The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
The apparent ridicule
          Of the various  forms  of government which have prevailed in
          the world, an  hereditary  monarchy  seems  to  present  the
          fairest  scope for  ridicule.  Is  it  possible  to  relate,
          without an indignant  smile,  that, on the father's decease,
          the property of  a  nation,  like  that  of a drove of oxen,
          descends to his infant son, as yet unknown to mankind and to
          himself;  and that  the  bravest  warriors  and  the  wisest
          statesmen,  relinquishing their  natural  right  to  empire,
          approach   the  royal   cradle   with   bended   knees   and
          protestations of inviolable fidelity? Satire and declamation
          may paint these obvious topics in the most dazzling colours,
          but  our  more   serious  thoughts  will  respect  a  useful
          prejudice,   that  establishes   a   rule   of   succession,
          independent  of  the  passions  of  mankind;  and  we  shall
          cheerfully acquiesce in  any  expedient  which  deprives the
          multitude of the  dangerous,  and indeed the ideal, power of
          giving themselves a master.

and solid advantages of herediotary succession.
          In the cool  shade  of  retirement,  we  may  easily  devise
          imaginary forms of government, in which the sceptre shall be
          constantly bestowed on  the  most  worthy,  by the free and
          incorrupt  suffrage  of   the  whole  community.  Experience
          overturns these airy  fabrics,  and  teaches  us  that, in a
          large society, the  election  of a monarch can never devolve
          to the wisest,  or to the most numerous, part of the people.
          The army is  the  only  order  of men sufficiently united to
          concur in the same sentiments, and powerful enough to impose
          them on the rest of their fellow-citizens: but the temper of
          soldiers, habituated at  once  to  violence  and to slavery,
          renders them very  unfit  guardians  of  a  legal  or even a
          civil, constitution. Justice, humanity, or political wisdom,
          are  qualities  they  are  too  little  acquainted  with  in
          themselves,  to  appreciate  them  in  others.  Valour  will
          acquire their esteem,  and  liberality  will  purchase their
          suffrage; but the  first  of these merits is often lodged in
          the most savage breasts; the latter can only exert itself at
          the expense of  the  public;  and both may be turned against
          the possessor of  the  throne,  by  the ambition of a daring

Want of it in the Roman empire productive of the geatrest calamities
          The superior prerogative  of birth, when it has obtained the
          sanction of time  and  popular  opinion, is the plainest and
          least  invidious of  all  distinctions  among  mankind.  The
          acknowledged right extinguishes  the  hopes  of faction, and
          the conscious security  disarms  the cruelty of the monarch.
          To the firm  establishment of this idea, we owe the peaceful
          succession, and mild administration, of European monarchies.
          To the defect  of  it,  we must attribute the frequent civil
          wars, through which  an Asiatic despot is obliged to cut his
          way to the throne of his fathers. Yet, even in the East, the
          sphere of contention  is  usually  limited to the princes of
          the reigning house,  and  as  soon  as  the  more  fortunate
          competitor has removed  his  brethren,  by the sword and the
          bowstring, he no  longer  entertains  any  jealousy  of  his
          meaner subjects. But  the  Roman empire, after the authority
          of the senate  had  sunk  into contempt, was a vast scene of
          confusion.  The royal,  and  even  noble,  families  of  the
          provinces, had long since been led in triumph before the car
          of the haughty republicans. The ancient families of Rome had
          successively fallen beneath  the tyranny of the Caesars, and
          whilst  those princes  were  shackled  by  the  forms  of  a
          commonwealth, and disappointed  by  the  repeated failure of
          their posterity,(1)  it  was  impossible  that  any  idea  of
          hereditary succession should have taken root in the minds of
          their subjects. The  right  to  the throne, which none could
          claim from birth,  every  one assumed from merit. The daring
          hopes  of  ambition   were   set  loose  from  the  salutary
          restraints of law  and prejudice; and the meanest of mankind
          might, without folly,  entertain  a  hope of being raised by
          valour and fortune  to a rank in the army, in which a single
          crime would enable  him  to  wrest  the sceptre of the world
          from his feeble  and  unpopular  master. After the murder of
          Alexander Severus, and  the elevation of Maximin, no emperor
          could think himself safe upon the throne and every barbarian
          peasant of the  frontier  might  aspire  to that august, but
          dangerous station.

Birth and fortune of Maximin.
          About  thirty-two  years  before  that  event,  the  emperor
          Severus, returning from  an  eastern  expedition,  halted in
          Thrace, to celebrate,  with  military games, the birthday of
          his younger son,  Geta.  The  country  flocked  in crowds to
          behold their sovereign,  and  a  young barbarian of gigantic
          stature earnestly solicited,  in  his  rude dialect, that he
          might be allowed  to  contend for the prize of wrestling. As
          the pride of  discipline  would  have  been disgraced in the
          overthrow of a  Roman  soldier by a Thracian peasant, he was
          matched with the  stoutest followers of the camp, sixteen of
          whom he successively  laid  on  the  ground. His victory was
          rewarded by some  trifling gifts, and a permission to enlist
          in  the troops.  The  next  day,  the  happy  barbarian  was
          distinguished  above  a   crowd  of  recruits,  dancing  and
          exulting after the  fashion  of  his  country. As soon as he
          perceived that he  had  attracted  the  emperor's notice, he
          instantly ran up  to  his  horse,  and followed him on foot,
          without the least appearance of fatigue, in a long and rapid
          career. "Thracian," said  Severus,  with  astonishment, "art
          thou disposed to  wrestle  after  thy race?" Most willingly,
          Sir, replied the  unwearied  youth, and, almost in a breath,
          overthrew seven of  the  strongest  soldiers  in the army. A
          gold collar was  the  prize  of  his  matchless  vigour  and
          activity, and he  was  immediately appointed to serve in the
          horse-guards  who always  attended  on  the  person  of  the

His military service and honours.
          Maximin,  for  that   was  his  name,  though  born  on  the
          territories of the  empire  descended  from  a mixed race of
          barbarians. His father  was  a  Goth,  and his mother of the
          nation of the  Alani.  He  displayed,  on  every occasion, a
          valour equal to  his strength; and his native fierceness was
          soon tempered or  disguised  by  the knowledge of the world.
          Under the reign of Severus and his son, he obtained the rank
          of centurion, with  the  favour  and  esteem  of  both those
          princes, the former of whom was an excellent judge of merit.
          Gratitude forbade Maximin  to  serve  under  the assassin of
          Caracalla.  Honour taught  him  to  decline  the  effeminate
          insults of Elagabalus.  On  the  accession  of  Alexander he
          returned to court,  and  was  placed  by  that  prince  in a
          station useful to the service and honourable to himself. The
          fourth legion, to  which  he  was  appointed  tribune,  soon
          became, under his  care,  the  best disciplined of the whole
          army.  With  the  general  applause  of  the  soldiers,  who
          bestowed on their  favourite  hero  the  names  of  Ajax and
          Hercules, he was successively promoted to the first military
          command;(3) and  had  not  he  still retained too much of his
          savage origin, the  emperor might perhaps have given his own
          sister in marriage to the son of Maximin.(4)

