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HISTORY OF S. SEVERUS.
for him, at once met the eyes of the new emperor : but he disdained the lessons he might have learned from both; and ordering a sumptuous feast for himself and his guests, amused himself to a late hour with the performance of a public dancer.
The proud citizens, however, soon began to murmur loudly at such an unheard-of insult to the majesty of Rome : the guards began to be ashamed of their avarice, and of the weakness of the nominal emperor ; and the legions on the frontiers arose with one accord to avenge the murdered Pertinax, and restore, as they said, the honour of the empire.
Septimus Severus, the general of the legions in Pannonia and Dalmatia, gladly embraced this long-wished-for opportunity to obtain the imperial power for himself. Scarcely allowing time for sleep or food, he marched into Italy, using every effort by the way to win the love and confidence of his troops. Didius Julianus heard of his approach with the greatest terror ; and, not knowing how to act, he sent ambassadors to make terms with Severus, and assassins to destroy him. But all his efforts failed ; and he was beheaded after a miserable reign of sixty-six days.
Severus was accepted at Rome; but he had two formidable rivals elsewhere,— Niger, the general of the legions in the East, and Albinus, general of those in Britain. Both of these had the favour of their respective provinces, and the warm support of armies equal to that of Severus : but he made up in subtlety what he wanted in strength. In order to keep Albinus quiet, he sent him the title of Cæsar, whilst he fought with Niger : and, when he had overthrown the general of the East, and secured the provinces, he set off for the West, sending forwards messengers to salute the Cæsar as the brother of his soul and empire, but with secret directions to plunge their daggers in his breast.
But Albinus had discovered the character of Severus, and prepared to meet him as his enemy. However, in a single battle fought near Lyons, where one hundred and fifty thousand Romans were assembled, Severus was the conqueror. Not satisfied with these victories, he resolved, as soon as he was acknowledged emperor, to punish all who had supported his rivals ; and forty-one senators and their families, with some of the noblest of the provincials, were put to death. In the
PERSECUTION UNDER SEVERUS.
end he obtained such absolute power that the historians and lawyers of his time agreed that the imperial authority was no longer held from the senate; and that the emperor could dispose of his subjects, or their lands, as his own property. To confirm his despotism, Severus increased the guards four-fold, and introduced among them soldiers from the frontier legions who were distinguished for their strength or courage, so that the citizens were affrighted by the strange faces and manners of a host of barbarians. But the emperor contrived to win the favour of the multitude by public shows, and by adorning the city with fine buildings. He also provided liberally for their wants, and, as a judge, favoured the poor rather than the rich, in order to keep down the higher classes whose influence he dreaded.
In the early part of his reign, Severus protected the Christians because one of them had cured him of some disease by the use of a certain oil: and it is even supposed that his eldest son, Caracalla, had a Christian nurse. But in the tenth year of his reign, when his pride was increased by great success in a war with the Parthians, he wished to have himself and his gods universally honoured, and tried to prevent the spread of the Gospel. This was in A.D. 202.
The province of Africa, of which the emperor was a native, was particularly exposed to his wrath, because the Chris. tians abounded there; and we have a particular account of the persecution of the African churches from the pen of Tertullian of Carthage, the first Latin writer among the Christians.
His written Apology gives a very lively account of the principles and manners of his brethren, and proves that much light and life remained among them. He said that they were in the habit of praying for the emperor with outstretched hands and uncovered heads; that they were numerous enough to resist the injuries done to them if their principles would have permitted them to do so, but they had given the government abundant proofs of their peaceable disposition. To quote his own words, which perhaps give an exaggerated description, he says, “ Are there not multitudes of us in every part of the world ? It is true we are but of yesterday; and yet we have filled all your towns, cities, islands, castles, boroughs, councils, camps, courts, palaces, senate, forum! We leave you only SEVERUS AND HIS SONS.
your temples! If we were to retire, you would be astonished at your solitude !”
This account indeed seems rather inconsistent with another passage that runs thus :-“ We are dead to all ideas of worldly honour and dignity, nothing is more foreign to us than political concerns.” He speaks afterwards of their readiness to pay the taxes, and of the regulations of the Church; and notices that their charity to each other was so conspicuous that it was commonly said, “ See how these Christians love one another !”
A glance into the imperial family at this period affords the most striking contrast to this picture; for hatred between brethren was never more fearfully exhibited than in Caracalla and Geta, the two sons of Severus. Their mother, Julia Domna, was a Syrian lady of rank and of extraordinary abilities; and Severus expected great domestic happiness. But he was bitterly disappointed : his children were of the most opposite dispositions, and seemed to hate each other from their child. hood. As they grew up their father tried to unite them together by declaring them joint heirs of the empire, with the title of Augustus, so that for the first time there were three emperors of the Roman world. But this had not the desired effect : Caracalla asserted his birth-right; and Geta had the advantage as the best beloved by the people and army.
