The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Edward Gibbon

Part 11 out of 14

legitimate title of Anthemius, whom he accompanied in his journey
to Rome; the Dalmatian fleet was received into the harbors of
Italy; the active valor of Marcellinus expelled the Vandals from
the Island of Sardinia; and the languid efforts of the West added
some weight to the immense preparations of the Eastern Romans.
The expense of the naval armament, which Leo sent against the
Vandals, has been distinctly ascertained; and the curious and
instructive account displays the wealth of the declining empire.
The Royal demesnes, or private patrimony of the prince, supplied
seventeen thousand pounds of gold; forty-seven thousand pounds of
gold, and seven hundred thousand of silver, were levied and paid
into the treasury by the Praetorian praefects. But the cities
were reduced to extreme poverty; and the diligent calculation of
fines and forfeitures, as a valuable object of the revenue, does
not suggest the idea of a just or merciful administration. The
whole expense, by whatsoever means it was defrayed, of the
African campaign, amounted to the sum of one hundred and thirty
thousand pounds of gold, about five millions two hundred thousand
pounds sterling, at a time when the value of money appears, from
the comparative price of corn, to have been somewhat higher than
in the present age. ^86 The fleet that sailed from Constantinople
to Carthage, consisted of eleven hundred and thirteen ships, and
the number of soldiers and mariners exceeded one hundred thousand
men. Basiliscus, the brother of the empress Vorina, was
intrusted with this important command. His sister, the wife of
Leo, had exaggerated the merit of his former exploits against the
Scythians. But the discovery of his guilt, or incapacity, was
reserved for the African war; and his friends could only save his
military reputation by asserting, that he had conspired with
Aspar to spare Genseric, and to betray the last hope of the
Western empire.

[Footnote 83: Itaque nos quibus totius mundi regimen commisit
superna provisio .... Pius et triumphator semper Augustus filius
noster Anthemius, licet Divina Majestas et nostra creatio pietati
ejus plenam Imperii commiserit potestatem, &c. .... Such is the
dignified style of Leo, whom Anthemius respectfully names,
Dominus et Pater meus Princeps sacratissimus Leo. See Novell.
Anthem. tit. ii. iii. p. 38, ad calcem Cod. Theod.]
[Footnote 84: The expedition of Heraclius is clouded with
difficulties, (Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. vi. p. 640,)
and it requires some dexterity to use the circumstances afforded
by Theophanes, without injury to the more respectable evidence of

[Footnote 85: The march of Cato from Berenice, in the province of
Cyrene, was much longer than that of Heraclius from Tripoli. He
passed the deep sandy desert in thirty days, and it was found
necessary to provide, besides the ordinary supplies, a great
number of skins filled with water, and several Psylli, who were
supposed to possess the art of sucking the wounds which had been
made by the serpents of their native country. See Plutarch in
Caton. Uticens. tom. iv. p. 275. Straben Geograph. l. xxii. p.
[Footnote 86: The principal sum is clearly expressed by
Procopius, (de Bell. Vandal. l. i. c. 6, p. 191;) the smaller
constituent parts, which Tillemont, (Hist. des Empereurs, tom.
vi. p. 396) has laboriously collected from the Byzantine writers,
are less certain, and less important. The historian Malchus
laments the public misery, (Excerpt. ex Suida in Corp. Hist.
Byzant. p. 58;) but he is surely unjust, when he charges Leo with
hoarding the treasures which he extorted from the people.

Note: Compare likewise the newly-discovered work of Lydus,
de Magistratibus, ed. Hase, Paris, 1812, (and in the new
collection of the Byzantines,) l. iii. c. 43. Lydus states the
expenditure at 65,000 lbs. of gold, 700,000 of silver. But Lydus
exaggerates the fleet to the incredible number of 10,000 long
ships, (Liburnae,) and the troops to 400,000 men. Lydus describes
this fatal measure, of which he charges the blame on Basiliscus,
as the shipwreck of the state. From that time all the revenues
of the empire were anticipated; and the finances fell into
inextricable confusion. - M.]
Experience has shown, that the success of an invader most
commonly depends on the vigor and celerity of his operations.
The strength and sharpness of the first impression are blunted by
delay; the health and spirit of the troops insensibly languish in
a distant climate; the naval and military force, a mighty effort
which perhaps can never be repeated, is silently consumed; and
every hour that is wasted in negotiation, accustoms the enemy to
contemplate and examine those hostile terrors, which, on their
first appearance, he deemed irresistible. The formidable navy of
Basiliscus pursued its prosperous navigation from the Thracian
Bosphorus to the coast of Africa. He landed his troops at Cape
Bona, or the promontory of Mercury, about forty miles from
Carthage. ^87 The army of Heraclius, and the fleet of
Marcellinus, either joined or seconded the Imperial lieutenant;
and the Vandals who opposed his progress by sea or land, were
successively vanquished. ^88 If Basiliscus had seized the moment
of consternation, and boldly advanced to the capital, Carthage
must have surrendered, and the kingdom of the Vandals was
extinguished. Genseric beheld the danger with firmness, and
eluded it with his veteran dexterity. He protested, in the most
respectful language, that he was ready to submit his person, and
his dominions, to the will of the emperor; but he requested a
truce of five days to regulate the terms of his submission; and
it was universally believed, that his secret liberality
contributed to the success of this public negotiation. Instead
of obstinately refusing whatever indulgence his enemy so
earnestly solicited, the guilty, or the credulous, Basiliscus
consented to the fatal truce; and his imprudent security seemed
to proclaim, that he already considered himself as the conqueror
of Africa. During this short interval, the wind became favorable
to the designs of Genseric. He manned his largest ships of war
with the bravest of the Moors and Vandals; and they towed after
them many large barks, filled with combustible materials. In the
obscurity of the night, these destructive vessels were impelled
against the unguarded and unsuspecting fleet of the Romans, who
were awakened by the sense of their instant danger. Their close
and crowded order assisted the progress of the fire, which was
communicated with rapid and irresistible violence; and the noise
of the wind, the crackling of the flames, the dissonant cries of
the soldiers and mariners, who could neither command nor obey,
increased the horror of the nocturnal tumult. Whilst they labored
to extricate themselves from the fire-ships, and to save at least
a part of the navy, the galleys of Genseric assaulted them with
temperate and disciplined valor; and many of the Romans, who
escaped the fury of the flames, were destroyed or taken by the
victorious Vandals. Among the events of that disastrous night,
the heroic, or rather desperate, courage of John, one of the
principal officers of Basiliscus, has rescued his name from
oblivion. When the ship, which he had bravely defended, was
almost consumed, he threw himself in his armor into the sea,
disdainfully rejected the esteem and pity of Genso, the son of
Genseric, who pressed him to accept honorable quarter, and sunk
under the waves; exclaiming, with his last breath, that he would
never fall alive into the hands of those impious dogs. Actuated
by a far different spirit, Basiliscus, whose station was the most
remote from danger, disgracefully fled in the beginning of the
engagement, returned to Constantinople with the loss of more than
half of his fleet and army, and sheltered his guilty head in the
sanctuary of St. Sophia, till his sister, by her tears and
entreaties, could obtain his pardon from the indignant emperor.
Heraclius effected his retreat through the desert; Marcellinus
retired to Sicily, where he was assassinated, perhaps at the
instigation of Ricimer, by one of his own captains; and the king
of the Vandals expressed his surprise and satisfaction, that the
Romans themselves should remove from the world his most
formidable antagonists. ^89 After the failure of this great
expedition, ^* Genseric again became the tyrant of the sea: the
coasts of Italy, Greece, and Asia, were again exposed to his
revenge and avarice; Tripoli and Sardinia returned to his
obedience; he added Sicily to the number of his provinces; and
before he died, in the fulness of years and of glory, he beheld
the final extinction of the empire of the West. ^90

[Footnote 87: This promontory is forty miles from Carthage,
(Procop. l. i. c. 6, p. 192,) and twenty leagues from Sicily,
(Shaw's Travels, p. 89.) Scipio landed farther in the bay, at the
fair promontory; see the animated description of Livy, xxix. 26,

[Footnote 88: Theophanes (p. 100) affirms that many ships of the
Vandals were sunk. The assertion of Jornandes, (de Successione
Regn.,) that Basiliscus attacked Carthage, must be understood in
a very qualified sense]
[Footnote 89: Damascius in Vit. Isidor. apud Phot. p. 1048. It
will appear, by comparing the three short chronicles of the
times, that Marcellinus had fought near Carthage, and was killed
in Sicily.]

[Footnote *: According to Lydus, Leo, distracted by this and the
other calamities of his reign, particularly a dreadful fire at
Constantinople, abandoned the palace, like another Orestes, and
was preparing to quit Constantinople forever l iii. c. 44, p.
230. - M.]

[Footnote 90: For the African war, see Procopius, de Bell.
Vandal. l. i. c. 6, p. 191, 192, 193,) Theophanes, (p. 99, 100,
101,) Cedrenus, (p. 349, 350,) and Zonaras, (tom. ii. l. xiv. p.
50, 51.) Montesquieu (Considerations sur la Grandeur, &c., c. xx.
tom. iii. p. 497) has made a judicious observation on the failure
of these great naval armaments.]

During his long and active reign, the African monarch had
studiously cultivated the friendship of the Barbarians of Europe,
whose arms he might employ in a seasonable and effectual
diversion against the two empires. After the death of Attila, he
renewed his alliance with the Visigoths of Gaul; and the sons of
the elder Theodoric, who successively reigned over that warlike
nation, were easily persuaded, by the sense of interest, to
forget the cruel affront which Genseric had inflicted on their
sister. ^91 The death of the emperor Majorian delivered Theodoric
the Second from the restraint of fear, and perhaps of honor; he
violated his recent treaty with the Romans; and the ample
territory of Narbonne, which he firmly united to his dominions,
became the immediate reward of his perfidy. The selfish policy
of Ricimer encouraged him to invade the provinces which were in
the possession of Aegidius, his rival; but the active count, by
the defence of Arles, and the victory of Orleans, saved Gaul, and
checked, during his lifetime, the progress of the Visigoths.
Their ambition was soon rekindled; and the design of
extinguishing the Roman empire in Spain and Gaul was conceived,
and almost completed, in the reign of Euric, who assassinated his
brother Theodoric, and displayed, with a more savage temper,
superior abilities, both in peace and war. He passed the
Pyrenees at the head of a numerous army, subdued the cities of
Saragossa and Pampeluna, vanquished in battle the martial nobles
of the Tarragonese province, carried his victorious arms into the
heart of Lusitania, and permitted the Suevi to hold the kingdom
of Gallicia under the Gothic monarchy of Spain. ^92 The efforts
of Euric were not less vigorous, or less successful, in Gaul; and
throughout the country that extends from the Pyrenees to the
Rhone and the Loire, Berry and Auvergne were the only cities, or
dioceses, which refused to acknowledge him as their master. ^93
In the defence of Clermont, their principal town, the inhabitants
of Auvergne sustained, with inflexible resolution, the miseries
of war, pestilence, and famine; and the Visigoths, relinquishing
the fruitless siege, suspended the hopes of that important
conquest. The youth of the province were animated by the heroic,
and almost incredible, valor of Ecdicius, the son of the emperor
Avitus, ^94 who made a desperate sally with only eighteen
horsemen, boldly attacked the Gothic army, and, after maintaining
a flying skirmish, retired safe and victorious within the walls
of Clermont. His charity was equal to his courage: in a time of
extreme scarcity, four thousand poor were fed at his expense; and
his private influence levied an army of Burgundians for the
deliverance of Auvergne. From his virtues alone the faithful
citizens of Gaul derived any hopes of safety or freedom; and even
such virtues were insufficient to avert the impending ruin of
their country, since they were anxious to learn, from his
authority and example, whether they should prefer the alternative
of exile or servitude. ^95 The public confidence was lost; the
resources of the state were exhausted; and the Gauls had too much
reason to believe, that Anthemius, who reigned in Italy, was
incapable of protecting his distressed subjects beyond the Alps.
The feeble emperor could only procure for their defence the
service of twelve thousand British auxiliaries. Riothamus, one of
the independent kings, or chieftains, of the island, was
persuaded to transport his troops to the continent of Gaul: he
sailed up the Loire, and established his quarters in Berry, where
the people complained of these oppressive allies, till they were
destroyed or dispersed by the arms of the Visigoths. ^96

[Footnote 91: Jornandes is our best guide through the reigns of
Theodoric II. and Euric, (de Rebus Geticis, c. 44, 45, 46, 47, p.
675 - 681.) Idatius ends too soon, and Isidore is too sparing of
the information which he might have given on the affairs of
Spain. The events that relate to Gaul are laboriously
illustrated in the third book of the Abbe Dubos, Hist. Critique,
tom. i. p. 424 - 620.]

[Footnote 92: See Mariana, Hist. Hispan. tom. i. l. v. c. 5. p.
[Footnote 93: An imperfect, but original, picture of Gaul, more
especially of Auvergne, is shown by Sidonius; who, as a senator,
and afterwards as a bishop, was deeply interested in the fate of
his country. See l. v. epist. 1, 5, 9, &c.]