Conspiracy of Maximin.
          Instead of securing  his fidelity, these favours served only
          to inflame the  ambition of the Thracian peasant, who deemed
          his fortune inadequate  to  his  merit,  as  long  as he was
          constrained to acknowledge  a superior. Though a stranger to
          real wisdom, he  was  not devoid of a selfish cunning, which
          showed him that  the  emperor  had lost the affection of the
          army, and taught  him to improve their discontent to his own
          advantage. It is  easy for faction and calumny to shed their
          poison on the  administration of the best of princes, and to
          accuse even their virtues, by artfully confounding them with
          those vices to  which  they  bear  the nearest affinity. The
          troops listened with  pleasure to the emissaries of Maximin.
          They  blushed at  their  own  ignominious  patience,  which,
          during  thirteen  years,   had   supported   the   vexatious
          discipline imposed by  an effeminate Syrian, the timid slave
          of his mother and of the senate. It was time, they cried, to
          cast away that  useless  phantom  of the civil power, and to
          elect for their  prince and general a real soldier, educated
          in camps, exercised  in war, who would assert the glory, and
          distribute  among  his  companions  the  treasures,  of  the
          empire. A great army was at that time assembled on the banks
          of the Rhine, under the command of the emperor himself, who,
          almost immediately after  his  return  from the Persian war,
          had been obliged to march against the barbarians of Germany.
          The important care  of training and reviewing the new levies
          was intrusted to  Maximin.  One day (A.D. 235, March 19), as
          he entered the  field  of exercise the troops, either from a
          sudden impulse or  a formed conspiracy, saluted him emperor,
          silenced by their  loud  acclamations his obstinate refusal,
          and hastened to  consummate their rebellion by the murder of
          Alexander Severus.

Murder of Alexander Severus
          The circumstances of  his  death  are variously related. The
          writers, who supposed  that  he  died  in  ignorance  of the
          ingratitude and ambition  of  Maximin,  affirm  that,  after
          taking a frugal  repast in the sight of the army, he retired
          to sleep, and  that,  about  the  seventh hour of the day, a
          part of his  own  guards  broke  into the imperial tent, and
          with   many   wounds   assassinated   their   virtuous   and
          unsuspecting prince.(5)  If  we  credit another, and indeed a
          more probable account,  Maximin was invested with the purple
          by a numerous  detachment,  at the distance of several miles
          from the headquarters;  and he trusted for success rather to
          the secret wishes  than  to  the  public declarations of the
          great army. Alexander  had sufficient time to awaken a faint
          sense of loyalty  among  his  troops;  but  their  reluctant
          professions of fidelity  quickly  vanished on the appearance
          of Maximin, who  declared himself the friend and advocate of
          the military order, and was unanimously acknowledged emperor
          of the Romans  by the applauding legions. The son of Mamaea,
          betrayed and deserted,  withdrew  into his tent, desirous at
          least to conceal  his  approaching  fate from the insults of
          the multitude. He  was  soon  followed by a tribune and some
          centurions,  the  ministers   of   death;  but,  instead  of
          receiving with manly  resolution  the inevitable stroke, his
          unavailing cries and  entreaties  disgraced the last moments
          of his life, and converted into contempt some portion of the
          just pity which  his innocence and misfortunes must inspire.
          His mother Mamaea, whose pride and avarice he loudly accused
          as the causes,  of his ruin, perished with her son. The most
          faithful of his friends were sacrificed to the first fury of
          the soldiers. Others  were  reserved for the more deliberate
          cruelty  of the  usurper;  and  those  who  experienced  the
          mildest treatment, were  stripped  of their employments, and
          ignominiously driven from the court and army.(6)

Tyranny of Maximin.
          The  former  tyrants,   Caligula   and  Nero,  Commodus  and
          Caracalla, were all  dissolute  and  inexperienced youths,(7)
          educated in the  purple,  and  corrupted  by  the  pride  of
          empire, the luxury  of  Rome,  and  the  perfidious voice of
          flattery.  The  cruelty   of  Maximin  was  derived  from  a
          different source, the  fear  of contempt. Though he depended
          on the attachment of the soldiers, who loved him for virtues
          like their own, he was conscious that his mean and barbarian
          origin, his savage  appearance,  and  his total ignorance of
          the arts and  institutions  of  civil  life,(8) formed a very
          unfavourable  contrast  with  the  amiable  manners  of  the
          unhappy  Alexander.  He  remembered  that,  in  his  humbler
          fortune, he had  often waited before the door of the haughty
          nobles of Rome,  and  had  been  denied  admittance  by  the
          insolence  of  their   slaves.   He  recollected,  too,  the
          friendship of a  few  who  had  relieved  his  poverty,  and
          assisted his rising  hopes.  But  those who had spurned, and
          those who had  protected  the  Thracian,  were guilty of the
          same crime, the  knowledge  of  his  original obscurity. For
          this crime many  were  put to death; and by the execution of
          several of his benefactors, Maximin published, in characters
          of  blood,  the   indelible  history  of  his  baseness  and

          The dark and sanguinary soul of the tyrant was open to every
          suspicion against those among his subjects who were the most
          distinguished by their  birth  or  merit.  Whenever  he  was
          alarmed with the sound of treason, his cruelty was unbounded
          and unrelenting. A  conspiracy  against  his life was either
          discovered or imagined,  and Magnus, a consular senator, was
          named as the  principal  author  of  it.  Without a witness,
          without a trial,  and  without  an  opportunity  of defence,
          Magnus, with four  thousand of his supposed accomplices, was
          put to death.  Italy and the whole empire were infested with
          innumerable   spies  and   informers.   On   the   slightest
          accusation, the first  of the Roman nobles, who had governed
          provinces,  commanded armies,  and  been  adorned  with  the
          consular  arid triumphal  ornaments,  were  chained  on  the
          public  carriages,  and   hurried   away  to  the  emperor's
          presence.  Confiscation,  exile,   or   simple  death,  were
          esteemed uncommon instances  of  his  lenity.  Some  of  the
          unfortunate sufferers he ordered to be sewed up in the hides
          of slaughtered animals, others to be exposed to wild beasts,
          others again to  be  beaten  to death with clubs. During the
          three years of  his reign, he disdained to visit either Rome
          or Italy. His  camp,  occasionally removed from the banks of
          the Rhine to  those of the Danube, was the seat of his stern
          despotism, which trampled  on  every  principle  of  law and
          justice, and was supported by the avowed power of the sword.
         (10)  No man  of  noble  birth,  elegant  accomplishments,  or
          knowledge of civil  business,  was suffered near his person;
          and the court  of  a Roman emperor revived the idea of those
          ancient chiefs of  slaves and gladiators, whose savage power
          had left a deep impression of terror and detestation . (11)

Oppression of the provinces
          As long as  the  cruelty  of  Maximin  was  confined  to the
          illustrious senators, or  even  to the bold adventurers, who
          in the court  or  army  expose  themselves to the caprice of
          fortune, the body of the people viewed their sufferings with
          indifference, or perhaps  with  pleasure.  But  the tyrant's
          avarice,  stimulated  by   the   insatiate  desires  of  the
          soldiers, at length attacked the public property. Every city
          of the empire  was  possessed  of  an  independent  revenue,
          destined to purchase  corn  for the multitude, and to supply
          the expenses of  the  games  and entertainments. By a single
          act of authority,  the  whole  mass  of  wealth  was at once
          confiscated  for the  use  of  the  Imperial  treasury.  The
          temples were stripped  of  their  most valuable offerings of
          gold and silver,  and  the  statues  of  gods,  heroes,  and
          emperors, were melted  down  and  coined  into  money. These
          impious orders could  not  be  executed  without tumults and
          massacres, as in  many places the people chose rather to die
          in the defence  of their altars, than to behold in the midst
          of peace their  cities  exposed to the rapine and cruelty of
          war. The soldiers  themselves,  among whom this sacrilegious
          plunder was distributed,  received  it  with  a  blush; and,
          hardened as they  were in acts of violence, they dreaded the
          just reproaches of  their  friends and relations. Throughout
          the Roman world  a  general  cry  of  indignation was heard,
          imploring vengeance on  the  common enemy of human kind; and
          at length, by  an  act of private oppression, a peaceful and
          unarmed province was driven into rebellion against him.(12)

