The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. II
Edward Gibbon

Part 4 out of 16

the law. The celebrated Institutes of Justinian are addressed to
the youth of his dominions, who had devoted themselves to the
study of Roman jurisprudence; and the sovereign condescends to
animate their diligence, by the assurance that their skill and
ability would in time be rewarded by an adequate share in the
government of the republic. ^119 The rudiments of this lucrative
science were taught in all the considerable cities of the east
and west; but the most famous school was that of Berytus, ^120 on
the coast of Phoenicia; which flourished above three centuries
from the time of Alexander Severus, the author perhaps of an
institution so advantageous to his native country. After a
regular course of education, which lasted five years, the
students dispersed themselves through the provinces, in search of
fortune and honors; nor could they want an inexhaustible supply
of business in a great empire already corrupted by the multiplicity
of laws, of arts, and of vices. The court of the Praetorian
praefect of the east could alone furnish employment for one
hundred and fifty advocates, sixty-four of whom were
distinguished by peculiar privileges, and two were annually
chosen, with a salary of sixty pounds of gold, to defend the
causes of the treasury. The first experiment was made of their
judicial talents, by appointing them to act occasionally as
assessors to the magistrates; from thence they were often raised
to preside in the tribunals before which they had pleaded. They
obtained the government of a province; and, by the aid of merit,
of reputation, or of favor, they ascended, by successive steps,
to the illustrious dignities of the state. ^121 In the practice
of the bar, these men had considered reason as the instrument of
dispute; they interpreted the laws according to the dictates of
private interest and the same pernicious habits might still
adhere to their characters in the public administration of the
state. The honor of a liberal profession has indeed been
vindicated by ancient and modern advocates, who have filled the
most important stations, with pure integrity and consummate
wisdom: but in the decline of Roman jurisprudence, the ordinary
promotion of lawyers was pregnant with mischief and disgrace.
The noble art, which had once been preserved as the sacred
inheritance of the patricians, was fallen into the hands of
freedmen and plebeians, ^122 who, with cunning rather than with
skill, exercised a sordid and pernicious trade. Some of them
procured admittance into families for the purpose of fomenting
differences, of encouraging suits, and of preparing a harvest of
gain for themselves or their brethren. Others, recluse in their
chambers, maintained the dignity of legal professors, by
furnishing a rich client with subtleties to confound the plainest
truths, and with arguments to color the most unjustifiable
pretensions. The splendid and popular class was composed of the
advocates, who filled the Forum with the sound of their turgid
and loquacious rhetoric. Careless of fame and of justice, they
are described, for the most part, as ignorant and rapacious
guides, who conducted their clients through a maze of expense, of
delay, and of disappointment; from whence, after a tedious series
of years, they were at length dismissed, when their patience and
fortune were almost exhausted. ^123

[Footnote 119: Summa igitur ope, et alacri studio has leges
nostras accipite; et vosmetipsos sic eruditos ostendite, ut spes
vos pulcherrima foveat; toto legitimo opere perfecto, posse etiam
nostram rempublicam in par tibus ejus vobis credendis gubernari.
Justinian in proem. Institutionum.]
[Footnote 120: The splendor of the school of Berytus, which
preserved in the east the language and jurisprudence of the
Romans, may be computed to have lasted from the third to the
middle of the sixth century Heinecc. Jur. Rom. Hist. p. 351-356.]

[Footnote 121: As in a former period I have traced the civil and
military promotion of Pertinax, I shall here insert the civil
honors of Mallius Theodorus. 1. He was distinguished by his
eloquence, while he pleaded as an advocate in the court of the
Praetorian praefect. 2. He governed one of the provinces of
Africa, either as president or consular, and deserved, by his
administration, the honor of a brass statue. 3. He was appointed
vicar, or vice-praefect, of Macedonia. 4. Quaestor. 5. Count of
the sacred largesses. 6. Praetorian praefect of the Gauls; whilst
he might yet be represented as a young man. 7. After a retreat,
perhaps a disgrace of many years, which Mallius (confounded by
some critics with the poet Manilius; see Fabricius Bibliothec.
Latin. Edit. Ernest. tom. i.c. 18, p. 501) employed in the study
of the Grecian philosophy he was named Praetorian praefect of
Italy, in the year 397. 8. While he still exercised that great
office, he was created, it the year 399, consul for the West; and
his name, on account of the infamy of his colleague, the eunuch
Eutropius, often stands alone in the Fasti. 9. In the year 408,
Mallius was appointed a second time Praetorian praefect of Italy.

Even in the venal panegyric of Claudian, we may discover the
merit of Mallius Theodorus, who, by a rare felicity, was the
intimate friend, both of Symmachus and of St. Augustin. See
Tillemont, Hist. des Emp. tom. v. p. 1110-1114.]

[Footnote 122: Mamertinus in Panegyr. Vet. xi. [x.] 20. Asterius
apud Photium, p. 1500.]

[Footnote 123: The curious passage of Ammianus, (l. xxx. c. 4,)
in which he paints the manners of contemporary lawyers, affords a
strange mixture of sound sense, false rhetoric, and extravagant
satire. Godefroy (Prolegom. ad. Cod. Theod. c. i. p. 185)
supports the historian by similar complaints and authentic facts.

In the fourth century, many camels might have been laden with
law-books. Eunapius in Vit. Aedesii, p. 72.]

III. In the system of policy introduced by Augustus, the
governors, those at least of the Imperial provinces, were
invested with the full powers of the sovereign himself.
Ministers of peace and war, the distribution of rewards and
punishments depended on them alone, and they successively
appeared on their tribunal in the robes of civil magistracy, and
in complete armor at the head of the Roman legions. ^124 The
influence of the revenue, the authority of law, and the command
of a military force, concurred to render their power supreme and
absolute; and whenever they were tempted to violate their
allegiance, the loyal province which they involved in their
rebellion was scarcely sensible of any change in its political
state. From the time of Commodus to the reign of Constantine,
near one hundred governors might be enumerated, who, with various
success, erected the standard of revolt; and though the innocent
were too often sacrificed, the guilty might be sometimes
prevented, by the suspicious cruelty of their master. ^125 To
secure his throne and the public tranquillity from these
formidable servants, Constantine resolved to divide the military
from the civil administration, and to establish, as a permanent
and professional distinction, a practice which had been adopted
only as an occasional expedient. The supreme jurisdiction
exercised by the Praetorian praefects over the armies of the
empire, was transferred to the two masters-general whom he
instituted, the one for the cavalry, the other for the infantry;
and though each of these illustrious officers was more peculiarly
responsible for the discipline of those troops which were under
his immediate inspection, they both indifferently commanded in
the field the several bodies, whether of horse or foot, which
were united in the same army. ^126 Their number was soon doubled
by the division of the east and west; and as separate generals of
the same rank and title were appointed on the four important
frontiers of the Rhine, of the Upper and the Lower Danube, and of
the Euphrates, the defence of the Roman empire was at length
committed to eight masters-general of the cavalry and infantry.
Under their orders, thirty-five military commanders were
stationed in the provinces: three in Britain, six in Gaul, one in
Spain, one in Italy, five on the Upper, and four on the Lower
Danube; in Asia, eight, three in Egypt, and four in Africa. The
titles of counts, and dukes, ^127 by which they were properly
distinguished, have obtained in modern languages so very
different a sense, that the use of them may occasion some
surprise. But it should be recollected, that the second of those
appellations is only a corruption of the Latin word, which was
indiscriminately applied to any military chief. All these
provincial generals were therefore dukes; but no more than ten
among them were dignified with the rank of counts or companions,
a title of honor, or rather of favor, which had been recently
invented in the court of Constantine. A gold belt was the ensign
which distinguished the office of the counts and dukes; and
besides their pay, they received a liberal allowance sufficient
to maintain one hundred and ninety servants, and one hundred and
fifty-eight horses. They were strictly prohibited from
interfering in any matter which related to the administration of
justice or the revenue; but the command which they exercised over
the troops of their department, was independent of the authority
of the magistrates. About the same time that Constantine gave a
legal sanction to the ecclesiastical order, he instituted in the
Roman empire the nice balance of the civil and the military
powers. The emulation, and sometimes the discord, which reigned
between two professions of opposite interests and incompatible
manners, was productive of beneficial and of pernicious
consequences. It was seldom to be expected that the general and
the civil governor of a province should either conspire for the
disturbance, or should unite for the service, of their country.
While the one delayed to offer the assistance which the other
disdained to solicit, the troops very frequently remained without
orders or without supplies; the public safety was betrayed, and
the defenceless subjects were left exposed to the fury of the
Barbarians. The divided administration which had been formed by
Constantine, relaxed the vigor of the state, while it secured the
tranquillity of the monarch.

[Footnote 124: See a very splendid example in the life of
Agricola, particularly c. 20, 21. The lieutenant of Britain was
intrusted with the same powers which Cicero, proconsul of
Cilicia, had exercised in the name of the senate and people.]

[Footnote 125: The Abbe Dubos, who has examined with accuracy
(see Hist. de la Monarchie Francoise, tom. i. p. 41-100, edit.
1742) the institutions of Augustus and of Constantine, observes,
that if Otho had been put to death the day before he executed his
conspiracy, Otho would now appear in history as innocent as

[Footnote 126: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 110. Before the end of the
reign of Constantius, the magistri militum were already increased
to four. See Velesius ad Ammian. l. xvi. c. 7.]

[Footnote 127: Though the military counts and dukes are
frequently mentioned, both in history and the codes, we must have
recourse to the Notitia for the exact knowledge of their number
and stations. For the institution, rank, privileges, &c., of the
counts in general see Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. xii. - xx., with
the commentary of Godefroy.]

The memory of Constantine has been deservedly censured for
another innovation, which corrupted military discipline and
prepared the ruin of the empire. The nineteen years which
preceded his final victory over Licinius, had been a period of
license and intestine war. The rivals who contended for the
possession of the Roman world, had withdrawn the greatest part of
their forces from the guard of the general frontier; and the
principal cities which formed the boundary of their respective
dominions were filled with soldiers, who considered their
countrymen as their most implacable enemies. After the use of
these internal garrisons had ceased with the civil war, the
conqueror wanted either wisdom or firmness to revive the severe
discipline of Diocletian, and to suppress a fatal indulgence,
which habit had endeared and almost confirmed to the military
order. From the reign of Constantine, a popular and even legal
distinction was admitted between the Palatines ^128 and the
Borderers; the troops of the court, as they were improperly
styled, and the troops of the frontier. The former, elevated by
the superiority of their pay and privileges, were permitted,
except in the extraordinary emergencies of war, to occupy their
tranquil stations in the heart of the provinces. The most
flourishing cities were oppressed by the intolerable weight of
quarters. The soldiers insensibly forgot the virtues of their
profession, and contracted only the vices of civil life. They
were either degraded by the industry of mechanic trades, or
enervated by the luxury of baths and theatres. They soon became
careless of their martial exercises, curious in their diet and
apparel; and while they inspired terror to the subjects of the
empire, they trembled at the hostile approach of the Barbarians.
^129 The chain of fortifications which Diocletian and his
colleagues had extended along the banks of the great rivers, was
no longer maintained with the same care, or defended with the
same vigilance. The numbers which still remained under the name
of the troops of the frontier, might be sufficient for the
ordinary defence; but their spirit was degraded by the
humiliating reflection, that they who were exposed to the
hardships and dangers of a perpetual warfare, were rewarded only
with about two thirds of the pay and emoluments which were
lavished on the troops of the court. Even the bands or legions
that were raised the nearest to the level of those unworthy
favorites, were in some measure disgraced by the title of honor
which they were allowed to assume. It was in vain that
Constantine repeated the most dreadful menaces of fire and sword
against the Borderers who should dare desert their colors, to
connive at the inroads of the Barbarians, or to participate in
the spoil. ^130 The mischiefs which flow from injudicious
counsels are seldom removed by the application of partial
severities; and though succeeding princes labored to restore the
strength and numbers of the frontier garrisons, the empire, till
the last moment of its dissolution, continued to languish under
the mortal wound which had been so rashly or so weakly inflicted
by the hand of Constantine.