[Footnote 94: Sidonius, l. iii. epist. 3, p. 65 - 68. Greg.
Turon. l. ii. c. 24, in tom. ii. p. 174. Jornandes, c. 45, p.
675. Perhaps Ecdicius was only the son-in-law of Avitus, his
wife's son by another husband.]
[Footnote 95: Si nullae a republica vires, nulla praesidia; si
nullae, quantum rumor est, Anthemii principis opes; statuit, te
auctore, nobilitas, seu patriaca dimittere seu capillos, (Sidon.
l. ii. epist. 1, p. 33.) The last words Sirmond, Not. p. 25) may
likewise denote the clerical tonsure, which was indeed the choice
of Sidonius himself.]

[Footnote 96: The history of these Britons may be traced in
Jornandes, (c. 45, p. 678,) Sidonius, (l. iii. epistol. 9, p. 73,
74,) and Gregory of Tours, (l. ii. c. 18, in tom. ii. p. 170.)
Sidonius (who styles these mercenary troops argutos, armatos,
tumultuosos, virtute numero, contul ernio, contumaces) addresses
their general in a tone of friendship and familiarity.]
One of the last acts of jurisdiction, which the Roman senate
exercised over their subjects of Gaul, was the trial and
condemnation of Arvandus, the Praetorian praefect. Sidonius, who
rejoices that he lived under a reign in which he might pity and
assist a state criminal, has expressed, with tenderness and
freedom, the faults of his indiscreet and unfortunate friend. ^97
From the perils which he had escaped, Arvandus imbibed confidence
rather than wisdom; and such was the various, though uniform,
imprudence of his behavior, that his prosperity must appear much
more surprising than his downfall. The second praefecture, which
he obtained within the term of five years, abolished the merit
and popularity of his preceding administration. His easy temper
was corrupted by flattery, and exasperated by opposition; he was
forced to satisfy his importunate creditors with the spoils of
the province; his capricious insolence offended the nobles of
Gaul, and he sunk under the weight of the public hatred. The
mandate of his disgrace summoned him to justify his conduct
before the senate; and he passed the Sea of Tuscany with a
favorable wind, the presage, as he vainly imagined, of his future
fortunes. A decent respect was still observed for the
Proefectorian rank; and on his arrival at Rome, Arvandus was
committed to the hospitality, rather than to the custody, of
Flavius Asellus, the count of the sacred largesses, who resided
in the Capitol. ^98 He was eagerly pursued by his accusers, the
four deputies of Gaul, who were all distinguished by their birth,
their dignities, or their eloquence. In the name of a great
province, and according to the forms of Roman jurisprudence, they
instituted a civil and criminal action, requiring such
restitution as might compensate the losses of individuals, and
such punishment as might satisfy the justice of the state. Their
charges of corrupt oppression were numerous and weighty; but they
placed their secret dependence on a letter which they had
intercepted, and which they could prove, by the evidence of his
secretary, to have been dictated by Arvandus himself. The author
of this letter seemed to dissuade the king of the Goths from a
peace with the Greek emperor: he suggested the attack of the
Britons on the Loire; and he recommended a division of Gaul,
according to the law of nations, between the Visigoths and the
Burgundians. ^99 These pernicious schemes, which a friend could
only palliate by the reproaches of vanity and indiscretion, were
susceptible of a treasonable interpretation; and the deputies had
artfully resolved not to produce their most formidable weapons
till the decisive moment of the contest. But their intentions
were discovered by the zeal of Sidonius. He immediately apprised
the unsuspecting criminal of his danger; and sincerely lamented,
without any mixture of anger, the haughty presumption of
Arvandus, who rejected, and even resented, the salutary advice of
his friends. Ignorant of his real situation, Arvandus showed
himself in the Capitol in the white robe of a candidate, accepted
indiscriminate salutations and offers of service, examined the
shops of the merchants, the silks and gems, sometimes with the
indifference of a spectator, and sometimes with the attention of
a purchaser; and complained of the times, of the senate, of the
prince, and of the delays of justice. His complaints were soon
removed. An early day was fixed for his trial; and Arvandus
appeared, with his accusers, before a numerous assembly of the
Roman senate. The mournful garb which they affected, excited the
compassion of the judges, who were scandalized by the gay and
splendid dress of their adversary: and when the praefect
Arvandus, with the first of the Gallic deputies, were directed to
take their places on the senatorial benches, the same contrast of
pride and modesty was observed in their behavior. In this
memorable judgment, which presented a lively image of the old
republic, the Gauls exposed, with force and freedom, the
grievances of the province; and as soon as the minds of the
audience were sufficiently inflamed, they recited the fatal
epistle. The obstinacy of Arvandus was founded on the strange
supposition, that a subject could not be convicted of treason,
unless he had actually conspired to assume the purple. As the
paper was read, he repeatedly, and with a loud voice,
acknowledged it for his genuine composition; and his astonishment
was equal to his dismay, when the unanimous voice of the senate
declared him guilty of a capital offence. By their decree, he
was degraded from the rank of a praefect to the obscure condition
of a plebeian, and ignominiously dragged by servile hands to the
public prison. After a fortnight's adjournment, the senate was
again convened to pronounce the sentence of his death; but while
he expected, in the Island of Aesculapius, the expiration of the
thirty days allowed by an ancient law to the vilest malefactors,
^100 his friends interposed, the emperor Anthemius relented, and
the praefect of Gaul obtained the milder punishment of exile and
confiscation. The faults of Arvandus might deserve compassion;
but the impunity of Seronatus accused the justice of the
republic, till he was condemned and executed, on the complaint of
the people of Auvergne. That flagitious minister, the Catiline
of his age and country, held a secret correspondence with the
Visigoths, to betray the province which he oppressed: his
industry was continually exercised in the discovery of new taxes
and obsolete offences; and his extravagant vices would have
inspired contempt, if they had not excited fear and abhorrence.
[Footnote 97: See Sidonius, l. i. epist. 7, p. 15 - 20, with
Sirmond's notes. This letter does honor to his heart, as well as
to his understanding. The prose of Sidonius, however vitiated by
a false and affected taste, is much superior to his insipid

[Footnote 98: When the Capitol ceased to be a temple, it was
appropriated to the use of the civil magistrate; and it is still
the residence of the Roman senator. The jewellers, &c., might be
allowed to expose then precious wares in the porticos.]

[Footnote 99: Haec ad regem Gothorum, charta videbatur emitti,
pacem cum Graeco Imperatore dissuadens, Britannos super Ligerim
sitos impugnari oportere, demonstrans, cum Burgundionibus jure
gentium Gallias dividi debere confirmans.]

[Footnote 100: Senatusconsultum Tiberianum, (Sirmond Not. p. 17;)
but that law allowed only ten days between the sentence and
execution; the remaining twenty were added in the reign of

[Footnote 101: Catilina seculi nostri. Sidonius, l. ii. epist.
1, p. 33; l. v. epist 13, p. 143; l. vii. epist. vii. p. 185. He
execrates the crimes, and applauds the punishment, of Seronatus,
perhaps with the indignation of a virtuous citizen, perhaps with
the resentment of a personal enemy.]
Such criminals were not beyond the reach of justice; but
whatever might be the guilt of Ricimer, that powerful Barbarian
was able to contend or to negotiate with the prince, whose
alliance he had condescended to accept. The peaceful and
prosperous reign which Anthemius had promised to the West, was
soon clouded by misfortune and discord. Ricimer, apprehensive,
or impatient, of a superior, retired from Rome, and fixed his
residence at Milan; an advantageous situation either to invite or
to repel the warlike tribes that were seated between the Alps and
the Danube. ^102 Italy was gradually divided into two independent
and hostile kingdoms; and the nobles of Liguria, who trembled at
the near approach of a civil war, fell prostrate at the feet of
the patrician, and conjured him to spare their unhappy country.
"For my own part," replied Ricimer, in a tone of insolent
moderation, "I am still inclined to embrace the friendship of the
Galatian; ^103 but who will undertake to appease his anger, or to
mitigate the pride, which always rises in proportion to our
submission?" They informed him, that Epiphanius, bishop of Pavia,
^104 united the wisdom of the serpent with the innocence of the
dove; and appeared confident, that the eloquence of such an
ambassador must prevail against the strongest opposition, either
of interest or passion. Their recommendation was approved; and
Epiphanius, assuming the benevolent office of mediation,
proceeded without delay to Rome, where he was received with the
honors due to his merit and reputation. The oration of a bishop
in favor of peace may be easily supposed; he argued, that, in all
possible circumstances, the forgiveness of injuries must be an
act of mercy, or magnanimity, or prudence; and he seriously
admonished the emperor to avoid a contest with a fierce
Barbarian, which might be fatal to himself, and must be ruinous
to his dominions. Anthemius acknowledged the truth of his
maxims; but he deeply felt, with grief and indignation, the
behavior of Ricimer, and his passion gave eloquence and energy to
his discourse. "What favors," he warmly exclaimed, "have we
refused to this ungrateful man? What provocations have we not
endured! Regardless of the majesty of the purple, I gave my
daughter to a Goth; I sacrificed my own blood to the safety of
the republic. The liberality which ought to have secured the
eternal attachment of Ricimer has exasperated him against his
benefactor. What wars has he not excited against the empire! How
often has he instigated and assisted the fury of hostile nations!

Shall I now accept his perfidious friendship? Can I hope that he
will respect the engagements of a treaty, who has already
violated the duties of a son?" But the anger of Anthemius
evaporated in these passionate exclamations: he insensibly
yielded to the proposals of Epiphanius; and the bishop returned
to his diocese with the satisfaction of restoring the peace of
Italy, by a reconciliation, ^105 of which the sincerity and
continuance might be reasonably suspected. The clemency of the
emperor was extorted from his weakness; and Ricimer suspended his
ambitious designs till he had secretly prepared the engines with
which he resolved to subvert the throne of Anthemius. The mask
of peace and moderation was then thrown aside. The army of
Ricimer was fortified by a numerous reenforcement of Burgundians
and Oriental Suevi: he disclaimed all allegiance to the Greek
emperor, marched from Milan to the Gates of Rome, and fixing his
camp on the banks of the Anio, impatiently expected the arrival
of Olybrius, his Imperial candidate.
[Footnote 102: Ricimer, under the reign of Anthemius, defeated
and slew in battle Beorgor, king of the Alani, (Jornandes, c. 45,
p. 678.) His sister had married the king of the Burgundians, and
he maintained an intimate connection with the Suevic colony
established in Pannonia and Noricum.]
[Footnote 103: Galatam concitatum. Sirmond (in his notes to
Ennodius) applies this appellation to Anthemius himself. The
emperor was probably born in the province of Galatia, whose
inhabitants, the Gallo-Grecians, were supposed to unite the vices
of a savage and a corrupted people.]

[Footnote 104: Epiphanius was thirty years bishop of Pavia, (A.D.
467-497;) see Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. xvi. p. 788. His name
and actions would have been unknown to posterity, if Ennodius,
one of his successors, had not written his life; (Sirmond, Opera
tom. i. p. 1647 - 1692;) in which he represents him as one of the
greatest characters of the age]

[Footnote 105: Ennodius (p. 1659 - 1664) has related this embassy
of Epiphanius; and his narrative, verbose and turgid as it must
appear, illustrates some curious passages in the fall of the
Western empire.]
The senator Olybrius, of the Anician family, might esteem
himself the lawful heir of the Western empire. He had married
Placidia, the younger daughter of Valentinian, after she was
restored by Genseric; who still detained her sister Eudoxia, as
the wife, or rather as the captive, of his son. The king of the
Vandals supported, by threats and solicitations, the fair
pretensions of his Roman ally; and assigned, as one of the
motives of the war, the refusal of the senate and people to
acknowledge their lawful prince, and the unworthy preference
which they had given to a stranger. ^106 The friendship of the
public enemy might render Olybrius still more unpopular to the
Italians; but when Ricimer meditated the ruin of the emperor
Anthemius, he tempted, with the offer of a diadem, the candidate
who could justify his rebellion by an illustrious name and a
royal alliance. The husband of Placidia, who, like most of his
ancestors, had been invested with the consular dignity, might
have continued to enjoy a secure and splendid fortune in the
peaceful residence of Constantinople; nor does he appear to have
been tormented by such a genius as cannot be amused or occupied,
unless by the administration of an empire. Yet Olybrius yielded
to the importunities of his friends, perhaps of his wife; rashly
plunged into the dangers and calamities of a civil war; and, with
the secret connivance of the emperor Leo, accepted the Italian
purple, which was bestowed, and resumed, at the capricious will
of a Barbarian. He landed without obstacle (for Genseric was
master of the sea) either at Ravenna, or the port of Ostia, and
immediately proceeded to the camp of Ricimer, where he was
received as the sovereign of the Western world. ^107
[Footnote 106: Priscus, Excerpt. Legation p. 74. Procopius de
Bell. Vandel l. i. c. 6, p. 191. Eudoxia and her daughter were
restored after the death of Majorian. Perhaps the consulship of
Olybrius (A.D. 464) was bestowed as a nuptial present.]

