Ammianus serves us for five months after the battle of Hadrianople. Then, with the accession of Theodosius, we unfortunately lose his guidance.
Our chief heathen authority for the reign of Theodosius is Zosimus (described at the beginning of the previous chapter), who is more than usually confused and inconsecutive in his account of the events of this reign. we possess, however, a few interesting fragments of the writer upon whose history that of Zosimus was probably in great part founded,
Eunapius, like Zosimus, a heathen, and very bitter against both Constantine and Theodosius.
He was born at Sardis, 347, and went to Athens to study in the year 362. The Hierophant who there initiated him into the Eleusinian mysteries, informed him confidentially that the complete overthrow of the old religion and the ruin of Greece were near at hand. His object in writing was to continue the work of Dexippus. He wrote accordingly a history in fourteen books, embracing the period from the death of Claudius Gothicus, 270, to the banishment of St. Chrysostom, 404. He himself gives us some interesting details concerning the motives which urged him to authorship. 'Now,' he says, at the commencement of his second book, 'having reached the period of Julian, my story has brought me to that which was ever my chief aim in writing. Now shall I be concerned with the actions of one whom I regard with somewhat of a lover's enthusiasm. Not, by Jove, that I ever saw him or received any benefit at his hands, for I who write these lines was but a boy when he reigned. But a p130 wonderful and irresistible incentive to love was the universal feeling of admiration which he excited, and the untarnished brilliance of his glory. For how could I be silent, when none around me were silent, about the actions of Julian. How refrain from speaking when even men unskilled in speech loved to linger over the sweet and golden theme of his praises?' And then Eunapius goes on to describe how his associates, chief among them a Professor of Medicine named Oribasius, who had himself been a faithful friend and counsellor of Julian, seeing his literary skill, urged him to compose the history of the Emperor's exploits, saying that it would be stark impiety if he refrained from doing so.
We owe to Eunapius, scanty as are the fragments of his work that have been preserved (only 77 pages, all told, in the Bonn edition of the Byzantine historians), many interesting sketches of men and manners, and some curious anecdotes of classical times; as, for instance, that Philip of Macedon once having slipped and fallen on the arena, when he saw the measure of his body in the dust, said, half laughing at himself, 'How little ground is covered by a man who hankers after the whole world.' Again, that Marius said of Sulla, 'He is a lion and a fox joined together, but I fear the fox most.' And again (more relevant to our present subject and an interesting evidence of the statesmanlike intuition of Eunapius's hero), that Julian said, when the war with Persia was coming to a head, and no one else dreamed of trouble from any other quarter, 'The Goths are quiet just now, but perhaps they will not always be quiet.' A few of the most striking features in the ordinary description of the assemblage of the fugitive Goths on the Danubian frontier of the Empire are also borrowed from Eunapius.
In one passage the quiet page of the decorous Bonn edition of the Byzantine historians seems suddenly to flame into passion, and we hear the shrill theological wrath of the unknown scribe who has been dead for a thousand years. Eunapius, in his account of the feelings of the army after the death of Julian, says that the common soldiers knew right well that they should never again find such a p131 general, not even if a god took shape and came to lead them. 'A man who, by his own inhabit nobility of nature and by something akin to God within him, arrested the till then irresistible downward tendency of the State. A man who, merging from such waves adversity, looked upon the sky and saw its hidden loveliness. A man who, while still clothed with a body, communed with the disembodied gods: who accepted sovereignty not because he loved it, but because he saw men in need of a ruler: who made himself beloved by his soldiers, not because he cared for popular applause, but because he knew that by doing so he should promote the welfare of all.' —
Then, in a parenthesis, with a shriek that is all but audible, bursts in the outraged scribe: 'Dost thou dare to insult us with such nonsense, thunder-maddened and fatuous chatterer? "Disembodied gods!" Whence stole you those words but from the Christian mysteries? Was ganymede caught aloft by the eagle at the bidding of a disembodied god? Is Juno sister and wife of such an one? Were they disembodied gods for whom hebe poured out the nectar, and who in their drunkenness bandied their unseemly jests over the fall of Troy? It was not in order to reform the life of men that Julian chose empire, for he reformed nothing. He acted at first from base vanity and ingratitude to Constantius his benefactor, and then he was driven on by the demons to whom he offered sacrifice, that he might meet with the fitting reward of his folly and his crime.'
Against this angry interpolation, yet another amanuensis has written his note in the margin, 'Some hermit from the top of his pillar scoldeth Eunapius' (στηλιτευτικὸς κατὰ Εὐναπίου).
Partly confirming and partly modifying the heathen estimates of the character of Theodosius, we have pretty copious notes of his reign in The Ecclesiastical Historians: —
Socrates Scholasticus (about 379‑450). His history covers the period from 307 to 439.
Sozomenus (contemporary with Socrates). His history covers the period from 323 to 425.
p132 Theodoret (about 393‑457) His history covers the period from 320 to 429.
Philostorgius, born about 364, died after 425. His history covers the period from 300 to 425.
These historians are too well known to need any special description. It is sufficient to observe that for the period for which we shall require their aid they may be considered as practically contemporary authorities. Though writing histories of the Church they are not all Churchmen. Socrates and Sozomen were barristers at Constantinople. We do not appear to be informed as to the occupation of Philostorgius, but he was a bitter Arian, and loses no opportunity of descrying the orthodox champions. Theodoret was a Syrian bishop.
There are no doubt degrees of merit in these four histories; but they are all of them disappointing works to a modern student, dwelling at tedious length on mere theological squabbles, and giving little insight, comparatively, into the inner life of men or the causes of the transcendently important events in civil history which were proceeding in their day.
Another favourable, perhaps Christian, authority for the life of Theodosius is Pacatus (Latinus Pacatus Drepanius), a native of Bordeaux, who pronounced a panegyric on the Emperor at Rome, 389, after his victory over Maximus. The praise is of the fulsome and tasteless kind usual in these official panegyrics, and where the oration deals with qualities it can hardly be considered as furnishing any trustworthy materials for history. Actions (the chief of these being Theodosius's suppression of the tyranny of Maximus) may perhaps be more safely describe from this source, as complete falsification of these would have been more difficult.
For a complete picture of the life and times of Theodosius the voluminous works of Chrysostom and Ambrose among the Christians, and the orations and letters of Libanius, Symmachus, and Themistius among the heathens, would require to be studied. As he was only for a short time Emperor of the West, the slight sketch here offered is perhaps p133 sufficient for the object of the present work. The order of subject rather than that of date having been followed in this chapter, it may be a convenience to the reader to refer to the subjoined Chronological Table of the events in the life of Theodosius.
The course of events in the provinces south of the Danube during the year 378 was an illustration p134 of the fact, abundantly proved by many other passages in the history of the world, that a barbarous race fighting against a civilised one may win victories, but scarcely ever knows how to improve them. Such a calamity as that of Hadrianople, had the king of Persia been the antagonist, must surely have involved the ruin at any rate of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire. In the hands of the Goths its direct results were ridiculously small — a little more ravaging and slaughtering, two or three years of desultory war, and then a treaty by which the barbarians bound themselves to be the humble servants of the Emperor.
With the dawn which followed the terrible night of the 9th of August, the victors, excited and greedy of spoil, marched in compact order to Hadrianople, where, as they knew from the reports of deserters, were to be found the insignia of the imperial dignity and a great accumulation of treasure. At first it seemed not impossible that they might carry the place by a coup de main. Fugitives from the beaten army, soldiers and camp-followers, were still swarming around the gates and blocking up the road, by their disorderly eagerness preventing themselves from obtaining an entrance. With these men the Gothic squadrons kept up a fierce fight till about three in the afternoon. Then three hundred of the Roman infantry — possibly Stephen enlisted from among the Teutonic subjects of the Empire — went over in a body to the barbarians. With incredible folly as well as cruelty the Goths p135 refused to accept their surrender, and killed the greater part of them, thereby closing the door on all propositions of a similar kind during the remainder of the war. Meanwhile the defenders of the city had succeeded in firmly closing the gates, had stationed powerful catapults and balistae on the walls, and finding themselves well supplied with all things necessary for a long defence, except a good stock of water, as the first day wore away to its close leaving the city still no nearer to its capture, their spirits began to rise, and the hope that all might yet be retrieved grew brighter.
Contrary to the advice of Fridigern, whose authority, though he bore the name of king, was evidently not absolute over followers hungering for booty, the Goths determined to continue the siege, but, dismayed by the sight of so many of their bravest warriors slain or disabled, they determined to employ stratagem. Not all, apparently, of the deserters of the previous day had been slain by the Gothic sword. Some of the late Emperor's own guard of honour, conspicuous by their white tunics, as east guardsmen by their bear-skin caps, and known throughout the Empire as candidati, had been admitted to surrender by the barbarians, and were now to be employed in the fresh attempt upon Hadrianople. They agreed to feign flight from their new friends and to set the city secretly on fire. In the bewilderment and confusion of the fire it was hoped that the walls would be stripped of their defenders, and that the Goths might rush p136 in to an easy victory. The Candidati appears to have true in their treachery. They stood in the fosse before the walls and stretched out suppliant hands entreating for admission. A suspicious diversity, however, in their statements respecting the plans of the Goths, caused them to be kept close prisoners, and when toy was applied they confessed the scheme in which they had made themselves accomplices.
The Gothic stratagem having thus miscarried, there was nothing for it but to try another open assault. Again the bravest and noblest of the barbarians pressed on the at the head of their people, each one hoping that his should be the fortunate hand which should grasp the treasure of Valens. Again the engines on the walls played with fearful havoc upon the dense masses of the besiegers. The cylinders and capitals of stately columns came crashing down upon their heads. One gigantic engine, called the Wild Ass, hurled a mass of stone so vast that though it chanced to fall harmlessly upon a space of ground which was clear of the hostile ranks, all who fought by that part of the wall were demoralised by fear of what the next bray from the Wild Ass might signify. At length, after a long weary day of unsuccessful battle, when the assault of the besiegers had degenerated into a series of ill-organised rushes against the walls, brave but utterly hopeless, their trumpets were sadly sounded for retreat, and every survivor in the host said, 'Would that we had followed the counsel of Fridigern.' p137 They drew off their forces. Hadrianople was saved, and its defenders, a larger host than was needed for its protection, withdrew by devious ways, some to Philippopolis and some to Sardica. They still hoped to find Valens somewhere hidden in the ravaged country, and they probably bore with them his treasure and his crown.