[Footnote 128: Zosimus, l ii. p. 111. The distinction between
the two classes of Roman troops, is very darkly expressed in the
historians, the laws, and the Notitia. Consult, however, the
copious paratitlon, or abstract, which Godefroy has drawn up of
the seventh book, de Re Militari, of the Theodosian Code, l. vii.
tit. i. leg. 18, l. viii. tit. i. leg. 10.]

[Footnote 129: Ferox erat in suos miles et rapax, ignavus vero in
hostes et fractus. Ammian. l. xxii. c. 4. He observes, that
they loved downy beds and houses of marble; and that their cups
were heavier than their swords.]
[Footnote 130: Cod. Theod. l. vii. tit. i. leg. 1, tit. xii. leg.
i. See Howell's Hist. of the World, vol. ii. p. 19. That
learned historian, who is not sufficiently known, labors to
justify the character and policy of Constantine.]

The same timid policy, of dividing whatever is united, of
reducing whatever is eminent, of dreading every active power, and
of expecting that the most feeble will prove the most obedient,
seems to pervade the institutions of several princes, and
particularly those of Constantine. The martial pride of the
legions, whose victorious camps had so often been the scene of
rebellion, was nourished by the memory of their past exploits,
and the consciousness of their actual strength. As long as they
maintained their ancient establishment of six thousand men, they
subsisted, under the reign of Diocletian, each of them singly, a
visible and important object in the military history of the Roman
empire. A few years afterwards, these gigantic bodies were
shrunk to a very diminutive size; and when seven legions, with
some auxiliaries, defended the city of Amida against the
Persians, the total garrison, with the inhabitants of both sexes,
and the peasants of the deserted country, did not exceed the
number of twenty thousand persons. ^131 From this fact, and from
similar examples, there is reason to believe, that the
constitution of the legionary troops, to which they partly owed
their valor and discipline, was dissolved by Constantine; and
that the bands of Roman infantry, which still assumed the same
names and the same honors, consisted only of one thousand or
fifteen hundred men. ^132 The conspiracy of so many separate
detachments, each of which was awed by the sense of its own
weakness, could easily be checked; and the successors of
Constantine might indulge their love of ostentation, by issuing
their orders to one hundred and thirty-two legions, inscribed on
the muster-roll of their numerous armies. The remainder of their
troops was distributed into several hundred cohorts of infantry,
and squadrons of cavalry. Their arms, and titles, and ensigns,
were calculated to inspire terror, and to display the variety of
nations who marched under the Imperial standard. And not a
vestige was left of that severe simplicity, which, in the ages of
freedom and victory, had distinguished the line of battle of a
Roman army from the confused host of an Asiatic monarch. ^133 A
more particular enumeration, drawn from the Notitia, might
exercise the diligence of an antiquary; but the historian will
content himself with observing, that the number of permanent
stations or garrisons established on the frontiers of the empire,
amounted to five hundred and eighty-three; and that, under the
successors of Constantine, the complete force of the military
establishment was computed at six hundred and forty-five thousand
soldiers. ^134 An effort so prodigious surpassed the wants of a
more ancient, and the faculties of a later, period.

[Footnote 131: Ammian. l. xix. c. 2. He observes, (c. 5,) that
the desperate sallies of two Gallic legions were like a handful
of water thrown on a great conflagration.]

[Footnote 132: Pancirolus ad Notitiam, p. 96. Memoires de
l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xxv. p. 491.]

[Footnote 133: Romana acies unius prope formae erat et hominum et
armorum genere. - Regia acies varia magis multis gentibus
dissimilitudine armorum auxiliorumque erat. T. Liv. l. xxxvii.
c. 39, 40. Flaminius, even before the event, had compared the
army of Antiochus to a supper in which the flesh of one vile
animal was diversified by the skill of the cooks. See the Life
of Flaminius in Plutarch.]

[Footnote 134: Agathias, l. v. p. 157, edit. Louvre.]

In the various states of society, armies are recruited from
very different motives. Barbarians are urged by the love of war;
the citizens of a free republic may be prompted by a principle of
duty; the subjects, or at least the nobles, of a monarchy, are
animated by a sentiment of honor; but the timid and luxurious
inhabitants of a declining empire must be allured into the
service by the hopes of profit, or compelled by the dread of
punishment. The resources of the Roman treasury were exhausted
by the increase of pay, by the repetition of donatives, and by
the invention of new emolument and indulgences, which, in the
opinion of the provincial youth might compensate the hardships
and dangers of a military life. Yet, although the stature was
lowered, ^135 although slaves, least by a tacit connivance, were
indiscriminately received into the ranks, the insurmountable
difficulty of procuring a regular and adequate supply of
volunteers, obliged the emperors to adopt more effectual and
coercive methods. The lands bestowed on the veterans, as the
free reward of their valor were henceforward granted under a
condition which contain the first rudiments of the feudal
tenures; that their sons, who succeeded to the inheritance,
should devote themselves to the profession of arms, as soon as
they attained the age of manhood; and their cowardly refusal was
punished by the loss of honor, of fortune, or even of life. ^136
But as the annual growth of the sons of the veterans bore a very
small proportion to the demands of the service, levies of men
were frequently required from the provinces, and every proprietor
was obliged either to take up arms, or to procure a substitute,
or to purchase his exemption by the payment of a heavy fine. The
sum of forty-two pieces of gold, to which it was reduced
ascertains the exorbitant price of volunteers, and the reluctance
with which the government admitted of this alterative. ^137 Such
was the horror for the profession of a soldier, which had
affected the minds of the degenerate Romans, that many of the
youth of Italy and the provinces chose to cut off the fingers of
their right hand, to escape from being pressed into the service;
and this strange expedient was so commonly practised, as to
deserve the severe animadversion of the laws, ^138 and a peculiar
name in the Latin language. ^139

[Footnote 135: Valentinian (Cod. Theodos. l. vii. tit. xiii. leg.
3) fixes the standard at five feet seven inches, about five feet
four inches and a half, English measure. It had formerly been
five feet ten inches, and in the best corps, six Roman feet. Sed
tunc erat amplior multitude se et plures sequebantur militiam
armatam. Vegetius de Re Militari l. i. c. v.]
[Footnote 136: See the two titles, De Veteranis and De Filiis
Veteranorum, in the seventh book of the Theodosian Code. The age
at which their military service was required, varied from
twenty-five to sixteen. If the sons of the veterans appeared
with a horse, they had a right to serve in the cavalry; two
horses gave them some valuable privileges]

[Footnote 137: Cod. Theod. l. vii. tit. xiii. leg. 7. According
to the historian Socrates, (see Godefroy ad loc.,) the same
emperor Valens sometimes required eighty pieces of gold for a
recruit. In the following law it is faintly expressed, that
slaves shall not be admitted inter optimas lectissimorum militum

[Footnote 138: The person and property of a Roman knight, who had
mutilated his two sons, were sold at public auction by order of
Augustus. (Sueton. in August. c. 27.) The moderation of that
artful usurper proves, that this example of severity was
justified by the spirit of the times. Ammianus makes a
distinction between the effeminate Italians and the hardy Gauls.
(L. xv. c. 12.) Yet only 15 years afterwards, Valentinian, in a
law addressed to the praefect of Gaul, is obliged to enact that
these cowardly deserters shall be burnt alive. Cod. Theod. l.
vii. tit. xiii. leg. 5.) Their numbers in Illyricum were so
considerable, that the province complained of a scarcity of
recruits. (Id. leg. 10.)]

[Footnote 139: They were called Murci. Murcidus is found in
Plautus and Festus, to denote a lazy and cowardly person, who,
according to Arnobius and Augustin, was under the immediate
protection of the goddess Murcia. From this particular instance
of cowardice, murcare is used as synonymous to mutilare, by the
writers of the middle Latinity. See Linder brogius and Valesius
ad Ammian. Marcellin, l. xv. c. 12]

Chapter XVII: Foundation Of Constantinople.

Part V.

The introduction of Barbarians into the Roman armies became
every day more universal, more necessary, and more fatal. The
most daring of the Scythians, of the Goths, and of the Germans,
who delighted in war, and who found it more profitable to defend
than to ravage the provinces, were enrolled, not only in the
auxiliaries of their respective nations, but in the legions
themselves, and among the most distinguished of the Palatine
troops. As they freely mingled with the subjects of the empire,
they gradually learned to despise their manners, and to imitate
their arts. They abjured the implicit reverence which the pride
of Rome had exacted from their ignorance, while they acquired the
knowledge and possession of those advantages by which alone she
supported her declining greatness. The Barbarian soldiers, who
displayed any military talents, were advanced, without exception,
to the most important commands; and the names of the tribunes, of
the counts and dukes, and of the generals themselves, betray a
foreign origin, which they no longer condescended to disguise.
They were often intrusted with the conduct of a war against their
countrymen; and though most of them preferred the ties of
allegiance to those of blood, they did not always avoid the
guilt, or at least the suspicion, of holding a treasonable
correspondence with the enemy, of inviting his invasion, or of
sparing his retreat. The camps and the palace of the son of
Constantine were governed by the powerful faction of the Franks,
who preserved the strictest connection with each other, and with
their country, and who resented every personal affront as a
national indignity. ^140 When the tyrant Caligula was suspected
of an intention to invest a very extraordinary candidate with the
consular robes, the sacrilegious profanation would have scarcely
excited less astonishment, if, instead of a horse, the noblest
chieftain of Germany or Britain had been the object of his
choice. The revolution of three centuries had produced so
remarkable a change in the prejudices of the people, that, with
the public approbation, Constantine showed his successors the
example of bestowing the honors of the consulship on the
Barbarians, who, by their merit and services, had deserved to be
ranked among the first of the Romans. ^141 But as these hardy
veterans, who had been educated in the ignorance or contempt of
the laws, were incapable of exercising any civil offices, the
powers of the human mind were contracted by the irreconcilable
separation of talents as well as of professions. The
accomplished citizens of the Greek and Roman republics, whose
characters could adapt themselves to the bar, the senate, the
camp, or the schools, had learned to write, to speak, and to act
with the same spirit, and with equal abilities.
[Footnote 140: Malarichus - adhibitis Francis quorum ea
tempestate in palatio multitudo florebat, erectius jam loquebatur
tumultuabaturque. Ammian. l. xv. c. 5.]

[Footnote 141: Barbaros omnium primus, ad usque fasces auxerat et
trabeas consulares. Ammian. l. xx. c. 10. Eusebius (in Vit.
Constantin. l. iv c.7) and Aurelius Victor seem to confirm the
truth of this assertion yet in the thirty-two consular Fasti of
the reign of Constantine cannot discover the name of a single
Barbarian. I should therefore interpret the liberality of that
prince as relative to the ornaments rather than to the office, of
the consulship.]