[Footnote 107: The hostile appearance of Olybrius is fixed
(notwithstanding the opinion of Pagi) by the duration of his
reign. The secret connivance of Leo is acknowledged by
Theophanes and the Paschal Chronicle. We are ignorant of his
motives; but in this obscure period, our ignorance extends to the
most public and important facts.]

The patrician, who had extended his posts from the Anio to
the Melvian bridge, already possessed two quarters of Rome, the
Vatican and the Janiculum, which are separated by the Tyber from
the rest of the city; ^108 and it may be conjectured, that an
assembly of seceding senators imitated, in the choice of
Olybrius, the forms of a legal election. But the body of the
senate and people firmly adhered to the cause of Anthemius; and
the more effectual support of a Gothic army enabled him to
prolong his reign, and the public distress, by a resistance of
three months, which produced the concomitant evils of famine and
pestilence. At length Ricimer made a furious assault on the
bridge of Hadrian, or St. Angelo; and the narrow pass was
defended with equal valor by the Goths, till the death of
Gilimer, their leader. The victorious troops, breaking down
every barrier, rushed with irresistible violence into the heart
of the city, and Rome (if we may use the language of a
contemporary pope) was subverted by the civil fury of Anthemius
and Ricimer. ^109 The unfortunate Anthemius was dragged from his
concealment, and inhumanly massacred by the command of his
son-in-law; who thus added a third, or perhaps a fourth, emperor
to the number of his victims. The soldiers, who united the rage
of factious citizens with the savage manners of Barbarians, were
indulged, without control, in the license of rapine and murder:
the crowd of slaves and plebeians, who were unconcerned in the
event, could only gain by the indiscriminate pillage; and the
face of the city exhibited the strange contrast of stern cruelty
and dissolute intemperance. ^110 Forty days after this calamitous
event, the subject, not of glory, but of guilt, Italy was
delivered, by a painful disease, from the tyrant Ricimer, who
bequeathed the command of his army to his nephew Gundobald, one
of the princes of the Burgundians. In the same year all the
principal actors in this great revolution were removed from the
stage; and the whole reign of Olybrius, whose death does not
betray any symptoms of violence, is included within the term of
seven months. He left one daughter, the offspring of his
marriage with Placidia; and the family of the great Theodosius,
transplanted from Spain to Constantinople, was propagated in the
female line as far as the eighth generation. ^111

[Footnote 108: Of the fourteen regions, or quarters, into which
Rome was divided by Augustus, only one, the Janiculum, lay on the
Tuscan side of the Tyber. But, in the fifth century, the Vatican
suburb formed a considerable city; and in the ecclesiastical
distribution, which had been recently made by Simplicius, the
reigning pope, two of the seven regions, or parishes of Rome,
depended on the church of St. Peter. See Nardini Roma Antica, p.
67. It would require a tedious dissertation to mark the
circumstances, in which I am inclined to depart from the
topography of that learned Roman.]
[Footnote 109: Nuper Anthemii et Ricimeris civili furore subversa
est. Gelasius in Epist. ad Andromach. apud Baron. A.D. 496, No.
42, Sigonius (tom. i. l. xiv. de Occidentali Imperio, p. 542,
543,) and Muratori (Annali d'Italia, tom. iv. p. 308, 309,) with
the aid of a less imperfect Ms. of the Historia Miscella., have
illustrated this dark and bloody transaction.]
[Footnote 110: Such had been the saeva ac deformis urbe tota
facies, when Rome was assaulted and stormed by the troops of
Vespasian, (see Tacit. Hist. iii. 82, 83;) and every cause of
mischief had since acquired much additional energy. The
revolution of ages may bring round the same calamities; but ages
may revolve without producing a Tacitus to describe them.]
[Footnote 111: See Ducange, Familiae Byzantin. p. 74, 75.
Areobindus, who appears to have married the niece of the emperor
Justinian, was the eighth descendant of the elder Theodosius.]
Chapter XXXVI: Total Extinction Of The Western Empire.

Part V.

Whilst the vacant throne of Italy was abandoned to lawless
Barbarians, ^112 the election of a new colleague was seriously
agitated in the council of Leo. The empress Verina, studious to
promote the greatness of her own family, had married one of her
nieces to Julius Nepos, who succeeded his uncle Marcellinus in
the sovereignty of Dalmatia, a more solid possession than the
title which he was persuaded to accept, of Emperor of the West.
But the measures of the Byzantine court were so languid and
irresolute, that many months elapsed after the death of
Anthemius, and even of Olybrius, before their destined successor
could show himself, with a respectable force, to his Italian
subjects. During that interval, Glycerius, an obscure soldier,
was invested with the purple by his patron Gundobald; but the
Burgundian prince was unable, or unwilling, to support his
nomination by a civil war: the pursuits of domestic ambition
recalled him beyond the Alps, ^113 and his client was permitted
to exchange the Roman sceptre for the bishopric of Salona. After
extinguishing such a competitor, the emperor Nepos was
acknowledged by the senate, by the Italians, and by the
provincials of Gaul; his moral virtues, and military talents,
were loudly celebrated; and those who derived any private benefit
from his government, announced, in prophetic strains, the
restoration of the public felicity. ^114 Their hopes (if such
hopes had been entertained) were confounded within the term of a
single year, and the treaty of peace, which ceded Auvergue to the
Visigoths, is the only event of his short and inglorious reign.
The most faithful subjects of Gaul were sacrificed, by the
Italian emperor, to the hope of domestic security; ^115 but his
repose was soon invaded by a furious sedition of the Barbarian
confederates, who, under the command of Orestes, their general,
were in full march from Rome to Ravenna. Nepos trembled at their
approach; and, instead of placing a just confidence in the
strength of Ravenna, he hastily escaped to his ships, and retired
to his Dalmatian principality, on the opposite coast of the
Adriatic. By this shameful abdication, he protracted his life
about five years, in a very ambiguous state, between an emperor
and an exile, till he was assassinated at Salona by the
ungrateful Glycerius, who was translated, perhaps as the reward
of his crime, to the archbishopric of Milan. ^116
[Footnote 112: The last revolutions of the Western empire are
faintly marked in Theophanes, (p. 102,) Jornandes, (c. 45, p.
679,) the Chronicle of Marcellinus, and the Fragments of an
anonymous writer, published by Valesius at the end of Ammianus,
(p. 716, 717.) If Photius had not been so wretchedly concise, we
should derive much information from the contemporary histories of
Malchus and Candidus. See his Extracts, p. 172 - 179.]

[Footnote 113: See Greg. Turon. l. ii. c. 28, in tom. ii. p. 175.

Dubos, Hist. Critique, tom. i. p. 613. By the murder or death of
his two brothers, Gundobald acquired the sole possession of the
kingdom of Burgundy, whose ruin was hastened by their discord.]
[Footnote 114: Julius Nepos armis pariter summus Augustus ac
moribus. Sidonius, l. v. ep. 16, p. 146. Nepos had given to
Ecdicius the title of Patrician, which Anthemius had promised,
decessoris Anthemii fidem absolvit. See l. viii. ep. 7, p. 224.]
[Footnote 115: Epiphanius was sent ambassador from Nepos to the
Visigoths, for the purpose of ascertaining the fines Imperii
Italici, (Ennodius in Sirmond, tom. i. p. 1665 - 1669.) His
pathetic discourse concealed the disgraceful secret which soon
excited the just and bitter complaints of the bishop of

[Footnote 116: Malchus, apud Phot. p. 172. Ennod. Epigram.
lxxxii. in Sirmond. Oper. tom. i. p. 1879. Some doubt may,
however, be raised on the identity of the emperor and the

The nations who had asserted their independence after the
death of Attila, were established, by the right of possession or
conquest, in the boundless countries to the north of the Danube;
or in the Roman provinces between the river and the Alps. But
the bravest of their youth enlisted in the army of confederates,
who formed the defence and the terror of Italy; ^117 and in this
promiscuous multitude, the names of the Heruli, the Scyrri, the
Alani, the Turcilingi, and the Rugians, appear to have
predominated. The example of these warriors was imitated by
Orestes, ^118 the son of Tatullus, and the father of the last
Roman emperor of the West. Orestes, who has been already
mentioned in this History, had never deserted his country. His
birth and fortunes rendered him one of the most illustrious
subjects of Pannonia. When that province was ceded to the Huns,
he entered into the service of Attila, his lawful sovereign,
obtained the office of his secretary, and was repeatedly sent
ambassador to Constantinople, to represent the person, and
signify the commands, of the imperious monarch. The death of
that conqueror restored him to his freedom; and Orestes might
honorably refuse either to follow the sons of Attila into the
Scythian desert, or to obey the Ostrogoths, who had usurped the
dominion of Pannonia. He preferred the service of the Italian
princes, the successors of Valentinian; and as he possessed the
qualifications of courage, industry, and experience, he advanced
with rapid steps in the military profession, till he was
elevated, by the favor of Nepos himself, to the dignities of
patrician, and master-general of the troops. These troops had
been long accustomed to reverence the character and authority of
Orestes, who affected their manners, conversed with them in their
own language, and was intimately connected with their national
chieftains, by long habits of familiarity and friendship. At his
solicitation they rose in arms against the obscure Greek, who
presumed to claim their obedience; and when Orestes, from some
secret motive, declined the purple, they consented, with the same
facility, to acknowledge his son Augustulus as the emperor of the
West. By the abdication of Nepos, Orestes had now attained the
summit of his ambitious hopes; but he soon discovered, before the
end of the first year, that the lessons of perjury and
ingratitude, which a rebel must inculcate, will be resorted to
against himself; and that the precarious sovereign of Italy was
only permitted to choose, whether he would be the slave, or the
victim, of his Barbarian mercenaries. The dangerous alliance of
these strangers had oppressed and insulted the last remains of
Roman freedom and dignity. At each revolution, their pay and
privileges were augmented; but their insolence increased in a
still more extravagant degree; they envied the fortune of their
brethren in Gaul, Spain, and Africa, whose victorious arms had
acquired an independent and perpetual inheritance; and they
insisted on their peremptory demand, that a third part of the
lands of Italy should be immediately divided among them. Orestes,
with a spirit, which, in another situation, might be entitled to
our esteem, chose rather to encounter the rage of an armed
multitude, than to subscribe the ruin of an innocent people. He
rejected the audacious demand; and his refusal was favorable to
the ambition of Odoacer; a bold Barbarian, who assured his
fellow-soldiers, that, if they dared to associate under his
command, they might soon extort the justice which had been denied
to their dutiful petitions. From all the camps and garrisons of
Italy, the confederates, actuated by the same resentment and the
same hopes, impatiently flocked to the standard of this popular
leader; and the unfortunate patrician, overwhelmed by the
torrent, hastily retreated to the strong city of Pavia, the
episcopal seat of the holy Epiphanites. Pavia was immediately
besieged, the fortifications were stormed, the town was pillaged;
and although the bishop might labor, with much zeal and some
success, to save the property of the church, and the chastity of
female captives, the tumult could only be appeased by the
execution of Orestes. ^119 His brother Paul was slain in an
action near Ravenna; and the helpless Augustulus, who could no
longer command the respect, was reduced to implore the clemency,
of Odoacer.
[Footnote 117: Our knowledge of these mercenaries, who subverted
the Western empire, is derived from Procopius, (de Bell. Gothico,
l. i. c. i. p. 308.) The popular opinion, and the recent
historians, represent Odoacer in the false light of a stranger,
and a king, who invaded Italy with an army of foreigners, his
native subjects.]

[Footnote 118: Orestes, qui eo tempore quando Attila ad Italiam
venit, se illi unxit, ejus notarius factus fuerat. Anonym.
Vales. p. 716. He is mistaken in the date; but we may credit his
assertion, that the secretary of Attila was the father of

[Footnote 119: See Ennodius, (in Vit. Epiphan. Sirmond, tom. i.
p. 1669, 1670.) He adds weight to the narrative of Procopius,
though we may doubt whether the devil actually contrived the
siege of Pavia, to distress the bishop and his flock.]