Revolt in Africa
          The procurator of  Africa  was  a  servant  worthy of such a
          master, who considered  the  fines  and confiscations of the
          rich as one  of  the  most fruitful branches of the Imperial
          revenue. An iniquitous  sentence  had been (A.D. 237, April)
          pronounced against some  opulent youths of that country, the
          execution of which  would  have  stripped  them  of  far the
          greater  part of  their  patrimony.  In  this  extremity,  a
          resolution that must  either complete or prevent their ruin,
          was dictated by  despair.  A respite of three days, obtained
          with difficulty from  the  rapacious treasurer, was employed
          in collecting from  their  estates  a great number of slaves
          and peasants, blindly  devoted  to  the  commands  of  their
          lords, and armed  with the rustic weapons of clubs and axes.
          The leaders of  the conspiracy, as they were admitted to the
          audience of the  procurator  stabbed  him  with  the daggers
          concealed under their  garments,  and,  by the assistance of
          their  tumultuary  train,  seized  on  the  little  town  of
          Thysdrus,(13) and  erected  the standard of rebellion against
          the sovereign of  the  Roman empire. They rested their hopes
          on  the  hatred   of   mankind  against  Maximin,  and  they
          judiciously resolved to  oppose  to  that detested tyrant an
          emperor whose mild virtues had already acquired the love and
          esteem of the  Romans, and whose authority over the province
          would  give  weight   and   stability   to  the  enterprise.
          Gordianus, their proconsul,  and the object of their choice,
          refused, with unfeigned  reluctance,  the  dangerous honour,
          and  begged  with  tears  that  they  would  suffer  him  to
          terminate  in  peace  a  long  and  innocent  life,  without
          staining his feeble  age  with  civil  blood.  Their menaces
          compelled him to accept the Imperial purple, his only refuge
          indeed  against  the  jealous  cruelty  of  Maximin;  since,
          according to the  reasoning  of tyrants, those who have been
          esteemed worthy of  the  throne deserve death, and those who
          deliberate have already rebelled.(14)

Character and elevation of the two Gordians
          The family of  Gordianus  was one of the most illustrious of
          the Roman senate.  On  the  father's  side, he was descended
          from the Gracchi;  on his mother's, from the emperor Trajan.
          A great estate  enabled  him  to support the dignity of this
          birth, and, in  the enjoyment of it, he displayed an elegant
          taste  and  beneficent  disposition.  The  palace  in  Rome,
          formerly inhabited by  the  great  Pompey,  had been, during
          several generations, in  the possession of Gordian's family.
         (15)  It  was  distinguished  by  ancient  trophies  of  naval
          victories, and decorated  with the works of modern painting.
          His villa on  the road to Praeneste was celebrated for baths
          of singular beauty and extent, for three stately rooms of an
          hundred feet in  length,  and  for  a  magnificent  portico,
          supported by two  hundred  columns  of the four most curious
          and costly sorts of marble.(16) The public shows exhibited at
          his expense, and  in  which the people were entertained with
          many hundreds of  wild  beasts  and  gladiators, (17) seem to
          surpass the fortune  of a subject; and whilst the liberality
          of other magistrates  was confined to a few solemn festivals
          in Rome, the  magnificence  of Gordian was repeated, when he
          was ardile, every  month  in  the year, and extended, during
          his consulship, to  the  principal  cities  of Italy. He was
          twice elevated to  the  last-mentioned dignity, by Caracalla
          and by Alexander;  for  he  possessed the uncommon talent of
          acquiring the esteem  of  virtuous princes, without alarming
          the jealousy of  tyrants. His long life was innocently spent
          in the study  of  letters  and the peaceful honours of Rome;
          and, till he  was  named proconsul of Africa by the voice of
          the senate and  the  approbation of Alexander,(18) he appears
          prudently to have  declined  the  command  of armies and the
          government of provinces.  As  long  as  that  emperor lived,
          Africa was happy  under  the  administration  of  his worthy
          representative; after the  barbarous Maximin had usurped the
          throne,  Gordianus alleviated  the  miseries  which  he  was
          unable to prevent.  When he reluctantly accepted the purple,
          he was above  four-score  years  old;  a  last  and valuable
          remains of the  happy age of the Antonines, whose virtues he
          revived in his own conduct and celebrated in an elegant poem
          of thirty books.  With the venerable proconsul, his son, who
          had accompanied him  into  Africa  as  his  lieutenant,  was
          likewise declared emperor.  His  manners were less pure, but
          his character was  equally  amiable with that of his father.
          Twenty-two  acknowledged  concubines,   and   a  library  of
          sixty-two thousand volumes,  attested  the  variety  of  his
          inclinations, and from  the productions which he left behind
          him, it appears  that  the former as well as the latter were
          designed for use  rather  than  ostentation. (19)  The  Roman
          people acknowledged in  the  features of the younger Gordian
          the  resemblance  of   Scipio  Africanus,  recollected  with
          pleasure that his mother was the grand-daughter of Antoninus
          Pius, and rested  the  public  hope  on those latent virtues
          which had hitherto,  as they fondly imagined, lain concealed
          in the luxurious indolence of a private life.

They solicit the confirmation of their authority.
          As soon as  the  Gordians had appeased the first tumult of a
          popular election, they removed their court to Carthage. They
          were received with  the  acclamations  of  the Africans, who
          honoured their virtues, and who, since the visit of Hadrian,
          had never beheld  the  majesty of a Roman emperor. But these
          vain acclamations neither  strengthened  nor  confirmed  the
          title of the  Gordians.  They  were induced by principle, as
          well as interest,  to solicit the approbation of the senate;
          and  a deputation  of  the  noblest  provincials  was  sent,
          without delay, to Rome, to relate and justify the conduct of
          their countrymen, who,  having  long suffered with patience,
          were at length  resolved  to act with vigour. The letters of
          the new princes  were  modest  and  respectful, excusing the
          necessity which had  obliged  them  to  accept  the Imperial
          title; but submitting  their  election and their fate to the
          supreme judgment of the senate.(20)

