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

Part 5 out of 16

empire, Hannibalianus alone was distinguished by the title of
King; a name which the subjects of Tiberius would have detested,
as the profane and cruel insult of capricious tyranny. The use
of such a title, even as it appears under the reign of
Constantine, is a strange and unconnected fact, which can
scarcely be admitted on the joint authority of Imperial medals
and contemporary writers. ^31

[Footnote 29: Euseb. Orat. in Constantin. c. 3. These dates are
sufficiently correct to justify the orator.]

[Footnote 30: Zosim. l. ii. p. 117. Under the predecessors of
Constantine, No bilissimus was a vague epithet, rather than a
legal and determined title.]

[Footnote 31: Adstruunt nummi veteres ac singulares. Spanheim de
Usu Numismat. Dissertat. xii. vol. ii. p. 357. Ammianus speaks
of this Roman king (l. xiv. c. l, and Valesius ad loc.) The
Valesian fragment styles him King of kings; and the Paschal
Chronicle acquires the weight of Latin evidence.]

[Footnote *: Hannibalianus is always designated in these authors
by the title of king. There still exist medals struck to his
honor, on which the same title is found, Fl. Hannibaliano Regi.
See Eckhel, Doct. Num. t. viii. 204. Armeniam nationesque circum
socias habebat, says Aur. Victor, p. 225. The writer means the
Lesser Armenia. Though it is not possible to question a fact
supported by such respectable authorities, Gibbon considers it
inexplicable and incredible. It is a strange abuse of the
privilege of doubting, to refuse all belief in a fact of such
little importance in itself, and attested thus formally by
contemporary authors and public monuments. St. Martin note to Le
Beau i. 341. - M.]

The whole empire was deeply interested in the education of
these five youths, the acknowledged successors of Constantine.
The exercise of the body prepared them for the fatigues of war
and the duties of active life. Those who occasionally mention the
education or talents of Constantius, allow that he excelled in
the gymnastic arts of leaping and running that he was a dexterous
archer, a skilful horseman, and a master of all the different
weapons used in the service either of the cavalry or of the
infantry. ^32 The same assiduous cultivation was bestowed, though
not perhaps with equal success, to improve the minds of the sons
and nephews of Constantine. ^33 The most celebrated professors of
the Christian faith, of the Grecian philosophy, and of the Roman
jurisprudence, were invited by the liberality of the emperor, who
reserved for himself the important task of instructing the royal
youths in the science of government, and the knowledge of
mankind. But the genius of Constantine himself had been formed
by adversity and experience. In the free intercourse of private
life, and amidst the dangers of the court of Galerius, he had
learned to command his own passions, to encounter those of his
equals, and to depend for his present safety and future greatness
on the prudence and firmness of his personal conduct. His
destined successors had the misfortune of being born and educated
in the imperial purple. Incessantly surrounded with a train of
flatterers, they passed their youth in the enjoyment of luxury,
and the expectation of a throne; nor would the dignity of their
rank permit them to descend from that elevated station from
whence the various characters of human nature appear to wear a
smooth and uniform aspect. The indulgence of Constantine
admitted them, at a very tender age, to share the administration
of the empire; and they studied the art of reigning, at the
expense of the people intrusted to their care. The younger
Constantine was appointed to hold his court in Gaul; and his
brother Constantius exchanged that department, the ancient
patrimony of their father, for the more opulent, but less
martial, countries of the East. Italy, the Western Illyricum,
and Africa, were accustomed to revere Constans, the third of his
sons, as the representative of the great Constantine. He fixed
Dalmatius on the Gothic frontier, to which he annexed the
government of Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece. The city of
Caesarea was chosen for the residence of Hannibalianus; and the
provinces of Pontus, Cappadocia, and the Lesser Armenia, were
destined to form the extent of his new kingdom. For each of
these princes a suitable establishment was provided. A just
proportion of guards, of legions, and of auxiliaries, was
allotted for their respective dignity and defence. The ministers
and generals, who were placed about their persons, were such as
Constantine could trust to assist, and even to control, these
youthful sovereigns in the exercise of their delegated power. As
they advanced in years and experience, the limits of their
authority were insensibly enlarged: but the emperor always
reserved for himself the title of Augustus; and while he showed
the Caesars to the armies and provinces, he maintained every part
of the empire in equal obedience to its supreme head. ^34 The
tranquillity of the last fourteen years of his reign was scarcely
interrupted by the contemptible insurrection of a camel-driver in
the Island of Cyprus, ^35 or by the active part which the policy
of Constantine engaged him to assume in the wars of the Goths and

[Footnote 32: His dexterity in martial exercises is celebrated by
Julian, (Orat. i. p. 11, Orat. ii. p. 53,) and allowed by
Ammianus, (l. xxi. c. 16.)]

[Footnote 33: Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. l. iv. c. 51. Julian,
Orat. i. p. 11-16, with Spanheim's elaborate Commentary.
Libanius, Orat. iii. p. 109. Constantius studied with laudable
diligence; but the dulness of his fancy prevented him from
succeeding in the art of poetry, or even of rhetoric.]
[Footnote 34: Eusebius, (l. iv. c. 51, 52,) with a design of
exalting the authority and glory of Constantine, affirms, that he
divided the Roman empire as a private citizen might have divided
his patrimony. His distribution of the provinces may be
collected from Eutropius, the two Victors and the Valesian

[Footnote 35: Calocerus, the obscure leader of this rebellion, or
rather tumult, was apprehended and burnt alive in the
market-place of Tarsus, by the vigilance of Dalmatius. See the
elder Victor, the Chronicle of Jerom, and the doubtful traditions
of Theophanes and Cedrenus.]

Among the different branches of the human race, the
Sarmatians form a very remarkable shade; as they seem to unite
the manners of the Asiatic barbarians with the figure and
complexion of the ancient inhabitants of Europe. According to
the various accidents of peace and war, of alliance or conquest,
the Sarmatians were sometimes confined to the banks of the
Tanais; and they sometimes spread themselves over the immense
plains which lie between the Vistula and the Volga. ^36 The care
of their numerous flocks and herds, the pursuit of game, and the
exercises of war, or rather of rapine, directed the vagrant
motions of the Sarmatians. The movable camps or cities, the
ordinary residence of their wives and children, consisted only of
large wagons drawn by oxen, and covered in the form of tents.
The military strength of the nation was composed of cavalry; and
the custom of their warriors, to lead in their hand one or two
spare horses, enabled them to advance and to retreat with a rapid
diligence, which surprised the security, and eluded the pursuit,
of a distant enemy. ^37 Their poverty of iron prompted their rude
industry to invent a sort of cuirass, which was capable of
resisting a sword or javelin, though it was formed only of
horses' hoofs, cut into thin and polished slices, carefully laid
over each other in the manner of scales or feathers, and strongly
sewed upon an under garment of coarse linen. ^38 The offensive
arms of the Sarmatians were short daggers, long lances, and a
weighty bow with a quiver of arrows. They were reduced to
the necessity of employing fish-bones for the points of their
weapons; but the custom of dipping them in a venomous liquor,
that poisoned the wounds which they inflicted, is alone
sufficient to prove the most savage manners, since a people
impressed with a sense of humanity would have abhorred so cruel a
practice, and a nation skilled in the arts of war would have
disdained so impotent a resource. ^39 Whenever these Barbarians
issued from their deserts in quest of prey, their shaggy beards,
uncombed locks, the furs with which they were covered from head
to foot, and their fierce countenances, which seemed to express
the innate cruelty of their minds, inspired the more civilized
provincials of Rome with horror and dismay.

[Footnote 36: Cellarius has collected the opinions of the
ancients concerning the European and Asiatic Sarmatia; and M.
D'Anville has applied them to modern geography with the skill and
accuracy which always distinguish that excellent writer.]

[Footnote 37: Ammian. l. xvii. c. 12. The Sarmatian horses were
castrated to prevent the mischievous accidents which might happen
from the noisy and ungovernable passions of the males.]

[Footnote 38: Pausanius, l. i. p. 50,. edit. Kuhn. That
inquisitive traveller had carefully examined a Sarmatian cuirass,
which was preserved in the temple of Aesculapius at Athens.]

[Footnote 39: Aspicis et mitti sub adunco toxica ferro,
Et telum causas mortis habere duas.

Ovid, ex Ponto, l. iv. ep. 7, ver. 7.

See in the Recherches sur les Americains, tom. ii. p. 236 -
271, a very curious dissertation on poisoned darts. The venom
was commonly extracted from the vegetable reign: but that
employed by the Scythians appears to have been drawn from the
viper, and a mixture of human blood. The use of poisoned arms,
which has been spread over both worlds, never preserved a savage
tribe from the arms of a disciplined enemy.]
The tender Ovid, after a youth spent in the enjoyment of
fame and luxury, was condemned to a hopeless exile on the frozen
banks of the Danube, where he was exposed, almost without
defence, to the fury of these monsters of the desert, with whose
stern spirits he feared that his gentle shade might hereafter be
confounded. In his pathetic, but sometimes unmanly lamentations,
^40 he describes in the most lively colors the dress and manners,
the arms and inroads, of the Getae and Sarmatians, who were
associated for the purposes of destruction; and from the accounts
of history there is some reason to believe that these Sarmatians
were the Jazygae, one of the most numerous and warlike tribes of
the nation. The allurements of plenty engaged them to seek a
permanent establishment on the frontiers of the empire. Soon
after the reign of Augustus, they obliged the Dacians, who
subsisted by fishing on the banks of the River Teyss or Tibiscus,
to retire into the hilly country, and to abandon to the
victorious Sarmatians the fertile plains of the Upper Hungary,
which are bounded by the course of the Danube and the
semicircular enclosure of the Carpathian Mountains. ^41 In this
advantageous position, they watched or suspended the moment of
attack, as they were provoked by injuries or appeased by
presents; they gradually acquired the skill of using more
dangerous weapons, and although the Sarmatians did not illustrate
their name by any memorable exploits, they occasionally assisted
their eastern and western neighbors, the Goths and the Germans,
with a formidable body of cavalry. They lived under the
irregular aristocracy of their chieftains: ^42 but after they had
received into their bosom the fugitive Vandals, who yielded to
the pressure of the Gothic power, they seem to have chosen a king
from that nation, and from the illustrious race of the Astingi,
who had formerly dwelt on the hores of the northern ocean. ^43
[Footnote 40: The nine books of Poetical Epistles which Ovid
composed during the seven first years of his melancholy exile,
possess, beside the merit of elegance, a double value. They
exhibit a picture of the human mind under very singular
circumstances; and they contain many curious observations, which
no Roman except Ovid, could have an opportunity of making. Every
circumstance which tends to illustrate the history of the
Barbarians, has been drawn together by the very accurate Count de
Buat. Hist. Ancienne des Peuples de l'Europe, tom. iv. c. xvi. p.
[Footnote 41: The Sarmatian Jazygae were settled on the banks of
Pathissus or Tibiscus, when Pliny, in the year 79, published his
Natural History. See l. iv. c. 25. In the time of Strabo and
Ovid, sixty or seventy years before, they appear to have
inhabited beyond the Getae, along the coast of the Euxine.]

[Footnote 42: Principes Sarmaturum Jazygum penes quos civitatis
regimen plebem quoque et vim equitum, qua sola valent,
offerebant. Tacit. Hist. iii. p. 5. This offer was made in the
civil war between Vitellino and Vespasian.]

[Footnote 43: This hypothesis of a Vandal king reigning over
Sarmatian subjects, seems necessary to reconcile the Goth
Jornandes with the Greek and Latin historians of Constantine. It
may be observed that Isidore, who lived in Spain under the
dominion of the Goths, gives them for enemies, not the Vandals,
but the Sarmatians. See his Chronicle in Grotius, p. 709.
Note: I have already noticed the confusion which must
necessarily arise in history, when names purely geographical, as
this of Sarmatia, are taken for historical names belonging to a
single nation. We perceive it here; it has forced Gibbon to
suppose, without any reason but the necessity of extricating
himself from his perplexity, that the Sarmatians had taken a king
from among the Vandals; a supposition entirely contrary to the
usages of Barbarians Dacia, at this period, was occupied, not by
Sarmatians, who have never formed a distinct race, but by
Vandals, whom the ancients have often confounded under the
general term Sarmatians. See Gatterer's Welt-Geschiehte p. 464 -
This motive of enmity must have inflamed the subjects of
contention, which perpetually arise on the confines of warlike
and independent nations. The Vandal princes were stimulated by
fear and revenge; the Gothic kings aspired to extend their
dominion from the Euxine to the frontiers of Germany; and the
waters of the Maros, a small river which falls into the Teyss,
were stained with the blood of the contending Barbarians. After
some experience of the superior strength and numbers of their
adversaries, the Sarmatians implored the protection of the Roman
monarch, who beheld with pleasure the discord of the nations, but
who was justly alarmed by the progress of the Gothic arms. As
soon as Constantine had declared himself in favor of the weaker
party, the haughty Araric, king of the Goths, instead of
expecting the attack of the legions, boldly passed the Danube,
and spread terror and devastation through the province of Maesia.