That successful Barbarian was the son of Edecon; who, in
some remarkable transactions, particularly described in a
preceding chapter, had been the colleague of Orestes himself. ^*
The honor of an ambassador should be exempt from suspicion; and
Edecon had listened to a conspiracy against the life of his
sovereign. But this apparent guilt was expiated by his merit or
repentance; his rank was eminent and conspicuous; he enjoyed the
favor of Attila; and the troops under his command, who guarded,
in their turn, the royal village, consisted of a tribe of Scyrri,
his immediate and hereditary subjects. In the revolt of the
nations, they still adhered to the Huns; and more than twelve
years afterwards, the name of Edecon is honorably mentioned, in
their unequal contests with the Ostrogoths; which was terminated,
after two bloody battles, by the defeat and dispersion of the
Scyrri. ^120 Their gallant leader, who did not survive this
national calamity, left two sons, Onulf and Odoacer, to struggle
with adversity, and to maintain as they might, by rapine or
service, the faithful followers of their exile. Onulf directed
his steps towards Constantinople, where he sullied, by the
assassination of a generous benefactor, the fame which he had
acquired in arms. His brother Odoacer led a wandering life among
the Barbarians of Noricum, with a mind and a fortune suited to
the most desperate adventures; and when he had fixed his choice,
he piously visited the cell of Severinus, the popular saint of
the country, to solicit his approbation and blessing. The
lowness of the door would not admit the lofty stature of Odoacer:
he was obliged to stoop; but in that humble attitude the saint
could discern the symptoms of his future greatness; and
addressing him in a prophetic tone, "Pursue" (said he) "your
design; proceed to Italy; you will soon cast away this coarse
garment of skins; and your wealth will be adequate to the
liberality of your mind." ^121 The Barbarian, whose daring spirit
accepted and ratified the prediction, was admitted into the
service of the Western empire, and soon obtained an honorable
rank in the guards. His manners were gradually polished, his
military skill was improved, and the confederates of Italy would
not have elected him for their general, unless the exploits of
Odoacer had established a high opinion of his courage and
capacity. ^122 Their military acclamations saluted him with the
title of king; but he abstained, during his whole reign, from the
use of the purple and diadem, ^123 lest he should offend those
princes, whose subjects, by their accidental mixture, had formed
the victorious army, which time and policy might insensibly unite
into a great nation.

[Footnote *: Manso observes that the evidence which identifies
Edecon, the father of Odoacer, with the colleague of Orestes, is
not conclusive. Geschichte des Ost-Gothischen Reiches, p. 32.
But St. Martin inclines to agree with Gibbon, note, vi. 75. - M.]

[Footnote 120: Jornandes, c. 53, 54, p. 692 - 695. M. de Buat
(Hist. des Peuples de l'Europe, tom. viii. p. 221 - 228) has
clearly explained the origin and adventures of Odoacer. I am
almost inclined to believe that he was the same who pillaged
Angers, and commanded a fleet of Saxon pirates on the ocean.
Greg. Turon. l. ii. c. 18, in tom. ii. p. 170.

Note: According to St. Martin there is no foundation for
this conjecture, vii 5 - M.]

[Footnote 121: Vade ad Italiam, vade vilissimis nunc pellibus
coopertis: sed multis cito plurima largiturus. Anonym. Vales.
p. 717. He quotes the life of St. Severinus, which is extant,
and contains much unknown and valuable history; it was composed
by his disciple Eugippius (A.D. 511) thirty years after his
death. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. xvi. p. 168 - 181.]
[Footnote 122: Theophanes, who calls him a Goth, affirms, that he
was educated, aursed in Italy, (p. 102;) and as this strong
expression will not bear a literal interpretation, it must be
explained by long service in the Imperial guards.]

[Footnote 123: Nomen regis Odoacer assumpsit, cum tamen neque
purpura nee regalibus uteretur insignibus. Cassiodor. in Chron.
A.D. 476. He seems to have assumed the abstract title of a king,
without applying it to any particular nation or country.

Note: Manso observes that Odoacer never called himself king
of Italy, assume the purple, and no coins are extant with his
name. Gescnichte Osi Goth. Reiches, p. 36 - M.]

Royalty was familiar to the Barbarians, and the submissive
people of Italy was prepared to obey, without a murmur, the
authority which he should condescend to exercise as the
vicegerent of the emperor of the West. But Odoacer had resolved
to abolish that useless and expensive office; and such is the
weight of antique prejudice, that it required some boldness and
penetration to discover the extreme facility of the enterprise.
The unfortunate Augustulus was made the instrument of his own
disgrace: he signified his resignation to the senate; and that
assembly, in their last act of obedience to a Roman prince, still
affected the spirit of freedom, and the forms of the
constitution. An epistle was addressed, by their unanimous
decree, to the emperor Zeno, the son-in-law and successor of Leo;
who had lately been restored, after a short rebellion, to the
Byzantine throne. They solemnly "disclaim the necessity, or even
the wish, of continuing any longer the Imperial succession in
Italy; since, in their opinion, the majesty of a sole monarch is
sufficient to pervade and protect, at the same time, both the
East and the West. In their own name, and in the name of the
people, they consent that the seat of universal empire shall be
transferred from Rome to Constantinople; and they basely renounce
the right of choosing their master, the only vestige that yet
remained of the authority which had given laws to the world. The
republic (they repeat that name without a blush) might safely
confide in the civil and military virtues of Odoacer; and they
humbly request, that the emperor would invest him with the title
of Patrician, and the administration of the diocese of Italy."
The deputies of the senate were received at Constantinople with
some marks of displeasure and indignation: and when they were
admitted to the audience of Zeno, he sternly reproached them with
their treatment of the two emperors, Anthemius and Nepos, whom
the East had successively granted to the prayers of Italy. "The
first" (continued he) "you have murdered; the second you have
expelled; but the second is still alive, and whilst he lives he
is your lawful sovereign." But the prudent Zeno soon deserted the
hopeless cause of his abdicated colleague. His vanity was
gratified by the title of sole emperor, and by the statues
erected to his honor in the several quarters of Rome; he
entertained a friendly, though ambiguous, correspondence with the
patrician Odoacer; and he gratefully accepted the Imperial
ensigns, the sacred ornaments of the throne and palace, which the
Barbarian was not unwilling to remove from the sight of the
people. ^124

[Footnote 124: Malchus, whose loss excites our regret, has
preserved (in Excerpt. Legat. p. 93) this extraordinary embassy
from the senate to Zeno. The anonymous fragment, (p. 717,) and
the extract from Candidus, (apud Phot. p. 176,) are likewise of
some use.]

In the space of twenty years since the death of Valentinian,
nine emperors had successively disappeared; and the son of
Orestes, a youth recommended only by his beauty, would be the
least entitled to the notice of posterity, if his reign, which
was marked by the extinction of the Roman empire in the West, did
not leave a memorable era in the history of mankind. ^125 The
patrician Orestes had married the daughter of Count Romulus, of
Petovio in Noricum: the name of Augustus, notwithstanding the
jealousy of power, was known at Aquileia as a familiar surname;
and the appellations of the two great founders, of the city and
of the monarchy, were thus strangely united in the last of their
successors. ^126 The son of Orestes assumed and disgraced the
names of Romulus Augustus; but the first was corrupted into
Momyllus, by the Greeks, and the second has been changed by the
Latins into the contemptible diminutive Augustulus. The life of
this inoffensive youth was spared by the generous clemency of
Odoacer; who dismissed him, with his whole family, from the
Imperial palace, fixed his annual allowance at six thousand
pieces of gold, and assigned the castle of Lucullus, in Campania,
for the place of his exile or retirement. ^127 As soon as the
Romans breathed from the toils of the Punic war, they were
attracted by the beauties and the pleasures of Campania; and the
country- house of the elder Scipio at Liternum exhibited a
lasting model of their rustic simplicity. ^128 The delicious
shores of the Bay of Naples were crowded with villas; and Sylla
applauded the masterly skill of his rival, who had seated himself
on the lofty promontory of Misenum, that commands, on every side,
the sea and land, as far as the boundaries of the horizon. ^129
The villa of Marius was purchased, within a few years, by
Lucullus, and the price had increased from two thousand five
hundred, to more than fourscore thousand, pounds sterling. ^130
It was adorned by the new proprietor with Grecian arts and
Asiatic treasures; and the houses and gardens of Lucullus
obtained a distinguished rank in the list of Imperial palaces.
^131 When the Vandals became formidable to the sea-coast, the
Lucullan villa, on the promontory of Misenum, gradually assumed
the strength and appellation of a strong castle, the obscure
retreat of the last emperor of the West. About twenty years
after that great revolution, it was converted into a church and
monastery, to receive the bones of St. Severinus. They securely
reposed, amidst the the broken trophies of Cimbric and Armenian
victories,till the beginning of the tenth century; when the
fortifications, which might afford a dangerous shelter to the
Saracens, were demolished by the people of Naples. ^132

[Footnote 125: The precise year in which the Western empire was
extinguished, is not positively ascertained. The vulgar era of
A.D. 476 appears to have the sanction of authentic chronicles.
But the two dates assigned by Jornandes (c. 46, p. 680) would
delay that great event to the year 479; and though M. de Buat has
overlooked his evidence, he produces (tom. viii. p. 261 - 288)
many collateral circumstances in support of the same opinion.]
[Footnote 126: See his medals in Ducange, (Fam. Byzantin. p. 81,)
Priscus, (Excerpt. Legat. p. 56,) Maffei, (Osservazioni
Letterarie, tom. ii p. 314.) We may allege a famous and similar
case. The meanest subjects of the Roman empire assumed the
illustrious name of Patricius, which, by the conversion of
Ireland has been communicated to a whole nation.]

[Footnote 127: Ingrediens autem Ravennam deposuit Augustulum de
regno, cujus infantiam misertus concessit ei sanguinem; et quia
pulcher erat, tamen donavit ei reditum sex millia solidos, et
misit eum intra Campaniam cum parentibus suis libere vivere.
Anonym. Vales. p. 716. Jornandes says, (c 46, p. 680,) in
Lucullano Campaniae castello exilii poena damnavit.]

[Footnote 128: See the eloquent Declamation of Seneca, (Epist.
lxxxvi.) The philosopher might have recollected, that all luxury
is relative; and that the elder Scipio, whose manners were
polished by study and conversation, was himself accused of that
vice by his ruder contemporaries, (Livy, xxix. 19.)]
[Footnote 129: Sylla, in the language of a soldier, praised his
peritia castrametandi, (Plin. Hist. Natur. xviii. 7.) Phaedrus,
who makes its shady walks (loeta viridia) the scene of an insipid
fable, (ii. 5,) has thus described the situation: -

Caesar Tiberius quum petens Neapolim,
In Misenensem villam venissit suam;
Quae monte summo posita Luculli manu
Prospectat Siculum et prospicit Tuscum mare.]

[Footnote 130: From seven myriads and a half to two hundred and
fifty myriads of drachmae. Yet even in the possession of Marius,
it was a luxurious retirement. The Romans derided his indolence;
they soon bewailed his activity. See Plutarch, in Mario, tom.
ii. p. 524.]

[Footnote 131: Lucullus had other villa of equal, though various,
magnificence, at Baiae, Naples, Tusculum, &c., He boasted that he
changed his climate with the storks and cranes. Plutarch, in
Lucull. tom. iii. p. 193.]
[Footnote 132: Severinus died in Noricum, A.D. 482. Six years
afterwards, his body, which scattered miracles as it passed, was
transported by his disciples into Italy. The devotion of a
Neapolitan lady invited the saint to the Lucullan villa, in the
place of Augustulus, who was probably no more. See Baronius
(Annal. Eccles. A.D. 496, No. 50, 51) and Tillemont, (Mem.
Eccles. tom. xvi. p. 178 - 181,) from the original life by
Eugippius. The narrative of the last migration of Severinus to
Naples is likewise an authentic piece.]
Odoacer was the first Barbarian who reigned in Italy, over a
people who had once asserted their just superiority above the
rest of mankind. The disgrace of the Romans still excites our
respectful compassion, and we fondly sympathize with the
imaginary grief and indignation of their degenerate posterity.
But the calamities of Italy had gradually subdued the proud
consciousness of freedom and glory. In the age of Roman virtue
the provinces were subject to the arms, and the citizens to the
laws, of the republic; till those laws were subverted by civil
discord, and both the city and the province became the servile
property of a tyrant. The forms of the constitution, which
alleviated or disguised their abject slavery, were abolished by
time and violence; the Italians alternately lamented the presence
or the absence of the sovereign, whom they detested or despised;
and the succession of five centuries inflicted the various evils
of military license, capricious despotism, and elaborate
oppression. During the same period, the Barbarians had emerged
from obscurity and contempt, and the warriors of Germany and
Scythia were introduced into the provinces, as the servants, the
allies, and at length the masters, of the Romans, whom they
insulted or protected. The hatred of the people was suppressed
by fear; they respected the spirit and splendor of the martial
chiefs who were invested with the honors of the empire; and the
fate of Rome had long depended on the sword of those formidable
strangers. The stern Ricimer, who trampled on the ruins of
Italy, had exercised the power, without assuming the title, of a
king; and the patient Romans were insensibly prepared to
acknowledge the royalty of Odoacer and his Barbaric successors.
The king of Italy was not unworthy of the high station to
which his valor and fortune had exalted him: his savage manners
were polished by the habits of conversation; and he respected,
though a conqueror and a Barbarian, the institutions, and even
the prejudices, of his subjects. After an interval of seven
years, Odoacer restored the consulship of the West. For himself,
he modestly, or proudly, declined an honor which was still
accepted by the emperors of the East; but the curule chair was
successively filled by eleven of the most illustrious senators;
^133 and the list is adorned by the respectable name of Basilius,
whose virtues claimed the friendship and grateful applause of
Sidonius, his client. ^134 The laws of the emperors were strictly
enforced, and the civil administration of Italy was still
exercised by the Praetorian praefect and his subordinate
officers. Odoacer devolved on the Roman magistrates the odious
and oppressive task of collecting the public revenue; but he
reserved for himself the merit of seasonable and popular
indulgence. ^135 Like the rest of the Barbarians, he had been
instructed in the Arian heresy; but he revered the monastic and
episcopal characters; and the silence of the Catholics attest the
toleration which they enjoyed. The peace of the city required
the interposition of his praefect Basilius in the choice of a
Roman pontiff: the decree which restrained the clergy from
alienating their lands was ultimately designed for the benefit of
the people, whose devotions would have been taxed to repair the
dilapidations of the church. ^136 Italy was protected by the arms
of its conqueror; and its frontiers were respected by the
Barbarians of Gaul and Germany, who had so long insulted the
feeble race of Theodosius. Odoacer passed the Adriatic, to
chastise the assassins of the emperor Nepos, and to acquire the
maritime province of Dalmatia. He passed the Alps, to rescue the
remains of Noricum from Fava, or Feletheus, king of the Rugians,
who held his residence beyond the Danube. The king was
vanquished in battle, and led away prisoner; a numerous colony of
captives and subjects was transplanted into Italy; and Rome,
after a long period of defeat and disgrace, might claim the
triumph of her Barbarian master. ^137

[Footnote 133: The consular Fasti may be found in Pagi or
Muratori. The consuls named by Odoacer, or perhaps by the Roman
senate, appear to have been acknowledged in the Eastern empire.]
[Footnote 134: Sidonius Apollinaris (l. i. epist. 9, p. 22, edit.
Sirmond) has compared the two leading senators of his time, (A.D.
468,) Gennadius Avienus and Caecina Basilius. To the former he
assigns the specious, to the latter the solid, virtues of public
and private life. A Basilius junior, possibly his son, was
consul in the year 480.]

