The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire
By Edward Gibbon
Proportion of the  military  force, to the number of the people
          THE power of the sword is more sensibly felt in an extensive
          monarchy than in  a  small community. It has been calculated
          by the ablest politicians, that no state, without being soon
          exhausted, can maintain  above  the  hundredth  part  of its
          members in arms  and  idleness.  But  although this relative
          proportion may be  uniform,  the  influence of the army over
          the rest of the society will vary according to the degree of
          its positive strength.  The  advantages  of military science
          and discipline cannot  be exerted, unless a proper number of
          soldiers are united into one body, and actuated by one soul.
          With a handful  of  men, such an union would be ineffectual;
          with an unwieldy  hosts  it  would be impracticable; and the
          powers of the  machine  would  be  alike  destroyed  by  the
          extreme minuteness, or the excessive weight, of its springs.
          To illustrate this  observation  we  need only reflect, that
          there is no  superiority  of  natural  strength,  artificial
          weapons, or acquired  skill,  which  could enable one man to
          keep  in constant  subjection  one  hundred  of  his  fellow
          creatures: the tyrant of a single town, or a small district,
          would soon discover  that  an hundred armed followers were a
          weak defence against  ten thousand peasants or citizens; but
          an hundred thousand  well disciplined soldiers will command,
          with despotic sway,  ten millions of subjects; and a body of
          ten or fifteen  thousand  guards will strike terror into the
          most numerous populace  that  ever crowded the streets of an
          immense capital.

The Praetorian guards 
          The Praetorian bands,  whose  licentious  fury was the first
          symptom and cause  of  the  decline  of  the  Roman  empire,
          scarcely  amounted to  the  last-mentioned  number. (1)  They
Their      derived their institution from Augustus. That crafty tyrant,
institution  sensible that laws  might  colour, but that arms alone could
          maintains his usurped  dominion,  had  gradually formed this
          powerful body of guards in constant readiness to protect his
          person, to awe the senate, and either to prevent or to crush
          the  first motions  of  rebellion.  He  distinguished  these
          favoured troops by  a  double  pay, and superior privileges;
          but, as their  formidable  aspect would at once have alarmed
          and irritated the  Roman  people,  three  cohorts  only were
Their      stationed in the capital; whilst the remainder was dispersed
camp       in the adjacent  towns  of Italy.(2) But after fifty years of
          peace  and  servitude,   Tiberius  ventured  on  a  decisive
          measure, which forever  riveted  the fetters of his country.
          Under the fair  pretences  of relieving Italy from the heavy
          burthen of military  quarters, and of introducing a stricter
          discipline among the guards, he assembled them at Rome, in a
          permanent camp,(3)  which  was fortified with skilful care,(4)
          and placed on a commanding situation.(5)

Their strength and confidence
          Such formidable servants  are  always  necessary,  but often
          fatal to the  throne  of  despotism. By thus introducing the
          Praetorian guards, as  it  were,  into  the  palace  and the
          senate, the emperors  taught  them  to  perceive  their  own
          strength, and the  weakness of the civil government; to view
          the vices of  their  masters  with familiar contempt, and to
          lay aside that  reverential  awe,  which  distance only, and
          mystery, can preserve  towards  an  imaginary  power. In the
          luxurious idleness of  an  opulent  city,  their  pride  was
          nourished by the sense of their irresistible weight; nor was
          it possible to  conceal  from  them,  that the person of the
          sovereign, the authority of the senate, the public treasure,
          and the seat  of  empire, were all in their hands. To divert
          the Praetorian bands  from  these dangerous reflections, the
          firmest and best  established  princes  were  obliged to mix
          blandishments with commands,  rewards  with  punishments, to
          flatter their pride,  indulge  their  pleasures,  connive at
          their irregularities, and to purchase their precarious faith
          by  a  liberal  donative;  which,  since  the  elevation  of
          Claudius, was exacted  as a legal claim, on the accession of
          every new emperor.(6)

Their specious claims
          The  advocates of  the  guards  endeavoured  to  justify  by
          arguments, the power  which  they  asserted  by arms; and to
          maintain that, according  to  the  purest  principles of the
          constitution, their consent was essentially necessary in the
          appointment of an  emperor.  The  election  of  consuls,  of
          generals, and of  magistrates,  however it had been recently
          usurped by the  senate,  was the ancient and undoubted right
          of the Roman  people.(7) But where was the Roman people to be
          found? Not surely  amongst the mixed multitude of slaves and
          strangers  that  filled  the  streets  of  Rome;  a  servile
          populace, as devoid  of spirit as destitute of property. The
          defenders of the  state,  selected  from  the  flower of the
          Italian youth,(8)  and  trained  in  the exercise of arms and
          virtue, were the  genuine representatives of the people, and
          the  best entitled  to  elect  the  military  chief  of  the
          republic. These assertions,  however  defective  in  reason,
          became unanswerable, when  the  fierce Praetorians increased
          their weight, by  throwing,  like the barbarian conqueror of
          Rome, their swords into the scale.(9)

They offer the empire to sale
          The Praetorians had  violated the sanctity of the throne, by
          the  atrocious murder  of  Pertinax;  they  dishonoured  the
          majesty of it,  by  their  subsequent  conduct. The camp was
          without a leader,  for  even  the  Praefect  Laetus, who had
          excited  the  tempest,   prudently   declined   the   public
          indignation.  Amidst  the  wild  disorder  Sulpicianus,  the
          emperor's father-in-law, and  governor  of the city, who had
          been sent to  the  camp  on  the  first alarm of mutiny, was
          endeavouring to calm  the fury of the multitude, when he was
          silenced by the  clamorous  return of the murderers, bearing
          on  a  lance  the  head  of  Pertinax.  Though  history  has
          accustomed us to  observe  every principle and every passion
          yielding  to the  imperious  dictates  of  ambition,  it  is
          scarcely  credible  that,   in   these  moments  of  horror,
          Sulpicianus should have  aspired to ascend a throne polluted
          with  the recent  blood  of  so  near  a  relation,  and  so
          excellent a prince.  He  had  already  begun to use the only
          effectual argument, and  to  treat for the Imperial dignity;
          but the more  prudent of the Praetorians, apprehensive that,
          in this private  contract,  they  should  not  obtain a just
          price  for  so  valuable  a  commodity,  ran  out  upon  the
          ramparts; and, with  a loud voice, proclaimed that the Roman
          world was to  be  disposed  of  to the best bidder by public