The Goths meanwhile, with many of their new allies, the Huns and the Alani, in their ranks, after an unsuccessful attempt upon Perinthus by the Sea of Marmora, marched upon Constantinople. Destitute as they were of all naval resources, it must surely have been but a forlorn hope for men who had failed in the moment of victory to take the inland city of Hadrianople, to attempt the strongly fortified peninsula of Byzantium. At any rate their attack was repulsed, and that partly by a race whom after ages would have wondered to behold among the defenders of Christian Constantinople. A band of Saracens, the wild and wandering inhabitants of Arabia, as yet unorganised and unreclaimed by the fervent faith of Mohammed, 'a nation,' as Ammianus says,1 'whom it is never desirable to have either for friends or enemies,' had been brought to the capital among the auxiliary troops of Valens,2 and upon them now fell the chief labour of its defence. With barbarian confidence and impetuosity they issued forth from the gates and fell upon the squadrons of the Goths. At first the event of the battle seemed doubtful, p138 but at length the Teutonic host became demoralised and retired in disorder. according to our Roman historian's account,3 the determining cause of their defeat was the horror inspired by the ghastly proceedings of one of the Saracen warriors. Completely naked except for a girdle round his loins, with that long floating black hair which Europe afterwards knew so well, uttering a hoarse and melancholy howl, he sprang with drawn dagger upon the Gothic hosts, and having stabbed his man proceeded to suck the life-blood from the neck of his slaughtered foe. The Northern barbarians, easily accessible to shadowy and superstitious terrors, and arguing perhaps that they had to do with demons rather than with men, began to waver in their ranks, and withdrew from the field. Who that witnessed that confused jostle between the Northern and Southern barbarisms could have imagined the part that each was destined to play in the middle ages beside the Mediterranean shores; that they would meet again three centuries later upon the Andalusian plain; that from these would spring the stately Khalifats of Cordova and Bagdad; from those the chivalry of Castille?
The Gothic army, with heavy losses and somewhat impaired hope, retired from Constantinople. Since they could take no important city it was clear that they could yet conquer, if they wished to conquer, the Eier of Rome. They could ravage it, and this they did effectually, wandering p139 almost at pleasure over the countries that we now call Bulgaria, Servia, Bosnia, and up to the very spurs of the Julian Alps on the northeastern confines of Italy. Incapable of resistance except behind walls, the Romans took a cruel and cowardly revenge. It will be remembered that when the Goths were ferried across the Danube they had been compelled to surrender all the youthful sons of their chief men as hostages for their good behaviour. These lads had been dispersed through all the cities of the East, where their rich attire and the stately forms which seemed to tell of the temperate northern climates in which they had their birth, excited the admiration and fear of the populations among which they were placed.4 Three years had now passed since the fatal treaty, and these youths were rapidly maturing into men. The brave deeds, the victories and defeats of their fathers on the Thracian battle-fields, had reached their ears. Clustering together in the unfriendly streets they muttered to one another — so at least the Romans thought — in their barbaric tongue, counsels of revenge for their slain kinsmen. Julius, the Master of the Soldiery, to whom tidings were brought of this real or supposed movement among the hostages, determined to strike the first blow. Having obtained full powers from the Senate at Constantinople, and communicated his plans under pledges of inviolable secrecy to the commandants p140 of the garrisons, he caused a report to be circulated through the provinces that all the hostages who should present themselves at the chief cities on a given day should receive rich gifts and an allotment of lands from the bounty of the emperor. Laying aside all thoughts of vengeance, if they had ever entertained them, the Gothic lads trooped in, each one, to the capital of his province. When they were thus assembled, unarmed and unsuspecting, in the Thracian and Asiatic market-places, the soldiery at a given signal mounted the roofs of the surrounding houses, and hurled stones and darts upon them till the last of the yellow-haired striplings was laid low. A brave deed truly, and one worthy of the Roman legions in those days, and of the Master of the Soldiery, bearing alas, the great name of Julius — who commanded them! It is with sorrow that we observe that Ammianus Marcellinus, who closes his history with this event, speaks with approbation of the 'prudent counsel of the Master, the accomplishment whereof without tumult or delay saved the Eastern provinces from a great danger.'
That dastardly crime, however, was not committed with the sanction of the new Emperor of the East, whose permission Julius expressly forbore to seek.5 To him, to the well-known figure of the Emperor Theodosius, it is now time to turn. He inherited from his father a name ennobled by great services to the state, and shaded by the remembrance p141 of a cruel wrong. Of all the generals who served the house of Valentinian none had earned a higher or purer fame than Theodosius the Spaniard. The details of his earlier career are not preserved, but we know that from 367 to 370 he commanded the legions in Britain, first 'delivering from predatory bands for neighbourhood of the city Augusta, which the ancients used to call Lundinium,'6 and then marching into Caledonia to repel an invasion of the Picts, the Scots, and the 'very warlike nation of the Atacotti.' Apparently he had also Saxon marauders to deal with. In the words of Claudian, the court poet of the Theodosian family,
'What did the stars avail, the seas unknown,
The frost eternal of that frigid zone?
The Saxons' lifestream steeped the Orcadian plain,
Thulē with blood of Picts grew warm again,
And icy Erin7 mourned her Scotsmen slain.'
From Britain, Theodosius was ordered to Germany, where he did good service against the Alemanni, and from thence to Mauretania, where the half-civilised Moorish population, never very loyal to Rome, and now maddened by the misrule of the governor Romanus, had risen in revolt, and robed a pastoral chieftain, Firmus, with the imperial purple.
From 372 to 374 Theodosius was engaged in suppressing the rebellion, a difficult task, which p142 he accomplished with complete success. Honour and repose niche seemed to be awaiting the general — now probably between sixty and seventy years of age — who had rendered these services to his country. But an unexpected change in his fortunes was at hand. In the year 376, a few months probably after the sudden death of the Emperor Valentinian, a scaffold was erected at Carthage, and Theodosius was ordered to ascend it. 'He asked,' we are told,8 'that he might first be baptized for the remission of his sins, and having obtained the sacrament of Christ, which he had desired, after a glorious life in this world, being also secure of the life eternal, he willingly offered his neck to the executioner.' History asks in vain for the motive of such well-nigh well-nigh unexampled ingratitude. The only one that is assigned is 'creeping envy' of the fame of the old general. Possibly too his adhesion to the orthodox creed may have rendered him obnoxious to Justina, widow of Valentinian, who governed Africa as well as Italy in the name of her infant son, and whom we know to have been a bitter Arian. But it is probable that the hand which prepared, and the voice which counselled the stroke, were the hand and the voice of Valens, the most powerful member for the time of the Imperial partnership. Those four ominous letters Θ Ε Ο Δ began the name of Theodosius as surely as that of Theodorus, and it seems therefore allowable to suppose that the incantation scene p143 at Antioch four years previously — the laurel tripod, the person in linen mantle and with linen socks, who shook the curtain and made the ring dance up and down among the twenty-four letters of the alphabet — were links in the chain of causation which led the blameless veteran to his doom.
as has been mentioned, the execution of the elder Theodosius occurred in the year 376. The son and namesake of the murdered general, who had already done good service to the state in Britain and on the Danube, when he filled the high office of 'Duke of Moesia,' now retired into private life, probably in his native Spain. His retirement lasted less than three years. Then Gratian, finding himself, at the age of twenty, left by the death of his uncle Valens, the oldest of the Emperors, with only his impetuous and unwise step-mother Justina, nominally assisting in the administration of the Empire, looked around him for help, and wisely determined by the same act to associate with himself a colleague of riper experience than his own, and to repair, as far as it could be repaired, the cruel injustice which had been committed by the house of Valentinian. He summoned Theodosius from Spain, and on the 19th of January, 379, proclaimed him Augustus at Sirmium on the Save. The new Emperor was in the thirty-third year of his age.
The course which Gratian and Theodosius pursued towards the Goths in the first three years of their joint reign appears to have been in the highest degree wise and statesmanlike. To undo the p144 fatal policy of Valens was impossible. The Gothic nation were now within the borders of the Empire; to destroy and to expel them were both impossible. On the other hand there was no need to hazard the fortunes of the Empire upon the cast of a single battle, and the Goths themselves had learned that 'there must be peace between them and stone walls.' What war there was must be of the Fabian kind, harassing them, cooping them up in the mountains, falling upon them in small detachments, wearing them out by hardship and famine. But it was better that there should be peace between the Empire and her new visitors, peace on terms not dissimilar to those which Fridigern had offered, perhaps insincerely, before the battle of Hadrianople, but which his people, tired of those winters in the snowy Balkans, might now be ready to accept; namely, a settlement south of the Danube such as they had previously possessed in Dacia, only that the barbarians should be more blended with the Roman inhabitants, and should more distinctly hold their lands on condition of military service in the armies of the Empire, should become, in the political language of the day, foederati.
The history of the warlike operations against the Goths, now that we have lost the careful guidance of Ammianus, is obscure and uninteresting. Theodosius, who was undoubtedly an able soldier and a born ruler of men, succeeded promptly in infusing a better spirit, one of obedience and disciplined courage into the demoralised army of the p145 East. The barbarians soon perceived the change, and anticipated defeat. The death of their her-king Fridigern, which seems to have happened about this time, may have still farther discouraged them. In the second year of his reign, however, a long and mysterious illness prostrated Theodosius in his palace at Thessalonica, a place which he had skilfully selected as the head-quarters of his operations against the Gothic marauders. Notwithstanding this misfortune, his young colleague, Gratian, successfully prosecuted his portion of the campaign in Pannonia (Lower Austria and Western Hungary), and before the end of the year (380) he appears to have received the submission of a large number of the Visigoths on terms which Theodosius willingly ratified upon his recovery.9
But a more important event in the history of the reconciliation of the two races was the submission of the stern old anti-Roman chief, Athanaric, which occurred in the year 381. Five years before, when his kinsmen were praying for admission into the Empire, he too appeared with his warriors and his waggons on the Wallachian shore of the Danube. When he heard that his old enemy Fridigern was admitted, but that the Ostrogoths under Alatheus and Saphrax were excluded, the proud and sensitive chief, mindful of his own past discourtesy to Rome, would not run the risk of a similar rebuff, but retired into the recesses of Dacia, p146 and there, probably in the country which we now call Transylvania, from behind the mountain-wall of the Carpathians, bade defiance to his enemies the Huns. An unexpected enemy roused up the old lion from his lair. The Ostrogothic chiefs, Alatheus and Saphrax,10 retreating before the now better-disciplined army of Theodosius, re-crossed the Danube, and avenging perhaps some old grudge of pre-Hunnish days, expelled Athanaric from his kingdom.
He fled into the territory of Theodosius, who received him courteously, loaded him with presents, and escorted him into Constantinople. Let Jornandes describe for us the effect produced by the sight of New Rome upon the man who had been all his life the ideal Rome-hater.11 'As he entered the royal city he said, wondering, "Lo now I behold what I have so often heard with unbelief, the splendour of this great city." Then turning his eyes this way and that way, and beholding the glorious situation of the city, the array of ships, the lofty walls, the multitudes of various nations all formed into one well-ordered army (like a fountain springing forth through many holes, yet collected again into one stream), he exclaimed, "A God upon earth, doubtless, is this Emperor, and whoever lifts a hand against him is guilty of his own blood." '
p147 The Emperor continued to honour him with many honours, and when after a few months residence at Constantinople he died, Theodosius made for him a funeral of extraordinary magnificence, and himself rode before the bier as they carried the corpse of the old Gothic chieftain to his grave.