To oppose the inroad of this destroying host, the aged emperor
took the field in person; but on this occasion either his conduct
or his fortune betrayed the glory which he had acquired in so
many foreign and domestic wars. He had the mortification of
seeing his troops fly before an inconsiderable detachment of the
Barbarians, who pursued them to the edge of their fortified camp,
and obliged him to consult his safety by a precipitate and
ignominious retreat. ^* The event of a second and more successful
action retrieved the honor of the Roman name; and the powers of
art and discipline prevailed, after an obstinate contest, over
the efforts of irregular valor. The broken army of the Goths
abandoned the field of battle, the wasted province, and the
passage of the Danube: and although the eldest of the sons of
Constantine was permitted to supply the place of his father, the
merit of the victory, which diffused universal joy, was ascribed
to the auspicious counsels of the emperor himself.

[Footnote *: Gibbon states, that Constantine was defeated by the
Goths in a first battle. No ancient author mentions such an
event. It is, no doubt, a mistake in Gibbon. St Martin, note to
Le Beau. i. 324. - M.]
He contributed at least to improve this advantage, by his
negotiations with the free and warlike people of Chersonesus, ^44
whose capital, situate on the western coast of the Tauric or
Crimaean peninsula, still retained some vestiges of a Grecian
colony, and was governed by a perpetual magistrate, assisted by a
council of senators, emphatically styled the Fathers of the City.

The Chersonites were animated against the Goths, by the memory of
the wars, which, in the preceding century, they had maintained
with unequal forces against the invaders of their country. They
were connected with the Romans by the mutual benefits of
commerce; as they were supplied from the provinces of Asia with
corn and manufactures, which they purchased with their only
productions, salt, wax, and hides. Obedient to the requisition
of Constantine, they prepared, under the conduct of their
magistrate Diogenes, a considerable army, of which the principal
strength consisted in cross-bows and military chariots. The
speedy march and intrepid attack of the Chersonites, by diverting
the attention of the Goths, assisted the operations of the
Imperial generals. The Goths, vanquished on every side, were
driven into the mountains, where, in the course of a severe
campaign, above a hundred thousand were computed to have perished
by cold and hunger Peace was at length granted to their humble
supplications; the eldest son of Araric was accepted as the most
valuable hostage; and Constantine endeavored to convince their
chiefs, by a liberal distribution of honors and rewards, how far
the friendship of the Romans was preferable to their enmity. In
the expressions of his gratitude towards the faithful
Chersonites, the emperor was still more magnificent. The pride of
the nation was gratified by the splendid and almost royal
decorations bestowed on their magistrate and his successors. A
perpetual exemption from all duties was stipulated for their
vessels which traded to the ports of the Black Sea. A regular
subsidy was promised, of iron, corn, oil, and of every supply
which could be useful either in peace or war. But it was thought
that the Sarmatians were sufficiently rewarded by their
deliverance from impending ruin; and the emperor, perhaps with
too strict an economy, deducted some part of the expenses of the
war from the customary gratifications which were allowed to that
turbulent nation.
[Footnote 44: I may stand in need of some apology for having
used, without scruple, the authority of Constantine
Porphyrogenitus, in all that relates to the wars and negotiations
of the Chersonites. I am aware that he was a Greek of the tenth
century, and that his accounts of ancient history are frequently
confused and fabulous. But on this occasion his narrative is,
for the most part, consistent and probable nor is there much
difficulty in conceiving that an emperor might have access to
some secret archives, which had escaped the diligence of meaner
historians. For the situation and history of Chersone, see
Peyssonel, des Peuples barbares qui ont habite les Bords du
Danube, c. xvi. 84-90.]

[Footnote !: Gibbon has confounded the inhabitants of the city of
Cherson, the ancient Chersonesus, with the people of the
Chersonesus Taurica. If he had read with more attention the
chapter of Constantius Porphyrogenitus, from which this narrative
is derived, he would have seen that the author clearly
distinguishes the republic of Cherson from the rest of the Tauric
Peninsula, then possessed by the kings of the Cimmerian
Bosphorus, and that the city of Cherson alone furnished succors
to the Romans. The English historian is also mistaken in saying
that the Stephanephoros of the Chersonites was a perpetual
magistrate; since it is easy to discover from the great number of
Stephanephoroi mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogenitus, that
they were annual magistrates, like almost all those which
governed the Grecian republics. St. Martin, note to Le Beau i.
326. - M.]

Exasperated by this apparent neglect, the Sarmatians soon
forgot, with the levity of barbarians, the services which they
had so lately received, and the dangers which still threatened
their safety. Their inroads on the territory of the empire
provoked the indignation of Constantine to leave them to their
fate; and he no longer opposed the ambition of Geberic, a
renowned warrior, who had recently ascended the Gothic throne.
Wisumar, the Vandal king, whilst alone, and unassisted, he
defended his dominions with undaunted courage, was vanquished and
slain in a decisive battle, which swept away the flower of the
Sarmatian youth. ^* The remainder of the nation embraced the
desperate expedient of arming their slaves, a hardy race of
hunters and herdsmen, by whose tumultuary aid they revenged their
defeat, and expelled the invader from their confines. But they
soon discovered that they had exchanged a foreign for a domestic
enemy, more dangerous and more implacable. Enraged by their
former servitude, elated by their present glory, the slaves,
under the name of Limigantes, claimed and usurped the possession
of the country which they had saved. Their masters, unable to
withstand the ungoverned fury of the populace, preferred the
hardships of exile to the tyranny of their servants. Some of the
fugitive Sarmatians solicited a less ignominious dependence,
under the hostile standard of the Goths. A more numerous band
retired beyond the Carpathian Mountains, among the Quadi, their
German allies, and were easily admitted to share a superfluous
waste of uncultivated land. But the far greater part of the
distressed nation turned their eyes towards the fruitful
provinces of Rome. Imploring the protection and forgiveness of
the emperor, they solemnly promised, as subjects in peace, and as
soldiers in war, the most inviolable fidelity to the empire which
should graciously receive them into its bosom. According to the
maxims adopted by Probus and his successors, the offers of this
barbarian colony were eagerly accepted; and a competent portion
of lands in the provinces of Pannonia, Thrace, Macedonia, and
Italy, were immediately assigned for the habitation and
subsistence of three hundred thousand Sarmatians. ^45

[Footnote *: Gibbon supposes that this war took place because
Constantine had deducted a part of the customary gratifications,
granted by his predecessors to the Sarmatians. Nothing of this
kind appears in the authors. We see, on the contrary, that after
his victory, and to punish the Sarmatia is for the ravages they
had committed, he withheld the sums which it had been the custom
to bestow. St. Martin, note to Le Beau, i. 327. - M.]

[Footnote 45: The Gothic and Sarmatian wars are related in so
broken and imperfect a manner, that I have been obliged to
compare the following writers, who mutually supply, correct, and
illustrate each other. Those who will take the same trouble, may
acquire a right of criticizing my narrative. Ammianus, l. xvii.
c. 12. Anonym. Valesian. p. 715. Eutropius, x. 7. Sextus Rufus
de Provinciis, c. 26. Julian Orat. i. p. 9, and Spanheim,
Comment. p. 94. Hieronym. in Chron. Euseb. in Vit. Constantin.
l. iv. c. 6. Socrates, l. i. c. 18. Sozomen, l. i. c. 8.
Zosimus, l. ii. p. 108. Jornandes de Reb. Geticis, c. 22.
Isidorus in Chron. p. 709; in Hist. Gothorum Grotii. Constantin.

Porphyrogenitus de Administrat. Imperii, c. 53, p. 208, edit.

[Footnote *: Compare, on this very obscure but remarkable war,
Manso, Leben Coa xantius, p. 195 - M.]

By chastising the pride of the Goths, and by accepting the
homage of a suppliant nation, Constantine asserted the majesty of
the Roman empire; and the ambassadors of Aethiopia, Persia, and
the most remote countries of India, congratulated the peace and
prosperity of his government. ^46 If he reckoned, among the
favors of fortune, the death of his eldest son, of his nephew,
and perhaps of his wife, he enjoyed an uninterrupted flow of
private as well as public felicity, till the thirtieth year of
his reign; a period which none of his predecessors, since
Augustus, had been permitted to celebrate. Constantine survived
that solemn festival about ten months; and at the mature age of
sixty-four, after a short illness, he ended his memorable life at
the palace of Aquyrion, in the suburbs of Nicomedia, whither he
had retired for the benefit of the air, and with the hope of
recruiting his exhausted strength by the use of the warm baths.
The excessive demonstrations of grief, or at least of mourning,
surpassed whatever had been practised on any former occasion.
Notwithstanding the claims of the senate and people of ancient
Rome, the corpse of the deceased emperor, according to his last
request, was transported to the city, which was destined to
preserve the name and memory of its founder. The body of
Constantine adorned with the vain symbols of greatness, the
purple and diadem, was deposited on a golden bed in one of the
apartments of the palace, which for that purpose had been
splendidly furnished and illuminated. The forms of the court
were strictly maintained. Every day, at the appointed hours, the
principal officers of the state, the army, and the household,
approaching the person of their sovereign with bended knees and a
composed countenance, offered their respectful homage as
seriously as if he had been still alive. From motives of policy,
this theatrical representation was for some time continued; nor
could flattery neglect the opportunity of remarking that
Constantine alone, by the peculiar indulgence of Heaven, had
reigned after his death. ^47

[Footnote 46: Eusebius (in Vit. Const. l. iv. c. 50) remarks
three circumstances relative to these Indians. 1. They came from
the shores of the eastern ocean; a description which might be
applied to the coast of China or Coromandel. 2. They presented
shining gems, and unknown animals. 3. They protested their kings
had erected statues to represent the supreme majesty of

[Footnote 47: Funus relatum in urbem sui nominis, quod sane P. R.
aegerrime tulit. Aurelius Victor. Constantine prepared for
himself a stately tomb in the church of the Holy Apostles.
Euseb. l. iv. c. 60. The best, and indeed almost the only
account of the sickness, death, and funeral of Constantine, is
contained in the fourth book of his Life by Eusebius.]
But this reign could subsist only in empty pageantry; and it
was soon discovered that the will of the most absolute monarch is
seldom obeyed, when his subjects have no longer anything to hope
from his favor, or to dread from his resentment. The same
ministers and generals, who bowed with such referential awe
before the inanimate corpse of their deceased sovereign, were
engaged in secret consultations to exclude his two nephews,
Dalmatius and Hannibalianus, from the share which he had assigned
them in the succession of the empire. We are too imperfectly
acquainted with the court of Constantine to form any judgment of
the real motives which influenced the leaders of the conspiracy;
unless we should suppose that they were actuated by a spirit of
jealousy and revenge against the praefect Ablavius, a proud
favorite, who had long directed the counsels and abused the
confidence of the late emperor. The arguments, by which they
solicited the concurrence of the soldiers and people, are of a
more obvious nature; and they might with decency, as well as
truth, insist on the superior rank of the children of
Constantine, the danger of multiplying the number of sovereigns,
and the impending mischiefs which threatened the republic, from
the discord of so many rival princes, who were not connected by
the tender sympathy of fraternal affection. The intrigue was
conducted with zeal and secrecy, till a loud and unanimous
declaration was procured from the troops, that they would suffer
none except the sons of their lamented monarch to reign over the
Roman empire. ^48 The younger Dalmatius, who was united with his
collateral relations by the ties of friendship and interest, is
allowed to have inherited a considerable share of the abilities
of the great Constantine; but, on this occasion, he does not
appear to have concerted any measure for supporting, by arms, the
just claims which himself and his royal brother derived from the
liberality of their uncle. Astonished and overwhelmed by the
tide of popular fury, they seem to have remained, without the
power of flight or of resistance, in the hands of their
implacable enemies. Their fate was suspended till the arrival of
Constantius, the second, and perhaps the most favored, of the
sons of Constantine.