IV. Besides the magistrates and generals, who at a distance
from the court diffused their delegated authority over the
provinces and armies, the emperor conferred the rank of
Illustrious on seven of his more immediate servants, to whose
fidelity he intrusted his safety, or his counsels, or his
treasures. 1. The private apartments of the palace were governed
by a favorite eunuch, who, in the language of that age, was
styled the proepositus, or praefect of the sacred bed-chamber.
His duty was to attend the emperor in his hours of state, or in
those of amusement, and to perform about his person all those
menial services, which can only derive their splendor from the
influence of royalty. Under a prince who deserved to reign, the
great chamberlain (for such we may call him) was a useful and
humble domestic; but an artful domestic, who improves every
occasion of unguarded confidence, will insensibly acquire over a
feeble mind that ascendant which harsh wisdom and uncomplying
virtue can seldom obtain. The degenerate grandsons of
Theodosius, who were invisible to their subjects, and
contemptible to their enemies, exalted the praefects of their
bed- chamber above the heads of all the ministers of the palace;
^142 and even his deputy, the first of the splendid train of
slaves who waited in the presence, was thought worthy to rank
before the respectable proconsuls of Greece or Asia. The
jurisdiction of the chamberlain was acknowledged by the counts,
or superintendents, who regulated the two important provinces of
the magnificence of the wardrobe, and of the luxury of the
Imperial table. ^143 2. The principal administration of public
affairs was committed to the diligence and abilities of the
master of the offices. ^144 He was the supreme magistrate of the
palace, inspected the discipline of the civil and military
schools, and received appeals from all parts of the empire, in
the causes which related to that numerous army of privileged
persons, who, as the servants of the court, had obtained for
themselves and families a right to decline the authority of the
ordinary judges. The correspondence between the prince and his
subjects was managed by the four scrinia, or offices of this
minister of state. The first was appropriated to memorials, the
second to epistles, the third to petitions, and the fourth to
papers and orders of a miscellaneous kind. Each of these was
directed by an inferior master of respectable dignity, and the
whole business was despatched by a hundred and forty-eight
secretaries, chosen for the most part from the profession of the
law, on account of the variety of abstracts of reports and
references which frequently occurred in the exercise of their
several functions. From a condescension, which in former ages
would have been esteemed unworthy the Roman majesty, a particular
secretary was allowed for the Greek language; and interpreters
were appointed to receive the ambassadors of the Barbarians; but
the department of foreign affairs, which constitutes so essential
a part of modern policy, seldom diverted the attention of the
master of the offices. His mind was more seriously engaged by
the general direction of the posts and arsenals of the empire.
There were thirty-four cities, fifteen in the East, and nineteen
in the West, in which regular companies of workmen were
perpetually employed in fabricating defensive armor, offensive
weapons of all sorts, and military engines, which were deposited
in the arsenals, and occasionally delivered for the service of
the troops. 3. In the course of nine centuries, the office of
quaestor had experienced a very singular revolution. In the
infancy of Rome, two inferior magistrates were annually elected
by the people, to relieve the consuls from the invidious
management of the public treasure; ^145 a similar assistant was
granted to every proconsul, and to every praetor, who exercised a
military or provincial command; with the extent of conquest, the
two quaestors were gradually multiplied to the number of four, of
eight, of twenty, and, for a short time, perhaps, of forty; ^146
and the noblest citizens ambitiously solicited an office which
gave them a seat in the senate, and a just hope of obtaining the
honors of the republic. Whilst Augustus affected to maintain the
freedom of election, he consented to accept the annual privilege
of recommending, or rather indeed of nominating, a certain
proportion of candidates; and it was his custom to select one of
these distinguished youths, to read his orations or epistles in
the assemblies of the senate. ^147 The practice of Augustus was
imitated by succeeding princes; the occasional commission was
established as a permanent office; and the favored quaestor,
assuming a new and more illustrious character, alone survived the
suppression of his ancient and useless colleagues. ^148 As the
orations which he composed in the name of the emperor, ^149
acquired the force, and, at length, the form, of absolute edicts,
he was considered as the representative of the legislative power,
the oracle of the council, and the original source of the civil
jurisprudence. He was sometimes invited to take his seat in the
supreme judicature of the Imperial consistory, with the
Praetorian praefects, and the master of the offices; and he was
frequently requested to resolve the doubts of inferior judges:
but as he was not oppressed with a variety of subordinate
business, his leisure and talents were employed to cultivate that
dignified style of eloquence, which, in the corruption of taste
and language, still preserves the majesty of the Roman laws. ^150
In some respects, the office of the Imperial quaestor may be
compared with that of a modern chancellor; but the use of a great
seal, which seems to have been adopted by the illiterate
barbarians, was never introduced to attest the public acts of the
emperors. 4. The extraordinary title of count of the sacred
largesses was bestowed on the treasurer-general of the revenue,
with the intention perhaps of inculcating, that every payment
flowed from the voluntary bounty of the monarch. To conceive the
almost infinite detail of the annual and daily expense of the
civil and military administration in every part of a great
empire, would exceed the powers of the most vigorous imagination.

The actual account employed several hundred persons, distributed
into eleven different offices, which were artfully contrived to
examine and control their respective operations. The multitude
of these agents had a natural tendency to increase; and it was
more than once thought expedient to dismiss to their native homes
the useless supernumeraries, who, deserting their honest labors,
had pressed with too much eagerness into the lucrative profession
of the finances. ^151 Twenty-nine provincial receivers, of whom
eighteen were honored with the title of count, corresponded with
the treasurer; and he extended his jurisdiction over the mines
from whence the precious metals were extracted, over the mints,
in which they were converted into the current coin, and over the
public treasuries of the most important cities, where they were
deposited for the service of the state. The foreign trade of the
empire was regulated by this minister, who directed likewise all
the linen and woollen manufactures, in which the successive
operations of spinning, weaving, and dyeing were executed,
chiefly by women of a servile condition, for the use of the
palace and army. Twenty-six of these institutions are enumerated
in the West, where the arts had been more recently introduced,
and a still larger proportion may be allowed for the industrious
provinces of the East. ^152 5. Besides the public revenue, which
an absolute monarch might levy and expend according to his
pleasure, the emperors, in the capacity of opulent citizens,
possessed a very extensive property, which was administered by
the count or treasurer of the private estate. Some part had
perhaps been the ancient demesnes of kings and republics; some
accessions might be derived from the families which were
successively invested with the purple; but the most considerable
portion flowed from the impure source of confiscations and
forfeitures. The Imperial estates were scattered through the
provinces, from Mauritania to Britain; but the rich and fertile
soil of Cappadocia tempted the monarch to acquire in that country
his fairest possessions, ^153 and either Constantine or his
successors embraced the occasion of justifying avarice by
religious zeal. They suppressed the rich temple of Comana, where
the high priest of the goddess of war supported the dignity of a
sovereign prince; and they applied to their private use the
consecrated lands, which were inhabited by six thousand subjects
or slaves of the deity and her ministers. ^154 But these were not
the valuable inhabitants: the plains that stretch from the foot
of Mount Argaeus to the banks of the Sarus, bred a generous race
of horses, renowned above all others in the ancient world for
their majestic shape and incomparable swiftness. These sacred
animals, destined for the service of the palace and the Imperial
games, were protected by the laws from the profanation of a
vulgar master. ^155 The demesnes of Cappadocia were important
enough to require the inspection of a count; ^156 officers of an
inferior rank were stationed in the other parts of the empire;
and the deputies of the private, as well as those of the public,
treasurer were maintained in the exercise of their independent
functions, and encouraged to control the authority of the
provincial magistrates. ^157 6, 7. The chosen bands of cavalry
and infantry, which guarded the person of the emperor, were under
the immediate command of the two counts of the domestics. The
whole number consisted of three thousand five hundred men,
divided into seven schools, or troops, of five hundred each; and
in the East, this honorable service was almost entirely
appropriated to the Armenians. Whenever, on public ceremonies,
they were drawn up in the courts and porticos of the palace,
their lofty stature, silent order, and splendid arms of silver
and gold, displayed a martial pomp not unworthy of the Roman
majesty. ^158 From the seven schools two companies of horse and
foot were selected, of the protectors, whose advantageous station
was the hope and reward of the most deserving soldiers. They
mounted guard in the interior apartments, and were occasionally
despatched into the provinces, to execute with celerity and vigor
the orders of their master. ^159 The counts of the domestics had
succeeded to the office of the Praetorian praefects; like the
praefects, they aspired from the service of the palace to the
command of armies.

[Footnote 142: Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. 8.]

[Footnote 143: By a very singular metaphor, borrowed from the
military character of the first emperors, the steward of their
household was styled the count of their camp, (comes castrensis.)
Cassiodorus very seriously represents to him, that his own fame,
and that of the empire, must depend on the opinion which foreign
ambassadors may conceive of the plenty and magnificence of the
royal table. (Variar. l. vi. epistol. 9.)]

[Footnote 144: Gutherius (de Officiis Domus Augustae, l. ii. c.
20, l. iii.) has very accurately explained the functions of the
master of the offices, and the constitution of the subordinate
scrinia. But he vainly attempts, on the most doubtful authority,
to deduce from the time of the Antonines, or even of Nero, the
origin of a magistrate who cannot be found in history before the
reign of Constantine.]

[Footnote 145: Tacitus (Annal. xi. 22) says, that the first
quaestors were elected by the people, sixty-four years after the
foundation of the republic; but he is of opinion, that they had,
long before that period, been annually appointed by the consuls,
and even by the kings. But this obscure point of antiquity is
contested by other writers.]

[Footnote 146: Tacitus (Annal. xi. 22) seems to consider twenty
as the highest number of quaestors; and Dion (l. xliii. p 374)
insinuates, that if the dictator Caesar once created forty, it
was only to facilitate the payment of an immense debt of
gratitude. Yet the augmentation which he made of praetors
subsisted under the succeeding reigns.]

[Footnote 147: Sueton. in August. c. 65, and Torrent. ad loc.
Dion. Cas. p. 755.]

[Footnote 148: The youth and inexperience of the quaestors, who
entered on that important office in their twenty-fifth year,
(Lips. Excurs. ad Tacit. l. iii. D.,) engaged Augustus to remove
them from the management of the treasury; and though they were
restored by Claudius, they seem to have been finally dismissed by
Nero. (Tacit Annal. xiii. 29. Sueton. in Aug. c. 36, in Claud.
c. 24. Dion, p. 696, 961, &c. Plin. Epistol. x. 20, et alibi.)
In the provinces of the Imperial division, the place of the
quaestors was more ably supplied by the procurators, (Dion Cas.
p. 707. Tacit. in Vit. Agricol. c. 15;) or, as they were
afterwards called, rationales. (Hist. August. p. 130.) But in
the provinces of the senate we may still discover a series of
quaestors till the reign of Marcus Antoninus. (See the
Inscriptions of Gruter, the Epistles of Pliny, and a decisive
fact in the Augustan History, p. 64.) From Ulpian we may learn,
(Pandect. l. i. tit. 13,) that under the government of the house
of Severus, their provincial administration was abolished; and in
the subsequent troubles, the annual or triennial elections of
quaestors must have naturally ceased.]

[Footnote 149: Cum patris nomine et epistolas ipse dictaret, et
edicta conscrib eret, orationesque in senatu recitaret, etiam
quaestoris vice. Sueton, in Tit. c. 6. The office must have
acquired new dignity, which was occasionally executed by the heir
apparent of the empire. Trajan intrusted the same care to
Hadrian, his quaestor and cousin. See Dodwell, Praelection.
Cambden, x. xi. p. 362-394.]

[Footnote 150: Terris edicta daturus;
Supplicibus responsa. - Oracula regis
Eloquio crevere tuo; nec dignius unquam
Majestas meminit sese Romana locutam.

Claudian in Consulat. Mall. Theodor. 33. See likewise Symmachus
(Epistol. i. 17) and Cassiodorus. (Variar. iv. 5.)]

[Footnote 151: Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. 30. Cod. Justinian. l.
xii. tit. 24.]
[Footnote 152: In the departments of the two counts of the
treasury, the eastern part of the Notitia happens to be very
defective. It may be observed, that we had a treasury chest in
London, and a gyneceum or manufacture at Winchester. But Britain
was not thought worthy either of a mint or of an arsenal. Gaul
alone possessed three of the former, and eight of the latter.]
[Footnote 153: Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. xxx. leg. 2, and Godefroy
ad loc.]
[Footnote 154: Strabon. Geograph. l. xxii. p. 809, [edit.
Casaub.] The other temple of Comana, in Pontus, was a colony from
that of Cappadocia, l. xii. p. 835. The President Des Brosses
(see his Saluste, tom. ii. p. 21, [edit. Causub.]) conjectures
that the deity adored in both Comanas was Beltis, the Venus of
the east, the goddess of generation; a very different being
indeed from the goddess of war.]

[Footnote 155: Cod. Theod. l. x. tit. vi. de Grege Dominico.
Godefroy has collected every circumstance of antiquity relative
to the Cappadocian horses. One of the finest breeds, the
Palmatian, was the forfeiture of a rebel, whose estate lay about
sixteen miles from Tyana, near the great road between
Constantinople and Antioch.]

[Footnote 156: Justinian (Novell. 30) subjected the province of
the count of Cappadocia to the immediate authority of the
favorite eunuch, who presided over the sacred bed-chamber.]

[Footnote 157: Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. xxx. leg. 4, &c.]

[Footnote 158: Pancirolus, p. 102, 136. The appearance of these
military domestics is described in the Latin poem of Corippus, de
Laudibus Justin. l. iii. 157-179. p. 419, 420 of the Appendix
Hist. Byzantin. Rom. 177.]
[Footnote 159: Ammianus Marcellinus, who served so many years,
obtained only the rank of a protector. The first ten among these
honorable soldiers were Clarissimi.]