This gorgeous funeral deeply impressed the childlike minds of the Goths, and smoothed the way for the renewal (382) of the old league of Aurelian and Constantine with their nation. Many thousands of the followers of Athanaric entered the army of Theodosius under the title of Foederati, and did good service in the civil wars which occupied the last half of his reign.
For civil war, through no fault, it may be, of the new Emperor, broke out in the empire, and, destroying the last remains of the dynasty of Valentinian, left Theodosius sole ruler of the Roman world. First, Gratian, whose manhood scarcely fulfilled the promise of his prime, lost the love of his soldiers. At a time when the defence of the tottering Empire would have wellnigh over-taxed the industry of Marcus Aurelius, he imitated rather the frivolity — certainly not the cruelty — of Commodus. His vast game preserves (vivaria), rather than the camp or the judgment-hall, were the almost constant resort of the young Augustus.12 Night and day his thoughts were engrossed with splendid shots, made or to be made, and his success p148 herein seemed to him sometimes to be the result of divine assistance. The statesmen in his councils may have mourned over this degeneration of an able commander into a skilful marksman; but a more powerful cause of unpopularity with the rank and file of his army existed in the favour with which he viewed the barbarians, formerly his enemies, now his allies. Doubtless he saw that both in stature, in valour, and in loyalty, the Teutonic antagonists of Rome were superior to her effete offspring; and surrounding himself with a guard selected from the nation of the Alani, whose prowess he had tested as an enemy in his Pannonian campaign of 380, he bestowed on them rich presents, entrusted to them confidential commands, and even condescended to imitate the barbarous magnificence of their attire.
The flame of discontent went smouldering through the army of Gaul, and at length reached that of Britain, high-spirited and exacting beyond most of the other legionaries. Their discontent was fanned by Maximus, a fellow-countryman of Theodosius, variously represented to us as the comrade13 or the butler14 of that Emperor, but undoubtedly at this time a trusted and capable soldier. By the adroit use of hints, which were perhaps not quite without foundation, that Theodosius p149 had not forgiven the house of Valentinian for his father's death, and would behold its downfall with pleasure, he persuaded the soldiers to invest him with the Imperial purple. He landed in Gaul; a pretence of skirmishing between his troops and those of his rival occupied five days. Then Gratian's unpopularity with his army began to show itself. First, the Moorish cavalry deserted to the usurper. Gradually, bit by bit, the rest of the army followed their example. Seeing that the game was hopeless, he took flight, accompanied by three hundred horsemen, but was pursued, and killed at the bridge of Belgrade. According to another account his death was brought about by a heartless stratagem, and happened in Gaul. He had reached Lyons, so it is said, in the course of his flight, when he perceived a litter approaching, borne apparently by unarmed domestics along the banks of the Rhone. Misled by false reports, and too hastily concluding that it contained his newly-wedded wife, he hastened to meet her. No bride, however, issued from its enclosure, but Andragathius, an officer of Maximus's army, who drew his sword and slew the dethroned Emperor.15
Such was the end of the cultured and gracious Gratian, a victim to sportsmanship, and also in part to his uncompromising Christianity. For p150 whereas the Emperors of the family of Constantine, though presiding in councils and settling disputed points of doctrine, had yet on some occasions 'bowed themselves in the house of Rimmon,' and had humoured the fanatical heathenism of Old Rome by accepting some of the titles, and perhaps even performing some of the sacrifices, which marked the semi-religious character of the heathen Emperors, the young Gratian had steadfastly refused to don the robes of the Pontifex Maximus, and towards the close of his reign obliterated the initials P. M. from his coins. And men afterwards remembered that when the long train of priests had gone forth to offer him the robe of his sacred office, and he had rejected it with scorn, saying that it was unlawful for a Christian to wear that garment, the most venerable of their number had uttered these words, 'If the Emperor does not choose to be hailed as Pontifex, there will nevertheless soon be a Pontifex, Maximus.'.16
p151 Maximus refused to surrender even the body of the murdered Gratian to his relatives. Yet he was satisfied, for a time, with the possession of the three Western provinces, Britain, Gaul, and Spain, which had fallen to the share of his victim. Valentinian II still ruled in Italy and Africa; and Theodosius in the East. The enemies of the latter accused him of cowardice and ingratitude for not avenging the death of his benefactor: his encomiasts praised the moderation which was satisfied with the dominion of half the Roman world and shrank from shedding the blood of his fellow-citizens.
Of the five years' reign of Maximus in the West we possess no account, except that contained in the Panegyric of Pacatus. This oration, pronounced not many months after his death in the presence of his destroyer, is of course one long diatribe against the fallen tyrant. 'We, in ga,' he says, 'first felt the onset of that raging beast. We glutted his cruelty with the blood of our innocents, his avarice by the sacrifice of our all. . . . . We saw our consulars stripped of their robes of office, our old men compelled to survive children and property and all that makes life desirable. In the midst of our miseries we were followed to wear smiling faces, for some hideous informer was ever at our side. You would hear them saying, "Why is that man so sad-seeming? Is it because he is reduced to poverty from wealth? He ought to be thankful that he is allowed to live. What p152 does that fellow wear mourning for? I suppose he is grieving for his brother. But he has a son left." And so we did not dare to mourn our murdered relatives for the sake of the survivors. . . . We saw that tyrant clad in purple stand, himself, at the balances, gaping greedily at the spoil of provinces which was weighed out before him. There was gold forced from the hands of matrons, there were the trinkets of childhood, there was the plate stil tarnished with the blood of its last possessor. All was weighed, counted, carted away into the monster's home. That home seemed to us not the palace of an Emperor, but a robber's cave.' And so on through many loud paragraphs.
It is difficult to deal with such rhetoric as this, so evidently instinct with the very bitterness of hate. But probably the fact is that Maximus was neither better nor worse than the majority of those who have been before described as the Barrack-Emperors; like them making the goodwill of the soldiery the sheet-anchor of his policy, like them willing to sacrifice law and justice and the happiness of all other classes of his subjects, not precisely to his own avarice, but to the daily and terrible necessity of feeding and pampering the 'Frankenstein' monster, an army whom he himself had taught to mutiny.
For four years there was peace, an 'armed peace,' perhaps, between Maximus and his colleagues. Then from the Cottian Alps, which separate Dauphiné from Piedmont, he descended into the valley p153 of the Po, with the avowed intention of adding to his Empire the countries of Italy and Africa, which Justina still ruled intention name of Valentinian II. She fled with headlong haste, taking with her the Emperor, a lad of eighteen, and her three daughters. Crossing the Adriatic, she met Theodosius at his favourite resting-place, Thessalonica. She adjured him to restore the brother of his friend to his inheritance, and to take vengeance, tardy though it might be, on that friend's murderer. The beauty of Galla, the fairest of the daughters of Justina, enforced her mother's pleadings. Theodosius, who the year before had lost his first wife (Aelia Flaccilla), married the suppliant princess, and marched next year to avenge the dethronement of her brother. If he had long hesitated about taking up arms, his movements now that war was declared were sufficiently rapid. By forced marches he brought his troops to Siscia, now the Croatian town of Siszek, on the Save. The dusty, panting soldiers, pushed their steeds into the river, swam across, and successfully charged the enemy. In another battle, where the hostile army was commanded by Marcellinus, brother of the usurper, fiery valour of the Goths, tempered and directed by the Theodosian discipline, again triumphed. Aemona (Laybach) opened her gates with rejoicing, and welcomed the liberating host to her streets hung with tapestry and bright with flowers. With an army swollen by numerous desertions from the demoralised ranks of his rival, Theodosius pressed on, over p154 the spurs of the Julian Alps, to Aquileia, then the great arsenal and port of north-eastern Italy, where Maximus, whose soldierly qualities seem to have been melted out of him by five years of reigning, cowered behind et walls, awaiting his approach. Aquileia had the reputation of being a virgin fortress, the Metz of Italy, but the forces of the usurper were now too few to form a sufficient garrison. A small body of Moorish soldiers, belonging perhaps to the same legion which had first revolted to him in Gaul, still remained faithful, yet Maximus did not rely too confidently even on their unbribed fidelity. When the troops of Theodosius, with brisk impetuous onset, streamed over the loosely-guarded walls, they found the usurper sitting on his throne, distributing money to his soldiers. They tore off with violent gesture his purple robe, they knocked the diadem from his head, they made him doff his purple sandals, and then, with hands tied behind him like a slave, they dragged the trembling tyrant before his judges. At the third milestone from Aquileia, Theodosius and the young lad his brother-in‑law had erected their tribunal. 'Is it true,' said the Emperor of the East, 'that it was with my consent that Gratian was murdered, and that you usurped the crown?' 'It is not true,' Maximus is said to have faltered out, 'but without that present I could never have persuaded the soldiers to join in the rebellion.' Theodosius looked upon the poor trembling wretch, once his comrade, with eyes in which p155 there was some gleam of pity. But if he had any thoughts of clemency, they were not shared by his army, who, perhaps for their own safety, thought it necessary to destroy the man whose fallen majesty they had derided. Countless eager hands dragged him off to the place of punishment, where he was put to death by the common executioner. His son Victor, whom he had associated with him as Caesar, and who was still in Gaul, soon after shared the same fate. Andragathius, the occupant of the litter and the actual murderer of Gratian, was in command of the naval force which had been destined to intercept the Emperor's passage by sea to Italy. Hearing that his master's cause was lost, he leaped into the Adriatic, 'preferring to trust himself to it, rather than to his enemies.'
Theodosius restored his young brother-in‑law to the throne, and for four years the Empire was again at rest from civil war.
Then came the revolution which, in the scarcely exaggerated language of Claudian,
'Placed the Barbarian's lackey on the throne.'17
The silent, undermining change which was proceeding through the whole of the latter part of the fourth century, substituting in the Roman armies themselves strenuous war-loving barbarians for the nerveless Romans and provincials, is illustrated by the names of some of the generals of this period. Arintheus and Bauto, Richomer, p156 Merobaudes, Stilicho, Sarus, Gainas, are the uncouth Teutonic names which obtrude themselves into high military commands, sometimes even into the Consular Fasti. Of these was Arbogast, the Frank, a bold, outspoken, rugged warrior, very popular with his troops, who liked his free-handed ways, and who saw that, unlike many of the Roman officers, he despised both gain and danger. He had served Gratian faithfully, and had well succoured Theodosius in his campaign against Maximus; but, according to one account, he had, upon the death of his fellow-countryman Bauto, installed himself in the vacant post of general-in‑chief without waiting for the Imperial appointment, and Valentinian had been fain to acquiesce in his irregular exaltation. Presuming on his services and his popularity in the camp, he became every day more violent in his demeanour to his young sovereign Valentinian II, now in the twenty-first year of his age. At length the latter could bear with him no longer, and seeing him one day approach the throne, he turned toward him with flushed and angry face, and gave him a letter of dismissal from his command. Arbogast tore the letter into fragments, and trampled them under foot. 'Thou,' said he, 'dost thou dare to do this? thou neither gavest me my office, nor shalt thou avail to rend it from me.' And with that he began openly to discuss throughout the court and camp (then tarrying at Vienne by the Rhone) the dethronement and death of Valentinian.
p157 Scarcely yet was the time come for a man of full barbarian blood to seat himself on the throne of the Caesars. Eugenius, a man of some talents and respect able character, who had risen from the occupation of a schoolmaster and teacher of rhetoric to a second-rate place in the civil service of the Emperors,18 had attached himself to the fortunes of Arbogast, and was now selected by him as a suitable blok upon which to hang the Imperial purple. Valentinian, while joining in athletic sports with some of the common soldiers, was, with some little semblance of a possible accident, slain by order of Arbogast, whose 'client' Eugenius was proclaimed Emperor in his stead.