[Footnote 48: Eusebius (l. iv. c. 6) terminates his narrative by
this loyal declaration of the troops, and avoids all the
invidious circumstances of the subsequent massacre.]

[Footnote 49: The character of Dalmatius is advantageously,
though concisely drawn by Eutropius. (x. 9.) Dalmatius Ceasar
prosperrima indole, neque patrou absimilis, haud multo post
oppressus est factione militari. As both Jerom and the
Alexandrian Chronicle mention the third year of the Ceasar, which
did not commence till the 18th or 24th of September, A. D. 337,
it is certain that these military factions continued above four

Chapter XVIII: Character Of Constantine And His Sons.

Part III.

The voice of the dying emperor had recommended the care of
his funeral to the piety of Constantius; and that prince, by the
vicinity of his eastern station, could easily prevent the
diligence of his brothers, who resided in their distant
government of Italy and Gaul. As soon as he had taken possession
of the palace of Constantinople, his first care was to remove the
apprehensions of his kinsmen, by a solemn oath which he pledged
for their security. His next employment was to find some
specious pretence which might release his conscience from the
obligation of an imprudent promise. The arts of fraud were made
subservient to the designs of cruelty; and a manifest forgery was
attested by a person of the most sacred character. From the
hands of the Bishop of Nicomedia, Constantius received a fatal
scroll, affirmed to be the genuine testament of his father; in
which the emperor expressed his suspicions that he had been
poisoned by his brothers; and conjured his sons to revenge his
death, and to consult their own safety, by the punishment of the
guilty. ^50 Whatever reasons might have been alleged by these
unfortunate princes to defend their life and honor against so
incredible an accusation, they were silenced by the furious
clamors of the soldiers, who declared themselves, at once, their
enemies, their judges, and their executioners. The spirit, and
even the forms of legal proceedings were repeatedly violated in a
promiscuous massacre; which involved the two uncles of
Constantius, seven of his cousins, of whom Dalmatius and
Hannibalianus were the most illustrious, the Patrician Optatus,
who had married a sister of the late emperor, and the Praefect
Ablavius, whose power and riches had inspired him with some hopes
of obtaining the purple. If it were necessary to aggravate the
horrors of this bloody scene, we might add, that Constantius
himself had espoused the daughter of his uncle Julius, and that
he had bestowed his sister in marriage on his cousin
Hannibalianus. These alliances, which the policy of Constantine,
regardless of the public prejudice, ^51 had formed between the
several branches of the Imperial house, served only to convince
mankind, that these princes were as cold to the endearments of
conjugal affection, as they were insensible to the ties of
consanguinity, and the moving entreaties of youth and innocence.
Of so numerous a family, Gallus and Julian alone, the two
youngest children of Julius Constantius, were saved from the
hands of the assassins, till their rage, satiated with slaughter,
had in some measure subsided. The emperor Constantius, who, in
the absence of his brothers, was the most obnoxious to guilt and
reproach, discovered, on some future occasions, a faint and
transient remorse for those cruelties which the perfidious
counsels of his ministers, and the irresistible violence of the
troops, had extorted from his unexperienced youth. ^52
[Footnote 50: I have related this singular anecdote on the
authority of Philostorgius, l. ii. c. 16. But if such a pretext
was ever used by Constantius and his adherents, it was laid aside
with contempt, as soon as it served their immediate purpose.
Athanasius (tom. i. p. 856) mention the oath which Constantius
had taken for the security of his kinsmen.]
[Footnote *: The authority of Philostorgius is so suspicious, as
not to be sufficient to establish this fact, which Gibbon has
inserted in his history as certain, while in the note he appears
to doubt it. - G.]

[Footnote 51: Conjugia sobrinarum diu ignorata, tempore addito
percrebuisse. Tacit. Annal. xii. 6, and Lipsius ad loc. The
repeal of the ancient law, and the practice of five hundred
years, were insufficient to eradicate the prejudices of the
Romans, who still considered the marriages of cousins-german as a
species of imperfect incest. (Augustin de Civitate Dei, xv. 6;)
and Julian, whose mind was biased by superstition and resentment,
stigmatizes these unnatural alliances between his own cousins
with the opprobrious epithet (Orat. vii. p. 228.). The
jurisprudence of the canons has since received and enforced this
prohibition, without being able to introduce it either into the
civil or the common law of Europe. See on the subject of these
marriages, Taylor's Civil Law, p. 331. Brouer de Jure Connub. l.
ii. c. 12. Hericourt des Loix Ecclesiastiques, part iii. c. 5.
Fleury, Institutions du Droit Canonique, tom. i. p. 331. Paris,
1767, and Fra Paolo, Istoria del Concilio Trident, l. viii.]

[Footnote 52: Julian (ad S. P.. Q. Athen. p. 270) charges his
cousin Constantius with the whole guilt of a massacre, from which
he himself so narrowly escaped. His assertion is confirmed by
Athanasius, who, for reasons of a very different nature, was not
less an enemy of Constantius, (tom. i. p. 856.) Zosimus joins in
the same accusation. But the three abbreviators, Eutropius and
the Victors, use very qualifying expressions: "sinente potius
quam jubente;" "incertum quo suasore;" "vi militum."]
The massacre of the Flavian race was succeeded by a new
division of the provinces; which was ratified in a personal
interview of the three brothers. Constantine, the eldest of the
Caesars, obtained, with a certain preeminence of rank, the
possession of the new capital, which bore his own name and that
of his father. Thrace, and the countries of the East, were
allotted for the patrimony of Constantius; and Constans was
acknowledged as the lawful sovereign of Italy, Africa, and the
Western Illyricum. The armies submitted to their hereditary
right; and they condescended, after some delay, to accept from
the Roman senate the title of Augustus. When they first assumed
the reins of government, the eldest of these princes was
twenty-one, the second twenty, and the third only seventeen,
years of age. ^53

[Footnote 53: Euseb. in Vit. Constantin. l. iv. c. 69. Zosimus,
l. ii. p. 117. Idat. in Chron. See two notes of Tillemont, Hist.
des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 1086-1091. The reign of the eldest
brother at Constantinople is noticed only in the Alexandrian

While the martial nations of Europe followed the standards
of his brothers, Constantius, at the head of the effeminate
troops of Asia, was left to sustain the weight of the Persian
war. At the decease of Constantine, the throne of the East was
filled by Sapor, son of Hormouz, or Hormisdas, and grandson of
Narses, who, after the victory of Galerius, had humbly confessed
the superiority of the Roman power. Although Sapor was in the
thirtieth year of his long reign, he was still in the vigor of
youth, as the date of his accession, by a very strange fatality,
had preceded that of his birth. The wife of Hormouz remained
pregnant at the time of her husband's death; and the uncertainty
of the sex, as well as of the event, excited the ambitious hopes
of the princes of the house of Sassan. The apprehensions of
civil war were at length removed, by the positive assurance of
the Magi, that the widow of Hormouz had conceived, and would
safely produce a son. Obedient to the voice of superstition, the
Persians prepared, without delay, the ceremony of his coronation.

A royal bed, on which the queen lay in state, was exhibited in
the midst of the palace; the diadem was placed on the spot, which
might be supposed to conceal the future heir of Artaxerxes, and
the prostrate satraps adored the majesty of their invisible and
insensible sovereign. ^54 If any credit can be given to this
marvellous tale, which seems, however, to be countenanced by the
manners of the people, and by the extraordinary duration of his
reign, we must admire not only the fortune, but the genius, of
Sapor. In the soft, sequestered education of a Persian harem,
the royal youth could discover the importance of exercising the
vigor of his mind and body; and, by his personal merit, deserved
a throne, on which he had been seated, while he was yet
unconscious of the duties and temptations of absolute power. His
minority was exposed to the almost inevitable calamities of
domestic discord; his capital was surprised and plundered by
Thair, a powerful king of Yemen, or Arabia; and the majesty of
the royal family was degraded by the captivity of a princess, the
sister of the deceased king. But as soon as Sapor attained the
age of manhood, the presumptuous Thair, his nation, and his
country, fell beneath the first effort of the young warrior; who
used his victory with so judicious a mixture of rigor and
clemency, that he obtained from the fears and gratitude of the
Arabs the title of Dhoulacnaf, or protector of the nation. ^55

[Footnote 54: Agathias, who lived in the sixth century, is the
author of this story, (l. iv. p. 135, edit. Louvre.) He derived
his information from some extracts of the Persian Chronicles,
obtained and translated by the interpreter Sergius, during his
embassy at that country. The coronation of the mother of Sapor
is likewise mentioned by Snikard, (Tarikh. p. 116,) and
D'Herbelot (Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 703.)]

[Footnote *: The author of the Zenut-ul-Tarikh states, that the
lady herself affirmed her belief of this from the extraordinary
liveliness of the infant, and its lying on the right side. Those
who are sage on such subjects must determine what right she had
to be positive from these symptoms. Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, i
83. - M.]

[Footnote 55: D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 764.]
[Footnote *: Gibbon, according to Sir J. Malcolm, has greatly
mistaken the derivation of this name; it means Zoolaktaf, the
Lord of the Shoulders, from his directing the shoulders of his
captives to be pierced and then dislocated by a string passed
through them. Eastern authors are agreed with respect to the
origin of this title. Malcolm, i. 84. Gibbon took his
derivation from D'Herbelot, who gives both, the latter on the
authority of the Leb. Tarikh. - M.]

The ambition of the Persian, to whom his enemies ascribe the
virtues of a soldier and a statesman, was animated by the desire
of revenging the disgrace of his fathers, and of wresting from
the hands of the Romans the five provinces beyond the Tigris.
The military fame of Constantine, and the real or apparent
strength of his government, suspended the attack; and while the
hostile conduct of Sapor provoked the resentment, his artful
negotiations amused the patience of the Imperial court. The
death of Constantine was the signal of war, ^56 and the actual
condition of the Syrian and Armenian frontier seemed to encourage
the Persians by the prospect of a rich spoil and an easy
conquest. The example of the massacres of the palace diffused a
spirit of licentiousness and sedition among the troops of the
East, who were no longer restrained by their habits of obedience
to a veteran commander. By the prudence of Constantius, who,
from the interview with his brothers in Pannonia, immediately
hastened to the banks of the Euphrates, the legions were
gradually restored to a sense of duty and discipline; but the
season of anarchy had permitted Sapor to form the siege of
Nisibis, and to occupy several of the mo st important fortresses
of Mesopotamia. ^57 In Armenia, the renowned Tiridates had long
enjoyed the peace and glory which he deserved by his valor and
fidelity to the cause of Rome. ^! The firm alliance which he
maintained with Constantine was productive of spiritual as well
as of temporal benefits; by the conversion of Tiridates, the
character of a saint was applied to that of a hero, the Christian
faith was preached and established from the Euphrates to the
shores of the Caspian, and Armenia was attached to the empire by
the double ties of policy and religion. But as many of the
Armenian nobles still refused to abandon the plurality of their
gods and of their wives, the public tranquillity was disturbed by
a discontented faction, which insulted the feeble age of their
sovereign, and impatiently expected the hour of his death. He
died at length after a reign of fifty- six years, and the fortune
of the Armenian monarchy expired with Tiridates. His lawful heir
was driven into exile, the Christian priests were either murdered
or expelled from their churches, the barbarous tribes of Albania
were solicited to descend from their mountains; and two of the
most powerful governors, usurping the ensigns or the powers of
royalty, implored the assistance of Sapor, and opened the gates
of their cities to the Persian garrisons. The Christian party,
under the guidance of the Archbishop of Artaxata, the immediate
successor of St. Gregory the Illuminator, had recourse to the
piety of Constantius. After the troubles had continued about
three years, Antiochus, one of the officers of the household,
executed with success the Imperial commission of restoring
Chosroes, ^* the son of Tiridates, to the throne of his fathers,
of distributing honors and rewards among the faithful servants of
the house of Arsaces, and of proclaiming a general amnesty, which
was accepted by the greater part of the rebellious satraps. But
the Romans derived more honor than advantage from this
revolution. Chosroes was a prince of a puny stature and a
pusillanimous spirit. Unequal to the fatigues of war, averse to
the society of mankind, he withdrew from his capital to a retired
palace, which he built on the banks of the River Eleutherus, and
in the centre of a shady grove; where he consumed his vacant
hours in the rural sports of hunting and hawking. To secure this
inglorious ease, he submitted to the conditions of peace which
Sapor condescended to impose; the payment of an annual tribute,
and the restitution of the fertile province of Atropatene, which
the courage of Tiridates, and the victorious arms of Galerius,
had annexed to the Armenian monarchy. ^58

[Footnote 56: Sextus Rufus, (c. 26,) who on this occasion is no
contemptible authority, affirms, that the Persians sued in vain
for peace, and that Constantine was preparing to march against
them: yet the superior weight of the testimony of Eusebius
obliges us to admit the preliminaries, if not the ratification,
of the treaty. See Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p.