The perpetual intercourse between the court and the
provinces was facilitated by the construction of roads and the
institution of posts. But these beneficial establishments were
accidentally connected with a pernicious and intolerable abuse.
Two or three hundred agents or messengers were employed, under
the jurisdiction of the master of the offices, to announce the
names of the annual consuls, and the edicts or victories of the
emperors. They insensibly assumed the license of reporting
whatever they could observe of the conduct either of magistrates
or of private citizens; and were soon considered as the eyes of
the monarch, ^160 and the scourge of the people. Under the warm
influence of a feeble reign, they multiplied to the incredible
number of ten thousand, disdained the mild though frequent
admonitions of the laws, and exercised in the profitable
management of the posts a rapacious and insolent oppression.
These official spies, who regularly corresponded with the palace,
were encouraged by favor and reward, anxiously to watch the
progress of every treasonable design, from the faint and latent
symptoms of disaffection, to the actual preparation of an open
revolt. Their careless or criminal violation of truth and
justice was covered by the consecrated mask of zeal; and they
might securely aim their poisoned arrows at the breast either of
the guilty or the innocent, who had provoked their resentment, or
refused to purchase their silence. A faithful subject, of Syria
perhaps, or of Britain, was exposed to the danger, or at least to
the dread, of being dragged in chains to the court of Milan or
Constantinople, to defend his life and fortune against the
malicious charge of these privileged informers. The ordinary
administration was conducted by those methods which extreme
necessity can alone palliate; and the defects of evidence were
diligently supplied by the use of torture. ^161

[Footnote 160: Xenophon, Cyropaed. l. viii. Brisson, de Regno
Persico, l. i No 190, p. 264. The emperors adopted with pleasure
this Persian metaphor.]
[Footnote 161: For the Agentes in Rebus, see Ammian. l. xv. c. 3,
l. xvi. c. 5, l. xxii. c. 7, with the curious annotations of
Valesius. Cod. Theod. l. vi. tit. xxvii. xxviii. xxix. Among
the passages collected in the Commentary of Godefroy, the most
remarkable is one from Libanius, in his discourse concerning the
death of Julian.]

The deceitful and dangerous experiment of the criminal
quaestion, as it is emphatically styled, was admitted, rather
than approved, in the jurisprudence of the Romans. They applied
this sanguinary mode of examination only to servile bodies, whose
sufferings were seldom weighed by those haughty republicans in
the scale of justice or humanity; but they would never consent to
violate the sacred person of a citizen, till they possessed the
clearest evidence of his guilt. ^162 The annals of tyranny, from
the reign of Tiberius to that of Domitian, circumstantially
relate the executions of many innocent victims; but, as long as
the faintest remembrance was kept alive of the national freedom
and honor, the last hours of a Roman were secured from the danger
of ignominions torture. ^163 The conduct of the provincial
magistrates was not, however, regulated by the practice of the
city, or the strict maxims of the civilians. They found the use
of torture established not only among the slaves of oriental
despotism, but among the Macedonians, who obeyed a limited
monarch; among the Rhodians, who flourished by the liberty of
commerce; and even among the sage Athenians, who had asserted and
adorned the dignity of human kind. ^164 The acquiescence of the
provincials encouraged their governors to acquire, or perhaps to
usurp, a discretionary power of employing the rack, to extort
from vagrants or plebeian criminals the confession of their
guilt, till they insensibly proceeded to confound the distinction
of rank, and to disregard the privileges of Roman citizens. The
apprehensions of the subjects urged them to solicit, and the
interest of the sovereign engaged him to grant, a variety of
special exemptions, which tacitly allowed, and even authorized,
the general use of torture. They protected all persons of
illustrious or honorable rank, bishops and their presbyters,
professors of the liberal arts, soldiers and their families,
municipal officers, and their posterity to the third generation,
and all children under the age of puberty. ^165 But a fatal maxim
was introduced into the new jurisprudence of the empire, that in
the case of treason, which included every offence that the
subtlety of lawyers could derive from a hostile intention towards
the prince or republic, ^166 all privileges were suspended, and
all conditions were reduced to the same ignominious level. As the
safety of the emperor was avowedly preferred to every
consideration of justice or humanity, the dignity of age and the
tenderness of youth were alike exposed to the most cruel
tortures; and the terrors of a malicious information, which might
select them as the accomplices, or even as the witnesses,
perhaps, of an imaginary crime, perpetually hung over the heads
of the principal citizens of the Roman world. ^167

[Footnote 162: The Pandects (l. xlviii. tit. xviii.) contain the
sentiments of the most celebrated civilians on the subject of
torture. They strictly confine it to slaves; and Ulpian himself
is ready to acknowledge that Res est fragilis, et periculosa, et
quae veritatem fallat.]

[Footnote 163: In the conspiracy of Piso against Nero, Epicharis
(libertina mulier) was the only person tortured; the rest were
intacti tormentis. It would be superfluous to add a weaker, and
it would be difficult to find a stronger, example. Tacit. Annal.
xv. 57.]

[Footnote 164: Dicendum . . . de Institutis Atheniensium,
Rhodiorum, doctissimorum hominum, apud quos etiam (id quod
acerbissimum est) liberi, civesque torquentur. Cicero, Partit.
Orat. c. 34. We may learn from the trial of Philotas the
practice of the Macedonians. (Diodor. Sicul. l. xvii. p. 604.
Q. Curt. l. vi. c. 11.]

[Footnote 165: Heineccius (Element. Jur. Civil. part vii. p. 81)
has collected these exemptions into one view.]

[Footnote 166: This definition of the sage Ulpian (Pandect. l.
xlviii. tit. iv.) seems to have been adapted to the court of
Caracalla, rather than to that of Alexander Severus. See the
Codes of Theodosius and ad leg. Juliam majestatis.]

[Footnote 167: Arcadius Charisius is the oldest lawyer quoted to
justify the universal practice of torture in all cases of
treason; but this maxim of tyranny, which is admitted by Ammianus
with the most respectful terror, is enforced by several laws of
the successors of Constantine. See Cod. Theod. l. ix. tit. xxxv.
majestatis crimine omnibus aequa est conditio.]
These evils, however terrible they may appear, were confined
to the smaller number of Roman subjects, whose dangerous
situation was in some degree compensated by the enjoyment of
those advantages, either of nature or of fortune, which exposed
them to the jealousy of the monarch. The obscure millions of a
great empire have much less to dread from the cruelty than from
the avarice of their masters, and their humble happiness is
principally affected by the grievance of excessive taxes, which,
gently pressing on the wealthy, descend with accelerated weight
on the meaner and more indigent classes of society. An ingenious
philosopher ^168 has calculated the universal measure of the
public impositions by the degrees of freedom and servitude; and
ventures to assert, that, according to an invariable law of
nature, it must always increase with the former, and diminish in
a just proportion to the latter. But this reflection, which
would tend to alleviate the miseries of despotism, is
contradicted at least by the history of the Roman empire; which
accuses the same princes of despoiling the senate of its
authority, and the provinces of their wealth. Without abolishing
all the various customs and duties on merchandises, which are
imperceptibly discharged by the apparent choice of the purchaser,
the policy of Constantine and his successors preferred a simple
and direct mode of taxation, more congenial to the spirit of an
arbitrary government. ^169

[Footnote 168: Montesquieu, Esprit des Loix, l. xii. c. 13.]
[Footnote 169: Mr. Hume (Essays, vol. i. p. 389) has seen this
importance with some degree of perplexity.]

Chapter XVII: Foundation Of Constantinople.

Part VI.

The name and use of the indictions, ^170 which serve to
ascertain the chronology of the middle ages, were derived from
the regular practice of the Roman tributes. ^171 The emperor
subscribed with his own hand, and in purple ink, the solemn
edict, or indiction, which was fixed up in the principal city of
each diocese, during two months previous to the first day of
September. And by a very easy connection of ideas, the word
indiction was transferred to the measure of tribute which it
prescribed, and to the annual term which it allowed for the
payment. This general estimate of the supplies was proportioned
to the real and imaginary wants of the state; but as often as the
expense exceeded the revenue, or the revenue fell short of the
computation, an additional tax, under the name of superindiction,
was imposed on the people, and the most valuable attribute of
sovereignty was communicated to the Praetorian praefects, who, on
some occasions, were permitted to provide for the unforeseen and
extraordinary exigencies of the public service. The execution of
these laws (which it would be tedious to pursue in their minute
and intricate detail) consisted of two distinct operations: the
resolving the general imposition into its constituent parts,
which were assessed on the provinces, the cities, and the
individuals of the Roman world; and the collecting the separate
contributions of the individuals, the cities, and the provinces,
till the accumulated sums were poured into the Imperial
treasuries. But as the account between the monarch and the
subject was perpetually open, and as the renewal of the demand
anticipated the perfect discharge of the preceding obligation,
the weighty machine of the finances was moved by the same hands
round the circle of its yearly revolution. Whatever was
honorable or important in the administration of the revenue, was
committed to the wisdom of the praefects, and their provincia.
representatives; the lucrative functions were claimed by a crowd
of subordinate officers, some of whom depended on the treasurer,
others on the governor of the province; and who, in the
inevitable conflicts of a perplexed jurisdiction, had frequent
opportunities of disputing with each other the spoils of the
people. The laborious offices, which could be productive only of
envy and reproach, of expense and danger, were imposed on the
Decurions, who formed the corporations of the cities, and whom
the severity of the Imperial laws had condemned to sustain the
burdens of civil society. ^172 The whole landed property of the
empire (without excepting the patrimonial estates of the monarch)
was the object of ordinary taxation; and every new purchaser
contracted the obligations of the former proprietor. An accurate
census, ^173 or survey, was the only equitable mode of
ascertaining the proportion which every citizen should be obliged
to contribute for the public service; and from the well-known
period of the indictions, there is reason to believe that this
difficult and expensive operation was repeated at the regular
distance of fifteen years. The lands were measured by surveyors,
who were sent into the provinces; their nature, whether arable or
pasture, or vineyards or woods, was distinctly reported; and an
estimate was made of their common value from the average produce
of five years. The numbers of slaves and of cattle constituted
an essential part of the report; an oath was administered to the
proprietors, which bound them to disclose the true state of their
affairs; and their attempts to prevaricate, or elude the
intention of the legislator, were severely watched, and punished
as a capital crime, which included the double guilt of treason
and sacrilege. ^174 A large portion of the tribute was paid in
money; and of the current coin of the empire, gold alone could be
legally accepted. ^175 The remainder of the taxes, according to
the proportions determined by the annual indiction, was furnished
in a manner still more direct, and still more oppressive.
According to the different nature of lands, their real produce in
the various articles of wine or oil, corn or barley, wood or
iron, was transported by the labor or at the expense of the
provincials ^* to the Imperial magazines, from whence they were
occasionally distributed for the use of the court, of the army,
and of two capitals, Rome and Constantinople. The commissioners
of the revenue were so frequently obliged to make considerable
purchases, that they were strictly prohibited from allowing any
compensation, or from receiving in money the value of those
supplies which were exacted in kind. In the primitive simplicity
of small communities, this method may be well adapted to collect
the almost voluntary offerings of the people; but it is at once
susceptible of the utmost latitude, and of the utmost strictness,
which in a corrupt and absolute monarchy must introduce a
perpetual contest between the power of oppression and the arts of
fraud. ^176 The agriculture of the Roman provinces was insensibly
ruined, and, in the progress of despotism which tends to
disappoint its own purpose, the emperors were obliged to derive
some merit from the forgiveness of debts, or the remission of
tributes, which their subjects were utterly incapable of paying.
According to the new division of Italy, the fertile and happy
province of Campania, the scene of the early victories and of the
delicious retirements of the citizens of Rome, extended between
the sea and the Apennine, from the Tiber to the Silarus. Within
sixty years after the death of Constantine, and on the evidence
of an actual survey, an exemption was granted in favor of three
hundred and thirty thousand English acres of desert and
uncultivated land; which amounted to one eighth of the whole
surface of the province. As the footsteps of the Barbarians had
not yet been seen in Italy, the cause of this amazing desolation,
which is recorded in the laws, can be ascribed only to the
administration of the Roman emperors. ^177
[Footnote 170: The cycle of indictions, which may be traced as
high as the reign of Constantius, or perhaps of his father,
Constantine, is still employed by the Papal court; but the
commencement of the year has been very reasonably altered to the
first of January. See l'Art de Verifier les Dates, p. xi.; and
Dictionnaire Raison. de la Diplomatique, tom. ii. p. 25; two
accurate treatises, which come from the workshop of the
[Footnote *: It does not appear that the establishment of the
indiction is to be at tributed to Constantine: it existed before
he had been created Augustus at Rome, and the remission granted
by him to the city of Autun is the proof. He would not have
ventured while only Caesar, and under the necessity of courting
popular favor, to establish such an odious impost. Aurelius
Victor and Lactantius agree in designating Diocletian as the
author of this despotic institution. Aur. Vict. de Caes. c. 39.
Lactant. de Mort. Pers. c. 7 - G.]
[Footnote 171: The first twenty-eight titles of the eleventh book
of the Theodosian Code are filled with the circumstantial
regulations on the important subject of tributes; but they
suppose a clearer knowledge of fundamental principles than it is
at present in our power to attain.]
[Footnote 172: The title concerning the Decurions (l. xii. tit.
i.) is the most ample in the whole Theodosian Code; since it
contains not less than one hundred and ninety-two distinct laws
to ascertain the duties and privileges of that useful order of

Note: The Decurions were charged with assessing, according
to the census of property prepared by the tabularii, the payment
due from each proprietor. This odious office was authoritatively
imposed on the richest citizens of each town; they had no salary,
and all their compensation was, to be exempt from certain
corporal punishments, in case they should have incurred them.
The Decurionate was the ruin of all the rich. Hence they tried
every way of avoiding this dangerous honor; they concealed
themselves, they entered into military service; but their efforts
were unavailing; they were seized, they were compelled to become
Decurions, and the dread inspired by this title was termed
Impiety. - G.