There was a circumstance connected with this usurpation which calls for especial notice. Arbogast belonged to the still heathen nation of the Franks. Eugenius, the professor of rhetoric and belles lettres, had probably always sympathised in secret with the votaries of the old faith, and now that he stood at the summit of the world he avowed himself without disguise a worshipper of the Olympian Gods. There was still a considerable party, especially in Old Rome, who were not prepared to break with all the religious traditions of the past, and who chafed against the restrictive legislation of the later Christian Emperors. These men, doubtless, p158 together with the still unconverted barbarians in the auxiliary troops, formed the kernel of the party of Eugenius and Arbogast. It was the last recrudescence of Paganism, a generation later than that which had occurred in the days of Julian: and like that it was headed by a votary of the old classical literature.
The death of Valentinian II occurred in the year 392. Again, as in the case of Maximus, there was an inexplicable delay in the proceedings of Theodosius, to whom, while the revolution was still imminent, his young brother-in‑law had sent urgent entreaties for help. The Empress Galla ceased not to plead for vengeance on the murderers, and Theodosius at length decided on war. On the eve of his departure from Constantinople the Empress died in child-birth leaving him one infant daughter, who bore the name Galla Placidia. 'Giving,' as the Greek historian19 says, 'in Homeric fashion, one day to mourning and the next to war,' he started in 394 on his Western campaign, having first offered up his devotions in the church which he had himself erected at Constantinople in honour of John the Baptist, and placed himself and his army under the especial protection of that saint.20 He moved his troops along the highway that connected Sirmium and Aquileia, the two great cities which, separated by a distance of •300 Roman miles, are pretty nearly represented by the modern towns of Belgrade and Trieste. By this road the Alps p159 may be said to be turned rather than crossed. At one point indeed, between Laybach and Gorizia, a shoulder of the Julian Alps has to be surmounted, but as the highest point of the pass is less than •2000 feet above the level of the sea, it must not be associated in our minds with those ideas of Alpine hardship which suggest themselves in connection with the St. Bernard, the Splugen, or even the Brenner. On the summit of the pass there grew, at the time of the Roman road-makers, a pear-tree, conspicuous, we must suppose, from afar by its cloud of white blossoms. This tree gave to the neighbouring station the name of Ad Pirum, and the memory of it has now for many centuries been preserved, in another tongue, by the appellation of the Birnbaumer Wald, given to the whole of the high plateau which the road once traversed. Standing on the crest of this pass, in the place where probably 2000 years ago the pear-tree was blooming, the spectator beholds spread out before him a landscape with some very distinctive features, which the imagination can easily convert into a battle-field. To his right, all along the northern horizon, soars the bare and lofty ridge of the Tarnovaner Wald, •about 4000 feet high. None but a very advantageous or a badly beaten army would seek a passage there. Opposite to the south and west runs a range of gently swelling hills, somewhat resembling our own Sussex downs, the last outliers in this direction of the Julian Alps. On the left hand, to the south-east, p160 the Birnbaumer Wald rises towards the abrupt cliff of the Nanos Berg, a mountain as high as the Tarnovaner Wald, which, conspicuous from afar, seems by its singular shape to proclaim itself to travellers, both from Italy and from Austria, as the end of the Alps. Set in this framework of hills lies a fruitful and well-cultured valley. 'The Paradise of Carniola,'21 deriving its name from its river, which, burrowing its way between hay-fields and orchards, seems disinclined to claim the visitor's notice, though entitled to it for more reasons than one. For this river, the Wipbach of our own day, the Frigidus Fluvius of the age of Theodosius, has not only historic fame, but is a phenomenon full of interest to the physical geographer. Close to the little town of Wipbach it bursts forth from the foot of the cliffs of the Birnbaumer Wald; no little rivulet such as one spring might nourish, but 'a full-fed river,' as deep and strong as the Aar at Thun, or the Reuss at Lucerne, like also to both those streams in the colour of its pale-blue waters, and, even in the hottest days of summer, unconquerably cool.22 Many a Roman legionary, marching along the great high road from Aquileia to Sirmium, has had reason to bless the refreshing waters of the mountain-born Frigidus. We know somewhat more than the philosophers of the camp could tell him p161 of the causes of this welcome phenomenon. The fact is that in the Wipbach Thal we are in the heart of one of those limestone regions where Nature so often amuses us with her wild vagaries. Only half a day's march distant lies the entrance to those vast chambers of imagery, the caverns of Adelsberg. The river Poik, which rushes roaring through those caverns for •two or three miles, emerges thence into the open country, disappears, reappears, again disappears, again reappears, and thus bears three different names in the course of its short history. A little further from Wipbach lies that other wonder of Carniola, the Zirknitzer See, where fishing in spring, harvesting in summer, and skating in winter, all take place over the same ground. The chilly wipback bursting suddenly forth from its seven sources in the Birnbaumer Wald is, it will be seen, but one of a whole family of similar marvels.
Leaving the blue waters of the Frigidus we remount the hills, and stand with Theodosius by the pear-tree on the crest of the pass. By his unexpected energy he has gained the heights, before the enemy could anticipate him, but that is all. Far away below him stretch the tents of the army of Eugenius; they line the sides of the river and fill all the valley. True to his constant policy, Theodosius has surrounded himself with a strong band of barbarian auxiliaries, and the commanders of these skin-clothed Teutons are some of the most influential men in his army. There is Gainas the p162 Goth, the same man who, six years hence, being general-in‑chief of all the forces of the Eastern Empire, will rebel against Arcadius, son of Theodosius, and will all but succeed in capturing Constantinople. Gainas is an Arian Christian, as are most of his countrymen by this time; but by his side, with perhaps equal dignity, rides the alan Saul, a heathen yet, notwithstanding his Biblical name. there too is the Catholic Bacurius, general of the household troops, who fought under Valens at Hadrianople, a man of Armenian origin, who is (according to Zosimus, IV.57) 'destitute of all evil inclinations and perfectly versed in the art of war.' There also, carefully noticing the lie of these mountain passes, and veiling his eagerness for the first sight of Italy, is a young Visigothic chieftain named Alaric.
Theodosius gave the order to descend into the valley and join battle. Owing to the roughness of the ground over which they were moving, the baggage-train broke down. A long and vexatious halt ensued. Theodosius, to whose mind the religious aspect of this war was ever present, and whose enthusiasm was at least as strongly stirred as was that of Constantine at the battle of the Milvian Bridge, rode forward to the head of his column, and in words borrowed from the old Hebrew Prophet, exclaimed, 'Where is the Lord God of Theodosius?' The troops caught the fervour of his spirit, the obstacle was quickly surmounted, and they descended to the conflict.
p163 The weight of that day's battle fell upon the Teutonic auxiliaries of the Emperor, and they were not successful. Bacurius, the brave and loyal-hearted Armenian, fell; 10,000 of the barbarians perished, and the ret, with their leaders, retired, but not in disorder, from the battle-field. When night fell, Theodosius was not indeed absolutely routed, but his position had become one of extreme peril. Eugenius, considering the victory as good as won, passed the night in feasting and in distributing largesse to the officers and soldiers who had most distinguished themselves in the encounter. Theodosius was advised by the generals to retreat during the night, and adjourn the campaign till next spring. But the soldier could not bear to retire before his Grammarian rival, and the Christian refused to allow the standard of the Cross to confess itself vanquished by the image of Hercules. He found a solitary place in a hill behind his army, and there he spent the night in earnest prayer to the Lord of the Universe. When the dawn was creeping over the Birnbaumer Wald he fell asleep. In his vision two men mounted on white steeds and clothed in white raiment appeared to him. They were not the great twin brethren who stood by Aulus on the margin of Lake Regillus; they were the Apostles St. John and St. Philip, and they bade Theodosius be of good courage since they were sent to fight for him in the coming day. The Emperor awoke and resumed his devotions yet more p164 earnestly. While he was thus engaged a centurion came to inform him of a remarkable dream which had occurred to one of the soldiers in his company. The dream of the soldier was the very same as that of the Augustus, and the marvellous coincidence of course gladdened all hearts.
Yet when in the early dawn the Emperor began again to move his troops down towards the scene of yesterday's encounter, he saw a sight which boded little good. Far back amid the recesses of the mountains were soldiers of the enemy, in ambush though imperfectly concealed, and threatening his line of retreat. The peril seemed more urgent than ever, but he contrived to call a parley with the officers of these troops, invisible probably to Eugenius, though seen by his antagonist, and he found them willing, almost eager, to enter his service if they could be assured of pay and promotion. The contract (not one of which either party had reason to be proud) was soon concluded, and Theodosius recorded on his tablets the high military offices which he bound himself to bestow on Count Arbitrio, the leader of the ambuscade, and on his staff. Strengthened by this reinforcement he made the sign of the cross, which was the concerted signal of battle, and his soldiers clashed against the foe, who in the security of victory were perhaps hardly ready for the onset. Ye that second day's battle was obstinately fought, and was at length decided by an event which may well have seemed miraculous to minds already raised to fever-heat by this p165 terribly even contest between the new faith and the old. In the very crisis of the battle a mighty wind arose from the north, that is to say from behind the troops of Theodosius, who were standing on the slopes of the Tarnovaner Wald. The impetuous gusts blew the dust into the faces of the Eugenians, and not only thus destroyed their aim, but even carried back their own weapons upon themselves and made it impossible to wound one of their adversaries with dart or with pilum. The modern traveller, without considering himself bound to acknowledge a miraculous interposition, has no difficulty in admitting the general truth of this narrative, which is strongly vouched for by contemporary authors. All over the Karst (as the high plateau behind Trieste is called) the ravages of the Bora, or north-east wind have long been notorious.23 Heavily-laden waggons have been overturned by its fury, and where no shelter is afforded from its blasts houses are not built, and trees will not grow. From the fruitful and well-clothed aspect of the Wipbach Thal it might be supposed that it was sheltered by its mountain bulwarks from this terrible visitation. But it is not so. All the way up from the village of Heidenschafft to the crest of the pass which bounds the Wipbach Thal, the Bora rages. Not many years ago the commander of a p166 squadron of Austrian cavalry was riding with his men past the very village which probably marks the site of the battle. An old man well versed in the signs of the weather warned him not to proceed, because he saw that the Bora was about to blow. 'No, indeed,' laughed the captain, 'What would people say if soldiers on horseback stopped because of the wind?' He continued his march, the predicted storm arose, and he lost eight men and three horses, swept by its fury into the waters of the Wipbach.24 The same cause which in our lifetime struck those eight men off the muster-rolls of the imperial-royal army, decided the battle of the Frigidus near fifteen centuries ago, and gave the whole Roman world to the family of Theodosius and the dominion of the Catholic faith.