[Footnote *: Constantine had endeavored to allay the fury of the
prosecutions, which, at the instigation of the Magi and the Jews,
Sapor had commenced against the Christians. Euseb Vit. Hist.
Theod. i. 25. Sozom. ii. c. 8, 15. - M.]

[Footnote 57: Julian. Orat. i. p. 20.]

[Footnote *: Tiridates had sustained a war against Maximin.
caused by the hatred of the latter against Christianity. Armenia
was the first nation which embraced Christianity. About the year
276 it was the religion of the king, the nobles, and the people
of Armenia. From St. Martin, Supplement to Le Beau, v. i. p. 78.

Compare Preface to History of Vartan by Professor Neumann, p ix.
- M.]

[Footnote *: Chosroes was restored probably by Licinius, between
314 and 319. There was an Antiochus who was praefectus vigilum at
Rome, as appears from the Theodosian Code, (l. iii. de inf. his
quae sub ty.,) in 326, and from a fragment of the same work
published by M. Amedee Peyron, in 319. He may before this have
been sent into Armenia. St. M. p. 407. [Is it not more probable
that Antiochus was an officer in the service of the Caesar who
ruled in the East? - M.] Chosroes was succeeded in the year 322
by his son Diran. Diran was a weak prince, and in the sixteenth
year of his reign. A. D. 337. was betrayed into the power of the
Persians by the treachery of his chamberlain and the Persian
governor of Atropatene or Aderbidjan. He was blinded: his wife
and his son Arsaces shared his captivity, but the princes and
nobles of Armenia claimed the protection of Rome; and this was
the cause of Constantine's declaration of war against the
Persians. - The king of Persia attempted to make himself master
of Armenia; but the brave resistance of the people, the advance
of Constantius, and a defeat which his army suffered at Oskha in
Armenia, and the failure before Nisibis, forced Shahpour to
submit to terms of peace. Varaz-Shahpour, the perfidious governor
of Atropatene, was flayed alive; Diran and his son were released
from captivity; Diran refused to ascend the throne, and retired
to an obscure retreat: his son Arsaces was crowned king of
Armenia. Arsaces pursued a vacillating policy between the
influence of Rome and Persia, and the war recommenced in the year
345. At least, that was the period of the expedition of
Constantius to the East. See St. Martin, additions to Le Beau,
i. 442. The Persians have made an extraordinary romance out of
the history of Shahpour, who went as a spy to Constantinople, was
taken, harnessed like a horse, and carried to witness the
devastation of his kingdom. Malcolm. 84 - M.]

[Footnote 58: Julian. Orat. i. p. 20, 21. Moses of Chorene, l.
ii. c. 89, l. iii. c. 1 - 9, p. 226 - 240. The perfect agreement
between the vague hints of the contemporary orator, and the
circumstantial narrative of the national historian, gives light
to the former, and weight to the latter. For the credit of Moses,
it may be likewise observed, that the name of Antiochus is found
a few years before in a civil office of inferior dignity. See
Godefroy, Cod. Theod. tom. vi. p. 350.]

[Footnote *: Gibbon has endeavored, in his History, to make use
of the information furnished by Moses of Chorene, the only
Armenian historian then translated into Latin. Gibbon has not
perceived all the chronological difficulties which occur in the
narrative of that writer. He has not thought of all the critical
discussions which his text ought to undergo before it can be
combined with the relations of the western writers. From want of
this attention, Gibbon has made the facts which he has drawn from
this source more erroneous than they are in the original. This
judgment applies to all which the English historian has derived
from the Armenian author. I have made the History of Moses a
subject of particular attention; and it is with confidence that I
offer the results, which I insert here, and which will appear in
the course of my notes. In order to form a judgment of the
difference which exists between me and Gibbon, I will content
myself with remarking, that throughout he has committed an
anachronism of thirty years, from whence it follows, that he
assigns to the reign of Constantius many events which took place
during that of Constantine. He could not, therefore, discern the
true connection which exists between the Roman history and that
of Armenia, or form a correct notion of the reasons which induced
Constantine, at the close of his life, to make war upon the
Persians, or of the motives which detained Constantius so long in
the East; he does not even mention them. St. Martin, note on Le
Beau, i. 406. I have inserted M. St. Martin's observations, but
I must add, that the chronology which he proposes, is not
generally received by Armenian scholars, not, I believe, by
Professor Neumann. - M.]
During the long period of the reign of Constantius, the
provinces of the East were afflicted by the calamities of the
Persian war. ^! The irregular incursions of the light troops
alternately spread terror and devastation beyond the Tigris and
beyond the Euphrates, from the gates of Ctesiphon to those of
Antioch; and this active service was performed by the Arabs of
the desert, who were divided in their interest and affections;
some of their independent chiefs being enlisted in the party of
Sapor, whilst others had engaged their doubtful fidelity to the
emperor. ^59 The more grave and important operations of the war
were conducted with equal vigor; and the armies of Rome and
Persia encountered each other in nine bloody fields, in two of
which Constantius himself commanded in person. ^60 The event of
the day was most commonly adverse to the Romans, but in the
battle of Singara, their imprudent valor had almost achieved a
signal and decisive victory. The stationary troops of Singara ^*
retired on the approach of Sapor, who passed the Tigris over
three bridges, and occupied near the village of Hilleh an
advantageous camp, which, by the labor of his numerous pioneers,
he surrounded in one day with a deep ditch and a lofty rampart.
His formidable host, when it was drawn out in order of battle,
covered the banks of the river, the adjacent heights, and the
whole extent of a plain of above twelve miles, which separated
the two armies. Both were alike impatient to engage; but the
Barbarians, after a slight resistance, fled in disorder; unable
to resist, or desirous to weary, the strength of the heavy
legions, who, fainting with heat and thirst, pursued them across
the plain, and cut in pieces a line of cavalry, clothed in
complete armor, which had been posted before the gates of the
camp to protect their retreat. Constantius, who was hurried
along in the pursuit, attempted, without effect, to restrain the
ardor of his troops, by representing to them the dangers of the
approaching night, and the certainty of completing their success
with the return of day. As they depended much more on their own
valor than on the experience or the abilities of their chief,
they silenced by their clamors his timid remonstrances; and
rushing with fury to the charge, filled up the ditch, broke down
the rampart, and dispersed themselves through the tents to
recruit their exhausted strength, and to enjoy the rich harvest
of their labors. But the prudent Sapor had watched the moment of
victory. His army, of which the greater part, securely posted on
the heights, had been spectators of the action, advanced in
silence, and under the shadow of the night; and his Persian
archers, guided by the illumination of the camp, poured a shower
of arrows on a disarmed and licentious crowd. The sincerity of
history ^61 declares, that the Romans were vanquished with a
dreadful slaughter, and that the flying remnant of the legions
was exposed to the most intolerable hardships. Even the
tenderness of panegyric, confessing that the glory of the emperor
was sullied by the disobedience of his soldiers, chooses to draw
a veil over the circumstances of this melancholy retreat. Yet
one of those venal orators, so jealous of the fame of
Constantius, relates, with amazing coolness, an act of such
incredible cruelty, as, in the judgment of posterity, must
imprint a far deeper stain on the honor of the Imperial name.
The son of Sapor, the heir of his crown, had been made a captive
in the Persian camp. The unhappy youth, who might have excited
the compassion of the most savage enemy, was scourged, tortured,
and publicly executed by the inhuman Romans. ^62

[Footnote *: It was during this war that a bold flatterer (whose
name is unknown) published the Itineraries of Alexander and
Trajan, in order to direct the victorious Constantius in the
footsteps of those great conquerors of the East. The former of
these has been published for the first time by M. Angelo Mai
(Milan, 1817, reprinted at Frankfort, 1818.) It adds so little to
our knowledge of Alexander's campaigns, that it only excites our
regret that it is not the Itinerary of Trajan, of whose eastern
victories we have no distinct record - M]

[Footnote 59: Ammianus (xiv. 4) gives a lively description of the
wandering and predatory life of the Saracens, who stretched from
the confines of Assyria to the cataracts of the Nile. It appears
from the adventures of Malchus, which Jerom has related in so
entertaining a manner, that the high road between Beraea and
Edessa was infested by these robbers. See Hieronym. tom. i. p.

[Footnote 60: We shall take from Eutropius the general idea of
the war. A Persis enim multa et gravia perpessus, saepe captis,
oppidis, obsessis urbibus, caesis exercitibus, nullumque ei
contra Saporem prosperum praelium fuit, nisi quod apud Singaram,
&c. This honest account is confirmed by the hints of Ammianus,
Rufus, and Jerom. The two first orations of Julian, and the
third oration of Libanius, exhibit a more flattering picture; but
the recantation of both those orators, after the death of
Constantius, while it restores us to the possession of the truth,
degrades their own character, and that of the emperor. The
Commentary of Spanheim on the first oration of Julian is
profusely learned. See likewise the judicious observations of
Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 656.]

[Footnote *: Now Sinjar, or the River Claboras. - M.]

[Footnote 61: Acerrima nocturna concertatione pugnatum est,
nostrorum copiis ngenti strage confossis. Ammian. xviii. 5. See
likewise Eutropius, x. 10, and S. Rufus, c. 27.]

[Footnote *: The Persian historians, or romancers, do not mention
the battle of Singara, but make the captive Shahpour escape,
defeat, and take prisoner, the Roman emperor. The Roman captives
were forced to repair all the ravages they had committed, even to
replanting the smallest trees. Malcolm. i. 82. - M.]

[Footnote 62: Libanius, Orat. iii. p. 133, with Julian. Orat. i.
p. 24, and Spanneism's Commentary, p. 179.]

Whatever advantages might attend the arms of Sapor in the
field, though nine repeated victories diffused among the nations
the fame of his valor and conduct, he could not hope to succeed
in the execution of his designs, while the fortified towns of
Mesopotamia, and, above all, the strong and ancient city of
Nisibis, remained in the possession of the Romans. In the space
of twelve years, Nisibis, which, since the time of Lucullus, had
been deservedly esteemed the bulwark of the East, sustained three
memorable sieges against the power of Sapor; and the disappointed
monarch, after urging his attacks above sixty, eighty, and a
hundred days, was thrice repulsed with loss and ignominy. ^63
This large and populous city was situate about two days' journey
from the Tigris, in the midst of a pleasant and fertile plain at
the foot of Mount Masius. A treble enclosure of brick walls was
defended by a deep ditch; ^64 and the intrepid resistance of
Count Lucilianus, and his garrison, was seconded by the desperate
courage of the people. The citizens of Nisibis were animated by
the exhortations of their bishop, ^65 inured to arms by the
presence of danger, and convinced of the intentions of Sapor to
plant a Persian colony in their room, and to lead them away into
distant and barbarous captivity. The event of the two former
sieges elated their confidence, and exasperated the haughty
spirit of the Great King, who advanced a third time towards
Nisibis, at the head of the united forces of Persia and India.
The ordinary machines, invented to batter or undermine the walls,
were rendered ineffectual by the superior skill of the Romans;
and many days had vainly elapsed, when Sapor embraced a
resolution worthy of an eastern monarch, who believed that the
elements themselves were subject to his power. At the stated
season of the melting of the snows in Armenia, the River
Mygdonius, which divides the plain and the city of Nisibis,
forms, like the Nile, ^66 an inundation over the adjacent
country. By the labor of the Persians, the course of the river
was stopped below the town, and the waters were confined on every
side by solid mounds of earth. On this artificial lake, a fleet
of armed vessels filled with soldiers, and with engines which
discharged stones of five hundred pounds weight, advanced in
order of battle, and engaged, almost upon a level, the troops
which defended the ramparts. ^* The irresistible force of the
waters was alternately fatal to the contending parties, till at
length a portion of the walls, unable to sustain the accumulated
pressure, gave way at once, and exposed an ample breach of one
hundred and fifty feet. The Persians were instantly driven to
the assault, and the fate of Nisibis depended on the event of the
day. The heavy-armed cavalry, who led the van of a deep column,
were embarrassed in the mud, and great numbers were drowned in
the unseen holes which had been filled by the rushing waters.
The elephants, made furious by their wounds, increased the
disorder, and trampled down thousands of the Persian archers.
The Great King, who, from an exalted throne, beheld the
misfortunes of his arms, sounded, with reluctant indignation, the
signal of the retreat, and suspended for some hours the
prosecution of the attack. But the vigilant citizens improved the
opportunity of the night; and the return of day discovered a new
wall of six feet in height, rising every moment to fill up the
interval of the breach. Notwithstanding the disappointment of
his hopes, and the loss of more than twenty thousand men, Sapor
still pressed the reduction of Nisibis, with an obstinate
firmness, which could have yielded only to the necessity of
defending the eastern provinces of Persia against a formidable
invasion of the Massagetae. ^67 Alarmed by this intelligence, he
hastily relinquished the siege, and marched with rapid diligence
from the banks of the Tigris to those of the Oxus. The danger
and difficulties of the Scythian war engaged him soon afterwards
to conclude, or at least to observe, a truce with the Roman
emperor, which was equally grateful to both princes; as
Constantius himself, after the death of his two brothers, was
involved, by the revolutions of the West, in a civil contest,
which required and seemed to exceed the most vigorous exertion of
his undivided strength.
[Footnote 63: See Julian. Orat. i. p. 27, Orat. ii. p. 62, &c.,
with the Commentary of Spanheim, (p. 188-202,) who illustrates
the circumstances, and ascertains the time of the three sieges of
Nisibis. Their dates are likewise examined by Tillemont, (Hist.
des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 668, 671, 674.) Something is added
from Zosimus, l. iii. p. 151, and the Alexandrine Chronicle, p.