The Decurions were mutually responsible; they were obliged
to undertake for pieces of ground abandoned by their owners on
account of the pressure of the taxes, and, finally, to make up
all deficiencies. Savigny chichte des Rom. Rechts, i. 25. - M.]

[Footnote 173: Habemus enim et hominum numerum qui delati sunt,
et agrun modum. Eumenius in Panegyr. Vet. viii. 6. See Cod.
Theod. l. xiii. tit. x. xi., with Godefroy's Commentary.]

[Footnote 174: Siquis sacrilega vitem falce succiderit, aut
feracium ramorum foetus hebetaverit, quo delinet fidem Censuum,
et mentiatur callide paupertatis ingenium, mox detectus capitale
subibit exitium, et bona ejus in Fisci jura migrabunt. Cod.
Theod. l. xiii. tit. xi. leg. 1. Although this law is not
without its studied obscurity, it is, however clear enough to
prove the minuteness of the inquisition, and the disproportion of
the penalty.]
[Footnote 175: The astonishment of Pliny would have ceased.
Equidem miror P. R. victis gentibus argentum semper imperitasse
non aurum. Hist Natur. xxxiii. 15.]

[Footnote *: The proprietors were not charged with the expense of
this transport in the provinces situated on the sea-shore or near
the great rivers, there were companies of boatmen, and of masters
of vessels, who had this commission, and furnished the means of
transport at their own expense. In return, they were themselves
exempt, altogether, or in part, from the indiction and other
imposts. They had certain privileges; particular regulations
determined their rights and obligations. (Cod. Theod. l. xiii.
tit. v. ix.) The transports by land were made in the same manner,
by the intervention of a privileged company called Bastaga; the
members were called Bastagarii Cod. Theod. l. viii. tit. v. - G.]

[Footnote 176: Some precautions were taken (see Cod. Theod. l.
xi. tit. ii. and Cod. Justinian. l. x. tit. xxvii. leg. 1, 2, 3)
to restrain the magistrates from the abuse of their authority,
either in the exaction or in the purchase of corn: but those who
had learning enough to read the orations of Cicero against
Verres, (iii. de Frumento,) might instruct themselves in all the
various arts of oppression, with regard to the weight, the price,
the quality, and the carriage. The avarice of an unlettered
governor would supply the ignorance of precept or precedent.]

[Footnote 177: Cod. Theod. l. xi. tit. xxviii. leg. 2, published
the 24th of March, A. D. 395, by the emperor Honorius, only two
months after the death of his father, Theodosius. He speaks of
528,042 Roman jugera, which I have reduced to the English
measure. The jugerum contained 28,800 square Roman feet.]

Either from design or from accident, the mode of assessment
seemed to unite the substance of a land tax with the forms of a
capitation. ^178 The returns which were sent of every province or
district, expressed the number of tributary subjects, and the
amount of the public impositions. The latter of these sums was
divided by the former; and the estimate, that such a province
contained so many capita, or heads of tribute; and that each head
was rated at such a price, was universally received, not only in
the popular, but even in the legal computation. The value of a
tributary head must have varied, according to many accidental, or
at least fluctuating circumstances; but some knowledge has been
preserved of a very curious fact, the more important, since it
relates to one of the richest provinces of the Roman empire, and
which now flourishes as the most splendid of the European
kingdoms. The rapacious ministers of Constantius had exhausted
the wealth of Gaul, by exacting twenty-five pieces of gold for
the annual tribute of every head. The humane policy of his
successor reduced the capitation to seven pieces. ^179 A moderate
proportion between these opposite extremes of extraordinary
oppression and of transient indulgence, may therefore be fixed at
sixteen pieces of gold, or about nine pounds sterling, the common
standard, perhaps, of the impositions of Gaul. ^180 But this
calculation, or rather, indeed, the facts from whence it is
deduced, cannot fail of suggesting two difficulties to a thinking
mind, who will be at once surprised by the equality, and by the
enormity, of the capitation. An attempt to explain them may
perhaps reflect some light on the interesting subject of the
finances of the declining empire.
[Footnote 178: Godefroy (Cod. Theod. tom. vi. p. 116) argues with
weight and learning on the subject of the capitation; but while
he explains the caput, as a share or measure of property, he too
absolutely excludes the idea of a personal assessment.]

[Footnote 179: Quid profuerit (Julianus) anhelantibus extrema
penuria Gallis, hinc maxime claret, quod primitus partes eas
ingressus, pro capitibusingulis tributi nomine vicenos quinos
aureos reperit flagitari; discedens vero septenos tantum numera
universa complentes. Ammian. l. xvi. c. 5.]
[Footnote 180: In the calculation of any sum of money under
Constantine and his successors, we need only refer to the
excellent discourse of Mr. Greaves on the Denarius, for the proof
of the following principles; 1. That the ancient and modern Roman
pound, containing 5256 grains of Troy weight, is about one
twelfth lighter than the English pound, which is composed of 5760
of the same grains. 2. That the pound of gold, which had once
been divided into forty-eight aurei, was at this time coined into
seventy-two smaller pieces of the same denomination. 3. That
five of these aurei were the legal tender for a pound of silver,
and that consequently the pound of gold was exchanged for
fourteen pounds eight ounces of silver, according to the Roman,
or about thirteen pounds according to the English weight. 4.
That the English pound of silver is coined into sixty-two
shillings. From these elements we may compute the Roman pound of
gold, the usual method of reckoning large sums, at forty pounds
sterling, and we may fix the currency of the aureus at somewhat
more than eleven shillings.

Note: See, likewise, a Dissertation of M. Letronne,
"Considerations Generales sur l'Evaluation des Monnaies Grecques
et Romaines" Paris, 1817 - M.]

I. It is obvious, that, as long as the immutable
constitution of human nature produces and maintains so unequal a
division of property, the most numerous part of the community
would be deprived of their subsistence, by the equal assessment
of a tax from which the sovereign would derive a very trifling
revenue. Such indeed might be the theory of the Roman
capitation; but in the practice, this unjust equality was no
longer felt, as the tribute was collected on the principle of a
real, not of a personal imposition. ^* Several indigent citizens
contributed to compose a single head, or share of taxation; while
the wealthy provincial, in proportion to his fortune, alone
represented several of those imaginary beings. In a poetical
request, addressed to one of the last and most deserving of the
Roman princes who reigned in Gaul, Sidonius Apollinaris
personifies his tribute under the figure of a triple monster, the
Geryon of the Grecian fables, and entreats the new Hercules that
he would most graciously be pleased to save his life by cutting
off three of his heads. ^181 The fortune of Sidonius far exceeded
the customary wealth of a poet; but if he had pursued the
allusion, he might have painted many of the Gallic nobles with
the hundred heads of the deadly Hydra, spreading over the face of
the country, and devouring the substance of a hundred families.
II. The difficulty of allowing an annual sum of about nine
pounds sterling, even for the average of the capitation of Gaul,
may be rendered more evident by the comparison of the present
state of the same country, as it is now governed by the absolute
monarch of an industrious, wealthy, and affectionate people. The
taxes of France cannot be magnified, either by fear or by
flattery, beyond the annual amount of eighteen millions sterling,
which ought perhaps to be shared among four and twenty millions
of inhabitants. ^182 Seven millions of these, in the capacity of
fathers, or brothers, or husbands, may discharge the obligations
of the remaining multitude of women and children; yet the equal
proportion of each tributary subject will scarcely rise above
fifty shillings of our money, instead of a proportion almost four
times as considerable, which was regularly imposed on their
Gallic ancestors. The reason of this difference may be found,
not so much in the relative scarcity or plenty of gold and
silver, as in the different state of society, in ancient Gaul and
in modern France. In a country where personal freedom is the
privilege of every subject, the whole mass of taxes, whether they
are levied on property or on consumption, may be fairly divided
among the whole body of the nation. But the far greater part of
the lands of ancient Gaul, as well as of the other provinces of
the Roman world, were cultivated by slaves, or by peasants, whose
dependent condition was a less rigid servitude. ^183 In such a
state the poor were maintained at the expense of the masters who
enjoyed the fruits of their labor; and as the rolls of tribute
were filled only with the names of those citizens who possessed
the means of an honorable, or at least of a decent subsistence,
the comparative smallness of their numbers explains and justifies
the high rate of their capitation. The truth of this assertion
may be illustrated by the following example: The Aedui, one of
the most powerful and civilized tribes or cities of Gaul,
occupied an extent of territory, which now contains about five
hundred thousand inhabitants, in the two ecclesiastical dioceses
of Autun and Nevers; ^184 and with the probable accession of
those of Chalons and Macon, ^185 the population would amount to
eight hundred thousand souls. In the time of Constantine, the
territory of the Aedui afforded no more than twenty-five thousand
heads of capitation, of whom seven thousand were discharged by
that prince from the intolerable weight of tribute. ^186 A just
analogy would seem to countenance the opinion of an ingenious
historian, ^187 that the free and tributary citizens did not
surpass the number of half a million; and if, in the ordinary
administration of government, their annual payments may be
computed at about four millions and a half of our money, it would
appear, that although the share of each individual was four times
as considerable, a fourth part only of the modern taxes of France
was levied on the Imperial province of Gaul. The exactions of
Constantius may be calculated at seven millions sterling, which
were reduced to two millions by the humanity or the wisdom of

[Footnote *: Two masterly dissertations of M. Savigny, in the
Mem. of the Berlin Academy (1822 and 1823) have thrown new light
on the taxation system of the Empire. Gibbon, according to M.
Savigny, is mistaken in supposing that there was but one kind of
capitation tax; there was a land tax, and a capitation tax,
strictly so called. The land tax was, in its operation, a
proprietor's or landlord's tax. But, besides this, there was a
direct capitation tax on all who were not possessed of landed
property. This tax dates from the time of the Roman conquests;
its amount is not clearly known. Gradual exemptions released
different persons and classes from this tax. One edict exempts
painters. In Syria, all under twelve or fourteen, or above
sixty-five, were exempted; at a later period, all under twenty,
and all unmarried females; still later, all under twenty-five,
widows and nuns, soldiers, veterani and clerici - whole dioceses,
that of Thrace and Illyricum. Under Galerius and Licinius, the
plebs urbana became exempt; though this, perhaps, was only an
ordinance for the East. By degrees, however, the exemption was
extended to all the inhabitants of towns; and as it was strictly
capitatio plebeia, from which all possessors were exempted it
fell at length altogether on the coloni and agricultural slaves.
These were registered in the same cataster (capitastrum) with the
land tax. It was paid by the proprietor, who raised it again
from his coloni and laborers. - M.]
[Footnote 181: Geryones nos esse puta, monstrumque tributum,

Hic capita ut vivam, tu mihi tolle tria.
Sidon. Apollinar. Carm. xiii.