The poet Claudian, describing the events of this memorable day, with all the audacity of a courtier makes them redound to the glory of his patron Honorius, son of Theodosius, a boy in the eleventh year of his age, who was a thousand miles away from the fighting, but to whose auspices, as he was Consul for the year, his father's victory might, by a determined flatterer, be ascribed.
'Down from the mountain, summoned by thy name
Upon your foes the chilly north wind came;
Back to the sender's heart his javelin hurled,
And from his powerless grasp the spear-staff whirled.
p167 Oh greatly loved of heaven! from forth his caves
Aeolus sends his armëd Storms, thy slaves.
Aether itself obeys thy sovereign will,
And conscript Winds move to thy bugles shrill.
The Alpine snows grew ruddy: the Cold Stream
Now, with changed waters, glided dank with steam,
And, but that every wave was swoln with gore,
Had fainted 'neath the ghastly load she bore.'
Eugenius, who seems not to have been in the thick of the fight, and who still deemed himself secure of victory, saw some of his soldiers running swiftly towards him. 'Are you bringing me Theodosius in bonds,' he shouted, 'according to my orders?' 'By no means,' they answered; 'he is conqueror, and we are pardoned on condition of carrying you to him.' They then loaded him with chains and bore him into the presence of Theodosius, who upbraided him with the murder of Valentinian, and, almost as if it were an equal crime, with setting up the statue of Hercules for worship. Eugenius grovelled at the feet of his rival, begging for life, but his entreaties were cut short by a soldier who severed his head from his body with a sword. This ghastly proof of failure carried round the camp upon a pole determined the last waverers to throw themselves on the mercy of Theodosius, who was now, at any rate, the only legitimate Roman Emperor. This mercy was easily extended to them, policy as well as religion making it incumbent on the Emperor to convert his late foes as speedily as possible into loyal soldiers. The barbarian p168 Arbogast, of whose generalship on the second day of the battle we hear nothing, fled to the steepest and most rugged part of the mountains (perhaps the Nanos Berg), and after wandering about for two days, finding every gorge which led down into the plain carefully watched, fell upon his sword, like King Saul among the mountains of Gilboa, and so perished. Thus fell the last of the antagonists of Theodosius.25
When the battle was ended, one of the earliest act of the Emperor was to overturn the statues of Jupiter with which the idolatrous usurper had garnished and, as he seems to have hoped, guarded p169 the Alpine passes. The hand of each statue of the god grasped, and was in act to hurl, a golden thunderbolt. When the statues were overthrown Theodosius distributed these golden bolts among his outriders. 'By such lightnings,' said the laughing soldiers, 'may we often be struck!' And the stately Emperor, according to St. Augustine,26 unbent from his usual high demeanour and 'permitted the merriment of the soldiers.'
These two victories of the Emperor, over Maximus and over Eugenius, important as they were, might, in circumstances which we can easily imagine, have had a far more important bearing on the history of Europe. Hitherto the West had been almost universally successful in its conflicts with the East. The Romans against Greece and Asia, Constantine against Licinius, Julian against Constantius, had all conquered with their backs to the setting sun. Now, nearly for the first time, Byzantium had vanquished Italy.27 Analysing the reasons for this success, we perceive that it was in fact the hardy Goths of the Danube who had won victories for Theodosius over Maximus and his Britons, over Arbogast and his Franks. Still the fact remains, whatever its cause, and had princes like Theodosius sat for a century longer upon the Eastern throne, it might have been fruitful of other facts, and might permanently have shifted the political centre of gravity of Europe.
p170 The following anecdotes, — the first two of them at least hardly deserve any more dignified name, — which have been preserved for us in the pages of the credulous and unhistorical Zosimus, seem worth transcribing for the illustrations which they afford of the temper of the times, and the relations of Romans and Barbarians to one another at the close of the fourth century.
1. 'At the Scythian town of Tomi [Ovid's place of banishment, now Kustendje in Bulgaria, •about sixty miles south of the Sulina mou of the Danube], some Roman troops were stationed under the command of Gerontius, a man of great strength of body and skill in war. Outside the town was a detachment of barbarian auxiliaries, the very flower of their nation in courage and manly beauty. These men saw that Theodosius provided them with richer equipments and larger pay than he gave to the Roman soldiers inside the town, yet they repaid the favour not with gratitude to the Emperor, but with arrogance towards Gerontius and unconcealed contempt for his men. Gerontius could not but see this, and suspected moreover that they intended days to seize the town and throw everything into confusion. He consulted with those of his officers on whose judgment he placed most reliance, how to check this increasing wantonness and insolence of the barbarians. But when he found them all hanging back through cowardice, and dreading the slightest movement among the barbarians, then he donned his armour, bid open the gates of the city, and with p171 certain of his guards — a number that you could very soon have counted — rode forth and set himself against all that multitude of barbarians. His own soldiers meanwhile were either asleep, or palsied with fear, or else running up to the battlements of the city to see what was about to happen. The barbarians sent up a great shout of laughter at the madness of Gerontius, and despatched some of their bravest against him, thinking to kill him out of hand. But he closed with the first who came, clutched hold of his shield, and fought on bravely till one of his guards with a sword lopped off the barbarian's shoulder (he could do no more, the two men's bodies were so closely intertwined) and dragged him down from off his horse. Then the barbarians began to be struck with awe at the splendid bravery of their foe, while Gerontius dashed forward to fresh encounters; and at the same time the men who were looking on from the walls of the city, seeing the mighty deeds wrought by their commander, were stung with remembrance of the once great name of Rome, and rushing forth from the gates slew many of the enemy, who were already panic-stricken and beginning to quit their ranks. The other barbarians took refuge in a building held sacred by the Christians and regarded as conferring immunity on fugitives. Gerontius, then, having by his magnificent courage freed Scythia28 from the dangers impending over p172 it, and obtained a complete mastery over the barbarians, naturally expected some recompense from his sovereign. But Theodosius being on the contrary deeply irritated by the of the barbarian warriors, whom he so highly prized [these events occurred during the usurpation of Maximus, and the slaughtered Goths were probably some of the men on whose help Theodosius relied for the impending civil war], peremptorily summoned Gerontius before him and required him to give a reason for his late conduct. The general pleaded the intended insurrection of the barbarians and their various acts of pillage and murder; but to all this the Emperor gave no heed, insisting that his true motives had been envy of the rich gifts bestowed on the barbarians, and a desire to have them put out of the way in order that his own robberies from them might be concealed. He alluded especially to some golden collars which had been given them by way of ornament. Gerontius proved that these, after the slaughter of the owners, had all been sent into the public treasury; yet, even so, he with difficulty escaped from the dangers which encompassed him, after spending all his property in bribes to the eunuchs about the court. And such were the worthy wages that he received for his zeal on behalf of Rome.'
2. In the next incident Theodosius himself is the chief actor, and even his severe critic, Zosimus, here bears testimony to his courage. The romantic and p173 probably coloured story sounds more like a page out of the Mort d'Arthur than an extract from a staid Byzantine historian.
'After the defeat of Maximus, in the year 388, Theodosius on his return to Thessalonica found Macedonia and Thessaly in a dismal state of confusion, all the marauders who had been unable to stand before his army having taken advantage of his absence to issue forth from their hiding-places in the marshes and ravage these two provinces. At the news of the Emperor's victory and return they slunk back into their dens by day, but constantly made nightly sallies to their old plundering-places. Fighting with such enemies as these was like warring on ghosts rather than on men. At length the Emperor resolved to disguise himself, and, taking with him five horsemen, each of whom held three or four horses with a loose bridle, to visit the quarters of the foe. The reserve horses were to be ridden in turns so as to give them a better chance of lasting, in the rough country through which the Emperor's journey lay. At length in the course of their wanderings they came to an inn kept by an old woman of whom the Emperor asked food and shelter. She received them courteously, gave them wine and other necessaries, and allowed them to spend the night under her roof. The Emperor when he lay down to rest espied a man who did not speak a single word, and seemed to wish to avoid observation. Calling the old woman to him, he asked who that man was p174 and whence he came. "I cannot tell," she answered, "but this I know, that ever since we heard of the return of Theodosius with his army, that man had lodged here, paying for his food regularly each day. All day he is absent from the house, wandering about where he likes; when night comes on he returns apparently from some hard work, takes his food and lies down in that fashion which you now observe." The Emperor determined to test the old woman's story; so he laid hold of the man and bade him say who he was. As he refused to answer, the horsemen examined him by scourging. He still continued stubborn, whereupon the Emperor said, "Hack him with your swords, men. He may as well know that I am the Emperor Theodosius himself." Then the man confessed that he was a spy of the barbarians who were hiding in the marshes, and that it was his business to tell them when and where they might come out, and what people or places it was safe for them to attack. Having immediately cut off his head the Emperor galloped to his army which was encamped at no great distance, led them to the place where he now knew that the barbarians were abiding, fell upon them all with the edge of the sword, dragged forth some from their hiding-places in the marshes, killed others as they were in the water, and in history made that and a great slaughter of the barbarians.'
3. The third anecdote takes us to the later years of the reign of Theodosius, and again illustrates p175 the precarious tenure by which Rome held the services of her Gothic auxiliaries.
'29 When the news came of the probability of a second civil war [on the murder of Valentinian II and the usurpation of Eugenius], there arose a difference of opinion among the chief of the barbarian tribes whom Theodosius had at the commencement of his reign admitted to his friendship and brotherhood in arms, whom he had honoured with many gifts, and for whom he had provided a daily banquet in common in his palace. For some of the chiefs loudly asserted that it would be better to despise the oaths which they swore when they gave themselves up to the Roman power, and others insisted that they must on no account depart from their plighted faith.30 The leader of the party who wished to trample on their oath of allegiance was Eriulph (or Priulph), while Fravitta (or Fraustius)31 headed the loyal party. Long was this internal dissension concealed, but one day at p176 the royal table after long potations they were so carried away with wrath that they openly manifested their discordant sentiments. The Emperor understanding what they were talking about, broke up the party but on their way home from the palace the quarrel became so exasperated that Fravitta drew his sword and dealt eriulph a mortal blow. Then the soldiers of the murdered man were about to rush upon Fravitta and kill him, but the imperial guards interposed and prevented the dispute from going any further.'