[Footnote 64: Sallust. Fragment. lxxxiv. edit. Brosses, and
Plutarch in Lucull. tom. iii. p. 184. Nisibis is now reduced to
one hundred and fifty houses: the marshy lands produce rice, and
the fertile meadows, as far as Mosul and the Tigris, are covered
with the ruins of towns and allages. See Niebuhr, Voyages, tom.
ii. p. 300-309.]

[Footnote 65: The miracles which Theodoret (l. ii. c. 30)
ascribes to St. James, Bishop of Edessa, were at least performed
in a worthy cause, the defence of his couutry. He appeared on
the walls under the figure of the Roman emperor, and sent an army
of gnats to sting the trunks of the elephants, and to discomfit
the host of the new Sennacherib.]
[Footnote 66: Julian. Orat. i. p. 27. Though Niebuhr (tom. ii.
p. 307) allows a very considerable swell to the Mygdonius, over
which he saw a bridge of twelve arches: it is difficult, however,
to understand this parallel of a trifling rivulet with a mighty
river. There are many circumstances obscure, and almost
unintelligible, in the description of these stupendous

[Footnote *: Macdonald Kinnier observes on these floating
batteries, "As the elevation of place is considerably above the
level of the country in its immediate vicinity, and the Mygdonius
is a very insignificant stream, it is difficult to imagine how
this work could have been accomplished, even with the wonderful
resources which the king must have had at his disposal"
Geographical Memoir. p. 262. - M.]

[Footnote 67: We are obliged to Zonaras (tom. ii. l. xiii. p. 11)
for this invasion of the Massagetae, which is perfectly
consistent with the general series of events to which we are
darkly led by the broken history of Ammianus.]

After the partition of the empire, three years had scarcely
elapsed before the sons of Constantine seemed impatient to
convince mankind that they were incapable of contenting
themselves with the dominions which they were unqualified to
govern. The eldest of those princes soon complained, that he was
defrauded of his just proportion of the spoils of their murdered
kinsmen; and though he might yield to the superior guilt and
merit of Constantius, he exacted from Constans the cession of the
African provinces, as an equivalent for the rich countries of
Macedonia and Greece, which his brother had acquired by the death
of Dalmatius. The want of sincerity, which Constantine
experienced in a tedious and fruitless negotiation, exasperated
the fierceness of his temper; and he eagerly listened to those
favorites, who suggested to him that his honor, as well as his
interest, was concerned in the prosecution of the quarrel. At
the head of a tumultuary band, suited for rapine rather than for
conquest, he suddenly broke onto the dominions of Constans, by
the way of the Julian Alps, and the country round Aquileia felt
the first effects of his resentment. The measures of Constans,
who then resided in Dacia, were directed with more prudence and
ability. On the news of his brother's invasion, he detached a
select and disciplined body of his Illyrian troops, proposing to
follow them in person, with the remainder of his forces. But the
conduct of his lieutenants soon terminated the unnatural contest.

By the artful appearances of flight, Constantine was betrayed
into an ambuscade, which had been concealed in a wood, where the
rash youth, with a few attendants, was surprised, surrounded, and
slain. His body, after it had been found in the obscure stream
of the Alsa, obtained the honors of an Imperial sepulchre; but
his provinces transferred their allegiance to the conqueror, who,
refusing to admit his elder brother Constantius to any share in
these new acquisitions, maintained the undisputed possession of
more than two thirds of the Roman empire. ^68

[Footnote 68: The causes and the events of this civil war are
related with much perplexity and contradiction. I have chiefly
followed Zonaras and the younger Victor. The monody (ad Calcem
Eutrop. edit. Havercamp.) pronounced on the death of Constantine,
might have been very instructive; but prudence and false taste
engaged the orator to involve himself in vague declamation.]

Chapter XVIII: Character Of Constantine And His Sons.

Part IV.

The fate of Constans himself was delayed about ten years
longer, and the revenge of his brother's death was reserved for
the more ignoble hand of a domestic traitor. The pernicious
tendency of the system introduced by Constantine was displayed in
the feeble administration of his sons; who, by their vices and
weakness, soon lost the esteem and affections of their people.
The pride assumed by Constans, from the unmerited success of his
arms, was rendered more contemptible by his want of abilities and
application. His fond partiality towards some German captives,
distinguished only by the charms of youth, was an object of
scandal to the people; ^69 and Magnentius, an ambitious soldier,
who was himself of Barbarian extraction, was encouraged by the
public discontent to assert the honor of the Roman name. ^70 The
chosen bands of Jovians and Herculians, who acknowledged
Magnentius as their leader, maintained the most respectable and
important station in the Imperial camp. The friendship of
Marcellinus, count of the sacred largesses, supplied with a
liberal hand the means of seduction. The soldiers were convinced
by the most specious arguments, that the republic summoned them
to break the bonds of hereditary servitude; and, by the choice of
an active and vigilant prince, to reward the same virtues which
had raised the ancestors of the degenerate Constans from a
private condition to the throne of the world. As soon as the
conspiracy was ripe for execution, Marcellinus, under the
pretence of celebrating his son's birthday, gave a splendid
entertainment to the illustrious and honorable persons of the
court of Gaul, which then resided in the city of Autun. The
intemperance of the feast was artfully protracted till a very
late hour of the night; and the unsuspecting guests were tempted
to indulge themselves in a dangerous and guilty freedom of
conversation. On a sudden the doors were thrown open, and
Magnentius, who had retired for a few moments, returned into the
apartment, invested with the diadem and purple. The conspirators
instantly saluted him with the titles of Augustus and Emperor.
The surprise, the terror, the intoxication, the ambitious hopes,
and the mutual ignorance of the rest of the assembly, prompted
them to join their voices to the general acclamation. The guards
hastened to take the oath of fidelity; the gates of the town were
shut; and before the dawn of day, Magnentius became master of the
troops and treasure of the palace and city of Autun. By his
secrecy and diligence he entertained some hopes of surprising the
person of Constans, who was pursuing in the adjacent forest his
favorite amusement of hunting, or perhaps some pleasures of a
more private and criminal nature. The rapid progress of fame
allowed him, however, an instant for flight, though the desertion
of his soldiers and subjects deprived him of the power of
resistance. Before he could reach a seaport in Spain, where he
intended to embark, he was overtaken near Helena, ^71 at the foot
of the Pyrenees, by a party of light cavalry, whose chief,
regardless of the sanctity of a temple, executed his commission
by the murder of the son of Constantine. ^72

[Footnote 69: Quarum (gentium) obsides pretio quaesitos pueros
venustiore quod cultius habuerat libidine hujusmodi arsisse pro
certo habet. Had not the depraved taste of Constans been
publicly avowed, the elder Victor, who held a considerable office
in his brother's reign, would not have asserted it in such
positive terms.]

[Footnote 70: Julian. Orat. i. and ii. Zosim. l. ii. p. 134.
Victor in Epitome. There is reason to believe that Magnentius
was born in one of those Barbarian colonies which Constantius
Chlorus had established in Gaul, (see this History, vol. i. p.
414.) His behavior may remind us of the patriot earl of
Leicester, the famous Simon de Montfort, who could persuade the
good people of England, that he, a Frenchman by birth had taken
arms to deliver them from foreign favorites.]

[Footnote 71: This ancient city had once flourished under the
name of Illiberis (Pomponius Mela, ii. 5.) The munificence of
Constantine gave it new splendor, and his mother's name. Helena
(it is still called Elne) became the seat of a bishop, who long
afterwards transferred his residence to Perpignan, the capital of
modern Rousillon. See D'Anville. Notice de l'Ancienne Gaule, p.
380. Longuerue, Description de la France, p. 223, and the Marca
Hispanica, l. i. c. 2.]

[Footnote 72: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 119, 120. Zonaras, tom. ii. l.
xiii. p. 13, and the Abbreviators.]

As soon as the death of Constans had decided this easy but
important revolution, the example of the court of Autun was
imitated by the provinces of the West. The authority of
Magnentius was acknowledged through the whole extent of the two
great praefectures of Gaul and Italy; and the usurper prepared,
by every act of oppression, to collect a treasure, which might
discharge the obligation of an immense donative, and supply the
expenses of a civil war. The martial countries of Illyricum,
from the Danube to the extremity of Greece, had long obeyed the
government of Vetranio, an aged general, beloved for the
simplicity of his manners, and who had acquired some reputation
by his experience and services in war. ^73 Attached by habit, by
duty, and by gratitude, to the house of Constantine, he
immediately gave the strongest assurances to the only surviving
son of his late master, that he would expose, with unshaken
fidelity, his person and his troops, to inflict a just revenge on
the traitors of Gaul. But the legions of Vetranio were seduced,
rather than provoked, by the example of rebellion; their leader
soon betrayed a want of firmness, or a want of sincerity; and his
ambition derived a specious pretence from the approbation of the
princess Constantina. That cruel and aspiring woman, who had
obtained from the great Constantine, her father, the rank of
Augusta, placed the diadem with her own hands on the head of the
Illyrian general; and seemed to expect from his victory the
accomplishment of those unbounded hopes, of which she had been
disappointed by the death of her husband Hannibalianus. Perhaps
it was without the consent of Constantina, that the new emperor
formed a necessary, though dishonorable, alliance with the
usurper of the West, whose purple was so recently stained with
her brother's blood. ^74

[Footnote 73: Eutropius (x. 10) describes Vetranio with more
temper, and probably with more truth, than either of the two
Victors. Vetranio was born of obscure parents in the wildest
parts of Maesia; and so much had his education been neglected,
that, after his elevation, he studied the alphabet.]

[Footnote 74: The doubtful, fluctuating conduct of Vetranio is
described by Julian in his first oration, and accurately
explained by Spanheim, who discusses the situation and behavior
of Constantina.]