[Footnote 135: Epiphanius interceded for the people of Pavia; and
the king first granted an indulgence of five years, and
afterwards relieved them from the oppression of Pelagius, the
Praetorian praefect, (Ennodius in Vit St. Epiphan., in Sirmond,
Oper. tom. i. p. 1670 - 1672.)]

[Footnote 136: See Baronius, Annal. Eccles. A.D. 483, No. 10 -
15. Sixteen years afterwards the irregular proceedings of
Basilius were condemned by Pope Symmachus in a Roman synod.]
[Footnote 137: The wars of Odoacer are concisely mentioned by
Paul the Deacon, (de Gest. Langobard. l. i. c. 19, p. 757, edit.
Grot.,) and in the two Chronicles of Cassiodorus and Cuspinian.
The life of St. Severinus by Eugippius, which the count de Buat
(Hist. des Peuples, &c., tom. viii. c. 1, 4, 8, 9) has diligently
studied, illustrates the ruin of Noricum and the Bavarian

Notwithstanding the prudence and success of Odoacer, his
kingdom exhibited the sad prospect of misery and desolation.
Since the age of Tiberius, the decay of agriculture had been felt
in Italy; and it was a just subject of complaint, that the life
of the Roman people depended on the accidents of the winds and
waves. ^138 In the division and the decline of the empire, the
tributary harvests of Egypt and Africa were withdrawn; the
numbers of the inhabitants continually diminished with the means
of subsistence; and the country was exhausted by the
irretrievable losses of war, famine, ^139 and pestilence. St.
Ambrose has deplored the ruin of a populous district, which had
been once adorned with the flourishing cities of Bologna, Modena,
Regium, and Placentia. ^140 Pope Gelasius was a subject of
Odoacer; and he affirms, with strong exaggeration, that in
Aemilia, Tuscany, and the adjacent provinces, the human species
was almost extirpated. ^141 The plebeians of Rome, who were fed
by the hand of their master, perished or disappeared, as soon as
his liberality was suppressed; the decline of the arts reduced
the industrious mechanic to idleness and want; and the senators,
who might support with patience the ruin of their country,
bewailed their private loss of wealth and luxury. ^* One third of
those ample estates, to which the ruin of Italy is originally
imputed, ^142 was extorted for the use of the conquerors.
Injuries were aggravated by insults; the sense of actual
sufferings was imbittered by the fear of more dreadful evils; and
as new lands were allotted to the new swarms of Barbarians, each
senator was apprehensive lest the arbitrary surveyors should
approach his favorite villa, or his most profitable farm. The
least unfortunate were those who submitted without a murmur to
the power which it was impossible to resist. Since they desired
to live, they owed some gratitude to the tyrant who had spared
their lives; and since he was the absolute master of their
fortunes, the portion which he left must be accepted as his pure
and voluntary gift. ^143 The distress of Italy ^! was mitigated
by the prudence and humanity of Odoacer, who had bound himself,
as the price of his elevation, to satisfy the demands of a
licentious and turbulent multitude. The kings of the Barbarians
were frequently resisted, deposed, or murdered, by their native
subjects, and the various bands of Italian mercenaries, who
associated under the standard of an elective general, claimed a
larger privilege of freedom and rapine. A monarchy destitute of
national union, and hereditary right, hastened to its
dissolution. After a reign of fourteen years, Odoacer was
oppressed by the superior genius of Theodoric, king of the
Ostrogoths; a hero alike excellent in the arts of war and of
government, who restored an age of peace and prosperity, and
whose name still excites and deserves the attention of mankind.
[Footnote 138: Tacit. Annal. iii. 53. The Recherches sur
l'Administration des Terres chez les Romains (p. 351 - 361)
clearly state the progress of internal decay.]

[Footnote 139: A famine, which afflicted Italy at the time of the
irruption of Odoacer, king of the Heruli, is eloquently
described, in prose and verse, by a French poet, (Les Mois, tom.
ii. p. 174, 205, edit. in 12 mo.) I am ignorant from whence he
derives his information; but I am well assured that he relates
some facts incompatible with the truth of history]

[Footnote 140: See the xxxixth epistle of St. Ambrose, as it is
quoted by Muratori, sopra le Antichita Italiane, tom. i. Dissert.
xxi. p. 354.]
[Footnote 141: Aemilia, Tuscia, ceteraeque provinciae in quibus
hominum propenullus exsistit. Gelasius, Epist. ad Andromachum,
ap. Baronium, Annal. Eccles. A.D. 496, No. 36.]

[Footnote *: Denina supposes that the Barbarians were compelled
by necessity to turn their attention to agriculture. Italy,
either imperfectly cultivated, or not at all, by the indolent or
ruined proprietors, not only could not furnish the imposts, on
which the pay of the soldiery depended, but not even a certain
supply of the necessaries of life. The neighboring countries
were now occupied by warlike nations; the supplies of corn from
Africa were cut off; foreign commerce nearly destroyed; they
could not look for supplies beyond the limits of Italy,
throughout which the agriculture had been long in a state of
progressive but rapid depression. (Denina, Rev. d'Italia t. v.
c. i.) - M.]
[Footnote 142: Verumque confitentibus, latifundia perdidere
Italiam. Plin. Hist. Natur. xviii. 7.]

[Footnote 143: Such are the topics of consolation, or rather of
patience, which Cicero (ad Familiares, lib. ix. Epist. 17)
suggests to his friend Papirius Paetus, under the military
despotism of Caesar. The argument, however, of "vivere
pulcherrimum duxi," is more forcibly addressed to a Roman
philosopher, who possessed the free alternative of life or death]

[Footnote !: Compare, on the desolation and change of property in
Italy, Manno des Ost-Gothischen Reiches, Part ii. p. 73, et seq.
- M.]

Chapter XXXVII: Conversion Of The Barbarians To Christianity.
Part I.

Origin Progress, And Effects Of The Monastic Life. -
Conversion Of The Barbarians To Christianity And Arianism. -
Persecution Of The Vandals In Africa. - Extinction Of Arianism
Among The Barbarians.

The indissoluble connection of civil and ecclesiastical
affairs has compelled, and encouraged, me to relate the progress,
the persecutions, the establishment, the divisions, the final
triumph, and the gradual corruption, of Christianity. I have
purposely delayed the consideration of two religious events,
interesting in the study of human nature, and important in the
decline and fall of the Roman empire. I. The institution of the
monastic life; ^1 and, II. The conversion of the northern

[Footnote 1: The origin of the monastic institution has been
laboriously discussed by Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom.
i. p. 1119 - 1426) and Helyot, (Hist. des Ordres Monastiques,
tom. i. p. 1 - 66.) These authors are very learned, and tolerably
honest, and their difference of opinion shows the subject in its
full extent. Yet the cautious Protestant, who distrusts any
popish guides, may consult the seventh book of Bingham's
Christian Antiquities.]

I. Prosperity and peace introduced the distinction of the
vulgar and the Ascetic Christians. ^2 The loose and imperfect
practice of religion satisfied the conscience of the multitude.
The prince or magistrate, the soldier or merchant, reconciled
their fervent zeal, and implicit faith, with the exercise of
their profession, the pursuit of their interest, and the
indulgence of their passions: but the Ascetics, who obeyed and
abused the rigid precepts of the gospel, were inspired by the
savage enthusiasm which represents man as a criminal, and God as
a tyrant. They seriously renounced the business, and the
pleasures, of the age; abjured the use of wine, of flesh, and of
marriage; chastised their body, mortified their affections, and
embraced a life of misery, as the price of eternal happiness. In
the reign of Constantine, the Ascetics fled from a profane and
degenerate world, to perpetual solitude, or religious society.
Like the first Christians of Jerusalem, ^3 ^* they resigned the
use, or the property of their temporal possessions; established
regular communities of the same sex, and a similar disposition;
and assumed the names of Hermits, Monks, and Anachorets,
expressive of their lonely retreat in a natural or artificial
desert. They soon acquired the respect of the world, which they
despised; and the loudest applause was bestowed on this Divine
Philosophy, ^4 which surpassed, without the aid of science or
reason, the laborious virtues of the Grecian schools. The monks
might indeed contend with the Stoics, in the contempt of fortune,
of pain, and of death: the Pythagorean silence and submission
were revived in their servile discipline; and they disdained, as
firmly as the Cynics themselves, all the forms and decencies of
civil society. But the votaries of this Divine Philosophy
aspired to imitate a purer and more perfect model. They trod in
the footsteps of the prophets, who had retired to the desert; ^5
and they restored the devout and contemplative life, which had
been instituted by the Essenians, in Palestine and Egypt. The
philosophic eye of Pliny had surveyed with astonishment a
solitary people, who dwelt among the palm-trees near the Dead
Sea; who subsisted without money, who were propagated without
women; and who derived from the disgust and repentance of mankind
a perpetual supply of voluntary associates. ^6

[Footnote 2: See Euseb. Demonstrat. Evangel., (l. i. p. 20, 21,
edit. Graec. Rob. Stephani, Paris, 1545.) In his Ecclesiastical
History, published twelve years after the Demonstration, Eusebius
(l. ii. c. 17) asserts the Christianity of the Therapeutae; but
he appears ignorant that a similar institution was actually
revived in Egypt.]

[Footnote 3: Cassian (Collat. xviii. 5.) claims this origin for
the institution of the Coenobites, which gradually decayed till
it was restored by Antony and his disciples.]

[Footnote *: It has before been shown that the first Christian
community was not strictly coenobitic. See vol. ii. - M.]
[Footnote 4: These are the expressive words of Sozomen, who
copiously and agreeably describes (l. i. c. 12, 13, 14) the
origin and progress of this monkish philosophy, (see Suicer.
Thesau, Eccles., tom. ii. p. 1441.) Some modern writers, Lipsius
(tom. iv. p. 448. Manuduct. ad Philosoph. Stoic. iii. 13) and La
Mothe le Vayer, (tom. ix. de la Vertu des Payens, p. 228 - 262,)
have compared the Carmelites to the Pythagoreans, and the Cynics
to the Capucins.]