In the midst of the conflicting accounts which have come down to us of the character of Theodosius, one fact can be clearly discerned, that he was bent upon reversing the fatal policy of Valens, and while he dealt severely with those barbarians whose only thought was plunder, he was determined to enlist all that was noblest and in the best sense of the word most Teutonic among them in the service of Rome. Engaged in this enterprise one may liken him to a far-seeing statesman, who seeing an irresistible tide of democracy setting in and threatening to overwhelm the state, with liberal hand extends the privileges of citizenship to the worthiest of those who have been hitherto outside the pale, and from the enemies of the constitution turns them into its staunch defenders. Or he is like the theologian who, instead of attempting an useless defence of positions which have long since become untenable, questions the questioning spirit itself to discover p177 how much of truth it too may possess, and seeks to turn even the turbulent armies of doubt into champions of the eternal and essential verities of the faith.
Such, viewed on its intellectual side, was the policy of Theodosius towards the barbarians; and though it was a policy which led to complete and utter failure, it is not therefore to be condemned as necessarily unsound, for had his own life been prolonged to the ordinary period, or had his sons and possessed half of his courage and capacity, it is likely enough that his policy would have proved not a failure, but a success.
But probably another and less noble motive conduced to the very same course of action. His soldier's eye may have been pleased with the well-proportioned frames and noble stature of those children of the North. His pride as a sovereign may have been gratified by enlisting those fair-haired majestic Amali and Balti among his household guards, instead of the little, dark-featured, supple inhabitants of the lands bordering on the Mediterranean; and he may have indulged this fancy to the full, without considering the deep wound which he thus inflicted on what yet remained of Roman dignity by assigning these offices to foreigners, nor the heavy demands which he was obliged to make on an exhausted exchequer in order to provide the double pay, the daily banquets, the golden collars for his Gothic favourites.
p178 For Theodosius, whatever his other merits might be, does not shine as a financial administrator. The economical maxims of Valentinian and Valens, which had resulted in a considerable reduction of taxation, at least in the Eastern Empire, were all forgotten, magnificence and luxury were again the order of the day, and heavier taxes were laid upon a people impoverished by barbarian invasion.
One of the two great outbursts of popular fury which mark this reign, the insurrection at Antioch, was caused by financial misgovernment. In the year 387 the Emperor determined to commemorate the expiration of eight years of his own government and four of the conjoint rule of himself and his young son Arcadius, by the celebration of the Quinquennalia. This festival, instituted in imitation of the Greek Olympiads, was supposed to recur ever fifth year, that is, after the expiration of four entire years. It consisted in games, chariot-races, musical contests, but above all — in the present state of the Empire — it was an occasion for crowd largesse to the soldiery. Letters accordingly were written by the Emperor, commanding the provinces to furnish extraordinary contributions for these Quinquennalia. When these letters reached Antioch, the inhabitants, already sinking under the weight of the ordinary taxation, rose with an universal howl of execration against these new extra taxes, imposed for no necessity of the defence of the Empire, but merely to gratify the pride and feed the luxurious appetites p179 of the Spaniard and his mercenaries. The statues of Theodosius himself, of his father, his sons, and his wife Flaccilla, were thrown down with every mark of rage and contempt, and the city declared itself in revolt. Only for a few days, however: the soft Syrians had no plan of defence, no settled purpose of rebellion against the Roman government, and soon began to feel 'that they had no cause whereby they might give an account of this day's uproar.' The Emperor sent two generals with orders to punish the rebellious city: but two deputations, one civil none ecclesiastical, set forth to mollify his just resentment, and after fifty or sixty days of agonising suspense the inhabitants of Antioch received the glad tidings of the free and full pardon granted by Theodosius.
Three years later occurred the celebrated sedition of Thessalonica, an event which, by the ruthless punishment with which it was visited, left a far more fearful stain on the character of Theodosius than the sedition of Antioch, and seemed to show the evil influence which even three years of absolute dominion could exercise on a nature not originally cruel.
The cause of this sedition is so connected with the unnatural vices of the Graeco-Roman populations of that period, that a modern historian prefers to leave it undescribed. At the second act of the drama we find the populace, mad with the frenzy of the arena, fiercely shouting for the liberation p180 of a favourite charioteer whom Butheric (evidently a Teutonic name), commander of the forces in Illyria, had committed to prison. When cries and menaces did not avail to shake the Goth's stern purpose of punishment, they rose in armed rebellion, slew Butheric and some of the other Imperial officers, and dragged their bodies in triumph through the city. The rage of Theodosius when he heard of this insult to his authority was indescribable, and hurried him into a revenge the stupidity of which was equal to its wickedness. Without any attempt at a judicial inquiry to ascertain who were the authors of the rebellion, he sent his soldiers (many of them probably the countrymen of the murdered Butheric) to the city, with orders to bring back a certain number of heads. One historian32 places the number at 7000; another,33 probably exaggerating, fixes it at 15,000. But whatever may have been the number ordered, the peculiar atrocity of the mandate, its perfect indifference to the guilt or innocence of the victims, is admitted by all. There is something Oriental rather than Roman in this absolute contempt for even the semblance of justice, and it may be doubted if any, even among the most brutal of the wearers of the purple is stained with a more utterly unkingly crime than this. Moreover, as Gibbon has well observed, Thessalonica had been one of the favourite abodes of the Emperor, and the enormity of his guilt seems intensified by the fact that he p181 must have known by heart the look of the place which his soldiers were to fill with ghastly corpses, and that the citizens who, innocent of any crime, were to fall beneath the sword of his satellites, were men with many of whose faces he must have been familiar, men with whom perchance he had himself exchanged a friendly Salve on his way to the bath or the circus. Thessalonica was the scene of his dangerous illness, of his slow convalescence, of the baptism which was meant to mark his rising up to a purer and holier life. Strange that no softening remembrances came across his mind to prevent his indiscriminate slaughter of her sons. yet scens of which the following is a type must have been common during the massacre. A certain merchant (possibly one of the acquaintances of the Imperial murderer) had the misery of finding that his two sons were selected as victims. He entreated to be allowed to substitute himself for one of them; his tears, his gold, were almost effectual in obtaining this melancholy favour from the soldiery. But then the question arose, 'Which was to be the rescued one?' He looked from one face to another, both so dear, in an agony of indecision; and while he hesitated the brutal soldiers shouted out 'There is no time to lose, the number must be completed,' and slew both the young men before his eyes. Such was the crime of the massacre at Thessalonica, a crime which may have been atoned for in the sight of Heaven by the sincerity of the p182 subsequent repentance of the Emperor, but which in the judgment of history must stamp with indelible reprobation, not his character only but the constitution of the state under which such deeds were possible.
Theodosius, the able general and the passionate tyrant, is also conspicuous in history as an ecclesiastical umpire and legislator. To his achievements in that capacity — however harsh the transition — we must now pass. For he, if any man, might boast of complete success in deciding by imperial edict the difficult questions which had arisen concerning the mysteries of the Divine nature and in completing the alliance between Christianity (such as Christianity then was) and the Roman Empire.
To him the Church owes the Second General Council (that of Constantinople, 381) which finally established the word Homo-ousion in the creed and secured the triumph of the Athanasian doctrine.
To him also she is indebted for the inauguration of a system of firm, even pressure — unlike the fitful, unstatesmanlike persecutions of a Constantius or a Valens — by which both Heresy and Heathenism were ultimately extinguished. He showed the way to persecute successfully, and his sons and descendants, while lamentably failing to repent the inroads of the barbarians, exhibited great assiduity and energy, if not great originality, in the repeated edicts which they issued against the heretics.
To him also, at least as much as to Constantine, p183 must be attributed the permanent alliance between the Church and the State.
The following decrees will sufficiently illustrate the attitude now assumed by the Head of the civil government of Rome towards religious error, and herein we begin to discern two powers, still undeveloped and still in friendly union, the future working of which will not be always so harmonious.
380. An Edict of Theodosius, concerning the Catholic Faith, to the people of the city of Constantinople. 'We wish that all the nations who are subject to the rule of Our Clemency shall adhere to that religion which the divine Apostle Peter handed to the Romans (as is sufficiently shown by its existence among them to this day), and which it is obvious that Pope (Pontifex) Damasus follows, as well as Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolical holiness: so that according to the apostolical discipline and the evangelical doctrine we believe the One Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with equal might, in the Holy Trinity. We order those who follow this law to assume the name of Catholic Christians: we pronounce all others to be mad and foolish, and we order that they shall bear the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to bestow on their conventicles the title of churches: these are to be visited first by the divine vengeance, and secondarily by the stroke of our own authority, which we have received in accordance with the will of Heaven.'
p184 381. 'Let there be no place left to the heretics for celebrating the mysteries of their faith, no opportunity for their exhibiting their stupid obstinacy. Let all know that even any decree which this kind of men may in past times have obtained in their favour by fraud has now no validity. Let popular crowds be kept away from the assemblies, now pronounced unlawful, of all heretics. . . . He is to be accounted an assertor of the Nicene faith, and a true holder of the Catholic religion, who confesses Almighty God, and Christ the Son of God, one in name (with the Father), God of God, Light of Light; who does not by denying his existence insult the Holy Spirit from whom we receive all that we hope for as coming forth to us from the Great Parent of all; whose unstained faith holds fast that undivided substance of the incorruptible Trinity which the orthodox Greeks assert under the name of Ousia [the Homo-ousion]. These doctrines are abundantly proved to us, these are to be reverenced. Let all who do not accept these principles cease from those hypocritical wiles by which they claim for themselves the name — a name really alien from them — of the true religion: and their crimes being made manifest, let them receive a mark of opprobrium and be kept utterly away from even the thresholds of the churches, since we shall allow no heretics to hold their unlawful assemblies within the towns. If they attempt any outbreak, we order that their rage shall be quelled, and they shall be cast forth outside the walls of the cities, p185 so that the Catholic Churches the whole world over may be restored to the orthodox prelates who hold the Nicene faith.'
386.34'On the day of the Sun, which our ancestors properly called the Lord's Day, let all the business of the courts, the markets, the public assemblies cease; and let none seek to obtain payment of any debt, whether public or private, nor let there be any recognition of law-suits nef the umpires, whether legally appointed or voluntarily chosen. And let any one who shall swerve from his instinctive, obedience to the precept of our holy religion, be adjudged not only a man to be branded with infamy, but also guilty of sacrilege.'
392. 'Let no one in any station of life, high or low, in any city or other place, offer up an innocent victim to senseless idols, nor by a more secret sacrifice seek to propitiate the Lares by fire, the Genius with wine, the Penates with sweet incense, nor for such a purpose let any one kindle lights, throw frankincense on the fire, or hang up garlands. But if any one shall dare to kill and sacrifice a victim, or to derive auguries from the inspection of its steaming entrails, he shall be held guilty of treason, it shall be lawful for any one to inform against him, and he shall receive proper since, even though he may not have been plotting anything against the safety of the Emperor. For it is a sufficient crime on his part that he is desirous to violate the laws of Nature herself, to pry into forbidden p186 mysteries, to practise unlawful arts, to enquire into the end of another man's property, to look with hope upon another's death.