The intelligence of these important events, which so deeply
affected the honor and safety of the Imperial house, recalled the
arms of Constantius from the inglorious prosecution of the
Persian war. He recommended the care of the East to his
lieutenants, and afterwards to his cousin Gallus, whom he raised
from a prison to a throne; and marched towards Europe, with a
mind agitated by the conflict of hope and fear, of grief and
indignation. On his arrival at Heraclea in Thrace, the emperor
gave audience to the ambassadors of Magnentius and Vetranio. The
first author of the conspiracy Marcellinus, who in some measure
had bestowed the purple on his new master, boldly accepted this
dangerous commission; and his three colleagues were selected from
the illustrious personages of the state and army. These deputies
were instructed to soothe the resentment, and to alarm the fears,
of Constantius. They were empowered to offer him the friendship
and alliance of the western princes, to cement their union by a
double marriage; of Constantius with the daughter of Magnentius,
and of Magnentius himself with the ambitious Constantina; and to
acknowledge in the treaty the preeminence of rank, which might
justly be claimed by the emperor of the East. Should pride and
mistaken piety urge him to refuse these equitable conditions, the
ambassadors were ordered to expatiate on the inevitable ruin
which must attend his rashness, if he ventured to provoke the
sovereigns of the West to exert their superior strength; and to
employ against him that valor, those abilities, and those
legions, to which the house of Constantine had been indebted for
so many triumphs. Such propositions and such arguments appeared
to deserve the most serious attention; the answer of Constantius
was deferred till the next day; and as he had reflected on the
importance of justifying a civil war in the opinion of the
people, he thus addressed his council, who listened with real or
affected credulity: "Last night," said he, "after I retired to
rest, the shade of the great Constantine, embracing the corpse of
my murdered brother, rose before my eyes; his well-known voice
awakened me to revenge, forbade me to despair of the republic,
and assured me of the success and immortal glory which would
crown the justice of my arms." The authority of such a vision, or
rather of the prince who alleged it, silenced every doubt, and
excluded all negotiation. The ignominious terms of peace were
rejected with disdain. One of the ambassadors of the tyrant was
dismissed with the haughty answer of Constantius; his colleagues,
as unworthy of the privileges of the law of nations, were put in
irons; and the contending powers prepared to wage an implacable
war. ^75

[Footnote 75: See Peter the Patrician, in the Excerpta Legationem
p. 27.]
Such was the conduct, and such perhaps was the duty, of the
brother of Constans towards the perfidious usurper of Gaul. The
situation and character of Vetranio admitted of milder measures;
and the policy of the Eastern emperor was directed to disunite
his antagonists, and to separate the forces of Illyricum from the
cause of rebellion. It was an easy task to deceive the frankness
and simplicity of Vetranio, who, fluctuating some time between
the opposite views of honor and interest, displayed to the world
the insincerity of his temper, and was insensibly engaged in the
snares of an artful negotiation. Constantius acknowledged him as
a legitimate and equal colleague in the empire, on condition that
he would renounce his disgraceful alliance with Magnentius, and
appoint a place of interview on the frontiers of their respective
provinces; where they might pledge their friendship by mutual
vows of fidelity, and regulate by common consent the future
operations of the civil war. In consequence of this agreement,
Vetranio advanced to the city of Sardica, ^76 at the head of
twenty thousand horse, and of a more numerous body of infantry; a
power so far superior to the forces of Constantius, that the
Illyrian emperor appeared to command the life and fortunes of his
rival, who, depending on the success of his private negotiations,
had seduced the troops, and undermined the throne, of Vetranio.
The chiefs, who had secretly embraced the party of Constantius,
prepared in his favor a public spectacle, calculated to discover
and inflame the passions of the multitude. ^77 The united armies
were commanded to assemble in a large plain near the city. In the
centre, according to the rules of ancient discipline, a military
tribunal, or rather scaffold, was erected, from whence the
emperors were accustomed, on solemn and important occasions, to
harangue the troops. The well-ordered ranks of Romans and
Barbarians, with drawn swords, or with erected spears, the
squadrons of cavalry, and the cohorts of infantry, distinguished
by the variety of their arms and ensigns, formed an immense
circle round the tribunal; and the attentive silence which they
preserved was sometimes interrupted by loud bursts of clamor or
of applause. In the presence of this formidable assembly, the
two emperors were called upon to explain the situation of public
affairs: the precedency of rank was yielded to the royal birth of
Constantius; and though he was indifferently skilled in the arts
of rhetoric, he acquitted himself, under these difficult
circumstances, with firmness, dexterity, and eloquence. The
first part of his oration seemed to be pointed only against the
tyrant of Gaul; but while he tragically lamented the cruel murder
of Constans, he insinuated, that none, except a brother, could
claim a right to the succession of his brother. He displayed,
with some complacency, the glories of his Imperial race; and
recalled to the memory of the troops the valor, the triumphs, the
liberality of the great Constantine, to whose sons they had
engaged their allegiance by an oath of fidelity, which the
ingratitude of his most favored servants had tempted them to
violate. The officers, who surrounded the tribunal, and were
instructed to act their part in this extraordinary scene,
confessed the irresistible power of reason and eloquence, by
saluting the emperor Constantius as their lawful sovereign. The
contagion of loyalty and repentance was communicated from rank to
rank; till the plain of Sardica resounded with the universal
acclamation of "Away with these upstart usurpers! Long life and
victory to the son of Constantine! Under his banners alone we
will fight and conquer." The shout of thousands, their menacing
gestures, the fierce clashing of their arms, astonished and
subdued the courage of Vetranio, who stood, amidst the defection
of his followers, in anxious and silent suspense. Instead of
embracing the last refuge of generous despair, he tamely
submitted to his fate; and taking the diadem from his head, in
the view of both armies fell prostrate at the feet of his
conqueror. Constantius used his victory with prudence and
moderation; and raising from the ground the aged suppliant, whom
he affected to style by the endearing name of Father, he gave him
his hand to descend from the throne. The city of Prusa was
assigned for the exile or retirement of the abdicated monarch,
who lived six years in the enjoyment of ease and affluence. He
often expressed his grateful sense of the goodness of
Constantius, and, with a very amiable simplicity, advised his
benefactor to resign the sceptre of the world, and to seek for
content (where alone it could be found) in the peaceful obscurity
of a private condition. ^78

[Footnote 76: Zonaras, tom. ii. l. xiii. p. 16. The position of
Sardica, near the modern city of Sophia, appears better suited to
this interview than the situation of either Naissus or Sirmium,
where it is placed by Jerom, Socrates, and Sozomen.]

[Footnote 77: See the two first orations of Julian, particularly
p. 31; and Zosimus, l. ii. p. 122. The distinct narrative of the
historian serves to illustrate the diffuse but vague descriptions
of the orator.]
[Footnote 78: The younger Victor assigns to his exile the
emphatical appellation of "Voluptarium otium." Socrates (l. ii.
c. 28) is the voucher for the correspondence with the emperor,
which would seem to prove that Vetranio was indeed, prope ad
stultitiam simplicissimus.]

The behavior of Constantius on this memorable occasion was
celebrated with some appearance of justice; and his courtiers
compared the studied orations which a Pericles or a Demosthenes
addressed to the populace of Athens, with the victorious
eloquence which had persuaded an armed multitude to desert and
depose the object of their partial choice. ^79 The approaching
contest with Magnentius was of a more serious and bloody kind.
The tyrant advanced by rapid marches to encounter Constantius, at
the head of a numerous army, composed of Gauls and Spaniards, of
Franks and Saxons; of those provincials who supplied the strength
of the legions, and of those barbarians who were dreaded as the
most formidable enemies of the republic. The fertile plains ^80
of the Lower Pannonia, between the Drave, the Save, and the
Danube, presented a spacious theatre; and the operations of the
civil war were protracted during the summer months by the skill
or timidity of the combatants. ^81 Constantius had declared his
intention of deciding the quarrel in the fields of Cibalis, a
name that would animate his troops by the remembrance of the
victory, which, on the same auspicious ground, had been obtained
by the arms of his father Constantine. Yet by the impregnable
fortifications with which the emperor encompassed his camp, he
appeared to decline, rather than to invite, a general engagement.

It was the object of Magnentius to tempt or to compel his
adversary to relinquish this advantageous position; and he
employed, with that view, the various marches, evolutions, and
stratagems, which the knowledge of the art of war could suggest
to an experienced officer. He carried by assault the important
town of Siscia; made an attack on the city of Sirmium, which lay
in the rear of the Imperial camp, attempted to force a passage
over the Save into the eastern provinces of Illyricum; and cut in
pieces a numerous detachment, which he had allured into the
narrow passes of Adarne. During the greater part of the summer,
the tyrant of Gaul showed himself master of the field. The
troops of Constantius were harassed and dispirited; his
reputation declined in the eye of the world; and his pride
condescended to solicit a treaty of peace, which would have
resigned to the assassin of Constans the sovereignty of the
provinces beyond the Alps. These offers were enforced by the
eloquence of Philip the Imperial ambassador; and the council as
well as the army of Magnentius were disposed to accept them. But
the haughty usurper, careless of the remonstrances of his
friends, gave orders that Philip should be detained as a captive,
or, at least, as a hostage; while he despatched an officer to
reproach Constantius with the weakness of his reign, and to
insult him by the promise of a pardon if he would instantly
abdicate the purple. "That he should confide in the justice of
his cause, and the protection of an avenging Deity," was the only
answer which honor permitted the emperor to return. But he was
so sensible of the difficulties of his situation, that he no
longer dared to retaliate the indignity which had been offered to
his representative. The negotiation of Philip was not, however,
ineffectual, since he determined Sylvanus the Frank, a general of
merit and reputation, to desert with a considerable body of
cavalry, a few days before the battle of Mursa.
[Footnote 79: Eum Constantius . . . . . facundiae vi dejectum
Imperio in pri vatum otium removit. Quae gloria post natum
Imperium soli proces sit eloquio clementiaque, &c. Aurelius
Victor, Julian, and Themistius (Orat. iii. and iv.) adorn this
exploit with all the artificial and gaudy coloring of their

[Footnote 80: Busbequius (p. 112) traversed the Lower Hungary and
Sclavonia at a time when they were reduced almost to a desert, by
the reciprocal hostilities of the Turks and Christians. Yet he
mentions with admiration the unconquerable fertility of the soil;
and observes that the height of the grass was sufficient to
conceal a loaded wagon from his sight. See likewise Browne's
Travels, in Harris's Collection, vol ii. p. 762 &c.]
[Footnote 81: Zosimus gives a very large account of the war, and
the negotiation, (l. ii. p. 123-130.) But as he neither shows
himself a soldier nor a politician, his narrative must be weighed
with attention, and received with caution.]

The city of Mursa, or Essek, celebrated in modern times for
a bridge of boats, five miles in length, over the River Drave,
and the adjacent morasses, ^82 has been always considered as a
place of importance in the wars of Hungary. Magnentius,
directing his march towards Mursa, set fire to the gates, and, by
a sudden assault, had almost scaled the walls of the town. The
vigilance of the garrison extinguished the flames; the approach
of Constantius left him no time to continue the operations of the
siege; and the emperor soon removed the only obstacle that could
embarrass his motions, by forcing a body of troops which had
taken post in an adjoining amphitheatre. The field of battle
round Mursa was a naked and level plain: on this ground the army
of Constantius formed, with the Drave on their right; while their
left, either from the nature of their disposition, or from the
superiority of their cavalry, extended far beyond the right flank
of Magnentius. ^83 The troops on both sides remained under arms,
in anxious expectation, during the greatest part of the morning;
and the son of Constantine, after animating his soldiers by an
eloquent speech, retired into a church at some distance from the
field of battle, and committed to his generals the conduct of
this decisive day. ^84 They deserved his confidence by the valor
and military skill which they exerted. They wisely began the
action upon the left; and advancing their whole wing of cavalry
in an oblique line, they suddenly wheeled it on the right flank
of the enemy, which was unprepared to resist the impetuosity of
their charge. But the Romans of the West soon rallied, by the
habits of discipline; and the Barbarians of Germany supported the
renown of their national bravery. The engagement soon became
general; was maintained with various and singular turns of
fortune; and scarcely ended with the darkness of the night. The
signal victory which Constantius obtained is attributed to the
arms of his cavalry. His cuirassiers are described as so many
massy statues of steel, glittering with their scaly armor, and
breaking with their ponderous lances the firm array of the Gallic
legions. As soon as the legions gave way, the lighter and more
active squadrons of the second line rode sword in hand into the
intervals, and completed the disorder. In the mean while, the
huge bodies of the Germans were exposed almost naked to the
dexterity of the Oriental archers; and whole troops of those
Barbarians were urged by anguish and despair to precipitate
themselves into the broad and rapid stream of the Drave. ^85 The
number of the slain was computed at fifty-four thousand men, and
the slaughter of the conquerors was more considerable than that
of the vanquished; ^86 a circumstance which proves the obstinacy
of the contest, and justifies the observation of an ancient
writer, that the forces of the empire were consumed in the fatal
battle of Mursa, by the loss of a veteran army, sufficient to
defend the frontiers, or to add new triumphs to the glory of
Rome. ^87 Notwithstanding the invectives of a servile orator,
there is not the least reason to believe that the tyrant deserted
his own standard in the beginning of the engagement. He seems to
have displayed the virtues of a general and of a soldier till the
day was irrecoverably lost, and his camp in the possession of the
enemy. Magnentius then consulted his safety, and throwing away
the Imperial ornaments, escaped with some difficulty from the
pursuit of the light horse, who incessantly followed his rapid
flight from the banks of the Drave to the foot of the Julian
Alps. ^88

[Footnote 82: This remarkable bridge, which is flanked with
towers, and supported on large wooden piles, was constructed A.
D. 1566, by Sultan Soliman, to facilitate the march of his armies
into Hungary.]
[Footnote 83: This position, and the subsequent evolutions, are
clearly, though concisely, described by Julian, Orat. i. p. 36.]
[Footnote 84: Sulpicius Severus, l. ii. p. 405. The emperor
passed the day in prayer with Valens, the Arian bishop of Mursa,
who gained his confidence by announcing the success of the
battle. M. de Tillemont (Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 1110)
very properly remarks the silence of Julian with regard to the
personal prowess of Constantius in the battle of Mursa. The
silence of flattery is sometimes equal to the most positive and
authentic evidence.]