It is purchased by Julian, A.D. 193. March 28th
          This infamous offer,  the  most  insolent excess of military
          licence, diffused an universal grief, shame, and indignation
          throughout the city. It reached at length the ears of Didius
          Julianus, a wealthy  senator,  who, regardless of the public
          calamities, was indulging  himself  in  the  luxury  of  the
          table.(11) His  wife  and  his daughter, his freedmen and his
          parasites, easily convinced him that he deserved the throne,
          and  earnestly conjured  him  to  embrace  so  fortunate  an
          opportunity.  The  vain  old  man  (A.D.  193,  March  28th)
          hastened to the Praetorian camp, where Sulpicianus was still
          in treaty with the guards; and began to bid against him from
          the  foot of  the  rampart.  The  unworthy  negotiation  was
          transacted by faithful  emissaries,  who  passed alternately
          from one candidate to the other, and acquainted each of them
          with  the offers  of  his  rival.  Sulpicianus  had  already
          promised a donative  of  five  thousand  drachms  (above one
          hundred and sixty  pounds)  to  each  soldier;  when Julian,
          eager for the prize, rose at once to the sum of six thousand
          two hundred and  fifty  drachms,  or  upwards of two hundred
          pounds sterling. The gates of the camp were instantly thrown
          open to the purchaser; he was declared emperor, and received
          an  oath of  allegiance  from  the  soldiers,  who  retained
          humanity enough to  stipulate  that  he  should  pardon  and
          forget the competition of Sulpicianus.

Julian is acknowledged by the senate
          It was now  incumbent  on  the  Praetorians  to  fulfil  the
          conditions of the  sale.  They  placed  their new sovereign,
          whom they served and despised, in the centre of their ranks,
          surrounded  him  on  every  side  with  their  shields,  and
          conducted him in  close order of battle through the deserted
          streets of the  city.  The senate was commanded to assemble,
          and  those  who   had  been  the  distinguished  friends  of
          Pertinax,  or the  personal  enemies  of  Julian,  found  it
          necessary to affect a more than common share of satisfaction
          at this happy  revolution. (12)  After  Julian had filled the
          senate-house  with armed  soldiers,  he  expatiated  on  the
          freedom of his  election,  his  own eminent virtues, and his
          full  assurance  of   the  affections  of  the  senate.  The
          obsequious assembly congratulated  their  own and the public
          felicity; engaged their allegiance, and conferred on him all
          the several branches  of  the  Imperial  power. (13) from Takes       senate  Julian  was   conducted,   by   the   same  military
possession   procession, to take  possession  of  the  palace.  The first
of the      objects that struck  his  eyes  were  the abandoned trunk of
palace.     Pertinax  and the  frugal  entertainment  prepared  for  his
          supper. The one  he viewed with indifference; the other with
          contempt. A magnificent feast was prepared by his order, and
          he amused himself  till  a very late hour with dice, and the
          performances of Pylades,  a  celebrated  dancer.  Yet it was
          observed, that after  the crowd of flatterers dispersed, and
          left him to  darkness, solitude, and terrible reflection, he
          passed a sleepless  night;  revolving  most  probably in his
          mind  his  own   rash   folly,  the  fate  of  his  virtuous
          predecessor, and the  doubtful  and  dangerous  tenure of an
          empire, which had  not been acquired by merit, but purchased
          by money.(14)

The public discontent.
          He had reason  to  tremble.  On  the  throne of the world he
          found  himself  without   a  friend,  and  even  without  an
          adherent. The guards  themselves  were ashamed of the prince
          whom their avarice  had  persuaded  them  to accept; nor was
          there a citizen  who  did  not  consider  his elevation with
          horror, as the  last  insult on the Roman name. The nobility
          whose conspicuous station  and ample possessions exacted the
          strictest caution, dissembled  their sentiments, and met the
          affected civility of  the emperor with smiles of complacency
          and professions of  duty.  But  the  people, secure in their
          numbers and obscurity,  gave  a free vent to their passions.
          The  streets  and  public  places  of  Rome  resounded  with
          clamours and imprecations.  The  enraged multitude affronted
          the person of Julian, rejected his liberality, and conscious
          of the impotence  of their own resentment, they called aloud
          on the legions  of  the  frontiers  to  assert  the violated
          majesty of the Roman empire.

The armies of Britain, Syria, and Pannonia declare against Julian.
          The public discontent  was  soon diffused from the centre to
          the frontiers of  the  empire.  The  armies  of  Britain, of
          Syria, and of  Illyricum, lamented the death of Pertinax, in
          whose company, or  under  whose  command,  they had so often
          fought and conquered.  They  received  with  surprises  with
          indignation,  and  perhaps   with  envy,  the  extraordinary
          intelligence that the Praetorians had disposed of the empire
          by public auction;  and  they  sternly refused to ratify the
          ignominious bargain. Their  immediate  and  unanimous revolt
          was fatal to  Julian,  but  it was fatal at the same time to
          the public peace;  as the generals of the respective armies,
          Clodius Albinus, Pescennius  Niger,  and  Septimius Severus,
          were still more  anxious  to  succeed  than  to  revenge the
          murdered Pertinax. Their  forces were exactly balanced. Each
          of them was at the head of three legions,(15) with a numerous
          train  of  auxiliaries;   and   however   different  in  the
          characters,  they  were   all  soldiers  of  experience  and

