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DEATH OF ALEXANDER SEVERUS.
them a visit, at their request, as they had heard of his fame as a philosopher. But it is not probable they received from him the simple truths of the gospel, though his mixture of Gentilism with Christianity might have easily been the means of adding them to the number of the nominal converts, who accepted his teaching on account of his talents. The influence of Mammea was for some years useful to her son ; but she sought to carry it too far by removing from him every one whom she thought likely to be her rival. Alexander had married the daughter of a senator by her consent; but when she saw that she was, by their means, losing the first place in his affections, she persuaded him to condemn his father-in-law to death under the pretence that he was aiming at sovereign power; and shortly afterwards, on some other ground, she obliged him to banish his wife to Africa.
During Alexander's absence in the East, the Prætorians became angry with Ulpian as the spy of their proceedings and the reformer of their excesses, and, at the emperor's return, they required the death of this minister. The citizens were attached to him, and defended their beloved prefect : the angry Prætorians threatened a general massacre and set some houses on fire; and their fury did not abate till they had killed Ulpian at the feet of the emperor, whilst he was trying to cover him with his purple robe and to obtain his pardon.
The inability of Alexander to punish this crime, and his weakness after the loss of Ulpian, led to many other tumults. The legions in different parts of the empire rebelled against the discipline of their officers, and slew many of them. Dion Cassius, general in Pannonia, much noted as an historian, only escaped destruction by receiving a timely recall to Rome, with an appointment to the consulship. A revolt in Germany at length called Alexander again to lead forth an army; but the continued control of his mother brought upon him the contempt of the soldiers, and this was artfully increased by Maximin, one of the boldest generals, who desired to reign. The folly of Mammea was therefore ruinous to herself and to her son ; for they were both murdered together in the camp stationed on the banks of the Rhine, A.D. 235.
The singular history of the establishment of the Second Persian empire belongs to this period ; and I have forborne to give any details of the war carried on by Alexander
Severus till I could acquaint you with it. It will be remembered, that Persia came under the dominion of the Seleucidæ, the Macedonian kings of Syria ; but at length their harsh government led their Persian subjects to revolt, and many wars and revolutions followed, till Syria was swallowed up in the Roman empire. At that time Persia had been seized by the Parthians, a people of Scythian origin, whose independence of Rome has often been mentioned ; and whose kingdom was thus extended from India to the frontiers of Syria. Artabanus, the last of the line of Parthian kings, had in his service Ardeshir, or Artaxerxes, a bold Persian soldier ; and this man being sent into exile for some offence revenged himself by stirring up his countrymen to revolt. He then placed himself at their head, saying he was a descendant of their ancient kings, and, as such, had a right to deliver them from the slavery in which they had been held ever since the death of Darius, a period of five hundred years. The Parthians were defeated in three successive battles, in the last of which Artabanus was slain, and the spirit of the nation broken for ever. The Persians, after their long servitude, again came into power, and the second Persian empire became almost as famous as the first. Artaxerxes and his successors were called the Sassanides, froin Sassan, one of his ancestors; and it is supposed that their kingdom nearly equalled modern Persia in extent, and in the number of its inhabitants. After regulating the government of his new empire, Artaxerxes sought to extend it, under pretence of punishing all who had triumphed over his countrymen in their degraded condition. He obtained some victories over the rude Scythians and feeble Indians, and then turned towards the Romans, as stronger and more ancient enemies. After the resignation of Trajan's eastern conquests there had been forty years of peace, till some provocation led to the dreadful war, already spoken of, in the reign of Marcus Antoninus. Ctesiphon, the capital of the Parthian kings, rose again with greater strength after it had been destroyed by the lieutenants of Verus, and withstood a long siege before it was taken by Alexander Severus ; and on the latter occasion, it is said, 100,000 of its inhabitants were led into captivity. Even after these calamities Ctesiphon became the winter residence of the Persian kings, and succeeded Babylon and Seleucia as one of the capitals of the East.
REIGN OF ARTAXERXES.
The Roman generals had raised many monuments of victory in Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria; and it was only Macrinus who, during his short reign, purchased deliverance from a dangerous situation at an immense expense.