[Footnote 85: Julian. Orat. i. p. 36, 37; and Orat. ii. p. 59,
60. Zonaras, tom ii. l. xiii. p. 17. Zosimus, l. ii. p. 130-133.

The last of these celebrates the dexterity of the archer
Menelaus, who could discharge three arrows at the same time; an
advantage which, according to his apprehension of military
affairs, materially contributed to the victory of Constantius.]

[Footnote 86: According to Zonaras, Constantius, out of 80,000
men, lost 30,000; and Magnentius lost 24,000 out of 36,000. The
other articles of this account seem probable and authentic, but
the numbers of the tyrant's army must have been mistaken, either
by the author or his transcribers. Magnentius had collected the
whole force of the West, Romans and Barbarians, into one
formidable body, which cannot fairly be estimated at less than
100,000 men. Julian. Orat. i. p. 34, 35.]

[Footnote 87: Ingentes R. I. vires ea dimicatione consumptae
sunt, ad quaelibet bella externa idoneae, quae multum triumphorum
possent securitatisque conferre. Eutropius, x. 13. The younger
Victor expresses himself to the same effect.]

[Footnote 88: On this occasion, we must prefer the unsuspected
testimony of Zosimus and Zonaras to the flattering assertions of
Julian. The younger Victor paints the character of Magnentius in
a singular light: "Sermonis acer, animi tumidi, et immodice
timidus; artifex tamen ad occultandam audaciae specie
formidinem." Is it most likely that in the battle of Mursa his
behavior was governed by nature or by art should incline for the
The approach of winter supplied the indolence of Constantius
with specious reasons for deferring the prosecution of the war
till the ensuing spring. Magnentius had fixed his residence in
the city of Aquileia, and showed a seeming resolution to dispute
the passage of the mountains and morasses which fortified the
confines of the Venetian province. The surprisal of a castle in
the Alps by the secret march of the Imperialists, could scarcely
have determined him to relinquish the possession of Italy, if the
inclinations of the people had supported the cause of their
tyrant. ^89 But the memory of the cruelties exercised by his
ministers, after the unsuccessful revolt of Nepotian, had left a
deep impression of horror and resentment on the minds of the
Romans. That rash youth, the son of the princess Eutropia, and
the nephew of Constantine, had seen with indignation the sceptre
of the West usurped by a perfidious barbarian. Arming a
desperate troop of slaves and gladiators, he overpowered the
feeble guard of the domestic tranquillity of Rome, received the
homage of the senate, and assuming the title of Augustus,
precariously reigned during a tumult of twenty-eight days. The
march of some regular forces put an end to his ambitious hopes:
the rebellion was extinguished in the blood of Nepotian, of his
mother Eutropia, and of his adherents; and the proscription was
extended to all who had contracted a fatal alliance with the name
and family of Constantine. ^90 But as soon as Constantius, after
the battle of Mursa, became master of the sea-coast of Dalmatia,
a band of noble exiles, who had ventured to equip a fleet in some
harbor of the Adriatic, sought protection and revenge in his
victorious camp. By their secret intelligence with their
countrymen, Rome and the Italian cities were persuaded to display
the banners of Constantius on their walls. The grateful
veterans, enriched by the liberality of the father, signalized
their gratitude and loyalty to the son. The cavalry, the
legions, and the auxiliaries of Italy, renewed their oath of
allegiance to Constantius; and the usurper, alarmed by the
general desertion, was compelled, with the remains of his
faithful troops, to retire beyond the Alps into the provinces of
Gaul. The detachments, however, which were ordered either to
press or to intercept the flight of Magnentius, conducted
themselves with the usual imprudence of success; and allowed him,
in the plains of Pavia, an opportunity of turning on his
pursuers, and of gratifying his despair by the carnage of a
useless victory. ^91

[Footnote 89: Julian. Orat. i. p. 38, 39. In that place,
however, as well as in Oration ii. p. 97, he insinuates the
general disposition of the senate, the people, and the soldiers
of Italy, towards the party of the emperor.]

[Footnote 90: The elder Victor describes, in a pathetic manner,
the miserable condition of Rome: "Cujus stolidum ingenium adeo P.
R. patribusque exitio fuit, uti passim domus, fora, viae,
templaque, cruore, cadaveri busque opplerentur bustorum modo."
Athanasius (tom. i. p. 677) deplores the fate of several
illustrious victims, and Julian (Orat. ii p 58) execrates the
cruelty of Marcellinus, the implacable enemy of the house of

[Footnote 91: Zosim. l. ii. p. 133. Victor in Epitome. The
panegyrists of Constantius, with their usual candor, forget to
mention this accidental defeat.]

The pride of Magnentius was reduced, by repeated
misfortunes, to sue, and to sue in vain, for peace. He first
despatched a senator, in whose abilities he confided, and
afterwards several bishops, whose holy character might obtain a
more favorable audience, with the offer of resigning the purple,
and the promise of devoting the remainder of his life to the
service of the emperor. But Constantius, though he granted fair
terms of pardon and reconciliation to all who abandoned the
standard of rebellion, ^92 avowed his inflexible resolution to
inflict a just punishment on the crimes of an assassin, whom he
prepared to overwhelm on every side by the effort of his
victorious arms. An Imperial fleet acquired the easy possession
of Africa and Spain, confirmed the wavering faith of the Moorish
nations, and landed a considerable force, which passed the
Pyrenees, and advanced towards Lyons, the last and fatal station
of Magnentius. ^93 The temper of the tyrant, which was never
inclined to clemency, was urged by distress to exercise every act
of oppression which could extort an immediate supply from the
cities of Gaul. ^94 Their patience was at length exhausted; and
Treves, the seat of Praetorian government, gave the signal of
revolt, by shutting her gates against Decentius, who had been
raised by his brother to the rank either of Caesar or of
Augustus. ^95 From Treves, Decentius was obliged to retire to
Sens, where he was soon surrounded by an army of Germans, whom
the pernicious arts of Constantius had introduced into the civil
dissensions of Rome. ^96 In the mean time, the Imperial troops
forced the passages of the Cottian Alps, and in the bloody combat
of Mount Seleucus irrevocably fixed the title of rebels on the
party of Magnentius. ^97 He was unable to bring another army into
the field; the fidelity of his guards was corrupted; and when he
appeared in public to animate them by his exhortations, he was
saluted with a unanimous shout of "Long live the emperor
Constantius!" The tyrant, who perceived that they were preparing
to deserve pardon and rewards by the sacrifice of the most
obnoxious criminal, prevented their design by falling on his
sword; ^98 a death more easy and more honorable than he could
hope to obtain from the hands of an enemy, whose revenge would
have been colored with the specious pretence of justice and
fraternal piety. The example of suicide was imitated by
Decentius, who strangled himself on the news of his brother's
death. The author of the conspiracy, Marcellinus, had long since
disappeared in the battle of Mursa, ^99 and the public
tranquillity was confirmed by the execution of the surviving
leaders of a guilty and unsuccessful faction. A severe
inquisition was extended over all who, either from choice or from
compulsion, had been involved in the cause of rebellion. Paul,
surnamed Catena from his superior skill in the judicial exercise
of tyranny, ^* was sent to explore the latent remains of the
conspiracy in the remote province of Britain. The honest
indignation expressed by Martin, vice-praefect of the island, was
interpreted as an evidence of his own guilt; and the governor was
urged to the necessity of turning against his breast the sword
with which he had been provoked to wound the Imperial minister.
The most innocent subjects of the West were exposed to exile and
confiscation, to death and torture; and as the timid are always
cruel, the mind of Constantius was inaccessible to mercy. ^100
[Footnote 92: Zonaras, tom. ii. l. xiii. p. 17. Julian, in
several places of the two orations, expatiates on the clemency of
Constantius to the rebels.]

[Footnote 93: Zosim. l. ii. p. 133. Julian. Orat. i. p. 40, ii.
p. 74.]
[Footnote 94: Ammian. xv. 6. Zosim. l. ii. p. 123. Julian, who
(Orat. i. p. 40) unveighs against the cruel effects of the
tyrant's despair, mentions (Orat. i. p. 34) the oppressive edicts
which were dictated by his necessities, or by his avarice. His
subjects were compelled to purchase the Imperial demesnes; a
doubtful and dangerous species of property, which, in case of a
revolution, might be imputed to them as a treasonable

[Footnote 95: The medals of Magnentius celebrate the victories of
the two Augusti, and of the Caesar. The Caesar was another
brother, named Desiderius. See Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs,
tom. iv. p. 757.]
[Footnote 96: Julian. Orat. i. p. 40, ii. p. 74; with Spanheim,
p. 263. His Commentary illustrates the transactions of this civil
war. Mons Seleuci was a small place in the Cottian Alps, a few
miles distant from Vapincum, or Gap, an episcopal city of
Dauphine. See D'Anville, Notice de la Gaule, p. 464; and
Longuerue, Description de la France, p. 327.]
[Footnote *: the Itinerary of Antoninus (p. 357, ed. Wess.)
places Mons Seleucu twenty-four miles from Vapinicum, (Gap,) and
twenty-six from Lucus. (le Luc,) on the road to Die, (Dea
Vocontiorum.) The situation answers to Mont Saleon, a little
place on the right of the small river Buech, which falls into the
Durance. Roman antiquities have been found in this place. St.
Martin. Note to Le Beau, ii. 47. - M.]

[Footnote 97: Zosimus, l. ii. p. 134. Liban. Orat. x. p. 268,
269. The latter most vehemently arraigns this cruel and selfish
policy of Constantius.]

[Footnote 98: Julian. Orat. i. p. 40. Zosimus, l. ii. p. 134.
Socrates, l. ii. c. 32. Sozomen, l. iv. c. 7. The younger
Victor describes his death with some horrid circumstances:
Transfosso latere, ut erat vasti corporis, vulnere naribusque et
ore cruorem effundens, exspiravit. If we can give credit to
Zonaras, the tyrant, before he expired, had the pleasure of
murdering, with his own hand, his mother and his brother

[Footnote 99: Julian (Orat. i. p. 58, 59) seems at a loss to
determine, whether he inflicted on himself the punishment of his
crimes, whether he was drowned in the Drave, or whether he was
carried by the avenging daemons from the field of battle to his
destined place of eternal tortures.]

[Footnote *: This is scarcely correct, ut erat in complicandis
negotiis artifex dirum made ei Catenae inditum est cognomentum.
Amm. Mar. loc. cit. - M.]

[Footnote 100: Ammian. xiv. 5, xxi. 16.]

Chapter XIX: Constantius Sole Emperor.

Part I.

Constantius Sole Emperor. - Elevation And Death Of Gallus. -
Danger And Elevation Of Julian. - Sarmatian And Persian Wars. -
Victories Of Julian In Gaul.