'But if any man shall offer incense to perishable images, the work of men's hands, and shall present to others the ridiculous spectacle of a man fearing what he himself has fashioned, whether he hangs the tree with garlands, or piles his altar of turf in their honour, since religion is grossly insulted even by these more slender forms of devotion, he shall be condemned to lose that house or that property in which he shall be proved to have practised heathen superstition. For we decree that all places belonging to the idolater from which the smoke of his incense hath ascended shall be impounded for the benefit of our exchequer. But if the rite have been practised in public temples or sanctuaries, or in some place belonging to another man, without the knowledge of its lord, the sacrificer shall pay twenty-five pounds weight of gold [about £1000] by way of fine. If the property-owner have connived at the idolatrous rite he shall be punished by the loss of his land. The Judges are to see to the immediate enforcement of this law under pain of a fine of thirty pounds weight of gold.'
One exception, a somewhat remarkable one, breaks the dull monotony of repressive and intolerant edicts. It is addressed to the Counts and Generals throughout the East.
'It is quite clear that Jewish sect is not prohibited by any law; and we are sorely displeased p187 that in some places their meetings should have been forbidden. Your Sublime Greatness therefore, on the receipt of this letter, will with fitting severity repress the too great zeal of those who, in the name of the Christian religion, presume on unlawful deeds and endeavour to destroy and plunder the Synagogues of the Jews.'
Thus di the reign and legislation of Theodosius mark out the lines of the future relationship between Pope and Emperor. It is singular to reflect that he too in his own person anticipated the humiliation of the Caesar before the successor of the Apostles which was so often enacted in the Middle Ages, and which was most vividly exemplified seven centuries after this time at Canossa. But the spiritual victor of this Emperor was no Pope, but Ambrose, Bishop of Milan; and the cause of the sovereign's degradation was no violation of ecclesiastical claims, but that great crime against humanity itself, the massacre of Thessalonica, which Ambrose denounced with holy fearlessness, like another Nathan in the presence of David, and for which he demanded the outward manifestation of the Emperor's repentance.
The previous life of Ambrose, well known to every reader of Church History, need be but slightly referred to. He was elected, while still an unbaptized catechumen and governor of the province, to the post of Bishop of Milan, having entered the church with his troops to quell the fury of the partisans of the two rival candidates. While he p188 soothed the people with his wise words, a little child, so the story runs, suddenly called out 'Ambrose is Bishop,' the words were caught up and carried round the church by the rapturous acclamation of the whole multitude
'Who found an omen in an infant's cry.'
Then came his long struggle with Justina, the Empress-mother, his occupation of the church of Milan, which was barricaded like a fortress, to keep out her Arian adherents, the vigils of the priest-sentinels, night and day, upon its towers, and the composition of the Ambrosian chant to cheer their wakefulness;35 his final deliverance through the intervention of Theodosius, his baptism of St. Augustine, and lastly, his marvellous alleged discovery of the remains of the two young soldier-martyrs, Gervasius and Protasius, in obedience to the dictates of a heavenly vision. These were the chief events in the life of Ambrose before his rebuke of Theodosius.
It was in the spring of the year 390, shortly after the massacre, that Theodosius presented himself in the church of Milan, intending there to take his customary part in the worship of the congregation. He was met, however, on the threshold by the Bishop, who in temperate but weighty words forbade him to enter. 'The magnitude of his p189 Empire, and the intoxicating influence of absolute power, might have prevented him from discerning as yet the enormity of his crime: but robed as he was in the imperial purple, he was still but a man whose body would crumble into dust, whose spirit would return to God who gave it. What account would he then be able to give of this dreadful massacre of his subjects? His subjects truly, but also his fellow-servants, men whose souls were as precious in God's sight as his own. How could one whose hands were still soiled with that innocent blood acceptably join in the worship of Almighty God. Let him depart, and in seclusion from the rest of the faithful, let him practise penitence and prayer till the time should come when he might fitly be absolved from his great transgression.'
Theodosius, 'who was well instructed in Scripture, and who well knew the respective limits of the ecclesiastical and temporal power,' received this rebuke with patience, obeyed the interdict, and returned sadly to the imperial palace. More than eight months after he made another attempt to obtain reconciliation with the Church; but with a strange want of tact, or of remembrance, he permitted the office of mediator to be assumed by Rufinus. Rufinus, a native of an obscure town in Gascony, had made his way to the court of Byzantium, and there, with nothing to recommend him either as statesman or as general, had clambered up by dint of flattery, intrigue, and calumny of his p190 competitor into the place of Praetorian Prefect, the highest position under the Emperor. His rapacity had made him the wealthiest and the most hated of all the ministers of Theodosius, and, scenting no doubt some plunder in the crime, he had, at least according to the belief of the people, been the chief instigator of the Thessalonian massacre. Such was the man whose fussy obsequiousness proposed to the depressed Emperor an attempt to procure a removal of the interdict, and actually prompted him to offer his own good offices in the negotiation. No wonder that Ambrose turned sharply round upon Rufinus and told him that he was more shameless than a dog to come to him, he of all men, on such an errand. Rufinus cringed, but hinted that the Emperor would insist on coming to the church. Ambrose replied, 'He shall slay me first. If he will change his emperorship into tyrantship, I cannot hinder him, but with my consent he comes not within these walls.'
Hearing of the ill-success of his messenger, the Emperor resolved to drink the cup of humiliation to the dregs, and went not to the church, but to the house of Ambrose, exclaiming, 'I will go and receive the censure which I deserve.' Ambrose again remonstrated with him for his tyranny: 'I repent of it,' said Theodosius. 'Repentance should be openly manifested, and should be accompanied by some precaution against the repetition of the offence.' 'What precaution can I take? Show me the remedy and I will adopt it.' 'Since passion p191 was the cause of thy fall, O Emperor, prepare a law which shall henceforth interpose an interval of thirty days between the signing of any capital sentence or decree of proscription and its execution. In these thirty days, if passion not justice dictated the decree, there will be a chance for reason to be heard, and the decree to be modified or revoked.'
Theodosius gladly accepted this wise and statesmanlike suggestion of the late Governor, and now Bishop of Milan, and having signed the new law was released from the interdict and permitted to enter the church. Prostrate on the floor he repeated the words of the 119th Psalm, 'My soul cleaveth unto the dust, quicken thou me according to Thy word,' and by sighs and tears, by smiting upon his forehead, and tearing his hair, he manifested to the assembled multitude the agony of his remorse.
After the service was ended, the weeping penitent laid his gift upon the table, and then remained within the altar railings waiting to receive the bread and wine. Ambrose sent him a message by a deacon commanding him to withdraw from that sacred enclosure which was reserved for priests only: 'The Emperor must worship with the rest of the laity outside the rails. The purple robe makes emperors only, not priests.' Theodosius humbly obeyed the mandate, merely observing that he had not intentionally erred, but had followed the usage of Constantinople which gave that place to the Emperor. (Already then, even before the separation p192 of the two Empires, the Italian priest held his head higher in the presence of Caesar than the Byzantine.) On his return to Constantinople he refused to occupy his old place of honour by the altar, saying to the wondering Bishop: 'With difficulty have I learned the difference between an emperor and a priest. It is hard for a ruler to meet with one willing to tell him the truth. Ambrose is the only man whom I consider worthy of the name of Bishop.'
Two other great names in ecclesiastical history, Jerome and Augustine, belong to this period. As a note of time it may be without while to observe that the eventful year 395, which ended the life of Theodosius, was that in which Augustine, now forty-one, was consecrated Bishop of Hippo, and that Jerome, who was then more than fifty, had been for nine years dwelling in seclusion at Bethlehem, and had completed half of his twenty years labour at the Latin translation of the Scriptures. thus three out of the four greatest Latin fathers, namely Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, saw the beginning of the downfall of the Empire, while the fourth, Gregory (540‑604), following them after an interval of two centuries, saw its ruin completed by the invasion of the Lombards.
One name, not ecclesiastical nor even Christian, but that of a Pagan poet, must also be mentioned here. The year 395 was the commencement of the literary career of Claudian, the last of the Roman poets, to was panegyrics on Theodosius p193 allusion has arrival been made. An Egyptian by birth, to whom Greek may have been and Latin must have been a foreign tongue, he nevertheless succeeded in imbuing himself with the spirit and reproducing the form of classical poetry. Undisturbed by the memories of the Isis, Osiris, and Serapis of his childish worship, and equally disdainful of the saints and angels, the virgins and martyrs of the now dominant Christian faith, he calmly imports the stage machinery of Olympus from the pages of Homer and Virgil, and applies it without a moment's hesitation to the events of his own day, to the defeat of Maximus and the elevation of Rufinus. He attaches himself always to some powerful patron, whose exploits are all but superhuman and whose character is stainless, while the patron's enemies are painted in tints of unredeemed blackness. This utter want of atmosphere in his colouring wearies the eye, and the perpetual rhetoric of his verse palls upon the ear; but with all his faults it is to him that we must look to make the dry bones of epitomists and church historians live again before us, and though his thought may often be poor, his expression is surely not always unworthy of his great master, Virgil. In this power over words he may perhaps be fitly compared to our own Byron, whose apostrophe to Rome
'O Rome, my country, city of my soul!'
seems to remind one of the untranslateable grandeur of Claudian's epithet,
'Urbs aequaeva polo.'
p194 The first poem of Claudian fits into the events after the battle of the Frigidus. The defeat of Arbogast and Eugenius occurred in the autumn of 394. The commencement of the following year was to be marked by a pleasing circumstance hitherto unknown in the Roman annals, the possession of the consular authority by two brothers. Probinus and Olybrius, two men still in the first dawn of adolescence, were the sons of Probus, a Roman noble who had filled some of the highest offices in the state under Gratian and Valentinian II. Claudian is the professed panegyrist of his sons, and the unbiassed voice of history does not altogether accord with his account of the generosity with which Probus employed his vast riches.
'Not on his wealth was seen the cavern's stain:
The darkness hid it not: for heaven's rain
Falls not so freely on the thirsting sward
As upon countless crowds his wealth was poured.'
It was deemed a fitting reward for the virtues or the success of Probus that the consulship for this year should be bestowed on his two sons. Claudian pictures the Goddess Rome flying northwards to obtain this boon of Theodosius immediately after his victory over Eugenius. She alights among the winding passes of the Alps — those passes impenetrable to all but Theodosius.
'Hard by, the victor on the turf reclined.
The joy of ended battle filled his mind,
The glad earth crowned with flowers her master's rest,
And the grass grew, rejoicing to be pressed,
Against a tree he leaned; his helm beneath
p195 Shone his calm brows, but still his panting breath
Came thick and fast, and still the hot sweat poured
Down those vast limbs. He lay like battle's Lord,
Great Mars, when, the Gelonian hosts o'erthrown,
He upon Gothic Haemus lays him down.