Clodius Albinus in Britain.
          Clodius Albinus, governor  of  Britain,  surpassed  both his
          competitors in the  nobility  of  his  extraction,  which he
          derived from some  of  the most illustrious names of the old
          republic.(16) But  the  branch  from  whence  he  claimed his
          descent was sunk  into  mean circumstances, and transplanted
          into a remote  province. It is difficult to form a just idea
          of  his true  character.  Under  the  philosophic  cloak  of
          austerity, he stands accused of concealing most of the vices
          which degrade human  nature. (17)  But his accusers are those
          venal  writers  who  adored  the  fortune  of  Severus,  and
          trampled on the  ashes  of an unsuccessful rival. Virtue, or
          the  appearances  of  virtue,  recommended  Albinus  to  the
          confidence and good  opinion  of  Marcus; and his preserving
          with the son  the  same  interest which he had acquired with
          the father, is a proof, at least, that he was possessed of a
          very flexible disposition.  The  favour of a tyrant does not
          always suppose a  want of merit in the object of it; he may,
          without intending it,  reward a man of worth and ability, or
          he may find  such  a  man useful to his own service. It does
          not appear that  Albinus served the son of Marcus, either as
          the minister of  his  cruelties, or even as the associate of
          his pleasures. He  was  employed  in  a  distant  honourable
          command, when he  received  a  confidential  letter from the
          emperor, acquainting him  of the treasonable designs of some
          discontented  generals,  and   authorising  him  to  declare
          himself  the  guardian  and  successor  of  the  throne,  by
          assuming the title and ensigns of Caesar.(18) The governor of
          Britain wisely declined  the  dangerous  honour, which would
          have marked him  for  the  jealousy,  or involved him in the
          approaching ruin, of  Commodus.  He courted power by nobler,
          or, at least,  by  more specious arts. On a premature report
          of the death  of  the emperor, he assembled his troops; and,
          in an eloquent  discourse, deplored the inevitable mischiefs
          of despotism, described  the happiness and glory which their
          ancestors had enjoyed  under  the  consular  government, and
          declared his firm  resolution  to  reinstate  the senate and
          people in their  legal  authority. This popular harangue was
          answered by the  loud  acclamations  of the British legions,
          and received at  Rome with a secret murmur of applause. Safe
          in the possession  of  this little world, and in the command
          of an army less distinguished indeed for discipline than for
          numbers  and  valour, (19)  Albinus  braved  the  menaces  of
          Commodus, maintained towards  Pertinax  a  stately ambiguous
          reserve, and instantly  declared  against  the usurpation of
          Julian. The convulsions  of  the capital added new weight to
          his sentiments, or  rather to his professions of patriotism.
          A regard to  decency induced him to decline the lofty titles
          of Augustus and Emperor; and he imitated perhaps the example
          of Galba, who, on a similar occasion, had styled himself the
          Lieutenant of the senate and people.(20)

Pescennius  Niger in Syria.
          Personal merit alone  had  raised  Pescennius  Niger from an
          obscure birth and  station  to  the  government  of Syria; a
          lucrative and important  command,  which  in  times of civil
          confusion gave him  a  near  prospect of the throne. Yet his
          parts seem to  have been better suited to the second than to
          the first rank;  he  was  an  unequal rival, though he might
          have approved himself  an  excellent lieutenant, to Severus,
          who  afterwards displayed  the  greatness  of  his  mind  by
          adopting  several  useful  institutions  from  a  vanquished
          enemy.(21) In  his  government,  Niger acquired the esteem of
          the soldiers, and  the  love  of  the provincials. His rigid
          discipline fortified the  valour and confirmed the obedience
          of the former,  whilst  the  voluptuous  Syrians  were  less
          delighted with the mild firmness of his administration, than
          with  the  affability  of  his  manners,  and  the  apparent
          pleasure with which  he  attended their frequent and pompous
          festivals.(22) As  soon  as the intelligence of the atrocious
          murder of Pertinax  had  reached Antioch, the wishes of Asia
          invited Niger to  assume the Imperial purple and revenge his
          death. The legions  of  the  eastern  frontier  embraced his
          cause; the opulent  but unarmed provinces from the frontiers
          of Ethiopia(23)  to the Hadriatic cheerfully submitted to his
          power; and the  kings  beyond  the  Tigris and the Euphrates
          congratulated his election, and offered him their homage and
          services. The mind  of  Niger  was  not capable of receiving
          this sudden tide  of  fortune; he flattered himself that his
          accession would be undisturbed by competition, and unstained
          by civil blood;  and  whilst  he  enjoyed  the  vain pomp of
          triumph,  he neglected  to  secure  the  means  of  victory.
          Instead of entering  into  an effectual negotiation with the
          powerful armies of  the west, whose resolution might decide,
          or at least  must  balance,  the  mighty contest; instead of
          advancing without delay  towards  Rome  and Italy, where his
          presence was impatiently  expected,(24) Niger trifled away in
          the luxury of Antioch those irretrievable moments which were
          diligently improved by the decisive activity of Severus.(25)

Pannonia  and  Dalmatia.
          The country of  Pannonia  and  Dalmatia,  which occupied the
          space between the  Danube  and the Hadriatic, was one of the
          last and most  difficult  conquests  of  the  Romans. In the
          defence of national  freedom,  two hundred thousand of these
          barbarians had once  appeared  in  the  field,  alarmed  the
          declining  age  of  Augustus,  and  exercised  the  vigilant
          prudence of Tiberius  at  the head of the collected force of
          the empire.(26)  The Pannonians yielded at length to the arms
          and institutions of  Rome. Their recent subjection, however,
          the neighbourhood, and  even the mixture, of the unconquered
          tribes, and perhaps  the  climate,  adapted,  as it has been
          observed, to the  production of great bodies and slow minds,
         (27)  all  contributed  to  preserve  some  remains  of  their
          original  ferocity,  and   under   the   tame   and  uniform
          countenance of Roman  provincials, the hardy features of the
          natives were still  to  be  discerned.  Their  warlike youth
          afforded an inexhaustible  supply of recruits to the legions
          stationed on the  banks  of  the  Danube,  and which, from a
          perpetual warfare against  the  Germans and Sarmatians, were
          deservedly esteemed the best troops in the service.

