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MORAL STATE OF THE ROMANS.
and those of Lyons and Vienne were distinguished for their faithfulness. The Gospel soon spread into those parts of Germany nearest to France. Cologne, Metz, and Treves were first favoured by the light. Some have supposed that the British isles were evangelized at the same time: but this opinion is only grounded on the circumstance of their nearness to France. Some Asiatic teachers, during the confusions of this century, went to preach the Gospel among the Goths who had settled in the province of Thrace, and many received the glad tidings with great joy. Except where the light of the Gospel had dawned, the inhabitants of the Roman empire were living in the indulgence of excesses and unnatural vices, which were unknown to the ferocious barbarians beyond their limits. So true is it that high civilization, science, and education, do not in themselves produce the moral results which are expected from them. The Roman nobles either lived as atheists, or had their minds filled with gross superstitions. The common people were sunk in the deepest ignorance, and the learned men were occupied in fruitless studies. The philosophers, who were always teaching their scholars the nature of virtue, neither understood nor practised it. They only addressed themselves to the higher classes, and seemed to forget that the poor and the slaves, who were trampled under foot, belonged to the same species. They did not teach the duty of kindness to inferiors; and an almshouse or a hospital was a provision unknown throughout the Pagan world. The common places of amusement were the theatres, where the vices and passions were fed and inflamed; and the amphitheatres, where nothing could be gained but increased hardness of heart.
The Christians, with their new and heavenly principles, and modes of acting, must have been the wonders of the Roman world! The Pagans were, as we have seen, sometimes constrained to admire their integrity, and to exclaim, “ See how these Christians love one another !” But they knew not God, and therefore could not know the children of God (1 John iii. 1).
TACITUS, EMPEROR.--PROBUS, EMPEROR.--HIS LABOURS IN WAR
AND PEACE. —CARUS, EMPEROR. -WAR WITH PERSIA.-HISTORY OF NUMERIAN.-DIOCLETIAN, EMPEROR.–NEW SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT.-- TWO EMPERORS AND TWO CÆSARS.
In September, A.D. 275, the danger of the empire from the Germans on one side, and the Persians on the other, obliged the Senate to proclaim Tacitus, one of their own body, emperor. He attempted to decline the honour, saying that, at the age of seventy-five, it was time to rest ; but he was assured a mind not a body was needed, and that his wise counsels would be sufficient to direct the legions how to act. The character of Tacitus made him acceptable to the people; and the Senate, in his appointment, thought that they had recovered their ancient authority : but, at the end of six months, the death of their emperor put an end to their hopes. A tent, amidst the tumultuous camp at the foot of Mount Caucasus, was ill-suited to the descendant of the historian, who had been accustomed to pursue his quiet studies in a luxurious villa in Italy; and his bodily decay was hastened by the trial of mind caused by the unruly passions of the soldiers. Tacitus was scarcely dead when his brother, Florian, put on the purple ; but Probus, the first general of the East, opposed him as an usurper, who had no authority from the Senate; and that body, pleased with such an able defender of their rights, proclaimed him the lawful emperor.
In A.D. 276, at the end of three months, Florian's party sacrificed him in order to put an end to the civil war, and Probus was universally acknowledged. He was originally an Illyrian peasant; but having entered the army, he rose by degrees till he became commander-in-chief, and, finally, emperor. By his extraordinary military talents, every foreign enemy was again subdued, and the empire preserved entire. Among the lieutenants who learned experience in war under his command, Carus, Diocletian, Maximinian, Constantius, and Galerius, were all afterwards emperors. Probus introduced sixteen thousand of the strongest German warriors into the legions, scattering them through the empire in small bands, as he said it was
wise such help should be felt without being seen. It was in this way the barbarians increasingly learned their own strength and Roman weakness; and they were not slow in communicating the secret to their independent tribes.
Probus attempted to colonize the wasted or uncultivated lands throughout the empire with families of captive barbarians; and to this end supplied them with cattle and instruments of husbandry. But in many cases the unconquered love of freedom induced the colonists to forego every advantage, and to take the first opportunity of returning to their wild and savage independence. The triumph of Probus, at the close of his victories, was little less splendid than that of Aurelian ; but it was marked by an unexpected occurrence. Several gladiators in the train determined not to shed their blood for the public amusement; and, escaping from their keepers, filled the streets with tumult and death till they were overpowered by the Prætorians.