The senate ratifies their election of the Gordians.
          The inclinations of  the  senate  were  neither doubtful nor
          divided. The birth  and  noble alliances of the Gordians had
          intimately connected them  with  the most illustrious houses
          of Rome. Their  fortune  had created many dependents in that
          assembly, their merit  had acquired many friends. Their mild
          administration  opened  the   flattering   prospect  of  the
          restoration not only of the civil but even of the republican
          government. The terror of military violence, which had first
          obliged the senate to forget the murder of Alexander, and to
          ratify the election  of a barbarian peasant,(21) now produced
          a contrary effect,  and  provoked them to assert the injured
          rights of; freedom  and  humanity.  The  hatred  of  Maximin
          towards the senate  was  declared and implacable; the tamest
          submission had not  appeased  his  fury,  the  most cautious
          innocence would not remove his suspicions; and even the care
          of their own  safety  urged  them to share the fortune of an
          enterprise, of which  (if unsuccessful) they were sure to be
          the first victims.  These considerations, and perhaps others
          of  a more  private  nature,  were  debated  in  a  previous
          conference of the  consuls  and  the magistrates. As soon as
          their resolution was decided, they convoked in the temple of
          Castor the whole body of the senate, according to an ancient
          form of secrecy, (22)  calculated  to awaken their attention,
          and to conceal  their decrees. "Conscript fathers," said the
          consul  Syllanus,  "the   two  Gordians,  both  of  consular
          dignity, the one  your proconsul, the other your lieutenant,
          have  been declared  emperors  by  the  general  consent  of
          Africa. Let us  return thanks," he boldly continued, "to the
          youth of Thysdrus;  let  us  return  thanks  to the faithful
          people of Carthage,  our  generous deliverers from an horrid
          monster - Why  do you hear me thus coolly, thus timidly? Why
          do you cast those anxious looks on each other? Why hesitate?
          Maximin is a  public  enemy! May his enmity soon expire with
          him, and may  we  long  enjoy  the  prudence and felicity of
          Gordian the father,  the valour and constancy of Gordian the
          son!"(23) The  noble ardour of the consul revived the languid
          spirit of the senate. By an unanimous decree the election of
          the  Gordians  was  ratified,  Maximin,  his  son,  and  his
          adherents, were pronounced enemies of  their  country, and
          liberal rewards were  offered  to whomsoever had the courage
          and good fortune to destroy them.

Assumes the command of Rome and Italy
          During the emperor's absence, a detachment of the Praetorian
          guards remained at  Rome,  to protect, or rather to command,
          the capital. The  Praefect  Vitalianus  had  signalised  his
          fidelity to Maximin,  by  the  alacrity  with  which  he had
          obeyed,  and even  prevented,  the  cruel  mandates  of  the
          tyrant. His death  alone  could  rescue the authority of the
          senate, and the  lives  of  the  senators,  from  a state of
          danger and suspense. Before their resolves had transpired, a
          quaestor and some  tribunes  were  commissioned  to take his
          devoted life. They  executed  the  order with equal boldness
          and success; and,  with their bloody daggers in their hands,
          ran through the  streets  proclaiming  to the people and the
          soldiers the news of the happy revolution. The enthusiasm of
          liberty was seconded  by the promise of a large donative, in
          lands and money;  the  statues  of Maximin were thrown down;
          the capital of  the empire acknowledged, with transport, the
          authority of the  two  Gordians  and  the senate,(24) and the
          example of Rome was followed by the rest of Italy.

and prepares for a civil war.
          A  new spirit  had  arisen  in  that  assembly,  whose  long
          patience had been  insulted by wanton despotism and military
          licence. The senate  assumed  the  reins of government, and,
          with a calm  intrepidity,  prepared to vindicate by arms the
          cause of freedom. Among the consular senators recommended by
          their merit and  services  to  the  favour  of  the  emperor
          Alexander, it was  easy to select twenty, not unequal to the
          command of an  army,  and the conduct of a war. To these was
          the defence of Italy intrusted. Each was appointed to act in
          his respective department authorised to enrol and discipline
          the Italian youth;  and  instructed to fortify the ports and
          highways against the impending invasion of Maximin. A number
          of  deputies,  chosen  from  the  most  illustrious  of  the
          senatorian and equestrian  orders,  were  dispatched  at the
          same  time  to  the  governors  of  the  several  provinces,
          earnestly conjuring them  to  fly to the assistance of their
          country, and to  remind the nations of their ancient ties of
          friendship with the  Roman  senate  and  people. The general
          respect with which  these  deputies  were  received, and the
          zeal of Italy  and  the  provinces  in favour of the senate,
          efficiently prove that  the subjects of Maximin were reduced
          to that uncommon  distress,  in which the body of the people
          has more to  fear  from oppression than from resistance. The
          consciousness of that  melancholy truth inspires a degree of
          persevering fury seldom  to  be  found  in  those civil wars
          which are artificially  supported  for  the benefit of a few
          factious and designing leaders.(25)

Defeat and death of the two Gordians.
          For while the  cause  of the Gordians was embraced with such
          diffusive ardour, the Gordians themselves were no more (A.D.
          237, 3rd July)  were  no  more. The feeble court of Carthage
          was alarmed with  the rapid approach of Capelianus, governor
          of Mauritania, who,  with  a  small  band of veterans, and a
          fierce host of barbarians, attacked a faithful but unwarlike
          province. The younger  Gordian sallied out to meet the enemy
          at the head  of  a  few guards, and a numerous undisciplined
          multitude, educated in  the  peaceful usury of Carthage. His
          useless valour served  only  to  procure  him  an honourable
          death, in he  field  of battle. His aged father, whose reign
          had not exceeded  thirty-six days, put an end to his life on
          the  first  news  of  the  defeat.  Carthage,  destitute  of
          defence, opened her  gates  to the conqueror, and Africa was
          exposed to the  rapacious  cruelty  of  a  slave, obliged to
          satisfy his unrelenting master with a large account of blood
          and treasure.(26)

Election of Maximus and Balbinus by the senate. 9th July
          The  fate  of  the  Gordians  filled  Rome  with  just,  but
          unexpected terror. The  senate  convoked  in  the  temple of
          Concord, affected to  transact  the  common  business of the
          day; and seemed  to  decline,  with  trembling  anxiety, the
          consideration of their  own  and the public danger. A silent
          consternation prevailed on  the assembly, till a senator, of
          the name and  family  of  Trajan, awakened his brethren from
          their fatal lethargy.  He  represented  to  them,  that  the
          choice of cautious dilatory measures had been long since out
          of their power;  that  Maximin,  implacable  by  nature, and
          exasperated by injuries, was advancing towards Italy, at the
          head of the  military  force  of  the empire; and that their
          only remaining alternative was either to meet him bravely in
          the field, or  tamely to expect the tortures and ignominious
          death reserved for  unsuccessful  rebellion. "We have lost,"
          continued he, "two  excellent  princes; but unless we desert
          ourselves, the hopes  of the republic have not perished with
          the Gordians. Many  are  the  senators  whose  virtues  have
          deserved, and whose  abilities  would  sustain, the Imperial
          dignity. Let us  elect two emperors, one of whom may conduct
          the war against  the  public  enemy,  whilst  his  colleague
          remains  at Rome  to  direct  the  civil  administration.  I
          cheerfully expose myself  to  the  danger  and  envy  of the
          nomination, and give  my  vote  in  favour  of  Maximus  and
          Balbinus. Ratify my  choice,  conscript fathers, or appoint,
          in their place,  others  more  worthy  of  the  empire." The
          general apprehension silenced  the whispers of jealousy; the
          merit of the  candidates  was  universally acknowledged; and
          the house resounded  with the sincere acclamations, of "long
          life and victory  to  the emperors Maximus and Balbinus. You
          are happy in the judgment of the senate; may the republic be
          happy under your administration !"(27)