The divided provinces of the empire were again united by the
victory of Constantius; but as that feeble prince was destitute
of personal merit, either in peace or war; as he feared his
generals, and distrusted his ministers; the triumph of his arms
served only to establish the reign of the eunuchs over the Roman
world. Those unhappy beings, the ancient production of Oriental
jealousy and despotism, ^1 were introduced into Greece and Rome
by the contagion of Asiatic luxury. ^2 Their progress was rapid;
and the eunuchs, who, in the time of Augustus, had been abhorred,
as the monstrous retinue of an Egyptian queen, ^3 were gradually
admitted into the families of matrons, of senators, and of the
emperors themselves. ^4 Restrained by the severe edicts of
Domitian and Nerva, cherished by the pride of Diocletian, reduced
to an humble station by the prudence of Constantine, ^6 they
multiplied in the palaces of his degenerate sons, and insensibly
acquired the knowledge, and at length the direction, of the
secret councils of Constantius. The aversion and contempt which
mankind had so uniformly entertained for that imperfect species,
appears to have degraded their character, and to have rendered
them almost as incapable as they were supposed to be, of
conceiving any generous sentiment, or of performing any worthy
action. ^7 But the eunuchs were skilled in the arts of flattery
and intrigue; and they alternately governed the mind of
Constantius by his fears, his indolence, and his vanity. ^8
Whilst he viewed in a deceitful mirror the fair appearance of
public prosperity, he supinely permitted them to intercept the
complaints of the injured provinces, to accumulate immense
treasures by the sale of justice and of honors; to disgrace the
most important dignities, by the promotion of those who had
purchased at their hands the powers of oppression, ^9 and to
gratify their resentment against the few independent spirits, who
arrogantly refused to solicit the protection of slaves. Of these
slaves the most distinguished was the chamberlain Eusebius, who
ruled the monarch and the palace with such absolute sway, that
Constantius, according to the sarcasm of an impartial historian,
possessed some credit with this haughty favorite. ^10 By his
artful suggestions, the emperor was persuaded to subscribe the
condemnation of the unfortunate Gallus, and to add a new crime to
the long list of unnatural murders which pollute the honor of the
house of Constantine.

[Footnote 1: Ammianus (l. xiv. c. 6) imputes the first practice
of castration to the cruel ingenuity of Semiramis, who is
supposed to have reigned above nineteen hundred years before
Christ. The use of eunuchs is of high antiquity, both in Asia
and Egypt. They are mentioned in the law of Moses, Deuteron.
xxxiii. 1. See Goguet, Origines des Loix, &c., Part i. l. i. c.

[Footnote 2: Eunuchum dixti velle te;

Quia solae utuntur his reginae -
Terent. Eunuch. act i. scene 2.

This play is translated from Meander, and the original must
have appeared soon after the eastern conquests of Alexander.]

[Footnote 3: Miles. . . . spadonibus

Servire rugosis potest.
Horat. Carm. v. 9, and Dacier ad loe.

By the word spado, the Romans very forcibly expressed their
abhorrence of this mutilated condition. The Greek appellation of
eunuchs, which insensibly prevailed, had a milder sound, and a
more ambiguous sense.]
[Footnote 4: We need only mention Posides, a freedman and eunuch
of Claudius, in whose favor the emperor prostituted some of the
most honorable rewards of military valor. See Sueton. in
Claudio, c. 28. Posides employed a great part of his wealth in

Ut Spado vincebat Capitolia Nostra
Juvenal. Sat. xiv.]

[Footnote 5: Castrari mares vetuit. Sueton. in Domitian. c. 7.
See Dion Cassius, l. lxvii. p. 1107, l. lxviii. p. 1119.]

[Footnote 6: There is a passage in the Augustan History, p. 137,
in which Lampridius, whilst he praises Alexander Severus and
Constantine for restraining the tyranny of the eunuchs, deplores
the mischiefs which they occasioned in other reigns. Huc accedit
quod eunuchos nec in consiliis nec in ministeriis habuit; qui
soli principes perdunt, dum eos more gentium aut regum Persarum
volunt vivere; qui a populo etiam amicissimum semovent; qui
internuntii sunt, aliud quam respondetur, referentes; claudentes
principem suum, et agentes ante omnia ne quid sciat.]

[Footnote 7: Xenophon (Cyropaedia, l. viii. p. 540) has stated
the specious reasons which engaged Cyrus to intrust his person to
the guard of eunuchs. He had observed in animals, that although
the practice of castration might tame their ungovernable
fierceness, it did not diminish their strength or spirit; and he
persuaded himself, that those who were separated from the rest of
human kind, would be more firmly attached to the person of their
benefactor. But a long experience has contradicted the judgment
of Cyrus. Some particular instances may occur of eunuchs
distinguished by their fidelity, their valor, and their
abilities; but if we examine the general history of Persia,
India, and China, we shall find that the power of the eunuchs has
uniformly marked the decline and fall of every dynasty.]
[Footnote 8: See Ammianus Marcellinus, l. xxi. c. 16, l. xxii. c.
4. The whole tenor of his impartial history serves to justify
the invectives of Mamertinus, of Libanius, and of Julian himself,
who have insulted the vices of the court of Constantius.]

[Footnote 9: Aurelius Victor censures the negligence of his
sovereign in choosing the governors of the provinces, and the
generals of the army, and concludes his history with a very bold
observation, as it is much more dangerous under a feeble reign to
attack the ministers than the master himself. "Uti verum
absolvam brevi, ut Imperatore ipso clarius ita apparitorum
plerisque magis atrox nihil."]

[Footnote 10: Apud quem (si vere dici debeat) multum Constantius
potuit. Ammian. l. xviii. c. 4.]

When the two nephews of Constantine, Gallus and Julian, were
saved from the fury of the soldiers, the former was about twelve,
and the latter about six, years of age; and, as the eldest was
thought to be of a sickly constitution, they obtained with the
less difficulty a precarious and dependent life, from the
affected pity of Constantius, who was sensible that the execution
of these helpless orphans would have been esteemed, by all
mankind, an act of the most deliberate cruelty. ^11 ^* Different
cities of Ionia and Bithynia were assigned for the places of
their exile and education; but as soon as their growing years
excited the jealousy of the emperor, he judged it more prudent to
secure those unhappy youths in the strong castle of Macellum,
near Caesarea. The treatment which they experienced during a six
years' confinement, was partly such as they could hope from a
careful guardian, and partly such as they might dread from a
suspicious tyrant. ^12 Their prison was an ancient palace, the
residence of the kings of Cappadocia; the situation was pleasant,
the buildings of stately, the enclosure spacious. They pursued
their studies, and practised their exercises, under the tuition
of the most skilful masters; and the numerous household appointed
to attend, or rather to guard, the nephews of Constantine, was
not unworthy of the dignity of their birth. But they could not
disguise to themselves that they were deprived of fortune, of
freedom, and of safety; secluded from the society of all whom
they could trust or esteem, and condemned to pass their
melancholy hours in the company of slaves devoted to the commands
of a tyrant who had already injured them beyond the hope of
reconciliation. At length, however, the emergencies of the state
compelled the emperor, or rather his eunuchs, to invest Gallus,
in the twenty-fifth year of his age, with the title of Caesar,
and to cement this political connection by his marriage with the
princess Constantina. After a formal interview, in which the two
princes mutually engaged their faith never to undertake any thing
to the prejudice of each other, they repaired without delay to
their respective stations. Constantius continued his march
towards the West, and Gallus fixed his residence at Antioch; from
whence, with a delegated authority, he administered the five
great dioceses of the eastern praefecture. ^13 In this fortunate
change, the new Caesar was not unmindful of his brother Julian,
who obtained the honors of his rank, the appearances of liberty,
and the restitution of an ample patrimony. ^14

[Footnote 11: Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. iii. p. 90) reproaches the
apostate with his ingratitude towards Mark, bishop of Arethusa,
who had contributed to save his life; and we learn, though from a
less respectable authority, (Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom.
iv. p. 916,) that Julian was concealed in the sanctuary of a

Note: Gallus and Julian were not sons of the same mother.
Their father, Julius Constantius, had had Gallus by his first
wife, named Galla: Julian was the son of Basilina, whom he had
espoused in a second marriage. Tillemont. Hist. des Emp. Vie de
Constantin. art. 3. - G.]

[Footnote 12: The most authentic account of the education and
adventures of Julian is contained in the epistle or manifesto
which he himself addressed to the senate and people of Athens.
Libanius, (Orat. Parentalis,) on the side of the Pagans, and
Socrates, (l. iii. c. 1,) on that of the Christians, have
preserved several interesting circumstances.]

[Footnote 13: For the promotion of Gallus, see Idatius, Zosimus,
and the two Victors. According to Philostorgius, (l. iv. c. 1,)
Theophilus, an Arian bishop, was the witness, and, as it were,
the guarantee of this solemn engagement. He supported that
character with generous firmness; but M. de Tillemont (Hist. des
Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 1120) thinks it very improbable that a
heretic should have possessed such virtue.]

[Footnote 14: Julian was at first permitted to pursue his studies
at Constantinople, but the reputation which he acquired soon
excited the jealousy of Constantius; and the young prince was
advised to withdraw himself to the less conspicuous scenes of
Bithynia and Ionia.]

The writers the most indulgent to the memory of Gallus, and
even Julian himself, though he wished to cast a veil over the
frailties of his brother, are obliged to confess that the Caesar
was incapable of reigning. Transported from a prison to a throne,
he possessed neither genius nor application, nor docility to
compensate for the want of knowledge and experience. A temper
naturally morose and violent, instead of being corrected, was
soured by solitude and adversity; the remembrance of what he had
endured disposed him to retaliation rather than to sympathy; and
the ungoverned sallies of his rage were often fatal to those who
approached his person, or were subject to his power. ^15
Constantina, his wife, is described, not as a woman, but as one
of the infernal furies tormented with an insatiate thirst of
human blood. ^16 Instead of employing her influence to insinuate
the mild counsels of prudence and humanity, she exasperated the
fierce passions of her husband; and as she retained the vanity,
though she had renounced, the gentleness of her sex, a pearl
necklace was esteemed an equivalent price for the murder of an
innocent and virtuous nobleman. ^17 The cruelty of Gallus was
sometimes displayed in the undissembled violence of popular or
military executions; and was sometimes disguised by the abuse of
law, and the forms of judicial proceedings. The private houses
of Antioch, and the places of public resort, were besieged by
spies and informers; and the Caesar himself, concealed in a a
plebeian habit, very frequently condescended to assume that
odious character. Every apartment of the palace was adorned with
the instruments of death and torture, and a general consternation
was diffused through the capital of Syria. The prince of the
East, as if he had been conscious how much he had to fear, and
how little he deserved to reign, selected for the objects of his
resentment the provincials accused of some imaginary treason, and
his own courtiers, whom with more reason he suspected of
incensing, by their secret correspondence, the timid and
suspicious mind of Constantius. But he forgot that he was
depriving himself of his only support, the affection of the
people; whilst he furnished the malice of his enemies with the
arms of truth, and afforded the emperor the fairest pretence of
exacting the forfeit of his purple, and of his life. ^18

[Footnote 15: See Julian. ad S. P. Q. A. p. 271. Jerom. in
Chron. Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, x. 14. I shall copy the words
of Eutropius, who wrote his abridgment about fifteen years after
the death of Gallus, when there was no longer any motive either
to flatter or to depreciate his character. "Multis incivilibus
gestis Gallus Caesar . . . . vir natura ferox et ad tyrannidem
pronior, si suo jure imperare licuisset."]

[Footnote 16: Megaera quidem mortalis, inflammatrix saevientis
assidua, humani cruoris avida, &c. Ammian. Marcellin. l. xiv. c.
1. The sincerity of Ammianus would not suffer him to
misrepresent facts or characters, but his love of ambitious
ornaments frequently betrayed him into an unnatural vehemence of

[Footnote 17: His name was Clematius of Alexandria, and his only
crime was a refusal to gratify the desires of his mother-in-law;
who solicited his death, because she had been disappointed of his
love. Ammian. xiv. c. i.]
[Footnote 18: See in Ammianus (l. xiv. c. 1, 7) a very ample
detail of the cruelties of Gallus. His brother Julian (p. 272)
insinuates, that a secret conspiracy had been formed against him;
and Zosimus names (l. ii. p. 135) the persons engaged in it; a
minister of considerable rank, and two obscure agents, who were
resolved to make their fortune.]

As long as the civil war suspended the fate of the Roman
world, Constantius dissembled his knowledge of the weak and cruel
administration to which his choice had subjected the East; and
the discovery of some assassins, secretly despatched to Antioch
by the tyrant of Gaul, was employed to convince the public, that
the emperor and the Caesar were united by the same interest, and


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