At the restoration of peace, Probus employed his troops in labour, in order to prevent the disorders usually attendant on a state of idleness; but they bore this new kind of toil very impatiently, probably thinking that the dangers of a military life were only to be compensated by ease and indulgence in time of peace. For some time, however, they submitted to their tasks; and, by their labour, the navigation of the Nile was improved, temples, bridges, porticoes, and palaces constructed, and many hills in Greece and Pannonia covered with vineyards. But as the emperor was one day urging a body of legionaries in the unwholesome work of draining a marsh in the heat of summer, they suddenly threw down their tools, and taking up their swords buried them in his bosom. When, however, they saw the victim of their rage lying dead at their feet, their fury was exchanged for useless lamentation ; and they hastened to raise a monument in memory of their murdered emperor. Thus died Probus after a reign of six years, A.D. 281.
Carus, the Prætorian prefect, was at once chosen emperor ; but the Senate, who lost the power allowed them by Probus, were displeased by the election, and readily numbered him among the tyrants. Carus gave to his sons Carinus and Nu. merian the rank of Cæsars, and left the elder to settle the affairs of the West, while he took the younger with him in
his foreign wars. The Sarmatians, and not the Germans, were, at this time, disturbing the northern frontier. The distinction between these two races was marked by a difference of language and habits. The Germans dwelt in fixed huts, wore a close dress, only married one wife, and had none but foot soldiers. The Sarmatians lived in moveable tents, dressed in loose garments, had many wives, and fought on horseback. The former used the Teutonic, the latter the Sclavonian language. It is said that sixteen thousand of the Sarmatians were killed in their war with Carus, and twenty thousand taken captive.
The emperor was so encouraged by his military success, that he led on his armies at once towards the Persian frontier, and bade them look upon this rich and beautiful country as likely soon to be their own.
Varanes, the successor of Sapor, had subdued the Segestans, the most warlike nation of Upper Asia ; but he was so much alarmed by the approach of the Romans, that he sent ambassadors to offer renewed conditions of peace. Carus was more like the ancient Roman warriors than any of his imperial predecessors; and, by his contempt of luxury and his stern discipline, he hoped to revive the decaying vigour of the legions. The stately Persian ambassadors were greatly surprised to find the Roman emperor seated on the grass, dressed in a coarse woollen toga of purple, with some bacon and a few hard peas for his supper. The purple seemed alone to distinguish him from the rest of the soldiers, who were taking their usual evening meal.
Carus received the proposals of Varanes in silence; and then taking off the cap which covered his bald head, he told the pompous ambassadors that, unless their master would acknowledge the superiority of Rome, he would speedily make Persia as bare of trees as his head was of hair.
He began by wasting Mesopotamia, and destroying all that opposed his progress; and, from the farther side of the Tigris, he wrote to the Senate, describing his conquests, and bid. ding them confidently look for the downfall of the Persian monarchy, and the addition of Arabia to the empire. But the next report that reached Rome was of a very different character. Carus died in a sudden and mysterious manner during a violent thunder-storm ; but it remained uncertain
HISTORY OF NUMERIAN.
whether from the effects of the lightning, or from previous disease, A. D. 283.
The army obliged Numerian to lead them away from the spot where his father had perished, as they considered the storm was occasioned by the wrath of the gods, who would not permit the power of Rome to extend beyond the Tigris. Numerian was glad to retreat, as his own health was failing; and a weakness in his eyes obliged him to have his tent darkened, and to travel in a close litter. The people at Rome were, moreover, longing for his return, as he was of a very amiable character; and his elder brother had wearied them by displaying the extravagance of Heliogabalus and the cruelty of Domitian. Even Carus had been so displeased by the reports of his conduct that he threatened to adopt Constantius, then governor of Dalmatia, in his stead; but, at this emperor's sudden death, both his sons were immediately accepted as his successors. During the long retreat from Persia, Numerian never showed himself to the army; but Aper, his father-inlaw, the Prætorian prefect, who guarded his tent and litter, constantly delivered the commands of the invisible emperor. Eight months after the death of Carus, while the returning troops were resting at Chalcedon, a town in Asia Minor, a suspicion arose that Numerian was no more, and that Aper had usurped the sovereignty in his name. The guarded tent was immediately forced open, and found to contain only the body of the deceased prince. It is possible, Numerian died of disease; but the concealment of his death was the condemnation of Aper. Diocletian, the commander of the body-guards, was proclaimed emperor ; and a military tribunal being raised on the spot, Aper was brought before him as a criminal. Without any examination into the circumstances of the case, Diocletian, turning towards the sun, declared his own innocence, and then plunged his sword in Aper's bosom, exclaiming, “ This man is the murderer of Numerian!”
Carinus in the meantime had made himself so hateful by his vices, that the Senate and the people of Rome were disposed to prefer Diocletian. The Eastern army and the legions headed by Carinus met near the Danube; and the latter might have overcome the sickly and exhausted troops of Diocletian, but a tribune, who had been injured by him, gratified his own revenge, and ended the civil war, by the murder of Carinus, A.D. 285.