Their characters.
          The virtues and the reputation of the new emperors justified
          the most sanguine hopes of the Romans. The various nature of
          their talents seemed  to  appropriate  to  each his peculiar
          department  of peace  and  war,  without  leaving  room  for
          jealous emulation. Balbinus was an admired orator, a poet of
          distinguished fame, and a wise magistrate, who had exercised
          with innocence and applause the civil jurisdiction in almost
          all the interior  provinces  of  the  empire.  His birth was
          noble(28) his  fortune  affluent,  his  manners  liberal  and
          affable. In him  the  love  of  pleasure  was corrected by a
          sense of dignity, nor had the habits of ease deprived him of
          a capacity for business. The mind of Maximus was formed in a
          rougher mould. By  his  valour  and  abilities he had raised
          himself from the  meanest origin to the first employments of
          the state and  army.  His  victories over the Sarmatians and
          the Germans, the  austerity  of  his  life,  and  the  rigid
          impartiality of his  justice,  whilst he was Praefect of the
          city, commanded the  esteem  of  a  people, whose affections
          were engaged in favour of the more amiable Balbinus. The two
          colleagues had both been consuls (Balbinus had twice enjoyed
          that honourable office),  both  had  been  named  among  the
          twenty lieutenants of  the  senate;  and  since  the one was
          sixty and the other seventy-four years old,(29) they had both
          attained the full maturity of age and experience.

Tumult at Rome. The younger Gordian is declared Caesar
          After the senate  had  conferred  on Maximus and Balbinus an
          equal portion of  the  consular  and tribunitian powers, the
          title of Fathers  of  their country, and the joint office of
          Supreme Pontiff, they  ascended  to  the  Capitol, to return
          thanks to the  gods, protectors of Rome.(30) The solemn rites
          of sacrifice were disturbed by a sedition of the people. The
          licentious multitude neither  loved  the  rigid Maximus, nor
          did they sufficiently  fear  the  mild  and humane Balbinus.
          Their increasing numbers  surrounded  the temple of Jupiter;
          with obstinate clamours  they  asserted their inherent right
          of  consenting to  the  election  of  their  sovereign;  and
          demanded, with an apparent moderation, that, besides the two
          emperors chosen by  the  senate,  a third should be added of
          the family of the Gordians, as a just return of gratitude to
          those  princes  who  had  sacrificed  their  lives  for  the
          republic. At the  head  of the city-guards, and the youth of
          the equestrian order,  Maximus and Balbinus attempted to cut
          their way through  the  seditious  multitude. The multitude,
          armed with sticks  and  stones,  drove  them  back  into the
          Capitol. It is  prudent  to yield when the contest, whatever
          may be the  issue  of  it,  must be fatal to both parties. A
          boy, only thirteen  years of age, the grandson of the elder,
          and nephew of  the  younger,  Gordian,  was  produced to the
          people, invested with the ornaments and title of Caesar. The
          tumult was appeased  by this easy condescension; and the two
          emperors, as soon as they had been peaceably acknowledged in
          Rome, prepared to defend Italy against the common enemy.

Maximin prepares to attack the senate and the emperors
          Whilst in Rome  and  Africa revolutions succeeded each other
          with such amazing rapidity, the mind of Maximin was agitated
          by the most  furious  passions.  He is said to have received
          the news of the rebellion of the Gordians, and of the decree
          of the senate against him, not with the temper of a man, but
          the rage of  a  wild beast; which, as it could not discharge
          itself on the  distant  senate,  threatened  the life of his
          son, of his friends, and of all who ventured to approach his
          person.  The grateful  intelligence  of  the  death  of  the
          Gordians was quickly  followed  by  the  assurance  that the
          senate, laying aside  all  hopes of pardon or accommodation,
          had substituted in their room two emperors, with whose merit
          he  could  not   be   unacquainted.  Revenge  was  the  only
          consolation left to  Maximin,  and  revenge  could  only  be
          obtained by arms.  The  strength  of  the  legions  had been
          assembled by Alexander  from  all parts of the empire. Three
          successful campaigns against  the Germans and the Sarmatians
          had raised their  fame, confirmed their discipline, and even
          increased their numbers,  by  filling  the  ranks  with  the
          flower of the  barbarian youth. The life of Maximin had been
          spent in war,  and  the  candid  severity  of history cannot
          refuse him the valour of a soldier, or even the abilities of
          an experienced general. (31)  It  might naturally be expected
          that a prince  of such a character, instead of suffering the
          rebellion to gain  stability  by  delay,  should immediately
          have marched from  the  banks  of the Danube to those of the
          Tiber, and that  his victorious army, instigated by contempt
          for the senate,  and  eager  to  gather the spoils of Italy,
          should have burned  with  impatience  to finish the easy and
          lucrative conquest. Yet  as  far  as  we  can  trust  to the
          obscure chronology of  that  period, (32) it appears that the
          operations  of  some   foreign   war  deferred  the  Italian
          expedition till the ensuing spring. From the prudent conduct
          of Maximin, we  may  learn  that  the savage features of his
          character have been exaggerated by the pencil of party, that
          his passions, however  impetuous,  submitted to the force of
          reason, and that  the  barbarian  possessed something of the
          generous spirit of  Sylla,  who  subdued the enemies of Rome
          before he suffered  himself to revenge his private injuries.

Marches into Italy. A.D. 238 February
          When the troops  of  Maximin,  advancing in excellent order,
          arrived at the  foot of the Julian Alps, they were terrified
          by the silence  and desolation that reigned on the frontiers
          of Italy. The  villages and open towns had been abandoned on
          their approach by  the  inhabitants,  the  cattle was driven
          away, the provisions  removed,  or  destroyed,  the  bridges
          broke down, nor  was anything left which could afford either
          shelter or give subsistence to an invader. Such had been the
          wise orders of  the generals of the senate, whose design was
          to protract the war, to ruin the army of Maximin by the slow
          operation of famine,  and  to  consume  his  strength in the
          sieges of the  principal  cities  of  Italy,  which they had
          plentifully stored with men and provisions from the deserted
Siege of    country. Aquileia received  and withstood the first shock of
Aquileia    the invasion. The  streams  that  issue from the head of the
          Hadriatic gulf, swelled  by the melting of the winter snows,
         (34) opposed an unexpected obstacle to the arms of Maximin. At
          length, on a  singular  bridge,  constructed  with  art  and
          difficulty of large  hogsheads,  he  transported his army to
          the opposite bank,  rooted up the beautiful vineyards in the
          neighbourhood  of  Aquileia,  demolished  the  suburbs,  and
          employed the timber  of  the  buildings  in  the engines and
          towers, with which  on  every side he attacked the city. The
          walls fallen to  decay  during the security of a long peace,
          had been hastily  repaired on this sudden emergency; but the
          firmest defence of  Aquileia  consisted  in the constancy of
          the citizens; all  ranks of whom, instead of being dismayed,
          were animated by  the extreme danger, and their knowledge of
          the tyrant's unrelenting temper. Their courage was supported
          and directed by  Crispinus and Menophilus, two of the twenty
          lieutenants of the senate, who, with a small body of regular
          troops, had thrown  themselves  into the besieged place. The
          army  of Maximin  was  repulsed  on  repeated  attacks,  his
          machines destroyed by  showers  of  artificial fire; and the
          generous enthusiasm of  the  Aquileians  was  exalted into a
          confidence of success,  by  the  opinion that Belenus, their
          tutelar deity, combated  in  person  in  the  defence of his
          distressed worshippers.(35)