Septimus Severus.
          The Pannonian army  was  at this time commanded by Septimius
          Severus, a native  of  Africa, who, in the gradual ascent of
          private honours, had  concealed  his  daring ambition, which
          was never diverted from its steady course by the allurements
          of pleasure, the  apprehension of danger, or the feelings of
          humanity.(28) On the first news of the murder of Pertinax, he
          assembled his troops, painted in the most lively colours the
          crime, the insolence,  and  the  weakness  of the Praetorian
          guards, and animated  the legions to arms and to revenge. He
          concluded  (and  the   peroration   was   thought  extremely
          eloquent) with promising  every  soldier  about four hundred
          pounds; an honourable  donative,  double  in  value  to  the
          infamous bribe with  which  Julian had purchased the empire.(29)
Declared    The acclamations  of the army immediately saluted Severus
Emperor     with the names  of  Augustus,  Pertinax, and Emperor; and he
by the      (A.D. 193, April  13th)  thus  attained the lofty station to
Pannonian   which he was invited, by conscious merit and a long train of
legions.    dreams and omens,  the  fruitful  offspring  either  of  his
A.D. 193.   superstition or policy.(30)
April 13th      
          The new candidate  for  empire saw and improved the peculiar
          advantage of his  situation.  His  province  extended to the
          Julian Alps, which  gave  an  easy access into Italy; and he
Marches into remembered the saying  of  Augustus,  that  a Pannonian army
Italy       might in ten  days appear in sight of Rome.(31) By a celerity
          proportioned to the  greatness  of  the  occasion,  he might
          reasonably hope to  revenge  Pertinax,  punish  Julian,  and
          receive the homage of the senate and people, as their lawful
          emperor, before his  competitors, separated from Italy by an
          immense tract of sea and land, were apprised of his success,
          or even of  his  election.  During  the  whole expedition he
          scarcely allowed himself  any  moments  for  sleep  or food;
          marching on foot, and in complete armour, at the head of his
          columns,  he insinuated  himself  into  the  confidence  and
          affection of his  troops,  pressed  their diligence, revived
          their spirits, animated  their hopes, and was well satisfied
          to share the  hardships  of  the  meanest soldier, whilst he
          kept in view the infinite superiority of this reward.

Advances towards Rome 
          The  wretched  Julian  had  expected,  and  thought  himself
          prepared, to dispute  the empire with the governor of Syria;
          but in the  invincible  and  rapid approach of the Pannonian
          legions, he saw  his  inevitable  ruin. The hasty arrival of
          every messenger increased  his  just  apprehensions.  He was
          successively informed that Severus had passed the Alps; that
          the  Italian cities,  unwilling  or  unable  to  oppose  his
          progress, had received  him  with the warmest professions of
          joy and duty;  that  the  important  place  of  Ravenna  had
          surrendered without resistance, and that the Hadriatic fleet
          was in the  hands of the conqueror. The enemy was now within
          two hundred and  fifty  miles  of  Rome;  and  every  moment
          diminished the narrow  span  of  life and empire allotted to

Distress of Julian 
          He attempted, however,  to prevent, or at least to protract,
          his ruin. He  implored  the  venal faith of the Praetorians,
          filled the city  with  unavailing preparations for war, drew
          lines  round  the   suburbs,   and   even  strengthened  the
          fortifications of the palace; as if those last intrenchments
          could  be  defended   without   hope  of  relief  against  a
          victorious invader. Fear and shame prevented the guards from
          deserting his standard; but they trembled at the name of the
          Pannonian legions, commanded  by an experienced general, and
          accustomed to vanquish  the barbarians on the frozen Danube.
         (32) They quitted, with a sigh, the pleasures of the baths and
          theatres,  to  put  on  arms,  whose  use  they  had  almost
          forgotten,  and  beneath  the  weight  of  which  they  were
          oppressed.   The  unpractised   elephants,   whose   uncouth
          appearance, it was  hoped, would strike terror into the army
          of the north,  threw their unskilful riders; and the awkward
          evolutions of the  marines, drawn from the fleet of Misenum,
          were an object  of  ridicule  to  the  populace;  whilst the
          senate  enjoyed, with  secret  pleasure,  the  distress  and
          weakness of the usurper.(33)

His uncertain conduct 
          Every motion of Julian betrayed his trembling perplexity. He
          insisted that Severus  should  be declared a public enemy by
          the senate. He intreated that the Pannonian general might be
          associated to the  empire.  He  sent  public  ambassadors of
          consular rank to  negotiate  with  his  rival; he dispatched
          private assassins to  take  away  his life. He designed that
          the Vestal virgins,  and  all  the  colleges  of priests, in
          their sacerdotal habits,  and bearing before them the sacred
          pledges of the  Roman  religion,  should  advance, in solemn
          procession, to meet  the Pannonian legions; and, at the same
          time, he vainly  tried  to  interrogate,  or to appease, the
          fates, by magic ceremonies, and unlawful sacrifices.(34)

Is deserted by the Praetorians 
          Severus, who dreaded  neither his arms nor his enchantments,
          guarded himself from  the  only danger of secret conspiracy,
          by the faithful  attendance  of  six hundred chosen men, who
          never quitted his person or their cuirasses, either by night
          or by day,  during  the whole march. Advancing with a steady
          and  rapid;  course,  he  passed,  without  difficulty,  the
          defiles of the  Apennine, received into his party the troops
          and ambassadors sent  to  retard  his  progress,  and made a
          short halt at Interamnia, about seventy miles from Rome. His
          victory  was  already   secure;   but  the  despair  of  the
          Praetorians might have  rendered  it bloody; and Severus had
          the  laudable  ambition  of  ascending  the  throne  without
          drawing the sword. (35)  His  emissaries,  dispersed  in  the
          capital,  assured  the  guards,  that  provided  they  would
          abandon their worthless  prince, and the perpetrators of the
          murder of Pertinax,  to  the  justice  of  the conqueror, he
          would no longer consider that melancholy event as the act of
          the whole body.  The faithless Praetorians, whose resistance
          was supported only by sullen obstinacy, gladly complied with
          the  easy  conditions,  seized  the  greatest  part  of  the
          assassins, and signified  to  the senate that they no longer
          defended the cause of Julian. That assembly, convoked by the
          consul, unanimously acknowledged  Severus as lawful emperor,
and condemned  decreed  divine  honours   to  Pertinax,  and  pronounced  a
and executed  sentence of deposition  and  death  against  his unfortunate
by order of   successor. Julian was  conducted into a private apartment of
the senate.   the baths of  the palace, and (A.D. 193, June 2) beheaded as
A.D. 193.     a common criminal,  after  having purchased, with an immense
June 2nd      treasure, an anxious  and precarious reign of only sixty-six
          days.(36) The  almost  incredible expedition of Severus, who,
          in so short  a space of time, conducted a numerous army from
          the banks of  the  Danube  to  those of the Tiber, proves at
          once the plenty  of  provisions  produced by agriculture and
          commerce, the goodness  of  the roads, the discipline of the
          legions, and the  indolent  subdued temper of the provinces.