[Footnote 5: The Carmelites derive their pedigree, in regular
succession, from the prophet Elijah, (see the Theses of Beziers,
A.D. 1682, in Bayle's Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres,
Oeuvres, tom. i. p. 82, &c., and the prolix irony of the Ordres
Monastiques, an anonymous work, tom. i. p. 1 - 433, Berlin,
1751.) Rome, and the inquisition of Spain, silenced the profane
criticism of the Jesuits of Flanders, (Helyot, Hist. des Ordres
Monastiques, tom. i. p. 282 - 300,) and the statue of Elijah, the
Carmelite, has been erected in the church of St. Peter, (Voyages
du P. Labat tom. iii. p. 87.)]
[Footnote 6: Plin. Hist. Natur. v. 15. Gens sola, et in toto
orbe praeter ceteras mira, sine ulla femina, omni venere
abdicata, sine pecunia, socia palmarum. Ita per seculorum millia
(incredibile dictu) gens aeterna est in qua nemo nascitur. Tam
foecunda illis aliorum vitae poenitentia est. He places them
just beyond the noxious influence of the lake, and names Engaddi
and Massada as the nearest towns. The Laura, and monastery of
St. Sabas, could not be far distant from this place. See Reland.
Palestin., tom. i. p. 295; tom. ii. p. 763, 874, 880, 890.]
Egypt, the fruitful parent of superstition, afforded the
first example of the monastic life. Antony, ^7 an illiterate ^8
youth of the lower parts of Thebais, distributed his patrimony,
^9 deserted his family and native home, and executed his monastic
penance with original and intrepid fanaticism. After a long and
painful novitiate, among the tombs, and in a ruined tower, he
boldly advanced into the desert three days' journey to the
eastward of the Nile; discovered a lonely spot, which possessed
the advantages of shade and water, and fixed his last residence
on Mount Colzim, near the Red Sea; where an ancient monastery
still preserves the name and memory of the saint. ^10 The curious
devotion of the Christians pursued him to the desert; and when he
was obliged to appear at Alexandria, in the face of mankind, he
supported his fame with discretion and dignity. He enjoyed the
friendship of Athanasius, whose doctrine he approved; and the
Egyptian peasant respectfully declined a respectful invitation
from the emperor Constantine. The venerable patriarch (for
Antony attained the age of one hundred and five years) beheld the
numerous progeny which had been formed by his example and his
lessons. The prolific colonies of monks multiplied with rapid
increase on the sands of Libya, upon the rocks of Thebais, and in
the cities of the Nile. To the south of Alexandria, the
mountain, and adjacent desert, of Nitria, were peopled by five
thousand anachorets; and the traveller may still investigate the
ruins of fifty monasteries, which were planted in that barren
soil by the disciples of Antony. ^11 In the Upper Thebais, the
vacant island of Tabenne, ^12 was occupied by Pachomius and
fourteen hundred of his brethren. That holy abbot successively
founded nine monasteries of men, and one of women; and the
festival of Easter sometimes collected fifty thousand religious
persons, who followed his angelic rule of discipline. ^13 The
stately and populous city of Oxyrinchus, the seat of Christian
orthodoxy, had devoted the temples, the public edifices, and even
the ramparts, to pious and charitable uses; and the bishop, who
might preach in twelve churches, computed ten thousand females
and twenty thousand males, of the monastic profession. ^14 The
Egyptians, who gloried in this marvellous revolution, were
disposed to hope, and to believe, that the number of the monks
was equal to the remainder of the people; ^15 and posterity might
repeat the saying, which had formerly been applied to the sacred
animals of the same country, That in Egypt it was less difficult
to find a god than a man.

[Footnote 7: See Athanas. Op. tom. ii. p. 450 - 505, and the Vit.
Patrum, p. 26 - 74, with Rosweyde's Annotations. The former is
the Greek original the latter, a very ancient Latin version by
Evagrius, the friend of St. Jerom.]
[Footnote 8: Athanas. tom. ii. in Vit. St. Anton. p. 452; and the
assertion of his total ignorance has been received by many of the
ancients and moderns. But Tillemont (Mem. Eccles. tom. vii. p.
666) shows, by some probable arguments, that Antony could read
and write in the Coptic, his native tongue; and that he was only
a stranger to the Greek letters. The philosopher Synesius (p.
51) acknowledges that the natural genius of Antony did not
require the aid of learning.]

[Footnote 9: Aruroe autem erant ei trecentae uberes, et valde
optimae, (Vit. Patr. l. v. p. 36.) If the Arura be a square
measure, of a hundred Egyptian cubits, (Rosweyde, Onomasticon ad
Vit. Patrum, p. 1014, 1015,) and the Egyptian cubit of all ages
be equal to twenty-two English inches, (Greaves, vol. i. p. 233,)
the arura will consist of about three quarters of an English

[Footnote 10: The description of the monastery is given by Jerom
(tom. i. p. 248, 249, in Vit. Hilarion) and the P. Sicard,
(Missions du Levant tom. v. p. 122 - 200.) Their accounts cannot
always be reconciled the father painted from his fancy, and the
Jesuit from his experience.]

[Footnote 11: Jerom, tom. i. p. 146, ad Eustochium. Hist.
Lausiac. c. 7, in Vit. Patrum, p. 712. The P. Sicard (Missions
du Levant, tom. ii. p. 29 - 79) visited and has described this
desert, which now contains four monasteries, and twenty or thirty
monks. See D'Anville, Description de l'Egypte, p. 74.]
[Footnote 12: Tabenne is a small island in the Nile, in the
diocese of Tentyra or Dendera, between the modern town of Girge
and the ruins of ancient Thebes, (D'Anville, p. 194.) M. de
Tillemont doubts whether it was an isle; but I may conclude, from
his own facts, that the primitive name was afterwards transferred
to the great monastery of Bau or Pabau, (Mem. Eccles. tom. vii.
p. 678, 688.)]

[Footnote 13: See in the Codex Regularum (published by Lucas
Holstenius, Rome, 1661) a preface of St. Jerom to his Latin
version of the Rule of Pachomius, tom. i. p. 61.]

[Footnote 14: Rufin. c. 5, in Vit. Patrum, p. 459. He calls it
civitas ampla ralde et populosa, and reckons twelve churches.
Strabo (l. xvii. p. 1166) and Ammianus (xxii. 16) have made
honorable mention of Oxyrinchus, whose inhabitants adored a small
fish in a magnificent temple.]

[Footnote 15: Quanti populi habentur in urbibus, tantae paene
habentur in desertis multitudines monachorum. Rufin. c. 7, in
Vit. Patrum, p. 461. He congratulates the fortunate change.]
Athanasius introduced into Rome the knowledge and practice
of the monastic life; and a school of this new philosophy was
opened by the disciples of Antony, who accompanied their primate
to the holy threshold of the Vatican. The strange and savage
appearance of these Egyptians excited, at first, horror and
contempt, and, at length, applause and zealous imitation. The
senators, and more especially the matrons, transformed their
palaces and villas into religious houses; and the narrow
institution of six vestals was eclipsed by the frequent
monasteries, which were seated on the ruins of ancient temples,
and in the midst of the Roman forum. ^16 Inflamed by the example
of Antony, a Syrian youth, whose name was Hilarion, ^17 fixed his
dreary abode on a sandy beach, between the sea and a morass,
about seven miles from Gaza. The austere penance, in which he
persisted forty-eight years, diffused a similar enthusiasm; and
the holy man was followed by a train of two or three thousand
anachorets, whenever he visited the innumerable monasteries of
Palestine. The fame of Basil ^18 is immortal in the monastic
history of the East. With a mind that had tasted the learning
and eloquence of Athens; with an ambition scarcely to be
satisfied with the archbishopric of Caesarea, Basil retired to a
savage solitude in Pontus; and deigned, for a while, to give laws
to the spiritual colonies which he profusely scattered along the
coast of the Black Sea. In the West, Martin of Tours, ^19 a
soldier, a hermit, a bishop, and a saint, established the
monasteries of Gaul; two thousand of his disciples followed him
to the grave; and his eloquent historian challenges the deserts
of Thebais to produce, in a more favorable climate, a champion of
equal virtue. The progress of the monks was not less rapid, or
universal, than that of Christianity itself. Every province,
and, at last, every city, of the empire, was filled with their
increasing multitudes; and the bleak and barren isles, from
Lerins to Lipari, that arose out of the Tuscan Sea, were chosen
by the anachorets for the place of their voluntary exile. An
easy and perpetual intercourse by sea and land connected the
provinces of the Roman world; and the life of Hilarion displays
the facility with which an indigent hermit of Palestine might
traverse Egypt, embark for Sicily, escape to Epirus, and finally
settle in the Island of Cyprus. ^20 The Latin Christians embraced
the religious institutions of Rome. The pilgrims, who visited
Jerusalem, eagerly copied, in the most distant climates of the
earth, the faithful model of the monastic life. The disciples of
Antony spread themselves beyond the tropic, over the Christian
empire of Aethiopia. ^21 The monastery of Banchor, ^22 in
Flintshire, which contained above two thousand brethren,
dispersed a numerous colony among the Barbarians of Ireland; ^23
and Iona, one of the Hebrides, which was planted by the Irish
monks, diffused over the northern regions a doubtful ray of
science and superstition. ^24

[Footnote 16: The introduction of the monastic life into Rome and
Italy is occasionally mentioned by Jerom, tom. i. p. 119, 120,
[Footnote 17: See the Life of Hilarion, by St. Jerom, (tom. i. p.
241, 252.) The stories of Paul, Hilarion, and Malchus, by the
same author, are admirably told: and the only defect of these
pleasing compositions is the want of truth and common sense.]
[Footnote 18: His original retreat was in a small village on the
banks of the Iris, not far from Neo-Caesarea. The ten or twelve
years of his monastic life were disturbed by long and frequent
avocations. Some critics have disputed the authenticity of his
Ascetic rules; but the external evidence is weighty, and they can
only prove that it is the work of a real or affected enthusiast.
See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles tom. ix. p. 636 - 644. Helyot, Hist.
des Ordres Monastiques tom. i. p. 175 - 181]

[Footnote 19: See his Life, and the three Dialogues by Sulpicius
Severus, who asserts (Dialog. i. 16) that the booksellers of Rome
were delighted with the quick and ready sale of his popular

[Footnote 20: When Hilarion sailed from Paraetonium to Cape
Pachynus, he offered to pay his passage with a book of the
Gospels. Posthumian, a Gallic monk, who had visited Egypt, found
a merchant ship bound from Alexandria to Marseilles, and
performed the voyage in thirty days, (Sulp. Sever. Dialog. i. 1.)
Athanasius, who addressed his Life of St. Antony to the foreign
monks, was obliged to hasten the composition, that it might be
ready for the sailing of the fleets, (tom. ii. p. 451.)]

[Footnote 21: See Jerom, (tom. i. p. 126,) Assemanni, Bibliot.
Orient. tom. iv. p. 92, p. 857 - 919, and Geddes, Church History
of Aethiopia, p. 29 - 31. The Abyssinian monks adhere very
strictly to the primitive institution.]
[Footnote 22: Camden's Britannia, vol. i. p. 666, 667.]

[Footnote 23: All that learning can extract from the rubbish of
the dark ages is copiously stated by Archbishop Usher in his
Britannicarum Ecclesiarum Antiquitates, cap. xvi. p. 425 - 503.]
[Footnote 24: This small, though not barren, spot, Iona, Hy, or
Columbkill, only two miles in length, aud one mile in breadth,
has been distinguished, 1. By the monastery of St. Columba,
founded A.D. 566; whose abbot exercised an extraordinary
jurisdiction over the bishops of Caledonia; 2. By a classic
library, which afforded some hopes of an entire Livy; and, 3. By
the tombs of sixty kings, Scots, Irish, and Norwegians, who
reposed in holy ground. See Usher (p. 311, 360 - 370) and
Buchanan, (Rer. Scot. l. ii. p. 15, edit. Ruddiman.)]

These unhappy exiles from social life were impelled by the
dark and implacable genius of superstition. Their mutual
resolution was supported by the example of millions, of either
sex, of every age, and of every rank; and each proselyte who
entered the gates of a monastery, was persuaded that he trod the
steep and thorny path of eternal happiness. ^25 But the operation
of these religious motives was variously determined by the temper
and situation of mankind. Reason might subdue, or passion might
suspend, their influence: but they acted most forcibly on the
infirm minds of children and females; they were strengthened by
secret remorse, or accidental misfortune; and they might derive
some aid from the temporal considerations of vanity or interest.
It was naturally supposed, that the pious and humble monks, who
had renounced the world to accomplish the work of their
salvation, were the best qualified for the spiritual government
of the Christians. The reluctant hermit was torn from his cell,
and seated, amidst the acclamations of the people, on the
episcopal throne: the monasteries of Egypt, of Gaul, and of the
East, supplied a regular succession of saints and bishops; and
ambition soon discovered the secret road which led to the
possession of wealth and honors. ^26 The popular monks, whose
reputation was connected with the fame and success of the order,
assiduously labored to multiply the number of their
fellow-captives. They insinuated themselves into noble and
opulent families; and the specious arts of flattery and seduction
were employed to secure those proselytes who might bestow wealth
or dignity on the monastic profession. The indignant father
bewailed the loss, perhaps, of an only son; ^27 the credulous
maid was betrayed by vanity to violate the laws of nature; and
the matron aspired to imaginary perfection, by renouncing the
virtues of domestic life. Paula yielded to the persuasive
eloquence of Jerom; ^28 and the profane title of mother-in-law of
God ^29 tempted that illustrious widow to consecrate the
virginity of her daughter Eustochium. By the advice, and in the
company, of her spiritual guide, Paula abandoned Rome and her
infant son; retired to the holy village of Bethlem; founded a
hospital and four monasteries; and acquired, by her alms and
penance, an eminent and conspicuous station in the Catholic
church. Such rare and illustrious penitents were celebrated as
the glory and example of their age; but the monasteries were
filled by a crowd of obscure and abject plebeians, ^30 who gained
in the cloister much more than they had sacrificed in the world.
Peasants, slaves, and mechanics, might escape from poverty and
contempt to a safe and honorable profession; whose apparent
hardships are mitigated by custom, by popular applause, and by
the secret relaxation of discipline. ^31 The subjects of Rome,
whose persons and fortunes were made responsible for unequal and
exorbitant tributes, retired from the oppression of the Imperial
government; and the pusillanimous youth preferred the penance of
a monastic, to the dangers of a military, life. The affrighted
provincials of every rank, who fled before the Barbarians, found
shelter and subsistence: whole legions were buried in these
religious sanctuaries; and the same cause, which relieved the
distress of individuals, impaired the strength and fortitude of
the empire. ^32

[Footnote 25: Chrysostom (in the first tome of the Benedictine
edition) has consecrated three books to the praise and defence of
the monastic life. He is encouraged, by the example of the ark,
to presume that none but the elect (the monks) can possibly be
saved (l. i. p. 55, 56.) Elsewhere, indeed, he becomes more
merciful, (l. iii. p. 83, 84,) and allows different degrees of
glory, like the sun, moon, and stars. In his lively comparison
of a king and a monk, (l. iii. p. 116 - 121,) he supposes (what
is hardly fair) that the king will be more sparingly rewarded,
and more rigorously punished.]
[Footnote 26: Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise tom. i. p. 1426 -
1469) and Mabillon, (Oeuvres Posthumes, tom. ii. p. 115 - 158.)
The monks were gradually adopted as a part of the ecclesiastical

[Footnote 27: Dr. Middleton (vol. i. p. 110) liberally censures
the conduct and writings of Chrysostom, one of the most eloquent
and successful advocates for the monastic life.]