Bellona bears his arms; Bellona leads
Forth from the yoke his dusty, smoking steeds.
Trembles his weary arm. The quivering gleam
Of his vast spear falls far o'er Hebrus' stream.'
Of course the Imperial City's petition is granted. Proba, the venerable mother of the designated consuls, prepares for their use the gold-enwoven trabeae (the consular vestments), 'and shining garments of the tissue which the Chinese shave off from the soft [mulberry] foliage, gathering leafy fleeces from the wool-bearing forest.' Jupiter thunders his approval, and old father Tiber, startled by the sound, leaves his mossy bed and lays him down on the island opposite to the Aventine to watch, delighted, the loving brothers escorted by the Senate to the Forum, and the double set of fasces borne forth from the same door.
'O Time, well-marked by brother-memories dear
And brother-chiefs, O happy, happy year.
Let Phoebus now his fourfold toil bestow,
Send forth thy Winter first, not white with snow,
Nor numb with cold, nor vexed by tempests wild,
But tempered by the South-wind's whispers mild.
Then let sweet Zephyr bring the Spring serene
And gild with crocuses thy meadows green.
Let Summer deck thee with her cereal crown,
And Autumn with full clusters weigh thee down.
To thee alone is given the boast sublime,
Peerless in all the chronicles of Time,
That brothers were thy rulers: all our land
p196 Shall speak thy praise, the Hours with loving hand
Shall write in changing flowers thy honoured name,
And the dim Cens rehearse thy fame.'
The year 395 (or, as it was styled in the Fasti, 1148 from the foundation of the city) was certainly an eventful one, though not exactly in the way or for the reasons here assigned by Claudian. It brought with it the death of Theodosius; and the death of Theodosius was the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire. After the defeat of Eugenius (in September 394) the Emperor did not return to Constantinople, but went to Milan, then the favourite residence of the Western Caesars. He was still in the prime of life, and might naturally look forward to a long and prosperous retrogression. But his constitution seems to have been undermined — by luxury says the ever hostile Zosimus, by military fatigues and the cares of Empire is the charitable hope of history. Feeling that his end could not be far distant he sent for his little son Honorius, who came to him from Constantinople under the guardianship of his cousin Serena, wife of Stilicho. To him he bequeathed the Empire of the West; to his elder son Arcadius, who had been for twelve years his colleague, the Empire of the East, assigning Stilicho to the former and Rufinus to the latter as chief administrators of their kingdoms. Having made these dispositions, and received the blessing of Ambrose, he expired in February 395, it is to be feared without having read any of the p197 complimentary things which young Claudian had written of him in his Panegyric on Probinus and Olybrius.
So ended the career of Theodosius, generally styled the Great. Did he deserve that title, which he probably received at first from the Catholic party for the services, undoubtedly eminent, which he rendered to their cause? In comparison with the infinite littleness of every Roman Emperor during the succeeding century, he is rightly named; but how as to his own essential greatness? There is a certain magnificence and stateliness about him which would seem to justify posterity in naming him 'the Ground,' but of greatness his prematurely interrupted life makes it difficult to judge. Had his conciliatory policy towards the barbarians saved the Empire (and who can say what thirty years more of that policy under a wise and firm ruler might have effected?) he had been greater than Africanus, greater than Caesar. As it is, his life lies like a ruined sea-wall amidst the fierce barbarian tide, and the ravaged lands beyond it seem to say, but perhaps untruly, 'Thou couldest never have been a barrier to defend us.'
To me, earnestly striving to form an impartial estimate of his character, he seems to have been a true Spaniard both in his virtues and his faults. The comparison may seem fanciful, as many other elements have since combined to form the Spanish character; but let it be taken for what it is worth. The hero of those strange encounters with the p198 Barbarians of the marshes, recalls the figure of his countryman El Consider Campeador; the author of the Edict concerning the Catholic faith reminds us of the title of 'His Most Catholic Majesty'; his steady perseverance in the suppression of Heresy is worthy of Philip II; his magnificence suggests the Escorial, his ferocity the bull-fight; his procrastination in his dealings with Maximus and Arbogast, the phrase 'hasta la º mañana;'36 his mismanagement of the finances, the wrongs of the Spanish bondholder.
Here is one estimate of the character of Theodosius. Those who desire a more favourable picture may find it often repeated in the pages of the courtly Claudian. His apotheosis of the Emperor is painted with such strength of colour that the very extravagance of the flattery makes it almost sublime. He represents the dying Theodosius adjuring Stilicho, by the ties of gratitude and kindred, to be a faithful guardian to his sons. Then —
'He ceased, nor longer on the earth might stay,
But through the clouds he clove his radiant way.
He enters Lunas's sphere; he leaves behind
Arcadian Mercury's threshold. Soon the wind —
The gentle wind of Venus — fans his face,
And thence he seeks the Sun's bright dwelling-place.37
The sullen flame of Mars and placid Jove
He passes next, and now stands high above,
p199 Where, at the summit of the spheres is spread
The zone made hard by Saturn's chilly tread.
The frame of Heaven is loosed, the gleaming gates
Stand open; for this guest Boötes waits
Within his northern home; and southward far
Hunter Orion greets the Stranger Star.
Each courts his friendship; each alternate prays
That in his sky the new-lit fire may blaze.
Oh! Glory once of Earth, and now of Air,
Wearied, thou still dost to thy home repair.
For Spain first bore thee on her noble breast,
And in Spain's ocean dost thou sink to rest.
At thy proud rising, O exultant sire,
Thou seest Arcadius: when thy coursers tire,
The loved Honorius stays they westering fire,
And wheresoe'er through heaven thine orbit runs
Thou seest the world-wide kingdom of thy sons;
Thy sons, whose wise serenity of soul
And patient cares the conquered tribes control.'
The Roman Empire certainly held out splendid possibilities to ambition. Since its fall never has a mere Spanish gentleman of respectable birth and talents been turned into a star.
2 Eunapius, p52 (ed. Bonn).
3 Ammianus, XXXI.16.7.
4 Eunapius, p50: παιδες δὲ αὐτῶν πρός τε τὴν εὐκρασίαν τῶν ἀέρων ἀνέδραμον καὶ παρὰ τὴν ηλικιαν ἥβησαν.
6 Ammianus, XXVII.8.7, and XXVIII.3.1.
7 'Glacialis Ierne' Claudian de IV Cons. Honorii, 30‑34.
8 Orosius, VII.33.
9 This is the possibly inaccurate account of the matter given by Jornandes, De Reb. Get. cap. XXVII.
10 Again we have only the doubtful authority of Jornandes (De Reb. Get. XXVIII) for an event in itself somewhat improbable.
11 De Reb. Get. XXVIII.
12 Historia Miscella, p86 (apud Muratori, vol. I); Ammianus, XXXI.10.18‑19.
14 'Ille quondam domus tuae (Theodosii) negligentissimus vernula, mensularumque servilium statarius lixa.' (Pacatus, Paneg. XXXI).
15 The Belgrade story rests on the authority of Zosimus (IV.35); the story of the Empress's litter on that of the Historia Miscella (p85, apud Muratori, vol. I). Prosper, who is perhaps our best authority, also places the assassination at Lyons.
16 This priestly pun or prophecy had a meaning which reached further on into the future than the author himself knew. It was true indeed that if the Emperor refused the mysterious title of Greatest Pontifex, with its accumulated sanctity of ages, that title would not be lost. Another race of men, another dynasty, one of priests, even now emerging from persecution through popularity into power were ready to assume the dropped dignity. Theodosius apparently never called himself Pontifex Maximus, but in the year 417 (if the year be authentic) Zosimus (the pope, not the historian) already speaks of himself quite naturally as Summus Pontifex (Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum, pp937, 971; ed. Constant, Paris, 1721). When the change from Summus back to the more familiar Maximus was made does not seem to be clearly ascertained.
17 Claudian, De III Cons. Honorii, 66; De IV Cons. Honorii, 74.
18 He is called Ἀντιγραφεύς, which is thought to mean that he was one of the four Magistri Scriniorum (which we may perhaps translate Clerks of the Closet): only a 'spectabilis' therefore, not an 'illustris.'
20 Sozomen VII.24.
21 Schaubach's die Deutschen Alpen, V.368.
22 The Wipbach has seven large sources, besides numberless small ones, all at the foot of the same cliffs. The largest and most picturesque of the sources is behind the palace and in the garden of Count Lantieri.
23 Is the fury of the Bora owing to the abrupt termination here of the great Alpine wall, or to some conflict between the climate of the Adriatic shores and that of the valleys of the affluents of the Danube?
24 It was interesting to hear this story (unsolicited by any question on my part, but which at once recalled Claudian's well-known lines) from the mouth of 'Michele il Tedesco' the vetturino who drove me from Gorizia to Adelsberg (1878).
25 The question of the exact site of the battle of Frigidus should be determined after a careful examination of the topf, such as no historian seems yet to have thought it worth while to institute. The slight consideration which I have been able to give to the subject on the spot leads me to believe that the battle was fought near Heidenschafft; the forces of Theodosius being, as I have said, on the lower slopes of the Tarnovaner Wald, and those of Eugenius in the valley and upon the range of lower hills opposite. There are three names of towns or villages in the valley, all of which might possibly be connected with the battle. Battuglia, about an hour below Heidenschafft, might be a corruption of Battaglia. The town of Heiligenkreuz, conspicuous on its pedestal of rock jutting out into the valley, may perhaps have derived its name originally from some erection by the Emperor in honour of the Holy Cross, which was his battle-signal, and allusions to which were so constantly on his lips during those two critical days. And is it too much to suggest that Heidenschafft itself may, either as a corruption of Heidenschlacht or in some other way, be connected with 'the overthrow of the Heathens'? Three languages, Italian, German, and Slovenic, are jammed up against one another in this corner of Austria, and probably no one of them is spoken with accuracy.
26 De Civitate Dei, V.26.
27 The exception is the conflict between Constantius and Magnentius, 351.
28 The Roman province of Scythia, corresponding to the modern Dobrudscha.
30 According to Eunapius, one party exhorted that they should rest content with their present prosperity, the result of their league with the Romans, while the other insisted that they should revert to that attitude of eternal and unresting hostility to Rome, and determination to conquer her territory, to which they had bounded themselves by solemn oaths while still in their own land.
31 Probably Fra-veitands 'the Avenger.' Eunapius tells us that he was a man who truly held the Homeric sentiment —
'My soul abhors as the gates of hell.
Who dares think one thing and another tell,'
that he married a Roman wife and became just like a Roman.
32 Theodoret, V.17.
33 Theophanes, p62 (Paris ed. 1655).
34 Not in Ritter's edition.
'Deus creator omnium
Polique rector vestiens
Diem decoro lumine
Noctem sopore gratis.'
36 'Till to‑morrow.'
37 Of course, as the astronomy is Ptolemaic, the Sun takes the place between Venus and Mars which Copernicus has taught us to assign to the Earth.
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