Disgrace of the Praetorian guards 
          The first cares  of  Severus  were bestowed on two measures,
          the one dictated  by  policy,  the  other  by  decency;  the
          revenge, and the  honours,  due  to  the memory of Pertinax.
          Before the new  emperor entered Rome, he issued his commands
          to the Praetorian guards, directing them to wait his arrival
          on a large  plain  near  the  city, without arms, but in the
          habits of ceremony,  in which they were accustomed to attend
          their sovereign. He  was  obeyed  by  those  haughty troops,
          whose contrition was  the  effect  of  their just terrors. A
          chosen part of  the  Illyrian  army  encompassed  them  with
          levelled spears. Incapable  of  flight  or  resistance, they
          expected their fate in silent consternation. Severus mounted
          the  tribunal, sternly  reproached  them  with  perfidy  and
          cowardice, dismissed them with ignominy from the trust which
          they  had  betrayed,   despoiled   them  of  their  splendid
          ornaments, and banished  them,  on  pain  of  death,  to the
          distance of an  hundred  miles  from the capital. During the
          transaction, another detachment had been sent to seize their
          arms, occupy their  camp, and prevent the hasty consequences
          of their despair.(38) 

Funeral and apotheosis of Pertinax. 
          The funeral and consecration of Pertinax was next solemnised
          with every circumstance  of sad magnificence.(39) The senate, 
          with a melancholy pleasure, performed the last rites to that
          excellent prince, whom  they had loved, and still regretted.
          The concern of  his  successor was probably less sincere. He
          esteemed the virtues  of  Pertinax,  but those virtues would
          for ever have  confined  his  ambition to a private station.
          Severus  pronounced  his   funeral   oration   with  studied
          eloquence, inward satisfaction,  and  well-acted sorrow; and
          by this pious  regard to his memory, convinced the credulous
          multitude that he  alone  was  worthy  to  supply his place.
          Sensible, however, that  arms,  not  ceremonies, must assert
          his claim to  the  empire, he left Rome at the end of thirty
          days, and, without  suffering  himself  to be elated by this
          easy victory, prepared  to  encounter  his  more  formidable

Success of Severus against Niger, and against Albinus 
          The uncommon abilities  and  fortune of Severus have induced
          an elegant historian  to  compare  him  with  the  first and
          greatest of the  Caesars. (40)  The  parallel  is,  at least, 
          imperfect. Where shall we find, in the character of Severus,
          the commanding superiority  of  soul, the generous clemency,
          and the various  genius, which could reconcile and unite the
          love of pleasure,  the  thirst of knowledge, and the fire of
          ambition?(41) In  one instance only they may be compared with 
          some degree of  propriety,  in the celerity of their motions
          and their civil  victories  In less than four years(42) (A.D. 
          193-197), Severus subdued  the  riches  of the East, and the
          valour  of  the  West.  He  vanquished  two  competitors  of
          reputation  and  ability,   and  defeated  numerous  armies,
          provided with weapons  and  discipline  equal to his own. In
          that age, the  art  of  fortification, and the principles of
          tactics, were well understood by all the Roman generals; and
          the constant superiority  of  Severus  was that of an artist
          who uses the  same  instruments with more skill and industry
          than his rivals.  I  shall not, however, enter into a minute
          narrative of these military operations; but as the two civil
          wars against Niger  and against Albinus were almost the same
          in their conduct,  event,  and consequences, I shall collect
          into one point  of  view  the  most  striking circumstances,
          tending to develop  the  character of the conqueror, and the
          state of the empire.

Conduct of the two civil wars. Arts of Severus 
          Falsehood and insincerity  unsuitable  as  they  seem to the
          dignity  of public  transactions,  offend  us  with  a  less
          degrading idea of  meanness  than when they are found in the
          intercourse of private  life. In the latter, they discover a
          want of courage;  in the other, only a defect of power: and,
          as it is  impossible  for  the most able statesman to subdue
          millions of followers  and  enemies  by  their  own personal
          strength, the world, under the name of policy, seems to have
          granted  them  a   very  liberal  indulgence  of  craft  and
          dissimulation. Yet the  arts  of Severus cannot be justified
          by the most  ample  privileges  of state reason. He promised
          only to betray,  he  flattered  only to ruin; and however he
          might occasionally bind  himself  by oaths and treaties, his
          conscience, obsequious to  his interest, always released him
          from the inconvenient obligation.(43) 

Towards Niger; 
          If his two  competitors,  reconciled by their common danger,
          had advanced upon  him  without delay, perhaps Severus would
          have sunk under  their united effort. Had they even attacked
          him, at the  same  time,  with  separate  views and separate
          armies, the contest  might  have been long and doubtful. But
          they fell, singly and successively, an easy prey to the arts
          as well as  arms of their subtle enemy, lulled into security
          by the moderation of his professions, and overwhelmed by the
          rapidity of his  action.  He  first  marched  against Niger,
          whose reputation and  power  he  the  most  dreaded:  but he
          declined any hostile  declarations,  suppressed  the name of
          his antagonist, and only signified to the senate and people,
          his  intention  of  regulating  the  eastern  provinces.  In
          private he spoke  of  Niger,  his  old  friend  and intended
          successor,(44) with  the most affectionate regard, and highly 
          applauded his generous  design  of  revenging  the murder of
          Pertinax. To punish  the vile usurper of the throne, was the
          duty of every  Roman  general.  To persevere in arms, and to
          resist a lawful  emperor,  acknowledged by the senates would
          alone render him  criminal. (45) The sons of Niger had fallen 
          into  his  hands   among  the  children  of  the  provincial
          governors, detained at  Rome  as  pledges for the loyalty of
          their parents.(46)  As  long  as  the power of Niger inspired 
          terror, or even  respect,  they  were educated with the most
          tender care, with  the children of Severus himself; but they
          were soon involved  in  their  father's  ruin,  and removed,
          first by exile,  and  afterwards  by  death, from the eye of
          public compassion.(47) 