[Footnote 28: Jerom's devout ladies form a very considerable
portion of his works: the particular treatise, which he styles
the Epitaph of Paula, (tom. i. p. 169 - 192,) is an elaborate and
extravagant panegyric. The exordium is ridiculously turgid: "If
all the members of my body were changed into tongues, and if all
my limbs resounded with a human voice, yet should I be
incapable," &c.]

[Footnote 29: Socrus Dei esse coepisti, (Jerom, tom. i. p. 140,
ad Eustochium.) Rufinus, (in Hieronym. Op. tom. iv. p. 223,) who
was justly scandalized, asks his adversary, from what Pagan poet
he had stolen an expression so impious and absurd.]

[Footnote 30: Nunc autem veniunt plerumque ad hanc professionem
servitutis Dei, et ex conditione servili, vel etiam liberati, vel
propter hoc a Dominis liberati sive liberandi; et ex vita
rusticana et ex opificum exercitatione, et plebeio labore.
Augustin, de Oper. Monach. c. 22, ap. Thomassin, Discipline de
l'Eglise, tom. iii. p. 1094. The Egyptian, who blamed Arsenius,
owned that he led a more comfortable life as a monk than as a
shepherd. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. xiv. p. 679.]

[Footnote 31: A Dominican friar, (Voyages du P. Labat, tom. i. p.
10,) who lodged at Cadiz in a convent of his brethren, soon
understood that their repose was never interrupted by nocturnal
devotion; "quoiqu'on ne laisse pas de sonner pour l'edification
du peuple."]

[Footnote 32: See a very sensible preface of Lucas Holstenius to
the Codex Regularum. The emperors attempted to support the
obligation of public and private duties; but the feeble dikes
were swept away by the torrent of superstition; and Justinian
surpassed the most sanguine wishes of the monks, (Thomassin, tom.
i. p. 1782 - 1799, and Bingham, l. vii. c. iii. p. 253.)
Note: The emperor Valens, in particular, promulgates a law
contra ignavise quosdam sectatores, qui desertis civitatum
muneribus, captant solitudines secreta, et specie religionis cum
coetibus monachorum congregantur. Cad. Theod l. xii. tit. i.
leg. 63. - G.]

The monastic profession of the ancients ^33 was an act of
voluntary devotion. The inconstant fanatic was threatened with
the eternal vengeance of the God whom he deserted; but the doors
of the monastery were still open for repentance. Those monks,
whose conscience was fortified by reason or passion, were at
liberty to resume the character of men and citizens; and even the
spouses of Christ might accept the legal embraces of an earthly
lover. ^34 The examples of scandal, and the progress of
superstition, suggested the propriety of more forcible
restraints. After a sufficient trial, the fidelity of the novice
was secured by a solemn and perpetual vow; and his irrevocable
engagement was ratified by the laws of the church and state. A
guilty fugitive was pursued, arrested, and restored to his
perpetual prison; and the interposition of the magistrate
oppressed the freedom and the merit, which had alleviated, in
some degree, the abject slavery of the monastic discipline. ^35
The actions of a monk, his words, and even his thoughts, were
determined by an inflexible rule, ^36 or a capricious superior:
the slightest offences were corrected by disgrace or confinement,
extraordinary fasts, or bloody flagellation; and disobedience,
murmur, or delay, were ranked in the catalogue of the most
heinous sins. ^37 A blind submission to the commands of the
abbot, however absurd, or even criminal, they might seem, was the
ruling principle, the first virtue of the Egyptian monks; and
their patience was frequently exercised by the most extravagant
trials. They were directed to remove an enormous rock;
assiduously to water a barren staff, that was planted in the
ground, till, at the end of three years, it should vegetate and
blossom like a tree; to walk into a fiery furnace; or to cast
their infant into a deep pond: and several saints, or madmen,
have been immortalized in monastic story, by their thoughtless
and fearless obedience. ^38 The freedom of the mind, the source
of every generous and rational sentiment, was destroyed by the
habits of credulity and submission; and the monk, contracting the
vices of a slave, devoutly followed the faith and passions of his
ecclesiastical tyrant. The peace of the Eastern church was
invaded by a swarm of fanatics, incapable of fear, or reason, or
humanity; and the Imperial troops acknowledged, without shame,
that they were much less apprehensive of an encounter with the
fiercest Barbarians. ^39

[Footnote 33: The monastic institutions, particularly those of
Egypt, about the year 400, are described by four curious and
devout travellers; Rufinus, (Vit. Patrum, l. ii. iii. p. 424 -
536,) Posthumian, (Sulp. Sever. Dialog. i.) Palladius, (Hist.
Lausiac. in Vit. Patrum, p. 709 - 863,) and Cassian, (see in tom.
vii. Bibliothec. Max. Patrum, his four first books of Institutes,
and the twenty-four Collations or Conferences.)]

[Footnote 34: The example of Malchus, (Jerom, tom. i. p. 256,)
and the design of Cassian and his friend, (Collation. xxiv. 1,)
are incontestable proofs of their freedom; which is elegantly
described by Erasmus in his Life of St. Jerom. See Chardon,
Hist. des Sacremens, tom. vi. p. 279 - 300.]
[Footnote 35: See the Laws of Justinian, (Novel. cxxiii. No. 42,)
and of Lewis the Pious, (in the Historians of France, tom vi. p.
427,) and the actual jurisprudence of France, in Denissart,
(Decisions, &c., tom. iv. p. 855,) &c.]
[Footnote 36: The ancient Codex Regularum, collected by Benedict
Anianinus, the reformer of the monks in the beginning of the
ninth century, and published in the seventeenth, by Lucas
Holstenius, contains thirty different rules for men and women.
Of these, seven were composed in Egypt, one in the East, one in
Cappadocia, one in Italy, one in Africa, four in Spain, eight in
Gaul, or France, and one in England.]

[Footnote 37: The rule of Columbanus, so prevalent in the West,
inflicts one hundred lashes for very slight offences, (Cod. Reg.
part ii. p. 174.) Before the time of Charlemagne, the abbots
indulged themselves in mutilating their monks, or putting out
their eyes; a punishment much less cruel than the tremendous vade
in pace (the subterraneous dungeon or sepulchre) which was
afterwards invented. See an admirable discourse of the learned
Mabillon, (Oeuvres Posthumes, tom. ii. p. 321 - 336,) who, on
this occasion, seems to be inspired by the genius of humanity.
For such an effort, I can forgive his defence of the holy tear of
Vendeme (p. 361 - 399.)]

[Footnote 38: Sulp. Sever. Dialog. i. 12, 13, p. 532, &c.
Cassian. Institut. l. iv. c. 26, 27. "Praecipua ibi virtus et
prima est obedientia." Among the Verba seniorum, (in Vit. Patrum,
l. v. p. 617,) the fourteenth libel or discourse is on the
subject of obedience; and the Jesuit Rosweyde, who published that
huge volume for the use of convents, has collected all the
scattered passages in his two copious indexes.]

[Footnote 39: Dr. Jortin (Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol.
iv. p. 161) has observed the scandalous valor of the Cappadocian
monks, which was exemplified in the banishment of Chrysostom.]
Superstition has often framed and consecrated the fantastic
garments of the monks: ^40 but their apparent singularity
sometimes proceeds from their uniform attachment to a simple and
primitive model, which the revolutions of fashion have made
ridiculous in the eyes of mankind. The father of the
Benedictines expressly disclaims all idea of choice of merit; and
soberly exhorts his disciples to adopt the coarse and convenient
dress of the countries which they may inhabit. ^41 The monastic
habits of the ancients varied with the climate, and their mode of
life; and they assumed, with the same indifference, the
sheep-skin of the Egyptian peasants, or the cloak of the Grecian
philosophers. They allowed themselves the use of linen in Egypt,
where it was a cheap and domestic manufacture; but in the West
they rejected such an expensive article of foreign luxury. ^42 It
was the practice of the monks either to cut or shave their hair;
they wrapped their heads in a cowl to escape the sight of profane
objects; their legs and feet were naked, except in the extreme
cold of winter; and their slow and feeble steps were supported by
a long staff. The aspect of a genuine anachoret was horrid and
disgusting: every sensation that is offensive to man was thought
acceptable to God; and the angelic rule of Tabenne condemned the
salutary custom of bathing the limbs in water, and of anointing
them with oil. ^43 ^* The austere monks slept on the ground, on a
hard mat, or a rough blanket; and the same bundle of palm-leaves
served them as a seat in the lay, and a pillow in the night.
Their original cells were low, narrow huts, built of the
slightest materials; which formed, by the regular distribution of
the streets, a large and populous village, enclosing, within the
common wall, a church, a hospital, perhaps a library, some
necessary offices, a garden, and a fountain or reservoir of fresh
water. Thirty or forty brethren composed a family of separate
discipline and diet; and the great monasteries of Egypt consisted
of thirty or forty families.

[Footnote 40: Cassian has simply, though copiously, described the
monastic habit of Egypt, (Institut. l. i.,) to which Sozomen (l.
iii. c. 14) attributes such allegorical meaning and virtue.]
[Footnote 41: Regul. Benedict. No. 55, in Cod. Regul. part ii. p.
[Footnote 42: See the rule of Ferreolus, bishop of Usez, (No. 31,
in Cod. Regul part ii. p. 136,) and of Isidore, bishop of
Seville, (No. 13, in Cod. Regul part ii. p. 214.)]

[Footnote 43: Some partial indulgences were granted for the hands
and feet "Totum autem corpus nemo unguet nisi causa infirmitatis,
nec lavabitur aqua nudo corpore, nisi languor perspicuus sit,"
(Regul. Pachom xcii. part i. p. 78.)]

[Footnote *: Athanasius (Vit. Ant. c. 47) boasts of Antony's holy
horror of clear water, by which his feet were uncontaminated
except under dire necessity - M.]

Chapter XXXVII: Conversion Of The Barbarians To Christianity.
Part II.

Pleasure and guilt are synonymous terms in the language of
the monks, and they discovered, by experience, that rigid fasts,
and abstemious diet, are the most effectual preservatives against
the impure desires of the flesh. ^44 The rules of abstinence
which they imposed, or practised, were not uniform or perpetual:
the cheerful festival of the Pentecost was balanced by the
extraordinary mortification of Lent; the fervor of new
monasteries was insensibly relaxed; and the voracious appetite of
the Gauls could not imitate the patient and temperate virtue of
the Egyptians. ^45 The disciples of Antony and Pachomius were
satisfied with their daily pittance, ^46 of twelve ounces of
bread, or rather biscuit, ^47 which they divided into two frugal
repasts, of the afternoon and of the evening. It was esteemed a
merit, and almost a duty, to abstain from the boiled vegetables
which were provided for the refectory; but the extraordinary
bounty of the abbot sometimes indulged them with the luxury of
cheese, fruit, salad, and the small dried fish of the Nile. ^48 A
more ample latitude of sea and river fish was gradually allowed
or assumed; but the use of flesh was long confined to the sick or
travellers; and when it gradually prevailed in the less rigid
monasteries of Europe, a singular distinction was introduced; as
if birds, whether wild or domestic, had been less profane than
the grosser animals of the field. Water was the pure and
innocent beverage of the primitive monks; and the founder of the
Benedictines regrets the daily portion of half a pint of wine,
which had been extorted from him by the intemperance of the age.
^49 Such an allowance might be easily supplied by the vineyards
of Italy; and his victorious disciples, who passed the Alps, the
Rhine, and the Baltic, required, in the place of wine, an
adequate compensation of strong beer or cider.