The reputation of Father Sirmond led me to expect more
satisfaction than I have found in his note (p. 144) on this
remarkable passage. The words, suo vel suorum nomine, betray the
perplexity of the commentator.]
[Footnote 182: This assertion, however formidable it may seem, is
founded on the original registers of births, deaths, and
marriages, collected by public authority, and now deposited in
the Controlee General at Paris. The annual average of births
throughout the whole kingdom, taken in five years, (from 1770 to
1774, both inclusive,) is 479,649 boys, and 449,269 girls, in all
928,918 children. The province of French Hainault alone
furnishes 9906 births; and we are assured, by an actual
enumeration of the people, annually repeated from the year 1773
to the year 1776, that upon an average, Hainault contains 257,097
inhabitants. By the rules of fair analogy, we might infer, that
the ordinary proportion of annual births to the whole people, is
about 1 to 26; and that the kingdom of France contains 24,151,868
persons of both sexes and of every age. If we content ourselves
with the more moderate proportion of 1 to 25, the whole
population will amount to 23,222,950. From the diligent
researches of the French Government, (which are not unworthy of
our own imitation,) we may hope to obtain a still greater degree
of certainty on this important subject

Note: On no subject has so much valuable information been
collected since the time of Gibbon, as the statistics of the
different countries of Europe but much is still wanting as to our
own - M.]

[Footnote 183: Cod. Theod. l. v. tit. ix. x. xi. Cod. Justinian.
l. xi. tit. lxiii. Coloni appellantur qui conditionem debent
genitali solo, propter agriculturum sub dominio possessorum.
Augustin. de Civitate Dei, l. x. c. i.]
[Footnote 184: The ancient jurisdiction of (Augustodunum) Autun
in Burgundy, the capital of the Aedui, comprehended the adjacent
territory of (Noviodunum) Nevers. See D'Anville, Notice de
l'Ancienne Gaule, p. 491. The two dioceses of Autun and Nevers
are now composed, the former of 610, and the latter of 160
parishes. The registers of births, taken during eleven years, in
476 parishes of the same province of Burgundy, and multiplied by
the moderate proportion of 25, (see Messance Recherches sur la
Population, p. 142,) may authorizes us to assign an average
number of 656 persons for each parish, which being again
multiplied by the 770 parishes of the dioceses of Nevers and
Autun, will produce the sum of 505,120 persons for the extent of
country which was once possessed by the Aedui.]

[Footnote 185: We might derive an additional supply of 301,750
inhabitants from the dioceses of Chalons (Cabillonum) and of
Macon, (Matisco,) since they contain, the one 200, and the other
260 parishes. This accession of territory might be justified by
very specious reasons. 1. Chalons and Macon were undoubtedly
within the original jurisdiction of the Aedui. (See D'Anville,
Notice, p. 187, 443.) 2. In the Notitia of Gaul, they are
enumerated not as Civitates, but merely as Castra. 3. They do
not appear to have been episcopal seats before the fifth and
sixth centuries. Yet there is a passage in Eumenius (Panegyr.
Vet. viii. 7) which very forcibly deters me from extending the
territory of the Aedui, in the reign of Constantine, along the
beautiful banks of the navigable Saone.

Note: In this passage of Eumenius, Savigny supposes the
original number to have been 32,000: 7000 being discharged, there
remained 25,000 liable to the tribute. See Mem. quoted above. -

[Footnote 186: Eumenius in Panegyr Vet. viii. 11.]

[Footnote 187: L'Abbe du Bos, Hist. Critique de la M. F. tom. i.
p. 121]
But this tax, or capitation, on the proprietors of land,
would have suffered a rich and numerous class of free citizens to
escape. With the view of sharing that species of wealth which is
derived from art or labor, and which exists in money or in
merchandise, the emperors imposed a distinct and personal tribute
on the trading part of their subjects. ^188 Some exemptions, very
strictly confined both in time and place, were allowed to the
proprietors who disposed of the produce of their own estates.
Some indulgence was granted to the profession of the liberal
arts: but every other branch of commercial industry was affected
by the severity of the law. The honorable merchant of
Alexandria, who imported the gems and spices of India for the use
of the western world; the usurer, who derived from the interest
of money a silent and ignominious profit; the ingenious
manufacturer, the diligent mechanic, and even the most obscure
retailer of a sequestered village, were obliged to admit the
officers of the revenue into the partnership of their gain; and
the sovereign of the Roman empire, who tolerated the profession,
consented to share the infamous salary, of public prostitutes. ^!
As this general tax upon industry was collected every fourth
year, it was styled the Lustral Contribution: and the historian
Zosimus ^189 laments that the approach of the fatal period was
announced by the tears and terrors of the citizens, who were
often compelled by the impending scourge to embrace the most
abhorred and unnatural methods of procuring the sum at which
their property had been assessed. The testimony of Zosimus
cannot indeed be justified from the charge of passion and
prejudice; but, from the nature of this tribute it seems
reasonable to conclude, that it was arbitrary in the
distribution, and extremely rigorous in the mode of collecting.
The secret wealth of commerce, and the precarious profits of art
or labor, are susceptible only of a discretionary valuation,
which is seldom disadvantageous to the interest of the treasury;
and as the person of the trader supplies the want of a visible
and permanent security, the payment of the imposition, which, in
the case of a land tax, may be obtained by the seizure of
property, can rarely be extorted by any other means than those of
corporal punishments. The cruel treatment of the insolvent
debtors of the state, is attested, and was perhaps mitigated by a
very humane edict of Constantine, who, disclaiming the use of
racks and of scourges, allots a spacious and airy prison for the
place of their confinement. ^190

[Footnote 188: See Cod. Theod. l. xiii. tit. i. and iv.]

[Footnote !: The emperor Theodosius put an end, by a law. to this
disgraceful source of revenue. (Godef. ad Cod. Theod. xiii. tit.
i. c. 1.) But before he deprived himself of it, he made sure of
some way of replacing this deficit. A rich patrician,
Florentius, indignant at this legalized licentiousness, had made
representations on the subject to the emperor. To induce him to
tolerate it no longer, he offered his own property to supply the
diminution of the revenue. The emperor had the baseness to
accept his offer - G.]
[Footnote 189: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 115. There is probably as much
passion and prejudice in the attack of Zosimus, as in the
elaborate defence of the memory of Constantine by the zealous Dr.
Howell. Hist. of the World, vol. ii. p. 20.]

[Footnote 190: Cod. Theod. l. xi. tit vii. leg. 3.]

These general taxes were imposed and levied by the absolute
authority of the monarch; but the occasional offerings of the
coronary gold still retained the name and semblance of popular
consent. It was an ancient custom that the allies of the
republic, who ascribed their safety or deliverance to the success
of the Roman arms, and even the cities of Italy, who admired the
virtues of their victorious general, adorned the pomp of his
triumph by their voluntary gifts of crowns of gold, which after
the ceremony were consecrated in the temple of Jupiter, to remain
a lasting monument of his glory to future ages. The progress of
zeal and flattery soon multiplied the number, and increased the
size, of these popular donations; and the triumph of Caesar was
enriched with two thousand eight hundred and twenty-two massy
crowns, whose weight amounted to twenty thousand four hundred and
fourteen pounds of gold. This treasure was immediately melted
down by the prudent dictator, who was satisfied that it would be
more serviceable to his soldiers than to the gods: his example
was imitated by his successors; and the custom was introduced of
exchanging these splendid ornaments for the more acceptable
present of the current gold coin of the empire. ^191 The
spontaneous offering was at length exacted as the debt of duty;
and instead of being confined to the occasion of a triumph, it
was supposed to be granted by the several cities and provinces of
the monarchy, as often as the emperor condescended to announce
his accession, his consulship, the birth of a son, the creation
of a Caesar, a victory over the Barbarians, or any other real or
imaginary event which graced the annals of his reign. The
peculiar free gift of the senate of Rome was fixed by custom at
sixteen hundred pounds of gold, or about sixty-four thousand
pounds sterling. The oppressed subjects celebrated their own
felicity, that their sovereign should graciously consent to
accept this feeble but voluntary testimony of their loyalty and
gratitude. ^192
[Footnote 191: See Lipsius de Magnitud. Romana, l. ii. c. 9. The
Tarragonese Spain presented the emperor Claudius with a crown of
gold of seven, and Gaul with another of nine, hundred pounds
weight. I have followed the rational emendation of Lipsius.

Note: This custom is of still earlier date, the Romans had
borrowed it from Greece. Who is not acquainted with the famous
oration of Demosthenes for the golden crown, which his citizens
wished to bestow, and Aeschines to deprive him of? - G.]

[Footnote 192: Cod. Theod. l. xii. tit. xiii. The senators were
supposed to be exempt from the Aurum Coronarium; but the Auri
Oblatio, which was required at their hands, was precisely of the
same nature.]

A people elated by pride, or soured by discontent, are
seldom qualified to form a just estimate of their actual
situation. The subjects of Constantine were incapable of
discerning the decline of genius and manly virtue, which so far
degraded them below the dignity of their ancestors; but they
could feel and lament the rage of tyranny, the relaxation of
discipline, and the increase of taxes. The impartial historian,
who acknowledges the justice of their complaints, will observe
some favorable circumstances which tended to alleviate the misery
of their condition. The threatening tempest of Barbarians, which
so soon subverted the foundations of Roman greatness, was still
repelled, or suspended, on the frontiers. The arts of luxury and
literature were cultivated, and the elegant pleasures of society
were enjoyed, by the inhabitants of a considerable portion of the
globe. The forms, the pomp, and the expense of the civil
administration contributed to restrain the irregular license of
the soldiers; and although the laws were violated by power, or
perverted by subtlety, the sage principles of the Roman
jurisprudence preserved a sense of order and equity, unknown to
the despotic governments of the East. The rights of mankind
might derive some protection from religion and philosophy; and
the name of freedom, which could no longer alarm, might sometimes
admonish, the successors of Augustus, that they did not reign
over a nation of Slaves or Barbarians. ^193

[Footnote 193: The great Theodosius, in his judicious advice to
his son, (Claudian in iv. Consulat. Honorii, 214, &c.,)
distinguishes the station of a Roman prince from that of a
Parthian monarch. Virtue was necessary for the one; birth might
suffice for the other.]

Chapter XVIII: Character Of Constantine And His Sons.

Part I.

Character Of Constantine. - Gothic War. - Death Of
Constantine. - Division Of The Empire Among His Three Sons. -
Persian War. - Tragic Deaths Of Constantine The Younger And
Constans. - Usurpation Of Magnentius. - Civil War. - Victory Of

The character of the prince who removed the seat of empire,
and introduced such important changes into the civil and
religious constitution of his country, has fixed the attention,
and divided the opinions, of mankind. By the grateful zeal of the
Christians, the deliverer of the church has been decorated with
every attribute of a hero, and even of a saint; while the
discontent of the vanquished party has compared Constantine to
the most abhorred of those tyrants, who, by their vice and
weakness, dishonored the Imperial purple. The same passions have
in some degree been perpetuated to succeeding generations, and
the character of Constantine is considered, even in the present
age, as an object either of satire or of panegyric. By the
impartial union of those defects which are confessed by his
warmest admirers, and of those virtues which are acknowledged by
his most-implacable enemies, we might hope to delineate a just
portrait of that extraordinary man, which the truth and candor of
history should adopt without a blush. ^1 But it would soon
appear, that the vain attempt to blend such discordant colors,
and to reconcile such inconsistent qualities, must produce a
figure monstrous rather than human, unless it is viewed in its
proper and distinct lights, by a careful separation of the
different periods of the reign of Constantine.
[Footnote 1: On ne se trompera point sur Constantin, en croyant
tout le mal ru'en dit Eusebe, et tout le bien qu'en dit Zosime.
Fleury, Hist. Ecclesiastique, tom. iii. p. 233. Eusebius and
Zosimus form indeed the two extremes of flattery and invective.
The intermediate shades are expressed by those writers, whose
character or situation variously tempered the influence of their
religious zeal.]

