imperial power devolved on his sons Cari'nus and Nume'rian, who reigned jointly. In the first year of their accession, having made peace with the Persians, Cari'nus advanced against Ju'lian, who had caused himself to be proclaimed in Vene'tia,[5] and whom he defeated; when he returned again into Gaul.

3. Cari'nus was at this time in Gaul, but Nume'rian, the younger son, who accompanied his father in his expedition was inconsolable for his death, and brought such a disorder upon his eyes, with weeping, that he was obliged to be carried along with the army, shut up in a close litter. 4. The peculiarity of his situation, after some time, excited the ambition of A'per, his father-in-law, who supposed that he could now, without any great danger, aim at the empire himself. He therefore hired a mercenary villain to murder the emperor in his litter; and, the better to conceal the fact, gave out that he was still alive, but unable to endure the light. 5. The offensive smell, however, of the body, at length discovered the treachery, and excited an universal uproar throughout the whole army. 6. In the midst of this tumult, Diocle'sian, one of the most noted commanders of his time, was chosen emperor, and with his own hand slew A'per, having thus, as it is said, fulfilled a prophecy, that Diocle'sian should be emperor after he had slain a boar.[6]

[Sidenote: U.C. 1057. A.D. 284.]

7. Diocle'sian was a person of mean birth; he received his name from Dio'clea, the town in which he was born, and was about forty years old when he was elected to the empire. He owed his exaltation entirely to his merit; having passed through all the gradations of office with sagacity, courage, and success.

8. In his time, the northern hive, as it was called poured down its swarms of barbarians upon the Roman empire. Ever at war with the Romans, they issued forth whenever that army that was to repress their invasions was called away; and upon its return, they as suddenly withdrew into their cold, barren, and inaccessible retreats, which themselves alone could endure. 9. In this manner the Scyth'ians, Goths, Sarma'tians, Ala'ni, Car'sii, and Qua'di, came down in incredible numbers, while every defeat seemed but to increase their strength and perseverance. 10. After gaining many victories over these, and in the midst of his triumphs, Diocle'sian and Maxim'ian, his partners in the empire, surprised the world by resigning their dignities on the same day, and both retiring into private stations. 11. In this manner Diocle'sian lived some time, and at length died either by poison or madness, but by which of them is uncertain. His reign of twenty years was active and useful; and his authority, which was tinctured with severity, was adapted to the depraved state of morals at that time.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1057. A.D. 304.]

12. Upon the resignation of the two emperors, the two Cæsars, whom they had before chosen, were universally acknowledged as their successors, namely, Constan'tius Chlo'rus, so called from the paleness of his complexion, a man virtuous, valiant, and merciful; and Gele'rius, who was brave, but brutal, incontinent and cruel. 13. As there was such a disparity in their tempers, they readily agreed, upon coming into full power, to divide the empire. Constan'tius was appointed to govern the western parts, and died at York, in Britain, A.D. 396, appointing Con'stantine, his son, as his successor. Gale'rius was seized with a very extraordinary disorder, which baffled the skill of his physicians, and carried him off.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1064. A.D. 311.]

14. Con'stantine, afterwards surnamed the Great, had some competitors at first for the throne.--Among the rest was Maxen'tius, who was at that time in possession of Rome, and a stedfast assertor of Paganism. 15. It was in Constantine's march against that usurper, we are told, that he was converted to Christianity, by a very extraordinary appearance. 16. One evening, the army being on its march towards Rome, Constantine was intent on various considerations upon the fate of sublunary things, and the dangers of his approaching expedition. Sensible of his own incapacity to succeed without divine assistance, he employed his meditations upon the opinions that were then agitated among mankind, and sent up his ejaculations to heaven to inspire him with wisdom to choose the path he should pursue. As the sun was declining, there suddenly appeared a pillar of light in the heavens, in the fashion of a cross, with this inscription, EN TOTTO NIKA, IN THIS OVERCOME. 17. So extraordinary an appearance did not fail to create astonishment, both in the emperor and his whole army, who reflected on it as their various dispositions led them to believe. Those who were attached to Paganism, prompted by their aruspices, pronounced it to be a most inauspicious omen, portending the most unfortunate events; but it made a different impression on the emperor's mind; who, as the account goes, was farther encouraged by visions the same night. 18. He, therefore, the day following, caused a royal standard to be made, like that which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded it to be carried before him in his wars, as an ensign of victory and celestial protection. After this he consulted with the principal teachers of Christianity, and made a public avowal of that holy religion.

19. Con'stantine having thus attached his soldiers to his interest, who were mostly of the Christian persuasion, lost no time in entering Italy, with ninety thousand foot and eight thousand horse, and soon advanced almost to the very gates of Rome. Maxen'tius advanced from the city with an army of a hundred and seventy thousand foot, and eighteen thousand horse. 20. The engagement was fierce and bloody, till the cavalry of the latter being routed, victory declared upon the side of his opponent, and he himself was drowned in his flight by the breaking down of a bridge, as he attempted to cross the Tiber.