[Footnote 44: St. Jerom, in strong, but indiscreet, language,
expresses the most important use of fasting and abstinence: "Non
quod Deus universitatis Creator et Dominus, intestinorum
nostrorum rugitu, et inanitate ventris, pulmonisque ardore
delectetur, sed quod aliter pudicitia tuta esse non possit." (Op.
tom. i. p. 32, ad Eustochium.) See the twelfth and twenty- second
Collations of Cassian, de Castitate and de Illusionibus
[Footnote 45: Edacitas in Graecis gula est, in Gallis natura,
(Dialog. i. c. 4 p. 521.) Cassian fairly owns, that the perfect
model of abstinence cannot be imitated in Gaul, on account of the
aerum temperies, and the qualitas nostrae fragilitatis,
(Institut. iv. 11.) Among the Western rules, that of Columbanus
is the most austere; he had been educated amidst the poverty of
Ireland, as rigid, perhaps, and inflexible as the abstemious
virtue of Egypt. The rule of Isidore of Seville is the mildest;
on holidays he allows the use of flesh.]
[Footnote 46: "Those who drink only water, and have no nutritious
liquor, ought, at least, to have a pound and a half (twenty-four
ounces) of bread every day." State of Prisons, p. 40, by Mr.

[Footnote 47: See Cassian. Collat. l. ii. 19 - 21. The small
loaves, or biscuit, of six ounces each, had obtained the name of
Paximacia, (Rosweyde, Onomasticon, p. 1045.) Pachomius, however,
allowed his monks some latitude in the quantity of their food;
but he made them work in proportion as they ate, (Pallad. in
Hist. Lausiac. c. 38, 39, in Vit. Patrum, l. viii. p. 736, 737.)]

[Footnote 48: See the banquet to which Cassian (Collation viii.
1) was invited by Serenus, an Egyptian abbot.]

[Footnote 49: See the Rule of St. Benedict, No. 39, 40, (in Cod.
Reg. part ii. p. 41, 42.) Licet legamus vinum omnino monachorum
non esse, sed quia nostris temporibus id monachis persuaderi non
potest; he allows them a Roman hemina, a measure which may be
ascertained from Arbuthnot's Tables.]
The candidate who aspired to the virtue of evangelical
poverty, abjured, at his first entrance into a regular community,
the idea, and even the name, of all separate or exclusive
possessions. ^50 The brethren were supported by their manual
labor; and the duty of labor was strenuously recommended as a
penance, as an exercise, and as the most laudable means of
securing their daily subsistence. ^51 The garden and fields,
which the industry of the monks had often rescued from the forest
or the morass, were diligently cultivated by their hands. They
performed, without reluctance, the menial offices of slaves and
domestics; and the several trades that were necessary to provide
their habits, their utensils, and their lodging, were exercised
within the precincts of the great monasteries. The monastic
studies have tended, for the most part, to darken, rather than to
dispel, the cloud of superstition. Yet the curiosity or zeal of
some learned solitaries has cultivated the ecclesiastical, and
even the profane, sciences; and posterity must gratefully
acknowledge, that the monuments of Greek and Roman literature
have been preserved and multiplied by their indefatigable pens.
^52 But the more humble industry of the monks, especially in
Egypt, was contented with the silent, sedentary occupation of
making wooden sandals, or of twisting the leaves of the palm-tree
into mats and baskets. The superfluous stock, which was not
consumed in domestic use, supplied, by trade, the wants of the
community: the boats of Tabenne, and the other monasteries of
Thebais, descended the Nile as far as Alexandria; and, in a
Christian market, the sanctity of the workmen might enhance the
intrinsic value of the work.

[Footnote 50: Such expressions as my book, my cloak, my shoes,
(Cassian Institut. l. iv. c. 13,) were not less severely
prohibited among the Western monks, (Cod. Regul. part ii. p. 174,
235, 288;) and the rule of Columbanus punished them with six
lashes. The ironical author of the Ordres Monastiques, who
laughs at the foolish nicety of modern convents, seems ignorant
that the ancients were equally absurd.]

[Footnote 51: Two great masters of ecclesiastical science, the P.
Thomassin, (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. iii. p. 1090 - 1139,)
and the P. Mabillon, (Etudes Monastiques, tom. i. p. 116 - 155,)
have seriously examined the manual labor of the monks, which the
former considers as a merit and the latter as a duty.]

[Footnote 52: Mabillon (Etudes Monastiques, tom. i. p. 47 - 55)
has collected many curious facts to justify the literary labors
of his predecessors, both in the East and West. Books were
copied in the ancient monasteries of Egypt, (Cassian. Institut.
l. iv. c. 12,) and by the disciples of St. Martin, (Sulp. Sever.
in Vit. Martin. c. 7, p. 473.) Cassiodorus has allowed an ample
scope for the studies of the monks; and we shall not be
scandalized, if their pens sometimes wandered from Chrysostom and
Augustin to Homer and Virgil.]
But the necessity of manual labor was insensibly superseded.

The novice was tempted to bestow his fortune on the saints, in
whose society he was resolved to spend the remainder of his life;
and the pernicious indulgence of the laws permitted him to
receive, for their use, any future accessions of legacy or
inheritance. ^53 Melania contributed her plate, three hundred
pounds weight of silver; and Paula contracted an immense debt,
for the relief of their favorite monks; who kindly imparted the
merits of their prayers and penance to a rich and liberal sinner.
^54 Time continually increased, and accidents could seldom
diminish, the estates of the popular monasteries, which spread
over the adjacent country and cities: and, in the first century
of their institution, the infidel Zosimus has maliciously
observed, that, for the benefit of the poor, the Christian monks
had reduced a great part of mankind to a state of beggary. ^55 As
long as they maintained their original fervor, they approved
themselves, however, the faithful and benevolent stewards of the
charity, which was entrusted to their care. But their discipline
was corrupted by prosperity: they gradually assumed the pride of
wealth, and at last indulged the luxury of expense. Their public
luxury might be excused by the magnificence of religious worship,
and the decent motive of erecting durable habitations for an
immortal society. But every age of the church has accused the
licentiousness of the degenerate monks; who no longer remembered
the object of their institution, embraced the vain and sensual
pleasures of the world, which they had renounced, ^56 and
scandalously abused the riches which had been acquired by the
austere virtues of their founders. ^57 Their natural descent,
from such painful and dangerous virtue, to the common vices of
humanity, will not, perhaps, excite much grief or indignation in
the mind of a philosopher.

[Footnote 53: Thomassin (Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. iii. p.
118, 145, 146, 171 - 179) has examined the revolution of the
civil, canon, and common law. Modern France confirms the death
which monks have inflicted on themselves, and justly deprives
them of all right of inheritance.]

[Footnote 54: See Jerom, (tom. i. p. 176, 183.) The monk Pambo
made a sublime answer to Melania, who wished to specify the value
of her gift: "Do you offer it to me, or to God? If to God, He
who suspends the mountain in a balance, need not be informed of
the weight of your plate." (Pallad. Hist. Lausiac. c. 10, in the
Vit. Patrum, l. viii. p. 715.)]

[Footnote 55: Zosim. l. v. p. 325. Yet the wealth of the Eastern
monks was far surpassed by the princely greatness of the
[Footnote 56: The sixth general council (the Quinisext in Trullo,
Canon xlvii in Beveridge, tom. i. p. 213) restrains women from
passing the night in a male, or men in a female, monastery. The
seventh general council (the second Nicene, Canon xx. in
Beveridge, tom. i. p. 325) prohibits the erection of double or
promiscuous monasteries of both sexes; but it appears from
Balsamon, that the prohibition was not effectual. On the
irregular pleasures and expenses of the clergy and monks, see
Thomassin, tom. iii. p. 1334 - 1368.]
[Footnote 57: I have somewhere heard or read the frank confession
of a Benedictine abbot: "My vow of poverty has given me a hundred
thousand crowns a year; my vow of obedience has raised me to the
rank of a sovereign prince." - I forget the consequences of his
vow of chastity.]

The lives of the primitive monks were consumed in penance
and solitude; undisturbed by the various occupations which fill
the time, and exercise the faculties, of reasonable, active, and
social beings. Whenever they were permitted to step beyond the
precincts of the monastery, two jealous companions were the
mutual guards and spies of each other's actions; and, after their
return, they were condemned to forget, or, at least, to suppress,
whatever they had seen or heard in the world. Strangers, who
professed the orthodox faith, were hospitably entertained in a
separate apartment; but their dangerous conversation was
restricted to some chosen elders of approved discretion and
fidelity. Except in their presence, the monastic slave might not
receive the visits of his friends or kindred; and it was deemed
highly meritorious, if he afflicted a tender sister, or an aged
parent, by the obstinate refusal of a word or look. ^58 The monks
themselves passed their lives, without personal attachments,
among a crowd which had been formed by accident, and was
detained, in the same prison, by force or prejudice. Recluse
fanatics have few ideas or sentiments to communicate: a special
license of the abbot regulated the time and duration of their
familiar visits; and, at their silent meals, they were enveloped
in their cowls, inaccessible, and almost invisible, to each
other. ^59 Study is the resource of solitude: but education had
not prepared and qualified for any liberal studies the mechanics
and peasants who filled the monastic communities. They might
work: but the vanity of spiritual perfection was tempted to
disdain the exercise of manual labor; and the industry must be
faint and languid, which is not excited by the sense of personal

[Footnote 58: Pior, an Egyptian monk, allowed his sister to see
him; but he shut his eyes during the whole visit. See Vit.
Patrum, l. iii. p. 504. Many such examples might be added.]
[Footnote 59: The 7th, 8th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 34th, 57th, 60th,
86th, and 95th articles of the Rule of Pachomius, impose most
intolerable laws of silence and mortification.]

According to their faith and zeal, they might employ the
day, which they passed in their cells, either in vocal or mental
prayer: they assembled in the evening, and they were awakened in
the night, for the public worship of the monastery. The precise
moment was determined by the stars, which are seldom clouded in
the serene sky of Egypt; and a rustic horn, or trumpet, the
signal of devotion, twice interrupted the vast silence of the
desert. ^60 Even sleep, the last refuge of the unhappy, was
rigorously measured: the vacant hours of the monk heavily rolled
along, without business or pleasure; and, before the close of
each day, he had repeatedly accused the tedious progress of the
sun. ^61 In this comfortless state, superstition still pursued
and tormented her wretched votaries. ^62 The repose which they
had sought in the cloister was disturbed by a tardy repentance,
profane doubts, and guilty desires; and, while they considered
each natural impulse as an unpardonable sin, they perpetually
trembled on the edge of a flaming and bottomless abyss. From the
painful struggles of disease and despair, these unhappy victims
were sometimes relieved by madness or death; and, in the sixth
century, a hospital was founded at Jerusalem for a small portion
of the austere penitents, who were deprived of their senses. ^63
Their visions, before they attained this extreme and acknowledged
term of frenzy, have afforded ample materials of supernatural
history. It was their firm persuasion, that the air, which they
breathed, was peopled with invisible enemies; with innumerable
demons, who watched every occasion, and assumed every form, to
terrify, and above all to tempt, their unguarded virtue. The
imagination, and even the senses, were deceived by the illusions
of distempered fanaticism; and the hermit, whose midnight prayer
was oppressed by involuntary slumber, might easily confound the
phantoms of horror or delight, which had occupied his sleeping
and his waking dreams. ^64
[Footnote 60: The diurnal and nocturnal prayers of the monks are
copiously discussed by Cassian, in the third and fourth books of
his Institutions; and he constantly prefers the liturgy, which an
angel had dictated to the monasteries of Tebennoe.]

[Footnote 61: Cassian, from his own experience, describes the
acedia, or listlessness of mind and body, to which a monk was
exposed, when he sighed to find himself alone. Saepiusque
egreditur et ingreditur cellam, et Solem velut ad occasum tardius
properantem crebrius intuetur, (Institut. x. l.)]
[Footnote 62: The temptations and sufferings of Stagirius were
communicated by that unfortunate youth to his friend St.
Chrysostom. See Middleton's Works, vol. i. p. 107 - 110.
Something similar introduces the life of every saint; and the
famous Inigo, or Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, (vide
d'Inigo de Guiposcoa, tom. i. p. 29 - 38,) may serve as a
memorable example.]
[Footnote 63: Fleury, Hist. Ecclesiastique, tom. vii. p. 46. I
have read somewhere, in the Vitae Patrum, but I cannot recover
the place that several, I believe many, of the monks, who did not
reveal their temptations to the abbot, became guilty of suicide.]

[Footnote 64: See the seventh and eighth Collations of Cassian,
who gravely examines, why the demons were grown less active and
numerous since the time of St. Antony. Rosweyde's copious index
to the Vitae Patrum will point out a variety of infernal scenes.
The devils were most formidable in a female shape.]

The monks were divided into two classes: the Coenobites, who
lived under a common and regular discipline; and the Anachorets,
who indulged their unsocial, independent fanaticism. ^65 The most
devout, or the most ambitious, of the spiritual brethren,
renounced the convent, as they had renounced the world. The
fervent monasteries of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, were
surrounded by a Laura, ^66 a distant circle of solitary cells;
and the extravagant penance of Hermits was stimulated by applause
and emulation. ^67 They sunk under the painful weight of crosses
and chains; and their emaciated limbs were confined by collars,
bracelets, gauntlets, and greaves of massy and rigid iron. All
superfluous encumbrance of dress they contemptuously cast away;
and some savage saints of both sexes have been admired, whose
naked bodies were only covered by their long hair. They aspired
to reduce themselves to the rude and miserable state in which the


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