Conduct of Maximus.
          The emperor Maximus,  who had advanced as far as Ravenna, to
          secure that important  place,  and  to  hasten  the military
          preparations  beheld the  event  of  the  war  in  the  more
          faithful mirror of  reason  and  policy. He was too sensible
          that a single  town could not resist the persevering efforts
          of a great  army;  and he dreaded lest the enemy, tired with
          the obstinate resistance  of  Aquileia,  should  on a sudden
          relinquish the fruitless  siege,  and march directly towards
          Rome. The fate  of  the empire and the cause of freedom must
          then be committed  to  the chance of a battle; and what arms
          could he oppose  to the veteran legions of the Rhine and the
          Danube? Some troops  newly  levied  among  the  generous but
          enervated youth of  Italy; and a body of German auxiliaries,
          on whose firmness, in the hour of trial, it was dangerous to
          depend.. In the  midst  of  these just alarms, the stroke of
          domestic conspiracy punished  the  crimes  of  Maximin,  and
          delivered Rome and the senate from the calamities that would
          surely have attended the victory of an enraged barbarian.

Murder of Maximin and his son. A.D. 238 April
          The people of  Aquileia  had scarcely experienced any of the
          common miseries of a siege, their magazines were plentifully
          supplied, and several  fountains  within  the  walls assured
          them  of an  inexhaustible  resource  of  fresh  water.  The
          soldiers of Maximin  were,  on  the contrary, exposed to the
          inclemency of the  season, the contagion of disease, and the
          horrors of famine.  The  open country was ruined, the rivers
          filled with the  slain, and polluted with blood. A spirit of
          despair and disaffection  began  to diffuse itself among the
          troops; and as they were cut off from all intelligence, they
          easily believed that the whole empire had embraced the cause
          of the senate, and that they were left as devoted victims to
          perish under the  impregnable  walls of Aquileia. The fierce
          temper of the  tyrant  was  exasperated  by disappointments,
          which he imputed  to  the  cowardice  of  his  army; and his
          wanton and ill-timed  cruelty,  instead  of striking terror,
          inspired hatred and  a  just  desire  of revenge. A party of
          Praetorian guards, who trembled for their wives and children
          in the camp of Alba, near Rome, executed the sentence of the
          senate. Maximin, abandoned  by  his  guards,  was (A.D. 238,
          April)  slain in  his  tent,  with  his  son  (whom  he  had
          associated to the  honours  of  the  purple),  Anulinus  the
          praefect, and the principal ministers of his tyranny.(36) The
          sight  of  their  heads,  borne  on  the  point  of  spears,
          convinced the citizens of Aquileia, that the siege was at an
          end; the gates  of  the  city  were  thrown  open, a liberal
          market was provided  for  the  hungry troops of Maximin, and
          the whole army joined in solemn protestations of fidelity to
          the senate and  the  people  of  Rome,  and  to their lawful
His portrait  emperors Maximus and Balbinus. Such was the deserved fate of
          a  brutal  savage,  destitute,  as  he  has  generally  been
          represented,  of  every   sentiment   that  distinguishes  a
          civilised, or even a human being. The body was suited to the
          soul. The stature  of  Maximin exceeded the measure of eight
          feet, and circumstances almost incredible are related of his
          matchless strength and  appetite. (37) Had he lived in a less
          enlightened  age,  tradition  and  poetry  might  well  have
          described  him as  one  of  those  monstrous  giants,  whose
          supernatural   power  was   constantly   exerted   for   the
          destruction of mankind.

Joy of the Roman world.
          It is easier  to conceive than to describe the universal joy
          of the Roman  world  on  the fall of the tyrant, the news of
          which is said  to  have  been  carried  in  four  days  from
          Aquileia to Rome.  The  return  of  Maximus  was a triumphal
          procession, his colleague and young Gordian went out to meet
          him,  and the  three  princes  made  their  entry  into  the
          capital, attended by  the  ambassadors  of  almost  all  the
          cities of Italy,  saluted  with  the  splendid  offerings of
          gratitude and superstition,  and received with the unfeigned
          acclamations  of  the   senate  and  people,  who  persuaded
          themselves that a  golden  age  would  succeed  to an age of
          iron.(38) The  conduct  of  the  two emperors correspond with
          these expectations. They administered justice in person; and
          the rigour of  the one was tempered by the other's clemency.
          The oppressive taxes  with  which  Maximin  had  loaded  the
          rights of inheritance  and  succession  were repealed, or at
          least moderated. Discipline was revived, and with the advice
          of the senate  many wise laws were enacted by their imperial
          ministers, who endeavoured  to  restart a civil constitution
          on the ruins of military tyranny. "What reward may we expect
          for delivering Rome  from a monster?" was the question asked
          by Maximus, in  a moment of freedom and confidence. Balbinus
          answered it without  hesitation. "The love of the senate, of
          the people, and of all mankind.''.  .

          "Alas!" replied his  more  penetrating  colleague,  "Alas! I
          dread the hatred  of  the soldiers, and the fatal effects of
          their resentment."(39)  His  apprehensions  were but too well
          justified by the  event.

Sedition at Rome
          Whilst Maximus was  preparing  to  defend  Italy against the
          common foe, Balbinus, who remained at Rome, had been engaged
          in scenes of  blood  and  intestine  discord.  Distrust  and
          jealousy reigned in  the  senate;  and  even  in the temples
          where they assembled,  every  senator carried either open or
          concealed arms. In  the  midst  of  their deliberations, two
          veterans of the  guards,  actuated  either by curiosity or a
          sinister  motive, audaciously  thrust  themselves  into  the
          house, and advanced  by degrees beyond the altar of Victory.
          Gallicanus, a consular,  and Maecenas, a Praetorian senator,
          viewed with indignation  their  insolent  intrusion: drawing
          their daggers, they  laid  the  spies,  for such they deemed
          them, dead at  the  foot of the altar, and then advancing to
          the door of  the  senate, imprudently exhorted the multitude
          to massacre the  Praetorians, as the secret adherents of the
          tyrant. Those who  escaped the first fury of the tumult took
          refuge  in the  camp,  which  they  defended  with  superior
          advantage against the  reiterated  attacks  of  the  people,
          assisted by the  numerous  bands of gladiators, the property
          of opulent nobles.  The  civil  war  lasted  many days, with
          infinite loss and  confusion  on  both sides. When the pipes
          were  broken  that   supplied   the  camp  with  water,  the
          Praetorians were reduced  to  intolerable  distress;  but in
          their turn they  made  desperate  sallies into the city, set
          fire to a great number of houses, and filled the street with
          the  blood  of   the   inhabitants.   The  emperor  Balbinus
          attempted, by ineffectual  edicts  and precarious truces, to
          reconcile the factions at Rome.  But their animosity, though
          smothered for a  while,  burnt  with redoubled violence. The
          soldiers, detesting the  senate and the people, despised the
          weakness of a  prince  who  wanted  either the spirit or the
          power  to  command   the   obedience   of   his  subjects.(40)