21. In consequence of this victory, Con'stantine entered the city, but disclaimed all the praises which the senate and people were ready to offer; and ascribed his successes to a superior power. He even caused the cross, which he was said to have seen in the heavens, to be placed at the right hand of all his statues, with this inscription: "That under the influence of that Victorious Cross, Con'stantine had delivered the city from the yoke of tyrannical power, and had restored the senate, and people of Rome to their ancient authority." He afterwards ordained that no criminal should, for the future, suffer death upon the cross, which had formerly been the most usual way of punishing slaves convicted of capital offences. 22. Edicts were soon after issued, declaring that the Christians should be eased of all their grievances, and received into places of trust and authority.

23. Things continued in this state for some time. Con'tantine contributing every thing in his power to the interest of religion, and the revival of learning, which had long been upon the decline, and was almost wholly extinct in his dominions. 24. But, in the midst of these assiduities, the peace of the empire was again disturbed by the preparations of Maxim'ian, who governed in the east; and who, desirous of a full participation of power, marched against Licin'ius with a very numerous army. 25. In consequence of this step, after many conflicts, a general engagement ensued, in which Maxim'ian suffered a total defeat; many of his troops were cut to pieces, and those that survived submitted to the conqueror. Having, however, escaped the general carnage, he put himself at the head of another army, resolving to try the fortune of the field; but his death prevented the design. 26. As he died by a very extraordinary kind of madness, the Christians, of whom he was the declared enemy, did not fail to ascribe his end to a judgment from heaven. But this was the age in which false opinions and false miracles made up the bulk of every history.


Questions for Examination.

1. Who succeeded Probus?

2. Mention the actions of Carus, and the manner of his death.

3. How were his sons affected by this catastrophe?

4. What was the consequence?

5. How was this atrocious act discovered?

6. Did Aper reap the reward of his treachery?

7. Who was Dioclesian?

8. By whom was the empire now invaded?

9. Were they effectually repelled?

10. What remarkable event now occurred?

11. What was the end of Dioclesian?

12. Who succeeded Dioclesian and Maximian?

13. How did they conduct the administration?

14. Did Constantine succeed without any opposition?

15. Did not a remarkable occurrence happen about this time?

16. Repeat the particulars.

17. What effect had this appearance on the emperor and his men?

18. What orders did he issue in consequence?

19. What was the respective strength of the hostile armies?

20. What was the result of the engagement?

21. What use did Constantine make of his victory?

22. What edicts did he publish on the occasion?

23. How was Constantine employed after this?

24. Did the peace long continue?

25. What was the consequence?

26. To what was his death ascribed?




A crown? what is it? It is to bear the miseries of a people! To hear their murmurs, feel their discontents, And sink beneath a load of splendid care! To have your best success ascribed to Fortune. And Fortune's failures all ascribed to you! It is to sit upon a joyless height, To every blast of changing fate exposed! Too high for hope! too great for happiness!--H. More.


1. Con'stantine and Licin'ius thus remaining undisputed possessors of, and partners in the empire, all things promised a peaceable continuance of friendship and power. 2. However, it was soon found that the same ambition that aimed after a part, would be content with nothing less than the whole. Pagan writers ascribe the rupture between these two potentates to Con'stantine; while the Christians, on the other hand, impute it wholly to Licin'ius. 3. Both sides exerted all their power to gain the ascendancy; and at the head of very formidable armies came to an engagement near Cy'balis, in Panno'nia. 4. Con'stantine, previous to the battle, in the midst of his Christian bishops, begged the assistance of heaven; while Licin'ius, with equal zeal, called upon the Pagan priests to intercede with the gods in their favour. 5. The success was on the side of truth. Con'stantine, after experiencing an obstinate resistance, became victorious, took the enemy's camp, and after some time compelled Licin'ius to sue for a truce, which was agreed upon. 6. But this was of no long continuance; for, soon after, the war breaking out afresh, the rivals came once more to a general engagement, and it proved decisive. Licin'ius was entirely defeated, and pursued by Con'stantine into Nicome'dia, where he surrendered himself up to the victor; having first obtained an oath that his life should be spared, and that he should be permitted to pass the remainder of his days in retirement. 7. This, however, Con'stantine shortly after broke; for either fearing his designs, or finding him actually engaged in fresh conspiracies, he commanded him to be put to death, together with Mar'tian, his general, who some time before had been created Cæsar.

8. Con'stantine being thus become sole monarch, resolved to establish Christianity on so sure a basis that no new revolution should shake it. He commanded that, in all the provinces of the empire, the orders of the bishops should he implicitly obeyed. He called also a general council, in order to repress the heresies that had already crept into the church, particularly that of A'rius. 9. To this council, at which he presided in person, repaired about three hundred and eighteen bishops, besides a multitude of presbyters and deacons; who all, except about seventeen, concurred in condemning the tenets of A'rius, who, with his associates, was banished into a remote part of the empire.