The person, as well as the mind, of Constantine, had been
enriched by nature with her choices endowments. His stature was
lofty, his countenance majestic, his deportment graceful; his
strength and activity were displayed in every manly exercise, and
from his earliest youth, to a very advanced season of life, he
preserved the vigor of his constitution by a strict adherence to
the domestic virtues of chastity and temperance. He delighted in
the social intercourse of familiar conversation; and though he
might sometimes indulge his disposition to raillery with less
reserve than was required by the severe dignity of his station,
the courtesy and liberality of his manners gained the hearts of
all who approached him. The sincerity of his friendship has been
suspected; yet he showed, on some occasions, that he was not
incapable of a warm and lasting attachment. The disadvantage of
an illiterate education had not prevented him from forming a just
estimate of the value of learning; and the arts and sciences
derived some encouragement from the munificent protection of
Constantine. In the despatch of business, his diligence was
indefatigable; and the active powers of his mind were almost
continually exercised in reading, writing, or meditating, in
giving audiences to ambassadors, and in examining the complaints
of his subjects. Even those who censured the propriety of his
measures were compelled to acknowledge, that he possessed
magnanimity to conceive, and patience to execute, the most
arduous designs, without being checked either by the prejudices
of education, or by the clamors of the multitude. In the field,
he infused his own intrepid spirit into the troops, whom he
conducted with the talents of a consummate general; and to his
abilities, rather than to his fortune, we may ascribe the signal
victories which he obtained over the foreign and domestic foes of
the republic. He loved glory as the reward, perhaps as the
motive, of his labors. The boundless ambition, which, from the
moment of his accepting the purple at York, appears as the ruling
passion of his soul, may be justified by the dangers of his own
situation, by the character of his rivals, by the consciousness
of superior merit, and by the prospect that his success would
enable him to restore peace and order to the distracted
empire. In his civil wars against Maxentius and Licinius, he had
engaged on his side the inclinations of the people, who compared
the undissembled vices of those tyrants with the spirit of wisdom
and justice which seemed to direct the general tenor of the
administration of Constantine. ^2

[Footnote 2: The virtues of Constantine are collected for the
most part from Eutropius and the younger Victor, two sincere
pagans, who wrote after the extinction of his family. Even
Zosimus, and the Emperor Julian, acknowledge his personal courage
and military achievements.]

Had Constantine fallen on the banks of the Tyber, or even in
the plains of Hadrianople, such is the character which, with a
few exceptions, he might have transmitted to posterity. But the
conclusion of his reign (according to the moderate and indeed
tender sentence of a writer of the same age) degraded him from
the rank which he had acquired among the most deserving of the
Roman princes. ^3 In the life of Augustus, we behold the tyrant
of the republic, converted, almost by imperceptible degrees, into
the father of his country, and of human kind. In that of
Constantine, we may contemplate a hero, who had so long inspired
his subjects with love, and his enemies with terror, degenerating
into a cruel and dissolute monarch, corrupted by his fortune, or
raised by conquest above the necessity of dissimulation. The
general peace which he maintained during the last fourteen years
of his reign, was a period of apparent splendor rather than of
real prosperity; and the old age of Constantine was disgraced by
the opposite yet reconcilable vices of rapaciousness and
prodigality. The accumulated treasures found in the palaces of
Maxentius and Licinius, were lavishly consumed; the various
innovations introduced by the conqueror, were attended with an
increasing expense; the cost of his buildings, his court, and his
festivals, required an immediate and plentiful supply; and the
oppression of the people was the only fund which could support
the magnificence of the sovereign. ^4 His unworthy favorites,
enriched by the boundless liberality of their master, usurped
with impunity the privilege of rapine and corruption. ^5 A secret
but universal decay was felt in every part of the public
administration, and the emperor himself, though he still retained
the obedience, gradually lost the esteem, of his subjects. The
dress and manners, which, towards the decline of life, he chose
to affect, served only to degrade him in the eyes of mankind.
The Asiatic pomp, which had been adopted by the pride of
Diocletian, assumed an air of softness and effeminacy in the
person of Constantine. He is represented with false hair of
various colors, laboriously arranged by the skilful artists to
the times; a diadem of a new and more expensive fashion; a
profusion of gems and pearls, of collars and bracelets, and a
variegated flowing robe of silk, most curiously embroidered with
flowers of gold. In such apparel, scarcely to be excused by the
youth and folly of Elagabalus, we are at a loss to discover the
wisdom of an aged monarch, and the simplicity of a Roman veteran.
^6 A mind thus relaxed by prosperity and indulgence, was
incapable of rising to that magnanimity which disdains suspicion,
and dares to forgive. The deaths of Maximian and Licinius may
perhaps be justified by the maxims of policy, as they are taught
in the schools of tyrants; but an impartial narrative of the
executions, or rather murders, which sullied the declining age of
Constantine, will suggest to our most candid thoughts the idea of
a prince who could sacrifice without reluctance the laws of
justice, and the feelings of nature, to the dictates either of
his passions or of his interest.
[Footnote 3: See Eutropius, x. 6. In primo Imperii tempore
optimis principibus, ultimo mediis comparandus. From the ancient
Greek version of Poeanius, (edit. Havercamp. p. 697,) I am
inclined to suspect that Eutropius had originally written vix
mediis; and that the offensive monosyllable was dropped by the
wilful inadvertency of transcribers. Aurelius Victor expresses
the general opinion by a vulgar and indeed obscure proverb.
Trachala decem annis praestantissimds; duodecim sequentibus
latro; decem novissimis pupillus ob immouicas profusiones.]

[Footnote 4: Julian, Orat. i. p. 8, in a flattering discourse
pronounced before the son of Constantine; and Caesares, p. 336.
Zosimus, p. 114, 115. The stately buildings of Constantinople,
&c., may be quoted as a lasting and unexceptionable proof of the
profuseness of their founder.]
[Footnote 5: The impartial Ammianus deserves all our confidence.
Proximorum fauces aperuit primus omnium Constantinus. L. xvi. c.
8. Eusebius himself confesses the abuse, (Vit. Constantin. l. iv.
c. 29, 54;) and some of the Imperial laws feebly point out the
remedy. See above, p. 146 of this volume.]
[Footnote 6: Julian, in the Caesars, attempts to ridicule his
uncle. His suspicious testimony is confirmed, however, by the
learned Spanheim, with the authority of medals, (see Commentaire,
p. 156, 299, 397, 459.) Eusebius (Orat. c. 5) alleges, that
Constantine dressed for the public, not for himself. Were this
admitted, the vainest coxcomb could never want an excuse.]
The same fortune which so invariably followed the standard
of Constantine, seemed to secure the hopes and comforts of his
domestic life. Those among his predecessors who had enjoyed the
longest and most prosperous reigns, Augustus Trajan, and
Diocletian, had been disappointed of posterity; and the frequent
revolutions had never allowed sufficient time for any Imperial
family to grow up and multiply under the shade of the purple.
But the royalty of the Flavian line, which had been first
ennobled by the Gothic Claudius, descended through several
generations; and Constantine himself derived from his royal
father the hereditary honors which he transmitted to his
children. The emperor had been twice married. Minervina, the
obscure but lawful object of his youthful attachment, ^7 had left
him only one son, who was called Crispus. By Fausta, the
daughter of Maximian, he had three daughters, and three sons
known by the kindred names of Constantine, Constantius, and
Constans. The unambitious brothers of the great Constantine,
Julius Constantius, Dalmatius, and Hannibalianus, ^8 were
permitted to enjoy the most honorable rank, and the most affluent
fortune, that could be consistent with a private station. The
youngest of the three lived without a name, and died without
posterity. His two elder brothers obtained in marriage the
daughters of wealthy senators, and propagated new branches of the
Imperial race. Gallus and Julian afterwards became the most
illustrious of the children of Julius Constantius, the Patrician.

The two sons of Dalmatius, who had been decorated with the vain
title of Censor, were named Dalmatius and Hannibalianus. The two
sisters of the great Constantine, Anastasia and Eutropia, were
bestowed on Optatus and Nepotianus, two senators of noble birth
and of consular dignity. His third sister, Constantia, was
distinguished by her preeminence of greatness and of misery. She
remained the widow of the vanquished Licinius; and it was by her
entreaties, that an innocent boy, the offspring of their
marriage, preserved, for some time, his life, the title of
Caesar, and a precarious hope of the succession. Besides the
females, and the allies of the Flavian house, ten or twelve
males, to whom the language of modern courts would apply the
title of princes of the blood, seemed, according to the order of
their birth, to be destined either to inherit or to support the
throne of Constantine. But in less than thirty years, this
numerous and increasing family was reduced to the persons of
Constantius and Julian, who alone had survived a series of crimes
and calamities, such as the tragic poets have deplored in the
devoted lines of Pelops and of Cadmus. [Footnote 7: Zosimus and
Zonaras agree in representing Minervina as the concubine of
Constantine; but Ducange has very gallantly rescued her
character, by producing a decisive passage from one of the
panegyrics: "Ab ipso fine pueritiae te matrimonii legibus

[Footnote 8: Ducange (Familiae Byzantinae, p. 44) bestows on him,
after Zosimus, the name of Constantine; a name somewhat unlikely,
as it was already occupied by the elder brother. That of
Hannibalianus is mentioned in the Paschal Chronicle, and is
approved by Tillemont. Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 527.]

Crispus, the eldest son of Constantine, and the presumptive
heir of the empire, is represented by impartial historians as an
amiable and accomplished youth. The care of his education, or at
least of his studies, was intrusted to Lactantius, the most
eloquent of the Christians; a preceptor admirably qualified to
form the taste, and the excite the virtues, of his illustrious
disciple. ^9 At the age of seventeen, Crispus was invested with
the title of Caesar, and the administration of the Gallic
provinces, where the inroads of the Germans gave him an early
occasion of signalizing his military prowess. In the civil war
which broke out soon afterwards, the father and son divided their
powers; and this history has already celebrated the valor as well
as conduct displayed by the latter, in forcing the straits of the
Hellespont, so obstinately defended by the superior fleet of
Lacinius. This naval victory contributed to determine the event
of the war; and the names of Constantine and of Crispus were
united in the joyful acclamations of their eastern subjects; who
loudly proclaimed, that the world had been subdued, and was now
governed, by an emperor endowed with every virtue; and by his
illustrious son, a prince beloved of Heaven, and the lively image
of his father's perfections. The public favor, which seldom
accompanies old age, diffused its lustre over the youth of
Crispus. He deserved the esteem, and he engaged the affections,
of the court, the army, and the people. The experienced merit of
a reigning monarch is acknowledged by his subjects with
reluctance, and frequently denied with partial and discontented
murmurs; while, from the opening virtues of his successor, they
fondly conceive the most unbounded hopes of private as well as
public felicity. ^10

[Footnote 9: Jerom. in Chron. The poverty of Lactantius may be
applied either to the praise of the disinterested philosopher, or
to the shame of the unfeeling patron. See Tillemont, Mem.
Ecclesiast. tom. vi. part 1. p. 345. Dupin, Bibliotheque
Ecclesiast. tom. i. p. 205. Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel
History, part ii. vol. vii. p. 66.]

[Footnote 10: Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. l. x. c. 9. Eutropius
(x. 6) styles him "egregium virum;" and Julian (Orat. i.) very
plainly alludes to the exploits of Crispus in the civil war. See
Spanheim, Comment. p. 92.]
This dangerous popularity soon excited the attention of
Constantine, who, both as a father and as a king, was impatient
of an equal. Instead of attempting to secure the allegiance of
his son by the generous ties of confidence and gratitude, he
resolved to prevent the mischiefs which might be apprehended from
dissatisfied ambition. Crispus soon had reason to complain, that
while his infant brother Constantius was sent, with the title of
Caesar, to reign over his peculiar department of the Gallic
provinces, ^11 he, a prince of mature years, who had performed
such recent and signal services, instead of being raised to the
superior rank of Augustus, was confined almost a prisoner to his
father's court; and exposed, without power or defence, to every
calumny which the malice of his enemies could suggest. Under
such painful circumstances, the royal youth might not always be
able to compose his behavior, or suppress his discontent; and we
may be assured, that he was encompassed by a train of indiscreet
or perfidious followers, who assiduously studied to inflame, and
who were perhaps instructed to betray, the unguarded warmth of
his resentment. An edict of Constantine, published about this
time, manifestly indicates his real or affected suspicions, that
a secret conspiracy had been formed against his person and
government. By all the allurements of honors and rewards, he
invites informers of every degree to accuse without exception his
magistrates or ministers, his friends or his most intimate
favorites, protesting, with a solemn asseveration, that he
himself will listen to the charge, that he himself will revenge
his injuries; and concluding with a prayer, which discovers some
apprehension of danger, that the providence of the Supreme Being
may still continue to protect the safety of the emperor and of
the empire. ^12

[Footnote 11: Compare Idatius and the Paschal Chronicle, with
Ammianus, (l, xiv. c. 5.) The year in which Constantius was
created Caesar seems to be more accurately fixed by the two
chronologists; but the historian who lived in his court could not
be ignorant of the day of the anniversary. For the appointment
of the new Caesar to the provinces of Gaul, see Julian, Orat. i.
p. 12, Godefroy, Chronol. Legum, p. 26. and Blondel, de Primaute
de l'Eglise, p. 1183.]