Discontent of the Praetorian guards.
          After  the  tyrant's   death,   his   formidable   army  had
          acknowledged, from necessity  rather  than  from choice, the
          authority of Maximus,  who transported himself without delay
          to the camp  before  Aquileia.  As  soon  as he had received
          their oath of  fidelity,  he addressed them in terms full of
          mildness and moderation;  lamented,  rather  than arraigned,
          the wild disorders  of  the times, and assured the soldiers,
          that of all  their  past  conduct, the senate would remember
          only their generous  desertion  of  the  tyrant,  and  their
          voluntary  return  to   their  duty.  Maximus  enforced  his
          exhortations by a  liberal  donative, purified the camp by a
          solemn  sacrifice  of  expiation,  and  then  dismissed  the
          legions to their  several provinces, impressed, as he hoped,
          with a lively  sense  of  gratitude  and  obedience. (41) But 
          nothing  could  reconcile   the   haughty   spirit   of  the
          Praetorians. They attended the emperors on the memorable day
          of their public  entry  into  Rome;  but  amidst the general
          acclamations, the sullen  dejected countenance of the guards
          sufficiently declared that they considered themselves as the
          object, rather than  the  partners, of the triumph. When the
          whole body was  united  in  their camp, those who had served
          under  Maximin,  and   those   who  had  remained  at  Rome,
          insensibly communicated to  each  other their complaints and
          apprehensions. The emperors  chosen by the army had perished
          with ignominy; those  elected  by  the senate were seated on
          the throne.(42)  The  long  discord  between  the  civil  and 
          military powers was  decided  by  a war, in which the former
          had obtained a complete victory. The soldiers must now learn
          a new doctrine  of  submission  to  the senate; and whatever
          clemency was affected by that politic assembly, they dreaded
          a slow revenge,  coloured  by  the  name  of discipline, and
          justified by fair  pretences  of  the public good. But their
          fate was still  in  their own hands; and if they had courage
          to despise the  vain terrors of an impotent republic, it was
          easy to convince  the  world  that those who were masters of
          the arms were masters of the authority, of the state.
Massacre of Maximus and Balbinus
          When the senate  elected  two  princes, it is probable that,
          besides the declared  reason  of  providing  for the various
          emergencies of peace  and  war,  they  were  actuated by the
          secret desire of  weakening by division the despotism of the
          supreme  magistrate. Their  policy  was  effectual,  but  it
          proved fatal both  to  their emperors and to themselves. The
          jealousy of power  was soon exasperated by the difference of
          character. Maximus despised  Balbinus  as a luxurious noble,
          and was in his turn disdained by his colleague as an obscure
          soldier. Their silent  discord  was  understood  rather than
          seen ;(43)  but  the mutual consciousness prevented them from 
          uniting in any  vigorous  measures  of defence against their
          common enemies of  the  Praetorian  camp. The whole city was
          (A.D. 238, July  15)  employed  in the Capitoline games, and
          the emperors were  left  almost  alone  in  the palace. On a
          sudden they were  alarmed  by  the  approach  of  a troop of
          desperate assassins. Ignorant  of  each other's situation or
          designs, for they  already occupied very distant apartments,
          afraid to give  or  to  receive  assistance, they wasted the
          important   moments   in    idle   debates   and   fruitless
          recriminations. The arrival  of the guards put an end to the
          vain strife. They  seized  on  these emperors of the senate,
          for such they  called them with malicious contempt, stripped
          them of their garments, and dragged them in insolent triumph
          through the streets  of  Rome, with a design of inflicting a
          slow and cruel  death on those unfortunate princes. The fear
          of a rescue  from  the  faithful  Germans  of  the  Imperial
          guards, shortened their  tortures; and their bodies, mangled
          with a thousand  wounds, were left exposed to the insults or
          to the pity of the populace.(44) 

The third Gordian remains sole emperor. 
          In the space  of  a few months, six princes had been cut off
          by the sword. Gordian, who had already received the title of
          Caesar, was the only person that occurred to the soldiers as
          proper to fill the vacant throne.(45) They carried him to the 
          camp, and unanimously  saluted him Augustus and Emperor. His
          name was dear  to  the  senate  and  people;  his tender age
          promised  a long  impunity  of  military  licence;  and  the
          submission of Rome  and  the  provinces to the choice of the
          Praetorian guards, saved the republic, at the expense indeed
          of its freedom  and dignity, from the horrors of a new civil
          war in the heart of the capital.(46) 
Innocence and virtues of Gordian.
          As the third  Gordian  was only nineteen years of age at the
          time of his death, the history of his life, were it known to
          us with greater  accuracy  than  it really is, would contain
          little more than  the  account  of  his  education,  and the
          conduct of the  ministers, who by turns abused or guided the
          simplicity of his inexperienced youth. Immediately after his
          accession, he fell  into  the hands of his mother's eunuchs,
          that pernicious vermin  of  the East, who, since the days of
          Elagabalus, had infested  the  Roman  palace.  By the artful
          conspiracy of these wretches, an impenetrable veil was drawn
          between an innocent  prince  and his oppressed subjects, the
          virtuous  disposition  of  Gordian  was  deceived,  and  the
          honours of the  empire sold without his knowledge, though in
          a very public  manner,  to the most worthless of mankind. We
          are ignorant by  what fortunate accident the emperor escaped
          from this ignominious  slavery,  and devolved his confidence
          on a minister  whose  wise counsels had no object except the
          glory of his  sovereign  and the happiness of the people. It
          should seem that  (A.D.  240)  love  and learning introduced
Administration Misitheus to the favour of Gordian. The young prince married
 of Misitheus  the daughter of  his  master  of  rhetoric, and promoted his
          father-in-law  to the  first  offices  of  the  empire.  Two
          admirable letters that passed between them are still extant.
          The  minister,  with   the   conscious  dignity  of  virtue,
          congratulates Gordian that  he is delivered from the tyranny
          of the eunuchs,(47) and still more that he is sensible of his 
          deliverance.  The  emperor  acknowledges,  with  an  amiable
          confusion, the errors of his past conduct; and laments, with
          singular propriety, the misfortune of a monarch, from whom a
          venal tribe of  courtiers  perpetually labour to conceal the
The Persian war.
          The life of  Misitheus  had  been spent in the profession of
          letters, not of  arms;  yet such was the versatile genius of
          that great man,  that,  when  (A.D.  242)  he  was appointed
          Praetorian Praefect, he  discharged  the  military duties of
          his place with  vigour and ability. The Persians had invaded
          Mesopotamia, and threatened  Antioch.  By  the persuasion of
          his father-in-law, the  young  emperor quitted the luxury of
          Rome, opened, for  the  last  time  recorded in history, the
          temple of Janus, and marched in person into the East. On his
          approach with a  great  army,  the  Persians  withdrew their
          garrisons from the  cities which they had already taken, and
          retired from the  Euphrates  to  the Tigris. Gordian enjoyed
          the pleasure of  announcing  to the senate the first success
          of his arms,  which  he ascribed with a becoming modesty and
          gratitude to the  wisdom  of his father and Praefect. During
          the whole expedition,  Misitheus watched over the safety and
          discipline of the  army; whilst he prevented their dangerous
          murmurs by maintaining  a regular plenty in the camp, and by
          establishing  ample  magazines  of  vinegar,  bacon,  straw,
          barley, and wheat, in all the cities of the frontier.(49) But 
          the prosperity of  Gordian  expired with Misitheus, who died
          of a flux,  not  without  very  strong suspicions of poison.
Arts of Philip Philip, his successor  (A.D. 243) in the praefecture, was an
A.D. 243    Arab by birth,  and consequently, in the earlier part of his
          life, a robber  by  profession.  His  rise from so obscure a
          station to the first dignities of the empire, seems to prove
          that he was  a  bold  and  able  leader.  But  his  boldness
          prompted him to aspire to the throne, and his abilities were
          employed to supplant,  not  to  serve, his indulgent master.
          The minds of  the  soldiers  were irritated by an artificial
          scarcity, created by  his  contrivance  in the camp; and the
          distress  of the  army  was  attributed  to  the  youth  and
          incapacity of the  prince.  It  is not in our power to trace
          the successive steps  of  the  secret  conspiracy  and  open
Murder of   sedition,  which  were   at   length  fatal  to  Gordian.  A
Gordian    sepulchral monument was erected to his memory on the spot(50) 
          where (A.D. 244,  March)  he was killed, near the conflux of
          the Euphrates with the little river Aboras.(51) The fortunate 
          Philip, raised to  the  empire by the votes of the soldiers,
          found a ready  obedience  from the senate and the provinces.