Towards Albinus 
          Whilst Severus was engaged in his eastern war, he had reason
          to apprehend that the governor of Britain might pass the sea
          and the Alps,  occupy  the vacant seat of empire, and oppose
          his return with  the  authority of the senate and the forces
          of the West.  The  ambiguous  conduct  of  Albinus,  in  not
          assuming the Imperial  title,  left  room  for  negotiation.
          Forgetting, at once,  his professions of patriotism, and the
          jealousy of sovereign power, he accepted the precarious rank
          of Caesar, as  a  reward  for his fatal neutrality. Till the
          first contest was  decided, Severus treated the man, whom he
          had doomed to  destruction,  with  every  mark of esteem and
          regard. Even in  the  letter,  in  which  he  announced  his
          victory over Niger,  he  styles  Albinus  the brother of his
          soul and empire,  sends  him the affectionate salutations of
          his wife Julia,  and  his  young family, and intreats him to
          preserve the armies  and  the  republic  faithful  to  their
          common interest. The  messengers  charged  with  this letter
          were instructed to accost the Caesar with respect, to desire
          a private audience,  and  to  plunge  their daggers into his
          heart. (48)  The  conspiracy  was  discovered,  and  the  too 
          credulous Albinus, at  length, passed over to the continent,
          and prepared for  an  unequal  contest  with  his rival, who
          rushed upon him  at  the  head  of  a veteran and victorious

Events of the civil wars. 
          The military labours  of  Severus  seem  inadequate  to  the
          importance of his  conquests.  Two engagements, the one near
          the Hellespont, the  other in the narrow defiles of Cilicia,
          decided the fate of his Syrian competitor; and the troops of
          Europe asserted their  usual  ascendant  over the effeminate
          natives of Asia. (49)  The battle of Lyons, where one hundred 
          and fifty thousand(50) Romans were engaged, was equally fatal 
          to Albinus. The  valour  of  the  British  army  maintained,
          indeed,  a  sharp   and  doubtful  contest  with  the  hardy
          discipline of the  Illyrian  legions. The fame and person of
          Severus appeared, during  a few moments, irrecoverably lost,
          till that warlike  prince  rallied  his fainting troops, and
          led them on  to  a decisive victory.(51) The war was finished 
          by that memorable day.

Decided by one or two battles. 
          The civil wars of modern Europe have been distinguished, not
          only by the  fierce animosity, but likewise by the obstinate
          perseverance,  of  the   contending   factions.   They  have
          generally been justified  by  some  principle,  or, at least
          coloured by some  pretext, of religion, freedom, or loyalty.
          The  leaders  were   nobles   of  independent  property  and
          hereditary influence. The  troops fought like men interested
          in a decision  of  the  quarrel;  and as military spirit and
          party  zeal were  strongly  diffused  throughout  the  whole
          community, a vanquished  chief was immediately supplied with
          new adherents, eager  to shed their blood in the same cause.
          But the Romans,  after  the  fall  of the republic, combated
          only for the  choice  of  masters.  Under  the standard of a
          popular candidate for empire, a few enlisted from affection,
          some from fear, many from interest, none from principle. The
          legions, uninflamed by  party  zeal, were allured into civil
          war by liberal donatives, and still more liberal promises. A
          defeat, by disabling  the  chief from the performance of his
          engagements,  dissolved  the  mercenary  allegiance  of  his
          followers; and left  them  to consult their own safety, by a
          timely desertion of  an unsuccessful cause. It was of little
          moment  to  the   provinces,  under  whose  name  they  were
          oppressed or governed;  they were driven by the impulsion of
          the present power,  and  as  soon as that power yielded to a
          superior force, they hastened to implore the clemency of the
          conqueror, who, as  he had an immense debt to discharge, was
          obliged  to sacrifice  the  most  guilty  countries  to  the
          avarice of his  soldiers.  In  the  vast extent of the Roman
          empire,  there  were   few   fortified   cities  capable  of
          protecting a routed  army;  nor  was  there  any  person, or
          family, or order of men, whose natural interest, unsupported
          by the powers  of  government,  was capable of restoring the
          cause of a sinking party.(52) 

Siege of Byzantium . 
          Yet, in the contest between Niger and Severus, a single city
          deserves an honourable  exception.  As  Byzantium was one of
          the greatest passages  from  Europe  into  Asia, it had been
          provided with a strong garrison, and a fleet of five hundred
          vessels was anchored  in  the harbour.(53) The impetuosity of 
          Severus disappointed this prudent scheme of defence; he left
          to his generals  the  siege  of  Byzantium,  forced the less
          guarded passage of  the  Hellespont,  and,  impatient  of  a
          meaner  enemy,  pressed  forward  to  encounter  his  rival.
          Byzantium, attacked by  a  numerous and increasing army, and
          afterwards by the whole naval power of the empire, sustained
          a siege of  three  years,  and remained faithful to the name
          and memory of  Niger. The citizens and soldiers (we know not
          from what cause)  were  animated with equal fury; several of
          the principal officers  of  Niger,  who despaired of, or who
          disdained, a pardon,  had  thrown  themselves into this last
          refuge: the fortifications  were  esteemed impregnable, and,
          in the defence of the place, a celebrated engineer displayed
          all  the  mechanical   powers  known  to  the  ancients. (54) 
          Byzantium, at length, surrendered to famine. The magistrates
          and soldiers were  put  to  the sword, the walls demolished,
          the privileges suppressed  and  the  destined capital of the
          east subsisted only  as  an  open  village,  subject  to the
          insulting jurisdiction of Perinthus. The historian Dion, who
          had admired the  flourishing,  and  lamented  the  desolate,
          state of Byzantium,  accused  the  revenge  of  Severus, for
          depriving the Roman  people of the strongest bulwark against
          the barbarians of  Pontus  and  Asia. (55)  The truth of this 
          observation was but  too  well  justified  in the succeeding
          age, when the  Gothic  fleets covered the Euxine, and passed
          through the undefended  Bosphorus  into  the  centre  of the