In A.D. 208, Severus resolved to take his sons into Britain, as that province had been invaded by the Caledonians; and he hoped they would forget their private quarrels amidst the fatigues of war. No regular battle was fought in Caledonia ; but the natives continually harassed the Romans by coming upon them unexpectedly from their mountain retreats; and thousands perished through the severity of a winter campaign. At length the Caledonians offered to give up a portion of their lands for the sake of peace; and Severus consented to retire to Eboracum (York). But he soon found they had no intention of keeping their promises; and, in a great rage, he prepared to attack them again. He was then eighty-one years of age, and had long been suffering from gout; and, though apparently in the height of worldly glory, his body was full of disease, and his mind overwhelmed with anxiety about his sons. At this period the wretched emperor found Caracalla had more than once tried to hasten his death ; and this
perhaps drew from him the memorable exclamation, “ I have been all things that man could wish, but I am now nothing.” He did not, however, attend to the advice of his counsellors in sentencing his unnatural son to death; and expired soon after, recommending his children to live in peace, and desiring the army to secure to them the joint possession of the empire.
It may be a relief to the mind to turn aside for a little while from this painful history, to inquire what Rome was like in the days of imperial grandeur, and what were the manners and customs of its inhabitants.
ROME.—THE CAPITOL.—THE AMPHITHEATRE OF TITUS.-TEN
PLES. — BATHS.- AQUEDUCTS. — SEWERS. —DRESS OF THE ROMANS, - MEALS. - MARRIAGES, — FUNERALS.-- MODE OF ADMINISTERING JUSTICE.—THE PUBLIC WAYS.
The ruins that still remain confirm the historical accounts of the grandeur of Rome: but all this greatness bears the same stamp; and, with a silent yet powerful voice, speaks to a Christian's heart that the glory of men is in their shame.
The city, as we have observed before, had gradually covered seven hills; and, in the time of Nero, it contained three millions of people, one thousand seven hundred and eighty palaces, and four hundred idol temples.
Perhaps the first object that would have struck the eye on entering the city was the Capitol, or temple of Jupiter Capi. tolinus, as it stood on rising ground, and occupied four square acres. It was several times destroyed by fire, and as frequently rebuilt : that erected in the reign of Domitian, to which the Jewish offerings largely contributed, was the grandest of all; and, it is said, the gilding alone cost a million of money. The front was adorned by three rows of pillars, and the sides by two of the same description; the ascent to it was by a hundred steps. Probably there was a desire to equal the magni. ficence of the Temple at Jerusalem ; the destruction of which was a source of so much regret to Titus. The amphitheatre of Titus was an oval building, five hundred and sixty-four feet
THE AMPHITHEATRE AND TEMPLES.
long, and four hundred and sixty-seven broad, founded on eighty arches, and rising in four different styles of architecture to the height of one hundred and forty feet. The seats were of marble, handsomely cushioned, and could easily accommodate eighty thousand persons. To avoid any confusion in the assembling of such a multitude, all ranks of people had their ordered places, and came out at sixty-four doors, aptly called vomitories. The centre of the building was an open space, called the arena (Lat. sand), and around it were the dens of the wild beasts and other arrangements for public amusement. The whole building was ornamented in the most costly manner; the defence against the wild animals was, in the period of greatest luxury, a net of gold wire ; and the belt, which divided the different ranks of spectators, was studded with precious stones. Subterraneous pipes conveyed such an immense supply of water to the amphitheatre that the arena might be turned into a lake for the exhibition of sea-fights or finny monsters. Sometimes, to vary the entertainment, it was laid out as a pleasure garden, but more usually wore the appearance of a desert full of rocks and caverns suited to the wild beasts.
In looking through our history, let us notice what torrents of blood streamed in this magnificent place,—what cries of agony were heard there,—what savage passions were cherished, what barbarous tastes cultivated, and how the Christian martyrs and the Jews were sacrificed for the pleasure of their fellow-men,-the heart will then sicken at these wonders of human art; and may the lust of the eyes be thereby deadened! The distinguishing monument of Roman polytheism was the Pantheon (Greek, all-gods), a temple dedicated to all the gods, and filled with their statues. It was a building of a circular form, covered with a dome, which was sheeted with silver in the days of the greatest magnificence. The temple of Saturn, the strongest building in the city, was used as the treasury and place of general registry; and thus every thing was connected with the reigning idolatry. The temple of Janus, which has been frequently mentioned, was built wholly of brass. It was only shut nine times in a thousand years, so few were the intervals of peace in this great empire. The de. scriptions of the vast extent and costly fitting up of the public baths, which the meanest citizen had a right to use, almost