[Footnote 12: Cod. Theod. l. ix. tit. iv. Godefroy suspected the
secret motives of this law. Comment. tom. iii. p. 9.]

The informers, who complied with so liberal an invitation,
were sufficiently versed in the arts of courts to select the
friends and adherents of Crispus as the guilty persons; nor is
there any reason to distrust the veracity of the emperor, who had
promised an ample measure of revenge and punishment. The policy
of Constantine maintained, however, the same appearances of
regard and confidence towards a son, whom he began to consider as
his most irreconcilable enemy. Medals were struck with the
customary vows for the long and auspicious reign of the young
Caesar; ^13 and as the people, who were not admitted into the
secrets of the palace, still loved his virtues, and respected his
dignity, a poet who solicits his recall from exile, adores with
equal devotion the majesty of the father and that of the son. ^14
The time was now arrived for celebrating the august ceremony of
the twentieth year of the reign of Constantine; and the emperor,
for that purpose, removed his court from Nicomedia to Rome, where
the most splendid preparations had been made for his reception.
Every eye, and every tongue, affected to express their sense of
the general happiness, and the veil of ceremony and dissimulation
was drawn for a while over the darkest designs of revenge and
murder. ^15 In the midst of the festival, the unfortunate Crispus
was apprehended by order of the emperor, who laid aside the
tenderness of a father, without assuming the equity of a judge.
The examination was short and private; ^16 and as it was thought
decent to conceal the fate of the young prince from the eyes of
the Roman people, he was sent under a strong guard to Pola, in
Istria, where, soon afterwards, he was put to death, either by
the hand of the executioner, or by the more gentle operations of
poison. ^17 The Caesar Licinius, a youth of amiable manners, was
involved in the ruin of Crispus: ^18 and the stern jealousy of
Constantine was unmoved by the prayers and tears of his favorite
sister, pleading for the life of a son, whose rank was his only
crime, and whose loss she did not long survive. The story of
these unhappy princes, the nature and evidence of their guilt,
the forms of their trial, and the circumstances of their death,
were buried in mysterious obscurity; and the courtly bishop, who
has celebrated in an elaborate work the virtues and piety of his
hero, observes a prudent silence on the subject of these tragic
events. ^19 Such haughty contempt for the opinion of mankind,
whilst it imprints an indelible stain on the memory of
Constantine, must remind us of the very different behavior of one
of the greatest monarchs of the present age. The Czar Peter, in
the full possession of despotic power, submitted to the judgment
of Russia, of Europe, and of posterity, the reasons which had
compelled him to subscribe the condemnation of a criminal, or at
least of a degenerate son. ^20

[Footnote 13: Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 28. Tillemont, tom. iv.
p. 610.]
[Footnote 14: His name was Porphyrius Optatianus. The date of
his panegyric, written, according to the taste of the age, in
vile acrostics, is settled by Scaliger ad Euseb. p. 250,
Tillemont, tom. iv. p. 607, and Fabricius, Biblioth. Latin, l.
iv. c. 1.]

[Footnote 15: Zosim. l. ii. p. 103. Godefroy, Chronol. Legum, p.
[Footnote 16: The elder Victor, who wrote under the next reign,
speaks with becoming caution. "Natu grandior incertum qua causa,
patris judicio occidisset." If we consult the succeeding writers,
Eutropius, the younger Victor, Orosius, Jerom, Zosimus,
Philostorgius, and Gregory of Tours, their knowledge will appear
gradually to increase, as their means of information must have
diminished - a circumstance which frequently occurs in historical

[Footnote 17: Ammianus (l. xiv. c. 11) uses the general
expression of peremptum Codinus (p. 34) beheads the young prince;
but Sidonius Apollinaris (Epistol. v. 8,) for the sake perhaps of
an antithesis to Fausta's warm bath, chooses to administer a
draught of cold poison.]

[Footnote 18: Sororis filium, commodae indolis juvenem.
Eutropius, x. 6 May I not be permitted to conjecture that Crispus
had married Helena the daughter of the emperor Licinius, and that
on the happy delivery of the princess, in the year 322, a general
pardon was granted by Constantine? See Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p.
47, and the law (l. ix. tit. xxxvii.) of the Theodosian code,
which has so much embarrassed the interpreters. Godefroy, tom.
iii. p. 267
Note: This conjecture is very doubtful. The obscurity of
the law quoted from the Theodosian code scarcely allows any
inference, and there is extant but one meda which can be
attributed to a Helena, wife of Crispus.]
[Footnote 19: See the life of Constantine, particularly l. ii. c.
19, 20. Two hundred and fifty years afterwards Evagrius (l. iii.
c. 41) deduced from the silence of Eusebius a vain argument
against the reality of the fact.]
[Footnote 20: Histoire de Pierre le Grand, par Voltaire, part ii.
c. 10.]
The innocence of Crispus was so universally acknowledged,
that the modern Greeks, who adore the memory of their founder,
are reduced to palliate the guilt of a parricide, which the
common feelings of human nature forbade them to justify. They
pretend, that as soon as the afflicted father discovered the
falsehood of the accusation by which his credulity had been so
fatally misled, he published to the world his repentance and
remorse; that he mourned forty days, during which he abstained
from the use of the bath, and all the ordinary comforts of life;
and that, for the lasting instruction of posterity, he erected a
golden statue of Crispus, with this memorable inscription: To my
son, whom I unjustly condemned. ^21 A tale so moral and so
interesting would deserve to be supported by less exceptionable
authority; but if we consult the more ancient and authentic
writers, they will inform us, that the repentance of Constantine
was manifested only in acts of blood and revenge; and that he
atoned for the murder of an innocent son, by the execution,
perhaps, of a guilty wife. They ascribe the misfortunes of
Crispus to the arts of his step-mother Fausta, whose implacable
hatred, or whose disappointed love, renewed in the palace of
Constantine the ancient tragedy of Hippolitus and of Phaedra. ^22
Like the daughter of Minos, the daughter of Maximian accused her
son-in-law of an incestuous attempt on the chastity of his
father's wife; and easily obtained, from the jealousy of the
emperor, a sentence of death against a young prince, whom she
considered with reason as the most formidable rival of her own
children. But Helena, the aged mother of Constantine, lamented
and revenged the untimely fate of her grandson Crispus; nor was
it long before a real or pretended discovery was made, that
Fausta herself entertained a criminal connection with a slave
belonging to the Imperial stables. ^23 Her condemnation and
punishment were the instant consequences of the charge; and the
adulteress was suffocated by the steam of a bath, which, for that
purpose, had been heated to an extraordinary degree. ^24 By some
it will perhaps be thought, that the remembrance of a conjugal
union of twenty years, and the honor of their common offspring,
the destined heirs of the throne, might have softened the
obdurate heart of Constantine, and persuaded him to suffer his
wife, however guilty she might appear, to expiate her offences in
a solitary prison. But it seems a superfluous labor to weigh the
propriety, unless we could ascertain the truth, of this singular
event, which is attended with some circumstances of doubt and
perplexity. Those who have attacked, and those who have
defended, the character of Constantine, have alike disregarded
two very remarkable passages of two orations pronounced under the
succeeding reign. The former celebrates the virtues, the beauty,
and the fortune of the empress Fausta, the daughter, wife,
sister, and mother of so many princes. ^25 The latter asserts, in
explicit terms, that the mother of the younger Constantine, who
was slain three years after his father's death, survived to weep
over the fate of her son. ^26 Notwithstanding the positive
testimony of several writers of the Pagan as well as of the
Christian religion, there may still remain some reason to
believe, or at least to suspect, that Fausta escaped the blind
and suspicious cruelty of her husband. ^* The deaths of a son and
a nephew, with the execution of a great number of respectable,
and perhaps innocent friends, ^27 who were involved in their
fall, may be sufficient, however, to justify the discontent of
the Roman people, and to explain the satirical verses affixed to
the palace gate, comparing the splendid and bloody reigns of
Constantine and Nero. ^28

[Footnote 21: In order to prove that the statue was erected by
Constantine, and afterwards concealed by the malice of the
Arians, Codinus very readily creates (p. 34) two witnesses,
Hippolitus, and the younger Herodotus, to whose imaginary
histories he appeals with unblushing confidence.]
[Footnote 22: Zosimus (l. ii. p. 103) may be considered as our
original. The ingenuity of the moderns, assisted by a few hints
from the ancients, has illustrated and improved his obscure and
imperfect narrative.]
[Footnote 23: Philostorgius, l. ii. c. 4. Zosimus (l. ii. p. 104,
116) imputes to Constantine the death of two wives, of the
innocent Fausta, and of an adulteress, who was the mother of his
three successors. According to Jerom, three or four years
elapsed between the death of Crispus and that of Fausta. The
elder Victor is prudently silent.]

[Footnote 24: If Fausta was put to death, it is reasonable to
believe that the private apartments of the palace were the scene
of her execution. The orator Chrysostom indulges his fancy by
exposing the naked desert mountain to be devoured by wild

[Footnote 25: Julian. Orat. i. He seems to call her the mother
of Crispus. She might assume that title by adoption. At least,
she was not considered as his mortal enemy. Julian compares the
fortune of Fausta with that of Parysatis, the Persian queen. A
Roman would have more naturally recollected the second Agrippina:

Et moi, qui sur le trone ai suivi mes ancetres:
Moi, fille, femme, soeur, et mere de vos maitres.]

[Footnote 26: Monod. in Constantin. Jun. c. 4, ad Calcem Eutrop.
edit. Havercamp. The orator styles her the most divine and pious
of queens [Footnote *: Manso (Leben Constantins, p. 65) treats
this inference o: Gibbon, and the authorities to which he
appeals, with too much contempt, considering the general
scantiness of proof on this curious question. - M.]
[Footnote 27: Interfecit numerosos amicos. Eutrop. xx. 6.]
[Footnote 28: Saturni aurea saecula quis requirat?
Sunt haec gemmea, sed Neroniana.

Sidon. Apollinar. v. 8.

It is somewhat singular that these satirical lines should be
attributed, not to an obscure libeller, or a disappointed
patriot, but to Ablavius, prime minister and favorite of the
emperor. We may now perceive that the imprecations of the Roman
people were dictated by humanity, as well as by superstition.
Zosim. l. ii. p. 105.]

Chapter XVIII: Character Of Constantine And His Sons.

Part II.

By the death of Crispus, the inheritance of the empire
seemed to devolve on the three sons of Fausta, who have been
already mentioned under the names of Constantine, of Constantius,
and of Constans. These young princes were successively invested
with the title of Caesar; and the dates of their promotion may be
referred to the tenth, the twentieth, and the thirtieth years of
the reign of their father. ^29 This conduct, though it tended to
multiply the future masters of the Roman world, might be excused
by the partiality of paternal affection; but it is not so easy to
understand the motives of the emperor, when he endangered the
safety both of his family and of his people, by the unnecessary
elevation of his two nephews, Dalmatius and Hannibalianus. The
former was raised, by the title of Caesar, to an equality with
his cousins. In favor of the latter, Constantine invented the
new and singular appellation of Nobilissimus; ^30 to which he
annexed the flattering distinction of a robe of purple and gold.
But of the whole series of Roman princes in any age of the


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