Death of Niger and Albinus. 
          Both Niger and  Albinus  were discovered and put to death in
          their flight from  the  field  of battle. Their fate excited
          neither surprise nor compassion. They had staked their lives
          against the chance  of  empire, and suffered what they would
          have  inflicted;  nor   did   Severus   claim  the  arrogant
Cruel      superiority of suffering  his  rivals  to  live in a private
consequences station. But his  unforgiving temper, stimulated by avarice,
of a civil   indulged a spirit  of  revenge  where  there was no room for
 war       apprehension. The most considerable of the provincials, who,
          without any dislike  to  the fortunate candidate, had obeyed
          the governor under  whose  authority  they were accidentally
          placed, were punished by death, exile, and especially by the
          confiscation of their  estates. Many cities of the east were
          stript of their  ancient  honours,  and obliged to pay, into
          the treasury of  Severus,  four times the amount of the sums
          contributed by them for the service of Niger.(56) 

Animosity of Severus against the senate.  
         Till the final  decision  of the war, the cruelty of Severus
          was, in some  measure,  restrained by the uncertainty of the
          event, and his  pretended reverence for the senate. The head
          of Albinus, accompanied with a menacing letter, announced to
          the Romans that  he  was  resolved  to  spare  none  of  the
          adherents of his  unfortunate  competitors. He was irritated
          by the just  suspicion,  that  he  had  never  possessed the
          affections  of  the   senate,   and  he  concealed  his  old
          malevolence under the  recent  discovery of some treasonable
          correspondences. Thirty-five senators,  however,  accused of
          having favoured the  party  of  Albinus, he freely pardoned;
          and, by his  subsequent  behaviour,  endeavoured to convince
          them that he  had  forgotten,  as  well  as  forgiven, their
          supposed offences. But,  at  the  same  time,  he  condemned
          forty-one (57)  other   senators,  whose  names  history  has 
          recorded; their wives,  children, and clients, attended them
          in death, and the noblest provincials of Spain and Gaul were
          involved in the  same  ruin.  Such  rigid justice, for so he
          termed it, was,  in the opinion of Severus, the only conduct
          capable of ensuring peace to the people, or stability to the
          prince; and he  condescended slightly to lament, that, to be
          mild, it was necessary that he should first be cruel.(58) 

The wisdom and justice of his government. 
          The true interest of an absolute monarch generally coincides
          with that of  his people. Their numbers, their wealth, their
          order, and their security, are the best and only foundations
          of his real greatness; and were he totally devoid of virtue,
          prudence might supply  its place, and would dictate the same
          rule of conduct.  Severus considered the Roman empire as his
          property, and had  no sooner secured the possession, than he
          bestowed his care  on  the cultivation and improvement of so
          valuable  an  acquisition.   Salutary  laws,  executed  with
          inflexible firmness, soon  corrected most of the abuses with
          which,  since  the  death  of  Marcus,  every  part  of  the
          government  had been  infected.  In  the  administration  of
          justice, the judgments  of the emperor were characterised by
          attention, discernment, and  impartiality;  and  whenever he
          deviated from the strict line of equity, it was generally in
          favour of the  poor  and  oppressed; not so much indeed from
          any sense of  humanity,  as from the natural propensity of a
          despot, to humble  the  pride  of greatness, and to sink all
          his  subjects.  to   the   same  common  level  of  absolute
          dependence. His expensive  taste  for  building, magnificent
          shows, and above  all a constant and liberal distribution of
          corn and provisions,  were  the  surest means of captivating
          the affection of  the  Roman  people. (59) The misfortunes of 
General      civil  discord were  obliterated.  The  calm  of  peace  and
 peace and   prosperity was once  more  experienced in the provinces; and
prosperity   many cities, restored by the munificence of Severus, assumed
          the title of  his colonies, and attested by public monuments
          their gratitude and  felicity.(60) The fame of the Roman arms 
          was revived by  that  warlike and successful emperor,(61) and 
          he boasted with  a  just  pride,  that,  having received the
          empire oppressed with  foreign and domestic wars, he left it
          established in profound, universal, and honourable peace.(62) 

Relaxation of military discipline. 
          Although the wounds of civil war appeared completely healed,
          its  mortal  poison  still  lurked  in  the  vitals  of  the
          constitution.  Severus possessed  a  considerable  share  of
          vigour and ability; but the daring soul of the first Caesar,
          or the deep  policy  of Augustus, were scarcely equal to the
          task of curbing  the insolence of the victorious legions. By
          gratitude,  by  misguided   policy,  by  seeming  necessity,
          Severus was induced  to  relax  the nerves of discipline.(63) 
          The vanity of  his soldiers was flattered with the honour of
          wearing  gold  rings;   their   ease  was  indulged  in  the
          permission of living  with  their  wives  in the idleness of
          quarters. He increased  their  pay  beyond  the  example  of
          former times, and  taught them to expect, and soon to claim,
          extraordinary donatives on  every  public occasion of danger
          or festivity. Elated  by  success,  enervated by luxury, and
          raised  above the  level  of  subjects  by  their  dangerous
          privileges, (64)  they  soon  became  incapable  of  military 
          fatigue, oppressive to  the country, and impatient of a just
          subordination. Their officers  asserted  the  superiority of
          rank by a  more  profuse  and elegant luxury. There is still
          extant a letter  of  Severus, lamenting the licentious state
          of the army,  and exhorting one of his generals to begin the
          necessary reformation from  the  tribunes themselves; since,
          as he justly  observes,  the  officer  who has forfeited the
          esteem, will never  command  the obedience, of his soldiers.
         (65) Had the emperor pursued the train of reflection, he would 
          have discovered that  the  primary  cause  of  this  general
          corruption might be  ascribed not indeed to the example, but
          to the pernicious  indulgence,  however, of the commander in