Form of a military republic. 
          We  cannot  forbear   transcribing   the  ingenious,  though
          somewhat fanciful description,  which a celebrated writer of
          our own times  has  traced of the military government of the
          Roman empire. "What in that age was called the Roman empire,
          was only an  irregular  republic, not unlike the Aristocracy
         (53)  of Algiers (54)  where  the  militia,  possessed  of  the 
          sovereignty, creates and deposes a magistrate, who is styled
          a Dey. Perhaps,  indeed,  it  may  be laid down as a general
          rule, that a  military government is, in some respects, more
          republican than monarchical.  Nor  can  it  be said that the
          soldiers  only  partook   of   the   government   by   their
          disobedience and rebellions.  The  speeches  made to them by
          the emperors, were  they not at length of the same nature as
          those formerly pronounced  to  the people by the consuls and
          the tribunes? And  although  the armies had no regular place
          or forms of assembly; though their debates were short, their
          action sudden, and  their resolves seldom the result of cool
          reflection, did they not dispose, with absolute sway, of the
          public fortune? What was the emperor, except the minister of
          a violent government  elected for the private benefit of the
          "When  the army  had  elected  Philip,  who  was  Praetorian
          praefect to the  third  Gordian; the latter demanded that he
          might remain sole  emperor;  he  was unable to obtain it. He
          requested that the  power  might  be equally divided between
          them; the army  would not listen to his speech. He consented
          to be degraded to the rank of Caesar; the favour was refused
          him. He desired,  at least, he might be appointed Praetorian
          praefect; his prayer  was  rejected. Finally, he pleaded for
          his life. The  army,  in  these several judgments, exercised
          the supreme magistracy."  According  to the historian, whose
          doubtful narrative the president De Montesquieu has adopted,
          Philip, who, during  the  whole transaction, had preserved a
          sullen silence, was  inclined  to spare the innocent life of
          his benefactor; till,  recollecting that his innocence might
          excite  a  dangerous  compassion  in  the  Roman  world;  he
          commanded, without regard  to  his  suppliant cries, that he
          should be seized,  stript,  and  led  away to instant death.
          After a moment's  pause  the  inhuman sentence was executed.
Reign of Philip.
          On his return  from  the  East  to Rome, Philip, desirous of
          obliterating the memory  of  his  crimes, and of captivating
          the affections of  the  people,  solemnised (A.D. 248, April
          21) the  secular games  with infinite pomp and magnificence.
          Since their institution  or revival by Augustus,(56) they had 
          been celebrated by  Claudius,  by  Domitian, and by Severus,
          and were now  renewed  the fifth time, on the accomplishment
          of the full  period  of a thousand years from the foundation
          of  Rome.  Every  circumstance  of  the < secular  games  was
          skilfully adapted to  inspire  the  superstitious  mind with
          deep and solemn reverence. The long interval between them(57) 
          exceeded  the term  of  human  life;  and  as  none  of  the
          spectators  had  already   seen  them,  none  could  flatter
          themselves with the  expectation  of beholding them a second
          time. The mystic  sacrifices  were  performed,  during three
          nights, on the  banks  of  the Tiber; and the Campus Martius
          resounded with music  and  dances,  and was illuminated with
          innumerable lamps and  torches.  Slaves  and  strangers were
          excluded   from  any   participation   in   these   national
          ceremonies. A chorus  of  twenty-seven  youths,  and as many
          virgins, of noble  families,  and  whose  parents  were both
          alive,  implored  the  propitious  gods  in  favour  of  the
          present,  and  for   the  hope  of  the  rising  generation;
          requesting, in religious hymns, that, according to the faith
          of their ancient  oracles,  they  would  still  maintain the
          virtue, the felicity, and the empire of the Roman people.(58) 
          The  magnificence  of   Philip's  shows  and  entertainments
          dazzled the eyes  of the multitude. The devout were employed
          in the rites  of  superstition,  whilst  the  reflecting few
          revolved in their  anxious  minds  the  past history and the
          future fate of the empire.
Decline of the Roman empire.          
          Since Romulus, with  a  small band of shepherds and outlaws,
          fortified himself on the hills near the Tiber, ten centuries
          had already elapsed. (59)  During  the  first  four ages, the 
          Romans, in the laborious school of poverty, had acquired the
          virtues of war  and  government; by the vigorous exertion of
          those virtues, and  by  the  assistance of fortune, they had
          obtained, in the  course  of the three succeeding centuries,
          an absolute empire  over many countries of Europe, Asia, and
          Africa. The last  three  hundred  years had been consumed in
          apparent prosperity and  internal  decline.  The  nation  of
          soldiers, magistrates, and  legislators,  who  composed  the
          thirty-five tribes of  the  Roman people, was dissolved into
          the common mass  of mankind and confounded with the millions
          of servile provincials,  who  had  received the name without
          adopting the spirit  of  Romans.  A  mercenary  army, levied
          among the subjects  and  barbarians of the frontier, was the
          only  order  of   men   who   preserved   and  abused  their
          independence. By their  tumultuary  election,  a  Syrian,  a
          Goth, or an  Arab,  was  exalted  to the throne of Rome, and
          invested with despotic power over the conquests and over the
          country of the Scipios.
          The limits of  the  Roman  empire  still  extended  from the
          Western Ocean to  the  Tigris,  and  from Mount Atlas to the
          Rhine and the Danube. To the undiscerning eye of the vulgar,
          Philip appeared a  monarch  no less powerful than Hadrian or
          Augustus had formerly been. The form was still the same, but
          the animating health  and  vigour were fled. The industry of
          the people was discouraged and exhausted by a long series of
          oppression. The discipline  of  the  legions,  which  alone,
          after the extinction  of every other virtue, had propped the
          greatness of the  state,  was  corrupted by the ambition, or
          relaxed by the  weakness,  of  the emperors. The strength of
          the frontiers, which  had  always  consisted  in arms rather
          than in fortifications,  was  insensibly undermined; and the
          fairest provinces were  left exposed to the rapaciousness or
          ambition of the  barbarians, who soon discovered the decline
          of the Roman empire.

This document (last modifiedSeptember 23, 1998) from
Home | Bible versions | Bible Dictionary | Christian Classics | Christian Articles | Daily Devotions

Sister Projects: Wikichristian | WikiMD

BelieversCafe is a large collection of christian articles with over 40,000 pages

Our sponsors:   sleep and weight loss center W8MD sleep and weight loss center