Artaxerxes styled himself, according to the eastern fashion, the great king, and the king of kings; and sent an embassy of four hundred of the finest Persians, well mounted, richly dressed, and with shining arms, requiring the Romans to restore to him all the countries which belonged to his ancestor Cyrus, and to keep within the limits of Europe. This proud demand was answered by the Roman legions, whom Alexander Severus led into the East, as I have already mentioned, in A.D. 229; and though it is supposed that Artaxerxes generally had the advantage, the young emperor, on his return to Rome, made an oration in the senate, describing his victories as little inferior to those of Alexander the Great
Artaxerxes reigned fourteen years, and succeeded in restoring the ancient Persian religion as well as the government. The Parthian princes had been attached to the Grecian idolatry, and always persecuted the followers of Zoroaster : but the Magi, under the protection of Artaxerxes, became more powerful than ever, and the revival of their doctrines had a poisonous effect upon the infant churches of the East. The early mixture of Paganism and Judaism with Christianity, we have already noticed : we must now observe its corruption, through the reception of some of the principles of Magianism. Mani, an Eclectic philosopher, who admired some of the doctrines of the Persian priests, hoped to unite the fire-worshippers and the Christians together by combining their different views. He took up the oriental idea of two principles, light and darkness, and built upon it the most extravagant and anti-scriptural system of religious doctrine. He was at first excommunicated by the Persian Christians as a heretic, and condemned by the Magi for attempting to reform the religion of Zoroaster : but his opinions were received by great numbers in Persia, Syria, Greece, Africa, and Spain ; and the Manichean heresy was added to many others that corrupted the Church. It is said, that Mani was at last condemned to death by Sapor, the son and successor of Artaxerxes.
It remains for me to speak of the state of the Jews during our present period. The Eastern Jews reached the height of
PRINCE OF THE CAPTIVITY.
their temporal power and magnificence at the close of the Parthian monarchy, and under the mild rule of the first Persian kings. The Prince of the Captivity resided at Babylon, and had a luxurious court there, with attendant officers, counsellors, and cupbearers. He had also the power of appointing different rabbins as governors of the communities under his jurisdiction, and occasionally visited the native ruler of Bagdad to talk with him in a friendly manner about any grievances done to his people. When the prince died, the heads of the people and the masters of the learned schools placed his appointed successor on the throne, arrayed in cloth of gold. He was then addressed by one of the wise men, and admonished that he was only the prince of a captive people ; and that he must be careful not to abuse his power, as he was called to slavery rather than to sovereignty. On the first Sabbath that he attended the synagogue, he addressed the assembled Jews; and prayer was then made, in a low voice, for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, and for the termination of all their troubles under this new prince.
From that day he lived chiefly in retirement, to prevent any jealousy or suspicions of the native kings.
Whilst all the eastern Jews acknowledged the Prince of the Captivity as their head, all throughout the Roman empire submitted to the rule of the patriarch of Tiberias; and in the reign of Alexander Severus this rabbi obtained almost kingly authority. He had the power of inflicting corporal punishment, and probably even death ; but his chief influence arose from his power to pronounce the dreaded sentence of excommunication, the object of which was considered as an outcast from society, a moral leper whom no one dared to approach except his own wife and children. Though the rabbins in many cases abused this power, and it was, humanly speaking, a barrier against the conversion of the Jews, it had certainly a great moral influence over them, and their general conduct appears to have been far less criminal than that of the Pagans among whom they dwelt. The tribute formerly raised in support of the temple worship was now levied for the maintenance of rabbinism ; and the patriarch of Tiberias sent his legates to all the synagogues throughout the Roman world to deliver his commands and to collect this yearly revenue. These messengers were doubtless com. missioned to steel the hearts of the Jews against the reception of the Gospel ; for the Christians assert that they were geneDOMINION OF RABBINISM.
rally anathematized in all the synagogues, and the very name of their blessed Master cursed.
In the meanwhile, never was more apparent honour paid to the books of Moses than by the rabbins of Tiberias; for every letter was counted, and every dot esteemed of the greatest importance. But these subtle teachers took care to affirm that the Scriptures were dark oracles, not to be understood by common people ; and they did not suffer any thing but their own interpretations and traditions to be used. The dominion of rabbinism was thus as firmly established over the minds of the apostate Jews as that of the popedom, in later times, over apostate Christians. In giving up the clear revelation of God, both were left in the darkness wherewith the god of this world blinds the minds of those that believe not.
MAXIMIN, EMPEROR. THE GORDIANS. -- PUPIENUS, BALBINUS,
AND GORDIAN. — PHILIP THE ARABIAN. — STATE OF THE CHURCH.-DEATH OF PHILIP.-CAUSES OF THE DECLINE OF
THE ROMAN EMPIRE. MAXIMIN (A.D. 235) was originally a shepherd, the son of a Thracian peasant; and it is said that he was nearly eight feet high, with strength proportioned to his stature. Severus was attracted by the display of his extraordinary bodily powers, and gladly engaged such a man in his service. In the succeeding reigns he had gradually risen till he attained the highest rank in the army; and it was easy for him to take the place of the despised Alexander in the midst of the semi-barbarous legions on the frontiers. Yet, as he was aware that he should appear to great disadvantage at Rome, in contrast with the late refined and educated monarch, he would not even visit Italy ; but made his camp on the banks of the Rhine, or the Danube, the seat of his government. From thence he issued the most tyrannical commands, and numbers of the Roman nobles were summoned thither and cruelly put to death, under the false pretence that they were plotting against his life. Four thousand persons were executed during his reign, and most of them in that barbarous manner which showed the utmost contempt for the laws.