New establishment of the Praetorian guards. 
          The Praetorians, who  murdered  their  emperor  and sold the
          empire, had received  the  just punishment of their treason;
          but the necessary,  though dangerous, institution of guards,
          was soon restored  on  a new model by Severus, and increased
          to four times  the  ancient number.(66) Formerly these troops 
          had been recruited  in  Italy; and as the adjacent provinces
          gradually imbibed the  softer  manners  of  Rome, the levies
          were extended to  Macedonia, Noricum, and Spain. In the room
          of these elegant  troops,  better  adapted  to  the  pomp of
          courts than to  the  uses  of  war,  it  was  established by
          Severus, that from  all  the  legions  of the frontiers, the
          soldiers  most  distinguished   for   strength,  valour  and
          fidelity, should be  occasionally draughted; and promoted as
          an honour and  reward, into the more eligible service of the
          guards.(67) By  this  new institution, the Italian youth were 
          diverted from the  exercise  of  arms,  and  the capital was
          terrified by the  strange  aspect and manners of a multitude
          of  barbarians.  But  Severus  flattered  himself  that  the
          legions  would consider  these  chosen  Praetorians  as  the
          representatives of the  whole  military  order; and that the
          present aid of  fifty  thousand  men,  superior  in arms and
          appointments to any  force  that  could  be brought into the
          field against them,  would  for  ever  crush  the  hopes  of
          rebellion,  and  secure   the  empire  to  himself  and  his

The office of Praetorian Praefect. 
          The command of  these  favoured  and  formidable troops soon
          became the first  office  of  the  empire. As the government
          degenerated   into  military   despotism,   the   Praetorian
          Praefect, who in his origin had been a simple captain of the
          guards, was placed, not only at the head of the army, but of
          the finances, and  even  of  the law. In every department of
          administration he represented  the  person and exercised the
          authority of the emperor. The first Praefect who enjoyed and
          abused this immense  power  was  Plautianus,  the  favourite
          minister of Severus.  His reign lasted above ten years, till
          the marriage of  his  daughter  with  the  eldest son of the
          emperor, which seemed  to  assure  his  fortune,  proved the
          occasion of his  ruin. (68) The animosities of the palace, by 
          irritating  the  ambition   and   alarming   the   fears  of
          Plautianus, threatened to  produce a revolution, and obliged
          the emperor, who still loved him, to consent with reluctance
          to his death. (69)  After  the  fall of Plautianus an eminent 
          lawyer, the celebrated  Papinian,  was  appointed to execute
          the motley office of Praetorian Praefect.

The senate oppressed by military despotism. 
          Till the reign  of  Severus,  the  virtue  and even the good
          sense of the  emperors  had been distinguished by their real
          or affected reverence for the senate, and by a tender regard
          to the nice  frame  of  civil policy instituted by Augustus.
          But the youth  of  Severus  had been trained in the implicit
          obedience  of camps,  and  his  riper  years  spent  in  the
          despotism of military  command.  His  haughty and inflexible
          spirit could not  discover.  or  would  not acknowledge, the
          advantage  of  preserving  an  intermediate  power,  however
          imaginary, between the emperor and the army. He disdained to
          profess himself the servant of an assembly that detested his
          person and trembled  at  his  frown; he issued his commands,
          where his request  would  have  proved as effectual; assumed
          the conduct and  style  of  a sovereign and a conqueror, and
          exercised, without disguise,  the  whole legislative as well
          as the executive power.

New maxims of the Imperial prerogative. 
          The victory over  the  senate  was easy and inglorious Every
          eye  and  every   passion   was   directed  to  the  supreme
          magistrate, who possessed  the  arms  and  treasure  of  the
          state; whilst the senate, neither elected by the people, nor
          guarded by military  force,  nor  animated by public spirit,
          rested its declining  authority  on  the frail and crumbling
          basis of ancient  opinion.  The  fine  theory  of a republic
          insensibly vanished, and  made  way for the more natural and
          substantial feelings of monarchy. As the freedom and honours
          of Rome were  successively communicated to the provinces, in
          which the old  government  had  been  either unknown, or was
          remembered  with abhorrence,  the  tradition  of  republican
          maxims was gradually  obliterated.  The  Greek historians of
          the  age of  the  Antonines (70)  observe  with  a  malicious 
          pleasure, that although the sovereign of Rome, in compliance
          with an obsolete prejudice, abstained from the name of king,
          he possessed the  full  measure of regal power. In the reign
          of Severus, the senate was filled with polished and eloquent
          slaves from the  eastern  provinces,  who justified personal
          flattery by speculative  principles  of servitude. These new
          advocates of prerogative  were  heard  with  pleasure by the
          court, and with patience by the people, when they inculcated
          the  duty  of   passive  obedience,  and  descanted  on  the
          inevitable  mischiefs  of   freedom.  The  lawyers  and  the
          historians concurred in teaching that the Imperial authority
          was held, not  by  the  delegated  commission,  but  by  the
          irrevocable resignation of  the senate; that the emperor was
          freed from the restraint of civil laws, could command by his
          arbitrary will the  lives  and fortunes of his subjects, and
          might dispose of  the empire as of his private patrimony.(71) 
          The most eminent  of  the  civil  lawyers,  and particularly
          Papinian, Paulus, and  Ulpian, flourished under the house of
          Severus; and the  Roman  jurisprudence having closely united
          itself with the  system  of  monarchy,  was supposed to have
          attained its full maturity and perfection.

          The contemporaries of Severus, in the enjoyment of the peace
          and glory of  his  reign,  forgave the cruelties by which it
          had been introduced.  Posterity,  who  experienced the fatal
          effects of his  maxims and example, justly considered him as
          the principal author of the decline of the Roman empire.

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