10. Thus he restored universal tranquillity to his dominions, but was not able to ward off calamities of a more domestic nature. As the wretched historians of this period are entirely at variance with each other, it is not easy to explain the motives which induced him to put his wife Faus'ta, and his son Cris'pus, to death.

11. But it is supposed, that all the good he did was not equal to the evil the empire sustained by his transferring the imperial seat from Rome to Byzan'tium, or Constantino'ple, as it was afterwards called. 12. Whatever might have been the reasons which induced him to this undertaking; whether it was because he was offended at some affronts he had received at Rome, or that he supposed Constantino'ple more in the centre of the empire, or that he thought the eastern parts more required his presence, experience has shown that they were all weak and groundless. 13. The empire had long before been in a most declining state: but this, in a great measure, gave precipitation to its downfall. After this, it never resumed its former splendour, but, like a flower transplanted into a foreign clime, languished by degrees, and at length sunk into nothing.

14. At first, his design was to build a city, which he might make the capital of the world: and for this purpose he made choice of a situation at Chal'cedon, in Asia Minor; but we are told that, in laying out the ground plan, an eagle caught up the line, and flew with it over to Byzan'tium, a city which lay on the opposite side of the Bosphorus. 15. Here, therefore, it was thought expedient to fix the seat of empire; and, indeed, nature seemed to have formed it with all the conveniences, and all the beauties which might induce power to make it the seat of residence.

16. It was situated on a plain, that rose gently from the water: it commanded that strait which unites the Mediterranean with the Euxine sea, and was furnished with all the advantages which the most indulgent climate could bestow.

[Sidenote: U.C. 1084. A.D. 330.]

17. The city, therefore, he beautified with the most magnificent edifices; he divided it into fourteen regions; built a capitol, an amphitheatre, many churches, and other public works; and having thus rendered it equal to the magnificence of his first idea, he dedicated it in a very solemn manner to the God of martyrs; and in about two years after repaired thither with his whole court.

18. This removal produced no immediate alteration in the government of the empire. The inhabitants of Rome, though with reluctance, submitted to the change; nor was there, for two or three years, any disturbance in the state, until at length the Goths, finding that the Romans had withdrawn all their garrisons along the Danube, renewed their inroads, and ravaged the country with unheard-of cruelty. 19. Con'stantine, however, soon repressed their incursions, and so straitened them, that nearly a hundred thousand of their number perished by cold and hunger.

20. Another great error ascribed to him is, the dividing the empire among his sons. Con'stantine, the emperor's eldest son, commanded in Gaul and the western provinces; Constan'tius, the second, governed Africa and Illyr'icum; and Con'stans, the youngest, ruled in Italy. 21. This division of the empire still further contributed to its downfall; for the united strength of the state being no longer brought to repress invasion, the barbarians fought with superior numbers, and conquered at last, though often defeated. When Con'stantine was above sixty years old, and had reigned about thirty, he found his health decline.

22. His disorder, which was an ague, increasing, he went to Nicome'dia, where, finding himself without hopes of a recovery, he caused himself to be baptised. He soon after received the sacrament, and expired.


Questions for Examination.

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

2. Was this peace lasting, and by whom was it broken?

3. Was the contest likely to be vigorous?

4. In what way did the two emperors prepare for the conflict?

5. What was the result?

6. Was this truce religiously observed?

7. Did Constantine fulfil his engagement?

8. What was Constantine's resolution on becoming sole monarch, and what steps did he take?

9. By whom was it attended, and what was the result?

10. Was he happy in his domestic relations? 11. Was the removal of the seat of the empire beneficial to the state?

12. Were his reasons for doing so well grounded?

13. What was the consequence?

14. What was his original intention, and what induced him to alter it?

15. Was it a Convenient spot?

16. Describe its situation.

17. What alteration did he make, and to whom was it dedicated?

18. What was the immediate effect of this transfer?

19. Were they vigorously opposed?

20. Of what error is Constantine accused besides?

21. What was the consequence of this division?

22. Relate the particulars of his death.



[1] Com'modus was the first emperor that was born in his father's reign, and the second that succeeded his father in the empire.

[2] Being offended by the Alexan'drians, he commanded them to be put to the sword without distinction of sex, age, or condition; every house was filled with carcases, and the streets were obstructed with dead bodies; this was merely in revenge for some lampoons they had published against him.

[3] A city of Bithyn'ia, in Asia Minor, opposite to Constantinople.

[4] A Term generally applied to the children of brothers or sisters.

[5] Now called Venice.

[6] A'per signifies a boar.


Dr. Goldsmith having concluded his History too abruptly, it has been thought advisable to cancel his last Chapter, and substitute the following brief notice of the events which occurred from the death of Constantine to the final extinction of the Empire of the West.

Oliver Goldsmith